Budget Herbalism

Recipes and Notes from Budget Herbalism

~Utica Herbal Study Group

****Thanks to Amanda David at Rootwork Herbals for inspiring me to share this when she led a similar discussion at the Herbal Hoedown last summer!


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At our most recent Utica Herbal Study Group we discussed the ways in which herbal medicine can be low-cost and accessible. One of the primary offerings of plant-based remedies is that they provide supreme healing to common folks regardless of socio-economic status. Plants grow wild everywhere, even in cities, and many herbs are also considered foods and can be bought right in the grocery store. Many grocery store herbs are inexpensive and can even be purchased with food stamps. 

Another, often overlooked, source of herbal medicine happens right in most of our spice cupboards. Cooking herbs and spices can usually be found bottle up and forgotten in our corner shelves and wall racks. There is hardly a household or, at very least, a neighbor or family members household where one can't find a few basic herbal jars of magic already waiting for us in the kitchen. Cooking with herbs is one of humanities oldest traditional methods of supporting health and immunity. These remedies can be added to soups and stews or simply made into teas, compresses, rinses.

Below is a list of herbs that can be found in the grocery store, some of the medicinal properties of common cooking herbs, and the recipes that were included in the hand-out at Herbal Study Group. Although it is ideal that we find herbs, spices, and foods that are organic or locally grown, it is just that; an ideal and not always possible. During this discussion I highly encouraged our group to consider that the potential stress and anxiety that can be caused by the need for ONLY organic or locally grown is not necessarily healing and that, in any discussion of medicine that is accessible, our capacity to adapt and innovate is also central. Working class folks may not always have the resources of privilege, time, or money to chase or seek the perfect products. Sometimes whatever is available is just perfect! 



 :: From the Shopping List ::



Burdock Root



Apple Cider Vinegar



Molasses-iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.




:: From the Spice Cupboard ::


Parsley (Petroselinum sativum)

- source of vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, beta-carotene, chlorophyll

- slightly bitter, crispy and salty taste that indicates the presence of minerals and sodium.

-Carminative and diuretic


Basil (Ocimum basilicum)- high in vit A and C

-is pungent, removes heat and toxins from the bloodstream, liver and intestines

-relieves melancholy, anti-spasmodic,nervine,  nervous indigestion, anti-gas, alleviates nausea,antiseptic, lowers fevers


Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

-most powerful, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory herb

-reduces inflammation in irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, chrons disease, sinus infection, arthritis, excema, asthma

-is a natural antibiotic, has moderate cholesterol lowering action and is antioxidant

-helps improve intestinal flora and aids in the digestion of protein


Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

- pungent,warming, decongestant, warms the stomach to improve digestion, increase bile secretion, improves fat digestion and movement of food through the tract, reducing stagnation, irritation and gas

-normalizes blood sugar

-when cooked with meat it helps the body better digest and assimilate the meat, thus detoxifiying it


Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.)

-antibacterial,antifungal, carminative(dispels gas), antihemorrhagic, normalizes blood sugar

-used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting and nausea

-influence over the microorgaisms associated with botulism, staph infections, alfatoxin, e. coli, and candida.


Anise (Pimpinella anisum)

--carminative(gas-expelling), moistening, nourishing, emollient(softening), warming, and anodyne(pain-relieving)

-calms and builds the nervous system


Garlic (Allium sativum)

--lowers cholesterol and blood pressure

-stimulates immune system

-antibacterial antiviral

-treats ulcers, bacterial diarrhea, sinus infection, ear infection

- effective for antibiotic-resistant pneumonia

-more than 220 studies have correlated ingestion of garlic with lower rates of stomach, intestinal and other cancers



-10 to 20 times the minerals of land-based plants

-Eating 3-5 grams(1 gram=.035of an oz.) of most dried, unrinsed seaweeds will provide the RDA of 100-150 micrograms.of iron

-high in iodine and potassium, increases underactive thyroid function and alkalinizes blood


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) ***thymo= Greek for strength

-antibacterial, atimspasmodic, antifungal, antiviral,carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant

-currently used for spasmodic coughs associated with bronchitis, pertussis, asthma, copd, and emphysema


Cumin (Nigella sativa)

-seeds help us absorb and use nutrients

-is carminative and helps increase elimination of metabolic waste via the liver, large intestine, lungs, lymphatic system, skin and kidneys.


Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum annuum)

-increases circulation to the extremeties

-improves digestion and sluggish bowels

-restores health to blood vessels and normalizes bp

-shown inhibitory activity against Helicobacter pylori, and studies show that people who regularly consume hot peppers have a lower incidence of duodenal and peptic ulcers than 

those who do not

**Contra-indicated for peptic ulcers, acid indigestion, esophageal reflux


Rosemary(Rosmarinus officinalis)

-antioxidant, circulatory tonic(mild), cerebral tonic and stimulatory to the brain, improves memory, enhances the cellular uptake of oxygen

--Liver/gallbladder tonic for impaired fat digestion. Rosemary enhanced the activity of two liver enzymes(GSH-transferased, NAD(P)H-quinone reductase) when included at very low levels in the diet of rats.


Sage (Salvia officinalis)

-bitter, astringent, slightly heating, pungent

-diaphoretic, expectorant, nervine, astringent, alterative, diuretic, carminative, antispasmodic

-antiseptic, clears congestion, lowers cholesterol


Oregano (origanum vulagare)

-antispasmodic, calms nervousness, irritability and insomnia


Black pepper

- warming, energizing and stimulating,

-sinus infections, colds


Cloves (Eugenia caryophyllum)

-pungent and aromatic

-stimulates circulation, raises body temperature, improves sluggish digestion and nausea

-stimulant, expectorant, carminative, analgesic, aphrodisiac

-heating and energizing


Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)~cilantro seed

-bitter, pungent, cooling,carminative, aromatic, warming(leaf is cooling)

-antispasmodic, eases diarrhea and chronic indigestion

-helps eliminate toxic chemicals and wastes through kidneys


Cardamom (Elattaria cardamomum)- pungent, bitter, sweet, aromatic, warm, dry

-relieves bloating, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, loss of appetite and flatulence, poor absorption, asthma, loss of taste

-helpful for food allergies and hypersensitivities


-antidotes poison, neutralizes mucus forming properties of milk and detoxifies caffeine in coffee.


Mustard Seed (Brassica Alba and Brassica Nigra)- irritant, stimulant, diuretic

-stimulates circulation and if rubbed on skin will help alleviate joint and muscle pain

-diaphoretic so used for fever, colds and influenza the same way as ginger and cayenne pepper



:: Recipes ::


Hot Ginger Compress

******For strains, sprains, and muscle and joint injuries. Do not use if there is an active infection or excessive inflammation.

-Make a tea with ½ a cup of chopped fresh ginger or 2 tbsp. of dried powder to a quart of water. If using fresh ginger simmer for 20 minutes. If using powder simmer for 5 minutes

- Use  a dish towel large enough to cover the painful area, dip in tea and place hot compress on area

-Keep the tea hot, and dip a second towel as soon as you apply the first so that there is a constant source of heat on the affected area at all times

-do this until the area becomes red


Garlic Oil

*** A wonder for ear infections and pain as well as for regularly lubricating sinus passages. Do not use if there is any sign of blood or a burst ear drum. Also, do not use if the child has tubes in their ears. I highly recommend purchasing an otoscope so that you can look for yourself.

Mince or chop fresh garlic and put in appropriate sized pan or oven safe dish. If using stove top use a double boiler or heat diffuser.

Cover garlic with olive oil.

Heat gently…do not boil for up to 24 hours.

Strain through cheese cloth.

Use 4 to 5 drops per ear of warm oil. Be sure to check temperature on the inside of your wrist before putting in ear.


Herbal Tea for Colds

-1/4 juice of a lemon

-1/4 tsp. powdered Ginger

-1/4 tsp. Anise seed

-1/4 tsp. Fenugreek seed(for sinus infection)

-1/8 tsp. Thyme(especially for coughs)

-1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic

-dash of cayenne pepper

-raw honey

*you can add 1 tsp. of White Pine Needles if you have some

*Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the herbs and steep for 10 minutes

*Drink 3 cups per day


Hot Ginger Foot Bath

***Do not use for children under 4 years old or if there is a fever.

Grate or chop fresh ginger or use dried ginger powder. Begin with 1-2 Tablespoons of ginger to a tub of hot water. Water should be as hot as you can stand but DON’T BURN YOURSELF!

Soak feet until water begins to cool. Remove your feet before it gets too cool. Have a towel ready to dry your feet and put on a pair of warm socks. I warm them by my woodstove.


Fire Cider

1 part Garlic

1 part Horseradish

1 part Onions

½ part Fresh ginger

Cayenne to taste (just a few grains will do)

Honey to taste

Apple Cider Vinegar.

Chop fresh garlic, onions, and horseradish into small pieces. Grate fresh ginger. The amounts and proportions vary according to your particular taste.. If unsure, start with equal amounts of the first three ingredients and roughly half part ginger the first time you make this; you can always adjust the flavors in future batches. Chop enough of the first four ingredients to fill a quart jar approximately half full. Put in wide mouth quart jar and cover with Apple Cider vinegar (keep vinegar about two to three inches above the herbs). Add cayenne to taste (just a small amount or will be too hot!). Let sit two to three weeks. Strain and discard spent herbs. Add honey to taste (add the honey after you strain the rest of the herbs).

Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy and sweet. Great as a winter time tonic and/or as a remedy for colds and coughs. I loved to take little shot glasses as a tonic and often people use it as salad dressing and/or on rice or steamed vegetables. It’s quite tasty!


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