By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society
Last winter the urgent care center diagnosed me with the flu, I’ve never been quite as sick as I was for that month. I spent several days in bed and using all herbal remedies to support healing. Daquil/Nyquil just made me feel worse and went straight into the garbage.
I started with homemade bone broth. Herb and spice-spiked chicken broths are well known to promote the movement of nasal congestion and thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. I feel better with every bowl I eat, proving the old adage: Let your food be your medicine.
For a powerful immune-boosting soup I take cues from the Legend of the Four Thieves. In this story, aromatherapy, herbal, and alchemical worlds collide and take on mythical proportions. The legend takes place when the bubonic plague hit Europe and killed large percentages of the population.
Supposedly four thieves from Marseilles were robbing plague-ridden corpses without getting sick. They are thought to have been perfumers with access to and knowledge of essential oils, herbs, and spices.
At their trial the King offered the thieves leniency in return for the formula that protected them from the plague. Their list included lavender, sage, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme, onion, mustard seed, cloves, oregano and lemon.
While the legend has never been confirmed and their recipe is interesting, all of the herbs and spices (except eucalyptus) read like a delicious and immune-boosting chicken soup recipe to me; so into the stock pot they go. If I’m lucky enough to have fresh stinging nettles that’s a mineral rich bonus.
To serve I top each serving with whole basil leaves, hard boiled eggs, a dash of Himalayan salt, and a squeeze of fresh lime. I can’t help but feel better with every bowl I eat. Legions of Jewish and Asian grandmothers absolutely knew what they were doing.
Another application of the legend is a Four Thieves spray. I make it with white wine vinegar and essential oils — lemon, lavender, cinnamon, clove, rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, and eucalyptus. My formula is three cups of vinegar and 20 drops of each oil. To use it I shake well and spray counter tops, cellphones, and other surfaces.
These same oils can also be diffused in an essential oil diffuser. Likewise, mixed into a body cream or lotion, eucalyptus oil, lemon, sage, and lavender oils (no more than three drops of each oil!) make a soothing, aroma-therapeutic chest rub.
I hope we’ll never need these recipes to protect from anything as serious as the bubonic plague and I hope that none of you catch any of these awful bugs that are going around this winter. However, if you do, treat yourself to soothing herbal self-care and pampering.