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Stocking Your Own Herbal Apothecary

 Photo by AlexRaths
Photo by AlexRaths

The key to using natural remedies against common winter-time illnesses is catching initial symptoms and having the right remedy at arm’s length.  Recognizing symptoms early is essential.  Responding to symptoms with just the right remedy, can keep the sniffles at bay, or keep a head cold from becoming a more serious bronchial infection.  Stocking your own medicine chest with an armament of botanicals means that what you need is at hand the moment you need it. Here are a few things I find indispensable in my personal medicine cabinet.  Remember of course that you should rely on the expertise of a qualified health professional before using herbs or natural remedies to treat any health condition.

  1. Echinacea: best used as an immune booster to prevent the common cold, this can come in handy when you are feeling over stressed, run down or vulnerable to illness.  I like to give it to my kids around holidays that offer lots of sugary treats.

  2. Elderberry: often taken as a delicious tonic or syrup, this follows in the same category as echinacea. It is a useful immune builder and best used as a preventive tool.  It is thought that it helps one resist the flu, but is less effective during the flu.  Its immune boosting properties might even exacerbate symptoms of the flu if taken once the disease has taken hold.

  3. Elderflower: I don’t know how anyone can stand a head cold or sinus infection without this handy herb.  Medicine or tea made from the flowers of the elder shrub helps relieve sinus and nasal congestion and brings on a good sweat.

  4. Lavender: this plant once called a “gentle grandmother,” by one of my teachers is both versatile and incredibly useful.  It soothes headaches, anxious minds and chest congestion. It is perfect for children who are suffering from nightmares or worries at bedtime.  A dab of the essential oil on a pillow can do the trick, as can steams, tea or glycerite taken orally.

  5. Wild YamDioscorea villosa is my remedy of choice for belly aches of all types.  Indigestion and heartburn benefit from its soapy bitter flavor. Nausea can be immediately quelled, whether from carsickness, nervousness, or a little bug.  Intestinal cramping that often accompany diarrhea will most likely respond well to the spasmolytic qualities of this root. If you often suffer from urgent bowel movements or intestinal cramping, carrying a little bottle of this wherever you go can be a life-saver.

  6. Herbal Cough Syrup: forget that nasty over the counter stuff and find a high quality, well-formulated product.  Look for a product that includes wild cherry bark, thyme, yerba santa and elecampane.

  7. Healing salve: herbs such as calendula, self heal, lavender, and St. John’s wort are often used in a salve, a  thick cream or paste with beeswax as the base.  Use salve on minor burns, insect bites or mild abrasions.  The right formula will speed healing and ward off infection.

 If you would like to take a peek inside my own personal apothecary, join us live here, Saturday October 29, 11am EST.

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