By keeping some herbs on hand, you can be ready for many painful, inconvenient ailments that happen from time to time. Herbs are inexpensive and many medicinal herbs are available at the grocery store. Here is a list of some common concerns that can be taken care of with herbs — some that you may already have at home, and others that can easily be found.
1. Soothe painful burns: You can probably tell by my little headshot that I am an extremely pale person. I prefer the description ivory-skinned over ghostlike. My light skin colour means that I get sunburnt very easily, and it’s sure to happen at least once per year when I’m caught without my sunscreen.
Aloe vera gel works wonders for soothing not only sunburns, but burn burns, even very serious ones. It also makes a great base for delivering different ingredients to the skin if you’re into doing your own facials, and it can be used as an inexpensive, all-natural shaving cream. You can cut a fresh piece right off the plant and scrape the gel out, or buy a bottle of it — it’s very inexpensive.
2. Calm an upset stomach: Mint tea is one member of the family of carminatives — herbs that regulate the digestive system. The next time your stomach is feeling a little off, or you feel bloated, try a nice strong cup of mint tea and it will soothe you almost instantly. Other herbs in this category that may be kicking around your cupboards are fennel, basil, oregano and chamomile. Some people can develop heartburn from using mint too frequently because it decreases the tone of the sphincter that blocks stomach acid from splashing up into the esophagus.
3. Banish nausea: You can drink it as tea, soda or juice, or eat it in a dish or as candy. Whatever way you take your ginger, it has the ability to reduce nausea. You need about a gram of it to be effective, which is about half a teaspoon of fresh ginger.
4. Cure a canker sore: Some people are prone to pesky canker sores — those sores that appear on the lips, gums and tongue for no reason, hurt like the dickens, and look like white or pale patches surrounded by a red rim. At some point, someone told my husband that you could heal them by putting salt on them. That is not true and it is extremely painful. Deglycyrrhinizated licorice tabs can be chewed into a paste and that paste can be left to sit on the canker sores. The licorice soothes the inflammation and boosts local immunity to give both relief and speedier recovery.
5. Ease joint pain: Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory, making it useful for many illnesses. For those with joint or muscle pain, a daily dose of turmeric can decrease pain. It can be eaten by adding it to foods, or in a paste made with oil. Oil (or fat of any kind) increases the absorption of the active ingredients in the turmeric. Do not take a large gulp of powdered turmeric because you might choke on it, which I’m sorry to say I know from personal experience.
6. Fight the flu: The flu is caused by a virus, which means that antibiotic (anti-bacterial) drugs will not do anything to treat it. Unless you have a delicate health condition, your family doctor will probably just tell you to rest while the illness takes its course. Which is good advice, but I would also recommend taking some herbs with anti-viral action: star anise and elderberry are two of these. Star anise can be found at your grocery store with the other herbs and spices, or if not there, at a bulk food store. Use it as a very strong tea- allow it to steep, covered, for many hours. Elderberry is not a widely available fruit, although some of us have it in our gardens. Right now it is in flower, but it is the berries of the plant that, when made into syrup, can decrease the length and severity of a bout of the flu. Health food stores carry pre-made elderberry syrup.