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
Used For: digestion, nervousness, insomnia, menopause
Cautions: women with history of breast cancer or at risk for it should avoid hops as it can stimulate hormonal activity
St. John’s Wort
Used For: minor depression, muscle aches, fever blisters
Cautions: may interact with prescription medications, especially medications that treat depression or anxiety.
Used For: nervousness, insomnia, anxiety
Cautions: relatively safe and non-habit forming
Used For: cold and flus
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.
Used For: colds and flus
Cautions: advised in people with autoimmune conditions
Used For: colds, cough, asthma, and emphysema
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.
Used For: sore throat, colds and coughs, memory, menopause, excessive sweating
Cautions: avoid large amounts
Used For: coughs, colds and flu
Cautions: generally safe
Heart & Circulation
Used For: Antioxidants, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, anti-inflammatory
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.
Used For: Diabetes
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.
Used For: Antioxidant, mental health, circulation
Cautions: may have effects on blood clotting. Not recommended during pregnancy or right before surgeries.
Used For: Heart health and antioxidant
Cautions: if taken in form of wine, limit to no more than 1-2 servings per day.
Used For: heart health
Cautions: Generally safe and well tolerated. For those who have history of CHF, only take under supervision of doctor
Used For: Digestive aid, mouth ulcers, colic, eczema
Cautions: Safe, however allergic reactions can occur
Used For: digestive aid, colic, menstrual cramps, coughs and colds
Cautions: included on the Food and Drug Administration’s list of herbs that are generally regarded as safe (GRAS)
Used For: diarrhea, coughs and colds, heart health
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.
Used For: motion sickness, morning sickness, nausea/vomiting, inflammation, coughs and colds
Cautions: may cause mild heartburn
Used For: liver protectant
Cautions: no contraindications
Used for: indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, colds and coughs, muscles aches, tension headache
Cautions: avoid if you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) as it can worsen heartburn
Used For: fiber, bulk laxative, heart health
Cautions: reduced absorption of certain drugs so avoid taken them with medications. May also cause GI tract obstruction.
Used For: occasional heartburn, coughs, sore throat, itchy or inflamed skin
Cautions: well tolerated
Used For: inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis
Cautions: may cause indigestion
Joints, Muscles, and Skin
Used For: Burns, psoriasis, colitis, Diabetes
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.
Used For: bruises, contusions, swelling and joint pain
Cautions: safe if applied only externally and avoid digesting.
Used For: Arthritis, nerve pain
Cautions: topical versions can cause skin rash, burning and stinging.
Used For: topical antioxidant, antibacterial, bronchitis, muscle/joint pain, circulation, memory/cognition
Cautions: can cause rash when exposed to sun.
Used For: skin infections, gingivitis, dandruff, acne
Cautions: never take internally as it can be toxic
Used For: menopause, PMS, menstrual cramps, arthritis, mild depression
Cautions: except for minor GI upset, usually side-effect free.
Used For: PMS, breast tenderness
Cautions: no adverse effects and extremely well tolerated
Used For: bladder infections
Cautions: generally none
Wellness & Perception
Used For: tonic, diabetes, immune system function
Cautions: can lower blood sugars, and cause mild stomach upset. Also acts as a stimulant which can interfere with sleep.
Used For: Antioxidant, well-being
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.