Herbal Medicine in Your Spice Rack and Pantry
By Robin Rose Bennett
One of the most common ways of healing self, family and friends is with homemade herbal medicines called “meals.” As Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”
I love to infuse herbs into honey. Not only is it a pleasant way to take herbal medicine, but honey is also a fine preservative for the herbs. In fact, honey is so potent a preservative that for many centuries it was used for embalming. There is evidence that people have been collecting honey since at least the Stone Age. Raw honey, which often contains bits of pollen in it, is antimicrobial, antioxidant, and a good antiseptic for a sore throat and for external wound-healing.
Honey all on its own is a complex healing food and is rich in minerals, so imagine all the beneficial delicious combinations you can create with all those herbal medicines at arms’ reach in your own kitchen pantry and spice rack!
Orange peel honey is an easy-to-make antioxidant treat. Citrus peel is a potent longevity tonic. When you peel oranges to dry them for medicine, keep as much of the white inner peel intact as possible, since the most potent bioflavonoids in oranges are found there. You know they are fully dry when you bend them and they crack.
ORANGE PEEL HONEY
½ – 1 part dried organic orange peel
1 part raw honey
Directions: Break up the dried peels and place them in a clean, dry jar. Pour in the honey, slowly covering all the peels and filling the jar. Cap the jar and wait.
When you open the lid to check on your preparation, or to add a bit more honey if it has been absorbed by the peels, wait until the sweet orange-honey smell bowls you over in the best possible way, usually in 4-6 weeks.
Use your orange peel honey freely, alone, in tea, over yogurt and fruit, over ice-cream, pancakes, or whatever you dream up. You can also use tangerine or blood-orange peels, but use organic fruit only, please.
Common herbs, foods, and condiments such as basil, garlic, salt, onions, carrots, dark leafy greens, honey, vinegar, and so much more provide remedies for a vast variety of conditions. Mint plants, so rich in antioxidants and helpful for digestion, can help keep us in “mint condition!”. Many healing spice plants are in the mint family, such as basil, sage, rosemary, and lavender. Now lavender may not be commonly found in the kitchen, but to me, dried lavender belongs in the kitchen.
Lavender honey is so delightful, and like the Orange Peel Honey recipe above, so easy to make! All you need is lavender, honey, and a jar!
Your basic pesto recipes are also medicine! Basil and garlic both have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. The salt in the pesto is also a great antibacterial (that’s one reason why we gargle with warm salt water for a sore throat).
Plain ole parsely? I don’t think so! Parsely has minerals galore, including a good supply of iron. It’s high in folic acid, which helps relieve stress by strengthening the nervous system, and is well-known for strengthening the functioning of the kidneys.
Vinegar anyone? I hope so. In my kitchen, vinegar is indispensable, and I rely on infused vinegars for daily medicinal food. Here’s a classic folk remedy for arthritis that I find really works!
ARTHRITIS PAIN RELIEF
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
6-8 ounces of water
Directions: Stir a tablespoon each of raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar and raw honey into a glass of water, and drink daily.
Many spice herbs are aromatic, antioxidant, soothing and nourishing to the nerves, and good digestive aids. They often contain volatile oils that make them antiseptic as well. Classic aromatic spice herbs are often also anti-spasmodic and uplifting.
STOMACH-SOOTHING CINNAMON INFUSION
6 cinnamon sticks
1 quart water
Directions: Put cinnamon sticks into a mortar and pestle and break them into pieces. Put the pieces of broken cinnamon bark into a quart jar. Cover them with boiled water. Cap and let sit for about an hour. Strain and drink warm or hot. This can be refrigerated and gently reheated if desired.
(Adapted from The Gift of Healing Herbs, Plant Medicines and Home remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life by Robin Rose Bennett)
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