Archive for the ‘natural beauty’ Category

The world of natural and alternative health can be complicated. We, as a people, have forgotten so much about the benefits of using the plants around us to heal our bodies. Not only that, but we have forgotten how to use them. Salves, tinctures, extracts, essential oils, teas, syrups, glycerites…what’s the difference? Well, there is quite a bit of difference, actually, but today we are going to talk about a relatively new form of herbal medicine.



White pine hydrosol

Haven’t heard of them? Don’t know what to do with them? Then, read on, my friend!

First, though, let me tell you what a hydrosol is NOT.

Hydrosols are not floral water, which is simply the process of infusing water with flowers by letting them sit over a period of time to absorb the essence of the flowers. Floral waters have their own limited range of healing properties, but they are not the same as a hydrosol

Hydrosols are not water with essential oil added to them, which can be dangerous when ingested.

True hydrosols are created using a steam distillation process to extract the beneficial properties of the herbs that cannot be obtained any other method. This is the same process used to obtain the essential oils from plants, but renders a completely different finished product. Instead of writing out the entire process, let me direct you to this website, HydrosolWorld, that has a wonderful explanation of the whole process.

To simplify for those of you who don’t want to read all the details, here’s a breakdown:

  • Hydrosols are the perfect balance between herbal teas and essential oils. They are safe to use internally and externally, unlike essential oils which should NEVER be used internally. Because they contain many of the same elements as the essential oils, they offer a wider range of benefits than a simple herbal tea.
  • Unlike herbal teas, hydrosols have a long shelf life. Depending on the herb, the shelf life can range anywhere from 6 months to several years, so they are much easier to keep on hand for a quick-fix when you don’t have the time or energy to whip up a batch of tea.
  • Hydrosols can be used topically for instant relief from many issues.
  • Hydrosols can be used safely on most animals and children
  • Hydrosols can be used to replace the water portion of your skincare recipes in things like soaps and lotions.
  • Hydrosols can be added to your cleaning routine to add a gentle fragrance, or to kill bacteria and viruses.

So, why aren’t you hearing more about hydrosols? Because they have only recently been studied for their medicinal benefits. In the past, hydrosols have been nothing more than the byproduct of essential oil making, rather then the main goal of the distillation process. The remaining water (hydrosol) was simply pitched out as being useless. It was a bit surprising to many when they realized that hydrosols were actually quite potent and effective in their own right. The multitude of benefits they provide is still being studied and experimented with, as is the range of plants that produce the best hydrosols.

Of course, being the enterprising soul that I am, I had to jump on the bandwagon.

The first step was obtaining a distiller. Thanks to a wonderful friend and business associate, I finally got my distiller. I admit, I was a bit scared of the whole process at first. It seemed so technical and science-y. What if I screwed it up?


My beautiful distiller!

Turns out, it wasn’t so scary or difficult after all. Now, I am a bit addicted to creating new hydrosols. I am distilling all of my favorite herbs….red clover, wild plum blossoms, yarrow, elder flowers, spearmint, white pine….and I have so many more on my list. If only there was more time in a day!

Now, I have a refrigerator full of fabulous hydrosols and I have been experimenting like crazy! The time has finally arrived to share them with you all.

Choosing where to start with hydrosols is the first step to forming a glorious addiction. My next few posts will cover the hydrosols that I personally have created and worked with. I will give a detailed list of all the things each of them is good for, how to use them, when not to use them, and which ones are good to keep on hand for emergencies.

Let’s start with one of my personal favorites, elder flower hydrosol.

The hydrosol has a mildly green, floral fragrance that blends well with many essential oils, making it perfect for creating spritzers, room and fabric deodorizers, and surface cleansers that provide antibacterial and anti-viral action.


Elder flowers in bloom

Most people are familiar with the healing power of elderberries. High levels of Vitamin C make it a must-have for cold and flu season, but there is much more to the elder plant than just the berries. Elder is known as the medicine chest of the country folk’ because of the many health-enhancing benefits it contains. Besides being a potent antibacterial and antiviral, elder flowers are also antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, diuretic, styptic, analgesic, and a mild laxative. These qualities make it useful for a variety of issues, including:

  • Kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • To fight colds and flu
  • Sinus infections
  • Soothes respiratory disturbances by dispelling mucous and congestion
  • Boost function of the immune system
  • Applied topically, helps reduce pain and swelling in joints due to arthritis
  • Stops bleeding
  • As an oral rinse for dental issues and toothaches
  • Soothes the symptoms of allergies
  • Regulates blood glucose levels
  • Soothes inflammation of the eyes
  • Circulatory stimulant
  • Encourages perspiration
  • Treats viral infections like measles, chicken pox, shingles, and Epstein Barr.
  • Purifies the blood
  • Cleanses the lymphatic system of toxins and debris
  • A natural diuretic useful for eliminating water retention, bloating, gout, and edema
  • Beneficial for liver disorders
  • Heals urinary tract infections
  • Eases headaches
  • Applied topically, it helps heal cuts, wounds, and burns
  • Helps fade blemishes and age spots

When using it internally, we take 1-2 teaspoons in a glass of water. It has a pleasant flavor that blends well with fruit juices, too.

Elder flower hydrosol is handy when your pets are in need. A spritz or two on hot spots works wonders to heal the flesh and soothe the itch, and will help soothe anxiety. Adding a spoonful to their water is helpful in many conditions, including kennel cough and other respiratory issues, or to boost the immune system. It also works well for reducing pain and inflammation associated with arthritis in the joints.

For the more spiritual among us, the essence of the elder plant can add an extra bit of power to rituals and ceremonies. They are considered sacred to the angelic realm and Druids, who call it the ‘Tree of Life’, as well as anyone seeking to work with the Fae. It is known as the medicine chest of the country folk’ because of the many health-enhancing benefits it contains.

The Elder plant represents the 13th month as part of the Ogham, the calendar tree of the Celts. This is the month of the Winter Solstice which is a time of transition between light and dark ~ death and rebirth. Elder helps ease the transition between these two periods.

Elder has long been associated with the fairy world, and is considered to be a plant of the faerie land where wood spirits and elves make their home in her roots.

Elder’s spiritual essence is believed to open the psyche, and is associated with the heart chakra, helping to cool anger and ground the spirit.

I’m sure I haven’t covered all of its uses, but this is an excellent starting point.

As always, I must remind you all that, no, I am not a licensed physician, and all of the alphabet government agencies insist that herbal medicine has little or no healing properties, so this could all just be a big old mess of snake oil. I am not qualified to diagnose you, and I most certainly am not allowed to heal you or offer you any ‘medical’ advice. No government agency has approved any of these statements or claims. If you are taking any herbal medicines, you do so at your own risk. You should always consult with your healthcare provider before taking any herbal products, especially if you are currently taking any prescription medications.

If you are feeling brave or rebellious and want to see what all the hype is about when it comes to hydrosols, check out my Etsy store, Tamara’s Herbes, where you can find all of my hydrosols, as well as other natural health and beauty products created to help soothe the body, mind and spirit!

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I like adventure in my life.  Living on the edge.  Trying new and exciting things.  Things that make people say, “What is WRONG with you?”
I hear that phrase quite often from people who knew me way back when.  I have to admit that, had someone told me twenty years ago that I’d be living on a farm and raising chicken and cucumbers, I’d have punched them in the nose for even suggesting such a thing.  Now, though, I just look at them and smile.

The truth is, I can’t imagine living any other life than the one I have. I step out my door, or stare out my window, and all I see is a world blanketed in the beautiful green of the trees  and the brilliant flowery bits of purple, yellow, white, orange, blue and pink that cover the ground.  I see birds in colors that I never knew existed.  I watch bees and squirrels and butterflies as they scamper and flit through the yard.

in the woods

And, then there are my gardens.  I don’t believe there is any possible way to describe the feeling I get when I step into view of one of them.  The peace that fills me.  The easing of ill feelings and anger and negativity.  The joy and hope.  The reminder of all things beautiful and enduring that life has to offer.  It’s a little corny, I know, but there it is…

Pink flowers

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m kinda proud of my gardens.  All of them.  Even my sorry, neglected vegetable gardens.  Well, not really neglected…more like I-let-them-get-out-of-control-and-there-aren’t-enough-hours-in-the-week-to-catch-up-on-them…  Not that it was completely my fault.  It was mostly Mother Nature’s fault.  She’s the one who sent two solid weeks of rain in the middle of the summer, making it impossible to even get to my gardens. By the time I finally built a raft and rowed out to check on them, I was pretty certain they were done for.  My poor tomatoes, so lovely and full, had started to burst from all the water.  My lovely zucchini were water-logged and beginning to rot on the plant.  Even my watermelons seemed to have gotten just a bit too much water.

wet garden

Alas, as the rain cleared, the sun began to shine and the waters began to recede.  Lo and behold, I discovered all was not lost, in fact.  I pulled the cracked tomatoes, rotting zucchini and water-logged watermelons and watched in profound joy as those hardy plants sprouted new blooms and pushed out another round of fruits and veggies that showed even greater promise! Oh, how I love those Heirloom plants!

Should you ever find yourself in this same position, here’s what you can do to save your garden veggies; as soon as you can get to them, pull all the dead, dying, waterlogged or otherwise affected fruit from the plant and throw it in the compost pile (or feed it to your chickens, goats, dogs and cats like I do).  Pull off any leaves that are spotted or ugly.  Sit back and wait.  New blooms should appear within a couple of days and you can be enjoying a fresh round of fruits and veggies in a couple of weeks.  It is that simple.

My flower gardens are another story completely.  They LOVED all the rain!  They burst to life, covering my walls and ground with glorious color.  My vines vined, my flowers flowered…I have loofa, morning glory, datura, bamboo, castor beans….all of them happier than I’ve ever seen them!

So, riding high on a tide of garden-induced euphoria, I made the decision to add a goat or two to our happy farm family…

That wasn’t completely my fault, either.  See, my grandson needs some goat’s milk to eat, and my cousin (who swears she really does like me!) convinced me I needed some, and I could use some goat’s milk for my products….Anyway…the Universe conspired to make it happen.  Who am I to fight fate?

Meet Latte and Buttercup.

Latte and Buttercup

Latte and Buttercup

You have to admit they are pretty darn cute.  They’re good sports, too.  They didn’t kick me once while I was milking them…not even when they probably should have.  Instead, they just kinda looked at me askance a time or two, and I’m pretty sure that Buttercup sighed in exasperation a few times… Still, I have a gallon of fresh goat’s milk that I got all by myself! Am I unbelievably cool, or what?

At this point, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.  Well, I’m gonna tell you.  It’s all about the goat milk and how super-duper-awesomely-cool it is.

First, though, let’s get the legal portion out of the way….The FDA says that any kind of raw milk is dangerous.  Deadly, in fact.  It harbors evil bacteria that are lying in wait to cause illness and death.  You should never, ever drink raw milk, or eat any products made with raw milk, or smell raw milk, or bathe in raw milk.  Instead, you should only buy milk that has been pasteurized by an FDA-approved agency until there is nothing nutritional or naturally-healthy about it.  (Do you feel the scorn and laughter I’m not bothering to hide…?)

But, if you are like me and enjoy living life on the razor edge of danger, here are some benefits of goat’s milk…

  • It contains over 50 nutrients, including Vitamins A, C, E, B1, B6, B12, minerals, enzymes, citric acid, amino acids, fatty acids, electrolytes, unsaturated fatty acids, selenium, calcium, potassium, niacin and several more.
  • It digests in 20 minutes
  • It most closely resembles the structure of human milk
  • It is non-mucus forming and non-allergenic
  • It is believed to be of great benefit for many medical conditions, including: arthritis, ulcers, malnutrition, brain disorders, nerve disorders, liver disease, heart disease, fluid retention and cancer prevention.

But, what about the benefits of goat’s milk in skin care, you ask?

  • It slows the effects of aging by helping to rebuild collagen and sustain elasticity of the skin
  • It helps prevent and reverse age spots
  • It promotes moisture retention
  • It contains alpha-hydroxy acids that  are believed to help rejuvenate and heal damaged skin

Unfortunately, raw goat milk is kinda hard to find.  A few states have outlawed it completely.  Most states have severe restrictions on the sale of it.  The danger, you know….

But, if you can get your hands on some, snatch it and run!  Bathe in it.  Drink it.  Gargle with it. Sniff it.  Okay, not really, but you know what I mean, right?  You can cook with it, too.  You know I’m gonna be posting new recipes that include copious amounts of raw goat milk.  Next thing you know, you’ll be seeing my face on America’s Most Wanted. I told you – I like to live dangerously!

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Wow, who would have thought that my post “Our Scarlet Fever Adventure‘ would gain so much attention?!?!  More than 3,000 hits on that post alone.  More comments than any of my other 45 posts.  More criticism, congratulations and requests for more info than anything I have ever published. I’m still trying to figure out what it is about that post that stirred up so much controversy!

Regardless of the ‘why’, the fact is ~ it did.

Before I go further, please ~ if you haven’t already done it, read that post and the comments.  I’m going to be referencing it  a lot in this post.  You might as well just get it out of the way.  It’s cool…I’ll wait right here…

Okay, moving on.

I have a few things to point out.

1 ~ That post was by no means a DIY guide to treating Scarlet Fever.  It was simply me sharing a real-life story about how WE chose to treat it.  I did not go in-depth on who we consulted, why they said what they did or any other bits of medical wisdom from the Western Medicine Institution. It was written as a means to let others know that there are alternatives to prescription antibiotics, and as a platform for further research, should anyone find themselves in that situation.

2 ~ I made this statement in that post:

You know on those tv shows where they tell you this is being done by a professional and not to try this at home?  Well, you’ve reached that point in the program.  I’ve been studying herbs and their many uses for a very long time, but  I am not a doctor.  I can’t diagnose, treat or advise you on how to deal with any illnesses or diseases.  I don’t recommend doing this without the advice of a licensed medical professional.

I cannot make myself any clearer than that.  Don’t try this at home on your own.  I have been doing this for a very long time.  I am a TRAINED professional, though unrecognized by the USA, FDA, WHO, AMA, CIA, MBA, CBS, or any other initial-bearing agency.  In the United States, natural healing methods are nothing more than quackery, and those of us who choose to spend the years necessary to obtain certification are nothing more than simple-minded fools or diabolical con-men out to trick the stupid, unsuspecting public (translate=you) into running out to your nearest lawn and pulling weeds to eat in order to cure your ills.  Now that you understand this elaborate scheme that I’ve contrived to carry out over these last two decades, let’s move on….

3 ~ It seems that much has been left out when discussing the original post.  Honey and garlic were hardly the only treatment methods employed.  In fact, these were only two of many natural treatments that we used to help clear up the Scarlet Fever.  To suggest that these two items formed the basis of my daughter’s treatment is both wrong and ridiculous.  As the original post clearly states, there was much more to it than that, both during and after the symptoms were visible.

A couple of weeks ago I received a comment concerning that post from a General Practitioner that I answered in the comments section.  Please take the time to read both her comments and my response so I don’t have to cut and paste them here…they were kinda long on both parts.

Now, I will admit that I tend to come off sounding condescending.  I don’t mean to.  Really.  I’m just kinda naturally sarcastic, no matter how hard I try to keep it from happening.  Further, I have had to defend my medical stance so often that it has become habit to become defensive at times.  You don’t have to agree with me, but don’t treat me like I’m an idiot because I don’t buy into the status quo when it comes to modern medicine.  My experiences, and those of  thousands of others, have helped to form the basis of my knowledge.  If you don’t like what I’m saying, you are free to exit out of this blog.

That being said, I truly appreciate the discussion with Doreen.  She seems to be a sincerely concerned medical practitioner who believes in what she is saying and doing.  Her comments and insights are valuable, especially to the parent of a sick child who may be trying to decide on the best course to take when treating said child.  It is not my intention to belittle or ridicule her in any way and I am apologizing ahead of time if that is how any of my statements come off.

I digress, though…the comment I was speaking about….

After I responded to the GP comment, she commented back.  At first, I wasn’t sure of the best way to address the new comments.  Much of what she had to say is standard medical tactical maneuvers.  They are irritating, at best.  However, to the common person they do have validity.  So, this is my answer…Scarlet Fever Adventures Revisited.

Donetta says:

Your statement regarding her diagnosis confuses me. I did read your entire post and acknowledge that your daughter had a history of pharyngeal infections. My issue was that the diagnosis was reached without consultation with a medical practitioner. By consultation I mean one including a physical review including investigations (as appropriate) and a management plan discussed. My concern is that there are many infections and conditions that mimic your daughters symptoms. I don’t care about the qualifications of your ‘health professionals’ – no doctor can make a medical decision without seeing the patient.

Agreed.  No doctor should make a diagnoses without seeing the patient. In the last 5 years, I have had many opportunities to visit a doctor’s office.  My mother-in-law, who lived in our home and was under our care before she passed, suffered from Diabetes, heart disease, kidney malfunction, high blood pressure and depression.  We spent many long hours at various doctor’s offices.  Three teens who attend public school where illness sweeps through at regular intervals have often taken us to either an emergency room or doctor’s office, as have sports physicals and accidents, on a semi-regular basis. Interestingly enough, we have seldom spent time with a DOCTOR.

The procedure works like this ~ a nurse or nurse’s aide takes you down a long hallway to a large scale.  She takes your vitals and writes cryptic symbols on a piece of paper tucked into a manilla folder.  She then leads you to a small room and tells you to wait.  Occasionally, she will open the door to peek in at you and tell you the doctor will be with you in a minute.  The doctor comes in, reads the piece of paper in the folder, makes a few comments that have little to with your actual illness, writes out a prescription, then leaves.  Sometimes, he will repeat one of the nurse’s previous actions like looking in your ear or listening to you breath heavily. Only sometimes, though.  The accumulative total of the time he spends with the patient is less than 5 minutes. I don’t pretend to know the reasoning behind their actions, other than maybe a $50 office visit fee.

In the case of my daughter’s Scarlet Fever, I was offered a management plan. Prescription antibiotics. Lots of fluids. Call us again in 10 days or if things get worse.

You say… “This was not the point at which any decision was made. It was the point at which we figured out what, exactly, the problem was so that we could determine the best course of action” Isn’t “figuring out exactly the problem” the same as “a decision being made” on her diagnosis?.

No, it isn’t the same thing. For one, there was no decision to be made on her diagnosis, only on what treatment to provide her with.  This was simply the point when we understood WHAT we were dealing with. Then, we moved on to examining the different options available to treat it. Natural or synthetic antibiotics? Leave it to run its course and hope for the best? What are the benefits/risks of each option? What will produce the best long-term possibilities? Do I listen to doctors who have a vested interest in my daughter taking a series of antibiotics that haven’t helped in the past, or trust in my own years of training and study of natural healing methods? There were several options available at this point. It was then a matter of studying each one and THEN deciding on what to do.

I’m not trying to criticize here but I feel strongly about patients and parents self diagnosing. Not because I’m interested in drumming up business or pushing my own agenda – but because I am aware through my own training and experience how often we can be deceived by seemingly straightforward presentations

Again, a point we agree on. However, in my particular situation, I had the benefit of years of study and research concerning the human body, natural alternatives, previous medical history of this ‘patient’, etc. This blog post was not a diagnostic tool for others, simply a sharing of our experience and one more alternative to scrip meds and standard treatment. In this technological age it is impossible to prevent someone taking this info and twisting it, or using it inappropriately. I can only hope that anyone looking at all the options for treating something like Scarlet Fever is simply going to use this post as a starting point for further research. 

As for patients and parents self-diagnosing, consider this; Iatrogenic is defined as “induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon, or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures”.  While the medical community tries very hard to ignore statistics and tell us that the leading cause of death in the United State of America is either heart disease, stroke or cancer, depending on the year and the source, that is a blatant lie.  Here are statistics as reported by the CDC:

Deaths from heart disease in 2009 ~ 598, 607 

Deaths from cancer (malignant neoplasms)  in 2009 ~ 568,668 

The CDC does, conveniently, leave out one cause of death from all of their statistics: iatrogenic deaths.  That is, death caused by physician or surgeon.  Death by iatrogenic causes: anywhere from 300,000 to more than 700,000 annually, making this either the 1st or 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, depending on who you believe.  And, that is only the REPORTED cases. Either way…what were you saying about the dangers of misdiagnosing…?

And, just in case you need more sources:



There are many healing properties in natural substances and I dare say we are just scratching the surface as to their potential benefits. I must admit, I would appreciate you posting some links to articles about how garlic and honey at a molecular level because being a science dork, I like knowing how things work.

But what you didn’t answer is whether natural antibiotics/immune stimulants are as effective as penicillin at reducing the risk of rheumatic fever and other complications of Scarlet Fever? You say there are no studies due to big pharma and I agree that’s a shame, but unfortunately it doesn’t put you in a position to say that is AS EFFECTIVE as penicillin. Parents and patients need more than faith, they need facts. If a neutral mother came to me with her Scarlet Fever child – she would want evidence that the therapy I propose works and an objective measure of the risks of taking the medication. Each medicine we prescribe is made considering these two factors.

A goodly number of the prescriptions available today are derivatives of natural substances, so even modern medicine has recognized that natural substances have many potential benefits. One of the problems with science and medicine is that if you can’t take it apart and identify the exact factor that ‘makes it work’, it is cast aside as ‘useless’ and ‘possibly dangerous’.  This has been the case with nearly every medicinal herb in the herbalist cabinet.

Fortunately, both honey and garlic have been extensively tested. Often, results are seen then cast aside by science because they can’t explain WHY they work. Or, worse yet, they take it apart and see that none of the bits work on their own to heal/cure anything, then label it ‘ineffective’.  This process is equivalent to pulling a spark plug out of your car’s engine, trying to start the car, then taking it to the junk yard because it won’t start. All of the parts work together or not at all. It IS that simple.

I could copy and paste a whole list of studies and experiments done by both the medical institution and natural health institutions, but I am trusting that any of my readers are just as capable as I am.  A quick search in either the library or online will provide them more results that I am capable of handing them in my limited amount of space.

Lest I be accused of ‘copping out’, here are a couple of studies (done by scientific/medical institutions, not natural health practitioners) that acknowledge in small part what natural health advocates have been saying for centuries, as well as a few more resources to delve into:

Concerning Garlic~

(I recommend reading the entire article and following the links given) The researchers found the diallyl sulfide was as effective as 100 times as much of the antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin and often would work in a fraction of the time. ~~http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501134203.htm


Concerning Honey~



Add to these the fact that these two natural antibiotics have been used by civilized society since civilized societies developed. There are hundreds of years worth of research and experimentation, just none that modern medicine will acknowledge as valid because it wasn’t done using their criteria, which is faulty, at best.  This is not a system that any of us have the financial means to fight, even if we felt it was necessary to prove the efficacy of natural medicines to ourselves.

And, in truth, is medicine as a whole not an extreme act of faith? Even modern medicine recognizes the role faith plays in healing. Numerous studies have been done on this phenomenon and have frustrated scientists and doctors for years because they can’t figure out how the mind overcomes illness through positive thinking.

Let’s not leave out common sense. Let me give you a real-life example:

My daughter develops a sore throat. Her tonsils are grotesquely swollen and covered with white blisters. She is running a fever of 100+ degrees. We go to the doctor and he takes a throat culture, then comes back in the room with a prescription for the latest trendy antibiotic, hands it to me and says, “We will have the results from the culture back in a few days. In the meantime, take this antibiotic – just in case.” He does not mention that this problem will, in all likelihood, resolve itself by the time the culture comes back. So, my daughter takes the antibiotics. Within 24 hours, not only does she STILL have the sore/swollen throat and fever, but now she has a raging yeast infection, too. Jump ahead a week. Infection has been identified as strep throat, but those handy ‘just in case’ antibiotics have yet to get rid of it. Fast forward a few more days. The antibiotics are gone, but the infection is STILL present, as is the yeast infection. In frustration, we give the natural treatment a go…honey, garlic and cayenne. Within 24 hours, the pain is gone from both the yeast infection and the sore throat. Swelling has decreased, white lesions are disappearing. After 48 hours of this treatment all that is left is a couple of scabs on the tonsils. Within 72 hours, my daughter is pain, infection and swelling free. Common sense says the natural treatment worked while the prescription didn’t.

Fast forward appx 6 months. My other daughter develops the same symptoms. Instead of rushing to the doctor for a scrip and some lab tests, we start with the natural solution. Within 18 hours there is nothing to go to the doctor about. Swelling is gone, redness and inflammation is gone, pain is gone. A few lesions remain on the tonsils, but disappear within 24 hours.

Jump ahead again to my husband’s raging ear infection.  We aren’t talking about your run-of-the-mill ear infection.  We are talking about a bring-a-grown-man-to-tears ear infection.  Puss and blood oozing out the ear canal type ear infection.  Two trips to the emergency room, a week off of work, three rounds of prescription antibiotics and painkillers (oxycodone) type ear infection.  Finally, I convinced him that what he was doing wasn’t working and the antibiotics and pain pills seemed to be doing nothing and were, quite likely, making the situation much worse.  He set aside both the antibiotics and pain killers  (FINALLY)  and tried the honey/lemon/garlic/cayenne.  In less than a week of using this natural alternative, the infection and pain were both gone.  Not just ‘a little better’.  Gone.

Does any thinking person really attribute this to good fortune? Perhaps, if this was a one-time occurrence, we could pass it off as a fluke. However, when this same thing happens repeatedly, even those who are the most skeptical have to admit that it is more than a fluke.

In finding some compromise, perhaps the medical establishment could admit that trying a more natural solution BEFORE going to synthetic, dangerous drugs is prudent…?

The human body is an amazing thing, and it’s ability to heal itself when given the proper ingredients is astounding. Stimulating the natural immune system to work properly will always pay off in the long run, and this bout with Scarlet Fever is a prime example. While my daughter used to develop a case of strep throat at least once a year while it floats around every public institution in the county, in the past 2+ years, she hasn’t even been bothered by a sore throat. As far as I can tell, there is no explanation other than this one: Her immune system has learned to recognize and reject the bacteria that causes strep and has developed the capability to destroy it before it turns into strep throat. Or, to simplify – her immune system is working properly.

I”m not going to sit here and pretend that there are no risks associated with penicillin (which started off life as a mould I’m sure you know). You’ve cut and paste a very long list of side effects but neglected to state the frequency in which they happen. I don’t prescribe penicillin for every dribbly nose that walks in my door, but I follow a majority of patients I prescribe to, I’ve been at this nearly 10 years, and I am yet to see a hairy leukoplacia, hyperreflexia, bizzare behaviour, haematuria, blood in stools, coma (!), hallucinations, muscle pain, pale skin (how it reduces melanin in the skin I cant even conceive), vein swelling or worsening of skin lesions (if anything flucloxacillin is great for reducing staphlococcus colonisation of wound infections, especially in diabetics).

Thank you for the scientific terminology. Had I simply cut and pasted those reported side effects as you suggested, I, too, could have sounded sufficiently educated in medical terminology. The point of what I am trying to do is the make this understandable for those who aren’t versed in medical rhetoric, hence the reason I took those technical terms and made them less technical. And, just so we are clear, those reported side effects were taken directly from places like rxlist and FDAble , unbiased sources that lists side effects of prescription medications that have been reported from medical personnel/institutions – both of which list hospitalization and life-threatening reactions from Penicillin.  These are the side effects experienced by actual patients during both clinical trials and regular use. Whether you have seen theses side effects first hand or not, they are real possibilities because they REALLY happened enough times to make them a reportable side effect. As a side note, I’m not sure where you found the term ‘pale skin’, but it wasn’t in my reported list of side effects.  Must have been one I left out…

On the contrary I do occasionally see a range of allergic reactions – often in the minor spectrum (nausea/vomiting/rash) but only very occasionally in the moderate spectrum (facial swelling, breathing difficulty). Allergic reactions can occur with any medication – natural and synthetic. (I’ve seen allergies to Evening Primrose Oil and Black Cohosh for example). All patients with any new medications are counselled as to the risk of allergy and what to do in such a case.

I digress but to circle back to my point, our patient will want to know what works in reducing their child’s risk. We are left saying “well honey and garlic are great natural antibiotics, so by extrapolation they should reduce your child’s risk of complications’”. But the problem is Tamara there is NO evidence that natural remedies like garlic and honey reduce the risk of complications from Scarlet fever (like Rheumatic Fever and glomerulonephritis). I have articles coming out of my ears that state that penicillin does. Yes, it has more potential side effects then garlic and honey but that alone does not make it the inferior treatment. Medicines must be chosen on a balance of efficacy and cost. On the balance, the risk of complications from penicillin is low whilst protecting against the high morbidity of Rheumatic fever.

Even if you discount the centuries of use by civilizations around the world, there are still innumerable accounts of this being a viable option. Again, they are nearly all discounted because a doctor or scientist didn’t report them and document them and lay them out on the examining table. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It just means that modern medicine has said they aren’t real. However, modern medicine has also firmly declared that a whole host of prescription drugs are ‘perfectly safe and viable treatments’, only to later have those prescription drugs pulled from the market because they were dangerous and/or deadly. Modern medicine has proved itself to be a liar on hundreds of occasions, but we should accept their view of natural medicine as law?  That is insane reasoning!

If your neutral mother wants to know what works in reducing their child’s risk, my argument is this: Give them ALL of the options. Explain that millions of people have used natural methods with very impressive results. Have you, as a GP, ever suggested using a single natural method, or have you followed the status quo and simply prescribed an antibiotic? Just because the medical industry (who stands to make HUGE profits from prescription drugs)says antibiotics are the only safe, viable choice doesn’t make it so. In fact, their financial interest in the sale of prescription drugs makes it far more suspect than natural solutions.

As far as cost vs efficacy, natural antibiotics are far more affordable, promote a strong immune system and work as quickly as, if not quicker, than standard antibiotic treatment. But, that statement brings us back to your earlier point…the scientific evidence isn’t there. Only personal experiences over hundreds of years. Furthermore, are the two slightly-possible risks you mention any worse than some of the side effects associated with antibiotics? And, for the record, penicillin is not the only – or the most frequently prescribed by doctors in this region- antibiotic for either Strep throat or Scarlet Fever. In fact, if you request penicillin, you are likely to be told that it is not effective enough to be prescribed.

I agree completely that leaving a condition like Scarlet Fever untreated is a really bad idea and leaves one open to a whole host of problems. Hence, my insistence that something of this magnitude should only be done under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. (Note, that does NOT translate exclusively to an MD) And, I reiterate, treating it naturally is not the same as leaving it untreated. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

I’m not contesting the worth of healthy living and natural remedies as an adjunct – and perhaps for different conditions it provides the complete solution, but in the case of Scarlet Fever, we just don’t have the evidence to support that it is effective at reducing the risk of complications.

Because the chasm that separates modern medicine from natural medicine is so large, perhaps this issue will never be resolved. I suppose, in the end, we each must decide who and what we trust with our medical well-being. I am a firm believer that every person should investigate all of the options thoroughly before deciding. I always suggest to my clients that they get a firm medical diagnoses before trying any natural remedies, if for no other reason than to be sure they are trying to fix the right problem. The truth is, in my experience many are turning to natural therapies because of the dangers and problems they have encountered in modern medicine. Whether it is arrogant, uninformative doctors, dangerous side effects from drugs, or simply a desire to attain a more natural life-style, many people are giving natural alternatives attention and finding they DO work when used properly.

I think I’ve covered everything, but I usually think of something else I have should have said after I hit ‘publish’.  I have no doubt that will be the case here.  As always, I enjoy feedback from my readers…even when it is in direct opposition to my own thoughts and beliefs. This is no exception.  Weigh in here…what are your thoughts/beliefs/feelings, not just about this particular illness and its treatment, but on the entire Natural vs Western medicine?

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Here’s my dirty little secret…one of them, anyway…I’m addicted to coffee and cigarettes.  I know ~ horrible, right?  I justify my two vices by telling myself that I counterbalance it with all the healthy things I do, but my teeth reveal the truth.  Or, at least, they did.

It wasn’t just the stains, either, although those were bad enough.  After all these years, my gums had begun to recede and I was developing a serious case of gingivitis.

Of course, I wasn’t about to take the ‘normal’ route.  I don’t do fluoride.  I don’t do dentists.  I don’t do antibiotics.  That kind of limited my options, but I knew there had to be some natural alternative. I was getting desperate.  My teeth were becoming an embarrassment.   I had to do something… So, I started researching.  Turns out, I was right.

Let’s run through the most popular natural options ~ baking soda, strawberries, peroxide.  While I won’t say they don’t work, I will say they don’t work well.  Baking soda tastes pretty bad and it scratches the enamel of the teeth.  Strawberries work minimally well, providing you have enough strawberries and time.  Peroxide…yuck!

My advice?  Skip the ‘trendy’ and move on to something that really works.

Ever heard of ‘Oil Pulling’?  I hadn’t.  I’ll admit that I was skeptical, at first. My desperation outweighed my skepticism, though.  Here’s the theory behind it:

You gently pull oil through the teeth and move it around the mouth for 10-15 minutes, avoiding letting it reach the back of your throat.  You don’t gargle it or swish it.  When the proper oils are used, they will help pull toxins from the body, tones and tightens the gums, whitens the teeth and generally improves overall health. You don’t want to swallow this oil once you have pulled it through your teeth because it is then full of toxins.

How does it work?  Some oils ~ especially sesame oil~ are known for their ability to draw waste and toxins from the body.  The mouth is a direct line to the blood stream and the digestive system, capable of absorbing and releasing vitamins, minerals, waste and toxins.  When you pull the oil through the teeth and move it around the mouth, it mixes with saliva and activates the body functions that control the cleansing process.  As you move it between the teeth, it picks up the bits of food and bacteria that like to hide there.  The oils capture toxins and food particles, bacteria, germs and other nasties, allowing them to be eliminated from the system. It also deposits healing properties ~ vitamins and minerals, moisturizing and healing agents.

Okay, I know it sounds  a little hokey, but after working with many oils on a regular basis, I’m confident in their ability to do all the things they are reported to do.  And, knowing how the body works, I’m convinced that the mouth is a viable detox organ.  The confusion came when I was trying to decide which ingredients to add.

Some advocates of oil pulling insist that only sesame oil would work.  Some suggested olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil…the list went on.  Finally, I narrowed down my choices and here is what I came  up with…

Sesame oil was a must.  It is one of the few oils that I have seen work well for pulling toxins from the system.  I use it in many of my products because of this characteristic.  However, it doesn’t have much to offer in the way of whitening, which was one of my main concerns.

Coconut oil, which has been touted as a miracle cure for everything from heart disease to dry skin, seemed to be a good choice.  In my research I stumbled across another lesser-known use for coconut oil.  It helps whiten teeth by loosening plaque and actually descaling the surface of the teeth.

Sunflower oil is not an oil that I often use, but the more I study it, the more I like what it has to offer.  It is healing, soothing and seems quite capable of being able to draw toxins from the system.

So, I started mixing.  I considered adding herbs and essential oils that are known for their dental-health properties, but decided against it.  Those, I would save for my mouth wash and tooth polish.

It took me a few days to work up the nerve to actually use the oil pulling method.  I have this thing about texture.  I can’t do slimy, and I was a little bit afraid that the texture of the oils in my mouth would make me gag.  Again, desperation overrode hesitation.  I was pleasantly surprised!  It was thick at first, but not gross or slimy.  After the first few pulls, it became the texture of any other mouthwash. Now, I kind of like it!

But, the real question is: Does it work?

Well, I’m a believer!  I noticed a dramatic whitening effect within 3 uses.  The gingivitis was gone in less than a week.  That ugly brown plaque that accumulates on the back of the teeth and around the gums…it was almost gone after less than two weeks.  My gums have tightened back up and the receding gum line is doing a rapid reversal.  I think the most amazing thing, though, is that even my crowns, which they say can’t be bleached or whitened, are becoming whiter by the day!

The routine: Use the oil first thing in the morning, at least 30 minutes before you eat or drink anything.  I use it again at night before bed.  It took a few times to work up to using it for the full 10-15 minutes.  Don’t swallow the oil and keep it in the front of the mouth.  Spit, rinse and brush.  Its that simple.

After the first week, I began using a tooth polish that I whipped up.  I made it with coconut oil, cocoa butter, baking soda, peppermint oil and clove oil.  It tastes a bit like a Mounds candy bar, which is just fine with me.

I chose cocoa butter because of some interesting research that has been done on it.  It seems that cocoa butter has much to offer in the way of dental health.  It contains phenols, which  reduce the presence of free radicals that damage cells and prevent fat like substances in the blood stream from oxidizing and clogging the arteries.  It has immune-enhancing properties, and it lightly coats the teeth and helps fight off tooth decay by preventing bacteria from sticking to the teeth and gums, helping to prevent the formation of plaque.

Clove oil, aside from its history as a pain reliever, is also anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and germicidal.  It has been used for a very long time to treat dental issues and has proven highly effective.  Besides, it tastes good.

Peppermint oil is a traditional flavor for tooth-care products, also, and its healing properties are backed up by loads of research from both the medical and the natural communities.  Sure, it tastes good, but there is more to it than that.  It stimulates blood flow to the gums, which helps heal damaged tissues, tones, and tightens the gums.  It contains a host of vitamins and minerals that benefit the teeth and bones, its a natural pain reliever and it freshens the breath.

Baking soda gently scrubs the teeth.  Unfortunately, it can also scratch the surface enamel of the teeth, allowing them to stain more easily.  I believe that the coating action of the cocoa butter provides a certain amount of protection from this, though.

The only downside to the tooth polish is the consistency.  I actually like the consistency, but if you are used to a thick, bubbly toothpaste, this will be a bit off-putting.  It is more liquid-y and it doesn’t bubble or foam.  Surprisingly, it doesn’t leave the mouth feeling oily, either, which was another fear I had.  The butters and oils soak in rapidly and leave your whole mouth feeling…well…clean!

I guess this isn’t for everyone, but if you are serious about finding a more natural approach to dental health and you are feeling adventurous, this routine just might be what you are looking for. I’m thrilled with the results and, for the first time in a long time, my teeth aren’t an embarrassment. Its wonderful to smile again without wondering how awful my teeth look!

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