phytomedicinal

Flickr user, Marilylle Soveran

It's not an old wive's tale: cranberry helps prevent and treat urinary tract infections. And it's not just the acidity: a compound in cranberries and blueberries keeps bacteria from sticking to bladder and urinary tract walls. Cranberries are high in several kinds of antioxidants, including proanthocyanidins, which give the ripe berries their vivid red color.

In the 1672 book New England Rarities Discovered, author John Josselyn described cranberries:

Flickr user, Jon Bunting

Among the artifacts discovered in the tomb of Egypt's Tutankhamen - objects meant to ease the boy king into the afterlife - were 3,000-year-old bulbs of garlic. Giving as well as receiving, Tut supplied daily rations of garlic to his pyramid-building slaves, for endurance and health. Garlic is a fabulous heart helper: its blood-thinning and anti-clotting abilities may slow down atherosclerosis and lower blood pressure.

Flickr user, Ali Graney

The causes of migraine aren't well understood. Neither is the mechanism behind feverfew's proven ability to stop or prevent a migraine headache. Feverfew supplements used in clinical studies to treat migraine contain a standardized dose of 0.2 to 0.35% parthenolide, so if you research this herb, pay attention to dosage details.  Pregnant women and children under the age of two shouldn't use it, and people with allergies to ragweed, chamomile and yarrow are sometimes allergic to feverfew.

Asian Ginseng

Jul 12, 2014

7/12/14: This week on The Plant Detective: Asian ginseng, Panax ginseng, helps people with Type 2 diabetes maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Both Asian and American ginseng contain ginsenosides, just in different proportions. Asian ginseng stimulates while American ginseng calms, and in the terms of Chinese traditional medicine, Panax ginseng promotes yang energy and cleans excess yin. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) does the opposite.

Tea II

Jul 5, 2014

7/5/14: This week on The Plant Detective: They may have different flavors but black, green, white and oolong teas all come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. They're just processed differently; black tea is fermented, green tea isn't. Unfermented green tea is especially high in catechins, those antioxidants that scavenge the blood for free radicals and are associated with lower rates of atherosclerosis.

Tea I

Jun 28, 2014

6/28/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:" According to archaeologists, human use of tea,  Camellia sinensis, goes back 500,000 years.  The flavonoids in tea are more effective antioxidants than Vitamins C or E - they seem to boost immunity and protect against cavities and ultraviolet rays. More research is needed to find out if tea's flavonoids protect against cardiovascular disease and certain kinds of cancer.

Ginger

May 31, 2014

5/31/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:" The rhizome of Zingiber officinale is eaten as a spice, a medicine, and a delicacy. It's an old remedy for nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness, and the common cold. It's also used to help digestion. And although further research is needed, a 2011 review of scientific literature found that ginger appears to be promising for cancer prevention.

Cloud Mushroom

May 24, 2014

5/24/14: This week on "The Plant Detective:" Cloud mushroom, used for centuries in Chinese medicine, shows immunomodulator properties, helping prolong life after treatment in certain types of cancer. And in clinical trials, a compound derived from cloud mushroom, Polysaccharide-K,  inhibited the onset of cancer.

Elderberry

Jan 17, 2014

January 18th, 2014: Elderberry is an immune-booster, an antioxidant more potent than vitamin C, a stress reducer, and a powerful anti-viral. As they say in Austria:  “Tip your hat to the elder.”

http://www.floradelaterre.com/

Cinnamon

Jan 10, 2014

January 11th, 2014: Compounds in the beloved spice show activity against Type-2 diabetes among people with insulin resistance; cinnamon may resensitize cells to insulin. Researchers are studying cinnamon as well for its effects on HIV, colorectal cancer, multiple sclerosis and Alheimer's disease.

http://www.floradelaterre.com/

Foxglove-Digitalis

Jan 4, 2014

January 4th, 2014: From old wives' tales to pharmaceutical. Compounds in digitalis treat atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure, restoring the heart's ability to process fluids. Lanoxin - from the species, Digitalis lanata - remains one of the top cardiovascular drugs in the U.S.

http://www.floradelaterre.com/