There are a variety of ways that we can tap into the ancient practices of using natural remedies to heal and stay healthy. Some of the techniques involved in leveraging herbal remedies include compresses, decoction, ointments, infusions, poultices, syrups, tinctures, and tonics. This article will discuss two in particular and perhaps the easiest ways to use herbal remedies…infusions and decoctions.
Quite simply and infusion is a hot or cold drink made from the leaves and flowers of herbs. A decoction is a hot or cold drink made by boiling the roots, bark, or seeds of herbs. Both methods have a variety of medicinal uses such as the alleviation of common cold symptoms, relief from headaches, and much more. Even if you think you are far from calling yourself any kind of herbalist you can get started with infusions and decoction pretty easily, with a little knowledge of what the different herbs can do for you.
Making Herbal Infusions
Infusions can be made by steeping fresh herbs, the leaves and/or flowers, in hot water. They are so beneficial because they bring out the vitamins, enzymes, and aromatic oils in the herbs. Two popular choices for infusions are peppermint leaves and chamomile flowers. After steeping you strain the herbs out and add some honey to sweeten and make your infusion more palatable. You can store any unused portion in a glass mason jar in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Herbal Nightcap Infusion
1T dried chamomile
1T dried lemon balm
1T dried linden flowers
Infuse in a cup of hot water for 5-10 minutes, strain, and enjoy the sedative effects of these calming herbs.
Making Herbal Decoctions
Decoctions make use of herbs that are a bit tougher to utilize. You boil the roots, twigs, dried berries, bark, or seeds of the herbs and soften the woody parts so that the minerals and alkaloids from within can be accessed. In a decoction you might boil ginger or ginseng root, cinnamon bark, or fennel seeds. You can store any unused portion in a glass mason jar in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Respiratory Rescue Decoction
2-3 sticks of cinnamon (broken into pieces)
1 inch of ginger root (peeled and sliced)
1 T honey
Simmer the cinnamon and ginger in a pint of water for 15 minutes. Strain, add honey, and drink every day when experiencing a cold or other respiratory issues.
Beneficial Herbs for Infusions and Decoctions
- Comfrey Leaf
- Marshmallow Root
The pine tree is a popular symbol of the new year around the globe. It signifies renewal, power, and longevity. Many cultures believed that it made one youthful and it helped to ward off illness and disease. I can certainly see the association when I see the tall, strong, evergreen pines among the winter landscape when all it’s comrades look like puny shadows of their former glory. When the days are dark and the going is tough, pine trees stand out majestically…as if to say “Nothing keeps me down!”
Turns out that the the qualities of pine go far beyond looks however and those ancient cultures were quite wise. Pine is antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiviral, and stimulant. Booyah!
To celebrate the renewing power of a new year why not try a pine bath? They are spectacular all winter long but in the first few weeks of the new year they seem particularly fitting. Renew your personal goals, renew your health, and stimulate your senses to achieve everything you desire. Pine revitalizes the mind and the body and its protective qualities help keep you well when everyone around you is getting sick.
How to Use Pine in the Bath:
Tie some pine branch tips together with hemp cord or muslin. Put it in your bath water while it heats or tie it underneath the spout while the tub is filling. Add 4-6 drops of pine essential oil to a 1/2 cup of epsom salts, pour into the bath water (this helps dilute the oil). Light a pine scented beeswax candle or diffuse some pine oil in your diffuser. Diffuse alone or with some complimentary oils such as lavender, lemon, clary sage, or grapefruit.
Divine! Here is to a great new year!
We are all big Kombucha fans here. My husband and my three kids adore it and we used to spend a pretty penny buying it bottled from the store. The price is usually anywhere from $4-6 for a single serving bottle. It added up fast and ultimately became a rare treat for us and that was a big shame because Kombucha is so good for you. Imagine my delight that my kids want to drink fermented tea (with oodles of healthy bacteria) instead of drinking soda, milk, or juice. The only thing standing in the way was the price tag.
So what did we do? We decided to brew it ourselves at home and commence with sipping on Kombucha that tasted every bit as good but now only cost about $1.50 a gallon…at MOST. Now we all have all that delicious fizzy Kombucha and all the health benefits for pennies. Here are some of the benefits:
It tastes great!
Help for acid reflux
Low calorie drink for people drinking soda
Helps with weight loss (for the above reason)
Improves energy levels
Supports the immune system
Keeps bowels humming along
Cleanses the liver
Improves the health and appearance of your skin
So that is the WHY and it brings us to the HOW…
I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing but we did run into some problems with brewing initially. Part of it was just error as we learned and part of it was that we had to kind of piece the process together by perusing various websites. We put together our equipment using and reusing what we had on hand. We jerry-rigged a pretty good system in my opinion and the Kombucha was delicious. For anyone wishing to avoid the trial and error headaches we experienced though I would recommend a good Kombucha brewing kit and I think I found the perfect one.
Get Kombucha is an online store that sells a few different continuous brew kombucha kits. The have standard, silver, gold, and super deluxe kits and all have what you need to get started brewing at home from the time the package hits your doorstep. The company graciously sent me their silver kit and within hours I had it set and ready to brew. It also looks fantastic compared to my previous setup.
Everything came quite fast and with eco-friendly custom die cut packaging, which reduces waste (ie no extra packaging or peanuts). In the package was a certified lead free porcelain brewer and a hand crafted wood stand for it. Also provided was a whole leaf tea blend, reusable muslin tea bags, pH strips, gloves, spigots (in black and/or white), cloth covers, and the most important thing…the SCOBY.
The SCOBY or mother culture is the large mushroom looking thing that causes the tea to ferment and it was happily swimming in a just a bit of already fermented Kombucha tea. I love that anyone can get this kit and start brewing immediately. The instructions were easy to understand and the process was actually much faster than the one I developed. SCORE! I would say that within 20 minutes of setting everything up I was finished with the initial brewing phase. My Kombucha is now fermenting. In about 10-14 days we will give it a taste test and see if it is ready but about 14 days is usually our sweet spot.
Can I just say that I love the porcelain brewer. It is very attractive and something I will not mind having prominently displayed in my kitchen.
I think the silver kit has everything you need for a newbie brewer but if you need more help they also offer a collection of free Kombucha training videos. If you lose the instructions card with the recipe (mine is now on my fridge) you can also access it online. It just cannot get any easier. If you are wanting to try making Kombucha at home I hope you will check this out.
Where to Buy: Get Kombucha Continous Brew (Silver Kit)
Thank you to Get Kombucha for sponsoring this post. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of the Green Moms Network, and the content and opinions expressed here are 100% my own.
A couple months back I was introduced to The Homegrown Collective and I fell in love. No seriously…in love. Every month you get a new box with various DIY, homesteading projects and recipes. Everything you need and detailed instructions come in the box so you are learning new recipes and skills each month.
You not only get to TRY new things you get to LEARN new things. I have a bit of an obsession with homesteading and homemaking skills long since forgotten in this day of modern convenience and these boxes manage to capture all of it perfectly. A box of new skills hand delivered to your door….skills that will make you more self sufficient, reduce your environmental impact, and save you money. This is an ingenious product concept and I simply adore it.
Last month the theme was detox and this comes at a great time because after a long hard winter, being stuck indoors, and a general tendency to let eating and fitness habits get lax… a detox or cleanse is probably in order. Spring is around the corner and we have that nagging feeling we need to clean and clear out he cobwebs. Well, that applies to our bodies as well. Sometimes we need help expelling toxins and sloughing off the remnants of winter.
The first item in the box I dove into was the tea. It is dandelion organic herbal leaf tea and honestly I was intimidated. I have heard of all the yummy things you can make with these weeds but I had only tried them (the flowers and the leaves) in salads and they are not my favorites by any means. I was kind of weary of the tea. Turns out though that my anxiety was misplaced because this is some seriously delicious tea. I can easily suck down a cup or two or three a day…it is that good. Upon drinking up what came in the box I immediately contacted Homegrown Collective about getting some more.
The box came with an infuser to use when brewing but I decided to use my husband’s Keurig and a reusable K cup. I fill the cup with the loose tea and then I run it through the Keurig 2 or 3 times. It tastes wonderful every time and then the remnants get composted.
But back to the tea itself… dandelion. According to the The Herb Book it is supposed to be one of the best blood purifiers and liver cleaners we have access to. It also helps us to reduce acidity in the body, replace important vitamins and minerals, and increase activity in our pancreas and spleen. I love drinking it and I LOVE that drinking it is so good for me.
Next up was the detox bath DIY project. The box came with dead sea salts, baking soda, 100% cotton muslin bags, and dried organic lavender buds. This is everything you need to make fizzing bath soaks that will help you detox while you relax in the tub. The dead sea salts have 21 essential minerals including magnesium, calcium, iodine, zinc, and potassium. They all detoxify, treat, and cleanse our bodies. Two thousands years ago Flavius wrote about their ability to heal the body so this is not a new concept.
The lavender buds make the bath soothing and aromatic and I adored this project because it was easy and enjoyable. I don’t often take the time for baths and this provided me with the encouragement to take some time for me and relax. I will be making these fizzy bath soaks often!
Last up was a bentonite clay and rosewater facial mask. Again this is something I rarely take the time for. In fact I don’t think I have used a facial mask in years but they are incredibly helpful for the skin. Healing clays in general are another ancient remedy that has gone by the wayside in modern times. They are rich in nutrients (bentonite clay is made from aged volcanic ash) and they help draw out and absorb toxins, heavy metals, impurities, and chemicals.
The mask was soothing…as was the rosewater. For a few days after the mask I kept feeling my skin and being impressed with how silky and smooth it felt. I will definitely be using up my remaining supply and then buying some more to make this a monthly practice. I will also be keeping the clay on hand for making healing poultices for stings, bug bites, and bouts with poison ivy.
I can’t wait to see what next month brings me! Check out The Homegrown Collective to try it yourself.
There is an old saying that “you are what you eat”. We hear it often and maybe it has begin to become a bit watered down (by overuse) but really it is quite a truthful statement. Nutritionists like to repeat this quote over and over again to get across to people that food choices are directly linked to our health and to our quality of life. The food that we eat and all of the nutrients contained therein are what provide the building blocks for new cell growth. Cells die off daily and are replaced with new cells. Our bodies are always replenishing and regenerating and that process cannot happen efficiently without the best building materials. Empty calories or substandard food will only ensure that our foundation for health and wellness is weak.
The same applies to the animals that we consume. Many factory farm operations feed their animals foods designed to fatten them up quickly with empty calories so that they can be slaughtered at ever increasing rates. Their goal is not to turn out a healthy animal…just a fat and meaty one. They are fed genetically modified crops that are heavily sprayed with pesticides and often they are fed foods that not appropriate for their digestive systems. Cows for instance are meant to eat grass and roughage but in factory farms they are forced to eat grains such as corn. The sugars in corn increase the fat content unnaturally and they cause illness and disease. Some cows have even been given candy when corn prices are too high! Chickens are shut away indoors and kept from the greens they love so much. We have also heard horror stories for years that diseased animals who die in factory farms are recycled as food for the remaining ones.
If you are what you eat, then what do we hope to become by eating animal products that come from factory farms?
This is a scary thought and it is one that paved the way for the rebirth of the grass fed and pastured foods movement. Many consumers are no longer comfortable eating factory farmed meat and eggs. Instead they are seeking out beef from cows who are allowed to graze freely and eat the healthy food that they were intended to eat. These same folks also buy farm fresh eggs from farms where the chickens are cage free and allowed to roam and eat grass, seeds, bugs, fruit, and other foods more natural to them.
People who want grassfed and pastured products aren’t being snobs or prescribing to some kind of elitism. We hear all the time that paleo (which centers around wild, grassfed, pastured foods) is elitist. But is it really being snobbish and elitist if you want to consume healthy animals?? No.
Grassfed meat is lean and has a fat content that more closely resembles chicken or wild game. This actually helps to improve your cholesterol levels instead of raise them. While it is low in the bad fats associated with high cholesterol, it is very high in the good fats, the omega-3 fatty acids. All of the nutrition from the pastures they graze translates into lean cuts of meat and delicious milk that are nutritionally superior and much healthier for your family.
Pastured eggs are said to have about 20 times more omega-3 fatty acids than their factory farmed counterparts. The moment you crack open a pastured egg you can tell from the dark orange yolk that you are eating something rich and full of nutrition. They also taste infinitely better than conventional store bought eggs. Once you try them you will be hard pressed to ever go without again.
We truly are what we eat and if we choose to eat animal products then would be wise to choose the healthiest and most nutritious animals… grass fed and pastured.
How to Find GrassFed, Pastured Foods:
Check out what you have locally available. The web site Eat Wild should be your first stop. It will tell you all the places in your area where you can get these products. Within seconds of checking my own locale I was linked to sources for chickens, eggs, rabbit, duck, cows, pigs, milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. All come from grassfed, pastured, or wild animals.
If you cannot find much locally there are places to buy online such as US Wellness Meats.
To your health!