“For Every Disease, there is a Plant to Cure it”
The use of herbals to sustain health has been around as long as humans have been on the face of the earth. Archaeological evidence has shown the use of medicinal plants dating as far back to the Paleolithic Age approximately 60,00 years ago, and surprisingly, it was not until the 19th century when modern medicine started using plant-derived compounds as the basis for pharmaceutical drugs.
How well do you really know your Herbs?
Many assume because herbals are natural they are risk free. On the contrary, due to their pharmacological effects on the body herbals may present a medication-herb toxicity and should be taken with cautions. A prime example is “Golden Seal” if taken in the wrong concentration it can be very toxic. Herbals must not be used blindly, please use cautiously, always consult with your healthcare provider prior to initiating herbals in your life style modifications.
Let’s Get to Know A few Herbs:
To start there are more than 250,000 known herbal plants. Due to the vast number of herbals, Botanist have identified and categorized them into groups based on how they may affect specific disorders. For example, there is a specific group of herbs set aside to treat upper respiratory disorders, or gastrointestinal disorders, or migraines etc. Therefore, depending on a specific area of concern, there are specific herbs set aside to address it. Thus, science has taken the guess work out of herbal choices. Presently there is ongoing research and a great deal of previous research conducted on herbals to provide us with a road map as to the use and effectiveness of herbals. I would like to discuss a few specific herbals which have been scientifically supported in current literature.
GARLIC: Active compound Allicin: Best way to use it: raw/crushed to activate. Benefits: Cardiovascular: Reduction of blood pressure and LDL Cholesterol. Effective amount: 4-5 gloves of garlic per day. Negative Side Effects: Increase risk of Bleeding, consult with your Physician before taking if you are taking blood thinner medications. Other side effects, bad breath, burning sensation, heartburn, gas, nausea, body odor and diarrhea.
GINGER: Active compound Zingier Officinal: Benefits: Gastrointestinal alleviates nausea/vomiting. Side Effects: Research has not definitely shown if it interacts with medication but concerns have been raised that it might interact with Blood Thinners.
GINKGO BILOBA: one of the oldest trees in the world with a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. Benefits: Best known to treat dementia, boost memory and concentration. In 2008 results of the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study showed that Ginkgo has NO effect for preventing dementia. A meta-analysis study in 2002 found that Ginkgo had No effects on cognitive function in healthy people. However, it was found that it may help relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Side Effects: allergic reactions, increase bleeding avoid if using Blood Thinners, stop taking Gingko two week before undergoing surgery. Avoid if you are taking NSAIDS i.e. Ibuprofens, Gastrointestinal irritations, headache, contact dermatitis.
MILK THISLE: Active compound Silymarin: Benefits: Alcoholic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, liver poisoning, viral hepatitis and to protect the liver from the damaging effects of toxins. Please note these benefits have been seen only in animal studies, human studies have not demonstrated this. However, research found that it improved insulin resistance in diabetes combined with traditional treatments. Side Effects: clinical trials indicate well tolerated in recommended doses. Some people reported gastrointestinal side effects, compounds in milk thistle may lower blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes.
The wonderful world of herbs, due to lack of time I am not able to discuss them all, but just one more supplement please: would like to add the positive effect of Probiotics which is supported in the literature for the treatment of antibiotic induced diarrhea, specifically those that contain bacterial strains such as Saccharomyces boulardii and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. This is the time of year many will be taking antibiotics rather it is for UTI or other infections which results in diarrhea, Probiotics as mention are very effective in resolving issues with diarrhea.
I cannot over emphasize the importance of talking with your Physician before adding herbals or supplements to your regimen. In my practice, it is important that I have the whole picture of what the clients are ingesting besides food and medications. Herbal are here to stay, as I borrow a quote from Hippocrates:
“Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Medicine Be Thy Food”.