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Healing herbs of the spice rack

During the winter months, many people become chilled and then may come down with a cold or flu. For these conditions, it is best to use warming, spicy herbs which will warm the interior and help to expel the illness via the skin in the form of sweating. Herbs that warm you up and make you sweat are called, "warming diaphoretics." You'll find many of these healing herbs in the spice cabinet. They can help alleviate various acute aliments such as colds, flu, and congestion. Here are just a few that you may want to try out.


This common garden herb is indigenous to the Mediterranean region and cultivated widely. The flowering branches should be collected on a dry sunny day from May - October in California. The leaves are stripped off the dried branches and stored in a glass jar in a dark cabinet. The volatile oil in thyme makes it a good carminative ( an herb that relieves gas, strengthens sluggish digestion). The oil in the leaves is also a strong antiseptic and can be used to treat infected wounds. For this purpose you can make a tea from the leaves by letting them steep for 15 minutes. Strain and then wash the wound or even let it soak in the tea for a few minutes. This can be repeated as needed. You can also soak some gauze in the tea and then bind the wound changing the gauze as needed.

The Thyme tea can be used internally for respiratory and digestive infections as well. For laryngitis, tonsillitis or sore throats gargle with the tea as needed throughout the day. For coughs and bronchitis, it is an excellent expectorant and reduces unnecessary spasms. A strong tea, 1 tsp. of dried leaves to one cup of boiling water, can be made and one to three cups consumed per day . Pregnant woman should not use medicinal doses of thyme, however, due to its uterine contracting properties.


This common herb is native to the Mediterranean region and cultivated widely elsewhere. Rosemary is a circulatory and nervine stimulant. Rosemary has a warming energy and can be helpful if added to a tea blend to warm up cold limbs, give relief for headaches and help a person sweat a fever out. It also helps the digestion by relieving gas and by calming a nervous stomach. Externally, it may be used to ease muscular pain, sciatica and neuralgia. For this purpose you may make a strong tea with the leaves ( one ounce) in one quart of boiling water. Let steep, strain and then add to the bath. Internally, take one teaspoon of rosemary leaves and let steep for 10 minutes.


Common Garden Sage is native to the Mediterranean region and cultivated worldwide. The leaves should be gathered shortly before or just at the beginning of flowering in the dry sunny weather from May or June.

Sage is a classic remedy for inflammations of the whole mouth; the throat, tongue, gums, and tonsils. This healing action is due to the volatile oils which are soothing to the mucous membranes. For the above conditions it can be used as a mouth wash several times a day or a piece of the leaf may be chewed as needed.

The strong tea can be used to promote the healing of wounds or the leaves can be soaked and crushed then applied to the wound. Like so many of the other culinary spices, sage helps digestion and eases flatulence and bloating. It should not be used in medicinal doses internally during pregnancy because it stimulates the muscles in the uterus. For night sweats, sage can be taken as a tea to staunch this condition.

Try some of theses remedies out during the winter months. Also, any of these teas can be used in a foot bath. Take a tablespoon of any of the above herbs or a combination of them and let steep in three cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain and pour the tea into a small basin. Add more hot water if necessary and then relax and soak the feet. The medicinal properties of the herbs will be taken up through the skin, and will warm you up and help you to relax. I love taking foot baths.

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