Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Urgency of Building An Herbal Home Apothecary

Before pharmacies and drug stores were created, there were apothecaries. Aphotecaries dispensed medicines, including herbal remedies and often functioned as pharmacists and doctors. Their skills with herbs made  them reliable resources for people seeking healing from any ailment. Apothecary gardens provided herbs to aid healing. The art of apothecary continues in this modern era. Herbalists today grow their own herbs and treat ailments just as their foremothers-and fathers.

In anticipation of how busy our family will be in the coming weeks and months, and in between packing, I have been working on adding to our family's herbal apothecary.  In fact, I spent this past weekend making a few items and thought it would be a good idea to share my progress with you in the hopes that it encourages you to want do the same for your family. 

One only needs to look at the most recent "news" headlines to be reminded of the fact that things are changing very quickly.  Now more than ever families are realizing the need to take concrete steps towards becoming MORE self-sufficient in all areas of life, but especially where our health and wellness is concerned.  And that basically means that we must take responsibility for ourselves and our families because the harsh reality is that no one is coming to save us... no one!  So as we continue see the theater show play itself out, we should not be distracted but rather be focused on what steps we need to take towards self-preservation. Ask yourself "how prepared is my family, not IF but WHEN we have little (to no) access to supermarkets, pharmacies, etc.?"  Your family's future well-being will depend on your response.

One aspect of self-preservation and self-sufficiency involves taking responsibility for our health NOW.  And one of the ways we can be prepared is by gathering herbal remedies that we can rely on for maintaining wellness now and have them available for when minor illnesses strike.  This is again only one of the many steps towards being self-sufficient, but it is one that is certainly worth taking seriously as so many questionable laws are being implemented at record speed.

I encourage you to become familiar and gain basic knowledge in the preparation and usage of herbs. Having a collection and knowledge of herbs and essential oils will allow you to create everything from remedies for headaches to homemade face moisturizers that not only saves money in the long run but ensures your long term health as you are not assaulting your body with toxic chemicals and hormone disruptors.  You can create herbal teas, salves, tinctures, syrups, liniments, poultices and more.  Some of these herbal remedies can be stored for months and even years, depending on the carrier used.

Basic Herbs and Their Uses
You likely have some of these growing on your yard or land and don't even know it.  If you do not, you can find these herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs or online.  You can use them fresh instead of dried, but you will want to double the amount since dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh.

  • Lavender- anti-inflammatory, soothing, insect repellent, soothes headaches, aids sleep and relaxation.
  • Peppermint- fever reducer, good for digestion, invigorating.
  • Spearmint- aids digestion, reduces bloating, antioxidant, invigorating.
  • Milk Thistle- promotes liver function, gallbladder, detox, lowers cholesterol, antioxidant.
  • Elderberries- treats flu.
  • Fennel- good for digestion and bloating, diuretic, flea repellent, soothes coughs.
  • Rosemary- memory, circulation, anti-carcinogenic.
  • Chamomile- Soothing, good for digestion, colds, aids sleep.
  • Nettle- high in protein, iron and vitamins.
  • Ginger- nausea, diarrhea, digestion, arthritis, soothing, treats inflammation.
  • Calendula -internally for digestive disorders like gastritis, esophagitis or colitis, rheumatic disorders, gynecological problems, externally for skin disorders like eczema, acne, minor burns, sunburn, fungal infections, thrush .
  • Hyssop -for bronchitis, coughs, fevers, flu,  chesty colds, antiviral. 
  • Cayenne -circulatory stimulant, tonic for the heart, digestive aid, endorphins releasor, rich in Vit A and C, supports immune system, topical pain reliever for arthritis, bursitis, muscle and joint aches.
 My Favorite Essential Oils
I will be the first to admit that high quality essential oils are not cheap.  But I consider them an investment in my family's long-term health and over the years I have accumulated a diverse selection that I have come to rely on for our family's wellness.  I personally prefer to use Young Living essential oils especially when the essential oil will be used internally.  However a great source for essential oils is Mountain Rose Herbs.  Whatever your choice, just be certain that the essential oils you purchase are of superior quality and that they are therapeutic grade and do not include fragrance oils. 

  • Grapefruit- energizing, brightens dull skin and harm dilutes toxic build up, helps with water retention
  • Lemon- antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, astringent, detoxifying, energizing, brightens dull skin
  • Orange- antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, aphrodisiac, detoxifies, boosts immunity
  • Clary Sage- mild antidepressant, astringent, aphrodisiac, digestive, sedative
  • Rosemary- antibacterial, hair growth, mental activity, respiratory problems, pain reducer
  • Lavender- antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, calms anxiety, blood circulation and respiration,
  • Peppermint- indigestion, respiratory problems, headaches, nausea
  • Spearmint- antibacterial, anti fungal, insect repellent, restorative, stimulant
  • Eucalyptus- antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, stimulating
  • Tea Tree- antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, insecticide, stimulant, helps with wounds healing, detox, relieves pain

The carriers noted below are relatively inexpensive and easy to find and with the exception of the Vodka, can be found here.
  • Vodka (80% to 100% proof)- for tinctures and aromatherapy mists
  • Coconut, Almond or Olive Oil- for salves  and balms
  • Vegetable glycerin - for tinctures
  • Raw apple cider vinegar - for tinctures
  • Raw Honey- for syrups and oxymels
  • Beeswax- for salves and balms

Recommended Books To Get You Started
I strongly recommend that you acquire at least one good reference book for learning how to brew and blend your herbs.  There are many available online and at your local library.  I have also found quite a few excellent herbal books at our local thrift store for practically nothing.  Some of my personal favorites that I refer to often are listed below. 

I accomplished much this weekend, but I still have a few to add to my ever growing list.  I plan to get these done within the next two weeks.  Here is a quick list of the ones I still have to complete:

Chickweed tincture - for cysts (esp. ovarian cysts), infections, dissolves and consumes bacteria.
Stinging Nettle tincture - for adrenals and kidneys.
Oat straw tincture - for the endocrine system.
Burdock root tincture - blood purifier, tonic for liver, lungs, stomach, uterus, joints, kidneys.
Prostate Tonic tincture - I will be using a combination of herbs that nourish and protect the prostate gland
Deep Sleep tincture - This will be formulated using herbs that help relieve insomnia.
Children's Stress tincture - I will use a combination of herbs that are safe for children to produce  a gentle calming remedy for stressful or challenging times.

All of this information may seem overwhelming at first, but the intention is to at the very least get you thinking about it.  Start thinking about the positive effects that doing this can have on your family. To get started all you really need are some basic herbs, essential oils and various carriers that will allow you to take advantage of their healing and soothing uses. Getting started is usually the most challenging part, but I promise you that once you do, you will wonder why you didn't do it sooner. 

NOTE:  This information is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Keep all herbs out of reach of children and pets. Special care should be taken by pregnant and/or lactating women when handling herbs.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

I find that sometimes the most nourishing foods are also the most simple and easy to make. Butternut squash is one of my favorite winter squashes.  Not only is it savory and rich in flavor but its nutritional benefits are note worthy.  It is full of Vitamin A (1 cup of butternut squash provides 160% of the RDA), it is high in Vitamin C, Manganese, Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium.  It is truly the perfect comfort food as the cold weather slowly starts to set in.  I had some butternut squash on hand and wanted to come up with a fuss free meal.  My family was quite pleased with the results. This soup was so creamy and light that everyone couldn't stop at just one bowl.  The addition of ginger made it spicy, warming and healing, while the coconut milk added an amazingly sweet and velvety texture.    

This recipe is VERY forgiving.  Feel free to experiment by incorporating your favorite spices and making it your own!


Organic Butternut Squash (cubed into medium pieces) - 20 oz.
White onion - 1/2 cup
One large garlic clove
Organic coconut milk* - 1 can
Cumin - 1/4 Tsp
Seal salt - 1 Tsp
Raw butter (if you do not have access to raw butter use regular butter - never margarine!) - 2 Tablespoons
Fresh ginger - 2 Tablespoons

Optional for garnish:

Cilantro (finely chopped)
Coconut (shredded)

This made 4 bowls

Step 1 - Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Cook onion until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, sea salt and cubed butternut squash; cook stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes.  Reduce heat and allow to cook until squash is tender.

Step 2 - Allow cooked butternut squash to cool.  Place butternut squash into Vitamix or blender.  Add coconut milk and cumin.  Cover and blend.
(*You can adjust how thick you want the soup by adding more or less coconut milk).

Serve and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and shredded coconut.  Enjoy and do share your results if you decide to try it!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Herbal Tonic Rinse for Your Hair and Scalp

I have been experimenting with herbal rinses for the last several weeks and must say that I truly love the results.  Beautiful and healthy hair depends on a healthy scalp.  Herbal rinses are great for every hair type.  They are very simple to make and add extra nutrition that nourish the scalp, while adding to your hair's natural vitality.  Another added benefit is the shine, conditioning effect and healthy appearance they provide to your hair. 

Comfrey for instance, has a conditioning effect on the hair and scalp, as it is rich in an extract, allantoin, that helps to encourage natural cellular regeneration.  Calendula soothes the scalp and is an excellent rinse for hair.  Horsetail is rich in silica and is a traditional remedy used to restore vitality and shine to lackluster hair.    Rosemary is a shine booster and encourages hair growth.

One of my favorite combinations (and the one shown above and to the left) is that of nettle, rosemary, chamomile, calendula and horsetail.

1) I infused my selected herbs with 2 cups of boiling water in a bowl. 
2) I then allowed the herbs to stand and cool for  about 20 minutes, then strained.  Instead of discarding the herbs you can use them in your compost. 
3)I added the strained liquid to my scalp as I used my frizzy hair shampoo bar.  (If you use liquid shampoo you can add the liquid to your liquid shampoo up to a maximum ratio of 50 percent.  Remember that the more you add, the thinner the shampoo will be).
4) I used the excess infusion as a final rinse.

This herbal hair tonic can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.