What is Vitex Used For?

Chasteberry (Latin Name Vitex agnus-castus) is the fruit of the chaste tree. Traditionally, this herb has been used to treat many hormone-related gynecologic conditions. Chasteberry works on the pituitary gland and hypothalamus by helping to increase the production of a hormone called lutene. Also, it  aids in the inhibition of the release of follicle-stimulating hormone.

What is Vitex Used For?

Vitex agnus-castus has been used widely in Europe for gynecologic conditions such as PMS (premenstrual syndrome), cyclical breast discomfort, menstrual cycle irregularities, and dysfunctional uterine bleeding. As chasteberry has the effect of stimulating and normalizing pituitary gland functions, especially its progesterone function, chasteberry may be especially beneficial in cases of low levels of progesterone during the luteal phase.

Chasteberry Benefits and Studies

Vitex agnus-castus, is usually used to regulate hormone production. Laboratory studies has shown that Vitex contains active hormones that are produced by the human body, such as progesterone, testosterone, and androstenedione. In studies in both lab animals and humans, Vitex has been found to alter the release of gonadotropins from the pituitary gland in the brain. Patients use Vitex agnus-castus for a variety of menstrual irregularities and fertility disorders; in Germany, doctors prescribe the herb for luteal phase disorders. The Commission E (Germany’s regulatory agency for herbs) approves the use of chasteberry for irregularities of the menstrual cycle, cyclical breast discomfort, and PMS.


In studies for the therapy of PMS, Vitex reduced some symptoms, particularly breast pain edema, constipation, irritability, headache, anger. and depressed mood. The amount in most of these  studies was 20 mg per day of a concentrated chasteberry extract for 3 menstrual cycles experience a important reduction in symptoms of PMS. Chasteberry should be taken for at least 4 cycles to determine efficacy.

PMSA study reported in the April 2000 edition of Journal of Women’s Health and Gender Based Medicine, scientists examined the effects of a Vitex agnus-castus extract on the symptoms of PMS. After taking the Vitex for 3 menstrual cycles, 93% of the women reported a reduction or cessation in their symptoms. A study reported in a 2001 edition of the “British Medical” Journal studied the effectiveness of Vitex for PMS symptoms such as irritability, breast tenderness and headaches. Women who took Vitex experienced a 52% decline in PMS symptoms compared to a 24% decline in the placebo group. A clinical trial found that women taking chasteberry had slightly greater relief from symptoms of PMS, than those taking vitamin B6. The 175 women were randomized to receive daily treatment with one standardized chasteberry extract capsule plus one placebo capsule  or two 100 mg capsules of vitamin B6. Duration of therapy was three menstrual cycles. In comparison with vitamin B6, chasteberry was linked with “a considerably more marked alleviation of typical PMS complaints, such as breast tenderness, edema, inner tension, headache, constipation, and depression.” Consequently, 77.1% of participants taking chasteberry reported improvements, compared to 60.6% of those in the vitamin B6 group. (Although women wishing to conceive were excluded at the beginning of the trial, 5 women taking chasteberry became pregnant during the course of the study).

In an  study, 36 participants with PMS who used 40 drops of Agnolyt® (a vitex extract) daily for 3 months noted reductions in breast tenderness, headaches, sweet cravings, fatigue,bloating, restlessness, nervousness, irritability, anxiety, lack of concentration, and depression. A study indicate chasteberry can be effective to treat PMS-induced migraines. Reported in a 2013 edition of Acta Neurologica Belgica, the study examined 100 women using 40 mg of chasteberry daily for 3 months for their migraines. 42% of subjects had a lessening in severity, duration and frequency of migraines. Two surveys evaluated 1,542 women with PMS who had taken a liquid extract of chasteberry for their PMS symptoms for as long as 16 years.  With an average intake of 42 drops per day, 92% of the women surveyed reported the efficacy of chasteberry  as “very good,”“good,” or “satisfactory.”


Vitex agnus-castus can help regulate your menstrual cycles and improve the balance between estrogen and progesterone. A 1993 study from Hamburg showed chasteberry helps reduce high prolactin levels, associated to women’s infertility. In a study, 48 women who were diagnosed with infertility took chasteberry once daily for 3 months. Seven women became pregnant during the trial, and 25 women experienced normalised progesterone levels. In a clinical trial, 18 women with abnormally low progesterone levels were given Vitex extract daily. After three months of therapy, 13 demonstrated increases in progesterone and 2 became pregnant. In  a study, 67 women with fertility or ovulatory disorders were given a chasteberry preparation, which resulted in a marked improvement of progesterone levels during the luteal phase, earlier ovulation, and 38 achieved pregnancies (Bergmann, 2000). In a clinical study, 52 women with menstrual cycle disturbances due to luteal phase defect and latent hyperprolactinemia received 20 mg daily of Strotan® (a vitex extract) or placebo for 3 months.  The participants the vitex group had a important  reduction  in prolactin release, normalization of a shortened luteal phase, normalization of luteal progesterone synthesis, and important reduction of their PMS symptoms compared to those receiving placebo.


Polycystic ovarian syndrome a condition associated with many cysts in the ovary or ovaries. It is the most common endocrine abnormality in women of reproductive age. Chasteberry is thought to act on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands by increasing LH (luteinizing hormone) production and slightly inhibiting the release of  FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). This increases the ratio of progesterone to oestrogen which is very helpful to women with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as progesterone is usually always low in women with PCOS.


Breast pain, also known as mastalgia, is common and may include a dull ache, heaviness, tightness, a burning sensation in the breast tissue, or breast tenderness. Between 50% and 80% of women are estimated to have experienced mastalgia at some point in their life. There have been many therapies suggested for the management of mastalgia; one of these is the fruit extract of Vitex Agnus castus. Chasteberry (32.4 mg per day), in combination with some homeopathic remedies, has been found in a clinical trial to successfully treat breast tenderness.

In a prospective, multi-centre trial the benefit of Vitex in the management of cyclical mastalgia was studied in 50 patients with pre-menstrual syndrome. Forty-three participants were treated daily with Vitex during three menstrual cycles. By the end of the study period, cyclical mastalgia decreased significantly and a smaller degree of improvement  persisted even 3 months after cessation of the therapy. A large  study of 1634 women with cyclic mastalgia as part of their premenstrual syndrome showed that after 3 months of therapy, 80% of participants rated their response as a good and 81% rates it as a very good therapy for their mastalgia. Authors suggested that Vitex could be beneficial in the management of cyclical mastalgia.

Vitex was effective in controlling the symptoms of cyclical mastalgia in a randomized controlled trial, of 97 patients suffering from cyclical mastalgia. The intensity of mastalgia in participants treated with Vitex as measured by visual analogue score significantly decreased after one or two therapy cycles and remained reduced after third cycle. A randomized, placebo controlled trial and parallel group comparison was carried out in 170 women (mean age 36 years) who were given Vitex or placebo for three consecutive cycles. The improvement in breast pain was greater in the Vitex group (52%) compared with the placebo group (24%). The researchers concluded that Vitexs is an effective therapy for the relief of symptoms of mastalgia associated with premenstrual syndrome. The efficacy of Vitex for the therapy of cyclical mastalgia associated with premenstrual dysphoric disorder was compared with fluoxetine (SSRI), in a randomized study. Psychological symptoms improved in 68% of participants treated with Fluoxetine and mastalgia improved in 58% of participants treated with Vitex.


Vitex influences the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, and for this reason can help balance hormone fluctuations that are responsible for symptoms, including acne. In a trial, 117 women with four different types of acne were treated with a Vitex preparation for one-two years. Improvement was seen after six weeks and by 3 months, approximately 70% were free of acne.


Dosage of the fruit extract is 20 to 40 mg per day. Also tincture (35 to 45 drops, three times daily) and fluid extract (40 drops daily) have been used. The Commission E monograph recommends a daily intake (30–40 mg of the dried herb) in capsules or in liquid preparations. When  pregnancy is achieved, discontinue use of vitex-containing extracts. Vitex Agnus Castus is usually not recommended in pregnancy due to its unknown effects on the pituitary.

DHEA Benefits and Studies

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a naturally occurring steroid hormone produced in the adrenal gland, gonads and brain. The body uses DHEA to make estrogens and androgens. DHEA supplements can be made in the lab from chemicals found in wild yam and soy.  Since the body’s natural levels of DHEA generally begin to reduction after a person reaches 30 years of age. Individuals who are 70, tend to have DHEA levels approximately 80% lower than young adults.

DHEA Benefits and Researches

Low DHEA levels are correlated with depression and depressed mood. There is some early test findings that DHEA might improve mood and help depression. In a 6-week preliminary study, investigators from the “National Institute of Mental Health” found that therapy with DHEA supplements helped alleviate mild to moderate depression that occurs in some middle-aged people. The study also demonstrated significant improvements in sexual functioning scores in supplemented participants. Twenty-four healthy young men were given DHEA for 7 days; DHEA administration improved memory and mood. (Psychopharmacology. 2006 November). A clinical study performed by Dr. Samuel Yen and his associates in 1994 had important findings. At the end of the study period, 67% of the men and 82 % of the women reported an improvement in sleep, ability to cope with stress and basic well-being.

Addison’s Disease

Also called adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands. It affects the production of 2 essential hormones called cortisol and aldosterone. DHEA is one of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands. With adrenal insufficiency, the adrenal glands do not make sufficient hormones, including DHEA and cortisol. Some researches indicate that DHEA may improve well-being, quality of life, exercise capacity, sex drive, and hormone levels in individuals with Addison’s disease. In a study, scientists from Germany W. Arlt et al. gave 50 mg doses or placebo to 24 women with adrenal insufficiency for 4 months. They found that blood levels of DHEAS and testosterone went up to normal. The DHEA improved sexual interest and satisfaction, and decreased anxiety and depression over the placebo group.

Erectile Dysfunction

DHEA improves erectile dysfunction because of its androgenic effects. In a 2000 study from Urology, scientists evaluated 442 men and found that DHEA levels were lower in those with erectile dysfunction until age 60. A clinical trial enrolled 40 men with erectile dysfunction who had low measured levels of DHEA. The results demonstrated that DHEA at a dose of 50 mg daily significantly healed sexual performance.

Menopausal Symptoms

DHEA may help replace hormones in postmenopausal women. The hormone DHEA has been found to help alleviate menopausal symptoms in women, as well as helping them improve their sex lives, Italian scientists wrote in the Climacteric, the peer-reviewed journal of the International Menopause Society. The findings of a twelve-week study involving postmenopausal women who were given daily doses of DHEA intravaginally demonstrated rapid and beneficial improvements in sexual function and vaginal atrophy, without changes in their serum sex steroid levels. In a study, DHEA has been given as a 10% cream for twelve months to fifteen 60-70 year old women.  A reduction in fat and an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in fasting glucose and insulin levels was noted.


Available findings show that DHEA improves ovarian function, increases pregnancy chances and, by reducing aneuploidy, lowers miscarriage rates. DHEA over time appears to objectively improve ovarian reserve. New animal data support androgens in promoting preantral follicle growth and reduction in follicle atresia. DHEA has been reported to improve pregnancy chances with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) and is utilized by almost one third of all IVF centers world-wide. A study reported in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology found that DHEA supplement reduction the chances of miscarriage among women who had been diagnosed with decreased ovarian reserve. In 2010, scientists from Tel Aviv University performed the first controlled study of DHEA supplementation in women undergoing fertility therapy for poor ovulation. Prof. Adrian Shulman of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Meir Medical Center has found a statistical connection between the supplement DHEA, and successful pregnancy rates in women undergoing treatment for infertility. The treatment group, which consisted of 20 women, received 75mg of DHEA supplementation daily for 40 days before starting fertility therapy and continued for up to 5 months. The results demonstrated that the women who received DHEA supplements were three times more likely to conceive compared to the women who just received fertility therapy alone. “In the DHEA group, there was a 23% live birth rate as opposed to a 4% rate in the control group. We recommend that women try this DHEA treatment, in conjunction with fertility treatments, for four to five months,” explains Prof. Shulman.

Bone Health

DHEA increases bone health by improving mineralization to reduce fracture risk. DHEA therapy may help fight osteoporosis in women over 70 and is beneficial in preventing osteoporosis in women. Large statistical studies indicate a correlation between low DHEA levels and osteoporosis. A 2000 study showed improved bone turnover during a year-long study of daily 50 mg supplementation with DHEA. A clinical study of 50 mg per day of DHEA administered orally versus placebo for twelve months demonstrated improved hip BMD (bone mineral density) in older men and women with low DHEA-S (DHEA-S is the sulfated form of DHEA) levels, with additional improvements in spine BMD in women. Taking a DHEA supplement combined with calcium and vitamin D can significantly improve spinal bone density in older women, according to a research from a Saint Louis University scientists at Washington University. According to Edward Weiss, lead author of the study, patients who achieve similar increases of 2 to 4 % in spinal bone density with the help of medication experience a 30 to 50 % reduction in risk of spine fractures. Also, scientists say that the increase  in spinal bone density experienced by women in the test group who took DHEA for 2 years, is at least as efficacious as other current treatments including estrogen and bisphosphonates. Results were reported in the May 2009 edition of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition“.


Low DHEA levels are associated with increased cardiovascular risk. A 1995 study by Herrington, reported at the “New York Academy of Sciences“, found significantly lower blood levels of DHEA in men who had blocked arteries. In a twelve year study of over 240 men aged 50 to 79 years, scientists found that DHEA levels were inversely correlated with mortality, both from heart disease and from all other causes. A 2009 study of 153 diabetic men with stable CHD (coronary heart disease) found that 77 percent were DHEA-S deficiency, significantly more than in healthy peers. A follow-up study demonstrated that the degree of development of atherosclerosis in 63 heart transplant patients was inversely correlate with DHEA levels. According to a research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 25 mg per day of DHEA improves endothelial function. In a animal-based study; when scientists gave DHEA to rabbits with atherosclerotic arteries, the hormone produced a 50 % reduction in arterial plaques.

Brain Health

The new researches show that DHEA supplement may exert strong neuroprotective properties. Two large studies demonstrated that levels of DHEA-S in elderly people correlated significantly and positively with cognitive function. A study conducted in 2007 demonstrated that DHEA supplement of 150 mg twice daily improved memory recall and mood in healthy young men, particularly increasing activity in the hippocampus. Women with naturally higher levels of the hormone precursor DHEAS were found to have better cognitive function than women with lower levels, according to a study published  of the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism”.

In a 2004 research on DHEA’s effects on the human nervous system, researchers found that DHEA both increased the amount of neurons produced by stem cells and increased cell division in the brain. DHEA levels in patients who have Alzheimer’s are much lower than in people who don’t have the disease. Some  evidence indicate a positive effect of DHEA supplement in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In a clinical trial, patients who took 50 mg twice daily for 6 months had significantly better mental performance. Multi-infarct dementia is a form of dementia caused by a series of small strokes.
Patients with deterioration of mental functions resulting from multi-infarct dementia may have lower than normal dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) levels. In a preliminary study, intravenous injection of 200 mg per day of DHEAS for 4 weeks increased DHEAS levels and improved some aspects of mental function and performance of daily activities.

Immune System

Research has shown that low DHEA levels in the blood are associated a decline in immune competence. Oral and subcutaneous DHEA has been observed to protect rodents against the lethality of RNA and DNA viruses, and lethal bacterial infections. A study conducted by  researcher Samuel Yen of the “University of California“; After measuring baseline immune parameters in healthy older men, dr Yen give the men on a program of 50 mg of DHEA per day. After twenty weeks, the men demonstrated important improvement in all markers of immune function, including an average of 45% increases in monocytes, 29 % increases in antibody-making B lymphocytes, 20 % increases in T lymphocyte activation, and 22 to 37% increases in NK (natural killer) cells.

A clinical trial, of healthy, nonsmoking men in their 50s & 60s taking 50 mg of DHEA daily demonstrated rejuvenation of the immune system by increased secretion of the cytokine  IL-2 (InterLeukin-2), which is a strong T-cell growth factor. Elderly individuals usually fail to develop sufficient antibody response to vaccination. A study in elderly people demonstrated that 100 mg a day of DHEA markedly enhanced the antibody response to the influenza vaccine. A new study found a potent inverse correlation between human serum DHEA-S levels and  IL-6 (interleukin 6) levels. High interleukin 6 levels are implicated as a causal factor in many diseases, such as osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and  atherosclerosis.After studying 120 healthy human participants 15-75 years of age, RH Straub and colleagues concluded: “decreased DHEA serum concentrations during aging or inflammatory diseases will be paralleled by a significant increase in IL-6 production. Thus, we conclude that the decrease in DHEA levels is a deleterious process, in particular during chronic inflammatory diseases.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Low blood levels of the hormone DHEA and the related compound DHEA-sulfate have been correlated  with more severe symptoms in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Suppression of  IL-6  with 200 mg a day of DHEA was shown to be effective against SLE. Scientists at Stanford University gave DHEA to 57 women with lupus. Approximately two-thirds of the women reported some reduction of their symptoms, including reduced frequency and severity of joint pain, rashes, fatigue and headaches. A 12-month, clinical study of 381 women with mild or moderate lupus investigated the effects of DHEA at a dose of 200 mg daily.  While patients in both treatment and placebo groups improved DHEA was more effective, reducing many symptoms of the disease. In another study of 120 women with SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus), use of  DHEA at a dose of 200 mg daily significantly decreased symptoms and reduced the frequency of disease flare-ups. A 2007 review of all published studies found that use of DHEA may meaningfully improve quality of life in the short term for patients with lupus.

Ulcerative Colitis

DHEA levels appear to be low in patients with ulcerative colitis. In a study 6 of 13 patients with ulcerative colitis went into remission after taking 200 mg per day of DHEA for 8 weeks.

Crohn’s Disease

DHEA is low in people with Crohn’s Disease. In a clinical trial, 6 of 7 patients with Crohn’s disease went into remission after taking DHEA for 8 weeks.


The normal recommended daily dose range is 10 to 50 mg for women, 25 to 100 mg for men. Women usually need less DHEA than men. Since blood levels of DHEA are highest in the morning, supplement DHEA should be taken in the morning, to follow the body’s natural rhythm. Controlled studies lasting between 6 months and a year at doses ranging from 25 to 200 milligrams daily have shown DHEA to be safe. Your physician can determine whether your DHEA levels are low (less than 180 mg/dl in men and less than 130 mg/dl in women). Individuals under 40 shouldn’t take DHEA unless they have low levels as determined by their physicians. DHEA supplements should be avoided in women and men who have had cancer or who have a potent family history of cancer until further research can establish whether or not it is safe for these people.

Echinacea Benefits and Immune System Effects

The Echinacea flower, is native to the Midwestern region of North America. Both the herb’s upper parts  and roots are used. For hundreds of years, the Plains Indians used it as an analgesic, an antiseptic,  and to treat poisonous insect and snakebites, wounds, sore throat, and communicable diseases such as measles, smallpox and mumps. In the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, echinacea was used for treating infection with anthrax, snake bites and as a pain reliever. Echinacea was included in the US National Formulary from 1916 to 1950. But, after the introduction of antibiotic drugs, echinacea use fell out of favor.

Echinacea Benefits and Studies

The main species of echinacea that are used medically are echinacea purpurea, echinacea angustifolia and echinacea pallida. Echinacea purpurea is the species most frequently used for research. Echinacea extracts may reduce the duration of illness and decrease the severity of cough, headache, and nasal congestion. Therapy of upper respiratory infections including influenza, colds, tonsillitis, sore throat, and otitis media for the most widespread use of echinacea. Many European researches, primarily done in Germany utilizing both injectable and orally administered echinacea preparations support its therapeutic efficacy in these diseases.

Some studies have shown that echinacea were more effective than placebo in decreasing the symptoms caused by URI (upper respiratory infections). Echinacea was shown to stimulate phagocytosis, increase mobility of leukocytes, stimulate TNF and interleukin 1 secretion from macrophages and lymphocytes, and enhance respiratory activity both in vitro and in vivo. The alkylamide, alkaloid, and polyacetylene fractions are thought responsible for such immunomodulatory activities. Clinical trials have provided some inconsistent results about the effectiveness of echinacea, although the majority of studies support its use. The contradictory findings may be due to the wide range of echinacea products  available, which can vary by species, part of the herb used in supplement preparation, dosage and
frequency of administration. On the other hand, the German Commission E (an official government agency similar to the FDA) approved echinacea root and juice extracts for treating respiratory infections and poorly healing wounds.

EchinaceaMany research done by scientists in Germany showed that echinacea is effective primarily by increasing the number of white blood cells, thereby boosting the immune system and increasing the body’s ability to fight infections. Echincaea has healing, anti-microbial, antiinflammatory and nonspecific, immune-stimulant activity, primarily through the stimulation of fibroblasts  and activation of phagocytosis. In other words, echinacea stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infection. Unlike antibiotic drugs, which are directly lethal to bacteria, this herb makes our own immune cells more efficacious in attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells, including cancer cells. The effect of echinacea is considered remarkable in its ability to stimulate the production and action of interferon. The chemical components of interferon are very important  in activating white blood cells to destroy cancer cells and viruses. Lab experiments have confirmed that extracts of the echinacea root contain interferon-like effects.

Scientists in 1989 reported that echinacea may stimulate the immune system, especially the cells that monoclonal antibodies target. Giving mice an ethanolic extract of echinacea roots led to increased phagocytosis by macrophages and neutrophils. The rate was tripled by echinacea purpurea, and doubled by echinacea angustifolia or echinacea pallida. In a clinical trial, 24 healthy men were given oral echinacea purpurea (Echinacin®) administered as 30 drops, 3 times a day. After 5 days, isolated neutrophils from the echinacea-treated group demonstrated significantly increased phagocytic activity (120%) compared to the placebo group.

In a study, German scientists investigated 2 different doses of echinacea purpurea on 180 men and women who had developed a flu-like or feverish infection. Participants taking 450 mg a day had no more relief than those taking the placebo. But participants given 900 mg a day did better than the placebo group. They reported modest improvement after 3 to 4 days. In a clinical study conducted over 8 days with tablets made from a proprietary water-alcohol extract of the fresh herb (95%) and roots (5%) of echinacea purpurea, 55 participants were given the herbal preparation and 64 received placebo. Thirteen of the echinacea group were allowed to use additional approved medication, such as nose drops and the fever-reducing medication paracetamol. The examining physician concluded that the echinacea preparation was effective in 68% of the participants in reducing several of 12 symptoms participants self-assessed the efficacy of the echinacea purpurea at 78% of the cases. A clinical study conducted on 160 participants demonstrated that a daily dose of 900 mg of the extract of echinacea purpurea root was effective in shortening the duration of upper respiratory tract infections (pharyngitis, sinusitis, cough) in infected adults, whether of viral or bacterial origin. In another clinical study of 32 patients suffering from the common cold, therapy with a preparation including echinacea purpurea root extract, as well as vitamin C, eucalyptus leaf, rosemary leaf, and fennel seed, significantly reduced illness duration (by one day) and reduced the number of tissues used.

A study reported in the British journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases finds that the echinacea cuts the chance of catching a cold by 58% and can reduce the duration of colds by a day and a half. Scientists from the “University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy“, combined the results of fourteen different studies on Echinacea’s anti-cold effects. In one of the fourteen studies the scientists reviewed, echinacea was taken alongside vitamin C. This combination reduced cold incidence by 86%. When echinacea was used alone it reduces cold incidence by 65%. Even when patients were directly inoculated with a rhinovirus echinacea reduced cold incidence by 35%.

Echinacea may alleviate sore throat when taken in combination with sage, according to a 2009 study from the “European Journal of Medical Research“. For the study, researchers treated 154 sore-throat patients with a throat spray containing either sage and echinacea or chlorhexidine and lidocaine. Findings showed that the two throat sprays were similarly beneficial in reducing sore throat symptoms. Goldenseal usually used in conjunction with echinacea to bolster the immune system. The two herbs have synergistic effects that increase the overall effectiveness of the combination. Echinacea naturally contains important  polysaccharides and phytosterols, while goldenseal contains strong alkaloids, including berberine and hydrastine.

A new study showed that echinacea has the capacity to enhance natural killer (NK) cells numbers, in aging mice, reflecting increased new natural killer cells production in the bone marrow, leading to an increase in the absolute numbers of NK cells in the spleen. Scientists at “McGill University“, studied the effect of taking echinacea intermittently, continuously, or just at the beginning of an disease. All the mice that received a daily dose of echinacea, throughout life, were still alive at 7 months, as opposed to the control mice, of which 79% were still alive. At about 13 months of age, the mice that consumed an untreated diet had a 46% survival rate while those consuming echinacea, had a 74% survival
rate. In a study in the U.S.A the pharmacological basis for the immunological activity of echinacea was studied by scientists at the Department of Medicine, University of California at Irvine Medical Center at Orange. Extracts of both panax ginseng and echinacea purpurea were examined for their capacity to stimulate cellular immune function by PBMC (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) from normal people and patients with either chronic fatigue syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.  Findings showed that the extracts enhanced cellular immune function of PBMC from both normal individuals and patients with depressed cellular immunity.

Any type of skin damage, whether caused by injury or infection can be treated with echinacea. One of the important actions of this herb is its property to inhibit a specific enzyme that weakens connective tissue cells when they are exposed to certain microorganisms. This enzyme is called hyaluronidase. The anti-hyaluronidase action of echinacea, particularly when applied as a poultice, can significantly prevent infection and enhance healing in burns, cuts, and abrasions. The anti-inflammatory effect of echinacea makes it a important remedy in fighting inflammatory skin diseases including eczema and psoriasis, and may even improve the body’s natural resistance to other conditions like herpes and
candida. The Echinacea root has been known to help the symptoms of psoriasis and bring relaxation to those that are in a constant state of discomfort. Of 4,598 patients with inflammatory skin problems (such as, eczema, burns, varicose ulcers of the leg, and a variety of skin wounds), including psoriasis, 85 percent were cured with topical applications of E. purpurea (leaves and flowers) salve (Wacker & Hilbig, 1978). In a German case series of 626 patients with minor burn injuries, all of whom were treated with an echinacea-containing ointment, of 628 adult patients with eczema, complete healing was noted within seven days for 82% (517). According to a study reported in April 2009 in the journal Intervirology, an extract from E. purpurea helps prevent recurrent infections with HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus type 1).One study showed that echinacea extract exerted an antiviral effect on the development of recurrent cold sores triggered by the herpes simplex virus when supplied prior to infection.

Echinacea have been shown to reduce the growth of Trichomonas vaginalis and lower the recurrence rates of Candida albicans infections. The favorable effect of echinacea purpurea leaf juice was showed in a German study of 203 women with recurrent vaginal yeast infections. All the participants were being treated with a topical econazole nitrate cream. Women using the econazole nitrate alone experienced a 60.5 % recurrence rate, while the women taking echinacea (oral Echinacin®) had a recurrence rate lowered to 16.7%. Human granulocytes and monocytes treated with echinacea purpurea extracts showed enhanced mobility and increased phagocytosis of Candida albicans by 30% – 45%.  Purified polysaccharides from echinacea purpurea inhibited Candida albicans growth in vitro. In immunosuppressed mice, prophylactic therapy with echinacea polysaccharides prior to infection with Candida albicans reduced renal Candida load by 80%, compared to controls. Also, echinacea therapy prior to infection with a lethal dose of Listeria monocytogenes reduced the bacterial counts in both  spleen and liver by 95% compared to the levels in control mice.

Burdock Health Benefits

Burdock (Arctium lappa), is a wild plant found in temperate regions. Historically, it has been used as a blood purifier to clear the bloodstream of toxins, as a diuretic, and as a topical remedy for skin diseases such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis. In Ayurvedic medicine, this plant is used for  pneumonia and upper respiratory infections.

Burdock Health Benefits and Researches

Pharmacological researches demonstrate that burdock roots have free radical scavenging, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, and antiproliferative properties. Burdock root contains high levels of inulin and mucilage. This may explain its relaxing benefits on the gastrointestinal tract. In vitro studies have exhibited that the polyacetylene component has antibacterial and fungistatic effects. Burdock root has showed activity in vitro against several gram negative bacteria; E. coli, Shigella sonnei, Shigella flexneri. An in vitro study, arctigenin is  found to be an effective inhibitor of HIV type-1 integrase. Arctigenin appears to have antimutagenic activities and inhibits tumor growth in vitro. Burdock demonstrated some cytostatic activity against certain cancer cell lines and inhibited tumor-promoting activity of Epstein Barr virus. Preliminary study has shown that burdock may have anti-cancer properties and enhance quality of life in cancer patients.

Burdock root operates as a diuretic. Diuretics help rid the body of excess water by stimulating an improved urine output. Burdock improves the performance of many of the organs which purify the body and eliminate toxins or waste. In the root, the active components have been found to “detoxify” blood in terms of   TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) and promote blood circulation to the skin surface, improving the skin quality/texture and curing skin diseases like eczema. In all skin diseases, it is a herbal remedy and has effected a cure in many cases of eczema, either taken alone or combined with other herbal remedies, such as sarsaparilla and yellow dock. A clinical trial found that topical application of a formulation containing burdock extract appreciably improved dermal extracellular matrix metabolism and visibly reduced wrinkles.

Animal-based researches show that burdock may fight free radicals and reduce liver damage. In an animal model, subcutaneous administration of burdock crude extract exhibited free radical scavenging activity. Arctium lappa showed hepatoprotective effects in mice injected with acetaminophen or carbon tetrachloride, which was attributed to antioxidant activities.

Burdock contains compounds that might have activity against bacteria and inflammation. The root contains up to fourteen different polyacetylene compounds, which contain  antimicrobial and fungistatic effects. In a study in germany found that burdock root contains polyacetylenes, antifungal antibiotic and antifungal effects that help fight acne-causing bacteria and fungi that infect cracked skin. A new Dutch study found that burdock significantly inhibited skin allergy by reducing release of leukotrienes, which play a role in the inflammatory response.

Burdock contains inulin, (a natural dietary fiber), and is used to improve digestion. New researches confirm that burdock has prebiotic effects that could improve health. A study in England found that inulin promotes the growth of bacteria that have the property to control inflammation and eliminate unwanted pathogens. Due to its elevated inulin content, reserve polysaccharides contained in the root which are slightly sweet and remain unabsorbed by the organism, burdock is utilized to slow the digestion of carbohydrates, to reduce the absorption of glucose and to control conditions of hyperglycemia. One preliminary study found that burdock reduced proteinuria and improved post-meal blood glucose levels and lipid metabolism in people with diabetic nephropathy.

Menopause is the point in time when a woman’s menstrual periods stop. The physical and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt sleep, cause hot flashes, lower energy or  trigger anxiety or feelings of sadness and loss. Burdock is considered a  effective  and safe component in a blend of herbs for the amelioration of hormonal transitions and difficulties. Burdock is an plant with weak estrogen-like actions similar to soy. In a clinical study, a formula containing tinctures of burdock, dong quai, licorice, motherwort and wild yam was found to reduce symptoms of menopause.

Side Effects

Individuals who have allergies to the Asteraceae/Compositae family should avoid burdock. Burdock root is considered a uterine stimulant and should not be used by pregnant women. Because the roots of burdock closely resemble those of belladonna, there is a risk that burdock supplements may be contaminated with potentially dangerous herbs. Cases of burdock tea contaminated with belladonna alkaloids have been reported in the USA.

Artichoke Benefits and Health Effects

The artichoke is a member of the thistle family. The 2 compound  found in artichokes are silymarin and cynarin. Cynarin an active ingredient found in artichoke leaf is known to break down fats and improve bile flow. Also are rich in silymarin, an antioxidant that may improve liver health.

Artichoke Benefits and Researches

Artichoke is usually recommended for liver disease or damage, poor liver function and gallstones. It is also taken for digestive conditions like loss of, indigestion, appetite, bloating nausea, abdominal pain, and constipation. The active chemical compound in artichoke is cynarin. This ingredient is found in highest concentrations in the leaves. Artichokes also contain the flavonoid silymarin, a strong liver protectant. Like silymarin, cynara has showed important liver-protecting and regenerating properties.

Artichokes are high in the dietary fiber. A single boiled artichoke contains a whopping 10 g of fiber, and you’ll get 7 g of fiber from a half cup of artichoke hearts. The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services ‘ Dietary Guidelines recommend women consume 21 to 25 g per day andmen consume 30 to 38 g per day of dietary fiber. Fiber has been found by scientists to be preventative for digestive disorders and colon cancer. Some of the strong antioxidants in artichokes are anthocyanins, rutin, quercetin, luteolin, silymarin, and cynarin. A July 2006 research examined the antioxidant levels of 1,113 foods and beverages and found that artichoke hearts had the highest level among all vegetables measured; they came in fourth among all foods and beverages tested. Antioxidants are associated with reducing the risk of cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases.

ArtichokeArtichoke leaf extract (ALEs) is made from the long, deeply serrated basal leaves of the artichoke plant. Some researches have shown that artichoke leaf extract can be beneficial for individuals suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and dyspepsia, or upset stomachs. Irritable bowel syndrome is a illness reported to affect up to 20 % of the general population. According to a research reported in the Aug 2004, issue of the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine“, artichoke leaf extract (ALEs) can improve symptoms of IBS. In a study done at the “University of Reading“, 208 participants who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia were monitored over a 2-month period of intervention with artichoke leaf extract. Results demonstrated a 26 % reduction in irritable bowel syndrome incidence among the patients at the end of the study. Dyspepsia symptoms decreased by 41% after therapy, and the patients noted a 20% increase in quality of life after therapy.

Commission E (Germany’s regulatory agency for herbs) approves the use of artichoke leaf for dyspeptic problems. In a study demonstrated an improvement of symptoms in 50% of participants with dyspeptic syndrome after 14 days of therapy with artichoke-leaf extract. In a 2003 study reported in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics , 129 participants with functional dyspepsia were given 640 mg of ALEs (artichoke-leaf extract) daily, while 115 patients took a placebo. After 6 weeks of therapy; those who received ALEs reported a significantly greater reduction in symptoms and improvement in quality of life than patients who took a placebo. In one study of 553 participants, digestive disturbances improved after 6 weeks of treatment with artichoke leaf extract on average 70%. Improvements in flatulence (68%), severe constipation (71%), loss of appetite (72%), abdominal pain (76%), nausea (83%) and vomiting (88%) were noted. These improvements of symptoms were seen after 2 to 6 weeks of therapy.

Artichoke extract is made from the leaf of the artichoke and called Cynara scolymus. Artichoke leaf extracts have showed important benefits and potential as an antioxidant and hepatoprotective. A 1987 study that focused on the effects of rat liver cells (hepatocytes) subjected to harmful chemical agents found both cynarin and caffeic acids to have important protective properties. The use of ALEs clearly indicated an apparent decreased of liver injury. As reported in the Sept 2008 issue of “Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology“, scientists studied whether pre-treatment with artichoke extract could protect against liver damage. Researchers found that artichoke extract administered prior to exposure to a known liver toxin demonstrates the ability to prevent liver injury. Important findings were showed in a open label study of 417 patients with liver or bile duct disease. Most of these participants had long-standing symptoms. These participants were treated with ALEs for four weeks. After 1 week, approximately 70% of the participants experienced healing of their symptoms, and after 4 weeks, this proportion was 85%.

Researches have shown that the antioxidants quercetin, rutin, and gallic acid found in artichoke leaf extract are able to induce apoptosis and reduce the proliferation of cancer cells. Studies done with artichoke leaf extract have found that they induce apoptosis and reduce cell proliferation in many different forms of cancer, including  leukemia, breast and prostate cancer. Artichoke polyphenols induce apoptosis and reduces the invasive potential of the human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB231. One in vitro study using the MDA-MB 231 breast cancer cell line showed that the polyphenols of artichoke was able to induce 60% apoptosis at 600 uM concentration over 24 hours.