Most of us, from a very young age, are told and retold to eat our fruits and veggies, because they are very important and would make us grow bigger and stronger. I too was told this repeatedly, however, my grandpa also used to tell me that ‘herbs are good for you’.
Most cultures have a tradition of using plants medicinally. In Europe, apothecaries stocked herbal ingredients for their medicines, China is well-known for its traditional medicine which focuses on herbs, and the Indian Ayurveda, supposed to be the oldest medical system in the world, provides potential leads to find active and therapeutically useful compounds from plants.
You might think I am writing about strange or exotic herbs found only in the remote recesses of the Himalayas – actually the most well-known and used medicinal herbs, are the ones we use every day in our kitchens.
Alfalfa – has been used traditionally for treating infections, bedsores and inner ear problems. Early Americans used alfalfa to treat arthritis, boils, urinary and bowel problems.
Angelica – is a popular flavouring for confectionary and liqueurs. It is used to combat digestive problems, gastric ulcers, anorexia and migraines.
Anise – is greatly used in the form of lozenges, as it is of great value against dry coughs and pectoral affectations.
Barley – is believed to clean out the arteries and valves around the heart. The green juice from young barley shoots possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Cooked barley is used to cure sores and tumours.
Basil – crush the leaves and rub them on your skin to make a good remedy for insect bites. To remove warts, rub the crushed leaves on them daily and then cover them with a bandage.
Celery – is used externally to combat fungal infections and to battle tumours. As a salad vegetable or made into a tea, celery can be helpful also in clearing up skin problems.
Chamomile – helps promote natural hormones, which help rejuvenate the texture of the hair and skin, and also helps in youthful mental alertness. It is a soothing sedative with no harmful effects. It is useful for small babies and children for colds, stomach trouble, colitis, as a gargle and externally for eczema and inflammation.
Cinnamon – is used as a spice, especially in cakes and muffins. The essential oil of this herb is a potent antibacterial, anti-fungal, and uterine stimulant. It stops vomiting, relieves flatulence and is useful in diarrhoea and haemorrhage of the womb. Recent studies suggest that consuming as little as one-half teaspoon of cinnamon each day may reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Dill – is an excellent remedy for flatulence and the colic that is sometimes associated with it. It is the herb of choice for colic of children. Chewing the seeds helps to clear bad breath.
Echinacea – has been used to treat infections. It enhances the body’s immune system. It has been shown to be effective for treating conditions such as influenza, colds, upper respiratory tract infections, and other infectious conditions.
Fennel – fennel tea is made by pouring half a pint of boiling water on a teaspoonful of bruised fennel seeds. Syrup prepared from fennel juice was formerly given for chronic coughs.
Garlic – is often applied to indolent tumours, ulcerated surfaces and wounds. A poultice of the bulb is used for sores and ringworm. A clove of garlic when introduced into the ear passage gives relief of earache.
Ginger – is used as a stimulant and as a flavouring agent. The flowers have an aromatic smell but the root is the most useful part of the plant. Ginger is used to cure alcoholic gastritis and diarrhoea. Ginger tea is a hot infusion very useful for colds. It helps with indigestion and alcoholic gastritis (very useful after a Saturday-night bash).