Herbology, the study of herbs and their effects on the human body, is an ancient art that goes back to the beginnings of humankind. Herbs technically can be ANY part of a plant, not just the leaves or the flowers, but also can be the roots, seeds, pollen, bark, or sometimes the entire plant. When we talk about medicine, we are usually describing how to use a medicant for the relief of symptoms, or the cure of a disease. However, herbology goes a step further in that we can also use them to prevent disease. More and more studies are showing that what we eat, as well as our mindset, and our exercise habits, strongly influence how likely we are to be struck by various diseases. The old herbalists knew this. Do you remember the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the Doctor away." ? It's quite true, the pectin as well as the vitamins found in apples, are very strong in keeping up the immune system.
There are many herbs, and herbal combinations, that will help to prevent disease and keep us healthy. Isn't that what we are really striving for after all? I would much rather prevent myself from getting a cold, then worry about treating it once I have it. Many people use vitamins and take megadoses of them for that reason, so why use herbs? Why not take a pill when it is so much simpler and it does the same thing?
Ah, but does a pill do the same thing? Your body's response to a pill is not the same as your body's response to an herbal remedy. The medicine's of today have evolved from the herbal remedies our great-great-grandmother's used, and in some ways they are not an improvement. They force the desired response from the body, overriding the body's reaction to the disease. An herbal remedy works differently. Instead of overcoming the body's tendencies, the herbal remedy strengthens them, thereby allowing the body to heal itself. The response is not forced from the systems, and therefore puts less strain on them.
Your body is designed to heal itself; it's a miracle and a wonder of which we are only really beginning to scratch the surface. Medicines are mainly given to treat the symptoms, to help soften your misery while your body is healing itself of the sickness. Unless you are suffering from a severe trauma where you literally have to be stitched or operated upon, for the most part, in ordinary, daily life, your body is simply healing itself.
Even commercials do not argue this point. One commercial I listened carefully to stated that their product simply made cuts "heal faster". They did not claim to make the cut heal, just heal faster. Your body already does the healing for you. So, in short, the medications that you take when you have a cold or a flu are not helping you to get better, just feel better. But are they really helping you?
Your body's defense mechanisms against disease include such things as: nausea and vomiting, fever, coughing and sneezing, runny nose, fatigue, etc. Sound familiar? Well, each of these so called symptoms are your body's way of trying to heal itself by expelling the disease or germs out of it, or by raising the body temperature high enough to kill off the flu virus. Most flu viruses cannot live for more than 20 minutes at 102.5 degrees. So when your body spikes a fever, it is an attempt to kill off the virus. The fever breaks when the virus is dead, the rest of the time is spent recovering your strength. Coughing, sneezing, runny nose - these are all attempts to get rid of the annoying cold germs. Nausea and vomiting are also ways the body fights disease by trying to expel it. Fatigue occurs because this is hard work, and you need to get more rest than usual in order to accomplish it. Dry mouth is letting you know that you need to drink a lot more water to wash the toxins out.
Let's take a look at how we react these days to a typical cold... most people will take a pill or medication so that they can sleep at night - good, you need your rest. But, then we take another pill or liquid so that we can go to work the next day and not stay home. We take something for the aches in our muscles (which can be caused by toxin buildup in the tissue, water will help get rid of that) and we continue to work, work, work. Even though we feel terrible and are so fatigued... No wonder the average duration of a cold has gone from 2-3 days to 2-3 weeks! How can your body heal when you won't slow down enough to let it?!!
Where do herbs fit into this? Well, in addition to treating your symptoms, herbs can help you NOT to get sick in the first place. When cold season starts, take echinaccea and goldenseal to boost the body's immune system, and also eat lots of garlic, and fresh fruit and vegetables to boost your vitamin C and A. If you can't eat enough of them, then it's ok to use a vitamin pill as a supplement. But do eat as healthy as you can, and exercise, and make sure you get enough sleep. You will get sick much less often because your immune system will be able to fight off diseases before they can get strong in the body. You may be the only one at work NOT to get the flu that's going around this year!
Now, if you are presently under a doctor's care for an ongoing condition, please seek his/her opinion before taking anything. You need to know how the medication you are on will "mix" with whatever you intend to take. Normally vitamins are completely safe, but since you are under the care of a physician, you aren't normal - so be safe and find out if it's ok for you.
None of these rememdies are "guaranteed" to work for everyone the same way, or even the same way everytime for each person. Your body is an ever changing vehicle for your soul, and as such, it can change it's response. For example, taking "megadoses" of vitamins works, in the short run, perhaps only for flu season. But if you continue to take these constantly, your own immune system will actually end up weaker. Because you are flooding your body with an unnatural amount of these vitamins, you are forcing your body to eliminate them in your urine and sweat so that they don't build up in the tissues and cause harm. People who think that if a little of something is good, then a lot more should be better are wrong when it comes to such things as vitamins and medications. Any vitamin regime or herbal program that you are on, you should give yourself a break from every so often. Perhaps several days in the month, stop taking them, or maybe for one week in every three months, just to give your body a chance to regulate itself without it.
One more comparison needs to be noted between medications and herbal remedies. As mentioned before, the medications have evolved from the original herbal remedies, and are usually much stronger doses. In addition, when the herbal remedies were analyzed, the drug companies isolated what they believed to be what is called the active ingredient and mostly left out the rest of the enzymes or ingredients in the plants. It is now being discovered by the drug companies that by doing this, they have missed the point so to speak. You see, many of the herbs contain ingredients that aid the active ingredient in some way - such as making it absorb more quickly into the system, or perhaps by buffering the stomach against other harsh effects. For example it is still believed by many that eggs are bad for you because the yolk causes elevated cholesterol levels. However now food biologists are discovering that the white part of the egg contains enzymes and amino acids that transform that cholesterol into "good" cholesterol which is something the body needs. But this only happens if the egg is eaten WHOLE. This holistic approach to eggs also is a good example of why I like to choose herbs over medicines whenever possible.
The following list of herbs and herbal combinations can be taken as a tea for the most part. Leaves should be steeped in water that has already been brought to boiling temperature. Roots and barks will need to be boiled for several minutes to extract the healing oils from them. Some of these can be found as capsules already made up, and some can be purchased as bulk teas in your local health foods store, or on line. Check expiration dates!!! Herbs do not last forever on the shelf, and if you open a box and it looks or smells moldy, don't use it.
Many people ask about dosage, and mostly you can drink 1-2 cups of these teas daily, unless otherwise noted. I would start with one and see how you feel. If you have no allergies or other untoward effects, then take a second cup. Whatever your body doesn't need, it will eliminate, so don't worry about taking too much - short term of course. Some of these will have warnings that go along with them, please read those and abide by them. Safety and your health should be your primary concern.
This list is by no means meant to be comprehensive or all inclusive. There are as many herbs that you can take for a certain condition as there are different body metabolisms! And that's another way that nature helps her children. One person will have a wonderful effect from a certain herbal combination, while another person may have no effect. This doesn't mean that the herbs don't work for some people, just that their metabolism needs a different trigger to activate it. Try a different combination.
There are some items on this list that I take daily, such as two garlic tablets to cleanse the blood, and they also act as a natural bug repellent. Living in Florida really makes that particular effect very desirable to me! Garlic was also used during World War II in Italy, where they ran out of antibiotics and used garlic on the wounds instead. There are no reported cases of sepsis from that time, despite the overwhelming cases that were reported in other areas where they ran out of antibiotics but had no garlic.
I also take goldenseal and echinacea daily, but only during cold season. Once the season is past, I stop taking those. The reason is because my body needs to be able to rely on it's own immune system for the most part. Taking it periodically strengthens my system, but if I took it always, my system might come to depend upon it, and then the opposite effect would happen.
One more word needs to be given regarding apple cider vinegar and honey. Please note that the vinegar needs to be organic, and not made from acetic acid. The cheap vinegar in the grocery store is made as a petroleum by-product, and has probably never even smelled an apple! Get organic apple cider vinegar, it's more expensive but it contains the minerals and nutrients that your body craves. This combination, when taken as a tablespoon in a glass of water, has been used since before the Romans as a natural kind of "gatorade". It has the minerals and nutrients that your body needs, especially when doing heavy labor and your body tends to sweat or use up those nutrients. The Roman legions carried this in their "canteens" and went on to conquor half the world!