Herb Basics

A Place to Start



Karen Bergeron, www.AltNature.com

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Herbalist and acupuncturist Chris-topher Hobbs created this tea blend for a patient who suffered from frequent headaches. It’s tasty and helps ease the tension that often accompanies headaches.

Hobbs says this tea can be used for immediate relief or on a regular basis to reduce the incidence of headaches.


1/8 cup dried lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
1/8 cup dried chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
1/8 cup dried linden (Tilia spp.)
1/8 cup dried passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

Blend the herbs and store the mixture in an airtight jar in a dark place.

When you’re ready to make the tea, steep 1 teaspoon of the blend per cup of hot water for 20 minutes. Strain and drink a cup two to three times daily.


Looking to add more heart-healthy soy to your diet? Health experts now suggest eating 25 grams of soy protein a day to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. If you’re unsure what to do with tofu, tempeh and other soy products, check out these tips.

• Mix soy protein powder into milk, juices and smoothies.

• Snack on a soy protein bar.

• Substitute soy milk for cow’s milk by the glass or in recipes.

• Crumble firm tofu into eggs when making scrambled eggs.

• Mash firm tofu and mayonnaise with season- ings for a sandwich filling similar to egg salad.

• Add crumbled tofu or tempeh to recipes calling for ground beef, chicken or turkey.

• Slice tempeh or firm tofu, then marinate and grill it as a substitute for grilled meats.

• Sprinkle roasted soy nuts on salads, or add them to your favorite snack mix.


New research, published in Neurology in December 2004, shows an extract of the herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus) helps prevent migraines.

In the study, 245 migraine sufferers took either a placebo or two 75-mg tablets of a proprietary butterbur extract called Petadolex. During the four-month trial, the butterbur group experienced a 48 percent reduction in the occurrence of migraines; the placebo group had a 26 percent reduction. The study participants ranged in age from 18 to 65 and met the International Headache Society’s criteria for migraine headaches. Each participant had experienced two to six migraines a month for at least three months prior to the study.

According to the American Botanical Council, previous research on butterbur shows it to be a safe herb with few side effects. In this trial, the most common side effects were gastrointestinal issues, such as burping.

The study’s lead researcher, Richard B. Lipton, M.D., vice chair and professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says, “Our study shows that butterbur really does reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, so it’s a welcome addition to the therapeutic arsenal we have available to combat migraine.”

Source: American Botanical Council; www.HerbalGram.org.


Common names: Borage, bee plant, beebread, starflower, ox’s tongue

Latin name: Borago officinalis

Family: Boraginaceae

Part used: Flowers, seeds

Medicinal uses: Borage seed oil (in capsules) is a terrific source of essential fatty acids (see Page 40 for more information about healthy fats). The oil helps soothe premenstrual complaints, rheumatic problems, and eczema and other skin conditions.

Borage flowers are edible (they have a flavor reminiscent of cucumber) and are used to add beauty and color to salads and other dishes. The flowers also can be frozen into ice cubes for festive summer drinks (see Page 64).

Forms commonly used: Capsules of seed oil, fresh flowers, extracts.

Side effects: Borage leaves contain low concentrations of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, the same potentially toxic compounds found in comfrey (which also is a member of the borage family). It’s best to avoid consuming the plant’s leaves. In his book 101 Medicinal Herbs (Interweave, 1998), Herbs for Health editorial adviser Steven Foster writes that you should avoid borage oil if you have epilepsy.

Notes: Foster says that in the first century, both Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides identified borage as Homer’s famous “nepenthe” which, when steeped in wine, produced “absolute forgetfulness.” In medieval times, borage was associated with mirth, courage and “gladdening the heart.”

Borage is a common Mediterranean weed thought to originate from southern Spain and Morocco. It is a popular garden herb; even though it spreads easily, the plants are easy to pull up when they’re not wanted.

Another variety of borage, B. o. ‘Alba,’ has pure white flowers.


Give boring, nutritionally deficient iceberg lettuce the boot — one of the best things you can do for your health is to add variety to your daily salads. Spicy, bitter greens, such as arugula, watercress, dandelion greens, chicory and nasturtium leaves are chock-full of calcium and other important vitamins and minerals.

See “Best Antioxidant Bets” on Page 21 to learn which foods are highest in antioxidants, and add them to salads. Mix and match the following ingredients to create delicious, antioxidant-rich super salads.

T Spinach
T Alfalfa sprouts
T Broccoli
T Strawberries
T Beets
T Red bell peppers
T Onions
T Garlic