The Natural Path to Better Health: Herbs for Everyday Problems

August 22, 2012 | Comments: None Yet - Post a Comment

Categories: Science, Wellness

 

Here is a list of some commonly used herbs that you might like to keep around the house for everyday maladies.

 

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Parts used
Root

The underground stem, or rhizome, of this plant has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times. In China, for example, ginger has been used to aid digestion and treat upset stomach, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years. Today, ginger root is still widely used as a digestive aid for mild stomach upset and is commonly recommended by health care professionals to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, pregnancy, and cancer chemotherapy. Ginger is used as support in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and may even be used for heart disease or cancer.

 

Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis)
Parts used
Oil is extracted from the seeds, which contain up to 25% essential fatty acids including linoleic acid (LA) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Both LA and GLA belong to the omega-6 family of fatty acids.

Evening primrose has served as food and medicine throughout history, often for upset stomach and respiratory infections. Native Americans ate the boiled, nutty-flavored root, and used leaf poultices from the plant for bruises and hemorrhoids.  Today, evening primrose seed oil (EPO) is used primarily to relieve the itchiness associated with certain skin conditions (such as eczema and dermatitis) and to ease breast tenderness from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or other causes.

 

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)
Parts used
Root

Both American and Asian ginsengs belong to the species Panax and are similar in their chemical composition. Siberian ginseng, also called  Eleuthero, although part of the same plant family as Panax, is an entirely different plant and does not contain ginsenosides, the active ingredients found in both Asian and American ginseng. Many studies on ginseng have been performed using Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng). There have been positive reports of using Asian ginseng to treat cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems, fatigue, as well as to boost energy and mental performance. American ginseng may also enhance the effects of medications used to treat breast cancer, potentially allowing the doctor to use less chemotherapy.

 

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Parts used
Dried root

Native to the Americas, Asia, and Europe, valerian has been used to ease insomnia, stress-related anxiety, and nervous restlessness for thousands of years, with particular popularity in Europe starting in the 17th century. Now, modern day research, mainly over the last decade, has begun to confirm the scientific validity of these historic uses.

 

Arnica (Arnica montana)
Parts used
Fresh or dried flowers

This flower has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s and remains popular today. Applied topically as a cream, ointment, liniment, salve, or tincture, arnica has been used by both Europeans and Native Americans to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds.  Not for internal use unless in doses prescribed in homeopathic remedies.

 

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Parts used
The seed dried and
used whole or ground

Fennel seed is antiseptic and secretolytic, that is, it encourages secretion of saliva and gastric juices. It also stops stomach cramps and is greatly beneficial in reducing gas and bloating.  The seed infused in hot water makes a beverage that can be used to decrease the symptoms of morning sickness and is safe for infants over six months for treatment of colic.  For infants under six months, the infusion can be taken by the nursing mother.

 

Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva )
Parts used
The inner bark

The bark of the slippery elm tree has been used as an herbal remedy in North America for centuries. Native Americans used it in healing salves for wounds, boils, ulcers, burns, and skin inflammation. Antiseptic poultices made from the mucilage, a gummy secretion from the bark, were applied to infected wounds. In particular, the Cherokee used Slippery elm for coughs, skin conditions, and as an eye wash.  Slippery elm has received recognition from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a safe and effective option for treatment of sore throat and respiratory symptoms, such as cough.

 

Which brands are safer?
Look for these symbols:

Consumer Labs

United States Pharmacopeia

 .

Products bearing these labels do not contain lead,  but do contain between 100-135% of what is stated on the label and are consistent from lot to lot

Informative websites for alternative medicine and herbalism:

  • Herbs at a Glance Series by the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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