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All About Violet

 

 

wild violet title picWild Violets (viola odorata) are pretty little perennials that tend to pop up in late winter/early spring (depending on where you live). Unfortunately, most people consider them to be annoying weeds. They are easily identified by their purple flowers and heart shaped leaves. Please don’t confuse them with African violets that are grown as houseplants. They are NOT the same thing.

This sweet little plant really is versatile and useful! But, before you start, you need to know a few things about wild harvesting. First, make SURE that the area that pick from isn’t sprayed by chemicals, where your dog defecates, close to the road, or any other place that you think is contaminated. Secondly, you want young and healthy growth. Look for vibrant colors. Third-you always want to ask permission from both the land owner and the plant itself. Fourth, never take more than you will use and never more than 5-10% of what is available. And lastly, always give thanks to the plant, earth, Mother Nature, God, or who/whatever you recognize as the giver of what you are taking. You should try to do your harvesting in the morning just after the dew has evaporated. Some of the ways that we will use wild violet call for fresh plant material and some require it to be dried, so make sure you save some to dry. 

Nutritional. Violets are packed full of minerals and vitamins-especially A and C. One of my favorite things to make is a wild green salad with violet leaves, blooms, dandelion greens, yellow dock, plantain, purslane, henbit, dead nettles, and cleavers. You can also saute the leaves like you would any other green. Another delicious treat is Wild Violet Lemonade. This is a great way to sneak in some extra nutrients to your kids and replace those toxic ‘fruit’ drinks they love so much.  Infused vinegar is my other go-to usage for wild violet. Vinegar is well known for its ability to extract vitamins and minerals from plant sources. Infusing vinegar is super easy. Get a clean mason jar and fill it with either violet blossoms, leaves, or both and cover with either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Let it set in a cool dark place for 2-6 weeks. Strain and label. If you use white vinegar, try to make a batch with just blossoms-you will make a BEAUTIFUL purple vinegar! I use vinegars for all kinds of things. I flavor cooked greens with them, you can make a salad dressing with it, you can even use it as a hair rinse and a bath soak. Think of all the goodness of apple cider vinegar that you hear about-and add a power punch of nutrients with plant infusions!

10247459_728384073849329_8258624107772710316_nMedicinal. Wild violet has numerous medicinal properties. It is anti-inflammatory, helps the lymphatic system, is a blood purifier, it is a mild laxative and diuretic, a fever reducer, and supports the immune system. Making a syrup from the flowers is probably the easiest way to get your kids to reap the benefits. A syrup or tea is great for young ones who are constipated or have a fever. Simple fill a glass jar with the fresh flowers and pour boiling water over them. Allow to steep for 4 hours. Strain. You can stop here if you would like to have a cup of violet tea ( really, it’s an infusion…) or continue if you would like to turn it into a syrup. Herbal syrups are really just ways of making teas/infusions palatable for children (or those with tastebuds of children!).  Pour the infusion into a saucepan. Add equal quantities of sugar or honey and bring to a slow boil. Allow to boil for about 20 minutes or so and pour into glass jar. Store in fridge.  A great preparation for violets is in a salve or balm. It has been known to treat eczema and fibrocystic breast issues. Simply infuse dried violet leaf in an organic oil of your choice for several weeks. Strain and heat in a double boiler with a bit of beeswax. Continue to heat until wax is melted. Pour into glass jar. If it is too hard, remelt and add more oil. If it is too soft, remelt and add more wax. Tinctures are probably my favorite herbal preparation. Whenever possible, use fresh plant material. Place in clean glass jar (notice a theme here?) and cover with 100 proof alcohol (I prefer vodka, but use what you would like). LABEL! Give a good shake and place in cool dark area for 6+weeks. Give it a shake every day or so. Strain and bottle in an amber dropper bottle. Tinctures are the most effective form of herbal medicine. It is quick and easily absorbed into your blood stream. 

Just for fun! Crystallized violet blossoms and violet ice cubes! Crystallized violets are a fun garnish for baked goods and violet ice cubes would be a hit a kid’s party. Just fill an ice cube tray with the blossoms and fill with water as normal.

If you do not have access to fresh violets for some reason, you can always order them. I prefer to use Mountain Rose Herbs, but there are plenty of other herbal companies available!

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. 

 

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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.

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Featured Herb: Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

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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.

 

 

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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.**

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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.