How to Use Medicinal Herbs
So you’ve decided you want to incorporate herbal remedies into your health regimen. Congratulations! You’re embarking on a journey that will help your body heal itself from the inside out in a way that is much more natural, safe and gentle than conventional medicine.
It’s also a journey that can be a little confusing. There are many different types of herbal remedies out there. Sometimes you will find the same herb sold in many different preparations. What do all those different terms mean? Here’s a rundown of some of the most common ways medicinal herbs are sold and used.
Tablets and Capsules: Like conventional drugs, herbs are often packaged and sold in tablet and capsule form. Tablets involve compressing an herb into a round or cylindrical shape, usually with some sort of binder, colorant, flavorings and coating that prevents them from breaking down in the body too quickly. Capsules are usually made of gelatin and the herb is placed inside the shell. Other ingredients can also be mixed in to make the herb taste better or to prevent it from being digested too quickly. Vegetarians can find capsules made of vegetable cellulose, but check the label to make sure you know you’re not getting any animal products.
Extracts: Herbal extracts may be sold as tablets, capsules orliquid herbal extracts; the herbs contained in an extract are far more concentrated than those in a standard pill. Extracts are made by soaking the herbs in alcohol or water (or a combination) and filtering and drying the herb at low heat. Much like culinary herbs become stronger when dried, herbal extracts are highly concentrated remedies, allowing you to take many fewer pills to get a large dose.
The liquid part of an extract can be taken as an herbal remedy. Liquid extracts are usually taken sublingually, that is, under the tongue. This allows for immediate absorption of the herb.
are incredibly popular, even among people who do not use herbal remedies for the treatment of illness. People like herbal teas because they do not contain caffeine, but herbal teas can also be powerful medicine. Many people use chamomile tea or lavender tea to help themselves fall asleep without really thinking about the fact that they are using herbal medicine. Teas have very gentle and slow effects on the body, and are commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat chronic illnesses.
Tinctures: A mixture of herbs, alcohol and water is known as a tincture. They differ from liquid herbal extracts in that they generally are less concentrated. Glycerol can also be used in tinctures, so read the label if you are sensitive to alcohol or are preparing an herbal remedy for a child. You can make your own tinctures by soaking herbs in alcohol such as vodka or rum, or use apple cider vinegar if you prefer not to use alcohol.
Homemade tinctures should be stored in a cool, dark place for six to eight weeks before being strained. The herbs are then discarded and the liquid stored in air-tight bottles. Tinctures are powerful, concentrated doses of herbs, so the usual dosage is 10 or 20 drops dissolved in a glass of water, tea or juice. Read the label on purchased tinctures to determine how much you should take daily.
Another use for tinctures is making compresses, which are simply a piece of cloth or cotton ball soaked in an herbal solution and applied to the outside of the body. Compresses may be cold or warm and are a great way to relieve headaches, tired eyes, muscle soreness and flu.
Other uses for herbs include poultices, where the herb is made into a paste applied to the body; plasters, where a similar paste is placed in a pouch instead of being applied directly to the skin; butters and ointments where the herb is mixed with other ingredients to be applied to the skin; and essential oils which can be applied to the skin or inhaled in a steam mixture, also known as aromatherapy.
25 Simple Ways to Use Herbal Remedies
Many times, people feel concerned that they’re not knowledgeable enough to use herbal remedies at home. This just isn’t the case. Sometimes all it takes is a small leaf or or a hot cup of tea to make someone you love feel better. Here are 25 easy ways that anyone can get started using herbal remedies for themselves or their loved ones. These are all simple and gentle-perfect for the beginner.
Make a cup of chamomile tea if you’re unable to sleep.
Make an infused honey to add to your tea or toast. What a way to introduce the delightful taste of herbs to the family!
Make your own cough drops.
Make homemade cough syrups that everyone will enjoy.
Make a compress to apply to simple injuries.
Make an infused oil to have on hand to rub sore muscles and make salves and balms.
Make a nutrient rich infusion every night before going to bed and start your day off in a healthy way.
Make a medicinal salad using herbs that will be healthful and delicious.
Make simple herbal tinctures to apply to scratches and irritated skin
Make herbal mouthwash.
Make an infused herbal water using seasonal fruits and some of the herbs that your family likes.
Making herbal infused liniment for sore muscles.
Mix up herbs that will make a soothing sore throat tea.
Make an herbal broth.
If you travel often, make an herbal travel kit to help counteract the things that can happen when you are away, traveler’s tummy and the like.
Make a tea out of lemon balm, for menstrual cramp relief.
Make a breast-feeding mothers tea using crushed fennel seeds and water.
Be sure to keep an aloe plant handy and apply the cooling gel to any burns.
Make an elderberry syrup. One of the most popular and effective herbal cold remedies, it tastes great and works well.
Make a gentle salve for your babies bottom using calendula petals.
The wild herb jewelweed grows in the same type of location as poison ivy. Many people know that jewelweed help stop the itch and soothe the skin when someone has a reaction to poison ivy(as well as other skin irritations). A great way to have this effective herbal remedy anytime you need it, is to blend fresh jewelweed was just enough water to make a slurry, and then freeze it in ice cube trays. This method will last all year long until the next harvest.
Add a handful of borage leaves to any of your cool summer drinks to help you feel refreshed even on the hottest days. Borage leaves taste like cucumber; a lovely addition to your infused water recipes.
Have a summer cold? Tea made of fresh thyme leaves, will help relieve some of that dry, hacking cough.
Summertime is the perfect time of year to make infused oils. Use fresh herbs and fill a jar about 1/2 full. Pour your oil over the herbs, enough to cover them completely. Cover with a coffee filter held in place by elastic band. This will allow the natural moisture to evaporate, and prevent mold. Every evening bring your oil into the house to prevent condensation from forming. Condensation is the quickest way to have mold start growing in your infused oil.
A simple earache oil is made by harvesting Mullin flowers and infuse them in oil. I do this by adding a few of the flowers every day until the oil takes on a bright yellow color. You will notice that mullein blooms in a spiral configuration, and picking them every day is a great way to start your morning.
3.12 Herbs for cough
Hyssopus officinalis, Marrubium vulgare, Thymus vulgaris, Inula helenium,Tussilago farfara,Prunus serotina, Glycyrrhiza glabra,Trifolium pratense, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea, Plantago lanceolata Plantago major, Verbascum thapsus, Viola tricolor
By Barbara Heller (BHpurple.aol.com) and Carolyn Mohney (Ccmoherb.aol.com)
Coughs are one of the main signs of a respiratory tract disease and also a very common symptom associated with a variety of physical problems. For example, a cough may be the result of an infection, or a defensive response to inhaled irritants like cigarette smoke, or an allergy symptom. Coughs may also signify a more serious illness like chest tumors or lung congestion from heart insufficiency. Chronic coughs, like any chronic symptom, should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
In this article we will discuss the herbal treatment of “ordinary, common” coughs. Coughing, itself, may be beneficial since it helps clear the airways for us to breathe better. We generally treat the cough symptoms when the cough is unproductive or it becomes irritating to the throat or chest. We are partial to herbal treatments which are easily available and have few cautions associated with them.
Herbal treatment will include teas and tinctures, steams, and cough drops and syrups. The latter have more direct contact with the throat and are locally soothing. Some are store-bought; others can be made at home from garden or wildcrafted plants.
Common-sense aids for coughs include reducing ones exposure to irritants like smoke, drinking more fluids and increasing moisture throughout the household. Individual steam inhalation can be very helpful too:
Fill a basin with hot water and a handful of fresh or dried herbs (or 3 drops of an appropriate essential oil). “Tent” a towel over your head and the basin so you can carefully breathe in the healing warmth and aroma. Suggested herbs include sage, eucalyptus, peppermint, or hyssop.
Some of the medicinal properties we look for in cough remedies include the following: anti-tussives, which prevent coughing; suppressants, which limit the coughing reflex; expectorants, which help remove excess mucous from the respiratory system; and demulcents, which heal inflamed tissue. Herbal antihistamines are helpful in the treatment of postnasal-drip coughs due to allergies. Immunostimulants and antibiotics may be used to build up the system and fight infection.
Echinacea (angustifolia or purpurea), primarily in tincture form, is highly recommended at the first sign of a cold, flu, or cough. Considered “the herbalists herb” it receives high praises as an immunostimulant and antibiotic. Revered by Native Americans, it is easy to grow in the garden where its common name is the purple coneflower. (Note: wild echinacea is being overharvested; consideration to its source is important.)
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is my specific favorite for coughs. Dr Weil, in Natural Health, Natural Medicine, recommends tincture of mullein to relieve chest congestion and dry, bronchial coughs. He also states that the plant has no known toxicity. So it is a remedy I feel confident using with my family. Whenever my adolescent daughter gets a cold or flu, it seems to settle in her chest as a cough. This year we have treated the coughs with mullein tincture and the symptoms diminished quickly. Mullein is a beautiful biennial plant that grows wild in the Eastern US. In present-day herbal medicine its primary form is as a tincture. Historically, Native Americans smoked dried mullein and coltsfoot cigarettes as a remedy for asthma and bronchitis. If used as a tea, it should be well-strained because the small hairs of this fuzzy plant can be irritating.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), whose botanical name Tussilago means “cough dispeller”, is not surprisingly another very popular cough remedy. A nice image of the flower is evoked by Grieve in her statement that it was painted on the doorpost of the apothecarie’s shop. This is the first blooming wildflower in our area of upstate NY; it flowers before its leaves appear. The flowers and leaves are used medicinally for their demulcent and expectorant properties. Coltsfoot has traditionally been used to treat coughs, whooping cough, asthma, excess mucous, bronchitis, and laryngitis. Because of its low-level of livertoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (the same controversial substance found in comfrey), coltsfoot is recommended for only short-term use. Use as a tea or a tincture.
Herbalist David Hoffmann (in his book The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal) recommends a cough tea made of equal parts of mullein, coltsfoot, and licorice:
An infusion of 1 tablespoon of the mixed herbs is steeped in one cup of water. Sip 3 cups of this brew throughout the day.
Licorice(Glycyrrhiza glabra) and marshmallow (Althea officinalis) are included in cough remedy recipes for their demulcent qualities. They are soothing herbs that reduce inflammation and add flavor. In additon, licorice itself may have an anti-tussive effect similar to codeine for cough suppression, without the side-effects of codeine. A reminder here to be aware of the cautions of the various herbs added to a mix – in this case, licorice may have its own side-effects. Specifically, it is not recommended for continued use by people with high blood pressure.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), a very common culinary herb also has medicinal properties qualifying it as a wonderful cough remedy. Thymol, thyme’s volatile oil with antiseptic, antibiotic, and expectorant properties, is used in commercial cough syrups. At home, one can benefit from these properties by drinking a hot tea of thyme or a mixture of thyme and plantain; or by drinking a small amount of water with a few drops of thyme tincture. Do not use thyme oil as a home remedy. Even a few teaspoonfuls can be toxic. In Germany, thyme is used to treat coughs, whooping cough, and emphysema.
“German medical herbalist Rudolph Fritz Weiss, M.D. writes: ‘Thyme is to the trachea (windpipe) and the bronchia what peppermint is to the stomach and the intestines.'” (Quoted in M Castleman, The Healing Herbs).
Elecampane (Inula helenium) is also considered an important resource as an expectorant and anti-tussive. It can be taken on a long-term basis and is helpful for healing the irritating bronchial cough as well as for asthma. Elecampane is a wonderful garden plant of tall stature that bears bright yellow, sunflower-like flowers (one of its “nicknames” is wild sunflower); it can also be harvested wild. A tea or tincture is made from the dried root gathered in the fall.
Most contemporary herbalists recommend horehound (Marrubium vulgare) and hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) for treating minor respiratory problems – coughs, colds, and bronchitis. In addition to horehound’s expectorant and demulcent qualities, as an antispasmodic it helps to relax the coughing spasms so common with bronchitis. The added sweetness of horehound candy/coughdrops that are available commercially make the very bitter herb more accessible. Or one can obtain horehound’s healing qualties with a tea, tincture, or syrup. Hyssop is similar in chemical makeup and function to horehound but is much less bitter. Both of these herbs mix well with peppermint. Tea formulas for colds might also combine them with yarrow and elder.
Some other herbs that can be helpful in treating coughs are: wild cherry bark, violets, osha, bee balm, slippery elm, nasturtium, red clover and plantain.
Wild cherry bark (Prunus serotina) continues to be a favorite ingredient in cough and cold remedies, primarily due to its sedative effect on the respiratory system. Susun Weed suggests a homemade violet flower syrup (Viola tricolor, Viola odorata and others) for cough treatment which turns a beautiful lavender shade but is a very labor-intensive remedy to make. Bee balm (Monarda didyma and other Monarda species) was another Native American remedy for coughs and headcolds, drunk as a tea three times a day. The Peruvian Indians utilized the natural antibiotic qualities of nasturtium leaves (Tropaeolum majus) to treat coughs. The leaves were eaten fresh daily or drunk as a tea. And last, Native Americans also used slippery elm bark as a tea, gargle, or by chewing on small pieces of the bark to soothe the annoying symptoms of a cough.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) and plantain (Plantago major and lanceolata) are two very common wild plants in the area we live and write, the Northeastern US. Red clover is an expectorant and anti-spasmodic especially good for children (over the age of 2) with whooping cough. A tea of the dried flower tops is the most convenient; a tincture may also be used. The expectorant and demulcent qualities of plantain are often used in teas for bronchitis and whooping cough.
One cough syrup you can make at home is Kathy Kevilles Homemade Honey Cough Syrup:
1 tablespoon licorice root
1 tablespoon marshmallow root
1 tablespoon plantain leaf
1 teaspoon thyme leaf
1 pint water
4 tablespoons honey
4 ounces glycerin
1/8 teaspoon anise essential oil (optional)
Prepare a triple-strength tea by simmering the herbs in water for 10 minutes, then steeping for 20 minutes. Strain the tea, then stir in honey and glycerin while the tea is still warm. Add optional essential oil. Take 1 tablespoon at a time. Stored in a cool place, this syrup will keep for 2 weeks. In the refrigerator, it will keep for several months.
This recipe is suitable for children, but not for infants, who should not have honey.
An infectious catarrhal inflammation of the air passage with violent convulsive coughs (paroxysms), consisting of several expirations followed by a loud, sonorous whooping inspiration. This is generally a children’s disease and begins with spasmodic coughing spells. The face reddens, and the eyes bulge. Sore throat, and often vomiting may occur. Advanced cases develop into bronchopneumonia. [SNH p.48]
Whooping cough is a rapid accumulation of mucus in the throat, which causes choking and will cause death if not cleared. Eliminate the mucus as fast as possible. [SNH p.48]
General Instructions: Lobelia herb or tincture used in fomentation, as well as a few drops internally every few minutes works well. To cut the phlegm, use a bayberry tea as a gargle (swallow after gargling). Use crushed garlic with cayenne and honey every few minutes to help clear the throat. [SNH p.48]
Red Clover: Drink the infusion freely. [SNH p.56]
Garlic: Inhale the vapors of the freshly expressed juice that has been diluted with equal quantities of water. [SNH p.100]
Garlic Syrup: Where there is spasm, give 1 teaspoonful of the syrup with or without water every 15 minutes until the spasm is controlled, then give 1 teaspoonful every 2-3 hours for the rest of the day; thereafter give 1 teaspoonful of the syrup 3-4 times daily. Use the foot poultice; also, mix the freshly expressed juice with leaf lard and rub on the chest, throat, and between the shoulder blades. [SNH p.100] Foot Poultice: Remove the outer membranes of the cloves (small sections); chop finely a sufficient quantity to cover about 1/4 inch the bottom of each foot – mix this with Vaseline or lard, saturate the feet with olive oil (this is to prevent blistering), spread on the preparation; bandage each foot with soft cloth, place in plastic bags, then cover the feet with old socks to prevent the poultice from being kicked off during the night. Remove the poultice in the morning, or retain it longer if desired. [SNH p.101] Tincture-syrup of Garlic: See formula using garlic cloves, apple cider vinegar and yellow D sugar. [SNH p.101]
Thyme: Thyme is an old-time household herbal aid, with a very healing and antiseptic action. It is especially beneficial for respiratory, stomach, uterine and bowel problems, and it has a soothing sedative action on the nerves. It is powerful, yet harmless and non-poisonous, and it may be relied upon to help eliminate all infection, to help destroy worms, and help take away all foul odors. It will help restore health to children who are debilitated and exhausted by whooping cough. It forms the basis for the world-famous Listerine Antiseptic compound. There are over 60 varieties of thyme, but Thymus vulgaris is the best for both medicinal and culinary purposes. [SNH p.228]
Thyme: Mix 1 part of the infusion with 1 part honey (1 teaspoonful 1 tablespoonful); give when the cough is troublesome. [SNH p.229] Whooping cough: See formula using thyme and mistletoe. [SNH p.229]
See formula using hyssop, raspberry leaves, turkey rhubarb, bayberry bark and thyme. [SNH p.233]
European Pennyroyal: Drink 1 teaspoonful – 1 tablespoonful of the fresh, sweetened juice. [SNH p.284]
Whooping Cough (specific): See formula using marshmallow root, thyme, yellow D sugar and distilled water. [SNH p.327]
Asthma Syrup (bronchitis, croup, whooping cough, etc.): See formula using slippery elm, boneset, licorice, flaxseed or linseed, and blackstrap molasses. [SNH p.337]
Asthma Remedy (also for bronchitis, chronic cough, whooping cough, lung trouble, cystitis, catarrh of bladder, poison ivy, burns, and tuberculosis): See formula using slippery elm bark, horehound, garden thyme, red clover tops, yerba santa, lobelia, resin weed leaves, cayenne, blackstrap molasses and glycerine. [SNH p.339]
Whooping Cough: See formula using black cohosh, red root, blood root and lobelia. [SNH p.401]
Onion Syrup: Dr. Christopher’s onion syrup, described in the introduction, is an excellent syrup that has been used historically by herbalists for coughs and colds, bronchitis, croup, whooping cough, etc. He recommended adding licorice root powder, horehound and cherry bark to the syrup, and said to add 25% glycerine to the syrup if you plan to keep it. Keep it in a cool place or it will sour. [UW-Onion] Here is the way you make the syrup. Dice up big dried onions, whatever amount you want, and put them into a stainless steel, unchipped enamel, or Pyrex pan. Don’t use aluminum. When you have about the amount you want, pour liquid honey over them until they are covered. Add nothing else. The honey extracts the Onion power, which is the greatest antihistamine known. This goes into the honey solution and provides a wonderfully effective cough syrup. [UW-Onion]
Garlic Juice: Another instance of the remarkable penetrating power of garlic is the fact that the expressed juice of fresh garlic mixed with olive oil and rubbed on the chest, throat, and between the shoulder blades gives great relief in whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis and dyspnea, according to an English physician who has used it with success for many years. [NL 2-9]
Symptoms of tuberculosis are a general feeling of fatigue, persistent coughing (with blood in the mucus in the advanced stage), labored breathing or shortness of breath, weight loss, night sweats, fever, and sensation of pain in the chest, kidneys, or back.
If left untreated tuberculosis can be fatal, as it causes tissue death in the infected organ. The World Health Organization reported that TB killed 1.4 million people and infected 8.7 million in 2011. Proper medical treatment is a must for this condition. You can also use some natural remedies as an adjunct treatment.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for tuberculosis.
Garlic is rich in sulfuric acid that destroys the germs causing TB. It also contains allicin and ajoene, which have been found to inhibit bacterial growth. Plus, its antibacterial properties and immune-boosting effect are highly beneficial for a TB patient. Garlic can be eaten raw or cooked.
- Mix together one-half teaspoon of chopped garlic, one cup of milk and four cups of water. Boil it until it is reduced to one–fourth of the volume. Drink the mixture three times daily.
- Add 10 drops of garlic juice to a glass of hot milk and drink it before going to bed. Do not drink water afterwards, as it may diminish the beneficial effects.
- Dice 10 cloves of garlic and boil them in one cup of milk. Eat the boiled pieces of garlic and then drink the milk. Do this daily for a few months.
Bananas are an excellent source of nutrients and calcium that can help boost a TB patient’s immune system. They also can help alleviate the cough and fever.
- Take a ripe banana, mash it and mix in one cup coconut water, one-half cup yogurt, and one teaspoon honey. Consume it twice daily.
- Make raw banana juice and drink one glass of it daily.
- You can also drink the juice of the banana plant stem to relieve symptoms like chronic cough, excess phlegm, excessive perspiration at night with a high fever and so on. Slowly sip one to two cups of banana stem juice every two hours until symptoms subside.
Drumstick has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help eliminate the TB-causing bacteria from the lungs and reduce inflammation resulting from the infection and constant coughing. Plus, drumstick pods and leaves are a good source of carotene, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C.
- Boil a handful of drumstick leaves in one cup of water for five minutes.
- Allow it to cool and add salt, pepper and lime juice.
- Drink this daily in the morning on an empty stomach.
Also boiled drumsticks can be consumed daily to get relief from the infection.
- Indian Gooseberry
Indian gooseberry, also known as amla, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The various nutrients in Indian gooseberry provide energy and enhance the body’s capacity to function properly.
- De-seed three or four Indian gooseberries. Extract the juice with the help of a juicer.
- Add one tablespoon of honey and mix it well.
- Drink this every morning on an empty stomach.
Raw Indian gooseberry or its powder can also be consumed.
Oranges have many essential minerals and compounds. Orange juice has a saline action in the lungs, which eases expectorations and protects the body from secondary infections. It can boost the immune system as well.
- Add a pinch of salt and one tablespoon of honey to a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Mix it thoroughly.
- Drink this twice daily, one glass in the morning and another in the evening.
- Custard Apple
The rejuvenating properties in custard apple can also help in the treatment of tuberculosis. Usually the pulp of custard apple is used.
- Boil the pulp of two custard apples and 25 seedless raisins in one and a half cups of water until one-third of the water is left.
- Strain the mixture and add two teaspoons of powdered sugar and one-quarter teaspoon each of cardamom and cinnamon. Allow it to cool.
- Drink this twice daily.
- Black Pepper
Black pepper helps cleanse the lungs, which in turn helps alleviate chest pains associated with tuberculosis. Also due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can reduce the inflammation caused by the bacteria and constant coughing.
- Fry eight to 10 black peppercorns in clarified butter.
- Add a pinch of asafetida powder and allow the mixture to cool.
- Divide the mixture into three equal parts and have one dose every few hours.
Walnuts act as a source of strength and boost the immune system of those suffering from tuberculosis. The various nutrients in walnuts can speed up the healing process.
- Combine two teaspoons of crushed walnut powder and one teaspoon of garlic paste. Add one teaspoon of clarified butter and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Eat this once daily.
- Walnuts can also be added in meals to keep the immune system strong.
Mint is very advantageous for treating tuberculosis due to its healing and antibacterial properties. This remedy will help dissolve mucus, revitalize body organs, and nourish the lungs as well as helping to prevent dangerous side effects of medicines taken for tuberculosis.
- Mix one teaspoon of mint juice, two teaspoons of honey, two teaspoons of pure malt vinegar, and half a cup of carrot juice.
- Divide the mixture into three equal parts, and drink one dose every few hours.
- Green Tea
Green tea can help in the treatment of tuberculosis because of its high antioxidant content and immune-strengthening properties. It also contains polyphenol compounds that can inhibit the proliferation of the bacteria that causes the disease.
Green tea leaves can be brewed with warm water to make a tea. If green tea leaves are not available, you can take them in capsule form easily found in the market. Explore more health benefits of green tea in this post.