The top 5 herbal treatments you probably already own

Reconnect with the beauty and vitality of fresh herbs to renew your body, mind and spirit. These five common herbs are easy to access, yet have a wealth of traditional and evidence-based support. When the season is right, these treasured tools are abundant in residential plots and pots, and well stocked pantries. When their season ends for the year, connect with your natural health practitioner for access to a year-round supply.

Beautiful rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). This culinary herb and hardy garden plant is full of benefits for your health and beauty. Coming to us from the Mediterranean, the fresh leaves can be used to reduce dandruff and support hair growth.1 Boil a cup of fresh rosemary sprigs in two cups of water, strain and use as your final rinse or apply with a spray bottle. Rosemary can even help your cognitive power. A study has shown that even at culinary doses—the amount you would eat in a normal soup or roast meal—rosemary, improved speed of memory, which is important as we age.1

Feeling a little frazzled with the pace of life right now? Lovely lavender (Lavandula officinalis) is available in grandma’s garden or can be obtained as a dried herb or essential oil. Lavender also originates from the sunny Mediterranean and its aroma has been well studied. When used as aromatherapy, lavender has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety.2 Place a cup of dried lavender flowers and leaves into an organza bag and place it inside your pillowcase. The aromatics of the lavender will permeate your pillow, lulling you into restful sleep and providing a foundation of calm for the day ahead.

It's time for some thyme (Thymus vulgaris)! This European beauty enjoys a sunny, dry climate and is a well-known culinary herb.3 Its essential oil, thymol, has powerful antiviral and antioxidant properties making it perfect for a winter soup or tea when you have a sore and inflamed throat. The tea is surprisingly pleasant as well as soothing. Take a few fresh sprigs from the garden—or dried from the herb drawer, seep them in 2 cups of boiling water. If you don’t have a teapot, try your coffee plunger. Be sure to keep the lid on while the important volatile oils are released from the tiny leaves and take a moment out of your day to sit, sip and be soothed.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) as a powdered herb is a brilliantly bright orange colour. It is responsible for the colour of many Indian and Middle Eastern curries.4 Not only is it delicious and beautiful looking, it has anti-inflammatory effects that have been shown to bring pain relief to joints and muscles.4 Add turmeric, grated fresh from the rhizome or as a dried powder to your cooking. Approximately one teaspoon per serve is a great balance of healthful constituents and flavour. Dishes with coconut oil, coconut cream or black pepper enhance the therapeutic benefits even further. Enjoy!

And finally, hot and spicy ginger rhizome (Zingiber officinale) can settle a queasy belly. Whether it be a child about to head out on a car trip, fearful of travel sickness, or a plain old upset tummy, ginger tea is soothing and has an anti-nausea effect.5 Slice a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger into 3mm wide slices, with the skin peeled off. Place the ginger into 2 cups of water and bring to the boil for 20 minutes, being careful to keep the lid on to capture the wonderful essential oils. Strain the pale amber coloured liquid into a mug-you-can-hug and settle down in a calm space and feel your nausea subside.

Beyond the garden and spice drawer is a world of herbal options in many formulations that can be easy to take. Speak to your local natural health practitioner to be inspired.

References available on request.

Guest post by Integria Practitioner Symposium 2023 student blog competition winner Nikki Ward.

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