Health Aspects of Herbs: Benefits are Varied in Many of These Natural Medicines

Herbs come from the leaves, bark, roots or flowers of plants. What would spaghetti sauce be without oregano or baked potato without chives? On the other hand, few of us bother to make teas from them. If you don’t take advantage of the many possibilities of herbs, you are missing their unique tastes as well as health benefits.

It is certainly easier to just pop a pill than go to the trouble of using fresh herbs or drying them for use later. However, many people in the U.S. are now turning to these old-time remedies for a more natural way of healing than drugs. Reasons for this include the cost as well as dangerous side effects of drugs. People are also more health-conscience today.

Caution

It is well to remember that an herb’s very medicinal properties may interfere with prescriptions you take. Always alert your health care provider to any herbs you are taking regularly. In Medical Myths That Can Kill You, there is a handy table of Common Herb-Drug Interactions.

Different Forms

Listed below are examples of healing benefits attributed to a few herbs. You will find many of them come in varied form, i.e. pills, liquids (called extracts or tinctures), and their fresh form. The Doctors Book of Home Remedies points out that extracts provide fast relief due to better absorption. Pills are convenient for long-term protection, but the book warns to read labels carefully to ensure products are standardized so they contain a set amount of the herb.

Echinacea

This herb has long been known for its ability to strengthen the immune system, as well as shortening the duration of a cold. As is usually the case, some studies confirm this and others show no effect. You might try ½ tsp. tincture at the first signs of a cold or make a tea for the immune system by pouring boiling water over ½ tsp. dried herb and steep for a few minutes.

Feverfew

Feverfew has long been credited with preventing migraines and one study done by researchers at University Hospital in Nottingham, England, showed a 24% drop in sufferers taking the popular remedy. However, many experts caution against its use as it blocks iron absorption.

Garlic

This bulb has perhaps been studied more than any herb and experts agree its compounds lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, reducing risk of heart disease. The allicin and alliin it contains appear to kill germs directly which would explain the reputation for fighting colds and flu.

Oregano

The popular spaghetti-sauce seasoning is good for parasitic infections. It also appears to block the effects of carcinogens in cooked meats. Use either the fresh leaves or ground powder generously in cooking for its flavor and health benefits.

Parsley

Long known as an aid to digestion, these pungent leaves are also a mild diuretic. Chop finely and add during cooking or use to add a colorful finish to a dish.

Thyme

This common seasoning can ease cough and upper respiratory infections. Pour boiling water over 1 tsp. dried herb and steep to make a tea.

Be Informed

Use natural herbs to flavor your recipes (cutting down on sodium) and improve your immune system. In addition, know simple home remedies when illness strikes (i.e., cough), as well as any related precautions, and you could save money and trips to the doctor.

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