Recently I was invited to contribute to the October herbal blog party. I had no idea what I could possibly contribute. I find it highly doubtful that I have much to offer that could possibly add to the wealth of information others are contributing. Furthermore, it is harvest time and I am extravagantly busy preserving the summer goodness for the winter months, ahead. So I am spending a lot more time thinking about my kitchen garden than my medicinal herb garden.
When I had almost decided to pass on the invitation, Darian asked me a question about all the peppermint I was bringing in from the garden. It occurred to me that perhaps I do have something to share. I know that many people who read my blog are utterly new to herbalism, and probably a bit taken aback by the idea of going out and wildcrafting weeds to combat a cold or flu. (Don’t worry you will come around.)
I am hoping to offer those of you who are just beginning a comfortable place to start by talking about herbs you might be growing as food. This is certainly not a new subject. Reading through medieval receipt books is a bit of a hobby of mine and in them you find a wealth of recipes which utilize a broad variety of herbs. These ingredients certainly added flavor to a dish but most likely were included for their health promoting qualities, as well.
Somewhere in the beginning of the 20th Century, Americans lost touch with the idea that many culinary herbs contribute far more to our dishes than flavor. Although these ingredients are thought of only as “seasonings” now, many can be powerful allies in the struggle against winter colds and flu. Unfortunately, even in herbal circles the usefulness of these common kitchen herbs is overlooked in lieu of more exotic or “trendy” herbs.
In the interests of keeping with the bio-regional theme of this month’s blog party (and my philosophical beliefs) I thought I would share a few ways I use some of the most common herbs I grow in my own garden.
According to David Hoffman, ” Garlic is one of the most effective anti-microbial plants available, acting on bacteria, viruses, and alimentary parasites.
Garlic is only effective as an antimicrobial when it is taken fresh and raw. It can be minced and added to hummus and other dips, homemade salad dressings, or mixed into butter or olive oil to spread on warm bread. One of our favorite dips is minced garlic, wasabi, and sea salt stirred into plain yoghurt.
Recently crushed garlic can also be stirred into in raw, local honey to be mixed with other herbal preparations. One of my favorite remedies for a sore throat is to mix this 1/4 cup of this golden garlic honey with 1 tsp of sage tincture. This “syrup” can be taken by the teaspoon to soothe a sore throat and makes heating the preparation unnecessary which protects volatile essential oils from evaporating and keeps the allicin in the crushed garlic from being destroyed by heat.
Peppermint would be a “must grow” herb if for no other reason than it is an excellent remedy for upset stomach and flatulence. Peppermint tea is what we fed baby Trapolin for his horrible colic and peppermint tea is what I drink when my migraines make me nauseous. Peppermint is an interesting herb, energetically speaking. Some people view it as a cooling herb while other experience it as having a warming effect.
The essential oil is another ingredient in my chest rub while the dried herb is a steam inhalation ingredient. I include peppermint because the volatile oils help to clear the sinuses but also settles a queasy stomach which is a nice combination when one has the flu.
I have found that a strong infusion of peppermint and rosemary is very useful in addressing flu symptoms. I would argue that the combination might be as effective as boneset. The rosemary is anti-microbial and analgesic; which addresses the achy feelings while the peppermint which is a diaphoretic and a carminative addresses the fever and queasy stomach. It is definitely an infusion you could add some lemon and honey to as well. I like to add elderflower to the mix as well.
Rosemary combines well with peppermint in a steam inhalation for nasal congestion. Rosemary also has analgesic properties as well and can help ease a headache which might accompany the flu. Rosemary can also be infused in vinegar and used in salad dressings as a digestive stimulant and nutritional herb due to it’s high level of anti-oxidants and flavonoids; especially rutin.
Sage’s culinary use seems to be reduced to making stuffing these day, which is unfortunate. Sage is an excellent digestive aid. As with rosemary, vinegar infused with sage can be used to make excellent homemade salad dressings. Sage can also be infused in oil and used for cooking and a muscle rub. Talk about versatile!
Sage tea is traditionally a sore throat remedy. Make an infusion of 1/2 oz dried sage leaves, honey to taste, the juice from one freshly squeezed lemon and a pinch of salt. Put all these ingredients in a thermos, cover with boiling water and cap tightly. Infuse for four hours or overnight. Serve the beverage warm. It will help to replenish electrolytes and may be used as a gargle for sore throats.