plants and herbs

The properties of various plants and herbs

Plants and herbs have been used not only for their culinary desire, but for medicinal purposes for centuries. Following is a list of common plants and herbs grown both for culinary and medicinal use. Most can be grown at home, while others are easily found at your local grocer.

Aloe Vera

Almost everyone knows that aloe is soothing on the skin and useful for treating sun burns. It speeds the healing process and reduces the risk of infections from minor cuts and burns, as well as reducing inflammation associated with these and other skin irritations.

Aloe is can also be consumed as a drink for ulcerative colitis, chronic constipation, poor appetite and other digestive type problems.

Calendula

Also known as Pot Marigold, is a hardy plant that is known for its use as a remedy for a variety of skin problems from bites, stings and other wounds. It is also useful for sore eyes, sprains, and varicose veins. Pot Marigold can also be digested to help treat fevers and other chronic infections. Tea can be made from the Pot Marigolds petals to aid in circulation and treat varicose veins. Additionally the crushed stems can be used to make corns and warts removable.

Catnip

Catnip is also a variety of mint, it can be used to relieve cold as well as breaking a fever as it promotes sweating. Catnip also helps stop excessive bleeding and swelling when applied rather than ingested. It is also reportedly helpful in treating gas, stomach aches, and migraines. Catnip can stimulate uterine contractions, so it should not be consumed by pregnant women.

Cayenne Pepper

Commonly referred to as red pepper, Cayenne pepper is a cultivar Capsicum annuum and can be grown around the world. In tropical and sub tropical climates they are perennials, however they are commonly grown as annuals in more temperate climates. Among Cayenne’s numerous useful properties, such as anti-irritant, anti-bacterial, anti-allergen and anti-fungal, it is also pain reliever. When applied to the skin, as it soaks in Cayenne provides pain relief for joints and is excellent as a treatment for arthritis.

Comfrey

Comfrey is a perennial flowering plant native to Europe.  While studies have shown that the ingestion of comfrey can lead to live cancer and live disease, the external use of comfrey has extensive benefits.  Due to it’s natural concentration of allantoin, comfrey speeds up the healing process and acts as an anti-inflammatory.  Comfrey can be used as a poultice to aid in the healing of bruised and broken bones as well as sprains and other soft tissue injuries.  It’s astringent properties aids in forming a protective barrier of the surface of cuts and burns as well as promote healing.  Comfrey is also known to provide relief from the pain associated with arthritis.

Coriander

also known as Chinese parsley or cilantro has a wide variety of culinary uses. Cilantro, Spanish for coriander leaves, refers to the leaves and stem of the plant, that is commonly used in Mexican dishes, in Indian dishes, such as chutneys and salads, Chinese and Thia food dishes. Cilantro leaves have a distinct flavor, for most, either you LOVE it or HATE it. While coriander refers to the entire plant, the coriander seed is commonly used as a flavor or seasoning and is prized for it’s ability to delay spoilage of foods that it has seasoned. Coriander seeds are also used flavor gin, liqueurs and tobacco.

Coriander seeds are useful as a digestive aid and as an antioxidant, also excellent for healthy liver function and bowel movements. Cilantro is also known to cleanse the body if heavy metals such as lead and mercury. Among it’s many health benefits Coriander seeds antibacterial properties work as a home remedy for acne.

Chamomile

With its sweet taste and crisp, fruity fragrance chamomile has long been used as a remedy for digestive issues. It has a soothing and calming aroma and is excellent as a stress reliever and sleep aid. Chamomile also makes an excellent, sweet, mild herbal tea.

Chinese Yam

A sweet yam that can be eaten raw, the Chinese yam is soothing to the stomach, spleen and has a tonic effect on the lungs and kidneys. It helps combat exhaustion, loss of appetite, poor digestion, chronic diarrhea, weight loss, asthma, dry coughs, uncontrollable urination, diabetes and emotional instability. The Chinese yam can also be applied to skin ulcers, boils and abscesses to aid in the healing process. The leaves can be used to treat snake bites and scorpion stings.

Dandelion

This flowering plant has traditionally been used as a liver tonic, useful for detoxification and improving liver function. Dandelion is known as a stimulant that is typically used for kidney and liver disorders. It is also traditionally used to reduce the side effects of prescription drugs, as well as to treat infections, gallbladder problems, water retention and swelling.

Echinacea

One of the world’s best-known herbs, Echinacea boosts the immune system and helps raise resistance to bacterial and viral infections. It has antibiotic properties, helps relieve allergies, the roots are beneficial in treating sores, wounds and burns. Echinacea makes an excellent herbal tea and is often taken in this form for medicinal purposes.

Evening Primrose

The young roots can be eaten like a vegetable or in salad. The roots of the evening primrose can be made into a poultice and applied to piles and bruises. However, the more valuable parts are the leaves and bark which are made into evening primrose oil, known to treat multiple sclerosis, premenstrual tension, hyperactivity, eczema, acne, brittle nails, rheumatoid arthritis and even liver damage due to alcohol.

Garlic

Garlic boosts the immune system, is antibacterial, antiviral, as well as anti-fungal. Many of garlic’s therapeutic effects are derived from its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin, which are also what give it its characteristic smell. Garlic reduces inflammation, boosts immune function, improves cardiovascular health and circulation, protects against clotting, retards plaque, improves lipids, and reduces blood pressure. It is also toxic to at least 14 kinds of cancer cells including brain, lung, breast, gastric, and pancreatic.

Ginger

Perhaps best known for its anti-nausea and analgesic properties ginger also has broad-spectrum antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-parasitic. It is anti-inflammatory, making it a valuable pain reliever for joint pain, menstrual pain, headaches, and more. Along with help for muscle and joint pain, ginger has been found to reduce the severity of migraine headaches as well as some migraine medications with far fewer side effects.

Ginger is also used to treat indigestion, it contains powerful protein-digesting enzymes and helps to stimulate the emptying of your stomach without any negative side effects, and along with its antispasmodic properties it is beneficial to the entire intestinal tract.

Ginseng

One of the most highly regarded medicines in the orient, ginseng is known for its ability to promote health, general body vigor and prolong life. Ginseng roots are used to stimulate and relax the nervous system, encourage the secretion of hormones, improve stamina, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, boost the immune system, and treat insomnia.

Lemon Balm

Known for its strong lemony aroma, lemon balm is actually a variety of mint. Like all mints it has an abundance of great uses. In the garden lemon balm repels unwanted insects, the crushed leaves, when rubbed on the skin, it is an excellent mosquito repellent and also takes the sting out of insect bites.

Lemon balm can be made into a tea and used to treat colds, fevers, headaches, mild insomnia and soothes nerves. It is also a tasty treat when served dipped in honey!

Lavender

Lavender oil is known for its calming and relaxing properties, and has been used in aroma therapy for alleviating insomnia, anxiety, depression, restlessness, dental anxiety, and stress. It has also been proven effective for pain relief, muscle tension, soothes various skin disorders and can be used for healing wounds, cuts, and burns. Lavender helps keep your hair healthy and helps kill lice, lice eggs, and nits.

Lavender oil helps to stimulate the mobility of the intestine and aides in the production of bile and gastric juices, which may help treat stomach pain, indigestion, flatulence, colic, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also help alleviate respiratory problems like colds and flu, throat infections, cough, asthma, whooping cough, sinus congestion, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. It can be applied on your neck, chest, or back, or inhaled via steam inhalation or through a vaporizer.

Licorice Root

Licorice is useful for many ailments including asthma, athlete’s foot, baldness, body odor, bursitis, canker sores, chronic fatigue, depression, colds and flu, coughs, dandruff, emphysema, gingivitis and tooth decay, gout, heartburn, HIV, viral infections, fungal infections, ulcers, liver problems, Lyme disease, menopause, psoriasis, shingles, sore throat, tendinitis, tuberculosis, ulcers, yeast infections, prostate enlargement and arthritis. And if that is not enough it also used as an antidepressant, it provides an alternative to St. Johns Wort.

It has an aspirin-like action and is helpful in relieving fevers and soothing pain, its anti-allergenic effect is very useful for hay fever and asthma. Possibly by its action on the adrenal glands, licorice has the ability to improve resistance to stress.

Mint

Mint could be regarded as one of the world’s oldest medicines, with archaeological evidence of its use as far back as ten thousand years. Mint is naturally high in manganese, vitamin A and vitamin C. Crushed leaves rubbed on the skin has a mild numbing affect that helps to soothe and relax muscles. The aroma of crushed leaves clears sinus passages and mint tea can reduce irritable bowel syndrome, settle an upset stomach, treat fevers, flatulence and a spastic colon. Mint goes great with chocolate and a variety of other foods.

Sage

The botanical name for sage is salvia meaning “to heal” in latin. Sage is used to treat indigestion, flatulence, mild liver dysfunction, anxiety and depression. It can also be used to combat menopausal relates issues. Leaves on the skin can take the sting out of insect bits and promote healing as well as skin, throat, mouth and gum infections.

Thyme

This fragrant herb is rich in antioxidants, containing health-boosting flavonoids including apigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin, thyme has been shown to protect and increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes. It is also nutrient dense, containing vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, manganese, copper, and dietary fiber. Thyme may also be a potential preventer of heart disease and premature aging. Thyme oil is antibacterial, antispasmodic, antirheumatic, expectorant, hypertensive, and has calming properties. Thyme also has a long list of topical uses, to relieve and treat problems from arthritis to skin conditions.

Aromatically thyme oil is used to stimulate the mind, strengthen memory and concentration, and calm the nerves. Thyme oil used as a hair is said to prevent hair loss and is also used as a treatment for the scalp and is added to shampoos and other hair products. Like peppermint, thyme oil is often used to improve oral health.