The term “herbalism” refers to using the plant’s roots, seeds, berries or flowers for medicinal purposes. It is the combination of knowledge, skills and practices that are largely based on theories and beliefs handed down through generations. Herbal medicine played a vital part in the ancient civilizations, long before recorded history.
Egyptians remedies consisted of a wide array of cultivated herbs and plants that were added to common food as spices and drinks. They used honey to treat infections, coriander for pain relief, fenugreek to ease menstrual pain and hibiscus to treat coughs. On the other hand, the ancient Chinese used a variety of wild flowers and herbs that they mixed to prepare a cocktail of many substances tailored to the individual patient. They commonly used cardamom to alleviate stomach aches, wolfberry to treat skin diseases and motherwort to strengthen heart functioning and reduce hypertension. However, in the early 19th century, scientists began to extract and modify the healing parts from plants and created pharmaceutical drugs. Due to the many recent failures of mainstream medicine, the use of herbal supplements has increased dramatically over the past 30 years.
Alleviating pains, reducing high blood sugar, treating cholesterol and helping with various other conditions, here is a list of the 10 best super-healers that you need to add to your medicine cabinet and include in your favorite recipes.
A delicate looking herb with strong fragrance, thyme is widely used for sweetening the home. While Romans added thyme to their cheese and alcohol as a remedy for melancholy, today this evergreen herb is known to have medicinal, culinary and ornamental uses. Meats, soups, stews and all kinds of dishes are enhanced with a sprinkling of this heavenly herb, either fresh or dried.
Thyme has had a long history of usage in alternative medicine due to its healing effects. Its primary volatile oil, thymol, has been found to increase the amount of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) in kidney, brain, and heart cell membranes. Thyme also contains flavonoids that greatly enhance its antioxidant capacity and it can also be mixed with honey for a daily ingestion as a remedy for bronchitis. Moreover, thyme is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, riboflavin, iron, copper and manganese. Because no kitchen should lack the aromatic flavor of thyme, try preparing a delicious Thyme Corn Bread that could be an excellent companion to soups, stews and poultry entrées.
A troublesome weed to farmers, the dandelion is full of vitamins A, B, C, D, as well as minerals including iron, potassium, and zinc. Its leaves add flavor to salads, flowers make wine and its roots are used as a substitute for coffee. Ancient civilizations boiled dandelions and drank the tea in order to treat skin problems, kidney diseases, swelling and upset stomach.
Native to Europe yet found as far as India, its roots and leafs together support stabilized blood sugar levels. Used by Celts, Romans and Greeks for loss of appetite and pain, the dandelion today is also used to increase urine production, to treat viral infections, and as a skin toner. Its ability to fight cancer has still not been confirmed, however, it is speculated that it may slow cancer’s growth and prevent it from spreading. As its greens have a bitterness that can be delicious, try cooking a Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto that is perfect for a simple pasta or as a veggie dip.
A herb native to Northern Africa and the mountain region of the Mediterranean, lavender is a plant truly valuable in the perfume industry. The ancient Romans and Greeks used lavender blossoms to scent their bath water, a use that gave the herb its name, lavare meaning to wash. This fragrant herb is widely cultivated due to its essential oil that has sedative, antispasmodic and tranquilizing effect. Hang it in your home to repel mosquitoes and flies lavender is also used for insomnia, nervousness, depression, loss of appetite, nausea and upset stomach.
Moreover, some people also use it to treat toothaches, nerve pain, acne, cancer, and to promote menstruation. Commonly added to bath water to improve mental well-being, lavender can also be inhaled as aromatherapy for pain and dementia. A part of a variety of soaps, cosmetics and perfumes, studies show that massages with lavender may result in a more stable mood, better concentration, improved sleep quality, and reduced anxiety. An ancient approach to strengthening the body and treating diseases, you can add a few drops of lavender to your tea, brownies, chocolate or salad dressing. Bon appétit!
#7 Passion Flower
Native to the southeastern parts of the Americas, the ecologically intriguing and gorgeous passion flower is commonly known for its showy flowers and edible fruit. Discovered by the Spanish Jesuits in Peru in the 17th century, it got its name for its resemblance to the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during the crucifixion. Used by the Peruvians as a sedative, it also helped treat restlessness, agitation, seizures, and indigestion. Due to its soothing properties, herbalists recommend the passion flower for treating nervous stress and anxiety. Relaxing the mind and body, its alkaloids and flavonoids are strong sedatives and relaxants. Maintaining mental and physical wellness and equilibrium, the passion flower can be brewed into teas, made into tinctures, added to bath blends, and can be combined with other herbs such as lemon balm and Valerian for sedative drinks.
Used as a stimulant, a headache remedy, and as a treatment for infertility by the Native Americans, ginseng is a miraculous plant and one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world. Ginseng has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, helping treat many problems, from cancer and heart diseases to fatigue and erectile dysfunction.
There are a couple of types of ginseng available including the American (referred to as the cool calming tonic), the Chinese (called the hot stimulant), and the Siberian (the immune system stimulant). Studies show that this herb can improve mood and brain function, reduce stress, help with weight loss, treat sexual dysfunction, and prevent cancer. Available on the market in the form of capsules, powder, energy drink, and tea, ginseng roots can also be chewed or eaten raw. It is never too late to incorporate this beneficial herb into your diet by adding it to soups, salads, or smoothies.
A culinary herb and medicinal wonder, ginger has been widely valued and used throughout the ages. From ancient Greece and Rome to China and India, ginger is an essential part of diet and respected for its aromatic, medicinal and culinary properties.
Available in various forms such as in whole fresh roots, powdered, dried, and crystallized, studies show that this marvelous plant reduces pain and inflammation, stimulates circulation, prevents stomach ulcers, alleviates morning sickness, and eases menstrual pain. Other uses include pain relief from diabetes, bronchitis, migraine headaches, a treatment for baldness, malaria, poisonous snake bites, and toothaches. Moreover, the well-known ginger tea is beneficial to your health, warming you from the inside and promoting perspiration. Just put 20 grams of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water, add a slice of lemon and a few drops of honey. Enjoy!
Created from the blending of spearmint and watermint, peppermint today is cultivated all around the world. Used in various foods, toothpastes, cosmetics and soaps for its flavor and fragrance, peppermint is also a well-respected remedy for a wide range of conditions and illnesses due to its calming effect. The fascinating peppermint oil can relieve sore muscles, help freshen bad breath, soothe digestive issues when taken orally or as an ointment. A favorite herbal medicine of the ancient civilizations, the peppermint leaves have also been found in the Egyptian pyramids.
Peppermint tea is a refreshing and delicious way to reduce fever, relax the body and mind, boost the immune system, improve digestion, and eliminate flu symptoms. Include peppermint into your everyday health care by making a tea out of dried and crushed leaves, applying it topically to your skin, or ingesting it in a capsule form.
A delicious herb and a smelly spice, garlic is among the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Credited with the ability to avert evil spirits, garlic is distinguished by its exquisite aroma and flavor. Used as an antiseptic during the deadly epidemics like cholera, and in World War 1, it is the garlic bulb that is the most used part of the plant. Studies show that garlic is a powerful cancer fighter, battles inflammation, and is widely used for detoxification.
Garlic is used for many conditions related to the blood and circulatory system, and for chronic fatigue syndrome, menstrual disorders, hepatitis, stomach ulcers, and hair loss. The therapeutic effects of garlic derive from its active ingredient called allicin that gives its smell and taste. A great source of vitamin B6, calcium, iron, manganese, vitamin C, and selenium, try eating raw garlic on an empty stomach as a natural antibiotic.
Its aroma is penetrating and taste is minty. Used to flavor a variety of dishes, it’s sometimes taken raw. With a long history of culinary and medicinal uses, sage is an herb native to the Mediterranean.
The prime active component of this herb is in its essential oil that contains ketones, flavones, fumaric, chlorogenic, and caffeic acids, and nicotinamide that all together have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-fungal, and anti-septic properties. Consequently, sage oil has a wide range of functions and is used as a skin moisturizer, treatment for health conditions (respiratory problems, fungal infections, menstrual difficulties, heartburn), laxative (helps relieve constipation), stimulant (treats mental fatigue and depression), and as a fragrance (added to perfumes, soaps, and colognes). Sage can be eaten fresh or dried, and incorporating it into a dish is an excellent way to enhance flavor. Include sage to pasta sauces, combine it with veggies for a refreshing salad, or add it raw to omelets and frittatas. Chow down!
Traditional cures from chamomile have been used by herbalists and apothecaries for centuries. Promoting vitality, youthful appearance and tranquility, chamomile does so much more than just adding flavor to your most-loved dishes. Thanks to its high levels of terpenoids and flavonoids, a disease-fighting antioxidants, chamomile is an effective alternative medicine used in teas, herbal extracts, and in cosmetic forms. Its healing powers are highly impressive and include fighting anxiety and depression, treating skin disorders, battling ulcers, alleviating stomach cramps, and promoting healthier skin and hair.
Studies show that five cups of chamomile tea per day can boost urine levels, ease muscle spasms, and fight inflammation. The essential oil is found to relieve nerve pain and fatigue, beat anxiety, eliminate internal parasites, ease menopause, heal wounds, and beautify the skin. Get creative in the kitchen and try preparing the Maple Cinnamon Chamomile Tea Latte that pairs perfectly with a chocolate cookie. Yummy!