Quite often people and marketing companies focus on a particular herb and promote it as being the cure for many things. The mistake that is being made is that the traditional use of herbs was almost always the combination of herbs to treat medical conditions. Herbal medicine arose out of cooking traditions. The herbal medicines were mixed in ways to create a medicine specific to the needs of the patient. The use of a single herb was rare. The modern concept of mixing herbs together based on popularity without any concern of how the various herbs work together makes little sense from a herbal medicine point of view. It would be the equivalent of mixing favorite foods together based on popularity rather than cooking principles of what tastes good together.
A good example is the herb Dang gui or Angelica sinensis. This herb is often promoted by marketing people as important for the regulation of the female menstrual period. While this is true in many cases, dang gui is really a basic nourishing herb that is used in many ways. It is one of the rare herbs that is often used alone. Alone it is used to nourish stamina and stabilizing types of energy in the body. It can be helpful for scant irregular menstrual periods as well as headaches that have a dull empty feeling and maybe dizziness. In situations where there is sharp menstrual pains clots, heavy bleeding or sharp headaches- dang gui if used unmodified would make these conditions worse. It is important to have a proper herbal diagnosis to use herbal medicines effectively.
Traditional Herbal medicine in many cultures utilized formulations of herbs. Usually this meant starting with one or more main herbs and then adding smaller amounts of various herbs to create the desired medicinal function.
The following slides show various standard herbal formulas that utilize dang gui as a main herb. The addition of various herbs changes the function of the overall formula to treat a wide variety of conditions. While it can be said dang gui is useful in treating all these conditions, dang gui used as a single herb the way it is often promoted and sold would be inappropriate for these medical conditions. If you want to learn more about how dang gui may or may not be helpful in your situation, talk to a nationally board certified herbalist to find out what is right for you.