Herbalism is the oldest form of medicine known to humankind and our knowledge of herbs have been accumulated over thousands and thousands of years. People from all cultures explored nature surrounding them in search of food and medication, often discoveries were made through experimentation, trance, journeying and observation to see what was good and what was bad for the human body. In ancient Egypt Ebers papyrus documented 85 herbs, the Greek herbalist Dioscorides who lived in the first century B.C. lists 400 herbs, most still used today and the golden age of English herbalism was the sixteenth and seventeenth century. In 1653, Culpeper wrote Complete Herbal as an aid to man to treat himself. During the last century, as more and more people moved into industrial cities, they lost touch with herbal traditions and have perhaps even forgotten the healing power of nature and herbs. Over the last few years though, there has been a new revival and interest in herbalism. It is being embraced by people seeking an alternative to drug therapy. In lots of parts of the world herbalism has always been the main source of medicine and we in the West are now learning more of the ancient traditions of China, India and South America.
Striving to stay healthy in the face of chronic stress, pollution and disease, more and more people are taking charge of their health with herbs. Health-care practitioners are increasingly using herbs and other natural therapies alongside modern treatment, with a renewed understanding of the body’s own power to heal. The science of herbal healing uses herbs as sources of chemicals that modify known physiological processes that are altered in disease states. While modern drugs have contributed a great deal in disease treatment, they also have contributed to ill health. Every modern drug comes with warning of side effects. Herbs can be a powerful support to the body and can be taken alongside modern medicine to counter balance such side effects and build the body up again to a desired balanced state of good health. Herbal medicine can thus be used to improve the condition of the person and help anyone achieve a better state of health than experienced before.
Herbs can be obtained from various sources. Culinary herbs, fresh and dried can be bought from most supermarkets, try and buy organic if possible to avoid pesticides and other foreign chemicals. There are many wonderful specialized herbs shops like Neal’s Yard remedies or some Chinese herbal shops. Herbs can also be found in capsule form from most heath stores. Herbs can be taken fresh, in teas, in decoctions or concentrated tinctures.
Below is a short list of a few herbs that can be taken for certain common ailments.
Strengthening the Immune System:
Echinacea root stimulates the immune system and strengthen a weakened one. It is most efficient if taken for short periods of time as the seasons are changing.
Siberian Ginseng stimulates the immune system and fights fatigue and stress. Tablets are available in most health stores.
The Respiratory System and Common Colds:
Garlic and Thyme are a great combination to reduce inflammation and act as a natural antibiotic. Drink as a decoction or tea.
Pine is a powerful antiseptic for the lungs. Use as an inhalation in a bowl of steaming water.
The Digestive System:
Chamomile or peppermint tea or tincture will ease nausea and heartburn. Peppermint should be avoided when pregnant.
Dandelion root is excellent aid for water retention and constipation.
Nettle and Milk Thistle can be taken for gallstones.
The Nervous System, anxiety, stress, insomnia:
Lavender, Lemon Verbena and Lemongrass make delicious teas that will relax and ease symptoms.
Burn Cedar Wood oil, Lavender oil or Sage at home or place a few drops by your pillow for a good nights sleep.
This is only but a small list of a few common ailments. There are thousands of herbs for countless symptoms and imbalances. Next time you feel a cold coming up, or when you are feeling stressed and run down, restore your body to its natural state of health with the healing power of herbs.
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