Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Using Plants to Heal

At our place we use plants to heal. Nature is our pharmacy!

The Aloe Vera Plant is well known for soothing burns, even sunburns. But it does SO much more than that! Use it for scrapes, scratches, cuts, and eczema. It works great on diaper rashes, too! And it's not just for using topically- Aloe can be taken internally! In fact, it is so powerful, and being the only known natural vegetarian source of Vitamin B12it is being studied for it's effectiveness as an immune booster and in combating cancers, HIV and diabetes. Google the health benefits of Aloe for yourself. It's an easy plant to grow and only needs to be watered once every three or four weeks, so even if you have a black thumb like me, you'll have a hard time killing it. Because my dogs like to eat my aloe plants, I can't grow enough for taking internally, so I buy the aloe juice from my health food store, and add it to my green smoothies every morning. Fabulous!

Most people grow Basil to use in their kitchen for cooking. But rubbing the crushed leaves on your temples will relieve a headache, and making a hot foot bath with basil (like a big tea!) helps achy feet. But wait! There's more- coughs, colds, fever, and more are remedied with basil. Visit this link or search for yourself to see the many, MANY health benefits of Basil! 

Lemon Balm is one of my favorite plants. I LOVE growing these aromatic herbs. It's part of the mint family, another favorite of mine. Lemon Balm acts as a natural insect repellent when rubbed on the skin, and will treat wounds and insect bites very nicely. Drink it as a tea, it treats sleep disorders like insomnia, anxiety and indigestion. And, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, by reducing agitation and improving cognitive function- aka memory, it is a helpful treatment for Alzheimer's symptoms. 

Peppermint is a must have for any homegrown first-aid and medicinal kit. Those who visit my home often know that I like to use peppermint oil for cleaning. I add it to my wash water to mop my floors, and use it in my homemade all purpose spray cleaner for everything else! When my home is not smelling of fresh cinnamon and cardamon, it usually smells pepperminty. But that's just the wonderful smell! It has fabulous healing properties, too.  

It's a wonderful remedy for an upset tummy, and is safe for infants. I remember making peppermint milk for Alex when he was little to sooth his tummy. Use it to help calm a child, or yourself, when you are feeling anxious or nervous. It's also good for clearing congestion. When feeling nauseous- either due to morning sickness, dizziness, overindulgence or other tummy ailment- take out some peppermint oil and inhale deeply until the nausea passes. Never ingest the oil, though. Peppermint tea is good for mental focus, too. People who are driving can use the tea to help them stay alert and awake on long or sleepy trips, and since it boosts mental performance, too, students can drink it while taking tests or sitting in class. Love garlic or/and onions (I do!)? Chew on a fresh mint leaf or gargle with a strong mint tea to alleviate bad breath! Tip- carry a few fresh leaves in your purse on a date to chew on after your meal for kissable breath! :-) 

Parsley is a very under-appreciated herb in my opinion. Dried parsley from the spice section at your local grocery store is just a garnish, and doesn't contain any real medicinal properties. Grow your own or buy it dried from a quality trusted source, like Mountain Rose Herbs. Parsley is an immune system booster, an antioxidant, a cancer fighter, and an anti-inflammatory (think osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)! With high levels of Vit C, A and K (think bones!), it's a powerful boost in a very small package. Sprinkle fresh chopped leaves on EVERYTHING and you'll soon be getting the wonderful benefits of this herb. 

Ch-ch-ch CHIA! Chia seeds are the new big thing. Chia seeds have been found to have more Omega 3 Fatty Acids than salmon! Are you not blown away by that? I am. I have been a dedicated Flax Seed user for years for it's Omega 3 properties since I don't eat seafood. It goes in my green smoothies, I sprinkle it in the oatmeal I make for the kiddos every morning, and I add it to any dish I can find. But it seems Chia Seeds have Flax beat! I recently switched to Chia and I am loving it! Chia seeds are easier for the body to absorb than Flax, which I always thought was already pretty darn easy. Chia seeds help with weight loss by blocking some of the calories you eat, and absorb 10X their weight in water so they make you feel full faster by forming a bulky gel in your stomach. Great for athletes or on a hot day because the 'gel' helps hydrate you from the inside out! Chia seeds also help reduce blood pressure and control blood sugar- a happy benefit for diabetics and people with heart concerns. You'll need about 9 teaspoons, or 1.5 ounces, of Chia seeds every day to get all the benefits. Chew them raw as a snack, add them to cereal and oatmeal, sprinkle in your salad and other food, cook with them (mmm, muffins?!) and add them to your smoothies. They don't need to be ground up like flax, either! Love them!

Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices. I buy mine whole from Mountain Rose Herbs, where they are Fair Trade and Certified Organic, so I know they weren't grown or harvested unethically and they weren't doused with chemicals or genetically modified. I grind them fresh in my grinder every few days, and add it to my morning apple-cider vinegar & honey drink every morning. Cinnamon lowers bad cholesterol and fights Type 2 Diabetes by lowering blood sugar, which also will aid in weight loss. 

It also helps fight yeast overgrowth (candida) with it's anti fungal properties. Many studies have shown a connection to yeast overgrowth in the gut to behavioral and learning problems in children, including links to autism, as well as a host of other health problems in children and adults alike- like chronic fatigue, food allergies and digestive problems, to name a few. Candida can explode in your system after a round of antibiotic drugs, or be the result of a diet too rich in sugars, and refined and processed foods, among other reasons. In fact, it is said that candida can not live in a cinnamon environment! 

When added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and spoilage, acting as a natural food preservative. It's a powerful cancer fighter, especially for leukemia and lymphoma cells. Cinnamon also has an anti-clotting effect on the blood, which is great if you have a heart condition. It relieves arthritis symptoms when combined with honey! And just SMELLING cinnamon helps improve cognitive function and memory! If you suffer from headaches and migraines, eliminate them with all natural cinnamon!

Cardamom seeds are one of my favorite smelling seeds ever! Above is pictured the whole pods, and below just the seeds. I add the freshly ground seeds to my smoothies every morning, and boil it in water to make my whole house smell wonderful! Cardamon can be used in cooking as well as medicinally. It is has been proven to be antimicrobial, inhibiting growth and spread of a variety of microorganisms, including E-Coli, Staph, Candidas, and a host of others. Cardamon is also a proven blood clot inhibitor, and may one day be used to help treat heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease. Traditional Indian medicine has been using cardamom to treat digestive ailments forever. As food, we sprinkle it onto our oatmeal, and my good friend Sharon makes a cardamom desert using the whole pod (she discards the shell after getting all it's flavor!). 

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is the result of fermenting apple cider, and is an age-old remedy for just about everything. My dad drinks it everyday to stay young and strong. Which he is :-). I drink it everyday with honey and cinnamon as a sort-of vitamin. It's actually quite delicious, even Alex asks for it. I also use it for cleaning- it is a strong disinfectant! I love that it is totally natural and safe for children, pets and the environment. I buy the Bragg's brand of ACV, which has the 'mother'. It is unfiltered, unpasteurized, unheated and has all the medicinal properties intended- unlike store-bought apple cider vinegar that you might use in the kitchen for cooking, which has practically no health benefits. The Bragg's brand is also Certified Organic, and you can find their products here, or in your local store. I get mine from the local Fred Meyer. The uses seem to be endless- hair rinse, blemishes, soother for tired hands and feet, sunburn treatment, teeth whitener, aftershave, weight loss, detox, house cleaner, fleas, strep throat, hiccups, acid reflux, asthma, high blood pressure and the list goes on and one and on! No household should ever be without apple cider vinegar!

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