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Are Herbs Safe?


Most North American doctors, unfortunately, know only about the dangers of herbs. Medical articles on herbs are usually written as cautionary tales. Coltsfoot and comfrey are under suspicion for causing cancer and liver damage, and camomile, known to be a calming agent for centuries, is said to trigger potentially fatal allergic reactions.

Most North American doctors, unfortunately, know only about the dangers of herbs. Medical articles on herbs are usually written as cautionary tales. Coltsfoot and comfrey are under suspicion for causing cancer and liver damage, and camomile, known to be a calming agent for centuries, is said to trigger potentially fatal allergic reactions. Herb advocates dismiss all these charges and talk about a conspiracy by the drug companies. The truth is, that herbs are neither completely safe nor generally toxic. Like other medicines, they have to be taken with care. If you take too little, nothing happens. If you take too much, you could run into trouble.

In The Healing Herbs, Michael Castleman cites the example of noomba, an imported drug. Noomba can cause insomnia, irritability, anemia, diarrhea, heartburn, stomach upset and muscle tension. It can also raise blood pressure and cholesterol and is considered dangerous during pregnancy. Taken in large amounts on a regular basis, noomba can double the risk of heart attack. The imported noomba drug is actually coffee. Should coffee be considered dangerous? In truth, coffee is safe when it is taken in moderate amounts.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), in 1985, no deaths from healing herbs were reported. Of nonfatal plant ingestions, eighty-six percent involved small children under the age of six who had eaten houseplants. In comparison, that same year the AAPCC reported 227 nonsuicide deaths from prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Many medical doctors in North America are beginning to include herbs in their practice, having witnessed both sides of healing, orthodox medicine and herbalism. When patients are put on a program of natural treatment that includes changes to diet, moderate exercise, stress reduction and a positive attitude, herbs are a natural and safe complement to that program. Indiscriminate use of herbs, based on a mistaken belief that all things natural or that have been used for centuries are safe, will result in inefficacy or harm, just as with the inappropriate use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Orthodox medicine commonly condemns herbs wholesale if a problem has arisen with a single one of them. People begin to dismiss all warnings as propaganda and overlook important information when it is made available, becoming victims of the old "crying wolf" story.

The Commission E

In Germany today, hundreds of herbal remedies line pharmacy shelves, and mainstream physicians are as likely to prescribe valerian for sleep disorders or gingko for memory enhancement as they would pharmaceutical drugs.

German universities have been conducting extensive research into herbs, bringing them from folklore into the scientific age. Since most of the resulting studies were published in German, this vast body of research has not been very accessible to the North American community.

Most significant among the studies of herbs are those of the Commission E, appointed by the German Gesundheitsbehoerde, the equivalent of the Canadian Health Protection Branch or the American FDA. The commission brings together a panel of experts consisting of doctors, health practitioners, botanists, pharmacists and toxologists. Since 1978, the panel has been conducting laboratory studies, gathering case histories, and reviewing existing research to arrive at a comprehensive assessment of healing plants. During the two decades the commission has been at work, it has published one- or two-page monographs on four hundred healing plants. Varro Tyler, PhD, Lilly Distinguished Professor of Pharmacognosy at Purdue University and author of The Honest Herbal, calls these monographs "probably the best information available today on herbs." The monographs have now been translated into English by the American Botanical Council (ABC), a non-profit research organization based in Austin, Texas. The Commission E's scientific evidence has been incorporated into several herbals, making these books completely reliable without sacrificing their holistic approach.

The Value of Using Medicinal Plants

When Serturner isolated morphine from poppy opium, the medical world was pleased. Doctors believed that medicinal herbs, with their elaborate preparation methods, limited shelf-life and uneven effects, could now be superseded by pure and durable medications with measurable results. Serturner's method, indeed, yielded some highly effective substances for headaches, fever, tropical diseases and anaesthesia. Later, when the first synthesized version of a plant extract, Aspirin, became available, plants seemed to have become altogether superfluous. Nature could now be imitated and improved upon in the laboratory.

Today, much of modern medicine is still operating from that very premise, but scientists have recently begun to turn their attention back to healing plants. They have realized, for one thing, that administering synthesized substances or even plant-derived isolates does not have the same effect as using the whole herb.

This fact was first brought home to scientists through the history of digitalis, an essential plant for modern heart therapy. Digitalis became first known through a herby wife who gave her recipe to Dr. William Withering (1785) for whom she was collecting plants. Digitalis corrects irregular heartbeat and can actually increase the strength of the heart muscle. The supreme usefulness of digitalis in heart therapy became widely recognized, and, as science progressed, the herb's glycosides, its main active constituents, were isolated and used instead of the whole plant. However, it soon became obvious that isolation changed the nature of the remedy. It turned out that the efficacy of digitalis did not rest with one active ingredient alone but with the whole plant. Seemingly unimportant mucilaginous substances in the leaves, for example, allowed the system to properly absorb the active ingredients. Other minor ingredients, the saponins, actually made the administration of the medication safer because they induced vomiting before severe side-effects could set in.

In his book Health and Healing, Andrew Weil, MD compares the therapeutic ratio of the digitalis plant with the therapeutic ratio of one of its modern derivatives, the glycoside digitoxin. A therapeutic ratio is the ratio of the minimum dose producing toxic effects compared to the minimum dose producing desired effects. It turns out that compared to the plant, which has a therapeutic ratio of 1:10, digitoxin has a very small ratio of only 1:2. Obviously, the plant allows quite a bit of room for adjustment while the pharmaceutical drug has virtually no tolerance for error because its effective dose is almost the same as its toxic dose. The low ratio is even more uncomfortable because an overdose can actually be fatal within minutes. When the whole plant was still used, the error margin was significantly wider and vomiting, induced by saponins, was a tell-tale symptom to prevent an overdose.

This example illustrates the importance of using whole herbs versus isolated drugs: the whole plant offers its healing substances synergistically, providing balance and gentler action and, depending on the plant, even warning of toxicity

Plant Substances and Their Healing Properties

What makes a plant a medicinal plant? Healing plants contain measurable amounts of medicinally useful substances. If those substances are isolated they can produce severe side-effects where the whole plant had proved benign. Because of their potency, isolated active ingredients are useful when quick medical intervention is needed. Whole herbs, on the other hand, are normally slow-acting and are uniquely suited for prevention, long-term healing of chronic conditions and maintaining general health.

Below is a catalogue of the most common active ingredients in herbs: these are the ingredients which turn ordinary plants into medicinal plants. As mentioned before, within medicinal plants these substances do not act in isolation but work in synergy to produce the herb's total healing effect.


These are by far the most potent plant constituents. Many pharmaceutical drugs are derived from plant alkaloids, and pharmacologists tend to like them and look for them in new plants. Alkaloids are usually addictive. They can be recognized by their names ending in the suffix -ine: atropine, morphine, nicotine (caffeine is not an alkaloid in spite of its suffix). Plants containing significant amounts of alkaloids are red poppy, belladonna and tobacco. Alkaloids can be deadly poisons when used at certain levels, but small amounts of these substances are also contained in many safe and gentle herbs, such as valerian and violets. In such plants, the alkaloids do not become active on their own but support the general effectiveness of the whole plant. Plants containing alkaloids as their main ingredient are not suitable for tea preparations.


Anthraquinones are a significant sub-group of bitter principles; they are strong laxatives. Herbs included in this group are aloe (Aloe vera), rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum), senna (Cassia) and yellow dock (Rumex crispus). Commonly occurring anthraquinones include aloe-emodin, emodin and rhein. Their effect stems from an indirect stimulation of the bowels and from their bitter taste, which stimulates the liver. Herbalists usually prefer to administer gentler bitters, such as dandelion, for constipation. However, occasionally anthraquinones seem indicated. When they are, they should always be combined with a warming carminative, such as ginger.


Antibiotics kill bacteria. Many plants contain antibiotics in such minute quantities that their extraction is impractical. The fungal acids in lichens have been effective in the treatment of tuberculosis. Watercress and nasturtiums contain a certain amount of antibiotics. You can help prevent colds and strengthen the body's immune function by incorporating watercress and nasturtiums as salads or juices into your diet. To release the antibiotic, the plants should be finely chopped and soaked in warm water for ten minutes.

Black mustard has an antibiotic effect due to the activity of its sulphur derivatives. Black mustard seeds, when ground and mixed with lukewarm water, can be applied as a poultice to the chest to help cure colds.

Bitter Principles

The bitter taste of certain herbs is due to a whole variety of ingredients, including bitter alkaloids, sesqueterpenes and iridoids. The one thing these substances have in common is their bitter taste, even in extreme dilution. Bitter principles stimulate liver function and stomach activity, thereby enhancing digestion and appetite and improving absorption of nutrients. Plants with bitter principles (e.g., gentian, wormwood and dandelion) are usually included in traditional digestive wines (stomach bitters). The alcohol in these wines actually enhances the effect of the bitters when taken half an hour before meals. Bitter principles also seem to work well for incidents of weakness as in reconvalescence, nervous exhaustion and anemia. The Austrian healer Maria Treben became well-known through her promotion of "Swedish Bitters," a universal tonic and cure-all. Many bitter herbs, such as valerian and hops, are also known for their sedative properties. Some herbs have even been noted for antitumor activity. We usually distinguish between the pure bitters and the bitters occurring in combination with essential oils (as in wormwood and kalmus). The essential oils do not change the effectiveness of the bitters but widen their applicability. Because essential oils are antiseptic in nature, bitters that occur in combination with them have a mildly antibacterial and antiparasitic effect. Some bitters also include pungent substances. Ginger is an example of a pungent bitter. Research has shown that pungent plants like ginger not only aid digestion but also stimulate circulation during strenuous digestive processes.


These organic catalysts (pepsin, pancreatin, rennin, papain and bromelain) are produced by living organisms. For example, papain comes from papaya and bromelain comes from pineapple.

Enzymes are necessary for every biochemical function of the body. They are soluble in water, and destroyed by heat and alcohol. Raw fruits and vegetables are the best sources of enzymes.

Essential Oils

Essential oils, also known as volatile oils, have a strong and generally pleasant smell. They taste pungent and are considered warming. Essential oils are common, and most plants contain at least small traces of them. However, when medicinal herbs are grouped for their oils, only plants with a relatively high level (one to ten percent) are included. Members of the labiate and umbelliferae families generally belong here. The oil is carried in special oil cells, ducts or glands. The latter are often found with the hair of hairy plants. Essential oils consist of many different substances and can contain as many as fifty single ingredients. One use of these oils is in aromatherapy, which uses such oils as terpenes (e.g., camphor and borneol), terpene alcohols (e.g., menthol and thymol), and aromatic acids (e.g., cinnamic acid). Essential oils are also known for their antiseptic, antifungal and anti-inflammatory activity. A good example for the latter is the effect of camomile (Matricaria recutita/Chamomilla recutita) and Roman camomile (Anthemis nobile) on wound healing. Plants containing essential oils also have the ability to stimulate the immune system. Thyme, calendula and lavender are good examples. Most volatile oils are also carminative; that is, they warm the digestion, clear flatulence and stop intestinal cramping. Important carminatives are the herbs and spices used in cooking as well as mint and camomile. Essential oils are best used in combination with the whole plant by preparing teas. Pure essential oils (extracts) should not be used internally except with the guidance of a knowledgeable practitioner. In nature, essential oils are usually found at concentrations of five percent or lower. Therefore, any strong extracts should be diluted. In general, the whole plant works much better than the isolated oil. The sage plant, for example, contains tannins in addition to the essential oil. Tannins are known to greatly enhance the action of volatile oils.

PDF Table of Essential Oils Actions


Flavonoid glycosides are plant colorings with differing chemical properties. Roughly related to tannins, flavonoids taste sweet and a little bitter at the same time. They all have a strengthening effect on capillaries and general circulation and are known to be antispasmodic in the digestive tract. They are usually found in preparations for nose bleed, high blood pressure, stroke, memory loss and varicose veins. Rutin is the best known example of a flavonoid. It is found in such plants as citrus fruits (mainly in the white inside layer of the peel), yarrow, hawthorn and ginkgo biloba. In Germany, ginkgo is the remedy most prescribed for age-related memory loss, brain circulation and other blood vessel problems. Rutin also enhances the action of vitamin C. In addition, flavonoids are used to promote sweating in case of fever, and urine flow in case of water retention. Flavonoids are gentle substances, well-suited for treating children. Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) are good examples of flavonoid-containing plants used as gentle diuretics (promotes urination) and diaphoretics (sweat inducers).

PDF Table of Flavonoids and Their Actions


Glucosilinates are strongly warming and are found in such plants as horseradish (Cochlearia armoracia); radishes (Raphanus); and shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). They are used in liniments for rheumatic ailments and taken internally as remedies for excess mucus.


Many different glycosides with many different effects make it difficult to discuss their properties as a group. However, the word glycoside has become a standard word in the literature on plant medicine, so some explanation seems warranted. The one thing all glycosides have in common is that they are molecules with one part sugar (glucose) attached to one side. The non-sugar part of the molecule contains the active ingredient, which can have any number of uses or effects. Common to all glycosides is the fact that the sugar facilitates transport and absorption of the active ingredient, making the compound more effective. Glycosides carry the suffix -in in their names. A good example for a glycoside is digitoxin, found in digitalis.

Minerals (Inorganic Compounds) and Trace Elements

Minerals and trace elements are also found in herbs. These elements can change the mineral composition of the body, replacing minerals that have been lost through metabolic functions.

Calcium salts, silica, potassium and iodine are inorganic compounds found in varying amounts in many plants. Variances in soil conditions, altitude or season will produce differences in the amount of minerals found in a plant.

Calcium salts are essential components of bone and strengthen resistance to infection. They also regulate the function of the nerves and the heart. Potassium has diuretic action and helps eliminate waste material accumulated by poor blood circulation. Small quantities of iodine are sometimes found in coastal plants. Iodine increases the activity of the thyroid gland and is responsible for the metabolism of sugars, fats and proteins. Iodine can have a wasting effect if it is used with laxatives, such as kelp and senna taken together.


Mucilages and gums are polysaccharides. They contain carbohydrates which swell up when water is added, forming a viscous (glutinous) liquid. They are used in herbal remedies for their demulcent (soothing, relaxant and cooling) effect. Mucilages coat mucous membranes and protect them from irritation. Inflammations have a chance to heal more quickly under this protective coating. Mucilages work well for dry, unproductive cough and for inflamed, irritated mucous membranes in mouth, throat, stomach, bowels, bladder and kidneys. Mucilageous remedies, such as flax seed, psyllium and Icelandic moss, are also mildly laxative because they not only enlarge and soften bowel content but also make it more slippery. Mucilages also form parts of creams and ointments used for healing and drawing out abscesses. Another property of mucilages is the ability to soften and sweeten sour tastes. For example, raspberries contain less sugar and more acid than red currants, but they taste sweeter because they are richer in mucilage. Examples of mucilaginous plants are slippery elm bark (Ulmus fulva), marsh mallow root and leaf (Althea officinalis) and flax seed (Linum usitatissimum).

Organic Acids

Organic acids are found in combination with other compounds such as alkaloids, essential oils, mucilages, pectins, sugars and tannins. They can be divided into ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tartaric acid, gallic acid, malic acid, citric acid, salicylic acid and oxalic acid.

Gallic acid (produced from tannin) and malic acid (found in apples) are astringent. Salicylate acid is analgesic and its salts form salicylates. Oxalic acid occurs in various fruits and vegetables and is a metabolic product of ascorbic acid.

Citric and tartaric acids increase the flow of saliva, cleanse the mouth and reduce the number of bacteria which cause infections and dental decay. They are gently laxative and diuretic. These acids are also recommended for relief of hemorrhoids, or after surgery when lower abdomen muscle activity needs to be reduced.


Salicylates are chemicals related to Aspirin. They are analgesic (pain relieving), antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. In traditional folk medicine, they are bitter and cooling. Salicylates are used in many remedies for arthritis. Unlike Aspirin, plants containing salicylates do not irritate the stomach because they contain other soothing ingredients. Examples of plants or plant parts used internally and containing salicylates are willow bark (Salix alba), birch bark and birch leaves (Betula) and meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). Wintergreen oil (Gaultheria) is used externally in liniments for arthritis. Wintergreen is not taken internally because it contains a strong irritant, methyl salicylate.


These substances which belong to the glycosides, taste sweet to bitter-sweet. They have their own medicinal properties and, being glycosides, also enhance the action of others. Saponins are named for their soap-like action although, chemically, they are not related to soap. They can foam when used in water and, like soap, can emulsify (disperse) oil in water. Overdosing on saponin can irritate the bowels and induce nausea and vomiting. For the same reason, some saponins are used as emetics (inducing vomiting). Their softening action also makes them useful for internal and external treatment of skin problems. Chickweed (Stellaria media) and pansy (Viola tricolor) are good examples for saponin-containing plants used in skin preparations. Because of their powerful emulsifying effects, some saponins are blood poisons, exhibiting hemolytic action, that is, dissolving the red color of the blood. Arnica (Arnica montana) is a good example of a saponin-rich plant that should not be taken internally. Externally, arnica's blood-dissolving properties make it an ideal remedy for bruising. The chemical structure of saponins is very close to that of steroid hormones, including the sex hormones. Therefore, saponins can have hormone-like effects on the body. Wild yam (Dioscorea), for example, was used to manufacture the first contraceptive pill, while sarsaparilla (Smilax) is known as a remedy for a low sperm count. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has a cortisone-like, anti-inflammatory effect. The terms steroidal saponins, steroidal glycosides, sterols and phytosterols are all used to describe plant substances with hormone-like action.


These are another group of bitters. They are usually found in essential oils, whose effects they enhance. The best known sesquiterpene is azulene, which is found in both the true camomile (Chamomilla recutita/Matricaria chamomilla) and the Roman camomile (Anthemis nobilis). Azulene is a strong anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately, it is sensitive to steam. Therefore, when camomile tea is prepared, the cup or teapot should always be covered. Some sesquiterpenes have antitumor properties, for example the ones found in various wormwoods (Artemesia), and in various magnolias (Liriodendron).


Plants belonging to the horsetail (Equisetaceen), borage (Boraginaceen) and grass (Gramineen) families absorb a lot of silica from the ground and deposit it in their cells and cell walls. Silica is a necessary substance in the human organism, essential for building bones, tissues, skin, hair and nails. Horsetail is a much-utilized plant for silica deficiencies. It is used internally in teas and a water-soluble extract is available in capsule form. Externally, it is added to baths.


Tannins used to be employed in preserving animal skins (tanning leather) because of their ability to bind proteins in skin and mucous membranes and deprive bacteria of their nutrient base. Tannins consist of various phenol compounds. They are considered drying in traditional herbal medicine. Besides being antibacterial, they are also astringent and are therefore ideal gargles for sore throats and inflamed gum tissues. Tannin-enriched sitz-baths for hemorrhoids and foot and leg baths for chilblains are also effective because of their astringent action. Both the antibacterial and astringent properties make tannins good remedies for diarrhea. Because of these same properties, tannins are also found in remedies for wounds, burns, cuts, stings, internal bleeding and intestinal inflammation, such as colitis. Examples of plants with tannins as their main ingredient are bloodroot, oak bark and bilberry. Practitioners often tend to prefer the gentler herbs such as raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus), cranesbill (Geranium maculatum), agrimony (Agrimonia) and cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum). These gentler herbs contain mild, condensed tannins which give plants a red color. Strong tannins such as witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) are the main ingredient in astringent facial lotions and are best used externally. (Using a bottle of generic witch hazel from your pharmacy is just as effective as using expensive name-brand astringents.) If the tannin in a certain herb is not wanted, it is best to make cold infusions (cold teas) which allow only a small part of the tannins to be released.


Vitamins are essential constituents of any diet; without them we cannot remain healthy. Vitamins are extracted from herbs when added to the boiling water used to make tea, and greatly influence the healing action of herbs.

The main active substance in rose hips and buckthorn is vitamin C. Beta-carotene, the water-soluble form of vitamin A, can be found in parsley, spinach and carrots. It is necessary for normal growth and is recommended especially for the eyes. Green leafy vegetables contain vitamin E, which is good for the skin, and folic acid, required for building healthy blood cells.

A Reliable List of Safe and Effective Medicinal Plants

Clinical studies have confirmed the benefits and healing properties of herbs. Most significant among these studies are those done by the Commission E. The commission has studied over three hundred herbs so far, and of these, about one-third have been rejected as either not effective, unsafe or both. The list provided below is a selection from the two hundred approved, safe and effective herbs.

What the Commission E has really done for "honest herbalists" is to verify the value of their work, give them a secure basis to start from, and then enable them to use their own intuition and their own experience to build on the original foundations. The commission itself states that it has not studied every claim made about an herb in folk medicine. Thus, additional healing benefits not mentioned by the Commission E may also be present in an herb, unless explicitly invalidated by their research.

The following is a list, in alphabetical order, of over thirty herbs you can trust.

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)

Typically, used internally as a tea for relief of mild, non-specific acute diarrhea, for inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. Taken externally for mild, superficial skin inflammation. Daily poultices with a 10% decoction can have an astringent effect.

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Heals ulcers and is good for colon disorders, anemia, hemorrhaging and arthritis. Alkalizes and detoxifies the body.

Aloe (Aloe vera)

Used as first aid for burned skin, soothes and heals damaged tissue. Purgative, strong laxative for acute constipation (for short-term use only). Anthelmintic.

Angelica root (Angelica archangelica)

Effective for stimulating appetite, and for alleviating digestive complaints such as stomach cramps, bloatedness and flatulence. Can cause photo-sensitivite reactions: while taking this herb, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun's UV rays, which can cause sunburn-like skin inflammation. Unless otherwise prescribed, 4.5 g of the herb; 1.5-3 g of the extract (1:1); 1.5 ml of the tincture (1:5); 5-10 drops of essential oil can have spasmolytic, cholagogic, stomachic effects.

Arnica flower (Arnica montana)

For external use only. Effective for the treatment of injury and accident-caused conditions, such as hematoma, dislocations, sprains, bruises, edema in conjunction with fractures, rheumatic joint and muscle pains, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, boils, inflammation due to insect bites and surface phlebitis. Side-effects are rare if used as directed. Prolonged treatment of damaged skin, such as leg ulcers, often causes a rash with small, pus-filled pimples. Can also lead to the onset of eczema. Used in too high concentrations, there can be toxic skin reactions with blisters and even necrosis. For antiphlogistic, analgesic and antiseptic effects, use for poultices (dilute the tincture [1:5, 90% alcohol] three to ten times with water), as a mouth rinse (dilute tincture ten times or use an infusion of 2 g of herb to 100 ml water, steeped ten minutes), as an ointment (made with maximum 20-25% of the tincture or 15% arnica oil) or as arnica oil (from 1 part herb and 5 parts vegetable oil).

Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)

Stimulates liver cell regeneration. Also used as a liver detoxifier, diuretic and cholagogue (leaves and roots).

Black cohosh root (Cimicifuga racemosa)

Because of its estrogen-like action, black cohosh is used to alleviate premenstrual syndrome and pain during menstruation. Can be used by menopausal women instead of estrogen replacement. Can cause stomach upset in certain people. Used as a tincture ([1:5, made with 40-60% alcohol] to equal 40 mg of the herb), can provide estrogenic effects.

Black walnut (Juglans nigra)

Expels and kills tapeworms and parasites and their larvae.

Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus)

Helps anorexia and sluggish digestion. Also for fever or inflammation of digestive tract. Bitter with astringent and diaphoretic properties.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Borage soothes respiratory ailments and stimulates milk production in mothers. As an emollient, it is used in poutices for sore and inflamed skin. The leaves are diuretic, and the flowers promote sweating. Take 10 ml of tincture as a tonic for stress or following steroid therapy. For relief of depression, anxiety or grief, drink 10 ml of freshly squeezed juice, three times a day.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Also known as marigold, it is a common ingredient in natural skin medications. Use internally for inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat and externally for wounds, especially difficult ones, such as leg ulcers. Take as a tincture (2-4 ml in 1/4-1/2 l of water), as an ointment (2-5 g of drug in 100 g of ointment), or as a tea (150 ml of boiling water is poured over 1-2 g of the herb, covered, and steeped for five to ten minutes).

Camomile (Chamomilla recutita)

Used externally in poultices and rinses (3-10% infusion) or in baths (50 g of flowers), for inflammation of the skin and the mucous membranes; for bacterial infection of the skin, mouth and gums; as an inhalant for inflammation and irritation of the respiratory system. Used internally to soothe gastro-intestinal distress, such as a feeling of fullness, mild cramping and flatulence as well as inflammations of the gastrointestinal tract. Use as a tea (pour one cup [150 ml] of boiling water on one tablespoon [2-3 g] of dried flowers; cover and steep for ten minutes) between meals, three to four times a day, or as a rinse or gargle for inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. Provides anti-inflammatory, and carminative effects.

Chaparral (Larrea tridentata)

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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD