Herbs for General Health and Healing

For people who are leery of the alarming side effects of many drugs and medicines on the current market, or just concerned about taking too many pills, there is another option: herbal remedies. The use of herbs for healing has been recorded as early as 2500 B.C. Herbs were widely used as medicines prior to the advent of science with its developments in chemicals, drugs and medicines. Before modern science there were only two basic options for healing - the various plants with known healing properties and the spiritual, including prayer, the laying on of hands, magic and voodoo. For our purposes, we'll concentrate on the world of healing plants and leave the spiritual up to the individual.

What is an herb? How is it different from a spice? An herb is a seed-producing plant of the type that does not develop persistent woody tissue, such as that of a shrub or a tree, but remains more or less soft or succulent (having thick or fleshy stems or leaves which can hold a large quantity of water). Some examples of common herbs would be catnip, chamomile, hyssop and spearmint. A spice is any of the various vegetable plants that are also fragrant or aromatic and are pungent to the taste. Allspice, cumin, paprika and rosemary are all spices. So an herb may also be a spice, like cinnamon or mace.

Most herbs and spices are sun-dried or cured in their indigenous environment. For example, the ginger root is harvested then cleaned before it is dried and exported. Sometimes ginger root is also peeled and sometimes the ginger root is boiled in sugar and preserved before its exportation. Cloves are the dried unopened flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum, a tree of the Myrtle family, while peppercorns are the dried berries of the Piper nigrum plant. The nutmeg is the hard, aromatic seed of an evergreen tree called Myristica fragrans. The seed is dried and ground or grated and used as a spice.

Herbs can act as astringents (something that slows or stops the flow of blood or other secretions), alkalinizers (something that raises the pH above 7.0), acidifiers (something that lowers the pH below 7.0), tonics (something that refreshes, invigorates or strengthens), diuretics (something that promotes the flow of urine), diaphoretics (something that promotes perspiration), laxatives (something that promotes bowel movements) and also as nervines (something which excites or relaxes the nerves). Many herbs act as more than one of these, such as Acacia, which has a soothing or softening effect on mucous membranes, an astringent effect, limiting secretions of glands and nutritive qualities as well as nourishing the tissues to which it is applied.

The herbs with mostly astringent (causing blood or other secretions to slow or stop) effects are Acacia, Acorn, Agaric, Agrimony, English Alder, Amaranth, Trailing Arbutus, Balm, European Birch, Bistort, Blackberry, Black Willow Bark, Cinnamon, Black Cohosh, Eyebright, Fireweed, Fluellin, Houseleek, Jambul, Pilewort, Red Root, Red Sage, Peruvian Rhatany, Rhubarb, Rosemary and Scullcap.

Herbs with a mostly alkalizing (raising the pH) effect are Dandelion and Kelp.

The general tonic (nourishing, invigorating, strengthening or refreshing) herbs are Agrimony, English Alder, Alstonia Bark, Angustura, Asafetida, Balmony, Balm of Gilead, Bamboo Brier, Barberry, Berberis, Beth Root, Blackberry, Boneset, Box Leaves, Bugle, Catnip, Celery, Chamomile, Culver's Root, Dandelion, Eyebright, Gentian, Golden Seal, Juniper Berry, Lemon, Mistletoe, Nux Vomica, Peruvian Rhatany, Rosemary, Snake Root and Tansy.

Herbal Tonics for specific areas are the Heart Tonics made from Butterbur and Mescal Buttons, Intestinal Tonics made from Cascara Sagrada, Nerve Tonics made from Damiana and Oats, Stomach Tonics made from Burdock and Sassafras, Strengthening Tonics made from Lucerne and Simaruba and Weight-adding Tonics made from Lucerne.

Herbs having a mostly diuretic (causing urination) effect are Agrimony, Arenaria Rubra, Asafetida, Asparagus, Belladonna, Bilberries, American Bittersweet, Black Currant, Black Haw, Blue Flag, Boldo, Boneset, Bryony, Buchu, Burdock, Butterbur, Caroba, Celery, Coffee, Black Cohosh, Couchgrass, Damiana, Dandelion, Figwort, Garlic, Goat's Rue, Jambul, Jewel Weed, Juniper Berry, Kelp, Lily-of-the-Valley, Night-Blooming Cereus, Onion, Paraguay Tea, Pitcher Plant, Queen's Delight, Soap Tree and White Bryony.

The herb with a mostly diaphoretic (causing perspiration) effect is American Bittersweet. Many other herbs have this effect in addition to their main use.

Herbs having a laxative (causing bowel movements) effect are Agar, American Black Alder, Asafetida, Ash, Asparagus, American Bearsfoot, Benne, Blue Flag, Boneset, Burdock, Cleavers, Culver's Root, Damiana, Dandelion, Fig, Hartstongue, Honeysuckle, Horehound, Olive, Pitcher Plant, Queen's Delight and Rhubarb which has the mildest laxative effect.

Herbs that affect the nerves are Black Willow Bark, which eases inflammation of the nerves, Passion Flower, which eases nerve pain, Asafetida, which is a nerve stimulant, Gentian, which is another Nerve Tonic and Black Currant, which restores the nervous system. For nervous disorders, use Arrach, Belladonna, Caroba, Chamomile, Gelsemium, Gentian, Golden Seal, Kelp, Lobelia, Mistletoe, Muira-Puama, Oats, Passion Flower, Rosemary or Scullcap.

Various parts of the herb are used - the flowers, leaves, buds, stems and also the root. Preparations vary as well. Sometimes the part or part used will be steeped and used as a tea, sometimes as a wash, sometimes as a tincture, where alcohol is the activating agent and other ways as well.

Consult an herbal professional or documentation before using herbs. While most herbs are completely safe to use, some herbs are OK just in small doses, but sometimes harmful in larger doses. Learn as much as you can about the herb and follow dosing instructions carefully, especially if using them for children.

Luckily, we have much information available on the Internet, on herbs and other topics. There are libraries in most towns and cities where one can find specific information on herbs and herbal remedies. Health stores that carry herbs and herbal preparations are more plentiful than they used to be and there are more and more healing practitioners versed in using herbs, so gathering beneficial and comprehensive information should not be a problem.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Michael_Russell/12389