[info_box]Guest Blogger #14: Latisha Guthrie. Latisha, the HerbMother, is a mama of two earth daughters living and learning as an apprentice to mother earth. Join her for more fun with herbs everyday, every way: cook, clean, heal, and play.[/info_box]
Did you know that your roasted potatoes with rosemary could help prevent Alzheimer’s and that fennel hidden away in your pizza sauce is more than just the savory secret to your 100-year-old family recipe? Herbs. They are not only the difference between a good dish and a great one, but they have amazing healing powers as well. Natural medicine is becoming all the rage, but jumping in can be scary, expensive, and the herbs, hard to find. I mean, who’s ever heard of ashwaganda and does my basil need to be blessed to be holy? Echinacea and chamomile have had a rise in popularity, but I’d like to get even simpler than that. Most of your common culinary herbs may be all the medicine you’ll ever need. Come with me on a journey through the body and find out just how magical your spice cabinet can be.
First, let’s go back to those potatoes. Roasted potatoes in olive oil with a little sea salt and fresh rosemary must be one of the oldest dishes on the planet. In my house, we enjoy this at least once a week. More than just the perfect compliment to a tiny sweet red potato, rosemary finds many medicinal compliments with our noggin. It has been used for many years to help improve memory. A common remedy for sinus headaches, I have used it many times as a tea and felt immediate relief. Simply steep a few sprigs in an 8 oz glass of boiled water, covered for about 10 minutes and enjoy. It is also a wonderful treatment for dandruff. You can rinse your hair with the tea once a week or make a rosemary olive oil to rub on the scalp. Rosemary is also said to help you concentrate, so next time you’re having trouble getting that blog post written, lay a few sprigs on your keyboard and give em a rub once in a while to release their fragrance.
Getting to the throat. Sage is the perfect winter savory herb. Used often with fall vegetables, it appears in your kitchen just in time for those wet sore throats. Sage tends to be a drying herb that made as a tea with honey will soothe your sore throat so you can quickly get back in the kitchen.
Getting to the heart of the matter (sorry, I had to do it), the best thing you can do for your heart is to eat lots of garlic. I know you Twilight fans may be trying to avoid it, but it may be worth it: it both lowers cholesterol and prevents blood clots.
Breathing in a fresh sprig of thyme, I am instantly transported. When I was little and anyone had any issues with the lungs, my grandmother always made a tea of thyme. As an adult, I haven’t actually tried it, but everthyme I’m tearing off those little leaves to rub on my chicken I get nostalgic for a soupy cough. Thyme can be used for many other things as well. It can help bring on sweating, alleviate diarrhea, and ease headache tension. Do be careful not to use this herb for a prolonged length of time, however.
Moving down to the tummy. It seems everyone I know has some sort of trouble with digestion these days. There are many popular remedies for this. I’ll mention my favorite. Fennel tea. Take about 1 tsp and gently crush the seeds with a spoon. Pour 8 oz of boiling water over them and let steep, covered, for at least 10 minutes. As a nursing mother with a colicky baby, I drink two cups of fennel tea per day. I can eat most any food without upsetting my babe. If I get a little too garlicky with my hummus, I will give her a ½ dropper-full every half hour. It usually only takes one or two doses before she burps and is calmed. As an added bonus it is said to promote lactation, as well. If you don’t have fennel, many of the seed spices will do: dill, coriander, anise, caraway or cumin.
Jumping down to the knees, legs, and other muscle aches and pains, cayenne comes to mind. It contains a natural pain killer, which when rubbed on sore joints and muscles will immediately alleviate pain. Sprinkle a small amount in some olive oil and rub on affected area. Take care not to use this on any area with sores or mucous membranes.
Finally for relief from tired feet, try a peppermint foot soak. Muddle a few peppermint leaves in some cold water and enjoy! I’ve even been known to use peppermint extract, when I don’t have any fresh mint around.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our little adventure with folk kitchen herbals. I’d love to hear some of your old thyme kitchen cabinet cures.
A gently caution and bloggy disclaimer: Though all of the herbs mentioned are completely safe when used liberally in cooking, do take care with them as medicine. If you have specific health conditions, are taking prescription drugs, or using them on children make sure you feel confident there are no contraindications. I am not a medical professional, and this information is presented solely as an account of personal experience. Please use herbs safely and wisely and when in doubt seek professional care.