From the earliest of times, herbs have been used as medicines, flavourings, colourings. Herbal medicine has developed by intuition and experimentation. Following the doctrine of signatures, wise medicine women and men over the centuries, have been able to develop the knowledge we now have which allows as to use herbs safely. The doctrine of signatures is simple and is helped along with intuition.
An herb may look a certain way, have a certain colour or taste. This leads to the knowledge of what the herb can be used for. For example, ginseng can look like a man, it is found to be an all over tonic for men. Pennywort looks like an ear, and is excellent for soothing ear aches. Herbs with a yellow colouring, eg Dandelion, are perfect for the liver, as are bitter tasting herbs.
Modern medicine has followed the wisdom and knowledge of ancient ways and extracted the healing properties from herbs. The use of herbs in our modern society is just as popular as it has always been.
Herbs can be used in a variety of ways. We use them just for the enjoyment of their taste in cooking and in herbal teas. It is interesting to note that the herbs we use in cooking, generally, have a role in helping digestion. Herbs such as basil, oregano and thyme can all ease the digestive process. Garlic and ginger, used often in our cooking are very beneficial to our health. Both these herbs have a many different medicinal qualities about them.
Garlic boosts our immune system, helps to keep the arteries clear and is good for any heart condition. Ginger warms us, by improving the circulation, eases nausea and is great for those suffering with arthritic aches and pains.
Peppermint is another great one we are all familiar with. There is a reason for those after dinner mints! It helps to ease the digestion and relieve after dinner indigestion.
Herbal teas are really popular. Whether you drink them just for the taste or for medicinal purposes, there is one or a combination of herbs that will suit everyone.
Making an herbal infusion (tea)) is simple, even in you don't have teabags.
To make herbal infusions or teas, place the desired amount of dried herb (usually 1-2 teaspoons) in a warmed teapot and cover with boiling water. Allow the tea to infuse for about 10 minutes. A tea infuser can be used in place of a teapot or bag, to make just a cup, or for the convenience of taking it with you when you are out. You may like to mix your herbs to make your own special brew.
An herbal infusion can also be used externally, allow them to cool before using. Herbs such as Sage, Thyme and Calendula are great for using on wounds to clean out any germs. We use sage and/or thyme with great success on our cat after he's been in a fight. This stops the infection that often leads to abscesses in cats. Eyebright is great to use on tired sore and/or itchy eyes. Herbs such as Rosemary, chamomile and sage can be used in the hair. Rosemary is used to fight dandruff and Chamomile and Sage can add shine, chamomile to lighten fair hair and sage for dark hair.
The role of herbs in our lives is endless. From cooking to beauty and health.
Following are some common herbs and their medicinal qualities. You can make some up in teas, mix them together to find your own personal blend or simply use a teabag.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): Well known for it's calming effects, it can be used to ease insomnia and anxiety. Also a calmative for digestive complaints.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Best known for its use as a liver tonic, making it ideal for a variety of digestive complaints and skin problems. A complimentary herb for all liver cleansing diets and de-toxifying.
Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): A delicious tea which is a soothing digestive remedy, for the relieve of colic, gastric ulcerations, inflammations and diarrhoea. Useful for bronchial problems, such as catarrh, bronchitis and dry, asthmatic like coughs
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) For anxiety and nervous states, great for mild cases of insomnia, especially for those who wake during the night and can't get back to sleep. Great for children or adults. Useful for indigestion and diarrhoea that is anxiety or nerve related. Mild nerve pain such as neuralgia or sciatica may be relieved.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita): A relaxing and refreshing drink. Stimulates digestive juices, calms stomach and digestive tract. Relieves nausea and vomiting, great for morning sickness. Valuable in the treatment of fevers especially with a cold or flu. Can relieve headaches, painful periods and eases anxiety and tension.
Raspberry Leaf (Rubus ideaus) Known as a pregnancy herb. Raspberry leaf tea helps to tone and prepare the womb for labour and helps relieve heavy periods. Also useful as a mouth gargle for sore throats, mouth ulcers, bleeding gums and inflammations
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) One of the most useful herbs for children with skin problems, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and allergy type rashes. An expectorant for temporary relief of dry spasmodic coughs and bronchitis. Red Clover is also used for menopausal conditions, such as hot flushes.