Archive for Natural Alternatives

Burdock

Photo from Wikipedia

In traditional herbal texts, burdock root is described as a “blood purifier” or “alterative,” and was believed to clear the bloodstream of toxins.

It was used both internally and externally for eczema and psoriasis, as well as to treat painful joints and as a diuretic. In traditional Chinese medicine, burdock root in combination with other herbs is used to treat sore throats, tonsillitis, colds, and even measles. It is eaten as a vegetable in Japan and elsewhere.

Burdock root has become popular as part of a tea to treat cancer.  Burdock’s use against cancer goes down through the centuries and has been used as a tumor treatment in Russia, China, India and the Americas. In the United States, it was an ingredient in the popular but highly controversial Hoxsey Cancer Formula, an alternative therapy marketed from the 1930s to the 1950s by ex-coal-miner Harry Hoxsey.

Some studies show anti-tumor or anti-mutation activity.  The National Cancer Institute became interested in burdock as part of its Designer Foods Program, an effort to use biotechnology to introduce cancer-preventive chemicals into common food crops.  Burdock’s action is mild, but real. It has antibacterial and antiviral powers, and it reduces blood sugar, which helps prevent diabetes.  Burdock has value as a tonic, a subtle strengthener with cumulatively helpful effects.

Burdock root contains high amounts of inulin and mucilage. This may explain its soothing effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Bitter constituents in the root may also explain the traditional use of burdock to improve digestion. It also contains polyacetylenes, shown to have antimicrobial activity. Burdock root and fruit also have the ability to mildly lower blood sugar (hypoglycemic effect).

Burdock Usage

Herbalists generallly recommend 2–4 ml of burdock root tincture per day. For the dried root preparation in capsule form, the common amount to take is 1–2 grams three times per day. Many herbal preparations will combine burdock root with other alterative herbs, such as yellow dock, red clover, or cleavers.  Use of burdock root at the dosages listed above is generally safe.

To brew a pleasantly sweet-tasting tonic tea, boil one teaspoon of crushed, dried burdock root in three cups of water for 30 minutes. Drink up to three cups a day.


Burdock  (Arctium lappa) is native to Asia and Europe. The root is the primary source of most herbal preparations. The root becomes very soft with chewing and tastes sweet, with a mucilaginous texture.


Aloe – Special Precautions!

Friday, September 5th, 2014
Aloe

Photo from Wikipedia

The thick, juicy leaves of Aloe contain two distinct products used medicinally and are important to be distinguished for the purposes of caution and to avoid confusion.

  1. a thin clear gel or mucilage that oozes from the middle of a broken leaf.
  2. a bitter latex, referred to as aloe vera juice, derived from the cells just under the surface of the leaf.

Their compositions and uses differ.  The active ingredient in the gel is mucopolysaccharides.  The latex provides anthraquinone derivatives, mostly in the form of aloins, with smaller amounts of hydroxyaloins, aloe-emodin, and aloeresins.

The gel is used topically on wounds and burns to help them heal more rapidly. Taken internally, it is considered a general tonic. Unfortunately, separation of the gel from the latex for commercial preparations is often incomplete, and the gel may end up with some laxative action due to inadvertent inclusion of latex.

Aloe has been recommended for burns due to radiation, but like most of its uses, this is considered incompletely proved and controversial.  There is no harm in applying fresh gel from a broken leaf to a minor cut or burn, and many people find it soothing. In the test tube, gels from some species of aloe have antibacterial activity. A. vera, however, does not appear to kill many microbes.

The latex of Aloe is a powerful laxative that irritates the intestine. We do not recommend using this product.

There are nearly five hundred species of aloe. It’s a type of plant that originated in southern Africa, near the Cape of Good Hope.  The use of aloe goes back in history 5,500 years. There are pictures of aloe plants on some Egyptian temples. The Greek physician Dioscorides wrote of its benefits to heal wounds and treat hemorrhoids.

Aloe plants now grow throughout Africa, around the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and in many countries in South America.


Aloe Special Precautions:

Pregnant women must avoid aloe latex; use has been known to trigger abortion or premature birth.  Nursing mothers should take this laxative only under medical supervision. Children must not take aloe latex.  Women who are menstruating should not use aloe latex, as it may increase blood flow.  Aloe latex may be very dangerous when there is an intestinal blockage and must be avoided in such cases. Aloe latex is not appropriate for people with intestinal inflammation such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, and it should not be taken by people with inflamed hemorrhoids.  People with kidney problems should avoid aloe latex.  The most serious difficulties encountered with aloe latex occur at higher than recommended doses or when used for more than a few days.  This laxative herb causes the loss of potassium and other minerals, which over time can result in a loss of muscle tone of the intestine and diminished effectiveness. Frequent use may cause irreversible damage.  Large doses of aloe have caused bloody diarrhea, kidney damage, and even death.  The urine may take on a reddish color after taking aloe latex. This color is harmless; however, with the possibility of kidney damage from large doses or prolonged use, any persistent color in the urine may call for medical diagnosis.

Possible Interactions: Low potassium levels can be dangerous in a person taking a heart drug like Lanoxin.  Aloe latex might also be dangerous for anyone taking a diuretic that depletes the body of potassium (Lasix, HCTZ, etc.) because of the additive effect. It should be avoided in such situations.  Aloe latex could reduce the absorption of any pill taken around the same time because it cuts intestinal transit time so drastically.


Gentian Root

Coutesy of Wikipedia

Gentian root and other highly bitter plants have been used for centuries in Europe as digestive aids (the well-known Swedish bitters often contain gentian). Other folk uses included topical use on skin tumors, decreasing fevers, and treatment of diarrhea. Its ability to increase digestive function, including production of stomach acid, has been validated in modern times.

Gentian root contains some of the most bitter substances known, particularly the glycosides gentiopicrin and amarogentin. The taste of these can be detected even when diluted 50,000 times. Besides stimulating secretion of saliva in the mouth and hydrochloric acid in the stomach, gentiopicrin may protect the liver.

Gentian root is also considered useful for poor appetite and indigestion according to the German government’s Commission E monograph.

Here is what Wikipedia reports:

It was considered especially useful in states of exhaustion from chronic disease and in all cases of debility, weakness of the digestive system and lack of appetite. It was also considered one of the best fortifiers of the human system, stimulating the liver, gall bladder and digestive system, and was thought to be an excellent tonic to combine with a purgative in order to prevent its debilitating effects.

Usage of Gentian Root

Gentian root can be taken as a tincture (1–3 grams daily), as a fluid extract (2–4 grams daily), or as the whole root (2–4 grams daily).

Gentian root should not be used by people suffering from excessive stomach acid, heartburn, stomach ulcers, or gastritis.

At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with Gentian.


Gentian: (Gentiana lutea)

This plant comes from meadows in Europe and Turkey. It is also cultivated in North America. The root is used medicinally.


Black Cohosh for Menopause ReliefIn Europe, black cohosh is used to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, headaches, psychological difficulties, and associated weight gain. It is also reputed to be helpful for premenstrual problems and painful menstrual cramps.

Native Americans prized black cohosh and used it for a variety of purposes. The settlers learned about it from the Indians, but by the middle of the nineteenth century it was renowned as being helpful for women’s problems, and other uses were more or less forgotten.

Effect of Black Cohosh is Impressive

Some of the evidence on the clinical effect of black cohosh for menopause is impressive. In one study, sixty women under forty years of age who had undergone hysterectomy were divided into groups. One group got conjugated estrogen (available in the United States under the brand name Premarin), one was given estriol (another form of estrogen), a third received an estrogen-gestagen sequence, and the fourth group of women took a black cohosh extract.

Bothersome symptoms such as hot flashes disappeared slowly over the course of four weeks, and at that point there was no difference in response among the four groups. This suggests that black cohosh may be as good at treating symptoms of menopause as are conventional estrogen treatments.

Beginning research indicates that black cohosh can also lower cholesterol and strengthen bone, as estrogen does.

The usual daily dose is equivalent to 40 mg of the herb. It may take four weeks to get the maximum benefit; the herb should not be taken for more than six months until there is more information available on long-term effects.

Black cohosh was a key ingredient in an immensely popular patent medicine, Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.  Black cohosh has been used for menopausal symptoms in recent years. The portion of the plant used is underground: the rhizome and roots. The main ingredients are triterpene glycosides, especially actein, related compounds, and cimigoside. Black cohosh also contains tannins, fatty acids, and phytosterols. In a laboratory test of estrogenic activity, black cohosh extract did not bind to estrogen receptors.

American Indians treated sore throats and rheumatism with this herb, but these uses have not been scrutinized by modern medical studies.

Special Precautions :  Although black cohosh is not mutagenic or carcinogenic and does not cause birth defects in animals, authorities caution pregnant women not to use it. There is a report of premature birth associated with the herb and worries that it could trigger miscarriage.

This plant, native to North American forests, has a number of popular names: bugbane, black snakeroot, rattleroot, and squaw root. It sends up graceful tall spires of white flowers; the black in its common name refers to the root or rhizome, as does cohosh, Algonquian for “rough.”

How about you? Do you have experience using black cohosh for menopausal relief… or know someone who has? Share your experience in the comments below. We’d love to know what you think!


Improve Your Memory – Naturally

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Gingko BilobaIt can happen to the best of us — at any age!

Sometimes when I’m concentrating on writing or designing a web page, I’ll decide to go get something… a glass of tea, a piece of fruit. I’ll get up from my desk and start walking only to stop and wonder what the heck I was going to get (or do). LOL.

If there are times when that happens to you, or you put your glasses down somewhere, only to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for them later, you know what I’m talking about.

Our brain cells are supposed to help us remember where we’ve been, where we’ve put things and names associated with the faces of people we meet.

Unfortunately, our memory can let us down by losing the ability to communicate properly. There are certain strategies that we can incorporate to “train” our minds – such as paying closer attention to what we’re doing at all times or repeating information (a name, for example) over and over until we’ve got it memorized.

Our diets may be the cause of not being able to remember even the most mundane information. Memory boosters in the form of dietary supplements can help fill in those nutrients that we’re not getting in our diets and help drive out memory loss.

Smart Nutrients for Boosting Your Brain Power

There are boosters are sometimes called “smart nutrients” and can be found at your local health food store.  Below are some of the smart nutrients that work best to restore your memory:

  • Choline and DMAE (Dinethylaminoethanol)
    These nutrients are the building blocks of the brain. Fish, eggs, liver, soy, peanuts (and other types of nuts) are especially high in choline. DMAE is also found in fish and helps your concentration ability.
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  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Glutamine
    When you combine these nutrients, you’ll have an antioxidant that acts as an energy booster for the brain, plus a memory advocate that can balance the all-important neurotransmitters, necessary for enhanced memory performance.
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  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba)
    Also acts as an antioxidant for the brain, improves circulation, boosts energy, memory and concentration. Ginkgo is also excellent for treating conditions that affect us as we age including tinnitus and poor blood circulation.
    Learn more about Ginkgo here >>

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  • Vitamins and Minerals
    There is a variety of vitamins and mineral supplements that you can take to increase your memory skills. These include all B vitamins and minerals, which contain niacin, folic acid and pyridoxine. Vitamin B12 is especially helpful in building nerve cells that help us with mental alertness.

Most of us would like to have better concentration and remembering skills. But most of us practice a diet lacking in the nutrients we need. Do your own research to find out which nutrients you may be missing and try supplements for awhile to jump-start your brain cells.

How about you?

Does boosting your memory sound like a good idea to you?

Natural Hair CareNatural and beautiful hair. That’s what I wanted! But my quest for the perfect hair care products was a long and frustrating one.  It wasn’t until I started using natural products and homemade herbal infused products that I found the secret to healing my damaged hair.

If you’re longing for the gorgeous, shiny, bouncy hair like what’s portrayed on television commercials for hair products, you’ve probably run into the same problem.  I don’t recommend rushing out to buy all those products. I have wasted a lot of money that way.  I as usually very disappointed when I tried them with few exceptions.  And when I did find something, it was discontinued shortly afterwards. I have no idea why!

But don’t despair! You can get the look you want from natural products that cost less and perform better. First, you have to understand the structure of your hair and how both internal and external factors can affect the way it appears.

A healthy diet and adequate exercise will bring circulation to your scalp and is one of the best things you can do to keep your hair healthy and shining. External factors such as sun and harsh chemicals contained in products used to color your hair can also dry out your hair and make it dull and listless.

Chemicals contained in most commercial shampoos and conditioners can also affect your hair negatively. Here are some natural methods for cleaning, conditioning and general care of your hair that should bring it back to a lush, manageable state:

  • Use natural-ingredient shampoos – Look for shampoos that contain chamomile, lemon verbena, seaweed extract, rosemary, keratin, tea tree oil and plant proteins. Stay away from products that contain harsh cleansers that may cause lots of suds and bubbles, but are damaging to your hair.
  • Condition with natural remedies – Jojoba oil, aloe and henna are just a few herbal remedies that can condition your hair without leaving it oily and limp.
  • Use a brush made from boar bristles. They’re natural and will help lubricate your hair using the natural oils that come from your scalp. Never brush your hair while it’s still wet. Use a wide-tooth comb to detangle your hair and wait until it’s partially dry before using the brush.
  • Dry your hair on the lowest setting of a blow dryer. Heat tends to dry your hair, and sprays, styling mousse, and gels that have alcohol only make it worse. If you can get away without blow drying your hair, all the better! For curling irons, get a “teflon” one. They seem to be gentler on your hair.
  • If your hair has been damaged from sun and too much processing, repair it by using deep conditioners made from botanicals. Look for “leave-in” conditioners – they tend to repair the damage much more quickly.

If you color your hair, ask the colorist if there is a product that will prepare your hair for touch ups or overall coloring. Using the products as recommended will also help to avoid damage.

If you liked this article and want to see more, visit our virtual Herbal Spa >>