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Herbal Uses through History ~ Ancient Healing Herbs for Modern Times

Historic uses for herbs in modern times

Alfalfa herb  In Arabic, the name means ‘Father of all Foods”. Remains of alfalfa more than 6000 years old have been found in Iran. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew it and used it in their daily lives. It aids in healthy digestion, builds blood, supports urinary and bowel function and soothes nerve function. It has been shown to detoxify and purify the blood as well as build the immune system and has been used as a food source since ancient times. Because the roots grow into the earth as far as 68 feet, it is rich in vitamins A,D,K, and all B’s as well as biotin, calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and potassium, and very high in protein.


Astragalus root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years as an energy tonic and to enhance the immune system. Studies by the American Cancer Society show the positive effects of Astragalus on the immune systems of the cancer patients tested. It also has antiviral properties that are both preventative and defensive. 


Bee pollen stimulates appetite, abundant in enzymes and co-enzymes, vitamins and minerals, amino acids and more. Used by the ancient Egyptians to increase blood supply, stimulate cell growth, energy, immunity. Shown to stimulate glandular function and provides the correct sugar to feed muscles.

Black seed have over 100 constituents that help the body in many ways, it has been said it can ‘cure everything but death’. It has been shown useful for H.Pylori infection, epilepsy, high blood pressure, asthma and several other ailments. Black seeds have shown significant anti-diabetic and anti-fungal properties. It has also been shown protect against hepatotoxicity in rat studies.


Barley grass has been used historically since 5000 BC. It is power packed with nutrition, antioxidants and is nutrient dense. It’s like eating your greens, but you only need a little to do a lot. It has shown to be an effective anti- inflammatory. It has been shown to regenerate damaged cells and tissues so it can help maintain healthy skin. Nutrient dense components include Vitamins A, B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin C , vitamin E and vitamin K. magnesium, phosphorous and potassium zinc, iron and calcium, antioxidants and essential amino acids and beneficial enzymes.

Burdock root is best known for its blood purifying properties. I also has been used as a natural diuretic and in studies done with animals has shown anti-tumor properties. It has been shown to reduce intestinal inflammation and has anti-ulcer activity and may be therapeutic for various forms of allergic inflammation. Burdock has also been shown as an immunomodulatory (balancing).


Capsicum is high in  Iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamins A, B-complex, C, G, and zinc. Columbus first introduced Capsicum from Europe in 1493 and it was popularized as a powerful stimulant. It was also used to prevent and rid the body of serious infectious diseases. Capsicum has been used to normalize blood pressure, whether high or low, along with promoting circulation. It has been used to control pain and bleeding as well. Other uses are as a carrier for other herbs.


Chamomile flower is one of the best known herbs for its sedative qualities. Chamomile tea is often used to calm nerves and reduce stress. It is also common to use to aid in digestion and relieve indigestion. It works by relaxing the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract. Chamomile contains a natural hormone similar to thyroxine that helps strengthen the hair and skin. Chamomile has been found to cleanse the liver and have anti-inflammatory properties.


Chaparral herb is a potent healer and cleanser. It has the ability to cleanse deep in the muscle and tissue walls. It works on the urinary tract and lymphatic system as it rebuilds tissue. Studies have found that chaparral works by influencing the body to inhibit unwanted rapid cell growth. It is a strong antioxidant, antitumor agent, painkiller, and antiseptic. It is one of the best herbal antibiotics. Chaparral was traditionally recommended for treating arthritis. Studies have found benefits from the plant’s anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-parasitic and analgesic properties.


Clove bud has been used effectively for bacterial and candida infection as well as inhibits the H.Pylori bacteria which is the main cause of ulcers. Clove has been effective to relieve nausea and vomiting. Clove increases circulation of the blood and promotes digestion and used orally will relieve tooth and mouth pain.  It has also been shown to increase circulation of the blood and aids in digestion.


Comfrey leaf is also known as 'bone knit' for its ability to knit tissue and bone back together. Comfrey was used by the Greeks and Romans for wound healing, respiratory ailments, to stop bleeding, and as a poultice to mend broken bones. Nicholas Culpeper, a seventeenth-century English Herbalist, recommended comfrey for all wounds external and internal. The Cherokee tribe used the comfrey plant for many ailments. Comfrey is one of the most valuable herbs known to man. It has been used with success for centuries as a wound healer and bone knitter. 


Cranberry  is high in vitamin C, cranberries are mainly used to treat bladder and urinary tract infections due to its anti-adherent properties, bacteria cannot stick to the linings and walls of the urinary tract organs.


Dandelion root is considered a great survival food because of its protein, vitamin, and mineral content. Europeans, Chinese, and Arabians have been using dandelion for hundreds of years to treat fevers, diarrhea, fluid retention, liver conditions, skin ailments, breast problems, digestion, and anemia. Today, Dandelion has been used for liver detoxification and promotes circulation, strengthens the arteries, restores gastric juices, and reduces cholesterol levels.


Diatomaceous earth shown to coat the exoskeleton of larva in the intestines so they suffocate and die. D.E. helps to prevent infestation of parasites.

Dulce is naturally high in iodine, making it very nutritious for thyroid function. Dulce is a rich source of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, calcium, chromium, cobalt, iodine, iron, lutein, manganese, magnesium niacin, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, silicon, sodium, tin, vitamin C, zeaxanthin, and zinc.

Echinacea angustafolia root was used by Native Americans for toothaches, snakebites, insect stings, headaches, swollen glands, infections, and stomach cramps. Echinacea is known best for being an immune booster by stabilizing the white blood cell count in the body. One of the greatest benefits of Echinacea may be its ability to help prevent and shorten the duration of a cold and flu.


Echinacea purp herb is used in the U.S. and Canada by Native Americans for swelling and respiratory support. Echinacea also supports the immune system. Echinacea has shown to help with skin issues.


Eleuthero root, is used primarily to enhance endurance, regulate blood sugar, and stimulate immune function. Eleuthero’s adaptogen properties increase resistance to physical, chemical, and emotional stress. Blood sugar and pressure are said to be normalized and adrenal and thyroid hormones are stimulated.


Feverfew herb was historically used to strengthen the uterus, for toothache, and as a tonic and stomachic. It is most commonly used today for migraine headache with nausea. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for pain relief.


Garlic bulb has been used for thousands of years by the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Egyptians. Native Americans used garlic as a natural antibiotic. And was used in WW1 for wound care. It has been used throughout the world in every alternative therapy from TCI to Ayurveda. It also said to help eliminate worms.


Goldenseal root was used by the Native Americans used Goldenseal as a tonic for sore throats, eye infections, ulcers, and even arrow wounds. It has been used as an insect repellent and as a pesticide for crops. Recent studies have found Goldenseal to be beneficial against viruses and infections. The antibiotic properties of Goldenseal are due to the alkaloid content, including berberine, which has been found to be effective against organisms.


Hibiscus flower was used extensively in African folk medicine as an anti-spasmodic, antibacterial, and anthelmetic (anti-parasitic).  Today it's known for its ability to lower blood pressure, stimulate appetite, dissolves phlegm in the respiratory tract, gentle laxative and diuretic. Efficacy for these claims have not been substantiated.   


Hops have been used by Native Americans, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for many ailments. They are best known for their sedative action. They are also used for their antibiotic and antifungal properties. Externally used for ringworm, sores, ulcers and skin injuries.


Kelp has been used for its rich abundance of iodine to balance thyroid disorder. It helps promote the growth of healthy tissue, skin, hair, and nails. It is used to rid the body of toxins. Kelp helps to cleanse the blood vessels and can help balance the nerves. It is helpful for female organs and can tone a weak uterus. Kelp can provide nourishment, boost the immune system, aid in hormone balance, and restore strength. 

Licorice root has been used medicinally for thousands of years by the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Chinese. Studies have shown it to be an intestinal anti-inflammatory, effective in colitis and ulcers. It has also been shown to stimulate the adrenal glands and create a hormone similar to cortisone in the system. Studies show it contains interferon which is the building blocks for a healthy immune system. It is used to loosen and expel mucus from the respiratory tract and is nutritious for the liver.

Lobelia herb - Some herbalists consider Lobelia to be one of the most valuable herbs available to humankind. Lobelia is a powerful relaxant and antispasmotic. Lobelia is beneficial for spasms, convulsions, epilepsy, and nervous conditions. It is also known among herbalists and ‘the smart herb’ do to the fact that it carries other herbs exactly where they are needed.

Marshmallow Root  is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant, which makes it good for joints and the gastrointestinal tract. it is high in calcium, iodine, iron, pantothenic acid, sodium, vitamins A and B-complex. Marshmallow has been used as food and medicine since ancient Egyptian times. Marshmallow helps expel phlegm and relaxes the bronchial tubes while soothing and healing. 


Milk thistle seedhas shown that it can help reverse both acute and chronic liver problems and it is beneficial with general liver restoration, protection, and strengthening. Milk Thistle was used in Europe as a remedy for liver problems and as a digestive aid. The liver is an extremely important organ in the body. Milk Thistle has been proven to be very beneficial for liver function.  Its high mineral content includes chromium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, tin, zinc. 


Mullein was used by the Native Americans to treat lung problems, and some tribes smoked it to treat asthma. It is best known for its use in treating respiratory disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, coughs, and congestion. It nourishes and strengthens the lungs. Mullein is also suggested for pain, as a sleep aid, a laxative, and to get rid of warts.


Mustard seed, Aids in detoxification due to the presence of glucosinolates and has antibacterial properties. It is a rich source of calciumm, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. Also folate and vitamin A. Mustard has also been shown to be effective in chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder and stimulates the activity of enzymes like S.O.D., glutathione peroxidase and catalase which help to protect and heal.


Nettles herb has been used medicinally since the second and third centuries B.C., and was mentioned in the bible. It has been effective in expelling phlegm, both respiratory and in the urinary tract. Nettle helps decrease bleeding and uric acid which can account for its ability to detoxify the kidneys. 


Oatstraw green tops used for generations for its nutritional benefits. As early as the Middle Ages to boost mental health. It has also been used to support nerve function and as a ‘vulnerary’ which helps to heal tissues, and to relieve muscle spasms. It has mild sedative properties.


Olive leaf used medicinally in Ancient Egypt. The reported benefits of Olive Leaf extract range from promoting increased energy and healthy blood pressure, to supporting the cardiovascular system and the immune system. Olive Leaf is used for supporting the body during viral, bacterial, and other infections and fungal overgrowth.


Oregon grape root has been used in medicinal remedies since the late nineteenth century for its blood purifying properties as well as its antibiotic properties. It is well-known for treating skin and mouth disease caused by toxins in the blood. Oregon Grape is also a tonic for all glands, promotes digestion, and aids in the assimilation of nutrients.


Passionflower uses have been traced to prehistoric times. Native Americans have used this herb as a poultice for wounds and as a tonic for the blood. The German Commission E Monographs have approved it for nervousness and as a sedative, which can also lower blood pressure. 


Pau d'arco Pau d’ Arco has become a well-known herb for healing and protecting the body from disease. It is found in the inner bark of the red lapacho tree, grown in the Andres Mountains. There is some evidence of antitumor properties in Pau d’ Arco. It seems to be a powerful alterative and blood builder. It gives the body greater vitality by increasing the resistance to disease. Pau d’ Arco is often referred to as the “everything” herb because of its uses for many disorders. Minerals contained in Pau'd Arco include calcium, cobalt, silicon, zinc. 


Peppermint herb has direct anti-spasmodic effects on the smooth muscle of the digestive tract. It is thought that major properties peppermint lie in the essential oils, but other components are also part of the efficacy. It has been shown to stimulate the bile production and relieve colic. Peppermint also shows mild sedative effects. pp


Plantain herb is one of the most commonly used plants in the world. This is the plant that produces psyllium. Plantain has been used to treat stomach ulcers internally and externally for stings and venomous bites. Used topically it can help stop bleeding and heal damaged tissues.


Red clover herb is valued as a blood cleanser and has been used for treating cancer, bronchitis, nervous conditions, spasms, and toxins in the body. Studies indicate Red Clover contains some antibiotic properties beneficial against several bacteria. Researchers as the National Cancer Institute have found anticancer activity in Red Clover. It also has been used in natural hormone balancing.  While the use of Red Clover as a cancer treatment has not been validated, research continues and is promising. Red Clover is a rich source of calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, nickel, tin, vitamins A, C, B-complex, F, and P. 


Red Raspberry leaves  are used traditionally for hormone balance and as a general tonifier for the reproductive system. It’s been shown to strengthen and heal tissues in that system as well as help with ‘cranky mare syndrome’. It has also been successfully used for help with labor and prevent hemorrhage, and is also used for respiratory health.


Rosehips Native Americans used Rose Hips as food, because it was available all year round. Modern research has recognized Rose Hips for its vitamin C content. Because of its nutrient content it is often used as a survival food. It is useful for preventing and healing infections. May be beneficial for bladder and kidneys.


Rosemary herb is one of the oldest known herbs. It has been used through the ages for memory and to help with headaches. It stimulates capillary circulation, carrying more oxygen and blood get to the brain. It also helps to remove phlegm, acts as a heart tonic. The German Commission E has approved rosemary to support healthy digestion, and externally for healthy circulation and to alleviate joint pain.


Skullcap herb was introduced to the western medical world in 1772 for insomnia and nervousness. It is known as one of the best nervines and has been called ‘food for the nerves’. Chinese physicians have used skullcap as a tranquilizer, sedative, and to treat convulsions. Skullcap may treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, pain, high blood pressure, and epilepsy.


Slippery elm bark was known by Native Americans and early colonist as a valuable survival food. They used the inner bark as a salve externally for burns and wounds. It was used for colds, coughs, sore throats, wounds, as a poultice to bring boils to a head, and bowel complaints. Many herbalists call it one of the most valuable remedies in herbal practice. It contains as much nutrition as oatmeal. It has been used mainly to treat GI problems, such as stomach and intestinal ulcers, soothing the stomach and colon, indigestion, acidity, and to lubricate the bowels. Nutritionally Slippery Elm contains: calcium, copper, iodine, niacin, selenium, and vitamins A, F, K, and P. 

Spearmint leaf is similar to peppermint though it does not have the ‘bile production’ effects of peppermint. It has a wonderful flavor and is used as a stomachic and carminative (reduces flatulence).


spirulina has been used since the 16th century by the Aztecs in Mexico and possibly as early as the 9th century in the Kanem Empire. A 2008 study showed immune modulating effects, which can help reduce allergies. Studies have also shown it to be a potent anti-cancer food as well as enhancing detoxification and natural cleansing. Spirulina is over 60% protein and has a high concentration of beta carotene, vitamin B-12 iron, trace minerals and GLA (gamma-linolenic acid)


Uva ursi herb has been used historically since as early as the 13th century, for healing the urinary tract, kidneys and bladder. It has a solvent action, making it effective at dissolving kidney stones. It soothes and strengthens mucus membranes and has shown to stimulate kidney activity.


Valerian root – This herb has been used historically by the ancient Incas, as a nervine and anti-spasmodic, sedative. The Greeks used valerian as a decongestant, for digestion, nausea, and urinary tract disorders. Native Americans used it for healing wounds. Valerian is beneficial for the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, nerves, and brain. It is a strong nervine herb that produces a calming effect to aid individuals suffering from insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.


White willow bark has been used for centuries for pain relief. It contains salicin, which is the component of original aspirin. Rather than chemically producing the salicytic acid, the herb will naturally turn the salicin to salicytic acid in the intestines so it is much gentler on the stomach. Native Americans used to chew on it for pain relief. White Willow bark has been used for pain and inflammation since the first century.

Yarrow has been in use since the Trojan War for its ability to stop bleeding when used on external wounds. Used internally, it has a healing and soothing effect on mucus membranes and may be effective for treating bleeding in lungs, and urinary tract as well as stomach disorders.