Healing Herbs with Helen
[editors note: The Hughesville Library has some references on medicinal herbs that were recommended such as “The Herbal Drugstore: The Best Natural Alternatives to Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medicines” and “The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine” by Mars Brigitte.]
HUGHESVILLE – Last month master Gardener, Helen Grosso, gave a very informative talk on herbs that heal. Families and interested community members of all ages came to the Hughesville Public Library to learn about nature’s healing elements that can grow in their own back yards.
Many incorporated herbs into their lifestyle before and during the Civil War according to Grosso by utilizing salves, compresses, and tinctures for their wounds. “They needed their remedies,” she said. “Often there was a village herbalist or a medicine man who could make infusions,” she explained. “Yarrow is known to go back to the Greeks and Romans.”
Infusions are made by pouring warm or heated water over the herbs and allowed to seep. “These are more medicinal,” she added.
Another method is the cold fusion which could seep in a sealed jar. All parts of the plants were used – roots, leaves, and barks. For example, chamomile has very soothing effects and all parts can be used to make a “sleepy time tea.”
It was custom to gather the herbs, dry them and use them for many purposes. Common plants such as roses (using the rose hips), lemon verbena, tarragon, thyme, lemon grass, lavender and hibiscus can be easily grown and used in the common home for many purposes from sleepless nights to chronic coughs, headaches, and other various ailments. “But be very careful,” she warns. “Some are toxic and some are healthy. Beware of cautions and mixing herbs with meds.” And a lot of herbs have two to three different names.
“Juniper berries and green tea are good for gout.” Cough syrup was made with equal parts water and honey. “Sometimes vodka and rum were added as a preservative,” said Grosso, also stating that rice syrup could be used. Honey was combined to create an expectorant after straining two to four cups of herbs. “Honey is a good antiseptic. It never goes bad. Others prefer maple syrup.” Honey can be flavored and infused with many herbs that are good for coughs. Lemon balm is popular. “They work good together, and antiseptic herbs will keep longer.”
Sage is universal. It was used primarily in the Middle East. “Romans and Native Americans burned sage in a smudge pot to cleanse evil spirits,” said Grosso who passed around some hand lotion she made from Crisco and ground sage. Witch hazel leaves can be used as an antiseptic. Hyssop can help expel phlegm.
Lemon balm can be frozen in ice cubes and used for swelling bruises. “Calamus root (myrtle) reduces stomach acidity.”
There are herbs to cleanse and heal the skin such as aloe vera. Cinnamon and clove combined with geranium essential oil or tea tree oil can make a quality anti-fungal agent. Skin oil can be made with olive oil and lavender oil. Salves can be made with bees wax.
There are also tonics for hair loss. Rosemary makes a good hair rinse. “It’s my favorite,” said Grosso with a chuckle. “It keeps my red hair red.”
HELEN’S HERBAL HEALING TEA
Combine the dried herbs and let them seep in boiling water for at least ten minutes. Use 2 teaspoons per cup of water.