7 Super Herbs for Your Medicine Cabinet

| April/May 2004


The soothing characteristics of chamomile make it a perfect herb for calming anxious nerves or settling an upset stomach.

• Helpful Herbal Safety Tips 

These safe, effective, dependable, time-tested herbs deserve to be a staple in your home-care kit. Used carefully, they offer some of nature’s best qualities for many minor afflictions and often at a fraction of the cost of stocking your medicine cabinet with synthetic antibiotics. Because some pharmaceutical antibiotics have adverse side effects, many consumers are happy to find herbal alternatives, a task that's even more economical if your garden hosts some of these herbal helpers. For any prolonged condition or serious ailment, keep in mind, a trip to see your health-care provider is a must. These are just some of the herbalists’ favorites.

Aloe (Aloe vera). This is the best herb for minor wounds, especially burns. Many studies show aloe stimulates the creation of new skin cells. Aloe has anti-inflammatory action that helps minimize wound swelling, and antimicrobial and immune-stimulating action that helps prevent wound infection. I keep a small potted aloe in my kitchen so its soothing gel is always handy where most household burns occur. Just snip off a thick, leathery leaf, slit it open and rub the cool inner leaf gel on the burn.

Note: Use aloe only on minor burns and wounds. More serious wounds require professional medical care.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). This herb’s long history as a traditional tranquilizer is supported by recent research. Argentinean researchers have discovered that a compound in chamomile oil (apigenin) binds to the same cell receptors as the Valium family of tranquilizers and anti-anxiety drugs. This suggests similar effects. When Japanese researchers exposed animals under stress to chamomile vapors, the animals’ stress hormone levels fell significantly. Try chamomile tea when you feel anxious, or add a handful of chamomile flowers to a hot bath and inhale deeply. Chamomile is also a stomach soother. To brew chamomile tea, use 2 to 3 heaping teaspoons of flowers per cup of boiling water.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Fleshy and aromatic, ginger has been used in cooking and healing since the dawn of history. And many studies have shown that ginger prevents motion sickness. Ginger also safely prevents morning sickness of pregnancy — important because pregnant women often are cautioned against taking pharmaceutical anti-nausea drugs.

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