Natural healing herbs have a long history of helping people and animals get and stay well. Archaeologists have evidence that our ancestors were using medicinal plants to get well 800,000 years ago. Since then, people have learned which plants to use, and how to use them from prior generations, taste and smell, more recently, reference material and scientific studies.
The seven natural healing herbs listed in this article have a wide range of physical and mental benefits. They are a sampling of popular, well-researched medicinal herbs that belong in your home remedy kit. These herbs are available in a variety of forms-teas, tinctures, powders, cut and dried, essential oils, and sometimes even fresh. You can find them as singles or part of a blend.
If you are lucky, some of these herbs may grow near you. Even city yards are home to the magnificent dandelion and other herbs. Get to know your local natural healing herbs. Find them in your yard, parks and fields. Look at them, smell them, taste them. Read about them from multiple sources. Search for the plant name plus herbal profile for in-depth information about how they are used, who should not use them, and possible interactions with medication.
Tip: When using herbs for healing, use as directed for at least a few weeks before deciding if they are helping. You generally take them three times a day for continuous therapeutic effects. For general health support, once a day is just fine.
"The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgment." Author Unknown
One of the greatest natural healing herbs is the dandelion. Even so, people have developed a love-hate relationship with this plant.
Children, intuitively knowing the treasure dandelions are. They are drawn like little magnets to the cheery yellow flowers. They are excited to see them in the spring and love picking the flowers to share with moms and teachers and friends. We would be wise to take a lesson from the children.
Here is a sampling of its benefits.
The bitter tasting roots are boiled to make decoctions (strong tea) or used in tinctures to slowly and gently detoxify the liver over a few months. The roots stimulate digestion and help regulate female hormone production. The taste is mildly bitter. I drink mine straight and don't mind it. It is worth the health benefits.
Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals. My mom told me that when she was growing up, they would steam the young leaves steamed or saute them with olive oil and garlic. Grab a bunch at your grocery store in the spring and try it. Yummy and nutritious.
Add a few raw tender baby leaves to salads. Splash on vinegar to 'cook' your greens. Adding vinegar and/or cooking greens releases the nutrients.
Dandelion leaves are just as effective as a top diuretic drug without the harmful side effect of robbing the body of potassium. They stimulate the kidneys to release toxins and help relieve PMS breast tenderness.
Stem juice helps clear pimples and warts.
Flowers are enjoyed for their beauty and fun blowing into the wind. They are made into dandelion wine and flower essences to soften muscle tension. Flowers are infused in oil for massage.
Dandelion is a great herb to begin exploring natural herbal remedies. Make dandelion vinegar from the leaves and flowers. Dig the roots for food or remedies. Better yet, since good quality dried organic roots are readily available, purchase them ready to go.
Burdock is another of the often under-appreciated natural healing herbs with a long list of health benefits. Burdock is considered a restorative tonic because of its positive effects throughout the body and on metabolic imbalances when used faithfully for several months.
Freshly dug roots of one year old burdock are full of vitamins and minerals. Dig them in spring. Stir fry, pickle or infuse roots into herbal vinegar. You may find fresh or pickled burdock root, or gobo, in Asian markets.
Burdock supports your body's natural detoxification processes, digestion, and organs of elimination. It is often used in herbal remedies for cancer, gout, skin conditions, and inflammatory conditions because it helps detoxify and 'clean the blood'. It helps eliminate excess fluid and is a mild laxative.
Even though the root is traditionally used by herbalists, leaves have similar medicinal qualities. Bruised or boiled leaves are mildly drying and cooling. Apply to boils, skin ulcers and sores to help heal them.
With all the worry about cold and flu season it is good to know we have a research supported herbal healing ally in elderberry. Elderberry is a proven anti-viral medicinal plant remedy for colds, flu and coughs.
You do not have to be sick to benefit from elderberry. Enjoy the tasty syrup daily in teas, jam, and on pancakes for a healthy dose of antioxidants, some vitamins, and protection from viruses. This is a spoonful of medicine that goes down easy, even for children.
When you feel the sniffles or tell-tale flu symptoms coming on, have a spoonful every few hours. It can significantly reduce the number of days you are sick.
Buy ready made elderberry syrup or make your own from fresh or dried berries. If you are lucky enough to have this small tree growing near you, harvest the berries when they are very dark (red berries are poisonous).
Note: You can substitute stevia, erythritol or xylitol (never give anything with xylitol to a dog) for some of the honey. Taste test to see how much you need. Add a bit more water to your recipe to make up for lost liquid.
Elder flowers also have a long history as natural healing herbs.. Flowers are used to ease asthma and allergies. They are useful during fevers because they make you sweat. It is believed they strengthen the immune system by detoxifying the lymph nodes.
Elderberry tea can help soothe your stomach and help digestion. You may even find elder flowers in skin care products.
This popular Indian spice traditionally used in curry and yellow mustard is a natural healing herb superstar. It is called holy powder for good reason.
Research continues to reveal more and more healthful qualities of its yellow-orange colored constituent called curcumin. It appears to help cells work better and makes them more resistant to infections and cancer by regulating DNA.
Turmeric helps improve digestion and supports liver function and body detoxification. It is good for your skin. Because it is an anti-inflammatory herb, turmeric eases arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. It is a powerful anti-oxidant and may even protect against Alzheimer's disease.
Use this warming spice to season rice, meats and other foods. It is also available in capsules. Commercial curry powders usually contain only small amounts of turmeric.
Add a dash of black pepper (piperine) to your recipe to help your body absorb turmeric's goodness.
Black pepper has been used to season food for thousands of years. It may be the most popular spice on the planet. Its benefits are not limited to flavoring food; it has important health benefits, as well.
This culinary spice is a hot, spicy stimulant. It warms you up and is useful for cold, damp, stagnant conditions. It helps break up mucus congestion in the lungs and sinuses and improves slow or inadequate digestion.
A few signs that you might benefit from black pepper as a digestive aid are: uncomfortable gas, a thick white tongue coating, bowling ball stomach where the food just seems to sit there. Black pepper helps you digest nutrients better because it stimulates circulation, modulates cell membranes, and increases blood supply to the GI tract.
Piperine is sometimes added to herb, supplements, and spice formulas because it improves their bioavailability. For example, turmeric is difficult to absorb, but a dash of added black pepper makes it more available for your body to use.
Tip: Purchase whole peppercorns and grind them for best flavor and benefits. There is also some concern that ground pepper contains mold toxins.
Chamomile is a little flower with big benefits. Its genus name, Matricaria, comes from the root word for "mother". Energetically, it is pretty close to neutral so it can be enjoyed by most people. It is slightly bitter and aromatic.
Chamomile is one of the calming relaxing herbs. It is wonderful for irritability and tension in mind and body. Drink as a strong tea to relieve tense muscles, tension headache (with or without fever) spasms, and cramps.
This natural healing herb has been traditionally used to ease anxiety, stress, and digestive disturbances caused by mental distress.
Science has begun to validate these uses. In one two-month study, it eased menstrual cramps as well as NSAIDs, plus it improved mood, minus the side effects. In another study, a 220 mg dose eased anxiety and depression better than a placebo.
Chamomile is diaphoretic, meaning it promotes sweating during a fever. It helps relieve digestive inflammation, and is antimicrobial.
This gentle-acting natural healing herb is safe for children. It is especially helpful for soothing them when they are irritable with colic and cutting teeth.
For therapeutic benefits make a strong tea with three to five tablespoons of aromatic dried flowers. Use less for children. Avoid chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed.
The scent of lavender essential oil is beloved for its aroma and calming, soothing effects. But did you know that lavender has other benefits?
This slightly warming bitter herb can be taken as a tea or tincture for people who feel depressed or like they are in a mental fog. Herbalist David Winston combines it with lemon balm for people who are depressed because they are fixated on a specific traumatic event. Make an after-dinner tea of lavender and chamomile to soothe digestive issues associated with anxiety and tension. Only use a pinch of lavender. Some people like the taste, others don't. I don't.
Lavender can be used externally as an antimicrobial. It soothes insect bites and minor burns. Use the essential oil or infuse as a tea and make a compress or wash.
Did you notice a common theme among these seven natural healing herbs? They have a broad range of holistic healing benefits because they detoxify, aid digestion, and are rich in anti-oxidants.
They are just a sampling of the vast array of natural healing herbs available to you. You may find some of them in your neighborhood. If none of these herbal healing allies are local to your area, look for others with similar actions. As you learn and grow to appreciate the healing power of medicinal plants, you will never look at weeds the same way again.