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These herbs work like medicine

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Posted: Friday, February 28, 2014 2:01 pm

Dear Pharmacist: What are popular medications and their natural counterparts? – A.T., Dallas

This is a great question and there’s a lot of different things that come to mind. For example, when I think of popular medications, I think of allergy drugs (antihistamines), pain relievers, antacids, blood pressure drugs, cholesterol reducers and sleeping pills. That covers a lot of ground. I’ll give you some options, but these natural choices do not work as strongly as a drug. I’m not recommending you stop your drugs and take these, either. This sort of decision is between you and your doctor. With that said, here are some interesting ideas:

Allergy drugs (antihistamines): Quercetin, a supplement that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, is a powerful mast cell stabilizer, which means that it helps reduce histamine in the body. Think of it as a natural version of loratadine, a popular effective drug used to treat allergies. As a benefit, quercetin may help with other things like stress-induced anxiety, asthma and inflammatory pain syndromes.

Pain relievers: Willow bark and California poppy are two herbal remedies used to relieve pain by holistic physicians. There are drug interactions and side effects to herbs, too, but these two herbs offer effects like natural aspirin and natural (weak) opiate drugs, respectively.

Antacids: Slippery elm, marshmallow root, digestive enzymes, DGL and probiotics are my go-to supplements here. It’s not that they directly reduce acid (they don’t) but they help reduce gut inflammation and other problems that could trigger the burn. There is also the possibility you need more acid (betaine with pepsin supplements) to digest your food.

Blood pressure drugs: Grape seed extract can help reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number). Potassium citrate found in foods and supplements can do so too. Be careful though; not everyone can take potassium. It has interactions. Magnesium is a strong anti-hypertensive, too. You’ll want to eat more basil and perhaps garlic. I recommend eating garlic or taking “aged garlic” supplements.

Cholesterol reducers: I think of natural “statins” here, such as Red Yeast Rice or vitamin C, particularly “liposomal C.” Coenzyme Q10 can help as can a cup of Tulsi tea each day.

Sleeping pills: This category is perhaps the hardest. As humans, we sleep thanks to melatonin and GABA. To get this pathway running, you have to go slowly and carefully under supervision. Supplements of 5-HTP turn into serotonin, then melatonin (provided you have good B vitamin status), but I suggest low doses. Special “phenylated” GABA supplements may help like “Kavinace” sold online. Lemonbalm, hops and passionflower are other natural relaxation herbs to discuss with your doctor.

In summary, there are many choices you can consider. I’ve only touched the surface. I love natural options, but your safety comes first. While natural, and expected to be safer than pharmaceuticals, botanicals may cause similar interactions, allergies and setbacks. Always discuss changes to your health regimen with your doctor because we are all individuals.

This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Suzy Cohen is the author of “The 24-Hour Pharmacist.” For more information, visit



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