Grow Your Own Herbal First-Aid Kit

Five home-grown remedies to cure what ails you

By Allison Jones July 13, 2015 Published in the Health Annual: Summer 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Mike Novak

Stop and smell the... herbal first-aid kit? Dr. JJ Pursell, founder of the Portland-based Herb Shoppe, uses locally grown flowers, leaves, roots, and fungi to address a wide world of ailments. So can you. These five herbal powerhouses—suitable for container gardens, windowsills, or raised beds—will safely help any city dweller soothe life’s inevitable scrapes, sneezes, and overindulgences.

Echinacea, Echinacea purpurea: Homemade echinacea tea can be taken at the first sign of a cold (or when someone sneezes on you during your bus commute) to raise the white blood cell count and boost the immune system. The plant’s leaves and flowers can be air-dried, then steeped for 15–20 minutes.

Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis: “A must-have in the Great Northwest, with all of its damp cold that tends to cause runny noses and wet coughs. Rosemary is excellent at supporting the respiratory system, drying out dampness, and moving phlegm.” Brew a few teaspoons in hot water, or infuse into soothing stews, soups, and roasts. 

Peppermint, Mentha piperita: “Mint is a great caffeine alternative,” Pursell says. “It gets the blood moving and clears the head.” Peppermint is high in volatile oils, so you can get an energy boost from the steam rising from a cup of homegrown tea. Overindulge at dinner? Pursell recommends brewing up a cup as an herbal digestif. 

Lavender, Lavandula intermedia: "My favorite way to use lavender is to plant it along the pathway to your front door,” Pursell says. “The antimicrobial flowers create a purification of sorts before anyone enters your home.” Feeling frazzled? Crush a few flowers between your fingers and take a slow inhale for immediate relaxation.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium: This power plant is a styptic, meaning it can reduce bleeding quickly. Crush a few of the flowers or leaves to put on a cut or scrape to stop the flow. “Yarrow also helps to flush out a fever,” Pursell says. “Drinking yarrow tea can quickly create a mild sweating action to free the constrained vessels.”

Want to learn how to make salves and tinctures at home to boost your garden’s healing powers? The Herb Shoppe and Herb Shoppe Pharmacy offer classes and other events; see theherbshoppe.net for info.

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