The herb industry is growing. More herbs are available than ever before and Americans are embracing their use just as people have done for thousands of years in the "old countries".
Western Herbalism started when prehistoric people learned through trial and error to treat physical complaints with plants.
But as with anything, practice common sense. If you take herbs, follow the instructions on the labels. They're there for a reason! If any unusual side effects occur, discontinue immediately. If the effect disappears within 72 hours (sooner in most instances), you know the herb was at fault.
Note: Herbs are generally not recommended for children 6 and under.
The Top 10 Used Herbs
Research indicates the following 10 herbs appear to be perfectly safe when used appropriately. The possible side effects mentioned come only from reports from people who made complaints, as with other drugs. Extenuating circumstances are not reported or unknown.
01. Echinacea. Used to reduce duration of colds, boost immune system, heal wounds.
- Possible side effects. GI symptoms including nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting are among the most common. Allergic reactions for those especially allergic to the daisy/aster family.
02. Evening Primrose. Used to reduce menopausal symptoms (hot flashes). Reduces breast pain, treats eczema, treats rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
- Possible side effects. Generally well tolerated by all. Only one complaint was ever made of "nocturnal seizures" but other extenuating circumstances to this case are unknown. Some experts claim it can increase risk(s) for pregnancy complications. Best to avoid if pregnant or planning to become pregnant, although the average user is using this for quite the opposite.
03. Feverfew. Used to reduce migraines, headaches and treat arthritis.
- Possible side effects. GI discomfort when taken orally. Mouth ulcers and inflamed mouth when chewing leaf. If you take anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs, best to consult with your physician before taking feverfew.
04. Garlic. Used to prevent heart disease, lower blood cholesterol and high blood pressure, improve blood clotting disorders, prevent cancer and treat athletes foot.
- Possible side effects. Breath and skin odor most common. Some experience mild heartburn or diarrhea. Topical garlic can cause skin irritation, blistering and in some cases, even burns.
05. Ginger. Used to prevent motion sickness, reduce morning sickness, reduce nausea and as a general digestive aid.
- Possible side effects. Well tolerated whne used in typical doses. At high doses, may cause abdominal discomfort, heartburn, diarrhea.
06. Ginkgo Biloba. Used to improve age-related memory impairment and dementia, improve visual field in glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, reduce PMS symptoms.
- Possible side effects. Mild gastrointestinal upset, headache, dizziness, palpitations, constipation, and allergic skin reactions. In those using it for PMS some have experienced spontaneous bleeding.
07. Ginseng. Used to improve cognitive function, enhance athletic performance, improve mood.
- Possible side effects. Very rare. Only a few menstrual abnormalities and breast tenderness among women. Some users reported insomnia.
08. Kava Kava. Used to lower anxiety, tension, restlessness and reduce insomnia.
- Possible side effects. Gastrointestinal upset, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, enlarged pupils, dry mouth and allergic skin reactions, liver toxicity, yellowed skin (jaundice), fatigue and dark urine. Not recommended for people with depression, liver disease, or Parkinson's disease. Should be avoided if you take xanax or central nervous system depressants including alcohol, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines.
09. St. John's Wort. Taken orally to treat depression, improve permenstrual syndrom, treat seasonal affective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and topically used to treat wounds, inflammation, muscle aches and first degree burns.
- Possible side effects. Insomnia, anxiety, irritability, gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness and headache. Not recommended for people with major depression or Alzheimer's disease. Check with doctor about potential drug interactions if you're under medication(s).
10. Saw Palmetto. Used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, improve overall prostate health, enhance sexual vigor, enhance breast size.
- Possible side effects. Dizziness, headache, nausea, constipation and/or diarrhea. Check with doctor if using with anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs, contraceptives or estrogens.
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