Creating “trustable” home remedies

Essential oil blend of the day – cypress, lemon, patchouli. I rub it behind George’s ear and he shakes me off. Later, seeing the li’l Alice in Wonderland style bottle on his desk, he asks what it is.

I tell him, “That’s what I put behind your ear.”

“What’s it for? Just rub it on myself?”


“You say that, but… where? And why?”

If I didn’t know better I’d say women find herbalism more appealing then men do. My dad is a total baby about herbal remedies. He needs everything to be sweet.

Have you noticed how commercial wellness providers inspire confidence? Check the packaging. From standardized orange bottles to smooth white packets, medications and popular supplements are trusted because they look manufactured.

We have been trained to trust commercial, factory or lab-made products* more than what came from your aunt’s yard. When I first started dabbling in herbalism, my mom immediately started warning me about all the poisonous plants I would encounter, warning me against everything from dandelions to wild carrot. But she’ll take anything in a bottle she picks up at the store, unconcerned that supplements and vitamins are minimally regulated and often contain fillers and toxins.

A few years ago I sold a car to a couple of resellers disguised as a desperate couple. The wife kept telling me cheerfully, “I just want to buy from someone trustable.” That they weren’t exactly “trustable” became clear later when I found the car relisted on Craigslist… but hey, they paid me more than I expected for the darn thing, so more power to ’em. The word “trustable” became a beloved part of my lexicon.

As a home herbalist, how do we make trustable remedies for our loved ones? Research on the placebo and nocebo effect show that confidence is absolutely vital to the power of the remedy. The argument could be made that the success of the remedy rests entirely in the patient’s beliefs about it – what he or she is willing to receive from it.

A few ideas to start the conversation.



Honey, stevia, cinnamon, anise, and fruit juices can add natural sweetness. If doses will be larger, bear in mind any hypoglycemia or diabetic issues.


Some people will actually prefer a remedy that smells or tastes “strong.” Herbs that can lend this quality include eucalyptus, mint, wintergreen, lemon, menthol.


Texture plays a big part, if you’re looking to calm someone emotionally or systemically, add any kind of milk or creamy liquid, from dairy or coconut cream. Honey or molasses (just a little, and sweeten it) help too.

Alternatively, peppermint, anise, and chamomile are go-to herbs for emotional and digestive calm.

Topical applications like salves will force the patient to touch themselves, which is usually soothing by itself.

Fragrance, whether diffusing an essential oil, putting potpourri on the stove, or burning a candle, contributes to a soothing atmosphere around the patient in addition to any inhaled benefits. If inhalation is necessary, make sure it’s something pure and that they are within a few feet of the source.

Music, music, music.



The cliched Western remedy of a shot of whiskey has its merits. If the issue is related to stress, anxiety, depression or even a startling event, make something bracing.

  • Chai spices like ginger, cardamom, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  • I like tangy combinations involving hibiscus, tulsi, fennel, and a squeeze of lemon juice to give it zing.
  • Mexican hot chocolate with a little cayenne or chili pepper and cinnamon.
  • Spicy foods, if the person tolerates them, can stimulate digestion and sweating to flush toxins.
  • Grapefruit juice combined with kombucha, hibiscus or tulsi tea, and/or seltzer water.


  • Present it with a smile and a calm mindset.
  • Even if you have doubts, don’t say them out loud to your patient.
  • If your patient is skeptical, be prepared with a few simple references to back up your choice, for instance, “This is peppermint and chamomile tea to soothe your stomach.” Don’t bore the patient, just have the assurances ready.
  • If serving tea, include the saucer, spoon, sweetener, whatever is needed for them to remove the tea bag / filter etc.

*I hate this word.