Herbs For Healing

Some unusual herbs for healing to grow in your garden that can be used for herbal teas and poultices.

These days anyone can walk into a healthfood store and buy a wide range of vitamins and minerals and herbal remedies. They may or may not work; though there is often a placebo effect and we feel a bit better anyway.

But there is something rather charming about growing your own herbs and then turning them into healing infusions, poultices or other things. Admittedly it can take you a whole plant to gain the equivalent of a tub of tablets bought from the store, but the very process of growing and preparing the herb is soothing and makes you feel connected with the earth. It is worthwhile for minor ailments.

Arnica can be purchased in ointment form and is used for bruises. It causes the bruise to develop rapidly and therefore heal faster, and is very effective. The whole plant can be boiled down and made into a poultice to apply to the bruised area. It should not be taken internally.

Evening Primrose makes a strikingly beautiful garden plant, having profuse yellow flowers and attractive foliage. The seed oil is very high in GLA, which has been discovered to be a vital part of our diet. It is used by many women for pre-menstrual tension disorders, and is also used symptomatically for eczema and dry skin (taken internally). You may eat the seeds. It is currently being researched for possible applications in numerous areas including breast cancer and arthritis.

Feverfew has attractive foliage and white daisy-like flowers. It is believed to cure migraines. A feverfew sandwich every day (the leaves in a normal sandwich) possibly prevents migraines. Prince Charles uses it.

Licorice is the source of the popular sweet, though most of the sweets probably have synthetic licorice flavoring in them these days. The roots are boiled to extract the typical taste. It is useful for digestive irregularities including constipation.

Russian Comfrey is used as a poultice to promote healing. It is very pretty, with white or pink flowers, and looks decorative in the herb garden. It has been used for thousands of years to help heal sprains and fractures.

Self-Heal, or Heal-All, sprawls everywhere and has attractive purple or pink flowers. Its main use is for treating external wounds, though it can also be taken internally as a gargle.

Valerian is a natural sedative. You can eat the leaves as they are, or make tea out of them. Many people prefer the tea sweetened with honey, and as honey is also a natural sedative this makes a great deal of sense. It has delicate pink flowers, making it yet another attractive addition to the herb garden. Its name is derived from a Latin word meaning 'in health'.

Wormwood, taken internally, helps regulate the stomach and gallbladder. It was a traditional remedy for dealing with internal parasites. It was also used in the distillation of the liquor Absinthe, which was made illegal after authorities realized that it was poisonous. The herb can be taken internally with care.

If you are growing and preparing your own herbs, the easiest way to use them is in herbal teas or poultices. For tea, use the leaves (unless otherwise indicated), either dry or fresh, and steep them in boiled water for about five minutes. Many people prefer the taste of herbal teas sweetened with honey, and as I mentioned above, honey is a natural sedative and of great use in herbal medicine. For a poultice, also steep the leaves in a little water and then wrap them up in a clean cloth and place them on the affected area. Other forms of herbal preparation, such as distillation into oils, are too complicated to go into here and best left to the professional.

There are many other healing herbs. All of the above are easy to grow in the average herb garden, and I have personally grown all of these and many more. No special gardening skills are required - if you can grow flowers

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