What’s in Your Herbal Medicine Chest?

Michele’s article on herbal medicine has inspired me to write up a piece on my top 10 herbal remedies. These are in no specific order. These are the remedies I tend to use most often.

1.Elderberry Tincture: I make this tincture by the quart. Elderberry tincture is used to fight the flu and other viral infections.

Elderberry tincture has an advantage over Tamiflu, the standard treatment for flu. Tamiflu is only effective if taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. You need a prescription to get Tamiflu. How many people go to the doctors, get a script and get it filled within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms?

Interestingly, the on the show Walking Dead the characters had to deal with an outbreak of the flu. They did not have medicine to treat patients. So Hershel went out in the woods and picked some elderberries. He gave them elderberry tea.

I make the tincture by ordering organic dehydrated elderberries from Fill a quart jar with a cup of elderberries and then fill the rest of the jar with 100-proof Vodka, the cheapest you can find. Let soak for two weeks. Then strain the spent berries.

You can also make a cough syrup by simmering elderberries, cinnamon sticks and cloves. (Next time I make this I am going to add licorice root.) Simmer until liquid is reduced by half, or about half an hour. Then add raw honey. The cough syrup needs to be refrigerated. It will keep for two weeks.

2.Valerian-Skullcap Tincture: I am prone to insomnia. Valerian-skullcap helps. Valerian root causes drowsiness and can be effective in reducing anxiety. Skullcap promotes relaxation. Chamomile tea is my first line defense against insomnia. But if I am still hyper at 2 a.m., as I am right now, I will fix some chamomile tea and add valerian-skullcap tincture.

3.Senna Leaf Tincture: This is one of my “go to” remedies. Senna is excellent for treating constipation. If you don’t want to mess with the tincture or the herb, you can buy Triple Leaf Tea Ultra Slim Herbal Tea. The active ingredient is senna.

4.Ginger Tea: Ginger Ale helps settle the stomach. The active ingredient is obviously ginger. Ginger root helps with nausea. I’ve used ginger root tincture but it is a bit strong for my taste. I prefer ginger tea. To make the tea just peel and slice a chunk of ginger root and steep in hot water. Be sure to put a plate over the cup of steeping tea. I would love to find a ginger plant so I can grow ginger myself.

5.Aloe Vera: This plant seems to help with everything. It is an antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral wound and burn treatment. It can also be used as a lubricant.

6.Dong Quai-Raspberry Leaf: I call this mixture “Bitch’s Brew”. This is the worst tasting tincture I have ever tried. But it helps with PMS and other female issues. I don’t take this myself. But my dh’s daughter was prescribed Dong Quai by a herbalist. So I make it for her.

7.Milk Thistle-Dandelion Root: This helps with liver problems. Both of these plants have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. This is another remedy I don’t take myself. But my dh is supposed to take it for his liver.

8.St. John’s Wort Infused Oil with Tea Tree and Thyme Essential Oil: This is my herbal replacement for Neosporin. It is an antibacterial and anti-itch salve. This stuff works. I make this for my mom, my nephew and my niece—all of them have Eczema. This salve stops the itching and lets the skin heal.

9.Calendula Infused Oil with Eucalyptus and Rosemary Essential Oil: This is my herbal replacement for Vic’s Vapor Rub. I like to use the eucalyptus-rosemary essential oils in salve. Put this on your feet if you have chest congestion.

I also like the four thieves blend to use for inhaling vapors. To make the four thieves blend yourself, combine the following essential oils: cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemon, clove and rosemary. This works to open clogged nasal passages.

10.Comfrey Infused Oil with Lavender Essential Oil: Oh my, this makes a wonderful salve. Comfrey has been used for centuries as a natural skin healer. I would not hesitate to use this on diaper rash. It is that gentle.

11.Comfrey Infused Oil with Camphor, Peppermint, Wintergreen and Eucalyptus: This stuff is the bomb for muscle pain. I have a tendency to overdo it in the garden. A hot shower and a rub down with this salve works great.

Okay, well I couldn’t keep it to just 10. The three main ways I use herbs are tinctures, teas and salves. I have not had occasion to use poultices or pastes. One paste I would like to research further is turmeric-coconut oil paste. I have read that it helps fight skin cancer. I have also read up on Amish Black Drawing Salve. But I have not had occasion to use either of these.

One remedy that is conspicuously missing is something for pain. I have some white willow bark. Ginger is said to help with arthritis. The last salve on the list is excellent for muscle pain. I would like to have something stronger.

I would love to hear what herbs the rest of you use on a regular basis. What do you keep stocked in your herbal medicine chest? How do you use it? What do you use it for?

Reprinted with permission from