Pachamama Alliance is not an expert in medicine, and we recommend that you consult your health practitioner before using any of the herbs mentioned in this blog post.
Herbalism, rooted in our ancestors’ connection with the earth and honored as a healing art, has survived the test of time. Records of Native American, Asian, Roman, Ayurvedic (Indian), Egyptian, Hebrew, and Persian medical practices show that herbs were used spiritually and medicinally, to bring the whole person (body, mind, and spirit) back into balance and harmony, and cure many illnesses.
Today, indigenous rainforest tribes around the world rely on the forests for virtually all their medicines. They too, have incorporated herbs into their spiritual practices and daily lives. Researchers estimate that the world’s rainforests contain literally thousands of potentially useful medicinal plants—another powerful reason to support the work of the Pachamama Alliance in preserving the Ecuadorian rainforest!
Restoring Balance and Harmony with Herbs
Thanks to the herbal legacy handed down to us from traditional cultures, today we have an herbal pharmacopoeia that can be used to eliminate and prevent illness, maintain a healthy immune system, and promote health, wellness, and longevity.
I have compiled a list of five of my beloved herbs from my home medicine chest that you can use to maintain well-being and balance. We invite you to share your most essential healing herbs in the comments, as well.
The healing heritage of ginger is unmatched in the history of medicine. Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic systems viewed ginger as a healing gift from God. It has a substantial body of scientific data in support of its digestion-enhancing activities that include elimination of intestinal gas, and the relaxation of the intestinal tract.
Ginger also contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which have been shown to effectively treat osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Paul Pitchford explains that because ginger is a pungent food like onions and garlic, it helps disperse the stuck, mucus-laden energy of the lungs and colon. He recommends drinking cups of hot diaphoretic (perspiration inducing) ginger tea made of fresh ginger root and boiled water to sweat out a cold or flu. A common folk remedy for the cold and flu calls for adding fresh lemon juice (an astringent) and raw honey (an anti-microbial) to the ginger tea.
Native Americans used boneset in the treatment of aches and pains of what they called “break-bone fever” or influenza. They also used boneset to help mend bones that had been broken.
At the onset of a flu, I immediately brew only one cup of mint or lavender tea with a teaspoon of dried boneset which not only acts as decongestant and a diaphoretic agent, but also reduces the pain and muscle aches of the flu or a cold. Since boneset has a bitter taste, blending it with another herb like mint or lavender and adding raw honey makes it more enjoyable.
People of ancient India believed that turmeric contains the energy of the Divine Mother, helps to grant prosperity, cleanses the chakras (energy centers in the body), and purifies the channels of the subtle body. A member of the ginger family, turmeric is the major ingredient in curry powder, and is also used in prepared mustard as the yellow-orange coloring agent.
Turmeric’s yellow pigment, curcumin, has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in a variety of research studies especially in the treatment of osteoarthritis. There have also been studies that point to curcumin’s capacity to selectively kill tumor cells in cancer.
One of the ways, I like to incorporate turmeric into my daily meals is by keeping a shaker of turmeric (along with other herbs such as powdered dulse or kelp, cumin, ginger, and cinnamon), on my kitchen table. I sprinkle this blend of powerful immune boosting herbs whenever I can on soups, salads, yogurt, cooked rice, or buttered toast.
The ancient Greeks held parsley to be sacred, using it not only to adorn victors of athletic contests but also to decorate the tombs of the deceased. It is loaded with nutrients such as chlorophyll, Vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Recent scientific research suggests that apigenin, a compound found in high concentrations in parsley and celery, possesses growth inhibitory abilities against many human cancer cell lines, including breast, colon, thyroid, ovarian, lung, and prostate cancer.
Parsley marries well with lettuce for salads, garlic and extra virgin olive oil for pesto sauce, and as a seasoning for roasted chicken or fish, scrambled eggs, and salad dressings.
From ancient times to the present, dandelion has been valued as a whole body tonic and a medicine. Dandelion root is regarded as one of the finest liver remedies according to Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno. It contains higher nutritional value than many other vegetables because it is an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, thiamin, calcium, choline and inulin (promotes friendly intestinal bacteria).
Studies show that dandelion root improves the flow of bile, improving liver congestion as well as the liver’s ability to clear toxins. Since we live in a toxic world today, helping our hardworking livers to clear toxins by eating dandelions is vital.
I love to make a salad of fresh dandelion leaves with the roots from the Farmers’ Market with sliced, sweet strawberries which balance the bitter flavor of the dandelion greens. Simply add sliced red onion, a bit of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, toss gently and serve.
Nurturing our Whole Selves with Herbs
As our ancestors knew all along, when we use herbs or any plant from nature in their complete or whole forms, our bodies’ healing process benefits from a synergistic blend of nutrients that are wisely combined by Nature’s intelligence. Nurturing our whole selves with whole herbs gives us another way to connect with Pachamama and our ancestors who used herbs for medicine, ceremonies and celebrations.
As we honor our herbal plant allies, we offer our prayers and offerings to the Earth and to the plant spirits in gratitude for their remarkable healing powers. Namaste!