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Homemade Herbal Remedies With Ciara O'Meara

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

More and more of us are turning to herbal remedies to offer us a natural solution to medical problems. However money is tight and sometimes these herbal remedies can be equally or more expensive.

Ciara O'Meara - Medical Herbalist
I have a long standing interest in natural medicine. From a young age I found myself allergic to antibiotics, this prompted a proactive approach to preventative medicine, ensuring that through diet and exercise I was always doing my best to stay healthy. I completed an honours Science degree in University College Dublin in 1997 followed by an MSc in Medical Genetics at Aberdeen University. I then spent a number of years working in the field of academic research in areas such as The Human Genome Project at Oxford University, UK, and on Cancer research at Cancer Research UK. It was during this time that I took up a yoga practice and further cultivated an interest in holistic medicine.

First hand experience of successfully using herbal medicine prompted me to pursue an interest in the subject. I soon realised that this interest was part of a much broader, richer and complex area of natural medicine which required dedicated study to appreciate both its subtleties and power. To deepen my knowledge on the subject and acquire the ability to confidently use it as a health professional I completed a four year degree at Westminster University in London.

This University is a long established centre for excellence in the training of medical herbalists. Its facilities encompass a central London clinic for herbal medicine where members of the public can avail of treatment. This is where I completed 500 hours of clinical training as part of my degree, treating members of the public from young to old with a range of illnesses. This was an integral part of the educational programme, in the interests of maintaining a high level of safe practice. This training included differential diagnosis of illness up to a high standard of training clinically on par with that of a GP.

1)Thyme and Plantain Cough Syrup
Will need:
fresh thyme
Fresh plantain
Star anisee

2) Throat lozenges - (Should keep for 6 months min)
Will contain
Echinacea tincture..this is optional but probably something everyone has in their cabinet.
fennel seeds
Slippery elm powder
Fresh Sage leaves
Sugar or honey/ or acacia gum just need to check local health store for supply

3) Calendula Lip balm
Will need
Sweet almond oil
Fresh Calendula petals
Bees wax

4) Spearmint and Lemon Balm fresh plant infusion
I have both in the garden simple directions just chop up fresh herb cover and infuse for 15 mins

1) Thyme and Plantain Cough Syrup
Thyme is a herb with many uses and can be grown quite easily in the Irish climate in a window box or in the ground. Plantain can be found growing wild in the hedgerows of the country. If you would like a supply for your back garden pull the seeds off the flower heads in the mid to late summer for planting.
Thyme is especially useful in a cough syrup as it has a number of functions; it contains a volatile oil which is responsible for the strong fragrance this oil has antiseptic properties. It also promotes expectoration and soothes any spasm of the lungs. Thyme is also useful where there is sluggish digestion which can be useful especially in children where illness often goes hand in hand with a loss of appetite.
Plantain again acts as a gentle expectorant; it counteracts the astringency of the thyme in the syrup as it is soothing on inflamed sore membranes.

To make syrup:
. Make a strong infusion of Thyme and Plantain. In 500ml of water add 250g of equal parts thyme and plantain. If you are making medicine for a small child ( under 4yrs) you might like to make a weaker syrup, you could add 100g of Thyme and Plantain.
. Bring the mixture to the boil and allow reduce down to approximately one quarter of the original volume.
. Add the sugar in a ratio of 2:1, so if you have 100mls of liquid you need to add 200g of sugar, it may seem like a lot but this is whats required!
. To improve palatability you could add lemon juice to the mixture if you wish, it will also act as a preservative.
. Dosage for adults of syrup 10mls as required, for children reduce this dose by a third.
. Stored in the fridge this syrup should keep for several months

TIPS & Variations!
If you can't fins Plantain another good option is Oregano, it is a useful lung herb and can be grown or purchased from your local vegetable shop, although the medicine will taste more 'medicinal' as both Thyme and Oregano contain volatile oils so this might be a better option for an adult medicine.
If you want to add 'more power' to your syrup you could add 50mls of Echinacea tincture to 100mls of syrup and take small regular dosages if you have a chest infection, adding a tincture to the medicine will increase the shelf life of the product.
If you have a child that finds the taste of Thyme quite strong, you can add 3-4 Star anise at the boiling stage this will improve the flavour and has the added advantage of easing colic, it also has expectorant and antispasmodic properties which is useful in cases of whooping cough.

2) Throat lozenges
Lozenges are an ideal way to sooth a dry tickly throat, treating a sore throat can sometimes e enough to halt the onset of an impending cold.
Sage is an excellent herb for all manner of mouth and throat irritation. Depending on your preference you can add fennel seed or a couple of drops of clove oil for flavour. Slippery elm powder adds a soothing quality to the lozenges which will coat the back of the throat with a soothing film while at the same time acting as a medium in which to hold the medicinal properties of the herb.

. Make a strong infusion of sage and reduce over low heat. Add fennel seeds at this point if you like the taste. Allow to cool to room temperature and add the clove oil at this point if you like the flavour.
. Add 2 tablespoons of honey to the liquid and mix. Add the slippery elm powder until you form a thick paste. Pout onto grease proof paper , flatten out and leave to dry at room temperature overnight.
. Cut the lozenges into the desired size place in an airtight container. These should keep for about 6-8 weeks.
If you would like to spice them up a bit you can add a teaspoon of dried ginger root powder or a pinch of cayenne pepper powder to the slippery elm powder.

2) Calendula Lip balm
Calendula or pot marigold as it is more commonly known is a great addition to any garden apart from the vibrant yellow and orange flowers throughout the summer it has a wide range of medicinal properties.
Calendula has a long reputation as a skin healer and can reduce inflammation whether due to infection or physical damage. Calendula also has antifungal properties when applied to the skin. It makes it an ideal choice for the delicate skin of the lips which can become dry and sore in the summer months.


. First make the calendula infused oil. Take 150mls of sweet almond oil or sunflower oil to this add fresh calendula petals Place in a 'double boiler'. Gently heat the oil and the flowers stirring regularly for 2-3 hours. The longer you leave it the stronger the infusion. You can even take the mixture off the heat allow it to cool overnight and strain out the petals the next day. This cooled oil is your Calendula infused oil.
. Take 7g of beeswax, mix it with 150ml of your infused oil in a double boiler until the wax has melted.
. Add the teaspoon of honey, you can add a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil. You can optionally add a capsule of Vitamin E oil to this mixture. When everything has been mixed pour the mixture into a suitable container and allow it to set, label the jar.

4) Spearmint and Lemon Balm fresh plant infusion
Spearmint and lemon balm make a lovely relaxing digestive tea. Spearmint aids digestion and reduces griping while lemon balm has a relaxing effect on the stomach.
To make the tea:
Take adequate amounts of each fresh herb chop up well place into a pot pour boiling water on allow infuse for at least 15 mins. Drink on its own or with a touch of honey or a squeeze of lemon.