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Health wisdom: Herbs that heal ailments

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 12:29 IST
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Each time you have a headache, indigestion or a sore throat do you reach for the first painkiller or antibiotic you can lay your hands on? True, at times these medicines are essential for treating acute conditions.

But to treat numerous minor ailments we have an equally effective and far healthier alternative within our hand’s reach: herbal medicines. Though herbal remedies have been used worldwide since ages they now enjoy increased acceptance and popularity due to their ‘natural’ properties.

Herbs are perceived to be less toxic and pose negligible side effects as compared to synthetic drugs. Herbal medicines are essentially composed of the whole plant or its extract which, in effect proves more beneficial.

Moreover, while synthetic medicines do provide instant but temporary relief from pain, they fail to address the root cause unlike herbal ones which successfully work upon the origin of the ailment.

For natural herbal remedies, your kitchen is a great place to start. It has practically all the ‘medicines’ you would need to treat common ailments.

Mint (pudina): A storehouse of medicinal properties, the large mint family encompasses herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, oregano and peppermint. Easily available, this popular culinary herb can do much more than perk up a bland soup or be used in chutneys, soups, vegetable juices and casseroles.

Mint is a proven, potent ‘carminative’ and is very useful to combat flatulence, indigestion and nausea. Being an antibiotic it helps increase the body’s immunity and proves to be an excellent diaphoretic (sweat inducing herb) if you have viral infection. A cup of mint tea is ideal to soothe frayed nerves and as a cure for insomnia, headaches, toothaches and mild nervousness.

Coriander (dhania): Popularly used as a garnish and to make chutneys, dried coriander seed powder is an essential ingredient of curry powders. Coriander poultice is an excellent remedy for joint pain. And being a carminant it relieves flatulence and encourages better digestion.

Dill ( suva): Very popular amongst pickle lovers, in fact, a little dill pickle is good for the stomach provided you go easy on the oil. Dill has mild sedative properties and being a ‘carminative’, relieves flatulence and indigestion.

Horseradish (mula): These pungent, white roots belong to the cabbage family. Used in salads, it makes a superb dip if blended with lemon and tomato juice.

A poultice of horseradish is effective in treating arthritic pain or sore muscles. It also assists in clearing sinustisis and upper respiratory tract infections. Eating small amounts increases the nasal discharge. When applied externally, it irritates the skin and consequently, increases the blood flow to that part, thereby reducing the pain. Radish is also a potent diuretic. It is effective in treating bleeding piles.

Peppermint: Eases flatulence and gastro intestinal tract disorders.

Rosemary: It assists digestion and is a powerful antioxidant. However, if taken in excess it can prove toxic.

Basil: Good for your stomach and intestines, make it a habit to chew basil leaves every day. Taken with a few drops of ginger juice it can clear up congestion.

Herbs can be used to treat dozens of health complaints. A little bit of awareness and knowledge can help reduce health care cost and keep you and your family in the pink of health.

(Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre. You may direct your questions to query@health-total.com ).

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