“I go into my library and all
history unrolls before me.” Alexander Smith
In Western tradition, boneset is perhaps the single most important
herb for combating the flu. There have been six major influenza pandemics (worldwide
outbreaks) since 1889. The 1918 influenza pandemic (“Spanish flu”) was the
deadliest pandemic in history. Approximately 5% of the world’s population was
infected, and the number of deaths has been estimated at 50 million (CDC).
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) might
be the single best herbal remedy for influenza. During the severe “Spanish Flu” pandemic, boneset was one of the safest
and most successful remedies employed and contributed much to the successful
management of the disease under the Eclectic treatment.
Most of you know that I enjoy cooking—my intention is to create food that is not only delicious, but deeply nourishing. As an herbalist, I’m especially interested in the health benefits of common herbs and spices used in culinary traditions around the world. My Italian heritage means that basil, oregano, and rosemary play a prominent role in our kitchen, but our shelves are filled with a wide variety of spices and herbs. One of my favorites is turmeric, a deep golden yellow powder that is best known as an ingredient in East Indian curries. Throughout history, turmeric has been valued as a spice, food preservative, dye (giving Buddhist robes their familiar golden color), and most importantly, as a powerful plant medicine. A close relative of ginger, turmeric grows in southern India, China, and Indonesia.
I recently conferred with a patient who had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory type of arthritis that affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling and potential joint destruction and deformity. The standard treatment for the disease is high dosages of pharmaceutical drugs, including anti-inflammatories, steroids, and immune suppressive drugs. The danger is that although these drugs suppress symptoms and may keep the disease somewhat under control, they do not address the underlying causes. And the side effects of these types of drugs can be significant, including serious liver damage, increased risk for infection, and heart disease.
A glue-like substance used by bees for building and protecting their hives, propolis at first glance appears to be an unlikely medicinal remedy. But the wide range of healing properties attributed to this sticky substance make it effective for everything from canker sores to cancer, and it’s one of my favorite natural remedies. In fact, I attribute my quick and complete recovery last year from a serious staph infection (contracted from a public hot spring swimming pool) in great part to propolis.
Many people feel anxious when they’re under stress, but for approximately 40 million Americans, anxiety is more than a passing state of emotion. Shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, dizziness, upset stomach, tension, irritability, sleep difficulties, memory problems, and feelings of dread are common daily experiences of people who suffer from chronic anxiety. For those who consult a physician, the first suggestion is usually drugs: tranquilizers (benzodiazepines), often coupled with antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). But these medications come with a long list of unpleasant side effects, and have a significant risk of dependence.