Echinacea Harvest & Extract

Thursday, December 10, 2020

 

Echinacea

We finally got our first good freeze which was my signal to get out and dig up my Echinacea roots (E.angustifolia or commonly known as purple coneflower). Some sources say to wait 3 years to harvest roots and others say only 2. I opted for 2 year roots since there didn't seem to be an overwhelming consensus that waiting longer provided a real advantage. 


Leaves and flowers can be harvested in the summer when flowers are in full bloom. Using those aerial parts fresh is recommended (constituents become less active when dried).


I prefer using dry material most of the time but also, I chose the root because I wanted to enjoy the beautiful flowers in my small yard throughout the summer! 


Thanks to my sweet hubby I didn't break a sweat for this harvest. He went out and pulled the roots up, trimmed away the woody portions, then washed and chopped them. How spoiled is that?! I did swipe one of the thin roots off the ball to taste and got that lovely tingling sensation on my tongue that indicates potency. Then they went off to the drying rack below where in just 3 days they were nice and ready to use. 



I selected a basic herbal extract for these roots. Anyone can do this by just following a few simple instructions. 


Fill a sterilized glass jar about half way up with dried echinacea. Add enough menstrum to cover by at least a couple inches. All plant material should stay below the surface of the menstrum during the extraction process. Cover the top with a square of natural waxed paper and seal with a lid. Shake the jar to ensure all the material is thoroughly mixed. 


Always remember to label the jar with the name of the plant material, the type of menstrum used (I chose vodka) and at what proof (I used 80). You can add the ratio of material to menstrum also if you would like. 


Store in a cool, dark place for a 6 week maceration, shaking every day or two. If you notice the plant material has soaked up all the menstrum then top it off, reseal and continue. 


When it's time to finish processing, line a strainer with cheese cloth and decant (strain) out the liquid from the plant material into a sterilized glass jar. Make sure and squeeze out all the liquid! Cover the jar and let it settle overnight in a cool, dark place. This will cause any sediment to fall to the bottom of the jar. Now transfer the extract into another sterilized dark-colored glass bottle. That is it... all ready to use! 


Echinacea actions are noted as: Alterative, immune stimulant, immunomodulant, analgesic, antibacterial, antiviral and sialagogue. 


Dosage is: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon in a small amount of water, juice or tea every few hours. Excellent in boosting white blood cells and immune activity. Use to ward off colds and flues!!


Finally, there is no way I could do this post without sharing the lovely Rosemary Gladstar's video on how she makes an echinacea extract. Enjoy!!



Tip: When using dried herbs the alcohol of choice is typically 80-100 proof vodka, brandy, tequila or rum. 


Please note that echinacea is an at-risk plant in the wild, so be sure to purchase organically cultivated or grow your own. 


References: 


Herbal Academy. (n.d.) Echinacea monograph. Retrieved from: https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/1010


Weights, Measures and Formulas

Friday, November 27, 2020

 

Herbal Tools

I don't know about you but there is no way I can keep a weights, measures and formulas catalog at my mental finger tips. It's aggravating when in the middle of creating from an herbal recipe I have to stop and search for equivalents and calculations! 


Hence, the reason for this post. From now on I'll have this handy-dandy resource to pull up for easy access and will avoid the frustration that often causes a creativity wilt. 


Weights and Measures:

1 lb = 453 grams
1 oz = 28.3 grams
16 oz (dry) = 1 lb
1 quart = 2 pints
1 pint = 2 cups
1 cup (fluid) = 8 oz
1 tsp = 60 drops
1 Tblsp = 3 tsps
1 oz (fluid) = 2 Tblsps
1 cup = 16 Tblsps 

Capsules and Powders:
15.4 grains = 1 gram
1 gram = 1000 milligrams (mg)
1 "00" capsule - about 650 mg = 10 grains (well packed)
1 "00" capsule - about 500 mg = 8 grains (well packed)
2 gelatin capsules = 1 tsp of extract
2 Tblsps extract = 1/2 cup of tea

Formulas:
Weight (gr) = volume (ml) x specific gravity
Volume (ml) = weight (gr) + specific gravity

Common Weights:
1 gallon (H20) = 3,764.88 gr
1 gallon (ETCH) 190 proof ethyl alcohol = 3,081376 gr

Liquid Equivalents:
1 oz = 29.57 ml
1 pt = 16 oz = 476.33 ml
1 qt = 2 pt = 4 cups = 32 oz = 946.6 ml
1 gallon  = 4 qrts = 8 pts = 16 cups = 128 oz = 3,784.95 ml

Solid Equivalents:
1 oz = 28.4 gr
1 lb = 16 oz = 453.6 gr
1 kg = 2.2 lbs = 35.2 oz = 1000 gr



Adaptogen

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

 

Hand in Hand

What is an Adaptogen?


These are herbs that are said to strengthen the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. Taken over time they build up health and wellness, helping one to have more resiliency to the negative effects of stress. However, not all are created equal. Each herb has its own specific energetics that are best suited on an individual basis. 


They can also have an overall tonifying effect or have a propensity for a certain organ or structure, such as circulatory, digestive or nervous systems. 


David Hoffmann simply states in the glossary of his book Medical Herbalism that an adaptogen is "An herb that increases resistance and resilience to stress, enabling the body to avoid reaching collapse because it can adapt around the problem".  I like that, it makes me imagine the body working hand in hand to bring balance wherever it is found to be in need. 


Herbal Adaptogens To Explore: 


Holy basil, ashwagandah, shatavari, eleuthero, rhodiola, schizandra, reishi mushroom, american ginseng, chaga, gotu kola and licorice. 


I love ashwagandah and it works well for me. It is noted to be an immunomodulant but I have known others who experience a bit of unwanted immune system stimulation. Someone could say the same or similar about several of these. It's important to research the potential effects of any herb prior to using. We are all unique and it's our responsibility to do our own due diligence. After that, as I always say... go low and slow the first time putting your choices to the test! 



Bay Laurel

Thursday, November 5, 2020

 

Bay Leaf

Common name: Bay, bay leaf, sweet laurel, noble laurel, roman laurel, indian bay

Botanical name: Laurus nobilis

Family name: Lauraceae


Overview: Bay laurel is native to the Mediterranean countries and prefers damp shady areas. It is an aromatic evergreen shrub or tree that can grow up to 65 ft. It's leaves are leathery and dark green. It has small yellow male and female flowers and shiny black berries. Bay is largely cultivated for culinary uses and the leaves are harvested year round. The parts used are the leaves, bark, wood, berries and essential oils. 

 

History and Folklore: From ancient Rome comes the tradition that a sudden withering of a bay laurel tree bodes disaster for the household. The Romans used bay extensively to make laurel wreaths as crowns for generals, and as garlands and sacred offerings. They were grown to purify the air with their aromatic fragrance. 


Bay laurel was introduced to Britain in the 16th century where in ornate gardens, the trees were clipped into very elegant shapes to fit into formal design. 


Bay laurel also has a history of being used in divination, especially in ancient Greece. Even today, if I do a video search for bay leaf it returns with multiple examples of rituals using burning leaves to manifest money, love, dreams and more. 


Caution: Please do not play or participate in such rituals. They are akin to witchcraft and can open doors to the demonic realm. See here for further guidance

 

Primary therapeutic constituents: Bay laurel contains up to 3% volatile oil (including 30-50% cineole, linalool, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpineol acetate, mucilage, tannin and resin). Vitamins. 

 

Medicinal actions: Antimicrobial and digestive-stimulating properties, carminative, digestive tonic, astringent, aromatic. 

 

Common uses: Most commonly used as a culinary herb; widely as a food flavoring for meat-based or vegetable stews, Bolognese sauce, fish dishes, soups and sometimes as a flavoring in milk puddings. Also used therapeutically for upper digestive tract disorders. It has a tonifying effect on the stomach; stimulating the appetite and digestive juices. A standard infusion of dried or fresh leaves is helpful for wind and indigestion, or for influenza as an antimicrobial. Often used to promote onset of the menstrual cycle. The diluted essential oil is chiefly employed as a friction rub for aching muscles and joints. A decoction of the leaves may be added to a bath to ease aching limbs. Useful in dropsical conditions (swelling of soft tissues), obesity, diabetes, and kidney ailments. A strong tea made from the berries, taken both internally and applied externally, is very effective for all poisonous insect bites, snake bites, and stings of wasps. 

 

Technique: Cooking, essential oils, standard infusion (1-3 tsp per cup or a couple whole leaves), balm, leaves softened by holding over hot water and eaten. Poultice - leaves applied to chest with a warm cloth covering to relieve bronchitis and coughs. The wood can be used to give an aromatic tang to smoked foods. 

  

Cautions and contraindications: Never take bay laurel essential oil internally. An allergic reaction can result from external use as well, therefore any oil should only be applied in a very dilute (2%) concentration.  

 

Taste: Bland  Energy: Bitter

 

Educational video: After combing through what seemed like miles of video demonstrations of rituals and superstitions, I finally find one about the health benefits of bay laurel! This video is useful and mentions benefits that I was not able to locate in my numerous books or on-line herbarium. 



Personal experience: Like most folks, I've used bay leaves in my flour to ward off insects. I've added it to beans, soups and stews. I know I made a tea blend that included bay once but can't locate the recipe!  

 

References:


Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH. p. 226-227


The Herb Bible - A Complete Guide To Growing And Using Herbs by Jennie Harding. p.186


Common Herbs for Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. p. 93-94


Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss. p. 218-219


The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, L.Ac., O.M.D. p. 73-74


Herbs - The Visual Guide to More Than 700 Herb Species Around the World by Lesley Bremness. p.61


  


Comfy Natural Foot Warmer

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

 

Rice Bag Foot Warmer


I can't stand to be cold; especially at night in the wintertime when trying to sleep. For years I used an electric blanket and that worked well but I didn't like the idea of laying with electrical currents directly against me all night long. I didn't research for potential pitfalls of doing so, I just didn't like it. Switching the electric blanket out for more blankets on the bed wasn't the ticket either - too smothering and heavy for a tosser-turner like myself. 


I thought about the old fashioned bed warmers of days gone by and decided to modernize the practice a bit. So now my new wintertime routine is that about 15 minutes before going to bed I warm my 12 x 20 sized rice bag up in the microwave for 3 minutes and then place it at the foot of the bed under the covers. 


You talk about cozy-comfy! When I go to bed now I just crawl in and put my bare feet on the warm bag and fall right to sleep. It's amazing how long it stays warm too. 


I purchased my rice bag at my doctor's office. I think his mom made them for him to sale (such a good son). I'm sure if you want to make your own a simple internet search would return with plenty of how-to videos. If you're not up for making your own I know you can purchase them on-line also. 


Give it a try! 


Amaranth Crackers

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

 Amaranth Crackers - Delicious and Gluten Free!


When the 7pm hour rolls around guess what I want? I want something crunchy to munch on while I watch my favorite wind-down show on the tube! However, with my temperamental digestion I typically don't reach for pre-packaged goodies that inevitably make that choice a regrettable one. 


Many of the recipes in Dr. D'Adamo's Eat Right 4 Your Type recipe center sit well with me so I went looking there for a new cracker recipe. What I found was this simple recipe for Amaranth Crackers. Not too many ingredients and quick to make also. Furthermore, amaranth is considered a super food... score!


I modified the original recipe slightly for my own preferences and they turned out scrummy!


Ingredients:

1 cup amaranth flour
Water (start with 3 Tablespoons)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Optional - nutritional yeast
Optional - Bragg's SPRINKLE - 24 herbs & spices seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 F. 
Mix the flour with enough water to form a ball. Divide into 2-4 balls (I did 2) and roll out on a floured board until as thin as you can get it. Place one on a cookie sheet, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cut into desired shapes and bake 6-10 minutes (mine did best at 10). Let cool completely. 

I sprinkled all of mine with sea salt but also added nutritional yeast to a third of them and Bragg's sprinkle to a third. All turned out good! 

Tips: 
Don't use a cookie cutter for your shapes unless you want to keep rolling and re-rolling the dough. It's kind of a dry mix already and the more it's rolled the crumblier it gets. I thought I would get around this by just making the entire recipe into a log and then cutting but I didn't care for those results either. It works best just to slice into shapes after it's on the cookie sheet as the recipe directs. That's why my shapes aren't exact. But who cares, they taste good!

Don't over-cook them! You want a thin crispy cracker not a ceramic tile ๐Ÿ˜‚

Amaranth Is A Superfood

Gluten-free
Lowers cholesterol levels
Fights inflammation
Reduces risk of developing cancer
Normalizes blood pressure levels
Good source of protein
Has potent lysine properties
Helps digestion - fiber
Rich in minerals
Loaded with vitamins
Boosts immune system

References:

Dr. D'Adamo - Eat Right 4 Your Type - Recipe center. Retrieved from https://dadamo.com/recipes/recipe_lister.pl

SunWarrior - Nutrition - Nov 01, 2019. 13 Health Benefits of the Superfood Amaranth. Retrieved from https://sunwarrior.com/blogs/health-hub/11-health-benefits-of-amaranth


Burdock

Monday, September 28, 2020


Common name: Burdock, gobo, beggar's buttons, thorny burr, cocklebur
Botanical name: Artium lappa
Family name: Asteraceae or Compositae (Sunflower family)

Overview: Burdock is a biennial and it literally grows just about everywhere! To harvest roots at their most nutritious/medicinal take them in their first year of growth in the fall or just before new growth starts in the spring of the 2nd year. First year plants don't have the seed stalk. Harvesting takes patience as the roots can be up to 2 feet or more in length. All parts are medicinal. 
  
Primary therapeutic constituents: Tannin, arctigenin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, minerals, vitamin B1, B2, C & A, carotene, flavonoids, lignans, mucilage, pectin, polysaccharides (inulin).
  
Medicinal actions: Alterative (supports eliminative channels), bitter, lymphatic, hepatic, nutritive, hypoglycemic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, immune supportive. 

Common uses: One of the best alteratives in herbal medicine. Especially helpful in chronic skin conditions such as acne, eczema, boils, psoriasis and cysts. Arthritis, gout, rheumatism, sciatica. Great for regulating gut flora (the fructo oligo saccharide - FOS - Inulin), nourishing, blood sugar regulation (due to mineral content), reduces lipid oxidation, canine skin issues. 
  
Technique: Decoction - 1 tsp root simmered in water 15 minutes 3 x daily. Tincture - 2-4 ml of a 1:5 in 40% 3 x daily. Also popular as a food source in stir fry and soups. Can also nibble on the root marc or add it to a dog's food (especially if they're having skin issues)!

Cautions and contraindications: Can trigger allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to plants in the Asteraceae family. No known toxicity risk. Some folks with inflammatory bowel issues may not do well with the inulin constituent (you know who you are!). 
  
Taste: Bitter (leaf), sweet, salty  
  
Energy: Moistening, diffusive (seed)
  
Educational video: Here is a nice little clip from She Is Of The Woods discussing burdock. Enjoy! 


Educational video: It would be absolutely negligent of me not to include at least one recipe using Gobo (burdock root). This recipe is for Kinpira Gobo which is a very popular Japanese stir-fry dish. Looks scrummy!


Personal experience: I love burdock decoctions, it has a pleasant sweet flavor and aroma and it may sound strange but for me it has a very satisfying nutritive effect like a hearty broth would. My constitution defaults to dry so the moistening attributes of burdock is very soothing.

References: 

Common Herbs for Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. p. 25-26

Prescription for Herbal Healing by Phyllis Balch. 2nd edition. p. 38-39

Back to Eden by Kloss. p. 100-101

Monday Plant Exploration with Julie James. Live 092820

Herbal Academy, (n.d.) Burdock monograph. Retrieved from: https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/1007


DIY Room Freshener

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Have you noticed how expensive things have gotten lately? It seems like every time I go to the store I leave with less money in my wallet than I did the time before. Something's gotta give! So more and more if there's a household item I can make myself then that's what I'm going to do. It's not just about the money though. Many "freshening" products are loaded with toxic chemicals and I prefer to reduce my family's load of that at every opportunity. 

Like most folks we have "foo foo" spray in the bathroom and kitchen. It's not a necessity of life but nevertheless in a home with people and animals it's a pleasant item to have on hand. This is one product that's so quick and simple to make I can't ever imagine popping for store bought again.

There are plenty of herbs that come to mind when creating something aromatic but for this recipe I'm turning to essential oils due to their potency. No plant parts, just the extracted volatile oils. There are any number of aromatic combinations depending on your intentions. The base I use is water, vodka, rubbing alcohol or vanilla extract. Add to that your chosen essential oils. The following was my first recipe and I'm quite pleased with it.

Mountain Mist Foo Foo Spray

1/2 cup water (distilled or filtered)
1 Tbs vodka, rubbing alcohol or vanilla extract (helps mix the mix)
6 drops douglas fir
5 drops frankincense
6 drops cedar

Combine all ingredients into an amber spray top bottle, shake, label and spray. That's it!

Create room fresheners for moods, holidays or spring cleaning. I am really wanting to create one that smells of caramel and tobacco!

CAUTION - Some essential oils are harmful to pets so please investigate your choices before making a blend that may harm your furry friends! That information is readily available with a simple web search but here is one source for your immediate convenience. 

Happy foo-foo fun! Would love to hear of your favorite combos in the comments...


Anodyne

Monday, September 7, 2020

What is an Anodyne?

These are herbs that are known to relieve and sooth pain. Often used both internally and externally, depending on the herb. They may also be antispasmodics; relieving pain by reducing cramping in muscles. They may have an affinity for certain organs or systems. 

They work through various mechanisms but most help by a direct effect on pain signals to the brain. Anodyne is often synonymous with Analgesics. 

Herbal Anodynes To Explore:

Skullcap, valerian, lobelia, catnip, chamomile, cloves, cramp bark, passion flower, linden, california poppy, corn silk, bacopa, horsetail, hops, pleurisy root, kava, albizia, plantain, birch, wood betony.

Understanding herbal actions is important. You can get started by accessing my Quizlet for fun ways to learn and test yourself! To obtain access you'll need this password.... EXPLORE (also listed here in the side bar under "tools").

Caution: Always, always remember to do some research on an herb before using it. In school, we were advised to check at least 3 sources first. Some are contraindicated with certain medications, existing conditions or other herbs you may be using. Make sure you're not allergic. Go low and slow when trying an herb for the first time... just a sip, a skin test or one drop, etc. depending on the route of your intentions. 

Linden

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Common name: Linden, lime flowers, lime tree, basswood, beetree, tilia, tilleul, tilo, tiglio
Botanical name: Tilia europaea, T. cordata, T. platyphyllos, T. americana
Family name: Tilaceae

Overview:  A large deciduous tree that grows up to 100 feet tall. Blooms abundantly from late spring to early summer and is well known for it's lovely honey-lime scent.

Best harvested on a dry day in early to midsummer, immediately after flowering, and dried in the shade. Parts used are the flowers and bracts, charcoal (from the wood), leaf, twigs inner bark.

History and Folklore: The linden tree is said to be the national symbol of Slovenia and considered very sacred. Many Germans grew linden trees in their town squares for protection and shade. Villagers often assembled to hold their judicial meetings under the trees because they believed they would help bring truth, restoration of justice and peace to any issue at hand.

Primary therapeutic constituents: Flavonoids, (quercetin, hesperidin, kaempferol, rutin), mucilage, volatile/essential oils, phenolic acids, phytosterols, tannins. 

Medicinal actions: Anodyne, anti-fungal, antinociceptive, antispasmodic, antitussive, astringent, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, hepatoprotective, hypotensive, diaphoretic, nervine. 

Common uses: Nervous conditions, epilepsies, hyperactivity, excess heat conditions, hypertension, colds, congested kidneys, dark urine, edema, insomnia, migraine, dizziness, neuralgia, heart palpitations, pelvic inflammatory disease, digestion. 

Technique: Infusion, soak (tub), infused honey, syrup, poultice, food, tincture. 

Adult dose: Best as an infusion of 1 teaspoon dried flowers and bracts in one cup boiled water for 10 minutes, taken 3 times a day. 

Cautions and contraindications: Some concerns that in high doses could be cardiotoxic. In rare cases, hypersensitive folks may shows signs of dermatitis or allergic rhinitis. 

Taste: Sweet, moist. 

Energy: Cooling, drying, relaxing, aromatic 

Educational video: I found an interesting video by a naturopathic doctor demonstrating how to harvest and process linden. She also prepares a linden honey and an amazing looking linden-lemon tea that I must try soon. I'll keep my eye out for a unique glass container and make a batch for Thanksgiving! Watch this engrossing lesson by Dr. Mindy A. Curry. 



Personal experience: Lovely tasting tea with a calming effect. I've also used linden in tea blends such as this one here

References:

Herbal Academy, (n.d.) Linden monograph. Retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/4084

The Earthwise Herbal Vol I by Matthew Wood. p. 487-489

The Modern Herbal Dispensatory by Easley and Horne p. 262


Margarita Kombucha - Buzz Free!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

I've been brewing up my own Kombucha for many years now and have never grown tired of it. The combination of flavors one can create is almost endless. I have to admit though that my all time favorite is this buzz free (no alcohol) Margarita Kombucha. 

With Thanksgiving in my sights I thought I would get an early start at putting up some bottles so we can have plenty to go around for this favorite family holiday! 

I'm not going to go into all the details about how to brew it and why because I already have a handy little guide you can pick up for free here.

So on to the recipe...

  • 2 Quarts of freshly brewed and strained plain kombucha tea (more or less)
  • 8 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 4 Tablespoons raw honey (local if available)
  • 4 Teaspoons salt (I use gray or himalayan)

Combine all the ingredients very well in a half gallon mason jar or a large pitcher. Fill your bottles, leaving 2-3 inches head room and clamp shut. I use swing top bottles but you don't have to. You just want to make sure you are able to easily open and close for burping purposes! And use glass bottles, no plastic or metal.

Now set your filled bottles out of direct sunlight on the kitchen counter or in another room for 1-4 weeks. I put mine in a cardboard box in a back room and burp them once daily for 4 weeks. Afterwards they go into the fridge to chill. They'll keep cold there for a quite a long time. I can't imagine anyone letting all that yummy goodness sit long enough to go bad - no way! 

When ready to serve use nice glasses and rub the rim with lime juice and dip in coarse salt like the picture up top. 

Cheers!! 

P.S. My free guide: Kombucha - How Do You Do is also in the side bar of this site → → →



Marjoram

Tuesday, August 4, 2020


Common name: Marjoram, garden marjoram, knotted marjoram, pot marjoram, sweet marjoram, sweet knotted marjoram.
Botanical name: Origanum majorana L. syn. Majorana hortensis
Family name: Lamiaceae

Overview: Marjoram is a perennial and considered native in the Mediterranean region where it is widely cultivated. In cooler climates it won’t usually over-winter. I have had success bringing my marjoram inside over the winter and it did well in the subsequent spring and summer outdoors, but it wasn’t as hearty as in its first year.

Marjoram has the typical rectangular stalk of the mint family and the leaves are opposite and oval in shape. Its flowers may be pale pink, purplish or white and appear in clusters in knotted appearing bracts. Fresh sweet marjoram is one of my top favorite scents in the herbal kingdom – pungent and slightly spicy. Crushing a bit of marjoram into my palm to release its perfume is almost addictive!  

Harvest the aerial parts as they begin to flower and dry on a rack indoors or in a shaded location outside.

History and Folklore: In 1597 the herbalist John Gerard made this assessment: “Sweet marjoram is a remedy against cold diseases of the braine and head, being taken anyway to your best liking; put up into the nostrils it provokes sneesing, and draweth forth much baggage flegme; it easeth the toothache being chewed in the mouth.”

Primary therapeutic constituents: Essential oil, monoterpenes, flavonoids, phenolic glycosides, tannins, rosemarinic acid and triterpenoids.  

Medicinal actions: Antispasmodic, antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-atherosclerosis, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antimetastatic, antioxidant, antiplatlet, antitumor, antiulcerogenic, aromatic, cardioprotective, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, sedative, stomachic. 

Common uses: Well known as a culinary herb in salads, sauces, cheese, liqueurs and as part of the Herbs De Provence blend.

Also used medicinally for flatulence, colic, respiratory problems (irritable cough or upper respiratory disorders accompanied by much sneezing) and the nervous system. It’s a good general tonic, helping to relieve anxiety, headaches and insomnia.

Marjoram is suited to high-strung persons who push themselves, are exhausted, but cannot relax; due to obsessive thinking, particularly about romantic matters; and to irritative conditions of the respiratory tract and digestion (Boericke). It improves the downward movement of the digestive tract and prevents putrefaction (Elliot and de Paoli). Used for digestive spasms, belching, stomach cramps and colitis.

Technique: Extract, infusion, essential oil, sitz bath, pessary, liniment, infused oil, gargle, mouth wash and snuff.

Adult dose: Infusion of the bruised fresh or dried leaves, a pinch to a cup, steep.*

Cautions and contraindications: Do not take during pregnancy. Do not ingest the oil.

Taste: Spicy, sweet, warm

Energy: Warming

Educational video: I found a short little narrated list of Marjoram’s nutritional and health promoting abilities. It’s a great review of what I’ve covered here, plus a bit extra. Watch 5 Amazing Health Benefits of Marjoram. 


Personal experience: Other than being in love with the scent of marjoram in the palm of my hand I also infuse the oil for the same reason. 

Originally I purchased a marjoram plant because I had trouble finding it in the seasoning section of every grocery store I checked. I wanted to make my own Herbs DeProvence for my kefir cheese.

I am so grateful to discover that this lovely herb has even more to offer than I imagined! I tried the infusion as soon as I learned of its affinity for the digestive system. Mine is always challenging me in one way or another. At the time of the trial I had a slight headache, dry mouth and a grumbling tummy. I used half the amount recommended for my first try. Low and slow is the motto when trying new things! The infusion had a mild aroma and taste so it was easy to sip. The small dose informed me that I was safe to proceed as I had no adverse reactions to prevent me from experiencing this herb more regularly. I have to say that even though this small infusion didn’t remedy my dry mouth or headache, my stomach felt a little calmer. I don’t believe that one little taste test is going to do medicinal cartwheels for anyone though. More infusions taken regularly is the route to discovering just how this herb might become a favored ally. I look forward to finding out!


References:

Matthew Wood. The Earthwise Herbal. Volume I – A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. p. 367-368 *

Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. p. 242

Lesley Bremness. Eyewitness Handbooks. HERBS – The visual guide to more than 700 herb species from around the world. p. 196

Herbal Academy, (n.d.) Marjoram monograph. Retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/5138


Citrus Electrolyte Drink

Thursday, July 30, 2020
Pixabay

No doubt about it… the doggie days of summer have arrived here in Missouri. Long, hot, humid and sometimes stormy days abound. I wouldn’t want them to go on for months but I admit that I do like them while they're here. A still hot evening on the deck with cicada songs, the twinkling of fireflies and dive bombs from hummingbirds is magical. Add to that a tall glass of kombucha, good conversation and the rare puff of coolness brushing my brow and I’m pretty grateful and content.

Nevertheless, when these hot days do come and we’re working in the garden it’s wise to remember to stop before too many hours pass and one’s face is blood red!  There is a very real consequence of pushing too hard when out in the hot sun and that’s called heatstroke. We do not want that! We don’t want heat exhaustion either which is the precursor.

It’s hard to stop when you’re enjoying an outdoor project but it’s important to take a break before stepping into the danger zone! And, In my opinion the very first thing to grab; before sitting down and even before a cool shower is a good electrolyte drink. I make my own and wouldn’t trade them for any store bought brand. So quick and easy to make too.

Electrolytes are important salts and minerals (potassium, magnesium, salt, etc.) in our bodies that conduct electrical impulses. They keep us functioning properly which is important if we want to keep breathing, thinking and moving. Kind of a biggie eh? So if you’ve sweat down your reserves, especially out in the sun then bring on some replenishment!

I’ve used the following recipe for a long time now and don’t recall who gave it to me but it’s my favorite.


Citrus Electrolyte Drink 
1 cup fresh orange juice (or purchased but not sweetened or from concentrate)
½ cup fresh lemon or lime juice (or purchased but not from concentrate)
4 Tbsp honey (local and raw if possible) or black strap molasses
¾ tsp Himalayan pink salt 
4 cups of water (filtered if possible)

Blend together well and store in the fridge - that’s it! 

Tip: Choosing molasses over honey will give your drink a darker appearance and a richer flavor. 

Profile (partial – see references for full) 
One medium orange: Vitamin C – 69.7 mg, Potassium – 237 mg, Calcium – 52.4 mg
One medium lemon: Vitamin C – 44.5 mg, Folate – 9.24 ยตg, Potassium – 116 mg.
One lime: Vitamin C – 11.1 mg, Potassium 38.8 mg.
Honey – 1 Tbs: carbohydrates – 17.3, multiple vitamins and minerals.
Molasses – contains many minerals and some vitamins. See this awesome article about the many benefits of molasses.
Himalayan pink salt: contains 88 total trace minerals, electrolytes and elements!

  
References:

The New England Journal of Medicine. Heatstroke. June 20, 2019 by Yoram Epstein, Ph.D., and Ran Yanovich, Ph.D. – retrieved from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1810762

USDA U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service. Orange, raw. Published 04/01/20 https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/786559/nutrients

USDA U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service. Lemon, raw. Published 04/01/20 https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/786556/nutrients

USDA U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service. Honey. Published 04/01/20. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/789126/nutrients

Healthy and Natural World. Molasses 101: Types, proven benefits uses and more (science based). By Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer. Retrieved from https://www.healthyandnaturalworld.com/molasses/

The Meadow. Minerals in Himalayan Pink Salt: Spectral Analysis. Retrieved from  https://themeadow.com/pages/minerals-in-himalayan-pink-salt-spectral-analysis (I am not promoting or affiliated with this source)



Honeycomb Conundrum

Saturday, July 18, 2020

In the world of herbalism there is a concept called the Doctrine of Signatures. It’s a belief that the color and shape of a particular plant (or certain other items in nature) provides information on its best uses. No doubt, you’ve seen the graphics with examples of this doctrine; about how a slice of carrot resembles an eye and lo and behold carrots are known to be good for the eyes. Kidney beans help with kidney function; walnuts with brain function, etc, etc. Though I find it interesting, I’ve never personally put much stock in it and caution others to proceed carefully before putting it into practice.

I am however, absolutely convinced of the infallibility of God’s word. So when I came across the above proverb (16:24) I was intrigued and inspired to dig a little deeper. 


Anyone can plainly see that a honeycomb’s structure (right) greatly resembles the design within bone (left). So is this a “signature” indicating honeycomb is indicated for bone health?

I spent quite a bit of time researching to find scientific studies that exclaimed the benefits of honeycomb on bone structure. And although I did find a few sentences here and there extolling such virtues I was pretty well let down in discovering any significant benefit having a direct impact.

Does science have all the answers? Hardly! There are many substances that work in mysterious ways that are yet to be answered scientifically; just ask any herbalist that has seriously practiced and they will confirm that!

Please note that I am not saying honey is not beneficial. I know it has many great benefits and I use raw honey often. Honeycomb has benefits too, but I’m talking about bones specifically.

So it would seem that today, I am still on the outskirts of putting much faith in the signatures doctrine. But I did say that the bible is true so why doesn’t the proverb seem to pan out?

Here Is Why

Because of an allopathic conditioned mindset of a “take-this-for-that” fix! Furthermore, human nature seems to default to wanting a sign to direct our way (signatures). But especially because sometimes we really can’t see the forest for the trees.

The subject of the proverb is pleasant words, NOT the honeycomb! It’s God’s Word that is the teacher, the comforter and fixer. May each of us take His Word to heart as the foundation from which ALL blessings flow….

References:

The pleasant words here commended must be those which the heart of the wise teaches, and adds learning to (Proverbs 16:23), words of seasonable advice, instruction, and comfort, words taken from God's word, for that is it which Solomon had learned from his father to account sweeter than honey and the honey-comb, (Psalm 19:10). These words, to those that know how to relish them, 1. Are pleasant. They are like the honey-comb, sweet to the soul, which tastes in them that the Lord is gracious; nothing more grateful and agreeable to the new man than the word of God, and those words which are borrowed from it, (Psalm 119:103). 2. They are wholesome. Many things are pleasant that are not profitable, but these pleasant words are health to the bones, to the inward man, as well as sweet to the soul. They make the bones, which sin has broken and put out of joint, to rejoice. The bones are the strength of the body; and the good word of God is a means of spiritual strength, curing the diseases that weaken us. ~ Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.

Honey took its place not only among the luxuries, but among the medicines of the Israelites. This two-fold use made it all the more suitable to be an emblem both of the true Wisdom which is also true obedience, and of the “pleasant words” in which that Wisdom speaks. ~ Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible. 


KEFIR - My DIY Happy Drink

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

I first stumbled upon the wonders of milk kefir because I was desperate to find a remedy for my doggie Elvis' noisy (and I imagine painful) tummy. It's been many years now so I don't recall where I found the story but it was about a woman who helped her dog's digestive issues using milk kefir. The more I read about it the more I was convinced that I needed to make my own for him, and as it turned out, myself and family members too!

So What Is Kefir Anyway?

Milk kefir is a slightly sour and very creamy fermented milk drink. Sometimes people describe it as a drinkable yogurt but it has much more in the way of gut-friendly pre and pro-biotics than yogurt does. Needless to say, I fell in love with kefir and have shared grains with many others.

Grains? What The Heck Are Kefir Grains?

Kefir grains are a symbiotic culture of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that reside on the surface of complex polysaccharides. They are quite unique in appearance from other cultures used in fermentation and resemble miniature bits of cauliflower. They are rubbery in texture and will often clump together. In my house I simply call them my kefir babies (pictured) ๐Ÿ˜€. You will need kefir grains to make your own kefir at home. If you don’t have a friend who can get you started with some you can often purchase them from your local health food store. If that’s a no-go try my favorite on-line source here.

Have Kefir Every Day

My primary reason for having kefir every day is because it makes my digestive system happy. Fewer tummy aches and mad dashes to the potty room, less reflux and heartburn are good by me. The beneficial yeasts and bacteria that my digestion enjoys is also a tremendous boost to my immune system!

Donna Schwenk of Cultured Food Life is one of my favorite resources for kefir and she lists several reasons she stays on board with it. She says that kefir lowers blood pressure and blood sugar, aids in acid reflux, improves allergies, helps in detoxification (yay!), lowers cholesterol and has a calming effect on the nervous system. These are her own top reasons but there are many more. You can find her article and links here.

Do It Yourself!

You will need:

A tablespoon of kefir grains. This is a good starting amount but I have successfully made kefir with just ONE grain before.

Milk. I use raw fresh milk from a local dairy (jersey cows) with the cream skimmed off. To me, the next best option would be A2 milk that is NOT ultra-pasteurized. A2 milk’s protein is easier on digestion. Ultra-pasteurized milk has been heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit.

A glass jar with a plastic lid. I just use a quart canning jar and lid. Some folks see no problem using a metal lid and some just use a cloth or coffee filter to cover. I’ve tried all these methods but it’s my preference to use a plastic lid.

A plastic strainer. You will need to separate the grains from the kefir for your next batch. Again, some will use a metal strainer. I was taught to use plastic and I prefer it.

Okay so here’s the hard part. Place your kefir grains in the jar. Pour milk over the top to at least half-way up the jar. Put the lid on. Set it out of the way on your kitchen counter for 24 hours. There you go… too easy!! Yes, that is all there is to it. The milk has fermented and your kefir is made.

All you need to do now is put your strainer in a bowl and pour your kefir through it to separate the grains. You can pour it from there into a glass to drink immediately but I like to put it in the fridge to get cold first.

Don’t forget to put your separated grains in a nice clean jar and pour fresh milk over them to start a new batch. You are well on your way to kefir heaven now!
  
A Few Tips

I often like to flavor my kefir before I drink it. I like it plain too but mixing it up with some blueberries, mango, or peaches, a bit of honey and cinnamon is the bomb for sure. There are so many tasty combinations, just be creative.

There are lots and lots of recipes that use kefir. Just search the web and you’ll get plenty of ideas. My favorites are salad dressings, cheese and ice cream. You are definitely not stuck with just drinking it every day. Find fun ways to use it up.

Already made kefir will last in the fridge quite some time, it just gets thicker and more sour the longer it sits.

You can put your kefir grains in “vacation mode” by just putting them in fresh milk and placing them in the fridge instead of on the counter. They will stay fine that way for a couple weeks or longer. If they stay that way too long they might seem to be dead the first time out on the counter but often if you will just give them a second round of fresh milk and set on the counter again they will perk up. Kefir grains are pretty forgiving. I even accidentally fridge-froze my kefir grains once and after about 4 jump starts on the counter they sprang back!

In the winter time I put a sock over my kefir while it ferments because my house is cold at night. It will eventually thicken up without it but I like to keep it cozy and clipping along. I would never set it on a seedling mat however... no, too warm. 

Caution: If you are allergic or sensitive to milk please avoid ingesting milk kefir. You might want to look into water kefir instead. Yep, that's a thing... 


References:

Donna Schwenk’s Cultured Food Life: 7 Reason I Have Kefir Every Day. Retrieved from https://www.culturedfoodlife.com/7-reasons-i-have-kefir-every-day/

Cultures for Health. Composition of Milk Kefir Grains: Bacteria & Yeasts. Retrieved from https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/milk-kefir/milk-kefir-grains-composition-bacteria-yeast/

Healthline. A1 vs A2 milk – Does It Matter? By Atli Arnarson, PhD March 14, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/a1-vs-a2-milk#a1-concerns