Herbs and flowers with medicinal value

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Aloe vera gel is an indispensable part of your herbal dispensary. The leaf juices of the aloe plant have important medicinal uses making aloe one of the most respected medicinal plants found in many gels, creams and lotions.

Modern researchers have identified several reasons why aloe gel spurs wound healing: It has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral compounds that help prevent wound infections. It also has immune-stimulating and anti-inflammatory compounds, and it stimulates collagen synthesis and skin regeneration after a burn.

Aloe gel contains vitamins C and E, plus the mineral zinc. Aloe vera gel is soothing, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial – helps heal acne, improve the appearance of wrinkles, and hydrate damaged skin. Applying a thin layer of aloe vera gel will help ease discomfort caused by painful skin irritations, and acne.

Aloe juice is also thought to improve digestion and cleanse the digestive tract. Many believe that aloe juice stimulates insulin production and prevents high triglycerides. Aloe juice has a long history of use for diabetes that has recently show promise in studies, but keep in mind that these internal uses of aloe have much less of a proven basis in scientific fact than the external use in gel form.

Make sure that any Aloe juice products you consume have not be sourced from outer leaves which can contain dangerous chemicals.

pet care : Aloe will bring cooling relief to fleabites, reducing itching and scratching and is safe to use on dogs and cats. It also has immune-stimulating and anti-inflammatory compounds. Acemannan, a chemical compound found in Aloe Vera as a powerful immunostimulant in animals, particularly in cats.

Ayuvedic medicin called Kimari meaning virgin, aloe is used internally in Ayurveda to restore youthful vitality and as a female tonic.

Drug aloes is a strong purgative that should be used very cautiously and not to be used during pregnancy or while nursing. Aloe bitters and aloe juice should not be taken internally during pregnancy. The laxative compounds in aloe are passed into mother’s milk, so nursing mothers should avoid internal use of aloe.

Passion flowers

Parts used: Dried leaves and stems.

Constituents: apigenin and luteolin glycosides, vitexin, isovitexin and their c-glycosides, kaempferol, quercetin, and rutin; indole alkaloids (0.010.09%), mainly harman, harmaline, harmine; coumarin derivatives; cyanogenic glucosides (gynocardin); fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic); gum; maltol; phytosterols (stigmasterol); sugars (sucrose); and a trace of volatile oil

Herbalists have a high regard for the soothing properties of passionflower and recommend it as a general nerve tonic to treat nervous stress. The Commission E approved its use for anxiety. Passionflower is used to gently relax the mind/body to prepare for a more restful night’s sleep.

Other uses include neuralgia including post herpes nerve pain and shingles. Together in an extract, the alkaloids and flavonoids of passionflower are stronger sedatives and relaxants that one isolated chemical, reminding us of the wisdom of using the whole herb, instead of isolated extracts. Passionflower is often used in conjunction with other mildly sedative herbs like lemon balm and valerian.

Side effects

Passionflower may aggravate conditions caused by excessive testosterone (baldness and prostate problems in men, unusual aggression, hair growth, and skin problems in men and women) so this should be evaluated before consuming too much Passionflower. Not for use in pregnancy, can cause uterine contractions.

History and traditions

Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis

Medicinal uses: Air Fresheners, Alopecia/baldness, Aromatherapy, Arthritis, Bronchitis,  Cardiovascular, Cellulite, Fatigue, Insect repellant, Scabies, Skin care.

Properties: Analgesic, AntiCancer,  Antioxidant,  Antirheumatic,  Antispasmodic, AntiViral, Aromatic, Astringent, Cardiac tonic Cordial, Insect repellents, Muscle Relaxant

Parts used: Leaves, stems and flowers

Constituents: essential oil (borneol, camphene, camphor, cineole, limonene, linalool); flavonoids, rosmarinic acid and other phenolic acids; diterpenes, triterpenes

Rosemary stimulates the central nervous system and circulation making it beneficial for low blood pressure and sluggishness. Rosemary oil and rosemary essential oil are used to alleviate the pain of sprains, arthritis, sciatica and neuralgia. Rosemary has also been used traditionally to ease asthma. “The essential oils in rosemary leaf can block histamine, the chemical culprit of both asthma and allergies”.

Rosemary has a long herbal tradition as a herb that improves concentration andmemory, Greek students would braid Rosemary into their hair to help them with their exams.

Modern science attributes much of rosemary’s action on the central nervous system to it’s potent antioxidant, rosmarinic acid. The uplifting aroma of a fresh sprig of rosemary in the summer air will confirm both the science and history with your own senses.

Rosemary is one of best hair tonics available, whether you are worried about hair loss, or just want healthy, happy hair, rosemary extracts used in shampoos and herbal hair rinses will work wonders.

A few drops of the essential oil can be applied directly to the scalp or hair brush to restore dry, flyaway hair and make it shine. Rosemary essential oil stimulates hair follicles and circulation in the scalp, which may help prevent premature baldness. Use rosemary on a continuing basis for a healthy scalp that encourages healthy hair growth and slows hair loss.

Rosemary extract (rosmarinic acid) is a natural way to stabilize and extend the shelf life of hand made cosmetics, creams, lotions, and other herbal compounds. Use rosemary in skin care to tone and soften skin.

The Commission E approved the internal use of rosemary leaf for dyspeptic complaints and external use as supportive therapy for rheumatic diseases and circulatory problems. Rosemary infused oil and rosemary essential oil are both used in massage oil formulations to relieve the pain of arthritis and of sore aching muscles.

Rosemary used as a massage oil also helps to tone the circulatory system. Antioxidant compounds in rosemary prevent uterine spasms and menstrual cramps. Rosemary essential oil helps alleviate water retention and increases circulation when used in massage blends.

Cooking with rosemary. Unlike milder herbs, rosemary can withstand longer cooking times, and lends itself well to roasted meats, chicken and hearty stews. A few teaspoons of chopped rosemary lends a tangy taste to biscuits as well. Rosemary vinegars are an excellent and healthy way to dress cold vegetables and salads.

Rosemary is such an extremely useful herb, with so many culinary, medicinal and aromatherapy attributes that it deserves a treasured place in your home. Even the twigs, stripped of their leaves find use as kindling and as a aromatic addition to barbecue fires.

Winter savory

The savory is your savior against insect bites and stings. One of the most effective natural plant treatments for bug bites is originally from Europe and the Mediterranean but often shows up elsewhere thanks to global trade. In addition to being an antiseptic, it is delicious – used for flavoring meats and stews – and all parts are edible.

Sweet violet

Native to Europe and Asia, sweet violet is cultivated around the world and is a pleasant, delicate purple color. When brewed into a syrup the plant is effective as a treatment for colds, flu and coughs or sore throat. However, when made as a tea, it is wonderfully effective for relieving headaches and muscle and body pain.

Feverfew

This is a plant that has well-known and documented health properties and medicinal benefits. This anti-inflammatory can treat rheumatism, arthritis and, most famously, migraine headaches and tension headaches. It’s also good for alleviating tension and general anxiety (it is a natural serotonin inhibitor). It also helps to reduce swelling and bruising.

Though feverfew is most effective when taken daily, it can be a helpful pain reliever when no Advil is on hand.

Marjoram and oregano

They are often used interchangeably, but the aromatic sweet marjoram is slightly different. The Greeks called it the “Joy of the Mountain” and it was revered throughout the Mediterranean for its fragrance, flavor and medicinal value. The famous French herbs de provence and Middle Eastern za’atar both use sweet marjoram.

Marjoram has many uses (it’s a famous digestive aid) but it is effective as an antifungal, antibacterial and disinfectant treatment in a pinch.

Wild quinine

Wild quinine wild quinine is a potent herb that “is used as an antiperiodic, emmenagogue, kidney, lithontripic, poultice. It has traditionally been used in alternative medicine to treat debility, fatigue, respiratory infection, gastrointestinal infection, and venereal disease.”

Whatever the ailment, quinine is famously helpful in treating it. Only the root and flowers are edible; avoid the plant.

Blackberries.

Blackberries are loaded in antioxidants and vitamins, but the leaves and roots have value, too. Native Americans have long used the stems and leaves for healing, while enjoying the young shoots peeled as a vegetable of sorts and the berries, either raw or in jams. The leaves and root can be used as an effective treatment against dysentery and diarrhea as well as serving usefulness as an anti-inflammatory and astringent.

Blackberry is ideal for treating cuts and inflammation in the mouth.

By Mutuiri Gitonga