Popular Herbal Remedies
Herbal Med 2003
This information is provided for educational
The efficacy of these therapies remains largely unproven, and serious side effects may result.
Alkalizes and detoxifies the body. Eases inflammation, lowers cholesterol, balances hormones. Good for anemia, bleeding-related disorders, bone and joint disorders, colon and digestive disorders, skin disorders, and ulcers.
Heals burns and wounds; stimulates cell regeneration, and has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Good for AIDS and for skin and digestive disorders.
cohosh, Cimicifuga racemosa,
is well known for promoting health during menopause. Black cohosh functions by maintaining healthy levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), allowing for optimal comfort and physical well being. The herb also exhibits mild estrogenic activity by binding to estrogen receptors. Black Cohosh 2.5 is standardized to contain 2.5% triterpene glycosides. Black Cohosh 2.5 modulates LH secretion and supports healthy estrogen levels during menopause.
REFERENCE: Lehmann-Willenbrock E, et al. Clinical and endocrinologic studies of the treatment of ovarian insufficiency manifestations following hysterectomy with intact adnexa. Zentralbl Gynakol1988;110(10):611-618.
(Capsicum annuum, hot pepper, red pepper)
Aids digestion, improves circulation, and stops bleeding from ulcers. Good for the heart, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, spleen, and stomach. Useful for arthritis and rheumatism. Can ward off colds, sinus infections, and sore throats.
An anti-inflammatory, appetite stimulant, digestive aid. Helps colitis, diverticulitis, fever, headaches, and pain. Is a remedy for stress and anxiety, indigestion, and insomnia.
is one of the most vital of the compounds in connective tissue which are responsible for building and supporting the ground substance of cartilage. As a nutritional supplement, this naturally occurring compound provides potent support for strong, healthy cartilage and joints.
REFERENCE: Pipitone VR. Chondroprotection with chondroitin sulfate. Drugs Exptl. Clin. Res.1991;17(1):3-7.
Only the bark of cinnamon is used as a remedy. Relieves diarrhea and nausea; counteracts congestion; aids the peripheral circulation of the blood. Useful for digestive problems, diabetes, weight loss, yeast infecton, and uterine hemorrhaging.
is the most abundant adrenal steroid hormone in the body. After it is made by the adrenal glands, it travels into cells throughout the body where it is converted into androgens and estrogens. These hormones regulate fat and mineral metabolism, endocrine and reproductive function, and energy levels. The amount of each hormone that DHEA converts to depends on an individuals biochemistry, age, and sex. DHEA levels peak around age 25 and then decline steadily. DHEA supplementation has been associated with increased emotional well-being and immune function. Pure Encapsulations DHEA is micronized to increase absorption. It is made with 99.38% pure, pharmaceutical grade DHEA.
REFERENCE: Morales AJ, et al. Effects of replacement dose of dehydroepiandrosterone in men and women of advancing age. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1994 Jun;78(6):1360-1367.
Neither DHEA nor low-dose testosterone replacement in elderly people has physiologically relevant beneficial effects on body composition, physical performance, insulin sensitivity, or quality of life. (NEJM Oct. 19, 2006 - DHEA in Elderly Women and DHEA or Testosterone in Elderly Men, K. Sreekumaran Nair, M.D., Ph.D. )
(Ecinacea angustifolia or purple coneflower)
Has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Good for immune system and lymphatic system because it stimulates white blood cells.
Useful for colic, colds, flu, and snakebites.
Comment (Harvard Med School 1/31/2001): Based on recent two studies and about a dozen others published over the years, it appears that echinacea may shorten the duration of a cold, but it does not seem to prevent the cold. So echinacea may be of some value. But is it safe? At the moment, the answer appears to be yes. However, there is a theoretical risk of allergic reaction in people with an allergy to ragweed.
Compared with placebo, unrefined echinacea provided no detectable benefit
or harm in these college students who had the common cold.
Ann Intern Med. Dec. 17, 2002;137:939-946
(Ephedra sineca, Ma-huang)
Active agents - ephedrine, pseudoephedrine. It is an alpha1, beta1, & beta1 agonist, enhances epinephrine & noeepinephrine release. It can increase heart rate & blood pressure leading to many reported heart attacks, strokes, & convulsions. If combines with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (tranylcypromine, phenelzine, & possible selegiline), it may cause life threatening hyperpyrexia & hypertension. If combined with halothan which sensitizes the heart to catecholamines, it can cause arrhythmias. The half life of ephdrine is about 5 hours, so stop ephedra 24 hrs prior to surgery.
Acts as a decongestant, stimulates the central nervous system. Should not be taken by those who suffer from anxiety disorder (panic attacks), glaucoma, heart disease, or high blood pressure. Useful for allergies, asthma, colds, respiratory conditions, depression and obesity. Some people use it for weight loss.
Warning: may cause severe cardiac dysrhythmia.
Found primarily in Australia, it clears congestion, reduces swelling by helping to increase blood flow. Recommended for external use only, it should not be used on open cuts or wounds. Good for colds, coughs, and respiratory disorders.
(Tanacetum parthenium, featherfew, featherfoil)
Chewing the leaves is a folk remedy, but it may cause mouth sores. Stimulates the appetite and utering contractions. Increases the fluidity of lung and bronchial tube mucus. Good for arthritis, colitis, fever, headaches, menstrual problems, muscle tension, pain.
Lowers blood pressure and improves circulation. It inhibits platelett aggregation, may cause bleeding. It increases the platelet inhibition of NSAID.
Detoxifies the body and protects against infection by enhancine immune function.
Aids in the treatment of arteriosclerosis, arthritis, asthma, cancer, circulatory problems, colds and flu, digestive problems, heart disorders, insomnia, liver disease, sinusitis, ulcer, yeast infections, and virtually any type of infection.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
Cleanses the colon, stimulates circulation. A strong antioxidant and effective antimicrobial agent.
Ginger inhibits thromboxane synthesis & prolongs bleeding time. It may cause bleeding in patients on warfarin. It may be necessary to stop ginger 7 days before surgery.
Useful for bowel disorders, circulatory problems, fever, hot flashes, indigestion, flatulence, morning sickness, motion sickness, nausea, and vomiting. It may cause bleeding in patients on warfarin because of its anticoagulant effect.
Ginkgo.htm (Ginkgo biloba)
Only taken from the leaves of plants, ginkgo improves brain functioning by increasing cerebral blood flow, circulation, and oxygenation. Good for depression, headaches, memory loss, tinnitis (ringing in the ears), asthma, eczema, and heart and kidney disorders.
Conclusions The results of this 6-week study indicate that ginkgo 40 mg 3 times per day did not facilitate performance on standard neuropsychological tests of learning, memory, attention, and concentration or naming and verbal fluency in elderly adults without cognitive impairment. The ginkgo group also did not differ from the control group in terms of self-reported memory function or global rating by spouses, friends, and relatives. These data suggest that when taken following the manufacturer's instructions, ginkgo provides no measurable benefit in memory or related cognitive function to adults with healthy cognitive function. JAMA. August 21, 2002;288:835-840
ginseng, China or Oriental ginseng (hot); Panax quinquefolius,
Only taken from the roots of plants, ginseng is taken by athletes to improve strength and performance. It strengthens the adrenal and reproductive glands. Useful for bronchitis, circulatory problems, diabetes, infertility, lack of energy, and stress. Enhances immune function, promotes lung functioning and stimulates the appetite. Siberian ginseng belongs to a different botanical family than American and Korean ginseng, but the properties and uses of all three are similar.
Ginseng can lower blood glucose & should be used with caution in diabetes to avoid hypoglycemia.
Panaxynol in ginseng has anti-platelet activity & can cause bleeding with warfarin. It should be stop 7 days before surgery.
Ginseng may cause headache, tremulousness & manic episodes in patients on phenelzine.
nutritionally supports healthy joints and the bodys ability to generate and regenerate connective tissue. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound present in joint cartilage that is necessary for the synthesis of proteoglycans, the protein molecules responsible for giving cartilage its strength and resilience. Sulfate, another component of proteoglycans, works synergistically with glucosamine in cartilage metabolism. Glucosamine Sulfate enhances and utilizes the intrinsic compounds in cartilage in order to nutritionally provide for healthy cartilage and proper joint functioning.
REFERENCE: DAmbrisio E, et al. Glucosamine sulphate: a controlled clinical investigation in arthrosis.
JCOM Mar 2001 - Glucosamine in Osteoarthritis (helpful)
Is glucosamine an effective treatment for osteoarthritic pain? (Cleveland Clinic J Med 6-2001)
is included in the glucosamine and chondroitin combination to provide an enhanced spectrum of nutrients for optimal cartilage matrix composition, connective tissue strength, and joint comfort. Glucosamine promotes the synthesis of the glycosaminoglycan chondroitin sulfate. Chondroitin sulfate is responsible for building the ground substance of cartilage, molecules known as proteoglycans. In addition, chondroitin sulfate blocks the action of degradative enzymes. An important role of sulfur from MSM is to enhance the structure and integrity of proteoglycans. Pure Encapsulations Glucosamine and Chondroitin with MSM offers highly purified constituents for healthy cartilage formation and joint movement ease.
REFERENCE: : McAlindon TE, LaValley MP, Felson DT. Efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin for treatment of osteoarthritis. JAMA 2000 Sep 13;284(10):1241.
Acts as an antibiotic, cleanses the body, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties; strengthens the immune system. Promotes functioning capacity of the colon, liver, pancreas, spleen, and lymphatic and respiratory systems. Decreases uterine bleeding, reduces blood pressure, and stimulates the central nervous system. Good for inflammation, ulcers, infectious disease, as well as for disorders affecting the bladder, prostate, stomach, or vagina.
Lowers cholesterol levels and restores heart muscle. Useful for anemia, cardiovascular and circulatory disorders, and lowered immunity. Increases intracellular vitamin C levels.
Placed inside a pillowcase, aids sleep. Good for heightened anxiety, cardiovascular disorders, hyperactivity, insomnia, nervousness, pain, restlessness, sexually transmitted diseases, shock, stress,toothaches, and ulcers. Acts as a relaxant, calming people.
Horse chestnut seed extract is most studied for a condition called chronic venous insufficiency. This term is more common in Europe than the United States. It describes several different problems that may be caused by the failure of lower leg veins to work correctly. These problems include leg swelling (edema), pain, itching, varicose veins, breakdown of skin and skin ulcers. Multiple studies suggest that horse chestnut seed extract may help these problems, possibly as well as other treatments, such as compression stockings. However, these studies are small, low quality and not fully convincing. Better research is necessary to provide a clear answer. If you experience sudden leg swelling, consult your health care provider immediately.
(Piperis methystici rhizoma) - The drug contains kava-pyrones
WARNING: may cause liver damage, liver failure, hepatitis and cirrhosis.!!!
Blumenthal: The Complete German Commission E Monographs:
Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines, First Edition 1998, American Botanical Council
Uses: Conditions of nervous anxiety, stress, and restlessness.
Contraindications: Pregnancy, nursing, endogenous depression.
Side Effects: See Warning below - potential liver toxicity !
Note: Extended continuous intake can cause a temporary yellow discoloration of skin, hair and nails. In this case, further application of this drug must be discontinued. In rare cases, allergic skin reactions can occur. Also, accommodative disturbances, such as enlargement of the pupils and disturbances of the oculomotor equilibrium, have been described.
Interactions with Other Drugs:
Potentiation of effectiveness is possible for substances acting on the central nervous system, such as alcohol, barbiturates and psychopharmacological agents.
Daily dosage: Herb and preparations equivalent to 60 - 120 mg kava pyrones oral use.
Duration of Administration: Not more than 3 months without medical advice.
Note: Even when administered within its prescribed dosages, this herb may adversely affect motor reflexes and judgment for driving and/or operating heavy machinery. In animal experiments a potentiation of narcosis (sedation), anticonvulsive, antispasmodic, and central muscular relaxant effects were described.
Germany may ban kava kava herbal supplement
FRANKFURT, Nov 19, 2001 (Reuters Health) - Germany is considering forbidding the sale of products containing more than tiny amounts of the herbal medicine kava kava after 24 cases of liver damage linked to the medicine have been reported in Germany. Of the 24 cases, one person died and three had to have liver transplants. Diagnoses included liver failure, hepatitis and cirrhosis. However, he said evidence is strong that kava kava can cause liver damage, and chances are high that the BfArM will forbid its sale in Germany, except in preparations with only minute amounts.
Cleanses the colon and promotes adrenal gland function. Has estrogen- and progesterone-like effects; may change the pitch of voice. Beneficial for allergic disorders, asthma, chronic fatigue, depression, emphysema, fever, herpesvirus infection, hypoglycemia, and inflammatory bowel disorders.
Its toxicity: severe weakness, edema, pseudoaldosteronism due to aldosteronic effects of glycryrrhizin (headache, Na & water retention, K+ wasting, high blood pressure, heart failure). Do not use for more than 6 weeks & use with a high fruit diet. Licorice toxicity can be treated with these diuretics: spironolactone, amiloride, triamterene.
Licorice interferes with the clearance of prednisolone & other steroids leading to symptoms of CUshing's syndrome.
is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, the organ which regulates the bodys wake/sleep/wake cycle. The hormone is secreted in a circadian rhythm by enzymes which are activated by darkness and depressed by light. Melatonin nutritionally augments the natural functioning of the pineal gland.
REFERENCE: Attenburrow ME, et al. Low dose melatonin improves sleep in middle-aged subjects.
Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1996 Jul;126(2):179-181.
(Silybum marianum, Mary thistle,
Contains some of the most potent liver-protecting substances known. Acts as an antioxidant; protects the kidneys. Good for bowel disorders, weakened immune system, and all liver disorders, such as jaundice and hepatitis. Beneficial for psoriasis.
Its silibinin inhibits cytochrome P450 in vitro, specifically warfarin & nifidipine metabolism.
dioica or stinging nettle)
A diuretic (increases the production and elimination of urine), expectorant (stimulates the removal of mucous from the lungs), pain reliever, and tonic (nurtures and enlivens). Good for anemia, arthritis, hay fever, allergic disorders, kidney problems, malabsorption syndrome. Improves goiter, inflammatory conditions.
(Passiflora incarnata, maypop)
Acts as a sedative. Helpful for anxiety, hyperactivity, insomnia, neuritis, and stress-related disorders. Should not be used in high doses during pregnancy.
Enhances absorption by increasing stomach acidity. Useful for chills, colic, diarrhea, headache, heart trouble, indigestion, nausea, poor appetite, rheumaism, and spasms. May interfere with iron absorption.
St. John's Wort.htm
May help to inhibit viral infections, including HIV and herpes. Good for depression and nerve pain. Can cause heightened sun sensitivity in fair-skinned individuals if taken internally in large amounts. Interferes with absorption of iron and other minerals.
Its compounds are weak inhibitors of monoamine oxidase & appears the major action is the blockade of serotonin reuptake. This has lead to the serotonin syndrome when used with SSRIs (paroxetine & sertraline). The serotonin syndrome is restlessness, muscle twitching, tremors, sweating, shivering, seizures, & coma.
It induces Cytochrome P450 3A4 & therefore induces the metabolism of several drugs, including cyclosporin, indinavir, & ethinylestradiol. This leads to transplant rejection, failed anti-HIV therapy & fertility. It also increase clearance of warfarin, amitriptyline & theophylline which leads to bleeding, depression, & seizures respectively.
It should be stopped for 5 days prior to surgery.
It increases photosensitivity, sunburn. Use with caution with other photosensitizers such as tetracyclines & piroxicam (Feldene).
Acts as a diuretic and urinary antiseptic. Stimulates the appetite. Good for prostate disorders. May enhance sexual functioning and desire. Saw palmetto extracts have been approved in France and Germany for treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy. It inhibits 5 alpha-reductase that makes dihydrotestosterone from testosterone.
Saw palmetto has been used safely for
decades to support proper prostate and urinary function. It acts to inhibit
the irreversible conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, a form
of testosterone that firmly binds to prostate tissue. Pygeum africanum compounds
have also been shown to influence testosterone metabolism. Pumpkin seed oil
provides the body with essential fatty acids and zinc that help diminish
the age-related decline in production of prostaglandins. Saw Palmetto
Plus combines natural ingredients that have long been utilized to support
the health and function of the prostate gland.
REFERENCE: Champault G, et al. A double blind trial of an extract of the plant Serenoa repens in benign prostatic hyperplasia. Br J Clin Pharmacol1984 Sept;18(3):461-462.
for connective tissue health
Shark cartilage is renowned for providing potent support for the maintenance of healthy joints and cartilage. Shark cartilage is a natural source of proteoglycans, compounds responsible for building and strengthening the ground substance of cartilage. In particular, shark cartilage contains chondroitin sulfate, one of the most potent proteoglycans known.
REFERENCE: Garg AK, et al. Effect of proteoglycans on type I collagen fibre formation. Biomaterials1989 Aug;10(6):413-419.
Valerian.htm (Valeriana officinalis)
Improves circulation and acts as a sedative. Good for anxiety, fatigue, high blood pressure, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual cramps, muscle cramps, nervousness, pain, spasms, stress, and ulcers.
Valerian withdrawal syndrome is similar to benzodiazapine withdrawal & can be treated with benzodiazepines.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Applied topically, has astringent (binding action on mucous membranes, skin, and other tissue; reduces irritation and inflammation) properties, and relieves itching. Good for hemorrhoids and phlebitis. Very useful in skin care.
Harvard Med School InteliHealth Site on Herbal Medicine
Natural Medicine Database (paid website)
Some info compiled by Kent E. Willyard, MD