Remember the days of old when Grandmother strapped a warm mustard pack to our congested chests when we had a cold? Or used a warmed tea bag to rid pink eye, a clove of garlic to stop an earache, or prepared a mixture of chaparral and olive oil as a cure for itchy skin? I do.
Distances between townships, limited funds, and the lack of readily available medical professionals and facilities all dictated that a woman be not only a wife, mother, and housekeeper, but doctor as well. Folklore healing practices, curative uses of herbs, and other medicinal “family secrets” were stealthily guarded and passed down from one generation to the next.
Of course, some of yesteryear’s touted cures were not truly cures at all. Superstition and myth “remedies,” without any practical application, crept into the mix. Little by little and through the years, suspicion as to the validity of any natural, herbal remedy began to take root.
For instance, witch doctor type practices such as hanging herbs that resembled tears around a child’s neck to help him cut teeth. “Reading” tea leaves to foretell future love interests, and assertions like placing certain spices under the pillow would improve memory, prejudiced many toward the genuine curative uses of herbs.
That is why some modern day practitioners regard the medicinal use of herbs as “quackery;” nothing more than old-wives tales. There are, however, a growing number of otherwise conventional medical professionals who acknowledge what Grandmother knew all along. Natural, herbal remedies as a means to maintain good health and cure certain diseases are valid. Nature’s drug store is making a comeback.
And why should that be surprising? After all, we — like plants — are organic. It is the synthetic drugs used today that were formulated to mimic their natural counterparts, and not the other way around. In days of old, there was no other way to treat illness and discomfort, help heal wounds, or cure bodily dysfunctions than with natural means.
It was while living in tune with nature and studying wildlife that early man learned of the medicinal “powers” of herbs. Animals bitten by a poisonous snake survived after chewing snakeroot, a wounded bear rolled in mud to better heal and escape infection, and old, rheumatoid deer eased their misery and made joints more limber by resting under the therapeutic rays of the sun.
Nature’s well worked out plan for good health and freedom from disease is observed in animals. It is people who have strayed from nature’s medicine chest to create man-made remedies — some of which are less effective, costly, and riddled with negative side-effects.
By working with, and not against nature, we increase our chance of a more healthy life, while decreasing our risk of disease and premature bodily limitations and dysfunctions.
A wealth of healing resources is there for the taking, if we but open our eyes to the possibilities available.
To highlight this fact, let’s take a look at the multiple medicinal uses of just one herb, commonly regarded as a noxious or disposable weed.
Sometimes found intercropped with corn and wheat in the Midwest United States, common burdock grows wild and vies for the sun and nutrients of the soil. Though routinely overlooked as a native weed, it nevertheless has the potential to gift the bearer greater health and ease skin afflictions when harvested for its root.
In the herbal world, burdock is unsurpassed as a blood purifier. It is also the “king” of herbs in treating chronic skin problems such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, boils, syphilitic sores, and canker sores.
Make a medicinal tea by bringing 1 quart of water to a boil. Reduce heat. Add 4 teaspoons cut, dried burdock root. Cover and simmer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 2 hours. Drink a minimum of 2 cups a day on an empty stomach, or more if problem persists. This concoction can also be made in a larger quantity and used topically to wash affected skin areas as needed.
Mixed with catnip and made into a tea, burdock root is effective in clearing up stubborn kidney and gallstones. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped or cut fresh or dried burdock root. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 3 teaspoons chopped or cut fresh or dried catnip leaf, and let steep for 1 ½ hours, then strain.
For each cup, add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and ½ teaspoon pure maple syrup or blackstrap molasses (to sweeten). Drink slowly. Follow with 1 tablespoon of pure virgin olive oil 10 minutes later.
Repeat this regimen 3 times a day. The tea helps to sooth irritated tissues, and helps break up or partially dissolve the stones. The olive oil acts as a lubricant to expel them from the body more easily. Important to the success of this remedy; digest no greasy, fried foods, soft drinks, refined carbohydrates (such as white flour or white sugar products), red meat, or poultry during the course of this treatment.
Well-known lecturer, author and medical anthropologist, John Heinerman, Ph. D., of Salt Lake City, Utah, recommends the following: take the last cup of tea and spoonful of oil at night before retiring. Sleep on the right side, and prop a pillow under the armpit. Heinerman says this posture seems to expedite the removal of the stones from the body.
Burdock root ground to a powder, when combined with dried red clover and dandelion root and packed in gel capsules, can help clear up acne and blemishes. Take two a day — morning and evening.
Besides an aid in clearing problem skin when combined with burdock, red clover is also famous as an alternative cancer treatment, and is a natural blood thinner. Dandelion root was hailed as a miracle cure for warts and liver spot remover by the late Will Greer, who portrayed Grandpa Walton on “The Waltons”. In addition, Britain’s licensed medical herbalist, Dr. David Potterton noted that the high insulin content in dandelion root makes it a good sugar substitute for persons who suffer from diabetes mellitus.
Many herbs have medicinal properties. An infusion made from elder-flower and water makes a mild astringent, and can safely be used for eye baths, while chamomile is excellent for eye compresses for inflammation of the eyelids. Garlic is an excellent natural antibiotic, and immune system builder. Cayenne is beneficial for circulation and stomach ailments. In fact, many of the herbs used for culinary purposes are not only great flavor enhancers, but medicinal as well.
Besides herbs, many vegetables and fruits, especially organic, yield health and medicinal benefits. Celery juice is a natural diuretic and useful for persons with rheumatism or for those who want to lose weight. Cabbage has been shown effective in the fight against duodenal ulcers, and is a good source of calcium for those who must avoid dairy products. Radish is helpful for gall-bladder and liver ailments, and spinach improves the hemoglobin of the blood. Beets are excellent for certain conditions of the liver, and for improving blood hemoglobin.
While undeniably health enhancing, natural or herbal remedies should never be used alongside synthetic or prescription drugs without the prescribing doctor’s knowledge. While grapefruit by itself can be effective in reducing high levels of cholesterol, for instance, it isn’t recommended in combination with certain prescribed medications also meant to lower cholesterol. In fact, many cholesterol-reducing medications warn not to consume grapefruit while taking that medication.
Because many of nature’s offerings do have potent medical and health enhancing properties, become knowledgeable about the benefits and cautions of each. Like any medication, increasing concentrations, doses, or mixing one with another for medicinal purposes could be harmful instead of helpful. And mixing natural/herbal remedies with synthetic/prescription medications is not recommended, unless prescribed by a doctor as an enhancement.
Instead of rebelling against nature, we can become more in tune with the gifts endowed by nature. The same health laws that apply to the animal kingdom also apply to man. We have something valuable to relearn from our wild counterparts. By joining hands with nature and embracing the natural we can enhance our health and increase our longevity.