Daminia, Dandelion, Dong Quai, Echinacea, Ephedra, Eyebright, Fennel, Fenugreek, Feverfew, Garlic, Ginger, Ginkgo Biloba, Asian or Korean Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Goldenseal, Gotu Kola, Guarana, Gymnema

Medicinal Herbs D - G

Medicinal Herbs D - G

© 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

Daminia leaves contain oils that hold hormone-like substances called beta-sterols. These are used by the body to support the endocrine system. This may explain why the ancient Mayans used damiana leaves as an aphrodisiac. Damiana is commonly used in formulations to promote menstrual and menopausal health.

Dandelion leaves can be used as salad greens and in tea. Dandelion leaves produce a diuretic effect. Dandelion root is a mild laxative. It is also used to support liver and stimulate bile flow.

Dong Quai is one of the most widely used herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is sometimes spelled Tag kwei or Danggui. Its primary use is as a “female tonic” to deal with painful menses or menopausal symptoms. It is not to be used in pregnancy.

Echinacea is purple coneflower, a species native to the United States. It was the most widely used medicinal herb by the Central Plains Indian tribes. The leaf and root have mild antibacterial and antiviral properties. They have also been used to promote wound healing. Numerous studies, primarily in Germany, have demonstrated that Echinacea is useful in boosting the body’s immune system and in preventing or managing colds and flu. The body can develop a tolerance to its immune supporting activity when it is used continually. Therefore, it is best used at the onset of cold or flu symptoms or, if used preventively, taken only five days each week or three weeks each month to maintain its effectiveness.

Ephedra is also known as Ma Huang. It is a potent stimulant. It was used extensively as an energy booster and a metabolism enhancer in weight loss products until a number of deaths related to its use were reported. Most of these occurred when the herb was combined with other stimulants such as those commonly used to ease asthma symptoms. It is no longer available legally in the United States.

Eyebright may be used as a compress to relieve eye infection and inflammation. Taken internally it is helpful in relieving symptoms of colds and allergies including runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Eyebright has anti-inflammatory effects and, in addition, supports liver function.

Fennel seeds contain essential oils that are helpful in dispelling intestinal gas. They are used in formulas designed to ease abdominal symptoms.

Fenugreek seeds contain a fiber that is soothing to mucus membranes. It also appears to stimulate the production of enzymes by the pancreas and improve digestion.

Feverfew possesses pain relieving properties. While medical studies have focused upon its ability to prevent and ease migraine headaches, it has been used as a remedy for menstrual cramping since the days of Alexander the Great. Some studies have shown feverfew to have an effect similar to that of non-steroidal inflammatory drugs, but without the side-effects of the drugs. It also contains compounds that help prevent the breakdown of a joint-protective substance called hyaluronic acid, making it helpful in the management of arthritic disorders.

Garlic possesses antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-hypertensive, and cholesterol-lowering properties. Because of its antimicrobial properties it has been referred to as “Russian Penicillin”. It is generally regarded as an effective preventative for colds, flu, and other viral infections.

Ginger can be used as a spice, a food, or a medicine. It is very effective in relieving nausea and motion sickness. It is also used as an appetite stimulant.

Ginkgo Biloba trees are said to be the oldest surviving trees on earth. A ginkgo biloba tree less than 100 yards from ground zero even survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima, Japan. The leaf is a potent antioxidant and strongly supports the circulatory system. It appears to be particularly beneficial in improving circulation in small vessels. At the tissue level, ginkgo acts to strengthen and stabilize cell membranes, increases cellular oxygen uptake, normalizes cellular potassium content, and scavenges free radicals. It is widely used to support memory. It is used in Europe as a treatment for tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo (spinning dizziness), and cold extremities. It has been shown to be beneficial in eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. It has also been found to be helpful in addressing impotence.

Asian or Korean Ginseng is one of the world’s most famous herbs. Its botanical name is panax ginseng. It is celebrated for its ability to increase energy and endurance. For thousands of years it has been viewed in China as a longevity herb and used as a tonic for the elderly. It has also been regarded as an appetite stimulant. American ginseng, panax quinquefolius is closely related to panax gingeng and is often used interchangeably. Because wild ginseng plants have become quite rare, the root is prone to fungal infections and difficult to grow, and full potency is not reached until the root is at least six years old, pure preparations of panax ginseng or panax quinquefolius are pricey and can be difficult to obtain. Studies have shown that up to sixty percent of ginseng products do not contain significant amounts of the actual substance. Ginseng has been reported to elevate blood pressure. It has been shown to increase cellular energy production and lower blood sugar levels. Because of its stimulant properties it should not be used continuously, but taken for two to three weeks with a two week interval between courses.

Siberian Ginseng is a distant relative of Asian or Korean ginseng. It does not possess the stimulant properties of Asian ginseng. Most Siberian Ginseng research has been carried out in Russia. Termed an adaptogen, a substance that helps the body adapt to physical and emotional stress, it has been widely used by Soviet cosmonauts and athletes. It is approved in Germany for use as a tonic to support the body during times of fatigue or weakness and to increase exercise capacity and ability to concentrate. It is also administered to individuals in rehabilitation programs.

Goldenseal is native to North America and was widely used by Native Americans. It contains a compound, berberine, with broad-spectrum antibiotic properties. While not as potent as prescription antibiotics, it is selective, destroying disease-causing organisms while sparing those that are beneficial to health. It is particularly effective against candida and giardia, an intestinal parasite. It is one of the most effective herbs for treating diarrhea. Goldenseal effectively boosts immune system function, stimulates liver function and bile flow, and reduces inflammation of mucous membranes.

Gotu Kola should not be confused with the caffeine containing kola nut, with which it is unrelated. Gotu kola contains a group of compounds called triterpines. Triterpines stimulate hair and nail growth, improve blood supply to connective tissues and support the production of chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid to support joint health. One of their primary benefits is in strengthening the walls of capillaries and veins. In so doing they reduce the severity of varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Gotu kola has also been shown to effectively strengthen and thicken skin, something that can be especially beneficial in the elderly. Because gotu kola is helpful in balancing connective tissues, it has demonstrated a 78 % success rate over three months in decreasing deposits known as cellulite. It has been shown beneficial in speeding wound healing and reducing scarring, improving cirrhosis of the liver, and easing the symptoms of the connective tissue disorder, scleroderma. Gotu kola also enhances the presence of a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, in the brain. It has been used for centuries to improve memory and ability to think clearly and it has been demonstrated to improve concentration and attention span in children. Perhaps this explains the Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) proverb, “Two leaves a day keep old age away.”

Guarana is a climbing shrub in the Amazon rain forest. It has been used as a beverage and medicinal among the native people for centuries and it is used extensively in Brazilian soft drinks today. It is said to support athletic performance, reduce fatigue, improve mental alertness and support weight loss. It contains a small amount of caffeine, one twentieth that of coffee. Most people who are sensitive to caffeine are not affected by the herb. Research now suggests that saponins similar to those in ginseng are responsible for its effects. It is sometimes referred to as Uabano. Its official name is paullinia cupana. Side effects may include insomnia, trembling, anxiety, palpitations, urinary frequency, and hyperactivity. It is recommended that individuals with high blood pressure avoid its use.

Gymnema has been used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat diabetes for thousands of years. Its Hindu name, gurmar, means “Sugar-destroyer”. It was so named because it is not possible to taste sweetness after chewing on gymnema leaves. Medical studies have demonstrated that gymnema is effective in lowering blood sugar levels. It is one of the most commonly used herbs in formulations designed for use in diabetes. Gymnema also tends to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

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