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Archive for October, 2010

I found myself under the weather about a month ago intially dealing with a sore throat and then having it move into my chest presenting with an irritable dry cough.  Depsite the fact that I try to keep my immune system strong there are occassions when even herbalists become their own patients.

When I encounter a dry and irritable cough I know that its time to reach for a demulcent.  A demulcent helps to soothe irritated tissue and moisten the mucus membranes.   A demulcent is indicated when there is a dry irritable cough with little expectoration.  I was also looking for an herbal expectorant.  Expectorants  increase the flow of mucus and help expel thick excess mucus from the lungs.   The last thing I want to do is suppress a cough and have it move into a more severe condition. 

I love using remedies that are inexpensive and readily available.  A wonderful demulcent that quite a few people might already have at the house are flaxseeds.  Flaxseeds not only fit the bill as a wonderful demulcent, but they are also an expectorant.  So for my cough I prepared myself a tea using 2 tbsp of flaxseed to one cup of water.  I boiled the water and poured it over the flax and let it sit for about 10-15 mins or until it got real slimy and thick.  I then strained off the seeds and for an extra boost I added some elderberry syrup.  The elderberry syrup added a nice flavor as well as an immune boost.  If you don’t have elderberry syrup around you can add some fresh lemon juice and honey.  I took a tablespoon of the mixture as often as I felt like I needed.  It really helped with both the sore throat and the irritable cough.  By helping to relax and soothe the underlying reflex without completely suppressing the cough it allowed my body to get some rest from the irritation of the cough.

Demulcents help to lubricate or moisten all mucus membranes to include those of the bowels.  Because of their moistening effect Flaxseeds can also be a wonderful aid for constipation and Irritable bowel conditions.    Some other benefits of Flaxseeds is that they are high in the good Omega-3 fatty acids, high in fiber and manganese.  Flaxseeds are also a good source of magnesium as well as antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals.  

Besides making them into a tea Flaxseeds can be ground up and sprinkled on food or used when cooking muffins or breads.  Flax seeds can be found at most grocery stores or health foods stores and are an inexpensive and a beneficial addition to any medicine/kitchen cabinet.

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I have to admit I have become a compulsive label reader.  So… just out of curiosity I read the label of a children’s pain reliever and fever reducer.  I won’t mention the name, but I will tell you that it rhymes with Mylenol.  I was absolutely blown away by what was in this over the counter drug that is given to millions of children each year.

Anhydrous citric acid, butylparaben, FD&C Red#40, flavors, glycerin, high fructose corn syrup, microcrystalline cellulose and carboxymethyl cellulose sodium, propylene glycol, purified water, sodium benzoate, sorbitol solution, sucralose, xanthan gum.

Just looking at these ingredients makes me cringe….what are we feeding our children?  According to the FDA, “Most drugs prescribed for children have not been tested in children.”  The FDA also goes on to say that, “…only about 20 percent of drugs approved by the FDA were labeled for pediatric use. By necessity, doctors have routinely given drugs to children “off label,” which means the drug has not been approved for use in children…”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel real comfortable with those facts.  With that said I’m here to tell you that there are a lot of wonderful herbs that can be used with kids in lieu of over the counter or prescription drugs and they are much safer and very effective.  Even many of the spices you may have in your kitchen cabinet can be very effective when it comes to treating acute conditions.

Some wonderful herbs and spices to have around the kitchen include:

  • Garlic –  This herb is one of the most valuable herbs you will ever have around the house.  Often called, “Poor Man’s Penicillin”, garlic is by far much more effective and safer than any antibiotic on the market.  Garlic is highly effective against both viral and bacterial infections and can be your first line of defense against antibiotic resistant infections. 

Remedies using Garlic:

Asthma (acute) – Simmer two cloves of garlic for 20 minutes and drink a glass once the mixture is cool.

Congestion – Soak a 1 pound of garlic in a quart of boiling water for 10 or 12 hours. Strain out the garlic and mix the liquid with 4 pounds of honey and bottle. Take 1 teaspoon for congestion.

Ear Infection – Chop up several cloves of garlic and soak them in olive oil for a minimum of 30 minutes or overnight. Strain out the garlic and warm the oil to body temperature. Place several drops in the infected ear. Also treat the none infected ear.

  • Ginger – Not only is ginger a very effective antibacterial herb, but it is also a very good expectorant, pain reliever, circulatory stimulant, immune stimulant and diaphoretic (increases circulation to skin).  Ginger is often used for motion sickness as well as nausea associated with chemotherapy or morning sickness.

Remedies using Ginger:

Cough/Cold/Flu –  Add a thumb size piece of ginger root to one quart of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer with lid on at low heat for 30 minutes.  Let the mixture cool.  Strain and drink ½ – 1 cup as desired.  May sweeten with honey.  (Do not use for a dry unproductive cough)

 

  • Honey – This sweet treat is loaded with vitamins and minerals and is like a first aid kit all rolled up into one remedy.  Honey is extremely effective taken as a preventative or during the course of colds, flu and respiratory infections.  Honey is also a very effective wound healer if applied topically to burns, ulcers and various other skin afflictions. Caution:  Do not give to children under 1 year of age.
  • Sage –  Often found in most kitchen cabinets this culinary herb is a wonderful antiseptic/antibacterial herb and can be applied topically for infected wounds or taken internally as a tea for various conditions such as sore throats, respiratory infections and dysentery.
  • Cayenne – This hot and spicy herb can be used topically to stop bleeding, to reduce inflammation and as a counter-irritant which may help relieve pain.  Internally Cayenne is taken as a digestive aid, anticoagulant and circulatory stimulant.
  • Cinnamon – There is some research to indicate that cinnamon may be effective in helping to regulate blood sugar and is a wonder addition to any diet.  As a carminative (alleviates gas/bloating) Cinnamon may be useful for colic, cramping, nausea, flatulence and vomiting.  Cinnamon is also astringent and may be effective in acute cases of diarrhea.
  • Anise – Not only good for the digestive system, but anise has also been used as an expectorant for chest congestion and mucus.

Anise may be used in the following applications:

–   Seeds may be chewed to help relieve indigestion or as a breath freshener.

–   A compress made from the tea can be used topically to help relieve pain.

–   The seeds can be used to make a syrup or tea which may be beneficial for coughs.

–   A tea made with Anise may help to stimulate the flow of mother’s milk.

–   Taken as a tea it may help to remedy colic, flatulence, cramp/griping, bloating and indigestion.

–   A nice addition to herbal recipes to enhance flavor.

  • Clove – Because of its pain relieving action, Clove has traditionally been used as a popular folk remedy for toothaches. Clove is also known to naturally relieve inflammation and is antifungal therefore making it potentially beneficial for parasitic infections.

CAUTIONS: Do not give to children under 5 and always dilute clove oil in water or oil.

  • Basil – An herb used for centuries in both culinary and medicinal applications, Basil is said to be both cooling and heating in its actions. Traditionally, it has been used in instances of melancholy (depression), indigestion, and for insomnia related to nervous tension. Basil is also used for conditions ranging from colds, fevers, kidney and lung troubles.

Remedies using Basil include:

–   Make a tea using basil for headaches, indigestion, fevers, colds, flu, menstrual

cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

–   Apply as a poultice for bacterial infections and burns.

–   Crush leaves and apply the juice topically to help with the itch of insect bites and inflammation of the skin.

–   Use as a steam for head colds.

–   Mix the juice of the leaves with honey for coughs.

The list of beneficial herbs found in the spice cabinet are endless.  Just about all culinary herbs can be used for various conditions which range from digestive issues to respiratory ailments.  Why rely on over the counter drugs which are loaded with various synthetic chemicals when you can use natural alternatives which are very safe and effective and have been used for centuries.

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