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Kitchen Cupboard Medicine, by Barefoot Yankee Gal

Open your kitchen cupboard and what do you see?  Salt, pepper, ginger, dill, alum, meat tenderizer, honey, molasses, baking soda; and the list can go on.  Viewed as flavor enhancers and condiments these are tasty additions to any meal.  But there is a hidden world of medicinal benefit in many of those little tins and shaker-topped jars.

When you reach for the alum to eliminate a canker sore, or swallow a teaspoonful of honey to soothe a sore throat, or make a moist plaster of meat tenderizer to take the sting out of a bee-bite, you are practicing “Kitchen Cupboard Medicine”. Kitchen Cupboard Medicine has been practiced for hundreds of years. In his ancient, surviving text, De Medicina [1], Aulus Cornelius Celsus’s (ca 25 BC—ca 50) references a pain relieving pill containing pepper; but only recently, with the assistance of studies and evidence-based medicine, have the benefits been proven and better understood.
As sensible and simple as treating your self or others with the every-day supplies from your kitchen cupboard may seem, it is important to know when to go to your health care provider.  High fevers, sudden and/or severe pain, broken bones and profuse bleeding may need the attention of a professional.  In these cases your kitchen cupboard may have what you need for that stop-gap-measure to ease the problem while you get to the doctor or hospital – but remember – reaching into your cupboard to treat an ailment or accident should be to obtain help, not practice heroics.
You do not need to feel intimidated by the number of herbs or spices that are listed here.  The cost of a small jar of herbs or spices can seem intimidating, but you are not bound strictly to the baking aisle to acquire these little gems of culinary interest and healing.  I have become very fond of the bulk aisle at our local WinCo grocery store.  There I found small shaker-topped bottles for $1.25 and nearly every spice or herb listed in this article for well under the per-ounce price of the pre-packaged ones in the fancier containers displayed in another part of the store.  Thrift stores are another fun place to scrounge around in to enhance your stash of containers.

Many of the remedies call for the herb or spice to be made into a tea for consumption, as a poultice or to be used as a wash.  Again, you can buy the spice or herbs in bulk for this or buy the ready-made tea bags.  These are especially handy to have on hand and can make the remedy- making process a whole lot easier.  Watch for sales and coupons.  There are several medicinal herbal tea companies worth mentioning:  Celestial Seasonings, Yogi, and Traditional Medicines.  I have used many of their teas with outstanding success and confidently store many of their varieties.
As extensive as this list may seem; it is not a complete inventory of all the possible remedies you might find in your home.  I chose these remedies by one of four criteria.  Either, I have used it, I know someone who has, it was recommended by one of my trusted teachers, or I was able to document it’s effectiveness by researching evidence-based studies.  Some of these will work very well for you; while others maybe not so much.  Whether you choose an herb or spice from your cupboard, a veggie from your refrigerator or a piece of fruit from the bowl on your counter top, if you use your common sense and trust your intuition you will be guided to the remedies that are best for you and your family. 






COLD SORES (Herpes):


CONSTIPATION (occasional):

COUGH (with Congestion):

COUGH (Dry):





GAS (intestinal):





  • At the first sign of spreading swelling or system allergic reaction get the victim to your nearest emergency department. 
  • This is considered a true, life-threatening emergency.




OTITIS MEDIA: (middle ear infection):










Oral Rehydration Solution for Children
               From: Rehydration Project at http://rehydrate.org/ [2]

1 Liter water (5 cups)
6 level tsp. sugar
½ level tsp. salt

     Be very careful to mix the correct amounts. Too much sugar can make the diarrhea worse. Too much salt can be extremely harmful to the child. Making the mixture a little too diluted (with more than 1 liter of clean water) is not harmful.

Salty-Sage Gargle s(this one is my favorite)

2 tsp dried sage or 2 Tbsp. of fresh sage
1 tsp sea/rock salt
1/2 pint of boiling water

Infuse for 10 minutes then strain and use the mixture for gargling – do not swallow.


From: Tankard Recipes and Drinking Customs, compiled by Donlyn Meyers, 1993

Switchel is an old-time remedy for thirst during the hot summer days of haying.  It is a useful natural electrolyte-balancing drink when made with molasses – which contains magnesium and potassium; and has the added benefit of vitamins and other minerals. When made with honey it may replenish energy, enhance physical stamina, improve the immune systems, and aid in digestion.
8 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

“Heat together water, sugar, vinegar, molasses, and ginger until the sugar dissolves. Cool and serve in glasses. This drink was a sort of German Gatorade, for work in the fields giving sweating men sugar, electrolytes [sic] and minerals quickly.”

Barley Water
Barley water is a soothing, nutrient-dense drink.  It has been used to help those that are recovering from long-term illness and children that fail-to-thrive; it has helped some with kidney problems, urinary tract infections and gastric distress.  It is a comforting drink when cough and sore throat are troublesome.

Old Fashioned Lemon (Citrus) Barley Water
                        From:  http://www.food.com/ [3]


  • 1/2 cup pearl barley  
  • water
  • 10 cups water, extra
  • 1 lemons, rind of, grated
  • 1 cup lemon juice ( or other juice of choice)
  • 1 cup sugar


  1. Rinse the barley well.
  2. Cover barley in a pot with cold water and bring to the boil, drain.
  3. Return barley to saucepan with the lemon rind & 10 cups water, cook slowly for 1 hour.
  4. Add the lemon juice & sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  5. Strain and chill to serve.
  6. Discarded barley can be mixed with some dried fruit and nuts and warm milk and makes a great breakfast.

Be watchful. Be wise. Be well.


This information is for education only and is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent or prescribe for any disease or medical condition.

All information in this presentation is for reference purpose only and not intended to substitute advice given by a pharmacist, physician or other licensed health care professional.

Do not use this information for treating a disease or to make a self-diagnosis. Should any of the symptoms or signs noted and described in this presentation be present, seek the advice of your primary care physician for testing and diagnosis. A serious medical condition could occur if left unattended.

Celsus, Aulus Cornelius. (1478). De Medicina. [4] Retrieved from: http://maps.thefullwiki.org/De_Medicina [1]
Hobbs, Christopher, L.Ac. (1998). Herbal Remedies for Dummies. California. IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. pp 167-189
Leonard, David Bruce, L.Ac. Medicine at Your Feet. ( 2012). Kitchen Alchemy. Retrieved from: http://www.kitchenalchemy.com/ [5]
Pollard, Ted (founder). Health911 Media, Inc. (2010). Health Conditions. Retrieved from: http://www.health911.com/healthconditions [6]
The Guardian Society 04/12/2007 Randerson, James (4 December 2007). “Honey ‘beats cough medicine'”. The Guardian (London).
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/dec/04/health.medicalresearch [7]

Wellspring School for Asian Bodywork. (2003) Lecture Notes: Herbal First Aid. Rylen Feeney, Instructor.  Boise, ID

Bananas:African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 8 (7), pp. 1176-1182, 6 April, 2009
Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/AJB [8]
ISSN 1684–5315 © 2009 Academic Journals
Barley Water recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/old-fashioned-lemon-citrus-barley-water-229027 [9]
Cayenne: http://www.zhealthinfo.com/doctor.htm [10]
Diarrhea: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/diarrhea-000050.htm [11]
Diarrhea/Cardamom: http://www.home-remedies.info/home-remedies/diarrhoea.htm [12]
Honey: http://www.answers.com/topic/honey#ixzz1jmHEoqy2 [13]

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#1 Comment By Grasshopper On March 6, 2018 @ 10:44 pm

Yarrow powder works better to stop bleeding than cayenne. I’ve witnessed how fast it works. The absolute best suggested burn remedy of any degree is a paste made of wheat germ oil, comfrey root powder, and raw honey. Mix = amounts oil/honey, add enough comfrey root powder to make a thin spreadable paste. Spread gently over the wound or pack if necessary, then dress with bandage. Change dressing once per day. Wet bandage with lukewarm water to remove if necessary. Gently pat dry. Do not wipe away remaining ointment. Re pack with fresh ointment and repeat until necessary as wound heals. Severe burns can cause shock. A strong suggestion is to administer 1/2 tsp Cayenne in 1/2 cup of warm water immediately. This is also helpful for the onset of a heart attack. Cayenne is an amazing herb. As always, consult your doctor first before applying these suggestions as these are only suggestions and not medical advice.