I run across folks all the time who are looking for a healthier way to maintain the quality of their health that isn’t laced with “side-effects” leaving them with the burning question of is there something better?
Since the dawn of recorded history, plants have been the primary source of medicine for peeps throughout the world. In western society, we DO think of medicines and foods differently. After all there is a big difference between the aspirin we buy for headaches and the carrots we put on the dinner table right?
But… what about garlic? You can buy it in the produce section of the grocery store next to onions and Celery. Yet studies have shown that garlic lowers cholesterol, reduces HTN (High blood pressure) and kills bacteria. These are medicinal qualities. So… then is garlic a food or medicine?
According to the medical definition, medicine is anything which enters the body and alters its structure or function. Using that definition, ALL FOODS AND EVEN WATER AND AIR COULD BE CONSIDERED MEDICINES. Yet of course peeps don’t view foods in those terms. Most believe for it to qualify as a “medicine”, it must be dangerous and toxic and used with extreme care.
Yet the simple fact is garlic is both a food and a medicine, it contains nutrients that the body uses to correct imbalances.
Walk with me back a ways to the early 1800’s where a herbal therapy system was developed by a pioneer herbalist, Samuel Thomson. This method of herbal practice was known then as a “Physio-medical system”. Which meant it considered herbs as a aid to assisting the body’s own natural ability to heal itself.
Thomson considered his medicinal herbs to fall in the same order as foods. I quote: “I shall now describe the fuel which continues the fire, or life of man. This is contained in 2 things, food and medicines (herbs): which are in harmony with one another.” His system focused on aiding the eliminative function of the body and regeneration of tissue. These two actions are known to most as cleansing and toning in the herbal world.
Cleansing the body and building up the health of the body systems have been the major goals in much of the world’s herbal practice. This is ENTIRELY different than drug therapy. Drug therapy, the practitioner seeks to describe specific causes for disease and then seeks to make specific chemical changes in the body to correct the causes or mask the symptoms of the ailment.
In herbal therapy, the practitioner views disease as a general imbalance of the body, In the case of a kidney infection, an herbalist would seek to correct this imbalance by administering 3 types of herbs. Herbs which would prevent toxins from being absorbed from the bowel, herbs which would tonify and build the kidney and other related organs and herbs which would increase the discharge of toxins through the urinary tract and other eliminative organs., In other words, Herbology focuses on assisting the self healing process, which is more of a nutritional approach.
The herbalist recognizes that disease, excluding trauma, is the result of a violation, intentional or otherwise, of the laws of nature; that germs cannot exist in harmful numbers for any length of time in or on tissue whose life and vitality is high so that the only way the disease can be overcome is to aid nature in the healing process by the elimination of the poisons and toxins through the body’s natural channels and allowing the vitality to return to the body.
Dr. Shook ( herbalist), maintained that various elements especially minerals in the herbs were their primary virtue. He asserted that herbs supported the natural function of the body by supplying “organic” elements to the organs and systems of the body.
- Dandelions, marshmallow, comfrey and alfalfa have all been cultivated for foods by various folks.
- Hawthorne berries, used by herbalists today as a stimulant for the heart, were originally used by African tribes as a staple in the form of flour.
We look at food as visually appealing, how does it smell, what is the texture like, of course how does it taste… yet beneath the simplicity of all that, foods are very chemically complex. They contain more than just fats, proteins, carbs, vitamins and minerals yet all natural foods are a complex mix of chemical substances.
Lets look at a potato:
It contains over 150 known chemical substances, many unknown chemical substances, solanine, alkaloids, oxalic acid, arsenic, tannins, and nitrate… all of which have no recognized nutritional significance from mans point of view.
Lets look now at a orange:
The orange oil contains 42 chemicals, including 12 alcohols, 9 aldehydes, 2 esters, 14 hydrocarbons and 4 keytones. All fruits and vegetables and other natural substances are just as complex.
I trying to point out that all natural foods contain substances which affect the structure or function of ones body. All food has medicinal action, however weak it may or may not be. You cannot live without eating.
Many of the foods the average person consumes on a daily basis however from a nutritional view, like refined flours, refined sugars, boxed convenience foods fried foods etc. truth is you don’t die instantly from eating these but over time it causes such a nutritional imbalance that the body begins to break itself down searching for what it needs to keep going.
Picture a metal drum, and in that drum some harsh toxic chemicals have been stored, now for argument sake lets take that drum out back and bury it not far from your “water” source. Now that drum is going to stay secure for a piece of time causing what appears to be little to zero issues, however, as natures waters the ground, and chemical reactions take place within the soil, rust (oxidation) = cells and tissue in the body, begins to take place and eventually that rust will eat all the way thru the wall of that drum and the toxic stuff being stored begins to absorb into the surround soils = fat cells, and eventually makes it way into the water source= blood, lymphatic, organs). Next thing you know a problem manifests, lets suggest auto immune issues, diabetes, lupus, Parkinson’s, arthritis, cancers. How about fibromyalgia which is a central nervous system that is highly inflamed.
Add to the equation the new kids on the block, like Nutra-sweet and sucralose, which are excite-neurotoxins, which means they over excite the nerves in the body and for many cause migraine headaches, nausea, loose stools, tremors….Many reach for these because they think they won’t make them fat like white sugar does, or if they have been diagnosed diabetic they don’t raise the glycemic index, yet truth is many diabetic using these find it harder to regulate their glycemic/insulin levels.
Orthomolecular medicine which is what I incorporate into my Naturopathic practice, means I focus on the use of nutrients to help the body get back on track and take over the self healing process. The health issues sometimes are successfully treated with vitamins and mineral supplementation not necessarily due to deficiencies of these elements. In some cases it may be that the supplements simply act as a catalyst to stimulate certain natural functions in the body that have become subdued due to many years of confusion from improper diet.
HEAVY METAL ISSUES:
There are many folks who are dealing with heavy metal issues and are unaware that is the toxic drum causing their health issues.
Aluminum: its used in aircrafts, pop cans, foil we cook with,cookware, deodorants, various other health and beauty products, it’s used in many vaccines, its even used in processed American cheese so it melts evenly, and used as an anti-caking agent in certain powders like baking powder.
What it is, is a highly reactive element which readily combines with oxygen. This is what makes it stable in the metallic state since it quickly forms a stable oxide coat when exposed to air. So when cooking with tomatoes and other acidic foods, it actually reacts strongly with the aluminum and makes the foods taste like metal.
Nutritionally there is no known use for aluminum, metabolically; aluminum is absorbed in the smallest amounts since it nearly always finds a molecule to react with in the digestive fluids of our stomach.
Alzheimers’, Parkinson’s Disease, Down’s Syndrome are all thought to be associated with abnormal absorption of aluminum in specific areas of the brain tissue. The presence of aluminum, especially in the brain, blocks the normal reactions that involve the mineral zinc. There is however, no known relationship between the normal ingestion of aluminum in our diets and these diseases.
The aluminum content of a plant is a good indicator of the cleanliness of an herb. Especially the roots since aluminum is a major constituent of all soils.
I could run through all the minerals on the elemental chart and truth is they are all present in our soil, which our foods are grown in, the animal meats we eat that feed from those plants grown in those same soils, hence we can obtain iron from eating liver, why because those animals eat plants that obtain the iron from the soil thru their root system and synergistically chemically alter it from what is referred to a “inorganic” (non usable) state to an “organic” (useable) state.
Meaning you cannot take a big ole bite out of a cast iron skillet and swallow it, yet I can bury a cast iron pan and plant some spinach next to it and eat the spinach and gain the iron in my body in a form that my body can unlock for use. We NEED iron, but it boils down to the type… it is either useable or not. So medicinally plants have it going on!
- Fats – beneficial ones and the unhealthy ones too.
- Fiber – mother natures intestinal broom and its available in every fruit, veggies, plant and herb.
- Naturally occurring vitamins, are in every single plant that grows.
HERBS: you may be familiar with, and some that may be new to you.
- ALFALFA: many farmers use this to feed their livestock. It is called the KING OF HERBS. It has been cultivated by man for 1000’s of years. It is good for all inflammation, including arthritis, and Rheumatism, balances blood sugar, helps with cholesterol, purifies the blood and aids in digestion, it is considered to be a digestive tonic.
- ALOE VERA WHOLE LEAF: Cleopatra reputedly attributed her irresistible charm to the use of aloe. New Testament references to an embalming mix of myrrh and aloe. It’s beneficial for burns, skin and stomach ulcers, dysentery, intestinal disorders, longevity, kidney disorders, prostatitis, stimulates hair grown when rubbed on the scalp.
- ALTHEA ROOT (a.k.a. Marshmallow root): We find this in salt marshes, along river banks and other moist areas. It’s ability to bind and eliminate toxins allows the body to keep itself clean. So its good for arthritis, laxative, infection, female tonic, kidney and bladder infections, it soothes the urinary tract, so you will find this in a lot of herbal kidney formulas used to treat bladder infections.
- ASPARAGUS: Many know this as a veggie, which supports the kidney’s and whole urinary system, however, the bitter root is also useful as a blood purifier, diuretic and laxative. Works for parasite issues and because it is high in natural occurring sulfur its wonderful for hair, skin, and nails too.
- ASTRAGALUS ROOT: Chinese use this to treat infections of the mucous membranes especially urinary and respiratory, great against cols, and some say it is used to prevent cancers, and it rejuvenates the digestive organs and helps regulate blood sugar, edema, ulcers, and diabetes.
- BARBERRY BARK: this is a spiny bush that grows to be 10/15 ft. tall, native to Europe and has been brought to the eastern half of the United States. Holly shaped leaves, yellow flowers and dark red to black berries. The bark of the trunk and root is a bitter astringent. So great for use with gastrointestinal ailments, lymphatic, urinary tract issues, respiratory infections. Antifungal, diarrhea, poor appetite, fever, candidiasis and bleeding issues.
- BLACK COHOSH ROOTS: is a tall perennial plant, used by Indiana tribes for snake bites, coughs, chest issues, diarrhea and irregular female monthly cycles. Scarlet fever, measles, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, tinnitus, angina, sexual weakness, hysteria, menopause.
- BLACK WALNUT FRUIT RIND: the seed is edible but herbalists are more interested in the fruit rind than the seed. The yellow rind has a black pulp that stains: the rinds were used to tan animal skins and assist in would healing. It tones and helps heal inflamed damaged tissues. Helps hemorrhoids, intestinal worms, wounds and bruises. Its also high in iodine so it helps support the thyroid, and brushing your teeth with it can whiten teeth and help with gum disease issues.
- BLESSED THISTLE: any farmer knows thistles, their ability to take over a cultivated ground is well known. Hikers know them for the sting they leave on bare legs. But when the spines are ground up with the rest of the plant, the sting disappears and the plant is useful medicinally. It increases mothers milk, helps with painful menstrual cycles.
- BONESET HERB: this grown in marshes, up to 3 ft high, and has a distinctive double leaf, the double leaf looks like a single line that has been speared in the middle by the stem. Famous for reducing fevers, and Native Americans used to treat aches pains and heal broken bones as well as jaundice, bruises, flu, chills, and allergies.
- BURDOCK ROOT: this is a super common weed that grows in almost any uncultivated space. It bears seeds in big round bristly cones that stick to clothing and animal fur. This is the best blood purifier I know, and helps the body to sweat out toxins, and eliminates excess nervous energy.
- CAPSICUM FRUIT: a.k.a. Cayenne pepper, is used for pain, female issues, athletics, infections, heart support, laxatives, thyroid balance, it can stop the bleeding of a cut. sprinkled in socks, and improve the circulation to the feet so also helpful for neuropathy.
- CELERY SEED: great for depressions, blood purifying, urinary tract infections, and blood pressure support.
- CHAMOMILE FLOWERS: relaxing affect for sleep and can be used to add a golden tint to hair, the oil is anti bacterial, anti fungal and good against staph and Candida.
- CHICKWEED: common weed in most yards, It blooms as early as march and goes thru summer, mild herb that is high in protein and minerals, the tops are delicious boiled or as greens in salad. Used as a poultice on abscesses, rashes, removes the heat of infections and draws out poisons, can be useful as eyewash and expectorant.
- DANDELION ROOT: folks do NOT kill this plant in your yards, it is NOT a weed, and I believe because of the widespread distribution is a hint from God that everyone has need of this plant. it is used as a laxative, diuretic, helps various liver/spleen issues, great for heartburn, gout, eczema, you dry and grind the roots then boil and make a coffee version.
I hope you get where this whole post has been leading; everything we need is already here, consider planting edible landscaping so you can harvest what you need for food, as well as health maintenance and support. God gave us a pharmacy already, and years ago, everyone studied and learned what all the plants were for. We have gotten away from much of the history of what plants are useful for. There are many books on the market I’ve included a couple links here to some I personally love:
Jodi Barnett N.D.
QFA Clinician, Orthomolecular Nutritionist
Harvested Health LLC.