Herbal Love from the Kitchen

It was a cold and stormy evening in Midtown (near Downtown Detroit), but that didn’t stop me from going to my first herbal remedies class – this one was for treating seasonal allergies. My family suffers from seasonal allergies and, being the au natural gal that I am, I was excited to learn what Mother Nature had to offer. As I pulled up to the class, I was a little nervous (I came alone), but hopeful that I would meet some friendly people who were novices like me.

As I entered the door of People’s Kitchen Detroit (PKD) I was greeted by smiling faces who were gathering in a quaint, warm and welcoming kitchen. The space emanated the feeling of how it must have been back in the day, when communities came together to learn, share, and grow through the interconnectedness of food. This is what PKD is all about. They are a community kitchen, pantry and healing garden that provide Detroiters with access to healthy, local fare, as well as an opportunity to cook and eat together. What better way to build community than through education, empowerment and food? In my opinion, there are few.

The class began with everyone introducing themselves and why they chose to attend. One particular story was memorable because a woman came all the way from Germany to learn about the food justice culture in America. Hearing about the differences between what’s happening in Oakland, CA, Germany and Detroit was very interesting stuff!

Then, it was time to get down to the business of learning about herbal concoctions that can help and/or prevent treat these darn seasonal allergies. Yay! Here are a few tidbits from the class:

  • It’s better to pay attention to plant categories than to use specific plants for specific reasons (i.e. nettle is only good for X). Categories provide you with more plants that can treat your symptoms, as well as provide other benefits. You can learn more about the categories here.   
  • Plants, such as calendula, violet, strawberry, ragweed and goldenrod, can be used in eye washes to soothe irritated eyes throughout the year. Here’s a recipe for making calendula eye wash.
  • Plantain is excellent for calming allergic reactions topically and can be applied straight from the plant, as well as in salves and infused oils.
  • Some of the best essential oils for soothing allergy symptoms are eucalyptus, peppermint and tea tree. To use, pour hot water in a bowl, use 20-25 drops of your choice oil in the water, put a towel over your head and bowl and breathe in the steam.
  • Ground Ivy (Creepy Charlie) works well to treat congestion and upper respiratory infections. Steep the ivy in hot water and breathe it in using the “towel over the head” method listed above.
  • Dandelion is great for GI tracts issues. You can use the entire plant in different ways – check some out here. (Note: I’ve read that allergies and eczema derive from problems in the GI tract, so this was of particular interest to me.)
  • Always cover your herbal teas while they’re steeping to prevent the natural oils from evaporating.Don’t let those beneficial oils disappear!

As you can see, we covered a lot in the two hour class. The information I learned was enough to peak my interest to learn even more about herbs. I’ll definitely be attending more of PKD’s classes and other events, including Food Justice Friday’s family-style community meal and parent-child cooking classes. If you’re in the metro Detroit area I encourage you to do the same. Here’s to local food, building community, and good health!

The information I share here should not be considered medical advice. Please do your own research and/or consult your medical practitioner before trying any herbal remedies to prevent contraindications with current medications you may be taking or other adverse side effects.

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