(NaturalNews) Taking care of minor ailments at home without rushing to a doctor can be very rewarding. A basic knowledge of herbs and a good reference book are generally all that is needed. In addition to treating ailments, the health benefits of incorporating herbs in the diet on a regular basis can strengthen the immune system and contribute to overall good health. Once you know the basics, using herbs is quite simple.
Using Herbs Safely
Exercise caution when using herbs, as some herbs are toxic if taken in excess. Consult an herbalist if in doubt. Read all instructions and labels carefully before administering herbal remedies. It is especially important not to take herbal treatments and other medicines simultaneously without consulting a homeopath or other qualified medical professional first. A woman who is pregnant needs to be careful when taking herbal medicines and should get the approval of her naturopathic practitioner or homeopath first.
Many herbs and herbal products are readily available at health stores. Dried herbs are generally inexpensive, but check the dates to make sure the herbs are not old. Freshly dried herbs can last between three months to a year, while capsules have a shelf life of approximately one year.
Garden nurseries are the perfect place to look for young plants and staff will generally give advice on setting out an herb garden. Herbs are ideal to grow in pots if space is limited. Usually the whole plant has its uses, including the leaves, buds, bark, roots, sap and gel. Once again, err on the side of caution when it comes to using any part of a plant, especially when it comes to identifying herbs. Learn from an expert.
This is one of the most pleasant ways of benefiting from herbs. Simply hang a calico bag filled with fresh herbs and flowers under a hot tap when running a bath. Hand or foot baths can be prepared in the same way, or a decoction of the herb can be added to hot water.
Making Herbal Tea
A tea made with the flowers or leaves of a plant is generally referred to as an infusion. Teas made with roots, bark, berries or seeds need to be simmered on a low heat in water to bring out the healing qualities of the plant.
The standard strength is to use one teaspoon of dried herb or two teaspoons of fresh herbs added to boiling water. Allow to brew for three to five minutes. Herbal teas are gentle remedies for convalescents, those who are weary or sick with colds and flu. Teas can be taken hot or cold. Herbal teas should be limited to three cups per day.
Fleur Hupston is a professional freelance writer. She is passionate about natural, healthy living and is currently studying to be a naturopath. She divides her time between writing for Natural News and various other sites, home schooling her children and studying part time.