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List of medicinal plants

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Against allopathy
Alternative medicine
Clinically unproven
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.
Shakespeare's Hamlet
There is no evolution without coevolution. Medicinal plants have emerged over the eons in a coevolutionary dance with humanity.
—Ric Scalzo, ignorant about both evolution and herbs (fairly typical of herb-pushers) and Founder of Gaia Herbs[1]
I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill… I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it and how gruesome and painful the death might be.
—Duchess of Northumberland, creator of The Poison Garden[2]

This list of medicinal plants (and supposedly medicinal plants) aims to analyze medical claims made for herbs and list potential adverse effects they are known to have.[note 1] Herbal remedies vary greatly in efficacy, strength and price. As with anything else, moderation is key.

The list will always be incomplete, given the vast number of herbs.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has a very useful view on this issue:[3]

Herbal products such as St. John's wort are classified as dietary supplements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA's requirements for testing and obtaining approval to sell dietary supplements are different from its requirements for drugs. Unlike drugs, herbal products can be sold without requiring studies on dosage, safety, or effectiveness.

The quality of herbal products is often unpredictable. Products can differ in content not only from brand to brand, but from batch to batch. Information on labels may be misleading or inaccurate.

In addition, "natural" does not necessarily mean "safe." Many natural substances can have harmful effects–especially if they are taken in large quantities or if they interact with other supplements or with prescription medicines.

Individual herbs[edit]


Aconitum anthora
  • Also called: aconitum, monkshood, wolfsbane, leopard's bane, mousebane, women's bane, devil's helmet, Queen of all Poisons, blue rocket
  • Usage
  • In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM): many species are used as a general panacea, including as a diaphoretic, diuretic, arthritic, sedative, alterative, and deobstruent,[4] and for rheumatism, bruises, arthritis, acute hypothermia, diarrhea, impotence, and yang imbalance.[5]
  • In Western herbal medicine: (A. napellus) for pain relief, fever reduction, sedation.[6]
There isn't enough evidence to know if it's good for anything.[7]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Aconite is very poisonous, and ingestion may lead to nausea, vomiting, weakness, sweating, breathing problems, heart problems, and death.[8] (Indeed, aconite was,[9] and sometimes is,[10] used as a poison.)
  • Topical use can also cause severe side effects.[8]

Aloe vera
  • Also called: Aloë, true aloe, in TCM: lúhuì (蘆薈)[11]
  • Usage
  • In TCM: although not native to China, it is used as an anthelmintic, stomachic, and laxative, and for eczema.[4]
  • In Western herbal medicine: softening and smoothing skin (topical), purgative (oral), and wound healing (topical)[6]
  • Beneficial effects: It is effective for topical application to treat minor burns and some skin problems, but may possibly be too dangerous to use internally as a laxative for constipation.[12] Aloe was formerly promoted by some CAM practitioners as a cancer treatment, but it is ineffective, and some patients died after receiving aloe injections.[12]
  • Harmful effects: A cancer study of aloe vera extract in rats and mice found that it "caused cancers of the large intestine in male and female rats and also caused hyperplasia of the large intestine, small intestine, stomach, and lymph nodes in male and female rats. Aloe vera extract also caused hyperplasia of the large intestine in male and female mice and hyperplasia of the mesenteric lymph node in male mice and hyperplasia of the stomach in female mice."[13]

Scutellaria lateriflora
  • Also called: blue skullcap, mad dog skullcap
  • Claimed to: Be good for tension, anxiety, insomnia, neurasthenia, panic, headaches, fatigue, depression, melancholy, convulsions, jerking muscles, epilepsy, wobbliness, heart trembles, arthritis, fever, snake bites, diuresis, sedation, increasing vigor, rabies, and for PMS when used with chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castusWikipedia) or false unicorn (Chamaelirium luteumWikipedia).[6][14]
  • Research: Not much research has been done on the herb, so these claims can't be evaluated.[15]
  • Harmful effects: High doses can cause giddiness, stupor, mental confusion, twitching, irregular heartbeat, and seizures.[15] American skullcap has, on occasion, been contaminated with germander, which can cause liver damage.[15] American skullcap has been implicated in some cases of liver damage.[16]

Arnica montana
  • Claimed to: Help skin problems (not effective),[17] induce perspiration, diuresis, expectoration, wound healing, and be a stimulant[6]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Topical arnica is generally safe, but "repeated use can cause skin reactions, severe inflammation, itching, blisters, skin ulcers, and other allergy-related skin problems," especially when used on broken skin.[17]
  • Arnica is extremely toxic when ingested and shouldn't be taken internally.[17]

  • AshwagandhaWikipedia (Withania somnifera, also known as winter cherry)
  • Claimed to: Be an adaptogen, diuretic, sedative, pain reliever, to kill lice, and to slow aging.[18][19]
  • Beneficial effects: May improve sleep quality and reduce stress "in some people."[19] Other claims aren't reliably substantiated, though animal and in vitro studies have shown favorable results.[18]
  • Harmful effects: Large doses by mouth can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, miscarriages, flare-ups of autoimmune disorders, increase thyroid hormone levels, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and slow breathing in conjunction with benzodiazepines and CNS depressants.[19]

Panax ginseng roots for sale
  • American ginseng (P. quinquefolius) is believed by herbalists to have the same constituents as P. ginseng but to be less efficacious than P. ginseng.[6]
  • Claimed to: be a wonder plant and cure everything.[4][6]
  • Beneficial effects: Ginseng is effective for erectile dysfunction and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms.[20] A specific cream containing ginseng can help with premature ejaculation.[20] When used with ginkgo leaf extract (see Ginkgo below), ginseng may "improve memory in otherwise healthy people between the ages of 38 and 66," but not in young adults.[20]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Side effects may include insomnia, or, more rarely, menstrual problems, breast pain, increased heart rate, high or low blood pressure, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, itching, rash, dizziness, mood changes, vaginal bleeding, Stevens-Johnson syndrome (a severe, horrifically painful rash which is a medical emergency and potentially fatal), liver damage, severe allergic reactions,[20] mania and psychosis.[21]
  • Panax ginseng contains a substance that has been found to cause birth defects in animals.[20]


Ocimum basilicum
  • BasilWikipedia (Ocimum basilicum); in TCM: luólè (羅勒):[11]
  • Usage: vaginal steaming
  • Claimed to: reduce spasms, help expel farts, increase milk production, and it's tasty![6] It has also been said to be spiritually cleansing.
  • Beneficial effects: In vitro, has been shown to be antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial.[22][23][24][25] No clinical studies, yet, however.
  • Harmful effects: Lowers blood pressure and prevents clotting, which situationally might be good but is often bad. Little efficacy otherwise.[26]

Vaccinium myrtillus
  • Also called: blaeberry, whortleberry, hurts, ground hurts, whinberry, winberry, windberry, wimberry, myrtle blueberry and fraughan
  • Claimed to: be good for eye problems and night vision. Not effective for either.[27] V. myrtillus is claimed to be an antiseptic and astringent; it is used for diarrhea, as a mouthwash, for skin problems and for burns.[6]
  • Safety ratings: Prescribed for diarrhea and inflammation in Germany (but can cause diarrhea[6])
  • Harmful effects: Small doses are safe. Some negative interaction with prescribed anticoagulants.[28]

Areca catechu
  • Also called: areca nut, paan; in TCM: bīnláng (檳榔)[11]
  • Preparation: Areca nuts are usually wrapped with Piper betelWikipedia leaves and/or slaked limeWikipedia (calcium hydroxide) and/or tobacco. The concoction is ingested.
  • Usage: traditional Chinese medicine for deworming, antiparasitic, malaria prophylaxis, and "foul-smelling" diseases.[4] Used in Southeast Asia to colour blacken teeth. It's also apparently "widely used in Ayurveda".[29]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Prolonged use can lead to mouth, liver, cervical, stomach, prostate, lung, and sweat gland cancer.[30][31][32][33]
  • Other side effects of betel nut/leaf include skin color changes, dilated pupils, blurred vision, wheezing/difficulty breathing, increased breathing rate, salivation, increased tearing, incontinence, sweating, diarrhea, fever, confusion, problems with eye movement, psychosis, amnesia, stimulant effects, and a feeling of euphoria.[30] It can also cause dependence, and withdrawal can cause anxiety or memory lapse.[30] Betel nut chewing can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, chest pain, irregular heartbeats, high or low blood pressure, and irregular heart beats.[30]
  • Usage may be associated with other diseases (HIV/AIDS, dengue fever, tuberculosis, and typhoid) due to immunosuppression, injury to the oral mucosa, and associated fecal-oral contamination of the betel quid ingredients.[34]

A. californica
  • Birthwort (Aristolochia spp.)
See the main article on this topic: Aristolochia
  • Also called: pipevine, Dutchman's pipe
  • Usage: Ninety-nine species have been documented to be used ethnobotanically worldwide,[35] so usage would tend to be that of a panacea overall. Some of the main usages are:
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine for various things, including eczema[36]
  • Ayurveda (A. indica)[37]
  • Western herbal medicine, particularly A. clematitis for promoting sweating, menstruation, reducing fever, inducing childbirth, and stimulation.[6]
  • Harmful effects:
  • It contains aristolochic acid,Wikipedia (AA) which is a known human carcinogen, and causes kidney failure and upper urinary tract cancer.[38]
  • Birthwort is considered to be a significant cause of kidney failure and upper urinary tract cancer in Taiwan,[38] because of the popularity of herbal medicine there (approximately 33% of Taiwan's herbal medicine prescriptions contain aristolochic acid,[38] and AA has been ingested by approximately 33% of Taiwan's population.)[39] The Taiwanese Department of Health banned its use in cosmetics and commercial skincare preparations in 1994.[40]
  • In Belgium, a weight loss spa using TCM herbs gave its clients herbal supplements containing birthwort, and as a result, more than 100 out of 1800 of its patients developed kidney failure, and several also developed urothelial and bladder cancers. Because Traditional Chinese Medicine allows for the substitution of identically or similarly named plants, plants that are botanically unrelated may be substituted. In this case, the relatively safe Stephania tetrandra (漢防己, Han Fang Ji) was intended for the clients, but the lethal Aristolochia fangchi (廣防己, Guang Fang Ji) was given to the clients.[41]
  • European birthwort (Aristolochia clematitis) is also used as a medicinal plant and contains aristolochic acid. It has been linked to thousands of cases of kidney failure (Balkan endemic nephropathyWikipedia) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia.
  • The true number of cases of aristolochic acid nephropathy (usually fatal) is unknown and is probably underestimated.[42]

Citrus × aurantium
  • Also called: Seville orange, sour orange, bigarade orange, marmalade orange
  • Claimed to: help expel farts, be a stimulant, aid the stomach, also used as a general tonic[6]
  • Beneficial effects: May be effective as a topical treatment for fungus infections.[43]
  • Harmful effects: Internal use may increase risk of high blood pressure, fainting, heart attack, stroke, and other severe side effects, especially if taken with caffeine.[43] The essential oil is phototoxic[44]; topical use of the undiluted essential oil can cause phytophotodermatitis upon exposure to UV light.

Juglans nigra outer husk
  • Also called: eastern black walnut
  • Claimed to: be good for killing parasites (such as worms), and treating acne, thyroid disease, colitis, eczema, hemorrhoids, ringworm, sore throats, tonsillitis, skin irritations, wounds, and curing cancer.[45]
  • Effects: Unfortunately, there is insufficient research to determine what side effects it has or whether it is effective for anything.[46]

Actaea racemosa
  • Also called: black bugbane, black snakeroot, fairy candle
  • Claimed to: reduce spasms, contract tissues, increase urination, increase menstruation, increase mucous, and be a sedative[6]
  • Harmful effects: may include stomach upset, cramping, headache, rash, a feeling of heaviness, vaginal spotting or bleeding, and weight gain.[47]

Vachellia rigidula
  • Also called: chaparro prieto, Acacia rigidula
  • Usage: Weight loss dietary supplements
  • Harmful effects: One research group reported an unprecedentedly wide variety of psychoactive alkaloids in blackbrush acacia (including nicotine, N,N-dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, β-methylphenylethylamine, and 4 different amphetamines),[48] suggesting that the laboratory might have had contamination problems.[49] A 2015 study by the FDA found that 52% of blackbrush acacia supplements were contaminated with the amphetamine isomer β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), which is not found in natural blackbrush acacia.[50] Subsequently, the FDA warned supplement manufacturers to cease selling BMPEA because it is not natural.[51] On May 11, 2015, the first adverse event from BMPEA as a weight loss supplement was reported in Sweden: a woman had a stroke associated with her BMPEA consumption.[52]


Uncaria gambir
  • Claimed to: cure HIV, cancer, viral infections (such as herpes simplex), tremors, fever reduction, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and almost everything.
  • Preparation: The inner bark and/or root of is/are used to make liquid extracts, capsules, and teas. Preparations can also be applied to the skin.
  • Popularity: Cat's claw was ranked as the seventh most popular herb in U.S. sales in 1997.[53]
  • Research: There is not enough scientific evidence to determine whether cat's claw works for any health condition.[54][55]
  • Beneficial effects:
  • Small studies in humans have shown a possible benefit of cat's claw in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but no large trials have been done.[54][55]
  • In laboratory studies, cat's claw stimulates part of the immune system, but it has not been proven to reduce inflammation or boost the immune system in humans.[54][55]
  • The National Institute on Aging funded a study that looked at how cat's claw may affect the brain. Findings may point to new avenues for research in Alzheimer's disease treatment.[54][55]
  • Harmful effects:
  • It may have an unwanted effect on blood pressure.

Chelidonium majus
Ranunculus ficaria
  • A buttercup-like plant unrelated to the greater celandine, one of the poppy family
  • Usage: treating piles
  • Harmful effects: rare cases of hepatitis after use.[59]

  • Usage: Vaginal steaming, Herbal tea
  • There are many species called chamomile, each with some level of distinct chemical properties. Despite this, chamomile is routinely treated as a single herb and prescribed as such.[60][61]
  • Two species are most commonly used, Chamaemelum nobile (Roman chamomile) and Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile)[6]
  • Usage: Digestive relaxant, treating colic in infants, arthritis, bedsores, promotion of menstruation
  • Beneficial effects: Chamomile contains substances that show an analgesic effect when applied topically, and also contains varying levels of flavonoids.[62]

Larrea divaricata
  • Usage: lots of things, including treating cancer.[63] L. tridentata is often an ingredient in the quack cancer cure Cansema.
  • Harmful effects: Chaparral is not effective for cancer and not known to be effective for anything else, either.[64] One CAM site claims it's good for lots of unrelated illnesses and only has "temporary unpleasant side effects",[63] but, actually, it can cause fatal liver damage and kidney failure.[64] Other side effects may include fatigue, stomach pain, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, itching, rash, and allergic reactions.[64] Despite the title of that old cowboy serial, Chaparral cannot get you high.

Chrysanthemum × morifolium
  • In TCM: (菊.)[11] Aster trinervius (mǎ lán, 馬嵐) is used to treat hemorrhaging, animal poisoning, malaria, and a disease called 沙 (shā) (literally, "sand disease").[4] Chrysanthemum sinense (菊花, júhuā) is used for many diseases.[4]
  • Insufficient research to evaluate efficacy.[65] Chrysanthemum can cause the skin to be more sensitive to the sun.[65]

Cinnamomum cassia bark
  • Most of the spice sold in the U.S. as culinary cinnamon is from the species C. cassia, a.k.a. Chinese cinnamon. Most of the health studies have been on true cinnamon (C. verum).
  • In TCM: several species of Cinnamomum (zhāng, 樟) are used: C. camphora (camphor); C. cassia C. japonicum, C. loureiroi, C. obtusifolium and C. pedunculatum.[11] It is used as a stomachic, stimulant, carminative, astringent, sedative, and tonic.[4] It is used for colic, excessive sweating, postpartum difficulties and hair treatments.[4] It was said that "if cassia was taken with toad's brains for seven years, one could walk on the surface of the water and never grow old or die; and Chao, the hunch-back, took the drug continuously for twenty years, with the result that hair grew on the bottom of his feet; he was able to walk five hundred li (200 miles) in a day, and lift a weight of one thousand chin (1,333 pounds)."[4]
  • Claims: Lowers LDL cholestrol, maintains blood sugar, promotes appetite for elderly and sick, antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, stops tumor growth, anti inflammatory, arthritis, hair loss and bladder infections, colds, upset stomach, and even pimples.[66]
  • Truth: Apparently, it really does stop tumor growth — when it is injected into tumors in mice. Clearly, it's not really a home remedy.[67] The indications are quite good that it has an effect on blood sugar, however the details remain unknown.[68] None of the other claims seem to hold up, however.

dried flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum
  • In TCM: Dīngxiāng, 丁香.[11] It is used for nasal polyps, ulcers, cracked nipples, carious teeth, and scorpion stings.[4]
  • In Western herbal medicine: topical anesthesia in pre-modern dentistry. Also used as an antimetic and antiseptic.[6]
  • Harmful effects: Large amounts of cloves or clove oil may cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, burns in the mouth and throat, sore throat, seizures, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, sleepiness, intestinal bleeding, and liver or kidney failure.[69] More serious side effects may occur in children, even when small amounts are used.[69] "Excessive application of undiluted clove oil on or near the teeth may cause irritation or damage to the gums or mouth and may damage the dental pulp, the soft core of the tooth, made up of living soft tissue and cells. […] Undiluted clove oil may cause skin irritation, rashes, or even burns. Clove oil can cause blindness in laboratory animals, so keep clove preparations away from the eyes."[69]

Erythroxylon coca
  • Coca leaves (Erythroxylon coca)
See the main article on this topic: Coca
  • Usage: nasal congestion in powdered form pain relief and altitude sickness in the Andes. Coca regulates carbohydrate metabolism and normalizes body functions. Otherwise known as cocaine when refined, though the unrefined leaf isn't addictive.[70] Side effects include turning into a yuppie, or a celebrity.
  • Endorsed by: Pope Leo XIII (coca-infused Vin Mariani).[71] also enjoyed by Pope Pius X (Vin Mariani) and Pope John Paul II (coca tea).[72] Pope Francis begged off the healthful coca and instead imbibed in the carcinogenic maté for his visit to the Andes.[73][74]
  • Not to be confused with cocoa or coconuts.

Tussilago farfara
  • In TCM: Kuǎndōng (款冬).[11] It is used as an expectorant in apoplexy, phthisis, coughs, and asthma, and as a demulcent in fevers.[4]
  • In Western herbal medicine: expectoration, soothing mucous membranes, reducing discharges, skin softening, and for coughs.[6] Coltsfoot cigarettes are used for asthma.[75]
  • Efficacy: Not enough research has been done to evaluate efficacy.[76]
  • Harmful effects: Can cause liver damage leading to cancer and death.[77] Coltsfoot naturally contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are carcinogenic. Coltsfoot supplements that are labeled "PA-free" (meaning without pyrrolizidine alkaloids) are perhaps better, but their safety is unknown.

Symphytum officinale
  • Usage: pain relief, secretion reduction, soothing and softening tissues, bleeding reduction, cooling and wound healing; it is used internally for stomach problems and topically for wounds.[6] Several randomized controlled trials have confirmed efficacy for treatment of pain, contusions and sprains.[78]
  • Harmful effects: Can cause liver damage leading to cancer and death.[79] Comfrey contains compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), which have been shown by animal studies to cause liver tumours, so the plant may also cause cancer in humans. In humans, comfrey has been associated with veno-occlusive liver disease.[80] Even topical use may lead to a dangerous build-up in the body of some of the herb's poisonous substances, so long-term use is not advised.[79] Oral comfrey products are banned in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and Germany.[79] Due to the danger of PA, only commerically-produced PA-free comfrey products should be consumed.

Sida cordifolia
  • Not enough research to evaluate efficacy.[81] Used in Ayurvedic medicine.[82]
  • Harmful effects: Country mallow contains ephedrine, which is also found in ephedra, and may cause ephedrine-related side effects like high blood pressure, heart attacks, muscle disorders, seizures, strokes, irregular heartbeat, loss of consciousness, and death.[83][81] Other side effects may include dizziness, restlessness, irritability, insomnia, headache, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, flushing, tingling, difficulty urinating, kidney stones, and pounding heartbeat.[81] May make anxiety, thyroid problems, and angina worse.


Taraxacum officinale
  • Also called: pissabed[84]
  • In TCM: púgōngyīng (蒲公英).[11] Used as a tonic, and for abscesses and swellings, carious teeth, and snake bites.[4]
  • In Western herbal medicine: Known to be an effective diuretic,[85] claimed to help with digestive and liver problems,[6] but there has been no serious research of these claimed effects. The entire plant is edible.
  • The plant has no known harmful side effects aside from its diuretic properties, which may interfere with certain medications, and/or cause increased frequency of changing pajamas and bedsheets.

Harpagophytum procumbens
  • Usage: Effective for osteoarthritis pain.[86] Insufficient study has been done to evaluate its effectiveness for anything else.[86]
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, ringing in the ears, loss of appetite, and loss of taste.[86] Other side effects may include allergic skin reactions, menstrual problems, and changes in blood pressure.[86] Use of devil's claw during pregnancy is not advised, as it may harm the fetus.[86]
Angelica sinensis

  • Usage: traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Harmful effects: It may be dangerous to take dong quai in large amounts for a long time because it contains carcinogens.[87] Dong quai can cause skin to be more sensitive to sunlight, thus possibly increasing the risk of skin cancer.[87] It may or may not act like estrogen in the body.[87] It can slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding, and so should not be taken less than 2 weeks before surgery.[88] Dong quai may increase the risk of miscarriage.[88]


Echinacea purpurea
  • Usage: Claimed to be effective for supporting the immune system and preventing and treating colds and flus. It isn't.[89]
  • E. angustifolia is used as an antiseptic, blood cleanser, and to help digestion.[6]
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include headache, dizziness, nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, and rash.[89]
Eleutherococcus senticosus

  • Usage: Like many other herbs, eleuthero is promoted for a wide variety of unrelated conditions. There is no evidence to support its effectiveness in treating anything.[90]
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include headache, diarrhea, nervousness, trouble sleeping, raised blood pressure and increased heart rate.
  • Beneficial effects: It may also lower blood sugar levels. "Eleuthero may alter the amount of time it takes for bleeding to stop."[90]

Ephedra sinica
  • Also called: Ephedra sinica is used in traditional Chinese medicine and is known as má huáng (麻黃). Other species of Ephedra, known as "desert tea" or "Mormon tea", have been used by Native Americans and Mormons in the western United States.
  • In traditional Chinese medicine: It is used for promoting sweating and the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections during winter. Studies done on the active chemicals of Ephedra/ma huang demonstrates that it speeds the metabolism, thus, the reason for its use and abuse as a performance-enhancing drug by athletes and for weight loss.[91]
  • In Western herbal medicine: Mormon tea is used for increasing urination, reducing fever, for kidney and bladder problems, and for syphilis.[6]
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include dizziness, restlessness/nervousness, anxiety, irritability, palpitations, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, hypertension (high blood pressure), insomnia, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), tremors, seizures, cerebrovascular event (stroke), myocardial infarction (heat attack), kidney stones, muscular disorders, loss of consciousness, death, and more.[91][92]
  • Dietary supplements containing ephedra are banned in the U.S. because they pose "an unreasonable risk to health".[93]

  • European birthwort (Aristolochia clematitis): See birthwort

Oenothera biennis
  • Usage: Used for treatment of coughs and colds, depression, and skin irritation.[6] Useless for eczema,[94] but may help with breast pain.[95] Insufficient evidence for any other conditions.
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and headache.[95]

Euphrasia alpina
  • Usage: Used for eye problems.[6]
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include confusion, headache, tearing, itching, redness, vision problems, sneezing, nausea, toothache, constipation, coughing, trouble breathing, trouble sleeping (insomnia), sweating, and others.[96]


Foeniculum vulgare
  • Usage: Used to increase appetite, relieve colic, reduce abdominal cramps and farting, and to expel mucous.[6]
  • Not enough research done to evaluate claims.[97]

Tanacetum parthenium
  • Usage: Effective mild painkiller. MedlinePlus Supplements notes that "Some feverfew tablet products can contain little or no feverfew."[98] Used to reduce farting, increase menstruation, empty the bowels, and for stimulation.[6]
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include upset stomach, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, flatulence, nausea, and vomiting. Other reported side effects include nervousness, dizziness, headache, trouble sleeping, joint stiffness, tiredness, menstrual changes, rash, pounding heart, and weight gain.[98] Chewing raw feverfew may lead to mouth ulcers, loss of taste, and swelling of the lips, tongue, and mouth.[99]

Digitalis purpurea

  • Usage: Used for heart problems. Is effective, however:
  • Whether or not a given quantity of digitalis contains enough digoxin to lead to an overdose depends on the individual plant(s) it's from (each individual plant - even in the same species - has a different digoxin content), so those using digitalis are effectively playing Russian roulette. There is no way of knowing if one pill is good, or if it will lead to an overdose and kill you. As puts it:

Foxglove is no longer used as a heart medicine because the therapeutic dose and the lethal dose are very close. Seasonal variations in the level of cardiac glycosides in the plant make the safe dose impossible to estimate except by an experienced physician and prescriber of the herb who monitors the patient on an hourly basis for signs of overdose. Few living doctors and herbalists can safely use digitalis as a plant extract. Specific standardized doses of pharmaceutical digoxin are used instead.[100]

  • The solution is to use pure digoxin, if prescribed by a doctor, because the doses are exactly measured.
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include irregular heart function and death.[101] Symptoms of digitalis overdose may include "stomach upset, small eye pupils, blurred vision, strong slow pulse, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, excessive urination, fatigue, muscle weakness and tremors, stupor, confusion, convulsions, abnormal heartbeats, and death. Long-term use of digitalis can lead to symptoms of toxicity, including visual halos, yellow-green vision, and stomach upset."[101] "Even touching the plant with bare skin has been known to cause rashes, headache, and nausea."[6]


Allium sativum
  • In traditional Chinese medicine: It is known as suàn (蒜).[11] "The medicinal virtues of garlic are considered to be many. It is thought to have a special influence upon the spleen, stomach, and kidneys, acting as a sedative and removing poisons. It is supposed to correct the unwholesomeness of water, to destroy the noxious effect of putrid meat and fish, and to prevent goitre and pestilential diseases."[4]
  • In Western herbal medicine: Used for constipation, poor digestion, intestinal worms, dysentery, cholera, typhoid and paratyphoid.[6] Claimed to lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure,[6] lower blood sugar,[citation needed] reduce risk of certain cancers[citation needed] and fight minor viral infections such as cold and sore throat.[citation needed]
  • Truth:
  • Known antimicrobial effect in vitro, tests suggest some effect on throat infections in greater-than-typical amounts.
  • Cancer claims based on large-scale statistics of incidence and diet, probably bullshit.[102]
  • A meta-analysis showed consistent evidence that garlic powder intake reduces the cardiovascular disease risk factors of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.[103]
  • Garlic consumption increases cellular hydrogen sulfide (H2S) production.[104] Increased production of cellular H2S is likely behind the life-extension effects of caloric restriction in animals.[105][106]
  • Seductive effect on body odor well-documented and conclusive. Freshens breath for up to twelve hours.
  • Side effects:
  • Bad breath, a burning sensation in the mouth or stomach, heartburn, gas, nausea, vomiting, body odor, diarrhea, and an increased risk of bleeding.[107]
  • "Asthma has been reported in people working with garlic, and other allergic reactions are possible."[107]

Matricaria chamomilla
  • Also called: camomile, Hungarian chamomile, wild chamomile, or scented mayweed. Is a subset of chamomile.
  • Used in: Vaginal steaming
  • Claimed to: calm frayed nerves, treat stomach problems, relieve muscle spasms, treat skin conditions, treat mild infections, treat chest colds, treat sore throats, treat abscesses, treat gingivitis, treat anxiety, treat insomnia, teat psoriasis, treat acne and eczema, treat first-degree burns, treat ulcerative colitis, treat stomach ulcers, treat chickenpox, treat diaper rash, and treat colic.[61]
  • Beneficial effects:
  • Animal studies have shown that German chamomile reduces inflammation, speeds wound healing, reduces muscle spasms, and serves as a mild sedative to help with sleep. Test tube studies have shown that chamomile can kill bacteria, fungus, and viruses. Very few studies exist to see if the same is true in people.[61]
  • One (out of one) controlled study suggests that chamomile may help reduce the effects of anxiety disorder.[61][6]
  • Two studies suggest German chamomile may reduce eczema.[61]
  • Non-reliable effects:
  • No large and reliable studies have shown chamomile to help with indigestion.[61]
  • Studies report mixed results for German chamomile as prevention against mouth sores resulting from radiation or chemotherapy.[61]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Considered "generally safe".[61]
  • May be allergenic to those allergic to asters, daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed.[61]
  • May cause miscarriage when pregnant. Do not take while pregnant or breastfeeding.[61]
  • May worsen asthma.[61]
  • Moderate sedative.[61]
  • Thins the blood.[61]
  • May lower blood sugar.[61]
  • If too much is drunk, may cause vomiting.[61]
  • May be dangerous to women with estrogen-sensitive conditions, such as cancer.[61]
  • Interacts with the liver, potentially causing changes in other drugs.[61]

Teucrium chamaedrys
  • Claimed to: be effective for gout, fever, diarrhea, gallbladder problems, and claimed to be useful for weight loss and as an antiseptic.[108] There is currently insufficient evidence to evaluate these claims.[108]
  • May cause: hepatitis, cirrhosis, and death.[109] A weight loss supplement sold in France that contained germander caused several cases of hepatitis, and because of this, the herb is banned in that country and others.

Ginkgo biloba
  • In TCM: yínxìng(銀杏)[11]
  • The nut-like seeds of gingko have been consumed as both a food and as a medicine by the Chinese and other East Asian cultures for centuries. That the seeds are mildly toxic due to trace amounts of the compound 4'-O-methylpyridoxine (MPN) has never discouraged Asian people from eating them, though, it is advised to limit the seeds' consumption by children. The fleshy coating of the seeds can potentially cause irritating skin rashes if touched by sensitive people.
  • Ginkgo leaves contain flavonoid glycosides (myricetin and quercetin)[110] and terpenoids (ginkgolides, bilobalides).
  • In Western medicine/herbalism, ginkgo is sold as a "memory aid" and a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Studies show mixed results on efficacy, with a possibility of it being better than placebo.
  • A cancer study of ginkgo extract found that it "caused cancers of the thyroid gland in male and female rats and male mice and cancers of the liver in male and female mice."[111]

Hydrastis canadensis
  • Used for: vaginal douching, mouthwash, periodontal disease, congestion, laxative, stomach ailments, skin diseases, and nausea relief during pregnancy.[6] Also used for "immune system boosting".[citation needed]
  • Effectiveness: The evidence doesn't suggest Goldenseal is effective for any condition.[112]
  • Harmful effects: Small doses may be fine, except during pregnancy or breastfeeding, since goldenseal might cause brain damage to the baby.[113] "High doses may cause breathing problems, paralysis, and even death. Long-term use may lead to vitamin B deficiency, hallucinations, and delirium."[114] It may also affect blood pressure unpredictably because it contains several different compounds that have opposite effects on blood pressure.[114] It can also make you more sensitive to light.[114] A cancer study of goldenseal root powder in mice and rats showed that it "caused cancer in the liver of male and female rats and male mice. There was no effect of goldenseal root powder on female mice."[115]

Citrus × paradisi
  • Grapefruit seed extract (Citrus × paradisi)
See the main article on this topic: Grapefruit seed extract
  • Claimed to: be a good disinfectant. This effect is due not to the grapefruit seed extract itself, which is not antimicrobial, but to contaminants/additives such as benzethonium chloride and triclosan, which are frequently found in grapefruit seed extract products.[116][117][118]
  • Harmful effects: Studies have found that compounds found in grapefruit interfere with enzymes in the digestive system crucial in the metabolism of numerous medications, leading to an accumulation effect that may worsen side effects of medications or cause them to reach dangerous concentrations in the body. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom states that patients receiving Atorvastatin, calcium channel blockers, Ciclosporin, Entocort and cytotoxic medication used in the treatment of cancers should not consume grapefruit, or seek medical attention before doing so.[119]
Vitis vinifera seeds
  • Good for chronic venous insufficiency and edema.[120]
  • Side effects may include headache, itchy scalp, dizziness, and nausea.[121]

  • Graviola

Camellia sinensis
  • Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
See the main article on this topic: Green tea
  • In TCM: chá (茶)
  • Used for weight loss.
  • Side effects may include stomach upset and constipation, and, in rare cases, liver damage.[122] Caffeine-related side effects may include headache, nervousness, sleep problems, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, irregular heartbeat, tremor, heartburn, dizziness, ringing in the ears, convulsions, confusion, and reduced absorption of iron from food.[122] Also implicated in outbreaks of Britishness. Jolly splendid, indeed!

Senecio vulgaris
  • Claimed to: be an "Anthelmintic; Antiscorbutic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; [...] Poultice; Purgative", and claimed to be good for stomach problems and worms.[123][124] There is not enough evidence to evaluate these claims.[124]
  • Groundsel is very toxic, and can cause liver damage, cancer, and birth defects.[124] It should not be used.


clockwise from top left: C. coccinea, C. punctata var. aurea, C. ambigua, C. douglasii
  • In TCM: C. pinnatifida is shānzhā (山楂); C. cuneata is shānzhā guǒ (山楂果). It is eaten as food, but also used for backache, diarrhea, ulcers and rashes.[4]
  • In Western herbal medicine: cardio-vascular diseases, anxiety, muscle spasms[125] and insomnia[6]
  • Harmful effects: can adversely interact with prescription drugs for cardiovascular diseases (e.g. digoxin, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, and nitrates), nausea, nose bleeds, dizziness, insomnia[125]
  • Efficacy: There is some evidence of improvement for heart failure symptoms with hawthorn extract, but also some evidence that it causes increased risk of death.[125] There is insufficient evidence for treatment of other maladies.[125]
Hyoscyamus niger
  • Used for: pain, nervousness, irritability, Parkinson's disease symptoms, and ulcers.[6][126] It is also smoked to "cure" asthma and bronchitis[126] (sounds familiar). There is no evidence to support its use for any of these conditions.[127]
  • Harmful effects: Henbane is toxic, and when used for self-treatment may result in fatal poisoning. Side effects may include dry mouth, red skin, constipation, overheating, reduced sweating, vision disturbances, increased heart rate, urination problems, drowsiness, restlessness, hallucinations, delirium, manic episodes, and death. Mostly death.
  • For a while, henbane berries were used in the manufacture of an herbal beer flavoring called "gruit", which was flavored with various sweet and bitter herbs, before people began using hops. Gruit fell out of favor during the Middle Ages when the Reinheitsgebot declared that all beers in the Holy Roman Empire could only be made with barley (Hordeum vulgare), hops (Humulus lupulus), and water.[128] Of course, no brewers strictly follow the Reinheitsgebot any more, since modern brewers also add yeast.

Epimedium grandiflorum
  • Used for: erectile dysfunction in goats.[129][130]
  • Can prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women.[131]
  • Has totally awesome name.
  • Harmful effects: Evidence of side effects is largely anecdotal, and range from irregular heartbeat to mood changes.[132]

Aesculus hippocastanum fruit and nut
  • Used for: varicose veins, skin ulcers, hemorrhoids, neuralgia and sunburn.[6]
  • Standardized horse chestnut seed extract is good for varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency, and symptoms of poor blood circulation.[133]
  • Standardized, esculin-free horse chestnut seed extract is mostly safe, with side effects including dizziness, headache, stomach upset, and itching.[133] It may lower blood sugar.[133][134] Raw horse chestnut seed, leaf, bark, and flower, on the other hand, are toxic and can be lethal.[133]

Equisetum arvense
  • In TCM: A. arvense: wèn jīng (問荊); 'A. hyemale: mùzé (木賊)[11]
  • Used for: vaginal steaming; E. arvense' is used for lung problems (including tuberculosis), anemia and stomach and skin ulcers, urinary tract problems, water retention, excessive menstruation and vaginal discharge.[6]
  • Insufficient research done on efficacy.[135]
  • Side effects of long-term use may include low potassium levels and (in diabetics) low blood sugar.[135]
  • Horsetail contains thiaminase, an enzyme which (if consumed), can cause thiamineWikipedia (or vitamin B1) deficiency (called beriberiWikipedia).[135][136] Thiaminase can be removed if horsetail is prepared properly, usually involving cooking.
  • Symptoms of beriberi may include difficulty walking, loss of feeling (sensation) in hands and feet, loss of muscle function or paralysis of the lower legs, mental confusion/speech difficulties, pain, strange eye movements (nystagmus), tingling, vomiting, awakening at night short of breath, increased heart rate, shortness of breath with activity, and swelling of the lower legs.[137] Beriberi, if caught early enough, can usually be reversed, but possible complications of beriberi may include coma, congestive heart failure, psychosis, and death.[137] Because of the possibility of thiamine deficiency, people consuming horsetail should take thiamine supplements.
  • Horsetail contains chromium and may increase the risk of chromium poisoning if taken with chromium-containing herbs like bilberry, brewer's yeast, or cascara (Rhamnus purshiana).[136]
  • Harmful effects: Horsetail absorbs metals readily; this can be toxic if there is high levels of lead in the soil.[138]


  • Impila (Callilepsis laureola)
  • A traditional Zulu remedy used for tapeworm, snakebites, infertility, whooping cough, and to kill maggots in cattle. It is also used as a disinfectant.[139]
  • It can cause fatal kidney and/or liver failure.[140]


Datura stramonium
  • Jimson weedWikipedia (Datura stramonium)
  • Also called: devil's trumpet, thornapple, hell's bells
  • Used for: spasmodic coughing, chronic laryngitis, asthma; used as an aphrodisiac in South America[6]
  • Insufficient evidence to evaluate efficacy.[141] Jimson weed leaves are smoked for asthma.[142]
  • Harmful effects: Jimson weed is poisonous and can cause dry mouth and extreme thirst, vision problems, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate, hallucinations, high temperature, seizures, confusion, loss of consciousness, breathing problems, and death.[141] "The deadly dose for adults is 15-100 grams of leaf or 15-25 grams of the seeds."[141]


Piper methysticum
  • KavaWikipedia (Piper methysticum)
  • Claimed to: Be effective for anxiety.[143]
  • Harmful Effects: Side effects may include liver damage leading to death, even with short-term use (1-3 months) of normal doses,[143] and sedation, oral and lingual dyskinesia, torticollis, oculogyric crisis, exacerbation of Parkinson's disease, painful twisting movements of the trunk, and rash.[92] Several European countries banned or restricted the use of kava based on its hepatotoxic effects; the US FDA only issued a warning.[144] A cancer study of kava extract in mice and rats found that it caused liver cancer in male and female mice and "increased incidences of lesions in the liver, forestomach, kidney, eye, and pancreas of male and female rats, in the liver of male and female mice, and in the forestomach of female mice."[145]


Vitex negundo
  • Also called: Chinese chaste tree, five-leaved chaste tree, or horseshoe vitex, or nisinda
  • Used for: Widely used for cough and asthma in the Philippines. Commercially sold under the trade names Ascof and Plemex in tablet and syrup form.[146]
  • Harmful effects: May induce vomiting and peeling of the skin in some patients.[147] No further adverse effects were found as far as formal scientific studies go.

Bryophyllum pinnatum
  • Also called: Life plant, air plant, Goethe plant, cathedral bells, miracle plant, luòdì shēnggēn (落地生根, "to move to a new place and call it home")
  • Claimed to: Treat hypertension. A 2011 study showed that the effect was minimal, and possibly counteracted by its potential organotoxic nature.[148]
  • Harmful effects: Contains bufadienolide cardiac glycosides, which are toxic, especially to grazing animals.[149]

Glycyrrhiza glabra
  • In TCM: gāncǎo (甘草)[11] is used as a panacea[4]
  • Beneficial effects: Licorice "acts as a demulcent, a soothing, coating agent, and as an expectorant."[150]
  • Harmful effects: In large quantities, may have detrimental effects on heart disease, kidney disease, pregnant women, male sexual function, and may cause brain damage even in healthy people. In lower quantities, side effects may include tiredness, absence of a menstrual period in women, headache, water and sodium retention, decreased sexual interest and function in men, miscarriages or early deliveries, and raised blood pressure, and may also worsen heart and kidney disease.[151]
    According to MedlinePlus Supplements, "Consuming 30 grams or more of licorice daily for several weeks can cause severe side effects including high blood pressure, low potassium in the blood, weakness, paralysis, and occasionally brain damage in otherwise healthy people. In people who eat a lot of salt or have heart disease, kidney disease, or high blood pressure, as little as 5 grams per day can cause these problems."[151] Licorice "might act like estrogen in the body. If you have any condition [such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids] that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use licorice."[151] Licorice can interact with grapefruit juice, possibly increasing its ability to deplete human potassium levels, and licorice's side effects of sodium and water retention and increase in blood pressure can worsen if taken with salt.[151]
    Licorice can interact with heart medicines, steroids, diuretics, or insulin.[152]

Convallaria majalis
  • Used for: epileptic seizures, strokes, angina, conjunctivitis, leprosy, laxative, "neurasthenia", unconsciousness from stroke, epilepsy, edema and heart problems.[6][153] Not enough studies have been done to evaluate any of the claims.[154]
  • Harmful effects: The plant is poisonous and can be fatal. Doses must be very specific and prescribed by a professional (although what with the lack of evidence, what's the point?) Self-medication or wrong doses may result in blurred vision, excessive urination at night, halos around objects, diarrhea, Loss of appetite, Stomach pain, Vomiting or nausea, irregular or slow heartbeat confusion, depression, disorientation, drowsiness, fainting, headache, lethargy, weakness, rash, and hives.[155]

Lobelia inflata
  • Used for: Asthma, bronchitis, cough, and smoking cessation.[6][156] Not enough studies have been done to verify lobelia's effectiveness for any of these.
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma, and death.[156] It's not called Indian Tobacco for nothing.


Rubia tinctorum
  • Used as: an "astringent diuretic, emmenagogue", and claimed to be good for many conditions, including alkaline urine, diarrhea, inflammation, wounds, broken bones, fever, and many others.[6][157][158][159] There is no evidence to support the use of madder root for any of these conditions.[160] The root is used in Ayurveda and Hildegard medicine. Madder root is also used for dyeing fabrics.
  • Harmful effects: May cause cancer, birth defects, and miscarriages.[160] It can also make urine, saliva, perspiration, tears, and breast milk turn red. One wonders if happier root would be any better. An extract of madder root, used as a food coloring in Japan, was found to cause liver cancer in rats.[161]

Cannabis sativa
  • Marijuana (Cannabis spp.)[11]
See the main article on this topic: Cannabis
  • In TCM: C. sativa or dàmá (大麻). The flowers are used for 風 "wind" diseases, menstrual disorders and wounds.[4] The seeds (actually the achene) are used for many diseases.[4] In modern analyses are generally considered to be low in psychoactivity, but have measurable levels of cannabidiol (CBD).[162]
  • Effects may include mild euphoria, relaxed muscles, increased appetite and… wait, what? Did I say that out loud? Whoa… Have you ever looked at your hand? I mean REALLY looked at your hand? Side effects include paranoia and apathy. Marijuana and other cannabis products have little or no 'healing' purposes, but may relieve symptoms of other conditions or diseases.[6] It is considered one of the safest substances of abuse, including legal drugs, such as alcohol, which is not to say that it is risk free.

Ilex paraguariensis
  • MatéWikipedia (Ilex paraguariensis)
  • Also called: yerba maté
  • Consumed as a beverage. It is extremely popular in South America.
  • Harmful effects: Non-caffeine-related side effects include an increased risk of mouth, esophageal, laryngeal, kidney, bladder, and lung cancer.[163][164] The oral cancer associations may be due to the very high temperatures at which maté tea is traditionally drunk, but the associations with kidney, bladder, and lung cancer would not be temperature related.[164] Caffeine-related side effects include insomnia, nervousness and restlessness, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate and breathing, high blood pressure, headache, ringing in the ears, irregular heartbeats, slowed blood clotting, and worsened diarrhea.[163]
  • Best remove it from your diet.

Silybum marianum
  • Used for: liver, stomach, gall bladder and spleen problems,[6] and sometimes for irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Harmful effects: may include diarrhea, nausea, bloating, gas, and upset stomach.[165]

Viscum album
  • In TCM: hú jìshēng (槲寄生)[11]
  • Used for: cancer prevention, hypertension, insomnia,[166] digestion problems, chilblains, and leg ulcers.[6] Mistletoe isn't effective for cancer; insufficient research has been done to evaluate the other claims.[167]
  • Harmful effects: When small amounts are taken, it is safe, with mild side effects of headaches, fever, and chills.[168] Large amounts are toxic and can be fatal; symptoms may include seizures, coma, death, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, slow or irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, and drowsiness.[168]
  • See also: Iscador, an extract of mistletoe

Artemisia vulgaris
  • In TCM: ai (艾) refers to A. vulgaris.[11] Other species of Artemisia are also used.[4] A. vulgaris is used in moxibustion, and is regarded as a panacea.[4]
  • Used for: improving appetite and digestion, laxative, menstrual regulation, gout, rheumatism, tired legs,[6] vaginal steaming, homeopathy, and moxibustion.[169] Also a purported abortifacient.[citation needed]
  • Claimed to: to treat everything under the sun.[169]
  • Side effects: the allergenic qualities of American ragweed. Mugwort can cause hay fever, rashes, and other irritations. It also appears to be related to some food allergies.[169] Also has a chance of inducing miscarriage in pregnant people but is not reliable enough in this regard to be used in lieu of conventional abortion procedures, and may cause serious harm.[citation needed]
  • Benefits: No evidence that it does anything useful.[169]

  • Mu Tong (Aristolochia manshuriensis or Akebia spp.)
"Mu tong" (木通) is a conflation of two unrelated genera, one highly dangerous (Aristolochia spp.) and one not so dangerous (Akebia spp.). For the dangerous one, see Birthwort.
  • Used in: traditional Chinese medicine for "relieving excess fire" and "stimulating the secretion of milk".[170]
  • Harmful effects: May cause fatal kidney failure because all Aristolochia species contain aristolochic acid.[171]


Azadirachta indica
  • NeemWikipedia (Azadirachta indica)
  • Not known to be effective for anything.[172] Also used non-medicinally as a pesticide.
  • Safe when taken short-term by adults.[172] Neem is contraindicated for children, because it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, blood disorders, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma, brain disorders, and death.[172] High-dose or long-term internal use by adults is dangerous, and can harm the kidneys and liver, lower blood sugar, and cause infertility and miscarriages.[172]


Origanum vulgare oil
  • Used as: an anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, abortifactant, anti-asthma, anti-malaria, antioxidant and anti-cold/flu/headache medication (take your pick). While it has a higher rate of success on malaria and bacteria on the skin than normal water, it has significantly less success than any standard over-the-counter antibiotic or medicinal anti-malaria drug.[173] As with most woo, there is always a glint of truth that gets warped into $$$$$.[174] It is a good antioxidant, but not more so than raw oregano, which tastes better and makes wicked salads. And, despite its name, it tastes absolutely foul (as this user will attest).
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include gastrointestinal issues and allergic reactions.[citation needed]

Nerium oleander
  • Insufficient research to evaluate efficacy.[175] Used for muscle cramps, asthma, cancer, and AIDS.[176][177]
  • Oleander leaf is poisonous, and can cause fatal heart failure. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, colic, appetite loss, dizziness, drowsiness, high potassium levels, dilated pupils, bloody diarrhea, seizures, loss of consciousness, slow or irregular pulse, and heart block.[177] Oleander seeds are also toxic, as is the rest of the plant, sap, twigs, roots, etc.[175]

Papaver somniferum
  • In TCM: yīngsù (罌粟)[11]
  • Latex exuded by immature seed pod used for analgesic purposes. Tinctures of seeds and straw used to a lesser extent. The latex at least is suggested by research to be effective, albeit prone to habituation and dependency. See also heroin.

Origanum vulgare
  • OreganoWikipedia (Origanum vulgare, also known as marjoram)
  • Used for: digestion, headache, colic, "nervous complaints", coughs and respiratory ailments, menstrual cramps,[6] and vaginal steaming
  • Benefits:
  • Studies show long-term use of oregano may reduce high cholesterol.[178]
  • Studies show long-term use of oregano may kill the stomach parasites Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba hartmanni, and Endolimax nana.[178]
  • Non-benefits:
  • A study suggested that oregano did not prevent bleeding in people with hemophilia.[178]
  • A study suggested that oregano did not speed or aid the wound healing process, though it did reduce skin stiffness and improve skin color.[178]
  • Research: No other major research on oregano's health benefits has been conducted. Despite contrary claims, oregano has not been shown to help asthma, bronchitis, coughing, the flu, indigestion, painful menstrual periods, arthritis, headaches, or heart conditions.[178]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Oregano is probably safe in food quantities.[178]
  • Oregano is possibly unsafe in medicinal quantities during pregnancy, and may possibly cause miscarriage.[178]
  • Oregano may increase the risk of bleeding, which may be problematic before surgery and in people with bleeding disorders.[178]
  • Oregano can lower blood sugar levels, potentially problematic for diabetics.[178]
  • People can be allergic to oregano.[178]
  • Oregano is a diuretic.Wikipedia[178]


Petroselinum crispum
  • Used for: edema, jaundice, asthma, coughs, menstrual problems, conjunctivitis and blepharitis.[6] It is sometimes used for home abortions, but its effectiveness for this has not been scientifically studied.
  • The claims: Parsley is touted as a general anti-toxin,[note 2] control blood pressure, cure diabetes,[note 3] urinary tract infections, prevents cancer, stimulates contractions of the uterus, cures rheumatism, treats kidney and bladder stones,[179] and can even remove tooth aches.
  • The truth: Surprisingly, it is dangerous for women, as it can cause the uterus to contract prematurely and should not be inserted into or rubbed near the uterus. It is mildly anti-microbialial — on those days when you can't run to your medicine cabinet and grab a tube of far more effective antibiotic.
  • Harmful effects: It is harmless when taken in the small amounts found in food, but the large amounts used in herbal medicine may cause anemia and liver or kidney problems, and make water retention, high blood pressure, and kidney disease worse.[180] Topically applied parsley oil can make skin become more sensitive to sunlight and cause a rash.[180]

Mentha pulegium
  • Used for: inducing abortion, inducing menstruation and menstrual pain, nausea, "nervous conditions" and headache.[6] There is no evidence to support the effectiveness of pennyroyal for anything besides abortions[181]
  • Harmful effects: The essential oil is toxic to the liver and lung, and can be fatal if ingested.[144]

Mentha piperita
  • Used for: nervousness, insomnia, cramps, coughs, migraine, gastrointestinal problems, headache, and vomiting[6]
  • Harmful effects: may include heartburn, and, more rarely, nausea, vomiting, headache, flushing, mouth irritation/sores, severe stomach/abdominal pain, and anal burning during bouts of diarrhea.[182][183]


Trifolium pratense
  • Available research does not show red clover treats cancer, coughing, hair loss, skin conditions, or any other medical conditions.[184][185][186]
  • Available research does not show red clover is an antibiotic.[184]
  • Available research has mixed results on whether red clover reduces osteoporosis, and leans towards no effect.[184][185][186]
  • Available research has mixed results on whether red clover reduces menopausal symptoms.[184][185]
  • Available research has mixed results on whether red clover reduces LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels, and leans toward no effect.[184][185]
  • Researchers theorize that red clover may help to prevent cancers that estrogen helps to prevent, and help to cause cancers that estrogen helps to cause.[185]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Do not put onto wounds without a doctor's advice.[184]
  • Generally safe in food and drink.[184]
  • May increase risk of excessive bleeding.[184][185][186][187]
  • May cause headaches, nausea, and rashes.[185]
  • Women with estrogen-sensitive cancers (such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer) or other estrogen-sensitive (such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids) should not take red clover.[184][186][188]
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take red clover.[184]

Chamaemelum nobile
  • Also called: camomile, English chamomile, garden chamomile, ground apple, low chamomile, or whig plant. Is a subset of chamomile.
  • Used in: vaginal steaming
  • Claimed to: calm frayed nerves, treat stomach problems, relieve muscle spasms, treat skin conditions, treat infections, treat nausea, treat vomiting, treat heartburn, treat loss of appetite, treat intestinal gas, relieve anxiety, reduce inflammation from cuts or hemorrhoids, help with burns, be antibacterial, be antiviral, be antifungal, treat morning sickness, treat painful menstrual periods, treat sinusitis, treat liver and gallbladder disease, deal with gallstones, prevent heartburn, ease the discomfort of swollen gums, treat ear inflammation, treat sore throats, and "purify" the blood.[60][189]
  • Beneficial effects:
  • May reduce flatulence; insufficient research.[189]
  • Insufficient evidence for treatment of painful periods.[189]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Considered "generally safe".[60]
  • May be allergenic to those allergic to asters, daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed.[60]
  • May cause miscarriage when pregnant. Do not take while pregnant or breastfeeding.[60][189]
  • May worsen asthma.[60][189]
  • Moderate sedative.[60][189]
  • Thins the blood.[60]
  • May lower blood sugar.[60]
  • If too much is drunk, may cause vomiting.[60][189]
  • May be dangerous to women with estrogen-sensitive conditions, such as cancer.[60]
  • Interacts with the liver, potentially causing changes in other drugs.[60]

Rosmarinus officinalis
  • In TCM: mí dié xiāng (迷迭香)
  • Used in: vaginal steaming
  • Claimed to: solve digestion problems, heartburn, flatulence, liver and gallbladder problems, lack of appetite, gout, coughing, headaches, high blood pressure, and age-related memory loss. No such effects have been proven.[190][191]
  • Beneficial effects:
  • Lab work shows rosemary has antioxidant properties.[191]
  • Studies suggest long-term rosemary use may prevent thrombosisWikipedia in humans.[191]
  • Studies suggest rosemary may neutralize several foodborne pathogens.[191]
  • One (one, badly designed, and small) study suggests rosemary, if used topically on the head, may help hair regrowth.[191]
  • Two studies (small, aromatherapy, not compared to placebo) suggest it may help reduce stress.[191]
  • Improved speed and accuracy on a test for a study of a sample 20 people when scent was inhaled.[192]
  • Contains antioxidantsWikipedia carnosic acidWikipedia and carnosolWikipedia.[193][194][195] No proven resulting benefits, however.
  • Is a little spicy and smells nice.[190][191]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Is probably safe if the leaf itself is eaten; is rated as Generally Recognized as Safe in the U.S.;[196] the German Commission E has approved it.[191]
  • May impact blood clotting.[191]
  • May impact ACE inhibitors, taken for high blood pressure.[191]
  • Is diureticWikipedia.[191]
  • May impact blood-sugar levels.[191]
  • Large quantities of rosemary leaves can cause vomiting, spasms, comas, and pulmonary edemaWikipedia.[191]
  • Large quantities of rosemary leaves may increase menstrual blood-flow and can cause miscarriage and is rated Possibly UnSafe in the U.S. Even while pregnant, however, it is safe to eat as a spice in food.[191][197]
  • "People with high-blood pressure, ulcers, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis should not take rosemary."[191]
  • Rosemary oil may be toxic if consumed orally.[191]


Salvia officinalis
  • SageWikipedia (usually Salvia officinalis, also Salvia lavandulaefolia, occasionally othersWikipedia)
  • Also called: garden sage, common sage
  • Used in: vaginal steaming, aromatherapy
  • Claimed to: move blood and chi through physical and emotional obstructions, reduce loss of appetite, reduce flatulence, reduce stomach pain, reduce diarrhea, reduce stomach bloating, reduce heartburn, reduce overproduction of perspiration, reduce overproduction of saliva, reduce depression, reduce memory loss, reduce Alzheimer's disease, reduce painful menstrual periods, reduce excessive milk flow during nursing, and reduce hot flashes during menopause, (when applied topically) help cold sores, gum disease (gingivitis), sore mouth/throat/tongue, swollen nasal passages, and (when inhaled) reduce asthma.[198]
  • Beneficial effects:
  • May potentially improve learning, memory, and information processing for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.[198]
  • May improve memory and attention.[198]
  • Appears to remove cold sores slightly slower than medical products.[198]
  • May reduce "bad" cholesterol.[198]
  • May reduce symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.[198]
  • In one study, sage extract significantly reduced ultraviolet-induced erythema.[199]
  • Unproven effects:
  • Not known if sage reduces lung cancer.[198]
  • Not known if sage helps sore throats.[198]
  • Not known for other conditions.[198]
  • Harmful effects:
  • Salvia officinalis contains thujone. Thujone can be poisonous in sufficient doses, and can cause seizures, damage to the liver, and damage to the nervous systems. The amount of thujone varies with the species of plant, the time of harvest, growing conditions, and other factors.[198]
  • If pregnant or breastfeeding, the risk of thujone poisoning is especially high.[198]
  • For persons with higher risks of seizures, thujone is especially dangerous.[198]
  • Sage may reduce blood sugar, affecting patients with diabetes and patients undergoing surgery.[198]
  • Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia) may affect estrogen-receptive growths, such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids.[198]
  • Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia) might increase blood pressure in those with high blood pressure, while common sage (Salvia officinalis) might lower blood pressure in people with low blood pressure.[198]
  • Sage can cause drowsiness.[198]

Sassafras albidum
  • Used for: "blood purifying", promoting sweating and urination, pain relief and venereal disease[6] joint pain and preventing colds and flus.[200] There is no evidence to support its use for these conditions.[201]
  • Harmful effects: Sassafras is poisonous, and even 5ml can be fatal. Side effects may include cancer, liver damage and miscarriages. Also, sweating and hot flashes. "High amounts can cause vomiting, high blood pressure, hallucinations, and more severe side effects. It can cause skin rashes when used on the skin."[201] Sassafras had a long traditional use in the United States in foods, root beer, and tea. Sassafras was banned from interstate trade by the FDA in 1960 because of its high safrole content after safrole was discovered to be carcinogenic.[144] Subsequently, sassafras has returned to the interstate food market after technology to remove safrole was implemented.

Serenoa repens
  • Extract of the fruit of a fan palm. Taken for BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) a.k.a. Getting up 5 times at night to piss. Some studies assert its effectiveness. Has been suggested as a treatment for male pattern baldness, mainly since finasteride, the first-line treatment for MPB, is also effective against BPH. Evidence for the latter use is inconclusive, so if you're losing your mane, finasteride and minoxidil remain your best bets.[202]

Senna alexandrina
  • SennaWikipedia (Senna alexandrina)
  • Effective for: constipation[203]
  • Harmful effects: Short-term use may cause stomach discomfort, cramps, and diarrhea.[203] Long-term use (over two weeks) can stop the bowels from functioning properly and cause dependence; it may also cause heart function disorders, muscle weakness, liver damage, and other side effects.[203]

  • Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) See Eleuthero

  • A tropical fruit touted as a "wonder cure" for cancer.[204] Despite some promising results, there are no definite conclusions in this area.[205] There are, however, definite indicators of a neurotoxic effect, with symptoms similar to Parkinsonism.[206]

Spinacia oleracea
  • In TCM: (菠)[11]
  • May contribute to kidney stone formation by increasing the amount of oxalate in the urine.[207]
  • Rumors of increased strength are greatly exaggerated.

Drimia maritima
  • Not enough research to evaluate efficacy for anything.[208] Used for heart problems, bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough, and wounds.
  • Harmful effects: The herb is cardiotoxic and can be lethal, with side effects including stomach irritation, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, vision changes, depression, confusion, hallucinations, irregular heartbeat, skin rash, miscarriages, seizures, life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms, and death.[208]
Stevia rebaudiana
  • Used as a sweetener.
  • Usually no side effects, but rare ones may include bloating, nausea, dizziness, muscle pain, and numbness.[209]

Hypericum perforatum
  • St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)
See the main article on this topic: St. John's wort
  • Used for: calming, bedwetting, insomnia, "nervous conditions", depression, anemia, headache, jaundice, congestion, and menstrual difficulties[6]
  • Regarded by herbalists and some medical authorities as an effective treatment for depression; trials are mixed, partly due to depression's high susceptibility to the placebo effect.[210][211] Popular in Germany. May interfere with effectiveness of other drugs.[212]
  • Harmful effects: may cause cataracts in people exposed to visible or ultraviolet light after taking it.[213] Other side effects may include gastrointestinal disturbances, allergic reactions, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, dry mouth, photosensitivity,[92] mania and psychosis[21]


Melaleuca alternifolia
  • Used for: (and is effective for) fungal infections, acne, and athlete's foot (topical application).[214] Tea tree oil is, however, less effective than medications for curing athlete's foot.[214]
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include skin irritation and swelling, and "in people with acne, it can sometimes cause skin dryness, itching, stinging, burning, and redness."[214] Applying products containing both tea tree and lavender oil to prepubescent boys may cause gynecomastia (larger breasts).[214] Tea tree oil is highly toxic when ingested, even in small quantities, so it should never be taken by mouth.

  • Harmful effects: The harms from tobacco far outweigh any potential benefits. "Smoking causes "cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis."[215]


Valeriana officinalis
  • Used for: "nervous conditions", migraine, insomnia, "hysteria", "neurasthenia", fatigue and stomach cramps[6]
  • May work for insomnia.[216]
  • Harmful effects: Side effects may include headache, excitability, uneasiness, and, in some cases, insomnia.[216] Some multi-herb remedies containing valerian have been linked to liver damage.[217]

Dionaea muscipula
  • Active ingredient plumbagin, claimed to boost the immune system (see Carnivora)
  • Harmful effects: Possible side effects of plumbagin are diarrhea, skin rash, liver damage, and abnormal blood counts.[218] Plumbagin is mutagenic to Escherichia coli.[219]


Salix matsudana

  • In TCM: liǔ (S. babylonica, 柳) or shuǐ yáng (S. purpurea, 水杨)[11]
  • Used for: pain relief (and is effective, obviously).
  • Harmful effects: may include stomach upset, digestive system upset, itching, an increased risk of children developing Reyes syndrome, ulcers, stomach bleeding, and liver toxicity.[220][221][222] (No better than aspirin, then.) Side effects from overdosing may include skin rash, stomach inflammation/irritation, nausea, vomiting, kidney inflammation, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).[221] Willow bark can be anywhere from 0.08% to 12.6% salicin (the active ingredient).[221]

Gaultheria procumbens

  • Used for: pain relief (contains methyl salicylate, which is similar to aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid), urinary ailments, colic and farting[6]
  • Insufficient research to evaluate efficacy.[223] Used for asthma, rheumatism, and headache.[224]
  • Harmful effects: Wintergreen is safe, but internally taken wintegreen oil is toxic and can cause ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, stomach pain, confusion, and death.[223][225] (Wintergreen oil contains methyl salicylate, and 5 mL of the oil is equivalent to about 21.5 aspirin tablets.)[225] Topical use can cause skin irritation.[223]

Isatis tinctoria

  • WoadWikipedia (Isatis tinctoria)
  • In addition to producing a blue dye, woad has alleged medicinal uses. Chemicals from woad might be used to prevent cancer, as woad can produce high levels of glucobrassicin.[226] Young leaves when damaged can produce more glucobrassicin, up to 65 times as much.[227]
  • Indigo woad Root is a traditional Chinese medicine herb that comes from the roots of woad, but often incorrectly listed under the synonymic name, Isatis indigotica. It is also known as Radix isatidis. The herb is cultivated in various regions of northern China. The roots are harvested during the autumn and dried. The dried root is then processed into granules, which are most commonly consumed dissolved in hot water or tea. The product, called banlangen keli (复方板蓝根颗粒), is very popular throughout China, and used to remove "toxic heat", soothe sore throat and to treat influenza, measles, mumps, syphilis, or scarlet fever. It is also used for pharyngitis, laryngitis, erysipelas, and carbuncle, and to prevent hepatitis A, epidemic meningitis, cancer and inflammation.[citation needed]
  • Harmful effects: Possible minor side effects include allergic reactions and dizziness; only large dosages or long term usage can be toxic to the kidneys.

Artemisia absinthium
  • Used for: stomach problems, "liver insufficiency", blood circulation, deworming, topical anesthesia, pain relief,[6] and vaginal steaming (A. absinthium, absinthe); Traditional Chinese medicine (A. annua, sweet wormwood, 青蒿)
  • Claimed to:
  • Prevent intestinal worms (but is not effective).[228]
  • Wormwood has been used to treat uncomplicated malaria; like all known chemical treatments for malaria, it can cause resistance.[229] In 2015, Tu Youyou was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery and development of artemisinin, a chemical derived from A. annua, in the treatment of malaria.
  • Harmful effects:
  • Harmful effects: Side effects of large doses may include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, seizures, numbness of the legs and arms, delirium, paralysis, and kidney and liver failure.[228]
  • Wormwood contains thujone (e.g. as it occurs in small amounts in absinthe[230]), which is neurotoxic above the threshold so caution should be exercised for therapeutic usage.[231]


Achillea millefolium
  • YarrowWikipedia, Achillea millefolium
    • Used for: Yarrow has a long list of traditional uses including for digestive issues, to promote wound healing, for menstrual irregularities, and for skin inflammation. Evidence supports some of the traditional uses, mainly the antioxidant and antinflammatory effects but there is also some support for analgesic, anti-ulcer, choleretic, hepatoprotective and wound healing activities. The German Commission E approves its use internally for loss of appetite and dyspeptic ailments.[232]
    • The genus name Achillea comes from a story in which Achilles used it to treat the bleeding of his fellow soldiers' wounds.[233]
    • Harmful effects: Yarrow is generally considered nonpoisonous, though is listed as a plant to avoid. It can sometimes cause contact dermatitis.[233] As of 2001, only limited toxicity data was available for yarrow,[234] but it is noteworthy that yarrow is used for wound healing and likely induces related cell proliferation,[235] an important mechanistic aspect of carcinogenesis (i.e., cancer formation).[236]
  • Yerba maté: See maté

Traditional Chinese medicine[edit]

This list is for traditional Chinese medicine remedies.



Polygonum multiflorum dried roots
  • Claimed to be a cure for baldness and grey hair, as well as being promoted as a immune system booster (though he shou wu contains emodin, a possibly immunosuppresant substance).[237] There's not enough evidence to evaluate claims.[237]


Lycopodium serratum
  • Jin bu huan (金不换), Lycopodium serratum (a club moss)
  • Used as a sedative and analgesic, and for asthma, bronchitis, night blindness, delirium, epilepsy, vertigo, fever and inflammation.[238] The herbs used vary, but can include Lycopodium serratum, Panax sp., "Pseudo ginseng", Polygala chinensis and two species of Stephania.[238]
  • May cause hepatitis.[238] It is sometimes contaminated with lead.[239][240]


  • Long dan xie gan wan (龙胆泻肝片): See Xie gan wan


  • Xie gan wan (泻肝片) (also known as Long dan xie gan wan)
  • Some mixtures have contained birthwort Aristolochia species.
  • Used for acne, among other things. It may contain birthwort and can cause kidney failure and cancer.[241]

These treatments have not generally been evaluated clinically.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Government sources[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. There are without a doubt traditional remedies whose (possibly serious) adverse effects are completely unknown. It's interesting to note that some carcinogenic and otherwise toxic plants (such as birthwort or tobacco) were used for centuries without their side effects being detected by traditional medicine practitioners. If a herb really is good for something, the effective compounds can be used as drugs, while leaving the other (potentially toxic) ones behind; thus the patient gets the benefits of the herb without the unnecessary risks.
  2. Is this even a medical term?
  3. Yes, CURE, not just aid or help control.


  2. The Alnwick Garden, a.k.a. The Poison Garden
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