Hildegard of Bingen’s 11 Best Natural Remedies 

best remedies hildegard of bingen

Hildegard of Bingen is widely recognized, in part for her natural remedies, and her significant contributions to holistic health and wellness. Many people familiar with her work consider her to be the founder of alternative medicine. In Germany, Hildegard of Bingen Medicine has been an essential aspect of the popular rebirth of traditional German medicine, where ancient natural remedies have come to life (again). Hildegard’s contribution to monastic medicine, which in German is known as klosterheilkunde, has even been recognized by modern science.

In our ongoing effort to research Hildegard’s various natural remedies, we’ve found the following 11 natural remedies that seem to have stood the test of time.

  1. Nettle compress for veins
  2. Parsley elixir for a strong heart
  3. Flaxseed compresses for burns
  4. Rosehips elixir for bronchitis
  5. Spignel mixture for gastrointestinal discomfort
  6. Watercress for summer flu
  7. Galangal to relax the back
  8. BlackBerry bramble drink for colds and flu
  9. Wormwood & Vervain (verbena) for Toothache
  10. Cowslip Primrose to alleviate cough
  11. Dittany for Healthy veins

Hildegard’s Natural Remedies

Hildegard of Bingen was considered to be the most important healer of the Middle Ages. Though her findings are almost 900 years old, many of the natural remedies found in Hildegard’s writings remain valuable today.

best remedies by hildegard of bingen 1

Within modern healthcare there appears to be a movement toward reevaluating natural remedies utilizing the medicinal properties of plants in favor of synthetic drugs. Many people are only beginning to appreciate the potential value contained within the vast amount medicinal knowledge and theories accumulated over thousands of years.

Birth of Traditional German Medicine

Historical records indicate that in western Europe, over 1,500 years ago, monks and nuns had been testing the effects that elements found in nature like flower blossoms, plant leaves and roots had on the human body. These altruistic researchers discovered and advanced numerous effective natural remedies to address the maladies of daily living, such as coughs, rashes, and stomach problems.

Throughout the years these scholars maintained extensive records of their findings. The most famous living works of monastic medicine date back to the 12th century, namely the work of Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) as she collected naturopathic remedies, tested them for their efficacy, and documented her findings.

The Benedictine Way

The Order of Saint Benedict took a holistic view of people. Their basic credo resonates with Hildegard’s views on balance; that those who are in harmony with the world and themselves live healthily. Diseases would arise if the harmony was disturbed. Hildegard, therefore, recommended a balanced relationship between sleep and activity, and recommended a diet of whole fruits and vegetables, with a particular affinity for spelt, as a basis for stable health. The healing recipes, with ingredients plucked from the monastery garden, ensured that the balance of body and fitness was maintained.

The 11 Natural Remedies

1. Stinging nettle for suffering veins

stinging nettle remedies

Natural Remedies: Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle helps address vein disorders from inflammation and weakness of the veins, including varicose veins and other tissue damage due to other illnesses. The essential oils, polyphenols, and formic acid found in stinging nettle all contribute to the plant’s anti-inflammatory effect on blood vessels.

Hildegard inspired natural remedy

Directions: Mix the nettle-medicinal plant juice (from the pharmacy) with water in the ratio 1:1 and fill it in a spray bottle. The dilution does not burn when applied.

Application: Spray the legs with the stinging nettle solution, overlay with a cloth or compress and hold for at least one hour.

For harvesting, uses, and recipes see our post on stinging nettle recipes.

2. Hildegard’s Parsley Elixir for a strong heart

This spicy kitchen herb holds an important place in monastic medicine as a universal remedy to improve minor heart ailments. Hildegard’s parsley wine is thought to improve heart weakness, pain, bruising, localized tissue infarction, fatigue, insomnia, and general weakness.

Hildegard inspired natural remedy

Directions: Combine ten stalks of parsley, two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and a liter of red wine and bring mixture to a boil for five minutes. Add 1.25 ounces (150 grams or 2.5 tbsp) of honey and continue cooking for five minutes. Strain and seal in bottles or jars. Store in a cool and dark place.

Application: Drink a small glass three times a day after meals.

For more on the health benefits of parsley wine, see our post.

3. Flaxseed compresses for skin burns

natural remedies of flax seed

Flax seeds have many uses in natural remedies

Flaxseed compresses provide pleasant and prompt pain relief for sunburn, light scalding, or chapped skin. A wrap using flaxseed offers pain relief due to its soothing, anti-inflammatory effects on skin.

Hildegard inspired natural remedy

Directions: Combine three tablespoons of flaxseed with a liter of water and allow to boil for 3 minutes or until the mixture reaches a pulpy consistency. Strain.

Application: Soak a cloth with the strained flaxseed pulp, and apply while warm to affected area. As soon as the cloth dries, change the compress, and repeat. The flaxseed will accelerate the healing process by helping the damaged tissue degrade more quickly making way for new, healthy skin.

4. Rose-Hip Elixir for bronchitis

best remedies by hildegard of bingen rose hip

Rose hips have a long history in natural remedies

Hildegard considered rose hip to be winter remedy for inflammation of the lower respiratory tract (chronic bronchitis).  Rose hips benefits include serving as an effective expectorant for mucus in the lungs associated with mild asthma or lung inflammation. Rosehip also helps cleanse the bronchi and lungs. The healing properties of rose hips come from its unsaturated seed oil, tannins, proteins, quercetin (a polyphenol), and high vitamin A and C content.

Hildegard inspired natural remedy

Directions: Combine approx. 2 ¾ ounces (75 grams) of dried hips and leaves and 150 milliliters of honey with 32 ounces (one liter) of water and boil for three minutes. Strain and preserve in sealable bottles.  For more rose hip remedies (internal link), see pour post.

Application: Drink a half a cup of rose hip tea two or three times a day for several weeks until the bronchial symptoms have subsided. Important for prolonged use: take a two-week break after each four-week use.

5. Spignel mixture alleviates gastrointestinal discomfort

best remedies by hildegard of bingen spignel

Natural remedies: the spignel plant

Spignel (meum athamanticum  or “Bärwurz”) is an age-old European herbal remedy used for urinary tract infections, menstrual cramping, and internal cleansing. A Hildegard-inspired spice mixture, consisting of equal parts spignel, galangal, licorice root and savory (see #20 on Hildegard’s list of Bitter herbs) is designed to address colon cleansing, intestinal rehabilitation and inflammation.

Hildegard inspired natural remedy

Directions: Peel and dice approx 3 ¼ pounds (1.5 Kilograms) of pears. Bring to boil in water, and mash when soft. Stir in 7 ounces (200 grams) of honey and 3 ½ ounces (100 grams) of the Hildegard spignel herbal mixture. Fill in jars and store the glass in a cool place. Can be frozen.

Application: Take one teaspoon in the morning before breakfast, and two teaspoons at noon, after lunchtime. In the evening take three teaspoons before bedtime. Repeat for up to four weeks.

6. Watercress for summer flu

best remedies by hildegard of bingen watercress

Watercress plant

We have watercress listed as #18 on Hildegard’s list of bitter spices. The leaves of this medicinal herb possess a slightly sour flavor, in part because watercress leaves contain hints of mustard oil. It’s the mustard oil that serves to combat viruses and bacteria. Watercress is known for its expectorant effect, which is why the herb is helpful for flu and throat infections. In addition, watercress is known to strengthens the digestive system and stimulate kidney activity.

Hildegard-inspired natural remedy

Directions: Mix a teaspoon of fresh watercress juice (you might find juice at health food stores) combined in a small glass with water.

Application: Drink this mixture three times a day.

7. Galangal to Relax the Back

best remedies by hildegard of bingen galangal

Galangal, like ginger, is a powerhouse among natural remedies

Fiery Galanga or Galangal Wine has a pleasant warming effect, which can improve minor cases of back or lumbar discomfort. The galangal root penetrates the skin into the surrounding tissues, inhibiting the inflammation response.

Hildegard-inspired natural remedy

Directions: Combine 250 milliliters of red wine with two pieces of galangal root (Asian groceries are a good place to find it) and allow the mixture to boil. Drink this combination for acute pain. Alternatively, galangal powder from an herbalist is also effective.

Application: For acute pain, drink the mixture (or ingest galangal powder) up to three times a day; you can also use galangal powder to season food instead of pepper.

8. BlackBerry bramble drink/elixir for cold and flu

“The bramble bush, where blackberries grow, is more warm than cold… But, if someone suffers pain in the lungs, and has a chest cough, he takes Bertram (Feverfew), with a little less bramble, less hyssop than bramble, add even less oregano than all of these. Add honey, and cook it thoroughly in good wine. Then strain it through a piece of cloth, drink it moderately after eating.  After the person is full of food, let them drink more of this wine. Do this often, and the lung will regain health and the mucus is removed from the breast…”

Even though this is one of Hildegard’s best herbal cold remedies, Hildegard’s medieval formulas are not always clear. Unfortunately, Hildegard relies on relative units of measurement, which complicates matters in practice. Though this medieval recipe is difficult to understand, and tricky to apply, the resulting mixture serves as an excellent expectorant, which is unique in naturopathy.

herbal cold remedies

Blackberries are more than just delicious

This blackberry bramble elixir addresses cold and flu symptoms, such as coughing, bronchitis, mucus build-up, inflammation of the lung tissue, inflammation of the mucous membrane, and sinus infections.  Consider this drink for any minor condition leading to the build-up of mucus and associated inflammation.

Despite Hildegard’s seemingly complicated medieval instructions, preparation is quite simple, as follows:

Prepare on stovetop in teakettle or saucepan. Add all ingredients to 1 L of wine. Heat on medium for five minutes, avoiding a hard boil. Strain. Store in an airtight glass container in a cool dark place. Can be refrigerated, if preferred.

Dosage:

1 liqueur glass (1.5 ounces) 3 times daily, after meals. For children, consider as much as one ½ to 2 teaspoons, depending on the age. This elixir actually tastes very pleasant. In Germany, this drink is available in pre-prepared bottles.

9. Wormwood & Vervain (Verbena) Stop Toothache

best remedies by hildegard of bingen wormwood vervaine

Wormwood for inflammation

The combination of wormwood and vervain (verbena) helps resolve minor cases of inflammation in the gums or the roots of the teeth. The bitter substances of these two medicinal herbs activates defense in the mucous membranes in the mouth to help inhibit inflammation. In combination, these herbs also have a pleasant analgesic or pain relieving effect. One can experience relief in as little as a single use.

Hildegard-inspired natural remedy

Directions: Combine four teaspoons of an herbal mixture, including both wormwood and vervain (verbena) with 16 ounces (500 milliliters) of white wine and boil for three minutes. Strain the mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. Add a small amount of honey to taste. See our post on wormwood wine (internal link) for similar benefits.

Application: Drink a few sips of the solution three times a day until symptoms improve.

10. Cowslip Primrose to alleviate a nagging cough

cowslip remedy hildegard of bingen

Cowslip for cough

Hildegard of Bingen prescribed cowslip primrose for colds and depression. More recently, the European medical community has formally recognized the application of cowslip primrose to treat persistent coughing.

Hildegard-inspired natural remedy

Directions: Combine 0.5 grams (pinch) of powdered cowslip (primrose) root (best from an herbal pharmacy) with approx. 16 ounces (250 milliliters) of cold water. Bring the combination to a boil, then steep for 5 minutes. Strain.

Application: Drink one cup every two hours.

11. Dittany for healthy veins

dittany remedy

The pretty, flowering plant dittany

Dittany is one of Hildegard’s 13 healing spices. It is also used in Hildegard’s potent fennel powder. The herb is known to strengthen the heart and promote healthy blood circulation. The essential oils, saponins, and bitter substances of the shrub-like, pink flowering plant help to free veins and kidneys from deposits. It is also recommended for bladder and gallstones.

Hildegard-inspired natural remedy

Directions: Add up to one teaspoon of dittany powder per day (best from and herbal pharmacy) to your favorite beverage or mixed into meals. Dittany has a very bitter flavor, so consider that when mixing.

Application: It is best to spread the teaspoon out over the course of the day. The amount and duration of the application is best determined under the care of an herbalist or natural medicine practitioner.

Also, see our post on Hildegard’s healing foods after surgery and easing menstrual cramps with dittany.