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The pungent and popular bulb is particularly heart-friendly: In several studies, patients with atherosclerosis who took garlic signi-ficantly reduced the plaque in their arteries, says Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the Austin, Texas-based American Botanical Council.

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Alternative Medicine Cabinet—Herbs That Do Better as Pills

Provided by: 

By Lorie Parch

It’s one of those happy coincidences: Many of the flavors we love best come from herbs and spices that are also good for our health. And these everyday herbs can affect more than just everyday health problems. Oregano, for example, is an effective bacteria fighter. And turmeric, which adds punch to Indian food, may ease achy joints and asthma.

But the good news only extends so far: A fragrant pizza or a spicy curry is not the best way to take advantage of this nutritional bonanza. For herbs are one area in which the standard advice—to get your nutrients from food instead of pills whenever possible—doesn’t always apply. In most cases, you just can’t get a high enough dose from what’s on your plate to give you the maximum health benefit.

Sometimes an herbal tea can help, but often you may need to go for an actual supplement. Here are the heavy-hitting versions of what’s in your kitchen cabinet—and advice on how best to use them.

• Garlic (Allium sativum)
What it’s good for: The pungent and popular bulb is particularly heart-friendly: In several studies, patients with atherosclerosis who took garlic signi-ficantly reduced the plaque in their arteries, says Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the Austin, Texas-based American Botanical Council. “Garlic slightly lowers LDL, or bad cholesterol, and raises HDL, the good type,” he explains. “It also lowers blood pressure and reduces the potential for a stroke, because less plaque means there’s less possibility that pieces will break off from the artery walls and lodge in the brain or heart.”

Best form and dosage: For artery health, take 200 to 300 milligrams of standardized garlic powder three times a day.

Caveats: If you regularly take aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin), don’t add supplemental garlic, as it may thin your blood too much. “For the same reason, stop taking garlic one to two weeks before surgery,” says James Snow, chair of the herbal division of the botanical healing program at the Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel, Maryland.

• Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
What it’s good for: As a natural anti- nausea remedy, this flavorful root has few equals. Most of the research shows it to be effective against morning sickness and post-chemotherapy nausea, and in several studies it fared even better than Dramamine in preventing motion sickness.

Best form and dosage: For motion sickness, take 500 mg of the powdered extract 30 minutes before traveling, and then every four hours until the end of your trip. Or prepare an infusion (in which you let the tea steep ten to 15 minutes) by adding 1¼4 to 1 gram of ginger to boiling water; drink up to three times a day.

Caveats: Don’t exceed 2 grams of ginger per day if you’re pregnant, and if you have a tendency toward heartburn, take it with food.

• Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
What it’s good for: Studies show that oregano oil works to fight infections, thanks to two powerful compounds in the plant, thymol a...

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