Stocking Your Herbal Medicine Cabinet:
Top 12 Herbs and Their Uses
Practicing natural health principles - such as understanding herbs and their uses, using essential oils, or eating a whole foods diet - are a great way to create a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
But sometimes it's really confusing. Where do you start? Especially with herbs and essential oils - there are so many choices, how do you know which ones you need on a regular basis and which ones will only be necessary for a rare, leap year-only concoction?
As I began learning about essential oils and herbs and their uses, I went a little overboard. My dad is a manager for a wholesale herb company, meaning I have access to a lot of great stuff at a great price. (Next on my list is to grow my herbs - I just have to keep them alive). So I bought bags of herbs and bottles of essential oils...and many of them are still sitting in boxes in my attic.
Fortunately, when I started decluttering my home and taking a more minimalist approach to life, I realized that the same principles could be applied to my health as well.
I don't need a lot of "stuff" to be happy, and I don't need a lot of remedies to be healthy.
With that mindset, I began simplifying my herbal medicine chest after noticing that I use a small percentage of my herbs most of the time, and came up with this simple herbal medicine cabinet.
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My Top 12 Household Herbs and Their Uses:
- Astragalus: This Chinese herb is a great immune system booster. Add it to soups or make a tincture.
- Calendula: This beautiful flower is a great healer. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it a great addition to ointments.
- Comfrey: A phenomenal healing herb, comfrey is great in ointments, infusions (strong tea) and poultices. Do not eat.
- Elder flower: Very useful as a detoxifier, relaxes bronchio spasms and promotes a feeling of well-being.
- Garlic: Immune system-boosting and antibiotic, be sure to get plenty of this common herb in your diet.
- Lady's mantle: This astringent herb works best on hollow organs, drawing out excess fluid and soothing inflammation.
- Lemon balm: Its two primary functions are soothing the digestive tract and calming the nervous system.
- Marshmallow root: Soothes, lubricates, softens and heals minor wounds.
- Nettle: Rich in minerals, especially calcium. Great for calming muscles spasms and toning the uterus.
- Plantain: Speeds the healing of scrapes and wounds and soothes inflammation.
- Red raspberry leaf: Full of easily assimilated minerals, it's the perfect pregnancy herb. Also soothes inflammation in the digestive tract.
- Yarrow: Stops bleeding quickly and repels insects when steeped with lavender. Taken internally, it acts as an antibiotic.
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My Top 8 Herbal Essential Oils
After simplifying my herbal uses, I then noticed that the same was true for my essential oils. These are the ones that I use on a weekly basis.
- Melaleuca (tea tree): As an anti-fungal and additive to cleaners.
- Peppermint: For headaches, or mixed with coconut oil and raw honey for a delicious thyroid-boosting treat.
- Lavender: Also for headaches and to promote restful sleep.
- Wild Orange: Added to my laundry detergent for great smell. Also a fantastic addition to cake batter. Mmmm.
- Lemon: Used for de-greasing in our mop bucket and cleaners. Mood lifting.
- Eucalyptus: Used to clean our floors. Add a small amount to coconut oil for a decongesting chest rub.
- Digestive Blends: Excellent for upset stomachs or any other digestive support.
- Frankincense: Use on bug bites and minor wounds.
Read more about these and other essential oils here.
Supplies for Your Herbal Medicine Cabinet
When you're determining which herbs and their uses you'll most need and begin to stock your medicine cabinet accordingly, you'll also want to consider some supplies.
- Carrier oils: Olive, coconut (Coconut oil is my favorite carrier oil for its antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. You may need to decrease the beeswax if your recipe calls for it when using coconut oil as a carrier.)
- Muslin bag/mesh strainer: Use either one for steeping teas. A muslin bag can be used when poultices.
- Medicine dropper: Preferably one that measures up to 30 ml, which is a common dosage for many tinctures.
- Labels: Make a note of what the remedy is to be used for, as well as the ingredients and date you made it.
- Storage containers: Glass mason jars, amber bottles, or other containers for storing your remedies.
- Mesh strainer/cheesecloth: These are for straining herbs and their uses are mostly for making ointments and tinctures.
- Raw, local honey or brown rice syrup: Necessary for making lozenges and syrups for little ones. Raw honey can also be used as a topical healer.
- Scale: To measure ounces and preferably grams - great for making remedies.
In addition to the above items, be sure to seek out some good books for your herbs. I suggest having a minimum of three because different books cover different remedies. Choose a trusted natural health resource with lots of recipes so you can have fun creating your own remedies and learning more about herbs and their uses. Be sure to follow dosage suggestions and precautions for pregnant and lactating women and children and also learn about their contraindications (when herbs and their uses may cause harm).
Nina Nelson is a natural wellness coach, unconventional mom and writer determined to live a life of adventure and purpose. She helps moms simplify natural wellness at Shalom Mama.