3 Herb Mamas

Seasonal Living: Facing Colds & Flu Season

Pantry Blessings

Be Prepared! is a good motto for herbal homemakers as well as  boy scouts.

My Feeling-Under-the-Weather First Aid Kit

Along with being Autumn, and Back-to-School, it is also the season for colds and flu “bugs” to start making their appearance. I like to be pro-active so my herbal medicine chest is well-stocked by now. I know that an ounce of prevention is absolutely worth at least a pound of cure so I do all I can to make sure we are eating nutritious whole foods in wide variety, staying well-hydrated with plenty of pure water, herbal teas, and warming soups and broths. Since we heat our home with wood stoves I like to make sure the air stays moist with humidifiers (water pots on the wood stoves) to which I add a variety of essential oils particularly supportive of the respiratory system, like Eucalyptus, Lemon, and especially Rosemary.

For the times when I do feel something coming on…like right now…I turn to these tried and true natural allies:

*Pots of Herbal Teas. Yes, as pictured, I often use a canning jar for my “teapot”. That clear glass jar catches my eye and reminds me I still have more tea and I find that I remember to drink more throughout the day. Today I am drinking a blend of Nettles, Red Clover, Comfrey, Horsetail, and Dandelion leaf but I custom blend for current needs on a daily basis. A quart a day is fairly normal for me but I will double or triple this if I feel a cold coming on. Brewing in a thermos is a good way to not only keep your tea warm but also carry it along if you have to be away from home.

*YEGG(-ish) capsules I make using freshly dried and powdered roots of Yellowdock (Rumex crispis), Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia see my note), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) based on a formula of the same name that I learned from my herb teacher, Jeanne Rose. I actually like to take Echinacea in the form of a fresh root tincture so I leave that out of the capsules now and take it alongside the dried herbs.

Encapsulating herbs Tinctures & Fire Cider

I like to have a variety of encapsulated freshly powdered herbs like YEGG, tinctured herbs like Echinacea, and vinegars like Fire Cider on hand at all times.

*Neti Pot. I use a neti pot to keep sinus passages clear and healthy. Once a day is fine but if I feel a cold coming on or am stuffed up I have used it as often as hourly to keep breathing easily.

*Hydrogen peroxide. My ears are often the first place I can feel a virus trying to gain a food hold. They may feel dry and itchy. I place a few drops of peroxide in each ear, doing one at a time, and allow it to bubble and foam, then tilt my head back up to let it drain out, and repeat on the other side.

*Garlic (Allium sativum)…and lots of it in whatever form. Our favorites are probably delicious Garlic Soup with a slice or two of toasted bread slathered with freshly whipped Garlic butter. Roasted Garlic, raw, or any way I can ingest it, I eat as much Garlic as possible for its immune strengthening, anti-microbial talents.


Mugs of delicious Garlic Soup are warming and healing.

*Quercetin & Fresh Nettles Tincture. These two in combination are an invaluable resource for promoting clear nasal passages. They probably need a whole blog post to themselves so I will write that on the calendar for a Spring Allergy Tactics article. For now, I’ll include the Reader’s Digest version and say that Quercetin is a flavonoid extracted from fruits and vegetables and often combined with Bromelain (a Pineapple stem extract enzyme) to enhance absorption and effectiveness. It is available encapsulated at health food, vitamin, and some grocery or drug stores. Although research indicates uses as an antioxidant and in lowering cholesterol, the main purpose I have for using it is its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) is a traditional respiratory health and hay-fever remedy. In my experience, it must be used fresh or tinctured using fresh plant material for maximum effectiveness.

*Hot Ginger Baths (and tea). If I have chills or just can’t seem to stay warm, I chop up a nice sized fresh Ginger root and simmer it in at least a quart of water for 20 minutes or more. Then I strain and add the “tea” to a hot bath. I like to pour some of the Ginger tea into a mug along with some raw honey and a squeeze of lemon to sip while relaxing in the tub as well. Very warming! Keep the room warm and dry off quickly, dressing in warm pajamas and a robe. I like to cuddle up in bed under warm quilts and get a good night’s rest to assure a healthier tomorrow.

*”Flu Shots” as some call them. I like to use Fire Cider, which is a blend of Horseradish, Onion, Garlic, Ginger roots, and Cayenne in an apple cider vinegar base and sweetened with just a touch of local, raw Honey. As a prevention, I take a tablespoon in a couple of ounces of water once a day during fall and winter, but if I feel a “bug” coming on I take that much hourly until symptoms begin to subside. For those who don’t care for the kick-in-the-pants variety of hot shot remedies that Fire Cider provides, there is always the sweetly warming tonic, Elderberry Syrup. It can be taken in exactly the same ways and amounts as Fire Cider.

Elderberry Syrup

Happy, healthy Autumn to All! ~Leenie

Edited and updated 12/30/2014  This information is shared descriptively as opposed to prescriptively. Always research thoroughly anything you plan to ingest and consider its potential benefits vs. possible risks in light of your own unique health condition.

Leave a comment »

“Fire Cider” by Any Other Name

With the recent uproar over an herbal business trademarking the name “Fire Cider” for their exclusive use there has been a surge of interest in this traditional home remedy. To be honest, I have no idea who originated the idea or the recipe for this wonderful formula but I am certainly glad they did. I know I have been making it for at least 20 years and I learned to make mine from a little self-published booklet by Rosemary Gladstar. There are probably nearly as many recipes, methods and names as there are herbalists making it. I’ve heard it called Master Tonic, Tonic Cider, Fire Tonic, Dragon Tonic and other names. The reason I call mine “Fire Cider” is because that is the name Rosemary gave to it and by now it is just habit. Although I am not a stickler for measurements, this is approximately how I make mine.

Basic ingredients for making your own 'Fire Cider' at home.

Basic ingredients for making your own ‘Fire Cider’ at home.

For each quart I plan to make I place:

1 bulb (NOT 1 clove) of Garlic, minced

1 Onion, chopped

1/4 cup grated Horseradish, chopped

a 1″-2″ piece of Ginger root, chopped or grated

several dried Cayenne peppers, crumbled up

I admit that I often take the easy shortcut and just toss everything in the food processor and chop it all at once. If you are in a hurry for your Fire Cider then mince it fine. If you are in less of a rush, roughly chopped will do. Place everything in a glass jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. I have a particular fondness for Bragg’s and I believe there are added nutritional benefits from using a raw (“with the mother”) vinegar over a pasteurized vinegar, although I have used the latter in a pinch. Cover, and if your lid is metal you might want to line the top of the jar with plastic to prevent corrosion from the vinegar. I like to allow mine to sit at room temperature for about 4 weeks. When it is ready I strain out the plant material by pouring it through a cheesecloth (I actually use old, clean pieces of jersey t-shirts.) lined strainer, pressing out as much liquid as possible. For every quart of herbal vinegar I add about 1/2 a cup of local, raw honey, stirring to dissolve. Now it is ready to bottle, cap and label.

"Fire Cider"...a wonderful folk remedy that works!

“Fire Cider”…a wonderful folk remedy that works!

Personally, I love Fire Cider as a daily tonic. It improves digestion and is warming. I love the “kick” it provides. It is also wonderful in place of regular vinegar or lemon juice as a spicy salad dressing or marinade. At the first sign of a cold or flu (that tickle in the back of your throat, or a warm, dry nose, or itchy, full ears) I take a tablespoon or two in a little water (Bottoms up!), along with some Echinacea tincture, vitamin C, a hot shower with Eucalyptus or a hot Ginger bath, and go to bed early for some extra rest. That is often enough to knock out the virus before it gets a toe-hold. For an active cold, I take a shot of Fire Cider hourly.

Leave a comment »