In today’s fast-paced world we tend to rely on medicines to provide us with immediate relief from colds, headaches and other illnesses. However it is not always necessary to turn to the medicine cabinet as soon as we get a headache or the first symptoms of a cold. Synthetic medicines can cure us quickly, but in doing so they reduce our ability to withstand pain and they also weaken our immune systems as they stop our bodies developing natural resistances to disease.
Being self-sufficient, you will not necessarily have the money to go out and buy synthetic medicines every time you get ill. It’s therefore important to have a well-stocked herb garden and learn how to concoct natural remedies to sooth your ailments.
You self-sufficient lifestyle should stand you in good stead to resist disease without having to rely on remedies. You are more likely to be active, enjoying the outdoors, and as you will grow and forage for most of your food, you will consume more vitamins, which will boost your immune system and help ward against illness. However, it’s worthwhile knowing how to provide relief from illness.
What to Grow
As well as herbs for culinary use, the self-sufficient herb garden should also include: echinacea (to boost the immune system and help prevent colds), comfrey (to help repair skin and bone injuries), and vervain, St. John’s wort, feverfew, chamomile and lavender (to ease headaches and relax the mind).
How to use Herbs as Medicine
Herbs can be used to make a tincture, infusion or decoction. A tincture is made by soaking the herb in alcohol for a few weeks and then straining it. The alcohol absorbs the soluble parts of the plant. The concentrated solution can be dropped on to the tongue or dabbed onto the wrists or temples.
A decoction is made by boiling the roots, stems or bark of the herb in water for up to thirty minutes. A decoction of Echinacea root can boost the immune system and ward off colds.
An infusion (or tea) is made by pouring hot water over the leaves or flowers of the herb and letting the mixture steep for fifteen minutes. Herbs used to make tea, include:
- Chamomile (made from the flowers) is popular and aids sleep.
- Peppermint aids digestion when drunk after a meal.
- Lemon balm relieves fatigue, headaches and can help improve the memory.
Herbs to Relieve Common Symptoms
The following ailments may be treated with common herbs:
- Stomach ailments – teas of thyme, mint, or chamomile
- Respiratory problems – thyme tea
- Sore throats and gums – a sage decoction to gargle
- Cuts and wounds – poultices of sorrel leaves, comfrey roots, St. Johns wort
- Kidney stones: lovage tea
Harvesting Herbs to use
To harvest the leaves of a plant, gently snip them in bunches and use them fresh, or dried. To dry the leaves, hang them upside down in bunches in a cool, dry place.
Some herbal remedies require using the roots of the plant, like echinacea. Harvesting the roots is a simple process, however you should wait for three years after planting to ensure the plant has a well-established root system. Dig up roots in late autumn, ensuring there is at least half the amount left to grow into fresh growth the following season. Shake them free from soil and store them in a cool, clean, dry area. Do not expose the roots to sunlight or stack them on top of one another.
When you first start using herbal remedies it may seem a little strange. However, once you have got used to using natural remedies for common ailments you will quickly become a herbal expert.