Unexpected Benefits of Commonly Found Foods & Herbs
I will provide remedies that are easy to find, yet provide support in an unexpected way. We may even be able to find these items in our pantries and kitchens. Well, this may not apply to all of these remedies, as I am sure some of them are not commonly stocked, but they are certainly easy obtain.
I will be describing eight remedies: oats, cinnamon, shiitake mushrooms, juniper berry, ginger, gingko biloba, tea tree, and beer. Each of these provides many health benefits, although some of their health benefits may surprise.
1. Oats for Stress
Oats, Avena sativa, are commonly consumed as a food. Rolled oats are preferable over instant oats, because instant oats are treated and thus are not as nutritious. Oats and oat straw can also be used to make tea.
Oats are nervines, which means they helps to calm nerves, and can help anxiety, excitation, and stress.
They offer a great source of fiber. The high fiber content makes them effective as laxatives, for bowel movement regularity, to lower cholesterol, blood glucose, and reduce the risk of heart disease. They can also be a good source of protein and fat.
2. Cinnamon for Bacterial Infections
Cinnamon is derived from the dried bark of Cinnamomum zeylanicum. It can be consumed in food, by infusing part of the bark into the food, although the bark itself should not be eaten unless it is ground into powder. Essential oils can also be extracted from the bark, and applied topically after being diluted, or diffused into the air.
Studies show that cinnamon can treat bacterial infections. Essential oil extracted from cinnamon is antimicrobial and antifungal (Kon & Rai, 2012). Studies show it has antibacterial action against acne causing bacteria (Chaudhary et al., 2013; Sinha et al., 2014).
Cinnamon is also a great digestive and can help regulate blood glucose, reduce inflammation, and provide a good source of antioxidants.
3. Shiitake Mushrooms for Cancer
Shiitake mushrooms, Lentinula edodes, are originally from Japan and China. They are consumed as a food, and are a good source of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (Natural Standard, 2014). They provide a rich and earthy flavor and are consumed in soups, stir-fries, salads, and are often used as meat substitutes.
Shiitake mushrooms are effective as an adjunct for cancer treatment. Clinical trials and case studies have shown reduction in tumor size, improved survival time, and improvement in symptoms of cancer patients (Natural Standard, 2014).
They also have anti-aging effects, can boost the immune system, and lower cholesterol.
4. Juniper Berry for Arthritis
Juniperus communis or Juniper berry is a diuretic herb, which means it helps expel excess water in the body. The herb has great benefits when consumed internally, and is used to flavor gin and other liqueurs and foods.
Juniper berries aid swollen joints and sciatica due to their analgesic, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, and sedative properties. In fact, juniper berry is used for arthritis, gout, and rheumatism (Weiss & Fentelmann, 2000).
Juniper berry can be also used as an insect repellant, insecticide, and to relieve glaucoma and cataracts (Petersen, 2014). It can increase appetite, and stimulate production of hydrochloric acid, which supports digestion. However, people with kidney disease should avoid it.
5. Garlic to Clean the Body
Garlic or Allium sativum is a dynamic herb with “cure-all” properties. Garlic has many nutrients and is readily used in cooking. Fresh and raw garlic is more nutritious than cooked garlic because the essential oils evaporate in high heat.
Garlic is an alterative herb, which means that it helps clean the blood by stimulating and toning the body’s organs that help keep the blood clean, such as kidneys, liver, and lymphatic system. It is also an anthelmintic herb, which means that it helps remove or kill parasites from the body.
It also provides cardiovascular support and helps reduce blood pressure. It is an antiseptic and is used to help cure infections. In high doses, a person consuming garlic can give off a strong odor.
6. Gingko Biloba for Mental Health
Gingo biloba is one of the few herbs knows by its scientific name of Ginkgo biloba. It is a unique species and is considered a living fossil. It is eaten as a food in many Asian cuisines, or is taken as an herbal supplement or infusion.
It is a hardy plant that has been used for thousands of years for mental health conditions such as dementia, ADHD, memory loss, depression, stress, and loss of concentration. It is believed to slow the progression of dementia by protecting neurons and retinal tissue (Petersen, 2014).
Gingko also has anti-inflammatory action, decreases blood clots, and supports the immune system. It is also used to support asthma, chilblains, headaches, vertigo, equilibrium, and circulation.
7. Tea Tree Essential Oil for Acne
Melaleuca alternifolia, commonly known as tea tree, is native to Australia. Leaves and branches are steam distilled to obtain tea tree essential oil (TTO). TTO is one of the most commonly essential oils found, and also one of the most commonly adulterated (Bejar, 2017). To avoid adulteration, essential oils should be bought from companies that provide GC-MS data for their essential oils.
TTO is an effective antibacterial. Studies have shown that it has specific action against acne causing bacteria (Banes-Marshall, Cawley, & Phillips, 2001; Sinha et al., 2014). Several studies have found 5% TTO to be effective in treating acne vulgaris, mild to moderate acne, and open and close comedones (Kumar et al., 2008; Pazyar, Yaghoobi, Bagherani, & Kazeroumi, 2013). TTO often took longer to work than medications, but had fewer side effects (Gardiner et al., 2001).
Studies found TTO was also used in treating seborrheic dermatitis and chronic gingivitis (Pazyar et al., 2013). It has traditionally been used for cuts, burns, fungal infections, insect bites, congestion, cough, colds, flus, allergies, and general well-being (Bejar, 2017).
8. Beer for Constipation
Beer is made out of different types of grains, including barley, wheat, and hops, although all of these grains are not typically included in any one beer. Selecting the type of grain is part of the brewing process, along with the combination of yeast and alcohol.
Although I would not advice anyone to consume too much alcohol, beer is a great remedy for constipation. It has high fiber content. One serving can have 20 to 60% of the daily fiber requirement, depending on the type of beer. This is not a hard and fast rule, but typically darker beers have higher fiber content. The fiber helps support our digestion, which is why it helps to keep us regular
Beer also helps us reduce stress and provide much needed Vitamin B. Having a serving of beer in the evening can be a good way to wind down after a long day and help us get to sleep.
Some of these remedies can be easily found and incorporated into our diet, although others may require a bit of a search. Still, it is likely we can find all of these remedies, even ginkgo biloba supplements, juniper berry, and tea tree essential oil at drug stores!
Banes-Marshall, L., Cawley, P., & Phillips, C. A. (2001). In vitro activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil against bacterial and Candida spp. isolates from clinical specimens. British Journal of Biomedical Science, 58(3), 139–45. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/227912013?accountid=158302
Bejar, E. (2017). Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia and M. linariifolia). Botanical Adulterants Program, Botanical Adulterants Bulletin. Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org/BAP/pdf/BAP-BABs-TTO-CC-v5.pdf
Chaudhary, S. S., Tariq, M., Zaman, R., & Imtiyaz, S. (2013). The in vitro anti-acne activity of two unani drugs. Ancient Science of Life, 33(1), 35–38. doi:10.4103/0257–7941.134594
Gardiner, P., Coles, D., & Kemper, K. J. (2001). The skinny on herbal remedies for dermatologic disorders. Contemporary Pediatrics, 18(7), 103. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/206114905?accountid=158302
Kon, K. V., & Rai, M. K. (2012). Plant essential oils and their constituents in coping with multidrug-resistant bacteria. Expert Review of Anti-Infective Therapy, 10(7), 775–90. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1586/eri.12.57
Kumar, A., Baboota, S., Agarwal, S. P., Ali, J., & Ahuja, A. (2008). Treatment of acne with special emphasis on herbal remedies. Expert Review of Dermatology, 3(1), 111–122. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1586/174698184.108.40.206
Natural Standard. (2014). Shiitake. Natural Standard Monograph. Retrieved on October 7, 2017 from https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/s/shiitake/professional.aspx
Pazyar, N., Yaghoobi, R., Bagherani, N., & Kazerouni, A. (2013). A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology. International Journal of Dermatology, 52(7), 784–790. doi:10.1111/j.1365–4632.2012.05654.x.
Petersen, D. (2014). HERB 502 Advanced Materia Medica I. Portland, OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences.
Sinha, P., Srivastava, S., Mishra, N., & Yadav, N. P. (2014). New perspectives on antiacne plant drugs: Contribution to modern therapeutics. BioMed Research International. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/301304
Weiss, R. F. & Fintelmann, V. (2000). Herbal Medicine, 2nded. Stuttgart, Germany: Georg Thieme Verlag.
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