Seven Common Plants that can be used in Healing
Lots of commonly found plants can be used to create beneficial and healing remedies. These can be grown at home or in many cases can be foraged in places such as woodland, parks and on wasteland.
When collecting plants from the wild it is vital to be certain that you have identified the plant correctly. Some plants can look similar to others that can be harmful or even fatal when eaten or that can cause skin irritation and other difficulties. A good wild plant guide is a useful tool in foraging and there are also many websites that can be used in helping to identify plants. In some areas it is possible to find day or weekend courses during which an experienced forager teaches others how to safely find, identify and harvest wild plants.
Another important point to consider when harvesting plants from the wild is the impact on the surrounding plants, environment and wild life in the area. Never strip a plant or area of all seeds, flowers, leaves or whole plants, instead take a small amount from many plants. This method causes less stress to the plants, leaves plenty for other people and also prevents the loss of habitat and wood for wild animals living in the area.
Although they are made using natural materials care should always be taken when using herbal remedies. These can still be dangerous in some cases or can cause allergic reactions. Special care and considerations should be made when using remedies with babies and children, pregnant or breastfeeding women and older people. Some herbal remedies may interfere with the way prescription medications are processed in the body or how well they work and so care should be taken in this case.
1. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)
Aloe Vera is a relatively easy to care for succulent that can be grown on a warm windowsill or in a greenhouse. It has long been used in traditional medicine to treat burns and other skin conditions such as dry skin, sunburn, eczema and ringworm. Aloe vera can be used to heal inflammation and in helping to soothe arthritic pain.
Aloe vera is believed to have many benefits to the digestive system that include alleviating constipation and reducing inflammation of the digestive tract such as that seen in Crohn’s disease. To be used for this purpose it can be consumed as a juice or added to smoothies.
2. Borage (Borage officinalis)
This hardy annual plant has intensely blue star shaped flowers and can often be found growing wild in European and Mediterranean countries. Borage is good source of calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamin C and B vitamins. An infusion can be made using leaves and is believed to help in healing adrenal exhaustion and to help strengthen the kidneys. The flowers and young leaves can also be added to salads.
Since ancient times people have believed that borage was able to drive away melancholia and increase a person’s courage. Borage has natural sedative qualities and may help to ease anxiety, depression and mood swings.
3. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula is an easy to grow and pretty plant that has a wide range of healing applications. It is believed to stimulate the liver, gall bladder and uterus, soothe the digestive system, support the heart and fight infections. In folk medicine calendula has been used internally to treat ulcers, hepatitis and menstrual problems. Used externally this plant is useful in treating nappy rash, eczema, yeast infections, cracked nipples, dry skin, burns and to aid wound healing.
Calendula can be used in a variety of ways including being made into a tea or infusion. It is often used in healing skin balms, salves and lotions.
4. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Most people are familiar with these bright yellow wild flowers. Although they are generally considered to be a weed and nuisance, the root, leaves and flowers can all be used and have many beneficial effects.
Dandelion leaves contain potassium, magnesium, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sulphur, zinc and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E. Young leaves can be eaten in salads, stir fries and sandwiches as you would with other leaves. A tea, which stimulates the body to eliminate waste and toxins, can be made using either dandelion leaves or root.
Dandelion helps the gall bladder break down fat by stimulating bile production, aids the liver’s detoxification processes and can bring relief to anyone suffering from urinary infections thanks to its diuretic properties.
5. Elder (Sambucus niger)
Both elderflowers and berries used in healing. Elderflowers are believed to boost the immune system, sooth respiratory tract and ear infections, stimulate circulation and help to reduce fever. The tiny white flowers can be made into a herbal tea or added to bath water, which is believed to calm the nerves and soothe itchy skin. Elderflowers are also eaten made into fritter using batter or can be added to jams.
Elderberries are rich in vitamins and minerals and so have a good overall beneficial effect on the body. Elderberries are reported to be an excellent treatment for coughs and colds of all types and are often made into syrup that can then be taken as needed. They can also be added to fruit pies and crumbles or made into jam.
6. Fenugreek (trigonella foenum graecum)
Fenugreek is a tall, strongly scented annual herb that has excellent medicinal properties. It can be used to make a cleansing and soothing drink that can be used to reduce fevers and to help the body perspire and eliminate toxins during respiratory tract infections. Fenugreek tea can also soothe the stomach, cleanse the bowels and kidneys and clean the respiratory tract of excess mucus.
Gargling with a solution of fenugreek seeds can help heal mouth ulcers and sore throats. The seeds of this plant can be used to treat colic, flatulence and diarrhoea.
7. Jack by the Hedge (Alliaria petiolata)
Jack by the Hedge is also known as garlic mustard and this plant can often be found growing wild in Europe, western and central Asia and northwest Africa. The chopped leaves and flowers can be eaten and are mostly used in salads, sandwiches and pesto. These are best when they are young and provide a garlic and mustard flavour.
Jack by the hedge has a high content of vitamins A and C. This plant is believed to have expectorant, antiseptic, stimulant and anti-asthmatic properties and can also be used as a poultice for ulcers and cuts.
© 2013 Claire