Most Americans are more familiar with herbs within a culinary context. However, herbs have been recognized as health aids and solutions for thousands of years. You may be familiar with a few—specific types of tea have been making their way into commercial supermarkets, and the juicing trend has brought several important herbs into the spotlight. Herbs are incredibly accessible, fun to use, and a great way to experiment with homeopathy. Here are ten herbs you can use as medicine.
Thyme: Type is excellent for respiratory issues. Thymol, its most notable chemical compound, is recognized for its antiseptic abilities. Plus, it tastes pretty great when baked into bread.
Echinacea: Yes, this is actually an herb! You may have taken Echinacea supplements as a kid (raise your hand if your mom shopped at Whole Foods before it was cool), but the benefits of this power plant go beyond tasty gummies. This herb can alleviate joint pain and improve the immune system.
Chamomile: Popular in tea, chamomile is a popular remedy for curing upset stomachs. It can also be used to solve problems related to sleep, morning sickness, bloating, and other skin problems.
Dandelion: This flowering plant is best known for its use as a detoxifying agent for the liver and kidney. Dandelion has also been used to treat infections, minimize swelling, balance blood sugar, and improve pancreas function.
Sage: This herb is excellent for disinfecting sores, healing ulcers, and curing coughs.
Peppermint: One of the tastiest herbs on this lit, peppermint is used to alleviate dyspepsia, gastritis, intestinal colic, and GI tract issues. Essentially, it will sooth your stomach.
Holy basic: This plant has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Plus, it tastes excellent with tomatoes.
Lemon balm: This herb is incredibly easy to grow. It is known for its anti-viral and relaxing properties and is often used to treat upset stomachs, bad breath, and sores.
Aloe vera: If you’re using skin treatments without aloe vera, you’re doing something wrong. This herb is used widely to heal wounds and various skin and hair conditions. When taken orally, aloe can act as a laxative.
Bergamot: Essential oils made from Bergamot can help treat high fever and intestinal worms. It can also be used for aromatherapy and act as a tonic for the nervous system, alleviating stress, anxiety, tension, and headache.
A rise in both gardening and self-sufficiency has led to the increased desire to grow personal medicinal herb gardens. Herbs are incredibly useful plants; they can be used for a variety of projects, they look beautiful, and they can aid in healing practices. Most herbs are not difficult to grow, and many have beautiful flowers and foliage. Herbs grow well in pots, but they can also be planted among your perennial beds or in a traditionally landscaped area.
So, which herbs should you use to start? The basics include: basil, mint, and garlic. These are classified as both culinary and medicinal herbs—they are highly nutritive and flavorful, but they can be potent when treating health issues. However, there are literally thousands of herbs you could grow. To choose which will work best for your life, research local growing conditions to see what is successfully supported in your area. Then, sit down and go through the herbs you use regularly. Do you take Echinacea gummies? Do you keep ginger on-hand for that pre-cold tea? Are you always running out of mint? Asking yourself these questions will allow you to determine which will work best for your lifestyle.
Once you have chosen your herbs, understand the conditions they need to grow and thrive. You may need to reseed, prune, layer, or cut. Pay attention to how many hours of sun your herb garden needs every day, and research the water requirements each plant has. Most importantly, look up what kind of soil it needs and what type of temperatures it can withstand.
Once you have your list and caring instructions, you’re ready to plant. Use an herb catalogue or visit a nursey to purchase seeds or young plants. Choose seed packets based on how much information is included, and as your local nursery to see their catalogue. These plant professionals will always have advice when it comes to gardening, so don’t be afraid to ask!
Now, be realistic about the space you have available to you when planning and planting. If you live in an apartment, see what you can squeeze onto a sunny windowsill or a south-facing deck. If you live close to a community or farm garden plot, see if any friends have extra space. Find a decent amount of space to grow so you can prepare for when the herbs are fully realized!
If you’ve witnessed the sudden appearance of dispensaries in your state, you’re not alone. Though tetrahydrocannabinol, abbreviated to THC, is not legal in all American states, these dispensaries appear to sell something else. Cannabidiol, appreciated as CBD, is becoming accessible and better-known in nearly every state across the country.
CBD is one of at least 113 active cannabinoids identified in cannabis. One of these many cannabinoids is THC, however, the effects of each compound are drastically different. CBD does not appear to have any psychoactive effects, such as those caused by THC. It may have a downregulating impact on disordered thinking and anxiety, but there is little research to support any statistically significant results. A number of studies on CBD indicate that it may be useful in treating types of inflammation caused by a variety of conditions. Cannabidiol has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in acute lung injury, and early studies suggest that CBD may be of value in treating epilepsy. It is shown to be safe and well tolerated by humans, and it does not induce any toxicity. Though
So why, then, are dispensaries appearing across the country? If this compound does not have psychoactive effects, why is it touted as THC’s mellower cousin? CBD-infused foods are becoming increasingly commonplace in natural grocery stores, but these products rarely have significant amounts of the compound. In reality, it appears that CBD is a means of providing an alternative to THC through a stealthy marketing tactic; the lack of psychoactive properties makes it the only cannabinoid able to skirt legal bans on marijuana, leading consumers to believe it is a safer but equally enjoyable substitute. While it has been shown to have no downsides or side effects, any phenomena experienced by CBD is likely the result of a placebo effect.
If you walk down the health food isle of your local grocery store, you might observe that dozens of products include ginseng. From energy drinks and teas to non-Western medicine, this antioxidant “powerhouse” is said to have quasi-magical effects—from improved brain function to blood sugar regulation. Used for thousands of years across hundreds of nations and cultures, Ginseng is treasured for its healing properties and reported effect on sexual libido. However, ginseng is not the cure-all remedy we all hoped for.
Ginseng is a species of slow-growing perennial plants. Its roots are most often turned into a powder, which can be utilized in infusions and supplement capsules. Commercial ginseng is currently sold in over 35 countries, but China has, historically, been the plant’s largest consumer. These roots have an unusually long germination period—they usually do not yield anything until the second spring after it is planted. Ginseng must be subjected to a long period of storage in a moist environment with a warm/cold treatment.
Many users of ginseng claim that it can reduce stress, alleviate erectile dysfunction, stave off dementia, strengthen the immune system, prevent colds, reduce infections, improve digestion, and cure cancer. However, like most wonder drugs, there is little-to-no research to support any of these claims.
Ginseng’s antioxidants are to blame for these panacea claims. Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules—and they are currently very popular in the health food world. Oxidation can facilitate the growth of free radicals, leading to the idea that antioxidants can fight cancer. However, ginseng does not have nearly enough of the compound to boost a body’s immunity.
Like many herbs and spices, turmeric is having a moment. The golden-hued spice is touted as a panacea for ills by both medical and holistic practitioners, its effects impacting everything from hangovers to cancer. Your “golden milk” latte is said to have anti-inflammatory properties and provide a strong antioxidant, and ingesting the spice in larger quantities is said to prevent melanoma, prevent breast cancer, and detoxify the liver.
Unfortunately, turmeric may not be the spice we’ve been waiting for. The Journal of Medicinal Chemistry studied turmeric’s key compound—curcumin—and the effect it may have on the body. They found that it is not easily absorbed by the human body, making it unlikely that the herb’s benefits can be delivered on a cellular level. Moreover, the majority of scientific studies done on turmeric did not include double-blind placebo-controlled trials—the governing standard for pharmacological studies.
However, don’t throw away your turmeric just yet; it may offer localized benefits on the gut level. It is known to suppress excess production of stomach acid, and the spice’s astringent qualities can help seal the lining of the bowel and digestive tract. Though not effective on a cellular level, turmeric may be a natural replacement for acid reflux medications.
Moreover, most scientific studies conducted on turmeric concern just one of its key compounds—curcumin. The actual plant that yields turmeric produces tens of thousands of different compounds, and the synergy of these elements may provide some type of benefit beyond gut regulation. That said, the herb must, likely, be ingested in large quantities to yield any effects. No, your turmeric latte will not cure cancer, but taking a turmeric supplement might have lesser-known benefits.