Six very powerful medicinal plants worth knowing

From: Nature’s Creation – Knowledge & Guidance through Healing Plants – Book and Cards

All the plants mentioned below are available in good health food stores.

Antibiotics have become one of the most over-prescribed “medicines” today. As a result, people have damaged their digestive systems and ironically, have lowered their natural immunity to all types of infections in the future. Attack infections with powerful natural antibiotics such as Echinacea and Golden Seal. These two can be taken together.

 

1. Echinacea

Purple coneflower or Echinacea is indigenous to North America.  Well known and extensively used by the Native Americans of the Great Plains, Echinacea became one of the most important medicinal healing plants for all tribes in the areas where various species flourished.  A debt of gratitude is felt towards the Native American healers who introduced the settlers to the healing wonders of this incredible herb.  Word of Echinacea’s healing properties soon reached Europe and the rest of the world, and it has since been widely researched and utilised.

Today Echinacea is best known for its positive effect on the immune system.  It is a mucilaginous herb with cool energy, which means it removes heat from the body, such as the heat of infection. 

Echinacea is considered beneficial for almost all infectious conditions, including upper respiratory infections, common cold, flu, and staph and strep infections.  Herbalists regard Echinacea as one of the best antibiotics and blood purifiers.  It assists in resistance to disease by activating the immune system.  Research shows Echinacea to be successful in inhibiting tumour growth in rats and confirms it aids in the production of interferon, which increases antiviral activity.  As a homeopathic remedy Echinacea is used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome (ME), indigestion, gastroenteritis and weight loss.  Echinacea has also been successful in treating arthritis.

Parts Used Medicinally

The root, fresh or dried, of either Echinacea angustifolia or Echinacea purpurea is mainly used.  A tingling sensation is experienced when the root is chewed indicating the strength of Echinacea’s healing abilities. 

·       The root can be dried and taken by capsule as an immune stimulant. 

·       It can be made into a tincture to treat infections

·       A decoction can be used as a gargle for throat infections.

 

2.  Golden Seal

“I remember a young woman near Pineville, Missouri, who was very ill indeed.  The local M.D. said that she had Bright’s disease and held little hope for her recovery.  One of this woman’s male relatives searched the hills for days and finally dug up a root which seemed to do her more good than any of the doctor’s prescriptions.  She was still alive several years later, apparently much improved in health.  I interviewed the man who found the magic root.  He boasted that he had cured the woman ‘after all the doctors done given her up’ but refused to tell me the name of the root that did the business.  A doctor who saw the stuff, however, told me that it looked to him like yellow-root, by which he meant goldenseal (Hydrastis).”              

-Ozark Magic and Folklore, by Vance Randolph-

Goldenseal is a folk medicine staple.  Mainly valued for its root, Goldenseal was used and recognised by physicians from the time of the American pioneer settlers until 1955, when synthetic drugs appeared on the market and began to replace herbal medications.The early settlers learnt the virtues of Goldenseal from the Native Americans, who used the herb medicinally as an antibiotic and antiseptic and prized the roots as a stain and dye.

Commonly known as orangeroot, Goldenseal is characterised by its yellow rootstock.  It is a striking perennial woodland herb in the buttercup or crowfoot family, indigenous to the moist mountainous woodland areas of the North American continent.The Goldenseal plant is native only to the eastern-central United States and southeastern Canada and requires a specific growing environment.  Because it is very difficult to grow if conditions are not suitable and exact, it is generally not a traditional medicine elsewhere in the world.

Powerful bactericidal and antiviral activity has been discovered in Goldenseal during clinical research.  These properties make the herbal remedy useful for a wide range of infections.  Goldenseal ‘s natural antibiotic properties have been utilised by Native Americans for centuries – internally for respiratory infections, liver problems, and digestive complaints, and externally for wounds, skin disorders and eyewash.  Goldenseal is recognised today as a potent herbal antibiotic and immune system enhancer.  It stimulates the immune system to quickly identify and destroy pathogens, and if used early enough it is effective for nearly all kinds of bacterial infection.

Important to note:  Goldenseal is such a strong antibacterial that it kills almost all bacteria it contacts, including beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract (a similar action to antibiotics). Therefore, after a therapy of Goldenseal (or antibiotics), it is wise to take an L. acidophilus treatment in order to recolonise the gastrointestinal tract and replenish the beneficial flora.   Be aware that Goldenseal is also believed to interfere with vitamin B absorption if taken long term.  It is best if Goldenseal is used for short periods of time.  A continuous dosage exceeding three weeks is not advisable, and a break of at least two weeks is a must during the dosage regimen.

Parts Used Medicinally

·       Primarily the rhizome (root)

·       4-6 grams of powdered goldenseal root in pill or capsule form is the normal daily dose for most patients.

·       For infections and ulcers of the mouth, apply a poultice or tincture made from the root.

·       For sore throats, prepare a decoction and gargle 50 ml 3-4 times a day.

·       As an eyewash, use the contents of one capsule with three ounces of purified water.

Note:  Taken together Goldenseal and Echinacea are highly beneficial.  They become a dynamic wide-spectrum antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal, and strengthen the entire immune system.  Consult a herbalist or naturopath for advice before using.

 

 3.  Feverfew

This underrated herb is native to northern Europe, Feverfew is now common in many countries throughout the world.  The English common name, Feverfew, is derived from the Latin febrifuga, meaning ‘febrifuge’ – a medicine or treatment capable of reducing fever.

According to well-respected English herbalist and physician John Gerard (1545-1612), Feverfew is “very good for them that are giddy in the head.”  In the time of Gerard, Feverfew was most renowned as a successful cure for headache.  As the name suggests it is also an excellent treatment for fevers and can be used to lower the temperature and cool the body.  However, as other herbal medicines were developed, Feverfew lost some of its popularity over the years

All but forgotten, Feverfew regained popularity in 1978 when a British newspaper printed an article about a woman who claimed it had cured her migraines. This claim created interest in doing research on the herb.  In 1985 the well-respected British Medical Journal reported on studies showing that extracts of parthenolide (sesquiterpene lactone) in Feverfew inhibited the release of prostaglandins, inflammatory substances thought to play a role in the onset of migraines and also connected to rheumatoid arthritis.  The research indicated that Feverfew is an effective remedy in preventing migraines or lessening their severity.  Since then, other studies have shown Feverfew to be effective as a preventative for migraines in 80 percent of cases.  In his book The Family Herbal, published a century after Gerard’s time, author Sir John Hill wrote, “In the worst headache this herb exceeds whatever else is known.” 

Feverfew has been found to be more successful if taken over a period of time.  Statistics show that in the United States alone approximately ten million people suffer from migraines and thirty million from arthritis.

Parts Used Medicinally

Flowers

·       Harvest in summer and dry.

·       For nervousness or pain, prepare an infusion of the flowers and allow to cool.

Leaves

Contain parthenolide, the key constituent used in the treatment of headaches and migraines.

·       For migraine prevention, two or three leaves can be eaten or made into a tea.  Best with other food.  Adults can take this dosage up to three to four times a day.

Tincture – five drops of prepared tincture in water three times a day for prevention of migraines and chronic headaches.

Caution:  Fresh leaves have been known to cause mouth ulcers.  Always check with a naturopath or herbalist for contraindications and directions before taking any medication.  

 

4.  Nettle

Tender-handed stroke a nettle

And it stings you for your pains;

Grasp it like a man of mettle,

And it soft as silk remains.              

— Aaron Hill (1685-1750)

Nettle is as well known for its sting as for its medicinal benefits.  Commonly nicknamed stinging Nettle, this hardy perennial is one of the most undervalued plants despite its long history as a home herbal remedy and nutritious green.

Nettle grows in most temperate regions of the world. It is said that first-century Greek physician Dioscorides had several uses for Nettle:  the chopped fresh leaves to cover septic wounds, the cooked leaves mixed with myrrh to stimulate menstruation and the juice to stop nosebleeds.  Today Nettle is used for both its medicinal and nutritional value.

Medicinally, the constituents of the whole plant can be utilised to treat asthma and dandruff, as a diuretic and as a stimulating tonic.  Nettle is also excellent in the treatment of anemia, excessive menstruation, hemorrhoids, arthritis, rheumatism and skin conditions, especially eczema and burns.  Being stung by Nettle regularly while gardening is believed to give protection in later life against arthritis and rheumatism.  Native Americans used Nettle tea as an aid in pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing. Research in the United States, Germany, and Japan shows the root of Nettle to be beneficial in the treatment of enlarged prostate.

An infusion of Nettle is used as a cleansing tonic and blood purifier for hay fever, arthritis and anaemia.  Nettle tea also cures diseases and inflammations of the urinary system.  It has a slightly laxative effect and is recommended in remedies for eliminating toxins and purifying the system.  Treatment with Nettle teafor diseases of the liver and spleen will last for a number of weeks.  The tea can also be of great help to those who suffer from diabetes because it acts specifically to lower glycaemic response and decrease blood sugar levels.

Nutritionally, Nettle is high in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A and C, iron, silica and potassium.  Throughout history, it has been used as a nourishing tonic and a valuable addition to the diet.  Good gloves must be used for harvesting in summer.  Thoroughly drying or cooking the leaves neutralises the sting and makes them safe to eat.  Young leaves can be added to soups or stews.  Nettles have been used in making beer and cheese while the flax-like fibre in the stems makes excellent string and cloth and good quality paper. Nettle is an excellent companion plant in orchards and improves the health of fruit trees.

Parts Used Medicinally

Aerial parts – leaves

·       Steam as a nutritious vegetable.

·       Infusion (tea):  Use as a general tonic.  To retain the active substances, steep fresh or dried leaves in boiled water.

·       Ointment:  for skin problems such as eczema

Root

·       Tincture:  for allergies and skin conditions

·       Capsules:  for heavy menstruation

Infusion: similar properties to saw palmetto for treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate in men)

 

5.  Tulsi

Native to India, Tulsi has been praised in Indian scriptures and lore since the time of the early Vedas in the second millennium BC.

In the wild, Tulsi is an annual plant, but it can be kept as a short-lived perennial by trimming before it forms seeds.  It is closely related to the annual culinary herb sweet basil.  With its remarkable heritage, restorative powers and stress relieving properties, Tulsi has been revered in India for over five thousand years as a healing herb for body, mind, and spirit.  This most sacred of all plants, worshipped in Hindu temples as a living goddess, has earned the title Queen of Herbs.  A Hindu household is considered incomplete without a Tulsi plant in the courtyard, as it is believed to have a sacred aura and provide divine protection.  According to scientists, the place where Tulsi is planted becomes pollution free.

It might be easier to list what Tulsi cannot do.  This miraculous plant has so many medicinal virtues that a whole book could be written about its healing power.  Tulsi is one of the most important plants in Ayurvedic medicine, a five-thousand-year-old healing science that goes hand in hand with yogic philosophy.  It has the ability to regulate and balance all three doshas (body and mind types), creating purity and lightness in the entire body.  Traditionally Tulsi was used to stimulate and boost the immune system.  Its purifying action, cleansing the respiratory tract of toxins and congestion, has a significant effect in the treatment of colds and flu.  Its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are valuable in the management of arthritis pain.

Western medicine uses the term adaptogen for herbs like Tulsi that help to balance, normalise, strengthen and protect functions in the body.  Results of modern studies of Tulsi show that it …

·       is effective in treating a range of medical conditions from diabetes to cancer; 

·       neutralises free radicals and inhibits the production of inflammatory prostaglandins;

·       is similar to antidepressant medication in its effect on the neurochemistry of the brain;

·       protects against damage caused by toxic chemicals in the blood;

·       limits damage from cancer radiation therapy and protects the heart from damage caused by the chemotherapy drug adriamycin; and

·       substantially lowers blood sugar levels in diabetics who are non-insulin dependent.

The nutritional and pharmacological properties of whole herbs in their natural form, as they have been traditionally used, result from synergistic interactions of many different active phytochemicals.  Consequently the overall effects of Tulsi, like those of other herbs, cannot be fully duplicated with isolated compounds or extracts.  Because of Tulsi’s inherent botanical and biochemical complexity, its standardisation has so far eluded modern science.  Perhaps best known of the many active compounds that have been identified and extracted are eugenol (an essential oil) and ursolic acid.  Although Tulsi is recognised as a general vitaliser that increases physical endurance, it contains no caffeine or other stimulants. 

Parts Used Medicinally

Leaves and aerial parts

·       Juice:  for skin infections and eczema

·       Decoction (tea):  immune system boost, tonic for fevers and colds

·       Capsules:  300-600 mg dried leaves as preventative therapy, 600-1800 mg as curative therapy

 

6. Turmeric

Turmeric has been used and studied in Indian Ayurvedic medicine since about 1900 BC.  Native to India and southern Asia, it is one of the most important herbs ever discovered for preventing disease and treating a wide variety of ailments.  Few plants possess such a wide spectrum of qualities and medicinal uses as Turmeric.  It is most renowned as an effective and powerful anti-inflammatory that compares to many popular pharmaceutical medicines.  Turmeric also finds its place in almost all Ayurvedic preparations related to liver and skin disorders.  It has proven successful in the treatment of some of the most debilitating ailments today, including arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, kidney and urinary tract infections … to name but a few of its healing abilities.

In India Turmeric is considered the standard anti-inflammatory.  The principal organs it deals with are the skin, heart, liver and lungs.  It also nurtures the entire gastrointestinal system and generates healthy digestion by increasing the intestinal flora, the bio-availability of nutrients and the stomach’s ability to withstand digestive acids. It is added to food not just for flavour but also for medicinal purposes.

Modern science is beginning to recognise and understand the amazing healing qualities of Turmeric and much research is currently being conducted.

Research in the latter half of the 20th century identified the compound curcumin as responsible for most of the biological activity of Turmeric.  Curcumin is one of three curcuminoids in Turmeric that produce its bright yellow colour. While curcumin alone has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal actions, Turmeric has hundreds of other molecular constituents, each with a variety of beneficial effects.  One database noted that Turmeric initiates over 326 known biological activities.  At least 20 of its molecules have antibiotic properties, 14 are known cancer preventatives, 12 are anti-tumour, 12 are anti-inflammatory and at least 10 are antioxidants. Turmeric also protects the liver from toxins and pathogens.  It is known to both destroy toxins in the liver and rebuild the liver after a toxic attack.

Rudolf Steiner once identified Turmeric as having a “magnetic nature,” meaning that it literally attracts illness out of the body and comprehensively eliminates toxins.

Parts Used Medicinally

Dried rhizome

·       Take as a tincture or in pill form to treat specific issues.

·       As a preventative, add the powdered rhizome to food.

Note:  No major side effects have been reported in the medical literature, however as with all medicines, Turmeric should not be taken long term unless directed by health professional. 

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