Rich in soluble fiber, psyllium seeds and their husks have long been enlisted to ease constipation and digestive system upset. During the Middle Ages, Arab physicians regularly recommended a formula for constipation that included psyllium as a principal ingredient. Today, a number of studies suggest that psyllium may also be effective in lowering cholesterol, promoting weight loss (it makes you feel full), and aiding numerous other conditions.
Most medicinal preparations of buckthorn bark are made from the European buckthorn shrub, also known as black dogwood (Rhamnus frangula), which is native to Europe and western parts of Asia. The bark of the trunks and branches is dried and seasoned.
Vitamin C, an essential antioxidant, is often sold with plant-based substances called flavonoids in a single product. While each supplement can be purchased individually, there are several reasons to consider a product that combines the two.
For one, flavonoids–the catchall term for some 4,000 antioxidant compounds responsible for the color and numerous health benefits of fruits, vegetables, and herbs–enhance the body’s absorption of vitamin C. Key flavonoids include quercetin, rutin, genistein, grape seed extract, and naringen.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), a common shrub-like perennial, bears bright yellow flowers that contain numerous therapeutic substances when dried. Europeans have used the herb for centuries to calm jangled nerves and heal wounds, among other ills. And so it’s not surprising that North Americans have recently embraced its use as a treatment for depression and conditions associated with it.
From generation to generation, the majestic oak tree has provided shade on sunny days, timber for furniture-makers and ship-builders, and even food in times of famine. Many Native American tribes relied on its acorns for nourishment.
Not surprisingly, medicinal uses for the oak tree have a long history as well. Of the hundreds of Quercus species found in the northern hemisphere, Quercus alba is most valued in North America for medicinal purposes. Europeans rely more heavily on Quercus robur and Q. petraea.
A source of fiber for linen fabric since ancient times, the slender flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) also boasts a long history as a healing herb. First cultivated in Europe, the plant’s brown seeds were regularly used to prepare balms for inflamed skin and healing slurries for constipation. Today, flaxseeds–also called linseeds–are best known for the therapeutic oil that is derived by pressing them. Rich in essential fatty acids, or EFAs, flaxseed oil has earned a solid reputation for treating a range of ailments, from heart disease to lupus.
Flavonoids is the umbrella term given to some 4,000 compounds that impart the colorful pigment to fruits, vegetables and herbs. Also found in legumes, grains and nuts, flavonoids can act as effective antivirals, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines and antioxidants. They’re useful for reducing cancer risk and serve to prevent or treat a wide variety of conditions.
he stiff spines of butcher’s broom, an evergreen bush (Ruscus aculeatus) native to the Mediterranean region, were once popular for making brooms (hence the herb’s name). For centuries, people also consumed this herb, which is closely related to asparagus, as a vegetable.
The prickly stemmed, flowering blackberry bushes that grow wild across parts of Europe and North America yield plump, blue-black berries for eating as well as for healing. Ancient Greeks called the plant “goutberry” because it was relied upon to lessen gout-related joint pain. Traveling salesmen of yore were known to tuck a flask of blackberry brandy into their bags to treat the loose stools that often occurred after eating unfamiliar foods. Today, blackberry is probably best known for this very use–as a soothing remedy for diarrhea.
The yellow, star-shaped blossoms of Agrimonia eupatoria, an herb found throughout the northern hemisphere, have long been used as a remedy for diarrhea and a host of other ailments. Legend has it, for instance, that the ancient Greeks soothed eye problems with agrimony, and the Anglo-Saxons treated wounds with it as well.