Since early man we have been using the plants and herbs of our native land for flavouring foodstuffs and healing our bodies. For Christians our Father God or Great Physician, gave us “every seed bearing plant on earth and every fruit bearing tree for food” and told us that “the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” and He made them “beautiful to look at and good to eat”. Pagans and other non-Christian groups worship Mother Earth and nurture and use what She provides. Creation not Creator.
Herbs may be made into teas, tisanes or decoctions, eaten raw in salads or made into ointments or compresses to be absorbed by the skin. The old way was like healed like for example lungwort which looks like a spotted lung was used to heal lungs. Also herbs that cause a symptom, given in very dilute forms will cure that symptom. Unlike modern chemical cures, herbs don’t have harmful side effects.
Dandelions may be a nuisance to the gardener, as are nettles, brambles, lemon balm and chickweed. But nurture them for the benefits they give you. Even the lowly cleavers – or goosegrass – with its annoying burr like seeds that we call “sweethearts” that stick to man and animals alike – is very useful as an infusion to purify the blood and strengthens the lymphatic system and the immune system.
Herbs are Healing for the Body
Terminology or meanings of confusing terms
Teas are a herbal extract made using water as the solvent and is the most popular and easy way of taking your herb, but also the least concentrated. It is a great comfort to drink a nice hot cup of tea particularly when fighting colds or flu. The truth is, though, you have to drink a fair amount of tea to receive the same amount of benefit as with a tincture. That doesn’t mean tea doesn’t have value, in fact, ingesting herbal extracts in a tea preparation is ideal in chronic health situations where a long-term, yet mild exposure to an herb is preferable.
Infusion is a tea made from flowers, leaves and light materials. One to two teaspoons of your choice of herb is put into a container or cup and lightly boiled water is added and is allowed to infuse for 3-5 minutes according to strength required. For a stronger effect, you can allow to infuse for up to 15 minutes.
Decoction is a tea made from harder material such as bark, roots, seeds, twigs and berries. Put 1-3 tablespoons of material into a pot of 16-32 oz of cold water and allow to sit for at least 5-10 minutes. Then set on oven and bring to a slow boil then turn down to a simmer for 10-30 minutes. Strain and drink. Will keep about 72 hours if kept refrigerated. Most decoctions can also be brewed via single cup through a regular infusion process as noted above but without the strength.
Tinctures are heavily concentrated extracts made by placing chopped fresh or dried herbs into a jar and covering them with a solvent: alcohol, glycerin or vinegar. The mixture is then sealed and allowed to marinade for several weeks. Most medicinal components of herbs are alcohol soluble, meaning they dissolve completely in alcohol, so this method of preparation is very effective and preferred for best results. Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream, tinctures are the best method to use for acute illnesses.
Elixirs are made by adding honey or other sweetener to a finished alcohol tincture: The typical ratio of tincture to honey is 2:1.
Liniments are tinctures that use either alcohol [rubbing or vodka], vinegar or witch hazel as the medium for extracting the goodness from your herbs. Liniments are for external use only.They offer instant relief for pain, inflamed muscles, bruises, and sprains. Depending on which herbs are included, liniments can be used to disinfect cuts and wounds, and may benefit a variety of conditions including sore and inflamed muscles, joints, circulation problems, arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, strains, and bruises. Liniments may also be formulated to warm or cool. To make your liniment place herbs of choice in a glass jar, chopped first if using fresh herbs, and cover with rubbing alcohol or other extractant. Put on well fitting lid, put in a warm place and shake daily. After 4-6 weeks strain through muslin, pour into a dark bottle and store in a cool, dark place. Will keep almost indefinitely. To use, apply gently to the skin without rubbing too hard. The herb will be absorbed by the skin.
Ointments are a mixture of water (either plain or in the form of tea) and oil (also either plain or soaked with herbs) in a ratio of 1:4. This will form a cream that is easily absorbed into the skin and is very moisturizing.
Salves are healing mixtures used on the skin that are not very absorbent. Using a mixture of e.g. petroleum jelly, carrier oil, water and beeswax, such as 1 cup olive oil to 1 cup of herb and ¼ cup of beeswax. Steep your herb in the carrier oil of choice for several hours, when absorption is complete warm with the beeswax until it is dissolved and mix well. The consistency is one that could be used in a small container, like a tin, and the salve could be dipped into with a clean finger, a cotton swab or a small cosmetic paddle. The texture is easy to smooth over the injury without the pressure required to apply a balm.
In Balms the ratio of wax to oils would be highest, usually 1oz. wax to 1 cup oil.
Compresses are where herbs are held in direct contact with the skin for healing. The herbs can either be in dried form, or hot or cold extracts in the form of tincture or tea.
Poultices are a bit messy and include the same components of a compress but are further mixed with clay and/or powdered herbs until reaching a paste-like consistency.
Herbal baths. Not just for cleansing, bathing in herbal scented water can help reduce stress, soothe the skin or just be a relaxing experience. Herbs can be chosen for their therapeutic effect such as softening, soothing muscles, stimulating circulation or drawing out infection. When making a herb bath, enclose the loose herbs in a muslin bag to keep them from sticking to the skin. Also, avoid using extremely hot water which is very drying to the skin. Warm baths relax muscles, while cool baths stimulate your body. Higher temperatures will make you feel sleepy; warmer temperature will feel relaxing but also refreshing. Plan on at least a 10 minute soak, to enjoy the full benefits of using herbs in this way. Another method for preparing a herbal bath is to make a strong herbal infusion from your herbs, then add it to the bath water. Pour boiling water over 1/2 cup. of dried herbs, let the mixture steep for 15-20 minutes. Strain the liquid and add it to the bath.
Calendula is a wonderful addition to any bath mixture. It is used as a soothing and healing herb, wonderful for those with dry skin, or to soak a healing wound. Rosemary’s piney scent will help when you are feeling under the weather, and congested. Lemon Balm, lavender, chamomile all make lovely bath herbs. Yarrow is a wonderfully healing herb. Use it for a soaking bath, for irritated skin and to soak healing wounds in.
Lemon Balmis a soothing and nourishing tea, caffeine free, with a pleasant, sweetly, mild citrus flavour and a delightful aroma, which is ideal as a pre-bedtime drink. To make a cup of lemon balm tea add 1-2g of the tea to a teapot or infuser – depending on how strong you like your tea – and pour over enough fresh boiling water as required. Strain into a cup, sweeten with honey and serve. Serve without milk. Lemon balm tea can also be served chilled like iced tea. A good tea to ease exam nerves. The tea can also be used to make syrup, jam, jelly and alcoholic beverages. For more information on the benefits of this herb please visit our Herbal Information Pages.
Green Tea – It is suggested that green tea has diverse health benefits as
- an astringent
- and virucide.
It has been used as a medicine for thousands of years to treat everything from headaches to depression, originating in China but widely used throughout Asia this beverage has a multitude of uses from lowering blood pressure to preventing cancer.
- Weight Loss – Green tea increases the metabolism
- In diabetes, green tea apparently helps regulate glucose levels slowing the rise of blood sugar after eating. This can prevent high insulin spikes and resulting fat storage
- It is also useful in flatulence
- regulating the body temperature and blood sugar
- as a digestive
- and to improve mental processes.
In traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, green tea has been used to treat
- angina pectoris
- peripheral vascular disease
- and coronary artery disease.
The tea may be useful in lowering LDL (bad cholesterol] and raising HDL [good cholesterol]. Recently it has been used to protect skin from sun damage because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. For more information on the benefits of this herb please visit our Herbal Information Pages.
The lovely Rosehip tea comes from the hips of the wild rose. A portion of rosehips contains 8 times the amount of vitamin C as an orange of equal weight? Drink the tea during the winter to help keep free from nasal and respiratory infections. Its tea can be drunk before bedtime as it is caffeine free; it’s also a soothing tea to sip when suffering from a cold, and full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It is diuretic, astringent and mildly laxative. The hips, petals and oil have a restoring effect on the nervouse system, lifting the spirits and calming anxiety. They relieve pelvic congestion, painful and heavy periods, and enhances sexual desire!
For more information on the healing properties of this herb please visit our Herbal Information Pages.
Dandelion tea can help form part of your daily intake of some of the vitamins and minerals the body requires for its daily function. A cup of dandelion tea contains Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B complex, and minerals including: calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, choline, and boron. Dandelion leaves are a powerful diuretic and so beneficial in kidney problems and is a good detoxicant. Dandelion leaf tea is a pleasant caffeine free tea substitute which has a bitter taste and a delightful astringency. To make a mug of dandelion leaf tea, see above. Dandelion is useful in liver disorders, inflammation of the gall bladder, brightens the eyes, encourages loss of appetite, muscular rheumatism.
Lemon Verbena tea is mildly antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and astringent making the tea a good addition to homemade skin and hair cosmetics. Add to baths to help wake you up. Lemon verbena tea is a pleasant caffeine free tea substitute which has a delightful citrusy aroma and flavour. To make a mug of tea see lemon balm tea. The tea can be used to flavour syrups, jellies, puddings and confectionary. An infusion of the tea can also be added to the bath water and to homemade hair rinses. Lemon verbena has been used for a variety of ailments including relief of digestive tract spasms, reduction of fever, strengthening of the nervous system, stress relief and as an anti-spasmodic and expectorant. Lemon verbena has the ability to help break down cellulite, as well as to exert a soothing, healing and toning effect on the skin. It makes a delicious tea and can be drunk anytime as it is relaxing and soothing. Lemon verbena tea is believed to help regulate the menstrual cycle and assist with symptoms of PMS. Lemon verbena essential oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory, fever reducer and sedative. It is generally inhaled for stress, insomnia, depression and nervous fatigue. Lemon verbena essential oil has also proven beneficial during an asthmatic crisis. Due to its strong antiviral properties, lemon verbena essential oil can be applied directly to a cold sore to reduce pain and symptoms.
Mate tea is a stimulant to the brain and nervous system and is native to Argentina, southern Brazil and Paraguay. The tea has a slightly bitter taste; traditionally used as a “livener” it is very refreshing. Honey can be added to reduce its astringency. Mate tea should be brewed for 3-5 minutes to allow all the flavours to develop. It is less astringent and contains less caffeine than ordinary tea. It is a good substitute to ordinary tea and can be used as a general tonic, diuretic, stimulant in physical exhaustion due to stress. It’s useful in rheumatism, gout, nervous headache. All in all a good reviver. For additional information on this herb see our Herbal Information Pages.
Nettle tea is a great tonic and the leaves can be sprinkled into soups and broths to increase their dietary fibre and mineral content. Nettle tea can also be made as an infusion to flavour beer, wine and soup. Or used to make a natural insecticide and mineral rich plant food for the garden. When used as a hair rinse it can be beneficial to dandruff prone hair and for strengthening weak and brittle hair. Nettles are a blood tonic, hypoglycaemic, antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, circulatory stimulant, antirheumatic, strengthens natural resistance, anti-haemorrhagic and eliminates uric acid from the body. Dare you not use it
Raspberry leaf tea is a pleasant caffeine free tea substitute which has a rich, green, mild, fruity aroma and flavour. To make a mug of tea see lemon balm tea. Raspberry leaf tea can be added to creams, lotions and balms for the skin where astringency is required, and can help to tone and firm the skin, it can also be used to fragrance shampoos, soaps and bathing products and to temporary darken the hair in a similar way to rosemary and sage. Warning: This tea should be used with care during pregnancy. Used in the last 3 months of pregnancy, raspberry leaves helps tone the uterine and pelvic muscles to prepare for childbirth. Taken afterwards, they stimulate the flow of breast milk and speeds healing of the womb and helps combat anaemia. Raspberry leaves make an astringent tonic, is antispasmodic and can be useful in relieving painful and profuse bleeding with menstruation. Also useful with mouth ulcers, sore throat, tonsillitis, and sickness and nausea of pregnancy. Can be used as an eye douche for conjunctivitis.
Sweet Almond Oil is a carrier oil and can be used in massage and to soften ear wax prior to syringing and it’s particularly suited to soothing eczema. Add to homemade lotions, creams, salves, soaps and balms for the skin.
Apricot kernel oil is another carrier oil but not to be used for people suffering from nut allergies. Apricot Kernel oil soaks into the skin more readily than other oils such as almond, and is lighter and less greasy, it is used in skin cosmetics and toiletries; it’s best suited for dry and sensitive skin types. Use as a base for massage oil blends, as a carrier for oils for the bath and in cosmetics and skin care products for mature and sensitive skin, it’s particularly suited to soothing eczema. Add to lotions, creams, soaps, salves and balms. It is anti-asthmatic and has long been used in Chinese medicine in treating tumours.
Citronella oil is a strong natural insecticide. It is antirheumatic, antispasmodic, and useful as a febrifuge and in muscular rheumatism. Citronella oil makes an excellent addition to add to pot-pourri, oil blends and scented sachets to deter fleas and flying insects such as mosquitoes. Add to lotions, creams facial scrubs, soaps, face masks, foot powders and bath salts for the skin, and shampoos for the hair. Add to washing water for floors and surfaces where antiseptic, insect repelling and antibacterial properties are required.
Lavender oil can help soothe burns and can be added to pot pourri, sleep pillows and scented sachets; and a few drops can be used to flavour cakes, biscuits and desserts. Add to lotions, creams facial scrubs, soaps, face masks, foot powders and bath salts for the skin, and shampoos for the hair. Lavender oil can be added to washing water for floors and surfaces; it can also be used as a fragrant rinse for the hair. Lavender oil can be used as an inhalant, is antidepressive, is a pleasant antiseptic and is useful with nervous headache, neuralgia, rheumatism, sluggish circulation, chilblains, insomnia, toothache, windy colic, bladder infection and to relieve stress and aid in relaxation and to promote calmness.
Jasmine oil when diluted and used as a massage oil can help unwind and relax a person. Add to lotions, creams, balms and salves where an antiseptic or anti-inflammatory property are required it can also be added to homemade perfumes, shampoos, soaps or place a few drops in the bath for a relaxing bath. Add to oil burners, potpourri and scented sachets to perfume a room, an ideal scent to use in the bedroom. It is a nerve relaxant, – aphrodisiac – is astringent and mildly anaesthetic.
Clove Bud oil. Some dentists use clove oil in preparations for treating teeth. A mix of clove oil and zinc oxide is used to prepare a temporary filling for a tooth, as well as plugging the hole, the clove oil adds antibacterial and antiseptic properties thanks to the Eugenol it contains, and it also has an analgesic component that can help reduce pain. Clove oil is also used by the cosmetics industry in the making of toothpaste, mouthwash and denture fixatives. Clove oil has long been used to soothe toothache, put a drop of oil on your finger and rub around the gum line of the painful tooth. The oil can be added to lotions, creams, salves and soaps for the skin where antifungal, antiseptic and antibacterial properties are required. Add the oil to pot pourri, oil burners and to scented sachets to freshen and fragrance a room. Add a few drops of the oil to cakes, biscuits and confectionary as flavouring. It is also carminative, a warming stimulant, antineuralgic, antihistaminic and mildly antispasmodic. It is useful in treating diarrhoea, flatulence, worms, hypothermia or cold conditions. It can help asthma, bronchitis, pleurisy and lung conditions
In the food industry, Neroli oil is used to flavour soft drinks, liqueurs such as Cointreau, and confectionery. Add the oil to lotions, soaps, creams, salves and balms for all skin types; it is particularly suited to helping to reduce visible signs of stretch marks and scars. Add to spring water to make a refreshing facial spritz and tonic. The oil used in the bath or as a massage before bedtime can be relaxing. Add to oil burners, pot pourri and scented sachets to perfume a room, an ideal scent to use in the bedroom.
Ylang Ylang oil. In Indonesia Ylang Ylang is often called ‘Poor Man’s Jasmine’. It’s so named because it shares many of the same properties as jasmine, such as sedative, tonic and antidepressant but is less costly than jasmine oil. Add the oil to lotions, soaps, creams, salves and balms for skin; it is particularly suited to soothing greasy and acne prone skin. Add to spring water to make a refreshing facial spritz and tonic. The oil used in the bath or as a massage can help relax and de-stress. Add to oil burners, pot pourri and scented sachets to perfume a room. This extremely fragrant essential oil has a calming effect on the mind and body and is used in cases of frigidity and impotence. It has a wonderfully balancing and stimulating effect on the skin, to correct sebum production and is also used to stimulate hair growth. The therapeutic properties of ylang-ylang oil are antidepressant, anti-seborrhoeic, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, hypotensive, nervine and sedative. Ylang-ylang oil has a euphoric and sedative effect on the nervous system and helps with anxiety, tension, shock, fear and panic while the aphrodisiac qualities is useful for impotence and frigidity.
Geranium oil. The oils are thought to act both as a defence against predating insects and as a stimulant to beneficial insects such as bees which are needed to pollinate the flowers. Rose geranium can be used for facial steams as it is reputed to have anti-aging effects on the skin. The oil makes a wonderful pick-me-up massage when diluted with sweet almond oil, and is also useful as a massage oil, once again when diluted, to help relieve symptoms of PMT. A few drops can be added to lotions, creams, salves and soaps for the skin and to shampoos where antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and emollient properties are required. Add the oil to pot pourri, oil burners and to scented sachets to freshen and fragrance a room.
Tea Tree oil – This essential oil has been used for almost 100 years in Australia but is now available worldwide both as neat oil and as an active component in an array of products. The primary uses of tea tree oil have historically capitalized on the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions of the oil. It is believed that the Aborigines of Australia have been using the leaves of the indigenous Malaleuca Tree (whose leaves are used to make tea tree oil) in their medications for centuries. They inhaled the oils from the crushed leaves to treat coughs and colds, sprinkled crushed leaves on their wounds and used an infusion of soaked leaves to treat sore throats or skin ailments. Use a dab to treat acne, an anti-fungal for treating Athlete’s Foot, eczema, various yeast infections, etc, an antiseptic to be used on cuts and burns, an anti-viral: it may lessen the symptoms of colds and flu. Try using a few drops in the bath, add to a vaporizer to loosen chest congestion, add a small amount to shampoo to treat head lice, a small amount added to your bath can help with persistent body odor, treating sinus infection, for dandruff and a dry scalp, in the form of aromatherapy used to treat colds, persistent coughs, acne, toothaches, and sunburn. Today, you can find tea tree oil in everything from your shampoo to your deodorant, and it has the potential to improve your skin by treating acne, psoriasis, eczema and many other conditions. And aside from helping your skin, tea tree oil has been used to treat everything from bad breath and dandruff to staph infections and genital herpes.