A-Z HERBAL GUIDE
What are herbs?
Herbs are any plant where the leaves, seeds, or flowerings can be used as food, flavourings, perfume or medicine.
Browse through our A-Z herbal glossary provides you with an overview of the most popular and commonly used herbs are, and how they can be beneficial to our health and wellbeing written by our professional nutritionists and pharmacists.
Find the herb by its first letter:
|Bilberry||Black Seed Oil||Brahmi|
|Bitter Melon||Black Walnut|
|Red Yeast Rice||Rosehip|
|Saffron||Shatavari||St John's Wort|
|Sage Leaf||Siberian Ginseng|
What is Angelica Leaf ?
Otherwise known as Angelica archangelica, Angelica leaf has long been used as a natural remedy for a variety of complaints. It was first discovered by herbalist Nicholas Culpeper in the 17th century and was even used as a natural medication against the plague. Today, it is used for improving digestion, boosting blood circulation, and improving lung health. It is known for its strong taste and scent, and can be sold as a capsule or essential oil.
Angelica leaf can grow up to 6ft tall and produces yellow and white flowers that bloom in clusters. The leaves are traditionally used in herbal medicine. The herb grows in damp conditions near water sources, and blossoms in late spring and summer. It is sometimes confused with deadly plants and herbs that look similar in appearance, such as Hogweed and Hemlock. Its flavour is strong and is known for removing the sharp taste and acidity of fruit in cooking. Angelica leaf is commonly used in desserts, baking and liqueurs.
Uses and benefits:
Angelica leaf is known for stimulating the digestive system, circulation, and lungs. For digestive issues, it can help to treat indigestion, colic, and flatulence. It can also be used to treat digestive and intestinal spasms in conditions such as IBS, and can counter feelings of bloating and fullness. As the herb is a stimulant, it can also be used to treat loss of appetite in patients. For the lungs, Angelica leaf can be used to treat excessive phlegm production, chest infections and bronchitis. The herb can also be used to treat circulatory conditions, especially those in the pelvic region. It can alleviate painful period cramps, and chewing Angelic leaf root can cause tingling and numbness, highlighting its analgesic properties. The root's essential oils are also anti-fungal and antibacterial.
There are many ways to use Angelica leaf at home. These include use in cooking and milk-based recipes, or in dessert dishes like crumbles and pies (to counter the acidity of the fruit). You can also boil stalks of Angelica leaf and serve them in salads or greens. Adding Angelica leaf essential oil to bathwater can help promote calm and relaxation, and can ease the lymphatic system.
What is Artichoke?
Artichoke is related to the thistle family, and blooms bright purple flowers in spring. It is native to the Mediterranean, and has large, thick green leaves that contain an active ingredient called cynarin, which can help with liver problems, appetite loss, and gallbladder problems.
Artichoke leaf extract is commonly sold in capsule form. It offers many health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, curing hangovers, treating acid reflux, and aiding weight loss. Evidence to support these claims is rather lacking, and more research needs to be conducted. The extract can also be sold in a concentrated liquid form with a dropper. It has anti-ageing effects, which is why artichoke extract features in many skincare products like anti-wrinkle creams.
Artichokes contain high levels of fibre, vitamin C, inulin and polyphenols, which protect the body against oxidative stresses. The leaves contain less nutrients, so the edible part of the plant is often harvested for its high nutritional content. Artichokes contain high levels of minerals including potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, sodium, and manganese.
Uses and benefits:
There are many positive findings that have been published regarding the health benefits of artichoke extract. In 2018, it was suggested in the journal Molecule that beauty creams containing artichoke boosted blood circulation in the skin, promoting skin health and reducing sagging.
In 2017, the International Journal of Hepatology suggested that taking regular artichoke supplements can help to reduce liver enzymes in those with advanced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. There is also a suggestion that artichoke extract can aid those with high blood pressure, and that taking a supplement can help to reduce blood pressure by 2-3mmHg in those with hypertension. Artichoke extract has also been used in studies that have highlighted it could reverse symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Again, more research is needed.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (also known as Withania Somnifera) is an Ayurvedic herb that is derived from Indian medicine. Its name is Sanskrit for 'smell of the horse', which refers to the herb's very strong scent, and ability to increase stamina and strength. It is believed in ancient Indian medicine that Ashwagandha can give a person the strength of a horse. There is however a lack of evidence to support these beliefs. Other names for Ashwagandha include 'winter cherry' and 'Indian ginseng'.
It can be taken in a variety of forms. Most ashwagandha supplements come in powders and capsules that are made from ground-up Ashwagandha root. The Ashwagandha shrub grows in Southeast Asia and India, and blooms yellow flowers, although these are not used in herbal remedies. The extracts used from the plant are mainly sourced from the leaves and roots, and you can purchase Ashwagandha in various forms including chewable gummies, liquid droplets, powders and capsules.
Uses and benefits:
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen – a name given to a herb, extract or drug that helps the body to cope with stress. Tests undertaken in rats and cell studies have suggested that Ashwagandha has calming properties and various health benefits, including boosting concentration and energy levels. It is believed to help with stress, anxiety and problems focusing, as well as fertility issues in men. 500mg per day is the most common dose, although you should always check dosage with your GP first before trying new supplements.
Ashwagandha is known for reducing cortisol levels and calming anxiety by lowering the body's stress response. It is believed that it can help people struggling with insomnia and anxiety-related conditions. Early evidence suggests that Ashwagandha can improve body strength and performance, and quicken recovery times. It can also improve sperm quality in men who have fertility issues. It can also reduce inflammation, improve immunity function and memory. Ashwagandha also has anti-ageing properties, and can increase VO2 max levels (the maximum amount of oxygen your body takes in when you are undertaking vigorous exercise).
Read more on the benefits of ashwagandha benefits and uses here
What is Astragalus?
Astragalus is a plant that originates from Asia. Its name in Chinese is called 'Huang qi', meaning 'yellow life energy'. Its root is yellow in colour, and has various medicinal uses, especially in ancient Chinese medicine. Research into its effectiveness is still ongoing, and more human studies need to be conducted.
Astragalus root is made into various supplement forms, including capsules, powders, teas and liquid extracts. It can sometimes be given intravenously in a hospital environment. It is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to strengthen the immune system.
Uses and benefits:
Astragalus is generally used for treating heart disease, diabetes, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and problems with immunity. It is also used for common colds, allergies, breathing or chest infections and constipation. In 2016, a study was conducted that explored the use of Astragalus in children's respiratory infections. It has also been subjected to studies in athletes and immune system performance after exercise. It has been suggested that it can improve recovery, but extra research is still needed to determine this for certain.
Some evidence has suggested that Astragalus can help the body increase production of white blood cells, which it needs to keep the immune system healthy and to fight infection and illness. In animal studies, Astragalus has helped to kill viruses and bacteria in mice. Although research is still ongoing, this suggests that it could be used to the same effect in humans. Astragalus may also support kidney health by improving circulation and conditions such as proteinuria (where higher measures of protein are found in urine).
Other uses for Astragalus include treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, treatment for certain types of cancer cells, and reducing symptoms of allergies such as sneezing and a runny nose (the latter based on a clinical study in which people were given 160mg of Astragalus twice a day).
What is Beetroot?
Beetroot is a taproot that grows in well drained and fertile soil. Its origins trace back to the Mediterranean area, and in the Middle East. Beetroot is now grown across several continents, including Europe, Asia, and North America. In North America, beetroot is referred to as 'beets'. Beetroot is one of many varieties of Beta Vulgaris, which is grown for edible taproots. It is related to the sugar beet, chard, mangelwurzel and the spinach beet. Beetroot was used by the Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Greeks and Romans for various health and living benefits, including treating bad breath, adding colour to wine, and aiding digestion. During the Middle Ages, beetroot was used to treat blood-related health complaints.
Beetroot's dark red colour is called betanin. This isn't broken down by the body, so can be excreted in stools and in urine, making them a reddish colour (beeturia).
Uses and benefits:
Beetroot is commonly used in cooking, and can be eaten boiled, raw, pickled or roasted. It can be eaten alone or with other salad leaves. Beetroot leaves are also edible. It is a traditional food in many countries.
Beetroot supplements are most commonly taken to improve performance in sports. They have previously been taken to ease muscle stiffness after exercise, to treat high blood pressure, and for liver disease. It should however be pointed out that little research or evidence exists to confirm that these suggestions actually work.
Beetroot contains nitric oxide – a chemical that can have a positive effect on blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. It can also help those who have high cholesterol. It is also high in iron and can help those struggling with fatigue. Beetroot contains high levels of naturally occurring folic acid, which helps the immune system and blood vessels to function properly. It also contains high levels of potassium, vitamins B, A and C, protein, antioxidants and fibre.
What is Bilberry?
Also known as European blueberries, Bilberries come from low-growing shrubs of the Genus Vaccinium family. The berries produced are dark blue, edible, and similar to blueberries. They are believed to have Scandinavian origins, dating back to 1577. Bilberry shrubs grow in acidic soils that are low in nutrients in both subarctic and temperate regions. They are difficult to grow, and fruit yield is typically small. Up to 21% of the land in Sweden is made up of bilberry bushes, called blåbär. The fruits are picked using a berry-picking rake, but this can be difficult, as the berries are very soft and juicy, and susceptible to damage.
Uses and benefits:
Bilberries are either eaten fresh/raw or made into desserts, pies, pastries, juices, jams and fools. In France and Italy they are present in liqueurs, and in desserts like ice cream and sorbet. They can also be used as a crepe filling. In Iceland, bilberries are eaten with skyr yogurt, or put into sweet pastries as a filling.
Bilberry fruit and leaves have been used since the Middle Ages for a variety of medical uses, including treating diarrhoea, urinary tract infections, inflammation and diabetes. Because of their high vitamin C content, bilberries have been previously used to treat scurvy.
Today, bilberry supplements, which are usually available in powder or capsule form, are taken to improve vision, treat cataracts, ease gum inflammation, and to treat atherosclerosis and varicose veins. Few quality human trials exist to back up that these claims are effective, as the numbers of people used in trials to date have been small. However, a small clinical study of 24 people concluded that eating bilberries reduced bleeding gums and gum inflammation by small amounts. There have also been conclusive studies that bilberries help improve eye fatigue in office workers.
You can also purchase bilberry juice drinks and take them as a dietary supplement. A small study of 21 people suggested that drinking bilberry juice for 5 days before and 2 days after large amounts of exercise (like a marathon), could ease inflammation and sore muscles.
What is it Bitter Melon?
Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd or 'Momordica charantia', is a fruit native to the Caribbean, South America, Asia, and Eastern Africa. It takes its name from the fact that the fruit gets more bitter as it grows and ripens. It has been commonly used for a variety of medical conditions across generations and contains many nutrients that are good for general health and wellbeing.
Bitter melon has been linked to diabetes treatments, as it has been suggested that it can lower blood sugar. It can come in freeze dried or fresh form and can also be consumed as a tea. Bitter melon contains high levels of antioxidants and Vitamin A, giving it anti-ageing properties.
Uses and benefits:
Bitter melon helps bring glucose into cells to produce energy, so it has a similar effect to insulin, which is why it is linked to diabetes treatments and the lowering of blood sugar. It has also been suggested that bitter melon can help your body to retain nutrients by preventing it from converting them into glucose. Several studies are still ongoing into the links between bitter melon and diabetes management. One report on the Journal of Ethnopharmacology has suggested that the effects of bitter melon are like mild diabetic drugs, but more information is required. Currently, there is no concrete medical confirmation that bitter melon is an effective treatment for diabetes, or that standard doses for bitter melon should be taken.
Other uses for bitter melon include treatment for colic, coughs and colds, period pain, skin conditions, viral diseases like measles, burns and fever.
Bitter melon supplements shouldn't be consumed without consulting a GP first, as they can reverse the effects of some medications. If you are considering taking bitter melon as a dietary supplement, no more than 56g should be taken a day. Excessive consumption can cause digestive issues and diarrhoea.
What is it Black Cohosh?
Black Cohosh is a plant with origins in North America. Other names for it include 'Actaea Racemosa', 'Cimicifuga Racemosa', 'Black Snakeroot, 'Fairy Candle', or 'Baneberry'. If you take Remifemin as a women's supplement, you may find that it contains Black Cohosh as an ingredient.
The roots and flowers of Black Cohosh have been used for centuries in Native American medicine. Today, it is used as a supplement for various conditions in women's health, particularly helping ease symptoms of hormonal imbalance and menopause. It acts as a phytoestrogen, which mimics the estrogen hormone. However, due to its plant-based compound, there are still arguments continuing over whether Black Cohosh is a proper phytoestrogen.
Uses and benefits:
Alleviation of menopause symptoms is the main reason why Black Cohosh is so popular, with evidence to support that it is effective. One study of 80 menopausal women who were experiencing hot flushes was successful, in that those who took 20 mg of Black Cohosh every day for eight weeks reported less common and less severe hot flushes than before. Larger studies are still needed, but the evidence so far is a strong indication.
There is also research to suggest that Black Cohosh may improve the effectiveness of fertility drug clomiphene citrate. There have been small studies that have suggested that Black Cohosh has improved fertility and pregnancy rates in women, although again more research and broader studies are needed. There have also been suggestions that taking Black Cohosh supplements can help with PMS and Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). It can also help to regulate menstrual cycles.
Black Cohosh has been linked to improved psychological symptoms and mood in menopausal women, helping to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. One study of 42 menopausal women determined that taking Black Cohosh supplements also seemed to improve sleep quality, with fewer awakenings due to hot flushes.
Black Seed Oil
What is Black Seed Oil?
Black seed oil comes from the Nigella Sativa plant, which grows in Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It has many medicinal uses for a variety of conditions such as skin problems, inflammation, infection and wounds, hypertension (high blood pressure), back pain and headaches. This is because black seed oil contains many antioxidants.
Uses and benefits:
Black seed oil is known to be good for skin complaints such as acne. Lotions containing black seed oil have been hailed as a cure to acne spots and scarring when used over a period of at least two months. In a study of 60 people with acne who applied a topical gel made with black seed oil, participants found a 78% reduction in spots.
Black seed oil also contains the compound thymoquinone, which is known to help heal wounds. Because of this, black seed oil is commonly used to treat cuts and grazes, infections, burns and excisions because it has antibacterial effects. This is especially if it is combined with honey, although so far, studies on this have only been conducted on animals. Additional studies are needed to determine the effect this has on human wounds.
It has been suggested that black seed oil can help skin inflammation, redness, dryness and symptoms of psoriasis on the scalp. Again, more research is needed. Black seed oil is often included in hair products like shampoos, conditioners and hair treatments. A small study conducted in 2014 found that people who applied coconut oil and black seed oil to their scalp three times a day noticed improved hair health and increased growth. A study of 90 people taking black seed oil supplements also resulted in participants noting reduced hair loss after three months,
There is also research to suggest that black seed oil can help to stabilise blood sugar levels and insulin levels. In a review of 23 studies, black seed oil was found to be highly effective at reducing fasting blood sugar and lowering levels of haemoglobin A1C, which is a measure of blood sugar control.
What is Black Walnut?
Black walnuts, also known as Juglans nigra, originate from the United States. They are the second most cultivated walnut in the country. Black walnuts have an earthy flavour and are packed with nutrients, which is why they are commonly used in health supplements. Their hard shells have antioxidant and antibacterial properties, which can help to kill bacterial infections.
The kernel of a black walnut can be eaten raw, roasted or pressed to make oil. Black walnut hulls are used in cooking, in dishes like desserts, and in baking. The nutrients found in black walnut hulls are commonly used in supplements. Compared to English walnuts, black walnuts have 75% more protein, and are low in carbohydrates, making them of nutritional value.
Uses and benefits:
Black walnuts can be used to aid weight loss, as they can help with blood sugar control and hunger pangs. They are also high in antioxidants such as proanthocyanidins, which can help prevent cell damage, sun damage and toxins. Black walnuts are also high in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is an omega-3 fatty acid that your body can't produce naturally, and which you need in your diet to help reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Tannins in black walnuts (which have antibacterial effects), can help fight viruses and infections in the body. There is also evidence to suggest that black walnuts are highly beneficial to heart health, helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, decreasing lipid levels in the blood, and helping to prevent heart disease by preventing plaque build-up in the arteries.
For those trying to lose weight, eating walnuts or taking a black walnut supplement may prove beneficial. Walnuts have high amounts of calories, but these calories contain healthy fats the body needs, helping to prevent hunger pangs. In a 3 month study, people who ate 30g of walnuts every day felt more full than the control group, suggesting that walnuts can help you to feel fuller for longer.
What is Boswellia?
Otherwise known as 'Indian Frankincense', Boswellia is an extract that comes from the Boswellia serrata tree. Boswellia extract resin has been used throughout history in African and Asian medicine. Boswellia can be purchased as a capsule, cream or resin. It is used to treat a variety of health complaints, including chronic inflammation, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), asthma, and certain types of arthritis. There are four acids in Boswellia resin that help to give it its anti-inflammatory properties. It is common for Boswellia products to have ratings based on their concentration of Boswellia acids.
Uses and benefits:
Because Boswellia is naturally anti-inflammatory, it can act as a painkiller and help to reduce swelling, redness and general inflammation, and conditions such as asthma. Some studies have linked Boswellia to successful treatments for complex conditions such as certain types of cancer, and leukaemia. If you are thinking of taking Boswellia because of its anti-inflammatory effects, you should consult with your doctor first, especially if you are taking other medicines.
Studies on Boswellia that have been found in the Journal of Rheumatology have determined that Boswellia helps to ease joint swelling in rheumatoid arthritis, because it interferes with the autoimmune process, helping the immune system to balance itself out. According to the Arthritis Foundation, taking 300–400 mg of a Boswellia product with at least 60% boswellic acids three times a day can help to ease arthritis symptoms.
Boswellia is also an effective treatment for conditions such as ulcerative colitis (UC), Irritable Bowel Disorder and Crohn's disease.
For asthma sufferers, Boswellia can reduce leukotrienes, which cause contractions of the bronchial muscles. In 1998, a study of Boswellia and its effect on bronchial asthma found that those who took Boswellia supplements daily experienced a reduction in asthma symptoms. Boswellia can help the body to react less strongly to allergens that may trigger asthma.
What is Brahmi?
Brahmi, also known as water hyssop, herb of grace, and thyme-leaved gratiola, is a herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is also referred to as 'Bacopa monnieri'. It grows in tropical and humid environments, and can survive growing underwater, which makes it popular with aquarium owners. Brahmi has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating conditions like epilepsy, memory loss, lack of focus and anxiety. It is known to help improve brain function and performance, and can relieve stress thanks to its bacoside compounds.
Uses and benefits:
Research suggests that Brahmi has powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect the body from cell damage caused by free radicals, which are harmful molecules. Free radical damage is linked to certain types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Bacoside compounds in Brahmi supplements have been known to neutralise these free radicals, helping to prevent cell damage.
It has also been suggested that Brahmi can help prevent damage caused by fat molecules reacting with free radicals. This process and collision of molecules can lead to degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s. A study treating rats with dementia showed that Brahmi caused reductions in memory problems and free radical damage. More research is needed to determine whether Brahmi has the same effect in humans.
There is also a suggestion that Brahmi can help to boost brain function. A study of mice taking Brahmi suggested that it can help learning and the ability to remember information. More studies are required to see the effect on humans, but in a small study of 46 people taking daily 300mg doses of Brahmi supplements, the participants noted better memory, focus and an ability to retain information.
Brahmi has also been hailed as an effective supplement for reducing ADHD symptoms such as restlessness and irritability.
What is Cat’s Claw?
Named after it's claw-like thorns that grow on its stem, Cat's claw is a woody vine with claw-like thorns that grows in tropical regions such as the Amazon rainforest, and across Central and South America. The root and bark of the plant, also called 'Uncaria tomentosa', has been used across centuries to treat different medical complaints such a fever and high temperature, stomach and digestive issues, stomach ulcers, inflammation and arthritis. The vine can grow up to 100ft tall, and is commonly sold in the United States and across Europe in supplement form, or as a tincture.
Uses and benefits:
It has been suggested that Cat's claw may help to stimulate the immune system and gut (in the intestines) and could also alleviate high blood pressure. It can act as a diuretic, to promote urination.
Cat's claw has antioxidant properties and helps the body to remove free radicals that cause cell damage. Free radicals are known to exacerbate health problems and can contribute to conditions such as certain types of cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants can act as a neutraliser to free radicals, reducing them so they create less damage. There have even been small studies in test tubes to suggest that Cat's claw may prove beneficial in the fight against cancer cells.
Cat's claw can also be used to treat osteoarthritis (OA). A study has discovered that Cat's claw can reduce knee pain, and it has been suggested that Cat's claw can be taken in a similar way to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) because of its anti-inflammatory properties. In a small study involving people who were taking treatments for RA, those additionally taking Cat's claw noticed reduced swelling in the joints compared to those who took a placebo.
Cat's claw is also being studied to see how effective it is in treating HIV, MS, endometriosis, kidney issues, types of cancer and Alzheimer's disease. More research is currently needed to determine its effects.
What is Cayenne?
Otherwise known as 'Capsicum annuum', Cayenne pepper belong to the nightshade plant family, which includes aubergines, potatoes and tomatoes. Cayenne peppers are a type of chilli pepper, which means they are relatively hot and spicy, and are traditionally used in cooking various dishes.
It is believed that the regular eating of hot peppers can aid health. The substance that gives cayenne pepper its heat is known as capsaicin, and more studies are required to determine its full effects.
Just a single cayenne pepper contains significant amounts of nutrients, including provitamin A carotenoids and Vitamin C, which helps the immune system, reproductive system, bone health, cell health and vision. Cayenne peppers contains alpha carotene and beta carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A.
Uses and benefits:
Many of the health benefits that come with cayenne peppers are a result of their capsaicin content.
Cayenne peppers are known to lower blood sugar levels, boost performance in sports, and ease pain. That said, the number of studies available on these effects is limited.
The capsaicin found in cayenne peppers has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties compared to other peppers. Again, more research is needed to determine these claims, but it has been suggested that cayenne pepper can help protect the body against free radical damage and oxidative stress. When eaten alongside a high-nutrient diet and plant-rich foods, it has been suggested that antioxidant-rich foods like cayenne peppers could potentially help promote good health by boosting your body's defences, and protecting against conditions like heart disease.
Although spice tends to give some people an upset stomach, others may find it has the opposite effect. Taking cayenne pepper supplements can be helpful for digestion in some people. This is because cayenne pepper improves gastric juice and enzyme production in the stomach, which helps the body to break down food. Capsaicin found in cayenne pepper may also help to promote a healthy microbiome, which boosts good bacteria in the gut.
What is Celery?
Celery, also known as Apium graveolens, is a plant that grows across the world. It is used in various ways across a variety of dishes in cooking. The stem can be sliced and eaten raw with salad, or cooked as a vegetable in soups and stews, while celery seeds are used as a spice. It is believed that chemicals within different parts of the celery plant have different effects on parts of the body, which is why celery is used for such a large scope of ailments. Celery seed capsules are known for reducing inflammation, and for helping to ease aches and pains.
Uses and benefits:
It has been suggested that using celery seed supplements can help to lower blood pressure, help ease sleep disturbances and decrease blood pressure. If you are thinking of taking celery for these, consult your doctor first, especially if you are taking medications.
Celery is used to treat a list of conditions, including tiredness and fatigue, headaches, regulating bowel movements, joint pain, anxiety, stress, inducing menstruation, controlling flatulence and to aid weight loss. It is believed that chemicals in celery can be used to relax the body and promote sleep, helping those with anxious conditions, insomnia, restlessness and so on. Celery can also ease muscle cramps by relaxing muscles. Clinical research is still ongoing to determine how celery can help ease pain and pain duration during menstruation.
Celery can also be used as an effective mosquito repellent. Research has shown that applying a topical gel with between 5-25% celery extract can repel mosquitoes for around four hours in the same way as a high DEET product. Research into this is still ongoing.
More evidence is still required, but other suggested uses for celery include for the treatment of gout, muscular pains, fluid retention, exhaustion, appetite stimulation and nervousness.
What is Chamomile?
Also known as Matricaria recuita, Chamomile is part of the daisy family (Asteraceae), with a yellow core and white petals. It is found all over the world, including Europe, Asia and America. Its scent is like an apple, which is why its name comes from the Greek for 'Earth apple'. There are two different kinds of chamomile plant, and these are German chamomile and Roman chamomile. German chamomile is the kind that is most popularly used for medical reasons.
Uses and benefits:
Chamomile has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy for a wide variety of complaints. Hippocrates even used it way back in 500 BC. It can be used to treat kidney and bladder issues, stomach discomfort, fever, headaches, muscle spasms, anxiety, sleep disorders, bruises and skin problems, hay fever, inflammation, haemorrhoids, menstrual disorders and colic – among many other complaints.
Most commonly, chamomile is taken as a tea to promote calm, relieve anxiety and to help promote sleep. It can also help with stomach issues, and is being investigated as a potential treatment for diabetes. Research is still ongoing for this. Topically, chamomile is often contained in products like skin creams because of its wound-healing properties.
Chamomile is a widely-used herbal remedy for treating insomnia and promoting restful sleep, but there is little evidence to suggest that it actually works, and more studies are needed. Chamomile also has antibacterial properties, and prevents the growth of Helicobacter pylori, which is a bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers. Chamomile is believed to be helpful in helping to ease muscle spasms linked to gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Chamomile is a common treatment for skin irritations such as sores, rashes, sunburn and grazes. It can also help with inflammation. Creams containing chamomile have been known to help relieve eczema. In one study in particular, a skin cream containing chamomile was slightly more effective than a low-dose 0.5 percent hydrocortisone cream.
What is Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a black powder that has been used for centuries as a herbal supplement and health aid. In a medical setting, it is used as a treatment for drug overdose and poisoning. It is also believed to help whiten stained teeth, ease trapped gas, tackle high cholesterol levels, and alleviate poor kidney function. Activated charcoal shouldn't be mistaken for charcoal used on a barbecue – that is a different kind of charcoal.
Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been exposed to oxygen at high temperatures. As a result, it becomes more porous, and its internal structure changes. Its surface area increases, and the size of its pores reduce. The black powder that occurs is either sold in powder form, or as capsules. Activated charcoal is also frequently added to beauty products like face scrubs, body washes and toothpaste.
Uses and benefits:
Activated charcoal is believed to have many health benefits, but the research to suggest this is very old, so it is hard to know exactly whether the claims work. Since the 1800s, activated charcoal has been used to treat drug overdose, because when ingested, chemicals in the body bind to it. Studies indicate that taking 50–100g of activated charcoal in the first five minutes after taking a drug can reduce the body's ability to absorb that drug by up to 74%.
Activated charcoal may also help to lower high cholesterol levels. Activated charcoal can bind to cholesterol-containing bile acids in the gut, preventing them from becoming absorbed. In a study in which people took 24g of activated charcoal every day for four weeks, their total and bad cholesterol was lowered by 25%.
Other uses for activated charcoal include helping with trapped gas and flatulence, digestive issues like diarrhoea, and treating various skin problems. Activated charcoal can be used to treat acne and spots, dandruff and skin inflammation.
What is Chlorella?
Chlorella is a green freshwater algae that is being hailed as a new superfood and an alternative to spirulina. There are over 30 types of chlorella, but the most commonly taken and used in studies are Chlorella vulgaris and Chlorella pyrenoidosa.
Chlorella has a hard cell wall that the human body can't process or digest, so it is usually taken as a supplement in either powder, capsule or extract form. Studies have suggested that chlorella contains many nutrients, including minerals, vitamins, omega-3 and antioxidants. When taken, it can help the body remove toxins and lower cholesterol levels.
Uses and benefits:
Chlorella is packed with nutrients including protein, Vitamin B12, iron, Vitamin C, Omega 3's and fibre. Chlorella is made up of between 50-60% protein, and it contains nine amino acids that are important for general health. Chlorella also contains magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium, calcium, folic acid and B Vitamins. It contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids that protect the eyes and prevent the risk of macular degeneration.
In animal and human studies, Chlorella has helped to boost the immune system in both animals and people, although more evidence is still required. In a human study, people taking chlorella produced more antibodies to help them fight viruses and infections.
Other studies have shown that taking between 5-10 grams of chlorella each day lowered cholesterol and triglycerides in those with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It has also been suggested that chlorella may help to improve blood lipid levels.
Research has indicated that chlorella may help to lower blood sugar levels in those who are diabetic, and who have insulin sensitivity. In a study over 12 weeks, those who took chlorella supplements found that their fasting blood sugar levels had lowered.
It has been claimed that other health benefits of chlorella include boosting energy levels, improving liver health, aiding digestion and easing symptoms of PMS. Evidence is lacking which directly supports these suggestions.
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree. When the bark is dried, it curls up and becomes the cinnamon sticks we all know for general use in cooking. Cinnamon has been used in cooking across centuries, and its use dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt. It has anti-bacterial properties, and has been used as a breath-freshener, as well as a treatment for many health complaints.
There are two types of cinnamon available on the market – these are Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon has origins in Southern China, and is used a lot in Asian cooking and medicine. It is cheap to purchase, and around 95% of the cinnamon's oil is cinnamadehydle, giving it a punchy taste and smell. Ceylon cinnamon by contrast contains over 53% cinnamadehydle, and comes from Sri Lanka. It is less commonly purchased and rarer, making it higher in price.
Uses and benefits:
Cinnamon is used to treat a variety of health conditions, and has a number of health benefits. It can help the body defend itself from free radical damage, because of its antioxidant properties. Cinnamaldehyde contained within cinnamon can block the release of inflammatory chemicals within the body (that cause inflammation), which helps to ease conditions such as stroke, heart disease and arthritis.
Cinnamon is also antibacterial, and can prevent the growth of bacteria such as candida – a type of yeast. A study conducted in 2017 showed that cinnamon had a number of benefits for cardiovascular conditions, including reducing fats found in the blood (triglycerides), that can cause artery problems, and lowering cholesterol levels, which can help with conditions such as diabetes.
Cinnamon also helps to relieve digestive issues and discomfort. In an Australian study, including cinnamon in animal meals reduced the amounts of gas created in their stomachs, helping to relieve digestion. More human studies on this are required.
What is Cranberry?
Cranberries come from evergreen shrubs that grow across North America, Northern Europe, Chile, Canada and in other regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They grow in cool climates, with vines up to two metres long. The flowers of cranberry plants are a dark pink, and the berries produced are larger than its leaves. Cranberries have a tart flavour and are known for their antioxidant properties.
Cranberry supplements are made with dried and powdered cranberries that are made into caplets or tablets. Taking such supplements is believed to give you the same health-related benefits as a glass of cranberry juice.
Uses and benefits:
Cranberry supplements and cranberry juice are well known for their ability to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). This is because cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which prevent E. Coli from developing in the lining of the urethra and bladder, stopping infection. Studies have found that taking cranberry supplements with 36 mg of proanthocyanidins every day can significantly reduce the number of UTIs experienced in women.
Cranberry supplements are also packed with high numbers of antioxidants which help to fight free radical damage. Compounds in cranberries have been known to be more effective at this than Vitamin E supplements. If you take cranberry supplements for eight weeks or more, this can greatly reduce oxidative stress in the body.
Other benefits of cranberries include protection against stomach bacterial infections, controlling blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, preventing heart disease and increasing immunity. Early-stage research on cranberry supplements has also found that cranberry can help stop bad bacteria from developing in the mouth, helping to support healthy teeth and gums and reducing cavities and gum disease. More studies are still required to see the full effects of some of these claims.
What is Dandelion?
Dandelion is probably the most famous lawn weed, growing naturally in grasses across Europe and America. It has been commonly used in medicine for hundreds of years. There are many different kinds of dandelion, with Taraxacum officinale being the most common. Dandelions bloom bright yellow flowers, and their leaves can be eaten raw in salads. Dandelion is commonly found in supplements and teas, and it can be used as an aid to skin, heart and liver health.
Dandelions have a high amount of vitamin and mineral content. They are a great source of vitamins K, A, C, E, and B. They also contain high amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Dandelion root contains inulin, a soluble fibre that helps to support the digestive system.
Uses and benefits:
Dandelions contain a high number of antioxidants, which help to prevent oxidative stress in the body and neutralise free radicals. They are also high in beta carotene, and polyphenols, which are plant-based antioxidants that occur in plant leaves, stems and roots, and which help to relieve inflammation. Some studies have found that dandelion can help to reduce cell inflammation. One study in mice with lung inflammation found that those receiving dandelion had a reduction in symptoms. More human research is needed.
Studies have found that dandelion could help to reduce blood sugar levels. Chicoric and chlorogenic acids are two compounds in dandelion that can help to regulate the absorption of glucose in the muscles. This can lead to improved insulin sensitivity, which could help those living with diabetes.
Compounds found in dandelion could also reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which is important for preventing heart disease. In a test tube study, dandelion root and leaf lowered the accumulation of triglyceride in fat cells. In older rabbits, adding dandelion leaves and roots to a high cholesterol diet lowered cholesterol levels. More research is required to see these effects in humans.
What is Devil’s Claw?
Otherwise known as Harpagophytum procumbens, Devil's claw is a plant with African origins that is used for pain relief and pain management for conditions such as back and joint pain, rheumatic and muscular pain. It is available in teas, capsules, tablets, gels, bathing products and massage oils/creams. Its extract is made from the plant root. Devil's claw gets its name from the fruit it produces, which features sharp spikes that look like claws or talons. Other names for Devil's claw include 'wood spider' and 'grapple plant'.
Devil's claw is recommended by the British Herbal Medicine Association (BHMA) for conditions such as muscular and joint pain, rheumatic pain, period pain and general aches and pains.
Uses and benefits:
Devil's claw is used for a common number of pain-related health complaints, such as lower back pain. In a 2016 review of 10 trials on 2,000 participants, Devil's claw was generally highly effective at reducing lower back pain. More research is needed to determine how effective it is against other treatments.
In another 8-week study on the effectiveness of Devil’s claw in 259 people with general rheumatic disorders, 60% of those involved could either reduce or stop their pain medication, and reported less stiffness, pain and improved function in areas such as the knees, hips, the lower back, shoulders and hands when taking the supplement.
Devil's claw can also be used to treat osteoarthritis. The UK's leading arthritis charity, Versus Arthritis, has suggested that Devil's claw can be as effective as conventional arthritis medications at easing pain and discomfort. If you are thinking of taking Devil's claw to ease arthritis pain, consult with your doctor first.
Phytomedicine journal published a report in 2002 which discovered that patients struggling with hip and knee arthritis saw a 54-39% improvement in their pain levels within eight weeks after taking Devil's claw supplements daily.
What is Dong Quai?
Dong Quai is a herbal remedy with roots in ancient Chinese medicine. In Chinese, 'Dong Quai' means “The husband comes back to his wife”, which hints at its use to enhance sexual performance. As a medicinal aid, Dong Quai is used for many health complaints, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, circulatory and heart conditions, period cramps and menopausal symptoms.
Dong Quai can be bought as a powder, in caplet or tablet form, or as a herbal tincture. 1-2 grams is the daily recommended dose, but you should always consult with your doctor before taking Dong Quai, as it can conflict with medications.
Uses and benefits:
A common use for Dong Quai is to regulate oestrogen levels, which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. It increases blood flow to the reproductive system, reducing pain. It has been used to treat conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids, as well as menopausal symptoms. In a study in which participants took Dong Quai and Chamomile supplements, hot flushes, fatigue and insomnia symptoms were all greatly reduced.
Dong Quai is also used to help relieve the symptoms of osteoporosis. Research has indicated that Dong Quai can strengthen bones by providing stimulation to bone cells that form bones. It can also be used to protect the mucous that lines the digestive tract from too much stomach acid. If the layer of mucous becomes affected, it can lead to gastrointestinal inflammation, and peptic ulcers. Dong Quai has anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used to prevent gastrointestinal inflammation from occurring.
Research has also shown that Dong Quai may be useful in treating the following complaints, but more research is still required. These include headaches, inflammation, infection, nerve pain, joint pain, kidney and liver problems, heart conditions and high blood pressure.
What is Echinacea?
Also known as purple coneflower, echinacea is one of the world's most commonly used herbs. It is used to treat coughs and colds, inflammation, headaches, pain and other ailments. It is commonly available over the counter. The herb comes from North America, and is related to the daisy family. It grows in prairies and in wide open spaces, and in wooded, more sheltered areas. The plant's leaves, flowers and roots are used to make a range of extracts, tablets, teas and tinctures.
Echinacea contains many active compounds, including caffeic acid, alkamides, rosmarinic acid, polyacetylenes and phenolic acids, which have many health benefits, including the ability to lower inflammation in the body, boost immunity and reduce blood sugar levels.
Uses and benefits:
Echinacea is well known for its positive effects on the immune system, and it can help the body fight viruses and combat infections. It is often used to treat common colds and flu symptoms. In a review of 14 studies, it was determined that echinacea can lower the risk of catching a cold and developing symptoms by over 50%. However, more research is still required and ongoing.
Echinacea can also help to lower blood sugar levels, which may make it beneficial for those with heart disease, diabetes and other circulatory conditions. A test tube study confirmed that echinacea extract can help to lower blood sugar levels by making cells more sensitive to insulin, but more studies are needed.
In a study including mice, three out of five of those studied experienced reduced levels of anxiety when taking echinacea. This is because echinacea plants contain compounds such as alkamides, rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid, which promote relief and calm. Only a few studies exist on the links between echinacea and anxiety relief in humans.
What is Elderberry?
Elderberry comes from a flowering plant belonging to the Adoxaceae family. It is also known as the 'European elderberry' or 'Black elder'. Elderberry trees can grow up to nine metres in height, with small clusters of white or cream-coloured flowers (elderflowers), and small bunches of black berries. The berries are tart and potentially poisonous if eaten uncooked, so they need to be cooked to make them edible and sweeter in flavour.
The flowers and berries of the elderberry tree have long been used to heal a variety of ailments, including swelling and inflammation, chronic pain, promoting urination and inducing vomiting. In folk medicine, elderberry has been used to treat flu, infection, chest pain, dental pain and nerve pain. It is also used as a diuretic and a laxative. Elderberries can be used to make jams, chutney, sweets, juice and teas. The flowers can also be boiled in sugar water to create a syrup.
Elderberries shouldn't be eaten raw, as this can cause stomach problems and potential poisoning.
Uses and benefits:
Elderberries are believed to help treat heart problems, inflammation, infections and viruses like colds and flu. They are low in calories, and high in antioxidants, Vitamin C and fibre, with lots of nutritional benefits. Each fruit contains 52mg of Vitamin C – which is 57% of your RDA. They are also high in anthocyanins, which give the berries their dark colour, and provide antioxidant benefits. The anthocyanins in elderberries have 3.5x increased antioxidants than Vitamin E.
Elderberry extract has been shown to help reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms. It is common to find elderberry lozenges, gummies and syrups for the treatment of colds. In a study of 60 people with flu, those who took 15ml of elderberry syrup four times a day found that their flu symptoms improved in as little as 2-4 days. This was in comparison to those who didn't, who took between 8-10 days to improve.
It has also been suggested that elderberry helps heart health, including reducing cholesterol and helping to balance blood sugar levels. More research is currently needed into these benefits.
What is Eyebright?
Eyebright is a herb that blooms small white flowers. Native to Europe, Asia and North America, it has been used for centuries in medicinal healing. The Greek name for Eyebright is 'Euphrasia', which is also a name for 'gladness'. In ancient medicine, Eyebright has been used to treat eye problems, irritation and redness. It is still used for eye problems today.
Eyebright is available in the form of herbal teas, liquid medicines, capsules and tablets, homeopathic remedies and eye drops. There is currently no specific guidance on dosage.
Uses and benefits:
Eyebright contains the flavonoids luteolin and quercetin, which are plant compounds that stop immune cells from releasing histamine. This can help with allergies and symptoms like watery eyes and a runny nose.
Eyebright also contains a compound called aucubin, which helps to minimise heart tissue scarring after a heart attack, helping the heart with its ability to pump blood around the body. A study in mice has also found that aucubin can reduce oxidative stress, which can provide other health benefits.
Promoting eye health and treating eye problems is one of the main uses of Eyebright. Test tube studies have confirmed that Eyebright extract can help ease inflammation in the cornea, while protecting the cornea from sun damage and inflammation. Studies into people with eye inflammation as a result of dust, pollen, infections or eye stain have concluded that those using eye drops containing Eyebright three times a day had total relief of swelling, itching, burning and eye redness.
Other benefits of Eyebright include protection from free radicals, aiding skin health, lowering blood sugar, soothing sinus infections, easing cold and flu symptoms and fighting bacteria (especially in the case of eye infections).
What is Fenugreek?
Fenugreek is a herb that is commonly used in Indian cooking. It has many health benefits, and can be taken as a supplement. As a plant, fenugreek can grow up to 90cm tall. It blooms small white flowers and pods that have small brown seeds in them. These seeds have a sweet, nutty flavour, and are used in Indian dishes, but can also be ground into powder to be used in beauty products like soap and shampoo. Fenugreek is also used as a thickening agent in cooking.
Fenugreek seeds contain high amounts of iron, magnesium, fibre and minerals.
Uses and benefits:
Research has suggested that fenugreek can be given to new mothers who are struggling to breastfeed their babies, as it can promote breast milk production. In a study of 77 new mothers, those who consumed fenugreek herbal tea were able to breastfeed their babies more, which helped their babies to gain weight. If you are thinking of taking fenugreek supplements as a new mother, you must consult your doctor first.
Another common use for fenugreek supplements is to increase libido in men by boosting testosterone. In a study of 30 men aged between 18-21, half of those taking part were given 500mg fenugreek supplements to take, and experienced an increase of testosterone. More research is required, but participants also reported increased sexual function, strength and desire.
It has also been suggested that fenugreek can help with conditions like diabetes. Fenugreek can aid people with types 1 and 2. In a study of people with type 1 diabetes, those who took 50g of ground fenugreek powder twice a day reported lower blood sugar levels in 10 days. This type of benefit may be a result of fenugreek's ability to improve insulin function, because of its high fibre content. More research is currently needed.
What is Garlic?
Garlic is a plant that is related to shallots, leeks and onions. It is part of the onion family. The segments in a garlic bulb are called cloves, and are used very commonly in cooking. Garlic grows in different areas across the world, and has a strong smell and taste.
Garlic has been used for centuries across ancient civilisations, and there are many health benefits garlic offers as a result of sulfur compounds contained within its cloves. The most common of these compounds is allicin – an unstable compound that you can smell when garlic has been crushed or sliced. The sulfur compounds from garlic and their effects can travel right around your body after entering your system, and have health benefits.
Garlic has a low-calorie content and is high in Vitamins B6 and C, as well as manganese, selenium and fibre.
Uses and benefits:
Garlic supplements are believed to help boost immunity. A study over 12 weeks found that people who took a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds they experienced by 63%, and the length of cold symptoms experienced was reduced overall by 70%. More research is needed to determine findings, but it is believed that consuming garlic in food when you have a cold can help to relieve symptoms.
Garlic supplements can also have a positive effect on those with high blood pressure, and they can help to lower it. In one study, between 600-1500mg of garlic extract had the same effect over a 24-week period as a common drug that helps to reduce blood pressure.
Garlic can also help to lower cholesterol and bad cholesterol. In those with high cholesterol, a study found that those who took garlic supplements reduced their overall cholesterol by between 10-15%.
Garlic also contains antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative stress and damage. Taking garlic supplements greatly increases the presence of antioxidant enzymes in the body, which can also reduce the risk of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Ginger?
Ginger is a plant that is widely used in cooking and in medicine. It has roots in Southeast Asia, and is related to turmeric, galangal, and cardamom. The stem (which grows underground) is commonly used a spice in many dishes in global cuisine. Ginger is a common ingredient in curries, tagines and more, and can also be added to cosmetics, baked goods, and processed foods. It has a very strong smell and taste, which can be spicy. This strength of flavour comes from gingerol – a natural oil that is a bioactive compound, which also gives ginger its medicinal properties.
Uses and benefits:
Ginger has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It has been used to treat common colds, flu, and to ease morning sickness and general feelings of nausea. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and antioxidant effects which helps to prevent free radical damage and oxidative stress.
Ginger has been known to help relieve nausea in those receiving chemotherapy treatment, although more studies are needed to determine its effectiveness. According to a review of studies involving pregnant women, ginger can also help to reduce symptoms of sickness and nausea during pregnancy. Although ginger is safe, you should always consult your doctor if you are planning on consuming it for morning sickness while pregnant.
Ginger has been found to help regulate blood sugar levels, and to help reduce BMI in overweight people. Evidence of this is however stronger in animal-based studies, and more human-based research is required.
In people with osteoarthritis, ginger has been used to ease joint pain, stiffness and general disability.
Ginger can also be used to treat dysmenorrhea (pain experienced during the menstrual cycle). In a study of 150 women who took ginger supplements for the first three days of their period, ginger managed to reduce pain as effectively an nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
What is Ginkgo Biloba?
Otherwise known as 'maidenhair', Ginkgo biloba is a Chinese native tree that has been used for thousands of years in ancient medicine. It is even referred to as a living fossil, as it is the only surviving tree from an ancient plant family. Its seeds and leaves are commonly used in Chinese medicine, and its extract (from the leaves) have many health benefits including promoting brain and circulatory health.
In ancient Chinese medicine, Ginkgo biloba is used to open the body's 'channels of energy' that are related to different organ systems including the brain, lungs, kidneys and liver.
Uses and benefits:
Ginkgo biloba has many antioxidant properties, and can neutralise free radicals because it contains high levels of terpenoid and flavonoid compounds, which help to combat disease and the ageing process. It can also help to reduce inflammation in the body. Specific animal and test tube studies have shown that Ginkgo biloba can reduce inflammation in conditions such as heart disease, stroke, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. More research is required to determine the effects on humans.
Research has suggested that taking Ginkgo biloba supplements may boost blood flow to the eyes, helping aid eye health. More research is needed on this.
Ginkgo biloba is also used to promote healthy circulation and to improve blood flow around the body. In a study of people with heart disease, those who received Ginkgo biloba supplements reported a 12% increase and improvement in blood flow. Ginkgo biloba is also used to promote heart health, brain health and to prevent strokes. Again, more research is required.
Some studies have concluded that Ginkgo biloba may help to relieve anxiety and depression. This may be because of its antioxidant properties. In a study of people taking Ginkgo biloba regularly, those who took the supplement noticed a 45% reduction in anxiety compared to those in the placebo group.
What is Goldenseal?
Goldenseal is a plant that grows in North America. Its leaves and roots are used for various medicinal reasons, such as combating infection and easing inflammation. It is one of the world's most popular herbal remedies, and you can purchase it in forms including capsules, tablets, ear drops, cold and flu products, allergy relief products, teas and herbal extracts/tinctures.
Goldenseal is high in berberine, hydrastine and canadine, which are alkaloid compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to fight infections and bacteria. Goldenseal is commonly taken to ease the common cold for this reason. It can also be used to treat breathing and chest infections.
Uses and benefits:
Goldenseal can be used to treat a variety of medical problems, including skin conditions, loss of appetite, sinus infections, stomach and digestive issues, and heavy or painful periods. Goldenseal is frequently combined with echinacea in flu and cold remedies.
There is a belief that goldenseal can help the body detox and remove harmful substances. Research has suggested that this happens because goldenseal increases the number of particular liver enzymes that can break down harmful substances and drugs in the body, enabling them to be urinated out.
Test tube studies have also concluded that goldenseal may benefit certain hormone-based skin conditions such as acne, and could help to fight the bacteria that causes spots. In animal research, it has also been suggested that it could help treat inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis.
Goldenseal has also proven effective in treating tooth infections. In one study, a herbal mouthwash containing goldenseal and other botanicals reduced bacteria that was responsible for gum disease and plaque.
Research into those with type 2 diabetes has found that berberine (a compound found in goldenseal) can reduce sugar absorption from the gut and boost the secretion of insulin, which helps to lower blood sugar levels.
What is Gotu Kola?
Gotu kola is a herb which is rooted in Indonesian and Chinese medicine. It is known as 'the herb of longevity', as it reportedly helps to promote brain health and aid thinking and concentration. Studies have also concluded that it can help kidney, liver and skin health. It has no particular flavour or smell, but is a member of the parsley family, growing in or near water. Its leaves are small and dark green, and it blooms pink coloured flowers and small fruits. Both the stems and leaves are used in medicine.
Uses and benefits:
Gotu kola has been shown in animal studies to help improve brain function after a stroke. This includes improving memory and general overall cognition. More studies in humans are needed to determine how effective this is in people. As Gotu kola has the ability to improve memory, it has been hailed as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease, as it could help protect brain cells from forming the plaque that causes the disease. If you are interested in using Gotu kola to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's, speak to your doctor.
Gotu kola can also be used as an antidepressant, and a treatment for anxiety. In a study of 33 people who had anxiety disorder, those taking part were asked to take Gotu kola for 60 days instead of their usual antidepressant medications. Participants reported feeling less stress, anxiety and depression. Gotu kola supplements can also be used to treat the insomnia that can occur with anxiety. It is common to find Gotu kola products that are designed for use as a sleep aid for sleep disorders.
What is Lemon Balm?
Lemon balm is a herbaceous plant that is related to mint. It grows natively across much of Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, Iran and Central Asia, but has been widely cultivated elsewhere. The heart-shaped, soft leaves have a slight lemony scent, from which it gets its name.
There are records of lemon balm being used medicinally by Greeks and Romans that date back over 2000 years. There are also European records from the 7th century regarding its use by herbalists and scientists.
Today, it can be taken as a capsule, made into a tea, or added to dishes in cooking.
Uses and benefits:
Lemon balm is thought to help relieve stress and anxiety, aid relaxation and boost mood. Modern studies have suggested that taking lemon balm may increase calmness in people suffering from psychological stress. Taking a regular dose of lemon balm is thought to help reduce levels of anxiety and have a positive effect on general mood.
Lemon balm may also help with sleep disorders like insomnia when combined with valerian and consumed as a tea.
Recent research has indicated that cognitive function may be increased by taking lemon balm. Subjects carrying out tasks of memory, mathematics and concentration reported higher levels of alertness, and performed better on the tasks than subjects who didn't take lemon balm.
It is also thought that lemon balm may have a positive impact on the digestive system. Modern studies have indicated that eating the herb after a meal could help to reduce symptoms of indigestion. Given this beneficial effect, it is also believed that lemon balm could help relieve nausea and other gastrointestinal issues.
What is Liquorice?
Liquorice is a flowering plant that is native to North Africa, Southern Europe and Western Asia. Being naturally sweet, the root of the plant is commonly used as a flavouring in sweets and drinks, and is thought to be one of the oldest known herbal remedies.
In Ancient Egypt, liquorice root was made into a tea for medicinal use, and there are also records of its use in China, the Middle East and Greece.
As well as the familiar sweets, liquorice is available as capsules, a liquid supplement, tea and even topical gels.
Uses and benefits:
Traditionally, liquorice has been used to treat upper respiratory problems, including sore throats, help with stomach upsets, and to reduce inflammation.
Liquorice root has been found to contain more than 300 compounds, including some which are thought have strong antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, such as glycyrrhizin. Modern studies have shown that topical gels containing liquorice root extract can help with the treatment of skin conditions like acne, eczema and impetigo.
Recent studies have suggested that liquorice may be effective in treating indigestion symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux, which can also be linked to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is believed that taking a dose of liquorice root every day could be more successful at reducing GERD symptoms over a longer period than regular antacids.
Given its long history of being used to treat upper respiratory ailments, it is believed that the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial characteristics of liquorice root extract and tea may help to treat asthma alongside regular treatments. Research also indicates that liquorice could help prevent strep throat and general sore throat following surgery.
Liquorice root's antibacterial properties are thought to be effective at combating bacteria that can cause dental cavities and tooth decay.
What is Maca?
Maca, also known as Peruvian ginseng, is an edible plant that is related to broccoli, cabbage and kale, but more closely resembles a turnip or parsnip. It grows natively in the high plateaus of the Peruvian Andes, and has been cultivated by the Andean people for over 2000 years.
Maca can be cooked in a similar way to root vegetables, or dried and milled into flour for baking, but it is traditionally consumed as a porridge or a fermented drink. The Andean people also used maca as a medicine to treat respiratory ailments and rheumatism.
Uses and benefits:
Recent reviews have suggested that maca may be effective when used to treat people with low libido or sexual desire. Studies have indicated that taking a dose of maca every day significantly improves sexual function and libido over time.
Maca is also thought to help with fertility. Modern studies have suggested that taking a dose of maca every day may increase the number of sperm per millilitre of semen (sperm concentration), which has been linked to male fertility. Research has also been conducted into using maca to improve sperm motility.
During the menopause, a natural decline in estrogen can be behind a number of symptoms, including hot flushes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, interrupted sleep and irritability. Some studies have indicated that maca could help relieve some of these symptoms, especially hot flushes and sleep problems.
It is also believed that maca may be able to help improve mood and energy. Studies involving people living at either low or high altitudes have suggested that taking a regular supplement could provide a boost of both mood and energy. Research involving postmenopausal women has also indicated that a daily dose of maca may help alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety.
What is Milk Thistle?
Milk thistle is a plant with bright red-to-purple flowers that is native to southern Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East, although it has been cultivated across the world, including North America and New Zealand.
Also known as blessed milk thistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, Saint Mary's thistle, and Scotch thistle, milk thistle has traditionally been used to treat liver, gallbladder and spleen ailments, and to increase breast milk production. It is thought to be so effective at supporting the liver, that it is believed to protect it from snake bites and alcohol poisoning.
Today, milk thistle is available as tablets, capsules, or tea.
Uses and benefits:
Modern studies have suggested that milk thistle may be able to reduce inflammation in the liver, and help to improve liver function in people who have suffered liver damage through ailments like alcoholic liver disease, fatty liver disease, hepatitis and liver cancer.
When the liver metabolises toxic substances (such as alcohol), it produces free radicals, which can build up in the body. Milk thistle is thought to reduce damage caused by free radicals, specifically to the liver.
The death cap mushroom produces a toxin called amatoxin, which is deadly when consumed. Milk thistle is used during treatment to protect the liver against damage.
It is believed that milk thistle could be an effective treatment for osteoporosis. It has been suggested that milk thistle could help with preventing bone loss in postmenopausal women, thereby helping to prevent or delay osteoporosis.
Milk thistle's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics could mean that it has neuroprotective capabilities, and may aid in preventing declining brain function in older people. In turn, this means it could be used in the future to help with the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Mullein?
Mullein is a tall, flowering plant that grows natively in Europe, Scandinavia, Northern Africa and Asia, although it has been cultivated all around the world, including in America and Australia. There are more than 200 species of mullein, but the most commonly used for commercial purposes is common mullein, also called great mullein or greater mullein.
The leaf from mullein can be used fresh or dry to make various products such as tea, extract, oil, powder, capsules, elixirs and creams. Mullein oil is extracted from both the leaves and the flowers of the plant.
Uses and benefits:
Historically, mullein has been used to treat both animals and humans for a number of ailments, including respiratory issues like coughs, congestion, asthma and bronchitis, constipation, general pain and inflammation, migraines and gout. By the late 19th century, mullein was popularly used across Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States to treat tuberculosis.
Recent studies have found that mullein has high levels of polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics. These include saponins, flavonoids, phenylethanoid glycosides and iridoids. These compounds are believed to have a number of benefits, including reducing cell damage from free radicals, reducing pain and inflammation in arthritis sufferers, and lowering the risk of diseases linked to chronic inflammation such as heart disease and diabetes.
It is also thought that mullein may have some antiviral properties when used to treat influenza A and herpes. Research has suggested that mullein could be able to boost the effectiveness of some antiviral medications.
What is Neem Leaf?
Neem, otherwise known as Indian lilac, is a tree in the mahogany family that is native to the Indian subcontinent and a good deal of Africa. It grows in tropical regions.
Historically, every part of the tree has been used in traditional medicine, including the leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, roots and bark, which has lead to it being referred to as 'the village pharmacy.' Records dating back centuries have revealed that Neem has been used to treat pain, fever, infection, bile duct disorders, ulcers and brain illnesses, while the twigs were even used to clean teeth.
Various parts of the Neem tree are high in active compounds which are thought to be antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiparasitic and anti-inflammatory. This means they can help with conditions like stroke, heart disease and diabetes, and can advance wound-healing.
Uses and benefits:
Extract from the Neem leaf is thought to help with dental hygiene. It has been suggested that using a gel or mouthwash containing Neem leaf extract may reduce the amount of plaque on teeth. In addition, Neem leaf extract may also help relieve pain, and combat gingivitis or gum disease. In India, chewing the bark of the Neem tree is common practice for oral hygiene.
Recent studies have found that shampoo containing Neem seed extract may be effective when used to treat head lice in children, while being more gentle than conventional remedies. It is also thought that the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial characteristics of nimbidin, a compound found in Neem oil, could be used to treat dandruff.
Unstable molecules called free radicals can build up in the body over time, made worse by exposure to external factors such as UV light or tobacco smoke. This build-up is linked to oxidative stress, which can be a factor in liver or kidney damage. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics of Neem are thought to help prevent damage from free radicals.
What is Nettle?
Nettle, commonly known as the stinging nettle, is a flowering plant that grows natively across Europe, temperate Asia and parts of North Africa, but has also spread to New Zealand and North America. Also called common nettle, burn nettle and burn-weed, five of the six subspecies 'sting' on contact by using hollow hairs on the leaf and stem to inject histamine and other irritative chemicals.
Historically, nettle has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine, food, tea and a raw material for textiles. In Ancient Egypt, nettle was believed to help with arthritis and lower back pain.
Uses and benefits:
When eaten, the leaves and root of nettle contain a variety of nutrients, including Vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Polyphenols kaempferol, quercetin and caffeic acid can also be found, alongside essential amino acids and pigments such as beta-carotene. A lot of these nutrients act as antioxidants once consumed, and help to prevent cell damage caused by free radicals.
Chronic inflammation in the body has been linked to an increased risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. It is thought that a number of compounds found in nettle may help by preventing the production of several hormones associated with inflammation. Recent studies suggest that applying cream or ingesting products containing nettle may help to relieve inflammation and pain in arthritis sufferers.
The effect of nettle on inflammation is also thought to potentially help with hay fever sufferers.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition in older men that results in an enlarged prostate gland, which can lead to discomfort urinating. It is believed that nettle extracts can help reduce prostate size by stopping the body from converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. Recent research has indicated that taking nettle extract improves short and long-term problems with urination in men with BPH.
What is Olive Leaf?
Olive leaf extract is a substance that is extracted from the leaves of the olive tree and taken as a supplement. The olive tree is a fruiting tree or shrub that grows natively in the Mediterranean Basin, but is also widely cultivated.
The olive fruit, and the oil from it, is widely known as being part of a healthy diet that is thought to reduce chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Olive leaf extract is significantly different, containing a polyphenol called oleuropein, but is still associated with numerous health benefits.
Uses and benefits:
Olive leaf extract is thought to be able to help control cholesterol levels. Studies on oleuropein have suggested that taking the leaf extract regularly could help lower bad cholesterol, having a positive effect on cardiovascular health. Olive leaf extract is also thought to lower cardiovascular risk by helping to reduce blood pressure.
It is thought that oleuropein may have neuroprotective properties, especially against Alzheimer’s disease. The antioxidant ingredients of olive leaf extract may also help to protect cells from free radical damage and help prevent loss of dopamine neurons – a problem that is linked to Parkinson's disease.
Studies into the use of olive leaf extract to treat type 2 diabetes have suggested that the extract can be beneficial in several ways, especially by helping to improve insulin secretion in cells. It's also thought that olive leaf extract may be able to help reduce hyperglycemia, help lower high levels of insulin in the blood, reduce blood glucose, bring down cholesterol and combat oxidative stress. It has been found that people with diabetes who took a regular dose of olive leaf extract were able to lower their average blood sugar levels and fasting plasma insulin levels.
What is Oregano?
Oregano is a fragrant flowering herb that is native to mountainous Mediterranean regions. Also known as wild marjoram, it is best known for its wide use as a culinary herb, especially in Turkish, French, Italian, Greek and Spanish cooking.
Traditionally, oregano has been used to treat indigestion and provide relief as an antiseptic. Today, it's thought to have natural antibiotic and antifungal properties, and can be acquired fresh, dried, in capsules or as an oil.
Uses and benefits:
The easiest way to take oregano is to add it into the diet. Fresh leaves or the dried herb can be added to salads or used to season dishes like chilli, soups or stews. Oregano can be used to make pesto or salad dressings, or added to sauces.
High levels of free radicals in the body have been associated with chronic ailments like heart disease and dementia. Oregano contains strong levels of antioxidants, including carvacrol and thymol, compounds that are thought to help reduce free radicals and prevent cells from oxidative damage.
Oregano is believed to have powerful antibacterial characteristics. Modern studies have found that oregano oil is effective in combating bacteria that can cause infections. Tests have also been done that suggest oregano oil is effective against certain types of fungal infection, such as those that cause athlete's foot and thrush.
In addition to this, in laboratory tests, the antioxidants carvacrol and thymol found in oregano oil have been found to be effective in inactivating some viruses, including norovirus and herpes simplex virus, within an hour of treatment.
It has been suggested that oregano oil could be used to treat upper respiratory tract infections as a throat spray, with antiseptic properties that can help with pain, hoarseness and coughing.
What is Passionflower?
Passionflower is an umbrella term that covers over 500 different species of flowering plants. Also known as Passiflora or passion vines, the various species of these perennial vines grow natively across Mexico, the United States, Southern and Central America, Southeast Asia and Oceania. Other names for passionflower include 'maypop' and 'purple passionflower'.
Traditionally, native Americans turned to the passionflower to treat several conditions, including boils, wounds, earaches and liver ailments. Spanish explorers were introduced to the flower by native Peruvians, and began using the flowers to treat restlessness, agitation, and anxiety.
Research has suggested that passionflower may help to relieve anxiety and nervousness, and it has also been linked to health conditions such as ADHD, insomnia, stress and heart failure. It is commonly used as a dietary supplement for such conditions, and can also be applied to the skin for injuries like burns. Speak with your doctor if you are thinking of taking passionflower supplements for anxiety or stress – especially if you are pregnant, as passionflower can cause uterine contractions.
Uses and benefits:
It has been suggested that passionflower can help relieve anxiety and insomnia. It does this by boosting gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain – a compound which lowers brain activity and helps promote relaxation and calm. Some trials have also suggested that passionflower could relieve anxiety and stress in medical patients before surgical treatment. A study reported in Anaesthesia and Analgesia found that patients who took passionflower supplements before surgery reported less anxiety than those who took a placebo.
Passionflower can also be used to treat stomach-related health issues. Extracts from the plant's leaves and stems have been used to treat stomach ulcers in rats, but more research is needed to see its effect on humans, and whether it is equally as successful.
What is Pau d’Arco?
Pau d'arco is the name commonly used for several different species of tree that grow natively across South and Central America in tropical rainforests. The trees have broad leaves and pink-violet flowers, and the very hard and dense bark wood of their trunks has historically been used by native peoples to make bows for hunting. The inner bark of the tree has been used to treat stomach, skin, and inflammatory issues.
Traditionally, the bark is simmered in water to make a tea, although it is believed that liquid extracts retain more of the beneficial nature of the bark.
Uses and benefits:
Modern studies indicate that pau d'arco extract may help treat infections due to antibacterial and antifungal characteristics. It is thought this is because the extract can reduce the ability of bacteria and fungi to produce oxygen and energy.
Compounds in pau d'arco are believed to help with treating MRSA, and may also be able to protect against infectious bacteria in the digestive system, including those that can attack the stomach lining and cause ulcers.
Chronic inflammation is one factor that can increase the risk of developing serious conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and cancer. Pau d'arco is thought to help with reducing the production of compounds in the body that are associated with chronic inflammation. This activity could also help with conditions like osteoarthritis and relieve symptoms such as swelling, pain and stiff joints.
What is Peppermint?
Peppermint is a hybrid species of mint that is crossed between watermint and spearmint. It grows natively across Europe and the Middle East, but is cultivated around the world. There is some difference between Western peppermint and Chinese peppermint, but both are sources of menthol and menthone. Peppermint oil is extracted from the leaves of the plant, and has a variety of beneficial uses in medicine.
Recorded medicinal use of mint dates back to Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Today, peppermint is available in many different forms, including tablets, essential oils and tea.
Uses and benefits:
Peppermint oil can be taken or used in many different ways. When diluted with a carrier oil, it can be applied directly to the skin. It can be inhaled via a diffuser, made into a tea, or added to a hot bath.
IBS (or Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a chronic gastrointestinal condition which can inflict muscle cramps in the intestine, as well as bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. Research has found that taking peppermint oil eases abdominal pain and relieves other symptoms of IBS, although it isn't clear exactly how. It is thought that peppermint's primary ingredient, menthol, can help to smooth the muscle in the intestine, getting it to relax.
It is also thought that peppermint can help with pain. When taken orally, it is thought to desensitise sensors in the GI tract, decreasing abdominal discomfort. It has also been suggested that winter mint and peppermint oil could be used to relieve tension headaches and migraines.
The relaxing effect on muscles is also believed to speed up movement of food through the gut, which could help with gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, indigestion and constipation.
Recent studies have suggested that peppermint oil has antimicrobial properties, and may be used in treating certain bacterial infections. This is also why it's often used in toothpastes, and its cleansing characteristics can help combat dental plaque.
Peppermint oil is also believed to be beneficial to hair growth by increasing blood flow when applied to the scalp. The oil's cleansing and soothing properties are also thought to be good for the scalp.
What is Pumpkin?
Pumpkins are a type of winter squash that is related to cucumbers and melons. Usually round and orange, they have a thick, smooth outer rind and are hollow inside apart from large seeds and stringy flesh.
Although native to north-eastern Mexico and the southern United States, pumpkins are grown all across the world for food and decoration. It is believed that pumpkins were domesticated as far back as 7,000 BC.
Uses and benefits:
Pumpkins are highly nutritious, containing lots of vitamins and minerals, but not many calories. Although not widely studied, pumpkin has a number of health benefits linked to its vitamin and mineral content.
Vitamin A is thought to play an important role in protecting the gut from infections by strengthening the intestinal lining. Pumpkin contains a large amount of beta carotene, which the body can convert into Vitamin A. They also contain Vitamin C, which can boost immune cells and overall immune health.
The beta carotene found in pumpkin is known to be good for the eyes, as it helps the retina absorb light. Pumpkin also contains Vitamins C and E, and zinc, all of which are thought to prevent age-related macular degeneration.
The same antioxidants that are good for eye health are also believed to be beneficial for the skin. Beta carotene is thought to help protect from ultraviolet rays which can damage the skin, and may also improve its texture and appearance. Vitamins C and E are often used in skincare products, but they may also improve skin health when consumed.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are good for the body and the heart. Specifically, pumpkin contains potassium, which may aid in lowering high blood pressure. Additionally, the high fibre content of squashes may help to lower blood cholesterol by preventing its absorption in the first place.
Metabolic health, or how well your body manages blood sugar and stores fat, could be improved by eating foods rich in beta carotene.
Once prepared, pumpkin seeds can also be consumed as a snack, and have their own benefits. They are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which can aid cholesterol, blood pressure, brain function and vision. Like the rest of the pumpkin, they are rich in antioxidants for eye and skin health. The seeds also have high levels of magnesium and zinc, which help with energy production, good sleep and cell regeneration.
What is Pycnogenol?
Pycnogenol is the brand name and registered trademark of bark extract from the French maritime pine tree. Also known as the cluster pine, this tree grows natively around the south Atlantic European region and in the western Mediterranean.
It is said that, in the 16th century, tea made from the tree's bark and needles was found to prevent scurvy in a shipwrecked crew. Today, it's well known that the bark contains around 40 antioxidant compounds, and the extract shares active ingredients with grape seed, witch hazel bark and peanut skin.
Uses and benefits:
Recent studies suggest that taking a pycnogenol supplement may help to raise production of hyaluronic acid and collagen, which in turn have a positive effect on the hydration and elasticity of skin. It is also thought that pine bark extract could be beneficial to cell regeneration and replication, and can diminish the creation of free radicals.
In addition to this, research has indicated that applying pycnogenol in a gel helps speed up the healing of wounds and reduces the size of a scar.
Pycnogenol is also thought to have a positive effect on the symptoms of ADHD when taken regularly as a supplement. Researchers believe that taking pine bark extract significantly lowers hyperactivity levels while boosting attention span, visual motor skills and concentration levels. It has been suggested that this effect is linked to the ability of antioxidants in pine bark extract to reduce oxidative stress.
The ability of pycnogenol's antioxidants to control oxidative stress and inflammation is also thought to have a neuroprotective effect, helping protect nerve cells in the event of traumatic brain injury.
Pine bark extract has also been studied in relation to the belief that it may help alleviate the risk of heart disease in menopausal women. Taking a pycnogenol supplement regularly has been found to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, in addition to aiding glucose levels and blood pressure, all of which could reduce cardiovascular risk.
What is Quercetin?
Quercetin is a plant flavonol and the most common flavonoid in the daily diet. Flavonoids can be found in fruit, vegetables, grains, bark, roots, stems, flowers, tea and wine. More specifically, quercetin is commonly found in capers, red onions, apples, grapes, berries and cherries, kale, broccoli, citrus fruits, green tea, coffee, and red wine.
Quercetin has a bitter flavour, and it is estimated that the average diet contains between 10-100mg per day, but it can also be taken as a dietary supplement.
Uses and benefits:
It is thought that quercetin may help with reducing blood pressure. The compound is believed to have an effect on cells that control blood vessel dilation and contraction, helping to improve blood flow. This could also help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Quercetin has been shown to reduce inflammation markers in human cells. Because of these anti-inflammatory characteristics, it is believed that quercetin may be able to help relieve allergy symptoms like hay fever by suppressing chemicals like histamine, which promotes inflammation. Recent studies have suggested that quercetin supplements could help reduce peanut-related anaphylactic reactions.
These anti-inflammatory properties are also thought to help reduce the risk of chronic inflammatory conditions, such as heart and kidney disease, arthritis, and certain cancers. In the case of prostate cancer, quercetin is believed to reduce cell growth and hasten cell death.
It has been suggested in some research that the antioxidant properties inherent in quercetin could reduce markers of Alzheimer’s disease and improve brain and learning functions in those suffering from the condition. Links between drinking coffee and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s come from the quercetin in the beans.
What is Raspberry?
Raspberries are aggregate fruits that are widely propagated across the world for food. In 2020 alone, nearly 900,000 tonnes were produced worldwide. As well as being eaten unprocessed and raw, raspberries are also processed into countless foods and drinks, including juice, cordial, tea, preserves, desserts and sweets.
These popular berries also contain many vitamins and minerals, including a high amount of fibre, vitamins C, K, E and B, iron, manganese, potassium, and copper.
Uses and benefits:
Illnesses like diabetes and heart disease are linked to oxidative stress, which is when free radicals build up in the body. Raspberries have high levels of several antioxidants, including vitamin C, ellagic acid and quercetin, which help the body to combat oxidative stress and aid cell recovery. Recent studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in raspberries and raspberry extract may help prevent diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. A further study indicated that ellagic acid may even help repair damaged DNA.
Most berries are low-glycemic, meaning that they have only a small impact on blood sugars. In addition to this, raspberries are naturally low-carb and high-fibre, meaning that they may help with weight loss.
Modern studies have found that raspberries may actually lower blood sugar and increase insulin resistance – characteristics that may help prevent diabetes. It is thought that the high tannin content in raspberries reduces the amount of starch the body can absorb, reducing the impact on blood sugar.
The anti-inflammatory properties of raspberries are thought to help with the symptoms of arthritis. Studies suggest that taking raspberry extract may reduce the risk of arthritis developing, and may also help reduce swelling and joint deterioration if arthritis has already developed.
What is Red Clover?
Red clover is a dark pink flowering plant that grows natively across Europe, Asia and North America, although it has been propagated in other areas as a fodder crop to increase soil quality. The flowers can be harvested as a food extract or edible garnish, or used to make essential oils.
Historically, red clover has been used to treat asthma and whooping cough. It's also used as a traditional medicine for a variety of complaints, including osteoporosis, heart disease, arthritis and skin disorders.
Uses and benefits:
Red clover is rich in isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen which is a plant-based form of oestrogen. Modern studies suggest that, when taken as a supplement, this can reduce the severity and frequency of menopause-related night sweats and hot flushes. It is also thought that red clover can be used to help with other symptoms of the menopause, such as depression, anxiety and vaginal dryness.
During the menopause, the decrease in oestrogen can cause loss in bone density that can lead to osteoporosis. Recent studies have indicated that the isoflavones supplied by taking red clover may reduce the risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone density, speeding up the growth of new bone, and slowing the rate at which calcium is absorbed into the blood from bone tissue.
Studies carried out with older menopausal women suggest that the isoflavones present in red clover may reduce the number of triglycerides (a type of fat in blood) and bad cholesterol, and increase the amount of good cholesterol in the body, boosting heart health.
Traditionally used for skin disorders, more recent studies also suggest that red clover could benefit skin and hair health. Applying red clover extract daily to the scalp has resulted in men increasing their hair growth cycle and reducing their hair loss cycle. Postmenopausal women who took red clover extract every day reported an improvement in skin and hair appearance.
Red Yeast Rice
What is Red Yeast Rice?
Red yeast rice is rice that has been cultivated with Monascus purpureus, a mould culture that gives it a bright red-purple colour. Also called red rice koji, red kojic rice, anka and angkak, this cultivation is a food preparation that dates as far back as 300BC. 'Koji' in Japanese means 'grain or bean overgrown with a mould culture.'
In addition to centuries of culinary use, red yeast rice also has a long history as a traditional medicine. In the 16th century, it was recommended in China to invigorate the body, aid digestion and promote blood circulation.
Today, red yeast rice is available as a supplement targeted at helping with high cholesterol and improving overall health. It is one of a very few natural supplements that contain ingredients that are almost identical to those used in prescription medicines.
Uses and benefits:
Multiple studies have found that red yeast rice, when used alongside statins, can reduce levels of bad cholesterol, total cholesterol and blood pressure, meaning it can aid in reducing the risk of heart disease. It can also have fewer side effects than prescription drugs used to treat high cholesterol.
Red yeast rice also contains a compound called monacolin K, which is thought to improve the flexibility and adaptability of the blood vessels, helping to maintain heart health.
Having high blood pressure, excess body fat, high blood sugar or high cholesterol can put people at risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which in turn elevates the risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes or stroke. Red yeast rice's documented ability to lower both total and bad cholesterol can help to treat or even prevent these risk factors. In people already suffering from metabolic syndrome, red yeast rice may be able to reduce blood sugar and blood pressure.
What is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a naturally-occurring polyphenol, which is a micronutrient found in over 70 plant species that we often include in our daily diets.
While resveratrol is used as a blanket term, there are two different forms of the compound. Resveratrol is a chemical often found in foods like red grape skins, while trans resveratrol is a form of resveratrol that can be absorbed and used by the body.
Resveratrol can be found in a number of foods and drink, including fresh grapes, red wine, grape juice, peanuts, pistachios, dark chocolate, strawberries, blueberries, mulberries, cranberries and lingonberries. Once consumed, the body converts resveratrol into trans resveratrol.
Some plants do contain trans resveratrol, with the best example being Japanese knotweed, which is often used as a source for supplements.
Uses and benefits:
Resveratrol helps to increase the body's production of nitric oxide, which in turn makes blood vessels relax and dilate. Because of this, it's thought that the polyphenol may help with cardiovascular health. It's also believed that it may help reduce bad cholesterol and prevent cholesterol build-up. In addition to this, these effects may also help to reduce blood pressure.
Oxidative stress is something that happens when free radicals build up in the body, and then cause damage to proteins, fatty tissue and DNA. Resveratrol is rich in antioxidants, which help balance out free radicals and reduce harm.
A recent study suggests that taking resveratrol may kick-start metabolic effects in the body that are similar to those that occur as a result of exercise and restricted calories.
A number of studies have been made into the belief that consuming resveratrol, for example in red wine, has an impact on age-related cognitive decline, specifically by reducing protein fragments that are linked with Alzheimer's disease. It's also thought that resveratrol contributes to protecting brain cells from damage.
What is Rhodiola?
Rhodiola is a herb that grows natively in wild Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America. It is also known as Golden root, Rose root, Aaron's rod, Arctic root, and King's Crown.
The root of rhodiola contains over 140 active ingredients, and has been used across Russia and Scandinavia throughout history to treat anxiety, fatigue, and depression. Rhodiola extract is popularly taken as capsules or tablets, but can also be made into a tea.
Uses and benefits:
Adaptogens are natural substances that are known to help the body's resistance to symptoms related to stress. It is thought that taking or consuming adaptogens during stressful periods increases the body's ability to cope. In one study, people suffering with stress-related burnout took 400mg of rhodiola every day. Relief of the various symptoms occurred in the first week, and continued while the supplement was taken.
Rhodiola's adaptogenic properties are also thought to be able to help with fatigue. Recent studies indicate that taking rhodiola daily significantly helps with fatigue, quality of life, mood and concentration. In addition to this, it is believed that rhodiola may be able to improve learning and memory function, and that the same effects may allow it to be used to increase cognition and treat mood disorders.
It is also thought that rhodiola could help to correct imbalanced neurotransmitters in a similar way to antidepressants. A recent study suggests that, even though antidepressants have a greater effect, rhodiola could be tolerated more easily and with fewer side effects.
The anti-fatigue properties of rhodiola are believed to help improve physical performance, specifically in sports, by reducing physical and mental fatigue and boosting antioxidant activity.
What is Rosehip?
The rose hip is a round, seed-filled bulb that grows as the fruit of various species of rose. It is known as an 'accessory fruit' or 'false fruit,' and is called this because it does not grow entirely from the flower. It's other names include rose haw and rose hep, and its bulb is typically red to orange, but can also be a dark purple or even black in some species.
Completely edible, rose hips are traditionally used to make many different foods and drinks, including pies, preserves, syrup, soup, tea and wine.
Uses and benefits:
Historically, rose hips have been used in traditional medicine to treat pain and inflammation.
It is a popular belief that rose hip seeds and oil are good for the skin and may have an anti-ageing effect. The seeds of the rose hip contain polyunsaturated fats, which help to protect the skin from UV rays, cigarette smoke and other pollutants which may cause inflammation. Recent studies have suggested that taking a dose of rose hip every day may reduce wrinkles and increase the moisture content and elasticity of the skin, due to the high amount of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fatty acids.
Applying vitamin C directly to the skin has been found to increase the replenishment rate of skin cells, so it is thought that using vitamin-rich rose hip oil may boost skin health. In addition to this, a recent study suggests that rose hip oil may speed wound healing and reduce scar formation during healing.
Rose hips are rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, catechins, quercetin and ellagic acid. These compounds can help combat inflammation and stress in the body, and rose hips have therefore been studied as a potential treatment for osteoarthritis. A recent review has found that taking rose hip supplements may help treat oxidative stress and inflammation in the joints. Another review found that people with osteoarthritis who took rose hip powder were more likely to report a reduction in pain.
What is Saffron?
Saffron is a spice that is made by harvesting and drying the stigma of the Crocus sativus flower, also called the 'saffron crocus.' It has been cultivated for thousands of years and, although its origins are unclear, it's widely believed to have come from Iran, a country which now produces 90% of the world's saffron.
Records on the use of saffron date back to the 7th-century BC and its use as a seasoning for food and dye remains to this day. By weight, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.
Uses and benefits:
Modern studies have indicated that antioxidant compounds contained in saffron may be able to support cognitive function and, more specifically, memory function and learning. Crocin and crocetin are the antioxidants responsible for saffron's vivid colour, and may also protect brain cells against damage. Saffron is also believed to fight inflammation, and helps to reduce appetite which can aid weight loss.
It is believed that saffron was used in ancient Greece to support mood, which is why it is sometimes called the 'sunshine spice.' More recent studies have found that saffron outperforms placebos when it comes to treating mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression.
Saffron has been found in recent studies to help with symptoms of PMS. Irritability, headaches, cravings, and pain were all relieved by taking 30mg of saffron every day. In addition to this, another study found that smelling the spice for 20 minutes helped to relieve anxiety and stress related to PMS.
What is Sage Leaf?
Sage is an evergreen plant native to the Mediterranean region, but grown all around the world. Also known as garden sage, golden sage, culinary sage and Dalmatian sage, it has been used throughout history as a medicinal and culinary herb.
Historically, sage has been used for many things, including warding off evil, snakebites and boosting women's fertility. Drinking sage tea twice a day is believed to help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, which could help prevent heart disease.
Uses and benefits:
Sage is high in several vitamins and minerals, containing vitamins A, C, E and K, alongside magnesium, zinc, and copper. There are a number of health benefits supplied by sage's caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, rosmarinic acid, ellagic acid and rutin, which all act as antioxidants. In fact, sage contains over 160 polyphenols that all help to increase antioxidant defences.
Microbes that can increase dental plaque may be neutralised by sage's antimicrobial properties. Recent studies have found that products containing sage are effective against bacteria and fungus that are linked with the occurrence of dental cavities. In addition to this, a review has suggested that sage may be useful in treating throat infections, dental abscesses, gum disease and mouth ulcers.
Traditionally, sage has been used to treat symptoms of the menopause, and some compounds in the herb are thought to have properties similar to estrogen. Modern studies have suggested that regularly using a sage supplement can help reduce the number and severity of hot flushes.
Sage has historically been used to treat diabetes, and modern research has indicated that it may help with lowering levels of blood sugar. In studies, sage leaf extract and sage tea have been found to act in similar ways to existing drugs that are used to manage blood sugar or increase insulin sensitivity.
Acetylcholine is a chemical messenger in the brain that plays an active role in memory, and it is believed that antioxidant compounds in sage help to prevent the breakdown of the chemical. Studies on healthy adults of all ages have suggested that low doses of sage extract provide a boost to memory function. Tests on people suffering with Alzheimer's disease have found that taking a daily supplement may help to improve memory, problem-solving and reasoning.
What is Saw Palmetto?
Saw Palmetto, or 'Serenoa repens', is a small palm that grows natively in the South-eastern United States, specifically in subtropical and tropical regions such as Florida. The palm is a hardy plant and grows extremely slowly over a long time, with estimates that some plants are between 500-700 years old. The fruit has been used for years as a herbal remedy.
Uses and benefits:
Saw Palmetto is believed to help balance hormones that can reduce hair growth. It may also be able to reduce levels of an enzyme that can stop hair growth altogether. A review of recent studies suggested that people with hair loss using Saw Palmetto oral and topical supplements could dramatically improve hair quality, increase total hair count, and increase hair density.
Modern studies also suggest that taking Saw Palmetto supplements regularly could help with overall prostate health, preventing prostate enlargement (BPH) and even cancer. In the event that prostate enlargement has already occurred, antioxidants in Saw Palmetto supplements may help to prevent progression.
Older men who already suffer from prostate enlargement may have several symptoms, including decreased urine flow, urinary incontinence and decreased sexual function. The antioxidants present in Saw Palmetto are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties which may be able to help relieve some or all of these symptoms.
What is Shatavari?
Shatavari is a species of asparagus that grows across India and northern Australia. Its name means 'curer of a hundred diseases.' For hundreds of years, the root of this plant has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine as a natural adaptogen, a treatment that is said to help the body cope with mental and physical stress.
Most commonly, shatavari is taken as a powder or tablets, but it is also available as a liquid extract.
Uses and benefits:
As an adaptogen, shatavari is often used to help reduce anxiety and stress. It is believed that it helps to regulate serotonin and promote the production of anti-anxiety hormones, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid.
Research is also being conducted into using shatavari to help treat diabetes, as compounds in the root are believed to stimulate the body into producing insulin and lowering blood sugar.
Shatavari has been found to contain three antioxidants: asparagamine A, racemosol and racemofuran, the last of which was discovered in shatavari root. These antioxidants help protect against free radical damage caused to the body by activities like smoking and UV exposure.
A plant-based form of oestrogen, called phytoestrogen, has been found in shatavari, and this is believed to help fight hot flushes and vaginal dryness in the menopause. It's also thought that phytoestrogens can help ease additional symptoms of the menopause such as low energy, night sweats and insomnia.
Shatavari has also been historically used to boost women's fertility and sexual wellness. It is believed that the oestrogen regulators in the root can be used to help relieve menstrual cramps, irregular and heavy periods, bloating and PMS symptoms. Mucilage contained in shatavari may help support mucous membranes and, in turn, may help to line and protect the cervix, helping with fertility. These estrogenic properties can also help regulate sexual desire and act as an aphrodisiac.
What is Siberian Ginseng?
Siberian ginseng is a North-east Asian native shrub also known as eleuthero. Unlike American or Asian ginseng, Siberian ginseng doesn't contain ginsenosides – its active constituents are eleutherosides. The plant grows up to 10 feet high and produces clusters of yellow or violet flowers that fruit into round, black coloured berries. The root is used to make supplements, and is woody, brown and twisted.
Containing a mix of eleutherosides and polysaccharides, the root of Siberian ginseng is available as liquid and solid extracts, powder, capsules, and tablets. The root can also be dried or cut to make tea. Some skincare products add it during the manufacturing process.
Uses and benefits:
Traditionally, Siberian ginseng has been used across Russia and China as an 'adaptogen' – a substance that is said to help the body to cope better with mental or physical stress. It is said that taking a supplement can improve muscle strength and contribute to better athletic performance.
Research into Siberian ginseng has identified several components that act as antioxidants, helping to protect the body from free radical damage. It also helps lower cholesterol, stimulates the immune system, and may help control insulin, alongside having antibacterial properties.
In some studies, people suffering from common colds who took a product containing Siberian ginseng were able to shorten the length of the colds experienced and the severity of the symptoms, if taken within a certain amount of time. A similar study found that people suffering from flu recovered from their symptoms more quickly when taking a product containing Siberian ginseng (compared to a product without).
Healthy people who took a regular dose of Siberian ginseng for four weeks were found to have more T-cells, indicating a potentially stronger immune system.
A study that focussed on herpes simplex virus type 2 found that taking Siberian ginseng helped with outbreaks. Overall, outbreaks were reduced in number and, when they did occur, were less severe and shorter.
Recent research into Siberian ginseng has suggested that it may help to increase mental performance and alertness. Test subjects taking the supplement found improved memory function compared to subjects who took a placebo. Further study has shown that older people taking Siberian ginseng for four weeks may enjoy improved mental health.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a hardy type of blue-green algae that grows naturally in freshwater ponds and lakes around the world. Until the 16th century, it was used as a natural food source for Aztecs and other Meso-Americans. More recently, it has been grown for farming in constructed pools in tropical areas.
Once farmed, spirulina is washed, dried and turned into a powder that can be taken in tablets or capsules, or added to food and drinks. Spirulina is rich in protein, good fats, B vitamins, calcium copper, magnesium and iron, containing more beta-carotene than carrots and more iron than spinach. It is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, and because it is farmed at 30°C in a pH of 8.5, before being washed and dried, no pesticides are needed to treat it before consumption. In fact, it has even been used by NASA astronauts as a food supplement because of its high nutritional value.
Spirulina is available in powders that can be added to drinks, tablets, capsules, and dried snacks. Studies have indicated that spirulina is effective at lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Uses and benefits:
Recent research suggests that spirulina can help with lowering cholesterol and levels of triglyceride, a type of fat found in the blood, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Another factor in heart disease is high blood glucose levels, which spirulina has also been found to reduce.
Tests carried out on people with type 2 diabetes have found that taking a long-term spirulina supplement helps to reduce blood pressure overall. In addition, trials undertaken by overweight people found a reduction not only in blood pressure, but also in overall body weight and BMI when taking spirulina.
Spirulina contains a high percentage of an antioxidant called phycocyanin, which is believed to help prevent inflammation and may help with related conditions. Because of its antioxidant properties, spirulina can help to prevent cell damage created by free radicals. It has also been suggested that spirulina may help with symptoms of dementia, although more research is required.
St John's Wort
What is St John’s Wort?
St. John's Wort, also known as Hypericum perforatum, is a flowering plant that is harvested around St. John's Day on 24th June every year. It is native to Asia and Europe, and was first used by the Ancient Greeks in medicine. Other names for St. John's Wort include goatweed, tipton weed and hypericum. It is commonly used to heal wounds, treat sleep problems and aid symptoms of depression. It can also be used to treat anxiety and panic attacks. St. John’s Wort can be taken orally in powder, capsule or tablet form, as tea bags, tinctures, or applied to the skin in skincare and bathing products. Unopened buds from the plant's flowers are harvested to create a herbal remedy.
Uses and benefits:
Throughout history, St. John's Wort has been perceived as a solution to kidney and lung problems, depression and for healing wounds. It is currently promoted as an aid for symptoms of menopause, depression, anxiety, ADHD, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and skin conditions such as wounds, muscular pain and bruising.
Scientific evidence does suggest that St. John's Wort can mildly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is because the plant contains hypericin and hyperforin, which can affect brain neurotransmitters by changing their activity. In 2004, a study conducted in Italy suggested that hyperforin found in St. John's Wort can help induce happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which help to improve mood and relieve anxiety.
It is possible to purchase St. John's Wort without a prescription, and generally side effects are mild, but you should consult your GP before taking it as a supplement, especially if you are being treated for cancer or having radiotherapy. This is because St. John's Wort can interact with certain drugs and treatments and make them less effective.
What is Turmeric/Curcumin?
Turmeric is a flowering plant of the ginger family that grows natively in the Indian subcontinent and South-east Asia. It is most famously used for flavouring and colour in Asian cooking, as well as dyeing.
Curcumin is one of many compounds called cucuminoids that turmeric is composed of, and is the main active ingredient which also gives the spice its bright yellow hue. It is a powerful antioxidant, and is anti-inflammatory. When turmeric is cooked, you don't necessarily receive the full benefit of cucuminoids, which is why some people choose to take turmeric supplements.
In India, turmeric was used in traditional medicine to treat problems with the skin, upper respiratory tract, digestion and joints. Modern dietary turmeric supplements often contain a mix of cucuminoids, including curcumin.
Uses and benefits:
A recent study reported that turmeric may help with bodily discomfort and pain, specifically swelling and inflammation. This includes the symptoms of arthritis, with some research suggesting that curcumin may be better at relieving rheumatoid arthritis joint stiffness than some anti-inflammatory medicines. Turmeric has been known to reduce inflammation that comes with chronic diseases like cancers, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
The soothing properties of turmeric are also known to help with calming sensitive skin and may be used in facial cleansers, masks and night creams to regulate oil production and cleanse the skin. In addition to this, its antiseptic and antibacterial properties can help clear up pimples and spots. Turmeric also helps the body to increase immune system performance so that it can fight bacteria.
Turmeric is said to be effective at managing digestive problems, with positive impact on excess gas and bloating. It may also help with reducing acid reflux.
Recent studies have also suggested a link between depression and chronic inflammation, and that antioxidants such as curcumin can help to ease depression and enable antidepressants to be more effective.
What is Valerian?
Valerian is a herb that grows natively in Europe and Asia, but may also be grown in North America. It has feathery leaves and blooms tight clusters of small white, pink and yellow flowers. Valerian is common for treating sleep problems, and is used as a sleep aid because of its ability to promote calm and counter anxiety. It can be taken orally as capsules, powders or teas, or added to bathwater.
It is also known as 'nature's Valium', and offers many benefits to people who have anxiety or panic attacks, or trouble sleeping.
Uses and benefits:
Historically, valerian root has been used to help with insomnia, anxiety, nervousness, trembling, heart palpitations, headaches and stress. Records of these uses date back to ancient Greece and Rome. More recently, it was used in England during WW2 to help with the stress of air raids, and it is claimed that valerian can help with feelings of nervous tension.
Modern studies have reported that valerian can help with anxiety, and the Herbal Medicines Committee in the EU has approved it for treating mild anxiety based on long-standing use.
The Herbal Medicines Committee has also approved valerian for sleep disorders, and a number of trials have offered evidence that it can help with insomnia. One study suggested that taking valerian resulted in a reduction of time it took to fall asleep, a great improvement of overall sleep quality and fewer night-time awakenings.
It is uncertain how valerian works when inside the body. However, it does contain chemicals called valerenic acid and valereno, which affect the GABA receptors in our brains. Increasing the amount of GABA in the body results in a desire to sleep and causes tiredness. Valerian can also impact on adenosine and serotonin production in the body, which are hormones that control sleep and mood.
Studies have been conducted on the benefits of valerian and how it positively affects sleep quality, and problems with insomnia. In 2020, a review of 60 studies concluded that valerian was an effective supplement to take to help with sleep disorders and disturbances.
What is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass consists of the first sprouting leaves of the common wheat plant, which is cut before the seeds develop. It can be bought either freshly cut, as a freeze-dried powder, or as a juice. Given the right climate, it can also be grown and prepared at home. Wheatgrass grows in temperate regions of Europe and the United States.
Wheatgrass is commonly found in health food stores and juice bars, and even in juices that you can buy in the supermarket. It is considered something of a superfood because it is high in vitamins A, C and E, as well as calcium, amino acids, iron and magnesium. It contains 17 amino acids, eight of which are essential, which means that the body cannot produce them by itself.
Uses and benefits:
Recent studies have shown that wheatgrass can be used to nourish general health and to support health during times of stress. This is due to its nutritional quality and strong antioxidant activity, which is also thought to combat signs of ageing.
It has been suggested that anti-inflammatory characteristics possessed by wheatgrass could be used to help treat chronic forms of inflammation like arthritis.
Research has been conducted to investigate the belief that the high chlorophyll content of wheatgrass could help to remove impurities and toxins from the body, as well as supporting liver function. Similarly, researchers have also looked into the ability of wheatgrass to help the body fight microbial infections.
The chlorophyll contained in wheatgrass is also thought to be beneficial for the digestive system, and is said to help with food breakdown and nutrient absorption. Studies have suggested that wheatgrass can also help with digestive problems like constipation.
What is Wild Yam?
Also known as colic root, devil's bone, rheumatism root and shan yao, Wild Yam is a tubor that grows across North America, Mexico and Asia, and has historically been used in traditional medicines. Modern studies on Wild Yam have uncovered the presence of a chemical called diosgenin, which features numerous medicinal properties. Wild Yam can be taken as a supplement, or applied externally as a cream.
Uses and benefits:
Diosgenin is believed to have a weak effect on the body similar to oestrogen, and Wild Yam has been used as a natural treatment for menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms for many years. Research has also been carried out to see whether it can help with PMS and low libido.
Traditionally, Wild Yam has been used to increase women's fertility. It is believed that, when applied as a cream, it releases a natural form of progesterone, which helps to grow and thicken the endometrial lining. Modern studies have also suggested that taking Wild Yam in later life can help reduce levels of a type of fat called triglyceride that's found in the blood, increasing heart health.
In the 19th century, Wild Yam was used to treat joint and muscle pain, giving it one of its aliases, 'rheumatism root.' More recent studies have pointed to strong anti-inflammatory characteristics that can help with swelling and pain.
When used as a food, Wild Yams are low GI and high-fibre, which can help to lower blood sugar levels and reduce the desire to snack between meals. They also contain antioxidants, which are important in a daily diet to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
What is Yarrow?
Yarrow is a tough, perennial plant that grows wild in verges and meadows across North America, Europe and Asia. It grows best in dry and sunny conditions, with soil that is well-drained. Its feathery leaves are dark green, and it features fragrant white and yellow flower heads that appear from June to November. There are reports of Yarrow being used medicinally as far back as 3000 years ago, when it was used to stop bleeding, and was also believed to be a charm against bad luck and illness.
Uses and benefits:
Historically, Yarrow leaves (or juice made from the leaves) have been applied to wounds to help stop bleeding and aid healing. Modern studies have shown that Yarrow ointments have had a positive effect on small wounds. This is because of Yarrow's antimicrobial properties, and its ability to aid clotting. It is also believed to improve blood circulation when ingested. It isn't however recommended that Yarrow is used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Yarrow can be used a soak, wash or salve to heal wounds and to relieve pain. It can also be used to treat digestive issues and haemorrhoids, post-partum bleeding and inflammation. Tea made from Yarrow is consumed by some people to help reduce menstrual pain, and controlled trials have suggested that Yarrow ointment can be used as an anti-inflammatory to help relieve irritated skin.
Daily doses of 250mg or 500mg of Yarrow have been used to decrease acute attacks (relapses) in sufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS). When taken alongside regular treatments, people with multiple sclerosis did better in cognitive tests. Yarrow has also been tested as a treatment for reducing the symptoms of IBS, as it has antispasmodic properties. In addition to this, Yarrow contains flavonoids, which increase saliva and stomach acid production, and can improve digestion.
What is Zeolite?
Created naturally in ashes and volcanic rock, and also industrially mass-produced, the term 'zeolite' covers a group of over 250 mineral substances that are chemically similar, with more than 40 occurring naturally. They are mostly made up of hydrated aluminium and silicon compounds. The name 'zeolite' means 'to boil stone.' Industrially, zeolites are used in everything from nuclear waste reprocessing, processing and storage of natural gas to non-clumping cat litter. They are also used in water and air filtering and soil treatment, and of course, medical studies and health supplements.
Zeolites occur in volcanic regions in the South Aegean region of Turkey. They were formed millions of years ago as a result of volcanic activity and eruption. Ash from these eruptions formed thick ash beds in rivers and lakes. If the lake water is of the right chemistry, a chemical reaction mixing volcanic ash dust and water results in the creation of natural zeolite. This is then ground to a powder.
Uses and benefits:
Zeolites have been marketed as dietary supplements that can help treat a variety of ailments, including cancers, diarrhoea, autism, herpes and the common hangover. This is because the minerals have a cage-like structure that give them ion-exchanging, adsorbent, anti-caking and desiccant properties. It is believed that zeolites can be used to remove heavy metals from the human body and help balance pH levels. It is common to find zeolite products in powder form, which is mixed into food or drinks and ingested. When consumed, this powder binds to toxins and pollutants in the gastrointestinal system and naturally draws them out. It is then excreted from the body naturally, without affecting the metabolism.
There is currently no published human data to support the following uses, but in vitro and animal studies, zeolites have been used in cancer treatments and cancer prevention, anti-diarrhoea treatments, and stimulation and/or suppression of the immune system. Again, these claims are all rooted in animal-based studies, and there is currently no date to prove these claims work in humans.
You should always consult with your GP before taking zeolite supplements, as zeolites can conflict with certain types of medication such as transplant medication or chemotherapy drugs, preventing them from working properly.
By Panasha Desai, Pharmacist (GPhC 2071387)
The products offered are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease, or replace the advice of a medical professional. Results are not guaranteed and may vary from individual to individual.