Herbal medicine is people's medicine. It is simple, safe and effective. It can even grow right outside your door. Herbal medicine is real health insurance — it's reliable health care in your own hands, in your own home, at little or no cost, at whatever time you may need it.
There are many types of medicine, all of which can be categorized into what I like to call the Three Traditions of Healing: The Scientific, The Heroic and The Wise Woman Way. Each tradition sees herbal medicine through a different filter.
The Scientific Tradition recognizes herbs, herbalists and herbal medicine as sources of drugs. Crude (green) herbs from the (black) earth are refined, concentrated, purified and ultimately synthesized into (white) drugs which may be prescribed only after exhaustive study and vigorous schooling.
The Heroic Tradition sees herbs as "safe" drugs and herbalists as highly-trained "green doctors" who know how to use combinations of herbs, usually in the form of pills or capsules, and who make little distinction between herbal supplements and synthetic nutrient supplements. The Heroic Tradition has many rules about eating, with a focus on balance and being clean.
Lastly, The Wise Woman Tradition includes all walks of life. Herbs are viewed as living entities who willingly work with us to nourish our health and well-being. Green allies provide food, clothing, shelter, medicine and the very air we breathe. The plants are our ancestors, the Ancient ones. In the Wise Woman Tradition, learning herbal medicine is as simple as making friends with the green beings that live all around you. Making friends and remedies, and using those remedies instead of going to the drugstore or the clinic.
Shall we approach herbal medicine then, from the plants or from our problems? Four of my five books take a problems approach, since that is the usual reason we seek herbal help. So let us open the door and open our hearts, to herbal medicine — the people's medicine — first by looking at herbs you can use to help ease digestive woes, where many of our health concerns begin.
You can ease and even eliminate most pain and problems that begin in the gut with these four simple herbal allies:
This well-known herb is the best digestive system ally in the world, and you already know how to identify it. Any part of the dandelion — root, leaves, stalks and flowers — can be used in any form — tea, tincture, vinegar, honey, oil — to heal all digestive woes.
Take Dandelion before meals to prevent heartburn, or after meals to counter gall bladder pain and improve digestion. Dandelion morning and night will not only eliminate pain in your gut, but will tone your liver as well.
2. Slippery Elm
This herb comes from a tree whose bark is used to restore health when the digestive system is irritable (IBS), under attack (Crohn's and Lupus), or deeply distressed (chemotherapy).
I carry Slippery Elm with me wherever I go, to counter food poisoning and quell acid reflux. It can also help alleviate diarrhea and constipation.
3. Aromatic Seeds
Seeds of anise, caraway, coriander, cumin, dill and fennel are incredibly healing. You can make aromatic seed tea by putting one teaspoonful of any one seed into a cup and filling the cup with boiling water. Drink the tea, sweetened or not, while still warm, to relieve gas pains, speed up digestion (great for those with heart problems), and counter the digestion-impairing effects of pain-killers.
Plain, unsweetened yogurt is fundamental for gut health. There is little to no lactose in yogurt, so everyone benefits. For greatest health, you can even make your own, using organic milk!
Consuming a quart of real milk yogurt in a week keeps the digestive system at optimum health. It can be taken by the tablespoonful frequently, to remedy gut pain, gas pain, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and even bad breath.
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