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Posts Tagged ‘natural’

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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Picture this common scenario:

It’s 2 am and you wake to a crying child.  You touch their forehead and are alarmed at the heat radiating from them.  You rush to grab the thermometer and your fear escalates when you see 100…or 101…or 102. You grab the Tylenol or Ibuprofen to medicate your child at the same time you grab the phone to call the doctor.

Okay, now hit the rewind and imagine the scene played out like this:

It’s 2 am and you wake to a crying child.  You touch their forehead and are alarmed at the heat radiating from them. You climb from your bed and head to the kitchen to get your child a cup of warm herbal tea.  When the tea is gone, you take a deep breath and lay your child in bed with you.  You give a silent prayer of thanks that whatever may be ailing your child, at least their immune system is functioning enough to build that fever!

Which reaction is the right one?  Under normal circumstances, the second scenario is the correct answer.  Really.

Yes, I know your doctor told you to alternate acetaminophen and ibuprofen every few hours to relieve pain and get their fever down.  Your doctor really shouldn’t have told you that, though.  Here is why:

Fevers are awesome!  Fevers are the bodies way of killing off all the bad little germs that try to attack you.  If you stop the fever, you stop the healing process.  If your body doesn’t get hot enough to cook those germs to death, they multiply.  Before you know it, your body is overtaken by an army of germs.

Did you know that, unless there is a condition present that affects the hypothalamus (which is exceptionally rare), the fever will not exceed 105 degrees?  Seriously.

Yes, I know that you’ve heard how a high fever will cause seizures and brain damage and other awful things.  In reality, that is unlikely to ever happen unless you fail to keep the body hydrated.  That is why it is crucial to keep the liquid intake high while suffering through a fever.  Your body needs moist heat to do its job, but a fever eats up that moisture fast.  You must replenish it often to protect the body and the brain.

Of course, water is the first choice – unless it is city water that has been treated with chemicals. Distilled water or well water is the best choice when you are sick. Fresh juice is the other option.  Notice I specified fresh?  It is almost impossible to find juice in the grocery store that doesn’t contain sugar, corn by-products or artificial sweeteners, all of which will make the germs spread a little quicker and make the body have to work a little harder to get well. Fresh juice has the added benefits of things like Vitamin C, as well as other vitamins and nutrients the body needs to heal. And, no, Gatorade shouldn’t be an option, either.  Water and fresh juice.  That’s it.

And, let us not forget that acetaminophen and ibuprofen are both known to cause health issues, including liver and kidney damage.

So, let’s go back to the second scenario.  What kind of herbal tea do you give your feverish child?  My first choice is an equal mix of peppermint and catnip.  Both of these herbs are fantastic for helping to relieve general pain, especially pain caused by an imbalance in the system like infection.  They promote sweating, which helps the body to rid itself of toxins and germs.  They help sooth and invigorate the system.  Catnip is also a mild sedative that is safe for all ages, so it will help bring on restful sleep, which will allow the body time to heal itself.

What else can you do to deal with a fever, be it your’s or your child’s?  Warm baths with a couple scoops of epsom salt will help draw toxins out of the system.

Cool wash cloths or cold packs on the forehead and back of the neck will help provide relief from the heat without actually lowering the internal temperature of the body.

Fresh air and sunshine.  This one is really important.  When illness strikes, our first instinct is to crawl into bed, tuck the covers around us and hide from the outside world.  Don’t do it!  Take 10 minutes to step outside and soak up a few rays of sun.  The sun gives your body much of what it needs to heal. Fresh air provides a clean source of much-needed oxygen, without all the nasty sick germs mixed in.

Finally, help your body out.  Garlic, onions, ginseng, astragalus, cayenne, honey, raw fruits and veggies…all of these will boost your immune system and give it some extra ‘oomph’ to kick out whatever is ailing it!

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I love autumn!  It is my absolute favorite time of year, hands down.  Maybe it is the cooler temperatures that make working outdoors invigorating and make it perfect for those evening bonfires.  Maybe it is the beautiful autumn colors that transform the Ozarks into a feast for the eyes and the soul.  Truth is, both of those reasons are a big part of it, but it also has something to do with all the planting and  harvesting I get to do this time of year!

The last of the summer crops are trickling in, making room for the winter crops.  Straggler tomatoes, lettuce in full bloom, loofahs ready to peel…these are all some of my favorite things.

Loofah Gourds

Loofah Gourds

However, my very most favorite thing about autumn is the chance to head out to the pastures and forests that cover our land and dig up the medicinal roots that are all juiced up with healing properties!  This year, we have had a record-breaking harvest of wild herbs.  Burdock, dandelion, yellow dock, gravel root…all of them are giving up the most gorgeous roots ever, and they are doing it in a big way!

Root digging isn’t for everyone.  In fact, you really gotta want some of them bad.  Proper identification can often take an entire year of growth in order to see the entire life cycle of the plant before identification can be verified.  Some of them have taproots so long you feel like you’re digging your way through to China ~ unless you live in China.  Then you might feel like you are digging your way through to the United States…? Either way, its a lot of digging!

So, I wanted to make it a bit easier for those of you who are feeling froggy with all this nice weather.

One of my new favorite herbs is Rumex Crispus, aka Yellow Dock or Curly Dock.  I had heard of it before, of course, but it has never been an herb that I use on a regular basis.  Imagine…I’ve been walking on it for years and never knew what it was!  A friend of ours was out here one day and came into the house carrying a beautiful leaf that he handed to me.

“You ever have this?”  he asks me.

I look at the leaf and say, “Nope.  What is it?”

“Sour dock,”  he replies.  “My grandma used to eat it all the time!”

Of course, I have to taste it.  The name is fitting.  The dark green leaves spotted with purple have the texture of spinach and just the tiniest hint of sour when it hits the back of your tongue.

“Oh, that’s good!  Where’d  you find it?”  I ask.

“In your yard,”  he answers.

“Oh.”

He takes me outside.  Right out the front door, there it is.  Huge patches of it speckle my yard, my garden and my pasture.  I’ve walked past it a gazillion times and admired its beautiful color.  I couldn’t believe all the salads I’d missed out on!  And, a new obsession was born.  I went to work learning everything I could about it.

This is Rumex Crispus:

In the Spring and Summer season, the leaves are a shiny, deep green.  As the weather cools down and all those healing properties are draining back down into the roots, the leaves start turning stunning shades of burgundy and purple. No matter what color they are, they make a delicious addition to salads and stir-fry, though. Once the weather warms up they tend to get slightly bitter, but I sorta like the added bitterness in moderation. I’ve added the leaves to garden salads, fried potatoes, pasta salad, rice, stuffed zucchinni, black beans, and I’ve even eaten it all by itself with a dash of Bragg amino acids and lemon juice.  I read somewhere that you should wash the young leaves or it can irritate your tongue.  I’m really hoping that anything you eat of your yard gets washed first anyway, but I figured I oughtta add that…just in case…  The leaves also contain significant amounts of Vitamins A & C, beta carotene, protein, iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorous.  More than spinach.  Bonus…if you happen to find yourself stung by a patch of stinging nettles, rub some crushed yellow dock leaves on the welts to help ease the sting and itch.

The stalks are edible too, though I can’t speak for their flavor.  I think I’ll be trying those come spring.  It seems that you simply peel them and eat them raw, or you can boil them to soften them up. The seeds can be gathered and ground up into a flour-like powder that supposedly has a flavor similar to buckwheat.  Not really one of my favorite foods, but the process sounds interesting, so maybe I’ll give that a shot next year, too…?

The root is incredibly impressive!  This is one of the roots we got this year:

Yellow Dock Root

Its kinda hard to tell, but under all those little straggler roots like the one in my hand, there is a monstrous chunk of root that is easily the size of a sweet potato!  The root contains potassium, magnesium and loads of iron, which makes it valuable for treating anemia and other iron-deficiency related illnesses. It is also a powerful blood cleanser and liver detoxifier, and a mild but effective laxative. It is a tonic herb, which means that it helps to strengthen and tone the entire body. The root is also good for treating skin disorders of all types.

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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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Insomnia is the inability to obtain an adequate amount or quality of sleep. The difficulty can be in falling asleep, remaining asleep, or both. People with insomnia do not feel refreshed when they wake up. Insomnia is a common symptom affecting millions of people that may be caused by many conditions, diseases, or circumstances.”   ~ medical dictionary ~ thefreedictionary.com

That definition was for those of you who don’t suffer from insomnia.  Those of us who do already know what it means, and we know that the definition, no matter the source, can never actually explain the entire scope of this affliction.  Let me give it a shot, though.

Insomnia is an affliction that, when you lay down and close your eyes because you are so exhausted you can’t possibly do anything else, your mind springs to life and causes your eyelids to fly open and stick that way, despite all of your best attempts at closing them.  It makes your legs twitch and your brain spasm with a million thoughts.  It inspires you to create great and fantastic things-just as soon as your exhausted body can move again.  It precipitates deep and poetic thoughts that should be preserved in leather-covered tomes – if only you weren’t too tired to write them down.  It tickles the imagination into seeing shapes in the dark, like pictures in the clouds, that you know are really only figments of your sleep-deprived brain.  It makes you count sheep, cattle, chickens, ducks, and every other animal in a vain attempt to bore yourself into a sleep-induced coma.

Then, when you have finally attained that much-longed-for state of unconsciousness you are suddenly jolted from sleep after an hour -or maybe two or three- to find that you are still hours away from the break of day and everyone for miles around is still sleeping soundly.  It is lying there staring at the clock, counting away the minutes and knowing that the exhaustion is still there, just waiting to overtake you as soon as you have reached the point in your day that is the busiest/most important. By lunchtime, you aren’t quite sure if you want to jump in front oncoming traffic or choke the nearest passerby. Not because they have done anything wrong, but simply because you know that they got a good night’s sleep that was denied you.  For that, they deserve a good beating.

And that’s only one night’s worth of missed sleep.  The second night gets a little hairier.  By the third or fourth night you begin to see the logic behind men like Dexter and Dahmer. Rational thinking is only a dim memory ~ an elusive dream (pun intended).

Do I sound like a commercial for the latest sleeping pill?  I should totally get paid for writing this stuff, right?  Still, anyone suffering from insomnia knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as popping a pill and drifting off to Dreamland. Besides the obvious side-effects of sleeping pills  ~ liver damage, heart damage, kidney failure, ulcers ~ there is the small matter of being able to function the day after.  Sleeping pills, if they even work, make you so frackin’ tired the next day that you might as well have just stuck with your original state of sleep-deprived exhaustion.

So, what is the alternative?  Duh! It’s herbs, of course.  You had to have seen that one coming…

Quit snickering.  Have you tried them?  I don’t mean have you tried a single cup of chamomile tea before bed.  While chamomile has its benefits, to the hard-core insomniac it is like drinking a cup of water.  No, what I’m talking about are the other herbs.

You thought I was talking about marijuana, didn’t you?  While I will admit that I would recommend that particular herb if I lived in the appropriate state, that’s not what I meant.  I’m talking about herbs like valerian and skullcap.  St. John’s wort.  Peppermint.  Vervain.  Mullein. These, my friend, are the magic pill for the true Insomniac.

I’ll be honest.  It took me a while to figure this one out. I did try sleeping pills over the years.  Prescription.  Over the counter.  Under the counter.  Beside the counter.  I didn’t care if there was a chance that I might get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Not one of them was worth it.  It was out of sheer desperation that I put my insomnia to use and spent a few nights coming up with a more natural formula that I prayed would work.  Now, I keep a jar in my pantry and refill it regularly.

Bonus…it works as a pain-killer, muscle relaxant, tummy-soother and mood-stabilizer, also.  Let me explain the how’s and why’s.

Valerian

Valerian is the bad-boy of sleep aids.  I still maintain that herbs work best when combined with other herbs, but if I were ever to use one by itself, this would probably be it.  It is in the top 5, anyway.  Valerian is actually classified as a nerve tonic because it has the ability to both sooth and heal the nerves.  By soothing the nerves, you allow your body to fall into sleep naturally, stay asleep longer and wake up feeling great.  Valerian goes a step farther, though.  It will actually help rebuild nerve sheaths that have been damaged, making it a great herb for long-term use in diseases that affect the central nervous system and the nerves.  Don’t think valerian is going to suddenly make you fall asleep, though. It doesn’t work that way.  It works by relaxing the entire body and making it possible to sleep.  That means that after you take it, you need to go lay down and close your eyes.  Let your body do it’s thing!

Skullcap, like valerian, is a potent nervine that has been used for centuries with fantastic results.  It is so soothing to the nerves that it has even been used to successfully alleviate the symptoms of drug withdrawal, as well as epilepsy, hysteria, anxiety, nervous headaches and insomnia. Naturopathic doctors often recommend using skullcap as an alternative to conventional ADD medications, also.  Skullcap should not be taken if you are pregnant, as it is capable of inducing a miscarriage.

Mullein is one of those herbs that should be in every medicine cabinet.  It is good for coughs, for pain, for soothing the nerves…the list is long!  Mullein has been described as being ‘hypnotic’ and ‘highly narcotic without being toxic’. That means that, even if your sleeplessness is due to pain, mullein is capable of handling it.  Cough keeping you awake?  Mullein will take care of that, too.

Mullein flower

St. John’s wort is a well-known anti-depressant.  In the herbal world, that means it is soothing to the brain.  It relaxes you by relieving tension, stress and other factors that contribute to restlessness and fatigue.  It is best to take this one over a period of time, and in conjunction with other herbs.  It is also a highly effective pain-reliever and immune-system stimulator.

Vervain is not just for warding oneself against vampires. It has aspirin-like effects that help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. It is a muscle relaxant and mild anti-depressant that helps improve the general action of nerves and enhances the entire system, especially when taken over a period of time.  It is a mild sedative.  Here’s the catch with this herb, though…you don’t want to just grab a bottle of this herb and start eating it.  Vervain works best when it is combined with other herbs that strengthen and relax the nerves, and if you take too much you’ll soon be heaving your guts up instead of sleeping.  Used in the proper manner it is a valuable addition to the insomniac’s medicine chest, but used wrong and it is worse than useless.

So, really….put away the Ambien and the Tylenol PM.  You don’t need them anymore!  You just need a good, trained herbalist (like me) to whip you up a batch that contains these herbs.  Of course, I have a batch already made and waiting called ‘Sweet Dreams’…I’m just sayin’….

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There isn’t much I love about summertime in Missouri.  Intense, breath-taking heat, high humidity, biting and stinging insects…discomfort is virtually assured from June through September.  However, there are few a things that make all that discomfort worthwhile.  Long hours of daylight, spending time at the river and, most of all ~ fresh garden veggies.

No summertime garden would be complete without Zucchini.  Baked, fried, stuffed, pickled, raw ~ it doesn’t matter how you prepare it~ I love it!  The last couple of years have solidified my favorite method of eating those big, fresh beautiful zucchini, though.  It is definitely stuffed and baked. Which means that I have to share that wonderful recipe with you.

The beauty of stuffed zucchini is that it comes out tasting perfect weather you use fresh or frozen zucchini.  I always like to take a few zucchini and stick them in the freezer for this garden-fresh treat during the cold months of winter.  Zucchini is one of the few veggies that requires little or no processing before freezing.  Simply cut into slices, shred or grate it, stick it in a freezer bag and pop it in the deep freeze.  To freeze it for stuffing, cut off the ends, scoop out the seeds and voila!

Admittedly, zucchini can get a little mushy after it thaws, but if you aren’t eating it raw it doesn’t really matter.  Use the slices for fried zucchini, pizza topping or add  them to a quiche or pasta sauce. Throw chunks in some chicken or beef broth to make a delicious winter soup.  Use it grated in zucchini bread or, as I’m about to share, as stuffing.

If you are looking for an exceptionally healthy veggie, this one nears the top of the list, providing you leave the skin on.  Zucchini has a high water content, making it very low in calories, and contains no fat or cholesterol. It contains 7 g of carbohydrates, 56 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin C, 11 percent of your daily value of vitamin K, 16 percent of riboflavin, 21 percent of vitamin B-6 and 14 percent of folate, plus vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, calcium, iron, sodium, zinc and selenium.

Anyway…my stuffed zucchini recipe…

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Ingredients needed:

3-4 large zucchini

8 oz cream cheese

1-2 cups shredded cheese -any kind will work, but we prefer shredded Italian blend, cheddar and/or pepper jack

2-3 cups diced or grated raw veggies ~ tomatoes, squash, carrots, cabbage, peppers, celery…   This is a great recipe for using up some of those veggies that have gone soft but aren’t bad yet.

1/2 lemon

1 lb cooked meat (if desired) ~ ground turkey is amazing, but so is sage sausage, hamburger, steak…

Herbs of your choice ~ I love fresh basil, thyme, dill and oregano in this dish.  Just a tsp of each, chopped super-fine, works perfectly

Like all my recipes, this one is adaptable.  If you are using frozen zucchini, you can skip this first part and jump ahead to the stuffing part. If you are using fresh zucchini here’s what you do.

Take the 3-4 large zucchini and fill a pot big enough to lay them in. Fill the pot with water and bring to a full boil, then place zucchini (with ends still intact) in pot.  Boil for 7-9 minutes.  Remove from pot and place in ice cold water for 2-3 minutes.

Remove from water and slice off the ends of the zucchini, then cut the zucchini lengthwise down the middle.  Gently scoop out the seeds, saving as much of the flesh as possible.  Place zucchini on a cookie sheet lightly coated with the cooking oil of your choice and sprinkle with sea salt.

Mix all of your other veggies and the meat in a large bowl.  Make sure you get the cream cheese mixed well enough that you don’t have large chunks in the blend. Add herbs and squeeze lemon juice over the mixture.  Mix well.

Fill zucchini with stuffing.  Pile it on thick and high!

Cook for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle extra cheese across the top.  Return to oven and cook until cheese is melted.  Remove from oven and cool for 3-5 minutes.

Serve it up!

I feel it is only fair to warn you that this dish is VERY addictive!  I grew extra zucchini this year so I could make sure I have enough to last me until next growing season.

If you make more than you can eat at one sitting, you can throw the extra in the freezer and they reheat beautifully.

Enjoy!

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