Holy Basil Anxiety Benefits

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), also known as Tulsi, is an Indian herb known for its beneficial effects on conditions such as stress and depression. Holy basil is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as an “adaptogen” to counter life’s stresses.

Holy Basil Anxiety Benefits

Stress is associated to many aspects of both physical and mental health. Over time, stress can negatively affect the health of the nervous, immune and digestive systems. Holy basil has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogenic herb to improve the body’s ability to cope with stress. According to a research reported in the Sep 2008 edition of the Nepal Medical College Journal, 500 mg of tulsi extract taken two times a day can significantly reduce the intensity of generalized anxiety disorder. A 1991 study reported in the “Indian Journal of Pharmacology” compared anti-stress effects with those of Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus ), found that tulsi was a more powerful herb. A study reported in the 2011 Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences showed that mice given a holy basil extract experienced important reduction in stress levels when compared to mice given ginseng.

In a study reported  in the Nov 2003 edition of the “Indian Journal of Experimental Biology,” tulsi was showed to have calming propertieson the central nervous system that may benefit panic disorder. Holy basil may impact the secretion of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are used in coping with stress. In a study found that animals that received the extract demonstrated significant normalization of epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and MAO. Tulsi herb exerts a calming effect by preventing elevations in the cortisol. Nicknamed the ‘stress hormone’,cortisol production increases in response to chronic stress. A notice reported by the California Naturopathic Doctors Association in 2007 describes tulsi as an helpful factor of reducing the cortisol in individuals experiencing cancer and related depression.

Alcohol extracts of this herb demonstrated important anti stress effects in mice exposed to acute and chronic noise stress. A study using male albino rats, via intraperitoneal administration of 70% ethanolic extract of tulsi, dosed at 100 mg/kg body weight, were able to withstand sub-chronic broadband white noise exposure at 100 dB for 4 hours a day for a total of 15 days. This application of the extract prevented noise-induced  increases in the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin turnover in specific brain regions.


Holy basil standardized extract, 400 milligrams daily, for stress and adrenal health. Studies show that taking holy basil at 500 mg twice daily after meals has a important effect in reducing generalized anxiety and depression. Because multiple constituents of holy basil have been shown to combat stress, an efficacious supplement must provide each of these important active components at therapeutic dosages. Researches have shown that eugenol, especially, helps to combat stress and enhance mental clarity.  Also, research has shown that the triterpenoic acids isolated from holy basil effectively improve the body’s response to stress. Holy basil supplements are available as tea, tablets, capsules, and liquid extracts. The best holy basil supplements are in soft-gel capsules.

Neem Benefits and Therapeutic Effects

The Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is an evergreen tree that is part of the mahogany family. The leaves, bark, flowers, and seeds are used to make remedy. Neem leaves have been used traditionally for leprosy, skin ulcers, eye disorders, stomach upset, diabetes,  diseases of the heart and blood vessels, fever, gingivitis, and liver disorders.

Neem Benefits for Health

Neem has been commonly used in traditional Indian ayurvedic, and homoeopathic medicine and has become a cynosure of modern medicine. More than 140 compounds have been isolated from different parts of neem. The therapeutic properties have been described particularly for neem leaf. Neem leaf and its constituents have been showed to exhibit immunomodulatory, antioxidant, nantimutagenic, anticarcinogenic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antimalarial, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer, and antihyperglycaemic effects.


Neem oil relieves dry skin and soothes itchy, red, irritated skin. Neem oil contains high levels of antioxidants, which help protect the skin from free radicals caused by over-exposure to sun, environmental toxins and other damaging factors. A study published in May 2001 (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) scientists found that fatty acids, which are found in neem, provided some protection against ultraviolet light, the cause of photoging. Because neem contains antibacterial effects, it is highly helpful in treating epidermal conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. Experiments have shown that people with psoriasis who have taken neem leaf orally, combined with tropical therapy with neem extracts and neem seed oil, achieve results at least as favorable as those who use coal tar and cortisone. A study in 1979 demonstrated neem extract to be beneficial in treating ringworm, scabies, eczema, and some forms of dermatitis.


neemNeem seed and leaf have anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral effects. In test tubes, neem has been shown to have important properties on both gram-positive and gram-negative organisms and other bacteria that cause a wide array of human and animal diseases including Escherichia coli, streptococcus and salmonella. A 0.2% concentration of neem had the same anti-bacterial property as penicillin G. Its antiseptic effects help to prevent periodontal diseases. In a scientific review published in the June 2002 edition of the “Current Science“, the authors concluded that neem oil has a wide spectrum of antibacterial action in vitro against fourteen different strains of pathogenic bacteria. In a clinical trial, a cream containing neem seed extract, saponins of Sapindus mukerossi and quinine hydrochloride eliminated all symptoms in 10 of 14 women with chlamydia compared with none of 4 women given placebo cream.

Gum Disease

Neem oil is used in lotions, soaps, shampoos, and toothpastes. It helps treat fungal infections, lice, dry scalp, skin disorders, and gingivitis. Neem oil is frequently added to natural toothpastes as a purifier and as an antimicrobial agent that helps prevent dental diseases. Mouthwashes containing neem can significantly inhibit the growth of the bacteria Streptococcus mutans in the mouth, according to a study reported in the  2001 of the Indian Journal of Dental Research. Applying neem leaf extract gel to the teeth and gums twice  daily for six weeks might reduce plaque formation, according to developing research. In 2004, a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology; 36 men were assigned to 6 weeks of therapy with either a gel containing neem extract, or a mouthwash containing chlorhexidine gluconate. Study findings demonstrated that the neem-based gel was more effective in reducing plaque buildup than the mouthwash.

Mosquito Repellent

Some researches demonstrates that neem oil may help protect against insect bites. Neem’s mosquito repellent effects are an important weapon in the fight against malaria in third world countries. In 1994 the the Malaria Research Centre of Delhi, investigated whether kerosene lamps with 1% neem oil can protect people from mosquito bites. Neem oil openly reduced the number of bites on the volunteers and the number of mosquitoes caught. In a study reported in the “Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health” in 1995, researchers discovered that a blend of neem oil and coconut oil may act as a mosquito repellent. Different concentrations of neem oil mixed in coconut oil were applied to the exposed body parts of volunteers. Results showed 81%-91% protection during 12 hour period of observation from the bites of anopheline mosquitoes. In another study, repellent action of neem oil was studied against different mosquito species. 2% neem oil mixed in coconut oil provided 96-100% protection from anophelines, 85% from Aedes, 37.5% from Armigeres whereas it demonstrated wide range of efficacy from 61-94% against Culex spp. A July 2008 study reported in the Malaria Journal shows the 50% reduction in the mosquito population after applying neem seed powder to mosquito breeding areas.

Head Lice

Head louse infestations are prevalent worldwide. Neem effectively kills lice in all stages of their life cycle. An anti-louse shampoo (Licener®) based on a neem was studied in vitro and in vivo on its efficacy to eliminate head louse infestation by a single therapy. In a 2011 study reported in “Parasitology Research“, the hair of 12 children being selected from a larger group due to their intense infestation with head lice were incubated for 10 minute with the neem-based shampoo. It was found that after this short exposition period, none of the lice had survived, when being observed for 22 hour. Other living head lice were in vitro incubated within the undiluted product. It was seen that a total submersion for just 3 minute prior to washing 3× for 2 minute with tap water was sufficient to kill all motile stages.

The eggs (nits) of head and body lice were incubated for 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 or 45 min into a neem seed extract contained in a fine shampoo formulation (Wash Away® Louse provided by Alpha-Biocare GmbH, Düsseldorf). It was found that an incubation time of just 5 minute was enough to prohibit any hatching of larvae, whilst 93 ± 4% of the larvae in the untreated controls of body lice hatched respectively approximately 76% of the controls in the case of head lice. In a study 60 heavily lice-infested female and male children were selected and subjected to the therapy with a neem seed based shampoo. Twenty to thirty ml of the neem seed extract shampoo were thoroughly mixed with completely wet hair and rubbed in to reach the skin of the scalp. After 10, 15 and 30 minute, the neem shampoo was washed out. The neem seed shampoo proved to be extremely powerful against all stages of head lice. At the pediatric clinic of Iserlohn a study was conducted on a product under the name of “Neem-Extrakt FT-Shampoo”. In this clinical study, children were treated both for head lice and scab mites. With head lice, the therapy was especially successful when the hair was shampooed on the 1st, 3rd and 10th day.

Birth Control

Vaginal suppositories and creams made with neem oil are becoming the birth control method of popular in India. Several studies demonstrated that neem oil appears to be a safe and  effective contraceptive, pre and post coital. When tested against human sperm neem extract at 1000 mg was able to kill all sperm in only 5 minutes and required only 30 minutes at a 250 mg level. Neem oil appears to be the most powerful form of neem for birth control, especially hexane extracted neem oil. After a single injection of a minute amount of neem oil in the uterine horns, a potent cell-mediated immune response reaction produced a long term and reversible block in fertility (up to 12 months).

This herb may become the first  effective birth control “pill” for men. In both India and the United States, studies show neem extract reduces fertility in male monkeys without it hurting libido or sperm production. Neither neem leaf extract in water nor neem leaf oil alters the rate spermatogenesis. But, neem seed oil and neem bark extract caused arrest of spermatogenesis within two months, with a decrease in the number of Leydig cells. Male antifertility activity of neem leaf extract was examined in rats. The infertility effect was seen in treated male rats as there was a 66 % decreased in fertility after 6 weeks, 80% after 9 weeks, and 100% after 11 weeks. Neem leaf tablets ingested for one month produced reversible male antifertility without affecting sperm production or libido. In a test of neem’s birth control properties with members of the Indian Army, daily oral doses of several drops of neem seed oil in gelatin capsules were given to 20 married soldiers. The effect took 6 weeks to become 100% effective, it remained effective during the entire year of the study and was just reversed 6 weeks after a man no longer took the capsules.


Traditional Indian ayurvedic medicine has recommended the use of neem leaf, seed, and bark, for reducing arthritic pain and inflammation and for halting the progression of the disease. Clinical trials have showed that the anti-inflammatory effects of various compounds in neem leaves are equally as effective as phenyl butazone and cortisone. Neem leaf and bark extracts have been shown to be a more strong inhibitor of prostaglandin synthetase than acetylsalicylic acid and pethidine hydrochloride. A study at the Department of Pharmacology at Rajshahi Medical College, scientists found that neem extract has a important effect on inflammation.The anti-inflammatory effects of azadirachtin, the active ingredient in neem oil have been established. A study reported in the February 2010 edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry demonstrated hat azadirachtin support an anti-inflammatory response in human skin cell lines by blocking the expression of certain enzymes involved in producing inflammation, such as COX-2 (cyclooxygenase 2).


Neem is known to have powerful gastroprotective and antiulcer properties. Standardized aqueous extract of neem leaves has been reported to show both ulcer protective and ulcer healing effects in normal as well as in diabetic rats. The effect of neem extract on gastric ulceration was examined in albino rats. Neem extract (100-800 mg/kg po, 100-25 mg/kg ip) significantly inhibited gastric ulceration induced by indomethacin (40 mg/kg). In a 2004 clinical trial at the “Indian Institute of Clinical Biology” demonstrates neem bark causes important decreases in gastric acid secretion (77%), as well as gastric secretion volume (63%) and pepsin activity (50%). The bark extract when taken at the dose of 30–60 mg twice daily for 10 weeks nearly completely healed the duodenal ulcers monitored by barium meal X-ray or by endoscopy. One case of esophageal ulcer and one case of gastric ulcer healed completely when treated at the dose of 30 mg twice daily for six weeks.


Neem seed and leaf extracts have antiviral effects. Neem acts as an antiretroviral agent via inhibition of viral invasion of host cells. Neem has been shown to be efficacious against herpes virus and the viral DNA polymers of the hepatitis B virus. Research at “Johns Hopkins University” demonstrated that neem “provided significant protection” against the Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) in mice infected with the extremely infectious virus. A study in the Aug 2010 edition of the Phytotherapy Research showed that neem bark extract inhibit the entry of herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 into the target cells in the lab and may help prevent or treat herpes infections. The antiviral and virucidal effect of an extract of neem leaves was investigated to determine its activity against the Coxsackie B group of viruses. Neem leaves extract inhibited the replication of 6 types of Coxsackie virus B. Observations of virus inactivation and population reduction in the experiment showed that neem was most powerful against Coxsackie virus B-4 early in its replicative cycle. A 2002 research findings that neem leaf extract inhibits the growth of Dengue virus, type 2, a viral hemorrhagic fever related to Ebola. In vitro tests demonstrated it completely inhibited the virus. In vivo tests conducted on mice demonstrated the neem leaf extract resulted in inhibition of the virus as confirmed by the absence of symptoms.  Ten HIV-positive participants were included in a study. Bodyweight, blood cell count, and CD4+ cell count were measured before and after the trial period. All received capsules containing neem extract (1000 mg), once daily for 30 days. The increases in body weight and blood cell count after 30 days was important among all subjects. The scientists also found that neem extract protected 75% of human cells in a test tube from the HIV virus.


Several components found in neem leaves may be helpful in cancer therapy including the  vitamin C, beta carotene  quercetin, azadirachtin, azadirone, deoxonimbolide, kaemferol, nimbolide and glucopyranoside. An ethanolic extract of neem leaf reduced the incidence of chemical-induced gastric tumors in mice; and neem-treated monocytes induced apoptosis in cervical and prostate cancer cells. In India, Japan  and Europe researchers have found that polysaccharides and liminoids in neem bark, leaves and seed oil reduced tumors and cancers and were effective against lymphocytic leukemia. Neem leaf extract demonstrated an adjuvant immune response to tumor growth in mice as well as protection from leucopenia caused by chemotherapy. Neem extract may help kill prostate cancer cells, according to a research reported in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in April 2006. A 2011 research reported in “Cancer Biology and Therapy” showed that neem may offer anti-cancer effects, including immune-stimulating and tumor-suppressing activities. A new research, performed with mice and  rats, showed that the inclusion of a preparation from neem leaf added to an antigen helped create higher quantities of an immune antibody beneficial for shielding against breast cancer.

Side Effects

Don’t take any neem products internally if you are trying to conceive a child. Taking neem oil internally is not recommended, for children. Oral administration of neem oil resulted in serious poisoning in children. These severe adverse effects include  blood disorders, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma, brain disorders, and death. Neem oil has been found to produce Reye’s syndrome symptoms in infants who are exposed to neem oils.

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.

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.