Tummy Tea and Sympathy

Sharon September 25th, 2007

When my children complain of upset stomach, I offer them “tummy tea” a mixture of lemon balm, catnip, peppermint, chamomile and nettle that I make from herbs grown in my garden. I keep it in an old pickle jar, and the kids know to ask for it. They don’t seem to mind it unsweetened, and we drop an ice cube into the teacup to cool it down fast.

I admit, even though I’ve been studying herbal medicine in my spare time, even though I’ve read enough scientific studies to know that most of these herbs have both long history and a host of scientific studies to support their efficiacy, even though I know that many medicines are synthetics of natural herbs, I think I honestly thought that it was the comfort of the blanket on the lap, the excitement of drinking from a good tea cup and the warmth of the tea that seemed to “fix” everything so quickly, rather than the tea itself.

But Eric and I came home from an evening out with friends the other day, both of us feeling weighed down and unpleasant. The meal, made by our friends, was very different than our usual diet - heavy enough that it was bothering both of us. Eric took a shower, and I made myself a cup of tummy tea. I drank half of it, and was shocked to notice how quickly my stomach settled, feeling better from the very first swallow. I gave Eric the second half of my cup, not mentioning what it was, just saying that it warm him up, and he noticed the same thing - the moment the tea hit his stomach, he felt better.

This is hardly the first time herbal medicine has worked for me. I’ve treated mastitis successfully with garlic, my husband takes hawthorne for a minor heart irregularity, and ginger tea got me through my morning sickness. But when it works, I’m somehow surprised in a way I’m not when pharmaceuticals work. Despite this, I have quite as much experience with the failure of pharmaceuticals as I do with the failure of herbs - for example, narcotic pain relievers don’t relieve pain and do make me throw up, traditional medicines for indigestion tend merely to take awful, and I’ve long noticed that a swig of rum mixed with juice and honey is as good as any cough syrup or better. That’s not to say that I don’t see real and persistent value in some modern medicine, just that I find it interesting that I’ve been so well trained to expect to turn to pharmaceuticals that even though I know better, I can’t help a frisson of surprise that I could fix things simply myself.

And that, of course, is the great revelation of any kind of self-sufficiency. Not that we can do away entirely with the outside world, or would want to. Not that we should cast away all of modern medicine and everything we have achieved, but that in many cases (and one needs to use common sense here) we turn outside, rather than to ourselves, to nature, to the garden, simply out of habit and cultural training that tells us it would be dangerous to trust our own impressions too far. And yet, that ought to be the very first thing we trust.

Sharon

28 Responses to “Tummy Tea and Sympathy”

  1. emilyon 25 Sep 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Rooibos tea is hardly local, but I find it helps for Sensitive Gut issues (gets the right things moving through the system, without doing a full clean-out). I, too, notice a difference the minute it hits me.
    Mint or fennel-seed tea for menstrual cramps works pretty well, too.

  2. Michelleon 25 Sep 2007 at 3:28 pm

    I treated pneumonia once with
    silver antibiotic, and was so impressed I promptly learned to make my own.

  3. Anonymouson 25 Sep 2007 at 3:30 pm

    If you want one really good and affordable book to tell you the best-proven options for herbal medicine for every condition, The Herbal Drugstore by Linda White and Steven Foster is excellent. It often assumes you will be buying products from the store. I also like James Green’s The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook, which presents a limited number of American herbs and tells you in detail how to make every product type you could possibly want. I have an echinacea patch started in my yard and plans for more perennial herbs next year. Yarrow, lavender and garlic; you can’t go wrong with those!

    Dewey

  4. Anonymouson 25 Sep 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Sorry about the double post; Michelle’s comment appeared after I posted my first message. Many colloidal silver preparations can cause argentism — the silver is deposited in the skin and nails, turning them gray and bluish respectively. It’s not dangerous as such, but it is permanent and leaves you looking a bit zombieish. Unless you have an absolute guarantee that that can’t happen with your preparation, you might want to strictly limit its use.

    Dewey

  5. Chileon 25 Sep 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Everyone grimaces when I tell them this, but it doesn’t taste as bad as it sounds and it works great as a cough syrup: chop an onion, sprinkle heavily with sugar, and put in a sieve. Use the syrup for coughs.

  6. Anonymouson 25 Sep 2007 at 4:43 pm

    I’ve had great luck controlling hot flashes with sage from the backgarden. A 90%er helped me with this.

    MEA

  7. Tracy Glomskion 25 Sep 2007 at 5:21 pm

    I know just what you’re saying, Sharon. My educational background is in the sciences (I dropped out of a graduate program in astrophysics), and I’m more than a little skeptical by nature.

    Yet I’ve found, much to my surprise, that ginger tea works perfectly well on those rare occasions when I’m experiencing cramps or nausea, and peppermint alone often soothes an upset tummy. I’ll have to try your tea blend, too, sometime!

  8. Shannonon 25 Sep 2007 at 5:37 pm

    I agree and have found the same thing with whole foods. My DH was had lost some weight, but was having difficulty breaking through a certain number, and then I switched to whole milk/yogurt. He dropped 5 lbs right away!

  9. Anonymouson 25 Sep 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Thank you for this post, and for all the wisdom you share on your blog.

    The moral of the story you explicate at the end rings so true! Eating a varied, natural diet, I still worry that I’m missing out on some nutrient some health guru tells me I need. By treating things like colds and the blues naturally with things like sunlight, vitamins, exercise or rest, and lots of fluids, I still wonder if I’m not doing my family and me a disservice by not turning to pills and prescriptions.

    Problems seems so complicated and overwhelming in this hyper-specialized world that we feel foolish (or are kindly treated by family as idealists soon to be disappointed) for wanting to do things like become owner builders or organic gardeners. Then there’s my personal bete noire : all the personal finance hype, books, and experts out there getting rich by making otherwise frugal and financially level-headed people like us wonder if we’re being irresponsable (or again, simplistic idealists) for not contributing 10% or 15% or our income to essentially gamble on funds stock market or to invest in morally dubious enterprises. It take nerves of steel, sometimes, I think, to educate oneself (however imperfectly we can) and to forge ahead with what one thinks is right, even if it bucks the conventional wisdom that would have us all feeling helpless and disempowered.

  10. e4on 25 Sep 2007 at 5:45 pm

    I pulled some stinging nettle once and it stung like crazy. After consulting the great and powerful Google, it told me jewelweed was a traditional cure. So I looked up images and discovered it was growing in my back yard too. I went out and pulled some, rubbed on the juice, and the pain magically disappeared in a second or so. I’ve been intrigued by natural remedies ever since.

  11. Grandma Mision 25 Sep 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Sharon, I couldn’t help responding after my chuckle session was over…

    “I think I honestly thought that it was the comfort of the blanket on the lap, the excitement of drinking from a good tea cup and the warmth of the tea that seemed to “fix” everything so quickly, rather than the tea itself.”

    Could this also be a result of the “Jewish Mother” in you??????

    oh wait, chicken soup has been “scientifically” proven to really help?

    I think both parts, the tea and the love, are what makes up the cure!
    Grandma Misi

  12. Grandma Mision 25 Sep 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Sharon, I couldn’t help responding after my chuckle session was over…

    “I think I honestly thought that it was the comfort of the blanket on the lap, the excitement of drinking from a good tea cup and the warmth of the tea that seemed to “fix” everything so quickly, rather than the tea itself.”

    Could this also be a result of the “Jewish Mother” in you??????

    oh wait, chicken soup has been “scientifically” proven to really help?

    I think both parts, the tea and the love, are what makes up the cure!
    Grandma Misi

  13. LisaZon 26 Sep 2007 at 1:42 pm

    MEA, I’m so glad the sage tea worked! I think that was me that gave you that one, right?

    As for the nettles and jewelweed, they often grow next to each other! Jewelweed also helps with poison ivy, and grows right next to it often, too. The wisdom of nature! Funny how we’re just now “rediscovering” it.

    Consider that nettles sting good medicine, though, too. People have cured their arthritis by running through nettles patches or flaggelating their body with it–not that I’d recommend that! There are easier ways…but a sting by a nettle plant, while painful, is medicinal, arthritis or not.

    Lisa in Central MN

  14. Anonymouson 26 Sep 2007 at 2:25 pm

    It was you, Lisa. I’m now going to try mint tea for my 9 year old when she has cramps. She didn’t have them the first year, so think she must have started ovulating now.

    I didn’t know nettles grew in the US. I only new them in England, where dock leaves are used.

    MEA

  15. Lissaon 08 Oct 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Sharon,

    Would you be willing to provide a full list of the herbs you use for your tummy tea and the general amount (i.e. 1 part peppermint, 2 parts chamomile, etc)? It’s occurred to me that one thing I could do with my “extra” herbs is create a blend of herbal teas — particularly if I can beg the ends of plants from friends and families in return for tea.

    I love the idea of home remedies for feeling under-the-weather, but have never felt confident enough to try any of my own. Thanks for your many posts that offer encouragement as well as tips and rationale.

  16. Sarahon 17 Oct 2007 at 4:46 pm

    I was wondering if you have any herbal “recipe” books that you would recommend. I’m pretty new at it, so I’d be interested in some specific help. For instance, how do you make ginger tea?

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