The Herbal Apothecary F-N

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Herbs can be overwhelming. Here is some more information for you from our pharmacopeia. False Unicorn (Chamaelirium luteum) As a diuretic, cerebrospinal trophorestorative and a reproductive tonic for both sexes, False Unicorn was traditionally given for heaviness and congestion in the pelvis with the sensation that the pelvic organs are falling out. The patient feels lumbar pain, pain down the thighs and the back of the legs, restlessness and general weakness. The patient often has a history of hemorrhoids, varicose veins of the legs and labial varicosities. False unicorn is indicated in atonic conditions such as uterine or bladder atrophy or prolapse, vaginal laxity and passive hemorrhage and menorrhagia. It is also used with dysmenorrhea due to atonicity, and habitual miscarriages due to an incompetent cervix.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) This is an herb with a long traditional use, although its most noteworthy application is as a migraine remedy. Its name comes from the latin which meant to drive away a fever, which was its common use in that time. It has an antisecretory action which inhibits platelet aggregation and an antiinflammatory action by inhibiting prostaglandin biosynthesis and arachidonic acid products. So it really is the perfect treatment for migraine and tension headaches, although it is still used for fevers, colds, atonic dyspepsia and worm infestation.

Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus) Fringe tree acts on the digestive organs, urinary tract and venous system to relieve congestion. It is indicated for sluggish liver, gallstones if there is no blockage, pancreatic inactivity and chronic disease of the liver and spleen. It is an excellent remedy for jaundice when it is not due to a blockage. Specific indications are dirty, sallow skin with expressionless eyes, hepatic tenderness, nausea and vomiting, jaundice with itching skin, thin light-colored stools or constipation with dry feces. It is to be considered with pain under the right scapula, general lethargy and ailments induced by changes of the weather.

Garlic (Allium sativum) Garlic contains sulphur compounds including alliin, which helps to lower blood pressure and to reduce cardiovascular risk factors. It also is recommended for increasing liver detoxification ability by supporting sulphuration. But its most famous use is to reduce parasite infestation and to treat H. Pylori and other intestinal microbial problems.

Gentian (Gentiana lutea) Gentian has been used for centuries for weakened digestive ability due to a weakness in gastric secretion, bile production or pancreatic enzyme production. It is our standard treatment for loss of appetite, anorexia, flatulence and heartburn. It also is great for sugar cravings along with Gymnema. Its bitterness really increases salivation and vagal nerve function, so we’ve successfully used it for people who have lost bowel function due to sluggish vagal nerve function.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Ginger has been used as a spice and medicine for thousands of years, recorded in early Sanskrit, Chinese texts and ancient Greek, Roman and Arabic medical literature. It is the perfect digestive treatment. It is a warming herb, helping to reduce bloating, flatulence and intestinal spasms, while calming nausea and vomiting. This makes it great for motion sickness, morning sickness and the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy. We use it as a way to reduce serotonin levels and thin out the blood, which then enhances the diffusion of circulation. It is also well known as a topical poulticing agent for cols, headaches, nasal congestion and a runny nose.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) I have to confess that I have been in love with the Ginkgo Tree ever since I lay under the first one I ever saw at Tanglewood, a gift from China. Little did I know that Ginkgo has such an amazing effect on the microcirulation of the brain, eyes and lungs. It is perfect for high altitude sickness, asthma, macular degeneration, dementia and any condition of tissue starvation. It also seems to be a strong inflammatory mediator, particularly in asthma and we have used it at ISIS for vertigo, tinnitis, and to protect the integrity of newly-formed blood vessels. This is the standard choice for increasing the blood flow to the brain.

Globe Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) What can we say about Globe Artichoke except that it is the best herb to improve bile production in the liver that we have ever seen. In doing that it also inhibits cholesterol synthesis, protects liver cells against toxins, promotes regeneration of liver cells and reduces blood lipid levels. It is one of our standard treatments for high cholesterol issues and stone formation in the gall bladder. Because of its incredible uses, it has dazzled herbalists since the 16th century.

Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis) There is nothing better to restore the mucous membrane lining of the gut wall and to modify dysbiosis. Golden Seal was used by Cherokees as a dye and as an internal remedy to aid digestion and to treat the nose and throat. We have used it as our standard treatment for any bacterial issue and as our first step in treating most intestinal flora problems.

Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) Gotu Kola helps with the healing from within, particularly great for scar tissue and collagen synthesis, keloids and damage within the body due to connective tissue issues. This may make it beneficial for osteopenia and osteoporosis, as there is a loss of the connective tissue matrix first, before the loss of calcium. It is excellent to promote healing for skin diseases such as scleroderma, cellulitis and psoriasis. We have even used it quite successfully for reducing the formation of varicose veins.

Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus) This is another great herb for improving bile flow and many skin conditions that are caused by lack of essential fatty acids, such as eczema and psoriasis. This plant is undoubtedly the true Celandine, having nothing in common with the Lesser Celandine except the colour of its flowers. It was a drug plant in the Middle Ages and is mentioned by Pliny, to whom we owe the tradition that it is called Chelidonium from the Greek chelidon (a swallow), because it comes into flower when the swallows arrive and fades at their departure. Its acrid juice has been employed successfully in removing films from the cornea of the eye, a property which Pliny tells us was discovered by swallows, this being a double reason why the plant should be named after these birds.

Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) Known in Hindi as gurmar or the "sugar destroyer", Gymnema acts as a pancreatic trophorestorative by focusing on the Beta cells and the release of insulin. It seems to act by disrupting the absorption of sugar giving the Beta cells a rest. It is used for hyperglycemia, diabetes, sleep disturbance due to insulin resistance, sugar cravings and to assist weight loss by suppressing appetite. Our clients just won’t stop taking this, even when their bodies no longer need it! When applied to the mouth directly in extract, it anesthetizes the sweet taste buds for several hours.

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) A member of the rose family, Hawthorn was hung over the doorway in the Middle Ages to prevent the entry of evil spirits. By the early 1800’s, American physicians recognized the herb’s medicinal properties and began using it to treat circulatory disorders and respiratory illnesses. Considered a "cardiotonic" herb, the antioxidants found in hawthorn can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause. Today, many professional herbalists believe that the antioxidants in hawthorn may help protect against heart disease and help control high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This has led to the reputation of Hawthorn being amazing for the human heart. The leaves are more potent than the berries, but it has proven quite beneficial for treating mild heart disease, angina pectoris, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, nervous heart, arteriosclerosis and to assist peripheral circulation. It is especially important in helping to balance the autonomic nervous system, which is essential for stressed individuals that are sympathetic dominant.

Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng) The word Panax means "all healing", and indeed, both Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) are said to counteract weakness and fatigue, increase resistance to stress, and promote longevity. Asian ginseng is one of the better-researched tonics, with some studies suggesting that it may boost immunity as well as improve libido in men. Other research has found that American ginseng can lower blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes. We prefer to use the Asian form of this herb for its stimulant effects. We recommend it to people with low vitality or those debilitated by chronic illness or old age.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) Licorice is something every child seems to develop a fondness for due to the fact that it is roughly 50 times sweeter then sugar. But in fact, they are providing many health benefits at the same time particularly for the adrenal glands. This herb has long been valued as a demulcent (soothing, coating agent) and continues to be used by professional herbalists today to relieve respiratory ailments (such as allergies, bronchitis, colds, sore throats, and tuberculosis), stomach problems (including, possibly, heartburn from reflux or some other cause and gastritis), inflammatory disorders, skin diseases, and liver problems. Licorice root is often used to prevent and treat stomach ulcers. Early studies in humans have found that preparations containing glycyrrhizin (an active compound in licorice) may be as effective as leading anti-ulcer medications in relieving pain associated with stomach ulcers and preventing the ulcers from recurring. Active compounds in licorice root are also used to help prevent and treat chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation). Licorice also plays a role in the treatment of heart disease because of its effects on cholesterol and blood pressure. Preliminary studies also suggest that licorice may play a role in the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Japanese encephalitis. One early study of only 3 people with HIV suggested that intravenous glycyrrhizin may prevent replication of HIV, but larger studies have yet to duplicate these findings.

Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis) This is the herb, not the white puffy confection roasted over a campfire. It has been used for centuries as both a food and a medicine. Its botanical name comes from the Greek word "altho," which means "to cure." The Romans, Chinese, Egyptians, and Syrians used marshmallow as a source of food, while the Arabs made poultices from its leaves and applied this to the skin to reduce inflammation. The mucilage, or gummy secretion, in the leaves and particularly the root is helpful for soothing sore throats, chapped skin, and minor wounds. Based on its long history of use in traditional healing systems, herbalists use it for asthma, bronchitis, common cold with sore throat, cough, inflammatory bowel diseases, stomach ulcers, weight loss and wound healing. It is a very soothing demulcent, perfect for gastro-esophageal reflux characterized by a night cough.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) Meadowsweet is native to Europe as a perennial plant and English wildflower common in damp meadows. It is named after the Elm Tree because of the similarity of leaf structure. It has been a folk remedy in Europe for centuries in that "it helpeth speedily those that are troubled with the cholic" and is one of the three most sacred Druid herbs. It can help to restore normal bodily function by relieving pain, reducing inflammation, as an antiseptive and aromatic. As an astringent it helps to discharge mucous and fluid accumulation, particularly by inducing perspiration. It is beneficial in eruptive infections such as chickenpox and measles, helps to reduce muscular spasm and headache, and is one of the best antacid remedies for the intestinal system and stomach. It has long been used as an antidote for poisons and toxicity, particularly in the intestinal tract.

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) Milk thistle has been used since Greco-Roman times as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, particularly liver problems. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries physicians in the United States used milk thistle seeds to relieve congestion of the liver, spleen, and kidneys. Today, several scientific studies suggest that active substances in milk thistle (particularly silymarin) protect the liver from damage caused by viruses, toxins, alcohol, and certain drugs such as acetaminophen, making it imperative as a remedy for alcoholics to prevent liver damage. Many professional herbalists recommend milk thistle extract for the prevention and/or treatment of various liver disorders including viral hepatitis, fatty liver associated with long term alcohol use, and liver damage from drugs and industrial toxins such as carbon tetrachloride. Milk thistle has also been used as a preventive and/or antidote to poisoning by deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). But its main purpose has always been for improvement and protection of liver function, although it is less effective once cirrhosis has accelerated liver disease. Preliminary laboratory studies also suggest that active substances in milk thistle may have anti-cancer effects. Silymarin has strong antioxidant properties and has been shown to inhibit the growth of human prostate, breast, and cervical cancer cells in test tubes.

Mistletoe (Viscum album) The ancient Druids of northern Europe and other pagan groups revered mistletoe, particularly when it infected oak trees (a rare occurrence). Over time, this reverence of mistletoe was translated into the Christian ritual of hanging mistletoe over doorways at Christmas. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe may be a remnant of pagan orgies held before mistletoe altars. The name mistletoe is said to derive from the Celtic word for "all-heal." This correlates with its historical use for everything from nervous complaints to bleeding to tumors. Human pharmacological studies have found that mistletoe extract stimulates the function of the immune system. It seems to reduce the symptoms of high blood pressure, particularly headaches and dizziness. It may also stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreas and may improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) This is a great choice for hyperthyroid cardiac symptoms, particularly tachycardia and palpitations as well as dysmenorrhea. In European folk medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine, it was widely used to regulate menses and to treat associated conditions. It was also considered a helpful diuretic and heart-strengthening herb by herbalists in both cultures, particularly to alleviate heart palpitations associated with anxiety attacks. Europeans used motherwort as a sedative as well. The alkaloids of motherwort seem to calm the central nervous system and stimulate the uterus to contract. A report suggests that preliminary human trials have found that Chinese motherwort stimulates uterine contraction after delivery and may alleviate glomerulonephritis (kidney disease secondary to infection).

Nettles (Urtica dioica) Nettle is a leafy plant that is found in most temperate regions of the world. The Latin root of Urtica is uro, meaning "I burn," indicative of the small stings caused by the little hairs on the leaves of this plant that burn when contact is made with the skin. The root and leaves of nettle have long been used in herbal medicine as a blood cleanser and antioxidant. They are an excellent source of soluble silica for the body. Nettle leaf is the multi-mineral of the herbal kingdom and is used for arthritis, internal blood loss, inflammatory diseases of the lower urinary tract and eczema. There has been a great deal of controversy regarding the identity of nettle’s active constituents. Studies suggest the leaf has anti-inflammatory actions. This is thought to be caused by nettle preventing the body from making inflammatory chemicals known as prostaglandins. Nettle’s root affects hormones and proteins that carry sex hormones (such as testosterone or estrogen) in the human body. This may explain why it helps benign prostatic hypertrophy. It may also be beneficial for hayfever, reducing sneezing and itching common with this allergy.