Before modern day medication like Advil and aspirin were an everyday item, humans relied upon plants from the natural world to cure illness and prevent infections. Today many of these herbs are still used for the same reasons, with some people even choosing them over modern medicine. Since I did a post on poisonous herbs, I thought I should follow up with one about medicinal herbs. DISCLAIMER: By no means use these herbs in place of professional medicine. Doctors got their degrees for a reason. I’m just a blogger on the internet.
Probably one of my favorite herbs, chamomile tea has helped me through a lot of stressful days and all nighters. Not only is it a good herb to help ease away stress, it has a whole slew of other health benefits. There are two types of chamomile that are generally used for health purposes, German Chamomile and Roman/English Chamomile with German Chamomile being the most well known. Coming in teas, liquid extracts, alcoholic infusions, creams, and ointments, you can also buy the dried flowers to make you own ointments.
The health benefits to chamomile are many, ranging from mental relief to physical relief. Over the years, people have used it to treat chest colds, gum inflammation, wounds that are taking a while to heal, chicken pox, and rashes. It’s also been used for sleeping problems such as insomnia, stomach issues, and chamomile tea will help with menstrual cramps and morning sickness. As a vapor, it can be used to help with colds and asthma and young children can also use it to help with teething issues.
Like many things in medicine, there are a few warnings you should make note of before using chamomile. If you have a ragweed allergy, I’d suggest starting with a small dose since in some cases chamomile can activate this allergy. It also has the potential to interfere with blood thinners and with all things, if you plan on using it as a dietary supplement, talk with you doctor to make sure it won’t interfere with any medication.
Most people have used lavender satchel, laundry soap, or lotion. The smell alone speaks of relaxation and it’s spread from the Mediterranean to grow on most continents. The classic purple flower is the part of the plant used to lavender oil which is then added to salves, lotions, and other such things. Many people use lavender oil to help with depression, and science has actually proven that it works. In a 2009 double blind study, lavender oil was shown to be just as effective as the most popular anti-depression medication.
Other than depression, lavender tea can be used as a sleep aid, relaxant, and to help drive away headaches (I’ve used to a number of times). As a lotion or salve, it can be applied to the skin in order to help with rashes and burns and as a bug repellent. Mosquitoes don’t like the smell of lavender and therefore it’s a much better smelling alternative to traditional bug spray. The oil can also be used on sore muscles and joints.
There are a few health concerns associated with lavender oil that you need to be aware of. While it’s a good skin ointment and everything, if too much is ingested orally, then it can cause headaches, increase the appetite, and cause constipation. Since it has been known to affect hormones, young men going through puberty and pregnant women might experience negative side effects. If you want to start using lavender oil, be sure to talk to your doctor, as mixing it with medication can cause sleepiness and drowsiness, so using it with other sedatives can cause issues.
Sage has a very long history of being used in rituals and ceremonies around the world. Considered a powerful purification plant, it also has medicinal uses and has been used as such since ancient times. The Ancient Egyptians used it as a fertility herb and the Ancient Greeks would use it to stop bleeding and clean wounds. Traditionally it’s been used as a tea, extract, tincture, and essential oil.
Sage can be used for many different health components that can benefits that you can use. In China it is generally used as a medication for typhoid fever, liver, stomach, and kidney issues, and joint pain. Germans use sage tea either as a rinse or a mouthwash to help with gum inflammation. It’s also used to help with other mouth and stomach infections and can be used to help infants suffering from diarrhea. As an antispasmodic, sage helps reduce tension in muscles and can also be used as a vapor for asthma and cold relief. Like chamomile, it can also be used to help with menstrual cramps and can even help improve your memory.
As amazing as sage sounds, there are a few health warnings that need to be made note of. First, if you’re pregnant, the chemicals in sage that help with menstrual cramps have the possibility of causing a miscarriage. Sage also affects blood sugar and pressure levels, so use with caution if you have conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. Spanish sage mimics estrogen and therefore can also cause some issues with hormone sensitive conditions.
One of my favorite spices, I’ve used a lot of cinnamon for minor medical problems. Popular in ancient cultures, Ancient Egyptians used it during mummification and during the Bubonic plague, sponges were soaked in a mixture of cinnamon and cloves and put in sick rooms. During the 15th and 16th century, the spice roads throughout Asia brought the popular spice to Europeans.
In modern day, cinnamon still has many uses. Known to help upset stomachs, the chemicals in cinnamon break down intestinal gas and can also be used to cure diarrhea and morning sickness. Along with helping with stomach issues, it’ll also aid in digestion. Studies have also shown to help with urinary tract infections and yeast infections as it kills the bacteria that causes such infections. Cinnamon is also a good spice for people with diabetes to use as it allows them to use less insulin. It can also help relieve pain and if mixed with honey, will helps colds and the flu, especially your sore throat.
The only main health issue associated with cinnamon is possible liver damage, but only for people who are sensitive to cinnamon. Just check with your doctor to make sure it’s not going to cause any side effects with any medication you are taking.
If you want a good mug of spiced cider, always keep cloves near by. One of the ingredients for my favorite recipes, it also has some medical uses. Actually a flower bud, it was first documented in use in 300 B.C in China as a breath freshener. Originally grown in Indonesia, it became extremely popular during the Dutch colonization period and as smugglers tried to find an easier way to get it to their clients, it was exported to Zanzibar which is not the most prolific producer of the spice.
Medicinally, cloves are still used to relieve tooth pain as the oils in them is absorbed by the gums to relieve pain. Similarly, clove oil can be used on sunburns and poison ivy, though it’s not as potent as other remedies. Taking it orally can help with stomach and digestive issues including relieving gas and bloating as well as make a cough less severe. It applied to the skin, the oil can also help with arthritis and other pain that comes from inflammation. The only bad side effects happen when you ingest a dish with too many cloves. It can cause digestive issues and irritation.
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