Marshmallow Root Uses & Info

marshmallow

So despite it being the middle of January in Maryland, Jeremy and I have had some pretty nice nights for bonfire “dates” in out back after getting our little peanut to bed. Hot dogs, homemade pretzel buns, warm apple cider and marshmallows. Yum.

This got me thinking about the herb version of our smore’s . . . the marshmallow root! Sadly marshmallow root is not a fluffy, sugary, delicious dessert, but it IS healthy and GREAT for treating digestive and respiratory issues! Continue reading

Creating Herbal Goals for the New Year

herbal-goals

Almost 2 weeks into the new year and after plenty of thought about my priorities, lots of distraction dealing with sicknesses one after the other, and finding a few quiet moments to actually distill my thoughts into real practical ideas, I am excited to say that I have my 2017 goals for my herbal study!

I want to share with you how to create your own goals for enhancing your use of herbs in your family, and give you a peek at my goals for the year!

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Chamomile: Benefits & Uses

chamomile” The finest and safest of all medicinals”

is how Chamomile is described by Rosemary Gladstar. What’s not to love about Chamomile? It’s has beautiful little daisy-like flowers that would look great in any garden, it’s gentle enough even for babies, and it has so many uses! It is “commonly used for

-stomach stress,

-digestive complaints,

– nervous system disorders,

-inflammation in the joints,

-wounds.” (Herbal Healing for Women)

Quite a list isn’t it! As I typed that out, it struck me; that list is a relatively accurate summary of Lyme disease complaints, which might be one reason I’ve enjoyed using it so much!

What makes Chamomile so effective? It’s anti-inflammatory properties and its positive effects on the nervous system and digestive system can apparently be traced in part to Azulene, an active chemical in Chamomile. This blue volatile oil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anodyne properties. ( Herbal Healing for Women)

Using Chamomile

Chamomile has been used for hundreds of years by cultures across the globe, mainly as a tea, topical treatment for skin issues, and as a tincture. It is safe for pregnant mamas & can be used to treat morning sickness in combination with ginger. Wish I had known that a few months ago! It is also an excellent addition to skincare products; you will likely find it in many if not most natural products on the market. Apparently the flavenoids in Chamomile soak into the skin easily and protect it from free radical sun damage. Over the last few weeks I have experimented with using Chamomile as a relaxing drink while snuggling on the couch with my husband at night, adding it to my cough & cold remedy as we’ve battled sickness, and using it as a diaper rash spray on my toddler. I’ve also started a Chamomile tincture, though that has a few weeks before it will be ready. So far, I have not been disappointed with it! And I am definitely making a prominent spot for it in my garden this summer!

When making Chamomile tea, most sources recommend anywhere from 1-2 tablespoons of herb per cup of boiling water. Chamomile has bitter properties that tones the digestive system; these properties become more pronounces the longer it is steeped, so if you would like a strong , but bitter tea, steep for about 20 minutes. If you are looking for a more mild, relaxing tea, steep for only 5-10 minutes. Of course these numbers are not set in stone, and if you happen to forget about your tea for a long while like I do, I can assure you that it still tastes great and seems to have a positive effect!

While Chamomile has a plethora of uses for stomach issues, digestive issues, and use as an ingredient in skincare, I want to talk a bit about a use very close to my heart;

Using Chamomile for babies & children.

Having a toddler and a new little girl on the way I am always looking for herbs that are safe and effective for babies. Many sources have strongly recommended using Chamomile to treat colic and digestive issues in little ones. After using gripe water, which contains Chamomile as well as Fennel and Catnip, to treat colic in my daughter Elsie as a baby, I can happily confirm that this worked. It wasn’t a miracle drug by any means, but it definitely calmed her down and it felt so good to be able to do something for her besides nursing nonstop.

Rosemary Gladstar suggests using Chamomile baths, both for adults and children, to relax and sooth. Since Chamomile is so gentle, she even suggests using it in baby’s first bath to make it extra comforting. Now, it took me months and months to work up to being able to give my daughter a bath without having her scream in terror (we did a lot of snuggle-with-mama-while-she-sponges-you-off type of baths) , so this would not have been super helpful for us. However, if you have a baby who enjoys the warm water, this may be just the extra bit of relaxation you both need for those extra cranky days.

Another way to use Chamomile for little ones is as a teething remedy! The blog Growing up Herbal suggests using a Chamomile tincture both topically on the erupting tooth and internally to help sooth teething pain. Something natural and DIY that can effectively treat teething pain? Yes please! I literally did not even finish reading the article before I jumped up and ran into the kitchen to start my Chamomile tincture and am very much looking forward to trying this with my daughters in the future. For your reference, here is blog post I wrote about making tinctures. The average adult dose of Chamomile tincture is 30 drops; here is my post on safely calculating children’s doses based off of adult doses for your convenience.

The last way I have used Chamomile with my daughter is as a diaper rash spray. She was having tummy problems that consequently led to a very red, sore, irritated diaper area that traditional diaper cream and antibiotic ointment were not helping. Instead, I made a strong infusion of Chamomile and Calendula and put it into a little bottle to spray her with after wiping. I also used bentonite clay as a diaper powder to sprinkle on after the diaper spray. They worked wonders! No I didn’t take before & after pictures, and no I’m not sorry because I respect my child’s privacy, but it was incredible. We went from a red painful diaper area to perfectly clear in a day or two. Better yet, she actually LIKES getting her diaper changed now. Instead of a flailing, kicking maniac, she cooperates and even hands me her spray and her “sprinkles” (powder) and laughs while I use them. I call that a success.

I’ll be updating this post with our experience using Chamomile tincture for teething after we try it. In the meantime I want to encourage you to add this wonder herb to your collection and to your garden come spring! I’d love to hear of any other experiences you have had using Chamomile as well; I’m always looking for new ideas!

 

Echinacea; Benefits, Uses, & Doses

echinacea

Echinacea; your immune boosting super star!

This pretty purple herb is great for activating your immune system to fight colds, the flu, and respiratory issues. It’s safe for kids, and according to the Mayo clinic is safe for pregnant and nursing moms as well. This week after my husband’s entire extended family including us got a horrid stomach flu/ severe cold from being together on Christmas, I was REALLY WISHING that my Echinacea tincture was done already and I could load absolutely everyone up with some immune support. Sadly for me, it had only been 1 week since I made the tincture and I still needed another 1-5 weeks to bring it to full strength. Goes to show the benefit of being prepared!

Echinacea is a strong, potent perennial that everyone should have in their herbal apothecary. Even the traditional medical community used to value it very highly before the advent of antibiotics in the 50s. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 13 separate European studies have found that when taken properly, Echinacea will reduce cold symptoms and shorten the duration of a cold. Continue reading

Tinctures: The Basics

tincturesweb

So what is a tincture?

The Prescription for Herbal Healing says that, “Tinctures are made by soaking an herb in alcohol. This causes the active constituents of the plant to dissolve, and gives the tincture a stronger action than teas or infusions.”

Tinctures are beneficial because they are much more concentrated, meaning it is easier to take or administer the amount of herbs you need for a treatment. For example, instead of trying to force down multiple cups of an infusion you can easily take a dropperful of tincture and carry on with your day. The downside is that you have can’t just whip up a batch of tincture like you can make a cup of tea; you have to plan ahead and wait 2-6 weeks for the alcohol to break down the plant suitably.

Technically, a tincture must have an alcohol base; anything else made with a glycerin or vinegar base is called an extract.

If you are morally opposed to the bit of alcohol in the tinctures, or are not comfortable taking them for any reason, you most definitely can substitute glycerin, which has the added benefit of being sweet without affecting blood sugar, or apple cider vinegar, which is healthy but not exactly palatable.

There are some benefits exclusively to alcohol however. According to wildernesscollege.com, alcohol will extract alkaloids, glycosides, minerals, essential oils, and other medical components that water (in an infusion) or glycerin will not. Alcohol also has the benefit of going directly into the blood stream, which obviously helps it to have a quicker affect. This is particularly helpful for treating things that need a quick response like relieving headaches or stopping bleeding. (The Herbal Apothecary)

Are Alcohol Tinctures Safe for Kids?

You may still be wondering, “Great . . . for me as an adult, but what about my toddlers or children?” I was wondering the same thing until I came across this AMAZING article on growingupherbal.com that explains perfectly why it is safe to use alcohol tinctures with your children. She explains it clearly, makes some excellent points, and will set your mind at ease without feeling pushy. She shares her reasoning based on the benefits of using an alcohol base, common foods our kids already may be eating that have notable levels of alcohol in them, just how very very very little alcohol they are actually consuming, and what a professional herbalist has to say on the subject. Basically, the gist of it is that in her mind the benefits outweigh the risks, common foods our kids go crazy about like bananas, orange juice, and fermented foods have more alcohol than a dose of tincture would, and then gives an example using the conversion formulas that shows you will find that a 70lb. 10 year old would be ingesting the equivalent of less than 1% of the maximum dosage of alcohol for his/her size when taking a dose of tincture.

If you are still concerned about the amount of alcohol in your tincture, you can evaporate much of the alcohol out by placing the dose in a hot tea and serving once it has cooled, according to growingupherbal.com

At this point my husband and I have decided that we would not give an alcohol based tincture to a baby just because it is more concentrated and we are trying to follow the principle that gentler is better for little ones. However after learning just how little the tincture dosages are for toddlers, and how to further eliminate some alcohol, we feel that we would be comfortable giving necessary amounts to our children from toddlers on up. (Especially seeing just how many bananas our daughter already eats!) Obviously this is something that you must talk over with your own family and come to your own decision that you will be comfortable acting on.

Once you have decided to go for it and lay in a supply of tinctures, what are some basic things you’ll need to know?

tincture-ingredientsweb

For anyone still wondering, the process for making a tincture is ridiculously simple. Almost as simple as taking your herbs out of storage, admiring them, and putting them back (which I have to admit to doing sometimes!)It is also not an exact science, which bothered me when I first began researching tinctures, but which I can now appreciate because of the flexibility you have in tailoring recipes to suit your needs. You will need . . .

Supplies:

-an appropriately sized glass jar (I’ve been using pint jars) and a lid,

– some 80 proof vodka,

-your herbs

– some patience.

Process:

– First you fill your mason jar up with the appropriate amount of herb, which will vary whether you are using fresh or dried herbs. See my guidelines below to help you determine how much to use (this is the “not exact science” part!)

-Next, fill the jar up to the shoulder with your 80 proof alcohol and tighten the lid on.

– Label it with what herb it is, what proportion of herb to alcohol you used, and when you started it. You may think you will remember these details, but trust me, once your pantry starts filling up with little jars of chopped weedy looking things, you will be glad you wrote down the details!

-Next find a dark place to store it for 2-6 weeks. If you remember, try to give the bottle a good shake every day to keep everything covered and well mixed. This is a good part for your kids to help with if you want to involve them!

– After 2-6 weeks, strain the tincture into a fresh container, store it away, and don’t forget about it or be afraid to use it when you need it!

Guidelines:

Alcohol: What kind of alcohol should you buy? According to Mountain Rose Herbs, 40 to 50% pure alcohol (which is the same as 80-90 proof Vodka) is standard. They say that a higher alcohol percentage is better when using more high-moisture herbs and will pull out more volatile oils. We bought 80 proof vodka to make our tinctures from. However, because he couldn’t find plain vodka, my husband bought one bottle of vanilla flavored (smells AMAZING) and one bottle of mango flavored, so our tinctures will have a little extra pizzazz to them!

If you purchase The Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell, she includes a great list on pages 221-224 of individual herbs and what percentage of solvent they need.

Herbs: The amount of herb you use is also obviously important; I was very pleased to find some general guidelines on Mountain Rose Herb’s website that can be applied to whichever herb you are working into a tincture.

Fresh leaves & flowers; fill the jar 2/3 to 3/4 full of chopped herbs.

Dried leaves & flowers; fill the jar 1/2 to 2/3 full of herbs.

Fresh roots, bark, and berries; fill the jar 1/3 to 2/3 full.

Dried roots, bark, and berries; only fill the jar 1/4 to 1/3 full because they will expand.

In conclusion, I’ve noted some of the benefits of tinctures, some of the possible concerns involved with using tinctures, basic guidelines for using herbs in tinctures, and the very easy process for making a tincture. So far I have made an echinacea tincture for beating colds, a chamomile tincture to help with teething, and will be making a nettle tincture to use as a tonic & replenish minerals, and give us an energy boost.

Now I want to encourage you to start thinking ahead to what health concerns your family may encounter in the future and prepare some tinctures so you are ready to meet any common health issues head on!

 

 

Creating a Herbal Notebook

dsc_1054Creating a Herbal Notebook

I want to share with you an exciting tool I’ve put together to wrangle all the new information we are gathering about herbs; a Herb Notebook! I’ll share the benefits & purposes of an herb notebook, break down each category I have included and give ideas for filling each section, post photos of my own notebook in progress, and

best of all, I have included FREE printables of the beautiful title pages I designed for each section for you to start your own notebook.

Why Maintain a Herb Notebook?

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