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Common Herbal Medications Cheat Sheet by

Common Herbal Medications, Uses and How it works
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Common Herbal Medica­tions

Herb
Uses
How it Works
Caut­ions
Aloe vera
Aloe vera gel is used topically as a moistu­rizer, treating sunburn, psoriasis and minor wounds. A liquid extract has strong laxative proper­ties.
The gel (best obtained from a fresh plant but also available in commercial packaging) encourages skin regene­ration, increases blood flow and has emollient proper­ties. The extract is a strong stimulant laxative.
Generally safe when used to treat skin disorders, except for occasional minor irrita­tion. Causes stomach irritation when taken orally as a laxative.
Black Cohosh
Reduces premen­trual syndrome, painful menstr­uation and other symptoms of menopause (such as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness).
Functions like an estrogen substitute and suppresses release of LH (lutei­nizing hormone).
Occasional stomach pain. No long-term studies. Limit use to six months. May potentiate the effects of CNS depres­sants and blood pressure medica­tions.
Capsicum (chili­/ca­yenne pepper)
Hot chili and cayenne pepper extract. Applied to skin to treat shingles, trigeminal neuralgia and arthritis. Also used as a thermo­genic (increase body temper­ature).
Capsicum is a counte­rir­ritant and decreases pain by depleting substance P, a neurot­ran­smitter of pain stimuli.
With overuse, can result in prolonged insens­itivity to pain. Concen­trated products can cause local irritation and burning. Avoid contact with eyes, genitals and mucous membranes.
Chamomile
Chamomile, a flowering plant that looks like a daisy, is prepared as a tea and used as a mild sedative, relaxant and sleeping aid. Also used for indige­stion, itching and inflam­mation
Chamomile is the most popular herbal tea on the market. Active agents produce mild sedative and anti-i­nfl­amm­atory effects.
A member of the ragweed family and may cause allergic reactions. Separate drinking the tea from other medica­tions by at least two hours.
Clove Oil
Clove oil (or eugenol) is used to treat teething pain and toothache.
Eugenol is a local anesthetic action.
Use sparingly in children. May irritate mucous membranes.
Cranberry
Cranbe­rries and their juice are useful in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs).
The effect­iveness of cranbe­rries does not relate to their acidifying the urine, rather it prevents E. coli bacteria from adhering to the interior of the urinary tract.
Look for 100% cranberry juice, most “cocktail” products contain only 27%. DO NOT use if patient has an active UTI, seek profes­sional medical attention
Dong quai (or) Dang qui
An “all-p­urpose” women’s tonic used to treat menstrual problems. Often referred to as “women’s ginseng”. Extracts of the Angelica sinesis plant.
ctive ingred­ients relieve menopause symptoms and painful or lacking menstr­ation.
Some plant species are phototoxic and may cause photos­ens­itivity or a rash. DO NOT use if taking antico­agu­lants (warfa­rin).
Echinacea
The purple cornflower appears to shorten the intensity and duration of colds and flus. Works to boost the immune system. Applied topically to speed minor wound healing.
Not an antibi­otic, however echinacea helps the body fight off infection.
DO NOT use for prolonged periods of time. If infection does not improve, seek profes­sional medical assist­ance. DO NOT use if you have an autoimmune disease (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis or HIV)
Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus may be inhaled as vapors or applied directly to the chest wall to treat congestion and to break up phlegm and mucous in the respir­atory tract. Also applied externally to treat arthritis symptoms.
The active ingred­ients in eucalyptus act as an expect­orant to break up thick mucous or phlegm. In arthritis, eucalyptus is a mild blood vessel dilator, increasing blood flow to joints.
DO NOT take eucalyptus intern­ally, it can cause severe stomach upset. DO NOT apply to the face or nose of young children, use jelly in vaporizer
Feverfew
Dried feverfew leaves have been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. Also reduces the occurrence of nausea and vomiting during migraine attacks
cts as on blood vessels in the central nervous system to make them less reactive to certain substa­nces. Also, may be a serotonin antagonist
Most commercial prepar­ations are at too high of a concen­tra­tion. Doses of 125 milligram of herb (250 micrograms of active ingred­ient) are necessary. Chewing raw leaves may cause mouth ulcers.
Garlic
Primary use is to lower choles­terol and thereby inhibiting the formation of blood clots or developing high blood pressure.
Fresh garlic must be used and crushed to convert the active ingred­ient, the enzyme allicin. Capsules contain this active ingred­ient.
Excessive use of garlic may result in heartburn, flatulence or other gastro­int­estinal symptoms. Patients may become odorif­erous (smell like garlic). DO NOT use if taking antico­agu­lants (warfa­rin).
Ginger
Time-h­onored herb to relieve stomach upset, motion sickness and nausea.
Fresh ginger slices allowed to soak in water are the best dosage form. Promotes saliva and gastric juice secretion.
May prolong bleeding, aggravate gallstones o cause heartburn. Generally considered safe.
Ginkgo
Used for hundreds of years in Orient. Used to improve short-term memory and concen­tra­tion, especially in patients with Alzhei­mer’s disease.
It appears that ginkgo enhances blood flow in the brain, as well as increasing the brain’s tolerance to low levels of oxygen.
Generally considered safe. May cause indige­stion, headaches or allergic skin reactions.
Ginseng
Panax ginseng (Korean, Chinese, American or Asian ginseng) has been used as a “cure-all” tonic for centuries. Used to treat fatigue and also considered an aphrod­isiac.
Antifa­tigue properties may be related to enhances muscle tissue use of glycogen, as well as the transf­orm­ation of fatty acids into energy.
Generally deemed safe. DOD NOT use if patient has kidney failure or taking antico­agu­lants (warfarin) or digoxin.
Kava Kava
A South Pacific plant extract that is made into a tonic. A Pacific “moons­hine” used to relieve anxiety, stress and restle­ssness and helps with insomnia
The active ingred­ients cause muscle relaxa­tion.
Interacts with alcohol. DO NOT drink with alcohilic beverages. DO NOT take if pregnant or nursing. DO NOT use for longer than three months. May cause red skin and eye discol­ora­tion.
Licorice
Pure licorice extract (not the common candy version), applied topically, is useful in treating canker sores and fever bliste­r/cold sore ulcers. Taking orally licorice treats heartburn, ulcers and coughs (an expect­orant).
Glycyr­rhizin, the active ingredient of licorice is 50 times sweeter than sugar. It is converted into steroi­d-like compounds
Can effect blood pressure, pregnancy and should NOT be used in patients taking cortic­ost­eroid medica­tions.
Ma Huang (ephedra)
Ma Huang is used as a stimulant and increases heart rate. Also used to treat asthma and cold symptoms.
The ephedra compounds relax the airways and increases heart rate and blood pressure.
DO NOT use if patient has high blood pressure, glaucoma or prostate problems.
Milk Thistle
Used as a liver protectant and encourages the regene­ration of liver cells.
Milk thistle seeds contain silymarin, which helps liver cells keep out poisons and regene­rate.
No harmful effects reported when taken at normal recomm­ended doses (200 milligrams extract or 140 milligrams of silymarin)
Peppermint
Peppermint is used to treat indige­stion and stomach upset. The menthol extract of peppermint is useful in treating colds and conges­tion. Applied topically, menthol relieves pain.
The active ingredient (menthol) exerts an antisp­asmodic effect on the stomach, increases bile flow, and has a cooling effect when inhaled or applied topically.
DO NOT use in babies because it may cause choking effect from menthol. DO NOT inhale for prolonged periods of time.
Psyllium
A natural bulk-f­orming laxative.
Psyllium seeds contain soluble fiber that swells when put in contact with water, thus adding bulk and lubric­ation to stool
Increased flatulence is common
Saw Palmetto
The dwarf palm (found and now protected from harvesting in Southe­astern states) extract is useful in treating Benign Prostatic Hypert­rophy (BPH).
Nonhor­monal agents in saw palmetto extract have antian­drogen and anti-i­nfl­amm­atory activity.
Generally safe. Large doses may cause diarrhea. Some experts feel that men taking saw palmetto may experience altered PSA readings, used to diagnose prostate cancer.
Senna
Used as a stimulant laxative and for bowel cleansing. Senna is safe for use in pregnancy and in the elderly.
Produces smooth muscle contra­ctions of the intest­ines.
May cause abdominal cramping and depend­ency.
St. John’s Wort
Used to treat mild depression and anxiety. St John’s Wort is used extens­ively in Germany as an anti-d­epr­essant.
The active ingredient hypericin may exert anti-d­epr­essant activity relating to seroto­nin­-like activity.
May produce sensit­ivity to sun light, especially in fair-s­kinned people. DO NOT use with other antide­pre­ssants
Valerian
A mild tranqu­ilizer and sleep aid.
The dried roots of valerian have antian­xiety and mild hypnotic effects.
Long-term use may lead to headache, restle­ssness, insomnia and heart problems.

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