Why Herbal Medicine?

If there’s an adverse reaction to a medication, I probably have experienced it. When I was a junior in high school, I had been asked to sing as part of an ensemble for an Easter program at a local church. We had a limited number of rehearsals scheduled which meant I was expected to be there for all of them. The last rehearsal prior to the presentation, I had the worst allergy attack ever! Itchy watery eyes, head congestion, sore scratchy throat, hardly conducive to singing. My then boyfriend, now husband, gave me what he usually took to beat his allergy symptoms- pseudoephedrine for congestion, and loratidine as an antihistamine. Now I thought I was being brilliant in timing the dosages and combinations so as to avoid any ill effects. However, all I remember is sitting in the choir loft and falling asleep with such abrupt force I slammed my face on the chancel railing. I woke up pretty quickly from the jar to my noggin, but still! Yikes! Antihistamines and I do not get along very well to this day.

Allergies have always been an issue for me, although my parents never had me tested or treated for them. I just knew I was always snotty and sick, I never knew the reason why.

As an adult having gone through a saga of health issues, I realized that the drugs prescribed by Western medicine typically negatively affected my body more than they helped. That’s why I ventured into the world of herbal medicine. And I feel this is one aspect of naturalistic living that I now do very well. In her book, Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, Rosemary Gladstar has this to say on the subject:

I once heard a doctor say that the “side effects” of pharmaceutical medication are not side effects at all, but the actual effects of the medication. This is an aspect I appreciate about herbal remedies; they are effective, yes, but side effects are few and far between. There are people who have idiosyncratic reactions to certain foods and herbs, but it’s an individual reaction rather than toxicity in the plants.

So for me, I prefer the benefits of herbal remedies without the extra actions that  cause drowsiness, adrenal fatigue, liver damage, kidney damage, nausea, etc.

Here is a look inside my herbal medicine cabinet at the remedies I currently have on hand and what I use them for. In the spring and summer as I have my herbs growing, I will have more herbs available to make more tinctures, syrups and teas, but this is my current stock.

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Basil Tincture

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Made from sweet basil and Vescia vodka, I use this tincture for digestive regulation, anti-inflammation, anti-stress, nausea, anxiety, depression, fatigue. It’s particularly useful for treating PMS.

Cinnamon Bark Tincture

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This one I use as a blood sugar regulator. I had gestational diabetes while I was pregnant with my son and this taken before meals helped to stabilize my sugars. You can make it with any 80+ proof alcohol, but for use during pregnancy, I would recommend a base of glycerin or apple cider vinegar instead of something like vodka.

Poke Root Tincture/ Lotion

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My husband was prescribed arthritis medication while he was enlisted in the Marine Corps for his knees and back. Needless to say, a man under 30, father to a toddler on arthritis medication indefinitely is a little unnerving. This is a more natural alternative. American poke weed is known for having slight psychotropic properties and can be toxic if not prepared or taken properly. This tincture’s dosage is one single drop (not dropper, just one drop) per day for 5 days. I also made some anti-inflammation lotion for topical use that has less risk of idiosyncratic side effects like headache, nausea, or vomiting. The key to this herb is extreme moderation. Start with less than you think you need, and gradually increase until symptoms cease. Less is more.

Plantain Tincture/ Salve

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This is easily my go-to for all-purpose healing. Great for eczema, menstrual relief, blood purifier, liver tonic, acne, styptic, digestive aid, skin disorders, deep seeded infection, and as a supplementary source for vitamins B, C, and K. Plantain grows just about everywhere and you have probably seen it but never knew it was so useful!

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Photo credit: Page 188 of Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide

The salve is great topically for burns, scrapes, cuts, insect bites, stings, dry skin. I add frankincense, tea tree, and lavender essential oils to the salve for added healing properties. I use this stuff constantly!

Neti Saline Rinse
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This is excellent for cleaning out the sinuses and avoiding sicknesses like cold or sinus infections. I use it daily at the first sign of post-nasal drip or slight congestion. The rinse is made of 1 part baking soda to 2 parts non-iodized salt (pickling salt) add up to a tsp. to 8 oz warm distilled water. Make sure it’s well dissolved. You can use a traditional neti pot but I find the squeeze bottle a little easier to use.

So that’s my arsenal. I also keep stocked up on garlic oil, and medicine making supplies like alcohol, witch hazel, aloe vera gel, glycerin, apple cider vinegar, etc.

As always, feel free to ask any questions or share your experience in the comments below. 🙂

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