Posted on Leave a comment

The Herbalist’s Kitchen…Part One: The Equipment!

herbalist's kitchen part one

Ever wonder what exactly goes on inside the home of an herbalist? Chances are, her kitchen doesn’t look that much different than yours. There might be a few subtle differences-some hanging herbs, fermented foods, unknown concoctions in fridge, herbs simmering on the stove, and mason jars-oh, the mason jars! Any herbalist worth her salt will have a cabinet full of them.

Here are my ‘must haves’ in my kitchen:

  • Double Boiler-This is really important if you are interested in making salves and fast infusing oils. You don’t ever want your heat source to directly heat your oils and waxes. Mine is a vintage enamel pot from the 30’s. 90% of my kitchen equipment comes from a thrift store. It is a great resource!
  • Slow Cooker-This is another device used to quickly infuse oils. I like to just let my oils infuse over time, but sometimes I need something sooner, so a mason jar in a water bath in a slow cooker does the trick.
  • Mortar and Pestle-I really enjoy the meditative process of manually masticating my herbs rather than using an electric grinder. The thought of adding mechanical energy to my herbs doesn’t appeal to me, but a lot of people like the efficiency of a coffee grinder.
  • Tea Kettle-This is a must for obvious reasons.
  • Strainer-I just use a plain ol’ wire mesh kitchen strainer to strain my tinctures, infused oils, and teas. Nothing fancy here.
  • Cheese cloth-A lot of times, small particulates of herbs get through the strainer. So, I line it with cheese cloth and then squeeze the remnants out. You can also use thin muslin that can be reused after washing.
  • Measuring cups-I always use either Pyrex or Anchor Hocking brand glass measuring cups. They are heavy duty, and you don’t need to worry about plastic degrading or metal interacting. I also buy these at the thrift store.
  • Various sizes of bottles and jars-You’ll need all the mason jars for steeping your teas, percolating your tinctures and vinegars (NEVER use plastic or metal-only glass), storing herbs, drinking glasses, etc. I also think investing in some good amber bottles, glass droppers, jars for salves, etc is a good idea.

What do you have in your kitchen? Do you like to play with herbs? Next time, we’ll talk about basic herbs to keep on hand in your kitchen without spending a fortune.

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging and social media activities, I may  receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this article. However, I only recommend products or services that are in line with my personal and professional ethics and standards. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Beat Springtime ALLERGIES at Home, Naturally.

springallergy

It’s that time again…the earth is coming back to life-flowers and trees blooming, grass is growing green again, birds are chirping, and a cloud of pollen rolls across the land. The temperature is nice enough that you want to open your windows, but a few minutes into it, and you are sneezing, coughing, and your eyes are definitely revolting.

Over-the-counter allergy medicines come with some pretty unpleasant side-effects like drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, lower milk supply in breastfeeding mothers,  dry mouth, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and more.  I know when I felt like they were my only option many years ago, even the non-drowsy medications would knock me out-and most didn’t even really work on my allergy symptoms!

Let’s start at the root of the problem. Why do we have seasonal allergies? How are so many people allergic to nature? Didn’t humans used to be outdoors much more so than they are now? What the heck did they do before antihistamines???

“Allergy symptoms are caused by an overactive immune system. Your immune system produces substances known as antibodies that protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause an infection.

When you have allergies, your immune system is producing antibodies in response to exposure to things like pollen, dust, or pet dander that it perceives as harmful, even though they aren’t.

It’s not the exposure to allergens that are the root cause of your allergies, it’s your body’s overreaction causing the cascade of allergic symptoms.”  –Deane Alban, Natural News

So, it seems the most important thing that we should be doing is working on our immune system so it responds properly. But, that is a long and ongoing process. In the meantime, here are a few things that you can do to lessen your symptoms and help you through the onslaught of histamines.

Local Raw Honey  This is one of the most well known natural remedies for seasonal allergies. Local raw honey has traces of local pollen. So, the theory is that by consuming it daily throughout the year, your body is acclimated to the pollen. That way, when we are inundated with it in the spring (or fall), our bodies don’t revolt. By local I mean LOCAL. You really need to find honey that is within a 10 mile radius of where you live. Check your local Farmers’ Market; if you can’t find any there, chances are someone there will point you in the right direction. If you really can’t find ANY around, a friend of mine let me in on a little trick she discovered. She washed her car really well in the spring and allowed a good coating of pollen to accumulate. Here in the South, that takes about a day. Then, she swiped a good finger-full of pollen off her car and ate it! Sort of like a pollen-inoculation. She swears by it. Maybe have a glass of water nearby…

Apple Cider Vinegar Apple Cider Vinegar is another one of those things that we hear a lot about as a cure-all magic pill. Well, that’s because it really does help with so many things! It helps lessen the severity of your symptoms and also strengthens your immune system so over time, you won’t be affected as badly. Make sure that your vinegar has the ‘mother’ in it. That is very important.  I suggested taking a tablespoon or 2 a day mixed with some raw honey in a glass of warm water as a daily tonic. 

Herbs! Of course we knew that one was coming. While I have used honey and apple cider vinegar on a regular basis for 10+ years, nothing has come close to the relief I have found with my beloved herbs. It really is amazing how fast and effective they are. My top herbs for allergy relief are stinging nettle leaf and goldenrod.  Both are a component in my Allergy Support Tincture, and nettles are one of the main herbs in my allergy tea. I prefer to use goldenrod as an antihistamine and nettles as more of a daily support. I drink nettles infusions several times a week, and they have lessened my reactions tremendously, but sometimes I really need something extra, so I will take a few droppers full of goldenrod tincture and my symptoms go away fairly quickly. And the great thing is there are no yucky side effects! 

Do you have seasonal allergies? What have you found to be helpful to control them?

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging and social media activities, I may  receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this article. However, I only recommend products or services that are in line with my personal and professional ethics and standards. 

Posted on 4 Comments

Make Your Own Black Drawing Salve

salve blavk

Black salve is a must have for any natural medicine cabinet. It is great to keep on hand for all sorts of ailments.  Now, this is not to be confused with the traditional black salve made with blood root that is purported to cure cancer. This is a MUCH milder and safer version. We use it for things like: cysts, boils, acne, splinters, and bug bites.

The key is to use ingredients that are astringent or ‘pulling’. I start with a base of plantain infused olive oil. Plantain itself is very astringent. I use fresh plantain poultices on bites and splinters to draw out. Then, I add bentonite clay and activated charcoal. The bentonite clay is also very drawing, and the charcoal traps and removes any bacteria. I also add a bit of raw honey for its healing properties as well.

black salve2Here’s my recipe:

3 ounces of Plantain-infused Organic Olive Oil

1 ounce of Beeswax

2 Tablespoons of Bentonite Clay

2 Tablespoons of Activated Charcoal

1 Tablespoon of Raw Honey

Heat infused oil and beeswax together in a double boiler until wax is melted. Stir in clay, charcoal, and honey until smooth. Quickly transfer to storage container-preferably a glass jar, though some use metal tins.

Don’t have time or energy to make your own? Head on over to my shop and pick up a jar today! Or, comment below for a chance to win a 2 ounce jar!  A winner has been selected! Thanks for all who have commented.

WEHswirl

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging and social media activities, I may  receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this article. However, I only recommend products or services that are in line with my personal and professional ethics and standards. 

Posted on Leave a comment

DIY Herbal All-Purpose Cleaner

diy cleaner title pic

Surely by now most people have either seen the orange peel in vinegar method of creating a natural kitchen cleaner. There may even be a few recipes that call for adding in essential oils to give it even that much more of a antimicrobial kick.  Well, yes-this is a bit similar. I’ve taken the basic idea of orange peels in vinegar and doctored it up a bit.

I tend to like to stay away from using essential oils because while I have studied herbalism for several years, I have not spent one dime on any aromatherapy courses.  I strongly feel that essential oils are VASTLY over used-and by people who do NOT know how to safely use them.  So, this recipe has taken the idea of the essential oils of certain plants and incorporated the use of the whole plant instead.

Ingredients:

  • Orange peels
  • Whole cloves
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Fresh lavender
  • Distilled white vinegar

The recipe is a simple as you would think-combine all the herbs in a large mason jar and cover with the vinegar. Let sit for 2+weeks and strain. Pour vinegar about 1/4 into a spray bottle and fill with water. Voila! You now have a great smelling, effective all-purpose cleaner that utilizes the anti-microbial properties of plants without the potential dangers of using volatile essential oils.

You can find most of these herbs locally (either grown yourself or in your grocery store) but you can also find them online at places like Mountain Rose Herbs or Bulk Herb Store.

 

WEHswirl

 

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging and social media activities, I may  receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this article. However, I only recommend products or services that are in line with my personal and professional ethics and standards. 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Ten Moons: Herbs for Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a transition. Not only for the new life that is created, but also for the woman who is becoming a mother. Whether it is her first time or her 5th, this is a sacred time for the woman to nourish and honor her body. So many women choose pregnancy as the time to start making healthier choices in their lives. They not only have themselves to worry about, but they also want to give the best possible start to their baby. It makes sense that during this momentous transformation period, the woman chooses to remove some old bad habits and learn new healthy ones that will carry on throughout her and her children’s lives.

One way that some women choose to take their health into their own hands is to save modern medicine as a last resort and use herbs and other natural remedies first. Let’s start with the most common thing that all pregnant women are encouraged to take: the prenatal vitamin. This is a gigantic horse pill that makes the average person gag, much less someone who has a sensitive stomach anyway! And how do we know exactly what we are absorbing and what is going to waste, so to speak? Pills have to travel through our digestive system, get broken down, and then some of it goes to our blood stream, and the rest goes, well, I don’t need to draw you a picture. Herbal infusions (strong teas brewed for several hours) like all liquids, get assimilated much easier and faster. So, after making sure you are eating nourishing foods-lots of proteins, healthy fats, fruits and veggies, if you drink a nice well rounded pregnancy support tea, you will be sure that your are receiving all the vitamins and minerals your body deserves. Most grocery stores sell prepackaged teas in convenient little tea bags, but how long have they actually been sitting there? My favorite way to make teas is to buy each individual herb and then blend it myself. For each cup. That way if I need a bit more of something, I can add it! For instance, if I’m low on calcium, I’ll add more nettles. Drinking 1-4 cups of tea a day not only is nourishing to your body, but to your soul.

Morning sickness is major complaint during pregnancy that many women are looking for natural ways to support. Recently, the FDA has issued a “potential safety issue” regarding using a popular anti-nausea medication. So, of course-alternatives are needed. One school of thought is that since the excess level of hormones in a women’s body during pregnancy is causing the nausea and vomiting, that helping the body process those hormones better will curb the morning sickness. One way to do that is to strengthen the liver. A very effective and gentle way is to use milk thistle seed in a tincture (herbal extract, usually in alcohol). Using milk thistle seed along with making your you are eating small frequent meals that are high in protein, and drinking your pregnancy support infusion, you should be able to reduce your morning sickness significantly.

One of the biggest constituents of most pregnancy teas is red raspberry leaf (RRL). Not only is RRL rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin E, it is a wonderful uterine tonic. Your uterus is a muscle and it needs to be nice and strong to effective birth your baby. One way to help strengthen and tone your uterus is to drink strong RRL infusions during the last month of your pregnancy. I usually would steep one ounce (in weight) of RRL in a quart of boiling water overnight. The next day, I would drink the entire quart throughout the day. This is only appropriate during the last month of pregnancy, as excess RRL can cause Braxton-Hicks contractions.

The postpartum period is a time that the mother really only needs to focus on nourishing herself so she can properly nourish her baby. She should not be hosting, cleaning, cooking, or any of those things that our society thinks women should magically be able to do! Continuing your pregnancy infusion during the postpartum period is a good idea-another idea is to have a postpartum tea that is nourishing, energizing, and soothing all at the same time (recipe below). This is wonderful to make by the gallon and drink hot or iced-great for the entire new family (except the baby)! Another great way to support your well being after birth is a bath. A blend of herbs to help facilitate healing, reduce inflammation, and encourage relaxation brewed into a bath tea is a lovely addition to any bath (during pregnancy, postpartum, menstruation, Tuesday, etc).

For women who choose to breastfeeding and are struggling with true supply issues, some herbs will help encourage milk productions. *Note: If you have a normal supply (most women) do not use herbs to increase your supply. Over supply is a real problem!  Herbs to increase milk supply: Nettles, Red Raspberry Leaf, Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek, Fennel Seed, Alfalfa, Oatstraw, Goat’s Rue (only in tincture).

Lastly, while a lot of herbs are safe and gentle, not all of them are. Some herbs are very beneficial for people who are not pregnant, but could pose a threat to a pregnancy. Some common herbs to avoid during pregnancy: pennyroyal, osha, blue cohosh, black cohosh, cottonroot, tansy, yarrow, tulsi, ephedra, valerian, mugwort, angelica, feverfew, sage, and wormwood.  Some of these listed are used by midwives to facilitate labor, so only use them under the guidance of your care provider.

Recipes

Pregnancy Tea:

  • 3 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
  • 3 parts Nettles
  • 2 parts Dandelion Leaf
  • 1 part Oatstraw
  • 1 part Alfalfa
  • 1 part Rosehips

Add one ounce of tea blend to a quart of boiling water (in a mason jar, if you have one). Cap the jar. Allow to steep for at least 30-45 minutes, preferably several hours up to overnight. Strain and sweeten as desired. Drink 1-4 cups per day.

Awesome Mama Postpartum Tea

  • 3 parts Lemon Balm
  • 3 parts Comfrey
  • 2 parts Chamomile
  • 2 parts Hibiscus
  • 1 part Rose Petals and Rose Hips
  • 1/8 part Lavender Buds

Add one ounce of tea blend to a quart of boiling water (in a mason jar, if you have one). Cap the jar. Allow to steep for at least 30-45 minutes, preferably several hours up to overnight. Strain and sweeten as desired. Drink 1-4 cups per day.

Pospartum Sitz Bath

  • 1 part St. Joan’s Wort
  • 1 part Comfrey
  • 1 part Uva Ursi
  • 1 part Calendula
  • 1 part Shepherd’s Purse
  • Yarrow

Steep one ounce of herbs in a quart of boiling water for 45 minutes. Strain (very important!! No one wants to clean herbs out of a bathtub!) and add tea to bath with sea salts.

**This article is for informational purposes only. Any advice given has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not meant to treat or diagnose. Consult your primary care provider.

Posted on 1 Comment

Featured Herb: Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

CAM00043-EFFECTS

Chances are, you’ve seen this lovely lady waving at you as you’ve traveled around lately. And, if you have seasonal allergies, chances are Goldenrod has been wrongfully accused of causing such allergies.

In reality, Goldenrod’s pollen is very sticky and doesn’t leave the plant. You are NOT allergic to goldenrod. But, guess what? Ragweed blooms at the exact same time, and it is a MAJOR allergen. That’s probably what you are reacting to.

It gets better. Not only is Goldenrod NOT the culprit of your sneezing and itchy eyes, but she can also help alleviate those symptoms! That’s right! Goldenrod has antihistamine properties!!

Nothing in nature happens without reason or randomly. Mother Nature/God/Goddess/etc. gives us exactly what we need.  We just need to learn how to listen again.

Other uses for goldenrod:

  • Cold and flu relief;
  • Colic and gas relief;
  • Lowers fever;
  • Powdered Goldenrod root helps heal wounds;
  • Goldenrod Vinegar helps prevent kidney stones and boosts immune responses; and
  • Can help with other kidney and bladder issues.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Featured Herb: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

YarrowYarrow is definitely one of my herbal allies. She literally grows all over my entire yard! Enough that I have been able to share it with a pretty large handful of friends.

I usually put off the first grass cutting of the year until I get a nice harvest of yarrow. When harvesting, I make sure to get the flowering tops along with some of the leaves and stem. It grows so abundantly, that I don’t have to worry if I don’t get enough in a day, because it will surely be back! It is considered a ground cover, so it spreads nicely and transplants take root very easily. So, if you are local to me and want to grow your own, let me know! I have more than enough to share.

Yarrow is one of those awesome all purpose plants. Fever reducing, anti-infective, insect repellent, pain reliever, blood purifier, and stops bleeding!

Yarrow is one of the herbs that I definitely recommend keeping on hand in tincture form in a travel first aid kit. You can put it directly on wounds to clean them and stop the bleeding, you can use it diluted in a spray bottle as an insect repellent, I also use it in a spray bottle for things like strep throat and tonsillitis.

As a fever reducer, it is best prepared as a tea. Now, it can be quite bitter, so mixing it with some more palatable herbs is probably the way to go.  Be on the look out for a fever busting tea soon!

**Unfortunately, pregnant women should not take yarrow in any form, as it may cause uterine contractions.**

Posted on Leave a comment

Featured Herb: Elderberries!

elderberry stuff

So, in a few weeks, our children will be congregating in mass quantities. Yes-going back to school. Aside from the enormously wasteful piles of paper they will be bringing home for you to fill out for the umpteenth time, they will be bringing home all kinds of fun viruses and bacteria to ensure your immune system gets a nice workout.

Thankfully, the earth has decided to bless us with this immune support-elderberries. They are fruiting right now here in South Carolina. I just strolled around my neighborhood earlier today and harvested a basketful.

Elderberries have flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants and protect our cells from damage. These flavonoids also boost the immune system and strengthen our immune response to attacks from viruses. That combined with its HIGH Vitamin C content, you really can’t go wrong!

So, head on over to our shop  and stock up on Elderberry Syrup for the kids or Elderberry Tincture for yourself.

Posted on 2 Comments

Pregnancy Tea

So, the first thing I do every evening before bed is prepare my pregnancy support infusion. I allow it to steep overnight to extract the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals from the herbs.

DSCN1571

The next morning, I strain the infusion and sip on it throughout the day.

For every blog, website, or source you go to, you will find a different recipe for pregnancy tea.  One thing I can guarantee they all have in common is Red Raspberry Leaf (RRL). RRL is like the workhorse of herbs for female reproductive health.  It has been used for centuries as a uterine tonic. Along with being rich in vitamins and minerals (calcium, iron, phospohorus, potassium, and vitamins B, C, and E) RRL’s active ingredient is the alkaloid fragarine. Fragarine (when combined with the rest of the plant’s constituents-NOT isolated as an extract) tones and relaxes the pelvic and uterine muscles.

The next herb that I always include in my pregnancy tea blends (and drink it almost daily when NOT pregnant) is Stinging Nettles.  I love nettles for it’s high mineral content. It is a great source of iron, calcium, Vitamin A, and chlorophyll. It is also excellent for water retention, which is a common complaint during pregnancy.

Dandelion Leaf is typically in my blend, as well. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals (vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and potassium). It is also amazing for your digestive system and is an excellent liver tonic.

Next on my list is Oatstraw. This is one of my absolute favorite plants to work with. Oatstraw helps with dryness (you know what I’m talking about!) and is a mild nerve tonic. It is so nice and relaxing without being a sedative.  It is also very rich in calcium and magnesium (hence the relaxation-making!).

Finally, I love to add some Rose Hips. Rose hips are chocked full of vitamin C and taste delicious!

Recipe

  • 3 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
  • 3 parts Stinging Nettles
  • 2 parts Dandelion Leaf
  • 2 parts Oatstraw
  • 1 part Red Clover
  • 1 part Rose Hips

Mix thoroughly. Use about 1/2 cup per quart of boiling water. After you strain it, you can sweeten however you’d like. Lately, I’ve been adding some lemon juice and fresh grated ginger to my infusions. I’ve been craving this lemon-ginger tea, but it has hibiscus in it, and I’m not too keen on using hibiscus during pregnancy unless blood pressure issues are present.

This blend is also wonderful for postpartum, breastfeeding, or really anytime you are feeling like you need to be nourished. Hot or cold, steeped for 30 minutes or 8 hours, sweetened or not-this tea is definitely a must have for women.

 

Posted on 2 Comments

Nourishing Herbal Infusions

Anyone who knows me knows that I am always talking about herbal infusions. Most people know about herbal teas-small amounts of herbs are steeped for a few minutes, adding honey or sugar, and drinking hot as a delicious relaxing beverage.

Herbal infusions go a step further. And infusion is a large amount of plant material (typically one ounce to a quart of water) allowed to steep for several hours, up to over night. It is then sipped on throughout the day. The longer the herbs are steeped, the more vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial properties are released.

We are now selling herbal infusion starter kits. Each kid comes with 1 ounce each of nettles, oat straw, red clover, comfrey leaf, and mullein. Also included is a one quart wide mouthed canning jar. Click here to go to the shop and check it out!

Also, Susun Weed has gifted us with a FREE online course on herbal infusions. Anyone who is wanting to learn more about WHY and to go more in depth about infusions should definitely take advantage of this generous offer! Nourishing Herbal Infusions Online Course