In past articles, we have talked about the history, myths and misconceptions of herbal medicine as well as the basics of getting started using herbs. In this post, I'd like to share with you some information on specific, common herbs and what properties they possess, as well as how you can use them as medicinal remedies.
When I teach people about herbal remedies, I love to give them skills they can use right away, wherever they live. So, I teach them about weeds first. They may not sound appealing or exciting, but they make some of the most potent and accessible healing remedies you can use!
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelions are a common weed that grows everywhere in temperate climates. It is the perfect herb to start off with! The entire plant is medicinal – flowers, leaves and root.
The leaves contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including, but limited to, vitamins A, B, and C, and the minerals calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and magnesium. The have been used for centuries as a spring salad green or potherb.
The roots have traditionally been used as an effective way to support the liver and encourage proper detoxification.
The flowers have been eaten similarly to the leaves, but also infused in oil to create lotions, salves and massage oils that, according to Susun Weed, have a special affinity for breasts. “Regular use of dandelion flower oil promotes deep relaxation of the breast tissues.”
All parts of the plant can be made as a tea or tincture.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Like Dandelion, this plant grows commonly in all over the world in temperate climates. It has been an important source of food and medicine for traditional people throughout the ages.
It is extremely nutritious, containing vitamins A, C, D, and K, as well as the minerals calcium, potassium, phosphorus, silicon, iron, and manganese. It can be used just like spinach in cooking (nettles will not sting once they have been steamed or cooked). My favorite way to use it for food is to replace half of the basil in a pesto recipe with fresh pureed nettle leaves!
Medicinally, it has been used for conditions ranging from sunburn, to allergies to prostrate cancer. Most people use it as a spring tonic to help with detoxification after the long winter. It can be taken as a tea, tincture, or, especially in the case of preventing allergies, in freeze dried capsule form.
Plantain (Plantago major, P. lanceolata)
Again, like the plants mentioned above, Plantain is a “weed” that is so common, most people can find it right outside their door. It has been used from antiquity both internally and externally to heal a wide variety of ailments.
Externally, Plantain is best known for its “drawing' abilities. It can draw out splinters, dirt, pus and infection from wounds and injuries. Combined with its vulnerary benefits (medicine used to heal wounds), it is a top-notch first aid remedy.
Due in part to its astringent, as well as demulcent properties, Plantain is an excellent internal remedy for gastric ulcers, GI inflammation and related conditions. Because it is also an expectorant, it is additionaly useful and effective for respiratory and sinus ailments.
Plantain can be used as a tea, tincture, infused oil or poultice.
St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
Also a common weed, especially in sunny meadows, St John's Wort has become a popular medicine for anxiety and depression over the last few decades. While it is an effective remedy for mild to moderate depression and related conditions, especially SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), when used in combination with Lemon Balm, it also has a number of other uses.
it is anti-inflammatory and pain relieving, especially in nerve related issues, such as, sciatica, neuralgia and injuries to nerve-rich areas like the extremities, spine and teeth and gums.
Another of its most important benefits is that it is highly antiviral. It has an affinity to the herpes virus and can be helpful for all those conditions ranging from cold sores to chicken pox to shingles.
St John's wort can be used as a tea, tincture or infused oil.
Wild Rose (Rosa ssp)
Arguably the most beloved and honored flower throughout history, most people who love the beautiful rose, do not know that is is also a powerful medicine.
The flowers, hips and leaves of the rose are the parts most often used for medicine. Internally, the flowers and hips are used for colds, sore throats and sinus infections, as well as heart palpitations and high blood pressure.
Externally, the flowers and leaves can help heal Inflammation, arthritis, injuries, musculoskeletal pain, wounds, infections, bites (bug or animal) and rashes.
Especially prized for its effect on emotions, Rose can help reduce grief, depression, tension, anxiety, nervousness, anger and irritability.
Wild Rose can be used as a tea, tincture, infused oil, infused honey,essential oil or poultice.
With these 5 common herbs, you can get started on creating a useful and effective herbal medicine cabinet, safely and with minimal effort. Having these remedies on hand can empower you to keep yourself and your family healthy with natural, practical and efficacious medicines that you can make yourself and feel good about using!
Have you used any of these plants as food or medicine? What is your favorite herbal remedy? Let me know in the comment section below!