Herbs have been medicine and food for animals, since animal life emerged. Nature has always had its own medicines. With its abundant wisdom and generosity, it is hard to believe that Nature does not provide a cure for every ill, if only we could find it. Having originated in the same environment as plants, it is not surprising that animals have an inherent instinct for herbal medication of their health problems (zoopharmacognosy*), whether horses, dogs, cats, cattle, rabbits or other species. Early human peoples must also have possessed this natural instinct for herb treatment for their own medicine and ancient civilisations used herbs for themselves and for their animals, later refining their use into a complex medical tradition. Modern ‘civilisation’ and ‘education’ have seriously lessened the natural instinctive ability and capability in 'developed' nations but it is fortunate that many of the herbal traditions have survived, for our edification and benefit. In fact, many modern drugs have been derived from medicinal herbs, which was not a random process. Drug companies looked for medicines in the very plants that traditionalists used, confirming the wisdom of the lore handed down through generations.
Despite the fact that the modern Western medical establishment appears to like to relegate herbalism or herbal treatment to the status of 'folklore' or 'old wives' tales', herbs or derivatives from herbs form the basis of much of the modern conventional medical armoury. Unsurprisingly, while very willing to exploit the clear therapeutic benefits of herbs.
Ginseng can be used to improve the health of people recovering from illness. It increases a sense of wellbeing and stamina, and improves both mental and physical performance. Ginseng can be used to help with erectile dysfunction, hepatitis C, and symptoms relating to menopause, and can also be used for lowering blood glucose levels and controlling blood pressure.
Ginseng has been shown to reduce the levels of stress in both men and women. Those that take ginseng regularly are able to withstand higher amounts of physical and emotional stress.
The root of Asian ginseng contains several active substances called ginsenosides or panaxosides that are thought to be responsible for the medicinal effects of the herb. Asian ginseng is “warming” while American ginseng is “cooling”.
Because of its adaptogenic effects, it is widely used to lower cholesterol, increase energy and endurance, reduce fatigue and the effects of stress, and prevent infections. Ginseng is one of the most effective anti-aging supplements, with the capability of alleviating some major effects of aging such as degeneration of the blood system, and increasing mental and physical capacity.
Ashwaganda - also known as Indian winter cherry - is a shrub cultivated in India and North America whose roots have been used for thousands of years by Ayurvedic practitioners. The root contains flavonoids and many active ingredients of the withanolide class. Several studies over the past few years have looked into whether this herb has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, mind-boosting, immune-enhancing, and rejuvenating properties (see studies at bottom of page). Historically ashwaganda root has also been noted to have sex-enhancing properties
Reishi is an antioxidant that promotes a feeling of overall wellness by eliminating hydroxyl free radicals and improving the body's ability to use oxygen. This benefit can usually be felt within 10 to 14 days of taking high-quality red reishi daily, and some people find the difference in their health to be significant after two months. To get the biggest benefit, take reishi in the morning on an empty stomach and increase your intake of water to flush out toxins. Taking it along with vitamin C, another antioxidant, helps the body absorb reishi's active ingredients by breaking down the complex polysaccarides into a more manageable size.
Reishi is effective at lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thanks to both the polysaccharides, and another active ingredient, triterpenes, which is found in reishi in a class known as ganoderic acids.
Reishi reduces symptoms of seasonal allergies by acting as an expectorant, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory agent. In addition, the ganoderic acids contain anti-allergenic agents that inhibit histamine release and improve liver functions. Anti-allergenic properties are also found in the immune-boosting ling zhi-8 protein.
Astragalus: the name astragalus serves as both a botanical generic name and an English common name for the Chinese medicinal plant known as huang-qi, which is used in numerous Chinese prescriptions. With ginseng (Panax ginseng)it is used as a tonic for, general debility, lack of appetite, and spontaneous perspiration.
Astragalus is especially useful for strengthening the body against of the respiratory tract and heart through stimulation of interferon production in the body. In combination with codonopsis (Codonopisis pilosula), astragalus is used to strengthen the heart. 2 Studies show that it has helped cancer patients with weakened immune systems regain normal function.
Codonopsis: is one of the most famous and widely used Chinese Tonic herbs. It is very mild and without any side effects, yet it is a superb Qi tonic. It invigorates the Spleen and Lung functions so that Qi is replenished and it promotes the production of body fluids. Codonopsis is also an excellent blood tonic and a major immune system tonic.
It is believed to have an action similar to that of Ginseng, but milder. It is often used in place of Ginseng in formulas that actually call for Ginseng to be used as a main Qi tonic, especially when the purpose of the formula is to invigorate the Spleen and Lung functions. This is totally acceptable in the Chinese herbal system.
Its blood building quality makes it especially good for people who are weakened due to illness. Codonopsis is extremely effective at relieving chronic fatigue. Many women use it to build blood and the Chinese consider Codonopsis to be an herb perfectly suited to nursing mothers, holding that Codonopsis helps produce milk and that the nutrients in Codonopsis are especially nourishing to babies. Codonopsis is an excellent herb for children. It is mild yet has powerful strengthening effects, especially on the digestive, respiratory and immune systems. It builds strong muscle in children.
It is rich in immune stimulating polysaccharides which are beneficial to every one. They have also been shown to be useful in supporting the immune systems of people with cancer who are using the herbs in conjunction with conventional cancer therapies. Codonopsis has been demonstrated to have radiation protection activity and can be effective in protecting cancer patients receiving radiation therapy from the side effects without diminishing its benefits. Codonopsis also has interferon-inducing activity that may be of importance in many immune deficiency conditions, including HIV infection.
Eleuthro Root: Eleuthero is one of the most popular components of ancient Chinese medicine. As people in the west have become more suspicious and concerned about the possible side effects of artificial chemical medicine, the turn toward the natural has been more pronounced than ever. Since China has one of the longest recorded histories of any place in the world, it is no surprise that many Chinese traditions are receiving more scrutiny and acceptance today than ever before. Both medical professionals and home herbalists enjoy Chinese treatments. You might be wondering about the many wonderful eleuthero root benefits you could enjoy from this popular plant -- if so, read on!
For much of its history, eleuthero has been understood as a form of ginseng. This is a misnomer, and has been corrected as modern herbalists come to understand more about the plant. In contrast to many forms of ginseng, which act as a central nervous stimulant, eleuthero root benefits come from its status as a sedative. When you take eleuthero tea or any other beverage derived from the root, you are giving your body a shot of relaxing energy that will last longer than something like coffee or an energy drink. This is only one of the many great ways that eleuthero can serve you.
As a sedative, eleuthero root does not usually put you to sleep. Rather, eleuthero root benefits help your body to process energy more efficiently than before. Because of this, it is enjoyed by people who work long shifts or who have to boost their energy later at night. It also helps users to increase their level of concentration and stay focused. This is one reason why it has become popular for treating both short-term depression and Attention Deficit Disorder. It is more effective than stimulants in helping people to fight fatigue while still being able to focus on whatever they need to do.
Eleuthero root benefits the body when you are suffering from problems that might lead to infection. For example, if you are recovering from illness, an infection, or surgery, you may be able to get the most from eleuthero. It will help maintain and strengthen your immune system to prevent complications. It can also be a good supplement for when you are about to enter flu season or if you are going to travel abroad, where unfamiliar micro-organisms might bypass your immune system more easily.
Schizandra has gained popularity by providing an alternative to caffeine. According to the book "Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer" by Donald Yance, Yance states that the schizandra berry activates the nervous system without the jittery side effect of caffeine. Schizandra has an adaptogenic quality, which means it can restore energy balance to the body. As reported by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, schizandra induced sleep in some mice and reduced sleep in others. Results may vary based on the individual.
Ophiopogon: Studies on ophiopogon have shown it to possess antipyretic, antitussive, expectorant, diuretic, cardiotonic and tonifying properties. It has also been reported to lower blood sugar, reduce inflammation and protect the body from bacterial infections.
In traditional Chinese medicine, ophiopogon is believed to moisten the lungs and nourish yin; strengthen the stomach; clear away heat in the heart; and moisten the bowels to relieve constipation. It is also believed by some to be a very powerful shen tonic.
Eucommia Bark: In traditional Chinese medicine, eucommia bark has sweet, warm properties. It is associated with the liver and kidneys, and is considered the primary herb used to increase yang functions in the body. Eucommia bark strengthens the bones and muscles, heals injured and weakened tissues, and can treat lower back and leg pain, stiffness and arthritis.
In addition to its healing effects, eucommia has the ability to lower blood pressure; most Chinese formulas used to lower blood pressure contain at least some amount of eucommia.
American Ginseng: Wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a medicinal herb that's used for its roots. Ginseng has been used for centuries in treating an array of ailments, and medical researchers have found that ginseng can be beneficial to the body in many ways. Wild American ginseng root can provide an anti-inflammatory effect, help to regulate blood glucose, fight cancer cells and support the immune system. The peeled ginseng root is eaten fresh or dried, taken as an extract, consumed in a tincture or taken as a fluid extract.
Several clinical studies have found that American ginseng improves cell function related to boosting the immune system, helping the body resist or fight diseases and infections, says the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Taking American ginseng may also help to fight colds and flu, the UMMC says, citing two studies that found that people who took a product containing American ginseng for four months contracted fewer colds and experienced shorter durations of cold symptoms than people who took the placebo. Ginseng seems to stimulate the immune system by increasing the amount of white blood cells in the blood, according to the Herb Growing & Marketing Network.
American ginseng can be beneficial to people with Type 2 diabetes by lowing blood glucose levels, the UMMC says. The UMMC cites a study that found that Type 2 diabetics who took American ginseng with or before a high-sugar drink experienced less of an increase in blood sugar levels. Similarly, studies have also discovered that American ginseng can boost carbohydrate tolerance in diabetics, notes the Herb Growing & Marketing Network. The network points out one study where diabetics' blood alcohol levels were 32 to 51 percent lower after taking 3g of ginseng along with alcohol. Studies have also shown benefits for Type 2 diabetics in taking ginseng along with insulin, according to Wilkes University.
American ginseng has anti-cancer properties and can inhibit tumor growth, as illustrated in a plethora of medical studies. One laboratory study found that American ginseng displayed extreme anti-cancer effects on colorectal cancer cells, notes the UMMC. The ginsenosides contained in ginseng can prevent certain cancers, especially gastric cancers, by stopping tumor cell growth, says Wilkes University. The ginsenoside "Rg1" has displayed estrogen-like effects in human breast cancer cells, ceasing the growth of these cells. The Herb Growing & Marketing Network points out a study performed by the Korea Cancer Center Hospital that compared the effects of ginseng in 2,000 cancer patients and 2,000 people without cancer. The study discovered that the risk of cancer was much lower in the people who took fresh, powdered or extract of ginseng for one year and even more so in those who took it for up to 20 years.
American ginseng offers many neurological benefits, including helping to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mental and emotional stress, as well as cognitive diseases and conditions. One study found that taking American ginseng along with ginkgo biloba can help to treat ADHD, the UMMC says. Another clinical study found that taking ginseng can improve memory and cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's disease, Wilkes University notes. American ginseng may also modulate cerebroelectrical activity in the brain, and studies have found that chronic ginseng use in animals spurred improvements in relieving stress and fatigue.
Mulberry Twig: Mulberry twigs are gathered at the end of spring or the beginning of the summer, then dried in the sun and cut into slices. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, they have bitter and neutral properties, and are associated with the Liver meridian. The main functions of mulberry twig are to dispel wind and dampness, and to clear the collateral channels. Mulberry twig is typically used to treat spasms and rheumatic pain in the arms and legs, and to reduce edema in the limbs and joints.