Sunday, January 18, 2009

Seven herbs

Recently I came across an article Seven Herbs to See You Through Winter.

Most everyone heard about benefits of herbs but this article suggests seven of them that are supposed to be especially beneficial for winter time.

I gathered for you some beautiful images and short descriptions for these seven natural herbal winter helpers.

1. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) - INSOMNIA

Chamomile - HBW!
Photo Chamomile - HBW! - courtesy of Flidais

For centuries chamomile has been used as a mild sleep aid. Scientific studies attribute chamomile's gentle sedative activity to alpha-bisabolol, an active ingredient that can be found in its oil.

Some people who are allergic to the plants from aster family (including ragweed) may also be allergic to chamomile.

Ways to take chamomile:
  • capsules (300 to 400 mg) - up to six/day
  • tincture - 10 to 40 drops - three times/day
  • tea - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried flowers (or one tea bag) in a hot cup of water - three times/day or at least once - before bed time

2. Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) - ENERGY

ginseng + insomnia=bokeh fun
Photo ginseng + insomnia=bokeh fun - courtesy of eyard_99

Shen Nong wrote in 2,000 years old herbal that ginseng is good for quieting the spirit, curbing the emotions, brightening the eyes, enlightening the mind, increasing wisdom, and, with continuous use, “longevity with light weight.”

Scientific studies more or less confirmed these observations and in Germany, Asian ginseng products are even allowed to be 'labeled as tonics to treat fatigue, reduced work capacity, and lack of concentration.'

Ways to take Asian ginseng:
  • capsules of dried or steamed root (500 to 600 mg) - up to four/day
  • tea - 3 teaspoons of dried or sliced root per cup of water. Simmer the herb and water in a saucepan for 45 minutes, keep it covered. Strain and let cool down. Drink one cup - two to three times/day.

3. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) - EYE STRAIN

_Bilberry 1
Photo _Bilberry 1 - courtesy of potus212

In sixteenth century Europe bilberry leaves were popular to fight inflammation, in­fection, to treat ­diarrhea, prevent scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), and disinfect mouth sores.

This blueberry relative is small shrub with blue/black berries, ­native to northern Europe, western Asia, and the Rocky Mountains in North America. In my childhood memories, I can still see my best friend's grandmother coming from the spruce woods behind our village, carrying bilberry plants for drying. It happened every summer, after the fruit was picked.

"During World War II, pilots in the British Royal Air Force reported improved night vision after eating bilberry jam. During the 1960s, Italian and French scientists investigated these reports to learn whether bilberries could improve vision. As a result, preparations of bilberry fruit are used in Europe today to enhance poor microcirculation and thus improve eye ailments such as night blindness and diabetic retinopathy. Research shows that pigments in bilberry called anthocyanosides strengthen capillaries by protecting them from free radical damage and stimulating the formation of healthy connective tissue. However, most studies on bilberry have involved animals or only a small number of people."

Ways to take bilberry:

  • capsules - two to three/day (standardized capsules that contain 25 % ­anthocyanosides)
Side effects or interactions with other drugs have not been reported.

4. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) - CIRCULATION

green and yellow
Photo green and yellow - courtesy of * Yumi *

Ginkgo tree has been around for more than 200 million years. In China it has been cultivated since the fifteenth century and its leaves used to “benefit the brain", treat lung disorders, cough and asthma symptoms, and diarrhea.

In Europe, Ginkgo belongs to the top list of best selling herbal medicines.

Scientific studies show that Ginkgo improves circulation to extremities and brain due to to 'unique compounds called flavone glycosides and ginkgolides, which inhibit development of cardiovascular, inflammatory, and respiratory disorders. Ginkgo is a strong antioxidant — it directs its free-radical scavenging activity to the brain, central nervous system, and cardiovascular system. This is what makes it promising in the treatment of age-related declines of brain function.'

Ways to take Ginkgo:
  • capsules - three/day (containing at least 40 mg of standardized extract)
In some people, Ginkgo might cause gastrointestinal upset, headaches, or skin ­allergies.

5. St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) - DEPRESSION

St. John's Wort: "... The Sword of Michael smote, and fell'd / Squadrons at once". Jochum Hof, Steijl, Limburg, The Netherlands
Photo "St. John's Wort: "... The Sword of Michael smote, and fell'd / Squadrons at once". Jochum Hof, Steijl, Limburg, The Netherlands" - courtesy of Rana Pipiens

St. John's Wort is native to Europe and grows as a weed in certain parts of U.S. You probably heard it on the news several times that this herb can offer the benefits of prescription antidepressants - without the side effects.

While in the Middle Ages several remarkable, mystical properties were attributed to this plant, recent scientific studies reported participating outpatients (taking St. John's Wort) - feeling less sad, hopeless, helpless, useless, and fearful.

Note that it takes six weeks of continuous use of this herb to see the results.

Ways to take St. John's  Wort:
  • capsules - three times/day (300 mg, standardized to 0.3 percent hypericin)
  • tea - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried herb - steep in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes
  • tincture - 3 to 4 droppers-ful twice daily
Caution: While taking St. John's Wort, stay out of the sun and tanning salons because Hypericin in flowers may cause fair skinned people exposed to sun - to break out in hives or blisters.

6. Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, E. purpurea) - COLDS

Purple Echinacea
Photo "Purple Echinacea" courtesy of sunflower19020

One of the most common herbal cold medicines on the market, Echinacea is also a favorite of gardeners - with its attractive appearance and hardiness.

Native Americans used it to cure disorders, ranging from colds to cancer.

Scientific studies found that Echinacea enhances the activity of white blood cells and other specialized immune system cells - although no single chemical constituent has been recognized as causing this herb's medicinal proposition.

Ways to take Echinacea:
  • capsules - up to nine 300 to 400 mg capsules/day 
  • tincture - 60 drops three times/day, start taking at the first sign of cold or flu and take continuously for two weeks
  • tea 
Those allergic to plants of aster family may also be allergic to Echinacea.
According to German government, people who suffer from diseases of the immune system, including multiple sclerosis and HIV infection - should not take Echinacea.

7. Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis, S. nigra) - FLU

Elderberry Wine
Photo "Elderberry Wine" courtesy of Liamfm .

This plant has more uses than I can squeeze into this one post. Throughout the centuries flowers, leaves, berries, bark and roots have all been used in traditional folk medicine. Elderberry bushes and trees have also been assigned several mythical and mysterious powers and properties - all around the world.

German physicians prescribe elderberry flower to activate sweating for treating fevers and  to increase bronchial secretions related to full-blown colds.

Israeli scientist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, along with her colleagues at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, developed an elderberry extract that proved its efficiency during a flu outbreak in 1993. The extract's ingredients supposedly disable flu virus from entering the cells (and infect them).

Ways to take Elderberry:
  • capsules - up to six 500 to 600 mg capsules/day
  • tincture - 40 drops every four hours
  • tea - simmer 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried flowers in one cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes - drink up to three times/day
Used fresh, all plant parts of elder might cause allergic or other unfavorable reactions. Safe use of this herb usually means dried or cooked fruits and flowers.

And, by the way, did you know that elderberries contain more vitamin C than any other herb - except rosehips and black currant?



Heather in Beautiful BC said...

Good information - it seems everyone I talk to has been sick, is sick or is worried about getting sick!

Owen Cutajar said...

That's a great write up. Looking forward to reading the rest of it

Karen said...

this has been very interesting and I cannot wait to read more

Sadie said...

Great info! I've taken some of these before, but some I've never heard of.

BarbaraRae said...

This is a great list with very useful information. I was surprised, most of these I have tried before, and they do work.

Viral said...

:DDDDDD Great Job!!

Lisa said...

I have to agree with Heather. My house has been sick since Christmas, so I am thinking that we need to try some of this.

Diane Scott said...

The elderberry was a surprise to me, though if I could remember to take gingko I'd probably be better off! Time to put elderberries on the list of must-have with cold/flu season here! Thanks!

Connie said...

It's good to know that most of these are available in capsule form. Much easier to find that way.

cady said...

i love chammomile tea. i drink some every so often when i can't sleep.

Samantha and Mr. Tigger said...

We think we need to take them all!! (hehehehehe) We learned some good stuff.Thanks for sharing!
Your FL furiends,

Julie said...

Chamomile is the best tummy medicine available!

Bhing said...

A very good information you got there.. thumbs up! :)

George said...

Interesting posts you have here ... I can see that you put a lot of hard work on your blog. I'm sure I'd visit here more often.
from ginseng photos.

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Daria's World - blog about people and things that matter the most

Daria's World - blog about people and things that matter the most