This is the handout from a talk at Pinney Library in Madison, WI. For more information on other herb presentations at this library, visit www.madisonherbalinstitute.org.
This handout also contains brief snippets from my new book, Make Your Way To Being An Herbalist.
- Educate yourself on the general use of the plants you plan to purchase, grow or harvest.
- Begin to taste plants, and understand how they are warming, cooling, moistening, drying, relaxing and stimulating.
- Learn to prepare a water decoction of a root, flower or leaf, and don’t be afraid to make a tincture.
- Know appropriate tincture dosages for a child or adult.
- If you have a chronic health condition, or are on medications, know applicable herb contraindications.
- Look at pre-made formulas as examples. You can use the example formula, but also know that you can put together a few plants that are specific to you. Simply know your symptoms, whether you need to warm or cool, moisten or dry, and pick your plants. While playing with plants for acute illness can be a more complex process than this, there is nothing wrong with beginning this way.
Plant Materia medica
This is the short version of what the following plants can do. For more information, read: Matt Wood (The Earthwise Herbal Old World Plants, and New World Plants), Kathy Eich (Make Your Way To Being An Herbalist), and Maude Grieve (Modern Herbal 1 and 2, found free online).
Blue vervain: arid bitter, relaxing diaphoretic for high fevers (fever reducer), anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory; stomachaches (especially with nervousness), with yarrow and/or feverfew tincture for headaches, high fevers, sedative/nervous system relaxant; fresh plant tincture most effective; dose for kids: 3-10 drops 2-6 times daily
Calendula: aromatic, acrid bitter, salty, relaxing to nerves, stimulating to lymph, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, lymphatic tonic, liver tonic, demulcent/emollient (soothes tissue internally and externally); great for swollen glands, fungal or bacterial infections topically or internally (must be tincture or infused oil to work), diaper rash (which is fungal), rashes and skin irritation in general, nerve pain externally due to trauma or sensitivity, use with yellowdock root for jaundice; fresh or dried plant tincture internally and infused oil externally are most effective; dose for kids: 3-10 drops 2-6 times daily
Catnip: acrid bitter, pungent, warms to cool, relaxing diaphoretic for high fevers with no sweating, anti-spasmodic in stomach, intestines and lungs, anti-inflammatory; intestinal cramps, headaches, sedative to nervous system, with lobelia for spastic coughs; fresh or dried plant tincture, or using a tea; 5-15 drops 3-6 times daily, or 2-4 4 oz. servings of tea
Chamomile: sweet, acrid bitter, relaxing, cooling, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, antacid, antispasmodic, nervine tonic, sedative, cell regenerating, antioxidant; use for acid indigestion or ulcers (take tea between meals), the tea as a wash for skin redness or irritation, for teething pain (internally), stomach virus, fever, insomnia, when used with yellowdock root tincture and acidophilus it can help recolonize the bowel with healthy bowel flora; as a dried or fresh plant tincture or dried flower tea; take 3-15 drops of tincture 2-6 times daily, 2-3 cups of 4-6 oz. of tea
Elderberry: sour, sweet, stimulating, immune modulator (stimulates immune system), expectorant, diaphoretic (fever reducer), antihistamine, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral; for dry coughs with nasal congestion, low grade fevers only, for allergies with nettle leaf tincture for bronchial congestion, combine with echinacea for colds or flu in those with poor immunity; fresh or dried plant tincture, or tea, or 2-4 4 oz. servings of tea
Elecampane: aromatic bitter, warm, expectorant, decongestant, stimulating diaphoretic, balances water in tissue, antimicrobial; bronchitis, whooping cough, cold, sinusitis, flu with chest congestion; in dry conditions use with thyme tincture and plantain or marshmallow root tea; for wet coughs use with osha tincture and ginger tea; fresh or dried plant tincture internally; dose for kids: 5-20 drops 2-10 times daily (more frequent doses for most severe illnesses)
Fennel: sweet, relaxing, mild expectorant, carminative (reduces gas and bloating); great with catnip for colic or general stomachaches; dried seed tincture or tea; 5-20 drops 2-10 times daily, 2-4 4 oz. servings of tea
Ginger: warm, pungent aromatic, stimulating diaphoretic and expectorant, cholagogue (assists the release of bile from the liver and gallbladder), choleretic (stimulates the liver to convert cholesterol to bile) anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, great for constipation, carminative; digestive tonic, great for nausea, for respiratory illnesses from colds and the flu to wet runny bronchial conditions, for internally joint pain, for circulatory disorders warms, thins and stimulates blood flow; as fresh rhizome tincture take 5-15 drops 2-6 times daily; as a fresh rhizome tea, grate 1 teaspoon of rhizome and steep for 10-15 min. drink 2-4oz. serving 2-6 times daily
Marshmallow root: sweet and salty, moistening and relaxing to tissue, for extreme dry irritation, expectorant, antacid, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent/emollient, cell regenerating, soothing diuretic; for dry coughs where the lungs especially feel hot (croup, bronchitis, flu, etc.), urinary tract infections, if the tongue is very dry and a person is constipated, acid stomach with ulcer; must use the tea of the dried root for best results, but the leaves also work well in a pinch. I have used the leaves soaked and applied to blisters and hot spots on animals (reduces pain and inflammation, and speeds healing); to make the tea, boil 2-3 tablespoons of root in a quart of water, turn off, and let sit for a few hours or overnight, drink 2-4 oz. of the tea 2-6 times daily, or as needed
Osha: aromatic bitter, stimulant, expectorant, decongestant, stimulating diaphoretic, warm and stimulating, drying to tissue, antimicrobial; bronchitis, whooping cough, cold, sinusitis, flu with chest congestion; fresh or dried plant tincture internally, or the dried root tea; dose for kids: 5-20 drops 2-10 times daily (more frequent doses for most severe illnesses)
Peppermint: drying, stimulating, warms too cool, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiemetic, quiets the conscious mind, cholagogue, astringent; great for nausea, vomiting, dyspepsia, allergies, headaches, diarrhea with yellowdock root tincture, or raspberry leaf tea, respiratory infections with spastic wet cough, allergies, the essential oil may be used with eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils in a salve for muscle and joint pain; Not to be used as an essential oil in children under 3 years old; a tincture of fresh or dried flowers and/or leaves or tea of dried plant; use 2-5 drops 2-4 times daily; as a tea, steep 1 teaspoon in 6 ounces of hot water for 5 min., and drink 2-4 ounces 2-4 times daily
Sage: pungent, aromatic bitter, warm, stimulating, dries water/moisture and brings up oil, diaphoretic, astringent, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, emmenagogue, anti-galactagogue; colds and flu, for sore throat irritation, to dry post nasal drip, fever reducer, for weaning mom’s to dry up milk (works very effectively!!); fresh or dried leaf tincture, and tea are effective; 3-6 drops of tincture taken 2-6 times a day, or 1-2 teaspoons of tea steeped in 6 oz. of hot water for 10 min., drink 2-4 oz. 2-6 times daily
Thyme: pungent aromatic, relaxing to tissue, thereby penetrating and loosening, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, carminative, expectorant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, diffusive; colds and flu, bronchitis, digestive complications associated with viral or bacterial infections, sinusitis and bronchial infections; fresh or dried plant tincture, or tea with dried plant material; 5-10 drops of tincture 2-6 times daily, 2 teaspoons of plant steeped in 6 oz. of water, drink 2-4 oz. of tea 2-6 times daily
Yarrow: acrid bitter, aromatic, relaxing diaphoretic, nervine tonic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and anti-diuretic, anti-diarrheal; for excessive bleeding internally and externally, excellent remedy for sore throat, and runny wet colds and flu, an amazing diaphoretic (fever reducer) for high fevers especially when combined with blue vervain and catnip,
Yellowdock root: sour, earthy, cools and calms tissue, cholagogue, stimulates digestive function, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antidiarrheal in small doses (3-5 drops), laxative in larger doses (10-15 drops), alterative; great for diarrhea and constipation, assists the digestion and absorption of B vitamins, iron, protein, and fats; great for food allergies, as it helps tone the intestinal tract and improves digestive function; excellent for the elderly that have digestive disorders; combines well with other medications
Cold and Flu– When we are faced with a cold or the flu, it is generally a sign of cold and sometimes wind in the body. One can apply simple remedies to help stimulate immunity, deal with symptoms, warm the blood and sometimes reduce the duration of illness.
Classic symptoms: low fever, aversion to cold, clear runny nose, itchy sore throat, congestion, coughing, post nasal drip, headache, exhaustion, and sneezing. Did I mention exhaustion?
Teas: (if your child is under the age of 1, avoid raw honey.)
- Wet runny nose, throat irritation and low-grade fever- Sage and yarrow tea. Add 1 tsp. of each dried herb to 6 oz. of hot water; steep for 5 min.; add honey to taste. Drink 2-4 cups daily.
- Sinus congestion with headache- yarrow with ginger tea. Add 1 teaspoon of the grated fresh rhizome and 1 tsp. of yarrow to 6 oz. of hot water; steep for 10 min., and add honey to taste.
- Cough that is wet- Tea of thyme with ginger. Add 1 teaspoon of the grated fresh rhizome and 1 tsp. of yarrow to 6 oz. of hot water. Let steep for 10 min., and add honey to taste.
- Dry cough with postnasal drip- marshmallow root tea. Add 2 tablespoons to 1 quart of water; bring to boil and turn off. Let sit for a few hours or overnight. Give a few ounces as needed.
- Dry cough with difficult expectoration- Tea of thyme and plantain leaf. Add 1 teaspoon of each to 6 oz. of hot water; steep for 5 min.; add honey to taste; drink 2-4 cups daily.
- With sinus congestion: elecampane, horseradish, thyme (2 parts of elecampane and thyme to 1 part horseradish)
- Lymphatic swelling and cough: elecampane, calendula, echinacea (equal parts)
- Dry cough with post nasal drip: elecampane, thyme, echinacea (equal parts); depending on age, dose would be 5-15 drops 4-8 times daily
- Wet cough: elecampane, osha, thyme
May also wish to rub a salve with some eucalyptus on their feet.
Coughs- Protective, and need to be managed, but suppressed overnight.
- Wet and Over productive Tincture: horehound, thyme, osha root
- Wet and Over productive Tea: ginger rhizome, thyme, horehound, peppermint
- Dry Cough Tincture: elecampane, Solomon’s seal, lobelia (if spastic cough)
- Dry Cough Tea: marshmallow root (if lungs feel hot); plantain and licorice root; garlic and thyme
Note: Some plants that warm blood also thin blood. Ginger is the one on this list that will have that affect. It is recommended those on blood thinners or who are prone to bleeding conditions avoid ginger in medicinal doses (multiple cups of tea daily).
Constipation- Simple remedies are best.
- Get your child eating more fresh fruits and veggies, and drinking more water. Stewed prunes can help get things moving at first, and the addition of fennel seeds to the mix can ease any cramping that may come with the stimulation.
- 3 drops of yellowdock root tincture and 5 drops of fennel root tincture, which will improve the tone of the colon, the digestion and absorption of b vitamins, iron, protein and fats, and stimulate hydrochloric acid production.
- 3-5 drops of dandelion root tincture will do, too. Its action is similar to yellowdock. It also assists the digestion and absorption of carbs/sugars.
- If dryness is causing the problem, use marshmallow root tea. Add 2 tablespoons to 1 quart of water; bring to boil and turn off. Let sit for a few hours or overnight. Give a 2 oz. 3 times daily.
Give yellowdock root and dandelion root with food, as they will stimulate digestion.
Stomach Virus- These typically need to run their course, and they do it fairly quickly. In fact, vomiting and diarrhea are both protective elements of the body. While supporting the body, it is important to manage symptoms so that dehydration doesn’t occur.
Symptoms- diarrhea, severe cramping, low-grade fever, vomiting, nausea, and headaches
- Diarrhea manages with teas throughout the day: raspberry leaf; if burning, try teas of chamomile, licorice root or marshmallow root; 3 drops a few times daily of yellowdock can help manage the diarrhea and heat, as well
- Fever with vomiting- use tinctures to help manage the fever- yarrow and blue vervain (equal parts) give 3-7 drops of each, 3-6 times daily; blue vervain and yarrow can also both help with the stomach upsets.
- Cramping- motherwort tincture (10-15 drops 3-4 times daily); if lots of vomiting and inability to hold much down, use the homeopathic of magnesia phosphorica, potency 6 cc.; suck on 5 pellets every 15 min. until cramps are relieved.
- Dehydration prevention- If vomiting is severe, and very little is staying down, never fear. I learned a wonderful tip from Mary Bove, N.D. Give 1-2 teaspoons of fluid (Emergen-C or warm raspberry leaf tea with honey- NOTHING COLD as it can cause severe cramping) every 30-60 min. When more is tolerated, increase to a tablespoon, and so on. This can make all the difference in the world.
Croup- Croup is an upper respiratory virus that affects mostly children aged 18 months to 9 years old. Croup is an inflammation of the larynx. While the virus lasts a mere 48-72 hours, it can be a harrowing 2-3 days for the caregiver and child, because croup can be fatal! If the larynx swells shut, air cannot pass into the lungs. Symptoms: dry, irritated cough, wheezing, sneezing, low fever, runny nose, worse at night, inflammation of the larynx.
- Employ respiratory expectorants, demulcents, and anti-spasmodic, antiviral and diaphoretic herbs.
- Water is a great help in keeping the inflammation down with the plants.
- Mist through steam therapy and humidifiers are essential!
- Avoid anything warming and drying.
- Keep your child calm- singing, counting games, storytelling. Crying exacerbates swelling.
-Garlic syrup: demulcent, moistening, antiviral, expectorant, diaphoretic, warming, decongestant, anti-inflammatory
-Marshmallow root tea: all the same as garlic, but cooling
-Mullein leaf tea: expectorant, demulcent
-Licorice root tincture: demulcent, anti-viral, expectorant, diaphoretic, decongestant, anti-inflammatory
-Dark chocolate: expectorant (not milk chocolate; must be high quality)
–Essential Oils: Put 1 drop of lavender, chamomile, and sweet marjoram in the steam room/shower and humidifier
- High fever formula- Use teas and tinctures, employ relaxing diaphoretics; Tea of: linden, yarrow and catnip (1 teaspoon of each steeped in 6 oz. of hot water, take 4 oz. 4-10 times daily); Tincture: equal parts of blue vervain, yarrow, catnip, take 10-30 drops 4-8 times daily/also nightly
- Low grade fever- Employ stimulating diaphoretics, may use mostly teas;
Insomnia- avoid teas, as they will give one the need to urinate in the night
- Tinctures of: Blue vervain, catnip, or chamomile
- May also wish to rub the feet with lavender essential oil diluted in olive oil (2 drops of lavender in olive oil or other oil or choice); rub on feet and chest about 20 min before bed
Tonsillitis- This is a viral infection where the tonsils swell and become painful. There are also cold symptoms.
- Tincture formula- calendula, echinacea, cleavers and poke root (if you have it)
- Tea formula– marshmallow root with honey; chamomile and yarrow with honey