Ask The Herbalist: 7 Herbs Medicine Cabinet

Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals

We have interviewed one of our local Herbalists, Alex Svoboda owner of Arise Botanicals, to give her list of the top 7 herbs to have in your medicine cabinet. From herbs for emergency use to your daily nervine tonic, Alex has provided us with a great place to start for anyone new to Herbalism.

Now, there are thousands (if not millions) of different herbs out there, so picking only 7 of them was not the easiest of tasks and some of these may not suit you and your needs, but this is a great place to start!

"It is important that we all understand the concept of each person having a unique constitution – each individual has a unique set of properties and conditions within our body that makes us different from other people, meaning we all react differently to herbs, medications, foods, etc. Feel free to change up your list of at-home remedies based on you and your family’s needs:

1. Monarda, Monarda fistulosa

  • Fresh leaf/flower infused in (raw, local) honey
  • Monarda is a native prairie plant that’s a medicine chest unto itself. As an aromatic member of the mint family, the savory pungent oils are warming and antimicrobial. The medicinal applications of Monarda can range from topical application on abrasions and burns (I’ve seen spectacular results with the infused honey in particular on burns) to the internal use of an infused water extract of the dried leaves (tea) as a gargle, digestive aid and immune support. Drinking Monarda tea is also balancing for specific conditions such as UTI. Inhaling the vapors of Monarda in steaming water is a fantastic respiratory remedy for congestion, infection and seasonal allergies. An infused honey can be kept on hand for topical use and also added as needed to warm water for instant tea. Try cooking with Monarda leaves in place of its savory relatives Thyme and Oregano.

2. Garlic, Allium sativum

  • Fresh crushed cloves infused into olive oil, infuse 12 hours and strain
  • Garlic is an accessible and powerful remedy. I feel a close ancestral connection with this plant and have found so much pleasure in growing and getting to know the life cycle of Garlic. As a remedy, I like to keep infused oil on hand for ear infections, sick babies, chest colds and more. In specific application for colds and congestion, apply infused oil of Garlic to the chest, back and/or bottoms of the feet. The antimicrobial oils are absorbed and circulated through the blood, often imparting a Garlic odor on the breath without even eating it. Garlic is so powerfully warming, please do not ever apply fresh crushed garlic to the skin without a carrier oil. Internally of course, garlic oil is a culinary delight. Include ample amounts of garlic in your daily diet to support circulation, heart health, immune health and digestion. Also keeps vampires and mosquitoes at bay.

3. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

  • Dried leaf and flower
  • Yarrow is another native prairie plant that (like Monarda) gives main character energy in remedying wounds and UTI. Yarrow is a stellar protector of the body’s boundaries. This includes the physical boundary of the skin, the immune protective boundary of keeping viral symptoms in check, and the energetic boundary of holding space for tender hearts that feel so much, so deeply. Dried (or fresh) yarrow can be applied to fresh open wounds to stop bleeding. I have witnessed this styptic effect work in powerful ways and recommend combining dried powdered yarrow with a binder, such as clay, to keep on hand for first aid emergencies. A tea made from the dried leaf and flower can be a helpful (bitter tasting) remedy for dangerously high spikes in fever. As a diaphoretic, it opens the pores to cool the body naturally. Energetically, the flower essence is especially helpful for holding better boundaries to prevent feeling drained by others. Regulate boundaries, release what is not needed, hold precious that which is.

4. Calendula, Calendula officinalis

  • Fresh flower infused in olive oil or prepared into salve
  • Hey beautiful, you deserve some Calendula in your life. Calendula is applied topically as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich skin aid. Apply to wounds, scars, diaper rash, bug bites and other irritations toCalendula Graphic speed healing and improve the overall health of the skin. Calendula salve is an ideal balm for surgical wounds as well as chronic skin conditions such as eczema. The infused oil can also be used as a nourishing nightly facial skin serum. Internally, Calendula is helpful for moving lymphatic fluids and addressing ulcerations and other inflammations in the digestive tract. Get curious about Calendula and appreciate this bright beautiful bloom!

5. Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis

  • Tincture, glycerine and/or alcohol extract
  • Lemon Balm is another aromatic mint family member (like Monarda) that supports the body in oh so many ways. Many mint family plants impart profound shifts on the nervous system. Lemon Balm comes through, smelling delightful, to ease tension with a side of anti-viral support as well. I like to work with Lemon Balm tincture to address acute anxiety. Larger doses (2-3mL, 60-90 drops) are sedative which makes Lemon Balm an excellent addition to an evening wind-down routine. Lemon Balm has a powerful impact on the enteric nervous system (woven throughout our gut, digestive organs) and can improve digestive function, especially for nervous tummies. As an antiviral, Lemon Balm supports immune health and I’ve seen it work with a particular affinity for addressing symptoms associated with HSV-1 and 2. Include Lemon Balm in your medicine cabinet to serve up stress relief and sweet dreams.

6. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica

  • Tincture, glycerine and/or alcohol extract
  • A good night’s sleep is the foundation of health. California Poppy is sedative and pain relieving without being overpowering, which means it can be a helpful daytime remedy as well. Keep the tincture on hand forCalifornia Poppy Graphic acute use as needed (1-3mL, up to 5x/day) as well as taking lower consistent doses to address symptoms of chronic pain (1mL throughout the day as needed). California Poppy can combine well with Lemon Balm and Stachys for a formula that eases stress, anxiety and overwhelm and can support those who are recovering from addiction or looking to transition away from addictive substances.

7. Stachys, Stachys officinalis

  • Tincture, glycerine and/or alcohol extract
  • Ground down with this non-aromatic mint family member. Stachys is my go-to for concussion and head injury. This acute application supports a grounded nervous system to ease major shock and distress, overwhelm and injury. However, Stachys is also a gentle nervous system remedy that can be enjoyed as a daily tonic as well. Much like Lemon Balm, Stachys supports digestive health by way of easing tension in the enteric nervous system. I like to work with Stachys for elders and other fragile clients who experience sensitive stomachs and low appetite. Stachys also finds it’s way into regular rotation to improve focus, attention and concentration. Hooray for gentle and profound nervous system regulators. Hooray for Stachys!"

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As Alex stated, it is very important that we understand the significance of individual constitutions. Even among closely-related family members, certain herbs may be great for dad, however the same herbs may not help his son with the same problem. This is why we encourage so many of our customers to see an Herbalist for their specific health needs.

Herbalists have the right knowledge and experience to quickly pinpoint the imbalances within a body, without having to trial and error combinations of single herbs. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the process of taking single herbs and being able to understand how the herbs affect me; interpreting just how exactly each herb works. But when it comes down to someone needing to make a change and see results, I always point them in the direction of an Herbalist.

If you would like to reach out to Alex directly for an appointment to better understand your constitution or with questions regarding other Medicine Cabinet Herbs, you may reach out to her via:

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