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The Role of Herbs in Our Modern Society

In our modern world, we are under the false belief that there is one solution for all our problems. One medicine for a disease, one way to eat, and one set of practises to keep us healthy. We have also lived, for many years under the false belief that Western medicine is the superior, infallible ideal of medicine and that other more natural and traditional ways of doing health are outdated and in some cases harmful. These two philosophies, Western and Traditional explain our current state of health care in which suppressing symptoms is prioritised over finding the root cause of an illness.

For example, let us look at eczema which seems to be prevalent at the moment. The modern solution is often to be prescribed a topical steroid to relieve the symptoms instead of addressing factors that may lead to eczema such as environment and diet. The steroids only work at suppressing the symptoms, not healing the eczema. From a herbal perspective, each person needs to be looked at individually because there is no one size fits all cure to anything. For some, the skin condition could be caused by a food intolerance, in another instance it could be the toxins and pollutants in the environment in which the person lives. For yet another, it may be the emotional and physical stresses that the person finds him/herself in.

Modern and traditional working together

We are not saying that Western medicine does not have its place. We firmly believe that if we need something to be diagnosed, we need to go to the place best suited to help us. For example, in April of this year I suffered a compression fracture of my lumbar spine. Herbs could not help me immediately here. I needed to get x-rays and a bone density scan taken to find out what was wrong with me. I also needed a brace to hold me together so that my bones could knit.

Once these mechanical issues were taken care of, we were able to look at how the natural world could help me heal. From the herbal perspective, it was suggested that I drink a daily cup of Comfrey tea. Comfrey is also known by the common name of Knitbone. The leaves of the herb are used to make this tea and it is a pleasant green taste.

But this is not the only use for the happy Comfrey herb. The fresh leaves are skin healers. My mother, 87 years old has had an awful ulcer/sore/corn under her one foot that the doctors have not been able to heal for over two years. She has lived with varying levels of pain throughout this time. Eventually, in May this year, the doctor said that he had no idea what to do to help her. This is when I asked Chris what she thought we could do to help her.

She suggested that we make a poultice with the comfrey leaf and do this on a daily basis. Thank goodness my mother lives on the same property as my brother and he undertook to help her with the daily dressing. He cleans the wound with a weak solution of peroxide and then applies the poultice. It has now been 4 or 5 weeks and the wound is healing. She no longer experiences pain. It has been a long process, but in the scheme of things, much shorter than +2 years of going to doctors with no positive results.

Herbs converted into tinctures

 We also convert our herbs into tinctures. Tinctures are the result of a process of infusing herbs in alcohol for six weeks. This enables the goodness and properties of herbs to be extracted and made available in liquid form.

Chaste berry is an interesting and useful one at my stage of life as it has a calming and soothing effect. It relieves muscle cramps and normalizes hormone levels and is good for the symptoms of menopause.

It is also useful for women experiencing PMS, as well as young women just beginning their monthly cycle.

Another story close to home

Christine was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia a few years back. None of the doctors knew how to help her. Eventually, and out of sheer desperation, she turned to a nutritionist for help. With food changes, she was also told to use as many natural products as possible on and in her body. Here are just a few examples of the changes that she made from the herbal perspective:

  1. To relieve the pain, we used a mixture of arnica and lavender. The arnica to soothe her pain and the lavender to soothe her nerves. This combination continues to bring her relief from the fybro pain when she has an attack.
  2. She was also encouraged to drink herbal teas rather than black tea or coffee. Not to say that she never drinks these, but she tries to keep it to a minimum. Some of the herbal teas that help are: Milk Thistle, which supports and helps cleanse the liver; Rosehip tea which helps strengthen the immune system and has a slightly analgesic effect which can help with mild pain; Chickweed which is known to help with inflamed joints. It is also known to soothe the urinary tract and so is helpful when one has a mild bladder infection; Hibiscus, which is known to help control blood pressure, it is also helpful in reducing bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol. In other words, having a variety of herbal teas in place of the conventional tea or coffee is a healthy alternative that can improve our quality of life.

The Season for Colds and Flu can bring a lot of misery. One weekend, Chris’s family was visiting and her son was fighting a cold. He just couldn’t find relief. She suggested that he try some of the Colds and Flu tea. He was dubious but willing to try anything. Within a short while he could feel the difference. The fuzzy head and slight fever had lifted. This tea is now a firm favourite in their home and they all use it when the need arises.

We have just completed the 10 day House and Garden show. One day, a young girl came to ask if we could help her with her sore tummy. She had been away on a church camp and had come back with cramps that stopped her sleeping at night. Her dad suggested she come and talk to us. We suggested that she try our Tummy Tea which we have had a lot of positive feedback on. She said she would try anything. About an hour later, her boyfriend reported that she was feeling a little better. The next day, her boyfriend came to us, beaming from ear to ear. The young girl had slept through the night without any cramps. We call that a happy herbal ending.

It’s a Dog’s Life

Humans are not the only ones who benefit from herbs. In their natural state, animals eat a number of herbs and wild plants and grasses. They instinctively know what they need to help them keep healthy. For example, a dog will eat grass in order to purge. This is a natural condition and one which helps them keep their gut in a healthy state.

In today’s world where we have been encouraged to feed our pets biscuits, they have a struggle with such ailments as Hotspots; itchy skin and Candida. Not all domesticated animals have the opportunity to eat the grasses and herbs that they need from the wild gardens and fields. Herbs can be added to their food (raw diet or cooked diet-in other words, their wet food). They can also benefit from home-made biscuits with herbs added. (Ask me if you want this recipe: sue@essentialherbs.co.za)

We are agents for Meridian herbs who sell an immune boost and a natural nutrients which I give to my dog alternatively.

For thousands of years, long before the internet or even books existed, plants were a major source of healing for people all over the world. The use of medicinal plants, referred to as herbalism, has as many theories and traditions as there are cultures on the earth.

Chris and I encourage you to explore the world of herbs, both cultivated and wild. Give the dandelion and chickweed a space to grow freely; have a wild section in your garden where the birds and monkeys can forage on natural herbs and grasses.

Lots of healthy happiness from us to you.

Sue and Chris

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