What are herbs?

Herbs are plants that are used for medicinal or culinary purposes. We are all familiar with mint and rosemary. Some people like to cultivate basil, marjoram, thyme or chives to enhance the flavor of food. While culinary herbs have medicinal properties, these properties are barely noticed in the quantities we take as part of the diet. However, you might notice that drinking mint tea after a meal aids your digestion or that eating parsley causes you to urinate more. Some

naturalists maintain that every plant on earth has healing properties, but that we do not understand them all. One thing is certain – there are numerous herbs, and they work for all sorts of human ills.

The medicinal part of a plant can be the leaves, flowers, fruit, roots, or bark. Herbs that use the root or bark are usually, but not always, stronger and less tasty than those made from leaves and flowers. Some herbs are organically grown, and, of course, if you can find an herbal supplement made from an organic plant, choose it over another one. Wildcrafting is a term used to describe how herbs are obtained. This means that someone found them growing in nature and picked them. It implies that there are no pesticides or chemicals used in their production, but since the definition of organic is strictly regulated in many states, wildcrafted herbs cannot claim to be organic. They are an excellent choice, however. Some herbal formulas use only the active ingredient of an herb, the one alkaloid thought to be responsible for the herbs healing powers. This is actually not a good idea since we really do not know if an herb acts only through its active ingredient or through the synergy of all its living components. It is usually best to use the full plant part.

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How to take herbs

Herbal supplements come in liquid and dry form. The liquid form is a tincture, made from a concentration of the herbs juices preserved in a medium such as alcohol, water, or glycerin. Dried herbs come in capsules or tablets. Tinctures offer the advantage of being easy to take and readily absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth. For this reason, I prefer tinctures for my patients. Capsules are the next best in that the herbal matter is readily available once the gelatin capsule has dissolved. Tablets are my least favorite since they are hard to break down in the digestive tract. If you are getting some of your herbal requirements in a multi nutrient tablet, consider taking the balance as a tincture. Herbs are food and can be taken with meals or separately if they cause you no gastric distress.

Usually a course of herbal treatment should be maintained for at least thirty to ninety days. For ARMD patients, because of the slow progression of the disease, you may have to take herbs for as long as six months before you notice any improvement in your vision. The herbs I will discuss in this chapter will help slow down the progression of your disease and you should continue taking them even if you are not sure they are helping your vision. Some herbalists recommend taking herbs six days of each week to give your body a chance to respond on the seventh day.

Bilberry

During World War II, British fighter pilots are said to have eaten bilberry preserves in order to improve their night vision. This practice probably grew out of folklore in Europe that considered bilberry to enhance sight. Bilberry is a plant known as Vaccinium myrtillus. The medicinal part is the fruit or berries, and closely resembles American huckleberries. The plant grows in Europe and the Rocky Mountain region.

Bilberry acts as an anti-oxidant in combating free radical damage and stabilizing collagen as well as strengthening capillaries. Although the leaves of the plant are poisonous, the fruit has no adverse reaction, even when taken in large amounts. In several studies, patients with various eye disorders ranging from myopia to macular degeneration, showed improvement in their vision a short time after taking bilberry. In another study, bilberry plus Vitamin E stopped the progression of cataracts in 97% of the patients on the regimen. Daily supplementation with Bilberry as it is included in a total eye formula is highly recommended.

Ginkgo biloba

This supplement is derived from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, one of the oldest plants on earth. Its age points to its application in many of the disorders associated with aging, among them senility and loss of memory. Ginkgo biloba improves circulation to the brain through a mild blood thinning effect. For this reason, it should never be used by anyone who is taking blood thinners. It is helpful in macular degeneration because, by stimulating the blood flow to the eye, waste material in the form of drusen can more easily be carried away. Grace Halloran, author of Amazing Grace, who works with visually impaired people in a comprehensive training program (see last chapter), states that several of her clients have had their drusen completely disappear. These were individuals of varying ages, who methodically developed and maintained a healing plan like the one I am suggesting in this blog.

Ginkgo biloba also relieves depression and helps with hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Because of its effect on the blood vessels of the eye, Ginkgo biloba is very important as a supplement for those with wet ARMD as well as for anyone with cerebral insufficiency syndrome which is lack of proper circulation to the brain.

Because of the extensive research done with this herb, it has been found that a preparation containing 24 percent ginkgosides is the most effective. When you purchase Ginkgo biloba, look for a brand that is made by a reputable herbal

pharmacy and that contains this amount of its active ingredient. A dosage of 120mg per day is sufficient to obtain benefits from this marvelous substance. You may find this included in eye health formulas.

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