Herbs Used in Natural Cures

By Scott J. Banks, Joe Kraynak, J. J. Virgin

For as long as humans have walked the earth, plants have been used to treat a host of common ailments, from allergies to headaches to heart disease and even cancer. In fact, many modern medicines have been developed by extracting the active ingredients of various plants. The table lists more than 100 of the most common and helpful herbs still in use today.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/george tsartsianidis]
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/george tsartsianidis

Just because herbs are plants and serve as natural cures doesn’t mean that all herbs are completely safe. Some herbs, even medicinal herbs, may be toxic. Obtain herbal remedies from reputable suppliers and carefully read and follow label instructions and warnings. If you’re pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or nursing, consult your doctor before using any herbal remedies.

Herbal Remedies
Herb Commonly Used For
Aloe Burns, wounds, skin irritations, constipation, ulcers
American ginseng Weakness, fever, cough, wheezing, increasing stress
tolerance
Andrographis Cold, flu, diarrhea
Angelica Indigestion, gas, colic, circulation, cough, congestion
Anise Indigestion, nausea, gas, bloating, colic, cough (expectorant),
menstrual pain, asthma, whooping cough, bronchitis, scabies,
lice
Arnica Bruises, sprains, strains, muscle pain
Artichoke Liver and gallbladder health, stomach upset, digestion, colon
conditions
May help with atherosclerosis and high cholesterol
Ashwagandha root
(mild sedative)
Chronic stress, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, low sex drive
Asian ginseng Cold, flu, heart health, physical and mental performance,
stress, erectile dysfunction, menopausal symptoms
May help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and lower blood
sugar for those with type 2 diabetes
Astragalus Stress, bacterial and viral infection, inflammation
May help prevent cancer and diabetes, improve heart function, and
protect the liver and kidneys
Barberry Upset stomach, diarrhea, fever
May be useful for gallbladder conditions and heartburn
Basil Stomach upset, cuts and scrapes (antibacterial agent), insect
repellent
May help treat colds, headaches, and heart disease
Bilberry Venous insufficiency, atherosclerosis, diabetes, diarrhea,
eye/vision conditions
Bitter melon High blood glucose levels, diabetes
Black cohosh Cramps, hot flashes, irritability, mood swings, sleep
disturbances, other menopausal symptoms
May help with arthritis and osteoporosis
Bladderwrack May help prevent cancer, reduce cellulite, and support weight
loss
Black walnut Depression, heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis,
Candida/yeast infection, ringworm, other fungal/yeast infections of
the skin
May be used as a deworming agent to rid the system of
parasites
Blessed thistle Detox, gas, bloating
May have antitumor and anticancer effects and may help alleviate
menopausal symptoms
Blue cohosh Menstrual issues (to stimulate menstruation and improve
menstrual symptoms), inducing labor
Boswellia
(anti‐inflammatory analgesic)
Arthritis pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, gastritis,
bronchitis
Bromelain
(pineapple extract)
Inflammation caused by a variety of conditions, including
arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), asthma, lupus
Bugleweed Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
Burdock (diuretic) Digestion, detox, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS
May help treat acne, eczema, and psoriasis
Butcher’s broom Circulation, heart problems, varicose veins, hemorrhoids
Calendula
(anti‐inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial agent)
Stomach upset, ulcers, menstrual cramps, burns, bruises, cuts
(speeds healing)
May help with ear infections and prevent dermatitis
Camphor Back pain, sore muscles, arthritis pain, congestion
Cascara (laxative) Chronic constipation
Note: Stop using if it causes diarrhea
Castor oil Constipation, sore muscles, arthritis, nerve damage, lower back
pain
Catnip
(mild sedative)
Sleep, digestion, menstrual cramps
May help treat colds and flu by making you sweat
Cat’s claw Inflammation
May help treat arthritis and stomach ulcers and reduce fever
Cayenne Pain associated with arthritis, shingles (after blisters
disappear), and peripheral neuropathy; lower back pain
May be useful in treating psoriasis, improving digestion,
suppressing appetite, and improving overall circulation
Celery seed (diuretic) Arthritis, gout, muscle spasms, inflammation, to calm the
nerves
Chamomile Bruises, sprains, strains, fractures, osteoarthritis,
wounds
Chickweed Detox, obesity, minor burns, skin irritation, rashes
Can also be used as a gentle laxative
Cinnamon Stabilizes blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes,
strengthens immune system response, treats yeast and fungal
infections, improves digestion
Clove Dental pain, gum disease, bad breath, pain from sore muscles
and arthritis, indigestion, stomach upset, nausea
Sometimes used as an antiperspirant/deodorant
Coconut oil Weight loss, high cholesterol, internal fungal infections, skin
and hair revitalization
Comfrey Sore throat, cough, respiratory illness, pain, skin
irritations, ulcerations, abrasions, cuts, burns
Cornsilk Urinary tract or kidney inflammation
Corydalis (central nervous system suppressant) Pain, high blood pressure
Cranberry Urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder and kidney
conditions
Damiana (mild stimulant) Prostate issues (often combined with saw palmetto)
May be helpful in boosting libido
Dandelion (diuretic and mild laxative) Bladder, liver, and kidney conditions; detox; certain skin
conditions, including acne
May help with diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure,
rheumatoid arthritis
Devil’s claw Pain, inflammation, arthritis, muscle pain, gout
Dong quai Hot flashes, cramps, night sweats, mood swings, and other
menopausal symptoms; circulation; liver health; immune system
function
Echinacea Immune system function (shortening the duration of a cold, flu,
cough, sore throat, and fever), wound care (speeding healing and
preventing infection of cuts and abrasions)
May help treat UTIs, vaginal yeast infections, and ear and sinus
infections
Elderberry Cold, flu, sinus infection, wound healing
Elecampane Improving breathing (in cases of asthma and bronchitis) and
digestion
Ephedra, or
ma huang
(decongestant)
Asthma, bronchitis, cough, cold, hay fever, sinus
infection
Eucalyptus
(decongestant)
Asthma, bronchitis, cough, cold, hay fever, sinus infection,
muscle and joint pain, or as a mouthwash
May also be useful, when applied topically, for healing wounds and
fungal infections and as an insect repellant
Evening
primrose oil
Bruises
May also be useful in treating eczema, rheumatoid arthritis,
premenstrual and menopausal symptoms, breast pain, diabetic
neuropathy
Eyebright Conjunctivitis, bloodshot eyes, tired eyes, and other eye and
vision problems
Fennel Digestion, abdominal cramps, gas, bloating
Also useful as an expectorant to make coughs more productive and
clear lung infections; may also promote weight loss
Fenugreek High blood pressure, high cholesterol, digestive upset, liver
and pancreas health
Feverfew Tension headaches, migraines, inflammation, arthritis, fever,
menstrual cramps
Flaxseed (laxative) Colon health, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, cancer
(especially breast, colon, and prostate cancers), and a host of
other conditions; good for overall health
Garlic (antioxidant, decongestant) Heart disease, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, high blood
pressure, cancer, enlarged prostate, asthma, bronchitis, cold,
fungal infections (ringworm, jock itch, and athlete’s foot)
Gentian Digestive health, gastrointestinal inflammation, gallbladder
problems
May also help treat internal parasites and help with
smoking cessation
Ginger root Cold, flu, stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea, arthritis, colic,
heart conditions, headache, motion sickness
May help lower cholesterol
Ginkgo biloba Circulation, memory, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, glaucoma,
macular degeneration, pain caused by reduced blood flow to the
legs, anxiety, premenstrual symptoms, Raynaud’s disease
Ginseng Immune system health, heart health, physical and mental
performance, stress, low libido, erectile dysfunction, menopausal
symptoms
May lower blood sugar for those with type 2 diabetes and help
reduce the risk of certain types of cancer
Goldenrod Arthritis, gout, allergies, asthma, cold, flu, inflammation of
the bladder or urinary tract, kidney stones, hemorrhoids, minor
wounds, eczema, inflammation of the mouth and throat
Goldenseal (antibiotic, often combined with Echinacea) Cold, flu, upper respiratory infections, cold sores, minor
wounds, pink eye and other eye infections
May help treat diarrhea, UTIs, vaginitis
Gotu kola Circulation to the legs, varicose veins, syphilis, hepatitis,
stomach ulcers, epilepsy, diarrhea, fever, asthma, cold, upper
respiratory infections, anxiety, insomnia, minor wounds, burns,
eczema, psoriasis, scleroderma, scar ­prevention, stretch mark
reduction
Grapeseed
(antioxidant)
Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, cancer, blood circulation in the legs, edema (swelling
from an injury or surgery)
May be helpful in treating Alzheimer’s disease and
hemorrhoids and improving vision (especially night vision)
Green tea Atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, IBD,
diabetes, arthritis, liver disease
May promote weight loss by boosting metabolism
Hawthorn Angina (chest pain), arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), high
blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, circulatory
conditions
Hops Digestion, anxiety, insomnia, bladder infections and
irritation, bruises
A special extract called hops bract polyphenols may help
prevent periodontal disease
Horehound Cough, cold, flu, sore throat, bronchitis, digestion, gas,
bloating, heart rhythm problems, pain
Horse chestnut Circulation, vein and capillary health (which helps with
bruising, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids), varicose veins,
cellulite, wrinkles, cough, congestion
Horsetail (diuretic) UTIs, kidney stones, osteoporosis, brittle nails, minor wounds
and burns
Jamaican
dogwood
Pain relief, muscle spasms, cough, fever, inflammation, sleep
aid
Warning: Is potentially toxic and used in
insecticides to control lice and flea infestations; use only under
a doctor’s close supervision
Kava Anxiety, insomnia
Warning: May cause liver damage; use only under a
doctor’s close supervision
Lavender (sedative) Anxiety, agitation, headaches, exhaustion, muscle and joint
pain, insomnia
When applied to scalp, may help regrow hair in people with alopecia
areata (an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss)
Lemon balm Gas, bloating, colic, anxiety, sleep aid, minor wounds, insect
bites and stings, cold sores from herpes simplex
Licorice Digestion (helping with acid reflux and stomach ulcers), cough,
cold, bronchitis, asthma, eczema, cold sores
May help promote weight loss
Linden Cough, cold, sore throat, fever, anxiety, indigestion,
arrhythmia, nausea, vomiting, skin health
May be helpful in treating high blood pressure
Lobelia Respiratory conditions (including asthma, bronchitis, and
cough), skin infections, insect bites and stings, poison ivy, and
ringworm
Warning: Potentially toxic in high doses
Maca root Libido, menstrual irregularities
May also help in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome
Maitake (mushroom) Immune system function, liver function
May help lower blood pressure and prevent cancer
Marshmallow Asthma, bronchitis, cough, sore throat, indigestion, stomach
ulcers, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, chapped skin, skin
inflammation
Milk thistle Detox; liver, kidney, and gallbladder function; damage caused
by alcohol abuse, acetaminophen toxicity, and mushroom poisoning;
viral hepatitis (especially hepatitis C); tumors; cancer
Motherwort Heart health, circulation, high cholesterol, high blood
pressure, nervous system health, anxiety, menstrual problems
(delayed menstruation, menstrual cramps, and premenstrual and
menstrual symptoms)
Mullein
(antibacterial
pain reliever)
Earache (when combined with garlic), sore throat, cough,
irritated lungs, damage caused by smoking
May also help relieve pain and swelling of rheumatoid
arthritis
Mustard Digestion, circulation, congestion, respiratory system
infection
Myrrh Gingivitis, mouth ulcers, periodontal disease, laryngitis,
thrush; cough, cold, and bronchitis (as an expectorant); minor
wounds, abrasions, and fungal infections (applied topically)
Oregano (antioxidant, antibacterial, and
­anti-inflammatory)
Cancer and heart disease prevention, respiratory health,
diabetes
Oregon grape root Stomach cramps, diarrhea, internal parasites, eye infections,
psoriasis, skin irritation, itching, inflammation; protection
against bacterial, viral, and fungal infection
Passionflower Anxiety, sleep aid
Often combined with valerian root or kava and lemon balm
Pau dArco
(antifungal,
antiviral)
candida yeast infections, cold, flu, arthritis, fever,
dysentery, boils, ulcers, cancer, inflammation of the prostate,
herpes simplex, internal parasites, bacterial infections,
psoriasis
Peppermint Indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); cough, sore
throat, minor skin irritations and itching, tension headaches
May also be helpful in treating headaches, anxiety, nausea,
diarrhea, menstrual cramps, flatulence, bloating
Plantain Insect bites and stings, skin irritations, minor burns, minor
cuts (to stop bleeding)
Pomegranate
(antioxidant)
May help prevent and treat cancer, diabetes, and heart disease,
and treat osteoarthritis; applied topically, may help with eczema,
psoriasis, and dry skin
Pygeum Enlarged prostate (often combined with saw palmetto), libido,
hair loss
Raspberry leaf Diarrhea, cold, stomach upset, menstrual cramps, reduction of
menstrual bleeding
Red clover Menopausal symptoms; eczema, psoriasis, and other chronic skin
conditions; respiratory conditions; as
protection against osteoporosis and breast cancer
Reishi (mushroom) Anxiety, high blood pressure, bronchitis, asthma, insomnia,
liver diseases (including hepatitis and to prevent
alcohol‐related cirrhosis)
May boost immune system function
Rosemary Digestion, protection against foodborne pathogens, stress,
memory function, concentration, joint pain, alopecia (an autoimmune
disorder that causes hair loss)
Sage Digestion, cold, fever, sore throat, gingivitis, sore gums, hot
flashes, reduction of menstrual bleeding, wound care; also useful
as a deodorant
Sarsaparilla
(anti‐inflammatory)
Gout, arthritis, psoriasis
Saw palmetto Enlarged prostate, UTIs, sperm production, libido, hair loss
associated with male pattern baldness
May help treat prostate cancer
Senna (laxative) Constipation
Shiitake
(mushroom)
Immune system function, cardiovascular health, high
cholesterol, cancer prevention and treatment, lessening the side
effects of chemotherapy
Siberian ginseng (immune system booster) Preventing and reducing the severity and duration of colds and
flu, reducing the frequency, severity, and duration of herpes
outbreaks; improving physical and mental performance
Skullcap (sedative) American skullcap: Anxiety, insomnia,
convulsions
Chinese skullcap: Inflammation, allergies, cancer,
headaches; may also have antifungal properties
Slippery elm Cough, sore throat, cold, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis,
IBS, acid reflux, diarrhea, wound healing, boils, burns, psoriasis,
other skin conditions
Spirulina (highly nutritious algae) Immune system function; also used to supplement the diet during
detox fasts
St. John’s wort Depression, premenstrual and menopausal symptoms, seasonal
affective disorder (SAD), anxiety disorders (obsessive compulsive
disorder and social phobia, for example); fibromyalgia, lupus,
wounds, minor burns, eczema, hemorrhoids
May cause loose stools and increased sun sensitivity and may
trigger a shift to mania in people with underlying bipolar
disorder; consult your healthcare provider before use and avoid
exposure to sunlight and other sources of UV radiation
Stevia (natural, low‐calorie
sweetener)
Type 2 diabetes, weight loss
Stinging nettle (antihistamine and
anti‐inflammatory)
Sinus allergies, asthma, constricted bronchial and nasal
passages, adrenal and kidney health, gout, enlarged prostate (often
combined with saw palmetto), nighttime incontinence, arthritis pain
and inflammation
May help with osteoporosis and female reproductive health
Tea tree oil
(antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal)
Fungal infections (athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch),
insect bites and stings
May also be useful in treating acne
Thuja Common skin ailments (including psoriasis, scabies,
athlete’s foot, and ringworm); pain from arthritis, rheumatism, and
sore muscles and joints; bronchitis, cold, and other respiratory
conditions
Thyme Congestion, sleep aid, sore throat, cough, digestion, oral
health
Turmeric
(anti‐inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal)
Indigestion, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis,
osteoarthritis, heart disease, cancer, bacterial and viral
infections, uveitis (infected iris)
Note: Often taken in the form of curcumin (the
active
ingredient in turmeric) or with black pepper to increase
availability and absorption of curcumin
Uva ursi
(antibacterial)
Cystitis (bladder inflammation), UTIs
Valerian (sedative) Anxiety, insomnia
Note: Avoid driving or operating machinery for a few
hours after taking valerian; alcohol may magnify sedation
Vitex Hormone balance in women, premenopausal and menopausal
symptoms, painful and irregular periods
Note: Best when taken long‐term; don’t take if
you’re using oral contraceptives
Wild cherry Cough, cold, bronchitis
May be helpful as a sleep agent to treat insomnia
Wild yam
(phytoestrogen)
Premenopausal and menopausal symptoms, nausea, morning
sickness, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, stomach upset,
cramps
Willow bark
(anti‐inflammatory)
General pain relief, bursitis, tendonitis, osteoarthritis,
menstrual cramps, headache, lower back pain
May help to reduce fever
Witch hazel
(astringent)
Hemorrhoids, acne, abrasions, minor burns, insect bites,
varicose veins, puffy eyes
Wormwood
(bitter herb)
Digestion, heartburn and gas prevention
May be helpful in cleansing formulations to purge internal
parasites
Warning:May be toxic at high doses
Yarrow Digestion, stomach and menstrual cramps, anxiety, insomnia,
fever, wound care (slows bleeding when applied to cuts)
Yellow dock Itchy skin conditions, stimulation of digestion and bowel
movements
Yerba mate
(stimulant)
Reduction of inflammation in gout and arthritis, lowering
cholesterol