Herbs – The best way for living healthy
Herbs refer to the green leaf plant whose stem above the ground does not become woody, cultivates itself annual, biennial, or perennial and dies down at the end of a growing season. Many herbs are used as spices, either in dried or fresh leaf forms. Others find their uses in medicinal, therapeutic and spiritual factions.
Humans began growing their crops for food and self-sufficiency much before than anticipated. Over time, they realized that agriculture could produce more crops and vegetables. However, the crops that make their food more interesting are still not suitable for rock farming. The plants we call “weeds” are still being hunted in the wild. They still exist in many parts of the world.
Humans have related themselves to herbs for a long time. Our bodies relied on them as a source of wellness and have adapted to the same.
This relationship closely connects us with nature, the environment and history. But the deep connection between humans and plants goes beyond the time we spend together.
Herbs have a variety of effects on our system, affecting us emotionally and physically. Some herbs have an immediate impact on our systems, but many will help develop wellness over the long term.
Many remedial herbs help bring back systems into balance and have multiple & variable effects on every individual.
Many herbs work best when combined with healthy habits like a balanced diet, adequate exercise, and sound sleep.
Going back to an essential point of view, people have realized the threat posed by chemical treatment products to their lives and correctly adopted a healthier lifestyle, taking nature and its subjects as the backbone of their lives.
Ancient science is coming back, and believers of the philosophy that herbs can be used for medications are being heard of.
The doctrine says that herbs that resemble the human part of the body can treat or create balance in that particular organ. These are termed as signature herbs, which did not hold any belief with medical science, but over time with researches, this has started gaining importance.
The briefly explained examples are
1: Carrot section with eye Retina.
Ample beta-carotene in Carrots produces much needed Vitamin A . Vitamin A helps the eye convert light to a signal sent to the brain, allowing you to see better in low light. So, Carrots are good for lowering cholesterol levels and for improving vision.
2: Brain and Walnuts
Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a natural omega-3 fatty acid. And possess more polyphenolic compounds than any other type of nut. These acids and compounds are considered to combat oxidative stress and inflammation, which can cause dementia.
The cross-section looks like a brain, and walnuts have been a good source of brain foods.
Kidney Beans and Kidneys
Kidney beans are shaped like kidneys and, unsurprisingly, a regular helping heals and helps maintain useful kidney function.
Similarly, pancreas shaped sweet potatoes are known to be useful in balancing the glycemic index of diabetic patients.
And there are many more.
Herbs and Spices
The terms herbs and spices can be used interchangeably, but they are different types of seasonings made from other parts of the plant, processed differently. Spices generally come from the following plant parts like roots, stems, leaves, bark, flowers, fruits, and seeds, whereas Herbs, typically thought of as non-woody plants, comprises fresh or dried leaves and flowers.
Common spices which are used in the kitchen regularly:
- Dried Red Chiles.
- Cinnamon Sticks.
- Fenugreek Seeds.
- Cayenne Pepper.
- Coriander Seeds.
- Cumin Seeds.
- Mustard Seeds.
- Black pepper
- Fennel seeds
Common herbs which are used in the kitchen regularly:
- Star Anise
Certain herbs can be used for treating Multiple ailments and diseases in the body. Medicinal plants like aloe vera, turmeric, basil, ashwagandha, and ginger are commonly used in several home remedies.
As a rich source of nutrients, antibacterial and antioxidant properties, herbs are non-toxic, so products or treatments made using them are often lauded for their high remedial value.
Herbs also have a strong foundation because these plants are considered safe and have no side effects. Moreover, they are directly from nature; they have more significant advantages over chemically processed and synthetic drugs.
Contrary to other medicines and medicines, it is well known that Medicinal herbs can treat the disease from the root, thereby helping you stay healthy in the long run.
The magical properties of herbs can also be used for pest control, natural dyes(Indigo), food formulations( Health Mixes), tea ( Flower teas) and perfumes(Natural Scents).
If we look at various studies from all over the world, as people turn to natural herbal treatments and use them in their daily lives, sudden outbreaks have risen significantly.
Various benefits of using medicinal Herbs:
Herbs are from nature, so they do not consist of any artificial chemicals or steroids.
Many Herbs are disease-specific and act as preventive medicines that can cleanse the system holistically and help gain good health.
These can be better than allopathic medicines and can be used to treat specific ailments which cannot be done using allopathic medicines.
The herbs also contain nutrients that are non-toxic and good for overall health and the immune system.
• herbs help with the overall well-being aiming to synchronize mind, body and soul.
• Several metabolic and chronic conditions can be treated without any side effects using herbal medicines and treatments, namely Ayurveda, Siddha and naturopathy.
Common herbs used in our daily routine:
Herbes de Provence, an aromatic mix of dried herbs and spices, includes thyme, basil, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, oregano, savoury, and bay leaf. This mixture is mostly used in French cuisine.
Turmeric is in use as a medicinal herb for more than 3,000 years. It is one of the most commonly used herbs in Asian countries.
Turmeric finds its uses to reduce pain caused by inflammatory diseases, like arthritis, help prevent cancer, stop DNA mutations, and treat several skin diseases.
Basil (ocimum basilicum or Tulsi) is a common herb used to add delicious flavour to meals and salads. Basil is rich in Vitamin K and Iron, helpful in combating common ailments. The manganese in the leaves helps metabolize different compounds in the human body.
Tulsi in India is considered a sacred plant and also used for making teas. Tulsi is also helpful in controlling diabetes naturally.
Basil health benefits:
- Reduces stress
- Strong antibacterial properties
- Rich source of antioxidants
- Prevents some harmful effects of ageing
- Reduces inflammation and swelling
- Strengthens bones and liver
- Boosts immunity
- Boosts metabolism
- Improves digestion
Capsaicin in Cayenne pepper (capsicum annuum) adds a spicy taste to the meal or drink and acts as a detoxifier. Also, capsaicin is a thermogenic chemical, may help speed up your metabolism and decrease your appetite. Some other benefits include pain relief and lower cholesterol.
Cayenne pepper health benefits:
- Detoxifies the body
- Boosts metabolism
- It eases an upset stomach and helps digestion
- Improves circulation
- Relieves pain
Chamomile (matricaria chamomilla) has a high concentration of antioxidants that make it an excellent plant for relieving various ailments.
Chamomile preparations are commonly used for many human ailments such as hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, and haemorrhoids. Essential oils of the flower are used extensively in cosmetics and aromatherapy.
Homemade Chamomile tea before bed can help you relax and have a more restful night’s sleep.
Chamomile health benefits:
- Improves overall skin health
- Relieves pain
- Aids sleep
- Reduces inflammation and swelling
- Rich source of antioxidants
- Relieves congestion
Dandelions (taraxacum) are edible herbs full of health benefits. These medicinal plants are packed with Vit K, Vit C, Iron, Calcium and more. These vitamins and minerals help support healthy bone and liver health.
All parts of a dandelion can be used for health benefits. The roots are commonly used for teas, the leaves are used as garnishes for different dishes, and dandelion sap is fabulous for your skin!
Dandelions extract used as a skin toner, circulation tonic, blood tonic, and digestive tonic. Many consume dandelion orally to treat viral infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs), and cancer.
Dandelion is also used as salad greens and in soups, wine, and teas.
Dandelion health benefits:
- Detoxifies the liver and supports overall liver health
- Treats skin infection
- Supports overall bone health
- Treats and helps prevent urinary infections
Echinacea (echinacea purpurea), commonly known as purple coneflower, is a herbal medicine used repeatedly to treat the common cold, coughs, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, and few other inflammatory conditions.
Echinacea tea helps soothe different symptoms and strengthens the immune system. It helps in recovering from a common cold.
It’s important to note that echinacea can cause adverse effects like nausea and dizziness if taken consistently in large doses.
Echinacea health benefits:
- Treats and helps prevent urinary tract infections
- Strengthens immune system
- Relieves upper respiratory issues
- Fights infections
- Alleviates symptoms from the common cold
Garlic (Allium sativum) helps keep away vampires and unwanted diseases! This super plant is excellent for fighting infections, aiding with cholesterol management and much more. Eating garlic regularly is right for your overall health and easy to incorporate into a wide array of dishes. Raw garlic is the most potent, so try eating it uncooked for the most health benefit.
Garlic health benefits:
- Helps prevent heart disease
- Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
- It prevents dementia, Alzheimer’s and similar degenerative diseases
- Improves digestive health
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, meaning that it can help your body manage stress. This herb is known to humans for over 3,000 years to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration. Ashwagandha also provides numerous other benefits for your body and brain. For example, it can boost brain function, lower blood sugar and cortisol levels, and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Ashwagandha health benefits
- Calms restlessness, anxiety and stress
- Reduces blood sugar levels
- Have anti-cancer properties
- Reduce cortisol levels
- Reduce symptoms of depression
- Boost testosterone and increase fertility in men
- Increase muscle mass and strength
- Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
This is a multipurpose tree commonly found in India. The tree finds it uses to treat many common ailments like eye disorders, bloody nose, intestinal worms, stomach upset, loss of appetite, skin ulcers, cardiovascular disease, fever, diabetes, gum disease (gingivitis), and liver problems.
Twigs of the tree are used as a toothbrush for healthy gums and teeth.
Oil extracted from flowers find its uses in aromatherapy and skin problems.
Neem health benefits
- Improves dental health by fighting plaque build-up.
- Neem oil helps relieve dandruff, acne.
- Neem bark used for Ulcer control.
- Effective insect repellant.
- Neem leaf paste useful for skin problems, eczema, and ringworms
- Tender neem leaves increase immunity
Aloe vera has high nutrient content. It contains important vitamins and minerals like vitamins B, C, E, folic acid, calcium, copper, chromium, sodium, selenium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc.
Aloe vera is also rich in antioxidants. Aloe vera is effective in killing the plaque-producing bacterium and yeast.
Aloe vera is beneficial for profitable hair growth. The gel Aloe contains vitamins A, C, and E, which contribute to cell turnover, promoting healthy cell growth and shiny hair. B12 and folic acid prevent hair from falling out.
Aloe Vera Benefits:
- Antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
- Accelerates wound healing.
- Reduces dental plaque.
- Help treat canker sores.
- Reduces constipation.
- Improves skin and prevent wrinkles.
- Lowers blood sugar levels.
- Effective for Heartburn and gastric problems.
How to Dry Herbs
Traditionally, herbs are air-dried in the shade without the use of any additional heat source. Bundle the stems together and hang them in a dry place. Alternatively, Remove the leaves from the stems carefully, cut the stalks into small pieces and dry them on a clean cloth on a dry surface.
Specific small scale industries use drying racks to speed up the process.
You can try any of the methods at your convinience. Such methods are slow and time-consuming. Dehydrating machines are available, which can dry the herbs in a temperature-controlled environment.
Do not overheat or Over dry the herbs to preserve the properties of the herbs.
Store the dried herbs in a cool, dry place and use them regularly.
How to Consume Herbs
Herbs, either fresh or dried, can be consumed in different ways.
Encapsulating Powdered Herbs
The dried herb powder can be filled in the capsules manually or with the machine to consume daily. Different sizes of empty capsule voils are available in the market, and simple capsule filling machines can fill the mix. The filled capsules can be stored in a dry place for a long time.
Herbal Water Infusions: Cold and Hot Methods
The herbs’ properties are extracted from the leaves into the water by either infusing in hot or cold water. This process can be used with just any herb.
The typical means of infusing herbs is to make a tea out of it. Hot infusion tends to extract more essential ingredients from the herbs as the cell wall breaks down, creating a more potent infusion.
On the other hand, a cold infusion is a lengthy process, where you add the leaves to the cold water and leave it a minimum of 24 hours for extracts to mix into water.
Herbal teas can be made from individual herbs, but it is more common to use a mixture of herbs that work well to treat the condition you seek to heal. The teas are the most common type of herbal infusion used for medicinal purposes.
The decoction is another way to infuse the herbs. It is the concentrated form of the herb extract. The dried herbs are added to cold water, allowed to soak for a few hours. The water is then boiled on slow heat and generally reduced to half. The decoction is then filtered using a cloth so that all extracts are removed from the herbs. It is then cooled a bit and taken orally as a medicinal decoction.
Oil Infusions :
In this method, the dried herbs are soaked carrier oils to infuse the herbs’ extracts into the oil base.
Cold oil infusion: Dried herbs are soaked in the plant oil for 6-8 weeks and later strained using a cheesecloth.
Hot oil Infusion: Dried or fresh herbs are soaked in the oil and heated to the specified temperature to infuse the carrier oil extracts. The herbs are soaked at the required temperature over a few days, and later, strained oil is used as a medicine. This Hot Oil Infusion is less time consuming as compared to cold oil infusion.
Tinctures are medicinal extracts of the herbs in alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin base. As alcohol is considered a universal solvent, it can usually extract essential oils and other chemical compounds from herbs. Soak the herbs in pure alcohol for 2-4 months to thoroughly remove the compounds.
This tincture can be stored in tight air bottles to avoid evaporations and be used as medications.
The tinctures are absorbed quickly by the body directly into the bloodstream and work faster than decoctions.
This is a process to extract essential oils from the herbs. The herbs are immersed in water and heated to generate steam. The steam is then condensed to get the distilled extract.
The distillation can be with water, water and steam, and Direct steam type.
Various indigenous systems of medicine have well realised the healing potential of herbs.
Besides their therapeutic use, herbs are disease preventors, immunity boosters and used as cosmetics, dietary supplements.
The priority of developed countries is different from that of developing countries concerning medicinal plants. India, as a developing country, supports this alternative system of medicines. Various Institutions across the country teach about the rare herbs, and authorised formulations( as certified by Govt) are available widely in the market