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Posts Tagged ‘antiseptic’

Pocket PoulticeFor those of you who enjoy camping, hiking, walking in the woods or just the great outdoors in general, you know that sometimes accidents happen.  I always like to carry along a few first aid items whenever I am “off the grid”.

An application that is often used in first aid situations is called a Poultice.  A Poultice or Cataplasm as it is also referred to is basically a moistened mass of plant or food materials that is applied to various areas of the body in order to impart it’s medicinal benefits and to provide relief.  There are various ways to create a poultice using either fresh or dried herbs.

One of my favorite items to carry along in my first aid pouch is what I like to call the, “Herbal Wound Healing Pocket Poultice”.  If something like this exists on the market, I am not aware of it and so therefore I created my own.  This is great if you are in an area where you are not familiar with the local plants.

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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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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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I am an avid gardener and find that being in the garden really helps me to relax.  There is a great sense of satisfaction that I get from growing my own food and medicine.  We often sit at the table marveling over the fact that….”Wow…we grew this”.  I guess you could say it doesn’t take much to impress us.

There are a lot of wonderfully exotic herbs out there that are used medicinally and I have no aversion to using them.  However, there are also plants that can be easily grown in your garden and are truly magical and healing.  Many of these plants you may find in your spice cabinet and you may already be adding them to your food.

If you are just starting out with herbs I think it is so beneficial to attempt to grow some herbs so that you can observe them, taste them, use them as medicine and get a real feel for the plant.  Some really great herbs to start with are some of the culinary herbs that you find in the grocery store such as Thyme, Basil, Bay, Oregano, Mints, and Rosemary.  All of the herbs can be grown either in the garden or in containers if you are limited on space.  Depending on where you are located some other herbs which are easy to grow include Aloe, Chamomile and Calendula.  If you are interested in growing your own medicinal garden check out local resources to see what will grow in your area.

Most culinary herbs we use are very Aromatic.  Aromatic herbs are warming and dispersive which means they spread out through the system, warm things up and get things moving.  If you think about the feeling or effect you get when you inhale the fragrance from an aromatic plant it opens up your head and your respiratory system; that is the effect of dispersive and this effect occurs throughout the body as well.  The movement provided by aromatics increases digestion and peristalsis along with relieving the pain associated with cramps.  Because aromatics alleviate this resistance thereby reducing pain they are often referred to as Antispasmodics.  By reducing tension or resistance aromatics are also considered to be tonics for the nervous system and relaxing nervines.  Most aromatics are also antimicrobials meaning they are effective for a host of infections due to bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Most culinary herbs are also carminatives.  Carminatives are aromatic herbs which help to improve digestion, relieve gas, bloating and cramping.  Many carminative herbs contain volatile oils which help to disperse or create movement freeing up any stagnation that has occurred therefore allowing the body to begin its healing.

BASIL (Ocymum basilium)

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

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.

BAY (Laurus nobilis)

Many people know about adding Bay leaves to their foods while cooking.  However, many people may not know that Bay is not just added to food to impart its flavor to the dish.  Bay leaves help to prevent gas and indigestion and were originally added to food as an aid to digestion.

Bay Oil for Arthritis

  • Heat bay leaves in oil on low heat for several hours.  Strain off the oil and apply the oil to swellings, sprains, or achy, arthritic or rheumatic joints.

 CAYENNE (Capsicum anuum)

Cayenne is an herb which is high in Vitamin K making it a natural blood coagulant. With this said it can staunch the bleeding from an open wound almost immediately by just applying it topically.  Cayenne is also a wonderful digestive aid which enhances the metabolism as well as increasing circulation.

Cayenne Liniment for Arthritis:

Add one ounce of Cayenne to one quart of rubbing alcohol and shake well.  Allow the mixture to sit for 2 – 3 weeks.  Apply this liniment to affected joints.

CAUTIONS: Do not get Cayenne in the eyes. Be especially careful if you wear contacts.

DILL (Anethum graveolus)

Traditionally used for colic and gas, Dill is a great herb to grow in your medicinal garden. Dill is an annual and will self seed itself.  Another use for Dill is that it may help stimulate milk in lactating mothers.

GINGER (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger has warming, stimulating, and antispasmodic properties. It is used frequently for stomach cramps, colds, poor circulation, motion and morning sickness. Ginger is also a wonderful herb for menstrual irregularities and discomfort and helps to promote circulation. Ginger can help to relax the smooth muscles thereby helping to alleviate menstrual cramps.

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)

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Because of its calming action Oregano is a wonderful herb to help reduce tension and nervousness.  Oregano as a tea is also very beneficial for digestion, improving appetite, to relieve flatulence and bloating. When the leaves of the Oregano plant are crushed they can be applied topically to help ease rheumatic, muscle and joint pain, itching, swelling, and to ease the sting of a bee.

PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley is an outstanding herbal diuretic and may benefit those suffering from bladder and kidney problems. Also high in vitamins and minerals, Parsley is a good herb for the immune system. Eaten or drunk as a tea, Parsley is a great herb to have on hand for stomach cramps associated with gas.

PEPPERMINT (Mentha piperita)

Peppermint is another herb that is great to have on hand in the kitchen as a digestive aid. Not only is Peppermint great for nausea and flatulence but it can help to ease the stomach cramps associated with colic.

 Remedies using Peppermint:

Nausea – Steep 1 tbsp of mint leaves in 1 pint of boiling water for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool and sip on the tea as needed.

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)

A potent antiseptic, antioxidant, and antispasmodic useful in treating circulatory conditions, eczema, rheumatism, stiff muscles, Alzheimer’s, cancer, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome.

SAGE (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is a handy herb to have on hand during cold and flu season. A tea made with sage and used as a gargle can benefit someone with a sore throat. There is some research indicating that sage may help to reduce blood sugar levels and therefore benefit those with diabetes.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

This very aromatic herb can be used internally or externally and is a very powerful antimicrobial herb.  Because of it’s highly aromatic essential oils Thyme can be quite beneficial for treating respiratory troubles such as asthma, coughs, infections and allergies. Thyme also contains strong antifungal properties which make it useful for treating nail fungus, athlete’s foot, and yeast infections.

Thyme and Honey Cough Syrup

Place 3-4 tablespoons of dried Thyme in a pot along with a pint of water.  Bring herbs and water to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool.  Mix the infusion with 1 cup of honey.  Use 1 tsp as needed for coughs.  Keep refrigerated.

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Despite the myths it really does get cold here in North Florida.  So, my little herbal apprentice and I decided that today would be a great day to build a fire and enjoy a nice warm cup of Chai.  The word Chai actually means tea and usually refers to Masala Chai which originated in India and is a combination of aromatic herbs and spices. 

From what I understand there is not a specific recipe for Chai and it varies from family to family and country to country.  Some recipes call for the use of black tea and others for green.  I have a recipe which was passed on to me through my family which includes cinnamon, black and green cardamom, fennel, clove, milk, sugar and black tea.  Most Masala Chai recipes I have seen include cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, ginger, cloves, star anise and black tea.

Each time I make Chai I put a new twist on it by adding various herbs and spices that I might not have added to the previous brew.  The herbs and spices in Chai not only make for a very flavorful tea, but they also have health benefits and are often used for colds, flu and various digestive disturbances. 

Most of the herbs found in a traditional Masala Chai recipe are Carminatives.  Carminatives are herbs which help to relieve flatulence, griping and help to soothe the gut wall.  Some of the other properties associated with these herbs are antispasmodic, expectorant, astringent, analgesic, and antiseptic.

So without further ado here is my standard recipe for Masala Chai:

1 Cinnamon stick

1 or 2 Green cardamom pods

 2  Black cardamom pods

1 tbsp Fennel seed

1 tbsp Anise seed

6 cloves

4 cups of water

Place herbs and spices in boiling water and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.  Strain and serve.  Sweeten to taste with honey.  Serves 4

Now, that is my basic recipe and I am a “pinch and smidge” kinda cook.  I’m notorious for not using a recipe and just winging it.  It certainly makes it more exciting that way.  However, my smidge may vary from yours so you’ll just have to experiment.  Other variations I use include adding Astragalus, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, black tea, milk, burdock root or licorice root.  It really is a matter of preference and what tastes good to you. 

You could begin by using a basic recipe such as:

4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Black tea

Add spices and water to a pan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.  You can leave it to steep a bit longer if you prefer a stronger tea.  Add milk and sugar and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Add black tea, cover and steep 3 minutes.  Strain and serve.  Serves 4.

The key to Chai is to be creative and use your senses to guide you.  Taste and smell each and every spice allowing you to pick and choose what appeals to you.  Have fun with it and enjoy!

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