Herbs For Healing

The history of using herbs for healing, and some herbs and their uses to treat illnesses.

Herbs have long held an important place in the treatment and the prevention of illnesses and they are becoming even more popular than ever. They have been used since the cave days to treat many illnesses and the American Indians and Egyptians were well know for their use of the plants they found around them.

Most herbal remedies were compounds extracted and blended by apothecaries from many plants, each of which was know on its own as a "˜simple'. Apothecaries realised that there were differences in the purity and potency between the substances found in similar species, and that the effects also depended on factors such as the site where they were gathered, or the time of the month or year. Please check with your doctor before using any herbal supplements.

Very often scientific discoveries are based on established local use. Romanies, peasants and rainforest tribesmen alike have needed to be accurate botanists for their very survival. These people have understood the healing powers of plants in skilled hands, but they have also appreciated the potential dangers of misuse. Rue was chosen by Mohammed, for example as the most blessed of herbs and it is central to many Arab and Chinese therapies, but it contains a number of active principles which often cause sensitivity to light, and people often develop skin rashes after contact with the plant.

Herbs interact in complex ways with our body chemistry, and their power to heal is formidable. Compared with synthetic drugs their actions may seem very mild but we should never underestimate the dangers of self-medication on the assumption that herbs are harmless.

Many traditional remedies are based on fantasy, guesswork and suggestion, while even the most reputable herbs are selective in their effects, working for one patient but not another.

Only a trained practitioner is qualified to diagnose an ailment, and then to suggest a personal prescription after fully assessing your individual needs. The medical benefits of herbs are no longer in doubt, and many are generally quite safe, provided that they are not misused or taken in circumstances where allergic reaction or side effects are possible - even garlic, widely regarded as an infallible panacea, may reduce blood pressure and so cancel the impact of drugs taken for cardiac disorders. All the plants are complex factories producing diverse chemicals, some of them fragranced to attract pollinating insects, others toxins to deter predators, and any one of these substances may be harmful in particular circumstances.

Many plants produce natural insecticides as part of their defence systems, and some of these are widely used as prepared liquids and powders in the garden. Sometimes particular species are grown as companion plants to protect crops nearby from attack. Various tagetes species have been found to repel whitefly and other pests when grown in greenhouses, and scientific experiments now confirm that their flowers emit volatile chemicals into their surrounding area. As they have proved toxic to mosquitoes it is hoped that a new generation of insecticides can be developed for their control.

How to make a Herb Balm

1. A Herb balm can soothe aching muscles and so aid relaxation. Weigh out 25g/1oz of fresh Lavender and Rosemary stems, mixed.

2. Place the herbs in a small pan set over a bain-marie. Add ¾ litre/1 pint of olive oil or sunflower oil. Cover with a light lid and simmer for 2 hours, adding more water if necessary.

3. Allow to cool slightly then strain the liquid into a clean bowl.

4. Leave the liquid to cool and then pour into a sterile jar or bottle and seal. Apply sparingly.

Herbs that Heal

Garlic :- used as an antibiotic, expectorant and digestive, and for treating high blood pressure.

Chives :- used as a stimulant and to aid digestion : high in vitamin c.

Chervil :- leaves from bruised plant applied immediately to wounds as either the fresh leaves or poultice. Also used as an infusion aids digestion and encourages perspiration.

French Tarragon :- Historically used to cure toothache and the romans used it to treat snakebites. Useful for catarrhal and digestive problems and used as a tea can cure insomnia.

Lemon Grass :- Used as a tonic and a stimulant, antiseptic, and oily skin cleanser.

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