Kitchen Medicine

by Mischa Schuler

If a family member is coming down with a cold or a flu, has a sore throat or is harboring a lingering cough, we know to avoid sugar, drink warm liquids throughout the day, and sleep as much as we can. There's something else that you can do with things that you likely have on hand at home. These are also safe for nursing mamas.
Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano Tea
These three Mediterranean herbs which grow very well indoors through the winter in a sunny window, are strongly anti-viral. Rosemary is warming to the sinuses, stimulating to the circulatory system, and relaxing to muscular tension. Thyme is a decongestant to the lungs with phlegm, particularly when asthma is indicated, stimulates digestion, and eases sore throats and urinary tract infection. Oregano is specific in bronchitis and thrush.

Choose one of these herbs, or a combination of all three to total two teaspoons.
  1. Place your herbs into a favorite mug.
  2. Bring water to a boil and allow it to rest for a minute for the water to no longer actively boil.
  3. Pour water atop the herbs, and allow them to steep covered (with a saucer) for 8 - 12 minutes. (This timing is important, as these herbs are resinous, and can become bitter with prolonged steeping.)
  4. Strain and sweeten with honey if you like.
Sage Throat Gargle
Sage is an excellent remedy for an inflamed throat, including when soreness is due to overuse of the voice. Sage is a wonderful astringent herb, tightening the tissues in the throat. Sage also contains anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. Follow the tea recipe above using sage, strain, add a pinch of salt to your mug, and gargle, spitting out what you gargle between mouth-fulls.

Onion Syrup
Sugar and onion are all that are needed for this recipe. Slice a medium onion the same way you would if you were cutting slices to add to a sandwich. In a wide mouth jar, add one onion slice. Atop this slice, sprinkle a small layer of sugar, then an onion slice, and again a layer of sugar. Alternate onion and sugar until all of the onion is in the jar. Within just a few minutes, the moisture from the onion will move into the sugar and form a thick sugar/onion syrup. This makes an excellent expectorant, bringing mucous up from the lungs in a stagnant and belligerent cough.

    Garlic Lemonade
    In a quart jar, crush six to eight cloves of garlic, add the juice of two freshly squeezed lemons, and pour hot water over the mix. Add honey. Let this combination steep for about 20 minutes and drink. This provides a delicious immune boost.

    Ginger Honey

    Just two ingredients combine to make this delicious cough syrup. Ginger root is anti-spasmodic, relaxing the throat and lungs when there is a tight and spastic cough. Ginger is a diaphoretic, an herb that helps to lower fever by dilating blood vessels and bringing them closer to the surface of the skin so the body can throw off heat, so a wonderful choice when a child has a fever as part of a flu response. Ginger increases circulation to the extremities, and supports bringing fresh blood and immune factors to areas that are inflamed. Ginger is moistening to the throat, soothing raw and swollen areas. Ginger also provides relief to nausea, through the anti-spasmodic action of relaxing the smooth muscles of the stomach and lower bowels to relieve gas.

    1. Chop a two inch length of fresh ginger root into round, quarter-size slices.
    2. Place slices into a small jar (a pint jar works great)
    3. Cover with honey.

    You and your child can watch as the moisture from the fresh ginger root moves into the honey making a thinner, more liquid honey. In about twenty minutes, your ginger honey syrup is ready to give to your child. Enjoy a teaspoon of honey at a time, off a spoon, or in warm water, to soothe the back of the throat. Ginger slices can be eaten or composted. *Only for children older than one year old (due to potential spores that may be in raw honey that a babe’s immune system is as yet unable to handle.)
    Chai Tea
    There are many variations of this warming and delicious winter drink to stave off colds and flu. The four spices that make up the basic recipe are anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal to varying degrees. The spices promote circulation and sweating and can bring down a fever. The recipe below makes enough for six cups of tea. (To brew just one mug, use two teaspoons of the recipe below.)

    8 teaspoons Cinnamon chips
    4 teaspoons dried Ginger root
    2 teaspoons Cardamom pods
    1 teaspoon Cloves

    In a 2 quart pot, pour six cups of hot water over the herbs and let sit, covered with a lid, for 10 – 15 minutes. Strain, add milk and honey if desired, and enjoy! For a second brew: add six cups of water to the herbs, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for two to three minutes, then remove from heat, strain and enjoy.

    Mischa Schuler is a playful soul, living and practicing herbal medicine in Portland, Maine. She specializes in anxiety support, as well as women’s reproductive health and children’s digestive, respiratory and skin health. Her herbal apothecary and practice, Wild Carrot Herbs, on State Street, is stocked with powders, tinctures and teas, which she formulates specifically to individual needs with the intention of healing the vitality of underlying tissues so that acute and chronic conditions resolve without recurrence.