Supplementation For Women - Part 2: Herbs & Plants!

I always have been fascinated by the different herbs/plants that nature has to offer. Herbal medicine provides us with a safe yet effective healing, enhancing and/or stimulating alternative therapy...
Part 2: Herbs And Plants

Part 1 | Part 2

Cynthia Oosting I always have been fascinated by the different herbs and plants that nature has to offer.

Herbal medicine provides us with a safe yet effective healing, enhancing, and/or stimulating alternative therapy. The effects can range from mild to very potent, depending on the formulas.

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Herbal Preparations
The Three Forms

There are many different forms available for herbal preparation. I will list the three major (or common) ones:

Tincture

    The herb is soaked in a solvent (alcohol, water, etc.) for a determined amount of time. Then, a tincture is made out of the pressed solution (liquid). The ratio is close to 1:5 (1 part of plant for five parts of solvent).

Extract

    This is a more powerful herbal preparation. Extracts are made almost in the same way of doing a tincture but are more concentrated due to the ratio (herb to solvent) which is usually 1:1.

Standardized Extract

    They come in tablets or capsules and are fabricated by removing all fluid (they are solid extracts). Basically, the part of the plant that is believed to produce therapeutic effect is "targeted". It assures you that each capsule or tablet has the same beneficial activity and potency. So far, this is my favorite way of buying herbal remedies as I feel I'm getting what I paid for.

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To make a good selection, always read the labels carefully and buy from well-known companies. Keep in mind that liquid preparations (extracts and tinctures) enter the bloodstream faster then their solid (capsules/tablets) counterpart.

So, if you are looking for a fast-acting effect (i.e., for a cold or flu virus) it might be a good idea to choose a liquid form. They usually are a little more expensive though!


Herbal Remedies
Usages And Effects

Now, let me introduce you to some of nature's best herbal remedies, and tell you about their recommended uses and beneficial effects.

Milk Thistle

    This powerful herb is a great liver tonic. Just so you know, your liver performs over 600 functions in your body, one being to detoxify it from harmful substances. Now you see why it is important to ensure that this organ functions properly!

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    By taking milk thistle, you can help your liver in it's work of cell regeneration, too. Sylimarin, a powerful antioxidant, is the active ingredient you will want to look for when buying this herb.

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    If you have been stressed out for a period of time, have GI (digestive) problems, or are "cleaning" your diet (after a holiday binge), milk thistle is the right choice!

    I have also found that it helps me stay regular on my menstrual cycle (the liver also plays a role in endocrine glands). Many women athletes experience absence of menses, so it might be a good helper for them, too! For better absorption, take this herb at mealtime.

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Echinacea

    Considered by many to be the best immune system enhancer and protector. By taking this herb at the first sign of flu symptoms, a virus or a cold, you can reduce the duration and severity of it. I try to always keep a bottle at home for that very reason. People prone to infection benefit greatly from this plant.

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    Echinacea is like a natural antibiotic. You might see goldenseal added to echinacea in certain formulations. That is a good combination, as they act in synergy and reinforce the immune system even more!

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    Keep in mind that these two herbs are not meant to take on a regular basis for long periods of time. Consider them more like temporary helpers, and use them as you would use an antibiotic.

Dong Quai

    An East Asian herb that helps relieve many common feminine ailments, from PMS to menopause. I used this herb when I was doing my photos contest, as I experienced problems with my menstrual cycle (it stopped as I was dropping my body fat percentage).

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    So I took this herb for a few weeks and my menses appeared shortly after. For menopausal women, it is said to tame those "hot flashes". Be careful if you are prone to heavy bleeding on your periods, as Dong Quai may increase blood flow!

Ginseng

    Everybody has heard about the health benefits of this root, so it's not a secret! But there is more to it... In fact, ginseng is use for memory problems, anemia, to stimulate the appetite, and more. So it is not just a plain "energy booster" as you can see.

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    If you are starting an exercise program and are experiencing muscle soreness, it is also a helper! High blood pressure sufferers need to be cautious with ginseng, though, as it might increase blood flow to a certain level. There are different types of ginseng, three of which are commonly used:

    1. American Ginseng, also known as Panax Ginseng.

    2. Asian Ginseng.

    3. Siberian Ginseng (not a genuine member of the ginseng family but promotes the same health benefits, and less expensive, too!)

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Ginkgo Biloba

    Think of it as the oldest living tree species on Earth. To be that strong and resistant you can imagine the benefits it promotes... Problems associated with aging react positively to ginkgo biloba, such as poor circulation, sluggish brain function and even some cases of Alzheimer's disease.

What Is Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive disease of the brain that ischaracterized by impairment of memory and a disturbance in at least one other thinking function (for example, language or perception of reality).

Many scientists believe that AD results from an increase in the production or accumulation ofa specific protein (beta-amyloid protein) that leads to nerve cell death. Lossof nerve cells in strategic brain areas, in turn, causes deficits in theneurotransmitters, which are the brain's chemical messengers.

    Note that if you are affected by the darkness in the winter months (Seasonal Affective Disorder, the "winter blues"), this herb may help you relieve this type of depression as well. Take extra precautions if you are taking other certain medications (such as anti-coagulants, "blood thinners"), as ginkgo is believed to increase blood flow (just like ginseng). Thus, go easy on the dosage, especially in the beginning.

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Conclusion

Hope you had a great holiday season, and that this little article of mine will help you stay on the right track for the new year!

Part 1 | Part 2