Monday, November 14, 2011

Herbs & Health - Margaret Ullrich

Many herbs have a long tradition as folk remedies.  

The leaves of the violet plant contain acetylsalicylic acid.  Violet tea was drunk in small doses for coughs and heart trouble. 

Pick mature white sweet clover flowers, dry at room temperature, and use to make a soothing tea, good for coughs, colds, bronchial and nervous condtions.  
The plant is a source of the anticoagulent, dicoumarin.

Sage tea is good for toothaches, asthma, sore throats and colds.  For throat and chest congestion, folks inhaled the fumes or used the leaves in a poultice.  
The leaves can be boiled then used in a bath for rheumatism.

A strong tea for colds can be made by simmering dandelion leaves for ten minutes.  Dandelion wine, made using only the yellow petals, has a pleasant, sweet kick.  Dandelion coffee, as well as yarrow tea, could help a mild bed-wetting problem. 

Confused by herbal lingo?
An ointment or salve is made by warming oil and mixing in the powdered herb or extracted juice.  Then it's allowed to stand for a few hours, strained and cooled.
Liniments were made by adding the desired plant part to rubbing alcohol in a closed container.  It's allowed to stand, with an occasional shaking, for two weeks.  Then it's strained and bottled.
A poultice is a softened mass of bruised fresh leaves which is applied externally.  It conveys heat and draws out inflammation.
A compress consists of an herb mass inside a cloth which is used in the same way as a poultice. 

Basic rules:
If using flowers, such as chamomile, dry the blooms at room temperature.  
If using seeds, such as anise, caraway, coriander, dill and fennel, pick the seed heads as they turn color but before they pop open.  
One teaspoon of crushed dried herb is equal to about one tablespoon of chopped fresh herb.

No kidding, herbs can affect you.  Never subtitute an herbal remedy for proper medical attention.  

And there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  
Garlic is a popular cure all.  While garlic does lower cholesterol, too much garlic will affect blood clotting.  People using blood thinners should avoid it.

It's important to remember that many plants are potent drugs.  Their active ingredients form the basis of many of today's medicines, from aspirin to morphine.  

If you have any questions or are on medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible interactions between herbal remedies and prescription medicine.

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