Personally I don’t like doctors, haven’t been to one in 10 years as I ultimately rely on nature and herbal medicine. Which is the most ancient form of healthcare in the world anyway, and thankfully making a major comeback now with so many people turning vegan or adding plant based products to their diets.
The use of plants or plant parts to treat illness and restore health has been a long effective part of human history globally. Herbal medicine in its modern re-incarnation though, is more than just the medicinal use of plants. At it’s root, it’s a philosophy that focuses on treating the individual as a whole, rather than just their symptoms, by stimulating the body’s natural healing powers.
The World Health Organisation estimates that, today, more than 75 per cent of the world’s population uses herbal medicine as primary healthcare. Outside of stats, almost a quarter of all everyday prescribed drugs, including aspirin, are derived from plant sources, all you have to do is check the label.
Yet, while modern medicine seeks to analyse plants to find their “active” constituents, in the Western world there is a U-turn back to the herbal medicines that have shaped our medical past. So how can you harness the healing power of herbs in your life? Here’s a simple guide to 10 herbs that I can’t live without and how they can also do good for yourself and those you love.
The following list shows the various ways in which you can make use of herbal medicines and their healing properties:
Compress; A cloth soaked in a water-based herbal preparation, then applied to the affected area of skin
Decoction; Bark, twigs or roots of a plant boiled in water
Tea Infusion; Leaves or flowers of a plant soaked in boiled water to make a herbal tea
Healing oil; A hot or cold oil infused with a herb for a period of time
Tincture; A herb soaked in alcohol and water for a period of time, then placed on a wound or infected area of the skin
Poultice; A mixture of fresh, dried or powdered herbs applied directly to wounds or problem areas
My Top 10 Healing Herbs
The oldest surviving tree species on Earth, gingko is a relic of the dinosaur age! It can increase blood flow to the brain, speeding recovery from stroke and improving memory, and boost blood flow to the heart and penis, possibly relieving impotence in some men. Containing antioxidants, anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory agents as well as circulation stimulants, the leaves of the ginkgo plant are used to counteract ageing, poor circulation and dementia.
Used for mummification and perfume by my ancient ancestors in Egypt, and for bathing, cooking and scenting the air by the Romans, this lovely flower also acts as an insect repellent. Lavender is often used as a calming essential oil and is also commonly sewn into pillows to assist sleep. Known for their sedative powers, lavender flowers can be used to soothe mood disturbances such as a nervous stomach, flatulence, restlessness and insomnia.
Evidence suggests ginseng may help the body resist stress-induced illness through its adaptogenic action. This means that through many mechanisms it acts to help the body adapt to stress and restore health. Those mechanisms include stimulating the immune system, protecting the liver from toxic substances, increasing stamina and improving nutrient absorption in the intestine. Ginseng can also treat nervous exhaustion, depression, poor memory, chronic fatigue and jet lag. It’s most effective when taken in decoction, tablet or tincture form in the early part of the day.
Hawthorn assists in maintaining a healthy heart and can increase blood flow. It works by dilating the blood vessels, especially those nearest the heart. An antioxidant and relaxant that improves circulation, this herb is used by professionals to ease angina and coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, poor memory, nervous tension and insomnia.
Damiana is used to treat headache, bedwetting, depression, nervous stomach, and constipation; for prevention and treatment of sexual problems; boosting and maintaining mental and physical stamina; and as an aphrodisiac. A good friend originally recommended this happy herb to me as her one stop shop for lousy libido’s..LOL! Another on that does what it says on the tin!
One of Cleopatra’s secret beauty ingredients, the clear gel inside aloe leaves can promote new skin growth, soften skin and heal minor cuts and burns, including sunburn, while preventing infection. Used for more than 2500 years as a gel straight from the leaves of the plant, aloe vera is now commonly used as an ingredient in sunburn lotions, antiseptics and shampoos. It’s also taken in a drink, usually mixed with water, citric acid, fruit juices and preservatives, to soothe the digestive system, protect against ulcers and ease constipation and arthritis.
Is loaded with antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, can improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin and helps to lower blood sugar levels plus it tastes so good!! Also a recent study has proven that Cinnamon when given to women menstruating it’s shown to reduce the severity of pain and ease the blood flow to be much lighter and manageable. I’ve tried and tested this one myself many times!
Another of my favorites! Mint is thought to increase bile secretion and encourage bile flow, which helps to speed and ease digestion (and which may also support healthy cholesterol levels). Peppermint is also thought to relieve pain and discomfort from gas and bloating, flatulence and can help with bad breath
Hailed as hero in recent years, with Golden lattes appearing on every trendy cafe’s menu. Turmeric has a wealth of benefits, the active part being Curcumin which is Is a natural anti-inflammatory compound. Dramatically increases the antioxidant capacity of the body..
Curcumin also boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factors, linked to improved brain function and lowers risk of brain diseases like Alzheimers.
Another favorite and staple with my herbal teas. There are certain phytonutrients present in this herb that can reduce the symptoms of eye discomfort. The aucubin found in Eyebright has an anti-inflammatory action, soothing tired and inflamed eyes, whilst tannins act as astringents to help dry up secretions and relieve inflammation of the mucous membranes. This is especially helpful when dealing with conjunctivitis or blepharitis. The flavonoid quercetin, also found in Eyebright, can benefit symptoms of hay-fever (especially runny eyes). This phytonutrient is thought to reduce allergic responsiveness by inhibiting the release of histamines.
Two of my absolute favourite places to get all these herbs with self service and great advice on uses are Brixton Whole Foods and Food for All Clapton.
Get curious like I did and try one or two new herbs a week and see for yourself the effect it has on your own body. I do hope you allow yourself some time to try natural herbal healing through the power of plants and herbs. Any questions, please do ask or comment!