Individual herbs may have several active ingredients that enhance each other's effects. Other herbs
maybe added in a blend that increases the absorption, transport, and effectiveness of the main herb.
Preparing herbs from extracts insures the standardization of the level of the active ingredients, as the
ingredients in the plants themselves can vary according to soil conditions, climate, when the plant is
harvested, and the method of preparation (the word standardized should be on any herbal product).
Stick with brandname herbal products made in the U.S., where qualitative standards are higher than
in other countries. Care should be taken when using herbs, even teas, for medicinal purposes, as some
of them (comfrey, aconite, pennyroyal, and ephedra are some examples), including ones sold in
health food stores, are very powerful, even deadly, if used indiscriminately selfdiagnosis and
selftreatment are not encouraged. A doctor should always be informed of what herbs are being taken,
because some can interact with medications and prescription drugs. Pregnant or nursing women
should avoid herbs as a general rule.
AKA: Aniseed, common anise, Pimpinella anisum.
Effects: Contains several estrogen-like compounds. It has traditionally been used to treat respiratory
ailments, though according to James A. Duke, Ph.D., many other herbs work better. It purportedly
has antiviral properties, can freshen bad breath, get rid of phlegm and bronchial congestion, and
suppress coughing. It is said to increase male libido, though there is no scientific evidence for this.
Herbalists have used it to treat cramps, nausea, and gas, and it is said to improve digestion and
Precautions: None known.
Dosage: James Duke recommends adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed seed per cup of boiling water,
steeping for 10 to 15 minutes, then straining. Take once in the morning and once in the evening.
AKA: Astragalus hoantchy, Astragalus membranaceous, huang chi, huang qi.
Effects: An adaptogen that may provide energy and stamina, boost the immune system, detoxify
various drugs and metals, have antiviral properties, improve peripheral circulation, balance the bodily
systems, counteract stress, and improve mental functioning. It is said to be a potent anticancer agent
and may be useful in fighting off the flu and other respiratory infections. Evidence suggests it might
be useful in the treatment of colds, flu, high cholesterol, chronic lung weakness, HIV, cancer, and
Works synergistically with schizandra berry.
Precautions: It should not be taken by those running a fever.
Dosage: In China, the usual dose of a decoction is 9 to 16 g/day, or 9 g/day of a powder composed of
15 to 20 percent astragalus. Cancer patients are generally given up to 30 g/day. Earl Mindell, R.Ph.,
Ph.D., recommends 400 mg 1 to 3 times a day.
AKA: Winter cherry, Withania somnifera.
Sometimes referred to as the "Indian ginseng," Ashwagandha is a member of the nightshade family,
along with potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants.
Effects: According to traditional Indian medicine, it is said to reduce stress and anxiety and to
improve vitality, learning, and memory. It has been used to treat arthritis and help heal broken bones,
and may inhibit cancer, as well. There have been few studies, but those conducted have yielded
encouraging results: it enhanced mood and improved hemoglobin and blood plasma protein levels in
a 1993 study, was shown to alleviate withdrawal symptoms in morphine addiction in a 1995 study,
and showed positive results for patients with anxiety neurosis in a 1997 study.
Works synergistically with gotu kola, shatavari (Indian asparagus), and Siberian ginseng to relieve
Precautions: It can cause mild gastrointestinal problems, but this can be prevented by taking it with
meals. Exceeding the recommended dose is not advised, as it may contain some compounds that are
harmful when taken in significant quantities. Herbal products from India may be contaminated with
mold, insects, and animal feces.
Dosage: One to two cups of tea a day.
BALM OF GILEAD
AKA: Balsam poplar, Populus balsamifera, Populus candicans, Populus gileadensis, Populus
Balm of Gilead is a North American poplar that is different from the biblical plant (Commiphora
meccanensis) of the same name.
Effects: May have antioxidant properties. Taken internally, it is used for coughs and chest conditions;
applied externally it is used for rheumatoid arthritis and sore muscles.
Precautions: Common side effects include skin rashes and allergic reactions.
AKA: Black whortleberry, blueberry, burren myrtle, dyeberry, huckleberry, hurtleberry, Vaccinium
corybosum, Vaccinium myrtillus, whineberry, whortleberry, wineberry.
Effects: A natural antioxidant. It is used in Europe to treat varicose veins, problems with blood
circulation to the brain, and a variety of eye problems, including night blindness, photophobia,
glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and — in combination with vitamin E — cortical cataracts. Also used
as an antiseptic, astringent, and antidiarrhea medication. Eating the fresh berries can reportedly
regulate bowel action, stimulate the appetite, and reduce intestinal gas. As a tea, it is said to treat
coughs, vomiting, stomach cramps, and catarrhal enteritis.
Works synergistically with citrus fruits.
Precautions: Though the fresh berries can stop diarrhea in some people, they can cause it in others.
Use of the leaves over an extended period of time can cause poisoning.
It can interfere with the absorption of iron.
Dosage: As a tincture, 15-40 drops in water 3 times a day.
AKA: Black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort, cimicifuga, Cimicifuga racemosa, rattleroot, rattleweed,
Effects: May be a mild relaxant. It contains estrogen-like substances which may be helpful in treating
symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause. Various extracts have displayed
antiinflammatory, sedative, and blood pressure-lowering effects in animals. It has traditionally been
used by Native Americans to treat chronic fatigue, malaria, rheumatism, kidney problems, sore
throat, and female disorders. Herbalists have used it for bronchitis, fever, itching, high blood
pressure, anxiety, menstrual cramps, and symptoms of menopause.
Precautions: It should not be used by anyone suffering from a chronic disease. No scientific studies of
its effects have been done on humans. It may have a stimulating effect on the cardiac system.
Consumption of large amounts could cause nausea (though mild nausea may just be a response to its
bitter taste), vomiting, sweating, and dizziness.
AKA: Cerbenia benedicta.
Effects: According to James Balch, Ph.D., and Phyllis Balch, C.N.C., it "may act as brain food." It is
used by herbalists as a tonic for the stomach and heart, increasing circulation, and treating liver
problems. According to James A. Duke, Ph.D., it can reportedly help combat HIV.
Precautions: Handling the plant can cause toxic skin reactions.
Dosage: One ounce of herb in one pint of boiling water taken 1 cup at a time, 3 times a day between
meals. James Duke recommends 5 teaspoons of the herb in a cup of boiling water 2 or 3 times a day,
presumably for HIV.
AKA: Hydrocetyle asiatica.
Effects: Said to relieve anxiety. It has been used to treat epilepsy and leprosy.
Effects: Said to reduce anxiety. It has been used to treat nausea, fever, and pain.
AKA: Box holly, knee holly, Ruscus aculeatus, sweet broom.
Butcher's Broom is an evergreen shrub in the lily family that is closely related to asparagus.
Effects: Said to increase blood flow to the brain. It may relieve inflammation and prove beneficial to
the bladder and kidneys. It has been used to treat hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and other circulatory
problems, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome, edema, Meniere's disease, obesity, Raynaud's
syndrome, thrombophlebitis, and vertigo.
Works synergistically with vitamin C.
Precautions: May increase blood pressure in some individuals. It should not be used as a substitute
for anticoagulant medication.
Dosage: Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., recommends 400 mg/day.
AKA: Eschscholtzia californica, golden poppy.
Though its alkaloids are nowhere near as powerful, the California poppy is related to the opium
poppy. Despite this, it is perfectly legal to grow and, in fact, is the state flower of California.
Effects: May relieve insomnia and anxiety. It may also be used to treat nervous tension and muscle
tics. The alkaloids are different from those of the opium poppy and, though they have not been
thoroughly studied, are not known to be narcotic or addictive.
Works synergistically with such sedative herbs as valerian.
Precautions: Overdose symptoms include headaches, hangover-like effects the next day, and other
minor side effects. As with poppy seeds, use can cause a urine test to read positive for opiates.
It should not be combined with alcohol, prescription sedatives, or other depressants.
Dosage: The usual dose is 30 drops of tincture, or a spoonful of whole dried herb in a cup of tea 2 to
3 times a day.
AKA: Bastard cardamom, cardamon, Elettaria cardamomum, Malabar cardamom.
Effects: Contains cineole, a mild central nervous system stimulant, which may account for its
reputation in Arab cultures as a male aphrodisiac. Cineole also kills bacteria that cause bad breath,
and cardamom has been used to treat asthma, emphysema, gas, heartburn, acid indigestion, laryngitis,
and vaginitis. Cardamom also contains the compound borneol, which is helpful in treating gallstones.
In addition, herbalists have used it to treat colic, diarrhea, and headaches.
AKA: Catmint, catnep, catrup, catswort, field balm, Nepeta cataria.
A member of the mint family, one active ingredient is similar to an ingredient in valerian. It has a
similar effect to marijuana, but much milder.
Effects: A mild sedative used in the treatment of insomnia, it reportedly also relieves stress and
anxiety and stimulates the appetite. It is high in vitamin C and is good for colds, flu inflammation,
Precautions: Used as a folk remedy for a variety of conditions, though scientific evidence is lacking.
Some claim that smoking the leaves results in a mild marijuana-like high; this is not recommended.
Dosage: Up to 3 cups of tea a day (one ounce of herb per pint of water).
AKA: Una de gato, Uncaria species.
Effects: An antioxidant. It also has antinflammatory properties, cleanses the intestinal tract, and
stimulates the white blood cells.
Precautions: There is only one documented case of an individual having suffered any adverse
AKA: Africa pepper, America pepper, bird pepper, capsicum, Capsicum anuum, Capsicum
frutescens, chili pepper, cockspur pepper, goat's pepper, hot pepper, pod pepper, red pepper, Spanish
pepper, Zanzibar pepper.
Effects: May improve blood circulation and help prevent blood clots. Cayenne is also said to help the
body utilize other herbs more effectively, stimulate appetite and digestion, normalize blood pressure,
and it has been used to treat asthma. It may help prevent colds, flu, depression, arthritis, headaches,
heart attacks, and strokes. Capsicum cream reportedly relieves the intense pain following an attack of
herpes zoster (shingles) when applied to the affected areas.
Precautions: Those with duodenal ulcers, bleeding problems, or who are taking anticoagulants should
consult a physician before using cayenne. Overconsumption can lead to gastroenteritis, kidney
damage, nerve damage, and permanent loss of the sense of taste; some may experience a burning
sensation during defecation. Prolonged skin application (for treating arthritis, pericarditis, pleuritis,
and rheumatism) can result in dermatitis and blisters, and it can be very irritating to the mucous
membranes if inhaled.
Dosage: V4 teaspoon 3 times a day.
AKA: Apium graveolens, garden celery, wild celery.
Effects: Contains apigenin, which dilates the blood vessels, and several antioxidant vitamins. It can
be used to treat amenorrhea, angina, cardiac arrhythmia, dizziness, gout, high blood pressure, and
high cholesterol. Herbalists have also used it for dropsy, obesity, flatulence, skin problems, and lack
Precautions: It is high in sodium. It is also a strong diuretic, and should not be used by those with
Dosage: At least one celery stalk a day. As a tea, l/2 teaspoon of seeds in ¥2 cup of boiling water and
strain. As a juice, one tablespoon two or three times a day an hour before meals.
AKA: Anthemis nobilis (Roman chamomile), camomile, Chamaemelum nobile (Roman chamomile),
Kamillosan, Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile), Matricaria recutita (German chamomile),
Effects: Chamomile is said to stimulate the brain, dispel weariness, calm the nerves, counteract
insomnia, aid in digestion, break up mucus in the throat and lungs, and aid the immune system.
Further, it has antibacterial and antifungal properties and may inhibit the growth of the polio virus
and certain tumors, alleviate the pain and joint inflammation of arthritis, and prevent and heal ulcers.
Kamillosan and Perkamillon are German pharmaceutical brands used to treat indigestion and ulcers.
Works synergistically with other sedative herbs.
Precautions: Can cause reactions in those allergic to ragweed, aster, or chrysanthemums. There have
also been reports of asthma, hay fever, and hives in susceptible individuals. Overdosing can cause
nausea and vomiting. An overdose of the tincture may cause diarrhea.
Dosage: The tea contains only 10 percent of the sedative-inducing chemicals of the herb.
AKA: Larrea divaricata, Larrea tridentata.
Effects: Contains nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), a chemical which has shown antioxidant and
antiseptic qualities. Traditionally used by Native Americans to treat various cancers, arthritis, bruises,
eczema, rheumatism, snake bites, venereal diseases, and wounds. Herbalists have used it as an
antibiotic, treating bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Used as a mouthwash, it can reduce cavities by up
to 75 percent, though all of it should be spit out immediately after rinsing the mouth, as swallowing
could produce side effects.
Precautions: Scientific evidence for any claims is lacking. The plant could cause inflammation of the
skin if touched. Internal use may cause damage to the liver, especially if taken in large doses or for
prolonged periods of time.
AKA: Adder's mouth, Cerastium vulgatum (mouse-ear chickweed), Indian chickweed, satin flower,
starweed, starwort, Stellaria media (common chickweed), Stellaria pubera (star chickweed),
stitchwort, tonguegrass, winterweed.
Effects: It is high in vitamin C. Herbalists have used it to treat arthritis, asthma, cancer, blood
disorders, constipation, eczema, fever, gout, hemorrhoids, infection, inflammation, obesity,
tuberculosis, bruises, nosebleeds, abscesses, and boils.
Precautions: There is no scientific evidence for any of its supposed health benefits, though it is
generally considered very safe.
Dosage: It is best used sparingly as a vegetable or salad green.
CHINESE CLUB MOSS
AKA: Club moss, foxtail, Huperzia serrata, lycopod, Lycopodium calvatum, staghorn, vegetable
sulfur, wolf claw.
Effects: Contains hyperzine, which inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine, which may aid in the
alleviation of symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Used by herbalists as a diuretic for kidney disorders
and as a treatment for nervous disorders and epilepsy.
Precautions: Only the spores should be used, as the plant itself is poisonous.
Dosage: One to two cups of tea a day.
AKA: Caryophyllus aromaticus, Eugenia aromatica, Syzygium aromaticum.
Effects: An antioxidant. It increases circulation and thins the blood. It also aids digestion and is used
in the treatment of flatulence, vomiting, and nausea. The oil has antifungal and antibacterial
Precautions: May cause a numbing effect on the tongue, as it contains eugenol, a strong anesthetic.
Clove oil is toxic in large amounts.
AKA: Cola nitida.
Cola soft drinks do not contain the herb, but they do share the stimulating compound caffeine.
Effects: Contains the compounds theobromine, kolanin, and caffeine, all of which are stimulants. It is
used as a female aphrodisiac in Jamaican and West African societies.
AKA: Caterpillar fungus.
Effects: A mushroom that is used in China as a tonic to increase energy and stamina, either as a tea or
Precautions: It is said to be nontoxic.
AKA: Sida cordifolia.
Effects: Contains the stimulant compound ephedrine, which may explain its reputation as an
aphrodisiac. It has been used to treat bronchial congestion and narcolepsy. Herbalists have used it to
treat muscular and nervous system problems such as sciatica, and it may also have antiseptic
Dosage: James A. Duke, Ph.D., recommends five teaspoons of the herb in a cup of boiling water.
AKA: Turnera aphrodisiaca, Turnera diffusa.
Popular in Mexico, it is used to make both a tea and a liqueur.
Effects: It may have a calming or sleep-inducing effect. It is traditionally thought of as an
aphrodisiac, and has been used to treat impotence and sterility, not to mention diabetes, kidney
disease, bladder infections, asthma, bronchitis, chronic fatigue, and anxiety.
Precautions: It can interfere with the absorption of iron. Evidence for its supposed aphrodisiac
qualities is only anecdotal, though it is generally considered a safe herb. There appear to be no reports
Dosage: James A Duke, Ph.D., recommends a tablespoon of dried herb in a cup of boiling water.
AKA: Blowball, cankerwort, lion's tooth, priest's crown, puffball, pu gong ying, swine snout,
Taraxacum officinale, white endive, wild endive.
Effects: A good source of lecithin and choline, both of which are beneficial to memory, plus the
antioxidant carotenoids lutein and violaxanthin. It may be helpful in treating constipation, fever, gout,
hepatitis, insomnia, stiff joints, liver disorders, and chronic rheumatism.
Precautions: It appears to be a safe herb with no apparent side effects.
Dosage: One cup of tea a day.
AKA: Jujube date.
Effects: Da t'sao is said to promote calmness and is used in China to treat insomnia and dizziness.
AKA: Harpagophytum procumbens.
Effects: In Europe, it has been used to treat senility, as well as allergies, arthritis, and diabetes. In
Africa, it is used to treat fever, indigestion, malaria, and skin cancer.
Precautions: There is no scientific evidence for any of its claims. Studies which have shown it
relieves the symptoms of gout through antiinflammatory properties and by lowering uric acid levels
have employed injections; it is not known if ingesting this herb would have the same effects.
AKA: Angelica sinensis, Chinese angelica, dang quai, tang keui, tang kwei.
Don quai is similar to western angelica (Angelica archangelica), though its effects are milder and
Effects: Known as an antiaging herb. It is also used to treat menstrual problems, the symptoms of
menopause, heart disease, insomnia, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, herpes zoster
(shingles), anemia, and diabetes.
Dosage: Three cups of tea a day, or four tablets or capsules a day in two divided doses.
AKA: Campanumaeapilosula, don shen, tang shen.
Effects: Considered similar in effect to ginseng, though milder. It is said to restore energy and
improve digestion, and is used to treat heartburn.
Works synergistically with astragalus.
EPHEDRA AND MA-HUANG
AKA: Dymetadrine 25, Ephedra gerardiana (Pakistani ephedra), Ephedra nevadensis (American
ephedra, Brigham Young weed, cowboy tea, desert herb, Mormon tea, squaw tea, teamster's tea,
whorehouse tea), Ephedra sinica (Chinese ephedra, ma-huang), epitonin.
Effects: Chinese and Pakistani ephedra contain ephedrine, a strong central nervous system
stimulant.'American ephedra contains norpseudoephedrine, which may be even more powerful. It
increases adrenaline production, heart rate, and blood pressure.
It is said to be useful in the treatment of asthma (by dilating the bronchioles), narcolepsy, nasal
congestion, and allergies. Some claim it helps to burn off fat and contribute to weight loss. Ephedra
sinica may contain a substance that prevents the growth of the Influenza B virus. Dymetadrine 25 is
an over-the-counter drug that is pure ephedrine.
Traditional Chinese medicine has used it in conjunction with other herbs.
Precautions: It should not be used by persons who suffer from anxiety attacks (panic disorder),
diabetes, elevated thyroid, glaucoma, heart disease, hypertension, or high blood pressure, or by those
who have a history of abusing stimulant drugs. Those who are underweight, sedentary, subsisting on
a poor diet, recovering from an illness, suffering from extreme stress, have sleep problems, or who
have a weak digestive system may find that ma huang may make them feel more stressed out and run
The effects wear off rapidly, so that larger and larger doses are needed to achieve the same effect.
Large doses can cause headache, nervousness, nausea, palpitations, dizziness, difficult urination,
insomnia, and chest pain. Overuse may also lead to a condition called the serotonin syndrome, where
serotonin levels in the body are too high, and which is characterized by restlessness, confusion,
sweating, diarrhea, excessive salivation, high blood pressure, increased body temperature, rapid heart
rate, tremors, and seizures. There are twenty reported cases of ephedrine psychosis attributed to
overuse, and attempts by individuals to obtain a high have led to a few deaths. Its use in treating
allergies, asthma, and congestion has largely been replaced by more effective drugs that exhibit fewer
side effects. Ephedra could cause a positive response on a drug test for amphetamine use.
It should not be combined with MAO inhibitor drugs or 5-HTP. Bodybuilders often take 100 mg of
caffeine, 50 mg of ephedrine, and one aspirin three times a day for "cutting up" (reducing fat and
increasing muscle definition), though this is not recommended, as the caffeine-ephedra combination
may have been responsible for almost two dozen deaths in recent years. Proponents of ephedra say
the evidence is inconclusive, particularly since ephedra has been used for much of recorded history,
and ephedra-based alkaloids are found in numerous over-the-counter remedies that have been used by
millions, many of whom also regularly drink caffeinated beverages.
Dosage: James A. Duke, Ph.D., recommends one level teaspoon of the dried herb or one-half to one
teaspoon of the tincture, though he cautions that this should only be done after consultation with a
doctor. The FDA does not recommend more than 24 mg of ephedrine a day.
AKA: Greek hayseed, Trigonella foenum-graecum.
Effects: A good source of choline and beta-carotene, both of which are useful in the treatment of
Alzheimer's disease. It has also been used in the treatment of gout, neuralgia, respiratory ailments,
sciatica, skin irritations, sores, swollen glands, and tumors.
Dosage: Two teaspoons of seeds per cup of water for up to two to three cups a day.
Effects: An antioxidant.
AKA: Muk sheng (red fu ling), Poria cocos.
Effects: Said to be useful in treating insomnia and "emotional imbalances" such as apprehension,
fear, instability, and insecurity. It is also one of the most powerful diuretics known. Herbalists have
also used it to treat kidney problems and lung congestion.
AKA: Allium canadense, Allium sativum, hu suan.
Effects: Garlic inhibits the formations of nitrosamines, compounds which lead to the development of
cancer, especially digestive and colon cancers, and has been used to treat diabetes, heart disease, high
blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, cancer, hypoglycemia,
gastrointestinal disorders, asthma, bronchitis, candidiasis, and .pneumonia. Because it contains
sulfhydryl compounds (which regulate immune function) and the minerals selenium and germanium,
it can fight infection by stimulating the immune system, and has been shown to have antibacterial,
antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. Studies have revealed that garlic destroys the Helicobacter
pylori bug, a bacteria that plays a role in the development of stomach ulcers and possibly even
stomach cancer. Garlic can also trigger enzymes in the liver to deactivate afla-toxin, a strong
carcinogen found on mold in peanuts and grains. One study,has shown that those who took
supplements of 300 mg/day of garlic had aortas that were 15 percent more supple than those who
Precautions: Very large doses of garlic may cause gastrointestinal problems; even in moderate
amounts, it can aggravate gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux, by relaxing the lower
esophageal sphincter muscle. Garlic's effectiveness depends on its allicin production, which occurs as
a result of a reaction between the compound alliin — a sulfur amino acid — and the enzyme allinase.
Fresh, whole garlic is the only effective form, as the allicin breaks down quickly after it is cut or
sliced; allicin is not activated in garlic that has been aged or dried, though Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld
states that sanitized capsules are also effective, and these are recommended for those concerned about
the odor. On the other hand, Joe and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D., recommend that a clove of garlic should
be crushed at least ten minutes before heating to obtain the full cancer-fighting benefits. Recently, a
process developed by the Japanese ages garlic for a year, enhancing its antioxidant effects by fully
metabolizing allicin into other biologically active sulfur compounds while eliminating its odor. Garlic
supplements should be stopped about two weeks before surgery, as it could cause excessive bleeding.
Garlic will increase the blood thinning properties of aspirin and other anticoagulants, so caution
should be exercised when combining them.
Dosage: A clove of garlic a day (about 4 grams). Supplements should provide at least 10 mg/day of
alliin or a total allicin potential of 4000 meg/day (equivalent to roughly 4000 mg of fresh garlic). A
recommended dose of aged extract is 600 to 1200 mg/day, or 2 to 5 mg/day of garlic oil.
AKA: Lycii, Lycium chinenses, lycium Chinese, wolfberry.
Effects: It is believed that this herb can contribute to a long life span and a sunny disposition. It is
high in antioxidants and carotenoids, and is known to increase testosterone levels in men who are
deficient. It has been used to treat high blood pressure, kidney disease, fever, bronchial inflammation,
diabetes, and some types of cancer.
AKA: Bitter root, bitterwort, Gentiana catesbaei (blue gentian, American gentian), Gentiana crinita
(fringed gentian), Gentiana lutea (yellow gentian), Gentiana officinalis, Gentiana quinque-folia (stiff
gentian, gallweed), gentian root, pale gentian.
Effects: Gentian may increase circulation, aid digestion, and stimulate the appetite. It has been used
to treat earaches, heartburn, hypothyroidism, and ulcers.
Dosage: One teaspoon in one or two cups of water, simmered for 30 minutes.
AKA: African ginger, Asarum canadense, black ginger, Canada snake-root, gan Jiang, Indian ginger,
race ginger, wild ginger, Zingiberis officianalis, Zingiber officinale.
Effects: Has been used to treat anxiety and depression. A stimulant, it is said to benefit the stomach,
intestines, and circulation, and has been used to treat cramps, indigestion, gas, motion sickness, and
nausea. It is said to help cleanse the body through sweating, to stimulate the appetite, and to relieve
the symptoms of colds.
Precautions: Large doses can cause stomach upset. Use of the whole plant causes liver damage in
animals. In the 1930s, Jamaican ginger used in an alcoholic beverage caused major neurological
symptoms in some people.
AKA: EGb 761, Ginkgold, maidenhair tree, Rokan, Tanakan, Tebonin.
Effects: Acts as a vasodilator, improving circulation in the medium and small capillaries in the brain
and extremities (it also increases the circulation of the microcapillaries, something no other known
substance is known to do), prevents free radical damage in cell membranes (and repairs lesions
caused by free radicals), protects nerve tissue from damage resulting from hypoxia (lack of oxygen),
helps the brain to metabolize glucose better, facilitates nerve transmission, and increases alertness (by
reducing theta brainwaves, the presence of which indicates inattention and lack of concentration),
short-term memory, and overall brain functioning.
It has been used to treat age-related dementia in Europe for years, as it has been found to produce the
same consistent EEG changes as those produced by drugs prescribed for dementia, though it may
take six months before changes become apparent. It may have no memory- or brain-enhancement
effect in healthy people with no brain impairment. It may inhibit mental deterioration in the early
stages of Alzheimer's disease for six to twelve months, though some dispute this.
Ginkgo biloba contains ginkgolides, molecules that are antagonistic to Platelet Activating Factor
(PAF), a major component of asthma, allergies, and inflammatory conditions. It may also be helpful
in relieving the symptoms of such conditions as bronchial and cardiac asthma, cold extremities,
diabetes, eczema, glaucoma, inner ear dysfunction, macular degeneration, migraine headaches,
multiple sclerosis, neuralgia and neuropathy, retinopathy, tinnitus, vascular fragility, and vertigo.
There is no evidence it can help sustain male erections.
Precautions: It has been found to reduce the ability of sperm to penetrate eggs, and individuals should
exceed the average daily dose only under a physician's care. Because of the relationship to PAF, it
can be a problem for those with clotting disorders. High doses may cause diarrhea, headaches,
irritability, nausea, restlessness, skin irritations, and vomiting. The fruit can cause severe allergic
reactions much like poison ivy and poison oak. Though commercially sold ginkgo biloba products are
tannin-free, there may be a chance that some extracts are not, and these tannins, or astringent
chemicals, may cause gastrointestinal disorders.
It may interact with such blood thinners as Warfarin (coumadin) and aspirin.
Dosage: From 120 to 160 mg/day of flavonoid extract in three divided doses (Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld
recommends half that, while James A. Duke, Ph.D., considers 60 to 240 mg/day safe); it has a halflife
of three hours, and it is pretty much gone after 6 hours. The extract must be at least a 50-to-l
concentration (50 pounds of leaves used to make 1 pound of extract), along with 24 percent active
ingredients (gingkoflavonglycosides, also referred to as flavoglycosides, flavone glycosides, or
ginkgoheterosides); quite a few products available are lower in concentration and are taken in doses
as high as 1000 mg/day. Improvements should be seen within three to six months.
AKA: Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng), Panax notoginseng (Tienchi ginseng), Panax
quinquefolium (American ginseng, five fingers, five-leafed ginseng, redberry), Panax schinseng
(Asiatic ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Wonder-of-the-world), Panax trifolius (dwarf ginseng), ren shen.
It has been used as a general health tonic in China for the past forty centuries.
Effects: Works as an adaptogen, a nontoxic substance that normalizes body functions and protects
against various stressors on the body. Many people believe Ginseng stimulates the brain and
improves concentration, memory and learning, visual acuity, color perception, and aural acuity;
works as a general stimulant to combat fatigue and stress; fights free radicals; reduces cholesterol;
improves brain circulation; reduces heart rate; normalizes blood pressure; normalizes blood sugar;
stimulates endocrine activity and metabolic functions; aids circulation and digestion; helps the body
resist toxins, chemotherapy, alcohol, and drugs; boosts athletic performance and recovery from
workouts; helps reduce insomnia and sleep disturbances; stimulates macrophage activity in the
immune system; normalizes body functions; and improves sexual performance (though it is not an
aphrodisiac). It has also been used to treat arthritis, tuberculosis, indigestion, cancer, and the
symptoms of menopause.
Precautions: Solid research of its benefits is lacking. Quality can vary widely, and good ginseng is
very expensive. Unfortunately, most of what is available is cheap and offers very little in the way of
active ingredients: one study in the 1980s found that 50 to 70 percent of the products sold were
diluted or adulterated, and a 1997 study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms found that
most liquid ginseng contains alcohol, some as much as 34 percent. Many commercial products which
contain ginseng, such as soft drinks, contain too little of the herb to provide any health benefits.
Further, there are over two hundred different varieties, and experts cannot come to a consensus on
what is the best type. Even within each variety, the quality can vary widely. Koreans routinely strip
the bark during processing, the part of the plant which contains the highest amount of the active
ingredients; red ginseng always has an intact bark, but white may or may not be stripped. Products
should only be made with six-year-old roots, as it should not be harvested before then.
Some prefer American ginseng because it is a milder form than its Asian counterpart and avoids
some of the side effects. Those suffering from acute inflammatory disease, anxiety disorder, bipolar
disorder (manic-depression), heart palpitations, asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis should avoid
American and Asian ginseng. Panax ginseng contains an estrogen-like compound that could cause
problems in some individuals. Siberian ginseng is, strictly speaking, not ginseng at all, even though it
comes from the same plant family; it has fewer side effects and more consistent results, but since it
creates heat in the body, it should be avoided by those suffering from hot dry eyes, rashes, chronic
sore throats, or high blood pressure.
Ginseng may cause allergy symptoms, increased blood pressure, diarrhea, gastrointestinal problems,
headaches, heart palpitations, hypertension, insomnia, nervousness, tissue swelling, skin eruptions,
weakness, tremors, masculinizaton in women and feminization in men, and skin rash, especially if
taken at high doses for prolonged periods of time. Large doses should not be taken during an acute
infection, as that may suppress the immune system.
There should be at least a three-hour span between taking ginseng and taking vitamin C, as some of
the ginseng may be neutralized.
Dosage: From 500 to 3000 mg/day in divided doses. Extracts produce the most consistent results.
Taking higher doses should be done only under the supervision of a health professional, and avoided
as a general rule. Thomas H. Crook III, Ph.D., and Brenda Adderly, M.H.A., do not recommend
taking it, based on many of the precautions cited above, while Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D.,
recommends taking four to eight tablets a day of the Chinese medicine Ching Chun Bao, which
contains, among other things, Royal Manchurian ginseng, the strongest and most effective form of
GOTU-KOLA AND FO-TI-TIENG
AKA (Gotu-kola): Brahmi, Centella asiatica, gota-kola, Indian pennywort.
AKA (Fo-ti-tieng): Asian marsh pennywort, fleeceflower, fo-ti, Ho shou wu, Hydrocotyle asiatica
minor, Poly-gonum multiflorium.
Gotu-kola is a plant found throughout Africa and the East and, like ginseng, is considered an
adaptogen. Fo-ti-tieng is so similar that botanists think it may be a geographic variant.
Effects: Both Gotu-kola and fo-ti-tieng have been used to treat obesity, varicose veins, wounds, and
some skin conditions. They may improve attention and concentration, have an antistress tranquilizing
effect, stimulate the brain by increasing blood flow, detoxify the body, and energize the cells. They
are said to increase longevity.
Taken with calamus root, they may improve memory and mental clarity.
Precautions: Solid scientific evidence is lacking for many of their benefits, but they appear to be safe
herbs. They should not be taken by those with an overactive thyroid. Gotu-kola can cause dermatitis
if applied to the skin.
Dosage: One-half cup of tea using one ounce of gotu-kola per pint of water, taken three times a day.
GRASS, WHEAT AND BARLEY
AKA: Green Kamut, Green Magma.
Effects: Wheat grass is an excellent source of such antioxidant vitamins as A, B, C, and E. Both
wheat grass and barley grass contain all the minerals essential for health, especially calcium, cobalt,
iron, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, and zinc. In addition to all the vitamins and minerals, they are
high in chlorophyll, which according to some experts helps rid the body of toxins (including
pesticides, drugs, and radiation) and discourages the growth of harmful bacteria. Barley also contains
the antioxidants superoxide dismutase (SOD) and 2-0-GIV.
Precautions: Since these grasses cannot be digested by the human body in their solid state, they must
be juiced, and they must be consumed before they go bad (within ten minutes). However, they can be
stored in plastic containers in the fridge for up to a week, and even longer frozen, but at the expense
of some of their nutritional value.
AKA: Bancha tea, Camellia sinensis, gunpowder tea, Imperial tea, kukicha tea, matcha tea, sencha
tea, Yamashire tea.
Green tea is made from the same plant as black tea, but is processed by steaming before drying,
rather than being fermented by "sweating," as is done with black tea. Oolong tea (also known as red
tea or yellow tea) stands in the middle, as it is fermented, but not for as long as black tea.
Effects: All teas contain mind-altering alkaloids known as methylxanthines, which are also found in
chocolate, coffee, cola, guarana, kola nut, and yerbe mate, and include caffeine, theophylline, and
theobromine. Though tea leaves have a higher caffeine content than coffee beans (1 to 4 percent as
opposed to 1 to 2 percent), green tea may have a much lower level of caffeine than coffee (20 to 30
mg compared to 75 to 150 mg) because caffeine is more readily leached into coffee than tea, and tea
is" diluted more with water than coffee is. Tea has a calming effect conducive to mental activity, as
opposed to the sudden stimulation of coffee, which is more suitable to physical activity, and lacks the
toxic or carcinogenic compounds found in coffee (e.g., caffeol, creosote, phenol, tars). Tea that is
brewed for only two to three minutes has about half the caffeine as tea brewed for five or more
minutes, and is not as bitter. High quality tea is dependent upon three things: (1) leaves and buds that
are young and small, (2) leaves that are whole instead of broken, and (3) the absence of less
beneficial parts such as twigs and stems. Gunpowder tea from China and matcha and sencha tea from
Japan are examples of such teas. Chinese Imperial and Japanese Yamashire teas, though made from
older leaves, are still of good quality, while the Japanese bancha and kukicha teas, being the lowest
grade as they contain a high amount of twigs and stems, have the lowest amount of caffeine. Tea also
contains polyphenols, compounds which have 25 to 100 times the antioxidant properties of vitamins
C or E. It has been shown to lower levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, and raise the levels of HDL,
or "good" cholesterol. It is also said to prevent the buildup of plaque, prevent tooth decay because of
its high fluoride content, and contribute to weight loss because of the metabolism-increasing effects
of caffeine and the fatburning property of the polyphenols. Preliminary research has shown that,
when applied to the skin, it is an effective sunscreen.
Works synergistically with red wine, grapeseed, and borage oil.
Precautions: Caffeine may be both physically and psychologically addicting, and consuming high
amounts could cause restlessness, anxiety, tremors, insomnia, abdominal pain, high blood pressure,
and heart palpitations. Women who drink more than four-and-a-half cups of green tea a day are much
more likely to suffer from PMS. Studies on whether green tea or black tea causes esophageal cancer
are inconclusive, leading some to conclude that the disease may be due more to the habit of drinking
tea scalding hot than to any particular ingredient in the tea.
Adding milk to green tea may prevent the absorption of at least some of the polyphenols.
Dosage: Five cups or more a day for at least six months have been shown to significantly lower the
risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers. Five to ten cups a day is believed to normalize blood sugar
by regulating insulin production, and 100 to 150 mg/day of caffeine maybe necessary for weight loss.
Extracts may have lower levels of caffeine and higher levels of polyphenols than the tea.
AKA: Brazilian chocolate, Brazilian cocoa, Energy Elixir, Guarana Tai (soft drink), Hit Energy, Josta
(soft drink), Paullinia cupana, Super Pep, Zoom.
Effects: Traditionally used as a stimulant, aphrodisiac, and appetite suppressant, and used by
herbalists to treat diarrhea, fever, and headaches. It does not cause the caffeine "jitters" that coffee
normally does, possibly because the fats and oils in the seeds allow the caffeine to be digested much
more slowly, resulting in a milder and longer-lasting high, though research has, as yet, not borne this
out. The various saponins in guarana may enhance the health benefits of this herb.
Precautions: Has a higher caffeine level than tea or coffee, though the caffeine content may
sometimes be misleadingly referred to as guaranine, a name bestowed upon it by early researchers
who did not realize the two alkaloids were identical. Guarana sodas have, at most, 0.3 to 0.6 percent
of the herb. More unfortunately, however, modern processing grinds the seeds at high temperatures,
which oxidizes some of the compounds and produces a product that is both bitter-tasting and
potentially irritating to the stomach.
AKA: Ilex guayusa.
A member of the holly family, it is related to yaupon and yerbe mate.
Effects: One of the richest plant sources of caffeine (up to 7.6 percent), it has traditionally been used
by the indigenous peoples of South America as a stimulant, a headache remedy, and as a purgative in
A tree resin similar to myrrh.
Effects: A strong antioxidant that is said to relieve arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. It has
been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol.
AKA: Crataegus oxyacantha, English hawthorn, hagthorn, May bush, May tree, quickset, thorn-apple
Effects: May relieve anxiety and insomnia and improve circulation. It contains many bioflavonoids
and is used by herbalists for various heart conditions— such as high blood pressure, myocarditis,
arrhythmic heartbeat, and arteriosclerosis — digestive problems, and kidney disorders.
Precautions: Its concentrated form should be used only under the guidance of a physician.
Dosage: One teaspoon of flowers steeped in one-half cup of water, for up to one and one-half cups a
day, or three capsules a day in three divided doses.
AKA: Humulus lupulus.
A member of the hemp family, it is used to add flavor to beer.
Effects: May have a relaxing, sedative effect that promotes restful sleep. It also stimulates the
appetite, reduces flatulence, and relieves intestinal cramps. Some of its compounds show promise as
Works synergistically with skullcap.
Precautions: It cannot be stored for long, as it deteriorates rapidly and becomes very unstable when
exposed to light and air. Those suffering from depression should not take high doses. Because of its
sedative effect, it should be taken just before sleep. No significant side effects have been reported.
AKA: American horsemint, English horsemint, horsemint, Mentha sylvestris, monarda, Monarda
didyma (bee balm, blue balm, high balm, low balm, mountain balm, mountain mint, Oswego tea;,
Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot), Monarda punctata.
Effects: Contains carvacrol and thymol, both of which prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, which
may aid in the alleviation of symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. These compounds may be able to
cross the blood-brain barrier, so it may be beneficial even when used externally. It has been used to
relieve the symptoms of various digestive, respiratory, and cold-related ailments.
Dosage: One teaspoon of leaves or tops per cup of water, up to one to two cups a day.
AKA: Jasminum officinale.
Effects: Jasmine is believed to promote relaxation and is a possible aphrodisiac.
A plant used as a tea in the rain forests of Brazil and Peru.
Effects: Has an energy-boosting effect. May aid the respiratory and urinary systems and help in
KAVA AND KAWAIN
AKA: Ava, awa, kasa, kava kava, Kavaform, Kaviase, kawa, kawa kawa, keu, Laitan, lewena, Piper
methysticum, Piper wichmannii, sakau, seka, waka, wati, yagona, yaqona.
A Polynesian herb used by native peoples to make an alcoholic drink. The practice of preparing the
root and stem for the drink by having a designated person chew on them is no longer done because of
health risks. Kava contains several active compounds called kavalactones, also known as kava
alphapyrones or kavapyrones, which include kawain (or kavain), dihydrokawain, methysticin,
dihydromethysticin, and yangonin; each kavalactone has a different effect on the body, and the
effects of different plants may vary according to the levels of the various kavalactones. It's uncertain
whether the leaves and stems produce different effects from the roots, or whether older plants are
more potent than younger ones.
Effects: May induce a sense of wellbeing in small doses, and relaxation, lethargy, and drowsiness in
larger doses. The effects begin after twenty or thirty minutes and generally last two to three hours.
According to Dr. Harold Bloomfield, "Medical studies have shown that kava can often relieve mild to
moderate anxiety as effectively as benzodiazepine tranquilizers." It has been found to improve
digestion, memory, reaction time, and vigilance, relax muscles, and decrease anxiety, chest pain,
dizziness, gastric irritation, headaches, heart palpitations, muscle spasms, and symptoms of
menopause and PMS. It also has local anesthetic properties and can be used to treat urinary tract
infections and bladder disorders. Unlike other psychoactive plants (e.g., mushrooms and peyote), it
does not enhance intellect or produce altered states of consciousness, though anecdotal evidence
indicates it may enhance visual and auditory perception as well as produce more vivid dreams. How
the kavalactones work is still not known, though it is believed they pass through the blood-brain
barrier and affect certain neurotransmitters.
Kawain, a resinous pyrone extracted from the root of the kava plant, has been shown to control
lipofuscin deposits. Waka is a Fijian term that refers to the kava taken from the plant's lateral roots,
and waka is the most expensive and potent form. Lewena, the rootstock, and kasa, the lower sterns,
are cheaper and less potent forms.
Kava works synergistically with chamomile, hops, licorice, and valerian.
Precautions: Kava should not be taken by those with Parkinson's disease (it could worsen muscular
weakness and twitching), by those who are severely depressed, or by those allergic to it. The elderly
or ill should take smaller doses, and then only under the care of a physician. Kava is not advisable
when driving or operating heavy machinery. It can be habit-forming. No clinical studies have been
done in the U.S., and some are concerned that it might be abused as it has psychotropic properties
similar to opium and cocaine. It probably should not be used for severe anxiety or for long-term
treatment. Neither should it be used as a substitute for benzodiazepines, as it is not as effective in
inducing sleep; is not as effective for severe agitation, severe anxiety, or convulsions; is slower to
take effect; and does not remain effective for as long a period as the prescription drug.
A pungent and numbing aftertaste deters the drinker from consuming too much. Tea made from the
dried and powdered root bark may not have the pleasant lilac aroma and flavor of freshly made kava.
Stronger effects may be achieved by chewing the root, though this is something even the indigenous
population of the South Seas do not engage in, as the taste and thick fibers of the root make this an
Extended use of doses equal to 400 mg/day of kavalactones and higher could result in a buildup of
toxins in the liver, damage to the heart and lungs, and skin that is pigmented or darkened, dry, and
covered with scales, particularly on the palms, soles, forearms, back, and shins (which may clear up
when use is discontinued). Other symptoms include numbness of the tongue, dizziness,
gastrointestinal distress, grogginess, inflammation of the skin and eyes, insomnia, sudden muscle
spasms, nausea, biochemical abnormalities, vision disturbances, and shortness of breath.
There is one documented case of a man who lapsed into a brief coma after combining kava with the
drug Xanax. It is recommended that kava not be combined with benzodiapezine tranquilizers,
alcohol, antidepressants, or sleeping pills.
Dosage: The most effective method of consumption is by eating the dried root, as saliva activates the
kavalactones. An acceptable dosage is 1.5 to 3 mg/day in divided doses. Probably the least effective
method of consumption is as a tea, as water does not release the kavalactones the way oil does. An
acceptable compromise is liquid extract formulas or standardized extract capsules. Generally, kava
root of high quality will contain approximately 5 to 8 percent kavalactones. Though kavalactones are
not, for the most part, water soluble, a water-soluble extract can be made; it differs from the usual fatsoluble
extract in that it does not induce sleep, but it does have some pain-killing properties.
Fatsoluble kava, on which most of the studies have been done, induces sleep and has much greater
pain-killing abilities. If taking a tincture with a 1:2 ratio, dosage should be between 3 to 6 ml/day in
divided doses. The initial dose should be about 70 mg of kavalactones, which should be gradually
increased to about 100 mg. Reports indicate that 150 to 210 mg/day of kavalactones relieves anxiety,
while one daily dose of this amount taken a half hour before bedtime induces sleep. It is more
effective when taken on an empty stomach. Kava should not be taken on a daily basis for more than
four to six months.
AKA: Lavandula officinalis, Lavandula vera.
Effects: Lavender may relieve stress, depression, and insomnia because of its ability to slow nerve
impulses, producing an anesthetic effect. It may also be good for the skin, and has been used in the
treatment of amenorrhea, burns, carpal tunnel syndrome, fainting, pain, psoriasis, and vaginitis, and
by herbalists in the treatment of dizziness, flatulence, headaches, and skin problems. According to
James A. Duke, Ph.D., the sedative compounds can be absorbed in the skin, and tossing a handful in
bathwater is a good way to relax.
Precautions: Some species, such as Spanish lavender, are stimulating rather than tranquilizing,
Dosage: One teaspoon of leaves in one-half cup of water, for a maximum of one cup a day.
AKA: Gan cao, Glycyrrhiza glabra, licorice root, sweet licorice, sweet wood.
Most licorice candy does not contain any trace of the herb but, instead, anise; some European licorice
candies, however, may contain dangerously high levels of licorice. Licorice is a legume, part of the
same family as beans and peas.
Effects: Licorice has been used to treat depression, as well as digestive, respiratory, kidney, and
bladder ailments. In Japan, it has been used to treat chronic hepatitis B and C. It can also inhibit tooth
decay, inhibit the growth of cancer in vitro and in mice, is helpful in the treatment of sore throats and
coughs, and may aid in the treatment of Addison's disease. An extract, glycyrrhizin, has been used to
treat such viruses as herpes zoster (shingles), herpes simplex 1, polio type 1, and vaccinia in vitro,
and to inhibit HIV. Derivatives have also led to such drugs as Carbenoxolone, used in the treatment
of various types of ulcers. Used by herbalists to treat allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue, emphysema,
fever, hypoglycemia, and inflammation of the bowels.
Precautions: Licorice should not be used by those with hypertension (it could raise the blood pressure
even more), depression (it can elevate blood cortisol and deepen the depression), severe menstrual
problems, heart disease, diabetes, or glaucoma.
Overdosage or constant use (i.e., on a daily basis for more than a week) can result in headache, high
blood pressure, hypertension, lethargy, retention of water and salt, and excessive loss of potassium.
One man suffered congestive heart failure after eating a pound and a half of the herb for a week, and
one woman suffered cardiac arrest (among other side effects) after consuming four pounds a week
over an unknown period of time.
At least eight compounds in licorice are MAO inhibitors, so it should not be combined with certain
Dosage: One teaspoon of rootstock in one cup of water for up to three cups a day.
AKA: Ligustrum lucidium. Effects: Its medicinal qualities are said to be similar to astragalus; it
contains two potentially immune-regulating ingredients, syringin and a terpene compound. In China,
it has been used to treat fatigue and prevent aging, in addition to being prescribed for infections, heart
disease, body aches, dizziness, and tinnitus.
Dosage: From 6 to 15 g/day of a decoction made from the berries.
MEXICAN WILD YAM
AKA: Dioscorea barbasco, Dioscorea composita, Dioscorea mexicanan, Dioscorea villosa.
Effects: Contains DHEA and diosgenin, or steroid saponins, which are the precursor to the hormone
progesterone. Said by herbalists to be good for estrogen imbalances in women and in relieving the
symptoms of diverticulitis; some even claim that a salve made from it can enlarge women's breasts.
Precautions: There is little scientific evidence to back up any of its supposed benefits.
Only whole yam will provide benefits. Synthetic progesterone, called prog-estins or prestrogens, or
products containing wild yam may be lacking in essential nutrients and may have many side effects,
including depression, kidney problems, and increased risk of cancer.
AKA: Carduus marianus, holy thistle, Mary thistle, St. Mary's thistle, Silybum marianum, wild
Effects: Contains the bioflavonoid mixture silymarin, which protects the liver against hepatitis,
cirrhosis, and toxins such as carbon tetrachloride, alcohol, and the poisonous Amanita mushroom. It
may also help protect the liver from otherwise beneficial pharmaceuticals such as antianxiety drugs,
antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Zocor (simvastatin) and Mevacor (lovastatin),
and high doses of Tylenol (acetaminophen) and iron. Milk thistle may even reverse damage that has
already occurred. Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association have
revealed that at least three-quarters of all adult Americans show at least some sign of chronic liver
damage — which could manifest itself as irritability, fatigue, malaise, anxiety, depression, and mild
intellectual impairment — possibly indicating that this may be an important herb to add to the diet.
This bioflavonoid mixture may also be useful in preventing or treating gallstones and in relieving the
symptoms of psoriasis. It has shown promise in treating liver disorders and hepatitis (including
chronic hepatitis). Silymarin and its basic component silybin may protect cell membranes from free
radicals through antioxidant properties.
Precautions: Those taking any medication or suffering from liver damage should consult a physician
There appears to be little chance of any side effects with moderate use: studies have shown that less
than one percent of users have suffered side effects — and then only gastrointestinal discomfort and
Dosage: The common dosage is a 200 mg pill containing a standardized extract of 80 percent
silymarin (160 mg of silymarin) taken one to three times a day.
AKA: Artemisia vulgaris, common mugwort, felon herb, sailor's tobacco.
Effects: Has been used to reduce nervousness and insomnia. May relieve mental fatigue and improve
Precautions: High doses can lead to poisoning, but normal usage reportedly produces no adverse
Dosage: One tablespoon of dried herb steeped in half a cup of water or one-half teaspoon of
powdered rootstock with water twice a day.
AKA: Ptychopetalum olacoides.
Effects: Used as a stimulant in Brazil. Also used as a stomach tonic and to treat rheumatism. It is said
to be an aphrodisiac.
AKA: Commiphora myrrha, gum myrrh tree.
Effects: An antioxidant. Herbalists have used it to treat bad breath, periodontal disease, and skin
disorders, and the tincture is used to treat mouth and throat ulcers.
Precautions: It is toxic in large amounts.
Dosage: One teaspoon steeped in one pint of boiling water for a few minutes before straining, or two
to five drops of tincture at a time as needed.
AKA: Common nettle, common stinging nettle, dwarf nettle, great stinging nettle, stinging nettle,
Urtica dioica, Urtica urens.
Effects: Contains high levels of boron, which can increase the body's estrogen levels, improving
mood and short-term memory in those with
Alzheimer's. It is also a rich source of vitamins A, C, and E, protein, and minerals. Nettle has been
used by herbalists to treat anemia, cancer, goiter, kidney problems, liver disease, constipation,
asthma, worms, arthritis, gout, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea.
Precautions: Scientific evidence is lacking in its treatment for the above disorders, and effectiveness
in such cases is very doubtful. Eating old, uncooked plants can cause kidney damage and poisoning.
Side effects from the tea include upset stomach, a burning sensation on the skin, difficult urination
(even though it is normally a mild diuretic), and bloating.
Dosage: Two to three tablespoons of leaves or plants in one cup of water.
AKA: Avena sativa.
Effects: Said to have antidepressant and aphrodisiac properties. Preliminary studies have shown that
extracts have some success in helping individuals overcome opiate and nicotine (from cigarette
smoking) addiction. It is well-known that oat bran lowers cholesterol. According to James A. Duke,
Ph.D., a few handfuls of oatmeal in a warm bath can relieve the itching of hives.
Precautions: Evidence of its antidepressant and aphrodisiac qualities is lacking.
AKA: Marjoram, mountain mint, Origanum majorana, Origanum vulgare, wild marjoram, winter
Effects: An antioxidant. It may have a calming effect, and a pillow made from the bruised leaves may
Dosage: Two or three teaspoons of herb in one cup of water once or twice a day.
AKA: Maypops, Passiflora incarnata, passion vine, purple passion flower.
Effects: Passion flower is said to relieve depression and anxiety and promote restful sleep. It has been
used to treat anxiety, convulsions, and neuralgia, though scientific evidence is lacking.
Works synergistically with other sedative herbs.
Precautions: It should only be taken an hour or two before sleep. No significant side effects have
Dosage: From 200 to 300 mg of extract one hour before bedtime, containing 3.5 to 4 percent
isovitexin (flavonoids). The fruit, though low in nutrition, maybe eaten when ripe, simmered for 5
minutes to make a tea, or made into a jelly.
AKA: American mint, brandy mint, lamb mint, Mentha piperita, mint.
Effects: An antioxidant. It is said to be good for abdominal pains, chills, colic, coughs, cramps,
diarrhea, gastrointestinal problems, headache, heartburn, indigestion, insomnia, migraine headaches,
nausea, nervousness, poor appetite, rheumatism, and spasms.
Precautions: It can worsen heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux. Overdosage
may cause heart problems.
It may interfere with the absorption of iron.
Dosage: Two to three teaspoons of leaves per cup of water, not to exceed one and a half to two cups a
day for eight to twelve days.
AKA: Morinda species.
Effects: Reportedly aids cell regeneration, strengthens the immune system, and slows aging.
AKA: Portulaca, Portulaca oleracea, pussley.
Effects: Rich in antioxidants, including glutathione and vitamins A, C, and E. It also contains high
levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and potassium, along with calcium, folate, and lithium, all
of which may help relieve depression. Purslane has been used to treat asthma, angina, bursitis,
cardiac arrhythmia, chronic fatigue syndrome, gingivitis, headache, high blood pressure, intermittent
claudication, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, shingles, skin problems, tendinitis, wrinkles, and yeast
infections. It may also help prevent cataracts and heart disease. It has been used by herbalists as a
tonic for the kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract.
Dosage: The fresh stems and leaves can be used as salad greens.
AKA: Indian snakeroot, Rauwolfia serpentaria, Rauwolfia serpentina, ser-pentwood.
Effects: Dilates the blood vessels and contains the alkaloid reserpine, which has a tranquilizing effect.
It is used to treat insomnia and Raynaud's disease. Though it contains some yohimbine, it should not
be considered a substitute for yohimbe.
Precautions: It should not be taken by anyone who suffers from an allergy to rauwolfia alkaloids,
depression, peptic ulcers, or ulcerative colitis. Those who suffer from epilepsy or who have had
surgery in the past two months requiring general or spinal anesthesia should consult a physician first.
Those over age sixty may suffer increased adverse reactions or side effects. Performing isometric
exercises while on rauwolfia may cause the blood pressure to rise too high.
Common side effects to prescription rauwolfia alkaloids include depression, dizziness, headache,
faintness, drowsiness, lethargy, red eyes, stuffy nose, impotence, reduced sex drive, diarrhea, and dry
mouth. Less common side effects include black stools, bloody vomit, chest pain, shortness of breath,
heartbeat that is irregular or slow, stiffness (muscles, bones, and joints), trembling in the hands, and
swelling in the feet and legs. Rare side effects include a rash or itchy skin, sore throat, fever,
abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, unusual bruising or bleeding, jaundice, painful urination, and
Overdose symptoms include drowsiness, a pulse that is slow and weak, breathing that is slow and
shallow, diarrhea, flushing, coma, lowered body temperature, and pupils contracted to pinpoints.
The effects of rauwolfia alkaloids may be increased by other antihypertensives, betaadrenergic
blocking agents, Carteolol, and Lisinopril, and decreased by Sotalol. Rauwolfia alkaloids can
increase the effects of antidepressants, antihistamines, central nervous system depressants,
Ethinamate, and Methyprylon, and decrease the effects of aspirin, levodopa, Pergolide, and terazosin.
The effects of both rauwolfia alkaloids and Dronabinol, Fluoxetine, Guanfacine, Loxapine, or
Sertraline are increased when combined. When combined with oral anticoagulants, it can result in an
unpredictable increase or decrease in the anticoagulant effect; with anticonvulsants, it can result in
changes in the seizure pattern; with Clozapine, the two could be toxic to the central nervous system;
with digitalis preparations, it could result in an irregular heartbeat; with Leucovorin's high alcohol
content, it could cause some side effects; with any mind-altering drug, it could cause excessive
sedation; with MAO inhibitors, it could cause severe depression; with Nabilone it could cause
increased depression of the central nervous sytem; with Nicardipine or Nimodipine, it could result in
a drop in blood pressure; and with Procarbazine, there could be a marked increase in blood pressure.
Combining rauwolfia alkaloids with alcohol can lead to greater intoxication, while carbonated
beverages can decrease the rauwolfia effect, cocaine can increase the risk of heart block and high
blood pressure, spicy foods can cause an upset stomach, and marijuana can cause drowsiness, low
blood pressure, and depression.
AKA: Ganoderma, Ganoderma lucidum, ling-chih-tsao, ling-zhi, wu-ling-chih.
Reishi is a mushroom that grows in the mountains of Asia.
Effects: An adaptogen that boosts the immune system, balances the bodily systems, counteracts
stress, and improves mental functioning. It may reduce symptoms of altitude sickness by thinning the
blood. It has been used to treat viral hepatitis, may protect the liver from various toxins, and may be
useful in treating chronic bronchitis, peptic ulcer disease, hypertension, insomnia, and high
Precautions: It should not be taken by hemophiliacs because it is high in adenosine. It should not be
taken for longer than two or three months on a daily basis, as long-term effects are unknown. Side
effects include achiness, more frequent bowel movements in the first few days, vertigo, itchiness, and
Reishi can interact with Thorazine and barbiturates.
Dosage: Between 750 and 1000 mg/day of extract in three divided doses.
AKA: Compass plant, incensier, mi die xiang, Rosemarinus officinalis.
Effects: An antioxidant which also prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine. It acts as a stimulant and
improves blood circulation, and ^may relieve mental fatigue, insomnia, and depression, and improve
memory. It can protect the liver against toxins, and is also used by herbalists to treat colic, fevers,
gas, headaches, high or low blood pressure, indigestion, menstrual cramps, and nausea.
Precautions: Raises blood pressure. Excessive amounts taken internally can be fatal.
Dosage: One teaspoon in half a cup of water once or twice a day, or 5 to 20 drops of tincture a day.
AKA: Autumn crocus, Crocus sativus, Spanish saffron.
Effects: Contains crocetin, which lowers blood pressure. It has been used by herbalists to treat
amenorrhea, coughs, whooping cough, stomach gas, colic, and insomnia. Saffron oil, or safrol, can be
processed to make the narcotic MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine).
Precautions: It contains a poison that can affect the central nervous system and damage the kidneys. It
can be fatal at doses of 10 to 12 grams.
AKA: Garden sage, Salvia officinalis.
Effects: Sage is antioxidant, a central nervous system stimulant, and a producer of estrogen-like
effects. It may help oxygenate the brain, and may also be helpful in treating nervous conditions and
depression. It is also used by herbalists in the treatment of bladder infections, colds and flus, diarrhea,
dysentery, inflammatory conditions, mouth and throat disorders, night sweats, excessive perspiration,
and sinus conditions.
Precautions: It should not be taken by those with seizure disorders or in large quantities because it
contains thujone, which can cause convulsions in high doses. Prolonged use or overuse can lead to
It can interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals.
Dosage: One teaspoon of leaves steeped in one-half cup of water for 30 minutes and taken one
tablespoonful at a time, for up to one cup a day.
One-quarter to one-half teaspoon of powdered leaves at a time. Fifteen to 40 drops of tincture three or
four times a day.
ST. JOHN'S WORT
AKA: Amber, goatweed, hypericum, Hypericum perforatum, Johns-wort, Klamath weed, Tipton
Effects: Probably the most effective natural antidepressant known (it is used extensively throughout
Europe), working much like Prozac and similar drugs, but with fewer side effects. It enhances three
important neurotransmitters — serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine —the first substance known
to do so. Benefits may include longer and deeper sleep, improved mood, greater energy, and
increased appetite. It has been used to treat exhaustion, headaches, and insomnia. It may have
antiviral properties and be useful against herpes, HIV, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Seasonal
Affective Disorder (SAD).
Works synergistically with kava.
Precautions: It may cause the skin to be sensitive to light, and can cause cataracts if the individual is
exposed to bright light. It has a very mild MAO inhibitor effect, but not enough to warrant food
restrictions. Recent evidence has shown that it can completely prevent the ability of sperm to
penetrate eggs and may cause a genetic mutation which, if found in adult women, is correlated with
an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Less common side effects include gastrointestinal
irritation, dizziness, dry mouth, and mild allergic reactions. Overdose symptoms, which can occur at
dosages of 900 mg/day or more, include depression, gastrointestinal problems, nervousness,
irritability, mild anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, headaches, cardiac symptoms, and sweating. It
should not be used for serious depression.
In 1998, a study commissioned by the Los Angeles Times found that seven out of ten of the leading
brands of St. John's Wort had only 20 to 90 percent of the potency listed on the label.
It can interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals. It should not be taken with any
tyramine rich foods or drugs, and high doses should not be combined with high doses of 5-HTP. It
should not be combined with Prozac, Paxil, or other anti-depressants, as it could cause dangerously
high blood pressure, hypertension, severe anxiety, fever, muscle tension, and confusion; there should
be at least a four week interval between taking an MAO inhibitor and taking St. John's wort.
Dosage: From 600 to 900 mg/day in three divided doses of 0.3 percent hypericin strength (Rosenfeld
recommends 300 mg/day). Extracts must be at least 0.3 percent hypericin to be effective. Just 300 mg/
day has proven effective against Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Standardized extracts are more
likely to have active ingredients, and extracts using the whole plant are more effective than extracts
derived solely from the hypericin compound. Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld does not recommend using it for
more than eight weeks at a time; others recommend not using it for more than six to eight months at a
time. St. John's wort as a tea is not very effective, as just 10 to 20 percent of the active ingredients are
dissolved in water. It may take three to six weeks for it to fully take effect.
AKA: Aralia hispida (bristly sarsaparilla), Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla), Aralia racemosa
(spikenard), Chinese root, life-of-man, small spikenard, Smilax offidnalis.
Effects: Sarsaparilla is said to increase energy, regulate hormonal activity and protect against
radiation. Herbalists have used it for catarrhal problems, colds, fever, flatulence, frigidity, gout, hives,
impotence, infertility, nervous system disorders, PMS, rheumatism, and certain blood disorders.
Dosage: One teaspoon of rootstock in one cup of water for one to two cups a day.
AKA: Schizandra chinensis, Schizandra fructus, wu-wei-tzu.
Effects: An adaptogen that reportedly boosts the immune system, balances the bodily systems,
counteracts stress, and improves mental functioning. It has proven beneficial in treating some liver
disorders and appears to have some cortisone-like effects. In China, it has been used to treat dry
cough, asthma, night sweats, nocturnal emissions, and chronic diarrhea, though evidence is no more
Works synergistically with astragalus.
AKA: Convolvulus mycrophyllus.
Effects: An herb used in India to relieve anxiety.
AKA: Blue skullcap, blue pimpernel, helmet flower, hoodwort, maddog-weed, scullcap, Scutellaria
baikalensis (Chinese skullcap), Scutellaria laterifolia, Scutellaria lateriflora, side-flowering skullcap,
Effects: Reported to reduce insomnia and anxiety. Bioflavonoids in Chinese skullcap have
antiinflammatory and antiallergic properties. It may be useful in treating muscle cramps, rheumatism,
neuralgia, delirium tremens, and barbiturate addiction.
Works synergistically with hops.
Precautions: Scientific evidence is lacking for many of its claims, including its ability to reduce
insomnia and anxiety. An overdose of the tincture can cause confusion, giddiness, stupor, twitching,
and other neurological problems. There are a few recorded cases where high doses have caused liver
AKA: Para todo, Pfaffia paniculata.
Effects: Promotes energy and stamina. Has been used to treat exhaustion resulting from Epstein-Barr
disease and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Dosage: Three to six capsules a day in three divided doses.
AKA: Acorus calamus, calamus, flag root, grass myrtle, myrtle flag, rat root, sweet calomel, sweet
cinnamon, sweet grass, sweet myrtle, sweet root, sweet rush, vacha.
Effects: Relieves anxiety. It can kill lice when applied directly to the affected parts, and it was used
by Indians in the Northwest to increase endurance and stamina. It is said to stimulate the appetite,
relieve various stomach problems, and be an aphrodisiac.
Precautions: When chewed, the dried root can cause nausea in smokers, a property which leads some
to promote it as an aid for those wishing to quit. The species native to India, Europe, and North
America may each have very different pharmacological properties.
Dosage: One teaspoon of rootstock in one-half cup of water, for up to one cup a day.
AKA: Artemisia dracunculus, estragon.
Effects: When taken as a tea just before bedtime, it may help relieve insomnia. It may also prove
useful in treating amenorrhea and high blood pressure, and herbalists have used it for treating
Precautions: Contains a weak carcinogen.
Dosage: One-half teaspoon of dried plant in one-half cup of water, for up to one cup a day.
AKA: Curcuma longa, curcumin.
Effects: A strong antioxidant. It may be beneficial to those with atherosclerosis, cancer, gallbladder
disease, indigestion, inflammation, liver disease, obesity, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Works synergistically with artichoke, dandelion root, licorice, and milk thistle.
Dosage: It could cause problems when used in large quantities.
AKA: All-heal, Biral, Euvegal, moon root, Nutrasleep, phu, setwall, Undine's herb, Valdispert forte,
Valeriana officinalis, Valmane.
The most widely-used sedative in Europe.
Effects: Reduces anxiety and insomnia to a moderate degree, possibly because of chemicals called
valepotriates and an as yet poorly understood ability to interact with either of the neurotransmitters
serotonin and GABA. It may be used as a treatment for headaches, high blood pressure, altitude
sickness, convulsions, seizures, stomach cramps, irritable bowels, menstrual cramps, and tense
Works synergistically with other sedative herbs.
Precautions: Though it is said to be safe, it should not be used by those with impaired kidney or liver
function or those with chronic insomnia; a few individuals may experience paradoxical reactions,
finding that it makes them more alert. The plant has a strong unpleasant odor which some liken to
smelly socks. Its daily use should be limited to a few weeks, and definitely no more than six months,
as a tolerance toward the herb could develop, and long-term effects are not known. It should not be
taken during the day, as it produces lethargy. Some of its components are very unstable, making
accurate dosage difficult. Some studies indicate that valepotriates may cause cancer, but other studies
do not bear this out. Claims by herbalists that it is good for chest congestion, digestive problems menstrual pains, sores, wounds, epilepsy, convulsions, and the plague are unproven.
Rare side effects include restless legs during sleep and stomach upset. Overdose symptoms in
susceptible individuals include tiredness the following day, restlessness, lethargy, mild confusion
upon awakening, heart palpitations, and headaches. There is one case on record of an 18-year-old
college student who took approximately 20 grams of powdered valerian root in capsule form and
experienced fatigue, abdominal cramps, tightness of the chest, tremors in the hands and feet, and mild
pupil dilation; her EKG, blood, and liver enzymes were all normal and, after treatment in a hospital,
she fully recovered within 24 hours.
It should not be used with alcohol, some antihistamines, sedatives, muscle relaxants, psychotropic
drugs, or narcotics, unless under the guidance of a physician.
Dosage: Two teaspoons of powdered root in one cup of hot water (the herb should not be put in
boiling water, as that will destroy some of its beneficial oils).
Sheldon Saul Hendler, M.D., Ph.D., recommends no more than two cups of tea or two capsules of
500 mg each per day. Ray Sahelian, M.D., recommends 300 to 500 mg/day of concentrated root
extract containing 0.5 to 1 percent of essential oils about one-half to two hours before sleep, and 100
mg/day to reduce anxiety. Valepotriates are very unstable, and their levels | in products may decline
after a few months. With the dried root, the potency is directly related to the strength of its smell.
AKA: Vanilla planifolia.
Effects: An antioxidant. It has been traditionally used in Mexico for gastrointestinal disorders and as
a mild brain stimulant.
AKA: Salix alba (salicin willow, white willow, withe, withy), Salix caprea (goat willow, sallow),
Salix nigra (black willow, catkins willow, pussywillow), Salix purpurea (purple osier, purple willow).
Willow is the herbal origin of aspirin.
Effects: May aid in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease much in the same manner that
antiinflammatory drugs for arthritis seem to, as studies of those individuals taking the drugs seem to
show a lower incidence of that disease. It may also be good for backache, headache, nerve pain, and
Precautions: It should not be taken by anyone allergic to aspirin.
It could interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals. Taking it on a regular basis with
large doses of vitamin C could cause it to build up to dangerous levels in the body.
AKA: Absinthe, Artemisia absinthium.
Effects: A mild sedative. Has been used by herbalists to treat fever, flatulence, heartburn, indigestion,
lack of appetite, vascular disorders such as migraines, and intestinal parasites.
Precautions: May be habit-forming if used for a prolonged period of time or cause poisoning if taken
in large quantities; the pure oil is a strong poison.
Dosage: Two teaspoons of leaves or tops in one cup of water for one-half cup a day to be taken in one
AKA: Black drink plant, cassene, cassina, emetic holly, Ilex vomitoria, Indian black drink, Indian
Black Tea, yaupon holly.
A rare North American shrub, it is related to yerbe mate and guayusa, and is the only plant native to
the U.S. to contain caffeine.
Effects: A mild stimulant because of its caffeine content, which is rather small (0.1 percent). Indians
have used it to induce ecstasy and visions.
Precautions: As its Latin name suggests, it can readily induce vomiting. The berries are slightly
poisonous and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Dosage: The plant can be made into a tea by drying in the oven until black and then steeping in hot
AKA: Holly, Ilex paraguariensis, Ilex paraguayensis, mate, mate yerba, Morning Thunder (tea),
Mucho Mate (tea), Paraguay tea, South American holly, yerba, yerba mate.
Effects: A caffeine-like stimulant reputed to relieve fatigue and insomnia, it may also cleanse the
blood, control the appetite, benefit the nervous system, encourage the production of cortisone, and
work synergistically with other healing herbs. Herbalists use Yerbe mate for allergies, coffee
addiction, constipation, and inflammatory bowel disorders.
Precautions: Excessive consumption can lead to a feeling of exhaustion, overstimulation, insomnia,
and dehydration. An overdose may cause nausea. Researchers have noted a correlation between mate
drinkers and cancer of the esophagus, though other factors such as the steaming hot temperature at
which the tea is sometimes consumed, tobacco consumption, and alcohol consumption may also play
a role. James A. Duke, Ph.D., does not recommend it for treating chronic fatigue syndrome.
Dosage: One cup of tea or one dropperful of extract.
YOHIMBE AND YOHIMBINE
AKA: Actibine, Aphrodyne, Baron-X, Corynanthe yohimbe, Dayto Himbin, lizard tail, Pausinystalia
yohimbe, Prohim, Thybine, yerba del pasmo, yerba mansa, Yocon, Yohimar, yohimbine
hydrochloride, Yohimex, Yoman, Yovital.
Effects: Yohimbe is said to produce a tingling feeling along the spine, followed by a mild, pleasant,
and euphoric high lasting four to six hours. In high enough doses, it can produce mild hallucinogeniclike
effects. It contains a number of psychoactive alkaloids, including yohimbine, and has shown
positive results in treating both psychological and physiological impotence; it even increases the sex
drive of men with normal libido. It may have the same effects on women, with the added benefit of
helping them lose weight. According to Ward Dean, M.D., it "is the only substance with a specific
FDA-approved indication as an aphrodisiac." The active compound, called yohimbine or yohimbine
hydrochloride, is isolated and sold as a prescription medication, and is much safer.
Works synergistically with 500 to 1000 mg of vitamin C, which quickens its effects and reduces the
Precautions: It should not be used by those with an allergy to yohimbine or any of the Rauwolfia
alkaloids, angina pectoris, hepatitis, hypoglycemia, blood pressure disorders, ulcers, diabetes, kidney
disease, liver disease, heart disease, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Those suffering
from or being treated for depression, any psychiatric disorder, any other allergy, or those taking any
drugs that interfere with norepinephrine's neuronal uptake or metabolism (including Selegiline)
should use yohimbe only under a physician's guidance; in fact, many herbalists caution that the potent
herb should never be used without the advice of a physician or herbalist.
According to James A. Duke, Ph.D., using the herb in its natural form (dried bark) is dangerous. The
amount of yohimbine in herbal products can vary considerably.
There are no known life-threatening or common side effects. Less common side effects include
anxiety, rapid heart rate, lack of coordination, overstimulation, increased blood pressure, dizziness,
salivation, hallucinations, panic attacks, and headache. Rare side effects include nausea, vomiting,
flushed skin, sweating, and tremors. There are no known overdose symptoms; an overdose is not
generally considered life-threatening, though a trip to the hospital or doctor is recommended in such
cases. The doses needed to produce the hallucinogen-like effects are very high and potentially toxic.
It is not physically addictive, but can create a psychological dependence. The whole herb is a
complex combination of adrenergics, cholinergics, yohimbine alkaloids, and reserpine alkaloids,
substances which act counter to each other and which could cause serious health risks.
While yohimbine is not an MAO inhibitor, yohimbe is, and so should not be combined with tyraminerich
foods or MAO inhibitors. The effects of yohimbe can be decreased by alcohol. Yohimbe can
decrease the effects of antidepressant and antihypertensive drugs. It should also not be combined with
antihistamines, tranquilizers, diet pills, narcotics, amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, or any moodaltering
drug. W. Nathaniel Phillips does not recommend taking it with meals.
Some supplements may contain little or no active yohimbine.
Dosage: Six to ten teaspoons of shaved bark boiled in a pint of water for five minutes. Mark Mayell
recommends 15 to 20 drops of tincture, 250 to 500 mg of the dried herb in capsules, or one cup of tea
a day. Sheldon Saul Hendler, M.D., Ph.D. recommends one 5.4 mg tablet three times a day for up to
ten weeks, with the dosage cut in half and gradually built up to a full dose if side effects occur. It may
take two to three weeks for any effects to occur.
Effects: Induces relaxation and sleep. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often combined with other
herbs for a sedative effect, which could be useful in cases of insomnia.
Aromatherapy, or the use of herbal oils as medicines, has been practiced for thousands of years.
Essential oils, or concentrated liquids extracted from various parts of plants, are believed to help
protect plants from certain diseases and pests, and are thought to have effects on the human mind and
body as well. They can either be inhaled (by putting a drop or two in a bowl of steaming water),
absorbed through the skin (by using three or four drops as a massage oil, or a l-to-10 ratio of essential
oil to a carrier oil such as sweet almond, olive, or sesame seed oil), or both (by putting 5 or 6 drops in
warm bath water). Some shops or catalogs sell dispensers, lamps, vaporizers, or diffusers that provide
a longer-lasting effect.
Smells can have a direct influence on the brain, affecting emotion and memory by stimulating the
hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala. Studies have shown that pleasant aromas increase
productivity in the workplace by as much as 25 percent, and learning by as much as 17 percent. Many
oils work synergistically with each other.
Pure, undiluted oils are extremely concentrated and should never be inhaled directly from the bottle
or applied to the skin, and they should not be taken internally (as little as a half teaspoon of pure oil
can be fatal). Also, avoid getting essential oils in the eye, as they can be irritating (a cotton swab
soaked in vegetable oil and applied to the eye should relieve discomfort). They can last a year or
more if stored properly in a cool, dry, and dark place, and the bottle is opened only when dispensing
oil (they can evaporate or oxidize quite readily in the open air); a small amount of vitamin E can help
preserve the freshness. As for their benefits, little is known about the specifics with which they work:
only a handful of studies have been done on aromas and aromatherapy, and most of the purported
effects are based on anecdotal evidence or folklore. Even among practitioners, there may be some
discrepancy about specific effects, so caution is advised.
They should not be used by those suffering from epilepsy or other seizure disorders, those whose
blood pressure is abnormally high or abnormally low, those with asthma, or those being treated for
cancer. Allergic reactions or photosensitivity are possible, especially with spice oils such as thyme,
sage, and oregano, which can be irritating (patchtest an oil by dabbing a drop of it on the skin with a
cotton swab, placing a bandage over it, and checking it 24 hours later for any adverse reactions).
Many essential oils can cause such side effects as headaches, dizziness, and nausea, while some may
contain compounds which could be carcinogenic if used regularly for an extended period of time.
Oils should generally be reserved for treating specific conditions, and not be used on a daily basis,
especially for more than two or three weeks at a time, as they can produce effects that are the
opposite of what they normally provide.
Prices can vary depending on such factors as the origin of the plant, the method of extraction, and
whether it was grown organically or not. Absolutes — which are essential oils that are viscous or
semi-solid — are cheaper, but may contain trace amounts of toxic solvents used in the extraction
process, and are not recommended for therapeutic use. Perfumes and fragrance oils sold by cosmetics
companies are synthetic (the term "nature identical" is a tipoff), and are of little benefit in
aromatherapy. Essential oils themselves can be rather expensive, as it may take a hundred pounds of
plants or more to produce one ounce of oil.
AKA: Angelica archangelica.
Effects: Said to relieve stress and anxiety, as well as reduce nausea and weakness during recovery
from illness, break up congestion in the lungs, and relieve stomach cramps, arthritis pain, PMS, and
Precautions: Avoid sunlight if applying directly to the skin, as it may cause dermatitis. The fresh oil
is colorless, and turns yellow, then dark brown, with age; the dark brown oil should not be used.
AKA: Ocimum basilicum.
There are over a hundred different varieties of basil.
Effects: Contains high amounts of cineole, a compound which increases blood flow to parts of the
brain. Said to increase concentration, mental functioning, and memory, relieve nervousness and
fatigue, and promote feelings of contentment, happiness, and sexuality. It has been used to treat
various respiratory infections, including bronchitis and whooping cough.
Precautions: Contains estragol, which may cause adverse reactions in some people and — possibly —
cancer in large doses (varieties low in estragol include Ocimum Americanum, Ocimum canum, and
Ocimum gratissimum). Constant use of basil may dull the mind, rather than stimulate it.
AKA: Bay leaf, Pimenta acris. Effects: Said to promote psychic awareness. It can also relieve
arthritis pain and the symptoms of respiratory ailments.
Precautions: It may be irritating if applied directly to the skin, especially in its pure state.
AKA: Styrax benzoin.
It is more of a resin than an oil, and has to be melted by heat before being used.
Effects: Said to increases energy, as well as ease the symptoms of common respiratory problems
(colds, flu, coughs, sore throat) and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Precautions: It may cause allergic reactions in some people.
AKA: Citrus aurantium bergamia.
Effects: Said to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, and contribute to a calm sleep. It is used in
Europe to treat infections of the skin, respiratory tract, and urinary tract.
Works synergistically with angelica, cedar, chamomile, geranium, lavender, lemon, neroli, rose, and
Precautions: Avoid sunlight if applying directly to the skin or using in bath water.
AKA: Camphora officinarum, Cinnamomum camphora, Laurus camphora.
Effects: Said to increase energy.
Precautions: Should not be used by those with asthma or allergies. It is a very strong oil, and extra
caution should be used to prevent using too much.
AKA: Carum carvi.
Effects: Said to increase energy. It is used to treat various digestive problems, including colic, colitis,
AKA: Cardamon, Elettaria cardamomum.
Effects: Said to elevate mood and improve memory and concentration, it is used as a digestive aid,
and to treat heartburn, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Precautions: Should always be used with a base oil, as it can cause the skin to become sensitive.
AKA: Cedarwood, Cedrus atlantica, Cedrus deodora, Cedrus libani.
Effects: Said to promote a sense of spirituality, improve the respiratory system, and be an
Works synergistically with bergamot, jasmine, juniper, neroli, and rose.
Precautions: Some brands may be adulterated with other essential oils, including juniper, which may
cause problems arising from the compound thujone. Though several different trees produce essential
oils which are marketed as cedarwood, some aromatherapists recommend that only Cedrus atlantica
be used, as that has the most reliable therapeutic properties.
AKA: Ache, Apium graveolens, smallage.
Effects: Said to relieve fatigue, contribute to a restful sleep, and be an aphrodisiac.
AKA: Anthemis nobilis or Chamaemelum nobile (Roman chamomile), Matricaria chamomila or
Matricaria recutita (German chamomile).
Effects: Said to relieve stress and stress-related headaches, anxiety, and depression, and contribute to
a restful sleep. Roman chamomile is used to treat stomach aches, indigestion, diarrhea, muscle
spasms, and PMS; German chamomile is used to treat skin conditions such as acne and eczema, and
AKA: Cassia, Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum ceylanicum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum.
Effects: Said to increase energy and promote awareness.
Precautions: It should not be used without the guidance of a trained aromatherapist, as it can be quite
toxic. It may cause an allergic reaction in some people. It should always be diluted before being
applied to the skin, as it can be irritating in its pure state, possibly causing blisters and burns.
AKA: Salvia sclarea.
Effects: Said to relieve depression, stress, and fatigue; improve memory and creativity; induce intense
and colorful dreams; produce euphoria (in some people); act as an aphrodisiac; and relieve headaches
and the symptoms of PMS.
Works synergistically with bergamot, cypress, geranium, jasmine, lavender, and sandalwood.
Drinking alcohol is said to intensify its effects.
Precautions: Should not be used by anyone who suffers from epilepsy. Despite the synergistic effect
with alcohol, combining the two can lead to a dangerously heightened sense of drunkenness (and
accompanying hangover) with extreme nightmares.
AKA: Coriandrum sativum.
Effects: Said to improve memory. It has been used to aid digestion and reduce flatulence.
Precautions: Do not use the essential oil internally unless under the guidance of an expert
aromatherapist, as the wrong dosage could prove fatal. One case on record relates that several
workers who tried to clean up fifty quarts of coriander oil spilled from a large container were
overcome by the fumes within a half hour, laughing and giggling at first, they became aggressive and
belligerent. Before they could be rescued, two suffered from extreme nausea, and all suffered from
extreme fatigue for the next few days.
AKA: Eucalyptus citriodora, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus radiata.
Effects: Contains cineole and eucalyptol, both of which stimulate the central nervous system. The oil
has antiviral and antibiotic properties, and has been used to treat a variety of respiratory problems. It
is a common ingredient in cold remedies.
Works synergistically with angelica, hyssop, lemon, pine, and thyme.
AKA: Foeniculum vulgare.
Effects: Said to relieve nervous tension and increase life span. It has been used to treat muscular
aches and pains, digestive problems, nausea, and hangovers.
Works synergistically with detoxifying and cleansing oils such as juniper.
Precautions: It should not be used by those suffering from epilepsy; it should not be used
indiscriminately because it is high in phenolic resin; and it should not be used as a diuretic without
supervision, as it could cause kidney damage. Some aromatherapists are also concerned about the
combination of principal constituents anethol and estragol, which could cause serious side effects,
though none have been reported.
AKA: Boswellia carteri, Boswellia thurifera, olibanum.
Effects: Said to slow down and deepen breathing, and to promote calmness and feelings of
spirituality. It has been used to treat sinus congestion, asthma, and even skin cancer.
Works synergistically with sandalwood.
Precautions: It should be used with caution by asthmatics, as the hot steam could have an adverse
AKA: Pelargonium graveolens, Pelargonium odoratissimum.
Effects: Said to reduce stress and depression, induce calmness, and increase energy. It has been used
to treat various skin disorders, as well as athlete's foot and hemorrhoids.
Works synergistically with benzoin, bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, lemongrass, melissa,
patchouli, and vetiver.
Precautions: Since it is quite expensive, cheaper brands may be adulterated with artificial esters,
cedarwood, lemongrass, and turpentine.
AKA: Zingiber officinalis.
Effects: Said to increase energy. It has been used to treat diarrhea, catarrh, and rheumatism.
Precautions: It could cause a rash or blisters if applied directly to the skin or added to bath water.
AKA: Citrus paradissi.
Effects: Said to relieve anxiety, stress, and depression.
Works synergistically with lavender.
Precautions: Can increase chances of sunburn when applied to the skin.
AKA: Jasminum grandiflorum (royal jasmine, Spanish jasmine), Jasminum officinale (common
Effects: Said to relieve insomnia and depression, and promote feelings of optimism, confidence,
sexuality, and euphoria.
Precautions: Since so many flowers are needed to produce an ounce of essential oil, virtually all of
the products on the market since the late 1980s are absolutes, which may contain trace amounts of
toxic solvents. Jasmine absolute using the process of enfleurage — placing leaves in trays of carrier
oil to extract the essential oil — is considered the safest, though some still consider it unsuitable for
AKA: Juniperus communis.
Effects: Said to increase happiness, energy, and strength. It is also used for its detoxifying, diuretic,
and antiseptic qualities, as well as maintaining concentration during prayer and meditation.
Precautions: Should not be used for kidney problems. The oil could be adulterated with turpentine.
AKA: Lavandula delphinensis, Lavandula fragrans, lavendin.
Lavandin is a hybrid of lavender and aspic.
Effects: Said to have a mild calming effect similar to lavender. It is used to treat muscular aches and
pains, colds, catarrh, and sinusitis.
Precautions: It is often sold as lavender, even though it has a sweet fragrance and is not as potent.
AKA: Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula officinalis, Lavandula vera.
Effects: Said to relieve stress and anxiety, and contribute to a deeper, more restful sleep. It is used for
a wide variety of disorders and medical problems.
Works synergistically with bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, geranium, marjoram, neroli, rose,
rosemary, and ylang-ylang.
Precautions: Individuals with other allergies or asthma may suffer an allergic reaction to lavender.
Because it is so expensive, it is often adulterated with other oils such as lavandin.
AKA: Citrus Hmon.
Effects: Said to increase energy and concentration, elevate mood, and contribute to health and
Works synergistically with cedar, eucalyptus, fennel, juniper, lavender, and pine.
Precautions: If applied to the skin in its pure state, it can cause an allergic reaction or irritation, or
even a skin rash if exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light. Never use oil that is cloudy or pale.
AKA: Cymbopogon citratus, Cymbopogon flexuosus, melissa grass.
Effects: Said to relieve fatigue, induce calmness, and increase concentration.
Works synergistically with eucalyptus, geranium, juniper, lavender, lime, and pine.
Precautions: It may be irritating when applied to sensitive skin. It is used to adulterate melissa and,
along with geranium and citronella, it is often used to imitate rose and verbena.
AKA: Citrus limetta.
Effects: Said to increase energy, relieve depression, and improve memory and concentration.
Works synergistically with bergamot, cedar, clary sage, lemongrass, and pine.
Precautions: If applied to the skin, it can cause a rash when exposed to sunlight.
AKA: Knotted marjoram, Origanum marjorana, sweet marjoram.
Effects: Said to relieve stress and insomnia. It has been used to treat such conditions as anorexia,
diarrhea, flatulence, high blood pressure, PMS, menopause, migraines, and muscular aches and pains.
Works synergistically with bergamot and lavender.
Precautions: It should not be used on young or sensitive people, as it could produce an effect opposite
to the one intended. It is often confused with oregano, whose calming properties are not as great.
AKA: Balm, bee balm, lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, sweet balm.
Effects: Said to relieve nervous tension, irritability, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It has been
used to stimulate the appetite and treat cold sores, high blood pressure, shock, migraines, and asthma.
Works synergistically with geranium, lavender, myrtle, neroli, and rose.
Precautions: It is a very strong oil and should only be used under the guidance of an expert
aromatherapist. It may cause irritation when applied to the skin. Some brands may be adulterated
with the much less expensive and less effective citronella, lemon, or lemongrass.
AKA: Commiphora myrrha.
Effects: Used as an aid in meditation. It is also used to treat skin and mouth problems.
AKA: Myrtus communis.
Effects: Said to cleanse the mind, spirit, and body, and to aid concentration during meditation.
Works synergistically with cypress, lavender, lemon, neroli, and pine.
AKA: Citrus aurantium, Citrus aurantium bugardia, Citrus bigaradia.
Effects: Said to relieve stress, anxiety, fatigue, depression, insomnia, and pain, and to increase
feelings of love and euphoria.
Works synergistically with jasmine and rose.
Precautions: It may increase the chance of a sunburn if applied to the skin. It is often adulterated with
AKA: Myristica fragrans.
Effects: Said to increase energy. It is sometimes used as a tonic for the heart and digestive system.
Precautions: It can cause narcosis, vomiting, hallucinations, or even death; even the spice can cause
severe adverse reactions. If applied to the skin, it can cause rashes and allergies. Its use is not
AKA: Citrus aurantium, Citrus aurantium sinensis.
Effects: Said to reduce stress and depression, increase energy, and induce feelings of calm and
happiness. It has been used to treat such gastrointestinal disorders as gas, indigestion, and
Works synergistically with cinnamon, clove, lavender, and nutmeg.
Precautions: When applied to the skin, it can increase susceptibility to damage by the sun. The
oranges used must be natural and organic, as most are sprayed with ethylene to give them more color
and coated with wax to seal in the moisture.
AKA: Cymbopogon martini.
Effects: Said to elevate mood and refresh the spirits. It has been used to relieve the muscle aches
accompanying flus and fevers.
Precautions: It is often adulterated with cedarwood and turpentine.
AKA: Black pepper, Piper nigrum.
Effects: Said to promote alertness. It has been used to treat dermatitis, flu symptoms, rheumatism,
catarrh, colds, and hay fever.
Precautions: Undiluted, the oil can be toxic and irritating to the skin. Overuse could damage the
AKA: Mentha piperita.
Effects: Contains large amounts of cineole, a compound which increases blood flow to parts of the
brain. When rubbed into the forehead, it can relieve tension headaches. It stimulates the nervous
system, improves circulation, and increases awareness, alertness, and concentration. It has been used
to treat motion sickness, gas, stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea, migraines,
hangovers, shingles (herpes zoster), and congested sinuses.
Precautions: It should not be used in bath water, as it can be irritating to the skin. It should not be
used as a massage oil, as at least half of the essential oil is menthol, an alcohol that has a cooling
effect on the skin. And it should not be used undiluted, at night (as it will prevent sleep), or in
addition to homeopathic remedies.
AKA: Citrus aurantium bigaradia.
Effects: Said to relieve nervous tension, fatigue, insomnia, and sadness. Its effects are very similar to
neroli, only milder.
Precautions: When applied to the skin, it can increase susceptibility to sunburn. It may cause
insomnia in some people.
AKA: Rosa centifolia (cabbage rose, Provence rose), Rosa damascena (damask rose), Rosa gallica.
Effects: Said to relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and contribute to feelings of
contentment and love. It has been used by herbalists to treat digestive problems.
Works synergistically with jasmine, lavender, neroli, and sandalwood.
Precautions: Since it is so expensive, cheaper brands may be adulterated with other oils such as bois
de rose, gaiac, geranium, and palmarosa. Its medicinal properties have not withstood scientific
scrutiny. It is also sold as an absolute, which may contain trace elements of toxic solvents.
AKA: Rosmarinus officinalis.
Effects: Has antioxidant properties, and contains high amounts of cineole, a compound which
increases blood flow to parts of the brain and stimulates the central nervous system. It can also
increase alertness and concentration, improve memory, relieve stress, and promote feelings of
happiness and well-being. It is said to increase life span.
Precautions: It may be adulterated with aspic, sage, and turpentine.
AKA: Salvia officinalis.
Effects: Said to relieve fatigue and depression, and improve memory.
Precautions: Contains compounds (such as thujone) which could cause severe adverse side effects
and be carcinogenic if used for an extended period of time, even in small amounts. It should not be
used by young or sensitive individuals, and some aromatherapists advise using clary sage instead.
AKA: Santalum album.
Effects: Said to reduce stress, increase concentration during meditation, and act as an aphrodisiac. It
has been used to treat eczema and other skin disorders, sore throats, and urinary tract infections.
Works synergistically with benzoin, frankincense, jasmine, lemon, rose, and verbena.
Precautions: The huge demand for this oil has led to the practice of cutting trees before they reach
maturity, depleting a once abundant crop. It may be adulterated with castor, linseed, and palm oils.
AKA: Badian anise, Chinese anise, Illicium verum.
Effects: Said to promote awareness. It has no medicinal properties.
Precautions: It is not recommended for use as an oil.
AKA: Citrus reticulata.
Effects: Said to relieve stress, anxiety, tension, depression, and insomnia.
Precautions: If applied to the skin, it could make it more susceptible to damage from the sun.
AKA: Vanilla planifolia.
Effects: Said to reduce stress, irritability, and tension.
Works synergistically with bergamot, lime, and rose.
AKA: Aloysia citriodora, lemon verbena, Lippia citriodora, Verbena triphylla.
It should not be confused with vervein, or Verbena officinalis.
Effects: Said to relieve depression and fatigue, and increase concentration. It is used as a digestive
aid, an antiseptic, and to clear up such skin problems as acne.
Works synergistically with cedar, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, myrtle, neroli, and orange.
Precautions: The pure oil may irritate sensitive skin, and more than two or three drops in bathwater
may sting or blister the skin. It is quite rare and expensive, so cheaper brands may be adulterated with
lemongrass and citronella.
AKA: Andropogon muricatus, khas-khas, khus-khus, Vetiveria zizanoides, vetivert.
Effects: Said to reduce stress and nervous tension. It is used mainly in perfumes and soaps, and as a
fixative in aftershaves and colognes.
Works synergistically with cardamom, frankincense, jasmine, neroli, orange, rose, sandalwood,
verbena, and ylang-ylang.
Precautions: it is quite costly, so less expensive brands may be adulterated with cheaper oils or
AKA: Achillea millefolium. Effects: Said to increase awareness.
It has been used to speed the healing of wounds, and to treat headaches, skin rashes, varicose veins,
hemorrhoids, vaginal infections, and acne.
Works syngergistically with clary sage, cypress, melissa, and myrtle.
Precautions: Yarrow should only be used in its diluted state, as it is quite powerful. When applied to
the skin, it can make it more susceptible to skin rash when exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light.
AKA: Cananga odorata.
Effects: It can slow down rapid breathing and rapid heartbeat. It is said to relieve stress, anxiety,
depression, and the mood swings of PMS, and promote feelings of love and sexuality.
Works synergistically with bergamot, clary sage, lavender, lemon, and neroli.
Precautions: Prolonged or excessive use may cause headaches or nausea. Due to the neglect of this
plant as a cash crop, this oil is now hard to come by, and most of the oil now sold is either cocoa
butter, coconut oil, or the inferior variant Cananga macrophylla, popularly known as cananga.