Thousands of flowers, leaves, and other plant parts are touted as elixirs for a variety of ailments, but how do you know what’s for what.
Here’s a list of herbal remedies that have shown promise in scientific testing.
Before taking one, check with your doctor; many herbs, even some that are beneficial alone, can cause harm in combination with other supplements or drugs. When buying herbal preparations, be confident of your source. The FDA recently cited 69 weight-loss supplements that were tainted with Bumetanide, a potent diuretic that can cause serious side effects and was not listed as an ingredient.
Consider these …
Studies say it can help heal burns and abrasion, but paradoxically, it inhibits healing of deep surgical wounds. Note that it does not prevent burns from radiation therapy.
Early studies find benefits when used topically for mouth ulcers and certain skin conditions. Chamomile is currently being researched for generalized anxiety disorder.
Preliminary research finds benefits for easing premenstrual syndrome and breast pain, as well as treating some kinds of infertility.
Small studies suggest cranberry juice and other products can help prevent urinary tract infections. It’s currently being tested for prevention of dental plaque.
Small studies indicate it relieves flu symptoms and, given with antibiotics can help treat sinus infections.
Evening Primrose Oil
Small studies suggest benefits for eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and breast pain. Evidence is mixed for relief of premenstrual syndrome.
Helps lower blood sugar in patients with diabetes, in some studies.
Several studies suggest it can help prevent migraines.
Lower cholesterol levels in some studies. New research is investigating its potential for preventing heart disease and osteoporosis.
Some studies show it lowers cholesterol levels, and may slow atherosclerosis.
Studies show it can ease pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. Though many people swear by it, the scientific jury is out on its efficacy for motion sickness.
Some studies suggest it lowers the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and improves memory in the elderly. It’s being studied for asthma, multiple sclerosis and sexual dysfunction due to antidepressants.
Research suggests it may lower blood glucose and benefit immune function.
Research outside the U.S. finds it improves liver function. The National Center for Complementarry and Alternative Medicine is funding research on its use for chronic hepatitis C and other liver disease.
Studies suggest it may improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and, with caraway oil, ease indigestion.
A component of many herbal weight-loss products, bitter orange can speed up heart rate and raise blood pressure, reportedly causing fainting, heart attack and stroke. Used topically, it can increase the risk of sunburn.
In 2004, the FDA banned sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra following reports of stroke, heart attack, and sudden death.
While some studies suggest it can ease anxiety, the FDA warns that kava supplements can cause severe liver damage.