Natural Remedies from Your Kitchen
Fennel, Ginger and Cinnamon
By Dr. Michelle Decker, ND and Dr. Kyle Maynard, ND
There are many different kitchen herbs we could discuss that can be used as natural remedies. We picked these five because they are common, affordable and when used right, can be quite powerful medicine. Today we will cover fennel, ginger and cinnamon.
To start, here are a few of rules:
- Natural doesn’t mean healthy
- Natural doesn’t mean safe
- To be an effective medicine, regular dosing is required
- See a naturopathic doctor if:
- The remedies aren’t working for you
- You are relying on them too much or too often
- You have an adverse reaction (rash, heartburn, worsening of symptoms etc.)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare):
Fennel is one of the natural remedies traditionally used to treat digestive issues, and respiratory conditions. In herbal medicine, Fennel is considered a carminative and can treat common digestive problems including bloating, colic and gas. Fennel can also help with bronchitis and coughs, especially when they are non-productive. Topically, warm Fennel tea can be used as a compress for eye infections such as blepharitis, and conjunctivitis.
How it works:
Fennel contains lots of volatile oils. When ingested, the volatile oils are slightly irritating to the stomach and stimulate peristalsis to help mobilize and prevent formation of gas in the GI tract. This irritation also causes a spinal reflex which stimulates mucous production in the lungs. Increased mucous helps soothe a dry cough and fight the infection. The volatile oils in Fennel are anti-microbial and when used as a compress help treat eye infections.
To aid digestion and soothe a dry cough, chew 1 tsp of Fennel seeds or steep 1-2 tsp of Fennel seeds in boiled water for 15 minutes. For digestive issues, use after a big meal or when you have bloating or gas; for dry cough, drink one cup of tea three times a day.
To treat eye infections, make the tea as above and apply to a clean cloth and place over infected eye for 10-15 minutes, three times a day.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale):
The best known use for ginger is nausea from motion sickness, pregnancy and chemotherapy. Even gastroenterologists are recognizing the power of natural remedies like ginger. Like fennel, ginger is a carminative so treats bloating and gas as well as other digestive conditions including lack of appetite, constipation and diarrhea. Ginger can be used topically for joint pain caused by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and bursitis.
How it works:
It is unclear how ginger works for nausea but some research suggesting ginger inhibits serotonin receptors in the GI tract and the central nervous system. Gingerols are anti-inflammatory which may play a role in reducing pain in “itis” conditions. Zingerone, the spicy component to ginger, is related to the molecule capsaicin in hot peppers, which may contribute to its analgesic effect when use topically.
Ginger is a versatile herb that can be to put into many dishes, either sweet or savory but to get a medicinal dose, between 3-5g of fresh ginger is needed. To make a ginger tea, steep 1-2 g of sliced ginger in boiling water for 15 minutes and drink 1 cup, three times a day. See the cinnamon section for a great cold & flu tea.
To use ginger topically on a sore joint, grate enough ginger to cover the affected area and wrap it with a cloth. If any irritation occurs, wash the area with soap and water and discontinue.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.):
In addition to cinnamon’s known anti-microbial activity, several studies have shown a beneficial effect of cinnamon in regulating blood sugar in Type II diabetics. Topically, cinnamon is a great household tool to use to stop bleeding.
How it works:
The anti-microbial activity of cinnamon is partially due to cinnamaldehyde which is toxic to bacteria, fungi and parasites. The blood sugar regulating properties of cinnamon are likely due to more than one molecule. Methylhydroxychalcone, a flavonoid, increases insulin sensitivity due to its ability to bind to insulin receptors.
Ground cinnamon can act as a styptic (stops bleeding) because of the very high surface area that aids in clotting. The anti-microbial properties help prevent infection of the wound.
To use cinnamon for immune support, diabetes and blood sugar regulation a minimum of 2 tsp/ day as a tea or in foods is required. For paper cuts, nicks when shaving, or other minor wounds, pour a small amount of powdered cinnamon to stop the bleeding.
“Cold and Flu” Tea – This tea is great for soothing a sore throat or a cough.
- Base tea – ex. Peppermint, Echinacea, or any other herbal tea
- 3-4 slices of ginger
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- Dash of cayenne
- 1-3 tsp honey – depending on personal taste
- Boil water to brew your base tea with the ginger – steep as directed on the package or 10 minutes if using loose herb.
- In a cup, mix together the remainder of the ingredients. This should form a thick paste. Add your hot tea to the cup, stir until combined. Can have up to three times a day.
- Can always make up a larger batch of the paste and keep it in the refrigerator for up to a few days.
- Option: Make into popsicles for kids when they are sick!
Stay tuned for Part Two where we will be discussing the natural remedies, garlic and turmeric.