Top Herbs for Your Natural Medicine ChestAugust 15, 2018
Despite your best attempts to live a healthy and toxin free life, there will probably be times when illness or injury strike. In some cases, like trauma or unrelenting pain or illness, you will seek out the appropriate conventional medical treatment and that is certainly warranted.
However, other times when illness or injury is not life threatening, but merely uncomfortable or limiting, there is research that indicates our best recourse is to assist our bodies in healing themselves. Mediating symptoms might not actually be the best thing to do, like taking Advil for low-grade fever. There are often natural remedies that boost the body’s own immune responses and that can help ease uncomfortable symptoms.
Utilizing natural remedies in the comfort of your own home won’t expose you to all the germs of really sick people in the doctor’s office, or quick care waiting room.
The following are just some of the remedies people recommend. Note that this list is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as a replacement when medical attention is needed.
Your natural medicine chest should include some herbs and concoctions that cover a range of issues from cuts and scrapes to headaches to stomach troubles. Below are our favorites because they can be grown or prepared at home.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Scrapes, minor wounds, acne, diaper rash, liver tonic
Commonly called “pot marigold,” Calendula officinalis has been used historically as a remedy for various infections of the skin, both bacterial and fungal, as well as a salve for minor cuts and scrapes.
Pot Marigold is different from the common marigold you might have growing in your garden. (https://rivergathering.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/marigolds/)
The petals of Calendula officinalis can be plucked straight off the flowers to apply directly to minor wounds to stop bleeding and to accelerate healing. Other forms of Calendula often delivered are as an oil or an ointment. It can be used to treat wounds, sores, acne, and diaper rash. A tea made from calendula blooms is reportedly used as a detoxifying liver tonic. The flowers are edible, too! Just sprinkle a few petals to garnish salads and rice dishes. They can be dried for storage as well. Many flowers in the genus Tagetes also go by the name Marigold, so if you’re growing pot marigold for medicinal purposes, make sure you have the right plant and practice safe, non-toxic gardening techniques.
Scrapes, minor wounds, burns
A spiky succulent that is commonly grown in sunny windows, this should be grown not for its appearance, but for its benefits. While it’s true that Aloe is an attractive house or garden plant in its unmolested and natural form, after using it for its medicinal properties it won’t be quite as picturesque. Cut off a bit of leaf and release the gel-like interior onto burns and minor wounds. The relief is almost instantaneous. For larger scrapes or burns, an entire leaf can be cut from the main plant, sliced lengthwise down the leaf, and spread open. The contents can then be effectively scooped out and applied to the injured skin. If you decide to stock aloe in a bug out kit, shelf stable gel can be purchased in bottles. Otherwise, I suggest growing it.
Cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos)
Urinary tract health
Cranberry juice is known to help with urinary tract infections, even prophylactically. Natural health researchers once thought that the berries helped to make the urine more acidic, creating an unwelcoming environment for bacteria that can cause infection. However, this thinking has shifted and it is now thought that cranberries contain a substance that does not allow bacteria to adhere to urinary tract walls giving them the foothold they need to grow. We do know they have two qualities that could contribute to this effect. They are rich in antioxidants which might make the urine hostile to bad bacteria and they also create a slippery coating on the urinary tract walls.
Keep dried and pulverized cranberry on hand if you prefer to gather and process your own. Otherwise, you can buy it as an extract, or in pill form.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Cardiovascular health, hypertension, detox, cancer
If there was one herb for long-term health it would be garlic. Pungent, and spicy it can make food more appetizing, but it also has a secret power. It reduces cholesterol, promotes blood circulation, and prevents clots by thinning the blood, all of which helps with cardiovascular health. It also acts as a detoxifier, even reducing the absorption of toxic substances, like heavy metals, from the gut. Some people claim it has anti-cancer properties, most especially against cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, bladder and prostate gland. Eating one or two garlic cloves a day might bestow these health benefits, and it surely won’t hurt.
While garlic extract can be purchased in capsule form, the cardiovascular and cancer-fighting effects may be lost during processing. Because of that, fresh garlic should be used if at all possible. It’s easy to grow and store.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Infection, colds, minor burns, immune system boost
Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant. Day-to-day, try to get antioxidants through your diet, but for health issues, keep the supplement on hand to ward off infections and colds. You can buy it in tablet or powdered form. In the event of illness, increase your consumption. Some people swear by taking it as a detoxifier, even giving it to their young children.
Experts say there’s very little proof that vitamin C actually has any effect on the common cold, but so many people swear by its effects, it’s worth trying. Studies do confirm that when taken daily, vitamin C very slightly shortened cold duration — by 8% in adults and by 14% in children.
Keep a jar of pulverized pills – or buy it in powdered form – in the kitchen. In the event of a minor burn quickly make a thick paste of a small amount of vitamin C powder and water and apply to the burn. This helps with healing and pain relief.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Nausea, sore throat
Ginger is a tropical plant and the useful part is the root or rhizome. Gnarly and thick, the rhizome of Zingiber officinale, provides strong medicinal value that has been known since ancient times. It can be used either fresh or dried. Though there is a difference in taste, but the medicinal properties of fresh and dry ginger are more or less the same. Ginger tea settles the stomach when you have nausea or vomiting. It can help people who suffer from motion sickness. Dried ginger and honey added to seltzer water can be a good alternative to ginger ale for sipping while nauseated. Pregnant women with morning sickness can safely use ginger to get immediate relief. Just biting on a small piece of ginger every now and then might be enough to conquer nausea. A teaspoon of fresh ginger extract mixed with equal amount of raw honey can take the edge off of a sore throat as well.
Morning sickness remedy: Chop up into small pieces a collection of fruits like pineapple, peach, apple, and orange. Toss to mix. Finely chop or grate fresh ginger to taste. Add to fruit and store in a small covered dish in the refrigerator. During the day, take a bite of the mixture from time to time to ward off nausea and balance blood sugar, which might contribute to morning sickness. For convenience, include a spoon in the covered bowl or lay it across the top.
Elderberry Syrup (Adoxaceae)
Whether you make it yourself or buy it from a reputable source, some research shows elderberry (as an extract or in syrup form) might help if you take it within the first 24 to 48 hours after you start to feel flu symptoms. There aren’t any known side effects if you use it for five days or less, but don’t eat the plant — it can make you sick. Get the recipe to make it yourself here.
Lavender (Lavendula Angustifolia)
Headache, nervousness, insomnia, depression, minor burns, insect bites
Lavender tea can relieve headaches and when taken at bedtime, is relaxing and might contribute to uninterrupted, restful sleep. The essential oil of lavender acts as a mood enhancer and helps relieve anxiety and depression. It’s effective in soothing burns and insect bites. Lavender honey can accelerate wound healing. The edible flowers can add a bit of color and flavor to cakes and cookies as well but too much will lend a medicinal bitter flavor. Stock both flower buds for tea, and essential oil for other uses.
Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita)
Abdominal discomfort and bloating, indigestion, sore muscles, bad breath
Contrary to its pleasant flavor, this member of the mint family is powerful. It’s traditionally used for making herbal tea which can relieve abdominal discomfort and bloating due to indigestion. Don’t drink more than two cups though. It can cause heartburn. People who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may benefit from taking peppermint oil in capsule form to avoid irritating the upper gastrointestinal tract. A few drops of peppermint oil with a carrier like almond or grapeseed oil can be rubbed into sore muscles, providing some relief. If you grow this herb in the garden, chewing a few leaves after a heavy meal will not only refresh your breath but will do your stomach some good, too. The dried leaves can be stored for up to six months. Grow it yourself or buy from a reputable source in bulk.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Cold, flu, indigestion, infection, e.coli, anti-fungal, yeast
Thyme is another easy-to-grow herb. This aromatic plant shows promise as a protective measure against colds and flu. Use fresh or dried leaves as a tea to relieve stomach problems like indigestion and bacterial infections. Thymol, the essential oil in the herb, may fight against many common stomach bugs like E.coli, Staphylococcus, and Shigella. Tannins in thyme tea also make it a quick remedy for diarrhea, especially in children. The anti-fungal properties of thyme oil might be a useful remedy for vaginal yeast infections. Interesting fact: thyme oil is an active ingredient in Listerine.
What natural remedies do you stock in your medicine chest?