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Using Your Herbal Stash

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Have you ever found yourself staring at your collection of herbs, wondering how to transform these fragrant leaves and flowers into something more than just pretty decorations? You’re not alone. Many of us gather an impressive “Herbal Stash” with the intention of diving into the world of herbalism, only to feel a bit lost on where to start. Whether you’re looking to soothe a stubborn cough or simply want to enjoy herbal infusions throughout the day, this guide is your starting point to unlock the potential of your herbal treasures.

1. Cough Syrup from Your Garden

Let’s start with something practical and seasonally relevant – a homemade cough syrup. Imagine you’ve read about the soothing properties of thyme and honey for respiratory issues. Here’s how you can turn that knowledge into action:

  • Gather Your Herbs: For a basic cough syrup, thyme is a great start. If you have mullein or elderberry in your stash, they can add extra healing properties.
  • Simple Syrup Base: Combine equal parts water and honey (local is best) in a saucepan. Add your herbs and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Strain and store in a clean bottle. This syrup can offer relief from coughing and soothe your throat.

2. Daily Herbal Infusions

Drinking herbal infusions is like giving your body a gentle, daily hug from nature. It’s a fantastic way to use your stash and benefit from the subtle, restorative properties of herbs:

  • Choose Your Blend: Start with something simple and palatable. Chamomile for relaxation, peppermint for digestion, or nettle for its nutrient-rich profile are great beginner choices.
  • The Perfect Steep: Place an ounce of your herb into a quart jar, cover with boiling water, add a lid, and let it steep overnight, strain, and enjoy. These infusions can be a delightful way to help stay hydrated and introduce your body to herbal benefits.

3. Salves and Balms for Every Ailment

Creating your own salves is easier than you might think and a perfect way to make your “Herbal Stash” work for you. Whether you’re dealing with dry skin, cuts, or bruises, there’s a herb and a salve for that:

  • Basic Salve Making: Start with infusing oils (olive, coconut, or almond) with your chosen herb (calendula for skin healing, comfrey for bruises). Gently warm the oil and herbs in a double boiler for a few hours, strain, then mix with melted beeswax until you achieve the desired consistency. Pour into tins or jars to set.
  • Application: Apply your homemade salve to the affected area for a natural remedy that’s both effective and comforting.

4. Tinctures From Your Herbal Stash

Tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts and a fantastic way to preserve and use the potent properties of your herbs:

  • Simple Tincture Process: Tinctures are simply herbs that are steeped (not the scientific term but you know what I mean) in alcohol. Most herbs can be tinctured in 80 proof alcohol. Yes, there is more too it if you want to get technical, and that is super interesting but we are going to be using tinctures to help ourselves and our families. This will do. Seal and let it sit in a cool, dark place for about 4-6 weeks, shaking occasionally. I use these to bottle them up!
  • Usage: Tinctures are taken in small doses, usually a few drops in water, to address specific health concerns or boost overall well-being.

Starting with these basic projects, you can finally use up some of the herbs you have collected. Trust me, I was overrun (heck, ar harvest time I still am) with herbal things. I would harvest and purchase and hoard all sorts of herbally bits. It was only after I gained the confidence to start using some of my herbal stash, that I realized how much less stressful it was to be thinking of my herbals as I do my food storage, enough from season to the next growing season is all I need. Now, I actually use much more herbalism in my daily life because I am not overwhelmed.

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