Monday, June 8, 2009

Medicinal Herbs in Your Backyard

By Rachel Nowakowski, L.Ac.

Some people think of Chinese herbs as exotic plants grown only in faraway Asia. But many of the plants used in Chinese Herbal Medicine can easily be grown in Western North Carolina, because the climate is so similar to parts of China.

Many common medicinal plants are as beautiful as they are useful. Examples include Balloon flower (Platycodon), Peony, Buddleia (butterfly bush), and Forsythia.

Balloon flower root (Jie Geng) is traditionally used in prescriptions for lung afflictions including cough, excessive phlegm, and sore throat. We use Peony root (Bai Shao Yao/Chi Shao Yao) to move and nourish blood to treat conditions like skin rashes and menstrual disorders. Buddleia flower (Mi Meng Hua) is helpful for eye conditions including red, painful eyes, excessive tearing, and light sensitivity. Forsythia seed capsule (Lian Qiao) is used to treat heat conditions especially fevers, and swollen lymph nodes.

Of course, some medicinal plants are not as pleasing to have in our yards and gardens. Honeysuckle, dandelion, and kudzu can cause gardeners much misery, but even the most annoying plants have their purposes.

Honeysuckle flowers (Jin Yin Hua) are used to clear heat for fever and infections and is commonly used with Forsythia (Lian Qiao) in cold/flu formulas like Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian. The Honeysuckle leaf and vine (Ren Dong Teng) is used for arthritic joint pain. Dandelion (Pu Gong Yin) is another heat and toxin clearing herb that is used to treat eye conditions and mastitis. Kudzu root (Ge Gen) is an excellent herb for headaches and upper body pain, thirst caused by fever, and diarrhea. The kudzu flowers (Ge Gen Hua) can reduce alcohol cravings and minimize hangovers.

So the next time you are admiring your garden ornamentals or pulling out the weeds, remember their healing energies. When we think of the countless patients helped by these plants over thousands of years of use in Chinese Herbal Medicine, these herbs can be appreciated even more.

Spring Herbal Garden Tea

1 cup lemon balm leaves
1 cup mint leaves
4 tablespoons orange peel – grated

Mix the herbs and store in a glass jar.
For each cup of tea, steep 1 tablespoon of herbal tea mixture in boiling water.

There are a number of varieties of each plant, not all of them are used medicinally. Some medicinal plants need to be processed to reduce toxicity and give them their individual energetics. As with any herbal substance, it is best to consult your practitioner.