MANY of the minor complaints that we treat with medicines from the chemist can also be treated with plants found growing in our backyards.
Most of these plants linger as ornamentals, because people have forgotten how our ancestors used them as part of their daily health regime.
Common garden herbs like peppermint leaves, fennel seeds and parsley can be used to treat bad breath. Combine equal portions of all three herbs to half fill a mug and top up with boiling water. Cover, allow to cool, strain and gargle. After rinsing your mouth, drink the remaining herbal tea. Minor burns can be treated with the gel of an aloe vera plant.
The first step is to treat the burn with cold running water or a cold compress of ice. This stops the burn becoming deeper. Next apply the gel of the aloe vera leaf. Just split the leaf in half. Aloe vera not only soothes the affected area but takes away the pain and promotes quick healing.
Pretty, daisy-like chamomile flowers make a soothing remedy for cradle cap. Bring one third of a cup of the flowers almost to the boil in 150 millilitres of olive oil. Remove from the stove, cool, then strain into an airtight, sterilised glass bottle and store. Rub the oil gently into the scalp, then wash off with warm soapy water.
To treat dandruff, rinse your hair after shampooing with rosemary or nettle conditioning rinse. Put eight to 10 sprigs of fresh rosemary, or a handful of fresh nettle leaves, in a ceramic or glass bowl and add 300 millilitres of boiling water. Strain once the liquid has cooled and rinse through your hair daily.
You can get quick relief from insect bites by washing the sting as soon as possible with vinegar, then applying aloe vera gel. The juice of young bracken stems is also excellent for ant bites, while the juice of dock leaves or nettle stems are good for nettle rash. Calendula ointment is also a soothing balm for insect bites and is now commonly available from supermarkets and pharmacies. Whenever you feel tense or irritable drink a cup of lemon balm tea. To prepare your tea, put one tablespoon of the fresh herb and six cloves in a ceramic mug, add 300 millilitres of boiling water, cover and infuse for three minutes. Strain and sip as needed.