When our family travels I take along an herbal first aid kit. It has most of the things we might need: Echinacea tincture, yarrow powder, thyme salve, plasters. Nevertheless, there are sometimes when we are caught without our first aid kit, or simply don’t have what we need for a particular ailment. What do we do then? It would be so easy to just go to the pharmacy, pick up some ibuprofen and call it a day. But, even easier, healthier and cheaper is a trip to the local convenience store for two boxes of tea bags.
My daughters and I just last week took a holiday in Berlin. This was meant to be a girl’s trip, fun, a bit of luxury, museums, cafes and shopping. The first day, Bekah got a mosquito bite and, as she is allergic, her ankle and foot swelled up, painfully inhibiting her movement, her enjoyment of the trip and our mobility as a group. An oversight on my part, I hadn’t any of our Stings and Bites Salve, nor did I see any Plantain, our go to plant for bug bites, in the cracks and crevices of the city streets (it grows in abundance in our area). So we went to our hotel room mini-bar and grabbed the ubiquitous free tea bags, and to our great delight, amongst them were the teas we needed: Peppermint and Chamomile.
According to ‘Nutritional Herbology’:
“Peppermint contains aromatic compounds that increase the production of digestive fluids, relieve muscle spasms, increase blood circulation, reduce pains, promote sweating and are antiseptic. It also contains astringent compounds which shrink inflamed tissues. Peppermint has been used to treat indigestion, flatulence, mouth sores, loss of appetite, muscle cramps, nausea, morning sickness and dysmenorrhea.”
According to ‘Alternative Nature’:
“Chamomile flowers are used in alternative medicine as an anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, nervine, stomachic, tonic, vasodilatory. The anti-inflammatory properties make it good for rheumatism, arthritis, and other painful swellings. Additional uses in herbal medicine include an antispasmodic for intestinal and menstrual cramps, relieving gas pains, and a very mild but efficient laxative. Milder tea in large doses is given throughout the day for fevers, sore throats, the aches and pains due to colds, flu, and allergies.”
I emptied and washed out the hotel room garbage can and made a warm foot soak for Rebekah. While she was soaking her foot, I prepared a cup each of the chamomile and peppermint teas. I covered the cups while they were steeping in order to retain all of the important volatile oils. Once the teas were done, Rebekah drank them to benefit from their internal healing qualities, as well as to aid in stress relief, while I opened the tea bags and applied the warm, moist plant material to her swollen foot and ankle as a poultice to aid in the healing of her limb topically. We did this several times over the few days in Berlin. We saw great results even the next day.
Every convenience store, grocer’s, hotel room or drug store has Chamomile or Peppermint tea bags. Together, these are powerful all-around medicine when you are on the go. It’s not a bad idea to carry a few of these bags with you in your purse or first aid kit. These teas can be used for anxiety, cold and flu, fever, insomnia, allergies and a host of other on-the-go needs.
Cut and scrape the vanilla beans into the bourbon bottle.
Cut up the bean pods into small pieces and add those as well.
Shake the bottle daily.
Store in a cool dark place for 6-8 weeks.
As you use the vanilla extract, refill with more bourbon and add vanilla beans.
This will keep for years.
This syrup is a staple in our house year round. My husband keeps a bottle at work, we have several bottles here at home and I often give it as a gift. This cough syrup is yummy and really does the trick, whether during cold and flu season, allergy season or whenever there is a dry, itchy, sore or crackly throat or cough.
Thyme Cough Syrup
Decoct 2 oz of fresh Thyme leaves and stems. Simmer over medium heat in a covered pot for 1 hour.
When slightly cooled add the honey and vanilla.
Decant into the syrup bottle and store in the fridge.
Shake well before taking.
Take 1 T as needed
My husband and I hike in the forest behind our house everyday. The forest borders a river and is surrounded by man-made lakes. There are tons of mosquitoes, horseflies, ticks and these flying bugs of dubious identity that latch on and crawl around our arms and backs. It is a true testament to how much we love nature that we venture into this madness daily.
We usually use a very strong commercial repellent that feels heavy and very chemically on my skin. The smell of this repellent makes me wonder what on earth we are spraying on our bodies. I really detest putting this stuff on my skin, yet the idea of 1,000 bites or not going into the forest at all are not good options either.
This summer I have been field testing a natural insect repellent. It has gone through a few iterations until I have a formula that I am satisfied with. I will continue to experiment with this and inform of any updates or improvements.
This repellent is good for your skin, feels amazing, smells wonderful and does a very decent job keeping the bugs off. It needs to be applied quite liberally and carefully.
Leave Me Alone! Insect Repellent
Decoct 1 oz each Catnip and Neem leaves. Simmer leaves in a covered pot for 15 minutes, take off the heat and then leave covered in the pot for 1 hour.
When the decoction is cooled, add the essential oils.
Decant into the spray bottle.
Shake very well before each use.
Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.
I would love to hear your experiences with natural repellents. I am currently field testing a different formula that includes geranium and citronella. I will keep you posted.
Infused oil recipe:
Dry herbs in a dehydrator or in a cool dry place.
Grind herbs with a mortar and pestle or in a grinder. You need as much surface area as possible to come into contact with the oil.
Fill a jar half full with the ground herbs. Fill to the brim with the oil of your choice. (I normally use olive oil for salves and almond oil for cosmetic creams). Allow for air pockets to bubble up. Continue to fill with oil until saturated.
Place the oil in a sunny window for 6-8 weeks to macerate or place in a bread maker on low heat overnight.
Your oil is now ready to be made into a salve, cream or placed directly on your skin.
Have you ever had an outbreak of some recurring ailment only to find that you are out of your prescription and it is Friday night with no hope of getting a refill until Monday morning?
A few years ago, I had this very thing happen and I was panicked because letting the yeast infection go for even a day meant longer on the course of meds from the doctor. I was still new to herbalism, but had a pretty big garden. After some research and a quick harvest of the Oregano and Calendula in my yard, I whipped up a batch of this Fungi Foe Salve and was amazed at the results. I have not had to refill that prescription since.
In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils and beeswax.
Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.
Add the essential oils. Stir.
Pour into clean and sterilised jars.
Apply topically to any fungal infections, yeast, rashes etc…
I have used this salve on toenail fungal outbreaks as well as on my most intimate parts. It works really well.
Oregano: anti-viral, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial
Calendula: vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, immune stimulant, antifungal, antiviral, lymphatic, antispasmodic
Red Thyme: anti-bacterial, anti-septic, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, affinity for yeast infections
Lavender: antibacterial, soothing, anti-inflammatory
Tea Tree: anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic
I don’t even remember being bitten by a tick. I just noticed what seemed to be a bug bite on my bum that kept getting bigger and bigger. Eventually, it was the size of Jupiter and bumpy and purple with concentric circles. The doctor took one look and diagnosed me with Borrelia or Lyme Disease.
Immediately, I was put on a course of Doxycycline, 400mg for 21 days. No more sunshine, no more normal stomach. A day later the joint pain came. I was fatigued, foggy, slow, in pain and unhappy.
Since then, I have had a couple of clients with Lyme Disease and this is the information that I give them during our initial consultation:
Antibiotics can be less than completely effective because:
Borrelia is evasive
Borrelia becomes part of the microbiome in the form of spirochete cysts which the antibiotics are ill-equipped to deal with
Antibiotics can harm an already frail immune system
Antibiotics can damage the already damaged mitochondria
Herbal therapy can be of great support because:
Herbs have a wide spectrum of antimicrobial properties
Multiple herbs used simultaneously provide synergy
Herbs enhance immune function
Herbs support a balanced microbiome
Herbs help body deal with spirochete cysts
Borrelia does more than just damage cells, produce cysts and cause uncomfortable symptoms. It damages the immune system leaving the body unable to fight and become strained by the course of antibiotics required.
Holistic Herbal Therapy
1: Restorative- using herbs to restore balance and immune function
2: Symptomatic- relieve acute symptoms
3: Heroic- aggressive killing of microbes
Restorative: Immunomodulation- reishi mushroom, astragalus, eleuthro
Balance microbiome- probiotics, magnesium, oregano or wormwood and activated charcoal to reduce parasites and molds in the intestinal tract
Cellular support- quercitin in the form of sage
Symptomatic: Anti-inflammatory- turmeric, green tea
Heroic: Antimicrobial- antibiotics, smilax (sarsaparilla)
Herbs are as varied an individual as humans, there is really no way to give an herbal therapy protocol that suits everyone. This protocol is a great place to start, then, after listening to what your body is telling you, you can make adjustments.
Update: After writing this post, my husband Dan came home with flu-like symptoms and a swollen red circular rash on his elbow. He feels fatigued, sick, achy and pretty miserable. I think we are headed to the doctor tomorrow as he is an avid hiker and removes ticks from himself at least weekly. I am starting him tonight on sage, turmeric, yarrow, elderflower as well as a plantain poultice.