Cumberland Times-News

Local News

January 31, 2011

Herbal remedies can have numerous uses

Some common seasonings have surprising benefits

CUMBERLAND — Black cohosh, witch hazel, ginseng and slippery elm have been in use as herbal remedies for hundreds of years. But the most widely used remedy is not something only herbalists and natural healers prescribe.

“Garlic is the most-used medicinal herb in the world,” said Mimi Hernandez, the coordinator for the Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies at Frostburg State University.

Hernandez, also a clinical herbalist with the Council of American Herbalists Guild, named numerous benefits to the commonly used member of the Alliaceae family, which also includes other pungent root vegetables like onions, shallots and chives.

Eating garlic as a first response for colds is something that Hernandez does herself.

“Garlic fumes kill germs,” said Hernandez, adding that in addition to the detoxifying qualities of fumigation of the lungs, it also boosts the immune system.

Hernandez said that garlic is good for pin worms, which commonly affect children, and soaking garlic cloves in honey for a few weeks, then draining it off, provides a tasty treat for kids.

Both Hernandez and Rosie Cupler, owner of the Herb Barn in Grantsville and certified licensed practical nurse, agree that garlic is a good cure for earaches.

Cupler recommends dripping a few drops of a garlic oil and tea tree oil combination, while Hernandez pairs her garlic with mullein flower and olive oil for a similar effect.

“I think this is a phenomenal remedy because it is so effective,” said Hernandez.

Cupler said that another common spice for alleviating common cold symptoms is capsicum, or cayenne pepper. Cupler recommends mixing cayenne pepper with tomato juice to alleviate a sore throat immediately and to help with the onset of cold itself.

Hernandez agrees.

“I always say, spice it up to clear it up,” said Hernandez, who also recommends cayenne pepper for cold symptoms.

Hernandez said that cayenne pepper works so well because it  has antiseptic qualities, stimulates secretions, washes microbes away and helps to stimulate the blood flow for healing.

“An eighth of a teaspoon on the tongue,” recommends Hernandez, also saying that if you can handle more, take it.

Sunshine Brosi, an ethnobotany professor at FSU, has a doctorate in the study of the relationships between people and plants and has learned how it relates to the Appalachian Mountains.

“(I’ve) really focused on the Appalachian region,” said Brosi.

One of the herbs that Brosi says is popular for this region is black cohosh. The root is known to help menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood swings. Brosi also said that it is growing in popularity as an alternative to hormone therapy.

On Hernandez’s website, she lists black cohosh as helping with headaches, joint pain and water retention, and also lowering blood pressure.

Brosi also said that witch hazel is often sought out in the Appalachias for its astringent qualities and is good for treating acne and hemorrhoids.

Keyser, W.Va., resident Dorothy Malkie has been a supporter of alternative medicine since she started nursing school in 1943.

“It’s very complicated, and you have to know your own body,” said Malkie.

Malkie grows herbs that she mainly uses for cooking, but does make peppermint tea, which she said helps her to relax and soothe stomachaches. Another antidote that Malkie praises is a homemade cough syrup of onions and honey, which is something she learned from her mother and frequently uses for her husband’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“I’m not against home remedies. They work very well for me, but I do have a background,” said Malkie, adding that her nurse’s training from 1943 to 1945 taught her much about it.

She says that back then, even to give a cup of peppermint tea to a patient, they had to have the doctor’s approval.

One spice that both Hernandez and Cupler recommend cooking with is tumeric. Both said that it helps with arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory qualities. Hernandez said that it can help in the prevention of heart disease and with hayfever.

Hernandez recommends that for a tasty remedy, mix tumeric with “your favorite nut butter to help with arthritis.”

Another popular regional mainstay of alternative medicine is also a member of the onion and garlic family.

“One harvested pretty often is ramps,” said Brosi, adding that they are good for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Emily Newman can be contacted at

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