Natural Remedies – 10 Must Have Herbs and Their Uses
Herbal medicine and natural remedies have existed for many centuries. For much of history, it was the only medicine, and even in some cultures today, it is the preferred treatment of choice as compared with modern medicine.
Traditional versus Western Medicine
The Internet has opened the door to people discovering more treatment options. Researchers have also studied traditional herbal remedies in comparison with Western medicine and found many herbs to be safe and effective. This should not really be surprising since up to 75% of the medicines we take originate in nature, not a lab.
Herbal medicine, or herbalism, is one of many different kinds of “Complementary and Alternative Medicines” (CAM). Many of which are now evidenced-based to the point where many insurance companies cover the treatment.(Source)
While it is true that just because a herb is natural does not mean that it is free from risks and side effects. Western and traditional medical practitioners know more about herbs, doses, effects, and interactions than ever before. They are often inexpensive as well and can be used in a variety of ways, including fresh, dried, pills, powders, poultices on the skin, tea and more.
In this guide, we will discuss the different branches of herbal medicine, and common remedies that are used in most herbal medicine cabinets. We will also discuss remedies used to treat particular medical conditions, for safe, effective relief.
10 Must-Have Medicinal Herbs and Their Uses at Home
There are a number of herbs and spices you should have on hand as a natural first aid kit for life’s little health issues. Here are 10 useful ones that will cover a range of conditions
Aloe Vera is a spiky plant from southwestern America that can be grown easily inside your home. You can snip off the tips of the plant and squeeze out the juice, to be used or various healing purposes. Some people will also peel it and run it through a food processor or blender for a thick gel-like paste that can be applied as a poultice.
It is used in traditions for skin care. It soothes inflammation and burns and speeds healing. It is regularly used for eczema, psoriasis, dandruff and more.
The juice is also used for digestive issues such as colic and inflammatory bowel disease. It will also lower blood sugar naturally, so is used by those with diabetes and people interested in weight loss.
Don’t take with other diabetes medications, certain laxatives, blood thinners such as warfarin, or digoxin for the heart. (Source)
Chamomile (Roman chamomile) is a soothing herb that helps with mood disorders and digestive issues. It has a calming and soothing effect and can help relieve depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and digestive issues.
A cup of chamomile tea is a soothing swap for regular tea or coffee, and ideal after meals or before bed. It can also be used for minor cuts and abrasions, and to soothe inflamed skin.
It should be avoided by pregnant and nursing women, and anyone allergic to ragweed. (Source)
Garlic is used for flavor in food and for heart health. It increases circulation and lowers cholesterol, (particularly triglycerides), which are created from eating too many carbohydrate calories, rather than burning them off.
It is full of antioxidants and antibacterial and antifungal properties. It may smell a bit strong, but garlic can help maintain oral health by killing germs. It also serves as a blood thinner for people concerned with the blood clot or atrial fibrillation.
Because it is such an effective blood thinner, it can interfere with blood pressure and cause bleeding after surgery. Some people find it irritates their stomach. (Source)
Ginger has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries in both Ayurveda and TCM. It is tasty and can be used in a variety of India and Chinese dishes. It is great for digestive disorders and also helps with circulation. It lowers high blood pressure naturally and keeps blood vessels clear of cholesterol. It can lower blood sugar and increase your risk of bleeding, so avoid using it in high doses.(Source)
Ginseng has been used in Asia and North America for centuries for a variety of purposes designed to support good health. It can boost energy, reduce stress, aid in weight loss, and treat sexual issues such as loss of libido.
It improves breathing, lowers blood sugar levels, supports the immune system, and reduces inflammation. It can be used in a variety of forms, from tea to capsules.
Those with heart conditions, diabetes, or a manic mental disorder should avoid ginseng. It might also trigger bleeding. Those with hormonally-related cancers such as ovarian cancer should not use ginseng. (Source)
Milk thistle is like a liver cleanse in a pill. It aids digestion, boosts liver function and lowers cholesterol naturally. Milk Thistle is helpful for hepatitis and diabetes. It boosts the immune system and is high in antioxidants. It will even leave your skin looking radiant.
It has been used for centuries in Europe and was then brought to North America. It can cause more bleeding after surgery, will lower blood sugar, and should not be used by anyone with hormone-related cancers such as ovarian. (Source)
Turmeric comes from a root that looks similar to ginger. When powdered, it has a cheerful yellow color, and a subtle nutty taste that makes it a staple of Indian food, and in particular, rich dishes.
It is used for many health conditions, including weight loss, lowering high cholesterol, burning fat more efficiently, and aiding in digestion. It is said to be good for the liver and kidneys. It is also used as a compress or wash to soothe the skin.
Many arthritis patients use it for pain relief because of its anti-inflammatory properties and claim it works just as well as over the counter or even prescription medicines, but with fewer risks of side effects.
Some people make it into “Golden Milk,” a type of turmeric tea with other spices, including turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and pepper. It is supposed to be rich in disease-fighting properties. It can be made with nut milk or coconut milk (but drink sparingly to start with because coconut milk can cause an upset stomach until you get used to it.) (Source)
Avoid if you have bleeding disorders, diabetes, gallbladder problems, or hormonally-related cancer.
Valerian is commonly prescribed as a sedative and sleep aid that can relieve anxiety and help with insomnia.
It is also used for pain relief and chronic fatigue. Some people also use it to relieve the hyperactivity in Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Because it slows down responses and has a calming effect, do not operate heavy machinery after taking it, and be aware that it can affect anesthesia levels if you have surgery. (Source)
The Four Main Natural Remedies Schools
- Ayurvedic Medicine
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
- Celtic/Roman/European Herbalism
- Native American Medicine
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced on the Indian subcontinent for more than 5,000 years. It is a complete system of health and well-being based upon maintaining balance in the body. Part of that maintenance involves using herbs to cleanse, purify and balance the doshas, the elements which are believed to comprise the human body, such as earth, air, fire, and water. (Source)
Ayurveda is known as the mother of all medicines because it has served as the foundation for other forms of medicine, including Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medieval medicine, with its idea of the “humors” in the body, similar to the doshas.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM drew its inspiration from Ayurveda and has been practiced for around 3,500 years. The goal of TCM is to balance the qi, or chi (chee), roughly translated as the life force energy. Balancing and stimulating qi is thought to be the root of health and vitality and even longevity. (Source)
European herbalism has several strands that date back thousands of years. The Celts, and in particular, the druids, used herbs for healing, religious rituals and more. The Gauls and Germanic tribes would also have used local herbs to treat illness. (Source)
Ancient Roman medicine is one of the other foundations of Western medicine. Some texts have come down to us over the centuries that list herbal remedies for a range of purposes.
Herbalism is still very popular in Europe, such as Culpeper’s herbs in England or Bach Flower Remedies from Germany. The herbs are usually very pure and often grown organically. Always look for herbs manufactured in the European Union and Britain, or in the US and Canada.
Natural Remedies in Native American Medicine
Native American medicine has been practiced for thousands of years. It was only with the coming of the Europeans to the Americas that some of their knowledge started to get written down rather than just passed along orally from one medicine woman to the next. A growing body of research is starting to show just how effective some herbs can be. The most obvious example is “Jesuit bark” of the cinchona tree, which is the source of quinine to fight malaria.
Some herbalists use all 4 traditions, while others specialize in just one, such as Ayurveda and TCM. It is important to find a skilled practitioner who knows a lot about herbs, and possibly also any condition you might wish to treat.
It is also important to note that just because an herb or spice is natural does not mean it is completely safe or free from side effects. For example, birch bark is the source of the active ingredient in aspirin, but aspirin can kill if you are allergic to it.
A good database should tell you what the herbs are used to treat, and the possible side effects and interactions. On average, a person over 50 will take 8 different medications per day, plus vitamins and herbal supplements. “Polypharmacy” also poses health risks, so be sure to keep an up-to-date list of everything you are taking, and bring it with you to any appointment you might have with a traditional doctor or a herbalist.
Now that you know about the four main schools of herbalism and the pros and cons of using herbs for healing, let’s look next at some of the basic herbs and spices to have on hand at home to treat common ailments.
Now that you have started your all-purpose natural remedies medicine cabinet, let’s look at specific ailments you might wish to deal with.
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