For thousands of years, various herbs, spices, and supplements have been used in countries around the world for their therapeutic benefits. While scientific evidence is small for the effectiveness of most of these substances, anecdotal evidence seems to be plentiful. What follows is information about the benefits of a few unknown or little known herbs, spices, and supplements.
Bacopa – A tropical plant that has the capability of improving attention and memory. It also is an antioxidant and is under consideration as a factor in treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. This herb also appears to have anti-depressant and anti-anxiety benefits. CAUTION: Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using this herb. It can cause sleepiness if used in high doses.
Borage – This herb is also known as a starflower due to the shape of its flowers. It’s said to be an excellent treatment for depression, eczema, and ulcers. A mild sedative, it’s often used for premenstrual syndrome. It is an anti-inflammatory agent, is effective for fevers and upper respiratory infections. Also, it helps in growing health skin.
Boswellia – Some experiments with animals showed this herb to have anti-inflammatory properties and slowed down the growth of or killed some cancer cells. It has been shown to have benefit in treating osteoarthritis, asthma, and colitis, as well. CAUTION: Do not take this herb if you’re taking drugs that are substrates of P-Glycoprotein or if you are using anticoagulant and/or antiplatelet drugs. Some allergic reactions have also been reported.
Calendula – Another anti-inflammatory herb, it’s also said to soothe the digestive system, fight infections, control bleeding, and help in healing tissue that has been damaged. Minor skin problems have also been improved with this herb. CAUTION: If you have allergies to plants, first do a skin patch test before using this herb.
Cat’s Claw – This South American herb has been used in treating infections, arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems. Some studies have shown it to have anti-inflammatory properties, to aid the immune system, possibly kill viruses, and to help in protecting the heart from disease. No toxicity or adverse reactions have been reported.
Chaga – A fungus rich in antioxidants. Studies with laboratory animals have shown it to have anti-inflammatory properties, along with the possibility of boosting immune functioning. It has been used clinically for the treatment of psoriasis with very good results. Some lab studies have shown it inhibited growth in liver cancer cells. CAUTION: Not much is known about the safety of using this fungus. Be very cautious in using it if you take blood-thinning drugs or diabetes medications.
Epazote – Native Mexicans have used this herb for generations. The young leaves have high levels of folic acid. Some flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants and vitamin A are present in this herb. It can be a source of several minerals and B-complex vitamins. CAUTION: Pregnant women should not use or eat this herb due to the possibility of uterine cramps and termination of pregnancy.
Mullein – This plant has been used in the Appalachian region as a treatment for colds and croup. Other respiratory problems like asthma, coughs, and tuberculosis have been treated with it, also.
Neem – Traditionally, this herb has been used to treat malaria, diabetes, and cardiovascular and skin diseases. CAUTION: Infants and children should not be given this herb due to the possibility of poisoning. Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should avoid it as well.
Noni – Laboratory research has shown noni to have anti-oxidant properties and to have boosted the immune system and to fight tumors. It is being studied in connection with treating cancers. CAUTION: It is high in potassium. If you’re on a low-potassium diet, avoid using it. Liver damage has been reported. Overall, its safety in humans has not been studied sufficiently.
Pau d’arco – The bark and wood of this South American tree have been used medically. It has been used treat colds, flue, H1N1 flu, sexually transmitted diseases, and prostate and bladder infections. Also, it has been used to treat anemia, diabetes, ulcers, asthma, bronchitis, and boils. CAUTION: This substance is possibly unsafe at high doses. Internal bleeding has been reported with its use.
Sceletium – This South African herb has been used in treating depression. It has properties that help elevate mood, promote relaxation, and bring on a sense of well-being. It is said to increase clarity, increase the ability to have ideas, and focus people mentally. It may be helpful in lowering anxiety, stress, and tension.
Schisandra Berries – Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have used this herb to treat liver, lung, kidney, and heart disease. It helps improve resistance to the effects of diseases and stress. Energy, endurance, and stamina appear to be improved with this herb. It is said to stabilize and return to normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Some increase in thinking ability has been noted. This herb is said to promote longevity. CAUTION: Do not use this herb if you are pregnant or nursing. Do not use it if you have GERD, peptic ulcers, epilepsy, or high intracranial pressure. Avoid it if you take warfarin or medications changed or broken down by the liver.
Tamanu Oil – This oil has been shown to have compounds with high levels of fatty acids and vitamin E. It may also have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial properties. Used on the skin, it may aid in healing wounds, reducing stretch marks and scars, and take away the pain of bites, stings, and diseases like eczema and psoriasis.
Za’atar – This spice appears to improve immune functioning, improve skin health, increase circulation, soothe inflammation, increase energy, lift mood, increase memory, and has been used to treat chronic diseases. Studies have shown its effectiveness in fighting free radicals and slowing cancer growth. CAUTION: Some allergic reactions have been reported.