This post was updated April 2010. You'll see my updates as you read through.
Let me start off with my basic health premise: food is medicine. From our family's experience and research we've done we believe that if you want to treat ingestion, cholesterol, fatigue, common cold and flu, arthritis, allergies, eczema, high blood pressure (and every other "condition") you start by eating a nutritionally excellent plant-based diet and exercising. So this is not a post about what tea to drink to help you lose weight (give me a break, those claims drive me crazy).
But even diet and exercise can't take away the sting of a bee or the ache of bruise (although a good diet will help you heal faster). And that's where my herbal knowledge* comes in to help care for my family's health. Bug bites, cuts, scrapes, bleeding from minor skin wounds - those I know how to treat with topical preparations and I'd like to share a few of my favorite resources with you.
- Making Herbs Simple DVD - Start here. Before you pick up an herb book and get overwhelmed with words like tincture, poultice, anti-spasmodic or anti-neuralgic buy/borrow/beg this DVD to watch. I wrote a short review last winter.
- The Herb Quarterly print magazine - Can you believe I only just discovered this at my library recently? You can probably find it at your local library also. I especially recommend the Spring 2009 publication with an excellent section on topical treatments for summer scrapes, bites, rashes, burns & aches. I'm learning a lot and making notes for preparations I'll make this summer.
- Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family - This is the newest book to my collection and has easy to follow instructions and recipes. It's less technical than Practical Herbalism (see below) and more hands-on. This is great resource not only for tinctures and salves but lotion and other body care also. It has a comprehensive section on herbs for babies that would no doubt be useful to families with young children.
Practical Herbalism: Ordinary Plants with Extraordinary Powers - There may be other books out there (check the Bulk Herb Store) now that are more recommended than this one. But I find this book to be very thorough with interesting historical notes, growing instructions and dosage information.
I own one other herb book but this one is my go-to book resource and what I can't find in here I research on-line.(I've updated this since owning Rosemary Gladstar's book).
Three plants (& a weed) for your garden
As you are planning and planting your garden this time of year I want to recommend three of my favorite skin care herbs to grow.
- Yarrow Achillea millefolium: You can wildcraft this plant but it's so easy and beautiful to grow yourself. I use it to make skin healing oil and salves. As an added bonus, it attracts butterflies and just looks great all season long in the garden.
Comfrey Symphytum officinale: One of my favorite backyard herbs. Not as beautiful as some but extremely useful for treating wounds. Last year around this time I wrote a post on how to prepare a comfrey poultice.
- Calendula Calendula officinalis: What is not to like about this beauty? Although it's an annual, it self seeds, blossoms all summer and into late fall, can be used in cooking as a saffron substitute and is one of the best herbs for treating local skin problems. See how to prepare calendula oil at 5 Orange Potatoes.
- Plantain Plantago lanceolata: This is a freebie because you won't need to plant it. You'll find it growing as a weed. The stuff covers our yard. It's the first herb I grab for any cut, scrape, sting or rash. It was the discovery of this lowly weed that got me interested in using herbs.
These resources and plants should get you started with what you need for basic topical treatments. Start growing a couple herbs now (or stop pulling those weeds from your lawn) and you'll be on your way to taking care of your family's summertime skin care.
What herbal preparations do you like to grow and use? Have any recipes you care to share? If you've posted recipes on your blog please leave a link!
*Disclaimer: I am not a certified anything, much less accredited herbalist. Consider yourselves warned - don't drink bad herbs - they could make you sick.