During this chaotic time of year, it’s tempting to turn to caffeine to help you power through the days and alcohol to help you wind down at night. And, of course, these things are totally fine in moderation. But we all know that when you go overboard with the booze and coffee, it can leave you feeling even more rundown, anxious and exhausted.
That’s why we decided to ask one of our favourite naturopaths (plus self-confessed herb nerd and the author of The Garden Apothecary) to share his top herbal remedies for getting through the festive season unscathed. They do everything from giving you a natural energy boost to keeping stress at bay and even alleviating your hangover— and the best part is, you can make most of them using herbs and other ingredients you probably already have at home!
‘Chill pill’ bath bomb
To relax and unwind
Go home, turn your phone off and soak your day away in a hot bath. Lavender contains linalool, a substance that’s been shown in studies to reduce the physical signs of stress. It’s my favourite anti-anxiety herb, and you can enjoy the benefits just by smelling it!
The citric acid and the bicarbonate of soda create an acid-base reaction that you may remember from school, and that’s what gives these bath bombs their fizz.
You will need:
9 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
3 teaspoons citric acid
1 teaspoon dried lavender
10–20 drops lavender essential oil
1 teaspoon sweet almond oil
Ensure your small mixing bowl and spoon are dry, otherwise you’ll set off the bubbling early.
Combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Add the oils and knead the mixture together using the back of a spoon. It will form a very dry, crumbly paste.
Spoon the mixture into a muffin cup and leave it somewhere warm to dry for at least an hour. Then you can gently remove it from the mould.
Pop one into the bath and let your stresses melt away!
+ Reece’s Herb Nerd Hack … If you are going to make a few of these at once and store them, be sure to keep them wrapped in aluminium foil to keep them from drying out.
Nourish and Nurture
For feelings of exhaustion
If you feel you’ve pushed your body to the point of no return, are tired even after a solid night’s sleep and can’t muster the energy to get up and go, this might just be the blend for you. You’ll need to make it a part of your daily routine to really see the benefits, but avoid this one if you have high blood pressure.
You will need:
2 cups dried licorice root
1 tablespoon dried lavender
Combine the two herbs, and mix well. You’ll need to make a decoction of this one using around two teaspoons of the mix in each cup.
It’s all too easy to reach for the bottle of pinot during stressful times, and every now and again that won’t hurt you. But regular drinking has been linked to so many health conditions that you’d be better off keeping it for special occasions, and instead turning to the herb patch when stress strikes.
Lemon balm is one of my favourite nervine herbs, meaning that it balances an overactive nervous system, and it is so simple to grow that I’d almost go as far as to say that everyone should have it in their garden.
This sparkling iced tea is the perfect way to enjoy it, and is particularly good on a warm day.The recipe just makes one drink, but feel free to make a whole pitcher and enjoy it with friends
You will need:
For the infusion:
Handful fresh lemon balm (10–15 leaves)
Handful fresh mint (10–15 leaves)
1 teaspoon honey, or a pinch of stevia
1 slice of lemon
Boiling water, to cover
Glassful of ice
Extra lemon slices and a sprig of mint, to garnish
Soda water, to top up
Crush the lemon balm and mint leaves in a mortar and pestle, then transfer to a shallow bowl or ramekin.
Add the honey (or stevia) plus the lemon slice, and pour over just enough boiling water to cover the mix. We want to make this infusion very concentrated, so don’t overdo the water.
Cover, and leave to infuse for 5–8 minutes. Meanwhile, fill your serving glass with ice, and arrange the mint sprig and lemon slices.
Strain the infusion and pour over the ice.
Top up the glass with cold soda water, and you’re ready to kick back and enjoy!
+ Reece’s Herb Nerd Hack … A couple of fresh lavender heads make a wonderful addition to this mix if you like the flavour, or if you don’t have any lemon balm you can substitute chamomile for a more floral taste.
To improve your mood
The verdict is in: St John’s Wort is without a doubt one of nature’s most effective offerings for improving mood. I’ve combined it with other thymoleptic herbs, which positively enhance your mood, to create something that I think feels like a hug in a bottle.
Wash the fresh herbs well, then leave them to dry on absorbent paper.
Grind the St John’s Wort to a powder using a coffee or spice grinder.
Pack the fresh lavender, lemon balm and St John’s Wort powder into a glass jar, then cover with vodka.
Replace the lid, and shake well to ensure the contents are well mixed.
Place the jar in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Shake the jar gently every day to keep the herbs from settling.
After two weeks, strain the mixture through cheesecloth and discard the solids. Pour the tincture into a sterilised jar.
Start with one teaspoon daily, in a little water, or grape juice if you want to mask the flavour of your medicine. You can bump it up to two if you feel the need, but definitely no more than that. This remedy works best with daily use, and you should feel real change happen between two to six weeks.
NOTE: Always consult your doctor before taking St John’s Wort in any form. St John’s Wort can increase or decrease the effects of other drugs and should not be taken in combination with any other medication or prescription especially antidepressants or the contraceptive pill.
Ideally, you won’t need this (it’s really best to limit your alcohol intake), but if you do happen to slip up, here’s a little herbal hack that will help your recovery. I’m going to be upfront with you on this one: don’t expect it to be a sugary treat. Rather than the candy aisle, I took my inspiration from old first aid rehydration salts, then removed the refined sugar and replaced it with softly sweet pineapple and raspberry. Avoid powdered juices and opt for the freeze- dried whole fruit instead, as it’ll keep the sugar load down. Remember though that the main aim of this remedy is to deliver a therapeutic dose of ginger to settle your nausea, so keep in mind that the end product packs a spicy punch.
Although there’s no herb in here to directly treat the headache component of a hangover, taking three teaspoons of this in at least 500 millilitres (2 cups) of water once or twice in the day will help rehydrate you, deliver vital electrolytes and speed up your recovery. This recipe will give you a big supply, and it will keep for three to four months if stored in a sealed jar away from any moisture.
You will need:
1⁄2 cup pineapple powder 1⁄4 cup raspberry powder 1⁄4 cup dried ginger, ground 1⁄4 cup citric acid
1⁄4 cup bicarbonate of soda
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
In a medium-sized bowl, combine all of the powders thoroughly.
Grind the sea salt between your fingers and thumb to make sure the particles are small, then stir through the sherbet until evenly dispersed.
Transfer to a sterilised, very dry jar. Enjoy three teaspoons in a large glass of water.
NOTE: If you are prone to acid reflux, this remedy may not be for you. Alcohol consumption increases stomach acid and can be wearing on the lining, so citric acid might aggravate your condition. Consider decreasing the quantity of citric acid or removing it completely, but keep in mind that you’ll lose the fizz factor and the flavour will take a bit of an unpleasant turn.
These recipes are from Reece Carter’s book Garden Apothecary: Homemade Remedies for Everyday Remedies. You can get your hands on it here.