This unlikely herbal infection-fighter is synthesized from the seeds and pulp of the grapefruit. It was farmers who first used grapefruit seed Extract (GSE) to inhibit the growth of mold on their equipment; later, cosmetic companies added it to their products as a preservative.
To treat a host of ills ranging from fungal infections to the common cold, traditional healers in South and Central America have long brewed a tea made from the inner bark of a native evergreen tree of the Tabebuia species.
Today, this healing brew, variously referred to as pau d’arco or Taheebo, is readily available in North American health-food stores and sold as a “cure” for cancer and numerous other ills (including diabetes, warts, and vaginal yeast infections). Whether pau d’arco actually works for any of these conditions is unclear and the subject of ongoing confusion and controversy.
The Iroquois and Cherokee were among the first of the American tribes in the eastern United States to use this small perennial plant (Hydrastis canadensis) medicinally. They harvested its fleshy underground stems (rhizomes) and roots and used them to treat a variety of infections and other complaints, from insect bites and digestive upset to eye and skin ailments. By the nineteenth century, healers began to refer to this native wildflower (which resembles a buttercup) as goldenseal because the cuplike scars on its bright yellow rhizomes resembled the wax seals then used to close envelopes and certify documents. The plant’s colorful roots also provided dye for clothing.