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Food has tremendous power to heal a body, or to keep it in good health. It also has tremendous power, if adulterated and messed with, to cause great harm to the body.
We have found that the biggest health benefits come not from supplements or miracle cures, but just from persistently choosing good, wholesome, nutrient dense, natural, and fresh foods.
Sometimes the best "medicine" isn't medicine at all!
Low salt diets are highly controversial in real food circles, and have been proven again and again to be harmful to overall health, and deadly in many instances. Modern medicine still clings to it though, because it is easier to recommend a low salt diet than to address the actual issues.
The issue is sort of irrelevant anyway, since the human body simply flushes excess salt, and hypernatremia (high blood salt) really doesn't happen except in cases of dehydration. So why anyone ever thought that salt was the issue is beyond me!
People now feel guilty for every bit of salt they add to their food, and this is just plain NUTS! If you cook from scratch, you HAVE to add salt to your food. If you do not, you end up with too little salt, which is more dangerous than too much. Hyponatremia is no joking matter
No need to feel guilty - your body will crave salt when you need it, but not when you do not. You can trust your taste buds to know when you need it and when you do not. It is pretty much impossible to over-consume salt, because you just can't get it down!
Low salt is recommended for high blood pressure and certain types of heart disease, but high blood pressure is not affected by salt intake in all forms of high blood pressure related disease, and where it is, the effect tends to be temporary. What is clear is that a diet with severely restricted salt, over time, is more harmful than the high blood pressure.
Low salt has been linked to higher cholesterol and higher triglicerides.
Refined salt, and high salt processed foods may affect blood pressure - but it is often things OTHER than the salt that are to blame.
Sea salt is recommended over refined salt, and it may be an excellent option for people who are afraid of salt. The thing is, the minerals in sea salt help you to feel satisfied with a lower amount of salt. You pretty much CANNOT eat too much salt without it gagging you - your body will simply turn away from it. If you CRAVE it, you NEED it. But you feel satisfied FASTER with sea salt because it has more additional minerals in it that help you USE the salt more easily. This means, with sea salt, you can SALT TO TASTE, and you will get the amount your body NEEDS, and you don't have to worry about overdoing it.
We've been taught to believe that our taste buds may not be trusted, that they'll just make us fat and unhealthy, but that isn't true. When you feed your body fresh foods as much as you can, and make foods from scratch, you'll find that things balance out - but you will STILL crave a bag of potato chips, or a greasy cheeseburger sometimes, just not all that often. When my body is in balance, I go weeks without craving chocolate (that is a completely astonishing thing, believe me!).
I get asked a lot about salt amounts in pickled foods, because I sell a lacto-fermentation product (http://fermentacap.com), and I've researched this for that reason. High salt foods are self-limiting. You won't crave them unless you need them, and the flavors are so strong that you will stop eating them before they become harmful.
Low salt diets are the same as so many other trendy food patterns... They are recommended based on myth.
Testing that showed benefits from a low salt diet were skewed. This is how it goes:
Group of people with specific health problem are selected from a pool of people who largely eat refined foods.
Low salt diet is recommended - now at this time in history there are ABSOLUTELY NO "low salt" convenience foods. NONE. No refined foods that are low in salt either.
In an effort to meet the diet requirements, the participants increase their intake of foods prepared at home from scratch, and increase their intake of fresh foods.
ASTONISHMENT!!! The low salt diet has proven effective in reducing risks of heart disease! Wow! Who knew?
Food manufacturers RUSH to produce low salt versions of all the refined and convenience foods available.
All the participants gain weight, decline in health, and go back to their previous state, and then decline more rapidly. But no matter, the study is over, and nobody is watching.
Subsequent studies FAIL to produce the same results.
Because it NEVER WAS THE SALT. It always was the FOOD QUALITY.
Many subsequent studies have shown that salt is NECESSARY to heart health, and that a low salt diet is not only not helpful, but actually harmful to heart health. They consistently show that a diet containing high amounts of FOOD, instead of food like substances, promotes health in every respect, and that the body is fully capable of regulating salt levels, craving it when it is low, and flushing excess.
This is not a comprehensive herb list, it is just some that I've used and feel comfortable using.
Most of these have OTHER uses also, this is just what I have used them for.
I do what I do because I understand the science behind it, and I've researched worldwide sources to verify the safety of my practices to my own satisfaction. Please do your own research, and proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK
In No Particular Order!
Mint - Mildly to moderately sedative or relaxing, depending on the type of mint. Mama's Curly Mint could put you to sleep in half an hour, and peppermint tea was her go to for kids with an upset stomach. Not useful for acid reflux or acid indigestion, can make it worse. Not useful for treatment of emotional disregulation, except as an occasional recreational tea to relax and reduce episodic stress.
Dandelion - High in iron, sometimes used for diarrhea for that reason. More effective as a vegetable than as an herb in most cases. May be diuretic, and dandelion blossoms make a popular salve for eczema.
Myrrh - Good for making salve, for some types of skin irritations. Best not used internally.
Ginseng - Metabolic compensator, which is why it is known for increasing energy. It signals the body to release more energy to the cells, reducing feelings of fatigue. It also provides some partial amino and acid chains that work to help form complete nutrient molecules, and to replace missing metabolic transport enzymes. May help with some types of depression, but only where the depression is a result of either situational inability to accomplish things due to low energy (metabolic dysfunction), or where the depression is caused/aggravated by metabolic dysfunction.
Ginkgo - Considered to be good for improving brain function, specifically memory and organizational functions. May be helpful for some types of ADHD. While it is not recommended (medical sources list a warning) for individuals with seizure disorders, there is a suggestion that it may be countereffective, but may be useful for some kinds of brain healing, even where episodic (predictable) seizure disorders are concerned - use with extreme caution and careful monitoring under this circumstance. I have about three types of focal seizures which I treat with herbs, and one of them responds to Ginkgo, and one to GABA, the other to Black Haw and Cramp Bark.
Kava-Kava - Sedative, and relaxant, avoid overuse. May be hard on the liver, but relatively safe for the general population if not overused. This IS addictive, and you notice by the third night if you use it every night as a sedative, it will be less effective within that time. Sometimes used in a blend with Ginkgo, St. John's Wort, Lemon Balm, Ginseng, or other similar herbs, for ADD/ADHD.
St. John's Wort - Used as an anti-depressant, and has a gentle mood stabilizing effect. Does NOT produce a HIGH. Works best in conjunction with Borage Oil. St. John's Wort should be used with caution, especially for those who are sun sensitive, as it increases your likelihood of sunburn. Trust me on this, I've burned in the shade while using this!
Borage Oil - Light mood lifter, known historically as "the herb of happiness". The oil works synergistically with St. John's Wort for mood stabilization. Used as a healer for skin, and can strengthen hair formation in the folicles, which can, over time, reduce split ends as the stronger hair grows out. Kinda odd to see this, if you use it intermittently, you can tell which hair formed with it, and which did without it, and you get a band of breakage at a certain grow-out point. Can help reduce chilblains, and sceborrhetic derbatitis, also recommended for heart health in place of Evening Primrose Oil, both are high in gamma linoleic acid.
Alfalfa - Should avoid overuse during pregnancy, this can help with hormone stabilization for women otherwise.
Black Cohosh - Used for recovery from miscarriage, affects both hormones and uterine bleeding.
Blue Cohosh - Used to induce labor contractions. It can really work, if the pregnancy is ready for it, otherwise just makes your stomach sore. Sometimes recommended to reduce uterine bleeding, by contracting the uterus - and it CAN help with that, but overdose is a real risk because it may affect other smooth muscles. Can cause hemorrhoids if overused.
Black Haw - Relaxer - this one is addictive if used regularly. Used historically to stop uterine contractions to prevent premature labor. WARNING!!! Black Haw relaxes the uterus, so MUST NOT be used if uterine bleeding is present, because it WILL make it worse! It can increase blood flow to the uterus by relaxing the muscles also. Can be used as an emergency medication for petit mal or focal seizures, the relaxant effect of this herb has a mild suppressant effect on seizure activity. This herb DOES slow intestinal motility - which means it can give you constipation. Should not be used for stress relief, too addictive.
Evening Primrose Oil - Recommended for heart health, but often used for female hormonal regulation. Sometimes used as a vaginal suppository for labor preparation.
Hawthorn - Used for heart health, should be used with caution, as it can conflict with some heart medications.
Saw Palmetto - Male hormonal regulation and prostate health, typically, but has some other effects also, and should not be used long term.
Aloe - Skin and hair health, and useful for cuts and burns. Can be used internally, for intestinal health, and some other uses, but best with NONE of the green of the leaf in the preparation. Rumored to be associated with risk of miscarriage if the green parts of the leaf are consumed during pregnancy.
Linden Flower - Lovely herb, has a delightful tea flavor, and is recommended as a sedative or pain reliever, but this is something I cannot attest to because I have never been able to get it to produce that effect! I use it for an anti-viral or anti-biotic, and it HAS been helpful for that, shortening the length of infectious flares.
Passion Flower - Same as Linden flower, but not as tasty. Exactly the same - same recommended uses without being able to gain a benefit of that kind, and same repurposed use as an anti-microbial, with good effect.
Olive Leaf Extract - Anti-viral. This really works, I have used it in rotation with other anti-virals, and sometimes by itself, and it has minimal side effects, and good effect.
Cinnamon - Useful for diabetic blood sugar control. I've used this, recommended dosage produced a measurable drop in blood sugar with use over several days. Problem is that it is harsh on the digestive system, and many people cannot tolerate the necessary doses to produce long term results.
Calendula - Nice anti-biotic, mild anti-viral. Useful internally (tea), and externally (wash, salve, etc). I have seen this heal a pressure infection on an amputee stump literally overnight, when medications and other treatments had failed - worsening sore - for days. Works for SOME fungal infections, not all. One of my go-to herbs.
Hops - Very effective anti-biotic if used as a tea or taken as capsule, but the problem is that it is very hard on the intestinal tract, and will cause irritation and pain within a few doses. Should ONLY be alternated with other anti-biotics, and not used by itself. And an added bonus if you use it as a tea - seldom will you ever find a more vile and wretched concoction to try to force past your taste buds, it is worse even than Yarrow.
Chamomile - Calming tea, often used in sleepy time blends, and tummy ache remedies. Traditional lore says do not use heavily when pregnant, as it was once used as an emenogogue.
Lemon Balm - Lovely lemony tea, and reputed to help with depression. Wonderful when planted along walkways, the smell just wafts up! Not recommended during pregnancy.
Brigham Tea - Useful as a metabolic compensator, like ginseng, though the effect is somewhat different. To reduce negative side effects, this is prepared as a weak tea, using a pressure pot. 12 branches, 3" or so long, for 6 cups of water. Pressure on high 10 minutes, then add 6 TBSP sugar (substitutes do NOT work!), and pressure on low for 5 minutes. End result is a pleasant flavored PINK tea. Should not have more than 1 cup a day, and should not be consumed daily for more than 2-3 days. Cans well!
Arnica - Healing and antiseptic herb. Not recommended for internal use. Traditionally used as a salve, but works as a wash also.
Bee Pollen - Antihistimine in effect. Traditionally used for bee sting reactions, or pollen allergies, but for some reason this seems to work on all kinds of allergies. I've used it to back off anaphylaxis (slow building reaction) when I was hypersensitive to chlorine and got overdosed - could NOT go to the hospital, because their medications ALL contain chlorine, and even benadryl or zyrtec would make the reaction WORSE (I was allergic to both at the time - medical help would have killed me). But bee pollen came to my rescue quite a few times, using 1-2 capsules, and obtaining slow relief within half an hour, needing another dose generally in 24 hours, more or less.
Royal Jelly - Surprisingly, this has some benefit. It is mildly neuroregenerative, and mildly endocrine regenerative (it stimulates some types of growth in bees), and can cause abnormal hair growth if you are cavalier with it! Should NOT be taken daily, should be used with caution.
Bilberry - Used by the military in studies to improve night eyesight, with reported good effect.
Cascara - I never licked the bark when we were peeling cascara trees when I was a kid, but I was assured that the experience would be motivating and unforgetable if I did. Strong laxative. Overuse will produce such painful cramps that it will bring a grown man to tears, and can cause problems with hemorrhoids.
Chickweed - Lovely crunchy salad green, which has a chemical in it which reputedly aids in weight loss. I would not use this as an extract or tea, it is so good in salads, and it should not be used long term anyway. My only complaint is that the growing season for it is so short, and it does not want to grow in my area.
Comfrey - Controversy, controversy! Yeah, it can cause cancer. Yeah, it can aid healing. We find that when something has a cellular regenerative effect, it also has potential carcinogenic and mutanogenic effects, because when you stimulate the body to reproduce cells at a rapid rate, errors in DNA replication are more common. So if it WORKS, it DOES have a natural, and reasonably provable side effect. Just the cost of having it do the job. NOT recommended for inclusion in products that are used repeatedly in the same place on the body. Not recommended for use as a recreational tea. If you take those warnings, it IS useful for occasional emergency or first aid use. This herb also constricts skin, so you do NOT want to use it to try to heal stretch marks... Trust me... Misery does not BEGIN to define the discomfort it causes on a pregnant belly!
Cranberry - Excellent for kidneys. Someone out there is circulating a rumor that cranberry is not helpful for kidney function. Ignore them, it is actually very effective for kidney and bladder infections. Yes. I've used it. Yes, it stopped the infection. Yes, I lived through it. I have family members who use this also, under direction from a nephrologist.
Garlic - Antibiotic in function, though rumored to be anti-viral (many are both, but stronger on one form of microbes than another). This is also a blood thinner, and this is where I've found it to be most useful, and where I need to be cautious. You don't want to be crunching the toast with baked garlic on it if you are having bleeding issues. Can be useful for treating blood clots or phlebitis, but has a rebound effect if you use it too long, so should only be used for short term situations. (For the record, I DID go to the doctor, but the ER was an hour away, and driving there resolved the clot, but did not resolve the problem that caused it, so I used garlic for the next few years at the first sign of vein pain to stay OUT of the ER.)
Dill Weed - Useful for clotting disorders - only where too much clotting is a problem. Can be taken regularly as a preventive, and while I can't prove it worked, it did seem to help.
Elderberry - Popular anti-viral, but also anti-biotic. Leaf is most effective. Not good to take this on a daily basis, it is like most anti-microbials, either the microbes get resistant, or it depletes your body of the good microbes.
Ginger - Reputed to settle an upset stomach or morning sickness, and ginger snap cookies, or candied ginger were sometimes used in that capacity historically. I can attest that for many people though, it can give you a glorious case of heartburn! There's a reason for the conflicting results. RAW ginger is a different thing than COOKED ginger. Raw ginger is more potent and will cause more burning sensation. Cooked ginger is gentled down. So if you are using ginger for digestive issues, use COOKED ginger, either in your meals, or in a small cookie or candied form.
Chanca Piedra - This has been shown in studies to help dissolve kidney stones, but should NOT be used on a daily basis. It is spectacularly foul tasting also.
Green Coffee Berry or Coffee Berry Extract - Metabolic compensator, similar to ginseng, BUT.... Coffee beverages, brewed hot, tend to concentrate some components, and lose others, so it is NOT the same! This should not be taken on a daily basis, but for me, I have needed it less and less as time goes on, it seems to compensate, and heal, both.
Green Tea Extract - Exactly the same as Coffee Berry, but may have benefits for kidney health if used with moderation. Heals as it compensates, so long term, need for it may taper off.
Hemp Seed - Used as a protein supplement. Unfortunately, it is VERY hard on the digestive tract with prolonged use, so whatever benefit it has, gets lost to intestinal damage and nutritional deficiency secondary to malabsorption issues.
Hyssop - Mild flavored tea, I am not sure about capsules, never used them. But I can attest that hyssop is a gentle cough relief herb. It does not quiet it all, but takes the edge off, and may be useful for pneumonia, and bronchitis, where you CAN'T suppress the cough completely without worsening the infection (since mucus stays in the lungs), but where you need to give just enough relief to allow some sleep (if they sit up, and use hyssop, they might be able to get some rest without drowning or coughing themselves to a vomitous state).
Lobelia - Not useful for nerve pain, I can tell you that! But works as a sedative and does relieve types of pain that are not severe enough to break through sleep. This needs to be used with caution, it IS addictive, and it is harmful in pregnancy.
Maca - Reputed to help with reproductive issues, and issues of intimacy, which means you get funny looks if you buy this for reproductive issues. Does increase blood flow to the pelvic region so caution is advised if any uterine bleeding is present. Low doses generally considered safe for pregnancy.
Milk Thistle - Renowned liver healer. May also help with kidney health to a lesser degree.
Queen of the Meadow - Controversial, may aid in healing specific reproductive issues, though nobody has quantified exactly WHICH reproductive issues so they just kind of use it for all of them. I have read that there have been successes with healing repeat miscarriage, though I don't know how well documented it was.
Papaya Leaf - Used as a digestive enzyme replacement. It works ok, but I found that dried mango, dried pineapple, or dried kiwi was just as effective, and easier to obtain. About a 1" square, by 1/8" thick piece of dried enzymatic fruit works pretty well, and replaces about 3 tablets of Payaya Leaf Extract. Otherwise about three of these are needed for a meal, and they did help me to digest certain foods without so much heartburn and indigestion.
Red Raspberry Leaf - The quintessential feminine herb, makes a fairly safe recreational replacement for iced tea. Used for reduction of menstrual cramps, and reduction of heavy bleeding. Those two things are usually mutually exclusive, but this herb really does this. Side effect that gets you is that too much encapsulated herb is harsh on the digestive system, and will give you intestinal pain. Capsules are taken about every 6 hours, and take about 4 hours to take effect. Tea takes effect far faster, but only lasts about 4 hours, and it is REALLY hard to keep making tea, and eliminating it, around the clock. But you CAN bottle this in used fruit juice bottles - just stuff about 4 full compound leaves into a quart jar, add water, put the lid on, and waterbath for 15 minutes. The leaves sink to the bottom, and you can just pour off the tea when you open the bottle.
Turmeric - A double edged sword if there ever was one! Turmeric is actually a good healer for intestinal issues, I've used it. Recommended dose is about a tsp a day, which is hard to get into your diet, and capsules are the easiest method. I don't recommend using it daily - I used it every day and got about half a tsp of it into a meal, using it with a sweet and sour marinade for vegetables or meat, but could not use it long term. Turmeric, you see, is stored a long time, so producers and packers treat it with a sprout inhibitor which kills surface cells in the intestines. So unless you can get TRULY organic Turmeric (most organic is still treated), it has limited benefit - the backlash is often worse than the original condition.
Valerian - Mother's Little Helper right in the garden. Valerian does have a mild relaxant and sedative effect, but I've never used enough of it to knock me out. Does not help with nerve pain. I tend to use this in a preparation with a small amount of lobelia, a little bit of valerian, and a larger amount of black haw, for seizures, and the mixture is effective on somnolent focal seizures, but I don't use it daily, and all are addictive, so it isn't a recommended treatment for constant seizure suppression. This IS known to be addictive, not recommended for regular use.
Wild Lettuce - No sedative or pain relief effect at all. Just so you know. But it does have some mild metabolic compensator effects. The best use for this is to feed it to your rabbits. It makes delicious meat.
Wild Cherry Bark Extract - Now THIS one will make you drowsy. Don't use it unless you are staying home, and it is presumed addictive so avoid regular use. Peel out the inner bark, and throw it in your pressure pot. A good handful of inner bark strips about 6" long. Add 2 cups water. Pressure for 15 minutes on high pressure. Add 4 cups sugar, and pressure for 5 minutes on high. Strain out the bark. Pour into canning jars while molten hot, and put the lids on snug. You can waterbath it if you want, but I don't. Refrigerate after opening. 1-2 tablespoons per dose.
Witch Hazel - Skin tonic and cleansing herb, best made into a wash or tincture (for use in a wash), or sometimes as an ointment.
Wormwood or Southernwood, or Big Sage Leaf - Ok, so all these are interchangeable. They are usually used for skin infestations, or to treat worms in animals. If you stuff a pint jar about half full of the soft fuzzy leaves, and then pour in any kind of cooking oil, and then set it in water in a crock pot on WARM for several days, you get a skin or hair oil that is nasty to use, but which WILL wash out with shampoo - this has been effective for me at times, for sceborrhetic dermatitis. If you put some of this into alcohol, and let set COLD you get something similar that you can dab onto ringworm or other NON OPEN irritations caused by either fungus, mites, or other little crawly things. If you use a mixture of honey and water instead of the oil or alcohol, you get something that smells so much like especially repulsive turpentine that you'll never think it can be used for ANYTHING!!! But it can be used at a rate of 1 tablespoon of this to 1 gallon of water, for treating worms or other intestinal parasites IN ANIMALS ONLY. At least, this is what they say...
Yarrow - Bah, Ptooey, Nasty! This is the classic vile tincture, and tea, but people swear by it. So far I've taken it for heart issues (low dose), uterine hemorrhage (with Naproxin Sodium, and Red Raspberry Tea), and once for an infection. I can't swear that it worked for any of them. But I lived, contrary to the desire I had when I could not get the flavor out of my mouth fast enough. As a capsule, it works, but the onset of effect is so slow that it is not usually used this way except for internal infections.
Echinacea - I love this herb, but it does not love me. It is a good anti-biotic for me, but not a good anti-viral. And it is not an enjoyable tea, so I take it as an herb when I need it.
Golden Seal - Reputed to lower blood sugar in sensitive individuals, I think in part because people tend to take it when they are not eating well. If you are up and eating, and don't already have blood sugar problems, it does not seem to be an issue. Anyway, I use it in rotation with other anti-biotics, they seem to work best that way.
Caffeine - Ok, so it is not an herb. And Coffee and Tea are NOT good options. But when you need a solid immune suppressant to get an auto-immune disease under control, it works nicely. About 1 month of caffeine therapy, combined with healing herbs, so the auto-immune attack drops sufficient to get some healers in there, and then you stop the caffeine treatment, and keep on with the healing herbs for another few months, tapering them off. Usually there are environmental effects, so those are addressed at the same time (chlorine, chemicals in air fresheners and dryer sheets, sprout inhibitors in foods, are the three biggies). Caffeine therapy is 1 tablet, twice a week for 1 week, 1/2 tablet twice a week for three weeks. This protocol is what I used to treat Crohn's when I was down to only being able to eat about 13 specific foods (like butter, peeled zucchini, banana, hard white wheat, organic bison, lactose free organic milk, peeled organic potatoes, etc). Anyway, caffeine IS an immune suppressant, and that can be verified. Works for auto-immune miscarriage also, but you MUST NOT use sugarfree soft drinks for the caffeine source. The caffeine may react with the aspartame, and cause catastrophic birth defects. Someone who is addicted to coffee or tea will already have significant immune suppression, and caffeine treatment should NEVER be used with them.
A short description of some of the forms in which herbs are found.
Tea, Decoction, etc. - Usual is 1 tsp herb to 1 cup of water, boil the water, steep for tea, boil the herb in the water for decoction (roots, barks, and other thick stuff does best with this).
Tincture - Herbs are soaked cold in high proof alcohol for anywhere between 2 weeks and several months, depending on the coarseness of the herb, and the desired strength. Used by the drop or dropperful, depending.
Capsule - Takes longer to take effect than tea or tincture, but is easier and more pleasant. You get the whole herb - helpful sometimes, not so helpful other times. Some are EXTRACTS, meaning they've been processed some, and some are whole herb.
Wash - Either a tea, or tincture mixed with water, used to wash a wound, infection, or irritation.
Salve, Ointment - Made by heating an oil or solid fat, and steeping the herb in it, at a low temperature. Too hot, and you have fried herb. Used for skin treatments.
Oil - Long slow, low heat steep results in a strong oil. Sometimes a cold steep is used but it takes months to do. Useful for scalp treatments, or a hot washcloth with the oil on it, laid on a skin irritation.
NOTE REGARDING ANTIBIOTIC USE OF HERBS
I have had to treat strep when I could not tolarate an antibiotic, and I would NEVER recommend this course for anyone unless it were their only choice. It WAS my only choice, as I was just too sensitive to antibiotic medications at the time.
I used a combination of heavy duty antibiotic herbs, in rotation (helps avoid microbial resistance), and it was so terrible. It took 2 weeks for the sore throat to subside, and another month or more for me to feel like I was over it. I would never subject a child to such torture, when a medication can knock it out in 1-3 days (depending on the type). I've done it both ways, with more than one type of strep, and there is just no comparison.
The information on this site is presented for informational purposes only, and consists of the opinions and experiences of the site authors. It is not to be construed as medical advice or to be used to diagnose or treat any illness. Seek the assistance of a medical professional in implementing any nutritional changes with the goal of treating any medical condition. The historical and nutritional information presented here can be verified by a simple web search.