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Archive for the ‘herbalism’ Category

Bunching onions, sauerkraut, local lamb roast, and working in the garden….

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

What do all those things have in common? …. Just more “not dabbling in normal” normal.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Cleaning and clearing out the winter garden. the onions are starting to flower. I let a few turnips and some of the kale flower so I can collect seeds. The monster spinach is just starting to bolt, so will leave a few plants in the ground for seed saving also.

I was over at the neighbors yesterday to help clear out winter plants and get some spring things in the ground. He uses a hoe (made in the USA) that belonged to his grandmother. (my neighbor is 81 years old, so that is one old hoe that he is using.) we planted some cucumber and zucchini seeds and got a few bell pepper plants in the ground. My body is still playing catch up from being sick a year ago…. so that was all we got done. We will work out there again on Saturday. I plan to work in my garden today and hopefully get some plants in the ground. I still get out of breath, but it feels good to work out there and I need to keep pushing myself a bit to keep getting better. I have certainly come a long way, especially when i think back to march 2013 when I couldn’t even walk across the room!

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

I have picked my cabbages and they are in the crock turning into fermented sauerkraut. I picked up some more local cabbage at the local swap that I go to and those are also fermenting in another second crock. A Roasted lamp shoulder

Dinner the other night was a roasted local lamb shoulder (picked it up at the swap/barter.) I had a second pan in the oven roasting sweet potatoes and onions that I also traded for.

Making a cough syrup

Making a cough syrup

I am also taking an herbal medics class. Learning a lot, and So much more to learn. It is a lot of fun. I am harvesting some wild herbs and edibles as they are popping up this spring. The lambsquarter is popping up so I am potting some up to take to plant swaps and also the month swap/barter.

So, like I said…. Life. There is a lot going on. Spring is in the air (It was 87F yesterday – I think we skipped Spring!)

What are you up to this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily

 

 

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The following information is important for all pet owners to read, so i hope you will forgive this re-post from Pocket Pause.
Today’s post is a very important message to all the skin-parents out there. A friend of mine recently sent me an email warning me about using essential oils on Pocket. As i posted recently, i have blended an essential oil mixture to use on Pocket to prevent fleas, ticks and mosquitos without relying on those nasty chemical treatments. I’ve been using it with good success, as an occasional neck drip but mostly as a “rub it around on her belly and tail feathers” barrier when we go hiking. She’s had no problems, but i was also careful to dilute the essential oils i used with a lot of jojoba oil. It’s very important to remember that essential oils must ALWAYS be diluted before use, for humans and pets alike. There are a few exceptions that can be used undiluted on occasion, but as a general rule you should water down your essential oils in oil, vodka or witch hazel.
In my friend’s case, she was using a brand name treatment that is available in stores and across the internet. Please read her warning below and weigh your options carefully when choosing a flea treatment for your pet:
Be very, very careful when using essential oils on Pocket. I honestly wouldn’t recommended it at all.
I used Sentry brand “Natural Defense Flea & Tick” squeeze-on treatment, as well as the same name carpet powder. The ingredients are peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, lemon grass oil, clove oil and thyme oil.
Within one day of treating Tres, he was having severe difficulty breathing. I wondered if it was the flea treatment, but thought that it would be strange if any of those ingredients caused him harm, as I thought they were safe (which is why I used it, as opposed to a chemical treatment). Well, three vets and four days later, we finally found a vet who had seen this before and read studies on it and, yes, essential oils can be toxic to dogs and cats. Their bodies metabolize them differently than ours. Tres’ rapid breathing was caused by his body being so acidic that it was toxic from the oils. His body was trying to get lots of oxygen to help his liver and kidneys eliminate the toxins. It has been nine days and his breathing is still not quite normal. But it is better. He wouldn’t eat, he could barely walk and he sounded like he was hyperventilating. It was HORRIBLE. I would just lay in his kennel with him and sob. The vet said we are lucky that he is still alive.
The only thing we could do to treat him was wash him with dish washing detergent (4x) make sure he had plenty of clean water, high quality protein (he would barely eat though) and lots of rest. And 12 mg of Benadryl twice daily. We go to the vet next week to do blood work to see if there has been any permanent organ damage. We’re hoping and praying that there isn’t any.
I’ve called the company and they refuse to acknowledge that their product could have done this. I find that interesting, considering that I found 200 complaints about their products killing/harming dogs and cats at the Consumer Affairs website and there is a Facebook page of people with similar experiences who are gathering up in order to file a class action lawsuit against the company.
It is going to cost $400 to get our area rugs cleaned (I used the powder on them) and we’ve incurred a few hundred dollars in vet bills so far. Sentry says that they will do an investigation and “possibly” refund us for costs incurred.
PLEASE pass the word on to all of your friends and family with beloved cats and dogs. Products with essential oils are even more harmful to cats, as they clean themselves and ingest them. The best flea treatment to use is Frontline Plus.
Josh made up a new slogan for Sentry: “Works so well it kills your pet, too!” :(
Scary stuff! Please be careful when using any medication on yourself or your pets, natural or chemical. Also avoid clove oil like the plague: it is intensely volatile and dangerous even to humans if undiluted. Use it on your gums, carefully, but keep it away from the pups! Prevention is always the best policy: plant flea and mosquito preventing plants in your landscaping like pennyroyal and catmint, brush and pick over your pet often to see if fleas are even a problem and always be careful when using a new product on your pets as they may respond differently than you’d expect. I like to mix a carpet powder for home use that should be safe for everyone involved: a blend of 60% baking soda and 40% diatomaceous earth plus a few drops of essential oils for the scent. The b.s. freshens the house and the d.e. helps kill unwanted pests. I’ve also heard from a reader that you can shake salt all over your house and let it sit for a day before vacuuming…. that sounds a little messy but very safe.
Be careful out there, everybody! -Miranda & Pocket

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I was knocked down by yet another cold this season. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around (especially in the cold-induced foggy state.) I have been healthy and cold free for about 2 years and this year is completely different.

I have learned a lot over the past few years about herbs and foods and characteristics that are helpful, but I have also found that my best intentions haven’t prepared me to fight these colds.

I want to grow elderberry bushes so I can make immune boosting syrups and tinctures and even wine. I want to grow calendula and chamomile, horehound and stinging nettles. I want to grow sumac and dandelions and ginger. I know I can grow these things. I have a few growing now. It just takes time and I have to realize that I can’t do it all overnight!

Even though I can and will grow these things, it isn’t practical to think I can grow and make my own “everything” all at once. I need to step back and realize that I can (and should) buy some of these wonderful dried herbs and fruits and just start making the tinctures and syrups and throat lozenges so when I am hit with a cold I am prepared. When my bushes and trees and herbs mature I will then know what to do with them and be thrilled I can use my own.

Drying some horehound to make throat lozenges

There are a few things I did during this last cold that helped me to fight it off faster. I drank hibiscus tea and I also drank garlic tea. Garlic is chuck-full of great antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. I cook with garlic a lot, but drinking the garlic tea is another way to get it into your system and help fight off the effects of the cold or flu. You can read about garlic tea right here at Not Dabbling in Normal.

Along with losing my appetite I also lost my sense of taste and smell. To help get me through this cold I made a healing chicken soup that I know helped nourish me and get me through this much quicker. I made a bone based chicken broth and threw in ginger, onion, hot peppers, dark leafy greens (kale and chard and spinach), turmeric, and garlic along with basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. I wasn’t really thinking about taking photos while I was sick, so the photo you see below is the second batch of soup I made when I started to feel better.

This past week I got together with a culinary group I belong to. The theme this month was “soup.” One of the ladies brought an “Immunity-Boosting Winter Soup” and it was the first soup I ate that night. It was so much like the one I make, but hers included freshly harvest dandelion greens.   We talked about her soup along with the ingredients and the properties that each ingredient has. I was thrilled to know I was on the right track with my soup.

What went into my healing soup?

  • Ginger – works on congestion & great for nausea
  • Spinach/Kale/Chard – full of vitamin C, and A, folate and potassium
  • Hot peppers – help to relieve pain and stimulate endorphins
  • Turmeric – antibiotic properties
  • Garlic – an expectorant, natural antibiotic
  • Red Bell Pepper – high in Vitamin C & A

The immunity-boosting soup that my friend made also had a pinch of cinnamon (infection fighter), calendula flowers (immune stimulator), dried thyme (antibiotic & expectorant), astragalus root (help to strengthen the immune system) and dandelion greens (high in vitamin C & A and many trace minerals and is especially high in potassium)

I am back on my feet and the fog has cleared. I attribute that to the things I ate and drank. Now I better start making a list of things I would like to order so I can get some syrups and tinctures made up to help keep my immune system in tip-top shape.

Do you have any herbal or home remedies that work for you?

disclaimer

Sincerely, Emily

You can also read what I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily

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Sun Flowers

The Solstice is a year-marker. The longest day, the shortest night; the day when the god believes in his supremacy and his triumph over the world. He shines high and strong and hot and proclaims the summer. The Sun flowers are primary- daisy, petunia, primrose, tickweed.

But though the god sleeps through the winter, the goddess is working all summer as well. While the god plays with the flowers in the bright sunshine, she is thinking of the Dark Days, which start today, storing the god’s summer sweetness in the harvest.

My herbalist friend “Om” says,

We use chamomile tea in the chalice and horn cup at our Summer Solstice rituals, especially at the height of the day when it is families with lots of kids. It also brews into a delightful wine. I have also added it to the vinaigrette to go on a feast salad, and put it in fire fruit salad (a mix of citrus fruits that are red, yellow and orange, along with cinnamon and cumin as the main spices). The leaves work well in incense this time of year, and as part of the bundle of herbs used for sweeping and/or asperging.

I have some chamomile left from last year, and tons of fresh volunteers blooming in the garden. Rise before dawn and watch this special sunrise. Make a tea with new chamomile and new local honey, and honor the god who brings the high summer.



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elder blossum, Sambucus

The end of cool, spring days are long gone here in the southeast (and most of the Midwest for that matter), and we’re working our way into a hot and dry summer. Though the days may be thick with heat, we’re fortunate that the fragrance in the air is sweet, making odoriferous (read: sweaty) outdoor life a little more bearable. Between the honeysuckle, magnolia blooms, the last of the spring roses, and now elderflowers (also known as Sambucus), the perfume outdoors is downright heavenly.
elder flower, just opening

In the past I’ve talked about elderberries,  but the flowers that make those berries are just as – if not more than – extraordinary, and dare I say: exquisite. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to sample the blossoms in liqueur form (aka St. Germain) you’d recognize the slightly lemon and honey undertones in the air. It’s a sweet, heady, and perfumed flavor, but not quite cloying. Elderflower liqueur or syrup is definitely spring in a bottle. The liqueur or syrup is gorgeous mixed with champagne, it makes a lovely iced tea, and numerous other cocktails. Just don’t consume too many or the alkaloids will give you an upset tummy*.
elderflower stars

If you do happen across some elder, be sure to leave plenty of blossom heads to produce berries in another month, and then leave some of those berries for wildlife and to produce new shrubs. The berries are an important resource for many critters including birds and many moths. Pick the blooms that are open as it’s the pollen that helps to flavor and color your cordials – avoid those that are already forming berries and blossoms not yet open.

Elderflower Syrup

  • 10 large flower heads, largest stems removed, bugs shaken off
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced – avoid bitter pith
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp citric acid

Bring water and sugar just to a boil, then combine remaining ingredients. Allow to steep for 12-24 hours. Strain through muslin, then bottle and keep in refrigerator for up to a week.

Elderflower Syrup Ice Cubes

lavender and elderflower syrup

Simply pour your cooled syrup into ice cube trays and freeze. An excellent way to keep your wines or punches chilled this summer. Also a fabulous

way to extend the life of your syrup which will last about a week in the refrigerator.

Elderflower and Lavender Syrup

Follow directions for Elderflower syrup, but add 5 stems of lavender to 1 pint of liquid. Strain through muslin before bottling.

Elderflower Liqueur

  • 5 large flower heads, largest stems removed, bugs shaken off
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups vodka

Strain vodka through a water purifier if you have one available. Put flowers into quart-sized jar then cover with vodka. Allow to steep for about three to four weeks, then strain through muslin cloth. Return vodka to jar and add sugar. If 1/2 cup isn’t sweet enough, add more.

I’ve got all of these above in process currently. Next up is a recipe for elderflower& vanilla panna cotta I found at the River Cottage blog. The apple elderflower jelly and the strawberry elderflower jam both sound divine but I’m afraid those will have to wait until next year because I’m reserving the rest of the flowers for elderberry jam!
elderflower syrup

*Concerning toxicity via Wikipedia:

The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots contain a cyanide producing glycoside. Ingesting any of these parts in sufficient quantity can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body. In addition, the unripened berry, flowers and “umbels” contain a toxic alkaloid.

Due to the possibility of cyanide poisoning, children should be discouraged from making whistles, slingshots or other toys from elderberry wood. In addition, “herbal teas” made with elderberry leaves (which contain cyanide inducing glycosides) should be treated with high caution. However, ripe berries (pulp and skin) are safe to eat”

Information and history of the Elder via the USDA plant guide.

A lovely guide, history, and some recipes vie A Modern Herbal at Botanical.com

***

You can also find Jennifer blarging along at Unearthing this Life when she’s not too busy wrassling turkeys and guineas, chasing chickens, playing with a seven year old, and working her (now) massive garden. She even sometimes tweets her nonsense @unearthingthis1 on Twitter.

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rosewater and glycerine

Being a gardener, a mother, a housekeeper, a homesteader, and if there’s time left over – an artist, I always have rough hands. On top of all that, I suffer from eczema from time to time and have dry skin. We joke about it at my house: that I have “manlier” hands than my husband. Admittedly I’m not always the best at donning gloves when I’m working outdoors.

In the winter time and early spring, my hands would chap so bad that they’d bleed. Switching from anti-bacterial soaps throughout the household helps tremendously. I also stopped using mineral oil-based lotions and switched to those made with beeswax and other healthy emollients.

With our focus this month on REAL clean items, I thought it’s time for me to work on making some of my own lotions, scrubs, and oils in an effort to save money and concoct some brews with my very own herbs and blossoms. I have to tell you that the process has made my house smell amazing – that in itself is worth the whole thing!

rose petals

Hand Oil

Start by making an infusion of your desired herbs or flowers. I used rose petals because they have a skin-softening effect and lavender because it’s my favorite aroma. You can also use violets and chamomile for a soothing blend. I wanted my infusion strong, so I used equal parts rose petals and distilled water, then tossed in several lavender stems and branches. Cover and heat on medium for about 1 hour, but do not boil. Allow to cool, pulling lid off every few minutes to gather evaporated goodness in an atomizer to spray on linens.

Strain liquid and store in a dark jar. I ended up with 6 cups of the infusion which will last a very, very long time. I’ll keep it in the refrigerator and use as a cooling spray during the summer, or to mix with iced tea, or to make more balms and lotions.

  • 1 cup herbal or floral infusion
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable glycerine
  • 2 tsp sweet almond oil
  • 2 tsp grapeseed oil

Add all ingredients to a mason jar and shake vigorously. This will not emulsify completely, so you will need to pour into decorative jars quickly. Shake again before using.

My first impressions: My skin feels incredibly soft and not oily in the least. And the fragrance… not the least overpowering, although I may stay away from my beehives today.

rose & lavender hand oil

My feet, on the other hand…

Those have always been rough. I have to keep them constantly exfoliated to keep them smooth or they snag everything they touch. For the holidays I made my family and friends a foot soak and scrub that is a great exfoliator. Last summer I’d made some grape jelly from Concords, and saved the seeds for this purpose. They make an excellent scrub, but remember that you’ll want to strain them from the water as they may clog your drain. Add them to your compost pile instead.

foot scrub

Grape Seed Foot Scrub and Soak

  • 4 parts Epsom salt/Sea Salt
  • 1 part whole, clean grape seeds
  • several dashes Essential Oil like rose, geranium, or lemon grass

Combine all ingredients together in an airtight container and label. Allow to rest in a dark room for several days before using so that the oil infuses the salts.

As the month progresses I plan to experiment a little and actually use my own products. At the end of the month I’ll report my results to see if they’re any better than over the counter items.

You can find me at Unearthing this Life where I blarg about living in rural Tennessee. I’m also on Twitter as @unearthingthis1 .

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Several years ago I read about the wonders of Broad Leaved Plantain, a “weed” that grows everywhere. It’s also known as: Bird’s Meat, Common Plantain, Great Plantain, Rat-tail Plantain, White Man’s Foot.

I have it growing all over the gardens here at Chiot’s Run and I’m quite happy about it. It comes in very handy when I’m out working late and get bit by mosquitoes or if I get stung by a bee.

All you have to do for a quick salve is grab a leaf or two, chew them up and apply them to the bug bite. I often do this while I’m out working if I need to, but I prefer to make a poultice with some baking soda as it stays on better and I think it works better. (as with all wild plants, make sure you know exactly what you’re picking & using!)

What I usually do is take a few leaves, cut them finely, add a pinch or two of baking soda and a little water. Then I grind them to a wet paste in my mortar & pestle and apply to the bug bite. It instantly works to get rid of the itch or sting and keeps it coming back.

This salve is also very beneficial for using on cuts and scrapes, I often add some turmeric and comfrey when I’m using it for this purpose as turmeric helps with inflammation and pain and comfrey speeds healing.

Plantain has medicinal uses of all sorts: bites, cuts, scrapes, rashes, skin problems, intestinal pain & issues, worms, boils, bronchitis, coughs, colitis, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting, bed wetting and incontinence and many other things (for more info read this and this). I have yet to use it internally, but I use it often for bug bites, stings and cuts. I’m trying to make plantain oil for using medicinally. Since it’s an herb with no known side-effects I definitely want to try using it more often.

Have you ever used plantain? Do you use herbs/weeds for medicinal purposes?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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This past fall I harvested a lot of my herbs for warming winter teas. I should have harvested them all summer long, but I got busy and forgot to do it until winter threatened, so I didn’t get as many as I wanted. When I harvest tea I carry a big bowl around with me and snip the fresh herbs. I keep them all separate in small paper bags that I’ve saved.

harvesting_herbs

I picked about 2 pounds of herbs for tea this winter as well as a few savory herbs for seasoning (I also like savory tea on occasion) and some medicinal herbs.

What herbs made it into my harvest bowl?
-Catmint
-Blue Stocking Bergamot
-Anise Hyssop
-Peppermint
-Mountain Mint
-Lemon Balm
-Chamomile
-Lavender
-Greek Oregano
-Fennel Seed
-Genovese Basil
-Broad Leafed Plantain
-Comfrey


herbs

I’ve really been enjoying my chamomile that I harvested. I had one volunteer plant that I harvested a good amount of blossoms from earlier in the summer. These few flowers are from a plant I started later in the summer. For some reason I didn’t have much luck with my chamomile this past year, since I love chamomile tea I hope I have a better harvest this coming year! We’ve been drinking a lot of mint tea and I had my first cup of bergamot tea earlier this week as well. We weren’t able to grow all of the tea we drink, but hopefully if I can get a good chamomile harvest this year we’ll only have buy our favorite Traditional Medicinals Teas Lemon Echinacea and everything else will be homegrown.

chamomile_blooms

I also have a few potted herbs that I bring in as houseplants, these include: rosemary, lemon thyme, lemon verbena and chives. All of these we’ve been enjoying in our food this winter.

Do you dry herbs for seasoning & tea?

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there’s been a lot of talk about the swine flu and how to prepare it lately online. a lot of scary talk, from mandatory vaccines (which incidentally, the manufacturers have just had a law passed on their behalf which holds them unresponsible for any side affects that might occur from said vaccination) to quarantines and more.

many people are wondering what to do to prepare for the flu, to help prevent it, how to lessen the severity and duration and how to avoid the secondary bacterial infections that can occur from complications of it. i hope to be able to touch on all these things and give you a starting point for feeling confident in preventing and/or treating any cases of the flu that might come into your home. today i’ll cover what to do to prevent the flu from entering your home.

first of all, to vaccinate or not? honestly, that is a personal decision that you alone have to decide. i can tell you that research has proven that the flu vaccination (for any flu, not just the swine flu) will NOT prevent the flu. it will only lessen the duration of the flu by 1-2 days and lessen the severity of it. also, the vaccination needs to be taken at least 10 days before the flu is contracted to be effective. herbalist michael tierra recommends taking homeopathic thuja occidentalis 30x starting 2 days after vaccinating for 3 days, 3 times a day, with a dosage of 10-20 drops for liquid or 4-5 for pellets. he recommends taking this for prevention and to treat reactions, including guillain-barre syndrome (which is one of the side effects of the swine flu vaccine).

whether or not you decide to vaccinate, there are precautions you can take to avoid the flu. one of the most obvious is hygiene. frequent hand washing is a must. watching what you touch in public, possibly bringing along your own alcohol wipes to wipe off shopping carts and your hands is a great idea. most public places offer handy wipes and while i generally wouldn’t use them, for this time of year, it’s a smart choice.

~as an aside, if you do get the flu and your doctor recommends tamiflu, please be aware it is only helpful if taken in the first 1-2 days of contracting the flu and will not ‘cure’ you of the flu but only lessen the duration and severity….see a pattern here?!~

getting large dosages of vitamin d3 to keep our vit d levels up has been proven effective for preventing the flu. the problem with us folks in the northern hemisphere is that no matter how much time we spend outdoors this time of year, we are not going to get the necessary amounts of vitamin d into our system because the angle of the sun/earth will not allow it which causes many people to become vitamin d deficient in the winter months. paul bergner recommends going to a tanning booth 3 times a week for 20 minutes, using a tanning bed with uvb rays. (if you go this route, make sure you specify you want a uvb bed as most beds are calibrated for uva). this is too short of a time to get sunburn or cancer is the most natural way to get vitamin d3 this time of year (funny, i never thought i’d recommend a tanning bed as ‘natural’ but here ya go!). another way to get vitamin d3 is to take 4-5000  iu a day. there has also been some suggestion of eating sun-dried mushrooms which contain vitamin d2, another useful form of vitamin d that could also be effective. a third way of getting enough vitamin d would be to visit south florida or mexico during the winter and hang outside between 11-1, exposing as much as your body as possible (your face does not absorb enough vitamin d on its own).

diet plays a large role in remaining healthy as well. avoiding the usual recommendations of processed and refined foods, eating lots of dark, leafy greens, drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day all have their merit. cooking bone broths and using them for daily cooking in place of water (for rice, beans, soups, etc) are another great way to get lots of valuable nutrients. adding 4-6 ‘sticks’ of astragalus roots to a soup/broth once a week will give your entire family a huge immune supporting and building herbal treatment without them even knowing it. garlic is another great herb to try to consume daily. rosemary gladstar has a great recipe for pickled garlic. unfortunately, it takes 12 weeks to completely process but it’s great to have on hand any time of the year! here’s my version of it:

peel as many cloves of garlic as you’d like. i generally fill 1 quart jar full of them. try not to nick the cloves as they will become discolored. fill the jar full of either tamari or apple cider vinegar. i usually make 1 jar of each because they both are tasty! label and set aside for 6 weeks. after 6 weeks, strain off half of the tamari or vinegar and top the jar back off with raw honey. shake well to mix and then set aside for 6 more weeks. now it’s ready to consume! eat a couple a day to keep the germs away! these make tasty gifts as well. if you start a batch today, they will be ready on december 17! just in time to give away to family and friends for the holidays and possibly even enough time to save yourself from the flu season (jan – mar is typically the hardest hit time).

exercising daily is important as it keeps the blood from getting stagnant. exercising outdoors is preferable so that your lungs can breathe in fresh air. something as simple as stretching or yoga every day is the perfect way to begin your day, especially if done outside. it’s an invigorating and wonderful way to start the day!

other important factors are adequate sleep, lowering stress levels and having a happy outlook on life.

one final factor is using herbs to help prevent the flu from arriving on your doorstep. i’ve already mentioned using garlic and astragalus in your daily/weekly cooking. burdock is another great nourishing root that is quite delicious when cooked right! here’s a great recipe to try it out:

Burdock-n-Wild Rice

2 cups sliced Burdock root (about 4-5 medium-sized roots)
5 or 6 Wild Leeks (can substitute 6-8 cloves garlic)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Thai peanut Sauce* (find at a local co-op or ethnic food section of grocery store)
1 cup wild rice, uncooked

Cover washed and sliced fresh burdock roots in 2 cups water with ½ tsp baking soda. Bring to a boil, pour off the water. Cover with fresh water and boil gently until burdock is very tender, about 10 minutes.   Drain thoroughly, put into a skillet.  (Note: cast iron may discolor the burdock root)

Add chopped leeks or garlic.  Sauté in 2 Tbsp olive oil for 5-10 minutes.  Meanwhile cook wild rice in 2 cups water, 20-30 minutes. Mix sautéed burdock with cooked rice. Add ½ cup Thai peanut sauce.  Serve hot or cold.

*Can substitute any favorite stir-fry sauce for the Thai peanut sauce

burdock root can be found growing all over the place or in your local asian grocer. it is also known as gobo.you can add some chopped root to any soup base. just be sure to follow this method before adding to stocks or soups to make it palatable:

cover washed and sliced fresh burdock roots in 2 cups water with ½ tsp baking soda. bring to a boil, pour off the water. cover with fresh water and boil gently until burdock is very tender, about 10 minutes.

elderberry is another great herb to take that has shown to be prophylactic for the flu. unlike echinacea which should only be taken for a short period of time, elderberry can be taken daily for long periods of time. it’s great as a tincture (glycerin is actually best because it draws out the constituents better than alcohol), syrup or elixir. taking a ‘touch of the recipe’ as the ballwin sisters were known to do on occasion on the waltons, is actually a wise choice for this time of the year, especially when elderberry is involved!

echinacea can be taken as well but i’m backing down on recommending this because of conflicting information about the ‘cytokine storms’ inhibition. i think early on, it is great to help as a preventative but once the flu hits, i would stop use immediately. since this post is already so long, i will not go into detail about this subject but if you are interested in learning more, you can google cytokine storms and echinacea to get more details.

all these factors boil down to having a better chance of avoiding the flu or lessening the duration and severity of it. if you are stricken with the flu, don’t panic, for most of us, a few days in bed, lots of nourishing bone broths and/or miso, herbal teas (think antivirals such as lemon balm, peppermint, licorice, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, boneset, chamomile and st. john’s wort) to help support the body without wildly stimulating the immune system and lots of ginger, garlic, elderberry and astragalus will be the key to a quick recovery and lack of secondary bacterial infections.

next month, i’ll go more in depth on what to do while you have the flu.

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a lot of people become intimidated when it comes to herbs because they don’t know where to start. most are familiar with the more commonly used ones such as echinacea and st. john’s wort but what a lot of people don’t realize is that they have a whole arsenal of medicinal herbs in their spice cabinet: garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, fennel, dill and anise seeds, lemons and turmeric are a great start. pull out some salt, vinegar, olive oil and honey (raw) from your cabinet and you’ve got the makings of a first aid kit worthy of treating winter ailments! throw in some vodka or brandy and you can make a full spectrum of herbal remedies.

garlic: natural antibiotic, broad spectrum which body/germs don’t build a resistance to allowing it to be used over and over again. useful for helping to fight off bacterial infections, earaches and other wintertime ailments such as strep throat. can help to reduce span of illness. best raw (but take in small doses as it can irritate in large). can be heated in oil to make eardrops or infused in honey and eaten to help with sore throats, etc. tinctured in brandy or vodka, it can be taken as needed (15-30 drops at a time depending on body size) to help.

to use in oil: crush garlic cloves, place in double boiler with olive oil and gently warm for 2 hours. strain and add a few drops in both ears to treat earaches and infections.

to use in honey: crush garlic cloves, place in mason jar of preferred size and fill with raw honey. allow to steep for at least 1 month. eat a spoonful as needed. the cloves can be eaten too.

rosemary: rosemary essential oil has been tested for use in effective against colon, breast and lung cancer with promising results. it is an antiseptic and is great in tea form. it can smooth the muscles of the digestive tract, helping to calm stomach cramps as well as menstrual cramps. as an infusion, it relieves digestive problems, relieves cold symptoms, and helps as an expectorant.

thyme: great for the respiratory system. thyme is excellent for coughs and sore throats. it has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. it can be used externally as a wash to cleanse wounds. it makes a pleasant tasting tea and is helpful for bronchitis and whooping cough/pertussis. when our family was going through whooping cough this summer, a tea containing thyme was drank in copious amounts to help.

sage: a sage/salt water gargle for sore throats. it is also known as a diaphoretic which means it will increase perspiration. use with caution if breastfeeding as it can decrease the milk production (helpful if mama needs help with adjusting her milk flow though).

fennel, dill and anise seeds: great for digestive problems. seeds can be chewed before and after meals to help settle the stomach. a tea can be made and drank during meals to help with digestion as well.

lemons: an excellent form of vitamin c. a drink made from 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon of honey and 8 oz. of hot water helps to soothe a sore throat. when lots of mucus is present, oranges should not be eaten because they can increase the amount of mucus in the body. lemons provide a great source of vitamin c w/o increasing the mucus.

turmeric: excellent when used in a honey paste for sore throats.

turmeric/honey paste: mix equal amounts of honey and turmeric well and eat. i start with 1 teaspoon of each. after about 3 doses (usually taken w/in an hour) i have always had much relief. this is the first thing i reach for when my throat feels scratchy.

salt: add to water or herbal infusion to make a gargle for sore throats. heat in a pan on the stove and place in a handkerchief (tie opposite corners together tightly to keep salt from leaking out) and place on aching ear for extra soothing power when using garlic oil drops.

vinegar: herbs can be infused in vinegar and added to salads to help with calcium absorption. any herb can be used to increase health benefits as needed.

olive oil: infuse herbs by crushing herbs and adding with olive oil in a double boiler and slowly infusing over low heat for a few hours (or placing in a mason jar and setting in the sun for 2 or 3 weeks). oil can be used as a massage oil to relieve muscle cramps, rubbed on the stomach to relieve stomach cramps, ear drops to relieve ear aches, ear infections and swimmer’s ear (infused with garlic or onions) or combined with beeswax to make a salve.

honey: honey in itself has terrific medicinal powers. infusing herbs in it can make herbal medicine yummy, especially for little ones who aren’t so crazy about herbs. it can be made into a syrup by combining 1 part herbal infusion to 2 parts honey, warming briefly on the stove to combine and bottled. add 1/2 part brandy to help preserve and store in the refridgerator. pastes can be made by adding equal parts of honey and powdered herbs. adding more herb can make a dough that can be rolled into balls and and dried.

these are just a brief synopsis of herbs that you can find in your kitchen that can help with ailments. try googling some herbs in your cabinet by typing the word ‘medicinal’ and the herb to see what you can come up with. you will be amazed at what you can do with what you’ve got!

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