It’s no mystery: plants have been naturally curing people for millennia. In fact, most of the world’s population still relies on herbal remedies as opposed to stethoscopes and pharmacies. The problem is, as the medical industry has moved society further and further away from natural cures and preventions, the wisdom of how to use what herb to cure which ailment has become largely absent from common knowledge. But, it’s not that hard to unlock these riddles of old. Read on to uncover the mysteries of medicinal herbs.
Mystery Number One: Which Herbs are Medicinal?
Number one is tough. The answer is just about all of them. From basil to mint to oregano to sage, nearly every plant has a place on the medical spectrum. And, don’t for a minute just think of those fresh, green leafy things we buy at the supermarket (or the little shakers of dried leaves) because the idea of medicinal plants, let’s say herbs and spices, must and does stretch into leaves, bark, roots, flowers and seeds. So, we should include such famed health boosters like turmeric, garlic and ginger. You name it, you Google it, and it will be good for curing, combating or preventing something.
- Ginger: It’s the perfect take along for traveling. Good for upset stomach and motion sickness, both of which are likely to come.
- Oregano Oil: Perfect to keep around for when you start to feel run down. Put a couple of drops in some orange juice to pep up the immune system.
- Mint: It can be found just about anywhere, in abundance, for cheap or free, and it helps with indigestion, headaches, stress, depression, coughs, cancer and morning breath.
Mystery Number Two: How Do I Use Medicinal Herbs (and Spices)?
Well, there are many ways to use medicinal plants. Powders, pills, teas, tinctures, balms, oils, salves, ointments and just plain flavor enhancers for cooking — there is more than one way to get your daily dosage. But, the key is to get your daily dosage.
Unlike prescription medicines, herbal remedies work best as a preventative, something that gets added to your system on a daily basis. Also unlike prescription medicines, this regular usage is usually quite safe and with little side effect. Cold season on the way? Start getting some regular oregano. Know those joints are prone to creaking? Get more turmeric in your diet.
Generally speaking, if something internal ails, something will need to be ingested (save aroma therapy type stuff, like the smell of lavender easing stress). Then, if something is external, it’s probably best to start looking for or making some sort of cream or balm. Sometimes, it just takes wrapping something in a leaf for a while.
- Chamomile: Insomnia is annoying. The 2 a.m. stir, the tossing and turning. A good tea for sleeping means a lot the next day. Combine chamomile with lemongrass and mint — awesome.
- Basil: One of the most common of herbs is also effective at providing a little energy, from the fresh smell of it to the rejuvenating flavor. Sprinkle it fresh on food on a lazy day or make a tea.
- Citronella: That’s right. It’s an herb, and for those who’ve been around mosquitos and tiki torches, the name has probably popped up a time or two. I like it growing in the garden or hanging up everywhere.
*In the instance that there is already an illness, herbal remedies do work, but patients need to take concentrated doses, just as with prescription medicine. In other words, instead of a casual sprinkling of this or that on some soup, five or six strong teas a day might be necessary. Check out this long, long list (with links) to herbal remedies.
Mystery Number Three: Where Do I Get These Wonderful Things?
The best, perhaps most fun, alternative would be to try growing some in the backyard or on the kitchen windowsill. Many herbs are quite easy to grow. Some — mint, dandelion, clover — actually are notorious for coming on a little strong in the garden. Secondly, learn what remedies might be growing nearby already. Eat the Weeds is an incredible website for getting the lowdown on useful plants found in the cracks of sidewalks or tucked behind the rose bushes.
Secondly, to fill those more immediate needs, the Internet will suffice. This is the age of online shopping, whether that means bidding for collectable dolls on eBay or getting healthy with plant life. There are a plethora of sites that take orders and will deliver herbal remedies in many a form to the front door in a matter of days. Mountain Rose Herbs has a really quality selection.
Some parting words of inspiration:
- Try it. Don’t let a lack of know-how scare you off. It’s as simple as searching which herb to use and how. It’s cheaper and greener than visiting the doctor for a sore throat or what have you.
- Drink herbal tea all the time. Drink it hot, cold, mixed and matched. It counts towards those eight glasses of water a day but adds a medicinal punch.
- Discover what’s around you. Start investigating the plants in your garden. They likely have a medical use, even the weeds. It’s incredible to find out what is naturally good for your body.