Herbs for Health and Healing

Herbs have a long history of being used traditionally, with both their culinary and health benefits strongly embedded in folk culture.

In ancient Greece and Rome, herbs were used more than spices; with Hippocrates (460–377BCE) having an inventory of many remedies including garlic, cinnamon and rosemary.

Many of the benefits of herbs are not backed up scientifically, largely due to lack of research.

However, with increasing interest in alternatives to pharmaceuticals, many of which are now proving to be ineffective due to bacterial resistance, herbal medicine is experiencing somewhat of a revival.

Bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, found in herbs are the active constituents associated with the improvement of many complaints from anxiety, sleep disorders, pain, and infections to improving serious health issues such as dementia and more.Click To Tweet

Here is a look at some of the more common medicinal herbs with a look at their benefits, how they can be used and any concerns or interactions with other foods or drugs.

Herbs for Health and Healing

Please note that this article is meant only as a guide.

Be aware that when taking herbal remedies that “natural” does not always mean “safe.” 

It is important to tell your healthcare provider about any herb or dietary supplement you intend to take.

Some parts of herbal plants can cause side effects and even be poisonous.

Herbs for Health and Healing

Ashwagandha – Rich in iron and anti-oxidants the powdered root of this herbal plant makes a delicious tea.

Its botanical name actually translates as ‘sleep inducing’ hinting at its ability to ease insomnia.

This is actually supported by scientific research with the compounds contained in the root increasing non-rapid eye movement sleep. 

Ashwagandha is also anti-inflammatory, reduces anxiety and boosts immunity due to its anti-oxidant content.

Medical concerns are that Ashwagandha may cause miscarriage and should not be taken by people with high blood pressure as it can interact with the medication.

Basil – A well-known culinary herb basil is popular in many Italian dishes and comes in many varieties.

It is delicious in salads, however, for the most flavour the leaves should be torn instead of chopped.

Basil has strong antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits and is useful when treating many complaints from earache, itching and arthritis to digestive issues, kidney function and mouth ulcers.

It increases immunity by protecting white blood cells and helping to fight free radical damage. 

This subsequently means that basil has anti-inflammatory properties and has even been cited in scientific research as potentially being able to protect against cancer.

Basil also acts as a natural adaptogen which means the body is able to deal with stress more efficiently.

Bay – Bay leaves have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties so are excellent for reducing arthritic pain and soothing sore muscles and infections.

They contain vitamins A and C, magnesium, calcium, manganese, potassium, and iron.

These help to support immune function along with the many health benefits associated with these nutrients.

Compounds in bay leaves also help to regulate blood sugar and insulin, aid digestion and boost appetite.

Bay leaves are often used in cooking to enhance the flavour of soups or stews but can be added to bathwater to rejuvenate the body or made into a delicious tea with cinnamon.

Due to the volatile oils, contained in bay (which give it’s characteristic aroma) it may cause skin reddening or irritation in sensitive individuals.

Black Cohosh – This herb has been used to treat premenstrual discomfort including headaches, hot flashes, mood changes, sleep problems, heart palpitations, night sweats and vaginal dryness.

It is also credited with relieving menstrual cramps and is thought to induce labour.

black cohosh

It also lowers blood pressure and eases arthritic pain. In rare cases it has been reported to cause liver damage.

Black cohosh is not used as a food and is usually taken in the form of a supplement.

It may cause headaches, liver damage and upset stomach however 20 – 40milligrams a day is considered safe. 

It is not advised to be taken longer than six months and should not be taken by women who are pregnant, due to the risk of induced labour.

Women with breast or uterine cancer, endometriosis or anyone under 18 should not take black cohosh.

This herb interacts with birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, sedatives, and blood pressure medication so it is advisable to seek medical advice before taking this herb.

Calendula – Calendula oil is made from the marigold flower.

It has long been used to relieve inflammation in the mouth, throat, and stomach.

It is also popular as a topical cream or ointment to relieve rashes, irritation and help heal wounds especially sunburn and acne.

A 2012 study found that calendula oil has sun protective factors however, more evidence is required before it can be used as a sunscreen.

It has also be found to be effective in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis and soothe skin after radiotherapy treatment. 

The petals of the marigold can be used to make a tea and then used as a mouthwash or to gargle with to relieve the pain of mouth ulcers.

It can also be drunk as a tea.

Camomile – The flowers of the camomile plant have been used for centuries for its calming and relaxing properties.

Camomile tea is well known as a tea recommended at the end of the day to help reduce anxiety and tension.

camomile tea

Indeed, one study found it to be more effective than a placebo to reduce symptoms of anxiety disorder

As it is non-habit-forming it is ideal to be drunk on a regular basis instead of prescribed sleep medications and has been shown to reduce insomnia

Infusions of the flower heads have also been used to relieve indigestion, colic, skin inflammation, swelling and irritation.

Although well tolerated it can cause drowsiness and may interfere with the absorption of some medications. It is, however, considered safe by the FDA.

Catnip – The leaves and flowers of the catnip plant have been used since the 1730s.

A member of the mint family, it is native to Europe and is often referred to as a weed. It can soothe digestive issues including upset stomach, indigestion diarrhoea and colic.

It can also reduce intestinal cramps, increase appetite and reduce anxiety and tension. Catnip is also credited with curing insomnia and calming nervous disorders.

Make catnip tea with boiling water and 4 or 5 fresh or 1 tsp dried leaves. Steep for 5 minutes then strain and drink 1 or 2 times per day.

Comfrey – Extracts of the root and leaves of the comfrey plant have been used in Japan for over 2000 years for the treatment of muscle sprains, bruises, burns, joint inflammation such as arthritis and gout. 

It is also used to treat digestive issues and minor wounds.

Comfrey contains compounds that can be harmful for the liver so it is banned in some countries.

However, if the extract is made into an ointment with no more than 5% and is only used short term it is considered safe as long as it is not taken orally.

Dandelion – Considered by many to be a common weed Dandelion has a host of benefits. 

The leaves can be eaten cooked or raw and contain many nutrients including  fibre, vitamins A, B, C , E and  K.

They are also packed with iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Due to the high anti-oxidant content dandelion improves immunity and reduces inflammation.

It also promotes bone and joint health, support healthy liver function.

Due to being a diuretic it stimulates urinary function and lowers blood pressure.

Bioactive compounds in dandelion help reduce blood sugar, improve pancreatic function and lower cholesterol which decreases the risk of heart disease and promote weight loss. 

It has also been shown to purify the blood, prevent gallstones, aid digestion, improve vision and even lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.

The fibre content of dandelion root also helps to prevent constipation and increase intestinal motility.

The leaves can be added to salads and smoothies or steeped in hot water to make tea, dried or juiced. Dandelion can cause allergic reactions and contact dermatitis.

It can also interact with some medication especially diuretics and antibiotics. 

Dill – Dill contains apiole, a volatile oil that accounts for its aniseed flavour. 

For that reason it is delicious in soups and stews and particularly delicious with fish.

It is traditionally used to ease stomach upset and to treat digestive disorders due to its effect on the mucous layer in the gastrointestinal tract.  

It can also prevent constipation, increase digestive motility and reduce flatulence and colic.

The antimicrobial properties of dill can help prevent mouth infections, protect against tooth and gum disease and reduce bad breath.  

Dill is also used to treat sleep disorders – especially insomnia.

It is also a good source of protein, carbohydrate, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, sodium and potassium, along with zinc and B, C and E vitamins which give it anti-oxidant qualities. 

It has been found that dill extract reduces cholesterol. Research has found Dill to have anti-carcinogenic properties. 

The antimicrobial properties of dill can help prevent mouth infections, protect against tooth and gum disease and reduce bad breath.

Echinacea – Used for hundreds of years Echinacea is an antiseptic and analgesic.

It is currently one of the top five popular herbs along with ginseng, ginkgo biloba, garlic and St John’s Wort.

The medicinal part of the plant is the root and is reputed to boost the immune system. It is, therefore, used widely for treating colds and flu symptoms and fighting infection.

In the last 80 years there has been research into the chemistry, pharmacological, and clinical use of this popular herb with overwhelming evidence into the effectiveness of it in treating viral and bacterial infections, healing wounds, and reducing inflammation.

It has also been used historically to treat insect and snake bites, toothache and saddle sores on horses. 

Common side effects are stomach upsets and it should not be taken by people allergic to the daisy family which can cause a rash, worsening of asthma symptoms or anaphylaxis.

Elderberry – The flowers of the elderberry plant have been valued as a remedy for colds and fever for centuries.

elderberry

Along with the leaves they can be used for pain relief, to reduce inflammation and as a diuretic.

The bark is also a diuretic and laxative. 

The berries are quite tart and should not be eaten raw but make delicious wine and jams.

Extracts from the fruit have been shown to exhibit antiviral activity, especially against the flu virus.

The flowers may be eaten raw or used to make elderberry tea by steeping 1–2 tsp flowers in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes.

Elderberry juice or dried berries have been used to treat the flu virus, infections, sciatica, nerve and dental pain and headaches.

Fennel – This herb has a delicious aniseed flavour.

The whole plant may be eaten which is good news as it is packed with many vitamins and minerals.

It is used in Italian, Indian and European cookery due to its distinctive flavour.

Fennel seeds have been used for many years to stimulate digestion and reduce flatulence and bloating.

The active component in fennel seeds inhibits muscle spasms.

fennel seeds

Fennel promotes the synthesis of collagen which keeps skin firm and tight and protects against the signs of aging.

It combats cancer, soothes colic in babies, soothes menstrual cramps and prevents osteoporosis.

Its many other benefits include lowering blood pressure and improving digestion.

It increases satiety, thereby reducing obesity, decreases the chances of heart disease, promotes eye health, treats anaemia and boosts brain function.

Fennel can interact with antibiotics and affect absorption.

It has the same effect as oestrogen in the body so may affect the effectiveness of birth control pills, and tamoxifen so should be avoided if those drugs are being taken.

Pregnant women are advised to avoid consuming fennel seeds.

Feverfew – You can use the leaves and flowers of this medicinal herb for tea or chew the leaves.

It has been proven by research to ease headache or migraine pain, however headaches will likely return if people suddenly stop taking the herb.

Feverfew was traditionally used to treat fevers, hence the name, but is now commonly used to treat arthritis and skin conditions.

Feverfew is sometimes applied directly to the gums to relieve toothache and to kill germs.

It can also be applied to the skin to prevent insect bites and relieve itching.

Side effects include mouth ulcers and digestive irritation.

It should not be used with warfarin or other anticoagulant medicines either.

Garlic – the benefits of garlic could fill a whole article on its own.

The compound allicin in garlic is anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, anti-viral and anti-microbial.

Due to these benefits it is particularly effective against drug resistant bacteria, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and many other pathogens. 

Cooking and processing destroys the allicin so it is advisable to eat garlic raw for maximum benefit.

It is not very palatable raw, however, marinated in oil makes it a deliciously crunchy snack.

Garlic has been grown by the farmers of Mesopotamia as early as 3000BC who obviously knew the benefits all those years ago.

Garlic

It thins the blood which helps to prevent blood clots and lowers cholesterol and protects against cardiovascular disease.

More importantly, it’s a powerful anti-oxidant and protects against cancer.

It contains compounds that protect neurons from injury and disease by stimulating the production of chemicals that help cells withstand oxidative stress.

Garlic is delicious added to many foods including meat and fish dishes and enhances many recipes.

It should not be used with warfarin, because large amounts of garlic may affect clotting. For the same reason, large amounts should not be taken before dental procedures or surgery.  

Garlic may interact with warfarin so it should not be eaten in excess.

However, garlic – or more specifically allicin, can work alongside prescription medications to reduce side effects or to enhance the action of the drugs.

Ginseng – Chinese medicine has featured ginseng for centuries when it has been used as both a tonic and aphrodisiac.

The fleshy root is either fresh which is harvested before 4 years; white – harvested between 4 and 6 years; or red which is harvested after 6 years.

It contains anti-oxidants so protects against and reduces inflammation with red ginseng particularly effective against eczema.

This anti-oxidant capacity also enhances the immune system which in turn protects against diseases such as cancer.

Ginseng has also been shown to improve brain function including cognition, memory and mood.

ginseng

It helps to relieve mental and physical fatigue and has also been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of colds.

Strangely a lower dose of 200milligrams taken long term has better results than 400milligrams.

Compounds in ginseng protect against oxidative stress, particularly in blood vessels in the penis which has proved an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Ginseng root can be added to soups and stews, can be eaten raw or even made into a tea. The extract is made into tablets, capsules and oils.

These are best eaten before meals to get the full benefits.

The side effects are high blood pressure and tachycardia, although it is considered safe by the FDA.

People with diabetes are advised not to take ginseng.

Gingko – Ginkgo biloba is an extract taken from the leaves of the tree which is native to China.

It should not be used from the seeds as this is toxic and can cause seizures and even death.

This extract is usually in the form of capsules and tablets but can also come in the form of dried leaves which can be used to make a medicinal tea.

Gingko has a strong anti- oxidant effect which protects the body from inflammation, oxidative stress, aging and disease.

Specifically gingko protects against the inflammation caused by arthritis, irritable bowel disease, cancer, heart disease and stroke.

It improves circulation and protects against cardiovascular disease especially in older adults.

Gingko is also thought to have many more benefits including depression, lung function and eye health research has not been conclusive one way or another.

Side effects of ginkgo could be nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, headaches, digestive pain and some people may be allergic to it.

Hibiscus – hibiscus tea is made by steeping the dried leaves and flowers in hot water to make a delicious fragrant tea that has many health benefits.

Hibiscus

It can be drunk hot or cold and has a similar flavour to cranberries. It can be a little tart so adding a touch of honey may make it a little more palatable.

As with many other herbs hibiscus is packed with anti-oxidants which protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals.

Free radicals are, to put it simply, like the exhaust left behind after all the functions going on in the body’s cells.

Anti-oxidants reduce these toxic chemicals helping the body to remain healthy.

Hibiscus tea has been shown to lower blood pressure however, for those taking diuretics to control their blood pressure drinking hibiscus tea is not advisable.

In people with metabolic disease and diabetes hibiscus may reduce cholesterol and blood triglycerides (fats).

Another way that hibiscus is of benefit to the body is the extract which has been shown to reduce liver damage caused by diet.

It also enhances the action of enzymes in the liver which detoxify drugs.

It is considered safe however, if you have high blood pressure it is advisable to consult your doctor.

Lavender – Lavender is well known for its calming and relaxing effect.

The flowers or a drop or two of lavender oil placed on your pillow is recommended to aid restful sleep.

It is frequently used for insomnia, anxiety, depression and stress relief, with studies suggesting that lavender increases the time you spend in deep sleep.

Lavender has been used as far back as 2,500 years ago as perfume, disinfectant, deodorant, insect repellent and even as an aphrodisiac.

It also has a whole host of medicinal properties including reducing the severity of depression, especially when taken alongside an antidepressant.

It is anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory and can treat acne, skin disorders, digestive disorders, and pain and infection relief.

lavender

Lavender is also effective against insect bites, chicken pox and digestive issues.

Germany approves lavender for loss of appetite, insomnia and circulatory disorders and in folk medicine.

It is often used to treat migraine, cramps and restlessness as well as sleep issues.

Lavender oil can be added to bath water or a diffuser.

The dried flowers can be placed in sachets and placed amongst clothes to give them a lovely scent and also to deter moths.

The flowers may be eaten in salads or added to cakes . It has a very powerful flavour though, so do use sparingly.

Eating lavender is beneficial in itself due to the nutritional content of this pretty herb. It contains vitamin A, calcium, and iron.

Eating lavender is safe although it enhances the effect of central nervous system medication so should be avoided in that case. 

Lemon balm – A relative of mint, lemon balm is a versatile medicinal herb that has traditionally been used to help relieve anxiety, and improve cognitive function and improve mood.

Lemon balm in capsule form has been especially beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety.

Tea made from dried lemon balm leaves, drunk in the evening before bedtime, helps you to sleep and reduces insomnia. Adding valerian to the tea boosts this effect.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a delicious herb that can be added to soups, sauces, dressing, vinaigrettes and seafood dishes. It can also replace lemon rind in recipes. It can also be used to decorate desserts.

Lemon balm applied to cold sores aids irritation, inflammation and speeds up the healing process. It also has the same benefit on wounds and insect bites.

The tea can also calm flatulence, nausea, menstrual cramps and an upset stomach.  The herb is quite easy to grow in your garden and then you have it readily available to make the tea and use in your cooking.

Lemon balm may cause side effects including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, skin irritation or headache but this can be minimized by ingesting it with food and not having too much.

If taking medication for glaucoma or thyroid issues, or drugs that affect serotonin please consult your doctor.

Do not ingest lemon balm if pregnant, breast feeding, under 12 or have scheduled surgery.

Milk thistle – Also known as Mary thistle or holy thistle, the fruit of the milk thistle plant is used to treat liver conditions such as cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis and gall bladder disorders.

Milk thistle can help to protect the liver from damage caused by environmental toxins, medication, and alcohol. Recent studies suggest it protects the kidneys in a similar way.

Milk thistle is, therefore, ideal to take after a night of heavy drinking.

It is also suggested that it can lower cholesterol and improve insulin resistance thereby improving outcomes for people with diabetes. 

Milk thistle is a plant that originated in the Mediterranean regions and is usually taken as tablets, capsules, powder or tea.

Milk thistle can, unfortunately, cause diarrhoea, nausea, bloating and upset stomach although long term use is deemed to be safe. 

It can interact with some drugs so take advice from the doctor before taking it.

It mimics the effects of oestrogen so should be avoided if pregnant, breastfeeding or have cancer.

Nettle – Those nasty stinging leaves you brush up against in the forest are a natural allergy remedy especially for hay fever.

They benefit bone, skin and urinary health and research supports use of the root for easing symptoms of enlarged prostate. 

Despite the fact that the raw leaves sting, due to containing serotonin and histamine, this herb has anti-inflammatory properties.

It is also antimicrobial, and has astringent and analgesic capabilities.

The leaves are a natural diuretic and have been used medicinally for many years.

nettle

Benefits include treating painful muscles and joints, especially arthritis and gout.

The leaves can be dried and steeped to make a tea.

Nettle leaves can also be cooked in the same way as spinach and used in soups and stews, smoothies, salads or pesto.

Nettles are a great source of vitamins A and C and iron.

Stinging nettle tinctures can be applied to the skin, muscles and joints.

There are many other reported benefits, however, more research is required.

These include reducing bleeding from gingivitis, decreased menstrual flow, asthma relief, treat haemorrhoids, insect bites, tendonitis and anaemia. 

Remember to wear gloves when handling fresh nettles to avoid stinging and irritation (sting is lost with cooking or drying).

Parsley – Many of us just think of parsley as a token sprig on your plate as garnish in a restaurant but this herb is absolutely loaded with nutrients.

Those nutrients include vitamins A, B, C and K plus iron and potassium.

It is great as a diuretic, reducing water retention and bloating. 

The healing powers of parsley rest largely with its anti-oxidant content which make it a powerful anti-inflammatory food contributing to prevent the risk of cancer, improve immune function, fight many diseases, protect your blood vessels and help with flatulence and bad breath.

Parsley’s medicinal effects are due to its volatile oils and flavonoids which also account for parsley’s notable flavour. 

Parsley is thought to offer therapeutic uses in the treatment of the urinary tract. It is approved in Germany for this use.  

Moreover, parsley is also used as a way to stimulate menstruation.

Parsley, along with thyme, contain a plant compound called apigenin which Brazilian researchers have had promising results in stem cell applications.

The researchers hope their findings will enable treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s and depression which is fantastic news.

Parsley can be added to all sorts of recipes but is particularly beneficial in smoothies, increasing the nutrient content and giving your immune system a boost.

Peppermint – Dried mint leaves have been found in Egyptian pyramids dating around 1000BC.

The first thing many people think of when talking about mint is mint sauce that is usually served with roast lamb.

This aromatic herb also makes a refreshing tea that can wake you up without the negative effects of caffeine

peppermint tea

Peppermint essential oil, when applied to the temples, can help with headaches and migraines and has been shown to be as effective as pharmaceutical drugs for relieving irritable bowel syndrome, but without the side effects.

In Germany, peppermint leaves are approved for the treatment of liver and gallbladder complaints.

It has digestive benefits for young and old alike, including irritable bowel syndrome, a painful digestive syndrome that causes flatulence and trapped wind.

Next time you get a cold you won’t do any harm reaching for the peppermint.

Peppermint contains rosmarinic acid which opens the sinuses and reduces allergy symptoms. It’s particularly effective in the treatment of colds and flu, reducing sneezing and a runny nose.

Studies have also shown that peppermint tea improves long term and working memory and cognitive function.

Even simply smelling peppermint oil has been shown to improve alertness and memory.

It has also been shown to soothe headaches.

Peppermint oil can cause heartburn but this is negated by enteric-coated capsules. It can also cause rashes especially if not diluted.

No harmful effect from peppermint leaf tea is known.

Peppermint oil can decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some drugs so always check with your doctor before using it if you are taking medication.

Rosemary – This medicinal herb improves memory, mood and concentration.

Traditionally used for digestive issues and to ease headaches and migraines, rosemary can also sweeten breath. 

It is effective in treating menstrual disorders and can speed up the healing of wounds and to treat eczema. 

In Germany it is approved to reduce blood pressure and rheumatism and for digestive upset.

Rosemary

This is another herb when even just smelling it can give your brain a boost with a study showing that sniffing rosemary oil increased speed and accuracy in cognitive tests.

As with peppermint, rosemary is often used in lamb recipes but can also enhance salad dressings and soups.

Rosemary contains chemicals similar to aspirin so if taken with aspirin it will increase both the effects and side effects so should not be taken together.

Rosemary also slows blood clotting so should not be used by those taking anti-coagulant drugs.

Sage – Sage’s genus name, Salvia, means “to heal,” reflecting its use as a medicinal, rather than a culinary, herb. It can help provide relief for mouth and throat inflammations.

Sage can slow milk production which is beneficial for nursing mothers who may be experiencing over-production.

A member of the mint family, sage is a known memory enhancer and may protect the brain against Alzheimer’s.

It does this by protecting acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain critical to memory, which is backed up in a British study.

Sage can be added to omelettes, tomato sauce, butternut squash and recipes with chicken and pork.

Two teaspoons of dried sage, steeped in boiled water is a therapeutic dose, drunk or used as a gargle is excellent for a sore throat, cough and colds.

It is used as a treatment for excessive sweating, reducing menopausal hot flashes and night sweats.

Do not use during pregnancy and do not ingest sage essential oil.

Take other drugs 1 hour before or several hours after consuming sage, as it can slow absorption of medication.

St John’s Wort – The glossy leaves and pretty yellow flowers are the active parts of this medicinal plant.

This herb has had bad press over the last few years but used sensibly it can be effective for mild to moderate depression; something that is backed up by more than 40 studies. 

Further research is, however, needed to determine the best dose.

St John’s wort may also relieve PMS symptoms and menopausal hot flashes, especially when combined with black cohosh; seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

The therapeutic components in St John’s Wort increase dopamine and serotonin (“happy hormones”) in the brain; a similar mechanism of action to antidepressant drugs.

One side effect of St John’s Wort is sensitivity to light, but this appears to be limited to only those taking large doses of the herb.

St. John’s wort can also cause a dangerous interaction with many commonly used medicines.

Always talk with your healthcare provider before using this herb.

Tarragon – A member of the sunflower family, with its long green leaves, tarragon has a distinctive aniseed flavour.

It is perfect with fish and chicken and can also be used to flavour oils, vinegars and dressings.

Containing manganese, iron and potassium it is beneficial for brain and blood health, with research showing that it can lower blood pressure.

It is also good for balancing blood sugar and insulin and balancing the hormones leptin and ghrelin which affect appetite.

Tarragon is a mild sedative so can improve sleep. It also inhibits some bacteria reducing the incidence of food borne illness.

In folklore, tarragon has been used to treat toothache and upset stomachs. Some parents even used it to stave off intestinal parasites in their children.

A nod to its anti-bacterial properties.  

Tarragon might slow blood clotting so should not be eaten by those taking anti-coagulant drugs or those having surgery.

It is also best avoided by those on anti-depressants.

Thyme – It is reported that the Sumerians were using thyme for its health properties as early as 5000BC.  It has been used historically for embalming and to protect from the Black Death.

The flowers, leaves and oil of thyme have many benefits.

Thymol the active ingredient in thyme, is a strong antiseptic.

It is also anti-bacterial, insecticidal (especially against mosquitoes) and anti-fungal.

Thyme is therefore highly recommended for relieving complaints that would normally be treated with anti-biotics as it can reduce bacterial resistance.

Thyme is particularly effective against coughs, colds, indigestion, gas and congestion.

Wild thyme has also been found to kill breast and colon cancer cells as well as reducing high blood pressure.

Thyme can to reduce lipid oxidation so can prolong the stability, and hence shelf life, of cooking oils.

Indeed steeping thyme in olive oil makes a delicious dressing.

Thyme can be added to your cooking by sprinkling the fresh leaves over salads, soups and pasta and in egg, poultry, sea-food and meat recipes.

It is especially delicious in Béarnaise sauce.

Thyme is safe for children and pregnant women. However, those on anti-coagulant drugs or with conditions that might worsen with exposure to oestrogen should avoid thyme.

Turmeric- This is one of the better known herbs for health and healing.

This is a spice common in Asian cooking and most famous for its use in curry.

The yellow color comes from Curcumin. This coloring means it’s commonly used for foods such as mustards, cheeses and more as well as cosmetics.

turmeric

Turmeric has a ton of medical uses and has been used for problems such as diarrhea, liver problems, arthritis, headaches, colds and many more.

Some people have been knowns to apply it to the skin in order to combat acne, bruising, skin sores and gum disease.

Turmeric has so many uses, like garlic, a whole article could be dedicated to it.

Valerian – This root has been used since ancient Greece with Native Americans using it to heal wound, ulcers and as a remedy for coughs.

Valerian is used to treat sleeplessness and to reduce anxiety, as it increases the neuro-transmitter GABA.

This action also reduces blood pressure, the knock on effect of which is that it protects the heart. It is a powerful muscle relaxant so is also beneficial for menstrual cramps.

In America valerian is used as a flavouring for root beer and other foods. To make a tea pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tablespoon of fresh or 1 teaspoon of dried leaves.  Then steep for 10 minutes, strain and drink.

Valerian is considered safe for pregnant women and children but only for short term use. It may cause side effects like stomach upset, headache and excitability.

When taken alongside alcohol, anti-depressants and the drug Xanax it can cause drowsiness.

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