Read these 20 Herbs For Health Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Vegetable tips and hundreds of other topics.
If you suffer from dandruff, you'll know that stress, poor sleep, frequent use of the hair dryer and many styling products can make the condition worse. So maybe it's time to enlist the herbs to beat the flakes.
Infusions of sage, rosemary and cloves are efficient as a post-shampoo hair rinse, leaving the scalp clean and your hair soft and shiny. You can also try to add lavender or chamomile to your regular rinse, as both have a calming effect on irritated skin and are known to reduce stress.
Minor cuts and grazes will usually heal unaided, as long as the wound is being kept clean. Herbs with antiseptic properties, such as marigold (calendula) or lavender, infused for 5-10 minutes and allowed to cool, make excellent washes and compresses for minor wounds. Both calendula and lavender ointments can be found ready-prepared in most pharmacies and health shops.
If the wound is painful, it can be dusted with powdered cloves, which are a powerful painkiller. Cloves are also antiseptic and will keep the wound from becoming infected.
Coughs are a common partner to a cold, but often persist when the cold has faded. Horehound and thyme are the traditional herbal treatments for cough and both are easy to prepare at home.
Fresh horehound leaves, thyme, elderberries and nettles are all useful remedies for coughs. Horehound and elderberries are usually made into an easy to swallow syrup, by boiling the herb / fruit in sugar water until thickened, while fresh chopped thyme is often mixed with honey. Young nettle leaves make a zingy tea, while tea made from dried leaves has a stronger flavor. Nettles can also be used in omelets, soups, stir-fries or salads.
Where the common cold is concerned, herbs can help as much with prevention as with the cure. Regular consumption of garlic will boost your immune system and help ward off the dreaded viruses.
When you feel the cold coming on, prepare a hot foot bath with ground black pepper liberally sprinkled in. It will help you sweat out the cold. Add a few slices of fresh ginger for a more pronounced effect. Alternatively, add a strong infusion of thyme or rosemary (2-3 teaspoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water) to your bathwater to relieve chills and the aches and pains associated with colds and flu. After your bath, have a hot drink and retire to bed – you will be sweating quite profusely!
Once you have a cold, you want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Make use of the antiviral properties of many herbs and watch your cold fade away:
· 1 tablespoon of shredded ginger steeped in boiling water makes a wonderful warming tea. Add honey and lemon to taste.
Athlete's Foot is a fungal infection that causes the skin on your feet, especially between the toes, to become sore and itchy. Keeping feet dry at all times and going barefoot as often as possible can prevent athlete's foot.
But if you've got athlete's foot, head for the kitchen. Any herb with anti-fungal properties can be used to treat Athlete's foot, but the most efficient treatment is garlic. Crush some garlic cloves and add them to a warm foot bath. Alternatively, steep crushed cloves of garlic in vegetable for 1-2 days. Apply the oil with a clean cloth to your feet.
There is nothing worse than a sore throat. Besides being very uncomfortable, the pain usually makes us realize that a cold is well on the way. Fortunately, herbs such as ginger and sage can help us feel better.
Mix shredded fresh ginger with hot water, honey, lemon juice and a teaspoon of vinegar for a very effective gargle. Alternatively, a very strong sage tea (pour 1 cup pf boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried sage and steep for five minutes) used for gargling helps to relieve the soreness and clogged up feeling.
Bloating and the discomfort of trapped wind are common occurrences after eating certain foods, such as beans, cabbages, or some artificial sweeteners. Excess gas is produced when incompletely digested carbohydrates enter the intestine, where there are no digestive enzymes to deal with them.
To make your bean dishes more easily digestible, cook your beans with savory, cumin, dill, fennel, caraway or thyme.
To relieve bloating and trapped wind, try a fennel and peppermint tea. Fennel syrup or fennel drops (a boiled hard sweet flavored with fennel) or three drops of peppermint oil on a lump of sugar can also be helpful.
The best treatment for toothache is a visit to the dentist. But if this is out of the question, try using cloves. They contain antiseptic and anesthetic compounds and have been used for thousands of years to numb the pain of recalcitrant teeth. Modern day dentists still use oil of cloves as a local anesthetic.
Oil of cloves can be obtained from most pharmacies and health food shops. It should be applied directly to the tooth and will produce a numbing effect. Alternatively, crush a clove and mix to a paste with a little warm water. Spread on a cloth and apply to the aching tooth.
However careful we are, sunburn affects most of us at some time. If you are only slightly burned, cold chamomile tea (made with one teaspoon of dried flowers to one cup of boiling water and allowed to cool) makes a soothing compress on the affected area. Alternatively, use cold black tea as a compress.
The best treatment for sunburn is aloe vera gel. It efficiently relieves the discomfort of sunburn and, in many cases, even stops the damaged skin from peeling. If you have an Aloe plant handy, break off a leaf and split it open. Squeeze out the clear gel and apply to the burn. Put any excess gel into a jar and keep in the fridge to re-apply to the burn when needed.
If you don't grow the plant in your garden, aloe vera gel is available from health shops and many pharmacists. It is also part of many commercially available after sun products.
There is no need to reach for sleeping pills when you're tossing and turning and morning seems many hours away. The plant kingdom offers many herbs with calming, relaxing and sedative properties. Which herb and method you choose to get to sleep will depend on your personality type and lifestyle. Try them out to see which works for you:
· If you frequently have trouble sleeping, make sure you add fresh marjoram to your dinner. It's gently de-stressing and relaxing.
Pollution, central heating and air conditioning along with poor diets and a hectic lifestyle are all said to contribute to the increase in skin complaints such as rashes and eczema. Herbs with calming and soothing properties can help to re-balance irritated skin.
Chamomile, lavender and thyme are the best herbs for soothing irritated and inflamed skin. Prepare an infusion of thyme (1 teaspoon of dried leaves in one cup of boiling water) and use as an antiseptic wash. Use an infusion of chamomile and lavender as a calming rinse.
If you suffer from dry, itchy skin, aloe gel may be able to offer relief. Pick a leaf from the plant, slice it open and apply the clear gel that oozes out to the affected skin. Keep excess gel in a small jar in the fridge and re-apply as necessary. Aloe vera gel is also available from pharmacies and other health shops.
Ginger and cinnamon are commonly regarded as the best treatment for sickness and nausea. My mother used to give us tea made from ½ teaspoon of ground ginger and ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon mixed with a little honey. It seemed to work particularly well when traveling.
Several friends with young children swear by a tea made from 1 slice of lemon and 1 slice of fresh ginger steeped in one cup of boiling water and drunk on an empty stomach for treating morning sickness.
Muscle soreness does not need to be the result of an obvious or serious injury, as anyone who has done some unaccustomed exercise will know. Muscle soreness is due to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle tissue. Herbal baths and massages can help relieve the soreness and speed recovery.
Add a strong infusion of rosemary (2 teaspoons of dried herb to one cup of water) to your bath. Alternatively, crush some fresh rosemary and a few black peppercorns, tie them into a muslin cloth and add to your bath.
If the muscle soreness is very localized, for example a sore arm after an afternoon's painting, soak a towel in a strong infusion of thyme and apply as a compress to the affected area.
Heartburn occurs when stomach acid washes up into the esophagus. It is o ften associated with hasty eating, stress and too much coffee or alcohol, but there are several herbs that can help to relieve the symptoms of heartburn.
Chamomile or peppermint tea (1 teaspoon of flowers / leaves to a cup of water) are excellent at calming down an upset stomach.
Fennel tea, made from ½ teaspoon of seeds crushed and infused in a cup of boiling water, is often used to relieve trapped wind in children. In adults it also seems to help with combating heartburn.
With extensive computer use, round the clock television and a generally more hectic lifestyle, headaches have become a very common ailment. Most people experience tension or stress headaches, located at the back of the neck or around the eyes and temples. These can be effectively relieved, and maybe even prevented, by the use of calming, relaxing herbs.
The most efficient herbs for relieving tension and stress headaches are lavender, lemon balm, chamomile and thyme. Try rubbing lavender oil onto your temples if you are spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen.
A warm bath with lemon balm and thyme added to the water has a wonderfully soothing effect and can stop an approaching headache.
Chamomile and lemon balm infused into an herbal tea and drunk during a hectic day help to keep stress levels down.
And finally, soak a towel in a strong infusion of thyme and use as a compress across your neck and back to soothe aching and knotted muscles.
Please note: If you experience sudden or unexplained headaches, if your vision is disturbed, or if your headache lasts longer than two days, you should consult a medical doctor.
Not precisely an ailment, but rather a self-inflicted injury, most of us have suffered from a hangover at one time or another. The headache, stomach irritation and lethargy are caused by general dehydration coupled with the toxic affects of several alcohol byproducts on our liver and kidneys.
As well as relieving the symptoms of the hangover, herbal infusions can assist the liver and kidneys in removing toxins. Infusions of lavender or thyme with honey will soothe the headache and calm the queasy stomach and a cup of peppermint tea will not only relieve nausea, but also combat dehydration.
An easy and very palatable cough mixture to have on hand is herb honey. This is standard honey with chopped thyme, horehound, or elderberry added to it. It has a pleasant taste, so children can be easily persuaded to take it. It is particularly soothing for dry, tickly coughs, but the honey mixture can also be used to sweeten herbal teas.
Empty a small jar of honey (ca 125g) into a double boiler or a bowl standing over a pan of simmering water and warm until it can be stirred easily. You can warm the honey directly on the hob, but keep the heat as low as possible and keep stirring to avoid burning the honey!
Add 2-3 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh thyme and/or horehound to the runny honey and stir well to distribute. If you have dried elderberries available, finely chop a teaspoon of berries and add to the honey. Wait for the honey to cool a little, then return to its jar and leave to cool completely. Keep in the fridge and use when needed.
Please note: commercially available thyme honey does not have thyme leaves added to it. It has been produced from thyme blossom and has a wonderful herby taste and aroma. It can be used as the base for herb honey by the method described above.
Most domestic burns occur in the kitchen: panhandles, oven doors, hot food or hot liquid are the usual culprits. Minor burns can be treated easily at home using herbs with cooling and calming properties.
If you grow an aloe plant on your kitchen windowsill, your first aid treatment for burns is always ready. Pick a leave, slice it open and apply the clear gel that oozes out directly to the burn. Store any excess gel in a small jar in the fridge and re-apply when needed.
Alternatively, use cold chamomile tea as a cooling, soothing compress. If the burn is very small, you can also apply lavender oil or a cold infusion of lavender to the damaged skin.
Please note: all deep or large burns MUST be seen by a medical doctor straight away.
We all pick up the odd bruise here and there, but rather than rush to the nearest pharmacy, use your herb patch as impromptu first aid kit.
The herb most commonly used to treat bruises is arnica, which has pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. It is always used externally, i.e. applied directly to the bruised skin, and ready-made ointments are widely available. If you have dried arnica herb available, steep one teaspoon of dried herb in one cup of boiling water until cool. Use as a compress on fresh bruises.
My grandma's remedy of rubbing fresh chopped rosemary on an old, greenish or yellowish bruise is not as strange as it always appeared to me. Rosemary has been found to improve blood circulation, and therefore can help fade bruises.
People who suffer from frequent cold hands and feet often have poor circulation, i.e. reduced blood flow to the extremities. Any herb that improves blood flow and strengthens the capillaries can help reduce this problem.
The traditional method to warm cold hands and feet is a mustard bath. For this you mix 1 tablespoon freshly ground mustard seed with 2-3 liters of warm water. Alternatively, you can add essential oil of black pepper or just freshly ground black pepper to a bowl of warm water. Both mustard and pepper stimulate the blood flow to the extremities.
To improve circulation infuse dried rose hips for a herbal tea or add cinnamon, cloves and ginger to warm apple juice or lemon juice and water.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|