Effective herbal remedies can be easy and affordable to make at home for yourself and your family. In this do-it-yourself post, herbalist Janine Emerson shares a few of her favourite basics for keeping common ailments at bay.
By Janine Emerson | Herbalist
When it comes to our health, we all have some level of understanding about what to do when illness strikes. But the more we know about how to treat our families and ourselves in bouts of sickness, the more we feel empowered and confident to ride the waves that illness can bring. Though there are of course severe situations that require a trip to the emergency room, many common ailments can be addressed by having some important herbal basics in your medicine cabinet. Herbal medicine is a practice has existed, in various forms, for centuries (at least!) and is a trusted form of treatment in many cases.
Start With Prevention
Herbal remedies work exceptionally well as preventative medicines. As the weather cools, for example, or if there is any significant change in the temperature (hot or cold!) I recommend using herbs that boost the immune system and keep those not-so-nice bugs away.
Using white sage or eucalyptus as a smudge (lighting a bundle of the dried herb and allowing the smoke to move through your space) can rid the home of unwanted microbes, keeping your space healthy and cleansed. You can also use some key essential oils (like a blend of eucalyptus, tea tree, sage, lavender and spearmint) in various ways… consider trying a diffuser!
My favourite preventative medicine is a sage and garlic oxymel. Sage is a wonderful antimicrobial herb that soothes a sore throat while keeping colds and flus at a distance. Garlic has been long known to boost immunity, and is also antimicrobial -- it can reduce the severity of a cold or flu if you do happen to come down with one. Use this remedy as cooler nights approach!
Sage and Garlic Oxymel
30g raw garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tablespoons chopped sage
100ml apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey (manuka is highly recommended!)
Simmer the garlic and sage in the vinegar for 5 minutes, and then remove it from the heat. Add your honey and stir until well mixed. You can leave this mix to brew for 1-2 weeks for a strong oxymel, or strain and bottle for immediate use. Suggested dose: 1 tsp 2-3 times daily for children, and 1 tbsp 2-3 times daily for adults, or as needed.
Support Your Immunity
Sometimes we just can’t avoid becoming sick, and that’s when it’s very helpful to have your medicine cabinet well stocked! Elder, peppermint and yarrow are excellent herbs for when there is sign of fever and runny nose; elderberries are known for their antiviral and immune enhancing properties. They also combine well with rosehips for providing Vitamin C.
When it comes to fevers, we are often a bit too quick to reduce the severity. Since a fever is your body’s way of killing off an offending pathogen, and it can actually be a good sign -- and a helpful stage of sickness. Quashing it too early can be a detriment to your body’s natural path to recovery.
Instead, consider helping to progress a fever or encouraging a fever to break. Yarrow, linden and lemon balm are all specific herbs for this task. Make a big pot of tea with one (or a blend) and sip regularly. Fevers in children can look terrifying, but little ones do recover quickly when supported this way. Here is a sample blend:
Blend equal parts of each dried herb. Use 1 tablespoon of the blend for a 4-cup teapot, and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and serve. You can add ginger and honey as well, if you like!
Calm Digestive Upset
Bloating, nausea, constipation or having indigestion can leave you feeling unsettled and irritable. Whether these symptoms are related to an ongoing illness or something else, herbal remedies (often prepared as a tea) can be quick to deliver relief. Dandelion and ginger will ease nausea and indigestion. Chamomile can calm a windy and bloated tummy and works well in children for a ‘worried’ tummy.
Aromatic herbs such as cinnamon, fennel seeds, cardamom, and star anise relieve flatulence and bloating, and can do wonders after a meal to bring warmth and stimulate digestive fire. The Indians have got it right with Chai!
Soothe Burns, Bites, Rashes, and Wounds
With little people around, it’s very likely that minor wounds will occur! I find having a healing ointment on hand at all times is a must. This recipe will soothe inflamed, itchy or dry skin, and will prevent infection and assist in wound healing.
80mL Olive or Almond Oil
10mL Calendula tincture
10mL Chamomile tincture
10mL Ribwort tincture
5mL Lavender oil
1mL Tea tree oil
Melt the beeswax and the oil together in a glass or stainless steel bowl over a water bath, then cool for roughly 5 minutes. Add the tinctures and stir continuously to cool the mixture, until it feels like it is thickening. At this point add the essential oils. Pour into jars and label.
DISCLAIMER: As with conventional medicine, herbal medicine is vast and complex, and must be used responsibly. People can react differently to different solutions. Please try any remedies first in small doses and consult a health care professional if you have an questions or concerns!
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Janine grew up amongst the rolling green hills of the Northern Rivers of NSW, where she still resides with her daughter. She and her daughter started the journey of home education this year and the results are incredible. Janine is a practicing qualified herbalist and finds joy in making medicines in her home apothecary, as well as exploring the complex nature of human health and how we are innately connected to nature and our surrounds. She's on Instagram at @wildblendsco and @janineemersonherbalist.