I am a big fan of letting our food be our medicine and winter is a great time to put that into practice. When dealing with minor ailments for family members, my first choice is searching for things in my kitchen cupboards or from the garden rather than unpronounceable chemicals found in drug store aisles. Since it is the season for “winter yuck,” I have gathered some of the basic remedies our family uses this time of year.
When any of my children feel slightly ill the first thing they ask for is tea. My shelves are full of dried herbs from the garden plus some purchased varieties from our favorite local Amish bulk herb shop. One of the most useful ones is “Flu Tea” which is both helpful for the sick ones and for keeping healthy family members from catching the bug. I mix up a big batch and keep a quart jar of the blend handy to add to hot water plus a few leaves of homegrown dried stevia to sweeten. The herbs have helpful properties plus the warmth of the tea signals the body’s immune forces to go into action.
Flu Tea: 3 parts red raspberry leaves, 2 parts peppermint leaves, 1 part alfalfa leaf, 1 part stinging nettle leaf and ¼ part yarrow flower. (Make your ‘one part’ equal to ½ cup, and it all should fit into a quart jar.) Use about 1Tbsp of dried mix to one cup of boiling water.
Sore Throats And Ouchy Ears
For sore throats, our first defense is the age old practice of gargling with warm salt water which helps knock out germs and loosen phlegm. The next concoction that I prepare for the patient is what we call “spicy honey.” I take about 1 Tablespoon raw honey and mix in one clove of finely minced garlic and 1/2-1tsp of powdered cayenne pepper. Taking small licks throughout the day and letting it coat the throat provides the antibacterial action of garlic and honey plus the cayenne stimulates circulation to the affected area. I recently found a recipe for a sage tea gargle that I want to try on the next cough
victim–er, volunteer– at our house.
When ear infections strike, I grab my bottle of garlic infused oil and suck some up into an eyedropper. I warm the dropper and oil by running the dropper under hot water. The warm oil goes into the affected ear and several drops go on the outside of the ear and is gently massaged in. This is all topped off with a warm wash cloth since warmth is very soothing to ear maladies.
Super Tonic And Tinctures
Another favorite remedy that we have made for many years is what we call “Super Tonic.” This is the remedy my husband and I go for the minute we feel a tickle in our throat or a stuffy head coming
Every fall I chop up equal parts fresh garlic, onion, horseradish, cayenne pepper and ginger root and fill a glass jar (quart size or larger) ¾ full of the chopped ingredients and then cover with raw apple cider vinegar. I set the jar in a dark cupboard and try to shake it daily for 2-3 weeks before straining. It is quite potent and can be diluted for children with a bit of honey or juice. You can take up to a teaspoon every hour when battling sinus, throat or flu issues. You can really feel it work in opening up passages and the only “side effect” is a lovely odor! My kids won’t come asking for this one unless they are completely miserable.
Echinacea is another great immune booster and I’m excited to try out the “Tasty Echinacea” tincture I made from my mature echinacea roots this fall. And don’t forget the wonderful healing effects of good old fashioned chicken soup full of homemade broth and again, with plenty of garlic. Sauerkraut and fermented foods are another thing on our healing menu as they help restore digestion and good intestinal bacteria.
Using basic herbs and kitchen items can be effective in fighting illness but it is important to remember that they are not as concentrated as what you might buy at the drug store. So taking remedies several times throughout the day is important and since they are whole foods, there is not danger of overloading. One cup of weak tea won’t make much difference but combining several natural options with plenty of rest may get you back on your feet sooner.
Follow herbal remedy making and taking directions closely.
Karen Geiser is a regular blogger for CountryLife. She owns and operates an organic farm in Wayne County, Ohio, and is a frequent demonstrator and lecturer discussing organic foods and healthy lifestyles at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.