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...


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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. 

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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


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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 → → →



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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


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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 µg, 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)



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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. 


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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) 😀. 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

  

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Integrative Dream

Saturday, June 20, 2020

My last Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) revealed that certain ratio results were so low they didn't even register in the lowest range. The consultant told me she wondered how I even got out of bed in the morning!

So, at my next yearly check-up I asked my doctor ... "Hey, do you know what Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis is?"

"Nope, never heard of it", she said. "But I wouldn't put much crock in it! I mean stock... I wouldn't put much stock in it!"

Talk about a Freudian slip! She confesses to not knowing what it is and yet dismisses it as nonsense all in one short eye-rolling exchange.

My mother had a similarly disappointing encounter with her doctor one day when she wanted to discuss some research that sounded hopeful. She was thinking it might shed some light on her thyroid difficulties.

But alas, her attempt to play a roll in her own health-care was quickly rewarded with a terse... "You need to stay off the internet!" 

I can't begin to grapple with all the potential reasons why such attitudes are so prevalent. I'm just sad for all concerned that it happens at all. I'm sure you've got your own stories that can be told.

As one good family doctor (and thankfully, there are many) recently stated.. "So often today, doctors just rely on routine tests for common problems. They don't want to really 'get in there and get their hands dirty', so to speak. They don't have time to take the time... "

I believe that's part of it, but also, doesn't this seem like a prime opportunity for doctors to just say, "You know what? I haven't been educated in the field of nutrition, homeopathy, herbalism, acupressure or ________ (fill in the blank). I'd love to refer you to someone I think could help though!"

Wouldn't that be wonderful?

I believe in mutual respect, bio-individuality and integrative health. No one can know it all, no matter who you are or what field you practice in. Why not share, refer and build great resources and outcomes? You know... for the person seeking help!! Isn't that what it's suppose to be about?

It could happen someday. I hope it does...



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Candied Cardamom Seeds

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) of the Zingiberaceae family is a lovely seed within a pod much loved for its unique pungent yet sweet flavor. The uses for cardamom are numerous and I hope to do my own monograph soon, but for this little recipe I’m turning to it for its well known digestive benefits.

Cardamom stimulates the gastrointestinal tract by means of absorption and assimilation of nutrients in the body. It influences liver and pancreas function, and as a carminative, cardamom assists in relieving GI discomforts such as burping, acid reflux, nausea and vomiting. Furthermore, it tastes good and refreshes breath!

One of my favorite herbalists, Julie James does a wonderful lesson on Cardamom. It was her mention of using cardamon in lieu of fennel this way that got me curious about it. As a humorous but worthy side note, she also dropped a hint that it’s great for your old dog’s bad breath and stinky farts too! 

You don’t have to candy the cardamom seeds to get their digestive benefits but they sure taste good prepared this way. Just a good pinch after a meal to chew on until fine enough to swallow is how I use it. 

Candied Cardamom Seeds

4 Tbs organic sugar
4 Tbs water
¼ cup cardamom seeds (not the pod!)

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small pan over med-high heat. Stir until the mixture gets thick and bubbles. Lower the heat to medium and add the cardamom seeds. Keep stirring until the seeds are coated, dry and separated. Immediately remove from the heat and stir a bit more to make sure there are no clumps. Store in a small container with a lid.

Safety considerations – Avoid intake when a person shows strong signs of heat. Also, if consumed in excess, cardamom may overstimulate upper gastrointestinal secretions. Avoid use beyond mild culinary applications in those with blocked bile ducts. And of course, avoid if allergic to any of the ingredients in this recipe.


References:

Julie James – Green Wisdom – Cardamom. FB live Plant Exploration 11.05.18. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/GreenWisdomLongBeach/videos/vl.330770827616021/346824069414311/?type=1

Herbal Academy. (n.d.). Cardamom monograph. Retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/5161



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Castor Oil Packs ♥ How and Why

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

I want to confess right up front. I LOVE castor oil packs! I know that's not something you hear everyday. As a matter of fact, when it does come up in conversation I often get responses similar to this one...

"Castor oil packs, really? Isn't that something people did in the olden days? You're pulling my leg right?"

Or, a recent favorite...

"When I think of castor oil I think of Tom and Jerry cartoons!"

The inquiries and expressions I've received over the humble castor oil pack are truly a thing of mutual wonder. I'm guessing it fell out of use because of a perception that it's complicated and takes too much time. Fortunately, that is NOT true!

It's Not Complicated

If you're like me, sometimes a new thing seems complicated when really it's just unfamiliar. Do the thing a time or two and it's a breeze. Same with castor oil packs. If I can do it, so can you!

It Doesn't Take Too Much Time

I don't want to get all philosophical here but honestly... what IS too much time? Sure, giving yourself a castor oil pack takes some time, but so does preparing a meal, walking the dog or reading a good book.

Many of the best things for us take a little bit of effort done with intention. After I experienced  the benefits and even enjoyment of this simple but amazing application I was hooked. Now I look forward to making my little nest, setting the atmosphere and gathering my comforts for a nice relaxing hour. Not to mention feeling better afterwards!

Okay, So What Is Castor Oil?

Castor oil (Ricinus communis) comes from the castor seed. Topically, it's often applied over an area of inflammation or injury, or in the form of a castor oil pack to promote a gentle movement of the bowels and/or detoxification of deeper tissues such as the liver.

Topical applications are safe because the main toxic ingredient, ricin is NOT extracted from the seeds into the commonly used oil. However, please note this warning: Internal use is not advised unless under medical supervision. 

I Do Castor Oil Packs Because...  

Two words - Gentle Detox. My digestion has been an iffy friend for many years. To make things worse, my gallbladder was removed one night when it suddenly and painfully took me to the emergency room! Not too many years later I found out that I have a MTHFR genetic mutation which causes poor methylation and enzyme production. My ability to detox is greatly reduced compared to someone without the mutation. I suspect (meaning I have no proof) that my gallbladder failed due to an 8 day detox fast I did just a couple weeks prior. Was the fast too harsh because of the mutation? I wonder...

Nevertheless, I've concluded that for me, most of the popular detox regimens are a little too demanding for my system. Maybe for anyone's. My motto is "low and slow", especially when starting any new form of self care. Our bodies are marvelously created and are designed to support us. Why force it to work outside its comfort zone! If my digestion is being a little on the cranky side or my liver is hurting I turn to the castor oil pack!

Make Your Kit With The Following Items

Castor Oil. Make sure to purchase oil that's hexane free. I got this 2 pack to make sure I had plenty.


A clean glass quart jar with a lid. It doesn't have to be fancy or new but a wide mouth jar will be easier to work with.

A thin towel, dedicated to this process (it may get oil on it which stains).

A small sheet of plastic. I cut up a plastic garbage bag to the size I wanted.

A heating source. You can use a hot water bottle or a rice bag but someone will have to heat it up for you when it cools. I use an old heating pad just like this one, with the cover removed.

When I do mine, I lay on a cheap shower curtain liner. They work perfectly and I don't have to worry about getting oil all over my bedspread.

Note: you will not need to buy new oil and cloth each time. It lasts for quite some time.

Once you have your supplies, take the flannel cloth and fold it so that it will fit nicely into your glass jar. Pour the oil over the cloth (start with just one of the bottles) and put the lid on. Let is sit (turning over occasionally) until thoroughly soaked. Add more oil if you need to. I allowed a full 24 hrs for this process.

Get Set!


This is my routine but once you get the hang of it you can tweak it to your own liking. As long as you keep the main elements on board... applying the oil and heat.

Lay the shower liner down on the bed and adjust the pillows. I like to use one under my knees; it helps my back when laying flat.

Put down the heating pad (plug it in), and a light blanket.

Lay out the thin towel, the piece of plastic and the castor oil pack.

Get the things you want to have at arms length for an hour. I usually get the timer, my phone and a pair of glasses.

Set the atmosphere. I lower the blinds, turn off the light and sometimes burn a bit of frankincense.

Now Let’s Do It

Get onto the bed and position your knees under the blanket and heating pad but over the knee pillow.

Lay back so that a few inches of the thin towel and plastic is under you, held secure by body weight on the right side.

Make sure your head and pillow are arranged for a comfortable position.

Now, put the castor oil pack into place (I have mine set to go over abdominal/liver area).

Next, put the piece of plastic over the pack.

Then put the heating pad over the plastic.

Finally, pull over the thin towel, rolling your body up just enough to secure it underneath your body weight on the opposite side. You should feel nice and snug wrapped up and ready. Turn the heating pad on, set the timer, pull the blanket over you and settle in for a nice relaxing hour. I often fall asleep!

When the timer goes off, simply unwrap, unplug and head straight to the shower to wash off the oil. It's that easy!

Tips: Don't wear anything you don't want to get oil on. Or better yet, just don't wear anything. Also, you might want to use the restroom prior to getting settled in – really aggravating to get all tucked in and then feel the need! Lastly, my personal preference is to wait at least 2 hours after eating before doing a castor oil pack. 

Box It Up For Next Time

When I'm finished I just roll up the liner, the heating pad, the towel and plastic and put it all in a little box I keep just for these supplies. The oiled flannel gets rolled up and put back in its jar which goes into the box also. This makes for a nice little kit ready to go for the next time. 

Next time for me depends on how I'm feeling. If I'm feeling the need (pain) I may do a pack 3 times a week. If I'm keeping to a preventative plan it's once a week. Sometimes, it's once a month. We are all individuals and if we're paying attention to what our body is telling us each of us will find our own routine. 

This process may feel a little awkward the first time out but after a time or two, you will hardly have to think about the set up. I hope you'll come to know and enjoy the benefits of the gentle but amazing castor oil pack as much as I do!! 

Note: I've heard some people say that they can only do 15 minutes at a time. That's not been my own experience but nevertheless, remember the motto when starting anything new... LOW and SLOW. You can always work up to more time. You'll find your way.



References:

Botanical Medicine. Ricinus communis (Castor bean) by Dr. Marisa Marciano & Dr. Nikita Vizniak. p. 368-369

Dr. Jill Carnahan. MTHFR Gene Mutation: How to Know If You Have It and What to Do. February 23, 2014. Retrieved here: https://www.jillcarnahan.com/2014/02/23/health-tips-for-anyone-with-a-mthfr-gene-mutation/



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