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Archive for the ‘Home Remedies’ Category

180801030659The skin is our first line of defense when it comes to keeping pathogens at bay.  Once the barrier of the skin is broken this opens a pathway for infection.   Topical administration of herbs allows for another access route for administering herbs as well as healing the surface and reducing the risk of infection.

Hydrated skin absorbs better than dehydrated skin.   Therefore, by staying hydrated we more readily absorb substances into the skin.  When herbs are added to water and applied to the skin the water not only acts as a carrier for the herbs, but also increases absorption by helping to hydrate the skin.

Synthetic substances such as toxic chemicals and steroidal hormones are also absorbed rather easily by the skin.  These substances can put a strain on the liver as well as disrupt hormonal function.  Because of this fact we should consider using only natural substances on the skin.

Manifestations on the skin such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, lichen planus and other conditions tend to be a bit more complex.  It might be a good idea to address those kind of conditions with an herbalist in order to determine the best approach.

There are numerous topical applications that can be used not only to cleanse a wound and ease muscle tension but also help to reduce irritation, the risk of infection and expedite the healing process.

 

Herbal Washes/Soaks

An herbal wash or soak can be used to cleanse and disinfect a wound or help to stop itching and soothe irritation.  An herbal wash is merely a strong herbal infusion that is poured over the area or applied to a cloth.

For an herbal soak you can add a quart of herbal infusion to a basin of water and soak the area until it looks clean or the irritation has subsided.

To prepare an infusion for an herbal wash or soak:

1 Quart of water

1-2 cups of select herb(s)

Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the herb(s).  Allow the herbs to soak until the water is cool enough to apply to the skin.  Strain off the herbs.

The herbal infusion can be applied as needed to clean the wound or used as a soak several times a day.  Retain any unused infusion in the refrigerator to reuse for up to two days.  Discard any unused infusion after two days.

 

Compress:

A compress is often used with applications of water only.  However, herbs may be used and applied externally to a specific area of the body using a compress. Compresses can be used either warm or cool and can be used to help ease pain, spasms, sore muscles and to reduce inflammation.

Caution:  Warm compresses are never applied to an open wound.

When making an herbal compress you begin by making a strong herbal infusion like the one mentioned above.  Soak the cloth in the herb solution, wring out the excess liquid and apply the compress to the affected area.

Poultices:

Poultices are a paste produced from grinding, crushing, or chewing fresh herbs and applying them to the affected area. A poultice is used for sore muscles, bites and stings and to relieve pain and inflammation.

Making an Herbal Poultice

  1. Grind, crush or chew up fresh or dried herbs.
  2. Apply the poultice to the affected part of the body for one to eight hours. Wrap the area with plastic wrap to hold the poultice in place.
  3. Cover the wrap with flannel and apply heat if applicable.
  4. Change the poultice out frequently preventing it from drying out.
  5. Olive oil or other oils may be applied to the area prior to applying the poultice to ensure that the poultice doesn’t stick to the skin.

 

Some Herbs to Consider for Topical Applications:

 Aloe (Aloe vera)

  • Helps to reduce inflammation, expedite wound healing and is an excellent application for burns and abrasions

Arnica (Arnica montana)

  • Strains, sprains, bruises, traumatic injury; sore muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments (topical)

 Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

  • Expedite wound healing, reduce inflammation and is antiseptic. May be used for skin irritations, rashes, burns and wounds.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

  • Helps to expedite wound healing and reduce inflammation

Plantain (Plantago spp.)

  • Expedite wound healing, reduce inflammation, soothe irritation, antiseptic, antibacterial and helps draw debris to the surface of the skin

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

  • Antiseptic, antifungal, helps to staunch bleeding, helps to reduce inflammation and mild pain reliever

 

Various Poultice Applications:

Honey or Molasses – may be mixed with flour to make a paste or applied on its own for burns or scalds.

Baking Soda or Clay – prepare as mentioned above for bug bites and stings.

Cabbage Leaves (raw) – Crushed or mashed and applied for inflammations, ulcers, boils, arthritis and infections.

Potato (raw/grated) – apply to inflammations and boils.

Bread and Milk – combine the bread and milk and apply to boils and abscesses.

Corn Meal – mixed with boiling water to make a paste an applied to the chest for pleural inflammation.

Onion – lightly sauté a chopped onion until it is soft and warm and place between a gauze or other cloth.  Grease the chest and apply the poultice to the area.  Onion poultices are very effective for respiratory conditions.

Elm (Ulmus fulva, U. spp.) – Mix the powdered elm bark with warm water and apply to inflammations, swellings and ulcerations.

Mallow or Malva spp. – Chew or crush the leaves and apply to the skin to help soothe irritations.

Plantain (P. lancealota, P. major) – Chew or crush leaves and apply to area.  Plantain is fabulous for helping to draw things out of the skin such as stingers, splinters or glass.

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Lemongrass 1Because of our temperate climate here in the Southeast we are fortunate to be able to garden almost year round.  One plant that grows extremely well in the South is Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates).  This hardy perennial grass thrives on neglect yet adds beauty and contrast to any garden.

Known mostly as a culinary herb in Asian cooking, Lemongrass is also a wonderful addition to any medicinal herb garden.  If you have ever had the opportunity to smell Lemongrass you will have noticed that it is quite aromatic.  Aromatic herbs get their scent from their high content of volatile oils.  Lemongrass essential oil is derived from the plant by distillation and is used extensively in Aromatherapy.

Aromatic herbs like Lemongrass are warming and dispersive which means they spread out through the system, warming things up and getting things moving.  Because aromatic herbs get things moving they are considered stimulating.  If you think about an area that has been bound up and where very little is moving (stagnation) you can imagine that area will feel tense.  A good example would be in the first stages of a cold when the body is tense.  However, once the tension is dispelled or dispersed the area once again feels relaxed.  Therefore, aromatic herbs are also considered to be relaxing.

When one is suffering with accumulated gas aromatic herbs like Lemongrass help dispel the gas and relax the area; this action which occurs is referred to as Carminative.  Aromatic herbs also help to reduce spasms or are “antispasmodic”.

Aromatic herbs are both antiseptic and antimicrobial (inhibits the growth of organisms such as bacteria and viruses).  Because aromatics contain volatile oils which irritate tissues the body wants to flush them out to prevent further irritation.  This flushing of oils occurs through urination or exhalation making aromatic herbs like Lemongrass extremely beneficial for conditions associated with the respiratory or urinary systems.  Aromatics also tend to draw energy upward and outward which would also explain their affinity for the respiratory system.

Some of the many medicinal benefits of Lemongrass include:

  • Antimicrobial (kills or inhibits microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites)
  • Mildly diuretic
  • Promotes the digestion of fats
  • Effective insect repellent
  • Antioxidant
  • Contains various vitamins and minerals to include Vitamin A and C, Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium
  • Urinary and Respiratory conditions

Spicy Lemongrass Cold and Flu Tea:

COLD AND FLU TEA

16 oz water

1 tbsp dried (2 tbsp fresh) Lemongrass

3 thin slices of fresh ginger

6 cloves

3 pepper corns

6 Cardamom seeds

1 tsp fennel

Honey (optional)

Place the herbs into cool water and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer the herbs with the lid on for approximately 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half.  Strain off herbs. Experiment with other herbs and spices such as mint, basil and allspice for variations. Add a smidge of honey, sit back and enjoy.

Note:  If you find this tea a bit drying you can add moistening herbs such as Licorice or Marshmallow Root.

 Storage:

  • May be dried and used later in tea preparations
  • Refrigerated fresh in a sealed container for up to 3 weeks
  • Fresh stalks may be frozen for up to 6 months and then thawed when ready to use

Cooking:   Lemongrass combines well with peaches, pears and other fruits, ginger, chillies, cucumber, cinnamon, other aromatic herbs and coconut milk.

For those of you in the Southeast perhaps consider growing yourself some Lemongrass.  Although we don’t hear or see much on the medicinal benefits of Lemongrass, it is certainly a wonderful addition to your medicine cabinet and herb garden.

© Natalie Vickery 2012

Disclaimer:  In order to continue posting quality content I must rely on your support.  Some of the links found in this post contain affiliate links which I do receive a small compensation for when purchased through my website.

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Medicinecabinet1I must admit that prior to beginning my journey as an herbalist my medicine cabinet was loaded with over the counter and prescription drugs. I did have some herbs, but wasn’t quite sure how and when to use most of them. Over the years I have managed to “weed” out the synthetic drugs and replace them with herbs and remedies that work with the body and have few if any side effects.

As a mother I was and am very concerned about the risks associated with most of the over the counter drugs used for kids. Barring a broken bone or conditions requiring a trip to the emergency room I have a remedy for just about any acute situation that may arise.

When you are first starting to make the transition from synthetics to herbs it never hurts to make a plan. I find that the best way to do this is by making a list of acute illnesses which occur frequently within your household such as colds, ear infections, sore throats, etc. It also never hurts to anticipate injuries from accidents or trauma. For example, here a just a few of the conditions that I have treated within my family:

– Bug bites and stings
– Dog or animal bites
– Puncture wounds
– Headaches
– Sinus infections
– Colds and Flu
– Rashes
– Bumps, bruises, sprains and strains
– Fungal infections
– Constipation
– Urinary and Respiratory tract infections

MAKING YOUR OWN REMEDIES

Initially, it can be a bit expensive to restock your medicine cabinet. However, there are quite a number of remedies that you can make at home that will save you some money. If you are just starting out and you are interested in making your own herbal remedies at home you can check out my book, “Herbal Preparations and Applications”. This book covers just about everything you need to know to make your own herbal remedies, how to use them and includes a number of recipes you can try at home.

FIRST AID FROM THE KITCHEN:

The herbs and spices found in your kitchen are wonderful allies and can be used for numerous acute conditions. Most of these kitchen herbs are antiseptic as well as antimicrobial meaning they have an effect on bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Some examples include Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Rosemary, Garlic and Onions. Some examples for using cooking spices in lieu of over the counter drugs include:

GINGER ROOT can be used to quell nausea:

– 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. You may sweeten this with honey.

PARSLEY can be used as a poultice to help ease the pain of insect bites and stings.

– Simply crush, chop or chew up the leaves and apply them to the affected area.

An herbal infusion made with FENNEL can be used for gas, bloating or intestinal spasms.

– Place 3 tbsp of fennel in a pot and cover it with 3 cups of water.
– Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat.
– Simmer the mixture until it is reduced by ¼ to ½ .
– Strain out the seeds.
– Drink a 1-3 cups as needed

There are also other items in your kitchen that can be used for acute conditions to include Baking soda, Apple cider vinegar, Honey, Lemons and Salt.

TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH:

As a parent I know all too well how helpless we can feel when our kids get sick. Having knowledge is power and enables us to calmly and rationally deal with these acute illnesses when they do arise. In order to help you feel more comfortable in dealing with these conditions I have put together a number of articles in this upcoming series which will include various conditions we might encounter and natural ways of treating them at home. Hopefully this information will allow you to eventually “Weed” out those over the counter drugs and replace them with safe and effective remedies that you can make at home.

GETTING STARTED:

Before we talk about gathering your supplies let me introduce you to Hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is a traditional technique which uses water applications to help restore vitality and remedy pain. Most traditional cultures use some form of hydrotherapy when treating disease.

Cold and/or warm water can be applied in such a way as to stimulate or sedate, reduce inflammation, ease pain and expedite healing. The only thing required to use hydrotherapy at home is water which most of us have available to us. Some of the ways that you can use Hydrotherapy at home include:
Bruises – Run a cloth under cold tap water, wring it out and apply it to the bruised area. Apply a dry towel or wool scarf over the wet cloth. Allow the cloths to stay in place until they become warm and then repeat the procedure several times per day.

Cuts and Scrapes – Allow the area to bleed briefly which will flush out and cleanse the wound. The area should then be run under cold water for approximately two minutes and then apply a compress. Once the compress is in place follow the same procedures as with bruising.

Burns – To help remove the heat and pain associated with a mild burn run the area under cold water for approximately ten minutes. Apply a compress as mentioned above, but do not allow it to dry out. If the compress does dry out do not try to remove it but instead soak the area in cold water.

Bleeding – Apply a cold compress as close to the area or organ as possible to stop bleeding. According to herbalist James Green a cold compress may be applied to the upper portion of the back to stop a nose bleed or relieve nasal congestion.

Strep/Sore throat, swollen lymph nodes or Cough – Apply a cold compress around the neck. Make sure that the compress does not lie directly on the back of the neck but closer to the hair line. Wrap the compress in a wool cloth or scarf and leave in place until it is warm or dry. Repeat this procedure several times a day.

Nervousness, Agitation and Depression – Soak in a neutral or warm bath (96 – 98 deg F) for approximately 30 – 60 minutes

If you are interested in learning more about Hydrotherapy check out my book entitled, “Hydrotherapy: Reference Guide to Using Water Therapy”. This book discusses all the various applications and includes over 55 remedies you can use at home.

WANT TO LEARN MORE:

In my next article we will begin to gather up our supplies and learn several more techniques for dealing with acute conditions. If you just can’t stand to wait for the next article to come out you can find all of this information and more HERE or subscribe to my blog or newsletter to get a copy hot off of the press.

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LavenderWhen I first started learning about herbs I was fascinated that you could take chamomile to help you relax, fennel for an upset stomach or apply various herbs to help heal cuts and scrapes.  Herbal remedies seemed to really excel when it came to dealing with acute conditions.  However, when it came to dealing with chronic conditions these remedies were falling short.

I began asking myself what I was doing wrong;  Was I not using the correct herb?  Was I not giving enough of the herb?  Why was it that these herbs that I had used so often with acute conditions where no longer working when it came to dealing with chronic conditions?

Like thousands of other folks trying to use herbs I would pick up an herb book, look for the condition I was dealing with and see what herbs were used for that condition.  The key to using herbs successfully with chronic conditions is much more complex than you may think.  Contrary to what you read on “meme’s” or information written in mainstream media, herbs are not a “one size fits all”.  In other words, what works for one person may not work for another.  Just like each of us are very unique, so are herbs; herbs can be moistening or drying, heating or cooling or they can stimulate and/or relax.  Therefore, in order to be effective we must understand these subtleties and how to apply them appropriately.

If you pick up any herb book and open it up to the section on conditions or where they list the uses of the herbs you will more than likely see a whole laundry list of uses for that particular herb.  For example;  I have three herb books sitting on my desk as I write this article.  If I look up St. John’s wort in the first book it says it is used for nerve pains, neuralgia and depression.  The second book lists at least 40 conditions for the use of St. John’s wort ranging from Anemia to Wounds and everything in between.  And finally, the third book also includes a long list of uses and includes the fact that St. John’s wort is an anti-inflammatory.   So what does that mean….an anti-inflammatory?  Does that mean that if there is any inflammation anywhere in my body I can take St. John’s wort and the inflammation will go away?  What would you say if I told you that inflammation is part of the natural healing response and that it is not always the best thing to suppress that process.  Would you still assume that you needed St. John’s wort?

I’m not insinuating that the general public is ignorant by any means.  What I am trying to convey is that herbalist study for many years like their counterparts in conventional medicine to learn the intricacies of using and applying herbs both safely and effectively.  There are quite a number of herbalists who work side by side with doctor’s and various other health care professionals advising them on the safe and effective use of herbs.  Now that just makes sense to me to have an herbalist recommending herbs as opposed to a doctor.  Unless a doctor has been specifically trained as an herbalist they are probably doing the exact same thing that I mention above and that is looking in an herbal reference book for a particular condition and then seeing which herbs are recommended for that particular disease .  Would you want your mechanic operating on you or your doctor fixing your car?  Probably not…

What Do Herbalist Do?

Like I mentioned before, many herbalists have trained and studied for years on the safe and effective applications and uses of various herbs.  Some herbalist’s work strictly with family and friends, other’s set up shop within their communities and others work in clinical settings to include hospitals or other health related organizations.  Quite a number of herbalists like myself do consultations with clients.  A consultation is basically sitting down with someone who is skilled and knowledgeable in their field, in this case an herbalist, and having them outline a specific plan to meet the clients needs.  Seeing an herbalist to recommend herbs is like having your taxes done by an accountant.  Would you really want an herbalist doing your taxes or an accountant advising you on the use of herbs?  Trust me…you do not want me doing your taxes.

When Should I See an Herbalist?

Home remedies, as I mentioned, are wonderful for dealing with acute conditions.  However, if you are dealing with a chronic condition or an acute condition that just won’t resolve I highly recommend seeing an herbalist.  The body really does all of the healing;  However, an experienced herbalist can help uncover certain imbalances that are hindering the healing process and make recommendations on the specific uses of various herbs to enhance the healing process.  Herbalists don’t necessarily specialize in disease processes, but rather look at various ways that diseases present in the body.  In conventional medicine they name the presentations things like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, PCOS, etc.  Herbalists see people of all ages and some may specialize in areas to include midwifery, acupuncture, naturopathy, etc.

If you are interested in learning more about what to expect from a consultation or if you are interested in setting up an appointment CLICK HERE.  If you are looking for an herbalist in your area check out my list to the right hand side of the page for herbalists in Florida.  If you are outside of Florida and looking for someone in your area try a “google search” or leave me a comment telling me where you are located and I will try to recommend someone in your area.

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Chamomile 1Life is stressful to say the least.  Consider the burden placed on the body when we are exposed to constant stress.  When under stress the body releases chemicals that trigger physiological reactions such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels, and release of glucose into the blood stream for energy.

Imagine what happens if these physiological reactions occur over and over again and what kind of strain that places on vital organs and the body as a whole.  This kind of constant stress can lead to headaches, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, fatigue, weight gain and a host of other health problems.

Not all of us have the luxury of dashing off to some remote and exotic vacation spot where we can lounge on the beach and watch the sun set.  However, there are a number of things that we can and should do to help reduce stress in our lives in order to promote better overall health: (more…)

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entEarPinnaGrayBB1207When it comes to Acute Otitis Media (AOM) or the common ear infection there is still much confusion as to whether or not to administer antibiotics.  Generally, antibiotics have been prescribed as a safe guard to bacterial illnesses which may be present.  However, it is reported that at least 60% of cases of AOM will resolve within 24 hours and 80% of cases within 3 days without the use of antibiotics.  (1)

“Acute otitis media (AOM) is responsible for a large proportion of antibiotics prescribed for US children.  Use and overuse of antibiotics is associated with the development and spread of resistant bacteria.” (Coco et al)

If you’re a parent or have raised and cared for children you probably know (more…)

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Thymus x citriodorus, (Lemon Thyme) , labeled

 One of my favorite herbs to grow in the garden is Thyme. Thyme is a beautiful perennial herb that adds a lot of beauty to the garden, is very aromatic and extremely versatile.

Botanical Name: Thymus vulgaris

Parts Used: Aerial parts

Energetics: Warming, Drying, Pungent(Spicy), Aromatic, VK-P+

Common name: Garden Thyme; Common Thyme

The common Garden Thyme is not an herb to underestimate; it is a powerful healing plant. Thyme is a very Aromatic herb which is Pungent/Spicy in taste. By just brushing your hand across the top of the herb you get a whiff of the distinct aroma right away.

Aromatic herbs like Thyme are stimulating which allow them to get things moving or increase function. Increased function in the digestive system helps (more…)

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