Our world is covered in plants and little ecosystems. One of the ways we, as humans, have evolved to where we are now is by making use of these plants and determining their health benefits. Now that we have modern medicine, we often opt for a doctor’s appointment for our aches and pains, but there is a plethora of nature’s medicine right outside your door. Follow along as we discuss 7 plants you can find or grow in Alabama and their health benefits.
We spoke with Rachael Knoll at The Spice & Tea Exhcange in Fairhope to get the tea on these amazing medicinal herbs. We also spoke with Ewa Wiggins, a manager at Garden Express over in Semmes to get a full pictures of these herbs and their benefits.
(NOTE: herbal medicine is not a replacement for any true medical treatment you are receiving. None of the plant or herbs in this article are a miracle cure for anything, definitely not for COVID-19. What they can do, however, is fortify and strengthen your body’s natural defense system and deal with everyday aches and pains. As always, consult a doctor before using herbal medicine to ensure it won’t negatively impact your other medicines or exacerbate a chronic issue.)
Dandelions are, in my opinion, the most underrated plant. Typically, considered weeds, Dandelions have a plethora of health benefits! On top of being packed full of vitamins A, C, and K, you can also use the whole plant. Dandelion stems, leaves, and flowers are typically used in herbal medicine.
“We sell dandelion root, we sure do. I just sold a bunch the other day to someone who loves making their own tea blends.“Rachael Knoll, The Spice & Tea Exchange of Fairhope
One of the best ways to use dandelion in medicine is to create what’s called a tincture, or an oil concentrate that you put under your tongue to be absorbed into your body. Dandelion tinctures can be used to treat PMS, acne, and indigestion.
Cayenne is a star-student of anti-inflammation. Capsaicin, the chemical compound that makes peppers spicy, is also an anti-inflammatory compound. In tinctures, so, consumed internally, there is some evidence that cayenne can improve circulation and blood flow. In a balm, cayenne can aid in topical anti-inflammation, kind of like nature’s icy-hot.
3. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is actually a part of the mint family (the mint family is huge!), but has some different properties than other mint plants. Similar to skullcap, lemon balm is used to aid in depression or anxiety. Like other mints, lemon balm can help reduce nausea as well. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and is used to help headaches and menstrual cramps. My personal favorite lemon balm benefit is its use in treating toothaches. Chewing on a fresh lemon balm leaf or applying lemon balm oil to a toothache can relieve pain for a time (trust me, it works!!)
“We also see a lot of people buying lemon balm as a mosquito deterrent. Like if we’re out of citronella, which is best for mosquitos, a lot of people go to the lemon balm next.“Ewa Wiggins, Manager/Buyer for Garden Express in Semmes.
Skullcap, despite its spooky name, is actually used as a natural anti-anxiety medication. Dried skullcap leaves, when brewed into a tea, can calm one’s mind. Tinctures of skullcap can act as a longer-lasting anti-anxiety for the duration of your day. Skullcap’s realm is that of the mind; Mount Sinai claims that skullcap can be used to prevent neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s.
“Lots of the herbs we’re talking about can be steeped and that’s going to be a really easy way to get all these health benefits you’re talking about.“Rachael Knoll, The Spice & Teach Exchange of Fairhope
If you’ve ever taken elderberry supplements during cold & flu season, then you’re already acquainted with elder! It’s an absolute powerhouse when it comes to immunity. Vitamin C and antioxidants make Elder a great choice for fortifying your immune system. The flowers and the berries are both used for their medicinal properties to make things like tinctures and vitamins to boost one’s immune system.
“If you’re looking for a good immune boost, try hibiscus or elder. I know a lot of people use the syrup or the gummies but what I like is our elderberry tea, it’s delicious.“Rachael Knoll, The Spice & Tea Exchange of Fairhope
These gorgeous little flowers are also a wealth of homeopathic medicine. In fact, the entire plant is used in herbal medicine. Typically, you’ll see it used in anti-inflammatory and used to treat congestion. A cloth with violet tea or oils on your neck can help relieve a headache. Violet oils can also be used to treat cysts, like pesky cystic acne. When consumed, violet can help treat gastrological inflammation by treating constipation.
Now mint is a family of herbs—spearmint, peppermint, even catnip is in the mint family. Most of them have similar herbal properties, though, so we’ll talk about them altogether.
This highly aromatic herb is not only great for your mojito recipes, but it can help the nausea if you’ve had one-too-many mojitos. Aromatherapists claim the smell of mint is stress-relieving. The easiest (and, in my opinion, the most beneficial) way to use mint is in a tea for an upset stomach. Another great use? Peppermint oil on the temples and forehead can alleviate a headache.
“I love mint tea. It’s my favorite and I brew it almost every day here. It’s calming and great for your stomach or digestion.“Rachael Knoll, Spice & Tea Exchange of Fairhope
Our yards can be chock-full of nature’s medicine! We just need to know what to plant, and how to use it. For more information on herbal medicine in Alabama, check out Alabama Wildflower Society, whose website greatly helped with this article.
If this at all inspires you to build you very own medicinal garden, check out this piece we wrote on gardening in Alabama.
What’s your favorite medicinal plant? Tag us @thebamabuzz and let us know. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more just like this.