Although studied less, herbs are also considered helpful by many. Popular herbs for relaxation are chamomile, lemon, and lavender. In our opinion, the best current source of information on herbs, and their use for stress reduction, is the National Center for Complemetary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the National Institutes of Health, or NIH. They have an extensive list of herbs.
Aloe vera’s use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. Known as the “plant of immortality,” aloe was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.
Historically, aloe was used topically to heal wounds and for various skin conditions, and orally as a laxative. Today, in addition to these uses, aloe is used as a folk or traditional remedy for a variety of conditions, including diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis. It is also used topically for osteoarthritis, burns, sunburns, and psoriasis. Aloe vera gel can be found in hundreds of skin products, including lotions and sunblocks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aloe vera as a natural food flavoring.
Aloe leaves contain a clear gel that is often used as a topical ointment. The green part of the leaf that surrounds the gel can be used to produce a juice or a dried substance (called latex) that is taken by mouth.
Chamomile – Two types of chamomile have been used for health conditions: German chamomile and Roman chamomile. While the two kinds are thought to have similar effects on the body, the German variety is more commonly used in the United States and is the focus of this fact sheet.
Chamomile has been widely used in children and adults for thousands of years for a variety of health conditions. Today, chamomile is used as a folk or traditional remedy for sleeplessness, anxiety, and gastrointestinal conditions such as upset stomach, gas, and diarrhea. It is also used topically for skin conditions and for mouth ulcers resulting from cancer treatment.
The flowering tops of the chamomile plant are used to make teas, liquid extracts, capsules, or tablets. The herb can also be applied to the skin as a cream or an ointment, or used as a mouth rinse.
Echinacea—There are nine known species of echinacea, all of which are native to the United States and southern Canada. The most commonly used is Echinacea purpurea. Echinacea has traditionally been used for colds, flu, and other infections, based on the idea that it might stimulate the immune system to more effectively fight infection. Less common folk or traditional uses of echinacea include for wounds and skin problems, such as acne or boils.
The aboveground parts of the plant and roots of echinacea are used fresh or dried to make teas, squeezed (expressed) juice, extracts, or preparations for external use.
Garlic is the edible bulb from a plant in the lily family. It has been used as both a medicine and a spice for thousands of years. Garlic’s most common folk or traditional uses as a dietary supplement are for high cholesterol, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Other folk or traditional uses include prevention of certain types of cancer, including stomach and colon cancers. Garlic cloves can be eaten raw or cooked. They may also be dried or powdered and used in tablets and capsules. Raw garlic cloves can be used to make oils and liquid extracts.
Ginger is a tropical plant that has green-purple flowers and an aromatic underground stem (called a rhizome). It is commonly used for cooking and medicinal purposes. Historically, ginger has been used in Asian medicine to treat stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Today, ginger is used as a folk or traditional remedy for postsurgery nausea; nausea caused by motion, chemotherapy, and pregnancy; rheumatoid arthritis; osteoarthritis; and joint and muscle pain.
The herb peppermint, a cross between two types of mint (water mint and spearmint), grows throughout Europe and North America. Peppermint is often used to flavor foods, and the leaves can be used fresh or dried in teas. Today, peppermint oil is used as a folk or traditional remedy for nausea, indigestion, cold symptoms, headaches, muscle and nerve pain, stomach problems, and bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Essential oil of peppermint may be found in very small doses in capsule or liquid forms. The essential oil can also be diluted with another oil and applied to the skin.
All types of tea (green, black, and oolong) are produced from the Camellia sinensis plant using different methods. Fresh leaves from the plant are steamed to produce green tea. Green tea and green tea extracts, such as its component EGCG, have traditionally been used to prevent and treat a variety of cancers, including breast, stomach, and skin cancers, and for mental alertness, weight loss, lowering cholesterol levels, and protecting skin from sun damage.
Green tea is usually brewed and drunk as a beverage. Green tea extracts can be taken in capsules and are sometimes used in skin products.
Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region. It is used as a bath additive. Today, it is used as a folk or traditional remedy for anxiety, insomnia, and headaches. Lavender is commonly used in aromatherapy, in which the scent from the flowers is inhaled. The oil is also sometimes used on the skin.
The lemon (Citrus × limon) is a species of small evergreen tree native to Asia.
The tree’s ellipsoidal yellow fruit is used for culinary and non-culinary purposes throughout the world, primarily for its juice, which has both culinary and cleaning uses. The pulp and rind (zest) are also used in cooking and baking. The juice of the lemon is about 5% to 6% citric acid, which gives a sour taste. The distinctive sour taste of lemon juice makes it a key ingredient in drinks and foods such as lemonade and lemon meringue pie.
St. John’s wort is a plant with yellow flowers whose medicinal uses were first recorded in ancient Greece. The name St. John’s wort apparently refers to John the Baptist, as the plant blooms around the time of the feast of St. John the Baptist in late June. Historically, St. John’s wort has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders and nerve pain. St. John’s wort has also been used for malaria, as a sedative, and as a balm for wounds, burns, and insect bites. Today, St. John’s wort is used as a folk or traditional remedy for depression, anxiety, and/or sleep disorders.
The flowering tops of St. John’s wort are used to prepare teas, tablets, and capsules containing concentrated extracts. Liquid extracts and topical preparations are also used.
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