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Herbal medicine has a long history. Archeological studies have found evidence of Neanderthals using plants as medicine 60,000 years ago. The Bible is loaded with references to leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12), purging with hyssop (Psalm 51:7), and oil to make your faces shine (Psalm 104:15). And what did the wise men bring the Christ Child but frankincense and myrrh, both medicinal balsams. Ayurveda, which originated in India more than 3,000 years ago, includes herbal remedies as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine.

You might be surprised to know how many plant compounds are included as active ingredients in modern-day pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs. So, while it might be trendy to dose your family with elderberry syrup for a winter immune boost or ginger tea to help settle their tummies, plants as medicine are nothing new. A medicinal or healing herb is any plant you grow in your garden, forage from the wild, or purchase that has curative value in its leaves, bark, stems, roots, seeds, or flowers (or all the above).

Most herbalists today advocate an approach that embraces both modern scientific insights and traditional herbal wisdom. Personally, I like to think of herbs as a way to keep myself healthy, so I don’t have to “fix” anything with prescription pharmaceuticals.

Here’s a quick list of herbs I’ve incorporated into my daily life for basic wellness and balance, usually in the form of tea.

  • Ashwagandha can boost energy levels, decrease anxiety and stress, reduce pain, regulate blood sugar, and reduce inflammation.

  • Chamomile is known for its antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and antidiarrheal properties.

  • Garlic has antimicrobial, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and cardio- protective properties, as well as regulating blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and reducing the risk of dementia.

  • Ginger is widely known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which reduce pain and settle the tummy.

  • Lavender helps promote sleep, can improve memory, relieves pain, and lifts the mood. It’s also an anticonvulsant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial.

  • Saint-John’s-Wort can promote restful sleep, reduce stress and irritability, and ward off depression.

  • A relative of ginger, turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and is considered an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anticancer herb that also tastes amazing.

  • Pine, which is rich in vitamins A, B, C, and D, has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and diuretic properties. It may also increase energy, detoxifies, promotes brain health, and enhances the immune system.

Of course, that’s the tip of the iceberg and just some things I take for daily wellness. There’s a whole world of herbs for helping fight infection, relieving pain,promoting healing, combatting diarrhea or constipation, treating fever, relieving cold and flu symptoms, healing wounds, addressing gastrointestinal issues, and so much more.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to herbal healing. Everybody is different, and herbs that work for your body might not work for mine. It’simportant to find an herbal approach that’s right for you. But with a little bit of research and guidance that includes talking with your physician, herbal medicine can be a powerful spoke in the wheel of your overall wellness.

Always consult with your physician before taking any kind of herbal medicine in any form. Some herbs are not recommended if you have certain pre-existing conditions and may be harmful. If you’re on medication, be sure to research and ask your doctor about any potential drug interactions with the herbs you’re considering. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding or plan on becoming pregnant, always consult your OB-GYN before starting an herbal regimen.


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