Natures First Aid Kit
Our health food and grocery stores shelves are lined with many different supplements and medicines – trying to determine what to take can be overwhelming. There are many choices that extend beyond the supplement aisle! There is much to learn about the food universe – even plants, herbs and spices have medicinal benefits!
Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil. Essential oils are the oil of a plant from which it is extracted from. The usually carry a specific scent or “essence” of the plant. When used topically, tea tree oil is thought to have anti viral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits. To this end, tea tree oil can be very helpful in treating fungal infections (athlete’s foot), acne, dandruff (when added to shampoo), and yeast infections. I experienced the benefits of Tea Tree Oil personally during a recent beach trip. My legs were bitten over 100 times by sand flees and I found recently found the topical application of tea tree oil to be very effective in reducing itching and swelling. Tea Tree Oil is also good for inflammation and as an assistant in recovering from injury.
Turmeric , a spice (often used in curry) has widespread use in preventative medicine. According to the American Cancer Society, “Some proponents believe turmeric may prevent and slow the growth of a number of types of cancer, particularly tumors of the esophagus, mouth, intestines, stomach, breast, and skin.” Turmeric’s active ingredient is curcumin and both are thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. In addition, the American Cancer Society’s web site states that “ Early research has suggested that curcumin may help lower “bad” cholesterol, reduce inflammation, help ulcerative colitis, and reduce arthritis symptoms, although more reliable human studies are still needed”. Turmeric can be used liberally in one’s daily diet and can also be taken as a supplement at a dose of 500 mg 1-4 times a day.
Holy Basil is an herb that has its medicinal roots in Ayurvedic Medicine (a traditional style of medicine native to India). There are several different types of Basil Plants. In India, the “Tulsi”, or Holy Basil is the most famous. While Holy Basil has many health benefits, it is best known for treating anxiety by lowering cortisol levels (stress hormones) and balancing stress and emotions. When sipped as a tea, holy basil is considered a COX-2 inhibitor (natural joint support) and is good for muscles and bones. It also has heart protective qualities and can help move cholesterol out of the body before it is absorbed. Holy Basil can be drank as a tea (1 tsp. dried leaf 3-4 cups a day) or taken by capsule (300 gms up to 1800 grams a day).
Green Tea is widely known for its protection and prevention properties against a wide variety of cancers including melanoma, colon, breast and prostate. Green Tea contains “catechins” a type antioxidant that has been widely studied for its many health benefits. In addition to cancer prevention, Green Tea is known to be cardio protective and, when drank daily, may lower the risk of heart disease. Most studies indicate that at least 4-5 cups of green tea a day are needed to have medicinal benefits. Green tea extract is also available in capsules and powder (dosage ranges from 250 mg up to 350 mg 2x-3x daily).
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that work, in part, by enhancing digestion and immune function. They have widespread use in many gastrointestinal disorders. A wide range of probiotic strains are available. Yogurt contains probiotic organisms such as acidophilus. Probiotics help to balance the intestinal flora by increasing the existing intestinal microbial population in the digestive tract. When people take antibiotics, oftentimes the side effects include digestive disturbances. This is because antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria. Live probiotic strains are available in fermented foods, dairy products and probiotic fortified foods. Because there are so many different probiotic organisms, there is no set dosage. Most probiotics are dosed by the number of live organisms they contain.
Remember, before taking any product is important to work with a health care professional to determine the best dosage.
Most fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices have some medicinal benefit. Garlic, tomatoes, kale and many more can be part of our daily diet! The next time you visit the grocery store, do so with a new pair of eyes!