The Herbs and What They Do
Acidophilus isn’t an herbal remedy, but it is a beneficial bacteria and has many uses for our health. It is found live in good quality yogurt, will maintain a healthy balance in the intestinal tract and can aid in the digestion of dairy products. Take a good acidophilus supplement if you happen to require antibiotic therapy to prevent developing a yeast infection.
A new clinical study has shown that an algae supplement can reduce the toxic side effects of radiation therapy in cancer patients and to enhance the immune system. Spirulina was the algae studied, and Phytocyanin is the pigment in the blue-green algae that was shown to have protective effects.
Aloe Vera gel is widely recognized as a topical treatment for burns. It relieves the pain and can prevent scarring from a burn. Consider taking food-grade Aloe Vera juice for stomach and intestinal complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and painful hemorrhoids.
Anise seeds contain an essential oil that creates a pleasant taste and smell. Chew the seeds, or crush and boil them for a tea. Anise will assist digestion and clear mucous from air passages.
A study presented in the journal "Thorax" in January found that an apple a day (at least five per week) led to better lungs, with those who typically ate that many apples able to exhale more air from their lungs than the group that didn't eat the apples. The study covered a five-year period and 2,500 subjects and found that an antioxidant flavonoid could be the mitigating factor. If that isn't enough of a reason to eat apples, consider these factors.
-The flesh of an apple is a good source of soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels.
-The antioxidants in apples can keep cells from becoming damaged or mutating.
-Apples are a natural toothbrush, stimulating your gums and helping to produce saliva.
-They just taste great, so buy a bag and start eating healthier.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is abundant in natural enzymes. It not only assists in fat metabolism, it helps suppress the appetite and also helps eliminate toxins. The principal constituent in Apple Cider Vinegar is Acetic Acid which plays an important role in the release of energy from fats and carbohydrates.
Powdered artichoke and artichoke-based products are used to treat upset stomach, to protect the liver from toxins and to cleanse the gallbladder. However, taken in large amounts and/or taken continuously over a long period of time, artichoke can decrease blood clotting time. For those on anticoagulant drugs or with a blood clotting disorder, limit your use of this product to the recommended dosage on your product's label.
The Ayurvedic herb Ashvagandha is useful in relieving anxiety, blue moods and mild feelings of depression. Indian herbal products are readily available in most larger health food stores. They can also be found in other stores specializing in herbal medicines. Look for capsules or compressed tablets, and follow label directions.
A tea made from the Ayurvedic herbs Bala and Ashwagandha (also called Winter cherry in the West) is soothing to symptoms of overindulgence. Use one teaspoon of each herb with one cup of boiling water. Let the tea steep for a few minutes, strain, and sweeten if desired.
Barley water is a good mild cold remedy, especially for children and the elderly. To make it, wash two small handfuls of barley in cold water and discard the water. Then boil the barley in a small amount of water for a couple of minutes, strain it out, and discard that water as well. Now put the barley in five cups of water, adding two whole lemons cut into pieces. Boil this until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain your mixture, add honey, and drink this freely while suffering from a cold.
The herb basil, usually an annual, is not only delicious with any tomato dish, but can also be used in remedies. Using a teaspoon of dried leaves to a cup of hot water, this tea can ease cramps and indigestion, and lower blood sugar levels. You can also squeeze the juice of fresh leaves on bug bites to alleviate itching. Hanging bunches of basil to dry in your kitchen can help repel flies. If you're growing your own basil, remember that it likes a sunny location. And if you cut back the flowering tops, the plant with grow more thickly.
Beard lichen, or Usnea barbata, is used externally for fungal infections. You can apply extracts or tinctures of this plant to cuts to prevent or treat infections.
Okay, beets aren't an herb. But they can be a part of healthy, natural living. They contain soluble fiber, which helps sugars absorb more slowly and promotes lowered blood cholesterol levels, and insoluble fiber, which promotes health bowels. They may also help normalize high blood pressure, since they're full of potassium. This means beets would be a good addition to your diet if you're using herbal remedies to flush water from your system. When using diuretic herbs, you have to make sure you aren't flushing away your potassium as well. If you're planting your own beets from seed, soak the seeds overnight before planting, and thin them to two or three inches apart as they grow. When you harvest them, cut off the greens, leaving an inch or two of stem.
Bilberry fruit has long been used in Germany to treat diarrhea. Your local health food store should have a variety of herbal products containing bilberry fruit.
Note: bilberry leaves have toxic effects and should not be used.
Birch bark, or Bursera simaruba, was a traditional Mayan remedy for skin conditions. When used in the bath, this plant can relieve sunstroke, colds and flu symptoms.
Bitter melon, or Momordica charantia, is a tropical vine that was used as a uterine stimulant and treatment for mastitis. New research shows that a protein found in this plant may be effective against the AIDS virus.
This perennial evergreen bush has small, waxy leaves, with white or pink flowers that turn into red or yellow-red berries. It's often sold at nurseries under the name box holly, although you should make sure of what it is before you use it for a remedy. The plant contains flavonoids that can strengthen blood vessels and is useful for circulatory disorders. It has been used for thrombosis, phlebitis, and hemorrhoids. This plant can raise blood pressure so DO NOT use it if you have a problem with high blood pressure. If you don't know if you have high blood pressure, don't use this before seeing a doctor. To use, make a tea from the leaves (fresh or dried) and drink up to three cups per day. For hemorrhoids, use the leaves to make an ointment.
Cabbage, or any leafy green, can be used as a poultice to draw toxins and impurities from a localized area of the body. Chopped or ground white cabbage, or cooked and slightly cooled cabbage can be applied to a boil to draw toxins to the surface and speed healing.
Cat's Claw, also called Una de Gato, has been studied in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Significant benefit in relief of pain was demonstrated in research participants who used Cat's Claw on a regular basis.
Catnip is a member of the mint family and can be invasive in the garden. This herb is not intoxicating to humans, and only about two-thirds of cats exhibit "catnip euphoria." Catnip is a great digestive aid that soothes the smooth muscle tissue of the digestive tract. Have a cup of catnip tea if you're prone to indigestion or heartburn. Cool, weak catnip tea can be given to colicky infants. Use 1 teaspoon of dried herb per cup of hot water. Steep for a few minutes and add honey or lemon if desired. Do not boil catnip, as that will destroy some of the beneficial properties. If you prefer a ready-prepared bottled tincture, just follow the label directions.
It's great to have an herbal stress reliever on hand to help you to relax after a hectic day. Chamomile tea, or a drop of chamomile essential oil in an infuser, can make all the difference in the world.
This perennial has bright green, finely divided leaves and has a pleasant apple-like scent when bruised. Single flowers are white with yellow centers and double flowers are cream-colored. Chamomile can be grown from seed in the spring, with young plants set six inches apart. The flowers and leaves are used in remedies. The flowers should be gathered from late spring through the summer and dried carefully with a gentle heat, perhaps just laid out in a sunny window.
Chamomile is a mild sedative, gentle enough for children, and can ease anxiety. It's also good for indigestion, headaches, chills, and fevers. It can be used as a mouthwash for mouth inflammations or a gargle for sore throats. Externally, it can reduce swelling and help heal wounds.
Pour a cupful of hot water over two teaspoons for chamomile and let this infuse for ten minutes. Drink this tea after meals for digestive problems or before bed to calm anxiety and relax. Use a stronger infusion (four teaspoons) for a mouthwash. Most people like to add a spoon of honey to sweeten the mild-flavored tea.
Chickweed is a good external remedy for cuts, wounds, bruises, and itching. It is especially useful for the skin irritations association with eczema or psoriasis. Chickweed is common in gardens (where most gardeners don't want it) and in fields, and can be collected throughout the year. Harvest the leaves and flowers. You can use these fresh in a strong infusion for your bath to combat itching or applied as a poultice. You can also make an ointment for itching or skin irritation by mixing the chickweed with marshmallow in a base of beeswax, wheat germ oil, and cocoa butter.
Chocolate (Yes, I said chocolate!)
Chocolate contains a natural compound that protects against heart disease. It is the same compound found widely in fruits and vegetables and is particularly concentrated in chocolate. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition originally published this study and identified this compound as procyanidin.
Clove oil has traditionally been a dental remedy used to relieve pain and to prevent infection. Ground clove tea or clove essential oil is still effective for toothache or teething pain in children. Let clove tea boil until it is concentrated, saturate a cotton ball with the cooled tea, and place on the painful gum or tooth. If using the essential oil, mix a few drops with one half teaspoon of vegetable oil. Apply this to the area with a cotton swab.
Couch grass is present in many herbal combination remedies that treat the urinary tract. Couch grass is particularly useful in resolving kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
A natural compound in cranberries called proanthocyanidins (PCOs) can stop ulcer-causing bacteria from sticking to the stomach lining. In the same way, cranberries stop bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract, preventing or relieving urinary tract infections (cystitis).
An Indian shrub called Curcuma has been used to treat digestive ailments. An extract of this plant has been found to be effective in preventing bowel cancer. This shrub is best known as the spice turmeric, and is used in much of Indian cooking.
Herbal dandelion has a reputation for being a liver cleanser. Another use for this herb is to relieve the symptoms of breast tenderness at menses. To minimize period-related breast pain, also avoid caffeine, drink plenty of water, and take 200-400 International Units of vitamin E.
Dandelion is also known as an effective diuretic containing a naturally high level of potassium. Use a handful of top leaves and flowers with one pint of boiling water for dandelion tea, steeping the tea for ten minutes and adding honey to taste.
To gather the roots of the dandelion, dig up large roots from older plants from June to August, wash them thoroughly, and dry completely in sunlight. Roast slightly in a cool oven until brown, then chop and grind them. Use one teaspoon of the ground, prepared root to five ounces of water for dandelion coffee.
Devil's Claw, or Harpagophytum procumbens, is useful in relieving inflammation. Consider this herb, as a tea or in capsule form, for back pain and symptoms of arthritis.
Dill is a hardy annual with hollow erect stems, feathery leaves, and a large head of small flowers. Dill doesn't transplant well, so sow the seed in the spring exactly where you want the plants to grow. The shaft, leaves, and seeds are used in remedies. Dill has been used as a remedy for flatulence and the colic that is sometimes associated with it. It has been said to stimulate the flow of milk in nursing mothers, and chewing the seeds will clear up bad breath. Pour a cup of boiling water over one or two teaspoons of gently crushed dill seeds and let this infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink a cup of this before meals to control flatulence.
Many people use an herbal tincture of Echinacea to ward off a cold or other infection. It's very effective if taken at the first sign of symptoms. A lesser-known use for Echinacea, or Purple coneflower, is to use the tincture topically, applying a few drops to cuts, blemishes, or insect bites or stings.
This popular plant has become better known in the last five years, due in large part to the increasing awareness of natural remedies and the promotion of Echinacea as a remedy for colds. Echinacea is native to the U.S., growing in the western prairies, and is also known as the purple coneflower. Medical research in Europe has found antiseptic and antibacterial properties in the roots of this plant. And in Mexico, Echinacea is considered a traditional medicine, used to prevent and cure infections and inflammation. You can grow and gather your own Echinacea in your flower garden, making a decoction from the dried roots that is sweetened with honey. Consult an herbal remedies book for further information.
Echinacea And Pregnancy
So many women are hesitant to use herbs during pregnancy. Many herbs should be avoided at this time, but research at a leading Toronto hospital has shown that Echinacea is safe to use during pregnancy.
Ephedra, also known as ma huang, is a common ingredient in herbal weight-loss products. It has been shown to be generally safe and effective. It is also used to treat depression, asthma, colds, and other respiratory complaints. Ephedra should not be used by people with anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, or by those with glaucoma, heart disease, or high blood pressure. Avoid this herb if you are taking medication for depression. Since it stimulates the central nervous system, avoid caffeine, St. John's Wort, and over-the-counter decongestant medications while taking Ephedra.
In 1922, a Canadian nurse named Rene Caisse began distributing an Ojibway traditional herbal blend for the promotion of health. This blend seems to enhance the immune system, and anecdotal evidence points to a treatment for many forms of cancer. Essiac Tea (“Caisse” spelled backwards) is available in most health food stores, or from www.essiac-resperin-canada.com.
This Greek herb has been used since ancient times for digestive problems. It combats gas and bloating in the stomach and intestines and sooths an aching stomach. Fennel has been said to take away hunger pains and is known to relieve flatulence. Another use is on a compress for sore eyes. Crush one teaspoon of the seeds in a cup and infuse them (covered) for ten minutes before drinking. Fennel has also been used by nursing mothers to increase milk flow. The tall perennial flowers from June through October, and you can collect the stems, stalks, leaves, and seeds. Fennel is easy to grow in sunny or partially shaded areas. Harvest the leaves whenever you want, but wait on the seeds until they are fully mature (still green or already turning brown). You can use the leaves or seeds in cooking. Slightly crush the seeds first to get the full flavor.
Fenugreek has a little-known benefit on cholesterol levels. This herb can be used by those on cholesterol-lowering medications, and it might reduce your need for medication. Avoid this herb if you are pregnant or nursing.
A recent study on the herb feverfew has been published in the British Medical Journal. Once again this herb has proven effective against headache. If taken regularly, it can prevent migraine headaches in those who are susceptible. Do not use feverfew if you are pregnant or nursing.
Feverfew And Pregnancy
The name "feverfew" comes from the Latin work meaning to "reduce fever." In addition to this use, herbal feverfew will bring on a late menstrual period and will help to deliver a retained placenta after childbirth. Fresh feverfew leaves are considered to be most effective as a remedy. If you're using a packaged product, take care to check the expiration date. The longer a feverfew product has been on the shelf, the less potent it will be.
The use of flax seed oil may be more commonly known than the use of the seed itself. Flax seeds are good in diets that may be lacking in fiber. Including the seeds in the diet also promotes strong bones, nails, and teeth, and is useful as a colon cleanser.
Garlic is a natural remedy for heartburn and reflux. It is best taken as fresh garlic, not as tablets or pills. Fresh garlic also supports normal bowel flora, and kills H. pylori, which has been indicated as a cause of stomach ulcers.
Garlic For Women
Despite the form you choose, capsules or fresh, garlic will boost the immune system, lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. This tasty bulb will also help to prevent and to treat yeast infections. Follow label directions if you are using capsules, or eat one large chopped clove of garlic a day.
Ginger And Metabolism
Studies have shown that natural spices can boost the metabolic rate by up to 25 percent. Just one teaspoon of hot pepper sauce or one teaspoon of spicy mustard can raise metabolism at each meal. Follow a meal with a cup of ginger tea to enjoy the same effect.
Many people know about the use of ginger for nausea. Another use for this tasty herb relies on its antimicrobial effects. A poultice of fresh ginger root or ginger tincture applied to a wound or sore will promote healing by its antibacterial action.
To help with memory and mental clarity, take a combination of Ginseng and Gingko biloba. If purchased in herbal or health food stores, this particular herbal combination may also contain an amino acid called L-glutamine, which also boosts brain function.
Other herbs, such as St. John's Wort, are better known for relieving symptoms of depression. An added benefit has been discovered for Ginkgo biloba. This herb increases blood flow through the brain and can improve mood by benefiting serotonin receptors in the brain. Unlike St. John's Wort, Ginkgo can be taken along with antidepressant drugs. Avoid ginkgo if you are taking blood-thinning drugs, or speak to your health care provider.
Goldenseal, or Hydrastis canadensis, has been widely studied. Laboratory trials as well as clinical studies have shown that Goldenseal will prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Note that the amount of the active ingredient in Goldenseal tea might be too small to be of help. Rely on a good brand (often found combined with Echinacea) in tincture or capsule form.
Drug Tests And Goldenseal
Incorrect information has been widely published on the Internet claiming that Goldenseal will disguise drug residues in urine, giving a false negative test on routine drug screenings. If you're a recreational drug user, be forewarned that taking Goldenseal before a drug test will NOT keep you from failing an employer's drug screening test.
Gotu kola can be used to decrease fatigue and depression. This herb also improves circulation. Use Gotu kola internally only, as external application can irritate the skin.
So much has been said about green tea, much of it because of ongoing research into the health benefits of the tea. The research started because of the low cancer rates in Japan, where drinking green tea is a way of life. The tea has also been linked to a decrease in heart disease and to better oral health. There's too much research to recite here, so instead I'll give you a tip on the perfect cup of green tea. Whichever brand you choose, don't steep the tea as long as you usually would. Green tea is unfermented, so it can turn bitter if you leave the tea bags in for too long. Bring your water to a boil, shut it off, then pour it over your tea bags and take them out after just a couple of minutes. Green tea has less caffeine than brewed coffee, but can still give you energy for the day. And with all of it's other benefits, it's a good idea to at least try it out and see if you like it.
Clinical reports have shown that Gymnema sylvestre can help to control blood sugar levels in diabetics. It can also be safely taken by people who are on medication for their diabetes. (It's always wise to speak to your health care provider if you are adding herbs to your regime of drug therapy.) The usual dose is 400-600 milligrams a day of an extract standardized to contain 24 percent gymnemic acids. Avoid this herb if you are pregnant or nursing.
Hawaiian Noni Plant
Many claims have been made for the Hawaiian noni plant, and one recent study has shown a very definite beneficial use. Noni has been found to kill the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. There has been a rise in the incidence of TB in many areas of the world and many strains seem to be drug resistant. This recent finding could lead to a greater appreciation of herbs and their healing effects.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is useful in the treatment of hypertension. It works to strengthen the blood vessels, reduces blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol levels. Take 250 mg of standardized herb each day, or use one tablespoon of dried herb steeped in boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain before taking and use this only once a day.
Bitter herbs and vegetables have long been used around the world as an aid to digestion. Many herbal companies in Europe have their favorite recipes for digestive bitters. These substances will aid the release of digestive juices and improve eliminations. Bitter vegetables include escarole, dandelion, and chicory, and can easily be added to salads. Herbs include aloe vera, senna, yarrow, thistle, and angelica. Follow label directions. Avoid bitter herbs if you have an inflammatory bowel condition.
Natural honey has seen shown to have anti-tumor properties. In Turkey, studies were done with colon cancer patients. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are now researching the beneficial effects of honey, stating that the results are too promising to ignore.
Horse Chestnut Seed
Physicians in the Middle Ages knew that horse chestnut extract would reduce the swelling of hemorrhoids. This herbal remedy is still used for that purpose today, as well as to reduce the swelling of varicose veins. In addition, fluid extracts of horse chestnut were used to protect the skin from sun exposure -- the first sun block!
Horsetail is one of the oldest known plant species. It has fernlike leaves and grows in moist woods and alongside roads. Horsetail is often used to clear up bladder infections, and can combat swelling in the legs and feet. Use the dried stems and leaves, making a tea from two teaspoons of the dried plant and one cup of boiling water. You can drink up to three cups of this per day as a mild diuretic or for incontinence.
Jasmine essential oil is often used to treat mild depression and anxiety. It is also useful as an aphrodisiac. Add a few drops to a small amount of massage oil for a relaxing yet stimulating massage. Add a few drops of Jasmine oil to an aromatherapy oil diffuser to create an intimate mood for your loved one.
Kava kava has been used as a relaxant and to promote a feeling of well-being. One less known use for this herb is for pain relief. When applied externally, either as a poultice or in a cream form, kava kava can be a very effective pain reliever and anesthetic.
A German study recently showed that Kava Kava can reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic by up to 50%. Its effectiveness can surpass chemical drugs used for the same purpose, without side effects. Make sure you buy good quality Kava Kava, and all other herbal products, from a reputable supplier. Look for standardized extracts.
This plant was imported to America from Japan to control erosion, but has become invasive in many areas of the southern US. In the Orient, Kudzu is used to treat alcohol cravings. It has also been used to treat angina pectoris and hypertension.
Many people grow lavender in their gardens for ornamental purposes, giving no thought to the plant's medicinal uses. Lavenders are hardy perennials that love the sun. The soil you plant lavender in should drain well, with compost added when you plant and used as mulch in the fall. Check your soil for lime content and if it is deficient, add some in the spring.
The flowers are the part of the lavender plant used in remedies. Cut your lavender just before the flowers are ready to open, usually from early summer to early fall, and use a gentle drying process with them. Lavender can be used for everything from a facial treatment to headaches, stress, depression, nervousness, and sleeplessness. Oil of lavender can be used as a liniment for rheumatism. Only an infusion of the dried herb can be used internally, not the oil.
Licorice, or Glycyrrhiza galbra, could be used as an alternative to antacid drugs. Licorice is used for stomach irritation, indigestion, heartburn, and reflux disorders, with no side effects.
Loosestrife, or Purple willow herb, has natural astringent properties. It can be used as a tea, or as a weak douche, to treat yeast infections. For yeast infections, take acidophilus and avoid sugar, alcohol, and yeasted breads until the infection is cleared.
Marshmallow root, or Althaea officinalis, is used to treat irritations of the mouth and throat. The leaves are used as a tea, or prepared as a tincture for this purpose. Extracts of the plant's roots are used for stomach upset, ulcers and colitis.
Studies have shown time and again that an active ingredient called silymarin, found in the herb Milk Thistle, is an effective liver cleanser. This antioxidant repairs liver cells, even after the ingestion of drugs or alcohol. Use an herbal supplement that is 80 percent standardized silymarin.
As long ago as the second century A.D., Milk Thistle was used to treat liver and gall bladder disease. We now know that Milk Thistle protects the liver from damage from hepatitis, certain types of poisoning and damage from prescription drugs.
This plant is typically considered just a weed, with large shiny leaves that have white veins and mauve or purplish flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall. You can plant thistle seeds in the spring in a sunny spot. Collect the shoots and leaves in the spring and the seeds in the summer. You can eat the leaves in salads or steam them (after cutting off any sharp edges). The seeds you can grind up to add to food, dry them for storage, or make a tincture of them.
Milk thistle is used to detoxify the liver. It's full of antioxidants and a form of flavonoids and has been proven in clinical studies to decrease some liver damage. Use up to three cups of milk thistle tea per day. You can take this remedy for several months.
Motherwort, or Leonurus Cardiaca, was used centuries ago to prevent miscarriage. The more common modern use is in relieving heart palpitations. Motherwort is often used in combination with other herbs, such as skullcap or chamomile, to relieve anxiety.
Mugwort, or "Artemisia vulgaris," is a useful herb in the treatment of motion sickness. Use 1/2 teaspoon of the dried herb in one cup of boiling water to make a tea. This herb has also been used for digestive complaints and to promote regulation of menstruation.
Mullein, or Verbascum thapsus, is an example of a plant whose flowers and root have very different uses. Mullein flowers are used as an expectorant, diuretic and sedative, and the roots are used to treat cramps and diarrhea.
Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers know the healing value of a mustard plaster to relieve inflammation and congestion. Add a small amount of warm water to crushed mustard seeds to make a thick paste. Add flour to thicken, if needed. Place in a folded cotton or wool cloth and apply to the area of congestion. This will greatly relieve a chest cold or bronchitis. Massage a small amount of olive oil on the skin to aid absorption.
Oil Of Oregano
Oil of Oregano has a variety of uses from soothing the lining of the digestive tract, to acting as a uterine cleanser. It can soothe a cough or headache if taken internally. Externally, it heals burns, irritated skin, and relieves stiffness in the joints. Definitely an herb of many uses.
Osha Or Colorado Cough Root
Osha is an herb that goes by many names. Botanically it is called Ligusticum porteri and common names included Colorado cough root, alpine lovage, or porter’s lovage. It is used to treat colds, to improve blood circulation and to strengthen the immune system.
The side effects of antibiotic drug therapy can be severe and may leave the body unresponsive to treatment should a greater threat come along. Instead of prophylactic Cipro if you are worried about contracting Anthrax, take herbal Pau d’arco in a standardized form to strengthen immunity. Follow label directions for maximum effectiveness. Contact your medical practitioner immediately if you suspect symptoms of Anthrax.
Silverweed, or Potentilla anserine, has useful astringent and anti-inflammatory effects. A strong tea made from this herb can be used as a gargle to soothe and heal a sore throat. This infusion applied gently with a cotton ball will also stop the pain and bleeding of hemorrhoids.
Snakeroot, or Aristolochia serpentaria has a variety of medicinal uses. The ground root is used externally to heal skin infections and to treat insect bites. Internally, snakeroot is used for its tonic effect on the stomach and metabolism.
Soybeans have been found to prevent oral cancers (cancers of the mouth). Researchers have also found that eating soy products lowers the levels of colon, breast, and prostate cancer. The benefits of soy are easily obtained from tofu, tempeh, soymilk, and other products.
Suma, or Pfaffia paniculata, found in Central and South America, is sometimes called "Brazilian ginseng." Suma has been used to help in the adaptation to stress (adaptogen activity), to enhance sports performance, to relieve anxiety, and to aid in the treatment of chromic fatigue syndrome. The typical dosage of standardized suma is 500 mg twice a day.
Sunflowers range from in height from around two feet to over ten feet. Not surprisingly, the larger varieties have the best seeds to eat. These flowers need full sun, and can be seeded directly into the ground after the last frost. You may need to stake the taller sunflowers for support and tie netting over the flower heads when they get big and full of seeds to keep the birds from eating them up before you harvest them. Cut off the flower heads when they're full, leaving a couple of inches of stem so you can hang them upside down to dry. Then remove the seeds from the heads. You'll have to store the seeds in the refrigerator, because they can spoil. Sunflowers are full of B vitamins and help you process food into energy. Try eating them on a salad or on a bagel with cream cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Tom Yam Kung
A Thai-Japanese study has shown that a Thai soup dish called tom yam kung can prevent cancer. The herbs used in the soup include galanga, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. These have been shown to prevent cancer as well as to stop the growth of tumors in the digestive tract.
White Willow Bark
White willow bark is thought of as an effective pain reliever. Recently, it has been studied as a treatment for lower back pain and found to be effective. White willow bark, tea, or capsules might be an alternative for those who experience stomach upset with drug pain relievers. Children should avoid white willow bark, just like aspirin, if fever is present, due to the risk of Reye's Syndrome.
Wild Yam And Pregnancy
Natural progesterone levels increase by 20 times by the end of pregnancy, and low progesterone levels have been linked with a tendency to miscarry. Speak to your health care provider about using wild yam, a natural supply of bioavailable progesterone.
Witch Hazel, or Hamamelis Virginiana, is used topically as an astringent to treat bruising, swollen tissue and varicose veins. Apply gently with a cotton ball to acne blemishes to ease any tenderness and to help heal the blemish itself. Witch Hazel is a good astringent for normal and oily skin.
Wormwood And Anti-Parasite Activity
Wormwood has been used traditionally to rid the body of parasites. For this purpose, use a good quality tincture and follow the label directions. Continue treatment for 14 days for best results.
Yarrow is a hardy perennial often found growing wild along roadsides. It has feathery leaves and bunched heads of white or pinkish flowers. You can easily pull up yarrow and replant it elsewhere with few problems, although you should be aware that it spreads easily and rapidly.
Yarrow leaves have been used to stop bleeding. The dried stem, flowers, and leaves can be mixed with elderflower and peppermint to be taken as an infusion at the first sign of a cold. A cooled infusion of leaves can be used as a cosmetic wash for oily skin. Yarrow can also help garden rubbish decompose if it's mixed in with the waste.
If you include dairy products in your diet, have yogurt with live cultures, which benefit the colon and add to health. Lactobacillus acidophilus (the active culture) can slow the growth of bacterial in the body. Cut out or cut back on other dairy products, which can add to mucous congestion
Yohimbe bark supplies a natural substance that could make the drug Viagra unnecessary. This herb is a source of a natural hormone stimulant that increases libido and blood flow to the erectile tissue and may increase testosterone levels. The usual recommendation is to take the herb one hour before intercourse. Yohimbe is not to be used by women or by men with heart disease, high blood pressure, or kidney disease. If in doubt, check with your health care provider.
A tea made from the Yucca plant contains properties that will ease the pain of arthritis. This plant also has the added benefit of building immunity. Use the tea 2 to 3 times a day as needed for arthritis pain.
Aromatherapy For Insomnia
A warm bath before bed can be very relaxing, especially if you add aromatherapy oils that help to promote sleep. Add one drop each of cardamom, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and licorice.
Aromatherapy For Depression
Aromatherapy oils can be added to a small dish of water to spread the scent into the air. These oils can also be added to massage oils and applied to the skin in that manner. For feelings of depression, use bergamot, lavender, and ylang-ylang.
For tension and stress that interferes with sleep, a blended tincture can be fast-acting. Mix tinctures of Passiflora, skullcap, and valerian in an amber-colored dropper bottle to keep by your bedside. Take four to six drops to help you sleep with no drowsiness the next morning.
Anise And Congestion
Anise is useful in clearing congestion from the upper respiratory tract. A tea can be made from the spice itself, or you should be able to find anise essential oil. Sip warm herbal tea as desired, or add four drops of anise essential oil to water up to three times a day.
Garlic's Many Uses
Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants. Even the ancient Egyptians recognized the antibiotic properties of garlic. In addition to its antibiotic properties, garlic will help reduce cholesterol levels and lower high blood pressure.
Aloe And Constipation
Aloe contains compounds called anthraquinones that will cause a gentle contraction of the walls of the colon. This produces a bowel movement, usually within six hours. Aloe Vera juice, NOT Aloe Vera gel, can safely be used for occasional constipation. If your problem is chronic, look to your diet and water intake as a more permanent solution.
Elder Flower And Lymphedema
Elder flower is rich in the flavonoids quercetin and rutin, and is a good source of antioxidants. Recent studies have suggested using Elderin for treating chronic venous insuffiency and lymphedema. Lymphatic channels in the body can become obstructed from infection or after surgery (such as the arm swelling after mastectomy). This swelling causes pain and a breakdown of the skin. Elder will improve the circulation and reduce the edema. Pour boiling water over two teaspoons of dried Elder flowers, steep for five minutes and drink two or three times a day.
Evening primrose was traditionally used as an expectorant for the upper respiratory tract. More recent studies on evening primrose oil reveal its uses in relieving breast soreness, PMS and arthritis. Preliminary studies also show that evening primrose oil may benefit those suffering from neurological disorders.
Echinacea is our number-one-selling herbal remedy in America. Interestingly, a Nebraska doctor first learned of Echinacea's healing properties from local Native Americans. In fact, by 1900, American drug companies were selling Echinacea products to treat infections. When the first synthetic antibiotic was introduced in the 1930s, production of natural antibiotics all but stopped. However, Echinacea remains just as useful today as it was in the past to treat colds, flu, respiratory infections and urinary tract infections.
The fruit of Chasteberry, or Vitex agnus castus, is used in preparing an herbal remedy. Chasteberry can offer relief form menstrual irregularity and PMS. Another benefit from this herb is the treatment of scanty milk production in breast-feeding mothers.
Caraway provides an alternative to peppermint oil to treat stomach complaints. You can make a tea from crushed caraway leaves, or crush the caraway seeds and steep them in boiling water for 15 minutes. Caraway will relieve abdominal bloating, upset stomach and gastrointestinal spasms.
To repel insects from your closets and drawers, combine equal amounts of dried lavender, lemon balm, and rosemary. Place a few tablespoons of the mixture in a piece of open-weave cloth and stitch to close. The fragrance is much more pleasant than mothballs!
Prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of the prostate) in men can be most uncomfortable and can affect frequency and control of urination. Saw Palmetto is most often found in the form of herbal capsules or liquid tinctures. Follow label directions for regular use to help maintain prostate health.
Ginkgo is the best selling herbal medicine in Europe, with annual sales of over half a million dollars each year. Ginkgo, which has been around a long time, was used medicinally in China more than 3,000 years ago. Today, it is most often used to improve memory, blood circulation and depression. Note: Avoid Ginkgo if you regularly take blood-thinning drugs.
Valerian And Epilepsy
Valerian root has a calming effect and is useful for insomnia and nervous irritability. A lesser-known value of this herb is its beneficial effects on epileptic seizures. Preliminary studies offer promise in the use of Valerian as a drug-free natural remedy for seizure activity.
Dried or fresh flower petals make a wonderful herbed oil for massage. Combine 1 tablespoon each of fresh or dried flowers of lavender, rose, chamomile, and elder. Add 1 tablespoon of orris root powder as a natural preservative. Fill a jar loosely with the flowers and orris root. Slowly pour a natural oil such as safflower, sesame, or sunflower over the herbs to within one inch of the jar top. Close the jar and allow it to stand in sunlight to infuse. Infusion will take about 2 weeks in the winter and about 5 days in the summer. At the end of that time, strain the oil through fine mesh into a sterilized glass container. Use as needed for massage.
Herbal antibiotics can fight infection and bolster the immune system. Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and garlic (Allium sativum) eardrops are available, especially prepared for children's ear infections. Unlike antibiotic drugs, these natural substances also have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Use the drops three times a day, or follow label recommendations.
Echinacea And Allergies
Echinacea purpura may be great for relieving the symptoms of colds, flu, and other viruses, but it has one drawback. Echinacea can aggravate ragweed or hay fever allergies in susceptible individuals. If you have similar allergies, consider an alternative to Echinacea, such as colloidal silver drops.
Folic Acids And Green Herbal Sources
Leafy green herbs and vegetables are good sources of folic acid, among other valuable nutrients. Health folic acid levels have been shown to prevent certain birth defects. Now we know it can also protect against heart disease by reducing the levels of homocysteine. In addition to increasing the leafy greens in your diet, you can add 400 micrograms of folic acid from a supplemental form.
Many herbal tea blends are available to help detoxify the body. You can make your own blend by combining equal portions of Oreon graperoot (Berberis aquifolium), Red clover (Trifolium pratince), Burdock root (Arctium lappa), and dandelion root (Tarazacum officinale). Prepare one cup of tea with one teaspoon of the mixture, up to three times a day.
Stress And Adaptogens
Adaptogens are a category of plant compounds that improve our response to stress. The following plants have adaptogenic effects and will help your body return to normal after an incident of stress: ginseng, licorice root (take with a potassium supplement), gingko biloba, sarsaparilla, and licorice. Licorice can raise blood pressure and should be used with caution in people with high blood pressure. The form of licorice called "de-glycyrrhizinated licorice" does NOT elevate blood pressure.
It's easy to make a healing massage oil with your favorite essential oil. Add a few drops of lavender, rosemary, or what you have on hand to a carrier oil such a sunflower, safflower, or sesame oil. Mix gently and apply to the skin. You'll benefit not only from the massage, but also from the nourishing oil and healing aromatherapy scent.
Make a natural moth repellent when it's time to pack away your winter woolens. Combine 2 tablespoons each of freshly ground cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, caraway seeds, and tonquin beans. Add 1/3 cup of orris root powder as a natural preservative. Mix well and tie up in a few layers of cheesecloth or small drawstring cotton bags and hang in closets or place in drawers.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Valerian root has many benefits in addition to being a sleep aid. 400mg of standardized Valerian herbal root has been recommended for symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
To make a natural antiseptic mouthwash, add 2 drops of Bergamot and 1 drop of Lavender essential oils to 1 cup of distilled or filtered water. This is a good recipe for users of Homeopathic medicine who are avoiding mint products. If you make this mixture fresh daily, no preservative is needed.
Studies in Europe and Japan have linked long flights in restrictive economy plane seats to deep-vein thrombosis, or formation of blood clots. If you are not taking blood-thinning drugs, consider herbal Ginkgo biloba to improve circulation on long flights. Also, move your legs and change positions often on long flights.
Parsley as a Diuretic
The herb parsley, a biannual that can be grown in all temperate areas, is a very effective diuretic. A tea made from fresh parsley leaves can reduce water retention during a woman's monthly cycle, lessen swollen ankles, and keep her from retaining water after a salty meal. Parsley also aids in digestion and can be used to treat hypertension.
Use one teaspoon of dried leaves (slightly more if the leaves are fresh) to a cupful of boiling water. You can drink this three times a day. However, anytime you use a diuretic on a regular basis, you will need to replace the potassium depleted from your body by eating a potassium-rich food, such as potatoes, avocados or bananas. Do not take a potassium supplement without consulting your doctor.
Consider a switch from coffee to tea or another healthier alternative if you are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant. Tea offers phytochemicals and antioxidants that are beneficial to mother and baby. Recent studies have shown that one to three cups of coffee a day increased the risk of miscarriage by 30 percent. Three to five cups a day raises the risk to 40 percent. Five cups or more increases the risk by 50 percent. Consider naturally decaffeinated green tea as one alternative.
Herbs And Eye Health
Some contact lens wearers may have difficulty taking the herb black cohosh, commonly used to treat women's menopausal complaints. A small percentage of women experienced discomfort with their lenses with long-term black cohosh use. The herb is thought to cause minor, temporary changes in the curvature of the eye in some people.
Petty spurge, or Euphorbia peplus, has traditionally been used as a treatment for skin condition. A recent Australian study has shown that this herb has treatment potential for non-melanoma skin cancer. Early results are promising with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Hot Baths For Colds
Take a long, hot bath with natural Eucalyptus essential oil (unless you are using homeopathic remedies, in which case substitute lavender and thyme essential oils.) Get extra rest to allow the body to heal.
Herbal Cold Remedies
Herbal echinacea and goldenseal will offer a boost to your immune system. Follow label recommendations. Start taking them if a family member or coworker has cold symptoms. Prevention is best.
Tea For Colds
If a cold or flu threatens, switch from coffee to tea, which has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting at least eight hours of sleep, and drink plenty of pure water to help the body detoxify.
Aromatherapy For Holiday Overindulgence
The essential oil of Rosemary will relieve a hangover, symptoms of exhaustion, or nausea. Add a few drops of Rosemary essential oil to a cup of water, and use as a warm compress on the forehead or temples. A few drops added to a warm bath will be soothing, too.
Garlic is useful for so many things and beneficial to your health in so many ways, that it is necessary to discuss just one aspect of this wonderful perennial at a time. Garlic belongs to the onion family and has a bulb consisting of around ten or more cloves. Although it needs a long growing season, it's easy to grow in almost any climate, and it's easy to cultivate, giving you no excuse for not having plenty of garlic on hand.
Select a well-formed garlic bulb and remove the cloves around the outside edge of the bulb. Take these cloves and plant them about one inch deep and eight inches apart in a sandy soil base where they will get plenty of sun. Harvest your garlic in the summer after the leaves have turned yellow and died. Dry the bulbs in the sun and store them in a dry place, hanging them in the rafters, for example. Then start again next spring, and you'll never be out of this medicinal plant.
IT GROWS IN MY YARD
Here is a partial list of ingredients for natural health and beauty products that you may find in your own yard. If you are not skilled at knowing trees, flowers, or plants, consult a plant book with photos as well as descriptions when gathering your items. These items should be only gathered fresh.
Fir (the green buds and needles)
Juniper (the berries)
Orange (the entire fruit, leaves, and flowers)
Marigold (the flowers)
Eucalyptus (the leaves)
Mint (the leaves)
Basil (the leaves)
Parsley (the leaves)
A Drink for a Simple Cold
If you feel a cold coming on, try this cold-busting drink.
1 ounce of tomato juice or V-8 Juice
1/4 ounce black pepper
1/8 ounce cayenne pepper
Mix this together well and drink quickly, as the hot taste is not something you want to linger in your mouth. If you have a sensitive stomach, drink this with food. If you have other stomach problems, such as an ulcer, consult a doctor before using cayenne, as it can be irritating to some stomachs. And make sure you have some Kleenex handy, because after that cayenne pepper starts to work, you will need to blow your nose.
Try this awful-tasting infusion instead of the over-the-counter flu remedies, unless you are sick enough to see a doctor. (In that case, consult your doctor before taking any other remedy.) You will need:
1 ounce of dried yarrow flowers
1 pinch of cherry bark
1 ounce of dried mint
Steep the herbs in one cup of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with a teaspoon of honey. Drink this three times during the day.
Raisins for Arthritis
On ABC's 'Good Morning America' program, Joe Graedon explained several natural remedies, including one for arthritis. This is Graedon's arthritis remedy. You will need:
One box of golden raisins
Empty the box of raisins into a bowl and pour enough gin (any kind, preferably cheap) over them to cover. Allow the gin to evaporate for a week to ten days, then place the moist raisins in a covered container. The story said you must eat nine raisins a day, no more, no less. It will take six weeks of eating these raisins before you feel any results.
Plants for Fresh Air
Most green house plants will clean up a variety of pollutants in your home or office. Spider plants and heartleaf philodendron are good at removing formaldehyde from your air (from carpeting, fiberboard, plywood, resins, and natural gas). Also effective at this are azaleas, mother-in-law's tongue, poinsettias, and ficus. English ivy, marginata, and golden pothos combat benzene (found in tobacco smoke, synthetic fibers, plastics, and detergents). Peace lilies and dragon trees can clear up TCE (from paints, varnishes, and wood finishes). So surround yourself with these plants and others for healthier air where you live.
A Cleansing Bath
For a bath that makes your whole body feel refreshed and alive and gives you a sense of well-being, try this combination of salts and scents. You will need: 2 cups of sea salt
Oil of Sage
Oil of Rosemary
Oil of Tea Tree
Add the sea salt to a running bath, mixing well until all the salt is dissolved. Add about three or four drops of each of the oils just before turning off the tap and mix these in as well. After soaking for at least 15 minutes, use a loofah sponge or body brush to invigorate your skin. Finally, rinse off with cool water and towel off briskly. You will feel refreshed and smell wonderful.
If you are concerned about how one of the natural beauty treatments will react with your skin, prepare a small amount of the remedy--one of the soaking baths or facial treatments, for example. Then use the product on the inside of your lower arm, rubbing it in and rinsing it off. Do this one day before you use the remedy to be certain that you will not have any reaction to it. Most natural remedies are used in such small quantities that it is rare for them to react with someone's skin, but it's better to be sure of that before you commit your whole face or body to a treatment.
Recognizing Wild Plants
Although many plants that grow along roads or in fields and meadows have medicinal or culinary purposes, it would be impossible to familiarize yourself with them in a tip. The best way to start learning about plants in the wild is to buy a book on herbs that has photographs or detailed illustrations of the plants. You will need to be able to recognize the plant's leaves, flowers, berries or seeds, and sometimes the roots. Also, if you find something in the wild and believe you know what it is, you can compare it to the detailed illustration in your book to be certain. If you are completely unfamiliar with wild plants, or if you feel unsure about collecting them yourself, find a good local natural foods or herbs store, since these stores often carry dried medicinal herbs that you may not be able to or want to grow on your own. Safety should be your first concern.
When you have a cold with coughing, you often need an expectorant, something that will help loosen up the mucus in your respiratory system and let it drain. Here is a list of herbs that can be used as expectorants.
CINNAMON FOR THE FLU
Try this remedy at the first sign that you may be getting the flu and you may actually shorten the amount of time that you are sick. You will need:
A piece of cinnamon bark
Boil the stick of cinnamon and a clove in two cups of water. Take out the cinnamon and clove and add a tablespoon or two of lemon and a tablespoon of honey and mix well. Add a large shot of whisky and pour into a tall glass to drink.
If life is giving you too much stress, a relaxing bath with the proper essential oils can give you a moment of peace and a much-needed new perspective. Try the following bath on a day when you're feeling stressed, and don't forget to light a candle and lock the door for complete peace and privacy. You will need:
1 cup of Epsom salts
Oil of Sandalwood
Oil of Patchouli
Oil of Ylang-Ylang
A bath pillow (optional)
Add the Epsom salts to your running bath, and mix with your hands until dissolved. Then add a few drops of each of the oils and mix well. Lay back and relax for at least 15 minutes (with a bath pillow under your head if you have one). Don't fall asleep! Just relax and meditate on feeling peaceful and calm. After 15 minutes, wash yourself with a soft, natural soap (such as a rose and glycerin soap) and a soft washrag. Gently pat off with a towel when your bath is done.
Cat In The Garden?
If you have a problem with a stray cat or other small animal getting into your herb garden, try this all-natural trick for keeping them out. Sprinkle dried cayenne peppers (broken up into small pieces) around the edge of your garden, or just inside the edge of your pots. Cats always sniff before they dig around, and will leave your plants alone after getting a whiff of that hot pepper. Some people also used a cayenne-based hot sauce to dab on leaves of plants that cats have a tendency to nibble on. The sniff or taste that the cat gets brings no lasting harm, but it may save your plants.
Dill For The Unspeakable
Dill is delicious in potato dishes and on baked fish, but it can also be useful as a remedy. Collect the seeds when they have turned brown and spread them out to dry. For the remedy, pour a cup of boiling water over one or two teaspoons of the crushed seeds and let this infuse for 10 minutes before drinking. This tea is great for controlling flatulence. It has also been used for colic in children. Chew the dried seeds for fresher breath.
Anti-inflammatory herbs help the body combat inflammations and are usually used externally. Such herbs include:
St. John's Wort
An antioxidant is a substance that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen or peroxides, many of these substances being used as preservatives in various products. For this explanation, we have to go back to the tip on Flavonoids or Phytochemicals, because antioxidants come from plant chemicals. To truly understand how antioxidants are supposed to combat the destructive effects of free radicals, you would need a refresher course in physiology or chemistry. Instead, let's just say a free radical is an unpaired electron, which the body can generally take care of on its on, but that certain lifestyles (such as eating poorly, smoking, or being exposed to a lot of pollution) can lead to more free radicals in the body than is good. Antioxidants are supposed to fight those free radicals. The problem is that many clinical studies have shown no benefits from taking antioxidant supplements (like vitamin E, vitamin C, or beta-carotene) that were any greater than eating foods rich in antioxidants.
My opinion? Antioxidants are definitely good for you, but your body gets better encouragement to fight free radicals by eating well than by taking antioxidant supplements. Eat some turmeric-rich meals, or foods that are high in the vitamins that work as antioxidants.
A poultice is a good method of applying the medicinal properties of herbs to a painful or inflamed area of the body. To make a poultice for external application, place crushed or bruised herbs between layers of a moist cloth. Apply to the area requiring treatment for up to 24 hours.
Herbal Detoxification: Liver
Herbs are wonderfully useful as detoxifying agents and offer even more benefit when combined. To detoxify the liver, use dandelion, angelica, milk thistle, horsetail, and fennel.
Chamomile is a perennial with a pleasant apple-like scent that can have a white flower with a yellow center. It can be grown from seed in the spring, with the young plants set six inches apart in their permanent positions. Often used in the form of tea, chamomile has been recommended for headaches, chills, fevers, digestive trouble, nervousness, and as a tonic to brighten hair.
For a pint of chamomile tea, use six flowers (or around four teaspoons of dried leaves) and steep the tea for five to ten minutes. Add a small teaspoon of honey to each cup to sweeten the otherwise very mild flavor.
Ingredients For Natural Health
Beyond the herbs, flower essences, fruits, and vegetables that you may use in making home remedies for health or beauty, there are other ingredients that consist of natural substances our ancestors used on their skin. Here is a partial list of other items you may need as you create your home remedies.
Aqua vitae (such as brandy, cognac, or vodka)
You can purchase many of these items at a health foods store, where they will probably be as organic and natural as you can get them. These type of ingredients will also keep well, and can be used for other things around the house, including cleaning and cooking.
Hops And Insomnia
The fruit of the hops plant is called a "stobile" and is the part used in medicinal herbalism. Hops are often used for anxiety, insomnia and restlessness. Make a strong tea from the hops and sip it before bedtime. This herbal remedy is as effective as any sedative and does not produce a "sleeping pill hangover" the next morning.
Hawthorn And Irregular Heartbeat
Hawthorn has been used as a heart remedy in America since the early 1800's. Hawthorn is a cardiac tonic that strengthens the heartbeat and eliminates irregular heartbeats. The recommended daily dosage is 160-900 mg of Hawthorn extract standardized to contain 4-30 mg of flavonoids and 30-160 mg of oligomeric procyanidins.