Friday, August 21, 2015

3 Simple Herbal Remedies for Your Holistic Medicine Closet

As some of you know, I am totally amped up about the Mother Earth News Fair I attended a few weeks ago. Feeling motivated by the crunchy power, I decided to concoct a few herbal remedies in preparation for winter. Winter around here is cold, snowy, and long, and gosh knows with two kids in school and my spouse working in a germ factory (aka, your standard office with cubicles), we're bound to get some nasty bugs floating around our home.

Now before we get started, this is your public service announcement to be wary before ingesting anything new into your body. Certain herbs don't mix well with medications or pregnancies or kids or hair colors or toenail polish so be sure to do your homework and speak to a medical professional if you have any questions. I am a trained combat medic, not a medical professional. I've done my research and know my medical health status, and also really love green crap I can soak in liquor and then ingest to make myself feel better. The blog's name is Flaws, Forgiven, people. Tread at your own risk.

One of my favorite words in the English language is "free." Free to be me. Free stuff. Free day. Free ice cream. Free is a good.

So when I began researching which herbs and plants I wanted to use, I immediately looked up plants I can literally see right out my front window.

The first is plantain. I've got plantain everywhere. Matter of fact, my entire front lawn isn't grass, but plantain.

Plantain is like the superweed from heaven. It can calm stings and rashes from both insects and plants. It has antibacterial properties and can stop bleeding. Fun fact: if you get stung by a bee, chew up a plantain leaf and smudge it on the sting site. Plantain will draw out the toxins and calm the sting. It's great for your skin (acts as an astringent) and also soothes sore throats like a boss. That last part is especially attractive to me, as I tend to get strep throat anytime a respiratory infection sets up shop in my life. 

So what did I make with my lawn plantain? Cough syrup, that's what. It's the easiest thing in the world. Leaves, jar, honey, done.

Plantain Cough Syrup:
1. Go outside and pick a bunch of healthy-looking (green, non-bug-chewed, full) plantain leaves. 
2. Spread them out on a towel or table to check for bugs. Remove any bugs.
3. Wash your plantain leaves if you wanna. I get my plantain from my front yard where I know no chemicals have been sprayed, no fertilizers used, and no dogs pooped, so I skip this step entirely. I'm a lazy herbalist.
4. Shove your plantain leaves in a jar. I filled my jar about 1/3 the way full of leaves. You can cut them up, put them in a blender, juice them, or mush them if you wanna. Some people do that. I am lazy and do not.
5. Pour honey on top of your plantain leaves (preferably local honey). Fill the jar to the top.
6. Use a spoon or knife to push the plantain leaves around in the honey to release any air pockets. You want those suckers really coated.
7. Screw the lid on and let sit for a few weeks so the leaves really infuse the honey with their goodness. Give it a nice turn upside-down every now and then if you remember to. Some sites insist sunshine is the best for infusing, some insist darkness is needed. I just went with what's easiest for me and put the jar with the rest of my stuff in my medicine closet. 

That's it! Take a teaspoon or two when your throat hurts. You can strain the leaves out if you want. I won't. Bet you can guess why. 

The next plant I have in abundance in my yard is Queen Anne's Lace. Now this is one warning I am serious about - if you are not sure whether the plant you have is Queen Anne's Lace or not, don't use it. There is some impostor plant out there called Water Hemlock that is poisonous and will kill you. It looks very similar to Queen Anne's Lace and I repeat, it is poisonous. It will kill you. I actually read that Socrates drank Poison Hemlock to commit suicide. Well isn't that fun!

Luckily, there are some easy ways to tell the difference between the two. 

#1: Queen Anne's Lace is hairy. Some people say "the queen has hairy legs." Fabulous. The stems will be hairy. 

#2: Queen Anne's Lace smells like carrots. 

#3: Queen Anne's Lace has a little dark purple/red dot in the middle of the flower. 

If you're unsure, check around the web. There are a ton of sites like this one that can help you ID what you've got. I've got Queen Anne's Lace, which rules because this flower packs some power.

Queen Anne's Lace helps with depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, and is just started to be recognized for its treatment of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. It's anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial, but is also a natural contraceptive and labor be careful, preggos or preggo wanna-bes. Fun fact? It's called Queen Anne's Lace because this one time Queen Anne of England pricked her finger while sewing lace.....that little dark dot in the middle of the flower is supposed to be her blood. Creepy and cool all at the same time!

I wanted to draw the benefits from this flower in the purest way possible, so I made a tincture. A tincture is typically done using vodka but you can use apple cider vinegar too. Although shoving things in vodka just sounds better, don't you think?

This is very similar to the cough syrup above, only using vodka. Flowers, jar, vodka, done.

Queen Anne's Lace Tincture:
1. Go outside and pick the heads off some Queen Anne's Lace. Be sure you know it's Queen Anne's Lace.
2. Spread the flowers out on a table or towel so all the bugs fly off or crawl off and you can squish them or shake them free. 
3. Shove your flowers into a jar. You can also wash your flowers. Like with the plantain, I found no need to do this. 
4. Pour vodka over the flowers. Fill up the jar.
5. Poke around in there to be sure all the air has escaped from the little flower crevices. 
6. Put the lid on and store in a dark place for 3-4 weeks. Shake it every now and then if you want. Strain out the herbs when it's done sitting around if you want. The vodka will preserve them indefinitely. 

Done. I'll be taking this on days when I feel especially pressed against the wall. Some chicks take it 3x a day for contraceptive purposes, but that's not really my aim here. You can put some under your tongue with a dropper or dilute a few teaspoons in water and take it that way. I might be taking it by the shot, depending on my mood. Just sayin.

The last plant in my arsenal is a good one. A very, very good one. This flowering beauty is said to be one of the best anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-illness plants in the world. It's a #1 holistic recommendation for those suffering from cancer as it's said to boost the immune system like nobody's business. Some swear by it's ability to shorten the duration of colds and even slow down our bodies' aging process. 

What is this awesome miracle herb?

Echinacea....aka coneflower. 

You see these things in gardens everywhere, man. I have a huge purple coneflower bush in my front yard. The butterflies, bees, and birds love it...and I mean LOVE it. Just watching those guys go nuts over the plant motivated me to go out there and nab a few blooms for myself.

Now some people say the roots have the highest concentration of goodness. That's great, but I don't like diggin all that much. So leaves and petals is where it's at for me.

Ehinacea Tincture:
1. Go outside and snip off some flowers and leaves. Careful! The middle part of a coneflower is very hard....and pointy.....and stiff. *snicker*
2. Pull the petals off the flowers. You can save the seedheads for later if you want to replant or you can compost them. I say more flowers is more good! Save the pollinators!
3. Put the leaves and petals on a towel or table to check for bugs. Squish those bugs. Or let them fly free.
4. Wash the leaves and petals if you want.
5. Shove the leaves and petals into a jar. 
6. Fill the jar with vodka (or apple cider vinegar). Get those air bubbles out.
7. Put the lid on and store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks. Shake it when you wanna. Strain it if you wanna.

You can take the tincture every day if you want, but I won't be. I will take it when I feel the start of a cold coming on, or when flu season hits its peak, or when my kid comes home with a runny nose. Just like with the other tincture, you can place some drops under your tongue, mix a few teaspoons in water, or just take it straight. 

See? Not that difficult, right? Just pick, clean, and stick in jars with vodka or honey. Easier than running to the store. And the herbs were free. And if you upcycle your jars from pasta sauce and jelly like I do, you'll have a surplus of containers to choose from. The only things I needed to buy were the liquor and sweet sweet honey. Frugal, fast, and fun!

I am pumped to have some clean, happy herbal remedies to use this winter. I am even more pumped to share this stuff with you guys. Any of you tried holistic remedies before? If so, which were your favorite? If not, what is your problem? Ha just kidding....I would love to hear about it all in the comments down below :) As always, thank you so much for reading!


  1. Thanks, Jen, for this informative post. Gonna give it a go! Really appreciate your knowledge!

    1. Thank you!!! I am excited about all of this stuff!

  2. Really interesting facts about Queen Anne's Lace--we always had a ton of it in our yard, it's a pretty hardy plant. Looks like you're putting all your research to good use!

    1. Thanks Rach :) I am trying to get some of these plant things happening before the winter comes and forces everything green to go underground!

  3. this is AWESOME! I am totally sharing! Though we don't grow any of these in South Florida, I wish I could be a witch doctor!!

    1. Thank you babe!!! I betcha there are some herbs and wildflowers native to your area that would work wonders in some of these infusions! What do you have down there, coconuts? Roses? Rose is one of the Herbal Goddess' favorite flowers. They suck up here, but I betcha you get some pretty ones down there!

  4. I will keep this in mind, thank you!

  5. LOL you're awesome! Get it girl! :) I have NONE of these plants because... apartment. With no balcony either, just a pretty set of french doors that open so you can admire and an iron gate that goes halfway my 5'6" tall self to prevent suicidal attempts, whether intentional or not. Lol. No homicide up in my hizzouse. So yeah once I get a home I'm excited to have a garden - I hope I only kill a few! :P Have a great one Jen! -Iva

    1. HAHA thank Iva!! You are so freaking funny....suicide attempts begone! No homicide in my house HAHAHAHA dying. You let me know when you're ready to grow girl and I will hook you up with the finest advice this side of the Mississippi!

  6. Pinned! I'm so glad you shared these easy recipes, I've been diving into the world of herbal remedies and it seems so overwhelming. But these aren't hard at all, and I know where a huge amount of plantain is growing my yard. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

    1. Thank you Jennifer! I am also overwhelmed by the amount of info out there regarding herbal remedies - I sat through a seminar once on flower essences and I remember thinking, where do I start?? I am all about easy! Quick follow up: I've used the echinachea tincture for the past week and it helped clear up a cold my daughter brought home.....also the cough syrup helps my oldest with her allergy symptoms. Awesome stuff AND simple!!! That's my kinda remedy! Thanks so much for stopping by and I am excited to join in the next blog hop!