Every single medicine we can buy in the pharmacy these days has been tested for efficiency and side effects by a long line of doctors and pharmacists, but each of these drugs has been derived from an active component in a plant. Depending on the cultural environment, era and geographical factors it was either druids, healers or clerics that took it upon themselves to decode the secrets of nature and explore healing properties of plants. This was not always perceived as something good by the general public, resulting in the prosecution and outcasting of these medical practitioners. Most of today’s medical knowledge and research is based on these early pioneers’ work. This makes it so much easier for us today to learn more and more about the gifts and healing powers of nature. Most of today’s medical knowledge and research is based on the work of these early pioneers and their experiments. Their groundwork makes it so much easier for our research today. We can learn more and more about the healing powers of nature and the abundant gifts that might even be growing just around the corner and how to best use them.
Cowslips aren’t just beautiful to look at in a nice wild flower bouquet, they are also a great cure to many ailments. Its roots are used as a remedy for coughing, colds, different types of the flu, bronchitis and inflammations of the sinuses in naturopathy. Their flower petals are turned into oils, lotions and teas. None of the above mentioned products should however be used without medical advice, as the wrong dosage of the active components could lead to negative side effects. Only experts with an official permit are allowed to harvest cowslip roots.
The bright orange flower has already been used in homeopathy since the 17th century. The dried flower petals or anthodiums are turned into ointments that are used for external injuries. The plant extracts help against inflammations of the mouth and nasopharyngeal zone and also relieve the itch of insect bites. They can be used as painkillers, have antirheumatic properties and stunt bacterial growth. Any use of wolf’s bane, both inside and out, should not be done without the consultation of a medical professional, as an overdose of it has a very strong effect on the cardiovascular system and the digestion. The plant is a protected species and cannot be foraged!
This herb is a staple on any pasture on which animals graze and usually grows in moist and shady places. The leaves are what is mostly used to make medicine, but on occasion the roots are used, too. Sorrel is very rich in vitamin C, which gives the immune system a much needed boost in the colder months and it is also good in reducing the tiredness that comes with spring fever. For this reason it is the ideal plant for springtime cures and can be added to fresh soups along with parsley and dandelion. It is important to really carefully dose the sorrel as it is slightly poisonous, especially if used fresh.
This herb loves the sun and it is the most popular wild growing medicinal plant in all of Europe. The anti-inflammatory properties of the chamomile flowers are used for a lot of symptoms and diseases, for example: fever, coughs, colds or even dermatological issues. Tinctures or teas made of chamomile have a relaxing effect and also kill off bacteria thanks to their disinfecting and healing properties. The little yellow flower is an all-round talent and an inconspicuous miracle cure you can find in many a form in every household. After all, who doesn’t have a couple chamomile tea bags at home?
In contrast to its famous blue cousin, the yellow gentian holds extremely strong healing properties. Their heavy, arm-thick and edible roots are actually the main protagonist. They contain the mother of all bitterns: amarogentin. This active component has been used to cure all sorts of diseases over the centuries. It is still used in naturopathy as a cure and to strengthen the circulation. Its mucolytic and germicidal properties are perfect to combat infections of the respiratory tract such as coughs, bronchitis and sinusitis, but they also help reduce fevers. The flower has become quite rare in nature and is thus a protected species you are not allowed to forage anymore.
Ribwort has been a very popular medicinal herb in the alpine region since time immemorial. It grows virtually everywhere, which makes it a commonly used household remedy for a lot of discomforts. Ribwort has similar active ingredients as waybread, which support and strengthen the immune system. This is why it is mainly used during the flu season, mostly in the form of cough syrups and teas. It helps cure coughs, bronchial diseases and it reduces fevers. Who knows how many times you’ve passed by this multifaceted little helper without even noticing?
Grandmother’s remedies for the common cold and influenza
1. Cough syrup from onions and honey:
Finely chop onions and marinate them in honey (or sugar) overnight. Drink one tablespoon of the resulting liquid every couple of hours throughout the day.
2. Moist poultice:
Linen cloths and towels dipped in cold water drain the heat from the body and thereby help with various symptoms of the cold. A poultice on the throat helps with a throat ache, one on your chest alleviates coughing and if you run a fever a calf packing helps reduce the temperature.
3. Tea blend:
Take 1 ½ teaspoons of dry ribwort for one cup of tea. Fill up with boiling water and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Drink a couple of cups of tea throughout the day.
Fill a bowl with one liter of boiling hot water, a handful of chamomile flowers and five tablespoons of sea salt. Mix well, then take a towel to cover the bowl and your head and inhale for ten minutes.
5. Vitamin C:
Keep oranges at hand during the winter months, as they are rich in vitamin C – which is vital to boost your immune system and fight off colds. Other great sources of vitamin C include: blackcurrant, rosehip and kiwis.