By Laura D. Field of Potpourri of Health ~ Jan 03, 2018
Herbs have been around since life began. It is part of our natural landscape of nutritional food. Yet over the years the scope of their health benefits seemed to have been lost as prepared foods and medications, whether over-the-counter or via prescription, took their place.
There is a wave of awakening in utilizing herbs as medicine. People who desire to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, a change and/or having no benefit from the pharmaceutical industry for illnesses that seem to have no resolution, are seeking natural means for a healthier life. Not only can they be used as spices and seasonings in our food, they often times provide a huge benefit to our overall health.
Plants and herbs have been used for centuries, and today herbalists and apothecaries are using them for themselves as well as others who seek this knowledge. One can easily have access to these herbs and herbal resources by nurturing small home herbal gardens, through naturopathic providers, health food stores, and many options online. Although rare, some allopathic physicians are also providing some suggestions to better improve your health, such as many are supporting the use of turmeric for pain.
It is a known fact that eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and various protein sources, that we consume a healthy range of necessary vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting properties. Yet, many are unaware of the many nutrients that can be gained in the use of herbs, which easily can be added to their foods, made into teas, tinctures, etc.
Our local supermarkets today, do carry a large variety of spices and herbs, and some of which are fresh and in the produce aisle, and sometimes one can find a few varieties as starter plants. One can have a larger variety of herbs at their disposal when they decide to grow their own, and often times as flowers.
Briefly, just a small listing of benefits of some familiar herbs:
Digestion: Herbs that are helpful for digestion can easily be acquired at most supermarkets are thyme, rosemary, oregano, and mint. When they are heating, their aroma is released, causing our salivary glands to work in preparation for our stomach to digest our food. This process actually helps the body break down the fats and starches in our healthy foods.
Anti-Cancer: Due to the availability of flavonoids within fruits and vegetables, which also reduce the risk for heart attacks and stroke, herbs can supplement this activity. Onions, rosemary, sage, thyme, chamomile, dandelion, ginkgo, green tea, and milk thistle are some of the herbs that provide flavonoids, all of which help the vitamin C in our diets, to work more efficiently as an antioxidant, cleaning up the free radicals that can cause cancer.
Tumor Prevention: Herbs contain phytochemicals (phyto = plant, naturally occurring vs. chemically prepared). These are also called terpenoids, which are potent antioxidants that protect our system, which help to inhibit the growth of tumors. Herbs that carry these naturally occurring chemicals are caraway, spearmint, dill, coriander, lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemongrass, chamomile, basil, rosemary, mint, cardamom, celery seed, fennel and peppermint.
Inflammation: Inflammation is a protective response to injury, damage and illness, which helps to naturally heal and repair. Factors that can lead to inflammation are a result of stressors such as food and chemical sensitivities, pollution, extra physical weight and disease. Inflammation can lead to common diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and various others. Herbs that help fight inflammation include: turmeric, green tea, white willow bark (natural form of aspirin), maritime pine bark, chili peppers (capsaicin), Frankincense (Boswella), black pepper, resveratrol, Cat’s claw, rosemary, cloves, ginger and cinnamon.
Natural Antiseptics: Antiseptic herbs kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms on the external surfaces of the body. Please note that the same antiseptic purposes are not the same as antibiotics that destroy the microorganisms from within, yet many herbs do provide both benefits, dependent upon how they are used/applied. When applied to wounds and infection, they help to prevent infection. Some of the herbs to consider are: thyme, Aloe Vera, burdock, clove, goldenseal, spikenard, sage, and garlic
Immune system: Herbs that stimulate the immune system, promote the activity of lymphocytes, which are the type of cells circulating in the body. These invaders (herbs) help to eliminate viruses in our body. Herbs to consider in using are: garlic, onions, Echinacea, rosemary, sage, thyme, chamomile, dandelion, ginkgo, green tea and milk thistle.
Heart Health: Substances referred to as catechins, are herbs that help to lower the bad cholesterol, helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Herbs to consider: onions, garlic, and green tea. Rosehip tea may also help to reduce the formation of harmful cholesterol.
Health and Healing: Various health inconveniences can cause one to drive to the nearest pharmacy for the newest product for relief, when often; we can easily incorporate healthier options into our daily lives. An Aloe Vera plant on your windowsill can quickly help with a burn, by preventing blisters. For indigestion, you might already have peppermint or dill in your cabinet of spices. Elderberry tea or syrup from berries (whether fresh or dried) help with colds. Rosemary is a wonderful herb for seasoning food, but it is also great smelling plant and enhances your air quality while helping one sleep, and can improve ones concentration (great to have at your desk area).
Taking care of oneself while using herbs: When taking herbs, it is equally important to keep your health care providers/specialists in the loop. Herbs can interact with Pharmaceutical medications, resulting in health effects your provider is trying to prevent with their treatment. In addition, some herbs, when used to excess, can be harmful to ones health.
- Allopathic physicians are not specialists in herbal medicine, and they will often remind you of that when you discuss herbal options as an alternate to pharmaceuticals. And just because you desire herbal remedies, it does not negate the fact that physicians and specialists are quite valuable in our overall health. We need them as much as we need to be responsible for choosing to live a healthy life style.
- Some herbs could cause an allergic response. For myself, sometimes an herb can cause an external response such as a rash with itching, yet when baked/cooked at the right temperature and amount of time, I can consume them. When working with a new herb and I find that I am getting a skin irritation and it is bothersome, I will take that fresh herb to my allergist and have her do a skin test on me, to determine if it is mild or severe. If it is severe, I stay clear of it.
- Always be aware of what herbs can interfere with necessary medications, or which ones to stop prior to any surgical procedure. Herbs are very powerful plants. And although they are quite beneficial, they can also be quite harmful. Remember, herbs were our first form of medicine, and many pharmaceutical’s were developed by studying these herbs, in order to replicate them in a lab.
- Some herbs should not be used if you are pregnant, trying to conceive or if you suffer from certain medical complaints.
- Excessive use of some herbs can be harmful to one’s health.
- If unsure, consult a professional medical herbalist for more information.
In summary: Although the list of herbal suggestions in each category is limited, they are examples of herbs that are more widely know by most people. In addition, there are herbs that help in various other health concerns. This is why it is important to obtain solid information, preferably a specialist, before consuming. Also, health food stores are great resources for herbal options, not all health food stores have knowledgeable staff members and none of them know your unique health needs. Remember, you and your physician are the experts in your health and special needs. A retailer, who wants to help, could potentially recommend something that would actually cause harm rather than provide benefits.
Wishing you health, happiness and balance,
Laura D. Field – Blogger and paid Freelance writer