Healing With Herbs - Herbal Therapy

This Topic Covers:  The history of herbal medicine, understanding herbs' therapeutic functions, precautions, quality standards, evaluating herbal medicine, herbal vs. conventional treatment; how herbal medicine works; premier links to purchase products; herbal treatment for symptom related conditions, and more..


 He [God] causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; Psalm 104:14



   Introduction -  © Copyright  American Herbalists Guild


How Can Herbs and Herbal Medicine Help Me?  Herbs can offer you a wide range of safe and effective therapeutic agents that you can use as an integral part of your own health care program. They can be used in three essential ways:

1)     To prevent disease.

2)     To treat disease.

3)     To maximize one's health potential.

4)     Herbs are also used for the symptomatic relief of minor ailments.

In light of the vast majority of pharmaceutical drugs that have SERIOUS ADVERSE side affects, an alternative method is seeking treatment options that will treat the underlying cause, will be more effective, and in most cases may be safer than pharmaceutical drugs. Herbs are nature’s medicines. 

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, herbs contain unique substances, which cannot be recreated in a lab. Over 25% of all pharmaceutical drugs are derived from plants, but compounded with strong synthetic ingredients that do not coexist naturally with our internal makeup; hence the result of side effects but the control of the targeted symptom.

According to a study in the Sept. 17, 2003, issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association," of 433 complementary and alternative medicine Web sites examined, most made misleading or unproven health claims about the herbal remedies they sold.

"Through this website, we have compiled information and herbal alternatives links from renowned authoritative sources from institutions, organizations, medical and clinical research studies, and upscale alternative medicine clinics that may significantly assist your body in its recovery processes.  The beauty of herbs lies in their ability to help your body heal itself, a process that it does most efficiently.  This documentation is where science meets nature."  - Content Provided Live Healthy Naturally


What Is Herbal Medicine -  © Copyright American Herbalists Guild


Herbal medicine is the art and science of using herbs for promoting health and preventing and treating illness. It has persisted as the world's primary form of medicine since the beginning of time, with a written history more than 5000 years old. While the use of herbs in America has been overshadowed by dependence on modern medications the last 100 years, 75% of the world's population still rely primarily upon traditional healing practices, most of which is herbal medicine.


What Is a Botanical?

Reference - - National Institute Of Health


A botanical is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal or therapeutic properties, flavor, and/or scent. Herbs are a subset of botanicals. Products made from botanicals that are used to maintain or improve health may be called herbal products, botanical products, or phytomedicines.



History of Herbs

Reference - - University of New Hampshire Health Services


Herbal medicine has its roots in every culture around the world, from the Greeks, to the Celts, the Romans to the Arabs, and the Chinese to the Indians.

Western herbalism dates back to ancient Egypt, where records of garlic and juniper used for medicinal purposes were found from as early as 1700 B.C. By 100 B.C., the Greeks had developed a comprehensive philosophy of herbal medicine that related different herbs to different temperaments, seasons and elements such as earth, air, fire and water. The Romans took the Greek theories of medicine and added to them, creating a wealth of medical practices, some of which are still used today.

Eastern herbalism mainly comes from the traditions of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These two medicinal systems use herbs to bring the body back in balance so that it can heal itself. In TCM, this means restoring qi, or "life energy," and balancing the yin forces with the yang forces. Both traditions incorporate knowledge of the elements, the seasons and parts of the body into their herbal treatments.

Other traditions such as Native Americans from both North America and South America have used herbs in medicine. Many of these traditions incorporate ritual and magic into their practices with the use of a shaman, or medicine man.


Importance of Herbs

Reference - - American Herbal Pharmacopoeia®


Herbal medicines have provided the world's populations, including Americans, with safe, effective and low cost medicines for centuries. They have a rich and extensive historical basis in use and study, which can be referenced to ancient medical writings. More importantly, modern research has validated many of the traditional uses ascribed to herbs.

When integrated into medical care with other medications, botanicals can provide consumers and patients with the best chance for maintaining a high quality of life and, in some cases, increase their chance of survival. They can also fill therapeutic niches that are not adequately addressed through conventional therapies.


Confirmed Clinical Research in Herbal Medicine

Reference -


Conditions it Works Best For: Historically herbal medicine has had a tremendously extensive range of uses and is still used as part of primary health care in 80% of the world outside of the United States. 


Clinical studies confirm its benefits for the treatment of the following medical conditions: Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, atherosclerosis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, colds and respiratory tract infections, common cold, dementia, depression, diabetes, genital herpes, gingival bleeding, glaucoma, high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome, memory and psychomotor performance, peripheral arterial occlusive disease, pressure ulcers, psoriasis, post-operative nausea and vomiting, seasickness, seasonal affective disorder, sleep quality, tinnitus, upper respiratory infection, urinary tract symptoms in men, and vomiting in pregnancy.


Reviews of clinical research studies have confirmed that herbal medicine can have beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s Disease, anxiety, benign prostatic hyperplasia, cancer and cardiovascular health, cholesterol levels and triglycerides, common ailments in the elderly, depression, enhancing and supporting the immune system, and mild hypertension.


Reference - - Copyright © · All Rights Reserved


Because herbs have been used successfully since ancient times, modern researchers worldwide are interested in using current scientific protocols to quantify their effectiveness.

In recognition of the importance of herbs for health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) was created and funded by Congress, and is dedicated, in part, to investigating complementary and alternative healing practices through scientific experimentation and research. NCCAM and another government agency, the Office of Dietary Supplements, currently fund five Research Centers focused on botanicals. The centers’ research includes the effects of botanicals on immune function, inflammatory diseases, women’s health issues, age-related diseases, and metabolic syndrome. The centers are expected to advance the scientific base of knowledge about botanicals, including issues of their safety, efficacy, and biological activity.

Another NCCAM objective is to publicize this information, which is achieved through conferences, educational programs, exhibits, and their web site. Additionally, thousands of science-based, clinical studies are performed every year on a wide variety of herbs and herbal products.

Scientific inquiries continue to develop our knowledge of the benefits of plants and often validate the observations made over the past centuries.


  Increasing Use & Popularity

Reference - - Copyright ©  AANP. All Rights Reserved.


The past 30 years has seen an extraordinary increase in consumer demand for safe, effective and cost-effective natural healthcare. Naturopathic medicine has emerged as the health care profession best suited to meet this demand. Although it almost disappeared in the mid-twentieth century because of the popularity of drugs and surgery, naturopathic medicine now offers safe, effective natural therapies as a vital part of the health care systems of North America the twenty-first century.

Naturopathic physicians are trained in the art and science of natural healthcare at accredited medical colleges. Integrative partnerships between conventional medical doctors and licensed NDs are becoming more available. This cooperation makes more effective therapies available to consumers. It increases patient satisfaction in their relationships with their care providers. More people are recovering their health by adding naturopathic medicine to their health care options.

Naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine that assists in the restoration of health by following a set of specific rules. A basic assumption is that nature is orderly, and this orderliness is designed to result in ongoing life and well being. This dependable orderliness is believed to be guided by a kind of inner wisdom that everyone has. This inner wisdom can be assisted to return a person to their best balance by naturopathic treatments.

Reference - - Wikipedia Encyclopedia


Many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to physicians have a long history of use as herbal remedies, including opium, aspirin, digitalis, and quinine. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the world's population presently uses herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. [15]Herbal medicine is a major component in all traditional medicine systems, and a common element in Ayurvedic, homeopathic, naturopathic, traditional Chinese medicine, and Native American medicine.

The use of, and search for, drugs and dietary supplements derived from plants have accelerated in recent years. Pharmacologists, microbiologists, botanists, and natural-products chemists are combing the Earth for phytochemicals and leads that could be developed for treatment of various diseases. In fact, approximately 25% of modern drugs used in the United States have been derived from plants.

Three quarters of plants that provide active ingredients for prescription drugs came to the attention of researchers because of their use in traditional medicine.[verification needed]

Among the 120 active compounds currently isolated from the higher plants and widely used in modern medicine today, 75 percent show a positive correlation between their modern therapeutic use and the traditional use of the plants from which they are derived.[verification needed]

More than two thirds of the world's plant species - at least 35,000 of which are estimated to have medicinal value - come from the developing countries.[verification needed] At least 7,000 medical compounds in the modern pharmacopoeia are derived from plants[verification needed][16]


Frequently Ask Questions about Herbs

Source - - Copyright (c)  American Botanical Council

Q. Why should I use herbal products? 
Q. Are herbs safe?
Q. Are herbal supplement products safe? 
Q. Are herbal supplements effective? 
Q. How soon can I expect to notice the benefits of an herbal product? 
Q. How do I know how much to use? 
Q. How are herbal supplements regulated? 
Q. What about interactions with drugs? 
Q. How can I choose the herbal product that is right for me? 
Q. What are "standardized" herbs? 
Q. Should I tell my Doctor that I'm using herbs? 
Q. Where can I learn more? 


  Herbal vs. Conventional - The National Institute of Medical Herbalist

The benefits of pharmaceutical drugs cannot be denied. Infectious diseases like tuberculosis and syphilis are now treatable and diabetes is no longer fatal. The emergence of AIDS/HIV into the human population has also radically changed our understanding of the human immune system.  However, pharmaceutical drugs are not the panacea they were once thought to be and by the end of the last century problems began to emerge:

  • side effects at times outweighed potential benefits

  • epidemics began to break out

  • new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria emerged

  • there was a re-emergence of diseases thought to have been eliminated – such as TB.

  • Thousands of people began to die of iatrogenic* disease in hospitals each year  (*iatrogenic: illness caused by medical examination or treatment)

  • drug dependence and addiction began

  • the need arose for polypharmacy to deal with adverse side effects

  • spiralling costs increased the financial burden on the NHS

Herbal medicine, when prescribed by a trained professional, can provide a safe, alternative to some of the pharmaceutical medicines in use today.  Medical herbalists often use herbs to reduce some of the side effects from pharmaceutical treatment, reducing the need for polypharmacy and the toxic load on the body.  Herbal medicine is also a much cheaper alternative than many pharmaceutical drugs.


Reference - - Copyright Henriette Kress.


Herbs act on the healing processes in the body:  A pharmaceutical drug addresses symptoms caused by specific disease mechanisms as understood by scientific pathology. Herbal medicines are directed towards aiding the body's own healing processes. These approaches are diametrically opposed. Herbal medicines act gently, usually attempting to "nudge" or "support" systems and processes that have become deficient or help remove excesses that have become preponderant. Symptom relief is only a component of herbal therapeutic strategy. This is a crucial difference.


Reference - -  © Copyright  American Herbalists Guild



How is HERBAL Medicine Different from CONVENTIONAL Medicine? The primary focus of the herbalist is to treat people as individuals irrespective of the disease or condition they have and to stimulate their innate healing power through the use of such interventions as herbs, diet and lifestyle.


The primary focus of conventional physicians is to attack diseases using strong chemicals that are difficult for the body to process, or through the removal of organs. Not only does this ignore the unique makeup of the individual, but many patients under conventional care suffer from side effects that are as bad as the condition being treated. The philosophical difference between herbalists and conventional physicians has profound significance.


How Long Does It Take for Herbs to Be Effective?  The success of herbal treatment always depends upon a variety of factors including how long the condition has existed, the severity of the condition, the dosage and mode of administration of the herb(s) and how diligently treatment plans are followed. It can be as short as 60 seconds when using a spoonful of herbal bitters for gas and bloating after a heavy meal; 20 minutes when soaking in a bath with rosemary tea for a headache; days when using tonics to build energy; or months to correct long-standing gynecological imbalances. Difficult chronic conditions can often take years to reverse.

How Safe Are Herbs? It depends on the herbs. Most herbs sold as dietary supplements are very safe. When used appropriately, the majority of herbs used by practitioners have no adverse side effects. A review of the traditional and scientific literature worldwide demonstrates that serious side effects from the use of herbal medicines are rare.

According to Norman Farnsworth "Based on published reports, side effects or toxic reactions associated with herbal medicines in any form are rare.  In fact, of all classes of substances reported to cause toxicities of sufficient magnitude to be reported in the United States, plants are the least problematic."To read


How Herbal Medicine Works


Reference -


The ways in which botanical products effect human physiology are as numerous as there are plants themselves. These effects are created by the presence of active ingredients in the plant. Some plants can contain compounds that mimic or stimulate hormones like estrogen (otherwise known as phytoestrogens). Other plants contain compounds that effect neurotransmitters — the brain’s messengers.

As we continue to look at the relationship of medical activity and active ingredients in plants, we are learning that many contain families of active compounds rather than a single ingredient creating an effect. This discovery is by no means completely defined for each herb. As each year passes, more active ingredients are identified and ascribed to each botanical product. Consequently, many feel that in all products (even the standardized products) it is preferable to have some whole plant parts included.


Therapeutic Properties of Herbs

Reference - The Tillotson Institute of Natural Health, Copyright ©  Tillotson Institute. All rights reserved.


Herbs can promote the action (reduction) of antioxidants, capturing and eliminating the destructive energy of free radicals (unpaired electrons).
• Nutrients in many herbs can nourish specific tissues even to the point of helping repair damaged DNA strands.
• Chemicals found in certain herbs and foods can up- and down-regulate various biological activities, including cell division and genetic expression.
• Herbs can reduce and modulate various inflammatory processes.
• Herbs can alter the activity of the digestive flora, affecting the chemical balance of the digestive
Nutrients found in certain herbs can enhance the action of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the basic process necessary for the body to produce energy.
• Herbs can affect the chemical reactions taking place in the liver, necessary for neutralization of toxins.
• Herbs can stimulate all components of the body's immunity, including every aspect of immune function and every immune cell.
• Herbs can affect intracellular, intercellular and extracellular communication between cells.
• Herbs can stimulate or suppress specific bodily actions, such as urination, defecation, digestion, wake and sleep, night vision, breathing, and muscle tension.

Understanding Some Important Herbal Actions: The word action refers to the influence an herb exerts on the body. There are literally hundreds of terms used to describe herbal actions, but those listed below are the most common, and are necessary for you to understand the process of healing. These words are derived chiefly from Western herbal traditions, and many of the terms are used in modern allopathic medicine.

Adaptogens are strengthening herbs that bring balance back to the body no matter what the direction of imbalance. They combine both tonic and balancing properties. Examples include Siberian ginseng root bark (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and jiao gulan leaves/stem (Gynostemma pentaphyllum).

Alteratives are herbs that increase elimination of metabolic waste via the liver, large intestine, lungs, lymphatic system, skin and kidneys. Examples include burdock root (Arctium lappa), dandelion root (Taraxacum officinalis), red clover blossom (Trifolium pratense) and Tu fu ling rhizome (Smilax glabra rhizoma).

Amphoterics, from the Greek "amphoteros" or "both," are herbs that normalize hyper- or hypo-function of different organs or regulatory systems. Examples include licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), cordyceps mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis / Dong chong xia cao), and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus).
Antimicrobials are herbs that reduce or diminish the activity of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Examples include isatis root (Isatis tinctoria), oregano (Origanum species) and horseradish (Amoracia rusticana).

Antiseptic herbs are those that can be applied to the body externally to inhibit bacterial growth. Examples include tea tree oil and oregano oil.

Aphrodisiac herbs are those that stimulate sexual desire and potency. Examples include potency bark (Ptychopetalum olacoides / Muira puama) and ashwaghanda root (Convolvulus arbensis / Withania somnifera).

Demulcents are soothing mucilaginous or oily substances that can be taken internally to soothe and protect damaged or inflamed tissue. One common example is slippery elm bark (Ulmus rubra).

Diuretics are herbs that stimulate the flow of urine, and help remove fluids from the body. Common examples are dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinalis) and coffee (Coffea arabica).

Emollient herbs are those that are applied externally to soften and soothe the skin. O
ne common example is olive oil (Olea europaea).

• Emmenagogues are herbs that stimulate and promote menstruation. Turmeric root and chaste tree berry are emmenagogues.

• Expectorants are herbs that assist the body in expelling mucus from the upper respiratory tract. One common example is licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra).

• Hemostatic herbs are those that stop bleeding. One common example is tian chi root (Panax pseudoginseng).

• Laxative herbs are those that stimulate or promote bowel movements. There are two classes of laxative herbs. Bulk-forming laxatives increase the water and bulk of the stool. One common example is flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum).  Stimulant laxatives invigorate the muscles of the lower bowel.  One common example is rhubarb root (Rheum emodi).

• Nervines are herbs that calm and soothe the nervous system and emotions. Examples include milky oat seed (Avena sativa) and scullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia).

• Stimulants are herbs that increase metabolism and mental activity. Examples include ephedra (Ephedra sinica / ma huang), coffee bean (Coffea arabica), and ginseng root (Panax Ginseng / ren shen).

• Tonics are herbs that strengthen or tone general energy, specific organs or organ systems.  They act to strengthen the immune system, and can even help slow the aging process. Examples include ginseng root, Siberian ginseng, astragalus root (Astragalus membranicus / huang qi), shilajatu and shou wu root (Polygonum multiflorum).

Commonly Used Groups of Herbs:  All systems of medicine group together their therapeutic agents with similar actions. In Western medicine, for example, pharmaceuticals are grouped into families, such a blood pressure lowering agents or painkillers.  Please note that these groups are representative and cannot be wholly complete. Also note that some herbs fall into more than one category.

• Heat reducing group (herbs that reduce heat and inflammation)
Boswellia gum, bromelain, bupleurum root, burdock root, dandelion, flaxseed oil, ginger root, guggul gum, heart-leaved moonseed, holy basil, isatis root and leaves, licorice root, milk thistle seeds, neem leaves, phellodendron root, raw rehmannia root, rhubarb root, sarsaparilla, scute root, turmeric root.

• Blood moving group (herbs that move the blood and remove blood stasis)
Carthamus flower, dang gui root, myrrh gum, prickly ash bark, red clover blossoms, salvia root, millettia stem, carthamus flower, tien chi root.

• Digestive group (herbs that strengthen weak digestion)
Black pepper, bromelain, garlic bulb, ginger root, ginseng root, trikatu (3 peppers), white atractylodes rhizome, cardamom.

• Immunity/Longevity group (herbs that increase vital force and strengthen the immune system)
American ginseng root, astragalus root, elderberry fruit, chaga mushroom, cordyceps mushroom, ginseng root, guduchi stem, maitake mushroom, reishi mushroom, shilajatu, Siberian ginseng root, amla fruit, haritaki fruit, ganoderma mushroom, shou wu root.

• Blood nourishing group (herbs that nourish the blood and/or strengthen the tissues)
American ginseng root, alfalfa, dang gui root, deer antler, eclipta, shou wu root, raw rehmannia, shilajatu, amla fruit, white peony root.

• Poison removing group (herbs that remove and/or protect against poisons)
Amla fruit, beet root, burdock root, castor oil, licorice root, triphala, arjuna bark, dandelion
root, gotu kola, guduchi stem, berries, schisandra berries,  white sandalwood, turmeric root, green tea.

• Nervine group (herbs that calm and/or strengthen the nerves)
Ashwaghanda root, bala, bupleurum root, ginkgo leaf, gotu kola, kava, muira puama, reishi mushroom
, schisandra berry, scullcap, St. John's wort, valerian root, white peony root, wild asparagus root,  milky oat seed.

• Vessel strengthening group (herbs that strengthen and detoxify the micro-vasculature)
Blueberry, gotu kola. hawthorn berry, raspberry, stoneroot, tien-chi.

• Mucus reducing group (Herbs that remove thick mucus accumulations)
Black pepper, long pepper, bromelain, guggul gum, tangerine peel, turmeric root, fritillaria bulb (chuan bei mu / F. cirrhosa), arisaema (tian nan xing /A. species),  trichosanthes fruit (gou lou / T. kirilowii ),  acorus rhizome.

• Diuretic group (Herbs that promote urination and eliminate retention of watery fluids)

Dandelion leaf, Akebia (mu tong / A. trifoliata), plantain leaf (P. ovata), capillaris (yin chen hao / Artemisia capillaris) ,  punarnava root (Boerhavia difusa), parsley,  Grifola mushroom (zhu ling / Polyporus umbellatus), uva ursi  leaf (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), barley water.

• Dampness removing group (Herbs that remove thickened fluids from the digestive system and tissues)
Poria mushroom, tangerine peel, pinellia tuber, licorice root, prickly ash bark,  oregano leaf.

• Warming group (Herbs that warm the system)
Aconite, dry ginger, cinnamon bark, black pepper, long pepper, prickly ash bark.

• Nutritive group (Herbs that promote weight gain)
Ashwaghanda root,  dates, cashews, bala, cardamon, white atractylodes, ginseng root, dang gui root , cooked rehmannia root.

• Wound healing group (herbs that promote healing of skin, vessels and tissue)
Gotu kola, tien chi root, aloe gel, turmeric root. dang gui root, astagalus root.

Intestinal healing group (Herbs that soothe and heal the intestinal membranes)
Slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, licorice root, chlorophyll juice, wild asparagus root, fennel seed, peppermint leaf, flaxseed oil, kava root.  To read in it’s entirety…


Methods of Usage  

Reference -

How are botanicals commonly sold and prepared? Botanicals are sold in many forms: as fresh or dried products; liquid or solid extracts; and tablets, capsules, powders, and tea bags. For example, fresh ginger root is often found in the produce section of food stores; dried ginger root is sold packaged in tea bags, capsules, or tablets; and liquid preparations made from ginger root are also sold. A particular group of chemicals or a single chemical may be isolated from a botanical and sold as a dietary supplement, usually in tablet or capsule form. An example is phytoestrogens from soy products.

Common preparations include teas, decoctions, tinctures, and extracts:

  • A tea, also known as an infusion, is made by adding boiling water to fresh or dried botanicals and steeping them. The tea may be drunk either hot or cold.
  • Some roots, bark, and berries require more forceful treatment to extract their desired ingredients. They are simmered in boiling water for longer periods than teas, making a decoction, which also may be drunk hot or cold.
  • A tincture is made by soaking a botanical in a solution of alcohol and water. Tinctures are sold as liquids and are used for concentrating and preserving a botanical. They are made in different strengths that are expressed as botanical-to-extract ratios (i.e., ratios of the weight of the dried botanical to the volume or weight of the finished product).
  • An extract is made by soaking the botanical in a liquid that removes specific types of chemicals. The liquid can be used as is or evaporated to make a dry extract for use in capsules or tablets.


Consumer Precautions - Guidelines for Safe Use

Reference - - Copyright Henriette Kress.


The vast majority of medical herbs are safe for consumption, but for those without specialised knowledge, it would be prudent to follow simple but sensible guidelines in self treatment:


  • Avoid new or unproven *wonder remedies*.

  • Use only herbs recommended in respected herb books, especially in countries like the US where there are few restrictions on availability.

  • Do not persist with a remedy if no benefit or result obtains after a moderate period, and if adverse reactions take place, stop the treatment and seek experienced advice.

  • Do not persist with a treatment that has brought improvement without testing to see if continued further consumption is necessary to maintain improvement.

  • Do not engage in self treatment for complex conditions without experienced advice. Drug interactions and contraindications must be considered on an individual basis and herbal treatment strategies are often involved and multifaceted.

  • Please link to read additional information

Reference - - Copyright  American Herbal Pharmacopoeia ®


As botanical supplements are integrated into the health care programs of more and more people, it becomes necessary that information regarding their optimal use be made available. Similarly, independent quality control requirements for producing herbal products need to be established to ensure that the highest degree of safety and effectiveness is achieved. Information relative to their safe clinical use, toxicology, interactions with conventional drugs, etc., is especially important to safeguard the public health.

While herbal medicines are well integrated into the health care systems of many other nations, this is not the case in the U.S. Authoritative information regarding proper use and manufacture of herbal medicines is lacking. The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia® and Therapeutic Compendium was founded to address this deficiency.

Scope of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia: The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia® began developing qualitative and therapeutic monographs in 1994, and intends to produce 300 monographs on botanicals, including many of the Ayurvedic, Chinese and Western herbs most frequently used in the United States. Once completed, these monographs represent the most comprehensive and critically reviewed body of information on herbal medicines in the English language, and will serve as a primary reference for academicians, health care providers, manufacturers, and regulators. Therapeutics Section will outline:

*   Human Clinical, Animal and In Vitro Studies

*   Safety Profile

*   Side Effects- Interactions – Contraindications-Precautions

*   Influence on Driving

*   Overdose

*   Treatment of Overdose

*   Toxicology


Drug Interactions and Contradictions Copyright ©  American Academy of Family Physicians. All rights reserved.

Can herbal health products or supplements change the way prescription or OTC drugs work?

Yes. Herbal health products or supplements can affect the way the body processes drugs. When this happens, your medicine may not work the way it should. For example, St. John’s Wort reduces the amount of certain drugs absorbed by the body. This may mean the drugs aren’t absorbed at high enough levels to help the conditions for which they are prescribed. This can cause serious problems. 

You should be especially cautious about using herbal health products or supplements if you take a drug in one of the following categories:

  • Drugs to treat depression, anxiety or other psychiatric problems

  • Anti-seizure drugs

  • Blood thinners

  • Blood pressure medicine

  • Heart medicine

  • Drugs to treat diabetes

  • Cancer drugs

Reference -, Copyright ©  Tillotson Institute. All rights reserved.

Allergic and Hypersensitivity Reactions to Herbs:  It is possible to have an allergic or hypersensitive response to almost any substance. In practice, certain herbs are more likely than others to cause allergic reactions.

Inhibition and Increase of Medication Efficacy:   Herbs can increase or decrease your absorption of nutrients and Western medications. Being aware of this possibility will help you to spot such a problem if it occurs. This can be a critically important consideration if you are taking medicines that have a high danger potential, such as cardiac glycosides (heart medications) and blood-thinning agents.

Some herbs contain large amounts of mucilage and other types of fiber, and therefore may inhibit absorption of certain medications. Bulk-forming laxatives are the most common category of herbs to do this.
Herbs that strengthen digestion and absorption may increase absorption of medications. This alone may account for the reason so many persons have reported being able to reduce their medications after taking herbs. Both cayenne and black peppers have shown to speed up absorption of various chemicals including phytochemicals.
It is also known that many herbs can change the way the body processes and eliminates drugs in the
liver. Many herbs and common foods have effects on liver enzyme systems, and can change blood levels of drugs. St. John's wort was implicated in January of 2000 in lowering the blood levels of AIDS drugs and cyclosporine, a drug used to prevent organ rejection.  In both of these cases, the results could be deadly (Piscitelli et al., 2000).

A special case of potentiation is seen with grapefruit juice. It contains a compound called bergamottin, which inactivates cytochrome P450-3A4, a digestive enzyme that metabolizes up to 60 percent of all drugs, including anti-histamines, statin drugs for cholesterol and various high blood pressure medicines. This may explain why grapefruit juice potentiates the effects of many prescription drugs. When ingested with grapefruit juice, blood levels of some drugs can reach five times their normal levels, which is especially dangerous with cardiac glycosides (Eagling et al., 1999, He et al., 1998).

In the above cases, concerns are limited to people taking drugs where lowering below therapeutic levels is dangerous. If you are not taking such medicines you certainly can drink grapefruit juice. Otherwise, consult a trained practitioner.


Evaluating Herbal Information

Reference -, Copyright © Tillotson Institute. All rights reserved.


Don't believe everything you read in books, including this one. When you encounter a piece of medical information concerning an issue relevant to you, such as an herb you might want to try, you need to evaluate the information critically.

Medical studies are ranked by certain criteria. Randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind clinical studies are the gold standard and should therefore rank higher in your estimation.

In addition to the quality of the study design, there is also the fact that studies done on living human beings are far superior to studies done on animals. In vivo means the study was performed on living creatures, while in vitro means it was performed in an artificial environment, like a test tube. You should know these terms. Although providing valuable information, studies done in test tubes are the least clinically relevant and most likely to mislead. For example, it is much easier to shrink a tumor in a test tube than in a human being. Human studies, on the other hand, are limited  by the fact that certain variables, such as diet or external environment, are much harder to control.

If a study is well done, then it makes sense to accept and use its findings only if they are clinically relevant to you.

Scientific studies are not the only evidence used in herbal thinking. Traditional teachings, those that have persisted over several generations of dedicated herbalists, are accepted as a form of reliable information.

In recent years, however, there has been a trend of "warning" articles about herbal medicines. While we all want to hear valid warnings, it is very confusing if the media does not use good judgment.

Dishonesty About Vitamins, Herbs and Nutrients in the Media: Following are some examples of the less-than-truthful tactics that have been used by critics of herbal medicine.

  • Base claims of toxicity on single constituents while ignoring the whole herb.

  • Focus on the uncommon use of the poisonous part of an herb instead of the gentler, more commonly used part of the herb. Many critics ignore the gentle parts of an herb completely and instead focus on the uncommon use of the more potentially poisonous parts of the herb. This is like saying potatoes are dangerous because the leaves are poisonous.

  • Use examples of overdose or misuse of an herb instead of appropriate properly prescribed dosage to imply that the herb poses a health danger.

  • Use one case of an adverse reaction to imply that such reactions are commonplace. Critics constantly warn that chamomile flower can cause anaphylactic shock, though this only occurs in one out of millions of doses (Jensen-Jarolim 1998).

When you mix moderate amounts of accurate information with large amounts of innuendo, speculation and discredited information you take away the public's ability to judge and replace it with fear.  Honesty means discussing individual issues in detail as they arise, and using only the best available information... read the entire article…. One Earth


  Quality Standards

Reference - - Tillotson Institute of Natural Health, Copyright ©  Tillotson Institute. All rights reserved. 

How can I know I am getting good quality herbs? A good rule of thumb is that a good quality product gives you results within a reasonable period of time based on its expected action(s).

Good Medicine Tip - Shelf Lives of Herbal Products: The shelf life of a product should be stamped on the container. If it is not, these general guidelines can be used:

•  Crude herbs stored in tightly closed containers made of plastic or dark glass will retain their properties for at least six months if they are placed in a cool, dark, dry location.

• Alcohol-based liquid tinctures are usually good for up to three years. They may still be good for several more years, but different chemicals in the tincture may cause subtle changes over time, as wine bottlers well know.  For this reason I keep tinctures for a maximum of three years.

• Glycerin-based herb tinctures are good for six months to one year.

• Capsules and tablets should be used within three to six months of opening, and within one year of manufacture.

• Salves and oils are good for six months to one year, and should be stored in the refrigerator after you get them home., Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians. All rights reserved.

Are herbal health products and supplements safe because they’re natural? Not necessarily. Don’t think that all herbal health products and supplements are safer than medicines just because they occur in nature or come from plants. Although herbal products and supplements are advertised as “natural,” they aren’t necessarily natural to the human body.

Some herbal products and supplements might contain other ingredients, such as plant pollen, that could make you sick. Sometimes they contain drugs that aren’t listed on the label, such as steroids or estrogens. Some of these products may even contain toxic (poisonous) substances, such as arsenic, mercury, lead and pesticides.


  Tips for Buying a Quality Herbal Product

Reference -

Know why you are choosing an herb:  Research before hand in botanical reference texts what medical information has been discovered on the herbal product and its use in various medical conditions. Discuss the results with your physician or pharmacist or health care practitioner as many herbs and supplements interact with one another and with prescriptive medications.

Choose standardized products. Buying standardized products is one way to guarantee that an herbal product contains what it is supposed to in the amounts sufficient to produce the desired effect. The term standardized on the label means the herb’s active principles have been identified or that compounds identified as active markers for general activity are tested and assured to be contained in the product. For example, gingko (Gingko biloba) used for treatment of some kinds of dementia is standardized to contain flavone glycosides. Currently, standardization is done voluntarily by manufacturers rather than by an outside regulating body. Therefore the best assurance that the numbers on the label are correct is to buy from a reputable company. In the case of some herbs (like echinacea for example) it is not fully understood which constituents make it effective. In this case, a standardized product may not be available. Although the choice of a standardized product is not an absolute guarantee, if a company is willing to test for and assure that a particular active ingredient can be found in its product it is more likely that the company is concerned with product quality.

Look for the Latin name of the herbal product on the label. Common names of plants have lead to improper collection of the wrong variety of plant, the unfortunate consequence being that the consumer has bought an ineffective and mislabeled botanical product. The identification of plants by their Latin name defines the precise variety of plant gathered or cultivated.

Choose fresh or stable products:  Check the expiration date on all botanical products to make sure they are not out-dated. Make sure the products are not oxidized. In general, products stored in opaque, air-tight containers will remain fresher and therefore more potent. Stay away from loose bulk herbs unless you know the source very well.

Choose a reputable company:  Choosing a reputable product is not impossible but takes some detective work. In general unlike the U.S., companies which sell products to Europe (especially Germany) are more apt to produce a quality product, as there exist strict government standards for botanical products. In general, larger companies whose reputations are well established or provide written material that explains their manufacturing processes are probably more reliable. As conditions change checking with organizations like The American Botanical Council or The Herb Research Foundation to assist you would be helpful.

What You Can Do?

When buying products in these categories, consumers can:

  • Look for brands that are members of an established dietary supplement trade association. AHPA members are listed on our website by their corporate names (note that their brands can be found on their websites).

  • Avoid supplement products that make drug-like claims, make statements or claims that they work instantly, or promise miracle results. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

  • Sign up for FDA’s RSS Feed on drug-spiked products to stay informed of any new enforcement actions.

  • Report incidents of suspected drug-spiking to FDA by sending an email to

Buyer Beware

Reference -

The vast majority of dietary supplement products fully comply with applicable laws and are properly sold to consumers. However, some unscrupulous companies have threatened consumer confidence by selling tainted products that contain undeclared prescription drugs and other chemicals. Since 2008, FDA has identified nearly 400 such products. These unlawful ingredients have been found in capsules, tablets, powders, teas, and coffees. While these tainted products represent a tiny minority of all dietary supplements sold, it is important that consumers have confidence when buying their products from reputable companies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration called attention to this problem with the following statement:

FDA has identified an emerging trend where over-the-counter products, frequently represented as dietary supplements, contain hidden active ingredients that could be harmful. Consumers may unknowingly take products laced with varying quantities of approved prescription drug ingredients, controlled substances, and untested and unstudied pharmaceutically active ingredients. These deceptive products can harm you!

FDA has identified the three most common categories of illegal tainted products that unscrupulous companies have marketed, as listed below. More detailed information and lists of the actual products identified by FDA in each category can be found by following each of the links provided.

  • Weight loss products containing active ingredients such as sibutramine or closely related analogs. Sibutramine is the active ingredient in the drug Merida, which was recently withdrawn from the market by FDA due to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Body-building products containing anabolic steroids or steroid analogs. According to FDA, these steroid-spiked products can cause acute liver injury and increase the risk for heart attack, stroke and death.

  • Sexual enhancement products that contain phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors, such as sildenafil or an analog. PDE inhibitors are the active ingredients in the approved drugs Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. These drug products are available only by prescription, and should not be used by people who have certain medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, due to significant health risks.


How Do Herbalists Practice?

Reference -, © Copyright  American Herbalists Guild


Herbalists can practice either as primary health care providers or adjunctive health care consultants. Most visits to an herbalist begin with a consultation about your past and current health history, your dietary and lifestyle practices, or other factors related to your health issue. The herbalist, with your involvement, should develop an integrated herbal program that addresses your specific health needs and concerns. You should be treated as a whole person, not as a disease.

Are There Different Types of Herbalist?  Traditional Western, or Community Herbalists base their work on traditional folk medicine or indications of historical uses of herbs and modern scientific information. Backgrounds may include folk, Native American, eclectic, wise woman, earth-centered or other traditions. They may be trained through traditional or non-traditional methods such as apprenticeships, schools or self-study. Medical or Clinical Herbalists are present in the United States and in most of the nations in the European Union. Professional education is offered in the USA and throughout Europe in a variety of formats. Most programs cover the traditional uses of herbs, the basic medical sciences of biochemistry, nutrition and anatomy as well as diagnosis and prescription. The most common titles given to medical herbalists from the Western world include: RH (AHG), Registered Herbalist, American Herbalists Guild; MCPP Member, College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy; FNIMH Fellow, National Institute of Medical Herbalists; MNIMH Member, National Institute of Medical Herbalists; FNHAA Fellow, National Herbalists Association of Australia.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the traditional medicine system of China, is the second-largest medical system in the world after Western medicine. TCM doctors go through extensive training in theory, practice, herbal therapy and acupuncture. Quite a few states now license acupuncturists, and many consider them primary health care providers. Their titles may include L.Ac. Licensed Acupuncturist; OMD Doctor of Oriental Medicine; or Dip. C.H. (NCCA) Diplomat of Chinese Herbology from the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists.

Traditional Ayurvedic Medicine, (Ayurveda), the traditional medical system of India and Nepal, is the third largest herbal medicine system in the world today. Ayurvedic doctors treat more than 80 percent of the people on the Indian subcontinent and go through extensive training that can last as long as 12 years. Some use the title M.D. (Ayur.) when they come to English speaking countries, while those who have passed the accreditation process of the American Ayurvedic Association are given the title D.Av. Diplomate in Ayurvedic Health Sciences.

Naturopathic Medicine integrates traditional natural therapeutics with modern scientific medical diagnoses and western medical standards of care. Most licensed naturopathic physicians, (N.D.) have received full medical training at one of four fully accredited medical universities in North America. There are currently 13 states that license the practice of naturopathic medicine.

Course of Treatment

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Botanical effects often take more time. A practitioner usually allows two months before advising patients of an assessment. Generally patients are asked to see their practitioner about a month later to see how things are going. Patients should call if they have questions concerning odd effects they are noticing. The frequency of visits is highly variable depending on the individual needs of the person.


Find a Herbalist

How can I find a qualified naturopath in my area? To locate a licensed naturopath in your area, call the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) at 1-866-538-2267 or visit their web site at 

How can I find a qualified herbalist in my area? For additional information, or to locate an experienced herbalist in your area, contact the American Herbalists Guild (AHG) at P.O. Box 70, Roosevelt, UT 84066 (435-722-8434) or visit their web site

Local health food or herb store:  For help in finding a qualified herbalist, either contact your local health food or herb store for referrals, ask for recommendations from people whose judgment you trust. – The National Institute of Medical Herbalist


Herbal Treatments for Symptom Related Conditions

Link to Remedy Treatments Herbal Therapy


Herbal Fact Sheets

Link to Remedy Treatments Herbal Fact Sheets


On-line Herbal Products To Purchase

Listing of  Recommended Premier On-line Links to Purchase Herbal Products


Herbal Awareness

For additional information search these sites recommended by professional organizations in the herbal industry: - HerbMed® - an interactive, electronic herbal database - provides hyperlinked access to the scientific data underlying the use of herbs for health. It is an impartial, evidence-based information resource provided by the nonprofit Alternative Medicine Foundation, Inc. This public site provides free access to 30 herbs. - is a well-respected source of information referenced by several naturopathic organizations.  They provide lists of retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and importers of herbs and herbal products. - The Herb Research Foundation is the world's first and foremost source of accurate, science-based information on the health benefits and safety of herbs---and expertise in sustainable botanical resource development. - The Herbal Therapeutics Research Library is one of America’s premier private libraries with over 8,000 volumes and 12,000 articles on file on the topics of Medical Botany, Ethnobotany, Economic Botany, Eclectic, Thomsonian, & Herbal Medicine, as well as holdings on the History of Medicine, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and phytochemistry. - Site features resources to purchase products, index of herbal treatments, and plant and herb indexes. - The American Botanical Council (ABC) offers HerbStream™, an extensive program that provides herbal medicine content. As the leading independent nonprofit organization providing education and research on medicinal herbs and phytomedicine, ABC offers a storehouse of information. All information provided through HerbStream has been peer reviewed and examined for accuracy and validity.