Making Herbal Oil Infusions

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Infusing herbs into oil has been a common practice in kitchens the world over for a very long time. Whether making a base for that favorite salad dressing, a body lotion or an herbal salve for your first aid kit, it's easy! 

The first thing to know is that herbal oil infusions are NOT the same thing as essential oils. 

Second, choose herbs and carrier oils for a specific purpose and know whether it's safe to ingest or apply topically according to that choice. 

In my kitchen the purpose for infusing herbs is most often for body care recipes like creams, salves, lip balms or massage oils. 

Method Of Infusion - Two Ways

I usually go the slow and easy way which is simply to put well dried herbs into a dry glass jar and cover by a couple inches of oil. Stir the mix a bit so there are no air pockets, put the lid on and let it sit in a sunny window for 4-6 weeks until ready. Some people believe that covering the jar with a paper bag during this time protects the herbs from UV light. I'm not so sure about that. Sometimes I cover and sometimes I don't. I generally give mine a little shake every day though. 

One really important thing never to skip... ALWAYS label your jar with the contents and a start date! 

When enough time has passed just strain out the herbs using cheesecloth, squeezing out every drop and then pour into a clean glass jar. I store mine in a cool dark cabinet until needed. 

The quick and easy method is just a variation of the slow easy way. Instead of sitting your filled jar in a sunny window you use a crockpot. Simply place a small towel in the bottom of the pot and sit your jar on top of it. Then add enough water to come half way up the jar. Cover with the lid and turn it on to the lowest setting for 2-6 hours. When it's ready just strain out the herbs, pour into a clean glass jar and store in cool dark place until needed. 

These oils can be kept for up to a year. I add vitamin E oil to my infusions at 1/4 tsp to every finished 2 cups of herbal infusion to prolong the shelf life. Some do this and some don't. I can't imagine not finding a use for these lovely oils before they go rancid but I still choose to add the vitamin E oil to mine.     

Now go forth and be fabulous with your own herbal oil infusions!  


0

Integrative Dream

Saturday, January 25, 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...



0

Mushrooms are not a vegetable!

Monday, January 20, 2020
Here me rant, here me roar!

I really want to know why-oh-why when I order a veggie sandwich, veggie salad, veggie fried rice, veggie pizza or some other VEGGIE meal it comes loaded with mushrooms. Mushrooms are not vegetables people!

Granted, since I know this is typical, I should make sure to emphasize that I do not want mushrooms when I place a veggie order. Most of the time I do make this request but sometimes I forget and then am disgruntled once more (like now) that folks either think mushrooms are veggies, or... they know nothing about veggie variety which causes them to fill the void with this rubbery fungal faux pas.

I have a lot to learn about mushrooms but according to this wiki, a mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. Mushrooms are not plants, they are a fungus. They eat organic matter, they do not photosynthesize like plants do.

Some mushrooms are even considered "magic". There's a bit of controversy over those so I'll just leave that alone for now.

Then there are the medicinal mushrooms that are in the coffee my naturopathic doctor recommended I drink. It's quite good.

So you can see that I am not attempting to banish mushrooms to a dark corner (which they would love). Nor am I suggesting they are not to be eaten.

I bet that if the mushroom could speak it would rant its culinary displeasure at being considered a veggie. This is probably some form of discrimination!

Long story short... if I want a veggie sub with mushrooms I'll order it that way.

Yes, I feel better now 😁





0

Kloss's Herbal Liniment

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Today, my spouse handed me this empty bottle of Kloss’s Liniment and asked … “Can you make some more of this stuff, it really works?!”  Now, I don't know about you but when I receive that kind of feedback I know I've got something that's earned a permanent place in my home apothecary.

I first ran across this liniment recipe in Jethro Kloss’s book Back to Eden which was published in 1939. Tried and true all these years later, it continues to be a favorite among many of today’s herbalists. It’s very useful when applied as a disinfectant and for inflammation of muscles. It’s also great for insect bites, swellings, bruises, boils and eruptions.

My next encounter with this liniment was in Rosemary Gladstar’s book Medicinal Herbs – A Beginner’s Guide. She bumps the recipe up with the addition of Echinacea powder and I agree that it rounds the formula out just right. It’s the version I have chosen to keep on hand.

To make your own bottle of Kloss’s Liniment couldn’t be easier! Just combine the listed herbs in a clean glass pint jar and cover by 2-3 inches with rubbing alcohol. Shake it up and sit it in a warm spot to soak for about 6 weeks. Shake it briefly every day.

When it’s time to strain it let it sit unshaken for about 24 hrs first. The reason for that in this particular formula is that the powders are fine and will settle quite nicely on the bottom which will make it easier to just pour off the liniment and leave the saturated herbs behind. You get much less sediment in your final product that way. You can filter out the rest using a tightly woven cotton cloth if you like. Pour the liniment into a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid and store in a dark cool location.

Always, always remember to label your jar!! I labeled mine with the name, the herbs used, the solvent used, the month and year it was bottled and how to use it. 

Ingredients

2 Tbs echinacea powder (antibacterial)
2 Tbs organically grown goldenseal powder (anti-viral, antiseptic)
2 Tbs myrrh powder (disinfectant)
½ Tbs cayenne powder (circulatory, disinfectant)
1 pint rubbing alcohol

In our household this recipe ran empty in about a year and a half.

Important note: Because the solvent is rubbing alcohol you must label it “external use only”.

To use: Apply it directly on wounds or use it applied to a cotton ball first to dab the area. If using on a deep wound mix the application with a little oil first – cayenne might sting!

Tip: If you need to powder the myrrh first you can easily do so in a coffee grinder. Use one you’ve dedicated for herbal use. This is the one I use. The main tip though is that it’s much easier on your grinder if you pop the myrrh into the freezer for a couple hours first so it doesn’t get hot and gum up your grinder. You’re welcome!

Caution: Don’t use if allergic to any of the ingredients.


References:

The Authentic Kloss Family Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss. p. 107

Medicinal Herbs – A beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar. p. 133

The Science and Art of Herbalism – An Outstanding Herbal Homestudy Course – Dr. Kloss’s Famous Disinfecting Liniment – A "Rosemary’s Remedies" video lesson.


0

Herbed Kefir Crackers

Saturday, January 18, 2020

I love to have something crispy with my soup or salad, don’t you? What I don’t want is store bought breadsticks, croutons or crackers out of the box. I’m not saying I never go that route but if I can help it, I’ll make homemade crackers every time. They are so easy to make and the flavors are easily adjusted to compliment whatever type of meal you may have on the menu. 

Today my goal was to make crackers using an herb blend and the last of my kefir. I decided on the following combination and according to family, they turned out quite good. The kefir even imparts a slight cheesy taste.

Herbed Kefir Crackers

2 cups blanched almond flour (not meal)
¾ tsp celtic sea salt
2 Tbs Herbs de Provence (see recipe)
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs milk kefir 
1 tsp water

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another. Now stir the wet into the dry. Bring the dough together with your hands and form into a short oblong shape. Place between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll out to 1/8th inch thickness. Remove the top piece of parchment. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into desired sizes. Transfer the dough along with the parchment it’s on to a cookie sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the sheet for 20 minutes once out of the oven.

Note: Kefir is a living micro-organism and heating it kills some of its live enzymes. Nevertheless, there is still benefit because of the good nutrients that remain - calcium, proteins, lipids, vitamins and minerals, phosphorous, magnesium, tryptophan, folate, biotin, and vitamins A, B2, B12, D, and K.


References:
Lyn Beford-White. April 27, 2018. Fermented Foods and More. Cooking with milk kefir. Found here: https://www.fermentedfood.org/single-post/2018/04/27/Cooking-with-milk-kefir

Sally Fallon Morell with Mary G. Enig, PhD. January 1, 2000, last modified on February 4, 2014. Realmilk.com. Enzymes. Found here: http://www.realmilk.com/health/enzymes/



0

Herbs de Provence

Friday, January 17, 2020
Herbs de Provence is said to be an essential component of French and Mediterranean cooking. It’s a blend of dried herbs that bring a particular flavor to many dishes, such as chicken, grilled fish, roasted veggies, soups and more. It’s also wonderfully aromatic.

I was looking for something different to punch up my kefir cheese spread with when I came across this delicious sounding blend. I even had all the herbs on hand except for the Marjoram. For some reason I couldn't find it on the store shelf! Thankfully I found a live plant at a local nursery and brought it home with me where it lives happily amongst my other lovelies.

This blend is easily found on-line but I would rather make my own. Besides, several of the store brands include lavender and I prefer it without. The following recipe is the version for me!

Herbs de Provence

3 Tbs dried Thyme
2 Tbs dried Savory
2 Tbs dried Oregano
2 Tbs dried Parsley
1 Tbs dried Rosemary
1 Tbs dried Marjoram

(Optional: add 1 Tbs dried Lavender)

Combine all the herbs and store in a glass jar where you keep your other culinary herbs and spices. Depending on what you’ll be using it for you may want to toss it into a grinder to make it finer. That’s what I did with mine before adding it to my kefir cheese.

Use liberally according to your own taste. So good!


0

The Fabulous Fig

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Common names: Fig.
Botanical name: Ficus carica
Family name: Moraceae

Overview - Fig trees are perennial and were first discovered wild in Western Asia and then brought to the Eastern Mediterranean area where they continue to grow wild. Evidently, they are also one of the oldest known cultivated fruit trees. The common fig tree thrives in zones 8 and warmer where the summers are long and hot. However, there are some hardy species that can be grown in cooler temperatures. Some folks grow their trees in containers and bring them indoors for the winter.

Figs can be preserved, used in cooking or eaten fresh from the tree. These “fruits” are technically a flower that’s turned in on itself and are referred to as syconium. They are dependent on a unique form of pollination in that female agaonid wasps or “fig wasps” crawl into the developing fig, spreads pollen and lays her eggs. When those eggs hatch they mate and then move out and onto other figs continuing the cycle.

Parts used – fruit, stems, leaves, roots.

Primary Therapeutic Constituents - Soluble and insoluble fiber, calcium, iron, proteins containing high levels of the amino acids, aspartic acid and glutamine. Enzymes, magnesium, iron, vitamin A and C, calcium, and potassium. Phenolic compounds, phytosterols, anthocyanins, and organic acids that contribute to antioxidant activity. Coumarins, flavonol quercetin, anthocyanin, alkaloids, tannins, and fatty acids.

Other parts of the plant contain a high number of volatile compounds such as monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and norisoprenoids; mostly in the leaves.

Medicinal Actions - Anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, blood purifier, diuretic, nutritive, anti-anxiety, aperitive, emollient, purgative, anti-diabetic, aphrodisiac, demulcent, expectorant, sedative.

Common Uses - The anthocyanin content of figs can help to maintain healthy blood lipid levels and play an important role in the prevention of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers (colon and lung). Historically used for all manner of digestive issues – poor appetite, colic, indigestion, constipation (contains a natural laxative effect), dysentery, inflamed or ulcerated intestines, and intestinal parasites.

Additional uses of the fruit include the improvement of vision, alleviation of asthma, amnesia, abscesses, acne, anemia, anxiety, arthritis, catarrh, colds and coughs, bronchial infection and headache.

An interesting biblical account from Isaiah 38:1-5, 21 states the following:  In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, “Go and say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.”

Technique – food, decoction of the figs, chewing the leaves (bad breath), poultice (leaves crushed and applied), poultice (fruit mashed and applied). Decoction of leaves is stomachic. The latex applied to corns, warts, piles, bug bites and stings. Roasted fruit poultice applied to gumboils and dental abscesses. Syrup of figs for gentle laxative. The leaves have been known to also provide a covering. 

Cautions and Contraindications - The unripe fruit contains a sticky latex that contains alkaloids, tannins and phytosterols. This substance can cause skin irritation and serious eye irritation. Avoid use during pregnancy, breast feeding and surgery. Overeating may cause stomach pains. Excessive consumption may cause calcium deficiency in the body. Consuming along with diabetes medications may cause hypoglycemia. Those suffering from kidney and gallbladder disorder should avoid consumption of figs.

Toxicity - The sap and half-ripe fruits are said to be poisonous.
  
Taste – sweet

Energy – neutral, cooling

Nutritional profile - Good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese and pantothenic acid.



References

American Botanical Council ~ Hannah Bauman and Jayme Bisbano. Food as Medicine: Fig (Ficus carica, Moraceae). HerbalEGram: Volumne 14, Issue 8, August 2017

The Old Farmer’s Almanac – The Editors. Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Figs.

Herbpathy – Fig Herb Uses, Benefits, Side Effects, Nutrients.

Natural Medicinal Herbs – available at: http://naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/f/ficus-carica=fig.php

The World’s Healthiest Foods – The George Mateljan Foundation. Figs. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=24#nutritionalprofile

NASB - The beautiful fig leaf has an early appearance in the biblical scriptures; immediately after the fall of man, it is mentioned in Genesis 3:7 where it says... "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" 


0

Blueberry Chia Seed Pudding

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Even as a child I was a picky eater and textures were always an issue. No way was I going to eat something rubbery, slimy, sticky or too chewy! Poor mom...

To a certain extent I've grown out of a most of those aversions. Well, a few of them anyway. 

Chia seeds had always been on the iffy scale for me. I mean, they looked harmless enough when they were just sitting there, on there own, not doing anything. But once some insane person added those seeds to a perfectly good bottle of Kombucha they were transformed into strange gelatinous globs. Or so I thought.

I suppose I better get on to the enlightened portion of this story before you feel affirmed to keep chia seeds off your grocery list!

When I was going through my herbal courses, I watched a fun video of Rosemary Gladstar making Chia Seed Pudding. She made it look so simple, quick and tasty that I decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did!

I've learned not to judge a seed by appearances only! I've even taken to putting them in a bit of pomegranate juice for a little overnight cold infusion now and then. Aversion tackled.

Turns out, chia seeds have a lot to offer. Just 1 ounce of chia seeds contain 4915 mgs of total omega-3 fatty acids. They are also very low in cholesterol and a good source of calcium, phosphorus, dietary fiber and manganese.

Combined with the healthy benefits of coconut milk and blueberries, this recipe is a win-win in my world. And yes, to my delighted surprise, it tastes scrummy too!! The fun thing about this recipe is that it can be tweaked from its base into many different combos and flavors. I'm using blueberries because I picked a lot over the summer and want to keep things moving in my freezer. I chose the pecans because they were handy and the spices go well as two of my favorites. Anyway, on to the recipe...

Blueberry Chia Seed Pudding

1 cup chia seeds
3 cups liquid (1 13.5 oz can coconut milk and the rest water)
1 to 1 1/2 cup blueberries
1 tsp vanilla (more or less to taste)
1 tbs maple syrup (more or less to taste)
Pecans
Cinnamon
Cardamom

Mix up the base which is the chia seeds, coconut milk and water. I typically put the coconut milk into a medium sized bowl and smooth it out with a stick blender first. Then I blend in the water, add the chia seeds, vanilla, maple syrup and blueberries. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight until set. When ready, remove the cover, top with more berries, the pecans, cinnamon and cardamom. Dish out and dig in! What could be easier? And oh my goodness - so tasty.

Tip: I use frozen blueberries so they stay in tact and don't color the entire dish blue.

I hope you'll give it try and please do let me know about the flavor combos you've tried 😋



References

SELFNutritionData - Seeds, chia seeds, dried nutrition facts and calories. Found here: https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2

Dr. Axe - Nutrition. Coconut Milk Nutrition: Beneficial Vegan Milk or High-Fat Trap? Found here: https://draxe.com/nutrition/coconut-milk-nutrition/

Organic Facts - by Meenakshi Nagdeve. December 20, 2019. 20 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Blueberries. Found here: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-blueberries.html



0