The southwest is a fascinating and unique area in the western United States. When one drives through a desert in the southwest, it may look quite sparse, with seemingly only a few cactus plants here and there. The southwest desert, however, actually has an abundance of plants and herbs long used for their medicinal and healing properties. The use of herbs of the southwest can be traced back in history to the age of the Incas as they made their trek from Peru to New Mexico. What was discovered long ago in history, and still appeals to men and women today, is that the goal with herb usage is to treat the whole person, not just the ailment.
A popular herb of the southwest is yerba mansa. It has large green leaves and white flowers, and an aroma similar to that of eucalyptus. This herb has long been used to treat arthritis, with some patients stating they have actually cut down or eliminated costly drugs due to the use of this herb. It is said to be very effective in promoting the excretion of uric acid, which individuals dealing with arthritis know is an essential step to eliminating pain.
Another popular herb of the southwest, used practically everywhere in the world today is juniper. Juniper plants are fern like in appearance with bright pink flowers that open in the morning and close at night. They are used to treat headaches due to their strong vaso-dilating properties.
A herb called saw palmetto is arguably one of the most popular of all southwestern herbs. Widely used to treat stomachache and dysentery, its most popular modern day use is to promote prostrate health, a claim that exists in such numbers, it has gotten the attention of the FDA and they are now in the process of clinical trials.
Yucca is another herb native to the southwest and used for thousands of years for arthritis, although unlike yerba mansa, the exact mechanism of why it is beneficial for this is unknown. It has a tree like appearance and a cream colored flower grows at the very top of it. It is easy to confuse with other western herbs, so one must check for fibers that grow from the leaf margins to make certain it is indeed the yucca plant.
An herb with a funny name but a very useful purpose is one called prickly pear. This is an herb derived from the classic western cactus from where it gets its name. This plant was thus named because it was widely used to keep hoofed invaders from stepping into an area that needed to be protected. This was very effective due to the cactus needles which are abundant on the surface of the plant. For medicinal purposes it is touted as one of the best herbs for use in infections as it has numerous antibacterial properties.
Cliffrose is a western herb commonly used as a cough suppressant. This somewhat bitter mixture is said to calm even the most viscous coughs as those seen in pneumonia and more serious chronic lung conditions such as severe asthma and lung cancer. It grows in a thin shrub like formation on hillsides and bushy slopes.
Along with the more popular southwestern herbs listed above, there are many others used in modern times, and all through history, such as mesquite and cayenne for flavoring foods, acacia for nausea and hangovers, and sagebrush for disinfecting wounds and skin irritations.
Herbs have obviously proved their beneficial value to mankind again and again, and will most likely continue to do so in years to come. As always, it is best for an individual to be sure his or her family doctor is aware of any herbs or supplements they choose to use.