How to prepare herbs

 

How to prepaqre herbsHerbalism is the oldest form of medicine known to us, and this knowledge has been accumulated over thousands of years. While modern medicine is all about finding and extracting the one active ingredient in a plant to make it a powerful medicine, herbalists insist that a plant is made up of a number of ingredients, which work together to make it a safer and more effective medicine. Most herbalists believe that modern medicine suppresses the body’s healing powers. The symptoms are healed but the underlying cause of illness is not addressed.

A growing number of doctors and patients are embracing a complementary approach to treating health problems. Minor ailments and non-threatening diseases can easily be treated at home with herbs. The chronic ones need to be treated systematically for months. With more and more people turning to natural remedies, it becomes imperative to know how to prepare the herbs and how to use them correctly to achieve maximum results.

How To Prepare Herbs?

Most medicinal herbs are available with herbalists. We may also grow these herbs – some of them are really easy to grow. One has to be careful however, that the plants have not been exposed to pollutants, pesticides and sprays. Herbs for medicinal purpose should be harvested just before flowering, and the ideal time to harvest is in the morning, says Prof D N Dhar in his book, ‘Natural Remedies’.

Herbs can be taken fresh or dry. Dry herbs are more potent than fresh ones, hence while using dried herbs, it is suggested that the ratio of herb to water should be 25g to 500ml. When fresh herbs are used, the ratio would be 50g to 500ml. There are basically three basic carriers used to extract the healing elements of herbs. These are water, alcohol and oil. The easiest to make at home is water based extractions.

Teas

Teas can be brewed from the fresh or dried flowers, leaves or roots of a herb. Add a tsp of dried herb or two tsp of fresh crushed herb to two cups of water. Bring this to a boil and then let it steep for 10 – 15 minutes. Herbal teas can be had hot or cold. Keeping the pot covered with a close-fitting lid, will help to retain the active ingredients, as otherwise they may be lost due to evaporation. Most of the active ingredients in the herbs are volatile.

Infusions

Place the freshly-crushed herbs, condiments or spices in a container, and pour hot water on them. Cover with a lid, let it cool to room temperature, then use it. Infusions can also be used as herbal teas and for inhalations. Infusions using hot water on the verge of boiling, preserves the beneficial oils that can be sometimes be lost through escaping steam.

Decoctions

Decoctions are usually prepared from the dried bark of trees, seeds and roots. These hard substances need prolonged boiling to release their active principles. Decoctions can also be made from fresh, soft plant parts like crushed flowers, soft leaves and stems. In this case, boil only for 3-4 mins. Take about half a cup of coarsely pounded bark/seeds/roots. To this add two cups of water and boil till only one-fourth remains. Strain through a soft, clean cloth or filter, and use.

Cold Extracts

In case of delicate plants and herbs such as rose, jasmine, marigold, hibiscus, and coriander whose oils evaporate very fast, the ingredients are soaked in cold water and left for 10-12 hours, or even overnight. Half a cup of herbs to a cup of water should be used.

It is best to use these remedies as soon as possible after brewing them, because they start to lose their potency within a few hours of exposure to air. Honey or sugar can be added to bitter tasting teas to make them more palatable. Some teas produce side effects like nausea, hence they are given with aromatics like cinnamon, cloves or cardamom. Temperatures at which you boil the herbs also play an important role in extracting the medicinal properties of the herb.

Herbs like bearberry, should not be boiled as it loses its efficacy. Hence the bearberry tea is prepared by soaking the leaves in water. Some teas like parsley may not be good for pregnant women as it may increase the risk of miscarriage. Elderly people with liver, kidney and cardiovascular problems should not liquorice for a long time. As a rule , raw, cold, greasy and hard to digest foods should be avoided while taking herbal teas. It is always advisable to follow the instructions carefully while having herbal teas.

Keeping the Brain Agile in Old Age

 

Ageing as we all know, is simply a process of growing old, where every part of the body is affected. The systems slow down and the risk of disease increases. Numerous changes occur. The most important reason for pre-mature ageing is associated with oxidative damage due to free radicals. Our body constantly reacts with oxygen as we breathe and our cells produce energy. As a result, highly reactive molecules are produced within our cells known as free radicals, which create oxidative stress. The effects on the body as it ages include loss of elasticity in the skin, blood vessels and tendons, as well as a progressive decline in organ and joint function.

Even though we can’t be young for ever, we can avoid some of the negative effects of ageing with a healthy lifestyle and some well chosen supplements.

What we can do is

Avoid smoking cigarettes
Avoid excessive alcohol
Protect ourselves from the sun. Ultraviolet rays makes skin age faster.
Build and maintain bone and muscle mass with weight bearing exercises, and walking.
Enhance our body’s own anti-oxidant defences. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables everyday.

How can we help our brain stay agile in old age?

A major change associated with old age, is of memory declining, and loss of brain cells. As we grow older the dendrites of nerve cells begin to die, which leaves less potential for synaptic connections, thus affecting our logic and memory. Stress is very bad for the brain. High amounts of cortisol get released when we get stressed, and this can seriously damage the neurons. It impairs cognition. As we age, it becomes harder to calm ourselves, when under pressure, and thus more susceptible to such damage.

There are somethings we can do to keep our brain active.

Keeping ourselves occupied by reading, solving puzzles, learning a new skill or language, taking up a new hobby, can keep our synapses working well.
Avoiding stressful situations that can poison the brain.
Taking time to relax.

How can supplements help?

Vitamin C and vitamin E are antioxidants that fight free radicals. They improve immune function and reduce the risk of age-related conditions like heart disease, some forms of cancer and possibly Alzheimers. Green tea and grapeseed extracts are other antioxidants that are very potent. Folic acid, a B vitamin, promotes healthy functioning of nerves. Vitamin B12 fosters healthy brain functioning. Older people lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food, and low B12 levels can cause nerve damage and dementia.

Two supplements that seem to boost mental clarity, and are natural brain builders  are Phosphatidylserine and Acetyl-L-carnitine.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an important chemical with many functions in the body. It plays an important part in the maintenance of cellular function, especially in the brain. The body makes phosphatidylserine, but gets most of what it needs from foods. PS is a building block of all brain cells. Without PS, our neurons could not send out neurotransmitters that relay messages throughout the brain. PS heals the brain and restores mental function. The sources of Phosphatidylserine are cow brains, organ meat (liver and kidneys) and plant sources like soy and white beans . The highest concentrations of phosphatidylserine occur in cow brains.

Phosphatidylserine supplements were once made from cow brains, but now are commonly manufactured from soy. This happened due to a concern that products made from animal sources might cause infections such as the mad cow disease. There is developing evidence that plant-derived phosphatidylserine improves memory in people with age-associated memory loss.

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is an  amino acid. Acetyl-L-carnitine works from within the brain. It ensures the efficient functioning of the mitochondria. It prevents the toxic accumulation of fatty acids in the mitochondria. Many studies document the use of ALC to repair the degeneration of neuronal tissue that can trigger age-related deterioration of mental function. Even though L-carnitine is available from supplements as well as food, it is the L-carnitine from food sources that is better used and absorbed by the body. Meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products are the richest sources of L-carnitine, in that order.

Dr. Richard N. Firshein, in his book, ‘The Vitamin Prescription (for life) says that, “A ground breaking 1991 study by Dr. Thomas Crook showed that in 57 subjects with age related memory decline, whose average age was 64, PS was able to turn back the mental clock by roughly 12 years.” He also says that, “over 50 human trials, demonstrate that, when used as a dietary supplement in a wide range of doses, PS is incredibly effective at conserving stores of brain power”.

When we lay the foundations of good health in youth and middle age,  we are much more likely to maintain it in old age. A good lifestyle and healthy food will help delay the onset of old age related brain conditions.

Herbal remedies

The herb ginko biloba is said to improve age related conditions as dizziness, impotence and memory loss.

Coenzyme q-10- increases oxygen transport through the mitochondria of the cells. It appears to slow age-related dementia. Coenzyme Q is available from three basic types of foods:  fish, organ meats (liver, kidney and heart), the germs of whole grains and from oils like soybean, sesame, and rapeseed.

A recent swiss study found a connection between high levels of antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin C in the blood and better memory skills in older people. Beta-carotene can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale and mustard greens. Guavas, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, and broccoli are good sources of vitamin C.

Garlic is good herb for immunity and circulation. It has a number of health benefits. It helps reduce cholesterol and prevent cancer. Regular consumption of garlic is linked with increased cognitive health in old age

The herb Ginseng helps to protect against loss of sex drive or general debility.

The Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi) herb  has compounds that can repair damaged neurons, thus improving nerve impulse transmission.  It appears to work through proliferating dendrites in order to improve synaptic transmission, thus promoting neuron communication.