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!
Marquita Herald says
Wonderful post Erica. I will always opt for a natural alternative over taking a pill so this is really helpful. Aloe Vera in particular is a favorite and can be used for many things, in fact in the Islands most of us have it growing in the yard – I have 3 big plants myself. Thanks for the insights!
I’ve never known someone who grew aloe, Marquita. But it makes sense that people would do so in your neck of the woods. It really does have so many great uses.
Who would have known that parsley had many different uses?
How amazing that it can be used to help with depression. I cannot quite get my head around this. I am sure women (and perhaps men) have tried and tested this.
Phoenicia, a lot of people go to naturopaths specifically to handle depression. Herbs have been used for years. As with using medicine for depression, it is a discovery process to find what will produce the best results for an individual.
Ken Dowell says
There used to be a hamburger chain in New York called Beefburger that always had a decorative plate of parsley just inside the front door the way many restaurants have mints. The rationale was that it neutralized the impact of raw onions on your breath. I’ve always enjoyed parsely and as I walked to work across midtown I would often duck into a Beefburger just to grab a sprig of parsley. Found it really interesting that there are herbal treatments for despression.
It totally makes sense that parsley would neutralize onions. I think it is funny that you used to go in to swipe their parsley. At least you probably always had good breath!
Erica – great post. I love herbs of all kinds and am familiar with their many benefits. It was good to see your word of caution. Often people think just because it’s natural that they can have all they want and as you know that’s not the case. I tend to think of those ‘healing’ herbs as another form of medicine to be taken with the same care.
Lenie, I learned the hard way about the repercussions of herbs. I had a naturopath treat me with an herb and the herb threw my entire body out of balance. It was horrible. It has made me very cautious when talking to people about natural supplements. They can be very beneficial, but you have to listen to your body.
Doreen Pendgracs says
Thx for this information, Erica. I am always amazed at how much we can do for ourbodieo by increasing the herbal intake. I feel sorry for people who turn to medications for everything instead of turning to nature.
Many doctors have only been trained about drugs. So their patients don’t know there are other options. There is definitely a time and a place for Western medicine, but it is good to know that there might also be natural alternatives that are more healing in the right situation.
Herbs have so many wonderful uses and it’s an area I need to look into. My friend who is into holistic health always seems to be experimenting with some new combo or other.
Herbs are becoming more popular forms of treatment these days. They are definitely worth at least looking into if you are trying to deal with an imbalance.
Sabrina Quairoli says
Great post. I have an herb garden. I rather eat an herb or spice than take it as a pill any day. But sometimes the good quality pill form works best because you can never eat enough to help the ailment. Thanks for sharing.
Sabrina, it definitely does depend on the situation whether you should opt for herbs over conventional medicine. Also, when trying to heal naturally, there may be other diet and lifestyle changes that need to be made along with taking herbs to fully see results. It just depends on the situation
I’ve never tried herbs as medicine! I might have to look for some of these… especially the hormone balance…
Jason Butler says
Interesting post. I plan on adding some more herbs to my diet next year. I’m pretty healthy now. I want to make sure that I stay that way.
All your post are so helpful, Especially for the holidays where people are going to be eating like crazy. for me the most important thing is to smooth my stomach ( as a form to give it a little break from all those harsh food I eat….. Thanks for sharing.
Patricia Weber says
Great roundup of herbs Erica. I’ve been using an herbal supplement with turmeric and cayenne pepper for inflammation pain in my hands. So far (30 days!) so good. And I just am trying – go figure this one although you may be familiar with it – eating just half and apple before going to bed, stops after dinner heartburn!
RoseMary Griffith says
I love learning about the power of herbs. Lavender and chamomile are two things that are always on hand. My lavender plants are one of the best things about summer! Cut, smell, share, dry!
A meditation place I got to has this lavender, chamomile tea. It literally is just lavender and chamomile in a tea sleeve. I don’t consider myself a tea drinker, but I could literally drink this tea all day.