Herbal remedies have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. From ashwagandha to chamomile, echinacea, garlic and ginger, these natural remedies have been used to reduce anxiety and stress, increase energy levels, reduce pain and inflammation, improve male sexual health, promote wound healing and even prevent the common cold and flu. But do herbs really heal? In this article, we'll explore the potential benefits of five popular herbs and discuss their safety and potential side effects. Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub native to Africa and Asia that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. It is said to increase energy levels, decrease anxiety and stress, and reduce pain and inflammation.
It can also be used to improve male sexual health, as it can increase testosterone levels in men. Ashwagandha is available in the form of capsules, tincture and powder as a dietary supplement. It may take weeks before the benefits of ashwagandha are noticed. Ashwagandha is generally safe for most adults but common side effects include drowsiness, gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea.
People who take certain medications should not take ashwagandha as it can interact with these drugs. Chamomile is a popular herbal remedy in the United States commonly used to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health, chamomile is likely to be safe when used as tea. In Europe, chamomile is used to help heal wounds and reduce inflammation and swelling. Chamomile is available for purchase as tea and in capsule form in most health food stores.
However, chamomile can cause allergic reactions and some people have reported anaphylaxis from its use. People who take blood thinners or the anti-rejection drug cyclosporine should avoid using chamomile as it may interact negatively with these medications. Echinacea is a flowering plant belonging to the daisy family that has traditionally been used as a remedy for toothache, intestinal pain, snake bites, seizures, skin irritation, arthritis and pain. Today it is commonly used to shorten the duration or prevent the common cold and flu as well as promote wound healing. Echinacea is rich in substances that are believed to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have antiviral and antioxidant effects.
Some studies show a minor benefit of using echinacea to possibly prevent upper respiratory tract infections but further studies are needed to determine its effectiveness in preventing or shortening the duration of a cold. Echinacea can be harmful to the digestive system and can cause stomach upset so it should only be used in the short term. Garlic is a perennial plant native to Central Asia that is cultivated for its tasty bulbs as well as its medicinal properties. Humans have been using garlic for thousands of years for its antimicrobial, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that garlic can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke as well as reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
Garlic can be consumed both cooked and raw or used in powder form to season meats, vegetables, soups and stews. Talk to your doctor if you plan to take garlic supplements for its health benefits as garlic may increase the risk of bleeding. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a plant with a leafy stem and greenish-yellow flowers originally from Asia and India that has been widely used since the 16th century in many traditional medicines around the world. It is valued both for cooking and for its medicinal properties which include helping reduce nausea as well as relieving pain, reducing inflammation, having antiviral effects and promoting wound healing. Ginger can be consumed both cooked or raw or taken in capsule form but long-term use may affect the body's immune system so consult your healthcare professional before using ginger.