Too often, there’s an assumption that the newest and most advanced medical treatments are the best. But in my experience, seemingly ordinary remedies often produce extraordinary results. Certain herbs are a good case in point. Ones that are often considered “ho-hums” of the botanical world are, in fact, surprisingly powerful medicines you can use to safely treat a number of common complaints. My favorite ho-hum herbs…


Chamomile. While many people think of drinking a cup of chamomile tea to help them relax or sleep (which it does), this herb also has several lesser-known benefits. For example, as an antispasmodic, chamomile helps control muscle spasms, as may occur with irritable bowel syndrome or diverticulitis pain. The herb also has antiseptic (germ-fighting), carminative (digestion-supporting and gas-reducing qualities) and analgesic (pain-fighting) properties. For example, dried chamomile flowers can be used to make a topical compress that relieves the pain, irritation and/or infection of sties, pinkeye, bug bites, acne, eczema, burns and hemorrhoids. What to do: In a pot, pour three ounces of boiling water over one tablespoon of dried chamomile flowers. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes, then put the moist flowers and remaining liquid in gauze and place it directly over the skin condition you want to treat. Cover with a dry towel, and leave in place for 15 minutes. Repeat this hourly as needed. You can also use chamomile tea bags to make a compress. How: Put as many tea bags as you need to cover the affected area in a pot, and moisten thoroughly with boiling water. Let cool slightly, then apply over the area and cover with a dry towel. Let sit for 15 minutes. Caution: People who are allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to chamomile.

Mint herb

Peppermint. If your digestion is sluggish or you’ve overeaten and feel bloated and too full, have a strong cup of peppermint tea. Or add 60 drops of peppermint tincture to four ounces of hot water and sip as you would tea. This remedy helps relieve motion sickness, too. Note: Don’t drink peppermint tea if you have gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD) since it could worsen symptoms. For headache pain: Put a drop of peppermint essential oil on each temple (mix with unscented baby oil if your skin is sensitive), and if possible, cover your forehead and temples with a moist, warm towel, and lie down for 15 minutes. Repeat as needed.

Licorice Licorice. Many people steer clear of licorice because it can worsen high blood pressure. But if you’ve got high blood pressure, you can still use licorice—it just needs to be “deglycyrrhizinated” licorice. This type of licorice has had the constituent responsible for blood pressure concerns (glycyrrhiza) removed. While the deglycyrrhizinating process reduces some of licorice’s medicinal benefits, this herb remains very useful for ulcers, colitis, diverticulitis and gastritis. What to do: Get chewable tablets or powdered deglycyrrhizinated licorice capsules. Take two tablets or capsules three times a day, away from meals, until your digestive condition is better. If your gastrointestinal pain is severe, lasts for more than three days, or you notice any rectal bleeding, seek medical attention. You could have a serious condition such as an infection.