But before I end the series, I want to present you with one more article.
This article is actually not about herbal medicine, but about the swine flu and the push to get a vaccine for it.
One of the things I discussed in the last article on Herbal Approaches to the Swine Flu was the nature of viruses.
I said how because viruses can mutate, sometimes at whim, it’s not always the best thing to try and eradicate it with drugs, and that by trying to destroy it with potent medications, the virus strain can mutate into something stronger and uglier.
There is so much fear tied into the swine flu, what with it being labeled a pandemic, that people will accept what they are told and be willing to be vaccinated, if a vaccine is found.
All we have to do is look back in history, to 1976. That was the last time a swine flu pandemic occurred, and fear over what it could do then was rampant.
Vaccines were pushed and 46 million people in the U.S. got inoculated.
A significant percentage of people who had shots had adverse reactions, and many of those reactions were neurologically severe.
Here’s the deal: when you try and manipulate viruses and try and contain them, you are playing with fire, because they have the intelligence to rise up and mutate into something toxic.
And that’s why I said, in the Herbal Approaches to Swine Flu article, that an herbal approach to the swine flu is the wise thing to do.
When an herbal remedy meets a virus, it doesn’t try to eradicate the virus as much as it tries to harmonize with it and help the virus to settle down, stop mutating, and ease off on its manifestation of symptoms.
And so, I present to you the above two-part video, from 1979. The videos are from the CBS news show Sixty Minutes, and is a look at the 1976 swine flu vaccination campaign, and the adverse reactions from it.
The point of showing the video is for us to learn from the lessons of recent history.
And to help guide us to a more gentle, healthier way of living, that of a Low Density Lifestyle.
I’ve been talking about herbal medicine for the last two weeks, and to close the series I want to take a look at if there could there be herbal remedies for the swine flu.
The swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus has been getting a lot of press in 2009, ever since an outbreak began in Mexico in the wintertime.
This is not the first appearance of the H1N1 swine flu virus. Swine flu was first identified in the flu pandemic of 1918, and since then it has remained a strain that rears up from time to time.
There have been swine flu outbreaks in the U.S. in 1976 and 1998, and in 2007 there was an outbreak in the Phillipines.
The influenza virus is actually quite common in pigs.
So, in other words, the swine flu is nothing new. It’s just a different strain of the influenza virus.
And because viruses can mutate, sometimes at whim, it’s not always the best thing to try and eradicate it with drugs. Because by trying to destroy it with potent medications, the virus strain can mutate into something stronger and uglier.
That’s where the herbal approach could be the wise thing to do. When an herbal remedy meets a virus, it doesn’t try to eradicate the virus as much as it tries to harmonize with it and help the virus to settle down, stop mutating, and ease off on its manifestation of symptoms.
To that end, there have been a couple of herbal approaches in the works to deal with the swine flu.
One is occurring In Mexico, where the Mexican higher education body the National Polytechnic Institute
(IPN) has reached an agreement with the Beijing-based China Medical University to cooperate in medicinal plants research as part of the efforts to contain the H1N1 flu outbreak.
Guillermo Perez Ishiwara, the IPN’s head of postgraduate studies and research, said Monday that herbal therapy could work to fight the flu strain that has killed 83 and infected 4,541 people in Mexico.
IPN is already seeking plant-based anti-viral medicine in a bid to tackle the H1N1 flu virus, Perez said.
“We are seeking to find in the two herbal traditions plants that serve as anti-virals. Some of the components of the herbal formulas may stimulate the immune response, which mean they could become an alternative in preventing any outbreak that may come in winter,” he said.
“This is a virus that will emerge in a recurring manner and not just in the next winter season,” Perez said, urging researchers and scientists from several institutions to work harder and join hands to fight the virus.
Javier Grandini Gonzalez, director of the IPN’s National Medicine and Homeopathy School, said both Mexico and China are excellent in herbal medicine study.
And the second development is from a pharmaceutical company, Vanguard Pharmaceutical Corporation, that has recently produced a naturally derived product formulated to aid against strains of influenza by strengthening the immune system.
Called Swine Guard, the formula combines traditional Chinese medicine with many extracts that have proven to boost the immune system as well as offer many other benefits in the fight against influenza.
Swine Guard is formulated with:
Shikimic Acid, a traditional Chinese medicine to treat influenza and colds by strengthening the immune system and by functioning as an anti- inflammatory.
Echinacea Extract, which stimulates the immune system, prevents upper respiratory tract infections, is a mild antibiotic that fights strep and staph infections, and produces interferon which increases antiviral activity by improving the migration of white blood cells to attack foreign microorganisms and toxins in the bloodstream.
Microcrystalline Cellulose, which fortifies blood vessels, aids in the repair and maintenance of vital lungs, and improves the lymphatic system.
Ascorbic Acid, which is an antioxidant that enhances the immune system, helps regenerate wounds, protects against effects of stress, and helps prevent certain cancers.
Goldenseal Root Extract, which enhances the immune function, relieves stress, and is an energy booster.
Burdock Root, which purifies the liver, neutralizes most poisons, and detoxifies the system.
Licorice Root Extract, which treats sore throats and rejuvenates cells of the digestive system and liver.
And Shaitake Mushroom, Astragulus Root Extract, and Pau D’Arce Extract, all of which work to enhance the immune function.
For the last two days, I told you about ginseng, which is known as the King of all Herbs. I told you about how remarkable an herb it is in terms of its healthful benefits.
Today, I want to tell you about an herb that is second only to ginseng in popularity in Chinese Herbal Medicine. Because of this, I have crowned it the Queen of all Herbs.
This herb is Dang Gui, also known as Dong Quai and Tang Kuei. It’s Latin name is Angelica Sinensis.
It is also called the female ginseng, because of its prized value in women’s health, but it is an herb that is not just for women.
Like ginseng, Dang Gui has adaptogenic properties, which means that it helps you deal with stress and the effects stress has on the body. Like all adaptogens, it strengthens the immune system and balances the autonomic nervous system.
Dang gui has been used historically to treat women’s health disorders.
It contains phytoestrogens, which are chemicals found in plants that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.
Dang gui is said to help balance women’s hormone levels, both restraining and supplementing the body’s production of estrogen as needed. It is used to treat menstrual and menopausal symptoms, including migraine, cramps, mood fluctuations, and hot flashes. It is also said to help speed a woman’s recovery from childbirth and symptoms of low energy/chronic fatigue.
Dang gui helps relax the smooth muscles throughout the body, which makes it a potential treatment for a variety of illnesses. Not only does dang gui relax the smooth muscles of the uterus, but it also keeps the smooth muscles in the arteries dilated, helping to maintain regular blood flow and heartbeat.
Dang gui has been used to treat angina, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. Some studies have shown that the antispasmodic, dilating effects of dang gui may help treat chronic pulmonary hypertension in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Dang gui contains phytochemicals that help boost white blood cell production and fight inflammation, and may improve liver and kidney function. It is traditionally used to treat inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, and is currently being studied for its ability to prevent or treat cancer, liver and kidney disease.
Like ginseng, dang gui can also be used as an aphrodisiac.
Interestingly, dang gui possesses the distinction of being one of the few good non-animal sources of Vitamin B12.
In Chinese Herbal Medicine, dang gui is in the category of blood tonic. It is believed to strengthen the yin and blood, and is a core ingredient in many women’s health herbal formulas.
It can help to regulate the menstrual cycle, relieve menstrual pains and cramps, and is an ideal tonic for women with heavy menstrual bleeding who risk becoming anemic.
One of the most famous formulas in Chinese Herbal Medicine is Si Wu Tang, which is Four Substance Decoction. It contains dang gui; bai shao, which is white peony; chuan xiong, which is ligusticum; and shu di huang, which is Chinese Rehmannia.
This is a time-honored formula that tonifies the blood, and is used for many women’s health issues.
This formula is the base formula, and can either be used by itself or in some variation.
One of the most famous variations is a formula that strengthens both the qi and blood. This formula’s name is Ba Zhen Tang, or Eight-Treasure Decoction. It consists of dang gui and all the ingredients of Si Wu Tang listed above.
It also contains ginseng; licorice; fu ling; which is poria; and bai zhu, which is atractylodis.
This formula is another famous formula in the annals of Chinese Herbal Medicine.
Dang gui is also often used in China as an ingredient in cooking, which is an excellent way to take it in and use it as a blood tonic.
And so, if you include dang gui in your herbal arsenal, it will help enhance your health and wellness, let you experience healthy living, and allow you to live a Low Density Lifestyle.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
In yesterday’s article I told you about ginseng, which is known as the King of the Herbs.
Today I will continue with my discussion about this prized herb, which although native to Chinese Herbal Medicine, is really valued all over the world.
I told you about the different types of ginseng, but one thing I didn’t tell you is the root of the name Panax ginseng, which is the botanical name for Asian Ginseng.
Ginseng has been studied extensively for the last 20-30 years in China, Japan, Korea and Russia and has been found to have many beneficial qualities.
First and foremost it is an adaptogen, which means it increases the body’s resistance to stress and strengthens the immune system. Studies show that it significantly improves the body’s capacity to cope with hunger, extremes of temperature, and mental and emotional stress.
Furthermore, ginseng produces a sedative effect when the body requires sleep.
Ginseng has also been found to have anti-inflammatory effects. A recent study by a team of researchers at the University of Hong Kong isolated 7 constituents in ginseng, called ginsenosides, which showed immune-suppressive effects.
They found that these ginsenosides were able to inhibit the expression of genes that caused inflammatory actions in the body.
Ginseng has also been found to have anti-cancer properties, and a recent study found it can improve survival outcomes for breast cancer patients.
One study of ginseng’s effects on cancer was done with lab rats. It showed that while both white ginseng and red ginseng reduce the incidence of cancer, the effects appear to be greater with red ginseng.
A 2002 study by the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (published in the annals of the New York Academy of Sciences) found that in laboratory animals, both Asian and American forms of ginseng enhance libido and copulatory performance.
And In 2002, a double-blind, crossover study of Korean red ginseng’s effects on impotence reported that it can be an effective alternative for treating male erectile dysfunction.
Ginseng can also be used for Type II diabetes, as it has been found to lower blood glucose.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ginseng is seen as having tonic, restorative, and sedative properties. In the Chinese Herbal materia medica, it is placed in the category of Qi Tonic, and its abilities range far and wide.
Even the elderly prize ginseng as a tonic that helps increase longevity, but for that matter, in China and other Asian countries, ginseng is taken by people of all ages because of its health-giving capabilities.
In Chinese Herbal Medicine, single herbs are never taken – people take herbal formulas, which are usually many herbs compounded together.
But ginseng is the exception to the rule, and is the only Chinese herb that people take by itself. Again, that is because of its prized abilities.
So there you have it about ginseng, the king of the herbs. If you want to stay healthy, live a long life, and live a Low Density Lifestyle, I suggest integrating ginseng into your life.
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I’ve been focusing on herbal medicine in this series. The main point of this series is that incorporating herbal medicine into your medical needs can help you to reduce the need for drugs. And by doing so, you can become healthier and more in synch with living a Low Density Lifestyle.
In yesterday’s article I told you about 10 herbs that are good for stress. One of the herbs I mentioned in that article was Ginseng.
Today I will focus on Ginseng, which is known as the King of the Herbs.
Ginseng is part of the materia medica of Chinese Herbal Medicine, and is the most famous herb in the pharmacopeia. It has been valued for its remarkable therapeutic benefits for at least 7,000 years and was so revered that wars were fought for control of the forests in which it thrived.
An Arabian physician brought ginseng back to Europe in the 9th century, yet its ability to improve
stamina and resistance became common knowledge in the West only in the 18th century.
Ginseng is native to northeastern China, eastern Russia, and North Korea, but is now extremely rare in the wild and increasingly becoming endangered, due in large part to high demand for the product in recent years, which has led to the wild plants being sought out and harvested faster than new ones can grow (it requires years for a ginseng root to reach maturity).
There are two main types of ginseng: American ginseng, known as P. quinquefolius, and Asian ginseng, known as Panax ginseng. Asian ginseng can be either white or red ginseng.
In the U.S., there are woods grown ginseng programs in Maine, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, and United Plant Savers has been encouraging the woods planting of ginseng both to restore natural habitats and to remove pressure from any remaining wild ginseng.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, American ginseng strengthens the Yin energy and calms the spirit, while Asian ginseng strengthens the yang.
The reason it has been claimed that American ginseng promotes Yin while Asian ginseng promotes Yang is that, according to traditional Chinese medicine, things living in cold places or northern side of mountains or southern side of rivers are strong in Yang and vice versa, so that the two are balanced.
Chinese/Korean ginseng grows in northeast China and Korea, the coldest area known to many Koreans in traditional times. Thus, ginseng from there is supposed to be very Yang. Originally, American ginseng was imported into China via subtropical Guangzhou, the seaport next to Hong Kong, so Chinese doctors believed that American ginseng must be good for Yin, because it came from a hot area. However they did not know that American ginseng can only grow in temperate regions. Nonetheless the root is legitimately classified as more Yin because it generates fluids.
Most North American ginseng is produced in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia and the American state of Wisconsin.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Panax/Asian ginseng strengthens the Qi and Yang energy, improves circulation, increases blood supply, revitalizes and aids recovery from weakness after illness, and stimulates the body. Panax Ginseng is available in two forms:
The form called white ginseng is grown for four to six years, and then peeled and dried to reduce the water
content to 12% or less. White ginseng is air dried in the sun and may contain less of the therapeutic constituents. It is thought by some that enzymes contained in the root break down these constituents in the process of drying. Drying in the sun bleaches the root to a yellowish-white color.
The form called red ginseng is harvested after six years, is not peeled and is steam-cured, thereby giving them a glossy reddish-brown coloring. Steaming the root is thought to change its biochemical composition and also to prevent the breakdown of the active ingredients. The roots are then dried.
Red ginseng is frequently marinated in an herbal brew which results in the root becoming extremely brittle. This version of ginseng is traditionally associated with stimulating sexual function and increasing energy. Red ginseng is always produced from cultivated roots, usually from either China or South Korea.
There are other plants that are called ginseng, but they are actually from a different family or genus. These include:
* Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Southern ginseng, aka Jiaogulan)
* Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)
* Pseudostellaria heterophylla (Prince ginseng)
* Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng, aka Ashwagandha)
* Pfaffia paniculata (Brazilian ginseng, aka Suma)
* Lepidium meyenii (Peruvian ginseng, aka Maca)
* Oplopanax horridus (Alaskan ginseng)
Stress is not good for the health, as it can cause many health problems. It does not allow you to experience healthy living. And it will also keep you in a High Density Lifestyle mode.
Everyone has stressors of one kind or another in their life. The key is to manage stress and channel it. Yoga, meditation, exercise, walking in the woods, and journaling are some of the ways to enjoy some stress relief.
There are also herbs that can help you manage stress. Here are a few of the herbs for stress relief:
1. Licorice Root contains a natural hormone alternative to cortisol, which can help the body handle stressful situations, and can help to normalize blood sugar levels as well as your adrenal glands, providing you with the energy necessary to deal with the stressful situation at hand. Some claim licorice stimulates cranial and cerebrospinal fluid, thereby calming the mind.
2. Passion flower is considered a mild sedative and can help promote sleep. Passion flower also treats anxiety, insomnia, depression and nervousness.
3. Kava Kava, an herb from the South Pacific, is a powerful muscle relaxer and analgesic. Kava Kava is also effective at treating depression and anxiety associated with menopause.
4. St. John’s Wort has been used medicinally since Hippocrates time. Even during the Renaissance and Victorian periods it was used for the treatment of mental disorders. Though it presents itself as an unassuming, flowering perennial, St. John’s Wort was shown to be more effective than Prozac, according to a recent study, in treating major depressive disorders.
5. Lavender is effective at reducing irritability and anxiety,
promoting relaxation, a sense of calm and sleep. It is also a powerful anti-bacterial agent, and can work to balance hormones and stimulate the immune system.
While lavender can be consumed in a tea, it may work best as an essential oil that is breathed in by way of a diffuser or, in the case of stress and sleeplessness, an eye pillow.
6. Valerian calms people who are agitated, but stimulates those who feel fatigued, according to one Italian study. During World War II, the British used Valerian tincture to treat nerves shattered during bombing raids on London.
7. Ginseng and Siberian Ginseng can help you handle stress by sedating or stimulating your central nervous system, according to your body’s needs. Studies conducted in China showed that Ginseng also increases your brain’s utilization of amino acids, which is important because when you are under stress, your body uses more protein than usual.
8. Schizandra has a regulating effect on the central nervous system. Studies show that this herb quickens responses and makes people more alert while actually stimulating the nervous system. A 1983 study conducted in China showed that Schizandra relieves headaches, insomnia and dizziness and calms a racing heart. It has also been reported to control anger and aggression.
9. Skullcap was originally a Native American herb traditionally taken for menstrual problems. Today, it is mostly used as a tonic and sedative for nerves in times of stress. It helps to support and nourish the nervous system, and calms and relieves stress and anxiety. It can also be used when stress leads to muscular tension and pain.
10. Lemon Balm has a long tradition as a tonic remedy
that raises the spirits and comforts the heart. It is widely valued for its calming properties. 17th century British writer John Evelyn wrote that Lemon Balm “is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy.”
So there you have it – 10 herbs that can help you with stress and calm your spirits. These are all great tools to manage stress, give you stress relief, and help assist you in living a Low Density Lifestyle.
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I’ve been writing about herbal medicine all week. I’ve been saying how using herbs can be a great way to achieve better health and wellness, and to experience healthy living.
In yesterday’s article, I told you about a number of herbs that had excellent medicinal capabilities.
Today I want to tell you about Turmeric, which is one of nature’s greatest wonder herbs.
Turmeric, which is a member of the ginger family, is commonly used in Indian cuisine as curry powder. It is native to South Asia.
Turmeric has been used historically as a component of Indian Ayurvedic medicine since 1900 BCE to treat a wide variety of ailments.
Here is a list of ailments that turmeric is beneficial for:
Childhood leukemia (reduced risk)
Inflammatory skin conditions
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
New blood vessel growth in tumors
Studies have shown that turmeric has anti-tumor, anti-oxidant, anti-arthritic, anti-ischemic, and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition it may be effective in treating malaria, prevention of cervical cancer, and may interfere with the replication of the HIV virus.
In India, turmeric is readily available and has been used by many as an antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises, and has also been used as an antibacterial agent.
It is said to contain flouride, which is beneficial for teeth. In some countries, turmeric is also taken as a dietary supplement to help with stomach problems.
In Japan turmeric tea under the name of Avea, is sold as a treatment for depression.
Pakistanis also use it as an anti-inflammatory agent, and remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive disorders.
In Afghanistan and North West Pakistan, turmeric is applied to a piece of burnt cloth, and placed over a wound to cleanse and stimulate recovery. Indians, in addition to its Ayurvedic properties, use turmeric in a wide variety of skin creams that are also exported to neighboring countries.
In the latter half of the 20th century, curcumin was identified as the ingredient in turmeric that was responsible for most of the biological effects of turmeric.
According to a 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal, research activity into curcumin is exploding and the U.S. National Institutes of Health had four clinical trials underway to study curcumin treatment for pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, Alzheimer’s, and colorectal cancer. Curcumin also enhances the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which supports nerve growth.
There is evidence that piperine, found in black pepper, improves the absorption of turmeric. In 1998 researchers at St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, India found that curcumin taken with 20 mg of piperine increased the absorption of curcumin by 2000%, with no adverse effects.
This means that a low dose of curcumin (or turmeric for that matter) could have a greater effect in terms of health benefits when combined with black pepper than a large dose of curcumin or turmeric would.
Dosages between half a teaspoon three times a day of a mixture of 16 parts of turmeric powder to 1 part of ground black pepper, and two teaspoons of turmeric powder and half a teaspoon of ground black pepper per day have been recommended.
Turmeric is undergoing research for potential benefits against a variety of cancers. In addition to cancer in general, some forms that it is being tested against, or may be useful against, include:
Turmeric is also considered to inhibit H. pylori, a bacteria which may provoke cancer.
So there you have it on turmeric, one of the truly great herbs around. Another great thing about turmeric is that you can use it either in cooking as a spice, or as a medicine.
Either way, you can’t go wrong if you use it as a regular part of your health practices. If you do, you’ll be well on your way to healthy living and living a Low Density Lifestyle.
As I’ve said from the beginning of this series on herbal medicine, herbal medicine is one of the oldest forms of medicine on the planet.
They can be formulated in many ways, as I pointed out in yesterday’s article. Whatever way they are used, they can be very helpful in cultivating health and a better sense of wellness, which can then allow you to experience healthy living, along with living a Low Density Lifestyle.
Today, I’m going to mention a number of herbs and briefly say what their benefits are. Some of the benefits are based on lab testing.
After today’s article, I’m going to get more specific and focus on different herbs and discuss their beneficial properties.
But for today, here’s a look at a number of herbs:
Aloe vera has traditionally been used for the healing of burns and wounds.
Agaricus blazei mushrooms may prevent some types of cancer.
Artichoke may reduce cholesterol levels.
Blackberry leaf has drawn the attention of the cosmetology community because it interferes with the metalloproteinases that contribute to skin wrinkling.
Black raspberry may have a role in preventing oral cancer.
Butterbur has been used traditionally for abdominal cramps and constipation.
Cranberry is effective in treating urinary tract infections in women with recurrent symptoms.
Echinacea extracts can limit the length and severity of colds; however, the appropriate dosage levels may be higher than is available in over-the-counter remedies.
Elderberry may speed the recovery from type A and B influenza.
Feverfew is sometimes used to treat migraine headaches.
Garlic may lower total cholesterol levels.
German Chamomile has demonstrated antispasmodic, antiinflammatory and cholesterol-lowering effects in animal research. In vitro, chamomile has demonstrated moderate antimicrobial and antioxidant properties and significant antiplatelet activity, as well as preliminary results against cancer. Essential oil of chamomile has been shown to be a promising antiviral agent against herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), also in vitro.
Ginger can decrease nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Purified extracts of Hibiscus seeds have some antihypertensive, antifungal and antibacterial effects.
Lemon grass can lower total cholesterol and fasting plasma glucose levels.
Milk thistle has been recognized for many centuries as a liver tonics. Research suggests that milk thistle extracts both prevent and repair damage to the liver from toxic chemicals and medications.
Black cumin has demonstrated analgesic properties in mice. In vitro studies support antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and immune modulating effects.
Oregano may be effective against multi-drug resistant bacteria.
Pawpaw can be used as insecticide.
Peppermint oil has benefits for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome.
Pokeweed is used as a homeopathic remedy to treat many ailments. It can be applied topically or taken internally. Topical treatments have been used for acne and other ailments. It is used to treat swollen glands and weight loss.
Pomegranate has been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth in mice.
Rooibos has traditionally been used for skin ailments, allergies, asthma and colic in infants. In an animal study with diabetic mice, aspalathin, a rooibos constituent, improved glucose homeostasis by stimulating insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells and glucose uptake in muscle tissue.
Rose hips – Small scale studies indicate that rose hips may provide benefits in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Sage may improve memory.
Shiitake mushrooms are edible mushrooms that have been reported to have health benefits, including cancer-preventing properties. In laboratory research a shiitake extract has inhibited the growth of tumor cells. In addition, both a water extract and fresh juice of shiitake have demonstrated activity against pathogenic bacteria and fungi.
Soy and other plants that contain phytoestrogens (plant molecules with estrogen activity), such as black cohosh, have benefits for treatment of symptoms resulting from menopause.
Stinging nettle is effective for benign prostatic hyperplasia and the pain associated with osteoarthritis.
In vitro tests show antiinflammatory action. Stinging nettle has also been shown to reduce total cholesterol.
Valerian root can be used to treat insomnia.
As I said the other day in the article Herbs as Medicine, herbal medicine is one of the oldest forms of medicine on the planet.
Because the art of herbal medicine is a lost art in many countries, most people don’t know how to prepare and administer herbs. The only way most people take herbs these days is by taking them in pill or capsule form, courtesy of a supplement they bought at a health food or drug store.
But the potency of an herb in pill or capsule form is not strong. To get the true healing benefits of an herb, it’s best to start with the herb in whole form and make a preparation from that.
There are many forms in which herbs can be administered. Here is a list of some of the most common ways:
Tinctures – Alcoholic extracts of herbs such as echinacea extract. Usually obtained by combining 100% pure ethanol (or a mixture of 100% ethanol with water) with the herb. A completed tincture has a ethanol percentage of at least 40-60% (sometimes up to 90%).
Herbal wine and elixirs – These are alcoholic extract of herbs; usually with an ethanol percentage of 12-38%. Herbal wine is a maceration of herbs in wine, while an elixir is a maceration of herbs in spirits (e.g., vodka, grappa, etc.)
Tisanes – Hot water extracts of herb, such as chamomile.
Decoctions – Long-term boiled extract of usually roots or bark.
Macerates – Cold infusion of plants with high mucilage-content as sage, thyme, etc. Plants are chopped and added to cold water. They are then left to stand for 7 to 12 hours (depending on herb used). For most macerates 10 hours is used.
Vinegars – Prepared at the same way as tinctures, except using a solution of acetic acid as the solvent.
1) Essential oils – Application of essential oil extracts, usually diluted
in a carrier oil (many essential oils can burn the skin or are simply
too high dose used straight – diluting in olive oil or another food
grade oil can allow these to be used safely as a topical).
2) Salves, oils, balms, creams and lotions – Most topical applications are oil extractions of herbs. Taking a food grade oil and soaking herbs in it for anywhere from weeks to months allows certain phytochemicals to be extracted into the oil. This oil can then be
made into salves, creams, lotions, or simply used as an oil for
topical application. Any massage oils, antibacterial salves and
wound healing compounds are made this way.
3) Poultices and compresses – One can also make a poultice or compress using whole herb (or the appropriate part of the plant) usually crushed or dried and re-hydrated with a small amount of
water and then applied directly in a bandage, cloth or just as is.
Whole herb consumption – This can occur in either dried form (herbal powder), or fresh juice, (fresh leaves and other plant parts). Just as Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine”, it has become clear that eating vegetables also easily fits within this category of getting health through consumables (besides medicinal herbs). All of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are phytochemicals that we are accessing through our diet.
There are clearly some whole herbs consumed that are more powerful than others. Shiitake mushrooms boost the immune system and are also tasty so they are enjoyed in soups or other food preparations for the cold and flu season. Alfalfa is also considered a health food. Garlic lowers cholesterol, improves blood flow, fights bacteria, viruses and yeast.
Syrups – Extracts of herbs made with syrup or honey. Sixty five parts of sugar are mixed with 35 parts of
water and herb. The whole is then boiled and macerated for three weeks.
Extracts – Include liquid extracts, dry extracts and nebulisates. Liquid extracts are liquids with a lower ethanol percentage than tinctures. They can (and are usually) made by vacuum distilling tinctures. Dry extracts are extracts of plant material which are evaporated into a dry mass. They can then be further refined to a capsule or tablet. A nebulisate is a dry extract created by freeze-drying.
Inhalation as in aromatherapy can be used as a mood changing treatment to fight a sinus infection or cough, or to cleanse the skin on a deeper level (steam rather than direct inhalation here).
I discussed in yesterday’s article the use of herbs as medicine, and how herbs can be a vital part of enjoying real health and wellness and healthy living.
And, of course, a Low Density Lifestyle.
Today I want to get a little technical and discuss the scientific reasons plants can protect us from disease.
The reason plants/herbs can help us fight off ailments and inflammation is that they contain certain compounds. The phytochemicals in plants can reduce the risk of diseases associated with chronic inflammation, including cancer and diabetes.
At the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, Calif., research molecular biologist Daniel H. Hwang conducts studies to help scientists understand how phytochemicals fight inflammation.
His investigations have uncovered modes of action used by phytochemicals in many herbs.
Hwang’s team has found, for example, that phytochemicals can interfere with the normal flow of certain chemical signals or messages sent to and from cells involved in chronic inflammation. The messages these cells send are in the form of proteins.
In particular, his group is closely examining proteins known as TLRs (short for “Toll-Like Receptors”) and NODs (an abbreviation for the tongue-twisting “nucleotide binding oligomerization domain containing proteins”).
Their experiments show that certain phytochemicals can interfere with messages that, if unimpeded, could travel from TLRs and NODs, reaching and activating genes that can trigger an inflammatory response.
The studies suggest that different phytochemicals have different ways of interfering with these messages. For example, curcumin can undermine certain TLRs when a specific part of curcumin’s chemical structure reacts with what are known as “sulfhydryl groups” in TLRs.
But resveratrol, found in red grapes, has a different set of targets. Hwang’s experiments suggest that resveratrol interferes with molecules called “TBK1″ and “RIP1.” If unimpeded, these molecules would help convey signals to and from TLRs.
No matter how you perceive the healing nature of plants, whether you feel it is based on the healing spirit within the plant, or you feel it is predicated on the phytochemical reactions that plant substances have with cells that cause inflammation, the bottom line is: plants heal.
And the more we subscribe to that and the more we look to the plant world and less to the pharmaceutical
world for our healing assistance, the easier will we be capable of living a Low Density Lifestyle.
The reason for that is that the more natural we live, the easier is it to experience healthy living.
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