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It’s that time of year—stuffy noses, aggravating coughs, nasally voices…oh, here we go again. This cold and flu season we thought it would be fun to ask our Facebook readers how they kick nasty colds to the curb, and everyone seemed to have some great ideas! We received so many wonderful tried-and-true remedies that it was hard to pick just 20, but here are some of our favorites.

Ginger Lemon Tea 

Drink This


“I swear by this strong ginger-honey-lemon drink: In a glass jar, combine 10 ounces boiling water, a thumb-sized knob of thinly sliced (or grated) ginger, the juice from half a lemon and enough honey to sweeten (to taste). This recipe helps soothe sore throats and relieve sinus pressure. Let it steep for as long as possible, but sip it while it’s still hot.” –From Lori Parr

Hot Toddy

“Try this old home remedy: Brandy plus hot water, honey and lime. It’s called a hot toddy. Drink it just before bed.” –From Jackie David

Grapefruit Goodness

“OK, I don't know how natural this is, but it sure knocks out a bad cold. Take one grapefruit, cut it in half and squeeze the juice into a saucepan. Add some water as well as the grapefruit halves, then bring it all to a boil. Finally, add some whiskey and honey, and drink it while it’s still hot, right before bedtime.” –From Sharon Howell

Preventative Tea

“While everyone around me is sick, I stay healthy with this preventative elixir: Combine 1/2 cup hot water with 1/3 cup lemon juice, or juice from 1 fresh lemon; 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne powder; 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger powder, or fresh; and honey, to taste. Drink the concoction as warm as you can, without risk of burning yourself. Drink it all at once. This will raise your body temperature and cleanse your kidneys and liver. Enjoy daily.” – From Ellen Nygaard

Chest Congestion Relief

“For chest congestion: Mix 4 tablespoons warm water with 2 tablespoons organic honey, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Shake well. Drink 1 tablespoon, three to four times a day.” –From Sally Rogers Devine

Chicken Soup For Colds

Go-To Foods

Lots of Garlic

 “Raw garlic: Eat it, steam it and inhale it. It works on the toughest of infections. I've used it on myself, my husband and my three little girls.” –From Star Gypsy

Secret Ingredient

“I’ve studied holistic medicine and swear by black cumin seed organic oil—it’s beyond amazing. Even though it tastes terrible, it treats more than 40 ailments and is better than any high-dollar face cream or serum on the market. Many companies use it in $200 face creams as their secret ingredient. It’s good for acne or scalp conditions, but it’s great for wiping out a cold, flu or sore throat in a couple of days! Nettle is also awesome at helping clear up mucous, hacking coughs and allergies.” –From Cynthia Shirrell

Juice Up

“I juice kale, garlic, carrots and apples for flu symptoms. It’s very effective for my diabetic husband who shouldn't take much over-the-counter medications.” –From Patty Kratzer

Chicken Soup

“My grandmother’s chicken soup is not your traditional soup—it’s a recipe my family has used for generations. Cover pieces of chicken with cold water, then season with kosher salt to taste; 1/2 cup star anise; and a couple of bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil then simmer, covered, for a few hours. Strain and place in the refrigerator until cold. Skim off the fat, then reheat the soup, garnishing with parsley. Serve by itself or with egg noodles or another noodle of your choice. This is a great soup to freeze. In fact, I have some of it in my freezer right now! –From Candice Gayleen

Cough Syrup

Sweet Syrups

Elderberry Cough Syrup

“Try the following recipe: Pour 4 cups water into a medium saucepan and add 1 cup fresh elderberries (or 1/2 cup dried), 2 teaspoons fresh or dried ginger and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl. Discard the elderberries (or compost them!) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it’s no longer hot, add 1 cup raw honey and stir well. When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a pint-sized Mason jar or 16-ounce glass bottle of some kind. Store in the refrigerator and take daily for its immune-boosting properties.” –From Susanne Aggerholm

Know Your Onions

“OK, everyone is going to go ‘Ewww,’ but our oldest daughter, who was born with a rare heart problem, can’t take anything that would cause any elevation in her heart rate. My pediatrician told me to chop an onion really fine and cook it in a little water, then strain and add sugar (I usually used anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup) to make a syrup. I gave it to her every couple of hours and it worked. Now I use this with my great grandchildren. Honestly, they don’t really mind it as much as you would think. –From Gayle J. Rhodes

Raw Honey

Ayurvedic Medicine

“As a yogini, I love all things Ayurveda. It has been extremely supportive in helping me overcome problems with imbalanced hormones and PMS. I would love to share my go-to Ayurvedic tea for whenever I have a sore throat. I have had many clients use this exclusively to overcome colds and flu. Friends, family and my children love to use it, too. As a bonus, it tastes great!

3 cups water
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of turmeric
Dash of cayenne (optional)
2 teaspoons raw honey

Bring water to a boil on the stove. While water is coming to a boil, add the ginger. Once water has boiled, add coconut oil, lemon, turmeric and cayenne. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain into 2 cups and add a teaspoon of raw honey to each cup. (Ayurveda says that cooked honey loses its beneficial qualities and becomes poison in the body; always use raw honey if you want to get the most beneficial medicinal qualities out of this Ayurvedic superfood.)

Drink as often as you like. I would recommend at least three times as day, but if you would like to drink it more often, go for it!” –From Olga Dossa

Vitamins And Herbs

Vitamins & Herbs

Vitamin C

“I always humidify tea tree oil with eucalyptus oil. This works well on sore throats and congestion. I also up our diets in vitamin C and zinc-rich foods.” –From Ash Allgood

Vitamin D3

 “I take vitamin D3 and drink honey-lemon tea with chamomile and ginger. Honey and lemon soothe while chamomile calms and ginger helps with nausea. Vitamin D3 is an immune-system booster that helps fight off illness quickly.” –From Amber Abram in Ohio


“Combine turmeric with black salt and gargle for as long as you can stand. It tastes horrid but works!” –From Denise Curry

Oregano Oil

 “Oregano oil! Mix it with coconut oil and apply to your feet, or take the mixture orally, which works fastest. You can also place oregano oil directly under your tongue and chase it with milk or juice to keep it from burning too much.” –From Erin Jaramill

Essential Oils

“Essential oils! Our flu bomb consists of 4 drops lemon oil, 4 drops thieves oil, 3 drops oregano oil, 2 drops tea tree oil and 2 drops frankincense oil combined in a vegetable capsule. Take two times daily with food and water.” –From Rachel Alexander

Thieves Oil

“I second thieves essential oil blend! It contains cinnamon bark, cloves, rosemary, eucalyptus and lemon therapeutic-grade essential oils, and the blend is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. Adding 1 drop to a cup of hot water makes a soothing, delicious and healing Thieves Tea. Just sweeten with honey as needed. My family also rubs the blend on our feet before going to bed at the first sign of a cold. No sicknesses in this house!” –From Jessica Steel

Family Traditions

Family Remedies

Tried-And-True Recipe

“This remedy has been a tradition in our family for more than 80 years: Combine 1 cup red wine (per person) with 2 to 3 cloves (max), 1 tablespoon sugar (per cup) and 1 slice lemon (per cup). Bring these ingredients to a boil, then strike a match over boiling liquid to burn off alcohol. (Note: Be extremely careful at this point, as the flame can get quite large.) Allow most of the alcohol to burn off, then pour into a cup and sip all of the liquid until it’s completely gone. Don't consume the cloves. This has worked for our family every time—it breaks colds and fevers.” –From Mark N Heather Cooper

Homemade Rub

“For sore throats, my parents always rubbed Vicks VapoRub on our necks then covered it with 100-percent wool socks—it truly seemed to work! For chest coughs, pour 2 to 3 cups white long grain rice in an old pillow case, tie it into a knot at the top, microwave for about 23 seconds, then check the temperature on your wrist. If it’s at a manageable heat, apply it to your chest until it cools. There’s something in the rice that relieves the chest pain from coughing and loosens up congestion.” –From Traci Shirley Lyman

*Statements herein have not been evaluated and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. It’s recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications.


Psoriasis is a common skin disorder that occurs when the skin rapidly produces new cells at ten times the normal rate. Because the skin cells still slough off at their normal rate, this creates a buildup of cells, leading to patches of dry, itchy and occasionally swollen skin with thick silvery or whitish scales. The cause of psoriasis is unknown, although scientists think that it’s a genetic disorder (as cases of psoriasis often run in families) and possibly connected to immune system. Psoriasis is a chronic disease that runs in cycles with periods of remission.

Although there is no cure for psoriasis, it can be treated at home with natural remedies and improved through lifestyle changes.

psoriasis wrists
Photo By nebari/Fotolia

Home Remedies for Psoriasis

Diet: Poor diet and food allergies can worsen psoriasis. Poor digestion can create toxins that contribute to skin proliferation. As with many skin conditions, focusing on natural elimination of toxins through the digestive track, instead of through the skin, can significantly help. For a healthy, toxin-eliminating diet, focus on fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains. For protein, choose easier-to-digest vegetarian sources or lean cuts for meat eaters. Cold-water fish is an excellent protein source as it also provides essential fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and low levels of which have been associated with psoriasis. Avoid foods that promote inflammation or are hard to digest, such as red meat, dairy, fatty or fried foods, alcohol and foods high in refined sugar. Food allergies can also trigger episodes of psoriasis.

Sunlight exposure: Light therapy is a helpful treatment for psoriasis. While many doctors offer UVA and UVB treatments at their office, you can also obtain ultraviolet rays from controlled sun exposure. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends starting small with just five to 10 minutes of sun exposure daily, preferably around noon, then adding 30 seconds each day to find the right amount of exposure for your skin. Be sure to fully expose any patches of psoriasis and wear sunscreen over any patches of skin not afflicted to protect them from sun damage.

Hydration: For those with psoriasis, it’s important to keep the skin moisturized. Showering, soaking in a tub, swimming and other water-immersing activities can hydrate skin and help remove patches of scales, if done correctly. For an easy treatment, soak in a lukewarm or tepid bath (not hot; hot water can strip skin and leave it itchy), pat skin dry and immediately apply a thick emollient or body oil to help lock in moisture. Salves can also be beneficial, especially if they contain skin-soothing herbs such as calendula. Soap can dry out and irritate skin; instead, consider a gentle cleanser designed for dry skin.

Supplements and Herbs for Psoriasis

Fish oil contains essential fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties beneficial for treating psoriasis. Take a standardized dose daily.

Milk thistle helps the liver remove toxins from the body, aiding in the body’s natural detox process. Take 250 mg three times daily.

Aloe vera can be taken internally or applied topically to treat psoriasis. Drink a quarter cup of aloe vera juice or apply pure aloe gel, taken from the leaves of the plant, to affected skin to benefit from this plant’s cooling, anti-inflammatory effects.

Turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory effects that make it beneficial for treating psoriasis, and some studies have even shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can alter gene expression, including a particular type that can minimize psoriasis flares. Turmeric also enhances detoxification. Take 1 gram of dried turmeric in capsule form daily, or add liberal amounts of turmeric to your cooking.

Discover more home remedies for psoriasis.

Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of
Mother Earth Living. Find her on .


Keeping fit is not always easy. Commitments, work and family can all play a role in keeping us away from the gym, but as a result your health can really suffer. To combat this, I invite you to start training in martial arts in your own home. It’s a cheap alternative to other fitness methods that is not only easy to fit around your current life, but also features numerous benefits.

martial arts training

Help With Weight Loss

Martial arts gets you moving. It can either be slow, smooth and gentle; or rapid, energetic and vigorous. No matter which speed you prefer, over time, you’ll start to see weight loss as any physical activity will burn some calories. The great thing about martial arts is that you can begin at a level your body can handle and work your way up—improving your stamina and ability to drop those pounds.


Improve Flexibility and Reduce Muscle Tension

In our day-to-day lives, we often find ourselves sitting for long periods of time. Not only is this bad for your waistline, but also for your neck and back muscles as well as your joints. It is this sedentary lifestyle that often results in chronic back problems and tension headaches. However, martial arts can be a valuable tool when it comes to combating these issues. It is all about the movement, which highlights the need for stretching, which in turn improves flexibility. Not only does this increase muscle strength, but it helps to loosen them. That combined with the actions involved in training, such as punching and kicking, helps to alleviate problems such as tight muscles overtime. It isn’t an instant fix, but you’ll start to notice the difference soon enough.

Build Confidence

Being able to defend yourself improves your outlook on life. It doesn’t mean you’ll be ready to fight the next person who looks at you funny, but it gives you a sense of being able to handle yourself and invites the idea of taking more risks in your life. Risks you might not have considered before. The sense of achievement you get from learning how to complete moves also inspires confidence to try other new things. After all, if you can succeed in learning a delicate skill such as martial arts, just think what else you could achieve.

punching bag 

Have Fun

For some, exercise like running is very much an enjoyable activity. For others, it’s a boring, elongated process that sucks time out of your life. So why subject yourself to this dull activity when you can do something enjoyable? Training in martial arts is exhilarating and changes daily. One day you might be practicing your kicks, the next your movement: with so many different moves to learn, it never gets repetitive. Plus, constantly battering a punching bag is one of life's simpler delights and is great for relieving the stress of a hard day’s work.

Tips for Success

One self-taught lesson isn’t going to be enough to solve your neck problems, boost your confidence or lose more than about 100 calories. To see actual success, you need to stay motivated and practice regularly. But, as many of us know, making fitness promises is far easier than keeping them. So, I have a few tips that can help you keep the training sessions going and the health benefits flowing.

First, when starting at home, I would advise you find a DVD or online course. Written tutorials might be cheaper or even free, but there is no substitute for good old fashioned visual lesson. Also, make sure you pick the martial art that is right for you. Some offer big on foot movement, others upper body, so do a bit of research before make your choice. Once you select your style, you will need to get the right equipment as to not hamper your progress. Proper gear like shorts, gloves, ankle wraps and punching bags all allow you to see real improvement, even when learning alone. Other than that, below are a few tidbits that might help you along the way:

Train with a friend. If you train with one or more people you can influence and motivate each other. On the days you feel like sitting and eating a pizza, they’ll be there to get you into the fighting spirit.
Take days off. The worst thing you can do is to wear down your fitness levels through sheer exhaustion. Take some rest days in between.
Set a date. Mark the days you are going to train on your calendar. It means you can plan ahead, and make sure you have time to get into it.
Start slow. Don’t go in all gung-ho expecting to destroy the punching bag after a few days. Ease into your training, find your rhythm and then run with it.
Read about it. Reading up on how to perform moves will increase your knowledge of martial arts and, therefore, your ability to understand it and succeed.

George Atkinson, owner and founder of RAW MMA Fightwear, is a martial arts expert with experience in many different fighting styles.


Painful canker sores (also known as mouth ulcers or aphthous ulcers) are a disruption in the oral membrane characterized by an oval shape with a grey or white center and a red border. The causes of canker sores are varied. They can start with a small injury in the mouth, or they can be caused by food sensitivities, Helicobacter pylori (the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers), Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, poor diet, or just a depressed immune system. Although they’re not contagious and will usually go away on their own in a few weeks, canker sores can be irritating and sometimes painful. Thankfully, you can use a number of home remedies to help heal canker sores faster and relieve pain.

canker sore pain
Photo By Adam Gregor/Fotolia

Natural Home Remedies for Canker Sores

Take probiotics. Useful for treating stomach ulcers, probiotics can also help get rid of canker sores caused by H. pylori bacteria by helping to restore the balance of bacteria in the body. Take a supplement with at least 4 billion active cultures twice daily, or eat probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt.

Supplement with B vitamins. A diet lacking in vitamin B-12 can contribute to the development of canker sores. If you think low vitamin levels might be contributing to your canker sore, consider supplementing your diet. A 2009 study found that a nightly dose of vitamin B-12 can help prevent reoccurring canker sores.

Brush with SLS-free toothpaste. Sodium lauryl sulfate, a foaming agent common in most toothpastes, can contribute to canker sore irritation. To help get rid of canker sores faster, switch to an SLS-free toothpaste and brush gently to avoid further damaging the already tender area.

Make a homemade mouth rinse. A mouth rinse is a great home remedy for canker sores. Many different ingredients work well in a homemade rinse: salt, baking soda, goldenseal, calendula and more. Just dissolve ½ teaspoon of your ingredient of choice in one cup of warm water, rinse and spit. Rinsing with aloe juice can also help heal canker sores.

Practice healthy lifestyle habits. Stress, fatigue and poor diet all contribute to canker sores—giving you just one more reason to take care of yourself! Ensure you’re getting a full night’s sleep, and work on reducing your stress levels.

Avoid certain foods. Both spicy and citrus foods can aggravate canker sores, as can rough or abrasive foods like nuts. 

Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on .


Have you been curious about using essential oils, but haven’t really been sure where to start? There’s a lot of information out there, and a ton of different essential oils, and it can be pretty confusing. Lavender is a great beginner oil to try, for those that are new to using essential oils. It’s gentle, has an appealing scent, and helps with relaxation and pain relief. And you don’t need fancy equipment or complicated recipes—with these five applications, you’ll be enjoying the benefits in no time.

lavender relaxation

Lavender Sleep Sachet

Lavender’s gentle, relaxing scent makes it a great sleep aid. I like to use a mix of lavender flower buds and essential oil in sleep sachets. Simply mix about 10 drops of the oil into a few tablespoons of the flower buds, and drop them into a small fabric drawstring bag, or tie them up inside of a fabric handkerchief. Tuck it into your pillow and settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Lavender Diffuser

I’m a big fan of diffusing oil into the bedroom at night before going to sleep, and I don’t use a plug in or candle diffuser to do it—I just put a few drops directly onto the light bulb of my bedside lamp. The heat from the light bulb will gently perfume the air while you read or relax before bed.

Lavender Drawer Liners

You might be wondering what having scented drawers does for relaxation and stress relief, but I really think that unexpected pops of calm and things that make us happy (and doesn’t the smell of lavender make most of us happy?) go a long way in helping us feel more balanced. Throw a scented liner into a sock or delicates drawer for a little whiff of a warm summer’s day, in an endless ocean of lavender can help bring you right back to center. Just add 10-20 drops of oil to a fabric handkerchief or square of cloth and tuck it into the drawer. Vintage handkerchiefs are lovely for this, and can be picked up for just a dollar or two at thrift shops or antique stores.

Lavender Hot/Cold Pack

Muscle tension is no fun, and one of the best relief methods I’ve come across is a scented warm pack laid right across my shoulders. If you’re handy you can sew one—a simple rectangular “pillow” will suffice, and I like to sew a zipper into one side so I can easily refresh the filling from time to time. But here’s a secret: If you’re not much of a seamstress or are short on time, grab a fabric pencil or cosmetics case—it will do the same job!

For the filling I prefer buckwheat hulls the best, but I promised solutions that don’t need “fancy” ingredients, so rice works just as well. Put your filling of choice and 20-30 drops of essential oil inside the bag, and warm it up. You can use a microwave for 20-30 seconds if you have one, or lay it on a steam radiator, run a hairdryer over it or wrap it in a heating pad for a few minutes. Then apply it to your sore neck, sit back and relax. And if you need a cold pack, just throw in the freezer for ten minutes or so—it’s very versatile.

Lavender Oil Roll On

All of the above uses are great when you’re trying to get some stress relief at home. But what do you do when you’re at the office, or out and about? Having a roll on of lavender essential oil saves the day. And yes, this is the one “special” piece of equipment you need, but there are so many uses for roll-on bottles that $5 spent on a dozen will be worth the price. I really appreciate the convenience factor of these little gems, but of course you can always put the oil into a small bottle and use your fingers to dab it on.

You don’t want to use straight essential oil for this, as even gentle oils like lavender is generally too strong to use directly on the skin. Dilute essential oils with a carrier oil. My favorites are almond or grapeseed oil, as they’re both gentle and don’t leave your skin feeling like an oil slick. But in a pinch you could use plain vegetable oil, though it’s a bit greasy. I’d avoid olive oil in a use like this because it has a dominant scent of its own which may overpower the lavender. Simply add 30-40 drops of lavender essential oil to the bottle, top it up with your carrier oil or choice, put the lid on, and shake to combine. Roll (or dab) on whenever you need a calming moment. This roll-on oil is great applied to the temples or pulse points for headache relief as well.

If you’re new to essential oils and need a little help with stress relief and healthy sleep patterns, lavender essential oil is just the ticket. As you learn more about the different properties and uses of other essential oils, you can certainly try them in some of these applications too—they have a variety of uses and can be a  beneficial aid to a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Amanda is passionate about cooking, gardening and crafting. To read more, please check out Apartment Farm.


Most people use sunscreen when they go out to soak up some of the sun’s rays, but sometimes we completely forget to reapply sunscreen. And for some of us, extremely fair complexions mean getting burned every time when we step out in the sun, leaving our skin to endure a nasty sunburn. While a serious sunburn may need to be treated by a doctor, few require medical intervention. Sunburns usually fade within a few days; however, there are some things you can do to stop the irritation, itching and burning sensations you experience when you have one. Best of all, these remedies are natural, and you may already have what you need at home.

sunscreen on boy at beach
Photo By Daddy Cool/Fotolia

Cold Compress

A cold compress is one of the easiest ways to stop skin irritation from a sunburn. To prepare a basic compress, all you need to do is soak a clean cloth in chilled water and apply it to the skin, rewetting the compress when it becomes warm.

If you experience a lot of itching, aluminum acetate that comes from packets can be added to the water (be sure following the manufacturer’s instructions). Adding a few tablespoons of witch hazel to the cool compress water can help to relieve inflammation as well.

Pure Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is one of the most common and effective natural sunburn remedies. You can buy pure aloe vera from some health and drug stores, but you can also get it from fresh leaves if you are able to find or grow the plant yourself.

To extract the aloe directly just remove the first two layers of the inside of the leaf until you feel the thick gel inside. Fresh aloe vera may have a slightly thinner consistency than you’re used to if you usually buy packaged aloe products, but it works just as well for sunburns.

pure aloe vera gel
Photo By Joanna Wnuk/Fotolia


Oatmeal is commonly used to relieve irritation related to allergic reaction, but it can also be used to stop itching and burning sensations from the typical sunburn. To use oatmeal as a sunburn remedy, wrap a small amount of dry oatmeal in cheesecloth and pour water over it into a clean bowl or basin. Soak a clean compress in the liquid and apply it to the affected area every 2 to 4 hours, or as needed.


Mixing a single cup of milk with 4 cups of cold water and a handful of ice cubes is a simple, effective way to make a mixture that can be used with a compress. For the best results, keep the milk and water mixture chilled in the refrigerator and apply it for about 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat the process every 3 to 4 hours with another clean compress.

Steer Clear of Soaps

While washing after a day at the beach or exercising in the sun might seem necessary, washing sunburned skin with harsh soaps can make inflammation and tenderness considerably worse. If you really need to wash, take a quick shower in relatively cool water and wash the soap off quickly. Be gentle to your skin while washing and try to avoid using coarse or rough materials, such as a loofah or washcloth.

If you prefer to soak in the tub, make sure you don’t use soapy bubble bath. Instead, try a generous amount of baking soda to relieve itching or a cup of apple cider vinegar to soothe your skin.

After showering, a cold compress can help to relieve any irritation the soap might have caused.

Dealing with a sunburn is far from comfortable, but sometimes avoiding one is close to impossible. While over-the-counter treatments can work, they aren’t really necessary. Any one or combination of the basic remedies above will help soothe a mild to moderate sunburn.

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer from California who writes about a range of health topics, including skin and hair care, holistic medicine and fitness. To treat her sunburns, she prefers using natural products to soothe her skin.


H.CardenasHeidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources and business administration. She has written about home and garden topics for various online venues, helps you get your green on at HC Greenery and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.  

I'm sure you’ve heard the countless claims about Chinese herbs, herbal supplements and herbal weight loss plans. Maybe you’ve even seen herbal teas for dieting or cleansing on grocery store shelves, taken Ginkgo biloba to try to improve your memory or tried St. John’s wort to try to get rid of the blues. But do you know how herbs work? Do you know what is in the herbs that make them effective for different conditions? One of the most important Chinese herbs, dong quai, is effective for a variety of ailments because of its chemical and nutritional properties.  

Dong quai is the Chinese name for Angelica sinensis, a common Chinese herb related to celery. Also called Chinese angelica, tang quei, female ginseng and dang gui, its Chinese name, dong quai, means “return to order” for its restorative properties. It is a fragrant, herbaceous perennial native to the mountains of China, Japan and Korea. It grows up to 3 feet high on a central stalk with lacy foliage and large white umbrella-shaped flowers, in moist soils in sun or light shade in a variety of soils, from sandy to heavy clay. Although the National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland Medical Center report that there isn’t enough research on the use of dong quai to verify claims of menopause relief and blood vessel dilation, it has been used by the Chinese for centuries to treat a wide range of gynecological maladies, including menstrual pain relief, irregular menstrual cycles, heavy menstruation, infertility, recovery from childbirth and relief from symptoms of menopause.

Angelica Sinensis 12-19-2011
Dong quai is the Chinese name for Angelica sinensis, a common Chinese herb.  

The Alternative Medicine Review reports that dong quai contains vitamin B12, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, biotin, cobalt, iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium. The chemical constituents of Angelica include antispasmodic and blood-thinning properties, which act to tone and calm the uterus before and during menstruation, relieving pain and cramping. It has phytosterols, polysaccarides and flavenoids, as well as several different coumarin derivatives, which are vasodilators and blood thinners. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University’s Micronutrient Information Center describes phytosterols as plant-derived compounds similar in structure and function to cholesterol. They support good cholesterol and help eliminate bad cholesterol. Polysaccarides are chains of carbohydrates, and include fiber such as starch and cellulose. Flavenoids are plant compounds with antioxidant properties and red and yellow pigmentation. The Journal of Biological Chemistry reports that coumarins have recently been found to be active in suppressing HIV-1. Coumarin derivatives in dong quai include oxypeucedanin, osthole and imperatorin. Oxypeucedanin is a phytochemical with anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Osthole stimulates the central nervous system and may prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together. Imperatorin suppresses cell mutation, protein absorption and cell cycles in diseases and infections.

The high vitamin and mineral content make dong quai an ideal toner for blood, immune system and general health. Its natural coumarins dissolve blood clots, the high iron and mineral content alleviates anemia, its phytochemicals have antifungal properties that clear candida yeast infection and it has mild laxative properties for relief from constipation. Angelica root is commonly used as a blood toner and health tonic, in capsule form or boiled in soups and teas. It is often used in combination with other herbs such as ginseng and astragalus.

Although dong quai has been used since ancient times, some precautions are necessary. Since dong quai has natural coumarins that thin the blood, it shouldn’t be used when taking other blood thinning medications like warfarin (coumadin) and it shouldn’t be used in heavy doses during menstruation. Dong quai should not be used during pregnancy or in high concentrations by heart or cancer patients.

You can grow dong quai in your garden and harvest the roots in the fall to make your own tonic. It’s a great culinary herb, with young leaves adding a celery flavor to salads and seafood dishes, cooked stems that taste like licorice, and the sliced roots adding a sweet potato flavor to savory soups and stews. It is a tall plant that is good for the back of the flower bed or as a striking ornamental display plant. Its long tap root makes it difficult to transplant so it should be sown directly in the garden. Angelica attracts bees and butterflies with its large, fragrant flowers. 

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Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

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