Commonly Used Herbs - Pharmacology

The following is a list of commonly used herbs.


Aloe Vera juice is used to treat minor burns, insect bites, and sunburn. It is also a powerful laxative when taken internally and can increase menstrual flow if given in small doses.


Chamomile is dried flower heads that are used in herbal tea for relief of digestive and GI disruptions such as irritable bowel syndrome and infant colic. Chamomile also has a sedative effect. It is also used in instances where the patient is allergic to daisy or ragweed-like plants. Chamomile can cause hives and bronchoconstriction.


Dong Quai is used for menstrual cramps and to regulate the menstrual cycle. In rare instances, Dong Quai causes fever and excessive menstrual bleeding. Experts on herbal therapy recommend that patients avoid using Dong Quai.


Echinacea enhances immunity by increasing white blood cells, cells in the spleen, and by activating granulocytes. The Echinacea leaf is used to combat respiratory and urinary infections. Native Americans use Echinacea to treat snake bites. Its root is used to treat symptoms of the flu. Patients with autoimmune disease and abnormal T-cell functions such as those found in HIV, AIDS, and TB should avoid Echinacea.


Garlic is a common herb used in food preparation and is reported to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and decrease blood pressure and reduce the clotting capability of blood. Garlic is also an antibiotic for internal and external treatment of infections and wounds. Warm garlic oil is used to treat ear aches. Garlic is also known as the herb of endurance.


Ginger increases the effectiveness of the immune system and is used to treat stomach and digestive disorders including motion sickness. Ginger is found to relieve nausea and relieves pain, swelling, and stiffness from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Ginkgo is the most commonly used herbal therapy in the world and is used to increase the dilation of cerebral arteries and increase the uptake of oxygen and glucose. Ginkgo has been found useful for treating dementia syndromes, intermittent claudication (decreased circulation in the legs), vertigo (dizziness), and trinities (ringing in the ears). There is also evidence that Ginkgo improves cognition (thinking) and may be helpful in Alzheimer’s disease, early stroke, and Raynaud’s phenomenon (circulatory disorder). In rare instances, patients who take Ginkgo experience headache and GI disturbance.


Ginseng is taken for short-term relief of stress and as an energy boost. Ginseng is also used to improve digestion. Red Korean and Chinese Ginseng are used for chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.


Kave Kava root promotes sleep and muscle relaxation. In tea, Kave Kava combats urinary tract infections. Some patients used Kave Kava with herbs such as valerian and St. John’s Worth for anxiety.


Licorice seems to have physiologic effects similar to aldosterone (an antihypertensive) and corticosteroids (an anti-inflammatory) and is related to glycyrrhizin, which is a major ingredient.


Peppermint stimulates appetite and aids in digestion and treatment of bowel disorders when taken internally. Hot peppermint tea stimulates circulation, reduces fever, clears congestion, and helps restore energy. Peppermint is also an effective treatment for tension headache when rubbed on the forehead. Some research has shown peppermint to be as effective as Extra-strength Tylenol in relieving headache.


The psyllium seed is used as a laxative and for the treatment of hemorrhoids, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.


Dry sage leaves are used to heal wounds. Tea made from sage leaves soothes a sore throat when gargled. Sage also helps to dry mother’s milk and reduce hot flashes. Sage is known as the herb of longevity.


St. John’s Worth is used to treat depression, anxiety, and psychogenic disturbances similar to the way monoamine oxidase (MAO) is used. However, unlike MAO, patients who use St. John’s Worth do not have to avoid tyramine-rich foods. St. John’s Worth is also known as “herbal prozac.” Besides its psychological effect, St. John’s Worth is also a dietary supplement in the United States, although it does not have FDA approval.


Saw Palmetto relieves symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (enlarged prostate) and other urinary conditions. Saw Palmetto is also used as an expectorant and treatment for colds, asthma, bronchitis, and thyroid deficiency.


Valerian is a mild sedative and sleep-inducing agent that has an effect similar to benzodiazepines. It has been called herbal valium. However, Valerian has an odor of “dirty socks” making it a very low risk for overdose. There have been no reports that frequent use of Valerian leads to habituation and addiction.


Yarrow stops bleeding wounds and is used as a healing lotion and ointment. It also is used to reduce pain and heavy bleeding due to menstrual irregularities and helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. Yarrow enhances circulation, lowers blood pressure, and has an antispasmodic and anti-microbial effect. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect on skin and on mucous membranes. The most frequently reported side effect of Yarrow is dermatitis (skin rash). Yarrow should not be used for patients who have epilepsy or are pregnant.

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