Herb Basics

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Looking for a natural, inexpensive way to increase your iron intake? Try this recipe, recommended by Aviva and Tracy Romm in their book ADHD Alternatives.

Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) works quickly — taken as a syrup, the herb can raise iron levels in a matter of weeks. Blackstrap molasses is high in iron, and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) enhances iron absorption and assimilation.


1/2 ounce dried yellow dock root
1/2 ounce dried dandelion root
1 quart water
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses

Combine yellow dock and dandelion roots in water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 4 hours. Strain liquid into a saucepan. Simmer, uncovered, until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Add molasses and stir well. Pour into a clean glass jar, cool to room temperature, and seal jar. The syrup will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Take 1 to 2 tablespoons daily, along with 250 mg vitamin C to enhance iron absorption.

Source: Romm, Aviva and Tracy Romm. ADHD Alternatives. Pownal, Vermont: Storey Books, 2000.


In her book Wai Lana’s Favorite Juices, yoga instructor and juicing enthusiast Wai Lana provides this delicious, exotic recipe, which makes an energizing breakfast. The smoothie provides antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

Serves 2

1 cup milk
3/4 cup chai
2 teaspoons fresh ginger juice
11/2 frozen bananas
1 heaping tablespoon hazelnuts
1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
1 pinch cinnamon
1 teaspoon flax oil
1 scoop protein powder

Blend, pour into glasses and enjoy!

Source: Lana, Wai. Wai Lana’s Favorite Juices. Malibu, California: Wai Lana Productions, 2003.


Need a mental boost? The following are a few of the best time-tested herbs to help improve memory.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Besides being useful for memory loss, studies have confirmed ginkgo’s effectiveness for mental fatigue, senile dementia and an inability to concentrate. Ginkgo improves blood supply to the brain, increases the brain’s ability to use oxygen, and increases glucose uptake and energy production, thereby increasing aptitude and alertness. A commonly recommended dose is 3 capsules containing at least 40 mg of standardized extract daily — or follow the manufacturer’s or your practitioner’s recommendations. It often takes about two months before ginkgo’s effects are noticed.

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica). This herb has a longstanding reputation as a memory enhancer. It’s used in both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as by Western herbalists, for longevity and to improve mental function. A typical dose is up to eight 400- to 500-mg capsules daily or 20 to 40 drops of tincture twice daily.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Rosemary contains more than a dozen antioxidants, as well as several compounds that help prevent the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Noted herbalist and Herbs for Health editorial adviser James Duke, Ph.D., recommends using rosemary in shampoos and baths for its aromatherapeutic effects. You can make your own rosemary shampoo by adding a few drops of the pure essential oil to your shampoo bottle.


Common names: Lemon balm, melissa, balm

Latin name: Melissa officinalis

Family: Lamiaceae

Part used: Leaf

Medicinal uses: Lemon balm is used as a gentle sedative for insomnia and to relieve digestive gas and settle the stomach. Studies have shown lemon balm cream to be an effective treatment for cold sores.

Forms commonly used: Tea (from fresh or dried leaf), capsules and cream.

Side effects: According the Botanical Safety Handbook (CRC, 1997), lemon balm is a Class 1 herb, meaning it can be safely consumed when used appropriately.

Notes: Lemon balm has been used medicinally for at least 2,000 years. It has long been a popular folk remedy for insomnia.

The plant, a perennial in the mint family, is native to the Mediterranean, western Asia and northern Africa, but grows widely throughout the United States and elsewhere.

Lemon balm has lush, green, lemon-scented foliage and white flowers that attract bees. In fact, the plant’s botanical name, Melissa, comes from the Greek word for “bee.”


Many herbs — and their essential oils — have antibiotic, antifungal and antimicrobial properties. They provide a safe, inexpensive alternative to chemical cleaning products.


Better — and safer — than the popular antibacterial cleaners on the market today, this cleaner is ideal for kitchens and bathrooms.

2 tablespoons borax
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups hot water
20 drops tea tree oil

Combine borax, lemon juice and water in a spray bottle. Cap and shake well to dissolve borax. Add tea tree oil and shake again. Use as you would any commercial all-purpose cleaner.


This spray smells wonderful and can double as a disinfectant and air freshener. It’s perfect for garbage cans.

1 cup warm water
25 drops lavender essential oil

Combine water and oil in a spray bottle and shake well to blend. To use, spray into the air or onto the surface you’re disinfecting.


This creamy cleanser is gently abrasive, making it ideal for sinks and showers.

1/2 cup baking soda
1/8 cup liquid vegetable-based soap
10 drops rosemary essential oil

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and stir until you have a smooth consistency. To use, scoop a small amount onto a damp sponge. Scrub the surface you’re cleaning with small, circular motions. Rinse well.