From meadows, mountains, and forests to weeds popping up from the cracks in the sidewalk, we are surrounded by healing herbs. Whether you raise a medicinal herb garden or look to store shelves for herbal tablets, teas, powders, capsules, tinctures, creams, oils, and extracts, natural healing resources abound. Here are five natural healers you should have in your herbal remedies arsenal.
1. Aloe Vera
This easy-to-grow succulent has long earned its prominent place on the kitchen windowsill. Not only does the gel from the inside of its leaves soothe and heal burns, but it also relieves sunburn and radiation injuries, as well reactions to poison ivy. Aloe has been found to have astringent, antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Fresh aloe gel produces the best results. To use, break or cut off a portion of a leaf, and slice it down the middle. Pull the sides of the leaf away and rub the exposed gel gently onto the affected area.
The healing properties of capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, have been utilized for thousands of years by American Indians and in folk medicine. When you accidentally cut your finger, reach for the cayenne powder in your spice drawer. Sprinkle it directly on the wound to stop the bleeding (it will not burn). Topical analgesic capsaicin products are available in ointment, stick, pad, gel, and lotion form to relieve joint, muscle, and nerve pain.
These aromatic, tropical flower buds are best known as a culinary flavoring, but this powerful spice is an also an antioxidant with antiseptic and anti-parasitic properties. When topically applied, clove oil supports oral health and is an effective, natural remedy for relieving toothaches, mouth ulcers, and sore gums. Clove oil, or ground cloves, can be placed in empty capsules and swallowed. Clove has also been found effective in relieving hiccups, motion sickness, upset stomach, and nausea.
The leaves of this hardy perennial are used in poultices to expedite the healing of broken bones and skin conditions without scarring. Comfrey has been proven beneficial in the external treatment of various skin-related problems, such as insect bites and stings, sores, burns, bruises, cuts, hives, and rashes. Midwives recommend soaking in warm (not hot) comfrey sitz baths for healing after childbirth. To make a soaking solution, add ¼ cup of dried comfrey leaves to a quart jar. Boil one quart of water and pour into the jar. Steep for 20 minutes, before straining and apply to the affected area. Soak broken bones in the tepid solution, or saturate a cloth with the herbal liquid and apply directly to rashes, insect bites, etc., to enhance healing.
5. Raw Honey
Nature’s sweet nectar doubles as a topical healing salve for scrapes, cuts, and burns. Honey is a natural antiseptic with many wound-healing components. Its nectar-based compound propolis kills bacteria; its hydrogen peroxide (honey contains an enzyme that breaks down glucose sugars and produces hydrogen peroxide) disinfects; and its natural sugars absorb moisture and keep wounds free of bacteria while healing. Use it to soothe sunburn by mixing ½ cup of raw honey and 1 cup of milk, and apply the mixture directly to the area to relieve discomfort and promote healing.
What’s in your your home herbal remedies kit? Tell us in the comments below!
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.