Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Herbalist...

I often tell people that a day hardly goes by that I don't turn to the healing plants in some way, shape or form. But I rarely actually take the time to list all the herbal encounters I have in any given day. So ubiquitous have the healing plants become in my life that they are just part of the flow, grabbed in a moment of need and then forgotten as the next exciting moment unfolds.

Today, however, I found myself mentally keeping track and I thought it might make a good illustration for folks just starting to bring herbal medicine into their lives to get a glimpse of just how useful and relied upon this practice can be. So, here it goes...

A day in the life of one family, with three young boys, using herbal medicine for whatever comes up...

1. Yesterday my husband had some teeth extracted at the dentist. I had treated his gums last night, but he said he could taste blood, so I soaked some gauze pads in yarrow tincture and had him bite down on them for about twenty minutes to stop the bleeding and tighten the tissues. Before he left for work I put propolis on his gums as a kind of sticky antiseptic, and gave him a bottle of anti-inflammatory tincture to take every couple hours (willow, meadowsweet and a small amount of lobelia).

2. I made my daily decoction of root tea for myself. Right now it is a blend of dandelion root, burdock root, yellowdock root, ginger, wild yam, angelica, and licorice root.

3. Later in the morning Leif picked off a scab and started whining that his boo boo hurt. He demanded salve and a band aid. We put on some homemade calendula salve and bandaged him up, which made everything better.

4. I remembered that we were out of tooth powder in the bathroom, so I made a fresh batch. Right now the ever evolving recipe is a mixture of powdered herbs (marshmallow, oak bark, licorice root), clay powder, baking soda, and essential oils of peppermint and spearmint.

5. I began to feel a cold sore coming on in the morning, so all day long I would dab on some st. john's wort oil every time I went into the bathroom to try to heal it up quickly.

6. After running around with his brothers outside, then coming in to scarf down his dinner and running back outside again, Alden came in with a tummy ache. I gave him a teaspoon of spicy electuary and said to give it 15 minutes. He was back outside in ten, with nary an ache.

7. Just before bed Alden was cleaning up and dropped the pencil box on his toes, smashing two of them. I gave him arnica, and dabbed on some bruise and trauma salve before wrapping band aids around them.

I think that is it, though in all honesty I may have left something out. Somehow Rainer, my oldest boy, managed to not need any emergency care today. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

Herbalist 7song, who often runs first aid stations at big events like Rainbow Gathering, has said that herbal first aid is not for the squeamish, that the first aid station is where folks are hurting and unhappy and bleeding and puking... Well, that sounds a lot like being a mom. I don't know if I'll ever be working a first aid station, but life here at the home front, with three active boys and a partner who builds, fixes and maintains everything around here can sometimes feel like a first aid station. Knowing the herbs, making medicines, and being prepared has helped me become empowered, overcome squeamishness, and bring comfort and relief to my family. I'm grateful for this path and the plants that grow around me every single day.


  1. Awwww, Rainer's hair is long again...and everyone looks all grown up! Lake still is climbing the walls, bouncing every which way and then some. Wondering if it's the same way at your house too. Lots of love to you and the fam. Been missing you.


    1. Oh Lisa, I miss you and your beautiful family too. I can just imagine the troubles Lake and Leif would be getting into together. Rainer's hair has actually been cut since this pic was taken, though I'm sure it will grow in again quickly. Love to you mama.

  2. Hi April, so inspiring to read how you use herbs to help and heal your family each day. Such a lovely photo of you all too, your boys all look so much older and you are glowing x x