For centuries mankind has encountered herbs and spices and discovered their assets. Their earliest uses were to make bland and downright awful food taste better. Limited resources and difficult travel made getting foodstuffs not grown locally nearly impossible. Regions of Asia, India and Africa were limited to rice, beans, grains and wild meats. Spices and herbs made all of this more palatable and thereby became a tradition in certain regions. This is where cuisine came from. Also all regional cuisines are based upon the native foodstuffs enhanced with exotic herbs and spices.
Another use for herbs and spices was in reducing offensive odors. In the days before toilet paper and ready potties, people wore herb necklaces to reduce the fecal odors. The lack of available plumbing kept people from taking regular showers and places like France developed perfumes based on Lavender, which was and still is a profuse crop of the countryside. You’ve heard the term “French Bath”? This came from the practice of “showering” with a heavy spritz of Lavender water in leiu of soap and water. Perfumes were actually developed for this purpose and not actually for attracting sexual interest. Although there is no doubt that the ability to eliminate or at least cover over body odors would be more encouraging towards sexual contact than the offensive smell of dirty flesh! And hence Perfumes, made from herbs, were attributed with the wonderful qualities of an aphrodisiac.
But how do Herbs and Spices make you healthy? Well, actually this knowledge has only come to mankind in the past few centuries and is still an evolving understanding. Mostly accepted and used among folk rather than the “straight and narrow” Medical community, these uses for Herbs and Spices were mostly passed along from mother to daughter in the small towns and villages of every country and every race. Whether this idea of Herbs being of healing ability is accepted by one or not, whether it is considered mainstream or foolish, whether it seems to make sense to one or not, there has been many individuals, too many to dismiss, in fact, that attribute cures and downright miracle healing to the simple use of Herbs and Spices. I personally beleive that these plants were part of God’s plan. They were meant to help us in our lives on Earth.
Some of the more mainstream and accepted uses of Herbs towards healing includes the use of Cinnamon in reducing blood sugar. This has been proven by the common folk time and time again and is now being investigated and even touted by mainstream doctors. You must take it in high doses for it to work and over a short period of time. You should not take Cinnamon medically for long periods. It is hard on the digestion. On the converse, the Spice most commonly used for the digestion is Ginger. It is known to reduce stomach upset and to quell the urge to vomit. In medium doses, it can eliminate dizziness and is used by herbalists to stave off motion sickness. If you have a stomach problem and a tendency towards dizziness or nausea, then try drinking real Ginger Ale. If you can’t find Ginger Ale with real Ginger in it, then buy Ginger Root and chew it raw when the need arises. Don’t swallow the root. Simply chew the liquid out of it and then spit it out.
There has been a long history of using herbs and spices to affect the body and mind. Most modern drugs, both pharmaceutical and homemade, have their roots in plants. Narcotics are made from Poppies, Cocaine from Cocoa leaves, Marijuana is a herb. There are other more natural, safer and legal means to acheive similar effects… giving the body energy or calming it down. Herbs like Ginseng and Gotu Kola are famous for their energizing effects on the body. Take care in using these plants as they can very strong and in high doses very unpleasant, even dangerous. Other energizers include Betal Nuts and Kava Kava, which is often used as a substitute for Coffee. On the other hand, there are many herbs useful in calming the body down, relaxing and releasing stress. These are far safer, on the whole, than sleeping pills or tranquilizers. Herbs like Chamomile, Lobelia, Lavender, Camphor, Frankincense and Melissa are all known to reduce anxiety and allow the body to relax.
Herbs like Gingko Biloba have acheived fame for their effects. This herb is known for increasing blood flow to the brain and therefor creating alertness and helping with memory. Mint is known for waking up the senses and for rubbing on the body to releive muscle stress. Dandelion tea is a long respected and often used diuretic. Eucalyptus, as a tea or linament, is regularly used for breaking up congestion in the lungs. Peppermint tea should be taken hot and will shut down a headache. Black Pepper, chewed or added to food, will help catarrh by encouraging mucus flow. Lavender oil, rubbed on the skin, will help reduce and releive Eczema and Dermatitis. Chew Fennel Seeds for gas. Bergamot oil will help acne. Make a decoction of 1% oil to 99% water and rub it on daily.
Gargle with Clary Sage and water, infuse Eucalyptus and inhale it or drink Lemon Tea hot to help with a sore throat. Peppermint oil rubbed deeply into the skin will help releive nerve and joint pain. A strong whiff of Neroli Oil has been known to calm a panic attack. If you overdo it and everything hurts, climb into a hot bath dosed with Lavender oil. Just don’t fall asleep! Cloves and Clove oil is famous for killing tooth and gum pain. It can also work for earaches and surface pain like cysts and bruises. Just rub it on. Try liquid Benzoin for Arthritis. Rub it deeply into the joints. Also effective for joint pain is Cinnamon, Peppermint, Eucalyptus and Pepper. Pine oil is effective against Asthma and many forms of Lung disease.
In many future posts, I will publish recipes for remedies for all sorts of human malady. I have a wealth of information in this area and will enjoy sharing it. In the meantime, meditate! Nothing helps the body and mind more than a little quiet time for the brain! Next post to come: Cooking With Herbs.