This information was not intended to diagnose or prescribe. Please consult with your health practitioner for serious health conditions, or before combining herbs with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
© Copyright – Christa Sinadinos
The following write-ups were created by Christa Sinadinos, a clinical herbalist and founder/director of The Northwest School for Botanical Studies (NWSBS). She teaches long-term courses in herbalism, including the Professional and Clinical Herbalist Training Programs. Christa is also the proprietor of Alpine Meadow Botanicals, an herbal extract company.
Additional information about the programs offered by NWSBS is available at www.herbaleducation.net.
The following information is for use as a brief educational reference. It is not intended for client diagnosing or prescribing. Please consult with an herbalist or other health care provider before taking herbs - especially for serious health conditions, or before combining herbs with prescriptions or over-the-counter medications.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
Alfalfa is a nourishing herbal tonic containing vitamins C, D, and E, as well as beta-carotene and chlorophyll. It is also rich in minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. One cup of tea before meals can help to strengthen the digestive system. Alfalfa aids in assimilating proteins, carbohydrates, iron, and calcium. It also helps to regulate the pH level in the stomach, and can be useful for individuals suffering from hyper-acidic stomach conditions and stomach ulcers.
Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Angelica root acts as an antispasmodic to the smooth muscle tissues. A decoction or a tincture can be used to allay respiratory spasms which can be beneficial for dry, irritating coughs or asthma. The root also has expectorant properties. A cup of angelica tea (or 30-60 drops of the extract) is effective for reducing cramping of smooth muscle spasms of the small and large intestines, and the uterus. The root can also be used as an emmenogogue to stimulate menses delayed by stress, illness, or exposure to cold.
**Contraindications: do not consume angelica during pregnancy. Angelica may also cause photosensitivity in some individuals.**
Anise Seed (Pimpinella anisum)
Anise seed has carminative properties that enhance digestion. It prevents and expels gas, and allays nausea. Anise can be used safely to treat morning sickness. It is also helpful for treating infant colic. Anise tincture has antitussive properties. It is often used as a flavoring agent, e.g. in black licorice candy.
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)
Ashwaganda is an Ayurvedic herb traditionally used like ginseng. It is a nervous system restorative and has adaptogenic properties that increase vitality and physical endurance. Ashwaganda is useful for: fatigue, general debility, anorexia, senility, irritability, anxiety, tremors, and stress-induced disorders. It rebuilds and nourishes the immune system following a deep infection. Ashwaganda enhances libido. It also has anti-inflammatory actions that are beneficial for treating arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic muscle pain, and joint weakness.
**Contraindications: do not consume ashwaganda during pregnancy. Avoid consuming ashwaganda during an acute infection.**
Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
Barberry and Oregon grape are plants of the same genus (Berberis) and can be used interchangeably. The root can be used as a digestive bitter to stimulate liver, pancreatic, and gallbladder secretions that enhance the digestion of fats and proteins. It is also helpful for symptoms arising from poor digestion, such as: chronic gum or teeth problems, poorly healing or dry skin, rapid shifts in blood sugar levels, and chronic constipation. It can be used as an antimicrobial and is helpful for treating intestinal infections.
**Contraindications: barberry contains berberine alkaloids, and should be used with caution or avoided during pregnancy.**
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Basil has medicinal properties in addition to being a delicious culinary herb. It is high in vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron, and contains up to 14% protein by weight. Basil can help to relieve mild stomach and intestinal cramps. In many Mediterranean countries, hot basil tea is used as a folk remedy to break children’s fevers. Basil increases the flow of breast milk. It can have a mild calming effect on the nervous system, and may relieve nervous headaches. It is also an aphrodisiac.
Bay (Laurus nobilis)
Bay leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, sauces, poultry, and meat. They aid digestion and help to expel gas. The leaves have carminative and mild diuretic properties, as well as disinfectant and lymphatic actions.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Black cohosh can be used as an anti-inflammatory, and is often most effective when combined with other herbs for treating arthritis and headaches. It has antispasmodic effects on smooth muscle tissues, and is useful for treating dry cough, digestive cramps, menstrual cramps, and referred pain of the gall bladder or kidney caused by passing of stones. Black cohosh helps to relieve nervous conditions. It can also enhance female reproductive health and can be used to tone the uterus. Black cohosh is said to mimic estrogen in the body, but does not raise estrogen levels. It can be used by women who are perimenopausal or menopausal to reduce hot flashes and tone the uterus. Unlike synthetic estrogen, it has no potential negative affect on uterine and breast tissue.
**Contraindications: do not consume black cohosh during the first 38 weeks of pregnancy. High doses of black cohosh can cause a frontal headache.**
Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)
Blessed thistle can be used as a digestive and a liver tonic. Similar to milk thistle, it can repair damaged liver cells. Blessed thistle also stimulates blood flow to the mammary glands, increasing and enriching the flow of mother’s milk.
Blood Root (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Blood root can be used topically to heal skin conditions such as lesions, tumors, and cysts. It also can be used as a topical treatment for melanoma. Blood root is beneficial in treating numerous lung conditions. It has expectorant properties, thinning and expelling mucus. It also has antispasmodic effects on the lower respiratory system that can be useful for treating dry, hacking coughs, including whooping cough, croup, bronchitis, and some types of asthma. Blood root has been shown to have strong antibacterial properties; thus, it is used in many dental care products as an anti-plaque agent. Unfortunately, this plant is threatened due to its overuse in dental products, and as a result of deforestation. Please use this herb sparingly.
Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
Blue cohosh is an effective uterine tonic. It can be used in small amounts in formulas for treating endometriosis, uterine and ovarian cysts, and fibroids. Small quantities of the compound syrup, root decoction, or root extract are used by midwives as a partus preparator during the last two weeks of pregnancy, and to stimulate labor. It encourages a speedy recovery after birth, and it decreases the intensity of post-birth uterine contractions. The root is an antispasmodic, and is helpful for relieving cramping of the uterus, intestines, and bronchioles. The root has emmenogogue actions that can stimulate menstrual bleeding. Please consult a medical practitioner before using blue cohosh during pregnancy.
**Contraindications: do not consume blue cohosh during the first 38 weeks of pregnancy. Excessive doses can cause nausea, vomiting, and gastric upset. Avoid use in cases of high blood pressure or labile hypertension.**
Blue Vervain (Verbena officinalis)
Blue vervain has sedative and antispasmodic properties. It can be useful for treating insomnia, especially for individuals who awaken in the middle of the night. Take 20-100 drops of the liquid extract in the evening and/or before bed. Blue vervain helps to reduce menstrual cramping and stimulate suppressed menses resulting from stress. It also reduces intestinal cramping. Blue vervain is a strong digestive bitter. It stimulates hydrochloric acid and bile secretion, improving the digestion of proteins and fats. It also acts as a diaphoretic, inducing sweating and helping to break a fever. Blue vervain is indicated for individuals whose nervous systems become aggravated from illness.
**Contraindications: do not consume blue vervain during pregnancy.**
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Boneset is a valuable remedy for colds, flu, and fevers. The hot tea acts a potent diaphoretic, helping to break a fever. It was used extensively during many flu epidemics, including “break-bone fever.” Boneset is also used as a remedy to reduce catarrh (excess secretions of the mucous membranes). One glass of the warm tea every half hour to hour is helpful in breaking up mucus and reducing a fever. The tea is also useful for relieving general dyspepsia. The bitterness of the tea stimulates digestive juices and helps to soften stools. Consume 4-8 ounces of the hot tea at frequent intervals to break a fever. Drink the tea at room temperature for digestive tonic actions.
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Borage can be used as an emollient to soothe dry, inflamed, or irritated skin. The leaves and flowers can be consumed following an accident or surgery in order to stimulate tissue regeneration, speed the recovery rate, and reduce scarring. Borage can be taken internally as an infusion (i.e. tea) mixed with calendula and horsetail, or it can be applied externally as a poultice or salve. Borage also has mild demulcent properties that can help to soothe and coat mucus membranes. It is a remedy for sore throats and irritated lung conditions. Borage has traditionally been used for courage; it assists in the energetic process of moving through heartbreak, the death of a loved one, and other difficult times.
Borage, like its well known relative, comfrey, contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (P.A.s). However, borage contains much lower levels of P.A.s than comfrey. Both borage and comfrey should be used cautiously due to the potentially damaging effects of P.A.s on the liver (when taken internally in excessive amounts).
**Contraindications: borage leaf consumption should be avoided during pregnancy and in cases of liver disease or liver problems, due to its pyrrolizidine alkaloid content.**
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Burdock root is a cooling liver tonic. It is useful in treating moist skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. These conditions often manifest when the liver is overloaded from a diet high in fat and protein. Burdock aids the liver in metabolizing these nutrients and encourages the removal of waste products - one reason it is considered a blood tonic.
Burdock also aids in the removal of uric acid waste products, making it useful for individuals who suffer from joint conditions such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or bursitis. These conditions often result from an excess of acidic waste products. Burdock root and seed can act as diuretics that are useful in relieving swelling in the hands and feet. Burdock root is safe to use during pregnancy for this purpose, but the seed should be avoided during pregnancy.
**Contraindications: burdock seed consumption should be avoided during pregnancy.**
Calamus (Sweet Flag) (Acorus calamus)
Calamus is an aromatic bitter herb that improves digestion and reduces gas, bloating, and excess stomach acidity. It acts as an antispasmodic and can be used to relieve stomach and intestinal cramping. It can also reduce cravings for tobacco, which may be due to its calming action, or because it fills nicotinic receptors.
**Contraindications: calamus consumption should be avoided during pregnancy.**
Calendula (European Marigold) (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula is known for its ability to heal skin; it is helpful in treating cuts, burns, abrasions, bruises, sprains, abscesses, and varicose veins. A well-strained calendula tea can be used as an eye wash for conjunctivitis; be sure to use a sterile eye cup or cotton ball, and make a fresh batch of tea daily. The tea can also be used as a topical wash for impetigo and thrush. Calendula acts as a soothing emollient for skin conditions characterized by dryness or flakiness, including eczema, dandruff, psoriasis, and the final stages of poison oak rash.
Caraway (Carum carvi)
Caraway seeds are a flavorful addition to applesauce, apple pie, soup, sauerkraut, cheese, and salad dressing. They are often added to rye bread. They contain small amounts of protein, as well as several B vitamins. Caraway seeds help to expel gas and prevent griping (intestinal cramping). Topical applications of the powdered seed poultice can help to relieve toothaches.
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)
Cardamom has carminative actions that help to relieve gas and bloating. It acts as an antispasmodic, decreasing stomach and intestinal cramping. Cardamom is often added to digestive bitters formulas. It is safe for children, although catnip and chamomile are generally more effective for treating infant colic. Cardamom can be used in combination with other warming herbs such as ginger and cinnamon to enhance circulation. It also acts as an aphrodisiac.
Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana)
Cascara sagrada is well known as a classic heroic treatment with a relatively potent action for constipation. The bark acts as a bitter tonic directly improving intestinal function and motility. It helps to restore digestive secretions and strengthen the musculature of the intestinal walls. Excessive doses can cause cramping and griping. Carminative herbs such as fennel, anise, and coriander should be combined with cascara sagrada in order to prevent cramping.
**Contraindications: avoid consuming cascara sagrada during pregnancy and while lactating.**
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Catnip is a mild antispasmodic that is beneficial in treating digestive cramping. It is a cooling astringent for the digestive tract. Catnip helps to relieve intestinal inflammation, and can be used as an adjunct treatment for diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohns disease. The properties pass through nursing mothers’ breast milk which can be useful in treating infant colic. When combined with peppermint and chamomile, catnip tea is also helpful for children with digestive cramps and restlessness. Catnip also reduces irritability resulting from fevers and teething. This herb acts as a gentle nervine and sedative. For children who do not like the flavor, pour the strained tea into the bath.
Cayenne (Capsicum annuum, C. frutescens)
Cayenne is high in vitamins A, B, and C, as well as calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Consuming small amounts of cayenne can increase salivary secretions and improve digestive secretions. Cayenne has a warming effect that can be beneficial for individuals who tend to feel cold. When consumed in small amounts internally, it can help to increase blood flow to the extremities and is useful for individuals who suffer from cold hands and feet. It can also be used as a catalyst in small quantities in a formula. Cayenne increases blood circulation and acts as a carrier, directing the other herbs in a formula to their respective locations.
**Caution: keep cayenne out of reach from children and pets. Avoid touching the eyes or other sensitive areas after handling cayenne. Avoid using cayenne directly on the skin.**
Celery Seed (Apium graveolens)
Celery seed can be used to flavor soups, sauces, and other foods. Celery seed tea has diuretic properties. It can be helpful to rid the body of uric acid, which in excess, can build up in the joints and cause and/or irritate rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Thus, celery seed extract or tea is sometimes recommended for treating arthritis. It also has very mild nervine actions, as well as carminative properties.
**Contraindications: avoid consuming larger volumes (more than 16 ounces of tea) during pregnancy, as celery seed may act as an emmenogogue. Also, avoid consuming celery seed with acute or chronic inflammation of the kidneys.**
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile is a safe, effective remedy for children and adults. A chamomile tea or bath can soothe a restless, irritable baby or child, and encourage sleep. Chamomile can also be useful for teething or colicky babies, and reducing children’s fevers. It has anti-spasmodic, carminative, and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties can be helpful for treating stomach and duodenal ulcers, diarrhea, indigestion, stomachache, and stomach cramps. A chamomile compress, bath, or tea can reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis and joint aches.
**Contraindications: if you are allergic to ragweed or any plant in the daisy family, there is a possibility that you may experience an allergic reaction to chamomile. If you have daisy family allergies, test chamomile topically by placing some of the tea on the inside of your elbow before consuming internally.**
Chaparral (Creosote Bush, Greasewood) (Larrea tridentata)
Chaparral is very useful as a topical treatment for skin abrasions and injuries. It slows the rate of bacterial growth and kills bacteria due to its anti-microbial properties. It also has antioxidant properties and can be added to salves and oils to prevent rancidity. This herb can be used internally, but only with caution. Please consult a practitioner before consuming internally.
**Contraindications: chaparral can inhibit and stimulate the growth of cancerous cells. It is not recommended for people who have been diagnosed with cancer.**
Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex agnus-castus)
Chaste tree berry is a valuable hormone-balancing agent for women and men. It is useful for women who have progesterone deficiency, such as those who experience erratic or long menstrual cycles (over 30 days), or for those with slow-starting, crampy menses. Chaste tree berry is helpful for balancing excess estrogen that can cause uterine cysts and fibroids. It has the potential to dissolve ovarian and uterine cysts. Chaste tree berry has also been shown to reduce uterine fibroid growth and to help dissolve fibroids. For this purpose, it is often used synergistically with other herbs that support the liver and lymphatic system. Chaste tree berry appears to stimulate the synthesis of luteinizing hormone (LH) by the pituitary gland. In turn, this stimulates the production of progesterone by the corpus luteum. This indirect stimulation of progesterone production may have a regulating effect on estrogen. Corpus luteum insufficiency can cause many menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, depression, dizziness, and vaginal dryness. Chaste tree berry harmonizes and restores balance to the female reproductive system.
**Contraindications: chaste tree berry consumption should be avoided during pregnancy. Discontinue use if heavy menstrual bleeding occurs.**
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)
Chervil is a flavorful culinary herb often used in the French spice blend known as fines herbes. Basil, chives, parsley, sage, savory, and tarragon are also combined in the mixture. Chervil has a mild anise or tarragon-like flavor. The subtle flavor of chervil is easily lost, so it may be necessary to add more chervil than the other herbs in a spice blend. Chervil enhances the taste of soups, sauces, egg dishes, and baked potatoes. It contains up to 23% protein by weight, as well as trace minerals including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. It also contains small amounts of potassium, iron, and zinc. Chervil is a diuretic, a mild diaphoretic, and an expectorant.
Chicory Root (Cichorium intybus)
Chicory is well known as a substitute for coffee. It helps to reduce the acidifying effects of coffee and enrich its color. Some might agree that it enhances the flavor of coffee. Add one portion of ground chicory to two portions of coffee. Chicory root is a stomachic and improves the tone of the stomach. It also stimulates bile secretion and can act as a mild laxative.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is high in vitamins and minerals. The fresh leaves of this plant are a delightful addition to salad greens in the spring and summer. Chickweed soothes the skin and decreases internal and external inflammation. The tea helps to heal ulcers of the mouth, stomach, and intestines. A fresh plant poultice is effective as a drawing agent for boils and pus-filled wounds. Apply the fresh plant poultice to mosquito bites, bee stings, and inflamed hemorrhoids. A tea or poultice can aid with itchy, inflamed skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Used internally, chickweed may help to reduce and eliminate breast cysts, ovarian cysts, and uterine fibroids. It can also be used as a diuretic that aids in reducing water-related weight gain.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia)
Cinnamon is a well-known warming, aromatic spice. It is often added to baked goods, and Mediterranean and Indian cuisine, including curry blends. Cinnamon can be used to relieve flatulence, diarrhea, and dysentery. It is also useful as an acute remedy to relieve nausea and vomiting. Cinnamon is specific for any form of mild gastric or intestinal hemorrhage. It can help to slow or stop bleeding for most forms of passive hemorrhage. A strong infusion or decoction can reduce excessive menstrual bleeding. Midwives have used cinnamon during and after labor to control postpartum hemorrhage and restore uterine muscle tone. In addition, it helps to reduce pulmonary bleeding and nose bleeds. Long-term use of cinnamon may be too heating for some individuals.
**Contraindications: discontinue cinnamon use if it aggravates the stomach.**
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Cleavers is an effective lymphatic tonic, especially in the form of a fresh plant or plant extract. When used as a daily tea, a fresh plant tincture, or topically as a salve, cleavers has been known to relieve lymphatic swelling of the throat, armpits, or breasts. It is a supportive lymphatic therapy for treating herpes and ovarian cysts. It can be useful for treating long-term debilitating diseases when there is lymphatic congestion and/or tenderness. In addition, cleavers can be helpful for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Cleavers is a valuable diuretic, and in conjunction anti-infective agents, is useful for treating bladder infections. It also facilitates waste excretion and aids in the removal of catabolic waste products via the kidneys. Cleavers helps to reduce acute inflammation of the urinary tract and prostate irritation.
Coltsfoot (Eastern Coltsfoot) (Tussilago farfara)
Coltsfoot leaves and flowers have demulcent, emollient, and expectorant properties. A tea of the leaves can be used as a remedy for lung ailments such as bronchitis, laryngitis, asthma, whooping cough, and sore throats. A traditional European tea recipe used for these conditions contains equal parts of coltsfoot, mullein, and peppermint. Like comfrey and borage, coltsfoot contains small amounts of liver toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (P.A.s). The effects of the P.A.s are cumulative.
**Contraindications: coltsfoot consumption should be avoided during pregnancy, or limited to short-term use due to its pyrrolizidine alkaloids content. Little is known about the effects of the P.A.s on the fetus. Any person with debilitating liver conditions or compromised liver function should also avoid using coltsfoot.**
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey is well known as “knit bone.” For hundreds of years, it has been used to help knit tissue together. It helps to speed the healing of skin, tendons, and bones. Poultices placed directly over the affected area will dramatically speed the healing process. The root contains allantoin which stimulates cell proliferation. The root is also highly mucilaginous. Its soothing characteristics render it useful for laryngitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, whooping cough, and diarrhea. Comfrey also helps to treat ulcers and dyspepsia (indigestion). The leaves contain calcium, phosphorus, potassium, beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A), and up to 22% protein.
**Contraindications: comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (P.A.s) which have been shown to cause cumulative liver damage. Any person with debilitating liver conditions or compromised liver function should avoid using comfrey. It should be used in moderation when taken internally, and for a limited duration. The roots contain higher P.A. levels than the leaves. Due to its P.A. content, internal use of comfrey is contraindicated during pregnancy. The homeopathic form of comfrey (Symphytum) is generally safe for internal use.**
Copal (Bursera microphylla)
Copal is a resinous pitch that comes from trees considered sacred to the Mayan Indians. Traditionally, it was burned as incense. Currently, in Mexican tradition, it is added to love and purification incense blends. Many Hispanic communities burn copal in honor of departed relatives during Day of the Dead ceremonies.
Coriander Seed (Coriandrum sativum)
Coriander is a gentle anti-spasmodic, carminative, and stomachic. This spice enhances the flavor of Mexican and Indian dishes. It also improves the digestion of beans. Coriander can be used as an aphrodisiac. Coriander seeds come from the cilantro plant.
Corn Silk (Zea mays)
Corn silk acts as an anti-inflammatory demulcent in the urinary tract. It is beneficial in tea formulas for treating urinary tract infections. It soothes the urinary tract, and reduces bladder inflammation. Long-term use of corn silk also helps to strengthen the tone of the base of the urinary bladder. This action can be helpful for any individual with urinary incontinence and bladder weakness, including the elderly, menopausal women, children, postpartum women, and men with prostatitis. It is also a beneficial long-term tonic for individuals suffering from chronic urinary tract infections.
Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus)
Cramp bark is very useful for relieving irregular spasmodic pains of the uterus and ovaries. It is an antispasmodic for all of the pelvic organs, including the reproductive tract, the digestive tract, and the bladder. It also is useful for reducing menstrual cramps. Cramp bark is indicated when there is menstrual pain or pain of the pelvic organs that begins in the back and extends through the loins and down the thighs. Cramp bark can be consumed by pregnant women up to two weeks prior to their due date to prepare for labor and help relieve afterbirth pains.
Damiana (Turnera diffusa, T. aphrodisiaca)
Damiana is helpful in treating sexual impotence. It is a stimulant tonic for the sexual organs, and can assist in increasing the sexual appetite as well as sexual functions. Damiana has mood-enhancing properties, and can be used to treat mild forms of depression. It is also useful for individuals with a debilitated nervous system, as it is a gentle nervine and relaxant. Additionally, Damiana reduces irritation of the urinary tract. The herb has a soothing influence on irritated mucous membranes. Damiana has emmenogogue actions and can be used to treat delayed or suppressed menstruation, as well as for young women experiencing amenorrhea or irregular menstruation. It reduces menstrual cramping and, for some women, helps reduce premenstrual headaches.
**Contraindications: damiana consumption should be avoided during pregnancy, except to induce labor. It should not be used during menstruation by women who regularly experience heavy bleeding.**
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion has been used as a liver tonic for centuries. The bitter flavor stimulates the secretion of digestive juices. Its cholagogue properties increase the flow of bile, which improves the emulsification and digestion of fats, and also acts as a gentle laxative. Dandelion is a supportive herb for treating hepatitis, jaundice, gallstones, and other liver problems. Dandelion leaves act as a potassium-sparing diuretic and encourage the release of excess water, which is helpful in treating edema. The leaves can also be used as an adjunct treatment for kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridum)
Devil’s club is a member of the ginseng family. It is an expectorant and respiratory stimulant. It softens and expels thick, viscous mucus, and regulates mucus membrane secretions. The cold infusion is useful for treating rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders. Devil’s club can enhance the liver’s ability to metabolize acidic waste products.
Native Americans have long used this herb in conjunction with other herbs for adult- onset, insulin resistant diabetes. It decreases sugar cravings, and reduces blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels. Devil’s club has adaptogenic properties similar to other members of the ginseng family. It decreases the hypothalamic and pituitary response to stress, allowing the body to cope more successfully with stress and anxiety. It also gently energizes the body without over-stimulating the nervous system.
**Contraindications: devil’s club consumption should be avoided during pregnancy. **
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Dill is often used as a culinary herb. It is a flavorful addition to omelets, salads, dressings, quiches, and - of course - dill pickles. Dill also has valuable medicinal uses, and is a treatment for infant colic (stomach cramps). Historically, colicky infants were placed to sleep on top of fragrant dill pillow beds and given la grippe, a diluted syrup that contains dill and fennel seeds. Dill can also be consumed by nursing mothers to increase the flow of breast milk and reduce infant colic.
Dragon’s Blood (Daemonorops draco) (Sanguis draconis)
Dragon’s blood is a resin that comes from a palm tree. Sprinkling this resin around the house or burning it as incense creates protective energy and helps to repel negative energy. It is said to increase the potency of other resins with which it is combined.
Dulse (Pamaria palmata)
Dulse is a sea vegetable with an incredibly rich source of vitamins and minerals. Sprinkle dulse flakes on salads, vegetables, sauces, soups, and fish. Dulse has a mild, salty flavor. It contains about 25.3% protein by weight. Dulse also contains iron, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and iodine. It is a good source of beta-carotene and vitamins B6, B12, C, and E. It also contains numerous other minerals and trace minerals including boron, bromine, calcium, magnesium, radium, rubidium, sulfur, and titanium.
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) (Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia)
Echinacea was used by the Plains Indians to treat bee stings, as well as spider and snake bites, and thus, acquired the name “snake root.” Echinacea slows the rate of tissue degradation and necrosis (tissue death), limiting tissue injury and speeding healing.
Echinacea has been used in recent years for treating acute cold and flu, and as a preventative to treat early symptoms of an illness. It increases white blood cells, and enhances the body’s innate immune response. However, echinacea should not be used on a long-term basis for prevention. It is a cooling herb and usually needs to be combined with warming herbs in order to work most effectively with immune conditions.
**Contraindications: regular use of echinacea should be avoided by individuals with Lupus. Consult an herbalist before consuming echinacea when treating other autoimmune conditions, as it may be contraindicated.**
Elder Flower (Sambucus nigra, S. mexicana)
Elder flower is beneficial as a diaphoretic; a hot infusion of the flowers induces sweating. Elder flower is indicated for viral infections accompanied by muscular aching, stiffness, rheumatic pain, and fever. It has mild expectorant actions. Elder flower is also a diuretic used to treat urinary inactivity, or as an adjunct diuretic to aid in the excretion of kidney (gravel) stones.
Note: elderberry is also used medicinally, as a lymphatic, expectorant, and antiviral agent for a cold or flu.
Elecampane Root (Inula helenium)
Elecampane can be used as a respiratory tonic and to speed the recovery process for lingering lung infections. It is specific for respiratory conditions with excessive bronchial secretions such as bronchitis, and for irritation of the trachea and bronchi that results in persistent, irritable coughing. Elecampane exerts a soothing expectorant action, but also acts as an astringent to reduce excess mucous. It also has carminative properties and bitter actions that encourage digestive secretions. Elecampane is especially useful for skin eruptions or discolorations resulting from sluggish activity in the digestive tract. This root is both a diuretic and a diaphoretic. Drink a hot decoction of the root to induce sweating and help break a fever.
American Ephedra (Mormon Tea) (Ephedra nevadensis)
American ephedra can be used as a preventative for seasonal allergies. Consume one or two cups of ephedra tea daily, one to two months before the allergies usually occur. American ephedra is much milder than Chinese ephedra (ma huang) in terms of stimulant properties; thus, it can be used more safely and for a longer period of time. The tea is also used to decrease lung and sinus congestion due to its astringent properties and respiratory dilating actions. The tea acts as a bronchial dilator, and is helpful for treating breathing difficulty or bronchiole constriction. Ephedra tea also acts as a volume diuretic to treat people with edema (water retention). The astringent properties can be useful for acute cases of diarrhea; however, ephedra has no known antimicrobial properties.
**Contraindications: consult an herbalist or avoid using American ephedra if you are taking heart medications, have heart problems or heart conditions, anxiety, or nervous system conditions. Discontinue using ephedra if it over-dries the mucous membranes.**
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
Due to its strong aromatic and camphorous odor, eucalyptus is often used as an antiseptic spray in sick rooms, and an ingredient in liquid soaps. It exhibits a potent antiseptic action in upper respiratory diseases and infections of the digestive tract. Steams with either the herb or 1-3 drops of the essential oil are useful in clearing the nasal passages. Eucalyptus steams dilate the bronchioles and aid in breathing. They also encourage expectoration of excess mucous in the sinuses and lungs; thus, eucalyptus is useful for sinusitis, bronchitis, bronchial asthma, and chronic post-nasal drip. Eucalyptus tea can be taken internally in small doses as an intestinal antiseptic to kill digestive bugs. It also exhibits a diaphoretic action, encouraging secretion of the sweat glands and reducing fevers. Eucalyptus has become popular as an anti-malarial agent.
**Contraindications: discontinue using eucalyptus essential oil or herb if it aggravates asthma or any other respiratory conditions. Use caution during pregnancy.**
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
Eyebright is a remedy for acute upper and lower respiratory tract infections with thin, profuse, watery discharge. It is useful if there is pressure behind the eyes, pain or heat in the frontal sinus, and if the pressure causes a headache or earache. Eyebright is also indicated when the eyes and throat are red or watery, and there is a constant inclination to sneeze or blow the nose.
False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium luteum)
False unicorn root is an endangered herb and should be used as infrequently as possible; it is on the United Plant Savers threatened list. However, in combination with black haw, false unicorn root can be used in case of a threatened miscarriage. It can also be extremely useful for women suffering from a prolapsed uterus. False unicorn root was used traditionally as a tonic for the reproductive organs. It is specific for women with feeble constitutions who are easily fatigued and have weakened nervous or digestive systems. False unicorn root is a general tonic improving the functional operations of the internal organs, especially the digestive system. It acts as a nourishing, restorative tonic. It is also indicated for males with a dull ache or dragging sensation in the prostate. It has a toning effect on the genital-urinary organs.
Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel tea or extract can reduce gas and bloating in children and adults. Fennel is a safe remedy for infants with colic, and its properties pass through the breast milk and are delivered to the infant. The seeds also stimulate and increase the flow of breast milk in lactating mothers. Fennel can be used alone or in combination with other carminative herbs to reduce gas and bloating. It has a sweet, anise-like flavor, with a hint of bitterness. Fennel is also an expectorant and antispasmodic for the respiratory and digestive systems. It is a helpful addition to tea formulas for treating a dry, hacking cough. Fennel tea also has diuretic properties. Fennel contains various nutrients including calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, protein, and phosphorous.
Fenugreek Seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Fenugreek tea is an invaluable remedy for stomach or intestinal ulceration and inflammation. It is a demulcent and an astringent, helping to soothe the mucus membranes and improve their structure. It is useful for acute and chronic digestive problems. Fenugreek also has carminative properties. The tea is useful in treating lung conditions such as bronchitis and sore throats. Fenugreek soothes dry, irritated membranes and encourages the expectoration of mucus. It also helps to reduce excess mucus. Fenugreek can be used as a recuperative tonic after a long, debilitating illness. The seeds can be used as an emollient poultice for boils, sores, carbuncles, and irritated eczema. Fenugreek is also considered an aphrodisiac. Although the seeds smell like maple syrup, they taste moderately bitter and somewhat sweet. Add fresh lemon, honey, licorice, or Indian sarsaparilla to improve the taste of fenugreek tea.
**Contraindications: fenugreek consumption should be avoided during pregnancy; it can also alter the smell of urine.**
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Feverfew is known for its effectiveness in treating migraine headaches caused by the constriction of capillaries in the head. Although it can be effective for some individuals as an acute treatment for migraines, most research suggests using feverfew on a daily basis for 3-6 months. The average dose for preventative measures is often 15-30 drops of the fresh plant liquid extract, or 1-3 freeze dried capsules per day. When feverfew is used daily for an extended period of time, migraine-induced headaches, nausea, and vomiting should become less severe and frequent. This herb has bitter components that stimulate digestive secretions and decrease liver congestion. Feverfew decreases pelvic congestion, eases menstrual cramping, and stimulates menses when delayed.
**Contraindications: feverfew should not be used during pregnancy. Fresh feverfew can cause mouth ulceration in some individuals; discontinue use if this occurs. Feverfew has blood-thinning properties. Avoid using this herb one to two weeks prior to surgery and one week following surgery.**
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
Frankincense is a resin often used as incense; when burned, it helps to encourage purification and protection. It is also said to drive out negative energy. It is burned in temples and churches to aid in meditation and encourages spiritual growth. Frankincense also has medicinal properties; it contains resins that are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory in the lungs, urinary tract, and genitals. The tincture can be used to treat stomach ulcers and diarrhea.
**Contraindications: avoid using frankincense internally in cases of acute or chronic kidney inflammation or kidney conditions.**
Fringe Tree Root Bark (Chionanthus virginicus)
Fringe tree root bark is a powerful cholagogue that stimulates the flow of bile from the gall bladder. One of its primary uses is to relieve referred pain caused by gall bladder attacks; it also helps to speed the passing of gallstones. This herb is quite bitter; it improves the appetite, aids in the assimilation of nutrients, and helps to tone the digestive organs. It can be used for chronic liver ailments including jaundice, hepatitis, hypertrophy of the liver, and portal vein congestion. Fringe tree root bark relieves irritation of the stomach caused by alcohol, as well as inflammatory conditions of the duodenum.
**Contraindications: avoid using fringe tree root bark with individuals who have a blocked bile duct.**
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic is a multifunctional herb that bridges the gap between medicinal herb, culinary herb, and dietary supplement. It is easily incorporated into foods such as sauces, soups, and salad dressings. Its nutritional components are impressive; garlic contains numerous vitamins and minerals. The fresh cloves have potent expectorant and respiratory anti-spasmodic properties. Garlic has strong broad-spectrum effects against bacteria, especially those highly resistant to antibiotics. It has anti-viral properties, and prevents the random attachment of viruses. Thus, garlic is used to treat colds, flu, coughs, bronchitis, sinus congestion, and digestive microbes. Garlic also produces a favorable effect in the intestinal micro-flora and enhances mineral absorption. It can be used as a post-antibiotic therapy to prevent or treat yeast infections (Candida) and encourage the growth of beneficial intestinal flora.
**Contraindications: garlic has blood-thinning properties and should be used with caution by individuals taking blood-thinning medications or who have blood clotting disorders. Avoid consuming garlic two weeks before surgery, two weeks following surgery, as well as two weeks before and after giving birth.**
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
Ginger has a broad range of beneficial medicinal and culinary uses. It is a digestive stimulant that increases salivary and gastric secretions. It can be used to reduce flatulence and quell nausea. Ginger also reduces cramping of the stomach and bowels, as well as menstrual cramping. It can be used to treat motion sickness and reduce morning sickness. As a warming diaphoretic, it can aid in breaking a fever. Ginger can be used as an adjunct treatment for the common cold or flu, bronchial pneumonia, and chronic auto-immune conditions. It also has anti-microbial and anti-parasitic properties. Ginger has anti-inflammatory actions that can be valuable in treating rheumatoid arthritis. As a circulatory stimulant, it is helpful for individuals with cold hands and feet. Its blood-thinning actions may be useful in preventing heart attacks, and for individuals with high blood pressure.
**Contraindications: ginger has blood-thinning actions. Take similar precautions to those listed under the contraindications for garlic.**
Ginkgo Leaf (Ginkgo biloba)
Ginkgo can be used to improve circulation. It increases the blood supply to all tissues of the body, including the extremities, skin, heart, brain, and other vital organs. Due to the increase in blood supply to the brain, ginkgo can be used to treat cerebral insufficiency which may adversely affect memory, equilibrium, balance, concentration, and vision. Ginkgo can also be used in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Other symptoms or conditions that may improve with ginkgo include: headaches, depression, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), vertigo, glaucoma, mental confusion, and impaired vision. Studies have shown that ginkgo improves mental alertness, mood, and memory. Due to ginkgo’s ability to prevent normal blood clotting, it may be helpful in preventing strokes.
**Contraindications: ginkgo has blood-thinning actions. Avoid consuming ginkgo two weeks before surgery, two weeks following surgery, as well as two weeks before and after giving birth.**Consult and/or monitor with a health care practitioner before taking ginkgo in combination with other blood-thinning medications.**
Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea)
Goldenrod is used to treat conditions of the kidneys and urinary tract. It is helpful for treating difficult or scanty urination, suppressed or retained urine (especially with dark color), and chronic and acute nephritis. Goldenrod has mild pain-relieving actions when passing kidney stones. It can also improve symptoms associated with cystitis and urethritis.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Goldenseal is highly astringent and has anti-bacterial properties. It works effectively to treat bacterial infections of the mouth, sinus, lungs, urinary tract, and digestive system. It also helps to reduce excessive mucus resulting from infections such as conjunctivitis, sinusitis, and bronchitis. When the sinuses or lungs feel dry, irritated, or are bleeding, goldenseal’s astringent properties may aggravate these conditions. When an individual has lost their appetite due to a debilitating illness or a gut infection, goldenseal’s bitter properties will encourage digestive secretions and increase the appetite. Goldenseal contains berberine alkaloids that help to kill any foreign bacteria in the digestive system. Do not use this herb longer than two weeks without consulting a practitioner.
Goldenseal is considered endangered because it has been over-harvested in the wild. The use of organically cultivated goldenseal is strongly encouraged. Choosing an appropriate alternative to goldenseal depends on a person’s health conditions and constitution, but some substitutes include yerba mansa, barberry, bayberry, coptis, or Oregon grape.
**Contraindications: goldenseal consumption should be avoided during pregnancy due to its berberine alkaloid content. Discontinue use if it upsets the stomach or causes excessive dryness of the tissues.**
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
Gotu kola strengthens connective tissues and skin. It improves the integrity of collagen and elastin fibers that make up the muscles, skin, and vascular system. It speeds the healing of broken bones, torn ligaments, and tendons. Gotu kola hastens the healing of cuts, wounds, burns, and bruises, and reduces scar tissue. It is a long-term supportive agent for treating tendonitis, carpal tunnel, and rheumatic joints, as it stimulates tissue regeneration and increases blood flow to damaged tissues. Gotu kola also helps to strengthen and maintain the vascular system. It aids in treating varicose veins, anal fissures, and poor circulation. Gotu kola also improves hair and nail strength. It is an appropriate treatment for hair that splits easily, lacks luster, or has a tendency to fall out. Gotu kola is a useful treatment for chronic eye conditions such as poor vision and retinal detachment, as well as for weak, tender, or bleeding gums.
**Contraindications: consult with a health care practitioner before using gotu kola if an individual has hyperthyroidism or is taking thyroid medications.**
Gravel Root (Eupatorium purpureum)
Gravel root has diuretic properties that can be helpful in treating kidney stones, hematuria, and dropsy, as well as kidney and bladder diseases resulting from excessive uric acid. Gravel root treats referred pain often experienced by people passing gravel (kidney stones), and helps to rid the body of excessive uric acid. It can reduce symptoms such as the constant desire to urinate, feelings of suppressed urine, and burning sensations or dull bladder ache. Gravel root’s diuretic properties enhance the excretion of uric acid which can be helpful in improving rheumatism and gout. Gravel root was traditionally used to stimulate and impart tone to the female reproductive organs. It was used to treat chronic uterine diseases such as endometriosis and leucorrhea, as well as for insufficient labor pains.
Guarana (Brazilian cocoa) (Paullinia cupana)
Guarana is a mild nerve stimulant used in very low doses; however, taken in high doses it can be uncomfortably enervating and may cause anxiety. Guarana has a molecular structure similar to caffeine. It can be used to encourage nerve stimulation when an individual has been debilitated for a long period of time and has recuperated from an initial infection. It can also be helpful in low doses at the onset of a migraine headache when caffeine improves the symptoms.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy or lactation, and in children of all ages. **
Gum Benzoin (Styrax benzoin)
Gum benzoin is a valuable preservative for oils and salves; 30 to 60 drops of the tincture or several drops of essential oil can be added to two ounces of oil salves for this purpose. The essential oil can add a sensual base note to perfume blends. Steam inhalations of the essential oil are helpful for chronic and acute laryngitis. Gum benzoin is useful for many forms of bronchial irritation (without secretions).
**Contraindications: avoid internal use during pregnancy and lactation, or with renal weakness or disease.**
Hibiscus (Hibiscus salbdariffa)
Hibiscus has a tart, fruity flavor with astringent and demulcent properties. The demulcent actions help to decrease excessive acidity in the stomach, improving conditions such as gastritis and gastric ulcers. This herb is useful as a refreshing summertime tea to improve the body’s adaptability to heat. Hibiscus can help abate fevers resulting from overexposure to the sun or heat.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Horsetail contains high amounts of silica - a mineral that helps to strengthen and maintain connective tissue, including arteries and skin. Horsetail strengthens weak fingernails that break easily, and aids in treating infected hangnails. It also improves the condition of hair that thins, lacks luster, or splits at the ends. An infusion or topical poultice is useful to strengthen bones, joints, and arteries. To speed the healing of broken bones, broken capillaries, bruises, and weak joints, combine horsetail, oat straw, nettle, comfrey leaf, and rosehips. This combination is useful before and after surgical procedures.
** Contraindications: avoid using horsetail if you have kidney disease or kidney weakness. Limited use of horsetail is recommended during pregnancy.**
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Hyssop is useful as an expectorant for lung ailments including bronchitis, asthma, and respiratory conditions associated with coughs and colds. Extracts of hyssop have antiviral effects and can be beneficial in treating Herpes simplex, colds, or flu. A strong tea or poultice is useful for relieving muscular rheumatism, sprains, strains, and wounds.
Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus)
Irish moss contains large amounts of mucilage which helps to coat and soothe irritated or inflamed membranes of the lungs, stomach, or intestines. It is an expectorant and can aid with bronchitis, whooping cough, sore throats, and laryngitis. One could make a cold infusion of Irish moss or add the tea to soups, sauces, and grains. The tea is also beneficial for treating stomach and intestinal ulcers, and chronic diarrhea or dysentery.
Jamaican Dogwood (Piscidia erythrina)
Jamaican dogwood is a potent analgesic useful for treating numerous kinds of pain. It helps to relieve facial neuralgia and toothaches, and reduces headache pain. Topical and internal use of the herb can be beneficial in treating inflammatory rheumatism. Jamaican dogwood is an antispasmodic that sedates tracheal spasms resulting from respiratory infections such as bronchitis or whooping cough. It also helps to control night coughing and induce restful sleep. Additionally, Jamaican dogwood can reduce acute intestinal cramping, as well as gallstone and renal colic. It is effective for ovarian cramps and painful menstruation, and can reduce labor pains without interfering with normal uterine contractions. Jamaican dogwood promotes quiet, restful sleep in cases of insomnia caused by nervous excitement, anxiety, or pain.
**Contraindications: avoid using with other analgesic medications and use caution while operating heavy machinery. Use with caution during pregnancy.**
Juniper (Juniperus communis)
Juniper berries have disinfectant properties that can be used for treating upper and lower respiratory infections. Juniper has warming, expectorant actions. It also stimulates the production of white blood cells, and can be beneficial in the first phase of a cold or flu. The hot tea has diaphoretic actions, and can help in treating a fever. Juniper also has diuretic properties. It can be used in treating stubborn urinary tract infections; however, Juniper can be irritating to the kidneys and may aggravate acute inflammation.
**Contraindications: avoid using juniper during pregnancy and lactation, and in children. Discontinue using juniper if it aggravates the kidneys or in individuals who have kidney problems or existing kidney damage. Juniper is best used as a short-term treatment.**
Kava (Piper methysticum)
Kava is an analgesic beneficial for treating many forms of pain. It is useful topically and internally to relieve a toothache; however, it should not be used with infants or children. Kava has antispasmodic properties that are useful for treating cramping of the stomach, intestines, and uterus. Kava is specific for addressing pain in the bladder and urethra, and can be helpful in addressing chronic dysuria and acute urethritis. It can also help to reduce prostatic and testicular pain. Some find it useful in treating trigeminal neuralgia, and relieving muscle tension. Kava can have various effects on the nervous system. For many individuals, it has nervine and sedative actions that can be helpful in treating nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia. However, kava can also increase the intensity of the dream state. For others, kava is a euphoric or mood elevator that can be helpful for relieving depression. Kava also has potent anti-fungal properties. It can be consumed internally to address a yeast infection, and the strained tea can also be used as a douche. Kava also has topical anti-fungal actions that treat athlete’s foot, ringworm, and skin tinea.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy, lactation, in infants, and in children. Do not combine kava with other prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, alcohol, or narcotics. Avoid operating heavy machinery when consuming kava. Avoid using kava if it causes unpleasant dreams or nightmares.**
Kelp (Fucus vesiculosus, Laminaria spp.)
Kelp provides a wide variety of minerals, including iodine. Kelp can stimulate the production of iodine-containing hormones (i.e. thyroid hormones), but mainly in iodine-deficient individuals. Iodine deficiency can result in low thyroid hormone levels or hypothyroidism. Increasing dietary iodine levels in iodine deficient individuals can increase thyroid hormone levels; this can increase the body’s metabolic rate and help to reduce obesity. It can also be helpful for treating fibrocystic breast disease.
Kelp also contains algin (sodium alginate), a polysaccharide that is likely responsible for its demulcent properties. Consuming a broth, tea, or cold infusion of kelp soothes the mucus membranes throughout the digestive tract. The polysaccharides have immune-stimulating potential that can enhance disease resistance. The algin, fiber, and potassium in kelp contribute to its laxative effect. Regular consumption of kelp has also been found to provide protection against radioactive strontium, helping to allay the effects of radiation and reduce the risk of exposure to radioactive materials.
**Contraindications: avoid using kelp in individuals with hyperthyroidism, or consult a practitioner prior to use.**
Kola (Cola acuminata)
Kola nut has stimulant actions that closely resemble those of caffeine-bearing drugs. Indeed, it contains caffeine and can therefore become addictive. Kola can exhaust the body’s vital reserves, and should only be used short-term in low doses. However, it is an effective stimulant and can be used to increase mental alertness. Kola also acts as a vascular dilator at the onset of a migraine headache. It is used short-term in low doses to treat muscular and nerve depression that may occur with muscular debilitation.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy or lactation, and in children. Kola consumption should be avoided while consuming other stimulants. Discontinue using kola if it causes nervousness, anxiety, irritability, or insomnia. Kola should not be used by individuals taking prescription medications, as well as some over-the-counter medications.**
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is a gentle nervine and mild sedative. It can help to reduce anxiety and nervousness, and in some cases, it can assist in treating insomnia. Lemon balm can also be helpful as a treatment for hyperactive children, and for some children with attention deficit disorder. Lemon balm has antiviral properties that are helpful for preventing herpes and shingles, as well as speeding the healing process after the sores have erupted. Lemon balm tea also acts as a cooling diaphoretic. It can be used in the first stages of a cold or flu to break a fever. It is most specific for children’s fevers, or fevers in which a person feels aggravated or nervous.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla / Lippia citriodora)
Lemon verbena has an uplifting aroma and is a delightful flavoring agent in herbal infusions or iced tea. The fresh herb can be used to flavor fruit salads, melons, jellies, beverages, desserts, and fish. The leaves have carminative and stomachic properties, and can be useful in treating indigestion, dyspepsia, stomachaches, and diarrhea. Lemon verbena also has mild smooth muscle antispasmodic properties beneficial for stomach and intestinal cramping, or gas and bloating.
Linden Flowers (Tilia europa)
Linden flowers are gently calming to the nervous system and can be useful as a mild relaxant for children and adults. The flowers contain tannins and mucilage that help to reduce inflammation of the mucus membranes and excess secretions. The tea can soothe irritated membranes in the upper respiratory system and the digestive tract. Additionally, linden has cooling diaphoretic properties and can be used to reduce a fever in the first phase of a cold or flu. Linden contains several flavonoid compounds, including quercetin and kaempferol, which may be partly responsible for its anti-inflammatory and diaphoretic actions.
Lomatium (Biscuit Root) (Lomatium dissectum)
Lomatium has impressive antimicrobial properties. It is an antiviral agent for the first phase of a cold or flu, and for upper and lower respiratory infections. It also has antibacterial properties that strongly inhibit gram positive bacteria. The aromatic resins are excreted in the respiratory mucosa, making it an effective expectorant encouraging the thinning and expulsion of mucus. The resins also help to prevent infections from spreading throughout the respiratory system. A person with a head cold, chest cold, sinus infection, bronchitis, or pneumonia may benefit from using the root. Lomatium also stimulates the immune system by increasing the number of white bloods cells, and their rate of phagocytosis.
**Contraindications: avoid using Lomatium root during pregnancy, and in cases of liver disease. One should also exercise caution during lactation. Discontinue using if it causes a skin rash. Lomatium may cause photosensitivity in some individuals.**
Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
Marjoram is a sweet, aromatic, pungent culinary herb. It imparts a distinct flavor to soups, sauces, salads, vinaigrettes, egg dishes, fish, and meat. The leaves contain up to 13% protein by weight, and are high in vitamin A and C. They also contain minerals including calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and trace amounts of manganese. Marjoram has carminative and smooth muscle antispasmodic properties. It can be added to bean dishes to reduce gas and bloating. It also enhances food digestion. Marjoram has antimicrobial properties.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria / Spirea ulmaria)
Meadowsweet contains mucilage and tannins. It is beneficial in tea for healing stomach and duodenal ulcers, as well as for healing the intestinal lining. Meadowsweet helps to regulate gastric secretions and protect the stomach lining; the mucilage appears to act as a buffer in the stomach. Meadowsweet also contains aspirin-like salicylic acid, and can be used as an alternative to aspirin. The salicylic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, helping to reduce muscle and joint inflammation. Meadowsweet can be helpful for treating headaches, rheumatic joints, fever, and sore muscles. Additionally, meadowsweet is a diuretic that enhances the removal of uric acid, and can be useful in treating gout, arthritis, and kidney stones. The hot tea can be used as a cooling diaphoretic to help break a fever.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
Milk thistle seed is an important liver protectant and regenerative agent. It can be used to enhance detoxification of hormones, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, endogenous toxins, and heavy metals. One way in which milk thistle prevents liver damage is by inhibiting the formation of free radicals which damage other cells, resulting in immune problems, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, as well as other conditions. Milk thistle can be used by individuals with poor liver function or liver disease; it can also be beneficial for treating skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne. It can be used as a short- or long-term treatment for liver diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or jaundice. Silamarin, a concentrated form of milk thistle, is used to prevent liver damage. It can be helpful if ingested immediately after toxic alkaloid poisoning from mushrooms. In particular, it prevents damage of the liver cells that results from the Amanita alkaloids phalloidine and alpha-amanatine. It is speculated that silamarin prevents phalloidine from reaching its receptors in the liver cell membrane, which prevents the toxins from destroying the liver cells. Silamarin also protects undamaged liver cells from renewed poisoning by breaking the entero-hepatic circulation of alpha-amanatine.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
A hot infusion of mugwort serves as a diaphoretic to break fevers. Mugwort encourages mucus secretions in dry membranes of the sinuses and lungs. It also acts as an emmenogogue for women with slow, cramping menses.
A cold infusion of mugwort is effective for chronic gastritis and gastric ulcers. It protects the cells of the esophagus and stomach from harm caused by excessive secretions of acids. It should be avoided during acute flare-ups of stomach ulcers, since it is more appropriate as a long-term treatment for chronic conditions. The cold infusion will also improve the breakdown of dietary fats in the liver. If one is binging on fried foods, cheeses, or other rich foods, the blood becomes more viscous and tends to coagulate more easily. Mugwort improves the quality of the blood, and enhances the ability of the blood cells to repel each other, encouraging the smooth flow of blood through the capillaries.
The tea, poultice, or salve can be applied topically as an anti-fungal and anti-microbial.
Topical use is also helpful for treating sprains, hyperextensions, and bruises.
Mugwort pillows may be placed near the bed to stimulate and intensify one’s dream state. It should not be used near children’s beds, as it can cause nightmares.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy and lactation or when experiencing excessive menstrual bleeding.**
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Mullein is a useful remedy for dry, irritated lung conditions or a dry, raspy throat. The leaf is an expectorant and a demulcent that encourages secretions in dry mucus membranes. An infusion of mullein is most appropriate when addressing conditions with dry tissues.
The leaves can be used as an alternative to tobacco, as an expectorant by smokers, or to treat a lung infection. Mullein smoke can reduce respiratory spasms, which can be helpful for treating asthma and dry coughs. Smoking the leaves is not recommended unless a person already smokes.
Mustard Seed (Sinapis alba)
Mustard is useful as an external application for pain. A poultice increases blood flow to the area where it is applied. A poultice made of one part powdered mustard seed and two parts flour, moistened with hot water is appropriate for topical applications. Mustard has little therapeutic value internally. Excessive consumption can cause a burning sensation in the stomach, mild gastritis, or vomiting. Small quantities used for culinary purposes should not produce these effects.
**Contraindications: please note that the direct or prolonged application of mustard may cause painful blisters. Do not leave the poultice on for more than 15-20 minutes.**
Myrrh Gum (Commiphora molmol, C. myrrha)
Myrrh is renowned for its age-old use as incense. Burning myrrh helps to purify energy, aid in meditation, create a sense of peace, and lift the energy in a dark or dreary atmosphere.
Myrrh is a potent anti-microbial and astringent. It can be used as a tincture diluted in water for a mouthwash treating gingivitis and gum infections. Consuming small quantities of myrrh extract (5-15 drops) stimulates the immune system by increasing the number and quality of white blood cells. It can increase one’s resistance when feeling tired or run-down, and relieve symptoms and speed recovery from laryngitis.
**Contraindications: avoid using myrrh internally during pregnancy, lactation, and in young children. The resins contained in myrrh gum can also aggravate the kidneys, and therefore use should be discontinued if one experiences a dull ache in the mid to lower back, or if one has existing kidney weakness or disease.**
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Nettle is among the most nourishing plants. It contains a wide variety of nutrients, including: calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, silicon, sodium (trace), thiamine, tin, zinc, and vitamins A and C. Nettle is also rich in chlorophyll. Nettle can be used as a nutrient-rich daily tea. It provides a fantastic source of easily-assimilated nutrients, especially for individuals with compromised digestion. Nettles’ nutritional properties support the immune system, the muscular-skeletal system, and the connective tissue, as well as stabilizing blood sugar. The minerals have an alkalizing effect which can be beneficial for conditions aggravated by hyperacidity. Nettle is an important herb used to treat iron deficiency anemia. It also has anti-allergic, astringent, diuretic, hemostatic, and galactagogue actions.
Oat Straw (Avena sativa)
Oat straw is high in vitamins A and C. It also contains vitamins E, G, and K, as well as B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and B6. Oat straw contains the following amino acids: histadine, argentine, leucine, lysine, and phenylalanine. The minerals contained in oat straw include calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, and zinc. Oat straw’s nutritive properties are highly beneficial for most individuals, especially for pregnant and nursing mothers. The minerals in oat straw have an alkalinizing effect and help to reduce sugar cravings and balance blood sugar levels. The calcium contained in oat straw is easily assimilated and can help to prevent osteoporosis. Additionally, the minerals contained in oat straw aid in developing and maintaining healthy bones, teeth, hair, and nails.
Orange Peel (Citrus sinensis)
Orange peel has a bitter, aromatic flavor and is considered a digestive tonic. It stimulates bile flow, increases digestive enzymes, and helps to reduce liver stagnation. It contains high amounts of pectin, which bind with and removes radioactive compounds, heavy metals, and environmental toxins stored in the body. Orange peel has carminative actions that reduce cramping potentially resulting from taking potent bitter, cholagogue herbs such as gentian and Oregon grape. It also contains flavonoids that help to strengthen connective tissues, improve the integrity of the blood vessels, and enhance free radical scavenging (i.e. antioxidant) properties. It is a tasty addition to most tea blends when used in small quantities.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Oregano is a flavorful, pungent culinary herb. It is a tasty addition to beans, omelets, meats, and tomato dishes. Oregano has carminative properties that help to reduce indigestion, gas, and bloating. It is an antifungal and antibacterial; it also has worm expellant properties. The herb may be added to the diet to reduce intestinal and vaginal Candida. A tea or the herb cooked in soup stock is useful as an expectorant for respiratory ailments such as bronchitis. Oregano contains aromatic oils that are antibacterial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory.
Oregon Grape (Berberis vulgaris)
Oregon grape root can be used as a digestive bitter. It stimulates liver, pancreatic, and gallbladder secretions, which can enhance the digestion of fats and proteins. It is also helpful for symptoms arising from poor digestion, such as chronic gum or teeth problems, poorly healing or dry skin, rapid shifts in blood sugar levels, and chronic constipation. Oregon grape root can be used as an antimicrobial for intestinal infections, including Salmonella and Candida. It can also be beneficial for treating liver conditions including jaundice, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and gall stones.
**Contraindications: Oregon grape root contains berberine alkaloids and should be used with caution or avoided during pregnancy. Consult a practitioner before using Oregon grape root as a long-term treatment. **
Osha Root (Ligusticum porteri)
Osha can be highly effective in treating acute viral infections. The root soothes and anesthetizes sore throats and bronchial inflammations. It is an expectorant that encourages the thinning and expelling of mucus, which is appropriate for dry, hacking coughs. It also increases oxygenation in the lungs. The tea or tincture in hot water acts as a diaphoretic, causing sweating and helping to break a fever. This is especially useful in the first phase of an infection to aid in eliminating toxins.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy. Discontinue use if the condition is aggravated.**
Pau d’arco (Lapacho, Taheebo) (Tabebuia heptaphylla)
Pau d’arco has shown strong anti-bacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Brucella. Research demonstrates that pau d’arco also has been useful in treating tuberculosis, dysentery, and anthrax. Pau d’arco displays anti-fungal properties against Candida albicans. Research has shown that the bark demonstrates activity against some viruses including Herpes simplex, influenza, polio virus, and vesicular stomatitis virus. Additionally, pau d’arco has anti-parasitic properties. It can increase the number of red corpuscles, and is used as an adjunct therapy for treating cancer and tumors. It is used specifically to treat leukemia, and in supportive therapy for other types of cancer.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Parsley leaf is delicious in salads, tomato dishes, baked potatoes, fish, meat, egg dishes, and sauces. It stimulates digestive secretions and gastric activity, and has carminative and stomachic actions. Chewing the leaves after a meal will freshen the breath.
The root and seeds are diuretic, increasing the flow of urine. The diuretic actions are helpful in treating edema, and urinary tract infections, and to aid the passing of kidney stones. It stimulates excretion of uric acid and is useful for related conditions such as gout.
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
Pennyroyal tea has been used historically as an emmenogogue, to encourage menses, and as an anti-fertility herb. It contains the ketone pulegone, the primary constituent responsible for its emmenogogue effects. Pennyroyal can also soothe nervous headaches, and relieve upset stomachs and cramps. Pennyroyal is known as an insect repellent, helping to deter mosquitoes, fleas, mites, and ticks.
**Contraindications: even small amounts of the essential oil of pennyroyal can be extremely toxic if ingested. Ingestion of the essential oil may result in convulsions, irreversible kidney damage, coma, or death. Use of the essential oil should always be avoided in children, animals, pets, and individuals prone to seizures. Pennyroyal should not be used in any form (herb or oil) during pregnancy or lactation, or by women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding.**
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint is an age-old remedy that can be used to treat nausea, dyspepsia, and stomach cramps. Peppermint tea is a safe remedy for morning sickness. Peppermint anesthetizes the nerves in the intestinal tract, making it an herb of choice for stomach pain or an upset stomach. The tea is helpful in reducing pain caused by a hiatal hernia or gas. Peppermint can decrease heartburn and esophageal acidity due to hiatal hernia; however, for some individuals peppermint may aggravate the latter two conditions.
**Contraindications: discontinue use of peppermint if it aggravates acid indigestion or gastric reflux disease.**
Pleurisy Root (Asclepias tuberosa)
Pleurisy root stimulates bronchial secretions and is beneficial for lung conditions with a dry, irritating character. It acts as an expectorant, aiding in mucus removal. It also can reduce pulmonary irritation and relieve chest tightness and pain. Pleurisy root is helpful for treating acute bronchitis, pneumonia, croup, coryza, and catarrh. It is also useful for dry, non-spasmodic asthma. Pleurisy root is a diaphoretic that increases circulation and helps sweat glands remove waste products.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy and lactation.**
Poke Root (Phytolacca americana)
Although poke root can be dangerous, the tincture can be useful in very low doses. For instance, poke root is a strong lymphatic that is useful in treating hard, swollen and engorged glands, as well as tonsillitis. It can be used internally (with caution and in low doses) to treat mastitis and soreness or swelling of the mammary glands. Poke root can also be used to treat ovarian cysts.
Poke root is extremely potent and its internal and external use should be regulated very carefully. Only very small doses are recommended for internal use. Please consult an herbalist before using poke root.
**Contraindications: avoid use of poke root during pregnancy and lactation, and in children. Use with great care.**
Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)
Prickly ash can be used as a digestive bitter tonic for individuals with poor digestion. It increases salivary, gastric, and biliary secretions that improve digestion and the assimilation of starch, proteins, and fat. This herb causes a tingling sensation on the tongue, which is likely how it acquired the name “prickly” ash. It stimulates circulation and increases blood supply to the extremities, as well as dilating the blood vessels in the digestive system. Prickly ash can be beneficial for individuals who tend to have cold hands and feet. Additionally, it can increase the blood flow to the brain, lungs, and liver. Prickly ash’s circulatory stimulant properties improve the overall health of the tissues by increasing the oxygen and nutrient supply. It can also be used as a stimulant for sluggish or depressed individuals.
**Contraindications: people with acid indigestion should avoid consuming prickly ash. Discontinue use of this herb if it causes uncomfortable sensations of heat in the body.**
Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
Red raspberry contains a variety of nutrients, including calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, silicon, sodium, thiamine, tin, zinc, and vitamins A and C. It has uterine tonifying properties, and can be used during pregnancy as a partus preparator. Its astringent properties can help to reduce excessive bleeding that may accompany childbirth, in addition to reducing spotting and heavy menstrual bleeding. Red raspberry’s astringent properties can help to reduce inflammation in the mucus membranes, aiding in the treatment of sore throats, diarrhea, and digestive inflammation and bleeding. The tea can also be used as a douche to reduce excess vaginal secretions.
Red Root (Ceanothus americanus)
Red root is most commonly used to reduce lymphatic swelling and inflammation. It strengthens the lymph tissue, aids movement of lymphatic fluid, and improves the quality of the blood charge. A tea or tincture can decrease lymphatic swelling in the throat, armpits, and groin. It can also accelerate the healing process in cases of pharyngitis, tonsillitis, sore throats, and nasal catarrh. This root can help to treat individuals with chronic illnesses, including viruses such as chronic fatigue, mononucleosis, Epstein-Barr, and hepatitis. Red root does not kill the virus, but it decreases swelling of the liver and spleen, and speeds the movement of fluids through the lymph. Red root can be useful for the long-term treatment of breast cysts, ovarian cysts, testicular cysts, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.
**Contraindications: although red root has hemostatic properties, it also acts similarly to blood thinning agents. Avoid consumption two weeks prior to, and following surgery.**
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Red clover has been used traditionally as a “blood purifier” and a gentle cleansing agent. It contains alkaloids known as coumarins that have mild blood thinning properties. It can be useful in treating chronic skin conditions including dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. For such conditions, red clover combines well with nettles, alfalfa, oat straw, and horsetail. Red clover is a gentle expectorant and a mild antitussive agent. It can also be used to treat coughs, colds, and mucus congestion in the lungs. Red clover is also used as an adjunct therapy for tumors and cancer (as a supportive agent, not a cure). It is known as an “alterative,” a substance that alters chronic conditions. Red clover can be useful in the long-term treatment of auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome.
**Contraindications: red clover has mild blood thinning properties. Avoid use for two weeks prior to, and following surgery.**
Rose Hips (Rosa canina)
Rose hips became recognized as a rich source of vitamin C during World War II. The vitamin C and high flavonoid content strengthen connective tissues and help to reduce inflammation. This can be useful in cases of capillary fragility, and with individuals who bruise easily or have varicose veins. The high vitamin C content can also help speed the healing of wounds and support healthy tissue function. Rose hips are a tasty addition to tea blends.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary contains vitamins A and C, as well as phosphorus, potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium. It aids circulation, and is helpful in treating chronic circulatory weakness. This herb is used to treat patients with cerebral arteriosclerosis. Rosemary is known as “the herb of remembrance” and is often used in herbal formulas for memory. Rosemary is also a tasty, pungent culinary herb; it can be used fresh or dried. It has carminative and cholagogue actions that enhance digestion.
**Contraindications: avoid use in individuals with a blocked bile duct. Avoid daily use with high blood pressure or those consuming blood pressure medications.**
Rue (Ruta graveolens)
Rue is used in the European tradition to improve the appetite and digestion. It is also used topically to treat neuralgia, cramps, nervous spasms, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis. Rue can be beneficial when applied topically to relax strained muscles and tendons. It is most helpful when applied externally as a poultice or salve. Rue is also used as an emmenogogue to promote the onset of menstruation.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy and lactation, and in children. Rue can be toxic when consumed in high doses.**
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage is a warming, astringent herb. The tea can be useful for diarrhea, gastritis, and enteritis. The tea can also be used as a gargle for sore throats, laryngitis, tonsillitis, or mouth ulcerations. Sage is an expectorant aiding in the elimination of mucus. It also helps to reduce fluid secretions. Sage will reduce excessive perspiration, and can aid with night sweats. It can also decrease excess vaginal discharge; thus, it is beneficial for treating leucorrhea and yeast infections. Sage can also be used to dry up the flow of breast milk.
**Contraindications: avoid use during lactation, and use in moderation during pregnancy.**
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Sassafras is well known as a flavoring agent for root beer, tea, and recreational beverages. It is considered a diuretic and a blood purifier. Sassafras was traditionally employed to treat arthritis and rheumatism, as well as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. It can be used externally as a wash for poison oak, helping to dry the rashes and soothe the itching.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy and lactation.**
Savory (Satureja hortensis, S. montana)
Savory is a pungent culinary herb with a hot, peppery flavor similar to oregano. It combines well with beans, fish, meat, and vegetables. Adding savory to foods helps to improve their digestibility. Savory has carminative actions that can help relieve indigestion, digestive cramps, nausea, and lack of appetite.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa serrulata)
Saw palmetto can be used long-term to prevent and address prostate problems; it is beneficial for treating benign prostatic hypertrophy. Saw palmetto decreases swelling and irritation of the prostate and the urethra, and can be used to alleviate prostate pain. Saw palmetto also improves bladder tone. It enhances the bladder’s ability to contract during urination, aiding in the expulsion of urine and decreasing dribbling. Saw palmetto is also beneficial as a long-term tonic for individuals with interstitial cystitis and/or recurring bladder infections.
Saw palmetto is beneficial as a reproductive structural tonic for women. It improves the tone of the uterus and the cervix. It increases blood flow to the reproductive organs, increasing the delivery of nutrients and oxygen, and decreasing blood stagnation. Saw palmetto can be used for women with a dull ache or throbbing pain in the reproductive region. Some female reproductive conditions that may be improved by the long-term use of saw palmetto include cervical dysplasia, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovary disease, uterine fibroids, and uterine cysts. It is a wonderful recuperative tonic and restorative agent following childbirth. Additionally, it is a galactagogue agent which increases the flow of breast milk.
Saw palmetto improves the appetite, as well as digestion and assimilation. It can help to increase a person’s strength and vitality if he or she is feeling depleted or exhausted.
Senna Leaves (Senna angustifolia)
Senna is a very stimulating laxative and should only be used for short-term, temporary relief of constipation. The author recommends first considering other options such as demulcent herbs, carminative herbs, cholagogue agents, and/or psyllium. However, when a more heroic laxative treatment is needed, an infusion of the senna leaves is effective. In doses such as 2-4 ounces of tea, it produces normal evacuation of the bowels, but can cause griping if excessive doses are consumed. The author recommends combining senna with other carminative agents such as fennel or anise to prevent griping. Senna is sometimes used when constipation results after surgical operations or confinement, and in feeble, inactive bowel states. Senna leaves are active constituents in the Eclectic formula “Compound Licorice Powder.” The recipe: combine two ounces each of senna and licorice powder, one ounce fennel powder, and five ounces of sugar (optional). The dose ranges from ¼ gram to 1 gram in water. Another effective, simple laxative remedy: make a strong infusion of senna leaves and strain. Stew prunes in the liquid until they are thoroughly cooked. Eat one prune 3-4 times throughout the day. Senna may take up to 12 hours to take effect.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy and lactation, and with children. Senna should also be used cautiously with some prescription medications.**
Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Shepherd’s purse is a potent hemostatic that reduces bleeding, especially when the fresh tincture is used. It can help to reduce excessive bleeding resulting from extended menstruation or uterine hemorrhage, as well as severe bleeding during labor or postpartum. Shepherd’s purse can be used to treat hematuria (blood in the urine) resulting from cystitis or passing kidney stones. It reduces bleeding from flare-ups of ulcerative colitis, as well as bleeding hemorrhoids. Note that shepherd’s purse is not a curative for the conditions listed above; it primarily reduces bleeding which may accompany some of these conditions. Bleeding is often a sign of a more serious problem. Shepherd’s purse also has diuretic properties.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy, except to bring on labor.**
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Skullcap has nervine properties, helping to reduce nervous anxiety and decrease the negative effects of stress on the body. Skullcap can be helpful in treating insomnia, and is especially useful if a person is unable to sleep due to an overactive mind. It has anti-spasmodic actions, and can help to reduce muscular cramping of the back, uterus, and intestines. It can also help to reduce pain associated with bursitis, tendonitis, herpes, and shingles. Skullcap is useful for people recovering from addictions to substances such as tobacco, caffeine, pharmaceutical pain relievers (including morphine), and heroin.
Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva, U. rubra)
Slippery elm tea is very soothing to irritated sore throats and dry coughs, and is beneficial in addressing most conditions that result in dryness of the throat and lungs. A potent decoction can be consumed as a nutrient during recovery from stomach flu, or if there is difficulty digesting foods. It is also very nourishing for people who are debilitated and/or deficient. To make gruel, add three to five tablespoons of slippery elm to one quart of water, mix together, and cook on low until the desired consistency is attained. The gruel or capsules are also useful in treating gastrointestinal inflammations. Slippery elm can reduce inflammation caused by gastric ulcers, ulcerative colitis flare-ups, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or diarrhea. Used topically, the poultice helps to heal dry conditions of the skin, including ulcers, boils, and wounds. The inner bark is the most potent part of the plant.
Note: Slippery elm is an endangered plant. Try marshmallow root as an alternative.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Spearmint shares most of the properties of peppermint, but is not as stimulating and has a milder flavor. The tea can be used to relieve gas and digestive upset. Spearmint is sometimes used as a mild diaphoretic to treat the first stages of colds, flu, and fevers; it combines well with elder flower for this purpose. Spearmint is a delightful flavoring agent in tea blends.
Spikenard (Aralia californica, A. racemosa)
Spikenard has soothing expectorant actions. It can be used for chronic, moist lung conditions, and dry, irritating lung conditions. The tea or tincture can be useful as an adjunct treatment for lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia. It is also beneficial for those with emphysema or asthma, or for smokers. The root is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. It also contains aromatic resins that aid in restoring proper mucous membrane secretions. Spikenard is a nourishing lung tonic.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy. Discontinue using spikenard if it causes a rash.**
Spilanthes (Spilanthes achmella)
Spilanthes closely resembles echinacea in many of its actions. One should notice a strong tingling sensation on the tongue after ingesting the flowers or extract. Spilanthes stimulates the parotid glands and increases salivation. It also stimulates blood flow to the oral mucosa. It can be useful as a mouthwash and rinse for gum infections, degenerative gum diseases, and toothaches. It has a stimulating effect on the immune system and increases white blood cell count. Spilanthes also has anti-bacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal actions.
Spirulina (Spirulina platensis)
Spirulina is a chlorophyll-rich algae. It is a concentrated source of nutrients that can supplement the diet. It contains vitamins A and E, vitamin B complex, and minerals. Spirulina contains 0.5- 2 micrograms of B-12 per gram. This compares well to liver, which contains 0.2-1.8 micrograms of B-12 per gram. Spirulina contains 50-70% protein, with limited amounts of methionine and cystine. The chlorophyll content can be useful in cases of anemia, and to prevent altitude sickness.
**Contraindications: individuals with hyperthyroidism should avoid consuming Spirulina. Spirulina can also be too energizing for some individuals, so discontinue use if it over-stimulates the nervous system or causes anxiety. Only very low doses should be used with children (if at all).**
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
St. John’s wort helps to calm the nervous system and repair nerve damage. It is useful for a variety of conditions including nerve pain, nerve inflammation, herpes, shingles, insomnia, anxiety, and A.D.D. St. John’s wort is an anti-inflammatory, and can reduce pain and swelling in cases of arthritis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, sore muscles and joints, and hemorrhoids. It can also reduce ulcer pain and encourage the healing of stomach ulcers. St. John’s wort has been used for centuries to treat depression. Studies have shown that St. John’s wort possesses properties similar to both classes of anti-depressant drugs. This herb is an MAO inhibitor and a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (Blumenthal, 1989; Hobbs 1988/1989; Richo Cech 1997). It may take from three weeks to three months before the effects are noticed. St. John’s wort oil can be applied to hemorrhoids, fistulas, cuts, bruises, sore muscles, and mild sunburns. St. John’s wort tincture and oil are most effective when prepared using the fresh flowers and leaves.
**Contraindications: this herb should not be combined with certain pharmaceutical prescriptions, including birth control pills. Consult a practitioner before using St. John’s wort internally if you are taking medications. Internal consumption of this herb may cause photosensitivity.**
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
Tarragon has a rich, sweet, anise-like flavor. This herb is a flavorful addition to chicken, fish, salad and salad dressings, and vegetable dishes. The leaves contain vitamin A, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron. Tarragon can be used to stimulate the appetite and relieve an upset stomach.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme is often used as a culinary herb enhancing the flavor of egg dishes, fish, poultry, meat, vinaigrettes, and vegetables. Thyme leaves contain vitamin A, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Thyme has antioxidant properties, and can be used as a preservative agent for foods, oils, and salves. Internally, the antioxidant actions prevent free radical formation, and can aid in preventing cancer, strengthening the immune system, and improving cardiovascular health.
Thyme also has potent medicinal properties. It has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, and can be used in treating numerous conditions of the respiratory tract including colds, flu, bronchitis, asthma, sinus infections, and whooping cough. Thyme also has expectorant and antitussive actions, and can be helpful for dry, unproductive coughs.
Thyme has carminative properties that help to relieve digestive cramping and gas. It is useful for dyspepsia and sluggish digestion. Historically, thyme was used to expel hookworms.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric has been used for centuries in India as a spice and medicine. It is a pungent, warming carminative that enhances digestion. Turmeric increases blood flow to the digestive system, and helps to warm the body from the core. Cooking with turmeric improves the digestibility of foods. Turmeric acts as an antispasmodic to the smooth muscles. It inhibits prostaglandins, the agents that can cause smooth muscles to spasm. Consuming turmeric on a regular or semi-regular basis can help to improve digestive conditions that result in cramping or intestinal spasms, as well as to reduce menstrual cramping. Turmeric can even be beneficial as a tonic for some individuals with asthma, as decreasing prostaglandins can reduce respiratory spasms. It is most specific for asthma aggravated by cold weather, and when the mucus is clear or cloudy.
Turmeric has liver protectant properties. It shrinks engorged hepatic ducts in the liver and encourages bile secretion. Turmeric’s cholagogue properties encourage detoxification via the liver and the gall bladder, as well as enhancing fat digestion. Turmeric can aid in treating some liver conditions, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and jaundice. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties and detoxifying actions are beneficial for some individuals with skin conditions.
**Contraindications: avoid consuming turmeric regularly if one has night sweats, hot flashes, or yin deficiency with heat signs. Turmeric should be used with caution by individuals with anemia or blood deficiency. Use in moderation during pregnancy.**
Usnea (Old Man’s Beard) (Usnea barbata)
Usnea is a lichen renowned for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Usnea contains lichen acids, particularly usnic acid which is effective against gram positive bacteria. Examples of these fast-growing bacteria are: Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Pneumococcus. Usnea can be helpful in treating the following acute bacterial infections: bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections, and pleurisy. Lichen acids have little effect on Salmonella or E. coli, a gram-negative bacterium that inhabits the gastrointestinal tract. Usnea may also be included in formulas as an anti-bacterial for urinary tract infections and some digestive infections. It can be used as an alternative to the drug Flagyl. Usnea can be used as an anti-fungal internally and as a douche for yeast infections. Topical use of a salve, powder, cream, or tincture works well for fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm.
Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi)
Uva ursi can be used to treat urinary tract infections. It is best combined with other disinfectant herbs, as well as mucilaginous herbs such as marshmallow root when treating a bladder or urinary tract infection. However, this plant is very high in tannins and should not be used for more than one to two weeks, as it may irritate the kidneys and bladder. A strong, well-strained tea of uva ursi can be added to sitz baths. It acts as an astringent to relieve the irritation and inflammation of local tissues that often accompany bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, vulvitis, and the acute pain of herpes outbreaks.
**Contraindications: avoid internal use during pregnancy and lactation. Avoid using this plant internally for more than one week, as the tannins can irritate the kidneys. Discontinue use if kidney irritation occurs. Consult a practitioner when treating a urinary tract infection. **
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian is well known as a sedative. It can be especially helpful for insomnia resulting from pain or an overactive mind. The fresh plant extract of valerian has a strong antispasmodic action that helps to relax smooth and skeletal muscles. It is helpful for digestive and reproductive cramps, as well as muscle spasms of the neck, back, and legs. It can also be used topically and internally to reduce tooth pain. Valerian can help to reduce nervous anxiety and tension. It can be helpful as a nervine for individuals recovering from the use of addictive substances such as caffeine, tobacco, barbiturates, heroin, and morphine. Some people may experience the opposite effect on the nervous system from taking this herb. For instance, it may stimulate the nervous system, cause heart palpitations, or nausea. If this occurs, discontinue use and try another nervine herb.
**Contraindications: avoid using this herb with other pain medications. Do not operate heavy machinery or drive while taking valerian. Avoid using this herb if it causes unpleasant side effects. Consult a practitioner before using valerian during pregnancy.**
White Oak (Quercus alba)
White Oak is a powerful astringent rich in tannins. A gargle with the tea or tincture can help soothe a sore throat. A well-strained, cooled tea is effective as an eyewash or a douche for leucorrhoea. Internally, white oak has been used to stop diarrhea and gastroenteritis. Topical compresses are useful for treating burns, cuts, varicose veins, poison oak, and piles.
White Sage (Salvia apiana)
White sage inhibits bacterial and fungal growth. As a nightly foot soak, the salve or tea is useful in treating athlete’s foot. The salve or tea (as a topical wash) is beneficial for skin fungus and impetigo. The tea (cooled and strained) can be used as a douche for vaginal yeast. Consuming a hot cup of white sage tea encourages sweating (it is a diaphoretic) and can help to break a fever in the first stages of cold and flu. The hot tea will also encourage stomach secretions to alleviate difficulty digesting food, or a reduced appetite from illness. Drinking the tea at room temperature has the opposite effects, such as decreasing sweating and gastric secretions. White sage tea can also be used to help dry up mother’s milk when the child is weaning.
**Contraindications: avoid use during lactation, as white sage can dry breast milk. Avoid consuming the hot tea internally during pregnancy.**
White Willow (Salix alba)
White willow can be used as an anti-inflammatory to treat fevers and arthritis. White willow bark contains salicin or salicylic acid, the basis for aspirin. Salicin has anti-inflammatory actions that can be beneficial in cases of rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, and other inflammatory conditions. Unlike aspirin, white willow also can be beneficial for stomach ulcers and heartburn. White willow is most helpful to treat fevers when consumed as a hot or warm beverage, or when added to a tepid bath. The tea is also useful as a gargle for sore throats due to its tannin content.
Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina, P. virginiana)
Wild cherry is a respiratory sedative and antitussive agent. A syrup or cold infusion of wild cherry can be very helpful for individuals who breathe shallowly as a result of asthma or a bronchial infection. It helps to relax and strengthen the respiratory system in cases of infection.
**Contraindications: Avoid use of wild cherry bark with individuals who have very low blood pressure, respiratory depression, or cardiovascular depression.**
Wild Yam Root (Dioscorea villosa)
Wild yam acts as an antispasmodic for smooth muscles. It can be helpful for treating intestinal and uterine cramping, colic, griping, and pain from passing gallstones. Wild yam is a carminative and a bitter. It has been used safely as a remedy for morning sickness and nausea during pregnancy. Some individuals find it useful for tinnitus and to decrease the pain of inner ear infections. One of its folk names is “rheumatism root,” indicating its use for arthritis; it has moderate anti-inflammatory properties.
Wood Betony (Bishop’s Wort) (Stachys officinalis)
Wood betony has a mild calming effect on the nervous system. It helps to reduce anxiety and nervous tension. It can be used to treat headaches and migraines, especially when they are caused by nervous tension. It also contains tannins, which have astringent actions.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
Wormwood can be used as a bitter digestive stimulant; even low doses (5-10 drops of the tincture) are effective. It stimulates the appetite by increasing digestive secretions and peristalsis. It also promotes bile secretion. Wormwood can be used with caution to expel roundworms and threadworms. Wormwood has traditionally been used in liqueurs such as absinthe and vermouth.
**Contraindications: avoid use during pregnancy and lactation.**
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow has hemostatic properties. Topical poultices and internal use are appropriate. In fact, yarrow seems to help arteries re-assimilate blood that has flowed into tissues as a result of a torn vessel. Yarrow is well known as a diaphoretic; it is specific for high fevers when the skin feels hot to the touch, dry, and constricted. Yarrow contains volatile oils that stimulate mucus membrane secretions in the respiratory mucosa. It can be helpful for irritated lung conditions. Yarrow is an effective digestive tonic; its bitter components stimulate digestive secretions. Yarrow has astringent properties that can be useful in treating diarrhea. It helps tone the digestive tract and reduce bleeding and sensitivity of the membranes. It can also be helpful as an astringent and a hemostatic for treating diverticulitis, colitis, and bleeding hemorrhoids.
**Contraindications: avoid internal use during pregnancy.**
Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)
Yellow dock can be used to improve the health of the digestive system and liver. It has mild astringent actions, and when used in lower doses, it can help to reduce inflammation of the mucus membranes in the digestive tract. These mild astringent properties make yellow dock beneficial as a gentle, long-term tonic for inflammatory conditions of the lower digestive system, including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, leaky gut syndrome, celiac disease, and intestinal candida. Low doses, such as 5-10 drops of the tincture, can also help to reduce diarrhea and loose stools when the condition is not caused by a microbe. Interestingly, moderate doses of yellow dock (20-60 drops of the tincture) have gentle laxative properties. The root has cholagogue actions and contains anthraquinone derivatives, both of which account for the laxative effects. Yellow dock is beneficial in treating constipation; in this case, consume the tea or tincture up to 20 minutes before meals. According to most herbalists, yellow dock is one of the few laxative herbs considered safe to use during pregnancy.
Yellow dock enhances digestion of fat and protein and improves the assimilation of minerals. It can be used to improve the digestion and assimilation of iron, which is beneficial for treating iron deficiency anemia. It can also be used as a digestive bitter tonic by individuals with poor digestion, frequent gas and bloating, and/or difficulty assimilating nutrients.
Yellow dock is a gentle liver detoxifier. It can be useful as a treatment for individuals with chronic skin conditions, including acne, eczema, premenstrual breakouts, and psoriasis. Yellow dock also can be used as a recuperative agent for individuals who have had hepatitis or jaundice. In terms of Chinese medicine, yellow dock clears damp heat in the lower burner.
**Contraindications: too high a dose can cause loose stools. Either lower the dose or discontinue use of yellow dock if this occurs.**
Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica)
Yerba mansa is a useful antibacterial agent for infections of the sinus, lungs, and urinary tract. It has aromatic astringent properties that reduce excessive respiratory secretions and address stagnant mucus. The root can be very useful for treating respiratory infections and allergies. It acts as a urinary tract disinfectant as well as a diuretic, and can be used for treating cystitis and urethritis.
Yerba mansa can also be used when tissues are inflamed and congested as a result of injury, prolonged infection, or inflammation. This often happens following an infection that continues more than five to seven days. Yerba mansa helps to astringe the tissue, improving fluid transport and waste removal. It is effective in healing lingering infections of the mouth, gums, throat, lung, stomach, duodenum, and urinary tract. It also prevents scar tissue that can result from recurring infections.
Yerba mansa also has anti-inflammatory effects similar to aspirin that can be helpful for treating joint problems. A gargle of the tea is beneficial for bleeding gums, sore throat, or mouth ulcers. The root is also an anti-fungal agent; it can be used internally for treating intestinal or vaginal Candida. Topically, a dust of powder or salve is beneficial for athlete’s foot, ringworm, and other kinds of skin tinea. Yerba mansa has been used as an alternative to goldenseal.
**Contraindications: discontinue use of yerba mansa if it is too drying to the mucus membranes.**
Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californica)
Yerba santa is an expectorant and decongestant that is useful for excess mucus in the sinus and the lungs. In addition to drying up the membranes, it helps to thin and expel mucus. It has a beneficial action in allergy formulas. It can also be useful for chronic gastritis.
**Contraindications: discontinue use of yerba santa if it is too drying to the mucus membranes.**
Yohimbe (Corynanthe yohimbe)
Yohimbe is used primarily as a sexual stimulant (i.e. aphrodisiac). It has secondary stimulant actions on the nervous system. Yohimbe increases the excitability of erectile tissue and facilitates engorgement of that tissue with blood. It is used to treat erectile dysfunction, lowered libido, impotence, and an-orgasmia. Yohimbe can dilate and inflame small arteries, which can be dangerous for some individuals. Please read the contraindications before using this herb.
**Contraindications: never use yohimbe during pregnancy or lactation, or with children or young people. Yohimbe can increase blood pressure and pulse rate, and should never be used by individuals with moderate or high blood pressure, or by anyone taking medications to manage blood pressure. It should also be avoided by individuals with blood vessel disorders and those prone to migraine headaches. Yohimbe should not be used by men with benign prostatic hypertrophy or prostatitis, as it can cause difficulty with prostate drainage. Women who have cervical inflammation or a tipped uterus should also avoid using yohimbe, as it may cause inflammation of the tissues. Yohimbe should be avoided by individuals who have nervous system conditions and those who are easily stimulated. Discontinue using yohimbe if it causes anxiety or insomnia. Yohimbe is best avoided by individuals taking any medications on a regular basis.**