The herbs and the natural medical plants are still proving very faithful.
Herbal medicine has come a long way since pioneer days, and we now have institutes of phytotherapy (phyto means plant) or herbal medicine. In Europe, a great deal of research is being done every day and there are many institutes of phytotherapy. The institute which I belong to, the National Institute of Medical Herbalists of Great Britain, was established in 1864, and it is the oldest association of practicing herbalists in existence today. It operates the School of Herbal Medicine in Sussex which conducts a four year course and includes the study of the traditional medical subjects such as pathology, physiology, anatomy and biochemistry. In addition to that, plant remedies are studied in great detail including the pharmacalogical properties of the plants. Some plants contain over 170 different chemicals. These chemicals work together, and that is really the essence of the difference between allopathy and herbal medicine in its holistic approach. When pharmaceutical interests began to synthesize plant drugs, they eliminated the complete package that nature had presented us with. Among those 170 different constituents, you have buffers, tannins and mucilages. These things slow down or cushion the effect of the essential or active ingredients of the plants. But when we throw away nature's package, we are left with something that is very brutal and harsh on our systems. This results in the side effects we experience with pharmaceutical drugs.
Many of us are under stress and stress affects the body in many ways. We live in sealed buildings with no fresh air and we need to find ways of relieving the nervous system from the effects of this stress. Many of us suffer from lung problems. We suffer from problems caused by drinking water which has been polluted by steel mills and other industries. We get all sorts of pollution in our food as well. Chemicals enter our body which did not even exist before the 1940's. We put fungicides and pesticides on our soil and have very little control over what we are eating unless we are very careful and grow our own produce organically. What happens when our liver has to deal with these man made chemicals? Our liver is the same organ we had as primitive man and there is no evidence that the liver is able to handle man-made molecules. As a result, we have invented new diseases. Let's think about what we can actually do to help the liver. The first thing we must do is clean up our environment or we really won't survive this part of our history. In the meantime, to help us along, the herbs and the natural medical plants are still proving very faithful.
Dandelions are the first victims of our industrialized society. We now have organizations who go around and spray carcinogenic chemicals on our lawns to get rid of the dandelions. And yet, the dandelion is capable of extracting heavy metals from the tissues of the human body. That is a pretty remarkable thing. It would certainly make a lot more sense to dig up the dandelion roots and use them as a coffee or tea or simply chew them in a salad than to spray the lawn with toxic chemicals. The dandelion is an old standby in herbal medicine. It might be given to almost every patient. It is a perfectly safe plant. It is an ideal restorative for the liver. It is a choleretic, that is it increases the production and flow of bile through the liver. When you have bile flowing through the liver, cleansing is taking place. That's why it's such a wonderful plant. Dandelion then gives us an additional gift. We can also use the leaves of the dandelion and they are an excellent remedy for many kidney problems. Dandelion leaves are diuretic. Pharmaceutical diuretics will drain many minerals out of your body, many essential trace ingredients and leave you with a potassium deficiency, one of the most important minerals in your body; however the dandelion in the course of its diuretic action actually adds potassium to the body. The dandelion plant contains more potassium than any other plant.
Artichoke is one of the most important plants. We use the leaves of the globe artichoke medically. They are very bitter and we use them as a fresh juice. It is available in Canada, imported from Germany. This is again a very safe plant for anyone to use. It actually helps to restore hepatocytes. If there has been some liver damage, this plant will help you tremendously. It is a choleretic and increases the flow of bile through the liver. When someone is suffering from terminal cancer and the liver has been affected, artichoke will eliminate the pain in the liver. It won't eliminate the cancer at that point, but it will certainly eliminate a lot of the suffering. It is also very effective in treating skin problems. Many people who come to me have been to see many different dermatologists. They all told them they had psoriasis or acne or eczema and gave them something to suppress it, usually a steroid cream. The skin problem usually comes back again and they are not very happy. When they go to see a herbalist, the herbalist immediately thinks of the liver. The liver and the skin are both organs of elimination. If the pressure is taken off the skin by helping the liver to function properly, the skin is definitely going to improve. The results of using herbs for skin problems are pretty spectacular on the whole.
Tests in Europe have demonstrated that the milk thistle is able to protect the liver against gases which are toxic to hepatocytes such as carbon tetrachloride, the cleaning solvent. In a double blind study, they found no hepatocyte damage whatsoever in animals who had been protected by a tincture of the milk thistle. They concluded that milk thistle is a protection against pollution and it probably is. Of course if we are going to improve our health we have got to stop dumping chemicals and toxins into our environment and we have to do it soon. Milk thistle has other bonuses. It lowers cholesterol. Many of us are given not very pleasant diets to lower our cholesterol, and then we are very disappointed when we stick to the diet and still the cholesterol remains high. Often high cholesterol is a metabolic problem and when you think about metabolic problems, right away you think of the liver because the liver is probably not doing its job.
Cleavers is very effective in helping people with cancer because it is an ideal tonic for the lymphatic system. It can remove toxins from the lymph nodes and tone up the whole lymphatic circulation throughout the body. By backing up the liver and improving the body's natural defences, it improves the general state of health. We have used it on people suffering from cancer and their white blood count has gone from 85 to 55 in three or four weeks. If you improve your diet as well, you are well on the way.
This plant boosts the immune system and that is why it is in short supply. It is very expensive to buy commercially because it is being used to treat AIDS patients fairly successfully. Again, it is an antibiotic plant and found to be effective against certain types of human carcinoma, including the Walker Sarcoma #256 for example and many other lymphadenopathies.
Calendula looks pretty in your flower bed and can be bought in the hardware store or wherever you buy your plants. It's a wonderful anti-inflammatory plant and it works on the whole body. Both the roots and the plant itself are found to be anti-viral, but the petals in particular have been found to be effective against the metastases of cancer cells. Regular infusions of this herbal tea and the tincture over a fairly long period of time will actually slow down the growth of things like cancer.
We had patients in the clinic in London who were able to get out of wheelchairs by using the plant juice of nettle as well as some of the teas, the fresh juices and the dried plant. People with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis eventually were able to go out to collect their own nettles in the countryside. That was kind of a miracle. The exciting thing about nettle is that in addition to being an excellent cleansing or detoxifying plant, it also adds minerals to the body. There are many minerals contained in the humble nettle. It is a tenuous weed and pulls up whatever is in the ground. It is very very rich in iron and silica and contains many others, vitamin A, E, D, K and even lecithin and all sorts of things. So it is a good spring tonic. Nettle tea is very pleasant to drink. It is perfectly safe for anyone to use because it removes a lot of uric acid from the body. Nettles is a specific remedy for skin problems.
Herbs useful for circulation and the nervous system will be discussed in Part II.
Keith Stelling is a medical herbalist who trained in England at the National Institute of Medical Herbalists of Great Britain. He is editor of the Canadian Journal of Herbalism, the quarterly publication of the Ontario Herbalist Association. Presently he practices herbal medicine in Hamilton, Ontario. This article is reprinted by permission from http://www.consumerhealth.org