With the holiday season upon us, this is a great time to prepare your natural medicine cabinet for whatever life throws at you. From tummy troubles (from all the delicious food) to stress, here are a few herbs we like to have on hand.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) tincture. The beauty in this herb (well, technically root) is that it is an adaptogen, meaning that it can help our bodies adapt to change AND it is also an immunomodulator so it can help boost a lagging immune system but calm an overactive one as well. We start taking this several days before traveling, through our vacation time, and a few days upon arriving home. If you purchase a tincture, follow the directions for the dose. I make a 1:5 tincture at home with doses as follows: adults: 30 drops 3 times a day, children (this is for a 50 pound child at 7 years old, adjust accordingly) :10 drops 3 times a day.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) tea. This herb is a time honored remedy for soothing tummy trouble, including trouble from overindulgence. It also is good for helping calm upset children (and adults) as it acts on the nervous system. It is naturally pleasant tasting, but a little bit of added honey is always a nice touch. For the calming action, you could also try using homeopathic remedy Chamomilla which we use in our home for our 20 month old for teething and when she seems overdone.
Cinnamon, sweet (Cinnamomum verum), is a delightful herb quite often used in culinary fashions but it is a fantastic addition to teas, syrups, and of course simmering on the stovetop to get the holiday scent in the air. It is great for respiratory ailments, especially in a tea. Children often prefer the sweet cinnamon as opposed to cassia which has a bit more spice. For those wanting to enjoy it as an air freshener, pairing it with cloves and orange peels will delight the senses.
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) isknown for is power in boosting immunity. The key to unleashing its power is to take it right at the onset of an illness, not as a daily immune tonic as popularly believed. The root will have the most healing constituents but the herb will suffice. You can use Echinacea in a tea (pair it with Lemon balm, Lavender, or Yarrow as desired) but it does amazing work as a syrup when combined with Elderberry and Astragalus.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) syrup. A powerhouse for colds and flu. This should be used at the first sign of an illness. You can find many varieties of this to include some with added herbs. It is becoming quite popular as it is shown in studies to reduce to the length of a cold and flu. It is even possible to make your own and put it on pancakes! For therapeutic use, I find it to work better giving half doses more often than having several hours between doses.
Lavender (Lavendula officinalis) is a must have for any home. It is high in volatile oil which really helps in carminative and antispasmodic activity BUT it is also a well-loved nervine and relaxant. It can be used to soothe muscles, help wind you down, and heal wounds. You can create an uplifting and relaxing tea by pairing it with Lemon balm. I love using it in a bath but using the essential oil in a roller ball is a handy way to apply. Even though it is an essential oil that can be applied neat, it is always a good idea to dilute in a carrier oil.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) tea. This is another great tea to have on hand for tummies but it is also a wonderful anti-viral herb. It is good for that annoying lingering cough as it is also antispasmodic. Like chamomile, it also has relaxing effects on the nervous system. I often use it to help with anxiety and the very act of slowing down to make tea is relaxing in itself. You can pair lemon balm with chamomile. As a reminder, children don’t need to drink the whole cup of tea for it to help. Many times we brew a cup and split it between 3 or 4 of our children.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a wonderful remedy for nausea. Brew up a cup of tea to help with upset tummies, motion sickness, nausea and fever. This is the herb for the inspiration for peppermint candies, which you suck on after meals to help with digestion! For those using the essential oil, you can put it in a diffuser or inhale right from the bottle. This is handy for those that may get car sick and those with vertigo. As a cooling essential oil, it is effective on fevers when used as a compress but it’s not for use on children under 2.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a nervine tonic. It works by soothing the nervous system. This is an excellent remedy for those days when we feel like we need to cap our brains. Safe for children, this was our favorite remedy during international travel when we were adjusting to the new time zone. Our tincture formula also contained Chamomile (listed above) and Catnip. It will pair well with Lemon Balm or Chamomile in a tea, from which the warmth of the tea can be relaxing itself.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is great for ailments from wounds to fevers. Used externally (in either infusion, tincture or powder), it helps heal those in- evitable cuts and scrapes. Used internally, it can help with fevers, bringing the heat to the surface to break (diaphoretic). It is one of the herbs in the favorite fever remedy Temp Assure by Herbs for Kids, a mainstay in our cabinet. While the list of herbs could go on and on, I have limited it to these which are multifunctional (as many herbs are) that are fairly easy to find and are safe for almost everyone to use. Of course, take time during this season to remember what you are thankful for,take time to just breathe, and have fun.
Jacki May McGinnity is a mama to 4 beautiful girls and a practicing herbalist. She is natural living advocate and doula. She enjoys being outside, cooking, crafting, and homeschooling on this crazy journey calledlife. Find her on her blog, Mindand Soul, Body Wholewhich talks about holistic wellness for the whole fam-