Monthly Archives: March 2013


LATIN NAME:  Lycium barbarum (or Lycium chinense)

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:  Similar in appearance and action, the berries of both Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense are large, soft, and red.  The fruit is sometimes known as wolfberry.  Ripening in the summer, lyceum has a thick flesh and small seeds. In traditional Chinese medical terms, the two herbs are classified as sweet and neutral. Lycium barbarum grows in a number of Chinese provinces.

SPECIAL INFORMATION:  You should not take this herb if you suffer from an inflammatory ailment, weak digestion, or a tendency to become bloated.

TARGET AILMENTS:  Take internally for:

  • Night blindness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, and blurred vision.
  • Dry coughs.
  • Diabetes.
  • Sore back, knees, and legs.
  • Impotence and nocturnal emissions.

SIDE EFFECTS:  None listed



LATIN NAME:  Fucus spp.


Extracts of iodine-rich kelp, one of many forms of seaweed, provided an effective goiter remedy for many years.  Today some herbalists rely on another component of kelp’s stemlike and leaflike parts, an agent known as sodium alginate.  Because of its action, kelp is prescribed to aid in the treatment of heavy-metal environmental pollutants including barium and cadmium, and to prevent the body from absorbing strontium 90, a radioactive substance created in nuclear power plants.  Some practitioners of alternative medicine also recommend taking kelp supplements for thyroid disorders such as mild hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).


WARNING:  If you are already taking medication for hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), kelp supplements could worsen the condition.

WARNING:  Do not gather your own wild kelp for use; coastal colonies may be contaminated by offshore pollutants.

WARNING:  Check with your practitioner before using kelp if you have a history of thyroid problems or high blood pressure.

TARGET AILMENTS:  Take internally for:

  • Goiter, hypothyroidism, radiation exposure, heavy-metal environmental pollutants.

SIDE EFFECTS:  None expected


LATIN NAME:  Juniperus communis

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:  The berrylike juniper cone, a purple fruit, is produced by female varieties of an evergreen shrub that can grow 6 to 25 feet tall.  Juniper is known for giving gin its tart bite.  It also acts as a diuretic, since it includes among its components terpinen-4-ol, which increases the rate at which the kidneys filter body fluids.  Because of this diuretic action, juniper is used to treat high blood pressure and premenstrual syndrome.  Juniper oil is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects, considered useful for treating arthritis and gout.  Juniper teas can be taken for digestive problems.


WARNING:  Because it can irritate the kidneys and urinary tract, juniper is suitable for short-term use only.

WARNING:  Do not use juniper if you have a kidney infection or a history of kidney problems.

  1. Animal studies indicate that the herb prompts the uterus to contract, suggesting that it may also bring on menstrual periods.
  2. Pregnant women should not use juniper, because it may stimulate contraction of the uterus.

TARGET AILMENTS:  Take internally for:

  • Bladder infections, cystitis, edema (water retention), digestive problems.
  • Menstrual irregularities and premenstrual syndrome.
  • High blood pressure.

Apply externally for:

  • Arthritis.
  • Gout.

SIDE EFFECTS/Not serious:  Individuals with hay fever may develop allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion when taking juniper.  If this happens, stop taking the herb and call your doctor.

Serious:  Juniper in high doses can irritate and damage the kidneys and urinary tract.  If you develop diarrhea, intestinal pain, kidney pain, blood in the urine, purplish urine, or a faster heartbeat, stop taking juniper immediately and see your doctor as soon as possible.


LATIN NAME:  Ipecacuanha


GENERAL DESCRIPTION:  The Ipecacuanha shrub, native to Central and South America, was named by Portuguese colonists, who called it “roadside sick-making plant” in recognition of its ability to induce vomiting.  Varying doses of its root can produce a variety of symptoms that includes mild appetite stimulation, sweating, expectoration, vomiting, gastritis, inflammation of the lungs, and cardiac failure.  Other health disorders can display symptoms similar to those of mild ipecac poisoning, and it is these symptoms that homeopathic practitioners hope to counteract when they prescribe ipecac.  The homeopathic remedy is made from the root, the most potent part of the plant.  The root is dried and then ground into coarse powder, which is diluted either in milk sugar, as a dry substance or in a water-alcohol base.  Both preparations are weakened to a nontoxic level.  For information on homeopathic medicine, see page 1027.

TARGET AILMENTS:  Persistent nausea, vomiting, motion sickness; menstrual problems; asthma; dry, irritating cough accompanied by wheezing; diarrhea, flu with nausea, colic, gastroenteritis. (Take internally.)

SIDE EFFECTS:  None expected.


LATIN NAME:  Equiseum arvense


GENERAL DESCRIPTION:  Horsetail has been valued since ancient times for its ability to stem the flow of blood, bind tissues, and increase urine production.  It is rich in silica, which helps mend broken bones and form collagen, an important constituent of bones and tissue.  Herbalists today prescribe horsetail for urinary problems, wounds, benign prostate disorders, and the pain of rheumatism or arthritis.  More closely related to ferns than to flowering plants, horsetail is a perennial with hollow stems and shoots that resemble asparagus.  All the aboveground parts of the plant are used for medicinal purposes.


WARNING:  Do not take internally for more than three consecutive days and do not exceed the recommended dosage; extended use may cause kidney or cardiac damage.

  1. Use only under doctor’s care.  People with cardiac disease or high blood pressure should use horsetail with caution.
  2. Pregnant women should avoid horsetail.  The herb’s high selenium content can cause birth defects.
  3. The silica in horsetail, which aids in building cartilage, may help menopausal women offset the bone loss of osteoporosis, although this use has not been clinically tested in humans.
  4. Use low-strength doses for adults over 65 and children between 2 and 12 years old.  Do not give horsetail to children under 2.  Do not let children put the hollow stalks in their mouths; ingesting the juice can make your child ill.

TARGET AILMENTS:  Take internally for:

  • Bladder infections, cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, kidney stones, stomach ulcers; broken bones or sprained tendons; strengthening nails, and hair; pain of rheumatism or arthritis.

Apply internally for:  Sores, wounds, inflammations.

SIDE EFFECTS/Not serious:  Upset stomach, diarrhea, increased urination.  Discontinue and call your doctor.

Serious:   Pain in kidneys or lower back, or upon urination, with nausea or vomiting may indicate kidney damage.  Cardiac problems, including heart palpitations, may occur in cases or extreme overuse.  Call your doctor immediately.


LATIN NAME:  Zingiber officinale

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:  Characterized by delicate yellow blooms rimmed with purple, ginger not only is a valued culinary seasoning but also is considered in many cultures a remedy for a range of ailments.  Discovered by practitioners of traditional Ayurvedic (Hindu) medicine, the ginger root was originally thought of as a digestive aid.  Today both Chinese and Western herbalists believe it relieves motion sickness and dizziness and improves digestion.  Ginger is also believed to alleviate menstrual cramps.  Its active constituents are gingerols, which soothe the abdomen and relieve excess gas.  In China, ginger, called gan-jian, is applied to first- and second-degree burns.  It is described in traditional Chinese medicine as acrid and warm.


  1. Some Western studies show that ginger may help prevent heart disease and strokes by reducing internal blood clotting and lowering blood pressure.
  2. If you are pregnant, consult an herbalist or a licensed healthcare professional before using.


  • Vomiting, abdominal pain, menstrual irregularity, coughs. (Take internally.)
  • First- and second-degree burns. (Apply externally.)

Western:  Motion sickness, morning sickness, digestive disorders, menstrual cramps, colds, flu, arthritis, elevated cholesterol level, high blood pressure. (Take internally.)

SIDE EFFECTS/Not serious:

Heartburn may result from taking ginger.


LATIN NAME: Mentha haplocalyx (or Mentha arvensis)

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:  Chinese herbalists believe this fragrant mint speeds recovery in diseases such as measles by bringing rashes to the skin’s surface.  Field mint is also prescribed for a range of conditions that include gynecological problems and emotional disturbances.  Characterized in Chinese medicine as an acrid, cool herb, field mint is cultivated throughout China.

SPECIAL INFORMATION:  Nursing mothers should not use this herb, since it may cause insufficient production of milk.

TARGET AILMENTS:  Take internally for:

  • Rashes in the early stages, sore throat, red eyes, headache.
  • Emotional instability
  • Gynecological problems.
  • Childhood convulsions.

SIDE EFFECTS:  None expected.