Spice Rack Medicine

When you think herbal medicine, you might think of exotic herbs from distant lands with impossible to pronounce names. However, there are many powerful herbs that are readily available in your kitchen or perhaps growing on your windowsill. Besides adding some extra flavor and spice to your holiday cooking and treats, they can be wonderful remedies that you can use all year round.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassica)
This spice of Atomic Fire Ball fame or sometimes found on top of your latte is carminative so it is a common treatment for stomach cramps, diarrhea, and indigestion. It also has astringent properties so it is helpful for bleeding gums and nose bleeds. Even at my naturopathic office in New York City, I have even used it with a few of my female patients who suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding. But where cinnamon is really make the news is it's ability to control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Research has found that a dose of 1/8 to 1⁄4 tsp of ground cinnamon per meal may reduce the amount of insulin required for glucose metabolism and may help to regulate blood sugar levels.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)
This culinary keynote of poultry seasoning has a vast amount of medicinal purposes. When drank as a cold infusion (a tea brewed cold rather than hot), sage can provide much needed relief for menopausal women experiencing night sweats. It also has powerful antibacterial properties so it makes an excellent mouthwash for gingivitis or a gargle for sore throats. For those with tension and anxiety, sage helps to calms the central nervous system reducing anxiety as well as smoothing out spasms in our skeletal and smooth muscles.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Besides making roasted potatoes yummy, rosemary increases coronary blood flow and strengthens cardiac muscle. This is beneficial for people with chronic circulatory weakness, which leads to low blood pressure. Probably one of its greatest benefits is on cognitive performance. It increases blood circulation to the brain and enhances cells intake of oxygen improving mental clarity, memory, and vision. One study demonstrated that after smelling rosemary, participants had increased alertness, lower anxiety, felt more relaxed and completed math problems faster than those that didn't. So at your next exam, don't forget to bring your sprig of rosemary.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
My inner Simon and Garfunkle fan couldn't resist including this powerful pulmonary herb that you will definitely want to have during cold and flu season. It has both antiseptic and antibacterial actions as well as expectorant qualities. So it is useful for mucous coughs that won't quit. Also think thyme, if your child is anxious around their coughing fits. In addition, thyme is a potent general urinary antiseptic and can be used effectively for urinary tract infections.

At Home Prescription
For the best results, make sure to use herbs that are less than 6 months old and stored in airtight containers to ensure that volatile oils are not lost. Teas should be prepared by steeping 1-2 tsp of dried herb in 8 oz of water for 15 minutes and drank three times a day. Cold infusions can be made by adding the herbs to water and allowing them to sit over night (at least 8 hours) before use.