Over the next few weeks we'll be exploring the different uses of herbs, which should be used in conjunction with the advice and prescriptions of your medical doctor. Many doctors now have had a semester of schooling on herbs and natural healing. Some are very dismissive, others are willing to accept that mankind existed for millennia with only herbs and natural medicine to help them along.
This, in no way, negates the value of modern medicine. But I believe in a careful balance between the two. Therefore, here we go:
Herbs and Their Multiple Uses
The main resources for this section are Herbnet, and Prescription for Nutritional Healing.
Used as a fresh bark, Alder Buckthorn has multiple uses.
• For the skin, fresh bark, powdered and mixed with vinegar, is used to topically treat fungal diseases of the skin and acne. Externally, the oil is applied to dry skin.
Alder buckthorn is a laxative, a cathartic, and is most commonly taken as a treatment for chronic constipation. Once the herb has been dried and stored, it is significantly milder than senna or common buckthorn and may be safely used over the long term to treat constipation and to encourage the return of regular bowel movements. Alder buckthorn is a particularly beneficial remedy if the muscles of the colon are weak and if there is poor bile flow. However, the plant should not be used to treat constipation resulting from excessive tension in the colon wall. The berries also act as a milder purgative.
Almond (Prunus communis)
Bitter almonds when distilled yield an essential oil containing about 5% of prussic acid. Almonds are usually processed to extract almond oil for cosmetic purposes.
• It is helpful for alleviating itchy skin conditions, such as eczema.
Among masseuses and aromatherapists, Almond oil is used because it easily absorbed and is an excellent carrier for essential oils. The oil has sedative properties and is sometimes used in cough remedies.
Almond flour is sometimes used as sustaining food for diabetics or highly allergic babies. Almond milk is still drunk as a kidney tonic and to ease heartburn.
The almond in and of itself, is a delicious addition to the diet. They are beneficial in the overall health of the body, used especially in the treatment of kidney stones, gallstones and constipation.
“The seed contains 'laetrile', a substance that has also been called vitamin B17. The pure substance is almost harmless, but on hydrolysis it yields hydrocyanic acid, a very rapidly acting poison - it should thus be treated with caution. In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being. The leaves are used in the treatment of diabetes. The plant contains the antitumor compound taxifolin.” www.herbnet.com
Aloe (Aloe barbadensis)
Commercial aloe juice is made from the inner leaf, which is blended and strained, with a preservative added. To make aloe “gel”, the juice is thickened with seaweed to mimic the leaf’s original thick consistency.
• One study reports that aloe is successful in promoting hair growth and healing severe acne.
Aloe is known to be a natural laxative, a digestive tract soother and healer in conditions such as peptic ulcers and colitis. It also heals when applied to wounds, eczema, ringworm, poison oak, poison ivy, sunburn, and leg ulcerations. It is known to prevent infections, as well as being helpful in number of areas regarding gums and mouth. As a drink, it is a known folk remedy (as both a drink and a liniment) to reduce the swelling and pain of arthritis and rheumatism. Areas of the world use it to control blood sugar levels. The uses of Aloe are wide and varied, proven both through time and medicine.
Angelica (Angelica archangelica):
• The leaves are used in the bath to stimulate the skin.
Angelica is a useful expectorant for coughs, bronchitis and pleurisy, especially when they are accompanied by fever, colds or influenza. The leaf can be used as a compress in inflammations of the chest. It is useful in easing intestinal colic and flatulence. Angelica stimulates the appetite, which can be useful in treating eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.
Use of Angelica over the ages has proven to ease rheumatic inflammations as well as offering relief in muscle spasms suffered by asthmatics. It is useful in regulating a the menstrual cycle, especially after extended use of birth control.
Because it dissolves mucus, Angelica salve is helpful in cases of chronic rhinitis and sinusitis. Applied twice daily to the area of paranasal sinuses, forehead, nostrils, cheeks and angle of the jaw will achieve the desired relief with rhinitis and sinusitis.
Because of its aromatic bitter properties, this plant is much used in bitters and liqueurs such as Benedictine and Chartreuse.
The roots dug in the fall are boiled in water for coughs, drunk morning and evening, and the tea used as a hair rinse after shampooing.
• Reports are that the root and bark tea are a good growth stimulant and tonic for the hair.
The powdered root (with tobacco) or the flowers (with Horehound and flour) are used for painful joints or soft tissue swellings, applied locally as a poultice or fomentation. The spring twigs may be boiled and drunk for indigestion and “spring” fevers.