Benefits of 10 Popular Herbal Medicines

By Alyssa Meka, UWO Peer Wellness Educator

Herbal medicines have been used for centuries as natural remedies for common ailments. These medicines are consumed as dietary supplements and can be in the form of pills, powders, teas, extracts, and fresh or dried plants. Each herb has been shown to exhibit specific benefits to the body to either improve or maintain the health of the individual consuming them. The benefits of 10 common herbal supplements are explained below!

Garlic (cloves/root)

The cloves and root of this herb have been found to aid in lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) as well as blood pressure. There have also been studies that have shown that a daily garlic supplement helps to boost the immune system and reduce the incidence of common colds. In addition, garlic may help to prevent against alzheimer’s disease and dementia. By simply adding this herb to your favorite savory dishes you can easily get the benefits that it provides.

Ginger (root)

Ginger has commonly been used to help reduce nausea and motion sickness and aid in digestion as well as help to fight the flu and common cold. It has powerful antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties. The ability of this herb to reduce nausea has been proven to be particularly useful in reducing pregnancy-related nausea or morning sickness as well as nausea in patients undergoing treatment for cancer. This herb can be consumed fresh in meals, dried, powdered, or as an oil or juice.

Turmeric (root)

Commonly consumed as a spice in dishes such as curry, this herb is also available for consumption as capsules, teas, powders and extracts. The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin and is has powerful properties. Ailments that it traditionally helps treat include inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, skin diseases, wounds, digestive issues and liver conditions.

Ginseng (root)

There are actually two types of this herb, American ginseng and Asian ginseng. Both have been shown to boost energy, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduce stress, promote relaxation and treat diabetes. Ginseng can be consumed raw or steamed. It can also be added to the diet by stewing it in water to make a tea. There are also capsule and oil extract forms of this herb.

St. John’s Wort (flower, leaf)

Saint John’s wort has been used for centuries as an antidepressant. It is believed to boost mood and has been used to reduce the effects of anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, seasonal affective disorder and to aid in smoking cessation. This herbal supplement is sold in  many drug, grocery and health food stores and comes in a variety of doses. However, do not take this with antidepressants because it can become toxic. In addition, if you are having symptoms of depression, do not use St John’s wort as a substitute for medical treatment and talk to your doctor.

Saw Palmetto (fruit)

This alternative treatment has primarily been shown to aid in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, a disorder of the prostate gland in males. It has also been shown to aid in the treatment of asthma, colds, coughs, migraines, and sore throats. It is available in tablet, liquid and tea form.

Aloe Vera (leaf)

Aloe vera is commonly known as an agent that helps in maintaining skin health. The juice of the leaves are commonly used to treat sunburns, however, drinking this juice may also provide you with some health benefits. The juice of aloe vera leaves is packed with water and antioxidants and so aids in hydration, clearing skin, reducing heartburn, and regulating the digestive system. It can be consumed over ice, mixed with smoothies or juices or consumed on its own.

Milk Thistle (fruit)

This herbal remedy is often touted for its liver-protecting effects. Because of this, it is commonly used by people who have liver damage from conditions like alcoholic liver disease, fatty liver disease, hepatitis and liver cancer. Milk thistle leaves and flowers are sometimes consumed as a vegetable in salads or substituted for spinach. There are also oral supplement versions available.

Chamomile (flower)

Chamomile is commonly used as an anxiolytic and sedative for anxiety and relaxation. Because of this, it is commonly used at bedtime to help promote restful sleep. It has also been shown to help reduce inflammation and swelling.  It is often used as a tea or a compress.

Ginkgo Biloba (leaf)

This herb has been used to treat asthma, bronchitis, fatigue and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The main uses of this herb have been shown to be it’s ability to improve brain function and promote good blood circulation. It is available for ingesting in capsule and tablet form as well as a liquid extract and dried leaves and tea.

While herbal medicines can be helpful and nutritious, they are not a replacement for medical treatment if you have a serious medical condition.

Resources:

A Guide to Common Medicinal Herbs. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=1169