Happy Friday, blog readers! It's Feel-Good Friday, which means thinking about natural ways to feel healthy and happy.
I used to be an editor for Herbs for Health magazine (now folded into our other excellent herb-enthusiast magazine, Herb Companion), and one thing that always struck me as fascinating is the way that, for almost any ailment, nature provides relief. As most of us know, modern pharmaceuticals all have their basis in plant medicine — they're amplified versions of healing compounds found in nature. But if we use herbal supplements wisely and regularly, we can often prevent or control chronic problems without relying on expensive — and often dangerous — pharmaceuticals. Of course, the best way to get most of our nutrients is through a rich and varied diet, but it's wise to supplement with the herbs that you can't or don't get through your diet.
General Wellness and Weight Management: After I wrote an article about supergreens for Herbs for Health, I decided to try supplementing with supergreens and started taking a spirulina supplement. I was so pleased with the results. Spirulina (and most seaweeds) provides key micronutrients not often found in an American diet, and they can increase energy, help control food cravings and aid in weight loss and overall wellness.
Anxiety: For generalized anxiety, try kava kava. In this article in The Herb Companion, Herbalist Robert Rountree recommends "an extract containing a minimum of 30 percent kavalactones in a dose of 100 to 200 mg every six to eight hours, and herbalist Kathy Keville recommends treating anxiety--which is classified as a type of depression--as you might regular depression, with St. John's wort or wild oat.
Headache: In an excerpt from the book Homegrown Remedies by Annie McIntyre, MOTHER EARTH NEWS printed this remedy for headache relief:
Rosemary helps soften and relax tense muscles that bring on stress headaches, while meadowsweet is ideal for relieving pain. Feverfew is famed for helping intractable headaches, bringing blood to the head. Refreshing peppermint makes a great analgesic.
PAIN RELIEF COMPRESS
(For your convenience, we’ve converted some ingredients in the following recipes from British to American measurements. — MOTHER)
1 oz each fresh or 1/2 oz dried rosemary, peppermint, feverfew, meadowsweet
1 cup plus 2 tbsp white vinegar
Fill a jar with the herbs. Cover with the vinegar and leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 to 3 weeks. Strain into a clean, dark bottle and seal.
How to Use: When you have a headache, pour some of the vinegar into a bowl and soak a clean flannel in it, wring out and apply to the forehead. Repeat as necessary. You can also chill the vinegar in the fridge, which will help if your headaches are relieved by cold temperatures.
Hints and Tips: Rosemary relieves headaches of all kinds, whether from stress, poor circulation, muscle tension or the excesses of the night before.
Menstruation/menopause: Vitex is an excellent herb I've taken in the past to help regulate hormones, which means it can help eliminate hormone-fluctuation-related problems such as PMS and helps with menopause. It's not recommended for those using oral contraceptives, however. Other excellent herbs for women's health include black cohosh, holy basil and red clover (read more here).