I’ve been busy in my kitchen lately. I’m harvesting wonderful goodies such as feverfew, salvias, speedwells, sorrels, lavenders, mint, lemon balm, plantain, and more. All hanging in my little corner to dry for later use – except those I used right away for chickweed, plantain, and lavender salve.
I am loving how wonderful my kitchen is smelling! We even got some gorgeous roses, but I didn’t get a picture before they faded. 🙁
With the herbs that I’m drying, I’ll be able to make my migraine tea, skin healing salves, cough medicine/expectorant, digestive tonics, and more. Just these little herbs. Here are some of my favorites:
Speedwells (veronica): Use the young and small leaves in salads, the older leaves for skin healing salves and in tinctures.
Sorrels: In my yard, we have yellow wood sorrel (oxalis stricta), and it’s such a fun herb. Sometimes while I’m picking, I eat it raw – and love the lemony taste. I developed a tea with it I call “Lemon-not-Lemon Tea. And since normal lemon tends to antagonize my vertigo conditions, it’s a wonderful alternative for me.
Woodland Sage (salvia nemorosa L.): I love these purple salvias – they are long-blooming and gorgeous. Although it’s not the most medicinally useful of the sages (like salvia officianalis) it can still be useful. The leaves are anti-inflammatory and are helpful for reducing hot flashes, and as a gargle for sore throats and expectorant for coughs.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an amazingly beneficial herb and highly effective aromatic. Who doesn’t feel an instant air of calmness when they smell it? Because of its calming and pain-relieving qualities, Lavender is vital to my pain management. But it’s also very good for the skin so it’s wonderful in salves and lotions. I’m also a big fan of chamomile and lavender tea for when I can’t sleep.
I’ve always loved that many herbal remedies can be found from items in the pantry. Below is a great article about this very subject! One remedy not touched upon is one of my own personal favorites: Celery Seed! You can read my post on Celery seed here, and read my celery seed monograph here (PDF format).
10 Remedies You Can Find In Your Kitchen
When you begin to explore natural remedies you quickly realize that many herbs and spices that we use in our everyday cooking can also be medicinal. The idea of food as medicine is not a new one.
My pantry is stocked with herbs and spices that I use to enhance flavor in my meals but also to brew medicinal teas, add to oils, and use to make salves. Here are ten remedies you probably already have in your kitchen and may not even know it.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is found in most kitchens. It’s commonly used in salad dressings and for other culinary purposes. However, it has many other uses as well.
Use it as a sore throat gargle, as a facial toner to soothe skin irritations, or to wash your hair. It has been shown to help control blood sugar in diabetics and can help reduce your risk of cancer. Always make sure to dilute your apple cider vinegar because it is highly acidic.
ACV Sore Throat Gargle
- Dilute 1 – 2 TBSP of vinegar in an 8-ounce glass of water.
- Take a swig and gargle for 30 seconds. Spit it out. Rinse your mouth.
- Repeat every 2-3 hours.
Garlic is a staple found in just about every home. The foundation of many flavor combinations garlic has many health benefits. People have been using garlic medicinally since ancient times. It helps boost your immune system and prevent colds, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.
There are many ways to incorporate the healing power of garlic. Try something new, like infusing garlic in honey. The garlic will ferment adding beneficial probiotics to the mixture. It is great for colds and the flu.
Honey Fermented Garlic
- Place garlic in a glass jar and cover it with honey.
Make sure you leave plenty of headspace at the top of the jar to accommodate the additional liquid and bubbles that will be created in the process. This will help prevent explosions of honey in your kitchen.
- You want to flip the jar daily to ensure the garlic stays coated in honey. This will help prevent mold from forming.
- After several days you should see bubbles begin to form. This is a sign fermentation has begun. Burp the jar daily to release the gasses. Over time the activity in the jar will decrease and you can burp less frequently.
- When the bubbling stops the fermentation is complete. This can take several months but the end result is worth it.
- For best results, make sure you use organic garlic and raw honey. You can use the garlic for cooking, add the honey to tea, or simply eat it by the spoonful if you like.
A delicious and natural sweetener, honey has many health benefits. It is high in antioxidants, which can help lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
Honey can be used to help heal wounds and burns and is good for sore throats and coughs in children.
For wound or burn care simply apply honey topically. Studies have shown it is an effective antibiotic and provides good results. A teaspoon of honey can help quiet a hacking cough.
Ginger is often used in Asian cooking and holiday baking but ginger can do more than spice up your meal. There are many reasons to have more ginger in your life.
Ginger is anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. It helps calm nausea, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, can ease arthritis symptoms, and can help contribute to weight loss.
There are many delicious ways to add this medicinal spice to your daily routine but an easy and delicious way is to make ginger tea.
Slice about one thumb’s length of ginger root. Boil water. Add the ginger root to the boiling water and boil for 5-10 minutes to make a decoction. Strain out the ginger and add honey to taste.
When life gives you lemons make lemonade. Or make a remedy for sore throats. Lemons have long been used to help with sore scratchy throats caused by colds or the flu.
Mix a teaspoon of lemon juice into warm water and drink it. You can add honey to taste.
Chilis, like cayenne, are used in Mexican and Indian food to turn up the heat but you can use them to make a healing salve for sore muscles.
- Infuse chilis into a carrier oil like sesame or sweet almond oil.
- Place the chilis in a jar and cover with oil.
- Either leave the jar in a sunny window for a month or you can heat the oil slowly by placing it in a pot of water on the stove for several hours.
- Strain the infused oil through a cheesecloth to remove the chilis.
- Store your infused oil in a jar in a cool, dark place.
- To make a salve mix your infused carrier oil with a harder butter, like cacao or shea butter, and beeswax.
- Melt equal parts butter, beeswax, and oil together in a double boiler to combine.
- Pour the melted mixture into a glass jar and allow it to cool.
- Apply it directly to your aching muscles for immediate relief.
Rosemary is a common culinary herb used to flavor potatoes and chicken. Did you know it makes a delicious medicinal tea as well?
It is anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, and antimicrobial. Long associated with aiding memory, rosemary also can help reduce anxiety and elevate your mood.
Simply add two teaspoons of rosemary leaves to 8 ounces of hot water. Allow to steep 5 minutes and strain out the leaves. Enjoy.
Mint is my favorite kitchen remedy. I always keep it on hand to brighten up drinks and to freshen my breath. I love having a small plant growing in my kitchen that I can use to pluck a few leaves for tea or to add to lemonade. It makes a great addition to medicinal teas that don’t taste so great.
But mint can stand alone medicinally as well. It is great to relieve upset stomachs, headaches, and to calm anxiety. It contains menthol, which can help you breathe better when you have a cold and ease muscle pain when applied directly to the skin.
Whether you drink it in tea, or simply breathe in the scented mint can serve as a mood elevator.
Basil is an herb that is easy to grow and commonly found in most kitchens.
While there are many delicious ways to cook with basil don’t discount the medicinal properties of this herb. Basil is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial, all of which make basil a good herb to have on hand.
Fresh leaves can be applied to insect bites to help with the sting, and tea is good for an upset stomach or to help calm a cough from a cold.
Another easy-to-grow culinary staple is oregano. You may be surprised to find all the medicinal uses for this common pizza season. Oregano can calm an upset stomach, relieve a headache, and soothing aching muscles. Just like the other herbs, you can easily use it to brew tea to cure many of your woes.
While you can use each of the herbs and spices alone as an effective remedy there are many ways to combine them together to make more potent medicines.
Once you open your eyes to using your food as medicine, you will find there are many more herbs and spices in your kitchen that can be used to heal yourself.
BY RACHAEL BLASBALG; The Lost Herbs (www.thelostherbs.com)
I love harvesting and processing herbs for my remedies and the article below is full of useful tips and instructions to help you process your own herbs.
There is nothing more satisfying than growing, storing, and using your own medicinal herbs. Using the tools nature gives us to protect our health and loved ones’ feels right to me. So, I enjoy the time spent learning about herbs, gathering them, and preserving them for future use.
Gathering Herbs For Medicinal Use
Where and how you gather your herbs is extremely important. The first concern is that you are 100% certain of your plant identification before you harvest it. Using the wrong herb could be life-threatening, so make sure you know the herb well before using it.
Next, you must be careful of where you gather or grow your herbs. Your backyard herb garden is hopefully safe from all toxins, pesticides, and herbicides. But the same cannot be said when gathering in the wild. Choose natural sites, far away from traffic and dump sites. Car exhaust, herbicides sprayed to control weeds, and other pollutants can contaminate herbs grown along the roadside. Likewise, old industrial sites or dump sites are not suitable because of potential toxins.
Drying Your Medicinal Herbs
Once you’ve harvested your herbs from a clean site, you want to process them immediately to protect their potency until you are ready to use them. If you are not using your herbs fresh, drying them is an excellent option for preserving them. Drying or dehydrating can be done in several different ways.
Method 1: Use A Dehydrator
I prefer to use a dehydrator to dry my herbs. By using a dehydrator, I can control the drying process and optimize the drying time. A steady stream of warm, dry air quickly dries my herbs before they have a chance to degrade. Here is the process:
Preheat your dehydrator. Set the thermostat for a drying temperature of 95 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I prefer to use the lowest temperature, but if it is a very humid day, the higher temperature may be needed.
- Clean your herbs and blot them dry with a towel to remove any surface moisture.
- Remove large leaves for drying separately. Small leaves can remain on the stem, if desired.
- Place the herbs on a dehydrator tray in a single layer and label the tray if you are doing more than one herb at a time.
- If you are drying roots, wash them and scrub off any dirt. Pat dry and cut into small, thin pieces.
- Dry the herbs for 2 to 8 hours or longer, until the leaves are crumbly, crisp, and completely dry. Larger leaves and stems usually take longer than fine small leaves, so check them periodically and remove them when dry. Allow the herbs to cool before storing.
Air Drying Medicinal Herbs
Air drying is another method of drying herbs that works well in dry climates. You need a warm, shady spot with good ventilation. You don’t want them in the sun because the intense heat and sun can quickly degrade the herbs.
1. Gather the herbs into small bundles and bind them at one end with a small rubber band. Hang them upside down in an out of the way spot, until they are completely dry.
Some people hang them in the kitchen window, but I recommend choosing a spot out of direct sunlight. Before I got my dehydrator, I would hang them on one end of my pot rack, but any warm, well-ventilated spot will work.
2. If the herbs contain seeds or tiny leaves that might release when dry; place the herb bundle in a small paper bag to catch the seeds or leaves.
3. Another possibility is to place them on an oven rack or elevated screen on a countertop. Make sure that air can flow freely under and around each sprig.
4. Air drying herbs takes longer, usually several days. Check them daily and turn them as needed to allow them to dry evenly. Make sure they are completely dry before storing.
Oven Drying And Microwave Drying
I don’t recommend oven drying or microwave drying because the herbs can easily get too hot and lose their medicinal qualities. Why go to all the work to gather, dry, and store herbs, if they are no longer potent enough to be of use? If you do choose to use an oven or microwave, use the lowest possible settings and take them out as quickly as possible.
Processing And Storing Your Dried Herbs
Once your herbs are dry, it is time to sort them and prepare them for long term storage. This process is called garbling. Follow these steps to get your dried herbs ready to store:
- Place your herbs into a plastic bag or glass jar for a day, before moving them to long term storage. If you see any condensation on the bag or jar, they need to dry longer.
- Separate the leaves, flowers, stems, and roots, discarding unwanted parts. Each plant part has different uses; do the research on your plant to know which parts are most valuable.
- As you sort, test the dryness by breaking into the larger pieces of stem and root to make sure they are completely dry. If they bend or seem pliable at all, put them back to dry longer.
- Store your dried herbs in airtight containers away from heat and light. I like to use mason jars with a tight-fitting lid and store them in a dark cabinet.
- For best long-term storage, I place an oxygen absorber into the jar and vacuum seal it, however the herbs will keep for a year or more without it. If you live in a very humid environment, you may want to add a silica gel pack to the jar.
- Check the jars occasionally to make sure they are dry and have no mold growth. If properly stored, there should be no color change or bad smells. Throw them out if you detect any changes in quality.
- Use your herbs within two years for best potency. I prefer to harvest my medicinal herbs every year to make sure I always have a potent batch available.