If anyone thought that the science of Herbal Medicine was only “historic” and merely a collection of hearsay tales from the distant past, the latest medical application of two not well-known but traditional herbs will put that misconception to rest.
These herbs offer hope to thousands who currently suffer major physical disorders such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Immune Deficiency, Hepatitis, or Non-Malignant Prostatic Enlargement, and to thousands more the prospect of prevailing the advent of these diseases.
The two herbs in question are Astragalus (also known by the common name Milk Vetch, botanical name Astragalus membranaceus) and Saw Palmetto (Sabal or Serenoa serrulata). Medical studies using these herbs conducted in Japan, France, and Italy in the past five years have shown positive results with excellent safety records.
What is the herb astragalus used for?
Astragalus in Chinese herbal medicine is classified as a superior “tonic to the body’s essential energies” and the Chinese make extensive use of this herb in pediatric treatments for gastric-digestive disorders.
Astragalus has much more to its credit. This herb is known to work through the spleen and bone marrow where it promotes the production of white blood cells which help the body fight infection.
Medical Herbalist Christopher Hobbs describes Astragalus as a “deep defense builder in conditions of profound immune deficiency disorders.” Japanese studies have shown improved immune function and an energy-boosting action with Astragalus.
Astragalus has been shown to increase the production of the white blood cell chemical “Interferon” which the body’s immune system produces to inhibit the growth of disease-causing invader cells such as viruses.
People who suffer repeated infections, or just don’t seem to be able to shake off an infection, would benefit from Astragalus as would long term sufferers of the Post Viral Syndrome that can follow bouts of Ross River Fever with its prolonged lethargy, fatigue, and muscle soreness.
Astragalus is the major tonic herb for the spleen which is the body’s main clearinghouse for spent, damaged red blood cells, and “killed” viral cells. The chemical activities in Astragalus help the spleen more efficiently cleanse the bloodstream of this cellular debris.
In China, Astragalus is used along with chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer. According to the Preventative Medicine Society of Australia, Chinese physicians have found Astragalus strengthens the patients’ immunity, prevents bone marrow depression, and lessens the gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy.
When compared to the herb Echinacea’s action on the immune system which is stimulating and best used during an infection, the Astragalus herb’s activity is rebuilding of immune function and should be used as a “tonic” to strengthen a weakened immune system.
What are the health benefits of saw palmetto?
The second herb gaining medical attention recently is Saw Palmetto (Serenoa or Sabal serrulata). The dried berries of this small palm tree contain properties which interest herbalists.
According to David Hoffmann’s Medical Herbalism, Saw Palmetto is specific in cases of enlarged prostate glands and will be of value in all infections of the genitourinary tract. Like Astragalus, Saw Palmetto’s action in the body is a “tonic” generally and as an endocrine agent (supporter of glandular function) specifically.
Saw Palmetto is favored by doctors in France and Italy as a safe effective treatment for BPH (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy), according to Kate Fraser, Herbalist.
Dr. Robert Buist, Ph.D., Nutritional Biochemist and one of Australia’s leading authorities on the medical application of alternative medicines, describes Saw Palmetto as the preferred soft option to the more traumatic transurethral resection surgery for late torn treatment of prostatic enlargement.
Saw Palmetto’s proven medicinal application has been demonstrated in medically conducted “double-blind” trials involving 2000 patients, 88% of whom found treatment with the herb beneficial to their prostatic conditions.
Saw Palmetto works so well because its chemical compounds act to overcome the effects of changing hormone levels in mature males. Taken preventatively, Saw Palmetto inhibits the production of the reductase enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) the “unfriendly” form of testosterone that causes the prostate to swell and restrict the flow of urine from the bladder.
Saw Palmetto has an established reputation in medical herbalism as a “Male Tonic”, however, Saw Palmetto does have other effective uses and in some surprising areas. It is helpful for stubborn male-type acne and, unexpectedly, in cases of androgenic baldness and hirsutism (hairiness) in women.
The hormone-balancing nature of Saw Palmetto in instances of excess androgens (one of the groups of steroidal hormones produced in both men and women that stimulate the development of male characteristics) is the rationale behind the effectiveness of this herb.