Sunday, July 09, 2006

Herbs riding high, especially healthy ones

November 3, 1999Web posted at: 11:04 a.m. EST (1604 GMT)
(AP) -- Herbs are riding a high wave of popularity these days, especially plants deemed good for your health. As evidence of the interest in herbal medicine, the New York Botanical Garden held a two-day symposium this fall featuring lectures on healing plants through the ages.
The creators of the wide-ranging program overlooked little related to herbs. One lecture centered on slowing the aging process and another on using herbs to ease stress
One could learn about American Indian curing strategies, or be taken back to the Indian subcontinent to delve into the rise of Ayurveda 2,500 years ago, considered the first complete medical system based on holistic therapies.
Much of the program dealt with herbal medicines at health stores or those prescribed by naturopathic and holistic practitioners. But a gardener may also grow some herbs on his own and put them to use as preventives or to treat minor ailments.

The consensus among three of the lecturers was that a gardener should proceed with caution and restraint when making a self-diagnosis and considering herbal treatments. No more than a cup or two of a medicinal herbal beverage should be used a day. If an ailment persists, seek professional help.
"The idea behind a gardener using plants, or at least their leaves, for their health is to enjoy their plants more fully, to stay healthier, as opposed to treating specific diseases," said Jennifer Brett, a naturopathic physician in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Brett named the dandelion, which is loaded with vitamins and minerals, as a powerfully versatile herb. "There isn't a part we can't use," she said.
The leaves go in salads, while the milky fluid in the flower stem is used as a wart remover. Rub it on a wart, and it will burn it away, she said. The root helps the liver when made into a tea, she said.
A tea or oil made of marigold flowers can help with rashes, mainly eczema, and with minor burns or cuts, Brett said. The tea requires two tablespoons of crushed fresh flowers per cup of hot water, while the oil is made with dried flowers. Rub it on the rash twice a day, and if it doesn't improve in two or three days, get medical attention, she said.
Lavender, an easily grown perennial, helps relax people who are feeling stress, Brett said. You make a beverage out of the flower spikes and drink some every day. A cup of mint tea after a heavy meal helps digestion and prevents gas, burping and nausea, Brett said. The tea is made from the flowers just before they bloom. There are many varieties of different tasting mints.
Another lecturer, Ellen Kamhi of Oyster Bay, New York, a nurse with a doctorate in public health, mentioned that pumpkin seeds are good for male virility because of their high zinc content. Pumpkins require a lot of space in a home garden, but the harvested seeds are often found at supermarkets.
Garlic, long enjoyed for its taste but vilified for the ensuing halitosis, continues to get attention as a health food. Kamhi said recent research has focused on the bulb's high sulfur compounds to fight invading micro-organisms and on its ability to decrease bad cholesterol. She suggested eating two raw cloves a day, accompanied by parsley to mitigate the bad breath.
Kamhi said St. John's wort, highly publicized as an anti-depressant, is "helpful as a mood elevator." The plant sports a beautiful yellow flower, which is the part you use medicinally. She suggested using a teaspoon of the flower in hot water. "Try a cup and see if it cheers you up a bit," she said.
Kamhi co-authored a book with naturopath Eugene R. Zampieron of Woodbury, Connecticut, entitled "The Natural Medicine Chest" (M. Evans & Co., 1999, $14.95 paperback) in which they describe an extensive list of potentially healthful herbs and other plants from aloe vera to wild yams.
Zampieron, who also lectured at the Botanical Garden, mentioned the small, mint family plant skullcap as "one of the best natural remedies for hypertension, high blood pressure, insomnia, restlessness and worry as well as headaches."
It "works much faster" than St. John's wort, Zampieron said.

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