Early civilizations, such as that of the ancient Greeks , have used herbs and spices for healing.
They weaved myths of ASKLEPIOS (or Asclepius) the god of medicine, and the ancestor of Asklepiades, the ancient Greek doctors' guild.
AESCULA′PIUS (Asklêpios), the god of the medical art. In the Homeric poems Aesculapius does not appear to be considered as a divinity, but merely as a human being.
According to one tradition, Aesculapius on one occasion was shut up in the house of Glaucus, whom he was to cure, and while he was standing absorbed in thought, there came a serpent which twined round the staff, and which he killed. Another serpent then came carrying in its mouth a herb with which it recalled to life the one that had been killed, and Aesculapius henceforth made use of the same herb with the same effect upon men. (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 14.)
Serpents were commonly associated with the worship of Aesculapius, probably because they were a symbol of prudence and renovation, and were believed to have the power of discovering herbs of wondrous powers, as is indicated in the story about Aesculapius and the serpents in the house of Glaucus.
Hippocrates, an ancient Greek healer who became known as the ‘father of medicine’, used a number of medicinal plants and healing herbs which were noted in his teachings and writings.
To date, the World Health Organization estimates that 80 per cent of the earth’s population depends on plants to treat common ailments.
Herbs are free from toxicity and habituation. They are organic substances and not manmade synthetic molecules, they possess an affinity for the human organism. They are extremely efficient in balancing the nervous system, restoring a sense of wellbeing and relaxation which is necessary for optimum health and for the process of self-healing.
Common commercial herbs are available in many different forms. You may buy them in bulk, herb blends, teas, oils, tinctures, fluid extracts, tablets and capsules.
The easiest way to incorporate herbs in your life are by drinking herbal teas and using essential oils.
People have been consuming herbal teas for as long as they have known how to heat water. Herbal teas can be made from virtually any plant, and from any part of the plant, including the roots, flowers, seeds, berries or bark, although there are some herbs, such as milk thistle that have no effective effect when taken in tea form because their active components are not water soluble.
Herbal teas are very good at relieving mild to moderate ailments such as upset stomach, sore throat, coughs, stuffy nose and insomnia.
Many herbals teas are available in tea bag form. They can also be prepared from the fresh herb. To make a herbal tea, place the leaves, flowers roots or bark into a small pot. Pour boiling water over them and allow them to steep for four to six minutes. Some herbs may need a full twenty minutes to steep in order to deliver their full therapeutic effect.
A simple way of preparing teas is to place the herb or herbs in a large 1 ½ liter thermos, pour boiling water over them, close the thermos and let them seep for a minimum of twenty minutes. Drink the tea throughout the day. You may even top up the thermos a second time. It’s a wonderful way of keeping hydrated throughout the day.
Infusion is simply another term for tea. This is the easiest way to take herbal remedies. To make an infusion you simply boil water and add leaves, stems, flowers, or powdered herbs – plant material whose active ingredients dissolve readily in hot water – then steep, strain, and drink the mixture as a tea.
A decoction is a tea made from thicker plant parts, such as bark, roots, seeds, or berries. These also contain lignin, a substance that is difficult to dissolve in water. Thus, decoctions require a more vigorous extraction method than infusions.
Essential Oils are highly concentrated extracts – typically obtained either by steam distillation or cold pressing – from the flowers leaves, roots, berries, stems, seeds, gums, needles, bark, or resins of numerous plants. They contain natural hormones, vitamins, antibiotics, and antiseptics.
It is best to use essential oils externally only, such as in poultices, inhalants, bath water, or on the skin ( two to three drops diluted in one tablespoon of a base oil such as almond oil). The therapeutic properties of essential oils can help to remedy ailments ranging from insomnia to respiratory disorders to impotence to arthritis.
Most herbs act gently and subtly. They do not produce the kind of dramatic, immediate results we expect from prescription drugs. Basically, herbs are balancers that work with the body to help it heal and regulate itself. They work better together than they do singly because the effect of one herb is usually supported and reinforced when combined with others.
While most herbs aren’t likely to be harmful, keep in mind that “natural” isn’t a synonym for “safe”. Like synthetic drugs, herbal preparations may be toxic, cause allergic reactions, or affect your response to other medications.
Some precaution and care are needed when using herbs for either food or medicine. Herbal self-care is not to be used for life-threatening conditions or long periods of time. It is important to use the appropriate herb with regards to the ailment. Also make sure that the correct part of the plant is to be used. When using an herbal remedy for the first time, start with a small amount to test for possible allergic reactions. Do not take certain herbs if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Most herbs are not recommended when nursing a baby, apart from a few herbs which enhance the production of milk or sooth colic. It is only recommended with the advice of your health practitioner that medicinal herbs are given to children.
All in all, embracing herbs and spices in one’s life opens up a world of enchanting aroma’s, flavours and above all good health and vitality !
If you are aware of any health problem which may compromise your general health, it is important to seek treatment. A Health and Wellness Counselor may help you, to bring you back in balance and to good health through, detoxing, healthy eating and living, create a proper diet suited for your condition, advise natural remedies, herbs, wholefood supplements and organic cosmetics.
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !