Herbal Remedies Have Been Used for Centuries
Who hasn’t heard of Grandma’s herbal remedies for just about any ailment? Herbal remedies have been used for centuries in cooking and to treat everything from headaches to intestinal problems.
Herbal remedies are all about enhancing health. Good health begins with a healthy immune system — our first line of defense against attacks from pathogens and other foreign agents. The immune system detects invaders and begins to isolate and destroy them. Our immune system works better if it has the proper nutrients and micronutrients.
Many common herbs contain ingredients that help our bodies work better, either by boosting our immune system or by reducing inflammation. More people are looking for herbal remedies to relieve symptoms or to heal common ailments. In 2004, about 29% of Americans used some form of herbal remedy.
As consumers, we need to educate ourselves on the proper use of herbs. When used correctly, they have proven successful for many, and are used extensively in Europe. Since they are not regulated by the FDA, potency varies by product. Of course, we feel that organic herbs are the most potent and chemical-free herbs available. Be sure to check labels, however, for purity and potency.
Below are a few examples of common herbs, their botanical names and their uses. Many can easily be grown in a small space without need for pesticides. Most supermarkets carry these herbs either fresh, dried, or as a supplement.
Chamomile(Matricaria Chamomilla) – A perennial with white flowers, chamomile is found in teas, cosmetics and hair preparations. It is commonly used to combat headaches and neuralgia, as well as to relieve insomnia.
Echinacea(Echinacea purpura) – Resembling a black-eyed Susan, echinacea or purple coneflower is a North American perennial. It is also called snake root because it grows from a thick black root that Indians used to treat snake bites.
Herbalists consider Echinacea to be one of the best blood purifiers and an effective antibiotic. It activates the body’s immune system. This popular herb has been used to help ward off the common cold and to relieve the symptoms of hay fever. However, people who have an allergy to ragweed may want to avoid this herb.
Goldenseal(Hydrastis canadensis) – Goldenseal is a native American medicinal plant introduced to early settlers by Cherokee Indians who used it as a wash for skin diseases, wounds, and for sore, inflamed eyes. Its roots are bright yellow, thus the name. Goldenseal root has acquired a considerable reputation as a natural antibiotic and as a remedy for various gastric and genitourinary disorders. Numerous references to Goldenseal began to appear in medical writings as far back as 1820 as a strong tea for indigestion. Today it is used to treat symptoms of the cold and flu and as an astringent, antibacterial remedy for the mucous membranes of the body.
The active ingredients in Goldenseal are the alkaloids hydrastine and berberine. Similar in action, they destroy many types of bacterial and viral infections. These alkaloids can also reduce gastric inflammation and relieve congestion. Goldenseal works wonders in combination with Echinacea particularly at the onset of cold and flu symptoms, especially coughs and sore throats.
Garlic(Allium sativum) – Garlic is a powerful natural herb with antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral properties. It can stimulate cell growth and activity. It reduces blood pressure in hypertensive conditions. A main advantage to using garlic is that it does not destroy the body’s natural flora. It is excellent for use in all colds and infections of the body. The allin is a sulfur-containing amino acid, and makes garlic and effective antibiotic. The forefather of antibiotic medicine, Louis Pasteur, acknowledged garlic to be as effective as penicillin. If you can handle it, try mashing raw garlic with a little olive oil and eating it with bread to relieve a sore throat. (Some may find too much raw garlic upsetting to the stomach, so use it sparingly at first.) A little goes a long way!
Ginger(Zingiber officinale) – Ginger was adopted by the Greeks as a digestive aid. As anyone who’s had ginger ale for nausea knows, it holds up to its claims. I myself have chewed on a piece of raw, fresh ginger root whenever motion sickness appeared. Ginger in all its forms (tea, ale, and capsules) can also soothe morning sickness. It’s an effective antispasmotic. It’s used extensively in Chinese cooking to assist in digestion.
Elderberry – The American elder (Sambucus canadensis) , also known as Elderberry, is small tree that grows to 12 feet and is native to North America. The European elder (Sambucus nigra) grows to 30 feet, is found throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa, and has been naturalized in the United States. It’s become one of many classes of superfoods for their nutrient value. They are high in antioxidants and have been used as a syrup to treat colds and flu symptoms and other respiratory ailments.
Elderberries considerable amount of vitamins A, B and C, as well as flavonoids, sugar, tannins, carotenoids and amino acids. Warm elderberry wine is a remedy for sore throat, influenza and induces perspiration to reverse the effects of a chill.
Peppermint Leaf(Mentha piperita) – This great-tasting aromatic herb, and its close relatives in the mint family, are used as teas and in sousp, stuffings, salads and desserts all over the world. Peppermint, combined with Elderberry has been a suggested combination to take at the onset of a cold or mild influenza. Peppermint and Spearmint have been used to relieve indigestion, insomnia, and dizziness. It freshens breath and relieves fatigue.
Onion(Allium cepa) – In the garlic family, the common garden onion is one of the oldest and most versatile herbal remedies. Probably native to Southwest Asia, onions are now found in all parts of the world. Traditionally onion preparations have been especially effective in the treatment of colds and congestion. Taken internally, onion may be helpful for indigestion and circulatory diseases. High in phytochemicals and Vitamin C, they can help improve immunity. They are also high in chromium and are anti-inflammatory. The ingredient quercitin has been studied for its possible role in preventing cancer. Try them in your cooked dishes and enjoy their health-promoting benefits.
Horseradish(Armoracia rusticana) – Strong and pungent, Horseradish is widely used as a condiment with beef. Horseradish also contains expectorant properties and has been added to cough syrup throughout the ages.
Tea tree oil(Malaleuca alternifolia) – A relative of eucalyptus, it originated in Australia and is used for respiratory ailments. It is a potent antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory herb. No medicine cabinet should be without it. It’s best to combine the purchased tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil before applying to the skin. It’s great for treating razor burn or insect bites.
Lavender(Lavandula) – Lavender oil has shown to have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, making it a good choice for stings and burns. Its scent promotes relaxation, as well. Organic flowers can be used in baking, and are great for keeping moths and mosquitoes away.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) – In the Daisy family, feverfew is prized since the days of the Roman Empire as a medicinal herb. Feverfew is believed to reduce severe headaches by changing the way blood vessels contract. (I have used it myself, with great results.) It should not be combined with blood thinners, so caution is advised if you are on other medications.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) – A popular herb in Europe, St. John’s wort has been found to help with mild depressive symptoms. If on other medications, however, it may interact with them, so a professional should be consulted before taking St. John’s wort.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) – Found in numerous studies to be effective against prostate enlargement.
Milk Thistle(Silybum marianum) – In the same botanical family as artichoke, milk thistle has been scientifically proven to protect and detoxify the liver. It may also help prevent cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Syndrome X (heart problems in women).
Rosemary(Rosmarinus officinalis) – A native of the Mediterranean, this woody herb with needle-like leaves contains a powerful antioxidant (carnosic acid) that protects brain cells against free radical damage. It may someday prove beneficial in preventing stroke and halting dementia. One of my favorite culinary herbs, it has a strong herbaceous scent that goes great with potatoes and game meats.
Parsley(Petroselinum crispum) – The most widely used culinary herb in the world, parsley has been used as a diuretic and to detoxify the liver, and to treat jaundice and kidney stones. It contains Vitamins A and C, and the root can be eaten, as well.
Valerian(Valeriana officinalis) – Easy to grow, valerian has been used to treat mild anxiety, epilepsy, insomnia and pain, when taken over several days.
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is merely informational and is not meant to diagnose or treat disease. Please consult a healthcare practitioner for medical advice and treatment.