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Herb Guide

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A quick herbal reference.

Common Name
(Latin name)

Uses (specific conditions or symptoms it treats)

Action

Precautions

Aloe Vera
(Aloe Vera)

Wounds, burns, psoriasis

Has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties

None known, though some practitioners feel aloe should not be used in deep wounds

Astragalus
(Astragalus membranaceus)

Susceptibility to colds, flus, other illness

Stimulates immunity.

None known.

Bilberry
(Vaccinium myrtillus)

Poor night vision, macular degeneration, varicose veins, cataracts

Strengthens blood vessel walls, especially those in the eyes; reduces inflammation.

None known.

Bitter Melon
(Momordica charantia)

Diabetes

Improves blood sugar control.

Don't combine with insulin or other blood sugar-lowering drugs.

Black Cohosh
(Cimicifuga racemosa)

Menopausal symptoms

Mimics estrogen and inhibits luteinizing hormone, which causes symptoms such as hot flashes.

Should not be taken by adolescents, pregnant or nursing women

Boswellia
(Boswellia serrata)

rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, bursitis, tendinitis

Has anti-inflammatory properties, may strengthen cartilage.

None known.

Calendula
(calendula officinalis)

Cuts, burns, eczema, hemorrhoids

Has anti-inflammatory, wound-healing properties.

None known.

Cayenne
(Capsicum spp.)

Post-herpetic neuralgia (shingles pain), arthritis

Affects transmission of pain impulses.

None known. Should not be used on open sores, as cayenne can be caustic.

Chamomile
(Matricaria recutita)

Indigestion, anxiety, insomnia

Has relaxant, anti-inflammatory properties

Use cautiously if you're allergic to members of the daisy family.

Cranberry
(Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Bladder infections

Prevents bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.

None known.

Echinacea
(Echinacea spp.)

Colds, flus

Stimulates immunity.

Gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea.

Ephedra
(Ephedra sinica, spp.)

Treats bronchial asthma, colds and flu, chills, aching joints and edema.

Diuretic and anti-inflammatory activity. Stimulates central nervous system and heart muscles; elevates blood pressure.

Should NOT be used by anyone with high blood pressure, heart disease, hypertension, thyroid disease or diabetes. Do not combine with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, found in many antidepressants. Use with extreme caution. Consult a health care practitioner before using.

Fenugreek
(Trigonella foenumgraecum)

Diabetes, constipation

Reduces blood sugar and serum cholesterol, stimulates digestion.

Don't use if you're pregnant or taking insulin or other blood sugar-lowering drugs.

Feverfew
(Tanacetum parthenium)

Migraine headaches

May reduce production of pain-causing prostaglandins.

Chewing leaves may cause mouth sores. Don't use if you're pregnant or taking blood-thinning drugs.

Garlic
(Allium sativum)

High cholesterol, high blood pressure; may help prevent heart disease

Inhibits cholesterol production, thins blood, neutralizes free radicals.

Don't combine with blood-thinning drugs.

Ginger
(Zingiber officinale)

Nausea

Actions aren't fully understood, except that it affects the stomach and gastrointestinal tract.

Don't combine with blood-thinning drugs.

Ginkgo
(Ginkgo biloba)

Alzheimer's disease, severe memory loss

Improves circulation, reduces clotting, may stimulate nerve cell activity.

Don't combine with blood-thinning drugs.

Green Tea
(Camellia sinensis)

May help prevent cancer

Inhibits formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines, may detoxify carcinogens.

None known.

Hawthorn
(Crataegus oxyacantha)

Congestive heart failure, benign heart palpitations, high blood pressure

Strengthens and stabilizes heart muscle, lowers blood pressure.

Use caution when combining with cardiac drugs.

Kava
(Piper methysticum)

Anxiety, insomnia

Has anticonvulsant properties, relaxes muscles.

Long-term use can create a dry, scaly rash. Don't combine with sedative drugs.

Melissa
(Melissa officinalis)

Oral and genital herpes

May prevent viruses from attaching to cells.

No precautions when used topically.

Milk Thistle
(Silybum marianum)

Viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver toxicity

Displaces toxins, scavenges free radicals, regenerates liver cells.

None known.

Nettle
(Urtica dioica)

Prostate enlargement

May influence prostate function, interact with sex hormones, reduce inflammation.

None known.

Panax Ginseng
(Panax ginseng)

Stress, fatigue, low immunity, poor mental function

Strengthens immunity, other actions unknown.

Occasionally causes insomnia.

Peppermint
(Menta x piperita)

Promotes digestion; eases indigestion, nausea, colds, headache and cramps

Stimulant.

Should not be used by anyone with achlorhydrian (absence of hydrochloric acid from gastric juice). Leaf and oil should be avoided by those with gallbladder or bile duct obstruction.

Red Clover
(trifolium pratense)

Menopausal symptoms

Mimics estrogen.

Should not be taken by adolescents, pregnant or nursing women.

Saw Palmetto
(Serenoa repens)

Prostate enlargement

May interact with sex hormones, reduces inflammation.

None known.

St. John's Wort
(Hypericum perforatum)

Mild to moderate depression

May raise levels of mood-elevating neurotransmitters.

High doses can increase sun sensitivity. Don't combine with antidepressant drugs.

Tea Tree
(Melaleuca alternifolia)

Wounds, acne, bacterial and fungal infections

Broad antiseptic and antifungal properties.

Potentially toxic when ingested.

Valerian
(Valeriana officinalis)

Insomnia

May affect an anxiety-related amino acid.

Don't combine with sedative drugs.

BURDOCK ROOT (Arctium lappa) burdock.gif

Burdock is a member of the thistle family and is a common pasture weed throughout North America that prefers damp soils. It grows to more than 3 feet tall and is also called Personata, Thorny Burr, Beggar's Buttons, Cockle Buttons and Philanthropium.

The roots, young stems and seeds of the Burdock plant are edible. Young stalks are boiled to be eaten like asparagus, raw stems and young leaves are eaten in salads. Parts of the Burdock plant are eaten in China, Hawaii and among the Native American cultures of this continent.

It is the root of the Burdock plant that is harvested for medicinal use. The roots are about an inch wide but up to three feet long. The roots should be harvested in the fall of the first year or the spring of the second. Later during the second year the plant produces burrs such as shown in the picture.

Burdock root contains vitamins B complex and E. Trace minerals are potassium, phosphorous, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, silicon, zinc, thiamine and sodium. It provides inulin, a helpful sugar for diabetics and hypoglycemics because it does not elicit rapid insulin production.

Both European and Chinese herbalists have long considered burdock root an excellent tonic for the lungs and liver. It reportedly stimulates toxic waste through the skin and urine, improving digestion. The Chinese use Burdock Root as an aphrodisiac, tonic and rejuvenator. Some say it is good against arthritis and rheumatism.

The anecdotal beneficial effects of this herb includes increasing circulation to the skin, helping to detoxify the epidermal tissues. It has been used in treating psoriasis and acne, among other skin conditions. Burdock root has been reported to destroy bacteria and fungus cultures.

Anti-tumor properties have also been reported and Burdock is 1 of 4 components of Essiac Tea. Burdock is one of the finest blood purifiers in the herbal system. It is classified as an alterative, diuretic and diaphoretic. It helps the kidneys to filter out impurities from the blood very quickly. It clears congestion in respiratory, lymphatic, urinary and circulatory systems.

Buy Burdock root only from a reliable supplier. In one documented case, belladonna was substituted for burdock, causing atropine poisoning (burdock does not contain atropine). Fresh burdock root has a distinct aroma.