Western MA Folk Remedies for Wellness

Miscellaneous Remedies


"I use Chicken Soup for everything, it is soul food. Using herbs and spices like Pepper, Paprika, and Cayenne help to warm the body and clear the sinuses." - Diane Todrin

“I use Chicken Soup for everything, it is soul food. Using herbs and spices like Pepper, Paprika, and Cayenne help to warm the body and clear the sinuses:

Chicken Soup

  • small fryer chicken
  • 4 or 5 ribs of celery
  • 4 or 5 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • 4 or 5 onions cut in quarters
  • ginger sliced into 10 quarter size pieces
  • 1/8 cup whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • 1 Tbs. Thyme
  • salt to taste

Honor the chicken and give thanks.

Fill large pot with cold water and add chicken. Stove should be on high. When the water comes to a boil, lower the flame to medium low. The chicken will release a tan scum as it begins to boil. Scoop this out. When pot has been cleared of scum, add all other ingredients simmer for 4 hours. Strain, chill and then remove fat that accumulates on top. Heat and eat.” —  Diane Todrin

“My unabashed plug for the health benefits of my personal lifestyle: After years of thinking about it and procrastinating, I finally embraced a way of eating that has proven so beneficial to my health that I am still discovering new positive effects. And while I think it’s important to have a working repertoire of remedies for what ails us, I think it’s even more important to know how to live without dis-ease!

“This is what works for me: no refined carbohydrates and no forms of refined or concentrated sugar (except what naturally occurs in fruit, eaten whole). This means eating only whole-grain products, and avoiding all forms of sugar, including fruit concentrates, honey, raw sugar, politically correct sugar, anything ending in -ose, and artificial sweeteners.

“The refined carbohydrates (white flour, organic wheat flour, white pasta, rice noodles, and anything that does not have the word “whole” in the ingredient list) turn into sugar in our bodies, and have the same effect metabolically speaking. I also do some very simple food combining: I eat fruits by themselves, protein/fats meals without starchy carbohydrates, and carbohydrates meals without fat/protein. I believe this results in more complete metabolizing. It certainly improves digestion and makes “gas” and “fullness” a thing of the past.

“The benefits for me have been amazing: my energy level is on an even keel all day; I lost the extra weight that I’ve been dragging around for 10 years; a recent trip to the dental hygenist was pain-free, blood-free, and tartar-free; my knee and “arthritis” pains have disappeared; my life-long allergic reactions to mosquito and bee bites don’t happen any more; junk food cravings have disappeared. In general, I feel more energetic, more positive, and sleep like a rock. I have come to believe that sugar and refined carbohydrates (the bulk of the modern American diet, and even the modern vegetarian diet) in combination with a sedentary lifestyle are responsible for most of what ails us, be it physical or emotional. I am also amazed that decades after the expose of the “empty calories” of white bread, that our supermarket shelves contain nothing but.  Worse yet, we now have a plethora of products, both in supermarkets and in so-called health food stores, which use deceptive labeling practices to dupe the public into thinking they’re getting whole grain products.

“Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now.” —  Grace Edwards

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Injuries


“Five Flower Formula is the remedy for emergency! This flower essence formula is used for all aspects of emergencies, containing the Clematis for being fully grounded, Cherry Plum for letting go, Impatiens for patience, Rock Rose for transcendence and Star of Bethlehem for peace.” – Tony(a) Lemos of Ashfield, MA

“Joanna Campe of Northampton learned this from her teacher, Eva Graf of Great Barrington and uses it all the time with great success – including in the jungle of Columbia and on a glass cut wound: with a mortar and pestle mix Goldenseal* powder and Slippery Elm* powder with water to make a thick paste. Apply to wound thickly as an antibiotic covering and cover with bandage. After wound is beyond getting infected you may rub banana into it to keep it from scarring. I have used Cayenne powder directly on a cut to stop the bleeding and to avoid infection and was amazed that it did not sting until three hours later.” – Lauren Mills (Williamsburg, MA)

* Editors Note: Goldenseal and Slippery Elm are on the United Plant Savers (UpS) At Risk List, therefore only cultivated plants should used. 

“When I have an injury, like a backache or a sprain or anything of that nature, I go out and buy as many Epsom salts as I can afford and take a hot, hot, hot bath. I remain in it as long as I can then I get out and drink as much water as I possibly can … it helps, and it will help you too!” – Star Drooker, Raine Arrow Drooker, Jesse Salmon Boy Drooker who is eternal, Fire & Water Cafe (Northampton, MA)

“A wormwood pack for your bruises: Use 1 heaping tablespoon of dried Wormwood herb per 1 cup water. Make an infusion. Steep for 20 minutes. Strain. Dip cloth in tea, ring out. Place some of the wet, strained Wormwood into the cloth. Fold over to make a large compress. Apply to bruise and secure with plastic wrap.” – Kathleen Duffy

“Hey, don’t leave home without your rescue remedy… RESCUE REMEDY is a Bach Flower Remedy Composite made up of 5 Flower Essences that is used for all aspects of emergency: Accidents, Physical Ailments, Emotional Upsets, Stress, etc. Dr. Edward Bach, who developed this remedy over 60 years ago, attributed it with saving many lives. The negative patterns or conditions that Rescue Remedy works with are virtually limitless. They include everything from near fatal accidents to emotional upsets to minor cuts and bruises. Rescue Remedy can be used both internally and externally.

  • It can be applied to burns and lacerations.
  • It can be dropped in the eyes, or the ears, or on the head in cases of headache.
  • It can be rubbed on the skin to releive stiff, sore muscles or sprains.
  • It is helpful on insect bites or stings.
  • It revives dying plants.
  • It helps in any recuperative process for people, plants and animals
  • It can be used for sunstroke.
  • It revives the spirits.
  • It is very helpful in cases of colds or fevers.
  • It helps one to cope with extreme pain and shock.
  • It can be used in recovering from addictions, in hysteria and in pregnancy.

It contains Clematis for being fully grounded, Cherry Plum for letting go, Impatiens for patience, Rock Rose for transcendence and Star of Bethlehem for peace. It is the remedy of emergency. The standard dose is 4 drops as often as needed. The Flower Essence Society makes “Five Flower Formula” which is an analogue for Rescue Remedy.” – Tony(a) Lemos

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Stress


“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing in a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: 'I’ll go take a hot bath.' I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot that you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower your self inch by inch, till the water is up to your neck. - I remember the ceiling over every bath tub I’ve stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colors and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs too, the antique griffin legged tubs and the modern coffin shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking the indoor lily pond and I remember the shapes and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap holders . . . I never feel so much myself as when I am in a hot bath.” - Excerpt from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“Staying healthy to me means staying happy with myself. If I’m feeling sad, lonely or stressed (which can lead to lower immune functioning and dis-ease of all sorts) I call over a group of friends and we have a meal, play games, dance, laugh and/or create art together. I think this is the best household remedy of all! Life is full of dis-ease, if I keep myself at-ease within community and friends my mind stays happy and healthy a day at a time. Good health is not always curing the symptoms – to me it is rejuvenating my spirit.” – Ricki Carroll, New England Cheese Makers Supplies, Ashfield

“When I’m feeling down, blue, or all-around crappy, it’s usually because my own world feels too small. So anything I can do to break out of my own world perception is especially helpful. I definitely make plans with friends with whom I laugh a lot or I go see some sort of entertainment that is a far cry from my own life – an anatomically incorrect rock musical for example. Anything that helps me to see, understand, and embrace the infinite possibilities of this world. Of course, spending my day wandering around trying to get the babies of strangers to laugh or smile is also very satisfying as well.”– Kelsey Flynn, Available for lunch, Northampton

“A tincture with St. Johnswort, Lemon Balm and Motherwort (along with self-heal and mullein flower essences) has been really helpful for a couple of friends. One was suffering from panic attacks and my other friend was feeling very depressed.” – Cathy Whitely

“Hot milk and honey and put your worries in a sack under your bed. They will be there in the morning.” – Eileen Latshang

“Maude knew. . . . “It’s oat straw tea. You’ve never had oat straw tea, have you?” “No.” “Well then.” She smiled and picked up the kettle. Do you remember this scene from the 1971 movie Harold and Maude written by Colin Higgins? –  Oats (Avena sativa) are in fact one of the best remedies for ‘feeding’ the nervous system, especially when under stress. They’re a specific treatment for nervous debility and exhaustion, particularly when associated with depression. Oats act quite slowly but can be of real long-term benefit in any weakness of the nervous system. Oats are one of the classic plants which form a bridge between food and medicine (see oatmeal recipe under winter blues). Whenever I am feeling frazzled, rushed, overworked and that there is not enough time in the day, I brew myself a pot of oatstraw tea.” – Tony(a) Lemos, Ashfield

“I use passion flower and valerian tincture for anxiety and sleeplessness.” – Becky Loveland, Northampton

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Stomach Ailments

Stomach Ailments

" I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger..."

“How I Found my Plant Ally in Marrakesh: My battle with motion sickness all started on a seemingly endless bus ride through the mountains of Morocco. The hairpin turns were countless. I was not the only one throwing up into the plastic bag provided- so were the locals. This was the only bus ride I’ve even been on that had a hired hand to mop the aisles and between the seats. To make things worse, those who were lucky enough to not loose their already eaten tagine* held a cloth saturated with very cheap perfume close to their nose in an attempt to keep it down, or keep the sour smell out. That wretched smell left me with a vivid memory, a memory that goes straight to my stomach the moment I start moving . . . cars, trains, planes, boats, ferris wheels. You name it, I get sick.

“Morocco is the place I found my plant ally. I finally arrived in Marrakesh. I could still smell that cheap perfume everywhere and I felt sick! I had two weeks left. I needed relief. I walked the streets, the narrow foot paths that led to the market place, filled with jewelry, lamps, rugs and scarves, and people who wanted to decorate my white skin with a deep red henna, monkeys that danced, snakes that hissed. It was a mosaic of color and new finds. When the night air blew in new people came to light. In Marakesh the day time does not hold a space for the herbalist, they come out at night, with their promises to enlarge this and increase that. I met many an herbalist in the darkness of Marakash. One particular man sticks in my mind.

“Laid out in front of him was a square blanket, on it every remedy you could possibly imagine. Like all great herbalists his glass jars of every size were filled with unknown powers, flowers, and potions. Everything from dried lizard head to amber resin. He didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic. So I looked him in the eye, stuck out my tongue and held my tummy. He smiled and searched for something. He found it and held it to my nose. I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger, plain old, buy at the grocery store powered ginger. I bought a small packet and went to my hotel.

From that day on it’s been the first thing that goes in my carry-on bag. I do get strange looks went I ask the flight attendant “can I please have room temperature water” then I reach into my bag and pour a spoon full of powered ginger powder in. I would put in more but the taste is a bit extreme for my tongue. I mix this up before I even start moving and any time during the trip. It really works. I have not thrown up in a long time. I do get nauseous and ginger clears it right up in a matter of minutes. It’s easy, safe and cheap. A true ally to any nauseous traveler.” — D’Arcy Alyse Gebert (Shutesbury, MA)

*Editor’s note: for a great Tagine, check out Amanouz Cafe on Main Street in Northampton, MA. It makes a good warming winter’s meal.
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Western MA Women Share Folk Remedies for PMS

PMS (Menstrual Discomforts)

"I’ve been told by people who’ve tried it that Evening Primrose Oil can clear up all symptoms of premenstrual moodiness, anxiety and breast tenderness." - Cathy Whitely (community herbalist)

“The dark moon is upon us once again, the dark part of any cycle is the transition between death of old and birth of new. I sit here in circle with my sisters as I bleed. It is day one of my cycle. Tonight we share stories of our first blood. We laugh, we gasp, we cry, we empathize. I feel blessed, I know I am blessed. The word “blessing” originates from “bloedswean” an Old English word meaning to bleed. When was the blessing taken away from us, I wonder. . . sometimes I see myself as a pirate determined to plunder and smuggle back all which has been taken from us and reversed.” – Tony(a) Lemos, community herbalist (Ashfield, MA)

“For many many years I have been growing a beautiful plant called Chaste Tree. Vitex agnus-castus is the latin name. It is a beautiful plant that doesn’t do real well up here unless you put it in a very sunny spot. It has beautiful purple flowers and in the third and fourth year it starts to have berries. You can harvest the berries and make a tea or a tincture out of them. I recommend making tincture as the tea tastes god awful. It has been used for centuries as an aid for women from puberty through menopause. It’s great for PMS, mood swings, terrible cramping, or really poor periods. In treating symptoms of menopause it can be used to ease night sweats, hot flashes, or emotional mood swings. You need to take a dropperful twice a day. It is safe to use long term, you will know within two months whether it is the herb for you. It feels pretty amazing.” – Carol Joyce, White Buffallo Herbs (Warrick, MA)

“Lady Moon Tea: A female tonic to be used especially before and during the moon time. Steep at least 20 minutes, make 3 cups for the day and keep it warm in a thermos.
1 part Nettles
1 part Rasberry Leaf
3/4 part Chocolate Mint (or Peppermint)
1/2 part Oatstraw
1/2 part Horsetail
1/4 part Hibiscus
1/8 part Cinnamon
1/8 part Ginger Root
1/8 part Licorice Root
Can add small amount of the following to add up to 1/2 part mixture of: Crampbark (for cramps), Valerian (for nerves), Yellow Dock (for iron), Vitex and Wild Yam (for hormonal balancing), and Rose Petals (for mood lifting).”
Lauren Mills, Illustrator of children’s books (Faery Wings, The Rag Coat) and founder of Woodkin Hollow, a small herbal business. (Williamsburg, MA) (Editors note: though Yellow Dock itself contains no iron it aids the absorption of iron.)

“For menstrual cramps, I heat a home made relaxation bag (made with flax seeds, dried lavender flowers & lavender essential oil) and place on my lower belly until the bag cools and then I do a warm & loving belly massage!” – Rachel Tartaglia NP

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Chest Congestions and Allergies

Chest Congestion

Natural allergy relief: common stinging nettle, Urtica dioica. (Photo credit: Tony(a) Lemos)

Onion Cough Syrup: 2 lbs. onion, peeled and cut. Use enough raw honey to cover onions (1 1/2 – 2 lbs.) in a double boiler or crockpot. Heat to simmer. Add 1/2 oz each; Anise seed, Wild Cherry bark, cut Licorice root, Horehound. Cook for 2 hours. Strain by squeezing mixture through cheesecloth and into clean glass container. Store in refrigerator. — Kathleen Duffy

For bronchitis and coughs I’ve done different things, but what I usually stick with and love is an infusion of thyme, coltsfoot and mullein. I also dose up on echinacea. I know some people feel it’s overused or works better before you actually get sick, but when I’ve waited too long, refusing to believe that I really need to slow down, I’ve taken a dropper-full every two hours for a couple of days and it’s worked. Of course, if I start taking it when I should, my cough doesn’t turn into bronchitis in the first place. — Cathy Whitely

To treat lung and cold congestion a home made poultice made of mustard seeds and water, rub onto chest and cover with warm cloths, go to bed; wake
up dead or alive! — Mindy’s paternal great grandmother

the truth is . . . i was raised a christian scientist, the only medicine in the medicine cabinet was a box of bandaids and some vicks vaporub. everything was dealt with through prayer and practitioners (and denial). oh yeah, we got ginger ale if we were feeling crummy . . . but otherwise, we had to “work it out” with god, prayer, reading, scripture etc. — Lois Brown (Artist, Shutesbury, MA)

Collect the leaves of sage and thyme from your garden or potted window herb box, loosely fill a pint jar, and cover with olive oil. Let it sit for a moon cycle, shaking whenever you remember. Strain. — In a double boiler (saucepan is fine on low heat if you do not have a double boiler) melt 2 oz of beeswax. Once this is melted add 1 oz of your infused sage and thyme oil. Turn off the heat and add up to 3-4 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil and up to 6 drops more of any combination of the following Essential Oils: Clove, Ravensare, Pine or Peppermint. Pour the hot liquid into your containers, and let harden. If the salve is too hard melt down and add more of the sage infused oil, if it is too soft melt down and add more beeswax. — In the Valley Essential Oils can be purchased from Cornucopia, Joia and the Greenfield Coop. They should not be used directly on the skin without first diluting in either water or oil and they should never be used internally. — Tony(a) Lemos

My other grandmother administered this remedy if we had the kind of deep, uncontrollable coughing that accompanies bronchitis. She would beat an egg white until frothy, and add fresh lemon juice and honey, beat it up a bit more and have us drink this odd foamy mixture. We weren’t crazy about drinking grandma’s potion, but it sure stopped the coughing! — Grace Edwards (Sunderland, MA)

Bone Soup to Cure Lung (what Tibetans say is too much wind energy, the feeling in the lung area that makes you spacey, anxious, restless, nervous.) Put cold water in a soup pot, add beef bones, knee bones are best! Swish to extract any juices into the water, bring up to boil then simmer for an hour adding salt, bay leaves, star anise, sechuanne peppers and sliced ginger and some cut up beef. Grounding will be insured as well as a great night’s sleep. — Eileen Latshang


allergies? what allergies? i am not allergic to anything. i don’t want to label myself or trap myself into a box. my body believes what i tell her and when i say i don’t have allergies, it is true. oh, that terrible sneezing spell i have every fall? with swollen sinuses and constant pressure, a tickle in my throat, and itchy itchy eyes. that’s just my annual adjustment period. and every year it is smoother and less painful with the help of a couple herbs and my attitude. people say, wow your allergies are really bad. i say, i don’t have allergies. i can breathe deeply all of the air around me, smell the difference in the breeze. i deserve to live and breathe and be.

you know the days when your sinuses are draining uncontrollably for the seventh day in a row and if it doesn’t stop you’re going freak out and rip your eyeballs out of your head so you can scratch the back of them? well, those are the days that you need to say . . . HEY! i can breathe freely! i can breathe deeply! i can handle anything that comes my way! i want to live and breathe and be! it can be very hard to love and encourage myself that much. i need to treat myself compassionately. i can heal myself! i don’t need to sneeze at every speck of dust or pollen or mildew in the air, i can breathe it all in, and my body is strong enough to deal with it! i am sensitive and sassy! i am free!

i say these mantras to myself while i sip a large glass of nourishing nettles leaf (urtica dioica) infusion. nettles, my dear friend and healing helper, gives me long term support for my entire being to live allergy free. you can drink as much as you want, as much as you can. nettles is like a cooked green vegetable. you can’t overdo it with the infusion, capsules on the other hand may be dangerous, and certainly not as delicious. my favorite herb to stop a sneezing attack is osha root (ligusticum porteri) infusion. you can infuse the osha root over and over again. this infusion is taken in small sips. you can feel how strong and potent it is. i take a few sips as needed each day during my freak out period of autumn, but i wouldn’t use it every day of the year. that’s what nettles is for.

while i am making, drinking, sipping my infusions i say to myself . . . i deserve to live and i deserve to breathe deeply. i deserve to live and breathe in freedom. i can do anything i want to do, and i want to live and to breathe and to be. —  emily millspaugh, wise woman herbalist, shutesbury

Previous Posts:


Tony(a) LemosTony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA, she also maintains an herbal medicine practice in Western Mass. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest and the Women’s Herbal Conference.  Tony(a) is presently working on her next community supported project, a collection of the spirit and wisdom of the valley’s women offering alternative remedies and support for those dealing with Post Partum Depression and related condition.  A call for submissions will follow. — A Cure for What Ails appears on the second Tuesday of every month.

Western MA Folk Remedies for Sore Throats

Sore Throats

I use honey and lemon juice in hot water to soothe a sore throat..." — Becky Loveland (Northampton, MA)

“I’ve learned that when I have stuff in my lungs, its best to get it out, or expectorate  it. Licorice tea works very well, but more recently I tried coffee with cream and sugar (what I drink when I’m not sick). The caffeine cheered me up, the coffee or cream made me cough up phlegm, and the defiance of drinking something so wrong, so chi-depleting, and so pitta felt like it gave my immune system a jolt of righteous anger.” — Dar Williams

“Being a singer I am always looking for potions to cure a hoarse voice. Here are all the cures I use:

• “Voice rest — there is absolutely no better cure for laryngitis than silence, patience, and time.
• “Hot water with honey and lemon. I usually use just hot water and honey to avoid the acid in the lemon, but that’s because I have reflux and have to avoid all citrus.
• “Cider vinegar bath.
• “Avoid menthol — it’s drying.
• “Avoid dairy — it’s mucous producing.
•”Have a cool mist humidifier going in whatever room you are in — especially when you are sleeping.
• “I also have a personal humidifier that is warm steam. I use that just before I have to sing and just before bed.

“I have a friend who swears by ginger tea. Just boil water with a bunch of ginger root in it. Let it steep all day. I find it too spicy, but he swears it works.” — Katryna Nields

“My grandfather was a doctor and attended medical school on the cusp of homeopathy and allopathy (in fact, he went to Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, the home of homeopathy). So I vaguely remember being given homeopathic style remedies when we were very young. He also, according to my grandmother, formulated his own medicinals and enlisted her help in the mixing and measuring process. She would give us a chunk of “licorice stick” for a sore throat. This was no ordinary piece of licorice, but something very intense and hard. We would suck on it and it always helped. By the way, grandpa firmly believed that there was an herbal cure for every disease. — We would also eat a bowl of cooked greens laced with hot red peppers. The hot peppers were supposed to “cauterize” the sore throat, and the greens (escarole, kale, dandelions, or broccoli rabe) were a “tonic”. This was delicious and effective. My modern day version of this is to go to the nearest Chinese, Indian, Mexican or Thai restaurant and order any really hot dish.” — Grace Edwards

“To treat a sore throat: 1 teaspoon of sugar with turpentine drops.  Gag and try not to throw up or you would have to swallow another one!” — Mindy’s maternal great grandmother (Submitted by Kristol St. Claire, Mindy’s mom)

“A cure for a sore throat that burns, aches, feels scratchy, or for swollen glands, or a dry cough is to steep 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried Rosemary & 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried Sage in an 8 ounce cup of water for at least 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and then gargle and swallow. This remedy is best when able to steep over night and then stored in the fridge for continued use.” — Alison Kleppinger (Easthampton, MA)

“For an uncontrollable bad cough I go to the Coffee Gallery on King Street in Northampton and ask for the saltiest Dutch Salt Licorice. It’s the best cough drop I’ve ever had. It completely soothes a painful scratchy throat and stops a cough. I use honey and lemon juice in hot water to soothe a sore throat if I don’t have the licorice. Most effective of all: you can just avoid having a lover and you won’t get sick.” — Becky Loveland (Northampton, MA)

“For sore throat and the beginnings of a cold make an infusion of thyme, marshmallow root and mullein leaf. It will soothe the throat, protect the lungs and the thyme acts as an anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Don’t forget to rest and eat chicken soup or miso with chopped garlic.” — Carrie Desmarais, Affinity Herbals (Northampton, MA)

“For sore throats or strep throat I’ve used sage gargles and drunk thyme tea, but what’s worked best for me is combining usnea and echinacea in tincture form (infusions would also be great). I used to get strep throat all the time as a kid and decided to try this combo a couple of years ago and it was gone in a couple of days.” — Cathy Whitely (Florence, MA)

“To treat a sore throat. Put 3 drops of Ravensara essential oil in 2 quarts of hot water from the tap. Stir. Soak cloth in mixture, ring out, wrap around neck. Secure with plastic wrap.” — Kathleen Duffy

“I do not remember who gave me this recipe, but as a singer and voice teacher it is the one I give out the most. It has rescued me many a time from sore throats and laryngitis, as well as keeping me warm from the inside out all through the winter. As I understand it, ginger is a tonic for the throat and for the digestion, as well as having the ability to keep you warm at the core. Grate 6 tsp (or more) of fresh ginger. Put it in a two quart saucepan and fill the saucepan to the top with boiling water. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain out the ginger for each cup you drink, making sure you add a bit of honey to aid in digestion. I return the ginger to the original pot and let sit, making the remainder tea stronger over time. You can cut it with more water if the original preparation becomes too strong.” — Justina Golden, The Profound Sound Voice Studio (Florence, MA)

“I use the tincture of collinsonia as centerpiece for a throat formula I call Performer’s Throat. Its fairly miraculous for bringing a voice back that’s been rocked by overuse. Even as close to a performance as an hour. The only time it doesn’t seem to work is when the person actually has laryngitis. It brings circulation to that area, widening out tightened cords. Also, interestingly, it does similar things for the colon, so is also good for hemorrhoids, and for prolapse of any kind. My Performer’s Throat formula changes a bit from here to there, but always contains at least collinsonia, calamus, spilanthes, propolis. I’ll add glycerin for taste, maybe a touch of ginger, sometimes elder, sometimes yerba mansa.” — Chris Marano

Previous Posts:

Tony(a) LemosTony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA, she also maintains an herbal medicine practice in Western Mass. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest and the Women’s Herbal Conference.  Tony(a) is presently working on her next community supported project, a collection of the spirit and wisdom of the valley’s women offerring alternative remedies and support for those dealing with Post Partum Depression and related condition.  A call for submissions will follow. A Cure for What Ails appears on the second Tuesday of every month.

Photo credit: (ccl) boo lee

25 Western MA Folk Remedies for Colds & Flu

Colds & Flu

"One home remedy that has really worked for my husband when he feels like he’s coming down with a cold or flu is Elderberry syrup. The trick is to take a tablespoon of the syrup as soon as you feel you’re coming down with a cold or flu and not wait until you are ill." - Blanche Cybele Derby, Northampton, MA

Dar Williams, Singer/Songwriter, writes:

“The Pioneer Valley is positively folkloric when it comes to the cure for common ills. Go to a dinner party and describe the exact nature of your cough. You’ll hear an unparalleled range of spiritual and anatomical folk wisdom.

“Perhaps this is because our prehistoric lake bottom valley left us with rich soil and contemplative scenery, well suited for agricultural and metaphysical concerns alike. Perhaps it’s the New England legacy of self-reliance in the face of hardships that no technology can conquer. Or perhaps it’s all those women.

“All I know is, my friends have literally brought gnarled roots to my doorstep and made me chew on them. Echinacea from their own gardens and burdock from their own yards. They offer tinctures made from plants they wildcrafted and prepared themselves. They have shared countless inventive suggestions for internal and external applications of garlic.

“The valley is blessed this way, and A Cure For What Ails is a compilation of all our cultural richness, not to mention the kind of advice we desperately need when we’ve got a common cold or uncommon cramps. Sure it’s a little weird to live in a place where a five year old can ask for oscillococinum, but when a friend lays a warm, neighborly hand on my shoulder and says my lymph is draining sluggishly, I know I’m home. And when she then pushes down firmly to facilitate the drainage of toxins, I know I’m loved.”

Folks Remedies: Colds & Flu

“When coming home chilled to the bones and feeling sickness coming on. Take a medicinal shower. Turning up heat as high as you can take it, getting used to it, and then slowly cranking up heat, until the room is steamy and you forgot you were ever cold and steam is rising from your skin. Then bundling up. Make and sip a strong cup of fresh ginger tea sweetened with honey. That usually does the trick.” — Chris Marano

“Whenever I feel a cold coming on, I breathe deeply into my shoulder blades, imagining the relaxing of muscles and releasing of blood from all the eddies and knots that form with stress.”— Dar Williams, Singer songwriter

“Peach pit tea is one of my favorite home remedies to strengthen the immune & lymph systems and to help to ward off colds and flu. It is totally safe and delicious, great for children too. So start to collect and dry the pits from all those locally grown juicy peaches you eat during the summer months. To prevent them from molding, wash the pit thoroughly in water before drying. — Here’s how you brew it. Pour 1 quart of water over 6 peach pits. Simmer for half to 1 hour. Strain out the pits & drink this naturally sweet tea. The pits can be reused 2-3 times before returning to the earth.”   — Submitted by Tony(a) Lemos with thanks to my friend and teacher, Kate Gilday, for this remedy. For many years Kate was a community herbalist in Wendell Ma, before moving to upstate N.Y.

“When I start to feel sick I just do the standard stuff, I take Echinacea tincture and vitamin C, drink lots of fluids and go to sleep. Sometimes I use a hot water steam to clear my sinuses. Or I make up a batch of red sauce with lots of garlic, an “Italian Chicken Soup.” — Jeff, Paradise Copies

“Illness coming on is always helped when we feel some love – maybe in the form of a massage from a friend, or simple reassurance from someone close to us that it is really okay to be out of commission for a little while, and that they will take time to make us a healthy meal and bring it to us with a smile and some healing tea. If there is a cold coming on, and that meal has cooked greens in it, the cold may very well u-turn. One thing that I always mention to people is yarrow tincture — it elevates the body temperature so that the body can efficiently do what it is already trying to do — remove waste from the body. Hemlock (from evergreen trees) tea is also warming, full of vitamin C, readily available and free. I also find that when a full blown cold takes me over, if I swerve into the skid (let myself feel deathly ill for a couple days — stay in bed, avoid commercial pharmaceuticals) that there is some lovely gem of transformation going on — some sadness that I’ve been holding onto that I have time to face and answer to in my life once I’m up and out of bed again. So, not resisting, and letting oneself enjoy being sick can be medicine in itself.” — Michelle Wilde, woman of the earth, dreamer, singer, and sacred artivist.

“When I feel myself having problems with regular nosebleeds or sore throats or something, that is the time I just check myself and figure out what is outta balance in my life – whether I am not getting enough sleep or whether I am too stressed out about work or having troubles. I try to address those problems before I do any external remedies.” — David Fisher, Conway, Natural Roots, CSA Farm

“My mother would put me under cozy warm covers and bring me hot chamomile tea. She would rub my feet, my back, hold me and she would ask with a special loving sparkle in her eyes ‘would you like any treats?'” — Leela Whitcomb-Hewitt, Child of the Valley

“In winter when I am sick (or not) my mom makes me hot chocolate. When I am sick I usually rest in bed and do quiet activities.” — Sam Robbins, Age 11

“In winter if I am sick my mom spends money on me to get me medicine. In winter if I am sick my mom gives me shelter.” — Mary Robbins, Age 9

“Whenever my son has a fever and I need it to go down, (I generally let it ride for a couple days to see if it will break on it’s own) but if he’s burning up or it’s low grade and stagnant for a while I give him either a 1/2 dropper of Elder flower tincture in warm water and have him sip it or I give him Elder flower tea 1 tsp./8oz. water. You can administer it by a teaspoon or dropper for younger children and babies. It works like a charm every time.” — Carrie Desmarais

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A Cure for What Ails: How to Stay Healthy in the Happy Valley

An Introduction

We’re thrilled to welcome our newest addition to our team of contributing writers, Tony(a) Lemos of Blazing Star Herbal School, with her monthly column, A Cure For What Ails. Tony(a) will be sharing monthly excerpts from the out of print book, A Cure for What Ails, a book of folk remedies from the Pioneer Valley here in Western Mass.

Rosemary Gladstar writes:

This book is a real treasure. Let’s hope it doesn’t get lost on the bookshelf among the more polished books with fancy covers, because as an herb book, as a collection of folk remedies, and as a compendium of down home sensible living, this is a big book with real soul.

A Cure for What Ails began as a project between editor Tony(a) Lemos and singer songwriter Dar Williams when they decided over “a cup of coffee” to “harness the spirit and wisdom of the favorite folk remedies of the local’s of the Pioneer Valley. They could not have done a finer job. One not only finds excellent remedies- well organized, by the way- but tidbits of earthy wisdom, poems written by locals and wise sayings from the folks of the Happy Valley. “

A Cure for What Ails is a collection of tidbits for living well, remedies for common ailments, and wise words for staying healthy written by folks who use their suggestions. That’s what I loved about this small delectable tome -it is a book of common sense practices flavored with just the perfect touch of spice! Thank you, Tony(a), Dar and Diana. You create a real jewel not only for people of Pioneer Valley but for all of us who  appreciate simple remedies for living well.

Rosemary Gladstar
Author Herbal Healing for Women, founder of California School of Herbal Studies, Sage Mountain and United Plant Savers.

Check out A Cure for What Ails the second Tuesday of each month and look for Tony(a)’s first post in January.  Join her in and discover local folk remedies from here in Western Massachusetts!

Tony(a) LemosTony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA, she also maintains an herbal medicine practice in Western Mass. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest and the Women’s Herbal Conference.  Tony(a) is presently working on her next community supported project, a collection of the spirit and wisdom of the valley’s women offerring alternative remedies and support for those dealing with Post Partum Depression and related condition.  A call for submissions will follow.

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