By Linda Conroy
I recently offered a talk titled 3 herbs to start using today. Deciding which herbs to talk about, was a wonderful journey. I chose 3 herbs very deliberately, after polling herbalist friends, as well as non herbalist friends on what herb they would choose and/or like to hear about. The suggestions as to which herb to choose were inspiring and proved that it is difficult to choose only 3 herbs. It also confirmed by experience that 3 herbs can cover a lot of ground in supporting health.
It occurred to me that if I was wanting to encourage the participants to begin using the herbs I spoke about right away, one criteria for choosing the herbs would be that they need to be easy to procure. And if I wanted them to be something they could incorporate into their lives over time, it would also be wise to include herbs they could easily grow.
The other criteria I was looking for was that the herbs chosen would support overall health. I wanted to the herbs to offer increased nutrients, to strengthen immune functioning and enhance cardiovascular as well as digestive health. Because our digestive system is the cornerstone of immune functioning, this body system is imperative to good health. And since cardiovascular disease is wide spread, keeping that system strong and healthy makes good sense.
That said the following is a write up on each of the herbs I chose, why I chose to talk about each herb and how they can be prepared and incorporated into daily life.
To your health!
1. Nettle (Urtica dioica*)
*This is the species that I typically work with and ingest. Note that there are other species that can be ingested with similar benefits.
I chose nettle for several reasons. First and foremost, it does grow in most parts of North America, so it it is easily accessible. In addition, many health food stores have dried nettle available. It also is is one of the most nourishing plants on the planet. If you look at the chart (linked below) created by herbalist and wise woman Rose Barlow, you see that nettle out shines common cultivated vegetables in nutrient density. Below is a link to the chart created by Rose. On the chart she outlines the amount of calcium for example in nettle comparing it to spinach and kale. For every cup of cooked green, the recommended daily allowance is 800 mg. Spinach contains 102 mg, kale 206 mg and nettle contains 2900 mg. Here is a link to the actual chart describing nettle, along with other wild plants. http://moonwiseherbs.com/herbal-nutritional-chart/
There is no doubt about it, nettle cooked or dried and prepared as a water based infusion, provides a power house of vitamins and minerals. The water based infusion, provides an easily assimilable medium or platform, by which the herb can be easily absorbed into the body. Here is a link, providing information on how to create herbal infusions or standard brews.
2. German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)or it’s analog or substitute for the wild foragers among you: Matricaria discoidea, commonly known as pineappleweed, wild chamomile, and disc mayweed.
When I began my talk, I asked participants to raise their hand if they had at least a chamomile tea bag somewhere in their home. Everyone in the room raised their hand. This is probably one of the most common herbs found in the American household. This is the main reason I chose to include this plant in my talk. It was my prediction that this plant would be immediately accessible to most people.
Chamomile is an herb that is commonly known to promote relaxation and sleep. It is categorized by herbalists as a nervine. Drinking a tea of this plant and/or bathing in a 10 minute steeped tea is a classic remedy used to promote sleep and ease anxiety.
Lesser known applications of chamomile are:
~An ability to reduce inflammation (both internally and topically).
~It is soothing to the skin and to mucous membranes.
~It contains properties that appear to prevent cancer
~And it acts as a bitter digestive aid.
3. Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic and other Allium’s are useful food to bring into your diet on a regular basis. It is of course readily available at any grocery store and it is quite easy to grow! This herb is probably one of the most accessible and most of us know how to incorporate it into a meal.
Garlic is an effective antibiotic herb. It is in the same family and genus as onions, leeks and shallots. These plants are in the Lilicacea family, which contains many important immune boosting and infection fighting herbs.
Garlic contains allicin, a powerful substance which is responsible for some of the plants healing properties. Some things to know about allicin:
• Powerful sulfur compound
• Formed when garlic is chopped, crushed or chewed.
• Is converted into other sulfur containing compounds that exhibit antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and antiprotozoal activity.
• Is the garlic plants defense against attacks by pests.
Ways to prepare garlic for medicine:
~Most effective fresh, not cooked.
~Add to salad dressings, dips, spreads and/or cheese.
~Add to honey.
~Add to vinegar. A traditional preparation Fire Cider, can be made with garlic, onions, horseradish and other spicy herbs.
As you can see these three herbs build and protect immune health, strengthen the body by offering essential vitamins and minerals and they support digestion, which is critical to overall health. Garlic supports immune, respiratory and heart health. So go out and start using these herbs today!