Healing Through Herbs

Herbs are plants, or parts of a plant, that are not only used to flavor foods but also for therapeutic properties. In fact medicinal herbs, or herbs used for healing powers, have been around for a while throughout history and are often more prevalent in countries where drugs are not as accessible. In the US, alternative medicine, such as using herbs for healing, has become increasingly popular as people believe they are always safer or healthier from them than prescription, or over-the-counter, drugs and medications. Unfortunately this is not always the case. One must always talk to their doctor before taking anything new as there can be side effects, and medication-interactions. Here are a list of some of the more commonly taken herbs and what you should know about them:


Mental Health & Nervous System

  1. Hops

    1. Used For: digestion, nervousness, insomnia, menopause

    2. Cautions: women with history of breast cancer or at risk for it should avoid hops as it can stimulate hormonal activity

  2. St. John’s Wort

    1. Used For: minor depression, muscle aches, fever blisters

    2. Cautions: may interact with prescription medications, especially medications that treat depression or anxiety.

  3. Valerian

    1. Used For: nervousness, insomnia, anxiety

    2. Cautions: relatively safe and non-habit forming

Respiratory System

  1. Echinacea

    1. Used For: cold and flus

    2. Cautions: may inhibit certain liver enzymes, theoretically increasing blood levels of certain medications that are used to treat fungal infections, high cholesterol, and allergies. Also may interfere with birth control pill. Side effects include mild stomach upset, nausea, dizziness.

  2. Elder

    1. Used For: colds and flus

    2. Cautions: advised in people with autoimmune conditions

  3. Eucalyptus

    1. Used For: colds, cough, asthma, and emphysema

    2. Cautions:  may cause low blood sugars and interact with several medications. Side effects include ingested oils can cause nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, breathing problems, increased heartbeat, and low blood pressure.

  4. Sage

    1. Used For: sore throat, colds and coughs, memory, menopause, excessive sweating

    2. Cautions: avoid large amounts

  5. Thyme

    1. Used For: coughs, colds and flu

    2. Cautions: generally safe

Heart & Circulation

  1. Cacao, Chocolate

    1. Used For: Antioxidants, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, anti-inflammatory

    2. Cautions: due to small amount of caffeine it can be stimulating making it hard to fall asleep at night. Milk or white chocolates are not as rich in antioxidants and milk fats diminish antioxidant absorption.

  2. Cinnamon

    1. Used For: Diabetes

    2. Cautions: large amounts can contain coumarin which cause blood-thinning and liver problems only if large amounts take over long periods of time. Monitor blood sugars carefully.

  3. Gingko

    1. Used For: Antioxidant, mental health, circulation

    2. Cautions: may have effects on blood clotting. Not recommended during pregnancy or right before surgeries.

  4. Grape Seed

    1. Used For: Heart health and antioxidant

    2. Cautions: if taken in form of wine, limit to no more than 1-2 servings per day.

  5. Hibiscus

    1. Used For: heart health

    2. Cautions: Generally safe and well tolerated. For those who have history of CHF, only take under supervision of doctor

Digestive System

  1. Chamomile

    1. Used For: Digestive aid, mouth ulcers, colic, eczema

    2. Cautions: Safe, however allergic reactions can occur

  2. Fennel

    1. Used For: digestive aid, colic, menstrual cramps, coughs and colds

    2. Cautions: included on the Food and Drug Administration’s list of herbs that are generally regarded as safe (GRAS)

  3. Garlic

    1. Used For: diarrhea, coughs and colds, heart health

    2. Cautions: small risk that can affect platelets ability to form a clot so reduce 10 days before surgery. Can also interfere with meds used to treat HIV infection.

  4. Ginger

    1. Used For: motion sickness, morning sickness, nausea/vomiting, inflammation, coughs and colds

    2. Cautions: may cause mild heartburn

  5. Milk Thistle

    1. Used For: liver protectant

    2. Cautions: no contraindications

  6. Peppermint

    1. Used for: indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, colds and coughs, muscles aches, tension headache

    2. Cautions: avoid if you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) as it can worsen heartburn

  7. Psyllium

    1. Used For: fiber, bulk laxative, heart health

    2. Cautions: reduced absorption of certain drugs so avoid taken them with medications. May also cause GI tract obstruction.

  8. Slippery Elm

    1. Used For: occasional heartburn, coughs, sore throat, itchy or inflamed skin

    2. Cautions: well tolerated

  9. Turmeric

    1. Used For: inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis

    2. Cautions: may cause indigestion

Joints, Muscles, and Skin

  1. Aloe

    1. Used For: Burns, psoriasis, colitis, Diabetes

    2. Cautions: topically aloe is safe, however, when ingested be sure to look for aloin-free versions as it can irritate digestive tract and act as a laxative.

  2. Arnica

    1. Used For: bruises, contusions, swelling and joint pain

    2. Cautions: safe if applied only externally and avoid digesting.

  3. Cayenne

    1. Used For: Arthritis, nerve pain

    2. Cautions: topical versions can cause skin rash, burning and stinging.

  4. Rosemary

    1. Used For: topical antioxidant, antibacterial, bronchitis, muscle/joint pain, circulation, memory/cognition

    2. Cautions: can cause rash when exposed to sun.

  5. Tea Tree

    1. Used For: skin infections, gingivitis, dandruff, acne

    2. Cautions: never take internally as it can be toxic

Female Health

  1. Black Cohosh

    1. Used For: menopause, PMS, menstrual cramps, arthritis, mild depression

    2. Cautions: except for minor GI upset, usually side-effect free.

  2. Chaste Tree

    1. Used For: PMS, breast tenderness

    2. Cautions: no adverse effects and extremely well tolerated

  3. Cranberry

    1. Used For: bladder infections

    2. Cautions: generally none

Wellness & Perception

  1. Ginseng

    1. Used For: tonic, diabetes, immune system function

    2. Cautions: can lower blood sugars, and cause mild stomach upset. Also acts as a stimulant which can interfere with sleep.

  2. Goji

    1. Used For: Antioxidant, well-being

    2. Cautions: not recommended for those undergoing chemo or radiation therapy. May lower blood glucose and pressure levels and interfere with blood-thinning medications.



“National Geographic Guide To Medicinal Herbs.” Rebecca L. Johnson; Steven Foster; Tieraona Low Dog, MD; David Kiefer, MD. 

Nick VanMeter