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Rhodiola, rosemary, saffron and St John’s wort…And those are just a handful of the countless herbs filling up shelves in naturopathic clinics and health food stores. If you want to give herbal remedies a go, but are unsure where to begin, here is the low-down on the potential benefits of 10 popular herbs…

  1. St John’s wort: This is one of the most scientifically validated herbs for anxiety, demonstrating the ability to help reduce stress through several complex actions. For example, St John’s Wort can help increase the uptake of the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter serotonin.[i],[ii] According to a review of 19 studies with 5489 patients, particular St John’s Wort extracts are more effective than placebo in decreasing anxiety disorders.[iii] St John’s Wort cannot be taken with certain medications, so if you are taking medication speak to your healthcare practitioner about whether this herb is suitable for you.
  2. Rhodiola: Traditionally used in European, Asian and Russian medicine for encouraging good mood,[iv] rhodiola has shown the potential to improve adaptation to stress, provide nervous system support and inhibit action by the stress hormone cortisol.[v],[vi]
  3. Saffron: Not just for cooking, saffron in a dose of 30 mg a day has demonstrated the potential to help improve mood and alleviate anxiety sympyoms[vii],[viii],[ix] through multiple mechanisms, one being the enhancement of serotonin.[x],[xi],[xii]
  4. Mimosa: Also called the ‘happiness herb’ in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), mimosa has traditionally been used as a calming agent and is thought to help reduce irritability, sleeplessness and stress.[xiii]
  5. Perilla: The action of perilla is due to its rosmarinic acid content, which may help calm the immune and inflammatory response and alleviate allergic rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms, such as an itchy nose and itchy, watery eyes.[xiv] An impressive rhinoconjunctivitis study displayed that 50mg of rosmarinic acid provided symptom relief in 55.6% of patients, while a larger dose of 200mg provided symptom relief in 70%.[xv]
  6. Rosemary: Apart from packing a punch of flavour to your food, rosemary has additional antioxidant action.[xvi]  Antioxidants decrease damage by free radicals, which are hard to escape from today due to the prevalence of environmental toxins like cigarette smoke, pollution and pesticides. And if you are allergy-prone, rosemary may have even more benefit, as it contains anti-allergenic rosmarinic acid.
  7. Albizia: An Ayuverdic (ancient Indian) herb, albizia may provide allergy relief by preventing early sensitivities to allergens (for example, pollen and dust) and dampening down levels of antibodies (proteins that fight foreign bodies) and certain white blood cells involved in the immune response.[xvii]
  8. Fenugreek: Used for thousands of years in traditional Asian and Mediterranean cultures, fenugreek may assist normal healthy glucose by slowing carbohydrate absorption and increasing insulin secretion from the pancreas, particularly after eating high carbohydrate food.[xviii]
  9. Bitter melon: This herb may also give your blood sugar maintenance a helping hand by encouraging insulin secretion from the pancreas for glucose transport and regulating the uptake of glucose by cells for energy use.[xix] [xx] [xxi]
  10. Cranberry: This tart-tasting fruit may also alleviate cystitis, a bacterial bladder infection common to women that involves symptoms such as frequent, painful urination. Research has shown that 36mg of cranberry daily (in divided doses) is active against the E. coli bacteria in cystitis, decreasing its adhesion to the urinary tract wall. This mechanism is a result of special antioxidant compounds (proanthocyanidins) in cranberry.[xxii]

As you can see, every herb is unique, with each one providing benefits for individual health conditions. And that is the beauty of herbs – there is something for everyone!

Author: By Stephanie Berglin, Herbalist, Nutritionist, DBM, DipNut. Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about herbs and your health. For more health articles, go to www.bioceuticals.com.au/education/articles

 

[i] Sarris J, Panossian A, Schweitzer I, et al. Herbal medicine for depression, anxiety and insomnia: a review of psychopharmacology and clinical evidence. Eur Neuropsychopharm 2011;21(12):841-860.
[ii] Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and natural supplements: an evidence based guide, 3rd ed. Seattle: Eastland Press, 2010.
[iii] Linde K, Berner MM, Kriston L. St John’s wort for major depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic  Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD000448. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD000448.pub3.
[iv] Rhodiola rosea Monograph. Alt Med Review 2002; Jun;7(5):421-423.
[v] Sarris J, Panossian A, Schweitzer I, et al. Herbal medicine for depression, anxiety and insomnia: a review of psychopharmacology and clinical evidence: Eur Neuropsychopharm 2011;21(12):841-860.
[vi] Panossian A, Wikman Gm Sarris J. Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine 2010 Jun;17(7):481-493.
[vii] Basti AA, Moshini E, Noorbala AA, et al. Comparison of Crocus sativus L. and fluoxetine in the treatment of depressed outpatients: a pilot double-blind randomized trial. Prog Neuro-Psychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2007; 31:439-442.
[viii] Akhondzadeh S, Tahmacebi-Pour N, Noorbala AA, et al. Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytother Res 2005;19(2)148-151.
[ix] Akhondzadeh S, Fallah-Pour H, Afkham K, et al. Comparison of Crocus sativus L. and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized trial. BMC Complement Altern Med 2004;4(12).
[x] Basti AA, Moshini E, Noorbala AA, et al., loc. cit.
[xi] Akhondzadeh S, Tahmacebi-Pour N, Noorbala AA, et al., loc. cit.
[xii] Akhondzadeh S, Falleh-Pour H, Afkham K, et al., loc. cit.
[xiii] Bensky D, Clavey S, Stoger E. Chinese herbal medicine material medica, 3rd ed. Seattle: Eastland Press, 2004.
[xiv] Takano, H, Osakabe N, Sanbongi C, et al. Extract of Perilla frutescens enriched for rosmarinic acid, a polyphenolic phytochemical, inhibits seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in humans. EBM 2004:229:247-254.
[xv] ibid.
[xvi] Bone K. A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs. QLD: Churchill Livingstone, 2003.
[xvii] ibid.
[xviii] Sauvaire Y, Petit P, Broca C, et al. 4-hydroxyisoleucine: a novel amino acid potentiator of insulin secretion. Diabetes 1998;47:206-210.
[xix] Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and natural supplements: an evidence-based guide, 3rd edition. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2010.
[xx] Ahmed I, Adhgate E, Cummings E, et al. Beneficial effects and mechanism of action of Momordica charantia juice in the treatment of streptozotocin-induced diabetes mellitus in rat. Mol Cell Biochem 2004;261(1-2):63-70.
[xxi] Yeh GY, Eisenberg DM, Kaptchuk TJ, et al. Systematic review of herbs and dietary supplements for glycemic control in diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003;26:1277-1294.
[xxii] Jepson RG, Williams G, Craig JC. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database for System Reviews 2012, issue 10.
  • Very interesting and useful information.

    Reply

  • A great article and so many herbs to consider and use! Thanks.

    Reply

  • Some really fantastic herbs! St Johns Wort is fantastic

    Reply

  • This was an interesting mini article. Thanks for posting!

    Reply

  • Cranberry has become a favourite and is good for women.

    Reply

  • saffron is so redic expensive! but i wouldn’t really have a use for that herb besides saffron rice lol


    • yeah haven’t bought that for ages though

    Reply

  • Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative article; very useful and helpful too!

    Reply

  • Always great to use fresh herbs. Many varieties which I have not used.

    Reply

  • What an interesting read. I’ll have to keep an eye out for saffron & mimosa.

    Reply

  • Haven’t even heard of most of these

    Reply

  • I love the smell of fresh herbs.

    Reply

  • Quite a few I’ve never heard of, not sure I’d call cranberry a herb though?

    Reply

  • Have been using more cranberry in my diet, love the taste and of course the benefits.

    Reply

  • It always interesting to come across info of things that can help naturally. I’ve never heard of Albizia before though.

    Reply

  • I’m afraid I only use the very basic of herbs.

    Reply

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