Grindelia, also known as a gumplant, is a perennial herb native to North America, standing about 3 feet (90 cm) tall at maturity and having distinctive yellow flowers. Native Americans used it as a traditional remedy for centuries, and in the 19th century, it was used included in the United States Pharmacopoeia for its medicinal properties. As an herbal remedy and folk cure, grindelia has been used to treat respiratory complaints, urinary tract infections, skin rashes and fever. It also has been used topically to treat rashes and burns.
Asthma traditionally has been treated with grindelia, usually in the form of a bitter tea made from the plant's leaves and flowers. As a respiratory antispasmodic, this tea can help to relax the bronchial airways and allow for easier breathing. The herb also might calm the heart rate, and it is believed that it can have a desensitizing effect on the nerve endings in the bronchial tubes, further reducing distress.
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Bronchitis and emphysema sufferers also have turned to grindelia for relief. Tea made from the herb has expectorant properties and can be useful in clearing phlegm and catarrh for easier breathing. It also has been used to treat respiratory complaints such as hay fever and whooping cough.
Skin irritations, dermatitis insect bites and minor burns also can be treated with grindelia. Preparations made from the herb, usually in the form of a poultice or tincture, can be used to treat a variety of skin conditions. It often is used for poison oak in particular, and it is believed to calm the rash while preventing it from spreading.
Side effects from grindelia, though uncommon, are possible, and the risks increase if it is taken in large doses. When side effects are present, mild stomach complaints are most common. Irritation of the kidneys also is possible. Patients with kidney or heart conditions in particular should consult with a medical professional before using grindelia.
As with most substances, allergic reactions are a potential hazard. If symptoms such as itching, rash, hives or swelling are observed, the use of the herb should be discontinued immediately. Severe reactions can be quite serious, and symptoms such as swelling around the mouth or throat, difficulty swallowing or difficulty breathing will require immediate medical attention.
Like all herbal remedies and dietary supplements, the health benefits of grindelia have not been tested thoroughly. This substance has not been proved to be effective for any medical treatment. Consultation with a medical professional is recommended before this or any herbal remedy is used to treat a medical condition or disorder.