Herb Information and Their Uses: A-G

Before you decide to used herbs as a health treatment, it's important to understand the different types of herbs available to you, basic herb information and what each herb is used for.

Alfalfa: Alfalfa is proving to be an effective agent in battling heart disease, stroke and cancer. Never eat the seeds of alfalfa. It is the leaves used in healing. Alfalfa works great in treating weak and brittle nails. It can also improve bad breath.

Aloe: The most popular use of aloe is to topically treat wounds and burns with the gel from the plants' leaves. It is also used internally as a general tonic, but caution should be taken when using internally because it may have a laxative effect. If it is not prepared properly and the latex from the plant is included, it will irritate the intestine.

Apples: The old rhyme about an apple a day is quite true. Apples can help relieve diarrhea and constipation, prevent heart disease and stroke, fight off cancer, protect from diabetes, eliminate lead poisoning and treat wound infections. Avoid eating the seeds; they contain cyanide.

Basil: Basil oil kills intestinal parasites, and topically it kills bacteria that cause acne. Basil is often used in cosmetics. It can diminish black spots on the face and when used with rose water can reduce enlarged pores. Some studies show that basil can boost immune function. Do not consume high doses during pregnancy.

Bay: Bay leaf oil kills disease-causing bacteria and fungi. It can also be used as a mild sedative and is useful in stress management. Pregnant women should avoid using medicinal doses.

Bilberry: Traditionally bilberry was taken for mild diarrhea. They also have a reputation for improving night vision. Other possible uses include protection of blood vessels, preventing swelling caused by infection, helping protect against the effects of high blood pressure and lowering blood sugar in those with diabetes.

Blackberry: Blackberry has been used in treating diarrhea and other digestive complaints and in treatment of mouth sores and sore throat. Topically it can treat wounds and hemorrhoids. Studies show it may be effective in treating and managing diabetes.

Black Cohosh: This has been used around the world for women to treat symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, headaches, psychological difficulties and weight gain. It has also been used to help with premenstrual problems and painful menstrual cramps. It is also used in treating high blood pressure and prostate cancer. Do not use during pregnancy, as there have been reports of premature births associated with the herb.

Caraway: Caraway seeds have been used for centuries to aid in digestion and to treat gas and infant colic. Another use is to help relieve menstrual cramps. Pregnant women should not use in medicinal amounts.

Catnip: This plant is not just for kitty, so sit back and enjoy a cup of catnip tea. Scientists have confirmed several traditional uses of catnip, including treatment of heartburn and indigestion and relief of menstrual cramps and use as a mild sedative and for infection prevention.

Celery Seed: Celery seed has been used for weight loss and treating high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, anxiety, insomnia and diabetes. Studies show possibilities of celery seed being used to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Avoid use during pregnancy.

Cayenne (Capsicum): Capsicum peppers have a wide variety of uses. The most popular use is that of a pain reliever. Topical ointments and creams made from the cayenne have been used to treat joint swelling from arthritis and the pain of muscle spasms. A nasal spray made from capsaicin, the pain-relieving compound in capsicum, may be helpful for treating chronic runny nose, and capsaicin may also be helpful in treating cluster headaches. Studies show that chili peppers may help lower cholesterol and are recommended to stimulate the appetite, aid digestion and treat stomach problems.

Chamomile: Chamomile is one of the most popular, widely known and most widely used of all the herbs. Chamomile is mostly used as a tea to treat digestive distresses such as stomach aches, cramps, colitis and flatulence. It is also used to ease menstrual cramps and aid digestion and as a mild sleep aid. Chamomile has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help reduce inflammation when used topically. It can also be used as an immune stimulant. Breathing in the steam from chamomile tea may help relieve congestion.

Chaparral: This stinky plant has antiseptic action is used primarily as a mouthwash. Studies show it can reduce cavities by 75% and can help prevent gum disease. Studies also show chaparral to be promising in cancer prevention. It has anti-inflammatory properties and helps relieve the stiffness of arthritis.

Chaste Tea Berry: This herb has been used to treat menstrual cycle abnormalities and is helpful for premenstrual breast tenderness. It can also reduce the symptoms of PMS and normalize hormone levels. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid use of this herb and this herb should not be combined with hormone replacement therapies.

Cinnamon: The ancient Chinese used cinnamon for treating fever, diarrhea and menstrual problems. Greeks and Romans used it as a spice, perfume and treatment for indigestion. Today it is used for preventing infection, for pain relief, as a digestive aid and for calming the uterus. Studies show it may help reduce blood pressure.

Clove: Dentists use clove oil as an oral anesthetic and disinfectant. It is also used in many over-the-counter mouthwash and toothache-relief products. Cloves are also very good in for indigestion and as an infection fighter.

Cocoa: Yes, chocolate is good for you. Mainly the rich, dark chocolate that is full of antioxidants. It can aid in digestion, boost blood flow to the heart and help with chest congestion. It can also aid in the relief of asthma symptoms. Historically chocolate has aphrodisiac qualities as well.

Coffee: Coffee addicts rejoice: Studies show coffee does have it benefits. It is full of antioxidants, it is well known as a physical stimulant, it increases stamina, it may help prevent asthma attacks and it can help with weight loss. Coffee has also been shown to have many bad effects as well, including links to high blood pressure, heart problems and some types of cancers. Don't overdo it and skip all the fancy, frothy cream, sugar and other add-ins.

Coriander (Cilantro): This herb can help soothe the stomach, prevent infection and may help relieve arthritis. Studies show it reduces blood sugar.

Cranberry: The most popular use of the cranberry is to prevent and treat urinary tract infections. It has also been used to treat kidney inflammation in conjunction with antibiotic treatment. Research suggests that cranberry juice may be able to prevent the development of cholesterol plaque in arteries.

Dandelion: This annoying weed that pops up everywhere has beneficial uses. The Chinese have used dandelion to treat colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, ulcers, obesity and many other problems. Other uses include relieving bloating caused by PMS, as a diuretic and weight loss aid, treatment of high blood pressure, preventing cancer and treating congestive heart failure. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid using this herb.

Dong Quai: Tests suggest that dong quai may have an affect on immune function, but it is better known as a blood purifier and a mild laxative that can improve alertness. It has been used in the treatment of menopausal symptoms and is helpful for some women in treating menstrual cramps. Pregnant women should avoid using this herb.

Echinacea: This herb is widely used to treat colds, influenza and respiratory tract infections. It is believed to stimulate the immune system and help fight off infections. When used topically, it has been shown to speed up healing of wounds, eczema, psoriasis, herpes and even acne. Research is still being done to see if it can help treat certain types of cancers.

Elderberry: Traditionally, elder flower tea was used to break a fever by bringing on sweating. Elderberry juice has a laxative effect. The most common use of elderberry is to treat colds. Pregnant and nursing mothers should not use elderberry.

Eucalyptus: Best known as the food source for the marsupial Koala, this herb is widely used in products such as Vicks Vap-rub and Listerine mouthwash. The oil is often used topically for its vapors to loosen phlegm in the chest. It is also used in many lozenges, cough products and decongestants. It has antibacterial action that makes it a wonderful treatment for minor cuts and scrapes. When taken internally in high doses, eucalyptus oil can be fatal.

Evening Primrose: Evening Primrose oil is said to help with premenstrual syndrome. It may help lower cholesterol levels and has been used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been recommended as a supportive treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Fennel: Traditional herbal medicine used fennel to treat indigestion and flatulence and to encourage production of breast milk, improve sex drive, increase urination and bring on menstrual bleeding. In Europe fennel has been used to treat colds and congestion. Pregnant women should not use fennel oil or fennel extracts.

Fenugreek: Studies show fenugreek may be useful in lowering cholesterol and relieving sore throat pain and that it has a mild anti-inflammatory action. Do not use during pregnancy.

Feverfew: Feverfew has been found extremely effective in reducing the amount of migraine headaches up to 70%. It can also reduce pain and nausea associated with the headaches. It must be used beforehand;, once the migraine begins it does not seem to help with the pain. Pregnant and nursing women should not take this herb.

Garlic: Garlic is widely used for is cardiovascular benefits and its ability to lower cholesterol. Garlic has also been shown to break up and prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and keep blood vessels to the heart flexible in older people. Garlic extracts can fight bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae, though it is only about 1% as strong as penicillin. It is suggested that it may help prevent cancer.

Ginger: Ginger has been widely used to treat stomach conditions such as indigestion and flatulence and can prevent and treat nausea and vomiting. Ginger can also treat seasickness and motion sickness. Studies show that ginger can suppress coughs, stimulate immune system activity and lower cholesterol.

Gingko Biloba: This is another very popular herb and has been used by Chinese healers fro thousands of years. It is most often used to treat dementia and memory loss. The traditional Chinese use was to treat asthma. It may be effective for treating vertigo due to inner ear problems. Gingko has strong antioxidant activity and can protect nerves, reduce breast tenderness associated with PMS and stimulate sexual response. It has been shown to relieve impotence due to narrowing of the arteries that supply blood flow.

Ginseng: Ginseng has been used for over two millennia in China. The most popular use was that of a general tonic. It has been proven helpful in counteracting stress. Some studies have shown ginseng to improve reaction time, increase hand-eye coordination, increase concentration and improve stamina. Studies suggest that it is also a mild aphrodisiac.

Goldenseal: This herb has a reputation for being a natural antibiotic. It is used topically to treat inflammation and has been used in folk medicine as a mouthwash and gargle. It is sometimes used as a treatment for strep and sinus infection and has been considered for the treatment of certain cancers and HIV, but more studies need to be done. Pregnant women should not use goldenseal, which can cause uterine contractions. The use of this herb to mask or get rid of drugs in urine so they can not be detected is fictional. It does not affect the outcome of a drug test.

Gotu Kola: It is traditionally used to treat high blood pressure and nervous disorders. It also has antibacterial qualities. The extract has been shown to help with varicose veins and poor circulation in the legs. Other traditional uses include clearing up skin problems, treating rheumatism, jaundice and fever and helping wounds heal faster. The plant has a reputation as an aphrodisiac but there is no research to support this. Pregnant women should avoid using this herb.

Grape Seed: Grape seed oil can be used for cooking; it is rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Grape seed extract is used to improve circulation. Studies show it may slow macular degeneration, improve vision and reduce myopia. It may also have a role in dental health and as an anti-inflammatory.

Green Tea: Green tea is very popular for its use in preventing cancer and it is touted as a weight loss aid. The EGCG (Epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is responsible for the antibacterial and antiviral activity. Green tea can stimulate the immune system and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It can also reduce bad breath and lower cholesterol. Green tea is a natural antiseptic and is used for treating acne and other skin irritations. Do not use Green tea if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.

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