Natural Remedies: Plants that Relieve Common Health Conditions

Some of the best medicines you will ever use are free for the growing. Plants such as yarrow, pumpkin, privet, goldenseal and more have been used for centuries as natural healers.

| June/July 1995

  • Meadowsweet
    Every time you reach for an aspirin, you owe a debt to the plant called meadowsweet, for it was this herb from which salicylic acid was first obtained. Salicylates found in the flowers of meadowsweet are the basis of its long-standing reputation as a remedy for flu, rheumatism, arthritis and fevers.
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    Dr. Dickson in the field near his home.
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    May apple blooms.
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    Goldenseal flowers with young leaves.
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    Mature goldenseal leaves. Few herbs were as important to Native Americans.
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    Ipecac has been used for centuries to induce vomiting in poisoning victims.
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    Yarrow flowers. A poultice of ground yarrow tips is excellent first aid for cuts.
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    Witch hazel's astringent properties make it ideal for skin care.
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    Willow is one of the original sources for that most famous of medicines, aspirin.
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    The tropical camphor tree's leaves produce medicinal oil that is world renowned.
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  • Meadowsweet
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As you walk down the aisles of your local drugstore, seeing the array of brightly colored bottles and boxes whose contents are designed to treat an almost endless variety of ailments, could you ever imagine them as flowers once growing on a forest floor or as bark cut from one of its trees? Is there even a remote relationship between the life of the woods and the bottles on the shelf?

The nationally known author and environmental scientist G. Tyler Miller tells us that in America, one of every four drugs sold either over-the-counter or by prescription has its origin in plant life. From the chemicals developed by nature have actually come 25 percent of all our medications. In some nations, the percentage is as high as 50. There is a pharmacy in the forest.

The history of the relationship between products from living plants and healing medications goes back to the very beginnings of medicine itself. There are museum records of prescriptions dating back to Egypt in 3700 B.C. Their work was followed by the Chinese, and later, Greek and Roman medicine came into its own. By 600 A.D. the Arab world had developed a health care system while scientific medicine and pharmacy began to flourish in Europe in the eighth century.

The American experience is deeply rooted in the lore of Native Americans. Indian nations from coast to coast developed a considerable volume of knowledge of natu ral substances and used them with great success in treating their sick. The first official compendium (called a Pharmacopeia) was published in 1778, just two years following the American Revolution. By 1787, an American physician, Dr. Schoepf, had published his Materia Medica Americana, listing not only European remedies, but also dozens of drugs coming from our indigenous plants. Information regarding their preparation and uses had come largely from the accumulated knowledge of Native American medicine men.



Unfortunately the relationship between these natural products and viable healing drugs was to suffer an image problem when those motivated by quick profit got into the act. The many Western movies with their portrayal of the traveling medicine show and its list of “cures for what ails you” wasn’t a fabrication but an actual and dominant part of the medical scene. Lost in the vaudeville shuffle of questionable oils and tinctures was the fact that hundreds of pharmaceutical manufactures and dedicated physicians continued to produce and dispense medications that served to improve the health of our people. Many of these medications came from plant sources and were very effective.

What follows are nine of my favorite natural remedies with a history of usage that may go back hundreds, or even thousands, of years. Unfortunately, we’ve largely distanced ourselves from many of them as they found their way onto drugstore shelves as active ingredients of highly sophisticated (and very often artificially expensive) medicines. Yet the plants and the cures are ours to grow.

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11/12/2017 6:34:56 AM

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Luke Chambers
6/5/2012 2:02:54 AM

Just a warning about Datura. leave it alone! It is an extremely powerful hallucinogenic so unless your bored with L.S.D don't take it unless under the supervision of a qualified Herbalist and preferably not even then. and to the hippies among us who will run to the nearest patch I warned you!







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