Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Herbal Remedies from the Kitchen: Oregano

Continuing my discussion of herbal remedies from the kitchen, I want to talk about oregano, (Origanum vulgare) and marjoram (Origanum marjorana), which are both members of the mint family of herbs.

Both these herbs are common in Italian (and Greek) cooking, and widely available in any supermarket.

Some herbalists do not distinguish between the two, and simply include them both as species of oregano, I've even seen one reference to oregano as "wild marjoram".

They both have similar properties, with some minor differences I will mention.

Both oregano and marjoram have been used for respiratory disorders such as colds and coughs, and for some digestive complaints, especially spasms in the digestive system and to treat indigestion.

Marjoram has been used to treat headaches, including migraines, and to treat some menstrual complaints, especially cramps.

Oregano has been used as a diaphoretic (makes you sweat) and as an expectorant (helps expel mucus from the lungs and bronchii).

Bruised leaves of either plant (fresh, not dried), used inside a pillow, are a traditional remedy for insomnia.

Both these herbs deserve a place in your herbal medicine chest.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Herbal Remedies from the Kitchen: Sage

This is the first of a series of postings where I will talk about herbal remedies you may find in your kitchen spice rack. (If your herbs and spices are of indeterminate age, and covered in dust, you should probably buy some new herbs if you want to use them as herbal remedies. And you will find that they work better in cooking as well.)

Most of the herbs I will talk about in this series may be used either as fresh herbs, or dried; it depends on what you have available.

I want to start with the herb Sage. There are many varieties of Sage, they all have similar properties, so I am going to just use the term Sage to include them all.

The botanical name for sage is Salvia (Salvia Officianalis isthe common garden sage; whenever you see the term "Officianalis" as part of the name of an herb, it means that herb was part of an official materia medica, and has a long history of use.) and the root of the word "salvia" also gave us the words "salvation" and "salve"; Sage has been referred to as "Sage the Savior".

Most cooks know sage as a poultry seasoning, but at one time it was considered virtually a panacea, and reputed to be a longevity tonic. (There is an ancient Latin saying which translates roughly as: Why should a man die while sage grows in his garden?)

Sage was widely recommended to treat many health problems including menstrual problems, digestive problems, liver and kidney trouble, intermittent fevers, depression and nervous disorders, impotence and frigidity, hangovers, joint pain, and headaches to name a few.

The Chinese prized sage highly, it was worth several times its weight in Chinese tea.

More recent herbalists use sage for many problems.

Sage is used for a range of menstrual difficulties, and has some estrogenic activity.

Sage is an astringent, and is used to stop perspiration, and also the secretion of breast milk, after a baby has been weaned. (For this reason, it should not be used by nursing mothers; some herbalists also say it is contraindicated during pregnancy.)

Sage also is useful for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, especially night sweats.

Sage also has been used as a hair rinse, especially for dark hair (Chamomile is better for blond hair) and is said to promote shine and even hair growth.

Sage may interfere with iron absorption, and should not be used by anyone with a seizure disorder.

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