Come spring and summer, as the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter, new adventures await. But should you or your children get bumps or bruises along the way, look no further than your backyard garden to find easy, inexpensive, toxin-free remedies.
"Homeopathy looks beyond the labels of disease to cure their causes rather than merely their symptoms, and it stimulates the body's own natural healing powers to bring health, vitality and well-being," according the European Committee for Homeopathy. Here are just a few common garden plants with profound healing abilities.
The aloe vera plant is a wonderful option to soothe summertime sunburns, and it can also replace certain first-aid products. The gel in its leaves contains polysaccharides, which promote wound healing, have gastroprotective properties and act as an anti-inflammatory. Katie Wells, the "Wellness Mama," is a wife and mom of six, as well as an author, award-winning blogger and podcaster. On her Wellness Mama blog, she provides simple instructions for harvesting aloe vera gel.
Break off one aloe leaf, and cut it into 8-inch sections. Cut off the serrated leaf edge, getting as close a cut as possible. Cut the 8-inch sections into two or three long strips. Take a strip, turn the blade to its side, and slide it just under the skin at one end. Carefully slide the knife along the edge of the skin down the whole length. Take the skin off. Flip the section over. Repeat with the other side. Cut the flesh into two or three pieces, and place them in a blender. Repeat until all sections have been skinned and gathered. Blend until smooth. Frothing is normal. Pour the gel into a clean storage container and refrigerate. Rub onto sunburns and let dry for a cool relief. This keeps for one week.
Along with sunburns, itchy mosquito bites, poison ivy rashes and encounters with stinging nettles are likely in the warmer seasons. This summer, be prepared with Wellness Mama's Homemade Anti-Itch Spray.
HOMEMADE ANTI-ITCH SPRAY
1/4 cup natural witch hazel extract
1/2 teaspoon menthol crystals (approximately 1-2 crystals)
1 teaspoon natural salt
2 tablespoons aloe vera gel
1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar (optional)
5 drops calendula essential oil (optional)
5 drops of lavender essential oil (optional)
Heat witch hazel extract in small saucepan until warm. Add the salt, stirring until dissolved. Use gloves or tweezers to add menthol crystals, and stir until dissolved. Add aloe vera gel, apple cider vinegar and essential oils. Transfer the mixture to a 4-ounce spray bottle. Keeps for months at room temperature.
Mint is an herbal remedy with a rich history. It was cultivated 3,000 years ago by the Egyptians due to its abilities to calm upset stomachs and nausea, improve digestion and relieve coughs. Jace Mortensen, a gardener who works with Dr. Andrew Weil, a innovator of integrative medicine, sees mint as "the mature, responsible beverage." In an article for Dr. Weil's website, he shares how he grows mint and prepares it for tea: "Mint leaves are easily dried on a screen, but I find it even simpler to strip dried leaves from the stems, and then wrap twine around a fresh bundle to dry. I store a few bound bundles in a small paper bag, and remove the leaves as needed. Dried mint leaves can keep for a couple years if stored in a cool, dark place."
If you're interested in making this tea, "you will need to steep twice as many fresh leaves as dried ones for mint tea," says Mortensen. He recommends a rounded teaspoon of fresh-picked leaves for each cup. Though the herb is caffeine-free, Mortensen also finds it to be "at once stimulating and calming," a great alternative if you're trying to kick caffeine cravings.
Heartsease, also known as Viola tricolor and Johnny jump-ujp, is a vibrant violet pansy known for brightening up gardens, though its medicinal uses are less renowned. It can be used topically to treat eczema, acne and even babies' cradle cap (it's that gentle), but is more commonly taken internally to ease arthritis symptoms. The Herbal Academy online school of herbalism suggests a nutritious spring tonic tea with violet using equal amounts of dried violet, dandelion, nettle, red clover and mint leaves. One teaspoon of dried herbs per 16 ounces of water is common, so adjust as necessary.
With these homeopathic remedies, you can take advantage of the plants in your backyard to stay active and healthful all spring and summer long.