Herbal Remedies

January 24, 1997

Centuries-old healers finding new acceptance


Staff Writer

Herbs have been used for healing through the centuries.

Some are exotic. Others are as common as the parsley on your plate or the dandelions in your lawn.

Parsley is a breath freshener. Dandelion's nickname "piddley bed" testifies to its use as a diuretic since before the 17th century. Garlic was found in the tomb of Egypt's King Tut.

"The Lord had these products in the fields long before they were synthesized. Nature has been put here for us to use," says Herb Lindewurth, owner of The Gentle Nudge, a health food store on Robinwood Drive in Hagerstown.


Don Taylor, owner of Taylor's Better Health Store on Franklin Street in Hagerstown, says herbal remedies were handed down from grannies to mothers to daughters. Taylor's wife, Irene, says herbal remedies are preferred by many of their customers because they are natural and don't have side effects.

Herbal remedies are not regulated by U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but many of the commercially produced herbal products are standardized, and their potency is guaranteed. The products are sold as nutritional supplements, not drugs.

American Botanical Council in Austin, Texas, publishes and distributes information and conducts research on herbs. Wayne Silverman, chief administrative officer of the nonprofit organization, calls the United States a "Third World country" in terms of research and acceptance of herbal medicine. Silverman says the council is in favor of some form of approval - something less than the FDA type of regulation -for natural remedies and substances.

Lindewurth prefers the terms "adjunct" or "complementary" to "alternative" when speaking of herbal remedies. He says proponents of natural remedies don't want to take the place of mainstream physicians and medicine, but believe there also is a place for natural means.

That place extends to growing recognition on a national scale. National Institutes of Health has had an Office of Alternative Medicine since 1992 mandated by Congress to evaluate alternative treatments and help bring them into mainstream medical practice. A name change to Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine has been initiated, according to spokesperson Katherine Smith.

It's interesting that something so old - some of these remedies go back thousands and thousands of years - can be looked upon as new.

Many doctors are reluctant to recommend herbs as treatments, says Susan West, an acupuncturist and herbalist at The Center for Traditional Oriental Medicine on Dual Highway in Hagerstown.

She can think of only one referral by a local physician.

Her patients come to the center primarily by word-of-mouth. Patients bring a variety of ailments from coughs, gynecologic and digestive problems to autoimmune disorders such as lupus, HIV and cancer. New patients typically have a one-and-a-half to two-hour intake appointment. Treatments may include customized tinctures and teas brewed on site or prescriptions of "patent medicines." The center prescribes Chinese herbs, which have a unique culture and language. West speaks of the flavor of the herbs - sweet, bitter or pungent, and of their natures and functions - cool, warm, cold, hot or neutral.

Lindewurth, who is good-natured in response to a question about his name - "Herb," believes people need to be educated consumers when buying herbal remedies and should be informed about mainstream medications.

 Natural herbal remedies include

ginkgo - aids memory

ginseng - boosts energy

ginger - good for nausea, motion sickness

parsley - freshens breath

garlic - lowers cholesterol

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