For Your Health: High Nutrient Herbs

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Garlic is a good source of selenium.
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Garlic is a good source of selenium.

High-Nutrient Herbs

In addition to all their other benefits, certain herbs have high levels of vitamins and minerals. Here are a few examples of high-nu­trient herbs.

• Dong quai (Angelica sinensis), an herb used to treat menstrual problems, contains vitamin B12. Avoid using the herb during pregnancy.
• Garlic (Allium sativum), useful for lowering cholesterol and for its antibiotic properties, is a good source of the antioxidant mineral ­selenium.
• Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), a mild diuretic, and nettle (Urtica dioica), a helpful herb for hayfever, are both excellent sources of the mineral silica. Don’t use horsetail during pregnancy.
• Yellow dock (Rumex crispus), a gentle laxative and cleansing herb, is a good source of both iron and vitamin A. The herb should be used on a short-term basis and avoided during pregnancy.

Compress or Poultice?

Both compresses and poultices are effective methods for using herbs externally, and both can be great for summertime woes such as bee stings and headaches. But how and when should you use them?

A compress is an external application of a hot or cold herbal infusion (a strong herbal tea). For a headache, a lavender compress can work wonders. To make a lavender compress, add one to two ounces of lavender flowers (Lavandula angustifolia) to a pint of boiling water and let sit for ten minutes, then strain into a bowl. After the tea has cooled slightly, dip a cloth into it, then wring out the cloth, fold it, and place it over your eyes and forehead. Let the compress sit for fifteen minutes.

A poultice, which works well for stings or to draw toxins out of the skin, is different from a compress in that it involves applying a whole herb directly to the affected area rather than using a liquid infusion. When using a fresh or dried herb, an easy poultice method is to “sweat” the herb in a saucepan with a very small amount of water until the herb is soft and moist. Then, strain the water and spread the herb onto a cotton or gauze pad. Put a little vegetable oil on your skin to prevent the mixture from sticking, and then apply the pad directly to the affected area.

Give Your Child the Proper Herbal Dose

When your child takes a prescription drug, the dose he or she needs is right there on the bottle. With herbs, however, it’s a little more difficult–especially if you choose a product that’s not designed specifically for children. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

First, be sure to follow the advice of your child’s health-care provider. If possible, have the doctor or herbalist recommend a certain product. This will help to avoid any potential confusion when you’re in the store. Second, read the ingredient list carefully. If you have any questions or concerns, consult your doctor before administering herbs to your child.

It’s always a good idea to follow label instructions when using a product that’s commercially prepared for children. If you’re using a product that isn’t specifically for children, use Clark’s rule: Because label instruction doses are calculated for 150-pound adults, you should divide your child’s weight by 150 to get his or her correct dose. For example, if your child weighs 50 pounds, 50 divided by 150 equals one-third, so your child should take one-third of the adult dose.

Also remember that spreading doses throughout the day is a good idea. One large dose will be far less effective than several smaller doses.

Source: White, Linda, and Sunny Mavor. Kids, Herbs, & Health. Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press, 1998.

Certain herbs have high levels of vitamins and minerals. 

All About Calendula

Common names: Calendula, garden marigold, pot marigold
Latin name: Calendula officinalis
Family: Asteraceae
Part used: Flower
Medicinal uses: Can help heal digestive tract ulcers and ease gallbladder inflammation. Used to help promote sweating and lower fevers. Externally, it’s useful for inflamed skin, sunburn, rashes, and other skin problems.
Forms commonly used: Tea, tincture, lotion, ointment, and salve.
Dosage: Externally, use as needed. Internally, drink 1 cup of tea or 1 to 2 droppersful of tincture twice daily.
Side effects: Allergic reactions can sometimes occur in people sensitive to the pollen of ragweed and other members of the aster family. According to Steven Foster in his book 101 Medicinal Herbs (Interweave Press, 1998), “generally no side effects or contraindications have been
reported [with calendula use].”
Notes: Calendula is easy to grow–try the fresh petals in your salad, and dry the flower heads to make teas and external-use ointments. When buying dried calendula in bulk, look for brightly colored flowers.

Demystifying Demulcents

Demulcent herbs are those that are mucilaginous (slimy and thick) and soothe irritated, ­inflamed tissues and mucous membranes.

From that definition, demulcents probably sound less than inviting. But these herbs can be helpful for many different ailments. For example, psyllium (Plantago spp.), taken internally, soothes the digestive system and protects against irritation and acidity. Psyllium is also a well-known laxative, and its high fiber content helps to increase the bulk of the stool.

Here are some other demulcent herbs and their uses.
Aloe (Aloe vera), well known for its external soothing abilities, is also good for internal use.
It’s used to soothe irritable bowel syndrome and ease digestion. Aloe also has laxative properties.
Corn silk (Zea mays) is helpful for easing the discomfort of urinary tract infections. It also has mild diuretic actions.
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is a very popular cough remedy. It’s used to help treat bronchitis, other respiratory tract infections, and sore throats.
Plantain (Plantago officinalis) helps relieve inflammation in the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts.
Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), a common ingredient in throat lozenges, is good for sore throats and digestive upset. It was used in a variety of ways, both internal and external, by Native Americans.

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