Deborah Brandt’s herbal remedies bridge the gap between traditional and conventional medicine.
Meet the Expert – Deborah Brandt, R.N.
I am Deborah Brandt, an R.N. and Professional Clinical Herbalist. I have owned From The Ground Up, an herb shop and natural medicine clinic in Las Cruces for nearly 25 years. I became an herbalist at the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine in 1993 and am a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild. I have a large selection of herbal tinctures that I individually compound for people based on specific needs. I see people on a walk-in basis as well as appointment, depending on the complexity of the diagnosis.
I have always loved nursing and continue to enjoy bridging the gap between traditional and conventional medicine. There is a lot of misunderstanding between the conventional medical model and traditional models of treating patients. Both sides have much to offer and can work well together for a patients benefit. It doesn’t have to be either/or. People often have questions about how herbs fit in with their health and what kind of interactions they need to know about. That is why I opened my shop, to help provide those answers.
From the Ground Up
339 N. Alameda Blvd.
Peppermint has long been a part of New Mexican cultural remedies, grown in medicinal gardens for family use. Spearmint, or any of the other mints can be used interchangeably. Yerba Buena (mint) is perennial and easily grown and propagated from roots.
They love moisture, so it is essential to adequately water. Pick the leaves and dry them in a dry place out of the sun. One teaspoon of crushed dried leaves per cup of water is a good measure. Mint contains substantial volatile oils so be sure not to overheat. A cup of boiling water poured over the leaves and allowed to steep 5-10 minutes before straining works well.
For a refreshing summer drink, crush a handful of fresh leaves of mint, as well as a creative and healthful bunch of other fresh herbs such as basil, and perhaps some sliced citrus to your flavored water. Chopped fresh mint is a great addition to many foods such as Tabbouleh, yogurt dips, lamb, and fresh vegetables.
Mints relax smooth muscle, such as stomach and intestines, as well as other smooth muscle, like in the gall bladder for instance. It is very safe and works well to help relieve gas pains, colic, and upset stomach. It can also help relieve gall bladder spasms from eating overly rich foods. One possible precaution when using mint, for those with GERD it can aggravate it since it does relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus. I have not actually seen this happen much but it is worth mentioning.
Another herb that is well worth having on hand is echinacea. It is possible to grow this lovely flower in your garden as well. The roots are the strongest, medicinally. Although used worldwide, echinacea is native to the United States, where it was used by Native Americans in the late 1800’s. Its primary use was for increasing the body’s resistance to infection, treating boils, and other ‘impurities’ from the blood.
Widely popular for treating the common cold, it actually does not have antimicrobial properties. It does, however, enhance natural immune response by triggering an increase in white blood cells. This increase helps prime your body for resisting invading organisms more quickly. So, yes, take echinacea at the first sign of infection.
A misconception about echinacea is that it loses its effectiveness after a few days. This is incorrect and based on one or two reports that were contradicted by numerous other reports. It is a good herb to take along with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria (excluding antibiotic resistant strains), but don’t enhance immune response. So taken together, they make a good team.
Echinacea inhibits an enzyme from venomous bites such as brown recluse spiders that spread tissue destruction. It is handy to have around for venomous bites and beginning of colds and other infections. One drawback, it has been reported to exacerbate auto-immune diseases since it does stimulate the immune system, so you should probably not use echinacea if you have an auto-immune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Nervines and Mineral-rich Herbs
There are a few nervines—herbs that calm the nervous system—you might like to have around to help relieve insomnia. I often use a combination of them in a tea or tincture. My preferred relaxing herbs include passionflower, which is a beautiful flowering vine that can be grown in your yard. When in flower, pick the leaves and flowers, chop up and dry out of the sun, then make a tea using about a tablespoon of dried herb per cup of water to relax before bed. I make a tincture out of the fresh plant. It takes just a dropper or two in a little water.
Skullcap is another nervine that you can throw in your formula to relax. I also often use California poppy too. It is the bright orange flower that dots our mountains in the spring. None of these tastes very good, so I like to mix them in tinctures, or you can add some mint and honey to help them taste better.
Hibiscus flower is nice to have on hand, even though our climate is not quite warm enough for it to grow here. The tea is helpful for reducing high blood pressure. It is also rich in minerals, so it helps promote strong bones. It is a lovely red color and has a tart delicious flavor.
Other mineral rich herbs include horsetail, oat straw, nettles, and alfalfa.