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Herbs And Aging

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Aging well: a lesson from centenarians
Conscious Choices For Aging With Grace
Aging With Grace
Herbs And Aging
Body Image & Aging LEARNING TO LOVE THE CHANGES IN LOVE
Successful aging: abilities, strategies and understandings among elderly
Women Speak Out Against Aging
Menopause:
Croning Ceremony Celebrates the Wisdom of Age
A Croning Ritual
The Charge of the Crone
The Pleasures of Middle Age
Croning Ritual/Entering the Wise Age
Successful Aging:
Successful aging: THE SECOND 50
Live Long Live Free
Healthy Aging
Graceful Aging Starts When You Are 45!
Antidotes to limiting beliefs about aging
Links To Interesting Aging Articles
When dying becomes a gift
Conscious Aging:
Comfort me with your quanta;
Life After Life ... Death is merely a changing room.
Doorways of the Soul: Transformation of Energy
Aging What Can We Do About It?
Aging Well with the Alexander Technique
Aging Gracefully Through Vastu Shastra
Aging is a Mistake
Better Aging
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Eternal Being
What Is Death
Aging Gracefully: It's All a Matter of Timing
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Aging is a Woman's Issue
The Crone: Getting ready for the unavoidable
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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DIE 2
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links and resources for aging women
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Growing Old and Liking It
THE CRONE: A SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE OF MENOPAUSE
Red Hats and Archetypes
Older Women Unite! Gray Is Gorgeous



If you ask 10 people, you will have ten different definitions of aging, so what is aging??.
Aging to me means that I will be able to perform everyday task without a problem for as long as possible such as bathing, eating, dressing, shopping, cooking, taking the bus, walking a flight of steps or half a mile, lifting or carrying weight, meditate, reading, writing or handling small objects, and helping others. 
We don't want to live long lives, we want to live a long healthy life, we want to add healthy life to years not just years to life. Aging is qualitative not just quantitative.
Successful aging has to be  more than just the absence of disease. Healthy eating, exercise, peace of mind and  spirituality will improve not only our health but also will improve specific illnesses and peace of mind.

AGING DEFINITION There are several definitions for aging, they are:
  • Chronological age - actual numbers of years alive
  • Biological age - a general term encompassing loss of muscle strength and endurance, loss of ability to resist disease, wrinkling of the skin due to loss of collagen and elastin, loss of hair and teeth. 
  • Psychological age - how old you feel and think you are.
  • Social age - how you are treated and categorized by society
    Of these, Biological and Psychological aging are the ones which we can exert the most control.

    Of course we can accelerate or retard aging by what we eat and drink, whether we smoke,  exercise, the way we think and feel, type of work, and personal relations.
    Most cellular aging is as a direct result of oxidation due to the presence of free radicals. Some of the factors influencing this oxidation process are:
    Environmental pollution in food, air, and water, processed foods, chronic stress, and poor circulation due to lack of exercise and dehydration.

    There are several views on aging, we have the:

    . Genetic theories of aging 

     . Non genetic theories of aging

      . Immunological theory Connective tissue theory Free radical theory  In my opinion, all of the above views not only have merit but combined, surely they influence the aging process. Regardless of which view is the most acceptable, the aging effects can be affected by our nutrition, lifestyle, herbs, and other controllable factors. The aging process also has unchangeable realities, so let's determine what can be helped and what can not.
    BASICALLY UNCHANGEABLE SIGNS
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Graying of hair
  • High-tone of hearing loss
  • Farsightedness 

  • Fibrosis and stiffening of arteries CHANGEABLE AGING SIGNS AND MANAGEMENT APPROACH

    Cancer - Diet, exercise, weight control, no-smoking, herbs, vitamins, supplements 
    Heart disease -  Diet, exercise, weight control, no-smoking,  herbs, vitamins, supplements 
    Blood pressure - Exercise, salt intake, diet, obesity, herbs, vitamins, supplements 
    Heart reserve - Aerobic exercise, herbs, vitamins, supplements 

    Arthritis - Diet, exercise, weight control, appropriate herbs, vitamins, supplements 
    Mobility - Stretching exercises, appropriate herbs, vitamins, supplements 
    Physical fitness - Exercise, weight control, no-smoking, herbs, vitamins, supplements 
    Reaction time - Exercise, herbs, vitamins, supplements 
    Agility - Stretching exercises, herbs, vitamins, supplements

    Memory - Practice/usage, herbs, vitamins, supplements 
    Intelligence - Practice, herbs, vitamins, supplements 
    Isolation - Practice, socialization
    Emotional imbalances - Diet, meditation, spirituality, herbs, Bach Flower remedies, vitamins, supplements 

    The above are aging signs that can be changed or avoided with the right management approach, as we can see exercise, nutrition, herbs, vitamins and supplements are beneficial changes in all of the above signs.
Therefore the prescription if we want to enjoy graceful and healthy aging is: 

Proper nutrition, take responsibility of your health, regular exercise, use herbs, vitamins, supplements for preventive reasons, rediscover your spirituality, balance your emotions, be active, maintain contact with friends and family, listen to your body, help someone in need, maintain independence, be enthusiastic and positive.

NUTRITION
Proper nutrition will ensure that all required nutrients reach all systems of the body to maintain required health and energy, allowing us to be healthy and productive at any age.

EXERCISE
Regular exercise in an unpolluted environment (if possible), oxygen is the life blood of the cells, 30 minutes three times a week.


DIET
Refined and processed carbohydrates should be avoided as they are robbed of vital nutrients and contribute to diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Processed fats plug the arteries and damage the liver. there is no substitute for fresh fruits and vegetables.

VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Digestive enzymes and probiotics will aid the diminishing production  of gastric juices and will restore the balance of bowel flora. The main goal should be to improve the nutritional state of the aging body and thus contribute to overall well-being.

ANTIOXIDANTS
As aging is the result of free radical damage, anti-oxidants are very important to promote longevity.
Vitamin A, C, E, beta carotene, zinc selenium and flavonoids, also proanthocyanidins found in bilberry, pine bark, grape seed, green tea and gingko. There are many new studies which recommend the usage of antioxidants as a prevention for chronic diseases.

ENERGY TONICS
Co-enzyme Q-10 promotes optimum heart function improving oxygenation of the tissues, Spirulina, greens , chlorella, and barley grass, provide energy and the ability to improve the oxygen carrying ability of red blood cells

OTHERS
Lecithin is useful to enhance the elasticity and healing power of the brain and nervous system.
Calcium and magnesium are required for strong and healthy bones

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF AGING

Individual social and family assumptions about aging and its consequences may place us in a self fulfilling expectations spiral.
Stereotypical assumptions about old people are interconnected in social and familial interactions that can create or intensify illness, our stereotypes should change so they become positive rather than self fulfilling negative attitudes.
Some examples follow, they should change from/to:

Mental
Irascible, curmudgeon
Inflexible, opinionated, stubborn
Closed to new ideas
Repeating same old stories
Always critical of other generations
Always living in the past Sharing wisdom, knowledge, counseling
Learns actively
Open to ideas and change
Great storage of accumulated memories
Having unique perspectives and experiences
Always seeking new experiences and challenges
Physical
Feeble, slow
Always getting in the way
Drives slowly dangerous and unfriendly
Non-productive Active, strong, effective
Compensate for limitations
Is sensitive and courteous
Contributes in different ways
Social
Needs to be patronized
All old people are the same
Uses up family resources
Poses an economic treat Emphatic and helpful
Rich network of good friends
Volunteers constructive efforts
Has affluence
HERBAL SUPPORT
Please remember that self diagnosis and self medication with herbs is not appropriate, consult your Medical Herbalist for expert help.

Herbs can nurture, prevent as well as treat illness, by using tonics, adaptogens, and gentle remedies we can balance the body systems  to achieve these goals. If there is a need we can use stronger herbs to treat specific conditions, in the elderly, stronger herbs are used only when it is absolutely necessary.
Tonics and gentle balancing herbs will offer maintenance of health as well as prevention of conditions and problems associated with aging.

BITTERS

A great range of herbs for the digestive system are available to us, very often the gentle stimulation of bitter herbs will activate the body’s own production of digestive juices.
Bitter tasting herbs generate a nerve reflex which increases production of all digestive juices in the stomach, small intestine and pancreas, they also enhance the liver function and normal bowel function. The bitters help the digestive wall by repairing damage through stimulating the self-repair mechanisms, the therapeutic results and ramifications of bitters are wonderful.  Some herbs that can be used are:

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria) 
Centaury (Erythraea centaurium)
Gentian (Gentiana lutea)
Dandelion root (Taraxacum off.)
Boldo (Peumus boldus)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolia)
Matricaria recutita  (Chamomile)
Gotu Kola (Hydrocotyle (Centella asiatica)
Bitters should be taken before a meal 
 

CIRCULATORY STIMULANTS AND TONICS

Two important aspects which promote longevity  are achieved by enhancing the circulation to the head/brain and strengthening the heart function, this can be achieved by taking some of the herbs which are specific for this action, some of this herbs are:

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) very good tonic for the heart strengthening without straining, great to use when there is anxiety and tension.
Garlic (Allium sativum) Prevents build-up of cholesterol in the blood, lowers high blood pressure.
Linden (Tilia europea) has a relaxing action upon the circulatory system, aids high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) which enhance blood supply to the brain improving mental functioning and reduces artherosclerotic plaques in the blood vessels.
Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycanthoides) which acts as a tonic to the heart, strengthening cardiac function and reduces hypertension.
Periwinkle (Vinca major/minor) which enhances the ability of the brain to utilize oxygen and glucose thus stimulating brain function.

ADRENAL TONICS

Two main features of aging are, impaired enthusiasm and reduced energy, they may be successfully treated through adrenal support, adrenal glands produce adrenaline, the hormone associated with activity and movement. 
As they decline over the years we discover that our “get up and go” is gone, the following are some herbs that are tonic and nourishing to the adrenal glands:

All the Ginseng species ( Korean, Siberian, American)
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Blue vervain ( Verbena off.)
Borage (Borago off.)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
IMMUNE SUPPORT
Environmental pollution, inadequate sleep, poor nutrition and chronic stress as well as viruses, bacteria and other disease processes will affect the immune system. Over a life time this can add up to quite an attack on the defense system, and may lead to immune weakness in the elderly with poor healing ability  and reduced resistance to infectious diseases. Herbs which may enhance the immune function are:

Astragalus ( Astragalus membranaceus) promotes the formation of white blood cells in the bone marrow
Echinacea ( Echinacea angustifolia) increases the ability of white blood cells to clean up microbial pathogens and to fight infection.
Pau d' arco (Tabebuia spp.) has immune-enhancing actions.
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) enhances immune function, especially natural killer cells.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has an immunomodulator activity

SKIN

As with all the body systems there will be changes in the skin, which is the largest organ of the body, this will cause challenges with elimination, cooling of the body, etc. There are several remedies appropriate for the skin problems in elders, each having its distinct area of application, they can be used internally, externally (creams, washes, salves, fomentations) or both. Some of the skin remedies are:

Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Plantain (Plantago major)
Chickweed (Stelaria media)
Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

For most of the skin conditions, we mostly consider the eliminatory organs function, to see if the metabolic wastes and toxins are eliminated properly. 

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM

After many years of exposure to pollutants, cigarette smoke and other industrial fumes, the lungs may need some tonification and strengthening. There are several herbs that will aid the conditions that elders may have with their respiratory function. The following are some of the herbs that will help the lung functions.

Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus serotina) 
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Garlic (Allium sativum) 
Pleurisy Root (Asclepias tuberosa) 
 Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus) 
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) 
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) 
Elecampane (Inula helenium) 
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) 
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) 

NERVOUS SYSTEM

As we have seen, aging may create extra pressures in the individual. Stress, anxiety, irritability insomnia and potential depression are very much a real part of aging. Fortunately there are some wonderful herbs that will aid and tonify the nervous system, the following are just some examples:

Nerve Tonics
Oats (Avena sativa) 
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) 
Vervain (Verbena officinalis)
St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) 

Relaxants 

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) 
Linden (Tilia europea)
 Lavender (Lavandula off.) 
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) 
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) 
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) 
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) 
Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata) 
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) 

Antidepressants 
Oats (Avena sativa) 
Verbena officinalis (Vervain ) 
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) 
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) 
St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) 

URINARY SYSTEM

Elders may encounter some  problems with the urinary system, such as infections, frequency, incontinence, functional disturbances, stones/obstructions, kidney disease. The following are some of the herbs for the urinary system. 

 Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinalis folia) 
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) 
Couchgrass (Agropyron repens) 
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) 
Cleavers (Galium aparine) 
 Elder (Sambucus nigra) 
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Corn Silk (Zea mays)
Celery seed (Apium graveolens)
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa serrulata)
Hydrangea (hydrangea arborescens)

MUSCULO-SKELETAL

After many years of usage the musculo-skeletal system may be prone to some diseases including chronic, degenerative conditions, rheumatism, osteo arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammations, gout. There are some very effective herbs that may help alleviate these conditions, internally, externally or both. The following are some of the herbs for the musculo-skeletal system.

ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES

White Willow (Salix alba)
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
 Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa)
 Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
 Celery Seed (Apium graveolens)
Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Guaiacum (Guaiacum officinale)
Silver Birch (Betula alba) 
 

ALTERATIVES
(RESTORES SYSTEMS NORMAL FUNCTIONS)
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Nettles (Urtica dioica)
 Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium)
Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)
Sarsaparilla (Smilax officinalis)
Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosis)
DIURETICS

Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinalis folia) 
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) 
Couchgrass (Agropyron repens) 
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) 
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Corn Silk (Zea mays)
Celery seed (Apium graveolens)
Gravel Root (Eupatorium purpureum)
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

CIRCULATORY STIMULANTS

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Cayenne (Capsicum minimum)
Bayberry (Myrica cerifera) 
 

ANTI-SPASMODICS
(TO RELIEF MUSCULAR CRAMPS, SPASM OR PAIN)

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) 
Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus) 
 
PRESCRIBING ISSUES

Safe usage of herbs in the elderly have specific issues related to the changes that happen to absorption, distribution and elimination mechanisms in the aging process. We can avoid many problems if we take these issues into consideration when using herbs.

Special care must be taken about dosages  when using herbs internally for the elderly for the following reasons. (generally smaller dosages are recommended for elders than for younger adults)

ABSORPTION - Normal aging changes will impact the reduction of mucosal surface area in the digestive tract, reduction in blood flow, and changes in secretions, all these changes will affect the absorption capabilities of the digestive system.

DISTRIBUTION - with aging, the balance between body water and lean body mass decreases while body fat increases. These changes favor the distribution of fat soluble constituents over water soluble.

ELIMINATION - liver metabolism, liver function and elimination at other areas in the body are less efficient with age.

Elders have special needs, herbal tonics and normalizers are excellent choices to treat many conditions, stronger herbs are sometimes needed for specific conditions, but tonification and prevention should be our principal goal.

COMPLIANCE

As people grow older compliance is usually  a problem and the difficulty for clients to follow instructions sometimes reflects in the effectiveness of treatment.
 
 

 
The contents provided by Info Herb are for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to substitute for the advice of a health care professional. I encourage Internet users to be careful when using medical information. If you are unsure about your medical condition, consult a physician or a medical herbalist.

This is a site about my journeying toward aging.
To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.
~ Henri Frederic Amiel ~