Medicinal plants: always within reach

The most inspiring thing for me about herbal medicine is that no matter where you are on Earth medicinal plants are always near. They grow in every habitat on land and even in urban areas they force their way up between the cracks. Step out of your front door and start walking in any direction and you will find them. To get remedies direct from nature itself is quite something, and it is such a great resource to have at hand when needed.

Not long ago while cycling my partner's knee started hurting. We applied a compression bandage but it didn't help, however I happened to notice some comfrey growing in a field. We stopped and I made a makeshift comfrey poultice: I crushed up some of the comfrey leaves, applied them to her knee then kept them in place with the bandage. As time passed the pain in her knee reduced and when we got back home it was largely back to normal. How great it felt to find a remedy for her knee pain just growing in a field! Comfrey has been shown in studies to reduce pain and inflammation of joints.

Most people have heard of using Echinacea for colds and flu. Echinacea is a plant that originates in North America and while it can be useful for colds and flu, it would not be my first choice. My first choice would be a mixture of herbs that you will find growing all about you: peppermint, elderflower and yarrow drank as a hot tea frequently throughout the day (along with keeping warm and resting as much as possible). Elderberries have been shown in studies to reduce the duration of the flu by about four days on average.

No matter where you walk there are useful herbs to be found, whether along a country lane where you might find St. John's wort (good for low mood) and plantain (my favourite remedy for itchy insect bites), near marshes where you might find meadowsweet and marshmallow (useful for acid reflux), in the woodlands where you might find hawthorn (a useful heart tonic) or horse chestnut (good for the veins), up in the mountains where you might find bearberry (useful for urinary infections), or in the city where you will find dandelion pushing up through cracks in the pavement. This is of course just to mention a small number of the plants we share this land with.

I find it quite amazing that growing up out of the earth all around us are plants that can help in one way or another to soothe our ills and help restore us to good health. I am so grateful as a herbalist to be able to work with such plants. Knowing how to use even a few herbs can be highly rewarding, and I hope this article inspires you to explore medicinal herbs further!

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