For thousands of years health and wellness treatments were collected, curated and shared from generation to generation until families began to breakup and drift apart while at the same time breaking their sacred relationship with the earth. Instead of living together with nature mankind felt a need to tame and conquer her. Over time ancient medicines were lost, hidden, or destroyed.
Here are six of my favorite medicinal herbs and foods.
1) Korean Ginseng
Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used in the Far East as a medicinal herb for over 2000 years. While American Ginseng is in the same family they are distinctly different. Korean Ginseng is very slow growing and is harvested traditionally at 6 years for the greatest health benefits. Ginseng that grows naturally in the wild is thought to provide further health benefits and can fetch a great value to the person who finds it. This has lead to modern treasure hunters who comb the mountainside for naturally growing Ginseng that can fetch over $50,000 for a decades old plant. Ginseng is widely used as an adaptogen thought to strengthen the body against environmental assaults and emotional stress. The active ingredients are part of the plants own immune system that the body absorbs and uses to to strengthen or normalize its immunity. Ginseng is further used to recover vital energy, improve blood flow, assist with mental function, help with fertility and erectile dysfunction, and lessen the effects suffered by menopausal women.
Commonly called “Siberian Ginseng” is not in fact ginseng. However, it does carry many of the same great medicinal benefits as true ginseng and it is highly sought after for that reason. Eleuthero root is believed to enhance energy, mental function, stamina, normalizes physiological processes, improves stress response, exerts protective qualities onto the heart, and promotes antioxidant activity. Eleuthero root is also known as Wucha in China. An ancient herbalist once said, “I would rather have a handful of Wucha than a cart of gold and jewels.”
The use of elderberry is traced back to the stone age in Europe, to recipes in ancient Egypt, and Hippocrates called it the “Medicine Chest.” Not only does elderberry effectively treat colds and flu but it tastes very good. Elderberry tinctures, syrups, juices and wines are a delight to have in your house. They also help with blood sugar levels, sinus infections, relieving arthritis, and improving antioxidant activity.
Ashwagandha is sometimes called “Indian Ginseng” or more dramatically referred to as “Strength of the Stallion.” Ashwagandha is not a true ginseng. However, it’s many potent medicinal benefits and powerful adaptogenic qualities let it stand on its own as a top contender for traditional herbal medicines. It is very capable at helping your body respond to stress. It supports the thyroid and adrenal glands which is probably why it is taken for energy and mood. Ashwagandha is also believed to protect neurological health from decline, boost immunity, and help with glucose metabolism. This all explains the recent popularity of Ashwagandha in supplements and natural health food stores.
Likely the most widely used herbal medicine within traditional oriental medicine. The root of this perennial plant is used to support the immune system for immune deficiency as well as autoimmune disease. Astragalus is used for cold, flu, and respiratory infections. It is used along with modern cancer treatments to support white blood cell counts. The root is rich in flavonoids and polysaccharides which significantly contributes to the medicinal qualities of the plant. It is common to find Astragalus as a tea, capsule, or powder.
Ginger is from the same plant family as turmeric. It is an oft used ingredient in asian cuisine that is both aromatic and spicy do to the presence of ketones. It is a commonly used medicine for everything from colds to cancer. It was known to the Middle East, China, and India for 5000 years. Ginger can be powdered, eaten fresh or cooked, sometimes fermented as when served with sushi, candied, or made into a tea. Ginger appears to have antioxidant properties, have radio-protective effects, anti-inflammatory effects, helps with nausea (superior to dramamine with motion sickness), have anti-cancer effects, and possess cardiovascular protective qualities.