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Let me preface this article by saying that many doctors and scientists feel everything needed to cure whatever ails a patient can be found on this planet. Many of these cures actually can be found in your own backyard in the form of herbs.

Herbs have been used throughout history to soothe pain, heal wounds, manage a headache, and keep a heart attack at bay. Herbs can be used raw, boiled, heated, crushed, powdered, or whole. Most herbs are available in capsule or gel form today, but there’s no reason why you can’t grow you own, if you so desire.

The most common herbs include culinary herbs, such as garlic, chives, basil and sage, but today we’re going to talk about medicinal herbs including alfalfa, aloe vera, catnip, feverfew, cayenne pepper, chamomile, cranberry and many others. Never use any herbal supplements without addressing this issue to your doctor.

Alfalfa is used for problems with the bones, such as fractures, arthritis and osteoporosis. Tea is the preferable way to ingest this herb, but capsules also are available. Four cups of tea daily, is the best way. Or, an average of 12 capsules daily, taken with meals. Alfalfa is high in calcium, protein, iron, B-complex, fiber and enzymes for metabolizing ingested fats.

Aloe Vera can be used for burns, bedsores, colitis, and hemorrhoids. A little juice from this plant goes a long way. I recommend purchasing a plant and keeping it handy.

Catnip isn’t just for felines, you know! Two to three cups of warm catnip tea over the course of one day helps reduce fever, dry postnasal drip, diminish headache, and relieve the aches and pain associated with the common cold. Don’t forget to dry some for kitty, otherwise, you’ll find her climbing on the cupboards to get at yours.

Cayenne Pepper not only adds a zip to your dinner, it can take the sting of arthritis out just by rubbing it on the affected area. Cayenne Pepper also will clog blood. Simply pour a generous amount on the wound and watch in amazement.

Chamomile is a soothing herb. A cup of chamomile tea is reputed to help the patient sleep peacefully. It also is an anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic plant, therefore is important to those patients with allergies, or swollen areas–such as the nasal passages or the edges of a wound.

Cranberry is useful in helping the urinary tract clear itself of bacteria. In this case, powered cranberry seems to be more potent than commercially manufactured juices. However, if you are prone to urinary tract infections–more common in women and girls–drinking cranberry juice is a definite help.

Feverfew is reputed to take even the most severe migraine headache away. Since migraines tend to appear suddenly, it may be easier and smarter to take several capsules than down two-three cups of tea. Two to three capsules can be taken on an empty stomach, every four-five hours, as needed.

Hawthorn, in the form of syrup is used to calm irregular heartbeat and is helpful in lowering high blood pressure.

Peppermint tea taken after a meal will soothe the stomach, help deflect heartburn and control flatulence. Taken on an empty stomach, it may cause vomiting, but in the case of a severely upset stomach, vomiting may help the situation.

Willow bark contains salicin, that converts to salicylic acid in the body. Salicylic acid is closely related to the property aspirin has in it. Chewing on a willow bark twig–preferably in the spring--has the same affect on the body as taking a couple of aspirin. (If caught in the woods, and you feel you may be experiencing heart attack symptoms and don’t have an aspirin, chew on a twig immediately. Ingesting one pain aspirin during a heart attack, may save your life.)

There are virtually thousands of medicinal uses for herbs, and many books describing these uses. Reader’s Digest’s book, Magic and Medicine of Plants, is a useful and informative book. Additional recommended reading is The Herb Book, by John Lust, Healing Power of Herbs by Dr. John Heinerman, and Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Herb books are available in every book store, and herbal plants and/or seeds can be obtained at nearly every farmer’s market. Pick some up today.

Consult a doctor when you have an ailment. After the diagnosis is received, ask what herbs may be helpful and which to stay away from. Always ask for a doctor’s advice before medicating yourself.