While herbs add a little extra flavor to our meals, my favorite thing about herbs is that they can provide natural, low-cost cures for a wide range of maladies. Here are some common herbs for healing what ails you, whether it’s itchy skin or torn ligaments.
Use juice from aloe vera leaves topically to treat minor wounds and burns; it’s antiseptic, emollient, insecticidal and digestive.
Calendula petals are valued for their antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. This herb’s blossoms are edible and commonly used in baths, salves, ointments and infusions.
Eat chickweed flowers and leaves, either dried or fresh, to treat the pain of rheumatism. This anti-inflammatory herb is also used in ointments to soothe itching and other common skin ailments.
Warning: If pregnant, avoid consuming significant quantities of chickweed.
Comfrey contains allantoin, which speeds the healing of tissue, and rosmarinic acid, an anti-inflammatory. Comfrey roots and leaves may be used topically, but do not ingest. This astringent herb treats bruises, torn ligaments and broken bones. Infuse a bath with comfrey, or use it in fomentations and poultices.
Warning: Because of the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, comfrey isn’t recommended for internal use. (Pyrrolizidine alkaloids can damage the liver and cause cancerous tumors.) You should also avoid using comfrey products on broken skin. Children, nursing mothers and pregnant women should avoid the comfrey products in general.
Goldenseal is a rhizome that has been used to dye fibers and has been included in many herbal medicines. Berberine, a bitter and strong antibacterial alkaloid, is said to be responsible for goldenseal’s ability to kill many types of bacteria, as well as its rich yellow color.
Warning: Goldenseal should not be used by people with high blood pressure or pregnant women. Because goldenseal’s strong antibacterial action eliminates beneficial intestinal flora, do not use the herb for longer than three months.
Lavender flowers and leaves are a depressant to the central nervous system. This fragrant herb also acts an antispasmodic on smooth muscle tissue and offers antibiotic properties. Keep a vial of lavender essential oil on hand to use topically on wounds and burns, and to help alleviate nervous tension and headaches.
Another handy herb to have around is the lemon balm plant. Its flowers and leaves can be used as a sedative and an insect repellent. The herb also offers antiviral, antibacterial and antispasmodic properties. Use the leaves to make tinctures, brew teas, or toss in hot baths; its pleasing scent is accompanied by soothing properties.
Warning: If you are pregnant or a nursing mother, seek out the advice of a medical professional well-versed in the use of therapeutic herbs before employing lemon balm. Ask the advice of your physician before using lemon balm with other medicines.