When I was growing up, I remember always getting a piece of parsley with restaurant dishes. And I considered parsley to be just some fancy decoration to brush to the side. Then one day I saw somebody put it in their mouth, chew, swallow and live! Parsley is edible? Who knew! And that was my introduction to edible and healing herbs.
How can herbs help heal the body? While there are numerous ways that herbs can be beneficial, here are five of my absolute favorite.
Detoxify the liver –
Your liver can get a bit congested living in the modern world. The liver is vital for breaking down and removing toxins from the body. When the liver isn’t working correctly, harmful toxins circulate in the blood stream. This contributes to inflammation and disease. The right herbs in the diet can assist in this detoxification process.
Try buying fresh herbs from a health food store and making a homemade cup of detox tea. Herbs that can be helpful to the liver include herbs like burdock root, dandelion, milk thistle seed, chicory root, and turmeric. These herbs help cleanse the liver, ease inflammation and assist with the elimination of toxins. This is one of the best things your can do for every other organ in your body.
Soothe the stomach –
Heartburn is more than an annoyance. Chronic heartburn can cause inflammation, insomnia, and even cancer. Some effective herbs for heartburn are herbs like ginger, licorice, and lemon balm. While licorice is effective, it can also cause high blood pressure. So it should be consumed in moderation. Another alternative is Deglycrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) which is licorice without the blood pressure raising components.
Next there is gas. Gas can cause discomfort and embarrassment. Frequent gas provides a clue that there is a malfunction in the digestive system. Try boiling caraway seeds into a tea which is an effective way of to eliminate uncomfortable gas. Or try ginger, garlic or that popular garnish, parsley. So that is why that herb is included with every restaurant meal!
Then there is the problem nobody wants to discuss. Constipation isn’t just uncomfortable. When your body isn’t eliminating properly, toxins have the opportunity to leak back from your colon into the bloodstream. Flaxseed oil, aloe vera and dandelion as part of an herbal approach can all be potentially helpful.
Treat Anxiety/Depression –
You may be one of the many who has at some point in your life had to find help for your depression and anxiety. And many don’t even realize that there are herbal options that can help calm and lift mood naturally. Herbs for anxiety include kava kava, passionflower, ashwagandha, chamomile, and valerian. Herbs and supplements for depression include St. John’s wort, 5-HTP and lemon balm.
It’s important to note that if you are already on medication for anxiety and depression, you MUST talk with your doctor before trying a natural supplement. Combining mood altering medication and herbs can be dangerous. If you would like to see if it is possible for you to transition to a more natural regimen, try to find a doctor that already has experience working with both medicine and herbs.
In the US, A D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) is a board certified and medical school trained physician who combines traditional western and homeopathic medicine. This type of doctor may be able to help you transition to more natural options. Many D.O.s can be seen under a conventional insurance plan.
Balance Hormones –
Comedies often poke fun at hormonal upheaval, menopause and that “time of the month”. But all laughing aside, hormonal imbalance can be very tough on the body. So if you feel like your hormones are a bit unstable, try some adaptogenic, stress relieving herbs like astralagus or ashwagandha. Emotional stress creates a total upheaval for hormonal balance. Or try Maca root which can improve both fertility as well as libido. Or for menstrual problems, chasteberry may be effective at balancing estrogen/ progesterone levels. This can ease monthly discomfort. Menopausal and pre-menopausal women may find relief with black cohosh. This has been used by women for centuries as a natural way to achieve hormonal relief.
Soothe your skin –
Herbs can be immensely healing to the skin. Have a mild burn? Lavender oil or aloe vera can be extremely healing. Or try some chamomile which is very effective at calming any irritants and can provide relief to those suffering from eczema. Licorice root with its anti-inflammatory properties has been shown to provide relief for those suffering from skin ailments like psoriasis and rosacea. Calendula oil can be a discomfort diminishing salve for skin rashes. What about those suffering from acne? Tea tree oil can help alleviate due to its antibacterial properties. Plus, as my husband point out, herbs often just smell nice on your skin. And that counts for something too, right?
A word of caution about herbs…
Ask you doctor about how herbs may interact with any medications you’re taking. Herbs can have an immensely positive effect on the body. However, an herb that can be healing to one part of the body can aggravate an imbalance in another area. And if you’re on ANY medication, you need to make sure the herbs don’t interfere with that medication. Finally, if you’re pregnant or want to become pregnant, you probably want to wait until after delivery to start experimenting. Many herbs can increase your risk of miscarriage. Herbs are safe for most people, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed with caution.
So that’s some of my favorite uses for herbs. If you’ve never tried herbs, see how they might help you, body and soul!