How to Use Medicinal Herbs
It seems that whenever we are suffering from a health ailment or condition, many of us run to the local pharmacy to purchase mass-produced pills, lotions, syrups, potions, and so on. Sometimes, we see a doctor and he writes out a prescription for us. Many of us see this a quick-fix for our aches and pains, not realizing that the garden and kitchen cabinet contain natural medicine for our health problems.
Many years ago, modern medicine was not even thought of. Health ailments and conditions were treated with homemade remedies where herbs, plants, and other things found in the environment were used. Herbal healing is not something new or a form of witchcraft. There is documented proof that it has been used for thousands of years. With the introduction of modern medicine, this practice began to lose its popularity. More and more people are returning to it because they are becoming aware of the side effects of commercially produced medications.
Herbal medicine has a longer history than modern medicine. It has been around since the beginning of time. The use of herbs has been traced back to 2700 BC with Shen Nung’s script Canon of Herbs. This Chinese Emperor describes over 365 herbs which are, “Classified into three categories including superior, medium and lower grades" (Tao of Herbs). This script is the reasons why Chinese are considered to be the forefathers of herbal medicine.
There is also written evidence of other civilizations using herbal medicine. This includes Greeks, Egyptians, and the Babylonians. While rumors were flying around ancient Greece that illnesses were caused by evil spirits, curses, and the wrath of the gods, Greek philosopher Hippocrates spoke out, saying that factors in climate, occupation, and food were the cause of illnesses.
If you want to use herbs for medicinal purposes today, you have to do it sensibly and responsibly. First, it is very important to be able to accurately identify the plant so you do not accidentally use a poisonous plant. If you are not sure about a specific plant, you can ask the advice of a qualified herbalist or even purchase herbal remedies from your local health food store.
There are many herbs that you can grow in your backyard. However, the ones that grow in the wild contain more active ingredients than the home-grown ones. Even though you can purchase dried herbs, the fresh ones have more active ingredients. While you can use herbs in your cooking, there are countless others ways you can use them. These include:
- Essential Oils
Herbs can be used as a remedy for a wide variety of health ailments or conditions. However, it is always advisable to consult with a medical doctor. Just because it is a herb, it may not always be safe especially if you may not be aware of an allergy you have to a specific herb. Many herbal remedies are for minor health ailments and conditions. They may even help prevent more serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. If you have been diagnosed with a major illness or disease, do not ignore your doctor. There may be claims for that “miracle cancer cure.” It is best to ignore that and keep up with your appointments.
Common Medicinal Herbs
If you are starting in the herbal remedy field, try some of these common herbs first. They carry few health risks and side effects. Using the following can give you a means of finding the balance of healthy and natural living.
Aloe contains antiseptic properties. It is excellent for many skin conditions such as:
Anise belongs to the licorice family and has a sweet taste. It is good for reducing flatulence and other problems of the digestive system. It also contains expectorant properties and is effective in problems of the respiratory system including:
Basil, most often used in Indian cooking, is excellent for digestion and reducing gas. Its properties are as follows:
- Contains anti-inflammatory properties-excellent for pain due to rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's Disease
- Is a major antioxidant-helps fight against disease-causing free radicals
- Is loaded with minerals such a potassium, magnesium, iron and vitamin K
- Contains anti-aging properties-helps fight against degenerative conditions
- Contains anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties-infection fighting
- Contains anti-inflammatory properties
- Contains expectorant properties-excellent for respiratory infections
You may not think that cayenne pepper would be good for you, especially if you feel that your mouth and tongue are getting third-degree burns. However, despite the flames coming out of your mount, this herb has many medicinal qualities because it is loaded with:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Caraway has a unique flavor and is popular in many dishes. Like basil, this herb helps with many digestive complaints including:
- Upset Stomach
Chives contain expectorant properties. The vapors help clear up chest congestion. They also play a role in lowering blood pressure.
Garlic contains many health benefits. It is a natural antibiotic and germ killer. It fights against a wide variety of infections including:
It is also effective in fighting against symptoms of colds and the flu and helps treat respiratory ailments such as coughs, asthma, and bronchitis. It is a natural blood thinner and is effective in lowering blood pressure.
Cinnamon is a favorite sweetener for many desserts and tea. However, it contains infection-fighting properties and is effective in fighting fungal, viral and bacterial infections. It does wonder on the digestive system and is even effective in relieving vomiting.
Cloves have a sharp flavor and are used by many people who cook ham. They contain antiseptic properties which help reduce:
- Bad Breath
- Gum Disease
They are also natural pain relievers. Placing cloves against sensitive teeth help the pain go away.
Dill is the common ingredient in dill pickles. It is effective in reducing flatulence, thus eliminating embarrassing moments when you are in public. It also allows nursing mothers to produce breast milk.
Normally used in salads and salad dressing, fennel has a sweet taste similar to licorice. It contains diuretic properties that help flush toxins from the kidney and bladder. It helps increase the flow of breast milk in nursing mothers. It is excellent for relieving embarrassing flatulence.
Ginger is a common spice used in cooking. It is even the main ingredient in ginger ale. That is why when somebody has an upset stomach, ginger ale does wonders. Ginger offers the following benefits:
- Reduces Arthritic Pain
- Treats Earache and Toothache Pain
- Relieves Coughs and Other Cold and Flu Symptoms
- Lowers Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
- Prevents Arteriosclerosis
- Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Note: If you are taking a blood thinner, talk to your doctor before using ginger. Since this is a natural blood thinner, it may interfere with those that you are already taking.
Marjoram is an excellent infection fighter because it contains antifungal properties. This spice is good for treating athlete’s foot and other fungal infections. It also contains antioxidants which your body needs to prevent free radical damage. Free radicals are damaged cells that attack the healthy ones.
Mint contains many properties and is one of the most often used herbs when it comes to gas. It is effective in relieving:
- Morning Sickness
- Travel Sickness
- Menstrual Cramps
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Cold and Flu Symptoms
Many Italian dishes use oregano as the main spice. However, this herb can also be brewed as a tea to relieve:
- Headache Pain
- Toothache Pain
- Arthritic Pai
Parsley is a decorative herb that many people just set aside and do not eat. It is used in cooking to help give the meal a favorable flavor. However, people should consider consuming parsley because it is a major source of:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
Rosemary has a wide range of healing properties. It is a natural pain reliever. Therefore it is excellent if you suffer from headaches. Even rubbing the leaves on your skin helps reduce muscle and arthritic pain. It contains antispasmodic properties which are effective for menstrual cramps and muscle spasms. It contains expectorant properties. Inhaling the steam from a cup of rosemary tea helps with a wide range of respiratory disorders.
Sage contains anti-perspiration properties. This herb also helps dry up breast milk when the mother is weaning her infant from nursing.
Savory contains antiseptic properties. Drinking a tea that contains this can clear up diarrhea and other stomach problems. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties and helps relieve sore throat pain.
St John’s Wort is excellent in treating mild cases of depression.
Tarragon helps stimulate the appetite. Adding this to a meal helps with people who have lost their appetite to illness and other reasons. It contains anti-inflammatory properties and is excellent in relieving arthritic pain. This herb, as well as a majority of other herbs and food, is a major source of antioxidants. Your body needs these to prevent cell damage.
Thyme contains anti-inflammatory properties and is excellent for:
- Arthritic Pain
It also is effective in treating conditions of the stomach, such as flatulence and cramps, and respiratory properties such as asthma and whooping cough.
Herbal remedies are very easy to make. They cost less than chemically produced medications and are just as effective for a wide range of ailments and symptoms. They have fewer side effects and allow your immune system to strengthen.
To start you will need some teacups and natural herbs. You may want to invest in a pestle and mortar. However, that is not necessary if you purchase dried herbs from a health food store. You will need containers to store your herbs in so they will be able to last for months. The best types of jars are dark air-tight containers that are made out of glass. Make sure they are clean and dry before storing herbs in them to prevent contamination. Store your herbs in a cool and dark place.
There are many ways to prepare herbs for herbal remedies. The three common ones are tinctures, infusions, and decoctions.
Tinctures are herbs that are preserved by alcohol. This is an excellent way to preserve all the health benefits since cooking herbs may destroy some of the benefits. To make a tincture you will need an airtight jar. For every ounce you put in the jar, pour in two ounces of alcohol. Seal the jar and keep it in a dark spot such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet. Shake the jar at least once a day. After two weeks strain the herb through cheesecloth and store the liquid in a dark bottle. Many health food stores sell these bottles.
An infusion is prepared like a tea. Fill a cup with boiling water and add herbs to it. Allow it to steep for fifteen to twenty minutes. Since it can last for up to a week, you can make a larger quantity. For every cup of water add one-quarter of a cup of herbs.
A decoction is prepared almost the same way as an infusion. However, rather than adding the herb to boiling water, you boil the herb along with the water and allow it to simmer for a half hour.
Knowing the above three, you can use them to prepare herbal remedies in other ways. These include:
- Compresses where you soak a cloth in an herbal infusion and press it over a cut.
- Essential oils are extracted from different plants and herbs. You can either extract the oils yourself or visit your local health food store. They sell a wide variety of essential oils. When you use essential oils for herbal remedies always use caution. Some oils may irritate your skin. Therefore, it is a good idea to blend these oils with a carrier oil, such as an unscented lotion. Never take essential oils internally unless you are knowledgeable in the field of aromatherapy. Some essential oils are harmful or fatal if ingested.
- Extracts are made in a similar way as tinctures. You steep herbs in alcohol, such as vodka. This will preserve the herbs for us to six weeks.
- Ointments which are creams that are infused with the essential oils of herbs You can apply these to your skin to keep cuts and scrapes from getting infected but also to relieve joint and muscle pain.
- Poultices which are herbs that are moistened, spread on a cloth and pressed on the affected area.
- Syrups which are either an infusion or decoctions which is sweetened with sugar or honey.
Unless you are a pro with herbal remedies, you may find it confusing of where to start since there are so many herbal remedies and preparations. You may be confused about what type of herb to use for certain ailments. For example, some herbs work best if you take them orally while others work best for skin conditions. It is best to invest in several herbal remedy books and research many different herbal remedies online. All you need is a reputable search engine such as Google.
Also, remember that some herbs may lose their effectiveness over time while others can be stored for longer periods of time. Therefore, if you are preparing your herbal remedies ahead of time, it is a good idea to label and date the remedies. Then use the older one first before starting on the new ones. If the remedy contains a list of ingredients, tape them to the bottle as well, That way you will have the recipe on hand when you are ready to make a new batch.
Simple Herbal Remedies
For minor burns cover the burn with juice from an aloe vera leaf. This helps relieve the pain. To speed up the healing, apply lotion that contains marigold. Cover the burn with a gauze.
If you have a cut make an infusion with mint leaves and apply it to the cut. This helps clean the cut and prevents it from getting infected. To speed up the healing apply an infusion of lady’s mantle. Cover it with a bandage. If you have a cut that will not stop bleeding, pressing yarrow leaves to the cut will help stop the bleeding.
If you have a bee sting, remove the stinger and apply baking soda to the area. This also works with wasp stings. You can also rub the area with a slice of onion or apple cider vinegar to prevent the area from getting infected.
Rubbing crushed dock leaves helps relieve the pain of a nettle sting. Rubbing these leaves on your skin will help clear up many skin conditions such as:
- Canker Sores
If you are suffering from arthritis or migraine pain, try these pain killing herbs:
If you have stomach cramps, drinking a tea of fresh peppermint, rosemary or ginger helps relieve the pain. You can purchase teas that contain these at your local grocery or health food store. You can also brew your own by adding the herb to a cup of hot water and allowing it to brew for 15 minutes before drinking.
Ginger is also effective in relieving diarrhea. Yarrow is another herb effective in relieving this condition.
If you, on the other hand, are constipated, the following herbs contain laxative properties:
- Curled Dock
As with commercially produced laxatives, use caution when using these herbs. You can still run the risk of becoming dependent on these natural laxatives.
Lavender contains calming and relaxing properties. While drinking lavender tea will help you fall asleep when you suffer from insomnia, try making a sleep pillow. You can sew two small pieces of fabric together and make a sack. Then fill the sack with lavender leaves and either sew the opening or use a safety pin to keep it closed. Inhaling the fragrances, as you lay down is a perfect way to end the day. If you do not have time to sew, you can put some leaves inside your regular pillowcase.
Medicinal herbs are excellent in treating these and a large variety of conditions including coughs, colds, arthritis, migraines, constipation, diarrhea, anxiety, depression and a wide range of other ailments. However, if you are new to herbal medicine, read up about different herbs to understand them better and to know what the daily recommended dosages are. Start out with a small dosage at first before trying larger dosages. Since some herbs may counteract with medications and supplements that you are already taking, you need to talk to your doctor before you start any regimen. Just because something is natural, does not mean it is safe.
You may find doctors and pharmacologists who are simply against herbal remedies. They may state that there is not enough scientific evidence supporting them. They also may question them because of possible unknown side effects. True herbal healing is controversial in the medical field. However, why would they be against a medical practice that has been in existence for many times longer than modern medicine? Maybe they are afraid of losing patients to the herbal world. If you want to try herbal healing but don't have a regular doctor as well, shop around. Explain that you want to try a combination of herbal healing and modern medicine. There are many other doctors, including homeopathic professionals that will promote the wonders of herbs and nature.
Avoid using for internal use if you have diarrhea.
Do not use essential oils for internal use. Most are meant to be for external use and can be fatal if consumed.
While curled dock is safe for humans to eat, do not feed it to animals such as sheep, horses and cows since it can make them sick.
Avoid if you are on blood thinners.
Avoid if you are pregnant or nursing of if you are allergic to ragweed, chamomile or yarrow or if you suffer from insomnia.
Avoid rosemary if you suffer from epilepsy, migraines or if you are pregnant or nursing. Never consume rosemary essential oil.
Avoid if you are pregnant or nursing or if you are allergic to ragweed.
Avoid if you are pregnant or nursing or if you are going to be driving or operating around machinery.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 Lois Ryan