- Note that although western medicine may not recognize the value of herbs, 75% of drugs
used today are based on knowledge of plant substances and one-fourth of all prescription
drugs contain one or more plant-derived ingredients.
Most drugs, particularly synthetic drugs are at a 100% concentration (with the many side-affects) and herbal medicines typically have concentrations of activity of only 2 to 3%.
Botanical medicine normally takes the form of powdered leaves, bark, flowers, roots, or seeds. Barks and roots deteriorate at the slowest rate. The most reliable way to take herbs may be an extract or tincture, sold in eyedropper bottles at health food stores.
A consumer needs to be aware. Pay close attention to ingredients. MANY OF THE PRODUCTS ARE NOW VOLUNTARILY STANDARDIZED TO A CERTAIN COMPONENT OR GROUP OF COMPOUNDS. You also need to watch out for products containing ephedra or ma huang - the herbal form of the central nervous system stimulant, ephedrine, commonly known as speed. They are marketed under names such as Herbal Ecstasy, Ultimate Xphoria and Cloud 9. (Some over-the-counter asthma medications also contain ephedrine.)
Make sure you get pure (if available, standardized) herbal products which are proven to be helpful to the body. Here are some of the better known beneficial herbs:
There is general agreement from several sources on the value of this herb in
stimulating the immune system.
It is one of the most heavily studied and best selling immune-boosting herb in the world. It increases the ability of white cells to surround and destroy bacterial and
viral invaders in the blood.
It stimulates the lymphatic system to clean up waste material and toxins.
It has been shown to be a 30 percent more potent T-cell stimulator than the most
potent T-cell stimulator known at this time.
From the 1890s to the 1920s echinacea preparations were the most widely prescribed American medicinal plant by physicians in the United States. Today, it is one of the most important over-the-counter products in Germany and is routinely perscribed by German physicians. Over 180 products are approved by the German government.
No single chemical component is responsible (to be standardized on) for echinecea's medicinal action. It may involve flavonoids, polysaccharides, caffeic acid derivatives, alkylamides and other compounds.
Over one thousand research papers have been published in the past twenty to twenty-
five years. It is the number two selling herb - just behind enchinecea.
Garlic has been used to treat illness for thousands of years. It is a powerful antiviral,
antifungal and antibacterial herb.
One study has shown that one milligram of the major garlic constituent, allicin, is
equal to 15 standard units of penicillin (for example, garlic has been shown to be
more effective than penicillin for sore throats).
It has been shown an ability to aid certain immune functions, particularly increasing
natural killer cells' activity. ( It is helpful in preventing colds and influenza and is
useful in other forms of viral illness.)
It also provides important cardiovascular benefits, including slightly lowering blood
pressure, aiding in the thinning of the blood and reducing platelet aggregation (the
clustering of disks found in human blood that facilitates blood coagulation).
Studies in China and Italy found stomach cancer risk dropped by up to 40 percent in those eating large amounts of garlic and onions. A study of 41,000 women in Iowa found that eating garlic at least once a week reduced the risk of colon cancer by 35 percent.
Garlic's stongest anti-cancer effect when consumed regularly before the onset of cancer or when cancer cell numbers are small - in a preventative mode.
Odor-controlled capsule supplements standardized on allicin are a popular way of receiving the benefit from this herb.
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba)
At least three volumes of technical papers on the chemistry, pharmacology and
clinical studies on Ginkgo biloba extract have been published.
It increases the flow of blood to the brain, ensuring that the brain gets enough glucose, oxygen and other critical nutrients.
It acts as a powerful free-radical scavenger in brain cell membranes.
It improves brain neurotransmitter function in several ways.
In neural tissues, it inhibits "platelet aggregation factor" (PAF). PAF has been linked to decreased blood flow to the brain and, by extension - brain damage.
Similarly, it protects brain cells agains the negative effects of trauma, intoxication, hypoxia (reduced oxygen availability) and cerebral insufficiency.
This results in an overall improvement in brain function, especially in the elderly who are in danger of encroaching senility.
It is licensed in Germany for the treatment of cebreal dysfunction, as a supportive
treatment for hearing loss due to cervical syndrome and for peripheral arterial
Ginkgo leaf extracts are also used for heart and eye diseases, and accidents involving
The most popular products are capsules standardized to 24 percent flavone glycosides and further calibrated for ginkgolides and other components.
The main application is with weak, debilitated, stressed or elderly people. It invigorates the mind and muscles.
It aids the body to cope with stress, primarily through effects upon the functioning of
the adrenal gland.
If ginseng is abused, however, serious side effects can occur, including headaches,
skin problems, and other reactions. The proper dosage should be determined and
Goldenseal has a long history of use in infections including bacterial, viral, fungal
and parasitic. It is a topical disinfectant for sores on the mucous membranes.
It can help in many digestive problems, from peptic ulcers to colitis.
It inhibits yeast growth which can be a common side affect of using antibiotics.
Applied externally it can be helpful in eczema, ringworm, itching, earache and
Note that this herb is considered "cooling," the opposite effect of garlic.
- Milk Thistle
A wealth of laboratory and clinical research on this herb is revealing exciting data
about reversal of toxic liver damage as well as protection from potential hepatotoxic
- They highlight a role for milk thistle in the treatment of toxic/metabolic liver
disease (including both alcohol and drug induced forms).
- Milk thistle shortens the course of viral hepatitis, minimizes post-hepatitis
complications and protects the liver against problems resulting from liver surgery.
Milk thistle is often standardized to 70 percent silymarin, its most active component.
- St. John's Wort
Long used as an anti-inflammatory, wound-healing nervine, valued for its mild
sedative and pain-reducing properties.
- It has been used to treat neuralgia pain, fibrositis, sciatica, rheumatic pain,
anxiety, tension, and similar problems.
- It is increasingly recommended in the treatment for mild to moderate depression.
Recent research has suggested a role for this herb in the treatment of virus infections,
from influenza to HIV.
Used externally, it's a valuable healing and anti-inflammatory remedy.
- As a lotion it will speed the healing of wounds and bruises, varicose veins and
- The oil is especially useful for healing sunburn.
- Saw Palmetto
Saw palmetto is an herb that acts to tone and strengthen the male reproductive
- It will safely boost male sex hormones.
- It is most effective in reducing the size of a benign enlargement of the prostrate gland.
A scientific team from Europe reviewed the scientific research on valerian and
concluded that it is a safe nighttime sleep aid.
- In Germany. valerian root and its teas and extracts are approved as over-the-
counter medicines for states of excitement and difficulty in falling asleep.