Today, not everybody appreciates herbal medicine. And that’s putting it lightly. A well-meaning suggestion for a friend to try a herbal remedy can be met with a frosty response. You may be seen as one of those crazy people who doesn’t believe in science, instead preferring vague folk wisdom. But do not be too hard on your friend, the pharmaceutical industry has spent billions trying to convince the world that herbal medicine isn’t real. Fortunately for us crazy herbalists, the science is clear. Herbs work.
As it becomes more and more obvious that modern drugs harm both your body and your bank account, there has been a flurry of research into century-old treatments that literally grow on trees And it turns are that all those strange leaves, roots, flowers and seeds, that have been bubbling away in the cauldrons of healers across the world for millennia, were not just for show.
You may have heard the phrase, “gone but not forgotten”, but with healing herbs, it is the other way around. They are still here, but we have forgotten what they are for. Here is an interesting experiment to try. Take a look in your cupboard, and pick a couple of the herbs you have in there. If you don’t have any, berate yourself for being unable to cook then visit a friend who can. Search the names of any of the herbs into Google Scholar (which searches for research papers) and take a look at the published studies. For example, this search reveals that the Rosemary you put on your potatoes the other day is currently being investigated by top scientists all over the world, for its ability to heal all sorts of ailments (from depression to radiation poisoning).
Once you get into these studies, you realize that not only are herbal medicines powerful but that the way they work is incredibly subtle and so complex that even the most accomplished scientists often have to resort to speculation. Modern science likes killing things and breaking them up into little pieces to see how they work. And this attitude sometimes causes scientists to go on a fruitless quest to find the “active ingredient” that gives a herb its power (ideally so it can be modified, synthesized, patented and sold for billions, ensuring the scientist a life of yachts, hookers and cocaine). But there are flaws in this approach since in reality, there are thousands, if not millions of active ingredients all working together in harmony with the most complex thing in the known universe – that human body you are sitting in right now.
Take for example our most popular healing herb: black cumin seed – the oil of which is our best-selling product. In ancient times it was said to “cure everything but death” (which we are probably not legally allowed to put on the label). In recent times, clever people in white coats have shown that black seed oil helps with a staggering number of medical conditions. We know it works, but exactly why is not so clear due to the huge number of active ingredients so far identified. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential oils, the DNA-enhancing Thymoquinone and similar substances, melanin (which gives black people their superpowers), and a million other things. The main thing is that it works, and you should take it!
OK so now that we have shamelessly plugged our favourite product, we may as well reveal that all of the herbs in this article can be found in our second-favourite, the probiotic VitaBiosa. But of course, you can take them individually – or cook with them.
The distinctive star-shaped seeds are mostly known for their strong liquorice flavour (which you will probably want to stay away from if you ever drank too much sambuca).
Anise has loads of healing properties. It has been used for centuries to promote sleep, heal infections, and promote dental health. Research has shown it helps with indigestion and respiratory problems. It can also up your social standing by reducing flatulence and bad breath.
Not just for making pesto. This essential-oil packed powerhouse has many medicinal properties. It can boost the immune system, stimulate your stomach, calm your mood and reduce indigestion. There is some interesting research showing that it appears to reduce blood sugar, making it a potential ally in the battle against diabetes (the deadly condition largely brought about by shockingly unhealthy diets that are prevalent in the modern world).
One of our favourites, this herb was prized by the ancient Egyptians whose knowledge of health and spirituality is very much needed in today’s world of bloated bodies and shrunken souls.
Sure, it makes a nice curry, but did you know that it lowers blood sugar and cholesterol? It also has anti-viral, digestion promoting properties. You can find out more about Fenugreek in our Ancient Egyptian Herbs Article
Dill is famous since it is used to flavour pickles, which often end up in burgers. Perhaps not the most efficient use of this sacred herbal master-healer. It has a long history of medicinal use for conditions ranging from insomnia to colic.
Modern research has revealed it to be an anti-oxidant and a potent anti-bacterial agent, it even has the power to vanquish the dreaded e.coli.
I am unable to think of Juniper without this clip from Monty Python’s Life of Brian coming to mind. Actually, this comedy is historically accurate because Juniper was used for all sorts of reasons in ancient times in the middle east.
It was most prized for its disinfectant properties, being burned as incense by those guys with the scary bird-masks during the great plague. It may not have made a huge difference, but they were on the right track since Juniper is an effective disinfecting agent. Modern research shows it not only kills bacteria but also fungal infections. Like Basil, Juniper also appears to lower blood sugar.
This is another one of our favourites, it couldn’t have a better testimonial since it was promoted by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine who – unbeknownst to many – was trained by ancient Egyptian mystics.
In these less enlightened times, the healing powers of fennel have been forgotten and it is mostly known as a cooking ingredient. But we now know that Hippocrates was right to hype this one because of its many scientifically verified medicinal properties.
In females, it has hormone regulating properties. It promotes lactation, improved period pain and PMS symptoms. It also has anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.
If you ever fell into a pile of these as a kid, you may not have the fondest impression of nettles. But it is time to forgive and forget, replacing those painful memories with knowledge of this herb’s incredible healing properties.
Nettle tea has a long history in Europe, in the middle ages, it was deemed a cure for practically anything. Today it has attracted a great deal of research attention thanks to its yet-to-be-explained ability to prevent seasonal allergies, its hormone-regulating properties, and its ability to aid digestion. Historically seen as a blood-cleaning substance, this is now somewhat verified by its apparent ability to help the kidneys excrete waste products. Nettle has shown some great promise with arthritis, and many sufferers drink the tea every day with great results.
They say that time is a great healer. Actually, they were talking about thyme. This is another powerful herb that has been largely forgotten outside of cooking. But in the past, it was given for both respiratory and digestive disorders.
People who use this today for medical conditions may be written off as eccentrics, but the science is firmly on their side. Science has revealed that Thyme is a powerful disinfectant, making it a great remedy for stomach infections. Its ability to clear mucous from the lungs has made it a bronchitis remedy that, according to some studies, works just as well as pharmaceutical treatments.
These days, Elder is most famed for its berries, which have been historically used to treat colds and fever. But it isn’t just the berries that are of interest: the roots, leaves, and flowers are also full of goodness.
While the anti-bacterial effects of Elder have been long established, newer research is showing it to be a potent anti-viral agent, effective against many types of influenza and other common viruses. Elder increases the production of stomach acid, making it easier for that miraculous body of yours to break down and extract nutrients from the stuff you put in your mouth.
Traditional Chinese medicine does not distinguish between foods and medicines. And this makes sense given the incredible healing properties that so many cooking ingredients have. Ginger has been widely consumed in China for centuries, and the modern Chinese have a keen interest in applying scientific research to ancient foods. This means that ginger is one of the most studied herbs of all time.
Some say that nature made healing herbs taste good so that we would consume them. It certainly worked with ginger, which thanks to its unique flavour, is eaten in huge quantities all over the world. Research shows it is effective against nausea (without causing side effects), it reduces arthritis pain, cures awful bacterial infections like dysentery, and it suppresses fever. Like Aspirin and Ibuprofen, Ginger thins the blood, but unlike these over-the-counter tablets of death, it does so without preventing coagulation or damaging the stomach. It also has cancer-preventing properties which are currently under close investigation in labs all around the world.
- Angelica (Wild Celery)
If you are an Inuit living on the freezing plains of Greenland, you may recognize this as an important food source. Otherwise, you probably haven’t heard of it. But this herb has a rich history and was widely used in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries to fight against some of the deadly infections of the time.
Often a clue to a herb’s power is found in its name, the scientific name of this one is “Angelica Archangelica”. Anything named after multiple heavenly beings is probably good for you
It is definitely a herb that deserves more attention. As well as killing infections, Angelica promotes calmness and sleep. It is also effective against all sorts of digestive problems.
Does even the humble parsley possess healing potential? I think you can guess the answer! The ancient Greeks revered parsley so much that they gave it a cool origin story, it sprang from the blood of a hero who made the unfortunate mistake of getting eaten by monstrous serpents. His sacrifice was not in vain, because parsley is a remarkable plant.
is famed for strengthening the stomach. Recent research has revealed it as having anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and even laxative properties (so be careful). One fascinating property is that it appears to protect us from carcinogenic substances.
The trendy cousin of Parsely, this herb has been used throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, and Southern Europe for centuries as a healer and flavour enhancer.
It shares many of the same healing properties of parsley and has attracted a fair amount of research, much of it focusing on Chervil essential oil which is packed with beneficial compounds.
Many of us remember eating sugar and additive packed “liquorice allsorts” as children. This, quite frankly, makes a mockery of this ancient Egyptian mystical herb of wonder. Liquorice was so treasured by the ancient Egyptians that it was found in the tombs of Pharaohs amongst their most prized possessions.
Fast-forward to today’s world and there is a great deal of research interest, particularly in China, where this herb has been used for centuries. The anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties of liquorice are so potent that in that laboratory studies have seen it vanquish some of the most vicious diseases known to man (think MRSA and HIV). Not only that, but it can kill cancer cells. Those ancient Egyptians knew their stuff!
All over the world, people are unwittingly sprinkling this miracle-herb on pizza, thinking of it as merely a flavour enhancer. How little do they know! Ít has been traditionally used to treat all sorts of infections, being popular amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The anti-bacterial effects are widely known today, and Oregano is being investigated for its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-cancer properties. Be careful if you are going to use oregano oil though, it burns! Remember the scene in the movie Aliens, where the blood of the alien burnt a hole through multiple floors of the spaceship? That was actually Oregano Oil. So dilute it.
This herb features so heavily in modern products that it is easy to forget it is a herb that grows out of the ground like any other. We find it in chewing gum, toothpaste, and those little mints that freshen your breath, making you irresistible to the opposite sex. Although today, Peppermint is combined with all sorts of additives, it does make sense to use it for oral health since it is useful against both gum disease and cavities.
Historically it has been used for all sorts of conditions, with its effects on the digestive system getting a lot of recent research attention. It reduces symptoms of IBS, kills food-poisoning-causing bacteria, prevents stomach pain, and can stop diarrhoea. As well ask killing bacteria, it has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
- Roman Chamomile
Today, it is not uncommon for people to sip chamomile tea, to prepare themselves for sleep after a hard day in the matrix. But the calming and sleep-promoting properties of this herb are just the tip of the iceberg.
Chamomile was so sacred to the ancient Egyptians, that they dedicated it to the sun god, the literal source of all life! And it seems they were right to give it such acclaim. Modern studies show that Chamomile extracts kill cancer cells. Chamomile not only lowers blood sugar but prevents cell damage caused by excess sugar, so it is being investigated as a solution for diabetes. It has immune-boosting properties, it reduces anxiety, helps with osteoporosis and if we carried on talking about its properties, we’d be here all day!
A herb so holy, it sends evil spirits running for the hills, hence it is known as “run duppy” in Jamaican. We wrote an entire article about his powerful healing herb, which has been shown to protect people from the damaging effects of EMF radiation (which is constantly increasing thanks to our not-so-smart phones). Rosemary kills harmful bacteria and acts on the central nervous system (studies show it has calming, mood-enhancing, and sleep-promoting effects). You can read our full article here.
See scientific Rosemary studies. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=rosemary&btnG=
If you are seeking spiritual wisdom, and climb to the top of a holy mountain, you may be lucky enough to find a wise, bearded sage who will gladly reveal to you the secrets of the universe. But there is an even better type of sage, and you may even have it in your kitchen.
Sage has a long history of medicinal use, especially in Europe. The word “Sage” literally means “To Cure” and it seems to do just that! Studies have revealed it to be effective against bacterial and viral infections. It aids digestion in many ways, such as aiding gastric acid and bile production and killing harmful bacteria. It has also been used to treat sore throats, dental pain, and bad breath.
We Need Herbs More Than Ever
With the advent of processed food, and cheap, addictive additives, many people are no longer consuming many healing herbs. This results in all sorts of medical problems that often are treated with drugs which produce even more problems. On top of this pharmaceutical bombardment, we pollutants, pesticides, EMF radiation, alcohol, cigarettes… a million things wreaking havoc on our DNA. One of the chief ways that healing herbs help us is through their anti-oxidant effect; basically, they soak up the rouge molecules that arise from the above toxins and prevent our DNA from getting messed up. If you made it through this rather long article, you would have seen the incredible benefits herbs have against infections, viruses, cancer cells, and many other things. So for this reason (along with the cancer-fighting, bacteria and virus killing, digestion-promoting, immune-boosting, and other effects) getting plenty of herbs in your diet makes all the difference.
All the above herbs can be found in our favourite probiotic supplement, VitaBiosa (where they exist in a fermented form, making it easier for your body to digest). Please see this article for more info about the importance of probiotics. We also stock many of these herbs individually. Making a habit to cook with organic, non-GMO herbs can make a huge difference to your health, and there may be cases where you would benefit from taking specific herbs in teas, tinctures and supplements. You are welcome to pop into our shop in Brixton for a free consultation or contact us online.