Plants have been healing our ailments for centuries. In fact they were our sole remedy until the relatively recent arrival of the pharmaceutical companies.
Even now, 40 per cent of all drugs and 70 per cent of all anti-cancer drugs are of plant origin, and 80 per cent of the world’s population still depends on medicines derived from plants.
To use plants as treatments, enjoy them steeped in teas, as syrups or in a mixed salad; or soak in a bath strewn with flowers and leaves, rub them on the skin in creams, or breathe in their healing vapours in a steamy inhalation. Some can be taken to help ward off ailments, like garlic and echinacea taken to prevent colds, and others to relax, soothe and refresh.
From Herbal Healing Bible by Jade Britton:
To make an infusion, warm the vessel (not a teapot – the residual tannins will overpower the herbs), pop in the herbs (20g dried or 30g fresh), cover with 600ml freshly boiled water and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey, if you like. Use the infusion cooled as a gargle or mouthwash.
For a soothing bath, add 600ml herbal infusion to your bathwater, or five drops of essential oils to running water. Enjoy while hot.
Make a poultice by crushing the herbs and bandage in place on skin that has been rubbed with a little sunflower oil.
From Jekka’s Complete Herb Book by Jekka McVicar:
Sage Salvia officinalis. Make a tea to relieve hot flushes and dizziness. Cooled, use as a gargle for sore throats as it is antiseptic.
Warning: excessive use can cause symptoms of poisoning and is not good for epileptics. Basil Ocimum basilicum, as a tea reduces stress, calms a fluttering stomach and clears the head of a stuffy cold. Also makes a delicious water ice.
Hyssop. Hyssopus officinalis is a gentle expectorant, decongestant and tonic if made into a tea.
Thyme. Thymus vulgaris is also a good cold remedy, as it is an antioxidant.
Onions. Allium cepa is an effective and ancient remedy for coughs. Remove the outer leaves of an onion, cut in half, put one half in a bowl and cover with honey. Leave in a warm place for 24 hours, covered with cling film. Strain the liquid and take a tablespoon when necessary. Do not use honey for toddlers under a year old.
Nettles Urtica dioica. Make a vitamin- and mineral-rich soup with young shoots for a spring tonic.
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale. A great detoxifier, the young leaves are good shredded in a mixed salad. Bitter leaves increase saliva and enhance digestion.
Comfrey Symphytum officinale. Make an ointment to help heal scars, boils and psoriasis. Not to be taken internally.
Horsetail Equisetum arvense is nature’s nail strengthener. Simmer 50g leaf and stem in 900ml water for 20 minutes. Cool then dunk nails for 5 minutes. Highly recommended.
A word of warning
Herbs should be handled with care and not used to cure long-term problems. If you have a chronic condition or are under medical supervision, seek medical advice before starting any herbal treatment. Some herbal remedies should be avoided if you are pregnant, breast feeding or suffer from low blood pressure.