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Herbalism – The Top Botanicals Used Today

With the increase in consumer awareness concerning the use of botanical medicines, I thought it would interest the reader to know about the top herbs being sold today and why they are in such demand. The herbal industry has grown in recent years by about 20-25%. This translates into almost a billion dollars a year in sales of herbal products. This includes herbs used in foods and in body care categories. Americans are interested in a more natural approach to healing and it is being reflected in the marketplace.

How does one know what they are purchasing? Before you buy a product, it is important to know what you want. The label will help you in the following way:

  • The name – Will be the common and the scientific name. The ingredients will be listed in descending order if it is a      formula.
  • The form of the packaging – Do the capsules or tablets contain raw herb or an extract? If an extract, it will say if it is standardized or not.
  • The total amount and unit size – Examples are 100 caps of 450 mg each.
  • An expiration date
  • Dosage recommendations – For adults and children, and suggested guidelines.
  • Any health warnings, cautions or contraindications.

The label cannot tell you any condition that the herb may help prevent or treat. Only structure function claims can be made. For example: Ginger root “is a safe and natural aid to digestion”. But it cannot say it is good for motion sickness. Also, the label must have a disclaimer that reads “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnosis, treat, cure, or prevent disease.”

Let’s look now at the top selling herbs:

  • Aloe vera – Gel from the leaves are used for minor skin disorders, like burns, sunburn, rashes, poison ivy, vaginal      dryness, athletes foot, and insect bite. It is also used to sooth inflamed tissue of the stomach and intestines. Being researched for use with aids and HIV.
  • Bilberry (vaccinium myrtillus) – A member of the blueberry family, it offers improvement for a number of vision problems. Night blindness, eye fatigue, severe nearsightedness, and used for prevention of macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. It is also used for diabetes and other vascular disorders.
  • Cayenne – Known to stimulate circulation, aid digestion and promote sweating. Will stop bleeding, aid in healing ulcers due to stimulation of mucous membrane, used for pain relief and normalizing blood pressure.
  • Cranberry – Is currently being used for urinary tract infections. It also is used for stomach and gall bladder problems.
  • Echinacea – Has been shown to boost the immune system, short circuit colds and flu, fight bacterial and viral infections, lower fevers and calm allergic reactions.
  • Elderberry – Has been used for cold and flu, reducing fevers, as an anti-inflammatory and nerve tonic.
  • Feverfew – Helpful for migraine headaches, reducing fevers, as an anti-inflammatory and nerve tonic.
  • Garlic – Lowers overall cholesterol, has antibiotic properties, aids circulation, lowers blood pressure, aids liver      functions, fights colds and flu, and protects against cancer.
  • Ginger root – Aids digestion, good for nausea and vomiting, helps with motion sickness and vertigo, lowers cholesterol,      works as an anti-inflammatory, and increases circulation. Safe during pregnancy for morning sickness.
  • Gingko biloba – Used for thousands of years for asthma, allergies and colds. Stimulates blood flow to the brain thus      aiding mental and sensorial activity. It is an antioxidant and aids with tissue integrity. Used by elderly for memory problems and diabetics.
  • Ginseng (panax) – This tonic herb is a rejuvenator and revitalizer for the body. Known to aid athletic performance and endurance, stimulate the nervous system, increase alertness, enhance memory and concentration, and as a strengthener for the sexual system.
  • Goldenseal – Works as an antibiotic, anti-viral agent and liver cleanser. Great for sinus infections, fights cold and flu, heals bleeding ulcers, fights chronic yeast infections, and has anti-cancer properties.
  • Grape seed – Is used as an antioxidant, for the prevention of atherosclerosis, bruising, diabetes, macular degeneration,      varicose veins, and helps with wound healing.
  • Green tea – Help to protect us from cancer of the lungs, skin, liver, pancreas, and stomach. Boosts cardiovascular health by aiding weight loss and regulating blood sugar. A useful antioxidant.
  • Hawthorn berries – A cardiac tonic; used for angina and congestive heart failure. Improves cardiac output as well as      strengthens the heart muscle. Aids digestion. Works as an antioxidant.
  • Kava kava – Used to calm the body, a natural muscle relaxant, helps promote sleep, helps with anxiety. Helps one feel      good.
  • Milk thistle – Protects the liver from harmful chemicals and drugs, used in detoxification programs, is being used to      treat cirrhosis and hepatitis, as well as other liver diseases.
  • St. John’s wort – Is a nervine and is used for insomnia and wound healing; is being researched for its anti-viral properties. Currently being used for depression.
  • Saw palmetto berries – Used as a tonic for the male reproductive system. Reduces the discomfort of enlarged prostrate. Used as an aphrodisiac by the Indians. Known to have immune boosting properties.
  • Shitake mushroom – Boosts the immune system, protects us from cancer, known to shrink tumors, lowers high cholesterol, reduces blood pressure and combats viruses and bacteria.
  • Siberian ginseng – Is an adaptogenic herb. Strengthens, normalizes and regulates entire body. Works with the adrenal glands and helps prevent nervous tension, increases energy, helps regulate high blood pressure, blood sugar irregularities and depression.
  • Turmeric – Has been used for centuries as an antioxidant, for all liver disorders, inflammatory conditions, irritable      bowel syndrome, gallstones, and a cancer preventative.
  • Valerian root – Classified as a nervine and an antispasmodic. Works with insomnia, nervous tension, helps relieve      headaches, menstrual cramps, and helps with anxiety.
  • Wild yam root – Has been used as a liver tonic, digestive aid and muscle relaxant. Works with the adrenals and is helpful with PMS and menopausal symptoms.

The herbs on the preceding list are currently in demand for the brief conditions mentioned. It is very important for you to do research on your own when beginning a herbal program. Make sure you have an authoritative manual or consult with a holistic practitioner.

Two good books are The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D. or The Healing Power Of Herbs by Michael Murray, N.D.


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