a literal medicine chest in a basket...i just harvested these today from the top going clockwise: honeysuckle flowers, wild cherry twigs, self heal, goldenrod and rosehips in the center.this month's blog party is being hosted by rosalee of methow valley herbs. head on over there and check out everyone's postings that are participating!
it's so easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest new exotic herbs that are being promoted that it's hard to remember that sometimes, the best medicine is growing right in our own backyards! this blog party is a great reminder to run to our backyard instead of the nearest health food store to find our remedies. i am located in the midwest, near st. louis but most of these herbs can be found across the country.
first, remember the golden rule of health: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! i've written a post about what can be done to prevent the flu at not dabbling in normal.
to make a syrup, gently heat 2 cups of fresh elderberries with 2 cups of water. when it hits boiling, turn off the heat and mash the berries. cover and allow to infuse for about an hour. strain off the berries and add 2 cups of honey to the liquid and warm on the stove until the honey is thin enough to mix together. stir and pour into a bottle. label and keep refrigerated. to help preserve longer, you can add a bit of brandy (about 1/4 c.) and shake.
elderberry also contains diaphoretic and diuretic qualities. elderberry is also an expectorant, helping to relieve lung congestion.
elderflower is also a wonderful cold and flu herb to have on hand. the flowers of elder contain most of the same properties as the berries.
for treating coughs, i like to make a cough syrup or cough drop from our wild cherry bark. he is delicious and relaxing, helping to ease coughing spasms. among other things, wild cherry bark is analgesic and antibacterial which can help ease the painful chest congestion and help prevent a secondary bacterial infection from setting in. if i'm out of the syrup, i will often snip a few twigs from the tree and decoct them for about 10-20 minutes to make a quick cherry bark drink. sweetened with a dab of our raw honey, they will drink it down fairly quickly!
other herbs that grow around us that are helpful for treating colds and flus are bergamot (monarda fistulosa), st. john's wort and lobelia. lobelia i tend to be cautious with as it is a low dose botanical but bergamot makes a delightful tea that i enjoy immensely as a beverage and has great carminative, diaphoretic, diurectic and antibacterial actions. use of bergamot dates back to native americans who used her for treating bronchial ailments, sore throats, fever and headaches. any of the monarda species can be used but i prefer to use my wild bergamot that grows in my garden. i collected 1 seed head several years back and i now have three beautiful stands in my garden!
st. john's wort is most often known for his use in treating depression but he has antiviral abilities as well. he is also astringent and expectorant making him great to treat lung congestion. i have not had much experience in using him but i have lots tinctured up and will be trying him out this winter if needed. while st. john's wort grows wild around here, my tiny wild patch was choked out by honeysuckle last year and is slowly reemerging in another part of the woods so i'm using my cultivated st. john's wort which makes a lovely blood red oil and tincture. in the future, i hope to be able to use the wild st. john's wort since i truly believe wild is stronger than cultivated.
honeysuckle, the bane of master naturalists everywhere, is used a lot in chinese medicine and is great for stimulating circulation and removing inflammation. in traditional chinese medicine, she is used for clearing heat and removing toxicity. she is excellent for treating 'hot' sore throats and modern laboratory research has proven she has antibacterial qualities. it's best to harvest the flowers before they open and are great dried (for teas), tinctured or even honeyed or made into a syrup.
rose hips are high in vitamin c which is great to take to help fight off colds and flus and they are also antiviral. a rose hip elixir is a great way to get kids to take their medicine! a great preventative and a great curative as well.
some resources and more information:
for more information on goldenrod:
for a great list of all the elders available around the world try this link:
trying to identify elderberry? read my recent post on herbal roots zine:
want to teach your kids more about elderberry? last month's issue of herbal roots zine was on elderberry:
for more about honeysuckle:
more information on wild rose petals and hips elixir:
my blog party post on self heal: