A herb is any plant which is used and valued above others for its scent, flavor or other medicinal qualities it may possess other than its inherent value as a food. Herbs are used in various forms and aspects such as cooking, spiritual rituals and customs, making of certain traditional as well as modern medicines as well as things like pest control. The history of man using herbs is very old and seeps into very early ages back when man relied on nature alone to provide answers and means to his sustenance and as an aid to cure his ailments. Most of these practices and cures have survived initially by way of word of mouth and then by being embedded in local folklore and becoming custom. There are several types of herbs and so most herb plants are classified into two main categories according to their usage - culinary herbs or cooking herbs and medicinal herbs or healing herbs. Certain herbs can come under both categories as they have many herb uses and so growing herbs for culinary and herbal remedies purposes is not uncommon. The medicinal properties of herbs have been used for centuries to cure and prevent diseases. Nurturing and nourishing for the body, herbs add to the nutritional requirement and regulate as well as balance the functions of the body.
Herbs have been a part of the healthcare system of various cultures across the world for centuries. Sages in ancient India used various roots and herbs as medicines, which they doled out to people with healing philosophies. This ancient science is in fact known as Ayurveda, and is still prevalent in India. The Chinese have been using herbs for the past 4,000 years to enhance their physical prowess and mental wellbeing. Most of the cultures across the world have used herbs in some form or the other to cure and prevent diseases. But even after all these years, and after the invention of a plethora of pills, people still turn to herbs as a form of alternative medicine and rely on its healing properties.
Herbs are plants with certain chemicals as well as savory and aromatic properties that can be used for curing and preventing diseases. All sorts of ailments like hypertension, cardiac problems, asthma, stress, joint pain, and respiratory problems can be cured with the right combination of herbs and a healthy lifestyle and food habits. Herbs are also used in beauty and hair treatments. Visit a salon or a hair and skin clinic and you're sure to find an array of interesting herbal products that promise to cure all your hair and skin-related problems. Many of these herbal concoctions can even be made at home in your kitchen. With herbs, you can cure yourself naturally, without having to worry about any side effects. Owing to the high efficacy, coupled with the near absence of side effects, it is not surprising that many patients today prefer alternative treatments. Many health care professionals and researchers also recommend herbal treatments, if not as a cure, then at least as complimentary medication. Moreover herbal remedies are a lot more cost effective and easy to come by since many of them are common cooking ingredients.
If you're down with a cold pluck some Holy Basil leaves and brew them into a tangy and healing concoction with a teaspoonful of peppercorn, crushed ginger and a dab of honey. If it's a blood purifier you're looking for munch on some Margo leaves and add a dash of turmeric to your meals. Mint leaves can also be chewed on to act as a body coolant. The healing powers of herbs seem limitless, with solutions offered for almost every condition or ailment that you could experience. Moreover herbs can provide simple, effective, and inexpensive remedies. You can find the solution to most of your health problems within your garden itself.
Examples of Natural Herbs and Their Medicinal Properties
There are plenty of medicinal herbs that cure and prevent diseases, and nurture and nourish. Here are a few of the most common herbs that you will find in almost any kitchen -
Herbs have a variety of uses with them, their main uses being listed as:
Herbs and spices are used in foods mostly to add flavor to them rather than to add much substance to the food. In culinary terms, the word is categorized into various sub-section as from the leafy green parts of a plant, and spices from the seeds, bark, root, berries, fruit and other parts of the plant. Some commonly used culinary herbs include perennials like lavender and thyme whereas there exist other biennials like parsley as well as other herbs like basil which as annuals. Apart from these there exist certain shrubs like rosemary which are considered herbs. Certain plants also function both as spices and herbs, examples of which are dill seed and dill weed or coriander seeds and coriander leaves. Apart from these many commonly found herbs used in many foods are Irish moss (Chondus crispus) and Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea). It is important to understand cooking or culinary herbs and their uses, so that they can be used not only to add flavor to food but also to help avoid certain health problems. For instance, when coriander is added to a dish, it imparts a subtle nutty and citrus flavor; however if it is used on a regular basis it can help to increase insulin release and this makes it invaluable in the treatment of diabetes. It is important to note that despite their positive effects, there are certain culinary herbs to avoid during pregnancy as they can cause complications with the pregnancy.
Herbs have been recorded as to have religious significance in most of the religions we know. Herbs like myrrh, frankincense and ague root in Christianity, The later Christianized Anglo-Saxon too had significant importance for herbs and have the "Nine Herbs Charm", which are nine herbs that are aimed towards being a cure for all, including pain, poison and even against noble scheming and enchantment of evil creatures. Similarly, in Hinduism, the holy basil, also known locally as 'tulsi' is considered holy. The Tamil people from south India consider the neem tree scared and the Rastafarians consider cannabis to be sacred as well. Siberian Shamans use many herbs in spiritual customs such as vision quests and some Native American tribes use herbs like cedar and white sage for spiritual cleansing.
Many herbs are used as a pest control and are one of the most effective and natural ways to keep pests out. Herbs used are ones like mint, peppermint, spearmint pennyroyal. Planting these herbs around you house is known to keep away pests like mice, rats, fleas, moths and ants while also being effective for many others.
Herbal medicine has been around since the early ages when herbs were found to have medicinal qualities attributed to them. In an excavation done at a Neanderthal burial site that was dated to be around 60,000 years old, pollen was recovered from about 8 plants species of which 7 were found to have medicinal qualities. In recorded history, the earliest use of herbs was by the Sumerians about 5000 years ago. The Egyptians of around 1000BC were also known to use herbs like garlic, opium, mint, coriander and even indigo. The Greeks and the Romans were especially known to realize the medicinal importance of herbs. Their writings and manuscripts were saved in the middle ages in local monasteries thus leading to them being regarded as centers of medical knowledge. The modern age has completely revolutionized the way we utilize herbs by taking into account their chemical properties.
The four different approaches to using herbs as medicinal plants are given as under:
Herbs are today used to treat most commonly known ailments, their use as a medicine being known as "herbalism". They are used to cure conditions from ailments like ulcers, varicose veins, indigestion, bruises and burns to bad breath, hay fever, constipation cramps, eye infections, warts, worms, sprains, insomnia, and blood pressure (high and low) and are even believed to have protective powers against certain cancers. There is also a lot of ongoing research into the positive effects of herbal medicine and remedies for adhd, anxiety, depression, and related problems. Horsetail, bearberry, dandelion, and birch are just a few of the many healing herbs for kidney diseases. There are certain healing herbs, plants, and spices that aid the healing process and are added to a patient's diet after a surgery or if he/she is receiving treatment for wounds. Feverfew and peppermint oil are very effective herbal remedies for headaches while Hawthorn and Garlic are great herbal remedies for high blood pressure. Chaste berry and licorice root are very good remedies for hot flashes while turmeric and mint leaves are effective herbal remedies for acne. Herbal remedies for allergies are also a very common form of complimentary treatment as there are several natural remedies that can help to alleviate allergy symptoms as well as control the severity of the allergic reaction. Certain herbal remedies are extremely common due to their efficacy and are part of various kinds of folk medicine. This would include the use of mint leaves, turmeric, eucalyptus leaves, dandelion, and alfalfa. These herbs are often used along with other natural products such as honey, fruit or vegetable pulp, or various oils. A mixture of honey and fresh garlic juice is used to treat a variety of ailments right from bruises and wounds to respiratory infections. Mint juice along with fresh tomato paste is often used as part of a facial cleansing routine as mint juice helps to soothe the skin and reduce skin irritation caused by acne. Certain herbs are meant for direct application such as in the case of a poultice while other herbs are meant to be ingested. It is important to make sure of the exact method of usage as herbs that may be very useful when applied directly to one's skin can have disastrous results if ingested. It is especially important to make sure of the required quantities when using herbs to treat children as a child's system is very delicate as compared to an adult. The dosage for a child will therefore be significantly less than an adult's.
Improper knowledge of herbs and consummation of incorrect herbs can lead to adverse effects and can be even life threatening and sometime even lethal. Certain herbs are even known to be toxic like poison hemlock and nightshade. It is important to research herbs and spices health benefits before you make any changes to your daily routine. There also a known association of how herbs react with certain drugs, for example, some herbs are known to amplify the effects of anticoagulants and some are known to even adversely affect drug metabolism. There are also several companies that claim that their products contain herbs and spices for weight loss. It would be wise to employ extreme caution when considering using such products as many of these have been proven to contain little or no natural compounds and instead are chockfull of chemicals which can actually do more harm than good.
Consulting an expert is always recommended before administrating herbal remedies to cure serious and potentially life threatening diseases and ailments.