The Global Herbal by Marita A. Orr
In the last issue, we talked about the mythological origin of Chinese herbalism with the Emperor Shen Nung, and his experiments with medicines, herbs, and poisons. Health assessment methods using the Five Elements and Yin and Yang were discussed. In this issue, Marita goes into some of the individual herbs and modalities of treatment….
Because it is a safe, inexpensive solution to health problems of all kinds, Chinese herbalism is very popular in China. In recent years, herbalism has been modernized with the introduction of quality control. Because they are standardized, Chinese herbs are safer for self-treatment. This puts the individual, not the physician, in charge of the individual's health; that is a basic goal of Chinese herbalism. Chinese herbalism offers unique advice regarding what foods can help and what can hinder, and an herbalist can help an individual discover what he is allergic to. In addition, Chinese herbs stimulate the immune system and provide beneficial nutrients, aside from their role in curing illness. There are many herbs to choose from. I have chosen the following herbs because of their potential for helping with cancer and the many side effects that it entails.
One of the most talked about herbs from Asia is Astragalus. Astragalus membranaceus. Has been used since ancient times in Traditional Chinese Medicine, It is an important remedy in the west since its effects upon the immune system have been revealed. As the power of immunological research is focused on medicinal herbs a whole new array of effects are being discovered. The polysaccharides in Astragalus have been shown to intensify phagocytosis of reticulo-endothelial systems, stimulate pituitary-adrenal cortical activity and restore depleted red blood cell formation in bone marrow. Astragalus is also one of the herbs known to stimulate the bodies natural production of interferon. The therapeutic potential offered is very exciting. The conclusion being drawn by most western herbalist's is that Astragalus is an ideal remedy for anyone who might be immune-compromised in any way. This can range from someone who easily `catches' colds to someone with cancer. Prepared as a decoction. Put l teaspoonful of the root into a cup of water, bring to boil and simmer for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. As a tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day. It is the herb of choice where the immune system has been damaged by chemicals or radiation and can be used by patients who are under treatment since it is extremely safe. In this recipe, Astragalus also helps make the entire butter more digestible. Pumpkin seeds and sesame oil both have some anti-parasitic properties. Using Astragalus in the nut butter adds an immune boosting quality to the spread without damaging the taste. The honey adds flavor and shelf life.
2 pounds tahini
14 oz. Pumpkin butter
7 oz. Sesame oil (or pumpkin seed oil)
6 oz. Powdered Astragalus
Honey to taste
Instructions:Gently warm tahini and pumpkin butter in a double boiler at a very low temperature. When smooth enough to stir relatively easily, add Astragalus powder and enough sesame oil to give a good consistency. Remove from heat and add unfiltered honey to taste. Be sure not to add water nor permit steam condensation to remain in the butter as this will promote the growth of mold. Use this as a substitute for peanut butter. It tastes fabulous and is very healthy.
Asian ginseng common Names are Asian ginseng, ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, Asiatic ginseng. It’s Latin Name is Panax ginseng. Asian ginseng is a light tan, gnarled root, sometimes resembling a human body, with stringy shoots that look like arms and legs. Hundreds of years ago, herbalists took this appearance to mean that ginseng could cure all human ills, and it has, in fact, been used as a "cure-all" in many different cultures. The Chinese view ginseng as the king of herbs -- one that brings longevity, strength, and wisdom to its users. Claims for Asian ginseng are numerous and include the use of the herb to support overall health and boost the immune system. Traditional and modern uses of ginseng include are that it improves the health of people recovering from illness. It also increases a sense of well-being and stamina, and improving both mental and physical performance. The root of Asian ginseng also contains active chemical components called ginsenosides (or panaxosides) that are thought to be responsible for the herb's medicinal properties. The root is dried and used to make tablets or capsules, extracts, and teas, as well as creams or other preparations for external use. Some studies have shown that Asian ginseng may lower blood glucose. Other studies indicate possible beneficial effects on immune function. To date, research results on Asian ginseng are not conclusive enough to prove health claims associated with the herb. Several clinical studies support the use of Asian ginseng in the treatment and possible prevention of cancer. A study comparing groups of people over time suggests that regular intake of Asian ginseng may reduce the chances of getting various types of cancer, especially lung, liver, stomach, pancreatic, and ovarian. In this particular study, this benefit was not observed for breast, cervical, or bladder cancers. Preliminary results of other research suggest that Asian ginseng may improve treatment of colon cancer in animals. More research is needed. Asian Ginseng is also used in Treating erectile dysfunction, hepatitis C, and symptoms related to menopause. It can also be used to Lower blood glucose and controlling blood pressure. It could be helpful in treating alcohol intoxication. The herb may accomplish this by speeding up the metabolism (break down) of alcohol, thus, allowing it to clear more quickly from the body (lowering blood alcohol content). Animal research also suggests that Asian ginseng may reduce the absorption of alcohol from the stomach.
When it is taken by mouth, ginseng is usually well tolerated. Some sources suggest that its use be limited to 3 months because of concerns about the development of side effects. The most common side effects are headaches and sleep and gastrointestinal problems. Asian ginseng can cause allergic reactions. There have been reports of breast tenderness, menstrual irregularities, and high blood pressure associated with Asian ginseng products, but these products' components were not analyzed, so effects may have been due to another herb or drug in the product. People with diabetes should use extra caution with Asian ginseng, especially if they are using medicines to lower blood sugar or taking other herbs, such as bitter melon and fenugreek, that are also thought to lower blood sugar.
Ginseng Tonic Tea - for fatigue
1 part white Asian ginseng root
1 part red Asian ginseng root
1/2 part Chinese licorice root
1/2 part Chinese red jujube date
Steep 1 tablespoon in 1 cup of boiling hot water
Red Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum), commonly known as Ling Zhi in Chinese, is a herbal mushroom known to have miraculous health benefits. Red Reishi are antler-shaped mushrooms. It has been used in Japan and China for over 2,000 years and thus making it the oldest mushroom known to have been used as medicine. Since ancient times, the Reishi mushroom was reserved for emperors and royalties. It has been revered as nature’s rarest and most beneficial herb. In the Superior category of Shen Nung Ben Cao Jing, the oldest and most famous medical text on Oriental herbal medicine, red Reishi is ranked as taken regularly, it can restore the body to its natural state, enabling all organs to function normally. It is also an Immune modulator, it regulates and fine tunes the immune system. It is the number one herb, ahead of ginseng, because of its following qualities. Highly ranked in Chinese medicine, the Reishi mushroom is non-toxic and can be taken long term without any side effects. When added to your daily regime, Reishi can help the body regain and maintain a state of health. It also regulates the immune system so that it works efficiently to keep you healthy.
Reishi mushrooms contain amino acids, proteins, polysaccharides and triterpenoids. These active ingredients have benefits for the body including anti-tumor action and helping the body use oxygen more efficiently. Studies done in Japan, the USA, China and the UK over the past thirty years repeatedly show that taking Reishi has resulted in a reduction in disease, every day ailments and an improvement in the body's condition. Reishi has benefits for every organ system in the body. The studies also support the use of Reishi as a general tonic. It normalizes the body's organs and functions and maintains health. Called an adaptogen, Reishi helps the body adapt to various stresses like sleep deprivation, temperature, toxin exposure, infection, psychological stress and trauma. Reishi mushroom is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and helps fight off tumors. It helps allergies by lowering histamine reactions. It can lower blood pressure and has antioxidant qualities. Reishi encourages the proliferation of bone marrow cells. It can help lower serum cholesterol levels and is a tonic for the heart and liver. This mushroom reduces the effects of caffeine. It boosts the immune system, and is showing promise for dealing with HIV. It improves the adrenal functions as well. It is used as a sedative for dizziness and insomnia, as well as being a general aid for weakness. Reishi is showing great promise for asthma and other respiratory problems. It strengthens the bronchial cells and can relieve coughing. A large study in China reported that 60% to 90% of the participants felt better within two weeks after beginning Reishi, even though they had chronic bronchitis.
Reishi mushrooms have no known side effects to worry about, but as with every herb a person should test a small amount to be sure that they are not allergic to the mushroom. Some people may experience some symptoms of detoxification in their bodies, such as mild stomach upset, dizziness, rash or sore bones. These symptoms are temporary and due to the excretion of accumulated toxins in the body. Feeling these symptoms tells you that the Reishi is doing its job. There are no known contraindications or drug interactions for Reishi mushroom. Reishi is even safe for children and And pregnant women. Reishi mushroom is available as commercial preparations like tablets, injections, tinctures, capsules and teas. This mushroom can also be made into syrups or added to soups.
Besides physical benefits, the Reishi mushroom also elevates the mood. In Chinese medicine, it is said that Reishi makes a person more spiritual. The ancient herbalists called Reishi the herb of spiritual potency and used it to promote longevity. Considered among the most powerful natural healing herbs in Asia, it was very rare and expensive to obtain until recently. Asian cultures have also used Reishi, rendered in jade, as a talisman worn around the neck. Sometimes, whole, dried Reishi are placed in the home to ward off evil energies.
Traditional Reishi Soup
If possible, use a Chinese double boiler. If not, clay, Pyrex or stainless steel pans work. Combine 3 one inch sections of Red Reishi with a chicken thigh or your favorite vegetables in 3 cups water. Add a few slices of ginger or mashed garlic cloves. Cover and simmer at a very low heat for 1 to 3 hours.
Holy basil, ocimum sanctum, or tulsi, is an herb commonly used in Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines. It has a spicy, peppery flavor unlike that of the sweet basil common in most American markets. Holy basil has both medicinal and spiritual significance in Ayurveda . It is sometimes planted near Hindu shrines. It is sacred to Lord Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation and is considered purifying to body, mind and spirit. A living Tulsi plant is kept in many Indian homes where it is endowed with a sacred aura and believed to provide divine protection for the household. Rosaries made from its cut stems are commonly used as meditation beads. Closely related to the sweet basil plant widely available in the West, holy basil has been used as a valued culinary and medicinal herb. Its traditional use has been in the treatment of colds and flues where its purifying actions are believed to cleanse the respiratory tract of toxins. It is also helpful in the relief of digestive gas and bloating. Recent scientific reports have confirmed the healing properties of holy basil in medical conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer.
Holy basil is reputed to be antibacterial, a strong antioxidant and roughly as effective as aspirin in alleviating pain and swelling. Some herbalists recommend it for treating allergies and fighting colds and flu. because it grows best in tropical climates. In addition to its ability to dampen the chemical changes of stress, holy basil also appears to influence the neurochemistry of the brain in a manner similar to antidepressant medications. These interesting pharmacological properties have recently been applied to different clinical situations with potentially important results. A number of studies have looked at the ability of holy basil to protect healthy cells from the toxicity associated with radiation and chemotherapy for cancer. Components of holy basil consistently limit the damage that radiation causes to the bone marrow and digestive tract in animals. When the cells were looked at microscopically, those animals that received holy basil had less chromosomal damage than those that received a placebo. Holy basil has also been shown to protect the heart from damage caused by a widely used chemotherapy drug, adriamycin. It seems to work by protecting components of heart and liver cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals generated by the chemotherapy. Other studies have shown holy basil to have a protective effect against chemical carcinogens. Adding to its potential value in the prevention and treatment of cancer, holy basil has also been shown to enhance different aspects of the immune response in animals.
Another medical condition that holy basil may benefit is diabetes. Studies have shown holy basil to have substantial blood sugar lowering effects, similar to standard oral diabetes medications. It also appears capable of lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Diabetes is one of the few areas where holy basil has been formally tested in people. It has a history of traditional use but has received little scientific scrutiny. Not much is known about its long-term safety. Few side effects have been noted. It can be used in cooking but heat treatment renders much of the tulsi’s natural chemicals impotent, thus reducing its healing prowess. It is better to eat it raw. Use this easy to make spread, as a condiment on sandwiches, a base for salad dressings, and a main flavor contender for your next grill party.
Pick fresh basil leaves.
Place in blender or food processor.
Blend with enough oil to make a smooth paste.
Add pinch of salt to taste.
Add one teaspoon of lemon juice per cup of spread to prevent discoloring.
Use as a spread. Can be frozen for winter use.
Use plain, as a spread on sandwiches. Try fresh sliced tomato!
Thin with a bit more oil and vinegar for a fresh salad dressing.
Add enough oil to make a thin slurry, baste chicken on the grill.
Add equal parts mayo and sour cream for a great veggie dip.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) products come from the leaves of the only surviving member of the ginkgo family, a species that has existed for more than 200 million years. Most commercial leaf production is from plantations in South Carolina, France, and China. Ginkgo leaf has been cultivated since the fifteenth century in China, where the leaves were used to “benefit the brain” and treat lung disorders, cough and asthma symptoms, and diarrhea. Today, ginkgo is one of the best-selling herbal medicines in Europe. Most research focuses on using ginkgo to increase circulation to the extremities and the brain, and more than 400 scientific studies support its use for this. Scientists attribute ginkgo’s health benefits to unique compounds called flavone glycosides and ginkgolides, which inhibit development of cardiovascular, inflammatory, and respiratory disorders. Ginkgo is a strong antioxidant—it directs its free-radical scavenging activity to the brain, central nervous system, and cardiovascular system. This is what makes it promising in the treatment of age-related declines of brain function. In the January-February issue of the journal Anticancer Research, the investigators reported that treating mice with an extract of leaves of Ginkgo biloba both before and after implanting human breast or brain (glioma) tumors decreased expression of a cell receptor associated with invasive cancer. This decreased expression slowed the growth of the breast tumors by 80 percent as long as the extract was used, compared to untreated mice, and also reduced the size of the brain tumors, but temporarily, and to a lesser extent. It is very encouraging that Ginkgo biloba appeared to reduce the aggressiveness of these cancers, because it suggests that the leaves could be useful in some early stage diseases to prevent them from becoming invasive, or spreading. But I must stress that this is a study in mice, and so we cannot say what anticancer effects, if any, Gingko biloba might offer humans A typical dose is three capsules containing at least 40 mg of standardized extract daily. It must be used for six to eight weeks to produce results. Ginkgo can cause gastrointestinal upset, headaches, or skin allergies.
The following recipe comes from 5 generations of Chinese families It is served at the country's first medicinal herb restaurant, the Emperor in San Francisco.
Cook 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of water until tender. Cook 1/2 cup of ginkgo nuts (available from Chinese food stores or ethnic sections in many natural foods stores or supermarkets) in enough water to cover them until tender. Add the ginkgo water to the rice and blend until creamy, add the ginkgo nuts and blend a little until the nuts are partly chopped, then heat the porridge until hot and serve forth in a porcelain pot. Flavoring spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice can be added, if desired.