Herbal teas for various health problems
Tea plants (Camellia sinensis) have been used in China for nearly 3000 years. Common black tea comprises withered leaves of the plant which are harvested, fermented, and dried for brewing. The ancient Chinese recognized the differences in the medical benefits of withered and fermented leaves of the tea plant and leaves harvested before withering. That form of tea is called green tea. The Chinese tradition regards green tea as a healthful beverage with antitoxic, diuretic, stomachic, expectorant, and stimulant properties. I liberally prescribe herbal teas for my patients with cancer. On top of my list for teas is decaffeinated green tea.
GREEN TEA: AN EXCELLENT BLOOD THINNER AND CANCER FIGHTER THAT REQUIRES CAUTION
Green tea is an excellent anti-inflammatory and blood thinner with well established cancer-fighting properties. Next to water, tea (black and green) is the most popularly consumed beverage in the world.
Green tea has drawn special notice in the concept of prevention of cancer using foods, natural beverages, and spices. The epidemiological studies have long suggested that the consumption of tea is associated with a lowered risk of cancer. Most of the clinical benefits of green tea are attributed to its polyphenolic antioxidants. The evidence for this is drawn from experiments conducted with many animal-tumor bioassay systems.
In uncommon occasions, I have seen the blood-thinning effects of green tea taken in large quantities to exceed the physiological limits and cause bleeding. Specifically, three patients reported bleeding from hemorrhoids, urinary bladder, and the uterus that cleared when green tea was discontinued. The bleeding reappeared when patients drank more than three cups daily and cleared again when the tea was discontinued. So, the relationship between tea and bleeding seemed established in these cases.
I report these cases to underscore the possibility of bleeding caused by blood thinning effects of drinking green tea daily in large amounts. I should point out that I observed this relationship in my practice of more than 8,000. So, this must be seen as a rare occurrence. A simple solution to the problem is to rotate green tea with other teas. Indeed, all three patients were able to consume green tea two or three times a day without recurrence of bleeding. Green tea is especially beneficial for individuals with breast and prostate cancer. For such patients, rosemary tea is an excellent addition for rotation with green tea.
For patients requiring surgical procedures, I carefully discontinue green tea and other natural remedies that can cause excessive blood thinning, most notably omega-3 oils and ginko biloba. The same holds for aspirin used for the prevention of cardiovascular disorders. It is important that people considering surgery bring this to the attention of their surgeons.
Healthful Factors of Green Tea
There is strong epidemiological, clinical, and experimental evidence of good effects of green tea in both the prevention and treatment of cancer. Such evidence is strongest for prostate and breast cancer.
A family of substances found in green tea called catechins have well-documented anti-cancer effects. In animal models, the catechin-related growth suppression and/or cancer cell death (apoptosis) varies considerably with the type and stage of malignancy, as well as with the type of catechin. A list of the members of the catechin family includes the following:
EC ( epicatechin)
ECG (EC 3-gallate)
EGCG (EGC 3-gallate)
At this time, EGCG among the various catchins appears to hold the greatest promise. Notable contributions in this field have been made by Hassan Mukhtar, Helfaer Professor and Director of Research at the University of Wisconsin. He presented compelling experimental evidence of the efficacy of green tea for treating certain cancers, notably of the prostate gland.
In addition to green tea, I also liberally prescribe other teas, especially a combination of fenugreek, fennel seeds, licorice and peau D’arco (in equal parts). Following is a list of herbal teas of special benefits for individuals with chronic illness. However, their regular use for specific health disorders should be physician-supervised.
- Aloe vera gel: for bowel ecology. Taken as syrup or gel.
- Astragalus for bowel detox
- Cascara sagrada for constipation
- Chamomile flower for anxiety
- Clover blossoms for liver detox
- Echinacea root for bowel detox:
- Gingerroot for bowel and liver detox
- Ginseng root for blood detox
- Golden seal root for bowel detox:
- Hawthorn flower and berries for heart palpitations and hypertension
- Peau D’Arco inner bark for bowel detox
- Peppermint for stomach irritation
- Rosemary for breast and prostate cancers
- Valerian root for nervous tension
First and foremost, it is important to use herbs in moderate doses and in rotation. All herbs become drugs if used in large doses and for long periods of time. Indeed, historically most drugs were isolated from herbs and plant sources.
Valerian root in doses of 400 to 1,000 milligrams taken at bedtime enhanced the quality of sleep for most of my patients.
Chamomile taken as tea or in capsule form is helpful in chronic stress and anxiety states. It may be safely added to prescriptions for valerian. I usually prescribe two cups of tea or a capsule containing 250 to 400 milligrams once or twice daily.
St. John’s wort and Ginkgo biloba in doses of 250 to 500 milligrams, two or three times a day, are valuable additions to my total program for the management of unrelenting chronic stress and depression.
Passion flower, catnip and skullcap are mild herbs that have been extensively used for managing irritability, anxiety and stress. I sometimes prescribe these herbs in combination and rotation with others included in the above table.
Anise (licorice) is useful for adrenal support. However, this herb should be used only under close supervision of an experienced clinician, especially when used by people with a history of high blood pressure.
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