10 Essential Herbs for Lifelong Health by Barbara L. Heller M.S.W.

By Barbara L. Heller M.S.W.

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For a mild tea, let steep for about 5 minutes; for a stronger, more potent tea, steep for at least 20 minutes and up to several hours—even overnight. If you’ve used loose herb, strain before drinking. MAKING AN HERBAL DECOCTION A decoction is a tea made from plant roots or bark. Because these plant parts are tougher and more fibrous than leaves and flowers, they must be simmered in boiling water to extract their medicinal qualities. 1 cup (237 ml) water 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried herb or 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh herb Combine the water and herb in a pot; cover.

It’s a wonderful digestive aid, mild enough to soothe children’s stomachaches and excellent for adult indigestion and stomach upset. Studies show that menthol may also prevent stomach ulcers and stimulate bile secretion. Germany’s Commission E has officially approved peppermint as an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The decongestant action of peppermint also makes it a helpful adjunct in the treatment of many so-called winter ailments—the stuffiness and fever of colds and coughs as well as pneumonia.

Growing about 2 feet tall, peppermint has sharply toothed, lance-shaped leaves and spreads by surface runners. Its flowers are small, pink to lavender, with four lobes. Mints can be invasive; to contain your peppermint, plant it in a pot in the ground. Gardeners who are also cooks are in for a treat. The delicious medley of mint choices includes apple, chocolate, and pineapple. Health Benefits Peppermint’s potent healing is derived from its aromatic oil, menthol. Menthol is antispasmodic, relaxing the muscles of the digestive tract.

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