Medicinal Uses for Herbs
Lemon Balm Fatigue Tea
Lemon Balm can be used for a variety of ailments including fatigue, cold sores, and stomachs. For a fatigue-fighting tea, mix equal parts nettle, raspberry leaf, oat tops, and lemon balm with 1/4 part each of cut-and sifted licorice and ginger. Drink 3 cups daily.
Lemon Balm Tea
This versatile herb contains volatile oils that ease stress and buoy bad moods. For straight-up tea, pour boiling water over dried lemon-balm leaf (1 to 2 teaspoons of herbs to 8 ounces water). Or blend with equal parts oat tops (or oat straw) and a pinch of peppermint.
A fragrant hallmark of Italian cooking, basil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and contains a wealth of nutrients, including beta-carotene and magnesium. Simply chewing on some basil can release its restorative powers.
Holy Basil Tea
Commonly referred to as tulsi, which means "the incomparable one," holy basil is considered matchless for reducing stress, increasing energy and vitality, and promoting longevity. Practitioners frequently prescribe this herb for age-related conditions such as cardiovascular problems, hypertension, and diabetes. A cousin to sweet basil, holy basil is easy to grow in your garden or on a sunny windowsill -- as an added bonus, it repels flies and other insects. (Look for holy basil in your local garden store.) Preparation tips: Holy basil can be used either fresh or dried. It makes a delicious, invigorating tea on its own or blended with peppermint and lemon balm. (Natural-foods stores carry a number of blends.) Supplement dosage: 2 to 3 times daily, take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon tincture or 2 capsules.
Peppermint Pick-Me-Up Spray
Extracted from leaves, fruit peels, petals, and other plant parts, essential oils capture nature's subtle fragrances and can even balance your mood, aromatherapists say. Some, like peppermint and eucalyptus, are believed to be stimulating and uplifting.
Peppermint: Headache Soother
Peppermint extract or oil, used commonly in baking, doubles as a reliable headache cure. Fill a small bowl with ice water and add 5 to 7 drops of peppermint oil. Dip a washcloth into the bowl, wring it out, and apply the compress to your forehead for 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, add several drops of the oil to a washcloth, throw it into the corner of a shower, and climb into the minty steam.
Fennel Breath Freshener
Chewing on fennel seeds stimulates saliva production (key for stopping bad breath). Pop a small handful of seeds after a pungent meal. (Gnawing on fresh mint, anise seeds, or parsley can also help.)
Chamomile Sleep Aide
For a relaxing bedtime beverage, Donald Yance, an Oregon-based clinical herbalist and certified nutritionist suggests combining several herbs as follows: Passionflower and skullcap soothe agitated nervous systems and can help with mental chatter; oat seed strengthens the nervous system and helps people who are too tired to sleep; and chamomile provides a gently relaxing base.
Chamomile Sleep Aide Tea
1 chamomile tea bag
30 to 60 drops passionflower tincture
15 to 30 drops skullcap tincture
15 to 30 drops milky oat seed (Avena sativa) tincture
Pour boiling water over tea bag and let steep for five minutes. Remove tea bag, and add drops of tincture to tea. Stir in a touch of honey if desired. Sip and enjoy.
Licorice Stamina Tea
Not simply for the candy store, licorice can help keep you energized or combat a canker sore. Try a homemade herbal chai to build your body's reserves.
Licorice Canker Sore Cure
Steep a tablespoon of dried licorice root in a cup of simmering water for 15 minutes. Strain, let cool to room temperature, then rinse your mouth with the tea.
Rich in rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant, rosemary leaves have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, giving credence to the herb's reputation as a memory tonic. The herb contains anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting compounds and is a good source of iron, calcium, and potassium.
Rosemary Bug Spray
Essential oils that have pungent, spicy, or woodsy odors repel insects by masking our natural scent; cedarwood, citronella, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, and tea tree oils are among the most effective. Because of their potency and concentration, essential oils should always be diluted when used in a spray.
Lavender Calm-Me-Down Spray
Lavender has a calming effect on many parts of the body. It can be used in dried or oil form. Extracted from leaves, fruit peels, petals, and other plant parts, essential oils capture nature's subtle fragrances and can even balance your mood, aromatherapists say. Some, like peppermint and eucalyptus, are believed to be stimulating and uplifting. Lavender and frankincense, are considered relaxing and centering.
Lavender Skin Healer
Dried lavender, calendula blossoms, and geranium essential oil tone and balance the skin, while their light, floral aromas calm the senses.
Relaxing Lavender Bath
To soothe the body and soul, soak in a warm bath with 15 drops each of lavender and chamomile essential oil twice a week.
Sage: Bloat-Reduction Tea
Sage can tackle a nagging cough or monthly feeling of bloat. If you tend to gain a pants size during your monthly cycle, banish the bloat with homemade sage tea.
Boil 1/3 teaspoon of dried or fresh sage in a cup of water and strain; drink three or four times a day when you're bloated.
Sage Cough Control Tea
This tea features thyme, which alleviates chest congestion and supports respiratory function, along with throat-soothing honey, sage, and vitamin-C-rich lemon.
Cooling Sage Tea
This tea can combat hot flashes. Combine equal parts sage, blue vervain, and motherwort with 1/2 part peppermint or spearmint for flavor. Drink throughout the day as needed.
Known for its distinctive tang, cilantro is common in both Mexican and Asian cuisines. And experts say this spice, among the world's oldest, provides powerful health benefits. "It revitalizes the body," says Simonds. Cilantro helps counter indigestion, and some research suggests it may help remove toxic metals such as mercury from the body. Its sweet-tasting cousin, coriander (the seed of the same plant), also confers general health benefits. Add fresh cilantro to salsa, guacamole, fish or chicken marinades, and Indian and Chinese soups.
Oregano, Thyme & Rosemary Steam
Steam is the best way to deliver the healing power of herbs to congested sinuses. Oregano and rosemary have antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties. Plus, they're bronchodilators, so they help you breathe. Use the herbs separately or together, or up the healing ante by boiling up a pot of standard-issue Italian seasoning. Add 3 tablespoons of Italian seasoning (or the dried herbs of your choice) to a large pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and transfer the pot to a table. Cover your head with a towel to create a steam tent; inhale for 10 to 20 minutes, or until the steam dissipates.
With its slightly minty flavor and immune-enhancing properties, thyme is a great ingredient for soups and marinades and can be eaten on its own. Like other spices, thyme is an excellent antioxidant and is rich in antibacterial and antispasmodic properties.
Calendula: Cuts and Scrapes
For an all-natural first-aid kit, keep a calendula-based salve or cream in your backpack to prevent infection of cuts and scrapes suffered out on the trails.
Grow Your Own Healing Herbs
To have all of these powerful plants at your disposal, why not grow them in your own garden? Herbs are forgiving to grow, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.