Everyday Apothecary: Remedy Recipes for Everybody

{This article written for Velocity Magazine July/August 2013. Pick one up on our front porch today or read the magazine online.}

In college I had an excessive soda habit, consuming almost a liter a day. The processed sugar and caffeine had me hooked but left me dehydrated and fatigued when the rush wore off, so I would drink another and another: mood swing city! When I developed an interest in herbal tea, I was not only saved from my mood swings, I discovered delicious alternatives existed that brought vitality to my physical body while helping balance my mental, emotional and spiritual self as well. Since then, I’ve found that one of the most dramatic and delightful ways to invite health into our family is with our choice of beverage, an opportunity not often discussed.

While prepared teabags can be convenient, I find it much more fun to have a collection of organic or wildcrafted herbs from a reputable source (you definitely don’t want chemicals in your teacup!) to concoct exactly what is needed in the moment. We are lucky to have a herb store with a huge selection called Leaves and Roots in town at affordable prices. Most herbs listed below can be purchased in 2-3 oz increments for around $3. (Retail location: 9434 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32817 or convenient home delivery through Homegrown Co-op’s online store http://homegrowncoop.org)

Building Blocks of a Basic Apothecary

It’s good idea to start with at least two types of leaves to use as a base and a variety of flowers, fruits and roots so you can experiment with combinations. Store your herbs in mason jars or tins away from direct sunlight. They will keep longer in a cool, dark space such as a cupboard. Below is a basic collection of a dozen herbs that can address just about anything that ails my family day-to-day and serves me morning, noon and night.

art by jessie doyle
“Holy Basil” art by jessie doyle

 

Leaves

  • Yerba Mate is physically & mentally energizing, a great coffee alternative
  • Rooibos, also known as Red Tea, is a sweet herb high in antioxidants, vitamin C, protects DNA and is a remedy for a long list of ailments from allergies to colic
  • Mint refreshes and helps with our digestive system soothing troubled tummies
  • Tulsi (Holy Basil) is known as the “Queen of Herbs” in India and is known for it’s restorative powers in stress reduction, immune support, and enhanced stamina with antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties. If I could only have one herb on a deserted island, this one would be it.
"German Chamomile" by Jessie Doyle
“German Chamomile” by Jessie Doyle

 

Flowers

  • Hibiscus (also known as sorrel) lowers blood pressure and adds a tart perk with it’s vibrant red hue and can be found growing in many places throughout Florida
  • Roses are comforting and bring a sensuous aroma
  • Chamomile is calming, perfect for kids and frazzled parents

Fruit

  • Rosehips are the richest plant source of vitamin C and have a bright flavor
  • Mango (dried) is a Florida grown superfruit high in antioxidants and great for digestion
  • Elderberry (dried) is an overall immune booster and taken to prevent cold & flu

Roots

  • Dandelion (roasted) has a earthy flavor and aides the liver, digestion and eliminates toxins in our system; high in iron so good for people with anemia
  • Ginger (fresh or dried) is a relaxant and anti-anxiety remedy that aids digestion, nausea, colic, and stimulates the circulatory system while reducing fevers. It is also antibacterial & antiviral with a comforting and refreshing flavor.

Blending herbs is easy: Imagine you are building a salad – leaves are your base and everything else is just toppings, added to your liking. I usually work with three herbs at a time. In the morning, Yerba Mate with Dandelion and Rosehips would be an energizing start. Kids love the vitamin packed and calming combination of Rooibos with Rosehips and Chamomile, make a gallon at a time and store in the fridge as a substitute for sugary drinks. A great post-supper blend might include Tulsi with Roses and Ginger. If I was worried about getting sick, I might have Tulsi, Rooibos and Elderberry. A favorite afternoon iced tea might be Mint with Hibiscus and Mango.

Infusing tea can be slap-dash or fancy: Put a kettle on to boil and grab a tea infuser (found at any health food store, tea shop or asian store). If you don’t have an infuser, make do with a mason jar and a strainer (my preferred method at home). Aim for a tablespoon of herbal tea per cup, so two parts leaves to one part “toppings”would be an approximate measurement. Blending tea is an art, not a science, so don’t worry about getting it exact. If you want to do a larger batch for ice tea, increase your blend amount to about half a cup herbs per half gallon. Pour the boiling water on top of the herbs and let steep covered for at least five minutes, but the longer the better for most herbs as it will bring out more of the healing properties of the plant.

Invite herbs into your day: an everyday apothecary of twelve herbs listed above will reduce your dependence on processed beverages, support your overall health while relaxing your nervous system and save money on over the counter medicines. It’s an awesome way to get your kids involved in taking care of themselves too, they think it will be fun to play herbalist and you will be pleased knowing that their beverages are nourishing them instead of depleting them.

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