Health Benefits of Herb
Herbs and other plant products have been used throughout history to treat a variety of medical problems. Today we seem to discount the health benefits of herbs. In today’s “modern” medicine we are quick to prescribe a pharmaceutical solution for every sign and symptom imaginable. In fact, doing so has become an expectation if a physician wants to be considered practicing the standard of medical care. But is it really necessary to rely on prescribed medications to manage and prevent common maladies? How much money could be saved if we emphasized a plant base diet and the use of herbs with well established health benefits?
Many people are familiar with the PDR or Physician’s Desk Reference. The PDR is published annually with the collaboration of pharmaceutical companies and can be found in most physician offices. The book contains information on all the drugs licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, better known as the FDA. But, most people, including physicians, are unaware of the PDR For Herbal Medicines.
Brief History of Herbal Medicine
Nearly all of the early drugs used were modifications of plants. Aspirin which remains one of the most used medications originally was derived from willow bark and its use to treat rheumatic (inflammatory) diseases dates back 4,000 years. Today synthetic versions of the original aspirin product are used.
Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that help prevent and treat many medical conditions. Let’s look at apples. After all, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, right? One of the more commonly prescribed classes of antihypertensive (blood pressure) medications is the ACE inhibitors (angiotensin converting enzyme). Flavonoids found in apple peels also inhibit angiotensin converting enzymes.
We now have a new disease called COVID-19. Black cumin seeds from the plant, Nigella sativa, have antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, immunomodulatory, bronchodilatory, antihistaminic, antitussive (cough), antipyretic (fever), and analgesic properties. All of this might make it the perfect COVID-19 treatment.
So what are the health benefits of herbs? Before we get to that. What exactly is an herb? Herbs refers to the leafy green or flowering part of a plant (fresh or dried).
Herbs that Heal
Let’s look at some herbs and other plant based structures that have health benefits.
As discussed above black cumin seeds have several potential disease fighting properties. It is used to flavor breads and baked goods. Studies show it to be effective in pediatric seizures. Black cumin improved blood sugar control in diabetics and may help prevent diabetic complications.
If you ever have been sunburned, there is a good chance you used aloe vera. Aloe is primarily used in topical skin products for sunburns, wounds, acne, psoriasis, herpes simplex, oral lichen plants, and used in orally for constipation. Thousands of years ago it was used to embalm the dead and used in perfumes. Aloe has been show to reduce blood sugar when used orally, which can be helpful in the management of diabetes.
Cinnamon helps with digestive issues and helps prevent infections. Cinnamon lowers blood sugar in some studies having similar effects of insulin.
Onion is a part of the allium family which also contains garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives. Onion is very rich in quercetin which has cancer fighting properties especially against breast, colon, intestinal and ovarian tumors as well as leukemias.. Quercetin also is a zinc ionophore. Zinc can stop replication of virus (including coronaviruses) but needs helping getting to cells. Zinc ionophores make easier for zinc to enter the cells.
Garlic is also in the allium family has cancer fighting properties like onion but has long been used to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease. It is a natural blood thinner and can help remove plaque (that narrows blood vessels) from arteries. Like apple, garlic also inhibits angiotensin converting enzyme which is beneficial for blood pressure control.
Peppermint is used to treat digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and symptoms like diarrhea, flatulence, and nausea. It also alleviates discomfort from menstrual cramps.
Flax contains alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) which limits blood clots and reduces inflammation. It also slows the growth of tumors and boosts the immune system in general.