Saturday, May 12, 2012

Herbal Remedies

I'm not much of a fan of pharmaceuticals, and usually I stay pretty healthy just through diet and exercise. However, I am fond of a few herbal remedies when certain health issues come up. As a caveat, one should use caution when taking any medication, herbal or otherwise, and if you take prescription drugs or have a health issue, it would be wise to consult with both your doctor and an herbalist (don't expect your regular doctor to know anything about herbs) before using an herbal medicine. If you're basically healthy, googling the herb and checking for the side effects or interactions is probably sufficient. I will say that my husband and I have taken the herbs I'm about to mention with no side effects whatsoever.

Cold/Sinus/Allergy Herbs
Echinacea (this one is fairly commonly known, it is a general immune booster)
Nettle (this stuff tastes VERY strong but is good for allergies and sinus-- its super-strong taste alone is enough to clear out your sinuses!)
Schisandria (helps with sore throats)
Sage (also soothing for throats)

I suffered from horrible PMS until I discovered some of these herbs. It was life-changing. I should mention that I DO NOT take oral birth control and those who do should potentially not use these herbs.
Dong Quai (helps to generally regulate cycle and reduce PMS discomfort)
Black Cohosh (this one helps the uterus to relax and shed-- I take it the last 8 days of my cycle and can keep myself on an exact 28-day cycle if I remember to take it the last week, it also helps with cramps during menstruation)
Evening Primrose Oil (also brings on menstruation and aids with cramps, I have known pregnant women who were late delivering and used it to induce labor)
My personal favorite is a melange sold at Westerly Natural Market in Manhattan known as Fem Cycle. If you can't get to this store, there are many tinctures which contain a series of female herbs. Fem Cycle contains Chaste Tree Berries, Wild Yam Root, Dong Quai, Red Raspberry Leaf, Licorice Root, Oregon Grape Root, Cramp Bark, Nettles Leaf, Fresh Garrya Herb.

Willow Bark (natural salycic acid, which is the active ingredient in aspirin)

St. John's Wort (mood stabilizer, a natural version of Prozac. Helps with depression and anxiety. Has a host of potential interactions and side effects, so google extensively before deciding to use it. Super helpful if it's right for you, good for short and long-term use.)
Kava (helps with relaxation and sleeping. Take in moderation and do not mix with alcohol)

These various herbs can be taken as tinctures (dried herbs soaked in alcohol-- similar concept to vanilla extract) or as infusions (similar to tea, usually an expensive option.) The least expensive option is making your own tinctures, which I do. In order to do this, cover 1 parts herb to 1 part water to 2-4 parts grain alcohol. You have to adjust according to what the herb is, this information is easily found online. Dried herbs can be purchased in New York at Flower Power in the East Village. The women who work there will be sure to tell you that they cannot give medical advice, and then proffer a bounty of useful information.

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