Next time consider using one of these natural herbal remedies that have been used by healers for ages to address uncomfortable symptoms. Herbal remedies come with fewer side effects and often cost less than prescription alternatives.
Here are 11 natural herbs that have been used for thousands of years to address pain and dysfunction. Find out if one of these garden-friendly remedies can make a difference for your health and wellness.
Often thought of as a culinary herb, rosemary has more to offer than adding flavor to a roasted chicken. This fragrant, woody evergreen has long been used to treat migraines as well as common aches and pains. Because rosemary contains salicylic acid, which is a forerunner of aspirin, it’s easy to see why it’s commonly applied as a topical treatment for arthritic and rheumatic pain. But rosemary’s value doesn’t stop there.
Powdered rosemary extract can reduce the number of carcinogens produced from cooking meat at high temperatures. If you love grilling up a burger or broiling a steak, try mixing in or adding rosemary to marinades before cooking. It’s even more effective when you combine rosemary with other healthful herbs like oregano, basil, garlic, or parsley. Keep in mind that rosemary is a powerful herb and should not be used if you’re pregnant or nursing without first consulting your healthcare professional.
It’s hard to believe that so many benefits could come from one plant source, but sage has been revered as an effective herb for assisting with everything from bleeding and ulcers to sore throats and coughs. The ancient Greek physician Dioscorides used it to clean sores, alleviate bleeding wounds, and alleviate symptoms of respiratory distress. Later, inhaling steam infused with sage was found to help asthma sufferers at the onset of an attack. Sage also became popular with midwives who used the herb to treat excessive menstrual bleeding, menopausal sweating, or help dry up mother’s milk.
The Chinese used sage as a digestive aid, making it a primary ingredient in tummy-taming teas. Today, sage is being explored for its positive effects on brain function and memory. Researchers are looking for ways to use sage in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Studies have shown positive results for memory in both young and older populations, and participants with Alzheimer’s have shown increased cognition and reduced agitation after taking sage for at least four months.
St. John’s Wort
Many people are familiar with the use of St. John’s Wort to help people who suffer from depression and anxiety. As a folk remedy, it’s been used to help with conditions ranging from kidney trouble to insanity. St. John’s Wort was often considered magical for its calming effect on agitated or “hysterical” people. In addition to its mood stabilizing benefits, St. John’s Wort is also an effective aid in relieving bruises, burns, and open wounds.
St. John’s Wort can also help people get a better night’s sleep. The herb contains melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles, and it stimulates the body’s production of melatonin. The Surgeon General has validated the use of St. John’s Wort to improve sleep, however, it can interact with many prescription medications. If you want to add St. John’s Wort to your regimen, be sure to consult your doctor first.
It’s no secret that mint is well-known for it’s antiseptic, antibacterial, and digestive qualities. There are more than 30 different kinds of mint, and all of them can help you feel better naturally. Greeks used mint in their baths and to clean their banqueting tables, while the Romans recognized mint’s power to aid in digestion and provide fresh breath. Medieval monks also used this pungent herb in cooking and medicines to heal burns and help with aches and indigestion.
Mint’s medicinal use has remained consistent over time. Today it is still used to settle the tummy, freshen breath, alleviate headaches, and cool burns. Mint can be added to food, made into tea, or used topically.
This powerful herb earned its supernatural name from early European settlers who used the branches of the Witch Hazel tree in “divining,” an old-world method used to discover water. It’s first healthful use was by Native Americans, who used the tree’s bark, flowers, and leaves to help soothe sore muscles, treat colds, coughs, dysentery, and skin ailments. Europeans adopted the use of Witch Hazel to deal with outbreaks of dysentery.
Today Witch Hazel is used for it’s antiseptic and healing properties to treat sunburn, help skin recover from wounds, alleviate itching from insect bites, and stop bleeding. It also has some beauty applications. Witch Hazel is a natural astringent that shrinks pores, fades blemishes, and removes excess oil. Look for Witch Hazel as an ingredient in facial treatments designed to fight acne and clear oily skin.
You can do more with this aromatic herb than brighten up your garden or fill a sachet. Lavender has been used for centuries to clean linens, hair, and skin as well as soothe headaches, insect bites, and burns. Lavender is also well known for its calming qualities, helping to alleviate anxiety and induce relaxation. This purple flowering herb is mentioned in the “Song of Solomon” as a key ingredient in a holy ointment referred to as Nard or “spikenard.”
Healthful and culinary uses for lavender have continued to persist through the ages. Many baby products include the oil of this gentle herb to help calm infants and toddlers before bedtime. In addition, it is used for its antiseptic qualities in cleaning products and treatments for rashes and burns. When it comes to food, lavender is seeing a resurgence as a flavoring and decorative addition to everything from cupcakes to artisanal cheeses.
It’s name hints at this ancient herb’s healing abilities. Feverfew is a go-to herb for toothaches, stomachaches, and headaches—and, yes, reducing fevers. Ancient Greek and early European herbalists looked to feverfew for help with all kinds of aches and pains, including women’s monthly troubles and pain resulting from injury and falls. It was considered the aspirin of the 17th century, officially recommended to help with headaches in “Gerard’s Herbal,” which was published in 1633.
Over the years, feverfew’s use has expanded beyond headaches and is now considered to alleviate symptoms of arthritis, constipation, asthma, earaches, vertigo, psoriasis, and a variety of inflammatory conditions. It has been recognized as useful for female health issues including menstrual disorders, however, pregnant and lactating women should avoid it. Feverfew is very pungent and can even be used to purify the air. There can be mild side effects with feverfew use; watch out for canker sores or swelling and irritation of the tongue and lips.
First used in ancient Turkey to keep honey bees returning to their hives, lemon balm has a long and respected history as a useful herb. In Medieval times the leaves were considered magic, able to heal the “bites of mad dogs” and the “stings of venomous beasts.” Carmelite monks closely guarded their special Carmelite water, which used essence of lemon balm to alleviate headaches, reduce nervousness, and bring cheer.
Lemon balm has continued to be a popular antiseptic as well as a natural mood stabilizer. New applications of the herb include anti-viral uses, especially in the treatment of cold sores and shingles. Perhaps the ancients weren’t wrong to hail this healing herb as magical.
This ground-cover is often used to enrich the flavor of sauces and meats; however, thyme has long been used as an antidote to poisoning, a preventer of the plague, and a symbol of bravery in battle. Ancient Romans believed that eating thyme before or after a meal would counteract poisoning—some emperors even bathed in water steeped in thyme to draw out poisons. During the Black Death thyme was used along with other herbs and flowers as a poultice to soothe sores and blisters.
Before refrigeration, thyme was added to meats and breads to stave off spoilage and food-borne diseases. It’s protective powers have led to thyme’s modern use as a detoxification agent and immune system booster. Adding thyme-based formulas to your medicine cabinet before cold and flu season hits, is a smart move.
Chamomile is one of the most well-known ancient healing herbs. For centuries its tiny white blossoms have been used for ailments from hay fever and muscle spasms to insomnia and ulcers. Most commonly used in tea form to aid in relaxation and sleep, chamomile is said to be consumed at the rate of more one million cups per day. However, the power of this flower extends far beyond tea time.
Chamomile is excellent at managing inflammation, revered for its use as a topical agent that successfully penetrates deeper skin layers. General use of chamomile improves immune function, can shorten colds, and provides relief to people suffering from anxiety and sleep disorders.
Originally used by North American shamans and ancient midwives to assist with a variety of women’s health issues, this member of the buttercup family is considered a safe alternative to other hormonal treatments. Historically it was used to aid with many gynecological ailments as well as malaria and rheumatism. Regardless of its effectiveness with other conditions like colds or certain lung conditions, the herb’s most common application always came back to female health.
All those years of use have been validated by modern medicine. In 2001, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated that black cohosh can be effective for women with menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes. Black cohosh is usually taken in pill form, and offers women a natural path to relief.
Whether you’re new to natural herbal remedies or want to expand your use of healing herbs, these ancient all-stars are worth a second look. As with all herbal treatments, consult a physician before use and ensure your supplements and oils are from a reputable source that maintains the purity of the plant’s healing essence.