Digestion Perfection: Herbs Make Great Allies When it Comes to Keeping Your Body Running Smoothly

Digestion is one of those things you’d rather not think about if you don’t have to. When our digestive system is working properly, we take it for granted, but when it runs into problems, it can’t be ignored. Gas, constipation, heartburn-these symptoms can make one miserable. Happily, there are several steps we can take to ensure that things run efficiently. By using some simple culinary herbs and following a few basic lifestyle rules, you can prevent many of these symptoms from occurring. And if trouble does come your way, some effective, natural remedies can put you right in no time.

Digestion 101

Your digestive tract is a tube {upwards of 24 feet} that have been assigned a pretty simple job: get food from one end to the other. When food traverses the imposing territory between the mouth and the rectum, it meets with several biological processes. Food enters the mouth, where both your teeth and enzymes in your saliva start to break it down. Food disintegrates even further thanks to acid in the stomach, and then it’s on to the small intestine, bacteria finish the job, while the bloodstream absorbs nutrients. Anything left over…well, you know the rest.
Special muscles called sphincters separate each section of the gastrointestinal tract. When not in use, these muscles are tightly closed. They open to allow food residue to pass from one section to the next. Contractions move food slowly through the small intestine, inexorably marching towards the large intestine. Normally, the first part of a meal requires about 90 to 120 minutes to reach the large intestine. {The last portion of the meal may not make it there for five hours.} Thankfully, each special section has corresponding herbal remedies to help things move along at an efficient clip.

The Stomach

This first stop in the digestive journey involves powerful chemicals, including hydrochloric acid and enzymes. If these digestive juices fall short, though, the whole process gets off to a bad start, giving you that overly full, Thanksgiving dinner feeling.
Herbs with bitter flavor promote digestive secretions and speed up the processes in the upper GI tract.
Gentian root is the most popular digestive bitter in the U.S. and in Europe, often an ingredient in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic aperitifs. An ounce or so of any bitter herbal beverage taken before the first bite of a meal spurs digestive secretions and keeps food passing through on schedule. In general, bitter herbs reduce gas, bloating, allergic responses, and indigestion. Barberry root, dandelion, and artichoke are other effective bitter herbs.
In traditional Chinese Medicine {TCM}, the use of “hot” herbs can also help. Essential oils {often derived from a plant’s seeds} of carminative herbs like cardamom, dill, cumin, caraway, and lemon balm warm up the digestive tract, helping to expel gas, while speeding up and improving the efficiency of the digestive process. Use these herbs in teas. Lemon balm, and  Dill
Popular in Europe, herbal “gripe water” {griping is another word for intestinal cramping} relies on dill seed, chamomile, lemon balm, or ginger. Fennel is a stand-out in this regard, and probably the world’s most popular gas remedy, even for kids. In one study, published in Phytotherapy Research, 121 colicky infants randomly received 5 to 20 ml of a 0.1 percent fennel seed oil emulsion or placebo, up to four times daily for one week. Parents kept symptom diaries for the week, as well as the week before and the week after. The kids taking the fennel formula had a 45 percent decrease in colic symptoms, compared to a 5 percent drop in the placebo group.
In 2005, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial looked at 93 healthy breastfed infants with colic. For one week, they consumed a dose of fennel mixture twice daily before breastfeeding. Crying time dropped {by an average of two hours per day} in 85 percent of infants in the fennel group, compared to 48 percent in the placebo group.

The Intestines

Comfortable, regular, bulky, and soft bowel movements are critical for good health. And, as the Ayurvedic aphorism explains, “If your stool is sinking, you’re sinking.” Of course, if nothing is passing through, you have a bigger problem: constipation. The medical community defines constipation as eliminating waste less than three times a week, or in low quantity.
Transit time and regularity are the key concepts behind proper bowel timing. Transit time is the time it takes a meal to be eliminated from the body after it has entered the mouth. For a person who eats a healthy, unprocessed, whole foods diet, 30 hours is average transit time, although Ayurveda maintains that the ideal time falls between 18 and 24 hours. In our constipation-prone society, 48 hours, or considerably more, is common. {Clock your transit time by swallowing something to tint the stool, such as charcoal powder, beets, or chlorophyll. Mark the time from when you’ve ingested this matter to when you see this color show up upon elimination.}
The longer waste stays in the colon, the more chance it has of decomposing into unhealthy compounds. This waste matter tends to absorb more water, too, as it sits in the body, making it harder and smaller. The body has a tougher time moving it onward. The potential long-term complications include the development of gallstones and even colon cancer.
Regularity, on the other hand, is defined as the interval between bowel movements. The gamut of recommendations runs from two or three bowel movements a week to one a day, depending on whom you ask. However, like all mammals, humans automatically start the digestive process every time they chew. Each meal stimulates this process and initiates elimination. So as a rule, natural healing practitioners insist on at least one bowel movement per day, or up to one per meal.
Success in the intestinal process depends mainly on three pillars: Peristalsis, fiber, and moisture. When everything goes right with peristalsis, the wave-like motion of muscles that impels waste out of the large intestine, muscles squeeze briefly every few seconds and then relax, propelling it toward the rectum. Stimulant laxatives can promote this wave. Among the best are senna leaf, cascara bark, and aloe leaf in capsule form. Use these only for short-term episodes of acute constipation. Start with a very small dose {500 mg} and adjust the dose as necessary. Since these herbs can sometimes produce intestinal cramps, especially in excess doses, they’re often combined with warming herbs, such as ginger and fennel. Expect these herbs to facilitate elimination in about six hours.
Fiber helps out by absorbing excess moisture, making the stool softer and increasing its size, essentially giving the muscles in the intestinal walls something to push along. Natural bulk fiber laxatives provide soluble fiber, which includes pectin from fruit, flaxseed, chia seed, and oat bran. Use these each day as necessary. Make a point of increasing your fiber intake from whole foods {fruit, vegetables, dried legumes}, as well. Aim for as much as 35 grams of fiber per day.
Psyllium seed, a well known bulk fiber laxative, balances bowel function and relieves the pain of irritable bowels. As psyllium travels through the gut, its slimy mucilage offers soothing benefit, which may relieve cramping. An English study revealed that constipation significantly improved in patients taking psyllium. Eighty-two percent of the subjects had irritable bowel symptom relief. The optimum dose appears to be 20 grams per day.
The third factor, moisture, is a common issue for constipation sufferers. Proper moisture content is critical for efficient elimination. The large intestine pumps about five gallons of fluid every day, from what we drink, plus our digestive secretions. Most of this must be reabsorbed, or else we would quickly become dehydrated.
Demulcents are herbs that contain mucilage, which coats and soothes the gut wall and helps waste exit smoothly. These herbs include marshmallow root {Althea officinalis} and slippery elm bark {Ulmusspp.}. To use either herb, stir 1 tablespoon of powdered bulk herb into a bite of food, such as applesauce, with each meal. Magnesium, a natural mineral, is an osmotic laxative that draws moisture into the bowels and softens waste. Most people can tolerate up to about 1,200 mg of magnesium per day.

Other Helpful Herbs

Herbal medicine is quite beneficial for keeping digestion perking along, as shown in the results of a study from Europe. Twenty-four patients took an herbal mixture containing dandelion, St. John’s wort, lemon balm, calendula, and fennel. Of the group, 95 percent had total relief of colitis symptoms within 15 days.
Triphala, an Ayurvedic combination of the fruits amla, haritaki and bibitaki  is the classic herbal remedy for long-term digestive help. It tones the intestinal walls, detoxifies the system, and promotes elimination. It has a high tannin content, so it treats diarrhea in low doses {1 gram per day}. In higher doses, it treats constipation in a very slow, gentle way, tightening the walls of the gut while it works. Triphala is suitable for children and ideal for older folks who need a little daily help with regularity. For maintenance, take 2 grams per day. As a short-term laxative, use 6 grams. An easy bowel movement should occur in about 8 hours.
Turmeric root {Curcuma longa} is widely used to improve digestion. A common curry spice, it keeps GI tract inflammation under control. One of its active ingredients, curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its distinctive yellow color, has anti-inflammatory effects comparable to cortisone and phenylbutazone, widely used anti-inflammatory drugs. And curcumin is non-steroidal, so it has none of the devastating side effects of steroids.
Like another medicinal spice, cayenne, it relieves pain by depleting nerve endings of substance P, the pain receptor neurotransmitter. Historically, this herb has been used to reduce gas, a benefit that is now getting increasing scientific support. Curcumin stimulates gallbladder contractions, promoting better digestion. Ptolymethlcarbinol, another compound in turmeric, boosts the production of several important secretions in the digestive tract.
Turmeric also increases mucin secretion, which protects mucous membranes against damage by stomach acid and other digestive juices. With its ability to suppress inflammation, increase mucin content of the stomach, and stop bleeding, turmeric prevents ulcerations of all types, including gastritis, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, and colitis. Take 1 to 2 grams powdered herb in capsules, or as a spice, with each meal. Higher doses are quite safe and may produce better and faster results.

Licorice Root {Glycyrrhiza uralensis},

also, guards digestive mucous membranes by escalating the production of mucin. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice root {DGL} has the glycyrrhizic acid removed-glycyrrhizic acid is the ingredient in licorice root associated with increased blood pressure and water retention but retains its soothing properties. One to two chewable wafers of DGL with a meal will usually do the job.
Use 1 teaspoon of the chopped root, brewed as a tea, three times a day, or one to two chewable wafers of DGL {250-500 mg} 15 minutes before meals and one to two hours before bedtime.

Peppermint Leaf {Mentha piperita},

is a well-known digestion herb. Peppermint oil works well to prevent dyspepsia because the oil relaxes the muscles of the intestinal wall. Enteric coated capsules postpone the release of this oil until the remedy is further down in the digestive tract so that the medicine works in the right spot. They also reduce those minty burps. In one double-blind trial from Taiwan, four out of every five patients experienced reduced symptoms when given enteric-coated peppermint oil. In 1999, a study from Germany used peppermint and caraway oils to treat 223 people, and the combination brought about a significant reduction in discomfort. Another German study, published in Phytotherapy Research, from February 2000, again confirmed that a combination of peppermint and caraway oils effectively reduced unwanted intestinal symptoms. Take 1 teaspoon of chopped herb brewed as tea, three times a day, or 0.2 to 0.4 ml, three times a day, of an enteric-coated capsule.

Ginger Root {Zingiber officinale},

a warming herb works better for some folks than the cold herbs. Tasty and aromatic, this root is an eternal remedy for stomach upset. Ginger’s benefits for motion sickness and nausea has been consistently proven, and European practitioners routinely use ginger in tea for indigestion. A 2008 study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, had chemotherapy patients consume ginger for nausea. In 28 patients, ginger reduced the nausea of chemotherapy and the need for antiemetic medications {pharmaceutical drugs that treat nausea and vomiting}. The herb also reduces gut spasms, absorbs and neutralizes toxins in the GI tract, and boosts digestive juice secretions, including bile and saliva. Use 1 teaspoon chopped herb brewed as a tea, three times a day.
 Cinnamon Bark {Cinnamomum cassia},
another warming digestive star is a mild but useful remedy for lethargic digestion. Commission E in Germany, the European standard for herbal medicines, recommends cinnamon for loss of appetite, dyspeptic complaints, mild gastrointestinal spasms, bloating, and flatulence. Use 1 teaspoon chopped herb brewed as a tea, three times a day.
Making sure your digestion perks right along is as easy as cooking with delicious, intriguing spices, sipping some tasty teas, and turning to a few notable herbal medicines. Keep the digestive fires burning: Turn to herbal aids for a smooth, comfortable digestive experience and you’ll have the stomach for just about anything life throws your way.
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Dandy Tummy Bitters Recipe

These homemade bitters with fennel seeds and dandelion root should be taken before or after a meal to help stimulate digestion.

Take a drop or two of these dandelion bitters before or after a meal to help with digestion.

Is your digestive system ready for a big feast? Just a drop or two of any bitter herb on the tongue will help stimulate healthy digestion before or after a meal. In addition to dandelion’s bitterness, the aromatics from the fennel, ginger, and orange will help with uncomfortable post-dessert bloat.

Ingredients:

• 2 parts dandelion root
• 1 part fennel seed
• 1/2 part ginger root
• 1/2 part orange peel
• 1 glass jar with lid
• Enough 100-proof vodka to fill your glass jar
• Cheesecloth

Instructions:

1. If using fresh plants, harvest and clean your herbs before chopping and grinding them.
2. Fill a clean glass jar halfway with the fresh, ground herbs. If tincturing dried herbs, only fill the glass jar one-third of the way because dried roots will expand.
3. Pour the vodka over the herbs until the jar is full, and be sure your herb mixture is completely covered.
4. Label your jar with the name of the herbs, date, alcohol strength, and plant parts used.
5. Allow the tincture to sit for 6 to 8 weeks, shaking the jar often to keep all the plant material submerged.
6. Strain the finished tincture through cheesecloth to separate the herbs from the liquid, bottle the liquid in amber dropper bottles, and label.

A Gentle Daily Dose

Bitters:

If you wanted to get your body into good physical fitness, would you choose to exercise vigorously for 1-2 weeks of the year and otherwise remain inactive? If you wanted to live in a clean home, would you obsessively scour every nook and cranny for five straight days and every other 360 days let the mess pile up around you?  Unless you’re a wise-cracker, I’m going to go ahead and guess you answered “no” to those questions. It’s only common sense and, in fact, the model described above can be detrimental. 

Why, then, has our culture become so fond of the high-intensity detox cleanse? While there is certainly a place for narrowing in on specific dietary and lifestyle habits for a short period of time as, say, a gentle Spring cleaning or for particular health-related reasons, our focus on extreme cleanses is in general both misguided and ineffectual. 

If you’re looking to improve your health and feel better in your body, the real key is in making more subtle long-term shifts. Mohamed Ali is quoted as saying, “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you down, it’s the pebble in your shoe”. So, let’s take a look at that pebble in your shoe; for addressing that is where you will find a sustained change in your life and in your health. And you’ll feel a marked difference once you do.

An extreme cleanse could get you to the top of the mountain, but you may very well be hurting once you arrive and it’s unlikely you’ll be making it back up there again anytime soon. Instead, take a reasonable look at that pebble. Focus on moving your body every day and eating good protein, healthy fats and lots of greens. Make time for gratitude, deep breaths, and connection. With these gentle, sustained shifts, the stamina to climb any mountain will always be at your fingertips. 

It is in these simple daily rituals that we call on bitters to do their best work and to keep us in our best shape. While it would be helpful to have a bottle of bitters with you for your yearly sprint up the mountain, they offer the most as a tonic. Taken daily before meals, your body will thank you for all of the health benefits they provide.

Enjoy the liver support bitters offer and expect a clean burning metabolism, clear, healthy skin, and fewer cravings. Appreciate how they support your digestion, and soothe gas and bloating. Note that bitters actually encourage digestive secretions, which in turns helps you absorb the most nourishment available in all that healthy food you are eating. Most of all, take small daily strides for your health and appreciate the energy and clarity that accompanies you each step of the way on your hike through life.

Bitter Principles

In modern herbal medicine, bitter principles occupy a central place in herbal therapeutics beating the acrid constituents. Most people consuming herbal medicines complain about the bitterness of the medicines prescribed. This is the only defining attribute of herbal medicine and the only feature to set it apart from other therapies.

The bitter principles work by stimulating the bitter receptors of the tongue and increasing saliva secretion. Thus, it is always advisable to taste and chew the herbs for making them most effective. The bitter principles also bring about an increase in the secretion of digestive juices, thereby increasing appetite. They protect the tissues found in the digestive tract, boosts up the bile flow and strengthens the pancreas.

Their chemical composition includes a complex pattern of molecular structures. Since they act on the bitter receptors of the mouth, thereby producing the bitter taste in the mouth, their stimulation does not produce any electrical changes on the surface of the cell. Instead, the bitter molecules bring about intracellular biochemical changes by acting on the cell membrane receptors. This facilitates an increase in calcium concentrates within the cell and signals the gustatory nerve.

The bitter substances are mostly of terpenoid structure, especially the sesquiterpene lactones, monoterpene iridoids, and the secoiridoids. Iridoids are responsible for the chief bitter constituents of the plant family Gentianaceae, Cichorium intybus (chicory), dandelion, Valeriana officinalis (Valerian), wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa), and quassia bark.

Sesquiterpenes account for the bitter taste of the Artemisia plants, or wormwood genus, Cnicus benedictus (blessed thistle), and ginkgo biloba (ginkgo). Other components which add to the bitterness are diterpene bitters, found in columbo root (jateorrhiza palmata) or white horehound (Mar.rubium vulgare). Triterpenoids are the cause of bitterness for the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, which includes pumpkin, cucumber, colocynth, marrows, and the bryonies.

Many alkaloids also contribute to the bitter taste as in the protoberberine isoquinoline alkaloids of goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis), and Berberis, the morphine alkaloids, the quinoline alkaloids of quinine and Angostura and the purine alkaloids ( in coffee). In addition to this, many miscellaneous compounds like ketones and amino-acids are responsible for the bitterness, as found in hops.

Bitters are indispensable when it comes to counter a heavy meal. Sometimes, chicory and dandelion roots are mixed with coffee beans to produce a bitter drink usually taken after meals. The drink vermouth is a good example of an appetizer which gets its name from bitter herb wormwood. The traditional beer that is brewed with hops can also be used as a digestive remedy due to its bitter principle. Even nowadays, bartenders are faced with the inquiry of a lot of Angostura Bitters (Cusparia angostura) which is commonly used to shoo away a hangover. What’s common to all these practices is the belief that a bitter medicine can balance a heavy or rich meal and can be the basis of excellent tonics. Our grandpas used to believe that medicines that didn’t please our tongue were the best of all. When we go through the records of traditional plant medicine we find a reflection of this notion. All the bitter medicines are cited as ‘genuine stimulants’ and the real panacea for all.

With the passage of time, we have come to discover and understand some more features of the bitter medicines. It is accepted that bitters stimulate only a certain type of taste receptors. Thus, they will have no effect if they are taken in capsules or by intra-gastric tube. The bitter taste buds are thus the mediators in the way of making the responses happen. This is one of the best examples of a reflex response which takes place when a small stimulus initiates a complex reaction. As soon as the bitter taste bud is stimulated, it releases the gastrointestinal hormone gastrin. If we study the common physiological actions of the gastrin, we find a close similarity with the traditional remedies of the bitters. We can, therefore, tally the actions of bitters with that of gastrins.

Basically speaking, gastrins are beneficial in numerous ways. Researchers over the years have established that it increases gastric acid and pepsin secretion, hepatic bile surge, hepatic bicarbonate production, intestinal juice production, pancreatic digestive secretions, and intrinsic factor secretion. At the same time, gastrins help in enhancing the flow of Brunner’s glands secretions, insulin, glucagon and calcitonin release, helps muscle tone of lower oesophageal sphincter and muscle tone of stomach and small intestine, augments cell division and growth of gastric and duodenal mucosa as well as helps in cell division and growth of the pancreas.

This information will now help us to explain the role of bitters in herbal medicine. Let us examine them one by one.

Bitters Act as Appetizers

Gastrin is known to be very effective in increasing the appetite. It acts directly on appetite centers in the hypothalamus and indirectly through increased stomach motility. As we have seen earlier, bitters have also been used as key elements in aperitifs or for increasing appetite during convalescence. They can be very useful indeed in treating anyone for whom anorexia is posing an obstacle to recovery. Sometimes, lack of appetite is the body’s own signal to prevent over-stuffing. But this type of anorexia should be distinguished from other harmful types that reduce the strength of an individual. Administering bitters then comes in quite handy and especially in case of anorexia nervosa where bitters are a very helpful tool to counter the problem.

Bitters Increase Secretion of Digestive Juices

Bitters are known to expedite the process of digestion by boosting the stomach and pancreatic enzyme secretions. In those cases where these secretions are irregular or malfunctioning, bitters can help a lot towards speedier digestion by breaking down the food material. Digestive secretions sterilize the food material inside the stomach and break down protein and other large molecules that threaten the body’s immune system.

There is a paradox with food. It is certainly the most important source of nourishment for the body, but it also poses the greatest immunological threat to it. This is reflected in the presence of lymphoid tissues in the digestive tract. The digestive juices denature the antigenic material that prevents the situation from going out of control.

Sometimes, a low rate of secretion arises due to enteric infections, or if any suggestion is found of antigen penetration through the gut wall. This may occur in case of a food allergy or an autoimmune problem that contains the symptoms of reduced digestive abilities.

Herbal therapeutics point out that a fall in digestive secretion can damage the body to a great extent. It should always be corrected immediately as and when encountered. Besides enteric infections and food allergies, such reduced ability to digest can be understood by the symptoms of a nauseous feeling or feel bloated even after taking a little food. Passing small malodorous stools is another sign.

As modern food items contain an increased percentage of adulteration, the risk of depressed digestion has increased greatly, and the only measure is to administer bitter remedies.

Since the bitters increase the destructive components of digestive secretions, their use is generally not advised in cases of hyperacidity or those with peptic ulceration. But it also raises the secretions of protective fluids, such as bicarbonate from pancreas and liver and from the Brunner’s glands. This is not the case for the acrid constituents. The bitters expedite the whole digestive process. For other reasons, they are not prescribed in hyper-acidic conditions.

Bitters Offer Protection to the Gut Tissues

In cases of heartburn, hiatus hernia or oesophageal inflammation, the reflux of corrosive stomach contents into the esophagus is prevented by bitter remedies. This task is achieved by increasing the tone of the gastro-oesophageal sphincter. The bitters also decrease the harmful effects of the digestive juices and dietary toxins by enhancing the already rapid rate of mucosal regeneration in the stomach and duodenum. This acts as a healer in the case of ulceration or infection. Similar action, if performed on the matrix of the pancreas might as well help in pulling through a pancreatic disease.

Bitters Enhance Bile Flow

Bile juice is secreted by the liver. It is also considered as the excretion of the liver. The liver contains an extremely dynamic flow of juices. If pictured, each cell can be seen as being in a stream of a mixed nutrient-rich portal blood from the gut and oxygen-rich arterial blood from the general circulation. These fluids disseminate through the cell and are subjected to heavy dispensation that is a part of the liver function. The metabolic products that are born out of this activity move from the liver cell into the outgoing blood flow. Some of the most important, however, is channeled into a separate exit that drains into the biliary system. The liver thus self-cleanses by its own mechanism.

This is the organ which suffers from all the harmful effects of binge eating, defective digestion or ill health by being overloaded with toxins or the deposition of waste material. The fluids which pass through the liver cells may not be enough to wash out the toxins. This poses a threat to the liver making it prone to liver pathology or a more common range of functional disorders. Improved flow of bile juice will definitely not allow such waste material to accumulate. Bitters play this role very effectively. With the consumption of toxic materials increasing, this is certainly one of the advantages.

The bitters have been proven to be effective in curing all allergic, metabolic and immunological conditions where the diagnosis points to the digestion. The liver exerts an influence over the immunological system as well. Even in case of herbal therapies for migraines, hepatic remedies are suggested, most of which use the bitter.

The use of bitters leads to greater production of biliary elements and dilutes the bile as well by increasing the bicarbonate content. In case of gallstone formation or gall-bladder disease, that is formed by the over deposition of bile, bitters are known to work wonders. Along with lemon juice which dilutes the bile as well, bitters are also an effective and accepted treatment of these diseases.

Bitters Improve Pancreatic Functions

Gastrin helps pancreatic secretion and also increases the secretion of insulin and glucagon, the two main hormones the pancreas produces. However, these are conflicting in nature. There is a possibility of a ‘state dependent’ effect. This is a response to gastrin that varies according to the condition of mutual and simultaneous secretion of the two hormones.
Bitters have also been used in controlling late-onset diabetes. Chinese physiology states that bitters can effectively reactive hypoglycemia and produce immediate and excellent results.
Thus we conclude that bitters neutralize pancreatic hormone secretions by increasing the amount of glucagon when insulin is high and vice versa. They are more likely to raise a hormone level when it is deficient. Bitters control fluctuations in blood sugar levels permanently and temporarily as well.

Bitters Act as Tonics

All the above contributions of bitters make it easy to understand that they can boost your health to a great extent. Their primary role is to stimulate all the above-mentioned digestive functions. The digestive processes are the platform where the nourishment requirements of the body are met. This is the place where the body examines the materials it is fed with and most calorific and metabolic processes are regulated. Depending upon the extent to which this platform is in danger under the modern living conditions, it might or might not respond to the bitter remedies.

Bitter remedies were mainly resorted to in old age or in a convalescent state in order to be able to improve the quality of nourishment to the body. However, in the modern age, as illnesses become chronic in nature and more frequent, attacking persons of all ages, it is advisable to resort to bitter remedies. Food has also become less wholesome and more prone to indigestion. Bitter remedies can definitely offset the harmful effects of adulteration to a great extent.

Chronic Pain.

A person affected by any kind of chronic pain can feel a lot of discomfort throughout his or her life. It does not matter whether the form of chronic pain is an aching sensation, a tingling feeling, stabbing pains, shooting pains, or burning sensations. Any prolonged and uncontrollable chronic pain can and will affect the individuals entire life and the kind of lifestyle he or she might enjoy. Psychological issues are another important factor that added to the complication of suffering over prolonged periods from chronic pain. Added o the physical discomfort, is a persistent psychological suffering-which can induce long term anxiety and anger, and lead to a deep depression, all of which can again result in intensifying the pain and prolonging it in the memory of the sufferer.

The human body reports painful sensations when one of the nerve endings in the body senses a source of distress or physical stress from the body and conveys this as a neural signal to the brain. Such impulses usually last for very short periods of time and disappear with the abatement of the stimulus. If the impulses continue long after the stimulus has gone, then the painful sensation can be said to have become chronic-such sensations are persistent over long periods of time and cause a great deal of discomfort to the individual so affected. There are many different causes for chronic pain in people and some of the most prominent among the numerous factors include a poor ability to heal from physical injury (this can be due to genetic or immune system factors), the presence of arthritis, the result of a pinched or irritated and impaired nerve anywhere in the body, and chronic pains can also signal the presence of an underlying disorder such as cancer and other disorders. The actual cause remains an unfortunate mystery, in some cases, particularly for those chronic pain cases that involve the muscles and the bones of an individual.

Supplements and Herbs:

The use of natural pain relievers can be made if carried out under proper supervision from a qualified medical doctor. These analgesic medications may be used singly or in a combination dose, and most of them can be used in the long-term treatment of recurring chronic pain in the body. The use of most of these natural analgesics can be done alongside the use of the conventional prescription painkillers given by the doctor. The use of these natural supplements is generally considered to be safer for the overall health and well being of the individual, and most are regarded to be safer than the medications prescribed by the doctor-furthermore, the use of these medications may reduce the requirement for prescription medications. There are exceptions to this rule; aspirin cannot be used along with the natural analgesic derived from the herbal white willow bark. The chemical composition of these two compounds is very similar; using a combination dose of these two compounds may increases the risk of aspirin-related side effects in the body. The action of both of these compounds is very similar; they block or actively reduce the levels of the natural pain inducing compounds in the body known as the prostaglandins.

At the same time, the herbal remedy made from the bark of the white willow can be safely combined with the other pain relieving herbs and many of the medications. Inflammation related chronic pain can be alleviated according to some practitioners by the use of the compound known as bromelain, this is an anti-inflammatory plant based protein which is synthesized from pineapple, another arena in which bromelain can be used in treatment is in alleviating the sports injuries and other complications arising from physical activity. Many other herbs have a potentially helpful property in dealing with chronic pain in the human body, these include common herbs such as the ginger, this garden herb, is similar in action to the white willow bark, and acts in blocking the action of the prostaglandins within the body, herbs such as the commonly found meadowsweet, the feverfew herb, the cat’s claw, the devil’s claw, the pau d’arco, and the common turmeric can also be used as potential pain relievers in an individual suffering from chronic pain.

The use of many kinds of topical herbal preparations can also be very beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain. The use of the cream made from the cayenne pepper is particularly effective in the treatment of arthritic joints, in the treatment of individual recovering from the pain left behind after an attack of the shingles, in treating nerve damage induced by type 2 diabetes or arising as a result of surgery-including major procedures such as a mastectomy or an amputation. The use of this cream which causes an intense burning sensation may be much less effective on large areas of the body-it is best suited in the treatment of small localized pains in different corners of the body. The cayenne cream can be alternatively substituted by a mixed herbal treatment. The herbal essences can be combined for an effective topical remedy, mixing a few drops of ginger juice or tincture, some drops of lavender oil, and some birch oils with about half an ounce of a neutral oil – almond oil is a good example. The affected area of the body can be massaged using this herbal blend; the herbal essences must be applied directly onto the painful areas of the body. The nerve endings that transmit pain signals can be directly quieted down using other topical options such as peppermint oil, the oil of the wintergreen, or some eucalyptus oil-this topical treatment can directly treat the chronic pain in the affected individual.

The use of these herbal supplements and topical remedies will generally bring some relief from the pain within three to four hours after use. If anxiety or depression accompanies the pain, then the first treatment must include the St. John’s wort herb, followed by the kava herb. While it is not proven, these herbs may posses some direct pain relieving abilities besides quieting down the nervous tension. The use of the valerian herb must be considered if the painful sensations start interfering with the ability of the individual to get a good night’s sleep-this herb will induce sleepiness and ensure that the person is relaxed at night.

Additional Things You May Do:

The use of alternative techniques such as acupuncture must be contemplated if the pain persists following the use of other treatment medications. Some alternative treatments and mind-body techniques like biofeedback, induced hypnosis and relaxation training along with behavioral counseling can all potentially help the individual in handling the painful sensations in the body. Your doctor can give you suggestions on good pain clinics, these places offer a wide range of treatments and techniques to beat back chronic pain.

Recommended Dosage:

  • Ginger, 100 mg three times daily. Essential oil of ginger can be used as a part of massage blend.
  • Cayenne cream, apply cayenne cream thinly to painful areas several times daily. Should contain 0.025%-0.075% capsaicin.
  • St. John’s wort, 300 mg three times daily.
  • Peppermint oil, add a few drops of peppermint oil to 15 g of neutral oil. Apply to painful areas up to four times a day.
  • Kava, 250 mg three times daily.
  • White willow bark, one or two pills thrice daily when needed for pain. Attention: white willow bark may irritate stomach.
  • Valerian, 400 mg daily. Do not use valerian if you are pregnant or nursing mother.
  • Bromelain, 500 mg thrice daily on an empty stomach. If ineffective, eliminate bromelain after 14 days.

For Children:

Children affected by chronic pain can be helped by making them drink an herbal brew of pain reliving teas. Herbal teas for the treatment of chronic pain in children can be prepared by simmering a tablespoon of the bark of white willow in one quart of water and allowing the bark to steep in the water for 15 minutes. After this, the tea can be fortified by mixing a tablespoon of the root extract of the valerian herb, along with a tablespoon of the skullcap herb, and a single tablespoon of the herbal extracts of the chamomile, at last half a tablespoon of the licorice root can be added to the tea. Let the mixed herbs simmer in the water for another ten minutes, allow the solution to cool and then strain it. Dosage of this herbal teas for the affected child can be a single dose of the herbal tea, given once every hour, this can be repeated for four consecutive hours, and will greatly aid in relieving the generalized painful sensations felt by the child all over the body. Similar in action to the medication aspirin, the white willow bark has a strong anti-inflammatory action and is also analgesic. The sedative and anti-spasmodic properties of the valerian and skullcap herbs add an extra punch to the herbal tea. The effective relaxing properties of the chamomile calm the child. The anti-inflammatory action of licorice is another useful property and this herb also boosts the action of the other herbs in the tea. Licorice is also the main agent that adds sweetness to the herbal tea-which would otherwise taste quite bitter.

For you attention: the herbal extracts of the skullcap must not be given to a child who is under six years of age even if she or he suffers from extreme body aches-alternatives must be found in such a case. At the same time, the licorice must also not be given to a child suffering from a high blood pressure as it can cause side effects in the body of such a child.

Other Beneficial Herbs

  • American Aspen
  • Andiroba
  • Chia
  • Espinheira Santa
  • Gold Coin Grass
  • Iporuru
  • Kombucha Tea
  • Pellitory Of The Wall
  • Red Alder
  • Tamanu Nut Oil

Rosemary: Health Benefits, Precautions, Drug Interactions

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a fragrant evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean. It is used as a culinary condiment, to make bodily perfumes, and for its potential health benefits.

The herb not only tastes good in culinary dishes such as rosemary chicken and lamb, but it is also a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B6. It is typically prepared as a dried whole herb or a dried powdered extract, while teas and liquid extracts are made from fresh or dried leaves.

Rosemary is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae along with many other herbs, such as oregano, thyme, basil, and lavender. The name rosemary derives from the Latin ros meaning “dew” and marinus meaning “sea” – “sea dew.”

The herb has been hailed since ancient times for its medicinal properties. Rosemary was traditionally used to help alleviate muscle pain, improve memory, boost the immune and circulatory system, and promote hair growth.

This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods.

Possible health benefits of rosemary

Rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds- these are thought to help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation. Laboratory studies have shown rosemary to be rich in antioxidants, which play an important role in neutralizing harmful particles called free radicals.

Improving digestion – In Europe rosemary is often used to help treat indigestion – Germany’s Commission E has approved it for the treatment of dyspepsia. However, it should be noted that there is currently no meaningful scientific evidence to support this claim.

Enhancing memory and concentration – blood levels of a rosemary oil component correlate with improved cognitive performance, according to research in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, published by SAGE.

Photo of rosemary on white background

Rosemary has leaves shaped like needles
and pink, white, blue, or purple flowers.

Neurological protection – scientists have found that rosemary is also good for your brain. Rosemary contains an ingredient, carnosic acid, that is able to fight off free radical damage in the brain.

According to a study published in Cell Journal, carnosic acid “may be useful in protecting against beta amyloid-induced neurodegeneration in the hippocampus.”1

Prevent brain aging – Kyoto University researchers in Japan revealed that rosemary may significantly help prevent brain aging.

Cancer – Research published in Oncolocy Reports found that “crude ethanolic rosemary extract (RO) has differential anti-proliferative effects on human leukemia and breast carcinoma cells.

Another study, published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, concluded that rosemary may be an effective herbal anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor agent.3

In addition, a report published in the Journal of Food Science revealed that adding rosemary extract to ground beef reduces the formation of cancer-causing agents that can develop during cooking.

Protection against macular degeneration – a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, led by Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, revealed that a major component of rosemary, carnosic acid, can significantly promote eye health.

This could have clinical applications for diseases affecting the outer retina, such as age-related macular degeneration – the most common eye disease in the U.S.

Precautions and side effects

Rosemary is usually safe when taken in low doses. However, extremely large doses can trigger the following side effects (although rare):

High doses of rosemary may cause miscarriage. Therefore it’s not advisable for pregnant women to take any supplemental rosemary.

Drug interactions

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center5, rosemary can affect the activity of some medications, including:

  • Anticoagulant drugs – blood-thinning medications, such as Warfarin, Aspirin, and Clopidogrel.
  • ACE inhibitors – drugs used for treating high blood pressure, including lisinopril (Zestril), fosinopril (Monopril), captpril (Capoten), and elaropril (Vasotec).
  • Diuretics – medications that increase the passing of urine, such as hydrocholorothiazide and furosemide (Lasix).
  • Lithium – a medication used to treat the manic episodes of manic depression. Rosemary can act as a diuretic and subsequently cause lithium to reach toxic levels in the body.

Menstrual Cramps.

A menstrual cycle is a regular as well as accepted series of monthly physiological changes in a woman during which she sheds the lining of her uterus. This physiological change begins at puberty and recurs all through a woman’s reproductive years. In medical parlance, menstrual cramps are called dysmenorrhea, denoting an agonizing menstruation period.

The entire menstrual cycle may last for anything between 21 and 35 days while a 28-day menstrual cycle is considered to be normal. The cycle begins with the menstruation period and continues for anything between three and seven days. Very complicated physical as well as hormonal transformations take place throughout the remaining part of the menstruation cycle preparing the body of the woman for a potential pregnancy. When a woman is having her menstrual cycles, her body produces increased amounts of the hormone called estrogen. Augmented estrogen production makes the endometrium (uterine lining) grow and wait to receive a fertilized egg. In the meantime, the pituitary gland also secretes a hormone that stimulates the follicle leading to the development of a follicle for bearing the egg inside the ovary.

Ovulation takes place sometime during the middle of the menstrual cycle and the follicle releases an egg. Subsequently, there is a rise in the production of the hormone called progesterone, which makes the uterus ready to implant the fertilized egg. Progesterone works to help the endometrium contain an increased number of blood vessels as well as a glandular tissue – nourishing the uterus lining to develop into a supple and squishy ‘nest’ for the fertilized egg or embryo. However, this nest made ready by the body becomes unnecessary if the egg released by the follicle remains unfertilized and the levels of estrogen, as well as progesterone, decline roughly two weeks following ovulation. When this occurs, it sets off menstruation resulting in the disintegration of the spongy nest or endometrium, which leaves the body in the form of menstrual blood. Normally, a woman loses about 1/4 cup of blood during every menstruation period.

Generally, menstruation cramps occur just prior to the beginning of the menstrual cycle or during the onset of the menstrual period. Such cramps may continue for anything between some hours to a number of days. When a woman has menstrual cramps, she generally experiences muscle contractions or sudden spasms in the lower region of her abdomen. The cramps may possibly spread downwards along the thighs or towards the back and their severity may vary from slightly aching to twist pains. Women experiencing severe menstrual cramps may also suffer from additional symptoms, including a headache, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, exhaustion, bloating, edginess, fainting, dizziness, sore breasts, backaches, and even mood swings.

Compared to normal women, it appears that women experiencing menstrual cramps produce more prostaglandins – hormones released by the lining of the uterus. These hormones have an effect on the soft uterine muscles resulting in augmented contraction of the uterus. Such tightening of the uterine muscles obstructs the blood flow to the region, lessening the amount of oxygen received by the uterus, which, in turn, causes pain. Provided there is a significant rise in prostaglandin, it may also result in powerful gastrointestinal contractions, thereby causing diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea – some of the symptoms related to menstrual cramps.

When teenagers suffer from menstrual cramps, they possibly do not feel like socializing, visiting their gym class or even taking part in their routine activities. As social contact keeps the majority of the teenagers healthy, experiencing menstrual cramps for a couple of days may prove to be very difficult for them.

It is advisable that adolescents experiencing acute pain at the time of their menstrual period ought to visit their healthcare provider and seek advice. In fact, an acute pain in the abdomen may also be an indication of ectopic pregnancy (a fertilized egg developing outside the uterus), ovarian cyst, fibroid cyst, endometriosis (endometrium present in areas other than the uterine lining), endometrial cancer, or pelvic adhesions. Therefore, it is essential for them to undergo a medical diagnosis.

Any teenager experiencing irregular menstrual cycles again and again – an alteration in the usual pattern of her menstrual cycle, or abnormal loss of blood, should also visit a physician. In fact, erratic or altering menstrual cycles may also be a sign of some problems related to the endocrine gland. It may be noted here that if the bleeding continues for a prolonged period or is in excess, it may possibly result in anemia.

In addition, you should also take your daughter to a physician in case she is taking birth control pill or has an IUD (intrauterine device) implanted and suffers from menstrual cramps. A proper diagnosis is essential to ascertain that the symptoms are not related to any other serious condition.

Supplements and Herbs:

Use of specific herbs and supplements has been found to be effective in relieving menstrual cramps. Some of these are discussed briefly below:

Calcium/ magnesium chloride
Either of these is a wonderful supplement that aids in providing relief from muscle spasms and menstrual cramps and, at the same time, they are useful for maintaining an excellent muscle tone. While using calcium and/ or magnesium can help in lessening soreness of the breasts, magnesium helps the body to absorb augmented amounts of calcium. In fact, a number of suffering women have discovered that when they chew calcium supplements during menstrual periods it helps in restricting the pain.
Vitamin E
Vitamin E is excellent for sustaining the health and ensuring normal functioning of the reproductive organs.
Vitamin B complex
Vitamin B complex is an excellent supplement that is helpful in lessening the tension that occurs during the premenstrual stage. It is interesting to note that a number of women who took brewer’s yeast during their menstrual period have reported that this supplement has been effective in diminishing the relentless uneasiness during menstrual periods, counting depressions. Findings of a number of studies have hinted that women may experience vitamin B6 deficiency during their menstrual periods.
Vitamin C in conjunction with bioflavonoid
When used in conjunction, vitamin C and bioflavonoids aid in making the blood vessels as well as the walls of the capillaries inside the uterus stronger.
Iron
Women experiencing profuse blood loss during their menstrual periods ought to ensure that they also do not suffer from a dearth of iron in their body.
Chamomile
This herb works to relax the body. Prepare a tea with chamomile and drink one cup of it whenever necessary.
Dong quai
This is a Chinese herb that aids in controlling the menstrual cycle by means of maintaining equilibrium among the female hormones. Taking dong quai for some months will prove to be useful in providing relief from menstrual cramps, especially when it is used together with the leaves of red raspberry. It is best to start taking about 40 drops of tincture prepared from the herb or a formula prepared using both dong Quai and leaf of red raspberry two times every day beginning from the sixth day to the 20th day of the menstrual cycle (the days are determined on the basis of the first day when the menstrual bleeding starts). It is advisable that women should take 40 drops of either of these formulas twice every day continuously for three weeks. In case a woman is experiencing erratic menstrual periods, she should take dong Quai for roughly 2 to 3 weeks every month and do this again for no less than 3 menstrual cycles. However, this herb should not be taken during the menstrual period.
Ginger tea
Placing a compress dipped in boiling ginger tea in the lower region of the abdomen facilitates the cramping muscles to unwind. To prepare the ginger tea, add 6 oz of freshly obtained ginger root to one-quart water and boil it for about 20 minutes. Do use a hand towel or washcloth in the hot tea and place the soaked cloth either on the abdomen directly or cover the drenched cloth using a dry cloth and then place it on the abdomen. Ginger works to warm up and augments blood circulation in the lower abdominal region. When you apply this compress, you will have a feeling as if you have had a meaningful heating massage.
True cramp bark
Although most people are not familiar with cramp bark, it has the aptitude to heal menstrual cramps effectively. Ideally, you should drink one cup of tea prepared with this herb two times every day for three consecutive days prior to the beginning of the menstrual period. Continue taking one cup of this herbal tea thrice every day even during the menstrual period provided you experience cramping.
Herbal bath
Prepare a comforting herbal bath by blending one quart of potent chamomile tea, one-quart ginger tea and some amount of warm to boiling bath water. Immerse yourself in the bathtub full of this medicated water to take delight in a leisurely bath.
Blue cohosh
This herb possesses anti-spasmodic properties, besides containing steroids. The Native Indian women in North America have been traditionally using blue cohosh to alleviate menstrual cramps.
Black cohosh
Black cohosh is useful for treating several problems related to the uterus.
Black haw
Black haw is an anti-spasmodic herb that is particularly effective for treating spasms of the uterus.
Pasque flower
Pasque flower is an excellent herb for alleviating all types of pain, counting uterine pain.

Additional Information:

In addition to using conventional drugs and supplements and herbs, a woman can do some more things to avoid menstruation cramping. Most importantly, they should make an effort not to become obese or overweight, as overweight women normally experience additional menstrual cramps.

At the same time, it is important to undertake exercises on a regular basis. It has been found that menstrual cramps occur less frequently and are less severe in the case of healthy and fit women.

Women should also ensure that they take any high-quality vitamin as well as mineral supplements throughout the month. They need to increase the amount of magnesium and calcium taken by them just before the onset of their menstrual periods.

 Beneficial Herbs:

  • Calendula
  • Dioscorea
  • Lady’s Mantle
  • Partridgeberry
  • Peppermint
  • Sage
  • Skullcap
  • Valerian
  • Wild Yam

Honeysuckle – August Flower of the Month.

Lonicera japonica

Family: Adoxaceae, syn. Caprifoliaceae

honeysuckleThis lovely, cascading, woody vine, with its divine scent, is often planted as a landscape attraction. It dazzles the eye with its gorgeous blooms in warm weather and retreats to a pleasant but unremarkable placeholder at other times of the year. Its name refers to the fact that fairies {and everyone else} love to sip the nectar from the flowers. There are well over 100 different species, and at least 15 are used medicinally.

Description..

Honeysuckle is a perennial, deciduous or evergreen climbing shrub that typically wraps tightly around other plants or a support. It can grow to over 20 feet long and is invasive enough to be considered a noxious weed in the eastern United States. The tubular flowers bloom in the summer and are a pale yellow, sometimes tinged with pink, that turns a darker golden color as they age. Orangish red fruits that are rather nasty-tasting but are attractive to birds occur in clusters following the flowers in the fall.

Preparations and Dosage..

Make a strong infusion by steeping the flowers for as long as 30 minutes, or even gently simmer them, and drink 1/2 to 1 cup twice daily, or as often as desired. Honeysuckle also makes a delicious syrup. It’s found commercially in powder, granule, extract, and tablet form. Follow the directions on the product label.

Healing Properties..

The flowers {or flowers plus young stems} are mildly antibiotic and antiviral and are used to treat colds and flu. They are also recommended in traditional Chinese medicine {TCM} for relief of upper respiratory tract infections, fevers, bronchitis, sore throat, heat stroke, and diarrhea. The tea is also known for healing boils and other skin infections, as it helps to remove “fire toxins” {a TCM description that refers to metabolic waste buildup and inflammation} from your body. Teenagers and anyone who is prone to acne, boils, and sties can drink the refreshing tea daily to reap the strongest benefits.

Western herbalists recommend taking the flower tea or extract to relieve hot flashes, to prevent and promote healing of urinary tract infections, and to treat skin conditions like acne, boils, and eczema. The whole vine, including the leaves and twigs, can be decocted and used as a compress for treating burns, sores, and acne.

Safety..

The flowers and twigs are considered nontoxic by traditional Chinese medical practitioners.

In the Garden..

Honeysuckle is frost hardy, heat tolerant, and sturdy; it’s an easy plant to have around. If you want to create a hedge or fence-row, plant honeysuckle vines 3 feet apart, and expect them to push those bounds unless you trim them back during the dormant season. Honeysuckle likes moist, rich soil but is adaptable and somewhat drought tolerant once it’s large, and it will do well in full sun {or even partial shade, in hot climates}. Start it from seed, if you’re willing to wait a month or two for germination {stratification helps}, or take stem cuttings in the spring or woody cuttings in the fall. Easier yet, try layering a neighbor’s plant. Be sure to provide a trellis or fence for it to climb. Stems will trail along the ground, and you may want to prune them back for a tidier look.

Harvesting Honeysuckle..

Collect the flowers when they are just starting to open and are lovely, fresh and have a creamy hue. {Older, orange flowers will dry to a brown color.} Be sure to pick them every few days. As with all flowers, honeysuckle blooms are fragile and will bruise easily, so gather them in the morning, before the warmth of the day has compromised their freshness. Dry them immediately after harvest, at a low temperature and out of the sun. Tender stems may be collected also; they contain many of the same compounds.

Let’s Create Some Herbal Medicine – Dried Teas.

To create a long-lasting dried tea, start with fresh or dried herbs and water. Through a step-by-step steeping, simmering, and evaporating process, the tea is reduced from a clear liquid to a thick, nutrient-rich batter full of active compounds and suitable for drying.dehydrator traysTeas {infusions and decoctions} are some of the most vital components of a self-care routine, but you aren’t likely to have access to fresh herbs year-round, even if you extend your growing season by keeping some indoors in the winter. Enter the benefits of dried teas. If you are lucky enough to own a food dehydrator, you can preserve teas for future use.

First, you will prepare a tea by decocting your favorite herbs, and then you will strain out the herbs and boil and reduce the liquid to concentrate it. Finally, you will dry that liquid in the fruit leather trays of a dehydrator to create dried tea wafers.

Dried teas are very concentrated. Just 1/2 teaspoon of a powdered dried tea contains all the active constituents of up to 5 teaspoons of the fresh herb. To use dried teas, you can eat a piece of the wafer the size of a quarter or a silver dollar, two or three times daily, or you can make an instant tea by adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the wafer powder to warm or hot water. These very highly concentrated extractions can be a bit strong for sensitive stomachs. If you find your blend has that effect, dilute it with more water or soothing licorice or marshmallow tea, and drink it just before meal-time. For convenience, you can also grind your dried wafer into a fine powder and place it into 00-size gelatin capsules; the typical daily dose is two or three capsules, two or three times daily, with meals.

Follow this process to make a tea, reduce it to a concentrate and ultimately a batter, and then dry it in a food dehydrator to create dried tea wafers. These can be thin or thick and sheet-like or flaky, depending on the herb.

Basic Dried Tea:

Approximately 4 cups coarsely chopped fresh or dried herbs {more if you’re using light materials like flowers and leaves and less if you’re using dense materials like barks, roots, and seeds}

10 cups purified water

1 – 5 teaspoons “carrier,” such as maltodextrin {preferred}, lactose, or food-grade methylcellulose*

Place the herbs in a large saucepan and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the water and simmer, uncovered, for 2 to 4 hours or until a dark, strong tea is formed. Let it cool until it’s lukewarm. Strain out the herbs and press or squeeze them as dry as possible, catching the liquid to return to the pan. Compost the spent herbs. You can strain the tea again to remove granules or sediment. Simmer the tea again until it is reduced to 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid. Let it cool until it’s warm.**

Stir in 1 to 5 teaspoons of the carrier, until the liquid thickens to the consistency of cake batter. Pour this “batter” into the lightly oiled fruit leather trays of a food dehydrator set at 95 degrees to 100 degrees F. {Higher temperatures will toast the powder and reduce its quality.} Dry the liquid completely; this may take from 2 hours to overnight. When it’s completely dry, the tea will be a thin, dry, solid wafer that is easily broken or powdered in a blender. Store the wafer, broken up or powdered, in an amber glass jar away from direct sunlight.

  • You can also use a dried and finely powdered herb, such as burdock, eleuthero {Eleutheroococcus senticosus}, or nettle as a carrier. However, if you add water to your dried tea later to make a cup of liquid tea, these herbs will leave a bit of insoluble residue at the bottom of your cup.

** If you wish, tinctures of herbs such as echinacea, ginger, and orange peel can be stirred into the cooled mix before it starts to dry, either to add medicinal effects or to improve the taste. This is also a great way to add herbs such as valerian, which contains delicate essential oils and other sensitive compounds that would be destroyed by the boiling process. Follow the dosage directions above.

Strengthen-the-Middle Dried Tea

This recipe helps strengthen your digestive system and remove excess water from your body.

3/4 cup fresh or dried ginger root

1/4 cup fresh or dried ginseng root, red Korean or Chinese {Panax ginseng}

1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried burdock root

1/2 cup fresh or 1/4 cup dried orange peel

1 cup fresh or dried astragalus root

10 cups purified water

1/2 ounce tincture of artichoke leaf {optional}

Approximately 1/4 cup eleuthero powder, maltodextrin, or other carrier

Place the ginger, burdock, orange and astragalus in a large saucepan and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the water and simmer, uncovered, for 2 to 4 hours or until a dark, strong tea is formed. Let it cool until it’s lukewarm. Strain out the herbs and squeeze them, catching the liquid to return to the pan. Compost the spent herbs. Simmer the tea again until it is reduced to 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid. Let it cool until it’s warm. Stir in the optional tincture and eleuthero powder or other carrier. Pour the batter into the lightly oiled fruit leather trays of a food dehydrator and dry at 95 degrees to 100 degrees F. Dry the liquid completely, and break up or powder the wafer. Store in an amber glass jar away from heat and light. Follow the dosage directions above.

Let’s Create Some Herbal Remedies – When Cold and Flu Season Arrives.

These two recipes are prepared as teas but are not taken in your tea cup – they help with the discomfort of flu season in other ways.

Winter Inhalation

living-herbs-for-cold-flu-thymeThis traditional herbal steam helps open your sinuses, discourages bacterial and viral growth, and reduces pain and inflammation. Remember to stay a comfortable distance from the steaming pot to avoid burning your face.

8 – 12 teaspoons fresh or 4 teaspoons dried eucalyptus leaf {Eucalyptus globulus}

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried peppermint leaf

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried thyme herb

3 cups purified water

Essential oils of the herbs above {optional}

Place the eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, and water in a saucepan and stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and uncover. Drape a large towel over your head and the saucepan, forming a steam-filled tent, and inhale the medicated steam deeply for 5 minutes or so. Repeat several times daily as needed, warming the decoction each time just to the boiling point.

You can enhance the inhalation by adding 6 or 7 drops of essential oil to the brew after you remove it from the heat. Try oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, and thyme, and add one or more as desired. {Because essential oils can cause dizziness and light-headedness, do not use enhanced inhalations more than two or three times a day, and discontinue use if redness of the mucous membrane develops.}

A Soothing Throat Gargle

herbs for cold and fluThis decoction soothes throats that are sore from illness or hoarse from overuse; it’s ideal for public speakers or teachers even when it isn’t winter. You will notice that this recipe calls for simmering above-ground portions of the plant that are usually steeped; this is because you will be extracting deeper compounds that are only somewhat water-soluble.

5 -7 tablespoons fresh or 2 1/2 tablespoons dried echinacea leaf

4 – 6 tablespoons fresh or 2 tablespoons dried lemon balm herb

3 – 5 tablespoons fresh or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried sage leaf

3 – 5 tablespoons fresh or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried licorice root

2 tablespoons dried witch hazel bark {Hamamelis virginiana} or marshmallow root

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh or dried usnea lichen, if available {Usnea spp.}

5 cups purified water

Place the echinacea, lemon balm, sage, licorice, witch hazel or marshmallow, and optional usnea in a saucepan. Pour the water over the herbs and stir to thoroughly combine. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and steep for 10 minutes, covered. Strain and compost the herbs. You can make a larger batch and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Gargle with 1/4 cup of the warm or room-temperature tea four or five times a day; swallowing the liquid after gargling will provide extra benefits. For portability, put some in a little dropper bottle, and gargle with 3 or 4 droppersful for 30 seconds as a quick fix for an irritated throat.