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End of Endo, Herbs and Spices to aid healing
August 30, 2004
Welcome again to End of Endo - the newsletter which aims to give you support and useful advice to help you improve your health and aid your healing from endometriosis.
Herbs and spices have been used to treat various diseases and ailments for thousands of years, in many different cultures. There is now a renewed interest in these alternative medicines, with many new medicinal uses coming to light.
First, what are herbs and spices? Spices are derived from the roots, bark, buds and fruit of plants. Herbs are usually taken from the leaves of various plants. Both of these retain their potency for long periods if they are stored properly. Both herbs and spices are excellent antioxidants, which work to neutralise attacks made by free radicals against the body. Spices also contain phyto-nutrients, which may prevent the mutation on healthy cells into cancerous cells.
A great advantage that the use of herbal remedies have over commercial drugs is the reduced side effects, since the concentration of active ingredients is much lower, but is just as potent.
Some herbal remedies have the same active ingredients as those used in commercial drugs. But in the case of commercial drugs, the active ingredient has been extracted from the plant and then synthesised in a laboratory to turn it into an active drug compound. The extraction process is designed to concentrate and purify the active ingredient. By doing so, other compounds that may have a beneficial or synergistic relationship with the active ingredients are lost. ( I have to thank my partner who is a chemist in helping me explain the last point!)
With herbal medicine, all the different active ingredients from the plant are left in tact. There is no laboratory extraction process. The action and reaction of different compounds from the plant is much more potent (and safer) in its natural un-edited form!
Herbal medicines come in several forms. They may be obtained in pills, capsules, liquids (tinctures or extracts) or as powders.
For fast relief, herbal extracts are the best choice since they are absorbed very quickly into the body. These must be measured, which makes them slightly less convenient than the pill or capsule forms, yet results are seen almost instantly. For long-term treatment and effects, capsules and tablets are the most practical and convenient form. Also widely available are herbal powders, which may be made into teas.
There are hundreds of different herbs and spices used for health purposes. Some of the more common ones are listed below, along with their uses. As well as using these herbs and spices in medicinal form, you can add them to you daily intake and use them in your cooking.
Garlic is one of the best-known and widely used herbal medicines. Garlic is a strong weapon against infection and a natural antibiotic. It has been found to reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure and is sometimes used to treat yeast infections.
Chamomile is often used as a tea for its mild sedative effects. It is also used to soothe digestive ailments and to reduce fever. It may also be applied topically to soothe skin irritations and diaper rash.
A common household spice, nutmeg is a natural stimulant to the cardiovascular system. It is also used to relieve the joint inflammation associated with gout. This spice should be used carefully since large doses can be toxic. It is not to be used by pregnant women or children as a herbal remedy.
This spice may also be used as an antiseptic agent when crushed and applied to clean cuts and abrasions. As a tea, it calms the stomach and can reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. Thyme may also be used as a treatment for colds.
This pungent herb is used as a remedy for colds, sore throat and other respiratory ailments, as well as urinary tract problems. It has been used to control some symptoms of diabetes.
Fenugreek is rich in diosgenin, a phytochemical from which chemists in the laboratory derive nature-identical progesterone - interesting!
Fenugreek also enhances digestion and is one of the best deep cleansers for the body that you an find in nature. So consider adding some to your spice cooking. You can make fenugreek tea using the seeds.
Ginger is brilliant at alleviating the symptoms of colds and flu, it increases circulation and calms fevers. It relieves indigestion and flatulence, stimulates the circulation and is used in natural medicine to counter rheumatism. Many scientists studying this amazing root believe that ginger works its wonders due to an ability to block inflammatory tendencies in the body. This benefit should be utilised for women with endometriosis, to help with the inflammatory action of the disease.
Cloves act as a wound antiseptic by killing harmful bacteria. It is also used to treat indigestion and diarrhoea. Cloves also act as a deterrent to free-radical damage to the body.
Rosemary is another herbal remedy which calms the digestive system. As an oil, it is used to help relieve sore muscles and increase circulation when applied to the skin.
This spice has been used to treat arthritis, dysentery and heart disease. It is also believed to lower the risk for certain cancers by attacking free radicals.
Chillies are a great addition to a health enhancing diet - even in the smallest doses. One chilli has 100 percent of the daily recommended dose of the anti-oxidant beta-carotene plus as much as 200 percent of the required daily dose of vitamin C. Chillies contain a plant chemical called capsaicin, which according to recent research has the ability to temporarily block chemically transmitted pain signals in the body. This is why you will find it in natural ointments to relieve arthritis and nerve pain.
Interestingly, there is good evidence that capsaicin may even soothe pains of the mind and soul since it appears to trigger the release of the mood-enhancing endorphins in the brain. Is this why some people get almost addicted to curries!
(For those of you who have bought the book - some of the above points are extracts straight from the book ‘Recipes for the Endometriosis Diet - no point in re-inventing the wheel!)
This spice is also used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure and to reduce cholesterol.
Another aid to digestive, coriander is used to treat colic and general nausea. It is used a lot in Indian cooking.
This spice is used to control the level of blood sugar for diabetics. It is also used to relieve the symptoms of urinary tract infections and yeast infections.
This is a powerful detoxifier and is used to relieve sore throat, gum inflammation and yeast infections.
Used to relieve various respiratory problems, oregano may also relieve digestive upset and yeast infections.
Studies have shown saffron to be instrumental in destroying the cancer cells that cause leukaemia.
It is not advisable to try and treat yourself with herbs bought from your local health food store. It is best to seek the advice of a qualified herbalist or naturopath. Some herbs will contain phytoestrogens, and your intake of these needs to be monitored.
Having said that, you can use some herbs and spices for remedial self treatment, but do read up on the subject. Don’t be frightened to use plenty of garlic in your cooking; you can safely use chamomile to make a soothing and relaxing tea; ginger can be used fresh and cut into small pieces and made into a tea to soothe the stomach and aid digestion.
Most of us have plenty of common sense to know which herbs and spices can be use on a daily basis. And what you don’t know, you can find out, by reading books or check the internet from sources you trust.
Herbs are great, and to repeat the introduction - they have been used for thousands of years. They can be used externally as well as internally. You can make poultices for burns, sprains, wounds and so on. Herbs have been used for animal husbandry, and the many uses of lavender is almost legendary. It is known that the vapours from burning lavender oil can kill certain air borne germs from quite a distance.
The topic of herbs and spices for health is worth reading up on further. I am sure you will be very interested in some of the traditional uses around the home for different herbs and how to prepare them. You will also start to discover old fashioned remedies and many uses for lots of everyday items in your cupboard.
Vinegar is excellent for its health benefits as well as useful as a cleaning agent. Mixed with water and a little drop of dish washing liquid, it makes a wonderful cleaner for windows and glass. It works a treat. So there is no need to buy expensive, chemically laden cleaning solutions. Lemons are another valuable item, both for health and household use. They are anti-bacterial, full of vitamin C, and the astringent properties are used extensively in cleaning products.
This is an interesting topic to cover further for next month - Using herbs and other natural alternatives for beauty, health and household uses. I can’t think of a nice catchy headline there - but I think you get the idea.
The reason for covering and emphasising this topic, is that women with endometriosis need to reduce their exposure of toxic chemicals; not only to personal toiletries, which can mimic estrogen, (See End of Endo - March 2004, Non Toxic Toiletries) caused by the chemical ingredients in these products. Exposure to other chemical based products used in the home need to be minimised as well because they contain many of the same toxic ingredients.
Sometimes these newsletters seem all too brief; as though we are only just scratching the surface of information that could be included - but I hope and trust that the overall message is successfully passed on to you.
This month the newsletter had to be relatively quick and simply to compile due to personal/life circumstances of your host, friend and supporter here at endo-resolved. Some of you may remember my brief message last year in the newsletter, that my partner was made redundant. Well he is still out of work, the mortgage and unemployment insurance has run out, we are living on welfare, and we are working flat out to run a stall at our local Country Fair this week-end, hoping to sell some of my artwork and my partners paintings. There are so many ‘housekeeping’ things to do. Tidying up the artwork, how will it be displayed, how much to charge for individual pieces, making contingencies in case of bad weather, what to do with our dog for the day, and so on ……..
Must dash, I’ve got to sort the display of my hand-made earrings now.
with healing thoughts to you all
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