Herbs and Biochemical Balancing
Herbs have been consumed since antiquity. Herbs are widely used for cooking to add a wide variety of flavorings and for medicinal purposes (nature’s medicine cabinet). The fact is; we all consume and enjoy a variety of herbs!
However, the sole purpose of this page is to reveal some information about how herbs may potentially interfere with your attempt to balance your biochemistry as well as contribute toward myriad symptoms.
Know the nutrient facts of your herbs!
Herbs, like all other foods, contain a wide variety of nutrients and natural occurring substances. As such, if you are attempting to balance your biochemistry, knowing the nutrient dominance and naturally occurring substances in the herbs you consume is very important.
This follows the same principle as seen in healthy foods. If you consume herbs that are high in the specific nutrients you don’t need (currently excessive) or low in the specific nutrients you do need (currently deficient), they will interfere with your nutritional goals.
A few examples include:
- IRON: Herbs that may contain significant levels of iron include; peppermint, chickweed, black cohosh, goldenseal, comfrey, licorice root, chamomile, alfalfa, valerian root, catnip, cascara sagrada, chaparral
- COBALT: Herbs that may contain significant levels of cobalt include; goldenseal, alfalfa, black cohosh, chamomile, slippery elm
- LITHIUM: Herbs that may contain significant levels of lithium include; Cayenne pepper, peppermint, chickweed, alfalfa, goldenseal, black cohosh, comfrey
- MANGANESE: Herbs that may contain significant levels of manganese include; peppermint, cascara sagrada, chickweed, comfrey, goldenseal, black cohosh
Potential unexpected herbal effects on your health
Let’s see how this works. Herbs, like foods, are either stimulatory or sedative based on their nutrient content (amino acids, vitamins, and minerals) as well as the active natural occurring substances. For example, licorice root is commonly used medicinally for myriad symptoms ranging from digestive problems to infections to skin problems to myriad other symptoms as well. It is also used for energy and adrenal support. Glycyrrhizic acid is the active compound that may provide benefits for some people and not for others.
However, licorice root (even de-glycyrrhizic acid) is dominant in stimulatory minerals that include sodium (Na), potassium (K), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn) and chromium (Cr).
Obviously, an increase of these stimulatory nutrients will tend to increase your energy levels for the short term. This is the basis of “energy” drinks. However, we can also see licorice root has the potential to contribute toward a copper and zinc deficiency (as well as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and others). Copper and zinc are important nutrients for immune function.
- Excess sodium antagonizes zinc,
- Excess potassium antagonizes copper,
- Excess iron antagonizes zinc and copper,
- Excess manganese antagonizes copper,
- Excess chromium antagonizes copper.
As such, if you are consuming licorice root for energy (or other symptoms), you may be increasing your potential for bacterial and/or viral infections (among numerous other health problems!). Remember, copper is essential for bacterial infections and zinc for viral infections. In addition, as seen in the nutritional immune response, iron is food for many strains of bacteria and required to proliferate! Of course, copper and zinc are essential nutrients that play a plethora of roles throughout the mind and body.
To reiterate, the sole purpose of this simple example is to reveal the potential to contribute toward further nutritional imbalances (and symptoms) if any herb is used long-term without knowing the nutritional facts and your current biochemistry. Keep in mind, an excess of any nutrient contributes toward a deficiency of numerous other nutrients that includes minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Are your herbs contributing to your toxic elements?
Herbs, as with most of our foods, possess the potential for toxic element exposures. Keep in mind; we import most of our foods from numerous other countries. This includes herbs. As such, we don’t know if specific agriculture practices are adhered to nor do we necessarily know the composition of the soils, irrigation water, fertilizers (natural or synthetic) or pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and so on. Each of these unknowns can easily introduce a variety of toxic elements into the herbs you consume. Of course, this applies to all foods and not specifically to only herbs.
Know your herbs!
If you choose to follow a nutritional program, we recommend that you investigate the nutrient dominance and naturally occurring substances and of the herbs you consume. As seen in the above example, licorice root would not be helpful for individuals already experiencing an excess or dominance of the nutrients shown. As such, a person with a fast metabolism, continual adrenal response (stress), or numerous other symptoms due to the stimulatory nutrient dominance revealed in licorice root would not be well-served consuming licorice root.
Many herbs (and combinations thereof) are used topically for medicinal purposes. Albeit the skin is a source of absorption, the amounts of nutrients or other substances absorbed will be much less than through normal dietary consumption.
The bottom line is:
foods herbs – know your biochemistry!
Hair Analysis and herbs
Our hair analysis can be a useful tool to monitor your use of herbs. As you will find in our Trace Elements Inc., Profile 2, we occasionally include a list of herbs that may contribute toward an excess of an element. Of course, this depends on the level of element excess. Our food recommendations remain primarily in common foods to avoid and increase. Foods to increase do not include herbs (as seen in the list above). Our supplements (Trace Nutrients®) include very little use of herbs as seen in Nutri-Vi.
If, by chance, your biochemistry is not responding during a balancing program or toxic element exposures remain, herbs may potentially be a contributing.
Order your Hair Analysis today!
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The content and laboratory services provided on this site are for educational and informational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease.
A high intake of liquorice can cause hypermineralocorticoidism with sodium retention and potassium loss, oedema, increased blood pressure and depression of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.
Stormer F C, Reistad R, Alexander J. Glycyrrhizic acid in liquorice–evaluation of health hazard. Food Chem Toxicol. 1993 Apr;31(4):303-12.
Pseudo-hyperaldosteronism is a condition that clinically mimics hyperaldosteronism with suppression of plasma renin activity and aldosterone levels. Causes of pseudo-hyperaldosteronism can be categorized into dietary, genetic and endocrinal causes.
Hesham R. Omar,corresponding author Irina Komarova, Mohamed El-Ghonemi, Ahmed Fathy, Rania Rashad, Hany D. Abdelmalak, Muralidhar Reddy Yerramadha, Yaseen Ali, Engy Helal, and Enrico M. Camporesi. Licorice abuse: time to send a warning message. Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Aug; 3(4): 125–138. doi: 10.1177/2042018812454322. PMCID: PMC3498851
Contaminants in herbal products may be particularly problematic in medicines imported from Asia. A study examining the contents of 260 Asian patent medicines found that 25% of products contained high levels of heavy metals and another 7% contained undeclared drugs, purposefully and illegally added to produce a desired effect.
Stephen Bent. Herbal Medicine in the United States: Review of Efficacy, Safety, and Regulation. J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Jun; 23(6): 854–859. Published online 2008 Apr 16. doi: 10.1007/s11606-008-0632-y. PMCID: PMC2517879 Grand Rounds at University of California, San Francisco Medical Center