Nature's Remedies

Fri, 29/10/2010 - 09:10
Submitted by Abigail Whyte

Countryfile Magazine reader Helen Stafford shares her secrets of the healing power of plants


Unbeknown to us, our own gardens can often provide more medical assistance than a first aid box. Since prehistoric times, plants have proven to have medicinal properties. From common weeds to exotic flowers, nature has supplied us in abundance with natural healing powers.

There are more than 1400 plants including trees, shrubs and groundcovers in the plant kingdom that contain active chemical substances which can be used in both conventional and homeopathic medicine. The scientific names of many herbs have the Latin epithet ‘officinalis’, which indicates their ancient use in herbal medicine and is derived from the meaning of herb-store, eventually meaning pharmacy.

Even what some might consider to be nasty weeds, such as the stinging nettle, can be identified as having healing properties; the active ingredients containing iron, ammonia, formic acid, silicic acid, histamine and acetylcholine, can aid relief in symptoms such as rheumatism, sciatica, anaemia, eczema and blood pressure. Stinging nettle is available in many combination formulas, as dried leaf, capsules and as root tincture (a solution of the herb in alcohol). The dried leaves can be used to make nettle tea, this solution is also used on a poultice to treat eczema, by soaking a cotton wool pad, laying it on the infected area and securing it with a well aerated linen bandage. Its fresh shoots and leaves can also be eaten as a vegetable and even used to make beer and wine!



Lavender (above), not only used for its sweet smelling essential oils, can also be used in water as a skin tonic and antiseptic. Lavender oil does have antibiotic activity effectively killing many common bacteria. The oil was used extensively during World Wars I and II on the battle field and whenever medical supplies became scarce to prevent infection. Its oil is also used to nurse insect bites, burns and sore throats. To treat migraines, exhaustion and nervous disorders, lavender oil can be used as an infusion or added (3-4 drops) to a bath. A cool face cloth, soaked in water infused with lavender and applied to the forehead may reduce headaches.

Even the common daisy is used in homeopathy to treat sprains, bruises, boils and eczema. However, be warned, not all the plants we find in our gardens are as innocent as they appear. Some active chemicals produce such strong effects on the body that we refer to them as poisonous. Who would have thought the ‘Ranunculus sceleratus’ from the simple buttercup family would fall under such a category? The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, medications and pregnancy. For these reasons, only use them under the supervision of a health care provider.

Re: Herbal remedies

Sun, 14/11/2010 - 15:42
Wendé Anne

You won't be at liberty to do this for much longer, Helen. The EU is bringing forward a host of legislation, compiled in secret over the past 18 months, to prevent people from having the choice to choose to buy (or sell!), herbal remedies. These will come into force unless enough people protest.

More about BBC Worldwide.