Taking care of my family is my job, and it's one that I adore. Not so much the laundry, but give me a sewing machine and some fabric or a fully-stocked kitchen any day and I'm happy. Caring for my people is one of my deep pleasures of motherhood and partnership, whether it's crafting a home, sewing a doll, baking some bread, or making the bed, I love it all.
But the thing I love most of all is soothing their aches and pains and sicknesses with remedies I craft by hand. It's magical and a kind of alchemy. I grew up with a grandmother who was an herbal fanatic as well as a nurse, so I was introduced to both the Western ways of medicine and the folklore of herbs and natural remedies at an early age.
Some of my earliest memories are of drinking murky concoctions to treat colds, eating raw honey for my seasonal allergies, and placing jars of heated horseradish over my ear to treat persistent infections. There were definitely some fails, but for the most part, the remedies worked in gentle and effective ways.
Now, many years later, I'm still relying on a lot of those same remedies, but with a much greater understanding of the human body, how it tends to fall apart, and the ways in which it can heal itself, all thanks to my work in the field of massage therapy and some training I did with an herbalist back in Boulder.
I have a method when it comes to what I keep on hand for medicine-making because otherwise, my kitchen would look like a well-stocked apothecary. There are so many amazing herbs and other ingredients that each do wonderful things, but I'm not trying to start a pharmacy here.
The thing with herbs is that simple is perfect. There's a saying that says "the herb you have is the herb you need", and I've found that to be pretty accurate. As long as you're using only the best quality, and preparing potent remedies, a single herb or simple recipe can do the trick. I like to become BFF’s with 1 local plant, and then build out from there. Back in Boulder it was Yarrow, and down here in the South it’s Black Walnuts.
My mantra always is "simple is better", and that's exactly how I am with herbs. And other ingredients. I want what I keep on hand to be versatile, potent (at the same time gentle), and effective. Like the perfect capsule wardrobe.
I sure am talking all about herbs right now, aren't I? They're definitely a big part of home remedies, but an even bigger part is a lot of everyday items in the kitchen and bathroom. Things like ginger, hydrogen peroxide, honey, apple cider vinegar, and activated charcoal. These things are the real workhorses of a good home remedy arsenal, and most of them are things you probably already have in your kitchen.
That’s why I titled this post Kitchen Herbalism, taken from phrase coined by the herbalist Kami McBride. It’s a real and powerful thing, and part of the natural lineage of every woman alive. When we step into the role as caretaker of our family's health and use natural home remedies, we're not only honoring the women who came before us, we’re also ensuring that this old-school wisdom is not forgotten.
In the medicine cabinet:
A small jar of salve (plantain or yarrow that I wild-harvest as-needed)
Use in place of Neosporin for minor-ish cuts and scrapes, to soothe a sore nose or dry lips in the cold season, for cracked heels, and diaper rashes.
A small jar of a tincture (plantain or yarrow that I wild harvest as-needed
Use to clean wounds on adults
Use to clean wounds and deeper cuts, anything that needs really good disinfecting, and for oral issues when properly diluted.
Activated charcoal capsules
Use for upset and gassy tummies, mild cases of food poisoning, in the event someone has swallowed a poisonous substance and it’s indicated to use it, and topically for bee stings and venomous bite wounds.
Small jar of Bentonite clay
Use for upset tummies, topically to dry out infections when mixed with apple cider vinegar, and for poison oak or ivy when mixed with powdered plantain or yarrow and a little water,
Aloe Vera Gel
Use topically for sunburns.
Sombra Muscle Rub/Badger Sore Muscle Rub
Use both topically for acute muscle strains.
Limited use for acute pain and mild-allergic reactions when needed.
In the bathroom:
Sweet almond oil
Use for massaging sore muscles, to get rid of cradle cap, for salves when combined with beeswax, and topically for nasal decongestant when mixed with a few drops of eucalyptus oil and rubbed onto the chest.
Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap
Use to clean wounds, cuts, and scrapes, besides being our general body-wash.
In the kitchen:
Use in fire cider, for earaches, and for congested sinuses.
Use for upset tummies, in fire cider, and for colds and cases of flu when made as tea with honey and lemon.
Raw Local Honey
Use in teas and fire cider, to help with seasonal allergies, topically for burns, and for immune support when mixed with raw ginger or garlic and eaten.
Use in fire cider, as an immune-booster, can be mixed with honey to eat raw.
Himalayan pink salt
Use as a gargle for sore throats, nasal-cleansing for allergies, and to make a saline solution with.
Use in fire cider, teas with honey and ginger for colds and cases of flu, and in water as a general tonic that supports the liver.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Use in fire cider, as a general tonic when added to water, and topically to draw out infection when mixed with Bentonite clay.
Use in medicinal elderberry syrup.
Dried Wild Cherry Bark
Use in medicinal elderberry syrup.
Use as a tea for a cooling drink that is high in vitamin C to help bring down fevers, or as a general immune-boosting tea.
Use as a tea for relaxation and inducing sleep.
Dried Hawthorne Berries, Leaves, and Flowers
Use alone as a tonic for men, or as a daily infusion when made with hibiscus and raspberry leaf.
Dried Raspberry Leaf
Use alone as a tonic for women, or as a daily infusion when made with hibiscus and Hawthorne. On-hand always.
Things I don’t keep on hand all the time, but buy when needed:
Effective, safe tinctures for babies, children, and pregnant women.
DoTerra PastTense Roll-on
Use for headaches.
Something I’m considering:
This is something Brigitte strongly advocated using, and that Holistic Squid has written about (here) and (here). I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I’m leaning towards it more and more.
1 c. dried Elderberries
3 TBLS. Dried Wild Cherry Bark
3 TBLS. Echinacea root (opt)
2 Cinnamon sticks
3 c. water
2 medium sized knobs raw ginger
½ c. raw honey
Simmer everything together on super low heat, minus the honey, until liquid has been reduced to half. Cool, strain, add honey, and bottle into a pint-sized mason jar. Keep in the fridge.
½ c. grated raw ginger
½ c. raw horseradish
1 c. chopped onion
10 chopped garlic cloves
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Apple Cider Vinegar
Prepare ingredients and place them into a quart-sized mason jar. Generously cover with Apple Cider Vinegar and shake well. Store in a cool, dark place. Let sit for 1 month, shaking daily. After 1 month strain out the pulp. Add ¼ c. raw honey, or more to taste, and stir.
Chamomile Sleepy-time Latte (super kid-friendly):
4 c. warm (but not hot) chamomile tea
Cinnamon (to taste)
Nutmeg (to taste)
Raw Honey (to taste)
Pinch of salt
Dash of vanilla
Hemp seeds or coconut oil (to taste, creates creaminess)
Blend all ingredients until frothy and drink.
Remedy for whatever ails you (from Brigitte Mars)
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. raw honey
1 c. warm water
Mix together and drink.
Serious adult cold and flu syrup that was given to me by an elderly massage client I worked on for years (for those times when you feel so rundown you could die)
1/3 c. whiskey
1/3 c. raw honey
1/3 c. lemon juice
Warm the whiskey and lemon, but don’t make them too hot. Add in honey and sip slowly.
Something to remember:
Natural remedies are great for everyday ailments and non-emergent situations, but I don’t believe anything comes close to Western medicine when it comes to serious life-threatening emergencies. Hospitals and doctors are there for a reason. Use them when needed.
For the salve and tincture I make:
Infuse 8oz of sweet almond oil with crushed, dried herbs in a double-boiler. Simmer on super low all day long. Strain, add in 1-2 oz beeswax and pour into a small jar.
Fill a pint-sized mason jar with crushed, dried herbs and cover with vodka. Store in a cool, dark place for 6-8 weeks. Strain. Store in the same jar.
Last note, my favorite place to buy herbs is Mountain Rose Herbs, but the shipping tends to be high so it really only makes sense for bulk orders of the stuff that I keep on hand. For small amounts of herbs that I need quickly that I can’t harvest out in the woods, I buy the Frontier brand off of Amazon.
If you want a few book recommendations, I’ve got them for you:
(I use this one as more of a reference because a lot of her recipes require quite a few herbs at once. I like to make simple remedies with just a few herbs, but I still use her recipes as a guide and always will.
(I adore this book because of its simplicity. It’s basic, but that doesn’t mean it’s less thorough. The thing I love with herbs is that a lot of times, less is just as good as more. Simple herbal preparations are always my preferred method, and that’s exactly what’s in this book)
(This is a small book that has so much great info inside, and is a must-have for any parent to keep on-hand. I learned a lot of her remedies directly from her, but I love having them all in book form for quick reference)
(If you’re interested in harvesting your own herbs to use in home remedies, then this book is what you want and need. I’d also recommend, though, that if you do go wild-foraging, that first, you go on a local, guided plant walk with an expert so you learn first-hand. But then use this book because it is totally awesome in every way)
Ok, last note for real, listen to this podcast episode all about kitchen herbalism!
Bye for now, and share below what favorite remedies you use in your own home :)