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  • Writer's pictureKim Elovirta

Herb Medicine Cabinet

Kami McBride recently sent out a questionnaire asking what we herbalists call our medicine cabinet since it is filled with herbal remedies, salves, tinctures, and teas rather than over the counter medicine. My quick reply would be that we still call it the medicine cabinet. Yet, as I reflect more on the question and the locations of our remedies it is more complicated than that. Depending on what is ailing you we call it the tea cabinet, the spice cabinet, the refrigerator, the freezer, the first aid kit or the medicine cabinet.

The cabinet above the coffee pot and electric kettle stores the mugs, coffee, and an assortment of teas. All the teas are in one spot so weather you are brewing up a cup of Darjeeling, a cup of Head Stuff tea for those dry sinuses, a cup of ginger tea for that upset tummy or a cup of Chamomile to ease your sleep or help with cramps you head to the same place.

My spice cabinet for cooking takes up three cupboards. It is filled with everything you could think of to season your meal; from all spice to za’atar. Herbs not only taste good, but they are good for your health and besides cooking with them they end up in teas, steams, syrups. Thyme is great in steams for sinus congestion. Sage is great in tea for hot flashes. A dash of cayenne in a cup of hot water with some freshly squeezed lemon at the first sign of illness does a body wonders. I also have jars of reishi, astragalus and bay leaves that find their way into anything that simmers for any length of time (think tomato sauce, soup, pot roast or anything in the slow cooker). Before my kids would head back to school, I would simmer those same herbs in water and make ice cubes. It was one way to get a little immune boost before heading back to class.

Next to the spice cabinet is a cupboard filled with oils and vinegars – besides always having fire cider on hand, I have herb infused vinegars to add to dishes and salad dressings. Vinegar is a way to preserve and extracts certain alkaloids and other water-soluble plant components.

In the refrigerator besides housing the usual food stuffs, it houses fermented foods such as homemade sauerkraut, pickles and curtido. There is also a jar of elderberry syrup and in the winter a jar of wild cherry bark cough syrup.

In the freezer are bags of ice cubes – not just ordinary ice cubes – but ones made from simmered herbs, violet syrup, and bone broth. They are easy to use, portion out and defrost.

The first aid kit is a small bag that travels on trips, in our hiking pack and lives in the hall closet. I do not unpack it in between trips so it is always at the ready. It contains hippie healer salve for minor cuts and bruises, drawing salve, oh my liniment which helps with sore muscles and menstrual cramps, white willow bark capsules, blackberry leaf extract, alcohol wipes and bandages.

Then finally there is the medicine cabinet. It has the thermometer, a turntable filled with tinctures (alcohol extracts) and cough drops.

What do you call your medicine cabinet?

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