You’ve heard the adage that “food is medicine”. This alludes to ancient holistic health practices, like the Indian Ayurveda, which prescribed different diets for different types of people, with a goal of maintaining an optimal energetic balance for the practitioner. Food can also be understood as preventative medicine, the idea being that when we maintain a proper diet, we can stave off, or lessen the chances of suffering from, certain common, preventable sicknesses, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
Certain culinary herbs (think cayenne, garlic and fennel), have had traditional applications to battle sicknesses. Whole societies developed plant-based medicines to treat the sick before the rise of what is commonly referred to as “Western medicine”, which includes invasive treatments and powerful, patented, synthetically-derived prescription drugs, a regime some people see as problematic. For this reason, medical practices such as traditional Chinese medicine, have enjoyed an increased popularity and visibility as of late.
Medicinal plants and herbs can be easily used at home for health benefits.
That said, the use of medicinal herbs does not necessarily need to replace Western medicine. It’s entirely your choice. By identifying simple, widely-available plants that may just be in your fridge, their uses and how to take them, you take control of your health, becoming more aware of your body’s shifting polarity between health and sickness. With just a little plant medicine knowledge, when you have a sore throat, you’ll think of ginger. When you start to notice a cold coming on, you’ll grab some echinacea tea. Plants have been used medicinally for millennia by human cultures. When you take the tradition on yourself, you’ll start to see positive effects.
Cayenne – Cayenne has been used medicinally in the American southwest for thousands of years. Foremost is its ability to aid the circulatory system. Anecdotally, it was stated by cayenne proponents that capsiacin, the chemical in peppers that gives them their heat could stop a heart attack in progress. A 2009 study by University of Cincinnati researchers actually found this to be true, that a topical application of capsiacin could greatly reduce the damage to the heart associated with a heart attack, or prevent one altogether. Topically, it can also be used as a pain-reliever and it helps with digestive function, specifically eliminative functions.
Plantain – Plantain is a common weed (not to be confused with the fruit, popular in Puerto Rican cuisine). Plantain is often used as an expectorant, based on the high amount of mucilage found in the plant. It is used as an appetite suppressant, in order to combat obesity. It also has anti-inflammatory effects that make it a good candidate to turn into a poultice, in case of bee stings or mosquito bites.
Dandelion – This common weed is quite useful. Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamin A and the plant has been used as a cleansing liver tonic, or to aid digestive function.
Burdock – It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for the common cold and sore throat symptoms. It has also been used, in other places, as a diuretic, and it is believed to lower blood sugar.
Yarrow – Used most commonly to treat fevers by inducing obstructed perspiration.
Ginger – Ginger root, while being delicious is a good digestive aid and it relieves nausea, which is why ginger ale is a common treatment for upset stomachs. Actually ginger ale made from real ginger would be a better choice in such an instance.
Goldenseal – Traditionally used by Native Americans to treat ulcers and skin conditions, goldenseal is finding use at present with treating respiratory ailments and infections.
Garlic – Common garlic can be quite a powerful antibiotic. It is also gathering attention as a means of treating cardiovascular diseases.
St. John’s Wort – Generally used in teas as an herbal antidepressant.
Echinacea – Also known as purple coneflower, Echinacea purpea has been used to treat symptoms of cold and the flu.
Kava – It was used in the South Pacific as a sedative and as an anaesthetic and muscle relaxant. It is recognized as a proven soporific and can even treat asthma.
Elderberry – Elderberry has been used for a wide variety of ailments; it treats pain, infections, coughs. It is also useful in treating the common cold and flu, as well as helping to relieve constipation.