- Alternative & Natural Medicine
How to Grow Your Own Drugs.
Before people could simply walk into the pharmacy / chemist when they were ill, and before they could simply go to their doctors for a prescription at the first sign of a cough or a sore throat, they would turn to their gardens for a cure or a means of alleviating uncomfortable symptoms. Many of the medicines we buy today originated from herbal remedies, and those same plants are still capable of helping us when we are ill, often as effectively as drugs purchased over the counter from our local chemist.
In this article I wish to list a selection of recipes for herbal remedies that you can easily make in your own kitchen using a few ingredients from your store cupboard and from your garden. I hope you will try them out for yourselves and see just how effective they are, as well as realising this is a very healthy way to get yourself healthy!
Who said growing drugs was a bad thing!
Disclaimer,Always check with a medical professional before taking any drugs that are not prescribed. Check with your GP before taking any alternative medications if you think you may be pregnant. Ensure you have correctly identified plants before using them.
You won't need all of these, but some of the ingredients will be required for specific remedies, and certain products will be essential if you are making ointments for instance. It is probably best to establish which remedy you intend to make before checking if you need to buy in any extra ingredients.
Wine or Cider Vinegar
Bicarbonate of Soda
Beeswax and Emulsifying Wax
Vitamin C Powder
Oils (sunflower, olive, almond, wheatgerm, avocado, coconut, sesame).
Ten of the Best Plants to Use
St John's Wort, an anti-depressant and also excellent for healing skin.
Sage, great for coughs, colds, congestion and hot flushes.
Lavender, superb for aiding restful sleep, calming, relaxing, antiseptic and useful as a painkiller.
Chamomile, eases indigestion and colic, good for skin irritations and reduces tension.
Lemon Balm, aids sleep, soothes nervous tension and is helpful for cold sores.
Marigold, fabulous for sunburn, acne and spots. Eases ulcers and digestive problems.
Echinacea, strengthens the immune system and eases cold and flu symptoms.
Viola, good for eczema and skin eruptions, also loosens phlegm.
Peppermint, very helpful for wind, digestion and headaches.
Rosemary, aids memory and concentration, mood enhancing and acts as a breath freshener.
Try to always obtain your plants form healthy sources. For obvious reasons you don't want your key ingredients to have been harvested from areas such as roadsides where they will have been exposed to fumes, dirt, humans having walked on them, dogs having peed on them etc. It is always best to grow your own wherever possible, or at least source the vegetable matter from rural locations such as fields (not crop fields as they may have been exposed to pesticides), or natural habitats. Never take more than you need and always be certain you have the correct plant for your remedy.
Large wooden and metal spoons
A measuring jug
Glass mixing bowls
A teapot with a lid
A fine meshed sieve.
Optional but Useful Equipment Includes:
A pestle and mortar
Muslin or Cheesecloth
Glass jars for storage
A Few Helpful Definitions
Tea or Infusion. This is exactly as it sounds. The washed and chopped vegetable matter is soaked in boiling water for about 10 minutes and then once the water has taken on the colour of the plant material the liquid is strained through a sieve lined with muslin. The resulting 'tea' can the be drunk, used in lotions or added to bathwater.
Tinctures. These are chopped plants soaked in alcohol to obtain the essential compounds. Vodka is ideal for this purpose, but rum, brandy or whiskey also work well. Alcohol used must be at least 80% proof to avoid the tincture going off. To make a tincture fill a jar with plant matter and then cover in alcohol. Run a knife around the sides to remove air bubbles. Seal the jar and leave in a cool dark place for up to one month, occasionally agitating the contents. Strain the resulting liquid through muslin and transfer to smaller glass bottles. These tinctures should keep for up to 5 years.
Decoction. These are made like a tea or infusion, but left to simmer in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Especially helpful with roots, barks and woody parts of a plant. Treat the resulting liquid in the same way as for a tea or tincture.
Gels. These are made by dissolving gelatine with an infusion or juice. Use immediately unless adding alcohol or essential oils.
Creams and Lotions. These emulsions are made by mixing an oil based and a water based preparation together over heat in order to bind them together with an emulsifier like beeswax or emulsifying wax. Great to use on skin but will only last about two months when stored in a refrigerator.
Salves and Balms. These are made by adding beeswax to an infused oil before heating gently in order to melt the two into one. Once cool they will solidify and can be applied where required. Whilst warm the liquid can be poured into glass jars where it will keep for up to 2 years.
Infused Oils. These are made by filling a jar with the relevant plant material and then covering with oil. Again, run a knife around the sides to get rid of air bubbles. Seal the jar and leave in a warm place for about 2 weeks, or until the oil has changed to the colour of the vegetable material. Strain the oil and bottle it. The process can be sped up by boiling the herbs and oil in a pan for about 20 minutes before straining and bottling the oil. Infused oils will keep for up to one year.
Vinegars. These can be used internally or externally and are made by heating cider or wine vinegar with the herbs for several hours. The resulting vinegar should keep for about 6 months.
Poultices and Compresses. Certain compounds can be absorbed through the skin, and a poultice applies crushed plants directly to the skin, sometimes mixed in a flour paste and covered with gauze and a bandage. A compress applies plant infusions or decoctions directly to the skin by soaking linen or cotton cloth in the liquid (hot or cold) and then applying to the skin.
Herb-infused Honeys. A natural anti-bacterial agent honey can be applied to wounds to encourage rapid healing. To infuse honey with herbs is a simply process. The honey and herbs are heated together for about one hour, before being bottled. They are often used to soothe sore throats and help with upper respiratory congestion. These infused honeys will keep for up to 6 months.
Syrups and Lozenges. Syrups are made by boiling the plant matter in water with sugar or honey, occasionally with gelatine added as a thickener. These should keep for up to a year if stored in sterilized jars sealed and unopened. After opening they should be kept in a refrigerator and used within 3 months. If you prefer to make lozenges, add further sugar or continue boiling for longer. Once cooled and set you will have produced a solid brittle mass that can be broken up into cough sweets.
Obviously there will be times of year when you want to make your home remedies but the plants you need are out of season. This problem can be solved by drying the relevant plants when they are in season. There are two easy methods of drying plants, air drying and oven drying.
Loosely bunch together your leaves and then tie them together with string. Find a well ventilated dry environment such as a garden shed and hang the bunches upside down from the roof away from direct sunlight, (this will ensure the oils drain down to the leaves). Leave until they go crispy (about weeks). Strip off the dried foliage, crumble and store in an airtight container. The dried leaves should keep for up to 1 year.
Cover a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and space the plants out on it. Place in the oven with the door slightly opened and the oven turned on to its lowest setting. Once dry, (after anything up to 5 hours), remove from the oven and treat as for air dried leaves.
Syrup of Figs
18 g dried senna pods
100 ml boiling water
8 fresh figs
100 g sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Place the senna pods in a glass bowl and pour over the boiling water. Leave for 30 minutes and then strain through a sieve into a blender.
Add the figs and the sugar and blend until smooth.
Pour the mixture into a saucepan and heat gently whilst constantly stirring to reduce the the liquid. After about 25 minutes you will have a thick, glossy syrup. Add the lemon juice and stir in well.
Remove from the heat and pour into a sterilized glass bottle.
Shake well and take 2 teaspoonfuls before bed. don't use for more than 3 days running or if you experience abdominal pain.
Stores in refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp chopped peppermint leaves
1 tsp chamomile flowers
250 ml hot water
Crush the caraway and fennel seeds using a pestle and mortar to extract the oils. Combine the seeds with the peppermint and chamomile and place in an airtight container.
Put one to two teaspoons of the mixture into 250 ml of hot (not boiling) water and allow 15 minutes for the herbs to infuse. Sip slowly whilst still warm.
Drink one cup up to 4 times a day.
The herb mixture will keep for several months.
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of low sodium salt
1/4 tsp sodium bicarbonate
2 tbsp glucose
1/2-1 tbspn fennel seeds
1/2-1 tbspn peppermint leaves
1 litre of water recently boiled.
Combine herbs, salts and glucose in a bowl.
Add the hot water and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.
Drink as much as possible to replace your lost electrolytes.
The dry herb mixture will store in an airtight container for several months.
Viola and Chamomile Cream.
20 g of viola flowers removed from their stems
20 g Roman or German dried chamomile
250 ml freshly boiled water
1 tsp beeswax
2 tbspn almond oil
1 tsp vitamin C powder
1 tsp glycerine
2 tsp emulsifying wax
Place chamomile and violas in a glass bowl and pour over the boiled water. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes and then transfer to a medium sized pan.
In another glass bowl add the beeswax, almond oil, vitamin C powder, glycerine and emulsifying wax.
Place this bowl on top of the infusion pan and warm gently, stirring the contents until melted.
Strain the infusion liquid, and then slowly whisk it into the oil mixture until blended to the consistency of mayonnaise.
Apply to affected areas morning and evening, ideally soon after bathing to trap moisture in the skin.
Stores well for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.
Carrot and Aloe Cream.
1/2 cup of sesame oil
1 tsp beeswax
2 tsp emulsifying wax
1/2 cup of aloe vera gel
1 tsp vitamin C powder
Finely grate the carrot and cucumber and place in a large pan with the sesame oil. Heat gently for 20 - 30 minutes, strain, and return the liquid to the pan.
Add the beeswax and emulsifying wax and stir until melted. Whisk in the aloe vera gel and the vitamin C powder until you are left with a smooth mixture.
Pour into a jar and leave to cool.
Apply generously to sunburned areas of skin 2 to 3 times a day.
Stores for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.
125 g fresh juniper berries
250 ml olive or sunflower oil
3 - 4 tbspn beeswax (if making ointment only)
Soak berries in water overnight and then discard the water.
Place the berries in a double boiler or bain-marie, add the oil and simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until the berries lose their colour and the oil darkens.
Strain through a sieve lined with muslin and place the liquid into a sterilized jar to store.
If you prefer an ointment then make the juniper oil as described. Heat the beeswax in a double boiler or bain-marie over a low heat. Stir in the oil thoroughly and pour into a dark glass jar. As it cools the balm should solidify, if it is too runny remove from the pot and add more melted beeswax, reheat to blend and then bottle up again.
The massage oil can rubbed directly into the affected area several times a day and will keep for up to 6 months.
The ointment can be applied several times a day to scars or affected areas and will keep for p to 6 months in sterilized dark glass jar.
100 g fresh rosemary leaves
25 g fresh lavender flowers
200 ml neem oil
200 ml almond oil
6 minced garlic cloves
2 tbspn tea tree oil
Strip the flowers and leaves from their sprigs.
Combine the neem and almond oil in a measuring jug.
Crush half of the rosemary and lavender with a little of the oil using a pestle and mortar. Place this mixture into a saucepan. Repeat with the second half of the rosemary and lavender.
Place the crushes herbs and the oils into the pan and add the crushed garlic. Heat gently for about 20 minutes.
Strain through a muslin lined sieve and add the tea tree oil to the liquid. Stir and then store in a sterilized 500 ml bottle.
Apply to dry hair making certain the hair is completely covered and that the oil reaches the scalp. Cover with a towel and leave on for at least an hour, or overnight if possible. Wash off with two applications of shampoo. Apply conditioner and then comb through hair with a nit comb. Repeat treatment 7 days later to deal with any nits that may have hatched since. Comb through hair using a nit comb every 3 days.
Stores for up to 6 months.
Cabbage Leaf Poultice
Savoy Cabbage Leaves
Cut out the central rib of the cabbage leaves. Lay the remaining leaves flat on a chopping board and bash with a rolling pin until the juices start to be released.
Place the leaves over swollen joins and wrap around with a crêpe bandage to keep the leaves in position.
500 ml freshly boiled water
3 tbspn feverfew flowers
3 kiwi fruit peeled
3 tbspn honey
1/2 tsp salt
Pour the boiled water over the feverfew flowers and leave to steep for 8 minutes
Place the infusion into a blender with the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
Add further honey if required as feverfew flowers can be bitter.
Will store in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Cherry Cough Syrup.
500 g cherries with stones in.
1 sliced lemon
250 ml honey
Place all the ingredients in a pan with enough water to cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until the cherries have softened.
Remove from the heat and strain off the solids.
Coll and pour into a sterilized glass bottle.
Take 2 tbspn as required to stop coughing.
Will store for several days in a refrigerator.
25 g butter
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 crushed garlic cloves
400 g potatoes peeled and chopped
450 g freshly picked nettle tops
1 litre of vegetable stock
150 ml double cream
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pan melt the butter and gently cook the onion and garlic for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and nettles and fry for 2 minutes. Add the stock, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Leave to cool.
Puree the ingredients with handheld blender, stir in the cream and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Reheat and serve at once.
1 large bunch of sage leaves
Enough runny honey (sage honey if possible) to cover the leaves.
Wash and dry the sage leaves and place in a pan with the honey. Simmer gently for 1 hour. Allow to cool to a handleable temperature.
Strain the honey into a sterilized jar containing a sprig of sage.
Take 1 tsp when needed to soothe a sore throat. Also useful as a sweetener for hot lemon drinks for colds and flu. Take up to 4 times a day when needed.
Stores for around 6 months.
Valerian Hot Chocolate.
3 tbspn fresh valerian root
3 tbspn fresh lemon balm leaves
3 tsp fresh lavender flowers
6 leaves and 3 heads from fresh passion flowers
The peel from 1 and a 1/2 oranges
900 ml full-fat milk
50 g dark chocolate (minimum 50% cocoa solids)
A dash of vanilla essence
Chop the top and bottom from the fresh valerian root. Add the valerian, lemon balm, lavender, passion flowers, orange peel and milk to a pan and heat gently for about 10 minutes. Strain.
Pour the infused milk back into the pan and add the chocolate and the vanilla essence. Stir until melted and drink immediately.
Makes 3 cups.
Nettle Hair Tonic.
1 large bunch of nettle leaves fresh or dried
500 ml water
500 ml white wine vinegar
1 tbspn aromatic herbs such as lavender, rosemary etc, or alternatively 10 drops of essential oil.
Simmer the nettles in water and vinegar for 2 hours, then stir in the aromatic herbs or the essential oil. Allow the mixture to cool and then strain through a sieve lined with muslin. Store in bottles.
Apply to scalp every other night as a hair strengthening tonic, or use as a leave-in final rinse after shampooing.
Stores for about 1 month.
Heartburn and Indigestion
2 cups of Irish Moss - Chondrus crispus seaweed
4 tbspn fennel seeds
4 tbspn mint leaves
500 ml water
125 ml glycerine
4 tbspn bicarbonate of soda
Simmer the Irish moss, fennel seeds and mint in the water for 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to 250 ml.
Blend in a liquidizer with the glycerine until smooth. Strain through a sieve lined with muslin and leave to cool.
Whisk in the bicarbonate of soda, then pour into a sterilized bottle.
Take 2 tsp whenever you feel symptoms coming on.
Stores for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.
Insect Bites and Stings
4 tbspn fresh plantain leaves
150 ml boiling water
2 tbspn olive oil or sunflower oil
2 tbspn almond oil
1 tsp beeswax
2 tsp emulsifying wax
2 tsp glycerine
1 tsp vitamin C powder
Wash and chop the plantain leaves. Divide into two and put one half in bowl and the other half in a pan. Cover the plantain in the bowl with the water and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
Add the olive oil to the plantain in the pan and heat gently to simmering point. Do not allow the mixture to boil, and if it does remove it from the heat immediately. Leave for 10 minutes to cool.
Drain the infusion, remove plantain leaves and set the liquid to one side.
Drain the infused oil into another pan and remove the plantain leaves. Heat the oil again and add the beeswax and the emulsifying wax and melt, stirring until you have a foamy consistency.
Add 16 tbspn infused water to the pan and whisk to achieve a salad dressing type consistency. Add the glycerine and vitamin C powder.
Pour into sterlized glass pots and seal.
Apply when necessary.
Stores for up to 3 months in a refrigerator as long as kept in n airtight container.
Garlic Foot Powder.
4 tbspn dried sage leaves
4 tbspn dried garlic
7 tbspn (70 g) bicarbonate of soda
7 tbspn (70 g) cornflour
24 drops of tea tree oil
Grind the sage in a mortar and then place in a medium sized bowl. Add the garlic. Sprinkle over the cornflour and bicarbonate of soda and mix well.
Add the tea tree oil and stir until well distributed. Place the powder into a salt or sugar shaker for use.
Dust on liberally several times a day until the symptoms disappear, (usually several weeks). Continue using for a further week to ensure even dormant fungal spores are destroyed.
Stores for up to 1 year if kept in a dry, dark location.
40 g German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) flowerheads.
900 ml water
450 g sugar or honey
Place the chamomile in a pan with the water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low and cover with a tight fitting lid. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Reduce the mixture to 200 ml by simmering slowly with the lid removed.
Add the sugar and simmer for several more minutes until the mixture resembles syrup, (do NOT boil rapidly).
Strain through a sieve and pour into a sterilized bottle and seal with a cork in case the mixture ferments s otherwise the bottle could explode.
Children take 1 tsp, 3-6 times daily.
Adults take 2-4 tsp, 3-6 times daily.
Not to be used by diabetics.
Stores unopened for up to a year. Stores for one week after opening if kept refrigerated.
Hot Flushes and Night Sweats
Sage and Raspberry Leaf Tea.
1/2 tbspn fresh sage leaves (or half as many dried)
1/2 tbspn fresh raspberry leaves (or half as many dried)
200 ml freshly boiled water
Pour the water over the washed sage and raspberry leaves and leave for 8 to 10 minutes.
Sip a wine glassful every 3 hours. Not to be taken if pregnant.
Cranberry Fruit Leather.
500 g fresh cranberries
Caster sugar to taste
Rinse the cranberries and dry them. Crush with a rolling pin to make a mash, retaining all the juice that you can. You can also whizz in blender if you prefer a smoother texture.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Press the mash into the tray to a thickness of about cm. Smooth the top. Place in the oven on its lowest setting (about 40°C ), and leave for about 12 hours, (check regularly to ensure the fruit does not dry out too much). Aim for a texture that holds its shape when pulled away from the greaseproof paper, but doesn't crack or crumble.
Sprinkle over as little sugar as you can to make the leather palatable, then leave in the tray for a further 2 hours until it is completely dry.
Warm in a low oven for 10 minutes and then roll it and cut it into slices. Store on greaseproof paper in an airtight container.
Chew on a strip as often as you wish to.
Keeps for about 1 month in the refrigerator.
Research Source Used
I have just finished reading an excellent BBC book called "Grow Your Own Drugs" and I highly recommend you purchase a copy. The book is by James Wong and is full of home remedies for numerous ailments such as these and many many more. It is a "must have" book for every household in my honest opinion.
If you check out the amazon capsule immediately to the right of this paragraph you will see the book listing.