Most herbs are quite effective in unconcentrated extract or whole form, and
in some cases they may work better that way because they have a number of
constituents responsible for their action. Standardized extracts should be
used when the herb has well-identified active constituents and the dosage
of those constituents requires fairly large quantities of herb. Herbs that
I would recommend using in a standardized form include ginkgo, milk
thistle, saw palmetto, feverfew, bilberry, gotu kola and possibly ginseng.
Generally I recommend following the directions on the package, since
extract concentrations or quantity of whole herb may be different from
product to product. The exception is liquid extracts, for which there is
often a dosage recommendation of 15-30 drops. Many herbs will need doses of
30-60 drops for best results. The best idea is to educate yourself about
dosages of herbs using a reliable herbal reference book or to consult with
someone trained in the use of herbs.
I feel that it is best to stick with one or two herbs to start with for
most conditions. With only one herb, it is easy to evaluate how it is
working for you. If you experience any adverse reactions, you'll know what
is causing it, and you won't have any interactions between herbs.
Always be sure to let all of your health care providers know what herbs and
supplements and medications you are taking. If you are on pharmaceutical
medications, you should find out if there are any possible interactions
with any herb you plan to take. For serious or multiple health problems, it
is wise to consult with someone who can assist you with selecting the most
appropriate herbal and nutritional supplements.
I have personally used both herbs and prescribed them for many of my
clients for extended periods of time, with excellent results and no side
effects. My own preference for herbal immune enhancement is echinacea by
itself, one daily dose for five out of seven days of the week. I like to
reserve the use of goldenseal for active infections, particularly upper-
That said, there are theoretical reasons to limit the length of use of
these herbs. Goldenseal contains berberine, a highly effective
antimicrobial useful against a wide variety of bacteria. Theoretically,
long-term use could interfere with the normal gastrointestinal bacterial
flora. In practice, I have not seen this to be a problem; in fact, many of
my long-term prescriptions of goldenseal have been for gastrointestinal
problems, with good results. Echinacea also contains antimicrobial
constituents, which again could theoretically upset the normal balance of
Long-term use of echinacea has been discouraged based on the reasoning that
its effectiveness in stimulating immune function is lost over time.
However, the study that led to this recommendation actually doesn't support
that view. In study subjects taking echinacea, white blood cell counts
increased dramatically for several days (indicating increased immune
response), then began to fall. Interestingly, though, they never fell to
the levels existing before the echinacea was given.
Of course, it is important to follow other basic health guidelines for
enhancing immune function. These include a good diet with lots of fresh
fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish, and dairy
products if you are not allergic or sensitive to them. Avoid refined sugar,
as it inhibits the immune system from doing its job. A good multiple
vitamin-mineral supplement will ensure that you are getting adequate
amounts of vitamin A and beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and zinc, all
important for a healthy immune system. Plenty of liquids and rest will also
enhance immune function, as will stress management and positive emotions.
Goldenseal should not be used during pregnancy. Echinacea should not be
used by people with autoimmune conditions, AIDS and other chronic
degenerative diseases without the advice of a physician.
In this category, we are referring specifically to non-herbal, green teas
(and to a lesser extent black teas). These teas contain an antioxidant
compound known as polyphenol. While studies are still incomplete, they do
show that the polyphenols can help prevent cancer from forming, may
stabilize or shrink present cancers, and prevent cancers from spreading.
Why? It appears that the polyphenol prevents the oxidation that causes
damage to DNA, turning normal cells into cancer cells. Most studies are
laboratory based, and results in humans are inconclusive, but observational
evidence is beginning to prove a link.
There is also evidence suggesting that tea may protect against heart
disease. It may be that tea polyphenols reduce blood cholesterol and reduce
blood pressure. It may also prevent the formation of clots that can lead to
heart attack or stroke. Both regular and decaffeinated tea, as well as ice
tea have comparable levels of polyphenols -- so pick your favorite brew,
and begin to enjoy your daily 'tea time'.
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