Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Herbs for the Elderly: Drawing on Nature's Pharmacy for Health and Wellness

Herbal Remedies for Common Geriatric Ailments

For centuries, herbs have been used to successfully treat a variety of diseases and ailments, from high blood pressure to hay fever. Herbal medicines are still used extensively worldwide — more than 80 percent of Earth’s peoples use herbs for some aspect of primary care

Our grandparents and their grandparents knew that nature is the best pharmacy. Especially for the elderly, medicines can be harsh agents, especially when used in combination with other prescription drugs.  Herbs, when taken under the supervision of a professional, provide a gentle and time-tested substitute or adjunct for prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Many of today’s widely prescribed prescription medications are part of nature’s bountiful pharmacy, including the heart medication digitalis, derived from the leaves of the foxglove plant; and salicylic acid, the origin of aspirin, derived from willow trees. Of the nearly 500 new chemical entities approved by regulatory authorities around the world in the past decade, nearly half were from natural sources.

Under the supervision of a professional herbalist or a physician with training in herbal medicine, herbs can be a complement to a healthful regime and provide a cost-effective way to treat many diseases and conditions common to the elderly.

Because the metabolism of the elderly is often slow, doses of herbs may need to be lower than for younger adults. Too great a dose can create toxicity. “Herbs are, essentially, natural dilute compounds,” notes professional herbalist Kevin Spelman, PhD, of the Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel, Maryland. 
“As such, they often provide a gentler approach to the geriatric system.” Spelman advises anyone considering embarking on a herbal regime to consult a professional herbalist first.

To locate a professional herbalist in your area, contact the American Herbalists Guild ( or the Herbal Medicine department at the Tai Sophia Institute ( Be sure to talk to a professional herbalist or physician with training in herbal medicine about the correct dosage of herbs for your loved one.
Here Are Some Herbal Remedies for Common Geriatric Conditions:

Late-onset diabetes  
Suggested Herbs:
  • Fenugreek (reduces urine sugar levels)
  • Bilberry (antioxidant)
  • Gymnema sylvestre (shown to reduce cholesterol and blood glucose)                                           

Suggested Herbs:
  • Cascara sagrada (use with caution; this can be irritating for some systems).
  •  Triphala (an Ayurvedic remedy with gentle laxative properties)
Suggested Herbs:
  • Ginkgo biloba (stimulates blood flow to the brain)
Anemia/Iron Deficiency
Suggested Herbs:
  • Stinging Nettle (rich in iron and vitamins A, B and C)

Suggested Herbs:
  • Curcumin (extract of tumeric. Very useful as an anti-inflammatory)
  • Bromelian (enzyme from pineapple with anti-inflammatory properties)
  • Glucosamine sulfate/Chondroitin sulfate (stimulates components for join mobility)                 

Suggested Herbs:
  • Eat a diet high in foods containing antioxidants (found in brightly-colored foods such as blue berries, kale, red cabbage, grapes, peaches and cranberries). Best to consume organic varieties.
  • Bilberry (noted for antioxidant activities for eyes).



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