Whether you’re a seasoned herbalist or are just learning the basics of plant powers, you’ve come to the right place.
Herbalism, also known as herbology or herbal medicine, has been around for centuries. In fact, archaeological evidence indicates that the use of medicinal plants dates back at least to the Paleolithic age — roughly 60,000 years ago.
As a registered dietitian, I know how important plants are to our vitality. Despite my extensive education in chemistry and biochemistry, I find the lessons I learned growing up around plants the most valuable.
My knowledge and background of herbal remedies comes from growing up in a family that used many alternative remedies for colds, scrapes and bruises. While I turned to massage therapy to help me cope with scoliosis, I remember often plugging my nose while taking different tinctures, oils and teas to manage other issues.
Before you scoff at the idea of taking osha root for a cough in place of an over-the-counter cherry-flavored syrup, consider the benefits of trying a more plant-based approach. By choosing herbal remedies, you cut out tens, if not hundreds, of pharmaceuticals and chemicals. To ease your way into herbal remedies, try using these three readily available herbs.
This is one of my most frequently used herbal remedies. Echinacea is a group of flowering plants in the daisy family. It is very common; in fact, if you live in eastern or central North America, you have probably seen it growing in open wooded areas or prairies. Echinacea works by activating chemicals in the body that decrease inflammation and some research also suggests it may stimulate the body’s immune system.
Echinacea is most commonly used to fight infections and alleviate symptoms of the common cold. Start taking echinacea capsules or drinking echinacea tea at the first sign of a cold to reduce symptoms and decrease the length of time the cold lasts.
You can find echinacea in juice, tea, and capsule form at your local health food store. Always ask for an organic (or better yet!) biodynamic version to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.
2. Osha root
Flavor-wise, osha root is no candy-flavored gem. This is exactly the kind of flavor that makes you plug your nose in distaste as a child. However, it's benefits outweigh the not-so-great taste.
I take it yearly during flu season, when all of those pesky upper respiratory infections have us in a hand-sanitizing frenzy. This bitter root not only helps to induce a productive cough or cure a sore throat (when chewed or sucked as a lozenge), but can also be used to soothe the digestive tract and stimulate the appetite. Additionally, it can be used to treat pneumonia, a dry cough, altitude sickness, and asthma.
You can find osha root dried, which can then be chewed, sucked or made into a medicinal tea called a decoction. A decoction is best made using 2 to 4 grams of the dried root per cup of tea. Many health food stores now offer osha root tinctures, which can be administered directly to the tongue or diluted in a glass of water.
Lavender is hands down my favorite herb. I use it on everyone in my family, including our Australian Shepherd, Zoey, to treat anxiety. It has been used for loss of appetite, nervousness, insomnia, acne, headaches, diabetes, rheumatic pain, nerve pain, and colds. Lavender is also makes a great antiseptic when the oil is mixed with an organic or biodynamic honey or almond oil.
You can use lavender in a variety of forms from aromatherapy, sachets, fragrances, extracts, capsules, to tinctures. It is extremely important that you are using a culinary lavender when ingesting the flower, and not substitute a topical product or florist’s lavender. Drowsiness is a common side effect of using lavender, so be sure to use this herb when you are able to relax!
My favorite way to use lavender is in the form of an essential oil. I add a few drops to my vitamin E oil and rub on my chest just before bedtime.
All views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Thrive Market.
Photo credit: Kathryn Page