Native American Indians use sage to cleanse spaces. They call it ‘smudging’. Its proper name is ‘salvia’, which comes from the Latin ‘salvere’. It means ‘to be in good health’.
Sage is a herbal aid to digestion, hence ‘sage and onion stuffing’. It is a cleansing, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory plant. It is known to alleviate menstrual problems and chest infections. Many women find it helpful during menopause as it relieves hot flushes.
Grow it in a tub in the garden, and rub the leaves through your fingers as you pass. If you are ever stung by an insect , rub the leaves on the area and the pain will fade.
Often folk plant rosemary in the garden as a token of remembrance for a loved one. It is both a tonic and a stimulant of the brain’s cortex. Rosemary improves memory loss and has a calming effect on the nervous system. Research demonstrates that it increases the amount of oxygen that each cell takes up, so this is why it is so good for the memory.
Rosemary tea makes a useful mouthwash, while the oil is good for stiff joints and headaches. A few drops in the bath guarantee invigoration for all aspects of the being.
From the Mediterranean, rosemary features strongly in folk-lore and legend. It was a popular remedy in ancient Greece for depression, and Elizabethan couples carried it on their wedding day as a sign of fidelity. Many carried it during the plague, hoping that it would ward off the disease.
Parsley is great for alleviating arthritis, rheumatism and gout. The Greeks and Romans loved it, and used it as a diuretic and digestive aid. Parsley supplies vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and potassium. It’s not just a garnish to be pushed aside!
Parsley is rich in essential oils and flavonoids. You can make it into tea by steeping the leaves in hot water. It is also lovely in salads. Parsley will freshen your breath if you have been eating onions or garlic. You can grow parsley in a pot on your kitchen window-sill, or in a tub in the garden. That way it is guaranteed to be organic!
The Indian and Chinese cultures have always believed strongly in herbal medicine. In China, there are herbal dispensaries in most hospitals. The use of herbs is an important part of ayurvedic medicine, which comes from India. Ayurvedic medicine travels hand-in-hand with yoga. It aims to bring the whole being into dynamic balance.
Oregano is also known as wild marjoram. It’s used in pizzas and stuffing. It must not be used during pregnancy, but, otherwise, as an infusion is most helpful for alleviating colds, coughs, flu and indigestion. Oregano makes a good gargle, if you’re suffering with a sore throat. Grow your own on the window-sill, or visit your local health food shop to purchase some good herbal tea-bags.
Grow your own mint, either in a tub in the garden, or on your kitchen window-sill. Then it is sure to be organic! Spearmint or Mentha spicata is especially delicious. This mint dates back to Roman times, when it was used as a tonic and a mental stimulant. The Egyptians left sprigs of mint in the tombs of pharoahs. It is also mentioned in the bible, and has been used for making oils by the Japanese since the first century.
Mint tea is used to alleviate headaches, particularly those caused by too much stress. The tea has a calming effect and improves concentration.Even having the plant growing near you is beneficial. As you pass, rub the leaves between your fingers.and inhale its fragrance.
Mint is best known as a digestive aid as it improves fat digestion. It soothes the stomach lining.and relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract. Therefore it is highly recommended for those with irritable bowel syndrome. In the Middle East, every meal ends with a mint tea for digestion. This is the herbal tea most on offer in cafes and restaurants nowadays, but nothing beats picking your own leaves and steeping them in hot water! .
Lemongrass, used in perfumes and other products as a fragrance, is also an astringent, tonic and digestive aid. Lemongrass is good for the skin and the nails. It is useful medicine for fevers, for flu, for headaches and intestinal irritations.
So we’ve now investigated lemons, lemon balm and lemongrass!
Lemon balm, or melissa, used to be planted near beehives as the bees are always attracted to the perfume of the flowers. In the Middle Ages it was used to cure depression, and aromatherapists still use it for this reason today. It can be made into a tea to alleviate anxiety, depression, stress and insomnia. It is very popular in Spain as a cure-all for children. Lemon balm is anti-viral, and you can cure cold sores by rubbing the leaves with the fingers and then dabbing the sore.
It doesn’t taste good, but some folk put the leaves into salads. One to look out for, or perhaps to grow on your kitchen window-sill. Then you know that it is organic!
I have observed with my yoga students that, whilst they would finish any medication from the doctor, they are less committed with supplements or food choices. They tend to try it for three days and then give up. Keep going! If you bring grapefruit into your weekly diet to lower your cholesterol, keep it up. If you start taking kelp tablets, keep them up. If you take one yoga posture into your daily routine, keep up the practice. Persistence pays off!
A herbalist once told me that everything you need to be well is already growing in your garden! Once Spring comes and we’re out in the garden again, we’re around nature which heals us. Till then, keep up your chosen foods and supplements religiously.
Kelp tablets are a convenientway to include some seaweed in the diet. Because of their high iodine content, some herbalists prescribe them for mild thyroid disorders. The freshwater algae supplements spirulina and chlorella are increasingly popular. They contain all the nutrients that you would expect to find in green vegetables, including beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium and iron. They also cotain protein and vitamin B12. It is claimed that spirulina is a good source of the essential fatty acid, gamma linolenic acid (GLA). I find that every few months I feeel the need for kelp. Awareness of the body and the body’s needs is an essential part of yoga practice.
Caraway seeds prevent wind and indigestion. It is an aromatic herb and in many parts of Europe folk chew a few seeds before a meal. Adding seeds to bean and cabbage dishes prevents flatulence. You’ll often find caraway seeds as an ingredient of children’s cough medicine. Herbal folk-lore recommends caraway to be used as a mild diuretic and to increase the production of breast-milk. Chewing the seeds freshens the breath!