Herbs and their Benefits

I would like to thank Tracie Little again for speaking with us today about herbs, their benefits and ways to incorporate them into our daily regimens.  Tracie also provided some outstanding information about where to learn more about this topic, which I, certainly, will be utilizing. 
I would also like to extend a thank you to the following attendees who braved the cold morning weather to get to our meeting: Christiana Herndon, Brystana Kaufman, Carly Erickson, Diane Swan, Libby Ann Capaldi and Chris Bouton.  It was an extremely interesting and informative discussion, and each of you had something important to add.  This is one of my favorite things about our Wellness of Chatham meetings, we all can learn so much from one another’s passions and expertise.
So, let’s get into the highlights . . . there were many!
First, the list of the herbs discussed:
Elderberry
This shrub grows well here in NC and is similar in taste to the blueberry, but more bitter.
Both its berries and flowers offer health benefits.
It stimulates and supports the immune system and is safe to take on a daily basis.
The antioxidant value of elderberries makes it excellent for strengthening cellular walls as well as our circulatory system.
It is excellent to use for children and the elderly.
The supplement company, New Chapter, has done many studies on the benefits of Elderberry.
It can be made into and taken as syrup, cordial, tea, jelly and juice (usually mixed with other, sweeter juices).
If growing elderberry, it likes “wet feet,” and can be found along water areas and where drainage isn’t as good.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
This herb is native to India, but grows very well in NC.
In India, they have used it traditionally in prayer to uplift their spirits and make offerings to the gods.
It will reseed itself and, similar to mint, can take over an area very quickly.
It is good for mild depression, balancing blood sugar, helping to decrease and maintain cortisol levels and with sharpening memory. 
It is good for balancing the nervous system, the bronchial system and the intestinal tract.
If you juice the leaves of the holy basil plant, you can use it to bring down fever.
It can be made into tea, pesto, used as a spice to flavor foods and as a cordial.
It has a sweet, “bubble gum” scent to it and is especially delicious as a tea.
The tea company, Tulsi, has a tremendous line of holy basil teas that are grown in India under excellent conditions.
Lemon Balm
This herb is native to southern Europe and also grows very well in NC.
Lemon Balm is anti-viral and exibits anti-histamine properties, so it is good for relieving colds, flu, fever and other viruses. 
It has a very calming affect on the body and is great for kids and menopausal women.
It has been used to lower blood pressure and has been found to inhibit the growth of tumor cells.
It can be made into tea, used as a spice to flavor foods and as a cordial.
Kava Root
This herb is a tropical shrub.
The root is beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety.
It settles and calms the mind and nervous system and is great for those going through detox.
The plant contains kavalactones which are natural chemicals that have a positive effect on mood and well being.
Kava extract can be used to treat the stiffness and pain associated with conditions such as arthritis.
It can help to sharpen the senses and provide extra energy.
Proper dosage is imparative with Kava Root, as it can bring the body to such relaxation that one is unable to move.
It can be made into an extract, capsule, loose powder, tea and cordial.
Plantain
The herb plantain is often considered a weed and grows very well in NC.
It holds powerful skin-healing properties in its broad, heavily veined leaves.
It “pulls” toxins from bites, stings and is effective at treating diaper rash and hemorrhoids.
It offers an all-natural relief from conjunctivitis, also known as pink-eye.
Physillium seed, known as a source of fiber, comes from the plantain plant.
It is best used fresh or dried depending on the ailment.
Stinging Nettles
The herb is a perennial plant that can grow from three to seven feet tall and does grow in NC.
It is best known for its leaves and stems, which are covered with fine spines.
It has been used to treat joint pain and also contains significant amounts of calcium and iron.
The chemicals within the “juice” from a broken nettle spine include histamines and serotonin.
It can be made into teas, salves, creams, extracts and supplements.
In addition to discussing these herbs, Tracie offered information on Medicines of the Earth, a medical symposium put on by Gaia Herbs, an herbal and supplement company out of Brevard, NC, as well as the Southeast Herbal Women’s Conference which discusses the day-to-day use of herbs.
She also defined “allies” which are those herbs that we, as individuals, keep coming back to.  Our bodies will tell us what we need, and as soon as we know the benefits of a given herb, the body can tell if it is something that we need for support and balance. 
Tracie talked, additionally, about the work of Rosemary Gladstar and the United Plant Savers program.  They focus on saving medicinal plants in their environments and help individuals turn their own land into botanical santuaries.  For more information, you can check out http://www.unitedplantsavers.org/
For those looking for a local herbalist, Tracie provided the names of Suki Roth http://www.herbhaven.com/, Kim Calhoon http://abundancehealingarts.com/index.html and Wild Will http://sites.google.com/site/willswildherbs1/
 
Also discussed were the two resources for finding good, quality herbs: Botanical Preservation Corps http://botanicalpreservationcorps.com/ and Mountain Rose Herbs http://mountainroseherbs.com/
 
Finally, we discussed planning some herb walks and a cordial-making workshop.  Tracie explained that cordials are a nice way to be able to take your herbs and were easy to make yourself.  A great resource for making them is Theresa Boardwine http://greencomfortherbschool.com/gc/home.html and her book Cordially Yours.
 
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