Herbal Gardening - Medicinal Herbs

Some herbs have, in actual fact, been used for thousands of years to help treat a number of conditions.

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Few subjects are discussed more scientifically using pure junk science as a starting point than in the advertisements for herbal medicines. Near miraculous claims are made for totally useless, or useful herbs, which haven't been tested or substantiated. That having been said, some herbs have, in actual fact, been used for thousands of years to help treat a number of conditions. Here are a few herbs that have been examined by universities and leading research firms, along with some of their possible benefits and side effects.


Chamomile is an herb made from the dried flower of the plant of the same name. Most who know of it only know it is used to make a tea that is both tasty and safe. It has a soothing effect and can be used as a mild sedative.

It has been claimed that chamomile can reduce inflammation and fever though this hasn't as yet been proved. Some studies suggest that compounds in chamomile can inhibit certain bacteria linked to stomach ulcers. But these results are inconclusive as well.

It is important to note that some individuals may be allergic to the pollen of this daisy-like flower, but, for most of us, the herb is safe even if not quite the miracle cure it is sometimes believed to be.


Echinacea is a perrennial which contains a number of substances that have been well studied by various researchers. It has been used to treat upper respiratory problems produced by colds. It's sometimes thought to help the immune system. Unfortunately, none of the claims made for it have been completely validated by competent research.

On the other hand, some studies have suggested that Echinacea can help reduce the duration of colds and ease symptoms.

Others seem to have shown that it can reduce the frequency of catching colds. These claims are hard to prove, however, since there are so many factors that are operative whenever someone gets a cold, but at least the herb is generally thought to be safe. Heck, if nothing else, it might be a good placebo.  Those seem to work for some people.

Warning: Individuals with diabetes are cautioned to seek the advice of a physician before taking Echinacea, however.


A bushy perrennial, feverfew does contain the active ingredients parthenolide and glycosides that many believe may help in the treatment of inflammation and migraines. There is some support for the notions, since feverfew does tend to reduce clotting effectiveness.

But, as with almost any treatment, natural or otherwise, there are some potential side effects, such as skin inflammation and mouth ulcers. Heart rate can be raised and it can interact with drugs taken for migraine. It may reduce the absorption of iron.

The jury is still out on this one.


An ancient herb, used in China and India for thousands of years, Ginseng is derived from the ginseng plant and used in hundreds of forms. Studies seem to suggest it reduces blood sugar levels and increases HDL (high-density lipoprotein), the "good" cholesterol.

Though considered safe and likely to do no harm, there is no evidence that it can actually enhance sexual performance. However in this area a placebo is often as good as an actual active ingredient.

Sometimes, if you think you can, you can.  Also, don't forget:  Use it or lose it!

Ginseng has compounds similar to estrogen, though, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid taking it. Asthma attacks have been induced in some people by taking large quantities. Also, it can reduce blood sugar levels to unhealthily low levels.

Bottom line?  Well, anyone seeking to use herbs as medicine should try to get the best information possible before risking his or her health. There is much anecdotal evidence, based on thousands of years of use, that some can be beneficial. But, it's difficult to evaluate those experiences objectively. Proceed with care.

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Herbal Gardening Medicinal Herbs - Copyright 2012 by Donovan Baldwin

Page Updated 9:12 AM Wednesday 3/27/2013