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For Emergency Preparedness – Prepare Your Medicinal Herb and Spice Cabinet

spicesHigh on the emergency preparedness list of food stockpile should be an ample supply of certain culinary herbs and spices, not necessarily for the spice cabinet but, rather, for your medicine cabinet.  The healing and regenerative properties of herbs and spices are well documented and, for many people, they already have a place on the spice rack.  In preparation for the unexpected, when maintaining optimum health and immunity to disease is paramount, their amazing health properties should not be taken for granted.

Everyday spices such as cinnamon, pepper, cayenne, and cloves should be stockpiled to the extent that they can become part of your daily nutritional intake. If they somehow can’t be worked into your daily prepared meals, it’s recommended that they be doled out in dosages much like you would do with any supplement.

Herbs such as oregano, basil, sage, fennel, and garlic may also be a current staple in your kitchen. However, for the astute emergency preparers, they will occupy a plot in the garden as well. Large quantities of these highly functional herbs can be grown and maintained in a relatively small-sized plot. For city dwellers, where garden plots are impractical, the dried versions of these herbs can be stored for about a year before they lose some of their magic.

Here’s the definitive list of essential spices that will turn your spice cabinet into a medicine cabinet:

Cayenne — Possessing both internal and external healing properties, cayenne is one of the most powerful medicinal spices that are readily available.  Known for its stimulating effect on the cardiovascular system, cayenne acts upon the heart and circulation to increase blood flow.  In this way, it can also be an aid in helping to speed digestion. Its heat producing properties are helpful during the cold months (taken internally or used topically) and it also builds immunity against colds and flus.  Used externally, cayenne can be applied to wounds to stem bleeding.

Cinnamon — A favorite found in most spice racks, Cinnamon is a known antioxidant and most dieticians recommend a daily dose.  Cinnamon also aids in digestion and stimulates circulation

Ginger — Ginger provides several digestive related remedies by settling nausea and stopping diarrhea. It is also a known decongestant and can soothe a sore throat.

Black pepper — Storing dried, black pepper, or, alternatively, black peppercorns, is useful for its ability to boost energy, warm the body and increase circulation.  Like its cousin, cayenne, it also aids in the stemming of blood flow from cuts.

Cloves — Clove oil has long been a treatment for tooth and gum problems. Its analgesic properties help soothe mouth pain, and it is also a bacteria killer. The antibiotic properties of cloves make it ideal for topical treatment to burns and skin irritations. Used in teas, cloves can also be an effective fever reducer.

Plot your garden with these vital herbal medicines:

Oregano — Oregano, as a source of antioxidants, is a proven immune booster. It can also settle the stomach, fight infection and even soothe cold symptom flare-ups in the throat and lungs. Taken in tea, it helps settle the mind for a good night’s sleep.

Basil — is also a known sleep aid, especially in its ability to reduce tension and anxiety. When life gets you down, basil has been known to lift spirits.

Bay leaves — another effective digestive aid, bay leaves can be added to your meal preparation and/or teas to keep stomach acids at bay.

Sage — Sage seems to be the most versatile medicinal herb. It can remedy winter coughs, stimulate digestion, and is a great source of antibiotics. You can decide if its famously mythical ability to ward off evil spirits might be of use.

Garlic – Most would argue that garlic is the mother of all medicinal herbs. As a potent source of antibiotics, it is a proven cold and flu fighter, immune booster and can ward off infection. If you’re worried about walking around with garlic breath, just add a small section of parsley to your garden plot.

Peppermint, rosemary, thyme and fennel are equally powerful medicinal herbs rich in healing and regenerative properties, and should be included in your medicinal garden.

Full preparation for a potential long-term emergency isn’t complete until your spice and herb medicine cabinet is full. With the range of healing and health strengthening properties available in these natural remedies, you might spend a fortune on pills, syrups and ointments trying to replicate their benefits. It’s time to stop taking them for granted.

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7 comments

  1. In India turmeric is considered a whole body cleansing herb. Medically, it was used as an aid for digestive disturbances and as a treatment for fever, infections, dysentery, arthritis, jaundice and other liver problems. in china its used for liver and gallbladder problems, stop bleeding, and relieve chest congestion and menstrual discomforts.

    the active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. (curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, stomach-soothing, and liver-and heart-protecting effects. )

    Turmeric reduces inflammation by lowering histamine levels and it may also stimulate the adrenal glands to increase production of a hormone that reduces inflammation. It is used to ease joint pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. However, its also used to reduce joint pain and in inflammation in other disorders too.

    Turmeric (curcumin) has a lots of antioxidants too which prevent premature aging and diseases such as cancer if left unchecked. it also has been effective in fighting bacterial infections and may offer cataracts prevention through its antioxidant properties.
    it has a really strong flavor, so you definitely want to learn how to cook with it to satisfy your own palate-but its definitely on that should be in your spice/ remedy kit

    • I am actively collecting information to learn more about “Herbal Healing” since I will be the “medicine doctor” for my group when and if anything goes south and such self-sufficiencies become necessary.
      I think it is important for each person to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses and try to work on a single skills specifically (while continuing others broadly) so if-and-when things change you are really prepared to be a contributing soul in the surviving community.
      That being said: Thank you for the continuing education. Well written and very appreciated. I spend a lot of “net” time doing research on all survival requirements. I am a long time believer in “Storage” for a minimum of 1 year’s supplies. I am switching over from canning to dehydrating. Cheaper, healthier and less bulk to manage.

  2. I’ve been using Bay leaves in my stored rice and flour to keep the small insect eggs from hatching ,so far its been 1 tear and no signs of weavels in the flour or critters in the rice..I put 3 leaves in each quart or pint jar ,top middle and bottom seems to work good..

  3. One other very important medicine you would want in your collection is dandelion. Most people consider it a weed, but it was actually brought to North America as an herbal medicine. It is among one of the most useful herbs, and is good for the whole body, especially cleansing and supporting the liver. Use the leaves, roots, stems, and blossoms – each has a use. New fresh leaves in the spring are very good in salad, and the older leaves and roots can be used in tea. I use it every day, mixed with milk thistle seed, alfafa, green tea, and hibiscus blossoms, with stevia for sweetening and some cinnamon and cardoman for extra zing. This is a very good tea for detoxing and cleansing the body, but also can be used every day for support of many systems. Just be careful where you harvest, as most people spray it with poison.

  4. Let’s not forget Elder (flowers and leaves for lowering blood sugar and berries for their antiviral properties), Marshmallow and Mullein for bronchial problems, Boneset or Feverfew for analgesic and antipyretic properties, Yarrow for stopping bleeding and its wound healing properties, etc. There are so many really good herbal remedies. It is not difficult to plan out and prepare a good all around healing herb garden. But know your herbs and know what the best cultivation methods are for medicinal herbs.

    Here is some basic information:

    Tinctures and essential oil extracts are best made with fresh herb, but you can use dried herbs in a pinch. (See below.) Decoctions (boiling water extracts) and tisanes (teas), are best using dried roots and herbs. Oil extracts for salves and balms should be made only with dried herbs to prevent spoilage. When drying herbs, good air flow is important and herbs should only be stored when fully dry, and they should be kept in a cool, dark and dry place. Dried herbs should be used within a year or they will begin losing their potency. As a general rule it is safer to use dried roots than fresh roots in herbal preparations.

    Making a tincture (herbal alcohol extract)
    There are two methods to do this. One is used by most herbalists today. The other is the way that apothecaries used to make tinctures for compounding medicines.
    1. Dried herbs are usually made into tinctures with a 1:4 herb (oz.) to alcohol (oz.) ratio using a 50-60% (100-120 proof) alcohol. The herbs are placed in a jar of sufficient volume to accommodate the herb and alcohol is poured on top. The herb is then stirred or the jar covered and shaken to release any trapped air. This is shaken daily for a week or so and then left to extract for 6 weeks in a cool, dark place. The herb is then strained off, the tincture bottled and labeled. This method is fairly easy to do, but each herb needs to be understood to know how much tincture to use. Some herbs require a slightly different method. For example lotus embryos are a terrific source of anti-asthmatic alkaloids. These extract the best in 150 proof alcohol (75%).

    2. Apothecaries usually used a method called percolation. For dried herb, the herb was crushed into a fine to coarse powder which was macerated (soaked) in 100-120 proof alcohol (or distilled water depending on the herb) for 12-48 hours. The wet mass was then transferred to a specially shaped funnel which had either a filter or a bit of sterilized cotton in its end, and gently tapped down. This would then be saturated with the alcohol or distilled water with a portion of the liquid constantly over the level of the mass so that the mass stayed wet at all times. The end of the funnel was fitted with a bit of tubing that could be positioned to control the speed of flow of the liquid through the herb. Above the funnel was suspended a bottle of the alcohol or distilled water, also fitted with a short tube that would feed the liquid into the funnel at the same rate the liquid passed through the herb. After all this was set up the liquid was allowed to drain through the mass with the herb always remaining wet until the herb was completely exhausted. Exhaustion was usually determined by sight or taste of the liquid draining from it. Apothecaries then would concentrate the liquid by evaporation over a water bath to a certain volume and do assays to determine the actual concentration of the active components, and then dilute the tincture/extract to a standardized concentration. These were usually done to form concentrated tinctures that would then be used as components in formulating medicines. This is much harder to do, and the assays often required harsh and hazardous chemicals, concentrated sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, ammonium carbonate, diethyl ether, etc., sensitive scales, volumetric flasks, and other specialized equipment, and a great deal of knowledge of lab safety.

    These assays are vitally important when making concentrated medicinal tinctures because many medicinal herbs will vary in the concentration of their medicinal components depending on their growing conditions. For example, many of the medicinal components are only produced in high concentrations when the plant is stressed environmentally. This is why many of our most valuable medicinal herbs are “survivor” weeds found naturally in harsh environments.

    So, 1:5 herbalist tinctures are easier to make and generally safer to use. Apothecary percolation was usually used as the first step in refining the herbal extract to isolate out only certain components. So, although the percolation method resulted eventually in more finely targeted therapeutics, it also results in the need for a fine hand in the use of the product. With a more coarse herbal tincture, often the herbs provides balancing agents that make the use of the tincture safer, which are lost in the refining practice of selective extraction begun through percolation.

    So, I guess I’ll leave this with this bit of advice: Plan your medicinal herb garden carefully. Decide what you want your herbal garden to contain and then learn all you can about how best to cultivate it, how best to use your herbs when you harvest it, and learn how to use what you make. And do it now, while the information is so easily gotten, because the time may come when that information is locked down, too.

    Here is a list of possibilities:
    Angelica, Green Anise, Star Anise, Astragalus, Basil (Tulsi-Rama), Bitter Melon, Black Cohosh, Burdock, Calamus, Calendula, Camelia Sinensis, Catnip, Chamomile, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Cayenne, Coriander, Echinacea, Elder, Elecampane, Ephedra, Epemedium, Evening Primrose, Fennel, Feverfew, Flax, Ginko Biloba, Goat’s Rue, Horehound, Hyssop, Jasmine, Lamb’s Quarters, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Licorice, Pink Lotus, Marshmallow, Meadowsweet, Mint, Motherwort, Mugwort, Mucuna Puriens, Mullein, Myrtle, Nettles, Passion Flower, Piper Longum, Pleurisy Root, Poppy (illegal to grow for medicinal purposes), Quinine,
    Rhodiola, Roses, Sage, Self Heal, Shepard’s Purse, Skullcap, Spikenard, St. John’s Wort, Stevia, Thyme, Tribulus, Valerian, Witch Hazel, Wood Betony, Wormwood, Yarrow.

    Diane

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