The Herbal Apothecary P-Y
Once again, the herbs speak... Pasque Flower (Anemone pulsatilla) Pasque Flower is an excellent relaxing nervine for use in problems relating nervous tension and spasm in the reproductive system. It is used in the relief of painful periods, ovarian pain and painful conditions of the testes. It may be used to reduce tension reactions and headaches associated with them as well. It will help insomnia and general over-activity. The antibacterial actions give this herb a role in treating infections that affect the skin, especially boils . It is similarly useful in the treatment of respiratory infections and asthma . Our tincture will also ease an earache . This remedy was far more widely used in the last century to allay irritation of the nervous system in persons of feeble health, giving sleep and rest, particularly from sedentary habits or mental over-exertion, as well as in the nervousness and restlessness of addiction and attempted withdrawal. It is the remedy for nervous women, when there is debility and faulty nutrition of the nerve centers. Mentioned as the perfect case scenario for Pasque Flower is a gloomy mentality, a state of nerve depression and unrest, a disposition to brood over real or imagined trouble and a tendency to look on the dark side of life. Also where sleep is disturbed by unpleasant dreams, and the patient awakens sad and languid, Pulsatilla should be given.
Pau d’Arco (Tabebuia avellanedae) Pau d’arco, or the inner bark of the Tabebuia avellanedae tree, is native to Brazil, where it is used traditionally to treat a wide range of conditions including pain, arthritis, inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis), fever, dysentery, boils and ulcers, and various cancers. Laboratory studies suggest that we should pay attention to its traditional uses. Pau d’ Arco has pain killing, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, anti-psoriatic, and anti-cancer abilities. We use it to treat or prevent a number of conditions, including candidiasis, herpes simplex virus, influenza, parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis, bacterial infections such as brucellosis, and inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis) or the vagina (vaginitis). Pau d’arco may also reduce inflammation of the joints associated with arthritis.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) Peppermint is not only a popular flavoring for gum, toothpaste, and tea, but it also serves as a calming agent to soothe an an upset stomach or to aid in digestion. Because it has a calming and numbing effect, it has been used to treat tension headaches, soothes skin irritations such as hives or poison ivy, anxiety associated with depression, nausea, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also widely used as an expectorant to treat congestion of the common cold because of its menthol activity. It also helps to soothe and calm sore throats and dry coughs. Peppermint also calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile reducing digestive distress. It can even mitigate a gall bladder attack as an anti-spasmodic.
Poke Root (Phytolacca decandra) Phytolacca is undoubtedly an excellent alterative stimulating metabolism and also acts as a detoxification agent. As an alterative it is used in chronic rheumatism and regular conjunctivitis. Used as an ointment it is used in psoriasis and other skin diseases. Specifically, Poke root is indicated in the treatment of the lymphatic system. It is especially indicated in mastitis, where it can be used internally and as a poultice. Research seems to indicate that Poke root has the effect of boosting the immune system through its interaction with the proliferation of T-cells. Phytolacca is used when the general symptoms of aching, soreness, restlessness, and prostration are present. It is also a strong glandular remedy when glandular swellings are present with heat and inflammation even acting beneficially on scar tissue. Caution must be used with poke root as even small amounts may cause vomiting due to its purgative and emetic effects.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) Red clover, a wild plant used as grazing food for cattle and other livestock, has also been used medicinally to treat a wide array of conditions. These have included cancer, mastitis (inflammation of the breast), joint disorders, jaundice, bronchitis, spasmodic coughing, asthma, and skin inflammations, such as psoriasis and eczema. Red clover is thought to "purify" the blood by promoting urine and mucous production, improving circulation, and stimulating the secretion of bile. Recently, specific chemicals in red clover -- known as isoflavones -- have been isolated and tested for their effectiveness in treating a variety of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and the symptoms of menopause such as low HDL, hot flashes and the bone loss associated with osteoporosis.
Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa) Rehmannia is a Chinese herb known as Chinese foxglove that is often combined with other herbs to treat anemia, fatigue, constipation, high blood pressure, sleeping problems, and tinnitis. It modulates the kidney meridian energy which accounts for its effects on blood pressure, but it also prevents the suppressive effects of corticosteroid drugs on the body’s natural cortisol production. This points towards its amazing use as a treatment for adrenal fatigue issues. We use it in every adrenal formulation we prepare, because it is perfect for every stage of adrenal fatigue.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) Newly popular in this country, rhodiola has long been used in Russia and Scandinavia as an energy booster and a strengthener for the immune system. Some research shows that rhodiola, also known as Arctic root, can increase work performance and reduce mental fatigue. Studies suggest it may work by increasing levels of mood-elevating brain chemicals like serotonin. Cases of acute stress, like preparing for a final exam or a deadline at work are great for this herb, since rhodiola appears to work faster than other tonic herbs. The herb, which is said to create a mildly uplifting feeling, may also benefit people with depression. It is also known for its ability to create very vivid dreamstates.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Rosemary is widely used as a culinary herb, especially in Mediterranean dishes, and is also used as a fragrant additive in soaps and other cosmetics. Traditionally, rosemary has been used by herbalists to improve memory, relieve muscle pain and spasm, stimulate hair growth, and support the circulatory and nervous systems. It is also believed to affect the menstrual cycle, act as an abortifacient (inducing miscarriage), relieve menstrual cramps, increase urine flow, and reduce kidney pain (for example, from kidney stones). It may be its antibacterial properties that make it helpful in improving Phase I and II liver detoxification. But many of our clients swear by its hair growth potential. In one study of 86 people with alopecia areata, those who massaged their scalps with rosemary extract every day for 7 months experienced significant hair re-growth compared to those who massaged their scalps alone.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) Research has suggested that the presence of volatile oil in Sage is largely responsible for most of its therapeutic properties, especially its antiseptic, astringent and relaxing actions. This also gives Sage an estrogenic action which is partly responsible for hormonal effects, such as reducing breast-milk production. It also helps to improve irregular and scanty periods, promote stronger menstrual flow and reduce menopausal sweating and hot flashes. In Chinese medicine, Sage is a ’Yin’ (female) tonic with a reputation for supporting the Nervous System. It was traditionally used to help asthma, but it can also help heal mouth ulcers, sore gums and even stings and bites if used topically.
Sarsaparilla (Smilax ornata) The word Sarsaparilla comes from the Spanish word Sarza meaning ’a bramble’ and parilla, ’a vine’. Native American Indians used it for a wide variety of ailments while pirates used it to treat syphilis. It is a blood purifier, a diaphoretic, a diuretic, an alterative and suppresses the immune system while at the same time is a remedy for pulmonary and chest diseases. We have found it useful as well for gout, psoriasis, herpes and external abscesses, particularly with rheumatic causes.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa serrulata) The berries of the saw palmetto, a fan palm native to the southeastern United States, act to increase urine flow, to diminish inflammation, and to reduce muscle spasms. In Europe, saw palmetto is widely used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, having a comparable effect to finasteride in relieving symptoms during its early stages. However, Saw Palmetto only relieves the symptoms. It does not actually shrink the size of the prostate. Saw palmetto berries were a staple food among native Americans of the southeastern United States, who also used them to treat digestive problems, genitourinary inflammation, dysentary, and lack of libido. Because it affects both male and female sex hormones, saw palmetto may also be useful in treating such conditions as hirsutism (excessive growth of dark, coarse body and facial hair in women) and polycystic ovarian disease in women.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) This is one of my favorite herbs, perhaps because I love the name. It reminds me of "shazam!" In fact, the effects of Schisandra may seem like that in the way that it supports liver function and improves phase I and II liver detoxification while at the same time reducing nervous stress. It has a strong antioxidant activity and protects the cellular integrity of the liver as well. Schisandra is a woody vine with numerous clusters of tiny, bright red berries whose unusual combination of flavors is reflected in its Chinese name meaning "five-taste fruit". It is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a kidney tonic and lung astringent with secondary uses for coughs, night sweats, insomnia, thirst, and physical exhaustion. Hunters and athletes have used schisandra to increase endurance and combat fatigue under physical stress.
Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) Shepherd’s purse is named for the flat seed pouches, which look like small, heart-shaped purses. Traditionally, shepherd’s purse was used for diarrhea, urinary and bladder inflammation accompanied by urinary bleeding, hemorrhaging after childbirth, internal bleeding of the lungs and colon, as a styptic and to treat painful menstrual periods. Externally, shepherd’s purse reduces the pain and swelling from bruises, wounds, strains, and arthritis. Both the German Commission E monographs and the German Standard License have approved shepherd’s purse to treat unusually heavy and persistent menstruation and nosebleeds. It is one of our standard remedies for endometriosis and fibroids, due to the changes in menstrual bleeding that accompany these conditions.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) It has been used for over two hundred years as a mild relaxant and has long been hailed as an effective therapy for anxiety, nervous tension, and convulsions. Because of its calming effects on the nervous and musculoskeletal system, it was also at one time considered to be a remedy for rabies, thus it’s name "mad dog weed." Currently it is used for treating muscle spasms and calming the nerves, which helps with tension headache, anorexia, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, Touretts’s and other seizure disorders. It is closely related to Chinese or Baical Skullcap. At ISIS we use it for all stress-induced anger, irritability and insomnia.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Although St. John’s Wort has been well known for treating depression and nervous system depletion, it does have some amazing effects that are less well known. Treatment of inflammatory nerve conditions such as sciatica, neuralgia and carpal tunnel has been very effective for years. Also, St. John’s Wort is the standard treatment for enveloped viruses such as Herpes. Once thought to rid the body of evil spirits, this herb has a history of medicinal use dating back to ancient Greece, where it was used to treat a range of illnesses, including various ’nervous conditions. In numerous studies, St. John’s wort has been effective in reducing depressive symptoms in those with mild to moderate but not severe (called major) depression, seeming to be equally effective as drugs and with fewer side effects. St. John’s Wort also seems to substantially reduce the craving for and intake of alcohol. In laboratory studies, St. John’s wort has demonstrated the ability to fight certain infections, including some bacteria that are resistant to the effects of antibiotics. Used alone, St. John’s wort has improved mood in those suffering from SAD (a form of depression that occurs during the winter months because of lack of sunlight).
Thuja (Thuja occidentalis) Thuja’s main action is due to its stimulating volatile oil. In bronchial catarrh it combines an expectorant action with systemic stimulation. It is a smooth muscle stimulant with a specific reflex action on the uterus and thus may help in delayed menstruation. It is of use in cases of enuresis and cystitis. It may also be used where loss of muscle tone causes urinary incontinence. Thuja has a role to play in the treatment of psoriasis and rheumatism; a hot compress eases rheumatic pains. Externally it may be used to treat warts, Human Papilloma Virus and non-enveloped viruses in particular, applied twice a day for several weeks. A marked antifungal effect is found if used externally for ringworm and thrush. An infusion may also be applied externally to scabies and impetigo. Thuja counteracts the side-effects of a smallpox vaccination, and has been used in the treatment of carcinomas of the chest and breasts.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) Other than its use as a spice, thyme has a long history of use in Europe for the treatment of dry, spasmodic coughs as well as bronchitis. Its antispasmodic actions have made it a common traditional remedy for whooping cough. Thyme has also been used to ease an irritated gastrointestinal tract. The oil has been used to treat topical fungal infections and is also used in toothpastes to prevent gingivitis. It does have a pronounced anti-microbial effect.
Tienchi Ginseng (Panax notoginseng) This type of ginseng is considered in Chinese medicine to be specific to the liver and stomach, as well as having many blood and circulation effects. It is strongly antiviral and is considered to be directly active against hepatitis viruses. In the blood, Tienchi moves blood through the body transforming congealed blood and stopping bleeding. It is especially effective in treating hematomas and traumatic injury with bruising. At ISIS we use it for hypertension, menorrhagia and uterine fibroids that cause excessive bleeding.
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) Tribulus is one of our favorite herbs. In fact, it is one of the favorite herbs of every one of our patients. It helps to regulate growth hormone and intensifies protein synthesis. In this way it helps with male and female infertility, menopause and andropause issues, impotence, erectile dysfunction and especially low libido. In men, it increases the levels of Luteinizing Hormone and testosterone as well as decreasing estradiol. It increases spermatozoa effectiveness and is the friend of every athlete because of its effects on building muscle mass and endurance. It has been the secret of Bulgarian weight lifters for years!
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Turmeric contains an incredible essential oil and its main constituent, curcumin. It is anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. It is excellent for cystic fibrosis, even turning off the Cystic Fibrosis gene and aids asthma by opening the chloride channels in the cell membrane which enhances breathing at a cellular level. It is a dual inhibitor of arachidonic acid metabolism and helps with both cholesterol issues and weak detoxification capacity of the liver. It is a standard in our treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Valerian is native to the Americas, Asia, and Europe and has been particularly popular since the 17th century. This is one of the most calming herbs for insomnia, restlessness, stress and anxiety. It helps migraines, cramps and mild spasmodic movements, such as in epilepsy. It may also ease menstrual and stomach cramps and thus irritable bowel syndrome as well as some of the restlessness that accompanies attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina) Wild Cherry is a short-term antitussive herb to reduce spasmodic coughing. It is an astringent tonic as well as a sedative. It has been used in the treatment of bronchitis of various types and is valuable in catarrh, consumption nervous cough, whooping-cough, and dyspepsia.
Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) In the 18th and 19th centuries, wild yam was used by herbalists to treat menstrual cramps and problems related to childbirth. The subsequent discovery of a substance contained in wild yams revolutionized the pharmaceutical industry. The tubers, or fleshy, root-like parts, of wild yams (not to be confused with the sweet potato yam) contain diosgenin, a steroid-like substance that is involved in the production of the hormone progesterone. Diosgenin has served a key role in the making of hormones and the development of the birth control pill, two of the major advances in plant drug medicine this century. Wild yam continues to be used for treating menstrual cramps, nausea and morning sickness associated with pregnancy, inflammation, osteoporosis, menopausal symptoms, and other health conditions.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) The Romans aptly referred to common wormwood as absinthium from the word absinthial to mean "bitter." After rue, wormwood is recognized as the most bitter herb known. But, its name probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon wermode which translates to "mind preserver." The Greeks attribute the herb to the goddess Artemsia and cherished it as a remedy for hemlock poisoning and even the bite of the sea dragon. Wormwood was part of an old St. Luke’s Day tradition for young lovers. To gain vision of ones true love, one would anoint them self with a mixture of dried marigold, wormwood marjoram, thyme and vinegar and honey. Wormwood was once a traditional stuffing for goose and provides the bitter flavor in vermouth and, until it was banned in the U.S. in 1915, it also flavored absinthe. Absinthe was considered a dangerous beverage which lead to wormwood poisoning. Prior to its ban in France in the same year, many noted artists enjoyed it, including Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. In fact, some experts believe that Van Gogh’s fondness of absinthe lead to hallucinations and his eventual suicide. It is valued especially for its tonic effect on the liver, gallbladder and digestive system, and for its vermicidal activity making up the basis of any anti-parasitic regimen, as well as being said to repel mice, moths and other insects. It is an extremely useful medicine for those with weak and under-active digestion. It increases stomach acid and bile production, improving digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Legend has it that yarrow was named after Achilles, the Greek mythical figure who used it to stop the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. Popular in European folk medicine, yarrow has traditionally been used to treat wounds, menstrual ailments, and bleeding hemorrhoids. Its traditional uses also include the treatment of fevers and colds, and relief of stomach and intestinal upset. It can increase urine flow, fight infection and fever and help to reduce bleeding. It is closely related to the chamomiles and flourishes in a sunny and warm area.