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Band-aids, ointments, over the counter medications – we all have the basics for home care, but did you know that there’s a first aid kit right in your kitchen cupboard?

Botanical medicine has long been used for treating much of what can afflict the human body. In fact, it even provides the basis for several western medications, including Asprin, which is based on White Willow bark, and Gravol, which now uses ginger. Even malaria treatments have a basis in botanicals.

Teas, which are already widely consumed by North Americans, are a favourite way of utilizing plants in our healthcare, as it’s easy and accessible, and can provide strong benefits to many of the conditions people suffer from at home, including headaches, stress, stomach aches and more. Below we cover some of the most common conditions and which teas can be used to soothe symptoms.

Stomach ache

Queue the Pepto Bismol jingle. Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea, the teas that sooth the gastrointestinal system are generally good for whatever ails you.

Peppermint tea provides a cooling/soothing effect to counter gas, bloating, pain, and in recent studies has even been found to help with symptoms of IBS. The peppermint oil has also been shown in increase bile production, helping break down fats. Ginger tea has been shown to act both on the stomach itself and how the brain reacts to the stomach’s signals, giving it a doubly effective edge. Gingerols and shogaols, which are two of the main healing compounds in ginger are effective at reducing intestinal spasm, nausea and gas. Gingerols and shogaols are found in both fresh and dried ginger, which means that a tea will be just as effective as fresh root.


Red Raspberry Leaf tea is great for menstrual symptoms, specifically uterine based symptoms including cramping, hot flashes, and regulation. Its effective component is fragrine, which tones and promotes blood flow to the uterus, letting hormones and symptoms normalize, the same way increasing blood flow to any muscle would reduce cramping and spasm and improve nutrition to the tissue itself.

Chamomile tea is also a great choice, providing a relaxing effect on the body and reducing the muscle cramping happening in the abdomen, as well as bloating, constipation, and fatigue. Chamomile tea is also a great option for stress, and to help with difficulty sleeping.

Colds and sore throats

Typically for a cold, staying hydrated is key for mucus membranes to perform and trap invaders so we can expel them. It’s for this reason that colds respond better to herbal teas. They’re decaf, which won’t dehydrate our tissues.

Lemon teas have long been a favourite for sore throats. While the evidence to their medicinal nature is limited, some suggest it’s due to vitamin C, which is known to help immunity.

Echinacea is another tea popularly known to shorten the span of a cold due to its antibacterial and antiviral properties. Preliminary studies back up the effectiveness of echinacea for cold season both preventively and soothingly. Cinnamon tea is also a strong choice for a cold due its antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Cinnamon can also be included with other teas by simply letting the tea steep with a cinnamon stick in the cup.

Skin irritation

Rooibos tea is full of antioxidants making it a great option for reducing free radical damage and to help soothe irritations from rashes, eczema, sunburns, itchiness and more. Its AHAs and exfoliants remove dead skin, leaving soft fresh skin in its place. Zinc is also found in rooibos, which has long been shown to help with healthy glowing skin. Rooibos tea can be mixed up to be applied topically or drunk as a regular tea.

Honey or no Honey? Honey is one of the most natural foods you can add to your tea and boasts antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties (much like cinnamon tea). Unless you have been advised to avoid honey in your diet, honey is a great addition as its texture can also lubricate a sore throat and add some flavor.

The best way to turn your regular cup of tea into a health aid is to pay attention to how you steep it. For medicinal use, water should be poured at a rolling boil, and steeped for anywhere from 5-12 minutes before consumption (depending on the tea). For loose leaf, generally, sticking to a ratio of 1 tablespoon tea to 1 cup water is ideal.

Always consult a doctor if problems persist, and seek out help from your alternative care provider if you have questions about which teas are right for you.

Written by Dr. Deborah Mechanic and published in the Canadian Jewish News

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