Herbs for Healing

Herbs for healing

  • ethical use of herbs
  • drying herbs
  • herb articles by members

     Ethical Use of Herbs

    As you probably know, some of our most well-known herbs are rapidly heading towards extinction because of demand. If you use herbs you should find out which ones these are and go from there. That means, find out what are good substitutes and try them. If you decide you must continue to use your old endangered favorite at least make sure you’re obtaining it from a responsible source. Walmart and Ebay won’t do. I love Ebay but I don’t think I’d ever use an herb company that sells on it (unless I knew who they were first) I did a search on ebay last week to see just how expensive the herb goldenseal is there (this herb is in real trouble so the cost of it is soaring at good sites). I was shocked to find that it is sold there as a urine cleanser to help you pass drug tests!! Not only is this herb being overused by the public as a natural antibiotic but now by druggies as well! I hear they sell it at truck stops.

    Sorry I rambled on so – it’s something I recently realized and converted to so I’m still on my soapbox. I used to buy the cheapest herbs I could find, now I have a handful of companies I feel are responsible and only buy from them. Jean’s Greens isn’t the only one – just the first catalog I grabbed and the one that I’ve found is normally the most inexpensive of those I buy from.

    To find out more about endangered herbs, look up UPS “United Plant Savers”, you might visit http://www.sagemountain.com and look for a link. OR you can start growing your own.

    When I first got involved with herbs I’d look at the prices at the local health food store, shake my head and run to Walmart or the grocery store for mine. I’d buy the cheapest bulk herbs I could find online without second thought. Now that I’ve learned more about them I realize that I should be more choosy. Now, I’m not saying that Walmart’s herbs are inferior to some I pay twice as much for. Maybe they are high quality – I don’t know. Perhaps they do have pesticide limits OR know if it was imported. They probably don’t know if the harvest completely depleted an area.

    I’ve heard that many of the cheaper herbs are imported. They come from countries where pesticides that have been banned here for years are commonly used. Even if they were grown organically, they had to sit in warehouses in quarantine for long lengths of time – often sprayed for bugs. There are no regulations regarding herbs – only those self-imposed by companies. My step-father helped “fine tune” DDT as a chemist and always said, “There’s nothing wrong with DDT except that it produced a few broken eggs.” Why risk feeding our birds herbs that have been sprayed with DDT in some foreign country?

    Lastly, if you’re interested in using herbs, you might visit http://www.plantsavers.org to get a better understanding of the problems herb users face in the future. It has helped me realize the importance of my responsibility as one person. I’ve decided to continue using some of the “at risk” herbs – but I either grow my own supply or buy them from a source I trust (mainly companies that belong to United Plant Savers). Sometimes the costs are higher but I feel better about myself.

    Mary Ann

    Drying Herbs

    I dry a lot of herbs and Ifind the ones without a fan in them to be more gentle at drying the herbs than the fan forced which tends to dry out the tips to fast, making the herb too dark, and killing the enzymes. This of course can be remedied by venting more… prop the lid or what ever so the heat does not rise so high. Enzyme death occurs around 110’f so optimal drying temp is 104’f or 40’c. You can use lower temps than this, but if you have very moist material, you run the risk of growing moulds and bacteria instead of drying your herbs… the key is in rotation of the shelves/herbs and air circulation.

    The one (with the fan) of course is the dehydrator of choice for doing meats and fruits. More dense material than herbs. You just have to make sure you rotate the shelves often (in both models this is necessary anyway) and flip “whatever you’re drying” over at the same time you rotate the shelves.

    Dehydrators without fan forced air will also dry dense things; it just takes a bit longer to achieve the right degree of dry. I did have the opportunity to use a dehydrator that cost $150 once and I can’t in all honesty say that it did a better job. You still had to rotate and flip periodically for even drying. I purchased all my dehydrators at yard sales for under $5 each from folks disenchanted with storing their garden harvest and making fruit leather (I guess).

    As someone pointed out air drying is the best method, but simply not an option for some of us who live in damper regions. A lot more losses due to moulds and uneven drying in my experience. If the temps are kept below 104′ f there should be almost no nutritional losses.

    What do I dry you ask? Here’s a short list.
    Horehound Melissa Bergamot Lavender Sage Dill     Oregano Basil Chive Garlic Comfrey Russian Caraway Feverfew     Calendula Lady’s Mantle Mullein Mints Echinacea Yarrow     Roses/Hips Nettles Hops Tarragon Chamomile Tansy Rue     Thyme Delphinium Cat Nip Parsley Valerian Parsley Rosemary Savory

    Dried herbs are often better for making infused oils as you don’t get the moisture with dried herb that you do using fresh herbs that causes problems in the infusion or what ever formula you are using the herb in. Even when using fresh herb you should let it dry and wilt a little, to cut down on the amount of moisture content in your oil which causes bacterial/mould growths. I use herbs for medicinal and culinary use.

    Michael Moore’s site is very good for Herb research http://chili.rt66.com/hrbmoore/HOMEPAGE/NameIndex.html

    as is Henriette’s Herbal Homepage http://metalab.unc.edu/herbmed/

    http://libertynatural.com/database/database.htm http://www.hort.purdue.edu/sitemap.html http://www.herb.com/fea.htm

    Therapeutic herbs – researched and written by list members

    pau d’arco


    Raw whole leaf Aloe vera juice has a yellow color and a bitter taste. In the early 70’s processors discovered that carbon filtration eliminates Aloe’s yellow color and lessons its bitter taste. Unfortunately they have failed to mention that carbon filtration; strips the plant of its nutritional value by removing vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, fatty acids, etc.; greatly reduces Aloes healing effects because it removes almost all of the plants healing agents, with the exception of Aloe mannose and lectins.

    The agents removed include: Aloin, emodin, B-sitosterol, and the plants other anti-inflammatory plant sterols, salicylic acid, cinnamonic acid, phenols, sulfur, urea nitrogen, lupeol, and other hydrochlorides. While carbon filtered Aloe looks like water it does not taste like it. If it tastes like water, it probably is. Pat B


    Steven Horne, master herbalist, discussed at one of his lectures how the function of some herbs could be intuited by their growth habits and the environment in which they thrived. Herbs that grew in hot dry regions often provide soothing and cooling mucopolysaccharides, as aloe and other cactus species do.

    Alfalfa has a deep root system that enables it to thrive in less fertile areas where shallower rooted plants would fail. Alfalfa is a strong plant that can thrive in adversity and endow those who consume it with strength and health.

    Because its roots go so deep into the soil (often 125 feet deep, according to herbalist Laurel Dewey) the plant has the opportunity to absorb minerals from deep within the earth. Alfalfa is an extremely nutritious plant loaded with vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, P, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, saponins, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and digestive enzymes.

    Feed it to cows and you get better milk. Feed it to chickens and they will lay more eggs with a higher nutritional value.

    Alfalfa has numerous applications for disease prevention simply by the fact that through its excellent nutrition it provides the body with many of the tools needed to resist disease. In addition to that it has specific benefits to 1. heart disease because the saponins lower cholesterol and help to regulate blood pressure 2. arthritis and bursitis caused by acid blood….alfalfa helps to alkalize the blood (but refined flours and sugars must also be reduced in the diet because they cause the blood to be acid) 3. gland support: it nourishes the ovaries, pituitary and adrenals 4. fights illness: because it pours nourishment into the body

    The properties of this herb are salty, slightly bitter, cooling and neutral but alkalinizes. It also thins the blood.

    Cautions: Alfalfa seeds have a toxic protein called canavanine which can cause a blood disorder called pancytopenia (a form of severe anemia that also affects the platelet portion of the blood.) Sprouting the seeds inactivates the toxin. The leaves are safe and healthy unless you have an autoimmune disease like HIV or Lupus. People and birds with autoimmune diseases should not consume alfalfa or alfalfa products.

    If you drink it in a tea, add peppermint or other herbs to it to ‘pep it up’ it has a very GREEN flavor that some find unappealing.



    From Pat Miller

    Daisy/ Chrysanthemum leucanthemum

    Parts used: flower head dried or fresh (for oxeyed daisy: leaves, stem, roots)

    Chemical Constituents: Essential oils, Tannin, Saponins, Mucilage.Bitter Principle and Flavones

    Medicinal Uses: Expectorant and astringent. Good for kidneys, liver; used for arthritis, asthma, rheumatism, excitability due to nervousness and diarrhea; also used as an antispasmodic.

    Safe to used freely and said to be similar to Chamomile.


    From Pat Miller

    Daisy (common) / Bellis perennis

    Family: N.O. Compositae

    Parts used: roots, leaves; fresh or dried flower heads

    Chemical Constituents: Bitter principle, Essential oil, Flavones, Mucilage, Saponins and Tannin

    Medicinal Uses: Expectorant, astringent. Used for liver and kidney disorders as well as arthritis and rheumatism. Also used for diarrhea due to its astringency.



    From Pat Miller: Common Name: Dandelion (AKA: Priest’s Crown, Swine’s Snout)

    Scientific Name: Taraxacum officinale (WEBER)

    Parts Used: Root (fresh & dried) and/or leaves (young tops). Medicinally, the juice of the root is the more powerful part of the plant.

    Chemical Constituents: Contains Taraxacin, a crystalline, bitter substance, of which the yield varies in roots collected at different seasons, and Taraxacerin, an acrid resin, with Inulin (a sort of sugar which replaces starch in many of the Dandelion family, Compositae), gluten, gum and potash.

    The root contains no starch, but early in the year contains much uncrystallizable sugar and laevulin, which differs from Inulin in being soluble in cold water. This diminishes in quantity during the summer and becomes Inulin in the autumn. The root may contain as much as 24 per cent. In the fresh root, the Inulin is present in the cell-sap, but in the dry root it occurs as an amorphous, transparent solid, which is only slightly soluble in cold water, but soluble in hot water.

    Medicinal Uses: It is a general stimulant to the system, but especially to the urinary organs. It is chiefly used in kidney and liver disorders. Dandelion is a natural diuretic and digestive aid. It has a high nutritional content, particularly V vitamin A. Dandelion enhances liver and gallbladder function.

    Dandelion leaf is a very powerful diuretic, its action comparable to that of the drug `Frusemide’. The usual effect of a drug stimulating the kidney function is a loss of vital potassium from the body, which aggravates any cardio-vascular problem present. However, dandelion is one of the best natural sources of potassium. It thus makes an ideally balanced diuretic that may be used safely wherever such an action is needed, including in cases of water retention due to heart problems. As ahepatic & cholagogue Dandelion root may be used in inflammation and congestion of liver and gall-bladder It is specific in cases of congestive jaundice. As part of a wider treatment for muscular rheumatism it can be most effective. T Ellingwood recommends the root for the following pathologies: chronic jaundice, auto-intoxication, rheumatism, blood disorders, chronic skin eruptions, chronic gastritis, aphthous ulcers.

    Since dandelion is not poisonous, large doses of its preparations may be taken. Its beneficial action is best obtained when combined with other agents.

    Side effects: Dandelion appears to be largely free of drug interactions and side effects, causing only slight diarrhea. Some individuals may develop a skin rash with repeated contact with the raw herb. It should not be used in cases of bile duct or gall bladder blockage.

    Pat Miller


    I have given my BFA (a rescue bird) a pinch of the powder from a capsule because this bird seems very nervous at times. With the valerian she does seem much more relaxed. Erika

    The valerian is wonderful. When I first took this bird she would go on an hour long screaming match and nothing you would do would get her to hush. Since I have started with the valerian, she is much calmer. She plays more instead of screams and her personality has really improved. Belinda


    There was some interesting information about the herb mullein in the latest issue of Herbs for Health in the Pet section. The author, Randy Kidd D.V.M. discussed how he used to watch deer munching away at a particular plant in the field. They only seemed interested in this one plant, so I too the trouble to identify it. It was Mullein.

    Mullein has greyish green large furry leaves. If it is allowed to grow, it forms a tall spike, about three to four feet tall. It will develop small yellow flowers along the length of the spike. It is a common roadside and yard weed.

    Among its uses, mullein alleviates lung problems. According to the article, old-timers fed mullein to their cattle or burned the leaves in the barn to help prevent pneumonia. The deer he watched consuming Mullein may have been preparing themselves for winter as a natural preventative.

    To use for pets, make a tea brewed from the leaves and add to pet’s fod. You can also use it as an extract externally for ear infections. Fill a jar with well-packed chopped mullein leaves. Fill to the top with olive oil. Close tightly and let it sit for three to four weeks. Strain. Massage several drops of the oil into the ear canal. Store the mullein extracted oil in the refrigerator, but warm what you use to body temperature first.


    Pau d’arco

    How do you pronounce it? I’ve heard it pronounced two ways and probably neither is correctso I don’t know for sure, but one way is: pow de ARK oh and the other way is: pow DARK oh

    Pau d’arco is an evergreen tree that grows in South America. The bark is harvested and it is the inner lining of the bark that contains the active component, lapachol.

    Its properties are sour, astringent, cooling and drying.

    My first introduction to the herb was for its use as an anti-fungal. According to reputation, fungus and moss do not grow on this tree. I’ve heard of people recommending it for the treatment of yeast in handfeeding babies but have not used it for this purpose myself.

    Pau d’arco is also an immune system stimulant and is being researched as a treatment for cancer. It has been show to be effective against cancers, tumors, and skin disease. There are documented (Daniel Mowbry, PhD) cases where those who had been riddled with cancer and hope had been given up for them, tried Pau d’arco as a last resort. A quart of Pau d’arco tea a day was consumed and for some, it did the trick, for others it didn’t.

    The active component stimulates the production of red blood cells in bone marrow. It also destroys some viruses, so has been used to fight colds and flu, herpes, and other diseases of viral origin.

    For humans the preventative dose is two cups of the tea daily. When fighting an active case of illness, then increase the dose to three cups, which may be taken for up to 6 weeks.

    Side effects, if any, are detox type effects like nausea and diarrhea.



    From Cherane: Spray a mixture of dr. john r. Christopher *bright eye* tea by one capsule to one cup of boiling distilled water…sift through a cotton cloth add two more cups of distilled water and spray on your bird’s feathers. You can get this in the eyes of birds. I use this in my clinic as an eye wash…


    From: Cyndi

    Cinnamon is a very warming spice. It is very effective in warming the Kidney Yang in signs of Kidney Yang deficiency. A Kidney Yangdeficiency indicates that the warming, energizing, and controlling function of the kidneys is inadequate. The kidney yang is often compared to a fire that enkindles the spirit and animates all other life processes. Typical symptoms are cold signs such as an aversion to cold, cold extremities, pale complexion, week knees and lower back, poor spirit, frequent urination, asthma, lack of will power and direction, indecisive and unproductive.

    Cinnamon also has adverse effects such as causing inflammation of the stomach. However, cinnamon does have a warming nature and is a great remedy for cold patterns in the body, usually caused from a deficit of yang (heat) resulting from insufficient warming foods in the diet or constitutional weakness at birth.

    Another way cinnamon is used is to promote sweating which is beneficial for measles and similar inflectional diseases marked by rashes. It helps bring the toxins in the rash out of the body. It is used along with fresh ginger root in a hot diaphoretic herbal tea that build the nutritive and protective Qi. More diaphoretic herbs are yarrow, boneset flowers or leaves, elder flowers, chamomile, catnip, peppermint, desert tea, cayenne red pepper and so on, the list goes on but you get the idea.

    I use a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon in the beans, rice and vegetable mix that I make. I have been known to add a sprinkle or so onto their food, especially when the food is in the raw form.

    Another note that I would like to mention here while we are on a *warming* subject, is – Ted Andrews, in his book “Animal Speak” talks about Parrots as being Sunshine and Color Healing. He says, “Parrots are a bird of the sun. Its bright colors and sunshine aspect are what gives it its magic. Its feathers can be used in prayer sticks for powerful healing rites and to invoke the energies of the sun at any time of the year. In the Pueblo tradition, it is a bird associated with the gathering of salt. The places where salt was found were considered a gift of the sun”. The reason I mention this is because our birds love *HOT* and *SALTY* things to eat, which is why I always wonder if this is what gives them the energy they need and what might be one of the items lacking in their diets. Most people who read this at first will not understand how this could possibly be related, and are probably thinking that is strange to even think, however, if you understand the connection we all have with the earth, we all need certain things to survive and understanding it can be a simple as 1 plus 2. Think about some of the things we do naturally that relate to how we survive and some of the natural foods and plants that help us heal our bodies. I would think that the Native American’s and indigenous people’s observation of nature would have some merit, what do you think? Cyndi

    Cinnamon Is Lethal Weapon Against E. Coli O157:H7 Source: Institute Of Food Technologists (http://www.ift.org/) Date: Posted 8/6/99

    When cinnamon is in, Escherichia coli O157:H7 is out. That’s what researchers at Kansas State University discovered in laboratory tests with cinnamon and apple juice heavily tainted with the bacteria. Presented at the Institute of Food Technologists’ 1999 Annual Meeting in Chicago on July 27, the study findings revealed that cinnamon is a lethal weapon against E. coli O157:H7 and may be able to help control it in unpasteurized juices.

    Lead researcher Erdogan Ceylan, M.S., reported that in apple juice samples inoculated with about one million E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, about one teaspoon (0.3 percent) of cinnamon killed 99.5 percent of the bacteria in three days at room temperature (25 C).

    When the same amount of cinnamon was combined with either 0.1 percent sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate, preservatives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the E. coli were knocked out to an undetectable level. The number of bacteria added to the test samples was 100 times the number typically found in contaminated food.

    “This research indicates that the use of cinnamon alone and in combination with preservatives in apple juice, besides its flavoring effect, might reduce and control the number of E. coli O157:H7,” concluded Ceylan, a Ph.D. graduate assistant at K-State. “Cinna-mon may help protect consumers against foodborne bacteria that may be in unpasteurized juices and may partially or completely replace preservatives in foods to maintain their safety,” he said.

    “If cinnamon can knock out E. coli O157:H7, one of the most virulent food borne microorganisms that exists today, it will certainly have antimicrobial effects on other common food borne bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter,” noted Daniel Y.C. Fung, Ph.D., professor of Food Science in the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry at K-State, who oversaw the research.

    Last year, Fung and Ceylan researched the antimicrobial effects of various spices on E.coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef and sausage and found that cinnamon, clove, and garlic were the most powerful. This research led to their recent studies on cinnamon in apple juice, which proved to be a more effective medium than meat for the spice to kill the bacteria.

    “In liquid, the E. coli have nowhere to hide,” Fung noted, “whereas in a solid structure, such as ground meat, the bacteria can get trapped in the fat or other cells and avoid contact with the cinnamon. But this cannot happen in a free-moving environment.”

    Regardless of the K-State findings, people who are at greater than normal risk for food borne diseases– namely the elderly, young children, or immune-compromised– would be urged to avoid drinking unpasteurized juices or poorly cooked hamburgers, which may contain harmful microorganisms.

    For a copy of the study presented at IFT’s Annual Meeting, contact Angela Dansby at 312-82-8424 x127 or via e-mail at aldansby@ift.org.

    Founded in 1939, IFT is a non-profit scientific society with 28,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues.

    Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Institute Of Food Technologists for journalists and other members of the public. If you wish to quote from any part of this story, please credit Institute Of Food Technologists as the original source. You may also wish to include the following link in any citation: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990806074926.htm


    Is Echinacea Immunosuppresive over time?

    Paul Bergner has written an excellent book, 172 pages of which are devoted to echinacea. It’s called ‘The Healing Power of Echinacea and Goldenseal and other Immune System Herbs’ He discusses the different sub species, the clinical research, adverse/positive effects, etc.

    Several paragraphs are devoted to whether or not taking Echinacea over time will make it immunosuppressive (suppress the immune system). He states that according to the official German regulatory Commission, that Echinacea should not be taken for longer than eight weeks. Then he goes on to say that there is no clinical evidence that it loses its ability to stimulate the immune system or that it becomes immunosuppressive over time. In fact, he says, studies show just the opposite.

    Clinical studies in 1986, that lasted 8 and 10 weeks, measured the immune system parameters showed steadily increasing immunity between weeks two and ten. This is if taken orally. Injections, if repeated too frequently, may cause an initial depression of immune system response. Another study showed that this depression was followed by a rise above the initial levels upon discontinuing the injections.

    He says that the practice of herbalists in Australia is to give large doses- up to half an ounce a day- to patients for long periods of time, sometimes more than a year. In several long-term clinical observations, no ill effects were seen in measurement of liver function or immune status. (McLeod et al., 1996) gloria


    From Dr. Sheila Scullcap is a very powerful and popular herbal botanical from China. Its Latin name is Scutellaria. It is not really classified as a sedative. instead it is a nervine. it relaxes the central nervous system.

    A person who has serious hyperactivity problems (ADD) depression and or anxiety it is truly great for that. I truly don’t recommend this for our sensitive birds. the reason for this are many. Scullcap also works on the the respiratory system and the respiratory system of birds is pretty sensitive, so we want to be very…. careful when and if we have to administer such herb as this to our birds. Dr. SHEILA

    From Kat The Skullcap genus (scutellaria) is from the mint family (Lamiaceae). The herb is a bitter which is good for digestion and is a cooling nervine.

    There are potential side effects & you need to be sure of the source & purity of the scullcap. Much of the scullcap sold is not just scullcap, often other herbs have been added or it has been contaminated by another herb. Dosage is important as it is possible to “OD” Some side effects of excess skullcap: muscle twitching confusion headache restless sleep &/or sleeplessness nausea, gas, colicky pain or stomach pain diarrhea weakness and muscle aches Kat


    From Susanne

    HYDRANGEA (Hydrangea Aborescens)

    Common Names – Seven barks, Blue Bush, Chinese Herb

    Part Used – Root (may be toxic in large amounts)

    Chemical constituents –

    The root contains two resins, gum, sugar, starch, albumin, radioactive calcium sulfide, potassium sulfide, sodium acid phosphate (the stone solvent), magnesium phosphate and sulfate, a protosalt of iron, and a glucoside (hydrangin).

    Uses –

    The name seven barks was given to hydrangea by the Cherokee Indians because the bark is rough and has a tendency to slough off. The old Indians used it as a decoction for calculus diseases where there is a build-up of stones in the body. Shook feels it is one of the most powerful solvents for stones, backaches caused by kidney trouble, rheumatism and arthritis of long-standing, and gout. It relieves congestion, irritation, and pain in the kidneys and bladder, and is used in cystitis and gonorrhea with much success. It helps remove the crystalline bodies seen in gout and arthritis.

    The pain and blood loss which accompanies the moving of stones and crystal deposits in the kidney and ureter area and the result of the tiny points as they pierce the body. When hydrangea dissolves these points the stones can pass with just a stretching of the tubes. Hydrangea makes the stones smooth and round making them easier to pass.

    Caution – Some experiences have shown this root to be toxic in large amounts and over long periods of time. For this reason herbalists caution not to use it for more than 3 or 4 months at a time.