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Erbe e piante medicinali che non sapevi di avere nel tuo giardino (o balcone)

Al giorno d’oggi quando siamo malati siamo abituati a prendere subito una pillola o una piccola iniezione per sentirci meglio (o almeno così si spera!). Tuttavia in passato la conoscenza e l’uso delle erbe medicinali era l’unica soluzione possibile per curare le malattie. Col tempo vennero così studiate, catalogate e impiegate tutte le erbe e piante definite “medicinali” o “officinali“, ovvero usate e vendute nelle “officine” (=farmacie, speziali, ecc.) come vere e proprie medicine.

Gli speziali dell’epoca (i nostri farmacisti, per dire) erano coloro che conoscevano le varie tecniche di lavorazione, preparazione e conservazione delle piante, e se ne servivano per realizzare svariati rimedi medicamentosi (oli, unguenti, decotti, tisane ecc.), prodotti cosmetici e profumi. Non era inusuale che anche i monaci si dedicassero a questa attività, assicurandosi così un po’ di profitto per il monastero e più indipendenza dal mondo esterno (specialmente se seguivano una vita in clausura).

Oggi le erbe e le piante officinali sono per lo più utilizzate in prevenzione alla salute e al benessere, piuttosto che per la cura di per sè (tralascio al momento la naturopatia, fitoterapia, ecc.). Possono essere anche impiegate in cucina (le cosiddette “aromatiche“) oppure, attraverso processi chimici, per creare integratori, cosmetici e altri prodotti per la casa.

In generale, la parte utilizzata della pianta (foglie, fiori, semi, radici ecc.) è chiamata “droga“, ed è la parte che contiene il fitocomplesso cioè l’insieme dei principi attivi che caratterizzano le proprietà del vegetale, non riproducibili per sintesi chimica. Secondo l’OMS infatti, sono definite “medicinali” le erbe e le piante officinali che “contengono in uno o più organi, sostanze che possono essere utilizzate a fini terapeutici o preventivi o che sono precursori di emisintesi chemiofarmaceutiche”, ovvero da cui derivano preparati farmacologicamente attivi. Di conseguenza una pianta è definita officinale o medicinale in un paese e non in un altro a seconda delle legislazioni e dei processi di lavorazione.

Se avete intenzione di iniziare a coltivare voi stessi il vostro giardino officinale e/o aromatico, considerate bene se la pianta che volete coltivare è annuale o perenne, se ha bisogno di stare a terra oppure in vaso (generalmente le aromatiche possono stare in vaso), quanta acqua e sole necessita e se è compatibile o meno con altre piante attorno (per il rischio di parassiti ecc.).

  • MENTA / MENTA PIPERITA

Ne esistono di tantissimi tipi ma la menta piperita ha una concentrazione di essenza molto alta nelle foglie, che vengono raccolte tra Luglio e Agosto.

Agisce per lo più a livello del sistema gastrointestinale, perché aiuta la digestione e ha un’azione antispasmodica della muscolatura liscia. Il mentolo che la menta contiene ha un’azione tonificante, quindi non bevetela prima di dormire se non si vuole soffrire di insonnia. E’ inoltre noto che la menta sia utile per lievi infiammazioni delle vie aeree: i famosi suffumigi hanno un’azione battericida e liberano anche il naso essendo balsamici.

Attenzione! Non si usa sui bambini perché può dare spasmi.

  • TARASSACO

Tutti possono riconoscerlo grazie al suo caratteristico fiore giallo e al suo frutto, il soffione. Cresce spontaneamente in campi e prati, quindi non sarà difficile trovarne in abbondanza nel vostro giardino. Del tarassaco si utilizzano le radici, il cui raccolto va da Maggio a Novembre.

Una volta raccolte, le radici vanno essiccate al sole e conservate in barattoli di vetro o di latta. Possono poi essere utilizzate in infusione per la preparazione di una tisana dall’effetto diuretico e depurativo, oppure per uso esterno sul cuoio capelluto per combattere la forfora.

Attenzione! La tisana è controindicata per chi ha problemi ai reni, cuore, chi assume già farmaci diuretici e in chi soffre di allergia all’ambrosia.

  • AGLIO

L’aglio può vivere benissimo in vaso, piantandone i bulbi a Novembre per consumarlo in primavera. L’aglio è il più potente antibatterico naturale. Inoltre, abbassa il colesterolo e la pressione, contribuendo a fluidificare il sangue. Il sapore non piace a tutti, ma se essiccato dà generalmente meno fastidio.

Attenzione! Il consumo di aglio è controindicato durante l’allattamento, e va usato con attenzione da chi segue già cure per la pressione, colesterolo e fluidificazione del sangue, in quanto potrebbe potenziare l’effetto dei farmaci.

  • MELISSA

Ha un’azione miorilassante sulla muscolatura liscia dell’intestino e per questo motivo viene considerata come un ottimo rimedio per chi soffre di sindrome del colon irritabile. Usata in una tisana insieme ad altre erbe (camomilla, valeriana, ecc.), aiuta il rilassamento in generale ed è un buon rimedio contro l’insonnia e l’ansia.

Attenzione! La melissa stimola la tiroide ed è controindicata a chi soffre di problemi di salute in merito.

  • SALVIA

La salvia è un arbusto sempreverde la cui droga è rappresentata principalmente dalla foglia.

Da sempre usata masticandola contro l’alitosi e per avere denti più bianchi, è un battericida naturale, ha grandi proprietà digestive, diminuisce l’eccessiva sudorazione e contiene anche alcune sostanze simili agli ormoni femminili estrogeni che la rendono perfetta in caso di “caldane da menopausa”.

Attenzione! Ne è assolutamente vietato l’uso durante l’allattamento e in gravidanza in quanto blocca la produzione del latte ed ha molecole che possono interagire con gli ormoni femminili. Da utilizzare molto cautamente come olio essenziale.

  • ORTICA

E’ un’erba perenne le cui foglie possono essere raccolte da Aprile a Settembre, ovviamente utilizzando dei guanti (e tutti sanno il perchè!). Il potere irritante delle foglie di ortica scompare con l’essiccazione o dopo la cottura.

L’ortica è considerata benefica per il suo contenuto di sali minerali e vitamina C, nonchè per avere un potere antinfiammatorio (cosa piuttosto ironica). La tisana può essere bevuta calda al momento, oppure una volta raffreddata, è un ottimo tonico per il viso per la cura della pelle grassa o mista.

  • TIMO

In questo caso la droga della pianta sono le foglie ed i fiori, che oltre ad avere una buonissima aromaticità da usare in cucina, sono anche antibatteriche grazie al timolo contenuto in esse.

Il timo agisce benissimo sull’apparato digestivo e respiratorio essendo espettorante e mucolitico. Può essere usato anche come tonico del cuoio capelluto, stimolando la crescita del capello.

Attenzione! L’olio essenziale di timo non va mai usato per uso interno, perché anche a basse dosi può dar fastidio.

  • LAVANDA

La lavanda ama molto la siccità e se ne utilizzano i fiori appena sbocciati fatti essiccare al sole. È usatissima come profumatore di cassetti ed armadi o per fare cuscini aromatici.

E’ molto usata in aromaterapia perché rilassa il sistema nervoso centrale, oppure come sedativo in aggiunta alle tisane.

Attenzione! Se le dosi sono troppo alte ha l’effetto contrario di eccitante. L’olio essenziale non deve andare a contatto con la pelle dei bimbi.

Altre erbe e piante che vale la pena menzionare ma di cui non posso fare tutta le descrizione sono le seguenti: Dragoncello, Erba cipollina, Rosmarino, Finocchio, Maggiorana, Origano, Anice, Basilico, Prezzemolo, Peperoncino, Coriandolo, Santoreggia, Aneto, Issopo, Calendula, Camomilla, Echinacea, Tanaceto, Valeriana e Malva.


Mi raccomando fate attenzione quando utilizzate rimedi fitoterapici di qualsiasi tipo, specialmente gli oli essenziali. Rivolgetevi sempre al vostro farmacista o naturopata di fiducia riguardo il dosaggio e le controindicazioni e sempre prima di iniziare una cura. Non dimenticate inoltre di chiedere un parere al vostro medico curante!

Discover the properties of Hawthorn

Hawthorn, also known as Mayblossom or Mayflower, is a medicine for the heart on all levels and one of the oldest known medicinal plants. Centuries ago tribes across the northern hemisphere, from North America to China, used this small thorny tree as a wonderful treatment. For instance its berries were the favourite of the Native American Indians as a heart tonic and used against gastrointestinal complaints.

But hawthorn’s effectiveness as an heart medicine was first described by AncientGreek physician, Dioscorides, in the first Century AD. Medical herbal research then has validated this use nowadays, and we can all benefit from it.

How does it look like?

 All the parts of this amazing plant (leaves, berries, and flowers) except for the root, can be used to create an herbal medication. As a plant species, hawthorn was only native to the northern hemisphere, where there are a variety of different types, which produce slightly different fruits. The most common hawthorn fruit is quite small, has a berry shape and is tart, red to pink in color. If you noticed, I did not say that they are berries, but that they have a “berry shape”. This is because they contain a single seed stone inside, much like peaches or plums.

How does it work?

Physiologically hawthorn can help improve the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during contractions, relax the the blood vessels further from the heart, and increase the transmission of nerve signals. It seems that all these effects are due to a component called proanthocyanidin.

Research also suggests that hawthorn can lower the accumulation of fats in the liver and the bloodstream levels of cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), and triglycerides (fats in the blood). All these thanks to the increase of the excretion of bile, the reduction of the formation of cholesterol, and the enhance of the receptors for LDLs. It also seems to have antioxidant activity.

In 2002 a 10 week study was conducted on 38 volunteers who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Half of the subjects were given 500mg of Hawthorn extract and 600mg of the mineral Magnesium daily, while the other half received a placebo.

After 10 weeks, the Hawthorn/Magnesium group showed a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure, whilst the placebo group did not improve. Additionally, the Hawthorn/Magnesium group reported an improvement in mood as well as lower anxiety levels.

The benefits

  • Improves heart health
  • Stabilizes blood pressure
  • Reduces chest pain
  • Boost the immune system

In addition to the antioxidants eliminating dangerous toxins from the body, the vitamin C contained in hawthorn also helps in boosting the activity of your white blood cells to increase your overall health.

  • Reduces anxiety

Very often, this herb was offered to people who had recently had a broken heart, a loss of a family member, etc. because it was said to improve mood and mend a broken heart. Enzymatically, it turns out that hawthorn may have an impact on our hormonal levels, which then would explain why in the past it was believed so.

  • Increases energy

Hawthorn is known to expand the coronary blood vessels, which allows for more blood to be circulated through the body, which can result in a higher level of energy or alertness.

  • Improves digestion
  • Helps against skin conditions

The antioxidant content in hawthorn makes it useful for applying topically to the skin, particularly on burns, sores, or acne.

On an energetical level, this amazing herb can be used as an energy medicine for the heart. Infact as a flower essence, hawthorn helps open the heart to giving and receiving love, and can help in healing heartache. It encourages self-love and self-acceptance. As with many heart-acting energy remedies, hawthorn helps us to develop courage.

Interactions and side effects

Hawthorn is a gentle medicine that, when indicated, is safe and effective for long term use. It is also safe to use with common cardiovascular medications, but in some people, hawthorn can cause nausea, stomach upset, fatigue, sweating, headache, dizziness, palpitations, nosebleeds, insomnia, agitation, and other problems.

This herb is definetely not indicated if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or you recently had or are going to have surgery.

Hawthorn can also interact with prescription medications (such as digoxin or some beta-blockers), so you must always check with your doctor or medical herbalist before embarking on an herbal treatment plan!

Discover the properties of Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is also known as medicinal aloe, “lily of the desert” or “elephant’s gall” and it belongs to the family of succulent plants in the genus ‘Aloe’. Its origin is believed to be in Sudan and has been used for more than 6,000 years, being recognized by many civilizations including the Egyptians, Spanish, Persians, Greeks, Italians, Africans, Japanese, and Indians. It grows best in warm and dry climates and that is why it is densely found in those areas, but it can be easily grown both indoors and outdoors.

Aloe Vera plant is often a stemless or sometimes very short-stemmed juicy plant that grows around 60–100 cm in height and the offsets spread out wide. The leaves of this plant are thick and fleshy and the color varies from green to gray-green. Some varieties of this plant have white flecks on the upper and lower portions of the stem surfaces. The margin of the leaves is like saw-tooth and the flowers bloom during the summer. Each leaf is full of a slimy tissue that stores water, which makes the leaves thick.

This slimy, water-filled tissue is the “gel” we usually associate with Aloe Vera products, and it contains most of the bioactive compounds in the plant, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. This plant has also compounds such as mannans, polysaccharides, lectins, and anthraquinones that are extremely beneficial for human health. Let’s have a look at all the benefits of this amazing plant:

  • For skin care (wounds, sores, rashes, etc.)

The pure inner gel extracted from the Aloe leaf is the best natural remedy for skin abrasions and it also helps diminish the symptoms of aging skin conditions like wrinkles. Many skin care and personal care products, toiletries, and cosmetics include Aloe extracts. In fact, if you have its plant at home, simply tear a small part of the leaf, take the gel and apply it in the raw form on your face. The topical external use of this plant is the most commonly known and it has long been known as a treatment for sores, particularly burns, including sunburns. Some people prefer drinking its juice, which also enhances skin health, as the properties of the plant work internally. It also helps in curing stings, rashes, acne, and psoriasis.

  • For beauty (moisturizer, hair care, teeth care etc.)

Aloe Vera has proven to be an excellent option for promoting naturally hair growth and essential to retain voluminous and healthy hair. You can apply its gel to the entire scalp or use a shampoo, which stimultaing your scalp can improves blood circulation and keeps you away from stress and mental tiredness.

Dental and gum diseases can also be cured by Aloe Vera. You can try out this natural remedy at home: put some of its powder on your toothbrush, then brush normally. It will soothe your gums and cure any kind of infection or bruises.

  • For digestion

The adaptogenic properties of Aloe Vera are beneficial for a proper digestion. It ensures better nutrient absorption and also eliminates harmful elements through smooth excretion. Its compounds called polysaccharides have the ability to cure a host of digestive disorders and ulcers, which are one of the most prominent consequences of digestive problems. Many studies have proven that with its anti-inflamamtory qualities it improves issues like Crohn’s disease, peptic ulcers, and other digestive tract disorders, mainly driven by the inflammation of digestive organs.

  • For constipation

This time it is not the gel, but the latex, that provides the benefits. The latex is a sticky yellow residue found just under the skin of the leaf and the key compound responsible for this effect is called aloin, or barbaloin, which has well-established laxative and diuretic effects (however, some concerns have been raised about safety issues with frequent use).

  • For immunity

Aloe Vera gel, again, contains powerful antioxidants, which belong to a large family of substances known as polyphenols. These polyphenols, along with several other compounds in Aloe vera, can help inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that can cause infections in humans. Beverages made with aloe vera juice possess natural detoxifying properties that effectively cleanse the digestive system and the circulatory system. As the absorption level of nutrients accelerates, it results in better blood circulation and also improves health. Infact, when the blood is oxygen-rich, it automatically provides nutrients within the cells more proficiently. Zinc is also an important component in this fantastic plant and it’s essential to maintain a proper immune function.

  • For diabetes and general regulation of blood sugar

Some evidence in humans and animals suggested that Aloe Vera is able to alleviate the chronic hyperglycemia (high blood sugar level) and perturbed lipid (fat) profile that are common among people with diabetes and are major risk factors for cardiovascular complications.

  • For pain

The extract of Aloe Vera has shown to be an excellent stimulant of the uterus and intake of its juice is very beneficial during painful menstruation.

The anti-inflammatory properties of Aloe Vera help it to work efficiently on joints and muscle pains, caused by heavy physical acivity or diseases like gout or arthritis. Applying Aloe gel topically eases inflammation and swelling of the joints.

Aloe Vera Smoothie Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1-2 cups of coconut water
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • lemon, if you like it
  • 1 cup of fresh mango (or any other fruit you like!)
  • 1 fresh banana (or any other fruit again!)
  • a handful of fresh mint
  • 1 medium Aloe Vera leaf filletted (1/2 cups)

How to fillet an Aloe Vera leaf:

  1. First, cut off any white parts close to the root of the leaf.
  2. Then trim the prickly sides by slicing them off entirely using a paring knife. When doing so, try to take off as little as possible.
  3. With the convex side facing up, use a potato peeler to remove the skin from the leaf. Alternatively, you can slice off the top skin with the knife.
  4. Then, slide the knife under the gel to separate it from the leaf skin, making sure there is no leftover skin on the gel.
  5. Dice the gel into smaller pieces. Refrigerate and cover your leftover Aloe.
  6. Add straight into your blender or juicer with the rest of the ingredients.
  7. Enjoy!

Create your home made herbal remedy

Nowadays deciding to be treated only with herbal/holistic/homeopatic remedies is becoming a thing. People want to go back to the oringins, being more healthy and natural, find a way to cure themselves minimizing the risks and potential side effects. DIY is becoming generally very popular as well, maybe for the lack of trust in the health system or for feeding our curiosity and improve our own skills. No matter what are the reasons for both these tendencies, but I thought it would be interesting writing about it, combining the herbal remedies with the DIY side. Obviously you need some knowledge in order to treat yourself properly, so I suggest you to take these advices only if you have some experience or after you have spoken with a professional herbal therapist for the dosage and type of herb you may need to use.


Let’s start from the very beginning, so by collecting herbs from field or garden. For a number of good reasons you should gather your own herbs: you are assured of their freshness and potency, you also know their source, if they are clean, pure and wholesome. You will also save yourself money and gain self-sufficiency and with time you will build an increasing knowledge of plants and their medicinal uses. Although each herb is different and some may require unique handling, the following general principles can be used for gathering herbs:

  • Herbs are generally gathered according to their particular growth cycle: annuals (plants that have one growing season, the seed germinates the plant flowers and bears fruit and then dies), biennials (plants which germinate and establish a good root system during the first year, flower and bear fruit at the end of the second year, and then die ), or perennials (plants that live and bear fruit a number of years before they die).
  • Herbs must be gathered in dry weather, as those collected in moist or rainy periods are generally weaker and more apt to spoil.
  • Gather in the cool of the morning after the dew has evaporated or in the evening before the dew forms on the plant. Also before the sun is high in the sky.
  • Preferably gather wild plants from high, dry soils, exposed to clean air and abundant sunshine.
  • In all cases, gathering must be selective according to the type of plant and the part to be used (flowers, leaves, roots, etc.).

It is an excellent thing to do cultivating your own herbs in the garden, and I would encourage you to consider it, but try to be selective in the number of herbs you are going to grow. If you do not have enough time, space or knowledge, just purchase what you need from a health shop or a recognised herbal supplier. This is the most quick method to start herbalism.

Once collected your herbs, you need to know how to dry and storage them in a proper way, in order not to lose much of their medicinal value. Dry all herbs carefully outdoors (spreading a layer of herbs on a drying screen in the shade as quickly as possible), indoors (in a dust-free room, at mild temperature, on a drying screen covered away from direct sunlight) or with artificial heat (be very careful, oven drying under 38°C is difficult and often done improperly).

To store them, place them in a tight appropriate container, not made of formaldehyde or certain damaging plastic types, and seal with sealing wax to keep the air from getting to the herb. Always label and date them, and make sure they are used within a year. Never put them under direct sunlight or in room too hot or cold. If its a oil, use a brown bottle or can.

General guidelines should be also followed when starting making your own preparations, for example never use aluminium ware as it poisons with its gases and metallic acid, stainless-steel ware is the best because it does not break, although you should watch for over-high temperatures that cause burning.

It is time now to describe the most common various herbal preparations. Remember that dosages must be adjusted according to personal need.

Capsule: Take the herbal powders and other materials that, because of their nauseous taste or smell, would otherwise be difficult to administer, and place them into a soluble gelatin shell or capsule. These capsules are easy to buy and they are made in different sizes for easy swallowing, with numbers 1 to 4, 0, and 00 being the most common. To fill the capsule, simply take the two halves of a capsule apart and push these halves into the powder and towards each other, pressing the halves together again and at the same time compressing the powder. Dosage depends on the age, size, vitality, condition being treated, and the strength of the ingredients in the capsule itself.

Decoction: This is a process used with hard materials such as roots and barks, chips, etc. Decoctions are intended for immediate use within a twenty-four hour period (72-hour maximum limit when stored in a very cool place) and are generally made by pouring cold water upon fresh or dried herbs. The harder the material, the longer the simmering and extractive period will be. Consider to pulverize them first by mechanical means or pounding; next, soak the ingredients for twelve hours, then set this liquid on the fire and gradually heat to a slight boil. After the extractive period, drain off the liquid while hot and press the herb hard to make sure that all of the therapeutic ingredients are removed, then let stand until cool.

The usual preparation is 1 ounce of herb placed into 1 and half pints of cold water (the half pint will be lost in the extractive process). The herb and liquid is then brought slowly to a boil. The decoction differs from the infusion in that heat is applied and continued over a period of time, because roots and barks generally need longer heating to extract their active principles. When cool, pour off the clear liquid on top, separating it from the settlings and, finally, sweeten to taste. Add more water when decoctions are too strong. Dosage depends on age, size and temperament, but generally 2 fluid ounces to a cupful of liquid three times a day.

Infusion: An infusion extracts the active principles of herbs in water, or other fluid, without simmering or boiling;. Pour a liquid over the raw or powdered herb. The liquid may be hot or cold, but the flavour of the herb is generally much stronger and the action is much faster when made and administered hot. Generally a standard infusion is used with the lighter herbs (such as the leaves, flowers, etc.), and is made by placing one teaspoonful of finely cut dried herb or two teaspoonfuls of bruised fresh herb into a cup and adding boiling, distilled water; cover and let steep for 15 minutes; strain and drink.

Be sure to cover the vessel and stir occasionally, and then carefully strain off the clear liquid. Dosage varies according to type of herb and problem condition, but usually one cupful three times a day. Regulate the quantity to fit the patient’s strength, kidney problems, extreme debilitation, etc.

Oil: This preparation is made from the plant oils. For instance, with the mints (peppermint, spearmint, etc.), the oils come from the leaves. Many of these oils, when properly made (with olive oil), do not go into rancidity easily. The amount of herbs used depends upon the quantity of oil desired, but often a pound of fresh herbs to a pint of olive oil is used. Simmer the herbs for hours until the oil comes out of the herb. In the case of cloves, grind up fine, and simmer the powder in olive oil at a temperature of 50-65°C. Never use mineraloils. For olive oil, which is high in nutritional value, massage as much as the skin will absorb; it can be also used in small doses internally, except when for gallstones or kidney stones.

Ointment: It is a soft, semi-solid fatty herbal preparation used for a protective and emollient effect, liquefying when applied externally. Ointment bases are generally composed of various mixtures of waxes, animal and vegetable oils and the medicinal substances are mixed with them. Start with a melted base, such as olive oil and beeswax, and combine with herb. A good standard is 14 ounces of olive oil, 2 ounces of beeswax, and 1 pound of fresh or 1 and half pound of dry herbs. Place into a closed container, put into the oven and leave there at low heat (around 80°C) for 3-4 hours. Periodically, take a fork and lift the fresh herbs to see if they aregetting browned and brittle, and whether the oil has drawn the value from the herb. Vaseline as a base is generally inferior to animalor plant oils, but may be used if you do not want the preparation to be absorbed quickly into the skin.

Pill/Tablet: In this case the herbal agent is ground into a very fine powder and mixed with a mucilage of gum Arabic (made by dissolving gum Arabic in water), slippery elm, or a syrup, etc. which is then worked up into a pill mass. A portion is then cut off, sliced into small strips and then into smaller pill-sized pieces, which are then rolled into little round balls for easy administration. A small amount of powdered rhubarb or flour on the board in preparation will keep the mass from sticking, but keep the pill mass in a quite firm consistency, or else the excess mucilage or syrup will absorb too much rhubarb or flour.

Pills can be coated or uncoated, but the pearl-coated pill is a favourite and is readily soluble in the stomach. Pills are usually made so that one pill equals about 300-400 milligrams of the herbal compound. A pill differs from a tablet in that a pill needs mucilage or other substance added to keep the herbal agent in an adhesive mass, whereas the tablet will adhere by its own characteristics upon compression.

Poultrice: This herbal preparation is a soft, semi-liquid mass made of some cohesive substance mixed with water, vinegar or other substances, and used for supplying heat and moisture to an area, or to act as a local stimulant. Have the herbs ground or granulated. When using fine powder, just use enough moisture to make a thick paste, and when using the granulated form, a thick paste may be made with a mixture of water and cornmeal. If fresh green leaves are used, simply heat, bruise, triturate or chop the leaves up finely, and apply to the affected parts. Be generous in making poultices, covering the afflicted area thickly.

Spirit: It is an alcoholic or hydro-alcoholic preparation containing ordinary alcohol and a watery liquid that has been distilled from an alcoholic tincture or mash. It is a volatile prepared by distillation, whereas a tincture is prepared by infusing the volatile substance in alcohol. These are used as tonics, etc.  A few drops on up are used as specified.

Syrup: A thick, sticky liquid preparation made by dissolving sugar into distilled water, decoctions, infusions, juices, or other aqueous solution, and it is used to suspend medicinal or flavouring agents for easy administration alone, or to combine with other preparations. For making a syrup with herbs, settle out the heavier matter and pour off the clear liquid; then add to that 1 and 3/4 pounds of sugar, place into an appropriate vessel, heat until the sugar is melted, cool, and store for future use. Another formula for making a simple syrup is to pour 1 pint of boiling water over 2 and half pounds of sugar, place on a hot stove and stir until the liquid begins to boil, and then instantly remove. Dosage varies from 1 teaspoonful to 1 tablespoonful once or few times per day.

Tincture: This is technically a fluid extract, but the medicinal virtues are extracted into solution with grain alcohol or vinegar, which are better preservative for long term storage of extracts. Take approximately 4 ounces of ground dried herbs or 8 ounces of finely chopped fresh herbs and place them in a glass bottle with at least 16 ounces of alcohol or vinegar, until the herb is completely submerged under the liquid. This is tightly capped and each day for 10 days to 2 weeks the bottle is shaken vigorously at least 3 times a day or more. Extract all liquids, squeezing the herb residue thoroughly, with a regular juice press, or wring out by hand through cloth, etc.

After the liquid is extracted, place the tincture extract in dark or painted bottles, stopper thoroughly and store. When administering a tincture internally, you may evaporate the alcohol from the solution by putting it into hot water, or it can be taken as is. Dilute at least 1 teaspoonful of tincture to each cup of water.

Discover the properties of Lobelia

Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), also called Indian tobacco, has a long history of use as an herbal remedy and it is one of the greatest herbs ever given to the world. A brief history of this amazing herb starts with the Native Americans, who smoked it as a treatment for respiratory problems. In the 19th century, American physicians prescribed Lobelia to induce vomiting in order to remove toxins from the body. Because of this, it earned the name “puke weed.” After that, the belief that Lobelia was a dangerous poison began, due to the fact that Dr. Samuel Thompson was having an amazing success treting his patient with this herbal remedy, instead of using orthodox medicine.

Nowadays, scientists think an active ingredient in the Lobelia plant, lobeline, may have similar effects to nicotine. For this reason, back in the days they were using lobeline as a nicotine substitute in many antismoking products and preparations designed to break the smoking habit.

In general, Lobelia is an efficient relaxant, the best counter-irritant known to mankind! Its action is felt immediately on the serous, mucous, muscular and nervous system of our body. It is also a powerful antispasmodic, expanding at the same time the contracted parts of the respiratory system, allowing the “breath of life” (oxygenized blood) to flow freely in the whole body.

Lobelia is also commonly known as a “selective thinking herb”. This means that when a foetus is dead or in an extremely weakened condition, this herb will cause it to abort. While, if the foetus is healthy but the mother is sick, it will help the mother healing and strengthen, enabling her to carry the child until the delivery. Then during the labour, Lobelia will allay and regulate the violent pains and ease the spasms. Very effective also for menstrual disorders.

Be careful though! Bear in mind that Lobelia is a potentially toxic herb. You can safely use it in small doses (for example homeopathic doses), but moderate to large doses may cause side effects ranging from dry mouth and nausea to convulsions and even coma. As a general rule, an herbalist should always give it in combination with a stimulant as per its powerful relaxing effects. But anyway, you should use lobelia only under the supervision of your health care provider.

Preparations and Dosage (for adults, with normal weight and no medical conditions):

Decoction, fluid extract, infusion (mostly seeds crushed), pills, poultrice, powder (leaves, stems, flowers and pods), syrup and tincture (green and dried leaves). With prudence, you may give Lobelia in either small or large doses, at shorter or longer intervals:

  • Decoction: 1/2 cupful
  • Fluid extract 10 to 30 drops
  • Infusion 1 cupful
  • Powder 200-650 milligrams
  • Solid Extract 100-300 milligrams
  • Syrup 1 to 4 teaspoons
  • Tincture 1/2-1 teaspoon, or 10 to 30 drops

Syrup of Lobelia (for cough and vomit inducer):

2 and half ounces of Lobelia and 2 ints of distilled water, simmer togheter down to 1 pint. Strain and dissolve 2 pounds of raw sugar or 1 pounds of honey into it. Take 1 teaspoon for coughs or up to 1 cupful as a vomit inducer.

Decoction of Lobelia (for liver problems, jaundice):

1 part of Lobelia, 1 part of Pleurisy root, 1 part of Catnip and 1 part of Bitter root. Mix the herbs well and steep 1 teaspoon of this combination in 1 cup of noiling water for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain. Take 2 tablespoon hot every 2 hours.

Tincture of Lobelia (for relief fever, asthma and spasms):

2 ounces of Lobelia herb, steam and flowers, 2 ounces of crushed Lobelia seeds and 1 pint of apple cider vinegar (better choice than alcohol). Macerate in a tightly capped bottle for 10 to 14 days. Shake every time you walk by it, or at least once a day. Strain off the liquid and bottle it for use.

How to choose your own Bach Flower Remedy

I wrote about Dr Bach’s Flower Remedies here. This time I’m looking at how to find the right remedy for you.

Each person is an individual, with their own emotional world, fears and stresses. Rather than give patients a diagnostic label, Dr Bach suggested that discovering how each person feels should be the guide of choosing individual support and treatment when they are unwell. This is what we could call an “olistic approach” to each patient.

In treating cases with these remedies, no notice is taken of the nature of the disease. The individual is treated and as he becomes well the disease goes, having been case off by the increase in health. (Dr. Bach in The Twelve Healers and Other Remedies)

The remedy dosage

The Bach flower remedies are completely safe and natural and they work exclusively and directly on an emotional level, seeking to balance negative emotions. Their aim is to empower us to support ourselves through difficult times and to help us developing our positive strengths. For obatain the best results an adult should take 4 drops from a treatment bottle 8 times a day for chronic states. For very acute states take 4 drops every 30-60 minutes, reverting to the normal dosage when more balance has returned.

It starts with self reflection

Going into the path of identifying the Bach Flower Remedies that will be the most beneficial, either for yourself or someone else, is a simple process of self-reflection and observation. Easier to say than to do maybe. But remember that no matter what is the issue, you are simply looking for the remedies that will help you bring greater balance to how you think and feel.

Start by looking at how you are reacting to the situation that you are experiencing in a egative way, then review your general reaction to the events and conditions of your life, to identify any general trends or patterns in the way that you think and feel. For example, some people face the world with feelings of hopelessness, doubt or judgement, while others struggle to find balance in their relationships with those around them, and so on.

It is possible to mix almost 293,000,000 different bottles of remedies to suit each person’s individual emotional state. There are 38 individual flower, plus one ready mixed combination which Dr Bach called the “crisis mix”, but it is often known as Rescue Remedy. This is used for emergency help when we feel traumatised, shocked or upset. The remedies can be mixed to match the emotional state of anyone needing support and they can be easily grouped in seven families, in order to help people finding what they need quickly:

  • Fear Group:

Aspen, Cherry Plum, Mimulus, Red Chestnut, Rock Rose

  • Uncertainty Group:

Cerato, Gentian, Gorse, Hornbeam, Scleranthus, Wild Oat

  • Insufficient Interest in Present Circumstances:

Chestnut Bud, Clematis, Honeysuckle, Mustard, Olive, White Chestnut, Wild Rose

  • Over Care for Welfare of Others:

Beech, Chicory, Rock Water, Vervain, Vine

  • Over-sensitive to Influences & Ideas:

Agrimony, Centaury, Holly, Walnut

  • Loneliness Group:

Heather, Impatiens, Water Violet

  • Despondancy or Despair:

Crab Apple, Elm, Larch, Oak, Pine, Star of Bethlehem, Sweet Chestnut, Willow

If you find really hard exploring yourself and your emotions, going through this online questionnaire may help you sorting out your doubts and make a choice:

Online Bach Flower Questionnaire

Also available for purchase.

The Regenerative Diet – A natural way to stay healthy and energetic

The word “diet” scares most of the people as the associate this term to the privation of food or taste in order to lose weight. But starting a diet can also just mean eating tasty, simple food in order just to maintain a healthy, clean and energetic body. The aim is to regenerate your body. In fact, the ideal diet consists of natural food, eaten in moderation and simplicity.

Did you know that…

  • The fruits are especially good for cleansing the system after your night’s fast during sleep. They will satisfy the need and craving for sweetness.
  • The green herbs of the garden, used fresh and tender in salads and chewed well, will build strength and vitality in the body tissues.
  • The bulbs, roots, and starches in grains will provide fire and heat for the body, but these should be eaten only as needed for those who work hard physically.
  • The nuts of the trees will provide the nutrient “meat” (protein) for man and will
    season other foods.
  • The culinary herbs will provide variety, flavour, and seasoning.

Why change your diet?

Some people’s taste buds cause problems when they are changing to a health-building diet. Other people hesitate because of fear. The average individual has grown up on a diet of meat, potatoes, and gravy. They may panic at the very thought of missing or changing the composition of a meal!

Bear in mind that some sacrifice usually accompanies getting something really worthwhile, and though abstinence from food or from indulgence in over-eating may seem like a sacrifice, the supposed “sacrifice” will be realised as a blessing instead after the goal of a healthy and fit body has been reached.

And in the whole of your daily activities, you can achieve a varied and harmoniously-blended whole: fresh air, sunshine, exercise, work, play, song, prayer, reading, meditation, recreation, etc.

Skip breakfast

So…what about FASTING? This “big breakfast” idea is pushed hard by the breakfast-food, egg, milk, and coffee merchants, and some of their advertising plays on emotional fears. But this is not always true, as better health is found in countries where people have the custom of not eating breakfast, except maybe a warm cup of liquid, and the first meal of the day is eaten at noon. So as you try the “no breakfast” experiment, the first few days may be a little rough, with headaches, light-headiness, grumpiness, etc.

This will only last a few days and you will see great improvement in health. People who gain experience in fasting realise that occasionally feeling hungry is really only a feeling. You can become accustomed to that feeling, knowing that it doesn’t signal starvation. But be careful. Periodic fasting is good to cleanse the body, but a bodily famine is not required for cleansing. Skip breakfast sometimes but do not starve. Your body needs energy. Use this tips with intelligence.

Skip dairy products

And…what about MILK and DIARY PRODUCTS? Milk is a very jealous food, to be used only at the correct time. It is intended to feed the infant mammal, because a newborn baby is equipped with red corpuscle-making facilities in the bone marrow which is ready to go to work immediately, but there are at first no gastric juices present to digest solid foods such as protein or starch. Consequently, a baby must have pre-digested food as milk.

The natural milk from the mother is the best food for the young infant, alkaline and nonmucous-forming. When it is time to wean off milk, the teeth come through, and it is nature’s signal that the gastric juices have started to flow, and as these begin to mix with the milk, it now becomes acid to the baby. From that time on, the milk will have the opposite and unhealthy effect, as it forms into mucous, causing problems in our bodies.

Did you know that the human is the only mammal on the face of the earth that tolerates milk after weaning, that is, with the exception of our domestic animals that we have led astray? When you drink pasteurised milk, you are taking a dead product into the body. Raw milk is at least a live food. As for other dairy products, cottage cheese is almost free from mucous and can be used, but not in excessive amounts, while butter and yoghurt are a mucous-former and hard to digest, and they should be avoided as much as you can for better health.

Skip eggs

And…what about EGGS? Many “vegetarians” still feel that they should eat eggs and milk products when they stop eating meat to compensate the incoming of proteins. This can make for a sickly condition. The average novice vegetarian turns to eggs, because they are easy to prepare and considered “the perfect protein”. Eggs are far too concentrated in protein and are highly constipating; the mucous that is formed is far moregluey and sticky than meat. Eggs are one of the main contributors to arthritis, kidney stones and galls stones. It is commented that the hard boiled egg is the least harmful of any of the forms in which it is used, but that is still quite harmful when used too often.

Meat in modesty

And…what about MEAT and ANIMAL PROTEINS? Generally speaking, I am not against eating meat or animal proteins. But, as all the food and products, there must be a small intake and do not exaggerate. It is generally accepted that the higher blood and the uremic acid in beef, the richer the flavour, yet these toxins and poisons in meat are a main contributor to gout, rheumatism, bursitis, and many other mucoid ailments.

The fat of the animal is the hard part for the body to eliminate. Notice that very few animals will eat fat at all. Again, the only value in meat is what the particular animal has received from eating green herbs, and this is why the range animal is so much better than the stock yard-fattened beef. And for those who think chicken is a better meat than beef, tests now show that at least 50% of all slaughtered poultry contains significant contamination with salmonella or other microrganisms.

And now…try these recipes and enjoy your new lifestyle!

ITALIAN STUFFED ZUCCHINI

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 ounces sliced capicola, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a small baking dish with foil. Scoop out the seeds from the zucchini, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup Italian cheese blend, the parsley, capicola and lemon zest and juice in a medium bowl. Season the zucchini with salt and pepper, then fill with the ricotta mixture. Drizzle each zucchini half with about 1 tablespoon marinara sauce, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Italian cheese blend. Transfer to the baking dish and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 20 minutes.

VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup couscous + 1/4 cup water
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (75 g)
  • 6-8 tbsp mild or medium salsa
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons regular chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian spice blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour

First, make your couscous. Add the water to a small pot and bring to a boil, as soon as it starts bubbling, stir in the couscous quickly and remove from the heat. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. In a food processor, add your chickpeas and onion and pulse to break up the mixture for a few seconds. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the couscous and brown rice flour. Pulse for just a few seconds, no more, just until the mixture resembles a wet rough chunky texture similar to a salsa.

You don’t want to over-blend and puree it too much or the balls will be too wet/mushy. You just want to make sure the chickpeas are no longer whole. Add the mixture to a large bowl and add the cooked couscous and brown rice flour. Stir for a few minutes until it all comes together in a sticky batter. Press the mixture repeatedly with the back of your spoon to make it come together.

If the mixture is not sticking together, add a bit of the remaining salsa only if necessary. Once it is well mixed, place to chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes. This will make it easier to roll into balls. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll about 14 golf-sized balls with your hands, making sure they are tight and compact and place on the pan.

Bake for 15 minutes on the first side, they should easily turn over. Bake another 15 minutes until firm and getting a nice golden brown crust. If you want them super crispy, go another 5 minutes. These balls are very moist inside so they can withstand the crispy exterior.

How to create your herbal pillow

Herbal sleep pillows are a wonderful way to incorporate herbs into our lives. They can help in case of headaches, insomnia, restlessness, and much more, just by releasing in the air the fragrance you need while you are sleeping. They are very simple to make, follow these quick steps in order to create your own personalized herbal pillow!

  1. First select a piece of fabric, preferably cotton or another natural fiber (this is the perfect opportunity to use leftovers). Wash and dry the fabric, and cut it into two pieces, whatever shape you wish. Each piece should be the same size as your finished pillow plus half an inch seam allowance. A six-inch square is good, but you can make it any size you choose.
  2. Place the right sides of the fabric pillow facing each other. Sew them together along three sides, leaving the fourth open for stuffing. Turn the sewn fabric the right side out and press with an iron.
  3. Now you are ready to fill the pillow with your herbal blend! But…which one choose? Obviously it depends on the type of pillow you need. At the end of the article you will find a nice list of herbs you should use considering the effect you want to obtain.
  4. Finish the pillow by sewing the open area shut. For a sewing-free option, use cotton muslin bags or scraps of fabric tied tight with twine or yarn. Leave your pillow in an air-proof bag for at least a day before you use it. This allows the scent to strengthen and enhances its therapeutic effects.
  5. At bedtime or nap-time, tuck your herbal pillow inside your regular pillowcase, or just lay it beside you.

Tips:

  • Cotton balls added to the herbal blend can help make your pillow more comfortable and soft.
  • A fixative or few drops of an essential oil will help your dried herbs retain their fragrance much longer. Fixatives may include: musk, ambergris and cive.
  • Do not sleep with your herbal pillow every night. Allow your body and mind to take their time and not get used to the fragrance very quickly.

Sleep pillows are great for all ages and for those who have a difficult time falling asleep.  For a pillow that encourages deep sleep, blend any of the following organic herbs: catnip, chamomile, hops, lavender, lemon balm, rose petals, rosemary, mint and sweet marjoram.

Dream pillows are for those who want to enhance their dreaming or wish to remember their dreams.  To create a blend that encourages dreaming, use any of the following organic herbs: balsam needles, lemon verbena, mugwort, peppermint, cloves (only 2-4 per pillow) and rose petals.

Anti headache pillows are for those who want to realease their mind from the overthinking and stressfull lives we are living nowadays. To create your natural pain relief pillow add the following herbs: eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint or spearmint, cedar tips, sage leaf, cinnamon and lemon grass.

Natural Skin Care and Cosmetics – Part 2

PART TWO

Before the days of synthetic chemicals people cared for their skin and hair with natural products. Herbs were the natural source of such products. Indeed, in many parts of the world people still use these traditional methods. Some people are forced to from economic necessity, while others find that natural methods are more effective, less damaging to the skin in the long term, and morally acceptable.

NATURALLY GOOD LOOKING EYES

Ancient Romans used to say that “the eyes are the mirror of your soul” and actually, it is true. Your eyes reflect the way you feel. When you are tired everyone can see it. When you are down you get rings around the eyes. Too much high living and not enough sleep and you start to get loose flesh under the eyes and the beginning of bags. Here there are some methods to avoid them or at least reduce their heaviness.

  • BORAGE
    Taken chopped in salad is an old treatment to strengthen the eyes.
  • CABBAGE WATER
    Kept from the day before, applied to the eyes first thing in the morning makes them feel refreshed.
  • CHAMOMILE INFUSION
    Cotton wool soaked with chamomile and laid over the eyes for half an hour soothes the eyes and helps enliven the skin around the eyes.
  • CUCUMBER
    Its function as such is still referred to in common parlance whenever we say ‘as cool as a cucumber’. A good wedge slice of cucumber laid over each eye is excellent for ‘rejuvenating’ tired and strained eyes.
  • EYEBRIGHT INFUSION
    Euphrasia herb used as eyewash is wonderful to clear the eyes and make the sclerae (whites) even whiter than usual.

NATURAL HAIR CARE

Having shining, soft, strong and healthy hair is the dream of every woman, and even of some men. Unfortunately sometimes it is not that easy and synthetic products, if not very expansive and specific, may destroy the natural beauty of our hair.

Female hormones do seem to have some effective reaction in helping hair growth and restoring natural brightness. These hormones, called “phyto-oestrogens”, are present in many natural products such as linseed oil, red clover and sage, which can be taken orally as capsules or used as a hair soak and rinse infusion. For taking care of your hair you can also use more tips below:

  • NETTLE TEA
    It does seem to help to clear dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp. It should be used like soak and rinse infusion.
  • CHAMOMILLE TEA
    This makes a good light hair rinse.
  • RHUBARB ROOT TEA
    Used as a rinse will lighten light brown hair and make blonde hair shine.
  • SAGE AND ROSEMARY
    Infuse a handful of each and leave it to stand for three or four hours. It is said to be a wonderful hair tonic. It certainly does clear dandruff.
  • WILLOW AND MAIDENHAIR FERN
    Simmer a handful of each in 400mls of oil for one hour, then allow it to cool down before straining. Rub the oil into the scalp every night to stimulate hair growth.

Natural Skin Care and Cosmetics – Part 1

PART ONE

Before the days of synthetic chemicals people cared for their skin and hair with natural products. Herbs were the natural source of such products. Indeed, in many parts of the world people still use these traditional methods. Some people are forced to from economic necessity, while others find that natural methods are more effective, less damaging to the skin in the long term, and morally acceptable.

MOUTH AND TEETH CARE

In many poor parts of the world people do not brush their teeth, but living in industrialised countries we have the opportunity of buying toothpaste and mouthwashes. These are some herbs which can help you take care of your oral environment adding to those expansive productsa bit of nature:

  • SAGE
    The Bedouin chew sage leaves, which cleans the teeth very effectively. Sage infusion gargle is very good for freshening the mouth and easing pain from mouth problems and sore throats.
  • LIQUORICE ROOT
    This woody root macerates very well as one chews the yellow tissue. It cleans the teeth as you do so, permitting you to use the chewed root as a natural brush.
  • COMFREY MOUTHWASH
    This is superb for healing mouth ulcers and helping to soothe gum diseases.
  • TINCTURE OF MYRRH
    This is almost a specific for gum boils and other oral infections.

FOR SOFT LIPS

If you want to mantain your lips warm, soft and turgid also during the cold and windy winter, this oil lips recipe is for you! It has apparently been used in the East for many centuries. A handful of rose petals are placed in a jar. A small cup of Almond oil is poured over the petals, then the jar is sealed and put outside in the sun. Three days suffice in hot weather, but as long as two weeks in the winter of the British climate. At the end of that time the oil should be strained into a fresh jar. A smear of the oil should be used daily to maintain the turgor of the lips.

SKIN CARE

First advice: anti-perspirants are not natural at all. To block the skin pores to stop perspiration is the wrong thing to do, although it is understandable to try to avoid stincking in public! If you have need of alternating a natural de -odoriser to a synthetic one, then use lavender water in the armpits.

Even if it may sounds odd, bathing is the best way to take care of your skin, whatever is the condition which is affecting it. Try to avoid synthetic soaps, since these are quite caustic and remove the body’s natural oils. Instead use a loofah to gently remove the unwanted and desquamating outer layers of skin. A bath oil is worth adding to your bath, but do remember not to stay too long in a hot bath. This is not good for your skin, as is obvious from the wrinkling effect you get when you stay in too long.

If you want something specific to clean and look after your face’s skin, I can tell you some useful tips:

  • CHAMOMILLE FACIAL SAUNA
    This is an excellent natural way of getting rid of keratin plugs, those troublesome little blackheads. You make an infusion of chamomile flowers and pour into a bowl. Then as if taking an inhalation, put a towel over your head and allow the chamomile fumes to play over your face. Give yourself only a couple of minutes if it is uncomfortable.
  • ELDER BLOSSOM
    This makes a good old-fashioned lotion for bringing out the best in your complexion.
    Take a handful of elder flowers and heat very gently in buttermilk for half an hour. The flowers will go very soft. Leave to cool for three or four hours, then re-simmer and add a spoonful of honey. When this is cold apply to the face as a pack.
  • OATMEAL
    This is another excellent facial pack which works wonders with the complexion. Soak a handful of oatmeal in cream or a mixture of cream and water for six hours, together with a squeeze of lemon.