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Posts Tagged ‘herbal’

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.

Hydrosols.

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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?

distiller

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.

elderberryFlower

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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Zombie Juice. Tell me that phrase isn’t just a bit disturbing… Makes you wonder why I would name one of my products something like that, huh?

zombie juice

Well, you see, it started out as a bit of a joke. Then, we decided it tasted something like one would imagine a zombie might taste like, should you ever find yourself in a position to taste one.

That isn’t really a good selling point, though, so, after much consideration, I decided to tell people that I named it that because it will prevent one from turning into a zombie should we ever actually experience a Zombie Apocalypse. That sounds like a much better marketing strategy, right?

Fortunately, it is kind of a mostly true statement. At least, I believe it to be, though I haven’t actually had the opportunity to test out our hypothesis. Yet.

You may wonder what would cause me to come to this conclusion. Well, I will tell you.

When I set about creating my Zombie Juice, I was going for an end result that was good for the whole body. A tonic. Something that would boost the immune system, strengthen the organs, regulate digestion, cleanse toxins, and provide lots of vitamins and minerals to the body. I wanted it to have all the ‘anti’ properties…antibiotic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-radiation, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory…I wanted it to be strong enough to knock out any stray bit of illness or disease that might find its way into our system, but gentle enough to be able to take daily to prevent any illness or disease from finding its way into our system in the first place.

There are a couple of tonics out there that came very close to what I wanted, like Dr. Christopher’s Anti plague tonic, but nothing that hit the exact target I was aiming for. So, I turned all mad-scientist and came up with my own formula.

To date, we have had lots and lots of opportunities to test out our Zombie Juice. Colds, coughs, bronchitis, flu, strep throat, dental infections…all those little illnesses that run rampant through the work-place and schools. What we have found has been pretty amazing. It doesn’t just work…it works spectacularly!

It gets rid of infections of all types in about 48-72 hours. It helped clear up colds and sinus infections. It helped with constipation. And, while we can’t scientifically prove it, we all believe its preventative properties have allowed us to slide right through the flu epidemics that swarmed the country. While our friends and family that refused to swallow this ‘awful brew’ hacked and puked their way through, we smiled and choked down the Zombie Juice, germ-free.

I gotta tell you, though, it is some unusual-tasting stuff. Imagine extra-vinegary Worcestershire sauce. With a little dirt added for flavor. Yeah, that’s a pretty close comparison. I have contemplated adding it to salad dressing, though. Maybe in place of balsamic vinegar, cause that might be kind of good and still effective…

My advice to those who let the…unusual…flavor deter them would be this; Suck it up, buttercup! A spoonful of nasty will not kill you. Pansy.

This is one of those times when I am going to share my recipe with you. Generous of me, isn’t it? I will admit, my reasons aren’t entirely altruistic. For the most part, few people will go through the time and expense of tracking down all the ingredients, then properly preparing them. This stuff takes 6 weeks to make and it is a real pain in the ass. So, only the truly adventurous will bother to make this.

Also, I can’t seem to make enough and I keep running out.

So, here goes:

Zombie Juice Recipe

In a half gallon jug, combine:

½ lb organic garlic (minced, smashed or pulverized)

Apple Cider Vinegar (enough to fill the jug ½” from the brim)

garlic vinegar

Let this sit in a dark, slightly warm space for 5-6 weeks. Shake the mixture daily. Strain, squeezing as much of the liquid from the garlic as possible.

Gather up these herbs:

2 pts burdock root, red clover blossoms

1 pt alfalfa leaf, amla root, horsetail, black walnut hull, peppermint leaf, dandelion root, nettle root

½ pt milk thistle see, kelp

¼ pt cayenne, golden seal root

Get a couple of gallons of distilled water. Not tap water, well water or any other type of water. Only distilled water should be used.

Place each herb in its own separate glass container. I prefer glass Pyrex measuring cups.

Add enough water to equal 8 oz.

Place the herb/water container in a pot of water and place on medium low heat. This needs to be simmered down until it reaches 4 oz.

You do not want your herb/water to boil, just a very low simmer. This will take several hours and should be stirred occasionally.

Each herb is going to be brewed separately. This is an important part of the process. Don’t just throw the herbs in together. They must be done individually. Yes, I realize that this may take a couple of days. Do you?

As each tea is done, strain and add the liquid to your vinegar.

When all of the herbs have been extracted, add

2 oz of vegetable glycerin  and 5 oz of raw honey to the mixture.

Mix well.

Bottle and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Here is how the adults take it:

When we are feeling run down, tired or sick, or if we know there is an outbreak of some type going around, or should we hear of a possible zombie attack headed our way, we take 2 Tbsp twice a day.

When we aren’t trying to get rid of an issue, we take 1 Tbsp per day…you know, just for general good health…

You can take it straight or add it to a little fresh juice…however you have to get it down is fine.

We don’t suggest giving this to any children under 2, but 2-10 years old, we suggest 1 Tbsp twice a day to fight off illness and ½ Tsp daily to help fend off illness. Nobody wants a child zombie running around town, cause that’s just…well…disturbing!

Of course, we are not licensed medical doctors around here, so you could just chalk all of this up to quackery. I don’t mind and I get it…I know, the zombies and all are a bit much to contemplate. I would never consider handing out any type of medical advice or diagnosis, and I most certainly can’t tell you that herbs and other ‘natural’ ingredients can make you better if you are sick. I’m simply handing out some friendly advice that we believe has helped my family and friends stay a little healthier. And not zombies. What you choose to do with the info is your own business.

So, there you have it. Sounds tasty, huh?

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Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, a member of the herpesvirus family.  It is an issue that is hotly debated among all medical doctrine camps.  Vaccinate or don’t?  Expose your child to them or hide them from it?  Give them medications or don’t?

I, as you all know, am something of an extremist at times.  This is most definitely one of those times.  I do not believe that any child should ever be vaccinated against chicken pox.  Never.  Not one.  Why, you ask?  Well, let me just tell you…

~1 It is dangerous.  Period.  Consider these facts, taken directly from the National Vaccination Information Center(NVIC):  Please be aware that this is not a web site that promotes natural remedies.  It is simply an informational site that is relatively unbiased in either direction.

Reported complications from chickenpox vaccine include shock, seizures, brain inflammation (encephalitis), thrombocytopenia (blood disorder), Guillian Barre syndrome, death and infection with vaccine strain chickenpox or transmission of vaccine strain chickenpox to others

Mass use of chickenpox vaccine by children in the U.S. has removed natural boosting of immunity in the population, which was protective against shingles, and now adults are experiencing a shingles epidemic

I went to the VAERS website and looked up reactions to the live chicken pox vaccine so I could share some of their info with you.  Due to the size of their list, that was not possible….there were 52,513 events.  By ‘events’, they mean reported reactions to the vaccine.  What interested me was this ~ almost all of them that I waded through clearly state that none of the reactions was life threatening, though nearly all of them cited anaphylactic reactions.  Really? The Freedictionary.com says:

Anaphylaxis

Definition

Anaphylaxis is a rapidly progressing, life-threatening allergic reaction.

Description

Anaphylaxis is a type of allergic reaction, in which the immune system responds to otherwise harmless substances from the environment. Unlike other allergic reactions, however, anaphylaxis can kill. Reaction may begin within minutes or even seconds of exposure, and rapidly progress to cause airway constriction, skin and intestinal irritation, and altered heart rhythms. In severe cases, it can result in complete airway obstruction, shock, and death.
Somethin’ just ain’t addin’ up, my friends!  Even more frightening to me is that this report only contains the reactions from ONE form of the vaccine.

~2 It is only marginally effect.  More from the NVIC:

Chickenpox vaccine effectiveness is reported to be 44 percent for any form of the disease and 86 percent for moderate to severe disease

In all fairness, if you check out the MERCK site, they give a much better representation of the statistics.

In this trial, a single dose of VARIVAX protected 96-100% of children against chickenpox over a two-year period. The
study enrolled healthy individuals 1 to 14 years of age (n=491 vaccine, n=465 placebo). In the first year,
8.5% of placebo recipients contracted chickenpox, while no vaccine recipient did, for a calculated
protection rate of 100% during the first varicella season. In the second year, when only a subset of
individuals agreed to remain in the blinded study (n=163 vaccine, n=161 placebo), 96% protective efficacy was calculated for the vaccine group as compared to placebo.
There are insufficient data to assess the rate of protection against the complications of chickenpox

So, here is my questions…….Why did over 600 of the original participants drop out of the study (see bold, italicized statement in the above quote), especially if it was so effective?  You do realize that those study participants get paid, right?  Nearly 75% of the original participants declined the money and the miraculous 100% protection for their child because…….?

~3 Children need to be exposed to the virus to build a natural immunity to it.

Mass use of chickenpox vaccine by children in the U.S. has removed natural boosting of immunity in the population, which was protective against shingles, and now adults are experiencing a shingles epidemic. ~ NVIC

Chickenpox complications, such as bacterial infection of skin lesions (cellulitis), brain inflammation and pneumonia, are rare in children but more common in adults ~ NVIC

There are numerous studies that have shown the vaccine may work to help the cases of chicken pox, but it leads to the development of shingles in older individuals, which is a far more dangerous disease.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system we can move on.

Let’s just say that, despite all of your best efforts your child gets chicken pox.  What are you gonna do?

First of all, you are going to make sure that everyone’s immune system is strong.  I, of course, would highly recommend the Tamara’s Herbes line of herbal supplements for healthy immune systems.  It contains herbs that have been used for centuries to help build and maintain strong immune system function. Herbs like astragalus, alfalfa,  golden seal,  ginseng, st johns wort and echinacea. Failing that, eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, drink plenty of water, get exercise and sunshine on a regular basis, practice safe hygiene habits.

Then, you need to set about making the child as comfy as possible.

  • Loose, light natural fabrics will help reduce irritation of the bumps and allow the skin to breath.
  • Soothing baths.  Cool or lukewarm baths with soothing herbs like lavender, oatmeal, cucumbers, calendula and chickweed are some of the better ones.    ~For a soothing bath, mix equal parts of any or all of the dried herbs in a small teabag or tie up in a piece of muslin or cotton and let float in bath.  Don’t throw away the teabag after the bath!  Instead, toss it in a 1 qt jar of distilled water mixed with 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar.  Use the teabag as a sponge to dab at the rash between baths.  This will not only sooth the itch and pain, but it will cool the skin and help prevent infection.   ~And yes, I realize you can’t find dried cucumbers.  I actually meant fresh ones.  Just slice one up and toss the pieces in the bath, peel and all.
  • The fever, while frightening, is actually a good thing.  I know the common school of thought is that we want to bring a fever down, but natural medicine dictates otherwise in most circumstances.  The fever is simply evidence that the body is working exactly the way it is supposed to.  The heat generated by the body kills the invading bacteria and causes the body to perspire, thereby pushing out the dead, toxic waste through the skin.  This is a completely natural, healthy response.  Cool baths, or cool packs placed at the throat, the back of the neck, the wrists, the forehead and the feet are effective and provide comfort.
  • Herbal salves are very effective at helping to heal, sooth and help prevent infection from scabs that have burst or been scratched open.  The same herbs that make a soothing bath also make a soothing salve. Herbs like comfrey, burdock, nettle, mullein and sage will help minimize the itching and pain.
  • Give them lots of water.  This will help prevent dehydration, and it will also help the body flush the nasty virus from their system.  Fruit juice is an excellent addition, but only if it is free of HFCS, sugar and artificial sweeteners, which are likely to make the itching worse and prolong the symptoms.

Most of all, be patient.  This is one of those things that just needs to run its course.  Overall, this is really not a dangerous disease.  Yes, there are exceptions and every parent should closely watch their child for unusual signs or symptoms, especially if other known medical conditions exist.  Otherwise, roll with it.  Try to keep them from scratching as much as possible.

Oh, and take lots of pictures!!!  They are so good to pull out when you meet prospective girlfriends/boyfriends.  My kids totally love it when I do things like that!

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Degenerative Bone Disease.  It sounds painful, doesn’t it?  It is a phrase that I have been hearing a lot of lately.  At first, it was just the 35 and older crowd -mostly women-  that kept saying they had been diagnosed with it, but gradually the victims have gotten younger.  In fact, just recently I heard about a 9-year-old little girl that had been diagnosed with it.

So, this then, is the newest medical ‘trend’.  Frightening.  Even more frightening is that most doctors are telling their patients that there is no way to reverse the disease or the damage it has caused.  Instead, the best they can hope for is to control the pain with some prescription meds.  ‘Experts’ tell you that osteoporosis drugs are the answer.   Forget the dangerous side effects.

Degenerative bone disease is, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as osteoporosis.   This is caused from a lack of calcium, vitamin D and other bone-building vitamins and minerals.  Many people run to the health food store and stock up on some multi-vitamin that claims to have these ingredients in it, hoping to prevent this disease.  You all know what I think about vitamin pills, right?  This is not the answer.  It is difficult for the body to process vitamins and nutrients that are not organic.  Raw.  In their natural state.  In order to prevent this disease, you have to get these essential elements from your food, not from a pill.

But, that’s not where this blog post is going.  We were talking about Degenerative Bone Disease. So, here’s how it works ~  our bodies, when kept in good working order, are designed to heal themselves.  Skin, tissue, bone and blood will all repair and replenish themselves, returning to perfect working order even after the most severe damage.  We have already dealt with healing skin and tissue, so lets talk about healing bones.

Like most people, I had always assumed that bones, once broken, never truly healed.  Not back to the way they were before.  In fact, when I broke my wrist I remember the doctor putting on that awful cast and telling my mom how careful I would have to be because that would always be a weak spot in my bone.  Later, I learned that it was not the broken spot, itself, as much as the area just above and below the healed fracture that was the most vulnerable.  Either way, things would never be the same.

Then, I decided to go and become an herbalist.  In earning one of my herbalist certifications, I was introduced to the possibility that the bones are, in fact, capable of healing completely.  Just like they were before they were damaged.  With the proper treatment and healing methods, even a shattered, fragmented mess of bones could pull itself back together so you’d never even know it was harmed.  Did you notice the big, dark italicized letters?

The body, when it is deprived of the things it needs to function (things like calcium and vitamin D), will start to pull these things from it’s storehouse – the bones.  When that storehouse is depleted, the shell becomes brittle and fragile.  Bones may break more easily, or even break off a single chip at a time.

It is not just depriving the body of the things it needs that is the problem, though.  There are many other things that will cause the body to lose these essential elements faster.  They will actually pull them from the body.  Iodized salt, white sugar, caffeine and many prescription and OTC medicines are some of the worst culprits.

Coincidentally, it seems that in most cases of osteoporosis, or degenerative bone disease that I have heard about, bad diet  and a history of prescription meds are prevalent.  Without exception, when I asked about their eating habits many of them ate canned or boxed meals on a regular basis, were at least minimally overweight, and consumed high levels of meat, sugar and caffeine.

So, what to do to fix things?  Treat the osteoporosis like it is a broken bone.  Give it what it needs to repair and regenerate stronger bones.  Of course, this isn’t always an easy thing.  For some of us, switching to a raw food diet is just not an option.  However, switching to a partially-raw-food diet is.  That doesn’t mean to eat a rare steak, either.  I’m talking raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.

Here are some of the best foods and herbs to help your body help itself to heal from broken bones or even degenerative bone disease:

Bananas, cantaloupe, eggplant, cucumber, peppers, strawberries, avocados, cabbage, green foods (broccoli, kale, spinach)

And, don’t forget these bone-building herbs:

parsley, horsetail, red clover, alfalfa, kelp, rose hips, dandelion

But, you still need some vitamin D.  Vitamin D is critical because it allows the body to absorb calcium.  Without it, there is little chance of reversing bone damage.  If you ask most people, they will tell you that your best source of Vitamin D comes from milk and other dairy products, or from one of those great-tasting cereals off the grocery store shelves enriched with Vitamin D.  They would be way off the mark.  In fact, there is very little evidence that dairy products help at all with vitamin D.  In fact, most modern research shows that dairy products hinder the system in many ways.  That’s a post for another day, though…

So, what to do?  Simple really.  Step outside.  You know how I’m always spouting off about fresh air and sunshine?   10-15 minutes of sunlight on the face and hands every other day will provide you with the proper amount of vitamin D, among many other benefits.

Here’s the surprise, though.  You would think that brittle bones mean you should stay away from exercise to avoid injury.  This isn’t the case, either.  Gentle exercises like yoga or tai chi will help strengthen not just the bones, but the entire body.  It will stimulate the organs of the body to work properly, which in turn will allow the body to heal itself.  It will help calm and focus the mind, which has been shown to speed the healing of the body.  Plus, it just makes you feel good!

Finally, de-stress your life.  Stress has been shown to promote health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers and other digestive disorders, depression and even with how the body absorbs and uses the vitamins and minerals it is given.  I know, sometimes that is much easier said than done, but  if your health is at stake then maybe now is the time to re-evaluate your life.  Decide what is truly important and let the rest fall to the wayside. Take time to watch a sunrise.  Take a drive in the country.  Spend a night with friends.  Laughter really is the best medicine.

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If you’ve never suffered from a skin condition that causes itchy, dry, painful rashes that have you clawing the skin from your body, consider yourself fortunate. For the rest of us, I think it is safe to say that these skin conditions can drive you to drastic measures. You can find the most amazing tools to use as a scratcher…combs, brushes, knives, pencils…I must admit that I’ve even resorted to bathing my skin with alcohol on occasion because the burn was a relief from the itch. Of course, I don’t recommend it.

I suppose it was because of these experiences that I found it absolutely necessary to create my ‘Skin Soother’ salve. Unlike my Bite and Sting ointment that is specifically targeted to relieve the itch of venom and other toxins found in plants and animal bites/stings, this salve is made to sooth and help heal rashes and other conditions that our bodies inflict upon itself.

As is the case with eczema and psoriasis. While there is no single thing that causes our body to break out in a rash, the one thing they all have in common is that they are all reactions. Too many toxins in the system, skin care products, medications, environmental toxins, skin infections, sun exposure…these all play a part in skin conditions. These can manifest themselves in many different ways. A blistery patch, a dry patch, a sore, redness, inflammation.

Then, there is the trouble of diagnosing the rash. Is it eczema? Dermatitis? Psoriasis? Heat rash? Sun rash? A reaction to the new soap you used? Sometimes, even the best dermatologists have difficulty finding the root cause.

As an herbalist, my job is much simpler. Sort of. In the case of skin rashes, especially. It is my belief that illnesses of any kind, including skin conditions, is simply an indication that your body has overloaded on toxins (this includes both physical and emotional toxins like stress and fatigue) and/or lacked proper nutrition to keep your immune system strong.

Please take care to note: I am not saying that any single herb, ingredient, salve, tea or diet is going to fix all the known ills of man. Not by any means. While I do believe that every illness can be CURED using natural means, I believe it takes a combination of natural ingredients, exercise (especially yoga, tai chi, etc), diet and a positive attitude to achieve this.

That being said, I do believe that many natural ingredients can help us to treat both the symptoms and the root of our problems.

First, you need to use something that will help your body combat any virus, fungus or bacteria that my have entered your system, which is why doctors will often automatically hand you a prescription for an antibiotic of some sort. Please understand that, while this may help for a period of time, your body will eventually become immune to that antibiotic. Synthetic antibiotics do not help boost your immune system. In fact, they weaken it, so when the problem comes back it is often already angry over being tricked like this and comes back stronger, more resistant.

Natural ingredients work differently. Rather than tricking your immune system into submission, many natural ingredients are known for boosting the organs of the body that stimulate the natural immune functions. Now, here is where I could give you a terribly long and boring science lecture, but I won’t. However, if you find that curiosity is eating at you, Wikipedia has a wonderful overview of the immune system and how it functions.

You might be surprised to learn that there is a plethora of natural ingredients that boast wonderful immune-boosting properties. Many are antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic. When applied topically, they are quickly absorbed into the skin and bloodstream where they are carried throughout the body, fighting off the nasties as they go.

Many of these ingredients are included in my Skin Soother salve. Olive, grapeseed, sesame, coconut oil, mango, kokum, shea butter, beeswax, aloe gel, honey, lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus all contain at least one of those properties.

Secondly, you need to soothe the itch. Let’s face it, if a product kills off the nasties like bacteria, fungus and virus but doesn’t relieve the pain and itch, who wants to use it? There are several natural ingredients that work beautifully to soothe itchy skin and are included in this Skin Soother salve.

Peppermint is a natural nervine and analgesic which makes it extremely useful for skin conditions that cause pain and itching. It soothes those nerve endings that are causing the itch and helps ease the pain associated with many skin conditions. Other potent nervines included in the formula are hops and chamomile.

Many herbs have also been chosen for their long history of soothing any kind of skin disease. Comfry, basil, marshmallow and burdock have all been used for centuries by many different cultures to soothe inflammation, cool the skin, calm the itch and help remove toxins from the system.

So, I used these ingredients (and a few others) to create my Skin Soother. I can’t give you my formula, of course, but I’m happy to discuss ingredients and how to use them. I can always be contacted through my website, Tamara’s Herbes, or through my Etsy shop.

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Mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, spiders, chiggers…all sure signs that summer is in full swing. Of course, they can’t just exist in peace with us humans. They far prefer to bite every inch of exposed flesh and leave us running for the bug spray and benadryl.

But, the bug spray and Benadryl come with their own set of problems. Here’s a few alternatives that will help you deal with these critters more naturally.

Load up on the garlic. Insects hate it, especially the biting ones. Besides being a natural immune booster that helps protect you from several health problems like high cholesterol and the common cold, it wards off biting insects because they don’t like the taste of it. A clove or two a day is all you need!

Then, we have the miracle liquid…apple cider vinegar. I cannot even begin to list all the amazing benefits of organic apple cider vinegar. It flushes your system, it boosts immunity, it helps with arthritis…and it wards off biting insects. As with garlic, it builds up in your system and insects can’t stand the flavor. A teaspoon twice a day and you’ll feel like a new person…one that is free of bug bites!

There are also several essential oils that make wonderful insect repellents and are much easier on the entire body than commercially available products. Here is my recipe for a natural bug spray:

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I prefer olive or sesame, but just about any of them will do)

1/2 cup distilled water

4-5 drops each of the following essential oils: rosemary, basil, pennyroyal, peppermint

7-10 drops of citronella essential oil

Spray on liberally and you are ready to go!

Of course, the occasional bug is going to find its way to your tender flesh and it will sink its mean little teeth in. When that happens, I grab my Bite and Sting ointment. It contains ingredients that are known for drawing toxins from the skin, reducing inflammation, calming the itchies and healing damaged tissue. Check out some of these ingredients:

Burdock promotes the healing of wounds and is a classic remedy for skin conditions which result in dry, scaly skin and cutaneous eruptions (eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, boils, carbuncles, sties), relieve bruises and inflamed surfaces generally. It restores smoothness to the skin and contains a good amount of several vitamins (especially A and B2 – thiamin) as well as minerals, especially iron, chromium, cobalt, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, zinc, and potassium. It is alleged to neutralize and eliminate poisons in the system.

Black Walnut Hulls contain natural chemicals that are astringent, which helps improve the firmness of the tissues. These chemicals are also active against inflammation, can balance sugar levels in the blood, and detoxify your body. It has the ability to fight against fungal infections, and acts with an antiseptic property which helps fight bacterial infection. It cleanses the system of toxins and poisons.

Basil is a detoxifier, stimulting sluggish and congested circulation of the skin and can be used for acne and minor skin infections. It is also reputed to have antiseptic value and to neutralise the toxins of bites and stings.

This ointment isn’t just good for bites, though. It works wonders on stings from bees and wasps. When one of us inevitably gets stung, we pinch off the site to keep the venom from circulating through our system and lather on the ointment. Within minutes, the pain is gone and, if we catch it right away it doesn’t even leave behind a red mark on the stung area. This ointment is a total necessity in our house!

That’s not all, though.  The most amazing thing ever about this fantastic ointment?  You know those nasty spider bites?  Two of my customers ended up with some ugly, oozing holes in their skin from a brown recluse.  After antibiotics and painful scrapings that did no good, they tried this ointment.  I’m proud to report that after 3 weeks, the bites completely healed.  The scarring was minimal, the pain was gone and they now keep a tube of ointment nearby…just in case!

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It happens to the best of us.   Commercial shampoos, harsh hair treatments, poor eating habits,  environmental pollutants…they all wreak havoc with our hair at one time or another.  You know the symptoms, don’t you?  Brittleness, frizzies and split-ends are just a few of the problems that commonly pop up.

If you are like me, you’ve probably tried everything from hot oil treatments to salon therapy.  Some of them work a time or two.  Maybe three.  Then, nothing.

It’s frustrating.  Aggravating.  Discouraging.  Sometimes, it makes you wanna just chop those locks off and start over.  Before you do something drastic, you might consider trying a natural solution.

There are so many natural ingredients available that work wonderfully on damaged hair that it would be nearly impossible to list them all.  These are a few of my favorite stand-bys, all of which are available in my Hair Therapy and Rinse Combo.

~Honey ~

For the hair?  Absolutely!  Honey is a natural humectant, which means that it has the ability to attract and retain water, a valuable  characteristic if your hair is parched and dry.  Honey also contains natural antioxidant properties that make it ideal for helping to protect your hair from environmental damage including harsh UV rays and pollutants.

It doesn’t end there, though.  Honey also contains a wide range of B vitamins including B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3, as well as copper, iodine and zinc.  These vitamins and minerals are fantastic when you are dealing with hair loss, dandruff and graying.

Don’t forget honey’s natural  soothing properties and anti-bacterial action, which are wonderful for helping with an itchy scalp.

~Sesame Oil~

Besides being antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant, Sesame oil quickly penetrates the hair and skin, attracting toxins that can then be carried out of the system as waste.  It also has the ability to protect the hair from future damage and helps regulate cell regeneration, which can lead to better hair growth and less graying.

~Grapeseed Oil~

This wonderful oil is high in antioxidants, vitamins A, B & C, polyphenols and resveratrol, which makes it a powerful antioxidant, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial oil.   As a protectant, it adds moisture and lightly coats the hair to add a beautiful shine without being heavy.

~Shea Butter~

This rich, luxurious butter has been used for centuries to nourish and protect the hair.  It absorbs quickly into the hair and scalp to provide moisture and protection without clogging pores.  It is particularly good for repairing dry, brittle, damaged hair.  It has long been used as a natural hair conditioner because of its ability  to soften the hair without leaving it heavy or oily.

~Catnip~

This is one ingredient that always draws comment from my customer.  The most asked question is ‘will this make my cat attack my hair’.  The answer is no.  What it will do is promote hair growth and add luster to dry, dull locks.

~Rosemary~

This wonderful kitchen herb has been used for ages to promote strength in weak hair, to stimulate the hair follicle and to help promote a healthy scalp.  It has also been reported to help with graying and dandruff.

~Apple Cider Vinegar~

This is by far one of my favorite hair care ingredients.  It helps regulate the natural pH of both the hair and scalp, adds amazing softness and manageability, promotes hair growth and cleanses the hair and scalp of dirt and toxins.  It is a natural anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial and is full of potassium which is essential for healthy hair.

So, before you head back to the salon for your next hair treatment, give some of these natural ingredients a chance.  You might find that you can cancel that appointment…

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