Herb: Basil

 

basil-fieldandherbsBasil

Basil, (Ocimum basilicum), also called sweet basil, is an annual herb of the mint family (Lamiaceae), grown for its aromatic leaves. Basil is likely native to India and is widely grown as a kitchen herb. The leaves are used fresh or dried to flavor meats, fish, salads, and sauces; basil tea is often used as a stimulant.

Basil leaves are glossy and oval-shaped, with smooth or slightly toothed edges that typically cup slightly; the leaves are arranged oppositely along the square stems. The small flowers are borne in terminal clusters and range in color from white to magenta. The plant is extremely frost-sensitive and grows best in warm climates. Basil is susceptible to Fusarium wilt, blight, and downy mildew, especially when grown in humid conditions. Continue reading “Herb: Basil”

Fungus: Shiitake Mushroom

Shiitake-Mushroom-FieldandHerbsShiitake Mushroom

Medicinal mushrooms have an established history of use in traditional oriental therapies. Contemporary research has validated and documented much of the ancient knowledge. Over the last three decades, the interdisciplinary fields of science that study medicinal mushrooms has sprung up and has increasingly demonstrated the potent and unique properties of compounds extracted from a range of species. Currently, the field is being developed into a very fruitful area. Modern clinical practice in Japan, China, Korea and other Asian countries rely on mushroom-derived preparations. Mushrooms have been studied for nutritional and medical purposes for its various potential anti-tumoral and immunomodulatory components like polysaccharides that have been identified. Continue reading “Fungus: Shiitake Mushroom”

Fruit: Amla Fruit

Amla-Fruit-Gooseberry-FieldandHerbsAmla Fruit

Many holistic healers appreciate and use amla (aka Indian Gooseberry) to treat a host of diseases and promote positive health. Amla [Emblica officinalis, or emblic myrobalan], is called amalaki in Sanskrit. Amla is also used widely in combination with other two [chebulic and belleric] myrobalans [fruit-bearing plant species] as triphala. Amla is indeed, the key ingredient in the popular ayurvedic recipe, Chyavanaprasha. It is one of the oldest oriental medicines mentioned in Ayurveda as a potential remedy for various ailments. The fruit is rich in quercetin, phyllaemblic compounds, gallic acid, tannins, flavonoids, pectin and vitamin C and also contains various polyphenolic compounds. A wide range of phytochemical components including terpenoids, alkaloids, flavonoids, and tannins have been shown to posses useful biological activities. Many pharmacological studies have demonstrated the ability of the fruit to show promise as an antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, tumor reducer, and antigenotoxic. It has also been found to have anti-inflammatory activities. Continue reading “Fruit: Amla Fruit”

Herb: Licorice Root

Licorice-Root-FieldandHerbsLicorice Root

Most licorice root grows in Greece, Turkey, and Asia.  Licorice is harvested from the plants’ roots and underground stems. Licorice supplements are available as capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. Centuries ago, licorice root was used in Greece, China, and Egypt for stomach inflammation and upper respiratory problems. Anise oil is often used instead of licorice root to flavor licorice candy. Licorice root also has been used as a sweetener. Today, people use licorice root as a dietary supplement for digestive problems, menopausal symptoms, cough, and bacterial and viral infections. People also use it as a shampoo. Continue reading “Herb: Licorice Root”

Herb: Elderberry

 

Elderberry-FieldandHerbsElderberry

Elderberry, also known as sambucus, are small bluish-black berries that grow in clusters on a shrubby bush. Not to be confused with blueberries, elderberries are native to parts of North America and have been a staple in folk medicine for centuries.

Elderberries have been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years as an immune supporter and cough suppressant. Elderberries are an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and C, and could support immune function year-round. Bioflavonoids present in elderberries could soothe inflammation and irritation of the throat, acting as an all-natural sore throat soother and making elderberries a popular ingredient in many over-the-counter medications and cough drops. Elderberries could support immune function with their high levels of antioxidant properties and vitamin C. Potent levels of vitamin A and anthocyanins in elderberries could improve skin health and encourage production of collagen. Continue reading “Herb: Elderberry”

Herbs: Echinacea

Echinacea-FieldandHerbs Echinacea

Echinacea is certainly one of the most popular herbs of our times, and for good reason. It is one of the top immune-enhancing herbs, helping to build immune-system strength and to fight off disease and infection. Many herbalists and natural-medicine practitioners feel it’s the most important immune-enhancing herb in Western medicine. Echinacea has been called the “great herbal diplomat” because it, perhaps more than any other medicinal plant, rescued herbalism from its twentieth-century obscurity.  Continue reading “Herbs: Echinacea”

Herb: Dandelion

 

dandelion-FieldandHerbsDandelion

Closely related to chicory, dandelion is a common plant worldwide and the bane of those looking for the perfect lawn. The plant grows to a height of about 12 inches, producing spatula-like leaves and yellow flowers that bloom year-round. Upon maturation, the flower turns into the characteristic puffball containing seeds that are dispersed in the wind. Dandelion is grown commercially in the United States and Europe. The leaves and root are used in herbal supplements and are valued for their various medicinal uses. Continue reading “Herb: Dandelion”

Herb: Passion Flower

purple-passion-flower-fieldandherbs-labeledPassion Flower

The purple passion flower is a fast growing vine that can reach up to 20 feet or more. Both the fruits and flowers are edible on some varieties and many food items are made from the plant.

The unique flowers are about three inches wide and they have several petals accented with a purple fringe. The wonderful fragrance this plant gives off resembles that of carnations. The fruits, called may pops, are generally about two inches in size and are ripe when the fruit turns yellow. The fruits taste like a guava. To be fully ripe for eating, the fruits should fall off naturally. Continue reading “Herb: Passion Flower”

Herb: Chamomile

Chamomile-Flower-FiedandHerbs-labeledChamomile

Chamomile, a member of the daisy family, is native to Europe and western Asia. German chamomile is the most commonly used. The dried and fresh flowers are used medicinally. Chamomile has been used for centuries in Europe as a medicinal plant, mostly for gastrointestinal complaints. This practice continues today.

How It Works

The flowers of chamomile contain 1-2% volatile oils including alpha-bisabolol, alpha-bisabolol oxides A & B, and matricin (usually converted to chamazulene). Other active constituents include the flavonoids apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin. These active ingredients contribute to chamomile’s anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and smooth-muscle relaxing action, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract. Continue reading “Herb: Chamomile”

Herb: Lemon Balm

 

Lemon-Balm-Melissa-Officialis-FieldandHerbs-labeledLemon Balm

The lemon balm plant (Melissa officinalis) originated in southern Europe and is now found throughout the world. The lemony smell and pretty white flowers of the plant have led to its widespread cultivation in gardens. The leaves, stems, and flowers of lemon balm are used medicinally.

How It Works

The terpenes, part of the pleasant smelling volatile oil from lemon balm, are thought to produce this herb’s relaxing and gas-relieving (carminative) effects. Flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other compounds appear to be responsible for lemon balm’s anti-herpes and thyroid-regulating actions. Test tube studies have found that lemon balm blocks attachment of antibodies to the thyroid cells that cause Grave’s disease (hyperthyroidism). The brain’s signal to the thyroid (thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH) is also blocked from further stimulating the excessively active thyroid gland in this disease. However, clinical trials proving lemon balm’s effectiveness in treating Grave’s disease are lacking. Continue reading “Herb: Lemon Balm”