Friday, 6 June 2008

Traditional herbal remedies.

I have a herb garden and I use herbs in a variety of ways. I use them in cooking and in salads and I also use them as home remedies.

Herbs have been used medicinally for thousands of years and plant extracts form the basis of many well-known medicines:

Aspirin is derived from a willow. The active constituent of the plant was extracted refined and pressed into tablet form and aspirin has been more widely used possibly than any other pharmaceutical product since its introduction to the medicine counters. It is anti-inflammatory and also has blood-thinning properties. The most common side-effect is irritation of the digestive tract. This is because only what is seen as the active ingredient in the plant is used. The willow, from which aspirin was originally derived, produces other compounds which act synergistically with
acetylsalicylic acid to soothe the digestive tract
. I call this left-brain thinking! I guess there is some logic in it. If we identify what looks like the active ingredient and extract it, then we may increase its efficacy and we also produce a more potent remedy.

I am going to start a series of posts looking at various herbs and their properties. Most of the ones I mention can be grown in a small space in your garden, in a tub or bed, or even in a window box. There is not likely to be any particular or logical order to how I list the herbs. Perhaps I will list alphabetically after a few posts! For now, just as I think about them!

Since I have been talking about aspirin, which we all know has been a popular headache remedy since its introduction in 1899, I shall start with feverfew.

Feverfew: this is a traditional remedy for migraine. The plant is bushy, grows to a height of about 18" and spreads rapidly.

Feverfew has been used for reducing fever, for treating headaches, arthritis and digestive problems. It is thought to stop the inflammation of blood vessels in the head and therefore to inhibit the spasm of blood vessels, causing migraine.

Feverfew is available from many health and wholefood stores in tablet and capsule form, but some herbalists believe that it is more efficacious if used in its natural form. Many garden centres stock the plant, and as I said, it spreads quickly. It is just as happy in a container as it is in the ground.

Tablets/capsules: use as directed by the manufacturer.

Plant: chew one leaf a day. Don't expect and instant cure! Natural remedies tend to take longer than pharmaceuticals. So, be patient. Feverfew in plant form or tablet form will not stop a migraine once it has started. Its benefits are preventative. So, if you are prone to migraine, get yourself a plant and start religiously chewing a leaf every day. Be warned, though, it tastes revolting!

Sage: very popular culinary ingredient and also has many medicinal properties, indigestion, throat and mouth problems being the most common uses.
Indigestion: one teaspoon of the fresh herb, chopped finely and brewed for five minutes in a cup of boiling water.
Mouth and throat: as above. Gargle with the brew when it's cool enough not to burn your mouth!
Sage is also available in tablet form from health and wholefood shops, but so easy to grow.

Black cohosh: a traditional remedy for menopausal problems and PMS. Taken as a herbal tincture, in tablet or capsule form.

Valerian: a common ingredient in natural relaxation remedies and for insomnia. Best used in a combination remedy with other herbs. Can be bought as tablets, herbal tincture or as the loose herb.
Loose herb: one teaspoon brewed for five minutes in a cup of boiling water. For insomnia, drink one hour before retiring.
Best used in combination with: chamomile, hops, vervain, scullcap and passiflora, all of which are readily available from wholefood shops. Scullcap is comparatively expensive, but all of the others are very cheap to buy as loose herbs.

To finish with today, here are the lists of ingredients in my special, "Sleep Tea," and, "Digestive Tea."

Sleep Tea:
Chamomile, scullcap, motherwort, damiana, passiflora, red clover blossom, vervain, valerian.

Digestive Tea:
Raspberry leaves, meadowsweet, caraway, aniseed, fennel, dandelion, wood betony, peppermint, lemongrass, rosehip, hibiscus, gentian root.

Leave me a message if you would like the recipe (proportions of ingredients) for either of the above special teas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great listing you got in here. I hope you'll keep 'em coming. I've learned about Feverfew and how it is used as a preventative to migraines. Well, like you said its compounds will work to prevent the symptoms--not ease it out. In fact I've seen Feverfew being formulated with standardized herbal remedies for migraine symptoms.

And yeah, herbal users shouldn't expect instant cures, give it like 3 months for the tell tale signs of improvement to manifest. - gary