The complete herbal tutor : a structured course to achieve professional expertise [Revised and expanded] 9781911597452, 1911597450

200 74 34MB

English Pages [377] Year 2019

Report DMCA / Copyright


Recommend Papers

The complete herbal tutor : a structured course to achieve professional expertise [Revised and expanded]
 9781911597452, 1911597450

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

The Complete

Herbal Tutor

The Complete

Herbal Tutor

The Definitive Guide to the Principles and Practices of Herbal Medicine Revised and Expanded Edition


Published 2019 by Aeon Books 12 New College Parade Finchley Road London NW3 5EP Copyright © 2019 by Anne McIntyre The right of Anne McIntyre to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with §§ 77 and 78 of the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A C.I.P. for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978-1-91159-745-2 Printed in Great Britain

Contents Introduction 1 G l o b a l H e r b a l Tr a d i t i o n s 5 The Chemistry of Herbs 47 The Herbal Consultation 61 The Herbal Pharmacy 77 The Materia Medica 93 Tr e a t i n g C o m m o n A i l m e n t s 2 7 7 Growing, Harvesting and Storing Herbs 357 G l o s s a r y o f Te r m s 3 6 7


Herbs are the most extraordinary plants. Their incredible ability to heal on all levels of our being never ceases to amaze and inspire me. Through my years in practice as a herbalist I have been asked many times how I came to be in this profession. The story actually begins in my childhood. Herbal Roots

I have loved herbs ever since I was a child. I was intrigued by their delicious scents, all so unique, and their beautiful shapes and forms. Brought up in the country, I loved being surrounded by natural beauty, to the point that I have never been able to live in a town or city. My mother gave me a piece of her garden when I was little so I could grow my own herbs and flowers. This was my favourite occupation.

my life, I resolved to find a place to study herbal medicine. After four years of study I became a member of the National Institute of Medical

Studies in Herbalism

In my early twenties, while living in a cottage on a small island off the east coast of England, growing my own food and harvesting as much from the wild as I could, I began to learn about the wild herbs that were growing around me. I realised that the earth provides all the raw ingredients for our health and well being and that herbs have the ability to keep us balanced in body, mind, emotions and spirit, if we can only understand the potential of their gifts to us to its fullest extent. After travelling in many parts of the world, looking for meaning in existence that would guide me to finding the right direction in

At work in my herb garden.



Herbalists, a professional body of herbalists that has existed since 1864. Once in practice I continued to study, constantly searching for more pointers towards understanding the human organism and the keys to health and harmony, so that I could better serve my patients as well as my family and myself. Over the next few years I studied homoeopathy, aromatherapy, therapeutic massage and counselling. Finally I found Ayurveda, the system that resonated with me more that any other to date. Ayurveda is a body of knowledge and wisdom from India that incorporates a complex system of medicine, as well as guidelines for a way of living that aims, not only for freedom from suffering in mind and body, but for enlightenment itself. Today, I continue to study both herbal medicine and Ayurveda, and to incorporate the wisdom of all I learn into my practice and my writing.

prescribed after the taking of a full case history, with the intention of aiding innate homeostatic mechanisms, while addressing the underlying problems that give rise to health problems including diet and lifestyle.

Treatment Advice

While describing the herbal treatment of over 100 common ailments, The Complete Herbal Tutor is not intended to replace medical care which may require the greater knowledge and expertise of

A Holistic Approach

The writing of The Complete Herbal Tutor is motivated by the growing interest in using herbal medicine, in a practical and informed way, amongst healthcare practitioners and lay people alike. There is a great need for contemporary information encompassing a holistic view that acknowledges the intimate connection of mind and body, and promoting health and health education, rather than solely addressing illnesses and how to treat symptoms arising from them. This book provides a practical, easy reference guide to the 150 most commonly used herbs in the modern practice of Western herbal medicine and their uses, and, by this measure, it highlights the great contribution herbs can make to modern medical care. Throughout, I have endeavoured to emphasise how herbs are used most effectively when they are

My dispensary.


the professional medical herbalist or mainstream healthcare practitioner. The format of the Ailments section in the book follows a system approach, including the main systems affected by common illness, and the health problems covered in the text are those that I have commonly encountered in my practice of nearly forty years as a professional herbalist, and that I consider to be most applicable to treatment using herbs.

Our Herbal Heritage

A conventional medical view might take some exception to aspects of Western herbal philosophy and approach to treatment which may follow some rather unorthodox lines. There may not be much scientific justification for the use of “alterative” or cleansing herbs to clear the body of toxins, or cooling herbs to clear “accumulated heat”. The use of these, however, is integral to the philosophies of ancient and respected systems of medicine, such as the Chinese, Tibetan and Ayurvedic, that have survived almost intact for at least 5000 years, and still provide frameworks for the healthcare of millions of people today. I think we can greatly benefit from the great wisdom and insight of these systems, which provide a background and context for understanding how herbs are used, and for this reason I have included a chapter on Global Herbal Traditions.

declaring that everything natural had to be safe and free from the side effects of modern drugs, to the opposite view, which perhaps makes more exciting reading, alarming the public that herbs have potential side effects and may even be dangerous. Without sufficient real evidence it is easy for lay persons and professionals alike to be susceptible to such hype, but with more information it is possible to have a more realistic understanding. I hope that this book will serve those using herbs for themselves, their friends and family, or their patients, and who wish to learn more about the safe and effective use of herbal medicines in order to navigate themselves through questions regarding dosage, interactions and contraindications, so that they can use herbs with the confidence they deserve.

Practical Guidance

The hedgerows, our gardens and the shelves of health food shops and pharmacies alike are lined with dazzling arrays of herbs which can be overwhelming to many who feel they lack the necessary knowledge to choose those appropriate to their needs with confidence. The media presentation of herbs has shifted from extolling the virtue of herbs and their “miraculous cures”,


Plants and herbs profiled in Nicholas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (1652) are still in use today.

Global Herbal Traditions

Today’s herbalists draw on a variety of healing traditions, from shamanic ritual to remedies proven by scientific trials. Many of the world’s traditional systems of healing share a common thesis: that everything in the universe, including plants and human beings, is composed of energy and matter and manifested as five elements, and that keeping them in balance is the key to ensuring health and wellbeing. This is the basis of the humoral system of the ancient Greek physicians, as well as Indian Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, Tibetan medicine and Islamic Unani Tibb. Herbs play a central role in all these systems, preventing and treating a wide range of health problems in mind and body. The use of herbs as medicines on physical, as well as subtler, levels is common to all cultures, and has been for as far back as we know. We can trace the link between human life and healing herbs to the Neanderthal era. In 1963, archeologists opened the grave of a man in a cave in Iraq, who had been placed there 60,000 years ago. He had been buried with many herbs, including horsetail, hollyhock, St Barnaby’s thistle, yarrow, grape hyacinth and ephedra. The herbs appeared to have been chosen for their symbolic and healing virtues, for amongst them were diuretics, emetics, astringents, stimulants, and pain relievers.



Ancient and Modern Medicine With the vast network of communication that has developed in recent decades has come a wealth of information and wisdom concerning healing. This has engendered a considerable amount of integration of herbal traditions so that herbalists today can draw on the knowledge of a number of medicinal systems and philosophies, both ancient and modern, and can access herbs from most corners of the world. Some therapeutic traditions, such as Chinese, Ayurvedic, Unani and Tibetan medicine, are based on systems of healing that have remained almost intact through thousands of years and still form the primary healthcare system for a significant proportion of the population in those countries today. Many students and practitioners of Western herbal medicine study these traditions, and incorporate their ancient wisdom and practices into their own diagnostic methods and treatments. Other age-old systems of herbal healing, particularly in the Western world, have largely been broken and replaced by modern drugs and allopathy (conventional medicine). The current popularity of herbal medicine has inspired a re-evaluation of our global medical roots, with their rich source of effective medicines that certainly have their place in modern medical practice. Herbs such as garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, echinacea and St John’s wort have proved themselves to the world, becoming household names in the process, and many are recommended by some doctors.

In recent decades, the scientific world has identified specific constituents of herbs, as well as their properties and interactions. Modern studies into their efficacy using double-blind, clinically controlled trials have proven that herbs can be effective medicines, vindicating the ancient use of such plants that goes back thousands of years.

Traditional Chinese herbal treatment has been shown to be effective in treating eczema.



Shamanic Healing The earliest known herbalists of every culture were shamans – important men or women whose instincts were raised to a highly intuitive level through years of training to develop their inner eye. This deeper perception enabled them to communicate directly with the plant and spirit world, and to visit other realities through their own spirit allies. Origins

Shamanistic practices are said to predate all organised religions, dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. Many shamanic traditions, including European, Tibetan, Mongolian, Korean, Japanese, and Native American from both North and South America, originally came from Siberia and metamorphosed as they traveled to other parts of the world. African slaves took their shamanic traditions to America, where they merged divination and other rituals with Christian practices to produce, for example, Haitian voodoo (vodou), Cuban santería, and Brazilian candomblé. Elsewhere, shamanism became absorbed into religion, clearly shown in, for example, Tibetan Buddhism. In some cultures, the early shamans were known as priest physicians. They were also sorcerers, magicians, diviners; intermediaries between the mortal and the spirit worlds.

Contemporary Shamanism

Today, shamanism is still alive and well especially in Siberia. It exists in a variety of different forms, mainly among indigenous peoples in rural areas, often as the main form of treatment available. It is also found in cities and shantytowns, particularly

in Africa, Central America and South America, where it is an important part of the culture and used alongside, or as an alternative to, any available modern medicine. Belief in witchcraft and sorcery, known as brujeria in South America, is still prevalent in many shamanic societies. Some cultures, including several from Africa, distinguish shamans who cure from sorcerers who harm, while others believe that all shamans have the power to both cure and kill. Shamanism is also still practiced in South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Inuit and Eskimo cultures, Papua New Guinea, Australia and Tibet.

The Shaman’s Journey

In some cultures the shaman’s powers are believed to be inherited, while in others a shaman follows a “calling”, sometimes from their dreams, and endures rigorous training. Initiation occurs often through a transformational experience, which could be a serious illness, or being struck by lightning. In North America, Native Americans may seek communion with the spirit world through a “vision quest”, while an aspiring shaman in South America might apprentice themselves to a respected shaman.



Shamans enter altered states of consciousness, often ecstatic trance states, journeying to the beat of a drum or rattle, or using singing, music, sweat lodges, vision quests, or fasting to communicate with other realms of reality and the entities that guide them (a teacher, a spirit guide from the animal or plant world or a totem), asking for wisdom and guidance. In this way they gain their knowledge and power. The shaman’s journey is intended to help the patient or community to rediscover their connection to nature and spirit. In the Ecuadorian and Peruvian rainforests, shamans are known as curanderos. Some base their healing work on the use of ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant that can induce divine revelation and healing, mental and emotional as well as physical. Visiting an Ayahuasquero has become popular among Western spiritual seekers who can now go on tours into the jungle for just this purpose. Other Native American shamans alter their consciousness through the use of mind altering plants such as psychedelic mushrooms, cannabis, San Pedro cactus, peyote, datura, fly agaric and salvia divinorum. In so doing, shamans can put themselves at risk. They therefore use rituals to protect themselves from enemies and rivals in the spirit and human world. Many of the plants they use are poisonous in large doses, and not being able to return from out of body experiences can be fatal. These plants are best used under the guidance of an authentic shaman. Illness in shamanism is generally attributed to spiritual causes. It could be the bad will of another towards the patient, the work of evil spirits, witchcraft or divine intervention, and both spiritual and physical methods are used to heal, depending on what is recommended in the spirit world. In the healing rituals the shaman will “enter the body” of the patient to confront and banish the

spirit responsible. Incense and aromatic plants are often burnt as tools of transformation to help transport the minds of the participants to another dimension – the origins of modern aromatherapy. Spells, incantations, amulets and ritual dances are used to dispel or placate the spirits thought to be responsible for the patient’s ill health.

Shamanism Today

There has been a surge of interest in shamanic culture in the past few years, and many contemporary therapists are incorporating some of the traditional practices into their work. Some are attracted to healing practices from the East or Native American traditions, while others access the roots of European shamanism, with its mystical beliefs and practices that were suppressed by the Christian church. In their healing work, a shaman can bring about transformation of the energy and experience of the patient. Loss of vital energy from stress, trauma, illness, or accidents can cause what is known as “soul loss” and this is remedied by “soul retrieval” where the energy and part

A Tongan shaman in Zambia sits among his remedies, which include gourds and animal horns.


of the patient’s life that has been traumatised is returned and healed. Loss of power, caused by stress, pressure, abusive relationships, lack of love and support for example, leading to feelings of low self esteem, can be remedied through the shaman’s connection to their patient’s power animal; they can re-empower the patient through

Peyote is used by Native American shamans to free their minds from everyday consciousness.


enhancing their own relationship to their power animal and enable them to make changes in their lives. Plant spirit medicine, in which the shaman calls on the healing spirit of a plant to help the patient, often forms part of the healing. Plant spirits can be summoned by songs. Totem items like rocks with special powers are also used.



Humoral Medicine Around the time of the development of the Ancient Greek empire, the transition from hunter-gatherer to nomadic tribes, and then into farming communities, meant the development of trade and agriculture. At this time huge advances in the development of medicine were taking place. As densely populated centres of trade developed, they incubated epidemics of diseases including malaria, tuberculosis, measles, digestive and chest infections, caused by the insanitary living conditions. These presented challenges to shamans with their ritualistic approaches to healing. Shamanic practice and control gave way to complex philosophical systems of medical theory and practice arising from the increase in trade and travel, and the exchange of ideas between cultures of Egypt, Syria, Persia, China and India.

The Father of Medicine

The increasingly sophisticated and educated clientele of the physicians expected good results and a rationale behind their prescriptions. This was the beginning of rational medicine, and theories were developed to explain patterns of illness. Physicians studied studied anatomy, physiology and surgery at the great medical school of Alexandria in Egypt. One of the greatest legacies of this period of learning was the development of holistic medicine, largely inspired by the great 5th century BC philosopher and physician Hippocrates, who observed that the body was subject to natural laws and that susceptibility to illness depended on a person’s constitution, hereditary tendencies, and

the influence of environmental factors, including diet, water, hygiene, climate and society. Hippocrates has been called “the father of medicine” as he laid down many of the principles of medicine and his work formed the basis for medical theory and practice that has been developed until the present day. He emphasised the value of ethical medicine, working for the benefit of the sick and not the physician’s pocket alone and this is incorporated in the Hippocratic oath still used in modern medical schools today. He taught close observation of patients through the senses, touch, smell, taste and sound and encouraged keeping written case histories and basing treatment on results. He promoted addressing the whole person, not suppression of the symptoms, and enhancing the ability of the body to heal itself through herbs, fresh air, exercise, bathing and diet. He is recorded as using around 400 herbs.

The Five Elements

Hippocrates’ humoral system of medicine paralleled other great traditional systems with five element theory that existed at the time in India and China. He saw that all matter could be explained by the five basic elements, ether, air, fire,



black bile and restore balance. Water corresponded to phlegm and a phlegmatic temperament. Phlegm had a cold and damp nature, epitomised by the season of winter, and gave rise to illnesses such as catarrh, respiratory infections, weight gain and fluid retention. Warming and drying herbs such as thyme, hyssop and ginger were used to clear cold and damp symptoms, and thereby restore the balance of the humours. Fire corresponded to choler, or yellow bile, related to summer. A choleric type would be hot tempered and prone to liver and digestive problems. Cooling and moistening herbs such as dandelion, violets and lettuce would help to balance the excess heat and dryness of the choleric temperament. Air corresponded to blood and the sanguine temperament, epitomised by spring. A sanguine type would be easy going and good humoured, but prone to excesses and Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician and philosopher, is widely regarded as the father of medicine.

water and earth, and the individuality of people explained by the four humours arising from these elements, blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile) and melancholy. The proportions of these humours in each person would determine their personality and body type, and their susceptibility to particular kinds of imbalance and illness. Hippocrates thus perceived that illness was not a punishment of the Gods, as believed by his forefathers, but arose from imbalances of the elements that composed everything in nature. The element earth corresponded to the melancholic humour or temperament, black bile and the season of autumn. It had a cold and dry nature, giving rise to symptoms such as constipation, arthritis, depression or anxiety. Warming herbs such as ginger and senna would be used to clear

Thyme is a warming herb and was therefore used to clear cold and damp symptoms and restore the balance of the humours in the body.



over-indulgence, giving rise to problems such as gout and diarrhoea. Cool dry herbs such as burdock or figwort were used to balance the humours.

Great Greek Herbals

Another famous Greek physician was Theophrastus (372-286 BC), a friend and pupil of Aristotle, who inherited Aristotle’s garden and library and wrote the first important herbal, Enquiry into Plants, which has survived until today. He listed 500 healing plants, and the properties of oils and spices, basing much of his work on Aristotle’s botanical writings that expanded much of Hippocrates’ work. Another great source of herbal knowledge derives from the Alexandrian school, which enabled Greek medicine to flourish – it drew on Greek herbal knowledge as well as Egyptian, Sumerian and Assyrian healing traditions, and included knowledge brought back from campaigns in Asia. The strong traditions

Taraxacum officinale, or dandelion, was believed to balance the excess heat and dryness of the choleric temperament.

developed here survived into medieval Europe through the writers and scholars of the Arab world. Galen (131-200 AD), another notable Greek physician, studied at the Alexandrian school and later became renowned as surgeon to the gladiators in Rome, and personal physician to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD). In his herbal De Simplicibus he expanded on Hippocrates’ philosophy and classification of herbs into the four humours. His works became the standard medical text of Rome and later of the Arab physicians and medieval monks. His theories are still clearly to be found in Unani Tibb medicine today (pages 20-23). Pedanius Dioscorides was a Greek physician serving with the Roman army during the reign of Emperor Nero, which allowed him to travel extensively in Asia Minor. Around 60 AD he set himself the enormous task of collating all the current knowledge on medicinal plants and


healing substances in one work, De Materia Medica. It included discussion of the components of perfumes and their medicinal properties, and the aromatic herbs used for these included balm, basil, coriander, fennel, garlic, hyssop, marjoram, mint, myrtle, rosemary and violet. His famous herbal provided the major source of herbal knowledge for all the herbals that followed for the next 1500 years and has been copied and quoted to the present day.

Continuing Legacy

Under the Romans the Catholic papacy grew more powerful, and the early Christians, feeling that the church, rather than physicians, should be responsible for health of mind and soul, started to repress the use of many “pagan” herbs. In 529 AD Pope Gregory the Great ruled that learning that was not in accordance with the political ambitions of the papacy should be forbidden. Thus, during

Steiner’s theory of temperaments divides personalities into four types, and explains how each type relates to the others, and the world.


the Dark Ages (around 200-800 AD) knowledge of herbs and the use of the great herbals was pushed underground and scientific research and writing in Europe came to a halt. However, the highly sophisticated Arab culture of the time maintained and developed the healing legacy of the Greeks, merging it with their ancient folk medicine and surviving Egyptian traditions. By 900 AD, all Greek herbal and botanical texts that had survived were translated into Arabic in the cultural centres of Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad. When Arab armies invaded North Africa and Spain they took with them their knowledge of healing plants and medicine. In Spain, particularly in Cordoba, schools of medicine were established that kept alive the Greek and Arabic medical traditions in the medieval period, spreading the teachings throughout Europe. Indeed, as late as the 18th century, the standard textbook in use in medieval schools across Europe, Avicenna’s Canon Medicinae or The Canon of Medicine, was a fusion of ancient Greek, Arabic and Indian systems of medicine and herbal healing. The knowledge of humoral medicine preserved by the Arabic schools can be seen in some of today’s practice of herbal medicine. Rudolf Steiner, for example, derived many of his ideas of anthroposophical medicine from Graeco-Arabic thought. His four temperaments are related to the dominance of one or more of the four levels of self. Choleric with the ego (which Steiner associates with warmth and “fire”), sanguine with the astral body, phlegmatic with the etheric body, and melancholic with the physical body. The personality types described by Hans Eysenck (basically extrovert and introvert) are also divided into four different types resembling the influence of the humours. Introverted types tend to be melancholic and phlegmatic, while extroverts tend to be choleric and sanguine.



Unani Tibb Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Graeco-Roman medicine from Hippocrates and Galen was assimilated by the Arabs, and an Arabic tradition of medicine, known as Unani Tibb, developed. The word Unani (meaning “Ionian”) reflects the strong Greek influence to this tradition, while Tibb means the knowledge of the states of the human body in health and disease. A succession of renowned Arab physicians including Albucasis, Razis and Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) were particularly responsible for the development of medicine at this time, adding their own inventions and discoveries to the sum of herbal and botanical knowledge. Avicenna (980-1037 AD) brought together all that was available on the nature of disease, plant medicines, aromatics and medical theories, including the teachings of Sushruta and Charaka from the Ayurvedic tradition, in his Canon Medicinae. It was Avicenna who developed the process of distillation originated in the Alexandrian school around the 3rd century. He invented the apparatus and method of alembic distillation to extract essential oils from aromatic plants – a great landmark in the history of aromatherapy. Fragrant oils were particularly used for their purifying and restorative properties at this time and were thought to reduce the impact of destructive emotions such as grief and fear on the health of the body.

Practice in India and Beyond

When the Mongols invaded Persia and Central Asia, many scholars and physicians of Unani fled to India. Once established in India, Unani Tibb then suffered setbacks under British rule, although it still flourished unofficially. In the ensuing struggle against British colonialism a friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ajmal Khan, founded the Unani Tibb and Ayurvedic College in Delhi in 1916, a landmark in its survival. Today Unani is practiced in Iran, Pakistan, China, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and other parts of the Middle East. In India there are now many Unani medical colleges where, after a five and half year course, graduates are awarded a BUMS (Bachelor of Unani Medicine and Surgery) degree and can practice as government approved doctors. There are about 10 Unani medical colleges awarding postgraduate degrees. There are also schools of Unani in Australia and the US. The American Institute of Unani Medicine was founded in 1986.


The Seven Components

According to Unani, the human body is composed of seven components called Umoor e Tabaiyah, which are responsible for maintenance of health. Changes to any of these can predispose to imbalance and disease, and each need to be taken in to consideration in diagnosis and assessment of the correct treatment. These are: • Arkan (Elements) • Mizaj (Temperament) • Akhlaat (Humours) • Aaza (Organs) • Arwah (Vital forces or Neuro) • Quwa (Faculties) • Afaal (Functions)

According to Unani theory, the humours develop in the liver from digested nutrients, and are carried around the body in the blood. Each person’s unique balance of these substances determines his temperament, mizaj or individual metabolic constitution; a predominance of blood

The balance of one’s constitution can be disrupted by emotional, psychological, social, environmental or spiritual factors, or by diet. Environmental and lifestyle factors that are vital to good health are divided into five categories, and any imbalance of these can predispose to disturbance of the humours and lead to ill health. They are: • Fresh air • Food and drink • Movement and rest • Sleep • Emotions

The Four Humours

The four elements, known as Anasir-e-Arba (hava, pani, mitti, and dhup), are earth, water, fire and air. In varying combinations these four elements constitute four bodily humours (akhlaat): • Blood (dam) • Phlegm (kafa) • Bile (safra) • Black bile (souda)


Alembic distillation was perfected by Arab physicians to extract oil from plants.



gives a sanguine temperament; a predominance of phlegm makes one phlegmatic; yellow bile, bilious or choleric; and black bile, melancholic. As long as these humours are in balance, the human system is healthy; it is imbalance which leads to ill health and disease. Each individual has their own innate healing mechanisms, akin to ojas in Ayurveda and known in Unani as the tabiyat-e-muddabare badan, which is considered the best physician, and it is this that maintains the equilibrium of the four humours or akhlat so that we can be in good health and the happy state of mind that is our birthright.

Disciplines and Diagnoses

There are eight branches of Unani medicine resembling those in the Ayurvedic system: • Internal medicine (moalijat) • Gynaecology including obstetrics and paediatrics • Diseases of the head and neck • Toxicology • Psychiatry • Rejuvenation therapy including geriatrics • Sexology • Regimental therapy • Dietotherapy • Hydrotherapy The diagnostic skills of practitioners of Unani, known as hakims, include observation, pulse taking, questioning, palpation and urine analysis. Pulse diagnosis requires the hakim to be in a clear state of spiritual awareness to enable him to analyse the subtle qualities of the pulse. Practices including breathing and voice exercises and visualisations to help to calm and clear the mind. In the initial consultation, the Tibb practitioner will take a detailed case history from the patient

and make observations of their skin, tongue, eyes, hands and nails. They will also take their pulse, as a considerable amount of information about the patient’s state of health can be gleaned from this in just minutes. Unani classifies health in three different stages: health, disease and neutral. Neutral exists between health and disease when symptoms have not yet manifested. Disease occurs when the functions associated with the vital, natural and psychic forces of the body are obstructed or unbalanced due to some form of deviation. Symptoms of illness are seen in a positive light, as an opportunity to cleanse and balance us on physical, emotional, mental, as well as spiritual levels. Pain, for example, is a message that something is wrong, the underlying causes of which need to be addressed so that our health can be better in the future. A “healing crisis” is simply tabiyat, or the homoeostatic mechanisms of the body attempting to eliminate toxins through vomiting, diarrhoea, fevers, sweating, and increased urination in order to re-establish equilibrium of the humours, health and well being.

The Tibb practitioner will always take the pulse of their patient.



Unani healers follow strict ethical codes of conduct and practice, which are based on Islam. These include earning the respect of their patients, proper cleansing routines, moderation in food and drink, and spiritual purification techniques. As in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine, both prevention and treatment of health problems are based on each person’s body type, personality and mizaj, or individual metabolic constitution. Treatment is aimed at rebalancing the patient physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It is based largely on lifestyle advice, including advocating bathing, fresh air, fresh food and codes of conduct to promote and maintain health. Hakims also prescribe herbs, precious metals and stones (gold, silver, gems and pearls), detoxification and dietary regimes, minerals, and aromatherapy. Oils or attars are extracted from herbs and given singly or in combinations, according to the needs of the patient, to affect body, mind and emotions. Some of the herbs, such as saffron, fennel, caraway, haritaki (Terminalia chebula), bibhitaki (Terminalia bellerica), and amalaki (Emblica officinalis) are also used in Ayurvedic and Tibetan traditions. Other herbs used in the Unani tradition include guggulu (Commiphora mukul), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), coriander, bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), violet, liquorice, long pepper, and guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia). Massage or cold/heat suction cups might be used, as well as puncturing certain reflex points to release a few drops of blood in acute disease.

Food and Taste

Foods and herbs are categorised according to their own miza, or balance of the humours and elements, and appropriate treatments are prescribed to suit the imbalances of an individual’s constitution, which obviously vary from one person to another. Substances in foods and herbs are also classified


according to whether their therapeutic effects are mild (which can be used by anyone), moderate, or powerful (includes potential poisons for use only by hakims). Qualities of hot, cold, wet and dry are also attributed to physical conditions, foods and herbs. In common with Chinese, Tibetan and Ayurvedic systems, Unani Tibb emphasises the importance of tastes as well as the manner in which food is prepared to adjust the imbalances which contribute to ill health. There are five tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, pungent, and sour, each of which affects the humours in its own way. In addition appropriate warming and cooling spices and herbs are added to cooking to help address underlying imbalances of the humours. Even the aromas from preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food contribute to the healing benefit and are taken into consideration in planning meals. Cooking and eating are seen as rituals which, if containing the right foods and herbs and practiced with a pure heart, good intent and clear focus, can help transform the energy of the meal and contribute to the healing process. HERBS COMMONLY USED IN UNANI TIBB Althea officinalis (see page 104) Cassia senna (see page 138) Cinnamomum zeylanicum (see page 142) Coriandrum sativum (see page 148) Elettaria cardamomum (see page 159) Emblica officinalis (see page 161) Foeniculum vulgare (see page 169) Glycyrrhiza glabra (see page 178) Mentha piperita (see page 201) Piper longum (see page 216) Viola odorata (see page 266) Zingiber officinale (see page 274)



Tibetan Medicine Tibetan Medicine is a highly evolved system of medicine that developed as a synthesis of medical knowledge and wisdom from Indian Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Greek medicine and Unani Tibb. Its origins can be traced back to at least the 7th century. It also incorporated Buddhist philosophy that was introduced to Tibet over two thousand years ago. Being deeply rooted in Buddhist philosophy, its perspective is that physical illness is inextricably bound with mental, social and spiritual illness. Tibetan medicine has developed into a sophisticated and complex medical science with intricate theories about causes of disease, diagnosis and therapeutics, and has existed in its present form for over one thousand years. Sangye Menla, the “medicine Buddha”, is respected as the source of medical teachings and the inspiration for correct practice as a physician. The essential aspects of this teaching are summarised in the rGyud-Bzhi (pronunciation giu shi) or the Four Medical Tantras, the twelfth century text in four volumes, which is still taught today. The Tibetan system of healing, known as sowa rigpa, or the knowledge of healing, is still practiced in Tibet, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh, Siberia, China, Russia and Mongolia, as well as in parts of Europe and North America.

The Three Humours

Like other Asian systems of medicine, Tibetan medicine is based on the principle that everything in the cosmos, including human life, is composed

of five elements: earth, water, fire, wind and space. These are symbols for matter, cohesion, energy, movement and space that affect the mind as well as the body. The universe and the body are a result of the interplay of these five elements, which manifest themselves in the form of energy into three humours or energies: 1. Wind (rLung, pronunciation loong) is vital for movement, responsible for breathing, circulation of bodily fluids including blood and lymph, mental activity like thinking, speech, energy, and transmission of nerve impulses. There are five subcategories of rLung each with different locations and functions: Srog-’Dzin rLung, Gyen-rGyu rLung, Khyab-Byed rLung, Me-mNyam rLung, Thur-Sel rLung. 2. Bile

(mKhrispa, pronunciation Tripa) is heating energy, which regulates digestion and metabolism, liver function and maintains body temperature and the discriminating mind. The five subcategories of mKhris-pa are Ju-Byed


mKhris-pa, sGrub-Byed mKhris-pa, mDangs-sGyur mKhris-pa, mThong-Byed, mKhris-pa, mDog-Sel mKhris-pa. 3. Phlegm

(Badkan, pronunciation Beken) governs the structure of the physical body such as bone and muscle as well as mucous membranes. It is responsible for some aspects of digestion, the maintenance of our physical structure, joint health and mental stability. The five subcategories of Bad-kan are: rTen-Byed Bad-kan, Myag-byed Bad-kan, Myong-Byed Bad-kan, Tsim-Byed Bad-kan, Byor-Byed Bad-kan.

Health depends on the equilibrium of the humours, so disease is caused when they are

out of balance. The three energies are present in different proportions in each person and determine their constitution including their body shape, temperament, and susceptibility to specific health problems.

Balancing the Humours

Another important concept in Tibetan medicine is the dichotomy between warm and cold. Diseases, as well as remedies and food, are distinguished as warm and cold or as warming and cooling respectively. mKhrispa is warm and badkan is cool. rLung is a special case and is basically neutral, it can aggravate “warm” and “cold”, much like wind is able to boost a fire as well as cool down the body. A rLung imbalance is at the root of most diseases. The understanding of physiology is governed by the dynamic interaction of three humours (rLung, mKhrispa and badkan). Health is a dynamic equilibrium and is therefore relative because all three humours must be in a corresponding balance for each individual. The aim of Tibetan therapy is thus to restore this equilibrium in the patient.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Thangka painting on fabric, depicting the medicine Buddha Sangye Menia.


As in Ayurveda and Unani medicine, the balance of the humours determines the constitution of each individual. This balance is influenced by our external and internal environment, including diet, lifestyle, relationships and emotional, mental and spiritual influences. The dynamic equilibrium of the humours also changes with the climate, the seasons and the ageing process. In Buddhist thought, all physical and mental suffering, and hence all illness, is caused by the three mental poisons: attachment, anger and ignorance, as well as the effect of past karma.



Tibetan medicine stresses the importance of compassion in healing. Diagnosis of imbalance and disease involves observation and an in-depth interview of the patient, taking the pulse, and examining urine and faeces as well as the tongue. Once the imbalance of the humours has been ascertained, treatment specific to the individual is recommended, designed to re-establish mental harmony and equilibrium of the three humours. This can include advice on lifestyle, exercise, conduct and behaviour, healing of the mind through mantras and meditation, yoga, moxibustion (burning of the herb mugwort), the use of herbs, vegetable and mineral supplements, massage and inhalations with specially formulated herbal oils, bathing, cupping and occasionally acupuncture. Foods and herbs all consist of their own individual balance of the five elements and three humours. Foods and diets appropriate to each patient and the balance of the humours are recommended, and this includes quantities of food, and when they are eaten.

Herbal Medicines

If dietary and behavioural changes are not sufficient to remedy the condition, herbs are prescribed. The Tibetan Materia Medica consists largely of medicinal herbs, as well as minerals and, to a lesser extent, animal substances. As in Ayurveda, medicinal substances are grouped according to their properties, their taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent), their potency (heavy/light, oily/rough, hot/cold and blunt/sharp) and the effect of these on the humours. Tibetan medicines are frequently composed of 20 or more different ingredients, and include one major group of ingredients and two minor ones aimed at supporting the major group

and preventing unwanted side effects. Herbs that are used in the Tibetan tradition include amalaki, roses, calendula, nettles, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, garlic, rhodiola, gentian and liquorice. Medicines are considered to be offerings to the Medicine Buddha and other medicine deities and are prepared with spiritual rituals by traditional methods of drying, grinding, mixing and pressing the plants to make pills, powders or decoctions. The annexation of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the 1950s had a great impact on Tibetan medicine. During the Cultural Revolution in particular, practitioners suffered great persecution, and clinical practice, study and research largely censored by the repressive Chinese. Nevertheless, Tibetan medicine has survived almost intact. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama lives in exile in Dharamasala and has been a powerful influence in Tibetan HERBS COMMONLY USED IN TIBETAN MEDICINE Allium sativum (see page 102) Calendula officinalis (see page 132) Cinnamomum zeylanicum (see page 142) Coriandrum sativum (see page 148) Elettaria cardamomum (see page 159) Emblica officinalis (see page 161) Gentiana lutea (see page 175) Glycyrrhiza glabra (see page 178) Myristica fragrans (see page 204) Rhodiola rosea (see page 224) Rosa spp (see page 225) Urtica dioica (see page 257) Zingiber officinale (see page 274)


medicine. In 1961 he founded the Men-TseeKhang (the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute – TMAI) which has a college of Tibetan medicine, a clinic, a pharmacy that produces and dispenses medicines, and carries out research and

Many herbs used in Tibetan medicine, for example garlic and ginger, are already part of our daily lives.


publication of medical and astrological texts. There are other schools and clinics in Tibet, India and Nepal and recently huge pharmaceutical factories have started making traditional Tibetan formulas in China.



Ayurvedic Medicine The name Ayurveda derives from two Sanskrit words: ayur meaning life, and veda meaning knowledge or science. Ayurveda is the knowledge or science of life. More than just a system of medicine, Ayurveda is a way of life encompassing science, religion and philosophy that enhances well being, increases longevity and ultimately enables self realisation. It aims to bring about a union of physical, emotional and spiritual health or swasthya, which is a prerequisite for attaining moksha or liberation.

The lotus flower, with its far reaching roots, symbolises the Ayurvedic approach to deep individual healing.


Ayurveda is a unique holistic system of healing based on the interaction of body, mind and spirit. It is thought to be the oldest health care system in the world with its roots going back over 5000 years into the Vedic Age. It evolved on the far reaches of the Himalayas from the deep wisdom of spiritually enlightened prophets or rishis. Their wisdom was transmitted orally from teacher to disciple and eventually set down in Sanskrit poetry known as the Vedas. These writings, dating approximately 1500 BC, distilled the prevailing historical, religious, philosophical and medical knowledge and form the basis of Indian culture. The most important of these texts are the Rig Veda and the Atharva Veda. Ayurveda has survived largely as an oral tradition until the present day, one of its greatest values being its timelessness and its application to every facet of daily living, now, as it was all those centuries ago. Ayurveda has had a strong influence on many systems of medicine, from ancient Greek medicine in the West, to traditional Chinese medicine in the East. The Chinese, Tibetan, and Islamic (Unani Tibb) systems of medicines are thought to have their roots in Ayurveda. The Buddha, who was born around 550 BC, was a follower of Ayurveda and the spread of Buddhism into Tibet during the following centuries was accompanied by increased practice of Ayurveda. The ancient civilisations were linked to one another by trade routes, campaigns and wars. Arab traders spread knowledge of Indian plants in their Materia Medicas and this knowledge was passed on to the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose practices were eventually to form the basis of European medicine. The first Ayurvedic medical school was founded around 800 BCE by Punarvasu Atreya. He and his pupils recorded medical knowledge in


treatises that would in turn influence Charaka, a scholar who lived and taught around 700 BC. His writings, the Charaka Samhita, describe 1500 plants, identifying 350 as valuable medicines. This major text is still considered the main authority today of Ayurveda and referred to constantly in both teaching and practice of Ayurveda. The second major work was the Susruta Samhita, written a century later, which forms the basis of modern surgery and is still consulted today. It describes the medicinal properties of 700 healing plants.

The Five Elements

According to Ayurveda, the origin of all aspects of existence is the field of pure intellect or consciousness, known as purusha, and this appeals to those influenced by the theories of modern quantum physics that locate the basis of the physical universe in a single unified field that

Ayurvedic doctors use pulse diagnosis to assess a patient’s constitution and their present state of health.



directs and orchestrates the continuous flow of matter. Energy and matter are one. Ayurveda does not separate the external from the inner world. Everything that exists in the macrocosm has its counterpart in the microcosm of the inner universe of a human being. Cosmic energy manifests in the five elements that are the basis of all matter – ether, air, fire, water and earth. In the body ether is present in the spaces such as the mouth, the abdomen, the thorax, the capillaries and cells; movement of space is air, manifest in movements of, for example, muscles, the pulsations of the heart, peristalsis of the digestive tract and nervous impulses. Fire is

Gathering herbs to be used in Ayurveda.

present in the digestive system, governing enzyme systems and metabolism, as well as body temperature, vision and the light of the mind, intelligence. Water is present in secretions like the digestive juices, saliva, mucous membranes, plasma and cytoplasm. Earth is responsible for the solid structures holding the body together, bones, cartilage, muscles and tendons as well as skin, hair and nails. The five elements manifest in the functioning of the five senses, and these in turn enable us to perceive and interact with the environment in which we live. Ether, air, fire, water and earth correspond to hearing, touch, vision, taste and smell respectively.


The Three Doshas

From the five elements derive three basic forces, or humours, the tridoshas, which exist in everything and influence all mental and physical processes. 1. From ether and air, vata, the air principle is created. 2. From fire and water comes pitta, the fire principle. 3. From earth and water derives the water principle, kapha. The balance of the doshas in each person will promote health and well-being, while imbalance leads to ill-health and disease. We are all born with a certain balance of doshas brought about mainly by the dosha balance in our parents at the time of our conception. This is our basic constitution (prakruti) that remains unchanged throughout our lives. The dominant dosha determines our body type, temperament and illness we may be susceptible to. Our vikruti, our present dosha balance, reflects the effect that lifestyle has on our prakruti to cause further imbalances that predispose to imbalance and ill health.


of the body, digestion and bowel function, all of which point to more profound aspects of the patient’s condition. Pulse and tongue diagnosis are exceptionally valuable tools for confirming analysis of health and constitution. In these respects Ayurveda has much in common with Chinese and Tibetan medicine, in which these two indicators of the state of health are also of the greatest importance. A highly complex technique for taking the patient’s pulse has been developed by Ayurvedic practitioners, which requires many years of practice to perfect. Once the dosha balance has been diagnosed and the causes of imbalance have been established, treatment and lifestyle advice is given. The first step back to health is the elimination of toxins and enhancing digestion or raising digestive fire, known as agni. Treatments fall into three main categories: 1. Natural medicines 2. Dietary regimes 3. Lifestyle changes

Diagnosis and Treatment

The first requirement for health in Ayurveda is proper balance of the doshas according to our prakruti. If the balance is disturbed by our diet, lifestyle or state of mind for example, illness (vyadhi) of one kind or another eventually results. The disruption may be felt in physical discomfort and pain, or in mental and emotional suffering such as fear and anxiety, anger or jealousy. Our current state of imbalance causing such symptoms to manifest is known as our vikruti. Both prakruti and vikruti can be ascertained by careful diagnosis which involves taking a detailed case history and examining the body, paying attention to build, skin and hair type, temperature

Dhanwantari was known in the Vedas as the physician of the gods and the patron saint of Ayurveda.



• Pungent, bitter and astringent tastes decrease kapha and increase vata. • Sweet, bitter and astringent taste decrease pitta and pungent, salty and sour increase pitta.

An Ayurvedic massage with herbs.

These are all classified according to their effect on the three doshas. To illustrate, a health problem associated with excess kapha could be characterised by catarrh, lethargy, weight gain and fluid retention. A diet consisting of warm, dry, light food would be advised since kapha is cool and damp. Avoidance of foods with a cold, damp quality such as wheat and milk products and sugar, which would serve to increase kapha, would also be recommended. Herbal remedies would include warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves and pepper to raise the digestive fire and cleanse toxins from the body. Bitters such as turmeric and aloe vera may also be prescribed. The specific choice of herbal remedy depends on its “quality” or “energy” which Ayurveda determines according to 20 attributes (vimshati guna) such as hot, cold, wet, dry, heavy or light. Ayurveda also classifies remedies according to six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. • Sweet, sour and salty substances increase kapha and decrease vata.

Herbs from the Ayurvedic tradition include amalaki (Emblica officinalis), shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), gotu kola (Centella asiatica), long pepper, holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), guggulu (Commiphora mukul), cinnamon, coriander, andrographis (Andrographis paniculata), aloe vera, neem, frankincense (Boswellia serrulata) and turmeric. Detoxification is an important part of Ayurvedic treatment. This can be done gently with the help and guidance of an Ayurvedic HERBS COMMONLY USED IN AYURVEDA Andrographis paniculata (see page 105) Anethum graveolens (see page 107) Asparagus racemosus (see page 122) Bacopa monnieri (see page 127) Boswellia serrata (see page 131) Coleus forskohlii (see page 145) Commiphora molmol (see page 146) Commiphora mukul (see page 147) Eclipta alba (see page 158) Emblica officinalis (see page 161) Gymnema sylvestre (see page 180) Ocimum sanctum (see page 206) Piper longum (see page 216) Tinospora cordifolia (see page 249) Trigonella foenum (see page 252) Withania somniferum (see page 272)


practitioner, in which case it is known as shamana. Shodana is a more intense detoxification process known as panchakarma which is done in-house over a period of a month ideally. Panchakarma involves a thorough cleansing and rejuvenation programme, and is available mainly in treatment centres in South India and Sri Lanka, but centres do exist also in Europe and North America. Panchakarma includes the use of oil massage, sweating, therapeutic vomiting, purging, enemas, nasal administration of medicine, and purification of blood.


Herbal remedies are prepared in varying mediums, according to the predominant dosha

(Above, and above right) Ocimum sanctum, or holy basil, has long been used in the Ayurvedic healing tradition.


being treated. Often herbs given to balance vata are given in warm milk, those for reducing pitta in ghee and those to reduce kapha are prepared in honey. Sometimes minute doses of minerals such as salt are also mixed with the herbs. Remedies take the form of pills, powders, decoctions and alcohol extracts and most contain several ingredients all carefully tailored to individual needs.

Ayurveda Today

The value of Ayurveda is proved partly by its timelessness, since it has existed as an unbroken tradition for thousands of years, despite a number of setbacks. Following the rise of the Mogul Empire in the 16th century, the dominance of Unani Tibb medicine led to the partial repression of Ayurveda



in India. In the 19th century, the British dismissed it as nothing more than native superstition and in 1833, they closed all Ayurvedic schools and banned the practice of Ayurveda. Great centres of Indian learning thus fell apart and Ayurvedic knowledge retreated into the villages and temples. At the turn of the century, however, some Indian physicians and enlightened Englishmen began to re-evaluate Ayurveda, and by the time India had become independent in 1947, it had regained its reputation as a valid healing system. Today in India Ayurveda flourishes alongside Unani Tibb and Western allopathic medicine and is actively

Bacopa monnieri, also known as brahmi, is used in Ayurvedic treatment.

encouraged by the Indian government as an inexpensive alternative to Western drugs. In recent years Ayurveda has increasingly attracted attention from medical scientists in Japan and the West and the World Health organisation has resolved to promote its practice in developing countries. Here in the West, the popularity of Ayurveda is growing daily as more and more people recognise its immense value, not only in the prevention and treatment of disease, but also for its comprehensive recipe for a better, healthier way of life that addresses all facets of our existence: mind, body and spirit.


Chinese Herbal Medicine Traditional Chinese medicine is a system of healing as ancient as Ayurveda with an unbroken tradition that can be traced back to around 2500 BC and includes oriental traditions from Southeast Asia that originally came from China. The first, maybe mythical herbalist was Shennong, who imparted his knowledge of hundreds of medicinal and poisonous plants to farmers.

A Chinese herbal medicine cabinet.




The Compendium of Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu) was compiled in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty, by Li Shizhen, and lists all the plants, animals, and minerals used in Chinese medicine at the time. It includes herbs that are still used including opium, ephedrine, rhubarb, and iron and is still a major reference book today.

Illustration from Bencao Gangmu. This 15th century pharmaceutical encyclopedia features 1,892 medicinal substances.

The first major text, the Shen Nong Bencao Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Materia Medica), dated around 1000 BC in the Han dynasty, describes 365 medicines, over 250 of which are herbs, their physical actions and applications. Later additions to herbal knowledge followed the style and format of the Classic, placing emphasis on taste, the herb’s heating or cooling nature, which organs and meridians it primarily affects, dosage ranges, degree of toxicity, and overall effects of the herb on specific patterns of symptoms. The Shen Nong divided medicines into 3 categories: 1. Superior herbs which are the main remedies for returning the body and mind to health; 2. Middle level tonic herbs which boost energy and immunity; 3. Low level, more powerful herbs that should only be taken in small doses for specific symptoms.

Qi flows through meridians, or energy channels, in the body; stimulating acupoints along them rebalances energy flow.


Traditional Chinese Medicine Today

As in Ayurvedic medicine, these early texts are still studied and their precepts adhered to by modern practitioners of Chinese medicine. At the same time, Chinese medicine has continually been developed and refined in response to cultural and clinical advances and ongoing research. It survived through the rise and fall of several dynasties, and still exists happily in China alongside Western allopathic medicine, providing healthcare for the majority of the Chinese population. It continues to grow in popularity in the West despite occasional bad press concerning the adverse effects of certain Chinese herbs.

The Life Force

The Chinese, like the Indians, regard the human body and all its functions as a microcosm of the macrocosm. All forms of life are seen to be animated by the same essential life force called qi. By breathing we take in qi from the air and pass it into the lungs, and by digesting we extract qi from food and drink and pass it into the body. When these qis meet in the bloodstream they become known as human qi, which circulates around the body as vital energy. The quality, quantity and balance of qi in each person influences their state of health and lifespan, and this in turn is affected by factors such as the season, climate, lifestyle, diet and air. Wind, dampness, dryness, heat, and cold can derange the internal balance of the body, obstructing the movement of qi in the organs. Disturbance of internal wind causes vertigo, unsteady movement, and trembling; dampness causes increases phlegm and oedema, dryness causes drying of mucus membranes, cold decreases circulation and slows metabolism, while excess heat leads to inflammation.


Qi flows through a network of channels, or meridians, throughout the body, and can be stimulated and balanced using acupuncture, acupressure, diet and herbal medicine. The body is also composed of moisture, which is the fluid in the body that protects, nurtures and lubricates the tissues and blood, which is the basic material from which bone, muscle, nerves, organs and skin are made. For the body to be adequately healthy qi, moisture and blood need to circulate within a network of channels that connect all parts of the body. All illness is seen as a result of either depletion or congestion of qi, moisture and blood caused by unhealthy diets and lifestyle, stress, tension, overwork, lack of exercise or any other thing that impairs the ability of the organ networks to function properly.

A Chinese herbalist’s vase.



Yin and Yang

The principles of Chinese medicine originate in traditional Taoist philosophy, China’s most ancient school of thought. Central to this philosophy is the idea of fluctuation and mutability, explaining natural phenomena in terms of the constant ebb and flow of cosmic forces. Yin and yang, the two primordial cosmic forces, are concepts that are familiar to many. Yin symbolises passive, yielding force that is cold, dark, negative, contractive and female, represented by water. Yang is active, positive, hot,

Chinese herbs are often used combined in formulae; synergy increases their therapeutic benefits.

light, expansive and male, symbolised by fire. The constant interplay between these opposite and mutually dependent forces, produces all the change and movement in the universe. Different parts of the body are described as predominantly yin or yang. Yin is found in the internal, lower and front part of the body, in the body fluids and blood, and it governs innate instincts, while yang governs qi, vital energy and learned skills, and presides in the upper, external and back parts of the body. To maintain health, yin and yang need to be in balance.


The Five Elements

As in Ayurveda, the theory of five elements is vital to the Chinese understanding of life in all its variety. Wood, fire, earth, metal and water are the elements that compose and relate to all aspects of life, including parts of the body, vital organs, emotions, seasons, colours and tastes. To illustrate, wood relates to spring, the colour green, the liver and gall bladder, anger and the sour taste. Fire corresponds to summer, the heart and small intestine, joy and bitter taste. The constant interplay of the five elements along with that of yin and yang spark off all change and activity in nature. The fundamental relationships among the five elements are the key to understanding how our bodies and the environment interact and influence each other. To maintain good health, the elements need to be in harmony and if one element becomes over-dominant, imbalance and illness can result. Although the emphasis is on the internal causation of a disease, traditional Chinese medicine recognises that outside factors play a role. A 2nd century CE physician called Zhang Zhongjing wrote the Treatise of Cold-Damage Disorders, which described the diagnosis and treatment of diseases caused by external cold factors; in effect, this referred to infectious diseases.


and the lower back, as well as the emotion of fear, the will, and the ability to think and see things clearly. The heart network circulates blood and is the home of the spirit (shen) and governs the mind. The spleen network governs digestion and assimilation of food and fluids, as well as digestion of information and ideas, while the liver network controls the storage of blood, flow of qi, and stability of mood and temperament. The lung network governs breathing, circulation and the distribution of moisture.

Diagnosis and Treatment

This involves taking a case history which includes the patient’s present and past complaints, lifestyle, physical environment, family health history, work,

The Organ Networks

The body is also divided into five functional systems called organ networks. These govern certain tissues, as well as mental and physical activities by regulating and preserving qi, moisture, blood, spirit (shen), and essence (jing). The kidney network is responsible for fluid balance in the body and also stores the essence or jing, which is responsible for fertility, growth, and regeneration. Its province is the teeth, bones, marrow, brain, inner ear, pupil of the eye,

Chinese treatment works to balance the four natures that relates to the degree of yin and yang within each individual.



HERBS COMMONLY USED IN TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE Angelica polymorph (see page 110) Artemisia annua (see page 120) Astragalus membranaceous (see page 123) Codonopsis pilosula (see page 144) Lonicera japonica (see page 197) Paeonia lactiflora (see page 213) Polygonum multiflorum (see page 220) Prunella vulgaris (see page 221) Rehmania glutinosa (see page 222) Schizandra chinensis (see page 235) Scutellaria baicalensis (see page 236)

home and emotional life. It also includes reading of the basic indicators of health and disease such as the complexion, lustre of the eyes and hair, colour and texture of the tongue and its coating. Pulse and tongue diagnosis are the principal diagnostic tools of the practitioner of Chinese medicine and enable the practitioner to detect imbalances and ill health before they show up on other modern diagnostic apparatus such as blood tests and x-rays. Treatment is aimed at harmonizing yin and yang, wet and dry, cold and heat, inner and outer, body and mind by regulating the qi, moisture and blood in the organ networks. Treatment may combine herbs, diet, exercise, and massage. Chinese herbs have been classified according to the four natures, the five tastes and the meridians. The four natures relates to the degrees of yin and yang which are: cold (extreme yin), cool, warm and hot (extreme yang). As in Tibetan and Unani medicine, herbs and foods are all composed of five tastes: pungent,

sweet, sour, bitter and salty, each of which has different qualities and actions in the body. 1. Pungent herbs increase production of sweat and direct and increase qi and blood. 2. Sweet herbs are nourishing and toning, and some act as diuretics to drain dampness. 3. Sour herbs are astringent, bitter herbs clear heat and dampness. 4. Salty herbs are used to stimulate the bowels and reduce hard masses. 5. Herbs that nourish the qi have an energising effect, herbs to enrich the blood help sleep, vision and mood, while herbs to replenish moisture soften the skin and relieve thirst. The meridians relate to the organ networks that can be helped by herbs to do their work. Herbs are usually combined in formulae to enhance their action either in the form of dried herbs for decoctions, ground and produced as

Angelica polymorph, variation sinensis, also known as Chinese angelica/dong guai, is a herb commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine.



(Rehmania glutinosa), schizandra (Schizandra chinensis), baikal skullcap (Scutellaria baikalensis) and self heal (Prunella vulgaris). Research into the medicinal properties of Chinese herbal remedies has led to some being adopted by Western medicine. For example, the drug artemisinin, used to treat drug-resistant malaria, has been derived from Chinese wormwood, (qing hao/Artemisia annua). In China, traditional herbs have also been fused successfully with Western drugs; for example aspirin has been combined with Gypsum fibrosum to treat a form of arthritis.

Prunella vulgaris, or self-heal, is used to treat fever and liver imbalance and is also valued for accelerating wound-repair.

pills and powders or used in liquid extracts. Some practitioners use patent formulae in the form of pills which are certainly more easy and convenient for the patient than boiling up herbs in decoctions, but do not allow for the individualised prescriptions that practitioners can formulate themselves in response to the specific needs of each patient. Herbs used in the Chinese tradition include codonopsis (Codonopsis pilusera), astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), liquorice, ginger, Chinese angelica (Angelica sinensis), sweet Annie (Artemisia annua), coriander, honeysuckle, peony, fleece flower (Polygonum multiflorum), rehmania

Rehmania Glutinosa, also known as Chinese foxglove, is used in Chinese medicine to increase energy.



The Healing Tradition in North America Native North American herbalism was a shamanic tradition – ritualistic dances, playing drums and rattles and taking mind-altering plants such as peyote and datura were intended to enable the shaman or medicine man or woman to enter a trance-like visionary state to enable him or her to communicate with the spirit world, including the Great Spirit (Wakan Tanka, in the language of the Lakota Sioux, like a notion of God that permeates everything), and the soul of the ill person in order to bring about healing. Help was sought in this way for healing physical ills and troubles of the psyche, and to engender harmony within communities or between individuals. Plants were revered not only for their ability to cure diseases of the body but also imbalances in the mind, emotions and spirit. They were an inextricable part of the Native American religion and mythology, used in ceremonies and rituals. Disease was seen to be caused by human, supernatural or natural causes and the medicine man or woman was called upon to administer herbs for anything from wounds and broken bones to unfulfilled dreams, spiritual intrusion and soul loss. Everything was performed traditionally in a circle, and according to Black Elk of the Teton Dakato, the “Power of the World” always worked in circles. “All our power came to us from the sacred loop of the nation”, he said, and his people flourished as long as the circle was unbroken.

“The flowering circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance.” A group of herbalists in 19th century North America, known as Physiomedicalists, blended together the traditions of European herbalism brought to America by the Pilgrim fathers, with the herbal wisdom of the North American Indians. These herbs included pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa), barberry (Berberis vulgaris), black cohosh (Actaea racemosus), gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum), boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), golden seal (Hydrastis Canadensis), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginaurea), poke root (Phytolacca



HERBS COMMONLY USED IN NATIVE AMERICAN MEDICINE Asclepias tuberosa (see page 125) Baptisia tinctoria (see page 128) Berberis (see page 133) Berberis Vulgaris (see page 129) Cynara Scolymus (see page 154) Dioscorea villosa (see page 156) Echinacea augustifolia (see page 157) Eupatorium perfoliatum (see page 164) Eupatorium purpureum (see page 165) Hamamelis virginiana (see page 181) Hydrastis canadensis (see page 185) Myrica cerifera (see page 203) Phytolacca decandra (see page 215) Smilax ornata (See page 239) Trillium erectum (See page 253) Ultmus fulva (see page 255) Viburnum opulus (see page 263) Viburnum prunifolium (see page 264) Zanthoxyllum americanum (see page 271)

Echinacea Augustifolia, or echinacea.

Berberis, or oregon grape.

decandra), cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) and black haw (Viburnum prunifolium). The renowned founder of Physiomedicalism was Dr Samuel Thomson (1769-1843) who was the first to bring the Native American remedy Lobelia to the attention of the medical world. He kept alive traditional ideas of allowing the body to heal itself and helping to create the ideal conditions for this with the use of herbs, and mixed it with knowledge he had gained by observation of the Native American medicine men, such as the value of sweating for clearing toxins from the body. Like ancient and modern herbalists, Thomson recognised the presence of the vital force that flows throughout nature and animates all in existence. Described as the spirits by the ancient Greeks and American cultures, the qi of China’s medicine and



philosophy, and prana of Ayurveda, the vital force is our innate healing energy that manifests itself daily in the amazing feats of the body including coughing to clear the airways of phlegm, sneezing to shift irritants from the nose, vomiting to clear the stomach of infection, and diarrhoea to remove toxins from the bowel. This self-healing mechanism is called homoestasis by modern science. Thomson also held that all bodies were composed of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water, and health derived from their harmonious interplay. Herbs were used primarily to maintain or correct this balance, and prescriptions were designed to do one of four things: astringe (tone) or relax, stimulate or sedate. Toning herbs included shepherd’s purse, agrimony and beth root; relaxing herbs included crampbark and lemon

Asclepias tuberosa, or pleurisy root (above) and Viburnum opulus, or cramp bark (above right) are commonly used in Native American medicine. Pleurisy root relieves pain and inflammation, while cramp bark is a known relaxant.

balm. Ginger and cayenne were seen as stimulating while chamomile and yellow jasmine were sedating. Thomson’s model of physiomedicalism was followed in America by other botanic schools, notably the Ecletics founded by Dr Wooster Beech in the 1830s, who also used native Indian traditions mixed with European knowledge and orthodox medical practices. Physiomedicalism was brought to England in 1838 by Dr Albert Coffin, and Wooster Beech arrived in the 1850s to bring Eclectic medicine to Europe. Although Thomson’s ideas met with enormous opposition from allopathic doctors in America, as the same ideas have survived in Europe until more recently. They are the same ideas that formed the basis of Hippocrates’ humoral medicine, and the vast systems of Chinese, Indian and Tibetan medicine.



Aromatherapy The use of essential oils distilled from highly scented plants is hugely popular, a natural enough fact given that people have enjoyed the perfumes of plants as far back as we can remember. Most ancient civilisations have used fragrant oils and plants; herbs, flowers and aromatic woods were burned in temples to purify the atmosphere and to please the gods. Their perfumes were believed to rise higher than the temple ceilings to the heavens where they scented the realms of Paradise. In Biblical times, aromatic oils were used for anointing and as temple incense; we read of spikenard, myrrh and frankincense, camphor and cinnamon that perfumed the rooms of temples and palaces. Myrrh and frankincense were obviously so highly valued that they were considered by the Magi to be worthy gifts for the infant Jesus. The ancient Egyptians used aromatic oils skillfully in their healing ointments and in the mummification process, and used perfumes in courtship just as we do today; Queen Cleopatra’s royal barge apparently emitted the most exotic perfumes as it sailed down the Nile to meet Mark Anthony. Cleopatra is said to have bathed several times daily with essence of rose and orange blossom. The Romans loved aromatic oils, favouring rose above all for wine making, perfumes and their famous baths. When the fashion for bathing died out or when water was short, aromatic oils would be applied to skin and clothes to mask more unpleasant smells – they were particularly

popular in Tudor and Elizabethan times. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, perfumed gloves were the height of fashion, and in fact Queen Elizabeth herself possessed her own still room for distilling oils for making the royal floral perfumes. So powerful was the effect of scent with its sensual, often mind-altering properties, that when the Crusaders returned from the Holy Land laden with perfumes of the Orient, the medieval clergy were greatly alarmed and associated it with the forces of evil. Later in the eighteenth century the House of Commons considered applying the laws of witchcraft against women who tried to seduce any of the crown’s subjects into marriage with



the aid of scent! Certainly the exotic fragrances of plants have traditionally been associated with the supernatural, and used in love potions as well as magical and religious ceremonies to heighten perception, and for divination.

Healing Heritage

Fragrant oils have also long been used in healing. From Hippocrates onwards we know that aromatic baths, massages and inhalations have been employed to remedy all kinds of health problems. Herbs such as rosemary, pine and juniper were burnt and pomanders were worn to keep contagion away and for protection during epidemics. With the development of scientific analysis of plants and their constituents, more has become known about the amazing range of biochemical constituents that make up the

volatile oils. In the 1920s a French chemist, Rene Gattefosse, brought the healing benefits of oils to the attention of the orthodox scientific world, which by now was disregarding much of the benefit to be derived from the plant world, preferring to develop the synthesis of more powerful drugs in the laboratory. Gattefosse had a family perfume business and while experimenting in his laboratory, he burnt his arm badly and plunged it into the nearby vat of lavender oil. To his great delight his arm healed quickly with no scarring. Gattefosse was then inspired to devote much time to researching essential oils and their medical application, particularly in relation to their benefit on the skin. In 1937 he published his book Aromatherapy, the name he coined for describing the healing benefits of essential oils that is still used to this day. Gattefosse’s research papers were read by a French army doctor, Jean Valnet, who was so interested in the subject he began his own clinical research using oils on soldiers as antiseptics and wound healers, and was greatly impressed by their efficacy. He then began to experiment with treating the emotional or psychological problems of war veterans, and to write extensively about aromatherapy. His Practice of Aromatherapy, published in 1964, is a standard text now for all professional aromatherapists.

Modern Aromatherapy

Essential oils are stored in dark glass bottles to preserve active ingredients that are destroyed by light and heat.

The practice of aromatherapy as it exists today, using essential oils with massage for health and well-being, was actually popularised by an Austrian biochemist, Marguerite Maury. She was particularly interested in the healing and rejuvenating properties of essential oils and carried out an extensive research programme on the effectiveness of oils when absorbed through the skin. She went on to write about essential oils and


publicised La Capital Jeuness in 1961, which has been reprinted and translated into English as The Secret of Life and Youth. Dr Maury opened several clinics for aromatherapy, offering massage using essential oils to treat a wide range of physical problems and to address underlying emotional and mental problems. Many practitioners have since followed her example. As well as the great versatility of the effects of essential oils, massage gives the opportunity of benefiting from the comfort of touch, and the great therapeutic value that brings. Volatile oils can be taken into the body in a variety of different ways. They can be taken in aromatic herbs in foods and drinks; diluted in a carrier oil and rubbed on to the skin, or inhaled through the nose stimulating olfactory receptor cells to carry nerve impulses to the brain, especially the limbic system, where they have the potential to affect our instinctual responses,

Lavendula, or lavender, when distilled as an essential oil, was discovered by the French chemist Rene Gattefosse to be a powerful treatment for burns.


emotions and memory. As oils are inhaled, molecules are also taken via the lungs into the bloodstream and the systemic circulation. Their actions are felt throughout the digestive tract, the urinary tract and the respiratory system, and affect sweat, salivary, vaginal and lacrimal secretions. It is probable that the oils are passed in some amount through the breast milk; fennel, dill and chamomile tea for example have been drunk for centuries by lactating women to soothe babies’ colic and help induce sleep. When oils are absorbed through the skin during massage or baths, they stimulate nerve endings in the skin and messages are relayed to underlying tissues, muscles, blood and lymphatic vessels, and also via the nervous system to the pituitary gland, thereby having the ability to regulate the action of other endocrine glands, including the adrenals. This can be helpful in the treatment of hormonal problems and stress-related symptoms.



Flower Remedies The story of flower remedies begins really with Dr Bach. Dr Edward Bach (1886-1936) was a man of deep compassion for those suffering pain or distress. This led him to train in medicine and become a respected immunologist, pathologist and bacteriologist. Dissatisfied, however, with medicine’s palliative rather than curative effect on illness, he was driven to continue studying, knowing that true health and well-being comes from within and depends on harmony of body, mind, emotion and spirit. His research as a bacteriologist led to his discovery of the relationship between the bacterial population of the gut and chronic illness and the use of vaccines from these bacteria. In 1919, working in the London Homoeopathic Hospital, he realised the work and philosophy of Dr Samuel Hahnemann echoed much of his own approach to medicine – the treatment of the person, not the disease. He began to prepare his vaccines homeopathically and used them with great success. However, he still felt that he was working in the area of physical disease and not addressing the underlying causes. His understanding was that disease resulted from inner disharmony, negative thoughts and feelings, which were frequently manifested on a physical level. He saw that the strain of stress causing fear, anxiety, panic, anger, intolerance and impatience, depleted general vitality and resistance to disease.

Dr Bach’s Discoveries

Dr Bach had a great love of nature and intuitively understood that remedies to emotional pain and suffering could be found among flowers, herbs and trees. So, at the height of his medical career, he left to spend the rest of his life travelling in Wales and Southern England in search of remedies to restore peace of mind and happiness which he believed to be the essential nature of our being. During this time he discovered 38 flower remedies, which


provided answers to our many sufferings, derived (with the exception of one) from flowering trees and plants. He realised that the early morning dew on plants exposed to sunlight absorbed the properties of that plant better than on those growing in the shade. So he devised the “sun method” of extracting the properties of the plants. This involves floating picked flower heads in a glass bowl on top of spring water that fills it. The bowl is placed on the ground near the parent plants and exposed to sunlight for a few hours, after which time the flowers are removed carefully with a twig or a leaf. The essence is then poured into bottles half full of brandy to preserve it. The “boiling method” involves placing the plant in an enamel pan of spring water and simmering it for

Rose (above), distilled as a flower essence (above right), lifts the spirits and helps alleviate fear of the unknown.


half an hour. Once cool, the essence is filtered and preserved in equal parts of brandy. He published his discoveries in main homoeopathic journals and produced several booklets for lay people, so that his remedies would be accessible to everyone. These included Heal Thyself, Free Thyself and The 12 Healers.

The Flower Essence Society

Although flower remedies are associated with Dr Bach, they were actually described in the 1500s by Paracelsus, who prepared remedies from dew he had collected from flowers to treat his patients’ emotional problems. In the early seventies “flower power” were the words on many people’s lips, particularly in California, and people would refer



to “good vibrations”, and they were interested in the wisdom of the East, the power of love and meditation. Flowers were in vogue, and not surprisingly a variety of people in the healing and psychic world began to discover intuitively a whole host of new flower essences. Within the context of mind altering substances and popular New Age concepts, the profusion of flower remedies was causing some confusion, with some doubt as to whether allegations for their remarkable healing abilities was actually sound or not. Richard Katz and Patricia Kaminski were among those who were developing flower essences, having worked with the Bach flower remedies for many years, but were

Kangaroo paw is a bush flower essence derived from the native Australian plant; it helps to encourage social interaction.

concerned that charlatans in the area would bring flower healing into disrepute. In 1979 they set up the Flower Essence Society (FES) to separate the wheat from the chaff, to gather case studies from practitioners worldwide to confirm the genuine effects of flower essences, and to run training courses for students and seminars for practitioners. After extensive testing of their remedies on health practitioners, the FES produced a range of flower essences called Quintessentials made from organically grown flowers cultivated around the Californian Sierra Nevada. While Dr Bach’s remedies reflected the spirit of his era during the Depression, with flowers for negative emotions


such as fear, anger, resentment, depression and discouragement, the Californian Flower Essences were affected by California in the 1970s. Their remedies include flowers for enhancing spiritual development, releasing sexual inhibitions and blocks to creativity and for resolving problems in relationships. From the 1970s onwards the world of flower essences has continued to blossom with ranges of flower essences originating from all corners of the world, including New Zealand, Hawaii, Alaska, Scotland, the Himalayas, Africa, the Amazon and Australia.

Australian Bush Flower Essences

The Australian bush flower essences were evolved by a naturopath, Ian White, who had used the Bach remedies and wanted to explore the healing potential of flowers closer to home. As a boy he had grown up in the Australian bush, and there his appreciation and respect for nature developed as he accompanied his herbalist grandmother on walks, searching for medicinal herbs. As an adult, information about bush essences, a picture of the flower, where it could be found, and often even its name was channelled to Ian White during meditation. Working with other practitioners who were excited by this new discovery, he set about verifying the effects of the Bush remedies, not only by working with patients but also testing them with Kirlian photography, kinesiology and vega machines, and with other mediums. His book Bush Flower Essences describes 50 of the Australian essences and their applications. Since then, twelve more remedies have been discovered and researched.

because of their chemical constituents but the life force derived from the flower contained within the water-based fluid they come in. Like homoeopathic remedies, their presence is more subtle than physical, and they address profound issues of spiritual well being, emotional and mental harmony, and the healing of emotional and mental difficulties that create blocks to spiritual development and the realisation of our full potential. They can provide catalysts for helping people to heal themselves, to understand their purpose and direction in life, and free themselves from the mental or emotional suffering that may be hindering them on their path. Dr Bach said that flower essences “raise our vibrations and open up our channels for the reception of our spiritual self. They are able, like beautiful music or any gloriously uplifting thing which gives us inspiration, to raise our very natures and bring us nearer to ourselves and by that very act to bring us peace and relieve our suffering”.

Healing Nature

Flower remedies are highly diluted from a physical or chemical perspective, effective not


Dr Edward Bach (above) wrote that flower essences could “bring us peace and relieve our suffering”.

The Chemistry of Herbs

How do herbs work on the human organism? Much of their medicinal action can be classified according to a plant’s therapeutic constituents, measured using the tools of biochemistry and pharmacology. However, plants also work synergistically – the whole being more than the sum of its parts – and this has been less well studied. As a result, many herbalists are happy to evaluate the healing potential of plants according to both modern scientific findings and more holistic philosophies of energy medicine.



Re-evaluating Herbal Medicines Modern evaluation of herbal medicines is divided between “rationalistic/scientific” and “energetic” viewpoints. With the emergence of modern Western scientific medicine, herbs have been seen either as old fashioned and obsolete or as sources of pharmacological constituents to be used as building blocks for making drugs. For thousands of years, until the last 200 years or so, plants provided the sole source of medicines and many familiar and potent medicines of the 21st century have been derived directly or

The bark from the Cinchona tree, native to South America, is the source of quinine in anti-malarial drugs.

indirectly from herbs. Despite this, there are still those who persist in the view that the value of herbs is unproven scientifically. Cinchona bark, for example, is the source of quinine, the anti malaria drug, periwinkle is the source of vincristine, the anti-tumour drug, the opium poppy is the source of morphine and codeine. Atropine, aspirin, digoxin and ephedrine are all plant derived drugs found in modern pharmacological textbooks and dispensaries. At the same time, however, the unquestionable value and popularity of herbs as medicines in the last 20-30 years has prompted an increasing amount of research into the action of plant components that is not only fascinating but also greatly helpful to the modern practitioner. Alongside this enquiry into the world of herbs has come a re-emergence in popularity of more ancient systems of medicine with their “energetic” or “holistic” philosophies, as well as more modern systems of healing using plants, such as aromatherapy and flower essences. This has occurred, amid a milieu of natural healing that has challenged modern allopathic medicine to the point that now many people are conscious that valid choices exist for the patient who is


embarking on a course of treatment, particularly for addressing one or more chronic problems.

Whole Plant Medicines

To stand up to scrutiny in a modern scientific world, herbalists now have to provide evidence of the efficacy and safety of the therapeutic herbs they use and apply the tools of the scientific world, biochemistry and pharmacology, to their task. While herbalists advocate the use of whole plant medicines, their enquiry necessitates that, for study and evaluation purposes, ingredients are singled out and their actions are ascertained. Such research enables quality testing, identifies efficient extraction methods and provides pointers to potential side effects and herb-drug interactions. Once this is accomplished it does not, however,

Opium poppies in Tasmania, Australia; some 50% of the world’s crop used in medicine is grown here.


tell the whole story and the knowledge gained from such study needs still to be incorporated into a more overall view of the whole plant. It has long been held that a herb is more than the sum of its parts, and, despite investigations into what are seen as the active ingredients in a given plant, there are other “lesser” constituents that have an equally important role to play therapeutically. These play an essential role in determining how effective the primary healing agents will be by rendering the body more or less receptive to their powers. Some of these “synergistic” substances will make the active constituents more easily assimilated and readily available in the body, while others will buffer the action of other potent plant chemicals, thus preventing the risk of side effects. It is the natural combination of both types



of substances that determines the healing power and safety of any herbal medicine. Before the development of modern scientific methods for isolating active constituents, whole plant medicines were used. Then, as science progressed, many of these constituents were able to be synthesised in the laboratory, perhaps in the assumption that synthetic compounds were similar to those derived from the plant world and as such would be assimilated just as easily by the body, and herbs became more or less redundant. However, chemical analysis of medicinal plants has demonstrated that there is a similarity in the

Vinca, or periwinkle, is now known to be the source of vincristine, the anti-tumour drug.

molecular structure of components of plants and the human body, which makes the foods we eat and the herbs we use as medicines easily assimilated. The isolation and synthesis of potent active ingredients can produce an array of side-effects. Plant-derived drugs such as morphine, digoxin, ephedrine and atropine clearly need to be used with great caution. Even aspirin carries its risks and after 1986 all children’s aspirin based drugs were withdrawn from the market due to their implication in association with Reye’s syndrome in children, which can cause damage to the kidneys and brain.



Constituents of Herbal Medicines Through photosynthesis, plants manufacture carbohydrates and give off oxygen, and through this process they create metabolic pathways that provide building blocks for the production of a vast array of compounds. In medicinal plants these include minerals, vitamins and trace elements, and a vast assortment of substances known to have specific therapeutic actions in the body. The more widely known of these are as follows:


Phenols, sometimes called phenolic compounds, are a large class of secondary plant compounds. They are aromatic alcohols and the building blocks of many plant components, and generally have antiseptic, antibacterial and anthelmintic actions. The simplest of the class is the antimicrobial phenol (C6H5OH). Another simple phenolic compound is salicylic acid, which forms glycosides found in willow, cramp bark, and meadowsweet, and has antiseptic, painkiller and has anti-inflammatory properties. It forms the basis of aspirin. Other compounds include hydroxycinnamic acids, including caffeic, ferulic and sinapic acids, which form the basis of phenolic esthers, coumarins, glycosides and lignans; also cynarin, the main constituent of globe artichoke, with its liver-protective and cholesterol-lowering

actions, and curcumin, the main component from turmeric, which is famous as an anti-inflammatory agent and also for its ability to lower blood pressure and protect the liver (Pengelly, 2004). Other phenolic compounds include stilbenes, which occur in grape skins and red wine, with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-allergy actions, and quinones, including anthraquinones (see overleaf) and naphthaquinones. The latter have antimicrobial and antitumour properties, for example juglone in walnut bark, and lapachol in pau d’arco.


Coumarins occur widely in plants, including black cohosh, wild oats, angelica, and horse chestnut, and they are generally antimicrobial and antifungal. The evocative smell of hay is due to the presence of coumarins that are lactones of hydroxycinnamic acids. They generally occur as glycosides, for example aesculin from horse chestnut. Dicoumarol that is originally derived from sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) is used a strong anti-clotting agent, in the form of Warfarin, in allopathic medicine.



Furanocoumarins include angelican and archangelican from angelica roots, which are antispasmodic. These need to be used cautiously as they can cause photosensitivity, increasing the effect of sunlight on the skin, but they can also be used therapeutically for vitiligo and psoriasis. (Pengelly, 2004).


Anthraquinones occur as glycosides, and have a yellow-brown colour that has often been used for producing commercial dyes. They are found in senna, aloes, yellow dock, and cascara, and they pass unaltered through the stomach and small intestine, to be converted to their active form by micro-organisms. 8–12 hours after ingestion, they stimulate peristalsis and inhibit water reabsorption in the large intestine, producing a laxative effect. Their peristaltic action can sometimes cause griping in the bowel, so they are best combined with herbs such as peppermint, ginger or fennel. They are contraindicated in spastic bowel problems and pregnancy, and should not be used over a long period of time as they can reduce the normal bowel reflexes and cause habituation.

tannins can separate bacteria that threaten to invade from their source of nutrition. Tannins occur either as hydrolysable or condensed tannins. Sxq hydrolysable tannins have the ability to protect the skin and mucosa from irritation and to reduce swelling and inflammation. They have a drying effect that is useful for curbing over-secretion of mucous, bleeding and diarrhoea. Herbs rich in tannins make useful mouthwashes for infected and bleeding gums, gargles for sore throats, eyewashes for inflamed or infected eyes, remedies for catarrh, inflammation of the GI tract, diarrhoea, and heavy menstrual bleeding, compresses to heal burns, abrasions and cuts, and lotions to bathe haemorrhoids and inflammatory skin conditions. Condensed tannins include oligomeric procyanidins, which have become widely known for


Tannins occur widely in nature, often as glycosides, and they represent the largest group of polyphenols. Tannins are the main therapeutic constituents in witch hazel, agrimony, raspberry leaf, and meadowsweet. Their main therapeutic action is astringent, brought about by their ability to bind albumin, a protein in the skin and mucous membranes, to form a tight, insoluble protective layer that is resistant to infection. On the skin and in, the delicate linings of the mouth, the respirary, digestive, urinary and reproductive systems,

Filipendula, or meadowsweet, is a source of tannin and can be used as an astringent in fighting infection.


their antioxidant and cardiovascular properties. They are found in green and black tea, red wine and grape seeds. Grape seed extract has been demonstrated to have strong antioxidant activity, protecting against free radical damage and cardiovascular disease, and preventing degeneration of connective tissue.


Flavonoids and flavonoid glycosides occur widely in nature and impart a yellow, orange and red colour to fruits, vegetables and flowers. With their antioxidant actions, they are an important part of our daily diet, having a beneficial effect on the heart and circulation, strengthening and healing blood vessel walls and enhancing our resilience to stress. They act synergistically with ascorbic acid to enhance the body’s ability to metabolise it. Flavonoids are also anti-inflammatory (e.g. quercitrin), hepato-protective (e.g. silymarin and quercitrin), anti-tumour, anti-viral and hypotensive. Herbs rich in flavonoids (e.g. kaempherol, myricitin, quercitrin) protect against cardiovascular disease and are used to treat vascular problems, including for example venous insufficiency, bruising, piles and nose bleeds. Isoflavones, such as genistein from soya, have a similar structure to oestrogen. They bind to oestrogen receptors in the body and are known as phytoestrogens. They occur in herbs includingare shatavari, wild indigo, liquorice, red clover and black cohosh. They have been found to help prevent tumours and breast cancer, and to relieve menopausal symptoms. Anthocyanins and anthocyanidins are found in red, blue and black fruits, and particularly found in high amounts in grape skins, elderberries and bilberries. They also occur in herbs, including


ginkgo, cat’s claw and corn silk. They have antioxidant actions that protect against oxidative damage, particularly in the eyes and connective tissue.


Terpenes, or terpenoids, occur widely in a variety of forms, including monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and triterpenes. Monoterpenes are the main components of volatile oils (see next page), and include bitter iridoids, as in the sedative valepotriates in valerian, hypotensive asperulsides in cleavers, and paeoniflorin in peony, which has anti-inflammatory, febrifuge and sedative actions.

Cimicifuga, or black cohosh, contains isoflavones, which have been found to prevent tumours.



Sesquiterpenes are also found in volatile oils or as lactones, and have a bitter taste, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions. Sesquiterpenes are found in myrrh, hops, German chamomile and vitex, and sesquiterpene lactones occur in boneset, feverfew, yarrow, wormwood, globe artichoke and elecampane. Triterpenes have a similar structure to steroids (see below).


Bitter principles is a term for a group of chemicals that have a very bitter taste and a cooling effect. They are diverse in structure but have certain therapeutic actions in common, and include mostly terpenes, flavonoids and some alkaloids. Through their effect on the bitter receptors on the tongue, they promote secretion of digestive enzymes from the stomach and intestines, flow of bile from the liver and release of hormones. Bitters are prescribed for poor appetite and digestion, gastritis, heartburn, to regulate blood sugar, to relieve allergies and inflammation and to aid convalescence. Many bitter herbs have other actions; some are relaxant or sedative like hops and valerian, others are anti-inflammatory like devil’s claw, and some, like marigold, exert a beneficial action on the immune system, acting as natural antibiotics and anti-neoplastics. Well known “bitter tonics” include dandelion, cleavers, blessed thistle, wormwood, dock root and gentian.

Triterpenoids and Saponins

Triterpenoids represent a large and diverse group that includes phytosterols, triterpenoid saponins, steroidal saponins and cardiac glycodises.

The leaves of Cynara scolymus, or globe artichoke, contain sequiterpene actones, which can reduce inflamation and protect against infection.

Phytosterols Phytosterols such as sitosterol and stigmasterol are vital to the formation of cell membranes and help regulate cholesterol, for example guggulsterones in guggulu which lower cholesterol and triglycerides by their regulatory effect on the thyroid are a good example. Phytosterols have been used as building blocks for making steroid drugs and may have the ability to inhibit tumour formation; withanolides in ashwagandha, for example, have antitumour and hepatoprotective properties (Pengelly, 2004). Saponins Saponins are glycosides that form a soap-like lather when they are mixed with water and precipitate cholesterol. Herbs containing saponins have a bitter taste and haemolytic activity. They can dissolve red blood cells walls so should never be injected into the blood stream. Taken orally, however, they are hardly absorbed through an intact intestine and help to promote digestion and absorption, for example of nutrients including


calcium and silicon. Some, like horse chestnut, have a beneficial action on blood vessel walls, some decrease blood coagulation, blood sugar and cholesterol levels (Tillotson, 2001). Some, like goldenrod and horsetail, are duiretic. Others like mullein are expectorant, and several have hepatoprotective and immuno-modulating effects, for example Korean ginseng and liquorice. Triterpenoid saponins These help regulate steroidal hormonal activity and counter the effects of stress, and often have antifungal properties. Herbs containing these hormone-regulating properties are known as adaptogens, the most famous of which is panax ginseng. Others include liquorice, wild yam and fenugreek. Some, like wild yam and liquorice, act as anti-inflammatories.

Solidago virgaurea, or goldenrod, contains saponins, which promote digestion and absorption.


Steroidal saponins These, such as diosgenin from wild yam, are used in the body as building blocks for the production hormones secreted by the testes, ovaries and adrenal glands, and for vitamin D. Cardiac glycosides Discovered in 1785 in foxglove, these have been widely researched for their ability to increase cardiac output by effecting the force and speed of heart contractions, which is beneficial in dealing with heart failure. Herbs containing these are generally for use by practitioners only.

Volatile Oils

The exotic perfumes and delicious tastes of aromatic herbs are derived from volatile oils, which are complex combinations compounds, and the different combinations of these produce the wide variation in scent and therapeutic effects in the herbs containing them. Up to 60 different chemical constituents have been identified in some oils. Categories of volatile oils include terpenoids, including monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes and phenylpropanoids. Herbs rich in volatile oils have to be stored carefully in sealed bottles or containers as volatile oils can evaporate easily. All volatile oils are antiseptic, stimulating the production of white blood cells and enhancing immunity. Many oils have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral actions, as well as anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties, especially those containing sesquiterpenes, such as for example azulene in German chamomile which is particularly applicable for the relief of inflamed and irritated conditions of the digestive tract, while those in dill relax spasm and colicky pain in the gut. Some oils have an expectorant action such as in thyme and hyssop, clearing mucous from the



chest, while others are diuretic, useful for fluid retention and urinary infections. While they exert their beneficial effects on the physical body, they also reach the brain and nervous system and have a wide range of mento-emotional applications.

of white blood cells and antibodies, and with their anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour properties. Liquorice, codonopsis, aloe vera, rehmania and cinnamon also contain immune-stimulating polysaccharides.

Fixed Oils

Mucilage This is a sugary, gel-like substance with the ability to draw water to it to form as viscous fluid. When taken orally, mucilage coats the mucous membranes of the digestive, respiratory and genito-urinary tracts and protects them from irritation and inflammation. Herbs rich in mucilage including slippery elm, marshmallow and plantain are prescribed for their cooling and soothing properties. They can relieve diarrhoea by reducing peristalsis caused by irritation of the

These are the lipids found in all plants, especially in the seeds, and they contain fatty acids which are either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. They are vital for growth and health, the formation of cell membranes andthe healthy functioning of the immune and cardiovascular systems. Two fixed oils that exist in every cell, particularly in the nervous system, known as essential fatty acids, are linoleic (found in evening primrose oil, and saw palmetto berries), and linolenic acid (found in flax seed). These essential fatty acids are not able to be synthesised in the body and so need to be taken in through our diet. In the body linoleic acid is converted into gamma linolenic acid (GLA); atopic allergies such as eczema and asthma and other immune problems have been related to the lack of the enzyme responsible for this conversion in some individuals. Evening primrose oil contains GLA and for this reason is very useful for treating such problems.


These large sugar molecules are found widely in the plant world, for example in fructose, glucose, and cellulose, and consist of chains of sugars linked to other molecules. They include mucilage, gums, and fructans. Some polysaccharides, particularly beta-glucans found in, for example, reishi and shiitaki mushrooms, have immune-stimulating properties. They achieve this through throughactivating cytokines which enhance the production

Aloe Barbadensis, or aloe vera, contains polysaccharides, which stimulate the immune system.


gut lining, but can also be used as laxatives as they absorb water into the bowel and bulk out the stool, e.g. psyllium seeds. Gums These are protective and healing exudates composed of monosaccharides which are released when a plant is damaged. Those in guggulu enhance the liver’s metabolism of cholesterol by promoting the uptake of LDL cholesterol from the blood (Tillotson, 2001). Marigold is high in gums with antimicrobial, antifungal and antiinflammatory effects. Fructans These are composed of fructose and occur especially in the Asteraceae family as inulin. Herbs rich in inulin include elecampane, globe artichoke, goldenrod, gentian, codonopsis and burdock. Inulin helps regulate blood sugar and enhances the immune system by acting as a prebiotic to nourish the beneficial flora in the gut.

Calendula officinalis, or marigold, is high in gums.



A diverse group of chemicals that contain a nitrogen-bearing molecule and are pharmacologically very potent. Many of the more toxic plants contain alkaloids, such as atropine in belladonna and morphine from the opium poppy, the first alkaloid to be isolated in 1806 (Tillotson, 2001). Caffeine, ephedrine, quinine, strychnine, piperine, nicotine and codeine are all alkaloids with diverse actions, ranging from stimulants, bronchodilators, antimicrobials and anti-inflammatories, to narcotics and painkillers.


Pengelly, A. (2004), The Constituents of Medicinal Plants. Oxford: CABI Publishing. Huang, K. (1993), The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs. Boca Raton: CRC Press. Tillotson, A. K., et al (2001), The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook. New York: Kensington Publishing Corps.



Medicinal Actions of Herbs The following guide classifies herbs according to their medicinal action (see the Materia Medica, pages 93-275). Alteratives Barberry, Bladderwrack, Blessed thistle, Blue flag, Burdock, Cleavers, Dandelion, Devils claw, Elderflower, Eyebright, Echinacea, Garlic, Wild lettuce, Golden seal, Gotu cola, Liquorice, Marshmallow, Nettles, Oregon grape root, Poke root, Red clover, Sarsaparilla, St John’s wort, Uva ursi. Analgesic/Anodyne Chamomile, Hops, Passion flower, Poppy, Skullcap, St John’s wort, Valerian. Anthelmintic Aloe, Black walnut, Garlic, Senna, Thyme , Wormwood. Antibilious Barberry, Dandelion, Golden seal, Mugwort, Vervain, Wild yam, Wormwood. Anticatarrhal Bearberry, Boneset, Cayenne, Elder, Elecampane, Eyebright, Garlic, Golden seal, Goldenrod, Hyssop, Marshmallow, Mullein, Sage, Thyme, Yarrow. Anti-emetic Lemon balm, Cayenne, Dill, Fennel, Lavender, Meadowsweet. Anti-inflammatory Chamomile, Devil’s claw, Frankincense, Liquorice, Ginger, Marigold, St. John’s wort, Witch hazel, Turmeric.

Aperient (See Laxative). Aromatic Chinese angelica, Cardamom, Celery, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Coleus, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Hyssop, Ginger, Meadowsweet, Peppermint, Rosemary, Valerian, Wood betony. Astringent Agrimony, Bayberry, Bearberry, Beth root, Bistort, Cramp bark, Elecampane, Eyebright, Goldenrod, Ground ivy, Meadowsweet, Mullein, Myrrh, Raspberry, Rosemary, Sage, Vervain, Witch hazel Leaf. Bitter Barberry, Dandelion root, Devil’s claw, Globe artichoke, Golden seal, Hops, Polygonum multiflorum, Qing hao, White horehound, Wood betony, Wormwood, Yarrow. Cardiotonic Astragalus, Coleus, Hawthorn, Motherwort. Carminative Angelica root, Cayenne, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Dill, Fennel, Ginger, Hyssop, Lavender, Lemon balm, Peppermint, Rosemary. Cholagogue Barberry, Blue flag, Gentian, Globe artichoke, Peppermint, Yellow dock.

Anti-lithic Bearberry, Corn silk, Couch grass, Gravel root.

Demulcent Stellaria, Fenugreek, Liquorice, Marshmallow, Mullein, Ribwort, Slippery elm.

Anti-microbial Bearberry, Cayenne, Clove, Coriander, Echinacea, Elecampane, Garlic, Liquorice, Marigold, Myrrh, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, St John’s wort, Thyme, Wormwood.

Diaphoretic Angelica root, Bayberry, Boneset, Cayenne, Chamomile, Elder flower, Elecampane, Ginger, Goldenrod, Hemidismus, Hyssop, Lemon balm, Lime flowers, Peppermint, Pleurisy root, Prickly ash, Vervain, Yarrow.

Anti-spasmodic Black haw, Black cohosh, Chamomile, Cramp bark, Lime blossom, Mistletoe, Motherwort, Pasque flower, Skullcap, Thyme, Valerian, Vervain, Wild yam.

Diuretic Astragalus, Buchu, Celery seed, Corn silk, Couch grass, Dandelion leaf and root, Globe artichoke, Goldenrod, Gravel root, Horsetail, Shatavari.



Emetic Lemon balm, Boneset, Catnip, Elder flowers.

Rosemary, Schisandra, Skullcap, St. John’s wort, Thyme, Valerian, Vervain, Wormwood.

Emmenagogue Beth root, Black cohosh, Black haw, Blessed thistle, Chamomile, Chaste tree, Cramp bark, Fenugreek, Gentian, Ginger, Golden seal, Marigold, Motherwort, Mugwort, Pasque flower, Peppermint, Raspberry, Rosemary, St John’s wort, Thyme, Valerian, Vervain, Wormwood, Yarrow.

Oxytoxic Beth root, Golden seal, Schisandra.

Emollient Borage, Chickweed, Elecampane, Fenugreek, Liquorice, Marshmallow, Mullein, Plantain, Rose petals, Slippery elm. Expectorant Angelica root, Elecampane, Fennel, Ground ivy, Hyssop, Liquorice, Marshmallow, Mullein, Pleurisy root, Thyme, Vervain, White horehound. Febrifuge Lemon balm, Blessed thistle, Boneset, Cayenne, Elder flower, Hyssop, Marigold, Peppermint, Plantain, Pleurisy root, Prickly ash, Raspberry, Thyme, Vervain. Galactagogue Chaste tree, Fennel, Fenugreek, Goat’s rue, Shatavari, Vervain. Hepatic Agrimony, Aloes, Andrographis, Balm, Barberry, Blue Flag, Celery, Cleavers, Dandelion, Elecampane, Fennel, Genetian, Golden seal, Globe artichoke, Hyssop, Motherwort, Prickly ash, Rosemary, Schisandra, Wild yam, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yellow dock. Hypnotic Californian Poppy, Hops, Mistletoe, Passionflower, Skullcap, Valerian. Laxatives Aloes resin, Barberry, Blue flag, Burdock, Cleavers, Dandelion leaf and Root, Dong quai, Liquorice, Senna, Slippery elm, Yellow dock. Mucilage Comfrey, Fenugreek, Marshmallow, Slippery elm. Nervine Bacopa, Black cohosh, Chamomile, Cramp bark, Ginseng, Gotu cola, Hops, Lavender, Lemon balm, Mistletoe, Motherwort, Oats, Pasque flower, Passion Flower, Peppermint, Polygonum multiflorum, Red clover,

Pectoral Chinese angelica, Elder, Elecampane, Garlic, Golden seal, Horehound, Hyssop, Liquorice, Marshmallow, Mullein, Pleurisy root, Vervain. Rubefacient Cayenne, Garli, Ginger, Nettle, Peppermint, Rosemary. Sedative Black cohosh, Black haw, Bladderwrack, Chamomile, Cramp bark, Hops, Motherwort, Pasque flower, Passion flower, Red clover, Saw palmetto, Skullcap, St. John’s wort, Valerian, Wild yam. Sialagogue Blue flag, Cayenne, Gentian, Ginger, Prickly ash. Soporific induces sleep, see Hypnotic. Stimulant Chinese angelica, Bayberry, Bladderwrack, Cardamom, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Dandelion, Garlic, Gentian, Ginseng, Gravel root, Ground ivy, Horehound, Marigold, Peppermint, Prickly ash, Rosemary, Wild yam, Wormwood, Yarrow. Styptic Calendula, Horsetail, Nettle leaf, Witch hazel Leaf, Yarrow. Tonic Agrimony, Chinese angelica, Balm, Bayberry, Bearberry, Beth root, Bistort, Boneset, Buchu, Burdock, Cayenne, Chamomile, Cleavers, Couch grass, Cranesbill, Dandelion, Echinacea, Elecampane, Eyebright, False unicorn root, Garlic, Gentian, Ginseng, Golden seal, Gravel root, Ground ivy, Hawthorn, Horse chestnut, Hydrangea, Hyssop, Liquorice, Marigold, Mistletoe, Motherwort, Mugwort, Myrrh, Nettle, Oats, Poke root, Raspberry, Red clover, Rue, Sarsaparilla, Skullcap, Thyme, Vervain, Wild yam, Wood betony, Yarrow. Vulnerary Aloe, Bistort, Burdock, Cleavers, Elder, Elecampane, Fenugreek, Garlic, Golden seal, Horsetail, Hyssop, Marigold, Marshmallow, Mullein, Myrrh, Plantain, Poke root, Slippery elm, St. John’s wort, Thyme, Witch hazel, Wood betony, Yarrow.

The Herbal Consultation

Before you make a diagnosis, prescribe remedies and prepare herbal medicines, it is important to understand the concepts of holism and homeostasis, and how plants can enhance the body’s own innate healing processes. Treating underlying causes and not simply addressing symptoms forms the basis of a herbalist’s practice, and every consultation, treatment plan and herbal prescription is tailored to each individual patient’s needs, with the aim of bringing positive and lasting results.



Healing the Whole Person Modern medical herbalism is a synthesis of ancient and modern theories and practices. Its underlying philosophy is that health is intimately connected to the harmony of body, mind and spirit, which enables a balance of natural forces in the body. In a clinical context the herbalist will interpret symptoms of ill health as a disturbance of this balance, and consider them in the context of the patient as a whole, their lives, both inner and outer. As Dr Edward Bach, famed for his flower remedies, said: “…disease of the body itself is nothing but the result of the disharmony between the soul and mind” and “…health is therefore the true realisation of what we are; we are perfect; we are children of God.” The now familiar World Health Organisation’s definition of health as: “The condition of perfect bodily, spiritual and social well-being, and not solely the absence of disease and injury,” is a lofty aim, but certainly one that the herbal practitioner aspires to. We are not here solely to relieve symptoms. Bearing this in mind, ideally herbs are prescribed not only to redress specific imbalances but also to attend to the deeper causes of imbalance within a framework of life-affirming lifestyles and eating habits. In their “holistic” approach, the herbalist recognises that our bodies are made up of a complex organisation of tissues and cells that operate on a molecular level, and yet the human organism is so much more than this. Behind the physical manifestation that is the body is the

existence of subtle energy, which is recognised by mythology and religion, but largely denied by modern science. It is known throughout the world by different names – life-force, vital-force, qi, and prana. We can neither see it nor define it, but it is there, and we are animated by this living force on every level of existence: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Through this we have an inherent ability to regulate the functions of the body and to heal ourselves, something that is known in the West as homoeostasis. When our life-force is disturbed on any level, the health of the whole person is affected, and illness results. Body, emotion, mind and spirit form one inter-related system, and an imbalance in one creates disharmony in another. Symptoms of ill-health in the body represent the attempt by our whole being to correct the imbalance and heal itself. If these symptoms are suppressed, as they are by modern drugs, the energy of the vital force is depleted, our healing ability dwindles and finally chronic illness results.


The body needs to be permitted to express its symptoms as far as possible, and any treatment should be aimed at augmenting the efforts of the vital force, to enhance its healing energy and not work against it. The task of the herbalist is to analyse a patient’s presenting symptoms in this respect and support their homoeostatic mechanisms through counselling, the use of herbs and foods and lifestyle guidance. A maxim of natural therapy is that medicine cannot change the workings of the body, it can only help them. One of the oldest medical teachings says: “Medicus curat, natura sanat” (“the doctor treats, but nature heals” ).


Clearly, then, herbs operate at the level of biochemical reactions in the body, but they are capable of much more. They certainly provide us with a wealth of wonderful chemicals but their healing power goes far beyond the physical to the realms of the vital force. When herbs work in the body they enhance the healing action of this force and as they do this they may also heal our hearts and minds, for they help to restore harmony to an integrated whole.

Using Herbs as Medicines

Herbalists use the leaves, flowers, stems, berries, roots or seeds of medicinal plants as their therapeutic tools. By definition a herb is any plant that has a medicinal action in the body, and this includes most fruits and vegetables. In fact herbs act very much like foods, and many common foods are used for their medicinal actions: carrots are good for skin and urinary problems; oats are a great tonic to the nervous system, garlic fights infection, regulates blood pressure and prevents cholesterol and blueberries combat free radicals, strengthen blood vessels and help prevent urinary tract infections. Plants absorb, process and store vital nutrients from the soil, providing raw materials (close in chemical composition to those that make up the human body) for the growth and repair of all bodily tissues that are easily digested and assimilated. Their vitamins, minerals, and trace elements are vital for health and recovery, while other medicinal substances such as tannins, volatile oils, phenols and saponins have affinities for particular tissues and systems and act more specifically to promote homeostasis and healing.

Qi, or life force, flows along energy channels, or meridians. This manuscript depicts the Conception Vessel meridian.



The First Visit It is worth recommending to patients that they prepare for a first visit to a herbalist by compiling lists of present symptoms, past medical and drug history, illnesses and operations as far back as infancy. Their immediate family may provide extra information that has been forgotten about, for example breast feeding and illness, as well as temperament in early childhood. Medical reports from other consultants, as well as blood profiles, urine analyses, allergy tests, x-ray or scan reports, can provide important information. A diary of food eaten over the previous weeks will also be helpful to the practitioner when analysing the diet. A herbalist will always enquire into mento-emotional realms, and some patients may find it helpful to prepare for this since they may find it hard to talk about painful experiences, or may not be accustomed to talking about themselves.

Individual Evaluation

The consultation begins the minute patient meets practitioner. Consciously or unconsciously, the practitioner will be assessing the patient. The build of the body, the hue and tone of the skin, the brightness of the eyes and hair, the colour of the lips, the expression on the face, the tone of voice, general appearance and dress sense all begin to tell the story. Then there is body language; the expression in the face, the level of tension in the muscles, gait and posture all convey important messages.

During the consultation the patient is given time and opportunity to describe their concerns in detail. Each person is evaluated as an individual by the herbalist, who records and analyses current presenting symptoms in relation to the complete medical history in order to understand the underlying causes and contributing factors that have made the patient seek help.

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

A case history includes: main presenting symptoms other symptoms that occur from time to time detailed past medical history lifestyle including daily habits, diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation temperament, stress levels and mentoemotional concerns bodily systems review appetite, digestion and elimination thirst and sweat body temperature, intolerance of heat or cold sleep energy other medicines being taken cautions, for example pregnancy, lactation


Through questioning, the practitioner will systematically go through the bodily systems and the status of their functions will all contribute to their analysis of the total health picture of the patient. This will be followed by necessary and relevant physical examinations, which may include tongue, urine and pulse diagnosis, taking the blood pressure, listening to the heart or chest, palpating the abdomen, examining the nails, and so on.

The consultation begins the minute patient meets practitioner.

CASE HISTORY I remember thinking to myself when the herbalist asked me why I had come to see her, where would I start, what would I say? …“My heart is broken, some days I barely have enough energy to pick up a glass of water and if I manage to drink it, it seems to come out of my eyes…my diet is extremely healthy but completely erratic, I seem to punish myself with gruelling exercise regimes




and work like it is going out of fashion and I don’t

My predominant dosha is pitta. Some aspects of

sleep enough. HELP!” How on earth could this

pitta aggravation described me in a nutshell: I am a

poor herbalist possibly know how or with what to

perfectionist, I miss meals, suppress my emotions,

treat me?

look after everybody first and put myself last, work

I consulted a herbalist who combined Western

far too much, and am hopeless in inflammatory

herbal medicine with Ayurvedic techniques. From

situations such as anger, frustration or irritation...

the minute we met, I could see her watching and

no wonder I was out of balance, all of these things

listening, not in an intrusive way, just to get the whole

are no good for a pitta type!

picture from where I was in the present to where I

The herbalist took a detailed record of my diet

had come from. I was made to feel extremely at

and daily routines and within minutes I began

ease as my story and tears flowed and looking

to understand why I was lacking in energy, felt

back on it, the way I was gently encouraged to talk

tearful and sensitive and why my digestion needed

and unravel my muddles was quite impressive, as


not once did I feel I was being interrogated.

The herbalist took notes on the condition of my

I remember being asked about a number of

skin, hair, eyes and nails. I was already feeling better

things; my sleeping pattern, diet, menstrual cycle

and I had not even been prescribed any herbs. I felt

and childhood illnesses, which to me may have

that the hour’s consultation was relaxed yet I had

seemed of little importance but as the herbalist

gained a deep and comprehensive understanding

explained several possible links to my condi-

of myself as an individual.

tions, things started to make sense. The herbalist

One thing which I found an enormous help was

wanted to check my tongue and I was intrigued

that the logistics of taking the herbs prescribed to

to know that tooth marks around the edge may

me were realistic to me and my life situation. I did

be due to “over-doing and exhaustion causing

not have to boil up this or that whilst on the run, or

poor absorption of nutrients,” while a thin coating

take a third of this at any other specific time. I left

may be linked to poor digestion. She asked “did

the consultation feeling extremely positive, full of

I feel the need to push myself to perfection, have

great ideas on how to help myself and was looking

any history of tonsillitis, bronchitis or cystitis,

forward to trying out lots of new recipes. I enjoyed

ever suffer with hypoglycaemia, insomnia or

the “holistic”, approach as I could really see the

over competitiveness?” It was at this stage that I

importance of the, “whole story”. We certainly

thought my boyfriend had pre-warned her about

are linked in mind and body and not seeing this

me as I quietly nodded my head, answering her

had played a huge part of where I had been going

questions. I learnt about the three primary forces


or humours derived from the five elements known

I regularly see my herbalist for top ups and

as doshas, in Ayurveda. They are responsible for all

checks. She always takes the time to listen and

functions in the body, physical and psychological.

this, for me, is vital and I have never looked back.





Treatment The treatment of most ailments begins at home. Many people are almost unwittingly using herbal medicine in common household remedies like salt gargles for sore throats, hot lemon and honey drinks for colds and catarrh, chamomile tea for sleep, peppermint to settle the stomach, vinegar for wasp stings and dock leaves for nettle stings. The more you can learn about simple remedies for minor ailments, which could be sitting in your larder, growing in your garden or wild in the hedgerows, the more opportunity you will have to treat the first signs of acute infections and minor ailments without the necessity of drugs such as antibiotics, and thereby help to prevent the development of more serious disorders. Herbs used in this way make excellent preventive medicines and can enhance general well-being when taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle. For more chronic or serious disorders it is advisable to consult a professional herbalist who uses herbs in the context of a holistic approach to healing, where physical symptoms are viewed in relation to other factors, including temperament, stress, social, domestic and working environment, relationships, diet, relaxation and exercise. All play a part in the emergence of an individual pattern of symptoms.

Who Consults a Herbalist?

Most people who consult a herbalist present with chronic disorders rather than acute symptoms. They may be seeking a more natural alternative or

Plenty of exercise, rest and good food enhances wellbeing and makes preventive remedies more effective.


complement to allopathic drugs from their doctor for their disorder, that addresses causes rather than symptoms or they may have been treated unsuccessfully elsewhere. Frequently it is those whose symptoms do not fit into a classical “disease” picture or who have symptoms for which there is little in the way of allopathic medicine to remedy their situation. Allergies such as eczema, urticaria and conjunctivitis, and hormonal, nervous and immune problems are good examples of these. Often people come after years of coping with health problems, in which case it may take some time to return completely to health. As people are becoming more health aware in the holistic sense, they are looking to “alternative” or “complementary” health models as a first line of treatment rather than a last resort. They may simply feel under the weather, tired or run down with vague symptoms, which they would like to understand and resolve before they progress further. In many cases they may just need to have time to talk, to be heard and understood, and to activate their own self-healing mechanisms with the support of a herbal practitioner. The role of the herbalist is often that of counsellor. Herbal treatment can be taken alongside allopathic drugs in many instances and a herbalist will check for any possible herb-drug interactions before prescribing. For those with long term problems, such as cardiovascular and autoimmune disease, working with a herbalist will help improve general health, energy and “joie de vivre” so that the patient is better able to cope with their problems.


appointments are likely to last about an hour and follow up visits are thirty to forty-five minutes. Many herbalists operate a sliding scale of charges for the consultation and the herbal medicines prescribed, and for students, pensioners, the unemployed or those experiencing hard financial times fees may be reduced. To illustrate, a patient who presents with chronic ear infections may not require antibiotics to provide an effective and lasting cure. Examination of past medical history may show that there is a history of digestive problems, eczema, asthma, or hay fever, and several courses of antibiotics that have been prescribed in the past. Further questioning may reveal chronically sluggish bowels, a tendency to bloating and abdominal discomfort, a high intake of milk products, white bread, sugary foods and drinks and not enough fruit and vegetables. It may be that stress has also played its part in compromising digestion and liver function. It is likely that the underlying problem here lies in the gut. Poor digestion and elimination suggested by the sluggish bowels and wind indicate that food is

Scheduling Visits

Generally, medical herbalists do not hold open surgery, since appointments tend to be lengthy and so need to be booked in advance. First

Herbal teas may be prescribed as part of dietary changes, replacing caffeinated drinks that may aggravate health problems.



not being digested adequately, resulting in poor absorption, a low nutritional profile and some degree of dysbiosis (disturbance of the gut flora) leading to leaky gut syndrome and toxicity. A diet high in gluten, dairy produce, refined carbohydrates and sugar, tends to disturb the gut, lower immunity and cause accumulation of mucous and chronic congestion in the eustachian tube that leads from the throat to the ear, predisposing to ear infections. Courses of antibiotics further aggravate the disturbance of the gut flora and lower immunity, and the cycle continues. The herbalist would take time to make detailed dietary changes, recommending that the patient avoid dairy products and gluten, as well as refined sugar and carbohydrates, and eats more fresh fruit and vegetables (organic wherever possible) combined with culinary herbs and spices that

Including garlic in a diet is one of the first steps towards combating intestinal dysbiosis.

help combat intestinal dysbiosis, such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic, ginger, turmeric and pepper. The importance of regular aerobic exercise and the right balance of activity and rest would be discussed. Mental pressures and emotional difficulties would also be gently brought into the open as these play a large role in the digestive system and immunity. Then, the herbal prescription would be made. This could consist of herbs in the form of tinctures, teas, capsules or powders for internal use or creams, lotions, or oils for external application. A follow up appointment would be made to review progress, and the treatment may then be modified if necessary. It is always preferable if a patient continues treatment until they feel better or the herbalist has taught them how to continue caring for themselves adequately at home. The role of the herbalist is definitely one of educator.



Formulating a Herbal Prescription Herbal prescriptions are generally tailor-made for each individual, depending on their specific needs. They need to address a variety of different issues. Digestion and elimination are absolutely central to good health and poor digestion, as dysbiosis and toxicity are underlying factors in a whole range of different illness including gut problems, lowered immunity, allergies, auto-immune disease, obesity and cancer. Herbs to improve digestion and clear toxicity from the gut are therefore the first consideration. Then there are herbs that can be added for the constitutional imbalance and the system of the body affected, whether it is the nervous system in the case of anxiety and insomnia or the respiratory system in the case of bronchitis. Finally, herbs need to be included that are specific to the actual symptoms or disease, like frankincense for arthritis and uva ursi for urinary tract infections. In short, the following factors need to be addressed when formulating a prescription: • digestion • toxicity • constitution • system involved • disease In the above instance of chronic ear infection, antimicrobial herbs like garlic, turmeric, ginger,

golden seal, neem and cinnamon could be given to combat infection and dysbiosis. Those chosen could be combined with immune-enhancing herbs such as andrographis, thyme, echinacea, and pau d’arco. Decongestant herbs like peppermint, elderflowers, yarrow and ginger can be given in teas (as hot infusions work better than tinctures) to clear excess mucous. Diluted essential oils of lavender, chamomile or thyme can be used in ear drops or used for massage around the ear and throat to relieve congestion in the eustachian tube. Many ask how long it will take to recover, and of course this depends very much on the nature of the illness and how long the symptoms have been apparent, as well as on the age, constitution, vitality and strength of the patient. A person treated with herbs may not necessarily “recover” as quickly as one treated with conventional allopathic drugs, but once better the patient will feel stronger than after a course of orthodox medicine. By increasing general health and the



efficiency of weak organs or body systems, herbal medicine helps raise resistance to further illness and prevents chronic disease.

Prescribing Herbal Medicines

The method of administering herbs and the length of treatment needed by a patient will vary

The dosage of herbs chosen for the prescription needs to be carefully determined.

considerably according to the condition being treated, which herbs are used, their age, build and constitution, and even the time of year. The dosage, the herbs chosen for the prescription, and the timing of administration all need to be determined. A largely built person with big bones and muscles, and a comparatively


sluggish metabolism, will generally require herbs to be given in larger doses and over a longer period of time than a small framed, lightweight person with a more sensitive body and faster metabolism. Dosage for adult patients can also vary according to the practitioner and which kind of herbal medicines they practice. A standard dose of tincture can vary from a few drops to 5mls (one teaspoon). Teas are generally taken a cupful at a time, powders are taken in doses of ¼–1 tsp and syrups may require being taken a dessertspoon or tablespoon at a time.

Chronic and Acute Conditions

When treating chronic conditions, generally mild herbal remedies are taken three times daily, over months at a time if necessary. It may be that the first prescription and dietary advice is intended to improve digestion and absorption and to clear toxins from the system, which is necessary in so many cases. This will be followed up by more nourishing tonic medicines until the patient is better. Acute conditions may require stronger herbs given up to every two hours. To illustrate, ashwagandha is nourishing and strengthening and is taken often 2–3 times a day over a few weeks or months to improve energy, vitality, immunity and enhance resilience to stress. Echinacea and wild indigo are taken every 2 hours to enhance immunity and combat acute infections.

Appropriate Administration

Hot preparations are needed when treating fevers, colds, catarrh and problems associated with cold, such as poor circulation and menstrual cramps. Others problems such as urinary problems and conditions associated with heat, such as hot flushes and acne, are better suited to cool preparations. Skin problems may improve


more rapidly using herbal teas as opposed to tinctures, while tinctures may be preferable when more concentrated medicines are needed, as when treating a virulent infection. The herbs chosen may also indicate their best method of administration. When giving teas, the aerial parts of a plant are prepared as infusions while roots, barks and seeds are better suited to decoctions. Nourishing tonics are best taken as powders stirred into warm milk or water, while warming spices to clear catarrhal congestion and coughs can be taken as powders mixed with honey and taken off a spoon. Generally, herbs are taken either side of or during a meal. When using herbs to enhance appetite, digestion and absorption, they can be taken before a meal; for problems associated with heat, acidity and inflammation they can be taken with a meal, otherwise they can be taken immediately after eating. Tinctures need to be diluted with water, otherwise they can be unpleasant tasting and can irritate a delicate stomach. CHILD’S DOSAGE GUIDELINES When it comes to dosage for children, there are two rules that are employed by some practitioners: Young’s method: child’s dosage = adult dose (generally 5mls) x age divided by the age +12. Cowling’s method: child’s dosage = adult dose x age divided by 24. Alternatively, dosage can be calculated according to weight: child’s dosage = adult dose x child’s weight divided by 68 kg (150 lbs).



Safety Issues The question of possible side effects and toxicity has arisen more lately as herbs are increasingly under the scrutiny of the scientific eye. However, adverse reactions to herbal medicines seldom occur in practice, and those that do occur generally consist of mild rashes or bowel changes. A herbal practitioner would not normally expect a “healing crisis” with an exacerbation of symptoms before they start to recede. There are two main sources of information about the efficacy and the safety of herbal medicines – ancient folklore and modern science. The empirical evidence gathered by herbalists over thousands of years, which is now being increasingly justified by scientific research, means that patients may be assured that their herbal prescriptions are based on reliable foundations. Many herbs form the basis of modern orthodox medicines, and it may be surprising to learn that the pharmaceutical industry harvests huge plantations of herbs for use in the production of drugs each year. It also grows herbs for further research activities. The use of whole plant medicines, as opposed to isolated active ingredients, helps to prevent adverse side effects. The many types of substances in medicinal plants work synergistically together, and probably all have important roles to play in the healing process. The primary healing agents are the active constituents that were isolated by the early chemists and developed into modern drugs, but the importance of the other apparently

secondary constituents should not be ignored, since they are vital for determining the efficacy of the primary healing agents. Some secondary synergistic substances make the active constituents more easily assimilated and available in the body, while others will buffer the action of other potent plant chemicals, preventing possible side effects. It is largely the combination of both types of substances occurring in the whole plant that determines the potency and safety of herbal medicine.

Potential Adverse Reactions

Having said this, with the huge range of biochemical constituents that occur in herbs it is possible that, though generally safe, some could potentially cause allergic reactions and idiosyncratic responses in the same way that foods do. Most of these can be avoided by herbalists who are generally familiar with the chemistry of herbs they are prescribing and only prescribe herbs which are formulated to suit the specific needs of the patient in appropriate doses only after taking


a detailed case history. Certain people are more likely to have hypersensitive reactions to herbs than others, particularly those who already have a history of food allergy or intolerance or chemical sensitivity. This is more likely if they suffer from digestive problems, specifically imbalances in the intestinal flora and leaky gut syndrome, which actually lend themselves very well to herbal treatment. The risk of adulteration of herbs supplied to herbalists is one that is obviously a concern. Adverse effects have occurred on occasions due to adulteration with toxic herbs, as well as bad labelling. When buying herbs, it is vital that their sources are known, reputable and preferably organic, since adverse reactions to pesticides and preservatives are hard to quantify and could be confused with reactions to a plant itself. Indian and Chinese herbs are considered more of a safety problem than European herbs, although the use of pesticides in Eastern Europe has also attracted negative attention.


cardiac medication, anti-clotting agents or they may need to have surgery. Herbs high in mucilage or fibre, such as slippery elm or psyllium seeds, or herbs rich in tannins which might bind up drugs in the intestines, may inhibit absorption. Warming digestive herbs such as cayenne, long and black pepper can increase absorption of medicines, while herbs that act on liver enzyme systems may affect the break down of certain drugs and inhibit their elimination, effectively raising the drug dosage which could cause side effects. Care needs to be taken with insulin-dependent diabetics as certain herbs lower blood sugar. Interestingly in China, where the herbal tradition has remained unbroken and there is less suspicion about herbs than there is in the West, herbs are often combined with drugs for intentional effects, either to reduce side effects of drugs or to enhance their effects.

Herb/Drug Interactions

This is a relatively new science but available information on the subject (much of which may be speculative rather than empirical) is growing all the time. Although herbs have been taken for thousands of years, they have only been used in combination with nutritional supplements and allopathic drugs on a widespread basis for approximately the last forty years or so. The concern is not so much that the reaction between a herb and a drug is toxic, rather that it is possible that certain herbs can affect the bioavailability of drugs and nutrients, and cause an increase or decrease in levels of drugs in the blood. This is important to know, especially if patients are taking specific doses of powerful drugs such as

Filipendula, or meadowsweet, is rich in tannins, which may inhibit the absorption of some drugs.

The Herbal Pharmacy There are many ways to prepare herbal remedies so that they will be absorbed by the body and exert their beneficial effects. Depending on the condition being treated, and the health and age of the patient, a herbalist might choose to prescribe an infusion, a powder or a tincture, or a cream to apply to the skin. Here are stepby-step instructions for preparing these remedies and others including decoctions, honeys, elixirs, poultices and fragrant baths. Dosage instructions are included.



Preparing Herbs Collecting wild herbs or growing them in your garden and harvesting them for making medicines can be very rewarding and uplifting. For those who do not have access to fresh plants, dried herbs are available from many suppliers. Try to use organic herbs as pesticides may disrupt the therapeutic effect of your remedies or cause adverse reactions. Herbs can be prepared as medicines in a variety of ways. What is important is that they are absorbed into the body so that they can exert their benefit. When internal preparations are swallowed, they pass through the digestive tract and into the bloodstream. Many people are unconsciously taking herbal remedies in their food on a daily basis, for not only do all the culinary herbs and spices add flavour to our diet, but also they contain volatile oils that have digestive and antimicrobial effects among many other benefits. As foods are absorbed from the digestive tract, so the therapeutic constituents of the herbs enter the bloodstream and then circulate around the body. When used externally, herbs can be applied to the skin as in an aromatherapy massage or when we rub a dock leaf on to a nettle sting. They can also be used in herbal baths, compresses and poultices. Once in contact with the skin, they are absorbed into tiny capillaries under the surface and then circulated round the body. The conjunctiva of the eye also absorbs herbal preparations. A chamomile eyebath or a marigold compress will relieve sore and inflamed eyes. Inhalations are another very good therapeutic pathway and one

that is utilised by aromatherapists. By inhalation into the nose which is lined with nerve endings, the messages from the herbs are carried directly to the brain and also to the lungs, where they are absorbed with oxygen into the bloodstream and circulated throughout the body.

Grinding herbs ready for use.



Preparations for Internal Use Infusions

Herbal teas, often known as infusions, are simple water-based preparations that extract the medicinal properties of herbs, used either fresh or dried. They can either be drunk as teas or used externally as skin washes, eyebaths, compresses, douches, or added to baths or sitz baths. Infusions are prepared like a normal cup of tea using the soft parts of plants: leaves, stems and flowers.

Infusions are generally best drunk when still hot, especially when treating fevers, colds and catarrh, but they need to be taken luke warm to cool for problems of the skin and urinary tract. If necessary,

1 Take 1oz /25 gms of dried herb per pint of

water or a teaspoon of herb per cupful of water. Double the amount of herbs if they are being used fresh.

2 Place the herbs in a warmed teapot and pour on boiling water. Cover immediately to prevent volatile oils escaping into the atmosphere.

3 Leave to infuse for 10–15 minutes and then strain.

they can be covered and stored in the fridge for up to two days. Some herbs need to be prepared as cold infusions as their therapeutic components are likely to be destroyed by high temperatures. These include herbs that have a high proportion of mucilage like marshmallow and plantain leaf. They are prepared in the same way but with cold water and left to infuse for 10–12 hours.


Infusions are generally taken by the cupful three to six times a day, depending on whether the ailment being treated is chronic or acute. It may come as a surprise to some who are used to the enticing tastes of culinary herbs such as basil and rosemary, that many herbs are found by our pampered palates to taste strange, often even unpleasant. Although the bitters in some herbs need to be tasted to be



effective, the bitter taste is generally not something we relish. However, it is possible to combine several herbs together in an infusion so that aromatic, pleasant tasting herbs such as peppermint, fennel, lemon balm and lavender can disguise less palatable herbs while not reducing their effects. Liquorice and aniseed also make excellent herbs

for flavouring. Herbal teabags are sold in all high street health food shops and supermarkets (buy organic if you can) and normally comprise the more aromatic, pleasant tasting herbs like lime flower, fennel, peppermint.


The hard woody parts of plants have tough cell walls that require greater heat to break them down before they will release their constituents into water. Bark, seeds, roots, rhizomes and nuts all need to be prepared as decoctions. Use the same proportion of herbs to water as you do when preparing an infusion, just add a little more water to make up for losses during boiling.

1 To make their constituents more accessible to the water, break the herb up into small pieces with a pestle and mortar if the parts are very hard.

2 Place herbs in a stainless steel or enamel

saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10–15 minutes.

Hot infusions are more effective than tinctures for treating skin complaints, fevers, colds and catarrh.

3 Strain and drink in the same way as an infusion.



Tinctures, Glycerites and Vinegars

Tinctures are concentrated extracts of herbs made with a mixture of water and alcohol which acts to extract the constituents of the plants and also as a preservative. According to herbal pharmacopoeias there is a correct ratio of water and alcohol to plant matter for each herb depending on the constituents that need extracting. This can range from 25% alcohol for simple glycosides and tannins, to 90% for resins and gums such as those in marigold flowers. Herbs can be used either fresh or dried.

1 Place the chopped herbs in a large clean

jar and pour the water and alcohol mixture over it so the plant is immersed. Using dried herbs, the ratio is 1 part of herbs per 5 parts of liquid. Fresh herbs are used in a ratio of 1 part herb to 2 parts liquid. To illustrate, to make 1 litre (1¾ pints) of sage tincture, take 200g (7oz) of dried leaves and pour over 1 litre (1¾ pints) of fluid. Sage requires a 45% alcohol solution so neat brandy or vodka would be perfectly adequate. (It is possible to obtain 96% naturally fermented alcohol. In the UK this requires an alcohol licence which can be obtained from HM Revenue and Customs. If you have this, use 450ml alcohol to 550ml water.) Place an airtight lid on the jar and leave it to macerate away from direct sunlight for no less than two weeks, shaking the jar well about once a day.

2 Once the tincture has macerated, use a

press such as a wine press to extract as much of the fluid as possible. Alternatively, squeeze it through muslin which is much harder work but possible. Then discard

the herbs, transfer the tincture to a clean, dark bottle with a lid, label it with the name of the herb and the date and store in a cool place.

Glycerites are prepared similarly using a mixture of water, alcohol and glycerol to extract the plant’s constituents and as a preservative. Glycerol has a sweet, syrup-like consistency which imparts a sweet taste to the preparation making it more palatable than a tincture, and a good medium



Macerating tinctures.

for children’s medicines. Glycerol breaks down chemically into 3 parts fatty acids and 1 part alcohol, so although it tastes sweet it does not contain sugar. Glycerol is particularly good at extracting the aromatic properties of plants and is best used for plants such as lavender, rosemary, rose, basil, chamomile, mint, oregano, thyme and lemon balm. The herbs are used in the same ration as when making tinctures; using dried herbs, the ratio is 1 part of herbs per 5 parts of liquid. Fresh herbs are used in a ratio of 1 part herb to 2 parts liquid. If using vodka or brandy, the ratio of ingredients for the liquid is 60% glycerol, 40% alcohol. (If

you have access to 96% alcohol, use 60% glycerol, 20% alcohol and 20% water.) To make a glycerite, place the chopped herbs in a large clean jar and pour the water, alcohol and glycerol mixture over it so the plant is immersed and follow instructions from here on for making tinctures. Tinctures and glycerites are more concentrated than infusions and decoctions, meaning only small amounts need to be taken at regular intervals through the day. The dose will vary from 5-10 drops to a 5ml teaspoon which is taken in a little warm water or herbal tea, 3 to 6 times daily depending on whether the condition being treated


is chronic or acute. Tinctures can also be added to bath water, mixed with water to compresses, mouthwashes or gargles, or stirred into a base to make ointments or creams. They require more preparation time but they have several advantages. They are easy to store, do not deteriorate in cold or damp conditions, take up relatively little storage space, are easy to carry around and keep almost indefinitely, although they are best taken within two years. Tinctures can also be prepared using neat cider vinegar as the acetic acid acts as a solvent and preservative. Raspberry vinegar for example is a traditional remedy for coughs and sore throats. Fill a wide mouth glass jar full of one fresh herb of your choice. Cover the herb with good quality (preferably apple cider) vinegar, filling the jar to the brim. Cork or cover with a screw top lid. Keep in a cool, dark place for six weeks. Strain through muslin and press well.


The combination of infused cider vinegar and honey is known as an oxymel. The practice originated in the Middle East and was brought to England following the Crusades when the medicines of Avicenna were widely used. Knights and their ladies would be offered hot oxymels when they broke their fast as a stimulating way to start the day. Prepare in the same way as herb vinegars, using equal proportions of honey and cider vinegar.

Herbal Honeys

Honey has been used for healing for thousands of years. It is hydroscopic which means that it absorbs water-soluble constituents and the volatile oils of plants. Honey has antibacterial, immuneenhancing, expectorant and healing properties,


and makes an excellent medium for antimicrobial herbs such as garlic, onions, holy basil, thyme, hyssop, oregano and rosemary. It contains pollen which is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids and helpful in the treatment of allergies and asthma, as well as propolis which is a powerful antimicrobial. Being rich in easily digestible sugars, honey is also highly nutritive and energy giving. Herbal honeys can be used to treat sore throats, coughs and colds, chest infections, asthma. They can also be used externally to heal or soothe skin problems such as cuts and grazes, burns and varicose ulcers. Thyme honey from Greece is renowned for its health giving properties, as is Manuka honey from New Zealand, which is often used as an antibacterial. Herbal honeys are made by pouring honey over herbs. Dried herbs preserved in honey are more likely to keep for longer than fresh ones.

1 Place

your chosen herbs, coarsely chopped, in a clean, sterilized jar, cover them with runny honey and stir well.


Seal with an airtight lid, label clearly and leave to macerate for at least 4 weeks but preferably several months. Store in a cool dark place or in the fridge.



Fresh herbs can be used if you have them; simply chop them finely and mix with a teaspoon of honey. You can also make sweets and throat lozenges by mixing powdered dried herbs into honey to make a paste which can be rolled into balls, and then again in the powder to prevent stickiness for handling and storing. Store in a tightly fitting tin. Dosage Take 1 tablespoonful of herbal honey in a little hot water or simply off the spoon. Do not give to children under 1 year old due to risk of botulinus.

Herbal honeys.


Honey can also be combined with equal parts of brandy to make my favourite way to take herbs. Elixirs have several benefits. Both the honey and the brandy act as preservatives, increase the shelf life of the medicine, they are very easy to prepare and the combination tastes delicious! The honey brings out the flavour of aromatic herbs and its sweetness offsets the pungency of the brandy. 1 part of dried herbs is mixed with 5 parts of honey and brandy. When using fresh herbs use 1 part of herbs to 2 parts of honey and brandy. Unlike most sweet medicines, it can be used in



A 2-litre glass jar

Fill the jar ¾ full with equal parts of fresh elderberries and blackberries

2 cinnamon sticks

1oz fresh ginger root, peeled, sliced and chopped

2 large handfuls of rose hips

2 large handfuls of hawthorn berries

A few nasturtium flowers and leaves if you have them available

1l brandy

1l runny honey

Herbal Powders

Dried herbs can be ground into powder which can be used in a fluid medium or made into tablets or capsules to prolong its shelf life as powder tend to deteriorate relatively quickly. Taking powders has the advantage of ingesting the whole plant and not an extract of it, as in infusions or decoctions, and so it may be more efficacious. Powders are generally taken ½–1 teaspoon in milk, water or honey depending on the vehicle best suited to the condition being treated two to three times daily.

Mix the honey and brandy together. Place the herbs in the jar, cover with the mixture making sure all the herbs are well covered. Stir thoroughly and leave to macerate for 4–6 weeks. 

small doses, thanks to the particular combination of honey and alcohol. Elixirs can either be made with a single herb or combinations of your choice. The dose is 1/2tsp/30 drops 3–6 times daily according to whether the problem is chronic or acute.  For example, to make elecampane root elixir, take 200gm of the dried root, place in a large jar and cover it with a mixture of 500ml of brandy and 500ml of runny honey. Use a tightly fitting lid and store in a dark place for at least 3 weeks and up to a few months before pressing.


Herbal powders.



Tablets and Capsules

Many herbs are available from herbal suppliers in tablet or capsule form and this is certainly a convenient way to take herbs, but it bypasses the taste buds on the tongue which may reduce the therapeutic effects in some cases. Only standard preparations will be available commercially, so should you require a specific combination of herbs to be given to a patient, these can be made up in vegetable gelatine capsules. Capsules can be filled with mixtures of the appropriate powdered herbs using a capsule maker. There are two main sizes of capsule used by medical herbalist, size 0 which holds 0.35gm of powder and 00 which holds about 0.5gm. One or two of the size 0 capsules can taken 3 times daily and one of the size 00 capsule three times daily.

Fresh Juices

Extracting the juice of a plant is the best way to prepare soft, juicy plants such as aloe vera, purslane, pomegranate, cleavers, ginger, marshmallow, nettle, mint or dandelion. Juice provides a concentrate, easily assimilated by the body. Cabbage juice, for example, is excellent for relieving peptic ulcers, gastritis, heart burn and ulcerative colitis. Fresh juices provide the best source of vital energy and are often preferable, but practically they can only be used where there are fresh herbs available. 10–30ml can be taken daily.

which can be used externally. Herbs that speed healing and soothe the skin can be made into pastes including calendula, turmeric, slippery elm, aloe vera and gotu kola.


Suppositories can be made easily by mixing powdered herbs with cocoa butter. Warm cocoa butter in a double boiler until it melts, remove from the heat and stir in powdered herbs, enough to make a paste. Mix well then place in the fridge to harden. Next, roll it out until it is about ¾″thick and cut into ¾″ strips which can be inserted into the rectum or vagina. Insert one suppository 2–3 times daily. The advantage of using suppositories is that the herbal remedy can be absorbed quickly directly into the bloodstream through the mucosa of the rectum or vagina. This not only enables both local and systemic problems to be treated quickly and simply but it also obviates the laborious process of giving herbs by mouth to travel the distance of the alimentary canal before being absorbed.

Herbal Pastes

Crushed dried plants or powder mixed with water or aloe gel can be used to make a paste. Pastes are generally intended for poultices and plasters

Making suppositories.



Preparations for External Use Most herbal constituents are absorbed readily through the skin and the following preparations are designed to enhance this pathway into the body. The easiest way of course to use herbs externally is to apply them directly to the skin as we do when we rub a dock leaf on to a nettle sting. Juice

The fresh juice of many remedies can be applied directly to the skin. Aloe vera juice, for example can be rubbed on to the skin to soothe burns, bites, and stings. The juice of dock leaves is famous for relieving nettle stings. Greater celandine is a very effective treatment for warts. Just pick a stem and it will immediately start to ooze brilliant tangerineyellow sap. Cover the wart in the juice every day for three weeks and the wart will disappear.

will have been taken up by the oil and the mixture can then be poured through a piece of muslin placed over a jug and then squeezed to extract as much of the oil as possible. The herb can then be discarded.

Ointments and Creams

Ointments and creams can be applied to the skin not only to treat skin problems but also to relieve less superficial problems such as inflamed joints and headaches. Any herb fresh or dried can be included in an ointment using this simple recipe:

1 2

Melt 50gm (2oz) of beeswax with 450mls (¾ pint) of olive oil in a pyrex bowl over a low heat in a double boiler. Add as much herb as possible to the oil and leave to macerate on the heat for a few hours. After this time the constituents

3 When the oil is still warm it can be poured into clean ointment jars where it will quickly solidify. Seal with an airtight lid and label clearly. Store in a cool, dark place.



2  Use a light cotton bandage to bind the

gauze poultice to the affected part and keep it warm with a hot water bottle. Replace after 4 hours and apply about 3 times a day in total.

Creams can be made up easily by stirring tinctures, infusions, decoctions or a few drops of essential oil into a cream base such as aqueous cream. 2–3 drops of chamomile oil mixed into 2oz (50gm) of cream works well on many types of eczema.


A clean cloth or flannel can be soaked in a strong hot or cold infusion or a decoction, a dilute tincture or water with a few drops of diluted essential oil, then wrung out and applied to the affected part. This can help relieve symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain and colic, backache, boils and painful joints. The treatment needs to repeated several times for good effect.


These are similar to compresses but involve using the herb itself rather than an extract of the herb.

1  Place the herb, fresh or dried between two pieces of gauze. If you use fresh leaves, stems or roots, they need to be bruised before being applied. If the herbs are dry, add a little hot water to powdered or finely chopped herbs to make a paste.

Some herbs, such as cabbage leaves, can be applied directly to the skin. They need to be softened first by removing any hard stalks or ribs and immersing them briefly in hot water to prevent any discomfort to the skin. Once applied they can be secured in place by a light bandage and left overnight.



A rubbing oil or liniment consists of extracts of herbs in an oil or tincture, or a mixture of both. The oils can be infused oils or essential oils diluted in a base such as sesame oil. They are used in massage to relax or stimulate muscles and ligaments, or to soothe away pain from inflammation or injury. They are intended to be absorbed by the skin to reach the affected part, and so they often contain stimulating essential oils such as ginger or black pepper and are therefore not suitable for use on delicate baby skins.


Essential oils need to be used with care especially with children and babies. They can be used diluted in a base oil such as sesame oil (1–2 drops of oil per 5ml of base oil) for massage and to add to the bath. They can be used in burners to permeate the atmosphere or in inhalations for a variety of symptoms such as colds, catarrh, coughs, insomnia and anxiety. While essential oils are extracted from aromatic plants professionally by steam distillation, infused oils can be prepared easily at home.



  Place finely chopped, preferably fresh herbs (make sure they are not wet) in a jar with a tight fitting lid, cover them with an oil such as almond, coconut, olive or sesame, pouring it up to the top of the jar, and then stir well.

Add the lid, label the jar with the name of the herb and the date, then leave the jar on a sunny windowsill to macerate for about 2 to 4 weeks. Be aware that if there is moisture on the plant or in the jar, or it is left too long, the oil may go mouldy.


The oil will gradually take up the constituents of the plant; you can see this in action when you macerate St John’s wort flowers in oil. In a matter of minutes, the oil will turn a deep red colour. St John’s wort oil is a very useful remedy for healing cuts and sores, and when massaged over the affected part, it can relieve painful nerve conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia and shingles. After 2–4 weeks filter the oil through muslin into a clean jug, squeezing hard to extract as much oil as possible from the flowers. Then pour into an airtight, dark bottle, label it with the name and date of the oil, and store in a cool dark place to retain its therapeutic value for a maximum length of time.



Herbal Baths

A fragrant hot bath makes a very pleasant and simple way to take herbs. There are various ways of adding herbs to bath water; you can use dilute essential oils (1 drop of essential oil per drop of base oil such as sesame oil) and add them to the bath water; hang a muslin bag containing fresh or dried aromatic herbs under the hot tap as you draw the bath; or pour a pint (600ml) of a strong herbal infusion (double the standard dose described on page 79) into the water. Soak in the warm bath for 10-20 minutes. When herbs are used in this way, the essential oils from the plants are taken in via the pores of the skin which are opened up by the warmth of the water. The oils are also carried on the steam which is simultaneously inhaled via nose and mouth into the lungs, and from there into the bloodstream. From the nose messages are carried from the oils via nerve pathways to the brain. In this way herbal medicines are assimilated quickly and directly, bypassing the lengthy process of digestion involved when herbs are taken by mouth. They are particularly useful for relaxing and soothing the nervous system and for easing mental and emotional strain. Lavender, lemon balm, basil, holy basil, rose and chamomile are not only wonderfully fragrant but also relaxing, calming tension and anxiety and helping to ensure restful sleep. Chamomile is excellent for fractious children, particularly when they are unwell, for not only does it possess antimicrobial properties but also it helps induce sleep – nature’s best way to ward off infection and enable self-healing. Rosemary baths, while also relaxing, have a stimulating edge as they enhance blood flow to the head and promote alertness and concentration.

Herbal sitz baths can be very useful for soothing the pain and irritation of cystitis, vaginal infections or haemorrhoids. Simply fill a large, shallow bowl with about a litre (1.75 pints) of strained, strong infusion, enough to reach the necessary areas, sit in it and relax for 10–15 minutes!

Hand and Foot Baths

Mustard foot baths were used historically for all afflictions of cold and damp climates, from colds and flu to poor circulation and arthritis. The ancient tradition of hand and foot baths was made popular by the famous French herbalist, Maurice Messegue, who has written several books on herbal therapy based simply on this form of treatment. He recommends foot baths for 8 minutes in the evening and hand baths for 8 minutes in the morning. According to Messegue, the hands and feet are highly sensitive areas of the skin, rich in nerve endings and, despite some thickening of the skin from use, the constituents pass easily from the skin into the body. To try this, add 1tablespoon of mustard powder to a bowl of hot water, test the temperature and then sit with your feet in it for 8–10 minutes.

Shelf Life

The way herbs are prepared and stored is important as it will affect the length of time that plants will maintain their therapeutic components and therefore their beneficial effects. Powders have the shortest “shelf life,” which means the amount of time they can be stored on your shelves, and generally should be kept in dark, air tight containers and for no more than 6–9 months. Because they tend to oxidise and thereby deteriorate relatively rapidly, powders


are often made into capsules and tablets to extend their shelf life; some are given protective coatings. Powders can also be combined with pastes and herbal extracts to extend their shelf

Stored properly, herbal tinctures will keep up to 3 years.


life. Tablets will keep for longer, although they should be stored similarly away from direct sunlight. Herbal tinctures and glycerites will keep up to 3 years.

The Materia Medica A Materia Medica is a compendium of medicinal herbs used for their theraputic effects, and traditionally describes each herb’s pharmacological properties and medicinal actions. The first such collection of knowledge on healing plants appeared in India around 700 BCE, compiled by the scholar Charaka, and a similar manual was assembled in China around 1000 CE. The term Materia Medica is Latin and has been around since Roman times when Dioscorides wrote a five-volume in Greek, De Materia Medica, which was subsequently translated into Latin around 60 CE. Dioscorides’ book was a commentary on around 500 medicinal plants.

How to Use the Materia Medica The Materia Medica is the heart of this book. It is a comprehensive directory of the 150 herbs most commonly used by modern Western herbalists. They are all easily available from most herbal suppliers, and because this book is intended for use by lay people as well as students and practitioners of herbal medicine, none of them is a “Schedule 3” herb, that is herbs whose dosage is restricted by law due to the presence of powerful constituents, often alkaloids, that require caution in their use. The Materia Medica is a detailed herb directory, organised alphabetically by Latin name. Each entry includes the common name, family, parts used, major constituents and the actions of the plants. It then lists the herb’s indications for use in treatment according to the systems of the body, including recent crossreference to the Treating Common Ailments chapter (see pages 275–353) so that you can be informed about the herbs that you choose.

96 96


ACHILLEA MILLEFOLIUM: YARROW Family Asterceae/Compositae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Volatile oil (azulene, borneol, camphor, linalool, pinene, thujone), flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin, quercetin), sesquiterpenes, silica, sterols, bitters, tannins, salicylic acid, amino acids (lysine), coumarins, fatty acids (linoleic, palmitic, oleic), vitamins (B, C, E), minerals. Actions Diaphoretic, diuretic, astringent, digestive, bitter tonic, hepatic, antimicrobial, alterative, decongestant, antiinflammatory, antispasmodic, vasodilator, analgesic, antihistamine, emmenagogue, expectorant, haemostatic, styptic, vulnerary. Growing wild in hedgerows and meadows in the Northern hemisphere, yarrow has been valued as a first aid remedy since the time of the ancient Greeks, for staunching bleeding and healing cuts and wounds. Digestion • Yarrow stimulates the appetite, and enhances digestion and absorption of nutrients. • It can be used to treat wind, spasm, IBS and indigestion. • Its astringent tannins protect the gut from irritation and infection, helpful in diarrhoea and inflammatory problems including gastritis and colitis. Circulation • Taken in hot tea, yarrow promotes sweating, and helps reduce fevers. • It lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, relieves leg cramps and varicose veins. Nervous System • Yarrow can be used as a gentle relaxant. • Its astringent properties tighten our subtle boundaries, reduces susceptibility to negativity from others. Respiratory System • When taken in hot tea with mint and elderflower, yarrow relieves colds and congestion. • Its anti-histamine effect (from luteolin) can be used for allergies such as rhinitis.

Immunity • The volatile oils and luteolin in yarrow have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and can be used to relieve arthritis, allergies and auto-immune problems. • Yarrow stimulates blood flow to the skin and brings out the rash in eruptive infections such as measles and chicken pox. • Yarrow clears toxins, heat and congestion by aiding elimination of toxins via the skin and the kidneys. Reproductive System • Yarrow helps regulate the menstrual cycle, relieve PMS and reduce heavy bleeding. Urinary System • As a diuretic, yarrow relieves fluid retention and can soothe an irritable bladder. • Its astringency tightens muscles and helps alleviate prolapse and incontinence. Externally • The tannins and silica in yarrow promote tissue repair, speed the healing of cuts and wounds, ulcers, burns, varicose veins, haemorrhoids and skin conditions such as eczema. • It can be used as an infusion or dilute tincture as a vaginal douche, eyebath or skin lotion and as a mouthwash for dental plaque and gingivitis. Cautions To be avoided in pregnancy and if allergic to Compositae. Yarrow can cause contact dermatitis and photosensitivity. Avoid with anticoagulants.



AESCULUS HIPPOCASTANUM: HORSE CHESTNUT Family Hippocastanaceae Parts Used Seeds, bark Constituents Sterols, triterpene saponin glycosides (including aescin), fatty acids, flavonoids, coumarins, allantoin, tannins. Actions Astringent, anti-inflammatory, febrifuge, anticoagulant, expectorant. This magnificent tree is native to Western Asia and was brought to Europe in the mid-17th century. It is also found in North America. The extract of the seeds has long been valued for the treatment of vascular problems, fevers as well as inflammatory problems. Digestion • The bark of horse chestnut is rich in astringent tannins, helping to protect the lining of the gut from irritation and inflammation. • It can be helpful in inflammatory problems, gastritis and ulcer and to curb diarrhoea. Immunity • The saponin aescin has anti-inflammatory effects which can be helpful in joint pain. • Taken as a hot decoction, it reduces fevers and is an old substitute for Peruvian Bark (Cinchona) which was used to treat malaria and intermittent fevers. Circulation • Aescin strengthens the blood vessel walls and increases their elasticity. This improves blood flow and venous return, thus preventing the pooling of blood which causes piles and varicose veins. • Horse chestnut reduces oedema, cramps, pain and tension in the legs. • It reduces inflammation in the blood vessels. • It may bring down high blood pressure. • Horse chestnut’s anticoagulant properties reduce blood clotting.

Externally • By contracting blood vessels, horse chestnut reduces fluid and swelling around the areas of trauma. This is particularly useful after surgery. • Creams or gels made from horse chestnut are excellent for varicose veins and ulcers, phlebitis and haemorrhoids as well as cellulite. • They can also relieve pain and swelling caused by arthritis, neuralgia, sunburn, bruises, sprains and other sports injuries. Cautions To be avoided in pregnancy and lactation. It is also unsuitable for children. All parts are toxic when raw so use pre-treated preparations and avoid large doses. Avoid with anticoagulants, salicylates.

98 98


AGATHOSMA/BAROSMA BETULINA: BUCHU Family Rutaceae Part Used Leaves Constituents Volatile oil (containing diosphenol, d-pulegone, isomenthone, menthone), flavonoids (diosmin, hesperidin, quercitrin, rutin), coumarins, mucilage, vitamin C, betacarotene, calcium, chromium, magnesium, zinc. Actions Antimicrobial, immunostimulant, urinary antiseptic, antilithic, diuretic, digestive, probiotic, anti-inflammatory, alterative, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, uterine stimulant, vulnerary, insulinotropic. A woody evergreen shrub with hightly aromatic leaves, native to South Africa, buchu was used by the indigenous people for centuries to ward off insects and as an antiseptic for urinary tract infections, digestive problems, arthritis and gout. The early Dutch settlers used it to make buchu brandy, which is still used today to settle the stomach. Urinary system • As an effective diuretic, buchu is often included in formulae for PMS as it alleviates fluid retention. • Buchu improves circulation to the urinary system. • Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are helpful for urinary tract infections, cystitis, irritable bladder, kidney stones, dysuria and haematuria. • It reduces acute and chronic inflammation and infection of the prostate. Digestion • Buchu can be used as an antimicrobial for infections including gastro-enteritis, diarrhoea and dysentery. • It relieves bloating, flatulence, stomach cramps and colic. • It can help to regulate blood sugar. Circulation • With its diuretic properties, buchu may help to reduce high blood pressure.

Immunity • Buchu has anti-inflammatory and cleansing actions and since it helps the kidneys to eliminate uric acid, it can be used in arthritis, gout and muscular aches and pains. • With its antimicrobial actions, buchu aids resistance to colds and flu, and can be taken in hot infusion at onset of acute infections, chills and fevers. Externally • An infusion can be mixed with vinegar and used as a lotion for bruises and sprains. • As an oil it can be used as an insect repellent. • Used as a vaginal douche, buchu allays yeast infections and leucorrhoea. Cautions Avoid in acute inflammation of the liver and kidneys, and during pregnancy. Avoid with Warfarin and other anticoagulants.



AGRIMONIA EUPATORIA: AGRIMONY Family Rosaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Tannins, flavonoids (apigenin, quercetin), triterpenic acids, phenolic acids, polysaccharides, glycosidal bitters, agrimonin, furanocoumarins, volatile oil, vitamins (B1, C, K), silica, iron. Actions Astringent, haemostatic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, alterative, antimicrobial, expectorant, bronchodilator, digestive tonic, bitter, carminative, hypoglycaemic, cholagogue, hepatic, emmenagogue, diuretic, antilithic, febrifuge, vulnerary. A pretty perennial plant with spikes of yellow flowers native to Europe and North Asia, agrimony is named after the ancient Greek king Mithridates IV Eupator, who used it for liver problems and poisoning. It was popular on medieval battle fields for stopping bleeding. Digestion • With its astringent tannins, agrimony protects the gut lining from irritation and inflammation and counteracts infection. It can be used to relieve peptic ulcers, gastritis, colitis and diarrhoea. • It makes a good remedy for leaky gut syndrome. • The bitters in agrimony stimulate the secretion of digestive juices and bile from the liver and gall bladder. This enhances digestion (especially of fats) and absorption, improving bowel function. • It is used in Germany for gallstones and cirrhosis of the liver. • Agrimony lowers blood sugar levels. Respiratory system • With its antispasmodic properties, it can be used to relieve asthma and irritating coughs • Its antimicrobial actions and helpful for warding off and resolving infections such as colds, flu and bronchitis.

Urinary system • As an astringent diuretic, agrimony is used to alleviate bedwetting and incontinence, bladder irritation, cystitis and kidney stones. • I t aids the elimination of uric acid and so is helpful

for gout and arthritis.

Immunity • Agrimony is useful against bacterial and viral infections. • It may inhibit the growth of tumours. • Reproductive system • Agrimony is a good astringent for heavy periods. Mento/Emotional • Agrimony can be used as a flower remedy for those who hide pain and anguish behind a brave face, avoid confrontation and try to keep others happy. Externally • Gargle/mouthwash for sore throats, laryngitis, and inflamed gums, eye wash for inflammatory eye problems, douche for vaginal infections, eg. Trichomonas. • Stems bleeding, speeds healing of cuts and wounds, reduces pain and swelling of bruises, sprains and varicose veins, relieves aching muscles and inflammatory skin problems. Cautions Avoid with blood thinners, monitor with diabetic drugs and antihypertensives.

100 100


AGROPYON/TRITICUM/ELYMUS REPENS: COUCH GRASS Family Gramineae Part Used Rhizomes Constituents Polysaccharides (triticin), mannitol, inositol, mucilage, saponins, essential oil, vanillin, silicic acid, vitamins A and B complex, iron, potassium, zinc. Actions Demulcent, emollient, diuretic, antilithic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, expectorant, hypocholesterolaemic, decongestant. A perennial grass native to Europe and North America, couch grass may be a nuisance to gardeners but the rhizomes are a valuable remedy for urinary problems and can be ground into flour and roasted to make coffee. Urinary System • The abundant mucilage in couch grass soothes the urinary tract. • Mannitol acts as an osmotic diuretic. The saponins and vanillin are also diuretic and so couch grass aids the excretion of wastes including excess sodium and uric acid. • It is excellent for infections and inflammatory conditions, cystitis, irritable bladder, dysuria, haematuria, urethritis, prostatitis (acute and chronic) and benign enlargement of the prostate. • Couch grass both prevents and remedies renal stones and gravel. • The silicic acid is healing and strengthening to the urinary tract and sphincters, and is useful for healing after an infection and for treating bedwetting and urinary incontinence. Respiratory System • Its soothing, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties help alleviate irritating coughs, bronchitis and laryngitis. • Couch grass clears catarrhal congestion through its soothing effect on the mucosa in the nose, throat and bronchi. • The silica has a healing effect on the lungs, useful after chest infections.

Digestion • Couch grass soothes mucous membranes throughout the gut. • It helps resolve heat and inflammation in the stomach, intestines, liver and gallbladder. Musculo-skeletal System • The diuretic action of couch grass clear toxins, wastes and uric acid and help relieve arthritis and gout. • Its anti-inflammatory action is helpful in joint disease. Immunity • Traditionally couch grass is used as a spring tonic as it clears accumulated wastes via the kidneys. • As it clears heat, it can reduce fevers. Circulation • Couch grass may reduce cholesterol. Externally • When used as a gargle, couch grass alleviates sore throats, laryngitis and tonsillitis. It makes a soothing wash for inflammatory skin problems such as eczema, as well as cuts and grazes. • The silica speeds the healing of wounds.



ALCHEMILLA VULGARIS: LADY’S MANTLE Family Rosaceae Parts sed Root, leaves and flowers Constituents salicylic acid, ellagitannins (pedunculagin,agrimoniin, and alchemillin), bitters, flavonoids (quercitrin), saponins, volatile oils, phytosterols. Actions Astringent, haemostatic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, emmenagogue, nervine, vulnerary, febrifuge. A distinctive perennial native to Europe and North Asia. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary as the leaves were thought to resemble her cloak, and a favourite of Medieval alchemists for the dew drops that exude from the leaves which they believed were invaluable in their search for the “philosopher’s stone”. Reproductive System • Astringent and anti-inflammatory for heavy, painful and irregular periods, for prolonged bleeding due to fibroids or when perimenpausal. • Traditionally used to promote fertility. • Toning to weak pelvic floor muscles, helps prevent miscarriage, good for prolapse. • Used to aid contractions during childbirth, speed recovery, regulate hormones and strengthen muscles after miscarriage and childbirth. Taken a few days prior to birth helps prevent post partum bleeding. • Cooling and balancing remedy during menopause. • For fibroids, genito-urinary infections, endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease. Digestive System • Astringent for diarrhoea and inflammatory problems such as gastritis, colitis and gastro-enteritis. Urinary System • Cools heat and inflammation, relieves cystitis.

Externally • Astringent fresh root/leaves stop bleeding, promote healing. • Gargle/mouthwash for mouth ulcers and sores, sore throats, laryngitis. • Lotion for skin problems, eg, inflamed cuts and abrasions, pimples, or rashes, eyewash for conjunctivitis. • Douche for vaginal irritation and infections, candida, after antibiotic treatment for infection e.g. trichomonas, when vaginal flora has been disturbed. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy, except in last few weeks.

102 102


ALLIUM SATIVUM: GARLIC Family Liliaceae Part Used Bulb Constituents Sulphur-containing compounds (including alliin and alliein), lipids, quercetin, kaempferol, glycosides, scordinins, tellurium compounds, essential amino acids, volatile oil, mucilage, germanium, glucokinins, vitamins, anthrocyanins, selenium, fructo-oligosaccharides. Actions Stimulant, antispasmodic, carminative, laxative, nutritive, expectorant, bronchodilator, decongestant, alterative, immunostimulant, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, hypocholesterolaemic, hypotensive, antitumour, antioxidant, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac, brain tonic, circulatory stimulant, digestive, antiplatelet, vasodilator, diaphoretic, hypoglycaemic, antiseptic, rubefacient. Garlic is an excellent antimicrobial and detoxifying herb, prescribed since the first century AD by Ayurvedic doctors for heart disease and infections. Its antibiotic activity was noted by Louis Pasteur in 1858 and employed by Albert Schweitzer in Africa for amoebic dysentery. Digestion • Garlic stimulates appetite and enhances digestion and absorption of nutrients. • As an antimicrobial, it helps restore gut flora after infection or antibiotics via the probiotic effects of fructo-oligosaccharides. • Garlic may benefit type 2 diabetes. • When taken on an empty stomach, garlic can treat worms. Circulation • Garlic increases circulation, and helps to reduce blood pressure. • It is beneficial for cramps and circulatory disorders such as Raynaud’s disease. • It lowers harmful (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. • By reducing the tendency to clotting, garlic reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Respiratory System • Garlic makes a good antimicrobial for throat and chest infections, colds and flu. • A decongestant and expectorant, garlic is wonderful for clearing catarrh, sinusitis, coughs, asthma, hayfever and rhinitis. Immunity • Garlic is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-parasitic particularly in the respiratory, digestive and urinary Systems. It is active against viruses, including Influenza B and Herpes simplex types 1 and 2. As a powerful antioxidant, it helps to slow the ageing process. • The sulphur compounds have anti-tumour activities and protect against the effects of pollution and nicotine. Externally • As an oil or ointment, garlic can be used for cuts and wounds, gout and arthritis, sprains, unbroken chilblains, athlete’s foot, stings, bites and warts. • As eardrops it can treat middle ear infections. • It can be used to alleviate oral and vaginal thrush. Cautions Avoid large doses during pregnancy. Garlic may cause or aggravate heartburn, flatulence and gastro-intestinal upset. Applied to the skin it can cause contact dermatitis. Avoid large doses on warfarin and antihypertensive medications.



ALOE BARBADENSIS: ALOE VERA Family Liliaceae Parts Used Gel of inner leaves Constituents Polysaccharides (acamannan and glucomannans); enzymes; vitamins A, Bs, C, E, choline, folic acid; amino acids; minerals, saponins, sterols, salicylic acid. Actions Demulcent, immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, alterative, analgesic, antihistamine, antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, anthelmintic, digestive, rejuvenative, antioxidant, hypoglycaemic, diuretic. Indigenous to East and South Africa, aloe vera grows happily in most tropical places and as a houseplant in temperate climates. The clear mucilaginous gel inside leaves mixed with water is aloe juice, which is cooling and moistening. It is used for problems associated with excess heat and inflammation. Digestion • As a mild laxative, aloe vera clears toxins and heat via the bowel. • It helps combat pathogenic micro-organisms in the gut. • Aloe vera enhances the secretion of digestive enzymes and balances stomach acid. • It regulates the metabolism of sugar and fat. • By soothing and protecting the gut lining, it is good for colitis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Immunity • Acemannan enhances immunity and stimulates the activity of B- and T-lymphocytes, helping to destroy malignant cells. • The sterols have an anti-inflammatory action. • Aloe vera has an antiviral action and can be used for Herpes simplex and zoster (shingles) • With its anti-Candida properties, it can be used as a probiotic.

Musculo-skeletal System • Aloe vera is anti-inflammatory and detoxifying for arthritis. Reproductive System • As an emmenagogue, aloe vera increases blood flow to the uterus. • It helps reduce hot flushes during the menopause. • It can be used to alleviate PMS. Externally • As a gel, it soothes and heals burns, sunburn, wounds, cuts and abrasions, haemorrhoids and skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. • It helps to heal the skin after radiation therapy. • Its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties make it useful as a remedy for athlete’s foot and other fungal infections. • It rejuvenates the skin and helps reduce wrinkles. • It soothes sensitive and allergic skin conditions. Drug Interactions • Possible interaction with cardiac glycosides, steroids. Cautions Occasional reports of contact dermatitis. Aloe powder made from base/outer part of leaves is cathartic, not to be confused with gelor juice.

104 104



• The mucilage soothes heartburn, IBS, and constipa-

Parts Used Roots, leaves and flowers

• It reduces peristalsis and can be used for diarrhoea. • Larger doses have mild laxative effect.

Constituents Mucilage around 11% (glucans, arabans, galacturonic rhamnans), tannins 2%, pectin up to 11%, sterols, coumarins, phenolic acid, asparagin, flavonoids (quercitrin, kaempferol, scopoletin), sugars. Actions Emollient, demulcent, nutrient tonic, vulnerary, antiinflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, antitussive, bronchodilator, expectorant, diuretic, antilithic, alterative, anti-histamine, rejuvenative, immune enhancer, galactagogue. Marshmallow is a stately perennial found growing in marshes by the sea in Europe and West Asia. Its abundance of mucilage makes it the most soothing of medicines, cooling irritation and inflammation. It is ideal for soreness and irritation of mucous membranes from infection or inflammation. Respiratory System • As a mild expectorant and immune enhancer, marshmallow soothes harsh dry coughs, sore throats, laryngitis, bronchitis and croup. It helps clear catarrh and alleviates inflammation. Immunity • Marshmallow stimulates the production of white blood cells. • It is antimicrobial against Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staph. Aur. Digestion • With its anti-inflammatory action, it is good for treating inflammatory gut problems such as ulcerative colitis, as well as gastritis and peptic ulcers.

tion from dryness.

Urinary System • As a soothing diuretic, marshmallow helps relieve cystitis, urethritis, irritable bladder, ands eases the passing of urinary gravel and stones. Reproductive System • Marshmallow was traditionally added to prescriptions to ease childbirth. • It stimulates the flow of breast milk. Externally • The leaves can be applied to irritation and inflammation of insect bites, wasp and bee stings. • With lavender and flax oil, it can be used for scalds and burns, and sunburn. • It soothes and heals inflamed skin including acne and eczema, and relieves sore nipples. • A warm poultice can be used to draw out splinters, and for mastitis, boils and abscesses. • As a mouthwash or gargle, it can be used for sore throats and inflamed gums. Cautions Mucilage may inhibit absorption of oral medication.



ANDROGRAPHIS PANICULATA: ANDROGRAPHIS PANICULATA Family Acanthaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Diterpienoid lactones (andrographolides), flavones (oroxylin, wogonin). Actions Immunostimulant, antimicrobial, choleretic, hepatoprotective, febrifuge, anodyne, hypoglycaemic, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, anticancer, anthelmintic. Native to India and cultivated in China, this annual has a very bitter taste and has been widely used throughout Asia to enhance immunity and treat a variety of problems, including malaria and other parasites, bowel and liver problems, chronic and acute infectious diseases. Respiratory System • Andrographis makes a good remedy for acute infections including throat and ear infections, coughs, colds, flu, acute bronchitis, and chest infections with fever. • It reduces phlegm, and can be helpful in asthma. • It is used in Ayurvedic medicine for pneumonia. Immunity • With its immune-enhancing properties, it is excellent for prevention and treatment of infections, e.g. colds, flu, coughs, sinusitis, mouth ulcers, Herpes zoster, otitis media, sore throats laryngitis, tonsillitis and septic conditions of the blood. • It is useful for leptospirosis, high fevers, lyme’s disease and malaria. • It protects the liver from damage from infection and toxins, and inhibits platelet aggregation. Digestion • Andrographis has antiviral, antiprotazoal, antifungal, antiparasitic and anthelmintic actions. It helps combat unfriendly micro-organisms and reestablish normal gut flora. It is used to combat acute infections, bacillary dysentery, enteritis, worms, parasites and Candida.

• It is antibacterial against Staph aur., Pseudomonas

aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris, Shigella dysenteriae, and E. coli. • Bitter and cooling, it enhances digestion, stimulates bile flow from liver, protects the liver from damage from toxins, alcohol, and infections including hepatitis. • As an anti-inflammatory and cooling remedy, it is useful for heartburn, acidity, flatulence, gastritis, colitis, and peptic ulcers. Urinary System • It relieves heat and infection of urinary tract with dysuria, haematuria and proteinuria. Skin • Andrographis makes a good remedy for hot, inflammatory skin conditions, including acne, boils abscesses, sores and eczema. Externally • As a wash or cream it can be used for inflamed and infected skin problems including acne, eczema, spots, and boils. Cautions Possible antifertility effect.

106 106


ANEMONE PULSATILLA: PASQUE FLOWER Family Ranunculaceae Parts Used Dried aerial parts Constituents Sesquiterpene lactones, glycoside (ranunculin in fresh plant producing protoanemonin which is poisonous, producing anemonin on drying), tannins, saponins, resin, volatile oil, chelidonic acid, flavonoids, glucose, tannins, resins, pectin, calcium compounds, magnesium, sulphates. Actions Analgesic, nervine, sedative, restorative, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, expectorant, decongestant, alterative, febrifuge, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, eye tonic, circulatory tonic, astringent, diuretic, antibacterial, emmenagogue, parturient, uterine stimulant. Pasque flower, with its silky purple flowers and silvery hairs followed by feathery flower heads, is one of the most beautiful wild flowers of Europe. Delicate looking, it is remarkably resiliant, flowering in early spring but often also in very wintery weather. It is a wonderfully relaxing remedy for pain and spasm. Reproductive System • Pasque flower is specific for pain and inflammation in men and women. • Its tonic and relaxant properties help regulate contractions and makes it a good analgesic for childbirth and after pains. • It helps relieve post natal depression, PMS and menopausal depression. Nervous System • Pasque flower is an excellent relaxant and nerve tonic. It promotes relaxation and sleep, facilitates recovery when run down by conserving energy. • It can be used for nervous exhaustion, depression, insomnia, nightmares, irritability, weepiness, clinginess, and fear of being alone.

• It makes a good remedy for PMS, over-excitement,

weepiness, depression after childbirth, and during the menopause.

Musculo-skeletal System • With its antispasmodic action, pasque flower is excellent for reducing pain, easing colic, period pain, headaches, asthma and neuralgia. Circulation • It improves venous circulation, and can be used for varicose veins, haemorrhoids and nosebleeds. Respiratory System • As an astringent and antibacterial, it can be used for colds, acute and chronic catarrh, coughs, ear and eye problems. Eyes and ears • It is helpful for painful inflammatory eye conditions including scleritis, iritis, glaucoma and cataracts. • It can be used for otitis media and earache. Immunity • In a hot infusion it reduces fevers, brings out the rash in eruptive infections, including measles, and speeds recovery after infection. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy.



ANETHUM GRAVEOLENS: DILL Family Umbelliferae Parts Used Leaves, seeds Constituents Volatile oil including limonene, carvone; flavonoids including quercitrin, kaempfenol and vincenin; coumarins; triterpenes; magnesium; iron; calcium; potassium; vitamin C. Actions Carminative, alterative, expectorant, diuretic, antispasmodic, galactagogue, vermifuge, analgesic, relaxant, digestive, nervine, sedative, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial. Dill is a highly aromatic annual originally from the Mediterranean. Its name is said to come from the Saxon word dilla, meaning to lull, due to its ability to relax babies and children into a restful sleep. Digestion • Dill stimulates the appetite and enhances digestion and absorption. • It releases tension and spasm, and is useful for colic, wind, indigestion, nausea, constipation and diarrhoea. • It is an important ingredient in the famous gripe water for babies’ colic. • In India it is used as a vermifuge. Nervous System • As a nervine, dill helps alleviate tiredness from disturbed nights. • It makes a useful relaxant for insomnia, and stressrelated digestive disorders, including wind, colic and constipation. Musculo-skeletal System • The volatile oil in leaves and seeds relaxes smooth muscle and help ease tension and pain. Respiratory System • Dill is a useful antispasmodic and expectorant for harsh dry coughs and asthma.

Reproductive System • As an antispasmodic, it helps relieve painful periods. • Its emmenagogic properties help regulate menstruation. • In the East it is given to women prior to childbirth to ease childbirth. • It increases milk production in breastfeeding women. Urinary System • Dill has diuretic effects and can be used for urinary infections. Immunity • Dill has antibacterial) and anti-Candida properties, helping to regulate the gut flora and thereby enhances immunity. • It may inhibit cancer formation. Externally • Its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties help relieve pain and swelling as in sprains and bruises. • Essential oil of dill can be used in oils and liniments for abdominal pain, colic, arthritis and earache.

108 108


ANGELICA ARCHANGELICA: ANGELICA Family Umbelliferae Parts Used Roots, leaves, stem, seeds Constituents Volatile oils (angelica lactones, phellandrene), furanocoumarins (angelicin, umbelliferone, psoralen, bergapten, imperatoren), phthlates, sugars, flavonoids, sterols, resins. Actions Astringent, antimicrobial, antiseptic, alterative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, diaphoretic, circulatory stimulant, digestive, antiemetic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, nervine, tonic, rejuvenative, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, hypotensive, oestrogenic, aphrodisiac, expectorant, bronchodilator. A statuesque biennial native to Syria and parts of Europe, angelica was historically valued for its angelic protection against poisoning, contagion and witches. Apparently its healing properties were revealed to a monk during a plague epidemic by the Archangel Michael or Gabriel – hence its Latin name. Circulation • Angelica is warming, stimulating blood flow to the periphery, and is excellent for poor circulation including chilblains, Raynaud’s disease and Buerger’s disease. • It acts as a calcium-channel blocker in the heart, and is useful for high blood pressure, angina and heart arrhythmias. • It can be used for anaemia. Digestion • It stimulates the flow of digestive enzymes and helpful for weak digestion, low digestive enzymes, poor absorption of nutrients, slow metabolism and hypochlorhydria. • It can be used for weight loss, nausea, indigestion, wind, bloating and colic. • Inhaling the crushed leaves can ease the symptoms of travel sickness. • It has a hepato-protective effect, helping to protect

the liver from damage from alcohol, drugs and chemicals. • When taken regularly, it may reduce the desire for alcohol, useful for alcoholics. Immunity • It is antimicrobial and cleansing, and helps detoxification and enhance immunity. • Its anti-inflammatory properties are good for arthritis and gout. Respiratory System • It helps to regulates the menstrual cycle and ease PMS. • Through its antioxidant and rejuvenative properties, it may be useful in the menopause for preventing osteopenia and osteoporosis. • By increasing the circulation to the uterus, it can relieve period pain and pain in endometriosis. Reproductive System • Regulates menstrual cycle, relieves period pain and PMS. Nervous System • Perhaps through its ability to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, it makes a strengthening nerve tonic. • It can dispel foggy mindedness and and may aid inspiration. • It can elevate mood in depression, perhaps through its action on the gut flow and its circulatory stimulating effects. • It enhances memory, concentration and mental clarity. It can be useful in learning difficulties such as ADD and ADHD. • It can relieve headaches. Externally • It can be used in massage oils and baths to relieve muscle tension and joint stiffness and pain. Cautions May cause photosensitivity. Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight if taking regularly. Care in peptic ulcers, heartburn and acid reflux.



110 110


ANGELICA POLYMORPH, VARIATION SINENSIS: CHINESE ANGELICA/DONG GUAI Family Umbelliferae Part Used Root Constituents Polysaccharides, volatile oils (carvacrol, safrol, isosafrol), sequiterpenes, betacarotene, vitamin (B, B12, E), acids (ferulic, folinic, succinic, angeol, angelic, myristic), sitosterol, coumarins, polysaccharides, psoralens, minerals (chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium). Actions Emmenagogue, blood tonic, antispasmodic, analgesic, sedative, anti-anaemic, antiplatelet, antimicrobial, antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, digestive, hypotensive, alterative, hepato-protective, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, anti-histamine, diuretic, immunostimulant, hormone regulator, parturient, post-partum tonic, uterine tonic, rejuvenative. Chinese angelica is a perennial found in the mountain forests of China, Japan and Korea. An important blood and liver tonic in Chinese medicine, Chinese angelica was traditionally used for anaemia and vitiligo. Its Chinese name means “state of return” as it helps return the blood to where it needs to be rather than stagnating. Reproductive System • Chinese angelica balances hormones. It is a famous women’s tonic for treating menstrual irregularities, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, PMS, clots and heavy periods. • It is used for gynaecological problems including endometriosis. • It enhances fertility and aids contractions during childbirth. • Is helpful for menopausal symptoms including night sweats, hot flushes, depression and mood swings. Nervous System • It is a mild analgesic for headaches, neuralgia, shingles pain. • It promotes blood flow to the brain and helps to protect against free radical damage. • It is famous as a strengthening tonic for lack of vitality in old age, for nervous exhaustion and also as a relaxant for anxiety and insomnia.

Urinary System • With its diuretic action, it is useful for premenstrual fluid accumulation. Immunity • Chinese angelica enhances general immunity by stimulating the formation of white blood cells, lymphocytes and phagocytes. • With its antimicrobial actions, it can be used to combat infections including Herpes infections and malaria. • It may have an anticancer effect by increasing tumour necrosis. • The polysaccharides have a hepato-protective action, protecting the liver from damage caused by infection, toxins, alcohol and drugs. • It inhibits IGE antibodies in allergies. Eyes • It may decrease intraocular pressure and could be used in glaucoma. Circulation • Chinese angelica is a well known blood tonic in traditional Chinese medicine, used to enrich the blood and promote the circulation. • It decreases blood pressure, regulates the heart, inhibits platelet aggregation, reduces atherosclerosis, and dilates the coronary arteries, helping to prevent cardiovascular problems. • It can be used for angina, arrhythmias, palpitations, atrial fibrillation, Buerger’s disease, Raynaud’s disease and cramp. Digestion • A warming digestive stimulant, it increases appetite, digestion and absorption. It also relieves constipation. Respiratory System • Chinese angelica is warming decongestant and can be used to clear catarrh, and as an antispasmodic to relieve asthma. • Its antiviral and antibacterial actions help to ward off colds ad flu, as well as chest infections. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy and if prone to miscarriage or heavy periods. Avoid with anticoagulants.



112 112


ANTHEMIS NOBILIS/CHAMAMAELUM NOBILE: ROMAN CHAMOMILE; CHAMOMILLA RECUTITA: GERMAN CHAMOMILE Family Compositae Part Used Flowers Constituents Volatile oil (chamazulene, bisabolol, farnesene), flavonoids (quercitin, apigenin, luteolin), sesquiterpene lactones, coumarins, fatty acids, cyanogenic glycosides, choline, tannins, mucilage, minerals (calcium, iodine, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus) vitamin B2. Actions Anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, nervine, sedative, antiulcer, immune-stimulant, antihistamine, decongestant, digestive, bitter tonic, antiseptic, antimicrobial, diaphoretic, anodyne, ophthalmic, diuretic, emmenagogue, vulnerary. Two kinds of chamomile are used medicinally. Their properties are similar but German chamomile may be preferable, as it tastes less bitter. German chamomile is an annual, native to Europe and northern Asia, while Roman chamomile is a perennial native of Europe. Both are highly aromatic and renowned for their antiinflammatory and sedative effects. Digestion • Chamomile is famous for soothing stress-related digestive upsets. It relieves spasm, colic (particularly useful in babies), pain, wind, nervous and acid indigestion, heartburn and acidity. • The chamazulene is antiallergenic and anti-inflammatory. Bisabolol speeds the healing of ulcers, and so chamomile is excellent for gastritis and peptic ulcers, colitis and IBS. • As it is antimicrobial, it helps resolves infections, such as gastro-enteritis as well as dysbiosis. • The bitters stimulate the flow of bile and the secretion of digestive juices and enhance appetite. • Chamomile can regulate peristalsis which is helpful in diarrhoea and constipation. Nervous System • Chamomile is sedative and mood enhancing, calming anxiety and nervousness. • It is an excellent relaxant for babies and children who are hot, irritable, restless, prone to colic, teething and have sleeping problems and allergies.

• Chamomile promotes sleep, relieves pain in headaches, migraine, neuralgia, flu, cramps, arthritis and gout. • It relieves pain in arthritis, trigeminal neuralgia and sciatica.

Respiratory System • In warm tea, it is used for fevers and infections such as sore throats, tonsillitis, colds and flu. • As it is antimicrobial, it helps resolve infections and allergies. • By relaxing the bronchial tubes, chamomile reduces broncho-constriction in asthma. • Used in steam inhalations, it relieves asthma, hay fever, catarrh and sinusitis. Reproductive System • With its relaxing and antispasmodic actions, chamomile reduces period pain, pre-menstrual headaches, migraines and PMS. • It is used for amenorrhea due to psychological problems like anorexia nervosa. • It is a good digestive remedy for nausea and sickness in pregnancy. • Chamomile eases contractions and pain during childbirth. • It relieves mastitis and can be used in creams for sore nipples. • Its cooling and relaxing properties help reduce menopausal symptoms. Urinary System • As an antiseptic diuretic, chamomile soothes an inflamed and irritable bladder and is helpful in cystitis. Immunity • Chamomile enhances immunity and resolves fevers and infections. • Its volatile oil is a powerful antiseptic, active against bacteria, including Staph. aureus, and fungal infections, including Candida. • It can be used as an antihistamine for allergies including eczema, asthma, hay fever and migraine. • It reduces inflammation and infection in otitis, conjunctivitis and tonsillitis. Externally • Chamomile is soothing, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and stimulates tissue repair.


• It speeds healing of ulcers, sores, burns, scalds, vari-

cose veins, ulcers and is very helpful for inflammatory skin disorders. • It can be used in a mouthwash for mouth ulcers and inflamed gums, a gargle for sore throats, an antiseptic


wash for conjunctivitis, a douche for vaginal infections including thrush and a sitz bath for cystitis. Cautions Chamomile may cause contact dermatitis.

114 114


APIUM GRAVEOLENS: WILD CELERY Family Umbelliferae Parts used Herb, root, seeds Constituents Up to 3% volatile oils, apiol, sulphur, alkaloids, furanocoumarin, flavonic glycoside (apigenin), alpha lipoic acid, flavonoids, phenols, resin, fatty acids, calcium. Actions Diuretic, urinary antiseptic, antioxidant, hypotensive, depurative, antibacterial, antifungal, sedative, antispasmodic, utero-tonic, antineoplastic, anti-inflammatory, immuno-stimulant, galactogogue, analgesic. Wild celery is an aromatic biennial native to the Mediterranean, found growing wild around ponds and ditches, and is believed to be the original celery. It has been popular since Roman times for relieving aches and pains, and as a digestive for overweight and fluid retention. Urinary System • Like parsley, celery seed contains apiol which is a urinary antiseptic, useful in treatment of urinary tract infections. • As a diuretic, it can be used for fluid retention and to eliminate toxins from the system. • It prevents the formation of stones and gravel. Reproductive System • Celery seed enhances milk supply in lactating mothers. • It is a uterine stimulant, and can bring on periods and stimulate contractions in childbirth. • As an antispasmodic, it helps relieve period pains and cramps. Musculo-skeletal System • Celery seed is an excellent anti-inflammatory useful for treating arthritis and gout; its diuretic action helps to eliminate excess uric acid. • Antispasmodic and analgesic, it is good for relieving muscle pain, tension and spasm and can reduce pain in neuralgia and sciatica.

Digestion • With its warming volatile oils, it enhances appetite, digestion and absorption, and can be used to relieve colic, wind, halitosis, indigestion, hiccups, heartburn and nausea. • It helps to regulate metabolism as well as blood sugar levels. Immunity • A good immune enhancer, its antimicrobial effects help ward off colds, flu and bronchitis, while its antispasmodic effect can be useful in relief of asthma. • It may have anti-tumour properties. Circulation • Celery seed has the ability to reduce circulating dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, helping to reduce blood pressure. • It has antiplatelet effects, reduces formation of clots, and helps to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Nervous System • Celery seed is calming and uplifting. It is helpful for stress-related headaches, mental and physical tiredness, insomnia, depression, agitation and panic. • It is useful for releasing muscle tension and spasm, and it may be effective as an anticonvulsant. Cautions Avoid in pregnancy and kidney inflammation.



ARCTIUM LAPPA: BURDOCK Family Asteraceae Parts used Roots, seeds, leaves Constituents Roots: up to 50% inulin, mucilage, pectin, polyacetylenes, volatile acids, sterols, tannins, bitters, aldehydes, flavonoid glycosides (quercetin, kaemperol) asparagin, polyphenolic acid. Seeds: 15-30% fixed oils, bitter glycoside (arctiin), flavonoids, and chlorogenic acid. Leaves: Terpenoids, sterols, triterpenols, arctiol, fulcinone, taraxasterol, mucilage, essential oil, tannin, inulin. Actions Alterative, adaptogenic, antioxidant, desmutagen, antineoplastic, hepato-protective, diuretic, astringent, bitter liver tonic, digestive, demulcent, aperient, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, diaphoretic, febrifuge, post-partum tonic, antifungal/anti-Candida, probiotic. Regulates action of sebaceous glands in skin. Burdock is a handsome biennial, native to temperate Europe and North Asia, long respected for its cleansing, detoxifying and antiseptic properties. The root is generally the part favoured in Western medicine, while in Asian medicine the seeds are also used. Digestion • Burdock is an excellent bitter digestive, improving appetite and digestion and helping to relieve wind, distension, heartburn, acidity and indigestion. • It has a mild laxative effect and with its antimicrobial actions, it helps to clear toxins from the gut and regulate the gut flora. It is good for bacterial and fungal infections. The fructo-oligosaccharides in the root have a probiotic effect. • It promotes the function of the liver and pancreas. It aids the liver in its cleansing work and may help to regulate blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. • Its mucilaginous fibres absorb toxins from the gut and enhance their elimination from the bowel. Respiratory System • With its antimicrobial actions, burdock enhances immunity to colds and coughs. • In hot infusion or decoction, it acts as a diaphoretic and helps relieve fevers.

• It stimulates the lymphatic circulation and is excellent for clearing heat and toxins, and treating sore throats, swollen glands and tonsillitis. • With its cooling and anti-viral actions is is good for Herpes infection including genital Herpes and shingles

Reproductive System • The root stimulates the uterus, aids liver function and the breakdown of hormones, and helps to regulate hormones. • It can be used as an adjunct to formulae for the reproductive system and is helpful in PMS, irregular and painful periods, and the menopause. • Traditionally it was used for prolapse. It imparts strength before and after childbirth. Urinary System • It acts as a mild diuretic, aiding the elimination of toxins via the urine. It is helpful for cystitis, water retention, stones and gravel. Immunity • It has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antitumour properties. It can be used for acute and chronic infections including shingles and HIV. • In a hot decoction, burdock stimulates diaphoresis, reduces fevers, and clears toxins via skin, bringing out eruptions and speeding recovery from infections such as measles and chicken pox. • It is cleansing for chronic inflammatory conditions including gout, arthritis, skin problems. It is best taken with a mild laxative to ensure elimination of toxins. • Burdock is anti-mutagenic; it inactivates potentially carcinogenic substances. Skin • Burdock is good for chronic inflammatory skin disease, including sties, urticaria, psoriasis and especially acne, boils and abscesses. It improves the action of sebaceous glands and aids the detoxifying work of the liver. Cautions Contraindicated in pregnancy. Caution with antidiabetic drug as it may have hypoglycaemic effects.

116 116




ARCTOSTAPHYLOS UVA URSI: BEARBERRY Family Ericaceae Part Used Leaves Constituents Hydroquinones up to 18% (arbutin and methylarbutin), flavonoids (quercitrin, myricitrin), tannins, triterpenes, allantoin, phenolic acids, volatile oil, resin. Actions Urinary antiseptic, digestive, diuretic, antimicrobial, antiinflammatory, astringent, antihaemorrhagic, oxytoxic, antifungal, astringent, antilithic, parturient. Bearberry is a trailing evergreen shrub, native to Europe, Asia and North America. Popular since the Middle Ages, it is an effective medicine for kidney-related problems, including urinary tract infections and gout. Digestion • The antimicrobial and digestive properties of uva ursi make it a useful herb for combatting unfriendly gut organisms including Candida, diarrhoea and dysentery. Urinary System • Bearberry is specific for chronic irritation and infection in genito-urinary tract, useful for cystitis, urethritis, pyelonephritis, prostatitis, kidney stones and gravel. • Its antibacterial properties (probably due to arbutin), reach maximum activity 3–4 hours after taking it. • It relieves fluid retention and aids the elimination of toxins and uric acid. • Its astringent properties and allantoin tone and heal inflamed and irritated urinary passages. • It can be useful for enuresis (bedwetting) and incontinence. • It is best taken as a cold infusion for problems of the urinary tract.

Reproductive System • Bearberry is a uterine tonic. It reduces heavy periods, tones muscles in the bladder and can be used for uterine prolapse and vaginal laxity. • It stimulates contractions in childbirth. • It is useful for gynaecological infection and inflammation including endometritis and vaginal infections. Immunity • It can be effective against E. Coli, Strp. Faecalis, Proteus vulgaris, Staph.aur., Salmonella typhi, Candida albicans, Mycoplasma hominis and Shigella sonnei. • Its quercetrin and phenolic acids have anti-inflammatory actions. Externally • Applied on a tampon, used as a pessary or douche, it can be used to treat cervical erosion and vaginal discharge/thrush. • It can be use in a lotion for haemorrhoids. Cautions Long term use not recommended. Avoid in pregnancy. May increase effects of NSAIDS.

118 118


ARMORACIA RUSTICANA/COCHLEARIA ARMORACIA: HORSERADISH Family Brassicaceae Part used Fresh root Constituents Sinigrin (a glucosinolate which is broken down by enzymes released when cut or grated to produce allyl isothiocyanate, ie, mustard oil), vitamin C, resin, flavonoids (quercitrin, kaempferol), coumarins (aesculetin, caffeic acid, scopoletin), asparagin. Actions Circulatory stimulant, decongestant, digestive, antimicrobial, expectorant, alterative, anthelmintic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antilithic, anti-inflammatory, stimulant, diaphoretic, rubefacient. Horseradish is a perennial, native to South East Europe and West Asia, with a white tapered root. When cut or grated, it releases its powerful aroma and acrid properties. It needs to be preserved in vinegar or cream otherwise it quickly loses its potency. It makes a good stimulating and heating energy tonic, excellent in the winter, for warding off the cold. Circulation • Horseradish is a powerful stimulant, improving circulation and useful in disorders such as cold hands and feet, chilblains, and Raynaud’s and Burgher’s disease. Digestion • It enhances appetite, digestion and absorption and can be used for slow digestion, low digestive enzymes, wind and bloating and slow metabolism. • Horseradish is used traditionally as horseradish sauce to accompany beef, because it stimulates the flow of gastric juices to break down heavy indigestible foods and prevent indigestion.

Immunity • Its antibiotic properties are excellent for respiratory and urinary infections. Urinary System • Asparagin is an antimicrobial diuretic, relieving fluid retention and clearing toxins via the kidneys. • It can be used for fluid retention as well as urinary tract infections and kidney stones and gravel. Musculo-skeletal System • It hastens the elimination of toxins, and is recommended for gout and arthritis. Respiratory System • Horseradish stimulates mucous membranes, acts as a decongestant and expectorant, and helps clear catarrh and blocked sinuses. • Its antimicrobial properties help to combat infection. • It is helpful for relieving coughs, colds, fevers, flu, sinusitis and hay fever. Cautions May irritate eyes and skin when grating/cutting the fresh root. Avoid in pregnancy, thyroid problems and symptoms characterised by heat including gastritis and peptic ulcers.



ARTEMISIA ABSINTHIUM: WORMWOOD Family Asteraceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Flavonoids, phenolic acid, lignans, volatile oil (alpha and beta thujone, alpha pinene, linalool), bitter glycoside absinthe, sesquiterpene lactones, tannins, carotene, vitamin C. Actions Bitter tonic, digestive, anthelmintic, alterative, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anodyne, immune-stimulant, nervine, antifungal, cholagogue, anti-emetic, diuretic, antilithic, emmenagogue, insecticide.

Immunity • Wormwood’s volatile oils are strongly antibacterial. • It enhances immunity and clears toxins. It is good when run down or recovering from illness. • It can be taken hot for fevers, colds and flu, and it helps to clear catarrh. Nervous System • Wormwood stimulates the brain and was traditionally used for neuralgia, depression and nervous exhaustion. Musculo-skeletal System • It has anti-inflammatory properties, helpful in the treatment of gout and arthritis.

Wormwood is a highly scented perennial, native to Europe, West Asia and North Africa. Intensely bitter and aromatic, it is strengthening and reviving, stimulating the stomach, gallbladder and liver. It is a major ingredient in bitter aperitifs and wines such as vermouth.

Externally • It can be used as a wash for fleas and lice, a lotion for skin problems including nappy rash, athlete’s foot, scabies, boils, hair loss, bruises, sprains and arthritic pain.

Reproductive System • Like other Artemisias, wormwood stimulates the uterine muscles, brings on periods, and aids contractions during childbirth. • It regulates the menstrual cycle and helps relieve painful periods.

Cautions It is toxic in large amounts due to thujone. Only use small doses (1-10 drops tincture daily/1–2 cups tea a week). Infusions contain less thujone than tinctures. Avoid during pregnancy and lactation.

Digestion • Wormwood stimulates the flow of hydrochloric acid, enhances appetite, digestion, absorption and liver function. • It is good for heartburn, acidity, liver problems, halitosis, gastritis, indigestion, anorexia, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and gastro-enteritis. • It should be taken on an empty stomach for pin worms. • It is antimicrobial, helpful for treating food poisoning and combatting unfriendly microorganisms in the gut.

120 120


ARTEMISIA ANNUA: QING-HAO/SWEET ANNIE Family Asteraceae Parts Used Leaves Constituents Essential oil, flavanoids, artemisinin (containing a peroxide), qinghaoic acid. Actions Bitter, carminative, digestive, antiparasitic, febrifuge, anti-malarial, antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, digestive. Native to Asia and Eastern Europe, this annual feathery herb is now found throughout temperate and subtropical areas. Artemisinin, a main active component, was first isolated by researchers in China in 1972, and since then it has become hugely popular as an effective remedy for malaria. Immunity • Qing-hao clears heat and reduces fevers from infections and sunstroke. • Its antimicrobial properties make it useful for treating TB and other infections. • It enhances immunity, reduces inflammation and may be helpful in auto-immune disease including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. • Qinghaoic acid is antibacterial against eg. Staph aureus, E. coli, Salmonella typhosa. • Artemisinin releases free radicals once inside red blood cells, which kill malaria parasites. • Artemisinin is effective against drug resistant Plasmodium spp. • The traditional dose for treating malaria is 30gm taken as a decoction or 3gm of powdered dried leaves once a day. • It may have anti-cancer properties particularly in relation to breast cancer, prostate cancer and leukaemia. Respiratory System • An infusion of the leaves is used to treat fevers, chills, colds, and other infections.

Digestion • Qing-hao enhances appetite, and digestion, and relieves wind and indigestion. • It is recommended for treating infections including Salmonella, and curbing dysentery and diarrhoea. Externally • A poultice of the leaves can be applied to nosebleeds, abscesses and boils. • In China leaves are burned as a fumigant insecticide to kill mosquitos. Cautions Avoid in pregnancy. May cause contact dermatitis. NB: Artemisinin is asesquiterpene lactone which has been produced semi-synthetically as an antimalarial drug. The efficacy of tea made from qing-hao in the treatment of malaria is not clear as Artemisinin is not water soluble. More research is needed as Artemisinin may not be the only component that has antimalarial properties.



ASCLEPIAS TUBEROSA: PLEURISY ROOT Family Asclepiadaceae Part Used Root Constituents Glycoside (asclepiadin found mostly in fresh herb), volatile oils, resins, mucilage, starch, tannin, mineral salts, flavonoids (kaempferol, quercetin), rutin, cardiac glycosides (cardenolides), amino acids, sterols. Actions Diaphoretic, vasodilator, febrifuge, antispasmodic, amphoteric, expectorant, nervine, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial, expectorant, carminative, cathartic, diuretic, emetic (large doses). Native to North America, this brilliant-orange-flowered herb was used by Native American tribes as a remedy for chest infections and externally to treat wounds. As its name suggests, it is an excellent remedy for respiratory infections, including pneumonia and pleurisy. Respiratory System • Pleurisy root promotes sweating and is useful in fevers and flu. • Its expectorant action helps relieve coughs and clear catarrh. • Its antispasmodic properties are helpful in asthma and emphysema. • It relieves pain, infection and inflammation in bronchitis, laryngitis, croup, pneumonia, hoarseness, and chest infections including pneumonia. • It helps to reabsorb pleural effusion from the pleura, specific for pleurisy, pleuritic pain and dry painful coughs.

Circulation • Pleurisy root was traditionally used for pericarditis and to slow down a rapid pulse. • It relaxes the arteries, brings blood to the surface and promotes sweating. Skin • It is helpful for bringing out the rash in eruptive diseases, including measles and chicken pox. Nervous System • Pleurisy root is good for calming the nerves and relaxing tense muscles. Digestion • It has antispasmodic and soothing properties, and helps relieve flatulence, colic and irritation of the gut lining causing indigestion and diarrhoea. Cautions Asclepiadin, found mostly in the fresh herb, can be toxic in large doses. Only use the roots. High doses can cause intestinal cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Avoid in pregnancy.

122 122


ASPARAGUS RACEMOSUS: SHATAVARI/ WILD ASPARAGUS Family Liliaceae Parts Used Leaves, root Constituents Saponins, steroidal glycosides and aglycones, flavonoids including quercetin, rutin and hyperoside, alkaloids, mucilage. Actions Female tonic, rejuvenative, galactogogue, adaptogenic, antispasmodic, nervine, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, refrigerant, diuretic, aphrodisiac, tonic, expectorant, antibacterial, alterative, anti-tumor, antiacid. An excellent nourishing tonic, shatavari translates “she who possesses a hundred husbands” as it is the most important rejuvenative tonic for women in Ayurvedic medicine. Shatavari is soothing, cooling, moistening, restoring balance when body and mind are overheated and depleted. Digestion • Shatavari is cooling and demulcent, helpful for dry inflamed mucous membranes, dyspepsia, gastritis, peptic ulcers, inflammatory bowel problems including Crohn’s disease and IBS. • It relieves hyperacidity, diarrhoea and dysentery. Respiratory System • It helps to soothe sore throats, harsh dry coughs and irritated and inflamed conditions. Immunity • Adaptogen. Enhances immunity, growth and development in babies and children. • Stimulates macrophage function, enhancing ability to fight infections, good antifungal. • Enhances production of immune-regulating messenger molecules, protects blood-producing cells in the bone marrow, aiding recoverery after exposure to toxic chemicals.

• Antibacterial activity including E. Coli, Shigella spp, Salmonella spp., and Pseudomonas, and antiviral against Herpes. • Aids convalescence and chronic fevers. • Antiinflammatory for gout and arthritis.

Mento-emotional • Shatavari is valued in India for promoting memory and mental clarity. • It is good for treating ADHD in children when combined with brain tonics such as gotu kola. • As an adaptogen, it has a calming effect, reducing anxiety and stress, and increases energy and strength. Reproductive System • Shatavari is nourishing, it enhances fertility and is helpful for low libido and low sperm count. • It regulates hormonal imbalances, which can be useful during the menopause. • It can increase milk production. Urinary System • Shatavari is soothing and cooling, making it helpful in cystitis. • It helps break down stones and gravel. • It reduces fluid retention. Externally • It is a good remedy for painful, swollen joints and muscle tension. It is an ingredient of mahanaryan oil which is used to relieve joint and muscle pain. • Shatavari also reduces development of scar tissue after surgery.



ASTRAGALUS MEMBRANACEOUS: ASTRAGALUS/HUANG QI Family Fabaceae Parts Used Rhizomes Constituents Triterpenoid saponins (astragalosides), flavonoids, polysaccharides, asparagin, linoleic acid, linolenic acid. Actions Immune enhancing, tonic, adaptogen, adrenal tonic, digestive, vasodilator, cardiotonic, hypotensive, diuretic, antiviral, antibacterial. Native to Mongolia and China, astragalus is a popular Chinese tonic and adaptogenic herb, used to increase vitality and strengthen immunity and enhance endurance. It promotes weight gain when weak and underweight and is helpful in debility, fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome. Immunity • Astragalus enhances immunity. It is antiviral and antibacterial, it increases production of antibodies and interferon, increasing white blood cell formation, helps in producing natural killer cells, is useful in the treatment of cancer, chronic hepatitis, HIV and autoimmune disease. • It acts as a prophylactic against colds and upper respiratory infections. • It may speed recovery and enhance the outcome of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy. • It has been shown to increase survival rates in acute Coxsackie B-3 viral myocarditis infections. • It helps protect the liver against damage from toxins including drugs, chemicals and alcohol.

Circulation • Astragalus is an antioxidant and a diuretic, and can protect the arteries against free radical damage and lower blood pressure. • It improves heart function and is beneficial in ischemic heart disease and heart conditions, such as angina. • It has a vasodilatory action, relaxing the arteries and promoting blood flow through partially clogged arteries. Digestion • Astragalus is nourishing and strengthening, it improves digestion and absorption. • It is a good remedy for stomach ulcers, lingering diarrhoea and rectal prolapse. • It helps regulate blood sugar. Urinary System • It is traditionally used to strengthen kidney energy and is good for chronic kidney problems and night sweats. • It is a diuretic and can reduce fluid retention. Cautions Avoid in acute infections and use cautiously with immunosuppressive drugs.

124 124


AVENA SATIVA: WILD OATS Family Poaceae Parts Used Whole plant and seed Constituents Triterpenoid saponins, polyphenols, monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, alkaloids, amino acids, sterol, apigenin, polyphenols, oligosaccharides, flavonoids, beta glucans, protein, fats, minerals, tocotrienols, and vitamins B and E. Actions Sedative, nervine, antidepressant, antispasmodic, demulcent, diuretic, laxative, nutritive, rejuvenative, immuno-stimulant, hormone balancing, galactogogue, anticholesterol, hypoglycaemic, emollient, vulnerary. Native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, oats are an annual grass that is highly nutritious, full of protein, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, silica, iron and vitamins. They are strengthening to bones and teeth and vital to a healthy nervous system. They are excellent as an energy-giving food and body builder. Nervous System • Relaxing and strengthening at the same time, wild oats are a good tonic to the nervous system, supporting the body during times of stress, relieving depression, anxiety, tension and nervous exhaustion. • They are worth taking when withdrawing from tranquilisers and antidepressants. Oat green tea is used for drug, alcohol and nicotine addiction. It may decrease the hypertensive effects of nicotine. Circulation • They can lower blood cholesterol and help combat cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. • The beta glucans in the oat bran fibre binds to cholesterol and bile components, inhibits their absorption into the bloodstream and allowing them to be excreted via the bowels.

• The antioxidant tocotrienols inhibit cholesterol

synthesis and help lower cholesterol and prevent it from sticking to artery walls.

Digestion • High in fibre, they are good for constipation and can help prevent bowel cancer by removing toxins from the bowel. • Their soothing action calms irritated conditions including gastritis, IBS and diverticulitis. • The beta glucans are associated with levels of peptide Y-Y, a hormone related to appetite control. Wild oats could be helpful in a weight loss programme. • Beta glucans improve insulin sensitivity and slow absorption of carbohydrates and can be useful for diabetics. Reproductive System • Wild oats regulate hormones in the body, notably oestrogen, lowering the risk of problems associated with excess oestrogen including breast cancer, fibroids and ovarian cysts. Externally • Oatmeal makes a good facial scrub and soothing remedy for irritated and inflamed skin conditions. Cautions Wild oats may decrease the effects of morphine.



AZADIRACHTA INDICA: NEEM Family Meliaceae Parts Used Flowers, seeds, leaves and bark Constituents Flavonoids, meliacins, triterpenoids, phytosterols (campesterol, stigmasterol, betasitosterol), omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, nimbidin tannins. Bark: arginine, glutamic acid, methionine, tryptophan, nimbinin, gallic acid, epicatechin, polysaccharides.

Circulation • Neem reduces serum cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and helps prevent arrhythmias. Respiratory System • It is a great decongestant, expectorant and antimicrobial. • It clears infection and phlegm in coughs, bronchitis and other chest infections.

Actions Febrifuge, antiseptic, vulnerary, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, insecticidal, alterative, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, tonic, hepatoprotective, hypoglycaemic, antimicrobial, antimalarial, antifertility, alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, astringent, bitter, emmenagogue.

Immunity • Neem is excellent for infections, both chronic and acute. Its leaves and bark are antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic, and can be used in decoction to reduce fevers including intermittent fevers. • It can be used for prevention and treatment of malaria. • Its cooling and anti-inflammatory action can relieve pain and swelling in inflammatory arthritis.

The evergreen neem tree provides one of the best known antiseptic and detoxifying herbs in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It is primarily used for combating infections and for symptoms characterised by heat and inflammation.

Reproductive System • It stimulates uterine muscle, and can be used for delayed and painful childbirth. • The oil can be used as a contraceptive as it may have an antiandrogenic action.

Digestion • Neem stimulates the appetite and promotes digestion. • Its antimicrobial actions help combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut. • The bitters increase bile flow from the liver and enhance liver function. • Neem’s hepato-protective activity protects liver from injury caused by toxins, drugs, chemotherapy and viruses. • It regulates blood sugar in diabetes. • It is recommended for obesity. • It is astringent, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, and helps relieve acidity, heartburn, gastritis, indigestion, peptic ulcers, nausea, vomiting and worms. Nervous System • Neem cools “heat” in the mind, and is used for anxiety and stress, irritability, anger, intolerance and depression. • It also helps to relieve pain.

126 126


Skin • It is helpful for inflammatory skin disorders including eczema, acne, leucoderma, boils, psoriasis, abscesses and haemorrhoids.

• It is widely used in non-toxic insecticides. It enhances

Externally • The seed oil is used for boils and contagious infections such as chicken pox, scabies, ringworm, head lice and athlete’s foot and for inflammatory skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.

Cautions Avoid in pregnancy, lactation and children. May reduce fertility and cause nausea, vomiting, and hypersensitivity reactions. Care should be taken in diabetic patients on insulin.

the healing of wounds and ulcers.

• It can be used in liniments for inflammatory joint pain and muscle aches.



BACOPA MONNIERI/HERPESTIS MONIERA: BRAHMI Family Scrophulariaceae Parts Used Dried whole plant, mainly leaves and stalk Constituents Steroidal saponins; alkaloids: brahmine and herpestine; flavonoids; amino acids; d-mannitol; beta-sitosterone. Actions Adaptogen, antidepressant, anxiolytic, nervine tonic, diuretic, sedative, cardiac tonic, rejuvenative, antispasmodic, carminative, bronchial dilator, anticonvulsant, immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal, antioxidant, antirheumatic, diuretic. Native to India and other tropical regions, brahmi derives its name from Brahman meaning “pure consciousness”, because of its ability to calm mental turbulence and aid meditation. Brahmi is used in India and China to enhance brain function, improve memory, concentration and learning ability and to calm anxiety. It is often confused with gotu kola (Hydrocotyle asiatica), which is also called brahmi in North India. Nervous System • It enhances the neurotransmitter/synapse function, increases serotonin production and brain cell activity. • Brahmi is helpful for ADD, ADHD, learning and behavioural problems, hyperactivity, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, mental illness, restlessness, insomnia and anxiety. • It increases resilience to stress, combats nervous exhaustion and relieves depression. • Hersaponin, one of four saponins, has sedative and cardiotonic properties. Respiratory System • Brahmi is excellent for coughs and colds, bronchitis, asthma and hoarseness. • The poultice of the boiled plant, when applied to the chest, can alleviate symptoms of bronchitis and chronic cough.

Urinary System • Brahmi is a cooling diuretic, useful for cystitis and irritable bladder. • It is a nourishing kidney tonic. Digestion • Brahmi cools an over active digestion, excess acidity and can suppress the appetite. It is best combined with warming digestive herbs such as ginger and cardamom. • It can be used as an astringent for stress-related diarrhoea and IBS. • It helps chelate heavy metals from the body. Externally • In the form of oil or leaf juice, brahmi can alleviate joint pain. • When applied to the head it will clear the mind and relieve headaches. Cautions Large doses may cause a rise in blood pressure.

128 128


BAPTISIA TINCTORIA: WILD INDIGO Family Fabaceae Parts Used Root, leaf Constituents Coumarins, flavonoids, glycoproteins, polysaccharides, isoflavones, alkaloids (cytosine, baptitoxin), glycosides (bapin), oleoresin. Actions Lymphatic, antipyretic, immune enhancing, alterative, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, emmenagogue, laxative, stimulant. A perennial North American plant with bright yellow flowers, wild indigo was popular among American physicians in the early 1900s as an “epidemic remedy” to combat acute infections. Immunity • Wild indigo is a potent antimicrobial for acute and chronic infections. The polysaccharides stimulate phagocytosis, enhancing immunity. • It can be effective when used at the onset of colds, flu, fevers, infections of the respiratory and digestive system, Herpes, glandular fever, tonsillitis and laryngitis. • It is a good remedy for chronic fatigue syndrome. • Wild indigo is indicated in immunisation reactions. • It may have antimalarial and anticancer activity. Skin • Wild indigo is cleansing and antimicrobial, helpful in infected skin problems including boils, abscesses, Staphylococcal infections, warts and impetigo. Respiratory System • As an antibacterial and antiviral, wild indigo helps ward off and treat infections of the ear, nose, throat and chest. • It is useful in chronic bronchitis.

Digestion • As a laxative, wild indigo helps to clears toxin and infection from the bowel. • It helps combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut. • It can be used to alleviate acute infections, such as gastro-enteritis and bacterial dysentery. • Traditionally, it is used for typhoid. Urinary System • Wild indigo can be used as an antimicrobial for chronic cystitis. Externally • As a poultice, wild indigo can be used for spots, boils, acne, eczema, Staphylococcal infections, warts, cuts and wounds. • As a mouthwash or gargle, it can be used for inflammation or infection of the gums, mouth ulcers and sore throats. • As a douche, it is helpful for cervicitis, vaginal discharge, thrush and vaginitis. Cautions Large doses are emetic/purgative. Avoid during pregnancy and long term use.



BERBERIS/MAHONIA AQUIFOLIU: OREGON GRAPE Family Berberidaceae Parts Used Dried root and rhizome Constituents Alkaloids (berberine, berbamine, oxyacanthine, herbamine) tannin, resin, fats. Actions Alterative, bitter tonic, cholagogue, digestive, laxative, astringent, antiseptic, antitumour, diuretic, thyroid stimulant, antioxidant, antiproliferative, antipyretic. Oregon grape is an evergreen shrub native to western North America and is popular among gardeners, with yellow flowers and purple berries. It was used by Native American tribes as a detoxifying herb for infections and skin problems. Digestion • Oregon grape is good for the liver and gall-bladder and can be used for hepatitis and gallstones. • Its bitters stimulate the flow of saliva, digestive enzymes and bile. It enhances appetite, digestion and absorption, removes stagnant food from the gut, clears toxins and relieves constipation. • Oregon grape helps combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut and helps to clear acute infections, diarrhoea, dysentery, Shigella, Staphylococcus and Salmomella. • It can be used for headaches and malaise associated with toxicity. • By aiding digestion and absorption, and clearing toxins, it increases immunity, strength and stamina. Skin • Oregon grape helps clears toxin, heat and inflammation, and can be used to treat acne, boils, Herpes, eczema and, with its antiproliferative action, psoriasis. Musculo-skeletal System • It acts as an anti-inflammatory and depurative, helpful for gout and arthritis. Urinary System • Its diuretic properties aid cleansing by enhancing the elimination of toxins.

Immunity • Oregon grape is an effective antimicrobial, especially for the gut and skin. • Berberine enhances immunity against a wide range of microbes and inhibits tumour development. Circulation • Oregon grape reduces venous congestion, and can be used to treat varicose veins and haemorrhoids. • It dilates the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. • It is helpful for treating anaemia as it releases stored iron from the liver. • For anaemia, releases stored iron from the liver. Reproductive System • Oregon grape reduces uterine blood congestion which causes heavy periods and period pain. Nervous System • It is a cooling remedy for hot, fiery people who can be perfectionistic, critical, self-critical, and dissatisfied. Externally • As a compress or poultice, it is excellent for boils, irritation and inflammation of the skin. • It can be used as a gargle for sore throats. Cautions Avoid in hyperthyroidism and during pregnancy. Its fresh roots/rhizomes are purgative. It may cause flatulence.

130 130



• Its bitters stimulate bile flow from the liver and help

Parts Used Root, stem/bark

• It is indicated in viral liver infections and gall-blad-

Constituents Isoquinoline alkaloids: berberine (up to 6%), palmatine, oxyacanthine, magnoflorine, jatrorrhizine, columbamine, tannins, resin.

Musculo-skeletal System • Barberry makes a good anti-inflammatory and detoxifying remedy for arthritis and gout.

Actions Antimicrobial, cholagogue, choleretic, antimetic, bitter tonic, antiparasitic. A shrub native to temperate climates, found growing wild in Europe and North America, barberry is one of the best cleansing herbs. It was traditionally used by Native Americans and in European folk medicine for infections, liver and stomach ailments and as a general tonic during convalescence. Immunity • As an antioxidant, barberry reduces free radicals and helps protect against cancer. • It is a potent antimicrobial, active against bacteria, fungi, viruses, worms and Chlamydia. • Berberine is active against Staph. epidermidis, E. coli and Neiseria meningitides. • It is indicated in acute bowel infections, diarrhoea, dysentery and cholera. • Barberry decreases inflammation and has an antihistamine action, which is useful in infected skin conditions such as boils and abscesses and allergies including hay fever, atopic eczema, asthma and migraine. Circulation • Barberry regulates the heart and decreases ventricular arrhythmias and palpitations. • It increases platelets in thrombocytopenia. Digestion • Barberry maintains normal gut flora and combats infection in the gut including E. coli, amoebic dysentery, Giardia, Blastocystis hominis, Dientamoeba fragilis. • It inhibits endotoxins and helps maintain normal gut flora.

detoxify the body. der problems.

Externally • Barberry can be used as as cream for psoriasis and other inflammatory skin disorders. • In a saline solution it can be used as eye drops for infected and inflammatory eye problems. Cautions As barberry is a uterine stimulant, avoid during pregnancy and lactation.



BOSWELLIA SERRATA: FRANKINCENSE Family Burseraceae Parts Used The gum resin from bark Constituents Triterpenes (boswellic acid A and B), sugars (arabinose, arabic acid), essential oils (bassorin, pinene, dipentene), pentacyclic triterpene acids (boswellic acids), uronic acids and sterols. Actions Anti-inflammatory, COX-2 inhibitor, alterastive, antispasmodic, analgesic, anti-arthritic, anti-tumour, aphrodisiac, decongestant, expectorant, bronchodilator, hypo-cholesterolaemic, emmenagogue, antioxidant, rejuvenative, vulnerary. Native to North Africa and the Middle East, frankincense is a small decidous tree found growing in hot, dry places. The scored bark secretes a white juice that hardens into a brown resin, which is collected for making medicines, essential oils and incense. Reproductive System • Frankincense alleviates uterine congestion, and is used to treat fibroids, cysts and painful periods with clots. • It is used for impotence and debility; it brings blood to the penis and improves erectile function. Circulation • Frankincense improves blood flow to the joints and prevents the further breakdown of tissues. • It reduces the LDL count in the blood and clears toxins from the blood. • Traditionally frankincense is used for relieving pain, arthritis, and for psoriasis. • A COX-2 inhibitor, it reduces inflammation and inhibits the formation of tumours. Muscular and Skeletal System • Frankincense speeds the healing of broken bones and is useful post surgery. • It inhibits the breakdown of connective tissue, increases blood supply to the joints and strengthens

blood vessels.

• It is a good alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflam-

matory drugs (NSAIDs). It is used for inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, multiple sclerosis and repetitive strain injuries. The boswellic acid reduces pain and inflammation.

Digestion • Frankincense is used for inflammatory problems such as Colitis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Respiratory System • With its decongestant, expectorant and bronchodilatory actions, it can be used to clear catarrh and relieve coughs, bronchitis and asthma. Nervous System • Frankincense opens the mind; its essential oil is said to have a specific effect on the spiritual centre connected with the pituitary and hypothalamus gland. Externally • Frankincense can be used as an ointment for boils, wounds and sores, and inflammatory skin problems including psoriasis and urticaria. • It speeds the healing of cuts, burns, wounds and bruises, haemorrhoids and bedsores. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy. It may cause mild gastric upset.

132 132


CALENDULA OFFICINALIS: MARIGOLD Family Compositae Part Used Flowers Constituents Flavonoids, including rutin and isoquercetin, volatile oil, terpenoids including lupeol, taraxerol, taraxasterol, saponins, polysaccharides, bitters, resin, mucilage, beta carotene. Actions Alterative, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, bitter tonic, digestive, antiulcer, antitumour, antioxidant, astringent, anti-viral, detoxifying, antispasmodic, oestrogenic, diuretic. Native to Europe and Asia, this popular garden annual with its cheerful orange flowers has been valued as a medicine since Roman times for digestive problems, infections and even the plague. Today it has pride of place as a first aid remedy. Immunity • Marigold is antiseptic and astringent. The trierpenoids have an anti-inflammatory effect. • Its antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects may account for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Digestion • Marigold reduces inflammation and is helpful in gastritis and peptic ulcers. • It acts as as astringent for diarrhoea and bleeding. • Its bitters stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes and liver and gall-bladder function, improving digestion and absorption and preventing gallstones. • It is used for viral hepatitis, toxicity or “liverishness” such as headaches, chronic skin problems, nausea, lethargy and irritability. • It is antimicrobial and anthelmintic for amoebic infections and worms, pelvic and bowel infections, dysentery and fungal infections such as Candida. Circulation • Marigold improves venous return and helps relieve varicose veins.

• It enhances the circulation and diaphoresis. By bring-

ing blood to the surface, it helps throw off toxins and bring out eruptions in measles and chickenpox.

Reproductive System • Marigold helps regulate menstruation and relieve menstrual cramps. • It is hormone balancing, relieves menopausal symptoms and reduces breast congestion with tenderness. • It can be used for mastitis. • It acts as an astringent for excessive menstrual bleeding and uterine congestion. • Marigold has a reputation for treating tumours and cysts, such as fibroids, ovarian cysts, cysts in the breast and the digestive tract. • It promotes contractions in childbirth and the delivery of the placenta. Urinary System • Marigold is a mild antibacterial diuretic, useful for urinary tract infections and fluid retention. Immunity • The polysaccharides have immuno-stimulant properties, antibacterial and antiviral activity, effective in flu and Herpes viruses. • Marigold reduces lymphatic congestion and can be used for swollen lymph glands and tonsillitis. • It has a reputation as an anticancer remedy. Musculo-skeletal System • Marigold is depurative and anti-inflammatory, making a good remedy for arthritis and gout. Externally • With its antimicrobial and astringent properties, marigold stops bleeding, prevents infection and speeds the healing of cuts and abrasions, sores, ulcers, varicose veins, bruises, sprains and strains. • It can be used as a mouthwash for inflamed gums, a douche for vaginal infections and an eyewash for inflammatory eye conditions. • Rubbing a crushed flower onto insect bites, wasp or bee stings can soothe them. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy.



134 134


CAPSICUM MINIMUM/FRUTESCENS: CAYENNE/CHILLI PEPPER Family Solanaceae Parts Used Fruits Constituents Alkaloid capsaicin, carotenoids, vitamins A and C, flavonoids, volatile oil, steroidal saponins, salicylates. Actions Circulatory stimulant, vasodilator, hypotensive, rubefacient, analgesic, diaphoretic, digestive, carminative, depurative, antioxidant, antibacterial, expectorant. Native to North and South America, this fiery plant is a favourite for adding bite to curries and sauces to excite the palate and enhance digestion. It is a great warming remedy for warding off all maladies of cold, coughs, colds and poor circulation. Digestion • Cayenne stimulates the appetite, promotes secretion of digestive juices and improves absorption. • It combats unfriendly microorganisms and parasites in the gut and helps resolve acute and chronic infections. • It relieves wind, nausea and indigestion and symptoms from “cold”, such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain and dysentery. • It clears toxins from the gut, removes stagnant food wastes and reinforces immunity. • Its irritant action causes the secretion of gastric fluids to protect the stomach lining. Circulation • Cayenne pepper is a powerful stimulant for the heart and circulation. By dilating the arteries, it improves blood flow. • It remedies chilblains and as an antioxidant, it protects the arteries from damage. • Its diaphoretic and bactericidal properties and vitamin C enhance the fight against infection and so it is good to take at the onset of infections and fevers. • It reduces the tendency to clots, and lowers harmful cholesterol by reducing the liver’s production of cholesterol and triglycerides.

• It reduces blood pressure through its beta-blocker-

like action on the heart and minimises stress-related palpitations and arrhythmias.

Nervous System • As a strengthening tonic, cayenne increases energy and is used for tiredness, lethargy, nervous debility and depression. • It is anaesthetic; its pungent taste stimulates the secretion of endorphins which block pain and enhance well being. It is used to relieve the pain of shingles, cluster headaches and migraine. • It enhances the circulation to the brain, improves memory and concentration and with its antioxidant and rejuvenating action, helps ward off senility. Reproductive System • Cayenne relieves spasm and pain from poor circulation and brings on suppressed periods. • It is rejuvenating for infertility, increases libido and delays the ageing process. Respiratory System • As a decongestant, cayenne increases the secretion of fluid in the bronchial tubes and acts as an expectorant. It thins and clears catarrh and prevent colds, coughs and chest infections. • It is useful in emphysema. • Cayenne prevents cellular damage in the lungs. It blocks irritation and constriction in the bronchii from cigarette smoke and other pollutants. Externally • As a topical analgesic, it decreases pain transmitters. Two drops of tincture can ease toothache. • As a rubefacient, cayenne stimulates the release of substance P and reduces pain. As a component of salves (e.g. Tiger balm) it is used for arthritic, postherpetic pain, trigeminal neuralgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and headaches. • It reduces inflammation in arthritis. Cautions Avoid if prone to over-heating, heartburn and acidity.



136 136


CARDUS/CNICUS BENEDICTUS: BLESSED/HOLY THISTLE Family Asteraceae Part Used Root, aerial parts and seeds Constituents Alkaloids, mucilage, tannins, bitter compound (cnicine) essential oil, flavonoids. Actions Galactagogue, diaphoretic, astringent, antimicrobial, digestive, nervine, carminative, decongestant, antispasmodic, stimulant, tonic, emmenagogue, expectorant. Native to the Mediterranean, this prickly annual with its yellow flowers has an ancient reputation as a digestive and liver remedy, with the power to fight off malaria, smallpox and even the plague. Digestion • Its bitters enhance appetite, digestion and absorption and stimulate liver function and the flow of bile. • The antimicrobial actions help curb unfriendly microorganisms in the gut and resolve dysbiosis. • It is used for anorexia, indigestion, wind, colic and conditions associated with a sluggish liver, such as skin problems, headaches, lethargy and irritability. • The tanis with their astringent action make it a good remedy for diarrhoea. Immunity • Blessed thistle makes an excellent tonic after illness, when tired and run down. • It enhances immunity, has antimicrobial action and anti-tumour activity. • When taken hot, it reduces fevers and catarrh and improves circulation.

Reproductive System • Blessed thistle increases milk production, reduces heavy periods, relieves menstrual headaches and period pain. • As an emmenagogue, blessed thistle brings on suppressed periods. • It is helpful during the menopause. Urinary System • As a diuretic, blessed thistle reduces fluid retention and is helpful in cystitis. Nervous System • Used as a nerve tonic, it improves memory, relieves nerve pain, and can be used for backache, headaches, migraines and dizziness. Circulation • Blessed thistle enhances the circulation, and is helpful for varicose veins. Respiratory System • A hot infusion makes a good diaphoretic for reducing fevers and an expectorant for chest problems. Externally • The astringent action staunches bleeding of cuts and speed healing of wounds. • It can be used as an antiseptic for cuts, wounds and skin infections. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy.



CARDUS/SILYBUM MARIANUS: MILK THISTLE Family Asteraceae Parts Used Seeds Constituents Flavonoids (silymarin), tyramine, histamine, gammalinoleic acid (GLA), essential oil, mucilage, bitters. Actions Anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antioxidant, appetite stimulant, astringent, bitter tonic, cholagogue, demulcent, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emetic, emmanagogue, galactagogue, hepatoprotective, stomachic, tonic. Native to the Mediterranean and naturalised in North America, Europe and Asia, milk thistle gets its name from the milky-white patterning on the toothed leaves which looks like spilt milk on them. It has been used for centuries to treat liver and gall bladder problems. Liver and Digestion • Silymarin acts as an antioxidant and decreases free radical damage in the liver. • Milk thistle is hepato-protective, and increases the resilience of healthy liver cells by preventing toxins entering the liver, stimulating the repair of cells damaged by infection, alcohol, chemical exposure and drugs, such as chemotherapy. • It is used for acute and chronic liver disease, it is indicated in acute and chronic viral hepatitis, bile duct inflammation and cirrhosis. • It prevents fatal poisoning from liver damage from mushrooms such as deathcap, if administered intravenously within 48 hours. • It is traditionally used for gall stones and improving appetite and digestion in patients with liver disease. • It reduces cholesterol. • As it is detoxifying, milk thistle is useful in skin problems, such as psoriasis. • It can be used as a laxative, for constipation and haemorrhoids. Urinary System • The silibinin and silicristin have a protective action in the kidneys, reducing the damage caused by toxins and drugs.

Immunity • Milk thistle has an anti-inflammatory action. • It enhances immunity by enhancing the function of neutrophils, T lymphocytes and leucocytes. • It may have anticancer actions, inhibiting the growth of breast, cervical and prostate cancer cells. • Milk thistle helps immunity by maintaining a healthy gut flora and combating unfriendly microorganisms. • It is used in dysbiosis and Candidiasis. Reproductive System • The leaves are traditionally used to enhance the flow of breast milk in lactating women. Cautions Milk thistle may have a laxative effect.

138 138


CASSIA SENNA/SENNA ALEXANDRINA: SENNA PODS Family Fabaceae Parts Used Leaf, seed pods Constituents Calcium, sulphur, flavonoids, mannitol, anthraquinone glycosides (sennaosides, aloe-emodin), beta-sitosterol, chrysophanic acid, chrysophanol, tartaric acid, essential oil, mucilage, tannins, resin. Actions Cathartic, cholagogue, diuretic, febrifuge, laxative, purgative, stimulant, vermifuge. Senna is a perennial herb with spikes of yellow flowers native to North Africa, parts of the Middle East and South India. It has been popular in the Arab world since at least the 9th century. Senna is now famous throughout the world as a powerful laxative. Digestion • The laxative anthraquinones stimulate irritation and subsequent contraction of the bowel muscle, enhancing evacuation form the bowels in constipation. • It increases the flow of water and electrolytes into the large intestine and prevents fluid absorption, loosening and easing the passage of the stool. • Senna is best combined with aromatic herbs, such as ginger, mint and fennel which relax the intestinal muscles, to prevent griping and improve the bitter taste. • It is used for acute constipation, flatulence, haemorrhoids, and to soften the stool in haemorrhoids and anal fissures. • Senna is antimicrobial for dysbiosis and bowel infections. • It clears heat from the liver and the bowels, and may be useful in fevers, arthritis and gout. • Its anthelmintic action helps counteract worms and parasites.

Immunity • Senna contains emodin with antibacterial properties. By combating unfriendly microorganisms in the gut and clearing toxins, senna promotes immunity. Circulation • Senna is used in Chinese medicine to prevent and clear the build up of cholesterol in the arteries, to clear heat from the liver and benefit the eyes. • In Ayurvedic medicine it is used for anaemia. Skin • Senna clears heat and toxins from the System and is helpful for skin problems such as acne, fungal infections, spots and boils. Cautions For short term use only. Avoid in pregnancy, lactation, IBS and gastrointestinal inflammation. Avoid with cardiac glycosides as in digoxin.




• It is an excellent wound and scar healer, and is

Parts Used Aerial parts

• As it prevents bleeding, it is helpful in anaemia.

Constituents Essential oil, fatty oil, β-sitostenol, tannins, resin, alkaloid: hydrocotylin; bitter principle: vellarine; pectic acid, polyphenols, saponins (braminoside, brahmoside), flavonoids.

Immunity • Gotu kola can be used as an antibacterial against Pseudomonas and Streptococcus spp., and an antiviral against Herpes simplex. • It clears toxins and allays inflammation, so is good for arthritis and gout.

Actions Nerve tonic, cardio-tonic, immune stimulant, febrifuge, alterative, diuretic, anthelmintic, vulueray, rejuvenative, hair tonic, anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, analgesic. This is another plant named after Brahman (see Bacopa) because of its action on the brain. A creeping annual found in damp, marshy ground, native to Asia, Australia and South Pacific, gotu kola is said to enhance memory and concentration and to promote wisdom and intelligence. Digestion • Gotu kola aids indigestion, acidity and ulcers as it cools heat and reduces inflammation. • Its antibacterial action could contribute to its antiulcer properties and helps combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut. • It is traditionally used with cumin in the early stages of dysentery in children. Mento-emotional • Gotu kola is one of the best tonics for the brain. It protects against the ageing process and Alzheimer’s. It improves memory and concentration and is excellent for children with learning difficulties, such as ADHD and mental problems, autism and Asperger’s. • It is used for depletion caused by stress and anxiety, insomnia and depression, and to calm mental turbulence. • It is as an anticonvulsant for epilepsy. Circulation • Gotu kola benefits microcirculation and capillary permeability, relieves oedema, venous insufficiency and varicose veins. • Gotu kola stimulates the synthesis of collagen and the production of fibroblasts and protects the skin against radiation.

recommended post surgery.

Skin • Gotu kola’s cooling and inflammatory action helps clear boils, acne, Herpes, ulcers and chronic eczema. • It acts as a keratinocyte and anti-proliferant which is useful for psoriasis. • It increases the synthesis of collagen and fibronectin and so speeds wound healing. Externally • The juice of the fresh leaves mixed with turmeric and applied to wounds, speeds healing. • When prepared in coconut oil, it is applied to the head to calm the mind, promote sleep, relieve headaches and prevent hair loss. • It is applied to the skin in eczema and Herpes. Cautions Can potentiate the action of anxiolytics.

140 140


CHRYSANTHEMUM PARTHENIUM/TANACETUM PYRETHRUM: FEVERFEW Family Compositae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Sesquiterpene lactones, volatile oils, tannins, bitter resin, flavonoids, pyrethrin, polyacetylene. Actions Diaphoretic, relaxant, uterine stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, digestive bitter, carminative, nerve tonic, analgesic, antidepressant, depurative, purgative, emmenagogue, anthemintic, decongestant. Feverfew is an attractive perennial with aromatic leaves and daisy flowers loved by bees. It is so named because of its ability to bring down fevers. It was valued in the past for relieving ague, the old name for malaria, as well as colds and catarrh. It is famous as a remedy for preventing headaches and migraine; the leaves can be eaten daily with food (taken alone they can cause mouth ulcers). Digestion • A bitter liver tonic, it enhances appetite and digestion, allays nausea and vomiting. It clears heat and toxins. • As a bitter tonic, it reduces symptoms associated with sluggish liver, including lethargy, irritability and headaches. Nervous System • A good nerve tonic, it relaxes tension, lifts depression and promotes sleep. • It relieves nerve pain in shingles, trigeminal neuralgia and sciatica. • It is useful for oversensitivity to pain, irritability and anger. • It is a traditional remedy for convulsions and fretful children. Respiratory System • A hot infusion of feverfew increases perspiration and reduces fevers. • It is decongestant and clears catarrh and sinusitis.

• It can be used for asthma, migraine and other allergies such as hay fever, due to its sesquiterpene lactones which inhibit the release of prostaglandins and histamine. • It is indicated in dizziness and tinnitus.

Musculo-skeletal System • It clears toxins and heat and is a useful anti-inflammatory for arthritis. Externally • Use the fresh plant on insect stings and bites to relieve pain and swelling. Dilute the tincture as a lotion to repel insects, and for spots and boils. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy. Fresh leaves may cause mouth ulcers.



CIMICIFUGA/ACTAEA RACEMOSA: BLACK COHOSH Family Ranunculaceae Parts Used Dried roots and rhizomes Constituents Triterpene glycosides (actein, 27-deoxyactein, cimicifugoside), flavonoids, isoferulic acid, tannin, volatile oil, resin, salicylates, ranunculin, (which yields anemonin). Actions Antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anodyne, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive, sedative, uterine tonic, partus praeparator, parturient, diaphoretic, hormone balancing. An attractive perennial with a spike of white flowers native to North America, black cohosh was renowned among Native Americans for easing menstrual problems and aiding childbirth. Nervous System • The anemonin depresses the central nervous system and is an excellent pain reliever for nerve and muscle pain, neuralgia, rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis and headaches. • As an antispasmodic, black cohosh eases cramps and muscle tension, ovarian and uterine pain, contractions during childbirth and breast pain. • It is traditionally used for epilepsy. • Black cohosh is a sedative for insomnia and a good remedy for tinnitus and vertigo. Musculo-skeletal System • The salicylates are analgesic and anti-inflammatory and so helpful in pain relief and arthritis. Respiratory System • Black cohosh acts as an antispasmodic in bronchial muscles, useful in asthma, whooping cough, paroxysmal coughing and bronchitis.

Circulation • Black cohosh strengthens a slow and irregular pulse and normalises heart function. • It relaxes and dilates the muscles in the blood vessel walls and helps lower blood pressure. Reproductive System • Black cohosh may normalise the levels of luteinizing hormone and act on opiate receptors which play a role in mood, body temperature regulation and sex hormone levels. • It regulates the menstrual cycle, and is used to relieve PMS, breast pain and swelling, menstrual cramps. • It is taken several weeks before childbirth to prepare for safe and easy delivery. It has an amphoteric action on the uterine muscles, relaxing when tense, toning when weak and over relaxed. • It helps ease painful contractions in childbirth. • It reduces heavy bleeding and strengthens the uterine muscles. • It is popular recently for easing menopausal symptoms including anxiety, depression, hot flushes, night sweats, headaches, palpitations, dizziness, vaginal atrophy and low libido. Cautions Avoid with anticoagulant drugs and in pregnancy till last few weeks. May interfere with oral contraceptives. NB: Endangered species. Only obtain from sustainable sources.

142 142


CINNAMOMUM ZEYLANICUM/CASSIA: CINNAMON Family Lauraceae Part Used Inner bark Constituents Volatile oils (eugenol, cinnamaldehyde, safrole), diterpenes (cinnzeylanin, cinnzeylanol), tannins, mucilage, gums, resin, coumarins, magnesium. Actions Antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, tonic, immuno-stimulant, nervine, adaptogen, antidepressant, aphrodisiac, circulatory stimulant, antispasmodic, astringent, digestive, carminative, diaphoretic, kidney and uterine tonic, hypocholesterolaemic, anaesthetic. This sweet and aromatic spice so popular in cooking, is a wonderful warming remedy for warding off winter infections and improving digestion. Cinnamomum Cassia is native to South China while Cinnamomum zeylanicum is native to Sri Lanka. Nervous System • Cinnamon is strengthening and improves resistance to stress. It lifts fatigue and low spirits, and is good for debility, SAD and winter lethargy. • It is excellent for chronic fatigue or ME. • It is a relaxant, reducing tension and anxiety. • Cinnamon improves mental energy, concentration and motivation. Its adaptogenic properties help protect the nervous system against damage from free radicals and to slow mental decline in later years. Urinary System • With its antimicrobial actions, it can be used as an antiseptic for bladder problems. Digestion • Warming, invigorating and relaxing, cinnamon enhances digestion and absorption, and is useful for treating indigestion, anorexia, colic, nausea, distension and wind. • It protects the gut lining against irritation and infection, and prevents inflammation and ulcers. It is good for gastro-enteritis and dysentery, and combats Candida and other gut pathogens. • Its drying properties help curb diarrhoea and bleeding, and reduce the mucus forming properties of milk. • Cinnamon enhances the effectiveness of insulin and helps prevent the decline in glucose tolerance that

can predispose to diabetes. A teaspoon daily may be sufficient. Respiratory System • The astringent tannins in cinnamon have a drying effect on mucosa. Cinnamon clears catarrh and is a good expectorant for coughs and chest infections. • Inhalations of cinnamon can be used as a decongestant for colds, sore throats, coughs, sinusitis, and catarrh. They were traditionally used for TB. Circulation • Cinnamon lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. • It is a warming, circulatory stimulant particularly good for keeping warm in the winter. Reproductive System • Rich in magnesium, cinnamon helps maintain hormone balance and is good for PMS. • As a uterine astringent, it curbs heavy bleeding. It has aphrodisiac properties, helpful or low libido and impotence. • Cinnamon can alleviate irregular or painful periods and can be used to treat infections such as thrush. Immunity • Its essential oil is powerfully antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. It inhibits the growth of unfriendly microorganisms in the gut including of E. Coli and Typhoid bacilli. Cinnamon is an old remedy for cholera. • As it is antifungal it combats thrush and systemic Candidiasis. • It helps throw off fevers, colds and flu and other infection. Musculo-skeletal System • Cinnamon is a rich source of magnesium, essential for maintaining bone density. • Eugenol is anaesthetic and helps relieves pain in arthritis, toothache, headaches, muscle stiffness and pain. Externally • In a massage oil, it is warming and relaxing to tense, aching muscles and painful joints. • It may be used as an antiseptic wash for cuts, wounds, bites, stings and infective skin complaints. Cautions Avoid large doses in pregnancy.



144 144


CODONOPSIS PILOSULA: CODONOPSIS/DANG-SHEN Family Campanulaceae Part Used Root Constituents Sterols, triterpenes, essential oil, alkaloids, polysaccharides (inulin), phenylpropanoid glycosides (tangshenosides), calcium, iron, zinc, proteins. Actions Blood tonic, adaptogen, aphrodisiac, cardiotonic, demulcent, depurative, digestive, emmenagogue, expectorant, styptic, immune tonic, galactogogue, hypotensive, kidney tonic, sialogogue, stimulant. A perennial climbing herb with beautiful intricate belllike flowers, codonopsis is native to Asia. It is famous as a tonic in Chinese medicine, with properties similar to ginseng. Circulation • Codonopsis dilates the peripheral blood vessels, and inhibits adrenal overactivity. It calms palpitations and lowers blood pressure. • As it reduces inflammatory and blood-clotting processes, codonopsis decreases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It is useful in angina. • It increases red blood cell and haemoglobin count and can be used for anaemia. • According to Chinese medicine, it invigorates the spleen, promotes the production of body fluid, improves the condition of the blood and stops excessive sweating. Nervous System • Like ginseng, codonopsis’ adaptogenic properties increase energy and enhance resilience to stress. It is used for debility, chronic fatigue, “tired limbs” and convalescence. • It improves mental energy, memory and concentration.

Immunity • Codonopsis promotes digestion and metabolism, enhances immunity, increases white blood cell activity and aids recovery from trauma, childbirth, surgery and illness. • It is used for chronic immune deficiency, HIV and can help to counteract the immune-suppressing effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Digestion • As a “qi tonic,” Codonopsis improves digestion and assimilation, and is nourishing and strengthening. It promotes the appetite, improves metabolism and aids weight loss. It is used in anorexia, weak digestion and diarrhoea. • Codonopsis calms hyperacidity and dyspepsia. It protects against gastritis and ulcers, and may increase gastric motility. It reduces flatulence and nausea. • Codonopsis protects the liver and is useful in diabetes. Reproductive System • Codonopsis is used as an astringent for uterine bleeding and excessive menstruation. • It is strengthening to the uterine muscles and help to prevent prolapse. Musculo-skeletal System • Codonopsis is used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, as well as arthritis. Respiratory System • Codonopsis strengthens the lungs and is used for asthma, chronic coughs, shortness of breath, fevers and catarrh.



COLEUS FORSKOHLII/PLECTRANTHUS BARBATUS: FORSKOHLII Family Lamiaceae Parts Used Leaves, roots Constituents Labdane diterpenes (including forskolin) and essential oil. Actions Hypotensive, antiplatelet, bronchodilator, antispasmodic, cardiotonic, digestive stimulant, aromatic digestive, anti-obesity. A small perennial native to India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, Forskohlii is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a heart tonic and a remedy for the respiratory system and the eyes. Its active ingredient, forskolin, has been widely researched recently and has a wide array of benefits particularly in the heart and immune system and on fat metabolism. Circulation • It inhibits platelet activity, decreasing the risk of blood clotting. It increases the force of heart muscle, improving heart function. It is useful in angina and congestive heart failure. • It lowers blood pressure by dilating blood vessels. Immunity • Forskohlii has an immune-modulatory effect, activating macrophages and lymphocytes. • It is thought to be a potent platelet aggregation inhibitor and helps prevent melanoma-induced platelet aggregation and tumour colonization. It is useful in cancer management by inhibiting tumour metastases. • It is used for allergies such as asthma, eczema, hay fever and psoriasis which are associated with low cAMP and high platelet activating factor (PAF) levels. It reduces histamine release and inhibits an inflammatory response. • As an antihistamine and bronchodilator, it is excellent for asthma.

Musculo-skeletal System • It can be used as an antispasmodic for muscle tension and cramp, convulsions and bladder pain. Digestion • Its antispasmodic action helps to relieve colic and pain in the GI tract. • By enhancing the secretion of digestive enzymes, it promotes digestion. Endocrine System • Forskohlii stimulates the release of the thyroid hormone, relieving hypothyroid symptoms such as depression, fatigue, weight gain and dry skin. By increasing fat metabolism and insulin production, it helps improve energy. • It is popular for the management of obesity associated with low cAMP. Eyes • It may have some use when applied topically for glaucoma. It decreases intraocular pressure by reducing the flow of aqueous humour. Cautions Exercise caution with hypotension and peptic ulcers, and with hypotensive and antiplatelet drugs.

146 146


COMMIPHORA MOLMOL/MYRRHA: MYRRH Family Burseraceae Parts Used Air hardened gum and resin Constituents Volatile oils (limonene, dipentene, elemene, heerabolene, cinnamic aldehyde), triterpenoids, sesquiterpenes, resins (triterpenes, commiphoric acid, commiphorinic acid, commiferin), gums (arabinose, galactose). Actions Astringent, decongestant, digestive, carminative, alterative, detoxifying, immune-enhancing, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, circulatory stimulant, thyroid stimulant, hypocholesterolaemic, antiplatelet, diaphoretic, antineoplastic, anthelmintic, lymphatic, antispasmodic, expectorant, bronchodilator, emmenagogue, uterine tonic, rejuvenative, antioxidant, vulnerary. A desert tree native to North Africa, myrrh is famous as one of the gifts of the Magi and for making incense to enhance meditation and promote inner peace. When the bark is scored, it releases a yellow oil that hardens into a resin which is used medicinally. Circulation • Myrrh can be used for congestive heart disorders, raised cholesterol and atherosclerosis. • The oleo-resins “scrape” cholesterol out of the body. • It stimulates the lymphatic circulation, reduces lymphatic congestion, inflammation, lymphoedema and lymphatic swellings. Musculo-skeletal System • As an anti-inflammatory, it can be used for rheumatoid and degenerative arthritis. Reproductive System • By stimulating the circulation, myrrh moves stagnant blood. It is useful in amenorrhoea, endometriosis, fibroids, painful periods with clots, inflammation and congestion in the pelvis.

Respiratory System • With its expectorant action, myrrh helps clear bronchial congestion. It can be used in fevers, chronic bronchitis, colds and catarrh. Immunity • With its immune-enhancing properties, it increases white blood cells, and is antimicrobial against Escherichia coli, Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus. The sesquiterpenes are potent inhibitors of certain tumour cancers. Digestion • Myrrh protects the stomach lining from damage caused by drugs such as by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and alcohol. It can be used to heal peptic ulcers. • It combats worms and parasites. Endocrine System • Myrrh has antioxidant, thyroid-stimulating and prostaglandin-inducing properties. Externally • Myrrh can be used as an astringent and antibacterial mouthwash and gargle for gingivitis, sore throats, aphthous ulcers, pharyngitis, tonsillitis and halitosis. • It speeds repair in cuts, wounds, slow healing skin sores, brusies and broken bones, bed sores and pressure sores. Cautions Avoid in pregnancy, excessive uterine bleeding, kidney problems.



COMMIPHORA MUKUL: GUGGULU Family Burseaceae Parts Used Gum resin Constituents Lipid steroids with lignans and diterpenoids, sterols (guggulsterone, guggulsterol, B-sitostero), terpenes, essential oil, (incl. myrcene, eugenol), gum, calcium, iron, magnesium. Actions Anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet, anticholesterolaemic, alterative, analgesic, antioxidant, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, nervine, astringent, antiseptic, immune-regulator, rejuvenative, thyroid stimulant, emmenagogue. Guggulu is a small tree native to Asia and Africa. The yellow resin that exudes from the stems is an honoured Ayurvedic remedy for scraping toxins out of the body and lowering cholesterol. Endocrine System • Guggulu enhances thyroid function and helps to regulate fat metabolism. • It can be used for overweight and obesity, hyperlipidemia. • It can reduce blood sugar in diabetes. Circulation • Guggulu reduces harmful cholesterol. It increases the breakdown of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by the liver and reduces triglycerides. It increases highdensity lipoprotein cholesterol. • The steroid guggulsterone is involved in its ability to lower LDL and triglycerides. • It inhibits platelet aggregation, promotes fibrinolysis, prevents formation of clots and reduces atherosclerosis. • It increases blood flow and helps to prevent and resolve ischaemic heart disease, angina and congestive heart failure. • It may reduce the risk of stroke and pulmonary embolism. Musculo-skeletal System • With its anti-inflammatory and detoxifying actions, it is helpful for gout and arthritis. • It is healing to nerves and joints, and helps resolve deep-seated wounds. It can be used for back pain and sciatica. It was traditionally used for healing fractures.

Immunity • It increases white blood cell count, helps clear infections, resolve sore throats and promote immunity. • It is used in Ayurveda to break down growths, accumulations and cancers. • Its anti-inflammatory and immune-regulating properties makes it useful in inflammatory and auto-immune problems such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. • Guggulu’s anti-inflammatory action has been found to be comparable to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like phenylbutazone and ibuprofen. Respiratory System • Guggulu has antimicrobial and antispasmodic actions, helpful in bronchitis, whooping cough and asthma. Skin • It reduces inflammation in acute and chronic skin disease, and is useful for nodulocystic acne. • It helps regenerate tissue granulation, enhances healing; it clears tumours, and reduces lipomas. Reproductive System • Guggulu reduces accumulations in lower abdomen and can be used for endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and clots. • It regulates the menstrual cycle and brings on periods. Externally • The dilute tincture can be used as a gargle for tonsillitis and mouth ulcers. • It can be added to lotions and creams for eczema and acne. Cautions Guggulu can reduce the effect of anti-hypertensives such as propranolol and diltiazem. Caution with hypoglycaemic medications. Avoid in acute kidney infections, excessive uterine bleeding, over-active thyroid, pregnancy and breast feeding.

148 148


CORIANDRUM SATIVUM: CORIANDER Family Umbelliferae Parts Used Seeds, leaves Constituents Volatile oil (comprising coriandrol, geraniol, borneol, camphor, carvone, and anethole) mostly in the seeds; resin, malic acid, tannins, alkaloids. Actions Alterative, stimulant, carminative, diuretic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, nervine, decongestant, antispasmodic, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac, digestive, refridgerant, analgesic, diaphoretic. Coriander is a highly aromatic annual, native to the Mediterranean and Asia, bearing seeds that are one of the oldest recorded spices referred to in ancient Sanskrit texts and the Old Testament. Coriander is highly valued in Ayurvedic medicine as a digestive and for cooling heat in the body. Digestion • Coriander enhances the appetite, improves digestion and absorption and can be useful in anorexia nervosa. • With relaxant and anti-inflammatory actions, the seeds can be used to relieve spasm, griping, wind, bloating, nausea, gastritis, heartburn, indigestion, nervous dyspepsia, halitosis, diarrhoea and dysentery. • The seeds can be combined with laxatives to prevent griping, and chewed after eating to combat postprandial sleepiness. Respiratory System • With their antimicrobial and decongestant actions, the seeds can be taken in hot teas for colds, flu, fevers and coughs to aid fight against infection. • Taken in hot tea, they make an excellent decongestant for colds and catarrh, asthma and bronchial congestion. Circulation • In hot decoction, the seeds promote circulation and diaphoresis, and this can help bring out rash in eruptive infections such as chicken pox and measles. • Coriander seeds have been used traditionally to treat high cholesterol and diabetes. The seeds had

a significant hypolipidaemic action, lowering low density lipoprotein (LDL) while increasing high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Urinary System • Cool coriander seed tea relieves hot burning symptoms as in cystitis and urethritis. • They can reduce fluid retention through their diuretic action. Reproductive System • The hot seed tea makes a good antispasmodic to ease period pain and uterine contractions during childbirth. • The seeds have aphrodisiac properties and are energising for low libido. They can be helpful in amenorrhoea, PMS and hot flushes. Mento-emotional • Coriander seeds have an invigorating and strengthening effect. • With their nervine action, they help clear the mind, improve memory, lifts the spirits, relieve lethargy, reduce anxiety and tension and promote sleep. • Their analgesic effect helps to relieve aches and pains, including headaches, migraine and other stressrelated problems, muscle pain, arthritis and neuralgia. Immunity • The volatile oils in the seeds have antibacterial and antifungal actions. • The fresh leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, niacin, thiamin, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron. The antioxidant vitamins help prevent damage caused by free radicals. • The leaves can be used to relieve allergies such as inflammatory skin rashes and hay fever. • A decoction of the seeds promotes sweating and helps to break a fever. It can bring out the rash in eruptive infections such as chicken pox and measles. Externally • The leaf juice or the leaf tea taken internally and used externally, can be used to soothe hot itchy skin rashes as in eczema and urticaria. • A seed decoction can be used as a gargle for sore throats and oral thrush, and as an eye lotion for conjunctivitis.



150 150


CRATAEGUS MONOGYNA: HAWTHORN Family Rosaceae Parts Used Flowers, leaves, berries Constituents Saponins, glycosides, flavonoids (rutin, vitexin, quercitrin), procyanidins, glycosides, saponins, triterpenoids, tannins, pectin, vitamins C, B1, B2, choline, acetylcholine, calcium. Actions Antioxidant, hypotensive, vasodilator, circulatory stimulant, cardiotonic, nutritive, rejuvenative, adaptogen, nervine, sedative, antibacterial, antispasmodic, astringent, digestive, antilithic. A deciduous tree with clusters of white/pink flowers in late spring, hawthorn is native to temperate climates. The tree provides amazing medicines for the heart and circulation, while in Chinese medicine it is known mainly as a digestive. Circulation • Hawthorn is the best remedy for the heart and circulation, improving blood flow through the heart and arteries, and regulating blood pressure. • It lowers harmful cholesterol, reducing the build-up of deposits causing atherosclerosis. • It strengthens the heart muscle, regulates heart rhythm, and is prescribed in coronary insufficiency, palpitations, arrhythmias, angina and degenerative heart disease. • It has a protective effect on heart muscle, reduces inflammation in blood vessels, and helps prevent clots and heart attacks. • It makes a good peripheral vasodilator for poor circulation, Raynaud’s and Burgher’s disease, intermittent claudication and varicose veins. • It can be used for anaemia and can be helpful in altitude sickness. Musculo-skeletal System • Hawthorn benefits the joint linings, synovial fluid, collagen, ligaments, vertebral discs. • It makes a good antioxidant for inflammatory

connective tissue disorders and is useful in arthritis, gout and tendonitis. Mento-emotional • Its relaxant effect is helpful in relieving anxiety and stress; it helps to promote sleep. • Hawthorn is recommended in attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). • It has been used traditionally to ease emotional heartache. Urinary System • Its diuretic action helps reduce fluid retention. • It also dissolves stones and gravel. Digestion • Hawthorn is used in the East more as a digestive tonic. It can be helpful in diarrhoea, dysentery and dyspepsia. • It is nutritive, it regulates metabolism and can be helpful in obesity. Reproductive System • Hawthorn can be used to regulate blood flow and for ammenorrhoea. • It promotes libido and fertility, and is recommended in threatened miscarriage. • During menopause it can be helpful for night sweats and hot flushes. Eyes • Its antioxidant and circulatory actions can be used to prevent degenerative eye problems, including macular degeneration. Externally • The tea or dilute tincture can be used as a gargle for sore throats. Cautions Hawthorn may potentiate the effects of heart drugs including digoxin and beta blockers. It is advised to monitor blood pressure when hawthorn is combined with hypotensive drugs.



152 152


CURCUMA LONGA: TURMERIC Family Zingiberaceae Parts Used Rhizomes Constituents Curcuminoids, sesquiterpenes including tumerone, bisabolene, cucurmene, zingiberone, stigmasterol, sitosterol, anthraquinones and carotene. Actions Antioxidant, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, alterative, hypoglycaemic, digestive, carminative, demulcent, anti-cancer, cholagogue, hepato-protective, hypocholesterolaemic, antiplatelet, probiotic, emmenagogue, blood tonic, analgesic, vulnerary. Turmeric is a perennial, native to South Asia, with a long orange root that produces the famous yellow spice so popular in Indian cooking. Not only is turmeric a great aid to digestion particularly of protein and fats, but also an effective anti-inflammatory remedy. Digestion • Turmeric aids digestion, particularly of protein, and promotes absorption and metabolism. • It aids weight loss. • It stimulates flow of bile from liver, aids detoxification, and protects liver against damage from toxins, drugs and alcohol. • It helps to regulate the gut flora, and is good after antibiotics and for Candida/thrush. • It can be used for worms, and digestive problems including indigestion, heartburn, wind, bloating, colic and diarrhoea. • It soothes the gut mucosa, boosts stomach defences against effects of stress, excess acid, drugs and other irritatants, reducing the risk of gastritis and ulcers. • It lowers blood sugar in diabetics. Respiratory System • With immune-enhancing and antimicrobial actions, it can be taken to ward off infections including colds, sore throats, coughs and fevers.

Circulation • It lowers harmful cholesterol levels, and inhibits blood clotting by blocking prostaglandin production. • It helps prevent and remedy atherosclerosis, helping to prevent heart and arterial disease. Reproductive System • It can be good for relieving pain and inflammatory problems and in minor breast problems. Immunity • Turmeric enhances immunity, and is an excellent antimicrobial, useful in skin problems including acne and psoriasis, as well as kidney and bladder problems. • It is a powerful antioxidant and protects against damage by free radicals. • It protects against cancer, especially of the colon and breast. It enhances the production of cancer-fighting cells and helps to protect against environmental toxins and the toxic effects of cigarettes. In China it is used to treat the early stages of cervical cancer. • Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory, excellent for treating arthritis, liver and gall-bladder problems. It blocks the production of certain prostaglandins and may have effects on a par with cortisone and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects. Externally • Turmeric can be used as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. The powder mixed with water or aloe vera gel can be applied to insect bites, inflamed and infected skin problems including eczema, acne, psoriasis, scabies, spots, fungal infestation and infected wounds. • It can be used to reduce itching, relieve pain and promote healing in skin cancer. • As mouthwash it can be used for inflamed gums and toothache. • Through its beneficial effect on the ligaments, it is highly valued by those who practice hatha yoga. Cautions Avoid large doses in pregnancy, duodenal and gastric ulcers or obstruction of the biliary tract or gall stones. Avoid large doses with anticoagulants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.



154 154


CYNARA SCOLYMUS: ARTICHOKE Family Asteraceae Parts Used Leaf Constituents Sesquiterpene lactones including cynaropicrin, dehydrocynaropicrin, cynaratriol, grossheimin. Caffeic acid derivatives; including cynarin. Flavonoids, alphaselinene, caryophyllene and eugenol. Actions Cholagogue, diuretic, antispasmodic, antioxidant, hepato-protective, antioxidant, hypocholesterolaemic, astringent, cardiotonic, detoxifier, digestive, diuretic, hypotensive. Artichoke is a hardy perennial, indigenous to the Mediterranean region, and one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, valued by the ancient Greeks and Romans. It was used as a medicine by the medieval Arab physicians, particularly to treat the liver and sluggish digestion. Digestion • Artichoke leaves enhance digestion and absorption, and stimulate metabolism. • They make a protective liver tonic; their antioxidant action promotes regeneration of damaged liver cells, protects the liver from damage from drugs, alcohol or chemicals. They are often combined with milk thistle, turmeric or schisandra for this and in the treatment of hepatitis B and C. • Artichoke increases bile secretion from the liver, regulates cholesterol metabolism and lowers harmful cholesterol. • It is indicated in liver and gall bladder disorders. • Its anti-inflammatory and digestive actions in the gut are useful in the treatment of Crohn’s disease, IBS, dyspepsia, poor appetite, inability to digest fats, constipation and flatulence.

Immunity • The antioxidant action protects against free radical damage in the cardio-vascular system as well as the immune system and liver. • 3,5 dicaffeoylquinic acid and 4,5 dicaffeoylquinic acid have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity. Circulation • Artichoke protects the heart and arteries by lowering harmful cholesterol and lipid levels. It inhibits cholesterol synthesis. Urinary System • With its diuretic action, artichoke help relieve fluid retention and aids the elimination of toxins via the kidneys. Cautions Caution in obstruction in biliary tract and gallstones.



DAUCUS CAROTA: WILD CARROT Family Apiaceae/Umbellifereae Parts Used Aerial parts, seed, root Constituents Seeds: volatile oil including asarone, carotol, pinene, limonene, alkaloids. Root: volatile oil including asarone, carotol, pinene, limonene, alkaloids. Leaves: porphyrins. Actions All parts: Anthelmintic, astringent, carminative, antilithic, galactogogue, diuretic, ophthalmic. Seeds: More potent diuretic, emmenagogue, abortifaecient, contraceptive, anti-tumour, spasmolytic, liver protectant effects, anti-fertility. Root: Antibacterial, liver tonic, urinary antiseptic. An attractive biennial, wild carrot is native to Europe and parts of Asia. Also known as Queen Anne’s lace, wild carrot is the ancestor of the domestic carrot and can be found in hedgerows and stony or sandy ground near the sea. Digestion • All parts improve appetite, digestion and absorption and expel worms. • Their carminative action relaxes the gut, and relieves wind, bloating, colic and indigestion. • It stimulates the flow of bile from the liver and supports the liver in its cleansing work. • It may a have hepato-protective action, preventing damage to liver from toxins, drugs and alcohol. • It can be used for gallstones and to prevent and relieve a hangover. Urinary System • All parts are diuretic, particularly the seeds, and they help to dissolve stones and gravel. • They can be used to treat fluid retention, cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, bladder and kidney stones. • Wild carrot aids the elimination of toxins via ther kidneys, and can be helpful in gout and arthritis. • The root is more antiseptic for urinary tract infections.

Reproductive System • The seeds have been used traditionally as a contraceptive. They interfere with implantation of fertilized eggs in the lining of the uterus and the oil from seeds may block synthesis of progesterone. • The root contains porphyrins, which stimulate the pituitary gland and increase the secretion of female sex hormones. Immunity • Cultivated carrots are rich in beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant, boosting immunity and helping to prevent degenerative disease, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Eyes • Beta-carotene enhances eyesight and night vision. Cautions Avoid the seeds during pregnancy.

156 156


DIOSCOREA VILLOSA: WILD YAM Family Dioscoreaceae Parts Used Root and rhizome Constituents Steroidal saponins, which yields diosgenin, tannins, starch, alkaloids (dioscorin). Actions Antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, nutritive, rejuvenative, reproductive tonic, analgesic, antiarthritic, aphrodisiac, oestrogen-modulating, diuretic, cholagogue, relaxant, peripheral vasodilator. Native to North and Central America, wild yam was used until 1970 as sole source of the hormone material diosgenin, used in the contraceptive pill and other steroid hormones. Digestion • Antispamodic throughout the gut, wild yam relieves colic, spasm, IBS, biliary colic, painful wind and bloating. • It is indicated in inflammatory conditions of the bowel, colitis, diverticulitis. Reproductive System • Wild yam regulates levels of oestrogen and progesterone. The steroidal saponins are converted to diosgenin in the body which is a precursor of progesterone. • As an antispasmodic, it relieves tension and cramp in uterus and ovaries. It can be used for spasmodic dysmenorrhoea with nausea and ovarian pain. • Wild yam is recommended to balance hormones and as nourishing tonic in low libido, infertility erectile dysfunction, low sperm count and PMS. • It can be used for nausea and cramping in pregnancy, especially when it is related to stress and tension, and for threatened miscarriage. • It can be helpful for menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes, insomnia and night sweats.

Musculo-skeletal System • Its antispasmodic action helps relieve muscular spasm and pain, muscle twitches, restless legs and leg cramps. • It reduces inflammation, useful in arthritis and gout. • It has traditionally been used for spasm, convulsions and epilepsy. Immunity • As an anti-inflammatory, wild yam can be helpful in auto-immune disease including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. • It enhances immunity and may stimulate interferon production. Nervous System • As a strengthening tonic, wild yam helps calm anxiety, lift depression and ease muscle tension. • It increases energy in tiredness and exhaustion. • It helps to relieve mood swings in PMS and during the menopause. Externally • Wild yam is used in creams to balance hormones and reduce menopausal symptoms. Cautions In excess it may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and headaches.



ECHINACEA AUGUSTIFOLIA: ECHINACEA Family Compositae Parts Used Whole herb, root Constituents Echinacosides, chlorogenic acid, Alkylamides, echinacein, isobutylamides, polyacetylenes, D-acidic arabinogalactan polysaccharide. Actions Alterative, antibiotic, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, antimicrobial, decongestant, antioxidant, antitumour, daiphoretic, vulnerary. Native to North America, echinacea was traditionally valued as a blood cleanser, to treat wounds, burns, abscesses, insect bites, sore throats, joint pains and as an antidote for poisonous snake bites. Recent research has focused on its efficacy for the common cold and upper respiratory infections. Immunity • Echinacea has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral action as well as an anti-allergenic action. • Immune stimulating, it increases phagocytosis of pathogens by means of macrophage activation. • It is recommended for overgrowth of unfriendly gut microorganisms including Candida and can be used in post viral fatigue syndrome. • It is indicated in lowered immunity causing repeated infections and antibiotic resistance. • It helps support immunity in cancer and after chemotherapy and radiotherapy. • The anti-inflammatory effect of echinacea can be helpful in arthritis and gout, skin conditions and pelvic inflammatory disease. • Taken in hot infusion, echinacea stimulates the circulation and enhances sweating, thereby reducing fevers. • It has traditionally been used for malaria and typhus. Respiratory System • Echincea helps to ward off infections. It can be taken every two hours at the first signs of sore throats, colds, chest infections, tonsillitis and glandular fever. • It is used for chronic respiratory tract infections and whooping cough in children. • It has traditionally been used for TB.

Reproductive System • Echinacea can be used for gynaecological infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary infections and post-partum infection. Skin • As a blood cleanser for septic conditions, echinacea helps to resolve infections, boils and abscesses. • It can be helpful in allergic skin problems such as urticaria and eczema. Externally • Anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, echinacea can be used for skin problems, wounds, ulcers, burns, stings and bites. • The dilute tincture can be used as a gargle and mouthwash for sore throats and infected gums and as a douche for vaginal infections. Cautions Occasional sensitivity may cause anaphylaxis, asthma or urticaria.

158 158


ECLIPTA ALBA: BHRINGARAJ/FALSE DAISY/TRAILING ECLIPTA Family Compositae Parts Used Whole plant, root, leaves, stem and seeds Constituents Saponins, alkaloids-ecliptine, wedelic acid, luteolin, triterpene glycosides, flavonoids and isoflavonoids. Actions Antioxidant, liver tonic, hepatoprotective, alterative, purgative, antiseptic, antimicrobial, antiviral, rejuvenative, febrifuge, anti-inflammatory, haemostatic, anthelmintic. False daisy is traditionally used in India to enhance memory and as an anti-aging remedy. It is popular for preventing premature greying of the hair and balding. Its bitter taste suggest its cooling properties which are clearly exhibited by its anti-inflammatory effect and its benefit in many symptoms characterised by heat. Digestion and Liver • False daisy improves the appetite and stimulates digestion and absorpotion. • It aids elimination of toxins by stimulating the bowels and is indicated in constipation. • It is excellent for liver problems, including cirrhosis, infective hepatitis and liver enlargement. • With its hepato-protective actions, it protects the liver against damage from drugs, chemical and alcohol. • It acts as a deobstruent to promote flow of bile, and protects liver parenchymal tissue in viral hepatitis and other conditions involving enlargement of the liver. Nervous System • False daisy is valued in Ayurveda as a rejuvenative, increasing longevity. • Its antioxidant properties reduce oxidative and ischaemic damage to the brain, and improve brain function, memory and concentration. It can be used to prevents the onset of age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s. • It calms nervous tension and anxiety, and is helpful in insomnia, mental agitation, irritability and anger. • It has been used traditionally for vertigo, dizziness, declining eyesight and hearing problems.

Circulation • False daisy reduces blood pressure and eases nervous palpitations. • It is used for anaemia. Respiratory System • With antimicrobial actions, bringaraj helps to combat upper respiratory infections and clear catarrhal congestion. Skin • False daisy aids the liver in its cleansing work, and can be helpful for skin problems including urticaria, eczema, psoriasis and vitiligo. • It reduces itching and inflammation and is said to promote a lustrous complexion. Externally • Hair oil prepared from false daisy in coconut oil is popular for balding and greying of the hair by nourishing the roots. • The leaf juice is inflammatory and can be applied externally for minor cuts, abrasions and burns.



ELETTARIA CARDAMOMUM: CARDAMOM Family Zingiberaceae Part Used Seed Constituents Essential oils including limonene, cineol, terpineol, terpinene. Actions Carminative, antispasmodic, decongestant, expectorant, diaphoretic, digestive, circulatory stimulant, nervine, antibacterial. Aromatic and spicy, cardamom has long been esteemed in India for its ability to lift the spirits, and induce a calm, meditative state of mind. It can neutralise the over-stimulating effects of caffeine, and when added to milk reduce its mucus forming properties by aiding its digestion. Digestion • Warming and invigorating, cardamom improves the appetite, digestion and absorption. It can be used to sweeten the breath. • The seeds chewed or in teas can ease stress-related problems, indigestion, colic, wind, nausea, vomiting including that related to chemotherapy and travel sickness. It is often combined with fennel. • It counteracts excess acidity in the stomach and prevents post prandial drowsiness. • It has a mild laxative effect. Nervous System • Cardamom can be taken to relieve tension and anxiety, lethargy and nervous exhaustion. It helps to lift the spirits and improve memory and concentration. Musculo-skeletal System • The essential oil is anti-inflammatory and analgesic for joint pain. Its antispasmodic action helps to ease muscle pain and spasm. Respiratory System • The seeds can be chewed to soothe sore throats and dry coughs. • Its stimulating expectorant action clears phlegm from nose, sinuses and chest, in colds, coughs, asthma and chest infections.

Circulation • Cardamom enhances the circulation, increases energy, and is particularly good when run down and tired in the winter. Urinary System • Cardamom has a strengthening effect and can be used for a weak bladder, involuntary urination and bedwetting in children. • Its antibacterial action is helpful for urinary tract infections. Cautions Avoid large amounts in gastro-oesophageal reflux and gallstones.

160 160


ELEUTHROCOCCUS SENTICOSUS: SIBERIAN GINSENG Family Araliaceae Part Used Root Constituents Natural plant steroids eleutherosides A to G, tripterpenoid saponins, volatile oils, polysaccharides. Actions Adaptogenic, adrenal tonic, sedative, antioxidant, rejuvenative, immunostimulant, anticholesterolaemic, diuretic, hepato-protective, insulinotropic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antiplatelet, heart and circulatory tonic, kidney tonic, aphrodisiac, thyroid trophorestorative, antineoplastic, blood pressure regulator. A famous tonic to increase energy and vitality, Siberian ginseng improves mental and physical performance and helps to protect against the effects of stress. It grows in Siberia, China, Korea and Japan. It has been used in China for over 2000 years, but it was Russian researchers who launched it into fame as an adaptogen with their findings in the 1960s. Circulation • Siberian ginseng reduces LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and can be used to relieve angina symptoms. • It relaxes arteries and reduces stress-related blood pressure and “white coat syndrome.” • It normalises body temperature and is helpful in hypothermia. Digestion • Siberian ginseng improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, increasing strength and relieving lethargy, diarrhoea and bloating from weak digestion. • It protects the liver, enhances its ability to break down and eliminate toxins. • It helps to regulate blood-sugar levels. Immunity • Siberian ginseng was widely researched in Russia on athletes, army and factory workers, long-distance drivers, sailors, and cosmonauts and demonstrated its ability to improve the ability to cope with

and recover from adverse conditions including temperature extremes, injury, drug overdose, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, high doses or long term prescription drugs and jet lag. • It increases energy, endurance and enhances performance mentally and physically. • It enhances immunity against infections including coughs and colds, protects against carcinogens including environmental pollutants and radiation and inhibits tumour formation. • It speeds recovery after physical exertion and prevents immuno-depletion from excessive work. Nervous System • Siberian ginseng increases blood flow through the arteries to the brain, and improves memory, concentration, mental stamina and the ability to work mentally for long hours. • It can be used for ADHD and failing memory in the elderly. • It supports optimum adrenal function and can be useful for adrenal fatigue. Musculo-skeletal System • With its powerful anti-fatigue effect, Siberian ginseng increases endurance and the ability of the mitochondria in the cells to produce energy. It is excellent for athletes. • It increases cells’ ability to dispose of lactic acid and other by-products of metabolism that cause sore muscles after a workout. Cautions Avoid with digoxin.



EMBLICA OFFICINALIS/PHYLLANTHUS EMBLICA: AMALAKI/INDIAN GOOSEBERRY Family Euphorbiaceae Parts Used Dried fruit, ripe fruit, seed, leaves, root, bark, flowers Constituents Ascorbic acid, fatty acids, bioflavonoids, polyphenols, cytokinins, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, iron, tannins, pectin. Actions Rejuvenative, antioxidant, hepato-protective, lowers cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, laxative, hypoglycaemic, stomachic, tonic, diuretic. An excellent antioxidant, amalaki fruit is one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C, containing approximately 20 times the vitamin C content of an orange. Its antioxidant effects explain its traditional use as one of the best rejuvenative tonics in Ayurvedic medicine. Digestion • Amalaki enhances appetite, digestion and absorption. • Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are helpful for disturbances of the gut flora, peptic ulcers, acidity, nausea, vomiting, gastritis, colitis, hepatitis and haemorrhoids. • It can be used with lemon juice in acute bacillary dysentery. • As an ingredient of the famous bowel cleanser Triphala, amalaki is used as a bowel tonic for chronic constipation and IBS. • Its antioxidant properties protect the liver. • It is traditionally used as hypoglycaemic for diabetes. Circulation • Amalaki decreases serum LDH cholesterol levels, and reduces fat deposits in the arteries, thereby protecting the cardiovascular system. • It may reduce the risk of blood clots by reducing stickiness of platelets. Respiratory System • Amalaki has antibacterial activity against a wide range of bacteria, and is used for coughs, colds, flu, chest infections and asthma.

Nervous System • Amalaki is famous in Ayurveda as a rejuvenative. It can be used for debility following illness, stress and in old age. It is the main ingredient of the renowned tonic chayawanprash to improve mental and physical well being. • It is a good brain tonic and improves memory and concentration, calms anger and irritability. Urinary System • An antiseptic diuretic, amalaki helps to resolve infections and cystitis. Immunity • Amalaki has been shown to slow the growth of cancer cells, probably through its ability to enhance natural cell mediated cytotoxicity. • Its antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties are useful for Candida, colds and flu. • It is active against a range of organisms including Staph. Aureus, E. coli, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Staph. Typhosa. • It has antioxidant and immunomodulating actions. Externally • Amalaki is an ingredient of hair oils and soaps to prevent hair loss. It can be used as a lotion for inflammatory eye problems including conjunctivitis. • It is a useful skin care ingredient against oxidative damage. Cautions Contraindicated in diarrhoea and dysentery.

162 162


EQUISETUM ARVENSE: HORSETAIL Family Equisetaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Silica, saponins, manganese, potassium, sulphur, magnesium, tannins, alkaloids including nicotine, palustrine and palustrinine; flavonoids including apigenin, kaempferol, luteolin and quercetin; glycosides, sterols including cholesterol. Actions Diuretic, styptic, antihaemorrhagic, alterative, anodyne, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, diaphoretic, kidney tonic, lithotriptic, nutritive, rejuvenative, tonic, vulnerary. Horsetail is a prehistoric-looking perennial and is one of the oldest plants on the planet. Native to Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, it can be found growing wild in wet ground. It is highly valued as a rich source of minerals and trace elements. Urinary System • Horsetail has an affinity for the urinary system and is used for cystitis, urethritis and urinary stones. • It is useful in prostate problems, acute and chronic prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). • The astringent tannins stem bleeding, and are toning for prolapse, urinary incontinence and bedwetting in children. Musculo-skeletal System • Horsetail is rich in soluble silica which is readily absorbed. It supports regeneration of bones, cartilage and other connective tissue, and increases strength and elasticity. • It has the ability to increase bone density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. • It is strengthening for teeth and brittle nails and can be used for arthritic problems. Digestion • The tannins are astringent and toning and are helpful in diarrhoea, rectal prolapse and haemorrhoids.

Circulation • Horsetail stems bleeding of wounds, nosebleeds, and bleeding in the respiratory and urinary tract. • It makes a good tonic in anaemia. • It has a protective effect in the arteries, protecting against atherosclerosis. Other • Rich in minerals and trace elements, horsetail is used for signs of nutritional deficiency such as white spots on fingernails, dull hair, hair loss and brittle nails. • The silica encourages absorption and uptake of calcium. Externally • Horsetail stops bleeding and speeds healing of cuts and wounds. • It is good antiseptic and anti-inflammatory for skin problems. Cautions Horsetail breaks down Vit B1 (Thiamine). Take alongside B complex supplementation.

T H E M AT E R I A M E D I C A ESCHSCHOLZIA CALIFORNICA: CALIFORNIA POPPY Family Papaveraceae Parts Used Whole fresh plant including the roots and seed pods Constituents Morphine alkaloids (inc. protopine, sanguinarine, chelerythrine) eschscholtzione, glycosides. Actions Sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, anodyne, nervine, febrifuge. This vibrant yellow-orange flower is the state flower of California, and native to west of Northern America. It was first introduced to Europe as an ornamental and medicinal plant and now has a reputation as a nonaddictive alternative to the opium poppy. It was used for colicky pains and toothache by the Indians and settlers in America. Nervous System • California poppy is cousin to the opium poppy but far less powerful. It is a safe sedative to calm excitability, restlessness, anxiety, tension and insomnia, and suitable for calming children. • Painkilling and relaxing, it can be used for migraine, headaches, neuralgia, back and muscle pain, arthritis, sciatica and shingles. • It balances emotions and reduces stress. It can be helpful in withdrawal from addiction to alcohol, drugs or tobacco. Circulation • By calming the nervous system, it influences the heart and circulation. It slows a rapid heart, relieves palpitations and reduces blood pressure. Digestion • With its antispasmodic effect, California poppy relaxes muscles in the gut, and relieves colic in stomach and gallbladder. Externally • California poppy can be applied to areas of pain such as toothache and headaches.


164 164


EUPATORIUM PERFOLIATUM: BONESET Family Asteraceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Bitter glycoside (eupatorin), polysaccharides, sesquiterpene lactones (eupafolin, euperfolin), diterpenes, sterols, volatile oils, flavonoids (kaempferol, quercitin, hyperoside, rutin), gallic acid, tannin, pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Actions Diaphoretic, febrifuge, digestive, carminative, antispasmodic, emetic, peripheral vasodilator, bitter tonic, cholagogue, anti-inflammatory, laxative, expectorant, astringent, immunostimulant. Native to eastern North America, boneset is found in meadows and marshland. It was renowned amongst the native American tribes who used it for flu and fevers. In fact, the plant was so named because it relieves the aching accompanying flu that feels as if it penetrates to the bones. Immunity • Famous as flu remedy, boneset promotes sweating and clears heat and toxins. • The polysaccharides and sesquiterpene lactones increase white blood cell production and phagocytosis. • Boneset boosts immunity to bacterial and viral infections, including Herpes 1 and 2. • It has anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour activity. • The sesquiterpene lactones and eupatorin have cytotoxic actions. Respiratory System • In hot infusion, boneset helps clear congestion in allergic rhinitis, bronchitis, catarrh, colds and coughs.

Digestion • With its digestive, carminative and antispasmodic actions, boneset improves digestion and relieves indigestion, wind and bloating as well as pain and spasm. • It helps to clear toxins from the body by its action on the liver and its laxative effects. It is useful in arthritis, skin conditions and worms. Externally • The tea can be used as a wash to reduce fevers. Cautions Large doses may cause vomiting and diarrhoea.



EUPATORIUM PURPUREUM: GRAVEL ROOT/JOE PYE WEED Family Asteraceae Parts Used Rhizome and root Constituents Protein, carbohydrates (polysaccharides), flavonoids (quercitin, euparin), oleoresin (eupatorin), sesquiterpene lactones, essential oil, resin, tannins. Actions Anti-arthritic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, immune stimulant, nervine, tonic, alterative, antilithic. Gravel root weed is a handsome perennial, native to Europe and North America, with a mass of pink-purple flowers. It is found in moist woodland and by streams. It is alsoknown as Joe Pye Weed, after Joe Pye, a New England medicine man who cured fevers and typhus with this plant. Urinary System • Gravel root is diuretic, stimulant an astringent tonic to the urinary tract. • The tea made from roots and leaves drunk luke warm to cool is used to prevent and treat kidney and bladder stones. • It reduces inflammation and soothes dysuria in cystitis, urethritis and prostatitis. • It is recommended for urinary incontinence, haematuria and bedwetting in children. • It reduces fluid retention. • It increases the elimination of uric acid and toxins via the kidneys and can be used to treat arthritis and gout. Immunity • Gravel root has been used by the native American tribespeople as a diaphoretic to induce perspiration and reduce fevers.

Reproductive System • Gravel root tones and strengthens the uterine muscles and stimulates contractions in childbirth. • It is recommended for threatened miscarriage and uterine prolapse. • It is used to relieve menstrual pain, and as an antiinflammatory and astringent for pelvic inflammatory disease. • It is indicated in benign prostatic hypertrophy and erectile dysfunction. Cautions Large doses may cause vomiting. Contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, do not take for more than six weeks.

166 166


EUPHRASIA OFFICINALIS: EYEBRIGHT Family Scrophulariaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Iridoid glycosides (aucubin, euphroside), saponins, resin, flavonoids (incl quercitrin), tannins, phenolic acids, phenylethanoid glycosidies, phytosterols, bitters, sterols, vitamin C, lignans, volatile oils. Actions Astringent, anti-inflammatory, tonic, decongestant, expectorant, antimicrobial (against B. subtilis, E. coli, Mycobacterium phlei), antifungal, bitter tonic, hepato-protective, cholagogue, digestive, alterative, febrifuge, antihistamine, ophthalmic, nervine, demulcent. Eyebright is a delicate little annual flower found growing on dry sunny pastures, commons and hillsides. It is partially parasitic, taking nourishment from nearby grass roots. It is a member of the foxglove family, originally from Europe and Asia and has long been famous for its ability to remedy a variety of eye problems. Eyes • With antimicrobial and astringent actions, it is used for inflammatory eye infections including conjunctivitis, styes, blepharitis and watery eye conditions. • It clears mucous and keeps the eye mucosa clear and healthy. • It is particularly useful for red itching eyes with discharge, as in hay fever or measles. • It can be used for oversensitive eyes, which run in cold and wind, as well as irritation from smoky or stuffy atmospheres. • It reduces inflammation in tired, strained eyes and puffiness. • It enhances the circulation to eyes and helps to improve eyesight in the elderly. Digestion • The bitters improve digestion and absorption, and enhance the flow of bile, aiding the liver’s detoxifying work and thereby brightening the eyes.

Respiratory System • Eyebright relieves irritation and catarrh in the nose, throat, sinuses, ears and chest. • It is used for sore throats, post-nasal drip, otitis media, sinusitis, sinus headaches and coughs. • It is a good remedy for allergic rhinitis/hay fever. Mento-emotional • Eyebright was traditionally used to lift the spirits, for “troubles of the mind” and to improve memory and concentration. • It was said to be a “visionary herb”, enhancing insight and inner vision, helping to get things in perspective. Externally • Eyebright infusions or dilute tinctures can be used as gargles for sore and catarrhal throats and as mouthwashes for mouth ulcers. • To treat eye conditions, eyebright is best taken internally and used topically in sterile saline solutions as drops or compresses. • A few drops of dilute tincture or tea can be dropped into the nostrils to clear catarrhal congestion.



FILIPENDULA ULMARIA: MEADOWSWEET Family Rosaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Salicylic acid, volatile oils (salicyladehyde, methylsalicylate, hyperoside, benzyl alcohol), tannins, flavonoids (rutin, quercetin, kaempferol, hyperoside, avicularin), phenolic glycosides (spiraein, gaultherine), mucilage, coumarins, vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium and silica. Actions Astringent, antacid, stomachic, antiulcer, antiemetic, analgesic, anti- inflammatory, antiseptic, diuretic, urinary antiseptic, diaphoretic, febrifuge, immunostimulating, antimicrobial (against B. subtilis, E. coli, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Shigella flaxneri, Staph. aureus haemolyticus, Staph. epidermidis, Strept. pyogenes, Klebseillia pneumonia), antispasmodic, antiarthritic, connective tissue healer, antilithic, cholagogue. Meadowsweet can be found growing in damp meadows, by rivers and streams. It has elegant cream flowers that when crushed give off the characteristic smell of salicylates. These give meadowsweet similar benefits to aspirin. The presence of tannins and mucilage with their protective and anti-inflammatory actions prevent the side effects of irritation of the stomach that can be caused by aspirin. Digestion • Meadowsweet is an excellent antacid and antiinflammatory. It can be used for acid indigestion, heartburn, gastritis, peptic ulcers, gastro-oesophageal reflux and other inflammatory condition of stomach and bowels. • The astringent tannins protect and heal the gut lining from irritation and inflammation. • Its antiseptic and antispasmodic actions are useful for enteritis and diarrhoea, IBS, griping and colic, flatulence and distension.

Musculo-skeletal System • Rich in vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium and silica, meadowsweet speeds healing of connective tissue. • The salicylates and gaultherine are anti-inflammatory and analgesic. They help relieve pain and swelling in arthritis and gout. Urinary System • Meadowsweet is a mild antiseptic diuretic, useful for cystitis and urethritis, fluid retention and kidney problems. • It helps eliminate toxins and uric acid from the system which contribute to arthritis, gout and skin problems. • The salicylate salts soften deposits such as kidney stones and gravel and atherosclerosis. Nervous System • Meadowsweet can be used as an analgesic for headaches and neuralgia. • With its relaxant properties, it eases spasm and induces sleep. Immunity • Meadowsweet has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic actions which are useful in acute infections, fevers, colds and flu. • It brings out rashes in eruptive infections including measles, scarlet fever and chicken pox and speeds recovery. Externally • Meadowsweet promotes tissue repair and staunches bleeding of cuts, wounds, ulcers and skin irritations. • An infusion or dilute tincture can be used as a compress for aching muscles and painful joints, a mouthwash for mouth ulcers and bleeding gums, and an eyewash for conjunctivitis. • When used intravaginally, it can help resolve cervical dysplasia, vaginal inflammation and infections. Cautions Caution in salicylate sensitivity. Possible interaction with anticoagulants. Take away from mineral supplements, thiamine or alkaloids.

168 168




FOENICULUM VULGARE: FENNEL Family Umbelliferae Parts Used Seeds, leaves, roots Constituents Vitamins and minerals, essential oil, fixed oil, phenolic acids, flavonoids, coumarins, furanocoumarins. Actions Anaesthetic, antibacterial, anti-emetic, antifungal, antiinflammatory, antispasmodic, antitussive, aperient, aromatic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue, mild laxative, mucolytic, hormone balancing, stimulant. Fennel is a handsome perennial with feathery foliage and large umbels of flowers that bear aniseed-tasting seeds. The ancient Egyptians used fennel for eye problems and the Greeks used it to overcome obesity and for stimulating milk flow in nursing mothers. Digestion • Fennel improves energy by enhancing appetite, digestion and absorption. It aids the digestion of fatty foods and when added to laxative blends, it eases griping. • It stabilises blood sugar levels and reduces sugar cravings. • By increasing metabolism and elimination, it may aid weight loss. • Fennel seeds and root are antispasmodic and settle the stomach. They relieve hiccups, colic (included in gripe water for babies), bloating, wind, nausea, vomiting, hallitosis, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhoea and IBS. • Fennel supports the work of the liver. Its volatile oil increases liver regeneration. Urinary System • As a diuretic, fennel aids the elimination of toxins via the kidneys and reduces fluid retention. It can be used for cellulite, cystitis, and urinary infections. • Fennel can help to dissolve kidney stones.

Respiratory System • In hot tea, fennel serves as a decongestant and expectorant. • It relaxes the bronchi and useful in asthma and coughs. Reproductive System • Fennel’s antispasmodic properties help relieve period pains. • Fennel is slightly oestrogenic. It regulates the menstrual cycle, and can be used in amenorrhea, endometriosis, low libido and PMS. • It is also helpful during the menopause. • In nursing mothers, fennel stimulates milk production. Musculo-skeletal System • Its diuretic actions aid the elimination of toxins which supports its anti-inflammatory effects in arthritis and gout. Externally • A decoction of fennel seeds makes a soothing, antiinflammatory eyewash for sore eyes and conjunctivitis and a gargle for sore throats. Cautions In excess, fennel can overstimulate the nervous system. Avoid therapeutic doses during pregnancy.

170 170



• Bladderwrack can bind radioactive strontium, barium,

Parts Used Whole plant

• It can be used to soothe the gut and relieve indiges-

Constituents Alginic acid, fucoidan, fucoxanthin, carrageenan, calcium, chromium, germanium, iodine, iron, phosphouous, potassium, bromine, magnesium, manganese, selenium, silica, zinc, mucopolysaccharides, mannitol, alginic acid, laminine, histamine, zeaxanthin, protein, beta-carotene, vitamins B2, B12, C, D and E. Actions Antiobesity, thyroid stimulant, alterative, antibacterial, antibiotic, anthelmintic, antioxidant, antitumour, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, laxative, nutritive. Bladderwrack is a seaweed that grows abundantly in offshore waters and submerged rocks in temperate coastal areas of North Europe and North America. It is rich in iodine which it extracts from the seawater. It is famous as a remedy for stimulating the thyroid. Thyroid • Bladderwrack supports the thyroid; it is rich in iodine, a vital component of thyroid hormones and necessary for their production. It is used in low thyroid function and goitre. • It helps regulate metabolism and has potential for controlling weight and cellulite. Skin • By clearing toxins, bladderwrack is useful in chronic skin complaints such as boils, eczema, psoriasis and Herpes. Digestion • With its abundance of nutrients, bladderwrack enhances energy. • It contains nearly 30 minerals which promote healthy hair and nails. • It enhances digestion and is a source of nondigestible fibre. It can be used as a mild laxative for constipation. • It supports the gut flora and is used for Candida and intestinal worms.

cadmium and zinc in the gastrointestinal tract. tion, heartburn, gastritis and peptic ulcers.

Urinary System • As a diuretic, bladderwrack aids the elimination of toxins. • It is used in oedema and benign prostatic hypertrophy. • By soothing inflammation of the urinary tract, it relieves cystitis and urethritis. Circulation • Through the inhibition of bile acid absorption, it reduces cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis, hypotension, hypertension and anemia. • The fucoidans in bladderwrack may have blood-thinning properties. Reproductive System • Bladderwrack helps regulate the menstrual cycle. • In Japan it is used to prevent breast cancer and it helps clear fibrocystic breast disease. • It is used as an anti-inflammatory in orchitis and prostatitis. Musculo-skeletal System • Bladderwrack’s detoxifying, nourishing and antiinflammatory properties make it useful for treating arthritic conditions. Immunity • Bladderwrack enhances immunity. It contains the highest antioxidant activity of edible seaweeds, possibly due to fucoxanthin. Its antioxidants remove free radicals and help reduce cellular damage. • It has antibacterial and antifungal properties. • The polyphenols and polysaccharides have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory actions. It is useful in Herpes simplex and HIV activity. • Bladderwrack may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It is used as a lymphoma and breast cancer preventative.


• It promotes the cleansing and elimination of toxins, including radioactive strontium.

Externally • As a wash, the boiled extract of bladderwrack can reduce the itchiness and rash of eczema. • Used as a compress or oil, it reduces inflammation in arthritic joints and bruises. • Added to a bath, it eases aching muscles and helps reduce cellulite.


Cautions Avoid in hyperthyroidism, pregnancy and lactation. Consult a practitioner before use on a low-sodium diet, insulin or thyroid medication. There is potential contamination with heavy metals. Its high iodine content may exacerbate acne. Bladderwrack may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with anticoagulants. It may lower the blood sugar. Those on insulin and antidiabetic drugs should exercise caution.

172 172


GALEGA OFFICINALIS: GOAT’S RUE Family Fabaceae Parts Used Aerial parts

Urinary System • As a diuretic, goats rue reduces fluid retention and aids the elimination of toxins via the kidneys.

Constituents Alkaloid (galegine), flavonoids, saponins, traces of chromium, glycosides, tannins.

Reproductive System • Goat’s rue stimulates milk production in nursing mothers.

Actions Hypoglycaemic, antidiabetic, galactagogue, diaphoretic, febrifuge, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, digestive, antiplatelet, diuretic.

Externally • As a diuretic, goat’s rue reduces fluid retention and aids the elimination of toxins via the kidneys.

Goat’s rue is an attractive perennial member of the pea family, with lilac blue flowers that is native to Europe, Russia, and Iran. It was once important for treating the plague, fevers and infectious diseases and since the Middle Ages for treating the symptoms of diabetes. Digestion • Galegine lowers blood sugar levels and helps manage late-onset diabetes. It contains guanidine that reduces blood sugar by decreasing insulin resistance, helping cells to use insulin to metabolise glucose better. • Goat’s rue decreases the absorption of glucose from the gut and reduces glucose formation in the liver. • It increases the uptake and utilisation of glucose in fat and muscle cells. Metformin is a chemical derived from this used to treat diabetes. • It helps non-insulin dependent diabetics to regulate blood sugar levels and insulin dependent diabetics to stabilise blood sugar levels and decrease insulin dosage. • By reducing the appetite, goat’s rue increases weight loss and is useful in metabolic syndrome X. • Goat’s rue enhances digestion and pancreatic function. It is used for digestive problems caused by a lack of digestive enzymes including constipation and indigestion. Immunity • Goat’s rue has significant antibacterial activity against certain types of bacteria and inhibits blood clotting. • Its diaphoretic action reduces fevers.

Cautions Patients on antidiabetic drugs or insulin should exercise caution.



GALIUM APARINE: CLEAVERS Family Rubiaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Iridoids (including asperuloside), polyphenolic acids, anthraquinones (only in the root), alkanes, flavonoids, and tannins, citric acid, saponins, coumarins, scopoletin. Actions Depurative, lymphatic, hepatic, diuretic, depurative, aperient, tonic, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, tonic, astringent, vulnerary. A common hedgerow perennial native to Europe, cleavers is recognised by its long sticky stems and seeds which cling to anything they touch. It is a member of the bedstraw family, so-called for their strewing values in less hygienic times and gives off a smell of new mown hay. Circulation • Cleavers lowers blood pressure, perhaps through its diuretic action. • The asperuloside may also have hypotensive action. Digestion • Cleavers improves digestion and stimulates the flow of bile from the liver. It may be helpful in hepatitis. Skin • Its cleansing properties are helpful for chronic skin disorders such as eczema, acne, boils, psoriasis and rosacea. • It helps resolve eruptive infections such as measles and chicken pox.

Urinary System • As a diuretic, cleavers aids the elimination of fluid toxins via the kidneys. • It is useful for losing weight. • Cleavers is traditionally used as a tea for a cleansing “spring tonic,” cooling heat and clearing toxins. • It is used to treat kidney stones and urinary infections, cystitis and irritable bladder. Immunity • As a lymphatic tonic, cleavers enhances lymphatic circulation, aiding the body in its cleansing and immune work and purifying the blood. • Cleavers is used to treat lymphatic congestion, swollen lymph glands, glandular fever, ME and tonsillitis. • It may have anti-tumour activity. • It clears heat and resolves inflammation, so is helpful in arthritis and gout. • Cleavers promotes immune function and reduces fevers. Externally • Cleavers can be used in skin washes for skin disorders, cuts and scrapes, and as a hair rinse for dandruff.

174 174


GANODERMA LUCIDUM: REISHI Family Polyporaceae Parts Used Mushroom Constituents Constituents: Polysaccharides, glucans, adenosine, triterpenes, protein, phytosterols, lipids, ganesterone, vitamins C, B2. Actions Tonic, immune stimulating, hypoglycaemic, anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, expectorant, adrenal stimulant, radiation protective. The “mushroom of immortality,” reishi has been used for centuries as a longevity tonic. It is an amazing adaptogen, supporting the homeostasis of the body by regulating blood sugar, enhancing immunity and resilience to stress, protecting against cancer and free radical damage, aiding oxygen utilisation, helping regeneration of the liver, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Circulation • As a cardiotonic, reishi enhances normal heart function, improves coronary artery circulation and protects against heart attacks • It relieves palpitations and arrhythmias, prevents clotting, lowers cholesterol normalises blood pressure and prevents atherosclerosis. • The ganoderic acids thin the blood, reduce inflammation, the tendency to clots, and lower cholesterol levels. • Reishi increases the level of oxygen in the blood and is used to combat altitude sickness. Respiratory System • The antihistamine action of reishi helps in allergic asthma and rhinitis. • It can significantly improve symptoms in chronic bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory problems.

Immunity • Reishi is immunomodulating. The polysaccharides (beta glucans) enhance immunity, enhance T cell activity, increase production of leucocytes and macrophage activity. • It is used to protect against cancer and inhibit metastasis by inhibiting platelet aggregation. • It is an antibacterial to Staphylococci and Streptococci bacteria, and as an antifungal, it is useful for treating Candida. • Reishi can be used for HIV, Herpes virus, hepatitis B and C, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, acute myeloid leukaemia, and nasopharyngeal carcinomas. • It protects against the harmful effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. • Reishi is helpful in allergies. Its sulphur compounds inhibit histamine release from mast cells. • Its steroid components (gandosterone) are hepatoprotective, beneficial for cirrhosis and hepatitis. • It is excellent as a rejuvenative and strengthening tonic for the elderly and during convalescence. • Reishi is a nourishing tonic and with its antimicrobial action in the gut, is useful for treating auto-immune problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Nervous System • As an adaptogen, reishi increases resilience to stress and has neuro-protective actions. • It improves adrenal function, sleep quality and appetite. • It reduces anxiety and protects against neurological problems. • Reishi is helpful in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. Cautions Anyone with mushroom allergies must exercise caution. In large doses reishi may cause diarrhoea.




• With its bitter and cooling actions, it can be used to

Parts Used Root and rhizome

• Gentiopicrin is highly poisonous to plasmodium,

Constituents Bitter glycosides (amarogentin, gentiopicrin) alkaloids, quinic acid, inulin, xanthones, triterpenes, iron, volatile oils. Actions Digestive bitter tonic, anthelmintic, antiseptic, antiinflammatory, anti-biliary, emmenagogue, febrifuge, sialogogue. Gentian is a beautiful perennial with yellow star-shaped blooms, found growing wild in lime-rich soil in high altitudes of the European mountains. It has long been valued as a panacea for all ills and a vital ingredient of elixirs of life, for stomach and bowel disorders, liver and heart problems, to neutralise poisons and to prolong life. Digestion • The root contains the bitter glycoside amarogentin. Bitters stimulate the flow of digestive enzymes, stimulate appetite and digestion particularly of protein and fats. • Gentian aids the absorption of essential minerals and vitamins and improves the elimination of wastes. • The bitters also stimulate the flow of bile from the liver, promote peristalsis and movement of food and wastes through the gut. • Gentian is anti-inflammatory and cooling, useful in gastritis and colitis. • It anthelmintic and antimicrobial actions are helpful for clearing worms and gut infections. Immunity • Gentian acts as a strengthening tonic due to its beneficial effect on digestion and absorption, which increases energy and immunity. • It is traditionally used as a spring bitter to purify the blood. • As it is anti-inflammatory, nourishing and cleansing, gentian can be helpful in the treatment of arthritis and gout.

reduce fevers.

accounting for its old use for malaria.

Reproductive System • As an emmenagogue, it helps to bring on periods and regulates menstruation. • It is used as as nerve tonic for PMS and menopausal mood swings.

176 176


GINKGO BILOBA: GINKGO Family Ginkgoaceae Part Used Leaf Constituents Terpenes: diterpene ginkgolides (A, B, C, J and M); sesquiterpenes (bilobalides); proanthocyanidins, vitamin C, ginkgo flavones, flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol, rutin); organic acids, essential oils, tannins. Actions Anti-oxidant, circulatory stimulant, neuroprotective, antibacterial, anticoagulant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, brain tonic, cardiotonic, circulatory stimulant, decongestant, kidney tonic, rejuvenative, vasodilator. Ginkgo is native to China and thought to be the oldest tree on the planet, apparently growing about 190 million years ago. It is popular now for preventing the adverse effects of the ageing process such as poor memory, hearing loss and the risk of stroke. Respiratory System • Ginkgo inhibits the activity of platelet-activating factors and inflammatory compounds associated with respiratory allergies including asthma, chronic obstructive airways disease. • It enhances immunity to infections and helps prevent colds, coughs, and chest infections. Circulation • Ginkgo improves blood flow and specifically cerebral circulation. It protects against and treats altitude sickness, Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, age related, poor memory, diminishing eyesight and hearing loss. • It is indicated in impaired peripheral circulation, Raynaud’s syndrome and peripheral neuropathies. • Ginkgo improves coronary circulation, and helps to relieve angina, arteriosclerosis and varicose veins. • It decreases blood viscosity and helps to prevent clots. • Ginkgo improves recovery in heart attacks, strokes and injury to the head.

Nervous System • Ginkgo relieves anxiety, depression, fatigue, and nerve-related deafness. Immunity • Ginkgo is reported to have anti-tumour activity. Eyes • Ginkgo extract helps to protect the eyes from damage by reducing the free-radical damage to the retina. • It is beneficial in macular degeneration and impaired retinal blood flow. • It slows or prevents glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. Cautions Ginkgo can cause headaches. Avoid a week before surgery, in haemophilia or with anticoagulant drugs.



GLECHOMA/NEPETA HEDERACEA: GROUND IVY Family Labiatae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Volatile oils including rosmarinic acid, sesquiterpene lactones, triterpenoids including ursolic acid, tannins, flavonoid glycosides, vitamin C, sitosterol, saponins, polyphenols, bitters, resin. Actions Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, decongestant, carminative, antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, stimulant, tonic, expectorant, antihistamine, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, ophthalmic, nervine, immune stimulant, antioxidant, antispetic, vulnerary. Ground ivy is a pretty little creeping perennial with purple-blue flowers, growing wild in profusion in grassland, hedgerows and woods. It has been popular as a medicine since at least 2nd century Greece. It has been used for treating inflamed eyes, chronic bronchitis and nervous headaches, and the juice was sniffed up the nostrils. It is a gentle herb, perfect for children for catarrhal problems of the ear, nose and throat. Respiratory System • As an astringent, antiseptic and decongestant, ground ivy dries excess mucous in the nose, throat and chest. When taken hot it makes a good decongestant for colds, catarrh, congestive headaches, coughs and bronchial phlegm and to bring down fevers. As it is safe and effective, it can be given to children to clear chronic catarrh and treat chronic conditions such as glue ear and sinusitis. • Ground ivy is a traditional remedy for catarrhal deafness and tinnitus. Digestion • A pleasant tasting digestive, ground ivy enhances appetite, digestion and absorption of nutrients. • It protects the lining of the gut from irritation and inflammation and can be used for indigestion, wind, bloating, nausea and diarrhoea. • Ground ivy was traditionally used for expelling worms.

Urinary System • As an antiseptic diuretic, ground ivy helps reduce fluid retention and clear toxins from the system. • It is used to treat cystitis, urinary frequency and urinary tract infections. Externally • Ground ivy can be used as a gargle for sore throats. • It makes a good lotion to bathe inflamed eyes, and speed healing of bruises, cuts and abrasions.

178 178


GLYCYRRHIZA GLABRA: LIQUORICE Family Leguminosae Parts Used Peeled roots and runners Constituents Glycyrrhizin (calcium and potassium salts of glycyrrhizic acid), triterpenoid saponins, polyphenols, flavonoids (isoflavones), bitter principle (glycymarin), phytoestrogens, asparagin, mucilage, sugars, volatile oil, coumarins, tannins. Actions Demulcent, expectorant, tonic, laxative, antiinflammatory, antipyretic, diuretic, adaptogen, rejuvenative, reproductive tonic, aphrodisiac, spermatogenic, emmenagogue, antitussive, bronchodilator, digestive, carminative, antiemetic, antacid, cholagogue, hypocholesterolaemic, nervine, adrenal tonic, antiviral, antihistamine, haemostatic, antiarthritic, alterative. Liquorice is a most remarkable vetch-like perennial with an affinity for the endocrine system. It is native to Europe, Asia, North and South America, and valued as a medicine in many parts of the world. In Chinese medicine it is said to enter all 12 meridians and harmonise the effects of other herbs. Digestion • Liquorice lowers stomach acid and relieves heartburn and indigestion. It is excellent for healing peptic ulcers as well as inflammatory bowel problems such as ulcerative colitis. • It is a mild laxative and a soothing remedy for nausea, sea sickness and food poisoning. • It increases bile flow from the liver and lowers cholesterol levels. • It protects the liver from damage from toxins and infection, and so useful in chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Nervous System • Liquorice is an adaptogenic strengthening tonic. Possibly by its action on the adrenal glands, it improves resistance to physical and mental stress.

• It can be used for nervous exhaustion, adrenal fatigue and fibromyalgia.

Respiratory System • Liquorice is demulcent and reduces irritation and inflammation. It is used to soothe sore throats and harsh, dry coughs. • It acts as as expectorant for irritating coughs, asthma and chest infections. • It is an anti-allergenic for hay fever, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis and bronchial asthma. Immunity • Glycyrrhizin resembles adrenal hormones with antiinflammatory and anti-allergic effects similar (but without the side effects) of cortisone. It is useful when coming off orthodox steroid drugs. • It is antiviral, useful for viral infection including cytomegalovirus and Herpes simplex. • It is a good anti-inflammatory for arthritis, skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis, as well as for hay fever and asthma. • Classed as a desmutagen, liquorice binds to toxic chemicals and carcinogens. Reproductive System • Liquorice has mild oestrogenic properties, useful for menstrual and menopausal problems. • As a reproductive tonic and aphrodisiac, it is good for sexual debility, low sperm count, infertility and low libido. • It is helpful in PCOS and benign enlargement of the prostate. • With its haemostatic action, it can help curb heavy periods and peri-menopausal flooding. • It increases milk flow in nursing mothers. • Its isoflavones reduce LDL cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Cautions Avoid prolonged use and large doses as this may increase blood pressure. Avoid taking liquorice during pregnancy. It may cause potassium loss if combined with diuretics or laxatives. It may also potentiate prednisolone.



180 180


GYMNEMA SYLVESTRE: GYMNEMA Family Asclepiadaceae Part Used Leaf Constituents Saponins (gymnemic acids, gymnemasaponins), polypeptide of 35 amino acids, gurmarin, tartaric acid, stigmasterol, betaine, choline. Actions Anti-diabetic, astringent, diuretic, laxative, refridgerant, digestive, hypocholesterolaemic, hypolipidaemic, antiobesity, anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, cardiotonic, haemostatic, anti-allergic, antiviral. A climbing vine native to India and Australia, gymnema has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine for balancing blood sugar. Its Sanskrit name gurmar means “sweet destroyer” because eating the fresh leaves numbs the bitter and sweet receptors on the tongue. Digestion • Gymnema reduces sweet cravings and excessive appetite. Its gymnemic acid binds to sugar receptors on the tongue for 1-2 hours, blocking the taste of sugar and reducing the desire for sweet foods. It may be helpful for weight loss and in syndrome X. • Gymnema is used in the management of diabetes types 1 and 2, and blood sugar disorders. It increases the production of insulin by the pancreas, helps to regulate blood glucose levels, helps the regeneration of beta cells in the pancreas that release insulin and stops adrenaline from stimulating the liver to produce glucose. • With its antimicrobial and anthelmintic actions, gymnema can be used to combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut, including fungal infections, Candida, Giardia and worms. • Its bitter taste enhances the flow of bile from the liver and makes it useful for a range of liver and gall bladder problems, including fatty degeneration of the liver and gallstones. Circulation • Its saponins lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

Cautions Saponins may cause or aggravate gastro-oesophageal reflux. Caution in heart conditions as it can stimulate the heart. In patients taking hypoglycaemic drugs and insulin, monitor blood sugar levels carefully so the dosage of drugs can be adjusted.



HAMAMELIS VIRGINIANA: WITCH HAZEL Family Hamamelidaceae Parts Used Leaves, bark and twigs Constituents Tannins, saponins, choline, resins, flavonoids. Actions Astringent, haemostatic, styptic, vulnerary, slightly sedative, anodyne, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant. Witch hazel is a deciduous shrub with distinctive yellow flowers that appear before the leaves in early spring. It is native to North America and native Americans used it as snuff for nose bleeds and, mixed with flax seed, for painful swellings and tumours. Witch hazel is a household remedy for scalds and burns, and is used to stop bleeding and bruising. Digestion • Witch hazel is traditionally used for diarrhoea, dysentery, colitis and respiratory catarrh. Reproductive system • Witch hazel is an astringent, useful for heavy periods and to tone up the uterine muscles. • It can be used for uterine prolapse and a debilitated state after miscarriage and childbirth. Externally • The tannins in witch hazel stop bleeding, speed healing, reduce pain, inflammation and swelling, and provide a protective coating to the skin in cuts and wounds to inhibit the development of infection. • Witch hazel, used in decoction, tincture or distilled form, makes a douche for vaginal discharge and irritation, a gargle for sore throats, tonsillitis and laryngitis, and a mouthwash for mouth ulcers and bleeding gums.

• As a lotion witch hazel is used for varicose veins,

ulcers and phlebitis, insect bites and stings, aching muscles and broken capillaries. • A poultice or compress can be used for burns, inflammatory skin problems including boils, swollen engorged breasts, bed sores, bruises, sprains and strains. • It makes a refreshing eyebath when mixed with rosewater, and relieves sore, tired or inflamed eyes and conjunctivitis. • Its potent antioxidant effect is useful in anti-aging skin preparations. Cautions Witch hazel may only be taken internally for short periods. Avoid in pregnancy and breast feeding. It may impair the absorption of ephedrine, codeine, theophylline, atropine or pseudoephedrine taken by mouth.

182 182


HARPAGOPHYTUM PROCUMBENS: DEVIL’S CLAW Family Pediliaceae Part Used Root (secondary tuber) Constituents Essential oil (mainly ligustilide and n-butylidene phthalide), ferulic acid, coumarins, phytosterols. Actions Anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, analgesic, alterative, antimicrobial, febrifuge, hypotensive, hypocholesterolaemic, laxative, antispasmodic, bitter tonic, hepatic, antineoplastic, lymphatic, diuretic. Devil’s claw is a shrubby evergreen vine, native to the desert sands of Africa. It has been used by African tribes for hundreds of years to ease the pain of inflamed joints and clear toxins from the body. Circulation • Devil’s claw may help lower blood pressure and heart rate. • It lowers harmful cholesterol. Musculo-skeletal System • Devil’s claw makes a good remedy for degenerative disorders of the musculoskeletal system including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, myalgia, fibromyalgia, lower back pain, gout. • It is an excellent anti-inflammatory for arthritis, bursitis and tendonitis. • Its anodyne properties aid pain relief. Digestion • It enhances appetite, improves digestion and absorption, and can be used for a range of digestive problems including heartburn, indigestion, wind and bloating. • It is useful in anorexia. • As a bitter tonic, it can be used liver problems and constipation.

Externally • A poultice can be applied to ulcers, boils and other skin lesions. Cautions Use by those with peptic ulcers, during pregnancy and breast feeding is not advised. May interact with antiarrhythmic medications.



HUMULUS LUPULUS: HOPS Family Cannabaceae Parts Used Female flowers (strobiles) Constituents Bitter resin lupulin (including valerianic acid, humulone, lupulone), essential oil (including sesquiterpenes humulene, geraniol, linalol, myricin, luparol), tannins, flavonoids, asparagin, trimethylamine, choline, oestrogenic chalcone (xanthohumol). Actions Sedative, anaphrodisiac for men, aphrodisiac for women, bitter tonic, phytoestrogenic, galactogogue, antispasmodic, digestive, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, expectorant, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, antineoplastic, febrifuge. Hops are trailing plants growing wild in Europe, Central Asia, North America and Australia, famous for their strobiles which have long been valued for flavouring as well as for their medicinal properties. The Jewish captives in Babylon drank barley beer flavoured with hops to protect them from leprosy. Hops were smoked for their narcotic effects like opium, put into sleep pillows for insomnia and used in medieval monasteries to calm sexual desires. Digestion • The bitters stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes and enhance appetite and digestion. • As an antispasmodic, hops ease muscle tension and spasm, useful for colic, IBS, diverticulitis, nervous indigestion and other stress-related problems including peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. • Its tannins aid the healing of irritated and inflammatory conditions and stem diarrhoea. • Its lupulon and humulon are antiseptic and help combat infections including gastro-enteritis. Nervous System • Sedative and antispasmodic, hops help relieve pain as in headaches and arthritis, and ease tension, anxiety, restlessness, agitation and insomnia.

• Its valerianic acid and essential oils are sedative and so useful in sleep pillows to promote sleep.

Musculo-skeletal System • Hops are anti-inflammatory and pain relieving, useful for joint and muscle pain. Respiratory System • Hops are antispasmodic, antimicrobial and expectorant; they are used for coughs, chest infections, bronchitis and to relieve asthma. Urinary System • Asparagin is a soothing diuretic, and reduces fluid retention. • Hops aid the elimination of heat and toxins by stimulating the liver and kidneys, helping to clear skin problems such as eczema and acne. Their relaxant and antihistamine action helps in this respect. Reproductive System • Hops help to calm sexual desire in men, and enhance women’s libido. • The phytoestrogenic effects of hops are helpful during menopause. • They reduce menstrual cramps, and help to regulate periods. • They enhance milk supply in nursing mothers. Externally • Applied as a poultice, hops reduce pain and inflammation. • In creams they help to keep the skin soft and delay wrinkling. • Hops can be used as an antiseptic for cuts, wounds and ulcers. • When added to a night time bath, hops can ease aching muscles and promote sleep. Cautions Avoid in depression, and hop allergies. May cause contact dermatitis, and could stimulate oestrogenpositive tumours. Caution with central nervous system depressant drugs.

184 184




HYDRASTIS CANADENSIS: GOLDEN SEAL Family Ranunculaceae Parts Used Rhizome, root Constituents Isoquioline alkaloids hydrastine and berberine, resin, volatile oils, tannins. Actions Bitter tonic, hepatic, cholagogue, ophthalmic, antiinflammatory, digestive, stomachic, alterative, anticancer, astringent, mucosal tonic, diuretic, uterine stimulant, parturient, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antifungal, febrifuge, laxative, haemostatic, antispasmodic. Golden seal is a perennial woodland plant native to North America, and a favourite of native American tribes including the Cherokees, Comanches and Iroquois. A powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, it has been used for ulcers, wounds and acute infections including cholera, giardia and amoebic dysentery. Digestion • Golden seal improves appetite, digestion and absorption. It relieves stomach upsets and indigestion. • It is used as an antimicrobial for gastro-enteritis, diarrhoea and dysentery, it helps reestablish gut flora and combats Candida. • Golden seal stimulates the flow of bile from the live and is detoxifying. Immunity • Golden seal stimulates the production of white blood cells to ward off infection. • Its berberine are found to be active against a wide range of bacteria including Staphylococcus, Giardia and tapeworms. • It is toxic to certain types of cancer cells. • Golden seal reduces fevers, for sore throats, coughs, colds, catarrh, flu, chest infections and whooping cough. Circulation • Golden seal enhances heart function and circulation and is used to treat certain heart problems. Externally • In drops, golden seal is helpful for inflamed eyes and earache. As a gargle it is beneficial for sore throats and as a mouth wash for ulcers and inflamed gums.

Cautions Avoid in pregnancy and high blood pressure. NB: CITES listed. Only obtain from sustainable sources.

186 186


HYPERICUM PERFORATUM: ST JOHN’S WORT Family Hypericaceae Parts Used Flowering tops Constituents Glycosides (including a red pigment, hypericin), hyperforin, flavonoids, tannins, resin, volatile oil. Actions Anti-depressant, nervine, anxiolytic, analgesic, anticonvulsant, antispasmodic, alterative, antimicrobial, antiviral, vulnerary, anti-neoplastic, antioxidant, antiinflammatory, sedative, astringent, expectorant, diuretic, vulnerary. St John’s wort is a perennial with bright yellow flowers that bloom in midsummer, around St John’s day, which have little black dots containing a red pigment. According to the “doctrine of signatures”, this indicates its power to heal wounds and stop bleeding. Nervous System • St John’s wort is an effective nervine, well worth using for nervous exhaustion, tension, anxiety, and depression. Its mood-elevating properties can take 2–3 months to produce lasting effect. • Hypericin may act as monamine oxidase inhibitor, retarding enzymes that break down monoamine in the brain. • It increases sensitivity to sunlight, reduces “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD) during winter, and can be used for jet lag. • St John’s wort improves sleep and concentration. • It reduces nerve pain and neuralgia, including trigeminal neuralgia, sciatica, back pain, headaches, shingles and arthritic pain. • It is useful after surgery, and laceration of nerve tissue. Circulation • It reduces blood pressure, especially when related to tension and stress. • The flavonoids help to strengthen the blood vessel walls and protect against capillary fragility. Reproductive System • It is useful for painful, heavy and irregular periods, as well as PMS. • It is excellent for menopausal emotional problems.

Urinary System • The diuretic action of St John’s wort reduces fluid retention and hastens the elimination of toxins via the urine. • It is used for bed-wetting in children and incontinence due to its tonic effect on the urinary musculature. Respiratory System • The expectorant and antimicrobial action of St John’s wort helps to clear phlegm from the chest and relieves coughs, colds and chest infections. Immunity • St John’s wort is an anti-inflammatory, useful for gout and arthritis. • Hypericin has shown potent anti-tumour activity, while extracts of the herb exhibit significant antibacterial action. • The anti-viral properties are active against TB, Influenza A, Herpes viruses, HIV, Hepatitis B and C. Hypericin may interfere with the reproduction of retroviruses, inhibiting development of HIV. Digestion • With its astringent and antimicrobial actions, it can be used to protect the gut lining from infection and inflammation. • It is useful for disturbances of the gut flora, and for combating infections causing gastro-enteritis, diarrhoea and dysentery. • St John’s wort can also be used to heal peptic ulcers and gastritis. • It protects the liver against toxins including alcohol, drugs and chemicals. Externally • St John’s wort oil eases pain and speeds healing in nerve pain such as sciatica and shingles, as well as burns, cuts, wounds, sores, sprains, haemorrhoids, varicose veins and ulcers, bruises, sunburn and inflammatory skin conditions. Cautions St John’s wort can cause photo-sensitivity in some people. Avoid during pregnancy. Avoid with theophylline and beta-2 agonists, SSRIs, Protease inhibitors, and Cyclosporin. There is some discussion about whether St John’s wort can potentiate alcohol and interfere with the function of birth control pills or anesthesia.



188 188


HYSSOPUS OFFICINALIS: HYSSOP Family Lamiaceae Parts Used Flowers and leaves Constituents Volatile oils, terpenes, resin, gums, silica, bitters, tannins, flavonoid glycosides, sulphur. Actions Expectorant, bronchodilator, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, digestive, anthelmintic, hepatic, cholagogue, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, astringent, circulatory stimulant, decongestant, vasodilator, nervine, carminative, emmenagogue. Hyssop is an attractive evergreen member of the mint family, native to Europe and Asia. An effective antimicrobial remedy, hyssop was valued by the Romans to protect them against sickness including the plague. In the Middle Ages it was used to clean churches and the houses of the sick including leper houses. Immunity • Hyssop is excellent for warding off infection and enhancing immunity. • Its antimicrobial and anthelmintic actions in the gut are useful for regulating the gut flora that are intimately linked to a healthy immune system. Respiratory System • Hyssop is a stimulating decongestant and expectorant, helpful for colds, flu, catarrh, sinus problems, hay fever, coughs, bronchitis, asthma and pleurisy. • The volatile oils in hyssop are antimicrobial and expectorant, useful for chest infections including TB as well as viruses like the common cold, flu and Herpes simplex. Circulation • Pungent and warming, hyssop stimulates the circulation, brings blood to the periphery and causes sweating. • In this way it reduces fevers and increases the elimination of toxins via the skin.

Digestion • Its combination of pungent and bitter is excellent for the digestion. The pungent volatile oils increases appetite and digestion, while the bitters are cooling and help to clear toxins from the gut. • Hyssop can be used to relieve indigestion, constipation and flatulence and to regulate the gut flora. Its anthelmintic action helps to combat worms and parasites. • As an antispasmodic, it reduces spasm, colic and is useful in IBS. Nervous System • Hyssop was traditionally used in epilepsy and as a cordial for the heart, to lift the spirits. • As a nerve tonic, hyssops is used to relieve anxiety, tension, exhaustion, depression and as support during times of stress. Externally • Hyssop is used in oils and liniments to relieve swelling and speed healing in bruises, sprains, cuts and wounds, aching joints and muscles. • The oil can be used in a vaporiser to purify the atmosphere, dispel infection, enhance clarity and concentration and steady the nerves when studying for exams. • An infusion or dilute tincture can be used as a gargle for tonsillitis and sore throats, and an inhalation for catarrh and hay fever. Cautions To be avoided by epileptics.



INULA HELENIUM: ELECAMPANE Family Asteraceae Parts Used Root and rhizome, flowers in Chinese medicine Constituents Volatile oils including alantolactone, azulene, helenin; up to 44% polysaccharide inulin; sterols, resin, pectin, mucilage, calcium, magnesium. Actions Antimicrobial, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, bitter, aromatic digestive, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, carminative, decongestant, anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, emmenagogue, rejuvenative, vulnerary, diuretic. Elecampane is a large, statuesque perennial with yellow daisy flowers, native to Europe and North Asia. The bitter, aromatic root was popular for flavouring digestive liqueurs, and when candied it was used for children’s coughs and catarrh. Respiratory System • The pungent root is a warming decongestant and expectorant, excellent for catarrh, colds, hay fever and bronchitis. Inulin is expectorant. • It is antispasmodic and antibacterial, useful for sore throats, tonsillitis, laryngitis, whooping cough, asthma, emphysema, chest infections, pneumonia and pleurisy. • Alantolactone is active against TB. Immunity • Elecampane is antibacterial and antifungal and enhances immunity. • As an anti-inflammatory, it is helpful in arthritis and auto-immune disease. • Its antimicrobial actions help combat unfriendly microorganisms including Candida, thereby enhancing immunity. • Taken hot, it increases the circulation to the periphery, causes sweating and helps to bring down fevers.

Digestion • The volatile oils in elecampane warm and invigorate the digestion and enhance appetite, digestion and absorption, while the cooling and cleansing bitters help clear toxins from the gut. • Its antispasmodic action relaxes tension and spasm and combats infection. • It calms nausea, indigestion, flatulence and colic, and is useful in IBS, diarrhoea and gastro-enteritis. • Its bitters stimulate the flow of bile from liver. • It helps maintain healthy gut flora and its antifungal are very helpful for Candida. • It is used to expel worms and parasites. Alantolactone is active against roundworm, threadworm and hookworm infection. • The root is chewed to prevent tooth decay and sweeten the breath. Urinary System • As as antiseptic diuretic, elecampane relieves fluid retention and can be used for urinary tract infections. • It is a good antispasmodic for an irritable bladder. Externally • Elecampane makes a good antiseptic wash for cuts, wounds and skin infections such as scabies and Herpes. • It was traditionally used for facial neuralgia and sciatica and is well worth trying. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy. Large doses can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, allergic hypersensitivity.

190 190


IRIS VERSICOLOUR: BLUE FLAG Family Iridiaceae Part Used Dried rhizome Constituents Triterpenoids, acrid resin (irisin), volatile oil, starch, salicylates, alkaloids, polysaccharides, mucilage, phytosterols, gum, tannins. Actions Alterative, lymphatic, antimicrobial, digestive, bitter tonic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, cholagogue, decongestant, diaphoretic, febrifuge, sialagogue, thyroid stimulant and laxative. Blue flag is a beautiful perennial bog plant with purpleblue flowers, found growing wild in wet, peaty areas in North America. It was popular among Native Americans as a remedy for skin diseases such as boils, abscesses and acne. Immunity • Blue flag enhances the lymphatic circulation and improves immunity. It is used for swollen glands, chronic tonsillitis, and lowered immunity. • Traditionally it was used to clear heat and toxins, and as a cleansing and anti-inflammatory remedy for skin disease, including boils, abscesses, psoriasis, Herpes and acne. Urinary System • Blue flag is an antiseptic diuretic. It aids the elimination of toxins and excess fluid via urine. • It can be used to ease painful urination and urinary tact infections. Digestion • With its digestive and laxative actions, blue flag improves digestion and absorption, and relieves flatulence, constipation, heartburn, indigestion and nausea. • It improves liver and gall-bladder function, aids digestion of fats, and enhances the detoxifying work of the liver. It has been used for liver and gallbladder problems including hepatitis and cholecystitis. • It may also benefit the pancreas. • It can be used for headaches, skin problems and lethargy associated with poor digestion and a sluggish liver. • It can be emetic in large doses.

Respiratory System • Blue flag clears catarrhal congestion in the chest, throat and nose. • It relieves swollen glands and sore throats. Reproductive System • It is used for genito-urinary infections as well as pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, fibroids, polyps and ovarian cysts. • It antispasmodic effects can help to relieve painful periods while the astringent properties can help reduce heavy bleeding and clots. • It is also used for painful breasts and mastitis. Skin • With its detoxifying actions, blue flag can be used for a range of skin problems including eczema, acne, boils, abscesses, styes, psoriasis, Herpes and rosacea. Endocrine System • Traditionally it was used to treat thyroid and pancreatic disorders. Externally • The root of blue flag was used in poultices by native Americans to relieve pain and swelling of sores, wounds, bruises and arthritic joints. Cautions The fresh root is poisonous. Only use dried root in small amounts. Avoid during pregnancy and lactation.



JUGLANS REGIA: WALNUT Family Juglandaceae Parts Used Leaves, nuts, bark Constituents Napthquinones (juglone), tannins, flavonoids, ellagic acid, gallic acid, volatile oils. Actions Alterative, astringent, anthelmintic, laxative, tonic, restorative, disinfectant. The handsome walnut tree, a native of Persia, grows happily throughout Asia and Europe. Walnut trees live a very long time; some have been known to live 1000 years. Many of the large walnut trees seen in Europe and Britain were planted by monastic orders and in the grounds of convents for their nutritious nuts and for the medicinal values of their leaves and green outer shell of the nuts. Digestion • The astringent action of walnut helps combat irritation and inflammation in the gut. It can be used to relieve indigestion, gastro-enteritis, nausea and diarrhoea. • Walnut was traditionally used for worms and for lowering blood sugar. Respiratory System • Walnut has astringent tannins that help to clear catarrh and catarrhal coughs. Urinary System • Its diuretic and depurative action, aids the elimination of toxins via urine. Immunity • Walnuts are a good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, linolenic acid, which benefits immunity and protects the heart and circulation from degenerative disease and reduce cholesterol. • Walnut bark is detoxifying and blood cleansing, enhancing the function of the lymphatic system. • It helps to clear skin problems including acne, and is used for lymphatic congestion and swollen glands.

Externally • Infusions of the leaves can be used as a lotion for skin problems including cold sores, shingles, chilblains, excessive perspiration of the hands and feet, piles, varicose veins and ulcers, inflammatory eye problems including styes, and sore throats. • They can be used as a douche for vaginal discharges. • Walnut husks boiled in water are used as a hair dye to cover up grey hair and to thicken the hair. • Vinegar of pickled young nuts may be used as a gargle for sore throats.

192 192


LACTUCA VIROSA: WILD LETTUCE Family Asteraceae Parts Used Leaf, latex Constuituents Sesquiterpene alkaloids (lactucine, lactucopicrin, lactucic acid), mannitol, flavonoids (quercitrin), coumarins, phenylamine. Actions Sedative, antispasmodic, anodyne, narcotic, antitussive, diuretic, febrifuge, galactogogue, anaphrodisiac, bitter, digestive, cholagogue, hypoglycaemic. This wild ancestor of the cultivated lettuce but more bitter, is a native of North America, Europe and Asia. Its Latin name derives from “lac” meaning milk because of the white latex that exudes from the fresh stem that has narcotic and euphoric properties. The dried leaves used to be smoked for relaxation and to relieve pain. Nervous System • The alkaloids have a narcotic and euphoric effect similar to opium in large amounts but not addictive. • It is calming for anxiety, panic attacks, hyperactivity, restlessness and agitation. • It is a great sedative for inducing sleep. • Antispasmodic and analgesic, wild lettuce eases pain and tension in tight muscles. Respiratory System • Wild lettuce has an antispasmodic and sedative effect on the cough reflex. It calms irritating dry coughs, particularly those that disturb sleep. • It is used for bronchitis and whooping cough. Digestion • Its bitters stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and aid the processing of toxins and digestion of fats. • With its cooling and calming effects, it is useful for nausea and indigestion, colic and pain and other stress-related digestive problems.

Externally • Wild lettuce can be used as as cooling wash for inflammatory skin problems including acne, spots and rashes from poison ivy. • Its latex can be applied to warts daily. Cautions It can cause drowsiness if used during the day or in large doses. The latex from fresh plant may cause eye irritation and rashes.



LAVENDULA SPP: LAVENDER Family Labiatae Part Used Flowers Constituents Volatile oil (linalool, geraniol, nerol, cineole, linionene), tannins, coumarins, flavonoids, antioxidant rosmarinic acid, triterpenoids. Actions Carminative, diuretic, antispasmodic, nerve tonic, sedative, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, analgesic, stimulant, digestive, antimicrobial, diaphoretic, expectorant, bronchodilator, decongestant, antioxidant, rejuvenative, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, vulnerary. Lavender is a much loved cottage garden herb, with its spikes of highly-scented mauve-blue flowers. It is a perennial shrub from the Mediterranean coast and widely cultivated for use in perfumery and aromatherapy. Lavender was popular during the Middle Ages as a strewing herb to perfume and sanitise the floors of houses and churches and to ward off the plague. Digestion • Lavender is an effective antispasmodic, releasing spasm and colic, and can be used for wind and bowel problems related to tension and anxiety. • Its antiseptic volatile oils are active against bacteria, yeasts and fungi, useful for stomach and bowel infections causing vomiting and diarrhoea. • It can be a good remedy for travel sickness. Nervous System • Lavender calms the mind and lifts the spirits and is excellent for anxiety, tension and irritability. • It makes a good remedy for stress related symptoms including tension headaches, migraines, neuralgia, palpitations, agitation, even agitated behaviour in severe dementia. • Taken in the evening, it makes a good remedy for insomnia, especially for children. • It enhances focus and concentration and can be used for learning problems.

• It lifts the spirits and restores energy in tiredness and nervous exhaustion.

Respiratory System • As an antimicrobial, lavender increases resistance to respiratory tract infections, and can be used for colds, coughs, chest infections, flu, tonsillitis and laryngitis. • With its decongestant and expectorant actions, it clears phlegm and relieves catarrhal coughs. • It is an effective antispasmodic, useful for asthma and croup. Reproductive System • Lavender is analgesic and antiseptic. Traditionally it was burned in delivery rooms as a disinfectant and used in baths to speed healing and reduce pain after childbirth. Immunity • Its volatile oils are antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic. • Its rosmarinic acid has an antioxidant and antiinflammatory action, protecting against free radicals damage. • Taken as hot tea, lavender promotes diaphoresis, reduces fevers and increases the elimination of toxins via the skin and urine. Externally • Lavender makes a good antiseptic for inflammatory and infective skin problems including eczema, acne, varicose ulcers and nappy rash. • It stimulates tissue repair and minimises scar formation when the oil is applied neat to burns, cuts and wounds, sores and ulcers. • Lavender oil can be used to repel insects, relieves insect bites and stings, soothes pain and swelling of bruises, sprains, gout, arthritic pain and reduces muscle tension. • It can be rubbed on the chest and inhaled for chest infections, coughs, colds and catarrh. • As a tea/dilute tincture, lavender can be used as a gargle for sore throats and tonsillitis, as a mouthwash for mouth ulcers and gingivitis and a douche for leucorrhoea.

194 194





• Lentinan may improve survival times of cancer

Part Used Mushroom

• Shiitake stimulates stem cells in bone marrow to

Constituents Amino acids (lysine, arginine), polysaccharide (lentinan), eritadenin, vitamins C, D, B2, B12, calcium, potassium, purines. Actions Immuno-stimulant, rejuvenative, antitumour, antioxidant, adaptogen, antiviral, aphrodisiac, energy tonic, hypocholesterolaemic, hypotensive, cardio-protective, hepato-protective. Shiitake is a delicious edible mushroom, native to China. One shiitake mushroom a day is said to be enough to boost immunity and rejuvenation. Known as the “mushroom of immortality,” it has been used to prevent premature aging for thousands of years. Circulation • Shiitake mushrooms reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the formation of atherosclerosis in arterial walls. It helps prevents clots. • Its antioxidant active has a cardio-protective effect, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease, stokes and heart attacks. • Shiitake mushrooms make a strengthening tonic for anaemia. Immunity • Shiitake mushrooms are a natural immune stimulant and restorative. • They can be used to strengthen the immunity of patients with cancer, HIV, TB, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. • They can be used in the treatment of allergies, arthritis, environmental illness, fatigue and hepatitis. • They have anti-tumour actions. The compound in cooked shiitake (thiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid) can inhibit formation of potentially carcinogenic nitrites in the stomach.

patients when used concurrently with chemotherapy.

produce B and T cells, inhibit blood platelet aggregation, boost interferon production and levels of natural killer cells, which help suppress tumours. • They have an antiviral action useful for Herpes simplex 1 and 2. Respiratory System • Shiitake mushroom boost interferon production, which helps fights off flu viruses. • They enhance immunity and prevent frequent colds, coughs and bronchitis. • They are antiallergenic and helpful for hay fever and asthma. Digestion • With its hepato-protective action, shiitake protects the liver against damage from toxins, chemicals, alcohol, drugs and infection. • It can reduce elevated liver enzymes. • It helps regulate blood sugar. Cautions Rarely causes mild gastric upset/rashes. Thyroxine and hydrocortisone may inhibit the anti-tumour activity of lentinan. Water-soluble extracts may reduce platelet coagulation, use cautiously with blood thinners.

196 196


LEONURUS CARDIACA: MOTHERWORT Family Lamiaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Triterpenes (including ursolic acid) iridoid glycosides (leonuride), alkaloids (stachydrin, leonurine), tannins, resins, flavonoids, vitamin A. Actions Antispasmodic, sedative, antidepressant, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, cardiotonic, hypotensive, haemostatic, diaphoretic, astringent, bitter, hepatic, alterative, carminative, diuretic, uterine tonic, partus praeparator, parturient, emmenagogue, nervine, thymoleptic, antithyroid, immunostimulant, antioxidant, antimicrobial. Motherwort is an interesting perennial member of the mint family with five-lobed leaves and whorls of pinkish flowers, found wild in many parts of Europe. It has been praised since the days of the early Greeks as a relaxing remedy for expectant mothers, which accounts for its name. Reproductive System • Motherwort is an antispasmodic and tonic with affinity for the uterus and is prescribed for painful or delayed periods, cramps, back pain and vaginismus. • It enhances fertility and was traditionally used to increase libido. • Taken in the weeks before, it helps prepare for and eases childbirth. It eases tension or anxiety about the birth and helps prevent post-natal depression. • With its antimicrobial actions, it helps prevent postpartum infection. • As an emmenagogue, it stimulates menstruation and may be helpful in amenorrhoea and scanty flow. • As a nervine, it soothes anxiety, anger and irritability and is good for PMS and menopausal mood swings. • It can be helpful in menstrual headaches. • Motherwort is cooling for hot flushes, and is particularly effective when they are accompanied by palpitations. Nervous System • Motherwort calms anxiety and aids sleep. • It has an affinity for the heart, hence its name cardiaca. • It was traditionally used for strengthening and gladdening the heart. It may help ease heartbreak. • Motherwort reduces nervous palpitations and irregular heart rates and is particularly useful during the menopause. • It can relieve headaches, muscular twitches and spasms.

Immunity • Motherwort enhances immunity and is active against viruses including Epstein Barr and Herpes as well as bacterial and fungal infections. • Its ursolic acid may inhibit cancers including leukaemia, lung, breast and colon cancer. Circulation • With its relaxing effects, motherwort benefits the heart by reducing palpitations and blood pressure. • It may reduce blood clotting, cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Digestion • Motherwort is bitter and cooling, and can be helpful for acidity and heartburn. • It is a good antispasmodic for stress-related digestive problems. Other • Motherwort may have hypothyroid activity. Externally • As a douche or a lotion motherwort can be used for leucorrhoea, vaginitis, vaginal infections including thrush. Cautions May increase menstrual flow. Avoid in early pregnancy. Only use a few weeks prior to the birth.



LONICERA JAPONICA: HONEYSUCKLE Family Caprifoliaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Essential oils including borneol; mucilage, glucoside, salicylic acid, invertin. Actions Antimicrobial, antiseptic, rejuvenative, alterative, laxative, decongestant, expectorant, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, hypotensive, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary. Honeysuckle is a woody, deciduous twining shrub loved by many for its honey-sweet scent. It is so named because the sweet nectar can be sucked from the flowers. A syrup of the flowers is an old remedy for asthma, croup and irritating coughs, cramps, asthma and for speedy delivery in childbirth. Respiratory System • With its antimicrobial action, honeysuckle is excellent for preventing and combating infections. It is active against several bacteria including TB. It is used with Forsythia suspensa in Chinese medicine for infections including tonsillitis, pneumonia, TB and middle ear infection. • With its anti-inflammatory, expectorant, decongestant, antimicrobial and antispasmodic properties, it is useful for spasm and phlegm and can be helpful in asthma, croup, whooping cough, bronchitis and chest infections. • The Japanese use the flowers for sore throats, colds, flu, tonsillitis, bronchitis and pneumonia. • In hot infusion, it is decongestant and beneficial for colds, catarrh, sinusitis and bronchial congestion. Immunity • Honeysuckle is traditionally used in China to clear damp heat and toxins. • It enhances immunity and promotes longevity. Its essential oils are antimicrobial, active against several bacteria and enhance the immune system’s fight against infection. • The salicylic acid has an aspirin-like action, relieving inflammation, aches and pains, headaches, flu, fevers and arthritis. • It may protect against breast cancer.

Digestion • Honeysuckle is a gentle laxative. • With its anti-inflammatory, astringent and antimicrobial actions, honeysuckle is useful for disturbances of the gut flora, diarrhoea, dysentery, food poisoning and Crohn’s disease. Urinary System • As a diuretic, honeysuckle is soothing in cystitis and irritable bladder. • It aids the elimination of toxins via the kidneys. Skin • Detoxifying and anti-inflammatory, honeysuckle helps to clear spots, boils, acne, psoriasis and eczema. Externally • Honeysuckle can be used in washes, lotions and creams to soothe rashes, bruises and sore eyes. It can be used in gargles for sore throats and mouthwashes for mouth ulcers. Cautions The berries are poisonous.

198 198


MARRUBIUM VULGARE: WHITE HOREHOUND Family Lamiaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Flavonoids (luteolin), saponins, tannins, volatile oil (pinene, limonene, campene), mucilage, bitter lactone, alkaloids (betonicine, stachydrine), sterols, diterpene alcohol (marrubiol), bitters, vitamin C, iron. Actions Expectorant, decongestant, diaphoretic, bitter tonic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, cholagogue, digestive, antispasmodic, diuretic, emmenagogue, laxative. White horehound is a perennial with woolly silverygreen leaves native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It has a musky aroma loved by bees. It was popular in the past for brewing, made into sweets for catarrh and coughs and medicines for snake bites and poisoning. Respiratory System • White horehound is renowned as an antibacterial, antispasmodic and expectorant remedy for coughs, colds, catarrh, flu, croup, asthma, bronchitis, chest infections, emphysema and bronchial catarrh. • It was traditionally used for laryngitis, tonsillitis, pneumonia, TB and whooping cough. • When taken hot. it increases perspiration, relieves fevers and helps to clear catarrhal congestion. Digestion • Its bitter taste stimulates appetite and digestion and promotes the flow of digestive juices and bile from the liver. • Antibacterial and anthelmintic, white horehound helps regulate the gut flora and is indicated in indigestion, wind, colic, gastro-enteritis, diarhoea and worms. • It has laxative effects.

Circulation • White horehound is used for calming palpitations, dilating the arteries and normalising the circulation. Its essential oils have a vasodilatory action. • It contains iron and is used for anaemia. Reproductive System • White horehound stimulates the uterus, brings on menstruation in delayed periods and amenorrhoea. • Traditionally it was used to expel the placenta after childbirth. Cautions Avoid in pregnancy. Fresh juice may cause skin irritation.



MELISSA OFFICINALIS: LEMON BALM Family Labiatae Parts Used Arial parts Constituents Volatile oils (citronellal, citral, geraniol, pinene, nerol, linalool), polyphenols, tannins, bitters, flavonoids including isoquercetrin; rosmarinic acid, triterpenoids. Actions Diaphoretic, digestive, carminative, nervine, antidepressant, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, antihistamine, antimicrobial, sedative, analgesic, antiemetic, antiviral, partus praeparator, antioxidant, anti-thyroid, antiinflammatory, trophorestorative, parturient. Delicious and refreshing, lemon balm was brought by the Romans who valued it to clear the mind, improve memory and lift the spirits. It was a favourite of Arabs in the Middle Ages to promote longevity, now explained by the presence of antioxidant rosmarinic acid. Digestion • Lemon balm is a good digestive, stimulating the flow of digestive enzymes and improving digestion and absorption. • With its antispasmodic and sedative actions, lemon balm is good for reducing pain and spasm, and soothing stress-related problems including wind, bloating, colic, nausea, IBS and gastritis. • Its antimicrobial actions help to combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut, thereby enhancing immunity. • Its bitters gently stimulate the liver and gallbladder. Nervous System • Lemon balm influences the limbic system concerned with mood and temperament. • As a sedative and analgesic, it reduces tension, anxiety and agitation and is useful in dementia and insomnia. • It also has restorative properties and can be used for tiredness, nervous exhaustion, poor memory and concentration. • It can be used to relieve headaches, migraine, vertigo and tinnitus. • Lemon balm is mood elevating and improves memory and concentration. It can ease exam nerves while promoting alertness and retention.

• Its antioxidant compounds are useful for protecting the nervous system against free radical damage and preventing age-related mental decline and degenerative problems such as Alzheimer’s.

Circulation • Lemon balm calms nervous palpitations and arrhythmias. • It can be used to reduce blood pressure. Respiratory System • With antimicrobial, antispasmodic and mucousreducing properties, lemon balm can be used to treat colds, flu, catarrh, chest infections, dry coughs and asthma. Reproductive System • It can be used for irregular and painful periods, irritability in PMS and menopausal depression. • It eases and speeds childbirth when taken prior to and during the birth. • It may be used to treat genital Herpes internally and externally. Urinary System • Lemon balm is an antiseptic diuretic and can be used for urinary tract infections. Immunity • Lemon balm is antiviral against Herpes simplex, shingles, mumps and other viruses, possibly including HIV. It brings down fevers, and is used for colds and flu, coughs and catarrh. • Its volatile oils are antibacterial, antifungal and antihistamine, helpful in hay fever and allergic rhinitis. • Its rosmarinic acid is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and influences complement activity. Other Uses • Lemon balm has a thyroid inhibitory effect used for the management of hyperthyroidism. Externally • Lemon balm can be used as an antiseptic for cuts and wounds and an antihistamine for allergic skin conditions. • Its dilute oils can be used in massage for period pains, neuralgia, joint and muscle pain, mumps, and in lotions for cold sores, tinea infections such as athlete’s foot, wasp and bee stings.

200 200


• In eardrops it can be used for infections and in mouthwashes for gum infections and toothache.

Cautions Avoid with thyroid drugs.



MENTHA PIPERITA: PEPPERMINT Family Laminaceae Part Used Aerial part Constituents Volatile oil (menthol, menthone, pulegone, carvone), flavonoids, phytol, carotenoids, choline, rosmarinic acid, coumarins and tannins. Actions Diaphoretic, carminative, nervine, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, decongestant, antiemetic, antiseptic, appetiser, digestive, circulatory stimulant, analgesic, anthelmintic, antimicrobial, rubefacient, vulnerary. With its refreshing taste and stimulating action, peppermint has long been popular for culinary and medicinal use and for perfumes and flavouring. It was traditionally used as a carminative and digestive for a wide range of digestive problems and as an analgesic and decongestant for colds, catarrh, headaches and cramps. Digestion • Peppermint relieves pain and spasm in stomach aches, colic, flatulence, heartburn, indigestion, hiccoughs, constipation, IBS and diarrhoea. • It enhances appetite and digestion and relieves nausea and travel sickness. • It prevents sleepiness after eating. • The tannins protect the gut lining from irritation and infection, which is useful in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. • Its bitters stimulate liver and gallbladder function, and account for its traditional use for liver problems and gallstones. • The antimicrobial volatile oils help to combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut, thereby enhancing digestion, absorption and immunity. Nervous System • Peppermint was traditionally used as a brain tonic, to clear the mind, improve concentration and give inspiration. • It is relaxing, calms anxiety and tension. • Analgesic and antispasmodic, it relieves tension headaches, joint and muscle pain, menstrual pain and spasm, and can be used in asthma.

Circulation • In a warm infusion, peppermint improves the circulation, dispersing blood to the surface, causing sweating. • It is warming in winter and can be used for poor circulation. Respiratory System • Peppermint acts as a decongestant when taken in a hot infusion, and its antimicrobial actions enhance resistance to infections such as colds, flu and fevers. • It clears the airways and reduces spasm in asthma. Reproductive System • Peppermint relaxes smooth muscle in the uterus, reducing menstrual pain and cramps. Immunity • The volatile oils in peppermint are antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral and antifungal. • Peppermint increases energy and immunity by enhancing digestion and absorption and increasing circulation. • This is useful during stress, chronic illness and convalescence. • Peppermint is active against a wide range of bacteria including H.Pylori, Salmonella enteritidis and E.coli. • The flavonoid luteolin-7-O-rutinoside has shown potential as an antihistamine. • Peppermint has an antifungal action and is helpful in the treatment of infections such as Candida. Externally • Peppermint oil and lotion are useful for Herpes simplex and ringworm. • The oil can be used as an inhalant for colds, catarrh and sinusitis, and added to lotions for muscular pains and aching feet. • Peppermint tea or tincture can be used as a gargle for sore throats, and a mouthwash for gum infections and mouth ulcers. Cautions The oil should always be used diluted, and avoided in pregnancy. Do not use on babies or small children.

202 202




MYRICA CERIFERA: BAYBERRY Family Myricacaea Parts Used Bark, root bark Constituents Tannins, triterpenes (taraxerol, taraxerone, myricadol), flavonoids (myricitrin), viamin C, phenols, fatty acids (palmitic, stearic, myristic acids), gum. Actions Astringent, alterative, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, diuretic, diaphoretic, expectorant, hepato-protective and styptic. Bayberry is a perennial shrub native to the eastern part of North America. The greenish berries are edible and produce wax that has long been used to make candles and soap. It is known for its toning and astringing actions, tightening lax muscles and stemming bleeding. Respiratory System • The tannins have an astringent effect on mucous membranes, protecting them against irritation and infection and reducing excess mucous. • Bayberry has expectorant properties and helps to bring down fevers. • It is useful in colds, nasal congestion, catarrhal coughs, flu, sinusitis, sore throats and tonsillitis. Digestion • The astringent tannins protect the gut lining from irritation and inflammation. • The antibacterial actions also help combat infections. • It is useful in gastritis, heartburn, acid indigestion, gastro-enteritis, diarrhoea, dysentery, colitis and IBS.

Urinary System • As an astringent diuretic, bayberry is useful for reducing fluid retention. • It is recommended for urinary incontinence and bed wetting. Reproductive System • It reduces blood flow, and can can be used for heavy periods. • Bayberry tones pelvic muscles and is excellent for prolapse. Circulation • It is good for stimulating the flow of blood and lymph, clearing lymphatic congestion and supporting the detoxification work of the lymphatic system. • It is also used for varicose veins. Externally • Bayberry makes a good mouthwash for bleeding gums and mouth ulcers, a gargle for sore throats, and a lotion for varicose veins. • It can be used in decoctions as a douche for vaginal discharge and for combating infection. • It was traditionally used in tooth powders for bleeding gums and as snuff for catarrhal congestion.

204 204


MYRISTICA FRAGRANS: NUTMEG Family Myristaceae Part Used Kernel Constituents Essential oil (myristicin, borneol, camphene, pinene, linalool, eugenol), oleic, palmitic, linoleic acids, saponins. Actions Sedative, anticonvulsant, analgesic, nervine, rejuvenative, euphoric, psychotropic, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, antispasmodic, expectorant, digestive, carminative, hepatic, aphrodisiac, reproductive tonic, circulatory stimulant, deodorant, astringent. Nutmeg is the dried kernel of the seeds of an evergreen tree native to the Indonesian Molucca islands. In large amounts it has euphoric, even hallucinogenic, effects and was long used in magical love potions as well as perfumes and incense. Nervous System • Nutmeg is a powerful brain stimulant and euphoric and yet it also has sedative properties, helping to allay tension and anxiety, relieve mental agitation and promote sleep. • It can be used to enhance memory and concentration and when tired and run down from stress. • The powder of nutmeg mixed with fresh amla juice is a valuable remedy for insomnia, irritability and depression used in Ayurveda. • Nutmeg paste mixed with honey is given to infants who cry at night for no apparent reason, to induce sleep. • It relaxes muscles and is recommended for muscle spasm and pain. Digestion • Nutmeg relaxes muscles throughout the gut, stimulates the flow of digestive juices and enzymes, promotes appetite, digestion and absorption. • It can be used for halitosis, indigestion, hiccups, colic,

wind, bloating and nervous digestive problems.

• It is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, helping to

combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut and useful for treating chrohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, infections, worms, diarrhoea, dysentery, gastro-enteritis, nausea and vomiting. • Nutmeg was traditionally used with coconut water in India for dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhoea, particularly in cholera. Reproductive System • Nutmeg was traditionally used as a sex tonic to prolong love making and heighten sensitivity. • It is used for infertility, low libido and premature ejaculation, particularly when related to stress. • It is helpful in painful and irregular periods, prostate problems. Respiratory System • Nutmeg can be used as a decongestant for runny noses and catarrh. • It can be helpful in allergic rhinitis. Circulation • Nutmeg has a protective effect on the cardiovascular system. • It lowers harmful cholesterol and helps prevent clotting. Externally • Nutmeg powder can be mixed with water and applied to skin problems including ringworm and eczema. • It has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties and is useful in rubs for arthritis and nerve and muscle pain. • Essential oil of nutmeg can be applied to numb the pain of toothache while waiting for dental help. Cautions No more than 3gm should be taken daily. Large amounts can produce toxic symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, convulsions, tachycardia, restlessness, dizziness and hallucinations.



206 206



• It protects against histamine- induced broncho-

Parts Used Leaves, seeds, root

• It is active against microrganisms including E. Coli,

Constituents Essential oils (including eugenol, carvacrol, linalool, nerol, camphor), triterpenes, sterols, antioxidant polyphenols and flavonoids, fatty acids (myristic, stearic, palmitic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic), ursolic and rosmarinic acids. Actions Demulcent, antimicrobial, expectorant, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, anthelminthic, diaphoretic, febrifuge, nervine, adaptogen, anxiolytic, antidepressant, immune-stimulant, anti-inflammatory, digestive, carminative, alterative, laxative, diuretic, antioxidant, rejuvenative, hypocholesteraemic, hypoglycaemic, vulnerary. Holy basil is one of the most sacred plants in India, dedicated to Vishnu and Krishna. This lovely plant has an uplifting and strengthening effect on mind and body. In India holy basil is traditionally grown in domestic courtyards partly for spiritual purposes but also because its aroma is said to purify the atmosphere. The plant gives off ozone that breaks down chemicals and dispels disease carrying viruses, bacteria and insects. Digestion • Holy basil is antispasmodic and warming. It relieves spasm and colic and eases wind and bloating. • It is appetising and digestive and improves absorption and metabolism. It can be used in anorexia as well as obesity. • It has a laxative, antimicrobial and anthelmintic effects and is used to combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut, for worms and parasites, gastroenteritis, nausea and vomiting. • It reduces the effect of peptic acid or irritating drugs on the stomach lining and is used for treating hyperacidity, heartburn, dyspepsia and peptic ulcers. It also increases the production of protective stomach mucus. Respiratory System • Holy basil is decongestant, expectorant and antispasmodic. It can be used for colds, catarrh, fevers, sore throats, flu, coughs and chest infections.

spasm and is helpful in asthma and rhinitis.

Staphlococcus aureus and Mycoplasma tuberculosis and fungi including Aspergillus.

Nervous System • Holy basil is uplifting and strengthening. • It clears lethargy and congestion that dampen spirits and fog the mind. • It is good for reducing anxiety, mild depression, insomnia, and stress-related problems including headaches and IBS. • It is an adaptogenic, rejuvenative and increases resilience to stress. Immunity • Holy basil is an anti-inflammatory. It inhibits prostaglandin production. • A great immune-enhancing and adaptogenic herb, it protects healthy cells from toxicity, radiation and chemotherapy and protects the heart from damage caused by chemotherapy. • It is good for allergies including hay fever and rhinitis. • It is anthelmintic and active against enteric pathogens and Candida. • The plant gives off ozone, an unstable form of oxygen that helps to break down chemicals and dispels disease-carrying organisms eg. viruses, bacteria and insects. Urinary System • It relieves dysuria, cystitis and urinary tract infections and clears toxins through its diuretic effect. Endocine System • Holy basil lowers blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Externally • The juice of its fresh leaves can be applied to skin conditions including allergic rashes, athlete’s foot and acne. • It has an antibiotic effect and speeds healing. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy.



208 208


OENOTHERA BIENNIS: EVENING PRIMROSE Family Onagraceae Part Used Oil from seeds Constituents Essential fatty acids, notably gamma linoleic acid (GLA), linoleic, oleic, palmitic and stearic acid, omega 6 oils. Actions Antispasmodic, astringent, sedative, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, digestive, immune-stimulant, antineoplastic, bronchodilator, expectorant, hypocholesterolaemic, hypotensive, anticoagulant, vasodilator, hormone regulator, analgesic, antihistamine, nutritive, demulcent, hepatoprotective, vulnerary. A handsome biennial plant with sweet-scented paleyellow flowers that generally open at dusk, evening primrose was originally brought to Europe from North and South America.The oil is a good source of omega 6 fatty acids, vital for healthy functioning of the immune, nervous and hormonal systems. Skin • Evening primrose provides GLA, which cannot be produced by the body. It is excellent when a breakdown in GLA production from linoleic acid is related to problems atopic problems such as eczema, urticarial, psoriasis as well as acne. Reproductive System • The essential fatty acids help maintain hormone balance. • Evening primrose can be used for a range of hormonal imbalances and symptoms relating to them including PMS, menstrual irregularities, benign breast problems, endometriosis, menopausal problems and acne. • It increases the fat content of breast milk when lactating. Nervous System • Evening primrose has a mildly sedative effect and is a good remedy for anxiety, depression, insomnia, neuralgia, poor memory and concentration and hyperactivity in children. • It can be helpful in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative problems, as well as diabetic neuropathy.

Immunity • The fatty acids in evening primrose are helpful in the treatment of allergies such as eczema. • It is good for treating allergic and autoimmune problems including hyperactivity, ADHD, asthma, migraine, as well as metabolic disorders and diabetes, high cholesterol and arthritis. • GLA reduces inflammation by reducing prostaglandin E. • Evening primrose may inhibit the production of free radicals and slow tumour growth. Digestion • It counteracts the effect of alcoholic poisoning and encourages regeneration of a damaged liver, whilst also helping with withdrawal from alcohol and alcoholic depression. • Its sedative effect can be helpful for nervous indigestion, colic, IBS and other stress-related digestive problems. Circulation • Evening primrose reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. • It helps prevent blood clots and coronary artery disease. • It can be used for atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, Raynaud’s disease and intermittent claudication. Respiratory System • Its antispasmodic effects can be put to good use to relieve asthma and parosxysmal coughing as in whooping cough. Cautions Avoid in epilepsy. Supplement with omega-3 oils simultaneously at a ratio of 3:1.



OLEA EUROPAEA: OLIVE Family Oleaceae Parts Used Fruit, oil, leaves Constituents Oil contains antioxidants, olein, palmetin, aracluin, stearin, cholesterin, cyclorarthanol, benzoic acid. Leaves and unripe fruit contain mannite. Actions Nutritious, demulcent, emolient, antiseptic, astringent, febrifuge, antioxidant. The olive is one of the oldest cultivated plants of the Mediterranean and is thought to have been grown at least 5000 years ago in Egypt and on Crete for its highly valuable oil. An olive branch was used to crown winners of the Olympic games. Athletes would rub olive oil into their skin from head to foot before a race or contest to keep their muscles and joints supple. Digestion • Olive oil soothes irritated and inflamed conditions including indigestion, heartburn, gastritis, colitis and peptic ulcers. • It has a slightly laxative effect. Warm oil enemas help to break up faeces and relieve constipation. • It was traditionally used as a gastric lavage for poisoning by alkalis and corrosives to soothe irritated mucosae and hasten elimination. • Olive oil stimulates bile flow and can be used for liver and gall-bladder problems. It can be alternated with lemon juice to dissolve and encourage the passing of gallstones. • Olive leaves can lower blood sugar which is helpful in the management of diabetes. Respiratory System • Olive oil soothes the mucous membranes and can be used to soothe harsh dry coughs, laryngitis and croup, and to reduce catarrh. Circulation • Cold pressed olive oil is high in oleic acid and can reduce low density lipoprotein cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, clots, heart attacks and strokes. • It contains cyclorarthanol which can reduce absorption of LDL cholesterol.

• Its leaves act as a vasodilator, relaxing blood vessels

and lowering blood pressure. It is used for hypertension, angina pectoris and other circulatory problems. • Hot infusion of the leaves increase sweating and reduce fevers. Immunity • Its antioxidant properties make cell membranes more stable and less susceptible to destruction by free radicals. • It may reduce development of cancer and retard ageing. Externally • Olive oil is highly nutritious, and can be used for liniments, ointments and plasters to keep the skin smooth and protect from irritation from the sun or corrosives. • It can be applied to boils and abscesses, eczema, cold sores, chapped skin, brittle nails, insect bites and stings and minor burns to speed healing. • Warm olive oil dropped into the ear helps to soften the accumulation of wax and with essential oils such as lavender or garlic added, it can relieve earache. • It can also be massaged over kidneys for enuresis. • An infusion of olive leaves is good for cleaning and healing cuts and wounds, sores and ulcers, and as a mouthwash for bleeding or infected gums, ands a gargle for sore throats. • When made into a liniment with grated garlic, it can be effective for joint pains, gout, neuralgia and sprains.

210 210


ORIGANUM MARJORANA: SWEET MARJORAM Family Laminaceae Parts Used Flowers and leaves Constituents Essential oil (camphor, borneol, terpinene and sabinene), mucilage, bitters, tannins, antioxidants. Actions Digestive, carminative, tonic, stimulant, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, diuretic, antimicrobial, immuno-stimulant, antioxidant, rejuvenative, decongestant, expectorant, bronchodilator, nervine, antidepressant. With its white flowers and grey-green leaves, sweet marjoram is a half-hardy annual in cool temperate areas and a perennial in warmer areas of Europe and America, growing wild in sunny places. The ancient Greeks used it to nourish the brain and remedy the digestion. Immunity • The antioxidants in sweet marjoram minimise damage from free radicals and retard ageing. • Sweet marjoram enhances immunity and increases circulation. • Its essential oils are antimicrobial against bacteria including tuberculosis, viruses including Herpes simplex and fungal infection including Candida. • It can help protect against winter infections eg. coughs and colds. • Its decongestant action helps to clear phlegm, catarrhal coughs and sinus congestion. Its diaphoretic action helps to bring down fevers. • Its antimicrobial action helps to combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut and thereby enhance immunity. Circulation • It stimulates blood flow and is helpful for poor circulation and chilblains. Urinary System • As an antiseptic diuretic, it can be used for for infections. • Its diuretic action reduces fluid retention and helps to clear toxins from the system via the kidneys, which can be helpful in arthritis and gout.

Digestion • Sweet marjoram is antispasmodic and warming, good for indigestion, poor appetite, wind and colic, nausea, diarrhoea and constipation. • Its antimicrobial actions help combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut. Nervous System • It relaxes mental and physical tension, relieves insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, depression and stress-related symptoms such as aching muscles, indigestion, colic, headaches, migraine, period pains, PMS, poor concentration and memory. Mento-emotional • Sweet marjoram was traditionally used to calm unwanted sexual desire and loneliness, and for bereavement and heartbreak. Externally Dilute essential oil can be used for massage into painful joints, aching muscles, sprains and strains.




Actions Tonic, nervine, adaptogen, antioxidant, alterative, stimulant, immuno-stimulant, rejuvenative, adrenal tonic, pituitary hormone regulator, antimicrobial, vasodilator, hypotensive, hypocholesterolaemic, hypopglycaemic, aphrodisiac, hepato-protective, antidepressant, brain tonic, cardiotonic, demulcent, diuretic, antineoplastic.

Immunity • It is a good immune enhancer and as a true adaptogen, increases resilience to stress. Approximately 3000 scientific studies confirm its amazing ability to increase resistance to stress caused by, for instance, extremes of temperature, excessive exertion, illness, hunger, mental strain and emotional problems. • It is used for immune deficiency, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, adrenal burn out, allergies such as hay fever and asthma and shingles. • It increases white blood cell function and improves liver function, aiding resistance to hepatotoxins and radiation. • It reduces depression of bone marrow when on anti-cancer drugs and decreases allergic responses.

Korean ginseng is the king of tonics. For centuries in the East top grade roots have been valued more highly than gold, commanding higher prices than any other plant in the world. There are many different grades of ginseng; wild ginseng, particularly that from Manchuria, being considered the best.

Digestion • Korean ginseng reduces blood sugar which is useful for diabetics. • It improves appetite and digestion and can be used for a range of stress-related digesive problems including indigestion and peptic ulcers.

Nervous System • Korean ginseng is an adaptogen and increases energy, vitality and resilience to stress. • It optimises pituitary and adrenal function when stressed, increases efficiency of nerve impulses, enhancing overall mental and physical performance, memory and stamina and musclular strength. • It quietens the spirit and imparts wisdom. • It is excellent when undergoing harsh physical training, recovering from illness or surgery, studying for exams or taking on a large project at work. • As a rejuvenating tonic, it reduces the impact of the ageing process.

Circulation • Its vasodilatory action helps to lower blood pressure. • It strengthens the heart and increases its resilience to stress. • It can be used for palpitations, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Part Used Root. Constituents Steroidal saponins (ginsenosides), volatile oils, sterols, starch, pectin, lipids, polysaccharides (glycans). vitamins B1, B2 and B12, choline, germanium, minerals including zinc, copper, magnesium, calcium and iron.

Respiratory System • As an immune-stimulant, ginseng enhances resitance to infections. • It acts as a tonic to the lungs, reducing wheezing and shortness of breath.

Reproductive System • The steroidal saponins stimulate sexual function in men and women, and increase sperm production. • It can be used for infertility, low sperm count, low libido and erective dysfunction. • It reduces menopausal symptoms including depression. Cautions Avoid in acute inflammatory conditions such as bronchitis.

212 212




PAEONIA LACTIFLORA/OFFICINALIS: PAEONY/PEONY Family Paeoniaceae Parts Used Root, seeds, flowers Constituents Monoterpene glycosides, flavonoids, anthocyanins, asparagin, volatile oils, tannins, paeonilactones, sitosterol, tritrerpenes, mucilage, proteins. Actions Alterative, antispasmodic, anticonvulsant, emmenagogue, nervine, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, immune-stimulant, anti-allergic, brain tonic, ophthalmic, astringent, antilithic, hypocholesterolaemic, hepatoprotective, cholagogue, febrifuge. This beautiful and exotic looking flower comes from a family of 33 different species, native to Europe, China and North America. Paeonia lactiflora, with its red, white or pink scented flowers was cultivated in China as long ago as 900BC. Paeonies were traditionally used as a protective herb and for nightmares and hysteria. The dried root was given to women after childbirth to help expel the placenta and aid recovery. Reproductive System • With its antispasmodic effect, paeony reduces painful periods. • The astringent tannins are helpful in heavy periods and perimenopausal flooding. • It helps to balance female hormones and can be used for irregular periods, PCOS, PMS and symptoms associated with excess oestrogen including fibroids, ovarian cysts and endometriosis. • Paeony stimulates uterine muscles, aids contractions in childbirth and expulsion of placenta. • It can help to reduce night sweats during the menopause. Urinary System • With its diuretic actions, paeony can reduce fluid retention and helps to clear toxins from the system via the urine. • It also helps to dissolve kidney stones.

Digestion • Paeony is a good liver and gall-bladder remedy and dissolves gall-stones. • The antispasmodic action of the root reduces pain and spasm in the stomach and intestines, while the astringent tannins and antimicrobial effects help to reduce diarrhoea, dysentery and stress-related gastric ulcers. Circulation • It improves venous return and benefits varicose veins and haemorrrhoids. • Paeony is used in Chinese medicine for hypertension, hypertensive headaches, fevers, dizziness due to poor circulation, and blood deficiency with liver heat. • It helps to prevent blood clots and to reduce cholesterol and atherosclerosis. It can be used for angina and high blood pressure. Nervous System • Paeony is calming, it relaxes spasm in the chest, gut and uterus and has anticonvulsive properties. • Paeony is a traditional remedy for muscle twitches and spasms and epilepsy. Immunity • The root is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral. • It clears signs of heat and toxicity such as acne and boils. • It is helpful for stiff joints. Externally • A knife wound with bleeding and pain is commonly treated with bai-shao (the cultivated root) in Chinese medicine. Cautions Contra-indicated in early pregnancy.

214 214


PASSIFLORA INCARNATA: PASSION FLOWER Family Passifloraceae Parts Used Vine and flower Constituents Alkaloids (Harman, harmine, harmol, harmaline, passaflorine), sugar, gum, sterols, flavonoids (apigenin, kaempferol, quercitin, rutin, luteolin, isovitexin), coumarin derivatives, essential oil. Actions Anodyne, anticonvulsive, bronchodilator, nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, hypnotic, diuretic, diaphoretic, anti-thyroid, vasodilator. A perennial climber indigenous to South America with stunningly beautiful and intricate flowers, passion flower derives its name from the resemblance of the centre of the flower to the cross and crown of thorns symbolising the Passion of Christ. It was discovered by Spanish explorers in Peru and sent to Pope Paul V in 1605 because of its religious connections. Nervous System • Passion flower is an excellent relaxant and sedative for stress-related and painful conditions including panic attacks and hysteria. • It improves circulation and nutrition to the nerves. • It calms nervous anxiety, restlessness and agitation, and improves concentration. It can be helpful with exam nerves. • Its analgesic and antispasmodic actions help to soothe pain in headaches, neuralgia, shingles, muscular aches, backache and period pains. • It is cooling in conditions of excess heat, inflammation, anger, intolerance and irritability. • It acts as a non-addictive tranquiliser for chronic insomnia. For best results it is best taken during the day as well as before going to sleep.

• As an antispamodic, it is useful for Parkinson’s disease, muscle twitching and cramps, high blood pressure and colic.

Respiratory System • Passion flower has antispasmodic properties, it relieves irritating and nervous coughs, croup and asthma. Circulation • It relaxes tension through the arterial system, reduces blood pressure and nervous palpitations. Digestion • It is helpful for stress-related digestive problems including wind, colic, indigestion and IBS. Cautions Avoid with monoamine oxidase-inhibiting antidepressants.



PHYTOLACCA DECANDRA: POKE ROOT Family Phytolaccaeae Part Used Root Constituents Triterpenoid saponins (phytolaccosides), alkaloid (phytolaccine), phyolaccic acid, formic acid, lectins, tannins, lignans, proteins, histamines, fatty oil, resin, starches, GABA, formic acid.

Musculo-skeletal System • The phytolaccosides have a potent anti-inflammatory action. • Poke root is detoxifying and anti-inflammatory and helpful in arthritic conditions.

Actions Alterative, emetic, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, antitumour, antimicrobial, laxative, decongestant, expectorant, hypnotic, immune stimulant, lymphatic decongestant, narcotic, purgative, spermicide.

Externally • Poke root is antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and can be used in washes for athlete’s foot, spots, acne, boils, abscesses, psoriasis, eczema, Herpes, shingles, chicken pox, measles, tumours, impetigo and scabies, swelling, sprains and strains. • It can be used in a poultice or ointment and applied to sore, infected nipples and breasts and to help with mastitis.

Native to North America, poke root is an interesting looking herb with reddish-purple berries which are poisinous when raw. A potent remedy for the immune system, it was long used to treat syphilis, and is currently being researched for its potential in treating cancer, HIV, bilharzia and arthritis.

Cautions Only to be used in very small doses under supervision of a herbalist. All parts of the plant are toxic. Avoid during pregnancy, lactation, gastrointestinal irritation. Do not apply to broken skin. Do not use with immunosuppressive drugs.

Immunity • Poke root is immune enhancing and cleansing. It stimulates lymphatic circulation and supports the lymphatic system in its detoxifying and immune work. It is useful for swollen lymph nodes, tonsillitis, mumps, swollen breast, mastitis. • The proteins are anti-viral; they can inhibit the replication of the influenza and HSV-1 viruses and poliovirus. • It can he helful for viruses including Herpes and HIV, cancers including leukaemia and liver cancer. • The peptide PAFP-s has antifungal activity. Respiratory System • Poke root strengthens immunity, combats acute and chronic infections, and is good for sore throats, throat infections, colds and flu viruses.

216 216


PIPER LONGUM: LONG PEPPER Family Piperaceae Parts Used Root and seeds Constituents Volatile oil, alkaloids (piperine, piplartine), lignans, resins, saponins, esters, fatty acids (palmitic, stearic, linoleic, oleic, linolenic). Actions Stimulant, digestive, carminative, laxative, diuretic, febrifuge, tonic, expectorant, decongestant, bronchodilator, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, antiseptic, emmenagogue, reproductive tonic, aphrodisiac, rejuvenative, vasodilator, analgesic, anxiolytic, cardiac stimulant, alterative, hepatoprotective, hypocholesterolaemic, insect repellent, anti-inflammatory. A close relative of black pepper, long pepper has warming and energising properties and acts as a stimulant and a tonic for those feeling cold and run down. Its antioxidant properties help to slow the ageing process and protect against degenerative disease. Digestion • Long pepper enhances appetite, digestion and absorption by up to 30%. Piperine stimulates an enzyme that enhances the uptake of amino acids from the GI tract. • It is good for treating anorexia, dyspepsia, flatulence, constipation, colic and weak digestion. • It has antimicrobial properties which are helpful for disturbances of the gut flora including amoebae, worms and Candida. • It is hepato-protective, enhancing the liver’s ability to break down toxins and protecting the liver from damage from drugs, chemicals and alcohol. Nervous System • Long pepper promotes energy and vitality, and is good when run down and tired. • It is a good brain tonic, it improves memory and concentration and protects the nervous system from damage caused by free radicals. It helps to prevent the effects of ageing on the brain causing problems such as Alzheimer’s. • With its calming effects it can also be used to reduce tension, anxiety and relieve insomnia.

Circulation • Long pepper is warming and stimulates blood flow throughout the body. • Its vasodilatory actions opens the arteries to improve blood flow. • It reduces cholesterol and helps prevent atherosclerosis. • It can be helpful in angina and circulatory problems such as Raynaud’s disease and intermittent claudication. • It is used for anaemia. Respiratory System • Long pepper has antimicrobial actions and helps to ward off a wide range of respirstory infections including colds, flu, sore throats and chest infections. • It is a good decongestant for colds, catarrh, bronchial congestion and bronchitis. • Traditionally it has been used in milk to reduce bronchospasm in asthma. Reproductive System • With its antispasmodic and warming action, long pepper can be helpful in painful periods. • Long pepper is reputed to be an aphrodisiac and can be used for low libido and premature ejaculation. Immunity • Long pepper has anti-inflammatory actions, good for gout, arthritis, muscle and back pain and aut-immune problems. • It enhances immunity, activates macrophages and phagocytosis. • It has been found to be helpful in the treatment of hepatitis. • It has broad spectrum antibiotic activity against gram+ and gram-bacteria, including Staph. aureus. • It can be used to treat allergic conditions including hayfever and eczema. • It is a good antioxidant and rejuvenative. • It reduces fevers. Traditionally it was used for typhoid and chronic fevers. Externally • It makes a good rubefacient ingredient of liniments for pain and swelling. Cautions May increase drug absorption. Use cautiously in acidity. Avoid in pregnancy and lactation.



218 218



• It clears phlegm from the middle ear and helps

Part Used Leaves (seeds of P. psyllium)

• Its mucilage protects the mucous membranes from

Constituents Leaves: Iridoid glycosides, triterpenoids, caffeic acid, polysaccharides, tannins, phenols, flavonoids, silica. Seeds: 30% mucilage, monoterpene alkaloids, glycosides, fixed oil, fatty acids, tannins, sugars. Actions Astringent, alterative, diuretic, vulnerary, demulcent, emollient, refrigerant, detoxifying, decongestant, expectorant, bronchodilator, antiseptic, antispasmodic, immune-stimulant. Plantain is common perennial found growing in lawns, cultivated and waste ground, recognised by its cylindrical spikes of seeds. Greater and lesser plantain and ribwort can all be used interchangeably. Historically plantain was famous as a wound healer and an antidote to poisons, and it was a comfort to travellers who used it for sprains and minor injuries.

prevent glue ear and ear infections.

irritation, soothes the cough reflex, and eases harsh, irritating coughs. • Plantain is an expectorant and has antispasmodic properties, useful for coughs and asthma. • Its antimicrobial action helps prevent and resolve colds, sore throats, tonsilitis and chest infections. Reproductive System • The tannins are astringent and make plantain useful for excessive menstrual bleeding. • It is also helpful for prostatitis and benign enlargement of the prostate. Immunity • The polysaccharides have an immunomodulating effect. • The astringent tannins reduce swelling and inflammation, staunch bleeding and promote healing. • Plantain clears heat and toxins, and is helpful in fevers, infections and skin problems. • Its antiviral properties make it helpful for treating Herpes and adenoviruses.

Digestion • Plantain has astringent properties which counter irritation and inflammation in the stomach and bowels. It can be used for gastritis, diarrhoea and colitis, stomach and bowel infections. • It is demulcent and antispasmodic, soothing irritation and reducing spasm and colic. • The seeds of Plantago psyllium are used as a bulk laxative.

Urinary System • Plantain contains mucilage which has a soothing effect throughout the urinary system. • With its antimicrobial actions, it can be helpful in urinary tract infections.

Respiratory System • Plantain leaves depresse mucous secretion and help to reduce congestion in colds, catarrh, sinusitis, bronchial congestion and allergies including hay fever and asthma.

Cautions Take psyllium seeds with plenty of fluid to prevent bowel obstruction. Care is needed for patients on insulin as they can lower blood sugar. Separate by 2 hours from other drugs. May inhibit absorption.

Externally • The fresh leaves are one of the best first aid remedies for stings, cuts and insect bites.



220 220


POLYGONUM MULTIFLORUM: HO SHOU WU Family Polygonaceae Part Used Processed root Constituents Phenolic glucosides, tetrahydroxystilbene, tannins, anthraquinones, phospholipids (including lecithin), allantoin, minerals in cluding magnesium, potassium, and trace elements. Actions Adaptogen, immunomodulator, rejuvenative, hypocholesterolaemic, nervine, bitter, alterative, antibacterial, mood elevating, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, demulcent, hepatoprotective, cholagogue, laxative, astringent, blood tonic, cardiotonic, hypoglycaemic, kidney tonic, hair tonic, sedative. Ho shou wu is a perennial vine native to Japan, Vietnam and China, where it is highly valued as one of the best adaptogenic and rejuvenative herbs. In Chinese medicine it is used to strengthen kidney energy, increase energy and immunity and is known as “black haired Mr He” as it prevents hair from turning grey as an indication of its rejuvenative powers. Immunity • Ho shou wu is adaptogenic and antioxidant and enhances immunity. It is thought to protect against cancer. • It has anti-ageing properties possibly through inhibition of brain monoamine oxidase. • It can increase the secretion of adrenal and thyroid hormones, and it enhances T lymphocyte and macrophage activity. Reproductive System • It is a strengthening tonic and aphrodisiac, making is good for impotence, low sperm count and infertility. • It is useful for menopausal problems including hot flushes, mood swings, tiredness and insomnia. • It can be useful for treating symptoms of kidney weakness according to Chinese medicine, including low sexual energy, poor vision, dizziness, tinnitus, weak knees and grey hair.

Circulation • Ho shou wu reduces blood pressure and cholesterol and helps to prevent atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. • It increases cerebral circulation and is a good brain tonic. It can be used for poor memory and concetration, dizziness with tinnitus and anaemia. Nervous System • Ho shou wu increases energy and vitality and enhances resilience to stress. • It is good for nervous exhaustion, debility and insomnia. It makes an excellent tonic for the elderly and during convalescence. • It is great for improving memory and mental acuity and it may protect against Alzheimer’s and be useful in Parkinson’s disease. Musculo-skeletal System • It has been shown to strengthens bones, muscles and tendons. Digestion • Ho shou wu is hepato-protective, protecting the liver against damage from toxins, chemicals, alcohol and drugs. • It stimlates the liver and gall bladder, increasing the flow of bile, aiding the liver in its detoxifying work and promoting the digestion of fats. • It can soothe the gut and reduce irritation, and is useful in constipation from dryness. It is best combined with digestive herbs such as ginger. • It can also lower blood sugar. Externally • It is used in healing liniments for bruises. Cautions May cause diarrhoea. Avoid with tetracycline, statins and acetaminophen.



PRUNELLA VULGARIS: SELF-HEAL Family Lamiaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Volatile oil including antioxidant rosmarinic acid, bitters, alkaloids, saponins, tannins, phenols, carbohydrates, glycoside (aucubin), urosolic acid, lipids, mucilage, proteins, flavonoids including rutin, vitamins C, B1 and K. Actions Astringent, styptic, vulnerary, antimicrobial, bitter liver tonic, cholagogue, immuno-stimulant, thyroid amphoteric, hypoglycaemic, anti-inflammatory, relaxant, diuretic, digestive, anti-allergenic, antioxidant, alterative, kidney tonic, restorative. Self-heal was commonly used for throat complaints according to the doctrine of signatures, for its corolla was seen to resemble a throat with swollen glands. Although largely neglected by western herbalists, self-heal is an important herb in Chinese medicine. It is cooling and cleaning and a great herb for resolving inflammation and toxicity. Immunity • Just as its name suggests, self-heal is used to enhance our own healing powers. • It enhances immunity and has a potent antiviral action, including activity against flu, colds, Herpes and HIV. The polysaccharides have an immune-modulatory effect. • It can be helpful in lowered immunity, autoimmune problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid problems and allergies. • Rosmarinic acid contributes to its antioxidant effects and it may have antimutagenic effects, indicating possible use as an anticancer herb. • Prunella is an effective antimicrobial against a range of bacteria. • It has an affinity for the lymphatic system and can be taken for swollen glands, mumps, glandular fever and mastitis. • It has detoxifying properties and clears boils and other inflammatory skin problems. • It also reduces fevers.

Digestion • As an astringent, self heal can be taken for diarrhoea and inflammatory bowel problems such as colitis. • The bitters have a stimulating action on the liver and gall-bladder. Urinary System • Self heal is considered a kidney tonic. • Urosolic acid is a diuretic that has anticancer properties. • It clears toxins and excess uric acid via kidneys. • It is recommended for treating gout. Nervous System • Self heal can be used for headaches, particularly where they are related to tension, as well as vertigo, over-sensitivity to light and high blood pressure. • It is used in China for hyperactivity in children. Reproductive System • Self heal is a good astringent to curb heavy menstrual bleeding. • It is used to clear heat and congestion in the breasts and can be used to treat mastitis. Externally • Self heal was used traditionally as a wound remedy. • It makes a good astringent gargle for sore throats, and a mouthwash for mouth ulcers and bleeding gums. • The fresh plant made into a tea can help to stop bleeding from cuts, reduce swelling from minor injuries and burns, bites and stings, for inflammatory skin problems, piles, varicose veins and ulcers. • Drops are helpful for cooling inflammatory eye problems including conjunctivitis, blepharitis and styes.

222 222


REHMANIA GLUTINOSA: CHINESE FOXGLOVE Family Scrophulariareae Part Used Root (uncured known as sheng di or cured, cooked with rice wine and spices known as shu di huang)

Respiratory System • Chinese foxglove strengthens lung energy, and prevents infections including colds, flu, fevers, coughs, bronchitis, pneumonia and TB. • It has a decongestant effect and reduces phlegm, which is helpful in asthma.

Constituents Iridoid compounds (jioglutosides, rehmaglutins, jioglutins), polysaccharides (astragalans), glucuronic acid, glycosides (jionosides), flavones, iso-flavones, saponins, b-sitosterol, arginine, manitol, stimasterol, tannins.

Musculo-skeletal System • Chinese foxglove strengthens bones, muscles and tendons. It prevents muscle weakness, and makes a good remedy for prolapse. • It promotes healing of bones and can be used for osteoporosis.

Actions Haemostatic, adaptogen, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiperspirant, hepatoprotective, immune tonic, antipyretic, demulcent, alterative, laxative, tonic, antiinflammatory.

Circulation • Chinese foxglove improves blood flow through the heart, and is helpful in the prevention of cardiovascular disease including angina.

Chinese foxglove is native to China where it is famous as a tonic herb. It is used traditionally as a yin and blood tonic, increasing energy and immunity, and is considered strengthening for children. Immunity • Chinese foxglove strengthens wei qi in Chinese medicine, meaning it enhances immunity. • It protects against infections including glandular fever and Cocksackie B virus, and is a good remedy for post viral fatigue syndrome. • It inhibits the formation of tumours and prevents immunosuppression caused by chemotherapy. • It is helpful for inflammatory conditions associated with depletion including TB and other wasting diseases. It stops debility from night sweats. • The uncured root is useful in autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, and for allergies including asthma and urticaria. • It protects and supports the liver and the adrenal glands. It enhances adrenal production of corticosteroids and prevents the suppressive effects of corticosteroids on cortisol production.

Reproductive System • Prepared rehmannia is used in Chinese medicine for low kidney energy and yin deficiency associated with night sweats, wasting, vertigo, tinnitus, lower back pain. • It is also used for regulating menstrual flow; its astringent properties are helpful for reducing bleeding in heavy periods. • It helps to stops excessive sweating, and is useful during menopause for night sweats and hot flushes. Digestion • With its astringent action, it can be used for diarrhoea. • Its digestive properties increases appetite. • It helps to regulate blood sugar. Urinary System • Chinese foxglove strengthens the kidneys, stems bleeding (haematuria), reduces frequency, and is good for urinary incontinence and prolapse. • It prevents damage to the kidneys from toxins, drugs and infection. Cautions It can be prepared with cardamom or ginger to prevent indigestion. Use cautiously with immunosuppressant drugs.



224 224


RHODIOLA ROSEA: RHODIOLA Family Crassulaeae Parts Used Root, stem, leaves, flowers, seeds Constituents Phenylpropanoids (including rosavin, rosarin, rosin), salidroside, rosiridin, tyrosol, flavonoids, tannins, essential oil (including geraniol, linalool, nerol), gallic acid, amino acids. Actions Adaptogenic, energy tonic, relaxant, antioxidant, antitumour, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulator, digestive, brain tonic, antidepressant, rejuvenative. Rhodiola is a perennial plant with red, pink, or yellowish flowers native to the Himalayas and found growing at high elevations in Asia, Europe and North America. It has long been considered a panacea and tonic to increase physical and mental endurance and strength. Nervous System • Rhodiola is said to be more powerful than other adaptogens. • It increases the ability to deal with stress. It enhances physical and mental energy and performance, improving mental acuity, memory and concentration. It increases blood supply to the brain and muscles. • Rhodiola is recommended for elevating mood in depression. • It is a useful sedative for insomnia in higher doses. • Rhodiola improves memory and concentration and increases attention span. Immunity • Rhodiola stimulates immunity directly by increasing natural killer cells (which seek and destroy infected or mutated cells) improving T-cell immunity and by increasing resilience to stress which compromises immunity. • It helps combat infections, including TB and cancer. It has antitumour, antimetastatic, and antimutagenic properties, increasing resitance to toxins and chemicals that could be potentially harmful. • Rhodiola is supportive during chemotherapy or radiotherapy as it shortens the recovery time on suppressed white blood cells.

Circulation • Rhodiola is cardio-protective. It normalises heart-rate after intense exercise. • It also protects against altitude sickness. • It is used in anaemia and cardiovascular disorders. • It combats the effects of excess adrenaline causing raised blood pressure and blood lipids. Musculo-skeletal System • As an energy tonic, rhodiola increases protein synthesis which is useful for increasing strength and endurance in athletes and the elderly. • It is recommended for combating fatigue, physical stress, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Cautions Do not take with mineral supplements.



ROSA SPP: ROSE Family Rosaceae Parts Used Hips, leaves and flowers Constituents Tannins, pectin, carotene, fruit acids, fatty oil, nicotinamide, vitamins C, B, E, K, saponins, flavonoids rutin and quercitin. Actions Diaphoretic, carminative, stimulant, emmenagogue, reproductive tonic, aphrodisiac, laxative, decongestant, febrifuge, nervine, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, haemostatic, antimicrobial, thymoleptic, hepatoprotective, analgesic, vulnerary, deodorant. Roses have long been praised for their beauty as well as their medicinal benefits. They have long been valued for their cooling properties, for strengthening the heart and refreshing the spirit. They are still one of the best herbs today for cooling hot and inflammatory conditions. Digestion • Roses combat infection and help re-establish normal gut flora. • Their astringent tannins reduce hyperacidity and stomach over-activity causing excessive hunger, thirst and mouth ulcers. They are useful for diarrhoea, enteritis and dysentery. • Rose hip syrup or decoction of empty seed cases relieves diarrhoea, stomach cramps constipation, nausea and indigestion. Nervous System • Uplifting, restoring and calming, roses are used in insomnia, depression, irritability, anger, mental and physical fatigue. Respiratory System • Roses stimulate the action of mucocillary escalator and hep to prevent chect infections and bronchial congestion. • Antimicrobial and decongestant, they help to prevent and relieve colds, flu, sore throats, catarrh, coughs and bronchitis.

Reproductive System • Roses relieve uterine congestion causing pain, heavy and irregular periods. • They are antispasmodic and relaxing for menstrual cramps and PMS. • They are cooling for menopausal hot flushes, night sweats and ease mood swings. Urinary System • The flowers and seeds are antiseptic and diuretic, relieving urinary tract infections and fluid retention and hastening the elimination of toxins. • Roses reduce inflammation and dissolve stones and gravel. Immunity • With their antimicrobial propertries, roses help combat infection and clear heat and toxins. • The hips are famous for their immune-enhancing syrup, and are an abundant source of vitamin C, A, B and K. • Rose hips have anti-inflammatory effects, reduce pain and increase flexibility in osteoarthritis. • The leaves and flowers are cooling and bring down fevers. Externally • Rose water cleanses and tones the skin, and clears inflammation in acne, spots, boils, abscesses and sore eyes. • It prevents infection of minor cuts and wounds and reduces the swelling of bruises and sprains. Cautions Avoid in pregnancy.

226 226


ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS: ROSEMARY Family Labiatae Parts Used Arial parts Constituents Volatile oils (including borneol, cineole, pinene, linalool), flavonoids, phenolic acids (including rosmarinic acid), terpenes, tannins, bitters, resins. Actions Diaphoretic, carminative, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, emmenagogue, nervine, anticonvulsant, brain tonic, analgesic, relaxant, digestive, antioxidant, rejuvenative, digestive, hepatic, cholagogue, thymoleptic, decongestant, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, astringent, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, circulatory stimulant, cardiotonic, diuretic, febrifuge, rubefacient. Native to the Mediterranean, this beautiful perennial shrub has been valued as a rejuvenating brain tonic since the ancient Egyptians. In the days of the ancient Greeks rosemary was valued by students revising for exams and it is still used as one of the best herbs for the memory today. Digestion • The astringent tannins in rosemary protect the gut lining from irritation and inflammation and reduce bleeding and diarrhoea. • Rosemary is antimicrobial and helps regulate the gut flora and combat infections. • It stimulates appetite, digestion and absorption and relieves flatulence and distension. • It enhances elimination and removes stagnant food. • Its bitters stimulate bile flow from the liver and gallbladder, aid the digestion of fats and clear toxins that may account for headaches, lethargy and irritability. • It has hepato-proptective actions, helping to prevent damage to the liver from toxins and alcohol. • Rosemary is a traditonal cure for hangovers, jaundice, gallstones, “liverishness”, gout, arthritis, and skin problems. Nervous System • Rosemary is an excellent brain tonic. It increases blood flow to the brain, clears the mind, heightens alertness and concentration and improves memory. • It is popular among nervous exam students and interviewees. • Rosemary calms anxiety and lifts depression. • It is used for exhaustion, and insomnia.

Circulation • By stimulating blood flow to the head, rosemary reduces inflammation and muscle tension. It is used specifically for migraines and headaches. • It also stimulates general circulation, improving peripheral blood flow. It has been used for varicose veins, a tendency to bruising, and to prevent chilblains and arteriosclerosis. Respiratory System • Rosemary’s volatile oils are antimicrobial and dispel infection. • As a hot tea it relieves fevers, sore throats, colds, flu and chest infections. • It is traditionally used for tuberculosis. • As a decongestant, rosemary clears phlegm. • As an antispasmodic, it relieves spasm in the bronchial tubes and is helpful in asthma. Reproductive System • Rosemary’s astringent tannins reduce heavy menstrual bleeding. • Its antispasmodic effects in the uterus relieve dysmenorrhoea. Urinary System • Through its diuretic action, rosemary enhances the elimination of wastes. Immunity • Rosemary’s volatile oils are antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and enhance immunity. • Its antioxidant components may explain its reputation as a rejuvenative. • Shown to protect against oxidative stress, rosemary may have potential as an anticancer remedy. • Its antioxidants stimulate liver enzymes that detoxify poisons including carcinogens and xenobiotics. • As an anti-inflammatory, rosemary relieves pain and swelling in arthritis and gout. Externally • The diluted essential oil of rosemary may be rubbed onto the skin for joint pain, to check hair fall, relieve headaches and poor concentration. • In lotions, rosemary can be beneficial for cuts, wounds, sores, chilblains, scalds and burns. • Rosemary may be used in a douche for vaginal infections and as a mouthwash for the gums. Cautions Avoid in pregnancy.



228 228


RUBUS IDAEUS: RASPBERRY Family Rosaceae Parts Used Leaves, fruit Constituents Tannins, volatile oils, pectins, flavonoids, citric acid, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, calcium, manganese and other minerals and trace elements. Actions Anti-inflammatory, astringent, uterine tonic, emmenagogue, partus preparator, parturient, haemostatic, decongestant, anti-emetic, ophthalmic, antioxidant, antiseptic, antidiarrhoeal, diaphoretic, diuretic, choleretic, galactogogue, hypoglycaemic. Native to Europe and temperate Asia, raspberry is well known for its delicious fruit while the leaves have been valued for their astringent properties. They were given to relieve diarrhoea and were best known as a parturient, to prepare women for childbirth. Reproductive System • Raspberry acts as a uterine astringent for frequent or excessive menstruation. • Its antispasmodic actions relieve painful periods. • It relieves nausea of pregnancy and helps to prevents miscarriage. • An infusion of the leaves in the last 3 months of pregnancy helps tone the uterine and pelvic muscles to prepare for childbirth. By relaxing over-tense mscles and toning over-relaxed muscles, raspberry leaves enable the uterus to contract effectively during childbirth, easing and speeding the birth. • Taken after birth, they stimulate the flow of breast milk, and speed healing. • Raspberries are nutritious and useful in pregnancy to combat aneamia.

Digestion • As an astringent, raspberry leaves protect the gut lining from irritation and inflammation, and relieves nausea and diarrhoea. • Raspberrry leaves help normalise blood sugar levels. Its manganese may effect glucose regulation. Externally • Raspberry leaves can be used as a gargle and mouthwash for sore throats, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, and inflamed gums. • They can be used as a poultice or lotion for sores, conjunctivitis, minor cuts and wounds, burns and varicose ulcers.




Constituents Anthraquinone glycosides, tannins, iron, bitters, oxalic acid, calcium oxalate, volatile oils, resins, chrysarobin, rumicin, vitamins A, B and C.

Circulation • Dock root has an affinity with the blood, enriching it with iron and clearing impurities. • It is traditionally used for anaemia and bleeding haemorrhoids. • It stimulates lymphatic circulation, and is used to reduce chronic lymphatic congestion and glandular swelling.

Actions Alterative, astringent, digestive, hepatic, cholagogue, depurative, laxative, purgative, blood tonic, anti-tumour, diuretic, lymphatic, febrifuge.

Urinary System • Dock’s diuretic properties increase the elimination of toxins via the kidneys, which is useful for fluid retention, cystitis, gout and arthritis.

Curled and yellow dock are well-known inhabitants of the countryside; they can be used interchangeably. Their leaves are renowned for relieving nettle stings, while the whole plant has been valued since the ancient Greeks for cleansing the body of toxins and aiding digestion.

Externally • As a lotion dock root is used for swellings, skin rashes, cuts, sores, ulcers and infections. • Its crushed leaves may be applied to burns, scalds and nettle stings.

Part Used Root

Digestion • Dock root is famous for its detoxifying properties. • It has gentle laxative properties due to its anthraquinones, which stimulate peristalsis and cleanse the bowel, while its astringent tannins check irritation, inflammation and curb diarrhoea. • Its bitters stimulate the liver and benefit digestion. • It is used for liver and gallbladder complaints, headaches and lethargy. Skin • Dock root is cleansing and anti-inflammatory. • It aids the elimination of toxins through the bowels and kidneys. • It can be used for chronic skin diseases including acne, eczema and psoriasis. Immunity • It makes an invigorating tonic which is cleansing and nutritive. • Traditionally it is used as an anticancer remedy. • As an anti-inflammatory, dock can be useful in arthritis.

Cautions Excess doses can cause gastric disturbance, nausea and dermatitis.

230 230


SALIX ALBA/NIGRA: WILLOW BARK Family Salicaceae Part Used Bark Constituents Salicylic glycosides (including salicin, salicortin, fragilin) tannins. Actions Febrifuge, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, tonic, stomachic, diuretic, anodyne, antiseptic, febrifuge, sedative. There are around 250 species of willow trees, the white willow and the black willow being used most commonly in healing. The white willow is a large elegant tree that grows by riverbanks and in damp places and can reach a height of 80 feet. It can be found throughout Europe, North Africa and Central Asia. Immunity • Willow bark is famous as the original sourse of salicylic acid and has been used like aspirin for fevers, the musular aches and pains accompanying flu, headaches, and to reducing swelling, inflammation and arthritic pain. • Traditionally it was used for intermittent fevers such as those of malaria. Respiratory system • Willow bark is a decongestant for head colds, flu, and fevers. • It can be used as as tonic to restore strength after illness. Digestion • The astringent tannins of willow bark protect the gut lining against irritation and inflammation (unlike aspirin). • It relieves diarrhoea and dysentery and stems bleeding. • It is indicated in weak digestion, dyspepsia, heartburn acidity and worms.

Musculo-skeletal system • Willow bark acts as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory for arthritis, gout, aching muscles, the inflammatory stages of auto-immune diseases, backache, tendonitis, bursitis and sprains. Reproductive system • It can be used for heavy periods. Urinary system • Willow bark’s diuretic properties reduce fluid retention and help to eliminate toxins from the body via the kidneys. Externally • Willow bark may be used in a loton for cuts and wounds, gargles for sore throats, mouthwashes for mouth ulcers and bleeding gums and poultice for inflamed joints. Cautions Avoid if allergic to salicylates and in bleeding problems. Caution with NSAIDs e.g. ibuprofen or naproxen. Children and teenagers should not take it in chicken pox, flu or any undiagnosed illness without first consulting a practitioner due to a theoretical risk of Reye’s syndrome.



SALVIA OFFICINALIS: SAGE Family Labiataea Part Used Leaves Constituents Volatile oils, diterpenes, tannins, phenolic acids, bitters, flavonoids, resins, phytoestrogens. Actions Antimicrobial, alterative, expectorant, diaphoretic, astringent, anhydrotic, antiseptic, bitter tonic, digestive, antiemetic, antioxidant, nervine, anticonvulsant, rejuvenative, diuretic, phytoestrogenic, vasodilator, cholagogue, caminative, antispasmodic, hypoglcaemic. Sage is an evergreen perennial shrub, native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean. It was praised as the “immortality herb” by the ancient Greeks as it cured so many ills and was vital to Medieval prescriptions for longevity and “elixirs of life”. Immunity • Sage is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal and is excellent for acute and chronic infections, colds, flu, fevers, sore throats and chest infections. • It is effective against Candida albicans, Herpes simplex and Influenza virus 2. • With imunno-stimulating actions, sage is helpful in lowered immunity and autoimmune disease. Its antimicrobial action in the gut could be helpful in this respect. • Sage was traditionally used for TB and other wasting diseases with profuse perspiration. • Its antioxidant actions may explain its rejuvenative effects. Respiratory System • Decongestant, antimicrobial and expectorant, sage is excellent for the first signs of infections and helpful in sore throats, laryngitis, tonsillitis, catarrh, sinusitis, colds, coughs, bronchitis and chest infections including pneumonia. Nervous System • With its antioxidant and rejuvenative properties, sage acts as a brain tonic, protecting the nervous system again damage from free radicals and the ageing process. • It helps to protect against loss of memory and

cognitive function associated with ageing and to help prevent Alzheimer’s. • Its nervine effect is helpful for anxiety, nervous exhaustion, depression and stress-related problems such as headaches and migraine. • It decreases excessive salivation seen in Parkinson’s disease. Urinary System • As a diuretic, sage aids the elimination of toxins via the kidneys and is useful for arthritis and gout. Digestion • Sage improves appetite, digestion and absorption, particularly of fats. It can be used for a range of digestive problems including poor appetite, indigestion, nausea, halitiosis, diarrhoea and colitis. • The antimicrobial actions help combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut and resolve gut infections. • The astringent tannins tighten a leaky gut. It can be used for worms and parasites. • It relaxes tension and colic and relieves bloating and wind. • Sage has a beneficial effect on the liver and pancreatic function and can be used for liver and gsallbladder problems. It may be helpful in type 2 diabetes for lowering blood sugar levels. Reproductive System • Sage is hormone balancing and antispasmodic, helpful for irregular, scanty and painful periods. • It is beneficial in menopausal problems including night sweats, hot flushes and insomnia. • Its astringent tannins are helpful in reducing heavy periods and peri-menopausal flooding. • It reduces excessive lactation. • It is traditionally used to enhance fertility. Externally • Sage makes an excellent antiseptic first-aid lotion for cuts, wounds, burns, sores, insect bites, skin problems, ulcers and sunburn. • It is used as a gargle for sore throats, and a mouthwash for inflamed gums and ulcers. • The leaves can be applied to a tooth to relieve pain. • A poultice can be applied to sprains, swellings and ulcers. Cautions May be toxic in large dosages or over prolonged period. Avoid in pregnancy and breast feeding, and in epilepsy.

232 232




SAMBUCUS NIGRA: ELDER Family Caprifoliaceae Parts Used Flowers, berries Constituents flowers: Tannins, flavonoids, essential oil, mucilage, triterpenes; berries: sugar, cytokinins, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, athocyanins, fruit acids. Actions Flowers: Relaxant, antioxidant, adaptogen, decongestant, expectorant, bronchodilator, diuretic, alterative, immune-enhancing, diaphoretic, nervine, emollient, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, febrifuge. Berries: Laxative, altertive, astringent, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-viral, antioxidant, nervine. The fragrant elder tree, with its abundance of white flowers, is found almost everywhere in Europe, West Asia and North America. It is gaining in popularity as its delightfully refreshing elderflower cordial becomes more widely known. The rich red berries are rich in antioxidant vitamins A and C and have become renowned for warding off viral infections such as colds and flu. It has been called the “medicine chest of the country people” as it has so many health benefits. Immunity • Elderflowers and berries are antimicrobial and decongestant, particulary useful for respiratory and gut infections and for catarrhal problems. • The berries have an antiviral action, inhibiting colds and Influenza A and B, Herpes and may be helpful in HIV. “Sambucol” a preparation of elderberry activates immunity by increasing cytokine production. • Elderberries are antioxidant and prevent damage caused by free radicals. Their proteins help regulate the immune response. • Elderberries have a collagen-stabilising action, useful for healing connective tissue and reducing swelling in varicose veins, hemorrhoids, sprains, and arthritis. • A hot infusion of the flowers is diaphoretic, reduces fevers and brings out rash in eruptive infections including measles and chicken pox, and hastens recovery.

Nervous System • Elder is calming and soothing for tension, anxiety and depression. • It induces sleep, good for irritable children at the onset of infections, encouraging rest and allowing the body to recuperate. • Elderberries are adaptogenic and increase resilience to stress. Digestion • Elderflowers are antispasmodic and astringent to the gut, protecting it against irritation and inflammation. • They are useful for heartburn, indigestion, gastritis, diarrhoea, gastro-enteritis, colic and wind. Circulation • The anthocyanins in the berries protect the walls of the blood vessels against oxidative stress, preventing vascular disease. • Elderberries reduce LDL cholesterol and help prevent atherosclerosis. • The flowers are diaphoretic, bringing blood to the surface and causing sweating which helps to bring down fevers. Respiratory System • A hot infusion of the flowers is beneficial at the onset of colds, fevers, flu, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. • Elder’s decongestant and relaxant effects are indicated in catarrh, bronchial congestion, asthma and tight coughs. • The berries are good at the onset of cold or flu symptoms to ward off infection.

234 234


Urinary System • Elder lowers enhance kidney function, relieve fluid retention, and eliminate toxins and heat. • They are helpful in arthritis and gout. Externally • Elderflowers can be used as a gargle for sore throats, a mouthwash for mouth ulcers and inflamed gums, and an eyewash for conjunctivitis and sore, tired eyes.

• As a tea or distilled water elderflower can be used as

a toning lotion for chilblains, wounds, bruises, burns, sprains, swollen joints, skin eruptions, sunburn, itchy skin conditions and piles and to keep away mosquitoes.

Cautions Sometimes the leaves can cause a reaction on sensitive skins. Avoid use of root and bark.



SCHIZANDRA CHINENSIS: SCHIZANDRA BERRIES Family Schisandraceae Parts Used Fruit, seed Constituents Dibenzo cycloactadiene lignans (including gomisins, schizandrol), volatile oils, stigmasterol, sesquicarene, resins, vitamins, A, C, E, organic acids, oleic, linoleic, linolenic, and palmitic acids. Actions Adaptogen, antimicrobial, antidepressant, demulcent, antitussive, kidney tonic, aphrodisiac, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, anhidrotic, parturient, analgesic, antiasthmatic, cholagogue, hepatoprotective, immune tonic, rejuvenative, hypoglycaemic, nervine, brain tonic, sedative. Native to China, red schizandra berries with their 5 tastes are considered to balance all bodily systems in Chinese medicine. The berries are famous as a tonic to increase kidney jing, preserve youth and beauty and enhance energy, vitality and immunity. Nervous System • As an adaptogen, schizandra berries increase energy, endurance and resilience to stress and help to prevent altitude sickness. • They can be used for depletion from stress, lethargy, chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability, dizziness and Meniere’s diease. • As an anticonvulsive, schizandra berries may help Parkinson’s sufferers. • As a brain tonic, schizandra berries improve memory and concentration and are helpful in learning problems and poor coordination. • They are helpful in neuralgia, insomnia and nervous palpitations. Immunity • As an antioxidant, schizandra berries prevent damage from free radicals, improve liver regeneration and recovery after hepatitis. They enhance glutathione protection in the liver, stimulates glycogen and protein synthesis, and may protect against liver cancer. • They stimulate the production of interferon and lymphocytes and are anti-inflammatory.

Circulation • They reduce nervous palpitations, improve blood flow through the coronary arteries and protect the heart from ischaemic damage. Digestion • The lignans found in the seed extract have powerful liver protective properties against a variety of chemical toxins. • They are helpful in hepatitis including Hepatitis C, and other liver ailments. • Schizandra berries are also helpful in intestinal infections including chronic gastritis. Reproductive System • Schizandra berries strengthen kidney jing, reducing night sweats, frequent urination, low libido, spermatorrhoea, premature ejaculation and low sperm count. They enhance fertility. • They can be useful during the menopause for night sweats. Respiratory System • Schizandra berries boost immunity, reduce allergies, and moisten the lungs, useful for chronic coughs and allergic asthma. Eyes • Schizandra berries improve vision, particularly in adjusting to darkness. Cautions Avoid in pregnancy and epilepsy.

236 236


SCUTELLARIA BAICALENSIS: BAIKAL SCULLCAP/HUANG QIN Family Lamiaceae Part Used Root Constituents Flavones, flavone glycosides (including baicalein, wogonin, scutellarein) benzoic acid, camphesterol, sitosterol. Actions Antihistamine, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, sedative, immune-stimulant, anti-tumour, anticlotting agent, bronchodilator, expectorant, vasodilator, hypotensive, antimicrobial, diuretic, febrifuge, choleretic. A small perennial native to Siberia, Russia, North China, Mongolia and Japan. It is used in Chinese and Tibetan medicine to clear damp heat, and as a strengthening nerve and immune tonic. It is a great remedy for allergies. Immunity • Baikal scullcap is an antihistamine, excellent for allergies including eczema, urticaria, asthma, hay fever and rhinitis. It inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells. • It is a useful herb for autoimmune problems including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. • It is antimicrobial against a wide range of infecting organisms including Influenza, Epstein barr, HIV, Staph aur., Pseudomonas aer., and Strept. pneumoniae, and has an affinity with the respiratory, urinary and digestive tracts. • It also reduces fevers. Respiratory System • It is a good remedy for acute respiratory infections, especially viral infections including colds and flu. • It is helpful in sinusitis and ear infections. • It is excellent for allergies including asthma, rhinitis and hay fever. Nervous System • It is a good energising nerve tonic and sedative, useful for depletion from stress, anxiety, convulsions, cramps and nervous heart conditions.

Digestion • Baikal skullcap clears heat from the gut as in acute bowel infections, diarrhoea and dysentery. • It is indicated in acute and chronic infections and inflammation in the liver and gallbladder including chronic hepatitis. Urinary System • It acts as an antiseptic diuretic for urinary tract infections, dysuria and haematuria. • It helps clear heat and toxins from the system and this can be helpful in arthritis and gout. Circulation • It has a protective effect on the heart and circulation, dilates the peripheral arteries, reduces blood pressure and can prevent clots. • It reduces harmful cholesterol and helps prevent and reduce atherosclerosis, helping to prevent cardiovascular disease. Reproductive System • Traditionally baikal skullcap was used to prevent miscarriage. Eyes • It is good for clearing soreness and inflammation including conjunctivitis assocated with “liver heat”.



SCUTELLARIA LATERIFOLIA: VIRGINIAN SKULLCAP Family Lamiaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Flavonoid glycosides (including wogonin, baicalin), scutellarin, volatile oils, lignans, resins, diterpenoids, bitters, tannins, iridoids, phenols, B vitamins, minerals iron, silica, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Actions Antispasmodic, nervine, sedative, brain tonic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, anaphrodisiac, anodyne, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, vasodilator, cardiotonic, astringent, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, alterative, febrifuge, An attractive perennial with a pretty blue flower, Virginian skullcap is indigenous to North America, found growing in damp places and meadows. Traditionally it was used for nervous disorders, infertility and to quieten unwanted sexual desires. Nervous System • Skullcap is rich in nutrients essential to a healthy nervous system. • It reduces anxiety and tension, and can be used for agitation, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic attacks, as well as insomnia. • Scutellarin enhances the production of endorphins, helping to lift depression, dispel tiredness and nervous exhaustion, and promote sleep. • Skullcap may help to rebuild myelin sheath and benefit multiple sclerosis. • With its nervine and antimicrobial actions, it makes a good remedy for shingles. • It is recommended for addiction, when withdrawing from orthodox tranquilisers and antidepressants. • It can help to relieve pain in tension headaches, muscle pain, neuralgia, period pain and arthritis. • It is good for improving memory and concentration. It is also useful in ADD and ADHD. • It has anti-spasmodic properties which make it helpful for twitching muscles, facial tics, tremors, Parkinson’s, restless leg syndrome, epilepsy (petit and grand mal), cramps and palpitations.

Reproductive System • Its anti-spasmodic properties help relieve period pain. • Combined with hormone balancing herbs including Vitex agnus castus and Dioscorea it can be useful for PMS and menopausal irritability, depression and mood swings. • It has traditionally been used for excess libido. Digestion • A bitter tonic for the digestive tract, skullcap enhances appetite and digestion, while stimulating liver function. • It reduces spasm and colic, relieves wind and bloating and nervous stomach aches. Urinary System • It acts as a diuretic, aiding the elimination of excess fluid and toxins via the kidneys and making it useful for treating cystitis and irritable bladder, particularly where there is a nervous component.

238 238


SERENOA REPENS: SAW PALMETTO Family Palmae Parts Used Berries Constituents Fatty acids (including caprylic, oleic, linoleic, linolenic, palmitic acids), polysaccharides, phytosterols, (betasitosterol, campesterol), resins. Actions Anti-inflammatory, adaptogen, rejuvenative, anabolic, antiandrogenic, decongestant, diuretic, urinary antiseptic, nutritive, digestive, demulcent, anti-tumour, immunostimulating, lowers cholesterol, antibacterial, aphrodisiac. Saw palmetto is small plant native to North America bearing dark blue-black berries. Its benefits were first noted by farmers who saw that animals that fed on them looked well fed and healthy despite summer drought. A nourishing tonic to humans also, it increases strength and energy, and is particularly recommended for those who are weak and run down. Reproductive System • Saw palmetto makes a good strengthening sexual tonic for low libido, low sperm count and erectile dysfunction. It prevents atrophy of the genitals. • It inhibits prolactin, and may suppress milk flow in nursing mothers. • It is specific for benign prostatic hypertrophy, it improves the flow of urine, relieves pain, reduces swelling and inhibits further growth of prostate by increasing the breakdown of dihydrotesterosterone (DHT) without affecting prostate specific antigen (PSA) readings. • It reduces inflammation and is helpful in prostatitis, orchitis and epididymitis. • In women it can be used with vitex for polycystic ovaries, hirsutism and fertility problems related to excess androgens. • It is also helpful in painful periods, pelvic inflammatory disease, salpingitis and ovarian pain. Respiratory System • Saw palmetto soothes irritation and helps resolve infection. • As an expectorant, it clears catarrhal congestion in coughs and colds, sinusitis and ear infections. • Traditionally saw palmetto was used to treat whooping cough, laryngitis, chronic coughs, TB, bronchitis and asthma.

Immunity • Saw palmetto is great tonic for increasing strength and weight. • It enhances immunity and endurance, and is adaptogenic. • It is good for helping lowered immunity, frequent infections, and allergies. • It is a nourishing and energising herb for debility following illness and during convalescence. Nervous System • Serenoa is strengthening and relaxing, it increases resilience to stress and induces sleep. Digestion • It enhances appetite and digestion making it good for anorexia, diarrhoea, dysentery, and gallbladder problems. Urinary System • A soothing diuretic, it relieves frequent and painful urination, and can be used for fluid retention, cystitis, irritable bladder, urinary tract infections, bed wetting and incontinence. Skin • It is helpful for clearing spots and boils, particularly in cystic acne. Cautions Avoid when breastfeeding.



SMILAX ORNATA: SARSAPARILLA Family Smilacaceae Part Used Rhizome Constituents Steroidal saponins, phytosterols (including beta- and e-sitosterol), starch, resin, sarsapic acid, minerals. Actions Alterative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antitumour, antiviral, aphrodisiac, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, hepatprotective, rejuvenative, stimulant, digestive, tonic, anti-arthritic. Sarsaparilla is climbing vine native to South and Central America, the Carribean and parts of Asia. It was famous among pirates as an antimicrobial and cleansing remedy for venereal disease, and is popular as a flavouring agent in soft drinks such as root beer. Immunity • Known as a “blood purifier,” sarsaparilla is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying. • The steroidal saponins bind to toxins in the gut and inhibit their absorption into the bloodstream. • It is beneficial for use in autoimmune problems associated with toxicity, including psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. • The saponins also have antibiotic activity. • It may help leptospirosis and syphilis. Urinary System • It is diuretic and can help to clear toxins via the kidneys. • It is recommended for cystitis, urinary tract infections, bladder and kidney stones and gravel, renal colic, bedwetting and urinary incontinence. Reproductive System • Sarsaparilla has a reputation for being testosterogenic, but the steroidal saponins and sterols are oestrogenic. • It has traditionally been used as a sex tonic and aphrodisiac and to treat problems such as low libido, impotence, and erectile dysfunction. • It helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and is good for menorrhagia, menstrual cramps, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, PMS as well as infertility. • It is helpful during the menopause for hot flushes and night sweats. • It is specific for the treatment of syphilis.

Skin • Sarsaparilla is anti-inflammatory and detoxifying. It helps chronic skin disorders, especially eczema and psoriasis, and relieves itching and dryness. Musculo-skeletal System • It may have testosteronic action. It increases lean muscle mass and improves strength and athletic performance. • It has diuretic properties which help clear excess uric acid, helpful in treating gout and arthritis. Nervous System • Sarsaparilla makes a strenthening tonic useful for debility, fatigue and depression, particularly during the menopause. Digestion • Sarsaparilla supports and protects the liver by binding endotoxins. • It clears toxins and reduces the oxidative load in the bowel. • It is nutritive and increases the body’s metabolic processes. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy. Caution with concurrent use of warfarin.

240 240


SOLIDAGO VIRGAUREA: GOLDENROD Family Asteraceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Flavonoids (quercitin, rutin, isoquercitrin, astragalin), saponins, diterpenes, phenolic glycosides, inulin, leiocarposide, salicylic acid, essential oil, tannins. Actions Analgesic, anthelmintic, anticatarrhal, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, decongestant, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, hemostatic, hepatic, hypotensive, alterative, stimulant, vunerary. Goldenrod’s botanical name comes from the Latin solidare meaning to make whole, as it was famed as a remedy to staunch bleeding and heal wounds. With its diuretic and astringent actions, it makes a good remedy for gut problems as well as urinary infections and stones. Circulation • It reduces blood pressure. Immunity • Goldenrod is an astringent and antimicrobial, and enhances immunity. It combats infection in the digestive, respiratory and urinary tracts. It is helpful for disturbances of the gut flora including Candida. • An anti-inflammatory and analgesic, it can be helpful in rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Urinary System • It is an antiseptic diuretic, aiding the elimination of toxins via the kidneys. • It is useful for treating gout, inflammatory problems, cystitis, acute and chronic urinary tract infections, bedwetting, bladder weakness and incontinence. • It helps to dissolve kidney and bladder stones. Digestion • It is astringent, antispasmodic and antiseptic, useful for maintaining gut flora and for treating Candida, wind, colic, indigestion, diarrhoea, gastro-enteritis, nausea, peptic ulcers and worms. • Goldenrod stimulates bile flow from the liver, and is used for liver problems and gallstones.

Respiratory System • A decongestant, expectorant and antimicrobial herb, it helps combat infection in throat infections, colds, flu, catarrh, sinusitis, middle ear infections, catarral deafness, hay fever, coughs, and bronchitis. • It is also used in asthma. Reproductive System • Goldenrod is helpful for benign prostate enlargement and to regulate the menstrual cycle. • It eases menstrual cramps, and can be used for heavy and irregular periods. Externally • A poultice, compress or lotion made with goldenrod is used for painful joints, boils, burns, fungal infections, eczema, swellings and wounds. • It makes a good gargle for sore throats, laryngitis, and thrush, a mouthwash for toothache, and a douche for yeast infections. Cautions • Avoid in oedema from heart or kidney failure and in known allergies to Asteraceae.



STACHYS BETONICA/BETONICA OFFICINALIS: WOOD BETONY Family Labiateae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Tannins (up to 15%) saponins, alkaloids (betonicine, stachydrine, trigonelline), betonicine, stachydrine, trigonellin, betaine, choline, tannins. Actions Digestive, circulatory stimulant, nerve tonic, sedative, vulnerary, anthelmintic, antiseptic, carminative, cholagague, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, astringent, liver tonic. Native to Europe and found growing wild in hedgerows and meadows, wood betony is a specific for headaches. It was taken internally, smoked and powdered for snuff and mixed with eyebright to clear congestion from colds and catarrh. Nervous System • Wood betony makes a good tonic and sedative for the nerves as it relieves pain, particularly nerve pain. It is helpful in trigeminal neuralgia and sciatica. • It reduces tension and anxiety, lifts depression and is excellent for stress, “frayed nerves,” tension headaches, hypertension and inability to relax. It is particularly good for hot fiery people who tend to be intolerant, perfectionistic, critical and self critical. • It improves the circulation to the head, stimulates liver function, reduces tension, and is specific for headaches whether from poor circulation, a sluggish liver or tension. • It improves memory and concentration. • Traditionally wood betony has been used for convulsions and nervous palpitations. Musculo-skeletal System • Its cleansing actions through the liver and kidneys can be helpful in arthritis and gout.

Reproductive System • Wood betony is relaxing and uplifting, it relieves period pain and PMS. • It stimulates uterine muscles and can bring on delayed periods, while its astringent tannins are useful in heavy bleeding. • It is cooling and relaxing, making it useful for menopausal flushes, insomnia and depression. • It is used for benign enlargement of the prostate. Digestion • Wood betony enhances appetite and digestion. • The astringent tannins protect the gut lining from inflammation and infection, making it good for indigestion, nervous dyspepsia, spasm, colic, wind, heartburn, diarrhoea and parasites. • It benefits the liver, reduces biliousness and can be used for liver and gall-bladder problems. • Trigonelline has been reported to lower blood sugar, making wood betony useful to diabetics. Respiratory System • Wood betony is astringent and antiseptic. In hot tea, it stimulates the circulation and helps throw off head colds and other infections. It is helpful for treating catarrh, sinusitis and coughs. Urinary System • Wood betony is diuretic. It aids the elimination of toxins and excess uric acid via the kidneys, and is helpful in gout and arthritis. Externally • It stems bleeding, speeds repair, inhibits infection of cuts and wounds, sores, ulcers, varicose veins and haemorrhoids. • Lotions and creams made with wood betony are good for bruises, sprains and strains and to beautify the skin. • It can draw out splinters and thorns. • It was traditionally taken as a snuff for nosebleeds and headaches. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy.

242 242




STELLARIA MEDIA: CHICKWEED Family Caryophyllaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Saponins, mucilage, copper, tin, potash salts, iron, vitamins A, C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, minerals (calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc). Actions Demulcent, refrigerant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, astringent, carminative, depurative, emmenagogue, laxative, ophthalmic, vulnerary, pectoral. Highly nutritious, chickweed is traditionally eaten as a delicacy in salads and cooked like spinach in Europe. It was valued as a blood tonic in spring and during convalescence. It is said to improve eyesight, as it is rich in vitamin A, and to strengthen undernourished children. Skin • Chickweed is an excellent cooling remedy for inflammatory skin conditions including eczema, heat rashes, urticaria, sunburn, boils and spots. Digestion • Chickweed is a cooling, soothing aid to digestion. • It has a laxative effect and is helpful for relieving wind, constipation, inflammatory problems including gastritis, colitis, acid indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. • It was traditionally used to clear excess heat in the liver and gall-bladder. Respiratory System • Chickweed is expectorant and demulcent, helpful in soothing sore throats and laryngitis, and for bronchitis, asthma, harsh dry coughs and pleurisy. • It also reduces fevers and thirst. Urinary System • It is a soothing diuretic. It relieves fluid retention, and is helpful in cystitis and irritable bladder. • It aids the elimination of toxins via the kidneys which helps skin problems as well as gout and arthritis. • Traditionally chickweed was a remedy for obesity.

Reproductive System • A traditional post-partum blood purifier, chickweed promotes the secretion of milk in nursing mothers. Externally • Chickweed is specific for cooling and soothing itchy skin conditions including eczema, roseola, fragile superficial veins, burns, scalds, ulcers, piles and abscesses. • It promotes healing making it good for cuts and wounds, and ulcers. • The expressed juice can be used as an eyewash for inflammatory eye problems. • A poultice and strong infusions added to a bath can reduce inflammation and encourages tissue repair. • It has drawing properties which help bring poisons and pus to the surface. Cautions The leaves contain saponins. In excess it can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Avoid in pregnancy and breastfeeding.

244 244


TABEBUIA IMPETIGINOSA: PAU D’ARCO Family Bignoniaceae Parts Used Inner bark Constituents Quinine compounds (naphthoquinones): lapachol, betalapachone, xyloidone, deoxylapachol; anthroquinone: tabeuin, furonaphthoquinones. Actions Immune enhancing, antitumour, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, depurative, laxative, antimalarial, antichistosomal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant. Pau d’arco is an evergreen flowering tree, native to South America, notably Brazil and Argentina, where it is famous as a strengthening tonic and immune enhancer for fighting off infection and preventing cancer. Immunity • Pau d’arco stimulates the immune system. It is antibacterial and antiviral making it helpful in a wide range of infections including Herpes, flu and colds. • It is excellent for fungal infections. Lapachol, betalapachone and xyloidine all show activity against Candida. • It is useful for allergies and chronic fatigue. • The quinones stimulate immunity in small doses; in high doses they repress it. Lapachol has antioxidant, anticoagulant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-malarial and anticancer properties. It may inhibit the gowth of tumours by preventing cancer cells from using oxygen. • Lapachol and beta-lapachone have antimicrobial activity against primarily gram-positive organisms. Digestion • Pau d’arco is antimicrobial making it useful for disturbances of the gut flora and infections associated with diarrhoea, dysentery and peptic ulcers. It combats intestinal worms and parasites and Candida. • It has shown beneficial action in the liver, and is used for liver disease. • It reduces blood sugar, indicated in diabetes. • It also reduces inflammation in the digestive tract, making it useful in treating gastritis, ulcers, acidity, colitis and enteritis. • It acts as a laxative for constipation.

Circulation • Pau d’arco increases oxygen supply to the body by increasing blood and lymphatic circulation and red blood cell production. • It can be used for treating anaemia, lymphatic congestion and hypertension. Musculo-skeletal System • It has anti-inflammatory properties and is depurative which make it helpful in treating arthritis, osteomylitis, rheumatism, lupus and other autoimmune problems. Respiratory System • Pau d’arco enhances immunity and wards off infections, fevers, colds, flu, coughs, bronchitis and chest infections. • It relaxes bronchi in asthma. • It can be used for allergic rhinitis and hay fever. Skin • With its depurartive and antimicrobial actions, it is helpful in skin disease, including eczema, psoriasis, ulcers, viral, fungal and bacterial infections, thrush, athlete’s foot, Herpes, impetigo, boils and acne. Externally • It can be applied to fungal infections, eczema, psoriasis, cuts and sores and skin cancers. Cautions Avoid in pregnancy, blood clotting disorders and with anticoagulants.



TARAXACUM OFFICINALE: DANDELION Family Compositeae Parts Used Leaves, root Constituents Triterpenes (taraxol, taraxerol), sesquiterpene lactones, acids (chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid), carbohydrates, vitamins A, C, B and minerals (potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganese), phytosterols, flavonoid glycosides. Actions Root: Digestive, bitter tonic, hepatic, mild laxative, cholagogue, alterative, antiarhtitic, galactogogue, hypocholesterolaemic. Leaf: Diuretic, mild laxative, bitter tonic, cholagogue, depurative, anti-inflammatory, antilithic. Dandelion is a native of many parts of Europe and Asia. The leaves are traditionally eaten young in the spring as a bitter detoxifying tonic to cleanse the body of wastes from the heavy clogging food, and more sedentary habits of winter. Digestion • A bitter digestive and liver tonic, dandelion enhances appetite and digestion. It increases the flow of digestive juices and aids absorption. • It supports the liver as a major detoxifying organ, and is recommended for liver and gall-bladder problems, hepatitis and problems associated with sluggish liver, including tiredness, irritability, headaches, and skin problems. • The root is mildly laxative. Urinary System • Dandelion leaves are diuretic which make it useful in treating water retention, cellulite and urinary tract infections. • Its high potassium content replaces that lost through increased urination. • It helps dissolve stones and gravel. • It improves the elimination of uric acid, and is a useful remedy for gout. Skin • A detoxifying bitter tonic, it increases the elimination of toxins and wastes through the liver and kidneys, cleansing the blood and clearing skin. It is good for spots, acne, boils, and abscesses.

Immunity • Dandelion root is anti-inflammatory and can can be used for arthritis. • It may increase insulin secretion from the pancreas, and helpful in diabetes. • Dandelion extracts have been used in traditional Native American medicine and traditional Chinese medicine for treatment of leukaemia and breast cancer. Externally • The white juice from the stems can be applied to warts. • An infusion of the leaves and flowers is good for skin complaints. Cautions • Avoid in the obstruction of bile ducts and gall bladder. Milky latex in the leaves can cause dermatitis.

246 246


THYMUS VULGARIS: THYME Family Labiatae Parts Used Flowering aerial parts Constituents Tannins, bitters, essential oil, terpenes, flavonoids, saponins, caffeic acid, salicylate, labiatric acid. Actions Antispasmodic, carminative, digestive, antiseptic, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, diuretic, decongestant, pectoral, expectorant, bronchodilator, circulatory stimulant, relaxant, immunostimulant, antioxidant, rejuvenative, rubefacient, anti-inflammatory, febrifuge. Thyme is an intensely aromatic small evergreen shrub, native to the Mediterranean, where it can be found growing wild on warm, dry, rocky banks. It is widely grown for its powerful antiseptic properties. Digestion • Thyme is warming and enhances appetite, digestion absorption and is good for poor appetite, indigestion, poor absorption of nurtients and anaemia. • The bitters stimulate the liver, making thyme useful for liver and gall-bladder complaints, skin problems and lethargy. • The flavonoids have relaxing effects in the gut and relieve wind, colic and IBS. • The astringent tannins protect the gut from irritation and inflammation and reduce diarrhoea. • The antimicrobial oils fight infections such as gastroenteritis and dysentery, and help re-establish gut flora after antibiotics and in dysbiosis. • A teaspoonful of thyme tincture half an hour before breakfast is used traditionally with castor oil to treat worms. Nervous System • Thyme is strenthening, helpful for physical and mental exhaustion. • It relieves tension, anxiety and depression. • A good tonic for the brain, it increases concentration and memory and can be used for learning problems such as ADD and ADHD. Circulation • Thyme is a warming stimulant to the circulation. It prevents chilblains and the effects of cold in winter.

Respiratory System • Its antimicrobial actions are good for colds, sore throats, flu and chest infections. • Thyme is excellent for coughs whether from anxiety or infection, including bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy. • It has a relaxant effect in bronchial tubes and relieves asthma and whooping cough, while its expectorant action increases the production of fluid mucus and helps shift phlegm; particularly useful for dry, hacking coughs. Reproductive System • It is antispasmodic and can be used for painful periods. • It is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial making it helpful in treating thrush, salpingitis and pelvic inflammatory disease. Urinary System • An antiseptic diuretic, it combats water retention and urinary tract infections. Immunity • Its volatile oils are highly antiseptic, powerfully antibacterial and antifungal, and help combat infections, particularly in respiratory, digestive and genito-urinary systems. • It is an anti-inflammatory, possibly by inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis. • Thyme has antioxidant properties and is protective against degenerative problems, helping to increase longevity. • It also increases perspiration and reduces fevers. Externally • It is useful in liniments for aching joints, muscular pain, and to disinfect cuts and wounds. • It makes a good gargle for sore throats, an antiseptic mouthwash, and a douche for thrush and other vaginal infections. • It may be taken daily for friction of the hair and a lotion to stop hair fall. • It can be used as an inhalant for coughs, asthma, colds, catarrh and sinusitis. • It can be added to vinegar and used like smelling salts for nervous headaches. Other uses • It combats intestinal parasites and head lice. Cautions Avoid large amounts in pregnancy.



248 248


TILIA EUROPEA/AMERICANA/CORDATA: LIME FLOWER Family Tiliaceae Parts Used Flowers Constituents Volatile oils (farnesol), tannins, flavonoids (hesperidin, quercitrin, kaempferol), mucilage, phenols (caffeic acid), manganese, vitamin C. Actions Thymoleptic, antispasmodic, nervine, relaxant, sedative, digestive, carminative, ophthalmic, expectorant, diaphoretic, decongestant, diuretic, astringent, hypotensive, peripheral vasodilator, demulcent, emollient, anti-inflammatory. The lime tree is a handsome deciduous tree native to Europe, West Asia and North America. It has a profusion of creamy flowers that smell like honey and are loved by bees. Respiratory System • Lime flower is a decongestant and soothing expectorant for feverish colds, flu, catarrh, irritating coughs, bronchitis and asthma. Digestion • It soothes and relaxes the gut, and is good for digestive complaints associated with anxiety including wind, colic, indigestion, diarrhoea, heartburn and acidity. Urinary System • A soothing diuretic, it clears toxins via the kidneys, and can relieve cystitis, urethritis and frequency due to nerves. Nervous System • With its antispasmodic and sedative effects, lime flower is good for tension, anxiety, insomnia, pain, nervous headaches, migraine, restlessness and agitation. • It helps calm exam nerves.

Circulation • Its antispasmodic and vasodilatory properties help to open the arteries. • It reduces hypertension, protects blood vessel walls, reduces cholesterol build-up and hardening of the arteries. • Lime flower is useful for migraine. • It acts as a diaphoretic, increases blood flow to the periphery and reduces fevers. Externally • An infusion of leaves can be used as an eyewash. • A poultice is good for burns and scalds. • An infusion of lime flowers can be applied to spots, acne, boils, burns, and rashes to relieve heat and irritation. • It can be used as a gargle for mouth ulcers. • It can also be added to a bath to calm restless children. Cautions Large doses may cause nausea.



TINOSPORA CORDIFOLIA: GUDUCHI Family Menispermaceae Parts Used Stems and leaves Constituents Sitosterol, alkaloids (berberine and tinosporin), bitters, glycosides, diterpenes, bitter principles, polysaccharides. Actions Adaptogen, antioxidant, nervine, immune-modulator, febrifuge, hypocholesterolaemic, antimicrobial, anrtitumour, hepatoprotective, anthelmintic, aphrodisiac, digestive, stimulant, astringent, rejuvenative, tonic, alterative, diuretic, cholagogue, anti-inflammatory. Guduchi is a strong creeping vine that grows in the forests of India. A famous rejuvenative in Ayurvedic medicine, it is considered best when growing through neem trees as their combined properties are strengthening and detoxifying. Digestion • Guduchi enhances energy and vitality by improving appetite, digestion and absorption. It can be used for poor appetite and weak digestion. • It reduces heat and inflammation including heartburn, indigestion, acidity, gastritis, peptic ulcers, nausea and vomiting. It is a good remedy for inflammatory and auto-immune problems including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. • It helps to reestablish a normal gut flora and is a good herb for treating gut infections, gastro-enteritis, food poisoning, diarrhoea and dysentery. • It is antifungal which makes it helpful in treating Candida and is anthelmintic for dispelling worms and parasites. • It relieves constipation and clears toxins. • Guduchi has a protective action on the liver and gallbladder and is used for chronic hepatitis and toxic damage as it aids liver tissue regeneration. It is also useful for gallstones. • It is good for stabilising blood sugar levels. Nervous System • An adaptogen and rejuvenative tonic, it increases resistance to stress, both emotional and physical and protects against the ageing process. • It increases energy yet relaxes tension and is good for nervous exhaustion and chronic fatigue. Circulation • Guduchi is useful in treating anaemia. • It reduces bleeding tendency as in bleeding gums and haemorrhoids.

• It can lower cholesterol and is useful in atheroscleriosis and angina.

Respiratory System • A good immune enhancer, guduchi helps resolve infections and is also decongestant. It is indicated in coughs, colds, flu, fevers, sinusitis and allergies including hay fever and asthma. Urinary System • Guduchi acts as a diuretic and is useful in cystitis. • It aids the elimination of uric acid which make it helpful for arthritis and gout. Immunity • It has antioxidant and anti-tumour activity, and reduces side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. • It enhances immunity, stimulates antibody production and macrophage function. It improves resistance to fungal, bacterial and parasitic infection and lowers fevers. • It is worth taking prior to surgery to improve resistence to infection and postoperative complications. • It helps combat dysbiosis and is recommended for use in auto-immune problems includiong rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis and thyroid problems. Skin • It is useful for clearing obstinate skin problems including eczema and psoriasis. Reproductive System • Guduchi is rejuveantive and aphrodisiac. It is helpful in low libido, impotence and spermatorrhoea. Musculo-skeletal System • An excellent anti-inflammatory for joint problems, guduchi was traditionally used for treating gout (in castor oil), and combined with ginger for arthritis. • It is good for use in bursitis, repetitive strain injury, tendonitis, gout and sciatica. Externally • Use as a powder in water/aloe vera gel for inflammatory skin problems. Cautions Excessive doses of berberine inhibit B vitamin assimilation and can cause nausea. The whole plant extract has no reported toxicity.

250 250




TRIFOLIUM PRATENSE: RED CLOVER Family Leguminaceae/fabiaceae Parts Used Flowering tops Constituents Flavonoids (genistein, kaempferol, pratensein), flavone glycosides, phytosterols, salicylic acid, coumarins, minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium, copper, zinc; resins, galactomannan, volatile oils, saponins. Actions Alterative, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antioxidant, bronchodilator, relaxant, sedative, antispasmodic, nutritive tonic, hormone balancing, antifungal, blood thinning, laxative, lymphatic, anti-tumour, expectorant. Red clover is a small perennial found growing in meadows and pastures, native to Europe, North America and West Asia. It is grown commercially as a fodder crop for animals and for fixing nitrogen in the soil. Its main medicinal use is as a cleansing and immune-enhancing remedy and for women’s health problems.

Reproductive System • The flavone glycosides increase follicle stimulating hormone and are oestrogenic, making it useful for menopausal complaints including hot flushes, night sweats and insomnia. • It is beneficial to the lymphatic system and helpful in swollen breasts and mastitis. • With its hormone regualating effects, red clover can be used for irregular and painful periods. • Red clover helps prevent prostate problems. • Traditionally it has been used for cancers of the breast and ovaries. Musculo-skeletal System • A beneficial herb to post-menopausal women, it may encourage calcium storage and prevent osteoporosis. • It was traditionally used for arthritis and gout. Circulation • Red clover can help prevent hypertension. • The coumarins may affect platelet activity and reduce lipids. • Red clover can be helpful in preventing the build up of atherosclerosis and cardio-vascular disease.

Skin • Red clover clears toxins and helps resolve skin complaints, especially eczema acne rosacea, impetigo, urticaria, measles and psoriasis.

Respiratory System • Red clover is an antispasmodic and expectorant, useful for catarrh, whooping cough, dry coughs, bronchitis and asthma.

Immunity • Red clover is a good herb for allergies such as eczema and urticaria. • It was traditionally used in many parts of the world as a detoxifying herb for cancer of the breast, ovaries, lungs and lymphatic system. • The lavone glycosides have been shown to inhibit cancer by inhibiting angiogenesis and cancer cell adhesion. • It is indicated in chronic degenerative diseases and lymphatic congestion.

Externally • Poultices applied to skin problems and cancerous growths may be of benefit. Cautions Avoid in hormone-related tumours (e.g. breast and uterine cancer), bleeding disorders, pregnancy and breastfeeding. Use caution with anticoagulants and contraceptives. Diseased clover, even if no symptoms of disease are visible, can contain toxic alkaloids.

252 252


TRIGONELLA FOENUM-GRAECUM: FENUGREEK Family Leguminosae/Fabaceae Parts Used Seeds Constituents Gallactomannans (including mucilagin), pyridine alkaloids, including trigonelline, gentianine and carpaine compounds; steroidal saponins (including diosgenin, fenugreekine, tigogenin), fiber, proteins, amino acids (including 4-hydroxyisoleucine, lysine, arginine), flavonoids. Actions Digestive, laxative, demulcent, emollient, nutruive, galactogogue, expectorant, cardiotonic, diuretic, antiviral, antihypertensive, hypoglycaemic, lowers cholesterol.

Reproductive System • Diosgenin is used to create semisynthetic forms of oestrogen. It can enlarge breast size. • Fenugreek may help reduce menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, night sweat, vaginal dryness and insomnia. • It is good for stimulating milk flow in nursing mothers. Respiratory System • It is expectorant and immune-enhancing, helpful for chronic coughs and bronchitis. • It has antiviral properties, making it good for colds and flu and the Herpes virus. Urinary System • With its diuretic action, fenugreek aids the elinination of toxins via the kidneys and reduces fluid retention.

A member of the pea family, fenugreek is highly nutritious and well known as a cooking spice. It is native to the Mediterranean, Ukraine and India. In Africa it is used as a coffee substitute.

Externally • A decoction used as a lotion is good for boils, ulcers, and eczema. • It can be used as a mouthwash for ulcers.

Digestion • Fenugreek enhances appetite, digestion and absorption. • Mucilagin coats the gut lining and protects it from irritation and inflammation. It can be helpful in gastritis, acid indigestion and peptic ulcers. • It is not absorbed so adds fibre and acts as a bulk laxative in constipation. • It possesses hypoglycemic activity by delaying gastric emptying, slowing carbohydrate absorption and inhibiting glucose transport. It may also increase insulin receptors in red blood cells and improve glucose utilization in peripheral tissues (suggested dose 2.5mg with meals twice daily).

Cautions Avoid in pregnancy. Caution with antidiabetic and anticoagulant drugs.

Circulation • Fenugreek decreases cholesterol and lowers density lipoproteins (harmful cholesterol) and triglycerides. • It reduces blood pressure and inhibits clotting. • It helps to prevent heart and arterial disease (common in diabetics).



TRILLIUM ERECTUM: BETH ROOT Family Liliaceae Parts Used Rhizomes and root Constituents Steroidal saponins, (diosgenin, trillarin), fixed oils, resin, gum, glycosides, volatile oils, tannins, vitamin D, oxalic acid. Actions Astringent, partus praepartor, parturient, antispasmodic, antiseptic, antifungal, uterine tonic, hormone regulator, anti-haemorrhagic, stimulant, alterative, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant. Beth root is a beautiful woodland plant native to North America, renowned among Native American tribes for lessening pain during childbirth and preventing postpartum bleeding. Reproductive System • Beth root is traditionally used to induce childbirth, stimulate contractions and reduce pain. • It regulates hormones and so relieves menstrual problems. • Beth root is astringent and constricts the blood vessels. It is helpful for fibroids, heavy bleeding, dysfunctional uterine bleeding and post partum haemorrhage. • It reduces peri-menopausal flooding and menopausal symptoms. • It relieves sore nipples. • Beth root is an aphrodisiac. Respiratory System • As an astringent and expectorant, beth root dries up excess secretions and reduces catarrh. • It is helpful in catarrhal coughs, asthma, chronic lung problems and haemoptysis. Digestion • The astringent properties of beth root, tone and protect the gut lining, reducing inflammation and bleeding. • It is recommended in inflammatory bowel problems, diarrhoea, dysentery and bleeding.

Urinary System • It is helpful for haematuria. Externally • In a lotion, beth root reduces bleeding, and speeds healing of ulcers, inflammatory skin problems, haemorrhoid, varicose veins, insect bites and stings. • Beth root can be used as an antiseptic and antifungal douche for vaginal infections including thrush and trichomonas. It reduces discharges. Cautions Avoid during pregnancy and gastric reflux. Beth root may decrease the effects of cardiac glycosides.

254 254


TURNERA APHRODISIACA/DIFFUSA: DAMIANA Family Turneraceae Parts Used Aerial parts, leaves Constituents Volatile oils (1,8-cineole, p-cymene, alpha- and betapinene, thymol, alpha-copaene, calamene), tannins, flavonoids, beta-sitosterol, damianin, glycosides gonzalitosin, arbutin, tetraphyllin B. Actions Antispasmodic, antimicrobial, alterative, anti-inflammatory, thymoleptic, adaptogenic, expectorant, astringent, digestive, carminative, laxative, bitter tonic, aphrodisiac, hypoglycaemic, nervine, sedative, stimulant, tonic, diuretic. Damiana is a small shrub that grows throughout Mexico, Central America, West Indies and South America. It was recorded as an aphrodisiac as far back as the ancient Mayan civilisation. It has long been valued as a tonic for the hormonal and nervous systems. Nervous System • Damiana is a strengthening nerve and brain tonic, useful for debility, headaches, exhaustion and convalescence. • It is specific for anxiety and depression associated with sexual inadequacy. • Damiana is used for mood disorders, hypochondria, obsessive compulsive disorder, neurosis and paranoia. • It relieves excess mental activity and agitation. Reproductive System • Damiana may be used as a male and female sexual tonic, good for impotence, erectile dysfunction, frigidity, anorgasmia and low libido. • Its alkaloids have a testosterone-like action. • Damiana can be used to treat orchitis (inflammation of testicle). • It balances menstrual disorders and is used in dysmenorrhoea, menstrual headaches, acne, irregular periods, amenorrhoea and fertility problems. • It aids childbirth. • Damiana is useful during the menopause for hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, and vaginal dryness. • It may bind to progesterone receptors in breast cancer cells and have anti-oestrogenic activity.

Digestion • Damiana relaxes tension and spasm, and is good for stress related disorders, stomach aches, colic, dyspepsia, peptic ulcers and diarrhoea. It can be used as a laxative for constipation. • It stimulates liver function and reduces blood sugar. Urinary System • As as antiseptic diuretic, damiana soothes irritation of mucous membranes, and is indicated in cystitis, fluid retention and a tendency to urinary tract infections. • It strengthens muscular control, useful for incontinence and bed-wetting. Respiratory System • Astringent and expectorant, damiana dries excess phlegm, relieves colds, coughs, asthma and bronchitis. Cautions Damiana may interferes with iron absorption; take away from food. Caution with antidiabetic drugs, avoid in pregnancy.



ULMUS FULVA/RUBRA: SLIPPERY ELM Family Ulmaceae Part Used Inner bark, generally as powder Constituents Mucilage (polysaccharides), hexoses, pentosespolyuronide, tannins, calcium, chromium, iron, zinc, manganese, oligomeric procyanidins, antioxidants. Actions Demulcent, emollient, nutritive, antitussive, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, rejuvenative, vulnerary. A handsome deciduous tree, slippery elm grows throughout Canada and America. The inner bark is collected from trees which are at least 10 years old. It has wonderful soothing and healing properties and is traditionally used by Native Americans to soothe an irritated digestive system and as a poultice for wounds, boils and ulcers. Digestion • The polysaccharide molecules expand in water and create a gruel that cannot be digested but coats the gut lining and soothes pain in inflammatory conditions of the bowel, including acid reflux, heartburn, nausea, gastritis, colitis, peptic ulcers, IBS, diverticulitis and leaky gut syndrome. • Slippery elm bulks out the stool and works as a bulk laxative for constipation. • It absorbs toxins, protecting the gut lining from them and enhances the growth of normal gut flora. • It is useful for soothing irritation associated with diarrhoea and dysentery. • It is a nourishing food when undernourished and weak, for those losing weight and during convalescence. It is particularly good for infants and the elderly as it is very easy to digest. Respiratory System • Slippery elm moistens and reduces heat and inflammation of mucous membranes, and it reduces irritation and inflammation in the throat and chest causing catarrh and dry coughs. • It is traditionally used for bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy. • Slippery elm relaxes the throat and bronchi, helpful for sore throats, hoarseness, laryngitis, pharyngitis, asthma and whooping cough.

Musculo-skeletal System • Rich in calcium, slippery elm is helpful for for strengthening bones and promoting healing. Immunity • Slippery elm is anti-inflammatory and enhances immunity. • It is soothing and strengthening when recovering from illness or undergoing chemotherapy. • It is an ingredient of the famous anti-cancer formula Essiac. Urinary System • Slippery elm soothes the lining of the whole urinary tract and reduces pain and inflammation in cystitis and urethritis. Externally • Slippery elm makes a soothing poultice for drawing out toxins in boils, spots or abscesses, varicose ulcers. It also helps the removal of splinters. • It is applied to wounds, burns and inflammation for soothing, healing and to reduce swelling and pain. • It is excellent for acute skin problems such as erythema, nappy rash, Herpes, eczema, impetigo and styes. Cautions Separate medicines taken by 2 hours. Slippery elm may inhibit absorption.

256 256


UNCARIA TOMENTOSA: CAT’S CLAW Family Rubiaceae Parts Used Bark, root, inner bark, stem, leaf Constituents Pentacyclic and tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids, triterpenes, phytosterols, tannins, quercitrin, rutin, proanthocyanidins, catechin, polyphenols. Actions Immune enhancing, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, antioxidant, rejuvenative, hypotensive, adaptogenic, antitumour, antimicrobial, depurative, diuretic, vermifuge. Cat’s claw is a climbing vine native to the Amazon jungle, particularly in Peru and Ecuador where it has been famous for centuries as a remedy for infections and inflammatory conditions as well as for contraception.

Digestion • Cat’s claw is used in gastritis, ulcers, diarrhoea and dysentery and chronic Candidiasis. • It strengthens the integrity of the gut in Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disorders, diverticulitis and leaky gut syndrome. • It enhances liver function and is traditionally used for cirrhosis. • Cat’s claw reduces blood sugar in diabetes. Respiratory System • Cat’s claw is an immune support in asthma, bronchitis and hay fever. Reproductive System • Cat’s claw regulates the menstrual cycle and relieves PMS. • It is traditionally used as a contraceptive when taken regularly over three years. • It aids recovery from childbirth. • It is helpful in prostatitis.

Immunity • The oxidole alkaloids stimulate immunity by enhancing activity of phagocytes, macrophages, lymphocytes and leucocytes. • Cat’s claw is used for chronic immune deficiency and HIV, chronic fatigue, allergies, convalescence, debility and tendency to infections. • It slows the growth of leukaemia cells and is used as a complement to cancer treatments as it protects against the effects of radiation and chemotherapy. • Cat’s claw combats bacterial and viral infections such as shingles. It reduces fevers. • Cat’s claw is traditionally used for deep wounds, abscesses and cysts.

Urinary System • Cat’s claw is helpful for urinary tract infections and bedwetting. • It clears toxins through diuresis.

Circulation • Cat’s claw inhibits blood platelet aggregation, strengthens blood vessels and helps prevent strokes.

Cautions Contraindicated in pregnancy. Caution with immunosuppressive drugs.

Musculo-skeletal System • Cat’s claw is anti-inflammatory, useful for osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, bursitis and gout.

Eyes • Cat’s claw reduces inflammatory problems and infections as in conjunctivitis and iritis. Externally • When used in lotions or creams, cat’s claw is beneficial for acne, Herpes, shingles, athlete’s foot, haemorrhoids and cuts. • In an eye lotion it relieves conjunctivitis.



URTICA DIOICA/URENS: STINGING NETTLE Family Urticaceae Parts Used Aerial parts of young plants, roots, seeds Constituents Leaf: Alterative, astringent, decongestant, haemostatic, galactagogue, diuretic, expectorant, antimicrobial, vasodilator, nutritive, cholagogue, hypopglycaemic, lithotropic, nervine, blood building, febrifuge, antioxidant, anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, uterine tonic, rubefacient. Seed: Adrenal tonic, kidney trophorestorative, anthelmntic, rejuvenative, thyroid tonic. Root: Antiprostatic. Nettle is highly nutritious, rich in vitamins A and C, and minerals, particularly iron, calcium, silica and potassium. Nettle tops in food and drinks make a nourishing spring tonic for debility, convalescence and anaemia. Digestion • Nettle’s astringent tannins protect the gut lining from irritation and infection. • It can be used to relieve gastritis, peptic ulcers, acid indigestion and diarrhoea. • It stimulates liver and kidney function and clears toxins. • With its hypoglycaemic action, it reduces blood sugar. Respiratory System • Nettle clears catarrhal congestion in colds, sinus congestion, coughs and bronchitis. • Its antihistamine action is helpful in allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, hay fever and asthma. • Its seeds/fresh juice relieve fevers and lung disorders and a root decoction is helpful for pleurisy. Reproductive System • Nettle stimulates milk production in nursing mothers and regulates periods. • It reduces heavy bleeding, is rich in iron and increases haemoglobin levels.

Urinary System • As a diuretic, nettle relieves fluid retention, and makes a good remedy for cystitis and urethritis. • It softens and expels kidney stones and gravel. • It helps prevent bedwetting and incontinence. • Nettles enhance the excretion of uric acid which is good for gout and arthritis. • The root is used for benign prostatic hypertrophy. • The seeds act as a kidney tonic and can be used for low kidney function. Immunity • Nettle is an excellent detoxifying remedy and spring tonic. • It is helpful for allergies such as eczema, asthma and hay fever. • The flavonoids have an immune-stimulatory effect. • Nettle has as antibacterial activity against Staph. aureus and Staph albus. • Diaphoretic, nettle reduces fevers when taken as a hot tea. • Its seeds improve thyroid function and reduce goitre. They act as an adrenal tonic and rejuvenative, increasing resilience to stress and illness. Skin • Depurative and anti-inflammatory, nettle clears the skin in eczema, psoriasis, acne, urticaria and other chronic skin problems. Externally • As fresh juice or tea it is useful for cuts and wounds, haemorrhoids, burns and scalds, to stop bleeding and speed healing. • Nettle juice can be applied to bites and stings, including nettle sting. • They can be used in an ointment for irritating skin conditions such as eczema. • By urtication (i.e. stinging the skin with fresh nettle to produce a counter irritant effect) nettles stimulate the circulation in poor peripheral circulation, which is useful for pain and swelling in arthritis. Cautions Avoid in oedema from impaired cardiac or renal function. Caution with diuretics and antihypertensives.

258 258




VACCINIUM MYRTILLUS: BLUEBERRY/BILBERRY Family Ericaceae Parts Used Fruit, leaves Constituents Flavonoids (more than 15 anthocyanosides), catechins, epicatechin, pectins, tannins, vitamins A and C, iron, sugars. Actions Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antilithic, diaphoretic, nutrient, ophthalmic, astringent, vasoprotective, haemostatic, antiplatelet, anti-galactogogue, antispasmodic, diuretic, vulnerary, anti-ulcer, rejuvenative. Blueberry is a perennial shrub bearing delicious black shiny berries, native to Europe. A potent source of antioxidants, bilberries reduce free radicals, help slow the ageing process, and help prevent degenerative disease and cancer. Digestion • Blueberry increases gastric mucous and reduces inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining. It protects against ulcers by protecting the lining against the effect of excess acid. • It can be used for a range of problems including gastritis, IBS, peptic ulcers, colitis, inflammatory gut problems and diverticulitis. • The leaves are a traditional remedy for diabetes (rich in chromium), diarrhoea, vomiting, typhoid and stomach cramps. • Blueberry reduces blood sugar. • Blueberries are astringent and relieve both constipation and diarrhoea. Eyes • Blueberry improves circulation to the eyes and so improves eyesight. Its antioxidant action prevents free radical damage that can cause cataracts and macular degeneration. • Blueberry is beneficial to diabetic or hypertensive retinopathy and macular degeneration. • It is collagen strengthening, protecting eye tissue against glaucoma and eyestrain. • It regenerates rhodopsin, a pigment found in the retina which is vital to good night vision and aids night blindness. • It helps prevent cataracts.

Circulation • Blueberry is an antioxidant. It enhances circulation and protects the arteries and capillaries from free radical damage. It is useful in Raynaud’s disease, capillary fragility, bleeding gums, spider veins, haemorrhoids, varicose veins, and venous insufficiency and during pregnancy to prevent these. • The anthocyanosides stabilize collagen and help rebuild capillaries. • Blueberry reduces platelet aggregation. It prevents clots, protecting against heart attacks and strokes while not risking increased bleeding. • It is useful to prevent and treat atherosclerosis. Musculo-skeletal System • Blueberry stabilises collagen. It is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and so helpful in arthritis. Reproductive System • As as antispasmodic, it relieves dysmenorrhoea. Urinary System • Blueberry is anti-inflammatory and helpful for bladder infections and kidney stones. • With its antilithic actions, it helps prevent stones and gravel. Externally • Blueberry promotes healing and is useful after surgery. • As a mouthwash it relieves inflammation of the mouth and gums. • It can be used as a gargle for sore throats.

260 260


VALERIANA OFFICINALIS: VALERIAN Family Valerianaceae Parts Used Root and rhizome Constituents Volatile oil, valepotriates, pyridine, valerianic acid, glycosides, alkaloids, lignans, amino acids, sitosterol, choline, tannins, gum, resins. Actions Anxiolytic, sedative, nervine, hypnotic, anodyne, anticonvulsant, vasodilator, anthelmintic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, astringent, bitter, hepatic, alterative, appetiser, digestive, carminative, laxative, diaphoretic, diuretic, hypotensive, restorative, tonic. A perennial wild flower with pretty pink flowers, valerian is native to Europe, Asia and North America. The root is highly pungent with a smell that is disliked by many but loved by cats and also apparently by rats, as it is said that the Pied Piper of Hamelin lured the rats away with valerian. Respiratory System • Valerian is antispasmodic and expectorant. It can be used for harsh dry, irritating, paroxysmal coughs, asthma and croup. Nervous System • Valerian is a well known sedative and nerve tonic, excellent for anxiety, nervous tension, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, nervous headaches and exhaustion. • It strengthens and calms the heart. The valepotriates are mainly responsible for its calming effects. It is useful in nervous palpitations. • It is relaxing to smooth muscle and useful for stressrelated disorders such as muscle tension, colic, irritable bowel, period pain and headaches.

• Valerian is useful in the treatment of addiction

(tobacco or tranquilizers), chronic aggression and attention deficit disorder. • Valerian was traditionally used as a remedy for epilepsy, hysteria, vertigo, convulsions, migraine, headaches and nerve problems. It was used in the First World War for shell shock and nerve strain caused by air raids. Circulation • With its vasodilatory actions, valerian can be used to lower blood pressure. • It increases blood flow through the heart, useful in angina. • It calms nervous palpitations. Digestion • It is useful in the treatment of stress-related problems such as dyspepsia, intestinal colic, wind, bloating and IBS. Reproductive System • Valerian is antispasmodic, helpful for period pain and can be used for endometriosis and PMS. • It can be used during the menopause for insomnia and mood swings. Cautions Avoid prolonged use. Excessive doses may cause headaches, muscle spasm or palpitations.



VERBASCUM THAPSUS: MULLEIN Family Scrophulariaceae Parts Used Leaves, flowers and root Constituents Mucilage, polysaccharides, triterpenes, volatile oil, saponins, resins, flavonoids, iridoid glycosides. Actions Antispasmodic, expectorant, antitussive, bronchodilator, decongestant, astringent, vulnerary, sedative, analgesic, demulcent, emollient, diuretic, alterative, nervine, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, antimicrobial. An impressive biennial with tall spikes of yellow flowers, mullein is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. Its soft downy leaves and flowers make wonderfully soothing medicine for irritating coughs and to relieve pain in ear infections. Nervous System • The relaxant and pain-killing properties, especially of the flowers, relieve headaches, neuralgia and arthritis and encourage sleep, particularly when disturbed by coughing and pain. • Mullein relieves tension and anxiety, and is used for nervous palpitations, heart irregularities, cramp and nervous colic. • Its astringent properties curb nervous diarrhoea. • A root decoction was an old remedy to relieve toothache, cramps and convulsions. Respiratory System • Mullein is a soothing expectorant, for harsh, irritating, dry coughs, sore throats and inflammatory conditions such as pharyngitis, tracheitis, bronchitis and bronchiectasis. • It is an old remedy for TB, whooping cough and pleurisy. • Relaxing and antiseptic, mullein relieves colds, flu, asthma, croup and chest infections. • Mullein acts as a decongestant, clears phlegm, sinusitis and hay fever.

• Mullein is used specifically for earache, when applied locally and taken internally. It can be used for catarrhal deafness and tinnitus, ear infections, wax accumulation and head pain caused by congestion in the ears.

Urinary System • Mullein is a soothing diuretic and can be used for burning and frequency in cystitis, and for fluid retention. • It increases the elimination of toxins which is useful for arthritis and gout. Immunity • Mullein enhances immunity. It has antibacterial and antiviral activity against various influenza strains and Herpes simplex. • As as anti-inflammatory, mullein relieves the pain of swollen glands and is used in mumps. Digestion • Mullein soothes the gut, helps to heal peptic ulcers and curb diarrhoea. Externally • A compress of the leaves can be applied to painful joints and muscles, to the chest in asthma, and used for headaches, swollen glands and mumps. • Mullein speeds the healing of wounds, burns, sores, ulcers and piles. • The flowers are useful in the treatment of ringworm and other skin infections. • Mullein oil prepared from flowers may be used as eardrops for earache, and eczema of the outer ear.

262 262


VERBENA OFFICINALIS: VERVAIN Family Verbenaceae Parts Used Aerial parts Constituents Iridoid glycosides (verbenin, verbenalin, aucubin), flavonoids, triterpenes, sterols, volatile oil, tannins, alkaloids, vitamins C and K, zinc, potassium, mucilage, caffeic acid derivatives, bitters, adenosine, beta-carotene. Actions Thymoleptic, nerve tonic, anxiolytic, antioxidant, antispasmodic, anticoagulant, analgesic, antimicrobial, hepatic, alterative, antineoplastic, cholagogue, febrifuge, relaxant, sedative, emmenagogue, parturient, galactagogue. Vervain is a perennial with attractive spikes of mauve flowers, native to Europe, and found growing wild from Denmark to North Africa, West Asia to the Himalayas. It one of the sacred herbs of the druids and long valued as a tonic to the nerves. Nervous System • Vervain is an excellent tonic to the nervous system, calming irritability and anxiety, lifting depression and supporting the body during stress. • It is helpful for stress-related symptoms, such as headaches, migraines, indigestion, insomnia, high blood pressure, aches and pains, insomnia and nervous exhaustion. • As a brain tonic it helps improve memory and concentration and has been used for nightmares. • It is helpful for convalescence after debilitating stress or illness and in chronic fatigue syndrome. • Vervain is thought to block sympathetic innervation of the heart, blood vessels and intestines. Digestion • Vervain enhances appetite and improves absorption. It may be useful in poor appetite, anorexia, low digestive enzymes and indigestion. • Its bitters stimulate the liver, relieve headaches, lethargy, irritability and constipation. • The bitters in vervain are beneficial for liver disorders and gallstones and support the liver in its detoxifying work. • The root is astringent and used for diarrhoea and dysentery.

Immunity • With its antimicrobial, immune enhancing and nervine properties, vervain can be used for shingles and added to mixes for chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. • It has been used in the treatment of certain tumours. • Taken hot, vervain reduces fevers and helps throw off colds and flu. Urinary System • Taken cool, vervain has a diuretic and detoxifying action. It is useful in urinary tract infections. • It can be used for fluid retention and gout. Reproductive System • Vervain regulates periods and relieves PMS. • It enhances contractions during childbirth. • It enhances milk supply in nursing mothers perhaps due to the presence of verbenin. • It is helpful for insufficient lactation especially associated with stress. • It makes a cooling, calming remedy during the menopause. • It has a reputation for improving low sperm count. Externally • Vervain can be used as an astringent mouthwash for bleeding gums and mouth ulcers. • In lotions it is useful for cuts, wounds, insect bites, eczema, sores and neuralgia. Cautions Takes away from mineral supplements. Avoid during pregnancy.



VIBURNUM OPULUS: CRAMP BARK Family Caprifoliaceae Parts Used Bark, Stem bark Constituents Coumarins (scopoletin, scopolin), catechin, epicatechin, bitters (viburnin), arbutin, valeric acid, salicylates, tannins, resin. Actions Antispasmodic, hypotensive, peripheral vasodilator, sedative, astringent, haemostatic, vulnerary, partus praeparator, parturient, uterine tonic, relaxant, sedative, nervine. Native to North America, this striking tree with its bright red berries was prized among Native American and pioneer women to prevent miscarriage and relieve period pains. Reproductive System • Cramp bark is a uterine sedative and tonic. The aesculetin and scopoletin have a powerful antispasmodic action, relieving cramps. • Salicin is a good pain reliever. It is used for spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, for bearing down pain, back and thigh pain in acute doses. • It can also be used for endometriosis, ovarian pain, pelvic inflammatory disease, threatened/repeated miscarriage and to prepare for labour. • Cramp bark helps prevent uterine irritability, over-strong contractions, false labour pains and after-pains. • It prevents excessive menstrual flow during the menopause. • It can be used as an antispasmodic in benign prostatic hypertrophy. Circulation • With its vasodilatory and relaxant action, cramp bark helps hypertension. • It is well known for relieving cramps of all sorts, hence its name. • It is useful in the treatment of palpitations and angina.

Musculo-skeletal System • Cramp bark is a general neuromuscular relaxant for voluntary and involuntary muscular cramp. • It can be used for leg cramps, back pain, tremors and convulsions, intestinal cramps and to relieve pain in neuralgia. Nervous System • Cramp bark is a sedative and nervine and a good remedy for anxiety, stress, tension, stress-related high blood pressure and digestive problems. • It can be used for asthma of nervous origin and obstructed urination. • It relieves tension headaches Digestion • Cramp bark is helpful for IBS, intestinal spasms, IBS, wind and bloating and diarrhoea of nervous origin. Cautions The fresh berries can irritate the gut and cause diarrhoea.

264 264


VIBURNUM PRUNIFOLIUM: BLACK HAW Family Caprifoliaceae Parts Used Bark and root Constituents Flavonoids, coumarins (scopoletin), iridoid glycosides, tannins, acids (oxalic, oleanic, ursolic, isovalerianic, citric), bitter resins, arbutin, salicin, phytosterol, viburnine, volatile oil. Actions Uterine antispasmodic and tonic, astringent, bronchodilator, hypotensive, diuretic, sedative, tonic, nervine, analgesic, emmenagogue, partus praeparator, parturient. A small deciduous tree native to North America whose medicinal benefits were taught by the Native Americans to the settlers. Black haw was primarily used as a remedy for women, for preparing the uterus for childbirth, to relieve pain and reduce bleeding. Reproductive System • It has an amphoteric effect on uterine muscles, toning over-relaxed muscles while relaxing spasm and pain. It prepares uterus for childbirth. • Black haw improves circulation to the uterus and ovaries, and promotes nutrition to the pelvic area. • Scopoletin and aesculetin have both been shown to have a sedative effect on the uterus. • It relieves dysmenorrhoea with scanty flow when used in acute doses, and can be used for threatened/ repeated miscarriage, nocturnal leg cramps during pregnancy. • It eases childbirth, relieves false pains and labour pains, and prevents post partum haemorrhage. • Black haw helps normal involution of the womb after childbirth. • A strengthening tonic, it is useful after miscarriage.

Nervous System • It helps to calm anxiety, particularly when related to miscarriage. • As a bronchodilator it is helpful for treating asthma, particularly when it is of nervous origin. Digestion • Black haw relieves nausea during pregnancy. • With its astringent action, it is helpful for diarrhoea. • Its antispasmodic effect is useful for abdominal spasms, especially chronic hiccoughs, hiatus hernia and gastric or intestinal cramps. Circulation • Black haw lowers arterial blood pressure. • It is useful for venous tension and spasm and as an adjunctive treatment for mild to moderate hypertension. Cautions Use cautiously in kidney stones. Caution with anticoagulants such as heparin and warfarin.




• Both lesser and greater periwinkles have been used

Part Used Flowering herb

• Madagascan periwinkle was researched in the 1950s

Constituents Tannins, indole alkaloids (pubescine, vinine, vincamine), flavonoids, cardiac glycosides, tannins, vitamin C. Actions Astringent, sedative, vasodilator, hypotensive, circulatory stimulant, hypoglycaemic, thymoleptic, alterative, lymphatic, haemostatic, digestive, febrifuge, antigalactogogue, ophthalmic, vulnerary. Periwinkle is an evergreen perennial with pretty blue windmill shaped flowers found growing wild throughout Europe. The flowers and leaves used to be chewed to stop bleeding in the mouth and nose, and to relieve toothache. Digestion • The astringent tannins curb diarrhoea and dysentery. They protect the gut wall from irritation and infection and stop bleeding. • Periwinkle is a healing remedy for heartburn, gastritis, peptic ulcers, and flatulence. • It may help regulate blood sugar and help prevent diabetes. Respiratory System • As an astringent, it clears chronic catarrh and phlegm. Reproductive System • The astringent tannins help to reduce excessive menstrual bleeding and vaginal discharge. Circulation • With its vasodilatory and stimulating effects, periwinkle improves blood flow to the brain, and is recommended in cerebral arteriosclerosis and after a stroke. • It reduces high blood pressure and helps prevent atherosclerosis. Immunity • Vinca rosea, the Madagascan periwinkle (now known as Catharanthus roseus) was discovered in the 1920s to reduce blood sugar in diabetics, and was hailed as a possible substitute for insulin.

for diabetes as they also reduce blood sugar.

for its anticancer effects and contains more than seventy different alkaloids, two of which (vinblastine and vincristine) are extensively used to treat malignant tumours, leukaemia and Hodgkin’s disease.

Nervous System • Periwinkle reduces tension, relieves anxiety, lifts depression and seasonal affective disorders, clears the mind and boosts energy levels. • The tea is used traditionally for nervous conditions, hysteria and convulsions. • The flowers used to be carried as amulets to bring love into one’s life. Externally • Periwinkle stops bleeding. The leaves were inserted into the nose to stop nosebleeds, bound to the skin to stop bleeding from cuts and wounds. • Periwinkle can be used to make vaginal douches for discharges and lotions for haemorrhoids, varicose veins and skin problems including acne and cradle cap. • It can be used in mouthwashes and gargles for mouth ulcers, tonsillitis and sore throats, and chewed to relieve toothache and stop bleeding gums.

266 266


VIOLA ODORATA: SWEET VIOLET Family Violaceae Parts Used Flowers and leaves Constituents Glycosides (gaultherin, salicylic acid, methyl ester), saponins, odoratine, volatile oils, flavonoids, mucilage, phenolic acids, minerals (calcium, magnesium), tannins, alkaloid. Actions Expectorant, bronchodilator, antitumour, demulcent, diaphoretic, alterative, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, diuretic, astringent, emollient, febrifuge, laxative, nutritive, restorative, nervine, analgesic, vulnerary. Native to Asia and Europe, the sweet violet was traditionally woven into garlands to cool anger, cure headaches and hangovers and induce sleep. Hippocrates recommended it for melancholia, bad eyesight and inflammation of the chest. Nervous System • Sweet violet is recommended for grief and heartbreak and to improve memory. • It eases migraines and headache from lack of sleep and moderates anger. • It relieves tension and anxiety and promotes restful sleep. Respiratory System • Sweet violet is a soothing expectorant for harsh irritating coughs and chest infections. It is used for pleurisy, chronic bronchitis, tonsillitis, asthma and chronic catarrh. It is a popular ingredient in children’s cough syrup. • Made as a hot tea it can bring down fevers and clear colds and sinus congestion. Digestion • Sweet violet soothes the gut and acts as a gentle laxative.

Immunity • In Chinese medicine, violet flowers, leaves and root are used together for hot swellings, cysts and tumours. • It is used in the treatment of cancer (breast, lung, digestive tract, skin, throat, and tongue), Musculo-skeletal System • Sweet violet cools heat and inflammation, and with its salicylates it can help to reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis. Urinary System • Sweet violet soothes inflamed and painful conditions including urethritis and urinary tract infections, cystitis, and vaginal infection such as Trichomonas. Externally • A compress or poultice is good for treating boils, conjunctivitis, breast cysts, cancers and haemorrhoids. • Apply a cloth soaked in violet tea to the back of the neck to treat headaches.



VIOLA TRICOLOR: HEARTSEASE/WILD PANSY Family Violaceae Parts Used Leaves and flowers Constituents Flavonoids, mucilage, tannins, resin, bitters, salicylates, saponins. Actions Anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, expectorant, bronchodilator, diuretic, alterative, depurative, laxative, anti-allergenic, analgesic, antispasmodic. Native to temperate parts of Europe, this charming plant was renowned for its ability to clear stubborn skin problems. It is often called heartsease because of its ancient reputation for curing affairs of the heart. Hippocrates used it as a cordial to lift the spirits and treat heart conditions. Respiratory System • Heartsease has soothing and expectorant properties, making it good for inflammatory chest problems, bronchitis, harsh irritating coughs, whooping cough, asthma and croup. • Taken hot, it relieves catarrhal congestion and swollen glands and brings down fevers. • The saponins account for its expectorant action while its mucilage content soothes the chest. Urinary System • A soothing diuretic, it relieves cystitis and fluid retention, and clears toxins. • It is good for painful and frequent urination. Immunity • Prescribed to cool and detoxify the system, it helps to clear skin conditions. It has traditionally used to treat disorders with purulent sticky discharge, such as acne, styes, boils and abscesses, psoriasis, cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis, impetigo, skin cancer, pruritis vulvae and eczema. • The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving salicylates are helpful for treating arthritis and gout.

Circulation • Heartsease enhances the circulation, reduces blood pressure, strengthens blood vessels and helps prevent arteriosclerosis. Externally • It can be used as a lotion for seborrheic skin diseases, acne, impetigo, pruritus vulvae and cradle cap. Cautions Avoid if allergic to salicylates. May increase actions of salicylates (aspirin).

268 268


VISCUM ALBUM: MISTLETOE Family Loranthaceae Parts Used Leaves, young twigs Constituents Mucilage, lignans, phenylpropanoids, fixed oil, resin (viscin), saponins, tannin, alkaloids, polypeptide (viscotoxin), viscols A and B histamine (constituents vary according to the host tree). Actions Vasodilator, hypotensive, diuretic, nervine, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, anticonvulsant, emmenagogue, immune-stimulant, cardiotonic, antiarrhythmic, antitumour, haemostatic, narcotic, sedative. Mistletoe is an evergreen partial parasite, native to the British Isles and much of Europe, that draws nourishment and medicinal constituents from the host deciduous tree. When used medicinally it is usually taken from apple trees. Circulation • Mistletoe regulates the heart and blood pressure, normalises the pulse, calms a rapid heart and nervous palpitations, and is worth using in angina. • It dilates the arteries, and is helpful for arteriosclerotic narrowing of the arteries, helping to prevent cardiovascular accidents. • It reduces the heart rate, strengthens capillary walls, improves circulation and relaxes muscles. • It can be used to relieve headaches caused by high blood pressure. • It is useful for treating varicose veins. Nervous System • Mistletoe is a sedative, muscle relaxant and nerve tonic, and can be used for epilepsy, convulsions, panic attacks, hysteria, nervous debility, mood swings, tense aching muscles, anxiety, insomnia, cramp, nervous headaches, migraines and vertigo. • It increases resilience to stress, particularly in times of upheaval and change.

Immunity • Mistletoe enhances immunity, specifically the function of the thymus gland and the spleen, accelerating antibody production. It is used for lowered immunity, chronic Candida, chronic fatigue and HIV. • It may have anti-tumour effects; the “viscum therapy” of injecting fresh mistletoe extracts in cancer patients originated in Switzerland, based on findings of Rudolf Steiner. • It aids recovery of energy, health and appetite after orthodox cancer treatment. • It may have anti-inflammatory effect in degenerative joint problems and gout. Digestion • An injectable form of mistletoe lectins has been used to reduce signs and symptoms of hepatitis. Cautions Raw mistletoe is toxic, as are the berries. Only use under professional guidance and in small doses. May cause temporary numbness, vomiting and reduced heart rate. Avoid during pregnancy.




• It is useful in PCOS, endometriosis, cysts (in breasts,

Part Used Berries

• Chaste tree can reduce fibroids. • It stimulates milk flow in nursing mothers. • It is good for treating the symptoms of perimeno-

Constituents Essential oils (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes), fatty acids (palmitic, oleic, linoleic, stearic), flavonoids (casticin, isovitexin, orientin), alkaloids (vitticine), iridoid glycosides (agnuside, aucubin, erostoside). Actions Carminative, digestive, nervine, analgesic, diaphoretic, prolactin inhibitor, anaphrodisiac, hormone regulator, antiandrogenic, aromatic, diaphoretic, diuretic, uterine tonic, astringent, emmenagogue, febrifuge, anti-inflammatory, alterative, galactagogue, ophthalmic, phytoprogesteronic, rejuvenative, sedative, vulnerary. Chaste tree is an attractive shrub found growing by the sea, with long spikes of mauve flowers bearing highly aromatic seeds. It is native to Europe, North Africa and West Asia. It derives its name from its reputation as an anaphrodisiac, calming sexual desires particularly in men. Another name for it is monk’s pepper. Reproductive System • Chaste tree has a progesteronic effect. It acts on the pituitary gland to reduce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) released from the anterior pituitary gland, while increasing the luteinizing hormone (LH) and prolactin. • This leads to an increase in progesterone production during the second half of the menstrual cycle, balancing hormones that regulate menstruation and fertility. • It relieves symptoms associated with high oestrogen levels and low progesterone, including migraines, breast tenderness, mood swings, cramps, fluid retention, constipation, Herpes (related to menses), premenstrual acne, PMS and threatened miscarriage. • Taken over four to six months, it regulates the menstrual cycle, and can be helpful in painful periods, irregular cycles, fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, acne and endometriosis. • Chaste tree inhibits prolactin secretion and is useful for benign breast problems and prostatic hypertrophy. • It enhances fertility and remedies ammenorrhoea and menorrhagia caused by corpus luteum insufficiency.

ovaries and uterus) and threatened miscarriage.

pause, hot flushes, vaginal dryness and depression in menopause. • It regulates the menstrual cycle of women coming off birth control pills. • It can be beneficial after a hysterectomy. Urinary System • A natural diuretic, vitex relieves fluid retention, particularly accompanying PMS. Cautions Avoid with HRT or contraceptive pill.

270 270


WITHANIA SOMNIFERUM: WINTER CHERRY Family Solanaceae Part Used Root Consituents Steroidal lactones (withanolides), around 23 alkaloids, phytosterols, alkaloids, saponins, trytptophan, iron. Actions Sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, nervine tonic, analgesic, digestive, alterative, expectorant, bronchodilator, diuretic, astringent, nutritive, anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, anti-cancer, cardioprotective, hypotensive, hypoglycaemic, antimicrobial, adaptogenic, rejuvenative, antioxidant, reproductive tonic, aphrodisiac, galactogogue, immunemodulator, hypocholesterolaemic. Native to India, winter cherry is one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, fast becoming popular in the West. In India it is held in high esteem as a restorative and rejuvenative comparable to ginseng in Chinese medicine. Its Sanskrit name ashwagandha literally means “that which has the smell of a horse”, so named because it is said to give the strength and vitality of a horse. Nervous System • Winter cherry promotes energy and vitality. It is an exceptional nerve tonic for exhaustion. • As an adaptogen, it modifies the harmful effects of stress on mind and body. • It engenders calmness and clarity of mind and is useful for drug abuse and addiction. • It is excellent when depleted by chronic illness, and can be taken to relieve stress, anxiety, depression, overwork, panic attacks, nervous exhaustion and insomnia. • It is helpful in behavioural problems, poor memory and concentration and ADHD. • It is recommended for problems associated with old age, including loss of energy and muscular strength, weak eyes, arthritis and insomnia. Respiratory System • Immune enhancing and antimicrobial, ashwagandha increases resistance to infections. • It relieves allergies, including rhinitis and asthma.

Genito-urinary System • Winter cherry is used for urinary problems, dysmenorrhea, irregular and scanty periods, endometriosis. • Famous as a remedy for infertility and male reproductive tonic. It increases sperm count and health. Immunity • As a painkiller and anti-inflammatory, it can be used for joint problems. • As an antioxidant, it decreases free radical damage, and helps to slow the ageing process. • It enhances immunity, and can be used for chronic immune deficiency, fibromyalgia, leucopenia, HIV, auto-immune problems including multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. • It may inhibit growth of cancers. • It can be used to support the system during chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It may increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiation therapy. Externally • The oil can be used for arthritic joints, frozen shoulders and nerve pain such as sciatica, muscle spasm and back pain. • It is good for wounds, sores, dry, itchy skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis. Cautions Avoid over 3gm daily in pregnancy.



ZANTHOXYLLUM AMERICANUM: PRICKLY ASH Family Rutaceae Part Used Bark Constituents Alkaloids, lignans, malic acid, essential oils, xanthoxyllin, alyklamides, tannin, coumarins, phenol, gum. Actions Circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, antiarthritic, sialogogue, alterative, analgesic, anthelmintic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, emmenagogue, immune-stimulant, nervine, rubefacient, digestive. Prickly ash is a shrub with warming and stimulating effects, native to North America. It was well known among Native Americans for relieving arthritic pain and for its success in treating cholera. Circulation • Prickly ash increases blood flow throughout the body including through the small arteries and capillaries to the periphery. • It is used for chilblains, intermittent claudication, Raynaud’s disease, Buerger’s disease, cerebrovascular disease, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, restless leg syndrome and leg cramps. • It helps to prevent blood clots and regulates blood pressure. • It stimulates the lymphatic circulation, and brings blood to the skin, mucous membranes and kidneys. • It increases kidney output and cardiac function. Immunity • As an alterative and antimicrobial, prickly ash enhances resistance against infection and cancer and can be used to treat a range of infections, both acute and chronic, especially gut and skin infections. • The leaf, fruit, stem, bark and root have broad spectrum antifungal activity against fungal infections including Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans and Aspergillus fumigatus. • It can be used to potentiate adaptogenic herbs to maintain health and vitality during acute stress. • It was traditionally used to treat cholera outbreaks in the past.

• As a capillary stimulant bringing blood and heat to

the surface, it is useful for resolving eruptive diseases including measles and chicken pox.

Respiratory System • Prickly ash stimulates blood flow to the mucosa, and loosens thick phlegm and helps to clear congestion. • By enhancing blood flow to the throat area, it is useful in acute and chronic sore throats and throat infections including tonsillitis, laryngitis, pharyngitis and post-nasal catarrh when taken both internally and as a decoction used locally. • By stimulating blood flow to the periphery of the body when taken hot, prickly ash has a diaphoretic action and helps resolve chills, colds, coughs, flu and fevers. Musculo-skeletal System • Its anti-inflammatory and alterative properties are helpful for autoimmune problems, as well as osteoarthritis, gout and lumbago. • It is helpful in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Reproductive System • It stimulates blood flow to uterus, relieves uterine cramps, as in functional dysmenorrhea and endometriosis. Nervous System • By enhancing blood flow to the brain it can aid memory and concentration, relieve mental fatigue and help to prevent degenerative problems including dementia and Alzheimer’s. • As a strengthening stimulant to the nervous system, fit can be used for debility and nervous exhaustion. • It is helpful in neuralgia, sciatica, neuropathy and restless leg syndrome. Digestion • When chewed, the root stimulates flow of saliva and other digestive juices. It improves digestion, absorption and metabolism, and relieves dryness of the mouth and throat. • It increases the function of pancreas and liver, enhancing the flow of digestive enzymes and bile and supporting the liver in its detoxifying work.

272 272


• It is an old remedy for jaundice from biliary conges-

tion, infantile colic, infectious diarrhoea and dysentery, dyspepsia, and typhoid. • Herculin, an alkamide in the plant, produces a localised numbing effect on the tongue, which may explain the historical use of prickly ash for toothaches. • It improves bowel function and can be used for constipation due to deficient intestinal secretions, as well as colic, bloating and wind. • It is useful after diarrhoea or dysentery to normalise the bowels.

Externally • Prickly ash makes a stimulating lotion to improve circulation, relieve arthritic pain, backache and toothache. • The root can be used as a herbal toothbrush and a mouthwash to prevent tooth decay. Cautions Avoid in pregnancy, gastro-intestinal inflammation, with anticoagulants and anti-hypertensives. It produces a tingling sensation in mouth and through the body. Caution if prone to intolerance of heat.



ZEA MAYS: CORN SILK Family Poaceae Part Used Style and stigma Constituents Fixed oils, gums, fats, resins, saponins, sterols (sitosterol, stigmasterol), flavonoids (anthocyanins), malic acid, alkaloids, allantoin, glycosides, minerals (potassium, silica, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesim and phosphorus), mucilage, tannins, ascorbic acid, vitamins B and K, PABA. Actions Urinary demulcent, antilithic, analgesic, diuretic, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive, vasodilator, alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, galactogogue, tonic, vulnerary. Corn silk is the yellow thread strands inside the husks of corn, harvested before pollination. Native to Central and South America, it is rich in nutrients and is a wonderfully soothing remedy for the urinary system. It is best used fresh. Urinary System • Corn silk is a demulcent diuretic for soothing dysuria, frequency, urethritis and cystitis. It can be used for bedwetting. • Its anti-inflammatory effects are useful in the treatment of acute and chronic prostatitis, and inflammatory conditions of the bladder and kidneys. • It is excellent for all symptoms associated with benign enlargement of the prostate. • It reduces fluid retention and aids the elimination of toxins via the kidneys, which is helpful in gout and arthritis and chronic skin problems such as boils. • It helps to dissolve kidney stones and gravel. • It is helpful for fluid retention associated with PMS. Circulation • Corn silk dilates the arteries and its diuretic effect may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. • It is a good source of vitamin K, which helps control bleeding, for example during childbirth.

Externally • When powdered it can be used as a paste and applied to soothe and speed healing of the skin. Cautions Avoid in corn allergy.

274 274


ZINGIBER OFFICINALE: GINGER Family Zingiberaceae Parts Used Rhizomes, leaves Constituents Volatile oils (zingerone, gingerol, camphene, borneol, phellandrene, citral), inulin, protein, minerals (iron, caslcoim, magnesioum, sodium, phosphorus), vitamins A, B, C, and folic acid, gingerdiones, shogaols. Actions Thermogenic, peripheral circulatory stimulant, carminative, antispasmodic, laxative, digestive, expectorant, diuretic, appetiser, laxative, antiemetic, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet, vasodilator, hypotensive, hypocholesterolaemic, diaphoretic, febrifuge, expectorant, bronchodilator, emollient, emmenagoue, aphrodisiac, rejuvenative, antioxidant. This exotic spice with its hot, biting taste is native to South Asia. Its amazing therapeutic properties were mentioned in the writings of Confucius as early as 500 BC and in Chinese and Indian medical texts written 2000 years ago. In Ayurvedic medicine the pungent and warming properties of ginger have long been used to enhance the “fire” in the body, which is responsible for good digestion, visual perception, the lustre of the skin, the light in the eyes, the clarity in the mind, intelligence, determination and courage. Digestion • Ginger is a warming digestive stimulant, enhancing the secretion of digestive enzymes. It improves appetite and digestion and is useful in poor appetite, anorexia, weak digestion, indigestion, food allergies, constipation and poor absorption of nutrients. • It helps to regulate the gut flora and thereby enhance immunity and protect from leaky gut syndrome, allergies and auto-immune disease. • With its antimicrobial actions it is useful in acute and chronic infections including gastro-enteritis, acute bacillary dysentery and cholera as well as Candida. With its antispasmodic action, it relieves pain and spasm, and is used for colic, wind, bloating, IBS and griping from diarrhoea and dysentery. • It is said to be a good cure for hangover. • It can be taken to relieve nausea, including travel and morning sickness as well as post-operative nausea. Circulation • Ginger stimulates the heart and circulation and

promotes blood flow throughout the body improving oxygenation of the tissues. • It reduces the tendency to blood clotting. • It is excellent in all conditions associated with poor circulation, including cold hands and feet, chilblains, intermittent claudication, angina and Raynaud’s disease and can be used to prevent hypothermia and altitude sickness. • It lowers harmful cholesterol and helps prevent atherosclerosis and cardio-vascular disease. Respiratory System • With its antimicrobial actions, ginger increases resistance to bacterial and viral infections including colds, sore throats, and throat and chest infections. • Antispasmodic and expectorant, it can be used to relieve asthma, catarrhal coughs, chest infections, bronchitis and bronchiectasis. • A hot tea taken at onset of infection will help to ease sore throats, colds, flu, brings down fevers, clears catarrh. • In India ginger tea is given to children for whooping cough.


Reproductive System • Ginger stimulates circulation to the uterine area. It promotes menstruation can be used for delayed and scanty periods, and for clots. • Its warming and antispasmodic actions ease pain and spasm, including painful ovulation and periods and endometriosis. • It invigorates the reproductive system, and has an ancient reputation as aphrodisiac. It is used for inflammatory problems such as orchitis as well as for impotence and low libido. Immunity • The volatile oils are antiseptic, dispelling acute bacterial and viral infections, including colds and flu, acute and chronic bronchitis, acute bacterial dysentery and


malaria. It is used in the East for epidemics such as typhoid and cholera. • With its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions, ginger inhibits prostaglandin synthesis and aids immunity which is helpful in autoimmune disease, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Externally • Fresh ginger can be chewed to relieve toothache. • Ginger paste can be massaged onto the head to promote hair growth. • Dilute essential oil can be used in massage oils and liniments for lumbago, neuralgia and arthritis. Cautions Avoid in peptic ulcers, gallstones and with anticoagulants.

Treating Common Ailments

The most common health problems that respond to herbal remedies are profiled in this chapter. The ailments are organised by body system, and each treatment protocol offers advice on herbs to be used and effective methods for their administration. Supportive action is suggested for each condition, including changes to diet and lifestyle and supplements that could augment herbal treatment.



The Digestive System Good digestion is absolutely essential to good health. The digestive system enables our bodies to convert the food we eat into the energy needed for all the minute biochemical reactions that keep us alive. It also provides the major pathway for the elimination of toxins from the body. Health and vitality largely depend not only on an excellent diet but also on how efficiently our digestion makes the nutrients available to us and, in turn, passes out undigested food residues and the waste products of metabolism. The digestive tract is lined with a protective mucous membrane which serves to secrete digestive juices that contain enzymes designed to break food down into a form that our bodies can absorb. Digestion starts in the mouth with the action of the enzymes in saliva on the food we eat, but most of the process takes place in the stomach and small intestine. Other digestive enzymes are supplied to the digestive tract by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. The conversion of food in the digestive tract provides energy, but it also requires energy to carry out all the essential biochemical reactions involved in the process. If our digestive energy is low or upset, it can lead to digestive symptoms such as wind, bloating stomach aches, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), diarrhoea and constipation, and can fundamentally affect our general health and energy, predisposing to lethargy, lowered immunity, nervous problems, poor concentration and sleep disturbances.

Influencing Factors

Good digestion and elimination depend on several factors. We need to eat sufficient fibre from whole foods, vegetables and fruits and to drink plenty of fluids to ensure regular peristaltic movements that propel food along the alimentary canal. The right diet is vital to good health and normal function of the digestive tract. Over-refined foods, excess sugar, fizzy drinks, ice cream, and too many fermented and fried foods can all irritate and cause disturbances. Indigestible foods such as bread, hard cheese, red meat and hard raw food such as nuts and seeds can leave partly digested or undigested food residues in the gut that are prone to fermentation and predispose to a toxic state in the gut. We need to eliminate food residues as well as the waste products of cellular metabolism every day, to help prevent fermentation and toxicity and the absorption of these toxins into the blood stream, and thence into the whole body. Dysbiosis, or a toxic state of the bowel involving a disturbance of the bacterial population of the gut, is increasingly being recognised as one of the underlying causes of many health problems including IBS, allergies, auto-immune disease and obesity.


The Digestive System

Ingested food is broken down in the alimentary canal in a form that can be assimilated by the body. Digestion begins in the mouth with the action of saliva on food, but most of the process takes place within the stomach and small intestine.




There is a constant reaction between the brain and the digestive system, making digestion susceptible to the effects of the mind and emotions, and therefore to stress of various kinds. The nervous system regulates the circulation to and from the digestive tract, as well as the secretion of digestive juices. Tension and anxiety can reduce the flow of digestive enzymes and inhibit good digestion. Alternatively, stress may trigger excess secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which can irritate, inflame and in some cases ulcerate the lining of the stomach or intestine. The herbal Materia Medica offers a huge range of remedies for almost every kind of digestive disorder. For example, warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and long pepper will stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes; mucilage-rich herbs including slippery elm and marshmallow sooth irritation; fennel, peppermint and chamomile ease pain and spasm and bitter herbs such as dandelion, burdock, agrimony and chicory support the liver.


Intestinal bacteria in a healthy gut synthesise vitamins, and aid absorption of minerals and trace elements including calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. They also break down dietary toxins (making them less harmful), stimulate local immunity (inhibiting infections like Salmonella and decreasing the risk of food poisoning) and enhance general immunity. Four-fifths of the body’s immune system is found in the gut lining.  The use of antibiotics and steroids, the contraceptive pill and HRT, together with poor digestion and stress, can lead to the proliferation of pathogenic yeasts and bacteria in the gut which create toxins, destroy vitamins, inactivate digestive enzymes and lead to the formation of

chemicals which are carcinogenic. Unfriendly microorganisms in the gut can also cause leaky gut syndrome and provoke inflammatory diseases including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and arthritis by causing autoimmune reactions, as well as liver problems. Symptoms of yeast overgrowth include vaginal thrush, chronic diarrhoea, allergic reactions, asthma, hives, psoriasis, eczema, migraine, recurrent infections, abdominal pain, cystitis, catarrh, depression and lethargy. Useful herbs • Cat’s claw, garlic, myrrh, andrographis, golden seal, olive leaf and reishi mushroom are excellent for combating pathogenic microorganisms in the gut. • Oregon grape, elecampane, dill, burdock, bearberry, calendula, echinacea, fennel, amalaki and kelp act similarly. • Aloe vera juice (25mls twice daily) is soothing, immune enhancing and also combats dysbiosis. • Antimicrobial spices turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and long pepper enhance the secretion of digestive enzymes and can be added daily to food and herbal teas.

Reishi mushrooms can help overcome intestinal dysbiosis by fighting the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms.


Other measures Supplements of probiotics including lactobacillus acidophilus and bifida bacteria as well as small amounts of fermented foods such as cider vinegar with the mother, miso, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and live yoghurt help restore normal bacterial population of the gut. Vitamin C (500mg daily), caprylic acid (1gm with meals), linseed and evening primrose oil are also helpful.


It is important to ascertain and treat the causes of constipation and not to become reliant on the use of laxative medicines, which can be taken in the short term but may aggravate the problem in the long run. Causes of constipation include lack of exercise, ignoring the urge, old age, piles, IBS, diverticulitis, food intolerance or allergy – particularly to dairy and gluten – dysbiosis, nutritional deficiency, excess sugar and refined carbohydrates and insufficient fibre from fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and tension in the bowel from stress. It is important to remedy constipation, since toxins formed from reabsorption in the bowel may cause chronic disease. Useful herbs • Linseed, fenugreek or psyllium seeds can be used to bulk out bowel contents and push them along. Soak 1–2 tsp of seeds in a cup of hot water for 2 hours. Add lemon and honey if you like and drink at bedtime. It is important to drink plenty of water. • Liquorice, dandelion root and burdock root taken as decoctions 3 times a day are also effective for mild constipation.


• If necessary, add more stimulating laxative herbs such as yellow dock root or senna pods with a little ginger for a week or two. • For stress-related constipation, add chamomile, lemon balm, dill, hops or cramp bark. • Garlic, thyme, burdock or marigold work well for dysbiosis. Live yoghurt and other fermented foods, as well as supplements of probiotics can also help the dysbiosis that is often at the root of constipation. Other measures 30 minutes of exercise daily is recommended. NB: If constipation is persistent, develops suddenly or with pain, seek medical attention.


Diarrhoea represents the body’s attempt to rid itself of poisons or irritants (including drugs, chemicals and allergens), inflammation or infection in the gut, so it is important not to stop it but to address the underlying causes. It is vital to drink plenty of fluids to replace the water and electrolytes that are lost.

Raspberry leaf helps to tone the gut and aids digestion.



Useful herbs • Astringent herbs agrimony, bayberry, cinnamon, raspberry leaf or yarrow can be used to dry up secretions and tone the gut. • Demulcent herbs slippery elm and marshmallow will soothe irritation and act as prebiotics to support beneficial flora in the gut. • Chamomile, hops, wild yaw, dill and lemon balm will reduce anxiety in stress related diarrhoea. • Digestives ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and coriander taken regularly as teas or in food will enhance secretion of digestive enzymes. • For infection causing gastroenteritis and dysbiosis, use antimicrobials including oregano, thyme, chamomile, cinnamon, pau d’arco, garlic and ginger. Acidophyllus supplements are also useful. • Antispasmodics such as peppermint, ginger, dill and chamomile relieve cramping pain, while anti-inflammatories chamomile, hops, aloe vera, meadowsweet and yarrow will relieve inflammation. Other measures Gluten and dairy can cause food intolerances, red meat and too much hard, raw food can be indigestible and aggravate; therefore these are best avoided until better. NB: If diarrhoea persists or is accompanied by fever, or there is mucus or blood in stools, seek medical attention.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The bowel can become irritated and inflamed by poorly digested and putrefying foods caused by weak digestion, stress, poor diet and disturbance of the gut flora resulting from a gut infection,

Agrimony is a good astringent and digestive tonic and can be helpful in relieving diarrhoea.

poor digestion or the use of antibiotics or other drugs. This can lead to leaky gut syndrome, food intolerances and lowered immunity. The bowel becomes overactive with alternating diarrhoea and constipation, flatulence, and discomfort. Useful herbs • Anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic herbs such as chamomile, wild yam, cramp bark, meadowsweet, peppermint, hops and lemon balm can be helpful. • Demulcents like slippery elm, aloe vera and marshmallow are soothing and healing.


• Astringents including yarrow, thyme, agrimony and bayberry protect the gut wall from irritation. • Relaxants such as lemon balm, California poppy, vervain, dill, hops or valerian will help reduce stress. • Bilberries are helpful for diarrhoea, and liquorice for constipation. • To address dysbiosis and enhance immunity, cat’s claw, chamomile, cinnamon, golden seal, oregano, pau d’arco, echinacea, myrrh, amalaka, aloe vera, olive leaf, garlic or turmeric are recommended. • Drinking ginger tea before meals and adding mild spices to cooking will stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes. Other measures Food intolerance is implicated in many cases so temporarily omitting tea, coffee, milk products, eggs, and gluten from your diet is advisable. –– Probiotic supplements and small amounts of fermented foods will help the gut flora. NB: If there is much mucus or blood in stools or severe abdominal pain, consult your doctor.

Poor Absorption

A healthy digestive system breaks down the food we eat so the nutrients can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Poor secretion of digestive enzymes and damage to the villi in the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed can lead to poor digestion and absorption, fermentation and gas, increased acidity and loss of vitality. Stress, illness, tiredness, old age, dysbiosis and chronic diarrhoea can inhibit digestive enzymes and damage to the villi can be caused by inflammation, infection, and gluten intolerance, as is the case in coeliac disease.


Useful herbs • To improve digestion and absorption, starting the day with tea made from fresh ginger or hot water with a squeeze of lime juice is recommended. • Chewing or adding seeds such as cumin, dill, cardamom, fennel and coriander to cooking stimulates the flow of digestive enzymes and promotes absorption. • Long pepper is one of the best herbs for improving absorption. • Hot teas of peppermint, chamomile, basil, fennel, rosemary, thyme, ginger, or cinnamon before and after meals will aid digestion. • Relaxants such as chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, hops, vervian, fennel and rose are recommended for stress. • For dysbiosis cat’s claw, cinnamon, echinacea, myrrh, amalaki, aloe vera, olive leaf, garlic or turmeric are helpful. Supplements of probiotics and small amounts of fermented foods are also useful. Other measures Avoid indigestible foods such as salads, raw seeds and nuts, coffee, cheese and bread until digestion improves.


Obesity can predispose to high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes, especially if these run in the family. It is related to a complex interaction between hormones, digestion, metabolism, liver function and toxicity as well as dietary factors and lack of exercise. A marginally underactive thyroid and insulin resistance are often implicated. It is important to lose weight gradually, no more than 2 lbs a week.



CASE STUDY: POOR ABSORPTION CLIENT PROFILE Peter, aged 35, consulted me about his bowel problems. He was suffering from intermittent abdominal pain, irregular bowel movements with hard, pellet-like stools, wind and bloating. He felt that it had been worse since having had gastroenteritis while in Egypt. His tongue was pale with a white coating at the back, indicating poor digestion and bowel toxicity, and tooth

• Hawthorn, gotu kola, neem, fennel, amalaki, cinnamon and turmeric taken regularly and spices like garlic, coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric in food diet will stimulate digestion and metabolism. • Teas of cleavers, cumin, coriander, fennel, dandelion leaf and chickweed have a reputation for aiding weight loss and clearing excess fluid through their diuretic action. • Metabolism often changes after the menopause causing weight gain. Wild yam, vitex, motherwort, fennel and black cohosh help to regulate your hormone levels.

marks around the edge of the tongue revealed poor absorption of nutrients. THE HERBAL TREATMENT I made Peter a prescription of antispasmodic, digestive and probiotic herbs to regulate his digestion and reestablish his gut flora. It included ginger, dill, marshmallow, chamomile, liquorice, amalaki and turmeric. I suggested that Peter should temporarily remove wheat and diary produce from his diet and stop drinking coffee. I recommended drinking chamomile, mint and fennel tea instead and taking aloe vera juice in ginger tea in the morning before he ate breakfast. I mentioned adding mild spices to his cooking to enhance the digestion and absorption of nutrients. This treatment helped Peter’s bowels to return to normal within a month.

Useful herbs • Kelp, ashwagandha, guggulu and chromium supplements help to regulate thyroid hormones and raise metabolism.

Turmeric stimulates the digestion and metabolism.


• Gymnema is helpful in insulin resistance and blocks sweet receptors on the tongue, helping to curb sweet cravings. • Coleus is becoming well known for its effect on thyroid metabolism and insulin resistance. Other measures Essential fatty acids in oily fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains, evening primrose and flaxseed oil help to raise metabolic rate.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Chronic inflammation of the gut is a serious problem, which can involve ulceration and bleeding and can necessitate surgery. It is indicated by severe abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea or constipation, mucus or blood in the stools, poor appetite, weight loss, fever and lethargy. The most common forms of IBD are the auto-immune problems ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which can be sparked off by a bacterial or viral infection and can cause poor absorption and nutritional deficiencies, leading to anaemia and osteoporosis. Useful herbs • Slippery elm powder stirred into warm coconut or almond milk is one of the most soothing and healing remedies for an inflamed gut. • Ground flaxseed in water or flax oil, aloe vera juice and marshmallow also soothe the gut lining and help regulate the bowels. • Chamomile tea taken frequently through the day is excellent. • Turmeric and frankincense are wonderful antiinflammatory herbs and can be very effective for reducing pain and inflammation.


• Liquorice, cat’s claw, golden seal, myrrh, hops, peppermint, meadowsweet, yarrow and sarsaparilla are also helpful. • Lemon balm, hops, chamomile, skullcap, wild oats, ashwagandha and passion flower reduce tension and anxiety, and Siberian ginseng increases resilience to stress. Other measures Avoid possible food allergens, particularly gluten and dairy products, as well as sugar, acidic and spicy foods, citrus, tomatoes, hot spices, alcohol and coffee.

Meadowsweet reduces acidity in the stomach and has an anti-inflammatory action on the intestines.



–– Bromelain from pineapple and papain from papaya can help resolve inflammation and speed healing. –– Avoid getting tired and stressed as these can aggravate symptoms. NB: Seek medical attention if there is blood in the stools, a change in bowel habits lasting longer than 10 days, or any of the above symptoms that do not improve with treatment.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be due to adverse reactions to foods or drugs, nervous tension, migraine, or infections causing irritation and inflammation in the stomach. Other causes include early pregnancy, travel sickness, peptic ulcers, gastritis, shock, intestinal obstruction, pressure on the brain by fluid in altitude sickness or a tumour, and loss of balance caused by inner ear infection. Useful herbs • The best and most delicious remedy is fresh ginger sipped in tea or simply chewed. This is particularly useful in pregnancy when other herbs might be contra-indicated. • Teas of chamomile, lemon balm, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel or peppermint can also settle the stomach. • If nausea is caused by emotional stress, teas or tinctures of lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, hops, dill, California poppy or passion flower can help. • For an infection or food poisoning, take either cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, garlic, turmeric, chamomile, echinacea or pau d’arco every 2 hours.

• Feverfew, wood betony or rosemary are best when there are headaches or migraine. • Marshmallow and slippery elm will soothe irritation. • Meadowsweet, chamomile, aloe vera, dandelion and burdock can reduce heat and inflammation in the stomach. • It is important to drink plenty of fluid to prevent dehydration. NB: If symptoms persist or there is severe vomiting with high fever, seek medical attention.

Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers can be caused by minor injuries, for example a sharp edge on a tooth or bad dentures, or they can be aphthous ulcers, indicating that immunity is lowered from physical or psychological stress, poor diet, an overly acidic system, deficiency in vitamin B12, folic acid or iron. Aphthous ulcers can also be caused by viruses, including Herpes and hand, foot and mouth disease, food allergies, dysbiosis, adverse drug reactions to medications or mercury fillings, cigarettes, alcohol, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Useful herbs • Soothing mouthwashes of marshmallow, lavender, chamomile or calendula used 3 times daily will help relieve pain and inflammation. • Antiseptic mouthwashes of sage, echinacea, pau d’arco, thyme, lemon balm, myrrh and bilberry combat infection and can be taken internally as teas to boost immunity. • Skullcap, wild oats, Siberian ginseng, vervain and ashwagandha are nourishing nerve tonics when run down. • Reishi and shiitake mushrooms and astragalus will also boost immunity.


• Aloe vera gel is soothing and healing as it forms a protective layer over the ulcer. • A local spray of golden seal, liquorice or myrrh will acts as an anaesthetic and speed healing. Nettles are a good source of iron. • Supplements of vitamins B and C, and folic acid can be helpful. NB: Ulcers that do not heal should always be checked by a doctor. They may indicate mouth cancer.


Heartburn and Acidity

These indicate a disordered stomach, hyperacidity and gastro-oesophageal reflux, which can be caused by chronic constipation, obesity, disturbances of gut flora or stress, and triggered by alcohol, chocolate, sugar, refined carbohydrates, tea, coffee, cigarettes, rich, fatty, spicy and acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits, getting upset and eating too fast. Heartburn can be aggravated by bending over, sitting hunched up, and lying in bed. Useful herbs • The first choice is chamomile tea sipped frequently. • Meadowsweet is also cooling and soothing. • Surprisingly, some people find that chewing fresh ginger can ease discomfort. • Demulcent herbs like marshmallow or liquorice will soothe pain and reduce acidity. • A gruel made with 1–2 tsp of slippery elm powder mixed with warm water brings almost instant relief. • 25mls of aloe vera juice taken twice daily is also very effective, cooling heat and inflammation and combating dysbiosis. • Peppermint, lemon balm, basil and dill are excellent digestives and reduce tension in the gut. • Bitter herbs like dandelion root and burdock enhance digestion, are gently laxative and reduce heat and burning. • Chamomile, hops, vervain, or lemon balm are good where heartburn is related to stress.

Diverticulitis Marigold improves digestion and can help fight infection caused by diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis is inflammation and infection that develops in small pockets in weakened areas of the bowel wall. These tend to occur more in people over the age of 50, often as a result of lack



of exercise, an over-refined diet and long-term constipation. It can cause quite severe cramping pains, irregular bowels, sometimes bloody stools, flatulence and fever. Useful herbs • Flax or psyllium seeds, soaked in water and allowed to swell into a gel, or slippery elm powder mixed with water can be taken at night to regulate and soothe the bowels. • Marshmallow and aloe vera are also helpful as they are antibacterial and demulcent. • Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, and sipped throughout the day is excellent. • Wild yam and hops are antispasmodic and

Chamomile tea is anti-inflammatory, and sipped throughout the day will soothe bowel inflammation.

anti-inflammatory and can be combined with liquorice and peppermint. • Cat’s claw, turmeric, calendula, echinacea and pau d’arco will combat infection and are particularly useful in acute attacks. Other measures It is important to eat plenty of high fibre foods, particularly vegetables, (but not irritating foods such as wheat, nuts and seeds, hard raw vegetables and fruits with seeds such as raspberries, tomatoes, blackberries). –– Drink plenty of fluid to ensure regular bowel movements. –– Avoid caffeinated drinks and take plenty of exercise.



Wind and Bloating

Most wind is produced in the intestines by the fermentation of undigested or indigestible foods, particularly carbohydrates. The gut does not produce enzymes to digest certain carbohydrates, especially those from beans and brassicas. Wind can also be indicative of disturbance of the gut flora, food intolerances, for example of gluten and/or dairy, bad eating habits, low digestive enzymes, stress, gastritis and peptic ulcers, gallbladder disease, constipation and IBS. Useful herbs • Carminative herbs are specific for relieving wind and bloating and act by improving digestion and absorption and reducing inflammation and dysbiosis. Fennel, dill, rosemary, peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, lemon balm, cardamom and chamomile are all carminatives. • Seeds like cumin, coriander, cardamom, fennel and dill are excellent when chewed or added to food. Ginger tea is recommended before meals. • Antimicrobial herbs such as pau d’arco, amalaki, garlic, burdock, echinacea, olive leaf, golden seal, turmeric, rosemary, chamomile, thyme, or oregano will help clear toxins and putrefactive bacteria. Other measures It is important to eat slowly and when relaxed, not to eat late at night and to take plenty of exercise to enhance digestion. –– Eliminating gluten and dairy from the diet can be helpful. –– Gentle massage of the abdomen using dilute oils of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, or peppermint can be very effective for relieving wind and discomfort.

Thyme will clear toxins and aid digestion after a meal.

Peppermint soothes and relaxes the digestive system, and reduces pain and inflammation.



Gastritis and Peptic Ulcers

The stomach may become irritated and inflamed through weak digestion, poor diet, drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin, or stress which causes oversecretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This can lead to gastritis. As the condition worsens, ulceration of the lining of the stomach or small intestine can develop. Stomach ulcers can also result from infection by helicobacter pylori. Gastritis and peptic ulcers tend to be aggravated by smoking, alcohol, tea, coffee, refined and fatty foods, pickles and acid foods like oranges and tomatoes. The herbal approach aims to resolve the inflammation and heal the damaged lining while relieving tension and stress. Useful herbs • The first choice is chamomile, an excellent antiulcer herb, either taken as a strong tea or as half a tsp tincture in a glass of warm water 4 times a day. • Liquorice, plantain and marshmallow are wonderfully soothing and healing. • Astringent herbs like meadowsweet, elderflower, yarrow and thyme protect the gut lining from irritation and inflammation. • Golden seal, myrrh, turmeric, pau d’arco and calendula with their antimicrobial actions help resolve infection. • Slippery elm gruel made from 1–2 tsp of powder in warm water provides quick relief from pain and, by coating the gut lining, protects it from irritation and acidity. • 25mls of aloe vera juice can be taken twice daily to reduce heat and inflammation. • To reduce anxiety and tension chamomile, lemon balm, hops, ashwgandha or vervain are recommended.

NB: Acute abdominal pain, with a known history of ulcers, may indicate perforation and requires immediate medical attention.

Gall Stones and Gallbladder Problems

The gallbladder stores bile supplied by the liver until it is required for breaking down dietary fats. It can become infected or inflamed, causing indigestion, stomach pain and gallbladder pain, especially after eating fatty food. Gallstones form from excessive concentration of bile and calcium salts, or cholesterol, and if one becomes lodged in the bile duct, which takes bile to the small intestine, it causes great pain. For acute biliary colic, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving herbs are needed.

Wild plantain is an excellent soother for gastric ulcer.



Useful herbs • Chamomile and wild yam are excellent when taken every 2 hours. • Alternatively, you can use herbs with an affinity for the gallbladder and an ability to dissolve stones and resolve inflammation like dandelion root, peppermint, rosemary, agrimony, Oregon grape root or calendula. These can be taken singly or in combinations. • For intense pain add pasque flower, valerian, or wild yam. • For chronic, intermittent pain provoked by eating especially fatty foods, take the above herbs 3 times a day until all symptoms subside. • Globe artichoke, milk thistle, turmeric, goldenrod and vervain stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and prevent stagnation in the gallbladder; they are helpful especially to prevent reoccurrence of symptoms. NB: Development of jaundice may indicate obstruction by gallstones and require medical intervention.

Liver Problems

The liver is the largest and perhaps most overworked organ in the body and performs many vital functions, including filtering and breaking down toxins from the blood, making amino acids for protein production, metabolising carbohydrates, protein and fats, storing nutrients absorbed from the gut, producing cholesterol and bile, and manufacturing urea. Liver disease is mainly caused by alcohol, hepatitis, autoimmune diseases, poisons or drugs, and inherited disorders. Less serious but widespread is poor liver function, causing a wide range of metabolic and hormonal problems, poor immune function, skin problems and allergies.

Barberry stimulates the liver to secrete bile in the gall bladder to regulate its flow, helpful in treating problems in these organs.

Useful herbs • Cholagogues are bitters like barberry, dock, Oregon grape, rosemary, wormwood, burdock, dandelion and guduchi. These stimulate the flow of bile and support the liver in its work. • Barberry, golden seal, turmeric, milk thistle, calendula, liquorice, bringaraj, amalaki, and St John’s wort are antivirals, useful for acute liver infections. • Some amazing adaptogenic herbs, including andrographis, rosemary, milk thistle, schizandra, astragalus, globe artichoke, reishi and shiitake mushroom, sarsaparilla and



rehmania, protect the liver from damage from drugs and toxic chemicals. • It is important to avoid alcohol, unnecessary drugs, caffeine and junk foods.


Many people have some kind of intestinal parasite, for example threadworms, roundworms or tapeworms, or protozoa such as amoeba and giardia. Their presence increases allergic tendencies, bleeding, loss of nutrients, bowel disturbances, aches and pains and even migraine. Parasites spread easily, often via pets. Their eggs may be ingested with vegetables or fruit or by putting contaminated fingers in the mouth. If someone has worms, treat the whole family and pets too. Useful herbs • Anthelmintic herbs eliminate parasites and need to be taken for 1–2 weeks. • Garlic is often a favourite remedy: give 1–2 cloves finely chopped in 1 tsp honey or warm milk half an hour before breakfast. • Olive leaf, pau d’arco, bringaraj, andrographis, neem, myrrh, wormwood, barberry, calendula, gotu kola, ginger, wild carrot, holy basil, elecampane or walnut are also effective taken on an empty stomach. • Add laxatives liquorice, yellow dock or dandelion root to speed the expulsion of worms. • Apply oil of lavender, neem, rosemary or thyme in ointment to the anus at night to prevent worms from laying eggs and to relieve itching.

• Pumpkin seeds, raw onions, horseradish, long pepper, grated carrot and carrot juice and cayenne pepper are all toxic to worms and can be added to food. • Check the stools daily for worms and repeat treatment after 2 weeks. • Avoid sugary foods and refined carbohydrates and eat live yogurt daily.

Elecampane is effective in eliminating parasites when taken on an empty stomach.



The Nervous System Our nervous system is an amazing communication network, by which the brain and nerve cells send messages via neurotransmitters across synapses from one nerve cell to another, or to a bunch of muscle fibres. It is a wonderful example of the intimate link between mind and body; in fact they are one and the same thing. Part of our physical body, the nervous system is made up of nerve cells (neurons) and fibres, which comprise the brain and spinal cord, the peripheral nerves and the autonomic nervous system. Tiny sacs filled with neurotransmitters are stored at the end of each neuron. There are gaps between each neuron called synapses. When a nerve impulse reaches the end of the nerve cell, it triggers the sacs to release the neurotransmitters into the synapses, which then float across the synaptic space until they reach the neighbouring neuron. The neurotransmitters then click into specialized receptor sites on the next neuron, which then fires an electrical impulse down its length.  This causes the transmission of nerve impulses through the nervous system. Glutamate and GABA are the most abundant neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, and especially in the cerebral cortex, which is where thinking occurs and sensations are interpreted.  GABA receptors are very common in our nervous systems; in fact, about 40% of the

synapses in the brain have GABA receptors. GABA is made from glutamate and its function is to inhibit the transmission of nerve impulses from one neuron to another, reducing the anxiety and stress that happens when the neurons are overexcited. Serotonin is another neurotransmitter and it enhances GABA. Without sufficient GABA, our neurons fire too often and too easily and this can give rise to a range of nervous problems including anxiety disorders, panic attacks, depression, seizure disorders, addictions, headaches, Parkinson’s disease and cognitive impairment. The nervous system is responsible for carrying out physical actions and registering sensations, while at the same time it is the tool for our experience and the expression of all our thoughts and feelings. Physical imbalances and disease can affect the way we think and feel, while every thought and emotion has a direct effect on our physical state. Negative thoughts and feelings sap our energy and vitality and reduce resistance, and are expressed as symptoms such as migraine,



The Nervous System The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord and is responsible for integrating all nervous activities. The peripheral nervous system comprises the sensory and motor nerves, which pass information to and from the central nervous system.


peptic ulcers and heart disease. Happiness and positivity directly affect the chemistry of our tissues and secretions in the body and help to create health and vibrancy.

Stress Hormones

Stress is part of our everyday lives; there is very little escaping it! And yet some of us are better at dealing with it than others. Our strength and resilience can be worn down by long term mental or emotional difficulties, acute trauma, overwork, lack of sleep, chronic or regular illness, poor diet and digestive problems which inhibit absorption of nutrients. When we feel anxious, fearful, upset or angry, a chain of physiological events is sparked off; messages to secrete stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are triggered from the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands which flood our bodies and have far-reaching effects throughout the body. The “fight or flight” response is set off, our heart rate increases, our breath quickens as more oxygen flows through the lungs, blood flow is increased to our muscles which are tensed up ready for action to protect our body in an emergency. When the stress response fires continually for days, months, even years, it can put a strain on our body and put our health at risk. For example, under stress, our heart pumps faster, our blood vessels constrict to divert more oxygen to our muscles, which raises our blood pressure. Frequent or chronic stress will make our heart work too hard for too long, our blood pressure can remain high and this increases the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.


is secreted, our digestive enzymes do not flow in the same way; we don’t digest and absorb the food we eat properly and this allows a residue of undigested or partially digested food to sit around in the gut and ferment, causing a whole range of digestive disturbances and upsetting the metabolism of the body. Just as we have neurons in our brain, we also have them in our gut where they are known as the enteric nervous system. Neurons in the gut include those that produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, the “happy hormone”; apparently about 90% of serotonin is found in our gut in the entero-chromaffin cells, where it is used to regulate intestinal movements. The remainder is synthesised in serotonergic neurons of the brain, where it has various functions including

The Gut-Brain Connection

It is well known that there is a strong, two-way connection between the gastro-intestinal tract and the central nervous system. When adrenaline

Happiness and positivity directly affect our body chemistry and help to create health and vibrancy.



the regulation of mood, feelings of wellbeing and happiness, appetite and sleep. Serotonin also has some cognitive functions, including memory and learning. Recent years have witnessed the rise of the bacterial population of the gut (gut microbiota) as a major topic of research. It is becoming clear that the central nervous system can affect the microbiota and the microbiota has a significant influence on the brain and our behaviour. Within the gut, some organisms are commensal, meaning they have a non-harmful coexistence with us, other are mutualistic, with mutual benefit, and some can be harmful or pathogenic. The commensal and mutualistic microbiota have many roles; they maintain normal mucosal immune function, the integrity of the gut lining and the absorption of nutrients. They synthesise vitamins and short chain fatty acids, and break down dietary toxins, making them less harmful. They inhibit the overgrowth of pathogenic micro-organisms and stimulate local immunity, inhibiting infections like Salmonella, parasites such as pinworms, and decreasing the risk of food poisoning. They also enhance general immunity; in fact, four-fifths of the body’s immune system is found in the gut lining. Our gut flora can release molecules that directly influence the chemistry of the brain including the regulation of the production of neurotransmitters, thereby affecting our mood and behaviour. GABA is one of the neurotransmitters in the brain influenced by the gut flora that has a calming or quieting influence. Variations and changes in the composition of the gut microbiota can fundamentally influence our normal physiology and contribute to diseases ranging from inflammation to obesity, headaches, panic attacks and depression. The use of

antibiotics, synthetic hormones and steroids, as well as poor digestion and stress can all contribute to the proliferation of pathogenic yeasts and bacteria in the gut (dysbiosis). These create toxins, destroy vitamins, inactivate digestive enzymes and lead to the formation of chemicals which are toxic. They can provoke inflammatory diseases including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and arthritis by causing autoimmune reactions and leaky gut syndrome, as well as a host of neurological and mood disturbances including anxiety, depression and lethargy.

Herbal Help

The emerging concept of a microbiota-gutbrain axis suggests that giving our attention to the balance of the gut microbiota may be a great strategy for treating disorders of the nervous system. Stress-related physical problems can also benefit from a psychological approach, such as counselling or psychotherapy, while stress and psychological problems can be helped by working through the body with, for example, massage,

A massage with essential oils can help relax the body and strengthen resistance to stress.


yoga, breathing exercises, relaxation and exercise. Research on meditation shows that it can enhance our resilience to stress, reduce cortisol levels, lower blood pressure and help with negative emotions such as fear, aggression, and anger. Even diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and stroke are found to significantly improve with the practice of meditation. There are many greatly beneficial herbs that have a direct effect on the nervous system, and which combined with good digestion and healthy eating, as well as antimicrobial herbs to curb dysbiosis, can radically transform our mental and emotional state. It is interesting that many herbs that are classified as nervines, helping to balance the nervous system, are also digestives and antimicrobials. There are herbs that can lift the spirits, calm anxiety, relax muscles, increase memory and concentration and aid sleep; there are some, known as adaptogens, that have a remarkable ability to improve energy and vitality and enhance our resilience to stress, and there are even herbs for feeling broken hearted and for low self esteem! Cat’s claw, garlic, burdock, golden seal, olive leaf, myrrh, reishi mushroom and andrographis are some of the most effective to combat disturbances of the gut flora. Oregon grape, elecampane, dill, bearberry, calendula, echinacea, fennel, amalaki and kelp act similarly. Aloe vera juice is soothing, immune enhancing and combats dysbiosis. Antimicrobial spices including turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and long pepper enhance the secretion of digestive enzymes, inhibit the proliferation of pathogenic microorganisms and can be added daily to diet. Several herbs increase GABA including valerian, lemon balm, skullcap and baikal skullcap, ashwagandha, lavender and chamomile. Caffeine inhibits GABA release, while theanine, an amino


acid, is found in large amounts in increased GABA levels, which is why a cup of tea can be calming despite the fact it contains caffeine, while coffee can cause a host of nervous problems! Probiotics in the form of live yoghurt as well as sprouted and fermented foods such as kefir, miso, cider vinegar and sauerkraut or supplements of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria can help restore the normal microbiota. The probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus has a marked effect on GABA. Vitamins B, C and E, calcium, magnesium, zinc and essential fatty acids are all essential to the normal functioning of the nervous system and may need to be increased in times of stress when the body’s uptake of these can increase dramatically. Foods devoid of nutrients such as refined carbohydrates, sugar and junk foods can result in deficiencies of vital nutrients and are best avoided completely to optimise your resilience.

Passion flower is an effective herb for calming anxiety, relaxing tense muscles and promoting sleep.



Tension and Anxiety

Tension or anxiety are normal responses to a difficult situation, which should settle once the problem is resolved, but can become habitual when you are run down by long term stress, nutritional deficiencies, excess alcohol, caffeine, and lack of exercise. Useful herbs • Calming herbs for acute anxiety include passion flower, California poppy, wild lettuce, skullcap and wild oats, taken every hour or two if necessary. • For chronic problems, adaptogens like ginseng, ashwagandha, bacopa, gotu kola, he shou wu, schizandra, shatavari, bhringaraj, liquorice and holy basil will strengthen the nerves and increase resilience to stress. • Other good anxiolytic herbs include chamomile, lemon balm, vervain, St John’s wort, rose, motherwort, lime flower, hops, lavender, rosemary, and paeony.

St John’s wort is a good anxiolytic herb; taken 3-6 times daily it can lift the spirits and replenish the body with nutrients necessary for the nervous system.

• Hot herbal baths and/or massage using relaxing essentials oils of holy basil, nutmeg, lavender, rosemary, rose or chamomile in a base of sesame oil will ease muscle tension and soothe anxiety. Other measures Regular aerobic exercise is recommended to stimulate the secretion of endorphins and increase resilience to stress. –– Meditation cultivates a calmness that eases anxiety and gives a sense of control. –– Pranayama – breathing exercises – are also calming. –– Inhalations of frankincense oil are helpful as they deepen breathing. –– Avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol and any unnecessary drugs as they can all reduce resistance to stress.


Mood elevating herbs are wild oats, lemon balm, rosemary, vervain, skullcap, St John’s wort and Siberian ginseng. Taken 3 times daily, these can help to lift the spirits and replace essential nutrients that are necessary for your nervous system. Damiana, St John’s wort, wild oats, basil, and wood betony taken 3-6 times daily can help acute depression.

Useful herbs • Adding essential oils of lavender, rosemary, chamomile, bergamot, or rose to baths and/or massage oils can also help. • Rosemary, rhodiola, gotu kola, Siberian ginseng, liquorice, and wild oats are great adaptogens, excellent for debility and depression following illness or long term stress.



• Rose, shatavari, vitex, evening primrose, black cohosh, and St John’s wort are particularly useful for depression related to hormone imbalances, either premenstrually or during menopause.

–– 45 minutes of quiet time before retiring is important. –– It is best to avoid all caffeine and have regular meals, exercise and sleep times, with no sleeping during the day, to settle the nervous system.

Other measures It is important to take regular exercise, which enhances the secretion of natural opiates (endorphins) and creates a feeling of well being.

Headache and Migraine


For problems getting off to sleep, useful herbs include hops, passion flower, chamomile, lemon balm, lime flower, wild oats, wild lettuce, ashwagandha, or valerian as teas, or 1-3 tsp of tincture.

These may be warning signs of stress or fatigue, or related to eye strain, sinusitis, hormonal imbalances, allergy, liver and digestive problems, disturbance of the gut flora, pollution, poor diet, high blood pressure, low blood sugar, alcohol, and pain such as back problems. Migraines are often related to inflammation. The best way to manage your headaches is to understand what causes them, so that you can prevent them.

Useful herbs • 1 tsb of ashwagandha or nutmeg is good taken in hot milk. • For problems getting to sleep, try chamomile, gotu kola, California poppy, hops or wild lettuce. • For problems staying asleep, ashwagandha, bacopa, wild oats, skullcap, nutmeg, passion flower, St John’s wort or valerian. • Nourishing nervines such as wild oats, skullcap, vervain, rosemary, holy basil, liquorice, Siberian ginseng and ashwagandha taken in the daytime can help when insomnia is related to being tired and rundown. Other measures Warm sesame oil massage followed by a bath before bed can work wonders. –– Add strong infusions/oils of lavender, chamomile, neroli, or rose to the bath for added effect.

Pasque flower is an effective relaxant if taken at the first signs of migraine.



Useful herbs • Preventative herbs include lemon balm, rosemary, feverfew, wood betony, gotu kola, bacopa and gingko. • At the first signs of pain take relaxant and pain killing herbs such as passion flower, California poppy, hops, pasque flower, St John’s wort, wild lettuce, rosemary, skullcap, chamomile or vervain and repeat as necessary. • Useful anti-inflammatory herbs are chamomile, meadowsweet, black willow, ginger and lavender. • Inhale lavender, peppermint or rosemary oils or massage them into the temples, particularly is there are sinus problems. • Herbs to support the liver include dandelion, burdock, holy thistle and milk thistle. • Vitex, shatavari, wild yam and evening primrose oil will help address hormone imbalances. Massage, particularly of the head and neck, and feet, using gotu kola oil can bring relief. Other measures Avoid all caffeine and sugar, as well as known migraine triggers chocolate, cheese, alcohol and citrus fruits.


Attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity have been linked to toxic metals, gut flora issues, food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies (B vitamins, magnesium EFAs, iron, or zinc), and excess sugar. Impaired glucose metabolism may be a major contributory factor, caused by excessive intake of simple carbohydrates and nutrient-poor junk

foods. Lack of fresh air and exercise, hypoglycaemia, over exposure to smoky atmospheres and noise, too much time on computers or in front of the television can all affect the brain adversely. Useful herbs • Red clover, pau d’arco, coriander leaf, kelp and nettles aid the elimination of heavy metals. • Cleansing herbs to support the detoxifying work of the liver and protect against toxic damage to the liver include milk thistle, turmeric, barberry, dandelion and burdock. • Nervines to promote normal brain function and neurotransmitter production are important, for example gotu kola, bacopa, ginkgo, St John’s wort, wild oats, skullcap, and vervain. • To aid sleep use ashwagandha, California poppy, chamomile, passion flower, hops or lime flowers. • Liquorice is helpful as an adaptogen and adrenal tonic. Other measures Avoid allergenic foods including food colourings and additives, dairy produce, salicylates gluten, corn, chocolate, caffeine, eggs and citrus fruit. –– Supplements of probiotics, B vitamins, magnesium and omega-3 essential fatty acids are advisable.

Poor Memory and Concentration

The brain can be affected by long term stress, drugs, smoking, dietary and environmental toxicity and free radical damage, which over time affects the blood flow to the brain and can impair brain function. Poor memory and concentration can also result from the mind being overloaded when stressed, tired or run down from illness, from nutritional deficiencies, disturbance of the


gut flora, hormonal changes including low thyroid function, PMS and menopause. Useful herbs • Some incredible herbs, including bacopa, gotu kola, rhodiola, mint, rosemary, periwinkle and gingko, have the ability to increase brain function by increasing flow of blood and nutrients to the brain, enhancing the production of neurotransmitters. • Antioxidant herbs, like gingko, ginseng, hawthorn, ashwagandha, thyme, St John’s wort, rhodiola, amalaki, he shou wu and schizandra protect the brain cells and artery walls by preventing damage from free radicals.

Bacopa is popular in India for boosting mental activity, including concentration and memory recall.


• Other useful brain tonics include wild oats, damiana, lemon balm, wood betony, skullcap and vervain. Other measures Supplements of choline, lecithin, antioxidants, co-enzyme Q 10 and essential fatty acids can be helpful. –– Also B complex, zinc, selenium and antioxidant vitamins A, C and E are recommended.

Neuralgia and Sciatica

Inflammation or injury of a nerve can cause excruciating pain as is experienced by anyone who has had sciatica, lumbago or trigeminal neuralgia. Nerves can be traumatised by injury, burns, cuts, slipped discs, vertebrae out of alignment, a tumour or muscle spasm. Heavy metals such as lead or mercury can damage nerves, as can alcoholism and diabetes. To ensure recovery, the cause of the pain needs to be identified and treated. Where there is pressure on a nerve from a spinal problem, consult a chiropractor or an osteopath. Useful herbs • To relieve nerve pain you can use California poppy, hops, St John’s wort, wood betony, pasque flower, feverfew, meadowsweet or black cohosh, in acute doses if necessary. • Cramp bark, valerian, passion flower, skullcap, lavender, rosemary, chamomile or wild yam will help relax tense and painful muscles. • Wild oats are wonderful “nerve food” and help repair nerve tissue. • Where circulation to the area is poor, hawthorn, gotu kola, cinnamon and ginger will bring blood and nutrition to the area.



Lemon balm is an antiviral and will help to combat the Herpes infection in shingles.

• Externally, St John’s wort oil is specific for damaged nerves and neuralgia and is wonderfully pain-relieving. It can be gently massaged into the area. • A few drops of cayenne tincture added to the oil will increase its pain-relieving properties. You can start with 1-2 drops and gradually build up the ratio of cayenne, as it may have a tendency to cause a burning sensation in some people with hypersensitive nerves. • Other pain-relieving essential oils, which can be used for massage in a base of sesame oil, include ginger, rosemary, lavender, peppermint, chamomile and coriander.


Shingles is a painful inflammatory nerve problem, caused by a reactivation of the latent varicella-zoster virus which causes chickenpox. It causes a rash along a nerve pathway of the abdomen or the face accompanied by tingling and pain which is often severe, followed by the appearance of fluid-filled blisters (vesicles) on the skin. Tiredness, stress, poor nutrition and depleted immunity increase the risks of developing shingles after contact with chickenpox.

Useful herbs • Useful antiviral herbs include St John’s wort, lemon balm, barberry, lavender, pau d’arco, andrographis, neem, echinacea and olive leaf, which help combat the Herpes infection. • To reduce nerve pain and inflammation, use California poppy, chamomile, St John’s wort, passion flower, skullcap, pasque flower, meadowsweet or gotu cola, in acute doses if necessary. • Adaptogenic herbs liquorice, ashwagandha, shatavari, aloe vera, wild oats, shiitake and reishi mushrooms strengthen immunity, help speed recovery and prevent post-herpetic neuralgia. • Externally, St John’s wort oil with a few drops of essential lavender (5 drops per 5mls) can be applied gently to the rash. • Aloe vera gel can also be soothing. Other measures When infection occurs, avoid foods that inhibit immunity and stimulate inflammation such as saturated fats, refined foods and sugar, caffeine and alcohol. –– A diet low in the amino acid arginine, which can activate the virus and high in lysine which can suppress it, is recommended. –– Supplements of beta-carotene, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin E enhance immunity and speed healing of the skin.

Lavender, as well as being antiviral and antibacterial, helps to reduce pain and has a soothing effect on the nervous system.



The Immune System The immune system consists of the lymphatic system, white blood cells, and specialised cells and chemicals, including antibodies. When infection threatens to overcome our homeostatic mechanisms and invade the body, the immune system rallies its defences to deal with it. The lymphatic system produces more lymphocytes and macrophages which work with cytokine chemicals to destroy the invaders. The thymus gland aids the production of, and stores, white blood cells known as T-cells, which attack cells infected by bacteria, fungi and viruses. The spleen, liver, tonsils, adenoids and wall of the intestine also contain lymphatic tissue. The lymphatic tissue lining the gut is responsible for maintaining lymphocytes capable of responding to all the antigens that enter the body through food entering the digestive tract. Should these protective mechanisms fail, specific immune responses occur. Molecules on the surface of infecting organisms (antigens) stimulate lymphocytes and produce antibodies to destroy the antigens. These have a memory so that antigens are recognised should infection reoccur, ensuring the body is able to respond effectively with the organisms before an infection develops. A healthy lifestyle is the key to an efficient immune system. It is essential to have plenty of nutritious, natural, preferably organic food to eat, a balance of work and play, exercise and relaxation, sufficient sleep, a minimum of pollution in our environment, a positive attitude to dealing with stress and the cultivation of

practices to engender peace of mind. A positive outlook, fun, laughter, serenity, being in beautiful, peaceful surroundings, and clean air can all boost immunity. Our natural immunity is clearly lowered by physical or emotional stress, burning the candle at both ends, poor diet, toxins, smoking cigarettes, and drinking excess alcohol. The importance of good digestion is often overlooked when considering immunity. If our “digestive fire” is good, the food eaten will be digested and assimilated well and the residue of wastes remaining to be eliminated from the body will be minimal. If, however, the digestive fire is low, much of what is eaten will remain in the gut as partially digested or undigested food, which produces toxins that can undermine the local immune mechanisms in the gut. These toxins can permeate the body and in turn lower resistance to a range of immune problems. To maintain good digestion avoid eating heavy, rich foods such as fatty meats, cream and cheese, bread, pastries and sugar, drinking alcohol and too much cold water. Have plenty of steamed vegetables, grains and pulses, and drink plenty of warming herbal teas to enhance digestion. Spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, clove, black pepper and asafoetida are some of the best



A network of vessels produces and carries lymphocytes around the body. These white blood cells contain antibodies that give protection against bacteria and viruses.


remedies for the digestion and for raising our immunity. The world of herbs is replete with immune stimulants which perform their work in a variety of ways. Some increase the production and activity of macrophages, cells that the immune system sends to digest foreign invaders. Some herbs also stimulate the production of defence substances, such as interferon, which protect non-infected cells from viruses. Herbs can also enhance the production and function of T-cells, vital immune cells that kill viruses, fungi and certain bacteria. Immune enhancing herbs include ginseng, guduchi, cat’s claw, aswagandha, liquorice, astragalus, echinacea, olive leaf, garlic, reishi and shiitake mushrooms and turmeric.


• These infusions, when tepid, can be used to sponge the body. • Take half a tsp of echinacea, andrographis, pau d’arco, neem, myrrh, or wormwood tincture every 2 hours to help fight off infection. NB: Do not give herbs containing salicylates to children under 12.



There are many immune-enhancing herbs, which strengthen and assist our innate defence mechanisms and can help to prevent infection. Many have effective antiviral and antibacterial effects. A healthy diet, good digestion, a healthy gut flora (much of our immunity lies in the gut), sufficient exercise, rest and relaxation will support our immunity.

Useful herbs • At the first sign of a fever, fast to boost the immune system and drink plenty of fluids to assist elimination of toxins. If the fever is causing discomfort take hot teas of diaphoretics like chamomile, lime flowers or meadowsweet every couple of hours to bring heat to the surface of the body. This will cause sweating and hasten the elimination of heat and toxins. • Other fever-reducing herbs include willow bark, vervain, cleavers, rose, holy basil, boneset, elderflower, yarrow, peppermint, lavender, and lemon balm, which can be taken singly or in combinations.

Useful herbs • For prevention, add immune enhancing spices such as garlic, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, turmeric, long pepper or cinnamon daily to food. • Drinking tea made from freshly grated ginger before breakfast is highly recommended. Adaptogenic herbs including shiitake and reishi mushrooms, cat’s claw, astragalus, guduchi, bhringaraj, ashwagandha, shatavari and ginseng are great preventatives. • At first signs of infection, fast to boost immunity, drink plenty of fluids to aid the elimination of toxins, and take half a teaspoon of echinacea, wild indigo, golden seal, barberry, myrrh, andrographis, pau d’arco or boneset tincture every 2 hours. • Add a little liquorice, which has antiviral and immune enhancing properties. • Raw garlic is also excellent.

A fever is the body’s vital reaction to an infection and a symptom that the body is fighting against the invaders, whether they are bacterial, viral or fungal. Raising the internal thermostat enables the body to fight off the infection quickly as this has a natural antibiotic and antiviral effect.



• Teas of aromatic herbs with effective antimicrobial properties, such as dill, calendula, oregano, cinnamon, celery seed, lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, sage, thyme, elecampane, rosemary or rose can be drunk throughout the day.


Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA is a “superbug” which is resistant to antibiotics, including methicillin. The implicated bacteria is Staphylococcus aureus, which is found on the skin in about 1 in 3 people and generally causes no problems unless immunity is lowered and the bacteria get through a break in the skin. If this happens it can cause boils and abscesses or more serious infections in the bloodstream, bones or joints. Outbreaks in hospitals are common. Useful herbs • Despite the fact that MRSA is resistant to drugs it is not resistant to antimicrobial herbs including pau d’arco, garlic, milk thistle, golden seal, turmeric, and myrrh. These can be taken internally 3–6 times daily and used in washes for the skin. • Green tea, tea tree oil, manuka honey, grapefruit seed extract and sea salt are all excellent when used externally. • Immuno-stimulating herbs like ginseng, astragalus, guduchi, aswagandha, liquorice and shatavari enhance resistance and help prevent infection. • Beta glucans from oats and medicinal mushrooms including shiitake and reishi can enhance immunity by activating white blood cells.


When our immune system reacts against substances that are not infectious or harmful, we have an allergy. Allergic symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy nose and eyes, digestive disturbances, eczema and asthma. Stress, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, environmental pollution, drugs, injury, surgery, digestive problems, disturbance of the gut flora and genetic tendencies can all predispose to allergies. Treatment involves improving nutrition, temporarily avoiding the allergen, and balancing the digestive and immune systems. Useful herbs • Adaptogenic herbs ashwagandha, guduchi, astragalus, Chinese angelica, amalaki, liquorice, shiitake and reishi mushroom, shatavari, aloe vera and ginseng will increase immunity and help prevent allergic reactions. • Cat’s claw, walnut, burdock, turmeric, ginger, myrrh, cinnamon and andrographis will combat unfriendly gut bacteria and fungi which predisposes to leaky gut syndrome and allergies. • Chamomile, nettles, baikal skullcap, lemon balm and yarrow soothe the allergic response and inhibit histamine, which is responsible for inflammatory symptoms. • Evening primrose seed oil provides GLA, a deficiency of which is implicated in several allergic conditions. Other measures Vitamin C (500mg twice daily) and magnesium (500mg daily), act as natural anti-histamines. –– Minimise allergenic foods especially dairy produce, citrus, chocolate, peanuts, gluten, shellfish, the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines) food


colourings and preservatives. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, sugar and junk foods, which increase susceptibility to allergies. –– Quercetin, a bioflavonoid found in citrus fruits, helps to inhibit the secretion of histamine, leukotrienes and prostaglandins and has an antihistamine action. Other flavonoid containing foods and herbs could also prove helpful as they have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunoregulating properties and capillary-strengthening magnesium with vitamins B and C and can be taken at the onset of symptoms.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Also known as post-viral fatigue syndrome or ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), CFS is common between the ages 25 and 45, and is characterised by prolonged fatigue and other symptoms, including poor memory and concentration, swollen glands, muscle and/or joint pain, headaches, poor sleep and malaise after exertion. It tends to follow an acute viral infection and lowered immunity related to over work, exhaustion, toxicity, drugs and alcohol, poor diet, disturbance of the gut flora, a major life event like bereavement or job loss or depression. Useful herbs • Adaptogenic herbs including ashwagandha, shatavari, astragalus, liquorice, guduchi, Chinese angelica, shiitake and reishi mushrooms, rhodiola and Siberian ginseng are excellent for increasing resistance to stress and strengthening immunity. • Ginkgo and gotu kola enhance memory and concentration and relieve depression. • St John’s wort, lemon balm and vervain are good antidepressants. • Black cohosh, turmeric, boswellia, devil’s claw,


skullcap and ginger, as well as supplements of bromelain, help alleviate joint and muscle pain. • Ginger tea made from freshly grated ginger taken before breakfast helps to improve digestion and absorption of nutrients. • Andrographis, cat’s claw, burdock, neem, myrrh and olive leaf can be helpful to combat disturbance of the gut flora. Other measures It is important to eliminate inflammatory foods including refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Supplements of coenzyme Q10, magnesium, B vitamins and zinc help to support the immune system and increase energy.

Teas made of diaphoretics serve to bring the heat to the surface of the body and reduce fever.



The Respiratory System The respiratory system is responsible for supplying the blood with oxygen, which then carries it to the cells of the body which require oxygen to carry out their vital functions. As they use oxygen they give off carbon dioxide as a waste product, which is then carried to the lungs where it is exhaled. Oxygen is breathed in through the mouth and the nose and then passes through the larynx and trachea into the chest cavity. The trachea then divides into 2 bronchi, which branch into numerous bronchial tubes leading to the lungs where they divide into many smaller tubes which connect to tiny air sacs called alveoli. Our lungs contain about 600 million alveoli, and these allow oxygen to diffuse through them into the surrounding capillaries, and for carbon dioxide from the veins to enter the respiratory system to be exhaled by the same pathway. Breathing is brought about by movements of the diaphragm, a sheet of muscle lying at the base of the chest. When it contracts, oxygen is pulled into the lungs and when it relaxes, carbon dioxide is pumped out. We may be able to go days without food and water but only a few minutes without air. To ensure sufficient intake of oxygen we need to have a healthy respiratory system, plenty of fresh air and exercise and to breathe properly. Congestion of the airways from excess catarrh reduces the amount of oxygen we take in. The quality of the air is also of vital importance. Pollution, cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide and lead from car fumes are all things that can become pollution in the

lungs, which is then carried in the blood round the body and into the cells. In India air is called prana, the breath of life, gases vital for normal functioning of our cells and tissues, as well as the energy of the atmosphere around us, which radiates from the trees and other green plants and ultimately from the sun. Correct breathing is important for our nerves and muscles to enable relaxation and rest, as well as engendering a clear alert mind. In many cultures and religions the use of the breath is central to spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation and traditional movements like Qi Gong and Tai Chi. The respiratory system is open to the atmosphere via the nose and mouth and so vulnerable to airborne irritation and infection. It also functions as a pathway for elimination of toxins, along with the skin, the bowels and the urinary tract. If the body is overloaded with toxins it can overburden the respiratory system and lead to problems. For this reason, our overall health needs to be considered when treating respiratory problems. A healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidant vitamins including A, C and E is essential to a healthy respiratory tract and to protect it from infection and the effects


The Respiratory System Oxygen is inhaled as air through the nose and mouth and taken to the lungs, where it is diffused through the alveoli walls into the blood cells. At the same time, carbon dioxide is absorbed from the blood into the alveoli, to be expelled through exhalation.




of pollution. Nutritional deficiencies, low hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach and a lack of zinc and magnesium are often found in people who suffer from respiratory diseases. If you have a tendency to respiratory problems it is best to avoid mucus forming foods, particularly wheat, milk and sugar. The herbal approach to the treatment of respiratory problems is firstly prevention through diet, lifestyle and herbs to maximise immunity and resistance to infections. Herbs such as echinacea, garlic, thyme, ginger and turmeric all have effective immune-stimulatory as well as antimicrobial actions.

Colds and Flu

The common cold virus can only thrive where the conditions in the body are right, and this is more likely when you are run down, stressed, don’t take enough exercise, have sluggish bowels, a poor diet, gut flora disturbances or are overloaded with toxins. The resulting symptoms, particularly fevers and catarrh, are the body’s way of clearing these. Supplements of vitamin C and zinc will help to prevent and decrease the duration of a cold. Useful herbs • At the first signs of infection take a hot infusion of boneset, elderflower, peppermint, and yarrow every hour or two to relieve aches and pains, reduce fever and clear catarrh. • Ginger tea or hot lemon with honey are also excellent. • At the same time take half a tsp of echinacea tincture and 500mg vitamin C every 2 hours. • Other immune-enhancing, antimicrobial and decongestant spices like cinnamon, cardamom, fenugreek, turmeric and coriander improve digestion, balance the gut flora and can be taken similarly.

• Andrographis, elderberries and flowers, garlic, golden seal, lemon balm, pau d’arco, cat’s claw, amalaki and wormwood are other effective remedies to combat infection and reduce fevers. • Aromatic inhalations or hot foot baths of rosemary, lavender, thyme, cinnamon or chamomile will reduce swelling of the mucous membranes, and loosen and clear catarrh. • A mustard foot bath can be equally effective.

Catarrh and Sinusitis

Irritation and inflammation of the nasal passages and sinuses from infection or inhaled pollutants causes the cells lining the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract to secrete extra mucus as a protective mechanism. This accumulates as catarrh and can predispose to sinusitis, which can be very painful and cause headaches and postnasal drip, which in turn causes recurrent throat and chest problems. Chronic catarrh and sinusitis can be due to infection, pollution, poor diet, food allergy, gut flora disturbances and toxicity. Useful herbs • Antimicrobial herbs including golden seal, wild indigo, elderberry, andrographis, echinacea, amalaki, neem, turmeric, garlic and myrrh can be taken to enhance immunity, combat infection in the respiratory and clear toxicity from the gut. • These are best combined with decongestants and astringents taken in hot teas such as ginger, cinnamon, coriander, thyme, ground ivy, yarrow, elderflowers, chamomile, eyebright, agrimony, meadowsweet and peppermint. • Demulcents like slippery elm, marshmallow, mullein and plantain soothe irritation and pain in the sinuses. • Oils of lavender, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, or chamomile are good in inhalations, baths, or for massage around the nose and sinuses.


• Washing the sinuses by sniffing salt water can work wonders. Other measures Omitting gluten, dairy and sugar from the diet and taking a supplement of vitamin C is recommended.


Earache can arise from pain in the throat, gums, teeth, parotid glands, or inflammation of the outer ear. Acute and severe earache can also be caused by acute middle ear infection (otitis media) which is more common in children. Children treated with antibiotics can be prone to recurrent ear infections with antibiotic resistant strains and glue ear. Other underlying causes include disturbance of the gut flora, passive smoking, chronic catarrh, as well as infection in the throat, tonsils or sinuses. Ideally use a combination of internal and local herbs. Useful herbs • Chamomile is an excellent antimicrobial, antiinflammatory and pain reliever, especially for children. • Echinacea enhances the immune system’s fight against infection. • Elderberries, garlic, golden seal, andrographis, wild indigo, and cat’s claw are also good antimicrobials and help combat infection and reduce fevers. • Elderflower, plantain, thyme, ground ivy, and meadowsweet will clear catarrh and alleviate pain. • Pasque flower is specific for pain. • Cleavers, dandelion, blue flag poke root and calendula help reduce swollen glands that can cause congestion in the middle ear.


Externally Provided there is no pus from a perforated eardrum, drop warm mullein, St John’s wort or olive oil with a few drops of either lavender, garlic, or chamomile oil into the ear and plug it with cotton wool to help relieve inflammation or infection. Other measures Avoid mucus-producing foods including sugar, junk foods, gluten and dairy.

Tonsillitis and Laryngitis

Acute throat infections can be caused by viral or bacterial infection. Tonsillitis causes swollen and pus filled tonsils, quite severe throat pain, difficulty swallowing, fever and malaise. Laryngitis is inflammation or infection of the larynx which causes a sore throat aggravated by talking, dry cough, hoarseness and fever. The tonsils are bundles of lymphatic tissue whose role it is to clear the blood of toxins.

Wild indigo is an antimicrobial herb with antiseptic properties, used to boost the body’s immune responses.



Chronic tonsillitis develops when other eliminative pathways (bowels, kidneys and lungs) are overburdened, putting the lymphatic system under extra pressure. It is often related to disturbances of the gut flora, food intolerances and allergies and leaky gut syndrome. Useful herbs • Potent antimicrobials like garlic, andrographis, neem, golden seal, wild indigo, echinacea, poke root, cat’s claw, pau d’arco, wild indigo, turmeric, garlic, wormwood, or myrrh taken at the first signs will help combat acute infections and combat unfriendly micro-organisms in the gut. • Marshmallow, slippery elm, mullein, aloe vera, and liquorice soothe soreness and pain and can be combined with pain-killing herbs like pasque flower, black cohosh, or chamomile. • Combine with gargles, sprays or steam inhalations of myrrh, sage, thyme, raspberry leaf, marshmallow, plantain or turmeric, or essential oils of lavender, thyme, or chamomile every 2 hours. • For chronic tonsillitis, immune-enhancing herbs including ashwagandha, shatavari, guduchi, reishi and shiitake mushroom, shizandra and amalaki will reduce allergies and chronic inflammation. • These can be combined with lymphatic stimulants cleavers, poke root, calendula, blue flag, burdock, or red clover to enhance detoxification and immunity. Other measures Avoiding dairy, gluten, sugar and junk food is recommended.

NB: Seek medical attention for acute tonsillitis to rule out Streptococcal infection, which can cause serious secondary infections.

Sore Throat and Swollen Glands

Generally a prelude to a bacterial or viral infection, a sore throat can also be caused by irritation of the throat lining by tobacco smoke, post-nasal drip, allergies, acid reflux, dry heat and shouting. Swelling of lymph glands in the neck indicate that the body is attempting to fight off infection, or is overloaded with toxins and increasing the work of the lymphatic system in carrying away waste products. Useful herbs • Antimicrobial herbs echinacea, wild indigo, turmeric, garlic, wormwood, cat’s claw, pau d’arco, myrrh and andrographis can be taken at the first signs to ward off infection. • Immune-enhancing ashwagandha, shatavari, guduchi, reishi and shiitake mushroom, shizandra and amalaki will reduce allergies and inflammation caused by environmental irritants. • Demulcents marshmallow, slippery elm, mullein, aloe vera and liquorice, moisten and soothe irritation of the mucous membranes of the throat. • Cleavers, poke root, calendula, blue flag, burdock, and red clover enhance the lymphatic system in its cleansing and immune work. Externally Gargling or spraying the throat with sage, thyme, oregano, turmeric, myrrh or salt water will also help.


Other measures It is important to avoid eating junk food and sugar, to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and minimise gluten and dairy. –– Supplements of vitamins A, B and C help to enhance immunity. NB: If a child runs a fever with an acute sore throat and swollen tonsils, seek professional help. It could indicate a streptococcal infection with risk of further complications such as nephritis and rheumatic fever.


Asthma is caused by the release of inflammatory chemicals, which inflame and narrow the bronchial tubes, making it difficult to breathe. Increased mucus production blocks the airways still further. Asthma can be triggered by food allergies, environmental pollutants, respiratory infections, immune problems (caused by suppression of eczema and chest infections for example), emotional problems, digestive disturbance and gut flora issues. Prevention is the best line of treatment. Herbs can be taken in conjunction with other medication or inhalants, and may need to be taken over several months. Useful herbs • Expectorant herbs elecampane, thyme, hyssop, garlic, ginger, liquorice and mullein liquefy and clear mucus from the bronchial tubes, and strengthen and relax bronchial muscles, thereby opening the airways. • Thyme, elecampane, pleurisy root, angelica, pau d’arco and oregano are excellent for combating chest infections. • Adaptogens schizandra, ashwagandha, shatavari, liquorice, turmeric, shiitake and


reishi mushrooms enhance immunity, reduce inflammation and increase resilience to stress. • Ginkgo, chamomile, yarrow, feverfew, baikal skullcap and nettles decrease allergic responses that may trigger asthma. • Relaxing herbs skullcap, holy basil, rose, lavender, honeysuckle, wild oats, California poppy or chamomile help reduce tension. • Treat the first signs of respiratory infection vigorously to prevent asthma from getting worse. NB: Seek medical attention in acute asthma.

Hay Fever

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, it is a common atopic condition mostly occurring when high concentrations pollens are released during late spring and summer, especially in hot weather. The familiar symptoms are caused by release of histamine and other inflammatory chemical, and are generally worse in the morning and evening coinciding with the changes in air temperature. House dust and animal hair can produce similar reactions. Hay fever and other atopic conditions like eczema and asthma tend to be genetic and occur when immunity is lowered, for example by long term stress and disturbance of the gut flora. Useful herbs • Immuno-stimulants such as ashwagandha, astragalus, guduchi, amalaki, Siberian ginseng or echinacea are recommended for a few months before the hay fever season starts. • 1–2 dessertspoonful of local honey in honeycombs with each meal can be for 2–4 months before the hay fever season. • Cutting out gluten and dairy is also helpful. • Antihistamine and anti-inflammatory herbs



including turmeric, echinacea, golden seal, chamomile, nettle, lemon balm, feverfew, baikal skullcap and yarrow with a little liquorice can reduce symptoms once they start. • They can also be used as teas for inhalations to ease symptoms. CASE STUDY: ASTHMA CLIENT PROFILE David, aged 8, suffered from wheezing and a dry cough every time he exerted himself,

• Agrimony, elderflowers, plantain and eyebright tone mucous membranes and help desensitise them to allergens. • Marshmallow and slippery elm soothe irritation of the mucosa. • Ginger, garlic, thyme, burdock and marigold combat disturbance of the gut flora. Other measures Supplements of vitamin C and magnesium are recommended. –– Sunglasses may help to reduce eye irritation.

such as running during school sports or playing football. He also tended to wake in the early hours of the morning with mild asthma. His symptoms worsened during cold winter weather and when he was anxious. THE HERBAL TREATMENT I made David a prescription of antispasmodic and demulcent herbs to relax and soothe the bronchi and open the airways. It included marshmallow, elecampane, thyme, hyssop, coltsfoot, liquorice and mullein. I added ashwagandha and shatavari to enhance immunity and increase resilience to stress, a little ginger to aid digestion and elimination of toxins from the gut, and suggested he drink chamomile and nettle tea to decrease any allergic responses that may trigger his asthma. I recommended that David’s parents remove dairy products and wheat from his diet, as he frequently ate pizza and pasta. I also suggested that they ensured David had plenty of calcium in his diet from other sources, such as green vegetables, bony fish, nuts and seeds. With this treatment, David’s asthma was better within a few months.

Baikal skullcap has antihistamine effects, useful in the treatment of hay fever.



Coughs and Bronchitis

A cough is a reflex response, designed to remove irritants such as dust, toxins, pathogenic microorganisms or mucus blocking the throat or bronchial tubes, but if it becomes chronic a cough can be debilitating and disturb sleep. Coughs can be aggravated by stress and cold weather. Useful herbs • Demulcent herbs like marshmallow, mullein, plantain, liquorice and slippery elm soothe irritation and inflammation in dry tickly coughs. • Expectorants and decongestants including thyme, elecampane, ground ivy, white horehound, hyssop, ginger, angelica and oregano liquefy and clear phlegm. • Vitamin C in elderberries, blackberries and bilberries, as well as infusions of rose petals stimulate the muco-ciliary escalator, clear phlegm and protect the lungs from infection. • Nervous coughs can be eased with relaxing nervines such as chamomile, lemon balm and holy basil. • Antimicrobials thyme, elecampane, hyssop, cat’s claw, pau d’arco, garlic, cinnamon and pleurisy root help combat infection and support the immune system. • A cough formula can be made consisting of mixtures of these depending on the nature of the cough. • Use oils of rosemary, rose, thyme, ginger, or cinnamon for herbal baths and inhalations. NB: Fever and malaise with cough, green phlegm or breathlessness may indicate acute bronchitis or pneumonia. Seek medical attention.

Blackberries are full of vitamin C, protecting the lungs from infections.

Echinacea, well-known as a herbal immune stimulant, is prescribed to prevent and treat all acute respiratory infections.



The Urinary System The urinary system consists of the kidneys, bladder and ureters. During circulation, blood passes through the kidneys, which act as an elaborate filtering system. They remove used and unwanted water, minerals, urea and wastes from the blood which becomes urine, and reabsorb what is still required by the body back into the bloodstream. In this way the kidneys control the amount of water and salts that are absorbed back into the blood and what is excreted as waste. They also help maintain the correct acid/alkali balance in the body. The kidneys funnel the urine into the bladder along 2 tubes which are the ureters. The bladder stores the urine until muscular contractions push it out through the urethra. Each day, your kidneys produce about 1.5 litres of urine. The Chinese value the kidneys as the seat of vital energy, known as kidney Jing, which promotes longevity and immunity. The urinary tract is prone to damage from the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet and pollution. Solvents, paint, synthetic fragrances and colours, preservatives and nitrogenous waste from a high protein diet have to be passed out of the body via urine, and all impose a strain on the kidneys and can contribute to urinary problems. Urinary tract infections can affect the urethra, then pass into the bladder causing cystitis. From the bladder, infection can pass along the ureters to the kidneys and cause pyelonephritis. Other kidney infections can develop as secondaries

from infection, such as Streptococcal throat infection, causing tonsillitis. Infections in babies and children may be related to structural abnormalities, but most often they are caused by E. Coli bacteria from the bowel that creep round from the anus, their journey aided by wiping from back to front rather than vice versa after urination or a bowel movement. Urinary tract infections tend to affect girls more than boys due to their anatomical differences, in that the passage from the urethra to the bladder is much shorter in girls. Vaginal infections, such as thrush, can also be related to urinary tract infections. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to assist the kidneys in their cleansing work, to flush through toxins and the waste products of metabolism, and to prevent them from causing irritation of the urinary tract along the way. There are many herbs that exert their action on the urinary system and which can be used preventatively and therapeutically. Mucilaginous herbs like marshmallow, corn silk, slippery elm, aloe vera and oats soothe irritation and inflammation. Aromatic herbs rich in antimicrobial



The kidneys These organs are responsible for the excretion of nitrogenous wastes, principally urea, from the blood. Nephrons within the cortex and medulla filter the blood under pressure and then reabsorb water and other useful substances back into the blood.



volatile oils with a diuretic action, including chamomile, fennel, lemon balm, thyme and coriander, taken regularly as teas or in food are excellent for helping to prevent infection. Cranberries and bilberries/blueberries are also valuable, helping to prevent infection by preventing pathogenic bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. During any kind of infection or inflammatory process, diuretic herbs to increase the flow of urine, including celery seed, cleavers, dandelion leaf, corn silk, couch grass and bearberry can help the body to throw off accumulated toxins and debris produced in the system from the immune system’s fight against infection and inflammation.

• For irritation causing incontinence or bedwetting, use marshmallow, bayberry, horsetail, gravel root and yarrow. • Drink lukewarm to cool teas of any of these every hour or two in acute infections and 3 times daily in chronic problems. To relieve the burning/passing broken glass sensation, sit in a bath of strong chamomile tea for 10–15 minutes. Other measures To prevent infection and irritation, drink 3–4 litres of fluid daily to flush toxins and bacteria out of the body. Fluids can include water, herb teas or soothing barley water.

Urinary Tract Infections

Infections tend to affect women more than men due to their anatomical differences but in men they can be caused by prostate problems. Cystitis refers to unpleasant urinary symptoms caused by irritation, as well as infection, generally from E coli bacteria. Underlying causes include lowered immunity, stress, disturbances of the gut flora, nutritional deficiencies, insufficient fluids, excess alcohol and caffeine, blood sugar problems and sex. Useful herbs • Antiseptic diuretics buchu, bearberry, goldenrod, chamomile, fennel, coriander, sarsaparilla and yarrow help combat infection and flush out bacteria, debris and irritants. • Soothing herbs marshmallow, plantain, slippery elm, aloe vera, corn silk and couch grass help relieve irritation, pain and inflammation. • Horsetail is soothing and healing, particularly useful for repairing damage after repeated infection.

Marshmallow is a soothing herb that will relieve urinary irritation and inflammation.


–– Bilberries prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract and are excellent as a preventative. –– Soups and juices made from carrots, parsley, asparagus, celery, leeks and garlic are also helpful.

Fluid Retention

Excess water in the tissues causes oedema, swelling and discomfort, particularly in the feet and legs where, due to gravity, fluid first accumulates. It also causes cellulite. It can occur temporarily in premenstrual women, during pregnancy, hot weather and long flights. More chronic fluid retention can be caused by thyroid problems, obesity, poor circulation, varicose veins and poor diet, especially insufficient protein. Excess sodium in salty foods increases fluid retention, while the potassium in foods like bananas, tomatoes and green vegetables encourages the elimination of sodium. Oedema can indicate kidney and heart problems, which require professional treatment. Useful herbs • Useful diuretics to aid the elimination of water through the kidneys include dandelion leaf, celery seed, nettles, cleavers, fennel, coriander, buchu, meadowsweet, corn silk, chamomile and bearberry. • Add vitex, shatavari or lady’s mantle for premenstrual fluid retention, including tender swollen breasts. • Yarrow, gingko, gotu kola, marigold, shepherd’s purse, golden seal, garlic, lime flower and hawthorn improve venous circulation, and relieve swelling and discomfort. Antioxidants such as ginkgo, bilberries, elderberries and horse chestnut strengthen and heal blood vessels. • Kelp and guggulu are helpful for low thyroid function and weight reduction.


Other measures It is important to take plenty of exercise, to raise the feet when sitting, and avoid tea, coffee, and alcohol. –– Supplements of B complex, magnesium and evening primrose oil can help where fluid retention is related to hormones.

Kidney Stones

Infection and irritation in the kidney and insufficient fluids can lead to the formation of crystals, which can develop into stones and gravel. They are mostly formed from calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate or uric acid. When they move they cause sudden, excruciating pain, which passes once the stones have passed out of the bladder. Useful herbs • Antilithic and diuretic herbs including wild carrot, gravel root, bilberry, buchu, dandelion leaves, goldenrod, or bearberry can be used to dissolve and facilitate the passing of stones and gravel. These also combat urinary tract infection. • Demulcent diuretics marshmallow, slippery elm, corn silk and couch grass reduce inflammation, soothe and heal irritated urinary tubules, and help dissolve and ease passing of stones and gravel. • Antispasmodics chamomile, cramp bark, wild yam, passion flower and valerian can reduce pain and muscle spasm in the urinary tract caused by passing stones. Other measures It is important to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods rich in magnesium and B vitamins to help reduce the formation of stones.



Prostate Problems

The prostate is a walnut sized gland surrounding the ureter which carries urine from the bladder to the penis. An enlarged or swollen prostate obstructs the flow of urine and can cause sensations of pressure, hesitancy or urgency to empty the bladder. Incomplete bladder emptying predisposes to urinary infections and disturbs sleep caused by frequent trips to the toilet. Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) commonly affects men from their late forties and is related to dwindling testosterone levels and the conversion of testosterone into dihydro testosterone (DHT), which can be linked to deficiencies of zinc, B6 and essential fatty acids. Infection (prostatitis) and cancer can also cause enlargement of the prostate.

Other measures A high protein diet is recommended as this helps to maintain good testosterone levels, increasing zinc and essential fatty acid intake. –– Eating pumpkin seeds daily helps provide extra zinc, as well as eating cooked tomatoes which are rich in lycopene, and taking supplements of vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc. –– Drinking cranberry or blueberry juice and plenty of water is advised. NB: If you suspect prostate problems seek medical attention.

Useful herbs • The best herb for shrinking the prostate is saw palmetto when taken long term. • Liquorice prevents conversion of testosterone to DHL and so prevents enlargement. • Other useful herbs include golden seal, nettle root, red clover, horsetail, dandelion, gravel root, Siberian ginseng, evening primrose seed oil, Chinese angelica, echinacea, and goldenrod. • For prostatitis, useful herbs include nettle root, echinacea, golden seal, garlic, buchu, bearberry, chamomile and couch grass. These can be taken in acute doses if necessary • For cramping pain caused by infection or inflammation you can use cramp bark, chamomile and Chinese angelica.

Saw palmatto is traditionally thought of as a man’s herb and is prescribed to reduce enlarged prostate glands.


Drink cranberry juice every day to keep the prostate healthy.

Hawthorn improves venous circulation, and relieves swelling and discomfort.


Eating pumpkin seeds every day helps provide extra zinc.



The Circulatory System Our bodies contain about 5 litres of blood, consisting of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, which is continually transported around the body via the circulatory system. Its purpose is to carry oxygen, hormones, gases and nutrients to every cell of the body and to take away the waste products of metabolism. The blood is also responsible for maintaining the correct body temperature and ph of the body. The circulatory system also includes the transport of lymph. The lymphatic system distributes immune cells called lymphocytes which protect the body against infection, it absorbs lipids from the gut and carries them to the blood. With the circulatory system, it returns fluids and plasma proteins from cells and tissues to the blood, and thus maintains fluid balance. The heart pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood into the aorta, the main artery, from where it flows about 60,000 miles through a vast network of vessels of different sizes, arteries and capillaries, to reach and nourish all the tissues of the body. Once the waste products, including carbon dioxide, are collected from the cells, the deoxygenated blood flows into the veins and is circulated back to the heart and the lungs where carbon dioxide and oxygen are exchanged. On its journey round the body, the blood passes through the kidneys which filter much of the waste from the blood. It also passes through the small intestine and into the portal vein which passes through the liver, where sugars from the blood are filtered and stored.

Most circulatory problems are caused by blocked arteries, which in turn are caused by atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. For the heart muscle to work efficiently it requires its own supply of oxygenated blood, which is carried through four small coronary arteries. Should these become blocked and prevent blood flow to the heart muscle, serious damage to the heart may occur. There are several factors that contribute to circulatory problems, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, heredity, lack of exercise and emotional stress. Damage or stress to the inner lining of the blood vessels leads over time to a build-up of debris and narrowing of the artery, predisposing to blockage. High homocysteine levels increase the build up of plaque in the arteries and emotional stress can cause the release biochemicals that contribute to the injury of arterial tissues. Inflammation within the blood vessels can also cause the deposition of cholesterol as a protective mechanism. Cholesterol from excess dietary sugar and carbohydrates, or errors of the liver’s metabolism of cholesterol can also line and narrow the arteries, making them susceptible to plaque deposits.


The Circulatory System A complex network of veins, arteries and capillaries allows blood to circulate all around the body. This enables the transportation of nutrients and oxygen to every part of the body, as well as the removal of waste products.




It is sensible to reduce the intake of sugar, junk food and refined carbohydrates. Folic acid and other B vitamins help lower cholesterol and homocysterine levels. Red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, and herbs including bilberries and ginkgo are rich in antioxidants which protect arteries from oxidation and reduce plaque deposits. Several other herbs such as lime flower, gotu kola and hawthorn help to regulate blood pressure, nourish the heart and strengthen the arteries. Fibres in complex carbohydrates such as oats carry cholesterol out of cells, tissues and arteries to the liver where it is excreted. Limiting salt and sugar intake, taking regular aerobic exercise and maintaining ideal body weight are also a good preventative measure against circulatory disorders.


Lack of dietary iron, excess loss of blood (from heavy periods, haemorrhoids, bleeding gums, or peptic ulcers) and digestive problems causing poor digestion and absorption can result in iron deficiency and are the most common cause of anaemia. Vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency can also cause anaemia, while other more serious problems such as leukaemia or radiation therapy can cause disturbance to red blood cells. Useful herbs • Ashwagandha, dandelion leaves, bilberries, raspberry leaves, nettles, dock root, codonopsis, amalaki, guggulu and coriander leaves are all rich in iron and folic acid. • Chinese angelica is rich in B12 and folic acid, and increases red blood cell production. • To improve iron absorption, iron-rich digestive herbs burdock, vervain, hawthorn, skullcap, gentian and hops can be helpful.

• Drinking a hot cup of tea made from fresh ginger before meals will also aid iron absorption. Siberian ginseng increases resilience and strength in anaemia. Other measures Eating plenty of vitamin C-rich foods such as red, yellow and green vegetables and dark red fruit such as bilberry, blackberries and blackcurrants, is recommended to enhance iron absorption. –– Tea, coffee and alcohol are best avoided as they can inhibit iron absorption. –– The diet needs to be rich in iron, folic acid, protein, and vitamins E and B12.

Heart Conditions

• There is much that can be done to prevent and remedy heart problems, including dietary changes, exercise, nutritional supplements and herbs. Antioxidant herbs turmeric, bilberry, hawthorn, shiitake and reishi mushrooms and ginkgo can reduce oxidative damage to the heart and blood vessels caused by free radicals and strengthen the heart muscle by improving blood flow through the coronary arteries. • Many herbs such as guggulu, olive leaf, hawthorn, cayenne, ginger, turmeric, evening primrose, Chinese angelica and garlic can significantly lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol and prevent (and even reverse) atherosclerotic plaque from forming, thereby reducing the tendency to heart attacks. • Coleus relaxes the arteries, lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow through the heart and is indicated in congestive heart failure, arteriosclerosis and angina. • Angelica is a calcium-channel blocker in the heart, useful for high blood pressure, angina and heart arrhythmias.


• Astragalus is a good antioxidant and diuretic and lowers blood pressure. It improves blood flow through the heart, and heart function, and reduces ischemic heart disease and angina. • Hawthorn, motherwort, lime flower, lemon balm, passion flower and rosemary steady heart contractions and reduce palpitations. • When these are related to menopausal flushes add sage or black cohosh. • Adaptogens such as ashwagandha and Siberian ginseng help to protect the heart against the effects of stress. Other measures Regular exercise is vital to keep the heart healthy. –– Avoiding coffee, cola and tea is advisable. NB: If you are on medication for a heart condition, check with your practitioner before taking herbs.


• Hot teas of yarrow, peppermint, elderflower, rosemary and lime flowers increase blood flow, dilate the arteries and reduce cramp. • Bilberry and horse chestnut improve circulation and strengthen blood vessels. • Evening primrose seed oil also improves circulation. • Warm baths, foot baths or massage with oils of ginger, cinnamon, coriander, oregano, thyme and rosemary relax tense muscles and stimulate blood flow. • Calendula cream, gotu kola or lavender oil soothes chilblains. Other measures Supplements of vitamin C and bioflavonoids, omega-3 fatty acids and regular exercise are recommended.

Poor Circulation

Poor circulation to the extremities causes cold hands and feet and increases the tendency to chilblains and cramp. Chilblains are itchy, sore red lumps on fingers or toes, which develop due to insufficient oxygen and nutrients being carried to the area by the blood. Poor circulation is caused by constriction of the arteries and can be inherited. It is aggravated by lack of exercise, smoking, caffeine, poor diet, tiredness and stress. Reynaud’s syndrome and circulatory problems associated with heart or arterial disease can also cause circulatory problems. Useful herbs • The best circulatory stimulants include ginger, garlic, cayenne, gotu kola, coriander, cinnamon, prickly ash, and hawthorn.

Evening primrose is prescribed to help lower blood pressure and keep platelets from clumping in the blood vessels.




Cramp is caused by muscular spasm and can be very painful. Pregnant women and the elderly are more likely to suffer from cramp; it may be a sign of low calcium levels, deficiencies of vitamins B or D, low digestive enzymes, poor absorption and circulatory problems. Varicose veins, tiredness, lack of exercise, insufficient fluids and nervous tension may also be contributory factors. Useful herbs • Useful circulatory stimulants include ginger, garlic, gotu kola, turmeric, gingko, hawthorn, prickly ash, cinnamon and cayenne.

Drinking hot peppermint tea will promote circulation and prevent cramp.

• Amalaki, guggulu, and coriander are also helpful. • Hot teas of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, yarrow, peppermint and elderflowers will also promote circulation and prevent cramp. • Gotu kola, bilberry and gingko will aid venous return if there are varicose veins. • For cramps related to stress, tension and tiredness, cramp bark, passion flower, rosemary, skullcap, gotu kola, holy basil, limeflowers and ashwagandha are recommended. • Nettles, dill, wild oats, celery seed, meadowsweet, dandelion leaves, and buchu are all rich in calcium.


Other measures Moving the affected limb briskly, walking, stretching and massage with essential oils of ginger, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme or oregano in a base of sesame oil will swiftly relieve pain. –– Supplements of vitamins B and C, calcium and magnesium can be taken to support the nervous system and aid circulation.

Altitude Sickness

High altitudes in mountainous regions contain less oxygen than lower areas and when travelling or climbing in such areas, it is advised to make the ascent gradually to allow the body time to acclimatise. A rapid ascent causes fluids to move from the blood to the tissues, which results in dehydration, and this is aggravated by vigorous exercise and alcohol. As the blood thickens from fluid loss, it inhibits the elimination of toxins and causes headaches, fatigue, malaise and extreme thirst. One of the best preventative measures is to drink plenty of liquid. Herbs can help prevent and combat altitude sickness. Useful herbs • Cloves, carrot seed, cinnamon and oregano contain eugenol which helps thin the blood. Garlic, ginger, dill, fennel, cayenne, celery seed act similarly. • Garlic, ginger, cayenne, gotu kola and gingko increase blood flow and oxygen supply throughout the body, including the brain. • Adaptogens rhodiola, reishi mushroom, Siberian and panax ginseng, ashwagandha and other herbs rich in anti-oxidants like hawthorn, milk thistle and schizandra increase the body’s ability to adapt to changes in oxygen levels as many of the symptoms of altitude sickness appear to be related to free radical activity.


Other measures Supplements of vitamins C and E, alpha lipoic acid, co-enzyme Q 10, glutathione, l-glutamine and flavonoids can help endurance of higher altitudes.

High Blood Pressure

An increase in pressure inside the arteries weakens the heart and arteries, impedes blood flow to vital organs such as the kidneys, brain and eyes and predisposes to heart attacks and strokes. The most common causes of this are hereditary tendency, stress, obesity, kidney problems, excess alcohol, smoking and hardening of the arteries. Useful herbs • The best antihypertensive herbs, which relax and dilate arteries include hawthorn, lime flowers, garlic, gingko, motherwort, cramp bark, valerian and gotu kola. Antioxidant herbs amalaki, holy basil, self heal, turmeric, cayenne, shiitake mushroom, blueberries, elderberries, ginger and guggulu prevent damage to arteries from free radicals and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. • For problems related to anxiety and tension, add to your prescription cramp bark, rosemary, wild oats, chamomile, passion flower, or skullcap. • Lime flower tea is relaxing and dilates the arteries, reducing blood pressure. • For excess fluid take diuretic herbs dandelion leaves, corn silk, bearberry, cleavers, and goldenrod. Other measures Meditation and yoga can be very helpful. –– A largely vegetarian diet, together with coldpressed vegetable oils is recommended.



–– Avoid tea, coffee, alcohol and smoking and take regular aerobic exercise. NB: Seek medical attention if you have high blood pressure.

Arterial Disease

Hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) and deposits of cholesterol (atherosclerosis) in the artery walls cause the arteries to narrow, limiting blood flow to the tissues and resulting in poor circulation to the limbs, as in Buerger’s disease. When the arteries in the heart are narrowed, lack of blood to the heart muscle causes anginal pain, and increases the risk of heart attack. Arterial disease is related to high blood pressure, blood sugar disorders, high homocysteine levels, overconsumption of animal fats, refined carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise, and obesity. Useful herbs • Antioxidant herbs prevent damage to artery walls that can lead to plaque development and oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which forms deposits. Hawthorn is the herb of choice, improving blood flow through the heart and arteries, reducing inflammation in arteries, regulating blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and preventing build-up of deposits and formation of clots. • Other beneficial herbs include cayenne, turmeric, shiitake mushroom, blueberries, elderberries, amalaki, garlic and ginger. • Guggulu lowers cholesterol and scrapes existing plaque from the arteries. • Ginger, ginkgo, turmeric, bilberries and elderberries are rich in antioxidants, which strengthen and stabilise artery walls and prevent clots.

Other measures Supplements of B vitamins, co-enzyme Q 10, selenium, omega-3 oils and antioxidants are recommended. –– Avoid tea, coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes, and take regular exercise.

Raised Cholesterol

There are 2 types of cholesterol: low density lipoproteins (LDL), which increase the risk of heart attacks, and high density lipoproteins (HDL) which actually reduce it. Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance, 25% of which comes from food, whilst the rest is manufactured in the liver. Excess sugar, refined carbohydrates and fats and errors of liver metabolism are largely to blame. Plant fibres can lower cholesterol, so a diet high in fruit and vegetables and whole grains with minimal fats helps maintain normal cholesterol levels. Useful herbs • Antioxidant herbs protect arteries, inhibit the formation of atherosclerotic plaque, lower cholesterol and help prevent cardiovascular disease. Useful herbs include hawthorn, cayenne, amalaki, guggulu, bilberry, elderberry, ginger, turmeric, evening primrose, Chinese angelica and liquorice. • Shiitake and reishi mushrooms and oats contain beta-glucans which help lower cholesterol. • A clove of garlic a day can substantially lower cholesterol levels. • Red clover reduces its absorption. • Artichoke leaves help lower cholesterol by help the liver’s metabolism of cholesterol. Other measures Niacin (vitamin B3) lowers total cholesterol as well as LDL, triglycerides and fibrinogen, a blood


protein responsible for forming clots. It also raises HDL. Take in a B complex supplement. –– Reduce sugar, refined carbohydrates, and other processed foods. –– Eat a diet high in vegetables, whole grains especially oats, beans and pulses, good fats and oily fish. –– Take regular aerobic exercise.

Varicose Veins, Ulcers and Haemorrhoids

Dilation and enlargement of veins in the legs cause varicose veins, and when they occur in the anal area, they cause haemorrhoids. They tend to be hereditary and are caused by stagnation of blood in the veins and aggravated by too much standing, not enough exercise, pregnancy, constipation, obesity, shallow breathing and stress. Poor circulation in the legs, often associated with varicose veins, can cause the tissues and skin to break down; if the leg is knocked the skin will break easily and become ulcerated. This can take a long time to heal. Useful herbs • For prevention and treatment, useful herbs include yarrow, ginkgo, gotu kola, marigold, garlic, lime flower and hawthorn to improve venous circulation and relieve pain and discomfort. • Antioxidants such as bilberries, elderberries, ginkgo and horse chestnut strengthen and heal blood vessels. Horse chestnut improves the tone of veins and circulation through them and can improve chronic venous insufficiency dramatically. • Astringent herbs such as calendula, witch hazel, rose, agrimony, and horsetail externally in creams and lotions can help to tone and soothe varicose veins and haemorrhoids.


• Aloe vera gel can also be helpful. • A calendula poultice will speed healing of varicose ulcers and relieve pain and inflammation. • Manuka honey is also recommended. • The area can be bathed with chamomile or calendula tea between dressings. • If an ulcer is infected or inflamed add garlic, pau d’arco, neem, echinacea, and marigold to the internal formula. Other measures Supplements of vitamins E and C, bioflavonoids and zinc will help strengthen the veins. –– Regular exercise, fibre rich foods and avoiding sitting or standing for long periods are all important.

Calendula (marigold) makes an excellent mouthwash and prevents bleeding gums.



The Musculo-skeletal System Our musculo-skeletal system consists of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and other connective tissue, which together provide the form and stability of the body and enable movement. Bones provide the structure of the body and protect the delicate internal structures such as the brain, spinal column, lungs and heart. They contain bone marrow where specialised cells including stem cells manufacture red blood cells. Although bone seems hard and rigid, bone cells are constantly being made and replaced and it is completely re-formed every 10 years. The hard outer part is made mainly of protein such as collagen and hydroxyapatite, which largely consists of calcium and other minerals. Bones depend on minerals including calcium, and vitamin D for their density and strength. They also rely on activity and weight bearing exercise and the action of hormones, including growth and parathyroid hormone, oestrogen, testosterone, and calcitonin. They need a good blood supply which is brought to them by vessels that enter via their outer membrane, the periosteum, where most of their nerve supply is located. The junctions between bones are our joints, of which some, such as the shoulder and knee joints, move and allow a wide range of movement and some, like those in the skull, do not. Joints are designed to provide stability and protect against damage from use. They are lined with synovial fluid which provides nourishment to cartilage on the end of bones and prevents friction as they

move. Cartilage is a tough and resilient tissue composed of collagen and proteoglycans that also prevents friction as the joints move. Ligaments are strong elastic fibrous cords composed largely of connective collagen surrounding the joints, and these act to strengthen and stabilise them. Their elasticity allows movement and protects the joints by ensuring that these movements are only in certain directions. There are 3 types of muscles: skeletal, smooth and cardiac. Skeletal muscles are bundles of elastic fibres attached to bones and joints. They contract and relax, enabling smooth, controlled movements and maintain our posture. The action of skeletal muscle is voluntary, controlled by the conscious brain unlike smooth muscle in the blood vessels, chest and abdominal organs and cardiac muscle in the heart which is involuntary. Their growth, strength and elasticity depends on growth hormone and testosterone and is maintained and increased by regular exercise. The health of our musculo-skeletal system depends on good diet, digestion, absorption and


The Skeletal System There are 2 skeletons: the axial, and the appendicular. The former is the basic structure of skull, spine, rib cage and sternum, while the latter comprises the bones of the limbs. More aches and pains develop in the skeletal system than in any other part of the body.




elimination. Over-using or neglecting certain groups of muscles, posture, and the amount of fresh air and exercise we take all have their effect. Stress and the inability to relax put a strain on the system and can contribute to joint and muscle problems. The biggest factor however is age. From around the age of 30 our bone density diminishes, and this accelerates in women after the menopause, meaning that our bones become more fragile and prone to fractures and breaks. Changes in cartilage and connective tissue affect the strength and stability of the joints. Thinning of the cartilage makes the joint more susceptible to damage and to wear and tear, predisposing to osteoarthritis. The connective tissue in the ligaments and tendons becomes less elastic, which can cause stiffness and limited movement. Muscle tissue is also affected and the size and strength of muscles gradually diminishes, which means less support and stability generally, and particularly of the joints, making them more prone to damage. Regular, moderate or low impact exercise however can go a long way to slowing this process. Massage, stretching, manipulation, rest and certain herbs can also be helpful. Horsetail nourishes the bones, aloe vera, wild celery seed, burdock, devil’s claw and liquorice help prevent and remedy joint problems while cramp bark, rosemary, skullcap, hops and St John’s wort help relax tense muscles and prevent them from damage.


Arthritis causes joint stiffness and inflammation and can lead to degeneration of the joints, disfigurement and pain. Osteoarthritis involving wear and tear as well as inflammation is most common, whilst rheumatoid arthritis is a more serious and progressive autoimmune disease. Underlying

causes include poor diet, digestive problems, gut flora disturbances, toxicity, free radical damage, age, stress and chronic infection. Poor digestion and constipation cause nutritional deficiencies and accumulation of toxins in the gut, which are absorbed into the circulation and contribute to joint problems. Useful herbs • Turmeric and frankincense are recommended for osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. They are potent antioxidants, enhance immunity, reduce pain and inflammation and have an affinity with muscles and bones. • Devil’s claw and myrrh are excellent antiinflammatories that reduce pain and stiffness. • Black cohosh is anti-inflammatory and analgesic, excellent for post-menopausal arthritis. • Liquorice has cortisone-like anti-inflammatory actions and increases tolerance to physical and emotional stress. • Ashwagandha, with its pain killing and antiinflammatory action and immune-stimulating properties is ideal for autoimmune problems including rheumatoid arthritis. • Long pepper, turmeric and cinnamon improve digestion. • Burdock, nettles, dock, calendula, and cleavers help to clear toxins. • Other beneficial herbs include meadowsweet, kelp, gotu kola, shiitake, echinacea, wild yam, feverfew, willow, and angelica. • Fresh ginger tea taken daily is useful for is antiinflammatory and antioxidant properties to reduce pain, swelling and associated bursitis.



Other measures Supplements of evening primrose oil, glucosamine sulphate, MSM, omega-3 oils and selenium help protect and promote repair of cartilage. –– Massage with liniments containing essential oils of rosemary, peppermint, lavender, or marjoram. –– Add a few drops of cayenne tincture to increase circulation to the joint and decrease pain.

It tends to run in families, is more common in men who are overweight and is associated with high blood pressure and triglycerides. It may be related to excess fatty foods, purines (from red meat, organ meats and shellfish), nightshades (potatoes, peppers, aubergines and tomatoes), cheese, citrus fruits and alcohol (particularly beer) and can be triggered by certain drugs, crash diets and exercise.


Useful herbs • Diuretics to help the kidneys eliminate excess uric acid and other toxins can be useful, especially celery seed and nettles. • Gravel root, fennel, oat straw, gokshura and cleavers act similarly. • These can be combined with anti-inflammatories including devil’s claw, turmeric, liquorice, cat’s claw, rose hips, olive leaf, willow, meadowsweet, frankincense, ginger, sarsaparilla, or wild yam to reduce joint pain and swelling. • Herbs to support the liver can be added to prescriptions including burdock, dock, gentian, milk thistle or rosemary. • Externally, painful joints can be massaged with essential oils of peppermint, rosemary or lavender oil in sesame oil.

Gout is caused by a build up of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a by-product of protein metabolism in the liver, and when this reaches a certain level, uric acid crystals form and collect in joints causing intense pain, swelling and inflammation. It usually starts in the big toe first.

Other measures Bromelain from pineapple is excellent for acute attacks and can be taken as a supplement along with quercitrin, and vitamin C from cherries, for prevention of future attacks.

Osteoporosis Nettles have been shown in studies to relieve the pain of arthritis; they also have diuretic and cleansing properties.

Loss of bone tissue actually begins in our thirties but is hastened through lower oestrogen levels after the menopause.



Other contributing factors are lack of calcium and other important bone nutrients including essential fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium and boron, caused by a bad diet, poor digestion and absorption, disturbances of the gut flora, smoking, lack of exercise and a history of total hysterectomy. Women who are underweight, who have dieted frequently or who have suffered from coeliac disease are more at risk, since oestrogen is stored in fat tissue. A sedentary lifestyle, excess alcohol, and lack of exercise are also implicated. It is indicated by a tendency to fractures, back pain, loss of height due to compression of the spine and muscle spasm.

oatmeal, nuts and seeds, especially sesame seeds and tahini, provide calcium. –– Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines provide vitamin D. –– Soya bean, lentils, chickpeas and tofu help restore hormone balance after the menopause. –– Walnuts and flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which help prevent osteoporosis. –– Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine has diuretic properties and causes excretion of calcium in the urine. Coffee, tea, sugar and soft drinks decrease calcium absorption and contribute to loss of bone density.

Useful herbs • Adaptogenic herbs including shatavari, ashwagandha, maca and Siberian ginseng help protect the bones against the aging process and restore hormone balance. • Oestrogenic herbs including Chinese angelica, red clover, calendula, wild yam, liquorice, sage and hops are also recommended. • These can be combined with herbs, including long pepper, ginger, fennel, cumin or coriander, to improve digestion and absorption. • Evening primrose seed oil also helps restore hormone balance. • Calcium-rich herbs are also important, such as nettles, dandelion leaves, horsetail, kelp, dill, celery seed, wild oats, codonopsis, hawthorn and amalaki.

Tender, stiff and aching muscles can occur after unaccustomed exercise, while more extreme muscle pain is caused by cramp, muscle strain or other injuries such as a compressed nerve. The muscles affected, or those nearby, can go into spasm, which further increases the pain. Generalised muscle pain, combined with fatigue and malaise can be a symptom of chronic stress, overwork, tiredness, flu and fibromyalgia (which is associated with post viral fatigue syndrome). Fibromyalgia is accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Associated symptoms involve irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, cognitive difficulties, interstitial cystitis and temporomandibular joint disorders. It is thought that the condition involves amplification of the sensation of by affecting the way the brain processes pain signals.

Other measures Plenty of exercise and supplements of vitamins E and D, magnesium and boron are recommended. –– Green vegetables such as spinach, turnip, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, beans, whole grains,

Muscle Pain and Fibromyalgia

Useful herbs • Massage tense and aching muscles with essential oils of rosemary, thyme, basil, lavender, chamomile or ginger diluted in


sesame oil. This will increase circulation to the affected area, ease tension and spasm, and reduce pain. Sesame oil is rich in calcium and magnesium, which help to release muscle tension. • Muscle relaxing herbs rosemary, thyme, chamomile, ginger, lavender, basil, skullcap, black cohosh, wild yam, and ashwagandha can be taken internally. Ashwagandha has a special affinity for muscle tissue. • For inflammation after an injury or muscle strain, use anti-inflammatories such as frankincense, devil’s claw, liquorice, meadowsweet,

Rosemary stimulates the circulation of blood and has a restorative effect on the body.


ginger, black willow, turmeric, black cohosh or cat’s claw. • Adaptogenic, immune-enhancing and tonic herbs such as ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng, shiitake and astragalus are useful for states of depletion and fibromyalgia. Other measures Rest aching muscles if they develop from overuse but only for 2–3 days, after which gently start to stretch them. –– Supplements of calcium and magnesium can help to reduce muscle pain and spasm.



The Skin Our skin is a mirror of our health and plays many important roles in the body. It protects us against dirt, infection, extremes of temperate and climate, sunlight, pollution, and physical injury. It secretes antiseptic substances to ward off infection, backed up by beneficial flora that live on the skin and the acid mantle formed by sweat, also helping to inhibit infection. Below the outer layer of skin, the epidermis, is the dermis, a thick, strong and elastic layer of tissue which is richly supplied with blood vessels, sweat and oil glands, and nerve endings. When the weather is cold the blood vessels contract to keep heat inside the body, and when it is hot they dilate to bring blood to the surface to enable the body to loose heat and maintain the correct temperature of the body. The several million sweat glands enable the skin to be a major organ of excretion. Sweat contains water, mineral salts, nitrogenous wastes and other toxins and is similar in content to urine. Most adults excrete about 1 pint (600mls) of fluid through the skin daily and up to ten times more when taking vigorous exercise or in hot weather. It is important to take sufficient exercise to produce a sweat on a regular basis, in order to clear toxins and not overburden the other pathways of elimination, the kidneys and bowels. Sweat production Skin has 3 layers: the epidermis, dermis and sub-cutaneous tissue. The hypodermis connects the skin to muscle and bone.

also helps maintain a stable inner environment by regulating the water and electrolyte balance in the body, and in this way it works hand in hand with the kidneys. The skin is also a sense organ, richly endowed with nerve endings which relay messages to the brain about sensations from the environment, heat or cold, pleasure or pain. It can be a useful diagnostic tool, reflecting the effect of our outer environment as well as our inner state physically


and emotionally. When we are healthy our skin glows, when unwell it may look sallow. When stressed or anxious it can looked pale and pinched, when happy and carefree it has a rosy lustre. Rashes and eczema may be related to contact with outside allergens, micro organisms, chemicals, sunlight, pollutants or poor diet, or may be related to emotional problems like anxiety or grief. The skin’s resilience to external and internal disturbance depends to some extent on the nutrients brought to the skin by the underlying blood vessels which also need to remove the waste products of metabolism. A healthy skin will not allow infection to proliferate because its local immune mechanisms work well, but impaired skin function will allow infection to spread, unable to rally its defences sufficiently to resolve the infection without outside help. To maintain good blood flow to the skin, it is important to take regular exercise and avoid smoking, since it causes constriction of blood vessels and prevents the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the skin. To keep your skin healthy, eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of protein, essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 from oily fish and flax seeds and antioxidants from fresh organic fruit and vegetables. Deficiencies of certain minerals, vitamins and trace elements and an excess of junk foods that create a state of toxicity can impair the skin’s resilience and predispose to a number of skin disorders. Herbs can perform vital roles of increasing blood flow to the skin, providing vital nutrients, helping to clear the toxins, heat and infection that give rise to a variety of skin problems.



Herpes simplex comes in two forms, cold sores that generally appear around the mouth (HSV-1) and genital Herpes (HSV-2). In the past, it was thought that HSV-2 was responsible for causing most genital Herpes infections, but today an increasing proportion of these are due to HSV-1, which causes cold sores on the lips or mouth as it can be spread to the genital area. This highly contagious virus is a relative of chicken pox and Epstein-Barr virus and Herpes zoster, which causes shingles. Once infected, the virus remains dormant but erupts when immunity is lowered by stress, poor diet, infections such as colds and exposure to sun, wind and cold. Useful herbs • Adaptogenic herbs shatavari, aloe vera, Chinese angelica, shiitake and reishi mushrooms and gotu kola can be taken long term to strengthen immunity and help prevent outbreaks. • Effective antiviral herbs include lemon balm, calendula, oregano, thyme, cat’s claw, lavender, St John’s wort, echinacea and liquorice. • Other good antivirals include bearberry, golden seal, olive leaf, andrographis, pau d’arco, garlic, neem, Oregon grape, and wild indigo. • When outbreaks occur these can be taken every 2 hours and used externally also. • Fresh bruised leaves of lemon balm can be applied or used in infusion to bathe the area. Melissa oil, aloe vera gel, or a black teabag can also be applied directly.



Other measures A diet low in the amino acid arginine, which can activate the virus, and high in lysine, which can suppress it, is recommended. –– Supplements of vitamin C, zinc and quercetin also help combat the Herpes virus.

the skin. Burdock, red clover, cleavers, neem, dandelion, globe artichoke, milk thistle and aloe vera help clear heat and inflammation. • Creams or oils containing chamomile, evening primrose oil, calendula, chickweed or lavender, or aloe vera gel can soothe inflammation.


Other measures Probiotics help replace beneficial gut flora. –– Evening primrose seed oil will provide GLA, which is often deficient in eczema sufferers. –– Vitamins A, B, C, and E, zinc magnesium, calcium, and iron are also helpful.

Eczema is a systemic problem, not simply an external irritation. An allergic reaction to foods such as gluten and dairy or other external irritants such as animal dander and house dust mites is often involved. The local immune mechanisms in the skin may be put under pressure by underuse of the other eliminative pathways, the bowels and kidneys, or immunity may be lowered by dietary deficiencies, chronic toxicity, poor digestion, dysbiosis and stress. Adverse drug reactions and chemical irritants such as washing powder can also be implicated. Useful herbs • To soothe the allergic response, use antihistamines chamomile, yarrow, feverfew, nettles, biakal skullcap or lemon balm. • Adaptogenic herbs aswagandha, guduchi, amalaki, shizandra, liquorice, shiitake and reishi mushroom, aloe vera and ginseng all increase general immunity and improve resilience to stress. • Antimicrobial herbs to combat unfriendly gut microorganisms that can be implicated in allergies can be used, including pau d’arco, neem, andrographis, chamomile, burdock and turmeric. • Gentle relaxants chamomile, passion flower, skullcap, vervain, lavender and rosemary help reduce tension and anxiety. • Alterative herbs are cleaning and support the liver’s detoxifying work, taking the strain off


Overactive sebaceous glands due to hormonal changes during adolescence make the skin oily. The sebum blocks hair follicles, causing them to become inflamed and infected, and producing the characteristic blackheads and spots. Acne can also be indicative of food intolerances, particularly to dairy produce, junk foods (especially sugar), nutritional deficiencies, toxicity, dysbiosis, and stressed adrenals. Useful herbs • It is important to support the liver and bowels in their detoxifying work in order to take the load off the skin as an eliminative organ, and prevent a build up of hormones in the body. Burdock, milk thistle, dandelion root, red clover, guduchi, cleavers, liquorice and dock are all suitable. • For constipation take 1–2 teaspoons of linseeds or psyllium seeds, soaked in a little warm water, before bed. • To clear the skin use antimicrobial and antiinflammatory herbs like echinacea, neem, myrrh, turmeric, amalaki, Oregon grape, and wild indigo.


• Other cleansing herbs include nettles, bringaraj, aloe vera, pau d’arco, cat’s claw, wild pansy and andrographis. • Useful hormone balancing herbs are vitex, wild yaw, evening primrose oil and saw palmetto. Other measures Try to leave the skin alone, clean it daily with rose water, apply infusions of marigold, elderflower or lavender afterwards and never squeeze pimples. –– Once the skin has cleared of spots, apply use a few drops of either neroli or lavender oil in aqueous cream or vitamin E cream to heal the scars.


–– Avoid fatty foods, dairy produce, chocolate, alcohol, sweets, red meats, iodine-rich foods, tea and coffee.


An allergic skin condition causing an itchy rash looking like a nettle sting, urticaria is linked to underlying problems including intestinal parasites, dysbiosis, poor liver function and lowered immunity. It can be triggered by food allergies, for example to citrus fruits, dairy, strawberries, chocolate, tomatoes, shell fish, foods high in salicylates, nuts and artificial colourings, or contact with substances like animal dander, pollen, chemicals, insect stings and drugs. It can be aggravated by cold, heat, exercise and sunlight. Useful herbs • Alterative herbs burdock, Oregon grape, barberry, dandelion root, chickweed, cleavers, neem, guduchi, calendula and blue flag taken internally clear toxins from the body and support the liver. Strong teas of these can be added to baths or used to bathe the skin. • 25mls of aloe vera juice in the morning and evening also clears toxins and enhances immunity, and the gel is soothing applied to the skin. • Useful herbs with antihistamine actions, turmeric, ginger, liquorice, nettles, yarrow, chamomile, lemon balm, baikal skullcap or feverfew can be taken to reduce the allergic reaction. • Echinacea, golden seal, gotu kola, bringaraj, manjishta, schizandra, coriander, red clover or rose can also be taken to clear heat and reduce inflammation.

Burdock helps to clear inflamed skin.



Other measures Supplements of evening primrose oil and quercitrin reduce inflammation and enhance immunity. –– Probiotics and oregano oil capsules taken separately help resolve dysbiosis.

Infections of the Skin

A variety of microorganisms can invade the skin. Boils and abscesses arise from infections of the hair roots and sweat glands caused by Staphylococcus bacteria and dead white corpuscles. Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial infection that starts as a rash of small blisters and then forms yellow scabs around the lips, nose and ears. It can develop as a secondary infection on the skin where it is already disturbed as in eczema, scabies and cold sores. Ringworm or athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection, which spreads in warm, moist condition such as around swimming pools and in bathrooms, and can be resilient to treatment. Caused by tiny mites burrowing into the skin, scabies is an intensely itchy condition and highly contagious. When the eggs hatch they can be passed on easily by direct contact or from bed linen, clothing (where they can survive for about 2 weeks) or from pets. Useful herbs • Echinacea, marigold, thyme, sage, pau d’arco, cat’s claw, wild indigo, or turmeric, are useful antimicrobial herbs to take to enhance immunity and combat infection. • Garlic is excreted via the pores, disinfecting the skin as it goes. • Cleavers, nettles, chickweed, dandelion, burdock, milk thistle and red clover help clear heat and toxins from the system that predispose to infection and boost immunity.

• Externally, hot poultices of marshmallow or burdock with antiseptic oils of lavender or thyme will bring boils to a head. Infected skin ban be bathed with warm teas of marigold, myrrh, golden seal, echinacea, cat’s claw, or neem, or dilute oils of lavender, rosemary or peppermint NB: Repeated attacks of boils indicate a run-down condition that requires further investigation and could be sign of diabetes.

Warts and Verrucae

Warts are small growths composed of dead cells and caused by a virus (HPV or human papilloma virus). They are spread easily by direct contact or in wet places, for example in bathrooms and

Greater celandine encourages the skin to heal, and its enzymes dissolve warts.


around swimming pools, and are most common on the hands and feet, where they are called plantar warts or verrucae. They also occur around the genitals and in women can predispose to cervical dysplasia (precancerous changes in the cervix). The development of warts, especially when several occur at a time, indicates lowered immunity, and it is important to treat the problem systemically as well as locally. Useful herbs • The most successful remedy is fresh juice of greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) applied twice daily. • The white juice from the fresh dandelion, fresh elderberry juice, aloe vera juice, fresh lemon balm, garlic, ginger or olive leaf preparations can be applied to the warts. • Immune-enhancing and antiviral herbs lemon balm, wild indigo, St John’s wort, pau d’arco, cat’s claw, aloe vera, barberry, garlic, echinacea and olive leaf help combat the infection. • Burdock, cleavers, dandelion root, blue flag, red clover and poke root help clear toxins from the system and are indicated in most skin problems. NB: Seek medical attention if a wart grows or changes suddenly as it may indicate skin cancer.


A complex auto-immune skin problem, psoriasis speeds up the normal growth and renewal of skin cells by 5–10 times and produces the build up of scaly patches which can appear almost anywhere on the body. It can affect fingernails, leaving them discoloured, pitted or split and is sometimes associated with polyarthritis. It may be hereditary


or triggered by excess alcohol, sunburn, skin injury, a Streptococcal throat infection, stress or shock and can be improved by sunlight and visits to the Dead Sea. Food allergies, incomplete protein digestion, disturbances of the gut flora, poor liver function and nutritional deficiencies can also play a part. Useful herbs • Herbs containing psoralens such as angelica, wild carrot, celery seed, and fennel can help clear the skin especially in combination with sun bathing. • Antioxidant herbs like Oregon grape, barberry, golden seal, or gotu kola reduce free radical damage to the skin and decrease inflammation. • Alkaloids in Oregon grape root slow the proliferation of skin cells. • Milk thistle and coleus can also slow down the growth of skin cells. • Sarsaparilla, honeysuckle, boswellia, raw rehmannia root, neem, turmeric, evening primrose oil and paeony are other good anti-inflammatories. To aid the liver in its detoxifying work, use burdock, yellow dock, red clover, turmeric or dandelion. Guggulu is also excellent. • Externally, creams containing chamomile, liquorice, turmeric, lavender oil, evening primrose oil, aloe vera juice, Oregon grape, capsaicin from cayenne, or oats can relieve discomfort. Other measures Supplements of omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamin A and zinc are recommended.



The Eyes Often described as the “gateway to the soul”, our eyes are one of the sense organs and clearly express emotions like joy, excitement and happiness as well as fear, anxiety, anger, grief, and suffering. As such they convey much about our state of health both physically and mentally. The white, opaque part of the eye is the sclera which protects the eye and serves as an attachment for the muscles that move it. Light passes through the transparent cornea, which is like a dome at the front of the eye, under which is the iris and pupil. The iris is the coloured part of the eye which is composed of muscles that govern the amount of light that enters it, while the pupil is the hole that lets light pass through into the back of the eye. The aqueous humour is the fluid between the lens and cornea and the vitreous humour is the fluid in the major part of the eyeball. The crystalline lens behind the pupil focuses light onto the retina, which is composed of thousands of tiny structures known as rods and cones, which are responsible for conveying messages via the optic nerve to the brain, and ultimately results in vision. Light also influences our physical health, and mental and emotional state. Sunlight entering the eye stimulates the secretion of endorphins by the pineal gland and these give us a feeling of wellbeing. During the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere the many hours of darkness can predispose to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and reduced resistance to infection, so it is important to spend time outside in sunlight, even on a dull day.

The production of tears and crying is another important function of the eyes. Tears contain endorphins, which are opiate-like substances that help us to release emotional pain and tension and calm us down. In addition, tears washed constantly in tiny amounts across the eyes protect them from damage and help clear away debris. The inner and outer surfaces of each eye are covered with the delicate conjunctiva lubricated by tears which drain into the channels passing into the nose. The eyelids also protect the eyes. There are certain nutrients which are vital to eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidant carotenoids found in dark, green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, squash, peas, broccoli, corn and eggs. It helps protect the eyes from oxidative stress and high-energy light. It is found in the macula, a small area of the retina responsible for central vision, and a diet rich in lutein helps to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration as we get older. Essential fatty acids including omega-3 from fatty fish, walnuts, soya beans and flax seeds are also vital. High levels of antioxidant vitamins A, C and E can reduce the risk of cataracts and also play a role in delaying age-related macular degeneration. Copper found in mixed nuts, sunflower seeds, liver, beans and lentils is another


antioxidant that has a specific relevance to the eyes. Red meat and poultry contain a good level of zinc. Zinc found in oysters, fortified cereals, nuts, beans, red meat and poultry is also important to eye health and the maintenance of good vision through macular function. Elderberries and bilberries are rich in antioxidants, known as anthocyanocides, and help to protect the eyes. Anthocyanocides contain or boost the action of a molecule known as glutathione, a key antioxidant found in the aqueous humour and necessary for prevention of a variety of eye problems, including cataracts, in later life. They help support the repair and synthesis of new capillaries and are used to improve night vision and treat disorders of the retina. Other herbs with a similar action include astragalus root, milk thistle seed, turmeric root, and garlic. The eyelids and conjunctiva are prone to various problems which can be successfully treated using herbs including chamomile, calendula, marshmallow and elderflowers.

The Eye Each eye is protected by an eyebrow, eyelashes and eyelid, while tear ducts produce a fluid that keeps the eye moist and free from infection. The eye’s movement is controlled by 3 pairs of extrinsic eye muscles.


Conjunctivitis, Blepharitis and Sties

In conjunctivitis the lining of the eye becomes irritated by infection, allergies such as hay fever and rhinitis, dust or pollution in the atmosphere, and the eye becomes red, inflamed, and often weepy. In blepharitis the eyelids become red and inflamed, often indicating depleted immunity, a toxic system or allergy. Sties are inflammations or infections of the glands at the base of the eyelashes that tend to occur when you are run down or tired. Useful herbs • To soothe irritated and inflamed eyes, infusions of astringent and antiseptic herbs eyebright, calendula, chamomile, elderflower and rose can be taken internally and used to bathe the eyes. • Always use a sterilized eyebath and don’t use the same solution for both eyes. Black tea is a useful remedy to bathe the eyes, or a warm chamomile tea bag over each eye for 10–15 minutes.



• Warm infusions of eyebright, chamomile, elderflowers, plantain or calendula can be applied as compresses. • Antimicrobial herbs echinacea, golden seal, pau d’arco, burdock, red clover or liquorice can be taken internally to combat infection, boost immunity and detoxify the system. • Chamomile, nettles, lemon balm, yarrow, feverfew and baikal skullcap have antihistamine actions which relieve allergic eye conditions. Other measures Chronic conjunctivitis and blepharitis often respond well to omitting dairy products, tea and coffee from the diet. –– Taking supplements of evening primrose oil, probiotics and vitamins C and B can also be helpful. NB. All teas used to bathe eyes should be prepared as decoctions and simmered for 10 minutes to make sure they are sterilized.

Eye Disorders

The tendency to eye problems including cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration increases with age, largely due to free radical damage which is increased by smoking, stress and drugs such as steroids. Damage to the retina associated with diabetes, and atherosclerosis and inflammatory eye conditions, including episcleritis and iritis, can also respond to herbal treatment. Useful herbs • Foods and herbs rich in antioxidants can improve blood flow to the eyes and prevent degenerative eye conditions. Antioxidant herbs include bilberries, elderberries, hawthorn berries, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, kelp,

• •

• •

self heal, rehmania, shatavari, amalaki, ashwagandha, ginkgo and cat’s claw. Grape seed extract strengthens blood vessels within the eye and inhibits macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Coleus increases circulation within the eye and decreases intra-occular pressure in glaucoma. Rosemary, ginkgo, eyebright, vervain, and peppermint increase the circulation to and from the eye. Pasque flower and chamomile can be taken for painful inflammatory eye conditions such as scleritis and iritis. Turmeric, paeony root, boswellia, gentian, dandelion root and amalaki are also helpful. Tepid chamomile tea bags laid on the eyes for 10-15 minutes can bring swift relief to pain.

Other measures Foods containing vitamins A, B and C and supplements of antioxidants, including lutein, protect against free radical damage and help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. NB: Seek medical attention immediately if you experience eye pain or sudden changes in vision.

Rose, prepared as an infusion, makes a soothing eyebath for sore or inflamed eyes.



Mouth and Gum Problems Good oral hygiene and a healthy immune system will generally keep at bay infections that can develop from the many microorganisms that inhabit the mouth. Lowered immunity from poor diet, chronic illness such as diabetes, digestive problems, dysbiosis, food allergies, alcohol, smoking, stress, tiredness and mercury fillings can lead to infections and inflammatory problems, including bleeding gums and mouth ulcers. Useful herbs • Antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory herbs echinacea, cat’s claw, myrrh, sage, thyme, calendula, chamomile, golden seal or peppermint can be used as mouthwashes to combat infections in the mouth and internally to improve immunity, remedy gut problems and combat dysbiosis. • Bitter detoxifying herbs burdock, dandelion, milk thistle, guduchi, amalaki and dock can be added to prescriptions to support the work of the liver. • Astringent herbs plantain, thyme, calendula, agrimony, rose, vervain, periwinkle or yarrow make good mouthwashes for strengthening gums and stopping bleeding. • Antioxidants taken internally in herbs including guduchi, bilberry, hawthorn, cat’s claw, self heal and oregano help protect blood vessels from free radical damage.

Other measures It is important to floss daily and rinse the mouth daily with herbal antiseptics as preventative measures.

Vervain, prepared as a mouthwash, can strengthen gums and stop bleeding.



The Hormonal System The hormonal or endocrine system is a system of chemical messaging. Its purpose is communication and coordinating many different functions of the body which enable homeostasis, i.e. maintaining the stable state within the body which is vital for health. These include tissue function, metabolism and the production of energy, reproduction, mood, growth and development. These huge feats are accomplished via a network of endocrine glands and organs that produce, store, and secrete hormones as they are required by the body. They work in conjunction with the nervous system, reproductive system, kidneys, gut, liver and pancreas. Hormones are special chemicals that are manufactured by one cell or a group of cells and carried in the bloodstream to specific targets, which may be organs, tissues, or cells. Different types of hormones cause different effects on other cells or tissues of the body. Endocrine glands are located in many regions of the body, and include the hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary or master gland, and which in turn controls the other glands which include the thyroid, parathyroid, thymus and adrenal glands, the pancreas, the ovaries and testis. For healthy functioning of our endocrine system, the glands need to work correctly, the blood needs to carry hormones efficiently to their target points, and the receptor sites on the target cells need to respond properly for the hormones to enter the cells and do their work. Too much or too little of any of the hormones secreted by these glands can cause disruption in the body.

For example too much growth hormone from the pituitary gland will mean you grow excessively tall. Too little and you will be very short. Too little insulin from the pancreas causes diabetes. Excess thyroid hormones cause an increase in metabolism which imposes a strain on the nervous system and heart, while low thyroid function causes lethargy and weight problems. Imbalances of reproductive hormones cause a wide range of menstrual, sexual and gynaecological problems and influence fertility. Such hormonal imbalances may be caused by problems with cell receptor sites, problems regulating the hormones in the blood stream, or the body may have difficulty controlling hormone levels due to poor breakdown and excretion of hormones from the body due to low liver or kidney function. For our hormonal system to function well we need to eat a healthy diet, with plenty of essential fatty acids, minerals, particularly magnesium, trace elements and antioxidant nutrients including beta carotene, zinc, selenium, and vitamins B, C, and E. Stress, coffee and alcohol and nutritional deficiencies can significantly disrupt hormonal balance. Herbs such as liquorice and echinacea


The Endocrine System The endocrine glands produce hormones, the “chemical messengers”, and release them into the bloodstream. Endocrine glands include the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands, as well as the ovaries, the testes, part of the pancreas and the placenta.




support the thymus gland in its immune work; bladderwrack and ashwagandha influence the thyroid; vitex helps to regulate the pituitary gland; liquorice, wild yam and ginsengs influence the adrenals; wild yam, black cohosh, vitex, shatavari, ashwagandha and ginseng all help regulate reproductive hormones. Bitter herbs such as dandelion root, milk thistle and burdock help the liver’s breakdown of hormones so they are excreted from the body once they have done their work.

Premenstrual Syndrome

The familiar physical, mental and emotional symptoms of PMS in the second half of the cycle are generally linked to excess oestrogen in relation to progesterone. Environmental toxins from plastics, PCBs, and pesticides that mimic oestrogen in the body, oestrogen residues in tap water and meat as well as the liver’s inability to break down oestrogen, all disrupts normal hormone balance. Deficiencies of nutrients, particularly magnesium, B complex, zinc and essential fatty acids are often responsible also. Useful herbs • Vitex is the best known herb to increase progesterone and is generally taken as a tincture – half a tsp half an hour before breakfast. • Adaptogenic herbs wild yam, liquorice, ashwagandha, shatavai, Chinese angelica, and black cohosh are rich in steroidal saponins and increase resilience to stress and balance hormones. Nervines to stabilise emotions include wild oats, skullcap, chamomile, gotu kola, bringaraj and motherwort. • Liver herbs such as burdock, dandelion, guduchi, milk thistle, barberry and dock are important to help the breakdown of hormones. • Diuretic herbs cleavers, dandelion, corn silk,

fennel, coriander, celery and wild carrot will help relieve fluid retention, bloating and breast discomfort. Other measures Evening primrose oil and supplements of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, and B complex can significantly relieve PMS symptoms.

Menstrual Problems

Menstrual problems are largely due to hormone imbalances and nutritional deficiencies. Irregular or absent periods are also associated with intense exercise, nutritional deficiency, sudden weight loss, drugs, and psychological stress or shock. Other endocrine disorders can be involved. Painful periods are related to poor circulation, stress, overwork and muscular tension, lack of exercise, bad posture and caffeine. Heavy periods can be caused by fibroids, polyps, thyroid problems, uterine congestion, and perimenopause. Useful herbs • To regulate hormones use vitex, wild yam, Chinese angelica or shatavari with liquorice and evening primrose oil. • Combine these with liver herbs like burdock, holy thistle, Oregon grape or dandelion to aid the breakdown of hormones. • For intense cramps with scanty bleeding, cramp bark, black haw, motherwort, pasque flower, and black cohosh are excellent taken every 2 hours when necessary. • For associated tension add valerian, passion flower, chamomile or hops. • Rub oils of chamomile, lavender or rosemary gently into the abdomen. • For heavy bleeding astringent herbs like beth root, yarrow, periwinkle, lady’s mantle,


agrimony, bearberry, rehmania, bayberry, and rose can be taken 3–6 times daily as required. Iron containing foods and herbs like nettle, coriander leaf, codonopsis, amalaki, kelp and dock help combat anaemia. Other measures Avoid caffeine, alcohol, refined and junk foods. –– Take supplements of vitamin C, B complex, zinc and magnesium. –– Take regular exercise.

Benign Breast Problems

Benign mammary dysplasia (BMD) (also known as fibrocystic breast disease or cyclical mastalgia) is characterized by breast lumps and tenderness, which fluctuates through the menstrual cycle,


usually worst when premenstrual. It is related to oestrogen levels, deficiencies of selenium, and aggravated by the methlyxanthines in coffee, tea, chocolate and cola. Thyroid hormones help the liver’s metabolism of oestrogen and low thyroid levels are related to high blood oestrogen levels. Excess dietary fat, dairy produce, refined carbohydrates, constipation, and stress are also contributory factors. Mastitis involves infection in the breast that occurs when breastfeeding. Useful herbs • Hormone balancing herbs vitex, wild yam, Chinese angelica, saw palmetto, shatavari or liquorice can help normalise breast tissue. • Liver remedies burdock, dandelion, holy thistle, milk thistle, and gentian aid the liver’s metabolism of oestrogen. • Cleavers, dandelion root, blue flag, calendula and poke root stimulate lymphatic drainage from the breast and reduce lumps and infection. • If breasts are particularly painful add analgesic and the hormone balancer black cohosh. • To regulate the thyroid gland kelp and guggulu are recommended. Other measures Supplements of evening primrose oil, magnesium, vitamins B6, B12 and E are helpful. –– Use dilute oils of lavender, fennel or rose, or castor oil for daily breast massage. NB: It is important to investigate further any breast problems.

Vaginal Infections Chaste tree is renowned for its ability to balance hormones through its action on the pituitary or master gland.

The delicate environment of pH and flora of the vagina can be disturbed by hormonal imbalances, antibiotics, stress, poor diet, the pill, pregnancy,



post menopausal changes and diabetes, and becomes susceptible to inflammation and infection. Yeast infections (thrush) are most common and tend to be related to gut dysbiosis. Trichomonas, gardenerella, HPV (vaginal warts), Herpes and bacterial vaginiosis (common after menopause) can also occur. Useful herbs • Antimicrobial herbs to combat infection include calendula, golden seal, thyme, chamomile, lavender, pau d’arco, neem, turmeric, echinacea or oregano which can be taken internally. They can also be used locally in creams, douches, sitz baths and lotions in which tampons can be soaked and inserted for half an hour, morning and night. • Garlic is a great antimicrobial for internal and external use, active against bacterial, viral and fungal infections like thrush. Peel a clove carefully without nicking it, wrap it in clean gauze and insert for 6 consecutive nights. • Alternatively, add a teaspoon of fresh garlic juice to a few tablespoons of yogurt, soak a tampon in it or use as a douche twice daily. • If the area is sore and inflamed sitting in a bowl of chamomile tea is wonderfully relieving. These herbs will resolve infection in the vagina and more systemic problems of toxicity and dysbiosis. • Immune enhancing herbs like ashwagandha, shatavari, guduchi, amalaki and shizandra can be taken after infection to prevent further problems. • Hormone balancing herbs vitex, sage, wild yam or sage can be used for post-menopausal infections.

Gentian stimulates the gall bladder and liver, and helps the liver process oestrogen.

NB: Seek medical attention if you suspect sexually transmitted infection.


This is the growth of tissue similar to that lining the uterus, normally within the pelvic cavity and rarely in the lungs and even the nose. It grows and bleeds through the cycle just like the uterine wall. Symptoms can include sharp pain before periods and with intercourse, and heavy bleeding. Adhesions may form between womb and bowel and inhibit conception, leading to infertility. Causes include hormone imbalances, retroverted menstruation linked to the use of tampons and IUDs, stress, and immune problems caused by oestrogen mimicking pollutants as in plastics and pesticides.


Useful herbs • Vitex, ashwagandha, Chinese angelica, wild yam, shatavari, paeony, liquorice or black cohosh help to balance hormones. • Cramp bark, pasque flower, black cohosh, or passion flower help to relieve pain and can be taken in acute doses. • A massage with sesame or castor oil with 2 drops of lavender, rosemary, rose, chamomile or ginger oil per 5mls will also help. • Hawthorn, ginger, gotu kola and prickly ash improve circulation to the uterus and relieve pelvic congestion. • Ashwagandha, skullcap, Siberian ginseng, shatavari and wild oats increase resilience to stress. • For heavy bleeding astringent herbs beth root, yarrow, periwinkle, lady’s mantle, agrimony, rehmania, bayberry or rose can be helpful. • To help the breakdown and excretion of hormones, use liver herbs burdock, milk thistle, holy thistle or dandelion. Other Measures Supplements of evening primrose oil, magnesium, vitamins B and E, zinc, and calcium are helpful. –– It is important to avoid caffeine, alcohol, refined and junk foods, and to take regular exercise.


Low libido, hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, “mid-life crises”, depression and insomnia are some of the symptoms that can characterise the menopause, when levels of oestrogen and progesterone decline to the point where menstruation ceases. The adrenal glands take over the production of similar hormones, but stress and adrenal exhaustion can impair their ability to do so adequately, triggering the familiar symptoms. Subsequent health problems include increased risk of osteoporosis and heart and arterial disease.


Ashwagandha enhances resilience to stress and has a balancing effect on the hormones.

Useful herbs • Several plants contain isoflavones, similar in structure to oestrogen, called phyto-oestrogens. They occur in shatavari, red clover, Chinese angelica, wild yam, wild indigo, Siberian ginseng, liquorice, red clover and black cohosh which also support the adrenals, increase resilience to stress and are very helpful for relieving menopausal symptoms. • Vitex, motherwort, sage, chamomile, hops, lady’s mantle, aloe vera, hawthorn, fennel, sarsaparilla and rehmania will also reduce menopausal symptoms. • Burdock, dandelion, holy thistle, and milk thistle will aid the liver’s metabolism of hormones. Relaxants chamomile, pasque flower, chamomile, motherwort, vervain, wild oats and lemon balm are calming where anxiety is aggravating symptoms.



Other measures Evening primrose oil and supplements of vitamin E, calcium and magnesium are recommended.

Low Sex Drive/Impotence

Lack of sexual interest in men and women and erectile dysfunction in men are increasingly common problems. Hormone imbalances, stress, depression, pain, obesity, poor health, low energy, marital problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, circulatory problems, effects of drugs and smoking are all contributory factors. Low libido is frequently experienced by women around the menopause, and male impotence is related to environmental toxins and particularly the oestrogenic effects of plastics, pesticides and hormones used in animal rearing.

• Oats, rose, rosemary, gotu kola, vervain and skullcap are good relaxants. • Black cohosh, wild yam, sage, motherwort and vitex balance hormones during the menopause. • Sarsaparilla, saw palmetto and damiana support production of male hormones. • Gingko, ginger, cinnamon, hawthorn, and gotu kola help circulatory problems. • Detoxifying remedies burdock, nettles, dock, and milk thistle to support the liver and clear side effects of drugs.

Infertility and Low Sperm Count

Useful herbs • Excellent herbs for balancing hormones, increasing sexual energy and performance, are ashwagandha, gokshura, shatavari, astragalus, Chinese angelica, schizandra, liquorice, panax and Siberian ginseng. These adaptogenic remedies also increase resilience to stress and counter the effects of anxiety and depression.

Infertility is reaching epidemic proportions, perhaps related to the effect of environmental toxins and residues of the contraceptive pill in water supplies which are causing widespread hormonal imbalances. Men and women are both affected, with approximately one third of problems being accounted for in men. Hernia surgery, tubule infection, chlamydia, diabetes, drugs, mumps, stress, smoking, toxic metals and nutritional deficiencies all may effect sperm count. It takes 100 days for sperm to develop, so treatment needs to be continued over several months.

Hawthorn improves circulation to the uterus and relieves pelvic congestion.

Useful herbs • Detoxifying herbs including kelp, burdock, andrographis, globe artichoke, reishi and shiitake mushrooms, guduchi, milk thistle and nettle all help to support the liver’s breakdown of drugs and toxins. • Hormone balancing and adaptogenic herbs to enhance fertility include ashwagandha, shatavari, vitex, wild yam, astragalus, Chinese angelica, schizandra, liquorice, panax and Siberian ginseng. They also increase resilience to stress and counter the effects of anxiety and depression.



• Black cohosh, motherwort, evening primrose oil and rose can also be used for menstrual problems. Other measures Supplements of B-complex, zinc, vitamin E, omega-3 and 6 oils, and coenzyme Q10 are recommended. –– Pesticides are designed to disrupt the reproductive cycle of the insect, fungus, or weed it is trying to kill! Eat Organic!


Fibroids are benign growths consisting of smooth muscle tissue, which develop in the uterine wall. There may be a single fibroid, or, more commonly, several. They are related to excess oestrogen, overuse of the contraceptive pill, uterine congestion, overweight and stress and shrink after the menopause. Approximately 1 in 3 women have fibroids, but they are so small they are symptomless. Large fibroids cause heavy periods, clots, enlarged abdomen, pressure symptoms in the bladder, constipation, and anaemia. They tend to grow in pregnancy and may cause miscarriage. Methylxanthines in coffee also stimulate their growth. Useful herbs • Hormone balancing herbs vitex, wild yam, motherwort, paeony, saw palmetto or liquorice can help normalise oestrogen levels. • Liver remedies burdock, dandelion, holy thistle, milk thistle, dock or gentian aid the liver’s metabolism of oestrogen and help reduce tumours. • Astringent herbs like beth root, raspberry leaf, yarrow, periwinkle, lady’s mantle, agrimony,

Paeony helps to regulate female hormones and is highly regarded in traditional Chinese medicine.

bearberry, rehmania, bayberry, or rose reduce heavy bleeding. • Iron containing foods and herbs like nettle, coriander leaf, codonopsis, amalaki, kelp and dock help combat anaemia. • Poke root and guggulu are also specific for reducing fibroid growths. • Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha and shizandra enhance resilience to stress. Other measures Avoid caffeine, alcohol, fatty and junk food. –– Take supplements of vitamin C, B complex, zinc and magnesium. –– Take regular exercise. –– Supplements of evening primrose oil, magnesium and zinc are helpful.



Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs on or near the ovaries which cause no symptoms if small, but if large or numerous (polycystic) cause abdominal swelling, pain with intercourse, pressure on the bladder, hormone imbalances, irregularity or absence of periods, infertility and risk of miscarriage. Lack of dietary fibre and excess carbohydrates and junk foods, combined with overburdening the liver from toxins are linked to the rise of ovarian cysts. Pelvic congestion from poor circulation and lack of exercise are also implicated. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic problem related to excess testosterone, raised blood sugar or insulin levels and insulin resistance. It is associated with weight gain, acne, hirsutism, sugar cravings and mood swings. Useful herbs • Chinese angelica, paeony, liquorice, vitex or saw palmetto with evening primrose seed oil can be taken to balance hormones. • Liver herbs milk thistle, barberry, dandelion root, burdock, agrimony or holy thistle help breakdown and excretion of hormones and reestablishment of normal hormone levels by increasing production of sex hormone binding globulins (SHBGs), which bind free testosterone and reduce its effects, such as acne and hirsutism. • Gymnema, fenugreek, neem, turmeric and goat’s rue help to regulate blood sugar and reduce insulin resistance. Other measures Losing weight can have dramatic results. –– Avoiding tea, coffee, fatty and refined foods and supplements of chromium, B complex, vitamin E,

vitamin C and bioflavonoids, zinc, co-enzyme Q 10 and magnesium is recommended. NB: Cysts can be cancerous so seek medical attention to confirm diagnosis.

Thyroid Problems

The thyroid gland works in conjunction with the pituitary gland, which produces thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to make hormones T3 and T4, which play a vital role in metabolism. Hypothyroidism, when the thyroid is underactive, causes slow metabolism, low energy, weight gain, fluid retention, dry skin and hair. Hyperthyroidism, when it is over-active, causes goitre, weight loss, anxiety, heat intolerance and palpitations. Thyroid imbalances are complex and linked to poor diet, excess sugar, stress, adrenal exhaustion, autoimmune problems, food allergies, gluten intolerance, hormonal changes, viruses and dysbiosis. Useful herbs • Herbs to help balance the gut floras can be taken regularly in diet and as herbal preparations. These include cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, andrographis, garlic, burdock, oregano and thyme. • Coleus, guggulu and kelp can be taken to increase production of thyroid hormones and regulate the thyroid. • For auto-immune problems, detoxifying herbs which help metabolism include Oregon grape, dandelion root, gentian, dock, horsetail and barberry. • These can be combined with adaptogenic herbs ashwagandha, bacopa, gotu kola, wild oats, he shou wu and Siberian ginseng, which are high in anti-oxidants to regulate thyroid


activity, enhance immunity and increase resilience to stress. • To calm an over-active thyroid, use meadowsweet, motherwort, and lemon balm. Other measures Supplements of selenium, zinc, and vitamins E and B6 help conversion of T4 to T3. –– Probiotics and beta glucans are recommended.


Type 2 diabetes is a widespread problem, particularly among obese people, that involves lack of insulin production by the pancreas or resistance of the cell wall to insulin (known as insulin resistance), meaning that glucose being carried in the bloodstream cannot enter the cell to produce energy. It is currently thought that diabetes may be an autoimmune problem that is on the coeliac spectrum, meaning that a gluten intolerance could be implicated. Type 2 diabetes can be greatly improved by weight loss, changes in diet and using herbs and supplements that help to balance the gut flora and the blood sugar by supporting the pancreas and decreasing insulin resistance. These measures can help prevent complications including circulatory problems, atherosclerosis, nerve damage, retinopathy, and cataracts. Useful herbs • Gymnema, turmeric, karela and fenugreek can reduce blood sugar and the need for insulin. Gymnema is thought to regenerate pancreatic cells and increase insulin receptors. • Other helpful herbs include garlic, nettle,


guggulu, pau d’arco, cat’s claw, turnera, goat’s rue, and neem. • Bilberry and ginkgo help prevent complications by improving circulation, strengthening blood vessel walls and preventing oxidative damage. • Dandelion and agrimony promote liver function, which is involved in maintaining normal sugar levels. • Adaptogens like holy basil, liquorice, Siberian ginseng, amalaki and guduchi improve resilience to stress, including free radical damage which can contribute to diabetes. Other measures Weight loss, low fat diet, avoidance of refined carbohydrates and taking regular exercise are recommended. –– Supplements of chromium, zinc, magnesium, probiotics and B complex are helpful.

Burdock can be taken to balance the gut flora and help the metabolism.

Growing, Harvesting and Storing Herbs There’s no better way to be sure of the provenance of your herbs than growing them yourself; then you will be sure of their identity, be reassured of their organic status and be able to harvest them at the most potent time for their active ingredients. Many herbs are easy to grow – indeed a few are considered invasive weeds by some – and instructions on preparing the soil, sowing and propagating, harvesting and preserving herbs to retain their maximum therapeutic properties are included in this chapter.



Growing Herbs Herbs are greatly rewarding plants to grow. Providing they have suitable soil and shelter from prevailing winds, most medicinal herbs grow easily in temperate climates, with no specialist knowledge or skills required. Any herbs that originate from tropical regions will take a little more care, can be put outside only after the last frosts have gone, and should be taken indoors in the autumn. A herb garden can be as large or small, and as formal or informal as you like. Whatever space you have available can be adapted to growing herbs. They can be intermingled with flowers and shrubs in large or small herbaceous borders, adding interest and beauty with their attractive foliage and architectural shapes, not to mention their delicious scents. Or they can be planted in specially designed herb gardens, in corners of vegetable gardens, or intermingled with the vegetables (where they can work well as companion plants to deter pests). If you have less space you can plant herbs in pots on a patio or even on your window sill, or in window boxes. Both the planning and the practical laying out of a herb garden can bring many hours of pleasure and satisfaction. Medicinal herbs consist of a mixture of annuals, biennials, perennials, shrubs and even trees. Annual herbs include dill, coriander, basil, German chamomile, and marigold, and these can easily be grown from seed. Once grown they may self-seed fairly freely and can be either left to grow as they are or, as seedlings, transplanted to their preferred site in the garden in springtime.

Biennials take two summers to come into flower, usually producing an attractive rosette of leaves in the first year. They include burdock, angelica, mullein, and evening primrose, all of which also self-seed freely. Herbaceous perennials continue from one year to the next, dying down in autumn and reappearing in spring the following year. They can mostly be grown from seed, but may be easier to grow from other methods of propagation such as root division, planting cuttings or offsets. Many common herbs can be bought in nurseries or garden centres, and more unusual herbs can be found in specialist herb nurseries. Pot herbs can be planted at most times of the year, except when the ground is frozen or covered with snow, and provided they are healthy they will establish themselves with very little trouble. Try to avoid planting new pot herbs in dry, hot weather, and if weather does become dry around newly planted herbs then keep them well-watered until they are fully established. Always ensure that you choose strong healthy-looking plants, free from disease or insects, and avoid straggly plants and those whose roots are escaping from the bottom of the pot.


Make sure the plants are clearly labelled to avoid confusion later. If you want your herb garden to look established quickly buy 2 or 3 of each herb to plant in groups. Some fast-growing perennials may have to be moved once they grow and need more space.

Planning Your Herb Garden

Before planting your herbs it is well worth making rough plans of your garden, or the space you have available, and a planting design on paper before approaching the practical side of planting. Firstly, you need to decide where you will grow your herbs. Planting them near the house has its advantages, as it is easy to gather them, and harder to forget what you have and risk letting them go over before you notice them, which can be very annoying! You will also see and have more chance to appreciate them, and their delicious scents, the nearer you have them to the house. You also need to take into account your type of soil, and how much sun or shade you have in the space you have allocated.

Soil Conditions

Herbs are fairly easy to grow, since they are generally not fussy about where they grow and will take in most situations and soils. If your soil is deep, moist and rich the plants will probably grow quickly, with lots of lush foliage, but their flavour and smell will not be as strong as herbs grown in poorer dry soil. Many of our favourite herbs, such as rosemary, sage, lavender, basil and oregano, are natives of the Mediterranean where it is dry and the soil is hard and stony, so they are used to withstanding fairly adverse conditions. Plants grown in such soils do not look so vibrant and lushly attractive but will taste and smell wonderful. However, because they grow less fast than those


grown on rich, moist soil they cannot be harvested as frequently. The kind of soil that herbs tolerate least is heavy clay soil, which in wet conditions does not drain well and can become waterlogged. Many Mediterranean herbs will rot away in such damp situations. If your soil is wet and heavy add plenty of organic matter and sharp sand to lighten it and help drainage. If your soil is very light and sandy, dig in a small amount of organic matter to make it more water retentive, and therefore more able to retain nutrients in the soil. Most herbs, particularly those that originate in warm climates, like to be grown in warm, sheltered and sunny positions, while some prefer light shade, so your herb-growing area should ideally include a shady spot. This is often provided by a hedge or fence which, when suitably placed for their protection, will have another advantage in that it allows the delicate scents of aromatic herbs to linger on warm air, and not be blown away as the would in a breezy open position. However if your garden is warm and sheltered there is no need to be too concerned about enclosing it, and herbs can be planted in the open.

Herbs such as angelica are biennials, and can take two summers to come into flower.



Sowing Seeds

You can buy herb seeds from specialist suppliers or save them from the previous year. For early plants, sow seeds in early spring, in pots or seed trays in a greenhouse or propagator. Using fresh seedling compost, sow the seeds evenly and sparingly by sprinkling them over the firmed surface of the soil or in shallow drills. Cover the seeds lightly with a thin layer of compost or fine sand and water with a fine rose on your watering can. Label clearly. Cover the tray with a piece of glass or plastic or a sheet of newspaper. Once the seeds have germinated, remove the newspaper, or once the seedlings reach the glass/ plastic sheet, remove it. When the seedlings are large enough to handle you can thin them or

transplant them to pots to encourage growth. Once they have become sturdy little plants they are ready to plant outdoors in early summer. Alternatively, you can sow seeds directly into warmer soil in late spring/early summer once all sign of winter frosts has gone. Cover the seeds with soil, the depth of which can be measured by multiplying the diameter of the seeds 2–3 times. Growing herbs from seeds is both rewarding and fascinating, particularly if you are using seeds that you have collected yourself. You may often find that your own seeds germinate more successfully than bought ones, particularly if they are fresh and sown immediately they are ripe and ready to drop. They can be sown in trays and left in a greenhouse or cold frame covered with a piece of glass or polythene until they germinate. They may not germinate until the following spring, so you need to be fairly patient. Many herbs self-seed freely if their seed heads are left alone, for example elecampane, lady’s mantle, chamomile, coriander, marigold and motherwort. Seeds will germinate when conditions are right, and will grow into strong healthy plants. If they grow where you don’t want them they can be easily moved when ready. Many variegated types of herbs, and decorative coloured herbs such as purple and golden sages, will not come true when grown from seed and so need to be propagated by other methods, such as cuttings or root division.

Root Division

Specially designed raised beds make a feature of architectural perennials, such as globe artichoke and fennel.

Herbs that form good clumps are excellent candidates for root division. In fact, for best results, herbs such as irises, valerian, lemon balm, elecampane and yarrow need to be divided every 3–4 years into smaller clumps. Root division is best done in autumn or early spring. First cut back the top growth and dig up the entire plant with a fork.


Carefully divide the clump with your hands into several pieces, each retaining a good system of roots, and replant where you have chosen. If the clump is too solid to divide with your hands you will need to use a garden fork. Dig the fork into the middle of the clump and lever it about, forcing the clump to separate.

Taking Cuttings

Taking cuttings from established plants is an easy way to propagate herbs and can be very rewarding. Softwood, semi-ripe and hardwood cuttings can be taken depending on the plant. Soft tip cuttings are generally successful with most herbaceous


HERBS FOR DIFFERENT SITES AND SOILS Full sun Lavender, basil, rosemary, coriander, sage, hyssop, thyme, marjoram. Dappled shade Angelica, mint, fennel, lemon balm, ground ivy. Shade Valerian, sweet violet. Moist loam Angelica, elecampane, meadowsweet, mints, valerian, lady’s mantle, lemon balm, skullcap, sweet violet. Well drained loam Lavender, basil, coriander, marjoram, wood betony, hyssop, rosemary, burdock, thyme, sage, dill, fennel, lady’s mantle. Chalky soil Hyssop, lavender, marjoram, motherwort, pasque flower, rosemary. Light sandy soil Chamomile, coriander, evening primrose, fennel, lavender, thyme, wild carrot, marjoram. Clay soil Burdock, mints, wormwood. Other plants will grow well in clay if there is adequate top soil, with reasonable drainage loam and moist loam. Marshy ground Horsetail, mints, iris, marshmallow, meadowsweet, skullcap, valerian, angelica.

Prick out the seedlings once they have developed their first true leaves, transferring them into individual pots.



perennials, while semi-ripe and hardwood cuttings are suitable for shrubs and small trees. When taking cuttings, gently tear a small sideshoot off a stem so that it has a heal on it, or cut the shoot’s stem just below a leaf joint using a sharp knife 2-4″/5–10cm long. Remove the lower leaves and insert into holes made with a pencil, stick or dibber around the edge of a pot of cutting compost, or a mixture of peat and sand. You may wish to dip the end into hormone rooting powder first. Firm the soil around the cuttings and water it well. Once you detect signs of new growth at the tip, lift each cutting gently using your fingers or your dibber and plant up in individual pots, disturbing the new roots as little as possible. Softwood cuttings These are best taken in spring and early summer from healthy looking plants. Once inserted around the edge of your pot or tray, spray the cuttings with water using a plant spray and cover with a plastic

Take softwood cuttings just below a leaf joint, remove the lower leaves and insert into cutting compost.

propagator lid, a sheet of polythene or an inflated plastic bag to retain the moisture. Roots develop quickly on softwood cuttings, generally within 3–6 weeks, but it can be just a few days in warm conditions. Root development stimulates leaf growth, so you will know roots are formed when you see tiny new leaves shooting at the growing tip. Once the root system has had a chance to establish itself the cutting can be gently lifted and potted up in an individual pot or planted in a nursery bed. Generally speaking, cuttings are best kept during their first winter in pots in a sheltered area, a greenhouse or plastic tunnel in cold areas, and planted out in their positions the following spring. Semi-ripe cuttings These are taken in summer when stems are harder as they ripen at the base but are still flexible. Side-shoots are taken off the new growth, torn away from the main stem leaving a little heal of older wood. Once inserted in pots or trays and watered in, they are also best covered with plastic or polythene to retain moisture, but it is not absolutely vital as they are more resilient than softwood cuttings. Keep in pots in a cold frame or a sheltered area of the garden out of direct sunlight until growth starts the following spring, as rooting takes considerably longer than softwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings These are taken from shrubby herbs or trees such as witch hazel, rosemary, hawthorn and cramp bark in autumn, once the plant is dormant. Take a side shoot of the current year’s growth up to 12″/30cm, remove lower leaves and insert half their length in compost in light soil in the garden in a sheltered position. Firm the soil around the


cutting and water well. Leave in position for around a year until a good root system is developed. Root cuttings or offsets This is the ideal method of propagation for herbs that have running roots or that send up side-shoots around the main plant, such as yarrow, chamomile, elecampane, and mint. Cut the spreading roots or runners from the parent plant at the end of summer or early autumn. Cut the root into small pieces approx 2″/5cm long and put them flat on top of a compost with a little sand in a seed tray. Cover with a plastic bag or sheet of plastic and leave in a cold frame, greenhouse, plastic tunnel or sheltered part of the garden. Once new shoots appear, remove the plastic bag and plant out.

Chamomile can be partially covered with soil in the centre so that, once rooted, new plants can be separated off.


Layering Low growing and shrubby herbs such as sage, thyme, lavender and periwinkle can be propagated by layering. Take a low growing branch and fix it with a peg or a stone in contact with the soil. If you nick the underside of the branch it will root more readily. Once a root has developed you can separate the thus formed new plant, dig it up and replant. Mounding Spreading herbs such as chamomile, thyme and marjoram can be partially covered with soil in their centre, thus bringing many different parts of the plant in contact with the soil so that, once rooted, lots of new plants can be separated off.



Harvesting Herbs When harvesting herb plants it is important to establish first which part of the plant you need, whether that be the leaves, flowers, root, rhizome or seeds, and when is the best time to harvest that required part. Choose plants that look as healthy and vibrant as possible, so they are free from disease and infestation. Make sure they are growing well away from areas that have been sprayed or polluted by traffic, industry or animals. Only pick the amount of herb that you need at any one time, as they will easily spoil and be wasted otherwise. Harvest just a few leaves and flowers from each plant so as not to threaten the health or survival of any one plant.

Leaves and Flowers

Aromatic leaves of herbs, e.g. basil, thyme, sage, mint and lemon balm are best harvested when the flowers are about to open as the essential oil content is highest at that period. Flowers and flowering tops such as St John’s wort, agrimony, goldenrod, yarrow, skullcap and hyssop are best picked as they are about to burst into bloom. A flat basket is the best vessel to collect herbs in as it makes it easier to avoid bruising or crushing leaves or flowers. They should be collected on a dry day once the dew has dried. During the growing season leaves and flowers are best gathered and used fresh, ideally straight from the garden. At the same time, harvest some extra ones for drying or freezing to last through the winter months as the growing time for herbs

is relatively short. Herbs that are particularly worth storing are those which could be useful for treating winter colds and coughs, for example hyssop, thyme, oregano, ground ivy and mullein, and for fevers, for example chamomile, yarrow and elderflowers. Fresh herbs for use in the kitchen, such as coriander leaves, mint, sage, marjoram, rosemary, basil and fennel, can be picked throughout the growing season.


Seeds such as dill, coriander and fennel need to be caught when ripe, before they drop. You can cut off the whole flower head when harvesting them, tie it up in muslin or a paper bag with string or a rubber band and hang it upside down in a well ventilated dry room. As the flower head dries the seeds will conveniently drop into the bag. Store the seeds in envelopes, foil or small boxes with well fitting lids, and label clearly with the herb name and collection date.

Roots and Rhizomes

Roots and rhizomes, for example valerian, dandelion, elecampane, and burdock, are best harvested when the aerial parts have died down


in autumn or before growing recommences in springtime, as they are richest in stored food at this time.

Preserving Herbs

The object of the drying process is to eliminate the moisture in the herb quickly, before it starts to die, so that it can be stored for a few months without deteriorating and retains its therapeutic properties.

Harvesting and Preparing

When harvesting flowers and leaves for storage make sure they are dry from rain or dew and pick them in the morning before the heat of the day reaches its peak. Use your fingers/hands to pick, unless stalks such as agrimony or yarrow are very tough, in which case you will need scissors. Pick gently, taking care not to bruise the plant. When lifting roots, dig them up with a garden fork, trying not to puncture the outer skin. Wash the soil off the roots and cut off any leaves left, then chop up into sections or slices to speed drying and lie them out to dry. If bark is needed – as from witch-hazel or cramp bark – it is best to peel the bark off whole branches that have been pruned rather than shaving bark off branches on the tree, as it may not do the tree much good.


Providing that herbs are dried properly, those dried at home are often of a much higher quality than shop-bought herbs in terms of colour, flavour and healing properties. Drying needs to occur as quickly and evenly as possible. Shade, air and constant warmth are all essential. The best place for drying herbs is a shaded, well-ventilated room, garden shed or barn, free from moisture or condensation. It is vital to


avoid the kitchen, bathroom, utility room, sheds or garages if they are steamy or damp, as the herbs will not dry properly and will deteriorate. A steady temperature of about 90°F/32°C is ideal – such as an airing cupboard, above an aga or rayburn, or in a low oven with the door left open to allow water to evaporate and the circulation of air. If the atmosphere is too cold (below 72°F/22°C) the plants will reabsorb moisture from the air and take too long to dry. You can loosely tie aerial parts of herbs in small bunches by their stems, and hang them from a beam or a hook indoors. In warm, dry climates bunches of herbs can be hung up out of doors in the shade, or from a high ceiling in a warm room with the windows open. This may be rather an unpredictable way to dry herbs as the temperature varies so much through 24 hours. More reliable results may be obtained by spreading sprigs of herbs or pieces of bark/ root or seed evenly over a tray, wire netting, box lid, fruit tray, drying frame, sheets of paper or muslin. Drying frames can be made fairly easily by stretching muslin or fine netting over a wooden frame, and are excellent for drying as they allow free circulation of air. Spread out the herbs so there is plenty of space between them and turn them frequently – once or twice on the first day, and once daily after that. Large leaved

Unless stalks are very tough, use your hands and fingers to pick herbs.



herbs such will dry more quickly if the leaves are stripped from their fleshy stems and the stems discarded. Always dry herbs separately – never mix with another species. Before storing herbs check that they are properly dry by seeing if they are brittle and rustle, crumble or snap easily between your fingers and thumb. If herbs are stored before they are completely dry they will reabsorb moisture from the atmosphere and deteriorate. It takes roughly 3–7 days for most herbs to dry.


Some herbs, particularly those with soft leaves, such as marjoram, coriander, fennel, lemon balm, basil, and mint are ideal for freezing. Pick

The harvest.

the leaves or flowers, wash them, and then place them in small plastic bags to freeze.


Herbs are best stored in air-tight dark containers, wooden or cardboard boxes, paper bags or jars. Glass jars are ideally kept in a dark cupboard, as exposure to light will cause deterioration of the medicinal constituents of the herbs. Never store in plastic as it encourages condensation. Make sure to label the herbs clearly with their name, and the date they were harvested. Remove stalks and twigs from aerial parts of plants, and break roots, rhizomes and barks into small pieces before storing. Store seeds in packets in the fridge, or in air-tight jars.

Glossary of Terms Adenitis

swollen gland


helping to restore balance within the body


a remedy that enhances the effect of another


the presence of albumin in the urine


a substance that provokes an allergic response


absence of periods


reduces stomach acid


loss of appetite


a substance that stimulates the production of antibodies


prevents and dissolves stones, in gallbladder, kidney or bladder


prevents infection


promoting a natural bowel movement


producing beneficial effects through detoxification


kills amoebae


helps in constructive metabolic processes


alleviates pain without causing loss of consciousness


relieves pain


destructive to worms


destroys bacteria or suppresses their growth or reproduction


prevention or relief of convulsions


destroys fungi or suppresses their growth or reproduction


counteracts the effects of histamine


counteracting or suppressing the inflammatory process


therapeutically effective against malaria


kills microorganisms or suppresses their multiplication or growth


inhibits the development and proliferation of malignant cells




significantly delays or prevents oxidation


reduces fever


inhibits the growth and development of micro-organisms


relieves spasm, usually of smooth muscle


destroys viruses or suppresses their replication


increases the desire for food


causing contraction, drying


destroys bacteria


has a tonic effect on the heart, improving strength of beat


relieves flatulence and assuages pain


stimulates the flow of bile into the duodenum


causes a superficial irritation, intended to relieve pain in a deeper part of the body


causes evacuation of the bowels


promotes bile flow


prevents excessive bile


double vision


painful periods


painful urination


herbal formulation prepared by boiling the plant parts in water


reduces congestion or swelling


soothing, mucilaginous or oily formulation which allays irritation of inflamed surfaces


preparation used with a toothbrush for cleaning the surfaces of the teeth


prevents obstruction or blocking


purifying or cleansing


reduction or removal of toxins and wastes


promotion of perspiration


promotes the excretion of urine


causes vomiting


softens or soothes irritated skin or mucous membranes


loosens phlegm and eases its expulsion from the respiratory tract


promotes menstrual flow


reduces body temperature in fever

Free radical

highly reactive molecule with an unpaired electron that causes damage to tissues


promotes the flow of milk


blood in the urine


benefits the liver


raises blood pressure



induces sleep


checks bleeding; styptic


reduces levels of blood cholesterol


lowers the level of glucose in the blood


reduces serum lipid concentrations


lowering of blood pressure


specifically or non-specifically augments or diminishes immune responses

Intermittent claudication

Intermittent pain in calf muscles caused by spasm in the blood vessels


tea made from steeping a herb in water to extract its medicinal principles



substance selectively poisonous to insects


promotes bowel movements


nerve restorative, mildly tranquillising




a substance that facilitates childbirth

Partus preparator

prepares the uterus for childbirth


excessive urination




stimulates vigorous bowel movements


reduces bodily heat or fever


capable of restoring health or strength


reddens the skin by increasing the blood flow


a substance which stops bleeding, applied externally


allays excitement, reduces nervousness and anxiety, promotes sleep


produces stimulation of the central nervous system


enhances the functional activity of the stomach


producing heat


restores normal tone or function to tissues. Boosts energy and immunity, enhances well being


greasy or oily; oleaginous


widening blood vessels, lowering blood pressure


expels worms or intestinal animal parasites; anthelmintic


promoting wound healing

IMAGE CREDITS (attributed, page, image, credit) Arunbiel 170 Arunbiel [CC BY 4.0 (] Julie Bruton-Seal 1 Anne McIntyre 260513 1848; 2 Annie’s dispenasary 260913 4216; 4 India, Ganesh 465; 9 Shamanism, Peyote cactus 1282; 12 Taraxacum, 3717 5162; 19 Tibetan tanks 4101; 21 Tibetan herbs 1203; 28 Bacopa monnieri 48_3 20.12.08ed; 29 Chinese herbs 1322; 31 Chinese herbalist vase 1399; 34 Angelica 28.6.2017 4187; 35 Rehmannia glutinosa 55; 37 Berberis-Mahonia 5454; 38 Asclepias 3379; 41 Lavandula 2752; 43 Anne distilling 1173; 44 Flower essence, Australian Bush. Mountain Devil 305; 46 Thymus WBG 280613 2609; 52 Filipendula meadowsweet 0151; 53 Cimicifuga, Black cohosh 1611 167; 55 Solidago, Goldenrod 280813 4369; 56 Aloe vera 816; 65 Consultation, Anne 1163; 70 Garlic 1457; 78 Anne McIntyre, grinding herbs 1300; 84 Herbal honeys 1266; 85 Herb powders 1199; 91 tinctures 1412; 97 Aesculus 5365; 100 Agropyron 07.12; 351; 104 Althea, marshmallow 25; 107 Anethum, Dill 360; 109 Angelica 748; 129 Berberis/Mahonia 150413 1306; 130 berberis-Mahonia 5449; 135 Capsicum 1360; 136 Cnicus, blessed thistle 9920; 137 Carduus, Milk thistle 5712 45; 154 Cynara, Artichoke 1611 95; 155 Daucus, wild carrot 20.7.14 1211; 156 Dioscorea, Wild Yam; 162 Equisetum, horsetail 22; 163 Eschscholzia, CALIFORNIA POPPY 5505; 166 Euphrasia, eyebright 30.6.15 9248; 172 Galega officinalis 260911 158; 175 Gentiana lutea 260613 1380; 177 Glechoma, ground ivy 14.5.15 8422; 179 Glycyrrhiza, Liquorice 50913 4423; 184 Humulus, hops 6; 187 Hypericum, SJW 0415; 189 Inula, elecampane 85; 190 Iris versicolor 22; 192 Lactuca, wild lettuce 6669; 194 Lavandula 2747; 195 Lentinula, Shiitake; 196 Leonurus cardiaca, motherwort _65; 197 Lonicera, honeysuckle 100; 200 Melissa, Lemon balm 140813 3191; 210 Origanum, Marjoram, Red admiral 140813 3230; 217 Piper longum 829; 220 Polygonum multiflorum, He Shou Wu 1438; 223 Rehmannia glutinosa 43; 224 Rhodiola 22.5.12 54; 227 Rosmarinus, Rosemary 170813 3285; 230 Salix, willow 68; 232 Salvia, Sage Berggarten 2611 3418; 242 Stachys, Wood betony 7812 28; 245 Taraxacum, Dandelion trug 20.4.15 7659; 247 Thymus WBG 280613 2610; 252 Trigonella, Fenugreek 27809 35; 254 Turnera diffusa 300711 7; 258 Urtica, nettles 21; 259 Vaccinium, bilberry 42; 261 Verbascum thapsis 92; 262 Verbena officinalis, vervain 46; 263 Viburnum opulus, Guelder rose; 265 Vinca major 19509 20; 266 Viola odorata 1.4.15 6698; 267 Viola tricolor, Heartsease 29.6.15 34; 269 Vitex, Agnus castus flower; 273 Zea, Corn 25312 333; 274 Zingiber officinale flower 52_2; 284 Curcuma longa, Turmeric SBG 150; 290 Plantago, ribwort 39; 292 Inula, elecampane 6825; 298 Hypericum, St John’s Wort; 299 Anenome pulsatilla 8.4.09 03; 307 Herb tea 4086; 318 Althea, marshmallow 19; 335 Rosmarinus, Rosemary 170813 3285; 339 Arctium lappa 6; 345 Verbena officinalis, vervain flowers; 363 Chamomile, Roman 1070; 365 Larli picking hawthorn Stanislav Doronenko 144 I, Doronenko [CC BY-SA 3.0 (] Christian Ferrer 208 Photo: Christian Ferrer / Wikimedia Commons SB Johnny 164 I, SB Johnny [CC BY-SA 3.0 (] J.M.Garg 105 J.M.Garg [CC BY-SA 4.0 (] Jeevan Jose 158 © 2009 Jee & Rani Nature Photography (License: CC BY-SA 4.0) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (] Anne McIntyre 16 Pulse diagnosis P1020597; 22 Lotus Ayurveda 5674; 24 Ayurveda P1020495; 26 Ayurveda, massage with herbs P1020237; 27 Ocimum sanctum P1020864, Ocimum sanctum P1030206; 33 Balance 78; 37 Echinacea P1010120; 38 Viburnum opulus 2040; 43 Rose basket P1050470; 57 Calendula 4246; 60 herbs 5027; 72 Herbal apothecary 5419; 75 Filipendula 4233; 79 tea infusion; 81 tincture making P1050641; 81 tincture making P1050641; 82 Tinctures 2075; 87 oil making 5108; 89 Oil 6359; 101 Alchemilla 1910; 113 Chamomile P1010187; 133 Calendula 6365; 140 Tanacetum P1000722; 185 Hydrastis P1010364; 199 Marrubium 2905; 207 Ocimum sanctum 05; 213 Paeonia 2013 373; 243 Stellaria P1040608; 275 Zingiber, fresh; 366 harvest 4251 Dana Payne 54 Dana Payne [CC BY-SA 3.0 (] Plenuska 165 Plenuska [CC BY-SA 3.0 (] Derek Ramsey 255 Photo by and (c)2016 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (] Fritz Flohr Reynolds 237 Fritzflohrreynolds [CC BY-SA 3.0 (] Rexness 256 Rexness from Melbourne, Australia [CC BY-SA 2.0 (] Forest Starr and Kim Starr 127 Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0 (] Dinesh Valke 270 Dinesh Valke from Thane, India [CC BY-SA 2.0 (] Vinayaraj 180 Vinayaraj [CC BY-SA 3.0 (] H. Zell 238 H. Zell [CC BY-SA 3.0 (] Krzysztof Ziarnek 236 Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]