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20 Amazing Uses for Herbs to Heal Your Body and Mind

20 Amazing Uses for Herbs to Heal Your Body and Mind

For almost every prescription treatment for what ails us is a plant, herb, or other natural substance that has been used as a treatment for hundreds of years by naturalists and herbalists. But how effective are these folk remedies, really? Evidence on most of these treatments is still somewhat inconclusive, but you may be surprised to learn how many beneficial herbs you could be keeping in your spice rack.

Important note: As with most things of this nature, this is not professional medical advice. Always seek out your doctor’s advice on any kind of treatment, natural or otherwise, before taking it.

1. Ginger: Prevent nausea

    photo source: mekman via Flickr

    Basics: Significant results have been found in ginger’s ability to ease nausea, even for motion sickness and chemotherapy patients.

    How to use it: Some specialists recommend taking ginger before the nausea sets in; for example, if you know you get airsick, you can chew ginger gum before takeoff. If taking ginger when nausea is already present, there are a variety of products including teas and candies that contain the root.

    2. Chamomile: Promote sleep

      photo source: FromSandToGlass via Flickr

      Basics: There have been very few scientific studies on chamomile’s ability to encourage sleep, but it remains a popular herb for this purpose.

      How to use it: Chamomile as a sleep aid is typically taken as a warm tea, with many brands specifically marketing it as a “nighttime” or “sleepytime” tea.

      3. Ginseng: Fortify energy levels

        photo source: Eugene Kim via Flickr

        Basics: Ginseng root has been tested in a number of studies for its effectiveness at fighting fatigue, with significant (though few) results.

        How to use it: Ginseng can be found in a number of products including “natural” energy drinks, though as with all energy drinks these should be used with caution. You can also get ginseng in capsule form, often grouped with other herb and vitamin capsules at regular grocery stores, as well as health food and supplement stores.

        4. Licorice: Soothe a sore throat

          photo source: lakrids via Flickr

          Basics: There has been some scientific examination of licorice root’s anti-inflammatory effects on sore throats, with promising results.

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          How to use it: You can find teas and lozenges with licorice root at a variety of grocery and health food stores, as well as online.

          5. Nettle: Treat dandruff

            photo source: J Brew via Flickr

            Basics: Despite the name, stinging nettle has a number of recognized medicinal properties including as an anti-inflammatory. It has also been used as a natural treatment for dandruff.

            How to use it: There are a few commercial shampoo products containing stinging nettle, though you may have better luck on sites like Etsy.

            6. Black tea leaves: Reduce risk of heart problems

              photo source: archangeli via Flickr

              Basics: Black tea as a way to reduce the risk of heart-related problems has been loosely studied with hopeful finds, though more thorough testing is needed.

              How to use it: A couple cups of black tea a day is a good amount, and the caffeine will help you stay alert throughout your day.

              7. Lavender: Ease stress and tension

                photo source: David Biesack via Flickr

                Basics: Evidence from scientific trials suggests that lavender works well to relieve tension and stress.

                How to use it: Aromatherapy products such as oils, lotions, and herb pouches are all good ways of using the scent to relieve stress.

                8. Cinnamon: Control blood sugar

                  photo source: trophygeek via Flickr

                  Basics: A wide range of research suggests cinnamon is an effective way to manage blood sugar levels, particularly useful for people with Type II diabetes.

                  How to use it: Cinnamon can be added to a variety of foods and beverages, and can be purchased in capsule form for a higher concentration.

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                  9. Fennel seed: Ease bloating and indigestion

                    photo source: roseannadana via Flickr

                    Basics: Fennel seed has shown promising results as a relief agent for bloating and constipation.

                    How to use it: Fennel can be bought both in capsule form and as a tea.

                    10. St. John’s Wort: Treatment of mild depression

                      photo source: Jonathan Ball via Flickr

                      Basics: Extensive research as been done on the plant’s effectiveness in treating mild to moderate depression, and it is sold over the counter as such.

                      How to use it: Capsules, tinctures, and teas containing St. John’s Wort can be found in health food and supplement stores and some grocery stores, as well as online.

                      11. Mint: Soothe an upset stomach

                        photo source: Brian Costin via Flickr

                        Basics: Mint seems to be a powerful cure for stomach aches, as well as being used for relaxation and as a diuretic.

                        How to use it: Mint tea is the most common and popular way to ingest the herb.

                        12. Calendula: Prevent wound infections

                          photo source: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr

                          Basics: More commonly known as marigolds, calendula has several practical uses, most notably as a wound healing agent. This is due to the plant’s antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

                          How to use it: Topical ointments and creams containing calendula can be bought online or at health food and supplement stores.

                          13. Eucalyptus: Relieve lung congestion

                            photo source: Gary Sauer-Thompson via Flickr

                            Basics: Perhaps best known for being the food of choice for koalas, eucalyptus is also used as a cleaning agent and to treat lung problems. It appears to have an mucolytic (mucus-clearing) and anti-inflammatory component that works particularly well in this area.

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                            How to use it: Eucalyptus essential oil is a good option to keep by your bed or, if you can find it, use a vapor rub with eucalyptus as one of the primary ingredients.

                            14. Comfrey: Alleviate dry skin

                              photo source: Dinesh Valke via Flickr

                              Basics: Comfrey has had a somewhat controversial history in recent decades, and is now not recommended for any kind of internal use. Topical use of the plant is still pervasive, however, as it has shown a notable ability to treat dry or inflamed skin.

                              How to use it: Though it may be harder to find them in mainstream product lines, you can often find comfrey soaps and lotions on sites like Etsy or anywhere else artisan grooming products are sold.

                              15. Chrysanthemum: heal the common cold

                                photo source: matsuyuki via Flickr

                                Basics: Chrysanthemum’s medicinal properties are not widely tested by Western scientists, but it is a popular part of Chinese treatments for colds and other mild sickness.

                                How to use it: Warm chrysanthemum tea is recommended.

                                16. Rosemary: Improve your memory

                                  photo source: Rebecca Siegel via Flickr

                                  Basics: This ultra-fragrant, evergreen herb has garnered interest in recent decades for medical and pharmaceutical uses, most notably as a mild memory enhancer.

                                  How to use it: Aromatherapy products such as essential oils can be found for rosemary, but the plant itself can leave a noticeable scent even when dried.

                                  17. Passionflower: Reduce anxiety

                                    photo source: PINKÉ via Flickr

                                    Basics: There are around 500 species under the Passiflora genus, most of which are appreciated for their beautiful blooms as well as their tasty fruit. It has proven to be a viable treatment for some forms of anxiety.

                                    How to use it: Passionflower tea has a pleasant and sweet taste and can be found in both health food stores and most regular grocers. Tinctures and essential oils also exist.

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                                    18. Parsley: Fight bad breath

                                      photo source: cookbookman17 via Flickr

                                      Basics: Parsley is packed full of vitamins and has some more specific uses, such as treating bad breath. This may be due in large part to the plant’s high concentration of chlorophyll, which has some evidence of treating halitosis.

                                      How to use it: Consuming it in your food, by itself, or in a blended drink are all good ways of using parsley for this particular ailment.

                                      19. Tobacco: Treat bee stings

                                        photo source: Curtis Perry via Flickr

                                        Basics: Tobacco is regarded for little else than its addictive nicotine content, but it also doubles as a surprisingly impressive way to treat bee and wasp stings. Tobacco acts as a sort of anesthetic to the area, possibly helping to draw out the sting’s toxins as well.

                                        How to use it: Unroll a cigarette and place the tobacco against the sting, then hold it down with a moist washcloth. The moisture is needed so that “juice” will flow to the sting.

                                        20. Sage: Fight Alzheimer’s

                                          photo source: Rebecca Siegel via Flickr

                                          Basics: This grey-green herb has a faint and pleasant smell, and much like rosemary has been said to boost memory recall. While this claim hasn’t been tested, studies have found that sage is a somewhat useful treatment for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

                                          How to use it: Sage can be administered in liquid elixir form or in capsules.

                                          Featured photo credit: Harvesting Herbs/Susy Morris via flic.kr

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                                          Last Updated on November 15, 2019

                                          Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

                                          Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

                                          Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat twice as much as you do now without gaining weight? If so, I have good news for you because this is possible when you learn how to increase metabolism.

                                          How Much Do You Know About Metabolism?

                                          Before we get to the meat, let me say that metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.[1] These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning, however, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with the metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn.

                                          The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy your body needs to simply stay alive and perform all its biochemical reactions. These reactions require energy, aka burn calories.

                                          Imagine that your brain alone consumes nearly 20% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure at rest),[2] your digestion and the detoxifying system come second, repairing tissues third and so on.

                                          Staying alive is expensive for your body and its two main currencies are fats and sugars.

                                          When I am talking about improving your metabolic rate (metabolism), I mean improving the amount of energy, your body requires to (pretty much) lay down in bed and do nothing for 24 hours.

                                          Extra physical activity, extra thinking or fighting illness are things that require a lot of energy (burn a lot of calories) but they don’t really increase metabolism… actually they can decrease it.

                                          Can You Naturally Change the Speed of Your Basal Metabolism?

                                          The answer to this question is yes and you can also achieve an increase in metabolism and a drop in body fat by eating more.

                                          Shocked? Well, I was too.

                                          The way I came across this phenomenon is quite funny. Over my 10 years as a coach, I helped many busy professionals to naturally increase their metabolism by getting them leaner, fitter and stronger but, at the beginning of my career, I actually had no idea whether they were losing weight because of an increase in metabolism or because we created a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.

                                          When I was training my clients regularly, they would lose weight. Every time I would take a few weeks of vacation, I would come back to London and find out that most of them gained back a generous amount of weight despite the fact that they were following their diet and they swapped our weight training sessions with cardio.

                                          On the contrary, when they were going on vacation, they would do zero exercises and binge like there was no tomorrow but come back either lighter or weighing the same (but looking more muscular).

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                                          Observing this phenomenon happening over and over again, got me curious about the mechanics of our metabolism and the ways to hack it.

                                          Was it really possible that by relaxing and eating more food, someone could actually maintain his/her current weight or even be losing fat?

                                          Driven by the desire to answer this question, I spent a good amount of years researching and testing different food strategies until I finally cracked the code to an improved metabolism that allows you to eat like a king and look like a Greek God.

                                          Does Eating More Increase Metabolism?

                                          Before I explain why eating more increases your metabolism, let me dig into something that I see people doing much more often: “eating less and moving more.”

                                          It is quite common to see people embarking their yearly weight loss journey (usually after Christmas or Easter) by following very restrictive diets and bombarding their body with several hours of exercise per day.

                                          Despite the short-term effectiveness of this approach, in the long run, if the goal is to increase metabolism and lose a lot of fat over an extended period of time, this simply won’t work.

                                          As I have mentioned before, eating fewer calories and exercising more are energy-consuming activities for your body. In the first case, your body needs to use its own energy reserves to top up the missing energy it needs to fully function; and in the second, it takes your body extra energy to contract your muscles.

                                          In both cases, your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure at rest) doesn’t vary much; therefore your metabolism stays unchanged.[3]

                                          A different scenario happens when you eat less and move more for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In that case, your metabolism will slow down because your body is receiving a “we have little access to food and we need to run away from threats” signal.

                                          Your metabolism is like your bank account.

                                          To understand this concept, let’s imagine that you have $4,000 coming into your bank account each and every month. The money you spend on housing, transport, food and leisure are calibrated according to this monthly income.

                                          Now, imagine that a rich uncle starts to send you $1,000 each day. What would you do? Probably, you would save that money for the first two or three days but, when you notice that $1,000 keep on coming every single day, you would likely start to spend more right?

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                                          What if, instead of a rich uncle sending you money, a poor uncle needed your financial help to pay for the treatments of his illness? You would probably try your best to adjust your spending according to your old $4,000 monthly budget.

                                          That’s exactly how your body reasons:

                                          More Resources Coming in = More Energy Released (Improved Metabolism)

                                          Fewer Resources Coming in = Less Energy Released (Decreased Metabolism)

                                          Note that activities like weight training[4] and high-intensity interval training (HIIT),[5] when combined with an increase in nutrient-rich foods, will also improve your metabolism.

                                          For this reason, today, when I coach a new client, I always start by increasing their daily food intake and their physical activities. Usually, people are quite confused because they come to me to lose weight and I tell them to eat more but, without fail, the next weekly weight-check shows a lower number.

                                          Be aware that not all foods are equal and only certain foods have the power to increase metabolism to a noticeable extent.

                                          Foods That Increase Metabolism

                                          Doubling up on Snickers bars won’t improve your metabolism and you know that. What you may not know is that certain foods that are marked as “healthy” doesn’t help you with increasing your metabolism. They also make you gain weight.

                                          Before giving you a list of foods to eat or avoid, let me explain a simple principle of human biochemistry.

                                          Your body uses energy from three (or four) main sources:

                                          • Sugars: whether you eat a Snickers bar or a banana, the carbohydrates contained in both get absorbed in the gut and become blood glucose (the basic form of sugar our body utilizes as a source of energy).[6]
                                            When blood glucose is present in the bloodstream (elevated levels), the body always uses it as its primary source of energy. When blood glucose levels drop (this phenomenon happens when you’re using these sugars to fuel a physical activity or when your pancreas produced a spike of insulin and stores that glucose into fat and muscles), your body starts to release fatty acids into the bloodstream to use as a source of energy.
                                          • Fatty acids: either from your own fat cells (adipocytes) or from whatever fat-containing foods you ate in the past 2-3 hours. Fatty acids are a slower and more consistent form of energy than sugars that your body can utilise.
                                          • Amino acids: Amino acids are the broken-down form of proteins. Proteins cannot be used by the body as a source of energy, not even in their broken-down form. Your body can transform amino acids into glucose with a process called gluconeogenesis.[7] This is a very inefficient process where a decent amount of energy gets wasted (and that’s a good thing for us but I’ll get to that later).
                                          • Ketones: when you don’t feed your body any source of carbs (or proteins in excess), your liver produces an alternative source of energy called Ketones. It can replace the need for glucose (most of it at least).[8]

                                          Now that you know the four energy sources the body can use to fuel its metabolism, let’s get to the meat (quite literally).

                                          To make this simple for you, I am going to divide foods into three categories:

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                                          1. Red Flags – Avoid the red foods because they slow your metabolism. They are usually extremely low in micronutrients and high in antinutrients (agents that are highly toxic). They are highly processed or spike your insulin levels (therefore stopping your fat burning process).
                                          2. Orange Foods – Limit your consumption of orange foods. The orange foods on the list are suboptimal choices but they don’t have a negative impact on your metabolism when consumed in moderation. In fact, they contain a decent amount of micronutrients and, if eaten in small amounts, they shouldn’t stop your fat burning process.
                                          3. Green Foods – These are foods to consume most. Green foods will improve your metabolism and should be the main bulk of your diet.

                                          Next, I’ll get into details exactly what foods to eat and avoid:

                                          Sugars and Carbs

                                          Sugars do not directly improve metabolism because they stop the process of fat utilisation. There is an exception to this rule though. When you eat a diet extremely low in carbohydrates and sugars for an extended period of time (two to six days onwards), introducing carbohydrates and sugars can actually improve metabolism quite a bit.

                                          Unfortunately, for most of us that love eating bread, pasta, fruit and yoghurt, unless we were on a low-carb diet for the past few days, these foods are not an optimal choice.

                                          Sugars like fructose (found in fruit or commercial sugar) actually decrease metabolism and should be limited. Heavily processed sugars and carbohydrates should be also limited. Here is the colour list of sugars and carbs that affect metabolism:

                                          Red Flag Sugary Foods You Should Avoid:
                                          • Dried fruit
                                          • Commercial and packaged corn
                                          • High fructose corn syrup
                                          • All sorts of candies and lookalike
                                          • Packaged fruit juices and purees
                                          • Sugary dairy products like flavoured yoghurt, condensed milk etc
                                          Orange Sugary Foods You Should Limit:
                                          • Bread and flour-based products
                                          • Milk and also vegan milk alternatives that are sweetened
                                          • Most fruit (exceptions are in the green list below)
                                          • Potatoes and potato starch products
                                          • Oatmeals and other grains
                                          Green Sugary and Carb-Containing Foods That Improve Metabolism
                                          • All berries except strawberries
                                          • Tubers like squash, carrots, parsnips etc
                                          • Sweet potatoes
                                          • White rice
                                          • All green vegetables

                                          Fats

                                          Fatty acids and fats, in general, can improve or decrease metabolism depending on their composition.

                                          Red Flag Fatty Foods You Should Avoid:
                                          • Margarine and hydrogenated fat
                                          • Lard
                                          • Gmo oils
                                          • Most vegetable oils from seeds and peanut oil
                                          Orange Fatty Foods You Should Limit:
                                          • Nuts
                                          • Meat fat
                                          • Nut oils (macadamia, almond, cashew etc..)
                                          • Seeds
                                          Green Fatty Foods You Should Eat Daily
                                          • Extra virgin olive oil (non-heated)
                                          • Avocado
                                          • Coconut oil
                                          • Butter (organic)
                                          • Egg yolks (free-range)
                                          • Bone marrow

                                          The fatty foods in the green section tend to be very effective in increasing metabolism, especially in the absence of carbohydrates because they stimulate the production of ketones (I’ll talk about this later).

                                          Bear in mind that 1 gram of fat has 2.5 times the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates; therefore “eating more fats” to increase metabolism should be done very gradually to avoid weight gain.

                                          Proteins

                                          Eating food not only sends regulatory signals to your brain about abundance vs scarcity of resources, but it can also increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).[9] It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.

                                          Protein causes the largest rise in TEF.[10] It increases your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats

                                          Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating, in fact, a study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.[11]

                                          Also, proteins help preserve muscle mass.[12] The more muscle mass we have, the higher our basal metabolism is.

                                          For these reasons, the first nutritional advice I usually give to clients is to reduce sugars and increase proteins. This quick swap is often enough to kickstart their metabolism and commence the fat burning process.

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                                          Red Protein Sources That Should Be Avoided
                                          • Cheap whey proteins
                                          • Soy proteins
                                          • GMO meat
                                          • GMO eggs
                                          • Packaged meat
                                          Orange Protein Source to Be Limited
                                          • Canned tuna
                                          • Canned fish
                                          • Canned meat
                                          • Gluten-rich products like Seitan
                                          • Farmed fish
                                          Green Protein Sources to Have Daily
                                          • Free-range meat
                                          • Free-range eggs
                                          • Wild meat and fish
                                          • Whey protein isolate
                                          • Collagen and beef protein hydrolyzed

                                          Note that this is a general categorisation of the foods that, when added to your diet, have the power to increase or decrease metabolism. There are some specific foods and supplements worth mentioning because they have been proven to improve metabolism by increasing thyroid output or resting heart rate, they are as follows.

                                          Other Foods and Supplements

                                          Cold water

                                          Drinking water may temporarily speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 litres) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour.[13]

                                          This is not a surprise since our body is made up mainly by water and proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.

                                          MCT Oils or Powders

                                          Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT have been shown to improve metabolism by stimulating Ketone production.[14] Coconut oil contains MCT fats and, when used as a replacement for cooking oil can help you improve metabolism.

                                          You can buy the concentrated version of MCT oils and eat it separately to further enhance this effect. Either way, coconut oil or pure MCT oil can be a great addition to your diet if you’re following a ketogenic or intermittent fasting protocol.

                                          Caffeine

                                          Caffeine and coffee have been shown to improve metabolism by improving heart rate and, therefore improving calorie consumption.[15]

                                          Green Tea

                                          Green tea

                                          is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.[16]

                                          Bottom Line

                                          In this article, I just covered the basics of food and metabolism but, there are many other non-food related things you can do to improve your metabolism, like improving your sleep quality and following certain exercise routines.

                                          For now, just know that making small and gradual changes to your diet can increase your metabolism and improve your general health. Starting from changing one habit at a time is always the best strategy to accomplish any goal.

                                          Once you improve your diet, your hydration and your supplementation you can think about testing more advanced “bio-hacks” or techniques like ice baths and fasted HIIT training.

                                          And remember, having a higher metabolism doesn’t only help you lose weight and keep it off but it also give you more energy and a feeling of vibrancy. If you give it time, it really is worth the investment.

                                          Featured photo credit: Fitsum Admasu via unsplash.com

                                          Reference

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