Fratellone Medical Associates

Medicinal Herbs

Aloe (Aloe barbadensis) – may be useful in the treatment of wound and burn healing as well as in diabetes and elevated blood lipids in humans. These positive effects are thought to be due to the presence of compounds such as polysaccharides, mannans, anthraquinones and lectins.

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) – is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family that also called Indian ginseng and Winter cherry. The flowers are small and green, while the ripe fruit is orange-red and has milk-coagulating properties. The plant also has long brown tuberous roots that are used for medicinal purposes. This herb stands for prolonging life, sexual energy and enhancing vigor. As an adaptogen, it does not follow the rules.

Most adaptogens are stimulating but ashwaganda is a calming adaptogen. I have seen it used in India for cancer support and immune deficiency. I use the herb for iron deficiency anemia as it is rich in iron. In regard to thyroid, ashwaganda modifies the symptoms of low thyroid function. I have seen it combined in a thyroid formula with bladder wrack and coleus. Some companies add holy basil to enhance metabolic function.

Barberry (Berberis aquifolium) – is also known as pepperidge bushes. The historical use of barberry dates back 2,500 years. Indian folk medicine used this plant to treat diarrhea, reduce fever, improve appetite, relieve upset stomach and promote vigor. Today, it is widely used for medicinal purposes in treating biliary disorders (such as gallbladder disease) and heartburn. Barberry (Berberis species) and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) are often used for similar medicinal purposes because both herbs contain the chemical berberine.

Barberry is used to ease inflammation and infection of the urinary (bladder and urinary tract infections), gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts (sore throat, nasal congestion, sinusitis, bronchitis) as well as Candida (yeast) infections of the skin or vagina. Barberry extract may also improve symptoms of certain skin conditions including psoriasis and eczema.

Barberry may also be an effective treatment for diarrhea (including traveler’s diarrhea and diarrhea caused by food poisoning). I would always use probiotics when taking barberry. Barberry is available in capsules, fluid extracts, tinctures and as a topical ointment. I prefer to use tinctures and recommend 3 – 6 ml (1/2 to 1 1/2 tsp, 3 times daily). All herbs are drugs and interact with other herbs or conventional medications. Herbs can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care and under the supervision of a health care provider. Barberry can interfere with antibiotics, blood thinners, sugar, medications and antihistamines.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – is a tender low-growing herb of the family Lamiaceae (mints). Remember lemon balm, peppermint and spearmint are also in the Lamiaceae/mint family. As most of us know, basil is a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine and also plays a major role in the Southeast Asian cuisines of Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The plant tastes somewhat like anise with a strong, pungent and sweet smell. Besides the dwarf basil, there are many varieties of basil. The one used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil, as opposed to Thai basil, lemon basil and holy basil, which are used in Asia. While most common varieties of basil are treated as annuals, some are perennial in warm, tropical climates such as African Blue and Holy Thai Basil.

Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana) – is also known as Cascara Buckthorn, Cascara and Bearberry. It is a species of buckthorn native to western North America.

The use of cascara is not new. Both native and immigrant Americans have used the dried, aged bark of this tree continually for at least 1,000 years as a natural laxative. It was commercially called "Cascara Sagrada", which means "sacred bark" in Spanish.

Cascara sagrada was accepted in medical practices in the United States in 1877, and by 1890 had replaced the berries of the European Buckthorn (R. catharticus) as a commonly used laxative. It was the principal ingredient in many commercial, over-the-counter laxatives in North American pharmacies until 2002, which is when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule banning the use of aloe and cascara sagrada as laxative ingredients in over-the-counter drug products.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) – is a plant in the Lamiaceae/mint family also known as catswort or catmint. Nepeta cataria is mostly used as a recreational substance for feline enjoyment. The plant will affect two out of every three cats. Both the leaves and the flowers can be used. Catnip is also used as a gastric nervine, which means it is often used for a person with nervousness and some stomach problems.

It can be used as a tea or tincture. It can be combined with other herbs. It will not stop your bleeding if you have Crohn’s or Ulcerative colitis but is recommended for IBS (irritable bowl syndrome).

Chamomile (Matriacaria chamomilla) – is a common name for several daisy-like plants meaning "earth-apple" for their apple-like scent. These plants are best known for their ability to be made into a tea, which is commonly used to help with sleep and can be served with either honey or lemon.

Chrysin, a specific flavinoid found in chamomile, has been shown to be anxiolytic in animals and is believed to be at least partially responsible for chamomile’s reputation as a sleep aid. It is known to reduce stress. German or blue chamomile is commonly used in tea.

Eyebright (Euphrasia) – is a genus of about 450 species of herbaceous flowering plants in the Orobanchaceae family. They are semi-parasitic on grasses. The common name refers to the plant’s use in treating eye infections. Many species are found in alpine or sub-alpine meadows where snow is common.

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) – is an herbal remedy dating back to at least ancient Roman and Greek medicine. It was used traditionally to stop bleeding, heal ulcers and wounds and treat tuberculosis and kidney problems. The name Equisetum is derived from the Latin roots equus, meaning "horse," and seta, meaning "bristle". Horsetail contains silicon, which plays a role in strengthening bone. For that reason, it is sometimes suggested as a treatment for osteoporosis. Silica is also needed for strong nails and hair support, which explains this herb’s role in hair growth. Horsetail is an astringent herb and has a diuretic action. It has an affinity for the urinary tract where it can be used to soothe inflammation. I have used it to treat kidney stones, cystitis and prostatis.

Goldenrods (Solidago ssp) – is a genus of flowering plants in the Family Asteraceae. There are about 100 perennial species that make up the genus Solidago, most being found in the meadows and pastures, along roads, ditches and waste areas in North America. Probably due to their bright, golden yellow flower heads in late summer, the goldenrod is often unfairly blamed for causing hay fever in humans. The pollen causing these allergy problems is mainly produced by Ragweed (Ambrosia sp.), blooming at the same time as the goldenrod, but is wind-pollinated. Goldenrods are easily recognized by their golden inflorescence .

Green Tea (Camillia sinensis) – is consumed only second to water for enjoyment and for health. Green tea originates from China and seems to be always associated with Asia, Japan and the Far East. There are many varieties of green tea. They vary from how these are grown, harvested and even processed.

Over the last ten years, there has been much scientific research on the health benefits of green tea. The Journal of Science and Healing in November/December, 2006 reviewed all articles about green tea. In The American Journal of Nutrition, September 2009, another study appeared. This study had to do with the fact that green tea improves lung health. The study concluded that daily consumption of green tea reduced the risk of pneumonia-related deaths. It also evaluated the number of cups one should drink. In many reviews, the amount of green tea consumption can be as high as 30 cups/day. A Japanese study evaluated 1-2 cups, 3-4 cups/day and 5 or more cups/day of tea resulting in decreasing death by 41%, 45% and 47% respectively. This study was done for Japanese women. There are so many professional reviews on this topic. In November 2009, it was found that oral green tea polyphenols were not found to prevent skin photo-aging. So why is green tea in herbal cosmetic products? There are many studies indicating green tea is beneficial for a variety of cancers. In October 2009, a study confirmed that green tea consumption may decrease the risk of gastric (stomach) cancer in women. In August 2009, there was a study indicating that obesity could be treated through the use of green tea extract.

Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata) – is a species of Lobelia native to eastern North America. Indian Tobacco is still used today. The most potent part of the plant is the seed because it contains the most lobeline, which is the main ingredient that gives the plant its psychoactive property. It is sold widely in online herbal shops and is prized among entheogen users. Its taste is reminiscent of real tobacco, acrid and burning, and it promotes the heavier flow of saliva.

A common misconception is that when smoked, it yields a euphoric "high"-like feeling. It actually produces a more relaxant-like effect. It can work instantly for allergic asthma. The strongest part of the plant is used–the flowers. All parts of the plant can be used as medicine. Lobelia can be used to stop cravings from nicotine. The main use for Lobelia is for asthma. It is also sometimes called Asthma Weed.

Licorice (Glycyrrhizea glabra) – has an impressive list of well-documented uses and is probably one of the most overlooked of all herbal remedies. It is used for many ailments including asthma, athlete’s foot, baldness, body odor, bursitis, canker sores, chronic fatigue, depression, colds and flu, coughs, dandruff, emphysema, gingivitis and tooth decay, gout, heartburn, HIV, viral infections, fungal infections, ulcers, liver problems, Lyme disease, menopause, psoriasis, shingles, sore throat, tendonitis, tuberculosis, ulcers, yeast infections, prostate enlargement and arthriti

Licorice root also contains many anti-depressant compounds and is an excellent alternative to St. John’s Wort. I do think that licorice is under-tilized in clinical practice.

Licorice also appears to enhance immunity by boosting levels of interferon, which is a key immune system chemical that fights off attacking viruses. It also contains powerful antioxidants as well as certain phytoestrogens that can perform some of the functions of the body’s natural estrogens and are very helpful during menopause. Glycyrrhizinic acid also seems to stop the growth of many bacteria and of viruses such as influenza A. In the respiratory system, it has a similarly soothing and healing action, reducing irritation and inflammation and has an expectorant effect, useful in irritating coughs, asthma and chest infections. I usually use ginger or elderberry cough syrups. Its anti-allergenic effect is very useful for hay fever, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis and bronchial asthma.

Licorice has an aspirin-like action and is helpful in relieving fevers and soothing pain such as headaches. If a patient is on aspirin, Plavix or Coumadin, then please consult a health care practitioner before taking Licorice.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) – is a perennial herb in the family Rosaceae, which grows in damp meadows. It is mainly an anti-inflammatory herb. It is native throughout most of Europe and western Asia though it has been introduced and naturalized in North America.

Meadowsweet has also been referred to as Queen of the Meadow, Pride of the Meadow, Meadow-Wort, Meadow Queen, Lady of the Meadow, Doll of Meadsweet and Bridewort. Since Meadowsweet has anti-inflammatory properties, it can be used for both IBS and the two diseases, Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. These two diseases are known as Inflammatory Bowel Disorders (IBD).

Meadowsweet is more about the anti-inflammatory properties and less about the nervous system properties. It is not only specific for the gastrointestinal tract but it acts as a good general anti-inflammatory herb. It is best used as a tincture, fresh or dried herb. Meadowsweet is unique in because it contains methylsalicyclates. It acts like another herb, Wintergreen. Other herbs that have this compound are the birch tree. The herb has three active ingredients: compounds of salicylic acid, flavone-glycosides, essential oils and tannins. The history of this herb dates even further back. Nicholas Culpeper, a seventeenth-century English pharmacist, mentioned its use to help break fevers and promote sweating during a cold or flu. In 1897, Felix Hoffman created a synthetically altered version of salicin derived from the species, which caused less digestive upset than pure salicylic acid. The new drug, formally Acetylsalicylic acid, was named aspirin by Hoffman’s employer Bayer AG after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spiraea ulmaria.

The whole herb possesses a pleasant taste and flavor. The green parts have a similar aromatic character to the flowers, which led to the use of the plant as a strewing herb. Strewing herbs are certain kinds of plants that are scattered (strewn) over the floors of dwelling places and other buildings. Such plants usually have fragrant or astringent smells, and many also serve as insecticides or disinfectants.

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) – is often associated with its use in liver disease such as hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis or toxicity from medications. Silymarin has two substances, silibinin and silicristin, that stimulate and proliferate kidney cells. By taking silymarin, protection to the kidneys from toxic substances is provided. Also. the component silibinin has anti-carcinogenic properties. It is a useful antioxidant. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. Research has also shown silibinin to be effective in stopping the growth of human breast cancer cells. Some studies have shown that when Milk Thistle is applied topically, it inhibits the growth of skin cancer.

Milk thistles are thistles of the genus Silybum Adans, which are flowering plants of the daisy family (Asteraceae).. However, it is the seeds of milk thistle that herbalists have used for 2000 years to treat chronic liver.

Pot Marigold (Calendula) – is a genus of about 12-20 species of annual or perennial herbaceous plants in the daisy family Asteraceae, Calendula should not be confused with other plants that are also known as marigolds, such as plants of the genus Tagetes, corn marigolds or marsh marigolds.

The name Calendula stems from the Latin kalendae, meaning the first day of the month, presumably because Pot Marigolds are in bloom at the start of most months of the year. Pot Marigolds typically bloom quickly (in under two months) in bright yellows, reds, and oranges throughout the summer and well into the fall. Pot Marigolds are considered by many gardening experts as one of the most versatile flowers to grow in a garden, especially since it is easy to grow.. It is recommended to deadhead (removal of dying flower heads) the plants regularly to maintain even blossom production. This is the same for basil.

When people see that calendula is in any herbal preparation, it makes it an easy sell. People like calendula because of the smell and its medicinal properties. It is easily used with other herbs. Calendula alone does very little harm. It is called a vulnerary, which means a ‘wound healing agent’. Calendula acts as a skin disinfectant and repairs or restores skin cells. As a soak, it is combined with yarrow. Another soaking herb is comfrey. It is used topically as a face wash. It can be used for eczema and psoriasis. It is also used for diaper rash. One important note: Never use calendula when the wound is active. Therefore, it is never used for the Staphylococcus infection, Impetigo. I have seen it used in post-herpetic or post-varicella (shingles) rashes or discolorations on the skin. I would not use it when the shingles or herpes is in its active, blistering vesicular form. It is a mild immune stimulant. It is used as a lymphogogue and splenogogue, thus moving lymph and spleen respectively.

Sarsaparilla (Smila) – has long been used as a blood purifier and tonic that boosts stamina and energy. Although there is no definitive evidence, many body-builders strongly maintain that Sarsaparilla helps to build muscle mass while avoiding the harmful side effects of anabolic steroids.

Sarsaparilla is considered a fine tonic herb, an antibacterial and an anti-inflammatory and the herb may even act as an aphrodisiac. It contains vitamins A, B-complex, C and D as well as the minerals iron, manganese, sodium, silicon, sulfur, copper, zinc and iodine. It contains the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Sarsaparilla was used to treat syphilis in the late 1800’s and 1920’s.
Sarsaparilla is considered to be a fine tonic and blood purifier that is said to attack and neutralize toxins (including environmental poisons) in the blood. In addition, the herb also promotes urination and sweating, which further rids the body of toxins through bodily secretions. It also helps to cool the body and break intermittent fevers.

As an antibacterial, Sarsaparilla has been used internally and externally to counteract infections of all kinds. Internally, the herb is said to attack microbial substances in the blood and also counteract urinary tract infections. Sarsaparilla is an anti-inflammatory that is believed to ease rheumatism, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Because of its diuretic properties, the stimulation of urine production increases the excretion of uric acid, which also helps to relieve gout.

There is much mystique and controversy surrounding Sarsaparilla’s hormonal properties in both men and women. In men, the herb is said to stimulate production of natural hormones (testosterone), which may help to restore both sexual interest and erectile function. This action is different from many other male aphrodisiacs that act by increasing blood to the penis, which also carries the risk of creating high blood pressure. Sarsaparilla is a woody, perennial, climbing vine.

Senna (Cassia senna) – is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Fabaceae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae About 50 species of Senna are known in cultivation. There are many species of Senna for a variety of purposes. Siamese Senna (S. siamea) leaves can be eaten as a vegetable. Cassia gum, which is a commonly used thickening agent, is actually from Chinese Senna (S. obtusifolia) seeds. Another senna, Senna italica (Cassia obovata), is often called "neutral henna" and is used as a hair treatment with effects similar to henna but without the red color.

Sennas have played a major role in herbalism and folk medicine. Alexandrian Senna (S. alexandrina) was and still is a significant item of trans-national trade. Senna alexandrina is used in modern medicine as a laxative, acting on the lower bowel. It is especially useful in alleviating constipation. It increases the peristaltic movements of the colon by irritating the colonic mucosa.

Resveratrol was first isolated from Senna quinquangulata. The long-standing use of (mainly) Alexandrian Senna is reflected by its presence in many herbal remedies and tonics. Senna is also the primary ingredient found in most "dieter’s teas". The combination of acting as a stimulant, which reduces a dieter’s appetite, and the laxative properties that cause food to move through their system before as many calories can be absorbed is a combination that can lead to rapid and even dangerous weight loss. The major side effect of taking Senna medication regularly is Melanosis coli, which is a brown discoloration of the colon wall.

White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) – is a plant in the family Plantaginaceae (the plantain family. Other common names for this plant are Balmony and Turtlehead. The herb may be found growing in moderation along the borders of marsh lands, rivers and wet woods. The balmony leaves possess a faint smell that fairly resembles tea and have a noticeably bitter flavor. Indigenous Americans consumed the bitter leaves of Balmony as it possesses aspects of an effective purgative. In addition, the Balmony leaves have also been conventionally used to cure worms in the body. Present-day herbal medicine practitioners prescribe Balmony for its ability to stimulate the functions of the liver. In fact, the herb serves as an effective liver tonic.

It has a variety of other uses. The Balmony leaves are medicinally very useful as they are anti-nauseous, meaning that they are able to eliminate parasitic worms in the body, act as a cleansing agent and possess a tonic or stimulating property. Elements enclosed in the Balmony leaves have an unusual action on the liver and hence the leaves are normally utilized for eating as well as to cure conditions such as indigestion or dyspepsia, weakness or debility, jaundice and liver disorders. The natives of North America have been using the herb to cure several ailments and it has been considered to be an effective and popular tonic, purgative and laxative since then.

Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) – is also known as Curly Dock, Yellow Dock, Sour Dock, Narrow Dock. It is a perennial flowering plant in the family Polygonaceae, native to Europe and western Asia.

Yellow Dock has a bitter taste as the plant matures. Some people use yellow dock as a wild vegetable and add it to their salad. The young leaves should be boiled in several changes of water to remove as much of the oxalic acid in the leaves as possible. Dock leaves are an excellent source of both vitamin A and protein and are rich in iron and potassium.

Curly Dock leaves are somewhat tart due to the presence of high levels of oxalic acid and although quite palatable, this plant should only be consumed in moderation because it can irritate the urinary tract and increase the risk of developing kidney stones. The roots have also been used medicinally as an astringent, tonic and laxative.

Compounds contained in the plant’s roots have been clinically verified to bind with heavy metals such as lead and arsenic and expel them from the body by stimulating biliary function in the liver.