Last time I shared the first five of my top ten herbs. Here are the rest…
6) Eucalyptus: This is another one that we love to have essential oil of on hand. When we do get colds, I usually boil water on the stove and frequently add drops of eucalyptus essential oil. It not only helps open up stuffy noses, but it also helps prevent secondary infections since it is antibacterial. I also put several drops in a carrier oil (we like grapeseed oil, as it is not greasy like most other oils), and rub it into the chest and throat. It’s like a homemade Vicks, but without the nasty petro-chemicals! We are currently growing some small eucalyptus plants in the garden (yep, that’s my eucalyptus in the picture!) and we will dry it to use during the winter for tea. The tea can help open up congested airways and reduce infection, but it must be made from the dried leaves. Never take the essential oil internally. One of my other favorite uses for the essential oil is to add 15 to 25 drops in the washer with our sheets. This will kill dust mites and any bacteria or viruses that might be lingering from an illness.
7) Slippery Elm Bark: For a sore throat, a tea made from slippery elm bark is so soothing. We add a spoonful of raw honey (which is antiviral and antibacterial!) and sip as much as we can hold. It is mucilaginous, which means it coats and soothes inflamed tissue. We often combine it with other antibacterial or antiviral herbs for sore throat teas. It is also excellent for any digestive issues. It coats and reduces inflammation throughout the digestive tract during a stomach virus or food poisoning. It is gentle enough for babies and tastes a bit like maple syrup. For stomach problems, we often combine it with marshmallow root which has similar properties. For a sore throat, we make a tea out of the chopped root, but for stomach issues, we often take capsules of the powdered root with a glass of water.
8) Echinacea: Although there have been heated debates among scientists about whether it is truly an immuno-stimulant, it is an excellent natural antibiotic. In fact, I have been waiting for three years for one of us to get strep throat, because it kills the strep bacteria! Not that I want us to have strep, but I can’t wait to see how well it works! We have had a few sore throats that we have immediately treated with Echinacea/slippery elm/raw honey tea, so perhaps I’ve already seen it work without knowing it. It is also anti-inflammatory and a good contact healer. It helps cells to reproduce normally (such as preventing sun burns from causing permanent DNA damage), so recently we have started using it topically, too.
9) Juniper berries: I just realized that two of my “herbs” are actually berries, but these are so wonderful that I couldn’t exclude them! They are highly antiviral, so at the first sign of a cold we pop a few in our mouths to chew and then brew up some elderberry/juniper berry tea. That covers both colds and flus! It is also effective against many types of food poisoning, including salmonella and E. coli, as well as the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections. We haven’t had the opportunity to try it out against these illnesses, but if we do I will let you know how it does. It is effective against antibiotic resistant staph in vitro, and some people have reported success in curing staph infections with juniper essential oil and raw honey! (WARNING: Juniper berries are NOT considered safe during pregnancy or for people with kidney disease!)
10) Calendula: We are actually growing and drying our own calendula this year! (If you decide to do this, be sure you are getting “Calendula officinalis”, not some other type of “marigold”.) Calendula petals are very soothing to the skin and are gentle enough to be safely used on newborns. An oil or bath “tea” infused with calendula will reduce redness and irritation due to pretty much any cause, from allergic reactions to rug burns. It has a mild antibacterial effect and helps speed healing, so we like it in salves (think, neosporin alternative). I have even successfully used a calendula tea with Celtic sea salt as a rinse to cure a sinus infection! Be warned, though, calendula petals have been used for thousands of years to make a bright yellow dye, so take proper precautions if you’ll be using it in a bath or you might end up with tie-dye towels!
Note: If you are new to herbs or don’t have a local supplier, I recommend the company I use, Mountain Rose Herbs. I have ordered herbs, essential oils, carrier oils and butters from them many times and have always been happy with the quality and how quickly they get here. They also carry teas, spices and lots of other fun things!