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Reference Reading

The therapeutic merits of the herbs, flowers and oils we use:

Arnica Montana

Overview:

Arnica (Arnica montana) has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s and remains popular today. Applied topically as a cream, ointment, liniment, salve, or tincture, Europeans and Native Americans have used arnica to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. It is often the first remedy used for injuries such as sprains and bruises. Arnica in herbal form is primarily restricted to topical (external) use because it can cause serious side effects when taken internally. Arnica is often used in homeopathy, and should be taken internally only in the extremely diluted form common to homeopathic remedies.

Plant Description:

Arnica is a perennial that grows to a height of 1 - 2 feet with yellow-orange flowers similar to daisies. Stems are round and hairy, ending in one to three flower stalks, with flowers 2 - 3 inches across. Leaves are bright green. The upper leaves are toothed and slightly hairy, while lower leaves have rounded tips. It is native to the mountains of Europe and Siberia, and is cultivated in North America.

Parts Used:

Fresh or dried flower heads are used in medicinal preparations.

Medicinal Uses and Indications:

Arnica is used topically for a wide range of conditions, including bruises, sprains, muscle aches, wound healing, superficial phlebitis, rheumatic pain, inflammation from insect bites, and swelling due to fractures.

Homeopathic preparations are also used to treat sore muscles, bruises, and other conditions caused by overexertion or trauma. Homeopathic doses are extremely diluted. They have no detectable amount of the plant in them and are generally considered safe for internal use when taken according to the directions on the product labeling.


Calendula

Overview:

The flower petals of the calendula plant (Calendula officinalis), or marigold, have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century. Calendula is native to Mediterranean countries but is now grown as an ornamental plant throughout the world. It is important to note, however, that not all household plants called marigold are members of the calendula family.

Calendula contains high amounts of flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect the body against cell-damaging free radicals. Researchers are not sure what active ingredients in calendula are responsible for its healing properties, but it appears to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial effects.

Traditionally, calendula has been used to treat stomach upset and ulcers, as well relieve menstrual cramps, but there is no scientific evidence that calendula is effective in these cases. Today, topical applications of calendula are more common, especially in Germany. Calendula has been shown to speed healing of wounds (possibly because it increases blood flow to the affected area), and the dried petals of the calendula plant are used in tinctures, ointments, and washes for the healing of burns, bruises, and cuts, as well as the minor infections they cause. More recently, calendula has been shown to help prevent dermatitis in breast cancer patients during radiation.

Plant Description:

Calendula is an annual plant that thrives in almost any soil but can typically be found in Europe, Western Asia, and the United States. It belongs to the same family as daisies, chrysanthemums, and ragweed. Its branching stems grow to a height of 30 - 60 cm, and it blooms from early spring until frost. The orange-yellow petals of the flower heads are used medicinally.

Parts Used:

The dried petals of the calendula plant are used for medicinal purposes.

Medicinal Uses and Indications:

Except in extremely dilute homeopathic preparations, calendula is not generally taken orally.

Burns, cuts, and bruises

Calendula tinctures, ointments, and washes are commonly used topically to speed the healing of burns, bruises, and cuts, as well as the minor infections they cause. Calendula cream is also used to treat hemorrhoids. Animal studies show that calendula does appear to speed wound healing, possibly by increasing blood flow to the wounded area and by helping the body produce collagen proteins, which are used to heal skin and connective tissue. Although no scientific studies in humans support these uses, applying calendula topically is considered safe.

Professional homeopaths often recommend ointments containing calendula to heal first-degree burns and sunburns.

Dermatitis

Preliminary evidence suggests that calendula may help prevent dermatitis in breast cancer patients during radiation. In one study of 254 patients, women who used calendula lotion were less likely to grade II or higher dermatitis compared to those who used trolamine lotion.

Celtic Sea Salt

Celtic sea salt has countless medicinal uses. For example it can help correct excess acidity, restore good digestion, relieve allergies and skin disease, prevent some types of cancer, boost cellular energy and give heightened resistance to infections and bacterial disease.

Resource: Sea Salt’s Hidden Powers by Jacques de Langre, Ph.D

 

Dead Sea Salt

The Dead Sea is a popular center for wellness and health today, due to the fact that Dead Sea salts have been reported to have the following benefits:

Rheumatologic Conditions – Dead Sea salts can be effective in balneotherapy of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, and Osteoarthritis. The minerals are absorbed while soaking, stimulating blood circulation. [4]

Common Skin Ailments – Research has demonstrated that skin disorders such as acne and psoriasis are relieved by regular soaking in water with added Dead Sea salt. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends Dead Sea and Dead Sea salts as effective treatments for psoriasis.[5] One study[6] concluded that the high concentration of magnesium in Dead Sea salt was instrumental in improving skin hydration and reducing inflammation.[7]

Allergies - The high concentration of bromide and magnesium in the Dead Sea salt can relieve allergic reactions by cleansing and detoxifying.[7]

Skin Aging – Further research into Dead Sea salt benefits has shown a 40% reduction in the depth of wrinkling.[7]

 

Epsom Salt

Epsom Salt is mainly made up of magnesium and sulfates. Many modern diets are deficient in magnesium and sulfates, but they are important minerals. Increasing levels of magnesium may help to improve heart and circulatory health, flush toxins and heavy metals from the cells, improve nerve function by regulating electrolytes, improve the body's ability to use insulin, raise the body's levels of serotonin which reduces stress and elevates the mood, improve sleep and concentration, regulate the body's enzymes, improve oxygen use, lower blood pressure, reduce muscle pain and inflammation, and help muscles and nerves to function properly. Sulfates are also necessary for good health. Sulfates are used by the body to flush out toxins, improve the absorption of nutrients, form joint proteins, brain tissue, and mucin protein, and to help prevent and ease migraine headaches.

The best news is that magnesium and sulfates are readily absorbed by the body externally. This means that soaking in a bath with Epsom Salt is not only enjoyable, but is also good for you!

 

 


German chamomile

Overview:

There are two plants known as chamomile: the more popular German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman, or English, chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile ). Although they belong to different species, they are used to treat similar conditions. Both are used to calm frayed nerves, to treat various digestive disorders, to relieve muscle spasms, and to treat a range of skin conditions and mild infections.

The medicinal use of chamomile dates back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Chamomile has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Chest colds
  • Sore throats
  • Abscesses
  • Gum inflammation (gingivitis)
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Psoriasis
  • Acne
  • Eczema
  • Minor first-degree burns
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Children's conditions such as chickenpox, diaper rash, and colic

While studies in people are few, animal studies have shown that German chamomile reduces inflammation, speeds wound healing, reduces muscle spasms, and serves as a mild sedative to help with sleep. Test tube studies have also shown that chamomile has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.

Anxiety, insomnia

This is the most popular use for chamomile in the United States. Studies in humans are few, but animal studies indicate that low doses of chamomile may relieve anxiety, while higher doses promote sleep.

Skin irritations, eczema

Chamomile is often used topically in a cream or ointment to soothe irritated skin, especially in Europe. Preliminary evidence suggests that it may be moderately effective in treating eczema.

Plant Description:

The tiny daisy-like flowers of German chamomile have white collars circling raised, cone-shaped, yellow centers and are less than an inch wide, growing on long, thin, light green stems. Sometimes chamomile grows wild and close to the ground, but you can also find it bordering herb gardens. It can reach up to 3 feet high. German chamomile is native to Europe, north Africa, and some parts of Asia. It is closely related to Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), which, although less commonly used, has many of the same medicinal properties.

What's It Made Of?:

Chamomile teas, ointments, and extracts all start with the white and yellow flower head. The flower heads may be dried and used in teas or capsules, or crushed and steamed to produce a blue oil, which has medicinal benefits. The oil contains ingredients that reduce swelling and may limit the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Precautions:

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.

German chamomile is considered generally safe.

Chamomile may make asthma worse, so people with asthma should not take it.

Pregnant women should avoid chamomile because of the risk of miscarriage.

If you are sensitive to asters, daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed, you may also be allergic to chamomile.


Lavender

Overview:

Many people appreciate lavender (Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis) for its aromatic fragrance, used in soaps, shampoos, and sachets for scenting clothes. The name lavender comes from the Latin root lavare, which means "to wash." Lavender most likely earned this name because it was frequently used in baths to help purify the body and spirit. However, this herb is also considered a natural remedy for a range of ailments from insomnia and anxiety to depression and mood disturbances. Research has confirmed that lavender produces calming, soothing, and sedative effects.

Plant Description:

Lavender is native to the mountainous zones of the Mediterranean where it grows in sunny, stony habitats. Today, it flourishes throughout southern Europe, Australia, and the United States. Lavender is a heavily branched short shrub that grows to a height of roughly 60 centimeters. Its broad rootstock bears woody branches with erect, rod-like, leafy, green shoots. A silvery down covers the gray-green narrow leaves, which are oblong and tapered, attached directly at the base, and curled spirally.

The oil in lavender's small, blue-violet flowers gives the herb its fragrant scent. The flowers are arranged in spirals of 6 - 10 blossoms, forming interrupted spikes above the foliage.

Parts Used:

Lavender flowers

Medicinal Uses and Indications:

Human clinical studies have reported that lavender essential oil may be beneficial in a variety of conditions, including insomnia, alopecia (hair loss), anxiety, stress, postoperative pain, and as an antibacterial and antiviral agent. Lavender oil is also used together with other forms of integrative medicine, such as massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation.

Insomnia

In folklore, pillows were filled with lavender flowers to help the restless fall sleep. There is now scientific evidence to suggest that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improves sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders. Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, increased mental capacity, and reduced anxiety. In one recent study, participants who received massage with lavender felt less anxious and more positive than participants who received massage alone. Lavender flowers have also been approved in Germany as a tea for insomnia, restlessness, and nervous stomach irritations.

Other uses

Aromatherapists also use lavender as a tonic in inhalation therapy to treat headaches, nervous disorders, and exhaustion. Herbalists treat skin ailments, such as fungal infections (like candidiasis), wounds, eczema, and acne, with lavender oil. It is also used externally in a healing bath for circulatory disorders and as a rub for rheumatic ailments (conditions affecting the muscles and joints). One study evaluating essential oils, including lavender, for treating children with eczema concluded that the oils added no benefit to therapeutic touch from the mother; in other words massage with and without essential oils was equally effective in improving the dry, scaly skin lesion. A recent study found that the use of lavender oil may improve postoperative pain control. Fifty patients undergoing breast biopsy surgery received either oxygen supplemented with lavender oil or oxygen alone. Patients in the lavender group reported a higher satisfaction rate with pain control than patients in the control group.

Precautions:

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications.

Although side effects are rare, some individuals may develop an allergic reaction to lavender. Nausea, vomiting, headache, and chills have also been reported in some individuals following inhalation or absorption of lavender through the skin.

Possible Interactions:

CNS Depressants -- There are no known scientific reports of interactions between lavender and conventional medications. However, due to the relaxing qualities of lavender, this herb could potentially enhance the effects of central nervous system depressants, including narcotics (such as morphine or oxycodone) for pain and sedative and anti-anxiety agents (such as lorazepam, diazepam, and alprazolam).

Alternative Names:

Common lavender; English lavender; French lavender; Garden lavender; Lavandula angustifolia; Lavandula latifolia; Lavandula officinalis


Comfrey

Overview:

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale ) is used to treat wounds and reduce the inflammation associated with sprains and broken bones. The roots and leaves contain allantoin, a substance that helps new skin cells grow, along with other substances that reduce inflammation and keep skin healthy. Comfrey ointments were often applied to the surface of the skin to heal bruises as well as pulled muscles and ligaments, fractures, sprains, strains, and osteoarthritis.

Plant Description:

Comfrey is a perennial shrub that is native to Europe and temperate parts of Asia. Fond of moist soils, comfrey has a thick, hairy stem, and grows 2 - 5 feet tall. Its flowers are dull purple, blue or whitish, and densely arranged in clusters. The leaves are oblong, and often differ in appearance depending upon their position on the stem: Lower leaves are broad at the base and tapered at the ends while upper leaves are broad throughout and narrow only at the ends. The root has a black exterior and fleshy whitish interior filled with juice.

Comfrey preparations are made from the leaves or other parts of the plant grown above the ground. New leaves tend to have more of the poisonous pyrrolizidine alkaloids than older leaves. Some preparations were also made from the roots, but roots contain up to 16 times the amount of pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

What's It Made Of?:

Comfrey contains substances that help skin regenerate, including allantoin, rosmarinic acid, and tannins. It also contains poisonous compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Available Forms:

Oral comfrey products have been banned in the U.S. and many European countries, but topical preparations are still available.

Comfrey ointments (containing 5 - 20% comfrey), creams, poultices, and liniments are made from the fresh or dried herb, leaf, or root of comfrey species. Use only products made from leaves of common comfrey.

Precautions:

Comfrey should never be applied to open wounds or broken skin.

Children, the elderly, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use comfrey products -- either orally or topically.

Possible Interactions:

There are no known scientific reports of interactions between comfrey and conventional medications. Some herbs that have also been known to cause liver problems, such as kava, scullcap, and valerian, should not be used while using comfrey ointment or cream because of the increased potential for liver damage.

Alternative Names:

Knitbone; Symphytum officinale


Rose Hips

Rose Hips are the fruity pod left on a the flowers of a wild rose bush once the petals have fallen. The oil is retrieved from the rose hips and contains high levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron and Fatty Acids. Rose Hips most likely originated in Ancient Persia or Egypt. The Egyptians commonly grew roses in their temple gardens. Women of South America have made teas and used the oil from the Rose Hip from generation to generation. The oil is a very light, almost watery oil that absorbs into the skin rapidly, making it wonderful for skin hydration.

Rose Hip Oil promotes skin regeneration and has provided wonderful results in soothing and healing sun burns and skin burns. The healing properties repair dry and sun damaged skin. It can be used to reduce or eliminate the appearance of scars old and new. Surgical scars and keloid scars(lumpy scars) have been reduced or prevented altogether, and the oil works to restore your natural skin color. This includes acne scars and stretch marks. It has even been used to treat acne itself; however, as an acne treatment, use it sparingly. Too much can clog the pores and cause a reverse effect.

The oil is used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, age spots, and shrinks large pores. Rose Hip Oil is used in several beauty products for it's anti-aging properties. It promotes the skin's natural regeneration cycle helping it produce more collagen and elastin. The Fatty Acids in the oil rejuvenate and bring a smooth, youthful appearance to the skin. The oil can be massaged directly into the skin or you can use a lotion that contains it in the ingredients. Rose Hip Oil is very mild making it a useful moisturizer for people of all skin types.

Rose Hips contain Bioflavanoids that maintain healthy capillaries throughout the body. With the benefits of Bioflavanoids plus the many other nutrients, Rose Hips are a wonderful addition to your diet as well as beauty regime. Rose Hips themselves can be dried and used as teas and in cooking. Most Rose bushes create Rose Hips after they bloom; however, Rosa Rugosa, creates the best tasting rose hips for cooking. They can be made into pies, candies, jellies, soups, breads, and many more delicious delights. There are several recipes that include Rose Hips. They used to be a popular ingredient during World War II because of their nutritious value. People were encouraged to eat them, as they helped maintain stress and good health by strengthening the immune system. Today, it is mainly used as a tea. Few people realize the benefits Rose Hips have to offer as both a food and beauty product. It has become one of nature's best kept secrets.


Rosemary

Overview:

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is widely used as a culinary spice, especially in Mediterranean dishes, and is also used for its fragrance in soaps and other cosmetics. Traditionally, rosemary has been used medicinally to improve memory, relieve muscle pain and spasm, stimulate hair growth, and support the circulatory and nervous systems. It is also believed to increase menstrual flow, act as an abortifacient (causing miscarriage), increase urine flow, and treat indigestion. Almost none of these uses have been studied scientifically in humans, however.

In the lab, rosemary has been shown to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can neutralize harmful particles in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Also in the lab, rosemary oil appears to have antimicrobial properties (killing some bacteria and fungi in test tubes). It isn't known whether rosemary would have the same effect in humans.

Indigestion

Rosemary leaf is used in Europe for indigestion (dyspepsia) and is approved by the German Commission E, which examines the safety and efficacy of herbs.

Muscle and Joint Pain

Applied topically (to the skin), rosemary oil is sometimes used to treat muscle pain and arthritis, and to improve circulation. It is approved by the German Commission E for this purpose. However, there is no scientific evidence that it works.

Improve Memory or Concentration

Used as aromatherapy, rosemary traditionally was said to increase concentration and memory, and to relieve stress. One study suggests that rosemary, combined with other pleasant-smelling oils, may help reduce anxiety; however, in another study, those who inhaled rosemary rated themselves as more anxious than those who inhaled lavender and those who did not inhale a scent.

Plant Description:

Native to the Mediterranean area, rosemary now grows widely in other parts of the world, although it thrives in a warm and sunny climate. The plant takes its name from rosmarinus, a Latin term meaning "sea dew." It is an upright evergreen shrub that can grow to a height of 6-and-a-half feet. The woody rootstock bears rigid branches with fissured bark. The long, needle-like leaves are dark green on top and pale beneath. Both the fresh and dried leaves are aromatic. The small flowers are pale blue. The leaves and parts of the flowers contain volatile oil.

What's It Made Of?:

The leaves and twigs of the rosemary plant are used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Available Forms:

  • Dried whole herb
  • Dried, powdered extract (in capsules)
  • Preparations made from fresh or dried leaves, such as alcohol tinctures, teas, and liquid extract
  • Volatile oil (to be used externally, not orally)
Alternative Names:

Rosmarinus officinalis


Peppermint

Overview:

Peppermint (Mentha piperita ), a popular flavoring for gum, toothpaste, and tea, is also used to soothe an upset stomach or to aid in digestion. Because it has a calming and numbing effect, it has been used to treat headaches, skin irritations, anxiety associated with depression, nausea, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, and flatulence. It is also an ingredient in chest rubs, used to treat symptoms of the common cold. In test tubes, peppermint kills some types of bacteria and viruses, suggesting it may have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Conditions for which peppermint may be beneficial are listed below.

Itching and Skin Irritations

Peppermint, when applied topically, has a soothing and cooling effect on skin irritations caused by hives, poison ivy, or poison oak.

Colds and Flu

Peppermint and its main active agent, menthol, are effective decongestants. Because menthol thins mucus, it is also a good expectorant, meaning that it helps loosen and breaks up coughs with phlegm. It is soothing and calming for sore throats (pharyngitis) and dry coughs as well.

Plant Description:

Peppermint plants grow to about 2 - 3 feet tall. They bloom from July through August, sprouting tiny purple flowers in whorls and terminal spikes. Dark green, fragrant leaves grow opposite white flowers. Peppermint is native to Europe and Asia, is naturalized to North America, and grows wild in moist, temperate areas. Some varieties are indigenous to South Africa, South America, and Australia.

What's It Made Of?:

The leaves and stems, which contain menthol, a volatile oil, are used medicinally, as a flavoring in food, and in cosmetics (for fragrance).

Alternative Names:

Mentha x piperita


Rose:

Aside from providing an aesthetic appeal, which contributes to the overall
pleasure and feeling of well being, roses have a genuine practical use in our regimens of good health. Rose oil and rose water are derived from the flowers and rose hips have many valuable properties.

It is suspected that the rose was probably the very first flower from which rose oil and rose water were distilled; possibly in the 10th Century Persia. Today,
most of the rose oils are still produced in that region of the world. A very large quantity of rose petals is needed to produce a very small quantity of oil. Thus, it is very costly. Thankfully only a small amount of rose oil is needed in therapeutic preparations.
It is not used in its concentrated state, but rather in a carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, and grapeseed.

Generally rose oil and rose water (a by-product of distillation) are used topically rather than internally; with the exception of aromatherapy. In this case the rose essence may be inhaled, via steam or diffusion. Three varieties of rose are used in commercial production of rose oil and rose water: Rosa Centifolia, Rosa Damascena and Rosa Gallica. The product will vary slightly in color between these species but the therapeutic benefits are the same.

The use of the rose is far and varied.
It has a long history in its use in folk remedies, especially in the area of skincare. It is suitable for all skin types, but it is especially valuable for dry, sensitive or aging skins. It has a tonic and astringent effect on the capillaries just below
the skin surface, which makes it useful in diminishing the redness caused by enlarged capillaries. It is important to ensure that the product contains the genuine natural rose oil.
Synthetic rose ingredients have no therapeutic value at all.

The rose also offers a soothing property to the nerves and emotional /psychological state of mind. It is regarded as a mild sedative and anti-depressant. It is increasingly used in treatments for conditions of stress: nervous tension, peptic ulcers, heart disease, among others. There is indication
that rose essence may also positively influence digestion, bile secretion, womb disorders and circulation. In addition, a tea made with rose petals (pour 150 ml of boiling water over 1 /2 grams of rose petals) often soothes a mild sore throat.

Rose hips (the flowers which have swollen to seed) are an excellent source of vitamins A, B3, C, D and E.
They also contain bioflavonoids, citric acid, flavonoids, fructose, malic acid, tannins and zinc. Taken in the form of tea they are good for infections, particularly bladder infections. Rose hip tea is also used in the treatment of diarrhea. It is an especially good source of vitamin C.

 

Spearmint

Mentha spicata L.

Synonym.-Mentha viridis L.

Other common names:

Mint, brown mint, garden mint, lamb mint, mackerel mint, Our Lady's mint, sage of Bethlehem.

Habitat and range:

Like peppermint, the spearmint has also been naturalized from Europe and may be found in moist fields and waste places from Nova Scotia to Utah and south to Florida. It is also cultivated to some extent for the distillation of the oil, especially in Michigan and Indiana, and for domestic use it is a familiar garden plant.

Description:

Spearmint in its general characteristics resembles peppermint, but it is rather more vigorous in its growth, the lance-shaped leaves are generally stemless, and the flower spikes are narrow and pointed rather than thick and blunt.

Part used:

The dried leaves and flowering tops, collected before the flowers are fully developed.

Medicinal Action and Uses:

Spearmint is chiefly used for culinary purposes. The properties of Spearmint oil resemble those of Peppermint, being stimulant, carminative and antispasmodic.

Spearmint oil can help in the problems of the respiratory, glandular and nervous systems. It also acts as carminative (substance that removes gas and aids the digestive system) , anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic. Spearmint is found to work as a hormone and this activity often releases the emotional blocks.