MEDICINAL HERBS FOR CIRCULATION AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
by: Stelling, Keith, M.A., M.N.I.M.H.
Keith Stelling is a medical herbalist who trained in England at the
National Institute of Medical Herbalists of Great Britain. He is
editor of the Canadian Journal of Herbalism, the quarterly
publication of the Ontario Herbalist Association. Presently he
practices herbal medicine in Hamilton, Ontario.
One of the things we know about herbs today is that they seem to zero in on particular parts of the body. You could say they're tailor made drugs. For example some are good for the circulation. Whenever there is poor circulation, we are not obtaining adequate nutrients from our food nor are we excreting the natural wastes of metabolism, the toxic wastes. There are a number of plants which are good for the circulation and are safe for anyone to use:
Cayenne pepper is a central circulatory stimulant. If you use cayenne on a regular basis you will improve the natural cleansing mechanism of your entire body, and this is particularly helpful in conditions of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and many other chronic illnesses.
This is a stimulant for the central circulatory system and also good for chronic problems.
Hawthorn is a plant which kept Brechnev alive for ten years. The Soviets know a lot about herbal medicine. Hawthorn is a regulator of the rhythm of the heart; it increases the force of contraction so that the output of blood from the heart is improved, and it's a restorative of the heart muscle. We can use this to protect the heart against hypertension in the case of high blood pressure.
We have a new disease now called the "sick building syndrome". There is no air at all. We are even building hospitals with windows that don't open. Something is wrong somewhere. Living in twentieth century urban environments is a real source of stress and that stress affects our health. Stress is a factor in the development of ulcers and the auto-immune syndrome. There are ways of managing stress. Exercise is one of the best antidotes to stress along with a diet rich in B vitamins. Also a number of herbal remedies are tailor-made for stress:
This is known as the ideal tranquilizer because it actually doesn't interfere with your thought processes and doesn't cloud your thinking or interfere with your ability to carry out complicated mental tasks. In Holland they use it for young people taking their examinations. It's a calming plant which can be taken over a long period. It's not accumulative and not habit forming. It is in no way toxic. But it does decrease the edge of anxiety and tension. If you are interested in growing herbs, valerian must be grown in sandy soil, not clay, because the little root fibres stick to the clay very easily.
Oats is an old standby in Scottish families. Oats contain a nervine alkaloid called avinine and this alkaloid is a long term restorative of the nervous system. So it's a very good idea to have your oats in the morning. Make sure you don't get Quaker oats that are processed under a lot of hot steam which has destroyed the alkaloid. Buy steel cut oats or whole oat groats and soak them overnight or cook them in a slow cooker. Canadian research has been done on the plant and it showed that oats are a good tonic for the heart.
It's very common to be able to order a cup of camomile tea now even in a restaurant. Herbs are becoming part of our culture again. Of course they have always been used in Europe. Camomile makes a good drink instead of coffee. It's perfectly safe to use even with children. There are very few people who ever have any kind of allergic reaction to camomile. By allergic reaction we are talking about perhaps a rash, and that occurs in maybe four or five of all the herbs I have ever studied, and that's a big difference from the adverse side-effects possible with drugs. Camomile is an antispasmodic and it is healing for the whole digestive tract, especially for something like an ulcer. Not only is it calming, but it is also a healing plant. It promotes the production of granulation tissue with any membranes with which it comes into contact.
This is another good herb for the nervous system. Linden flowers are soothing, relaxing, and perfectly safe to be used for children. European mothers put their children into a bath of linden flowers when they are overwrought. But the exciting thing about linden is that it actually has been found to restore the interior walls of the arteries. If you can keep those arteries smooth and in good condition, you will not run into so many problems with strokes.
This is an herb you can grow in your own garden very easily. If you do, you will have something better than anything you could ever purchase in a health food store because you can make a tea from the fresh plant. Fresh lemon balm contains a number of volatile oils which strengthen the nervous system. This is an ideal remedy for the nervous system, just to relax you. An extra bonus is its anti-viral properties. This is a good thing to know because there are many problems with viruses changing from one organism into another and there are problems in hospitals where the windows won't open. There are some anti-viral drugs in orthodox medicine and their side effects are horrendous. Plants like this one connect to the docking area of the cell where the virus would normally be attached, and therefore usurp the virus. You can then make yourself a lot less vulnerable to every viral infection going around.
Elecampane looks very much like a very small sunflower. It is an expectorant with the ability to pull heavy stagnant mucous from the lungs. It is also an antibiotic which can fight bacterial infection in the lungs.
ELDER FLOWERS, YARROW and PEPPERMINT
These three plants will save you from influenza. Make a tea from equal parts of yarrow, elderflower and peppermint. The yarrow and elderflower are diuretics and the skin is used as the organ of elimination. Take a good pot full of this tea, hot, and wrap yourself up warm and go to bed and keep warm and sweat. Don't get cold. If you can sweat it out, you will have a very relaxed rest that evening and find that you have cut short the flu by many days.
One of the most interesting plants given to us by the North American Indians is witch hazel. It is still available in the drug store today. It smells lovely and grows as a small shrub or a very small tree. It works as an astringent and is a wonderful remedy for eye strain. Put a little distilled witch hazel on cotton batten and place it over your closed eyes; this will relax the eyes and cool them. It's an excellent treatment for computer eyes.
Marshmallow is used because of its mucilaginous qualities. It's a soothing remedy which actually coats the nerve endings in the digestive tract when there is any kind of irritation at all.
Q: Can you give some suggestions for an infected ingrown toenail?
A: Myrrh is an excellent plant for fighting infections. It has the ability to induce leukocytosis; that means it attracts the white blood cells to the infected area as long as it remains in contact with the skin. Secondly it improves the circulation to the limbs.
Q: Could you recommend some herbs beneficial to take during pregnancy?
A: I would stay away from them all. If you want to take one during the last three months, you could use red raspberry leaf tea. That's the only one I would recommend. If you want more detailed information, you could refer to Herbs for Pregnancy and Childbirth by Ann McKintyre. The problem with herbs is that they will actually stimulate the uterine muscle. This can occur with feverfew, peppermint, sage, and other herbs that seem quite innocent.
Q: Are there any good herbs to use for mosquito bites, especially the big ones?
A: The first thing to do is cover yourself up. You can deter mosquitoes by using oil of citronella. It keeps them away quite well. If you do get a bite, oil of lavender is quite good (that would be the essential oil). When you buy essential oil get the Karrooch Essential Oils because they are the best quality in Canada. With any kind of insect bite, chickweed is very helpful because it is a drawing herb. Put fresh crushed chickweed on the area for ten to fifteen minutes and you won't get any inflammation.
Q: Can you recommend some good books about herbalism?
A: I would recommend A Dictionary of Modern Herbalism by Simon Mills and A Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman.