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GETTING STARTED

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.



In the BeginningAcclimatizingBody Toner FormulaBronchial FormulaCold and Flu



In the Beginning

Once upon a time a caveman named Oopsdum indulged in a bit too much lightening-seared mastadon flesh and spent the next several hours crouched at the mouth of his cave, gritting his teeth against the pain of indigestion.

Alka-Seltzer was still an idea being borne along on a comet which would not strike earth for about 40,000 years.

So what's a caveman to do?

As he cast his sorry-looking, deep-socketed eyes about over the plain below him, he noticed the same wild dog he had fought off for a share of the downed mastadon meat.

The dog had been retching, but was now chewing on some plant near a small stream. After a small span of time the wild dog got to his feet, apparently none the worse for wear because he immediately headed for the mastadon carcass and began to eat again.

At first Oopsdum thought the dog the stupidest of creatures to return to the source of his woe, but after a bit he began to ponder the connection between a sick dog and a well one and the plant that the creature was chewing upon.

Oopsdum immediately rose to his feet, grabbed the hair of Oomawise, his mate, and with appropriate strong-arm tactics and basic language, indicated to her that he wanted her to fetch the plant that grew by the water below and that had made the sick dog well again.

Oomawise pretended ignorance and non-compliance with a few hearty shoves of her own, but in the end she started down the trail to fetch the wild mint her mate desired. She knew the game was over for her and the other women (nothing ever changes). Men had finally caught onto the power of plants. It was long after the more observant women (who lived more closely to the plant kingdom as harvesters) had discovered this for themselves.



Despite my fanciful story, serious herbal medicine requires years of study.

There are, however, many simple things to do at home that can ease the minor health problems everyone encounters from time to time.

When we're young, we can get away with any number of poor health choices in regard to eating habits and exercise. It does catch up with us eventually though, so it is far wiser to provide a child with a taste for the right choices early on in their lives and save the junk foods for special occasions.

The best way to establish and maintain good health is to practice healthy habits.

Get an annual check-up - prevention is worth your life.

If you cannot afford the high-priced gouging of the medical industry, check your area for clinics or doctors who are willing to treat you on a sliding-scale.

Eat healthy foods prepared from scratch whenever possible.

Keep fat and sugar consumption down to help prolong life and give it QUALITY. Use olive oil in cooking whenever possible. And you would be surprised at just what you can do with olive oil. Pie crust anyone? It's true. Check out some healthy choices at the Colavita website. Since accidents can and do happen, it is happier to think in terms of quality of life rather than longevity, but still have a long-term view to the latter. If you can manage it, get a bread machine and make fresh whole grain bread daily. Your body and your taste buds will thank you for it. (All of this just might keep you out of the doctor's office as well)

Never mess around with an herb that you are not on personal acquaintance with, either through growing it, using it as a tea or condiment, or have thoroughly studied.

And do NOT try your hand at picking herbs in the wild unless you are with an expert.

Remember that Nature has all the good and bad potential of a local pharmacy. It is not 'all right' to pop an herb in your mouth with the idea that it is as harmless as the vegetable patch. Remember the lesson of rhubarb - the stalk is edible and the leaves are poisonous.

NEVER use any form of alternative medicine in the event of a serious symptom and do NOT combine herbs with any medical regimen your doctor has prescribed unless you have fully discussed the combination with your doctor.

If necessary, consult a doctor of Naturopathy who can provide your primary care physician with any needed information regarding your care. An emergency and serious symptoms require a doctor ALWAYS.



Traditionally, herbs were taken as a medicinal tea (called an infusion or a decoction depending of the type of plant material being used).

Infusions are a steeped tea using the flowers, leaves and berries of a plant.

Decoction is employed when the plant material is hard (bark and roots) which is to boil the plant material in water for a specified period of time - usually 15 to 20 minutes.

Other methods employed are: Extracts using either an alcohol/water mix or vinegar as the extraction liquid. Many old time recipes call for Syrups. Lotions (which are usually nothing more than a wash using an herbal tea), Ointments, Salves and Poultices are other well known forms of herbal treatment.



Acclimatizing

America is a land of nomads.

Especially in our early adult years we will move several times before finding the job and area we wish to settle in and this is hard on the body in more ways than one.

Stress is always high during these moves and without fail, we no sooner get the last of the boxes unpacked and then fall ill with some incovenient virus or else just feel as though we'd rather stay in bed for a month. We've exhausted our adrenals with the stress of the move, required our bodies to adjust to a new water supply and possibly a new food source.

The body says 'enough already!'

Prior to moving the body can be assisted to be less stressed by taking extracts of Siberian Ginseng (an adoptogen) or Echinacea (boots the immune system). Once the move has been accomplished extract of Milk Thistle can assist the liver in filtering out unfamiliar toxins.

You should never gather herbs in a new area without prior research.

Having just moved to a new location, you have no idea what pesticides or chemicals the local herbs have been subjected to.

Do your homework first.

Find a health food store or local herb shop and rely on these sources until you can be certain of the local environmental factors.

Good choices of fortifying herbs to help you through the readjustment period are:

dandelion
chickweed
nettle
plantain
red clover

A combination of these taken at the rate of 1 cup of tea per day will help the body ease through the change. Use 1 to 2 tsps of combined herbs per cups of water and steep 7 minutes.



Body Toner Formula

These herbs are useful to take for a period of 8 weeks during the spring and fall seasons as a supplement. It is also helpful during periods of stress to provide extra vitamins and to assist the body in not depleting itself.

Discussion of individual herbs and their actions can be found in the herb database.

1 C. red clover
1/3 C. blue violet leaves
1/3 C. dandelion leaves or root
1/4 C. plantain
1/8 C. nettle
1/8 C. chickweed
1/8 C. selfheal (optional)

Combine the herbs. Remove and crush just enough for one batch at a time. Use 1 heaping teaspoon per cup, pour water just off the boil over the herbs and steep for 7 to 10 minutes. Use a teaball, or strain the herbs from the infusion.

(Iron-close teabags simplify herbal tea and are available from herbalware suppliers)



Bronchial Formula

Although there are many formulations relying on a variety of different herbs to clear bronchial passages, some of those herbs such as ephedra and licorice should not be taken over a long period of time and especially by those who are susceptible to high blood pressure or similar circulatory problems. They should certainly not be used by children for long periods, or by pregnant woman at all.

NOT ALL HERBS ARE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN!.

I would caution parents who regularly dose their children with over-the-counter products containing pseudo-ephedrine to be aware of the long term ill effects to their children's organs. It does no good to get them comfortably through their childhood only to have them succumb to some serious health problem in early adulthood.

This recipe is intended for occasional complaints. For chronic problems, see a doctor.

You will notice that many of the same herbs are again used in this recipe and that a few new ones are introduced as being more specific to a respiratory problem. Use as a tea or an extract.

1 C. red clover
1/3 C. blue violet leaf
1/3 C. dandelion leaf or root
1/8 C. nettle
1/4 C. plantain
1/8 C. selfheal
1/8 C. mullein leaf or flowers
1/8 C. chickweed
1 Tbsp Elecampane root

Crush herbs and combine. Begin with 1 heaping teaspoon per cup of water just off the boil steeped for 7 to 10 minutes. 1 cup twice daily for several days should break up congestion.



Cold and Flu

If one of those pug-ugly viruses is making the rounds, it helps to boost the immune system with Echinacea extract or to begin taking extra Vitamin C.

If it feels as though the virus is attempting to make a full scale attack on your body, then the extra Vit. C. will make it back off somewhat and perhaps lessen the severity of the ailment.

If you think you're coming down with 'something', this is the time to take a day off and get plenty of rest and drink plenty of juices. Nipping this sort of common illness in the bud will prevent a more serious infection.

Elderberry extract, available at health food stores can help lessen the severity and length of the illness.

The following recipe when taken as an infusion twice a day at the beginning and for the duration along with other commonsense measures should make it all a bit easier.

1/2 C. rose hips (extra Vitamin C)
1/4 C. dandelion leaf or root
1/4 C. mullein leaf or flower
1/8 C. lemon peel
1/8 C. selfheal

Combine and remove enough to make 1/2 Tbsp of ground herbs (use a coffee mill or blender). Steep for 10 minutes.

For sore throats and coughs a soothing remedy is 1 to 2 Tbsp of lemon juice (or the juice of 1/2 of a lemon) in a 8 oz. glass of very warm water to which 1/2 tsp of honey is added. You can sip on this all through the day.

An old cough remedy is to place 5 or 6 cloves of garlic in a jar with 1 C. of whiskey and allow this to steep for a minimum of several days before using, but is allowed to continue to steep for some time. When needed, a teaspoon of the whiskey and a small amount of sugar are added to the warm water.

For stuffy head and breathing fill the sink or a wash basin with hot, steaming water and add 2 to 3 drops of essential oil of Eucalyptus. Place a bath towel around the head to use as a tent over the sink. Breath in the steam. (Use CAUTION around hot water!). Or you can add a few drops of the Eucalyptus oil to the dispenser of a steam vaporizer.

Another way to clear stuffed-up sinuses is with a Salt Water Snuffle. Add 1/4 tsp of sea salt to 4 oz. of warm water. Pour a small amount into the palm of the hand and snuffle up the nose - one side at a time. Continue until the liquid comes out the back of the throat. Nettie pots are an oriental device used to keep the sinuses clean on a daily basis and are another way to deliver a snuffle.

Blow the nose VERY gently as blowing hard can hurt the eardrums when the pressure is released from the sinuses.




©1997 Ernestina Parziale CH

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