Herbal remedies have been around since ancient times; this was the best way to cure and heal common ailments in the past when medications were not available in the market for everyone. Who hasn’t got better with gramma’s herbal remedies for cold, flu, or sunburn? I’m sure most of us have experienced healing with the medicinal powers of plants.
Still, we are not always knowledgeable of all the benefits of certain herbs or how to use them to make our own herbal remedies at home, which is why we asked the experts on the topic for their best advice on how to heal with herbs and plants that you can even grow at home and have your very own herbal garden.
From Naturopathy to Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and Herbalist’s expertise, we have gathered really valuable advice on herbs’ benefits and how to use them. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of utilizing herbs, plants, and even adaptogens like ashwagandha to stay healhty with these remedies you can make at home.
Which medicinal herbs do you recommend to have at home, and how do you use them to heal common ailments?
I regularly make a strong tea—let it steep for several hours or overnight—of dried nettles and raspberry leaves, which are generally nutritious and have a pleasant, green flavor.
Chamomile tea is delicious and is good for relaxation. Valerian root tea is even better for relaxation but is much less pleasant. Dried nettles can also be mixed into bread dough, something I like to do.
Rose hips are a good source of vitamin c, and they make delicious tea (needs a sweetener) or jelly. I make elderberry syrup and use it to sweeten carbonated water or tea. Elderberry is reported to be anti-viral, good for colds. I do know that when my family members or I do have a cold, a drink with elderberry, ginger, and lemon tastes particularly good.
Oh, and we make a salve with beeswax and oil that has been steeped with cottonwood buds. The cottonwood buds exude a fragrant resin and release salicylic acid—aspirin—into the oil. The salve is a pleasant and effective topical aspirin for aching joints.
Jeanne Osnas from The Botanist in the Kitchen
What is the best ayurvedic remedy you can recommend to help with hormonal balance and vitality in women?
Shatavari (Asparagus racemsus) is one of our favorite Ayurvedic remedies to recommend to women seeking hormonal balance and vitality. Widely known as a rasayana/rejuvenative, this traditional Ayurvedic herb restores health and nourishment to both the nervous and immune systems, while also working as an adaptogen to help the body and mind to better cope with stress.
Shatavari is also considered to be demulcent and anti-inflammatory, retaining moisture within the body and delivering an unctuous quality to dry and/or inflamed membranes of the lungs, stomach, kidneys, large intestines, and sexual organs. Sattvic (pure & harmonious) in nature, Shatavari brings a state of calm to the mind and promotes feelings of love and devotion.
The word Shatavari translates to ‘one hundred roots’ due to this herb’s extensive root system that extends deep within the earth. This large system of roots is the very part of the plant that is honored for its medicinal value. Shatavari is also commonly referred to as ‘the woman who has a hundred husbands’ due to its use as a renowned tonic for the female reproductive system. When taken daily, Shatavari can promote fertility, sexual appetite, healthy menstruation, abundant breast milk, and an overall increase in ojas (life force nectar &/or immunity).
Shatavari is especially beneficial at providing hormonal balance for women as it contains phytoestrogens which are the precursor to estrogen. Studies show that phytoestrogens may reduce hot flashes, stabilize mood and also help maintain normal bone density.
Shatavari is often used as a menstrual regulator in dysmenorrhoea, menorrhagia, and menstrual irregularity. It can also be used during pregnancy to provide nourishment to both the mother and fetus and has the ability to increase the production of prolactin, a hormone that is important for breastfeeding. Women also commonly use Shatavari to treat conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and for treatment following a hysterectomy. Hence, Shatavari can support women through all stages of life, including pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause.
The traditional Ayurvedic method for adding Shatavari into your daily routine is through an Ayurvedic churna. A churna is made by mixing powdered herbs with water and is the preferred way of internally taking herbal medicine. Through this method, one can directly connect with the earth element of the plant through all of their senses. Ayurvedic medicine generally recommends taking ½ teaspoon of Shatavari Powder in the AM & PM, at least 1-2 hours away from meals.
Leah Klatt, co-founder of PAAVANI Ayurveda
What is the best herbal remedy to cure topical pain of sore muscles, joints, or nerves?
Ah – this is a great question for me because one of my favorite herbs, St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), is the most effective remedy for sore muscles, soft tissue damage, and nerve pain. Most people immediately think of St. John’s Wort as an internal remedy for depression, and in fact, is often suggested to support people with mild to moderate depression symptoms. But less well known is the efficacy of St. John’s Wort as an external remedy when used as an infused oil or salve.
You can identify St. John’s Wort in the wild because when you squish the flowers between your fingers, they will turn red. The oil must be made with fresh flowering tops; dried herb does not have the same strength. As the herb infuses into the oil, the oil will turn a deep red color. That’s when you know it’s ready for use!
I like to use the herbal infused oil directly on the skin, massaging it into the tissues. St. John’s Wort oil is anti-inflammatory, alleviates pain, and restores the nerves. It’s safe to use on minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises as it’s also antiseptic and it helps to heal the tissues.
It can also be made into a salve or balm by adding some beeswax, and some camphor or eucalyptus oil will give it the cooling effect similar to “Tiger Balm”. Personally, I think the plain oil is more effective, however. You’ll often find it blended with Arnica, but it’s not recommended to use arnica on open wounds, so the plain St. John’s Wort is more versatile.
Sara Stewart Martinelli from Three Leaf Farm
Which herb is most recommended to help heal skin issues like wounds and burns?
The most recommended herb to use for various wounds and burns is aloe vera. Aloe vera is a short-stemmed plant that contains most of its water in its leaves. The aloe gel is sourced from the watery and gelatinous-like insides of the leaves which is where most of the concentrated goodness of the plant is located. If you want to make your own gel, you can even source aloe leaves from many grocery stores these days!
Typically aloe vera has been topically applied to treat burns and wounds as a way to soothe the affected area and help it heal faster. Aloe vera contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which are particularly useful in helping prevent infections and making it an effective topical treatment for treating both 1st and 2nd-degree burns. Antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties are also some of the other useful bioactive compounds found in aloe gel, thus making it an excellent product to use on wounds. What’s more, aloe vera can also be used to treat sunburns, helping to reduce the skin redness caused by UV light due to all its wonderful soothing and healing properties.
Studies have shown that aloe vera inhibits the growth of infections and certain bacteria on wounds and burns. This helps hasten the time of healing for wounds and burns, thereby allowing for fewer chemical-based pharmaceutical options needed to be used. Scientists have discovered that the gel is so effective that it can hurry up healing by up to 9 days in comparison with other pharmaceutical treatments. Moreover, it helps prevent itchiness, irritation, and redness which all can lead to infection. Thus, aloe is one of the best herbs to use for helping wounds and burns to heal!
Caleb from Maple Holistics
What are the health benefits of drinking dandelion tea?
While many people only associate dandelions with childhood experiences of blowing wishes or pulling weeds, the dandelion is in fact a very popular centuries-old medicinal herb. This common weed is full of fiber, antioxidants, and many other bioactive compounds that support a healthy immune system and a healthy body as a whole.
Dandelion tea includes many unique health benefits, including reducing oxidative stress in the body, supporting healthy blood sugar levels, maintaining liver health, supporting the body’s natural energy, and supporting heart health. Many of these benefits are due to dandelion’s antioxidant content. Antioxidants are molecules that prevent cell damage caused by free radicals, also known as “oxidative stress.” Oxidative stress can cause inflammation, and in severe cases, lead to chronic inflammation resulting in diseases such as heart disease or cancer.
Dandelion contains a wide range of cleansing, restorative compounds, and nutrients that benefit the body. It’s easy to incorporate dandelion tea into your daily routine too. In fact, many people prefer dandelion tea to coffee for its energizing effects without the caffeine. Once absorbed into the body, the bioactive compounds and other nutrients in dandelion can kick in as little as an hour or two, once they work their way through the digestive tract.
When preparing your dandelion tea, take special care to ensure no pesticides or herbicides have been applied where you are harvesting your dandelions. Likewise, keep in mind that there is a risk of allergic reaction, especially for those who are allergic to plants such as ragweed. Dandelion may also interact with some medications, including those involved with regulating blood sugar or certain antibiotics, so pay close attention to known drug interactions of any medications that may be being used.
Jesse Richardson from The Brothers Apothecary
Which herbs can help with respiratory problems and how do you use them for this purpose?
Combining healing herbs and essential oils can help relieve difficulty breathing brought on by a stubborn cough, lingering congestion, chronic mucus, asthma, bronchitis, and much more.
Aromatherapy, with its well-documented and powerful antimicrobial effects, works directly on the respiratory system, while herbs reduce irritation in airways and possess antioxidative powers of their own.
You can use aromatherapy as a primary treatment, then supplement it with herbs, OR use herbs as the primary treatment and supplement them with essential oils.
Either way, this powerful combination brings enhanced synergistic effects and increased therapeutic benefits for treating and preventing many common respiratory conditions.
Common herbs which can be used for respiratory issues are:
- Basils-including tulsi
- Lemon Balm
For tea infusions of herbaceous aromatics (like leaves, flowers, and dry herbs), a typical recipe is one teaspoon dry herb per cup hot water, steeped for several minutes.
And did you know that larger amounts can be made in the same ratio in a French coffee press? It’s true!
For roots, barks, seeds, and forms other than aromatic leaves, recipes are typically less than infused leaves — 1/4 teaspoon per cup of water.
While herbs can also be taken as tinctures, either as single remedies or in combinations, each herb requires a specific dose, so research recipes carefully. Tinctures can also be added to infused teas.
You can steep fresh or dried plant material in the bath, in hot water for inhalations, or use them traditionally in a steam cabinet or sauna.
Here are some sample recipes for certain respiratory conditions:
Sample Recipes of Expectorant Herbs & Oils (These help loosen mucus so you can more easily cough it up).
Tulsi/ginger tea, ½ – 1 cup 2 – 4 times each day. Combine with:
Steam inhalation with Silver Fir essential oil 1 – 2 times each day, or
Diffuse equal parts Rosemary and Eucalyptus essential oils
Expectorant cough syrup with mullein and/or wild cherry bark, ½ – 1 teaspoon. Combine with:
Tulsi tea 2-4 times each day, or
Create a chest compress with Cedar and/or Juniper Berry Essential Oils
Sample Recipes of Mucolytic Herbs & Oils (These make mucus thinner and easier to cough up).
Mucolytic cough syrup containing mullein, ½ – 1 teaspoon 2-4 times each day. Combine with:
Ginger, peppermint, tulsi teas, or
Rub chest with ½ and ½ Helichrysum essential oil and coconut or sesame oil, or
Diffuse equal parts tulsi and Rosemary essential oils
Sample Recipes of Decongestant Herbs & Oils (These relieve blocked nasal passages).
Peppermint/elder flower tea, ½ – 1 cup, 2 – 4 times each day. Combine with:
Steam inhalation — equal parts Eucalyptus/Tea tree oils
Rosemary tea, ½ cup 2 – 4 times each day. Combine with:
Steam inhalation with equal parts Peppermint/Silver Fir oils
David Crow from Floracopeia
What are the Matcha and Green tea health benefits?
Green tea is one of the most consumed healthy drinks globally, and when fresh green tea leaves are ground into a bright and vibrant green powder form, a new kind of green tea drink emerges. Whether we mix matcha with hot water or mix it with our favorite beverages and desserts, we cannot deny that matcha is delicious and refreshing. Because of so many matcha and green tea choices, many are asking what the health benefits of these drinks are. We will compare the health benefits of green tea and matcha.
Green tea and matcha came from the Camellia sinensis plant, but some benefits changed since both were processed differently. Here is the list of the health benefits these teas have and the differences.
The health benefits of green tea and matcha include:
- Antioxidants (catechins) that help protect cells and skin from damage
- Help in weight loss because of the caffeine and antioxidants that can burn calories
- Lower cholesterol because of the catechin extract
- Contain L-Theanine for calming and concentration effect
Health Benefits of Green Tea over Matcha:
- Have fewer calories than matcha, meaning you can better control your diet.
- More fresh, organic, and natural (plain or tea bag form), some might have a flowery taste depending on the kind of green tea
Health Benefits of Matcha over Green Tea:
- Richer in antioxidants and can reduce heart disease
- Unlike with green tea, where only tea leaves were steeped, matcha came from green tea leaves and stems
- Since there are more caffeine and antioxidants, matcha can burn more calories
- Add matcha powder to healthy foods to gain more nutrients
Side effects of too much intake of green tea or matcha:
- Sleep deprivation
- Liver Toxicity due to too much intake of antioxidants
How much tea can I drink every day?
It is best to drink one to two cups per day.
Overall, green tea and matcha have almost the same health benefits. If you want a quick and less effort in preparing tea, green tea leaves are suitable. Also, there are different tea leaves and a variety of tastes. If you want an easy shake mix or want to create more food fusions, matcha is the best bet.
For more information about Japanese green tea and health, please check our Green Tea and Health Blog
Kei Nishida from Japanese Green Tea Co.
Which are the best herbal remedies you can recommend for a cold?
Here are my time-tested, go-to herbal remedies that help with colds. After 30+ years of working with students and clients, I’ve settled on these easy and effective common ingredients that you might already have in your kitchen or can find at the grocery store.
If you feel like you’re catching a cold:
– Eat garlic.
Garlic contains several sulfur compounds that are antimicrobial. Garlic boosts the production of white blood cells, helping to fight off bacteria, parasites, and viruses. The antimicrobial properties of garlic are more effective if the garlic is eaten raw.
-Drink rosemary tea.
Rosemary tea is full of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that can help fight off a cold. It is warming and increases circulation so that the body can more efficiently get rid of the cold
-Add more cinnamon to your food.
If you are suffering from a cough, cold, or sore throat, consider adding more cinnamon to your food. It dissolves mucus and helps resolve irritating coughs and bronchial congestion. Cinnamon increases warmth and circulation. It is a natural cure for allergic rhinitis and clears stagnation throughout the respiratory tract.
-Drink ginger tea.
Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to prevent a cold before it takes hold? This tea is our go-to tea when colds are going around. Ginger has antimicrobial properties that help to fight off colds and flu. You can drink a couple of cups of this tea a day whenever someone around you is sick. Or when you go to the store and everyone in line is coughing and sneezing. Yikes, get home and drink your tea!
Ginger Cold Buster Tea
Drink this hot at the very first sign of anyone around you being sick. The ginger, lemon and honey all work synergistically to help you fight off nasty bacteria. Be well!
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Place chopped fresh ginger root into a pot with a lid on it. I use stainless steel Revere pots; glass and enamel pots also work well
Bring water and herbs to a boil and then immediately turn off the fire
Let ginger steep for one hour
Using a metal strainer, remove the ginger from the tea
Re-heat the ginger tea
Add honey and lemon
Drink warm or at room temperature
The shelf life of this tea is about two days if kept in the refrigerator
Kami McBride, author of The Herbal Kitchen and KamiMcBride.com
What is the best herbal remedy to help soothe muscle pain and swelling?
The best herbal remedy I know of for muscle pain and swelling consists of equal parts Palo Santo, Helichrysum Italicum, and German Chamomile essential oils diluted to 10% in Foraha Carrier oil. Blend the essential oils together first, wait 3 days, and then add 3ml (90 drops) to each ounce of Foraha oil.
This is a remedy that we blend and offer on our website. We call it Pain Relief Formula.
Hope Johnson from Miracle Botanicals
What is the best ayurvedic herbal drink you can recommend to improve our overall health?
The best herbal drink recommended to boost overall health is Triphala Drink.
Triphala is one of the best-known Ayurvedic formulations after Chyawanprash. It includes extracts from haritaki, bibhitaki, and amalaki.
Triphala is a traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It is a mix of three dried fruits-Indian gooseberries (Emblica Officinalis), beleric myrobalan (Terminalia chebula), and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula).
Due to its numerous health benefits, Triphala is considered a polyherbal medicine. Triphala infused water helps to promote longevity and cures acute constipation problems.
Triphala contains a wide range of plant compounds like phenols, tannins, gallic acid, terpenes, and flavonoids.
In addition to powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, triphala enhances protection against inflammatory diseases, infections, and cancer. Consuming triphala juice has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, tame hair loss, and aid abdominal fat loss.This is considered as the best drug for eyes, which improves vision. In ayurveda, there is a quote in sanskrit “akshyaamayeshu thriphala.” To summarise Thriphala drink is a nectar to the body.
Lillie from AyurYoga Eco Ashram
What is the best ayurvedic herbal remedy you can recommend to support the immune system?
Triphala is an excellent topical antibiotic, anti-fungal, and antiviral combination. One-quarter teaspoon of Triphala powder can be simmered in one half cup of pure water for five minutes. It is then strained well and cooled to a comfortable temperature for use as an eye wash. This eye wash also can support clearer vision. The same formula can be used as a mouth wash. Triphala tastes terrible, so using it topically can be a nice way to first meet it.
Amadea from Amadea Morningstar
What is the best ayurvedic remedy you can recommend for digestive and gut health?
The best Ayurvedic remedy for digestive and gut health is simple and easy – drink hot water in between meals and avoid cold drinks. In Ayurveda, we think of digestion as a fire. In order to keep this fire burning strong and promote proper digestion, it’s best to sip on warm liquids in between your meals. Cold drinks will dampen digestion – much like pouring coconut oil down your drain, fats coagulate and harden when we consume cold beverages. Warm beverages help to move any undigested food through the digestive tract.
Rachel Spillane, Ayurvedic Practitioner at Saraswati Ayurveda
Which medicinal herbs do you recommend growing at home and what ailments can they be used for?
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Matricaria recutita, more commonly known as Chamomile and as the “Compassionate Lady of the Composites,” provides many medicinal benefits that are gentle yet effective. Chamomile has the ability to calm and harmonize many different body systems, including the digestive tract, the nervous system, and the mind. During times of emotional distress, Chamomile’s gentle ability to relieve restlessness has been traditionally sought after since the medieval times. A fresh infusion of Chamomile flowers can support healthy lung function and relieve congestion in the lower respiratory tract. Typically taken as a tea, or water infusion, it’s no surprise more than one million cups of Chamomile tea are consumed every day! This herb’s ability to target different systems is quite remarkable, making it a versatile homegrown medicinal to keep on hand.
Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
Native to India and widely used in Ayurvedic practices, Holy Basil is referred to as the “Queen of Herbs.” Sought after for its adaptogenic properties, Holy Basil supports the body in navigating stress and maintaining homeostasis. Perhaps the most magical part of this plant is the spiritual presence it holds within the Hindu community, where a home is not complete unless a Holy Basil plant is present. The innate wisdom passed down through Ayurvedic beliefs is proven to be true by current trials and studies. Reducing cortisol levels, supporting blood glucose levels, and improving metabolic function are among many of Holy Basil’s benefits that have been backed by modern science. The matching of innate wisdom and the scientific method are very powerful, proving the medicinal benefits of this plant to be true. The admiration of Holy Basil for both spiritual and medicinal reasons makes it a great addition to any garden.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
Given the Latin name, it comes as no surprise that Motherwort has an affinity for the heart system. Leonurus can be calming during periods of restlessness and is typically taken as a heart tonic. One of my favorite aspects of Motherwort is the emotional offering it provides to a broken heart, providing support and grounding in times of need. Historically used as a reproductive herb, there is an emotional connection between the uterus and the heart, and Motherwort bridges the gap between the two. Motherwort shows its affection towards our reproductive tract by supporting a healthy menstruation cycle and potentially relieving symptoms of PMS. Since reproductive health is such an important part of life, Motherwort is beneficial to any garden.
If you want to learn more you can check out this article with great and interesting information about how to frow these herbs at home.
By Brittney Offenburg from Wishgarden Herbs
These are just a few recipes that we can make at home to feel better with the healing benefits of herbs, plants and adaptogens, but still, make sure to check with your health care provider before you try any of these at home to verify if there is no counterindication for you, especially if you suffer from allergies or are taking prescribed medications.