Treat your family’s coughs, colds, upset stomachs and headaches with fresh or dried herbs. Find them at your local or online apothecary this winter, then plant your own medicine next spring. For serious medical problems or illnesses lasting more than a few days, consult your physician or health-care professional.
■ Calendula (Calendula officinalis). A relative of the common marigold, calendula has brilliant yellow-orange flowers and blooms prolifically. The flowers’ antiseptic and skin-soothing properties make for an excellent healing salve.
■ Echinacea (Echinacea spp.). Every part of this plant contains immune-stimulating compounds, which help fight colds, flu and other infections. Echinacea can be made into tinctures or dried for teas. (Avoid if you are sensitive to ragweed.)
■ Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). An ancient digestive remedy, fennel seeds contain essential oils that enhance digestion and relieve gas and heartburn. Harvest the seeds in late summer when they turn greenish-gray, and use them in teas or tinctures.
■ Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis). This mint contains compounds that ease coughs and congestion. Make teas or tinctures from the leaves and flowers.
■ Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Fragrant lavender blossoms calm stress, relieve indigestion, ease headaches and soothe burns. There are at least two dozen kinds of lavender; English lavender is best for medicinal use. Lavender can be made into tinctures, teas, baths or sleep pillows.
■ Red clover (Trifolium pratense). Red clover can help the body eliminate toxins and is also good for skin problems such as acne and eczema. The herb’s phytoestrogens may help menopausal women with symptoms such as hot flashes.
■ Rosebud (Rosa spp.). Rosebud is beneficial to the heart and brain and relieves colds, coughs and kidney complaints. Rosewater tastes sweet and revives tired skin and eyes.
■ Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). Valerian’s musty-smelling roots contain powerful sedative compounds that relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia. Harvest 2-year-old roots in fall, and make tinctures or dry for teas.
■ Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). With antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, yarrow helps heal cuts and wounds, and soothes hemorrhoids and varicose veins when applied topically. As a hot tea or bath, yarrow aids in lowering fevers.