Plants with Healing Power

Plants can boost immunity, enhance sleep, and fight colds. With all the advancements in modern medicine, it would be easy to dismiss the age-old insights of herbal medicine as quaint. But scientists are actively studying the mechanisms by which plants can heal us, validating many of the experiences and observations made long ago. Here are a few herbs that are used by many to treat, cure, and fight ailments:

 

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

 

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

This herb is great for minor skin problems, from eczema to diaper rash, acne to abrasions. Research shows that ointments made of the herb are highly effective at helping wounds seal over while also preventing bacterial infection. Studies have also found that calendula creams can help prevent skin inflammation and irritation in women who are undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer.

How to Use: Creams and ointments are widely available. You can also find this ingredient in shampoos and conditioners, especially the ones that are meant for babies which help fight dandruff and minor scalp irritations.

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Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

 

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Mints have been cherished since ancient times for their ability to settle an upset stomach, aid digestion, treat a cold, and ease a sore throat. The essential oils in these herbs –compounds such as menthol that give peppermint its wonderful aroma –relax the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract while increasing the flow of bile from the gallbladder, helping the body digest fatty foods more effectively. Drinking peppermint tea can help fight colds. It thins and loosens phlegm, meaning it acts as a natural and safe decongestant.

How to Use: Pour 1 cup near-boiling water over 6 to 8 fresh peppermint leaves or 1 tsp. dried. Then steep for 5 minutes. Then strain.  Or, you can purchase bag tea, and just remove the bag after steeping without having to strain. Drink as desired after meals.

Safety Concern: Peppermint may worsen heartburn in people who have gastro-esophageal reflux disease.

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Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

 

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

This herb’s flowers smell like apple and have long been used as a tea to ease colic and soothe fussy babies. It has similar benefits of peppermint. It’s also an effective treatment for anyone suffering from gastrointestinal inflammation and spasm, such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, or heartburn. A number of scientific studies have shown that chamomile ointments relieve eczema as effectively as low-potency hydrocortisone, without any of the side effects of topical steroids.

How to Use: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 tbsp. fresh flowers or 1 tsp. dried and let steep for 5 to 7 minutes. Drink as desired. Bag teas are always an option. Creams for external use are widely available.

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Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

 

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

My mother takes this herb every day. My sister who is a researcher, and who has MS, introduced it to her. Based upon my mother’s situation and her findings about this herb, she thought it would be great for mom. This herb has been credited with easing depression, decreasing fatigue, reducing pain, improving sleep, and dramatically bettering the quality of life for those with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

How to Use: Standardized extract: Try 100 to 200 mg. a day for 1 to 2 weeks, and then gradually increase via 100 mg each week as needed, up to 500 mg. a day taken in 2 doses.

Safety Concerns: Use standardized extracts.

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Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

 

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

It looks as if this plant harvests grape tomatoes, doesn’t it? The roots of this herb can boost immunity, ease anxiety, lift mood, and enhance sleep. Compounds in the roots bind to the same brain receptors as prescription tranquilizers, but not as tightly, meaning that ashwagandha can relieve tension without being habit-forming.

How to Use: Simmer 1 tsp. powdered ashwagandha in 8 oz. milk (cow, soy, or almond) for 10 minutes. Add 1 tsp. sugar or stevia, and 1/8 tsp. cardamom and stir. Drink in the evening to relax and unwind.

Safety Concerns: Avoid using with prescription sedatives to prevent over sedation.

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Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

 

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

This gentle member of the mint family is a mild, effective natural tranquilizer and calming agent. Lemon balm is also a wonderful digestive aid, gently relaxing the gut muscles and easing gas, bloating, and indigestion. Additionally, scientists have identified several compounds in the herb that are able to block the herpes simplex 1 virus, which can cause fever blisters or cold sores.

How to Use: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 5 or 6 fresh leaves or 1 tsp. dried (in bag, without straining) and steep for 5 to 7 minutes, then strain. Drink several times a day.

Safety Concerns: Safe for all ages. ;-)

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