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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Indian curry powders

We love curry.
We eat Indian styles of curry on a regular basis, almost weekly, whether chicken or beef or bean, mild or hotter, cream or broth or tomato based sauces. Like French food, a good curry dish is all about the sauce, although Indian food uses a wide variety of spices and in a totally different manner. Like Italian food, curry generally falls into a cream or tomato based sauce. But it's still all about the sauce, which means that the right spice blend really helps to make or break a curry.

There are loads of ways you can go about blending your own spices. Whole or powdered, up to you. I prefer powdered, but when my family lived in India (during teens with my parents, not my husband and me) I remember whole cloves and mustard seeds were a frequent surprise in school food. There is also no one "right" way of blending spice. Just as there are many varieties on a theme for English pound cake, a Google search will several recipes for a tikka. In England, it is easy to buy good spice blends from the local supermarket. Not so much in Arizona. "Curry powder" from the Safeway spice aisle is some bizarre blend of only a few spices, and the standard American seems to enjoy it sprinkled cold on potato salad rather than cooked into a meal. The application of heat alone will yield quite a different and superior flavor. Standard American, you're missing out! This is why I've more and more learned how to mix my own blends.

These are a couple of suggestions. We like them. Tweak the amounts or ingredients as you desire. I already have one post for beginners, for coconut chicken curry and my basic all purpose spice blend, but it's nice to have some variety.


My measurements are given in age-old herbalist's form, the simpler's method. Utensil size doesn't matter, so you can use any official or unofficial device you choose, but use that same one for all measurements. So, if I want to make a small batch of curry powder that will last 3-4 meals, I might take a regular dining table spoon and start with 2 1/2 spoons of ginger, 1/2 a spoon of cardamon, 1/2 a spoon of cinnamon, and so on. Or, you can make a really large batch and use the appropriate parts of a mug or cup measure throughout. It doesn't matter. I like to write my herb and spice recipes using the simpler's method because of this ease. Very little calculating involved.


Korma: a mildly spiced Indian curry dish of meat or fish marinated in yogurt or curds

Tikka: an Indian dish of small pieces of meat or vegetables marinated in a spice mixture and roasted or grilled

Tikka masala: a curry dish of roasted chicken chunks (tikka) served in a rich-tasting red or orange-coloured sauce, which is usually creamy, often using coconut rather than dairy, lightly spiced and containing tomatoes

Madras: a fairly hot curry sauce, red in colour and with heavy use of chili powder; also a brightly colored woven fabric in a check pattern, which may have got its name from the curry dish

Vindaloo: generally regarded as the classic "hot" restaurant curry, although a true vindaloo does not specify any particular level of spiciness. The name has European origins, derived from the Portuguese "vinho" (wine) and "alho" (garlic). When I was about twelve years old, a hit song in England at the time with football (soccer) went something like, "me, my mum, my dad, my gran and a bucket of vindaloo. Oh! vindaloo, vindaloo..."

Afghan: with chickpeas. I often add chickpeas or white beans to a curry to help stretch the meat. People who don't like beans should curry them as it really is the most delicious way.

Bhuna: medium, thick sauce, some vegetables. This is first and foremost a cooking process where spices are gently fried in plenty of oil to bring out their flavour. The dish "bhuna" is an extension of that process where meat is added to the spices and then cooked in its own juices, which results in deep strong flavours but very little sauce. Restaurants most often offer a lamb bhuna rather than white meats, as the deeper cooking of spices lends well to the richer flavors of dark meats.

Saag: Saag gosht is a classic curry traditionally made with spinach and lamb. Saag is, strictly speaking, a general term for tender green leaves such as spinach, mustard greens and fresh fenugreek leaves. If you were talking about spinach on its own it would be called palak. Many restaurants these days will offer a chicken or a prawn alternative to lamb and so the dish will show on the menu as just "saag" or "palak" omitting the gosht (lamb) from the name altogether. The saag is usually served medium hot and is made in the bhuna style.

Tikka Curry Powder
Fabulous for chicken. I like to marinate chunks of chicken in a little spice blend, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a very small dab of plain yogurt for an hour or two while I soak bamboo skewers in water. Then, kebab the chicken on the skewers and grill. Make a beautiful cooked sauce to drizzle over the cooked meat using butter and the leftover marinade.
This also works beautifully as a tikka masala dish with ground almonds and fresh chopped tomatoes slowly flavored into the sauce.
Once again, I like to use this in palak paneer (spinach cheese), which is a layered, baked, lasagne-like dish made with spinach and onions, cheese, a curried milk sauce, and tofu, to be served with rice. Palak paneer is pretty much the most delicious way to eat bland old tofu, in my opinion, and was a household favorite with all of my brothers while we lived in India.

2 1/2 ginger 
1/2 cardamon
1/2 cinnamon
1/2 nutmeg
(optional 1/8 cayenne)
1/2 turmeric
1/8 cloves 
1/4 black pepper 
2 1/2 garlic granules
1 cumin
1/2 coriander
1/4 paprika 
 Medium Heat (Bhuna) Powder

I don't have a proper name for this one. It works well with white or dark meat, unlike tikka which seems to be best with white meats such as chicken and fish, and madras which often tastes better with dark meats such as beef or lamb. It is a more aromatic curry than my basic blend, and the bay leaf adds a lot to the flavor to be sure not to skip it.
I like to use this for bhuna in a cast iron "Dutch oven" in the oven, which is a great way to flavor and slowly cook denser beef cuts.
It also makes a fabulous masala sauce with diced or shredded beef, tomatoes, coconut milk and squash.

2 coriander 
1 turmeric 
1/2 ginger 
1/2 cumin 
1/2 fenugreek 
3/4 mustard 
1/2 garlic granules
1/2 allspice 
1/4 cayenne 
1/2 black pepper
1/4 bay leaf

Friday, September 27, 2013

no bake cheesecake

This is the easiest cheesecake you will ever make. It takes a couple of steps, but each one is so short and so simple you'll be laughing.

First, bake a graham cracker crust.

Melt 1/2 c (8 Tbs) butter in a saucepan.
Off the heat, add 1/3 c sugar or 1/4 c honey.
Add 2 c graham cracker crumbs.

Friends in the UK, you can use plain digestive biscuits. I simply pop a load of crackers in a gallon ziplock bag and smush it with a rolling pin until I have even crumbs.

Mix butter, sweetener and cracker crumbs together well. Press into a pie dish. Pop in the fridge for one hour. Don't skip the chilling, it really is worth it. Once nicely firm from the fridge, pop directly into a 400 F oven for 10 minutes.

While it's cooling, work on the cheesecake filling.

One tin (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk.
One package (8 oz) plain cream cheese.
1/2 c lemon juice.

Dump it all into a mixer bowl and use the whisk attachment to whip it up until all the lumps are gone and it's smooth. You may add more or less of each ingredient, but bear in mind that the lemon juice makes it set so I recommend not reducing lemon to less than 1/4 c. I like it a bit tangy so sometimes I add more than 1/2 c, or add fresh zest as well. You can even open the can of sweetened condensed milk and leave it in the fridge, uncovered, the previous night. It will thicken and your pie will be that much better set. But this step is totally optional.

Pour filling into crust. Pop back into the fridge and leave to cool overnight. If you leave it uncovered it will set firmer and faster. The pic I took is of the pie I made yesterday for a guest who came to dinner. It had only been in the fridge for 4 hours by that time, so while slicable it wasn't as firmly set as if I had made it earlier, which is why you see the sliced edges are not quite smooth. Normally, they would be.

Make this as a regular pie, deep dish pie as are all my pies, or even in little minis. For my baby shower two years ago, I made this recipe using 8 oz widemouthed canning glass jars. It was so popular that guests were taking them home in purses! Serve the pie as is, which is delicious especially when good and lemony, or make up a simple berry compote or lemon curd to serve drizzled over the top of each slice.You can even use the compote or lemon curd in the main filling part, if you fold it gently in with a few strokes before pouring into the crust.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

ring sizing

Ladies, you probably didn't give much thought to ring sizing in terms of band width, did you? If you were what I am told is the "average" girl, before you got engaged you had a vision of what type of ring you probably would prefer. I didn't even go that far, which is good because my lovely man surprised me by producing his own man-made (cruelty-free!) diamond set in white gold, rather than begging me for my Granny's diamond to have it reset as my engagement ring. That would have spoiled the whole surprise, you know!

Anyway, this is my ring. Engagement ring with diamond is also my wedding band from our JP ceremony when we actually got married on January 23rd, 2008, in the USA. The more usual plain wedding band we added at our actual wedding, on March 29th, 2008, in the UK. For my birthday this year, my Cariad took me to get my rings resized and fused together.

Girls, this is the part you need to know and I wish someone had told me!!! When you have such wide bands as these are, worn together fused or unfused, they create a wide band that fits very differently than the more standard, thinner bands that a lot of girls tend to choose. I don't have delicate, little, thin bands because my husband knew me pretty well and got it right in terms of style I would happily wear day-in-day-out through all manner of projects. But they're wide, thick bands, not just thinner bands with decorative tops. When you get your rings sized, IF you are like me and go for a more substantial look than the average wedding ring set, find the size that fits your finger just as the jeweler says it should -- tight over the knuckle -- and then add a half size! These are fused together to an American size 6, which means that they fit me as an American 5 1/2 thinner band set would do. To explain the other way, if you find that a 6 is most comfortable when you are getting your finger sized, plan ahead if you have wide bands and expect to need a 6 1/2 for the day when you wear your engagement and wedding bands together. After doing some research, it turns out that there is a standard tool every jeweler has for finding out the size of rings, called a ring mandrel...and there is another mandrel specially for sizing wide bands that is half a size larger than the normal mandrel, and which the average jeweler will probably not own, "because it's up to the customer" to determine correct fit for comfort. or a friend may someday need to know this, if they have taste remotely like mine.

I hope this information helps somebody. I went for 5 years wearing my rings divided between my two hands and wishing they were together, but couldn't because they would magically "shrink" when put together. I love that my honey fixed them for me for my birthday.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

my list of post-apocalyptic must-have remedies

My husband and I have been in the habit since we first began dating of having long chats about the future or any number of bizarre scenarios. You may find this strange, but one particular thought that surfaces fairly often is the question of what we would do IF the economy collapsed, or the USA broke out into civil war, or electricity suddenly vanished nationwide or worldwide, or some other similar disaster occurred. We've even covered the topic of being thrown back in time to a world long before guns and modern meds, with 10 minutes', 10 hours', or 10 days' warning. Take the theme with a pinch of humor. We're not actually paranoid, but these ideas do make for some stimulating discussions. 

Of course, one of the top things in my mind is always to somehow stock up on whatever natural remedies and knowledge of such we could procure, given that conventional treatment would have been thrown into disarray, and knowing that a great portion of the freaked out community would be storming the hospitals for penicillin and overlooking more traditional, non-refrigerated, growable or otherwise sustainable remedies.

There are many, many valuable herbs and natural remedies that could be on this list, but my experience thus far in life brings these twenty most quickly to my mind. This is partly because I am already familiar with their properties and uses due to frequent use, and partly because I feel that these are the most useful for the wider portion of scenarios most families experience. Of course, given the chance, I would bring my entire stash of dried herbs, essential oils, and my own made up herbal infused oils and tinctures, along with all the books I own on herbology and natural healing. Why not dig up some of the garden herbs and retrieve available seeds and root starters while I'm at it? But I had to narrow the list somehow! What would you change here?

1. Garlic bulbs. Right at the top of my thoughts as to value. Highly useful antibiotic in easily assimilated food form, and a ready grower with surprisingly little effort. I would want a giant sack of organic bulbs that I could plant, eat, use topically in compresses. And, of course, garlic makes many savory foods taste fabulous, so I would definitely want garlic to add to the stew pot as well as rubbed all over my wild elk or jack rabbit steaks. 

From Practical Herbalism by Fritchey:
"Prior to the advent of antibiotics, and during wars when they have been in short supply, Garlic preparations were used on wounds to prevent infection. Practical experience and scientific research alike has confirmed its abilities to strengthen immune function, improve circulation, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, quell infections and lower fevers. In laboratory studies, Garlic has been shown to have direct anti-microbial actions equivalent to many anti-biotic drugs, but without those drugs' tendency to create resistant strains of pathogens.
"Garlic, much like aspirin, has a reputation as a blood thinner. It has been shown to inhibit blood platelet aggregation (reduce the clotting ability of blood). While that makes it a powerful aid if you are at risk for stroke or heart attack, it has also been suggested that it is probably unwise to consume it in large amounts in advance of any anticipated surgical procedure, or if you are taking other anti-coagulant medications. Garlic's actual effect on blood viscosity could better be classified as a 'normalizing agent,' and it has never been shown that it will make the blood 'too thin,' as some chemical agents do."

John Heinerman (Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs & Spices) states, "The role of Garlic as an antiviral and anti-bacterial agent is unsurpassed. There are no...repeat, NO...modern antibiotic drugs in the entire arsenal of medical science that even come close to doing what Garlic can do."

2. Raw honey. Amazing stuff. Another antibiotic. Useful internally and externally, this is a great menstruum for preserving herbs as tinctures or syrups. I give my son raw garlic by folding it, minced, into a small amount of raw honey on my fingertip. Stored properly and kept clean, this stuff doesn't really have an expiration date. Sealed honey has been discovered in Egyptian tombs from long ago that is still good today, edible and still with a high quality of antibacterial properties. True raw honey is much more than just a sugar, containing pollens, enzymes, minerals and antioxidants that make it not just a whole food but a fabulous moisturizing and anti-aging facial treatment. Basically, raw honey is dubbed the food of the gods for a good reason and well worth keeping around.

From Herbal Antibiotics by Buhner:
"Promotes healing for wounds, moist wounds, peptic ulcers, and bacterial gastroenteritis; reduces plaque; good for gingivitis; facilitates debridement; soothes inflames tissues; acts as a wound barrier; and stimulates skin and muscle regeneration."  
"Raw wildflower honey should be used, not the clover or alfalfa honey readily available in grocery stores. Alfalfa and clover crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides and they do not have the broad activity available in multiple-plant honeys. Further, large commercial honey growers may often supplement their bees' food with sugar water, which dilutes the honey's power. Pure wildflower honey should lightly burn or sting the back of the throat when taken undiluted."

3. Lavender essential oil. Antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal, a little bottle of this stuff goes a long way in terms of keeping away nasty germs in all kinds of situations. Useful for cleaning everything from laundry to dishes to toilets to some wounds, lavender is also a quick healer for insect bites, burns and bruises due to it's anti-inflammatory action, although fake lavender oil is readily available but not good medicinally, so be sure to obtain true angustifolia type, not lavandin.

4. Eucalyptus essential oil.
Also antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal, eucalyptus is fabulous as an aroma or local application cure on temples for nausea and headaches, and inhaled kills nasty germs while opening the respiratory system. A salve applied to the chest can relieve coughing. Together with olive oil and garlic, eucalyptus can make an effective remedy for ear infections. This is one of my most often used essential oils.

5. Tea tree essential oil. Yet another oil that is antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal, and so good for all kinds of cleaning, this oil is safe to apply neat to the skin, like lavender but unlike the majority of essential oils. It is one of my favorite skin tonics, and since my husband gets a twitchy nose from too strong a scent of lavender I resort to tea tree for his sake. This is also a great insecticide as well as healing and sebum balancing to the scalp, so I would definitely want this on hand as an aid to preventing fleas, for example.

6. Beeswax. Adding a sweet scent of honey and containing some of the preservative and antibiotic properties of raw honey, raw beeswax is indispensable for thickening and preserving herbal infused oils into salves for easy storage and application. I also use this as a thickening agent in making deodorant, lotions, lipbalms, and wood furniture polish.

7. Olive oil. Okay, not a herb, but when thinking about the hypothetical disaster scenarios above, I really wanted olive oil! This would be hard to find, tastes great, provides healthy fats and protection to the body from within and without, but most importantly is a reliable menstruum for preserving herbs into oils and salves. I would not want to use lard or tallow if such could possibly be avoided, so in the unlikely event that all power in the USA goes out I will be sending my husband on a mission a.s.a.p. to procure several gallons of olive oil for me to hoard in a cool cellar. 

8. Vinegar of the Four Thieves mix. This is a blend of herbs, but since it is already mixed up in my cupboard I don't consider it to be cheating. Made of equal parts of dried rosemary, lavender, peppermint, sage and wormwood, this would be my go-to for all insect repelling. I get eaten alive by bugs unless I have sufficient protection. Four Thieves herbs made up into a herbal vinegar with raw garlic smells strong, and my family have dubbed it "pickle juice", but it really works! Rue added to the made vinegar makes an effective cure for head lice. The diluted vinegar can also be used for hand and bathroom sanitizing sprays, although wormwood should not be ingested so I don't recommend using this as a cleaning spray without then wiping the surface with a damp rag. This blend could even be infused into an oil and thickened with beeswax for a pocket tin of salve, with essential oils for fragrance stirred in off the heat.

9. Iodine tablets. As per my husband's request, for water purification. These are fairly inexpensive and effective in cleaning water for safe consumption. A healthy body can survive for weeks if needed without food, but will only last a matter of hours without clean water.

10. Pau d'arco. This herb is highly antifungal, and quite conveniently one of the most heat stable herbs, which means that cool storage isn't so critical as with delicate herbs such as chamomile. Pau d'arco has many uses internally and externally, but I bear in mind two particular things for which, especially if caught in an emergency, I would want a fast, safe, effective cure: yeast infections, and athlete's (or hunter's) foot. Let's face it, neither one is very comfortable at the best of times, and both can be quite damaging to the body if left to linger. 

11. Activated charcoal powder. This has many uses but essentially is a poison absorber. I want this fine powder handy for quick treatment of any poisonous bites, from mozzie to scorpion to spider to snake.

12. Calendula flowers. My favorite skin care herb, this seeding perennial flower grows fairly readily in most warm climates. It looks like a cross between a common marigold and a daisy. The flower heads, cut in the prime of their bloom, are the medicinal part used, and good quality bulk flowers will often contain a fair amount of viable seeds. I love to use this as a tea astringent and in making herbal infused oils for skin remedies for young and old alike, as it is marvelous for healing and protecting the skin surface, calming redness, and warding off infection from minor cuts and scrapes.

From Practical Herbalism by Fritchey:
"Calendula is one of the best herbs for treating local skin problems. It may be used safely whereever there is an inflammation on the skin, whether due to infection or physical damage. It may be used for any external bleeding or wounds, bruising, or strains. It will also be of benefit in slow-healing wounds and skin ulcers. A very useful anti-septic ointment can be made by combining it with Comfrey root, Oregon Grape Root, and Myrrh."

13. Arnica flowers. Fabulous for external healing on unbroken skin of all manner of bruising and inflammation, this herb is one I am careful to store away from any heat sources because it is sensitive to heat variations. So were I stranded in the desert, I would quickly make this up into a salve, still being careful to keep it cool, and I would not be able to keep it potent for as long as I do in the comforts of my modern life. However, a very useful herb in many situations. We like it best made into a salve and I keep a little in the kitchen, the bathroom, and the diaper bag.

14. Catnip. I grow this herb in my garden and harvest it two or three times while in bloom before the end of September. While it makes cats go nuts, and as a child I found great mirth in giving some to our family pets and watching them get totally high on the stuff, catnip has the opposite effect on humans, causing relaxation with it's antispasmodic properties. We drink this as tea with chamomile and citrus peels, use the infusion as an enema for the healing of fevers and belly upsets, and make it up into a "sleepy tincture" with various other herbs and glycerine as a sleep aid for adults and children alike.

15. Celtic sea salt. Not just for flavoring food, Celtic sea salt is unrefined, cleansed naturally in clay beds of the sea off the French coast, and has been harvested in this raw form for many, many decades. Being unprocessed and unrefined, it has far superior flavor to standard American table salt (and which we find brings our taste buds greater satisfaction with less) but most importantly a high density of essential minerals. Table salt will make a body thirstier. Celtic sea salt will help rehydrate and balance a depleted body when added to water, tea or juice.

16. Cinnamon sticks. The more whole a herb when stored, the slower the breakdown of valuable properties, which is why grinding, mashing, masticating, or crushing herbs before making a remedy often makes that remedy more effective. Cinnamon sticks can be ground, or smashed into chips, or used whole. Cinnamon is a great flavoring to add to bitter herbs. I make a cinnamon glycerite to add to bitter alcoholic tinctures. Cinnamon also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, and is antibacterial and antifungal. Cinnamon powder could be added with ground cloves to baking soda and/or Celtic sea salt, and bentonite clay if available, for a sweet, breath freshening and gum healing tooth cleaning powder. 

17. Cloves. As mentioned above, this spice is highly valuable for flavoring remedies, even helping to preserve them, but I would particularly want this herb for tooth and gum health, as it is so helpful in killing off bad germs. Interestingly, clove oil is a very common ingredient in many commercial perfumes and fragrances, due to its preservative and astringent qualities, and is surprisingly delicious added in very small amounts to curried or stewed meats.

18. Red raspberry leaf. "Red Raspberry is the best single herb that we can take for total uterine health. There is a long list of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that the uterus needs to work efficiently. Red Raspberry Leaf has virtually all of them. The most popular use for Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is for mama and baby’s health throughout pregnancy. It provides your uterus with a nourishing source of vitamins and minerals that are vital for a healthy pregnancy. Red Raspberry is also an excellent source of an alkaloid called fragrine, which tones the muscles of the pelvic region, including the uterus itself. This really helps to lower and sometimes eliminate cramps from the menstrual cycle and also makes for an easier birth. Red Raspberry leaves also contain many vitamins like vitamin C, E, A, B complex, and minerals like magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, selenium, silicon, sulfur, tannins, also easily assimilated calcium and iron. All of this makes Red Raspberry leaf the best base available for all of these teas."

From Practical Herbalism by Fritchey: 
"While it is Red Raspberry that has captured the bulk of the notoriety in herbal literature, virtually all members of the bramble fruit (Rubus spp.) family can be used in similar fashion.
"...Most species have similar medicinal value. Red Raspberry leaves are preferred as the most dependable and predictable general astringent tonic, and aid to female and children's issues. Blackberry Root is generally considered to be the most potent astringent of the group."

I drink this herb regularly, as do both my son and my husband. Calcium and magnesium are highly beneficial in supporting the nervous system, which helps the body to handle pain and stress efficiently, and so this herb is valuable for anyone of any age, at pretty much any time, not just for pregnant or nursing women or trying to conceive couples. Fed to stock animals, red raspberry leaf also helps them in conceiving and delivering efficiently and healthily, and maintaining high quality milk supply. If I were keeping goats or cows for milk in a situation of partial or full self-sufficiency, I would absolutely keep red raspberry brambles on my property so that I could ensure healthy animals and plenty of rich milk by feeding them the harvested leaves.

19. Comfrey. The ultimate "knitting" herb -- knits flesh and bone together, speeding the healing of even deep wounds, it works so effectively that some herbalists caution against the use of comfrey with bone-deep wounds for the first few days, to avoid deep tissue scars forming too quickly. This herb is not for internal consumption but is wonderful on all kinds of broken tissue, most often called for use as a poultice or salve.

From Practical Herbalism by Fritchey:
"Care should be taken when using Comfrey with very deep wounds as its rapid healing power can lead to tissue forming over the wound before it is healed deep down, possibly leading to abscesses. Make sure that wounds are thoroughly cleaned and protected from infection.

"*The FDA advises against taking Comfrey internally, due to the presence of trace amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA's). In contrast, date published in the journal, Science, by noted biochemist Bruce Ames, Ph.D., of U.C. Berkeley, would indicate that Comfrey taken internally is less toxic or carcinogenic that in an equivalent amount of beer. It is probably wise NOT to make Comfrey, or beer, a significant part of your regular diet for an extended period of time."

20. Cayenne pepper powder.
From The ABC Herbal, by Stephen H. Horne:
"This is an excellent herb to have on hand in an extract form because it is one of the most powerful of all herbs for stimulating the body’s energies for healing. We would never be without capsicum (cayenne pepper) in our home because of its value in stopping bleeding and treating shock. Even if you do not use it internally with children, it is an excellent remedy to have on hand for external use. As we will discuss later, it is especially powerful when combined with lobelia and used as an external massage for relieving pain.
"For sore throats, I generally apply a mixture of capsicum (cayenne pepper) extract and Lobelia extract directly to the throat. (These are alcohol based extracts as they work best for external applications…glycerites are too sticky.) Then, I gently massage the throat from the top down. This is a very gentle, slow process. Never apply so much pressure that the child feels uncomfortable. Work the sides and the back of the neck as well. You will feel the swollen lymph nodes. The idea is to gently "milk" them until they are no longer swollen. The capsicum and Lobelia help to relax the tissues and encourage the flow of blood and lymph." 
From Practical Herbalism by Fritchey:
"This medicine possesses an extraordinary power in removing congestion by its action upon the nerves and circulation. Tired, painful muscles, stiffened joints, poor circulation, and relaxation of any part are common conditions in the elderly that can be improved by Capsicum." 
"Topically applied, Capsicum relieves pain by depleting the activity of Substance P, the body's chemical pain messenger. While this might give relief from painful muscles and joints, it does not repair the damage that gave rise to the pain in the first place. Use good judgement when 'pushing through' pain messengers, so as not to aggravate a deteriorating physical condition."
Another spice invaluable for all kinds of cooking, this also makes a great potentiator of other herbs, both internally and externally (although common sense says to avoid applying cayenne powder to flesh wounds), increasing their action and uptake in the body. Used with arnica, comfrey and St John's wort, as a stimulant herb cayenne creates a soothing, warming effect on sore joints and muscles. Taken with garlic, the antibiotic effect is vastly increased. Cayenne is often said to be a chi enhancer, and as such is especially recommended for the elderly, who typically suffer slowing and cooling in their aging bodies.

Disclaimer: This article is in no way intended to supercede professional medical attention! However, God gave us herbs to use in educated ways for our healing and vitality, and brains to make educated choices. So if you are bitten by a snake, break your arm, or contract infectious pneumonia, by all means take 60 seconds to slap on a poultice of activated charcoal or warmed comfrey and swallow some raw garlic and honey...and then make a trip to the ER or Urgent Care or your local doctor for professional advice and care.

Further reading:
Practical Herbalism by Fritchey
The ABC Herbal by Horne

Organic Body Care Recipes by Tourles
Herbal Antibiotics by Buhner
Nutritional Herbology by Pedersen