It is important to know what part of a plant is used medicinally. I once saw some ginseng leaf tea on the store shelves. If buyers thought that they were getting an energy boost from the ginseng, they were wrong. Ginseng root is the part that has the nourishing quality that people want. The leaves have no tonifying quality what so ever.
Another interesting example is Ma Huang/Ephedra. This herb has been misused in recent years as a stimulant. There was much press about deaths related to the overdosing of this herb in combination with caffeine and aspirin to make a "natural" amphetamine-like compound. The U.S. government has put severe restrictions on the sale of Ma Huang. Ma huang has been used safely for thousands of years. It was the combination and overdosing that made it deadly.
What most people do not know is that Chinese herbal medicine derived two very different medicines from the Ma Huang plant. The stems of the plant provide us with the stimulant-like herb we know from the diet pills. This herb is classified as warm and dispersing in nature. This means that it forces energy out of the body. This is seen in its ability to induce sweating. Ma huang gen is the root of the Ephedra plant. The root has a sweet and neutral nature that nourishes the body. Ma huang gen is the antidote for an overdose of Ma huang, as it is most valuable in stopping sweating.
As consumers we assume that the manufacturers of herbal products know what they are doing, and are using the appropriate herbs and the appropriate parts of the plant. Many companies do pay very close attention to what they produce. There have been known cases of herbal supplement manufacturers being confused by their suppliers and ended up using the wrong parts of the plant, or sometimes the wrong species. It is important to make sure you know the quality and standards of the supplements you buy. It is also important to seek out a professional who has the knowledge to recommend the supplements you need.
— David Bock
This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"
David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine
Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066