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
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
To prevent disease
To treat disease
To maximize one's health potential.
Herbs are also used for the symptomatic relief of minor ailments
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.
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?
- 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
- 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
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
or "life energy," and balancing the
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
incorporate ritual and magic into their practices with the use of a shaman,
or medicine man.
Importance of Herbs
American Herbal Pharmacopoeia®
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
Clinical Research in Herbal Medicine
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
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.
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
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
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.
Many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to physicians have a long
history of use as herbal remedies, including opium, aspirin, digitalis, and
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that
80 percent of the world's population presently uses herbal medicine for some
aspect of primary health care.
Herbal medicine is a major
component in all traditional medicine systems, and a common element in
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.
and natural-products chemists are combing the Earth for
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
Three quarters of plants that provide active ingredients for prescription
drugs came to the attention of researchers because of their use in traditional
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
Frequently Ask Questions about Herbs
www.ahpa.org - Copyright
(c) American Botanical Council
Q. Why should I use
Q. Are herbs safe?
Q. Are herbal supplement
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
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
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
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
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.
act on the healing processes in the body:
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.
- © Copyright American Herbalists Guild
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
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
How Long Does It Take for Herbs to Be Effective?
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.
Safe Are Herbs?
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
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 more...www.americanherbalistsguild.com
Herbal Medicine Works
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
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
Therapeutic Properties of Herbs
Institute of Natural Health, Copyright © Tillotson Institute. All
Herbs can promote the action (reduction) of
antioxidants, capturing and eliminating the destructive energy of free radicals
• 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
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
• 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. One common example is olive oil (Olea
• 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
• 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
• 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,
• 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
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
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,
• Mucus reducing group (Herbs that remove thick mucus
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
Gotu kola, tien chi root, aloe gel, turmeric root. dang gui root, astagalus root.
Intestinal healing group (Herbs that soothe and heal the intestinal
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
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,
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
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.
tincture is made by soaking a botanical in a
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
or weight of the finished product).
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
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:
or unproven *wonder remedies*.
herbs recommended in respected herb books, especially in countries like the
US where there are few restrictions on availability.
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
not persist with a treatment that has brought improvement without testing to
see if continued further consumption is necessary to maintain improvement.
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
Please link to read additional
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
Therapeutics Section will outline:
Human Clinical, Animal and In Vitro Studies
Side Effects- Interactions – Contraindications-Precautions
Influence on Driving
Treatment of Overdose
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
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
You should be especially
cautious about using herbal health products or supplements if you take a drug in
one of the following categories:
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:
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
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
ingested with grapefruit juice, blood levels of some drugs can reach
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
Copyright © Tillotson Institute.
All rights reserved.
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.
studies are ranked by certain criteria. Randomized, placebo-controlled, double
blind clinical studies are the gold standard and should therefore rank higher in
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.
studies are not the only evidence used in herbal thinking.
teachings, those that have persisted over several generations of dedicated
herbalists, are accepted as a form of reliable information.
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:
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
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...
the entire article….
- 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.
© American Academy of Family Physicians. All rights reserved.
health products and supplements safe because they’re natural?
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.
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.
for Buying a Quality Herbal Product
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.
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
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
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
As conditions change checking with organizations like
The American Botanical Council or The Herb Research Foundation to assist you
What You Can
When buying products in these categories, consumers
Look for brands that are members of an
established dietary supplement trade association. AHPA members
are listed on our
website www.ahpa.org by
their corporate names (note that their brands can be found on their
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
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 TaintedProducts@fda.hhs.gov
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
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
Do Herbalists Practice?
© Copyright American Herbalists Guild
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
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
(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.
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
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 www.americanherbalistsguild.com
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
Remedy Treatments Herbal Therapy
Herbal Fact Sheets
Remedy Treatments Herbal Fact Sheets
On-line Herbal Products To Purchase
of Recommended Premier On-line Links to Purchase Herbal Products
For additional information search these sites recommended by professional
organizations in the herbal industry:
- 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
www.herbs.org/herbnews - 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
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.
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