Herbalists treat many conditions such as asthma, eczema, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, menopausal symptoms, chronic fatigue, and irritable bowel syndrome, among others. Herbal preparations are best taken under the guidance of a trained professional. Be sure to consult with your doctor or an herbalist before self-treating. Some common herbs and their uses are discussed below. Please see our monographs on individual herbs for detailed descriptions of uses as well as risks, side effects, and potential interactions.
Kava kava ( Piper methysticum ) has become popular as a treatment for anxiety, but recent reports have traced liver damage to enough people who have used kava that the U.S. FDA has issued a warning regarding its use and other countries, such as Germany and Canada, have taken kava off of the market.
Ginkgo ( Ginkgo biloba ) , particularly a standardized extract known as EGb 761, appears to produce improvements in awareness, judgment, and social function in people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. In a year-long study of 309 people with Alzheimer's disease, those taking EGb 761 consistently improved while those on placebo worsened.
Valerian ( Valeriana officinalis ) has had a long tradition as a sleep-inducing agent, with the added benefit of producing no hangover feeling the next day.
St. John's wort ( Hypericum perforatum ) is well known for its antidepressant effects, and an analysis of 27 studies involving more than 2,000 people confirmed that the herb is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.
Echinacea preparations (from Echinacea purpurea and other Echinacea species) may bolster immunity. In a study of 160 volunteers with flu-like symptoms, echinacea extract reduced both the frequency and severity of cold symptoms.
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