Herbs to Live By
by Catherine Monahan

Herbs are powerful medicine. Here's a quick guide to help you use them safely and effectively.

Herbs

Ask an herbalist to pick a favorite herb and you're likely to get an incredulous stare in return. It's near to pressuring a chef for a single recipe or a painter for the ideal brushstroke. So if a trained professional has a hard time choosing, you may well ask, "How should I know which herb to buy?" That's why we created this herb chart — a guide to the botanicals you're most likely to reach for to treat everything from a stomachache to the sniffles.

The 30 herbs presented here are a balance of science, safety and convenience — three marks of any good therapy. Although the U.S. herbal renaissance is fairly recent, a tremendous number of herbs have been scientifically studied. These studies, many conducted in Europe, demonstrate that herbs such as echinacea, milk thistle and saw palmetto are effective treatments, and in many cases, work better than pharmaceuticals. Herbs also tend to have fewer side effects than prescription drugs, so you can be more comfortable taking them yourself or giving them to your family. Remember, though, that herbs are powerful medicine, and it's a good idea to let your doctor know if you're using them.

Herbal products come in many different forms, including teas, tinctures, tablets and capsules, so it's easy to find one that suits your lifestyle. Please note that we've opted for practical herbs in lieu of exotic ones. Herbs that made the list treat common conditions such as colds, cuts and headaches, or they help maintain everyday good health by aiding digestion, helping you sleep or improving circulation.

Perhaps the true charm of herbs lies in their hard-working practicality. What other remedy can light up a corner garden, enliven a recipe and ease a headache all in the same day? Whether they appeal to your work ethic, your purse or your philosophy, herbs are a reliable, gentle boon to your health. So make a copy of our herb chart, hang it on the refrigerator or take it grocery shopping. We hope you'll put some permanent creases in it by the time we print the next one.

Photography by: Joe Hancock