I’ve been called in the middle of the night by more than one client wanting to take care of a problem at least temporarily. As a Master Herbalist, I can usually come up with something that will get them through the night. Because most people have a spice rack for their cooking, I usually recommend things that are in it to help with minor health problems. Some of them will even help with major health difficulties.
Allspice: Besides making your pumpkin pie delicious, allspice can help soothe an upset stomach. It also contains eugenol, which can be a mild anesthetic.
Caraway: Like most of its fellow members of the carrot family, adding this to your cooking could prevent an upset stomach, bloating and even an attack of gas.
Cinnamon: Most of us use this to flavor pies, but it is a major player in my cough and sore throat tea. It may also lower blood sugar, so if you have a problem with that, you may want to use it with caution.
Cloves: Aside from its use in pumpkin pie and baked ham, it is a dental anesthetic. It actually has more eugenol than allspice. It is a prime ingredient in the cough tea.
Garlic: My favorite herb does a lot of good in the health department. It is useful for infections, acne, high blood pressure and possibly to lower LDL cholesterol.
Licorice: Many times, what we purchase that is labeled licorice contains none of the actual herb. That’s due to the fact that it can raise blood pressure considerably. However, many black licorice candies do contain it, and it can help soothe a sore throat, upset stomach and aid the rest of the digestive tract.
Marjoram: This is useful during “bug season,” as it spices up out sweat. The bugs don’t like the smell or the taste, so they dine elsewhere.
Mistletoe: Warning: Do not use this plant on your own unless you are a qualified herbal practitioner. It’s fun to snuggle under it during the holidays, but it is used by we herbalists to help lower blood pressure. It is not something that should be used without guidance, however. It could lower it too much, and it can also cause a seriously upset stomach.
Nutmeg: Eggnog and pumpkin pie benefit from a small pinch of this potent spice. It can also help soothe the stomach, but it cannot be used in large amounts. One nutmeg could kill a child and two could kill an adult.
Oregano: Like marjoram, oregano spices up your sweat, which keeps the bugs away.
Peppermint: This is my second favorite plant. It can help you stay alert, improve concentration, settle an upset stomach and calm a cough. The oil should not be used around children under two, as it can cause a potentially serious breathing disorder.
Sage: The roasted turkey won’t be the same without sage. However, if you’re breastfeeding, go lightly on it. It is often used to dry up milk when it’s time to wean the child.
The spice rack in your kitchen packs a lot of health benefits, but use some caution when thinking about them as remedies. If you have any medical conditions, or you take any medications, check with your doctor before using them in other than food amounts. That will prevent drug/herb interactions.
Sources: For more information, the University of Maryland and Drugs.com can be very useful.