A holistic approach to healing? Look no further than Mother Nature!
Healing power of plants Nature is a bountiful source of healing for the human body and spirit. The flowers and herbs that populate our woodland, gardens and countryside are more than just pretty petals and sweet scented greenery. Plants have a tradition of medicinal use that has been used to heal since before recorded history. It is thought that many of the so-called 'wise women' and 'cunning men' who were executed as witches by various faiths throughout history were in fact healers with esoteric knowledge of how to blend plants to create cures. These people used their knowledge of the countryside's flora to mix remedies to ease their fellow villagers' suffering. This skill with plants was often passed down as an oral tradition from mother to daughter. Despite its strong association with alternative spirituality, some monasteries and nunneries, especially the Benedictine Order, also cultivated herb gardens and mixed potions to cure the ills of the local population.
From pain relief to stomach settlers and from mood lifters to blood pressure busters, plants can be used to combat many common complaints. You might be surprised to learn that many modern pharmaceutical drugs are based on compounds first discovered in plants.
-Aspirin: one of the UK's most popular painkillers is based on a compound found in willow bark -Quinine: is an anti inflammatory and is used to treat malaria. It is derived from cinchona bark -Digoxin: is used for heart conditions and comes from foxglove -Taxol: made using the bark of the Pacific yew tree is used to shrink tumours -Certain types ofcancer are treated with drugs containing the rosy periwinkle flower
(Please note: these natural ingredients are synthesised into the drugs. Many of these examples, especially foxglove and rosy periwinkle are toxic if consumed in their natural state)
Spiritual plants The spiritual shamanic tradition of peoples from across the world turns to plants and flowers for their magical properties. Not only do shamanic traditions belief that plants can cure the body but they also think plants can heal the soul. Shamans believe that the spirits of plants can treat the deep rooted problem in a person's soul or emotions which is causing physical symptoms. For example, an unexplained ache in your chest or back may be actually caused by stress you are feeling about money worries. The physical pain is a manifestation of 'dis-ease' of the soul. Shamans say they use plants to cure these deeper issues. Traditional Chinese medicine and traditional Indian medicine, called Ayurveda, both use the power of plants to heal. Plants are used by these spiritual types of healing on a physical level, as ingested medicine, and also by balancing the body's energy levels.
How to take them You can grow herbs like basil or rosemary in plant pots on your windowsill or in a small patch of soil in your back garden. Enjoy their benefits by using them to flavour your cooking. Crush mint leaves and stew them in hot water to make a tasty, fragrant tea. Most healing plants are available fresh or dried from local shops. You could also try vitamin tablets - ones containing ginkgo balboa, St John's Wort, cranberry essence, milk thistle and garlic are widely available. Aloe Vera is available as a juice from health food shops. A word of warning though, make sure you keep to the recommended dose and check with your GP before taking any vitamin supplements as plants can be potent and may react with medication you are taking.
Choose your healing plant Below are some of the most popular plant remedies with a checklist of their potential healing properties.
Ginger can be used to settle your stomach or to ease nausea. It is also said to aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients from food. Eat it raw or add it to your cooking.
Milk Thistle is thought to sooth the liver, helping it eliminate toxins. Take it in capsule form.
Turmeric is a great addition to your spice cupboard. It is an anti inflammatory and a powerful anti oxidant so it may relieve aches and pains and help the body to heal. Buy it from the spice section of your local shop in its pungent yellow powder form.
Thyme is an antiseptic that kills bacteria. Add it to your food or hot water if you have an upset stomach or the runs. You'll find the fragrant thyme leaves in the herbs section of your local shop or better still grow it yourself in a windowsill pot.
Garlic is said to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. It's also an antiseptic that can kill germs in your stomach. Add it to your cooking.
Cinnamon is another stomach soother and may help prevent ulcers. It makes a delicious addition to cakes and coffee.
Peppermint is traditionally used to soothe an upset stomach and to aid digestion. It's a natural decongestant so add it to your tea if you have a cold.
Aloe Vera can treat minor burns, eczema and rashes if rubbed into the skin. Cut the juice straight from the leaf or buy it in a carton as a juice. Drinking it as a health food supplement can help combat irritable bowel syndrome and sore stomachs.
Basil may help ease a tension headache if you drink it in hot water as a tea. Rub the clean leaves on small grazes to reduce pain.
(Please note: the information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult your GP before taking any supplements.)