Storing Your Herbal Infusions

What’s easier? Grabbing the bottle of Ibuprofen/tube of diaper rash cream/oragel to suppress symptoms or just researching what the problem is, finding the appropriate herb, making an infusion, waaaaaaiting for it to infuse, filtering it, and using it? Obviously the second option, right? Not really, especially when you are sick, in pain, holding a screaming baby etc.

storing infusions

However it CAN be just as easy to grab the herb as it is to grab the pain medicine or diaper cream. All you need to do is plan ahead (which I know can feel overwhelming.) Just follow my blog 😉 I’ll do the planning and sharing and you do the prep work.

Today I want to share some thoughts on storing infusions so they are ready to go when you or a loved one needs one! What is important to consider when stockpiling your finished herbal infusions for the future?

First, they need to be easy to access.

Sometimes even running downstairs to my basement freezer seems like too much effort, so I keep a small sample of ready herbs upstairs in my kitchen.

Store The Right Size.

Next, you need to be able to store them in the appropriate sized amounts. If you need a spritz of diaper rash spray, having a mason jar in your fridge isn’t going to help you very much. On the other hand, if you need to drink a cup of raspberry tea each day during your pregnancy, storing little bottles is not going to go very far. Think about how you will be using this herb and plan accordingly.

Make Sure They Don’t Mold

Why worry about it & not just make a TON while you’re at it (my usual approach to anything . . . bigger is better) Because big batches of things WILL go bad when you don’t take care of them properly and things do get forgotten in the back of the fridge, pantry, etc. So be smart & store your herbal infusions so they don’t mold or attract bugs. For example, making a gallon of elderberry syrup then realizing you don’t have the lid for the container, or leaving it out on the counter because there is no space in the fridge is not the best idea (ask me how I know.) It will attract fruit flies & ruin the whole batch. Even in the fridge, a whole gallon will likely go bad before you can use it if you have a little family like ours.

Stash a variety of herbs in smaller amounts

Another good reason for not keeping huge batches, unless you use huge amounts, is that you don’t want one infusion taking up too much storage space. As you learn more & get more prepared, you will want a wider variety of remedies at your fingertips. I would rather have four quart jars in my fridge of Elderberry syrup, anti-nausea tea, gripe water, and rash spray rather than one giant gallon of gripe water. So consider keeping a smaller amount of a wider variety of herbs easily accessible and storing the rest elsewhere like the basement, chest freezers, etc.

Label Everything

Another quick note; You will want to be able to label your infusions. Again, ask me how I know! A lot of herbs look very very similar once they are all packaged in jars and smell a lot more similar when frozen.

So how do you store your herbal products?

My first suggestion is to freeze your infusions in ice cube trays. Use a tablespoon to measure how much will fit into your specific tray because I have found that they vary greatly, then write it in permanent marker on the side of the tray so you don’t forget. After your infusion is ready, just fill your trays and set them in the freezer until solid. I then pop them out and stash them in a zippered plastic bag in my freezer until I need to thaw them.

To thaw I put them directly in the container or, if they don’t fit, I put them in a covered bowl on the counter until they thaw. Of course, if you need them quickly you could melt them in a saucepan on the stove too. Just please don’t zap them with the microwave.

Another excellent option for things that you use topically is to fill little spray bottles. I have a stash of spray bottles from some homeopathic medicine I was taking, but you can buy them in bulk relatively inexpensively too. This is great for treating babies & little kids especially because they can’t spill them and the bottles are easy to use while your hands are full.

For things you use in larger servings, you could also freeze cup-sized servings of infusions in muffin trays, yogurt containers, or even fill cups, freeze them, and store the infusion blocks in plastic bags. Imagine how convenient it would be to wake up to a vomiting toddler and be able to quickly run to your fridge and pull out a few servings of stomach soothing infusion? Or grab a cube of elderberry syrup when you are so congested you can’t think straight? Or just thaw the ready-made gripe water when your head is echoing from a baby screaming?

One way I have made life much easier for us is by freezing ice-cube sized blocks of diaper rash spray that fit perfectly in a little spray bottle when thawed. When I see one of my children is getting red, or if a rash pops up overnight, I quickly thaw my infusion and am ready to go in a matter of minutes, compared to at least overnight when making the diaper spray from scratch. This saves us a whole day of my baby being miserable & me having to deal with a cranky baby. It also keeps the rash from progressing and becoming more difficult to treat.

I encourage you to joining me in thinking ahead to problems you & your family may encounter and preparing your treatments ahead of time. You will be a blessing to your family/friends and make serving them more convenient for yourself!

 

Herbs for Maximum Energy

energy herbs

It’s not a surprise; most people are looking for more energy. Whether you are working & going to school, keeping up with babies and toddlers, homeschooling & running a home, running a business, or playing with grandkids, no one is going to turn down a little extra pep in their step.

How do herbs work to provide energy?

Herbs give us energy in two basic ways; they either act as a stimulant or as an adaptogen.

Stimulants like caffeine excite the body, raising the heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, etc. (motherearthnews.com) Common herbal stimulants include coca, licorice, and ephedra. These can be dangerous because your body can adjust to the amount of alkaloids (like caffeine) in the herb, leading you to need to take higher and higher doses to feel an effect. I will not be talking about stimulants in this blog post and would strongly encourage you not to rely on them for your extra boost of energy.

Herbs can also work as an adaptogen. According to truththeory.com, adaptogenic herbs provide, “nonspecific enhancement of the body’s ability to resist a stressor.” Like the name suggests, they help the body adjust, whether that means calming your nervous system down, or balancing your hormones.

There are many herbs and compounds available that promise to increase energy. Carefully research both the herb and the brand of herb you are buying to make sure that you are making the right choice for you and your family.

I was hoping to find more “energy herbs” that can be grown locally in North America, but found only Ginkgo and Stinging Nettle. So, after some research, I thought I would share my top four herbal adaptogens that have been shown to increase energy. I will be adding to this list as I learn more, so check back soon!

Ginkgo:

Ginkgo has been shown to increase energy at a cellular level. It does this by increasing ATP production, which then helps the brain process glucose for energy. You learn something new every day. This is generally the most recommended herb for increasing mental energy.

Stinging Nettle:

Stinging Nettle has been said to provide more energy than a cup of coffee. I wouldn’t know because I have never had a cup of coffee, but I can say that an infusion of Stinging Nettle can be very refreshing when you remember to actually drink it. (side note; herbal infusions DO mold when you forget them in the back of the fridge.) It is chock full of nutrients, high in protein, and great for all around toning the body. JJ Pursell writes in The Herbal Apothecary that, “It is a wonderful blood builder and nourisher. . . Nettle has been shown to improve bodily function, whether it be sluggish thyroid, kidney, nerves, muscles, or gastrointestinal. ” It also relieves allergy symptoms, inflammatory pain, and nerve pain. Make an infusion using 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup steeped for 8 to 12 minutes.

Siberian Ginseng:

A not so local herb also very strongly suggested for increasing energy is Siberian Ginseng, also known as Eleutherococcus Senticosus. In Medical Herbalism; the Science Practice of Herbal Medicine David Hoffman writes, “Siberian Ginseng can be considered for prolonged use to ward off exhaustion and stress due to overwork on a long term basis without any side effects.” The benefits include a strengthened immune system, cold and flu relief, a boost in mental performance, and increased physical performance. As a side note, while David Hoffman says that this can be used with no side effects, I have also read that this herb can increase blood pressure or cause sleep issues. Keep that in mind when choosing which herbs to use. Remember; you are ultimately responsible for you & your family’s health.

Maca Root:

Another plant that gets a LOT of attention when talking about increasing your energy levels is Maca root. This is used to balance hormones, which can often be an underlying cause of exhaustion. It “nourishes and stimulates your hypothalmus and pituary glands to balance hormone production from the adrenals, pancreas, thyroid, ovarian, and testicular glands.” (naturalhealth365.com) Dr. Axe calls Maca root a nutrient dense superfood with benefits that include increased fertility in both men and women, increased energy, stamina, improved sexual function, memory, and focus. It’s long list of nutrients include over protein, phytonutrients, 20 amino acids, Vitamins B-1, B-2, C, E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sulphur, and iron. He suggests starting with 1 tablespoon of powdered Maca root and potentially working up to 2 or 3 tablespoons spread through the day.

I want to leave you with a recipe from The Herbal Apothecary called Energy Now Tincture that incorporates some of the herbs I have mentioned. It includes:

– 3 parts eleuthero root

– 3 parts ginkgo leaf

– 1 part guarana seed (a source of caffeine that is released slowly without the negative side effects of coffee. I would skip this.)

– 1 part peppermint leaf.

Combine into a tincture and take 1 to 2 dropperfuls as needed. Check out my post here about making tinctures

I will be adding to this list as I research and try more herbs that are said to improve energy. Remember, I DO NOT claim to be an expert, just a curious wife and mother wanting to keep her family healthy naturally!

Please leave a comment with any other herbs that you have used to increase your energy levels.

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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How to Make Echinacea Tincture

echinacea-tincture

As promised in my post on the benefits of Echinacea, here is how I made my Echinacea tincture. I’m not even sure you could call this a recipe because it is SO easy and such little work, but to make it look more official, we will call it a recipe still 🙂

How I made Echinacea tincture:

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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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Fennel: Benefits, Uses, & Concerns

fennelFennel. Delicious, aromatic, soothing, and a Godsend to anyone with a colicky baby.

Fennel seeds have been described as one of the best herbs to use for digestive issues. It is safe enough to use for cranky babies yet gently effective enough to be described as nature’s Pepto Bismal. It is an antacid that neutralizes excessive amounts of acid in the stomach. (Herbs for Children’s Health) The seeds can be ground and made into a tea, infused into an oil to rub on irritated tummies, or taken as a tincture.

What do these little licorice scented seeds do? Prepare to be amazed . . .

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Garlic & Mullein Oil for Ear Infections

dsc_1028Crying, pulling on red, irritated little ears, boogery noses & cold symptoms that go along with it. Uhg. The dreaded ear infection. Fortunately we have not dealt with ear infections with our toddler yet, but I like to be prepared with the knowledge and supplies to treat things as they come up. Continue reading

What do Herbs have to do with Homeschooling?

herbalism-and-homeschoolingWhy an herbal homeschool?

I just updated my domain name to be theherbalhomeschool.com. This has led to some reflection on my blog name and what it really means to be an herbal HOMEschool as opposed to sharing information as a herbal “school” or our homestead or any other cheesy name I could think up (and I am pretty good at that, let me tell you!)

I was homeschooled for 10 years, from 2nd grade through graduation.

Best Christmas present EVER! After spending a year in public school and 1.5 years in a private Christian school, I was more stressed and uptight than any eight year old should be. I begged to be homeschooled for months before winter break and all I asked for at Christmas was a note saying we could homeschool. I got it! We gathered up all my school supplies & books from the school and never looked back. Aside from repenting & becoming a Christian at a young age, being homeschooled by my incredible mom was easily one of the top things that has most influenced me throughout my life. Let me elaborate on how our vision for education influences my interest in herbalism. . . Continue reading

Stocking Up the Herb Cabinet

stocking-up-herbsThis will be a memorable Thanksgiving holiday for a number of reasons including watching my toddler eat Thanksgiving dinner for the first time! As it relates to my study of herbs, it will be remembered as the weekend when I finally jumped in and actually bought some herbs to begin my apothecary with! I love gaining knowledge and would constantly be looking up recipes saying, “Yes, I need that on hand for colds, or teething, or backaches, etc.” but I would not have any of the necessary ingredients on hand.

So, while my husband was outside freezing in his tree stand while deer hunting, I was warm & cozy in bed doing my Black Friday shopping on my phone. Because I hate shopping in person, and where to you go to buy herbs in person anyway?

Herbs for Children’s Health by Rosemary Gladstar and Meagan’s “Start Here” page on her blog Growing up Herbal were huge helps in deciding what to buy to have on hand. Meagan has seven different articles of lists of herbs that you should start with, have on hand for babies, have for newborns, have for winter immune support, for coughs, for fevers, etc. I browsed through her suggestions to help me finalize my decisions on which herbs to begin with.

I settled on ordering the following and have included in brief why I purchased them, Continue reading

My Herbal Book Collection

Anyone who has found my blog has probably experienced the black hole of information overload that can be the internet. For reasons of efficiency, convenience, and just in case the power were to go out, I like to have a real physical library of information at my fingertips to quickly consult. I recommend gathering at least one book on each of the following topics; medical reference, herbal reference (materia medica) plant identification, growing herbs, and the basics of using herbs. I would also suggest starting with a book about a specific topic or ailment that concerns you. Being a woman of childbearing age (who is currently pregnant) I chose a book about women’s health by Rosemary Gladstar.

So far my library includes . . . Continue reading