Pretty blooms do more than brighten a room — they’re packed with healing compounds that boost health and happiness
Comfrey cream cuts joint pain by 95 percent!
If that weekend hike leaves you sore and stiff come Monday morning, massage a dollop of comfrey cream into creaky knees and joints. Derived from a purple flowering shrub, it contains two compounds (allantoin and rosmarinic acid) that work together to quell inflammation and speed tissue healing. In fact, a study in Phytotherapy Research found that rubbing comfrey into sore spots three times daily reduces joint tenderness and stiffness by 33 percent immediately, and by up to 95 percent within four days.
Lower high blood pressure with sunflower seeds.
These tiny gems are a smart and tasty addition to any nutritious eating plan. Snacking on just 1/3 cup of sunflower seeds a day can lower high BP by four points or more, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. As the seeds from the yellow flower are digested, they release a potent compound that works like a natural ACE inhibitor, widening blood vessels to improve your circulation.
Or sip spiced hibiscus tea! Tufts University scientists found that women who drink 3 cups of this tart and fruity tea daily lowered their systolic (top number) blood pressure by seven points in six weeks, results on par with some prescription meds. The brew’s phytonutrients relax arteries to improve circulation.
Strengthen immunity with an echinacea sip.
Summer colds can quickly sideline you from your favorite activities, but luckily, there’s a natural way to bounce back in a hurry: British researchers say that taking a daily dose of echinacea (also called “purple coneflower”), a flowering plant known for its healing properties, eases symptoms now, plus helps you face fewer colds in the months to come. Echinacea is credited with killing germs that cause colds and tamping down the inflammation that triggers bothersome symptoms like congestion and a sore throat. Try adding liquid echinacea drops to a glass of water for a simple and quick tonic, or brew a cup of echinacea tea.
And pop elderberry gummies! Elderberries (from the sambucus plant that produces tiny white flowers) have been used for centuries to hasten recovery from illnesses. Rich in antioxidants that deactivate the flu virus’ ability to infect cells, elderberries help folks recover three times faster when taken daily, a study in The Journal of International Medical Research found. A gummie version to try: Hello Bello Elderberry Immunity Gummy ($9.88, Walmart).
Lift your spirits by gazing at roses.
You already know admiring flowers is a quick way to boost your mood. Now, research out of Japan reveals which blooms pack a particularly powerful punch: roses! Putting a vase on your counter or pausing to view them at a park increases your positivity by 220 percent in 5 minutes. The timeless beauties work their magic by reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers your body’s “fight or flight” response.
Or rub on jasmine lotion! The sweet scent has a compound (linalool) that boosts relaxing alpha waves to ease stress, a Wheeling Jesuit University study shows.
Sidestep hot flashes with a lavender roller.
Keeping cool on sweltering days is that much harder when hot flashes strike. The fix: Roll a lavender-scented aromatherapy blend onto your wrists and take a deep breath. Research in the Journal of the Chinese Medical Association found that the aroma reduces the frequency and intensity of hot flashes by 53 percent by easing stress and activating the brain’s temperature -control center. Just fill an aromatherapy roller with jojoba oil, then add 5 drops of lavender essential oil and roll on wrists as needed.
Or reach for red clover! The pretty flower brims with plant estrogens that Dutch researchers say cut hot flashes by 44 percent in three months. To get the benefit, supplement with 80 mg. daily.
Sleep soundly with a gardenia shower.
Say goodbye to sleepless nights! Taking an evening shower with a gardenia-scented soap can help you doze off as effectively as prescription sleep aids. The compound that gives the flower its scent works like Valium, a study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry revealed, spurring the release of the anti-anxiety brain chemical GABA to help you relax and drift off into dreamland.
Or scent your pillow with chamomile! Dab 3 drops of Roman chamomile essential oil onto a cotton ball and tuck it inside your pillowcase. Stanford scientists say the scent helps you fall asleep in 10 minutes.
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.