Before we had antibiotics, steroids, anti-allergic drugs and all kinds of medication developed by the modern pharmaceutical industry, humans relied solely on natural remedies for treating and preventing ailments. For thousands of years, depending on the known medicinal properties of commonly occurring plants was usually the only way to treat disorders and disease. Apart from waiting it out, of course.
Herbs are classified as any plants that typically have medicinal, olfactory or culinary use. Herbs are distinguished from spices in that herbs refer to the green leafy portions of the plant, whereas spices usually refer to the seed, root, bark, etc. Herbs have been used for millennia and archaeological finds from as long as ten thousand years ago have established the prolific use of herbs in daily life. The largest repository of herb knowledge is found in ancient Indian texts for practicing a form of natural medicine called Ayurveda. The Ayurveda texts contain the medicinal properties of nearly every plant known to mankind. Further, it also contains valuable information on the types and recommended dosages for various herbs to treat different disorders and diseases.
Science has now established that herbs have significant medicinal use. However, they may not be very effective if you require life-saving medical attention. Herbs tend to work well to alleviate minor disorders and combine effectively with modern medicine to reduce stress and quicken the healing process for patients. For example, chamomile is an easily grown herb that is known to alleviate sore throat symptoms. Ginger is great for reducing nausea and aiding digestion, as does fennel and peppermint. Calendula is commonly applied to superficial wounds to aid clotting and healing.
Several herbs do not treat specific ailments but result in vastly improved well-being. For example, rosemary stimulates oxygenation of the blood and improves circulation. Its use is widely known to result in more energy and renewed vigor. Thyme, on the other hand, has antibacterial and antiseptic properties and is widely used with tea for preventing colds and coughs. Lavender is commonly added to baths, creams and lotions as the essential oils therein are known to have a mild anti-depressant effect. Most of these herbs can also be used for culinary purposes at the same time!
Home remedies through herbs are best consumed through steeping the leaves of the plant in hot water or tea. Once the essential oils have been extracted into the water/tea, the concoction can be consumed directly. For herbs that also serve a culinary purpose, you may chop the leaves finely and add directly to food. Care should be taken to ensure that the medicinal properties of herbs do not clash with any other medication being taken. Large amounts of some herbs can be toxic, such as St John’s Wort. Accordingly, you should consult a physician immediately if you experience any side effects to consuming any plant substance.
For those that cannot obtain herbs in their natural form, various nutraceutical companies also offer supplements. These supplements contain extracts of the essential oils of common herbs, are easily available and priced quite reasonably.