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This page identifies the top selling herbs*.  These botanical medicines have received widespread clinical use in the United States and other countries. Discover their therapeutic effect, biological activity, chemistry, safety and efficacy including research documentation.

Botanical medicines covered in this database may have side effects.  Many holistic health care practitioners believe these natural products are safer than synthetic drugs used for the same condition. Side effects in most trials effect 3% or less of the trial population using the botanical. However, many of the trials have been short term clinical investigations and longer term studies are necessary to better judge safety and efficacy performance.

The therapeutic effect of many botanical extracts are often slow and gradual.

Better research design with specific goals and long term testing are underway. It is our goal to update this database often to get new research into your hands as it emerges.In the meantime treat herbal botanicals as medicine.  Use phytopharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements under the care of a licensed holistic health care practitioner.

*The herbs are ranked by total sales in the United States, Circa 1997.


1. Ginkgo   (Photo and more information)

Ginkgo biloba L. $141 MILLION

Family: Ginkgoales

Function: (1)(2)(3) (4)(5) (6)(11)(20)

Medicine: Standardized ginkgo extracts are taken to improve circulation to distal areas including the brain. This may improve function and memory and relieve cognitive and circulatory disorders of the brain. The bilobalides (flavonol glycosides) are antioxidants as well. (17).

Alzheimer's Disease: Evidence from a S.D.A.D. study (LeBars et al.: JAMA. Vol 278; 1997) showed a six month delay in the progression of the disease from many patients using the Ginkgo extract Test subjects took 120 mg of ginkgo per day in three doses of 40mg each. This was a standardized extract of 24 percent ginkgo flavonol glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones.. Another double blind placebo controlled trial found that Ginkgo extract was approximately three times more effective than the placebo for treating Alzheimer's disease and multi-infarct dementia. (16).

Study: A small study of 13 people with Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD) taking 450 mg of St. Johnís Wort extract twice daily at the endpoint of the treatment participants displayed an average drop of 7.4 points on the Yale-Brown Compulsive Scale. Forty two percent of the participants were from much to very much improved on the Clinical Global Impression of Improvement Scale Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression also dropped significantly.(25)

Atherosclerotic deposits in the blood vessels of limbs are seen as an early warning sign peripheral areterial disease and intermittent claudication as an end result. Ginkgo may modestly increases the pain free walking distance of patients suffering this disorder. (23)(24)

Most frequent side effect of the 120 to 160mg dose three time per day was stomach upset.

Chemistry: standardized to 24% flavonoid glycosides (quercitin) and 6% terpene lactones. Bilobalides (flavanol glycosides) and ginkgolide are antioxidants (3) (4)(5) (6) (13) (16).  

Dosage: Three 40mg standardized capsules per day (standardized to 24% flavonol glycosides and 6% terpene lactones). Alzheimer's study used up to 240mg. standardized capsule (10) (18)(19). Follow dosage recommendations of manufacturer.

Safety: Well established safety. Side effects minimal may include headache, GI distress, dizziness. Avoid if pregnant or nursing. May exacerbate bleeding disorders. Overdose may cause restlessness, irritability, diarrhea, flushing and vomiting. Standardized product is preferred over dried and powdered leaves. No known side effects during pregnancy and lactation (10) (18) (19).  Ginkgo may have a synergistic, additive effect with other blood thinning drugs sucha as aspirin.

Side Effect of taking ginkgo therapy for mental alertness is inhibition of platelet-activating factor to its membrane receptor.  This may help reduce inflammation and alleviated respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchospasm and general allergic reactions(20) (21).

CAUTION Seeds/Fruit:  Seed are toxic in relatively small amount (40 to 50 seeds).  Fruit juice may cause allergic reaction, dermatitis.

Notes: I have used this herb for eight years and have recommended it to others. Both my parents have Alzheimer's disease. Taking care of them is incentive enough to take care of myself. I take three or for standardized tablets every day. I have used five or six brands and suggest there is no noticeable difference between standardized products.


2. Saint John's Wort        (Photo and more information)

Hypericum perforatum L. $120 million

Clusiaceae (syn. Hypericaceae, Guttiferae)

Function: (2) (3) (6) (12) (13)

Dr. Corson's Comments: For mild to moderate depression, several studies in Europe show a benefit of this herb, as a standardized extract of 0.3% hypericin, 300mg, 3 times a day, comparable in anti-depressant effect to a drug standard of imipramine.

In my experience, when it does work, it works beautifully, virtually without side effects and is very well tolerated, but it has a slower onset of action than standard drug therapy, up to 6-8 weeks, and is not appropriate in severely depressed or suicidal patients. I have found better convenience for the patient in using 450mgs 2 times a day, of standardized extract from quality companies. I warn patients about possible photosensitivity, but I have not personally seen this occur. It is generally not to be used with MAO inhibitors, and the concurrent use with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors could theoretically cause excessive serotonin levels, although a very experienced psychiatrist, Dr. Harold Bloomfield, does report successful use of this in his practice (author of Hypericum/ St. Johnís Wort).

In general, this herb is probably best used without concomittant drug therapy, and can be used in switching therapy over from drug treatment to this herbal medicine, in selected patients. It is very important to be sure that the symptoms of depression are not due to underlying hypothyroidism and/or adrenal exhaustion (the latter is OFTEN present in people with chronic stress), both of which are actually very common causes of depressive symptoms. The only excellent treatment for these types of depression, is to address the underlying causes, which St. Johnís Wort alone cannot do. This is a major reason that I believe herbal treatment (or even drug treatment) fails in many cases: the underlying imbalances (nutritional and metabolic; stress-related and spiritual) have not been addressed.

Medicine: Wound healing and anti-depressant. 

Also, for anxiety and insomnia related to stress and anxiety. Popular for treating non-bi-polar depression. 

Traditionally used for over 2000 years (initially in Greece to drive out evil spirits). 

Internal use of drug: Mono Amine Oxidase (MAO) inhibitor, keeps serotonin brain levels up (serotonin re-uptake inhibitor). (9) (10) (11) (16). Flower infusion or flower tincture used. Said to calm nerves, may relieve insomnia, may boost mood, dispel lethargy, like a nervine, reduces nervous tension internally, tea used as a treatment for PMS premenstrual syndrome treatment.  Tea, standardized capsule and tincture also used to, sciatica, anxiety, shingles, fibrositis.


Externally infusion of flowers and leaves used as a cooling, astringent, anti-infective agent, wound healing infection fighter, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, promotes healing, antiseptic, analgesic, externally as poultice or wash for infections, healing burns, bruises, sprains, tendonitis, sprains, neuralgia, cramps. (6) (3) (8)(16).  In vitro wide spread anti-microbial activity against:  influenza, herpes simplex I and II, retrovirus, polio virus, sindbis virus, murine cytomegalovirus, hepatitis C, and against gram negative and gram positive bacteria.  It appears exposure to ultra violet light potentiates anti-microbial activity (16).

OTHER REPORTED MOOD BOOSTERS: KAVA ROOT (sometimes combined with St. John's Wort in fluid extracts), L-tyrosine, serotonin (see file on carbohydrates and serotonin), hormone pregnenolone.

Typical OTC use: Standardized capsules for mood elevation, mild depression.

Chemistry: hypericin and pseudohypericin are quinones. They are red pigmented and have antidepressant activity, and are antiviral (in vitro), anti-cancer (in vitro) antidepressant, used in AIDS research. Xanthones: (in flowers) cardiotonic, diuretic, antibacterial, antiviral, MAO inhibitor. Tannins: (leaves and flowers) styptic, anti diarrhea for external and internal bleeding, dry and bind skin. Coumarins: (throughout plant) umbelliferone and scopoletin anti-fungal, antiviral and in vitro anti-tumor. Essential oils: monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes (highest in plant leaves and flowers just at flowering) calming, sedating, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-asthma, for headaches, anti-fungal. Bioflavonoids include: quercitrin, isoquercitrin, rutin, biapegenin(2) (5) (6) (7). Hypericin and bioflavone are sedative. As a family and individually are MAO inhibitors (quercitin) all flavonoids are antioxidants; proanthocyanidin is vasorelaxant, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-ulcer (amentoflavone anti-ulcer, sedative, anti-ulcer). Beta-sitosterol: anti-PMS, anti-menopausal symptoms. Also contains numerous acids: p-coumaric, ferulic, gentisic, chlorogenic, isoferulic...Essential oils, carotenoids, umbelliferone, xanthones, Vit C, tannins, amino acids. Carotenoids are implicated for wound healing properties. GABA neurotransmitter that may have sedative effects.(1)(3)(7)(13)

Standardized Dosage: One 250 mg standardized capsule of .3 to .5% hypericin once per day.

Safety: Millions of Germans have used the herb with no reported deaths as of the date of this writing. Millions more of North Americans are using it now. It is being sold like a vitamin. Of 3250 German patients 2.4% reported side effects including gastrointestinal irritation, restlessness and mild allergic reactions. Do not use in conjunction with other psychoactive medications(16).  Appears to be synergistic with serotonin reuptake inhibitors thereby increasing serotonin levels(17).  May lower activity of simultaneously administered drugs  including nonsedating antihistamines, oral contraceptives, certain anti-retrovirals, antiepileptics, calcium channel blockers, cyclosporine, some chemotherapeutics macrolide antibiotics and select antifungals(18)(19).

Caution: Recent evidence suggests the chronic, long term use (abuse) of Saint John's Wort is undesirable and may have negative health consequences.

WARNING: Best to buy prepared products, animal studies show the plant to cause photo dermatitis, photo allergic reaction. This phototoxicity, as yet, has not been demonstrated as a problem in humans(1997) when taken recommended dosage. Phototoxicity was demonstrated in humans in doses twice that of typical antidepressant dosage. Once again, consult a physician before using the drug (supplement). Do not use with sleep aids, sleeping pills, seserpine (antagonistic to it), barbiturates.

Notes on Kitchen Preparation: flowers and leaves as tea, flowers and leaves as a poultice or water wash. Can be tinctured in alcohol, steeped in hot water, infused in hot oil. Infusion: two tsp. of fresh herb to 5 oz. of boiling water, steep ten minutes. Tincture: Twenty grams of chopped dried drug to 100ml of ethanol (70%) and stored in dark, sealed bottle. Best tincture is from hot alcohol (150-176F). Be careful heating alcohol can be explosive. Boil water, put alcohol in container in hot water with thermometer, then pour in dried herb when selected temperature is reached. Use a little higher concentration of alcohol as some will be lost to evaporation when heating. Oil macerates: Macerate flowers in oil at 113 degrees F for ten days (Smith). Or according to Christopher Hobbs in oil at 158 degrees F for 12 -24 hours. Exposure to sunlight may increase yield of hypericin. For more details and broader information see HerbalGram No. 40.


3. Ginseng (red she)   (photo and more information)

Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer (Asian) $98 million dollars

Panax quinquefolium L. (American)

P. pseudoginseng Wall. var. notoginseng

P. trifolius L.


Function: (1) (3) (7)(9)(10)(16)

Medicine: Root considered a  tonic, stimulant, aphrodisiac, enhances immune response, may improves cerebral circulation and function, may regulates blood pressure and blood sugar.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine terms it tonifies primordial energy.  It is a tonic for spleen and lungs.(1) (20 (3) (8)(16). 

European studies (over 300 papers) show ginseng may increase concentration, alertness, visual and motor coordination, as well as physical performance (9) (10). Other studies suggest that ginseng may increase libido, improving male potency. Used to treat stress, treat cold extremities, short term memory loss, impotence, diabetes, hypertension, adrenal deficiency considered closest thing to a cure-all found in Nature. Both elevates and lowers blood pressure depending on need (11) (8).

Study: Red ginseng was taken in a trial involving 34 participants showed a mild blood pressure lowering effect. The dose was 1.5g of red ginseng three times per day, that is 4.5 g for 8 weeks.

Twenty six of the participants had essential hypertension and saw a calculated drop of systolic blood pressure (+-5%).(19)

Red ginseng can be made by steaming fresh ginseng root.

Type of Ginseng: Characteristics and Use

Asian ginseng=Panax ginseng Warming and stimulating. Red Korean ginseng warms more than Asian white. Increases energy. Tonic. Taken to re-energize depleted body functions (9) (8).

American ginseng=P. quinquefolium Cools, moistens, soothes. Perhaps better tonic than Asian, at least in the eyes of Orientals. Considered adaptogenic, soothing to nerves (10).

Siberian ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus, not a true ginseng is treated in the Chinese herb section of this program.

Chemistry: Triterpenoid saponins: gensenosides and panaxosides. Gensenosides are saponins. They are reported as stimulants and antioxidants that may: boost the immune system; lower cholesterol; anti-fungal and anti-microbial. Saponins from other plants have been shown to be anti-tumor, anti-microbial, anti-fungal...See HerbalGram No. 40 page 11-12, American Botanical Council publication (12).

Kitchen Preparation: I use an old sausage grinder to grind hard dried roots into powder. Root is tough enough to ruin--break blades--of electronic pepper mill. Typical dose 5 to 10 grams in decoction, steam decocted for 30 minutes. Put 60 to 100 grams in 1 liter of spirits for 3 or 4 months, drink judiciously. See Angelica s. for Yin and Yang cordial. Food: various teas, chewing gum, soft drinks, cordials, powdered and applied to food, etc.

Alternative Preparation: Ĺ to 1 teaspoon of powder to a cup of hot water twice a day. Follow this procedure for a month, then take 2 months off, then a month on again. - See Nathaniel Mead, Natural Health Magazine, March April 98, p. 135 (13).

Dosage: One to two grams of the whole dried and prepared root. Short term dosage may be broken up into two doses of approximately Ĺ gram each. For long term chronic conditions take .4 to .8 gram daily. (6) (8) (9) (11) (14).

Safety: Taking more than 3 grams per day may cause diarrhea, anxiety and insomnia. Mild side effects reported are headache, skin rash. May potentiate caffeine. Large doses may cause hypertension, asthma like symptoms, heart palpitations and rarely dysmenorrhea and other menstrual changes (3) (14).  There have been two reports of interactions with phenelzine a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (see next)(18).

Warning: Avoid ginseng if you have acute illnesses: fever, emphysema, hypertension, arrhythmia, upper respiratory infections and disorders including: asthma, bronchitis. (8) (9). Chinese practitioners caution not to use with colds, pneumonia and other lung infections.(9) (10) Do not use while on internal steroid therapy. May potentiate action of MAO (Monoamine Oxidase) inhibitors (6). Avoid during pregnancy and lactation until further studies are available. (6).

Caution: Ginseng roots imported from China may be sprayed with fungicide. Scrub these roots thoroughly before grinding them for use(15).  I have found many of my Chinese herbs to harbor eggs and larvae that later emerged as some exotic and startling variety of flying insects and fast moving beetles.

Personal Note: I do not use this herb. I am a hot, type-A person. If I were to use one ginseng over the other (American vs Chinese vs Korean vs Siberian) I'd choose American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) because of its cooling , calming effect.


4. GARLIC   (Photo and more information)

(Allium sativum L.) $84 million


Function: (1) (2) (3)(5)(8)(9)(10)(13)(14)

Medicine: Garlic cloves, powder and extract may be Anti-cancer and Anti-helicobacter pylori (stomach cancer agent and cause of ulcers(3). Antibiotic properties have been exhibited in vitro and vivo, providing protection from diarrhea, food poisoning, tuberculosis, flu viruses, bladder infections and yeast infections. Preparations may help lower blood pressure, decreases serum cholesterol and helps prevent coronary blood clotting. (1) (2) (3)

Anti-cancer: May provide cancer protection.. Intercepts activated carcinogens, stimulates biochemical pathways that detoxify foreign molecules (2) (3).  A review of 20 epidemiological studies from 1966 through 1996 showed a strong correlation between Allium consumption and reduced rates of cancer, especially cancer of the gastrointestinal tract. One study (Dorant et al 1996) showed a direct correlation between the consumption of onions and reduced risk of stomach carcinoma. Another study (Gastroenterology, Vol 110, No. 1, 12-20) suggests that the risk of stomach cancer can be cut in half by consuming one half onion or more per day (2).

Diabetes: Can control blood sugar levels.  It may lower blood pressure it is hypotensive.  May stimulate pancreatic function producing more insulin.

Infections: Garlic may also repel infection spreading ticks. Other sources suggest one clove garlic is effective against mild infections (Simon Mills). (9).

Heart disease:  May reduce cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides while increaseing HDL.  Anti-platelet aggregating (reduces platelet adhesiveness) and may increase fibronolytic activity all combining to reduce atherosclerosis.(16)

Aorta Elasticity Study: It appears garlic helps to maintain the elasticity of the aorta.* In the study elderly adults were given 300 mg of garlic powder daily for two years. After the experimental period the test group showed that garlic slowed age-related increase in aortic stiffness. This improved elasticity may help control blood pressure and put less work on the heart to pump blood from the left ventricle to the rest of the body. -Breithaupt-Grogleer K, Ling M, Boudoulas H, Belz GG: Protective effect of chronic garlic intake on elastic properties of aorta in the elderly. Circulation 96:2649-2655, 1997(1).

Systemic antibiotic: Supports natural defenses seamlessly. Indicated for slow viruses (1) (4)

Warming expectorant Like ginger, cinnamon, they are all good for illnesses associated with cold).

CHINESE TRADITIONAL MEDICINE: Hot in the second degree (used to raise body heat). Acrid, tonifies liver, disperses excesses in lungs, wind and cold diseases. Mobilizes stagnant body reserves. Indicated for treating bronchial inflammations. (10).

Dr. Corson:  Garlic is perhaps the plant that most blurs the distinction between FOOD and MEDICINE. When I cook with garlic, I am always reminded of the great physician, Hippocrates, who taught us: ďLET FOOD BE YOUR MEDICINE, LET MEDICINE BE YOUR FOOD.Ē

Garlic is important as an anti-infective agent, having properties that are anti-fungal, ant-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial. In todayís world, where fungal infections have become a recurrent and troublesome nuisance to many patients, in association with the widespread use of antibiotics, steroids, and oral contraceptives, I think of garlic as a particularly useful anti-fungal agent, that is widely available, quite effective, inexpensive, and apparently not very easy for fungi to evade by developing resistance.

From master herbalist Lyra Heller, of Metabotanica/Metagenics, I have learned how to make an antibacterial treatment that has been used for acute ear infection (without perforation).   (Warning:  this procedure should only be practiced by a licensed holistic health care professional.) The therapy requires one clove of chopped, fresh garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, placed in a large metal spoon or tiny metal pot, and heated to simmer for 3 minutes over the flame of a gas stove. This is then cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, and simmered once more for 3 minutes, then cooled to lukewarm. With a dropper, 3-4 drops of the pure garlic infused oil (no garlic fragments) are placed in both ear canals. Since the tympanic membrane is semi-permeable, it appears able to permit garlicís anti-bacterial and anti-viral chemistry to enter the middle ear. It should not interfere with the later use of antibiotics if deemed necessary. Since there is much controversy over the proper place of antibiotic treatment in acute and chronic otitis media, I personally think that this approach could be a preferable first step (and often successful one) in the treatment of selected children, with parents who are able and motivated to use such natural methods. (With recurrent ear infections, an underlying cause of food allergies/sensitivities, respiratory allergies, and/or second-hand smoke should always be sought, rather that attempting to deal with this web-like pattern, solely with repeated courses of antibiotics and PE tubes, never allowing the underlying problem to heal. There is certainly a place for antibiotics, but there is much agreement that there currently exists a tremendous overuse of antibiotics, much to the detriment of both the public health, and the individualís longterm health.)

Vaginal yeast infections (usually caused by the fungus Candida albicans or related species), are a major cause of office visits, expense, missed productivity, and suffering for many women. The major problem underlying the symptom of yeast vaginal infections, is dysbiosis of the gut: an ecologic imbalance of the protective gut flora, often due to the use of antibiotics, but also associated in some women with oral contraceptives or other steroid medications. Here, garlic by mouth can be a useful preventative and part of the long-term healing of recurrent infections. Garlic can be eaten liberally on a regular basis by most people (some are not able to tolerate this, being unable to easily metabolize the sulfur-containing compounds in garlic). Garlic can also be supplemented in capsule or tablet form, but needs to be of high quality to retain its powerful anti- fungal properties (it should be prepared from RAW garlic, and have a standardized amount of allicin activity); 8 to 12 tablets of high-quality garlic are needed for treating yeast infection. For success with recurrent yeast infections, it is mandatory that the patient learn the basics about yeast and the balance of gut ecology, and cut out refined sugars (in my experience, there is no long term success without taking sugar out of the diet). A helpful resource on this is The Yeast Connection and the Woman, by William Crook, M.D , which explains the multiple other natural and drug agents that often need to be used to resolve this recurrent problem.

The cardiovascular benefits of garlic and becoming more elaborately documented in recent years. It is clear that garlic helps to lower blood pressure, to make abnormal blood clotting less likely (fibrinolytic), to be anti-oxidative, and in several studies to lower cholesterol. It also enhances natural killer cells (NK cells), in vitro. The major limitation of using therapeutic amounts of garlic, is the body odor and breath odor that can occur, making it a social problem that is unacceptable to some. Also, the fibrinolytic properties make garlic a potential problem for interaction with warfarin/coumadin. Patients on coumadin should not take therapeutic amounts of garlic, without careful monitoring. But all in all, this is a very useful botanical medicine and food to know about! 

Chemistry: alliin; allithiamine; allyl-disulfide; allyl-monosulfide; arginase; catalase; esterase; oxalate dehydrogenase, oxalic acid; amino acids; chlorogenic-acid; P-coumaric-acid; cycloalliin; raffinose; cytidylic-acid; diallyl-sulfide; diketogluconic-acid; kaempferol; EFA; methyl alliin; phenol oxidase; propane-thiosulfinate; propyloalliin; saponins; beta-sitosterol, alpha-tocopheral; sinapic-acid; succinic-dehydrogenase; sulfur trioxide; umbelliferone; zinc.(2)(4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (12).

DOSE: Antibiotic effect may require: 3-10 cloves per day. Antibiotic effect may take up to ten cloves of garlic per day (3) (12) (13). A study of modest cholesterol lowering effect required nine 800 mg of aged garlic capsules (6-7% cholesterol lowering) (14). Other trials have shown more impressive cholesterol lowering effect, up to 10% (15).

Safety: Headache, flatulence, halitosis, gastric distress, rarely allergies, and changes in intestinal flora. Raw garlic may burn the mouth and irritate the intestinal lining, perhaps causing nausea. Contact with plant and juices may cause a rash, inflammation, dermatitis (3) (6) (7) (11) (13).  Garlic supplements may increase bleeding time for users on warfarin (17)(18).

More safety:  As a food copious amounts of this plant have been eaten for over 100 centuries.  

Notes: I like to roast garlic and eat in profusion--much to the chagrin of my wife and friends. It is integral to most world flavor principles. Garlic and other alliums (onions, chives, leeks) are used worldwide as food and medicine. 

Food: steam or roast cloves. Steam in Wok until soft, then use as a spread on toast with tomatoes (lycopene) and strong cheddar, Swiss, Chevre cheese. Use garlic in salad dressings, pesto, stews, soups, fish, omelets, stir fry. See world flavor principles to discover other ways of preparing garlic.


5. Echinacea, purple coneflower   (Photo and more information)

Echinacea purpurea L., E. angustifolia


(Click here to discover how to make an echinacea tincture. I prefer this herb for treating acute infections over golden seal.


Dr. Corson Comments:  I recommend this excellent Native-American, immune-boosting herb, to most people, but I do avoid it in two groups of people:

1. Those allergic to the Aster/Daisy family

2. Those with active auto-immune disease

Echinacea is very useful at the onset of upper respiratory infections. It needs to be started immediately, taken 3 times a day and continued until the person is well. Unlike Astragalus, it is not meant for long-term, routine use, as it boosts immune function by some 32%, and the immune system will not tolerate this longterm and will readjust so that the herb will not help as well when needed again for an acute infection.

Although there are not yet conclusive studies on using Echinacea in a prophylactic, or preventive way, I have personally been pleased with using it prophylactically (orally) to prevent infection from small puncture wounds, after thorough cleansing of the wound and proper wound care. I also personally use it prophylactically when I have a known exposure to a respiratory infection or gastroenteritis, but only when I personally feel at greater risk than normal, i.e. over-tired, over-stressed, during travel, or with worse nutrition than usual, etc. I am just sharing my personal approach to my own health, from what I know and have experienced as a health professional.

Medicine: Standardized extracts used to fight and primarily preventing acute infections such as colds and flu. 

Enhances immunity in several ways. Polysaccharide initiated response follows bell curve: steep initial activity, improving immune response up to 32%. Then response peaks. After four to six days tapers off. Therefore used for acute instead of chronic conditions. 

A few manufacturers have recommended longer use of standardized extractions for treating chronic conditions...My personal experience is that this has not be effective for me.   Most useful as a preventative, more so than a treatment.  However, Cichoric acid and akylamides are longer acting and have prompted research on long term usage. Used internally for skin diseases, fungal infections both Candida and Listeria, slow healing wounds, boils, gangrene, upper respiratory tract infections, sinusitis, externally for acne and psoriasis (not proven by this sufferer).

Root oil may inhibit leukemia cells in vitro and vivo studies, active chemistry may be (Z)-1,8-pentacecadiene in root oil (16).

Chemistry: cichoric acid, akylamides, polysaccarides . Cichoric acid and akylamides are antimicrobial and prolong protective effects after reflex action of polysaccharides wears off. Chemistry exhibits activity similar to steroids and interferon. Also contains: apigenin; arabinogalactan (root); various caffeoyl compounds (see Duke's Database from CRC Press), echinacin, echinacoside, echinacein, echinolone; germacrene; various dicaffeoylquinic acids; isobutylamides; chlorogenic acid; germacrene; humulene; limonene; myrcene; quercetin (leaf); flavonoids high in leaves; alpha pinene; beta-pinene; palmitic-acid; kaempferol, rutin; rutoside; polysaccharide in root: rhamnoarabinogalactan (2) (3)(14).  Also,(Z)-1,8-pentacecadiene in root oil (anti-leukemia agent( (16).

Dosage: Dosage is not well defined.  extracts come in solid and liquid form.  Solid extract: 500 to 900 mg standardized dry extract per day. For surgery 900 mg for 6-8 weeks after surgery.(1) For chemotherapy use 900 mg standardized dry extract on day 3 of chemotherapy through day 14 of 3 week or monthly cycle (also see astragalus).(1)

I make a 30% per cent alcohol tincture of the flower heads, leaves and roots: live whole plant extraction. Dosage is 10-20 drops (about 15 ml.) three or four times per day.  this is actually more than is recommended on standardized whole plant liquid extractions.  If you purchase Echinacea extract over the counter follow recommendations on bottle (manufacturers recommendations).

Safety: The juice of E. purpurea is well tolerated and appropriate for long term oral use according to Parnham(12). the reviewer detected no safety concerns for continued use up to 12 weeks. There were, "no adverse reactions other than aversion to the taste." Test showed improvement in individuals with slight to moderate depression of immunity. Schoneberger (13) found that Echinacea lozenges had no significant effect on marathon runners. Limit therapy to 8 weeks because long term and repeated use may depress immunity.(4)  

Pregnancy: A study of 412 pregnant Canadian women 206 of which took Echinacea during pregnancy (112 of which took the herb in the first trimester of pregnancy.   Malformations of babies was equivalent between the control group and the test population.  There were 6 major and 6 minor malformations in the control group and 7 major and 7 minor malformations in the control population. Spontaneous abortions were twice as frequent in the Echinacea group, including 13 spontaneous abortions(17).   Use of Echinacea while pregnant must take in consideration the reward and risks involved.  Consult your physician before using Echinacea while pregnant.   At this time we do not recommend use Echinacea during pregnancy due to inadequate research (11) .

NOTES: I have used alcohol tincture of E. purpurea as a gargle for mouth and tongue ulcers. Analgesic pain killer and hastens healing. I have used a single dose of the alcohol floral extraction to prevent gastroenteritis.

I had a deep staphlococcus infection (cellulitis) encysted in my buttock. My physician suggested that I have it cut out before it broke out to in infect other parts of my body. I begged to try the Echinacea floral extraction (see Herbal Preparations and Nutritional Therapies video)(3). The large cyst like infection disappeared in three days and has not returned. I continued the therapy for a total of six days (single dose 3X per day)(3).

My coneflowers are from the Fernwood Botanic Gardens prairie. One of the last of its kind in Michigan. This is my favorite and most used herbal for preventing acute infections. Prairie coneflowers and relatives. Found in the United States and used by native Americans for centuries. Five varieties in use. Now grown throughout the world for esthetic and medicinal purposes. Easily purchased at herb shops and farm markets.

Kitchen Preparation: roots, leaves and flowers are tinctured in 100 proof alcohol on a 1 to 1 Weight to volume basis of fresh whole plant, i.e. leaves, flowers, roots.  You may have to add an ounce of alcohol if you cannot completely cover and saturate fresh plants at a 1:1 ration (see in this database Echinacea tincture or see Meuninck's Herbal and Nutritional Therapies Video for details)(3). 

Echinacea may also be tinctured in glycerin, full strength with the live whole plant, flowers, leaves, root 1:1 wt to volume....Plant parts must be rigorously macerated in tincture. Remove within three hours, liquid from macerated to avoid degradation of cichoric acid by enzyme action. Strain and store in refrigerator...Use glycerin extraction within three months. Alcohol extraction will keep through the entire winter. Echinacea has been combined with Lomatium dissectum for synergistic effect against gram positive bacteria (). (10)

Wildlife/Veterinarian: Used in all my pigeon racing formulas. May help pets who have colds, glycerin is more palatable to them than alcohol extraction (9).


6. Saw Palmetto (Photo, more)

Serenoa repens (Bartr.) Small



Typical Medicinal Uses: Extract from the berry is used to treat complications from benign prostatic hyperplasia. Phase I human studies are complete and were successful. Phase two studies are underway sponsored by PharmaPrint. 

Extracts and capsules are available at drug stores and health food stores. 

In one study, saw palmetto berry extract outperformed Proscar (finasteride). Saw palmetto increased urinary flow rate 6.1 ml per second and decreased the amount of residual urine on average by 50%. In the study, 10.7% Finasteride patients discontinued use of the drug because of side effects while only 1.8% of the saw palmetto group discontinued treatment due to side effects.(1) Does not reduce enlargement of prostate, but relieves difficulties associated with enlargement (2)(5). Seven double blind placebo controlled studies are tabled on P.150 of reference (12). All studies were associated with a significant difference in improved urine flow, less frequent urination and less bladder retention of urine (residual urine).

Active Chemistry: 85% to 90% of standardized extract contains fatty acids and sterols (15)...Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and active phytosterols to include beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, cycloartenol lupeol, lupenone, and 24-methylcycloartenol, glucoside, p-oxybenzoic acid, p-oxybenzaldehyde, vanillic acid, vanillin, acetovanillone, syringic acid, syringaldehyde, acetosyringone, ferulic acid. Also, free fatty acids: oleic (C18:1), palmitic (C16), myrystic (C14), isomyristic acid (C14)capric (C8) and lauric acids (C12)... (12)(13)(14).

Dosage: One or two 160mg capsules standardized at 85-95% fatty acids and sterols (Solaray product OTC Guaranteed potentcy herbs). Liquid extract from .6-1.5 ml. Fresh and dried berries as food or in decoction about 1 gram dried, 3-4 grams fresh.

Safety: No significant side effects (13)(15). Headaches, stomach ache, flatulence and diarrhea have been reported in rare cases. Diarrhea is associated with large dosages over recommendations. Also from eating unripe berries (2)(6) No known drug interactions (2). Avoid during pregnancy because lack of data(17). No known drug interactions(16).


Berries may be crushed and used in paleo waffle described in recipe section of this program. Powdered berries may be used much like flax seed on cereal, in bread, waffles, pancakes, in orange juice. I've tried to raise these plants in Michigan with no success. We have one in the greenhouse at Andrew's University Berrien, Springs, Michigan. The berries, especially the seeds, are eaten as food. Next time you are in southern Georgia or northern Florida pick some berries (fall of the year).

Notes: Palmettos are common residents of sub tropical and tropical areas. They thrive in both dry and wet conditions, in the open or as under-story. Some varieties are a few feet high others several meters. I use pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and occasionally saw palmetto berries as food. Other extracts use to treat BPH include nettle roots and pygeum.


7. Grape seed Extract/Red Wine  (Photo and more information)

Vitis vinifera L. (seeds)

Family: Vitaceae


Medicinal : Grape seed extract, containing procyanidins, is a free radical scavenger and capillary protectant, improving blood flow. Indicated for vision problems. 

Studies suggest the extract may help stop the deterioration due to aging to eyes. Also used with heart patients to prevent artery damage due to protective activity of bioflavonoid fraction. Grape seed flavonoids inhibit angiotensin in vitro. Also resveratrol inhibits oxidation of low density lipo proteins (cholesterol). Anti-platelet aggregating effect of resveratrol.

Used in Europe to treat varicose veins, lymphedema acrocyanosis, acroparesthesia, telangiectasia and other compromised capillary blood flow problems due to platelet aggregation, diabetes, altered blood rheology (5) (6).

Wine and Grapes: Phenolic compounds in grapes especially dark skinned grapes may improve heart function, protect from heart disease, improve mental function and in near research protect against Alzheimer's disease. Traditionally, grapes were eaten, taken as juice or wine to treat menopause, hemorrhage, varicose veins (calendula cream also used to treat varicose veins and phlebitis), hypertension, lower cholesterol, skin rashes, dermatitis, menstruation. Good anti-inflammatory for inflamed gums, mouth sores, sore throat, eyesores.(6) (7) Ayurvedic uses of raisins: contain malic, tartaric and racemic acids, tannins and may have small amounts of arsenic.. Raisins are eaten for chronic bronchitis, heart disease, gout. Use raisins with fevers when thirsty or with cough. Used with enlarged spleen or liver. Leaves used for diarrhea. Grape juice used (especially with children) to treat constipation (see Kapoor in resource file)(1)

Chemistry: Grapeseed: Procyanidins

Grapes/Red Wine: Phenolic compounds in grapes include quercetin and resveratrol, ellagic acid (6)(9).

Dosage: Preventive dose: daily 50-100 mg. Pharmaceutical dose to treat chronic and acute conditions 15-300 mg. (6)(7) (8).

Safety: No known contraindications. No none contraindications in pregnancy and lactation (1).

Notes: We grow three varieties of grapes in our garden. We pick and blend them skins and all to make a marmalade (without sugar). This is a freezer jam that is rich in bioflavonoids. Leaves are edible may be steamed and wrapped around rice dishes Greek style. Grapes should be eaten raw (grow your own) or lightly prepared cooked or fermented. Juice is not as effective as wine for prevention.. Tannins and other phenolic compounds released from skins provides a more potent mix of protection induced during the fermentation process.


8. Kava (Kava kava, Awa, Kew, Tonga)

Piper methysticum G. Forster $8 MILLION

Family: Piperaceae

Function: (1)(3)(4)(8)(7)(10)

Medicinal: Drug:  dried rhizome and roots.  Root extract used as a sedative and sleep aid. Root is used to treat anxiety. May have direct effect on limbic system. Used to treat restlessness, insomnia.  May help some patients become socially cooperative. 

Chewed root used traditionally as local anesthetic in mouth.  Also, traditional use to treat asthma (10).

Note:  My parents, Jane and Al Meuninck, have both been diagnosed with Senile Dementia Alzheimer's Syndrome.  After over a year of juggling medications the family physician and family have arrived at a successful combination of chemistry that has restored much function both mental and physical to my parents.  They are taking melatonin, kava kava and Aricept.  If you would like to know more about this therapy call your physician and have them contact me through  

Chemistry: kava lactones (kava pyrones). Kawain; anesthetic.  Root typically contains 5.5 to 8.3% kava lactones. Extracts are concentrated to 30-70% lactones. Kava lactones may provide numerous effects: analgesic, muscle relaxing, anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant. Possible direct influence on limbic system. (1)(3)

Dosage: 60-120mg kava pyrones; Standardized extract of 70% Kavalactones) 100 mg. 2 to 3 times per day.(1)(6)

Safety: Mild gastrointestinal upset. Limit duration of use. May potentiate psychopharmaceuticals and psychoactive substances to include alcohol and barbiturates. Analgesic, local anesthetic and muscular relaxant. (1) (3) (6) (7) (8).  There was an additive action  when kava was taken for three days with the benzodiazepine alprazolam leading to a disoriented and lethargic state(11).  This appears contraindicated as kava resin supposedly does not bind at benzodiazepine receptors sites(12).  In one case study, Kava was antagonistic and incompatible with levodopa treatment of Parkinson's disease(13).  Considered by some a mild hallucinogenic drug. May effect reflexes and coordination. Long term use may cause: discoloration of nails, skin and hair; muscle weakness, red eyes, facial edema; rare cases of allergic dermatitis, disrupted accommodation manifested in pupil enlargement and oculomotor disturbances.(1)(3)(6)(7)(8)(9).

Not recommended during pregnancy and lactation(3)

Avoid use for treating bi-polar and endogenous depression.(1)(3)(6)(7)(8)(9).

Alcohol: Avoid use when consuming alcohol, alcohol may make kava toxic (10).

Preparation: Dried rhizome may be decocted into a tea. Pills and other preparations are available over-the-counter.

Caution: Often bulk supplies of roots imported into the United States are fumigated. Be aware fungicides may be used. Wash roots thoroughly before use.

Personal Note:  My parents both have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  Working together with aids and their physician both parents are taking a combination of Kava, Melatonin and Aricept.  Aricept and melatonin are taken in the evening and Kava in the morning.  Results have been good.  My father has gone from incontinent and incoherent  to continent and coherent.  For the first time in eight years he said to me, in response to my question on how he felt:  "I feel good!"   For the past eight years his answer to that question has been, "Not so Good!"    That subtle change was staggering.   A change in mental attitude from pessimism to optimism.  My mother too has fewer dark and gloomy days clouding her mind.


9. Evening Primrose    (Photo and more information)

Oenothera biennis L. $8 MILLION

Family: Onagraceae

Function: (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(10)

Medicine: The essential fatty acids and amino acids in the seeds are reportedly good for treating depression and psoriasis(3).

Principal Essential Fatty Acids: Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and dl-homo-gamma linolenic acid (DGLA))

Evening Primrose oil is anticoagulant, demulcent, precursor of prostaglandin E as an anti-inflammatory(3). Although Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) has been recommended in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis, Murray (2) suggests that flaxseed (omega-3 oils) may better serve the MS patient as alpha-linolenic acid has a better effect and is required for normal myelin composition. One study suggests that Evening Primrose Oil had no effects on the clinical course of MS.(1) I believe this is an expensive treatment alternative with results that can be achieved with less expensive flaxseeds and Perilla seeds.

One study showed that with women who had recurrent breast cysts Evening Primrose Oil treatment resulted in a slightly lower rate of recurrence as compared to placebo (10)

May reverse neurological damage in diabetic patients (11).  

Provided significantly increased serum essential fatty acids in insulin dependent children.  Also, decreased PGE2 levels (12).  

May improve liver function in alcoholics (10).

Chemistry: Plant contians coumarins, neochlorogenic acid, ellagic-acid, digallic-acid, kaempferol, quercitin, oenotherin. seed: excellent amino acid profile, phytosterols, significant quantities of essential fatty acids: cis-linoleic acid; gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and alpha-linoleic-acid as well as linoleic, beta-linoleic-acid .(3) (4) (5)(8).

Dosage: Eczema: Using standardized GLA content of 8%: 6-8 grams for adults; 2-4 grams children; PMS standardized extract of 3 grams daily (4)(7).  For first experiences follow recommendations on the package.

Safety: In large doses may cause headache, diarrhea, indigestion, nausea. Avoid in cases of schizophrenia and epileptogenic drugs: phenothiazines (3) (7).

No long term studies during pregnancy and lactation. GLA, a naturally occurring nutrient, is found in breast milk.

More on Safety:  This is a widely used nutritional supplement that has been marketed for over thirty years.

Notes: My wife takes evening primrose oil for treating PMS. She feels it helps, minimally.

Psoriasis: I have psoriasis and have found this oil and borage oil expensive and ineffective ways to treat this auto-immune disease. I have more success at less cost using fish oil capsules: Max EPA and DHA 1000mg tablets up to 12 per day, tapering down after 2 weeks to six per day and eventually three per day. This is not a cure but coupled with sun therapy and seawater bathing greatly clears my skin. Be certain to keep the skin moist with moisturizers. In the winter, I use prescription vitamin D3 (Dovonex, calcipotriene ointment) and Masada cream. I put the Dovonex on once a day after a shower before I go to bed and put the Masada cream on in the morning. The combination effectively my psoriasis

Food: The root is edible (biennial plant: first year root best). New leaves of first or second year edible in salads, stir fry. The leaves are tough and need to be cooked. Seeds can be poured out of seed capsule (seed capsule looks like small dried okra pod). Immature seed capsules may be cooked like okra, but do not taste like okra, nothing like okra (9).


10. Golden Seal/Echinacea formula $8 million  (Photo and more information)

Hydrastis canadensis L.

Family: Ranunculaceae

Discussion: This is a popular formula utilizing a combination of standardized golden seal extract and standardized echinacea extract.

There is reported synergy between the two herbs. Marketing and public relations has touted this combination. The popularity of golden seal has threatened its existence in the wild. It is over harvested. See Echinacea above for more detail.


Medicine: Root dried is finely powdered and used as medicine. Bitter digestive tract stimulant. Traditionally for diarrhea. Topically for skin and eye infections (1)(2)(3)(4). Considered anti-hemorrhagic, choleretic, involuntary muscle stimulant, laxative. Used most commonly for treating acute infections (colds, flu. sore throat, upper respiratory congestion and infections)(4). I have used it as a gargle when I get the tickle of a sore throat (4). Phyllis Balch (Prescription for Nutritional Healing) used golden seal for a tooth infection(13). Has also been used for treating recurrent ear infections. I have made a golden seal cinnamon alcohol extraction for athletes foot(12)(4). Also used for urinary tract infections. Because of its extremely bitterness like gentian it may be of use in stimulating appetite in anorexia . My dentist did his dissertation on the anti-microbial effects of berberine.

Chemistry: Isoquinoline alkaloids: berberine, hydrastine and canadine(1)(2)(4)(8)(10(14).

Dosage: Tincture is 1:10 ration dried root by weight to 60% alcohol by volume(10). Take 2-4 ml. Standardized Echinacea/Goldenseal dosage as per directions on bottle: typically 10 drops/three time per day. Standardized tincture: 2-4 ml per day. For treating athletes foot I mix equal amounts of cinnamon and goldenseal powder and moisten with alcohol, apply with a Q-tip to areas of foot and between toes(4)(12).

Safety: Extremely bitter may be rejected for that reason by some. Non-toxic at recommended dosages. Large doses of berberine and hydrastine may be fatal. Amounts in excess of the therapeutic dosages may cause stomach upset, nervousness, depression. Lethal dose leads to involuntary reflex action, convulsions, paralysis and death. Large doses may cause hypertension, respiratory failure, convulsions(2). May negate the activity of heparin as reported for the isolated alkaloid berberine. No other drug contraindications. Do not take if pregnant or lactating due to uterine stimulating activity of alkaloids and insufficient data on breast milk and alkaloid secretions. (1)(2)(10).

Notes: Not a particularly useful herb for me. There are safer more benign, yet efficacious herbs for the same ailments. I rely more on Echinacea, Siberian ginseng and Astragalus.

Also:  My dentist did his dissertation on the alkaloids in golden seal and found them weakly anti-microbial.



Vaccinium macrocarpon Aiton

Vaccinium oxycossus L. (European)

Family: Ericaceae


Medicine: Extract, juice used to treat bladder infections and kidney stones (2). May prevent recurrence of urinary stones. Sixteen ounces of cranberry juice was shown to be 73% effective against urinary tract infections in one study. Cranberry functions as a urine acidifier perhaps by the transformation of benzoic acid and quinic acid to urinary Hippuric acid (hypothetically  with the help of intestinal bacteria)(9)(10). Cranberry extract inhibits the adhesion of bacteria (anti-adhesion). Inhibits colonization of E. coli in urinary tract. A bacterium must find hold on a surface in your body to multiply and induce disease. Cranberry and cranberry juice is used to decrease odor and degradation of urine in incontinent patients.

NOTE: THE REQUIRED AMOUNT OF CRANBERRIES, CRANBERRY JUICE OR CRANBERRY EXTRACT TO TREAT BLADDER INFECTIONS AND STONES HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED.  RESEARCH SHOWS FROM INDIVIDUAL TO INDIVIDUAL THE VOLUME OF JUICE NECESSARY TO ACIDIFY URINE VARIES GREATLY.  In ONE VERY SMALL TEST 305 GRAMS OF COOKED CRANBERRIES WAS EFFECTIVE IN DECREASING pH from 6.4 to 5.3.  In other tests, as much as four liters of juice showed little effect on pH (9)(10)(11).  There is some evidence that using the juice with antibiotics may help suppress urinary tract infections (12)(13).

Chemistry: Alpha D-mannopyranoside, vitamin C(8)...Catechin, anthocyanins, flavonol glycosides, triterpenoids, citric, malic and quinic acids (1)(2)(3)(4). Polyphenolic and flavonoid compounds: Procyanidins, leucocyanin, leucondelphinin, flavonol glucosides.

Dosage: Therapeutic amount varies depending on the source of information....Up to 90 grams of fresh fruit per day or equivalent of fresh pressed juice. For urinary tract infection prevention one ounce of cranberry juice diluted with water (avoid adding sugar). For UTI treatment 12-32 fluid ounces daily. Other sources suggest 16 ounces of cranberry juice per day 73% effective against urinary tract infections(2). To reduce ionized calcium in urine by 50% take equivalent of 16 ounces of cranberry juice (sans sugar) or pill form (16 ounce equivalent)(2). Blumenthal et. al. suggest for urinary tract infection 12-32 ounces juice daily(1).

Notes: There are a couple cranberry bogs in my neighborhood. In October, the berries are ripe for the picking. You can dry them in a food dryer or cook them.. I pop a few on the hoof as I peruse the boardwalk through the bog. They are tart and have many benefits. Popular over the counter cranberry cocktail juices contain too much sugar. It may be prudent to take cranberry extract in pill form or buy pure cranberry juice concentrate and sweeten very little.

Blueberries and bilberries too have anthocyanins that are proven effective against E. coli infections (6).


12. Valerian

Valeriana officinalis L.

Family: Valerianaceae

Function: (references: 1 through 8 below)

Medicine: Primary use of valerian roots is to make a decoction or standardized extraction to be taken as a sleep aid (aqueous extraction of the root). This is a sedative and warming herb, improves digestion, lowers pain and is hypotensive (reduces blood pressure).  May influence serotonin, norepinephrine and GABA levels in brain leading to hypotensive, anticonvulsive and sedative properties

Valerian extraction is said to relieve painful menstruation (PMS)(1)(2). Relieves cramps, treats insomnia, migraine and jangled nerves. 

Aqueous extract of valerian root in double blind study had significant effect on poor or irregular sleepers, smokers (3)(4). Sometimes combine with hops (Humulus lupulus) and skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora). Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) in valerian may reduce blood pressure and help mild depression. This chemical is also high in Evening primrose seeds and several varieties of tomatoes. Sedative quality and used to assist sleep and relaxation.

The valpotriate fraction reduced the deleterious effect of alcohol on mental concentration when administered with alcohol (9).

Chemistry: Essential oil with monoterpenes and sequiterpenes to include valerenic acid(1)(2). Heat labile iridoids (valepotriates) are anti-convulsant. Volatile oil contains bornyl acetate, beta-caryphyllene, various alkaloids(3). Acidic, formic and Valeric acid, valerine, various glycosides(1)(5).

Dosage: I typically blend about a 4 grams of fresh washed root to two cups of water.Most sources say use infusion or decoction but heat destroys the active iridoid compounds. If you intend to get CNS effects I would avoid preparations that require heat. Dried root 2-3 grams of dried root (preferably a fine powder) to one cup water. For anti-anxiety the cold infusion may be taken three time per day. Over the counter tinctures and other preparations are typically Ĺ to 1 teaspoon three or four times per day. According to Chevallier 20 drops of tincture 5 time per day is an effective dose(3). All commercial extracts have recommended dosages on bottle. Externally use about 75 to 150 grams of cut and sifted root in a bath. Put root parts in panty hose to contain them. Root powder may be used but is messy(6).

Safety: No known drug interactions. Side effects mild or none: large dosage may cause stomach upset, mild headache. Overdose may cause severe headache, nausea, morning grogginess, blurry vision (7).  May potentiate barbituates(10).

Non-addictive according to NRI (7) ability to drive and operate machinery not effected.

Because of documented Central Nervous System depressant nature it is prudent not to combine with other sedative drugs including: sedatives and anxiolytics(7)(8).

Do not take during pregnancy or lactation due to insufficient studies. According to Blumenthal, et al., (2) the American Herbal Products Association has done a safety review and found no evidence to contraindicate valerian use during pregnancy and lactation.

Notes: I grow this herb in my garden and imbibe on the flowers and leaves. The root, a stinky thing, may be cleaned and chewed on as a mild sedative. I also like to walk the high alpine meadows of the Rockies and smell the distinctive odor of Valeriana acutiloba and V. sitchensis of the Pacific Northwest mountains. It is prevalent on the north side of Mt. Raineer and the slopes of Mt. Baker above Artist's Point.

Food: Leaves and flowers of V. officinalis are eaten in our household. Balch and Balch: Prescription for Nutritional Healing (second edition) Avery Publishing Group p.68:1997.  Also, used as food flavoring.

Wildlife/Veterinarian: Extract of roots are used on baits to lure wild cats, rodents, mountain lions.


GINGER    (Photo and more information)

Zingiber officinalis Roscoe

Family: Zingiberaceae

Function: (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)

Dr. Corson's Comments:  An excellent, daily detoxifying drink that is very economical, is ginger-root tea, made very simply by steeping 2 teaspoons of fresh, grated (or chopped) ginger root in 4 cups (1 quart)  of hot water.  (Bring the water to a boil first, then let it steep at least 20 minutes ; do not boil the ginger, as you will lose some of the valuable aromatic components).  Drink throughout the day, hot, cold, or room temperature.    Dr. Corson's patient hand out on Ginger Tea Recipe.

Medicine: Root extract is considered a smooth muscle relaxant, diuretic, stimulant, carminative.  Root as food or medicine is an aid to digestion. Root contains Anti-inflammatory capacity.

May provide cancer protection for stomach, increases mucous flow in stomach providing ulcer protection. 

Effective motion sickness prophylactic (nausea)(10)(11)(12). Reduces nausea of morning sickness. 

May reduce blood pressure and serum cholesterol. Anti-platelet aggregating(5). Relieves flatulence, vomiting, painful stomach. Elimination problems (constipation) related to colds and flu. Relieves rheumatic conditions(3).

External Use: Paste of root applied to head for headaches, rubefacient and circulatory stimulant. Ginger powder paste on toothache(7). Said to be used on forehead to assist nearsightedness that is due to deficient contraction of iris.

Chinese Medicine: Dried rhizome used.  A pungent warming herb with an affinity for the heart, lungs and spleen.  Warms the body, especially the lungs, dissolves phlegm, antiemetic.  Good for any cold excess in lungs, spleen, stomach.  to treat diarrhea, painful abdomen,cold feet and hands, warms extremities.  Strengthen pulse To treat cough.  About 3-8 grams of dried herb in decoction.    

Ayurvedic: Ayurveda researchers suggest ginger may prevent migraine headache. Mixed with potash or sodium carbonate in treating gout (according to Kapoor 1-2 grams ginger powder to .5gr sodium carbonate or potash)(9) WARNING: do not attempt this treatment without experienced professional medical diagnosis and supervision, as with all reported treatments in this database always seek experienced professional medical help before self treatment or treating others(9).

Anti-toxin: Japanese sushii and sashimi eaters take notice that the raw fish dishes are always served with grated ginger. Be certain to eat the ginger with raw fish. Ginger is used in Japan and China to fight fish poisoning and is always eaten with sushii and sashimi (raw fish). Asian studies also suggest it may kill flu and cold viruses(7).

Chemistry: gingerols, shogaols, sesquiterpene hydrocarbons: zingiberene, bisobolene, camphine, cineol, borneol, gingerin. Root bark contains alkaloid (you may want to peel ginger to avoid this alkaloid)(2)(3)(4)(5)(7).

Dosage: Ginger root is a food and can be used liberally. I typically eat two or three grams of fresh ginger, or pickled ginger(7)(8). Capsules of powdered dried root are typically 1000mg. One or two per day for morning sickness and nausea. One to two grams of powder for anti-emetic activity. Two grams of freshly powdered ginger for nausea of chemotherapy. Harm recommends ginger tea or ginger candy for chemo nausea(1). Twelve ounces of Jamaican Ginger ale is a helpful digestive aid(7).

Safety: May cause heartburn. No know drug interactions. Reported allergic reactions. Margaret Clumpner, a friend, has violent reaction to the root and must avoid it.  Hypothetically ginger root may interfere with anti-diabetic, anticoagulant and cardiac therapy. Tolerated as an anti-nausea aid with pregnancy. Excessive amounts may cause cardiac arryhythmias and central nervous system depression (18).  Animal studies (rats) showed ginger may enhance absorption sulfaguanidine (19). Ginger's abilities to inhibit thromboxane synthase and as a prostacyclin agonist suggest hypothetically that these effects may influence bleeding times, but this effect has not been demonstrated in clinical trials(20).

Food: Add to stir fry, soup, stews, salad dressings for antioxidant protection and protection from infection. Adds zest, heat and flavor to salad dressings, marinades, fruit dishes, preserves, pies, ice cream, Chinese cooking, fish, meat. Favorite dish carrot/citrus soup with ginger, see recipe section. GRAS.

Wildlife/veterinarian/gardening:  ginger root extract is an insecticide and a fungicide.  Try blending ginger root in water, filter and spray on plants.

Candace N, Corson, M.D.

Ginger Tea (fresh)

Purpose: Health enhancer, meant to be used as a daily detoxifying tea.


It is very helpful to many people and is both safe for most situations, and economical.


Substituting this for coffee or soda pop (and even decaffeinated coffee) can enhance health dramatically (e.g. allow resolution and healing of many cases of gastro-esophageal reflux). After all, no coffee substitute really tastes as good as coffee to most folks, so you might as well try a big change that can really give you something in return... like feeling better!


Known as "the universal medicine" in Ayurveda (one of the oldest systems of medical care in the world, about 6,000 years old), ginger has multiple documented biochemical effects.


Anti-nausea (anti-emetic)


Digestive stimulant/helps digestion/stimulates bile (use after consultation with physician if gallstones are a problem).

Heart toner (positive inotrope)


No known drug interactions

Easy recipe: 4 cups (1 quart) pure water, bring to boil (on stove or in a 4-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup in microwave). Add 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (about 1/4 - 1/2 inch of root, peeled and chopped or grated). Steep for at least 20 minutes and drink it warm or cold.

Sip throughout the day (strained or unstrained, your preference). If going to work, just add the hot water and ginger to thermos (non-plastic). Itís ready to drink by the time you get to work. This gives you half the daily goal of 8 cups a day of pure water intake, to supply the bodyís need for enough water for detoxifying purposes (we are made of 70% water and we need to recycle daily for good health). At least these 4 cups of ginger tea will give you more water intake than most patients I encounter, even if youíre too busy to drink more, or too hassled by work to make the needed bathroom stops.

The only people for whom I donít recommend this, are those who truly hate the taste of ginger.

We are trying to reduce stress on the body, not add stress!

I have had very positive feedback from virtually everyone who has tried this on a regular basis.


Natural Health, Natural Medicine - by Andrew Weil, M.D., 1995 Publisher: Houghton Miflin

The Healing Power of Herbs - by Michael Murray, N.D., 1995 Publisher: Prima Publishing

The Natural Pharmacy - Ed. Skye Lininger, D.C., J. Wright, M.D., S. Austin, N.D., D. Brown, N.D., A. Gaby, M.D.

The Complete German Commission E Monographs - Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines, 1998 American Botanical Council



Hawthorn   (photo and more information)

Crataegus laevigata (Poiret) D.C. and C. monogyna Jacquin emend. C. oxyacantha and other species (over 1000 species)

Family: Rosaceae

Parts Uses: Leaves, berries, blossoms, new end growth.


Medicine: Berry, has a sour, sweet flavor. Flower is bland.   Flower, new growth, leaves and fruit as medicine.

As per references above extraction is used to treat, angina, cardiac arrhythmia, heart disease, high blood pressure and intermittent claudication. The latter is leg pain caused by partially occluded coronary arteries. Circulatory stimulants and hypotensives may help this condition. 

Some circulatory stimulating possibilities in addition to hawthorn,: garlic, ginger, ginkgo biloba extract and cayenne. 

Dried hawthorn berries are used in China with infants with indigestion from improper nursing technique. 

In Europe and China, hawthorn has long been used to treat heart disease. The active phytochemistry are bioflavonoids. The bioflavonoids improve peripheral circulation to the heart, extremities and the brain. They improve coronary blood flow and are hypotensive. 

Extract may be a uterine stimulate, may induce menstruation, contraindicated for pregnant women. 

Eat the fruits raw for circulatory stimulation and simmer the new leaves and flower buds for treating a heart condition. 

In China, the dried fruits are decocted and used for treating irritable bowel and gall bladder problems. Crataegalic acid increases digestive enzyme secretions improving digestion. The berry is considered bacterialstatic (anti-bacterial) to shingella species. Decoction of dried fruit anti-diarrhea and helpful in dyspepsia...Claimed to dissolve cholesterol in lining of blood vessels (12)(13).

Chemistry: (C. cuneata, C. pinnatifida) amygdalin, ursolic acid, chlorogenic acid, saponins. General chemistry C. Laevigata and C. monogyna: flavonols: quercitin, kaempferol and flavone derivatives, rutin, vitexin, hyperoside, proanthocyanidins, procyanidins, glycosides, orientin glycosides, cyanogenic glycosides, Vitamin C (2)(3)(4)...Also, choline, cratagolic acid, folic acid, pantothenic acid, PABA, tartaric acid, tannins (2)(5).

Dosage: Fresh flower tops can be made into tea, Ĺ cup to two cups of water, simmer for five minutes, drink cold.

Dried berries, one gram, can be prepared by infusion. Purchase berries at health food stores, for money savings buy them at Oriental groceries. Dosage of standardized tinctures and liquid extracts follow recommendations on bottle, typically 1 to 2 ml./three times a day. In China, the standard dose is 6-15 grams of the dried berry in decoction (13).

Safety: No known drug interactions (10). Not recommended during pregnancy and lactation according to Newall (11) but Commission E and other European monographs report no contraindications during pregnancy (3). Proanthocyanidins have been shown not to be mutagenic according to Ames test results (9). Extract from the berry is most studied. Extracts from leaves and flowers less studied. Safety with berry extracts well established. Use standardized extracts of fresh flowering tops by reputable manufacturer. I have extracted fresh flower tops and experienced flushing and lightheadedness....Perhaps too concentrated. The same experience was felt with an extract made from (fall of the year) Ginkgo leaves...Peripheral circulation was greatly enhanced (flushing).  Leaf and flower preparations and potentially fruit extracts may enhance effects of cardiac glycosides.  Hawthorn may increase sleeping time in patients who concurrently use barbituates(15).  German clinical medicine practitioners use hawthorn leaf and flower extract with cardiac glycosides for the synergism and lowered risk of toxicity (presumably by lowering the dose of the cardiac glycoside).   Hawthorn reportedly has increased the coronary dilation effect of several drugs to include:  epinephrine, adenosine, sodium nitrate, caffeine, papaverine and theophylline (16).   Although these reactions are considered by ESCOP as insignificant they are here dutifully noted.

Notes: My brother had a heart attack about ten years ago. He has recovered. On his farm there grows about a dozen hawthorn trees that have the biggest, sweetest fruit I have ever tasted. In the Spring, we cut off a few dozen clusters of flower buds and emerging new growth leaves to make tea. The hot water extracts the bitter bioflavonoids that are hypotensive and anti-angina. Berries are gathered in August and immersed in boiling water for 30 seconds then cut in half and dried in a food dryer. Berries may be cooked in hot cereals, added to tea...Be creative and to your health.

Food: We eat the fruit and flowers, in salads, stews, tea, or munch them off the tree in the appropriate season.  Fruit may be sliced and dried in a food drier and be stored for future use.  Use dried fruit in green tea.


Soy Beans, Tofu (soy bean products)

Glycine max L.


(photo, more)

Function: (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)

Medicine: Processed soy beans may help prevent breast, uterine, stomach and prostate cancer due to phytoestrogen content. It  is reported that the phytoestrogens bind to breast site receptors and are weakly or non active, thereby lowering the estrogen response.  Soy isoflavonoids are antioxidants, phytic acid in soy reduces cholesterol absorption, protease inhibitors may provide protection from virus invasion in gut, and consequently prevent the formation of cancer (unproven). Genistein in soy inhibits cell proliferation and inhibits growth of carcinogen induced cancers in rats and human leukemia cells transplanted into mice. PR Newswire, April 24, 1998.

Studies concerning Breast Cancer: There is a direct association between soy product intake and reduced risk of breast cancer. Women with high amounts of plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) in their urine had a substantial reduction in risk for breast cancer(1). Another study showed that fat intake was associated with a higher risk of endometrial cancer, whereas increased fiber intake reduced that risk. Soy is high in fiber (phytate). High consumption of soy foods and other legumes reduced the risk of uterine cancer(2)(3). This reduction in cancer rate was also show by people who ate ample amounts of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seaweeds.

Hot Flashes: Soy may be helpful in preventing hot flashes (12). In the study it was soy extract was not particularly helpful against menopause symptoms such as aches, cramps, insomnia, headaches and anxiety(13).

Chemistry: Soy contains the isoflavones: equol, genistein and daidzein; also lignins (enterodiol, enterolactone, matairesinol. Protease inhibitors in soy may prevent activation of cancer causing organisms, genes and mechanisms. Phytate (phytic acid) in soy, a soluble fiber, slows release of food (sugars) into blood stream and binds bile preventing cholesterol absorption. Phytate as an antioxidant also provides cancer protection. Phytate binds excessive iron and removes it from our digestive system. Soy phenolic acid is anti-carcinogenic; lecithin in soy is antioxidant. Other soy chemistry: essential fatty acids are anti-arthritic, anti heart disease; anti-diabetic; anti-cancer. Eating soy may improves condition of vaginal dryness(5).

Dosage: It is estimated that Japanese women eat about 200 mg of phytoestrogens per day in whole soy bean products including: tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, omochi (soy candy), bean curd and the like. The Italian study (hot flashes) used about 1/3 that amount (76mg/day). The dietary supplement used in reference (1) contained 40 mg of genistein and 28 mg of daidzein.

Safety: No known toxicity or side effects (4).  There are some concerns about the potency or lack of in soy phytoestrogens.  A few scientists have suggested that in the presence of cancer these plant estrogens may exacerbate the condition.  Nothing proven.

Notes: Much research has focused on soy and soy products for their health protecting effects. But other legumes have phytoestrogens and soluble fiber. Black turtle beans, baby lima beans and other beans have phytoestrogens and fiber profiles similar to soy beans without as much fat.

Food: See Herbal Preparations and Nutritional Therapies Video from Jim Meuninck. You can easily make your own soy milk, vegetated soy protein and tofu. Add tofu to stir fry, blend soft tofu into banana smoothies, fry tofu, eat vegetated tofu burgers, use soft tofu in your creamy salad dressings, try one cup of tofu blended with two tablespoons of Marukan seasoned gourmet rice wine vinegar to make a vegetable dip.

See herbal preparations and nutritional therapies section for how to make soy milk, soy dog food and soy protein.  Numerous soy web sites.


Soy for health Web sites:

Japanese soy research,html

Soy products and osteoporosis

Soy products and treating cancer

Soy Symposiums: role of soy protein in preventing and treating chronic disease

UCLA center for human nutrition

Aloe (Photo, more)

Aloe vera L. syn: Aloe barbadensis and Aloe capensis


Function: (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)

Dr. Corson's comments:  Aloe is very useful as a soothing, healing, supportive natural medicine for the intestinal tract;  available widely in health food stores, best from organic sources, to use as on label (usuallly 2 oz. in juice or water, 3 times a day as needed; the taset is moderately unpleasant, so juice may be a good way to administer it.  Be sure the preparation does NOT include the outer skin of the aloe; this is a strong cathartic.  You want the inner substance of this healing plant.  

Medicine:  External Use : Inside jell of succulent leaf used to heal burns, may help regenerate skin, astringent and cooling to skin.  This is a traditional and age old treatment of burns.  Gel is an effective soothing and may promote healing agent on burns and radiation burns (i.e. from cancer treatment). Gel is also bacteriostatic and anti-fungal.  Research suggests gel to be a chemotactic attractant to serum immune chemistry drawing it to burn site. External use may reduce edema (swelling) and is anti-inflammatory. Also, externally gel for first-aid cuts, bites, burns, frostbite, excellent tissue restorative properties. Gel used on insect bites, wash to relieve dandruff, perhaps efficacious against some skin cancer. 

Used externally for eczema. Cut leaf plastered to skin to remove warts. Gel used as a conditioning shampoo. Aloe juice used in Ayervedic medicine to treat hemorrhoids, about a half cup of commercially prepared juice three or four times a day. External application of juice or gel can be drying, styptic. May be applied with varied efficacy to hives, eczema, scabies and other skin irritations where cooling, drying and anti-itch anti-inflammatory action may be beneficial (see your licensed holistic health care practitioner for details).

Internally, Gel reported to be effective in treating ulcers (4). Also used as a larvicide, intestinal anti-helminthic (intestinal worms) insecticide, digestive aid, emollient for skin, antiseptic. 

Aqueous extracts of aloe (commercially prepared aloe juice) have significantly lowered cholesterol, triglyceriede, phospholipids and fatty acids in monkeys. It has also been used to kill vaginal yeast infections. 

Note:  Aloe vera juice or gel has demonstrated a hypoglycemic effect in two clinical trials.  In one study 36 diabetic patients took a tablespoon of aloe juice in the morning and a second tablespoon at night.  In the other study, two tablespoons of aloe juice taken (one T in the morning and one T at night) with  the antihyperglycemic drug glyburide (glibenclamide) had a synergistic (additive) effect. 

Aloe latex extracted from the skin (typically dried latex) has been used as an abortive aid, powerful cathartic(11). Used as a stimulating laxative aloe may potentiate cardiac glycosides and other antiarrhythmic agents such as quinidine.  Laxative activity of aloe latex depletes serum potassium potentiating these drugs.  Hypothetically, the concurrent use of licorice root extracts, corticosteroids or thiazide diuretics WITH aloe latex may lead to potassium depletion.  Other plant derived cathartics such as cascara sagrada rhubarb root, senna leaf and fruit as well as buckthorn berry or bark may induce potassium depletion due to decreased intestinal transit time(10).

Chinese and Ayurveda: A. barbadensis:  bitter, cold, affinity for stomach, liver, large intestine, purgative, laxative (condensed juice of the fresh leaves).   Also used against intestinal parasites.  Typical dose for parasites and catharsis less than .2 gram up to 1 gram.  Used by Chinese and Indian traditional physicians to treat menstrual discomfort. Effective against Candida albicans in vitro (5). Anti-inflammatory burns. Uterine stimulant. Appetite stimulant (bitter principle) use with assistance of physician.  Internally, the light colored emodin like chemistry in leaf "skin" is a powerful cathartic (potentially dangerous).

According to Jim Duke in his book The Green Pharmacy, Rodale, aloe speeds healing by 72 hours of patients who undergo skin dermabrasion (the removal of the top layer of the epidermis)(12).

Cape aloe used in anti-cancer research: ethanol extract appears to antagonize hemolytic toxins.

Aloe ulcin from Cape aloe inhibits histamine synthesis (allergy), used experimentally on rats externally to treat ulcers.

Cosmetic industry: commercial use in skin lotions, creams, salves, shampoos.

Chemistry: Anthroquinone, glucomannan, magnesium lactate, polysaccharides. Latex in skin contains anthroquinone glycosides: aloe emodin, aloin (too powerful for casual use: laxative effect when anthroquinones are cleaved by gut bacteria) and saponins. Also contains enzymes, bradykininase, carboxypeptidase (may reduce pain, swelling and inflammation as per other plant enzymes). Glucomannan. Acemannan may be an active immune system enhancer (Helderman, Vandervilt U. "Immuno-Pharmacology and Immunotoxicology" March June 1992. Relatively high doses of acemannan increased capacity of T-cells., also activates monocyte macrophages. Experiments are ongoing with AIDs patient in Europe and Canada. Aloe emodin like latex material in skin of aloe is a laxative, dangerously potent. Aloe emodin shows promise as anti leukemia agent. Gel may reduce blood sugar levels (diabetes), but not yet recommended because of toxicity (2)(4)(5)(11)(12).

Amount: Warning: A few are allergic to aloe both externally and internally. Use a very small amount underarm or behind ear. Allergic reaction will cause redness and itching. Be careful....See Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing for more information. I use the gel of the live plant liberally over external irritated or burned skin. For cathartic activity only under the supervision of a physician about 5-200 mg of aloe latex capsules. Internal use of the gel up to 30 ml. I do not use the product internally(13).

CAUTION:  Aloe should not be used internally unless under the prescription and care of a medical professional.  Anthraquinones in aloe cause severe gastric cramping.  Contraindicated for pregnant women and children.

TIPS: I use the Aloe vera juice and gel externally only and just the fresh product.  However, clinical trials suggest the safe use of 30ml per day in two dosed for a hypoglycemic effect.  See your holistic health care practitioner  before using this therapy.

Guar gum can be mixed with gel to thicken it (glucomannan increases viscosity).

Preparation: Fresh gel appears more active than preserved and stabilized juices. Plant leaf (older, lower leaves may be more active) can be sliced lengthwise placed in a colander and juice drips down into container. For first-aid slice leaf in half (or squeeze out gel of broken leaf) and use gauze or like to fix open gelled side of leaf over burn or bite. May be applied directly to poison ivy. Juice made into a slave may be used on a variety of radiation burns. Prepared juices use internally as a tonic. Aqueous extracts may be anti-fungal.

Dry aloe gel to crystalline solid for preparing creams, tinctures, salves, lotions.(5)

Dosage:  For hypoglycemic effect two trials have demonstrated a dose of 15ml or one Tablespoon at rising and a second tablespoon at night as effective (8) (9).

Food: Used in small amounts as a flavoring agent in many foods (see Duke, Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press. Aloe vera juice commercially prepared is taken for a variety of problems (see next). Is it food or medicine? You be the judge. I do not consume it, but do use in on sunburn, burns, cuts and scrapes.


(1)McCauley R.L., et al. Postgrad Med., 1990;88(8):67.
(2) Guide to Popular Natural Products; Facts and Comparisons; St. Louis, MO. 1999: pp. 7-8.
(3) Fly, K., Economic Bot. 1963:14:46.
(4) PDR for Herbal Medicines, First edition. Medical Economics Co. (1998) p.630-632.
(5) Murray, Pizzorno, Second Edition encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Prima Press. 1998.
(6) Haggers J.P., et al. Journal Am. Med. Technol. 1979;41:293.
(7) Guide to Popular Natural Products; Facts and Comparisons; St. Louis, MO. 1999: p.7-8.
(8)  Yongchaiyudha s. et al. Antidiabetic activity of Aloe vera juice. I. Clinical trial in new cases of diabetes mellitus.  Phytomedicine. 1996;3(3) Ppl 241-243.
(9)  DerMarderosian, Ara, Editor:  The Review of Natural Products; Monograph: Aloe. Facts and Comparisons; St. Louis, MO 1999.
(10) Blumenthal, Mark,  Herbalgram Num. 49.  American Botanical Council, Austin, TX  pp.52-63. 2000.
(11) Duke, James.  Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 1987.
(12) Duke, James.  The Green Pharmacy.  Rodale Press.  Emmaes, PA.
(13) Balch and Balch: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Avery Publishing, Garden City, N.Y., 1997.


Licorice  (photo and more information)

Glycyrrhiza glabra L. and G. uralensis    


(also in Chinese section to follow in this file)

FUNCTION: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (8) (9) (10)

Dr. Corson's Comments:  Licorice has many medicinal powers: Anti-inflammatory, healing to the upper gastro-intestinal mucosa, anti-viral, and a significant potentiator of adrenal function (potentiator of glucocoid and mineralocorticoid function). Whole licorice root can be used to enhance adrenal function (enhances the length of action of endogenous cortisol). I have had success in treating adrenal exhaustion in the setting of chronic stress (short of Addisonís disease) with whole licorice extract.

For mucosal healing of the upper GI tract, it is necessary to use DGL (De-Glycerrhizinated Licorice, usual dose of 1-2 tablets of 360 mg each, chewed and swallowed, 3 to 4 times a day ), as opposed to whole licorice herb root, to avoid decreased potassium and increased blood pressure over the length of time required for healing (6-8 weeks). About 97% of the glycyrrhizin is removed from DGL, but there is still the potential in some patients, to potentiate the effect of mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids, to some extent. I follow the blood pressure of patients, especially those with any history of hypertension.

Medicine: Glycyrrhetinic acid as a cough suppressant, but may raise blood pressure dangerously in hypertensive patient. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice does not effect blood pressure.

Anti-inflammatory glycyrrhetinic acid is similar in action to adrenal hormones.

Isoflavones and biogastrone from glycyrrhizin show anti-ulcer activity.

Isoflavones show anti-allergy activity.

Immune system suppressing activity (1)

Weakly hemolytic activity of glycyrrhizin as compared to other saponins.

Europeans have formulated deglycyrrhizinated licorice to solve high blood pressure problem. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice may help heal ulcers of duodenum.

Licorice may be anti-inflammatory internally and externally.

Triterpenoids in licorice may be anti-ulcer, prevent dental decay and inhibit some forms of cancer.

May stimulate immune system to produce interferon, anti bacterial, anti fungal.

Chinese Medicine:  Dried root slices used prepared in decoction.  Sweet, neutral with an affinity to all organs and the 12 meridians.  Demulcent to lungs, a conic, expectorant and analgesic.  For energy deficiencies, toxic abscesses, sore throats, coughs, asthma, abdominal pains. This drug appears in almost all Chinese drug preparations.  Detoxifying effects from food poisoning, drug poisoning and toxic metabolites. Glucuronic acid combine with and removes toxins from liver (1) (2) (3).

Treatment of eczema looks promising in successful clinical trials using a combination of licorice, Ledebouriealla seseloides, Potentilla chinensis, Clematis chinensis, Clematis armandi, Rehmania glutinosa , Paeonia lactiflora, Lophatherum gracile, Dictamnus dasycarpus, Tribulus terrestris and Schizonepeta tenuiflora. The formula is decocted and can be ordered from TCM pharmacists in Chinatown (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other large urban Chinese cultural centers )(8) (9) (10).

Raises blood pressure by adrenalcortical like action, similar to caffeine, and fasting.

Causes retention of water, secretion of potassium and increases blood pressure. Used to treat Addison's disease.

Inhibits gastric secretions caused by histamine reaction. (animal studies).

Chemistry: Root: saponins, up to 14%. Glycyrrhizin (50X sweeter than sugar) when hydrolyzed forms glycyrrhetic acid and glucuronic acid. Other saponins include: gabrolide, glabric acid. Also, flavonoids: the aglycones liquiritin, isoliquiritin, licoricone, licoflavone, 2-methyl-7-hydroxyisoflavone, licoricidin...mannitolasparanic acids, isoglycyrols, glycyrols.


Root slices: I take up to 10 grams of dried root slices and simmer them in two cups of water for 20 minutes and drink the water, or use it in soup bases. According to Commission E: 5-15 grams of root which may be the equivalent of 200-600 mg glycyrrhizin. Use standardized extractions and deglycyrrhizinated extractions as recommended on the label.. In Chinatown supermarkets and drug stores, you can find licorice teas: laxative teas, bronchial teas and gastric teas. Use a recommended on label.

Powdered Root: 1-2 grams in infusion. Pour water just off boil over root and drink as tea (about one teaspoon of ground licorice is 3 grams, so use 2/3 a teaspoon). Take no more than three cups per day (2) (3) (5) (6).

Liquiritiae succus: This extraction in juice or tea form is widely available in Chinatown and in health food stores. Use as recommended on package. Typically, 1 teaspoon of juice to one cup water off boil. Or take 25 drops 4 times per day with a meal (3) (5) (6).

Safety: Contraindicated with chronic diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, cholestatic diseases of the liver, renal insufficiency, hypokalemia, hypertension. Avoid during pregnancy and lactation due to little research on subject. Root extraction should not be administered with amiloride or spironolactone (11).  Generally, this is a safe phytopharmaceutical when taken within recommended dosages. Limit administration to 6 weeks or less. Overdose may lead to edema, increased blood pressure, hypokalemia if taken in conjunction with corticosteroid drugs (half life or cortisol is prolonged). Overdose symptoms recede when licorice use is stopped (2) (3) (5) (6).  Licorice when used in combination with thiazide a diuretic may increase loss of potassium which in turn could cause increased sensitivity to digitalis glycosides.   Thus, prolonged use with loop diuretics, thiazide and cardiac glycosides is contraindicated(12).

NOTES: My favorite use of licorice is in combination with Astragalus both in decoction used for acute infections, ulcers, gastritis, upper respiratory problems. For the recipe click here.

Food: candy, condiments, flavoring, in soups, salad dressings. I like to make a stomach and intestine healing and protecting rice by simmering 15-20 grams dried licorice root with six tongue depressors of Astragalus in three cups of water. Simmer down to about 2 cups. Add whole grain brown rice. Simmer covered for 35 minutes or until rice is soft (It helps to soak rice in refrigerator overnight). Eat rice for treating ulcers, flatulence, nervous stomach, stomach infections.


(1) Hsu, Hong-yen: Oriental Materia Medica, A Concise Guide, Keats Publishing (1996).
(2) Blumenthal, M., Riggins, C. et al.: Popular Herbs in the U.S. Market, Therapeutic Monographs. American Botanical Council, Austin TX., P. 59. 1997.
(3) Meuninck et al. Natural health with medicinal herbs and healing foods. Media methods 1992 One hour video.
(4) Meuninck. Herbal preparations and nutritional therapies. Media methods. One hour video 1999.
(5) PDR for Herbal Medicines, First edition. Medical Economics Co. (1998) p. 875-876.
(6) Blumenthal, M., Goldberg, Gruenwald, Hall, Riggins and Rister with Klein and Rister translators (1997) German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Monographs of Medicinal Plants for Human Use. Austin TX: American Botanical Council.
(7) Atherton et al.: Treatment of atopic eczema with traditional Chinese medicinal plants (1992) Pediatr. Dermatology. 9(4) p. 373-375.
(8) Sheehan and Atherton, Controlled trial of traditional Chinese Medicinal plants wi widespread non-exudative atopic eczema. Br. Jour. Dermatology 126(2) (1992) 179-184.
(9) Also see Sheehan, et al.: Efficacy of traditional Chinese herbal therapy in adult atopic dermatitis, Lance 340 (1992) 12-17.
(10) Murray and Pizzorno, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition (1998) Prima Publishing P.452.
(11) WHO Monographs on selected medicinal plants.  Vol. 1. Geneva: The Organization (World health Organization) 1999.
(12) Blumenthal, Busses, Goldberg  The Complete German Commission E Monographs:  Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines.  American Botanical Council, Austin TX. Publisher;  Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998.


Astragalus membranaceous, (huang chi), (haung qi)

Leguminosae(Photo and more information)

Function: (1)(2)(3)(7)

Medicine: Decoction of root slices used as a tonic herb.  Sliced root is used in decoction and taken internally. Root contains polysaccharides, glycosides, saponins, essential fatty acids. In Chinese medicine, it is reported to have an affinity to spleen lungs, energy slightly warm, sweet, slightly sour. It is an immunotonic, cardiotonic, diuretic, lowers blood pressure, lowers blood sugar, improves circulation to flesh and skin.  Improves condition of abnormal sweating and deficient energy.  

Experimental use in treating Alzheimer's disease (3).  May help improve weak circulation, perhaps improving flow to distal areas of the body.  Caution:  Many elderly patients have high blood pressure and this must be taken into consideration before prescribing for patients.  

A few sources suggest it may be useful with Seasonal Affective Disorder patient along with the following tonic herbs: Siberian ginseng, Asian ginseng, Ashwagandha (3).  

Chinese Medicine:  Sweet, slightly warming extraction (water) from roots.  Affinity  spleen and lungs.  A tonic, refrigerant, diuretic, immune system nourishing and stimulating.   May lower blood pressure and blood sugar, improves circulation to extremities:  surface flesh and skin.  Dose is 8 grams in decoction.  To treat energy deficiency.  Has been used in China to rebuild immune system after radiation and chemotherapy for cancer. Often combined with licorice for synergistic effect (6).

Notes: As a immune system tonic Astragalus stimulates production of immunological substances throughout body, used to restore immune response in cancer patients. Increases both production and activity of white blood cells. Does not directly attack cancer, strengthens immune defenses. Helps body resist viral infections, under study as treatment for AIDS it reduces number of T-suppressor cells. Chinese practitioners claim it improves adrenal gland function. May assist digestion. May increase metabolism along with other benefits making it a superior soup base for fighting the onset of colds and flu. According to Balch MD, Prescription for Nutritional Healing it may help deficient immune systems fight AIDS, cancer and other tumors(5). Chinese practitioners use it for chronic lung deficiencies (6).

Combines well with licorice, ginseng, Echinacea, Codonopsis.

Warning: Chinese practitioners caution against taking with a fever. It is a stimulating herb and is contraindicated with fever (6).

Chemistry: polysaccharides, kumatakenin, glucoronic acid, dimethoxyisoflavone, choline, B-sitosterol, betaine, sucrose.

Side effects/Contraindications: Few when used moderately as described next.  Do no use in presence of fever (5)(6).  Because of immune stimulating effects the drug may be incompatible with immunosuppressive drugs such as methotrexate, cyclosporine, azathioprine(8).

Amount: Take by decoction, or liquor 100 grams of sliced root in 1 liter of spirits for 3 months, take one ounce daily, works in combination with ginseng liquor (100 grams ginseng to 1 liter of spirits). Water decoction 15 to 30 grams to two cups, simmered down to one cup. I typically simmer down to about a cup and a half, then wring out the wet roots into the broth. Use the broth in soups, to make rice (see next).

Notes: Astragalus make an excellent health promoting soup base. Cook Astragalus, 6 tongue depressors, with 2 cups of water (or multiple of this formula) until you have simmered away about a half cup of water. Remove roots and use water as soup base, add stock, vegetables, garlic and spices.

Favorite Preparation: Six Astragalus root cuttings (look like tongue depressors) with a half handful of licorice root to three cups of water. Bring to a simmer, then simmer for twenty minutes. Fish out all root material, then add a cup of brown rice to water. Simmer for 30 or 40 minutes with a lid on pan to make soft rice dish. This food may be stored in refrigerator for three days. Consume for acute infection protection, for treating ulcers and stomach upset. Soothing to the entire digestive system.


Green tea, tea

Camellia sinensis L. Kuntze



Medicine: Drinking green tea may provide protection from tumors of liver, lungs, skin and digestive tract. Fluoride in tea may protect the imbiber from dental caries. Tea may stimulate immunity. Tannins and fluoride are bacterialstatic, preventing tooth decay, and may relieve digestive complaints and are astringent providing relief from diarrhea. Drinking tea may protect organ systems from nuclear and ultra violet radiation. The following teas, green tea, black tea and oolong tea, have phenolic compounds that have positive effects on your health: perhaps protective against cancer and heart disease. Catechin in tea may be immune enhancing, anti-intestinal cancer, and may lower cholesterol. Caffeine in tea is an appetite stimulant and bronchioldilator. Caffeine may improve performance in motor and memory skills.

A Chinese study of 931 patients showed regular tea drinkers (one or more cups per week) had lower risk of cancer of the pancreas and rectum(2)(9). Other studies suggest that tea drinking may significantly reduce esophageal and stomach cancers (3) (7) (8).

In general, studies suggest tea may prevent the development of certain cancers, prevent infectious disease, prevent dental caries and by preventative to cardiovascular disease (heart disease) and may stimulate immune response.

Chemistry: the polyphenols: catechins, epicatechin, gallocatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate (all free radical scavengers <antioxidants> more potent than vitamin C). Also flavonols (related to catechins): theogallin. Methylxanthines including caffeine, theophylline, theobromine, theanine. Minerals depending on soil content are manganese, aluminum...Trigaloylglucose (tannin like substance).

Dosage: One to three cups per day may be beneficial (10) (11).   A few longitudinal studies show that at least a cup of tea per week is beneficial.  While in China, I drank six to eight cups per day and that I would call the average dose there.  Green tea is a favorite in Japan, Gunpowder is considered their high end, most beneficial tea.  To lower cholesterol one study suggested that about 9 cups of tea were necessary per day (6).

Safety: No known contraindications or drug interactions in general use. No known contraindications while pregnant or lactating.

Food: hot drink, steep with lid, also used in poaching fish, and steaming vegetables.



Elderberry    (Photo and more information)

Sambucus nigra L...S. canadensis L.


Function: (Most studies on S. nigra L..) (see references 1-6)

Medicine: Bioflavonoid rich, anti-inflammatory flowers and fruit used. Avoid leaves and bark (cyanide like compounds). Traditionally, flowers reported to lower fever, soothing to irritations, reduces inflammation, alterative, diuretic. Use flowers and fruit as food or tea for influenza, flu, colds excess mucus, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, improved heart function, fevers, hay fever, allergies, sinusitis. Flowers can be infused in water and rubbed on skin to soothe and soften irritations. Michael Moore claims elderberry flower tincture of the flowers is alterative, diaphoretic, stimulating the body's defense systems (9).  Elderberry flower tinctures may be more effective and more tasteful when combined with mints.

Traditionally used to increase sweating, anti-inflammatory, diuretic.

Flowers best for upper respiratory problems.

Berries diuretic and detoxifying...

CAUTION:  Berries should be cooked before consumption (5). Red elder berries more toxic than blue and black berries, avoid eating red elder berries (9).

Chemistry: Rutin high in immature flowers. Flowers also contain phenolic acids, triterpenes, mucilage, tannins, sterols. Campesterol in whole plant, seeds high in linoleic and linolenic acid, phenylalanine. (2) Berries high in anthocyanins, flavonoids and vitamin C and vitamin A. Other flavonoids in flowers include sambuculin A, isoquercitrin, quercitrin, hyperoside, astragalin, nicotoflorin. Flowers three percent chlorogenic acid.  Also, triterpenes: alpha and beta amyrin palmitate (potentially antihepatoxic against carbon tetrachloride) (6). Sambunigrin is a cyongenic glucoside.  Contain plant lectins of interest for  their use in blood typing and hematologic characteristics (7)(8).

Dosage: I eat the dried berries (S. Canadensis) throughout the winter months on cereal, pancakes, waffles, porridge. Also in stir fry. It is best to cook the berries even after drying. Flowers may be gathered in June, dried and made into tea. Cut away stems before eating flowers.  Remove stems from berries before consumption.  Flowers: Therapeutic dose reported to be 1 to 3 teaspoons of dried elder flowers to a cup of water off boil.  Over-the-counter elderberry extracts have recommended dosage on the bottle. Over-the-counter elderberry and elder flower preparations have dosage on container. I have eaten over 100 grams of flowers, frittered as described next.

Berries are dried or used fresh in decoction, 20 grams of dried berries to three cups of water simmered down to 2 cups or 40 grams of fresh berries simmered down from three cups to 2 cups.

Safety: Warning: leaves, bark, root, and unripe berries may cause cyanide poisoning. Suggested dosage of flowers and berries present no adverse reactions or contraindications. More study needed.

Caution: Berries are safe when cooked.  Fresh berry juice has caused illness(8).

NOTES: This fruit works as well as bilberry and blueberry for my money and is much easier to collect and prepare in southern Michigan. I can hop in my boat and fill two grocery bags with flowers in 20 minutes. Elderberries (fruit) may be dried in a food dryer, then refrigerated and used in cooking throughout the cold months for disease prevention. They contain rutin and anthocyanins. Dried berries can be cooked in stir fry, stirred into hot rice, mixed into pancake batter. I like them cooked in 12 and 20 grain cereals.

FOOD:  Use elder flowers and berries sparingly as food because of their unknown safety. Flowers may be batter dipped and frittered, or sprinkled over salads, infuse into tea. Fruit can be dried and used as sprinkle on pancakes, salads, meat dishes etc. Fruit may also be tinctured for colds and flu prevention...Use alcohol 190 proof or glycerin full strength with fresh berry; 1:1 weight to volume. Keep in refrigerator; use teaspoon full for cold flu prevention. This makes a pleasant elixir. Add honey until alcohol tincture is thick enough to coat and forma film on a tablespoon.


CAYENNE (Photo, more)

Capsicum frutesens L.; C. annuum and other Capsicum species


Function:(1) (2) (3) (4) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11)

Medicine: Fruit and fruit extract is catabolic, increases body heat, increases metabolism. May inhibit cholesterol production in liver (unproven in humans). Eating peppers may be effective against cluster headaches (Science News). Capsaicin may assist absorption of drugs through human skin, anti-inflammatory action...May be helpful to arthritis. One over the counter brand is Zostrix tm.(1) (2).

Eating peppers may help relieve distress from ulcers by inducing the secretion of mucus over effected area.

Native Americans traditionally feed decoction of cayenne (soup) to 3-4 year old children to strengthen their stomach against infection and parasites. Indigenous Mexicans eat peppers to raise body temperature to prevent colds. Cayenne phytochemistry may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis which can lead to hypertension (9) (10).

Reported to strengthen heart as a stimulant, antiseptic qualities of capsaicin have been challenged in recent research.

May reduce gastric mucosal damage due to orally andministered aspirin when taken prophylactically about 30 minutes before consuming aspirin(12).

Chinese Traditional Medicine: warming to the third degree (8). Stimulates circulation and digestive secretions, perspiration Punches up flagging defenses. Raises body temperature.

Chemistry and Action: Water and alcohol soluble capsaicin (capsaicinoid) in cayenne is used in analgesic ointments and creams. It penetrates skin, goes to sensory nerves in painful joints and intercepts compound P, a neural transmitter. When sensory nerves fire compound P is destroyed between synapses. Capsaicin prevents replenishment of compound P, thus pain is alleviated. Counter irritant effect of capsaicin also causes movement of blood from painful inflamed joints to surface, bringing in new blood and lymph. This nourishes and cleanses the injured or painful area. With pain subdued and circulation improved healing is expedited (Herbal and Nutritional Therapies video, Jim Meuninck). Other active chemicals include carotenoids particularly the dark red capsanthin, steroid like saponins and flavonoids.

Dosage: As directed on cream.. Internally, I use pepper to season vegetables, meats, soup dishes (my food is my medicine). This is good cold and flu prevention. Improves circulation to extremities. All internal dosages should be taken by mouth. If it is too hot then you'll know. Capsules may lead to overdose...Let your taste control your dose. That's why I like to take peppers with food.

Percolation: For external use, in my herbal therapies class, we percolate 100 grams of cayenne powder with 60 ml of ethanol (95%). See herbal therapies section for process.


CAUTION:  Internal overdose may be life threatening. May cause chronic gastritis, neurotoxic effects, kidney damage and liver damage.

CAUTIONS: External applications my lead to peripheral nerve damage, ulcers, blisters, dermatitis. PDH suggests limiting use to two days (4). Frankly, you will get little effect, maybe none, with only two days of external use. May experience is it takes three or four days before pain relief in the joint or deep muscle occurs.  Avoid internal use if taking anti-hypertension drugs. May interfere with Monoamine Oxidase inhibitors (7). Avoid during pregnancy and lactation there is insufficient evidence to make a blanket safety statement. Best avoid during pregnancy and lactation.(3)(4)(7)

NOTES: I shake powder in my socks to keep feet warm. Or infuse cayenne powder into warm olive oil and rub on cold feet. Then go skiing, hiking in snow...Once feet pores open, you will begin to feel the warmth. Avoid contact with eyes. Avoid use on poison ivy and allergic skin reactions (1)(2)(8)(9)

Cooking: Use in salsa judiciously, season bouillabaisse, fish soups, stews. Add about a third of a dried pepper to salad dressings for zest and warming quality. Slice pepper, remove seeds and place in dish while cooking, remove when degree of heat desired is reached. Keep pepper handling fingers away from your eyes.



Siberian Ginseng

Eleutherococcus senticosus



Medicine:  Tonic herb available dried, cut and sifted in health food stores and Chinese drug stores and Oriental supermarkets. This is a health maintenance herb, a tonic. It stimulates resistance to stress, mental, physical and chemical stressors.

Synergistic to antibiotics:  One clinical study showed Eletherococcus root extraction to be synergistic with the antibiotics kanamycin and monomycin when treating Shigella dysentery and Proteus enterocolitis(5)(6).

It is considered adaptagenic, assisting the body to fight whatever is exerting destructive pressure on it. According to Russian studies it is an ergogenic aid, increasing strength and endurance.

Some TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE practitioner's feel it is more stimulating than Russians made it popular by making it a regular supplement for their athletes and cosmonauts. The root is harvested in the fall and dried. Plant is found in China, Korea, Siberia, Japan and is now cultivated in Oregon, United States.

Personal Notes:  incompatible with aconite, onions, fish; Menispermaceae herbs. Note: Hippies (me included) used the herb to improved exam scores by reducing physical and mental stress of cramming for tests. It is effective for chronic conditions that exhaust a person. Slowly building back their strength and stamina.

Chemistry: Key biologically active constituents are eleutherosides, phenylpropanoids, lignans, polysaccharides, coumarins, triterpenoid saponins and glycans (6)(7)(8).

Preparation: I take two or three tablespoons of dried root to two cups of water in decoction, simmer the water down to one cup and drink. You may make larger batches by simmering multiples of this formula.



Pau díarco, Palo díarco (preferred), bow wood, La pacho, taheebo, tecoma, ipe roxo

Tabuia avellanedae; T. incana; T. inpetiginosa (syn. T. avellanedae) T. rosea


Function: There is little proof that Pau D' Arco has any of the beneficial effects noted below at safe and recommended dosages.  More research is necessary.   It is a popular over-the-counter product, therefore this treatment.  Anti cancer activity has not been proven.  The Brazilian Cancer Society disputes the use of Pau d' arco and lapachol for cancer treatment and does not recommend it.  One active substance lapachol has caused death in laboratory animals in relatively low doses.  It is toxic to many organ systems.  In human clinical trials, oral doses of lapachol caused anticoagulant effects, nausea, dizzyiness, vomiting (7)(8)(9).

Medicine: The bark produces a bitter, pungent decoction. It is said to be cooling, fever reducing and anti-inflammatory. NCI research showed bark extract anticancer against rat tumors (1). It appears the whole bark has better therapeutic value than isolated extract(1). Has been combined with Echinacea, ginseng and clover as tonic, to clear toxins, decongestant, immune strengthening (2). Sodium salt was active against leukemia (in vitro). Lapachol itself was inactive against L 1210 leukemia (3). Anti-tumor activity against Walker 256 carcinoma (4). May treat inflammatory bowel disease (5).

Chemistry: Quinones: napthoquinone; anthraquinones; lapacho (antimicrobial); essential oils sesquiterpenes;ceryl alcohol and lignoceric acid as a wax; bitter substance include: tannin, saponins, lactones, glycosides. Also, nonacosane, and xyloidone active against candida, Brucella.

Effectiveness and chemistry varies between species. Lapacho is soluble in alcohol and slightly soluble in heated water.

Safety:  Overdose may cause nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, vomiting(2).

According to NCI research therapeutic cancer dose cannot be achieved without toxicity (3).

Extract is an anticoagulant. Lapachol itself does not possess anti-hemorrhagic activity (4).

Approximate LD 50 of lapachol in rats is between .5 (male) and .8 (female) grams per kilogram (4).

Preparation/dose: According to Holt boil one teaspoon of bark in one cup of water for ten minutes(1). Drink the decoction from two to eight time per day (with consultation from a physician). A tincture can be made from the bark with a 40 to 43% alcohol menstruum. Four parts alcohol to one part dried bark. Sit aside in refrigerator for fifteen to twenty days. Dose: 15 to 30 drops three to five times per day.

CAUTION:  We do not recommend the use of lapachol or Pau d' arco extracts until its safety has been proven. 


(1) Holt, Stephen M.D.; Comac, Linda: Miracle Herbs. Birch Lan Press Book, 1998.
(2) Bown, Deni: Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. 1995.
(3) Duke, James: Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. CRC Press; 1987.
(4) The Merck Index, Thirteenth Edition. Merck and Co. Inc., New Jersey. 1989 (Under lapachol).
(5) Balch and Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Avery Publishing Group, NY. 1997.*
(6) Meuninck, Balch, et al., Ntural Helath with Medicinal Herbs and Healing Foods, Meuninck's Media Methods, Inc. 1992.
(7) Guide to Popular Natural Products; Facts and Comparisons; St. Louis, MO. 1999: pp. 123.
(8) Ferreira de Santana, c., et al., Chem Abstrat 74;40989.
(9) Block, J.B., et al., cancer Chemotherapy Reports, 1974; pp. 24-27


Bilberry and Blueberry

(Vaccinium myrtillus L.and other Vaccinium spp.)

Ericaceae  (photo, more)

Notes: Bilberry has purple berry with purple meat unlike the cream colored fruit of blueberry.

Function: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)

Medicine: Both bilberry and blueberry are used medicinally. They both contain anthocyanosides: more in bilberry than blueberry, but blueberries are less expensive.   The chemistry works apparently by improving venous blood flow but improving microvascular blood flow (capillary flow) to eyes and other organs (5)(6). Also as an anti-oxidant preventing oxidative damage to eyes. Effects structure of collagen in eye providing protection from glaucoma. Facilitates the effectiveness of the retina by its affinity to that area and initiating and promoting capacities. (1. 2. 3.)

Alzheimer's Disease:  Eating one cup of blueberries per day on average may enhance neuron function.  In animal studies the equivalent of one cup of blueberries increased the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the striatum.  Strawberries and and spinach have a similar but less potent effect (8).

Blueberry extract in vitro, like vitamin E,  protects cells from inflammatory  agents such as TNF-alpha (Tissue Necrosis Factor-alpha) and dopamine preserving preserving the cells ability to lower calcium levels (calcium uptake and reduced inflammation) (7)(8).

Dried bilberries and dried blueberries are made into a tea to treat diarrhea.  Like vitamin E, blueberry extract 

Bilberry trials suggest standardized extraction may be effective for atherosclerosis, prevention of macular degeneration, cataract prevention, circulation improvement, prevents night blindness, retinopathy, prevent varicose veins, diabetes treatment and may improve efficiency of accommodation (helping the eye adjust to changing light). (1)(2)(5)

Anthocyonosides in blueberry may relieve bladder infections (Trees Shrubs Nuts and Berries video, Meuninck). Pecarin in blueberries is bacteriostatic to E. coli. Anthocyanoside extracts may improve peripheral circulation, improving eyesight and night vision...European studies when taken with Vitamin E.. Scientific studies suggest that arbutin from blueberries (and cranberry) may keep bacteria from adhering to bladder walls. Significant quantities of blueberries are need to be therapeutic, prophylaxis may require lesser amounts. Scientific evidence suggests that oligomeric procyanidins may protect myelin sheath from deterioration, also anti-inflammatory.  Anti-oxidant activity of bilberry extract and bilberry fruit and tea may provide protection fro the liver.

Folk use and native use to prevent scurvy. Leaves for treating diabetes in decoction with water.  Also, berry tea used to treat mouth sores and inflammations.

Chemistry:  More than 15 different oligomeric procyanidins: anthocyanosides including three types anthocyanidin bound to either glucose, galactose or arabinose. Black currants and grapes contain these compounds. Medicine is extracted and concentrated to 38 % anthocyanosides.   Contains antibiotic and diuretic arbutin.  Chlorogenic acid, coumarins, catechins, cyanidin, cyanin, isoquercitrin (leaf), caproic acid, butanoic acid, aesculetin, citronellol, malvidin, peonidin, vanillin, essential amino acids, eugenol, farnesol (2).

Side effect: No known side effects (5) , a few may get mild diarrhea from overindulgence.

Amount: 25% standardized bilberry extraction, 240-480 mg per day or as directed by your physician. A fresh fruit a cup of berries should tone the stomach. events capillary fragility in extremities brain, kidneys. Has affinity for collagen and improves its function.

Food: Eat fistful daily when experiencing extended period of bowel discomfort, gas, diarrhea contains anthocyanosides, tannins. Traditionally cooked in pies, egg dishes as sauce or filling, pancakes, dried and in cereal. See recipes in Tress Shrubs Nuts and Berries video. Dry in food dryer and store in freezer for winter stomach problems. Add to cereals fresh or dried. Small berries may be dried in a food dryer and stored over winter (I usually store them in the freezer). Dried blueberries may relieve diarrhea (probably due to tannins and bulking pectin). Then use them in cereal, rabbit stew, fish dishes and on waffles. 

Wildlife/Veterinarian: Anthocyanosides from blueberry stimulates mucus flow in laboratory animals and may provide protection from ulcers. Bushes important habitat and food for song birds. Please don't spray with pesticides and herbicides.

GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe)


(1) Murray, Healing Power of Herbs, Prima 1995. Pp. 50-59 also contains 54 references to literature.
(2) Lininger, et. al.: The Natural Pharmacy, Prima Health 1998. Pp234.
(3) Meuninck, Duke, et. al.  Trees Shrubs Nuts and Berries, 1991.  Meuninck's Media Methods Inc.
(4) Colantuoni a. et al. Arzneimittelforshung 1991: 42 (9):905.
(5) Guide to Popular Natural Products; Facts and Comparisons. Walter kluwer Co.. 1999: pp. 25.
(6) Bissett N. G. ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals, Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific           Publishers.  1994.
(7) 33 rd. Annual Winter Conference of Brain Research(WCBR), 1/22/2000 (see /hmsbeagle/current/notes/meeting/.  Begin search at: .
(8)  Joseph, James.  Panel Discussion WCBR. 1/22/00  US department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Enter on Agng at Tufts University.  See  WCBR 2000 at .

Milk Thistle


Silybum marianum L. syn. Carduus marianus


 Function:  (1.),(2.), (3.), (4.), (5)

Food: Seeds may be added to waffles, pancakes, hot cereals.

May be ground and blended into water to make slightly bitter milk-like drink for liver protection. Chop in blender and add to salads. Leaves may be cooked and eaten or added fresh, raw to salads. Root may be peeled boiled and eaten. Flower head like most thistles may be eaten (with some difficulty and small reward) like artichoke.  Mild laxative effect.  

Medicine: Antioxidant, liver cell regenerator, liver protection. Stimulates bile flow. Appetite stimulate. Tonic. Relaxes digestive spasms. Used internally for liver disease, cirrhosis, hepatitis, jaundice...protective to liver toxins such poisoning by Amanita species mushroom. Therapeutic for alcoholic's liver. Used in treatment of drug addiction aftereffects to liver. (1)(2)(3)(4). Boiled and eaten flower heads traditionally used as a tonic. Flower head considered a lactagogue, and anti-depressant for mild depression. Claimed to speed up recovery from side effects of chemotherapy. For another liver protecting herb and a special liver protecting herb formula see .  Human and animal studies showed slight reduction in total cholesterol levels (5).  Studies in progress assessing prevention and therapy for diabetics (6).


Chemistry: Flavolignin silymarin liver protectant and other flavonoids: apigenin, luteolin, kaempferol glycosides. Beta sitosterol, Polyacetylenes. In seed principle active chemistry: silybin A and Silybin B, isosylybin A and B, silydianin and silychristin.

Dose: For hyperlipidemia study used 420 mg/day for modest results (5).  Seeds may be ground in a coffee mill, then add 3 grams of ground seeds to 12 ounces of cold water and bring to a boil.  Set aside for 20 minutes then strain.  Use 10 to 15 grams of seeds to  yield anywhere from 200 to 400 mg of silymarin (as silybin).  One liter of water with 10-15 grams of ground seeds will yield approximate daily dose, taken in three administrations.  

Alcohol extraction is not recommended by this author when treating liver problems.  Whole seeds may be ground and added to soups, salads, orange juice, etc. 

Contraindications and side effects: Brief and mild gastrointestinal disturbances reported in a few patients.  Rare allergic reactions, but possible.  One case of possible urticaria still being investigated in one patient.(7)  Laxative effect (mild)(2).  

Wildlife/Veterinarian: Animals studies show the seed extraction of silymarin (bioflavonoid) to be effective protecting the liver from toxins.


(1)Murray. Healing Power of Herbs, Prima, 1995. Pp250-252 over 30 scientific references.
(2)Meuninck, Herbal preparations and nutritional therapies. One hour video. Media Methods 1999

(3)Salmi and Sarna: Effect of silymarin on chemical, functional and morphological alteration of the liver. A double-blind controlled study. Scand J Gastoren. 17, 417-421 1982.
(4)Ferenci et al.: Randomized controlled trial of silymarin treatment in patients with cirrhosis of the liver. J. Hepatol 9, 115-113, 1989.
(5)Somogyi, A., et. al.: Acta Med Hung 1989 46(4) pp. 289-295. 
(6)Khafagy, S., et al. Scientia Pharmaceutica 1981; 49, June 30: Pp. 157-161.
(7)Rumyanteseva, Z., Vrach Delo 1991; (5) pp.15-19.
PDR for Herbal Medicines, First edition. Medical Economics Co. (1998) p.1338-1340.
(9) Palasciano G. et al.  The Effect of Silymarin on Plasma Levels of Malon-Dialdehyde in Patients Receiving Long-Term Treatment with Psychotropic Drugs.  Curr Ther Res,. 1194;55: pp. 537-545.
(10) Fintelmann V. Toxic Metabolic Liver Damage and Its Treatment. Z. Phytother. 1986;(3) Pp. 65-73.