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Beat Springtime ALLERGIES at Home, Naturally.

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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. 

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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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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.

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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.