Mother Nature has left a legacy of medicinal and therapeutic remedies in every corner of Her planet. Every ailment from which we suffer has a treatment to be found somewhere in Nature. I do not believe in using pharmaceutical drugs to create more problems than I start out with. I offer this list of therapeutic herbs to illustrate just a small fraction of the truly magical cures to be found in our own backyards.
Aloe has multiple healing and soothing properties that make it a great remedy for rashes and burns. The gel in the leaves applied directly to burned skin disinfects and accelerates the healing process. It also hydrates and moisturizes the skin without the use of oils. Aloe really helps stop the peeling after a sunburn. Simply slice open a fresh leaf from the plant or buy the pure gel or extract from a natural food store. You can also store a leaf in the freezer to provide immediate relief for painful kitchen burns.
Astragalus has been used as an immunity booster in China for nearly 4,000 years. The extract from this plant can increase immunity to disease by improving the function of the blood cells. Astragalus also helps strengthen digestion, raise metabolism, and promotes wound healing. It can also treat chronic weakness of the lungs, (such as that which occurs with Asthma) shortness of breath, low energy, prolapse of internal organs, spontaneous sweating, chronic lesions and deficiency edema.
In addition to being an excellent source of vitamin C, bilberry is a strong antioxidant, it benefits your circulatory system, eyes, heart and brain, and generally aids overall good health. Bilberry fruit increases the flexibility of capillaries and promotes healthy blood flow. It also tends to improve vision, reducing both eyestrain and nearsightedness. Bilberry extract also helps strengthen coronary arteries and helps prevent atherosclerosis. It can also aid in mending muscular strain and easing tension in the muscles.
This is a rather uncommonly known herb, for use in the treatment of migraine pain and other neurological discomfort. I suffer from epilepsy, and have found it to quell some of my seizure activity as well as relieving my migraines. Butterbur also helps alleviate hayfever and other seasonal allergies without harmful side effects.
Cannabis has been used for over 5,000 years as a pain reliever, sleep aid, muscle relaxant, and cure for a variety of neurological ailments. Today it is used to treat diseases such as epilepsy, fibromyalgia, Parkinson's, cancer, Crohn's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, HIV/AIDS, nausea, depression, anxiety, and many others. It is currently illegal in many countries, including America, however, its use is becoming more widely accepted as a legitimate medical
remedy, and has been decriminalized and even legalized in about 25% of
the United States
remedy, and has been decriminalized and even legalized in about 25% of
the United States
Chamomile is a well known medicinal herb., with pronounced relaxation and anti-inflammatory properties. It can calm anxiety and insomnia, soothe indigestion, and reduce inflammations. Its external uses include the treatment of skin inflammations, sunburn, hemorrhoids, insect bites, and eczema. When used as a mouthwash, it helps alleviate mouth inflammations and toothaches. Rinsing the face or hair with chamomile tea keeps the skin smooth and the hair glossy and soft.
Echinacea is another valuable aid to the immune system. It activates white blood cells and stimulates the regeneration of cellular connective tissue which improves skin tone and elasticity. Echinacea neutralizes harmful enzymes involved in the infection process, effectively acting as a natural antibiotic. Echinacea also acts as a preventative to viral infection and influenza, and is effective in allergy treatment due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
The Chinese refer to this herb as ma huang, and may be one of the oldest medicines known to modern man, dating back nearly 5,000 years. Its most common use is as a decongestant. It greatly helps asthma symptoms by dilating the bronchial tracts, which can also be very helpful for regular seasonal allergy sufferers. It stimulates the circulatory system by elevating blood pressure. Ephedrine, its derivative, increases adrenaline secretion in our bodies, and its effects linger long after the herb is gone. Be wary of this herb if you suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure, or if you are on antidepressant medication. It can interact harmfully with these ailments.
Evening primrose oil is a treatment for PMS. This seed oil is high in the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The use of evening primrose oil is targeted to ease imbalances and abnormalities of essential fatty acids, especially during that time of the month. It can occasionally cause headaches or nausea in some people, so use with care until you know if it works for you.
This remarkable herb has anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties which make its use in treatment of headache, stomach ache, and menstrual cramps second to none. To relieve migraine pain, consume two to three leaves daily for long periods, which will reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine pain. Be aware that feverfew will not stop a migraine once its begun, but, with prolonged use, can certainly help to prevent their occurrence. It can also help aid in the treatment of arthritis or other chronic inflammation.
Most of us have heard of the benefits of consuming massive quantities of garlic, but for those who haven't, garlic is known to help prevent cardiovascular disease, lower high blood pressure, and aid in cancer prevention. Chinese researchers found gastric cancer to be reduced with higher garlic intake. Garlic acts as an antifungal and an antiviral herb by improving resistance to various micro-organisms including bacteria resistant to main stream antibiotics.
My Grandmother always kept a bottle of crystallized ginger in the house, along with peppermint oil, for when us grandkids had tummyaches. One or the other generally did the trick. Ginger can treat all forms of nausea, including morning sickness and motion sickness. It produces a lovely warm sensation that supports digestion and improves circulation. Long term, ginger also helps to protect the stomach and liver, and treat and prevent ulcers.
Ginkgo Biloba extract benefits the vision, by improving circulation to the eyes, especially in cases of vascular degeneration. Ginkgo extract can improve the occurrence of ailments such as vertigo, tinnitus, inner ear aches, memory loss, anxiety, depression, neurological disorders, senility, circulatory disorders, and vascular disorders. It can improve concentration. Ginkgo extract improves circulation and increases blood flow to the brain, heart and tissues in organs and glands.
Ginseng is generally known to improve physical and mental performance, and is far more effective and less toxic than caffeine. It stimulates the body in a similar fashion, without the inevitable "crash" following its use. The way ginseng helps increase memory and ability to learn is by improving circulation to the brain. It's also known to reduce cholesterol and protect the liver from toxins. Ginseng also strengthens the lungs, nourishes body fluids and calms the spirit. It may be used for shock, collapse and heart weakness, as well as for promoting longevity and increasing resistance to disease.
Hyssop is mainly used in treating coughs and congestion. Hyssop has the ability to loosen phlegm in the lungs and throat and is especially good for children's sore throats. Hyssop also helps bring down a fever when you are sick, and provides relief from the more mild respiratory problems caused by colds. Just one teaspoon of dried hyssop leaves and flowers brewed in one cup of boiling water can be the answer to your prayers when your chest and throat are full to bursting with phlegm. Drink hot to ease congestion, cooled to act as an expectorant.
This exotic pepper herb originates in the South Pacific, where it has been in use for over 3,000 years. It is known to produce a relaxing effect on the central nervous system. It acts as sedative, muscle relaxant, diuretic, and as a remedy for nervousness and insomnia. Kava kava can be used in small doses as a mental stimulant, but with higher doses it will actually slow down mental awareness. It can be very helpful in treating anxiety disorders.
My Great Grandmother once used milk thistle to remove a stubborn wart from my Grandfather's chin, but her particular kind of magic is lost on my generation. However, that should not deter you from utilizing its tried and true applications. Milk thistle contains a compound called silymarin, which increases the ability of the liver cells to regenerate and synthesize proteins.. When the liver is congested, one can experience soreness in the liver area, painful digestion, gas, constipation, as well as headaches and irritability.
We tend to think of mushrooms as simply good-tasting foods that taste great with Marsala wine, but in fact many mushrooms have medicinal qualities. Reishi mushrooms fall into that category. Its uses include the treatment of a variety of disorders, including: nervous exhaustion, insomnia, and stress-induced ulcers. Reishi has also shown to be a worthy opponent against hepatitis, cancer, chronic bronchitis, and coronary heart disease. When brewed in tea it relieves allergies and comforts altitude sickness.
Shiitake is another delectable edible mushroom, used medicinally for diseases caused by immune deficiency, such as cancer, AIDS, seasonal allergies, yeast infections, and frequent colds and flu. Shiitake is also beneficial for soothing bronchial inflammation, regulating urine incontinence, and reducing chronic high cholesterol. It is most benefitial as a concentrated extract, because it requires a high dosage to be effectual.
Sage is an antioxidant and antimicrobial, its oil effectively kills bacteria and fungi, even those resistant to penicillin. Sage also relieves coughs and sore throats, and helps to dry up phlegm. Sage has also been used for centuries to cover up those occasional gray hairs.. Be cautious with sage, as it can be toxic in high doses, and can cause contractions of the uterus, so pregnant women should not use it in medicinal doses.
Current research has shown saw palmetto to be helpful in treating the non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. Saw palmetto berries were used as a treatment for enlarged prostate until 1950, when it was removed from treatment plans to be replaced by yet more volatile chemical solutions.. However, history has shown us that the extracts of saw palmetto help to increase urinary flow, reduce residual urine, ease the beginning of urination, and decrease the frequency of urination, all symptoms of this disorder.
Stevia is becoming all the rage as a natural sugar substitute, which is its primary purpose, and has been for many hundreds of years. Just a single teaspoon of dried crushed stevia leaves is equivalent to a cup of processed refined sugar, without the bleach or the calories. In addition to being as sweet as sugar, it actually fights off mouth bacteria that cause decay, and helps to treat diabetes and hypoglycemia.
St Johns Wort
St John's Wort works well as an antidepressant, when taken over time as it builds up in the system. It may not work for all people in the same way, but in many it can reduce nervousness, insomnia, and depression without the side effects of pharmaceutical solutions. Be cautious when taking St John's Wort if you are on medication for high blood pressure, as it may interact negatively with many of the prescribed pharmaceutical drugs on the market.
Valerian is a natural sedative, known to help reduce tension, ease stress, and can help one to fall asleep sooner and achieve a more restful sleep. As with any sedative, the dose can be adjusted for your tolerance, but too much can have the opposite affect and prove to be ineffectual as a sleep aid and more likely to keep you awake at night.
The olfactory sense is one of the most profound senses we have, tied directly to our memory banks, where every scent is stored with a sensation and emotion. Tapping into those positive memories and feelings with essential oils, incense, tinctures, and ointments is the definition of Aroma Therapy.
Not just for cooking any more! The warm, spicy aroma of cinnamon has the ability to improve wellness, soothe and relax the body, improve immunity and cardiovascular function, and it also acts as an antiseptic.
Eucalyptus oil is best used as a decongestant, its strong aroma clears the sinuses either when burned in a diffuser, or applied directly to the skin under the nose. Whether you suffer from seasonal allergies or have the flu, eucalyptus can be relied upon to open the airways and let you breathe deep.
Lavender is incredibly soothing and comforting, best used as a sedative and for relaxation. Rice bags with lavender warmed in the microwave or a low-temp oven can act as the only sleep tonic you need.
Mint soothes a variety of symptoms, the scent can ease nausea and congestion, provide serenity and relaxation, and also entice the senses as an appetizer to a meal, commonly used in aperitifs for its stimulating aroma.
White sage is commonly used to cleanse negative energies and refine the atmosphere in a dwelling or location. It is also commonly accompanied by healing chants and prayer, or in ritual meditation. Witches and Shamans will burn sage to rid a dwelling of bothersome spirits or a malevolent presence.
How to Prepare a Tincture
Tinctures are made using alcohol, which draws out the essential compounds in the herbs, roots, bark and resins. The preferred alcohol of choice is vodka, because it is colorless and practically odorless as well. Brandy, rum or whiskey will suffice in a pinch, but make sure it is at least 80 proof, to insure the effectiveness of your tincture and prevent mildewing of the product. Always use a glass or ceramic container, never metal or plastic, as they can leech harmful chemicals into your brew. Chop your herbs finely and fill your glass container nearly to the brim, then cover with the alcohol. Use a coffee straw or thin bladed knife to stir the contents around the outside of the container to remove any bubbles. Seal your container tightly and place in a cool dark place for two weeks to a month for your preferred potency.
How to Prepare a Salve
A salve is simple to make and you can find most of your ingredients at the local health food store. I always prefer to use beeswax in my home made salves, as they are the most effective at remaining strong for longer periods of time. Use 2 ounces of beeswax, 1 cup extra virgin organic olive oil, and 1/2 cup organic coconut oil, melted together slowly in a double boiler, allowing the oils to fully combine with the wax. Do NOT cover, as moisture will collect and ruin your salve. When the wax is completely melted, stir thoroughly, and add one tablespoon of vitamin E oil and stir again. Add 25-30 drops of tincture, or a commercial essential oil of your choice. Immediately pour into small containers for storage and allow to sit at room temperature, uncovered, overnight. In the morning the salve will have hardened up and be ready to apply.
How to make your own herbal lotion
For lotion, which is not nearly as thick as a salve, you would use emulsifying wax rather than beeswax. Again with the double boiler, melt 1/4 cup emulsifying wax with 1/4 cup extra virgin organic olive oil. When the wax is melted and blended thoroughly, remove from heat and add 25-30 drops of essential oils or tincture, stir, and slowly pour 1 1/4 cup hot water into the mixture. It will turn milky as you do this. As soon as your ingredients are combined, pour into glass jars and let cool overnight. By morning you will have fresh handmade herbal body lotion that rivals any you'd find in your local apothecary.