I often long for a warm drink in the evenings but don't want caffeine. Last night I visited the herb garden and concocted a tea of my own. And I lived to tell about it!
Reading in my rather new herb book, The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices, I learned about the properties of these four plants.
lemon balm: lowers blood pressure, relieves insomnia, treats colds and flu and indigestion
mint: relieves tension and insomnia, aids with digestive disorders, has a lovely flavor
hyssop: treats coughs and sore throats, used as an expectorant
chamomile: tea is refreshing, digestive and mildly sedative, reduces inflammation
The tea tasted faintly of mint and was delicious. I would like to drink teas like this in the evening to help me sleep, relax, and digest well after dinner.
As I picked these herbs and brought them inside, rinsed them and put them in the tea pot, I found in myself the slightest hesitation. "What am I doing?" I thought. "I don't really know what these plants might do to me. What if they're too strong? What if they make me ill?" And I had to laugh at myself ... because honestly, most people think of homemade herbal "remedies" as little more than hocus-pocus. We act like there's nothing in them, and those who use them are silly and misguided. Why concoct balms and salves and tinctures at home when you can pick something up at the pharmacy?
And of course that's even scarier. We seem to trust anything a pharmaceutical company might proffer and take it with a glass of water without batting an eye. But when some herbs from our back yard, boiled in tea, are offered to our lips? We flinch, just a little. I know I did.
That's because we've been conditioned, I think. I firmly believe we should be more cautious about how many OTC laboratory-produced chemicals we pop every day, and be more willing to look at nature around us for some solutions. They're right under our noses, and yet from ignorance we miss the help they could give.
Lately I've tried a simple one, after Adam's altercation with poison ivy recently. When I get a mild skin abrasion or irritation on the farm, I pick a few leaves of plantain, tear and crush them, and rub them vigorously on the irritated spot (usually a run-in with a vine or other prickly plant). Both times I've done this, the itch immediately disappears. Plantain is a natural skin healer. It may not work 100% of the time; you may sometimes need a bottle of something from the drug store. But much of the time it'll be perfectly adequate, quick, immediate, and free. All you have to know is how to identify it. And that's not hard to learn.
I'm looking forward to learning more of these natural remedies in years to come. Our grandmothers and their mothers knew them. We've just lost this knowledge along the way.