Do These Herbs Work?
Good and Bad Herbs
By Daniel DeNoon
Huge sales of herbal remedies say that millions of people believe that they work. What does science say?
A review of every known study of several best-selling herbs appears in the Jan. 1, 2002, issue of the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine. There are some surprising results.
Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, of the University of Exeter, U.K., looked at the sciences behind six herbs:
Here's the scoop:
The ginkgo tree is one of the oldest types of tree on earth. Traditional Chinese doctors have used its fruits and seeds for thousands of years. They used it mostly to treat asthma and chilblains (the redness, swelling, itching, and burning of the face and extremities caused by exposure to damp cold).
Ginkgo reduces swelling, reduces the supply of oxygen to tissues, scavenges harmful free radicals from the blood, affects metabolism, reduces blood clotting, and improves circulation in tiny blood vessels. In some European countries, it is approved as a treatment for memory impairment, dementia, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and intermittent claudication (a disease of the arteries that causes pain in the legs when moving but not when at rest).
St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
It's been used for many things, but today St. John's wort is considered to be an antidepressant.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
You name it, and ginseng has been used to treat it. Ginseng most commonly is used to improve stamina, concentration, vigilance, and a sense of well-being.
Different echinacea products used different parts of the plant, but most use the roots. This herb contains many potentially active compounds. However, studies find no single active ingredient.
Ripe berries from the dwarf palm have been used to enhance sperm production and to enlarge breast size. The herb today is used to help men with enlarged prostate glands (a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH).
A mildly intoxicating beverage used in the South Pacific, kava is mainly used to lessen anxiety but also for insomnia, menopausal symptoms, and other uses.
Whether they work well or not, all herbal remedies have effects on your body. Always tell your doctor which herbal remedies you are taking, no matter how safe or effective they may seem.Originally published Dec. 31, 2001.
Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD, May 2002.
©1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.
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