a lot of people become intimidated when it comes to herbs because they don't know where to start. most are familiar with the more commonly used ones such as echinacea and st. john's wort but what a lot of people don't realize is that they have a whole arsenal of medicinal herbs in their spice cabinet: garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, fennel, dill and anise seeds, lemons and turmeric are a great start. pull out some salt, vinegar, olive oil and honey (raw) from your cabinet and you've got the makings of a first aid kit worthy of treating winter ailments! throw in some vodka or brandy and you can make a full spectrum of herbal remedies.
garlic: natural antibiotic, broad spectrum which body/germs don't build a resistance to allowing it to be used over and over again. useful for helping to fight off bacterial infections, earaches and other wintertime ailments such as strep throat. can help to reduce span of illness. best raw (but take in small doses as it can irritate in large). can be heated in oil to make eardrops or infused in honey and eaten to help with sore throats, etc. tinctured in brandy or vodka, it can be taken as needed (15-30 drops at a time depending on body size) to help.
to use in oil: crush garlic cloves, place in double boiler with olive oil and gently warm for 2 hours. strain and add a few drops in both ears to treat earaches and infections.
to use in honey: crush garlic cloves, place in mason jar of preferred size and fill with raw honey. allow to steep for at least 1 month. eat a spoonful as needed. the cloves can be eaten too.
rosemary: rosemary essential oil has been tested for use in effective against colon, breast and lung cancer with promising results. it is an antiseptic and is great in tea form. it can smooth the muscles of the digestive tract, helping to calm stomach cramps as well as menstrual cramps. as an infusion, it relieves digestive problems, relieves cold symptoms, and helps as an expectorant.
thyme: great for the respiratory system. thyme is excellent for coughs and sore throats. it has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. it can be used externally as a wash to cleanse wounds. it makes a pleasant tasting tea and is helpful for bronchitis and whooping cough/pertussis. when our family was going through whooping cough this summer, a tea containing thyme was drank in copious amounts to help.
sage: a sage/salt water gargle for sore throats. it is also known as a diaphoretic which means it will increase perspiration. use with caution if breastfeeding as it can decrease the milk production (helpful if mama needs help with adjusting her milk flow though).
fennel, dill and anise seeds: great for digestive problems. seeds can be chewed before and after meals to help settle the stomach. a tea can be made and drank during meals to help with digestion as well.
lemons: an excellent form of vitamin c. a drink made from 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon of honey and 8 oz. of hot water helps to soothe a sore throat. when lots of mucus is present, oranges should not be eaten because they can increase the amount of mucus in the body. lemons provide a great source of vitamin c w/o increasing the mucus.
turmeric: excellent when used in a honey paste for sore throats.
turmeric/honey paste: mix equal amounts of honey and turmeric well and eat. i start with 1 teaspoon of each. after about 3 doses (usually taken w/in an hour) i have always had much relief. this is the first thing i reach for when my throat feels scratchy.
salt: add to water or herbal infusion to make a gargle for sore throats. heat in a pan on the stove and place in a handkerchief (tie opposite corners together tightly to keep salt from leaking out) and place on aching ear for extra soothing power when using garlic oil drops.
vinegar: herbs can be infused in vinegar and added to salads to help with calcium absorption. any herb can be used to increase health benefits as needed.
olive oil: infuse herbs by crushing herbs and adding with olive oil in a double boiler and slowly infusing over low heat for a few hours (or placing in a mason jar and setting in the sun for 2 or 3 weeks). oil can be used as a massage oil to relieve muscle cramps, rubbed on the stomach to relieve stomach cramps, ear drops to relieve ear aches, ear infections and swimmer's ear (infused with garlic or onions) or combined with beeswax to make a salve.
honey: honey in itself has terrific medicinal powers. infusing herbs in it can make herbal medicine yummy, especially for little ones who aren't so crazy about herbs. it can be made into a syrup by combining 1 part herbal infusion to 2 parts honey, warming briefly on the stove to combine and bottled. add 1/2 part brandy to help preserve and store in the refridgerator. pastes can be made by adding equal parts of honey and powdered herbs. adding more herb can make a dough that can be rolled into balls and and dried.
these are just a brief synopsis of herbs that you can find in your kitchen that can help with ailments. try googling some herbs in your cabinet by typing the word 'medicinal' and the herb to see what you can come up with. you will be amazed at what you can do with what you've got! also, check out my fellow bloggers for all of their wonderful posts on the same topic:
shamana flora discusses turmeric in detail
herbwifemama speaks of the joy of thyme
dreamseeds shares a great overview of various spices as well
kiva rose has a wonderful post on bee balm
crabapple herbs has a thorough post on cinnamon
i'll be updating this post as others also contribute their entries for this months party. feel free to join in!