From The Herbal Apothecary:
Herbs to Start Using Today
(Matricaria chamomilla or its wild foraged substitute Matricaria discoidea, commonly known as pineapple weed, wild chamomile or disc mayweed) is one of the most common herbs found in the American household. It promotes relaxation and sleep, is categorized by herbalists as a nervine and its effects are well established. Drinking a 10-minute steeped tea of fresh or dried flowers and/or bathing in a tea that has been steeped for an hour or longer is a classic remedy used to promote sleep and ease anxiety.
Lesser known effects of chamomile include inflammation reduction (internally and topically); soothing to the skin and mucous membranes; a bitter digestive aid; and possible anticancer properties.
To make chamomile tea, measure one teaspoon of flowers (fresh or dried) and place in a tea bag or tea ball. Place it in a cup and pour boiling water over it. For a soothing relaxing tea, drink after this has steeped for 10 minutes. As a digestive aid or to add to a bath, let the herb steep for up to an hour. To promote digestion, take one teaspoon of the strong, bitter tea. For the bath, remove the tea ball or bag and pour the tea into the bathtub, climb in and soothe the entire body, or add to a foot bath to enjoy a relaxing soak for tired feet.
Garlic (Allium sativum): Garlic and other related Allium family plants like onions, leeks and shallots are amazing herbs to bring into a diet on a regular basis. Many people enjoy garlic, which is readily available at almost any grocery store and it is quite easy to grow. In addition to being an amazing spice, garlic is an effective antibiotic herb. This plant family contains many important immune-boosting and infection-fighting varieties that are easy to grow, purchase and incorporate into meals. Garlic is widely recognized as an agent to help aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
One of the most important compounds in fresh garlic is an amino acid called allicin, a powerful substance responsible for some of the plant’s healing properties. When the clove is crushed, chopped or chewed, the enzyme alliinase is released and converted into other sulfur-containing compounds that exhibit antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and antiprotozoal activity. Allicin also comprises the plant’s own defense against attacks by pests.
The most effective way to ingest garlic is fresh, not cooked. Add it to salad dressings, dips, spreads, cheese and even honey. A traditional preparation, known as fire cider, can be made by filling a jar with garlic, onions, horseradish and other spicy herbs and pouring apple cider vinegar over them. Let this mixture sit for up to six weeks, then strain. This preparation is often taken by the spoonful and used to help prevent colds and flu. Add to salad dressings, marinades and/or simply drizzle on to greens.
These three herbs help to build and protect immune health, strengthen the body by offering essential vitamins and minerals, support digestion and protect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. They are relatively easy to incorporate into the kitchen and apothecary, and have the capacity to keep the body healthy and strong.
Linda Conroy is an herbalist, community organizer, founder of Moonwise Herbs and founder and organizer of the annual Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, to be held May 29 through 31, in Almond, WI. For more information, visit MoonwiseHerbs.com and MidwestWomensHerbal.com.