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Fenugreek: Condiment, Remedy, Preservative

The herb named Fenugreek, Bird’s foot, Greek hay-seed or Trigonella foenum-graecum LINN from fabaceae family had found its first application in ancient Egyptian culture in 16th century BCE as a substance for mummification. Ancient medical practice of Greeks Indians and Arabians used the herb to treat disorders of different nature and severity.

The rich chemical content and valuable qualities of the plant allows using it as a supplement or all-sufficient mean for treatment or strengthening the organism, aromatization of hay or quarters.

It’s a popular cookery addition in the world known spice mixtures: “curry”, Ethiopian “berbere”, Bengali “panch phoron”, Tamil “sambaar podi”, Iranian “ghorme sabzi”, Georgian “khmeli-suneli”. The herb is used also as a coffee substitute in Northern Africa, in pickling, and even in perfumery for Indian hair conditioner.

Numerous constituents of the herb could not be counted even on the fingers of both hands. I’ll try to list them in a short manner not to bore your fascinated reading. So there are: mucilage (28%), proteids (22%), fixed oil (5%) volatile oil, alkaloids (Trigonelline and Choline), phosphates, lecitin, nucleoalbumin, iron in organic form, trimethylamin, neurin, betain, coumarin, gelatinous textures, phytoestrogen, diosgenin, steroidal saponins and amino acid 4-hydrxisoleucine.

Fenugreek affects on the human body include stimulation of the appetite by action on the nervous system, decrease of calcium oxalate in the kidneys, diuretic and ureo-poietic effects, soothing the skin, inhibition of cholesterol absorption and synthesis, alteration of the levels of thyroid hormones, uterine stimulation, decrease of blood sugar and potassium levels and pressure, increase of the body production of insulin when blood sugar levels are high, stimulation of sweat production.

Besides that the herb has the ability to decrease the activity of an enzyme that’s involved in releasing stored sugar from the liver into the blood, to slow down the time that food takes to go through the intestine tract. Sometimes it can increase the duration and severity of a migraine, to increase the risk of bleeding, cause allergy like peanut or enhance the effects of other drugs.

Among several side effects are: dizziness, gas, facial swelling, numbness, difficulty breathing.

The best conditions for this 2 feet high erect annual herb with brownish seeds of bitter peculiar odor and taste are: moderate to low rainfall, loam and clayey soil with proper drainage. Naturally Trigonella grows in Eurasia (from the Eastern Mediterranean to China). Now it’s cultivated in India, Argentina, Egypt, Southern France, Morocco and Lebanon.

Echinacea History and Description

There is hardly a place in the world, where people know nothing and never heard of Echinacea – a plant, traditionally recognized as a valuable medicinal herb.

Echinacea belongs to the aster family (Asteraceae). Though there are as many as nine species of the plant, only three of them are used medicinally (Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea). Out of these Echinacea purpurea is the most popular and best studied. It happened due to the mistake of Dr. Gerhard Madaus, a leading German herbal medicine manufacturer of the last century. He went to the United States in search of Echinacea angustifolia, but brought the seeds of Echinacea purpurea.

The result of Madaus’ studies on the plant became the development of a product called Echinacin, which is still available today. Moreover, it is the most frequently prescribed Echinacea preparation in the world.

The given plant is native to the open woods and prairies of the USA: it can be found growing wildly in Ohio and Iowa, Louisiana and Georgia. Indians used it for ages to cure flu and colds, to heal cuts and burns. However, the majority of the studies on Echinacea were conducted in Europe, mainly in Germany, since the remedy went into disuse in America with the invention of antibiotics.

Echinacea is a perennial, long-lived plant with quite large (4-6 inches in diameter) wonderful pink or purple flowers. The flower-head has a stiff cone-shaped center, which is, actually, composed of tiny brownish-red individual flowers, with seeds being formed inside. Each flower-head is placed on a separate long, strong, erect stem, which reaches the height of about 4 feet.

The plant prefers dry soils, being afraid of too much moisture. Sunny locations are the best for Echinacea. However, the herb is strong enough to stand harsher conditions.

It is quite easy to grow Echinacea in the garden. The only thing a gardener should remember is timely weeding, since the plant cannot compete well with weeds. Diseases are not likely to strike Echinacea, except for the so-called “yellow” disease. One more note: protect the plant from rabbits and hedgehogs, which like eating its new shoots.

This medicinal herb can be propagated either by sowing seeds or by dividing older plants. Professionals confirm that planting the seeds in autumn is more beneficial for the further bloom period (Echinacea blooms from June to October).

Herbalists use roots and flower tops for medicinal purposes. Roots are harvested in autumn when the plant is three years old. The tops are the most valuable just when the flowers begin to open. The plant has the best medicinal properties during the first year of storage.

Finally, even if a gardener does not plan to use Echinacea for improving health, it is also worthy to grow it, since the beautiful large bright flowers will definitely decorate any garden.

Kava kava: the Herb of Mystery and Pleasure

The world is a two-facet coin: there are many things familiar to us, as we think; however, if we look deeper into the matter, it becomes obvious that we know next to nothing.

Kava kava is a traditional herb for preparing beverage, known and used by the inhabitants of the Pacific islands since ancient times. People in other parts of the world got acquainted with this herb long time ago as well, still, we know very little about the power and effect of this mysterious plant.

Kava kava is from the pepper family, having a botanical name Piper methysticum. A shrub, which usually grows 6 feet high (sometimes twice higher), has large cordate leaves, short spikes of flowers, and a spotted stem.

The plant has been cultivated in many parts of the Pacific islands for centuries; therefore, it is now quite a problem to identify its home. Botanists suggest that Kava is indigenous to a group of islands in eastern Melanesia, and it was domesticated about 3000 years ago. Nowadays it is widely used by natives of the South Pacific islands (Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, Vanuatu, Tonga, New Guinea, Polynesia, Micronesia, and others).

The aborigines of the above mentioned islands use and always used Kava kava for different reasons. First of all, they confirm that the beverage made from either fresh, dried, or chewed Kava roots is a healthy and natural way of relaxing, which helps suppress nervousness and relieve muscle tension, having a significant sedative effect.

The juice from the plant was also used as a tranquilizer, which helped people gain access to the spirits world and communicate with gods and ancestors during the religious ceremonies. The traditional celebrations of marriages, births, and deaths, the rites of curing from diseases and removing curses were always held with Kava juice drinking.

Since ancient times the beverage, made from this plant, was associated with a sexual intercourse. Drinking Kava kava tea was a prerogative of males. In spite of the myths that Kava kava plant was discovered by women, consuming its juice by them was perceived as a symbol of lesbianism.

However, the most significant role of the plant is observed in the traditional medicine. The islanders used and still use Kava kava for treating gout, rheumatism, bronchial congestion, tuberculosis, leprosy, urinary tract and vaginal infections (cystitis, prostatis, gonorrhea, venereal diseases and menstrual problems).Women even tried to provoke abortions, putting Kava kava leaves into the vagina.

This folk remedy was mentioned in the scientific works for the first time in 1886. These days it is gaining popularity all over the world mainly due to its sedative and relaxing effect. Food and Drug Administration of the USA classify Kava kava as a nutritional supplement, which can be used for reducing anxiety. Indeed, those, who consume the beverage or Kava kava extract in capsules report of the state of relaxation, lessening of muscle tenseness, peacefulness, mild euphoria and the feeling of being more sociable and capable to communicate.

Recent clinical trials also showed that Kava kava is effective for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

The beverage from the plant is usually made of the dried ground Kava roots, but the drink tastes bitter, therefore, many people prefer to take it in capsules.

The active compounds found in the roots of Kava kava are called kavalactones. There are six of them: kawain, methysticin, demethoxy-yangonin, dihidrokawain, dihidromethysticin, and yongonin. These chemicals are responsible for the relaxing effect. Actually, they produce soporific and mildly narcotic influence, nevertheless, unlike opioids, they do not cause addiction.

Scientists recommend taking Kava not more than 3-4 days a week, making one-week pauses every month. They suspect that long-term usage or drinking great amounts of Kava can cause either liver damage, especially in those predisposed to this condition, or kawaism (red, dry, flaking skin, red eyes, puffy face, muscle weakness, and blood abnormalities).

Multiple clinical trials are being held these days, still, we do not have much information on side effects and possible influence of Kava on our bodies.

The world is old, but we are young and still have so much to learn about the nature around us.

Guaiacum as a Herbal Remedy High in Resins

Biological Description

Guaiacum officinale (Lignum vitae) is the tree with the name translated from Latin as “long life”. This must be attributed to the tree’s slow growth and hard wood, the hardest of the woods known and not sinking in water.

Guaiacum is widely known as evergreen ornamental tree reaching up to 40-60 feet height. It is well recognized by its crooked stem, often represented by several trunks clustered together and furrowed bark carrying knobby branches. The flowers are bright blue, growing in clusters as well, and after flowering in spring, produce bright orange fruits with the red seeds in them. The red seed turns dark after it is released from its capsule and dried out.

The two most common guaiacum species, except G. officinale, are Guaiacum sanctum, distinguished by aromatic leaves, and Guaiacum Resin, cultivated for the resin.


Guaiacum habitat is the areas of West Indies, South and North America. Climatic conditions the tree grows in define the density of the wood. In the regions with medium rainfalls and coastal areas, the tree grows dry and hardy. In general, guaiacum prefers deep rich soil and free from other threes areas.

Parts Used

The guaiacum hardwood is higly favoured for its firm and practical wood. It is used for furniture, house appliances and tools. For medicinal purposes resin and bark are processed into herbal preparations, as a component or an independent herbal remedy.


Despite being seldom used in the medicine, the wood does have certain health benefits and is sold in form of the fine shavings from the tree. Exposed to air, they turn green – and prove being genuine. Bark and resin are available powdered, tinctured and in form of decoction.


Resin has quite a number of beneficial actions due to its chemical value – it contains resin acids, guaiaretic and hydroguaiaretic acids, and lignans. Other components include terpenoids (guaiacsaponin), and vanilin. Anti-rheumatic, laxative, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic actions of the plant are associated with its rich chemical content.

Health Benefits

Guaiacum resin has advantage over other resins by being not as irritating for the stomach and bowel. Being easy to absorb, it provides fast relief for the symptoms it is taken for. It has been mostly used in herbal medicine for rheumatic conditions and related symptoms. Patients with inflammation and painful joints have been reporting the healing effects of guaiacum. Its anti-inflammatory actions are both helpful in rheumatoid arthritis and chronic rheumatism, lessening recurrence of the attacks.

For digestive disorders, guaiacum is used as laxative, and for the urinary tract conditions – as diuretic. The guaiacum decoction provides the latter effects if taken cool, and while taken hot with preserving body’s warmth – it works as diaphoretic.

Powdered extract of the plant is known to treat tonsilitis, while slightly affecting bronchi. Although, strong actions on the respiratory tract have not been noted.

By increasing body heat and circulation, the herb acts as a general stimulant.

For people with peptic or gastritic ucleration guaiacum is not recommended due to high resin content.

Ginkgo Biloba

The herb we know as ginkgo biloba has been cultivated and used by the Chinese and other Asian cultures for thousands of years, and it has traditionally been used to treat a wide variety of illnesses and ailments. Ginkgo biloba takes its name from the tree from which it is derived, the ginkgo tree, and this tree is well known throughout Asia.

The latest research indicates that the Ginkgo tree has been a part of the earth’s environment for between 150 and 200 million years. Fossils of ginkgo have been found that date back to the Paleozoic era. With such a long history, it is no wonder that ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest, and most thoroughly researched, of all herbal remedies. For many thousands of years, ginkgo biloba has been used in traditional medicine to improve blood flow, to improve sexual performance and even to increase the life span of those who took it.

Ginkgo has been used to improve the heart and lungs functionality, and to treat coughs, asthma, and acute allergic inflammations. With more than 1,000 published studies, ginkgo biloba is one of the best known and excellent-documented herbal nutritional supplements available.

One of the most well known effects of ginkgo biloba has to do with blood circulation, and ginkgo biloba is thought to have a strong impact on maintaining normal blood flow and reducing tissue damage. In addition, the herb is thought to help maintain optimum levels of oxygen and glucose in the blood. Ginkgo biloba is also a rich source of the antioxidants which are so important to reducing damage done by free radicals in the modern environment.

The ability of ginkgo biloba to influence and increase blood flow extends to the brain as well, and ginkgo is thought to enhance memory by increasing the amount of blood flow to the brain. Many clinical studies continue into the memory enhancing effects of this popular herbal remedy. Ginkgo biloba has also shown great promise as a way to combat stress and anxiety, and many clinical studies continue into the emotional effects of this popular remedy.

The tree can reach heights up to 125 feet and is extremely hardy. It is resistant to many insects, diseases and pollution. A single tree can live as long as 1000 years. The species name “biloba” refers to the two distinct lobes, typical of the tree’s leaves.

The best quality of ginkgo leaves are obtained from plantations located in Europe and America. Ginkgo leaves are picked when they are green. Then they are dried and milled. Milled leaves are extracted with an acetone-water mixture. The extract is processed, dried, and standardized to a potency of 24 percent flavonoids and 6 percent terpenes.

Dong Quai in the Herbal Medicine

Biological Description

The name of the herb that is mostly popular in Eastern herbal medicine for treating gynecological ailments, fatigue, mild anemia and high blood pressure, is translated as “return to order” and speaks of the plant’s properties to act as general tonic. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is also known as “female ginseng”, Chinese angelica and tang kuei (Korean).

The plant belongs to the Apiaceae family and is native to China, Korea and Japan where it favors cold damp climate of mountainous regions. One can easily recognize this fragrant perennial herb by smooth hollow purplish (up to 2 meters) stems and umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers. It produces clusters of greenish-white flowers followed by winged fruits. The roots are large, yellowish-brown with multiple branches.


Dong quai tolerates a wide number of light conditions and can be grown in sun or shade, although it prefers fertile soil. The roots of the plant are ready for harvesting from 3 year-old plants, while the seeds are sown in spring. The roots are usually sliced and dried for storage and further processing.

Parts Used

The dong quai root is the source of most medicinal formulas prepared of this plant. In Chinese medicine it is believed that parts of the root vary in their actions and potential effects. The head of the root is known to produce anticoagulant activity, the bulk has tonic properties, and the tip of the root is useful for blood stagnation.


Chinese herbalists extract healing substances out of the plant by boiling or soaking it in wine. The root is then removed and the liquid is taken orally as a remedy for various health conditions. In traditional herbal medicine dong quai is released in tablet, liquid extract, and raw root forms. It is also found in capsules, tea, and other herbal preparations.


Angelica sinensis is rich in vitamin content – E, A and B12, the latter one being mostly found in animals and seldom in plants. Vasodilatory effects of the plant are explained by coumarin derivatives in it. This makes dong quai a valuable antispasmodic and blood pressure regulating herb.

Essential oil of dong quai is rich in ligustilide and ferulic acid is also found in the root. These two substances both inhibit and stimulate contractions advancing spasms prevention. They also prevent blood clotting and relax vessels. Polysaccharides in don quai act in producing interferon and leukocytes and thus enable immune stimulating effects.

The plant chemical content is also represented by phytoestrogens. These chemicals have estrogenic properties and are believed to relieve a number of symptoms connected to menstrual disorders and menopausal symptoms in women.

Health Benefits

In herbal medicine the major use of dong quai is to treat and relieve menstrual and menopausal symptoms in women. The active compounds in the herb act strengthening reproductive organs, and help with endometriosis and internal bleeding or bruising. They also stimulate central nervous system and thus advance in relieving PMS, weakness, hot flashes and headaches associated with menstrual disorders.

Moreover, hormone-like actions of the plant balance woman’s hormones and cycles and help restore menstrual regularity. Dong quai is also suggested for the patients with circulatory conditions. The herbs is able to reduce the viscosity of blood, treat hypertension and high blood pressure and lower the stress on heart by soothing the arteries and the vascular system in general.

Blood-purifying properties of dong quai make it a useful herb for dealing with liver conditions. Although, more research is needed to be done for this property. Containing high amounts of iron, the herbal preparations of dong quai are often used for prevent iron deficiency and anemia. Patients that suffer from stress, migraine headaches, and insomnia may consider using dong quai for its properties to stimulate nervous system and produce mild sedative effects. Constipation is also treated with the help of this herb.

Before deciding on dong quai and choosing it for your health condition, you should mind some side effects that may occur. Due to the effects of coumarin that acts as anticoagulant and prevents the action of Vitamin K (the blood-clotting vitamin), dong quai should not be taken together with the blood thinning medicines. Dong quai also increases skin’s sensitivity to sun and should be used by fair-skinned people with additional precautions to prevent burning. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it too due to the hormonal-like actions.

Codonopsis Pilosula: Mild Action – Good Results

Biological Description

Codonopsis pilosula is a very popular and extensively used Chinese herb, which is often included into the herbal formulas as Ginseng substitute. This medicinal plant is less expensive, therefore it is often called Poor man’s ginseng. Its other popular name is Bonnet flower.

Codonopsis belongs to Campanulaceae (bluebell or lobelia) family. It is a twining perennial reaching the length of 5 to 10 feet. It is usually very shrubby and dense. The plant has long and thick sweet-tasting root, long soft stems (hairy when young), and oval green leaves. The bell-shaped green flowers of Codonopsis have five petals with light purple veins.


Codonopsis pilosula originates from China and Korea, where it has always grown wildly, but now it is extensively cultivated for medicinal properties. Wild species usually grow on the streams banks and in the shade of the trees in the forests, preferring moist places.

Nowadays, Codonopsis is widely cultivated all over the world to be used as one of the powerful herbal remedies.

Parts Used

The root of the 3-4-year plant is harvested in autumn to be dried and used in the herbal formulas and infusions. Taproots of the wild-growing Codonopsis are said to be more efficacious, although cultivated species has larger roots.


Teas, tablets, and tinctures are the most common forms of the plant available in the stores.


Scientific studies, the majority of which was conducted in China, proved that Codonopsis is a potent appetizer, digestive, stomachic, tonic, adaptogen, galactogogue and sialagogue.

The root of the plant contains triterpenes, steroids,alkaloids, sterins, glycosides, polysaccharides and small amounts of saponins. These components have beneficial impact on the stomach, lungs, and spleen. They stimulate the production of body fluids, strengthen immune system, and increase red and white blood cells count. At the same time, Codonopsis has been found to reduce the production of pepsin enzyme in the stomach, which helps in the healing of peptic ulcers, especially those induced by stress.

Root extracts are also characterized with the power to slow down the speed with which food passes through the stomach, thus helping to improve the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.

Codonopsis has interferon-inducing and immuno-stimulating activity mainly to the presence of polysaccharides in its chemical structure, which is beneficial for immuno-compromised populations.

Working as adaptogen, Codonopsis improves body’s tolerability to stress, reducing the level of adrenalin. It also dilates peripheral blood vessels, lowering thus high blood pressure.

Surprising it may seem, but along with immuno-stimulating properties, the herb is characterized with restraining this body’s defensive means in case of such serious health disorder as lupus.

The research, conducted on Codonopsis, was mainly done on animals. The action of the majority of the plant’s chemicals is not well understood yet. Consequently, scientists note that more work still should be done, and hopefully, its results will be available soon.

Health Benefits

For more than 2000 years Asian people have used Codonopsis as an effective remedy to boost the energy and immune system, increase endurance, and improve body’s ability to withstand stress. Along with such generalized use, the herb has also been taken to fight digestive problems, as indigestion and stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite.  Peptic ulcers are also said to heal when treated with Codonopsis remedies.

People, weakened either by illnesses or by chemo- and radiation therapy, may use this herb to strengthen the body and hasten the recovery. Pregnant and nursing women and people with chronic fatigue syndrome benefit from Codonopsis as well, replenishing energy with its help. The plant has also ability to increase milk production. It is even stated in some sources that babies can chew the root of the herb during the teething period.

Chronic headaches, muscle tension, high blood pressure are all the reasons to take Poor man’s ginseng. Boosting lung function, fighting viral infections, curing cough and other respiratory problems are in the scope of Codonopsis activity too.

This herb is often included into the formulas to treat asthma and even cancer and tumours. By the way, the combination of Codonopsis with other beneficial herbs is the most common form of the plant’s use.

Arnica Montana as Herbal Remedy

Biological Description

Arnica is a very popular herbal remedy that has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s. This plant is known as Arnica root, Common Arnica, Mountain Arnica, Mountain tobacco, Arnica flowers, Leopard’s bane and Wolf’s bane.

Its scientific name though is Arnica Montana. It is a perennial that grows to a height of 20–60 cm. Stems are round and hairy, ending in one to three flower stalks. Most of the bright green leaves are in a basal rosette, the upper leaves are toothed and a little bit hairy, while lower leaves have rounded tips. The flower head on the stem is yellow-orange, similar to daisies (5 cm in diameter).


Arnica is native to the mountains of Europe (from southern Iberia to southern Scandinavia and the Carpathians) and Siberia, and is cultivated in North America. The plant grows in nutrient-poor meadows up to nearly 3000 m. It may also be found on nutrient-poor moors and heaths. Arnica thrives in a mixture of loam, peat, and sand. Due to increasingly intensive agriculture it is becoming rarer in the north of its distribution.

It may be propagated by root division or from seed. The plant is sown in early spring in a cold frame, and plant out in May.

Parts Used

Fresh or dried flower heads are used in medicinal preparations. The flowers are collected entire and dried. The root is collected in autumn after the leaves have died down.


Arnica is available commercially in topical creams, and ointments. But it is more used internally in homeopathy. It is most commonly prepared as a tincture, which can also be used as the base for compresses and poultices. A number of homeopathic remedies are available in pill, liniment, salve (ointment) or injectable forms. Arnica is used as a whole or cut herb, powder, tea, liquid, or gel. The herb can be soaked with water and made into a poultice (a soft, moist mass of herbs) that is applied directly to the skin.


The active components in Arnica are sesquiterpene lactones. These are famous for reducing inflammation and decreasing pain. Other active components are Arnicin, a volatile oil, thymol (an essential oil), flavonoids, inulin, carotenoids, tannins and phulin.

How does Arnica work?

  • It stimulates the activity of white blood cells that perform much of the digestion of congested blood, stimulates blood circulation and can raise blood pressure (especially in the coronary arteries)
  • It disperses trapped, disorganized fluids from bumped and bruised tissue, joints and muscles

Arnica has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities that can reduce pain and swelling, improving wound healing. It also demonstrates respiratory-stimulant, positive inotropic, and tonus increasing actions.

Health Benefits

Arnica Montana is used for number of conditions and ailments, such as:

  • It is effective herbal remedy for wounds, infections, and inflammation – applied on the skin
  • The plant is used externally for arthritis, and ulcers
  • Arnica is promoted for use on the skin to help sunburn, acne, eczema, chapped lips, and irritated nostrils
  • Homeopathic preparations are also used to treat sore muscles, bruises, sprains, irritation from accidental injuries and burns, and other conditions caused by overexertion or trauma

For all these benefits you should be extremely careful with dosage, as scientific evidence does not support most of the claims about effectiveness of Arnica. There are also some evidences, that when taken by mouth, it can be poisonous (in case of wrong dosage), or can cause some side effects. Homeopathic practitioners claim that the dose should be in extremely diluted solution. The doses have no detectable amount of the plant in them and are generally considered safe for internal use when taken according to the directions on the product labeling. Scientific evidence does not support these claims as well.

The usage of Arnica is more approved for external use. It is appeared to be effective for treating injury and effects of accidents, inflammation of the mouth and throat area, and insect bites. Again, be very careful with the dosage. Prolonged use or wrong dose of oil or ointment may irritate the skin, causing eczema, peeling, blisters, or other skin conditions. Arnica should not be used on broken skin, such as leg ulcers. You could also be allergic to the components of the plant.

Note some possible side effects:

  • When taken internally it can irritate the stomach and may result in vomiting, diarrhea, and nosebleeds
  • It has caused a number of serious reactions, including allergies and at least one death
  • It can cause dizziness, tremors, and heart irregularities
  • Large doses can even be fatal

Do not use it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Better not to use it for children.

Here are some generally safe doses (though the doses should be chosen individually by your doctor or homeopathic practitioner):

  • Tincture – a 1:10 tincture prepared with 70% ethanol
  • For compresses – tincture diluted 3 – 10 times with water
  • As creams and ointments – 20 – 25% tincture (or a maximum of 15% arnica oil made from one part dried arnica flower head and five parts vegetable oil)
  • For Poultices – tincture diluted 3 – 10 times with water
  • As mouthwash – tincture diluted 10 times with water (should not be swallowed)

Arnica should be used as herbal remedy only with direct medical supervision. Even homeopathic products should be used only with your homeopathic practitioner’s supervision and according to directions on the label. Be very careful.

Witch Hazel and its Multiple Benefits

Biological Description
Witch hazel (Hamamelis) is a perennial genus of the shrubs native to Canada and spread cultivated throughout Europe. It has been described centuries ago, and the Greek name given to the plant referring to its peculiar properties is translated as “apples”, and “together”. What would that mean? The thing about witch hazel is, that the plant blooms after the leaves from the shrub has fallen and the seeds turned ripe, usually during autumn months (September-October). So the “apples”, or rather the old fruits, are still on the tree together with the new yellow bloom.
The flowers usually come together with brown capsule-like casings, which crack and throw two black hard seeds when they ripen. Because the distance they fall to can reach 20 feet, witch hazel is often called a snapping hazelnut.
Witch hazel grows as a small twisted shrub or tree, reaching up to 20 feet in height, carrying arching branches. The leaves are dark green in the top and pale in the bottom parts.
Witch hazel grows in a wide variety of climatic conditions and flourishes best in the country fields and close to the water sources. Propagated from cuttings of hardwood and the seeds, witch hazel is usually planted in autumn. It favours moist soil with rich acid content and is rather tolerant to the pollution. The leaves of the tree are of the most medicinal value, they are collected in summer and processed for storage. Witch hazel bark, which is also used in medicine, is collected in fall.
Parts Used
Bark and leaf are the sources of healing properties of the plant, so they are being used in herbal and personal care preparations.
Witch hazel is a popular component in skin care products. Volatile oil and odorous substances extracted from the plant are being included into after shave creams, soaps, lotions and deodorants. Medicinally used, the most common form of witch hazel is a tincture – distillate of the shrub with 14% alcohol content. Teas, suppositories and dried extracts are also commonly sold in drugstores.
Both leaves and bark are the rich source of bitter chemicals of unknown origin, as well as gallic and tannic acids, volatile oil (in leaves). Fat, odorous chemicals and resin are found in bark. Both parts of the plant provide similar actions – tonic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antioxidant, and sedative.
Health Benefits
Witch hazel since long ago has been known to Native Americans as a tonic herb helpful for swellings, tumours and pain. They also treated bleeding with the tea brewed from bark or leaves of the plant. Modern science has found an explanation to this property – active compounds in the herb stimulate the muscular function of the veins. Applied topically, witch hazel extract from fresh leaves helps stop bleeding from the nose, lungs and other organs, including bleeding varicose veins.
The tea made of leaves is a universal remedy for multiple conditions: sore throat (used cooled as a gargle), diarrhea (2 cups for the healing), vaginitis (used as douche), hemorrhoids and internal bleeding.
Being a part in a number of topical applications, witch hazel acts as a mild anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving agent. It removes irritation, itch, swelling in such conditions as eczema, psoriasis, blistered and cracked skin, sores, bites and stings.
Due to the presence of antioxidant effects, plant chemicals usually make up the content of anti-wrinkling and anti-aging products.
Also, used as ointments, suppositories and pads, witch hazel relieves most of the symptoms of hemorrhoids. Similar topical applications help relieving inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth, as well as inflammation of the gums.
In addition to multiple benefits of the herb, FDA has approved witch hazel as a safe component in non-prescription drug, which is not that common among many other dietary supplements.

Respiratory Allergies and Herbal Remedies

Sneezing, as well as itchy eyes and stuffiness does not always mean you have a cold. Sometimes they signal you have an allergic reaction to something in the air.


An allergy is a state of hypersensitivity when one gets a specific exaggerated immunologic reaction to a normally harmless substance. Respiratory allergies (these are hay fever, cedar fever, etc.) are allergies caused by that reaction of the immune system to a “trigger” (called allergen or antigen) that causes inflammation and/or swelling of the tissue of the nose, eyes, sinuses, throat, ears, larynx, and airways.

People who have allergies often are sensitive to more than one substance. Respiratory allergies can be just annoying things, but they can lead to serious symptoms in asthmatics, and they might cause the development of a secondary bacterial infection in your sinuses, ears, or lungs.


When an ordinarily harmless antigen enters the body of a person allergic to it, the immune system tries to defend itself. We call this defense ‘symptoms’ of an allergy. This is how the body protects itself from the allergen. Symptoms commonly produced include the following:

  • itching and watery eyes, or burning eyes
  • runny and stuffed nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing (cough is ordinary dry)
  • respiratory symptoms
  • skin reactions – hot flashes
  • ear popping (without significant pain)
  • rapid heart beat
  • sinus pressure or stuffiness

It may also be accomplished with the fatigue, headaches, intestinal gas or pain, mood changes and abdominal bloating.


Certain ‘triggers’ switch on the powerful immune response of the body to get rid of the “allergen substance”. What are those allergens in our lives? Common triggers are:

  • pollens
  • dust particles
  • mold spores
  • insect venom
  • pet dander
  • cockroach debris
  • tobacco smoke
  • even food, latex rubber, paint fumes and medicines.

But why does our immune system gives such a reaction to normally harmless substance? Eventually, the immune system functions as the body’s defense against invading agents such as bacteria and viruses. And when an allergic person first comes into contact with an allergen, the immune system treats the allergen as if it is virus or bacteria and mobilizes to “immediately attack”. How does it do it? It produces large amounts of a type of antibody (a disease-fighting protein) called immunoglobin E (IgE). This IgE antibody is specific for a certain allergen; to every other allergen there is a certain IgE antibody. These IgE molecules attaches tightly to the body’s mast cells and to and to basophiles, this is just its way of functioning. And these mast cells are actually tissue cells, and basophiles are blood cells. So, when attached it signals the cell to release (or produce) powerful inflammatory chemicals, that act on tissues in various parts of the body, causing the symptoms of allergy.

Certain factors increase likelihood of being allergic to one or more allergens. One of them is that you may inherit a tendency to be allergic.

Medical Approaches

There are several options of treating allergies:

  • Antihistamines – are drugs that counteract the body’s production of histamine, which occurs in response to contact with an allergen. Aimed to prevent or reduce many of the signs of allergy.
  • Steroid (cromolyn sodium and other) nasal sprays – are inhaled through the nose to reduce inflammation, nasal swelling and congestion.
  • Decongestants – are drugs that reduce congestion, but may create a “rebound effect”.
  • Immunotherapy – allergy shots of a small dose of allergen, to let the body becomes accustomed to the allergen; the dose is gradually increased.
  • Laser Surgery – use of laser to vaporize mucous forming nasal tissue.

Every other method has side effects. Some of them need to be taken for a long time before the result comes; some of them give immediate result, but cause greater side effects.

Alternative Approaches

If you want to control your symptoms of an allergy you might consider herbal remedies for it. Don’t forget, that every other method should be approved by your doctor, who treats you. Since taking herbs for allergy “treating” may not be good for some other your conditions (and the herb may worsen the symptoms) or may interact with your allergy medicines. (The word “treating” is in brackets, because you cannot be cured from allergy, by this is meant “controlling your symptoms”).

Butterbur Roots. Its extract is used to treat intermittent hay fever (allergic rhinitis), which is as effective as a commonly used antihistamine. An extract can inhibit the synthesis of leukotrienes, which, along with histamine and other chemicals, are produced as part of the immune response to an allergen. In several studies people were given butterbur extract, the results showed that butterbur and fexofenadine (antihistamine) were equally effective and reduce allergy symptoms.

Chamomile. The herb has anti-anxiety, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antispasmodic properties, what makes it very useful in treating respiratory allergies. Chamomile tea is used to reduce duration of hay fever attacks. Chamomile creams are used for compresses. Chamomile is good in treatment of asthma as well.

Eucalyptus. This is a traditional remedy for infections and hay fever. The herb is a powerful expectorant – clear nasal passages; and antiseptic – helpful for cold, flu and sore throats. The aromatic oil (contained in the leaves of this herb) applied to the skin as a chest or sinus rub is very useful in treatment of hay fever.

Licorice Root. Licorice Root has been historically used for treating asthma, colds, used to support inflammation of the skin, and other not related to the topic conditions. The root of this herb contains a saponin glycoside which has a similar structure to hormones produced by our adrenal glands. This component gives licorice an anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and anti-arthritic effect, plus without the side effects. Its anti-allergenic effect is very useful for allergic rhinitis (hay fever), conjunctivitis and bronchial asthma.

Ginger is the most widely used herbal remedy for respiratory allergies. Fresh ginger – to relieve dryness and heat, dried ginger – to relieve dampness and chill. Ginger warms the energy channels, reduces inflammation and is antimicrobial.

Another herb that has been used for centuries to treat allergies and asthma is Ephedra. Some compounds in this plant such as ephedrine, can relieve asthma but when used in this isolated form can also elevate blood pressure.

Ashwagandha. This herb is very popular in treating inflammation of all kinds, and allergy is always and inflammation. According to modern herbalism, Ashwagandha contains withaferin and withanolides, which are natural steroids and stablilize allergic reaction.

Ginkgo may decrease the body’s reactions to allergens.

Haridra. This is one of the most useful anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory herbs. People in India use it after common injuries to ease the pain and swelling, it may help in swellings of the tissues in case of allergies.

Another useful herb is Shirish. It removes accumulated toxins from our body and also relieves the entire physiologic system, which may help in allergies as well.

Peppermint oil is often advised for allergic reactions. It is applied on the throat, on the crown of the head (in case of headaches) and on back of the neck. Pine or spruce essential oil are deeply grounded and may be used to calm allergic reactions. A drop of these oils (individually) applied on the throat or over the thymus gland boosts the immune system, thus creating balance in the body’s energy field and making a big difference in allergy attacks.

One of the most effective remedies for allergies is a dashamoola tea Basti. The tea is an excellent help for wheezing, sneezing, dryness of the throat and dryness of the colon.

There are also some herbal formulas for treating allergies. One of the most helping is mix of Ashwagandha, Bala and Vidari (in equal proportion). The tea helps to soothe an extreme wheezing condition. Another one is a tea from Ginger or Licorice with 5 to 10 drops of mahanarayan oil (or 1/2 teaspoon of plain ghee). Helps very well.

Under the supervision of your health care provider you may use some of these methods. Don’t be alone in your fighting!