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Overview of Herbs | Alfalfa | Aloe Vera | Burdock | Capsaicin | Cascara | Chamomile | Chaparral | Comfrey | Echinacea | Garlic | Ginger | Ginseng (Asian) | Ginseng (American) | Gotu Kola | Hawthorn | Licorice | Ephedra | Milk Thistle | Sassafras | Blue-Green Algae


Overview of Herbs

Herbs have been the main source of medicine throughout human history. That they are still widely used today is not a throwback to the Dark Ages but an indication that herbs are a growing part of modern, high-tech medicine: about 25-30 percent of today's prescription drugs contain chemicals derived from plants. Some 119 chemical substances from 91 plants are now used in Western medicine. Of these, 74 percent were folk medicines brought to pharmacies through scientific research. Researchers today examine folk or historical uses of plants to find new drugs for cancer, AIDS, and even the common cold.

Are herbal products drugs?

This important, and seemingly simple question, cannot be answered briefly. From a regulatory and legal viewpoint in the U.S., these compounds are self-prescribed and the answer is NO. In many countries, however, many of these products are prescribed by licensed physicians for specific purposes. Many of today's regulated drugs were initially derived from plants with known medical and physical effects. Thus, from a medical and pharmacological viewpoint, the answer is YES ...� sometimes. Most of these compounds have been used for centuries by traditional folk practitioners of healing and are still used in numerous cultures. They have positive health effects on some users. They also can have very serious side effects, particularly if used in combination with prescribed medications for the same conditions.

Safety and Efficacy Standards

Because herbal compounds are not regulated as drugs by the FDA in the U.S., these substances may be sold as "food additives.' The major prohibition on companies selling these products is against making any claims of effectiveness for treating medical conditions. Instead, the labels, if they contain any information at all, may simply state they are used for health purposes or a similar non-specific purpose. The labels may list an amount of the compound contained in each pill or volume of liquid, but are not required to do so. These listings may or may not be accurate and no guarantee of purity or effectiveness exists. There is no oversight on production by an outside agency. Frequently, there are no directions on how to use the product or what precautions to take. Consumers must place their trust in the manufacturer. � Some nutritional supplement manufacturers voluntarily comply with the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices required of pharmaceutical companies.

How Herbs Work

Basically, herbs work to cleanse, heal and nourish the body by building up the body�s ability to cleanse itself. In a sluggish body, the lymph glands, the body�s garbage disposal unit, do not function well to push out inactive refuse.
Acting as diuretics, laxatives and blood purifiers, herbs help speed up the elimination of waste materials and toxins in the blood, lymph glands and intestines.
Herbs, fruits, and vegetables are full of nutrients to nourish the blood and the tissues. There are also toning herbs or tonics that sustain the body�s resistance to debilitation, aging and the stresses of modern life.

Administration forms of herbs

Some herbs are used externally in the form of lotions, ointments, and salves. Other herbs are recommended internally in the form of pills, tinctures, infusions, deconctions, or raw (Clayton & McCullough, 1995). An infusion, or tea, is a formula in which the medicinal portion of an herb are steeped in very hot water for two to five minutes, or until the desired strength is achieved. A decoction is similar to an infusion, however, the roots, bark, and otherwise more fibrous materials are used and boiled for a longer period of time. Metal cookware may chemically alter a decoction or tincture, so people are recommended to use cookware of other materials such as ceramic or glass (Elais & Masline, 1995).

Dosage of herbs

On the labels of most herbal products there is a suggested dosage listed. If someone is purchasin a product from a health food or herbal specialty store, there is usually someone who works there who can give a dosage estimation. The most respected and intelligent way to find how much of an herb you should take is by going to see a licensed herbalist and getting a recommendation from her about what herb(s) you should be taking and the recommended dosage (Elias & Masline, 1995).


If you have one of the following conditions, it is advisable to check with your doctor before taking any herbal remedies:

  • If you are pregnant
  • If you are below 18 years
  • If you have been treated for a chronic condition such as cancer, heart disease, AIDS, HIV or lupus
  • If you have a history of allergies or asthma
  • If you are taking prescription drugs

Be aware of what the herb does, how to use it and the possible side effects. Don’t exceed the dosage and follow all instructions carefully. Few problems result from ingesting herbs but there is always the potential for an allergic or toxic reaction. One percent of all plants are poisonous so be careful when collecting your own herbs.

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Overview of Herbs | Alfalfa | Aloe Vera | Burdock | Capsaicin | Cascara | Chamomile | Chaparral | Comfrey | Echinacea | Garlic | Ginger | Ginseng (Asian) | Ginseng (American) | Gotu Kola | Hawthorn | Licorice | Ephedra | Milk Thistle | Sassafras | Blue-Green Algae