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Herbs were the first healing tools of mankind.

Before man became sophisticated enough to discover the meridians of the body, surgery or antibiotics, he noticed that certain plants affected the body in certain ways.

If he ate a particular plant or rubbed it on the skin, the curative powers were evident. Even today the synthesized medicines handed out by the pharmaceutical companies are based on the chemical structures of plants.

All plants that heal are herbs. Strictly speaking, a herb is any plant with medicinal, aromatic, culinary or other helpful properties (such a dyeing). This means that herbs cover a far wider base than the parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme that most people think of as herbs. Roses, for example, are a herb. Cleopatra sprinkled the bed she shared with Mark Antony with rose petals for their aphrodisiac properties.

And the herbs which can be used in healing are many and varied, and from all parts of the world.
Eyebright, local to the British Isles, was used for “all evils of the eye”.
Fleabane did exactly what it said, kept the fleas away – an essential part of life until more recently.
Feverfew is excellent for migraines, and many people drink it as a tea or simply chew it (although wrap it in a piece of bread as it can irritate the mouth).

In the Mediterranean thyme and rosemary were growing.
Thyme contains antiseptic and tonic properties, which makes it excellent for many infections, and it can be drunk as a tea with mint and lemon balm for sore throats.
Rosemary is a warming herb that stimulates circulation.
Aloe was growing in this area too, and the Romans never marched without it, treating their wounds with this plant.
Saw Palmetto comes from North America a nd is the woman’s plant, taken for painful periods and infertility.
Ginseng, which grows in various parts of the world, is know for increasing circulation, with the resulting improved health and memory enhancement.

Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine also have their own range of herbs, some of which may be more suited to constitutions from those areas, but some of which are as effective in our part of the world today.

Herbs can be taken as a decoction, a tisane, made into an oil and rubbed into the skin, and simply chewed. But they are still, essentially, the original plant. They have not been turned into an almost non-molecular form, such as in homeopathy, or synthesized, as in conventional medicine. They are still the raw product. Still the same chemicals. So yes, they are natural. But this doesn’t make them cosy or safe. They can react with conventional medicines, or simply in excess poison the body.
Recently St John’s wort came under scrutiny when it was considered to have a negative hepatic affect.
Too much Digitalis (foxglove), which in small quantities is excellent for some heart conditions, in large quantities will simply kill you.

It is always important to read any warnings on the label, and preferably consult a qualified medical herbalist.

Information supplied by:
The Herb Society,
Sulgrave Manor,
OX17 2SD
Tel: 01295 768899

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