Glossary Of Herbs

Cranberry  (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Cranberries have been used as a food and a medicine for centuries. Cranberry is a small, evergreen shrub grown throughout North America. The cranberry bush has upright branches with leaves that are speckled underneath by tiny dots. Pink flowers blossom and red-black fruits appear during June and July.

Cranberry has a long history of use among native American Indian tribes, primarily for treating bladder and kidney diseases. Early settlers from England learned to use the berry both raw and cooked for appetite loss, stomach problems, blood disorders, and scurvy, caused by not getting enough vitamin C.

Cranberry fruit is high in antioxidants, partly from substances called proanthocyanidins, which give cranberries their red color. It is an excellent source of vitamin C.

Cranberry is best known for helping prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), commonly caused by bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli). People used to think that cranberry worked for urinary tract infections by making the urine acidic and, therefore, unlikely to support the growth of bacteria. But researchers don’t believe this explanation any more. They now think that some of the chemicals in cranberries keep bacteria from sticking to the cells that line the urinary tract where they can multiply. Cranberry, however, does not seem to have the ability to release bacteria which are already stuck to these cells. This may explain why cranberry is possibly effective in preventing urinary tract infections, but possibly ineffective in treating them.

Cranberry is also used for neurogenic bladder (a bladder disease), as well as to deodorize urine in people with urinary incontinence (difficulty controlling urination). Some people use cranberry to increase urine flow, kill germs, speed skin healing, and reduce fever.

Recent studies show that cranberry may also prevent the bacteria Helicobacter pylori from attaching to stomach walls. H. pylori can cause stomach ulcers, so cranberries may play a role in the preventing stomach ulcers.

Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum)

Flaxseed oil comes from the seeds of the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum, L.) known for its healing properties. It contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Its seeds are ground and mixed into pastes for skin problems, and the oil is used to treat digestive problems. Flax seeds are a very rich source of the essential fatty acids that must be consumed because the body cannot make them. These EFAs support cell membranes so that they can function properly. Flaxseed oil contains the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.

Flaxseed oil contains a balance of omega-3 fatty acid and the omega-6 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acid in flaxseed is alpha-linolenic acid, known to have a positive effect on combating heart disease. The omega-6 fatty acids are similar to the oils found in other vegetable sources. Additionally, flaxseed oil contains lignans that are known to fight cancer and microorganisms that cause infections and diseases.

Flaxseed oil is beneficial in reducing the inflammation that is seen in lupus and gout, as well as inflammation in the kidneys, joints, and skin, as seen in lupus. It has been observed to lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In turn, it lowers the risk of heart disease and angina, and can help prevent artery disease. Flaxseed oil and flaxseeds help to relieve constipation and hemorrhoids.

Flaxseed oil is used for eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and acne. The anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseed oil help to reduce the skin outbreaks and itching. For acne, flaxseed oil enters the pores to break down the acne.

Evening Primrose oil (Oenothera biennis)

Called King’s Cure-all by the early inhabitants of North America, the plant has a long history in healing. Native American healers used it for a variety of illnesses and they found the plant useful in treating skin problems as well as digestive complaints and liver toxicity.

The oil is extracted from the seeds of evening primrose – a wildflower with a deep yellow color and is about 5-7 feet. Native to cold climate areas, it can be commonly found in North America, Europe, and some parts of Asia. What’s unique to it is that its flowers bloom throughout summer evenings but only last for a night, hence the name “evening primrose.” Each plant produces seed pods that contain an abundance of seeds.

Evening Primrose Oil has been called the most sensational preventive discovery since vitamin C. It contains the pain relieving compound phenylalanine and is increasingly being used to treat chronic headaches. It is currently being studied all over the world as a treatment for aging problems, alcoholism, acne, heart disease, hyperactivity in children, symptoms of menopause, multiple sclerosis, weight control, obesity, PMS and schizophrenia. It has so many preventive and therapeutic qualities that it has become a standard part of recommendations of many herbalist for maintaining youth and preventing disease.

Evening Primrose Oil contains a high concentration of a fatty acid called GLA and it is this fatty acid that is largely responsible for the remarkable healing properties of the plant. In fact, Evening Primrose contains one of the highest concentrations known of this important substance and only a few other plants contain it at all. When you eat food or take a supplement that contains this fatty acid, your body converts it into a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin E1, which stimulates contraction of the blood vessels.

Because of this anti-inflammatory effect, evening primrose oil has been used to treat a wide range of aches and pains caused by swelling, such as bloating, breast tenderness and cramping associated with PMS and joint pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also been used to treat numbness and tingling in diabetics, skin problems like eczema, acne and rosacea, and patients with high cholesterol, multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis.

Specifically, evening primrose oil may help to:
Relieve the discomforts of PMS, menopause, menstruation, endometriosis and fibrocystic breasts:
– Ease the joint pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis
– Prevent diabetes-associated nerve damage
– Reduce the symptoms of eczema
– Help treat acne and rosacea.


In traditional medicine, cinnamon has been used for digestive ailments such as indigestion, gas and bloating, stomach upset, and diarrhea. Recently it was found that it has a mild anti-inflammatory effect. It also slows the spoiling of food, and has anti-fungal properties.

Cinnamon  is indicated for a variety of ailments including gastrointestinal problems, urinary infections, relieving symptoms of colds and flu and has remarkable anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Some studies have shown that Cinnamon helps people with diabetes metabolise sugar better.

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)

Historical use of saw palmetto can be traced in the Americas to the Mayans who used it as a tonic and to the Seminoles who took the berries as an expectorant and antiseptic. It is best known for its use in decreasing symptoms of an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy, BPH).

Saw palmetto is used for treating certain types of prostate infections. It is also sometimes used, in combination with other herbs, to treat prostate cancer.

Some people use saw palmetto for colds and coughs, sore throat, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and migraine headache. It is also used to increase urine flow (as a diuretic), to promote relaxation (as a sedative), and to enhance sexual drive (as an aphrodisiac).