Time for Healing! Part 1

All of us want to live happy, fulfilling, and creative lives. How can we achieve this goal? Undoubtedly, creating and maintaining good health is key. Most importantly, we need to pay attention to what is unfolding in and around us. This means regular internal “check-ins” to determine what we need – rest, nutrients, emotional and physical contact, stretching and movement – as well as the daily practice of healthy habits. We must literally “practice to be healthy,” rather than practice to be sick. This requires effort, knowledge, support, and repetition. In today’s world, it also necessitates knowing how best to manage the daily stress that is part of our lives in a way that works for us personally and individually.

Reducing stress and its effect on health is a challenge for nearly everyone. Some of us turn to pharmaceutical medications, which often not only fail to truly reduce stress but actually make our symptoms worse! We can become trapped in a cycle of experiencing stress, trying to treat the stress, and finding it escalating, rather than subsiding.

To break the pattern, you must step out of it and pursue alternatives, rebuild your vital energy, and practice methods and habits that bring true stress reduction. Just as we have developed habits of stress, we can now build habits of restorative health.

Although stress is an unavoidable part of contemporary life, there are natural ways of relieving it and preventing or treating its symptoms – approaches that are both ancient and proven. When exploring these methods, the first thing to remember is that all of the systems of your body require periods of rest and periods of activity in order to function well. It is the periods of rest that many of us find difficult to take because the frenetic activities of our lives have become so habitual that they seem essential. However, if we don’t have periods of revitalizing rest, we will become ever more vulnerable to bouts of serious illness. Without health, all of the things that we’re now working for so frantically will be difficult to enjoy.

Another very important activity is inner work – connecting with a higher wisdom or a spiritual path, resolving old hurts, reaching for understanding, asking forgiveness for wrongs, and forgiving others. If this aspect is ignored, we will continually create turmoil in our lives, which can be the first and foremost source of stress.

The final pillar of any restorative regime is practical, daily attention to supporting our bodies’ efforts to heal themselves and maintain health. We can do this by assuring ourselves adequate rest balanced with activity, by employing techniques that create peace and calm in our lives {such as meditation and yoga}. and by using natural herbs and foods wisely and consciously.

Since ancient times, the majority of people in the world have used medicinal herbs to prevent disease and restore good health. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of people in the Third World, as well as 600 million Chinese, still rely on herbal medicine for their primary healthcare. However, until recently, the use of medicinal herbs in the United States had been largely supplanted by pharmaceutical drugs. Due in part to concerns about the potential harm of prescription drugs and in part to a new awareness of health alternatives, interest in wellness-enhancing herbs is increasing rapidly.

In the articles ahead, you will find profiles of some of the major health concerns you may be encountering, as well as ways that you can work toward solutions and healthy habits. We hope you will use this information to bring about the changes you need and to become more familiar with the extraordinary power of herbal medicine. Please remember that we are presenting the historical and modern record of the use of herbs to support your good health, but we are not prescribing herbs for any medical condition. Work with your doctor or health-care practitioner to incorporate herbal remedies into your existing treatment plan. A complete program of action, which includes the safe and proper use of herbs, is the only lasting and sure way to achieve and maintain vibrant health.

Arthritis and Sore Joints.

Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition of your joints, associated with symptoms like redness, pain, swelling, stiffening, and finally degenerative changes in your joints and bones. It occurs in genetically susceptible individuals and is caused by chronic inflammation. Inflammation has recently been recognized and widely acknowledged in the medical community as an important underlying factor in many diseases.

What Helps: Chronic inflammation can arise from eating a diet high in red meat, refined sugar, spicy and fried foods, and stimulants like coffee, as well as from stress and overwork combined with poor sleep and exercise habits. Inflammation often takes many years to develop so symptoms might not occur until you’re in your 40’s or 50’s, or even later. Improving your eating patterns is crucial to reducing inflammation, and it’s never too late to make a change. Many herbs and foods have natural anti-inflammatory properties, and you can use them on a daily basis to bring inflammation into a normal range, helping to relieve symptoms.

Herbs to Grow and Use: The following herbs can be taken as teas {infusions or decoctions}, tinctures, or in capsule form unless otherwise noted. You can make your own or purchase commercial inflammation-fighting dietary supplements containing these herbs. Some of them, such as hops and turmeric, are particularly well researched.

  • Hops can help moderate inflammation when consumed in nonalcoholic or alcoholic beers. {However, please be aware that consumption of alcohol is counterproductive, and we recommend moderation.}
  • Turmeric can be used liberally in cooking and teas.
  • Licorice, ligustrum and red clover are all pleasant-tasting anti-inflammatory agents.

Burns and Sunburns.

First-degree burns damage the outer layer of your skin, causing pain, redness, and swelling. Second-degree burns affect the first two layers of your skin, causing blistering in addition to the pain, redness, and swelling of first-degree burns. Third-degree burns, second-degree burns that cover an area more than 2 to 3 inches in diameter, or burns on your hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a major joint are all serious medical emergencies and should be treated by a health-care professional right away.

What Helps: For first- and second-degree burns, immediately apply cold water or a cold or ice compress to the affected area, or soak it in water as cold as is comfortable for 5 to 10 minutes or more. Next, apply aloe vera gel or a healing herbal salve or cream to the area as often as possible during the day.

Herbs to Grow and Use:  We particularly recommend applying fresh gel and juice of aloe – which usually provides quick relief – and St. John’s wort oil throughout the day. The following herbs can be taken as teas {infusions or decoctions}, tinctures, or in a capsule form unless otherwise noted.

  • Aloe vera is invaluable. Slice the leaf and squeeze out the gel. Keep a piece of fresh leaf in a small plastic bag in your pocket or purse when you’re nursing a burn while you’re away from home.
  • St. John’s wort or calendula oil, either homemade or purchased, can be applied liberally and frequently after treating a burn with cold or ice.
  • Plantain leaf can be used in a poultice.
  • Comfrey pulp is also soothing. Crush the roots and apply the slimy pulp directly or in a small cloth bag; change it when the pulp dries out.

Cholesterol Balance.

High cholesterol, also called hyperlipidemia, is an excessive amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood and in body tissues. A high level is defined as a total cholesterol level above 200 mg/dl, or levels of high-density cholesterol {HDL, or so-called “good” cholesterol} below 35 mg/dl, or a ratio of HDL to low-density cholesterol {LDL, or so-called “bad” cholesterol} lower than 4:1. Cholesterol is produced by the liver, and high levels of cholesterol have been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and early death. Causative factors include stress, a high intake of refined sugar or hydrogenated oil, regular consumption of animal fats, and genetics.

What Helps: A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber, especially lots of whole grains and beans, can be helpful in lowering cholesterol. An herbal treatment will include a combination of herbs that help to lower high cholesterol and herbs that balance liver and bile functions.

Herbs to Grow and Use: Cooking frequently with garlic and turmeric can help add a tasty zest to your cholesterol-management efforts! Herbs such as artichoke leaf activate liver function and combine well in a “bitters” formula.

The following herbs can be taken as teas {infusions or decoctions}, tinctures, or in capsule form unless otherwise noted.

  • Alfalfa is recommended by herbalists to maintain a healthy cholesterol balance.
  • Aloe, commercially available as a diluted gel or juice, helps maintain normal bowel function.
  • Artichoke helps promote bile flow and lowers cholesterol.
  • Dandelion root can be taken as a healthy liver tea, or you can eat the stir-fried greens.
  • Crushed garlic may be stirred into soups, stews, and other dishes. Raw garlic is always stronger-acting than cooked garlic.
  • Cooking with turmeric helps maintain proper liver function to balance cholesterol.

Colds, Flu, and Respiratory Tract Infections.

We all know about colds and flu, and only too well. The average person in the United States gets an average of 2.5 colds every year, and when you consider the total population {about 300 million people}, that amounts to three-quarters of a billion colds per year. It’s no wonder that pharmacies are stocked with remedies to help reduce the symptoms: A headache, body aches, sore throat, nasal congestion, low energy, and poor sleep. Fortunately, you can grow and prepare many herbs that effectively counteract the symptoms of colds and flu.

What Helps:  Sleep is one key to avoiding colds in the first place. Recent studies performed at UCLA showed that volunteers were much less likely to get sick when they had a good 8 hours of sleep per night, as compared to those who didn’t sleep well. Frequent hand washing is also known to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections that are viral in nature. Remember that many viral agents enter your body through the mucous membranes of your eyes: Touching an infected doorknob and then rubbing your eyes, for instance, can greatly increase your risk of becoming infected.

Herbs to Grow and Use: Herbs to help prevent and treat the symptoms of common colds, flu, and other respiratory tract infections fall into several categories. The following herbs can be taken as teas {infusions or decoctions}, tinctures, or in capsule form unless otherwise noted.

  • Immune-tonic herbs that help prevent infections include astragalus, garlic, ligustrum, and self-heal.
  • Immune stimulants, which help activate defenses when the first symptoms occur, should be taken throughout an infection and finish up 4 to 5 days later to avoid rebound infections. These herbs include echinacea, garlic, lemon balm, oregano, thyme, and tulsi basil.
  • Some herbs target specific cold and flu symptoms: Elder, peppermint, and yarrow reduce fever, sage helps calm a sore throat, and California poppy will ease headaches.
  • Antiviral herbs to slow down the activity and spread of a virus include Andrographis, elder {berry}, thyme, and yerba mansa.

In practice, the functions of many of these herbs overlap. Echinacea, for instance, can help relieve a number of symptoms associated with respiratory tract infections.

Constipation and Regulation of Bowels.

Go into any pharmacy and look for the aisle that holds the laxatives. It’s usually full of a diverse array of products to help with regularity. These often contain the powerful stimulant senna {Senna alexandrina}  or the bulk laxative psyllium seed and husk {Plantago ovata}.

Constipation is the result of a number of factors, the primary one being a lack of fiber in your diet. We eat only about one-tenth of the fiber our ancestors consumed, which was mostly in the form of whole grains, legumes, fruits, wild greens, and roots. Fiber is stimulating to the bowels and helps to remove wastes and regulate cholesterol. It also feeds beneficial bacteria that produce nutrients {such as B vitamins} and activates and strengthen our immune processes.

Other conditions that contribute to constipation include excessive sitting, constant eating without taking pauses, overeating, drinking beverages containing stimulants, and regular consumption of highly refined foods.

What Helps: Frequently including fiber in your diet, in any form – beans, whole grains, vegetables, or fruits – can help considerably. Exercise will keep things moving, as will adequate fluids, and most fresh fruits and veggies will help hydrate the bowels.

Self-massage of the abdominal area with a little St’ John’s wort oil, or even through your clothes, without the oil, can help relax and remove the tension in your abdominal area, resulting in better bowel movements.

Herbs to Grow and Use: The following herbs can be taken as teas {infusions or decoctions}, tinctures, or in capsule form unless otherwise noted.

  • Aloe gel, although mild, does act as a bowel stimulant when consumed several times a day.
  • Bitter herbs that activate the bile flow from the liver, as well as other digestive enzymes, can promote regularity. These include artichoke leaf, Oregon grape root, turmeric, and wormwood.
  • Aromatic, warming herbs such as angelica and fennel promote good circulation to the bowels and increase the release of digestive enzymes.
  • Marshmallow root is mucilaginous and soothing to the digestive tract, and it helps to reduce irritation in the gut.

Cough.

Coughing is a protective mechanism for your body. When you have a respiratory tract infection like a cold, flu, pneumonia, or bronchitis, your throat is often irritated due to your body’s immune response to the virus. The cough reflex helps clear your lungs and bronchial area of mucus laden with wastes from the battle against virally infected cells.

What Helps: Recent research has confirmed that sleep is one of the most important immune strengtheners available to us and getting at least 8 hours each night, especially during stressful times and in the winter months, can help prevent the respiratory tract infections that commonly lead to coughs. Drinking warm or hot respiratory teas with immune-boosting properties can also help greatly. We recommend mullein and licorice tea with a little echinacea, for instance, as a daily brew, off and on, during the cold season.

Herbs to Grow and Use: The following are excellent herbs to help prevent coughs or reduce their severity. They can be taken as teas {infusions or decoctions}, tinctures, or in capsule form unless otherwise noted.

  • Mullein can be used as a daily tea, sweetened with stevia or licorice.
  • Licorice is a great expectorant; use it throughout the cold season.
  • Sage is one of the very best sore throat and cough remedies. The leaves can be chewed and the juice swallowed to soothe a sore throat.
  • Echinacea, perhaps blended with lemon balm, keeps your immune system active during the winter months.
  • Marshmallow tea can be sipped to reduce throat irritations.

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