Herbal medicine for modern life
The Wonder of Plants
Herbal medicine is the use of whole plants or plant extracts to help your body make itself better. Whether you put some of the herb in your soup or your stew, whether the herbs are made into teas, oils, decoctions or alcohol extractions called tinctures the life of the plant in the form of its individual constituents are transferred from the ground into you.
Anyone can use herbal medicine. Many of us already self medicate by rubbing a dock leaf on a nettle sting. Actually it's better if you put the leaf in your mouth and chew it a little as the enzymes in your saliva break down the cell walls a little (just make sure you don't pick where people walk their dogs if you're going to do this), drinking peppermint tea to help a meal go down or taking a cup of chamomile to bed to help the transition into sleep, plant medicine is everywhere. However plant medicine can help with many more serious problems and I have to training to help that medicine work for you.
Did You Know
Tea or Camelia sinensis is another herbal draft. Weight for weight it has more caffeine than coffee. It also contains high levels of tannins. Tannins are so called because they were used to tan leather by drawing the surface together and tightening it to make a waterproof finish. These tannins can have a similarly tightening effect on the gut. If you are ever abroad and catch a tummy bug regular sips of black tea made with boiled water and allowed to cool will help reduce the diarrhoea. However don't add milk; the tannins in the tea bind with the proteins in the milk and become inactive. This is why drinking black tea can make your tongue seem dry but drinking milky tea will not. Milk also prevents the tannins from staining your china!
Elderflower has been used for centuries as a flavoursome drink but has many traditional medicinal uses. It is a known diaphoretic. This means it will help the body to sweat and slightly raise the body temperature. This is part of our natural defence against illness. A common tea for a cold is elderflower, peppermint and yarrow. These herbs work together very well to promote a slight increase in body temperature which may deter viruses.
Elderberry has been studied in depth It has been shown to be effective against cold and flu because it affects a process called haemagglutination where flu viruses in particular bind to cell walls in order to get into the cell and reproduce. By preventing this it slows the rate at which the virus can replicate. Elderberries also contain high levels of oligomericproanthocyanidins, These are potent antioxidants which also contribute to the health of our veins and arteries and especially the microcirculation in skin and at our extremities.
You can easily make your own elderberry syrup with ginger, cinnamon and cloves which will warm the cockles and may help to keep you cold free through the winter.
St Johns Wort Another well known herb. Latterly known for it's effects on mood and mild to moderate depression, Hypericum perforatum was traditionally used for bruises and pain relief. A solar infused oil of the flowers applied to bruises, sprains or to damaged skin will speed healing. Any good quality cooking oil like olive oil or fixed oil like jojoba will work well.
It's impressive deep ruby colour comes from the hypericin in the flowers. If you squeeze the flowers between your fingers you will see the purply red juice exude from the flower. This is how you know you have a medicinal species in your garden!
Coffee is probably one of the most well known plant medicines in the world yet most of us won't even consider it's medicinal qualities. Caffeine is stimulating and helps us to keep alert but it also contains bitter constituents which stimulate salivation. At the beginning of a meal this will help your digestive system get ready to digest your food properly and help maintain healthy gut transit. After a meal it is a little less useful.