My Favorite DIY Herbal Remedies
The very best way to learn about herbal medicine is by using herb medicine, but there is so much information available on what plant to use for what ailment that it is easy to get overwhelmed. This is my list of seven herbal remedies that I turn to on a regular basis. These aren’t all of the remedies I have or all I use, but these are easy to prepare on your own, inexpensive, and a great way to begin. Try experimenting with them on small, easy-to-heal conditions so that when you are faced with something more serious, you can build on your direct, first-hand experience. That’s what I’ve based this list on—not on what I’ve read I should use or have on hand but on what I’ve found that I do use and like to have on hand.
Rosemary Gladstar always taught us to read about an herb from at least three different sources before we tried them so make sure you educate yourself about the plants before using them. The Numen Resource Guide is a good place to begin, and it includes a list of books for going further.
This list is just to get you started—I hope you find it helpful!
Disclaimer: If you ever think you should call a doctor about a particular condition, call a doctor. It is better to be safe.
- Good organic garlic: In my experience nothing stops a cold or flu better than chopping up garlic and eating it in a spoonful of high quality honey. I do this several times a day, as often as I can remember. If I have lemon on hand (not often), I add that—it tastes wonderful!
- Plantain: Nothing draws out an infection more powerfully than a poultice of chopped-up (okay, chewed-up) leaves placed on the infected spot. Change the poultice every five minutes, 2-3 times if you can. Try to do three times a day. It’s a bit messy, but it works. I’m tincturing plantain to have it on hand to use as a compress once the frost hits.
- Goldenseal Root Powder—organic only (available from Mountain Rose): I use Goldenseal rarely, both because it has been so overharvested and because it is so potent. But there is nothing better when you want to stop an infection: put a bit of powdered root on the cut, cover with Band-Aid and check again the next day.
- Elderberry: I make a syrup several times a year. I haven’t found a recipe that my kids love, but they will take it when they start getting sick. Find a recipe you like (Rosemary Gladstar’s is a good place to start) and experiment to find your family’s favorite before the flu season sets in.
- Nettle (available from Zack Woods Herb Farm or Mountain Rose): I drink an infusion as a tonic: put a handful of dried nettle leaves in a mason jar, cover it with boiling water and a lid, steep over night and drink it through the next day. I do this year round as often as I remember to steep it the night before (4–5 times a week) and find that overall it helps me feel better—and healthier. My kids love it!
- Lemon Balm (Zack Woods Herb Farm or Mountain Rose): Lemon Balm soothes and nourishes the nervous system (among a lot of other things!) and grows with abundance in our yard. I don’t love it as a tea but I do as a gylcerite. I keep a bottle by my bed and take a dropper or two when I can’t fall asleep or when I wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep (most nights). My kids love it too.
- Good quality, local honey: Okay, so honey is not an herb but it is too good not to have on hand. Good for making syrups, for making garlic cloves palatable and my preferred antibiotic ointment for cuts. Honey is antibacterial and soothes and heals the skin. Make sure it is the very best quality you can find – the kind I buy is in the section of our coop next to tinctures and syrups, not in the honey section!