5 Herbal Remedies Backed By Scientific Research
I grew up with herbs, and at the same time I didn’t. Confusing I know, but that’s the best way to explain my upbringing. My father was heavily into holistic healing and my mother was, well, not into it as much.
She humored my dad, but when it came down to her kids being ill, traditional western medicine always won out. Her belief was that there wasn’t enough scientific evidence for herbal remedies, and she just wasn’t going to risk it.
The only time my father had an opportunity to practice his vast knowledge of the herbs was when modern medicine didn’t work. Surprisingly, that seemed to be more often than not. Usually, by the time he started applying his different remedies us kids were willing to try just about anything to relieve the pain.
So, when I say I know and understand the battle between old and new medicine, believe me, I saw it in my own home. However, I am a testimony that there is solace to be found in the healing of the earth.
Understanding that there is always a battle between nature and modern medicine (hence the purpose of this website) I provide below 5 herbal remedies that have actual scientific evidence behind their medicinal value. It's unfortunate my dad didn’t have this proof back in the day, it might have helped his cause in making my mom a believer!
1. Echinacea—A Cure for the Common Cold
Okay, I guess the title here is misleading. We still can’t cure the common cold for good, but we can treat the symptoms and protect ourselves with Echinacea. According to Medical News Today, here are some of the research that has been done:
“Scientists from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy reviewed over a dozen studies on the effects of Echinacea on people’s risk of catching a cold.They concluded that Echinacea can reduce a person’s chances of catching a cold by approximately 58%.”
Research on Echinacea also showed that it reduces the duration of a cold by 1.4 days. These findings were published in The Lancet Infections Diseases.
Echinacea has a fascinating history of use. From the native American Indians to modern Europeans, this herb is a popular choice. The same article mentioned above shares that there were studies done on Echinacea in the 1930s in Germany. However, they lack a citation. I will try to track it down (or if one of our readers is familiar with it please feel free to share in the comments).
Echinacea is over the counter in the United States, not sure with Europe’s Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive if it is over the counter there (again feel free to leave a comment). It’s usually sold in a pill or tablet form, and will hopefully help you fight next seasons nasty cold or flu!
2. Aloe Vera—Helping Diabetics & Healing Acne
When it comes to the history of holistic medicine, Aloe Vera is the first known recorded herbal remedy. Today many people use this as a sort of balm of gilead for burns. Though, interestingly enough science still hasn’t been able to decisively agree that the Aloe plant can heal burns.
What they can agree on is the medicinal value it gives to diabetics and those suffering from Hyperlipidemia. A scientific review poured over the results of ten case studies on Aloe Vera. In the published report, “Aloe vera: a systematic review of its clinical effectiveness” it states:
“[The studies] suggest that oral administration of aloe vera might be a useful adjunct for lowering blood glucose in diabetic patients as well as for reducing blood lipid levels in patients with hyperlipidaemia.”
Not only does Aloe Vera help diabetics, but studies have shown that it is a great anti-aging and anti-acne agent. In the Asian Journal of Pharmacy & Life Science it shares:
“Mucopolysaccharides help in binding moisture into the skin. Aloe stimulates fibroblast which produces the collagen and elastin fibers making the skin more elastic and less wrinkled. It also has cohesive effects on the superficial flaking epidermal cells by sticking them together, which softens the skin. The amino acids also soften hardened skin cells and zinc acts as an astringent to tighten pores. Its moisturizing effects has also been studied in treatment of dry skin associated with occupational exposure where aloe vera gel gloves improved the skin integrity, decreases appearance of fine wrinkle and decreases erythema. It also has anti-acne effect.”
3. Garlic—Fighting Bad Cholesterol & High Blood Pressure
My wife and I love garlic. In one form or another, garlic is able to creep into most of our dinner entrees. Two researchers at Weill Medical College of Cornell University have now validated our love affair with garlic.
In their scientific study titled “Garlic and Cardiovascular Disease,” published in the journal Nutrition in Clinical Care, the authors, Dr. Richard S. Rivlin, Chief of the Division of Nutrition, and Michelle H. Loy, see “growing evidence for a potential role of garlic derivatives together with other measures in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.”
“Most of the scientific evidence to date,” Loy and Rivlin write, has shown that “treatment with allium derivatives from garlic decreases levels of total serum cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol [‘bad cholesterol’] with little effect on levels of HDL-cholesterol [‘good cholesterol’].”
The researchers further stated that, “In addition to reducing serum lipids there is evidence that garlic may also slow the atherosclerosis process and lower blood pressure.”
I know that many, many people are not like my wife and I when it comes to adding garlic as a culinary taste to our food. So, if you don’t want to follow the recommendation of eating garlic straight from the clove, you can easily find dried and grounded garlic in capsules and tablets.
4. St. John’s Wort—Helping us Find Happiness in Life
I remember seeing St. John’s Wort as a child while visiting the Herb shop with my dad. I guess as a kid I never realized that difference between the word “wort” and “wart” and always thought it was used to get rid of warts (true story).
Though, there is no evidence that it does any good for physical warts, St. John’s Wort is probably most known for fighting against emotional warts. St John’s Wort has shown in several scientific case studies to help those with mild to moderate depression.
In fact, Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany did a review of 23 case trials showing that St. John’s wort, known scientifically as hypericum perforatum, worked as well as medical drugs in mild to moderately severe depressed people. There were almost 2,000 patients who participated in these case studies, and the final results of the research were published in the British Medical Journal.
A year after this research, Dr. Ernst-Ulrich Vorbach published in the journal Pharmacopsychiatry that doubling the dose of hypericum extract to 1800 mg a day, worked as well at soothing severe depression as the popular antidepressant drug Tofranil (or its generic synthetic drug counterpart imipramine).
It seems that this “happy herb” is the darling of science research because of all the herbal remedies I researched for this article St. John’s Wort had the most research done. In fact, Dr. Helmut Woelk from Justus Liebig University Giessen in Germany also published in the British Medical Journal that not only did St. John’s Wort help with depression, but that the herb was also safe to use.
5. Olive Leaf Extract—The Superhero of Healing
From the first Olympians being crowned with a reef of olive leaves to appearing on the seal of the United Nations as a symbol of peace, the olive tree has a rich and interesting past. In fact, it was so important to the ancient Athenians that a person could be executed for destroying an olive tree.
As the name suggests, olive leaf extract comes from the leaves of the olive tree and there are a plethora of scientific studies showing the healing powers of the extract. In fact, it was too difficult to focus on just one healing benefit. So, to conclude our top 5 herbs here are 5 amazing, scientifically proven, benefits that come from olive leaf extract:
- Inhibits Infections in HIV-1 : A study reported in the journal of Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications found that olive leaf extract can inhibit acute infection and cell-to-cell transmission of HIV-1. It can also reverse some of the HIV-1 infection-associated changes.
- Battles Cancer Growth: A study in the Mutation Research journal shows that olive leaf extract helps fight against the formation of cancer in its earliest stages. Olive leaf extracts inhibit DNA damage from reactive oxygen species, which is the very first step in development of malignant cells. Once cells become cancerous, they rely on a host of chemical signaling factors that promote their growth and organization into tumors. Threeadditional studies, illustrate that olive leaf extract is known to inhibit growth factors and disrupt signaling pathways. A final study from the International Journal of Molecular Medicine demonstrates that Oleuropein also suppresses an enzyme cancer cells rely on to derive and store energy from dietary carbohydrates.
- Lowers Hypertension: Both the Phytotherapy Research journal and the Arzneimittel Forschung Drug Research journal have published clinical evidence showing the effects of olive leaf extract in lowering hypertension (a.k.a. high blood pressure). The Arzneimittel Forschung Drug Research journal had success in lowering hypertension in rats. The Phytotherapy Research piece took the research to the next step and did in an open study on 40 borderline hypertensive monozygotic twins (twins were chosen due to the genetic make-up being so similar). At the conclusion of the study, blood pressure was lowered significantly in the twin who had been using olive leaf extract.
- Assists Stabilizing Diabetes: Olive leaf extract has shown promise in diabetes treatments. A study featured in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that the extract provided an effective supplementary therapy in normalizing the balance of insulin and glucagon in type 2 diabetics.
- Minimizes Arthritis: Scientific research proves that olive leaf extracts can interfere with the development of several different kinds of arthritis, including gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. The Phytomedicine journal, the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and the Phytotherapy Research journal all have in depth studies showing the power of olive leaf extract in significantly improving inflamed joints. It should be noted that the latter two studies were conducted on mice and rats.