Come with Chris Kilham, The Medicine Hunter, as he travels around the world in search of herbs and plants you'll only find in ' Nature’s Medicine Cabinet.'
In northern Asia, northwest of Mongolia, the rhodiola rosea plant can be found in full bloom. Chris Kilham, also known as the Medicine Hunter, traveled to the China to witness the plant being harvested. It’s actually the root that’s used medicinally.
“It’s one of my favorite plants because it has so many benefits,” Kilham said. “Those benefits include endurance, stamina, it improves mental clarity, it enhances your ability to concentrate, gives you a great night sleep even though it's an energizer, it improves sexual function, and it improves your immune system too.” Kilham said rhodiola rosea has been extensively well-studied scientifically with history going back more than 2,000 years.
“The Chinese emperors would send expedition parties out into the mountains to get rhodiola and bring it back to the imperial palace,” he said. You can find rhodiola rosea capsules at your nearest drug store or online.
Also on his trip to China, the Medicine Hunter checked out the goji berry, which has been used for thousands of years by herbalists in China, Tibet and India.
“The use of goji berry as a medicinally valuable food goes back to the legendary first emperor of China,” Kilham said. “Goji is considered to be one of the things that really can extend life and improve health.”
The berry, which is rich in antioxidants, has the consistency of a raisin and is used to boost immune function, protect the liver, improve sexual function, circulation and promote longevity. Traditionally in Chinese medicine, the berries are eaten raw, brewed in tea or made into liquid extracts. You can also find goji juice in health food stores as well as trail mixes that contain the berries.
Having a hard time getting a good night’s sleep? The Valerian root could be the answer you’re looking for.
“Valerian root really works to relax you,” Kilham said. “When the root is finely ground you can make a cup of tea and flavor it with honey. This will definitely relax you and do so pretty quickly.”
The downside to this herb is that is has a very pungent smell, almost like “old gym socks,” Kilham said.
We can all feel a little anxious at times, but Kilham said this next natural remedy is sure to help calm your nerves.
“Passion flower the real heavy hitter,” he said. “It helps people who are nervous, people who are anxious and it also helps people with insomnia.” The climbing vine is native to southeastern North America and is now grown in Europe as well. Passion flower is available in teas, liquid extracts and as an herbal supplement.
Kilham calls nettle, also known as stinging nettle, “its own little medicine chest.”
By the way, it’s called stinging nettle because the plant has little hairs on it that sting you if you rub up against it. It’s native to Europe, Africa, Asia and North America.
“Nettle is very good for the prostate,” Kilham said. “So men who are suffering from benign prostatic dysplasia (BPH), which is an enlargement of the prostate, can benefit from this plant.”
You can drink or take nettle extract on a regular basis to help with BPH.
“Nettle is also very, very rich in silica which is important to skin, hair and nails,” Kilham added. “If you drink nettle tea on a regular basis you'll have great nails.” Nettle is also very good for helping people cope with seasonal allergies, especially hay fever.
The Kava plant, which is a relative of the black pepper plant, comes from the South Pacific and is used to make a relaxing beverage, according to Kilham. But it’s also a great remedy for a pesky condition.
“You can make a tea out of Kava or a foot bath,” Kilham said.”And when you put it on athlete's foot we know it works - it actually works to get rid of it. So if you've got that problem - if your feet itch - get yourself to an herb store, get yourself some kava, make some tea and bathe your feet in it and get rid of that athlete's foot!"
There’s a lot more to cinnamon than just coffee cake and cinnamon rolls.
“Studies that have been conducted over the past few years show that cinnamon has properties similar to those of insulin, so it actually helps to regulate and stabilize blood sugar,” Kilham said.
“Given that so many people now have blood sugar disorders - eating cinnamon in your diet on a regular basis is a good way to keep your blood sugar more even, plus as anyone who loves cinnamon knows - the stuff tastes just great.”
Suffering from PMS? Chaste Berry has been proven to help relieve symptoms, Kilham said. He pointed to a study in the British Medical Journal that looked at chaste berry and its effects on PMS. Researchers found a positive rate of response of 52 percent among women with PMS.
“These results confirm what traditional herbalists have known all along, that chaste berry works for women,” Kilham said.
Chaste berry, also known as vitex, is a densely branched shrub indigenous to the Mediterranean and Asia. The berries are used as a traditional folk medicine for premenstrual discomfort, and as a lactagogue, a promoter of breast milk production. Chaste berry was well-known to the early herbalists. Hippocrates commented, “If blood flows from the womb, let the woman drink dark wine in which the leaves of the vitex have been steeped.”
Another favorite of the Medicine Hunter’s is devil’s claw, which is a desert plant that comes from Africa.
“It’s a real, no kidding remedy for relieving arthritis pain,” Kilham said. “It also has good human studies behind it.”
Kilham said if you have arthritis pain, and you’re looking for an alternative remedy, this is an excellent option. “If you drink a devil's claw tea or an extract of this stuff on a regular basis, and you've got arthritis pain this will help to relieve it or get rid of it entirely.”
Devil's claw is available in a powdered form, liquid extracts, as a dried herb or tea and capsules.
REMEMBER: Before taking any kind of herbal/health supplements, make sure you ALWAYS talk to your doctor first, especially if you have an existing medical condition and/or are currently taking medications.
From the mountains of China to the South Pacific, nature is full of remedies that can cure your everyday ailments.