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Medicinal Herbs

Chamomile

Chamomile comes in two varieties, the Roman Chamomile, which goes by the Latin name Anthemis nobilis and the German Chamomile which is called Matricaria chamomila. Both Chamomiles are found growing wild in Europe, the German variety is more common in the south and the Roman variety inhabits most of the continent. Both varieties can be grown in the garden in New England.

Chamomile resembles a small white daisy with a distended yellow center. Chamomile tea is also yellow a quality which led the ancients to classify it as a herb of the sun. In the dark days of winter it is comforting to surround ourselves with reminders of the suns light and energy and a warm cup of yellow chamomile tea or a chamomile bath can do much to chase away the winter blues. Both varieties of Chamomile are useful to soothe an upset stomach, for nervous conditions, insomnia and menstrual pains. Chamomile is especially suited to migraine headaches and headaches with gastric upset.

Chamomile is also antiseptic and it can be used externally as a wash for wounds or as a compress for skin inflamations. Holding the tea in the mouth has been known to relieve toothache. It is a classic herb for children’s earaches and for teething babies who are feverish, cranky and irritable. You can feed the child the tea in teaspoon doses every half hour or place them in a Chamomile bath. The usual proportions for the tea are two teaspoons of herb per cup of water, steeped for about twenty minutes in a pot with a tight fitting lid. A grown adult can take 1/4 cup four times a day.

For a bath place one pound of flowers in five quarts of boiled water and steep for twenty minutes, strain and add to your bath water.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon, known as Cinnamonium cassia in the Latin, is sometimes called Chinese cinnamon. A tree indigenous to China, it is cultivated in Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Japan, Java, Mexico and South America. The part used is the bark which is cut from young shoots when the leaves are red. The wood of the tree without the bark is odorless. Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon in their embalming mixtures and for the Romans it was so expensive that it became an impetus for world exploration and conquest.

Cinnamon is a ” Kitchen medicine ” that most people will have in their homes. The whole bark is broken into small pieces and simmered in water or the powdered bark can be simmered to make an excellent remedy for diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and gas. A cup of the tea can be sipped throughout the day or taken in tablespoon doses. Children can take it in teaspoon doses in honey water.

Cramps, arthritis and rheumatism, joint pains and poor circulation are considered to be cold conditions and as cinnamon is warming to the body it is a natural remedy for these. Think of warm cinnamon tea made with water or milk when you feel a chill coming on or if you are the type of person prone to cold hands and feet. Lower back pain and pain in the region of the kidneys has been helped by this herb because it increases blood circulation in the area of the lower back.

A very simple herbal formula is made by combining three parts powdered cinnamon with one part powdered cardamon and one part powdered nutmeg. Store the mixture in a jar and use one half teaspoon steeped in a cup of water for about ten minutes, for cramps, spasms, to aid the digestion, to strengthen the heart and to tone the nervous system.

Clover

Red clover, or Trifolium pratense in Latin and White clover or Trifolium repens, are valuable medicinals that most people think of as ” weeds “. Remember that a ” weed ” is a plant whose uses have yet to be appreciated.

Clovers are perennial plants found in grassy meadows all over the United States and Europe. They are a great favorite of bees and are often planted around gardens and orchards to attract the bees and ensure pollination of fruit trees and crops.

The leaves and flowers of the white clover can be taken as a tea to ease the pain of gout. Red clover blossoms are gathered when fresh and pink and dried for later use to make a tea that is cleansing to the blood and liver and aids in constipation. To make the tea steep four teaspoons of the flowers per cup of water for about twenty minutes and take up to one and one half cups per day. Persons convalescing from stomach operations who have poor appetites will benefit from red clover tea. It is also anti-tussive which means it is helpful in sedating a cough due to a cold, bronchitis or whooping cough.

Externally, a red clover fomentation can be applied to rheumatism, gout and cancerous tumors. To make the fomentation steep four teaspoons of the flowers per cup of boiled water for about twenty minutes. Soak a cotton cloth in the resultant liquid and fold the blossoms inside. Apply the warm tea-soaked cloth to the affected areas as a compress.

Red clover tea is said to be a cleanser of the blood and lymph systems making it a valuable adjunct in cancer therapies. Mumps, hardened glands, and sluggish menstruation can all be helped by this gentle plant. Fresh red and white clover blossoms can be added to salads and eaten in sandwiches or used as a garnish for summertime dishes. The chopped flowers can be added to gelatin deserts along with other edible flowers such as white daisies, violets and rose petals.

Dandelion

Known as Taraxacum officinale in Latin the Dandelion is one of the most underappreciated plants in the world. Billions of dollars are spent on toxic chemicals designed to eradicate this valuable medicinal, chemicals which leach into ground water and poison the earth, the insects and the birds which feed on them. Perhaps it is time for us to re-evaluate our aesthetics and accept the sun-like dandelion as a welcome addition to golf courses and lawns. Every part of the dandelion is useful. The leaves can be gathered in early spring to make healthful and delicious salads. High in iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, vitamins B, C, and A, the greens are delicious when tossed with sea salt and lemon juice and a little olive oil. The spring gathered leaves can also be added to soups, quiches, and cooked like spinach.

The leaves are diuretic and they have their own built in potassium which people on long term diuretic programs need. They are used for cardiac edema, water retention, and hypertension as well as chronic conditions such as rheumatism, eczema and gout. The fresh juice of the leaves can be taken in doses of about two teaspoons per day.

The root tea is made in the usual proportions of two teaspoons of herb per cup of water, simmered for about twenty minutes and taken in 1/4 cup doses four times a day. The root tea is a specific for skin problems, migraines and any condition involving a weakened liver such as the effects from abuse of drugs and alcohol and a diet rich in fried and fatty foods.

Dandelion leaves, flowers and roots can be made into a tea that will benefit fevers, constipation, insomnia, gallstones, jaundice, and stiff joints. For long standing conditions both the tea and the fresh juice should be taken daily. The roasted roots can be ground and made into a coffee substitute. The flowers of the dandelion have traditionally been made into wine and being high in calcium, make a natural remedy for the heart when eaten in salads or added to herbal teas.

Dong Quai

Dong Quai, or Angelica sinensis, is one of a whole host of Angelicas, all of which can be easily grown in the gardens of New England provided that the soil is moist or even swampy. Tradition holds that the name Angelica was bestowed on these plants due to their ability to attract angelic forces into the garden. In medieval Europe Angelica was once used to make a remedy to repel evil sorcerers and to cure the plague.

Angelicas resemble large stalks of celery in appearance and produce globe like clusters of white or greenish flowers in June and July. Native American herbalists used Angelica to clear phlegm from the respiratory tract, and to treat tuberculosis. They made poultices of Angelica leaves and of Artemisia canadensis, a variety of Mugwort, which they applied the side of the body opposite to a pain in order to relieve that pain.

The Chinese variety of Angelica, known as Dong Quai, is well known in America due to it’s powerful blood moving and warming effect on the female reproductive tract. It is used for all gynecological problems – for example it will help with excessive menstruation, deficient or absent menstruation, and painful menstruation. It promotes blood circulation, making it valuable in speeding recovery from all manner of injuries especially old ones such as ulcers and boils, and it helps with constipation.

Due to its warming effect on the system Dong Quai is an ideal herb for elderly people who are constitutionally chilly and who may be suffering from cold conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. Dong Quai has a slight tranquilizing effect on the cerebral nerves which accounts for some of it’s pain relieving properties.

Dong Quai should probably be avoided by pregnant women, or by those in whom this herb causes bloating in the abdomen. The part used is the peeled root which is simmered using the usual proportions of two teaspoons per cup of water, in a non aluminum pot with a tight fitting lid, for about twenty minutes. The dose is 1/4 cup four times a day, not with meals. Tinctures and capsules are also available from herbalists.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a perennial plant native to the American prairie that is now cultivated in gardens over most of the continental United States. It resembles a large pink daisy with a bristly, raised center. This attractive ornamental now comes in shades from purple to white. It flowers from June to October and should be a standard in any herb lovers garden.

Echinacea angustifolia is the variety of echinacea that has been found to be most effective in lab studies. The part used is the fleshy root which is simmered in the usual proportions of two teaspoons of herb per cup of water for about twenty minutes in a non-aluminum pot with a tight fitting lid.

Another variety, called Echinacea purpurea, is also used medicinally. The part used on this plant is the flower and the leaf. Echinacea purpurea has thin, thread-like roots while the more desirable variety, the Angustifolia, has thick, fleshy ones making them easy to distinguish.

Native American herbalists taught white settlers the uses of this plant which is now recognized as one of our most important immune boosters and blood purifiers. Traditionally it was used for snake bite, scorpion stings, and the stings of centipedes, tarantulas and sting rays. It is a useful plant for any septic condition of the blood as well as for venereal infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, typhoid fever, and conditions involving glandular swelling. It is incredibly effective for sore throats where a hot cup of the tea has been known to abort a cold in a matter of minutes.

The most effective way to use this plant is to take the tea every two hours until symptoms disappear. It can also be used as a preventative for times when flu and other communicable conditions are moving through the neighborhood. It has even been used as a preventative for malaria. A woman that I know once told me that on a trip to Africa she took one capsule of echinacea daily. She was the only member of the tour that did not develop malaria. Echinacea is a classic remedy for eczema, acne and boils. Good quality echinacea should leave a tingling sensation in the mouth and on the tongue.

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