Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Dandelion Folklore and Magical Properties

In places that enjoy warm winters, these bright yellow flowers can be spotted year round. If you’re in a temperate area like I am, then you’re probably seeing them all over as we get ready to enter the last month or so of their peak flowering season — especially as business closures and shelter-in-place orders leave a lot of outdoor spaces untended.

Believe it or not, these ubiquitous yellow blooms aren’t actually native to the U.S. In places where they grow naturally, they’re a valuable source of food for honeybees. While they may not be quite as useful to U.S. wildlife, they still have a ton of magical properties that make them a valuable addition to your herb cabinet (and, if you enjoy the flavor, your tea cupboard and salad bowl).

Dandelion Magical Uses and Folklore

The name dandelion comes from the French phrase “dent de lion,” or “tooth of the lion.” Another, more accurate, name is “pissenlit.” “Lit” means “bed.” The rest, I’ll leave up to your imagination.

On a related note, dandelion is a diuretic.

When a dandelion sets seeds, its yellow flower turns into a nimbus of fluff. Pick a dandelion, make a wish, and give it a good, hard puff — the seeds will scatter, carrying your wish with them.

Similarly, if you have a bad habit you want to get rid of, blowing on a dandelion puff will carry it away from you. They can also carry your affections to a distant loved one.

Dandelion puffs are also used in love divination. If you think of your beloved and blow on one, it will show you how loved you are. If the seeds completely disperse, your beloved is infatuated with you. If some seeds remain, they have some reservations.

After you blow on a dandelion puff, watch the direction that the seeds go. It will show you where to seek your fortune.

Hold a dandelion under your chin. If it shines yellow, you’ll be rich some day. A similar belief holds that, the brighter the yellow glow, the kinder you are.

In the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham writes that dandelion root tea can help with divination and prophetic dreams.

Brewing dandelion root tea and leaving a cup of it by your bedside is said to call spirits.

Including dandelions in a wedding bouquet is said to ensure happiness for the married couple.

Dandelion sap was used as a remedy for warts. Squeezing some milky sap from the stem of the plant onto a wart is said to make the wart disappear. (Though this folk remedy has been in use for hundreds — if not thousands — of years, there’s no real clinical data to back it up.)

Some use the dandelion to predict the weather. After they’ve gone to seed and become all fluffy, they are very sensitive to changes in moisture — when the weather’s likely to be wet, they’ll close up. When the rain has passed and things are going to be dry for a bit, they open so their seeds can disperse.

Dandelion is ruled by Jupiter.

The plants are associated with Hecate, Aphrodite, Brigid, Belenos, and solar deities.

Using Dandelion

The easiest way to use dandelions is in a salad. The young leaves are very good, though the adult leaves have a tendency to be bitter. You can also boil the leaves up with onions, carrots, and parsley, strain, and save the broth. It’s delicious and packed with minerals.

Roast the ground root and use it as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. I often drink a beverage made from dandelion root extract called Dandy Blend — it’s good for scratching a coffee itch, especially since I have to avoid stimulants.

All parts of the dandelion can be eaten, or even fermented. Dandelion beer uses leaves, dandelion wine uses flowers, and some root beer recipes use the roots. You can also make a delicious jelly from the flowers.

Most magical uses of dandelion involve brewing it into a tea. You can purchase prepared dandelion teas, or collect your own leaves, dry them, and use a tea strainer. Leaf tea has a pleasantly grassy flavor with some bitterness, while the roots have an interesting nutty taste. Make yourself a cup before performing a divination.

If you choose to go dandelion-foraging, don’t pick any that grow by roadsides, or that may have been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides! These plants are extremely hardy and grow basically anywhere, so you’re best off planting your own so you know what they’ve been in contact with. Many other plants also resemble dandelions, so be absolutely sure you’ve IDed your potential meal correctly.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Cardamom Folklore and Magical Uses

When I was in college, one of my lab partners was a beautiful girl whose family was from Yemen. She was always dressed very conservatively, though fashionably, but beneath her impeccably neat, studious exterior she was warm, kind, and funny as hell.

One day, she brought me some cardamom pods to try as a tea. I hadn’t ever had caramom before (that I knew of), and I was pleasantly surprised. Like she herself, their neat outer pods concealed a wealth of warmth and complexity.

 

Cardamom Magical Uses and Folklore

This ginger relative is one of the oldest spices in the world. It’s believed that it was introduced to Europe by Alexander the Great, who brought it back from the Cardamom Hills of southwest India.

As a warm spice with a hint of sweetness, it’s probably not surprising that this herb has found its way into many a love potion. Some sources associate it with Venus, while others attribute it to Mars — making it perhaps better suited for formulas for lust and passion than anything else. It’s also said to have some commanding and compelling properties, particularly in the areas of lust and love.

Since it’s a Mars herb, it’s also useful for protection. However, unlike the harsh heat of an ingredient like cayenne, cardamom is much softer and gentler — an iron fist in a velvet glove.

In some areas of Asia and Africa, it was used as an aphrodisiac.

To charm a prospective lover (or anyone else, really), chew a few cardamom seeds before talking to them.

Cardamom is an ingredient in some versions of kyphi, an ancient Egyptian incense. It’s often presented as a substitute for cinnamon. It was also used as an ingredient in several ancient perfumes.

Scent- and flavor-wise, it blends very well with a wide array of other herbs. In magical formulas, it’s often used as a catalyst. Overall, it seems to “play nicely” with a pretty impressive variety of ingredients.

Cardamom is said to have a calming, uplifting effect on mood. It relaxes the body and stimulates the mind — no wonder it’s been used as an aphrodisiac!

 

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Using Cardamom

As a culinary and magical herb, the easiest way to use cardamom is to eat it. Add the pods to soups, stews, or rice dishes and remove after cooking, the way you’d use a bay leaf. You can also add the ground spice near the end of cooking.

You can find cardamom in many Indian, Middle Eastern, Turkish, African, and Scandinavian recipes. It’s an ingredient in chai, desserts, sausage, poultry, fish, coffee, and just about any other food or beverage you can imagine.

If you want to charm a lover, serve them some food flavored with cardamom. Empower the cardamom before adding it by telling it what you want it to do, and visualizing it filling with bright, warm, red or pink light. Add the cardamom, and stir the dish with a spoon held in your dominant hand. (If you have a special spoon dedicated to kitchen witchery, so much the better). If you have a love chant, say it. Otherwise, you can sing your favorite love song (or your favorite song to bone down to).

Since cardamom comes in tidy little pods, it’s a great ingredient for love or protection sachets, poppets, or bags. It doesn’t crumble and make a mess like leafy herbs and, if it accidentally gets crushed, it releases a wonderful aroma.

I like to add cardamom to lentils. I boil up a pot of lentils with cardamom, pepper, and turmeric, and add them to dishes throughout the week. It’s an inexpensive, nutritious, flavorful way to stretch out a meal.

 

Cardamom is a wonderful spice with a long history of use. It’s powerful, though its action is gentle, and its warmth blends well with tons of other magical and culinary ingredients. If you’re looking for a subtle — yet potent — love or lust ingredient, you can’t really go wrong with cardamom.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Turmeric Folklore and Magical Uses

Turmeric is what gives curry a yellow color (as well as everything else it touches). It has a subtly spicy, earthy scent and flavor, and, to be honest, is next to impossible to find folklore or magical uses for.

It’s not that they don’t exist, of course. It’s just that they’re kind of drowned out by the number of blog posts, articles, and books on its nearly-magical health benefits. People use it for inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular health, and to improve liver function. It’s a bit outside of the scope of this post to go into all of that — besides, I’m not a doctor — but it’s pretty evident that turmeric occupies an important place for a lot of people around the world.

Turmeric is native to southern Asia and some Pacific islands. In the places where it grows wild, it has a history of use as a medicinal herb going back about 4000 years. Interestingly, though turmeric was known in ancient Greece, it never really caught on except as a dye. (Interestingly, ginger, turmeric’s cousin, didn’t seem to have this problem.) Needless to say, if you’re looking for uses of turmeric in European-based witchcraft, they’re a little thin on the ground.

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Turmeric Magical Uses and Folklore

Nobody seems to be able to agree on what elemental correspondences go with this herb. Some say air, while one source I found said fire. While fire makes sense to me, I would probably say earth.

In India, turmeric seems to function as a sacred anointment. It’s used for brides and grooms during the pre-wedding haldi ceremony, girls entering puberty, and the bodies of the dead. Most of the sources for witchcraft uses of turmeric cite purification as one of its properties, so, while I doubt that its associations in Indian culture are exactly the same, this makes a lot of sense.

Malevolent spirits, particularly the angry dead, can be sent away with the smell of turmeric.

Turmeric is also indicated for spells for healing, strength, and vitality — since it’s a potent medicinal herb and general tonic.

Turmeric’s golden color is useful in color magic. Yellow is associated with abundance and happiness, while gold is associated with the energy of the sun, prosperity, success, and healing. (This sun energy might be an explanation for why turmeric is so useful for purification!)

Using Turmeric

Since turmeric stains pretty much everything it touches, that makes it great for making magical inks, dying sachets, bags, or poppets, or adding color to sweetening jars or other potions.

Turmeric essential oil has a very warming scent, and can be substituted for hot spices when you don’t necessarily want their sharp pepperiness. Like the root itself, though, the essential oil stains — use it with caution!

If you can keep it out of humidity, you can use turmeric to bury magical tools to purify them the way you might use sea salt. Again, be careful — don’t use it to bury anything porous, and keep it dry, or you might find that whatever you buried is now yellow.

 

I love turmeric, and I put it in everything. While I haven’t experienced the magical health benefits a lot of natural health websites attribute to it, it’s delicious, easy to use, and gives everything such a bright, pleasing color. If you’re looking for an ingredient for magical ink for a prosperity, abundance, joy, or purification spell, you can’t really go wrong with turmeric.

divination, life

The Alder and the Heather

For this week’s divination, I went back to my driftwood Ogham set. I asked the question that, probably unsurprisingly, has been plaguing my mind lately:

How do I heal my self-confidence and get used to self-promotion?

I drew Alder and Heather.

Alder is Fearn, the fourth consonant of the Ogham alphabet. Symbolically, alder is a battle-tree. Magically, it’s said to help us face the things we fear. Alder likes to grow in areas that give it “wet feet” — this creates an association with the liminal space between earth and water, between the logical and the emotional, between the body and the heart. It’s wood is also naturally water-resistant, a useful characteristic for creating structures designed to last underwater! It’s a supportive, protective tree spirit, with strong connotations of defense in battle, whether that’s against others or oneself.

Alder tells us to create strong boundaries and defenses, so we don’t undermine ourselves with negative emotions and self-doubt. Any decisions made right now should be carefully considered, so your emotions don’t lead us to burn the bridges we should be building instead. Seeking guidance from the spiritual realm will be helpful here — the roots of the alder help us resist being eroded by our negative emotions, the way they help the earth resist erosion by the water, but, despite this assurance, it’s a mysterious tree that isn’t always forthcoming with how it’s going to do this.

Nice. I can see it. It matches the tarot reading I received the other night, when I was told that not only am I not self-promoting, I don’t always necessarily make the right decisions when it comes to things of that nature. So… Way to call me out, alder tree!

Next is Heather, Ur, the third vowel of the Ogham alphabet. Symbolically, it’s a plant of contrasts — it’s passion and enthusiasm, and the consequences of both. Magically, it’s said to open portal to the realm of the fae. (And fairies associated with heather are said to be particularly attracted to shy people, to boot.) Burning it brings rain, sleeping on it brings prophetic dreams of good luck, and carrying it is protective. Heather tops can be brewed into alcohol, and heather honey is particularly dark and thick. It’s a flowery, sensual, intoxicating plant.

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Unfortunately, heather also doesn’t produce terribly well. At least, not if it isn’t periodically burned to the ground! The word-Ogham kennings refer to cycles of growth, or the earth. It’s said to be connected to death and fate through its connection to the soil (a connection which is somewhat reinforced by its magical use for prophetic dreams).

Drawing Heather is often interpreted as enjoying a sweetness and time of repose, but the lesson here is clear: There’s time for drinking heather beer and eating heather honey, and a time for burning the heather to the ground. There’s a time for sweetness, and a time for death. Don’t worry, though, because the burning of the heather brings it back with renewed vigor.

Taken together, I can see a path emerge. I have behaviors in place that are protective for me, but paralyzing. (If you can’t handle positive attention, hiding most of yourself away is a great way to avoid it!) Alder’s protection can help me weather my own negative emotions. Heather shows me that, while destroying my deep-seated protective mechanisms won’t be pleasant, I’ll grow stronger and better than before if I do it. Doing what feels good, avoiding my fears, needs to be balanced out by burning the whole damn thing to the ground if I want to enjoy the sweetness of new growth.

It’s going to suck, but it’ll be okay.

Now I’ve just gotta make that list my therapist told me to. Sigh.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Dogwood Folklore and Magical Uses

I love dogwood blossoms, I think they’re my favorite non-flower flower. Even the wood and foliage of some species is absolutely breathtaking to look at — there’s nothing quite like a bloody dogwood in the snow.

Depending on where you are, dogwoods are either blooming, starting to bloom, or have been blooming for a few weeks. Since I’m missing the dogwoods at the National Arboretum so much, I figured this would be a good week to look at the folk and magical applications of Cornus wood, leaves, berries, and flowers.

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Dogwood Magical Uses and Folklore

As a native American tree (eastern U.S. and Mexico), there’s not a lot of writing on flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) as it pertains to European-based witchcraft. Southern Europe does have a plant called the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), which is in the dogwood family, and most of Europe and western Asia has the common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). C. mas and C. sanguinea both flower, but neither of these are quite as showy as the big white or pink blooms of C. florida. Since all of these plants are related, it’s possible, even preferable, to make substitutions depending on what species are locally available to you.

Dogwood is associated with loyalty, secrets, wishes, protection, fertility, desire, and illusion. (The illusion part, in particular, makes a lot of sense — the flowers of the flowering dogwood aren’t actually flowers at all, they’re modified leaves.)

The dogwood is strongly tied with Christian mythology, since the flowers form a cross shape. It was believed that the wood was used to form crosses for crucifixion, so Jesus prevented the dogwood from ever growing large enough to be used for this purpose again.

An old folk remedy for treating mange in dogs involved making a decoction of dogwood bark, and washing the affected areas with it.

Leaves, bark, or flowers can be used as a protective charm.

As an herb of secrecy, it’s a good idea to include some dogwood leaves in a diary, grimoire, or Book of Shadows. An oil made from the flowers can be used to dress a letter and keep prying eyes off of it.

Make a wish come true by catching a drop of dogwood sap on a cloth on the evening of Midsummer, and wishing on it. Carry it until you get your desire, then bury the cloth.

It’s bad luck to bring dogwood flowers into your home, or to burn the wood in your hearth.

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Using Dogwood

One theory for the etymology of “dogwood” is that the name stems from “dag,” from which we also get “dagger.” This is related to the straightness and density of the wood — the sticks are pretty much ideal for crafting shafts for tools or weapons (Ötzi was found with dogwood arrows), and the wood is dense enough to sink in water. In a practical sense, this makes dogwood an excellent material for crafting wands or other magical tools.

A lot of dogwood’s associations fit neatly into one another. Illusion, protection, and secrecy all blend well. I probably wouldn’t use dogwood in place of, for example, cayenne pepper as a protective herb because the energy is so different. Dogwood is subtler — it protects by concealment. It’s a smokescreen, not a fiery wall. Even its use as arrow shafts points to a plant that’s best used to take advantage of the shadows!

American flowering dogwood has four bracts. From a numerological standpoint, four is strength, stability, and pragmatism. This blends nicely with its use as an herb for protection and loyalty.

Dogwood is useful in color magic, since the blooms can range from white, to yellow, to pink, to red. Even the leaves can turn from gold or green to pink, yellow, orange, or red.

 

 

 

crystals, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

3 Spells for Keeping the Peace

Ideally, you like the people you’re isolated with right now. Even if you do, though, it’s hard not to get on each other’s nerves once the cabin fever really starts setting in. There are tons of ways to fight boredom and keep busy, but you still might need a little extra help keeping the vibes smooth and tranquil.

That’s where these come in: Three spells to help you keep things happy and peaceful.

Starting with the Cleanest Slate You Can

Okay, so by now you’re probably already used to wiping down, washing, and disinfecting everything that isn’t literally on fire. Good! Physically cleaning a space is a key part of getting the magic flowing — dust, dirt, and clutter are less than optimal for energy flow. So, if you haven’t yet, do a solid spring clean. Set up containers for decluttering — one for things to keep, one for things that need repairing, one for trash, one for recyclables, and one for donations — and work room-by-room. When you’re through, get rid of anything you’re not keeping or fixing.

Once your space is as decluttered and clean as you can get it, rock on.

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A Wind Spell for Peace

The element of air is an oft-overlooked way to cleanse and freshen things. When it’s sunny and breezy out, open your windows and let the fresh air in. Close your eyes and feel the coolness against your skin. You can chant, pray, or state your intent here. I like to say something like,

“Let this breeze blow away all discord, so only peace and joy may remain. As I will, it shall be.”

An Herbal Tranquility Potion

I love making washing potions. It’s easy to do, too — add herbs to boiling water, as you might for tea, let them steep until the water cools, done. You can place dried herbs into a reusable tea bag, square of muslin cloth, or tea strainer, or just leave them loose and strain them out afterward. (As a word of caution, don’t mix the tools you use for potion-making with those you use for food-making. Not all magical herbs are edible, and many are poisonous.)

Some herbs and flowers that are useful here include:

  • Chamomile
  • Coltsfoot
  • Coriander
  • Lavender
  • Lilac flowers
  • Meadowsweet
  • Rose
  • Skullcap
  • Vervain
  • Violet

As the herbs steep, stir them clockwise nine times with a wooden spoon or wand held in your dominant hand. While you do this, say,

“No tension or strife shall come near,
Peace and tranquility alone reign here.”

Visualize the liquid filling with a calming, gentle golden light. When the potion is done and the herbs are removed, add it to a bucket of clean, warm water. Use this to wash your floors, doors, doorways, windows, and any steps leading to your front or back doors. Prepare the mixture fresh each time.

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A Peaceful Herbal Sachet

The same herbs listed above can be made into an herb sachet. To make one, you’ll also need:

  • A square of white, blue, or light purple cloth
  • A ribbon or needle and thread (to close it with)
  • Any other peace-promoting curios you like. These can include metal peace sign charms, a small figure of a dove, tumbled amethyst stones, or anything else that feels right to you.

To begin, make sure the fabric, ribbon/thread, and curios are cleansed according to your favorite method. You can set them in the sun for a little bit, use sound, sprinkle them with blessed salt, fume them with cleansing incense, or whatever other way you like. When they are prepared, it’s time to get to work.

Hold the herbs in your dominant hand. Close your eyes, and feel yourself drawing power up from the earth, and down from the sky. Allow these energies to mingle in you, and direct them into the herbs in your hand. Say,

“[Name of herb(s)], I ask that you lend your power to this spell. Chase tension and stress from here, and bring peace and calm in its place.”

Place them in the center of the square of fabric.

Repeat this process with the curios, substituting the name of the curio for the name of the herb. Place them in the center of the fabric with the herbs as well.

Fashion the square of fabric into a little pouch, either by drawing the corners together and tying them with the ribbon, or by sewing it into a little pillow shape with the needle and thread. When you are through, lightly kiss the sachet, and hold it to your forehead. Say,

“With this spell, I draw in the energies of tranquility, that my home might be a respite from the hardships and strife in the world. Let no stress remain, only peace shall reign.”

Tuck the sachet in a hidden corner of the room you wish to influence. You can let that sachet take care of your whole home, or, if you think your place could use a little extra help, make a sachet to hide in every room of your home.

Remember: If You Can’t Source Ingredients…

… Don’t sweat it! Can’t find an amethyst? Most of the plain stones in your yard are actually variants of clear or white quartz, both of which will do in a pinch. No fresh lilac flowers or lavender buds? You might have a few bags of Earl Grey tea, which is made with lavender and bergamot (which is also helpful for lifting moods and instilling courage). Missing other herbs? See what plants you have in your yard — even “weeds” like clover are associated with things like love and protection, two properties that would be very useful here. You can also check your kitchen. Oranges, in particular, are great for bringing joy and sun energy to whatever spells include them. Zest the peels, allow the zest to dry, and keep it in a cool, dark place for whenever you need a little sun magic.

The most important part of any spell is declaring your intention and focusing your energy on that intention. You can have all of the right herbs, and it still won’t work if you don’t focus the power properly.

Magic is adaptable. You can experiment and bend things to suit what you have on hand. While there are some spells that don’t accept substitutions, the majority of them can be worked around to some degree. Since going out to shops to source rare and hard-to-find ingredients isn’t really feasible right now, this is the perfect time to see how you can adapt your magic to your landscape.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Elderberry Folklore and Magical Uses

With colds, the flu, and COVID-19, elderberry syrup has made a lot of appearances in various “crunchy” and DIY blogs. Elderberry is touted as an herbal “medicine chest” — even Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder had a hard time overstating the herb’s value. It’s said to improve allergies, inflammation, sinus problems, and pain, and, with prompt use, shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms.

Elderberries and syrup.

That’s not all elderberry is used for, though. This tree, with its white flowers and dark, shiny berries, has a lot of folklore and a long history of magical use behind it.

Elder Magical Uses and Folklore

The elder tree is believed to house a spirit with the power to help or harm. In Denmark, it is Hylde Moer. Elsewhere, it was dryads, or simply the Old Lady of the Elder tree.

Taking any of the tree’s gifts has to be done with permission. If permission is granted, they have the power to heal and protect. If it isn’t, they have the power to harm. One charm for cutting elder wood goes:

“Old Lady of the Elder Tree,
Let me have some of your wood,
And, when I am a tree,
You may have some of mine.”

In southern Italy, the wood is used to drive out evil, and protect against thieves and serpents.

In Germany, hanging elder branches in a home on Walpurgisnacht protects from evil.

The spongy centers of elder branches are soaked in oil and used as a kind of lamp wick to reveal all of the witches in an area.

In England, carrying an elder stick or cross made of elder wood was said to protect from rheumatism.

Building a cradle from elder wood is a bad idea, for spirits with pinch and poke any child that sleeps in it.

It’s considered a very bad idea to burn elder wood. In Ireland, it was believed that burning elder would would make you see the devil in the flames. Part of the Wiccan Rede goes as follows:

“Elder be the Lady’s tree. Burn it not, or cursed be.”

(Considering the cyanide content of uncured fruitwoods, and the fact that hydrogen cyanide is liberated by heat, this is probably very good advice!)

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The scent of elder flowers is said to be narcotic in nature. Sleeping under an elder tree would cause the sleeper to dream of the fairy realm, or else not wake up at all.

Magically, carrying elder wood, leaves, twigs, or berries is said to protect you from harm, while hanging elder branches over doors and windows of a building protects its occupants.

Elder is associated with death and rebirth — all parts of the plant are toxic (except the ripe, cooked berries), and elder grows quickly from cuttings.

Elder wood is used for wands, and for making instruments whose music is said to be favored by spirits.

In some situations, elder is used as a commanding herb.

Using Elder

All parts of the plant produce cyanogenic glycosides, hence all of the old admonitions against the improper use of elder. The berries are used medicinally, but that’s only after proper preparation.

Magically, elder is a powerful tree — which stands to reason, since the plant itself contains the power to heal and kill. Any tree should be asked for permission before gathering its products, but that goes double for elder. From what I have read, elder wood should be avoided for mundane purposes, and its use should be restricted to magical tools.

 

Elder has gotten a lot of press lately because of its use as a remedy for respiratory illness, but there’s only so much it can do. It can help with sinus problems, inflammation, and shorten cold and flu symptoms, but the best way to keep from getting sick is still to eat well, rest well, stay hydrated, and stay away from people.