This past Monday, Courtney Harris joined us at the garden to host a workshop on how to create an herbal first aid kit. We had a fantastic turnout of about 25 people who came out in the misty, slightly rainy weather to learn what herbs and plants can be healing, and how to create tinctures, salves, teas and more. Courtney is self-taught and has great knowledge on what can be used instead of common first aid remedies or in addition to them. You can find her products at Plan B on Gottingen Street under the name Coco Apothecary. You can also check her stuff out on Facebook here.
The following is a summary of some of the remedies she discussed. I can’t fit them all into the blog post and can’t explain everything like she did but it will give you an idea of the myriad of natural remedies that are out there.
Locally Found Plants
She started off by teaching us about certain plants you can forage around the area. Sumac can be used to heal the mouth as it nourishes soft tissue, fights infection and stops bleeding, to name a few things. It has a sour taste so can be brewed into a really nice ‘lemonade’!
In our last blog post on foraging, plantain was identified as being a great remedy for stings. You can chew the leaves and then apply them directly to a sting. It is better used fresh rather than dried because its oils are very healing.
Sweet Fern is easy to find in fields and can be used topically and internally. It’s great for headaches and general pain. It can be brewed into a tea or applied topically. Courtney stated that “the solution often grows by the problem” and sweet fern is the perfect example of this as it often grows near poison ivy and can be used to soothe the skin reaction.
Young, green spruce tips can also be foraged locally and can be used both internally and externally. They are chock full of vitamin C and can be eaten just as is or infused into a sugar, salt or simple syrup. You can infuse them into an oil, which can be used topically to treat skin issues.
Remedies for Cold and Flu
Usnea, commonly known as Old Man’s Beard, is a lichen that is a great immunity booster. It requires a long (1 hour) infusion in water on the stove, which can then be added to alcohol to create a tincture.
Firecider is a fantastic cold-fighting tonic created from fermented apple cider, various types of pepper and spices. I don’t want to give away the recipe because we will be hosting a workshop later in the summer where you can learn how to make it! Just in time for cold season, too. It works to prevent colds, reduce their length and even helps with circulation.
Licorice root is a potent heal-all that is great for sore throats, digestion, healing ulcers, menstrual cramps and even acts as an antidepressant. It makes a nice sweet tea and you just need a tiny bit as it’s so strong.
Mullein is another plant with various healing properties. The flowers can be infused into an oil, which can be used for ear infections, and the leaves are healing for the lungs. The leaves can be crumbled and used in tincture, tea or smoke form. When smoked it works as an expectorant, helps with asthma and can help with anxiety, as it is calming and mildly sedating.
Comfrey is a powerful plant, whose leaves and root can be used to make a salve for skin injuries. Be careful not to use it on an infection or a dirty wound, however, because it can quickly heal the wound, trapping the unwanted material inside.
Calendula oil can be made from calendula flowers and is used topically for healing wounds, tattoos, sunburns, eczema, and rashes. It is also nice dried and steeped into a tea.
Chamomile is probably more well-known than some of the previous remedies and is calming, antibacterial and antifungal. It can relieve indigestion when taken internally and can ease skin soreness and skin redness when applied topically.
Although I wish I could discuss everything she taught us in depth, there is just too much to fit! It was an inspiring and incredibly informative workshop and we hope to have her back later in the summer to host another herbal first aid kit workshop. Keep an eye out on our Facebook page and our newsletter for other upcoming workshops.
~Mackenzie Childs – Programming Coordinator