The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Herbal Remedies – Thyme


thyme

This versatile herb can be used to flavour many wonderful dishes . As with most of our herbs, thyme has a long and revered history medicinally and if you had been a prominent Egyptian the herb would have been used to embalm you. Since the herb has antibacterial and antifungal properties it would have helped preserve the bodies beautifully.

The Greeks and Romans used thyme as a purifier ,burning it as incense in rooms and in their baths. It was also added to food such as cheese and alcohol – again probably because of its antibacterial properties and it may well be one of the first natural preservatives used in food manufacture.

It became better known in Britain in the 17th century and healers used the herb to relieve the symptoms of whooping cough, breathing difficulties, gout and mild stomach complaints. The oils has been used externally to help heal abscesses and during the First World War it was used to treat infections and relieve pain, as there were no antibiotics at that time.

Today the herb is cultivated all around the world and apart from cooking and medicine it is used in the manufacture of cosmetics and perfume.

How does thyme help the lungs?

As humans we have a sophisticated defence system to try and get rid of harmful substances before they can damage us. The cough reflex is an automatic response to mucus and infection in the lungs. Thyme helps the body with that job and acts as an expectorant loosening the congestion and generally supporting the respiratory system. It also helps soothe coughs allowing a more effective use of the response, allowing the airways to get rid of more mucous. It is particularly beneficial for emphysema and chronic bronchitis sufferers. It can also be use in conjunction with other herbs such as cowslip to aid the absorption of thyme but also as an expectorant.

The list of thyme’s medicinal properties is quite lengthy but apart from its antibacterial uses it also is anti-fungal, antiseptic, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, immune boosting, sedating or stimulating according to dosage and is a tonic.

As well as upper respiratory infections and lung conditions it has also been used medicinally to treat colic, depression, arthritis, eating disorders, ear infections, gastritis, hay-fever, headaches, heartburn, parasites, shingles , tooth decay and tetanus. There is traditional use for bed-wetting in children but as it is also a mild diuretic I would want to see evidence of that. It does however, disinfect the urine which can be helpful for those who suffer frequent bouts of cystitis.

Taken an hour before meals, it may stimulate the appetite, useful for someone who is elderly or recovering from illness.

An oddball treatment is one for alopecia – so if you are going a little thin on top you might want to try a little of the oil in your shampoo and conditioner.

It certainly is very versatile but you do need to take care when using medicinally and consult a herbalist for the correct dosage.

The plant contains some helpful nutrients, the primary being Vitamin K which is why this herb does need to be used with caution. Because it is so important to be aware of the ingredients of any herb that you take, here is a brief description of Vitamin K and its actions on the body.

VITAMIN K

There are two forms of the vitamin that the body can utilise. One is K1 (phylloquinone), which is from plant sources and the other is K2 (menaquinone) which is produced by bacteria in our own intestines. This is where many of us get into trouble because we are not eating sufficient raw and unprocessed foods for health and additionally many of us suffer from bacterial imbalances in the gut so do not produce sufficient from that source either.

The vitamin is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of the stores come from our diet and the balance from bacteria in the intestines. We need healthy bile production for efficient absorption of Vitamin K and our lymphatic system circulates it throughout the body.

Apart from helping reduce excessive bleeding during menstruation it is also used therapeutically for the prevention of internal bleeding and haemorrhages including emergency treatment for overdoses of blood thinners such as Warfarin.

Blood clotting is a critical function in the body that solidifies blood to prevent us from bleeding to death from external or internal injuries. Vitamin K is essential for the production of a protein called prothrombin and other factors involved in the blood-clotting function and is therefore necessary to prevent haemorrhages. Also interestingly Vitamin K also activates other enzymes that decrease the clotting ability so it assumes the role of regulator within the blood stream. An example of this might be if a clot forms within a blood vessel that could block the flow and needs to be dispersed.

The vitamin has also been the subject of a great deal of research in recent years as scientists discovered that it played a significant role in liver function, energy production in the nervous system and in preventing bone loss as we age by assisting the absorption of calcium.

Vitamin K is needed to activate osteocalcin, the protein that anchors calcium into the bone, building and repairing the structure. A deficiency in the vitamin can therefore lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.

As the vitamin works within the body it changes from function to function according to the various interactions with enzymes and at one stage it acts as an antioxidant preventing oxidative damage to cells. There may also be a role for the vitamin in cancer prevention as it is believed it may stimulate rogue cells to self destruct.

WARNING – When you should not take Thyme.

Because of the high Vitamin K content that slows blood clotting you need to stop taking at least three weeks before having surgery. If you are also on medication that has this effect then you should not take the herb. For example, many people from middle age onwards are now being prescribed low dose aspirin to thin the blood so you should not take Thyme in a herbal form. Warfarin is a high dose anticoagulant and it would be dangerous to combine the two.

If in any doubt consult your doctor and always before taking any herbal remedy or check with a qualified advisor. If you feel that the person you have asked, in a health food shop for example does not appear to be informed, then there should be a herbal reference guide in all dispensaries that gives the action and precautions of every remedy they sell. If they do not have a guide for you to read then buy somewhere else.

I have worked with A. Vogel herbal remedies for over 20 years. http://www.avogel.co.uk/herbal-remedies/ivy-thyme-complex/ is one you might try.

You can buy thyme in capsule form and it often comes with another herb called fenugreek which is another expectorant and herb used in the treatment of lung disorders. The oil is used externally and is very warming when rubbed on the chest during bronchitis or pneumonia.

Read the instructions for dosage on the bottle which is dependent on age and health.

Thyme as part of your diet.

The nutrients in Thyme that make it a useful component in your diet are; iron, manganese, calcium, and tryptophan.

Adding Thyme to your food in cooking is not dangerous unless you put tablespoons into the recipe.Thyme is a versatile herb and it is wonderful with meat dishes. It is quite pungent so take care when using fresh thyme and only use a little at time.

You can added to your baking and here is a great site with some recipes including one for cornbread.

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http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/cooking-with-thyme

If you have a cold I suggest making a tea with a small amount of leaves, seep for five minutes and then add fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. You will find it not only refreshing but it may also help prevent your infection reaching the next level.

You will find the posts on Dandelion and Peppermint here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/medicine-womans-treasure-chest-herbs-and-spices/

Thanks for stopping by and hope you have found interesting.   Sally

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Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Peppermint for health and cooking.


indexYou may have noticed that almost all non-prescription preparations that claim to help indigestion are mint flavored. And this is not just because mint has a nice taste. Mint is one of the oldest known treatments for indigestion and its inclusion in medicines is due to the plant’s ability to settle the stomach.

Originally native to the Mediterranean region, peppermint, which is a cross between water mint and spearmint, is one of the oldest cultivated herbs and was used for culinary as well as healing purposes by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It would seem that poor eating habits have been a problem throughout all of human history!

The ancient Romans carried it with them wherever they colonized; (presumably the relief it offered was much needed at the end of an orgy!) To this day, the Arabs brew it into tea and chop it into salads, the Asian Indians include it in chutney recipes, the British make its juice into jellies to be served with heavy meat dishes, and the Germans concoct it into schnapps as an after-dinner drink. In all these cases, the motive for including mint in the diet is to improve digestion and avoid indigestion.

As with any dark green leafy plant the peppermint offers a wide range of nutrients that make it an excellent food source. Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, manganese, folate, iron, magnesium and calcium. Unfortunately you do not normally consume a sufficient quantity to be able to classify this as a superfood. However, if you add the nutrients in the leaves to an already balanced diet, it will certainly add to the pot of essential and varied nutrients you need each day.

Peppermint improves digestion in general but is great for stomach and colon cramps as the menthol in the herb has a muscle relaxing action and IBS sufferers often find it reduces symptoms. A cup of peppermint tea after a meal is much better for your digestion than a cup of coffee.

The oil mixed with a lotion or light skin oil, rubbed on the forehead can relieve headaches and is cooling when massaged into sore muscles.

As a forerunner of our modern gum, the leaves were chewed to prevent bad breath which was essential before toothpaste and flossing. You can also put a drop on your toothbrush instead of toothpaste from time to time and it will leave your mouth feeling fresh and clean for ages.

Peppermint oil usually comes in small capsules or in a liquid tincture. The tea also comes with some variations, one of my favourites being Green Tea and Peppermint. One word of warning when using the oil. It is very strong and usually just one drop is sufficient.

Other health benefits

Studies have indicated that the oil produced from the leaves could provide protection from cancer and also inhibit the growth of certain tumours in the breasts, pancreas and liver.  I am not a keen fan of using data from animal studies since they are not as contaminated as we humans are with our modern lifestyles. But peppermint has been used for thousands of years by healers and it would not have maintained its reputation as an effective remedy if it had been a false claim.

Peppermint oil is highly antibacterial and it also inhibits the growth of other potentially dangerous bacteria such as H.Pylori (Helicobacter pylori), the bacteria that causes peptic ulcers; Salmonella, E.Coli 0157:H7 and MRSA.

If you have a cold or flu there is nothing better than a little peppermint oil sprinkled on a tissue, or rubbed on your chest, to help you breathe better.

Also rubbed into the palms of your hands before you grab the handle of the shopping trolley may help prevent you getting a cold passed on from the previous shoppers.

For asthmatics the rosmarinic acid in the oil acts as an anti-inflammatory and also encourages cells to produce substances called prostacyclins, which keep the airways open.

Using Mint in cooking.

Apart from its medicinal uses and nutritional properties, mint is a wonderful herb to use in cooking. Make a home-made sauce or jelly and enjoy two or three times a week along with a cup of peppermint tea after your dinner. It can be chopped up in salads and in soups to add a fresh flavour.

Peppermint is one of the easiest of herbs to grow either in a pot or in the garden and in fact can take over if not careful. Crush the leaves in a pestle and mortar to add flavour to savoury and sweet dishes but I like to eat mint sauce or jelly with most meats, particularly lamb.  If you are vegtarian then use mushrooms as an alternative, particularly the shitake variety which very tasty. Mix through some chopped mint leaves and it will put even more zing into the dish.

Quick Mince Sauce.

Grab a good handful of fresh mint leaves
One teaspoon of caster sugar (you can add more but I don’t like it too sweet)
Two tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
75mls of boiling water.

Finely chop the leaves of the mint. Place in a bowl and mix in the caster sugar. Pour over the boiling water to dissolve the sugar and then add the red wine vinegar. Leave to cool and marinate.

It keeps in a jar in the fridge.

You will find the first post in the series – Dandelion in the directory

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/medicine-womans-treasure-chest-herbs-and-spices/

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 2009

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