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Issue No 104
Fall 2005 
page 47

Herbal Myths EXPOSED
The average person will find ginseng a safe, risk-free, stamina-enhancing tonic when taken in proper doses. Don't let the specter of "ginseng abuse syndrome" scare you.

Contributing editor Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, DN-C, RH, wrote "Maximize Your Supplements" for our Spring 2005 Issue.

 
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metto’s actions are anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, and anti-androgenic. Despite its well known reputation as a treatment for BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), it’s also the preferred herb for polycystic ovary syndrome—clearly a disease that affects only women. Other traditional uses include irritable or chronic bronchial coughs, whooping cough, laryngitis, acute respiratory mucus, and asthma.

In the case of St. John’s wort, it actually has antidepressant, nervine-toning, antiviral, antimicrobial, and wound-healing action. Yes, it’s best known as a treatment for mild depression, but it also helps in cases of burns, hemorrhage, excessive menstrual bleeding, diarrhea, jaundice, chronic urinary conditions, and so on.

We base our “one herb, one disease” view of herbs on our experience with drugs. Herbs are different, however, and we need to dispel this myth or risk losing some valuable treatment options.

Myth 11
You need to take a "vacation" from herbs every three to four weeks.
This fear, also based on the drug model, stems from the fact that the body often develops a tolerance to drugs, creating the need to increase the dose over time. This phenomenon remains essentially unknown with herbal medicines. Herbs, especially those herbalists tend to use for long-term routines, are essentially food. We don’t need to take a vacation from food, nor do we need a break from herbs.

Myth 12
Capsules are the least potent form of herbs, since manufacturers make them from old material.
Scientific literature is full of successful studies using encapsulated herbs. Plenty of companies fill their capsules with potent, fresh, effective material. No one preparation (capsule, tincture, tea) is inherently superior to others. Low quality and superb quality versions exist for every preparation. With a little research, you can easily identify the more reputable companies and buy from these.

Pills and capsules are an American medicinal phenomenon, as we tend to prefer this type of preparation, despite its higher cost. Capsules have their advantages. The process of making them preserves fresh herbs, reduces volume, and concentrates the herb. Drying certain herbs actually enhances their properties. Other benefits include convenience, absence of taste, long shelf-life, and easy dosing.

On the downside, capsules are also slower-acting and sometimes hard to swallow or digest. But are they less potent? Absolutely not.

What We're Missing
Every society on earth, save ours, has used herbal medicine for centuries. In these cultures, knowledge of herbs makes up a significant part of the local heritage. Such organized, logical, holistic healing systems help people use herbs appropriately, with the benefit of lifetime experience.

We’re at a disadvantage here, as we lack the benefit of a rich herbal history. But our history is now in the making. The common use of herbs as a dependable treatment will come with sharper scrutiny of hearsay information. As we examine the latest herbal myths in the light of a bit of experience, we’ll find that many of those things everyone “just knows” to be true aren’t based in fact after all.

 
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