An overview of just a few of the innumerable herbs and botanical medicines available worldwide today: ginger, rooibos, turmeric etc.
·November 8th, 2021
Many popular herbs have been used by societies around the world for thousands of years, often containing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Some of the most common medicinal herbs include turmeric, ginger, rooibos, cat’s claw, and boswellia serrata, or frankincense.
Only an expert can help you identify the best herbs for you–Bright Belly’s herbalist search can help you connect with a provider near you today.
There are innumerable botanical medicines available worldwide today, helping combat symptoms and reduce the risk of a broad range of ailments. Many have been in use across different societies for thousands of years. While this article provides an overview of the latest research on some of the most common herbs and botanical medicines, only a trained herbalist can help you identify the best course of treatment for your health condition.
Turmeric: The Golden Spice • India
Originally cultivated in India–and especially significant to their traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda–the health benefits of turmeric have been recognized for thousands of years. Turmeric is widely considered to be one of the most important herbal supplements on earth, and is among the most popular.
This special root is the only major natural source of curcumin–its main active constituent–which is known for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies suggest that turmeric can offer many similar benefits to ibuprofen for the relief of chronic pain and swelling, providing considerable benefits to those suffering from arthritis. These properties may also protect the body from free radicals, slow the effects of aging, and support healthy digestion and liver function.
In research, turmeric has been studied to support brain function, mood, and memory; other researchers have found that it may increase levels of serotonin and dopamine. Its neuroprotective qualities may help reduce risk, slow progression, and improve symptoms of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. This may be one factor behind the lower instances of these diseases in India.
Beyond its value as herbs, Turmeric is a popular culinary ingredient in several regional cuisines, but a high amount is typically necessary to unlock its full therapeutic effects. Curcumin presents an obstacle due to its poor rate of absorption. However, ingesting it in conjunction with black pepper has been studied as one route to increasing bioavailability.
Ginger • China
The medicinal utilization of ginger originated in ancient China, and due to its healing merits, it has been coveted and traded throughout the rest of Asia, West Africa, and Europe for millennia. A relative of turmeric, this warming root cousin boasts similar benefits. Even so, the compounds present in each respective herb make them ideal for complementary use.
Ginger has long been revered as an antidote for upset stomach, motion sickness, nausea, and vomiting–particularly during pregnancy. Modern research finds that proper administration has potential to alleviate the severity of post-operative and chemotherapy-induced nausea. Furthermore, it is commonly used to support digestive function, and can be an effective remedy for gastric ailments, such as indigestion, stomach ulcers, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Today, ginger is perhaps most associated with boosting immunity, providing protection against common colds and combatting symptoms of auto-immune disorders, including lupus and Hughes syndrome. Some studies also support that the herb improves heart health, lowers blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, and increases circulation of blood to all tissues of the body–potentially aiding in the management of diabetes.
Like turmeric, ginger demonstrates potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, which produce pain relieving effects. Studies suggest ginger can be an effective aid against severe menstrual pain, arthritis, muscle soreness, low back pain, and post-surgical pain, and potentially migraines.
Ginger is a nutrient powerhouse herb, containing a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. It also contains gingerols, shogaols, and paradols, which are the chemical compounds responsible for many of its health benefits. The composition of these compounds is altered during various preparations of raw ginger, such as drying or cooking, resulting in distinct advantages from each form.
Rooibos: Red Bush • South Africa
Rooibos is a shrub uniquely indigenous to the Cederberg Mountain region of South Africa, which–due to agricultural conditions and legal protections–remains the only place in the world where it is industrially produced. Its origins can be traced back thousands of years, to when it was traditionally cultivated by Africa’s oldest inhabitants, the KhoiSan tribe. Customary use includes the treatment of asthma, allergies, and skin conditions.
Rooibos, naturally caffeine-free, has been promoted as a safe remedy for babies suffering from colic for generations. Unlike some other herbal teas, it is considered safe to consume during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Rooibos has also been shown to enhance sperm count and function, and possibly to boost female fertility.
Rooibos tea and extracts have become increasingly popular on a global scale. It is of particular interest to health-conscious consumers, due to its low tannin content and lack of alkaloids, as well as its antioxidant activity.
Cat’s Claw: Life-Giving Vine of Peru • Central & South America
A common vine named for its curled thorns, cat’s claw was first found in the tropical jungles and rainforests of South and Central America. The indigenous Ashaninka tribe of Peru values this plant for both religious and medicinal purposes, making use of its bark, roots, and leaves. Since ancient times, various preparations have been used to remedy an array of physical and mental ailments. These include anxiety, inflammation, tumors, abscesses and other infections, digestive disorders, dysentery, hemorrhoids, fevers, and menstrual irregularities.
In present day, studies have confirmed the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cat’s claw along with justification for many of its traditional uses–including risk reduction and management of arthritis and asthma. Early studies also suggest that cat’s claw may have anti-cancer effects, inhibiting growth of mutated cells related to skin cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, and leukemia–as well as aiding in the elimination of cancer cells following radiation treatments, though more research is required. Studies suggest that the herb may enhance DNA repair in human skin, supporting its use in skin care products and sunscreen.
Scientists are studying cat claw’s effects on other diseases, including Lyme disease, endometriosis, and other viral infections. These lab analyses have led to greater global acceptance of the medicinal potential of cat’s claw, and there are currently multiple US patents on preparations of its extracts.
Assorted types of cat’s claw products are now widely available, mostly in the form of liquid extracts, supplement capsules, powders, teas, and topical ointments.
Boswellia Serrata: Indian Frankincense • India
Boswellia serrata is a tree native to parts of India, commonly used in Ayurvedic practices and chiefly valued for its acclaimed resin. This botanical extract is best recognized for its legendary fragrance and rich flavor, used to produce incense by the name of frankincense. However, numerous ancient societies have made additional use of this plant for a number of purposes–including the development of hair oils, cosmetics, tattoo inks, textile dyes, adhesives, and medicines–and it remains of great cultural and medical importance today.
For thousands of years, traditional herbalists in Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe have utilized boswellia as a remedy for countless ailments; these natural benefits are becoming more widely verified by science. Boswellia has been shown to possess impressive anti-inflammatory properties, and is most commonly used to treat symptoms of joint pain, arthritis, inflammatory gum disease, and respiratory maladies like bronchitis and asthma.
It is of no surprise that Boswellia has increased in popularity over recent years, namely in Western regions including the United States. Boswellia extract is available in a variety of forms, including resins, oils, powders, pills, and topical skin creams.
Other popular herbal products and their common uses
There are hundreds if not thousands of herbs with medicinal properties beyond those above. A small sampling of additional common, medicinal herbs includes:
Aloe: used to treat skin irritation, acne, burns, inflammation, digestive disorders, heartburn
Ashwagandha: adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory, potentially brain boosting; used to treat anxiety, depression, fatigue, infertility, high blood sugar and cortisol
Black cohosh: used to treat menopausal symptoms, painful menstruation, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hormone imbalance
Chamomile: anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant; used to treat heartburn, indigestion, constipation, urinary tract infections, upper respiratory infections, menstrual cramps, arthritis
Cumin: antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory; used to treat digestive disorders, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol
Echinacea: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, immunosupportive; used to treat cold and flu, high blood sugar, anxiety, acne, wrinkles
Elderberry: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant; used to treat headaches, nerve pain, constipation, diabetes, colds and flu, high cholesterol
Garlic: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibiotic, antiviral; used to treat cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure, nausea, estrogen deficiency, cold and flu
Ginkgo biloba: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, brain boosting; used to treat cardiovascular disease, poor circulation, memory loss, mood disorders, sexual dysfunction
Ginseng: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, brain boosting, immunosupportive; used to treat stress, fatigue, high blood pressure and cholesterol,high and low blood sugar, eczema, mood disorders, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, chemotherapy side effects
Green tea: antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-cancer; used to treat neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease cold and flu
Peppermint: antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory; used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, other gastric ailments, headaches, bad breath, clogged sinuses, fatigue, menstrual cramps, allergies
St. John’s Wort: antiviral; used to treat depression, anxiety, other mental disorders, insomnia
Tea tree oil: antimicrobial, immunosupportive; used to treat fungal infections, acne, skin tags, warts, infections
Valerian: used to treat anxiety, insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations
If you’re interested in exploring botanical medicine, the right provider can help you build a personalized plan to support your wellbeing. Connect with a credentialed expert who serves your area here.