Before there were pills, powders, syrups and injections, there were poultices, pastes, salves, oils and potions supplied to those who needed them. Herbal remedies make use of nature’s bounty to either prevent disease and ailments or to even help cure them. Their history is rooted in ancient medical practices. Most herbs are sold today as herbal supplements and are available nearly everywhere.
Even in the age of modern medicine, over three quarters of the world’s population use herbal remedies in one form or another. Because many herbs produce effects similar to prescription drugs, it is recommended that any herbal remedies used or supplements taken be revealed to your healthcare provider in order to avoid the potential risk of unhealthy interactions.
You can even create your own remedies with homegrown herbs. Be sure to use high quality organic rich soil and natural fertilizer to create a high quality plant. If you need to dry your herbs, it is best done from fresh herbs as well. In the event that you don’t want to grow them or don’t have the time, you can purchase herbal remedies and/or ingredients from reputable shops. Ask for recommendations from friends or an herbalist.
So what are some common ways herbal remedies are used?
Colds and their symptoms – Colds are caused by viruses. This means that there is no cure and that several strains can be floating around in the air at any given time. The best way to decrease the duration of a cold is to treat the symptoms. Herbal tea that contains antiviral herbs can help with this. Choices include ginger, Echinacea, yarrow root, lemon balm, garlic, astragalus, and elderberry. I have been using many of these in my own family for years.
The menthol contained in the oils of peppermint can also help open swollen nasal passages when breathing in the steam. It can also be rubbed on your temples when you have a headache. Use the essential oil of peppermint with carrier oil, like olive oil or almond oil, if using to spread across the chest to help loosen respiratory secretions.
Infections – Several herbs have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. For instance, tea tree oil (also known as “melaleuca”) can be used topically on the skin to help reduce the chance of infection from bug bites, cuts, scrapes and burns. Eating garlic can also help with infections. Goldenseal is a perennial herb that is used in salves and ointments for its antibacterial action. Goldenseal is often found in combination with Echinacea to enhance immune support.
Stomach ailments – These range from diarrhea, constipation and gas to indigestion, upset stomach and irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint leaves contain menthol, which has antispasmodic properties. Eat a few leaves after your meal or steep them in a tea. Chamomile also has similar properties. It can help you relax and soothe your stomach problems, especially if they are caused by stress. Chewing on a few pieces of ginger root can help relieve nausea as well as gas and bloating.
Stress – It happens to us all. Drinking herbal tea and/or massaging your temples with herbal essential oils can relax and soothe you, even help you sleep. The best herbs for the job are valerian, chamomile, lavender, kava kava and ginkgo biloba. Consult your healthcare provider before using kava kava or ginkgo biloba as both are not recommended with certain health conditions or medications.
There are herbs for just about any ailment you can name. The ones I have listed are just a sampling of herbal remedies to get you started. Many of these remedies can easily replace some common items found in your medicine cabinet already.