Why Use Herbs?
Equipped with the tools for fevers, scrapes, nausea, and sunburns, an herbal first aid kit is an ideal way to treat your family’s minor ailments naturally. Herbs are often used as medicine, but they are much more than this. They are whole food sources, nourishing as well as healing. They are easily recognized and absorbed by the body, giving them a potency that chemically processed remedies can never claim. Herbs address the roots of disease. Their power lies deep within the body, toning, balancing, and supporting organs and entire systems, giving the body the ability to heal. Drugs on the other hand focus on relieving symptoms. They tend to cover up deeper imbalances within the body, allowing problems to reoccur over and over again. With an herbal medicine kit, you will have the comfort of knowing every ingredient in your medicine chest.
Essential Herbal Remedies
This natuarl healing kit is a foundation meant to be built upon. Many herbs have multiple medicinal properties, while others focus on a specific issue. They often work more efficiently in conjunction with one another and many herbal remedies can be substituted for another.
- Boneset, Elder flower, and Peppermint: This herbal blend is perfect for fevers, colds and the flu. Boneset and elder flower are diaphoretics; they speed the elimination of toxins and infection through sweating, supporting the natural cleansing process of a fever. At the same time boneset will help with aches and pains, and elder flower will reduce upper respiratory inflammation and remove mucous build-ups. Peppermint helps to cool and calm the body, and has antimicrobial properties.
- Echinacea: Echinacea is the most effective single herb for boosting the immune system and ridding the body of infection. Its properties protect against harmful bacteria and viruses. Its power can be enhanced with other herbs, and blends well with sage and peppermint.
- Eucalyptus: This herb is ideal for any respiratory infection; for bronchitis, throat infections, hayfever, even a simple stuffy nose. Make a eucalyptus steam inhalation by putting three teaspoons of the dried herb in a large glass bowl. Add two liters of boiling water. Putting a towel over both your head and the bowl, breathe the herbal steam for ten minutes, inhaling through the nose.
- Licorice: Licorice is an herb with many uses, although it is probably most well-known for its ability to relieve coughing. As an expectorant it stimulates mucous removal from the upper respiratory tract. It is also an anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory. Licorice is also a potent adrenal nourisher. Use in times of stress and exhaustion, although only in small doses for those who have high blood pressure.
- Raspberry Leaf: While raspberry leaf is most often associated with its health benefits during pregnancy, it is also a powerful astringent. Make a raspberry leaf infusion into a gargle for sore throats, or drink the tea for problems with diarrhea.
- Aloe Vera Gel: For all types of minor skin irritations - cuts, bruises, bug bites, and burns - use aloe vera gel topically to soothe and protect the skin. It also helps to speed wound recovery.
- Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil works well to treat any type of fungal or bacterial infection. Apply to the skin in cases of ringworm, or to the gums for a toothache.
- Chamomile, Mint, and Lavender: These herbs are the serenity trinity. Combined they are a soothing, aromatic infusion with healing properties useful to treat cramps, insomnia, headaches, indigestion, and restlessness.
- Dandelion: Dandelion can be useful for both constipation and water retention. It is a laxative and a diuretic. This herb is also a good source of potassium, which is usually lacking in cases of water retention.
Herbs are easy to store, and once dried, they can be kept for long periods of time. It is important to store them correctly to maintain the highest amount of their medicinal properties. They should be kept away from heat, light, air, and bacteria, all of which lessen the potency of herbs.
Use a dry, air-tight container for your herbal medicine kit. Plastics and paper bags should never be used; they both absorb volatile oils. Plastics in particular can negatively affect the quality of the herbs. Dark glass is the best choice, although glazed ceramic and air-tight wooden containers work as well. If using a glass jar with a metal lid, put a piece of wax paper over the jar before putting on the lid.
Of conventional American drugs, two-thirds are created from extractions of medicinal plants. They are no longer herbs however, but chemicals. Phytochemicals have been isolated and processed, resulting in a product far from the whole food source of herbs. Although conventional medicine has many positive aspects, an herbal first aid kit is a convenient way to have nature’s remedies at your fingertips.
Hoffmann, David. The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies (Element Books, 1996).
Page, Linda. Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, Eleventh Edition (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
photo credit: Vieux Bandit
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