Herbal Remedies Part II
Now it is time to return to my original posting on Herbal Remedies. As I already said, the oldest use of herbs was to cure various ailments throughout history. Herbs are the foundation of all modern medicine and many chemical pharmaceuticals originated with Herbs even as they are now duplicated artificially. They like to make artificial copies of Herbs so that they can always have them on hand, make them as they see fit, control the cost and development and not have to participate in the growing and tending of beautiful loving Herb plants that might get bugs or not produce enough or otherwise slow down their money machines. But nothing compares to the real thing in regards to expense, safety and quality when you consider the dangers of chemicals and artificial drugs.
Americans put too much trust in the pharmaceutical industry. Not because they are scared or stupid, it just makes sense in their world, where they are harried, busy and usually broke. It’s easier to get in the car and drive to the doctor and get a script and then go to the Pharmacy than it is to spend endless hours building, tending and harvesting a garden and then making stuff themselves. Whew. It does seem like a lot of work! But in truth it can be done and it’s worth the effort. And now that people are struggling with no insurance to pay for those fancy pills and have to spend a fortune just driving to the Doctor, much less what he will charge! They are all looking for useful alternatives. And, of course, there is a huge alternative health industry making Herbal products and Herbal supplements for your easy purchase and use.
But do you know enough about Herbs to make the right choices? Isn’t it the same mistake you made with the drug companies if you just go to the store, read the promos and buy something you know nothing about? Especially since there are no Herbalists in those fancy medical buildings where the Doctors are all hanging out. Who do you ask? Who do you trust? Isn’t it just as stupid and dangerous to make blind choices? Of course! And so I would love to give you knowledge you need. I will really try to do that. Of course, there is so much to pass along that I just can’t do it in a single post. So look forward to a long series of postings on Herbal Remedies, this one being the second.
There are two ways to tackle the big wealth of knowledge on Herbal Remedies. One is to go to each Herb and talk about it. The other is to index the information by illness, providing remedies for each. I have decided to do it both ways. I will post info on several Herbs, giving details of their various uses and then post info on one major illness at a time, giving Herbal Recipes for homemade cures. I will divide them out by method and then give the method along with the other material. It is a truly amazing array of knowledge that could fill VOLUMES of material and has many times over.
COMMON EVERYDAY HERBS:
SAGE: This common garden Herb in all of it’s various forms has many good qualities that serve well in cooking, aromatherapy, oils, massage creams, chakra balancing and incense. It also has great healing properties for the physical body. Here are a few uses for this common Herb:
Home Made Eye Wash: Obtain the seeds of Clary Sage and put a handful in a cup of distilled water. Boil the seeds in the water quickly, remove from heat and cover. Let them infuse until the water is cold. This can be taken up in an eye dropper and used to clear sand and other debris from the eye without the chemical reactions of drugstore eye drops. Won’t “get the red out” or create new tears but it will not affect the arteries of the eyes or do any other damage.
Homemade Deodorant Powder: Go to your spice cabinet and get the ground Sage. You can also add ground Rosemary, which makes a nice blend. Mix up a half cup of Corn Starch and a half cup of Baking Soda. Toss in a teaspoonful of Sage and some Rosemary, too, if you like Rosemary. Don’t experiment, you really only need the Sage. Sprinkle under arms, on feet and other smelly areas. It is gentle, won’t cause a reaction or itching, won’t dry out the skin. The unique blend of odors will make you smell great, absorbs moisture that causes bacteria and cancels out the smell of normal body bacteria.
Dandruff Control Hair Rinse: Get 2 cups of Apple Cider Vinegar. Any Vinegar will do, but Apple Cider smells the best. Heat the vinegar in a glass or stainless steel pot (DO NOT use aluminum pots!!). When it just starts to boil… the first bubbles begin to appear… REMOVE IT FROM THE HEAT and then toss in a quarter cup of dried Sage or a blend of Sage and other herbs like Rosemary or Thyme or something you really like. But make the most of it Sage. Cover the pot and let it sit and cool for about 10 minutes. Strain out the herbs carefully with a coffee filter or fine mesh strainer. When the Vinegar is clean, pour it into a container and cap it. Use a quarter cup at a time, mixed into 2 cups of distilled water, and rinse your hair with it after a shampoo. It really helps get rid of dandruff.
Sage Tea is antifungal and antiseptic. It works as a great mouthwash and gargle that will help curb Gingivitis, mouth ulcers and soothe a sore throat. You can make a dark tea and put in on a rag and press it against wounds and cuts to clean them out and stem inflammation. Rub your feet with it or add it to a foot bath to reduce fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Drink it to help curb Diarrhea. Drink one cup at a time and when it works, stop drinking it or you won’t go for a week! It is a digestive aid and should be consumed after a big meal. Simply buy an over the counter Sage Tea at a health food shop or buy fresh bunches of Sage and steep it yourself. The strength doesn’t matter, you can drink it dark! It won’t hurt you at all.
PLANTAIN:This one won’t be in spice cabinet. It will be growing in your yard. You have taken the weed eater to it a hundred times. You would do it again if I didn’t stop you. So now I’m stopping you! Why kill something free and wild that has SO MANY wonderful uses? There are many fancy cultivars that you can buy in the store but the one you really want is the basic “Plantago Major” or “P. Lanceolata”, the kind that you usually toss in the trash. If you are not sure which of the many weeds you have in your yard is actually Plantain, please refer to the above photo for an example.
The Germans use Plantain regularly and it’s considered by their Health Authorities to be astringent and antibacterial. Witches use a lot of Plantain in their herbal remedies and I’m surprised you don’t find little holes in your yard in the morning early in the Spring! Hey, it’s free and it’s really wonderful. Here are some common uses for this lovely weed:
Burns, Boils and Sores: Make a poultice of Plantain Leaves and apply it as needed. Make the Poultice by mashing, crushing or pulverizing a bunch of leaves from the weed until they are soft and like mashed Avocado. You can do this with a mortar and pestle (see the sidebar link to Amazon for a cheap set) or by using a cutting board and a meat pounder. Don’t use a Garlic Press. You don’t want liquid. You can use a blender if you are making a lot of it and have a cup or more of fresh leaves. After pulverizing the leaves, boil water. Spoon in small amounts of boiling hot water and blend it until it’s really smooth. Slather it on the boil or sore while still warm and bandage over. Leave it on like you would a cream and replace as needed.
Bronchitis, Colds and Flu: If you purchase Plantain in caplets in a health food store, take a dosage of 6000 mg daily and no more, no less. If you don’t have this or can’t find it, then make up your own tea and drink 4 cups a day. The tea is made by drying out the leaves until semi-crispy. Use 2 tsp at a time with 1 cup of boiling hot water. Make up tea bags with 2 tsp in each or simply steep it and strain it. Drink this 4 times a day until your congestion clears.
Hemorrhoids: Make up a salve or cream with fresh Plantain leaves. There are many ways of making creams or ointments but I will give you an easy one. Before beginning, hit the Health Food Store or Herbalist and get Tincture of Benzoin and some Beeswax, Lanolin -or- Cocoa Butter. When preparing to make the blend, get out 1/2 cup of vegetable oil and 1oz of either the Beeswax, Lanolin or Cocoa Butter. Slowly melt the mixture in a glass pot or pan, making sure it does not get real hot. Blend it as it melts with a wire wisk. Add in 1 oz of Plantain leaves. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, over low heat. Do not allow to burn but leave on low for the full 10 minutes and then strain out the leaves over double muslin into a container with a large mouth that allows easy access. This will be slow and tedious, so set it up to strain slowly and just leave it for a few hours. When it’s strained into the pot, add a drop of the Tincture of Benzoin to extend it’s “shelf life”. You can lid it and store it, using a cotton swab to apply it. This soothing mix will stanch bleeding and ease pain.
Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac: You can make up the same poultice or cream that we made up for Boils or you can just do it the way the Witches do. You can snatch up some fresh leaves, wash them real good and then rub your skin with them. You can even lay them on your skin, still wet and bandage them down. Ooooh. Releif!
Sore Throat and Cough: Make up Plantain Tea and drink up to 4 cups a day for a cough — or — gargle with it warm as needed for sore throat. Dry up some leaves and put 2 tsp of them into a cup of boiling hot water. Steep until the water is colored, which takes from 10 to 15 minutes. If you can find Plantain in capsules, take up to 3 to 6 grams per day.
Sunburn and Skin Irritation: Plantain’s magic resides in the Allontoin that it has. It is literally antibiotic, antiseptic and is known to “knit tissue” in skin abrasions. For sunburn, skin problems, insect bites, poison ivies, etc… you can just grab up some fresh leaves, wash them off and rub your skin with it. This makes great relief if you’re working in the yard and get sunburned and don’t have any aloe handy. It also makes a great emergency aide when you’re traveling and don’t have stuff handy. There is always a Plantain in a open lot somewhere, just waiting to be snatched up and used!
Caution: DO NOT USE PLANTAIN INTERNALLY IF YOU ARE TAKING PSYLLIUM AS A LAXATIVE OR FIBER SUPPLEMENT
Caution: Plantain is often confused for Digitalis Lanata, also known as Foxglove. This plant can be very toxic and should be avoided. Here is a photo for reference:
HERBAL REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY:
A much too common complaint in our stress filled society, anxiety holds many of us hostage and slowly erodes all the joy from our lives. Doctors offices are packed to the rafters with scared patients, sweating everything from overdue bills to failed romances to secret fetishes and fears. We live with huge demands, too much responsibility, way too much guilt and constant threats that keep our adrenalin flowing. We are usually running to an appointment we’re afraid not to keep or running from something or someone we’re afraid to face. It’s a wonder we can function at all!
So what happens when you go to the Doc? He sympathizes, of course. He, too, has the same fears and anxieties. Being a Health Professional doesn’t immunize someone from life. There is no vaccination for social pressure. But he does know about all kinds of drugs that are being made and introduced on a daily basis as a means of fighting our fears and calming our shaking hands. Some of these drugs work, some of them don’t, some are addictive, some are dangerous to other parts of our bodies. You end up being backed into a corner, either live with your fear or add another fear to the litany: that the drug you are taking either won’t work or, even worse, might kill you.
You have heard that Meditation works but you don’t have the time or the patience for it. You have heard that Herbs might work, but you’re not sure which ones. You know that Marijuana works, either because you’ve used it yourself or you know someone who has. And, yes, pot is a quick fix with a short fuse. It won’t work in the long term, unless you’re willing to stay stoned all the time. You are also aware that many people self medicate with alcohol. Get drunk and everything goes away. The only problem here is that when you wake up, shaking, sweating with your head pounding, the monster is still in the room. You only ignored him for a little while.
So how do you deal with the monster? What will help calm you down, make the monster fade, not make you “stoned”, is not dangerous, doesn’t cost a fortune and might work in the long term? Hmmm. Herbs, again? Well, heck, which ones??!!
One of the most popular and well known calmatives is Chamomile Tea. You can buy it in the Health Food Store and even in most everyday Groceries and it tastes good. You can make up quick cups of tea and drink all that you want. Another popular calmative is Damiana. Some people smoke it in a pipe, others chew it like Tobacco but the most of the users make it into a tea and drink it. The thing with Damiana is that is works really good and if you drink too much, you’ll end up sleepy. And overdose will knock you out and not in a good way. Either of these popular remedies work for many and are readily available. If you buy them in a package and follow directions, they cannot hurt you.
Some other Herbal helpers for anxiety and fear are Kava Kava, Oats, Siberian Ginseng, St Johns Wort, Hops, Skullcap, Passion Flower, Linden, Motherwort, Vervain, Valerian and Lavender Oil. The most well known and popular of these, St Johns Wort has often been used for Depression but is actually an overall tonic for the nerves. Do not, however, drink it as a tea, make is a homemade tea or otherwise use it dried. Drying destroys the potency and as a homemade remedy it should be taken as a tincture only. If you buy capsules in the Health Food Store, they will work fine for anxiety. Take 300 mg 3 x a day and no more, no less. It should calm you down. If you want to make a homemade tincture, the process is fairly simple but it takes several weeks. If you are willing to wait that long, first obtain 8 oz of fresh St Johns Wort and chop it up. Put it in a container that has a tight fitting lid. Add with the herbs 2 1/2 cups of Alcohol, something 60 proof, Brandy or Vodka. DO NOT USE ETHYL ALCOHOL OR SURGICAL SPIRITS. Use the stuff you get in the liquor store. Fit the lid on tightly and place it in a warm place like near the oven or on a sunny windowsill. Shake it twice daily for two full weeks (14 days). After the two weeks, strain the liquid through double muslin, squeezing out as much liquid as you can. Put the liquid in a dark glass jar with a tight stopper or cork. This will keep for a very long time and can be used daily. Use from 5 to 15 drops but NO MORE than 15 drops a day. Test it, starting with 5 drops, on up in dosage until you are happy with the results. If 15 drops don’t work, stop the therapy. You can buy ready made tinctures in Health Food Stores sometimes and they work just as well. They just cost a little more by volume.
Of all of the Herbs used for anxiety, the best and safest is Oats. Not Quaker Oats and not the kind of Oats that look like straw, but the seeds of Oats. You can buy dried Oats and pick out the green to yellow colored seeds only. Leave out the straw and oat florets. Steep 1 to 2 tsp of these seeds in one cup of hot water and allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes. Drink up to 1 cup of tea every two hours or so to calm yourself down. You can make a tincture in the same manner as St Johns Wort in the previous paragraph and the dosage for that is 1/8 tsp up to 3 tsp of tincture every two hours. Some stores carry Oat Seeds in capsules. Follow instructions for their usage. Oats are safe and effective!
Of the following herbs, make teas to calm yourself down. Vervain, use 1 to 2 tsp of dried Flowers (not leaves or stems!) to 1 cup of hot water. Drink 1 cup every two hours. Linden, which is also a remedy for high blood pressure and a tonic for the cardiovascular system, makes the best tasting tea. 1 to 2 tsp of dried flowers (not stems or leaves) in a cup of hot water, steep for 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup every two hours or so. Tinctures are sold in stores as tonics for the heart. Follow instructions. Hops, which you already know about from their intoxicating effects in beers and malts, make a great herb tea for the nerves. And, no, they won’t get your drunk! Hops work great on insomnia and tension headaches, too, so they have bonus effects, too. NOTE: If you are suffering from depression, DO NOT use hops. They will just make it worse. However, if you are just anxious or tense, steep 1 to 2 tsp of dried Hops in one cup of hot water and steep for 10 minutes. Drink up to one cup of tea at a time but it should be when you are not driving or working. It should be at bedtime or during the day when you have nowhere to go. They can make you relax A LOT so not before the board meeting or court date! Use Vervain, Oats or Linden Teas for during a busy day.
For severe daytime anxiety, Skullcap and Passionflower provide the quickest and surest cures. Skullcap will also work with those mood swings and irritability women have during menopause and pre menstrual. Passionflower is also an anti spasmodic and can be used to treat insomnia in higher doses. Make tinctures of both herbs for a medicine that has the best effect. If you are suffering from high anxiety, the stronger, swifter tincture is the most desired. Using Skullcap, take 1/8 tsp up to 3 tsp of tincture every two hours, but no more than that. If you are still tense after 3 tsp, stop the therapy. Same dosage for Passionflower tincture. However, if you are using MAO INHIBITORS for depression, DO NOT USE Passionflower EVER! Talk to your doctor first!!
Siberian Ginseng restores health to overstressed Adrenal glands and is highly recommended in our high tension society. If you are chronically stressed, this herb is necessary for your overall health. However, it works slowly over time and has to be taken for long periods to be effective. It is also nearly impossible to obtain in raw form in any quantity so I suggest taking capsules. They are widely available in Health Food Stores and can easily be found there. They do vary widely in strength and quality so much testing must go on. Try various manufacturers until you find a product that you like and trust and stick with it. Follow instructions and use daily for the best long term results. If you still wish to make a purer, more reliable product for yourself, then make a tincture as I instructed for the other herbs. You will have to find a reliable source of the fresh product to do so. If you do manage to make a quantity of homemade tincture, then take up to 20 drops at a time 3 times a day every day for as long as you need it.
Now we come to the big kahuna. The best herb of all for anxiety and stress is the great herb, Kava Kava. This magic herbs works by actually modifying receptors in the brain. These are the same receptors that allow powerful drugs like Valium to work. This herb acts on the limbic system, a part of the brain that influences the nervous system and is the principle seat of our emotions. Kava Kava will not cause addiction or tolerance over time. Kava has been known to reduce pain. It will reduce hot flashes in menopausal women, as well. It does not affect intellectual ability, in blind testing against pharmaceutical drugs, it performed much better than they did in retaining memory and concentration. It is a fantastic choice to treat situational short term anxiety, like during the IRS audit or the job interview. The only cautions are: DO NOT USE during pregnancy or nursing. DO NOT combine with alcohol. You can buy capsules ready made over the counter and the proper dosage is 400- 500mg per day. If you choose to make a tincture and are able to obtain fresh product, then the dosage is 1/8 tsp to 3 tsp every two hours. NO more and NO less!
Another great stress and anxiety reliever, as we all know, is massage. Getting a good massage can make you feel like a new person. If you do choose to have someone give you a massage, have them use Lavender Oil. Lavender is well known for it’s calmative effect and has been useful in reducing stress and anxiety. The oil is used in aromatherapy effectively so buy Lavender products for around your home and enjoy the relaxing effect it has. You can also add it to your bath for a soothing respite. The Masseuse should know how much to use in the carrier oil to be both effective but safe. If not, then get your massage and then go home and add the oil to a hot bath and soak the last of the tension away!
I hope some of these are helpful and I will be back in later posts with more information on the tons of herbal remedies that God has given us and that each of you are free to use for better health and happiness! Enjoy!!