Herb Basics: Tips On Skin Sprays, Ear Infection Remedies, and More

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In their book Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art (The Crossing, 1995), herbalists and aromatherapists Kathi Keville and Mindy Green write that a spray of diluted essential oils makes an excellent antiseptic. “The germ-killing abilities of essential oils high in terpenes, such as tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus, and lemon, increase when a 2 percent solution is sprayed through the air,” they write.


Makes 21/2 ounces

15 drops tea tree or eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops helichrysum essential oil
5 drops lavender essential oil
2 ounces distilled water
1/2 ounce grain alcohol or goldenseal tincture

Combine all of the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well before each use to help disperse the oils. Spray as needed on minor cuts, burns, and abrasions to prevent infection and speed healing.

Source: Keville, Kathi and Mindy Green. Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art. Freedom, California: The Crossing, 1995.


Natural medicines that can help diarrhea contain one or more of three natural substances: tannins, pectin, and mucilage. Tannins give herbs their astringency (their ability to bind up or contract tissues). This astringent action reduces intestinal inflammation. Pectin is a soluble fiber that adds bulk to the stool and soothes the gut. Mucilage soothes the digestive tract and adds bulk to the stool by absorbing water.

Apple pulp is rich in pectin; that’s why apples and applesauce are used for diarrhea.

Dried bilberry and blueberry are rich in both tannins and pectin.

Blackberry and raspberry leaves are high in tannins and a tea of either helps relieve diarrhea.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) seeds contain up to 50 percent mucilage. Don’t use more than two teaspoons at a time to avoid abdominal distress.

Pomegranate seeds contain tannins; the fruit is often used to relieve diarrhea.

Tea (Camellia sinensis) is one of the most astringent plants available. Try a cup of tea next time you have diarrhea.

Source: Duke, James. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale, 1997.


Capsule, tea, powder, tincture? It can be difficult to choose. Here are some of the benefits of using herbs in tincture form, according to herbalists Nancy and Michael Phillips in their book The Village Herbalist (Chelsea Green, 2001). Tinctures:

• concentrate a wider range of constituents from the herb than water extraction alone.

• preserve fragile fresh constituents and activities that would be lost by drying herbs.

• are easily assimilated by the body, much more so than a capsule or tablet.

• retain potency much longer than bulk herbs. Properly made, most tinctures have a shelf life of three to five years, stored at room temperature.

• are convenient to use in the home, on trips, or during emergencies. You don’t need to wait for boiling water to steep tea.

Source: Phillips, Nancy and Michael. The Village Herbalist. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green, 2001.


Common names: Yarrow, milfoil, bloodwort, soldier’s woundwort

Latin name: Achillea millefolium

Family: Asteraceae

Part used: Flowers and leaves

Medicinal uses: Yarrow is used internally for fevers, colds, and flu. It has anti-inflammatory actions and helps promote sweating. The herb may also stimulate the flow of bile. Externally, the herb helps heal wounds and stops minor bleeding. Native Americans used the herb to treat burns and wounds.

Forms commonly used: Fresh herb, dried herb, liquid extract, capsule, and salve.

Side effects: Yarrow should not be used during pregnancy, as it may stimulate the uterus. Also, people allergic to ragweed or other members of the daisy family may also be allergic to yarrow.

Notes: Yarrow is named for Achilles–it’s said that he used the plant to stop the bleeding of his soldiers’ wounds. This perennial herb grows wild in pastures and roadsides throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. In his book Herbal Remedies for Dummies (IDG, 1998), Christopher Hobbs writes, “The best form of yarrow is the fresh herb right from a wild place or garden, but a good-quality dry herb works fine.”


Middle-ear infections are common in children. When your child has an ear infection, be sure to check with their health-care provider–use this recipe as a complement to medical treatment, not as a substitute for it.


Makes 1/3 to 1/4 cup

This oil can be used to relieve the pain of ear infection.

1 to 4 cloves fresh garlic (Allium sativum)
2 tablespoons dried St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) flowering tops
2 tablespoons dried calendula (Calendula officinalis) flowers
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 vitamin E oil capsule, 500 IU

Crush or chop the garlic and other herbs. In a small, clean pan mix the herbs and the olive oil. Cover and heat at the lowest temperature for 30 minutes. Stir frequently; do not allow the herbs to sizzle or burn. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour the mixture into a small jar and cap tightly. Store at room temperature out of sunlight, shaking daily. After two weeks, strain through a tightly woven cloth to remove all herb residue. Puncture the vitamin E capsule and squeeze in the oil. Stir, pour into dark-colored dropper bottles, label, and refrigerate. The oil is good for one year.

Source: White, Linda and Sunny Mavor. Kids, Herbs & Health. Loveland, Colorado: Interweave, 1998.

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