Category Archives: Medicinal Herbs

oregano in vodka

Oregano TIncture For Colds and Flu

Disclaimer:  The instructions I offer here in this post (and in all my posts about herbs and home remedies) are what I use personally at home. Of course the standard disclaimer goes: I am not a doctor and don’t prescribe medicines or herbs, this is just what  we have done here for generations with great results.    oregano in vodka

I learned from Shannon over at Nourishing Days that Oregano Oil can be used to treat colds and flu. I already use elderberry tincture for that so I did some research and decided to make Oregano Oil using the organic oregano in my garden and some cheapo vodka.

In the interest of full disclosure, that elderberry tincture? Man it burns going down.  So I put it in a cup of Earl Grey tea and its almost palatable.  Blech. But it works. 

Oregano tincture may be nearly as bad but I will make it. Since we don’t have small children here any longer, we can man up and take it.

Pack a quart jar with fresh oregano, pour some kind of spirits over it like brandy or vodka. Let it sit in the dark about 6 weeks. Strain it and store it in dark bottles or in a dark place like a frig or cellar.

The dosage varies depending on who you talk to but, like most herbal tinctures, I think 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon = 12.5 mg.) three times a day for adults would work nicely. Children’s dosage should probably be figured according to Clark’s Rule or Young’s Rule.


elderberries vodka 2

Elderberry Tincture You Can Easily Make

Disclaimer:  The instructions I offer here in this post (and in all my posts about herbs and home remedies) are what I use personally at home. Of course the standard disclaimer goes: I am not a doctor and don’t prescribe medicines or herbs, this is just what  we have done here for generations with great results.  

I grew up in a home where we used home-made everything.   From coughs and colds to ear infections and croup we treated it with homemade concoctions.  I did go to the Dr. my fair share I guess. I was a kind of sickly child. But if Mother could treat it at home, she did.  So I was handed down a lot of homemade remedies.

One of the remedies that I favor today is using Elderberries to treat viruses.  Its important to learn the difference between viruses and bacteria.  Bacteria respond favorably to antibiotics, viruses don’t and we commonly say that a virus just has to run its course. Although, there are some anti-viral medications available today and they have to be started just about the same time you notice you might have a virus.

A common bacterial infection is Streptococcus. There are several types of Step and I guess the one moms recognize most readily is the one that causes Strep Throat.  Most people use an antibiotic to treat Strep. I certainly would because it can lead to Scarlet Fever and Rheumatic Fever if untreated.

In my family we get viruses more often than bacterial infections.  I’ll make another post sometime and talk about bacterial infections like ear infections, and tell you what I do for those.  Today though lets talk about viruses and how to make and treat a respiratory virus with Elderberry Tincture.

Here is my disclaimer. I have to do this because I always have someone writing to me and saying things like, “I tried your remedy and it burned my baby’s feet”, or “I tried your remedy and it made me sick to my stomach….”    I am not a physician. I offer this information for your reading pleasure only. This is what I do for my family and you should read more and research very well before you start making and medicating your family with herbs including elderberries.  

That out of the way, this is how I make Elderberry Tincture and why I make it. Researchers have decided that elderberries have a substance in them that coats viruses and prevents the viruses from reproducing in our bodies.  The University of Maryland Medial Center writes “Elderberry may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties” and “one study suggested that elderberry could kill the H1N1 virus”. Grandma knew what she was talking about a long time ago.

The species of Elderberry you want is Sambuca nigra or the Black Elderberry. The White Elderberry also called Dwarf Elderberry is poisonous. So if you’re going to go out looking for Elderberry, take someone with you who knows the difference.


Black Elderberry
Sambucus Nigra
Berries hang down – this is the one you want.


Dwarf Elderberry
Sambucus ebulus
Berries point upward – this is NOT the one.


There is a very good instructional about how to choose the right Elderberry at this site.  Included in the post are pictures of the leaves and different types of berries.

If you prefer, you can purchase dried, organic elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs.

I do make Elderberry syrup, but since it is a syrup it is mostly sugar.  My husband who is a diabetic doesn’t need all that sugar so I decided to make tincture this time. Tinctures can be made with glycerin but I chose to make it with vodka.  When you take the syrup you end up taking 9 to 12 tablespoons of it every day.  With the tincture, you only need 1 teaspoon three or four times a day and there is no added sugar, though there is probably a miniscule amount of natural sugar in the berries themselves.

To make Elderberry Tincture you will need:

  • A clean, glass  jar
  • Enough dried elderberries to fill the jar half way. If you have fresh berries fill the jar almost full.
  • Enough 80 proof minimum vodka to cover the berries.
  • A lid for the jar.
  • A dark place to let the jar of vodka and berries sit for a while.

elderberries vodka 2

Add the berries to the jar, add the vodka, put the lid on the jar, Shake it up and put it somewhere cool and dark. I put my jar in a paper bag on my baker’s rack. Give it a shake every day or two. Let it sit for 4-6 weeks. I let mine sit for 6 weeks.

After 6 weeks, strain out the berries and store the tincture in a dark jar away from sunlight. I usually put some tincture in a dropper bottle to use immediately and the rest in a dark jar in the frig.

You don’t have to store tincture in the frig, the alcohol will keep most anything from growing in it.

Tinctures made this way will last for several years.

Adults and children –  when you feel like you’re coming down with a virus, chest cold, etc., take 1 teaspoon every 3-4 hours til you’re feeling better.  Tinctures are strong tasting and you may want to add a teaspoon of tincture to a cup of warm water to get it down.  You can give children the elderberry tincture by putting a teaspoonful of it in a cup of hot water that is allowed to cool before the child drinks it. The hot water will evaporate most of the alcohol.

My husband keeps a tincture bottle of the elderberry stuff in his coat pocket all winter and when he feels like he might get sick he starts taking three droppers full every 45 minutes for the morning then every 3-4 hours after that.  A dropper full is about 1/4 teaspoon. The tincture by itself is strong tasting and burns my throat, so you might want to consider that before taking it without water.

Some people like to rinse the used berries and add them to oats or cookies, etc.  I have never done that but I guess you could. They smell a lot like currants so I might try them in some scones.

Another good tincture for colds and flus is Oregano Tincture.

Do you make Elderberry Tincture?  Have you used it and had good results?


Violet Tincture and Syrup

Disclaimer:  The instructions I offer here in this post (and in all my posts about herbs and home remedies) are what I use personally at home. Of course the standard disclaimer goes: I am not a doctor and don’t prescribe medicines or herbs, this is just what  we have done here for generations with great results.  








The violets are blooming and its time to make tincture and syrup. Violets are great for treating upper respiratory ailments and reduce mucous. The leaves can be cooked and eaten. The fragrance of the violets can relieve headaches. Some people make jelly from the petals.

To make the syrup, pick the blossoms, tear off the green sepals and discard, saving the petals. Put the petals in a quart sized mason jar. Cover with boiling water, cover the jar and let sit for a couple of hours.

The largest violet we saw today

The largest violet we saw today

violets in water

Pouring boiling water over violet petals

Strain off the liquid.Measure the liquid into a saucepan and add an equal amount of sugar or honey. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Bottle up the syrup and cover tightly, store in the refrigerator or in cellar-like conditions ; 52*F and dark.
Use as a mild cough suppressant or to mask the flavor of other unpleasant medicines.

To make a Violet Tincture you’ll need your prepared violet blossoms and some clear alcohol like gin, vodka or everclear.  I use the cheapest vodka I can find.

confederate-violetcopyrightMaking tincture is a bit different procedure than making the syrup. You can use either fresh or dried blossoms, so its possible to pick the flowers, dry them and store them until you want to make the tincture.

Place one half gallon of fresh blossoms (about 8 or 9 ounces by weight) in a 1 quart masons jar, pour 2 cups of alcohol over them and push the petals down into the alcohol. Allow to sit in a dark, cool place for 2 weeks. Strain off the liquid and bottle it up in dark, glass containers.  Use by the drop for cough, mucous and upper respiratory ailments.

Violet Syrup from 2012

Violet Syrup

If you use dried blossoms, use however many you have and pour over enough alcohol to cover them. Proceed as above.

Violets are extremely mild, but if you are using the tincture for children, check with your child’s Dr or herbalist first and consider using Young’s Rule: The child’s age divided by twelve plus the age. So for a 4 year old:
4 divided by 12 plus 4 = 1/4 the adult dose.









I’m so thankful to see Spring come around.  I’ve tried not to complain about the cold because I was so tired of the hot weather we had last year from May til October.  There is still a chill in the air, but the flowers are budding, some are



Violet Syrup

Violet Syrup

blooming like the hardy little Daffodils and Star of Bethlehem.  The Plantain is greening up and so is the Chickweed. It won’t be long til I can start gathering weeds and herbs and making new salves and tinctures. The pretty little violets will be poking their heads out soon and so will the dandelions. The poke won’t be far behind in fact it might come up first. I gather poke for about 4 weeks in the spring, blanch it and freeze it. Some of it I cook fresh and eat with cornbread.

As I wander through my little yard I am once again amazed at all the herbs and weeds God has given us to cure our ailments and bring health to our bodies.  Because my yard is a great place to find all kinds of edible and medicinal weeds, I don’t use chemical fertilizer or herbicides. I don’t use chemicals at all on the yard because I want the herbs to be as fresh and clean as possible.

robin 2

American Robin

The songbirds are back with Spring as well. They have been singing and chirping happily for days, really. I’ll really be happy to see and hear the Robin again. I was a grown woman before I really paid much attention to the Robin’s song. Its lilting and lovely. On summer afternoon I was outside and heard the most beautiful bird song. I searched with my eyes until I saw a robin some 50 yards away perched on a fence post, singing his heart out. There was no other sound except the grass and trees rustling in the wind and I listened to that song until the bird was finished. I don’t know how long I stood there, just wrapped up in the music of that little bird. Ever since, I have loved the Robin’s song and looked forward to it every year. I have a friend who says that Spring isn’t truly here until the Robins make their appearance.

Spring tends to say, “Hurry Up!” but my mind and body say, “Slow Down.”  I’ve been on a quest to slow down for some years and looking back, I can tell that I really have slowed down. Not that I don’t have my frantic, hurried moments when some project or article is due somewhere, but my life in general has slowed way down. I think that’s good. I can now enjoy a slow walk through the yard to hunt for all the new little buds and green things without rushing off somewhere to do something unnecessary and un-fulfilling. Life gets busy planting and cultivating, tending and harvesting but I have learned to wait with nature for everything to unfold.




passion flower

Herbs For Sleeplessness, Anxiety and Nervousness

I’ve never been a nervous person but about 10 years ago I started noticing that I’d get flustered and drop things when I was working and someone would start talking to me. And I noticed a feeling of irritability throughout the day that wasn’t even around people. Welcome to the beginning of peri-menopause.  It gets worse before it gets better but that is a post for another day.

Today I’d like to share with you some herbs that are very helpful for irritability, nervousness, anxiety and even insomnia. I have tried all of these herbs in the ways that I will describe for you.  But first……….

Do not ever take herbs if you are pregnant or nursing unless they are prescribed by your Naturopathic Doctor or Midwife.  Do not take these particular herbs if you are taking ANY other prescription medicines.

Herbal Medicine is no joke, its not as simple as drinking a cup of tea in the morning and then your troubles vanish away. Herbs take time to work and herbs are Medicine. Drugs.

Now that you are warned and aware, lets talk about these herbs that are so helpful for all those symptoms I listed……..

Chamomile ~ I’ve talked about Chamomile before here.  Chamomile is one of those herbs that is very mild, usually good for adults and small children alike (but the warning still goes if you are pregnant or nursing), and very helpful for relaxing and calming.   chamomile

If you have seasonal allergies, you might want to lay off the Chamomile. It is part of the asteracea family of plants like common Ragweed.

If you aren’t allergic however, you can make a cup of tea using a heaping Tablespoon of Chamomile per 8 ounces of water. Cover the cup and let the tea steep for 5 minutes.  Its important to cover the cup because Chamomile’s calming oils will be lost to you if you leave it uncovered. Sweeten with honey to taste.  You can take Chamomile as often as you like, but it is especially helpful in the evening before bed or before any stressful event.

Passionflower ~ passion flowerMy husband collects passion flower on country roadsides and in fields. He finds it on old fence rows abundantly. He dries the leaves and flowers together for making tea.  Passionflower has been found to work as well as the benzodiazepine (valium) class of sedatives.  One study has shown it to be effective as an anti-spasmodic when used as a tincture.  I use it in a tea with some peppermint to help me sleep in the evening. I use 1 Tablespoon Passionflower, 1 tsp peppermint and steep for 5 minutes, covered. Sweeten with honey if desired.


Hops ~  No, I’m not recommending beer for insomnia. But hops, which is used to give a bitter taste to beer is a natural Growing Hopssedative.   Hops is extremely bitter so just use a pinch in your tea to give you a sedative effect. Do not combine hops with prescription sleep aids, it has an additive effect. An additive effect according to the Medical dictionary online is: An effect in which two substances or actions used in combination produce a total effect the same as the sum of the individual effects.  I pick hops at my uncle’s house, dry it, store it in a jar and then when I use it I just pull out one of the blossoms and crumble it into a cup with some chamomile and peppermint to cover up the bitter taste. I Pour boiling water over it, steep for about 5 minutes then I sweeten it with honey.

I have also made a calming Sleep Pillow for some of my children over the years. Its helpful when the child is ill and is having problems sleeping. I put 1 cup hops, 1 cup lavender blossoms and 1 cup of flax seeds (to give the pillow a little heft) into a little sack, sew up the end and put it in the child’s bed near his or her pillow. The fragrance of the lavender and hops is pleasant and helpful for relaxing so its easier for the child to go to sleep naturally. If the pillow happens to tear open, the ingredients won’t harm the child, even if she ingests some of them, but I wouldn’t use this for an infant because of the potential for the pillow to be torn apart, I just use it for older children.


Lemon Balm ~   Melissa officianalis should not be used by persons who have hypothyroidism as it inhibits the action of the thyroid gland.  Right now we only have a big pot of Lemon Balm and I hope to grow it in the herb garden proper this year.   I cut off stems and leaves and pack them in a mason jar, then pour cheap vodka over it. I let this soak in a cool, dark place for about 3 weeks then I strain out the plant material and bottle up the lemon balm vodka.  This tincture can be used for anxiety. Just put about 1/2 teaspoon in a small glass of water and drink it a couple of times a day as needed. You can also make a tea with lemon balm. It takes pretty good so just use about a tablespoon of dried herb and sweeten with honey.


Valerian ~  This herb stinks so bad. I can hardly bear to take it or drink a tea with it. I really think it would work better for me if it was in tincture form but right now all I have is the organic root.  If you take too much of this herb you get a Valerian-RootValerian  hangover, a groggy, sleepy feeling that you can’t shake the next day so be very careful when using it.  Its a great pain reliever though and worth the stink if you are in serious pain.  Some people use it for chronic pain and for that you’d need to take a daily therapeutic dose , I recommend you talk to a naturopath about that.

We don’t grow or collect Valerian root, I buy it at

If you simply need it for pain you should start with a small amount, a 1/2 teaspoon or so, in a cup with other strongly flavored herbs like peppermint and chamomile.  If that doesn’t give you the relief you need, use a teaspoon next time. Watch your morning-after symptoms.  Honestly, you’ll have to experiment with taste. I can only use it with peppermint, lots of peppermint.  But it helps so much with a bad headache, that I use it whenever I need it.

Catnip ~  Not just for cats. Its a wonderfully mild sedative that can be used for children, as long as you check with your catnipchild’s doctor or naturopath first.  Make a cup using 1 Tablespoon of the catnip herb and boiling water, let steep 5 minutes, sweeten with honey.

Catnip looks a lot like Lemon Balm and all the other mints. If you are gathering in the wild, be sure you know what you are getting. Otherwise, just buy it at a nursery and grow it, well identified with a marker or buy it already dried.


There are several other herbs used for anxiety, sleeplessness and pain, but these are the ones I use and that I use for my family. I’ll post more later on herbs for other symptoms.

What herbs do you use for insomnia, anxiety, etc?




Clay Powder For Bee Stings

About 20 years ago I discovered the best remedy for bee stings I’ve ever used. Its called French Green Clay Powder. I bought mine from Frontier. 


Amazon carries the Frontier brand now so you can find it there. A little goes a long way. A very long way.

I used it on my husband yesterday. He got two stings from a carpenter bee while he was working on a project. He rarely treats bee stings because they just don’t hurt him very much but these two stings hurt pretty badly.

To use it you just put a little of the powder on a plate or in a cup and add water a little at a time, drop by drop pretty much. Stir it up and make a paste.

When I applied the clay and water mixture the pain was relieved immediately. The stings did not swell at all, and the pain was gone completely within minutes.

If you’ve never tried French Green Clay Powder, I highly recommend it!