Do you have a pharmacy in your back yard? Many ordinary plants have medicinal properties. People didn’t always ingest chemicals to cure illnesses and relieve pain and stress. In former times, nature was the source of remedies. Evidence for beneficial plant properties was collected by medieval researchers — information that is still valid today.
With a little know-how you can save money and avoid unpleasant side effects of medications. Even some medical doctors agree that natural remedies should be tried first. Here are some back yard plants that are good for what ails you.
The Amazing Dandelion
The common dandelion is the enemy to people seeking a perfect lawn. But the dandelion is respected worldwide as a food and a medicinal herb. It appears in medical publications and is acknowledged by the USDA as one of the most beneficial plants.
Dandelions are an amazingly rich source of vitamins, trace minerals and micro-nutrients. They promote circulation and lower cholesterol. Their fresh, bitter taste is a message to your liver to produce bile, which aids digestion and keeps you regular. Ask your doctor if you can try dandelion before using a diuretic drug. Dandelion blossoms and leaves are best eaten fresh and raw or brewed in tea, rather than extracts in capsules.
Dandelions can be put in salad or made into soup, fritters and a zesty gelatin dessert. The roots can be dried and brewed into a coffee-like drink. And as author Ray Bradbury says, making dandelion wine is like bottling summer itself.
Avoid dandelion if you have trouble with your gall bladder.
Tart and Tangy Wood Sorrel
Growing between the cracks in your sidewalk and in clusters in your yard, wood sorrel looks like three-leaf clovers with tiny yellow flowers. It has a sharp mustard-lemon flavor and is traditionally used in salad and as an ingredient in fish sauces. You can even combine it with sugar and orange peel to make jam.
Wood sorrel is loaded with vitamin C. It stops nausea and diarrhea, cools fever, quenches thirst and regulates menstrual periods. It’s a diuretic and blood purifier. A dilute solution can be used as an eyewash or a mouthwash to freshen breath and heal canker sores. For cuts, bruises or scrapes, make a strong decoction, soak a bandage in it and place it over the injury. This decoction can also be used as a foot bath.
Because of its high oxalic acid content, wood sorrel should be ingested in small amounts at a time. People who have or are prone to gout shouldn’t use wood sorrel at all.
You’re probably most familiar with chamomile on the tea shelves of your neighborhood grocery or drug store. But it’s not just a sleepy-time relaxer. It’s been used as an anti-anxiety medication for centuries. Scientists are looking at chamomile’s properties as an antioxidant, antimicrobial and immune system booster. Researchers in Japan found that chamomile tea may help prevent diabetes complications.
Chamomile is a tall wildflower found in the northern and eastern U.S. It looks like a big white daisy with a fuzzy yellow ball at the center. It has a fruity aroma. Herb lore calls chamomile the “plant doctor” because its properties support and strengthen nearby plants. Dilute chamomile tea can be used as plant food. Spray it on plants in your flower or vegetable garden — it’s a natural insect repellent!
Some people are allergic to chamomile or get stomach cramps from it. Use with care if you’ve never tried it before.
If you don’t have these plants you can find them growing wild and transplant them. Your local nursery may sell seeds for wood sorrel and chamomile.
An infusion is a normal tea. Boil water and then steep the herb in it for several minutes.
To make a decoction, which is stronger, boil the herb in water for about ten minutes and strain.
Like allopathic medicines, herbal remedies work differently for everybody. For more details ask a naturopathic physician and read some books about the properties of herbs.