10 Herbal Medicine

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Homegrown herbal remedies

Labels on store-bought herbs rarely reveal how plants are raised, let alone how long the ingredients are exposed to light and high temperatures while stored in their plastic containers. Grow your own to ensure the best quality and potency of your herbal remedies.

“The primary benefit is being able to develop a relationship with that herb,” according to Jen Bredesen, an herbalist and teacher at the California School of Herbal Studies. Even novice gardeners can concoct simple home remedies such as teas and salves using Represented list of the top nine easy-to-grow medicinal herbs.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula is also known as pot marigold. It’s a centuries-old anti fungal, antiseptic, wound-healing ally. The petals of these cheerful yellow-and-orange daisy-like flowers lend skin-soothing properties to many natural cosmetics and diaper creams.

Calendula is a freely reseeding annual that blooms all season long. It makes a lovely addition to gardens with full sun. Harvest the petals fresh. You can also dry entire blooms — which close in the evening — before they form seeds.

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

Cilantro boasts a unique flavor that people either love or hate. The leaves often garnish Mexican and Thai dishes. The seeds, known as coriander, are a prime ingredient in Indian curries.

Few think of this plant as a medicinal herb, but research Trusted Source shows it’s a powerful digestive aid and may be capable of removing heavy metals and other toxic agents from the body.

Cilantro grows best in a cool, moist garden and will quickly bolt in hot weather. Look for slow bolt varieties from seed companies. Try this recipe for cleansing cilantro pesto.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

The oils, tannins, and bitters in the fragrant leaves and flowers of lemon balm have a relaxing, antispasmodic effect on the stomach and nervous system. It may help fight off viruses such as herpes simplex when used topically, according to a 2008 study.

Lemon balm is tasty and gentle enough for children when prepared in teas or tinctures with a glycerin base.

This calming and uplifting perennial makes a pretty patch of bright green in the garden and is a great plant to grow fresh. The dried herb loses some potency after six months. Try this lemon balm and peppermint infusion.powered by Rubicon Project

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)

Spearmint and peppermint are familiar flavors in toothpaste and chewing gum. Both pack a powerfully refreshing zing, but the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Trusted Source (NCCIH) reports that peppermint provides stronger medicine than its more culinary cousin.

When brewed as tea, peppermint may relieve digestive discomforts such as indigestion and vomiting. It can also soothe sore muscles when applied topically as a liquid or lotion.

All mints spread rampantly in a moist garden. Consider growing each plant in its own large pot. Harvest leaves just before flowering. Any longer, and they’ll begin to taste bitter.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary is the great reviler. This perennial woody herb stimulates energy and optimism and sharpens memory and concentration by bringing more oxygen to your brain. It’s a wonderfully stimulating alternative to caffeine when you need that second wind.

A row of these long-lived and drought-tolerant plants makes a beautiful, bee-friendly evergreen hedge. You may only need one plant in your garden — a little goes a long way.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Mullein’s soothing properties may help heal bronchial respiratory infections. The leaves are commonly added to cough formulas.

Give this handsome and stately biennial plenty of space, and stand back in wonder. The sturdy, yellow-flowered stem will emerge from within a rosette of thick, hairy leaves, reaching skyward nearly 6 feet.Advertisement Get Answers from a Doctor in Minutes, Anytime

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Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

This groundcover’delicate stems and tiny leaves belie the tremendous power attributed to it by Europeans in the Middle Ages. Many believed in the herb’s ability to heighten bravery and ward off nightmares.

Modern herbalists rely on the antibacterial and antiseptic properties of thyme’s oils to prevent winter colds and flu. Many cultivars exist beyond the straight species, including sweet-tasting citrus varieties that are perfect tummy remedies for children. Read more about the health benefits of thyme.

Lavender (Lavandula)

Long recognized for its sweet perfume, lavender also boasts medical benefits as a mild antidepressant that may also benefit your nervous system, according to some studies Trusted Source. Add lavender oil to your bath to alleviate stress, tension, and insomnia. It’s also used in creams to treat sunburns and acne.

Woody lavender plants prefer hot, sunny, and dry environments. The fresh flowers are tasty in small doses when added to salads, honey, butter, lemonade, and even shortbread cookies. If you’re crafty, try sewing up an herbal heating pad or eye pillow with the fragrant dried flowers.

German chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Delicate, apple-scented chamomile demonstrates that mild doesn’t mean ineffective. It’s primarily grown for its small, yellow-bellied flowers.

The Mistrusted Source reports that chamomile is one of the best herbs for treating colic, nervous stress, infections, and stomach disorders in children. In fact, it was chamomile tea that Peter Rabbit’s mother fixed for him after his stressful chase in Mr. Gregorius garden!

Herbal garden allies

These easy-to-grow herbs bring health benefits to your garden as well as your family. Many attract beneficial insects, including bees. They can also help repel harmful pests from more sensitive plants nearby.

Be sure to choose plants that suit the light, water, and temperature conditions of your garden. For example, rosemary, lavender, and mullein are best for warm, dry spots in full sun. Cilantro and mint prefer rich, moist areas with shade. For additional tips, check out these gardening apps.

Nature’s 9 Most Powerful Medicinal Plants and the Science Behind Them

Today, we live in a time when manufactured medicines and prescriptions prevail, but do they have to be the only approach to healing?

Even with all of these engineered options at our fingertips, many people find themselves turning back to the medicinal plants that started it all: Herbal remedies that have the ability to heal and boost physical and mental well-being.

In fact, at the beginning of the 21st century, 11 percent-trusted Source of the 252 drugs considered “basic and essential” by the World Health Organization were “exclusively of flowering plant origin.” Drugs like codeine, quinine, and morphine all contain plant-derived ingredients.

While these manufactured drugs have certainly become paramount in our lives, it can be comforting to know that the power of nature is on our side, and these herbal choices are available to complement our health practices.

But the extent of the power they hold is also still being explored. These alternatives aren’t cure-alls, and they aren’t perfect. Many carry the same risks and side effects as manufactured medicines. Many of them are sold with unfounded promises.

However, many herbs and teas offer harmless subtle ways to improve your health. Pay attention to what the evidence says about each herb’s effectiveness as well as potential interactions or safety issues. Avoid using herbs for infants and children and for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding. Most herbs haven’t been tested for safety for those who are vulnerable, and trying herbs isn’t worth the risk.

With this cautionary tale in mind, choosing the right plant can seem difficult to someone who simply wants to feel better without taking medication. That’s why, with the help of specialist Debra Rose Wilson, we’re looking at the most effective and therapeutic plants — which have strong scientific evidence to support their safe use.

Making decisions about herbs along with more traditional medicinal approaches is something you and your healthcare practitioner can address together. At times, Wilson notes, ingesting the plants can have even less risk than taking concentrated, manufactured supplements, as there’s more risk of contamination of the product with the manufacture processes. It’s a wonderful way to experience their effects and the satisfaction of growing them yourself. Herbs can also be a way to add a needed nutrient.

However, both plants and supplements, which aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for safety or quality, can have questionable dosage and might have a risk of contamination. Keep this in mind before choosing supplements from the shelf.

If you’d like to add some medicinal plants to your wellness regimen, Wilson sifted through the latest studies and provides her own ratings system for our list.

These plants have the most numerous high-quality studies and are the safer choices among herbal remedies. She’s marked “0” as unsafe with no research, and “5” as completely safe with ample research. Many of these plants are somewhere between 3 and 4, according to Wilson.

We hope this guide will act as a starting point to those who wish to integrate herbal remedies into their lives and arrive armed with knowledge. As always, speak with your doctor before starting any new health treatment.

Gingko

As one of the oldest tree species, gingko is also one of the oldest homeopathic plants and a key herb in Chinese medicine. The leaves are used to create capsules, tablets, and extracts, and when dried, can be consumed as a tea.

It’s perhaps best-known for its ability to boost brain health. Studies say that gingko can treat patients with mild to moderate dementia Trusted Source, and can slow cognition decline in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Recent research is looking into a component that can help diabetes, and there continue to be more studies, including an animal study that says it might influence bone healing.

Turmeric

With its brilliant orange hue, it’s impossible to miss a bottle of turmeric sitting on a spice shelf. Originating in India, turmeric is believed to have anticancer properties and can prevent DNA mutations.

As an anti-inflammatory, it can be taken as a supplement and it’s been used topically for people with arthritis who wish to relieve discomfort. It’s used worldwide as a cooking ingredient, which makes it a delicious, antioxidant-rich-trusted Source addition to many dishes.

According to recent research, turmeric is also showing promise as a treatment for a variety of dermatologist diseases and joint osteoarthritis Source.

Evening primrose oil

The vibrant yellow evening primrose flower produces an oil that’s thought to alleviate the symptoms of PMS and skin conditions like eczema.

Studies that are available on this oil tend to be all over the map, but there are studies that are stronger than others. For example, some studies have found that evening primrose oil has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been known to help with conditions such as atopic dermatitis and diabetic neuropathyTrusted Source. It can also help with other health concerns, such as breast pain.

Recent research points to improving the quality of life for patients with multiple sclerosis-trusted Source, changing hormones and insulin sensitivity in those dealing with poly-cystic ovary syndrome, and using it topically to improve mild dermatitis.

According to these studies, evening primrose oil might just be the Swiss Army knife of the medicinal plant world. The caveat is that it can interact with several medications. More research is coming, and the applications are promising.

Flax seed

Flax seed, also available as an oil, is one of the safer choices among plant-based dietary supplements. Harvested for thousands of years, today flax seed is praised for its antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Although more research needs to be done with human subjects, one study says that flax seed can help prevent colon cancer.

Another study-trusted Source cites that flax seed has the ability to reduce blood pressure. When consumed, it can even aid in reducing obesity. Many people add flax seed and flax seed meal to oatmeal and smoothies, and it’s also available in the form of tablets, oil (which can be put into capsules), and flour.

The best way to add flax seed is through your diet. Sprinkle ground seeds on cereal or salad, cook in hot cereal, stew, homemade breads, or smoothies. Add flax seed oil to salad dressing.

Tea tree oil

The tea tree, which is native to Australia, produces an oil that’s long been thought to be beneficial for skin conditions, including mild acne, athlete’s foot, small wounds, dandruff, insect bites, and other inflammatory skin conditions.

There needs to be further study into acne and scalp use, but for now, there’s a degree of research into the antimicrobial superpowers of tea tree oil on wounds and topical infections.

One recent study said that tea tree oil slowed the growth of acne-causing microbes. It’s commonly used as a highly concentrated essential oil.

Wilson recommends that tea tree oil, as with all essential oils, should be diluted in a carrier oil. She adds that it often already comes diluted in a variety of skin care products and creams.

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Echinacea

Echinacea is a lot more than those pretty, purple cone flowers you see dotting gardens. These blooms have been used for centuries as medicine in the form of teas, juice, and extracts. Today, they can be taken as powders or supplements.

The best-known use of echinacea is to shorten symptoms of the common cold Trusted Source, but more studies are needed to verify this benefit and to understand how echinacea boosts immunity when a virus is present.

Generally, save a few potential side effects, echinacea is relatively safe. Even though it needs more testing, you can always choose to use it if you’re hoping to see your cold symptoms end more quickly.

Grape-seed extract

For years, grape seed extract, which is available via liquid, tablets, or capsules, has been well-established and applauded for its antioxidant activity. It has potent health benefits, including lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and reducing symptoms of poor circulation in the leg veins.

Studies Trusted Source are confirming that regular consumption of grape-seed extract has anticancer effects and seems to halt cancer cell growth.

Lavender

If you experience anxiety, chances are that someone along the way has recommended that you use lavender essential oil, and for good reason. This aromatic, purple flower has a fairly strong standing among studies, which have mainly focused on its anti-anxiety capacities.

It’s proven to be soothing in a study conducted among dental patients, while another study confirmed that lavender can directly impact mood and cognitive performance. It’s also been commended for its sedative properties to help people get much-needed sleep.

Recently, it’s been discovered that lavender carries anti-inflammatory benefits as well. It’s most effective diluted and applied to the skin or used in aromatherapy, and it has few side effects.

Chamomile

With flowers that resemble small daisies, chamomile is another medicinal plant that’s thought to have anti-anxiety properties. Most people know it because it’s a popular tea flavor (one review-trusted Source says that over 1 million cups per day are consumed around the world), but it can also be ingested through liquids, capsules, or tablets.

The calming powers of chamomile have been frequently studied, including a 2009 study-trusted Source that states chamomile is superior to taking a placebo when treating generalized anxiety disorder. One recent study confirmed it’s safe for long-term use, and another recent study looked beyond its use for anxiety and confirmed that it also shows potential in anticancer treatments.

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