Ten Medicinal Herbs You Should Know

     (Debra  Nuzzi holds Master Herbalist degrees  from  Dominion 
Herbal College and the School of Natural Healing. She has been  a 
student of herbal medicine for 22 years and has taught  herbology 
since 1984. She is the author of the herbal video series,  Herbal 
Preparations  and  Natural Therapies-Creating and  Using  a  Home 
Herbal  Medicine  Chest She is president of  Nature's  Apothecary 
Inc, a fresh plant herbal extract company, and Essential Aromath
erapy,  which  manufactures aromatherapy inhalers.  Both  are  in 
Boulder, Colorado - The editors.)

                       By Debra Nuzzi, MH

 ONE hundred years ago, the kitchen garden was also the  medicine 
garden, and plants which produced medicinal benefit were part  of 
the  working knowledge of the common people. Those  plants  which 
were difficult to cultivate were sought in the surrounding fields 
and  meadows, then preserved and added to the harvest  storehouse 
to soothe and heal the illnesses of winter.

      With  the advent of the chemically synthesized  drugs,  the 
home pharmacy has all but disappeared, and with it the  knowledge 
of simple herbal remedies for common ailments. This knowledge  is 
now resurfacing: researched and regenerated by people who want to 
take an active and independent role in their own health care.

     A very necessary part of this renaissance is self-education. 
Starting  is  easy.   Just familiarize yourself with  a  few  key 
herbs  and begin to use them in your daily life. As you  see  how 
effective  they are it will spark your desire to learn more,  and 
you're on your way!

 Following  is a list of 10 commonly available herbs  and  simple 
ways to use them in personal health maintenance.  These herbs are 
easily  available  and fulfill a wide range of  benefits  with  a 
minimum amount of effort.

 ALOE  LEAF  (Aloe Vera) - This plant has hundreds of  uses,  the 
most popular being its ability to alleviate the pain of burns and 
to  speed their healing. It is very easily cultivated as a  house 
plant, and should be in every kitchen. It is the best remedy  for 
sunburn, often preventing later peeling.  Immediately immerse the 
burn  in  cold water or apply ice until the heat  subsides,  then 
generously apply the aloe.  It is best to trim the prickly  sides 
off  the succulent leaf, then split the leaf in half  and  gently 
rub the exposed gel onto the affected area. Aloe may also be  ap
plied  to any cut or skin abrasion, and onto skin eruptions,  re
markably  speeding  healing. To relieve the pain and  itching  of 
hemorrhoids,  carve  out a suppository sized chunk of  the  inner 
leaf gel and insert into the rectum.

 BURDOCK ROOT (Arcticum lappa) - Well know as a blood detoxifica
tion  agent  and eaten as a vegetable known as Gobo  in  oriental 
cuisine, Burdock root is available throughout the U.S. It is used 
for skin eruptions and dry scaly skin conditions. Burdock is also
used as a digestive stimulant and to lower blood sugar. Its  seed 
is used as a diuretic and kidney tonic.  The root is now found in 
supermarkets  and  can be cooked as a vegetable or  made  into  a 
decoction.  Fresh plant fluid extracts of the root and  seed  are 
also available in health food stores.

 COMFREY  LEAF/ROOT (Symphytum officinalis) - Comfrey  should  be 
grown as a house plant in every home. Like Aloe, it is a  natural 
herbal  bandaid, useful for cuts, scrapes and burns. It is  styp
tic,  which means that it will stop bleeding. Commonly  known  as 
"knit-bone,"  it stimulates tissue regeneration. Used  externally 
as  a  poultice, it helps heal bone fractures  and  deep  wounds. 
Recovery  rate is accelerated with use of this fresh plant  poul
tice  on  muscle,  tendon and  ligamentous  injuries.  Thoroughly 
cleanse the wound with an antiseptic first,because Comfrey is  so 
quick  to regenerate the tissue that it will seal over the  wound 
with the bacteria still inside.

 DANDELION ROOT (Taraxacum officinalis) - Dandelion is  naturally 
high  in  potassium, making it a safe  diuretic,  increasing  the 
ability to eliminate waste products through the urinary channels. 
It  helps restore kidney function and relieves liver  and  spleen 
congestion.  It is extremely beneficial as a spring  tonic  which 
stimulates sluggish liver function. The root should be made  into 
a strong decoction, which means that it should be cut into  small 
pieces  and simmered in a glass or enamel vessel for at least  10 
minutes  before  straining and drinking. The  fresh  plant  fluid 
extract can also be used. set 20-30 drops into a cup of hot water 
and drink as a tea.

 ECHINACEA  ROOT  (Echinacea angustifolia) -  A  powerful  immune 
stimulant,  Echinacea has become increasingly popular  in  recent 
years. Its antiseptic and anti-viral properties are used for sore 
throats, flu, colds, infections and allergies. It also has  tumor 
inhibiting  properties.  The most potent form is  a  fresh  plant 
fluid extract,however, medicinal benefit can also] be derived  by 
mixing a decoction, as explained under Dandelion.

 GARLIC  BULB  (Allium sativum) - Best known for  its  antibiotic 
effect, garlic bulbs or the milder garlic greens can be eaten raw 
at  the  onset of a cold or flu. A small piece of  bread  may  be 
necessary  to  make the spicyness more palatable.  You  can  grow 
garlic  greens  by planting the bulbs in a 4-inch-deep  pot,  and 
trimming them to use in salads or stir fry dishes. Garlic oil  is 
effectively used for ear infections. It is easily made by  finely 
chopping  enough fresh organic garlic bulbs to fill a jelly  jar, 
and  covering  them with organic olive oil. Cover  the  jar  with 
cheesecloth held on with a rubber band. Let the mixture sit in  a 
warm room for a week or a sunny window for several hours (if  you 
need  it  right away). Strain the oil and store it  in  an  amber 
glass  jar. The warmed oil is then placed in the ear and  plugged 
with  a cotton ball. Leave in overnight and treat  nightly  until 
the infection is gone. This therapy is not to be used in cases of 
eardrum  perforation. A wonderful garlic cough syrup can be  made
by simmering freshly chopped garlic in apple cider vinegar for 10  
minutes.  Strain the resulting liquid, add honey and simmer  down 
until  the mixture is thick and syrupy. The  vinegar  neutralizes 
the  garlic taste, making it much more tolerable, yet  preserving 
the antibiotic effect.

 GINGER ROOT (Zinziber officiale) - Ginger has a carminative  ef
fect,  which means that it will help relieve  digestive  problems 
which  result  in gas formation. It is also a  diaphoretic,  used 
both  as a tea and added to a soaking bath to stimulate  sweating 
and  reduce fevers. In cases of abdominal menstrual  cramping,  a 
ginger  fomentation  can be made. A fomentation  is  prepared  by 
slicing 1-3 large roots into a half gallon of water and simmering 
in a covered pan for at least 30 minutes. A cotton cloth is  then 
dipped in the mixture, wrung out (wear rubber gloves, it's  hot!) 
and applied to the abdomen as hot as can be withstood. Two folded 
bath  towels are placed on top to help maintain the heat  of  the 
fomentation  as the therapy progresses. Internally, 1/4  teaspoon 
of ginger or one dropperful of the fluid extract can be added  to 
1  cup of warm water to alleviate nausea/morning  sickness/motion 
sickness and to aid digestion.

 KELP  (Nereocystis  leutkeana) The kelp family,  which  includes 
kombu,  wakame,  arame and hijiki, is known for  its  ability  to 
combat the effects of radiation in the body.  Radioactive  stron
tium-90,  one  of  the more prevalent sources  of  radiation,  is 
stored  in our bones, and contributes to long term diseases  such 
as leukemia, bone cancer, Hodgkins disease, anemia, and decreased 
production  of  red and white blood cells.  The  sodium  alginate 
found  in the kelp family binds with the radioactive  isotope  in 
the  gastrointestinal tract and forms an insoluble gel like  salt 
called strontium alginate, which is safely excreted in the feces.  
(For  more information on radiation detoxification, see  Fighting 
Radiation  with Foods, Herbs and Vitamins, by  Steven  Schechter, 
ND. Kelp is recommended as a daily addition to the diet)

 ST. JOHN'S WORT (Hypericum perforatum) - The extract and oil are 
used  externally  for bruises, strains, sprains,  contusions  and 
wounds. The extract is used internally as an immune system stimu
lant, for retro-viral infections, as an expectorant and  antibac
terial.  It speeds the healing of wounds and burns and  aids  the 
regeneration  of damaged nerve tissue. It is used as an  anti-de
pressant and to treat bed wetting and children's nightmares.   It 
is  also  known as Klamath weed, a common pasture plant,  and  is 
found throughout the U.S.

 VALERIAN ROOT (Valeriana officinalis) - Valerian is classed as a 
nervine  and sedative with mild pain relieving properties,  which 
makes it a good candidate for stress, anxiety and restless insom
nia.  It  has  also been used  for  intestinal  colic,  menstrual 
cramps, migraine headache, and rheumatic pain. Although it smells 
like well used socks, the extract and tea are both recommended.

  It is vitally important to properly identify the plant you  are
harvesting  before  you use it. Forest  Service  visitor  centers 
carry  plant  identification  books for  their  region,  and  the  
Petersen Field Guide series plus a range of medicinal plant hand
books  are  also sources of botanical  identification.   Most  of 
these books can be found in local bookstores. It is wise to  take 
classes or go with an experienced guide when you are in the early 
learning stages. Herbs are precious natural resources, and should 
be ecologically harvested. The following guidelines for  harvest
ing  help  insure herb potency and purity and help  preserve  the 
species for further enjoyment.

 Medicinal herbs should be:

  1) Gathered in the proper season.  General rules are: Barks  in 
the spring; leaves before the plant flowers; flowers on the first 
day  of  opening; roots are best in the fall (although  they  are 
sometimes harvested in spring, previous to aerial plant  develop

  2) Gathered in wild habitats where the plants naturally grow or 
should be organically grown according to certification  standards 
established by the state in which they were harvested.

  3)  Harvested in an area free of chemical/industrial  pollution 
of air, water and soil.

  4)  Gathered at least 1/4 mile from any traveled roads, and  at 
least 10 miles from any waste disposal or toxic dumping areas.

  5)  Protected from over-harvesting by leaving at least  3/4  of 
the stand intact for reproduction and continuance of the species. 
If  roots  are dug, root crowns and seeds must  be  replanted  to 
perpetuate the growth and proliferation of the plant.