My Herbs Blog
A number of years ago, I started making my own creams, salves, and liniments, and slowly replaced all of my pharmacy bought items, with all-natural herbal remedies. All items in my new medicine chest are made by the plants that grow on my property and neighboring vicinity. I think in actuality, I have my own pharmacy with hundreds of items, from herbs, to pure vegetable oils, jars, and even standard tools like bandages, and cotton swabs. My medicine chest is really what I like to call my Herbal Apothecary, and in our family, we use many items in the cabinet daily. I have actually dedicated a corner of my kitchen to the herbals that I make. I have 2 wooden stand-alone cabinets of that are not only attractive, but very useful. I chose pieces that had closed fronts to keep the natural light at a minimum.
Any kind of chest, cabinet piece of furniture, or other creative storage space can be used to make your herbal medicine chest. Maybe you have a big pantry, and you can dedicate a section for your herbs, or maybe you have a perfect cabinet in the kitchen for easy storage and access. Just avoid putting your items in the bathroom, near a stove or natural light source. The location should be easy to access if you have a quick need, but also relatively safe from small children. Nothing I make would harm a child if they got into my apothecary. Most herbs for “medicine” taste bitter and that would be enough of a deterrent, and nothing is toxic or poisonous.
If at all possible collect your own plants either from your garden or from fields, stream beds, and the woods. Make sure the soil and location is healthy and free from chemicals or other run-off that would harm the plants, and thereby you. One of the best determinants is to look at the plants size; small, withered plants, with brown leaves are probably either A. not getting enough nutrients, or B. absorbing toxins from the soil. It may be too late in the season to collect your own herbs, and in that case I recommend finding a local health food store, farm, or even an herbalist who can sell you some local herbs. I find that the herbs collected and used from a person’s local environment can be more effective than those exotic and from faraway lands. There is a temptation to think- farther means better, but truly the most humble and simple “weeds” can be the most effective herbal remedies.
Yarrow flowers, Achilliea millefolium would be the first item I would collect and store. Keep the dried flowers in a glass jar, to use for herbal teas. You will also want to grind some of the flowers into a fine powder and store in a small glass jar. Clean baby food jars are great for storing small amounts of herbs, seeds, and for salves. The whole flowers of the Yarrow plant are infused into a hot tea that is useful for fevers, and colds. Yarrow is a diaphoretic herb that promotes sweating and thus will help a body sweat out a fever effectively. The powdered flowers can be applied to cuts to stop bleeding and promote healing. Another powdered herb that I always keep in my medicine chest, and which also stops bleeding even more effectively is cayenne pepper.
Cayenne, Capiscum annum can be grown in your garden, and after the peppers have been dried, ground up finely into a powder. The powder is especially useful as a first aid item. Cayenne pepper applied to cuts, with stop bleeding, like a clotting factor. Cayenne pepper can be mixed with some water, juice or milk and drank in cases of shock, or hypothermia. Cayenne is also beneficial for stabilizing the blood flow in the body, and stimulating digestion. Although a spicy herb, spice, and condiment- Capiscum is definitely something I keep on hand. I believe I have at least 4 ounces powdered at any given time.
My singularly favorite herb, and plant that I keep in my herbal apothecary in numerous forms, is Black Walnut, or Juglans nigra. The green hull is the part of the plant you want to use. It contains the chemical juglone, which is antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, and a fungicide. This plant is so incredibly useful, and the trees are so exceptionally plentiful. Most people throw or burn away the green nuts, finding them a nuisance. I keep the tincture of the green hulls in my apothecary for sore throats, toothache, and for a quick application to skin rashes. I also make a black ointment, and one of the main ingredients is black walnut hull powder. The ointment is used for almost every kind of bump, blister, cut, scratch, or splinter. I even freeze the hulls to preserve the precious juice over the winter. When you thaw out the slices of the hull, you can use the slices to rub on fungal infections of the skin. It works quickly to take away itch and discomfort, but beware, you will get stains on your skin for a few days from the juglone.
Comfrey leaf, Symphytum officinale, is a must in your herbal medicine chest. The leaf of this herb should be dried and stored in glass jars. I would suggest storing 1 lb. for the winter. If you grow it yourself, you should have no problem collecting that amount, because this plant spreads fast, and has large leaves. It is also very easy to dry. In cases of bruising, straining, spraining or aching, make a large pot of comfrey tea. I use 1 heaping Tablespoon of dried comfrey leaf, per cup of water. Soak clean white cloths in the tea and wrap around the affected area. Cover with saran wrap, and another dry cloth and leave on for 30 minutes. Repeat 3-4 times a day or more for acute pain. You will be amazed at how quickly your body responds to the healing powers of this plant.
The fifth herb is also considered a spice, and spices and herbs are often all called herbs, and that is mustard powder. Mustard is in the family Brassicacae, and in the Northeastern part of the United States, it can be found growing along fields, roadsides, and empty lots, every spring. The plants are easy to identify by their bright yellow flowers. I have not personally gathered my own seeds, but I pick the leaves and eat them raw or in green salads as a spring tonic. I find you cannot really make a mistake when purchasing mustard seeds, unlike other herbs. If at all possible buy the seed, before it has been ground which will ensure the best potency. You can grind your seeds in a small coffee grinder. I would have ½ a pound on hand at any one time, and grind up 2 ounces to store in a glass jar. That way, if you have an urgent situation, you do not have to take time grinding your mustard seeds.
I like to use the dried powder weekly in hot foot baths. The properties from the mustard seeds soak into the soles of the feet and through the body with help of the nervous system. I find that doing this weekly is relaxing, and keeps a body a little more resilient. If a cold comes upon you unawares, and you have chest congestion, a mustard plaster over the chest works wonders, and of course you will want to do the foot soaks with mustard powder as soon as you feel under the weather. To do a mustard soak, prepare a large bowl, or bucket with very warm water. It should be hot, but not too hot. Sit in a comfortable chair with a cup of Yarrow tea, or whatever delicious tisane you have on hand. Mix ¼ cup of mustard powder into every gallon of water. The water should come up to mid-calf. Sit with your feet submerged for at least 20 minutes. After doing a mustard soak, rub your feet with sea salt and dry thoroughly. Lay down and take a rest. Repeat daily if ill, and continue weekly for cold prevention.
As I said before, the items I have in my herbal medicine chest are numerous. I probably have at least 100 different herbs, and mixtures and other helpful tools. However, with just six different herbs, you can use each plant at least 3 different ways, which gives you 18 different herbal remedies, minimum. If you are new to herbs, it is best to start slowly, and become really familiar with a few plants, before branching out to more herbs. I want to leave you with one more set of instructions with the mustard powder, as it is very helpful. It does require another herb that could be your number 6 in your apothecary. That herb is Slippery Elm, Ulmas rubra in Latin. Slippery elm is terrific for stomach complaints and any inflamed skin inside and out of the body. You will want to mix your mustard powder with slippery elm, before making a plaster, because the mustard powder brings a lot of heat to the skin.
In a small ceramic bowl, mix 4 Tablespoons mustard powder, and 4 Tablespoons slippery elm powder. Add small amounts of water slowly and stir until you have a paste-like consistency. If you are the one ill, try to get some help with this application. You will also need two clean towels. One for laying on, and one for when you get up, just so you do not make a mess where you were laying. You will need to remove your shirt and I like to rub some olive oil on my chest first before applying the paste. After rubbing in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, apply a thick layer of mustard plaster on the chest area, avoiding sensitive skin areas. It is best to remain laying during application. You can set a timer for 10 minutes, but if you feel too hot before the timer goes off, you may wash off the plaster. If you can keep the plaster on longer than 10 minutes, keep on as long 20 minutes before washing.
You will be surprised at how red your skin will look. The mustard brings a lot of blood flow to the chest area, which will help with bringing healing to a congested respiratory tract. If after washing off the mustard plaster, you still feel hot, and even uncomfortable, get a cool wash cloth and lay it on your skin for another 20 minutes. Like I suggest after the mustard foot bath, lay down and rest after completing this remedy. I find that a good rest after mustard applications really does wonders. If you can master the application and use of these 6 herbs, you will be well on your way towards a bit more freedom, and self-reliance for yourself and your loved ones. Do not worry about making mistakes, you probably will. Herbs can be very forgiving, and will teach you along the way.
RECIPE for my BLACK Walnut Tincture
You will need:
-8 Green Black Walnut Hulls (fresh) or
-1/2 ounce Black Walnut Hull powder
-Large clean quart jar with lid
-40 Proof Alcohol (Vodka is preferred)
-2 cups high quality water
-Blue painters tape and a sharpie marker
-Knife and cutting board
Directions: Making the Black walnut tincture can be a messy business. The hulls will stain everything they touch. That is why I suggest old rags, and you may even want to use an old cutting board, versus a nice new one. If you do not wear gloves, your hands will stain a deep yellow, and then almost turn a brown or black color wear the juglone gets on your skin. This lasts a few days, so gloves are recommended.
On your cutting board, slice pieces of the hulls off the ball of the walnut. There is a large inner shell in the middle, so you have to cut around it. As you slice pieces, put them into your quart jar. You should have enough slices to fill just above half way.
When you have finished cutting, you will then pour your water into the jar until the water line gets half way on the jar. Then, fill the jar the rest of the way with your Vodka, leaving a 1/2 “headspace at the top of the jar. You can then put on your lid tightly and label with the blue painters tape. The information that should be on the label is as follows: -Date, -Herb material,- Where you obtained your herbs,- and menstruum (liquid in the jar).
Lastly, sit you freshly made jar of Black Walnut tincture on a sunny window sill. Make sure you put the old rags under the jar, because it may leak a little and remember the liquid will stain. Let this sit for two weeks before straining off the hulls, and rebottling the precious liquid.
When I think of all the hundreds of things I can do for self-care and to rejuvenate my body, massage is in my top 10 list of necessities for feeling good. This seems like a no brainer. Massage is great. There are just certain knots that tie up in the muscles, that no stretching seems to break up. I have been getting a deep tissue massage consistently for a year. Previously I would go a few times a year, but last year I made the choice to allocate funds towards a regular monthly, sometimes bi-monthly massage.
Sometimes I may mention to someone that I am getting a massage, and they say "Oh I wish I could do that." I am thinking, you could most definitely do that. There really is no reason. When I did not have the "money" to pay for massages, I use to go get a 10 minute chair massage, for less than $15. Then as time went on and I saw the difference in how I felt, I would pay for longer ones.
Now- it is undoubtedly part of my budget and health routine. There are months when I have had to cancel appointments or reschedule and I really felt it, in fact I may really feel like I am hurting until I get to go. Most of us spend a lot of time on electronics, or looking at our phones, and this does a number to our backs and neck. Stress also really settles in that area. It is a strange phenomenon, and in part I wish I could get rid of that tightness on my own. I have tried hot baths, stretching, and even have a home massager. All of these things help, but nothing works as good as a professional massage to break up the tightness that settles in the muscles.
The following are the reasons I feel that massage is absolutely necessary for me and perhaps you.... 1. I notice that when I start to have tightness in my neck, it travels up the muscles to my head and I will find myself with headaches. 2. My sleep is affected, if my neck is tight; I can't get comfortable and wake up sore. 3. I find myself irritable and tired when I know I need a massage. 4. Getting one releases a lot of pressure and helps the body relax. When in a relaxed state the nervous system is more effective at delivering nutrients to the body. 5. I can get back to work. I find that if I am starting to get too tight, my neck and arms and lower back are pained when I sit at the computer. After a massage, I feel right as rain and ready to tackle my work again.
or Rosemary Gladstar (through her course The Science and Art of Herbalism) really taught me the need for nourishing the body and nervous system. I know a lot of herbs that are beneficial to the nerves. They are called Nervines. Some of my favorites are Catnip, Lobelia, Valerian, Lavender, and Chamomile. What I find with herbs is that herbs work so much better in conjunction with other modalities. An example of a mini self-care splurge that I do is, once or twice a month I will go get a massage, concentrating on my upper back and neck. I like to do this towards the evening, so that I can come home and have a few cups of tea with the above listed herbs. It is really important to drink fluids right after a massage, and the next few days. It is always important, but especially important after body work. Then I do something to continue relaxing. I play nice music, watch an uplifting movie, or go to bed early. The next day I feel like a million bucks! I love my massages and will keep them a part of my routine.
What to avoid: Sporadic massage can feel counter productive. If you only get a massage once in a great while, you may actually feel overly sore afterwards, because the muscles haven't been worked. When I was only going infrequently, I often woke up really sore the next morning. Find someone who you really like. If you get a massage and you find that it was only ok, find someone else. You should really notice a difference immediately when you are on the massage table, as far as relaxation goes. Start with what you can afford, and at the spa or center you can afford. I think a lot of people talk themselves out of going for one because of expense. There are many self employed therapists who charge very fair rates, and are excellent at what they do.
Be willing to try different types of massage. This is something I need to incorporate more. Each type of massage has aspects that benefit the body in different ways. There are essential oil massages, foot massages (reflexology), hot stone, deep tissue, or lighter touch massage. I have experimented some, but need to try some other modalities, because I know there are areas I am missing, and pieces I will receive through trial. Be open to the fact that you may have more clarity, or some kind of spiritual experience, or even sadness afterwards. We can hold pain and sorrow in our bodies, and the trigger points, when pressed by a trained therapist, can release emotional stagnation.
I'd love to hear from you on your experiences with body work, and healing through the different massage techniques available. Have a happy and healthy day!
I am an Herbalist- I study herbs and have used herbs and food as medicine for the last 20 years. I am not a doctor. The information I will share here is based on what I have learned from 20 years of trial and error, study and experimentation. Some things may resonate with you and other things may not. My journey has led me to be 100% devoted to herbal medicine, but that does not mean your journey will lead you to be. I have not been in a void though- I have turned to many guides, Chiropractors, and Natural Doctors, and the Holy Spirit to learn what I have learned. I hope to teach you to love your body, love plants, and trust.
I have been making videos, a sort of collection of "How To's"- How to make tea, How to make Tinctures, How to this, How to that... and I realized that there is some other information that is more valuable, the information that I didn't really read about in books, or that was not told to me directly, that I had to discover as a series of revelations. I decided to start a series of blog posts, and videos sharing 1 of those secrets each day, (or every other day) depending on how organized my schedule is.
For today I wanted to start with this first lesson. It was by NO means my FIRST lesson, in fact it was perhaps 8 years into my journey before I discovered this lesson. I think it was after I heard Gary D. Young (found of Young Living) speak in New York. I honestly only remember one line from his speech and it was this. He said that when he worked with Cancer patients, they had to journal and the first question he asked them or had them journal about was "When did you decide to have cancer?"
Wow! Did I hear him correctly? Decide to have. This might cause many to be angry. We have been taught by media and culture that disease is indiscriminate, like a predator, waiting and lurking to attack. I remember thinking that the unlucky or unfortunate got ill, and that you had no choice if your genetics decided to "give you" a disease. Now I am not talking about children born will illnesses, but there are many aspect of family genetics, and nutrition, lifestyle choices that we make that will affect our progeny, without their consent.
We are all born with some weakness (inherited). Some much more than others. I personally have a family history of bowel disease, heart disease, skin issues, eczema, diabetes even Cancer. I remember a number of years ago when both my parents were going through Cancer treatment, and I was terrified. Terrified for them, terrified for myself, terrified for my children. I remember thinking- this is not my inheritance. I WILL NOT accept this as my inheritance. At that time I was really struggling with my own health. I had numerous food allergies, and constant bowel distress, body stress, fatigue, and emotional strain.
BUT- I decided. It was in the fall, and it was over a series of months of prayer and deep thought, and study and I decided. Not ME! I will be healthy. I will be healthy. I will. I want to say I willed myself to get better and that was it. I did in part will it. There were many many things I did, and I will be sharing them every day. Health has to be a series of decisions made over and over and over again. Repeated decisions of health and thoughts of health and choices that lead to that result. It has to be, because otherwise, what kind of life do we live where evil is visited upon us without any choice.
So when I am working with people in my community and my family with herbs, and they are not getting results, or the wellness they desire. The question has to be asked. "Is there programming here for the opposite of wellness. Do they believe in their core that they deserve to be healthy, or that it is even possible?"
I am here to say that it is possible to believe that health and wellness is a state you can be in. I am not saying that you can be PERFECT and I will talk a lot about perfection. I am not saying that you can cure all disease, especially if you have progressed too far in the opposite direction of optimal health. I am saying though that you can get to a place in your thoughts that you believe and have decided that you will be healthy.
We are all winding down to a time of death. It is inevitable for all of us. Our bodies are physical and we are spirit. Our spirit will go on, and our bodies perish. You can not will your physical body to last forever. You can decide though, the mind frame that you will live with during this life, and the more positive it is, the more your physical body will thank you.
I am not a therapist, or a doctor. I am an Herbalist. I like all the definitions of an Herbalist- from dictionary.com
1. a person who collects or deals in herbs, especially medicinal herbs.
2. herb doctor.
3. an author of an herbal.
4. (formerly) a botanist.
Many herbs that I incorporate into my practice as a community herbalist, are designed to help deal with grief. Let me tell you a story. When I was a teenage, my dog died. I really loved this dog. She went to the Veterinarian for surgery, and she was suppose to come home. When she was there, the Vet put her to sleep. There were complications, and because she was a dog, and not a human, it was "easier" to put the animal to sleep then to not. I was so terribly devastated. This was my beloved animal, and I never got to say goodbye. I didn't say goodbye when she went in for surgery, because it was not suppose to be goodbye.
Consequently, as a child I lost a lot of faith, not that I had a lot, but I lost faith in the God I was learning to call by name. For many years after that loss, I wandered in a Godless dessert not understanding the pain from that event.
I have since learned that God uses all things for the good, even very painful things, and living a life without God is an exercise in futility. Not only that, I feel that it caused me a lot more heartache, and physical deterioration in my own body, mind and spirit.
There are some very wonderful herbs that can help bring about a healing from past traumas. You only need to be a recipient of what they have to offer and let the plants do the work.
Just recently my father passed. This was the biggest grief I have ever faced, but in the midst of the BIG grief, I found God in an even BIGGER way. I also relied on my herbal knowledge to help me through some tough times. My go to herbs during the month of grieving were Lobelia, Lavender, Mugwort, Valerian, Chamomile and Catnip. Now there are many other herbs I incorporated with these plants, but specifically (write their Latin names here) stood out as the stars in my healing through the pain of losing my father.
There wasn't a day that I didn't burn incense (Nag Champa, Frankincese or Sandalwood), in the house. I also really relied on burning smudge sticks such as Sage and Mugwort to cleanse the air and change the energy in my home. With a large family, all grieving a father, grandfather and mentor- the emotional energy was "off" so to say. The subtle smoke produced from burning either incense or a smudge stick worked wonders on my own personal mood, and over-all feeling of well-being.
Lobelia: Lobelia Inflata, and Great Blue Lobelia are both plants that I have personal experience with. I learned about Lobelia, from the great herbalist Dr. John R. Christopher. This was one of his favorites! He called it "The Thinking Herb," and included it in many of his formulas.
I have learned to really love Lobelia, and will share one of my experiences with it. This past winter I came down with a very thick, congested cough, and had trouble breathing in the night. I do not remember everything I was doing herbally, but I remember this:
I woke up, trying to cough, but feeling so thick in my chest. I had a bottle of Lobelia tincture I had made with Apple Cider Vinegar. I knew that if I took a lot, maybe 8 teaspoons, which is a lot, that the herb might cause an emetic reaction. I normally take about 1 dropperful at a time, which is about 35 drops. I began by taking dropperfuls, and waiting a few minutes in-between. I think it was somewhere around the 12th dropperful, which would have been about 3 teaspoons, that I felt a loosening, and a shift where I could then breathe.
At that point, I went to bed, and slept so peacefully; it was amazing!
Lavender: Not sure if I have to say much about this wonderful plant. There probably isn't a person alive, ok- I am exaggerating, but there probably are very few people who have not smelled this heavenly wonder. Lavender if very acceptable as a plant remedy, especially when used for its aromatic properties. Many times I wanted to find something else, and get away from lavender, because it is so "trite." That really does lavender disservice. Nothing compares to the sweet, relaxing fragrance of properly grown, and cared for lavender flowers, especially when distilled into an essential oil. This is probably my favorite method of applying lavender as a relaxation remedy. I like to diffuse it in the air, rub it on my wrists, make dream pillows filled with it, and I often mix some in my herbal tea blends. Lavender is a good herbal friend, and one I would not want to be without.
Mugwort: Artemesia vulgaris, or I have heard it called Cronewort by Susan Weed. This plant is one I only became acquainted with this year. I was set to identify as many plants as possible on my property and surrounding areas, and this one I found nearby. A "weed" I have often over looked, but as I have got to know this plant I realize how stunning and singularly amazing it is for relaxation. The first night I brought it home, I slept with some near my bed, and had very vivid dreams and deep sleep. If an herb helps me sleep, it becomes one of my new favorite plants. I then tried it as a tea, with the same results, and proceeded to make smudge sticks which I have burned in the evening, giving the whole household good night's sleep. It is a plant I would always want to keep on hand, as sleep is very important to overall health and well-being.
Valerian: Valerian, is said to "smell like stinky socks." I am not sure I agree with that, but it does have a very strong, and surprising odor. When I keep it in my herbal medicine chest, it is one of the first herbs, I smell, when I open the door. It is sort of musty and earthy. When I speak of Valerian, I am referring to the root. I have never used any other part of the plant, medicinally. However as a flowering plant, it is quite lovely and often planted for its beauty.
This was one of the first plants I was given when I went to an Herbalist 20 years ago. She gave it to me for stress, and to promote relaxation. I was not so aware of things back then, and did not see the cause and effect between lifestyle and physical manifestation. Since that time, Valerian has been a faithful herb that I take during times of stress, and deep grief. I have made a formula with Valerian, Chamomile, and Lavender. It is a tincture with vegetable glycerin, so it tastes very good! The glycerin is sweet, and the lavender and chamomile shine through, masking some of the muskiness of the Valerian. I give this to my children before bed, when they really need to some calm. My one son in particular had a habit of grinding teeth while sleeping and this remedy worked amazingly to allay that problem.
The last herb I want to talk about is Catnip. This is the very same plant that drives cats wild. It however, has a very calming effect on people. This is due in part to the B Vitamins that this plant possesses. Whenever I find myself frazzled, and unable to sleep, I know it is time for Catnip. Truly I shouldn't let myself go that far, but inevitable it happens, from time to time. Catnip tea is delicious, a bit minty, and soothing a few hours before bed. For a quicker measure, I use a Catnip tincture made with Apple Cider Vinegar. I always have this on hand in large amounts, because it seems to be just what busy, stressful lives require.
I seriously do not know where I would be without the plant world, and the relaxing herbs specifically. I think I would have had a melt down a long time ago, that I never came back from. Herbs are my closet allies for health and wellness, and have proved time and time again, their faithfulness. I thank God for his mercies, and for giving us such a wonderful replenishing medicine.
It has taken me a lifetime to feel good about who I am, and to know who I am. I love being imperfect. I am short, and have laugh lines, crows feet, a few gray hairs, crooked teeth, a body shaped and changed from childbirth, and many other human flaws. I love being free to be me, and happy with the natural progression of life and age. How tiring and stressful to be pressured and striving to look younger than you are, and more perfect than you really are.
It feels good to be around people who can let themselves be real and have the same attitude, personality and temperament no matter who they are with. I want to be that kind of person. I want to be the same to everyone.
I use to be so wrapped up in pleasing others, I could not even begin to please anyone, let alone myself. Now I am content to allow others to be disappointed in me, if they are. I am myself, and let go of the results. Some people may not like this post. I let it go. Some people may not like many things I do. I let it go.
Thank you AnneMarie Hamant you are a gifted photographer. You captured me perfectly.
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