Home Pharmacy is a series of articles distilled from a course I took with David Crow called Medicinal Plants and Spiritual Evolution – a course packed with information accessing the plant world as a vital ally for so many of today’s health concerns. Here is how we each can develop a simple home health herbal pharmacy.
THE HUMBLE HEALERS
These are the underestimated gems of the Home Pharmacy. They are not exotic, rare or expensive. Many we already have in our kitchen, growing on our windowsills or in the garden. They are safe and easy to grow. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t have profound beneficial results. Especially when used on a daily basis, they are powerful medicine for a broad range of modern health concerns.
The Humble Healers are the Aromatic Herbs and Traditional Spices that we are already familiar with.
– Aromatic herbs: include basil, tulsi, hyssop, lemon balm, dill, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme.
– Traditional spices: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, long pepper.
– Also includes: coriander, cumin, fennel, chamomile, caraway, bay leaves.
IMMUNITY: Most microbes and toxins enter our bodies through the air that we breathe and through the food that we eat. The mucous membrane linings of our respiratory and digestive tracts are the protective interface of our immunity. This interface has broken down through pollution, poor soils, processed foods, overuse of antibiotics, etc.
These aromatic herbs and spices are brilliant at supplying support and healing nutrition to these linings so that they can remain intact and do their jobs. Studies have repeatedly shown that these medicinals are effective from the cellular level on down to the chromosomal levels.
RADIATION: Whether from medical treatment or from the environment, we all are affected and need to be concerned about radiation exposure. These simple herbs can be tremendous allies – check out the radioprotective effects of ginger, thyme, long pepper, tulsi/holy basil and peppermint in the Pharmacopeia below.
DIGESTIVE POWER: The humble healers support and nourish the gut lining with their antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antispasmodic capacities. They are all carminative – they reduce gas and bloating and help you to assimilate the nutrients in your food. They increase appetite and decrease nausea.
RESPIRATORY POWER: The humble healers are excellent medicines for colds and flus, allergies, sinus congestion, cough, low immunity, sensitivity to cold and wind, any symptoms that are generally in the lungs and sinuses. They help with boosting respiratory immunity and fighting allergens. Their actions are expectorant, decongestant, antitussive (stops cough), antimicrobial and antispasmodic.
USE AND PREP: These aromatic herbaceous plants and spices can all be prepared and used in basically the same way.
Aromatic herbaceous plants – add fresh or dry to soups, stews, sauces, etc, with no or very light cooking. Don’t boil the aromatic leafy parts because the essential oils will escape. You can add at the end of cooking with lid on.
Roots and barks are cooked longer – like cinnamon in your hot cereal or ginger in your curries. Because they’re roots, they need more time for the active ingredients to come out.
Any of these can be added fresh to salads. Add generous amounts of fresh herbs to your salads! You can’t go wrong here – try combinations of whatever fresh herbs you have.
Tea infusions are generally used for leaves and flowers. Dried tends to more effective. Fresh plants don’t release their aromatic and medicinal compounds as easily because they are mostly bound up in cellulose. The cellulose breaks down when the plants are dried, so dry herbs will usually give stronger infusions than fresh herbs.
A typical recipe: one teaspoon of dry herb per cup of hot water steeped for several minutes. An easy way – just put a pile of dry herbs into a French press and pour boiling water over it.
Decoction is a water extract. Boil the plant material. This is especially important for roots, barks, seeds and other forms that are not the leaves. Typically, the recipe uses less material than when infusing the leaves because it is a powder that is used or it is material that has to be broken up, mashed or ground. In general use about a quarter teaspoon per a cup of water.
Fresh or dried plant material can be used steeped in the bath.
PYRAMID OF CONCENTRATION: When used in these ways, we don’t have to be concerned about exact dosages. At this level, this set of herbs and spices is quite biocompatible.
We do have to be concerned about exact dosages when we’re talking about more concentrated herbs and spices like tinctures and essential oils of these plants.
In fact, concentrated forms of these humble healers are extremely powerful and potentially dangerous. For example, oregano is a very simple, humble kitchen herb. But when it comes to the essential oil of oregano, extremely potent, a lot of warnings and contraindications and potential adverse reactions. If put on the skin directly, it can burn the skin. If taken it internally, it can burn the tissues. To use these plants in their concentrated forms, it is important to know what you are doing.
Poison Control Centers around the country are filled with reports of people burning themselves, burning their children and damaging internal organs through the wrong use of these potent concentrated oils. Multilevel marketing misinformation on medicinal use of essential oils seems to be especially problematic currently.
As always with anything you take medically, listen to what it is telling you in your body, and of course discontinue if any adverse reactions are occurring.
If we know how to use medicinal plants wisely, then we are a much more empowered and spiritually mature culture. It’s an important natural resource that we can all have access to.