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Moving On in Herbalism

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.

For StartersRheumatizScabiesPoison Ivy


In recent years the ancient healing methods of the past have been caught up in the marketing frenzy of the 20th century. Like any other marketing scheme, this one has its down side.

Self-policing in the industry and federal regulations have not been able to keep pace with those who would profit on the ignorance and hopes of those who purchase their products.

Herbs which are perfectly safe to use in appropriate dosage and under certain circumstances have been bally-hooed for 'quick energy' (no herb works quickly - in fact it is their gentle action which makes them so safe), for weight loss (hey! burn that fat off! - in fact most herbs that are used in these formulations are diuretics and laxatives) and in the most despicable of cases they are packaged as a means to get 'naturally high'. There's no need to discuss the stupidity of that.

Under the proper management, herbs can indeed help your body to return to optimum function, and in that case you will indeed feel a great more energy, but it takes time and the addition of a good, all around program of exercise and proper nutrition.

Bottom line - you still don't get something for nothing. So don't believe the marketing hype.

Suspend your belief for some healthy skepticism and a good course of study into the effects of herbs on the human body.

Are herbs safe?
Yes! When used properly!
Leave the dangerous ones to the professionals and professional preparations.

There are hardly any deaths to report from the use of herbs each year and those are the result of gross amounts being taken indiscriminately. The same cannot be said of the pharmaceutical industry.


No matter what you call it - rheumatiz, arthur-itis, lumbago (always my personal favorite), the aches and pains of aging are always worse in the cold winter months.

The following recipe tends to be more soothing when taken as a daily cup of tea. It can, however, be made into an extract, and 10 drops taken twice a day. When the problem becomes less acute, the dosage can be lowered to 5 drops twice a day and then discontinued.

1/2 C. red clover
1/2 C. rose hips
1/2 C. dandelion leaf or root
1/4 C. chickweed
1 Tbsp dry ginger

Combine the herbs well and use 1 heaping tsp per cup of water just off the boil. Steep 10 minutes and enjoy.

Another way to bring relief to aching joints and muscles is one my brighter 'light bulb' episodes that occurred when the love of my life had an aching thumb joint and wanted to know why an herbalist couldn't come up with a cure (it might have helped if I'd known about the problem! Geesh - men and mothers! they are so difficult!).

The success of the method I devised is owed to the heat producing properties of Cayenne pepper.

This involves a purchased lotion and a bottle of Cayenne extract - both available at health food or herb stores. The best lotion base I have found is a product called "Naturade - Aloe Vera 80". It is a non-greasy and very soothing, unscented lotion that blends well with herbal extracts. If you can't find this one, there are many others just as suitable for this purpose.

A 2-oz flip-top squeeze bottle works perfectly as a dispenser. For each ounce of lotion add 20 drops of Cayenne extract and blend well. If more heat is desired, work your way up to a maximum of 30 drops, testing as you go for the amount of heat it provides to the skin...20 should be sufficient.

A couple of drops on the fingertips, rubbed into the aching spot, is all that is needed for application. Don't overdo it - this stuff is plenty warm! And keep your hands away from your eyes until you wash them! The nicest part of this method is that it leaves no scent or greasiness as with other liniments.

Another method of relief: Add 5 drops of essential oil of Lavender to 1 tsp of sweet almond or other vegetable oil and massage the aching area.

Scabies Lotion

Pray that this scourge never visits itself upon your hearth and home!

Scabies mites are microscopic creatures that get under your skin and itch like the tortures of hell-fire and damnation on a hot Sunday morning in a hard pew. It ranks right up there with that old curse of "may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits".

There is a blessing to be found in the plant kingdom however - elecampane a.k.a scabwort. The following remedy works as well on the dog as on humans. Fortunately (relatively speaking), the scabies mites cannot reproduce in humans or cats, but definitely do so in dogs.

It is vital to take your dog to the vet for treatment if you suspect this invasion so that the cycle of reproduction can be stopped. If you see your dog losing fur (notably on the legs and tips of the ears) and harboring an unpleasant 'mousy' odor, take him immediately.

It is necessary to launder daily anything the animals have contacted as well as several weeks of daily vacuuming. It is an exhausting situtation, best avoided in any of 100 lifetimes.

Take 1 heaping Tbsp of elecampane root and 3 C. of distilled water and place in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and allow to barely simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes or until it is reduced by half. Allow to cool, then strain and place your decoction (lotion) in a spritzer bottle. Spray when and where needed! Since scabies doesn't bother the faces of humans, we can only give a rousing quarter cheer for that blessed little bit of help. Scabies is also known as sarcoptic mange.

Poison Ivy

Like 80% of the population I am allergic to poison ivy - seriously so. So what I am doing living in an area where it grows like kudzu??? Either I need to be institutionalized or it's the trade-off for living on some really peaceful and glorious land.

Before the leaves appear in springtime, it is an easy matter to come into contact with the stems and roots of poison ivy (Rhus radicans) while preparing a flower bed. Once the bark is scraped, you are exposed whether you realize it or not.

The best cure is prevention. Whenever you or the children come in from outside and believe (even the tiniest possibility should not be overlooked) you have been anywhere near the stuff, grab the DAWN dish liquid and slather it over exposed areas. Then rinse and wash with tepid water. It should be repeated at least once more, better if twice more. DAWN, being a degreaser, breaks up the oil allowing it to be rinsed away and keeps it from bonding with the skin. I had been using this method with great success for a couple of years when a tree service removed a couple of poison ivy choked trees from our yard. I was fascinated to see the workmen bring out a large bottle of the stuff and wash down with it, using the hose to rinse it from their skin.

Once you've got it, the best treatment I have discovered over my infamous gardening-career years has been a one-two approach using Calamine lotion and Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina). (You can also apply a small amount of DAWN without washing off to the rash to help dry it up. It actually works pretty well and it's handy.)

Harvest the sweet fern, then snip up about a cup of the plant material into a large sauce pan. Cover the material with water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes (the aroma is delicious!) or until it looks strong. Strain the liquid into a canning jar. Use some immediately and keep the rest in the refrigerator to be used as needed.

Sweet Fern lotion must be applied as warm as can be comfortably endured. Dip a cotton ball into the lotion and swab it over the affected area. Do this as often as is needed to control the itching and oozing.

Once the rash is drying well and stopped oozing, switch over to Calamine lotion to finish the job. Sweet Fern's drying action is probably attributable to its rich supply of tannins - no matter - it works well.

Another old time remedy often mentioned in herbals is the fresh juice of Jewelweed.

My own experience is that it works somewhat if the juice is applied immediately upon exposure to the poison ivy, but does nothing later to alleviate the problem once it has developed.

Once the rash is established, Sweet Fern is the herb of choice.

To keep this lotion for year round use (I've even caught poison ivy off of vines attached to firewood in the middle of winter), fill ice cube trays with the lotion and freeze. When frozen, remove cubes from the tray and store in plastic bags in the freezer. When needed, melt and heat one cube to a tolerable warmth and apply.

©1997 Ernestina Parziale CH