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Herbs. Their Therapeutic and Medicinal Value

Oct 25th 2010 at 6:15 AM

All About Herbal Medicine

The use of Herbs as medicine by humans has a very long history. Herbal medicines - which are usually plants or plant parts e.g leaves, roots, stems, etc - have been used in traditional and folk medicine practice for thousands of years. Herbal Medicine is the most ancient form of health care known to mankind. Herbs have been used to provide remedies for ailments for thousands of years and their health properties are written about in journals dating back to 3000 BC. Extensive scientific documentation now exists concerning their use for health conditions such as premenstrual syndrome, indigestion, insomnia, heart disease, cancer, HIV and many other conditions.

Many plants synthesize substances that are useful to the maintenance of health in humans and other animals. These substances include aromatic substances, most of which are phenols or their oxygen-substituted derivatives such as tannins. Many are secondary metabolites, of which at least 12,000 have been isolated - a number estimated to be less than 10% of the total. In many cases, substances such as alkaloids serve as plant defense mechanisms against predation by microorganisms, insects, and herbivores. Many of the herbs and spices such as red and black peppers, ginger, cloves and garlic used by humans to season food yield useful medicinal compounds. One of the shortcomings of the fast food life is that everything is stripped away, from the flavour to the nutrition, when they're cooked. People who generally cook at home and use fresh spices tend to be healthier and have less disease. Why? Because many of the herbs used in household cooking provide the nutrients that the body needs to improve health.

Herbal medicine is also known as botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbology, and phytotherapy. Herbal medicine ranges from mild-acting plant medicines such as chamomile and peppermint, to very potent ones such as foxglove - from which the drug digitalis is derived.  In between these two extremes lies a wide spectrum of plant medicine with significant medical applications. The scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts. Herbal medicines have a lot to offer when used to facilitate healing in chronic ongoing cases. By skillful selection of herbs by herbal medicine experts/professionals/practitioners who have profound knowledge of using them the right way for the patient, a profound transformation in health can be effected with less danger of the side effects inherent in drug based medicine. The study of medicines derived from natural sources is known as Pharmacognosy

Now, with all these benefits of herbal medicine why haven't a lot of us heard about them? Simple answer: Because of money. I'm convinced "Big Pharma" knows about the remarkable healing properties of medicinal herbs and spices like cayenne pepper but they are not in the business of healing people but in the business of making money. In 2008, within the U.S. alone, the big Pharmaceutical firms sold $160 billion dollars worth of drugs - Yes, that's $160,000,000,000 dollars!!!!

So, why sell a cholesterol-reducing drug when you can just take cayenne pepper and it will do the same while also removing plaque from your arterial walls without nasty side effects? Needless to say, it's clearly because cholesterol drugs like Lipitor make billions of dollars for their makers. (Lipitor makes on average $8 to $12 billion a year for Pfizer.)

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Here is a look at some of the numerous herbs available from nature plus some of their benifits. I shall be adding more with time

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis): This is one of the only known natural vegetarian sources of Vitamin B12, and it contains many minerals vital to the growth process and healthy function of all the body's systems. Numerous studies worldwide indicate that aloe vera is a general tonic for the immune system, helping it to fight illness of all kinds. Various research studies are underway to explore the potential of aloe vera components to boost immunity and combat the HIV virus, and to treat certain types of cancer. It may even have a role to play in managing diabetes.

Ashwagandha (Winter Cherry): This root is a herb of the ages. It is the 'ginseng' of Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine of India and is considered an 'adaptogen', a term used to describe herbs that improve physical energy and athletic ability, increase immunity to colds and infections and increase sexual capacity and fertility. It is a energy-promoting and disease-preventing tonic as it significantly increases white blood cell counts and other measures of strengthened immunity.

Astragalus membranaceus: Is a herbaceous perennial plant of the pea family and is most commonly used for immune enhancement. Most research on astragalus has focused on its immunostimulatory activity and its seemingly remarkable ability to restore the activity of a suppressed immune system. Clinical trials as well as pharmacological data provide evidence for its usefulness in the prevention of the common cold and as an adjunct to cancer therapies. Astragalus is used to strengthen the immune system over time, building resistance to illness and disease.

Avena sativa (Wild Oats): Avena sativa is quickly becoming a popular natural alternative to pharmaceutical erection enhancers without the dangerous side effects. Also known as Oats Milky Seed or Wild Oats, Avena Sativa is used to stimulate both men and women quickly and effectively. In men it appears to be effective for treating impotence and premature ejaculation. In women it may increase sexual desire. It also contains compounds which are soothing to the brain and nervous system.

Cats Claw (Uncaria tomentosa): Cats Claw is a vine that has been traditionally used in Peruvian medicine for the treatment of a wide range of health problems, particularly digestive complaints and arthritis and to treat wounds, stomach problems, cancer, and more. It has only recently caught the attention of western herbalists and researchers. Today, mainly by word of mouth, it has become one of the best selling herbs.

Cayenne (Capsicum annuum): Cayenne is used as a natural fat burner and pain killer, to treat ulcers, increase metabolism, improve circulation, boost the immune system and aid digestion. It is used as a tonic for the heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, spleen and stomach and to treat herpes, shingles and rheumatism. It is also known to combat chills and has been used to treat bunions, psoriasis, pleuritis and pericarditis.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): Dried chamomile flower is an age-old medicinal drug known in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Chamomile's popularity grew throughout the Middle Ages, when people turned to it as a remedy for numerous medical complaints including asthma, colic, fevers, inflammations, nausea, nervous complaints, children's ailments, skin diseases and cancer. As a popular remedy, it may be thought of as the European counterpart of ginseng.

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon): Cranberry juice is a quintessential American folk remedy; so well-known as a cure for urinary infections that it prompted scientists to begin to investigate its value more than seventy years ago. Studies have shown it can reduce the ability of E. coli to adhere to the lining of the bladder and urethra, reducing the potential for urinary tract infections. Cranberries are also high in antioxidants and contain a potent vasodilator.

Damiana (Turnera aphrodisiaca): Damiana is a small shrub with aromatic leaves found on dry, sunny, rocky hillsides in south Texas, Southern California, Mexico, and Central America. Damiana leaves have been used as an aphrodisiac and to boost sexual potency for both males and females by the native peoples of Mexico, including the Mayan Indians. The two species used in herbal healing, both of which are referred to as damiana, are Turnera aphrodisiaca and Turnera diffusa.

Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens): Devil's claw is used to relieve arthritis, lower back, knee and hip pain. It is also used to treat a number of ailments including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, tendonitis, loss of appetite and digestive disorders. Devil's Claw can relieve pain from arthritis in as little as ten days of use. Devil's claw can be an alternative for those taking over-the-counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, which can cause liver and stomach problems.

Dong quai (Chinese Angelica): Dong Quai is also known as Chinese Angelica and is primarily known for it's uses in treating women's problems including lack of sexual desire, the symptoms of menopause, cramps and PMS. It aids in increasing the effects of hormones in both men and women and is widely used as an aphrodisiac. Dong Quai is particularly useful in helping to end hot flashes and menstrual cramps. It is also used as a liver tonic and in treating sciatica and shingles. It is one of the most widely consumed herbs in China,

Echinacea purpurea: Echinacea should be of particular interest during the cold and flu season when we are exposed to these illnesses on a regular basis. When used correctly it is the closest thing to a cure for the common cold. It stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infection. Unlike antibiotics, which directly attack bacteria, echinacea makes our own immune cells more efficient at attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells, including cancer cells.

Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis): Evening Primrose Oil has been called the most sensational preventive discovery since vitamin C. It contains the pain relieving compound phenylalanine and is increasingly being used to treat chronic headaches. It is currently being studied all over the world as a treatment for aging problems, alcoholism, acne, heart disease, hyperactivity in children, multiple sclerosis, weight control, obesity, PMS and schizophrenia. It has so many preventive and therapeutic qualities that it has become a standard part of recommendations of many herbalist for maintaining youth and preventing disease.

Fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-graecum): Fenugreek has a long history as a breast enlarger and contains diosgenin which is used to make synthetic estrogen. It has been found to promote the growth of new breast cells and increase the size and fullness of the breasts. Of all the herbs used for breast enlargement fenugreek has the highest concentrations of the effective plant compounds. Diosgenin, a steroid sapogenin is the starting compound for over 60% of the total steroid production by the pharmaceutical industry. Other sapogenins found in fenugreek seed include yamogenin, gitogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogens.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium): Feverfew is used for the prevention of migraines & headaches, arthritis, fevers, muscle tension and pain, Feverfew is also used to lower blood pressure, lessen stomach irritation, stimulate the appetite and to improve digestion and kidney function. It has been indicated for colitis, dizziness, tinnitus and menstrual problems. Feverfew has an impressive track record in treating migraines and chronic headaches. Feverfew treats the cause of the headaches rather than simply the pain. Both the British Medical Journal and the Harvard Medical School Health Letter have paid tribute to the success of feverfew in relieving migraines.

Flaxseed Oil (Linum usitatissimum): A rich source of healing oil, flaxseed has been cultivated for more than 7000 years. First cultivated in Europe, the plant's brown seeds were regularly used to prepare balms for inflamed skin and healing slurries for constipation. Rich in essential fatty acids, or EFAs, flaxseed oil is used to prevent and treat heart disease and to relieve a variety of inflammatory disorders and hormone-related problems, including infertility.

Garlic (Allium sativum): Garlic is one of the earth's greatest health tonics and does indeed have scientifically-proven medicinal properties. It contains a substance called Allicin, which has anti-bacterial properties that are equivalent to a weak penicillin. It is a natural antibiotic and is useful in treating everything from allergies to tonsillitis. Garlic contains many sulfur compounds which detoxify the body, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Garlic has also demonstrated anti-cancer, antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant effects. Garlic can stimulate the production of glutathione, an amino acid which is known to be a very potent antioxidant and de-toxifier and the smooth muscle relaxant adenosine, also found in the herb, will lower blood pressure.

Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale): Ginger has been well researched and many of its traditional uses confirmed. Ginger is well known as a remedy for travel sickness, nausea and indigestion and is used for wind, colic, irritable bowel, loss of appetite, chills, cold, flu, poor circulation, menstrual cramps, dyspepsia (bloating, heartburn, flatulence), indigestion and gastrointestinal problems such as gas and stomach cramps. Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb and there has been much recent interest in its use for joint problems. It has also been indicated for arthritis, fevers, headaches, toothaches, coughs, bronchitis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, to ease tendonitis, lower cholesterol and blood-pressure and aid in preventing internal blood clots.

Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo biloba has been traced back nearly 300 million years making it the oldest surviving tree species on earth! The Chinese have used the plant medicinally for eons but many of the modern applications come from the research of German scientists. Ginkgo is a prescription herb in Germany. Ginkgo extract has proven benefits to elderly persons. This ancient herb acts to enhance oxygen utilization and thus improves memory, concentration, and other mental faculties. The herbal extract has also been shown to significantly improve long-distance vision and may reverse damage to the retina of the eye. Studies have also confirmed its value in the treatment of depression in elderly persons

Ginseng (Panax ginseng): Asian Ginseng has a history of herbal use going back over 5,000 years. It is one of the most highly regarded of herbal medicines in the Orient, where it has gained an almost magical reputation for being able to promote health, general body vigour, to prolong life and treat many ailments including depression, diabetes, fatigue, ageing, inflammations, internal degeneration, nausea, tumours, pulmonary problems, dyspepsia, vomiting, nervousness, stress, and ulcers. The genus name Panax is derived from the Greek word meaning "panacea" or "all-healing"

Glucosamine: Glucosamine is a naturally occurring amino sugar in the body that plays a vital role in keeping cartilage and other body tissues healthy. As people get older their bodies start producing less Glucosamine; this results in a degenerative condition known as osteoarthritis which is characterized by pain, stiffness, swelling of the joints and a general inability to move about easily. Glucosamine supplements are designed to slow this process by compensating for the loss of the amino sugar that occurs with age. Glucosamine supplements are believed to help in the production of glycosaminoglycan, a molecule that helps repair and rebuild damaged cartilage.

Goji Berry: Goji Berry is known to have to many positive effects for people who want to promote total body health. the primary draw of Goji is the fact that it has antioxidants that are known to fight off cancer and other infectious diseases.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): Goldenseal is one of the most popular herbs sold on the American market and has recently gained a reputation as a herbal antibiotic and immune system enhancer. American Indians used goldenseal as a medication for inflammatory internal conditions such as repiratory, digestive and genito-urinary tract inflammation induced by allergy or infection. The Cherokee used the roots as a wash for local inflammations, a decoction for general debility, dyspepsia, and to improve appetite.

Green Tea (Camellia sinensis): Green Tea is used to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, boost the immune system, prevent ulcers, control inflammation, viral colds and flu, prevent gum disease, cavities, and bad breath. It also been indicated for lowering cholesterol, preventing heart disease, osteoporosis and blood clots. Green tea has been the focus of exciting new studies indicating its effectiveness in raising metabolism for weight loss and preventing & fighting cancer and other disease with its super antioxidants.

Guarana: Guarana is primarily used to boost energy. It has two times more caffeine than coffee beans, with its content rate at 2-5%. There are many effects when you consume Guarana, most of them positive. The biggest positive effect comes cognitively. It has been shown several times - through clinical studies - that Guarana can improve memory and alertness. It has also been shown to improve physical endurance.

Hawthorn Berry (Crateagus oxycanthus): Hawthorn Berry is used to promote the health of the circulatory system, treat angina, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia and has been found to strengthen the heart. Hawthorn is widely regarded in Europe as a safe and effective treatment for the early stages of heart disease and has been used for a number of ailments including angina, myocarditis, arteriosclerosis, nervous conditions like insomnia, and diarrhea. It has also been indicated for strengthening blood vessels, vascular insufficiency and blood clots, restoring the heart muscle wall, lowering cholesterol and to aid digestion.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): As a medicinal plant, lemon balm has traditionally been employed against bronchial inflammation, earache, fever, flatulence, headaches, high blood pressure, influenza, mood disorders, palpitations, toothache and vomiting. A tea made from Lemon balm leaves is said to soothe menstrual cramps and helps relieve PMS.

Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Licorice root has an impressive list of well documented uses and is probably one of the most over-looked of all herbal remedies. It is used for many ailments including asthma, athlete's foot, baldness, body odour, bursitis, canker sores, chronic fatigue, depression, colds and flu, coughs, dandruff, emphysema, gingivitis and tooth decay, gout, heartburn, HIV, viral infections, fungal infections, ulcers, liver problems, Lyme disease, menopause, psoriasis, shingles, sore throat, tendinitis, tuberculosis, ulcers, yeast infections, prostate enlargement and arthritis.

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum): Milk Thistle is unique in its ability to protect the liver and has no equivalent in the pharmaceutical drug world. In fact, in cases of poisoning with Amanita mushrooms, which destroy the liver, milk thistle is the only treatment option. It has been so dramatically effective that the treatment has never been disputed, even by the traditional medical community. Milk thistle acts in a similar fashion to detoxify other synthetic chemicals that find their way into our bodies, from acetaminophen and alcohol to heavy metals and radiation.

Nettle (Urtica dioica): Nettle has been used for centuries to treat allergy symptoms, particularly hayfever which is the most common allergy problem. It contains biologically active compounds that reduce inflammation. Dr. Andrew Wiel M.D. author of Natural Health/ Natural Medicine says he knows of nothing more effective than nettle for allergy relief. And his statement is backed up by studies at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense): Red clover is considered to be one of the richest sources of isoflavones (water-soluble chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in many plants). It is used for hot flashes/flushes, PMS, lowering cholesterol, breast enhancement and breast health, improving urine production and improving circulation of the blood. It is also used to help prevent osteoporosis, reduce the possibility of blood clots and arterial plaques and limiting the development of benign prostate hyperplasia. Red clover is a source of many valuable nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C.

Saw palmetto (Serona repens): Saw palmetto is an extract derived from the deep purple berries of the saw palmetto fan palm (Serenoa repens), a plant indigenous to the coastal regions of the southern United States and southern California. Saw palmetto is a remarkable herb for both men and women and is used by natural health practitioners to treat a variety of ailments such as testicular inflammation, urinary tract inflammation, coughs and respiratory congestion. It is also used to strengthen the thyroid gland, balance the metabolism, stimulate appetite and aid digestion. This wonderful herb is becoming famous for its uses in hair restoration, prostate health, sexual vigour, breast enhancement and as a nutritive tonic.

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum): St. John's Wort is a very popular antidepressant. It contains several chemicals, including hypericin, hyperforin, and pseudohypericin, which are thought to be the major sources of antidepressant activity. In several studies of laboratory animals and humans, one or more of the chemicals in St. John's wort appeared to delay or decrease re-absorption of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin by nerve cells. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages from nerve cells to other cells. Ordinarily, once the message has been delivered, neurotransmitters are re-absorbed and inactivated by the cells that released them. Chemicals in St. John's wort may keep more of these antidepressant neurotransmitters available for the body to utilise.

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Sell Health: for health solutions in the anti-aging, weight loss, skin care, and sexual health markets.
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Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and any herbs mentioned, while supported by science, are not intended to diagnose, mitigate or treat any disease or illness.

1 comments
Please to comment
Oct 25th 2010 at 8:37 AM by luckylibllc
A nice breakdown of the benefit of herbs. I'd like to add that alkaloids help prevent and eradicate cancer. Keep up the good work.
   

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