Herbs have been the source of many of mankind’s most basic medicinal therapies, and form the foundation of the modern pharmaceutical industry.

  • Herbs

    • Alfalfa

      Alfalfa is a plant commonly cultivated by farmers around the world for use as an animal feedstock. Known by its latin name, Medicago sativa, alfalfa is also a popular herb belonging to the legume family, closely related to beans and peas. Called the great healer by legions of natural herbalists, the health benefits attributed to alfalfa are broad, with attributes ranging from the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis to the ability to cure stomach disorders; from stimulating the appetite to being an effective curative for diabetes.

      Alfalfa is also promoted as a detoxifier, able to cleanse the liver and bloodstream. Claims link alfalfa with enhanced pituitary functions, as well as treating high fevers, inflamed prostate, and alleviating allergic reactions related to plants and grasses.

      While there are few if any valid scientific studies supporting these claims, alfalfa is generally recognized as a healthy and nutritious source of chlorophyll, beta carotene, calcium, and the vitamins D, E and K. Alfalfa leaves and sprouts are consumed around the world, and alfalfa tea is widely touted as a health tonic. Alfalfa in tablet and capsule forms are available at most health food stores.

      Pertaining to the claims for alfalfas curative powers, researchers have found that the alfalfa root, a part of the plant not generally used, contains saponins, a family of chemicals that have been shown to lower cholesterol levels in monkeys. To date this research has not been repeated with human subjects. Other studies have found that alfalfa can inhibit the growth of some viruses such as herpes simplex, supporting the claims for its antibacterial and antiviral activity. This ability seems to be associated with a non-protein amino acid called L-canaverine, which is found in alfalfa leaves and roots. L-canaverine has also been shown to be effective in controlling leukemia and cancer cells in animal studies, again possibly accounting for some of alfalfa’s health claims.

      Generally recognized as a safe, if somewhat undocumented health supplement, researchers have raised some specific health concerns relating to the excessive consumption of alfalfa or alfalfa containing products. Studies have noted an link between consumption of high doses of alfalfa with the onset or aggravation of existing Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), a disease affecting connective tissues. The likely culprit is the previously mentioned amino acid L-canavanine. Since one may be predisposed to Lupus and not be aware of it, it would be prudent to limit one’s intake of alfalfa products. Those diagnosed with Lupus should avoid alfalfa products entirely.

    • Aloe Vera

      Aloe vera is an exceptional healing plant with an extensive history of use covering 18 centuries. World-wide there exist hundreds of species of this succulent, yucca-like plant, but those most often used are Aloe barbandensis, Aloe perryi, Aloe ferros, and the ever-popular houseplant Aloe vera, whose fresh leaves can serve as an effective treatment for minor burns, abrasions and cuts.

      Aloe vera gel, derived from the mucilaginous cells contained inside the leaves, is widely used in a variety of forms such as lotions, moisturizers, cosmetics, and shampoos. Aloe powder, derived from the tough outer leaf of the plant, is a strong cathartic consumed internally as a cleanser and often touted as a treatment for a variety of conditions ranging from liver disease to AIDS.

      Clinical evidence supports many of the health claims attributed to Aloe vera. Researchers have found that fresh Aloe gel promotes wound healing by speeding up the growth of skin cells and aiding recovery from surgery. Aloe has also proved effective in treating pressure sores, chronic leg ulcers, and frostbite.

      Aloe vera has also been shown to have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties against a broad range of microbes. Carrisyn, an extract of aloe, has shown recent evidence of being able to inhibit a number of viruses in vitro, including the strains responsible for herpes simples, measles, and HIF. Carrisyn appears to work by stimulating the immune system to trigger the production of T cells, thereby increasing immune function.

      Other active ingredients of the aloe plant include salicylates, which control inflammation and pain, and an enzyme that inhibits bradykinin, the chemical messenger responsible for transmitting pain signals through the nerves. Aloe also contains magnesium lactate, a chemical known to inhibit the release of histimines responsible for skin irritation and itching.

      While generally regarded as safe, some people using aloe products may experience a form of hypersensitivity evidenced by skin rash which disappears soon after discontinuing use of the product. When choosing an aloe vera product for topical application, look for a product high in aloe content, which should appear as the first item listed on the ingredients panel. As for internal consumption, long-term studies have not been performed to determine safety or effectiveness, and the guidance of a knowledgeable professional is highly recommended.

    • Angelica

      Angelica, from the plant Angelica archangelica, is similar to the Chinese herb Dong Quai, which is derived from the closely related plant Angelica sinensis. Other species of angelica are commonly used as flavoring agents for wines, liqueurs, and perfumes.

      Angelica has recently become a very popular herb in the United States, and is often recommended by herbalists as a treatment for flatulence and stomach pains, and as a stimulant to invigorate circulation and warm the body. By far the most common use of Angelica is as an emmanagogic agent to promote menstrual flow and help regulate irregular menstrual cycles. In some cases large doses have been consumed in an attempt to induce abortion, but such use runs the risk of inducing severe poisoning.

      Angelica contains a number of compounds called furocoumarins that are photosensitizers, which upon direct contact with the skin may lead to a skin rash after being exposed to the sun. Researchers have also found several of these compounds to be extremely toxic carcinogens in laboratory animals, though no human studies are currently available.

      Angelica should not be used by pregnant women or diabetics, as it has a tendency to elevate blood sugar levels.

    • Artichoke

      Artichokes contain cynarin and scolymoside which have been shown to stimulate bile production and secretion. This supports the traditional use of Artichoke for creating support for sluggish livers and digestive irregularities. Cynarin creates support for lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. Artichokes also possess some diuretic activity, helping with kidney disease and protein in the urine.

    • Astragalus

      Astragalus is a traditional Chinese herb derived from the root of the perennial Astragalus membranaceus. In China astragalus enjoyed a long history of use in traditional medicine to strengthen the Wei Ch’i or “defensive energy” or as we call it, the immune system. Regarded as a potent tonic for increasing energy levels and stimulating the immune system, astragalus has also been employed effectively as a diuretic, a vasodilator and as a treatment for respiratory infections. Astragalus has recently become popular with western herbalist and alternative health care providers.

      Recent studies in China led researchers to report that astragalus can be part of an effective treatment for supporting the immune systems of cancer patients. Two separate studies followed cancer patients receiving traditional western chemotherapy and radiation treatment. These forms of treatment typically ravage the body’s immune system and leave patients weak and susceptible to new opportunistic infections.

      Researchers reported that cancer patients receiving astragalus extracts had twice the survival rate of those only receiving standard therapies. U.S. studies have further confirmed that astragalus possesses unique immunity boosting qualities. Researchers at the University of Texas found that astragalus exhibited strong immunity response on in-vitro cancer cells.

      Scientists have isolated a number of active ingredients contained in astragalus, including bioflavanoids, choline, and a polysaccharide called astragalan B. Animal studies have shown that astragalan B is effective at controlling bacterial infections, stimulating the immune system, and protecting the body against a number of toxins.

      Astragalan B seems to work by binding to cholesterol on the outer membranes of viruses, destabilizing their defenses and allowing for the body’s immune system to attack the weakened invader. Astragalus also increases interferon production and enhances NK and T cell function, increasing resistance to viral conditions such as hepatitis, AIDS and cancer. Astragalus shows support for peripheral vascular diseases and peripheral circulation.

    • Barberry

      Barberry, which is also called Oregon grape root, is derived from Mahonia Aquifolium, a small evergreen that grows wild on mountains in the Pacific Northwest. Early settlers first learned of the therapeutic use of Barberry from native American Indians who made a bitter brew from the yellow root or rhizome of this small shrub. Used in small doses Barberry tonic was believed to be an effective treatment for heartburn, stomach upset, ulcers, and to stimulate appetite.

      Current herbal literature commonly recommends barberry tincture as a treatment for liver problems such as hepatitis and jaundice. It is also considered effective in lowering blood pressure, reducing heart rate and respiration, reducing bronchial constriction, and as a palative for menstrual irregularities. It is also used as a topical antiseptic.

      Researchers studying Barberry have determined that does contains a number of physiologically active alkaloids, chief among them berberine, berbamine, and oxyacanthine. Berberine has been found to exhibit some antibacterial activity, accounting for its traditional uses as an antiseptic when applied to the skin. Berberine is also known to possess sedative qualities, and can act to lower blood pressure and stimulate the uterus.

    • Bayberry

      Bayberry is a traditional folk medicine herb derived from the bark of a small evergreen shrub that grows throughout a wide portion of the Eastern and Southern United States. Also referred to as wax myrtle or candleberry, the Bayberry plant also produces small waxy berries that have been used since colonial times to make fragrant candles popular at Christmas time.

      Bayberry bark, brewed into a spicy tea or infusion, is a popular folk remedy and was a favorite of Native Americans. It has been used as a tonic and stimulant to support the body’s defense against a range of ailments such as coughs, colds, flu, fevers, headache, and sore throat. It was also considered an effective remedy for diarrhea, bloody stools, and excessive menstrual bleeding. As an astringent this herb helps to dry up and protect exposed membranes, and is often applied to the skin as poltice to heal boils, cankers and skin ulcers. Bayberry is also prepared as a gargle for treatment for early symptoms of colds and sore throat.

      Current data on Bayberry list a number of compounds such as tannic acid, gallic acid and acrid resins that function as astringents. Researchers have raised some concern about the carcinogenic effects of tannin, but no human studies have been conducted to date. Bayberry is also known to contains the triterpene Myricitrin which is effective in stimulating the flow of bile and exhibits antibacterial activity.

      xThough generally considered safe, in large doses Bayberry serves as an emetic agent to produce vomiting.

    • Betony

      Betony, also known as Wood Betony, was once held in high regard by ancient folk healers. Used as a herbal treatment for a host of human ills ranging from the common cold to warding off supernatural spirits, Betony is still used by herbal practitioners, though for a much more limited set of maladies.

      Current use of the dried herb of Betony involves the use of a tincture or infusion as a remedy for chronic headaches and to treat anxiety and nervousness. Like most herbs, Betony possesses mild astringent properties, for which it is occasionally recommended as a the treatment for diarrhea, or as a mouthwash to soothe mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.

      Betony contains relatively high amounts of tannin, explaining its astringent activity. It also contains choline, alkaloids and glycosides. One glycoside has been shown to lower blood pressure, possibly supporting its use as a treatment for anxiety and headaches.

      Betony is nontoxic, though excess consumption may lead to mild stomach upset.

    • Bilberry

      The Bilberry plant is closely related to blueberries and currants, all of which belong to the genus Vaccinium. The whole fruits from these plants contain important tannins as well as vitamins A and C. The specific activity of Bilberry comes from concentrated fruit pigments called anthocyanins which have a specific strengthening effect on the walls of the vascular system.

      Collagen protein in the vascular wall becomes stronger in the presence of Bilberry and the fine capillaries become less susceptible to leakage. Hemorrhoids and varicose veins are both examples of the weakened vascular tissues that can manifest during pregnancy and under stress.

      The Bilberry fruit extract also possesses strong antibacterial and antiviral activity, mainly from the tannin compounds.

      The usual application of Bilberry is for reducing eyestrain and improving night vision. In addition to helping the capillaries supply blood to the eyes, Bilberry pigment helps produce visual purple, an important chemical that helps convert light into electrical signals for the brain. Bilberry enhances vision in low light conditions often encountered by truck drivers, pilots, law enforcement and military personnel. Bilberry also reduces general eye strain which makes it particularly beneficial for students, computer operators, and anyone who must use their eyes for long periods without rest.

    • Black Cohosh

      The popular herb Black cohosh comes from the root of the North American forest plant Cimicifuga racemosa. Also known as black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort and squawroot, Black cohosh has an extensive history of safe use by Native Americans who revered it as a remedy for a host of common ailments.

      Native Americans employed Black cohosh as an effective treatment for fatigue, neuralgia, rheumatism, sore throat, asthma, bronchial spasms, bronchitis, and whooping cough. Mixed with chamomile, ginger and raspberry leaf, black cohosh has been used for centuries by women to stimulate menstrual flow, ease the strains of childbirth, and confer relief from the symptoms of menopause.

      In Europe Black cohosh products are regularly used in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome and menopause. Contemporary herbalists also hold Black cohosh in high regard as an antispasmodic for relief from cramps, muscle pains, and menstrual pains. With its mildly sedative and relaxing effect, black cohosh is used also to treat anxiety and nervousness. Modern herbalists also recommend black cohosh as a cough suppressant and expectorant, a diaphoretic for eliminating toxins, and consider it to be an excellent treatment for lowering high blood pressure.

      Researchers studying Black cohosh have isolated chemical derivatives mimicking the effects of estrogen, supporting the use of the herb in the treatment of female conditions. Black cohosh was found to contain the glycoside acetein, a steroidal derivative that is effective in lowering blood pressure in animals. While adherents claim the same effect in humans, no research is available to verify this. Researchers have also determined that black cohosh contains compounds that support its uses as a sedative and an anti-inflammatory agent.

      There are few known health concerns regarding Black cohosh, but consuming large amounts are known to cause nausea, dizziness and vomiting. Expectant mothers should only use black cohosh under the supervision of a health professional, since black cohosh has a reputation of stimulating the uterus to speed childbirth, and large doses could lead to premature birth.

    • Blessed Thistle

      Blessed thistle is a plant found primarily in Aisia and Europe. Blessed thistle is also referred to as St. Benedict thistle and holy thistle, names that reflect the fact that Blessed thistle was a popular folk remedy and tonic appreciated by monastic monks in the Middle ages. Blessed Thistle should not be confused with Milk Thistle (also known as Marian, St. Mary’s, or Our Lady’s thistle).

      In Europe blessed thistle is regarded as an excellent appetite stimulant, and is used in the manufacture of bitters to be taken before meals to stimulate stomach and intestinal activity and aid in digestion and circulation. It is also used in the treatment of constipation and flatulence, and is considered an excellent heart tonic and blood purifyer.

      The flowers of the Blessed thistle are commonly brewed to make a slightly bitter and sweet tea that has a mild diuretic activity. Blessed thistle tea is used by contemporary herbalists for the treatment of a variety of liver problems such as jaundice and hepatitis. Because painful menstruation can involve the liver, Blessed thistle is a common component of herbal formulas used to relieve menstrual symptoms.

      While generally safe, if taken in excess, Blessed thistle can act as an emetic and lead to nausea and vomiting.

    • Blue Cohosh

      Blue cohosh, latin name Caulophyllum thalictroides, is an herb derived from the rhizome and roots of a small North American perennial. Blue cohosh is also referred to by names such as papoose root or sqaw root, reflecting on the use of this herb by Native American women who brewed a bitter tea from Blue cohosh to relieve menstrual cramps and ease the pains associated with childbirth.

      Blue cohosh tea was also found to be a parturifacient that could induce uterine contractions to speed delivery, and was widely used by native Americans and early settlers to treat common maladies such as sore throat, rheumatism, anxiety, bronchitis, and colic.

      Modern herbalists often recommend blue cohosh as a emmenagogue to induce menstruation, and as uterine stimulant and antispasmodic. It is also frequently employed as a diuretic to eliminate excess fluids, as a expectorant to treat congestion, and as a diaphoretic to eliminate toxins by inducing sweating. Traditional herbalists will often combine Blue cohosh and black cohosh to effect a more balanced treatment for nerves and to enhance the herbs antispasmodic effects. It is combined with other herbs to promote their effects in treating bronchitis, nervous disorders, urinary tract ailments and rheumatism.

      Researchers studying Blue cohosh isolated an alkaloid, methylcytisine, which closely resembles nicotine in its ability to stimulate intestinal activity, raise respiration, and elevate blood pressure. Blue cohosh also contains caulosaponin, a glycoside which can act as a coronary blood vessel constrictor and is thought responsible for stimulating uterine contractions and inducing childbirth.

      While generally considered a safe and effective herb, Blue cohosh should not be used by expectant mothers except during the last month of pregnancy, preferably under the guidance of an experienced herbalists or health care professional.

    • Broccoli

      Broccoli is a dark green vegetable in the cruciferous family. It is rich in fiber, provitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C and vitamin K. Cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemical which help create immune and antioxidant support in the body by inducing extra protecion of the enymes (Phase II) involved in detoxifying carcinogens and flushing them out of the body. These important enzymes include quinone reductase and glutathione S-transferase, with Sulforaphane as a major and potent Phase II enzyme inducer. Broccoli is an important source of Vitamin K, which helps prevent stomach and colon cancer.

    • Buchu

      Buchu, Latin name Agathosma betulina, is a small shrub native to South Africa where it is used as a popular flavoring agent to impart a peppermint-like flavor to brandies and wines. First used by the Hottentot tribe, it gained wide use in Europe and Africa where the dried leaves of buchu have long been used as a folk remedy for the treatment of almost every known affliction.

      Employed as a diuretic and antiseptic, the long leaves of this herb are brewed for use in treatment of inflammation of the urethra, blood in the urine, bladder infections and other chronic urinary tract disorders. It is also said to be an effective remedy for kidney stones, cystitis, and rheumatism.

      Buchu contains barosma champhor and other volatile oils which account for its mild diuretic and antiseptic activity. Buchu is considered to be an extremely safe herb and there are no reported toxic effects. If using for treatment of a urinary tract infection the only caution would be to be sure of have a proper diagnosis of the ailment, since Buchu is completely ineffective in treating sexually transmitted diseases, for which is was once widely thought to be a remedy.

    • Burdock

      Burdock, latin name Arctium lappa, is a carrot-like root from the plant Arctium lappa, a biennial herb grown in China, Europe and the United States. Employed as a popular folk medicine around the world, burdock is also consumed as a vegetable in Japan, where it is called gobo.

      Burdock seeds are crushed to make a popular tincture used to purify the blood, to treat gout and ulcers, arthritis, rheumatism, and cure skin diseases such as acne and psoriasis. In India and Russia the root is a popular anti-cancer remedy , and in China it is believed to be an effective aphrodisiac, useful in treating impotence and sterility.

      The volatile oils of burdock seed are said to be an effective diaphoretic, used to inducing sweating as an aid in neutralizing and eliminating toxins from the body. This activity is widely utilized by herbal practitioner’s in the treatment of liver problems, gallstones, flu, and to support the kidneys in filtering acids from the blood stream.

      Studies of burdock show that it is high in minerals, being a good source of iron. Data also indicate that the root is a good source of the carbohydrate inulin which can account for 45% of the plant mass. Burdock is also a good source of essential oils and other compounds that exhibit bacteriostatic and anitfungul activity.

      Burdock is an effective diuretic and is considered a very safe herb and food product, though there have been cases where the purity of the root has raised some concern. Reported cases involving toxic effects were first thought to be caused by the consumption of burdock tea but were later determined to be caused by contamination of the burdock root with belladonna root which contains atropine. In light of such issues, when using burdock root determine the of the source and quality of root before purchase.

    • Butcher's Broom

      Butcher’s broom, also referred to as knee holly, box holly and sweet broom, comes from the plant Suscus aculaetus, a short evergreen shrub that grows throughout southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Butchers once used the leaves and twigs of this member of the lily family to scrub their chopping blocks clean, thus conferring the name Butchers broom. The use of this herb as a tonic was recorded by the early Greeks, but fell into disuse until the 1950’s when new research popularized the properties of this herb in the west.

      Modern herbalists now commonly use the leaves of Butcher’s broom as a circulatory tonic and antiinflammatory agent for a wide range of vascular problems. Consumed as a mildly bitter tea it is used to increase circulation to the limbs and acts to reduce the incidence of post-surgical thrombosis or blood clotting. Due to its mild diuretic action it is also employed to reduce swelling of the legs and is believed useful in the treatment of varicose veins and phlebitis. Applied as a topical ointment butchers broom is also used to ease the swelling and pains of arthritis and rheumatism, and formed into suppositories it is often employed as a treatment of hemorrhoids.

      Researchers have confirmed that extracts of butcher’s broom contain several steroidal saponin compounds that work as vasoconstrictors by activating alpha-adrenergic receptors. The main glycosides in butchers broom are called ruscogenins, which are known to possess anti-inflammatory properties in addition to being vasoconstricive agents. These active ingredients reduce the fragility and permeability of capillaries and constrict the veins. Human clinical trials have supported the extracts effectiveness in treating vascular disorders, as well as its uses as an antiinflammatory agent.

      Contemporary Herbals refer to butcher’s broom to support venous circulatory disorders (heavy legs) as well as hemorrhodal ailments. Practicioners also recommend butcher’s broom for supporting women experiencing menstrual problems and troubles associated with the use of estrogens and pregnancy related cramps.

      Butcher’s broom is generally considered a safe herb when taken as a diuretic, though it may cause blood pressure to rise. Those under treatment for hypertension should use this herb under the supervision of a competent health care professional. Those currently taking anticoagulation medications should also check with their physician or health care provider before taking butchers broom to avoid problems.

    • Capsicum

      Capsicum, or hot red chili peppers, have come into their own recently, both as a culinary spice and as a hot new medical remedy. Long used as a food spice and an aid to digestion, red chilis or cayenne peppers were once thought to aggravate stomach ulcers. This fear has been discounted by researchers who became excited by studies that indicated that capsicum could help prevent the formation of dangerous blood clots. Now new research is focusing on this spices ability to act as an anti-inflammatory agent and aid in controlling pain.

      Researchers in Thailand first noticed that people who consume large amounts of red chili peppers experienced a lower incidence of thromboembolism, or potentially dangerous blood clots. Scientists then looked at the medical records of countries where hot spicy foods where regularly consumed and found that people who eat a diet high in red peppers experience a much lower incidence of blood clotting disease. Scientists have now concluded that capsicum does indeed possess fibrinolytic activity, meaning that it is able to break down blood clots.

      In addition to preventing the formation of blood clots, researchers have also discovered that a topically applied cream containing capsicum could help control some types of chronic skin pains. Now available in the form of a prescription drug called Zostrix, capsicum ointment is applied to the skin to aid in controlling the pain associated with herpes zoster, also known as shingles, as well as neuralgia and postoperative amputation trauma.

      The active ingredient in capsicum is a compound called capsaicin that functions to deplete substance P, which is involved in the transmission of pain from the skin to the spinal cord. By blocking substance P, capsaicin acts as a dramatic and long-lasting anesthetic bringing relief to almost 75 percent of patients tested with the cream. It can take as long as three days from first application to begin to deplete substance P from the peripheral nerves.

      Taken internally to aid digestion, red peppers should be consumed slowly to avoid distress. Capsicum and cayenne can also be taken in capsules. Be careful to avoid getting capsicum products in the eyes, as this can be extremely painful.

    • Cascara Sagrada

      Cascara Sagrada, also called Sacred bark and Chittem bark, is an herb derived from the year old bark of Rhamnus purshiana. Native American Indians commonly used Cascara sagrada to treat constipation and upset stomachs.

      Taken as an extremely bitter tasting tonic, or in tablet or capsule form, Cascara sagrada is regarded to be a safe laxative that is often employed as a remedy for mild and chronic constipation. Modern herbalists also recommend it as a tonic for the digestive system and to stimulate the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and stomach. It is also considered to be useful in the treatment of jaundice, hemorrhoids and colic.

      Clinical researchers have isolated several anthraquinone glycosides as the active principles in cascara. These glycosides are hydrolyzed by bacteria in the colon, resulting in its laxative activity. Free anthraquinone and hydroxyanthracene derivative (HAD) are the main active glycosides responsible for the laxative effects of Cascara sagrada. These active substances cause an increased peristalsis locally in the large intestine. HAD also helps by circulating in the bloodstream and stimulating a nerve center to trigger a laxative effect.

      Cascara sagrada is considered one of the safest laxatives and can be used to restore tone to the colon, as well as being useful in detoxifying and cleansing programs. Cascara sagrada can also be used in small doses as a liver tonic and a chelating agent to prevent the occurrence of calcium-based urinary stones.

      Taken at night or shortly before sleep, Cascara sagrada is an effective agent for treating mild constipation, though it should not be used on a regular basis. While it is normal for Cascara sagrada to temporarily turn urine a reddish color, if diarrhea should result, discontinue use immediately.

      Supportive agents commonly used with Cascara sagrada include: Laxative-Butternut root bark, Frangula, Licorice Root, Irish Moss, Dandelion, Milk Thistle, Schisandra and Wild Yam.

    • Catnip

      Catnip is undoubtedly best recognized as an intoxicating herb that cats find to be irresistible. Also commonly called catnep and catmint, this relative of the mint family is also a well regarded herbal calmative with numerous applications for a number of human ailments. Use of catnip as a mildly relaxing tea dates back to old England were it was a popular drink prior to the importation of teas from Asia.

      In folk medicine, catnip leaves and flowers are usually steeped to make a pleasant tasting tea. Consumed prior to bedtime catnip tea is widely believed to hasten slumber and aid in achieving a restful nights sleep. It is also employed as a remedy in the treatment of tension and anxiety, and is mentioned as being a useful calmative for hyperactive children.

      Catnip is also listed as a mild diaphoretic, helpful in eliminating toxins from the body, as well as acting as a carminative to support digestion, relieve upset stomach, and control the symptoms of diarrhea.

      The claimed effects of this mild herb are generally acknowledged in contemporary literature which lists the principal active agent in catnip as nepetalactone, a volatile oil similar in structure to the sedative ingredient found in valerian root, another well known sedative herb.

      In recent years the smoking the dried leaves of this herb has been mistakenly popularized in certain circles in the belief that one can attain intoxicating high similar to that produced by marijuana. This is now generally recognized as untrue, and was based upon a confusing similarity in the physical appearance of the two plants. Catnip is an extremely safe herb, and there are no listed warnings or contraindications.

    • Cat's Claw

      Cat’s Claw (Una de Gato) is a wood vine that grows in Peru and has been used by the Peruvian Indians for years for the treatment of a wide range of health problems. Cat’s Claw helps create support for the intestinal and immune systems of the body., and creates intestinal support by its ability to cleanse the entire intestinal tract. This cleansing helps create support for people experiencing different stomach and bowel disorders, including: colitis, crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and leaky bowel syndrome.

      Cat’s Claw contains seven different alkaloids that are credited with having a variety of different medicinal and healing properties. The most immunilogically active alkaloid is believed to be Isopteropodin (Isomer A), which increases the immune response in the body. In additon, the presence of glycosides, proanthocyanidins and beta sitosterol help provide anti-viral, anti-tumor and anti-imflammatory support for the body.

    • Catuaba

      Catuaba, of the family Erythroxylaceae, is undoubtedly the most famous of all Brazilian aphrodisiac plants, and has been appreciated by the local populations for generations. This valued herb from the Brazilian rainforest is praised by the Tupi Indians of Brazil as being an excellent nervous system fortifier and male libido enhancer.

      The Tupi Indians first discovered the qualities of the plant and composed many songs praising it “. . the bark of Catuaba (functions) as a stimulant of the nervous system, above all when one deals with functional impotence of the male genital organs it is an innocent aphrodisiac, used without any ill side effects at all.”

      Historical uses include its use as a male aphrodisiac and a tonic to the male organs. It is also used for male impotency. It is a strong tonic and fortifier of the nervous system, capable of giving strength to people with general fatigue. It helps eliminate restless sleep and insomnia from hypertension, and has been known to help failing memories.

      Catuaba is usually consumed as a tea made from the bark of this small schrub. After drinking 3-4 cups of tea steadily over a period of time the first symptoms are usually erotic dreams, and then increased sexual desire.

    • Chamomile

      Chamomile has been described as meaning “capable of anything,” a good description for this popular herb that is used extensively in Europe and the United States as a soothing and calming tea. Historically chamomile has been a favored natural herbal remedy, with records of its use as a treatment for skin conditions, cramps and digestion dating back to the early Romans.

      In Europe chamomile products are used extensively as carminatives to aid digestion, and in the form of bitters to stimulate ones appetite before meals. Chamomile is also an effective anti-inflammatory agent commonly used to treat skin disorders, and as an antispasmodic remedy for menstrual cramps.

      There are two primary types of chamomile: Roman chamomile and German chamomile. Roman chamomile has long been used as an appetite stimulant and aid for digestion, but the vast majority of chamomile on the market comes from the flowertops of what is commonly called German chamomile.

      Cultivated in Germany, the flowering tops of this plant are used to prepare a mild tea enjoyed as a mild sedative, as a remedy for insomnia, and as an aid for indigestion. Researchers documenting the effectiveness of this herb have found that subjects ingesting chamomile tea can fall asleep in as little as 10 minutes

      The active ingredients in chamomile are found in the essential oils derived from the flowers. Scientists have found that chamomile contains many active compounds, though the principal ingredients are the volatile oil alpha bisabolol and the flavonoid apigenin. Apigenin is responsible for the calming, anti-anxiety effects. Apigenin also supports alpha bisabolol, which is responsible for chamomiles anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects. Researchers have also developed topical ointments containing alpha bisabolol and found them to be more effective than hydrocortisone in treating skin inflammation.

      Chamomile tea is extremely safe, though ingestion of large amounts can lead to stomach upset. Some people, especially those allergic to asters, chrysanthemums and ragweed may experience hypersensitivity to chamomile products. Though these reactions are exceedingly rare, they can lead to sneezing, congestion, anaphylaxis or contact dermatitis.

    • Chaparral

      Chaparral, also referred to as greasewood and creosote bush, is an herb derived from the common desert shrub Larrea tridentata. Native to the Southwestern United States, the leaves of this desert plant have been used for centuries by Native American healers as a tonic for the treatment of cancer, snake bites, infections, arthritis, tuberculosis and venereal disease.

      Modern herbalists had come to view chaparral as an effective herbal antibiotic and as a treatment for intestinal parasites. Chaparral was also widely employed as a remedy for the treatment of colds, flu, cancer, and diarrhea.

      Chaparral contains a compound called nordihydroguaiaretic acid or NDGA for short. NDGA is a powerful antioxidant, that is widely used in the food industry as a preservative for lard and animal shortenings. Early studies had raised hopes that NDGA might prove to be an effective treatment for cancer when it was revealed that NDGA was able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in animals.

      Human studies were disappointing, and raised new concerns about NDGA’s toxicity after researchers reported finding lesions on the kidneys and lymph nodes of animals. Subsequently chapparal was removed from the FDA’s list of products that are generally recognized as safe, or GRAS.

      In 1990 a women suffered liver damage that was believed to be the result of consuming large amounts of chapparal tablets to treat a non-malignant breast lump. Though the woman recovered in time, the incident led to the widespread removal of all chapparal products from the shelves of health stores around the country. Many medical researchers currently feel that while chapparal is an intriguing product worthy of further research, it is too toxic to be recommended for human consumption at this time.

    • Chickweed

      Chickweed, latin name Stellaric media, is a small herbal plant which grows wild throughout the world. Often used in salads, the leaves and flowers of this small weed are also used by herbalists in a wide variety of treatments. Mixed with oil to make a poltice, chickweed is employed as a treatment for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, boils, ulcers, and a variety of rashes. As an infusion to be taken internally, chickweed is used to treat blood disorders, gout, fevers, asthma, arthritis, constipation, lung disease, cancer, and aid in weight control.

      Researchers give the plant credit for being a source of vitamin C and for being a tasty addition to salads. Beyond this, clinical support for the use of chickweed as a herbal remedy runs out. Chickweed is known to contain several glycosides and plant acids, but not in amounts to support the claimed effects of this plant. There are no reported toxic effects from consumption of chickweed. Further review of the literature show more interest in controlling the growth of this rapid growing weed than in supporting weak claims for its efficacy as a herbal remedy.

    • Coltsfoot

      Coltsfoot, also called Horsehoof and coughwort, is a traditional herbal remedy employed around the world in the treatment of coughs and respiratory problems. Made from the flowers and hoof-shaped leaves of the plant Tussilago farfara, coltsfoot has been employed by traditional herbalists in the form of a tea to treat the persistent cough associated with bronchitis, silicosis and emphysema. Other practitioners have used the herb in blends intended to be smoked to relieve coughs, though the logic behind this use is highly questionable, and could lead to more respiratory irritation.

      Widely believed to be a safe compound, researchers in Japan have discovered that the dried flowers and leaves commonly used in Coltsfoot tea contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can cause severe liver damage and cancer. While some herbalists think the danger relatively minor when compared to the positive activities of this herb, other practitioners no longer consider coltsfoot an appropriate remedy in light of other effective herbal alternatives.

    • Cucurbita

      Seeds of several species of the genus Cucurbira have long enjoyed a considerable reputation as teniafuges (agents which paralyze and expel intestinal worms). Chief among these are pumpkin seeds or pepo, obtained from C. Pepo L., but the seeds of the auturnn squash (C.Maxima Duchesne) and of the Canada pumpkin or crookneck squash [C. Moschata (Duchesne) Poir.] have similar properties. All are large edible fruits produced by herbaceous, running (vinelike) plants of the family Cucurbitaceae. Numerous cultivated varieties exist.

      When used as a teniafuge or anthelmintic, cucurbita seeds are ordinarily administered in the form of the ground seeds themselves, as an infusion (tea), or as an emulsion made by beating the seeds with powdered sugar and milk or water. Usually three divided doses are given, representing a total weight of seeds ranging from 60 to as much as 500 grams. Such treatment is said to be effective in expelling both tapeworms and roundworms.

      Another traditional use of the seeds is in the prevention and treatment of chronic prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of the prostate gland) in males. A handful of the seeds eaten daily is supposed to be a very popular remedy for this condition in Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Ukraine.

      Cucurbitin, an unusual amino acid identified chemically as (-)-3amino-3-carboxypyrrolidine, is the active principle responsible for the anthelmintic (worrn-expelling) effects of the drug. It occurs only in the seeds of Cucurbita species, but its concentration is quite variable even in seeds of the same species. This variability probably accounts for reports in the literature that cucurbita seeds are either unreliable or ineffective as a teniafuge.

    • Damiana

      Damiana leaves are harvested from the plant Turnera diffusa, a small shrub native to Mexico. Besides being used in the production of a popular Mexican liqueur called Damiana, this herb has enjoyed a long and unwarranted history of use as an aphrodisiac, supposedly able to stimulate the libido of men and women alike.

      It is also regarded as an important folk medicine in Mexico, often used to treat sterility, impotence, diabetes, bladder infection and asthma. Damiana is also said to possess mild sedative qualities, able to induce a state of relaxation and to aid in falling asleep.

      Modern studies of the chemical composition of damiana list tannin, resin, and volatile oils, which, while considered relatively safe for consumption, offer no evidence to support the host of claims for this plant. Indeed, the data suggests that it is the high alcohol content of damiana liquor and its tinctures that is the responsible agent for most if not all of its perceived effects.

    • Devil's Claw

      Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) has been used as an herbal tea ingredient in Europe, a folk remedy in Africa and recently has entered the health food marketplace in the United States. The British Herbal Pharmacopoea recognizes Devil’s claw as possessing analgesic, sedative and diuretic properties

      Devil’s claw consists of the secondary storage roots of arpagophyum procumbens DC., a South African plant belonging to the family Pedaliaceae. The common name is derived from the plant’s peculiar fruits which seem to be covered with miniature grappling hooks. Devil’s claw is the name commonly used in the United States, though other names for this plant include wood spider and grapple plant.

      Africans have used the herb for centuries to treat skin cancer, fever, malaria and indigestion. In Europe, the tea is recommended for arthritis, diabetes, allergies, senility and is widely utilized as an appetite stimulant and a digestive aid.

      In the west, Devil’s claw has been recommended for treating a wide variety of conditions including diseases of the liver, kidneys, and bladder, as well as allergies, arteriosclerosis, lumbago, gastrointestinal disturbances, menstrual difficulties, neuralgia, headache, climacteric (change of life) problems, heartburn, nicotine poisoning, and above all, rheumatism and arthritis.

      There are few clinical studies to refute or verify the many claims made for Devil’s claw, but extracts of the plant do appear to have anti-inflammatory activity in experimental animals. A clinical study carried out in Germany in 1976 reported that devil’s claw exhibited anti-inflammatory activity, comparable in many respects to the well-known anti-arthritic drug, phenylbutazone. Analgesic effects were also observed along with reductions in abnormally high cholesterol and uric-acid blood levels.

      The main active ingredients in Devil’s claw are Harpogoside and Beta sitosterol, which possess anti-inflammatory properties and create support for joint, ligament and tendon problems. Devil’s claw is reported to help with joint pain while improving vitality in the joints.

    • Dong Quai

      Dong quai is a Chinese herb derived from the root of Angelica sinensis or Angelica plymorpha maxim. A staple of eastern medicinal practice for thousands of years, dong quai has been used in the treatment of female disorders such as menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, and to relieve symptoms associated with menopause.

      Angelica sinensis is also an important flavoring agent used in liqueurs such as Chartreuse and Benedictine, and with juniper berries is used in flavoring gin.

      Modern herbalists commonly recommend dong quai as a uterine tonic to treat irregular menstrual flow and weakness during menstrual periods. As an antispasmodic it is considered a remedy for menstrual cramps and nervousness. It is also said to purify the blood and act as a mild laxative.

      Researchers have identified several coumarin derivatives that are known to act as antispasmodics and vasodilators. Dong quai’s key ingredients include Ligustilide, butylene phthalide and butyl phthalide found in the aromatic oil. Ferulic acid and various polysaccharides are found in the non-aromatic fractions. Research suggests that both ferulic acid and ligustilide are responsible for preventing spasms, relaxing blood vessels and reducing blood clotting in peripheral vessels.

      Dong quai also contains compounds that act to stimulate the central nervous system, supporting its use as a mild energizer. Certain people may experience a form of dermatitis caused by compounds that promote photosensitivity. Pregnant women, and women with excessive menstrual flow should avoid using this herb altogether.

    • Echinacea

      One of the most exciting therapeutic herbs available today is echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea) a unique herb related to the Asteraceae (sunflower) plant family. Echinacea has been widely used by Native Americans, particularly the Plains Indians, for hundreds of years as an antiseptic, an analgesic (pain killer) and for the treatment of snakebites. Echinacea is also used extensively by herbalists and alternative health care providers to boost the immune system, help speed wound healing, reduce inflammations, treat colds and flu, and fight infections.

      A growing collection of scientific evidence supports echinaceas important contribution to stimulating the immune system. Researchers have found that echinaceas immune-stimulating properties are due to a rich host of polysaccharides and phytosterols unique to this plant. Most American use of this herb has been with fresh Echinacea angustifolia, while European research has been conducted with the fresh Echinacea purpurea.

      Researchers have identified a number of important active ingredients, including glycosides (especially echinacoside), eichloric acid, chlorogenic acid, polysaccharides (echinacin B, inulin, arabinogalactans, xyloglucans), isobutylamines (echinacein), alkylamides, phytosterols, (Z)-1, 8-pentadecadiene, sesquiterpene esters (in E. purpurea) and many other valuable compounds.

      Scientists have found that Echinacea helps to activate macrophages, key immune system elements that are directly involved in the destruction of bacteria, viruses, other infectious agents and cancer cells. Macrophages produce much of their lethal effect by generating free oxygen radicals as well as producing a key protein called interleukin-l. A report in the December 1984 issue of Infection and Immunity demonstrated that a polysaccharide fraction derived from Echinacea purpurea significantly increased the killing effect of macrophages on tumor cells.

      The polysaccharides also increased the production of free oxygen radicals and interleukin-1. The echinacea polysaccharide had no effect on T-lymphocytes (involved in cellular immunity) and only a modest effect on B-lymphocytes (involved in humoral immunity-making antibodies). Another report indicated that echinacea enhances natural killer cell activity, another important component in the immune system.

      Echinacea is recommended for use periodically for one or two weeks at a time, rather than continuously, because the body seems to become accustomed to it and it loses effectiveness. This effectiveness is restored in a week or two.

      If you are pregnant or nursing, consult your health care provider before using this product. If you have kidney disease, restrict usage to ten days to avoid a possible imbalance in excreted minerals.

    • Feverfew

      Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), also known as Bachelor’s Button, is a common flowering aromatic plant. Feverfew was known to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks who regarded it as a valuable remedy to alleviate headaches, joint pain, stomach aches, menstrual pains and fever. For centuries it has also been employed as an emmenagogue to promote menstrual flow.

      Modern researchers confirm that feverfew is a valuable herbal remedy that is especially effective in treating migraine headaches and arthritis. Feverfew contains a number of lactones, among them parthenolide, michefuscalide and chrysanthenyl. The main active sesquiterpene lactone, parthenolide, is known to inhibit the production and secretion of prostaglandins, substances released by blood platelets and white blood cells that contribute to migraines. White blood cells secrete substances believed to contribute to the kind of inflammatory processes seen in arthritis and possibly some other autoimmune disorders. Another substance, Serotonin, is also secreted by blood platelets and can constrict blood vessels and contribute to migraine pain. This inhibition of prostaglandins results in reduction in inflammation, decreased secretion of histamine, and a reduction of fevers, thus the name Feverfew.

      Researchers conducting placebo-controlled studies have discovered that taking daily supplements of feverfew resulted in a 24% reduction in the the overall number of migraines, and the headaches that did occur were measurably milder and resulted in less vomiting. Feverfew has also been useful in relaxing smooth muscles in the uterus, promoting menstrual flow and inhibiting platelet aggregation and excessive blood clotting. Feverfew also helps stimulate digestion and improves liver function.

    • Forskolin

      Forskolin is an important traditional Ayurvedic herb that has been a part of Indian medicine for centuries. Derived from roots of the plant Coleus forskohili, this herb is known to be a potent bronchodilator, able to relax the airways in the lungs and ease breathing. In this capacity it has been employed to treat imbalances resulting in asthma and other lung disorders. It has also been shown to relieve internal eye pressure, and may lead to new treatments for glaucoma.

      The effects of forskolin last for only a short period, and there are concerns that use may lead to possible cardiovascular complications. Forskolin would best be used under the supervision of a competent healthcare professional trained in its use.

    • Fo-Ti

      Fo-Ti is an herb derived from the dried roots of a Japanese evergreen called Polygonum multiflorum. In China, where it is called Ho shou wu, Fo-Ti is said to possess almost magical rejuvenating properties and it is especially popular with the elderly who believe it can help one maintain hair color, preserve youthfulness, and restore fertility.

      Traditional Chinese herbalists place great emphasis on the shape and age of the roots, with the older roots being in great demand. Made into a tea or infusion for oral ingestion, Eastern and Western herbalists recommend Fo-Ti as a tonic to maintain youthful vigor, increase energy, tone the kidneys and liver, and purify the blood. It is also employed as a remedy for insomnia, stomach upset, and diabetes.

      Fo-Ti contains a number of glycosides that account for the herbs use as a remedy for stomach disorders and constipation. Researchers suspect that the roots may contain compounds with mild cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory effects, but this has yet to be proved. Fo-Ti should not be confused with Fo-Ti Tieng, which is a trademarked formula containing Gotu Kola.

    • Garlic

      Garlic is a member of the lily family closely related to onions and leeks. Garlic has been cultivated for thousands of years for its therapeutic benefits by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Indians and Chinese. Primary use of garlic was as a treatment for tumors, headaches, weakness and fatigue, wounds, sores and infections. It was regarded as a physically enhancing tonic, and was used by the first Olympic athletes as an energizer.

      The scientific community has long respected garlic as a plant possessing impressive therapeutic activity. Louis Pasteur first demonstrated garlic’s anti-bacterial properties in 1858, and later Albert Schweitzer used garlic to treat amoebic dysentery. More recently, researchers have demonstrated that garlic helps protect against heart disease and cancer, and possess remarkable antibiotic effects. Garlic juice and its constituents can slow or kill more than sixty fungi and twenty types of bacteria, including some of the most virulent known to man.

      Researchers really began studying garlic after results of an epidemiologic study were published about ten years ago. The long-term study compared three groups of vegetarians in India who: 1. Consumed little or no garlic at all; 2. Consumed moderate amounts (10 grams per week) of garlic, or; 3. Consumed large amounts (50 grams of garlic per week).

      The mean fasting cholesterol levels for those ingesting large amounts of garlic was 159 mg/100 ml of serum. For those ingesting moderate amounts, the level was 172 mg/100 ml of serum, and those ingesting no garlic serum cholesterol levels were 208 mg/100 ml of serum.

      The diet of all three groups was virtually identical except for the difference in garlic intake. Researchers also reported that those who abstained completely from garlic and onions had blood that clotted more quickly than did those who consumed garlic and onions.

      In a another study, two sets of patients suffering with coronary-artery disease were enlisted in a ten-month study. One group got garlic supplements while the other group did not. Those who received garlic had steadily declining levels of lipoproteins associated with heart disease, while the group that didn’t get garlic showed no decline in these lipoproteins.

      Researchers concluded: “The positive reports appear to be overwhelming. The reviewers were surprised by the scarcity of negative reports.” Scientists also reviewed a variety of animal studies, many well controlled, in which garlic clearly exhibited a statistically significant lowering effect on cholesterol. The effect in most studies was found to be “dose-related,” meaning that the higher the daily dose of garlic, the greater the reduction in cholesterol.

      Various sulfur compounds contained in garlic appear to account for this favorable effect on cardiovascular health. Some of these are known to have significant impact on the biosynthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol, triglycerides and phospholipids. Ajoene, a garlic compound, has a potent anti-clotting effect and appears to be the crucial component in a number of garlic’s therapeutic actions.

      Other compounds in garlic have exhibited anti-tumor effects in animals. Epidemiologic studies in China show that eating a lot of garlic can protect against stomach cancer. Those who ate an average of seven garlic cloves a day had an incidence of gastric cancer ten times lower than those who rarely, if ever, ate garlic. The garlic, in this case, seemed to work, at least in part, by preventing dietary nitrites from converting to cancer-causing nitrosamines.

      Animal cancer research with garlic is impressive. Researchers recently proved that a garlic compound, diallyl sulfide, given to mice prior to exposure to a colon-cancer-inducing agent, has a potent protective effect. The garlic-treated animals got 75 percent fewer tumors than control animals not given garlic. In a similar experiments garlic completely protected mice against esophageal cancer. In other animal research, sulphur compounds of garlic have inhibited stomach and skin cancers.

      These compounds seem to work by enabling the liver to detoxify cancer causing chemicals before they can do harm. Additionally, garlic contains bioflavonoids and antioxidants, both known anti-carcinogens. Allicin is another of the active sulfur compounds in garlic, and is the substance that gives garlic its antibiotic qualities.

      There is one study which suggests that high doses of garlic might also increase physical endurance. Researchers wanted to see if garlic could protect heart muscles against a toxic drug. They injected rats with the heart-damaging drug isoproterenol. One group of these rats got garlic in their diet for a week prior to the injection with the drug. Another group got the drug, too, but no garlic. The garlic-fed rats withstood the effects of the drug far better than the rats that didn’t get garlic. The garlic-protected rats showed their greater physical endurance by swimming an average of 840 seconds before and 560 seconds after the drug injection. The rats that didn’t get garlic could swim only an average of 480 seconds before and only 78 seconds after injection. At autopsy, far fewer lesions were found in the heart muscles of the garlic-supplemented rats than in the muscles of the control rats.

    • Ginger

      Ginger is derived from the tuberous rhizome (underground root) of the perennial plant Zingiber officinale of the family Zingiberaceae. Also referred to as Jamaica ginger, African ginger, or Cochin ginger, ginger has been used as a spice, condiment and flavoring agent. For nearly 2,500 years ginger has also played an important role in Asian medicine as a folk remedy to promote cleansing of the body through perspiration, to calm nausea, and to stimulate the appetite. Ginger tea was also used as a carminative (agent which expels gas from the intestines) and in the symptomatic treatment of colds when given at their onset. It has been used in China and other countries for many years as a tonic.

      Ginger contains gingerol, a ginger oleoresin (combination of volatiles oils and resin) that accounts for the characteristic aroma of ginger, and explain its theraputic properties. Components of gingerol (zingiberone, bisabolene, camphene, geranial, linalool and borneol) have recently been studied and found to possess beneficial properties for the treatment of poor digestion, heartburn, vomiting and preventing motion sickness.

      A report appearing in the English medical journal Lancet in 1982 concluded that powdered ginger helped with motion sickness. Researchers conducted a double-blind study on 36 college students with a high susceptibility to motion sickness. Reporting on ginger’s ability to control motion sickness and aleviate neausea, they concluded that 940 mg. of powdered ginger was superior to 100 mg. of dimenhydrinate in reducing symptoms when consumed 25 minutes prior to tests in a tilted rotating chair.

      On the basis of this and other studies German health authorities have concluded that ginger, at an average daily dose level of 2 to 4 grams, is effective for preventing motion sickness and is also useful as a digestive aid. Any antiemetic effects of ginger are due to its local action in the stomach, and not to any central nervous system activity.

      Ginger is ordinarily taken in the form of capsules, each containing 250 to 500 mg. of powdered herb. It may also be consumed as a tea or in the form of candied ginger that is readily available in Oriental food markets. There are no reports of severe toxicity in humans from eating ginger, but recent pharmacological studies indicate that very large overdoses might carry the potential for causing depression of the central nervous system and cardiac atrhythmias.

      Additionally, the whole ginger plant has been found to cause liver damage in animals. It is interesting to note that an alcoholic beverage prepared from Jamaican ginger, popular in some parts of the U.S. in the 1930s, caused a serious neurologic problem called “the Jake Walk.”

      CAUTION: If suffering from gallstones, or if pregnant or nursing, consult a health care professional before taking large amounts of ginger. The German Commission E monograph opposes use for morning sickness during pregnancy. Daily consumption of ginger root may interfere with the absorption of dietary iron and fat-soluble vitamins, as well as tetracycline derivatives, oral anticholinergics, phenothiazines, digoxin, isoniazid, pheytoin, warfarin, lincomycin, digitalis, nalidixic acid, sulfonamides, and phenothiozines or other psychoactive agents which are poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Ginger may mask the ototoxicity caused by aminoglycoside antibiotics such as neomycin. It may inhibit urinary excretion of alkaline drugs, such as amphetamines or quinidine.

    • Ginkgo Biloba

      Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest living tree species, dating back over 300 million years, and individual trees can live for over 1,000 years. In China extracts of the fruit and leaves of the ginkgo tree have been used for over 5,000 years to treat lung ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, and as a remedy for cardiovascular diseases.

      Recently western researchers have been studying ginkgo biloba as a treatment for senility, hardening of the arteries, and as a treatment for oxygen deprivation. More than 34 human studies on ginkgo have been published since 1975, showing, among other things, that ginkgo can increases the body’s production of the universal energy molecule adenosine triphosphate, commonly called ATP. This activity has been shown to boost the brains energy metabolism of glucose and increase electrical activity.

      Scientists also discovered that ginkgo contains an abundance of useful compounds including the antioxidants Vitamin C and carotenoids, but it is the flavonoid compounds collectively known as “ginkgolides” that are the most remarkable. The ginkgo flavonoids act specifically to dilate the smallest segment of the circulatory system, the micro-capillaries, which has a widespread affect on the organs, especially the brain. Researchers have also reported that Ginkgo extracts effectively increase blood circulation and increase oxygen levels in brain tissues. Ginkgo is also a powerful antioxidant that prevents platelet aggregation inside arterial walls, keeping them flexible and decreasing the formation of arteriosclerositic plaque.

      Ginkgo’s ability to improve blood flow has been shown in numerous studies with the elderly, leading German researchers to study ginkgo as a treatment for atherosclerotic peripheral vascular disease. This condition can cause a condition marked by decreased blood flow to the limbs caused by hardening of the arteries. One indicator of this condition is severe pain felt in the legs when attempting to walk even short distances, referred to as intermittent claudication. German researchers found that treatment with ginkgo extracts improved circulation to the extremities and made it possible for patients with atherosclerotic peripheral vascular disease to walk further with much less pain.

      Ginkgo biloba extracts are relatively considered safe and free of side effects, though taking very large doses may lead to diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, which can be controlled by reducing the amount consumed.

    • Ginseng (American)

      American Ginseng has been traditionally used by the American Indians as a general tonic, as a natural restorative for the weak and wounded and to help the mind American Ginseng is now used as a natural preventative and restorative remedy, and is valued for its adaptagenic properties.

      American Ginseng is more sedative and relaxing, and increases “yin” energy, in contrast to Korean Ginseng (Panax) which is more stimulating and increases the “yang” energy.

      The main active ingredients of Ginseng (American and Korean) are the more than 20 saponin triterpenoid glycosides called “ginsenosides”. Another major difference between American and Korean Ginseng is that the American Ginseng is rich in the Rb1 group of ginsenosides, which have a more sedative and metabolic effect on the central nervous system. Korean Ginseng is higher in the Rg1 group of ginsenosides, which are more arousing and stimulating.

      American Ginseng (Rb1 ginsenosides) also increases stamina, learning ability, and has been used for stress, fatigue characterized by insomnia, poor appetite, nervousness and restlessness.

    • Ginseng (Korean)

      Ginsenosides (Rg1) are the active ingredients that trigger the over-all benefits of Korean Ginseng. Ginseng has been shown to reduce the intensity of the body’s response to stresses. Ginseng is the first bioactive compound to be termed “adaptogenic”, which indicates a balancing effect to restore or counter the effects of stress.

      Ginseng has been proven effective in assisting prolonged mental tasks and in improving intellectual performance. Overtraining in athletics is harmful to athletic gains and the body in general, with immune suppression a common result of going too far, too fast. Ginseng has been shown to be effective in restoring muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) and high energy phosphate compounds to normal levels.

      Research has shown specific effects which support the central nervous system, liver circulatory system, immune and glandular systems.

    • Ginseng (Siberian)

      Siberian Ginseng comes from the woody roots and not the typical fleshy rootstocks of the other ginsengs. The active ingredients, eleuthrerosides (B & E), are glycosides which provide the adaptogenic properties. Siberian Ginseng helps the body handle stressful conditions while enhancing mental and athletic abilities. The glycosides appear to act on the adrenal glands, helping to prevent adrenal hypertrophy and excess corticosteroid production in response to stress. Siberian Ginseng has been shown to increase energy, stamina, help the body resist viral infections, environmental toxins, radiation and chemotherapy. Siberian Ginseng is used to restore memory, concentration and cognitive abilities which may be impaired by improper blood supply to the brain.

    • Goldenseal

      Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) a member of the family Ranunculaceae, is a native American medicinal drug introduced to early settlers by Cherokee Indians who used it as a wash for skin diseases and sore eyes. Goldenseal extract, derived from the rhizome and roots of this small forest plant, has acquired a considerable reputation as a general bitter tonic and as a remedy for various gastric and genitourinary disorders.

      Goldenseal’s benefits can be attributed to its alkaloids, especially hydrastine and berberine. The latter is also responsible for the drug’s characteristic golden color. These alkaloids are strongly astringent and help reduce inflammation of mucous membranes. Hydrastine has also been reported to lower blood pressure and stimulate peristalsis, along with being an anti-tussive (relieves coughs).

      Berberine and its sulfate, berberine sulfate, have been demonstrated to have anti-cancer activity in vitro and also have been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and immunostimulatory activity, as well. Berberine has shown marked effects on acute diarrhea and its antibacterial qualities interfere with the ability of micro-organisms to adhere to the walls of host cells.

      Goldenseal has been recommended for a variety of inflamed mucous membranes, including stomach, intestinal, vaginal and rectal. It has been reported that the plant relieves pains and helps heal wounds and stop bleeding. In addition, the antibacterial action helps reduce or prevent infection of open sores.

      Recently, a “detox” tea made from comfrey, goldenseal, orange peel, mullein and spearmint has been used to help addicts kick their cocaine, heroin, and methadone habits. This would be great if it worked, but without scientific testing we can’t say one way or the other. Besides, one of the ingredients, comfrey, may be quite toxic.

      High doses of goldenseal may cause nausea, vomiting, a decrease in the white blood count and feelings of pins and needles in the hands and feet.

    • Gotu kola

      Gotu kola (Centella asiatica (L.) Urban), of the Apiaceae family, is also known as centella and pennywort. Native to areas such as Sri Lanka and South Africa, the leaves of this swamp plant have been used around the world for centuries to treat leprosy, cancer, skin disorders, arthritis, hemorrhoids, and tuberculosis.

      Gotu kola has also been employed as an energy tonic, an aphrodisiac, and as a treatment for high blood pressure and mental disorders. Gotu kola is a vital herb in Ayurveda, the traditional science of health in India, where it is used to “strengthen both the white and grey matter of the brain”, stimulate learning, memory and alertness, and calm or sedate anxiety when necessary. Traditional Chinese medicinal believed Gotu kola provided longevity, and thus called it the “fountain of youth” herb in China. In the United States gotu kola is found in countless energy formulas and tonics.

      A common misconception is that gotu kola contains caffeine, which is simply not true. Researchers have found that gotu kola contains several glycosides that exhibit wound healing and anti-inflammatory activities, and in large doses it can act as a sedative. Other researchers have shown that fresh leaves of the gotu kola plant are effective in healing chronic skin ulcers and other wounds.

      Gotu kola contains a group of triterpenes called asiaticosides that possess strong antioxidant properties. In modern health care Gotu Kola is used primarily for venous insufficiency, localized inflammation and infection, and post-surgery recovery. Gotu kola is also used for the following:

      * SKIN: Open wounds, sores, ulcers, other infections and radiation ulcers. * CONFINEMENT: Bed sores, phlebitis, tingling, night cramps. * VEIN PROBLEMS: Phlebitis, varicose veins, cellulite and edema. * GYNECOLOGY: Lesions during pregnancy, delivery and obstetric manipulations, and episiotomy tears.

      Gotu kola affects various stages of tissue development, including keratinization (the process of replacing skin after sores or ulcers). Asiaticosides stimulate the formation of lipids and proteins necessary for healthy skin. Gotu Kola has been found to have significant results in healing of skin, other connective tissues, lymph tissue, blood vessels (decreasing capillary fragility), and mucous membranes.

    • Grape Seed

      Grape Seed Extract (along with Pycnogenol, an extract derived from maritime pine bark) is an important source of one of nature’s most potent antioxidants, the proanthocyanidins. These nutritionally valuable substances have been utilized to treat deteriorating diseases and conditons with great success. Research has shown that proanthocyanidins (bioflavonoids) serve as anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, atniallergenics and are major free radical scavengers. The proanthocyandins possess up to 50 times stronger antioxidant activity than Vitamin C&E, Beta Carotene or Selenium.

      Proanthocyanidins also help promote tissue elasticity, help heal injuries, reduce swelling and edema, restore collagen and improve peripheral circulation. Proanthocyanidins also prevent bruising, strengthen weak blood vessels, protect agains atherosclerosis, and reduce histamine production.

      For years, those who could afford the high price of pycnogenol supplements derived significant antioxidant protection against free radicals. Pycnogenol, which is derived from pine bark, contains 85% proanthocyanidin. Grapeseed extract contains 95% proanthocyanidin and is far more affordable than pycnogenol.

    • Green Tea

      Green tea extract comes from the natural dried leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis). Black tea is derived from oxidized green tea leaves. Both Green and Black tea have been used for thousands of years in Asia, both as a beverage and a herbal medicine.

      Researchers studying green tea have found it to be an excellent source of potent, bioflavonoid-rich compound that is high in polyphenols, a special class of bioflavonoids. The most important of the polyphenols isolated from green tea are the catechins, and in particular (-)Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), a strong antioxidant that is used in food production and antioxidant research.

      The phenol groups in green tea polyphenols are extremely active, easily able to capture and neutralize free radicals and other pro-oxidants. Researchers have found that EGCG is over 200 times more powerful than vitamin E in neutralizing pro-oxidants and free radicals that attack lipids (oils and fats). EGCE is also 20 times more potent than vitamin E in reducing the formation of dangerous and potentially mutagenic peroxides that form in rancid fats and lard.

      EGCE is also known to confer protection against respiratory and digestive infections and food poisoning, while encouraging acidophilus growth and regularizing bowel habits. In laboratory studies, 500 mg. of green tea catechins per day have been shown to significantly lower blood pressure and possess anti-mutagenic activity. Additionally, at very high levels (0.5% to 1% of daily diet) green tea catechins reduced high total- and LDL-cholesterol levels in animal studies.

      Green tea blocks the attachment of bacteria to the teeth, protecting against cavities. Green tea extract is non-toxic, both in acute doses and high long-term doses. There is no potential for causing mutation or birth defects, and no adverse effect on fertility, pregnancy or nursing.

    • Guarana

      Guarana (Paullinia Cupana) is a climbing shrub that grows wild in the Amazon regions of Brazil and Uruguay. Most modern commercial Guarana is grown on government plantations where the highest quality plants are harvested.

      The Guarana fruit is havested when ripe, after turning a bright red or yellow. The gathered fruit yields a small round black seed which is crushed to form a paste containing 10% Guaranine (caffeine).

      Guarana has been used for hundreds of years by Brazilian Indians as a general tonic for the body and as a source of energy. Guarana acts on the central nervous system to prevent fatigue and break down lactic acid from muscle stress.

      Besides caffeine, Guarana contains a host of other xanthines. Theobromine and Theophylline are the primary xanthines, acting as muscle relaxants and possessing diuretic properties.

    • Hawthorne

      Hawthorne berries are gathered from the small tree Crataegus laevigata of the family Rosaceae. Also known as Mayblossom and Whitehorn, Hawthorne was known to Dioscorides in the first century A.D., but was not widely used until recent times. The edible berries are often made into marmalade, and herbal preparations made from the flowers, fruits, and leaves are very prominent in contemporary European medicine. Currently about three dozen different preparations containing extracts of Hawthorne are marketed in Germany.

      Hawthorne is described in most modern herbals as a valuable treatment for various heart ailments and circulatory disorders, as well acting as a mild astringent to be used for treating sore throats. Hawthorne is most often used to protect against the beginning stages of heart disease, for mild heart muscle weakness, for pressure and tightness of the chest, and for mild arrhythmia. It is also used as a tonic for an aging heart.

      Standardized extracts improve myocardial and coronary circulation, raising the myocardial tolerance for oxygen deficiency. Hawthorne is also used for hypertension, nervous disorders and insomnia. It may potentiate the action of digitalis, and does potentiate cardiotonic glycosides.

      Hawthorne should not be used as a substitute for medical care when an “organic cause” for one of the conditions listed is present, so cause should be diagnosed prior to use.

      Modern researchers have revealed some interesting properties of hawthorne and confirmed that hawthorne contains compounds which support the heart and circulatory system. Hawthorn works to dilate the blood vessels, especially the coronary vessels, reducing peripheral resistance and thus lowering blood pressure and reducing the tendency to angina attacks. Though hawthorne’s action is not immediate, but develops very slowly, apparently it has a direct effect on the heart itself, especially in cases of heart damage. Its toxicity is low as well, becoming evident only in large doses. It’s therefore a relatively harmless heart tonic which apparently yields good results in many conditions where this kind of therapy is required.

      Hawthorne contains leucoanthocyanins, flavonoids, hyperoside, vitexin 2-rhamnoside, glycosylflavones, amines, catechols, phenolcarboxylic acids, triterpene acids, sterols, inositol, PABA, saponins and purines. The main activity of hawthorne is derived from the potent mixture of pigment bioflavonoids, as well as oligomeric procyanidins (dehydrocatechins) that seem to be particularly active. Some of the flavonoid glycosides are thought to work in a similar way to digitoxin, having a vasodilating effect that could be helpful in the treatment of angina. They also produce marked sedative effects which indicate an action on the central nervous system.

      A combination of several constituents seems to be directly responsible for the increase in heart muscle contraction force, by blocking whatever is reducing the contraction, for example, beta-blockers. The flavones help control the intracellular Calcium ion concentration. Hawthorne berries also contain inositol, PABA, purines, saponins, and B vitamins.

    • Hops

      The hop plant, Humulus lupuius, is a a perennial climbing vine and hedgerow that twines around trees. Belonging to the family Cannabidaceae, hops are extensively cultivated in England, Germany, the United States, South America, and Australia. The hop plants bear a female strobile (fruit) shaped like a scaly cone, covered with glandular hairs containing the resinous bitter principles which make hops so popular in brewing and in medicine. Hops have been used since Roman times in brewing beer and as a nerve tonic and sedative. It has also been used to control diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, where spasms of the smooth muscles play a role.

      Although hops have been used for brewing beer for over 1,000 years, their medicinal properties have also been valued from very early times. Hop pickers used to tire easily, apparently as a result of transferring some hop resin from their hands to their mouths, gaining hops a reputation as a safe sedative. Later, pillows filled with hops were used for insomnia and nervousness. Small bags of hops, wetted with alcohol and placed on the skin, were also said to reduce local inflammation.

      Experiments have shown that Hops relaxes the smooth muscles and acts as a sedative. It has been used to increase breast milk for irritable infants (and probably pass along its soothing effects).

      The main constituent chemicals are unstable polyphenolic principles, primarily lupulin, which contains a bitter acid complex (2-Methyl-3-butonol, humulone, lumulone, lupulone and valeronic acid) and a volatile oil complex (humulene, myrcene, b-carophyllene and farnescene). The bitter acids humulone and lupulone have been associated with sedative properties.

      Hops also contain tannins, flavonoid glycosides (rutin, quercetin and astragalin), and asparagine.

      CAUTION: If you are pregnant or nursing, consult your health care professional before using hops products. Not recommended for people suffering from depressive illness.

    • Horsetail

      Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense) is a rush-like perennial related to ferns. The hollow, jointed stems of this flowerless plant contain large amounts of silica and silicic acids (5-8%).

      Silica is used by the body in the production and repair of connective tissues while accelerating the healing of broken bones. Our bodies use silica to maintain and repair the nails, hair, skin, eyes and cell walls. Horsetail is also used for its diuretic and astrigent properties, making it a useful treatment for cystitis, bladder and prostate problems, and kidney stones.

      Horsetail (silica) reduces the risk of excessive bleeding and contributes to the building of healthy blood cells. Research has shown that Horsetail increases the number of phagozytes (enzymes that kill germs and other foreign substances), which improves the functioning of the entire immune system.

      Bronchitis, lung and respiratory tract disorders have been shown to be helped by Horsetail, which increases the functioning and elasticity of lung tissues.

      Horsetail contains 5% of the saponin equisetonin, and several flavone glycosides, including isoquercitrin, galuteolin, and equisetrin, which most likely account for its diuretic activity. Horsetail also contains Aconitic acid, calcium, PABA, fatty acids, fluorine, vitamin B-5 and zinc.

    • Juniper

      Juniper, latin name Juniperus communis, is a short evergreen shrub whose fruit and oil provides a flavoring agent used extensively in the food, perfume and soap industries. Juniper berry is probably best known as the unique flavoring agent of gin, an important component of the dry martini, a popular intoxicant and putative calmative revered by western culture for over 300 years. As a medicinal remedy, juniper has a long history of use employed as a treatment for numerous diseases by ancient Greek and Arab healers, as well as native American Indians.

      Juniper berries contain a volatile oil, terpinen-4, that acts as a kidney irritant to stimulate increased kidney filtration and output. For this reason Juniper is commonly utilized as a diuretic to treat conditions involving the kidneys and bladder, to increase urine output, and for relief from symptoms of gout and kidney stones. Juniper berries, consumed raw, are also believed to act as a stimulant to increase appetite, and also serve as a remedy for rheumatism and arthritis. Lastly, Juniper berries, either eaten raw or brewed as a spicy sweet tea, are used as an effective remedy to relieve gas, stimulate digestion, and relieve colic.

      While generally recognized as a safe herb, pregnant women are cautioned to avoid consuming Juniper products due to the likelyhood of increased contractions of the uterus. Those suffering from kidney ailments should also avoid Juniper products which can irritate the kidneys and bladder. When taking Juniper, if excessive urination or kidney irritation occur, cease using the product immediately.

    • Kava Kava

      Kava Kava (Piper Methysticum), also known as kava pepper, is an exciting botanical that has gained recent popularity in United States due to its availability. Though Kava is relatively new to the U.S., it is certainly not a new herb. Kava has been used in Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia in the South Pacific for over 3,000 years. Kava is a relaxant and sleep aid, able to induce a feeling of relaxation, peace and contentment, along with a sharpening of the senses. Kava was the beverage of choice during important meetings involving conflicts, inducing a state of relaxation and goodwill among parties trying to reconcil differences.

      More recently, in the past few hundred years, Kava has also gained popularity with the natives of Hawaii, Australia and New Guinea where it is used medicinally as well as recreationally.

      Kava was first mentioned in the scientific records in 1886, and by 1993 the active ingredients, Kavalactones, were detected by mass spectrometry. Over the past 100 years extensive analytical investigation of the Kava root has revealed that the active ingredients in Kava, the kavalactones, comprise 15% of the root. Of the fifteen lactones isolated from Kava, there are six major lactones (kavalactones) known to provide psychoactive activity: kawain, methysticin, demethoxy-yangonin, dihydrokawain, dihydomethysicin, and yongonin. All kavalactones are physiologically active, though it is the fat-soluble kavalactones derived from kava resin that convey the main psychoactive activity.

      Absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is remarkably rapid, so the effects are felt almost immediately. The kavaclones are pharmacologically effective and differences in their actions are qualitative as well as quantitative. According to Singh (1983), “Kavalactones act less by inhibition of neuromuscular transmission than by a direct effect on muscular contractibility. The postsynaptic depression is similar to that caused by lignocain and other local anesthetics”. Kava’s muscle-relaxant properties are similar to those of potent tranquilizers as they both act on the central nervous system. Double-blind, placebo controlled studies conducted in 1991 show Kava to be a modern means of achieving relaxed states without side effects.

      Increased cognitive function has been observed with Kava use according to a 1993 article in Neuropsychobiology. Unlike sedatives, Kava improves mental function instead of dulling the brain. And unlike alcohol or sedatives, it would be extremely difficult to build up a tolerance to Kava (Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology, 1992, 18:571). A dose of 100 to 150 ml of Kava can induce sleep within 30 minutes. No aftereffects are noted at this dose. Kava root is primarily used as a natural sedative and sleep inducer. It is also effective in reducing menstrual cramps. Kava is obviously not recommended for those who intend to drive or conduct any activity which requires fast reaction time.

      Pharmaceutical grades of natural Kava root are available from reputable companies in the United States. Synthetic Kava can be produced but does not possess the same soothing qualities of naturally extracted kavalactones from the Kava plant. Correctly extracted Kava will contain all six kavalactones in high concentrations (25-30%).

      CAUTION: Driving or operating heavy or dangerous equipment is not recommended while under the influence of Kava Kava, as drowsiness is likely to occur. Kava Kava use is contraindicated during pregnancy or nursing, and in cases of depression. Do not take for more than 3 months, nore more than 1,000 mg. per day without medical advice. Extended continuous intake can cause a temporary yellow discoloration of skin, hair and nails, in which case it must be discontinued. Discontinue use if dilation of pupils or disturbances of coordination between vision and movement occur.

      INTERACTION: Use of Kava Kava may increase the effects of alcohol, barbiturates and psychopharmacological agents.

    • Kola Nut

      Kola Nut is also known as Cola Nut and Cola. Kola Nut is the seed kernel of a large African tree grown commercially around the world. It is extremely popular in the tropics as a caffeine containing stimulant.

      Key constituents are caffeine, theobromine, tannins and phenolics, including d-catechin, l-epicatechin, kolatin, and kolanin. Also contains phlobaphens, the antocyanin pigment kola red, betaine, protein and starch.

      Kola Nut is a central nervous system stimulant, antidepressant, diuretic and astringent. Because of its caffeine content, Kola Nut may relieve some migraine headaches. The phenolics and anthrocyanin are likely to provide antioxidant activity.

      Historical uses of Kola Nut include increasing the capacity for physical exertion and for enduring fatigue without food; stimulating a weak heart; and treating nervous debility, weakness, lack of emotion, nervous diarrhea, depression, despondency, brooding, anxiety, and sea sickness.

    • Licorice

      While commonly thought of as a popular candy, the herb Licorice is derived from the from the roots and stems of the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, and is never used in candies. Licorice is one of the mainstays of traditional Chinese medicine, and has been used for over 3,000 years as a tonic to rejuvenate the heart and spleen, and as a treatment for ulcers, cold symptoms, and skin disorders.

      Modern herbalists commonly utilize licorice in treating adrenal insufficiencies such as hypoglycemia and Addison’s disease, counteracting stress, and in purifying the liver and bloodstream. In combination with other herbs it is recommended as a demulcent to soother mucous membranes, and as an expectorant useful in treating flu, colds, respiratory disorders and bronchitis.

      Medical researchers have isolated several active substances in licorice root including glycosides, flavonoids, asparagine, isoflavonoids, chalcones and coumarins. Primary of these is Glycyrrhetinic acid, a natural anti-inflammatory compound that led to the successful development of drugs used in the treatment of duodenal and gastric ulcers, as well as ulcers of the mouth and genitals.

      Another licorice compound, glycyrrhizin, has been shown to possess anti-viral properties effective against the polio virus, herpes zoster, herpes simplex, and the HIV virus. Both compounds have also been found to inhibit cancer cells in vitro, though clinical studies on humans have not been conducted.

      Other derivatives of licorice have elicited a host of active ingredients that seem to act as anti-depressants and, if that weren’t enough, inhibit the enzymes that cause tooth decay. All in all licorice is a very impressive herb that is well supported by medical research and clinical data.

      Persons with a history of congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and liver disorders should not use licorice compounds. If you are pregnant or nursing, consult your health care professional before using this product. People with a history of renal failure or those currently using cardiac glycosides may wish to avoid use of Licorice as a precautionary measure.

    • Mura Puama

      One of the best herbs to use for erectile dysfunction is Mura puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides). This shrub is native to Brazil and has long been used as a powerful aphrodisiac and nerve stimulant in South American folk medicine. A recent clinical study has validated its safety and effectiveness in improving libido and sexual function in some patients.

      Marap uama has been used in tonifying the nervous system and for cases of mild exhaustion. It helps with gastrointestinal and reproductive disorders. It has antirheumatic properties and can be used for treating stress and trauma. Because of neurosexual stimulation it can enhance the libido. It can enhance blood chi and balance yin and yang in the triple warmer. It has been considered to be useful in prevention of some types of baldness. It is also used for neuromuscular problems

      At the Institute of Sexology in Paris, France, under the supervision of one of the world’s foremost authorities on sexual function, Dr. Jacques Waynberg, a clinical study with 262 patients complaining of lack of sexual desire and the inability to attain or maintain an erection demonstrated Muira puama extract to be effective in many cases. Within 2 weeks, at a daily dose of 1 to 1.5 grams of the extract, 62 percent of patients with loss of libido claimed that the treatment had dynamic effect while 51 percent of patients with “erection failures” felt that Muira puama was of benefit.

      Presently, the mechanism of action of Muira puama is unknown. From the preliminary information, it appears that it works on enhancing both psychological and physical aspects of sexual function. Future research will undoubtably shed additional light on this extremely promising herb for erectile dysfunction.

    • Milk Thistle

      Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum Gaertn), is a member of the family Asteraceae. Also known as the Marian, St. Mary’s, and Our Lady’s thistle, Milk Thistle should not be confused with the blessed or holy thistle (Cnicus benedictus), an entirely different species.

      Milk Thistle is a tall herb with prickly leaves and a milky sap that is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. Milk thistle is among the most ancient of all known herbal medicines, having been used as a folk remedy for centuries for liver complaints. Recent research has demonstrated that extracts of milk thistle do indeed protect against some very nasty liver toxins.

      Research has uncovered a host of antihepatotoxic (liver protectant) compounds commonly referred to as silymarin. Silymarin has been shown to consist of a large number of flavonolignans, including silybin, isosilybin, dehydrosilybin, silydianin and silychristin. Animal studies have shown that silymarin exerts a liver protective effect against a variety of toxins, including the phallo toxins of the deadly Amanita phalloides mushroom.

      Amanita phalloides is one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the world, containing toxins that are particularly destructive to the liver. Ingestion of this mushroom can lead to severe liver damage and death if untreated. The active ingredient of the herb is a bioflavonoid mixture called silymarin, the principal component of which is silybin. In animal experiments, when silymarin was given before poisoning by the Amanita phalloides mushroom, it was found to be 100 percent effective in preventing liver damage. Silymarin was also found to be completely effective if given to animals within ten minutes of exposure to the poison. When given within twenty-four hours it still prevented death and greatly reduced the amount of liver damage.

      Silymarin also confers protection against the liver damage from dangerous solvents such as carbon tetrachloride and ethanol (alcohol). Silymarin has been used in the treatment of hepatic disorders in humans, and a German medical study found that liver function in patients with chronic hepatitis improved after three months of therapy with silymarin. A later study reported on the use of 420 milligrams of silymarin daily in patients with cirrhosis of the liver. Of twenty followed up for six to thirty-six months, ten were definitely improved and four had deteriorated.

      The results of numerous studies suggest that silymarin not only protects liver cells by preventing the actions of toxic substances but that it also stimulate protein synthesis to accelerate the regeneration and production of liver cells.

      Silymarin and component silybin function as antioxidants, protecting cell membranes from free-radical-mediated oxidative damage. This type of damage is known as lipid peroxidation. Most liver toxins produce their damaging effects by free radical mechanisms. Both silymarin and silybin protect red blood cell membranes against lipid peroxidation and hemolysis (breaking down of the red blood cells) caused by certain red blood cell poisons.

      Milk thistle is presently available in the United States in concentrations that contain up to 80% silymarin. Silymarin is not soluble in water, and is therefore ineffective when taken in the form of a tea. Oral use requires a concentrated product. Milk thistle is marketed in the United States as a food supplement in the form of capsules containing 200 to 250 mg. of a concentrated extract representing 160 to 200 mg. of silymarin. Though relatively free from adverse affects, those with liver problems who wish to use milk thistle should be monitored by a health care professional to determine the products effectiveness.

    • Nettles

      Nettles, (Urtica dioica) from the family Urticaceae is also referred to as Stinging Nettle, Common Nettle and Greater Nettle. Nettle plants grow 2 to three feet tall, bearing dark green leaves with serrated margins and small flowers covered with tiny hairs on the leaves and stems. When brushed, Nettles can inject an irritant into any skin that comes into contact with the plant.

      This stinging reaction is caused by the plant hairs injecting a compound containing formic acid, histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, 5-hydroxytryptamine and other irritants. This stinging activity is lost when the plant is dried or cooked, and the tender tops of young first-growth nettles are especially delicious and nutritious.

      Found all over the world, Nettles have been used as a vegetable and folk remedy for centuries. Collected before flowering, Nettles were thought useful as a treatment for asthma, as an expectorant, antispasmodic, diuretic, astringent, and tonic. Applying an extract of Nettles to the scalp was said to stimulate hair growth, and chronic rheumatism was treated by placing nettle leaves directly on the afflicted area. This usually led to local irritation, which could be relieved by vigorously rubbing the area. No evidence exist for the belief in Nettles ability to treat baldness. Likewise, Nettles have also been historically used to treat cancer, liver disease, constipation, asthma, worms, arthritis, gout, tuberculosis and gonorrhea, with little if any effectiveness.

      The diuretic properties of nettles are well recognized, and several pharmaceutical preparations incorporating Nettles are marketed in Europe for this purpose. In addition, an extract of nettle root has become quite popular in recent years for the treatment of urinary retention brought on by benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Some clinical studies attests to its effectiveness, and German health authorities now allow it to be used for this condition.

      The German Commission E monograph indicates use of Nettles for secondary (not primary) treatment for rheumatic complaints, and for irrigation (flushing) in cases of inflammation of the urinary tract and in prevention and treatment of kidney gravel, noting that abundant fluid intake must be assured.

      Nettles are rich in chlorophyll and young cooked nettle shoots, when cooked, are not only edible but are an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and minerals, especially silica.

      Adverse effects from consuming nettle tea can range from upset stomach to burning sensations in the skin, difficulty in urination and bloating.

    • Parsley

      Most often found in fresh salads and as an uneaten garnish in restaurants, Parsley, latin name Petroselinum sativum, has been used in classical folk medicine for over 2,000 years, and traditional folk healers have discovered applications for virtually every part of this carrot-like plant.

      Parsley seeds have been used as a carminative to relieve gas and stimulate digestive action, while the root has been employed for its mild diuretic activity, helping to increase urine output and rid the body of excess fluids.

      The leaves and root have been recommended for treating urinary tract infections, and the entire plant is claimed to stimulate digestion and to act as an expectorant to aid in the elimination of mucus, thus aiding congestion. Folk healers have also found parsley to be an effective emmenagogue to stimulate the uterus and aid menstrual flow.

      As a food, parsley is an excellent breath freshener, and nutritionally it is a good source of iron, beta carotene and vitamins B1, B2 and C. Laboratory research has supported many of the healing claims of parsley. Essential oils extracted from parsley have been shown to lower of blood pressure and to act as a mild sedative.

      Volatile oils contained in parsley seeds have also proven to support claims for aiding digestion and increasing urine output. Parsley also contains apiol and myristicin, mildly toxic terpenes known to stimulate the uterus. Folk healers have also used parsley as an abortifactant, and under no circumstances should parsley volatile oils be administered to pregnant women. Otherwise, parsley is not toxic and appears free of adverse effects.

    • Passiflora

      Passiflora (Edulis) is a Brazilian herb that is rich in Alkaloids (harmine & harmaline) and Flavone Glycosides. These ingredients have a sedative and tranquilizing effect. Passiflora may aid the transition into a restful sleep without any narcotic hangover.

      Historically, Passiflora was used by North American Indians, where it was applied to earaches, boils and inflammation. Passiflora enters the heart, liver and lung meridians; influencing the cardiovascular and central nervous system. Passiflora is also said to have an anti-spasmodic effect especially when there is associated tension.

    • Passion Flower

      Passion Flower is also known as Wild Passion Flower and Maypop. It is a woody vine with flowers that reminded early pilgrims of the passion and suffering of Christ. Passion Flower bears small berry-like fruit called granadilla or water lemon.

      Passion Flower is used as a sedative in nervous disorders (including gastrointestinal complaints of nervous origin), difficulties in sleeping, and anxiety or restlessness, especially in children. Also used to treat female anxiety during menses, childbirth and menopause. Passion Flower reduces spasms and depresses the central nervous system.

      Passion Flower contains flavonoids such as isovitexin, vitexin, saponarin, orientin, glycosides, gynocardin, and alkaloids.

      Supportive agents include: Valerian, Hops, Chamomile, Skullcap, Kava Kava, Wood Betony, Hawthorne Berries, L-Tryptophan and GABA.

    • Pennyroyal

      Pennyroyal, latin name Mentha pulegium, is a member of the mint family. A mildly spicy tea brewed from the leaves of the pennyroyal plant is often recommended as a diaphoretic to inducing sweating to aid in eliminating toxins from the body. It also serves as a carminative to relieve gas, stimulate digestive action and to relieve nausea.

      Pennyroyal, when brewed together with yarrow and elder flowers, results in a tea that is recommended by herbal healers as a treatment for releif of symptoms during the early stages of colds and flu. It is also consumed before retiring to bed for its mild sedative action.

      Pennyroyal tea has also been traditionally employed as an emmenagogue to promote menstrual flow, and as an abortifacient to initiate self-abortion. These activities are initiated by highly volatile oils contained in the plant. These oils are high in pulegone, a highly toxic volatile, which can stimulate uterine activity.

      While pennyroyal tea may safely stimulate mild increase in menstrual flow, the effects of the oil are very different. When employed to induce abortion the effects of pennyroyal oil are extremely dangerous and can be lethal. In one case, despite immediate emergency hospital treatment, an expectant mother died within hours of consuming just two tablespoonfuls of pennyroyal oil in an attempt to initiate self-abortion. Other cases have resulted in coma and convulsions after consuming much smaller amounts of this extremely toxic oil.

      Such dangers do not pertain to normal consumtion of pennyroyal tea. Pennyroyal oil can only be recommended for external application to repel flying insects, and it is often found in flea collars for dogs and cats.

    • Pumpkin

      Pumpkin seeds of the genus Cucurbita have enjoyed a long history in folk medicine for use as teniafuges, or agents with the ability to rid the body of intestinal parisites such as roundworms and tapeworms. Derived from such species as autumn squash, crookneck squash, and the Canada pumpkin, cucurbita seeds can be consumed plain, or be administered in the form of an infusion or tea.

      Usually taken in three separate doses ranging in size from 20 to 150 grams of seeds, the treatment is believed to paralize the worms, causing them to loosen their grasp and then allowing for them to be an effectively expelled from the body.

      Researchers have isolated an amino acid called cucurbitin that is found only in pumpkin seeds and is thought to be responsible for the worm-expelling effects. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of two unsaturated fatty acids oleic and linoleic acid which may account for claims that pumpkin seeds can releive symptoms of enlarge prostate.

      There are no known side effects or reports of toxicity regarding pumpkin seeds.

    • Pycnogenol

      Grape Seed Extract (along with Pycnogenol, an extract derived from maritime pine bark) is an important source of one of nature’s most potent antioxidants, the proanthocyanidins. These nutritionally valuable substances have been utilized to treat deteriorating diseases and conditons with great success. Research has shown that proanthocyanidins (bioflavonoids) serve as anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, atniallergenics and are major free radical scavengers. The proanthocyandins possess up to 50 times stronger antioxidant activity than Vitamin C&E, Beta Carotene or Selenium.

      Proanthocyanidins also help promote tissue elasticity, help heal injuries, reduce swelling and edema, restore collagen and improve peripheral circulation. Proanthocyanidins also prevent bruising, strengthen weak blood vessels, protect agains atherosclerosis, and reduce histamine production.

      For years, those who could afford the high price of pycnogenol supplements derived significant antioxidant protection against free radicals. Pycnogenol, which is derived from pine bark, contains 85% proanthocyanidin. Grapeseed extract contains 95% proanthocyanidin and is far more affordable than pycnogenol.

    • Pygeum

      Pygeum is also known as African Pygeum. It is a large evergreen tree that grows in the high plateaus of southern Africa.

      The bark is traditionally powdered and drunk as a tea for genito-urinary complaints. Double-blind clinical trials have shown efficacy for many parameters of prostatic hypertrophy, including failure to urinate, nocturnal urination, frequent urination, residual urine, abdominal heaviness, voiding volume, prostate volume and peak flow. Results included significant reduction of symptoms and prostate size, and clearance of bladder neck urethra obstruction.

      The bark contains three groups of active constituents: phytosterols (including beta-sitosterol), pentacyclic triterpenoids (including ursolic and oleaic acids) and ferulic esters of long-chain fatty alcohols (including ferulic esters of docosanol and tetracosanol).

    • Royal Jelly

      Royal jelly is a viscous, milky white secretion produced by the pharyngeal glands of worker bee (Apis mellifera L.), belonging to the insect family Apidae. During the first three days of life all bee larvae feed exclusively on this special and highly concentrated food. Future queens continue to be nourished by this product, making the Queen Bee 50% larger than the other female worker bees, and contribuing to her incredible stamina and longevity. Queen Bees typically live 4 or 5 years, compared to the workers, who live only about 40 days.

      Because the resulting queens are much larger than worker bees, live thirty to forty times longer, and are highly fertile (worker bees are sterile), enthusiasts have long believed that royal jelly may have beneficial effects when consumed by human beings.

      Various herbalist claim that royal jelly is especially effective in halting or controlling the aging process, nourishing the skin and erasing facial blemishes and wrinkles. Royal Jelly has also been used to treat cases of fatigue, depression, convalescence from illness, the “growing pains” of adolescence; and in preventing the signs of normal aging or even premature senility. As a general tonic for treating the menopause or male climacteric and to improve sexual performance, royal jelly supposedly has a general systemic action rather than any specific biological function.

      Chinese herbalists also advocate Royal Jelly for use in cases of liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, phlebitis, gastric ulcer, degenerative conditions, and general mental or physical weakness.

      The chemistry of royal jelly has been extensively studied and found to be a rich source of complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids, unsaturated fats, natural sugars, minerals and the B-vitamins (B-5 and B-6) The B vitamins were especially prominent, with pantothenic acid predominating.

      Tests have shown that royal jelly does possess some slight antibacterial activity and can have an affect on the adrenal cortex, stimulating the adrenal glands to produce a positive reaction on increased metabolism, enhanced energy, greater sexual capability and appetite.

      An antitumor effect in mice has also been noted, but there is no evidence that the product has any estrogenic (female sex hormonal) activity, or that it affects the growth, longevity, or fertility of animals. As for its topical effectiveness in rejuvenating the skin the results from one three-month clinical study of 24 female patients are of interest; ten women showed improvement, ten experienced no change, and four showed symptoms of skin irritation.

    • Saw Palmetto

      Almost half the male population over age 50 suffers from enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH), with symptoms ranging from inflammation (prostatitis), to swelling, painful and frequent urination, and nocturnal urination. One in seven men over age 50 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer among men (next to skin cancer) and the second most common cause of cancer death (next to lung cancer).

      The most common treatment for prostate disease is surgical removal of the prostate. About 400,000 prostatectomies are performed every year in the United States. Unfortunately, surgical removal of the prostate can lead to impotence and incontinence and is linked to increased risk of death from heart disease.

      Research has shown that enlargement of the prostate gland is caused mainly by the action of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) a powerful male hormone which is converted from the primary male hormone (testosterone) under the influence of the enzyme testosterone 5-alpha-reductase. The FDA recently approved a drug (Proscar) that counters the action of DHT as a treatment for BPH, but Proscar is very expensive ($60 a month) and sometimes causes severe side effects such as sexual impotence.

      Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens has recently gained widespread use by doctors and alternative health practitioners alike as a safe alternative for treating BHP. Saw Palmetto is a small palm tree with large leaves and deep red-black berries. Native Americans used the berries as a food and a therapeutic herbal treatment for enuresis, nocturia, atrophy of the testes, impotence, inflammation of the prostate and low libido in men. Women also used the Saw Palmetto berries to treat infertility, painful periods and problems with lactation. Saw Palmetto has other traditional uses as a tonic and expectorant for mucous membranes, particularly the bronchial tubes.

      Saw Palmetto Berry contains an oil with a variety of fatty acids, including capric, caprylic, caproic, lauric, palmitic and oleic acid, and their ethyl esters. Saw Palmetto oil is also high in phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, cycloartenol, lupeol, lupenone and 24-methyl-cycloartenol), as well as other volatile oils, resins, and tannin.

      Saw Palmetto is a “multi-site” inhibitor of the hormone DHT, which plays a major role in the development of prostate disorders. Saw palmetto inhibits 50% of the binding of DHT to receptor sites in the prostate. It also blocks the uptake of DHT into the nucleus of prostate cells, and strongly inhibits the action of testosterone 5 alpha-reductase, which reduces the conversion of testosterone to DHT.

      In modern research, fat-soluble extracts of Saw Palmetto have been shown to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to dihydro-testosterone (DHT), and to block the binding of DHT to prostate cells, thus reducing prostate enlargement and inflammation.

      In a controlled clinical trial with patients with enlarged prostate glands, 50 patients who received saw palmetto (320 mg per day – 4 tablets taken in two separate doses with meals) were compared to 44 patients receiving placebo. Patients treated with saw palmetto urinated less frequently, produced a better flow rate and amount of urine, and had less pain and discomfort in urinating than control subjects. There were actually fewer adverse side effects in patients receiving saw palmetto than in controls.

    • Schisandra

      Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) of the family Schisandraceae is a creeping vine with small red berries that is native to Northern China. In ancient China Schisandra was used as a staple food for hunting and gathering tribes. As a traditional medicinal herb, Schisandra, called Wu-wei-tzu in China, has been used as an astringent for a treatment for dry cough, asthma, night sweats, nocturnal seminal emissions and chronic diarrhea It is also used as a tonic for the treatment of chronic fatigue.

      During the early 1980’s Chinese doctors began researching Schisandra as a treatment for hepatitis, based on its potential for liver-protective effects and the nature of its active constituents. Schisandra is now a recognized “adaptogen,” capable of increasing the body’s resistance to disease, stress, and other debilitating processes.

      In Asia, this adaptogenic property is said to “stimulate immune defenses, balance body function, normalize body systems, boost recovery after surgery, protect against radiation, counteract the effects of sugar, optimize energy in times of stress, increase stamina, protect against motion sickness, normalize blood sugar and blood pressure, reduce high cholesterol, shield against infection, improve the health of the adrenals, energize RNA-DNA molecules to rebuild cells and produces energy comparable to that of a young athlete.”

      Studies conducted on Schisandra’s effects have noted that the drug has a stimulating effect in low doses, but this effect disappeared with larger doses. The compounds thought responsible for the liver-protective effects of Schisandra are lignans composed of two phenylpropanoid. More than 30 of these have been isolated in Schisandra and some 22 of which were tested in 1984 by the Japanese scientist H. Hikino for their ability to reduce the cytotoxic effects of carbon tetrachloride and galactosamine on cultured rat liver cells.

      Most lignans were found to be effective, and some were extremely active (schisandrins A and B, gomisin A, B-bisabolne). Subsequent Japanese studies have found that two of the lignans, wuweizisu C and gomisin A, exert their liver protective effects by functioning as antioxidants to prevent the lipid peroxidation produced by harmful substances such as carbon tetrachloride. Since lipid peroxidation leads to the formation of liver damage the two compounds did indeed exert a protective influence.

      Western herbalists commonly recommend Schisandra for the lungs, liver and kidneys, and to help with depression due to andrenergic exhaustion. In Russia Schisandra is used to treat eye fatigue and increase acuity.

      CAUTION: Schisandra should not be used during pregnancy except under medical supervision to promote uterine contractions during labor. Schisandra should be avoided by persons with peptic ulcers, epilepsy and high blood pressure.

    • Saint John's Wort

      Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), also known as Goatweed, Hypericum and Klamath Wee, belongs to a group of about two hundred herbs of the family Hypericaceae. This aromatic perennial herb is found throughout Europe and the United States, producing golden yellow flowers that seem particularly abundant on June 24, the traditional birthday of John the Baptist. Ergo the name in honor of St. John.

      St. John’s wort was popular with ancient medical authorities and was commonly recommended as a folk remedy for the treatment of infectious diseases such as colds, syphilis, tuberculosis, dysentery, whooping cough and worms. St. John’s wort has also been used as a folk remedy for the treatment of depression, anxiety, mania, hypochondriasis, fatigue, hysteria and insomnia.

      Over time, with the advent of modern pharmaceutical science, St. John’s wort was nearly forgotten as a medicinal herb. Only recently has St. John’s wort gained a new reputation, particularly in Europe, as an effective nerve tonic for treatment of anxiety, depression, and unrest. A report in a leading German medical journal in 1984 demonstrated significant improvement in depression, anxiety and insomnia in nine people taking oral extracts of St. John’s wort. Recent studies have linked the antidepressant effects of St. John’s wort to various contained xanthones and flavonoids that act as monoamine oxidase (MOA) inhibitors. Tests on small animals and preliminary tests in humans have confirmed this activity.

      In a study published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 1988, researchers from The New York University Medical Center and The Weizmann Institute of Science reported the discovery of two substances in St. John’s Wort, hypericin and pseudohypericin, that displayed anti-viral activity against some retroviruses. Retroviruses include the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the authors suggested that these herbal products could be useful in the treatment of AIDS.

      Extracts of St. John’s wort are now known to inhibit the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the most common cause of tuberculosis, as well as the bacteria staphylococci, shigella and Escherichia coli. Researchers have also shown that St. John’s wort inhibits the growth of some strains bacteria that are highly resistant to antibiotics, such as Staphylococcus aureus, enterococcus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. St. John’s wort has also been reported to have anti-viral activity against herpes simplex virus, influenza virus and hepatitis B virus.

      Hypericin and pseudohypericin appear to be the active therapeutic components of St. John’s wort, though other substances, including protein, fat, tannin, vitamins A and C, carotenoids, rutin and pectin support it’s activies. The presence of hypericin and pseudohypericin distinguish St. John’s wort from other herbs, and both compounds are promising candidates for the treatment of HIV disease, including ARC and AIDS, as noted above.

      The mechanism of viral inhibition by these substances is not known, but their chemical structures suggest that they may interact with viruses membranes, leading to increased fluidization which would would essentially inactivate the virus.

      Chemical investigations have detected a number of other constituents in St. John’s wort, including about 1% of a volatile oil and approximately 10% of tannin. The tannin probably exerts some wound-healing effects through its astringent and protein-precipitating actions.

      Unfortunately, hypericin may exert a much less desirable side effect, a form of photosensitivity characterized by dermatitis of the skin and inflammation of the mucous membranes on exposure to direct sunlight. There is evidence that the photosensitizing caused by St. John’s wort is due to the fluorescent pigment hypericin.

      Purified hypericin, when given orally, can produce photosensitization in rats. It is the reaction of this substance with the ultraviolet rays of the sun that causes the problem. The photosensitization reaction is known as hvpericism or St. John’s wort poisoning. It is important to point out that photosensitization reactions have not been described in humans participating in studies using Hypericum extracts. This is most likely due to the fact that these subjects were not receiving doses high enough to cause the reaction. The photosensitizing dose for humans is not known.

      Those taking St. John’s wort for extended periods should be aware of the possibility of inducing a photosensitization reaction and be prepared to discontinue use if symptoms occur.

    • Suma

      Suma, also called Para toda, is the dried root of Pfaffia Paniculata, a plant found in the Atlantic rain forest of Brazil. First introduced to the United States as Brazilian Ginseng, Suma is one of the most highly regarded herbs in South America, and is considered to be a true adaptogen. Used by native peoples for centuries, Suma is advocated as an effective adaptogen to support the immune system, adapt the body to external stresses, relieve pain, fight chronic fatigue syndrome, and accelerate wound healing.

      Herbalists using Suma often refer to research conducted by Dr. Milton Brazzach, head of the pharmaceutical department at the University of Sao Paulo. Dr. Brazzach originally become interested in suma when his wife was cured of breast cancer after ingesting the root. Dr. Brazzach has since gone on to test suma on thousands of patients suffering from serious diseases such as cancer, leukemia, and diabetes. He reportedly found suma to have great healing and preventative powers, yet has never published his clinical findings.

      Researchers have isolated several active compounds in suma, including Beta Ecdysterone, a plant sterol which has an anabolic and immune boosting effect in the body. Suma is also rich in a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals (particularly the rare mineral germanium), amino acids, Allantoin (a cell building compound) and 6 pfaffic acids.

      Recent studies have shown that five of the pfaffosides found in Suma have been able to inhibit growth of cultured melanoma tumor cells, supporting at least some of the claims made for this herb. To date there are no reports regarding the toxicity and there are no known side effects.

    • Turmeric

      Turmeric is an essential flavoring spice of Indian and other cuisines. The Turmeric rhizome provides the typical yellow color of many curry dishes and helps to make the food more digestible. Turmeric has been used for arthritis, high cholesterol, digestion, liver protection, and obesity. Turmeric also possesses antifungal and antibacterial properties.

      Turmeric contains curcumin and an essential oil (turmerone, zingiberins). Curcumin increases the secretion of bile by stimulating the bile duct. Curcumin also protects the liver by detoxification, stimulating the gall bladder and scavenging free radicals. In conjunction with the adrenal glands, it inhibits both platelet aggregation and the enzymes which induce inflammatory prostaglandins. Curcumin may also help break down fats and reduce cholesterol

      Caution: Large doses not recommended in cases of painful gallstones, obstructive jaundice, acute bilious colic and extremely toxic liver disorders.

    • Uva Ursi

      Uva ursi is also referred to as bearberry, kinnickinick, whortleberry, bear’s grape, mountain cranberry and mealberry. The leaves of this small shrub have been used as an herbal folk medicine for centuries as a mild diuretic and astringent, and in the treatment of urinary tract infections such as cystitis, urethritis and nephritis.

      Uva-ursi contains a plant glycoside, Arbutin, which breaks down in the body to form hydroquinone, a chemical compound that serves as an effective urinary antiseptic and astringent. Uva-ursi contains other compounds, among them ursolic acid, which are also known to be effective diuretics.

      Uva-ursi is extremely high in tannin, which can lead to stomach distress if taken in large quantities. The tannin content of uva ursi tea can be easily minimized by soaking the leaves in cold water rather than by brewing in hot water, which would release more of the tannin.

      Uva ursi is generally considered a safe herb, but large doses or prolonged use of hydroquinone can have toxic effects, including ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, and delirium. Uva ursi should not be used by children or pregnant women, and should never be used for prolonged periods of time or in high doses unless under the supervision of health care professional.

      Cautions: Nausea and vomiting may occur in sensitive adults and children. Uva-Ursi requires alkaline urine (pH 8) to work; urine can be made alkaline by taking a heaping teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Uva-Ursi should not be taken with drugs that lead to the formation of acid urine. Do not take for extended periods of time without consulting a knowledgeable physician or health care provider. Only for oral use. Contraindicated in acute cystitis. Can cause gastric irritation if over-used. Should not be used in pregnancy. Will temporarily turn the urine green, a harmless effect.

    • Valerian

      Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) of the family Valerianaceae, is a tall perennial herb with hollow stems that bear white or reddish flowers. The vertical rhizome and attached rootlets are harvested in the autumn of the second year’s growth. These plant parts possess an unpleasant aroma due to the contained volatile oils.

      Valerian extract, derived from the dried rhizomes and roots of the plant, has been used for thousands of years as a folk remedy, tranquilizer and calmative for several disorders such as restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, hysteria, menstrual problems, and as a sedative for “nervous” stomach. Valerian extracts are currently used in scores of compounds and teas in Europe.

      Most current treatments for insomnia work by disrupting natural sleep rhythms and risk psychologically addiction. Natural sedatives, free of side effects, are constantly being sought. In the early 80’s many people turned to L-tryptophan (no longer available – see article) as a sleep aid. More recently western consumers have become aware of the benefits of low-dose melatonin. Now health conscious consumers in Europe and United States are discovering that valerian root has a calming effect and helps them fall asleep more easily.

      The German Commission E monograph for health authorities indicates that valerian is a safe and effective anti-anxiety agent and sedative for treatment of restlessness and sleep disturbances resulting from nervous conditions. Valerian is perhaps best characterized as a minor tranquilizer when administered in the form of a tea, a tincture or an extract.

      During the past three decades extensive studies on Valerian have identified several unstable esters called valepotriates believed to be the primary source of the plants sedative effects. Researchers have found that although Valerian is effective in producing depression of the central nervous system, neither the tested valepotriates, nor the sesquiterpenes valerenic acid or valeranone, nor the volatile oil itself displayed any such activity. This has led to speculation that it is a combination of volatile oil components, valepotriates or their derivatives that is responsible for Valerians calmative actions.

      For example, a 1985 study conducted in the Netherlands showed no anxiety-reducing activity by an extract of valerian root or purified valepotriates. However the study did find that didrovaltrate, a valepotriate, as well as valeranon, an essential oil component from the herb, were able to produce a pronounced smooth-muscle relaxant effect on the intestines. The researchers concluded that certain valerian preparations may produce a calming effect indirectly through local spasmolytic activity.

      A another study conducted in Russia, researchers reported that valepotriates inhibited caffeine-stimulated motor activity and prolonged barbiturate-induced sleeping time in mice and rats. This translates to anti-anxiety and sedative activities. In other research, valerenic acid and related sesquiterpens have been found to inhibit the breakdown of the neurotransmitter, aminobutyric acid.

      Overall, Valerian is relatively safe and no significant side effects or contraindications are noted, though those with impaired kidney or liver functions should not take valerian except under a physician’s supervision. Valerian can interact with alcohol, certain antihistimines, muscle relaxants, psychotropic drugs and narcotics. Those taking any of these drugs should take valerian only under the supervision of a health care provider.

    • Willow Bark

      The bark of the common Willow tree, also known as the Pussy Willow, is the source of a wide range of phenolic glycosides, of which the most important is is salicin. Like Aspirin, indications for Willow bark include mile feverish colds and infections (influenza), acute and chronic rheumatic disorders, mild headaches, and pain caused by inflammation.

      Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), a synthetic replacement for salicin, has potentially dangerous gastrointestinal side effects. In its natural form, salicin passes harmlessly through the gastrointestinal tract, becoming saligenin and glucose. The saligenin is then converted to salicylic acid in the blood and the liver. The conversion process takes a few hours, so results will not be felt immediately, but are usually sustained for several hours.

      Caution: If you are pregnant or nursing please check with your health care professional before using Willow bark. Individuals who are allergic to salycylates should avoid Willow bark.

    • Wood Betony

      Betony, also known as Wood Betony, was once held in high regard by ancient folk healers. Used as a herbal treatment for a host of human ills ranging from the common cold to warding off supernatural spirits, Betony is still used by herbal practitioners, though for a much more limited set of maladies.

      Current use of the dried herb of Betony involves the use of a tincture or infusion as a remedy for chronic headaches and to treat anxiety and nervousness. Like most herbs, Betony possesses mild astringent properties, for which it is occasionally recommended as a the treatment for diarrhea, or as a mouthwash to soothe mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.

      Betony contains relatively high amounts of tannin, explaining its astringent activity. It also contains choline, alkaloids and glycosides. One glycoside has been shown to lower blood pressure, possibly supporting its use as a treatment for anxiety and headaches.

      Betony is nontoxic, though excess consumption may lead to mild stomach upset.

    • Yellow Dock

      Yellow dock is small, leafy plant that grows wild in Europe and the United State. Also called curly dock, and closely related to rhubarb, the green leaves are commonly used in salads, while the yellow root has been used as a herbal folk-remedy for hundreds of years.

      Ground up and brewed, yellow dock root makes a bitter-sweet tea or infusion that has been used by herbalists in the treatment of a variety of disorders, primarily to treat enlarged liver and to purify the blood. It was also thought a good remedy for syphilis, tuberculosis, gum disease and leprosy, but is no longer recommended for these serious disorders.

      Modern herbalists will still occasionally recommend yellow dock tea as a treatment for the liver and gallbladder, though its mainly employed in the treatment of skin disorders and digestive ailments. There is virtually no research to support the use of yellow dock as an effective treatment for psoriasis or acne.

      Yellow dock is known to contain tannin which is an astringent is mildly useful in the treatment of diarrhea and stomach distress, though in large enough doses it may actually cause diarrhea. The root also contain several anthraquinone glycosides that researchers recognize as being responsible for its undisputed laxative effect.

      Yellow dock is generally considered to be mildly effective as a laxative, and not very effective for much more. Side effects of excess consumption of yellow dock include excessive urination, nausea and diarrhea.

    • Yohimbe

      Yohimbe is an herb derived from the inner bark of the yohimbe tree which grows wild throughout Africa. Long considered an a effective aphrodisiac, able to stimulate sexual desire and performance, yohimbe has been available by prescription as a pill. Recently yohimbe containing products have become popular as over the counter herbal preparations.

      The active component of yohimbe bark is yohimbine, an alkaloid monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor that blocks adrenergic receptors. This leads to an increase in dilation of blood vessels and a lowering of blood pressure. This enlargment of blood vessels, particularly in the sexual organs, is the generally accepted explanation of the physiological effects of the herb. Yohimbe also seems effective in elevating mood and reducing depression and anxiety, further contributing to its aphrodisiac activity.

      Animal studies have shown that yohimbe does indeed increase sexual arousal and performance. Researchers conducting double-blind, placebo-controlled studies reported measurable improvements in sexual libedo and performance in men receiving the yohimbe versus those on placebo. Clearly in some cases yohimbe can improve sexual performance in those suffering from physiological and psychological impotence. Scientists have also recently found evidence that yohimbe may aid in weight loss by suppressing the body’s ability to store fat.

      Yohimbe is not without side-effects, which can include sweating, nausea and vomiting. Those taking MAO inhibitors such as tranquilizers, antidepressants or blood-pressure medications should not take yohimbe or any compounds containing yohimbine. Use of yohimbe is also contraindicated for pregnant women as well as persons with kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, diabetes or ulcers. Persons with a history of psychoses should also avoid yohimbe as it has been known to trigger new episodes of psychic reaction.

    • Yucca

      Yucca has a long history of use as a folk remedy employed for treatment of arthritis and rheumatism and is cultivated as an important medicine plant and staple food in South America. The yucca root commonly used by herbal healers comes from the flowering yucca plant, a member of the lily family that can grow to heights of 40 feet or more.

      The yucca root is rich in steroid-like saponins that elevate the body’s production of cortisone, possibly explaining the herbs reported ability to aid in managing arthritic pains. Currently researchers are debating the merits of various studies to determine the efficacy of using yucca in the treatment of various forms of arthritis. No study to date supports the use of yucca root at the expense of more traditional and effective therapies in the management of arthritis.

      Though known to occasionally induce stomach distress, yucca is generally regarded as a harmless and maybe beneficial herb.

    • DHEA

      DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a metabolite of cholesterol that is naturally produced by the adrenal glands. DHEA is the most abundant, naturally-occurring hormone in the human body, and is often referred to as the “Mother Hormone” because it acts as a precursor that the human body can convert DHEA, upon demand, into a host of other vital health-enhancing hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and corticosterone.

      DHEA is an important raw material from which the body manufactures hormones which are very important to normal physiological functions. DHEA levels normally decline markedly with age, so researchers are very interested in knowing if supplemental DHEA may have health-enhancing or anti-aging properties.

      DHEA blood levels reach their peak around age 20, then decline in a linear fashion, making it one of the most reliable markers for measuring biological aging. By age 80 DHEA blood levels have declined as much as 95%, signaling the onset of the aging process.

      “DHEA is most abundant in the human bloodstream. Research has found it to have significant anti-aging effects. DHEA levels naturally drop as people age, and there is good reason to think that taking a DHEA supplement may extend your life and make you more youthful while you’re alive. Additionally, DHEA may be an important player in cognitive enhancement.” ( Ward Dean, M.D.)

      More than just a precursor for the synthesis of other hormones, scientists have also identified specific body cells designed to bind to DHEA. This receptor function indicates that DHEA plays a far more direct role in human health than was previously recognized. There have been over 2,500 published papers documenting DHEA’s multiple benefits, but the most recent paper studied the quality of life enhancing effect of this natural hormone: “DHEA will improve the quality of life over a longer period and will postpone some of the unpleasant side effects of aging, such as fatigue and muscle weakness.”

      The report also stated that those patients receiving DHEA supplements slept better, had more energy and were better equipped to handle stress compared to the placebo group not receiving the DHEA.

      The potential benefits of DHEA have been known to the scientific community for over 20 years, but this is the first placebo controlled human study conducted that sought to assess the therapeutic benefits of DHEA replacement therapy.