The Therapeutic Effects of Herbs
NATURAL TREATMENTS: CURCUMIN, HAWTHORN, TART CHERRIES, LINGHZI MUSHROOMS, AND RESVERATROL
The therapeutic effects of herbs have been studied for millennia by different cultures around the world. More and more people opt for natural remedies, whether alone or in conjunction with prescribed medication. Below, you will find information about some of the more widely used herbs and natural supplements, along with some of their benefits and contraindications.
About: Curcuminoids are responsible for the yellow coloring in turmeric. Because of their bright yellow coloring, curcuminoids can be used as food coloring. When used as food additives, their E number, E100 is listed on food labels.
Benefits: Preclinical studies show that curcumin may prevent and treat certain conditions, but these studies haven’t been proven by clinical trials. Data in these studies showed that in case of pain caused by osteoarthritis of the knee, pain relief was similar to the effects of ibuprofen. Safe doses were 12g per day, over a period of 3 months.
Available Forms: Capsules of curcumin contain piperine, which helps faster absorption into the bloodstream. Since curcuma prevent blood clotting, it should not be taken for two weeks prior to surgeries, and it should not be used along with other blood thinners, such as Warfarin and Plavix. Gallstone symptoms may be aggravated by the use of curcumin.
About: Many parts of the hawthorn plant are used for medicinal purposes, including the flowers, the leaves and the berries.
Benefits: The antioxidant flavonoids (including OPCs) may help improve blood flow, by dilating the blood vessels, and may protect the blood vessels from damage. Both human and animal studies show that hawthorn improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, and treats certain skin conditions, such as boils and sores. The plant may also improve overall heart health.
Studies also show that hawthorn may be beneficial for those with heart failure, a condition which prevents blood flow from the heart to other organs of the body. According to some studies, people’s ability to exercise improved after heart failure if they took hawthorn, by reducing fatigue and shortness of breath. Based on one study, taking 900 mg of hawthorn per day for two months had the same effect as low doses of a prescription medication called Captopril.
A large study conducted on patients with heart failure compared conventional heart failure treatments, involving various prescription medications, with treatments only involving the hawthorn, as well as treatments with hawthorn combined with prescription medications. The study found that the plant was effective in 952 patients, and that the symptoms of heart failure (which include heart palpitation, shortness of breath and fatigue) decreased significantly. Among the patients who took both hawthorn and medication, the amount of prescribed medicine taken was significantly reduced.
Heart failure is a very serious condition, and you should never self-medicate with hawthorn unless approved by your doctor!
Preliminary evidence suggests that the hawthorn plant may reduce chest pain, otherwise known as angina, caused by low blood flow to the heart. In an early study, 60 patients were given either the plant, or placebo. Based on the findings, those who received 180 mg of hawthorn per day over a 3 month period experienced improved blood flow to the heart, which resulted in decreased pain levels, and an ability to exercise longer. More studies need to be conducted to ensure the plant’s effectiveness.
Some people believe that hawthorn may be beneficial in those with high blood pressure, although there have not been studies conducted to confirm this. It is thought that the effects at lowering blood pressure may be the result of the plant’s benefits on overall heart health. In one study, hawthorn was found to be effective in those with high blood pressure who also had type 2 diabetes. Participants were given 1200 mg of hawthorn per day, over a 16 week period, with some also taking prescription medications, while others only taking placebo. The study found that the blood pressure was lower in those taking the medication and the hawthorn as opposed to those taking the plant and the placebo.
Always talk to your doctor prior to taking hawthorn!
Available Forms: Hawthorn is available in multiple forms: capsules, extracts, tinctures and solid extras, as well as tea made from the dried leaves, flowers, and berries.
Precautions: Herbs can have components that can adversely interact with components from other herbs, supplements, and medications. Herbs should always be taken under the supervision of your doctor or healthcare provider. Side effects of hawthorn, although rare, may include headache, nausea, and heart palpitations (racing heart). 29 clinical studies that included 5500 patients found that hawthorn was safe, while used in recommended dosage. Safe doses were from 600 to 1800 mg per day, from 3 up to 24 weeks.
Heart condition is a very serious condition, and you should never self-treat with hawthorn. Always ask your doctor, and undergo treatment under your health care provider’s supervision. People who are experiencing more chest pain, exhaustion, or heart palpitations should stop taking hawthorn, and seek medical attention immediately. Even if you do not experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor if your symptoms haven’t improved. Side effects may include dizziness, vertigo, headaches, migraines, and heart palpitations.
Do not use hawthorn when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Possible Interactions With Other Medications
Digoxin: this medication is used to treat irregular heartbeat. Hawthorn may enhance the drug’s activity.
Beta-blockers: these medications are used in the treatment of heart disease by decreasing blood pressure, and dilating blood vessel. Hawthorn may strengthen the effects of these drugs. Beta-blockers include Atenolol (Tenormin), Metoprolol (Lopressor, Tropol-XL) and Propanolol (Inderal, Inderal LA).
Calcium channel blockers: used to treat high blood pressure by dilating blood vessels. Hawthorn may strengthen the effects of the drugs. Calcium channel blockers include Norvasc (Amlodipine), Cardizem (Diltiazem), Procardia (Nifedipine).
Phenylephrine: a product found in nasal decongestant products, that constricts blood vessels. A laboratory study shows that an alcoholic extract of the hawthorn fruit reduced the effects of this medication.
Benefits: Tart cherries have been found to have an anti-inflammatory, anthocyanin, and high anti-oxidant effect.
Baylor Research Institute showed that pain was reduced by more than 20% in both men and women when taking a daily dose of tart cherries. You can find more information about the benefits and recommendations on www.choosecherries.com, under the Red Recovery Routine.
Women with inflammatory osteoarthritis saw a significant reduction in pain after drinking tart cherry juice twice a day over a three week period. Long distance runners also saw a decrease in their pain levels when drinking the juice.
About: Latin name: Ganoderma lucidum. It has been used as a medicinal mushroom for more than 2000 years in China. They are the oldest known mushrooms to be used for medicinal purpose. It has no apparent side effects, and it is listed in the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic Compedium. G. lucidum extracts can be found in pharmaceuticals, such as MC-S used to suppress cancel cell migration.
Benefits: Linghzi mushrooms may have anti-tumor, immunomodulatory and immunotherapeutic properties based on studies performed on polysaccharides, terpenes and other bioactive compounds that were isolated from the mycelia and fruiting bodies of the fungi. (reviewed by R.R Paterson and Lindequist et al.). It may also lower blood pressure and inhibit platelet aggregation. Studies have found anti-tumor effects against certain forms of cancer, which include epithelial and ovarian cancers. It is yet unknown exactly how G. lucidum may affect cancer, and it is possible that it affects cancer in different stages. For example, it may inhibit the formation of new blood vessels that are induced by the tumor, and serve the purpose of feeding the tumor, it may also inhibit metastasis (the spreading of cancer), and may induce the destruction of tumor cells.
Some studies show that ganoderic acid extracted from the linghzi mushrooms may protect against liver injury caused by viruses and other toxic agents. This study was performed on mice, and suggests that ganoderic acid may be used later on in the treatment of liver disease in humans. Sterols derived from the G. lucidum inhibit lanosterol 14α-demethylase (an enzyme) in the conversion of cholesterol. The compounds found in this mushroom also inhibit 5-alpha-reductase activity in the conversion of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Ganodema mushrooms may also have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties with HSV-1, HSV-2, influenza and vesicular stomatitis. It may also have anti-microbial effects with Aspergillus niger, Bacillus cereus, Candida albicans and Escherichia coli.
About: It is part of a group of plant compounds that are called polyphenols. Polyphenols are believed to have antioxidant properties. The compound is found in red grapes, peanuts, and berries.
Benefits: Those who recommend Resveratrol claim that it helps reduce inflammation, while reducing the occurrence of LDL (so called “bad” cholesterol). It makes it harder for platelets to stick together, possibly preventing heart attacks.
It is believed that Resveratrol inhibits the spread of cancer cells and cause the destruction of these cancer cells.
Resveratrol may also protect nerve cells, and may inhibit plaque buildup that causes Alzheimer’s.
This compound may also prevent insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes.
Studies done on mice show that mice that took Resveratrol loved longer than those that did not. As a result, this compound may help with longevity. Some researchers have found that Resveratrol activates the SIRT 1 gene, a mechanism that protects the body against obesity and the diseases that come with age.
Side Effects: There have not been many studies conducted on this compound, so doctor’s recommendation is advised. Resveratrol is not to be taken with blood thinners (Coumadin), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and aspiring, because it increases the risk of bleedings.
It is very important that you talk to your healthcare provider. Herbs and supplements may interact with one another and with medications that you may be taking, so it is imperative that your doctor monitors these treatments. If you notice any side-effects, your condition worsens, or you develop new conditions, stop taking these herbs and supplements, and contact your health care provider immediately.