Turmeric: For Best Results, Use It Properly

Turmeric has become increasingly popular over the last decade, first for blood purification and then for joint pain. As it’s hit the mainstream, its uses have narrowed at the same time. While turmeric is a fabulous herb with many beneficial applications, it’s also quite powerful and can strongly imbalance the body if over-used or misused.…

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Better than Turmeric? Guggul for Pain

Of the hundreds of herbs Ayurveda has to offer, guggul is one of the most important ones to add to your toolkit.  Guggul and guggul-based formulas are among the most effective remedies you can use for chronic pain including back pain, joint pain, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Let’s get familiar with the benefits of guggul.…

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Herbs that Clear Heat, Part 6 of 6

In the West we tend to think of heat as inflammation; yet, it can take many other forms as we’ve learned through parts I-V of this blog series. In TCM, heat can exist without inflammation but have other signs of heat. The key to differentiating which type of heat is present is through determining its…

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Bacopa: The Herb You Don’t Want to Forget

Research has shown that regularly taking Bacopa monnieri for eight to twelve weeks can improve your memory. “Nootropic” is a pharmaceutical term first used in 1972 to describe a pharmaceutical drug, Piracetam, which was being researched for its memory-enhancing properties. It was soon adopted as a term to refer to memory-enhancing plants in herbal medicine. The most…

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Triphala Fruits

Triphala and Ghee for Dry Eyes and Other Eye Problems

Triphala consists of three phytonutrient-rich fruits Emblica officinalis (Amla, or Amalaki) also known as Phyllanthus emblica; Terminalia bellerica (Vibhitaki); and Terminalia chebula (Haritaki). Each of these eliminates all types of excess from the body. Amla clears the liver, Vibhitaki the excess of mucus, lymph, fluids, including excess cholesterol, and Haritaki treats the nervous system. All three fruits…

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Eating Garden Weeds 1 of 2: Lamb’s Quarters

  It seems that each year it is getting increasingly more difficult to depend on my garden to produce enough to barely pay the water-shortage-in-Northern-California water bill. And yet, I take pleasure in harvesting my food and herbs, especially lamb’s quarters. Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium giganteum) The beautiful magenta lamb’s quarters is also known as magenta…

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Herbs that Clear Heat 1 of 6: Sweet Violet and Pansy

Like Western medicine, Western herbalism today considers heat as inflammation with little differentiation in herbal treatment. Yet, heat is not the same as inflammation; rather, inflammation is a kind of heat confined to a specific area. Just treating inflammation with herbs will clear up any acute manifestation but not the underlying condition. Thus, there can…

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Oatmeal Qi Tonic Porridge

A selection of Chinese tonic herbs   The Importance of Qi in the Body Qi means “life energy.” The source of Qi in the body is food, air and water. The process of transforming and assimilating food, air and water, into Qi is, according to TCM theory, governed by the TCM-Spleen. Because the source of…

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Treating Gum Disease with Astringent Herbs

Unfortunately, too many people think about their teeth only in crisis stage. A common pre-crisis symptom is receding gums. This is a widespread condition when the gums pull away from the teeth, forming gaps and eventually exposing the bone structures that support the teeth. Over time, this will lead to the formation of pockets of…

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TCM and Western Clinical Tongue Diagnosis

When was the last time you visited a doctor and the first thing asked of you was to show your tongue? Western medical practice of tongue diagnosis as part of a routine clinical examination seems, like many Western clinical practices, to have become a relic of the not-too-distant past. Instead, it survives as a standard…

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The Salty Flavor: Seaweed

To finish up the flavors for the year, we have one left – salty. Most herbs that are salty are subtly so. Yet salty can include herbs with mineral salts, such as nettles. Here I want to discuss a true salty herb: seaweed. Seaweed is not unknown as a medicinal herb. Irish moss and bladderwrack…

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Protection for You and Yours: A Holiday Gift Idea

Every December we try to offer some possibilities for gifts you can make or buy to enhance your holidays. It’s our version of Oprah’s “favorite things.” This year I’m suggesting two things that may be a gift to yourself, your family or your friends: protection from all airborne pathogens and allergens, including the covid-19 virus.…

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2020 – What a Year for East West!

Finally, we’re reaching the end of 2020! I can’t tell you how many people have yearned to see this year pass since it’s been so difficult for most. Indeed, 2020 brought big changes to our lives and the East West Herb Course, too. I have always loved to travel and have done so since a…

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Ashwagandha, Milk, Energy, and Sleep

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is described as a rasayana in Ayurvedic medicine. In Ayurveda, rasayanas are used as Traditional Chinese medicine uses tonic herbs, and they correspond to the herbal category of adaptogens, a term first used to describe a limited number of immune tonics by Russians used in Western herbal medicine. Tonics, adaptogens, and rasayanas…

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Spicy Flavor and Digestive Trikatu

The spicy flavor has many understandings and an interesting function. When most people think of “spicy,” they think of spicy food. However, that’s normally due to the presence of chili rather than regular spices that don’t necessarily have what is normally thought of as a spicy flavor. In the last five years or more, food…

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Draksha: Ayurvedic Grape Wine Medicine

Asava and arishta, meaning “distillate” in Sanskrit, are two naturally fermented alcoholic extracts used for making Ayurvedic wine medicines. Draksha in Sanskrit means “grape” and draksharista therefore means grape wine. This is not your regular merlot or pinot, but a very low alcohol herbally medicated wine. Draksha is one of the most effective botanical remedies…

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Huckleberry Fruit and Leaf for Diabetes

Many years ago, while visiting Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I happened upon a local herb shop.  While perusing jars of dry herbs, I noticed one that contained huckleberry leaves. In most parts of the country, bulk huckleberry leaves are hardly known well enough to claim any of the limited space in an average herb store. The…

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Jujube Dates to Usher in the Earth Time of Year

From July through about mid-September, we are in the “Earth time of year” with its organs, the Spleen and Stomach. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Spleen is responsible for assimilation and transportation of nutrients throughout the body (metabolism) while the Stomach mechanically breaks down food and fluids. The flavor that improves both of these…

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Coix: An Underutilized Medicinal Food

“Let your medicine be your food and your food, your medicine.” The sovereign dictum of Hippocrates is aptly epitomized by the use of Coix (Coix lacrymi-jobi, also known as Job’s tears and yi yi ren) as the most common treatment for cancer in China. Coix is a member of the Graminaceae family of which all…

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Chamomile: Gentle Yet Powerful

Since we are in the “season” of the Heart, we’ve been covering bitter herbs. The bitter flavor cleanses the blood among other things and thus, it is connected to the Heart in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Five Phases system. So far, we have discussed dandelion and California poppy in this bitter flavor series. Our…

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The Bitter Flavor in Herbs

The flavor of an herb is different than its taste. Taste is subjective while flavor is a major indicator of how an herb affects the body and thus, how it’s used. In other words, there is a direct correlation between flavor and physiological function. Basing an herb’s properties on its flavor was a way that…

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Can homeopathy stave off harmful effects of vaccinations?

Many mothers are afraid to give their babies and young children vaccinations. Pro and con arguments on both sides make for heated debates. To help with the decision to vaccinate or not, I recommend the book Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide, by my former student, herbal colleague and now highly successful medical doctor integrating herbal…

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Rediscovering Boneset for Influenza

In the midst of the current pandemic, I’m surprised how little mention there is of boneset, once considered the number one remedy for influenza and deemed a ‘miracle life-saving herb’ during the 1918-19 Spanish influenza responsible for the deaths of 675,000 Americans and ranging from 21 million to 100 million worldwide. Other than the general…

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Symptom-Specific Herbal Protection from Viruses

We are in cold and flu season, which especially hits during the summer-to-fall and winter-to-spring months. How do you prevent catching a cold or flu and if you do get it, what do you do? Thankfully some powerful herbs you can take right now to protect yourself. Herbal Prevention Herbal approaches for staying well include…

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Boost Your Immunity This Flu Season

So far, 14,000 people have died and 250,000 people have been hospitalized during the 2019-2020 flu season, according to preliminary estimates from the CDC, which estimates that influenza was associated with more than 35.5 million illnesses, more than 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths during the 2018–2019 influenza season. Corona virus worldwide: 104,025 Deaths: 3,524 Recovered: 58,527 China: 80,652; 3070 deaths, 55,521…

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Colds and Flu: Common-Sense Prevention Tactics

Anyone who’s heard tales from grandparents or great-grandparents who lived during the 1918 flu pandemic will understand the world’s great concern about the new coronavirus. The 1918 flu killed at least 50 million people worldwide, while 500 million (roughly one third of the world’s population then) became infected with that H1N1 virus.[1] Because the new…

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Staying Healthy This Winter

Whether you live in balmy, tropical Hawaii, or sub-zero, frosty Minnesota, the energy of winter is the same: storage. At this time winter’s cold drives your life fires deeply inward, collecting itself like a hibernating bear for the coming Spring. The Chinese believe that the water element rules winter, which is associated with the Kidneys,…

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Balthazar’s Gift: Frankincense

Have you ever wondered what the Holy Family did with the three gifts brought to them from the far-off lands in the East by, according to tradition, the Magi? The Bible doesn’t say. The Armenian Christian tradition describes three Magi: Balthazar from Arabia, Gaspar from India, and Melchior from Persia (what is now known as…

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Which Ginseng Should I Take?

When I began to study herbs, my first class discussed the difference between the many ginsengs. It was information overload at that stage of my learning, but since then I’ve used them all. If the prospect of selecting the right ginseng for a specific set of symptoms seems overwhelming, this blog is for you. Why…

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Horny Goat Weed: Herbal Viagra for Men and Women

It is virtually inevitable when lecturing on herbs that a man might surreptitiously take me aside and ask for an herb to improve sex. The first herb that always comes to mind is horny goat weed (Epimedium grandiflorum). Certainly, the suggestive common name makes it easy to remember. Its name is derived from a legend…

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How to Stay Well from Summer into Fall

  We are fast approaching the joint of the seasons – summer into fall – and of all times of the year, this is the most susceptible for catching colds and flu. Weather is cooling now, school is starting, and activities pick up so generally there’s more stress. At the same time, we often cling…

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Herbs and Acupoints for Better Sleep

  Sleep is a period of reduced activity where we leave waking consciousness to drift into a land of dreams and deep rest. It is a restorative process that lets us to recover from the wear and tear of daily life, allowing our body’s cellular activity, heart rate and breathing to slow in order to…

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Feeling Damp, Bloated, Heavy? Care for your SPLEEN!

Many climates throughout the world have five seasons – late summer, or Indian Summer, is usually the fifth, lasting from sometime in July through sometime through about mid-September. In traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the spleen is associated with the earth element. It is considered much more than a component of the lymphatic system but instead…

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Cat’s Claw, Dragon’s Blood and Quassia in Costa Rica

On our recent second visit to Costa Rica, we re-experienced the wondrous biodiversity of its plants, exotic wildlife, volcanoes, and hot springs but also a rare insight into its traditional healing customs. With the assistance of an interpreter, this information was provided by our guide, the distinguished native ethnobotanist, Rafael (Raffi) Angel Ocampo Sanchez.  Raffi, is…

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Jimson Weed: Dangerous Magic

Old time herbalists and the Eclectics didn’t focus on common herbs – they mainly used “heroic” medicines instead. These are the toxic herbs, so strong that only 1-2 drops of tincture were generally taken for quick and effective results. Of course such plants are rarely used today, and when they are it’s mainly in homeopathic…

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Finding Renewal in Costa Rica

Our second trip to lush Costa Rica proved just as magical as our first in September 2018. This time a wonderful group of 12 folks joined us to explore several areas of Costa Rica. We began our tour at Finca Luna Nueva (in the region of San Carlos), the second biodynamic farm established in Costa…

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Healing Breath: Remedies for Stress

“The perfected breathe all the way to their heels, unlike ordinary folk who breathe only as far as their throats.” Zhuangzi, 3rd century BCE[1]  “Take a breather,” or ”Slow down and take a deep breath,”  are common things we say when someone is in an acute state of anger, fear, frustration, or anxiety. In fact,…

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Lemon Balm: For More Than Just Depression

The renowned 16th century English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, described the use of lemon balm for depression by quoting Serapio who said the herb  “caus(es) the mind and heart to become merry, and reviveth the heart, faintings and swoonings of such who are overtaken by sleep, and driveth away all troublesome cares and thoughts out of…

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Wild Cherry Bark and Sweet Cherry Stems as Medicine

Recently Michael and I witnessed the incredible scene of cherry blossom season in Japan. It is truly a remarkable sight. Clouds of pinkish-white flowers adorn dark branches that hang over green parks. blue waters, or frame distant structures. Crowds of locals stream through such areas, picnicking or strolling beneath their ancient glories, day and night.…

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Amla: Super Antioxidant Fruit of India

Oxidation in the body is a natural process caused when wandering electrons called free radicals react with other molecules. Oxidation has both positive and negative consequences. A positive aspect of oxidation is that the process disrupts the cell wall of bacteria, which stops them from functioning. Humans have special immune cells (macrophages) that use oxidation…

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Ashwagandha: Horsepower for Your Body

The Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha has become quite well known in recent years and it is no wonder, for it has many important uses. Overall, it’s a wonderful anti-aging and rejuvenative tonic for most all folks and so deserves its growing reputation. Specifically, it is a yang tonic (meaning it warms and strengthens the body’s energy…

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Korean Hand Therapy

Korean Hand Therapy (KHT) was discovered by Tai Woo Yoo, OMD, PhD, a South Korean acupuncturist, in 1971, when he found himself unable to sleep with a headache that would not go away. Using a ballpoint pen, he poked an area at the tip of his middle finger which he believed corresponded to the area…

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Winter Wonder Walnuts

In the cold of winter, a great herb to consider is the walnut. It is a rich source of fat that keeps the body warm and as a healthy snack, stifles hunger. But walnuts are more than a food; they have many valuable medicinal uses, too. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), walnuts gently tonify Kidney…

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herbal gift giving

Herbal Gifts for the Holidays

Stumped about what to give for the holidays? Here are some herbal treats you can easily make and share that will not only be unusual and fun but also help your loved ones’ health, too! HAWTHORN OXYMEL An oxymel is simple as it’s only made with herbs, vinegar and honey. Hawthorn is especially good for…

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Red heart of hawthorn berries on a wooden background.

Hawthorn Oxymel

Oxymel is one of the oldest herbal preparations. The word is derived from the Latin oxmeli meaning “acid and honey” and indeed it is extracted and made with a base of vinegar and honey.  Individually, neither vinegar nor honey separately or alone is preferred extractive mediums, because they are already saturated solutions. However, both of…

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amatierra retreat center

Amatierra: A Rejuvenating Retreat in Costa Rica

  When recently exploring the incredible plants of Costa Rica, we stayed at the magical retreat center Amatierra. It’s a hidden secret that is not only beautiful but also very nourishing as well. When we first arrived and climbed down the stairs to the main building and dining terrace, I was immediately struck by the…

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Costa Rica: Plant Paradise

Simply put, Costa Rica is a plant paradise. Michael and I were lucky enough to travel there a couple of weeks ago, and we were astonished by the botanical diversity there. So many regularly used herbs can be found in this forest wonderland. For starters, many of our kitchen spices come from Costa Rica. Ginger,…

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Celery Stalk: A Powerful Anti-Inflammatory

Celery often sits in our refrigerators for many different uses – making stocks, preparing soups, or filling with peanut butter for the kids. But celery has many more uses than that and is actually quite medicinal in concentrated form. Celery Seed Most herbalists are familiar with celery seed and teach about its many wonderful uses.…

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Mung Bean for Hypertension

Mung Bean for Hypertension Hypertension is a major risk indicator for heart attack and stroke. In the United States, approximately 75 million people (29%) have high blood pressure which is a staggering 1 in every 3 adults.  About 42.7 million visits to physician offices are for primary essential hypertension. Blood pressure is measured with a…

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Mung beans

Mung Bean for Summer Illness

Finally, to close this series on herbs for Summer-Heat and for summer conditions in general, is the humble mung bean, a premier herb for clearing heat in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Mung bean (Vigna radiata, formerly known as Phaseolus munginis) neutralizes acids, clears toxicity, lowers and regulates blood pressure, heals ulcers, and relieves Summer-Heat and Hot-natured…

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Hibiscus tree with pink flowers

Hibiscus and Jewelweed: More Summertime Herbs

In my last blog, I explained the Traditional Chinese Medicine disease pattern called “Summer-Heat,” largely parallel to what most Westerners know as heat stroke. As promised, here are two more herbs for this hot time of year: one made into a delicious cooling tea to ward off overheating, and another to deal with one of…

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chyawanprash

Chyawanprash: A Delicious, Nutritious Herbal Tonic

Once when comparing relative merits of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine with an Ayurvedic doctor in India, the good doctor acknowledged both systems as having merit but said: “Ayurvedic tonics taste better!” Flavor is considered part of the therapeutic properties of an herb in both herbal systems, but it is much more emphasized…

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summer tcm watermelon cucumber seasonal herbs

Two Foods to Help You Keep Cool This Summer

Summers seem to be getting hotter and hotter so staying cool – and keeping your cool – can be more difficult. But don’t fret! There are many fabulous herbs, some even easy to find or grow foods, that can help you cool off during such hot summer days. These herbs also help with what Traditional…

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home herbalist course

Announcing: The East West Home Herbalist Course

We are very excited to announce that the East West School of Planetary Herbology now offers a Home Herbalist Course! While we have provided Family and Professional Herbalist Courses, we have not presented a basic course in learning herbs – until now! The Home Herbalist Course is a great way to get involved with immediately…

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misconceptions about herbal medicine

Common Misconceptions about Herbal Medicine

Recently, someone wrote me in response to an article I wrote on the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principle of dui yao, a principle of formulation where one might use two or more herbs as one brought up not one. His letter brought up a couple of common misconceptions about herbal medicine which I thought were…

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oregon grape root

Oregon Grape Root: A Versatile Herb

Oregon grape root is the Pacific Northwest variety of barberry (Berberis vulgaris). It was used by the indigenous mountain folk of California for all chronic degenerative diseases, especially cancer and arthritis. Oregon grape and barberry are so similar they are used interchangeably, yet Oregon grape is mild and well tolerated by most body types. It…

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Dr. Tierra used Neem Ayurvedic Oil to treat Shingles Pain

I Tried Everything for Shingles. Here’s What Worked.

For the last 3 1/2 weeks, I’ve been suffering from shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. It is a terrible condition. There seem to be many cures and treatments for it that are either questionable, or in the case of Western medicine, have a potential for adverse side effects. Most people suffer from post-herpetic pain that can…

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kratom

Salmonella contamination of kratom

Recently the CDC announced that some 40 cases of salmonella associated with individuals who took certain batches of kratom. I’ve checked many of the sources I buy kratom from and they have suspended sales while testing goes on.  Some suppliers reported to the CDC the sources of kratom with salmonella contamination. As a result, vendors…

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Rhodiola Flowers

Rhodiola to the Rescue

Rhodiola is also used for nervous system disorders, ADHD, gastrointestinal complaints, coughing of blood, pneumonia, lowering fevers in colds and flu, and balancing blood sugar. It treats exhaustion headaches, minor hypotension, hemorrhoids, irregular heartbeat, erectile dysfunction, amenorrhea, and infertility. As well, it protects against chemotherapy and radiation. It relieves stiff muscles and spasm. As a mouthwash or gargle, it treats inflammation of the mouth and throat.

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