The Healing Power Of Medicinal Herbs
Herbs are probably among the most undervalued plants on this planet, as the majority of people do not understand their healing value. Yet, many herbs do much more than enhance a dish’s flavor and color; their healing powers and adaptogenic properties are amazingly potent.
An herb is a plant that is valued for qualities such as medicinal properties, flavor, scent, or the like.
Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, or in some cases even spiritual usage. General usage differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs. In medicinal or spiritual use any of the parts of the plant might be considered "herbs", including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resin, root bark, inner bark (cambium), berries and sometimes the pericarp or other portions of the plant.
The Chinese were the first people to classify herbs into three groups. The first is called food herbs. These herbs do not control the body, but as food, will feed the body nutritionally and support proper functioning and self-regulation. The second group is called medicinal herbs. These herbs will control body functions similarly to the drugs commonly used in the medical profession today. The third group is poisonous herbs. These herbs will cause death or extreme illness.
Before modern medicine took over the world, people all around the world relied on herbal remedies and herbal medicines. Today, if you ask the average North American doctor which natural remedies he suggests for certain conditions, he quite likely won’t have a clue. He’ll probably think you are out of your mind – believing that herbs will help you.
I find it pretty ironic that Hippocrates, who is considered the father of medicine, and who believed in treating the body as a whole, instead of its individual parts said: “Let your food be your medicine and let medicine be your food”. Surely, he wasn’t thinking of prescription drugs.
So then, what could Hippocrates have had in mind, when he made that statement?
Hippocrates and many other people before, during and after his time understood that the foods that God created for us to eat included herbs; for flavor, texture, and health benefits.
When herbs are heated their full aroma gets released – which releases saliva thus, makes your mouth water and prepares your stomach for food. The enzymes in saliva that trigger the digestive process help the body to break down fats and starches. This is necessary to happen before food reaches the stomach.
Many herbs contain flavonoids, phyto-chemicals that are also found in many fruits and vegetables, have mild anti-inflammatory properties and therefore help prevent cancer and promote heart health by reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Research suggests regular consumption of garlic and onions, which are not typically considered as herbs but according to herbalist Jekka McVicar are, may prevent heart attacks and strokes because it helps lower bad cholesterol. According to Dr Winston Craig, Professor of Nutrition at Andrews University, Michigan, flavonoids help vitamin C work more efficiently as an antioxidant, mopping up the free radicals that otherwise could contribute to cancer.
Echinacea is a great immunity booster. It stimulates the immune system promoting the activity of lymphocytes - types of cells that circulate in the body ready to eliminate foreign ‘invaders’ such as viruses.
Some herbs (rosehips) contain anthocyanins - the pigments responsible for the red, pink, purple, and blue shades of some fruit and flowers. Anthocyanins also assist reducing harmful cholesterol, thus providing some protection.
Herbs with anti-cancer and heart health promoting properties include rosemary, sage, thyme, dandelion, ginkgo, green tea, milk thistle, cilantro, garlic, chives, onions, rosemary, sage, thyme, chamomile, dandelion, ginkgo, green tea and milk thistle, rosehips
Other herbs contain phyto-chemicals called terpenoids, which were found to be potent antioxidants that are thought to inhibit the growth of tumors. Herbs with anti-tumor properties include caraway, spearmint, dill, cilantro lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemongrass, chamomile, basil, rosemary, mint, cardamom, celery seed, fennel and peppermint.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that some herbs have antiseptic qualities. Herbalist Jekka McVicar stated wrote "Before refrigerators were invented, large households stored cold meats in their cellars, covered in salt and wrapped in fresh sage leaves to preserve it. After shooting, fresh game was left to hang to tenderize along with bunches of fresh thyme, not only to add flavor, but also because thyme’s antiseptic properties helped prevent stomach upsets when the game was eaten."
Herbs with antiseptic properties include thyme, sage, rosemary and bay leaves
Many herbs are reputed to have healing qualities, like aloe vera. Having an aloe plant in the kitchen is a soothing thing when you burn yourself while cooking. Just breaks off a leaf and rub the glutinous gel on the burn to help prevent blistering.
You can make your own teas with one teaspoon of dried or two teaspoons of fresh herbs per cup of freshly boiling water and letting it steep for 5 – 10 minutes
What herbal tea you can use for what condition? The following brief list, in addition to what was mentioned earlier, offers some answers:
- Chamomile and lavender for insomnia
- Dill or peppermint for indigestion
- Fennel, chamomile and peppermint for nausea and stomach upset
- Elderflower for relief from a cold
- Thyme (sweeten with honey) for a cough
- Lemon balm for tension and headaches
- Rosemary to improve concentration and to prevent bad breath
- Parsley to help labor along
- St. John’s Worth flowers when you are feeling blue
Some herbs (including St. John’s Worth and Kava Kava) should not be used if you are pregnant, trying to conceive or if you suffer from certain medical complaints. Excessive use of some herbs (such as rosemary, sage, sorrel and thyme) may be harmful to health.
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