by Aubree Sanders
Learning to make herbal remedies for your family is a delightful and affordable way to keep your loved ones healthy all year long. Teaching your children about the healing power of herbs will give them a life-long respect and love of the Earth.
Herbs have safely been used for over 5,000 years in Ayurvedic medicine, 3,500 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine and date even further back in time when primitive man gathered plants and herbs from Mother Earth to maintain the health and vigor of their tribes and animals.
Wildcrafted, home-grown, or dried herbs purchased from a reputable source are the best choices for your herbal remedies and a great alternative to over-the-counter medicines and expensive supplements from the health food store. The wonderful thing about growing your own herbs is that you know they are grown organically with your loving intention, which makes them all the more magical and effective as herbal medicines for your family.
If you have access to land that is cared for responsibly then wild-crafted herbs, fondly known as weeds, are Mother Earth’s gift to you. When gath- ering herbs from the wild, offer your love and respect to them and take only what you need. In return they will bless you with potent herbal medicines. Make sure you have correctly identified the plant and collect the right part of the plant in the appropriate season. One of my favorite books on this subject is Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places, by “Wildman” Steve Brill.
Let’s get started with the basics of making herbal home remedies for your Family Apothecary. All of the herbs I will be introducing to you are safe and non-toxic, but you still should introduce new herbs to your family in small amounts as occasionally there may be a mild allergy to a certain herb.
Everyone is familiar with a steaming cup of herbal tea. One of our family favorites is peppermint. It’s easy to grow, delicious, and safe. As my favorite herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, likes to say it’s a “blast of green energy.” We have a very large mint patch growing near our spring, we harvest and dry tons of mint to drink throughout the year. In the summer we drink it iced, and in the winter we drink it hot. Herbal teas are a great alternative to juice, soda and other drinks high in sugar and artificial colors. You can sweeten your tea with stevia, turbinado or raw honey instead of highly processed white sugar.
Here are some yummy, safe and nutritious herbs to start with:
• Peppermint: provides natural energy and is a great digestive aid for easing nausea and stomach cramps.
• Chamomile: relieves stress and anxiety, eases teething pain. Add a strong cup of tea to the bath for relaxation, and cool some down for a soothing eye wash (great for newborn eye infections, too).
• Lemon Balm: “The Elixir of Life,” is a remedy for anxiety, depression, ADHD, viral and bacterial infections. Bees love it and so will you!
• Chamomile & Lemon Balm in equal parts work together to treat colic and also make a great iced “sun tea” in the summertime.
BASIC CUP OF HERBAL TEA
8 OUNCES OF HOT WATER (LET BOILING WATER REST FOR A MOMENT)
TEA BASKET, TEA BALL, OR MUSLIN BAG
1-2 TEASPOONS DRIED HERB OR 1-3 TABLESPOONS FRESH HERB
TEA CUP & SWEETENER
Steep tea for 10-15 min. with a plate over cup to capture the medicinal properties.
Herbal Infusions are similar to herbal teas except that you use more plant matter and steep for a longer period of time in a quart size jar. Infusions are made from the leaves, flowers and buds (the more aromatic) parts of the plant. The roots are more effective when they are made as a decoction.
Stinging Nettle is a great herb to make your first herbal infusion with. When you gather it make sure you protect your hands or you will have little red welts all over them, but in its dried form it is completely harmless. Nettles are rich in iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and many other vitamins and minerals. It is a superior tonic herb, strengthening and toning the entire system.
Try making a Solar “Sun Tea” or a lunar infusion with your children as a special project and watch them drink it with enthusiasm.
NETTLE HERBAL INFUSION
1 QUART JAR W/LID
1 QUART OF BOILING WATER
6-8 TABLESPOONS FRESH OR DRIED NETTLE
Pour water over the Nettles, cover loosely with a lid and let steep for 30 min-4 hours or overnight if you are making some before going to bed. The longer you let it steep the better. strain and drink. Try drinking this infusion for a few weeks and notice how it makes you feel. Infusions should last for a few days in the fridge, but if you do have some left over your houseplants will love it!
Decoctions are made from the roots, twigs, and bark (the woody parts) of plants and sometimes seeds and nuts. My favorite decoction is made from astragalus root, as it has kept my family well through the many changes of the seasons. It is an immune stimulating herb, builds the blood, and protects the liver. It’s great for those recovering from serious illness, radiation or chemotherapy, and it helps build energy and increase athletic stamina.
QUART OF WATER
HANDFUL OF DRIED CHOPPED ROOT
Simmer Astragalus root for 20 min. and then strain into a quart jar. Drink hot or cold and store excess in the refrigerator.
OILS & SALVES
Some of my favorite herbal remedies to make are oils and salves. I love harvesting fresh herbs and flowers, covering them with oil then sitting them on my front porch or in a sunny window to let them infuse for 3-4 weeks before using them as medicinal oil or turning them into salve. Your family apothecary would not be complete without calendula, a beautiful yellow flower that grows easily and is the perfect skin remedy for diaper rash, cradle cap and other skin irritations. You can even add the pretty blossoms to your salads, omelets and stews.
Make this Calendula Oil recipe for a fun activity with your children, and say a positive affirmation every time you shake your oil. “May this calendula oil bless us with its natural healing properties.” We also like to sing songs while we are picking the blossoms and we always say “Thank you,” when we are finished. After 3-4 weeks your oil should have a lovely yellow color to it and a slightly sweet aroma. Take the oil and strain through cheesecloth, pour into a bottle or jar (a funnel is helpful), label, and store in a cool place. Apply liberally to any skin irritation, use as a massage oil, in the bath, or make into a salve.
CLEAN JARS (I USE QUART JARS)
FRESH OR DRIED CALENDULA BLOSSOMS
ORGANIC EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, GRAPE SEED, ALMOND OR APRICOT OIL
Fill your clean dry jar 1⁄2 – 3⁄4 full with your freshly picked or dried blossoms. Cover blossoms with oil and leave about 1⁄2 inch at the top of jar. Set jar in a sunny spot for 3-4 weeks to let the blossoms infuse into the oil. Gently shake your oil infusion daily and send it loving energy.
1 SMALL PAN
1 CUP OF CALENDULA OIL
1⁄4 C. OF BEESWAX
LAVENDER OR CHAMOMILE ESSENTIAL OIL
SMALL GLASS JARS or TIN CONTAINERS TO HOLD 10 OZ. OF SALVE
Heat your calendula oil over low heat and slowly add beeswax till melted. Let cool slightly and add a few drops of essential oil. Pour into tins or small glass jars and let cool. Then put the lids on, label, and store in a cool place. your family will love using this homemade salve for cuts, bumps, bruises and rashes.
Herbal Extracts, also known as tinctures and glycerites, are very effective and potent herbal remedies that are easy and affordable to make at home. Making an herbal extract involves steeping an herb in a liquid menstruum (alcohol, vinegar or vegetable glycerin) to extract the chemical constituents of the herb. As you gain confidence making and using herbal remedies you will find great satisfaction in making your own herbal extracts for your family. My favorite herbal extract for the Family Apothecary is an echinacea glycerite.
Glycerites are alcohol-free herbal extracts made with vegetable glycerin (coconut by-product), which you can find at your local health food store or order online. sometimes vegetable glycerine is advertised as a skin care product, but as long as it’s food grade then it’s perfectly fine to use. Children seem to prefer the glycerites because they are very sweet and easy to take by the dropperful under the tongue, in a little warm water, or mixed into some organic juice.
Echinacea is the perfect herb to make into a glycerite for your Family Apothecary. It’s beautiful, easy to grow, fights off colds, flu and respiratory infections with its immune enhancing and antibiotic properties, and is safe to use. The two most common types of echinacea to grow and use for herbal extracts is Echinacea Augustifolia and Echinacea Purpurea. you can use a fresh root that is 2- 3 years old or high-quality dried roots. Echinacea root is pretty tough to chop up and can make quite a racket in the blender, but get the pieces as small as you can manage.
The best time to take echinacea is at the change of the seasons or when you start to see symptoms of a cold coming on. Make sure you administer it to your whole family. I have made the mistake of being so focused on taking care of my children that I forgot to give myself some!
1 QUART JAR (MACERATING CONTAINER)
VEGETABLE GLYCERIN (MENSTRUUM)
ECHINACEA ROOTS (DRIED OR FRESH)
SEVERAL LARGE AMBER TINCTURE BOTTLES FOR STORAGE
SMALL AMBER TINCTURE BOTTLE FOR ADMINISTERING
Chop roots by hand or in the blender. Fill your quart jar 1⁄2 full with your roots and fill the rest of the jar with vegetable glycerin. Pour your herb and menstruum into the blender and blend until you see a vortex forming in the center of your slurry. Pour your mixture into your quart jar and place it in a dark cupboard to macerate for 4-6 weeks. shake daily. When your menstruum is done macerating strain it through a heavy layer of cheese cloth and bottle.
Recommended dosages for herbal extracts: Infants (2-5 drops 3x daily), Children (10-20 drops 3x daily), and Adults (30-60 drops 3x daily). Take under tongue (sublingually), in a small amount of warm water, or in organic juice. Do not take longer than 3 weeks at a time or it can lose its effectiveness.
Making herbal remedies for your family is so rewarding that you will wonder why you didn’t do this before or more often. As you gain experience using herbs you will discover so many ways to use them. You may even want to start your own herb garden to grow all your favorite flowers and herbs so you have them on hand whenever you want to make an herbal remedy. Spring is right around the corner, so start planning your garden location now, make a list of the herbs you would like to grow and order your seed catalogs. Planning an herb garden can involve the whole family. Exploring the world of herbs and building your Family Apothecary is a wonderful way to stay well all year long!