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A City Girl’s Guide to Herbal Cures

you’re never too busy for a tincture!

by elizabeth koke

The first days of fall always signal a fresh start, even if you aren’t returning to school. The changing of the seasons reminds us of our connection to the natural world, as the days get shorter, the air starts to feel cooler, and farmers market offerings change. What better way to celebrate the season than by getting deep with nature?

“Herbal medicine has been part of me for as long as I can remember,” says Jovial King, co-founder of Urban Moonshine, a brand offering a beautiful range of herbal tonics. “I love plants, flowers, and the wild, mysterious beauty of nature. I feel empowered by reaching into my medicine chest of teas, tinctures, oils or by walking to the garden and harvesting herbs.”

Even us busy city dwellers can experience this feeling of empowerment and benefit from the magic of plants—if we take a little time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. How about a potion to calm us on a crowded subway when we’re late for an important meeting? Or one to help cure us after a night of Margaritas? This and more is all at our fingertips.

According to King, a good first step for anyone interested in an herbal medicine practice is to purchase a great teapot or strainer and to pick up a few good reference books. There are many wonderful herbal medicine guides out there, and several feature illustrations and step-by-step instruction. Check out your local bookstore, but in the meantime you can start your new life as an urban herbalist today with our research findings—even if your window garden isn’t quite blooming yet. 

Ailment: Commuter stressRemedy: Lavender

Lavender is known for its calming properties. Ever take a bath with lavender-scented suds? You’re already an expert on this! For times when you’re stuck in traffic or on a crowded, stressful subway, you can make a sachet filled with dried lavender and keep it in your purse to breathe in during your commute. Or you can mix dried lavender and lavender essential oil into a DIY salve to rub into dry hands or on pulse points, like the one the team at Autostraddle shared. You can also just pick up a lavender essential oil roll-on like this one! 

Ailment: Hangover Remedy: Ginger

Maybe you’ve drank ginger ale when you’ve had an upset stomach. Ginger is wonderful for soothing nausea, and also reduces inflammation in general. So the morning after a rager, in addition to hydrating well, make yourself some strong ginger tea. Grated fresh ginger is the best, and you will be amazed by how powerful it is. And if you are too hungover to make that happen for yourself, pop into your local juice bar and ask for a ginger shot. Juice shops like The Juice Press in NYC offer several potions featuring strong doses of ginger.

Ailment: Sore feet Remedy: Cayenne Pepper

You might recall the first season of Orange Is the New Black when Piper wins back Red’s affection by making a DIY muscle rub of hot peppers. Turns out that cayenne contains a chemical called capsaicin, which is known to relieve joint and muscle pain. You could add some cayenne to a foot soak, or mix ¼ to a ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper to olive oil or coconut oil to make your own muscle rub. But first, make sure you don’t have any open wounds or blisters, because ouch!

Ailment: Indigestion Remedy: Bitters

Did you eat one too many slices of pizza and now have stomach pain? Bitters to the rescue! Bitter flavors signal to the digestive system to get to work. Now, we could write a whole article about blending and distilling your own bitters. Certainly, there are homesteading hipsters throughout Brooklyn doing it. But for our purposes, you can check out Urban Moonshine’s assortment of digestive bitters in various size bottles (so you can carry it with you!) and flavors including Maple and Citrus. 

With these simple herbal remedies at your fingertips, you’ll become the magic witch of your own wellbeing. Imagine how impressed your friends will be when you whip out from your purse some emergency lavender or digestive bitters during a moment of need. Finally, Jovial King also wants to remind us to be aware and take in our surroundings, as this is an important part of being an herbalist. “Look up, pay attention, tune into the seasons and what's happening around you. Get friendly with the plants that grow in the sidewalks near your house—see how they grow, change, and adapt as the year goes by.”