Monday, 7 November 2022
Since time immemorial, humans have utilised herbs and plants for wellness both physically and energetically with the human body evolving alongside plants in our environments.
Seeds, leaves, stems, bark, roots, flowers, and extracts have been used in herbal medicine over the millennia. About 80% of the world population presently uses herbal medicine for primary healthcare ((World Health Organization [WHO], 2005).
While using herbs to support illness and health conditions is best done under the guidance of a qualified Naturopath, Herbalist or suitably trained health professional, there are many ways to utilise herbs on a daily basis safely at home to incorporate the many medicinal properties that support our wellness journey.
Here are five fun ways to incorporate herbs into your lives regularly.
#1 Herbal tisanes (hot and cold)
Otherwise known as infusions or teas. The leaves of herbs can be used fresh or dried and steeped in water to provide a tasty and refreshing beverage. In order to get some medicinal benefits from the herbs, they are best steeped for approximately 10 minutes. They can be drunk hot or cold and contribute to your daily water intake. You can add some fresh fruit such as strawberries and apples into a cooled mint tea in the summer. Alternatively, a hot infusion with thyme, lemon and ginger can provide support to the respiratory and circulatory systems.
#2 Herbal vinegars
Vinegars such as apple cider (ACV), balsamic or red wine vinegar can be used to extract active compounds from herbs such as garlic, onion, and chilli (the chosen herbs are added to the vinegar and left to soak for one to two weeks). This can then be utilised either as a base for salad dressings (add some mustard and a teaspoon of honey) or one tablespoon can be taken straight off a spoon as a pre-digestive aid five minutes before meals. Omit the chilli or hot herbs if you have ulcers or any inflammation.
#3 Herbal condiments
A favourite way to use herbs often is via a seasoning called chimichurri. Having stores of this in the fridge allows quick meals to be made in no time and it stores excellently. Using it as a base for a simple wholemeal pasta dish, in casseroles, stews, stir-fries or as a tasty alternative to garlic bread spread on a French loaf and baked, is just some ways this versatile condiment can be used. The main ingredients are a big bunch of parsley, several cloves of garlic, oregano, thyme, and chilli all in amounts of your choice, chopped and mixed together with a small amount of red wine vinegar. This whole mix then gets covered in extra virgin olive oil and left to infuse overnight, ready for use within an hour or the next day. Well and truly yummy.
#4 Herbal foot soaks
Adding herbs to a foot bath with a cup of Epsom salts while watching your favourite show in the evening is a delightful way not only to get the benefit of some of the herbs which can be chosen for the specific actions required, but the addition of Epsom salts helps support the nervous system for a good night’s sleep. Herbs such as calendula to support connective tissue, rosemary as an aid for memory, mint as a general cleanser or oat straw as a good nervous system restorative may be some choices, but the sky is the limit. Add at least a cup of herbs to a basin (you may need more with herbs such as calendula that are very light) with one cup of Epsom salt and warm water and sit back and soak your feet for at least 15 minutes.
#5 Herbal gargles/mouthwash
The final way to use herbs daily is with the cold remains of your herbal infusion used as a mouthwash/gargle. Gargling not only stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps our body switch to rest and relax mode but the local action in the mouth from the soaked infusion may be beneficial for mouth hygiene. Store your unused herbal infusion in the fridge, add a dried leaf or two of the herb sage (optional) and then when ready to go to bed, strain the herbs using the remaining liquid as a gargle and mouthwash.
Enjoy experimenting with herbs from your garden in any of these ways but, first and foremost, just get out into nature and interact with these ancient healing gifts from the earth.
Interested in herbs and health?
Learn more about the healing powers of herbs and plants in our short course 'Natural Remedies: herbs and health'
Tracy has been in clinical practice as a herbalist and Naturopath since 2002 with a special interest in pre-conception, fertility, women's hormones and reproductive health. In addition to her naturopathic qualifications, she has completed post-graduate training in wellness and has a Masters in reproductive medicine. She also currently sits on the Clinical Advisory Committee for Endometriosis Australia.
She offers couples the BEYOND FERTILITY ™ program to assist in achieving optimal outcomes for a healthy pregnancy and birth and offers other practitioners mentoring in the program. She also has her own range of herbal teas in this space.
She is a well-respected industry speaker and established workshop facilitator, speaking both nationally and internationally. In addition, she both supervises in the Clinic and lectures at Endeavour College of Natural Health Perth.
In her downtime, she is a self-confessed foodie and animal lover and you will often find her concocting recipes with medicinal herbs into teas, elixirs, oxymels, smoothies, oils and poultices and researching ways of resurrecting ancient healing knowledge into modern practice.
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