Kitchen Medicine by Kat
Introduced by Ivor Hughes.
Kat was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1964. She is a grassroots Herbalist
and Ethno botanist with a passion for nature and the well-being of Mother
Earth. For the past 20 years she has been deeply involved in the study of
plants, the healing arts and related topics. Her path has led her to study
and travel extensively throughout Europe, the US, as well as Central and
South America. Seven years ago she set up Sacred Earth, an Internet based
forum for Ethnobotany and Eco-travel.
Kat's vision of the plant/human relationship is profoundly holistic,
spiritual and 'deep green' in nature. She believes that fostering
respectful and engaging interactions between people and plants is a
practical way of bridging the rift between 'culture' and 'nature' and
provides a positive step towards healing both, people and planet.
Kat presently resides Berlin where she is working as a freelance writer
and Ethno botanist, studying the traditional uses of local plants and
working on several book projects. Over the past decade she has written
numerous articles and educational materials on various aspects of Herbs
and Healing, Ethno botany and Eco-psychology for various herbal companies
(e.g. Star Child, UK) and magazines (e.g. Herb Quarterly, US) while
continuously expanding her repertoire at the Sacred Earth website and
other on-line Ezines and off-line Magazines. Her latest project is the
Sacred Earth Newsletter, which is published every six weeks, and is
circulated via email and published at the Sacred Earth website. at http://www.sacredearth.com
to get a fuller insight into Kat's work and philosophy. The Sacred Earth
Newsletter can be viewed at:
Kitchen Medicine by
This little reference is not intended as medical advice
to be followed in lieu of professional medical care. It is by no means
exhaustive, but is rather intended as a short introduction and overview.
Before using any herbs for the treatment of medical conditions it is
important to familiarize yourself
with the suggested herbs or substances and study the condition as
thoroughly as possible. If symptoms persist seek professional medical
'Let your foods be medicines and your medicines be food' - the
old aphorism first coined by Hippocrates is coming back into vogue. In an
age where medicine has become a multi-billion dollar industry and the
market is flooded with thousands of ever new permutations of various
synthetic compounds that make it impossible to keep track, it may well be
a good idea to simplify matters a bit. Even the natural remedy department
is seeing an explosion of ever more pills and extracts which will do
little but confuse the average consumer. Nobody knows what's what anymore.
Confronted with conflicting messages and a glut of magic pills the task of
sorting the wheat from the chaff is not an easy one. Thus, it is essential
to start with the basics and to educate oneself about health and
The word health derives from the Anglo-Saxon root 'hal' meaning
'whole'. Health is a state of wholeness, of balance and harmony between
mind, body and soul. Disharmony and imbalance manifests as dis-ease. Thus,
the first principle of healing is to restore balance. The three main
factors responsible for that balance are: proper nutrition, exercise and
relaxation. I won't elaborate too much on exercise and relaxation at this
point, but will concentrate instead on nutrition.
The average convenience diet barely contains enough nutrients to keep
the system running, much less to keep it healthy. Refined carbohydrates,
sugars and fats are the main ingredients, supplemented with gene
manipulated, processed vegetables and meats, often with artificial flavors
and preservatives added to the chemical concoction. Is it really that
surprising that so many people suffer from degenerative diseases,
allergies, food sensitivities, cancers and immune system deficiencies? To
compensate the lack of nutrients in the normal diet many people are now on
an expensive regime of vitamin and mineral supplements. Vitamins and
minerals are extremely important to keep the body healthy and in general
all essential nutrients can and should be obtained from a wholesome, well
balanced diet. However, deficiencies can result in various ailments as
shown in the chart below.
and Beta Carotene
Growth, vision, healthy tissue, skin,
hair, resistance to infection.
Night blindness, itching, dry skin, loss
of sense of taste.
milk, butter, eggs, liver, leafy green
and yellow vegetables.
Bones, teeth, optimum calcium-phosphorus
Soft bones and teeth, spontaneous
fractures, bone curvature.
milk, cod liver oil, tuna, salmon oil,
Antioxidant. Protects cell membrane and
tissues. Maintains circulatory system.
Poor muscular and circulatory
vegetable oil, grains, wheat germ,
(Unsaturated Fatty Acids)
Influences skin, blood coagulation,
cholesterol, glandular activity.
Acne, allergies, dry skin, brittle hair,
eczema, brittle nails.
Vegetable oils, sunflower seeds
Blood clotting (coagulation).
Diarrhea, increased tendency to
Green leafy vegetables, molasses,
Heart and cardiovascular system, growth,
nervous system, energy production, digestion.
Fatigue, poor appetite, pins and needles
in legs, depression.
cereals, fish, lean meat, liver,
poultry, milk, pork.
Healthy skin. Tissue repair. Antibody
and red blood cell formation.
Cracks at mouth corners, sore tongue,
light sensitive eyes.
cereals, yeast, milk, eggs, leafy green
vegetables, lean meat.
(Niacin or Niacinamide)
Healthy skin, nervous system, cell
Weakness, skin rash, memory loss,
cereals, yeast, lean meat, liver, eggs.
Helps convert proteins, carbohydrates,
fats into energy. Immune system
Weakness, depression, decreased
resistance to infection.
most plants and animal food
Healthy red blood cells, gums, teeth,
blood vessels, nervous system.
Fatigue, anemia, nerve dysfunction,
cereals, wheat germ, yeast, meat,
Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)
Development of red blood cells, growth,
nervous system maintenance.
Anemia, weakness, fatigue, red-sore
tongue, nerve degeneration.
fish, lean meat, liver, milk.
Production red blood cells, tissue
cells. Normal growth. Healthy intestinal tract.
Anemia, intestinal problems, pale tongue
yeast, leafy green vegetables, meats.
Nerve transmission. Regulates liver and
gall bladder. Cell membrane structure.
Growth problems, impaired liver and
Yeast, eggs, fish, lecithin, wheat germ,
organ meats, soy.
Fat and cholesterol metabolism. Nerve
Hair loss, constipation, eye
abnormalities, high cholesterol.
Molasses, yeast, lecithin, fruits, meat,
Para-Amino Benzoic Acid
Blood cell formation, pigmentation of
skin and may help restore color to gray hair.
Constipation, depression, fatigue
Molasses, eggs, liver, milk, rice,
yeast, wheat germ, bran.
Wound healing, immune system.
Maintenance of healthy gums, skin, blood.
Bruise easily, wound healing, tooth/gum
defects, aching joints.
citrus fruits, berries, cabbage,
Skin, circulatory system. Metabolism of
carbohydrates, proteins, fats.
Non-specific skin rash
egg yolk, green leafy
vegetables, milk, liver, kidneys.
Blood vessel wall maintenance, healthy
capillaries and veins.
Bleeding gums, colds, eczema.
Skin and pulp of fruits, especially
Bone and tooth development and
maintenance. Muscle contraction, nerve transmission.
Heart palpitations, muscle cramps,
tooth/ bone weakening.
milk, cheese, green
Carbohydrate metabolism, energy
production and optimum utilization of glucose.
Poor glucose tolerance. Low blood sugar
yeast, whole grains, vegetable oils.
Enzyme function. Hemoglobin production.
Anemia, fatigue, weakness, bone
nuts, seeds, meats, raisins.
Production of thyroid hormone. Regulates
Enlarged thyroid gland in neck.
seafood, kelp, iodized salt.
Transport of oxygen to tissues. Enzyme
Fatigue, weakness from anemia, brittle
whole grain cereals, nuts, green
Enzyme activity. Health of heart
arteries. Protein production. Nerve function.
Growth failure, leg cramps, nervousness,
confusion, easily angered.
whole grains, seafood,
Enzyme activity in reproduction, growth,
Poor growth, reproductive and
whole grains, eggs, nuts, green
Bone/tooth formation, muscle
contraction, kidney function, nerve and muscle activity.
Continuous thirst, dry skin, general
weakness, weak reflexes.
eggs, fish, meat, poultry, grains,
pH balance of blood, body-water balance,
nerve and muscle function.
Irregular heartbeat muscular weakness.
Build-up of lactic acid.
dates, raisins, figs, peaches, sunflower
Antioxidant (with vitamin E). Protects
cell membrane and internal structures.
Anemia, heart muscle enlargement,
whole grains, seafood, eggs, meat, brown
Wound healing, reproductive organ
development and growth. Male hormone
Loss of sense of taste, poor growth and
wound healing. Immune system enhancement
yeast, whole grains, liver, sunflower
(Note: This guide is not intended as a tool for diagnostic or
prescriptive purposes. For any treatment or diagnosis of illness, please
see your medical practitioner.)
A balanced diet should supply all necessary vitamins and minerals,
preferably obtained from natural, organic sources. Certain conditions can
deplete vitamin and mineral levels in the body and it may become necessary
to boost them with nutritional supplements. (For detailed advice on this
subject see Earl Mindells 'The Vitamin Bible and 'The Mineral Bible'.)
However, unfortunately vitamin pills don't always live up to what they
promise. If at all possible fresh pressed juices are the best way of
obtaining nutrients from organic sources, facilitating easy absorption for
Many foods and vegetables provide far more than essential nutrients,
though. In fact, most can be used directly as healing agents. The
distinction between staple foods, vegetables, spices, herbs and drugs are
often rather arbitrary. Lets take a closer look at this scale of
Grains, (such as oats, barley, wheat and rice) and starchy root
vegetables (such as potatoes, yams or cassavas) are sometimes called 'the
staff of life'. They should form the basis of a balanced diet, as they
supply not only energy in the form of complex carbohydrates but also
contain a large range of nutrients. They are rich in fiber, too, which is
especially important for maintaining a healthy digestive system, vital for
the process of eliminating toxins and keeping cholesterol levels low.
Then there are the vegetables. Some of these are root vegetables, such
as carrots and parsnips, others are leafy, such as spinach or cabbage.
They supplement the staple foods and ensure a balanced intake of a wide
range of nutrients. However, one should not let them dominate the diet
completely, as too much of a good thing can be just too much: Fat soluble
vitamins are stored in the body and can be damaging if built up to
excessive amounts. Too much asparagus can damage the kidneys and too much
spinach leeches the calcium from teeth and bones.
Next on the scale are the spices, which not only add flavor to a good
meal, but also subtly insure that it can be digested comfortably. Most
herbs commonly used in the kitchen are rich in volatile oils and thus
stimulate the digestive juices. Their action is carminative and soothing.
Additionally, many, kill worms and bacteria in the intestinal tract or add
nutrients to the diet. In fact, most commonly used kitchen herbs are very
useful medicinal herbs.
At the very far end of the scale, beyond these simple herbs and spices
are the medicinal herbs, which don't usually feature in the diet at all,
but are generally only used as medicines. Most of these tend to have a
tonic and restorative effect on the body. They are not fast acting magic
bullets, but over time restore the bodily balance by toning the entire
system. Beyond these are the toxic herbs, which, depending on the dosage,
can either heal or harm. These are the plants that tend to be favored by
the pharmaceutical industry as potential sources for their drugs, as they
usually depend on one or more very definitive 'active principles', which
can be isolated and synthesized with relative ease. In contrast to the
gentler herbs, which act as toning restoratives, they tend to provoke a
strong re-action from the body in response to the biochemical assault.
Only experienced herbalists should attempt to use strong and potentially
dangerous herbs in their practice. When such plant drugs are isolated and
synthesized into chemical medicines the effect tends to become even
stronger and oftentimes downright toxic as the herbs natural buffer
substances (thought to be 'inactive waste materials) are eliminated from
When faced with a subject as vast as herbal medicine, the number of
different remedies available can be quite overwhelming. Thus, the simplest
strategy is to start with herbs and spices that one is already well
familiar with. There are dozens of simple home remedies that over time
have proven to be extremely effective and safe, although they have almost
slipped into the realm of 'old wife's tales' and are forgotten by the
general public, who tends to prefer the convenience of 'modern' processed
chemical medicines, herbal pills or tinctures. This trend is supported by
the ferocious advertising campaigns of the herb (and drug) companies, who
find it more profitable to hype exotic, (thus expensive) and processed
The truth is, that one rarely has to look beyond one's own kitchen
garden and spice cupboard to find all the remedies anybody could need to
treat most common ailments. For more complicated conditions, such as heart
disease, cancer, kidney disease and any other potentially life-threatening
diseases one should never attempt to be one's own doctor, but rather find
a practitioner who is open towards integrating herbal remedies and
nutritional therapies into his/her overall approach.
Grains - Poaceae
Barley (Hordeum vulgare)
Barley gruel is an excellent nutritional food for throat and
stomach problems. Cooked with milk this gruel promotes lactation in
nursing mothers. Externally, Barley flour simmered in milk makes a cooling
plaster for inflamed skin sores and ulcers. Barley flour and barley bran
mixed with vinegar and butter, briefly brought to the boil, makes an old
home remedy (plaster) for sprained muscles and general muscle stiffness,
rheumatism and skin afflictions. Even Barley beer has some healing
virtues: it stimulates the appetite and increases the secretion of
digestive juices, thus making fatty foods more digestible and easing
heartburn. Warm beer is demulcent and diuretic, which can be beneficial
for urinary complaints.
Oats are very strengthening and nutritious. They make excellent
food for convalescence, especially in cases of stomach and intestinal
afflictions, such as ulcers and inflammation. Oats also act beneficially
on the gallbladder and can thus be recommended for hepatitis as well as
for diarrhea or constipation. Oat bran is an excellent digestive aid and
inner cleansing agent. It not just promotes bowel action, but also binds
and eliminates endotoxins. Even Oatstraw has healing properties. Oat straw
tea strengthens the nerves and is beneficial for the urinary system and
the liver. It can be used to treat urinary weakness as well as bladder and
kidney catarrh/inflammation. It is also beneficial in cases of respiratory
catarrh, cough and whooping cough. Externally, this tea can be used as a
healing bath additive for bladder, kidney, and liver complaints as well as
for gout and rheumatism. It is also recommended as a footbath for poor
circulation and permanently cold feet. Oats are extremely nutritious and
contain many essential amino acids. Anyone would benefit from replacing
their bowl of sugary corn flakes with a bowl of oats and fruits (avoid
granola though), but even if one doesn't make it a part of the regular
diet, it should definitely rank as the number one food item during
sickness and convalescence (plain porridge).
Pure, unadulterated wheat starch is a great drying and soothing
powder for weeping skin rashes and inflamed sores (poison ivy!). Stirred
into a thick 'glue' it makes an effective remedy for children's diarrhea.
Wheatgerm is particularly healthy. It is rich in Vitamin E and has many
essential amino acids, oils, vitamins and minerals. People suffering from
any kind of debilitating conditions, weak nerves or circulatory problems,
digestive problems, blood impurities and impure skin would be well advised
to add a regular dose of this superfood to their diet. Wheat bran is also
recommendable. Many people use it as a cleansing agent for lazy bowels or
to create a sense of fullness when dieting, but for internal use one
shouldn't overdo it. Wheat bran is water insoluble and thus does not bind
endotoxins. It adds bulk, but the sharp edges of coarse bran in particular
can irritate the intestinal lining. Nutritionally it adds very little to
the diet. Externally however it as an old remedy for rheumatism, gout and
certain skin problems. A muslin bag filled with bran is added to the bath
water to create this healing effect. Blackheads and pimples can be treated
by applying a mixture of thin, runny honey and bran as a plaster/ face
mask. After a few minutes the mixture is washed off with warm water and
the spots can be squeezed out.
Onion (Allium cepa)
Onion and garlic are similar in their action, though onion
tends to be the gentler of the two. They stimulate mucus secretion and act
strongly anti-putrefactive. They stimulate the heart and circulation and
act diaphoretic, diuretic and expectorant. An effective cough remedy can
be made by cutting up an onion and covering it in sugar. Leave covered
overnight and use the resulting liquid as a cough syrup. For ear
infection, heat a slice of onion and apply it to the ear. Onion juice
stimulates the kidneys and helps to dissolve small kidney stones. However,
in cases of inflamed or diseased kidneys onion should not be used as they
can be too irritating.
One of my favorite herbs. Garlic doesn't just add great flavor
to any meal but is also a wonderful home remedy whenever an
antiseptic/antibiotic is needed. Naturally, its action is most beneficial
when eaten raw. There are several ways of making this quite a palatable
experience. A great way to enjoy raw garlic is to mix it with honey and
lemon juice as a dressing for avocados, or as is, as a syrup. Some also
like eating garlic and apple together, a most healthful combination. A
soup consisting of lots of garlic, onion and strong chilies is one of the
best remedies to ward off threatening colds. This should be eaten at the
first signs of weakness. Garlic reduces cholesterol levels, is beneficial
for the heart and blood circulation as it lowers the blood pressure
(vasodilator) and inhibits arteriosclerosis. It is full of vitamins and
acts strongly antiseptic. It kills worms (enema) and disinfects most foods
(great precaution when traveling in countries where one can't be sure of
food safety - always add a little garlic, chili and lemon juice). It also
stimulates the liver and gallbladder. Garlic acts diaphoretic, diuretic,
expectorant, stimulating and disinfecting. Cooked in milk it is a great
expectorant remedy for the lungs and garlic juice used to be used as a
remedy for tuberculosis. Steeped in Olive oil it makes a good application
for ear aches. For severe cases, a heated clove of garlic (lightly
toasted) can be applied directly to the ear, perhaps wrapping it in a thin
layer of gauze to avoid a skin reaction. Due to the strong nature of this
remedy its use should be closely monitored. In sensitive individuals too
much raw garlic can cause internal or external skin irritation.
Asparagus stimulates the kidneys and increases urinary
secretion. This can be beneficial as part of a cleansing diet for
rheumatism, gout or certain skin problems. It is also employed for
treating bladder problems, though too much asparagus irritates the
Cabbage family (Brassicacae)
Watercress (Nasturtium amphibium)
This humble herb should be added generously to the salad plate.
Watercress is full of vitamins and minerals. Old herbals consider it as a
blood cleanser. This is due to its diuretic action and beneficial effect
on the digestive system, gallbladder and liver. Externally it can be
applied to badly healing ulcers and wounds. Use with care during
pregnancy. Excessive use can irritate the kidneys.
The humble cabbage is another magical healing plant, which,
thanks to its high vitamin C content has saved numerous lives back in the
days of long sea journeys. Sauerkraut and cabbage are also great
detoxifying inner cleansing agents. Fresh cabbage juice, (5x a day for 2
weeks) is a wonderful remedy for stomach ulcers. Bruised or cut up cabbage
leaves applied as a plaster draws pus and infection from rashes, sores and
boils. Hot cabbage leaves applied to muscle aches, neuralgia, and
rheumatism soothes the pain. Cabbage leaves applied to the chest as a
pulmonary plaster is beneficial for bronchial infections.
rusticana/ Cochlearia armoracia)
This often cursed herb, which in some areas grows abundantly as
a weed, is used as a much loved condiment in many parts of Germany, where
it is served along with fatty meats and beers. Horseradish helps to digest
this kind of hearty diet. However, it is not just a useful condiment that
stimulates the digestive juices, liver and gallbladder, but also has a
number of useful healing properties that can be employed both externally
and internally. Applied as a plaster (ground fine) to aching muscles, gout
and rheumatic joints, neuralgic pain, sciatica or even paralyzed limbs
will help to stimulate the circulation to these parts and act as a
rubefacient. For a simpler method of application one can prepare a simple
tincture by adding horseradish to 40 proof brandy or vodka. This liquid is
also said to cleanse the skin from freckles and blemishes. Applied to the
forehead it can prevent migraine attacks. Mixed with a little lemon juice
it is supposed to halt an asthma attack - though this remedy is not for a
Horseradish is diuretic and is used as an old home remedy for oedema.
For this purpose a handful of ground horseradish is added to a pint of ale
and sweetened with sugar - not for a weak stomach either. Steeped in wine
and taken in teaspoonful doses it acts anti-catarrhal on the respiratory
and digestive system. It is a great internal cleanser that supports and
stimulates the circulation, digestive system, and metabolism. However,
when using horseradish internally for medicinal purposes it is advisable
to start with small quantities and monitor the effects closely. Too much
of this remedy can be rough on the kidneys and urinary system.
Kidney Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Dried bean pods are an incredibly effective diuretic agent.
Prepared as a decoction they can be used to treat oedema that is due to
heart or kidney trouble (simmer 2-3 handful in enough water so that after
about 3 - 4 hours 1/2 - 3/4 of a liter remain). Usually it takes no more
than 24h , or at the most 3 days before a strong diuretic effect
occurs. This tea is recommended for kidney disease or inflammation as well
as any other conditions of the urinary system including kidney/ bladder
stones. (Don't attempt using this remedy without consultation with a
qualified herbalist though. Kidney stones can be very sharp and unless
they are sufficiently dissolved may be extremely painful to pass). Bean
pods have an inhibitory effect on uric acid formation and can dissolve any
crystalline deposits like no other remedy. A tea can also be prepared by
infusing a tablespoon of dried pods in a cup of cold water for 8 hours and
then simmering the infusion for a few minutes. This tea is recommended for
mild diabetes, gout and rheumatism. (tablespoon doses throughout the day).
Bruised kidney beans boiled with garlic are said to cure stubborn coughs.
The fresh raw beans and the roots are toxic.
Carrot (Daucus carota)
The common carrot is one of the best sources for vitamin A, and
also contains a host of other vitamins. It acts antiseptic and
anti-putrefactive and has been used as a blood cleanser and to stimulate
the metabolism. Carrot juice is an excellent remedy for excessive stomach
acid and heartburn, and also cleanses the intestinal tract. Carrots even
combat intestinal worms. They are a wonderfully vitalizing, helping to
boost the immune system, especially for children. Carrot juice is also
beneficial for rheumatism and arthritis and even acts positively on the
sugar metabolism of diabetics. Externally, ground carrots can be applied
to bruises, burns and sores. The seeds are an emmanogogue and should be
avoided during pregnancy.
This common vegetable is an excellent diuretic. The fresh juice is
very beneficial for suppressed urination, oedema, rheumatism, gout and
cellulite. However, it should not be used in cases of kidney inflammation,
as its diuretic effect may be too irritating. It is recommended for a weak
stomach, lack of appetite, wind etc. In Germany, the celery root stock
rather than the sticks are more commonly used. The water in which celery
root has been boiled is useful as a wash for treating dandruff. The juice
boiled to a syrupy consistency with sugar makes an excellent cough remedy.
The seeds are emmanogogue and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)
This is more of a cosmetic plant than a healer, although the
cucumber also has medicinal properties: it acts on the water balance, is
diuretic and loosens kidney stones. It is useful in cases of edema and
cellulite. It also stimulates lazy intestines. For cosmetic purposes, it
is one of the best moisturizing agents. The juice is refreshing, tonic,
cleansing and soothing, especially on sunburned, or tired skin.
This vegetable is rich in vitamin B. For medicinal purposes only
the raw fruit flesh is used. Mashed to a paste it makes an excellent
application for sore feet, inflamed ulcers, sores and varicose veins. When
added raw to salad it makes an excellent blood cleansing food, which is
especially recommendable for cases of kidney inflammation. Pumpkin seeds
are one of the most effective and non-toxic worming agents. Pumpkin seeds
are also rich in Zinc and as such are particularly beneficial for bladder
and prostate problems.
Chilies (Capsicum annum)
Not everybody can stomach this healthy spice and many believe its
hot taste to be harmful. This is not the case. Chili peppers are very rich
in Vitamin C and are excellent for spicing up teas for flues, colds and
coughs. They act anti-catarrhal, decongestant and antiseptic and stimulate
the circulation. However, a sensitive stomach might react strongly to too
much of this herb and long term use can irritate the intestinal lining.
Externally, mixed with alcohol or oil it makes an excellent rubefacient
for painful muscles and joints, sprains, neuralgia and rheumatism. Cayenne
pepper (powder) makes a good styptic (it doesn't burn).
Even the humble potato has some medicinal virtues. Externally,
applications of sliced potatoes are anti-inflammatory. Raw, mashed
potatoes can be applied to cankerous growths and sores. As a food they are
extremely nutritious. If possible use organic potatoes and don't peel them
prior to cooking as this leeches out much of their nutrients. Potatoes are
rich in vitamin C. A temporary potato diet, consisting of little more than
mashed potatoes (without salt) are indicated for diabetics and also for
stomach problems associated with intestinal cramps and constipation.
Tomatoes stimulate the digestive juices and are beneficial for
stomach ulcers and liver complaints. They also act positively on oedema,
neuritis and circulation complaints, especially with regard to the
peripheral blood vessels. Externally fresh tomato juice can be applied to
wounds in order to prevent infection and pus formation and to take the
heat out of inflammation. A piece of useful trivia: tomato juice
neutralizes the stench of skunks.
Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Blueberries are very cleansing for the digestive tract. Dried
berries simmered with Cinnamon and Cloves make a good remedy for diarrhea.
Blueberry wine with Cinnamon and Cloves make a wonderful, tasty
strengthening and warming stomach remedy that can be used for all kinds of
intestinal and digestive troubles. Blueberry wine absorbs and eliminates
endotoxins without disturbing the intestinal flora. Fresh blueberry juice
makes an excellent gargle for throat infections and good mouthwash for
periodontal disease. Tea made from the leaves is said to be a useful aid
for treating hair loss when massaged into the scalp regularly. Studies on
bilberries and blueberries indicate anti-tumor activity and free radical
inhibition. Concentrated extracts are used to strengthen capillaries and
increase micro-circulation to small blood vessels, which has been utilized
as a treatment of retinal degradation caused by diabetes. Blueberry leaves
have long been indicated as a folk remedy for diabetes. Some herbals
recommend Bilberry leaves for various conditions, however, internal long
term use of the leaves should be avoided unless monitored by a competent
herbalist. (Blueberry wine = blueberries steeped in wine for a period of
time, usually 4-6weeks)
Cranberries are astringent and can be used for inner bleeding
(stomach/lung). The fruits are used in various preparations for coughs,
colds and feverish infections. The juice is refreshing and vitalizing and
is recommended for cases of mental and physical exhaustion. For bronchial
catarrh one can simmer leaves and berries with honey to make an effective
decongestant and anti-catarrhal remedy. The leaves are used similarly to
the closely related bearberry (Uva ursi) for kidney and bladder
complaints, such as kidney infections, stones, bladder cramp, urethritis,
suppressed urination etc..
The common apple is a true miracle fruit. The fresh fruit, apple
flower tea, apple peel tea, apple cider vinegar and apple wine are all
used medicinally in various preparations. Raw apple peel increases the
elimination of uric acid (use organic apples). An apple at night time is
said to bring tranquil, soothing sleep. Apples act on the brain, liver and
intestines. Apple therapy is indicated for gout, excessive blood flow to
the head (migraines), constipation, hemorrhoids, kidney and bladder
complaints. Apple cider vinegar and apple wine are especially recommended
for kidney and bladder stones, skin rashes, gout and rheumatism. Apple
juice is good for counteracting colds, especially when accompanied by
cough, hoarseness, bronchial catarrh, fever and inflammation. Apples are
most useful for gouty and rheumatic complaints including rheumatic kidney
and liver complaints, as well as for arteriosclerosis and eczema. Apple
flower tea is indicated for cough and colds. Apples are also soothing on
the nerves. Apple cider vinegar is one of the most remarkable home
remedies. Taken regularly diluted with water (can be sweetened with honey)
it has a long standing reputation for use as a an anti-rheumatism remedy.
Due to its high calcium content it helps to improve memory and
concentration, muscle strength, circulatory problems, badly healing
wounds, itchy skin, joint pains and lack of appetite. It is also indicated
for arthritis, sinus catarrh, high blood pressure, migraine, chronic
tiredness and night-sweats.
Rich in Vitamin C, Lemon is an old standby remedy for colds and
flues. It is decongestant, anti-inflammatory and generally boosts the
immune system. Nose irrigation with lemon juice cures nasal catarrh and
runny noses (allergies). As a gargle the juice is used to treat sore
throats and hoarseness. Lemon juice stimulates digestion. As a diuretic it
can be useful for cellulite and rheumatism.
Dried figs soaked in water or milk is a great laxative remedy. The
liquid also has demulcent and decongestive actions, which can be used to
treat coughs and catarrh as well.
Herbs & Spices
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
This herb is a great restorative. In times of excessive exertion or
mental and physical stress it is a great pick me up. Rosemary increases
local blood supply, especially to the head and peripheral nerves, which
means more oxygen and nutrients. The aromatic and bitter principles act
beneficially on the stomach and liver. Rosemary tea is useful for treating
nerve pain, headaches and dizziness. It is an old favorite remedy for
enhancing memory (before Gingko biloba came along). As a bath additive
Rosemary tea is especially restorative and stimulating. This tea should
not be used internally during pregnancy.
Thyme tea is the best remedy a for dry, tickly cough, bronchitis
and lung catarrh. It is anti-spasmodic and soothing for whooping cough and
asthma as well. The tincture of thyme makes a good rub for arthritis and
rheumatism, neuralgia and nervous depletion. It also acts very
beneficially on the digestive system and liver. It is anti-putrefactive,
anti-septic and anthelmintic and can be used to treat intestinal worm
Sage is an excellent astringent. It makes the best astringent and
antiseptic gargle and mouthwash for sore throats and periodontal
inflammations. It is a good supportive herb when dealing with flues,
coughs and colds. Likewise it can also be used as a wash for ulcers and
infected wounds. Internally it can be used for diarrhea and intestinal
catarrh. It contains certain bitter principles that make it useful as an
appetite stimulant and digestive aid, especially for fatty foods. It has
been recommended for night sweats and hot-flushes, especially in
connection with the menopause. However, the dose here determines the
effect: weak sage tea is diaphoretic (stimulating sweat), while
strong sage tea is anti-diaphoretic. This tea should not be used
internally during pregnancy.
A well known kitchen herb used for making pesto and flavoring
tomato dishes. Medicinally it can be used to treat wind and poor digestion
as well as bladder and kidney complaints. It is also useful for stomach
cramps and gallbladder problems. An infusion of the seeds (infuse a table
spoonful of seeds with a 1/4 liter of boiled but cooled down water) is a
cooling beverage for feverish conditions and for kidney and urinary
problems. Externally it can be used as a wound wash and as a gargle for
This tea should be enjoyed in small quantities as it stimulates the
circulation and can raise the blood pressure. Simmered in wine it is a
diuretic and can be used for oedema and urinary complaints. As a bath
additive it makes a good restorative nerve tonic. The volatile aromatic
oils and bitter principles have a positive effect on the digestive system,
liver and gall-bladder. Sweetened with honey it makes a good expectorant
tea. The essential oil of marjoram, diluted in a base oil such as almond
oil, can be used as a massage oil for painful joints and muscles,
rheumatism and arthritis. Its warming action is also beneficial for
chilblains and insufficient circulation to the extremities.
The root decoction is used for catarrhal conditions of the
digestive and the respiratory system. It aids digestion, stimulates the
appetite and can also be used for wind and colicky conditions. It is
recommended for edema associated with heart problems. It is a liver tonic
and helps in cases of temporary toxicity associated with alcohol and
nicotine abuse. Externally the decoction can be applied to infected
wounds. As a bath additive it is especially soothing for conditions of the
In moderation parsley is a useful healing herb. It is rich in iron
and acts as a diuretic and carminative. It stimulates digestive functions
and helps the inner cleansing process in cases of arthritis, rheumatism
and edema. However, too much parsley can damage the liver and kidneys. The
seeds are toxic. Parsley should be avoided during pregnancy.
Another excellent carminative and digestive aid. Good for
indigestion, wind, colic and nervous conditions, cramps and griping. The
tea should be prepared as a cold water extract. Caraway seed oil, mixed
with a base oil is excellent as a rub for respiratory illnesses and also
as a treatment for skin parasites. An old home remedy for treating
rheumatic pains as well as for toothache and headaches is to wrap Caraway
seeds in a muslin bag, which is then heated (on the stove) and applied
topically. Caraway seeds assist in labor, act as an emmenagogue and
stimulate lactation. Simmered in milk they are decongestant and help
against cramps and colic.
The aromatic seeds of this herb together with those of Cardamom are
sometimes served as breath-sweeteners after dinner. Fennel seed is a good
standby remedy for mothers, as they are extremely helpful in soothing
cramps, colic and winds. The seeds have a wonderful demulcent action and
can also be used as a tea or simmered in milk to treat cough, whooping
cough, colds, asthma and catarrhal conditions (or added to other teas to
improve their flavor). Externally, the infusion of Fennel seed or herb can
also be used as an eyewash for conjunctivitis or sore, inflamed eyes.
Migraines that result from stomach troubles might also be treated with
Fennel. A few (1-3) drops of Fennel essential oil mixed with sugar and
diluted in a glass of water is effective as a gargle for hoarseness and
This herb tends to be underused, especially when considering its
many medicinal properties. A tea can be made with the powdered seeds to
treat catarrhal infections of the lungs. Fenugreek also makes a great
external application as a plaster for sores, ulcers, swollen glands,
infected wounds, hard knots, even tumors and gout pains. It can be used as
a first aid external remedy for appendicitis. Simmer a few spoons of
ground Fenugreek seeds in vinegar and apply as a plaster to the swelling.
Nursing mothers can greatly increase their milkflow by drinking regular
cups of Fenugreek tea.
Anise seed is an aromatic spice, which in the olden days was
usually added to other, more foul tasting remedies to disguise their
flavor. However, it also has some beneficial effects of its own. Anise
seed is rich in volatile oils, which stimulate the appetite and 'warm' the
stomach. They are demulcent, carminative, sedative and stimulate the flow
of gall. They reduce stomach cramps, griping, colic and wind. Anise seed
is a useful addition to herbal mixtures for lung problems, coughs and
bronchial catarrh, as it is anti-catarrhal and helps to break up the
phlegm (dry coughs). It is an old home remedy for hiccups and, like other
umbelliferae, also stimulates lactation.
Cloves stimulate the circulation, improve digestion, expel wind and
counteract nausea. Above all though, Clove (and in particular clove oil)
is known in dental care for its analgesic effect on the nerves. It makes
an excellent first aid treatment for toothache, though proper attention
should follow this first aid remedy. Too much clove oil can paralyze the
A favorite Chinese herb used for all kinds of stomach troubles,
nausea, indigestion and cramps, it stimulates circulation and digestion.
However, people with stomach ulcers or hyper-acidity should avoid ginger.
It is often added to teas for colds and flues. Externally it can be
applied to sore muscles and stiff joints as well as to the forehead for
headaches (crushed ginger or the essential oil of ginger). The oil is also
good for treating dandruff. For coughs and bronchitis it can be applied to
the chest as a plaster, while chewing fresh ginger relieves sore throats,
hoarseness and loss of voice. Modern research has shown it to be useful in
treating motion sickness. Its action is said to lower cholesterol and
inhibit coagulation, thus making it useful in cases where there is a high
risk of stroke.
A wonderful digestive herb. Ayurvedic doctors prescribe it for the
treatment of dyspepsia, wind, diarrhea and dysentery. It can be used as
gripe water for colic in infants. In India it is thought of as an
essential ingredient in foods for convalescence and nursing mothers value
it for its lactogenic properties. It is also said to relieve morning
One of the best herbs to aid digestion, stimulate the appetite,
reduce griping, colicky pains, winds and diarrhea. In Ayurvedic medicine
it is valued as a diuretic. Its cooling quality is used to break fevers.
As a gargle it is said to be effective in the treatment of thrush of the
mouth. Ground seeds mixed with barley flour and warm water are used as an
application for ulcers.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
A well known ingredient of curry powder, turmeric has recently
attracted some attention by western scientists because of its immune
system enhancing properties. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and
anti-allergenic. It also acts on the liver and digestive system. In India
it is much used externally as a cosmetic skin cleanser. Modern western
research has shown some interesting activity in certain types of cancers.
It protects the inner lining of the intestinal tract, which has shown very
beneficial effects on gastro-intestinal ulcers. In Ayurvedic medicine
turmeric tea is used for respiratory illnesses.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
This is an old standby remedy. Useful for conditions of the
digestive tract, such as winds, nausea and cramps. With Valerian it makes
a good remedy for insomnia, melancholy and hypochondria. Never boil
Peppermint as this destroys and dissipates the volatile oils. It is
anticatarrhal and has a reputation for loosening tough and stubborn
catarrhal congestion. However, Peppermint should not be used too regularly
as it can irritate the intestinal lining.
Lavender has so many uses and applications that one could dedicate
a whole book to it. It is a premier remedy for nervous conditions such as
anxiety, melancholy and insomnia. It can even stop nervous twitches and
shakes (Parkinson disease). It is a most soothing remedy for any stress
related illnesses. It is also antiseptic. Essential oil of Lavender can be
applied externally to cuts and abrasions and makes one of the best
remedies for minor burns and stretch marks as it prevents scar formation.
It counteracts putrefaction in the digestive system and aids digestion. A
bath with Lavender flowers or lavender oil is soothing for arthritis,
rheumatism and gout. Lavender oil mixed with Juniper oil makes a good
rubbing oil for the same conditions. It also makes a useful remedy for
migraine, headaches, dizziness and depression. For skin care the essential
oil can be employed to treat spots and insect bites, abscesses and boils,
eczema, inflammations, acne, sores, sunburn, dermatitis, dandruff as well
as some parasitic skin infections such as lice and scabies.
Chamomile is an old stand-by favorite that can be used almost for
any condition, so it seems. It does indeed have many useful properties
that make it a very versatile remedy. It is anti-spasmodic and relaxant,
especially on the involuntary nerves, which makes it useful for spasmodic
coughs, cramps and convulsions of the digestive tract and uterine system.
Its slight bitter principles are also useful as a general digestive aid
after dinner. The relaxant quality makes it useful for mild cases of
insomnia or anxiety and all stress related conditions. It is also
anti-inflammatory, which makes it a soothing tea for colds and flues, a
gargle for sore throat and an eye wash for sore, inflamed eyes. Especially
beneficial for catarrhal congestion of the upper respiratory tract is the
use of Chamomile as a steam inhalation. Chamomile can be used as a first
aid wound cleanser and frequent fomentations with strong chamomile tea
will reduce swelling and inflammation.
Very rich in vitamin C, this is the tea of choice for coughs and
colds. It also makes a very refreshing and healthy summer drink when
served with ice. The seeds of the rosehips contain much of the healing
virtues, thus they should not be discarded when picking and drying fresh
rosehips. 3oz of whole rosehips simmered in 1/2 liter of milk for about
3/4 of an hour makes a soothing remedy for bladder and kidney troubles,
including stones. The leaves are slightly astringent and are beneficial
for lung troubles. A marmalade made from the fruits makes an excellent and
very tasty and healthy bread spread which helps to ward off winter colds.
The seeds simmered in water for 1 hour make an excellent diuretic
decoction for oedema, rheumatism and gout. Rosehip tincture strengthens
the stomach (steep a handful of dried fruit in 3/4 l of brandy).
The list could be extended indefinitely, but one has to draw the line
somewhere. For the purpose of this article I have drawn the line at items,
which can be found at any average grocery store. This is to illustrate
that many everyday items, available with no more difficulties than
reaching for the kitchen cupboard, can be used remedially. For those
seriously interested in learning more about herbal home remedies, there
are plenty of useful books available, which explain in detail the actions
of the herbs as well as outlining the basic approaches to healing common