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HEALTH & FITNESS ARTICLES

Herbs To Avoid

Herbs That May Be Effective
 
            In the United States, consumers are demanding more and more herbal products. Natural food stores are reporting annual growth rates as high as 60 to 80 percent for medicinal herbs in bulk, capsules, extracts, tinctures, tablets, and teas. Since 1990, consumer use of herbal medicines in the United States has increased by 380 percent. By the year 2010, experts project approximately $25 billion in annual sales of herbal products[1]. The information about herbal products may be conflicting and confusing for consumers. Below is a chart summarizing current research as to herbs that may be effective[2]:
 
HERB
WHY IT IS USED
HOW IT WORKS
CAUTIONS
Black cohosh
Reduces symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, painful menstruation, and the hot flashes associated with menopause.
Appears to function as an estrogen substitute and a suppressor of luteinizing hormone.
Occasional stomach pain or intestinal discomfort. Because no long term studies have been done, use of black cohosh should be limited to 6 months.
Capsicum
Best known as the hot red peppers cayenne and chili. Applied topically for chronic pain from conditions such as shingles and trigeminal neuralgia.
The active ingredient, capsaicin, works as a counterirritant and decreases sensitivity to pain by depleting substance P, a neurotransmitter that facilitates the transmission of pain impulses to the spinal cord.
Overuse can result in a prolonged insensitivity to pain. More concentrated products can cause a burning sensation. Users must avoid contact with eyes, genitals, and other mucous membranes.
Echinacea
These species of purple cornflower appear to shorten the intensity and duration of colds and flus, may help to control urinary tract infections, and, when applied topically, speed the healing of wounds.
Though Echinacea lacks direct antibiotic activity, it helps the body muster up its own defenses against invading micro-organisms.
Experts warn against using Echinacea for more than 8 weeks at a time and against its use by people with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis or by those who are infected with HIV.
Feverfew
The dried leaves of this plant have been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine as well as its frequently associated symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
The active ingredient, parthenolide, appears to act on the blood vessels of the brain, making them less reactive to certain compounds.
Most commercial preparations recommend doses that are much too high. 250 micrograms a day of parthenolide – or 125 milligrams of the herb – is an adequate dose.
Garlic
Active against viruses, fungi, and parasites. It may also lower cholesterol and inhibit the formation of blood clots, actions that might help to prevent heart attacks.
When fresh garlic crushed, enzymes convert alliin to allicin, a potent antibiotic. Garlic tablets and capsules containing alliin and the enzyme can be absorbed when dissolved in the intestines and not the stomach.
More than five cloves of garlic a day can result in heartburn, flatulence, and other gastrointestinal problems. People taking anticoagulants should be cautious about taking garlic.
Ginger
A time-honored remedy for settling an upset stomach, ginger has been shown in clinical studies to prevent motion sickness and nausea following surgery.
Components in the aromatic oil and resin of ginger have been found to strengthen the heart and to promote secretion of saliva and gastric juices.
May prolong postoperative bleeding, aggravate gallstones, and cause heartburn.  There is also debate about its safety when used to treat morning sickness.
Ginkgo
Used medicinally in China for hundreds of years, Ginkgo biloba was recently reported to improve short-term memory and concentration in people with early Alzheimer’s disease.
Appears to work by increasing the brain’s tolerance for low levels of oxygen and by enhancing blood flow to the brain and extremities.
Possible side effects include indigestion, headache, and allergic skin reactions.
Milk Thistle
One of the few herbs that has been demonstrated to protect the liver against toxins. Also encourages regeneration of new liver cells.
The seeds contain a compound called silymarin, which helps liver cells keep out toxins and may promote formation of new liver cells.
When used as capsules containing 200 milligrams of concentrated extract (140 milligrams of silymarin), no harmful effects have been reported.
Psyllium
A laxative that doesn’t undermine the natural action of the gut. It may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and reduce blood levels of cholesterol.
The seeds of this herb have husks that are filled with mucilage, a fiber that swells with water in the intestines to add bulk and lubrication to the stool.
Increase in flatulence in some people, especially if a great deal is consumed.
Saw Palmetto
Studies on patients with an enlarged prostate have shown that extracts of this palm tree can reduce urinary symptoms even though the gland may not shrink.
Nonhormonal chemicals in saw palmetto appear to work through their antiandrogen and anti-inflammatory activitiy.
Some experts are concerned that those taking the herb may have inaccurate PSA readings, used as an early warning sign of prostate cancer.
St. John’s Wort
Some experts attest to this herb’s ability to relieve mild depression. It may also have sedating and antianxiety activity.
Inhibits uptake of serotonin by nerve cells. Though products are standardized for hypericin, hyperforin now appears to be a more potent antidepressant than hypericin.
Based on the sun-induced toxicity of hypericin in animals, people are advised to avoid exposure to bright sunlight.
Valerian
Perhaps best characterized as a mild tranquilizer.
Parts of this plant have antianxiety effects, making it potentially useful in treating nervousness and insomnia.
Long-term use can cause headache, restlessness, sleeplessness, and heart function disorders.
 
            Generally, when choosing and using herbal medicines, use the following guidelines:
  • Be informed! Seek unbiased, scientific sources. Inform your physician of any herbal medicines or supplements you take especially if taking prescribed medications.
  • Do not exceed recommended doses or use herbal medicines for prolonged periods. Call you physician if you experience adverse effects.
 
For additional sources of information about herbal medicines, see:
  • American Botanical Council, The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines.
  • S. Foster and V.E. Tyler, Tyler’s Honest Herbal: a Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies, 2000.
  • American Botanical Council, HerbalGram, a peer-reviewed journal
  • American Botanical Council: www.herbalgram.com
  • Herb Research Foundation: www.herbs.org
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration: www.fda.gov
  • National Institutes of Health/NCCAM: nccam.nih.gov
  • U.S. Pharmacopeia: www.usp.org
 

[1] Boyle, Marie A. and Long, Sara. Personal Nutrition. 6th Ed. Thomson Learning Inc. 2007, pg. 198.
[2] Id. at 200-201.

This article was provided by Free Movement Fitness Inc.
For more information on Free Movement Fitness Inc., check out their full profile here.
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