Herbs and Their Uses H - Z

Hawthorn: In some countries hawthorn is prescribed to treat angina and the early stages of congestive heart failure. Hawthorn dilates blood vessels and helps lower blood pressure. Studies suggest that it can also reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Avoid during pregnancy.

Horse Chestnut: Traditional uses include treatment of arthritis pain, rheumatic pain, coughs and diarrhea. It is considered valuable in treating varicose veins and can reduce edema. Horse chestnut is reported to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Juniper: Traditionally juniper is used as a diuretic and to treat bladder and kidney conditions. The extract can aid in digestion and relieve flatulence. Juniper may have anti-inflammatory properties and aid in the treatment of arthritis. It can cause uterine contractions so it should be avoided during pregnancy.

Kava-kava: This herb has been widely used to induce relaxation, reduce anxiety, bring on sleep, counteract fatigue and treat asthma, arthritis pains and urinary difficulties. The root has even been used as a weight loss aid. Never mix Kava with alcohol, sedatives, anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants.

Kelp: Kelp is a type of seaweed full of iodine. Studies show kelp can protect the body from toxic heavy metal poisoning and absorption of radiation. It can also help reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure and prevent some forms of infection.

Kola: This nut is also known as Cola and is what flavors popular cola drinks. It has been used to treat asthma. Studies show it can open bronchial passages. Avoid use during pregnancy because of the caffeine.

Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is taken internally as a tea primarily for relaxation. It has sedative and pain-reducing properties. It has also been studied and seems to be active against the herpes simplex virus, influenza virus and several other viruses.

Licorice: It has primarily been used to treat coughs, colds and respiratory infections. It has also been used extensively as a treatment for ulcers. Other uses include treatment of hepatitis-B, menopause and skin inflammations. It has antioxidant and anti-tumor activity. This herb should not be used by pregnant women or anyone with heart problems, kidney disease or gall bladder disease.

Ma Huang: The Chinese have used this herb for over 5000 years in the treatment of asthma and wheezing. It is used to treat colds, nasal congestion and nasal allergies. Ma Huang, or ephedra, is used in decongestants and diet aids. It should be used with extreme caution because it can cause serious heart problems, headache, insomnia, nervousness and agitation.

Milk Thistle: Milk Thistle extract has been used to treat liver and gall bladder problems.

Oregano: Oregano oil is used as a cough remedy to loosen up phlegm. Oregano can also be used as a digestive aid. Pregnant women should avoid using medicinal amounts; it has been known to stimulate uterine contractions.

Oregon Grape: Also known as Barberry, it is known to be good for the liver, gall bladder and a wide range of digestive problems. It has been used to treat ulcers, heartburn, high blood pressure, pinkeye and diarrhea. Topically it is used to treat psoriasis. Studies show it may shrink tumors and have possible value in treating arthritis.

Papaya: Papaya extract is the most widely used ingredient in commercial meat tenderizers. It is also used as a digestive aid and used to prevent ulcers. Pregnant women can eat papaya safely but should avoid papaya latex and medicinal doses of the leaves.

Parsley: This herb was traditionally used as a breath freshener. It is a diuretic and is used to treat congestive heart failure, to stimulate contractions during labor, to treat allergies and to reduce fever. Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women except under the care of a physician.

Passionflower: Not enough studies have been done on this herb, but traditionally it has been used to treat insomnia, nervous exhaustion, pain, tension, restlessness and digestive problems.

Pau D'Arco: This herb has antibacterial properties and can fight off fungus and yeast. Pregnant women should not take this internally.

Peppermint: The most common use for peppermint is for digestive problems. The oils are often added to water so the vapors can be inhaled to relieve the symptoms of colds and congestion. It is also used in cough treatments and throat lozenges. Avoid using if you are susceptible to heartburn. Avoid use during pregnancy.

Psyllium: Psyllium is a laxative that consists of dietary fibers. It is approved in over-the-counter uses under such brand names as Fiberall, Metamucil and others.

Pycnogenol: Pycongenol has been shown to alleviate asthma. It contains anti-inflammatory substances that combat bronchial swelling and constriction that trigger attacks. In a study done by Benjamin Lau, MD, PhD, asthmatic children who received a daily dose of the pine-bark extract were able to reduce or eliminate their use of inhalers.

Raspberry: Raspberry is often prescribed for many problems during pregnancy like morning sickness, uterine irritability and threat of miscarriage. Raspberry is also used to treat diarrhea and may help reduce blood sugar.

Red Clover: Used primarily as a supplement for menopausal women, it can reduce the symptoms of menopause. The National Cancer Institute has found this plant to have anti-tumor properties and it may have a future use as a cancer treatment. Avoid use during pregnancy.

Rosemary: Like most culinary herbs, rosemary is used as a digestive aid. Mix leaves into foods to keep them from spoiling and causing food poisoning. Rosemary is also used as a decongestant and infection prevention. Topical use of rosemary improves circulation and is used to improve the appearance of wrinkled skin. It can be used to clean acne, blemishes and dry skin. Pregnant women should avoid using Rosemary in medicinal amounts.

Saffron: This spice was worth its weight in gold for centuries. It is still very expensive. Herbalists recommend this herb as a sedative, expectorant, sexual stimulant, pain reliever, digestive aid and menstruation promoter. Studies suggest it helps lower cholesterol, protect against heart disease, lower blood pressure and increase oxygen in the blood. Pregnant women should avoid using in medicinal amounts because it can cause uterine contractions.

Sage: The herb of wisdom was traditionally used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a meat preservative. It was also believed to enhance memory. Today sage is used as an antiperspirant it has been shown to reduce sweating by up to 50%. It is also used as a wound treatment and digestive aid as well as to reduce blood sugar and treat sore throats. It has been used to bring on menstruation and should be avoided by pregnant women.

Sarsaparilla: In ancient times sarsaparilla was thought to treat syphilis, but studies show there is no truth to the old myth. Illnesses that it has been shown to treat include high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. It has diuretic properties and should not be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Saw Palmetto: Traditionally used for urinary problems and sexual difficulties, it can also treat the symptoms of prostate enlargement and benign prostate hypertrophy and help protect against prostate cancer. Saw Palmetto has anti-inflammatory properties, can help reduce allergic reactions and helps stimulate immune response. Saw Palmetto has been shown to stop facial hair growth in women. Pregnant women and those that may become pregnant should avoid contact with the berry extract. Women using hormones for contraception or hormone replacement therapy should also avoid use of this herb.

Senna: This is one of the few herbs approved by the FDA and is sold as an over-the-counter laxative under such names as Senokot and Senolax. Pregnant women should not use senna unless recommended by a physician.

Siberian Ginseng: This is the Russian relative of China's ginseng. In Russia this herb is used primarily to improve physical performance and to reduce the effects of physical and mental stress.

Slippery Elm: Slippery elm bark has been used as a poultice for cuts, bruises and aching joints, and it is used to treat sore throat irritation. It has also been used in cough remedies.

St. John's Wort: Most frequently this herb is used to treat mild to moderate depression. It can also minimize mood swings associated with menopause. It may also improve sleep and mental concentration. In studies it is shown to have antiviral and broad-spectrum antibacterial activity. When applied topically it has anti-inflammatory properties and is used in treating wounds, burns and hemorrhoids. St John's Wort should not be used by pregnant women or anyone taking MAO inhibitors. Sunlight sensitivity may occur, so protect skin and eyes while using it if exposed to sunlight or sunlamps.

Stinging Nettle: Parts of this plant have been used to treat urinary tract problems. They have mild diuretic properties. The plant is also used to flush out an inflamed bladder and prevent formation of kidney stones. It is also used as a treatment for allergies and benign prostate hypertrophy. Pregnant women should not use this herb.

Thyme: Thyme fights several disease-causing bacteria and fungi and is traditionally used as an antiseptic. It has also has been used as a digestive aid, as a cough remedy and to help relieve menstrual cramps. Thyme ointments can reduce spots. It is known for its deep-cleansing properties and it can remove dull and dry skin. The herb, not the oil, is what should be used. Thyme oil is extremely toxic. Pregnant women should avoid except as a culinary spice.

Turmeric (Curry): Healers in India have used turmeric for healing for thousands of years. Western herbalists are just starting to realize its healing properties. It has antibacterial action that prevents food from spoiling and it can be used to prevent bacterial infections on minor cuts and scrapes. Used topically on the face it helps in treating acne and oily skin. It is used as a digestive aid and can fight intestinal parasites. It can protect your liver, treat arthritis, reduce cholesterol and may inhibit the growth of lymphoma tumor cells.

Uva Ursi: Uva Ursi has been used as a diuretic and urinary antiseptic for more than 1000 years across many cultures. It has been shown to cure urinary tract infections that did not respond to antibiotics. It is also used to treat bloating caused by PMS, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and to heal minor wounds. Avoid use during pregnancy.

Valerian: Valerian root is primarily used to calm restlessness and anxiety and to overcome mild insomnia. It is used as an antispasmodic, a mild tranquilizer, and has been prescribed for exhaustion, tension headaches, bronchial spasms and lingering coughs. It is sometimes used as a muscle relaxant to treat pain. Do not take during pregnancy. It is considered nature's sleeping pill. Experts recommend taking 450-900 mg up to 2 hours before bed.

Witch Hazel: Witch Hazel can be found in pretty much every drug store and is used in many over-the-counter products, including Tucks, Preparation H Cleansing Pads and other hemorrhoid treatments. The herb is a powerful astringent and is used in treatment of cuts, burns, scalds, bruises, inflammations, hemorrhoids and other skin conditions.

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