Natural Herbal Remedy Glossary
Alfalfa is an herb, a food, and the source of a nutritional green-food concentrate. Alfalfa is a perennial (Medicago sativa) of the pea family, widely grown as a hay feed for livestock. The Arabs consider alfalfa so nutritious that they named it the “father of all foods.” In most forms it is rich in chlorophyll, beta carotene, vitamins B6, C, and E, and calcium. As an herbal preparation, it is traditionally used as a diuretic, an arthritis remedy, and an aid to gain weight. Studies indicate it lowers blood cholesterol levels and may help prevent heart disease and possibly some strokes. It is also used in sprouted form, but the leaves are more medicinal, and raw sprouts as well as seeds contain natural toxins that are potentially damaging to human health if eaten. Alfalfa’s various forms include dried leaves, tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Aloe preparations are derived from the leaf gel and juice of a cactus-like subgroup of the lily family with some 300 species, among them Aloe vera. The transparent gel from the inner leaf is applied externally to treat burns, wounds, frostbite, and skin irritations. Studies confirm antibacterial, burn-soothing, and wound-healing effects. The gel is a common ingredient in first-aid skin creams, shampoos, and natural and conventional body care products. The plant’s juice, or latex, is used to make herbal remedies to be taken internally, principally as a potent laxative. (Most herbalists recommend milder herbal laxatives such as Cascara sagrada.) Aloe comes in liquid, tablets, and capsules.
Angelica preparations are derived from the leaves, roots, or seeds of a tall, celery-like plant (Angelica atropurpurea) in the parsley family. Angelica is taken to alleviate respiratory complaints including colds and the flu, as well as digestive problems. Studies confirm that it has chemical compounds that relax the windpipe and intestines and thus may be beneficial for bronchitis, asthma, indigestion, and heartburn. The roots are sold dried, since the fresh root is poisonous. It’s also sold in capsules, concentrated drops, extracts, and tinctures.
Arnica preparations are derived from the flowers or root of a primarily northern European plant (Arnica montana) also known as leopard’s bane. It is used in folk medicine as an internal remedy for fevers and other conditions. Since it is potentially toxic when taken orally, today it is almost exclusively used topically, principally to alleviate bruising, swelling, and local tenderness. It also helps heal strains, sprains, and muscle aches. Externally it is applied only to unbroken skin. Arnica is more frequently used in homeopathic dilutions than as an herb. Herbal companies make concentrated drops, tinctures, extracts, and “arnicated oils.”
Astragalus is derived from the root of a plant (Astragalus membranaceus) in the pea family. It is also known as milk vetch root (referring to astragalus species that grow in the United States) and huang-qi. It is an adaptogen; that is, it has a balancing effect on bodily functions. Astragalus is used by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine to strengthen or “tonify” the body’s overall vitality, improve digestion, and support the spleen. Studies confirm it contains medicinally active compounds, including a polysaccharide that stimulates the immune system. Astragalus is taken in China by cancer patients to boost immunity after drug or radiation treatment. It may protect body cells against heavy metals and chemical toxins. Astragalus is a good source of the essential trace mineral selenium. It is often combined in formulas with ginseng and other Chinese herbs. Herbal companies offer it fresh or dried and in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Bilberry preparations are derived from the leaves and berrylike fruit of a common European shrub (Vaccinium myrtillus)similar to the blueberry. A folk remedy for better eyesight, it gained attention when British pilots during World War II reportedly ate bilberry jam before night missions. Scientific studies confirm a positive effect on vision due to the berry’s flavonoid compounds, the anthocyanoside, that can cause biochemical reactions in the eye. Bilberry may prevent acute glaucoma attacks or play a role in the treatment of chronic glaucoma. It may also play a role in relieving menstrual problems; studies have found it helps to relax smooth muscles like those found in the uterine wall. Extracts are usually standardized for 20-25 percent anthocyanoside content. Bilberry is nontoxic and comes in tablets, capsules, and extracts. Note Bilberry extract is found in our Diabetiks supplement.
Bitters are herbal tonics whose pungent taste helps stimulate and revitalize the digestive system. Bitters assist in natural detoxification and cleanse the liver, intestines, and other organs. They work by promoting salivation and activating secretions and functions of the stomach, small intestine, and gall bladder. Bitters are typically made from herbs such as gentian, goldenseal, rue, rhubarb, yellow dock, or barberry steeped in alcohol or vinegar. They’re usually taken by swallowing a teaspoon of the liquid tonic 10-20 minutes before a meal. Though some proponents claim that bitters work best when the sense of taste is activated, they’re available in capsules as well as the more common liquid form.
Black cohosh preparations are derived from the dark root of a plant (Cimicfuga racemosa) also known as black snakeroot, native to North America. It is a popular Native American and folk remedy for female ailments and menstrual cramps, as well as for fatigue, anxiety, and respiratory conditions such as bronchitis. Black cohosh is also widely used in Germany for discomfort from menopause. It may have uses as a sedative and anti-inflammatory and can lower blood pressure and possibly help control diabetes. This herb promotes menstruation, so it should be avoided during pregnancy. It has other potential side effects as well and is often recommended to be used under the supervision of an herbalist. It comes in capsules, concentrated drops, and extracts.
Buckthorn preparations are produced from the berries or bark of a shrub or small tree of Europe (Rhamnus cathartica) or North America (R. caroliniana). The herb is renowned for its ability to loosen the bowels. In fact, because this laxativeis so powerful, it can induce intestinal cramps. Most herbalists turn first to milder laxatives, like the related Cascara sagrada. Buckthorn is an ingredient in some over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives. The herb may have anticancer properties and is an ingredient in the controversial herbal Hoxsey Cancer Formula. In addition to cramps, its side effects may include vomiting and diarrhea, and it is not recommended for pregnant women or for long-term use. Herbal companies sell it as capsules and extracts. (See Cascara sagrada).
Calendula is a versatile and popular topical herb derived from marigold (Calendula officinalis) flowers. It has been traditionally used to treat small cuts and abrasions, inflammations, skin irritations, bruises, strains and sprains, minor burns and scalds, and hemorrhoids. It also fights bacterial, viral, and even fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. Calendula is an ingredient in many herbal combination remedies for wounds, burns, and rashes and is used to make homeopathicCalendula and an essential oil. It is sold in various forms including dried, juice, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
California poppy is a flowering plant (Eschscholtzia californica) that produces a calming and quieting effect on the central nervous system. It is not as widely known as other herbal sedatives like valerian, but is increasing in popularity. It is often taken about thirty minutes before bedtime to encourage restful sleep. It comes in concentrated drops and extracts.
Cascara sagrada is derived from the dried, aged bark of a small tree (Rhamnus purshiana) that is taken mainly as a laxative. The plant is related to buckthorn but has a much milder laxative action and causes fewer side effects. Cascara sagrada stimulates contractions in the upper intestines and also restores tone to the colon. It is included in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia and is used in many OTC laxatives. It is better for chronic constipation than stronger herbs like buckthorn, but like any herb, is not a long-term remedy for constipation. Cascara sagrada is an ingredient in the Hoxsey Cancer Formula. It is sold dried and as tablets, capsules, and concentrated drops. (See Buckthorn).
Castor oil is a yellowish oil pressed from the toxic, beanlike seeds of the tropical castor-oil plant (Ricinus communis). Taken internally, the nontoxic but unpleasant tasting oil has long been a widely recognized and effective laxative used after food poisoning or to relieve constipation. Applied topically, it readily penetrates the skin and is used to soften corns and skin tissue, prevent scarring, treat ringworm and abscesses, and promote the healing of bruises. It is often applied as a pack (an oil-dampened heated cloth).
Cayenne, also known as red pepper, is both an herb and a spice obtained from the dried, ground fruit of various hot chili peppers (Capsicum frutescens) which contain the compound capsaicin, which reduces pain and inflammation, probably by blocking the activity in the body of substance P, a compound needed for transmitting pain impulses. Capsaicin is an ingredient in a prescription skin cream. Drops of cayenne concentrate are used to relieve toothache (though some will find it unpleasantly hot) and as a liniment to soothe sore muscles. Cayenne is also used topically to stop bleeding and taken internally to stimulate circulation or induce sweating to break a fever. Some herbalists use it to treat colds and infectious diarrhea. In the Orient it is a popular “crisis herb” for its heating and stimulating effects on the kidneys, lungs, stomach, and heart. It is widely used as a spicy seasoning. It is sold in the form of capsules, concentrated drops, and tinctures.
Chamomile is an ancient and widely used herb made from the flowers of either of two annual plants (German chamomile,or Matricaria recutita, and Roman chamomile, or Anthemis nobilis). Taken as a tea it has long been used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and digestive problems. Many people also apply it topically to cuts and scrapes, sore muscles, rashes, and burns. Chamomile is the source for a distinctive blue essential oil that is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiseptic. Studies indicate the herb is effective at reducing fever, healing wounds, inducing sleep, and reducing the time it takes burns to heal. It seems to improve tissue regeneration and stimulate the immune-boosting activity of white blood cells. Chamomile is nontoxic and gentle enough for use on children. It’s sold in various forms, including dried, teas, tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Chaparral preparations are derived from the flowers, leaflets, and twigs of a woody, long-living shrub (Larrea tridentata, L. divaricata) of the American Southwest. Among its medically active compounds is a chemical with antibacterial action that can prevent infections when applied to wounds or can assist in clearing skin conditions. In the mouth, chaparral helps prevent tooth decay, mouth odor, and gum disease. Taken internally, it is a popular folk treatment for cancer; some studies confirm it may have antitumor effects. It also has potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may be useful in treating arthritis and helping retard aging. Chaparral was recently removed from the market by most herbal manufacturers after it was tied to five cases of acute toxic hepatitis, causing the FDA to issue a warning about it.
Comfrey is a popular folk herb derived from the roots and leaves of a plant (Symphytum officinale) of the borage family. It is also known as boneset and knitbone. It has traditionally been taken internally as a digestive aid and, more frequently, applied externally to promote the healing of wounds and broken bones. Studies have found comfrey to contain compounds such as allantoin that promote cell regeneration and help relieve inflammation resulting from bruises, sprains, insect bites, and skin conditions. Allantoin is now widely used in bodycare products for its skin-soothing properties. Applied topically, comfrey is easily absorbed through the skin and reaches deep tissue. Oral ingestion of comfrey is now rare, due to concerns about potential liver toxicity . The American Herbal Products Association recently placed comfrey on its restricted use list, for external use only. Comfrey is frequently combined with calendula, witch hazel, St. John’s wort, arnica, and other herbs in salves and ointments. It is available fresh and dried, and in concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Dandelion is a bitter but nutritious herb prepared from the roots, leaves, and other parts of the well-known, widely distributed, yellow-flowered weed (Taraxacum officinale). It is also known (revealingly) as piss-in-bed. Traditionally it has been used as a digestive tonic, blood cleanser, mild diuretic and laxative, and weight loss aid. The fresh leaves are high in nutrients including beta carotene, vitamin C, and potassium. As an herb, dandelion is also taken to relieve inflammation of the liver and gallbladder, congestive jaundice, skin diseases, and PMS. It may be useful to lower blood cholesterol levels, reduce high blood pressure, and prevent heart disease. Dandelion is safe and nontoxic. It is sold as tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures and extracts.
Dang-gui, a favorite Chinese herb for women, is derived from the root of Chinese angelica (Angelica sinensis). It is also called dang-qui, dong quai, and tang kuei. It is used similarly to American and European angelica, and has long been prescribed by traditional Chinese and Indian herbalists to harmonize vital energy and nourish blood. Dang-gui is widely taken in the West for gynecological problems and to regulate hormones, alleviate menstrual cramps, and end PMS distress. It has been extensively studied in China and found to nourish the reproductive system, enhance immunity, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, and improve circulation. Dang-gui is often taken as a daily tonic by women entering menopause or before menstruation. It should be avoided during pregnancy. It comes dried and as tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts. (See Angelica).
Echinacea is an increasingly popular European and North American herb derived from the roots and other parts of the purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea). It is a versatile herb used to treat a variety of injuries and illnesses. It is applied externally to cuts, bites, and stings to help promote healing, regenerate healthy cells, reduce inflammation, and maintain the structure of connective tissue. Taken internally, echinacea helps to fight bacterial and viral infections, boost the immune system, lower fever, and calm allergic reactions. It is nontoxic and can be taken internally in relatively large quantities (2-3 dropperfuls of the tincture daily as a general immune stimulant, taken for up to a week). It is found in the form of salves, lotions, tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts. Note: Echinacea is found in our PowerMate supplement.
Ephedra is a stimulant herb derived from some forty related species, principally North American species such as Mormon tea(Ephedra nevadensis) and Chinese ma huang (Ephedra sinica). It has long been used by the Chinese to help relieve bronchial spasms and treat asthma. Studies confirm that it contains the adrenaline-like substances ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, elevate blood pressure, boost heart rate, and act as a diuretic. Synthetic ephedrine compounds are widely used in OTC cold remedies such as Sudafed. Ephedra may play a therapeutic role in the treatment of asthma, nasal congestion, and some allergies. Ma huang is an ingredient in various herbal upper products and is used by some people to help lose weight. Mormon tea is less potent than its Chinese cousin. Continued prolonged use of Ephedra is not recommended, since it can weaken the adrenal glands and lead to nervousness and insomnia. Ephedra is sold dried and in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts. (See Ma huang).
Eyebright preparations are derived from a northern plant (Euphrasia officinalis) with somewhat eye-shaped flowers. It has traditionally been used to make an eye-wash for inflammations and other eye problems and is also taken internally for nasal congestion and coughs. Studies reveal that it contains compounds that are mildly astringent and anti-inflammatory. It is often combined with other herbs such as goldenseal, echinacea, and fennel seeds to relieve redness, swelling, and irritation of the eye. Eyebright is the source of the homeopathic remedy Euphrasia. It comes in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Fennel preparations are produced from the seeds of a tall, stalky plant (Foeniculum vulgare) native to the Mediterranean. Fennel is primarily used as a digestive aid and to help expel gas. It is also used to treat diarrhea and infant colic. Women use it to stimulate milk flow, promote menstruation, and relieve menopausal ailments, although pregnant women should avoid it. As a tea it can be applied with an eyedropper to soothe the eyes. Aromatherapists use the essential oil medicinally, and the food industry uses it extensively as a flavoring. It is available dried and in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, extracts, and essential oils.
Feverfew preparations are derived from the leaves and flowers of a bushy perennial (Tanacetum parthenium) and used chiefly as a remedy for migraine headaches. Clinical trials in Britain indicate that a dosage of 50-100 mg daily of the dried leaves effectively prevents or significantly decreases the severity of migraine attacks for many people. Herbalists also use feverfew for its anti-inflammatory properties in the treatment of arthritis, as an antispasmodic to relieve menstrual cramps, and (as its name implies) a febrifuge to reduce fever. It is sold dried and in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Fo-ti is one of the most widely used Chinese tonic herbs. It is derived from the root of a weedy, twining vine (Polygonum multi-forum) in the buckwheat family. It is famous as a rejuvenating and longevity tonic in China, where it is taken to prevent premature aging, increase fertility, and maintain youthful strength and vigor. It is also used to treat dizziness, infertility, anemia, and constipation. There is evidence that it lowers blood cholesterol levels, and it is currently being studied for its ability to prevent heart disease and cancer. Fo-ti is old dried and as powders, tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Garlic is an almost universally grown food and medicinal herb derived from bulbs that form on the stem of a member (Allium sativum) of the huge plant family that includes onions and leeks. As a food it is a rich source of protein, vitamins A, B-complex, and C, and various trace minerals. Garlic has a history of medicinal use that goes back at least 6,000 years. It is the basis for a seemingly endless array of folk remedies for everything from insect bites to fever. Researchers have discovered over 200 compounds in garlic, and scientific validation is growing for its use in the treatment of heart disease, since it can lower both cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It is a natural antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral that can be used internally and externally to treat food poisoning, skin conditions, and hemorrhoids. It also helps trap toxic lead and mercury in the body and remove them. Garlic is an effective antioxidant that studies show may reduce the risk of stomach cancer. It is widely used in cooking, though heat inactivates its enzymes and significantly reduces its medicinal effects. Garlic supplements are now a major industry in the United States, where garlic is available fresh or juiced as well as in tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts. Note: Odorless Garlic is found in our PowerVites multi-vitamin supplement.
Ginger is derived from the underground stems and root of a tropical plant (Zingiber officinale) native to the Orient. It has been used since ancient times by the Greeks, Chinese, and others as a medicine and flavoring. Ginger is widely taken today for its calming effect on the digestive system and is the premier natural remedy for nausea from morning sickness, upset stomach, and motion sickness. It helps expel gas from the intestines and relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract. Ginger may also lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation. It is a popular spice and flavoring, and ginger cookies and gingerale may have high enough ginger content to have medicinal effects. It is nontoxic and safe to take in large doses. Ginger is also used to make a popular essential oil with medicinal properties. It comes fresh or dried and in tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Gingko preparations are derived from the fan-shaped leaves of one of the world’s most ancient tree species (Ginkgo biloba). It has been used by the Chinese for thousands of years to treat asthma, allergies, and coughs. Currently it is gaining popularity for its reputed ability to improve brain function and boost memory and alertness. Researchers say that it stimulates circulation in the brain and ears and thus may help prevent dizziness, hearing loss, tinnitus, stroke, and depression. Gingko acts as an antioxidant. Studies indicate it has potential use in the treatment of impotence, varicose veins, and Alzheimer’s disease. Extracts are often standardized to contain 24 percent gingko heterosides. It comes in tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts. Note Gingko is found in our PowerMate and Diabetiks supplements. For more information on Gingko biloba
Ginseng is a human-shaped root that is one of the most popular healing herbs of the East and West. It includes species from Asia (Panax ginseng, usually called Chinese or Korean ginseng) and North America (P. quinquefolius, called American ginseng). Siberian ginseng, or eleuthero, is also from the ginseng family and has similar effects and uses. Ginseng is commonly used as an adaptogen, meaning it normalizes physical functioning regardless of direction (for example, it will lower high blood pressure, but raise low blood pressure). It is also typically taken to lessen the effects of stress, improve performance, boost energy levels, enhance memory, and stimulate immunity. Ginseng protects cells from damage by radiation and toxic substances. It is not as stimulating as herbs containing caffeine or ephedrine, but may be too strong for some people and should be used in moderation. It is sold as a whole root or powder, and in capsules, tablets, tea bags, tinctures, and extracts. (See Siberian ginseng).
Goldenseal preparations are derived from the yellow root of a small perennial plant (Hydrastis canadensis) native to eastern North America. It is one of the most widely used herbs, with both internal and external applications. It is taken orally to alleviate colds, fevers, digestive ailments, and infectious diarrhea, and to stimulate the immune system. Studies confirm that its compound berberine has pharmacological powers, notably the abilities to fight bacteria and to stimulate immunity. Goldenseal reduces excessive menstrual flow. Topically, it is used for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic actions and is widely recommended by herbalists to clean wounds, alleviate skin infections or sores (including ringworm, athlete’s foot, and itching), and reduce hemorrhoids. It shouldn’t be taken long-term in large amounts, or by pregnant women or people with high blood pressure. Goldenseal has been over foraged and is now mostly farmed. It is often expensive and sometimes adulterated. It is sold as a powder and in capsules, concentrated drops, and extracts. Note: Goilden Seal root in found in our PowerMate supplement.
Gotu kola is a principally Asian plant (Hydrocotyle asiatica, Centella asiatica). It should not be confused with kola, an unrelated, caffeine-containing herb. For thousands of years gotu kola has been a popular remedy in India and Pakistan, where it has a reputation for promoting longevity and is being investigated for use against leprosy and tuberculosis. In the West it is used mainly as a tonic to increase energy and endurance, improve memory and mental stamina, and alleviate depression and anxiety. It boosts circulation in the legs and is an effective remedy for varicose veins. Gotu kola also has important uses externally as a wound healer, burn remedy, and psoriasis treatment. Large doses taken internally may have a sedating effect. It is sold dried and in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Green tea taken either in capsule form or as a beverage (both available in natural foods stores), provides numerous health benefits. Green tea contains chemical compounds called polyphenols (not present in the more common black teas), which act as powerful antioxidants. Studies show that people who drink approximately five cups of green tea a day (which contain about half the caffeine of coffee) or who take 500 mg a day of the caffeine-free capsules, have a lower risk of incurring cancer, suffering heart attacks and strokes, and contracting gum disease and cavities. The polyphenols in green tea also attack the bacteria that cause bad breath. Note Green Tea extract is found in our PowerMate and Diabetiks supplements.
Hawthorn preparations are derived from the flowers, leaves, or berries of a thorny shrub (Crataegus oxyacantha) native to Europe. It enjoys a long history of use as a heart tonic, and studies have confirmed that the plant is a rich source of bioflavonoids and other chemical compounds that affect heart function. Hawthorn is an effective antioxidant. It can reduce blood pressure and prevent palpitations, arrhythmias, and arteriosclerosis. Hawthorn helps stabilize collagen, the protein normally found in joints that is destroyed during inflammation, and thus may be useful against arthritis. Hawthorn is best taken over a prolonged period. It is sold as dried berries, capsules, tinctures, and extracts.
Hops is derived from the conelike fruits of a climbing plant (Humulus lupulus) best known for giving beer its bitter flavor. It is a digestive stimulant that is particularly effective for digestive complaints caused by anxiety. It’s also a mild sedative and diuretic. It is sold dried and as concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts. (See Bitters).
Ipecac is prepared from the dried roots of a South American shrub (Cephaelis ipecacuanha). The sweet-tasting syrup of ipecac is used to induce vomiting in poison victims. The syrup is widely available in conventional pharmacies and is safe even if not vomited. In other forms the herb is sometimes used to bring up mucus from the lungs and relieve bronchitis. Formulations such as concentrated fluid extract of ipecac are much more toxic than the syrup preparations and need to be diluted before taking. Homeopaths use extremely dilute preparations to treat persistent and extreme nausea and some types of bleeding. Ipecac is sold as a syrup or concentrated fluid extract.
Kelp is a nutrient-dense brown sea vegetable that is among the richest sources of the element iodine, which is needed by thyroid hormones to help regulate the body’s growth and development. Iodine can also protect cells from damage by radioactive substances and heavy metals. As a food, kelp is usually eaten in small quantities; it is also used as a condiment and nutritional supplement. There are some potential adverse effects from long-term overuse. It is sold dried or as a liquid, powder, or tablets.
Lemon balm preparations are derived from the aromatic leaves of a perennial mint plant (Melissa officinalis). Also known as balm, bee balm, and sweet balm, it has traditionally been used to relieve nervousness and anxiety or to induce sweating. Studies confirm that it relaxes the nervous system and is an effective though mild herbal sedative. Herbalists recommend it to alleviate headaches, anxiety, and depression that are caused by nervous problems. It also improves digestion. Lemon balm is used topically as a wound healer. It has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and analgesic properties. Lemon balm is among the gentlest of the calming herbs, which include skullcap, valerian, hops, and passionflower. It is available dried and as concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Licorice is an herb prepared from the roots of an Oriental and European perennial (Glycyrrhiza glabra) of the pea family. Licorice has long been used by traditional Chinese, Greek, and European herbalists as a general tonic and for respiratory problems such as asthma, coughs, and bronchitis. Studies have confirmed potential uses to relieve coughs, treat ulcers, alleviate arthritis, and control liver conditions such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. The herb’s natural sweetness makes it a favorite flavor for herbal combination products as well as for candies and other foods. Overuse of extracts may cause adverse health effects related to salt and water retention. Retailers sell licorice in powders, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Ligusticum is a Chinese herb prepared from the roots of a lovage-like plant (Ligusticum chinensis, L. glaucesens) and used similarly to dang-gui as an herb for women’s ailments. Ligusticum should not be confused with ligustrum or the Native American herb osha (Ligusticum porteri). It comes in capsules. (See Osha).
Ligustrum is a Chinese herb (nu-zhen-zi) prepared from the dried and powdered fruits of an evergreen shrub (Ligustrum lucidum) also known in the United States as Chinese privet. It has traditionally been used as a general liver and kidney tonic. Recent studies in China and the United States indicate it may boost immunity and may be useful in the treatment of cancer by enhancing white blood cell counts after drug or radiation therapy. It is also a mild heart stimulant. Ligustrum is an ingredient in a number of herbal combination products sold in the United States. It is sold as a powder, extract, or concentrate.
Ma huang is a Chinese herb derived from a primitive stemlike shrub (Ephedra sinica). It is perhaps humanity’s oldest medicine, traditionally used for millennia to relieve respiratory complaints such as bronchitis and asthma. Ma huang is a natural source of the powerful and long-acting stimulant compound ephedrine, which boosts heart rate, breathing, and metabolism and opens air passages, thus acting as a decongestant. The synthetically derived ephedrine relative pseudoephedrine is now widely used in conventional OTC cold and allergy remedies such as Sudafed. (American species of Ephedra have little or no ephedrine, a stonger stimulant than caffeine and one that could get you banned from participating in the Olympics). High dosages and repeated use of ma huang may result in nervousness, restlessness, and increased blood pressure. It’s sold as capsules, concentrated drops, and extracts. (See Ephedra).
Milk thistle is a traditional liver remedy prepared from the seeds of a thorny, weedlike plant (Silybum marianum). It is often taken in the form of silymarin, a standardized extract of a complex compound found in the seeds. Studies confirm that silymarin helps liver cells regenerate and stabilizes liver cell membranes. It also boosts the organ’s ability to filter blood and prevents liver damage from toxins including solvents, alcohol, drugs, most pesticides and herbicides, and bacterial compounds like those associated with food poisoning. Milk thistle may help treat cirrhosis, hepatitis, and other liver diseases. It is often taken regularly as a preventive and after exposure to a toxin. It comes in capsules, concentrated herbal drops, and extracts.
Mullein preparations are derived from the leaves, roots, or flowers of a tall, spikelike plant (Verbascum thapsus) used to make traditional respiratory remedies. Chemical analysis confirms that mullein contains mucilage, a substance that relieves coughs and soothes sore throats by absorbing water in the windpipe and becoming slippery. Mullein also acts as an expectorant by bringing up mucus. Herbalists use a mullein flower oil infusion (not the essential oil) as ear drops to relieve earaches. Mullein is sold dried or as concentrated drops, tinctures, extracts, oils, and essential oils.
Myrrh preparations are made from the gummy stem resin of a Middle Eastern plant (Commiphora abyssinica, C. molmol) that has traditionally been used to treat topical wounds and coughs and colds. It is also an ingredient in incense and perfume. Myrrh has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Applied topically or as a mouthwash, it is a popular natural treatment for any type of gum ailment, including sore and receding gums. It’s not numbing but is a good astringent. Pleasant tasting, it is often mixed with goldenseal, echinacea, and other antibiotic herbs. It is available dried or as concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Nettle supplements are derived from the upper leaves and stems of a stinging, weedlike plant (Urtica dioica, U. urens)found around the world. It is also known as stinging nettle. As a healing herb, it is taken as a general tonic and to relieve hay fever, asthma, high blood pressure, PMS, and eczema. Nettle has astringent and diuretic properties. Applied externally by flailing a joint with the stinging plant (“urtication”), it may help relieve the pain of arthritis and gout. Nettles are also taken as a “superfood” rich in vitamins C and E and minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, silica, and potassium, which are important for healing broken bones, muscle strains, and tendon injuries. You can sprinkle dried nettles on salads, soups, and vegetables. It is sold dried and freeze-dried and in capsules, tinctures, concentrated drops, and extracts.
Oats, like nettle, are a kind of healing herb and nutritional supplement. It is prepared from the whole plant and seeds of a hardy, widely cultivated cereal grass (Avena sativa). The edible grain is a popular breakfast cereal. The herb is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and as a remedy for exhaustion and depression. Studies confirm that oats contain an alkaloid that stimulates the central nervous system. Oats provide a range of therapeutic and nutritional substances that feed a debilitated nervous system. As a nutritional supplement, it is high in calcium and other nutrients and acts as an excellent nerve tonic, gently stimulating the system and providing nourishment. It is also now used to help break addictions. In high concentrations oats can make people (and horses) excitable. It is sold dried and as capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Osha is prepared from the dried roots of a North American plant (Ligusticum porteri) that Native Americans have traditionally used to treat sore throats, colds, and the flu. Recent research indicates potential antiviral and immune-boosting properties. Osha may have applications in the treatment of bronchitis, herpes, and the flu. It is often sold in combination with other herbs. It is available in capsules, extracts, and concentrated drops. (See Ligusticum).
Passionflower preparations are made from the leaves of a climbing vine (Passiflora incarnata). Passionflower has traditionally been used as a sedative and analgesic. It can help induce a contemplative state or mild euphoria, and it can relieve headaches or muscle spasms from nervous tension. Passionflower is gentle enough for children who are overly nervous and for the elderly suffering from insomnia. It is also an antispasmodic sometimes recommended as a digestive aid and menstrual reliever. It is not an aphrodisiac, despite its name, which derives from the plant’s supposed resemblance to the crown of thorns in the Biblical Passion. It should be avoided by pregnant women and shouldn’t be taken in large amounts. It is sold dried and in concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts. Note: Passionflower is found in ourPowerSleep supplement.
Pau d’arco preparations derive from the inner bark of a tall, flowering tree (Tabebuia avellanedae, T. impetiginosa) native to Brazil. The herb, also known as lapacho and taheebo, has been used for centuries in South America to heal wounds and treat snakebites. Its popularity is spreading among herbalists in the United States and Europe due to its broad clinical applications, including antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. The tea and extract can be taken orally or applied topically for bites and stings, infections, and inflammations. It comes as dried, shredded bark or as capsules and liquid extracts (often standardized for lapachol content).
Plantain is an important first-aid herb derived from the leaves of a common weed (Plantago major, P. lanceolata). Traditionally, the leaves are chewed or mashed into a sticky mass, which is applied to wounds to stop bleeding and promote healing. Plantain can relieve the pain and inflammation of chronic skin problems, burns, cuts and scrapes, and hemorrhoids. Studies confirm that it has chemical compounds, including aucubin and allantoin, with antibiotic and astringent powers. The herb is also sometimes taken internally to relieve coughs, bronchitis, constipation, and diarrhea. A common constituent in healing salves and ointments, it is safer than comfrey and a good substitute for it. The seeds of related plantain species are used to make fiber-rich psyllium products. It comes dried and in concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Red raspberry is prepared from the leaves and berries of a prickly bush (Rubus idaeus). It has traditionally been used as a women’s herb to control morning sickness during pregnancy and to ease the pain of menstruation and childbirth. It has also long been used as a remedy for childhood diarrhea. Studies confirm that it helps relax the uterus and contains astringent compounds that can treat diarrhea. It is sold dried and in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Rose hips are the small, cherry like, ripe fruit of various roses (Rosa carolina and other Rosa species). They are an excellent source of vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Vitamin companies frequently use rose hips in natural vitamin C supplements (though C from synthetic sources makes up the bulk of the tablet). Hips are gathered in autumn or winter, split open to remove the seeds, dried, and then finely ground into a fragrant powder used in supplements. The seeds of one species (Rosa mosqueta) yield an oil that is high in essential fatty acids.
Rosemary is a strong-smelling herb and essential oil made from the thin leaves of a small evergreen shrub (Rosmarinus officinalis). It has long been a popular cooking herb and an ingredient in a stimulating tonic wine said to have a positive effect on the nervous and circulatory systems. Rosemary is used to treat chronic circulatory weakness, including low blood pressure. It is also an appetite stimulator, digestive aid, and antioxidant. It is applied topically to soothe sprains and bruises and heal wounds. A few drops of the essential oil put in the bath act as a relaxant. Taken internally, the essential oil may induce menses and thus should be avoided by pregnant women. Rosemary comes dried and in tinctures, concentrated drops, and essential oils.
Saw palmetto is derived from the dark berries of a small southeastern palm tree (Serenoa repens, S. serrulata) with sword-like leaves that grow in a fan shape. It has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac and to tonify the male reproductive system. Studies confirm an effect on male sex hormones, and an extract has exhibited positive clinical results in treating enlargement of the prostrate. It is also an expectorant used to treat respiratory complaints like colds, coughs, and bronchitis. Saw palmetto contains polysaccharides with potential immune-boosting effects. It is sold as tablets, concentrated drops, extracts, and tinctures.
Schisandra (also spelled schizandra) is a common Chinese herb derived from the dried, berrylike fruit of a hardy vine(Schizandra chinensis) of the magnolia family, native to East Asia. The Chinese refer to it as wu-wei-zi. Schisandra is a major tonic herb in Chinese medicine, long prized by emperors for its ability to prolong youth, increase stamina, and prevent fatigue. It is an adaptogen, balancing bodily functions. It nourishes the liver and kidneys and improves the body’s response to stress. It is sometimes used as a mild sedative to treat insomnia and as a respiratory stimulant for coughs and asthma. Schisandra may be beneficial in the treatment of prolonged diarrhea. Herbal companies frequently combine it with Siberian ginseng and other Chinese herbs in adaptogen formulas. It comes as a powder and in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Senna is derived from the leaflets and seed pods of a small shrub (Cassia angustifolia) grown in India. An ingredient in conventional laxatives, it is taken for its powerful effects on constipation. Herbalists often combine it with ginger or other herbs to reduce its side effects, which may include sudden, sharp bowel pains. Most herbalists recommend trying milder laxatives like Cascara sagrada first. Senna should be avoided by pregnant women and should not be taken over an extended time. It comes in capsules, tinctures, and extracts.
Shepherd’s purse preparations are derived from the flowering tops of a common North American weed (Capsella bursapastoris) of the mustard family. Its name comes from its distinctive purse shaped seed pods. Shepherd’s purse has been used since ancient times to stop bleeding, both internal (menstrual bleeding, for instance) and external (cuts and scrapes, nosebleeds). Chemical analysis confirms that it contains tyramines and other chemicals that promote blood coagulation and constrict blood vessels. It also has compounds (choline and acetylcholine) that reduce blood pressure. Shepherd’s purse may trigger labor during pregnancy. It is available dried and in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Siberian ginseng (also widely known as eleuthero) is a popular Oriental herb derived from the root or leaves of a northern shrub (Eleuthero coccus senticosus) from the Far East. It is from the same plant family as other ginsengs and like those has long been used by the Chinese to increase longevity and improve overall health. Like other ginsengs, it is an adaptogen, a substance that normalizes and regulates all of the body’s systems. It supports the working of the adrenal glands and prevents the worst effects of nervous tension, increases energy, extends endurance, and fights off fatigue. Siberian ginseng may play a role in the treatment of heart disease, kidney infection, and psychological ailments. It is safer for daily consumption than most energy-boosting herbs. Herbal producers often combine it with other adaptogenic herbs such as schisandra. It is usually less expensive than other ginsengs. It is available dried and in capsules, tinctures, and extracts. (See Ginseng).
Slippery elm preparations are derived from the ground inner bark of a tree (Ulmus rubra, U. fulva) recently ravaged in the United States by Dutch elm disease. It has been a popular folk medicine, healing food, and digestive tonic for thousands of years. Today it is most widely used in lozenges for symptomatic relief of sore throats, coughs, and colds. As a paste it can be used externally to soothe and heal minor skin injuries, rashes, and irritations-even the FDA calls it an excellent demulcent, or soothing agent. Slippery elm can be mixed with water or milk to make a food that, because it is nutritious and easily assimilated, is often recommended for those recovering from illness. It is sold in powders, lozenges, tablets, and extracts.
St. John’s wort preparations are derived from the leaves and flowers of a common North American and European perennial(Hypericum perforatum) that has been used since antiquity as a topical wound healer. Studies have identified biologically active compounds with potential immune-boosting, wound-healing, and antibiotic properties. It has also traditionally been taken internally for depression, insomnia, and anxiety. Researchers confirm that St. John’s wort acts like the antidepressive drugs known as MAO inhibitors to elevate mood. Homeopaths use the plant to make the widely used Hypericumpreparations. It is usually sold dried and in concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts. Note: You will find St. John’s wort in a therapeutic dose in our Sunnie product.
Usnea is derived from species of tree lichens (Usnea barbata, U. longissima) that are widely used in Europe for their antibiotic and antifungal properties. It is also known as old man’s beard. Unique plantlike organisms formed by the marriage of a fungus and an alga, lichens grow abundantly around the world. Usnea is used externally (applied topically to stop bacterial skin infections and alleviate athlete’s foot and ringworm) and internally (to treat urinary tract and respiratory tract infections). Studies of lichens have identified over 200 potentially therapeutic compounds in their tissues, including antibiotic acids and immune-boosting polysaccharides. Usnea may help counter colds and the flu. It comes in tinctures, concentrated drops, and extracts.
Valerian is an “herbal Valium” prepared from the root of a European plant (Valeriana officinalis) now spread throughout the northeastern United States. Valerian is taken to provide temporary relief from anxiety and to prevent insomnia. It can also help relieve headaches, stomach and menstrual cramps, and constipation or indigestion from nervous tension. Studies have found it as effective as some barbiturates for reducing the time needed to fall asleep, though it is stimulating instead of calming to some people. It is safe when taken in moderate doses ( a gram of the powder, a teaspoon of the tincture, or 250 mg of the liquid or solid extract) but should not be used for an extended period of time. Valerian is sold dried and in tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts. Note: Valerian is an ingredient in our PowerSleep supplement.
Vitex, well known in Europe as “the women’s herb,” is derived from the berries of a Mediterranean plant (Vitex agnus-castus). The herb is also known as chaste tree, chasteberry, and agnus castus. In the Middle Ages, vitex was thought to have an antiaphrodisiac effect. Today it is used principally to treat women’s conditions such as PMS, menopausal discomfort, fibroids, and excessive menstrual bleeding. It works to balance hormones by strengthening the sexual organs and glands. Vitex also stimulates the flow of breast milk and may clear acne during puberty. It is safe for use over an extended period of time. It comes in tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
White willow preparations are made from the bark of a tree (Salix alba) and are used to relieve pain and reduce fever. Like the herb meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), white willow bark is a natural source of salicin, a chemical relative of the synthetic salicylic acid used to make aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). Some willow-based aspirin substitutes are standardized for the salicin content. Because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome, white willow preparations shouldn’t be given to children who have a fever that may be due to certain viral illnesses. The herb comes fresh and dried and in tablets, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Witch hazel is a widely used medicinal herb derived from the leaves and bark of a North American shrub or small tree(Hamamelis virginiana). It is used as a liniment even by medical doctors and is available in conventional pharmacies. It has well-established astringent properties that reduce the pain and swelling of hemorrhoids, varicose veins, insect bites, and bruises. It is also an effective styptic that can stop the bleeding from small cuts such as shaving nicks. Witch hazel is a component in some cosmetics. Herbalists generally recommend concentrated drops and tinctures, which are more potent than the distilled commercial witch hazel solutions sold in conventional pharmacies. Witch hazel is mild enough to be applied directly to the skin and is a popular ingredient in herbal skin salves. It comes in concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Yarrow preparations are derived from the leaves, stems, and flower tops of a common North American weed (Achillea millefolium). It is traditionally used to make topical preparations to stem bleeding and promote the healing of wounds. It has astringent and antiseptic properties, and studies have e identified more than 100 biologically active compounds in its tissues. Today, yarrow is used externally on burns, cuts, bruises, and hemorrhoids. It is also used internally to relieve cramps, menstrual bleeding, fevers, and to treat colds and the flu. It is sold fresh and dried and in concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Yellow dock (also known as curly dock) preparations are derived from the leaves and roots of a widespread weed (Rumex crispus) of the buckwheat family. It has traditionally been used as a blood tonic and liver rejuvenator and is applied topically to treat chronic skin sores and ringworm. In low doses it is a gentle laxative. Large doses can cause nausea. It comes in capsules, concentrated drops, tinctures, and extracts.
Yohimbine is an aphrodisiac derived from the bark of the yohimbe tree (Corynanthe yohimbe), an evergreen indigenous to West Africa. Studies demonstrate its aphrodisiac effects on men. Yohimbe can cause erectile stimulation of the penis and help in the treatment of male impotence. The compound yohimbine hydrochloride is the active ingredient in some prescription drugs (Actibine, Aphrodyne, Yohimex) for types of male impotence. The herb may also elevate mood and may be a weight loss aid. According to FDA regulations, it cannot be promoted in herbal form as an aphrodosia. It is a potent herb with potential for abuse. Yohimbine is sold dried and in tablets, capsules, concentrated drops, and extracts.