by Geri Walton ~ February 12th, 2009
Although there seem to be some studies that herbs are ineffective, what often is not reported is that doses may be too low or that one species used in study may not be as effective as another. Additionally, you have to keep in mind, herbs have been used with great success for thousands of years, and, in some cases may be more effective than prescription medications. Some herbs that heal have scientific studies supporting their healing benefits and include some of the following:
- Garlic. If you know anything about garlic, you probably know that it is supposed to reduce heart attacks and stroke because in works as a blood thinner and inhibits blood clots, as well as possibly reverses artherosclerosis. One Iranian study found that patients given 1200 mg daily of garlic “demonstrated beneficial effects on the serum total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides.”
- Feverfew. Feverfew is folk remedy used for a variety of things, including inflammation, and at least one study showed “feverfew components mediate metabolism, cell migration, and cytokine production in human monocytes/macrophages.” Feverfew has also been suggested in another study as a possible aid for inflammatory skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, sensitive and irritated skin, rosacea, and psoriasis. It may also help headaches, as there are number of studies—Maizels, Diener, and Johnson—with somewhat positive results.
- Gingko Biloba. Gingko (also spelled ginkgo) biloba seems to help anxiety and concentration problems. A report in An Expert Review of the Safety and Benefits of Botanicals claims there is “clear evidence of benefit from ginkgo for memory and cognitive function in adults with early stage mental impairment and in cases of peripheral vascular disease (intermittent claudication).” Author, herbalist, and oriental medicine doctor, Michael Tierra asserts in his book The Way of Herbs that gingko increases blood flow in the brain, which helps reduce anxiety and tension, and he maintains there are “literally hundred of scientific studies attesting to [gingko's benefits].” Additionally, neurosurgeon and author, Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., states in his book, Health and Nutrition Secrets, gingko biloba helps blood flow through the heart and brain and is better at preventing against strokes than aspirin. He asserts that gingko not only thins the blood but also “protect[s] the weakened vessel from further [free radical] damage [because of its flavonoids, and it]….directly strengthens the collagen and elastin in the blood vessel walls.”
- Milk Thistle. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), under the control of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, lists numerous studies that have proven milk thistle benefits liver disease, and that it does so “with few and generally minor, adverse effects.”
- Rosemary. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published an article on health-promoting herbs and noted that the National Cancer Institute listed rosemary, among other herbs, “as possessing cancer-preventive properties…[and] inhibit[ing] tumors.”
- Saw Palmetto. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as an enlarged prostate, is a fairly common condition in men: 50 percent of men suffer from it at age fifty and 75% of men suffer from it by the age of eighty. Prescription drugs, such as Finasteride (Proscar) or Terazosin (Hytrin), are sometimes given to relieve symptoms. However, saw palmetto is one of the top ten drugs sold in America for BPH, and it may be because approximately two dozen studies have shown saw palmetto is nearly equal to BPH drugs but has the added advantage of producing only minor side effects.
- Valerian. A number of studies (Wu, Oxman, Krystal, Shimazaki, and others) have been conducted in relation to valerian and insomnia. Overall the news appears to be somewhat positive for valerian acting as a mild sedative and relieving restlessness, although some studies—Taibi, Hattesohl, and Meolie—have also found valerian was ineffective.
There are a number of other herbs that have also been studied: St. John’s Wort, echinacea, and chamomile. Whether the combination of all these studies will ultimate mean herbs will be more widely accepted by traditional medicine remains to be seen. However, for those people who take herbs and who have benefitted from them, herbs that heal will remain popular and remain a means by which they enjoy good health. If you’re interested in learning more about other possible health benefits attainable from herbs, read Good Herbs.