My favourite herbs to use at home – Part 2
Did you know that Chinese Medicine is more than just Acupuncture, Massage and Cupping? No? Well, it totally is! Chinese Medicine also encompasses a whole lot of herbal medicine. In fact, practitioners have been using herbs, teas, decoctions and pills for several thousand years. Ancient Chinese Medicine practitioners discovered hundreds of formulas made up of between 2-20 traditional herbs, all for a range of different disorders. There are formulas for digestion, insomnia, headaches, stress, period pain, and arthritis…. honestly, the list goes on. But that doesn’t mean that it’s complicated. Actually, it’s quite simple and many of the herbs that we use in our formulas can be found in your kitchen. If I do give a herbal remedy to a client, I like to keep it super simple. This means that many of the remedies can be made at home from everyday ingredients. So, if you fancied getting to know your ginger from your galangal or if you think it would be useful to find out how to use cinnamon quills to help muscle recovery, read on! This is the blog post for you.
| LEMONGRASS | XIANG MAO CAO | CYMBOPOGON CITRATUS |
This is fresh lemongrass from my garden - just picked and so incredibly wonderful-smelling that I'm sad social media doesn't have a smell option. Believe me - it's gorgeous. This little bundle is about to be hung up in my kitchen to dry, with a small handful being made into tea now with some fresh grated ginger and a little raw honey for a mid-morning tea moment.
BUT! While the kettle is on, did you know that Lemongrass is antiseptic? It helps to clear out negative bacteria and parasites in the large intestine. it also helps to decrease the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines, making it useful for those with mild-moderately high cholesterol levels. If you feel a cold coming on, Lemongrass also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and is loaded with Vitamin C to help your body fight new infections. If you have arthritis or joint pain, Lemongrass also suppresses the activity of cyclooxygenase-2 - an enzyme involved in joint inflammation.
HOW TO: either grab some big stalks from your local grocer or get a small seedling and grow it in a pot on your windowsill (it grows super quickly). Cut off a few leaves and pop in a teapot and drink as tea. It’s also LOVELY with ginger and honey added to it. This is also a bonze little combo to turn into iced tea - it’s completely refreshing in the afternoon. Enjoy!
| ROSEMARY | MI DIE XIANG | ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS |
This is one of my favourite herbs…I may have taken to drying very large bunches in my kitchen and adding it to everything - roast veggies, stews, soups, casseroles, flatbreads…the list goes on. And why not? Rosemary has a heap of good things in it! It’s anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and it’s also an antioxidant. From a Chinese Medicine perspective Rosemary is a Yang herb, meaning that it warms the channels of the body and helps to warm your insides. If you’ve got cold hands and feet or you feel run down and tired in the winter months then this herb is for you!
HOW TO: Grab a big ol’ bunch of Rosemary from the supermarket, local market, your garden or your neighbours garden (make sure to ask them first). Grab some kitchen string, tie the stalks together and then hang it from a cupboard door for 2-3 weeks. Once the leaves are nice and crispy flake them off into a tupperware container. Add dried rosemary to EVERYTHING. Enjoy!
| CHAMOMILE | YÁNG GĀN JÚ | MATRICARIA RECUTITA |
Mmmmmm, Chamomile is one of my most favourite tea herbs. This super light and delightful flower is good for so many things - especially for all things relaxing and sleep-related. Firstly, it's a sedative, calming you down in order to sleep. It's also a spasmolytic, allowing it to decrease spasms in smooth muscles, as well as being a carminative, which help to relieve sore-belly issues like bloating and flatulence. Lastly it's an anti-Inflammatory herb. Also, it smells amazing. Like fresh fields after ran as the sun warms them.
HOW TO: If you find yourself with a little skin rash (like Eczema or dermatitis) make a big cup of tea and split it in half. Drink one half (om nom nom) and cool the other in the fridge. Once the tea is ready, dip fresh cotton pads into it and use them as a compress on your sore and inflamed skin.
| LAVENDER | XŪN YĪ CÂO | LAVENDULA |
Okay, so this isn't traditionally a TCM herb, but it's one of my most favourite and accessible herbal remedies. Lavender is an anxiolytic, so it works fantastically to calm you down, regulate your nervous system and slow down thoughts on crazy-brain days. It's a balancing herb as it works as an adaptogen to harmonize the adrenal glands. The super strong smell is also a memory trigger so perfect for students in stressful exam times - just rub a lovely flower or some oil on your temples while studying and just before an exam. I like to use a mix of lavender oil and fresh flowers depending on where I am throughout the day. This particular delightful bunch was liberated from a friend’s garden after our morning walk today.
| GOJI BERRIES | GOU QI ZI | LYCII FRUCTUS |
YUM! Goji Berries! So….when I was living in China, my bestie and I went a-wandering through a herb market in Chengdu. We found a stall selling organic Gojis and decided that buying a kilo was a good idea (yanno - economies of scale and whatnot). Do you know how many Goji’s are in a kilo? Basically - a lot. So we got very good very quickly at using Gojis in all of our cooking.
It’s a good thing that Goji berries are so good for you. In Chinese medicine Goji’s nourish the main Yin organs of the body - the Liver, the Lung and the Kidney. They're fantastic for people with dry, scratchy eyes, dizziness and ladies that get very tired after their periods. They’re also a fantastic source of antioxidants, as well as being slightly anti-inflammatory. Goji’s have also been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels in people with moderately raised levels. But, if you get a bloated tummy easily, or your digestion tends to run too quickly don’t add too many to your diet as they’ll make these problems happen more easily.
HOW TO: add Gojis (raw or soaked) to the top of your porridge or smoothies; soak them and use them in grain salads as a replacement for sultanas or (my favourite) add them to your water bottle to pimp your hydration!
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PLEASE NOTE: In saying all of this, its super important to listen to your body. What does it want? What is it telling you? Is it saying that you need something in particular? It’s really important to gather information to make the choices that are right for you and your body. This information isn’t personal medical advice – rather it’s a guideline on ways that could help you to live a healthier, happier lifestyle. It is always wise to consult with a qualified health practitioner before starting any new herbs, supplements or dietary and lifestyle programs.