Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Herbal Remedies for Insomnia 2

I wanted to mention another herbal remedy I find useful for insomnia, Scutellaria Lateriflora, commonly known as Scullcap or Skullcap.

Scullcap has been used for centuries because of its sedative properties; it was used to treat hysteria and nervous tension, nervous disorders in general, and even as a treatment for epilepsy. It also has been traditionally used as an anti-spasmodic, and anti-inflammatory.

Scullcap is available in pill or capsule form, as well as liquid or tincture, from several suppliers. Follow the dosage recommendations on the label. (I always start at the lowest recommended dosage whenever I try a new herbal remedy, and increase the dosage gradually, if necessary, and there are no negative reactions from taking the remedy.)

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Herbal remedies for Insomnia

There are several herbal remedies I have found helpful for occasional insomnia.

One of my favorites is chamomile flowers, brewed as a tea and sipped warm. It is a very relaxing beverage, and is often all that is needed. (It is also soothing to the digestion.)

For a stronger sedative effect, my favorite herbal remedy is a combination of the herbs Valerian Root, and Hops; I generally recommend two parts valerian to one part hops. (I have found that taking the herbs together is more effective than either alone, but both herbs have sleep inducing effects.)

I have also found that Valerian is most effective when taken as an alcohol extract, rather than in capsule or pill form, and generally use Hops as an extract also. I usually add the extracts to warm water (or a non caffeinated tea or herbal infusion) and sip that before retiring.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Astragalus, Herbal Tonic for the Immune System

Cold and flu season are coming, so this seems like a good time of
year to talk about the herb Astragalus.

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), known as Huang qi in Chinese
medicine, is famous as a tonic to the immune system. The Chinese
describe it as a tonic to the "wei qi", which is a protective energy
that circulates under the skin, and is the body's first line of
defense against external pathogenic invasion. (That's a fancy way of
saying it helps keep you from "catching" whatever may be going

Astragalus is traditionally used with people who catch colds
frequently, because it both strengthens and stabilizes the protective
energy mentioned earlier. This protective energy also regulates
sweating, so astragalus is used to regulate sweating. (If there is
excessive sweating, astragalus will decrease it; if there is too
little sweating, astragalus will increase it.)

Astragalus is also a diuretic, and may be helpful in cases with edema
or water retention.

Astragalus is also an herbal tonic for the lungs, and may help where
there is shortness of breath.

Astragalus also benefits sugar metabolizing functions; it was
traditionally used for "wasting and thirsting" illnesses, which was a
description used for diabetes in early Chinese medical texts.

Astragalus is a qi tonic, like ginseng (see a discussion about ginseng here);

but astragalus is more activating than ginseng. Ginseng is said to benefit the
spiritual energies, while astragalus works more on the physical.

Astragalus is a good herbal remedy to use as a tonic periodically, it
benefits the energy, tonifies the immune system, and also helps
tonify the blood. It is a safe remedy, and available as a raw herb,in
tinctures, and teas, also in capsules and freeze dried extracts.

The raw herb is usually found as thin slices, which resemble
popsickle sticks. One traditional way to use astragalus was to add a
few sticks to soups, and allow it to simmer with the rest of the
ingredients. Used this way, or cooked alone into a "tea" (astragalus
has a mild sweet flavor), astragalus is a good way to give your
immune system a boost.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Dong Quai-Women's Ginseng?

Dong quai (angelica sinensis), sometimes spelled tang kwei or dang gui, is called women's ginseng.

In Chinese medicine, men are considered to be more ruled by qi (qi is usually translated as energy, but it is a more complex substance; Ted Kaptchuk, author of The Web That Has No Weaver, describes qi as energy on the verge of becoming matter and matter on the verge of becoming energy), and women more by blood. Ginseng is one of the primary qi tonics; dong quai is one of the primary blood tonics. This is why it is referred to as "women's ginseng".

Traditionally, dong quai is used to tonify the blood and regulate menstruation. It is used for all deficient blood patterns, and irregular menstruation, amenorrhea (failure to menstruate) and dysmenorrhea (pain or painful cramps before or during menstruation).

The herb is available in several forms: raw, it is available sliced, or as dried whole roots, (I find the slices to be easier to use, if I want the raw herb); freeze-dried powder, capsules and tinctures.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the herb is usually used as part of a formula; the primary blood tonic formula is called Four Things Soup or Four Things Combination. It includes dong quai, rehmannia, ligusticum, and white peony root. It is the base for may tonic formulas in Chinese medicine, especially relating to any blood vitalising or clearing tonics.

It is possible to obtain this formula as a combination of the raw individual herbs, or as pills, capsules, tinctures and freeze dried concentrate. Follow the manufacturers directions in any prepackaged formula, I always recommend starting with the lowest possible dose, and adjustin as you see how it affects you.

As with any herbal formulation, results take time. If you see no results at all within seven to ten days, consider increasing the dosage. If you still see no results, you may need a different formula, or one of the variants of this formula. (There are many variants, from varying the proportions of the four ingredients, to adding other herbs.)

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

An Alternative Ginseng

I wrote a little about ginsengs a few days ago, (see More Than One Ginseng), today I want to mention another herbal tonic, Codonopsis (Radix Codonopsis pilosulae). It is a common substitute for ginseng in traditional herbal remedies, and, in many formulations from China, is more commonly used than ginseng.

This is not an attempt by the herbal manufacturer to rip off consumers, but the substitution is made because the effects of ginseng and codonopsis are quite similar. They are both excellent general tonics, with balancing and invigorating actions on the body and its systems.

Ginseng is much more expensive than codonopsis, and good codonopsis is much more effective than poor quality ginseng. The difference in price allows the use of very good quality codonopsis at the same price as poor quality ginseng, which gives the consumer a better value in the herbal remedy.

A major difference between the two is that ginseng is believed to affect the physical, mental, and spiritual parts of an individual, whereas codonopsis works more on the physical level.
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Sunday, September 10, 2006

More Mushroom Magic That Boosts the Immune System

I spoke about Shiitake and Reishi Mushrooms as immune
tonics in a previous post. There is another mushroom which is a
very potent immune system tonic, Maitake.

Maitake belongs to the class of herbs called adaptogens.
(Herbs which help the body "adapt" to stressors.)

It has been shown to significantly strengthen the immune
system, and build immune reserves. In research studies,
maitake extract increased the activity of three types of
immune cells, the macrophages, natural killer cells, and the
T-cells, by a significant percentage.

In studies with mice, maitake extract reduced tumor
formation by 86% compared to the control group.

Maitake extract is currently in stage 2 trials in the US as
an anti-cancer drug. It is being tested on both advanced
breast and prostate cancer.

The anti-cancer compound is marketed as Maitake-D
fraction, and has shown promise in studies on both breast
and colorectal cancer.

Maitake also helps reduce pain, nausea, hair loss,
and other side effects of conventional chemotherapy drugs.

Maitake has shown promise as a complementary therapy,
and combines well with conventional therapy.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

More Than One Ginseng

I recently read a magazine article which reported on a study done is Shangai over a period of six years. The study followed almost 1500 patients and found that women who had a history of taking ginseng had a 30% lower chance of dying than those who did not use ginseng.

They also reported that the women who began using ginseng after diagnosis felt they had more energy and slept better than the women who did not take ginseng. (All the women in the study had conventional cancer treatments. The women who used ginseng took an average 1.3 grams of ginseng per day.)

The magazine identified the ginseng as P. quinquefolius. I don't think most of the magazine readers know what that means.

Chinese (and Korean) ginseng is Panax ginseng, or P. ginseng. P. quinquefolius, or Panax quinquefolius, is American ginseng. It is botanically very similar to Chinese ginseng, in fact of all the plants called ginseng (Siberian ginseng, Prince ginseng, Tienchi ginseng, as well as the American and Chinese ginsengs), American ginseng is the only one which could cross pollinate with Panax ginseng.

The difference is important because American ginseng has a higher content of ginsenosides than Panax ginseng. According to the magazine article, in animal studies and in test tube studies, the ginsenosides seem to make cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy.

If you are undergoing treatment for breast cancer, or any other medical condition, please consult with your doctor before adding any herbs to your treatment regimen.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Herbal Remedies That Help Boost The Immune System

Now that summer is drawing to a close, it's a good time to start talking about herbs that help improve immune system functioning. There are quite a few herbs that have a tonifying effect on the body's immune system, such as Echinacea, Astragalus, Garlic and Ginseng.

There are also some mushrooms which have almost legendary status as immune system tonics. Today, I want to talk about Shiitake and Reishi mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms are widely available in supermarkets and health food stores, they are often available either fresh or dried. It is even possible to purchase Shiitake growing kits.

Shiitake mushrooms are delicious added to soups, stews, and sauces; pretty much anywhere you would use any other mushroom. The stems are very woody, so use only the caps.

Studies in Japan have shown that Shiitake mushrooms boost the immune system, as well as inhibit viral replication, two activities which make Shiitake a great addition to your diet. Japanese research has also led to a cancer treatment based on Shiitake mushrooms.

Reishi mushroom is another immune boosting powerhouse. At one time, these mushrooms were extremely rare, and prohibitively expensive, because they were only found growing in high, remote mountains. Relatively recently, it was discovered how to grow Reishi mushrooms, so you no longer need to be the Emperor to afford them.

Reishi mushrooms were thought to increase longevity and were highly prized as a result.

Modern research has shown them to be high in immune boosting phytochemicals, and to improve production of lymphocytes (lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell, and an important part of the body's defenses against infection). Reishi also seems to modulate immune response, (this means it can both strengthen a weakened immune response, and lessen an overactive immune response), and helps some allergy sufferers get relief from their symptoms. Reishi also seems to have some anti-cancer properties, and is a part of several commercially available preparations said to protect the immune system while patients are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy as part of a cancer treatment regimen. (If you are being treated for any medical condition, please check with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.)

Reishi mushrooms don't seem as widely available as Shiitake mushrooms, although most local health food stores carry several varieties of prepared Reishi supplements, as powders, capsules and extracts, as well as an instant tea concentrate. It's a useful supplement anytime you feel your immune system needs a boost.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

More info on the tree killers

I had previously written about poachers killing trees in National Forests to sell the bark for herbal remedies. Today I received an email from Doctors Health Press with more info. It seems six suspects have been arrested related to the pillaging. Hopefully, this will put a stop to the destruction. Again, I want to encourage everyone to use natural remedies which have been harvested and produced with sustainable practices.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Red Bush Tea Is A Caffeine Free Alternative to Green Tea.

Rooibos, also called Red Bush Tea, is naturally caffeine free and rich in antioxidants.

Rooibos has a long history of use as an herbal remedy, and is considered very safe. It has been used to settle colicky infants, and to treat diaper rash.

More recently, it is being recommended for other skin irritations, such as eczema and dermatitis.

The tea made from rooibos is pleasant tasting and mildly sweet, making it a delicious way to increase your daily intake of antioxidants.

Click here to read more about Red Bush Tea

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tree Killers Strike

Associated Press released a story today that shows a disturbing fact about using herbal remedies.

The story was about poachers stripping the bark from slippery elm trees in a national forest in Kentucky. (Slippery elm is used for coughs and is soothing to the digestive tract, and used externally to treat wounds , burns and skin irritations.) Unfortunately, when you strip all the bark around a tree, it dies.

I always stress that you should only buy herbal products from reputable suppliers. Slippery elm is not the only herb at risk in the wild. Many traditional remedies have been driven to the brink of extinction in the wild by over-harvesting. Eliminating the market for illegally or unethically harvested herbs is the only way to stop the poaching.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Natural Remedy for Motion Sickness

With summer in full swing here in the USA, motion sickness becomes an issue for more and more people. Whether it is long car rides, or travelling by boat or plane, motion sickness can be a most unpleasant travel partner.

There is a natural remedy that is very effective as a treatment for motion sickness, Ginger. Ginger, (Zingiber Officianale) is a rhizome which is native to southeastern Asia, but is widely cultivated around the world, including in the US.

Studies have demonstrated that ginger is as effective as many pharmaceutical remedies in controlling motion sickness, and vastly superior to some over the counter remedies.

Some herbalists recommend using fresh ginger juice to treat nausea, and say it is more effective than a decoction made from the dried herb. I have found both to be successful, and have no clear preference.

To make ginger juice, grate several tablespoons of fresh root, (the fresher the root, the easier to grate, and the more juice will be produced) and either squeeze the grated root by hand or wrap it in several layers of cheesecloth, and squeeze to extract the juice.

To make a ginger decoction, simmer several pieces of dried ginger root for about fifteen minutes, and drink warm. You can sweeten with a little honey, if desired.

Whether you are using the fresh juice, or a decoction, it is most effective for motion sickness if taken about two hours before travelling.

Ginger is also available in capsules, and some people find those to also be effective. If you prefer capsules, follow the manufacturers directions.

Ginger is a very safe herb, taken in moderation. Some herbalists recommend against using ginger while pregnant, while others recommend it for morning sickness. My own experience is that ginger is safe in moderate doses, and can help with morning sickness.

Ginger can increase the secretion of bile, so if there are any problems with the liver or gallbladder (such as stones, or any bile duct obstructions), ginger should be used under a doctor's supervision.

If you suffer from motion sickness, try ginger, and enjoy travelling again.
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Sunday, July 23, 2006


I have just begun a lens at Squidoo. You can visit it at: http://www.squidoo.com/herbalremedies/
You can see a list of my favorite books about Chinese Herbal Remedies there.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Antioxidants in Herbs

It is almost impossible to read any news relating to health and alternative or natural remedies without seeing something about the benefits of antioxidants (free radicals of oxygen molecules damage cells much like oxidation causes iron to rust, antioxidants are components of many plants which help prevent cell damage caused by the free radicals) and what fruits and vegetables are the best sources.

I certainly do not want to discourage anyone from eating fruits or vegetables, I believe they are essential to a healthy diet.

But, I do want people to know that many herbs are also rich in antioxidants, as well as other nutrients.

Parsley is a good source of Vitamin C, and Vitamin A, both vitamins are antioxidants.

Oregano is another herb that has strong antioxidant properties. It is a member of the mint family, most of which are excellent sources of antioxidants. (The mint family includes basil, lemon balm, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, spearmint and thyme, most of which are readily available in any supermarket.)

Using these herbs, especially fresh herbs, as part of your daily diet is an easy and delicious way to get the benefits of these herbal remedies.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

My Favorite Herbal Remedy for Upset Stomach

Today, I want to give you my favorite herbal remedy for upset stomach, nausea, indigestion, bloating and gas. It only contains three herbs, all easily available in the spice section of any large supermarket. (I recommend using organic herbs and spices whereever available.)

The ingredients of this herbal formula are: Anise Seed (not Star Anise, that is a different plant),
Caraway Seed (the seed you see in some rye breads), and Fennel Seed.

Use approximately equal parts of each ingredient to make up a heaping tablespoon, it is best if you can crack the seeds at least a little; I use a mortar and pestle, if you don't have one, placing the seeds in a plastic bag and using a rolling pin or a skillet to crush them slightly works.

Place the seeds in a cup or other container and add one cup of freshly boiled water, cover and let steep about 15 minutes. Drink while still warm, no need to gulp it all down at once, sipping works. If you like the taste of licorice, (Anise is quite often used to flavor licorice candy), you will find the taste of this herbal remedy quite pleasant.

An even simpler remedy for indigestion is to chew a small handful of fennel seeds, which can quickly settle the stomach. Fennel seeds are quite gentle and safe, but some sources warn against taking large doses early in pregnancy. The doses I mention here are quite safe, and not likely to cause problems.

More coming...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What Do All Those Big Words Mean in the Herbal Books?

If you have read a little about herbs and herbal remedies, you have more than likely encountered some pretty strange words. Things like sudorific and soporific or cathartic and emetic. Some authors , especially in books, include a glossary so you can look up all those terms. But, sometimes, it seems the authors assume that anyone reading their work already knows the difference between an antipyretic (it is a substance which prevents or reduces fevers) and an antispasmodic (a substance which reduces involuntary contractions).

If you find words in your reading about herbs and herbal remedies which seem like they might be Greek, head over to my website at herbal-list-remedies.com and click on the Glossary button. There you will find definitions of these and many more terms used to describe the actions and effects of herbal remedies. And if you can't find the word you are looking for, there is a button called Ask A Question, click on that and you can send me the question directly.

You can also use the Ask A Question to send me any questions about herbs and herbal remedies. I will respond as soon as I can. Just stop by my website and leave me your questions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Check Out My New Website

It has been a few days since I posted to this blog. I have been busy starting a new website. You can check it out at herbal-list-remedies.com

I have put up a form there for you to submit questions about herbal remedies. I will try to answer any question, except questions about diagnosing medical problems. As I have repeated many times here, if you have a medical problem, please consult the appropriate medical professional.

You can also subscribe to my new ezine, The Herbal List at the website.

My goal for the site is to make it the best resource for information about herbs and herbal remedies, anywhere.

I have ambitious plans for the site, but, trying to move 35 years of learning and experience from my head to the website will take time. If there is something you want to know now, please use the form on the website herbal-list-remedies.com, and I'll get you an answer as soon as I can. (As my traffic increases, I may not be able to individually respond to each question, but at least for now, you will receive a response directly from me.)

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What the Heck Is A Chinese Wolfberry?

One of my favorite Chinese herbs is the Chinese Wolfberry Fruit, also known as Lycii Berries, or Gou Qi Zi, or Lycium Chinensis.

They are a small red fruit, which look a little like very red raisins, with a similar texture, at least when relatively fresh.

The berries are used in many traditional herbal remedies related to old age. In fact, some Chinese sources say that these berries "prevent old age." One of China's most famous herbalists, Li Zhi Shen, who lived well past 100 years, attributed his longevity to eating a handful of these berries daily.

The Chinese wolfberry is also used for back pain and weak legs and is said to "brighten the eyes."

Most Chinese herbs are not used individually, but as part of specific formulae, refined through the years, or even centuries. Lycii berries are part of many traditional formulae or recipes, but they are also eaten by themselves, and are an enjoyable snack, if you can obtain them while they are still fresh. (The color of fresh berries is brighter, and the texture is soft, much like plump raisins, or a little firmer. If the berries are old, they become duller in color, and the texture can become quite hard. At this point, they are not a good choice to eat as is, but better cooked with other herbs as part of a traditional herbal remedy.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tonic Herbs

I have been mostly talking about herbs that are easily found, and have medicinal uses. My favorite herbs for my own use are the tonic herbs. I use the term "tonic" to mean a subset of the medicinal herbs (meaning all tonic herbs can be used as medicinal herbs, but not all medicinal herbs can be used as tonics,) which help increase or fortify the body's natural energies or processes, rather than focussing on relieving symptoms.

In Chinese medicine, they also consider certain herbs to be in a class above all others, and refer to them as Superior or Celestial Tonics. Ginseng is probably the tonic herb most people are familiar with, and it is one of the Superior Tonics.

There are different types of Ginsengs, the one ususally referred to simply the term "ginseng" is Panax Ginseng, sometimes called Oriental ginseng, or Korean Ginseng, or Chinese ginseng. They are all Panax Ginseng, and different processing methods produce red ginseng and white ginseng. (The term "Panax" is related to the word "panacea", and refers to the reputation ginseng has of being good for anything.)

Ginseng can produce symptoms called "false fire" symptoms, if your energy doesn't flow well, and can include feelings of heat, or tensinon in the shoulders and neck, or restlessness, so it's not one that I recommend for everyone.

Two other ginsengs are Siberian Ginseng, and American Ginseng.

Siberian Ginseng actually is a term used to refer to three separate herbs. Eleutherococcus Senticosus is the plant which has been most researched of the three, and may be the single most researched herb in the world. Soviet Cosmonauts and Athletes used to use this herb regularly, and it is good to improve endurance and stamina.

Siberian Ginseng belongs to a class of herbal remedies called adaptogens, which help the body adapt to stressors of any type. Some research even demonstrated that the greater the stress, the greater the effect from Siberian Ginseng. It has also been used as a tonic for the elderly.

I recommend Siberian Ginseng more frequently than Panax Ginseng, it tends to produce an improvement in energy levels while producing less of the tension or restlessness.

American Ginseng is the other major type of ginseng (there is also Prince Ginseng and Pseudo Ginseng, but that may be for another post) which I recommend to my clients. It is less drying than the Panax Ginseng, and has a cooler energy.

American Ginseng at one time grew wild all over the east coast, and was a major export of the early colonies. (Daniel Boone was actually a major American Ginseng trader.) Unfortunately, overharvesting has made it much more scarce in the wild.

Siberian Ginseng and American Ginseng are a good starting point to learning about tonic herbalism, and if your condition warrants, so is Panax Ginseng.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Few More Herbal Remedies That Help With Sugar Metabolism

I talked about Cinnamon yesterday, and mentioned that it was being researched to help treat diabetes, because it seems to help the body metabolize blood sugar. There are several other herbal remedies that have been used traditionally to help with diabetes-like symptoms

Fenugreek Seed has been used medicinally for at least 2000 years, and is recommended in all conditions involving excess mucus, or lung congestion. It has also been used for both diabetes and gout. Recent research seems to confirm the ability of fenugreek to stabilize blood sugar levels, and that it seems to help cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

Fenugreek is a traditional ingredient in many curry powders, and has been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicines for centuries.

Another herb which is gaining a lot of attention as a natural treatment for blood sugar problems and diabetes is Gymnema Sylvestre, an Ayurvedic herb more commonly called Gurmar, which I have read translates as sugar destroyer. It earned this name because if you chew the leaves of this plant, it decreases your ability to taste sugar.

Recent research shows that it helps improve your body’s ability to control sugar levels, and it seems to increase the effectiveness of insulin.

I am not suggesting that if you want to continue consuming vast quantities of white sugar, all you have to do is add Cinnamon, Fenugreek, and Gymnema Sylvestre to your diet and everything will be fine. I think it is a good idea to limit white sugar and white flour in your diet, and doing so is a good first step in improving your health.

And I am not saying that if you are diabetic and taking insulin, you should take these herbs and stop taking insulin; as always, if you are being treated for any medical condition, speak to your doctor before you begin using herbal remedies.

But if you are looking for natural ways to help stabilize blood sugar, these herbs are worth a try.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What better to follow an apple than cinnamon?

Yesterday, I talked about using apples as natural remedy. I think the perfect herbal remedy to follow apples is cinnamon.

Cinnamon is another herbal remedy that has been in use for centuries.

Cinnamon is a good herbal remedy to use where warming is a desired therapeutic effect, and is said to improve circulation, and dilate blood vessels.

Large doses can be toxic, and cinnamon should not be used during pregnancy.

Cinnamon is another herb commonly used for digestive problems, and is said to benefit the digestive system. Cinnamon can be a helpful herbal remedy for flatulence, and is traditionally used for chronic diarrhea; it also helps ease nausea and vomiting.

Traditionally, cinnamon is said to raise vitality, warm and stimulate vital functions, it is also used for menstrual pain, which feels better with heat.
Avoid using cinnamon if you already feel hot or excessively dry.

Cinnamon has also become one of the most researched herbal remedies for the treatment of diabetes, with several companies trying to develop a drug they can patent by processing cinnamon. Recent research seems to indicate that simply by using cinnamon regularly, you can see an improvement in your blood glucose levels, as well as total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Adding one half to one teaspoon to morning cereal seems to be sufficient. (Again, if you are being treated by a doctor for diabetes, or any other medical condition, please check with your doctor before taking any herbal remedies.)

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations

Sunday, February 05, 2006

An Apple A Day?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I think everyone has heard this statement dozens, if not thousands of times, so often that we dismiss it as an old wives tale.

Apples and apple juice have been used as natural remedies in many herbal traditions for centuries. Eating an apple after dinner is said to help digestion.

In ancient Rome, pectin derived from apples and blackberries was used to treat diarrhea. Apples actually can help with both diarrhea and constipation. Pectin is a soluble fiber with many beneficial functions in the body. It acts as a laxative stool softener, so is very useful in treating constipation, and apples are very safe, even for children and the elderly, (For children, or even someone who is very weak, applesauce may be the best choice.) Pectin is actually one of the major ingredients in some commercial laxatives and stool softeners.

Pectin also seems to bind with certain carcinogens (substances that may cause cancer) in the colon, speeding their elimination from the body. Apple pectin also seems to help control blood sugar levels.

Pectin seems to bind with cholesterol in the intestines, reducing the amount absorbed from food, and helping to eliminate it through the colon.

Apple juice has been used to help treat red skin rashes, and seems to have a cooling effect. In Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine, one of the oldest medical systems in the world) apple juice is used for postnasal drip, and sinus problems.

Apples also contain polyphenols, which may help prevent cell damage.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations

Friday, February 03, 2006

Standardization Continued

One of the things that attracted me to herbalism way back in 1970 was the holistic approach it offered. Rather than focussing on symptoms or disease, what I read seemed to focus on the person not a diagnosis.

This way of looking at the whole person and the environment in which they lived seemed to me a superior way to improve health. I went from believing health was an absence of symptoms, to a much more dynamic, vital definition of health. To me , being healthy means not only not being sick, but having sufficient energy to enjoy every day; to sleep well, to greet every day as the gift it is, and to embrace the circumstances and people we encounter every day. I don't mean that you should run up and plant a big kiss on every one you meet, or that you see every day through rose colored glasses, but that you feel so good inside yourself that the positive feeling overflows and enhances your experiences.

I think using herbal remedies is one way to work toward this goal. If you use whole herbs, rather than the standardized herbs, the effect may be different every time you use the particular herb, depending on how different the sample may be; but I believe your body is more adapted to extracting what it needs from the whole herb.

I sometimes use standardized herbal products, they are more readily available locally, and more convenient to carry than raw herbs if I am traveling. If I am trying to make a major change, whether it is trying to ward off an illness, or help heal one already manifesting, I prefer using whole herbs, and preparing them based on a traditional recipe.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations

Thursday, February 02, 2006

To Standardize or Not To Standardize

People have often asked my opinion about Standardized Herbal Remedies. My answer usually begins, “That depends...”

Since there is no single standard for herbal remedies, and different manufacturers can standardize the same remedy for different properties, or to different concentrations, or both, it’s hard to give a definitive answer about standardization.

Also, when you begin processing natural products, such as herbs, the product becomes less natural, and the more it is processed, the more it resembles a pharmaceutical drug rather than a natural remedy.

I believe that humanity has evolved through many centuries, consuming natural products, such as herbs and other plant foods; and I believe that our bodies are most suited to consume things in a more natural state. Using whole herbs gives us the full spectrum of the herb, not just the particular aspect that someone somewhere decided was the most important or most effective.

The disadvantage to using whole herbs is the difficulty in knowing exactly how strong a particular herb might be. So many factors can affect the potency of any herb, such as when it was grown, where it was grown, when it was harvested, how it was stored, how long since it was harvested, etc. This makes it difficult to determine dosages, and to know just how strong a reaction will be produced by any particular herb.

The advantage to using a standardized herb is that the dose and potency will be very similar, as long as you use products from the same manufacturer, and if you have taken the product before, you can expect a similar reaction.

Unfortunately, while the standardizing of herbs makes them more even in their effects, it can mean certain constituents of the whole herb may be deleted or discarded, because research seems to point to particular aspects of the herb as providing the maximum benefit.

I believe it is best to use herbal remedies in a minimally processed state whenever possible, and that traditional methods of using and preparing herbs are more likely to produce deep and lasting effects on the human body.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Today is celebrated as Chinese New Year, so I thought it would be appropriate to talk about Ginger, an essential ingredient in much of Chinese cooking as well as one of the most frequently used herbs in many traditional Chinese herbal remedies.

Ginger is also used in other traditions, both in cooking and as medicinally, I do not mean to imply it is only used in Chinese remedies.

Many traditional Chinese remedies include Ginger in their formulae, often along with another herb, jujube dates. According to tradition, these two herbs harmonise the other ingredients in a formula (or recipe) and make them more absorbable, and so more effective.

Ginger is also traditionally used for nausea and vomiting, andc has been shown, in some studies to be as effective as spme over the counter remedies for motion sickness. (I feel I should point out that there are also studies that say it has little effect; if you suffer from motion sickness, try it and see if it works for you.) Traditionally, the fresh root is considered more effective for nausea, and that has been my experience.

Use caution with ginger if you have stomach ulcers, as some research has shown that it seems to increase acid secretion in the stomach, and can increase problems associated with ulcers.

Some herbalists say you should not use ginger if you are pregnant, others say it is perfectly safe, and even suggest ginger as a remedy for morning sickness. My advice is that if you are pregnant or nursing, don't take any herbs, over the counter remedies or supplements without discussing it with your doctor.

Some recent studies have shown Ginger to be an effective remedy for nausea resulting from chemotherapy, but it should only be used in this situation with your doctor's approval.

Ginger has also been traditionally used to stimulate circulation, both taken internally, and as a bath or compress externally. Ginger is a diaphoretic, a big word that means it makes you sweat.

Ginger also helps coughing and chronic bronchitis, also seems to help break up mucus in the respiratory system, and help it discharge.

Ginger also has an anti inflammatory effect, and some herbalists recommend it as a safer alternative for non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAD's or NSAID's). It takes longer to have an effect, but seems to have fewer long term side effects. (Iif you are taking medication at the direction of your doctor, do not stop without first checking with your doctor.)

That's it for now, back soon.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Today I want to mention a couple more herbs that are easily available and can be used as Simples. (Remember that Simples are a way of using herbal remedies where you use large doses of individual herbs, often for extended periods of time; I discussed the practice of Simpling in a little more depth in the post I made on January 23, if you missed that one.)

The herbs I want to discuss today are both members of the Mint family, Peppermint and Rosemary; both these herbs have a long history of use in many herbal traditions.

Peppermint is one of the most widely used and recognized medicinal herbs. (Another member of the mint family is Spearmint, it has very similar properties as Peppermint, but to a lesser extent.) Peppermint has traditionally been used to improve digestive functions, and to relieve heartburn and nausea.

Peppermint has also been used to relieve tension and anxiety, and to treat headaches. It has also been used as a herbal remedy to decrease nervousness and relieve insomnia.

Peppermint is considered a mild general stimulant without degenerative side effects; and traditionally is used to strengthen and cleanse the entire system. Also, it has some minor anti-bacterial properties, and is said to help ease the common cold.

Peppermint has also been traditionally been used as a remedy for the early stages of measles, and is useful both taken internally as a tea or infusion, and externally as a compress to relieve itching and inflammation.

In some herbal traditions, Peppermint is also believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Some herbalists suggest caution with using Peppermint in the early stages of pregnancy, but, according to the research I have seen, this is true more for The stronger Peppermint Oil, rather than the actual herb. I do strongly suggest that if you are pregnant or nursing, that you discuss with your doctor any herbs you are planning to take.

Rosemary is another herbal remedy that has been use for centuries, not just as a culinary herb.
A very old use of Rosemary was to preserve meats by coating them with crushed Rosemary, because the Rosemary Oil retards spoilage, in fact it compares well with the commonly used modern preservatives, BHA and BHT.

It is another herb that many herbalists urge caution using during pregnancy, and I think that is a good suggestion. Using small amounts in cooking should present no problem, but using it as a Simple should be done during pregnancy under a doctor's supervision.

Rosemary is another herb commonly used for headaches (in fact any member of the mint family can be helpful treating headaches), especially headaches caused by cold. Rosemary actually contains salicyllic acid, which is an aspirin precursor.

A Rosemary infusion has been traditionally recommended as a gargle to treat sore throat.

Rosemary vinegar (4 teaspoons added to rinse water) has been used as a natural treatment for dandruff.

Rosemary has also been used to help remedy poor circulation, and is sometimes recommended to help reduce gallbladder irritation and to treat gallstones. (If you suspect that you have gallstones, please consult your doctor.)

If you have any questions about these or any herbs, feel free to post them here, and I will answer any questions I can. (Please do not ask me to diagnose or treat medical problems, that is beyond my scope of practice, and should be left to your primary medical provider.)

Back soon with more info...

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Today, I want to talk a little about some of the specific herbs I mentioned yesterday.
I want to start with Chamomile, also sometimes spelled as Camomile. There are several types, Roman Chamomile and German Chamomile are the most common. The two types are actually unrelated, but have very similar properties, so I won't say much more about their differences. The flower is the part used to prepare herbal remedies and teas.

Chamomile is one of the most widely used herbs, and has a long history of traditional uses.
It is commonly used for all manner of problems related to digestion, such as upset stomach and indigestion, and was reputed to help treat ulcers (recent research seems to bear this out, it seemed to prevent formation of stress induced ulcers, and inhibit formation of ulcers caused by drugs and alcohol). If you suspect you have ulcers, you should be under a doctors care, and use herbal remedies only after discussing them with your doctor.

Chamomile has also been used as a nerve tonic, said to both relax and tonify the nervous system. It definitely has a calming effect and a mild sedative action, and has been widely used as a sleep aid, and as a remedy for anxiety.

Chamomile also has some antispasmodic effect, and has been used for menstrual cramps, back pain and intestinal griping.

Chamomile added to bath water is said to help calm irritable or hyperactive children. Chamomile tea is also applied to the gums to help with teething pain.

A compress made from chamomile is applied to wounds and burns, and is said to speed healing.

Chamomile has also shown a mild antimicrobial action.

Chamomile has also been used as a rinse for blonde hair, and brings out highlights.

Chamomile is a very safe herb, even for children. One major caution is for people who have allergies to ragweed, asters, or chrysanthemums; you may experience similar reactions to Chamomile, as these are related plants.

The second herbal remedy I'd like to talk about is also very common, but generally dismissed as a useless weed, even though it has been used as a medicinal plant for more than 1000 years.

This plant is the common Dandelion.

Both the roots and the leaves of the Dandelion are used as herbal remedies. If you wish to gather your own plants, be sure you know whether the area has been treated with pesticides, herbicides or any other potentially toxic substances, before using any herbs gathered locally.

Dandelion leaves have traditionally been used as a spring tonic, and are a very effective diuretic. (A diuretic is something that increases urine output, in simpler terms, it makes you pee.) Dandelion leaves are rich in potassium, which is often depleted by diuretics.

Dandelion root also has some diuretic effect, and is also highly regarded as a liver tonic, and has been traditionally used to treat hepatitis, current research seems to support this use. (If you suspect you have hepatitis, you should be under a doctor's care). Dandelion strongly stimulates the flow of bile (a liver secretion, stored in the gall bladder, which helps digest fats), increasing the flow by up to 50%. Dandelion both stimulates the liver to produce more bile, and stimulates the flow of bile from the gall bladder.

Dandelion has also been used traditionally to promote good digestion, and may help lower cholesterol; it is also widely considered a blood purifier.

Both herbs I talked about today are quite safe for most people, with long histories of use as traditional remedies and very few problems with side effects. They are a good starting place to
begin using herbs.

More coming...

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Yesterday, I said that I would introduce the idea of "Simples". Using Simples is a good way to begin using herbal remedies. (Sometimes, this practice is also called "Simpling".)

The basic idea behind Simpling is that herbs grown locally are most suited to treat health problems which arise in that environment. It also uses only single herbs rather than more complex recipes or herbal formulae, hence the name "Simpling". The herbal remedies used in thus style of herbalism are also taken for extended periods of time.

The herbs used as Simples tend to be milder herbs which are extremely safe, because they are used in very large doses. Generally speaking, to prepare a Simple remedy, the amount of herb used is around 1-2 ounces per pint of water; the resulting brew is consumed up to three times daily, one half to one cup at a time.

As I said, this is a good way to become familiar with herbal remedies, because as you continue taking the herb, you can see the effect on yourself, physically and psychologically.

A rule of thumb in treating acute conditions (if you have just come down with a cold, that is an acute condition) is that you should see some results in three to five days. (If nothing changes, you need to try a different herbal remedy.) If you see improvement, you should continue taking the herbal preparation for several weeks, to allow the healing process to complete.

If you have a chronic condition (you have had symptoms for some time, such as a long term backache) Simples still may help, but the time frame is longer. A rule of thumb in chronic cases is one month for every year the problem has existed.

A few of the important Simples are Chamomile, Peppermint, Dandelion, Rosemary, and Burdock.

Tomorrow, I will begin discussing some of the uses for these herbs.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Today, I want to talk a little about different ways to use herbal remedies. (I'll go into more detail once I begin talking about individual herbs...and that is coming.)

Herbs are available in several different forms, from the whole, fresh herb, through varieties of dried herbs, in capsules, pills, tinctures, concentrates and oils,to name a few of the available options. You can also purchase herbs packaged as individual herbs, meaning you could buy a product made up of a single, individual herb, such as Echinacea or Dandelion; or you can purchase herbs already combined in specific formulae, either from a traditional herbal recipe which has been around for centuries, or recently combined, based on current research or experience.

With all these available options, it can be difficult to make a decision about what, if any, herbal remedy may be beneficial to you. And if you find a remedy that you feel is good for you, how do you decide what the best form to take it might be?

Some of the possible ways to use herbs are:

Water based extractions, such as infusions, which most people refer to as teas, such as Chamomile tea or Peppermint tea or decoctions, which involves long simmering of the herb or herbs and is usually reserved for the harder parts of plants such as roots, barks, twigs, and hard seeds. Dosages vary depending on the herb and the desired result.

Alcohol based extractions (sometimes vinegar is used instead of alcohol) these are called tinctures, and are available at most health food stores. (There are also some glycerin based tinctures for those who choose not to use alcoholic tinctures) It is fairly easy to make your own tinctures, a subject I will discuss at a later time.

Syrups, which generally involve reducing a decoction until it loses half or more of its volume and blending it with honey or sugar.

Tinctures can be blended with base creams to produce herbal creams.

Oils can be infused with herbs and used as herbal oils or blended with beeswax to produce ointments or salves.

Herbs can be dried and powdered and either placed in capsules or blended with honey or a flower paste to produce pills.

You can purchase herbs in most of these varieties, or you can produce them yourself, starting either with fresh or dried herbs. Tomorrow, I will begin talking about using herbs as "Simples", which is a good way to begin if you are new to using herbs.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations.

I talked briefly yesterday about what the word "herb" might mean. I want to expand on that today. Let's start with an "official" definition of the term: According to the dictionary, the word "herb" means a plant or plant part valued for its savory, aromatic or medicinal qualities.

As I mentioned earlier, I want to use an expanded definition. When I use the term, I will be referring to naturally occurring substances, with healthful benefits. While the great majority of my postings will be about substances of plant origin, I may occasionally discuss either animal or mineral substances.

In addition to using herbal remedies, I also use an assortment of herbs in the kitchen, to add flavor while cooking. A great many of the common kitchen spices are effective herbal remedies for an assortment of ailments.

I have compiled a short report about using kitchen spices instead of over the counter drugs to help relieve common minor ailments. If anyone is interested in a copy, send me your name and email address and your biggest question about using or preparing herbal remedies, and I will email you a copy free. (It's a report I prepared for a class I taught locally, and the people who attended the class received the report, but they had to pay $45.00 to attend. I am offering it free, if you will just let me know what your biggest question related to using herbal remedies might be. Feel free to ask more than one question; but remember, I cannot diagnose or offer medical advice.)