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   Jul 05

Herbal first aid kit: Allergy tea, lavender oil and more

These home-made remedies are helpful to have on hand when ailments strike

HERBAL medicine is the therapeutic use of plants and plant extracts to exert an effect on the body. Its roots go back in time with evidence from the Neanderthal period. Plant-rich landscapes not only provided food and materials for ancient peoples but also offered “pharmacies” to treat sickness and disease.

Today plants continue to provide everything from food and clothing to medicine. Many common drugs are still derived or synthesised from plants. The contraceptive pill was first developed from a constituent in yams and some cancer treatments come from yew trees. Using herbs at home can be as simple as a cup of camomile tea for tummy ache or lavender essential oil to aid sleep. It can be used to treat or manage symptoms or preventatively to keep the body healthy.

When illness does strike, a well-stocked herbal medicine cabinet can provide relief for all manner of ailments. If you are taking medications, have an existing medical condition or are considering treating young children or the elderly, consult a herbalist before taking remedies.

Infusing oils with herbs allows you to extract their medicinal qualities. You should not take herbal oils made with fresh herbs internally due to the risk of botulism.

Infused oils differ from essential oils, which need to be diluted before being applied to the skin because they can cause allergies or burns (use 10-20 essential oil drops in 100ml base oil).

Herbal-infused oils can also be massaged into affected areas or as a base to create balms, ointments and creams. Any pressed oil will suffice but some impart their own healing qualities.

Lavender essential oil is good for steam inhalations, sinus congestion and more


For rashes, cuts, bites and burns. Half-fi ll a wide-mouthed, sterilised jar with dried St John’s Wort or calendula and then cover with either olive or sunflower oil, shaking slightly to get rid of any air bubbles and ensuring all plant material is covered (anything sticking out of the oil may go mouldy and ruin it).

Seal with the lid. Leave in a sunny place and turn every day for at least two weeks. Discard if it turns mouldy or rancid. Strain through a muslin-lined sieve into a sterilised jar or bottle. Seal, label and date. Keep in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

For aches, sprains and bruises. Melt 40g beeswax in a bain-marie with 150ml comfrey-infused oil and 150ml elder leaf-infused oil. Mix well until fully combined.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool for five minutes, then add the essential oils (for example 20 drops of wintergreen or sweet birch essential oil, 10 drops of marjoram essential oil and 10 drops of lavender essential oil) and stir well. Pour into jars, seal, label and date.

To use, massage into the affected area up to three times a day for a maximum of two months at a time. Keep up to one year in a cool, dark place.

Natural remedies to relieve a sore throat

Sore throat natural remedies to heal and relieve pain.


For hay fever, eczema, general allergies and sinus infections. This refreshing tea is a traditional mix for reducing the symptoms of hay fever and allergic rhinitis. Use fresh herbs when they’re in season.

Mix 50g dried nettle leaf, 50g dried plantain leaf and 50g dried elderflowers together in an airtight container, then seal, label and date. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb mix per 250ml cup of boiling water to make an infusion. Strain and drink hot or chilled. The herb mix will keep in a cool, dark place for up to a year.


For sickness, diarrhoea, indigestion, convalescence, heartburn, sore throats and hangovers. Place 10g dried and crushed meadowsweet flowers (ensure all stems are removed), 10g slippery elm or marshmallow root powder and 10g milk thi stle powder in a small bowl. Mix two teaspoons of honey and a teaspoon of water together in a separate small bowl.

Slowly add enough of the honey mix to the herb blend to make a thick paste. Roll the paste into small, pea-sized balls, place on a plate lined with baking paper and leave out (at room temperature) for a few days to dry. Store in an airtight container. Suck, chew or swallow 2-3 pastilles with liquid per day as required. They will keep for up to six months in a cool, dark place.

The roots of herbal medicines go back in time with evidence from the Neanderthal period


For eczema, psoriasis and wounds. Melt 20g emulsifying wax, 10g beeswax and 40ml chickweed-infused oil together in a bain-marie. Gently heat 100ml camomile infusion, 50ml aloe gel and 50ml calendula tincture together in a separate saucepan. Remove both mixtures from the heat. Get the two mixtures to the same temperature before combining them. Pour the camomile mix slowly into the combined wax and oil, whisking constantly.

Keep whisking until the cream begins to cool and thicken. Mix in the essential oil, vitamin E and preservative (if using). Place in a sterilised jar, seal, label and date. Apply to affected areas as needed. This cream will last up to three months if kept in the fridge.


For coughs, colds, sore throats and general infections. Place 400g fresh elderberries, two cinnamon sticks, three star anise, a 2.5cm piece of sliced fresh ginger, 10 cardamom pods, five whole cloves and the peel of one orange in a saucepan, then pour over 500ml water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat then simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced slightly.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool then strain the liquid through a piece of muslin cloth set over a bowl to remove the seeds and spices. Thoroughly squeeze the juice from the berries into the bowl.

Measure the resulting liquid and return to a clean pan then add the same amount of sugar, so you have equal parts juice to sugar. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved then simmer gently for 10-15 minutes until reduced and thickened. Pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles, seal, label and date. Take 10-20ml in a little water or add to a hot infusion for a warming drink. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within two weeks.


For steam inhalations, sinus congestion, respiratory infection, insomnia, headaches, burns and wounds. Add five drops of essential oil to a large steaming bowl of water and, using a towel tent over your head, breathe in the aromatic steam to clear the sinuses.

For headaches and insomnia add a few drops to a handkerchief and keep near your pillow or to smell throughout the day. For minor burns and wounds dilute 10 drops in 50ml oil and apply to the affected areas.


For indigestion, constipation, nausea and hangovers. Chop and place a mixture of herbs (try angelica root, burdock root, berberis bark, chicory root, camomile flower, curly or curled dock and dandelion) with some chopped orange peel in a sterilised preserving jar and fully cover with vodka.

Leave in a cool, dark place and gently shake every few days. After a month strain and pour the liquid into a sterilised dropper bottle. Seal, label and date. Take 10-20 drops in 30ml water, 15-30 minutes before meals as required. Caution: those with gastric ulcers should see a herbalist before trying bitters. Do not use during pregnancy.

Extracted from The Handmade Apothecary: Healing Herbal Remedies by Vicky Chown and Kim Walker published by Kyle Books (£18.99). To order please call The Express Bookshop on 01872 562310, send a cheque/PO payable to Express Bookshop to Express Bookshop, PO Box 200, Falmouth, TR11 4WJ or order online at expressbookshop.co.uk. UK delivery is free.

Source: Daily Express

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