Medicinal Herbs

For eons herbs have been used for their medicinal, topical and aroma therapeutic properties. Most can be consumed dried or fresh, all can be burned, extracted into oils, ointments, tinctures, poultices and dozens of other applications. They can be grown easily on a sunny windowsill, and are guaranteed to make you feel better — the simple exercise of growing and harvesting your own herbs is very rewarding, let alone their healthy (not to mention tasty) attributes.

From Aloe to Yarrow, following is a compendium of herbs and their medicinal attributes and applications. I have tried to concentrate on common and culinary herbs here, but in the future you can expect to see an expanded list. As an obvious disclaimer, please seek medical attention if you are seriously ill. My personal suggestion is if you have it for more than a week and your remedies aren't working, see a physician.

I have only included one "warning" herb: Valerian root is the best for sleep disorders and nervousness. Mash the root, which grows to just above soil level, and insert into gel capsules (obtainable at your local health food store) and take with beverage. Do not take more than three capsules at one time, and don't repeat that dosage again for at least 4 hours. When taken with responsibility, Valerian root can be a beneficial addition to you herbal medicine cabinet.

Concoctions

Decoction Mixes (herbs boiled in water): Strong = 1 ounce herbs to 2 pints water, simmer 10 minutes, steep 15 minutes; Moderate = 2/3 ounce herbs to 2 pints water, simmer 10 minutes, steep 15 minutes; Weak (Tea) = 1/3 ounce herbs to 2 pints water, simmer 8 minutes, steep 15 minutes.

Infusion Mixes (boiling water poured over herbs): Strong = 1 ounce herbs to 1 pint water, steep 30 minutes; Moderate = 2/3 ounce herbs to 1 pint water, steep 20 minutes; Weak (Tea) = ½ ounce herbs to 1 pint water, steep 15 minutes.

Tincture: Place 4 ounces herbs, 4 ounces water, and eight ounces 75% grain alcohol (Everclear) in container and cap very tightly. Store out of any light for two weeks. At least once a day (I do it twice) mix up the herb inside and make sure all is being saturated. At the end of two weeks, drain herbs, cap tightly, and store out of sunlight. Will store a long time.

Ointment: Place herbs in sesame oil over low flame until warm and oils are extracted. This process may be repeated over and over, but be careful not to heat it up too much. Drain, allow to cool, and store for external use. Will keep for approximately one month if kept in a cool dark place.

Poultice: Pour boiling water just to wet herbs, but not drown them. Place wet herbs between two sheets of cheesecloth or gauze and apply externally to affected area.

The Herbs

Aloe: Internally for ulcers, but ask a pharmacist about an over-the-counter type (powder), and use according to directions. Externally for general antibiotic superficial wound care, excellent for burns — use gel directly from the plant.

Anise: Internally for general lung ailment, headache, colic, relieves flatulence. Externally as an antiseptic, relief from insect bite, and as an aromatic oil.

Balm: Internally for colds, congestion, fever and flu. As a mild stimulant, will also help to relieve the dragging sleepy feeling that goes with colds/flu.

Barley: For centuries it's been used it soup. Here's why: When taken internally, is a nutritive, reduces the risk of cancer, acts as an expectorant, and keeps our lower pipes working the way they should.

Basil: Internally for headache and general pain, nausea and stomach ache, soothes nerves. Externally as an antiseptic and aromatic.

Blackberry: Internally for diarrhea, flu, whooping cough, sore throat/laryngitis, anemia, is a nutritive and provides vitamins. Can be ingested liberally in almost any form you desire. Externally as an astringent and for skin irritations if you don't mind the lingering but truly temporary tattoo it leaves.

Caraway: Internally aids digestion and stomach ache. Externally as an aromatic.

Catnip: Internally for relief of colic, fever and chills, headache, stomach ache, soothes nerves yet is a mild stimulant, aids in relief of nightmares, promotes menstrual discharge.

Cayenne: Internally for colds, relieves chills, is a mild stimulant, source of vitamin C.

Chamomile: Internally for colic, diarrhea, stomach ache, earache, toothache, heartburn, soothes nerves, aids in relief of nightmares, aids digestion, promotes menstrual discharge, in large doses induces vomiting. Externally as an antiseptic and astringent.

Cinnamon: Internally for nausea, stomach ache, colic, relieves flatulence, is a mild stimulant. Externally as an astringent and antiseptic.

Cloves: Internally stomach ache, bronchitis, colic, acts as an expectorant, aids digestion, relieves nausea, relieves flatulence. Externally for toothache (oil), as an anesthetic, antiseptic, and aromatic.

Dandelion: Internally for bladder infections, constipation, jaundice, acts as a diuretic, aids gall bladder kidneys and liver, is a mild stimulant. Externally for skin irritations, acne, as an astringent. Source of vitamins A and E, potassium, iron, magnesium and copper.

Fennel: Internally for stomach ache, aids in digestion, relieves flatulence. Externally as an aromatic.

Garlic: Internally for asthma, bronchitis and lung ailments, is an expectorant, is a diuretic, is a mild stimulant. Externally as an antiseptic.

Lavender: Internally for bronchitis, headaches, toothache, soothes nerves. Externally as an aromatic.

Marigold: Internally is a mild stimulant and strengthens pulse, reduces discomfort of measles. Externally for skin irritations.

Marjoram: Chew a fresh leaf to relieve the pain of toothache. Externally for bruises and sprains.

Onion: Internally is a diuretic. Externally as an antiseptic.

Parsley: Internally for colic, jaundice, aids kidneys and liver, is a diuretic, is a mild sedative.

Peppermint: Internally for colds, flu, chills, stomach ache, colic, relieves flatulence, promotes menstrual discharge. Externally as an anesthetic, antiseptic, and an aromatic. Source of magnesium.

Rosemary: Internally for stomach ache, colic, colds, soothes nerves yet is a mild stimulant. Externally for hair conditioning, shine and growth stimulation, is also an aromatic.

Sage: Internally for colic, colds, sore throat (gargle), aids in digestion, is an expectorant, promotes menstrual discharge, reduces discomfort of measles. Externally is antibacterial, antiseptic, and is an aromatic.

Thyme: Internally for stomach ache, colic, colds, cough, is an expectorant. Externally is antiseptic.

Valerian: Internally for sleep disorders, is a diuretic.

Vervain: Internally for asthma, bronchitis, aids kidneys, spleen and liver, promotes menstrual discharge. Externally as an astringent.

Willow: Internally for easing pain, diarrhea (bark). Externally as an astringent.

Wintergreen: Internally for chills, cramps and menstrual discomforts, is a diuretic, is a mild stimulant, promotes menstrual discharge. Externally as an astringent, as an aromatic.

Witch Hazel: Internally is a mild sedative. Externally as an astringent.

Yarrow: Internally to stop bleeding, for colds and fever. Externally as an astringent and an aromatic. Rumored to keep baldness at bay when used on the scalp.

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