Sep 12 2016

October 2016 Herb Box

Order your October Herb Box Today!!

or purchase a subscription to the Herb Box
each box includes detailed descriptions and instructions
to view our previous boxes, click here
The October 2016 Box includes: Goldenrod - Chamomile Tea, Elderberry Syrup, Breathe Easy Saqlve and Eucalyptus - Spearmint Soap!

The October 2016 Box includes: Goldenrod – Chamomile Tea, Elderberry Syrup, Breathe Easy Saqlve and Eucalyptus – Spearmint Soap!


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Elderberry Syrup, 2oz

We blend the healing properties of certified organic Elderberries and Fennel and organically homegrown Elecampagne into a sweet tasting syrup which gently yet effectively supports the immune system when compromised by cold or flu. Each herb is carefully macerated in certified organic vegetable glycerin, then blended together in our custom formula. The syrup is sweet, safe for children, diabetics and those sensitive to alcohol. The syrup can be taken directly on a spoon or added to warm water to make a delicious cup of tea. Elderberry Syrup is rich, beautiful and deep purple in colour, a true delight to the senses! Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have been found to help overcome flu faster, to support and strengthen the immune system and to aid in healing from sinus infections. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) adds sweetness to the syrup and also helps relax digestive discomfort. The final ingredient, Elecampagne root (Inula helenium), is a mild “stimulant”, which in the herb world means that it gently supports the circulatory system to help the medicine work more efficiently. Elecampagne also aids the lungs where there are respiratory complaints.

Elderberry Syrup. Made with glycerin tincture of Elderberries, as well as glycerin tinctures of Elecampagne (Inula helenium) and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).

Elderberry Syrup. Made with glycerin tincture of Elderberries, as well as glycerin tinctures of Elecampagne (Inula helenium) and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).

Breathe Easy Salve, 2oz

This custom blend of herb infused oils and essential oils is a natural way to clear a stuffy nose, relax the senses and stimulate the immune system. The infused oils of peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) provide a mildly fragrant, decongesting and immune stimulating base to the salve; peppermint helps to relax nervous tension which aids in recovery from illness and Thyme gently supports the immune system. Our proprietary blend of essential oils added to the salve boosts the decongestant and immune stimulating properties of Breathe Easy Salve. We also make a Baby Breathe Easy Salve, specifically for babies, which does not contain the essential oils.

The baby version of the Breathe Easy Salve, without essential oils.

The baby version of the Breathe Easy Salve, without essential oils.

Allerg-ease tea, 1oz

The sweet and mild tea is a blend of wildcrafted Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) and organically grown Chamomile, Skullcap (Scutellari laterfolia) and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) added for its sweet flavour! This is an excellent tea to soothe allergy irritated sinuses, reducing inflammation and clearing congestion.

Allerg-Ease tea. A tasty blend of lovingly wildcrafted Goldenrod and organically grown Chamomile, Fennel and Skullcap.

Allerg-Ease tea. A tasty blend of lovingly wildcrafted Goldenrod and organically grown Chamomile, Fennel and Skullcap.

Eucalyptus – Spearmint Soap, 3oz

This freshly scented, uplifting soap is a great pick me up in the bath or shower any morning and especially when you are sick or congested from a cold or flu! A smokey green and grey swirl, this soap is coloured with green clay and activated charcoal and scented with essential oils of Eucalyptus and Spearmint. It not only looks and smells great, but can also kick started the loosening of congested sinuses when you are stuffy!

The smoky grey green of the Eucalyptus Mint Soap!

The smoky grey green of the Eucalyptus Mint Soap!

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Aug 04 2016

Touch Me Nots

A jewelweed flower (Impatiens capensis)

A jewelweed flower (Impatiens capensis)

Some people call it Jewelweed; my mother in law knows them as Touch Me Nots. Impatiens capensis is a pretty, delicate waterside plant whose juice boasts the ability to be able to soothe a poison ivy rash. I have read in many places that the two plants- Touch Me Nots and Poison Ivy- are often found growing together. While I have not found them exactly side by side before, both plants are common to my area…. especially Poison Ivy! I am fortunate to not react to Poison Ivy and some will exclaim in horror as I go traipsing through the bush harvesting medicinals, nary a care weather or not I brush up against some poison ivy. And some of the places I go have a blanket of Poison Ivy! Not everyone is so lucky, however and I have witnessed those who only need to be in the vicinity of Poison Ivy for their skin to rash up and become inflamed, irritated and itchy. Fortunately, you can prepare with some easy to make home remedies should yourself, family or friends need some TLC.

Jewelweed is a succulent, water loving plant. Its bright green stems seem almost translucent; perhaps this is because the stems inside are watery and juicy. It is this juice- as well as the stems, leaves and roots- which can help to soothe a poison ivy rash. If you are in the bush and need immediate relief, the fresh plant can be crush and rubbed onto the affected parts. You can also prepare ahead of time by harvesting Jewelweed when it is in season and using one or both of the following methods.

The whole harvested plants of Jewelweed. You can see how orange the roots are!

The whole harvested plants of Jewelweed. You can see how orange the roots are!

Harvesting Jewelweed

First you have to locate and harvest some Jewelweed. Perhaps you already know where some grows? Great! If not, look for it growing along steam banks, shallow shorelines and swampy areas. You can use the pictures posted here as a reference for what to look for. You can also reference some plant identification books. You can cut off the arial parts of the plant, or you can pluck up the whole plant by the roots. This is very simple with Jewelweed. The roots are quite shallow and as it is most often growing in wet soil, a simple tug near the bottom of the plant is usually all that is needed. And the roots are such a lovely shade of orange!I have found plants growing on the open shores of Lake Huron which are short and have fat, succulent stems. I have also found Jewelweed on shady stream banks and in swampy bush that is tall, spindly and skinny.

Jewelweed and Apple Cider Vinegar

This is a good method to preserve the soothing juices of Jewelweed without the need to refrigerate or freeze it. And the method is painfully simple! So, you can use just the arial parts, or you can use the whole plant plucked out by the roots. Wash off the plant. Now, cut up the whole plant- roots, stem, leaves and flowers- into smaller bits and fill a canning jar. You can use any size of jar you would like to or need, depending on how much healing vinegar you think you might need. Loosely fill the jar; you don’t really need to pack it in tight, but I usually push down the plant material a little bit. The next step is to pour on Apple Cider Vinegar until the jar is filled up. Put a lid on and let it sit in a dark, cool spot from 2 weeks to a couple months. The final step is to strain out the plant parts the resulting liquid is your medicine! The Apple Cider Vinegar helps to preserve it.

Filling up the jars with cut up Jewelweed. The jar on the left is full; still packing the one on the right.

Filling up the jars with cut up Jewelweed. The jar on the left is full; still packing the one on the right.

Jewelweed and Water

Another simple way to use Jewelweed is to boil it in water. Same as above, harvest and wash the plant and then cut it up into a pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer gently for a couple of hours. The water will turn bright orange! Then, strain out the plant material and pour into ice cube trays. You can freeze these and store them in a freezer bag. They will be cool and soothing when you need it. This year I have used my copper distiller to make Jewelweed water. Distilling the plant helps to preserve the resulting plant water, and I will want to play with the distillate a bit to determine its effectiveness.

After simmering the Jewelweed for a while, the water has turned orange!

After simmering the Jewelweed for a while, the water has turned orange!

The strained water has been poured into ice cube trays and is ready to freeze.

The strained water has been poured into ice cube trays and is ready to freeze.

Now you know everything you need to to make a Jewelweed Poison Ivy remedy at home. We can also visit our Etsy Shop to purchase our Touch Me Not Soap which we make with the Jewelweed Vinegar. As with many medicinal plants, there is also a science to back up Jewelweed’s use for treating a poison ivy rash. The leaves and roots contain “lawsone” a plant constituent which has both anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effects. Jewelweed also contains compounds called “balsaminones” which have anti-itching properties. If the science of Jewelweed interests you, click here for more info.

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Jul 28 2016

August 2016 Family Herb Box

August 2016 Family Herb Box. Rose Petal Honey (8oz), St. John's Wort Infused Oil (2oz), St. John's Wort Patchouli Soap (3.5oz), Sweetgrass Perfume (.3oz)

August 2016 Family Herb Box.
Rose Petal Honey (8oz), St. John’s Wort Infused Oil (2oz), St. John’s Wort Patchouli Soap (3.5oz), Sweetgrass Perfume (.3oz)

It been hot in the herb garden this summer! We’ve been picking lots of St. John’s Wort Flowers, Rose Petals and Sweetgrass to pack our August Family Herb Box with soothing, sweet remedies for your family! Each Box comes complete with detailed descriptions and instructions, with a total value of over $50. You can purchase a single box for only $45 plus shipping, or save more when you subscribe! Order your August Box or purchase a subscription here:


Months



Our August Family Herb Box brings you herbal goodies harvested and prepared from spring through summer. We have a patch of wild roses growing in one of our herb gardens and each June it is a delight to step out the door and take in the delightful aroma of wild rose blossoms wafting in the breeze! Part of each day for a couple of weeks is spent harvesting and carefully drying the rose petals for making infused oil, a rose petal tincture and rose petal honey. Roses have many healing properties. All parts of a rose bush are mildly astringent and therefore have been used in the healing of burns, minor cuts and scrapes as well and tummy upsets. Rose- especially the aroma of roses- has a powerful affect on mood, as well. Rose can help to uplift a sad heart and mind and indeed, it is very difficult to feel sad while picking wild rose petals!

Wild Rose Petals (Rosa acicularis) being prepared to soak in oil.

Wild Rose Petals (Rosa acicularis) being prepared to soak in honey.

To make our Rose Petal Honey, we soak the freshly harvest and cleaned rose petals in local, unpasteurized honey. The resulting honey imparts the uplifting aroma and taste of the wild rose petals and is wonderful to use anywhere you would normally use honey- on toast and biscuits, in your tea or directly off the spoon!

Polinators busy on the Rose Blossoms!

Polinators busy on the Rose Blossoms!

As the roses stop blooming, the St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) starts opening its beautiful, plentiful bright yellow flowers! These are harvested every few days in mid morning and immediately made into an infused oil and a glycerin tincture which both turn a bright, deep red. Although St. John’s Wort flowers are yellow, the infused oil turns a deep reddish brown due to one of the chemical constituents found in the flower called hypericin. St. John’s Wort is a herb well reputed for treating depression. However, there is much more to St. John’s Wort which is a common plant found growing wild or cultivated in gardens. St. John’s Wort can also be useful in the treatment of nerve pain, nerve damage, PMS, breast cancer, certain skin cancers and brain cancer. Further, St. John’s Wort also has anti-viral properties, with laboratory testing showing positive results against the herpes virus, some influenza strains and other specific viruses. (1)

St. Johns Wort oil and glycerin tincture, turning deep red as they soak

St. Johns Wort oil and glycerin tincture, turning deep red as they soak

This year`s St. John’s Wort Infused Oil, has been blended with a propriety blend of essential oils which enhance St. John`s Wort`s ability to soothe nerve pain. After soaking the St. John`s Wort in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, we carefully strain our the plant material and add essential oils of Juniper, Chamomile, Sandalwood and more, creating a calming, earthy aromatic oil which can be rubbed and massaged onto sore, aching muscles, especially where nervous tension is contributing to the pain.

St. John`s Wort Blossom!

St. John`s Wort Blossom!

Also featuring St. John’s Wort Infused Oil as a stellar ingredient is our Patchouli-Orange Soap! This soap has a fresh, deep and uplifting scent and is also made with Coconut Oil, Castor Oil and Red Clay. Red Clay has been added to enhance the red colour of the soap and for its deep yet gentle cleansing and nourishing benefits for the skin. Essential oils of Orange, Patchouli and Spearmint give this soap a complex, familiar and refreshing scent with an exceptional lather.

Orange Patchouli Soap made with St. Johns Wort infused Olive Oil.

Orange Patchouli Soap made with St. Johns Wort infused Olive Oil.

And the final addition to the August Herb Box is one we are very excited to offer! Its a roll-on Sweetgrass Perfume! Once again we harvest fresh Sweetgrass out of the garden, clean it, dry it and then steep it in a combination or cold-pressed, organic Sunflower Oil and liquid Coconut Oil. This aromatic oil is strained and packaged in a small glass roll on bottle which you can take with you anywhere you go!

Sweetgrass in the spring. The blades are picked and dried and soaked in Sunflower Oil and Coconut Oil

Sweetgrass in the spring. The blades are picked and dried and soaked in Sunflower Oil and Coconut Oil

We hope you will love this August Herb Box! Purchasing this box or subscribing to several has many benefits for you, your family and the environment!

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Jun 08 2016

Horsetail Monograph

Horsetail: Equisetum arvense

Family: Equisetaceae

Parts Used: Arial Parts

Freshly harvested Horsetail.

Freshly harvested Horsetail.

Description: Horsetail is a primitive looking plant and indeed our common Horsetails are the descendants of ancient giant horsetails that once grew as tall as trees. It is a rather spindly looking plant. Equisetum arvense, as with all Horsetails, reproduces by spores rather than seeds and sends up separate fertile and infertile shoots. The fertile stems are produced in early spring, while the green, sterile stems start to grow after the fertile stems have wilted.  It is the green, sterile stems with which we are most familliar and which are collected for medicine.

Horsetail Plants

Horsetail Plants

The straight green shoots of Horsetail are hollow and bear whorls of thin leaves fused into nodal sheaths. When Horsetail is picked and a plant turned upside down, it somewhat resembles a horse’s tail; hence the name. The sterile stems are approximately 10 to 80 cm tall and very small around, only 3-5 mm. Nodes appear along the stem, about 2 – 5 cm apart and this is where the whorls of side shoots branch off from the plant. Some species of Horsetail are unbranched or sparsley branched, but for this monograph we will be focusing on the common Field Horsetail, Equisetum arvense. The stems of Horsetails are coated with abrasive silicates, which gives the stems a rough feel, much like sandpaper. For this reason, some Horsetails are called “scouring rush” and have been used to scour or clean metal items. It is the silica content of Horsetail to which many of Horsetail’s healing properties are attributed.

A close up of the nodes.

A close up of the nodes.

Habitat: Different species of Horsetail grow nearly all over the world, with the exception of the Antarctic. It is believed, however, that Horsetails are not native to Australia, New Zealand or the Pacific Islands. I typically collect Equisetum arvense from moist soils near lakes, ponds and seasonally wet areas. Many Horsetails do prefer sandy, wet soils, though some prefer wet clay soils. Field Horsetail, Equisetium arvense is considered by some to be a nuisance weed. The shoots grow from rhizomes that are deep underground and are almost impossible to dig out.

Cultivation: Horsetail is rarely cultivated. It is more often considered a troublesome weed and so its growth is not encouraged.

Actions: Diuretic, Styptic, Vulnerary, Anodyne, Anti-nicoceptive, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-oxidant, Anti-microbial.

Energetics & Taste: Although Horsetail grows in wet soils, it is actually quite a dry plant. It does not taste too strongly and the fresh plant is slightly sour and drying. After the plant has dried, there is a distinct, subtle sweetness to the plant.

Horsetails, with Lady's Slippers growing amongst them.

Horsetails, with Lady’s Slippers growing amongst them.

Constituents: Minerals: silicic acid and salicilates, potassium, calcium, aluminum, sulphur, magnesium and manganese; Phenolic Acid; Phenolic petrosins; Flavonoides: kaempferol, quercitin, apigenin, luteolin, genkwanin, isoquercitin; Phenolic glycosides (in the fertile stems); Glucosides: equisetumoside; Triterpenoides: isobouranol, taraxerol, germaanicol, ursolic acids, oleanic acid, betulinic acid; Alkaloids: nicotine, palustrine, palustrinine; Saponins: equisitonin; Phystosterols: cholesterol, epicholesterol, methylenecholesterol, isofucosterol, campestrol, Beta-sisterol

Uses: Every June, one of my harvesting priorities is to collect Horsetail and make a fresh glycerin tincture with it. Horsetail is a plant medicine with a wide variety of uses, including for skin and hair care as well as for joint, bone and cardiovascular health. Horsetail’s main claim to fame is its high content of silica which lends healing properties to all of the systems already mentioned.

Horsetail is a diuretic and so is well employed wherever diuretics are called for. It can be used as part of a herbal tea for urinary tract infection and also to help reduce swelling in joints. My first experience with Horsetail was in using a glycerin tincture of Horsetail to address painful and debilitating swelling in my right knee which had no apparent cause. This was a condition that had bothered me on and off and had been successfully treated several years prior by a chiropractor. After having three kids and then doing a lot of garden work the pain and swelling returned. This time I turned to herbs and Horsetail was recommended to me by a Mohawk healer, Kayanderes. I used the Horsetail glycerin tincture as a simple (the only herb I used) for about 3-4 months. I wasn’t always consistent with taking it everyday, but when I finally did become persistent about taking it, the pain and swelling completely resolved in about 2 months. At first I would forget to take the tincture whenever the pain started to subside. I would forget about it because I was not in pain, but then the pain and swelling would creep back in. Eventually I resolved to remember to take the Horsetail glycerite everyday, pain or no pain. After about 2 months of this I was pain free with no swelling.  I stopped taking the Horsetail to see what would happen and the pain did not return.

Horsetail cut up for preparing a glycerin tincture.

Horsetail cut up for preparing a glycerin tincture.

Horsetail is exceptionally high in compounds that contain silica. Science has recently taken a great interest in silica and its role in our health. Silicon (Silicon is the name of the element as defined in the periodic table. Silica refers to naturally occurring chemical compounds which contain silicon bound to other elements, such as oxygen, for example, Si(OH)4) is not considered an “essential” nutrient, meaning that nutritional science does not consider that we need to get silicon in our diet. There are some scientists who are starting to question this, however.  Silicon is present in the blood in concentrations similar to other physiologically important minerals such as iron, copper and zinc and is excreted in the urine in similar amounts as calcium, suggesting that silica has an important, if not essential biological role. In the body, silicon can be understood as an extremely important element for our structural integrity. Silica is an integral part of our blood vessel walls; it is essential in the body for synthesizing elastin and collagen and therefore helps to conserve the elasticity of our blood vessels. Silicon also appears to play a role in bone formation and bone health. Higher dietary silicon intake is associated with higher bone mineral density and studies have suggested that silicon is involved in bone formation and repair through the synthesis or stabilization of collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the bone matrix and collagen is the body glue which makes up a good part of our connective tissue. Likewise, silica improves the health and elasticity of our skin and can also structurally improve our hair, skin and nails so that they are stronger and more vital. In the past it was believed that silica from solid foods was not absorbed by the body. There is now evidence to suggest that compounds which contain silica may be broken down in the digestive tract and absorbed.

Horsetail is also diuretic and astringent. This was previously assumed to also be caused by the silica in the plant, but recent studies have shown that these actions are more likely due to the flavonoids and saponins present in the plant. To me, this is a good demonstration of the benefits of using whole plant medicine rather than simply focusing on supposedly one active ingredient. Where Horsetail is concerned, we can see that some compounds of the plant have a role in eliminating excess water while other compounds are involved in repair of connective tissue, including bone.

Horsetail is a plant that comes to mind for chronic pain and inflammation; injuries to bone and connective tissue (fractures, sprain and strains); osteoporosis; cardio-vascular health, in particular strengthening and supporting the blood vessels and as a cosmetic to improve the health and appearance of the skin hair and nails. I rarely use Horsetail topically, although it is a styptic herb, meaning it helps to stop bleeding. This is due to the astringent tannins found in the plant. On a few occasions I have used Horsetail in a poultice applied to soft tissue injuries and minor cuts. Without a doubt, I employ Horsetail most often as a glycerin tincture made from the freshly harvested plant in June. Horsetail can also be dried and stored later for use in teas. When used as a tea, horsetail should be boiled for about 15-20 minutes to allow for the extraction of the silica.

Another close-up of the nodes.

Another close-up of the nodes.

Horsetail can be considered as part of a herbal treatment for any long term, chronic, painful, swollen conditions. It is not necessarily a plant that will immediately take away pain; rather it works slowly over time to help repair tissue that has become sore, swollen, damaged and painful. Where possible, it is also important to try to identify the root causes of the pain and treat that as well. If the pain is due to an injury that never healed properly, horsetail can help immensely over time with the healing process.

Chronic conditions, such as arthritis, which cause pain can be helped by horsetail as well, but dietary and digestive health should also be considered for treatment. Herbs that blend well with horsetail here include evergreens and comfrey applied topically as a salve as well as willows, poplars, birches or wintergreen as anti-inflammatories. Herbs that nourish and heal the nervous system work well with horsetail too, especially where an individual in pain cannot sleep due to pain and who may feel irritable because of chronic pain. Often, our irritation with constant pain can cause extreme anxiety, which disturbs sleep. Since sleep is when the body is busy healing, this whole process can turn into a vicious cycle. Choosing a nervine-  ah herb nourishing to the nervous system- which is appropriate to the circumstance can help to induce sleep as well as relieve pain. Some herbs to consider here are Lousewort (Wood Betony or Pedicularis canadensis), Skullcap, Lemon Balm, Passion Flower and many more. Several years back when I first used Horsetail to address pain and swelling in my knee, I was not always consistent with taking horsetail everyday. One evening after neglecting the horsetail for a few days, my knee was particularly painful and swollen after a day of gardening. Even walking was difficult. I prepared a tea of Skullcap (Scutellaria laterfolia) and added in some horsetail tincture. I was just hoping that the skullcap would help me sleep while the horsetail began its slow healing process. However, after 2-3 sips of the tea, a sudden relief simply washed through my body like a wave and that pain was simply gone. That was one of the most profound lessons for me on the healing power ofhumble plants.

Horsetail should also be consideredfor those wanting to maintiain their cardiovascular health. One combination I like to use- as a glycerin tincture- is an blend of equal parts horsetail, horsechestnut seeds (Aesculus hippocastanum) and Hawthorn Berries (Cratageous spp). These herbs combine to nourish and tone the blood vessels, soothe varicose veins and make the heart beat more efficiently. Typically, Hawthorn is a mild herb that affects the heart and is safe for most people to take. It is, however, advised to consult with a traditional healer or herbalist before using Hawthorn.

If you are interested in using horsetail, it is a good herb to work with. It grows abundantly and is easy to gather and dry. Try to harvest from out of the way areas, away from roads, farm field and farm run-off if possible. Horsetail is good at taking up minerals from the soil and so it is best to collect it from as remote an area as possible. Although June is the ideal time to collect Horsetail, you can still collect and use it throughout the growing season.

Sources:

R. Jugdaosingh, “Silicon and Bone Health“, J Nutr Health Aging. 2007 Mar-Apr, 11(2): 99-110.

 

 

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May 25 2016

June Family Herb Box

 

Our June Box celebrates spring fresh herbs for your health. A combination of wild edibles and topical remedies showcase the healing possibilites of nature’s spring harvest. We hope you enjoy this box as much as we enjoyed making it!

For more information about our Family Herb Box, click here.
To view the contents of all boxes, click here.

The June Family Herb Box: Wild Fire Vinegar, Afterburn Aromatherapy Water, Spring Wildflower Honey, Citronella Soap

The June Family Herb Box: Wild Fire Vinegar, Afterburn Aromatherapy Water, Spring Wildflower Honey, Citronella Soap

Spring Flower Honey
Made with Dandelion (Taraxicum officinal) flowers and wild apple blossoms (Malus spp) slowly soaked in fresh, unpasteurized honey this natural sweetener can be used any way you would normally use honey- to sweeten teas, on toast and biscuits, in baking and wherever else you like honey.

Lady bugs - a garden friendly bug- enjoying the Dandelion flowers.

Lady bugs – a garden friendly bug- enjoying the Dandelion flowers.

The whole dandelion plant is medicinal and highly nutritious. Dandelions are high in beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, folic acid, riboflavin, pyroxidine, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, potassium and anti-oxidants. Dandelions have started to gain back a better reputation lately, as the many benefits of dandelion become known to more people. Dandelion is one of the first spring flowering plants encouraging bees to pollinate and thrive. Also, both the roots and leaves of dandelion are used medicinally in teas, tinctures, syrups, capsules and more to support and strengthen the liver and kidneys. Dandelions aid and support these organs in their important role as the body’s pathways of elimination and detoxification. Dandelion roots make a good tea for anyone wishing to support their liver in detoxification and elimination of wastes. Dandelion leaf tea is also good as part of a herbal approach to urinary tract infections as well as heart disease associated with swelling in the lower limbs. Dandelion has so much potassium in it that even though it is diuretic, when dandelion is used as a diuretic, it actually increases the amount of potassium in your body.

Dandelion flowers and Apple blossoms.

Dandelion flowers and Apple blossoms.

Apples are in the same family of plants as rose and hawthorn. Roses are highly regarded as a flower that represents love and the heart and hawthorn is a mild and safe medicine for the heart and high blood pressure. Likewise, apple blossoms are used by herbalists to treat troubles of the heart. Apple blossoms are considered a medicine to heal and open the heart to possibility. Just as spring awakens and livens up our world, the energy of apple blossoms helps our heart to heal from heartbreak and sadness and allows us to be open to new possibility.

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

Wild Fire Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV), especially organic ACV which has the “mother” still in it, is highly regarded in the natural health world as a staple of good health. Many extravagant claims are made about ACV, but some are supported by research. ACV is also relatively high in potassium.

ACV has also been shown to help manage blood sugar levels in those with type two diabetes or pre-diabetics. It does this by increasing insulin sensitivity as well lowering blood sugar, particularly when ACV is consumed with a high carb meal. ACV also shows some promise in helping with weight loss, lowering cholesterol, and ACV also has anti-oxidants in it. All of this makes ACV a helpful part of a healthy lifestyle to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Apple collected from apple trees growing in our yard.

Apple collected from apple trees growing in our yard.

Our Wild Fire Vinegar is made from scratch using apples growing organically in our yard and maple syrup made by our family early in the spring. You can learn the process for yourself here. In the springtime, wild edibles are added to our homemade, organic ACV, including wild leeks (Allium tricoccum), garlic mustard (Aralia petiolata), wild ginger (Asarum canadense) leaves and dandelion (Taraxicum officinal) flower heads. We also add in some hot, cayenne peppers. All of these are soaked in the ACV for a couple of weeks and then strained out. What you are left with is a zippy, zesty, tasty garnish for food with a sweet, maple flavoured twist. You won’t find a vinegar quite like this anywhere else! The wild plants soaked in the ACV are fiery, hot foods which warm the body and stimulate the digestive fires. Each add some healing goodness of their own, as well:

  • Garlic Mustard – is considered an invasive plant as it was brought here from Europe and tends to spread everywhere, destabilizing native environments. It is an excellent plant to harvest and use, then, especially when you uproot and use the whole plant. The entire plant including the roots are edible and the roots have a taste similar to horseradish. Garlic mustard is high in Vitamins A & C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and manganese.  It can lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health by strengthening the capillaries;

    Garlic mustard

    Garlic mustard

  • Wild Leeks – Wild leeks are also heart healthy. They are in the same plant family as garlic and impart many of the same health benefits as garlic. Sulphur compounds in these plants protect the lining of the blood vessels from damage while supporting the liver with elimination. Wild leeks also contain selenium, chromium, calcium and iron. They are higher in anti-oxidants than tomatoes and peppers and therefore are good plants to consume to help ward off disease;

    Wild Leeks prepared for adding to the vinegar. When Harvesting, cut off the leaks so that the roots stay in the ground to grow again.

    Wild Leeks prepared for adding to the vinegar. When Harvesting, cut off the leaks so that the roots stay in the ground to grow again.

  • Wild GInger – Wild Ginger is not often gathered in the wild, but it is a plant that has been used as a medicine in similar way to the more familiar culinary garlic. Wild GInger should only be collected sparingly from large and healthy wild stands or from gardens as habitat loss for wild ginger puts strain on the plant. For this reason, we only harvest the leaves of wild ginger and not the roots, ensuring the survival of the plant. Wild ginger is anti-biotic, can ease stomach pain, and can be used to help calm heart palpitations.

    Wild Ginger leaves early in the spring. You can see the brownish - purple flower between the leaves as well.

    Wild Ginger leaves early in the spring. You can see the brownish – purple flower between the leaves as well.

Vinegar is exceptional at extracting the minerals from plants and also at helping you to absorb the minerals into your body. This vinegar is perfect for homemade salad dressings, marinades or added to bone broth.

*We chose the name Wild Fire Vinegar because we use wild edibles to make it and also because herbalists and businesses are no longer able to use the common title “Fire Cider” to market a similar vinegar made with cultivated plants. This is due to copyright laws which are currently being challenged by herbalists. To read more about this issue, click here.

Afterburn Aromatherapy Water
This aromatherapy water body spray is made from fresh, spring harvested witchazel. Witchazel is a shrub or small tree native to Eastern North America. We make a distilled witchazel by boiling the bark of the tree in our copper distiller. This distilled witchazel is the base for the Get Lost insect repellant included in the April Family Herb Box, and is also the base for our Afterburn aromatherapy water. The witchazel in Afterburn is an effective remedy to spray on sunburns, bug bites and as a wash for minor cuts and scrapes. We have also added hydrosols (plant waters) from a number of healing plants including plantain, calendula, chickweed and comfrey, as well as added in lavender essential oil. This creates an exceptional soothing, cooling spray on treatment for sunburns, cuts scrapes and other minor injuries.

Freshly bottled, Afterburn aromatherapy water.

Freshly bottled, Afterburn aromatherapy water.

Citronella Soap
This final product in the box contains no spring harvested plants, but it is a must have for outdoor hikes and camping excursions. The soap is naturally coloured with alkanet root and scented with citronella and rose geranium to help repel mosquitos, ticks and other insects. Simply open the bar and bring it with you in outings where the scent will help keep bugs at bay and the soap can also be used for washing up outdoors, leaving traces of the insect repelling oils on your skin.

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Mar 29 2016

Spring gardening

Spring is always full of excitement and anticipation of warm weather and the gardening season ahead! Especially after long, cold winters there is a deep gratitude felt about the coming of spring. For a few years I have started seeds indoors in anticipation of being able to put in our garden plants that we started from seed ourselves. I’ll be honest; I am no expert in this department and I am someone who learns by trial and error. So this post is meant to share some of what I have learned from trial and error. The other side of the coin of seed starting is saving our own seed. Both activities take time and knowledge. At some point (once I have successfully mastered seed starting!) I will also put more effort into seed saving. Right now, there are only a few plants whose seeds are easy to collect that I save and plant.

Freshly planted pots, waiting for the seedlings to poke up!

Freshly planted pots, waiting for the seedlings to poke up!

Growing plants from seed is a great way to involve kids in the garden. The job is messy and kids can play in the dirt, get their hands dirty and learn while making a great big mess! They love to monitor the progress of their seeds as well, often checking in daily to see if the plant is poking up yet! Its a great way for kids to learn where food actually comes from, as well. Food is grown (or hunted or raised), not simply purchased in boxes off the grocery store shelf. Some plants need to be started indoors because they require a longer growing season than our climates allow. I usually start tomatoes and peppers indoors. Typically, I have done this too early for my climate, having a hard time containing my enthusiasm for spring! I have started tomato and pepper seeds in February and end up with big, tall plants ready for transplanting at the end of March when it is way too early. Don’t make this same mistake! This year I wised up and contained myself, saving the seed starting for the last half of March. I usually try to start some corn plants indoors, too, but usually late April or early May is when I do this, transplanting the seedlings to the garden soon after they begin to poke up.

Alicia and Randal successfully completing a transplant.

Alicia and Randal successfully completing a transplant.

Many herbs can also be started from seed and in Canada, Richters is a good place to order seeds from. With herbs, starting from seed is not always as simple as throwing some seeds and dirt into a pot. Plants often require specific climatic and environmental circumstance to germinate and grow. I can’t go into great detail in this blog, but there are good sources of information for this. I have used the book, “Growing 101 Herbs That Heal” by Tammi Hartung. She gives detailed descriptions of how to best germinate many herb seeds. A general guide, however, is to think of how plants seeds will germinate in their natural environment and then to try and simulate that at home. For example, many healing herbs indigenous to Eastern North America- ginseng, goldenseal, black cohosh, wild ginger, blood root- require a period of “cold stratification” followed by alternating periods of warm and cold to be able to germinate. This sounds complicated, but it is simply a description of winters and typical spring weather in Eastern  North America; a period of extended cold (winter), followed by alternating warm and cold (spring). Other seeds in he wild may typically be eaten by birds and passed through the bird’s digestive tract before they will germinate. Tammi Hartung’s book details different way to simulate these conditions at home.

Alicia, never missing an opportunity to photo bomb!

Alicia, never missing an opportunity to photo bomb!

For those of you who are interested in growing and using herbs, you have many options available to you. To help you get started, here is a short list of 10 easy to grow and easy to use herbs that are great plants to start your journey with!

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) There is lots more information about Calendula here. This is an easy to grow plant whose bright, yellow and orange blooms make great medicine for all kinds of skin complaints.

The centre of a Calendula flower.

The centre of a Calendula flower.

Yarrow (Achillea millefoilium) The Yarrow in my garden is a transplant from plants I found growing wild. Yarrow is a very “weedy” plant which spreads easily and can take over your garden so think carefully about where you may want to plant it. The stems, leaves and blooms of Yarrow can be cut and gathered throughout the growing season. Yarrow can be brewed into a tea and used as a wash on cuts and scrapes. Yarrow is astringent meaning it tightens tissues and so is good to apply to minor cuts and scrapes to disinfect and stop bleeding. I also use Yarrow with other herbs to make an insect repellant. Its astringent action affects the surface capillaries of the skin when applied topically. The effect is to constrict the capillaries, making the blood less available to biting insects.

A close-up shot of Yarrow flowers.

A close-up shot of Yarrow flowers.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) Catnip is one of my favourite herbs and one I don’t need to plant. It volunteered itself in our garden and I have nurtured and encouraged its growth. Catnip is an excellent herb to have on hand for babies, it makes a great insect repellant for people and help with bug control in the garden. For more details on Catnip, click here.

Catnip flowers

Catnip flowers

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) For many, a small spot of Lemon Balm will quickly spread to a huge patch. Lemon Balm certainly loves our garden and it would spread everywhere if I didn’t dig up some every spring. Lemon Balm is a relaxing herb that can be added to teas to help you sleep, and is another good herb for children. Lemon Balm is a diaphoretic- meaning a herb that makes you sweat and therefore Lemon Balm Tea can be helpful when sick with the flu and fever. Lemon Balm is also effective against some viruses and is a good herb to use in the treatment of herpes. Learn how to make a Lemon Balm glycerite here.

Lemon Balm in the garden.

Lemon Balm in the garden.

Plantain (Plantago spp) Another plant that you most likely won’t need to plant! Plantain readily pops up in gardens and lawns everywhere. You do have to be careful where you pick plantain, however, as some lawns and parks may be sprayed with chemicals. If you have lots of pets roaming around your yard, you are best to set aside a spot where the pets don’t go to harvest Plantain from. There are many species of Plantain (Plantago) which occur around the world and which are eaten as food or used for medicine. In lawns and gardens in North American, you are most likely to encounter any one of- or all three of- these common species: Plantago lanceolata, P. major, P. rugelii. P. Laceolata (Ribwort Plantain) and P. major (Broadleaf Plantain) are both European species. The Ribwort having narrow leaves and the Broadleaf Plantain having more rounded leaves. P. Rugelii is a Plantain native to North America. It looks very similar to Plantago major and is often mistaken for the Broadleaf Plantain. Plantain has many medicinal uses. I use Plantain most often in a first aid salve which is particularly good for soothing mosquito bites and stings.

Freshly harvested and washed Plantago lanceolata leaves.

Freshly harvested and washed Plantago lanceolata leaves.

Skullcap (Scutellaria laterfolia) Skullcap was one of the first herbs I ever used and one of the first to put in my garden. It is a plant native to North America and grows well in moist locations, especially with running water. Skullcap is harvested when in flower in late summer, usually August. I dry some of my Skullcap harvest for teas and use the rest to make a fresh plant tincture. Skullcap is an excellent herb for nervous tension, to help you relax, rest and sleep well. Skullcap helps to ease tense muscles and can help with back pain when due to nervous tension. Combined with other herbs, Skullcap can also help to relieve pain in other parts of the body. I have used Skullcap in combination with Horsetail for relieving knee pain and swelling.

Skullcap is one of my favourites. A powerful medicine and a beautiful and delicate flower.

Skullcap is one of my favourites. A powerful medicine and a beautiful and delicate flower.

Cilantro/Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) We always grow a lot of tomatoes in the garden and I love to make both red and green tomato salsa, so Cilantro is a must for our garden. Cilantro is one of the signature flavours in salsas. I grow it simply as an culinary herb, using fresh harvested cilantro in our homemade salsas. I also harvest cilantro and freeze it for use in the winter in chilis and other dishes.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) Another great culinary herbs, which also finds use in our home as a medicine. Dill is a delicate plant with fine, feathery leaves and tiny yellow flowers on top. Dill readily reseeds itself all over the garden, but not excessively. I planted it once and have since been content to let it grow wherever it sows itself. Myself and the kids harvest dill throughout the growing season, regularly trimming the leaves and drying them. We love to add dill to plain yogurt with garlic to make a dip. This is an excellent dip to promote healthy digestion. Dill tea can also be given to babies by spoon or dropper to help with minor digestive upsets.

Dill Seed

Dill Seed

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) If you have this plant in your garden, you will enjoy an abundance of pretty pink blooms early in the spring. Wild Geranium is another plant native to Eastern North America and can often be seen growing wild along the edges of the bush and along roadways. The entire plant of Wild Geranium is astringent- meaning that it tightens and dries tissues- with the roots having the strongest astringent action. The astringency makes Wild Geranium useful in the treatment of some digestive troubles such as diarrhea. Blended with Goldenseal and Raspberry Leaves, Wild Geranium is a good plant to help heal gastric ulcers.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) just starting to flower.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) just starting to flower.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perfoliatum) St. John’s Wort is a well known herb. It is easy to grow and has become popular as a treatment for depression. You should consult with a qualified practitioner, however, before using St. John’s Wort in this manner as it can interact with some medications. St. John’s Wort has small leaves which, when held up to the sun reveal tiny holes in the leaf which the sun shines through. This is how it received the latin name “perfoliatum”. St. John’s Wort boasts beautiful bright yellow blooms which will keep blooming for some time if the blooms are harvested regularly. Both the flowers and the seeds are used medicinally. I gather what I can each year and make both and infused oil of St. John’s Wort as well as a glycerin tincture, both of which turn a beautiful, deep shade of red. Both the oil and the tincture can be used for pain relief, particularly nerve related pain.

Fresh blooms of St. John's Wort.

Fresh blooms of St. John’s Wort.g

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Mar 18 2016

April 2016 Herb Box

Spring is in the air! The weather is warming, the sap is slowing down and we have started some seeds indoors! Its also time to order your April Family Herb Box from Honey Pot Herbals, filled with handmade herbal goodies to help your family naturally manage warm weather health care!

To order your box or to subscribe, click here.

April 2016 Family Herb Box: Get Lost Outdoor Spray, Touch Me Not Soap, Plantain Salve, Chill Out Skin Chiller Stick.

April 2016 Family Herb Box: Get Lost Outdoor Spray, Touch Me Not Soap, Plantain Salve, Chill Out Skin Chiller Stick.

Get Lost Outdoor Spray, 2oz
Our single most popular summer product and herb box subscribers will be the first to receive it! This mosquito and insect repelling spray is carefully crafted in many steps starting with wildcrafted Witchazel twigs and leaves which are distilled to form the base of the spray. Witchazel is astringent- meaning it tightens tissues and constricts the blood vessels. When applied to the skin, this effect leaves less for the bugs to be attracted to. The spray also contains three other herb extracts- Catnip, Wormwood and Yarrow- and our proprietary blend of six essential oils.

Get Lost Outdoor Spray

Get Lost Outdoor Spray

The herbs and essential oils combine to repel a variety of insects which makes family outings in nature a whole lot more enjoyable. What’s more, all the ingredients are non-toxic and safe to use and so can be applied as frequently as needed. Because of the essential oils, however, this is not appropriate to use for young children under 5. For babies and young children we have two repellants with Catnip as the main ingredient- Baby Bug A Bye Salve and Baby Bug A Bye Lotion, which doubles as sunblock. Get Lost Outdoor Spray can be purchased here.

Plantain Salve, 2oz
This is a popular, all purpose salve made from the humble and abundant Plantain Leaf. There are three varieties of Plantain commonly found growing in parks, on lawns, in gardens and waste places. Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata are Plantains native to Europe. Plantago rugelii is a plantain which looks very similar to P. major, but which is native to North America. There are many species of Plantain plants which have a wide variety of uses for healing and as food plants around the world. Our plantain salve is created with a Plantain infused oil made with a blend of P. major, P. laceolata and P. rugelli. Plantain Salve is appropriate to use as a first aid ointment tom put on scrapes, rashes, cuts, bruises, stings, bites, boils and hives. Plaintain helps to draw out toxins and irritating substances. Plantain Salve is safe for babies and young children to use and does not contain any essential oils.

To order Plantain Salve, click here.

Plantain Salve

Plantain Salve

Touch Me Not Soap, 4oz bar
A summertime best seller! To make this soap, we use the juice of the Touch Me Not plant, also known as Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). The juice of this plant is well known for its ability to soothe and help heal a poison ivy rash. Jewelweed often grows close to poison ivy, but not everyone can easily identify and find Jewelweed when needed. So, we’re preserved Jewelweed healing properties into a soap that is convenient and easy for you to use!

To order Touch Me Not Soap, click here.

Touch Me Not Soap made with Jewelweed for Poison Ivy Rash.

Touch Me Not Soap made with Jewelweed for Poison Ivy Rash.

Chill Out Skin Chiller Stick, .15oz
Known to the kids as “the itchy stick”, this is a must have for summer to relieve the itch, swelling and irritation from mosquito bites, bee stings and minor burns. This “Chill Out” salve is conveniently packaged in a lip balm tube for easy application and portability. The salve is made with highly concentrated herb infused oils of Calendula, Chickweed and Plantain which help to relieve itching, reduce swelling and draw out venom.

To order the Skin Chiller Stick, click here: Chill Out!

Chill Out! Skin Chiller Stick for bites, stings and burns

Chill Out! Skin Chiller Stick for bites, stings and burns

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Feb 17 2016

Calendula Monograph

Calendula growing in  the garden.

Calendula growing in the garden.

Calendula: Calendula officinalis

Family: Asteraceae

Parts Used: Flower Heads, Petals

Description: Calendula boasts beautiful bright yellow blooms and a variety of cultivars displaying more deeply yellow-orange and more abundant petals are available. The plant grows between 30-80 cm in height with elegant yet tough and gently green stems. The leaves are alternately arranged, get progressively smaller as they progress up the stem and range from 3-15cm in length. Calendula can flower year round where mild conditions persist.

Habitat: Calendula has been cultivated for so long that there is uncertainty as to its exact origin. There is a long history of use, however, around the mediterranean, including in Italy and in Egypt where it can bloom year round. Calendula is also considered native to south west Asia, Western Europe and Macronesia.

Cultivation: Calendula is an easy to grow plant which produces numerous bright yellow and orange flowers throughout the growing season. It makes attractive borders in the garden and can help to repel some pesky insects in the garden includig aphids, eelworms, asparagus beetles and tomato hornworms. Young Calendula plants attract hoverflies to the garden, whose young are efficient eaters of aphids. Calendula is tolerate of most soil conditions and can grow in nutrient poor soils. It prefers well drained, moist soils and can bloom profusely after rain.

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-viral, Anti-fungal, Antisceptic, Antispasmodic, Vulnerary, Stomachic, Cholagogue.

Energetics & Taste: Cooling, drying, bitter, slightly pungent and spicey.

Constituents: Terepenoids (sitosterols, stigmasterols, and many more); Flavanoids (quercitin, isorhamnetin, narcissin, calendoflaside, calendoflavoside, rutin, isoquercitin and others); Coumarins (scopoletin, umbelliferon); Quinones, Volatuile Oils (Essential Oils); Carotenoides (neoxanthin, violaxanthin, luteoxanthin, lycopene, alpha carotene, beta carotene and more); Amino Acids; Vitamin C; Carbohydrates; Lipids (phospholipids, glycolipids, faty acids: lauric, myristis, palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic).

A close up shot of Calendula in full bloom.

A close up shot of Calendula in full bloom.

Uses: If we are talking about simple things that fill me with joy, a full jar of freshly pressed and strained Calendula Oil would surely be near the top of my list. I call it my “winter sunshine”; that blessed jar of deeply orange healing bliss that is Calendula Oil!

I love every part of working with Calendula, from the first plucked bloom in early spring, to the multiple trays of drying flower heads, to the exhilarating manner in which dried Calendula flowers added to cold pressed Sunflower Oil quickly turn the oil a bright, cheery orange, to the straining and pressing of the oil which renders it a breathtaking, beautiful, translucent orange! Growing the flowers and producing the healing oil from our own hands and labour simply fills me with joy. It is such a treasure to grow and make something so healing for your family! Its a good gardening project to get the whole family in on as well. In our garden, Calendula blooms from the end of June into September or October so long as mild conditions persist. Harvesting the yellow and orange blooms is a daily task, shared by the whole family. I rarely plant Calendula seeds, unless I am adding more to the garden. Left to go to seed in the garden, Calendula will easily re-seed itself in many climates.

A close-up shot of a Calendula seed head.

A close-up shot of a Calendula seed head.

Calendula is most simply a healer. This vulnerary plant disinfects and speeds the healing of minor wounds, scrapes and rashes and indeed there is a long history of traditional and folk usage of Calendula extracts- both water and oil based- for wound healing. Because of its popularity and the ease with which Calendula can be grown, it has been the subject of many scientific studies. A number of the wide variety of the chemical constituents in Calendula contribute to its wound healing effect. There have been nineteen carotenoids identified in Calendula and these are considered to have anti-oxidant activity. Studies have also implied that Calendula officinalis extracts may promote wound healing by promoting epithelial growth and enhancing the immune response. Further, the triterpenoids present in Calendula are believed to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of Calendula extracts, particularly faradiol monoester. And in laboratory studies, watery extracts of Calendula showed anti-bacterial activity against Staphylococcu aurens, in vitro. (In vitro means in the test tube or petri dish. While it is a good indication of the potential healing effects of a substance, it is not the same as killing a bacteria in vivo, which means in a live person.)

 

Bright orange Calendula Oil. The jar on the left had the Calendula flowers and oil soaking in it. On the right is the oil after the flower petals have been strained out.

Bright orange Calendula Oil. The jar on the left had the Calendula flowers and oil soaking in it. On the right is the oil after the flower petals have been strained out.

Calendula also has a history of being used to heal ulcers. Although I have not used Calendula myself I this manner, this is consistent with Calendula being a vulnerary (wound healing) plant. As the digestive tract is an inward continuation of the skin, Calendula’s healing properties work well on the inside as out. Calendula is also slightly bitter and, when tasted, can help to stimulate the digestive process. Scientific studies have affirmed Calendula’s anti-spasmodic properties, particularly on the gut and also hepatoproctive activity (meaning it supports the liver).

Calendula also has a reputation as an anti-fungal and can be used in topical and internal preparations for fungal infections, including yeast infections. Once again, science has supported this traditional use, with laboratory studies finding the essential oils of Calendula effective against many strains of bacteria and fungi, including Candida albicans.

Nowadays, Calendula is most commonly used in topical preparations, as an oil which is incorporated into salves, ointments and lotions. When my first was born, I started making a salve which combined Calendula, Comfrey (Symphytum officinal) and Chickweed  (Stellaria media) as a gentle, all purpose salve to prevent and treat diaper rash as well as to use as an all purpose first aid salve. Sometimes its hard to keep those little baby nails clipped, and I used this salve on the little scratches caused by quickly growing nails and other minor scrapes and bruises.

A basket of freshly harvested Calendula flowers.

A basket of freshly harvested Calendula flowers.

When our oldest was about five, he backup up to tree while playing a game outside. He slid his back down the tree, accidentally lifting his shirt and scraping his back. When he ran into the house crying, bleeding a little and in pain, I quickly cleaned up the scrapes and applied the salve. This helped to relieve the pain and soothe him and he told me that it, “worked like magic” and so we have called the Calendula, Comfrey and Chickweed Salve “Magic Ointment” ever since. A Calendula based salve can form the mainstay of your natural diaper care kit; along with some “air time” on baby’s bum, a Calendula salve applied at diaper change will help keep rashes at bay and protect the skin from excess moisture. The Comfrey in our salve enhances the wound recovery and healing properties of the salve and the Chickweed helps to combat itchiness. Calendula hydrosol can also be used as a spray to help prevent and treat diaper rash. This is a good alternative for those who use cloth diapers and find that oil based salves coat the diapers.

Herbal Salve with Calendula for diaper rash, skin irritations and minor cuts and scrapes.

Herbal Salve with Calendula for diaper rash, skin irritations and minor cuts and scrapes.

Calendula oil can be used directly on the skin, including baby’s! Its a great way to naturally treat cradle cap. Carefully massage the oil onto baby’s scalp and then gently comb off the cradle cap with a baby comb. The same oil can be used instead of or after baths to moisturize baby’s skin and to help keep it soft, nourished and healthy.

Summertime comes and along with it lots of outdoor play and BUG BITES!! Calendula is your ally here as well! It can be frustrating for both kids and parents if annoying, attention demanding bug bites keep kids up at night scratching; worse still when unconscious scratching causes the bug bites to bleed. Nature provides us with many healers and Calendula combines well with Plantain to draw out insect venom, prevent infection and soothe that persistent itchiness. A little chickweed added in, again, can help to stop the itchiness and thereby give the bite a chance to heal. For this I combine a super concentrated Calendula and Chickweed oil with Plantain oil and. This is safe to apply as often as needed to bug bites, including mosquito bites, spider bites, bee and wasp stings and more. I put the salve in a lip balm tube which is easy for the kids to carry around and use. When my kids have a bug bite that needs relief, they look for the “itchy stick”, what they call the Calendula, Plantain and Chickweed Salve.

Chill Out! Skin Chiller Stick for bites, stings and burns

Chill Out! Skin Chiller Stick for bites, stings and burns

You can also use aqueous- or water based- preparations of Calendula at home. During one of my daughter’s hockey games she was stepped on just above the knee by an opponents skate blade. The soft tissue of her knee was injured, as well as there being a superficial cut just above the knee. Her knee swelled up, was squishy to the touch and walking was hard. To bring down the swelling, prevent infection and promote healing, we applied a hot herbal compress on her knee. I made a tea of Calendula, Horsechestnut  (Asculus hippocastanum,) and Yarrow (Achillea millefoil). We soaked a clean cloth in the tea and applied it to her knee, with a dry cloth in between, as hot as she could stand. The Yarrow and Calendula were to help disinfect and heal the cut. Horsechestnut seeds are the fruit of the Horsechestnut tree and help to relieve water retention and swelling. Application of the compress significantly reduced the swelling and after a few days of applying the compress and some other herbal salves, she was back to normal, shooting hoops and skating like the wind!

Calendula flowers, neatly laid upside down on lined trays for drying.

Calendula flowers, neatly laid upside down on lined trays for drying.

I have also recently started making a Calendula Hydrosol- a healing plant water that can also be sprayed on cuts, scrapes and rashes to disinfect and promote healing. Many of the studies on the healing effects of Calendula have affirmed that many of the anti-inflammatory and wound healing compound found in the Calendula flowers are also found in aqueous (water based) extract. The hydrosol works well here, as well as teas prepared from Calendula Petals.

I will follow this Calendula monograph up with instructions on how to make Calendula Oil. Sign up for our newsletter, as well, to keep informed about upcoming workshops and classes where we will learn to make oils, salves and more!

Contraindication and Warnings: Calendula is a well tolerated plant with no toxicity concerns. Herbalists tend to limit or avoid the internal use of Calendula during pregnancy as there is presumed to be some uterine stimulating activity in Calendula. Used cautiously at the discretion of a knowledgeable practitioner Calendula can be used internally during pregnancy to treat some conditions. It is safe to use externally during pregnancy. Some people can be allergic to Calendula and should avoid using the plant if they find that it causes symptoms. One study found that Calendula caused allergy symptoms in 9 out of 443 subjects.

Sources:

http://www.bioline.org.br/pdf?pr09059

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Feb 11 2016

Sugar Bush

It started several years ago, when the “big” kids were just young. Before Randal was born- he’s six now- and the big kids were still in their Treehouse watching years. They were watching an episode of Franklin where Franklin and friends tapped some Maple trees to make syrup.

There's nothing like fresh sap from the tree!

There’s nothing like fresh sap from the tree!

The kids remembered a few visits to the sugar bush when it was a large community project here at Stoney Point- over 500 trees tapped!- and they thought about all the times we had driven past or cut firewood in the Sugar bush and Dad talked about how the people of Stoney Point had always tapped trees and made Maple Syrup here. From 1942 until 1995, though, the Stoney Point People could not tap trees and make syrup at home. The forced removal of the Stoney Point People from their traditional territories by the Canadian federal government in 1942 abruptly cut the ties of the people to the land. When the trees were first tapped again after moving back home, some of the elders cried tears of joy to be able to taste the maple sap and syrup again!

Some of the yuth at Stoney Point organized their own youth group and came out in 2015 to learn and to help us tap trees.

Some of the youth at Stoney Point organized their own youth group and came out in 2015 to learn and to help us tap trees.

It is not too difficult to tap trees and make syrup, but it is a lot of work, especially if you do it the “old” way, with buckets and barrels rather than run lines. We weren’t experts by any means when we started, we just had the desire to try and the willingness to work hard.

Our older kids posing on the first tree tapped as a family.

Our three oldest kids posing at the first tree tapped as a family.

The kids asked if we could make Maple syrup. My husband and I talked about it with them, telling them how much work it would be; but the kids insisted that they wanted to learn. I remember it was the last day of February several years ago when we first tapped the trees. We only tapped about 40 trees that year; the kids were young and enjoyed helping, but could not do the bulk of the physical work yet.

Sledding, snow fights and climbing trees are always part of the sugar bush fun.

Sledding, snow fights and climbing trees are always part of the sugar bush fun.

It's a whole family project.

It’s a whole family project.

So, out we went, full of enthusiasm and excitement, three little kids and dog in tow! Alicia was into shovels and just had to bring a shovel with her, digging random holes here and there! The first couple of years we were able to cook the syrup in the big kitchen that was the army mess hall. There was a big boiler in there which could hold a huge amount of sap to be evaporated down to syrup.

The big boiler at the old army kitchen. loaded up with sap.

The big boiler at the old army kitchen. loaded up with sap.

Our oldest son, Jesse, stirring the evaporating sap.

Our oldest son, Jesse, stirring the evaporating sap.

The first batch from the first year. The earliest sap of the season makes the lightest- and most sought after- syrup.

The first batch from the first year. The earliest sap of the season makes the lightest- and most sought after- syrup.

After a couple of years, it was no longer possible to use the big kitchen, which eventually was torn down. So, we devised our own cooker using an old tank, some large flat pans and some design Indianuity on the part of my husband, Martin Kewageshig.

Side view of our homemade cooker, loaded up with frozen sap.

Side view of our homemade cooker, loaded up with frozen sap. (Don’t worry, we cleaned up after the fire got started!)

Inside the fire pit.

Inside the fire pit.

He cut a hole in the side for loading the fire and then connected the cut out piece with some hinges, so the fire inside would be enclosed. Then, he cut two holes in the top, just the right size to set our two flat pans in. A hole was also cut in the back to attach stove pipes to. The inside edges around the bottom were lined with bricks to help keep the heat in and a grate placed on top of the bricks to allow for air circulation under the fire. It is quite the get-up, but it works!

The muddy cooking area, with water evaporating off the sap.

The muddy cooking area, with water evaporating off the sap.

Me and the two oldest boys last year (2015) the sap has turned into syrup!

Me and the two oldest boys last year (2015) the sap has turned into syrup!

When sugar bush season starts, we are all excited and enthusiastic and there is usually a deep blanket of snow all over the sugar bush. It takes up most of our time for about 2-3 weeks as we tap trees; collect, haul and filter sap; evaporate the sap to syrup and cut firewood to keep the fire going. Cooking the sap is an around the clock project and it takes a certain amount of skill and timing to keep the wood fire at a somewhat consistent heat for even evaporation.

The first day of tapping and the hills are covered with deep snow.

The first day of tapping and the hills are covered with deep snow.

All the sap is filtered too, to remove the debris, leaves, and particles that collect in the sap buckets. This involves hours of bailing the sap out of our collection barrels, pouring it through two filters into another collection pail, and then pouring the filtered sap into yet more, clean, collection barrels. As the sap evaporates on the cooker, fresh sap in poured into the pan. It takes roughly 40 litres of Maple sap to render 1 litre of syrup. When the sap is finished and completely turned into syrup, we filter it again as it is poured out of the cooking pans.

Its now syrup, and ready to pour through the final filter before bottling!

Its now syrup, and ready to pour through the final filter before bottling!

Pouring thesyrup through the filter, a delicate and exacting task!

Pouring thesyrup through the filter, a delicate and exacting task!

After 2-3 weeks of this we are all happy, tired, and content; the house is a muddy mess and we are grateful and excited about our treasure of Maple syrup, our liquid gold! We typically have about 40-60 litres of syrup by the end, depending on how many trees were tapped and for how long the sap ran.

A cup of ice cold sap is the most refreshing drink while working in the sugar bush. It is also considered a medicine by elders and traditional teachings.

A cup of ice cold sap is the most refreshing drink while working in the sugar bush. It is also considered a medicine by elders and traditional teachings.

People often ask us why we don’t sell our syrup and many have wanted to purchase some. It can be hard for people to understand why we are reluctant to put a cash value on something we worked so hard to make, especially in this modern world which is so fixated on material value and monetary wealth. The best way I can sum it up is that making syrup is for our family more like a practice of service rather than a commercial venture.

As the kids grow older, they develop their skills and take on more responsibility.

As the kids grow older, they develop their skills and take on more responsibility.

The land we tap trees on is not owned by us. At present it is a communally held territory. In 1995, the people of Stoney Point forced the removal of the Canadian Army from the land and have held the land more or less in common since then. The people who live here and a few others with ancestral connections to the land have begun to rebuild the connection to the land at Stoney Point by harvesting food and medicine and firewood from the bush, including Maple Syrup; and also by holding ceremonies and cultural events on the land.

Our daughter tapping a tree.

Our daughter tapping a tree.

Some of the equipment and materials we use, also, were a community resource. A portion of the spiles and taps we use, as well as some of the collection barrels we use, are the same ones that were used when the whole community was involved in the syrup making process. Roughly half the equipment we use, we purchased ourselves. Even the ability to access and use the land came about because of the collective efforts of the Stoney Point People to return home and force the military off the land. This could not have been done by a single person or any one family; rather, it was a combined effort of many people and families, skills and resources.

I have to take a "drip" photo every year!

I have to take a “drip” photo every year!

Making Syrup and giving it away freely in the community is partly to honour the sacrifices many people made to protect the land from the military; thereby allowing the land to be used for life giving, rather than life taking. Each year we distribute over half the syrup we make around the community here at Stoney Point.

Alicia, our daughter, about 5 years old, hauling a bucket of sap while her granny looks on.

Alicia, our daughter, about 5 years old, hauling a bucket of sap while her granny looks on.

Living at Stoney Point has presented many challenges over the years. I won’t get into all of this here as there is still a lot of pain and hurt resulting from the hardships that people have lived through in order to return to their land. People somtimes feel like they have little or no resources to work with and this can be discouraging. Many of the things we do as a family, we do because we want to; it is important to us. We also like to demonstratre through action that much can be accomplished with some hard work and determination, even if you don’t have a lot of resources to start with. It is also a reminder of just how much beauty and bounty the land holds. As my husband’s grandmother Pearl George used to say, everything you need to live is provided by the land here.

Our second son, Carmen, about age 7, tapping a tree.

Our second son, Carmen, about age 7, tapping a tree.

Living through a struggle like the struggle for the land at Stoney Point can expose one to a lot of negativity. Constantly taking in that negativity and trying to carry on doing something that is hard to do in the face of that negativity can really wear on one’s soul and psyche. An early spring knock on the door which delivers a jar of fresh, delicious, golden brown sweetness from the land helps to remind people of the beauty and goodness provided by the land; of some of the reasons they have walked through this struggle. There are no words to express the contentment in my heart and in my soul to have had the honour in my life to be part of bringing back ancient traditions of harvesting from the land for the good of the people. You simply can’t put a price tag on this.

It is very important to taste test the sap straight out of the tree before letting anyone else taste it!

It is very important to taste test the sap straight out of the tree before letting anyone else taste it!

A bonus of working the sugar bush is that by the end of the season, you can see the plants/medicines starting to emrge. Pictured here are some wild leeks and Blue Cohosh just beginning to unfurl, one of my favourite sights!

A bonus of working the sugar bush is that by the end of the season, you can see the plants/medicines starting to emerge. Pictured here are some wild leeks and Blue Cohosh just beginning to unfurl, one of my favourite sights!

Every year, we bring kids from the community out to the bush to help with tapping trees and with various aspects of the sugar bush. We have also had requests from people in other communities to visit the sugar bush so they can see how it is done. We do welcome visitors; sometimes it is hard to co-ordinate the timing. I hope that this post will reach some of those from the various territories around who asked to know more about our sugar bush, but who can’t make it out for a visit.

Passing it on to the next generation. Some of the youth at Stoney Point, learning about the sugar bush.

Passing it on to the next generation. Some of the youth at Stoney Point, learning about the sugar bush.

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Jan 06 2016

What to eat?

As a Herbalist, one of the things we are supposed to provide advice and guidance to our clients about is diet; what to eat! I find this to be a more challenging aspect of the job and there are a few reasons for that, not the least of which is my own aversion to rules, and the fact that everyone has their own likes, dislikes and ideas about food!

I have tried a few different diets in my days (and by diets, I don’t mean eating less to get skinny, just different dietary philosophies) and I had a hard time following the rules of any of them! I was vegetarian for several years, even vegan for a few. I dabbled in raw-foodism and was tempted to learn more about macrobiotics over 20 years ago in my “finding myself” days. Now I am most definitely an omnivore. I wonder what 16 year old vegetarian me would have thought had someone told me that 20 years from then I would be skinning and gutting deer, butchering it in my kitchen and rendering the fat to make soap! Oh the journeys that life takes us on!

Today we have fancy sciences, we can break down and study food so that we know exactly how much protein or fat or carbs is in this or that food, how much of each vitamin and mineral, etc. are in each different kinds of food. We break it all down into tiny parts and then try to build it back up into a diet “plan” that includes just the right amount of this, only a little bit of that and then a whole lot of something else entirely. And then just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, science learns something it didn’t know before and all the rules change! Frustrating isn’t it!

Before writing this post, I read briefly about a number of diet philosophies, just to get a sense of what each is about – vegetarian, vegan, Weston Price Diet, Atkins DietPaleo, Macrobiotics, GAPS diet, raw-foodism, Eat Right for your Type, just to name a few! (I included simple links for those who wish to read more. Mostly they are just Wikipedia link for quick info.) Websites with good nutritional advice include: The Nourished Kitchen, Chris Kresser. The Sistah Vegan Project, Vegetarian Nutrition. These are just a few links, please feel free to share more in the comments!

To some extent, each dietary theory mentioned above claims to explain the major modern themes of human disease and to offer the dietary answers to them.

The thing is, reality isn’t so neat and tidy. And people are individuals. With unique likes and dislikes, and with moral points of view, with particular tendencies, and individual constitutions shaped by many factors.

One common thread in almost all of the dietary philosophies is to avoid processed foods. Other common themes are are reducing or avoiding processed sugar completely, the significant contribution of traditionally fermented foods to our overall health, and the importance of paying attention to our gut health, our microbiome. All of this makes good, common sense to me.

If I had to put dietary advice into one sentence it would be, “Eat traditional foods.” That is a simple statement and yet it can mean so many different things! Every culture, every people around the world have their own traditional foods and traditional means of preparing foods. Some methods of food preparation are common around the world, for example herb teas and fermentation. Traditional foods and diets are an evolutionary human adaptation to people’s immediate environment and to ensuring that adequate nutritional needs are met using the plant and animal resources available. That may sound complicated, but its not; its just common sense. People use what is around them to survive.

Typically, traditional diets combine foods in such a way that the people eating them are getting adequate and balanced nutrition, for example the plethora of traditional dishes which combine legumes and grains in a single dish to provide a complete protein- dahl and rice, beans with corn tortillas, tofu with rice, hummus with pita bread, etc. Phsyiological adaptations evolve, also, to accommodate the reality that people living in different parts of the world have access to different kinds of foods, for example the Inuit have a different way of metabolizing fats. (And this is an interesting article about traditional Inuit foods.)

Traditional diets connect us to land. For First Nations in North America, eating traditional foods can be healing in more ways than one. Traditional Ojibwe – Pottawattami foods vary according to what part of Anishnabe Territory you are in, and include wild game – deer, moose, rabbit, squirrel and more, wild berries, mushrooms, fish, wild rice, corn, beans and squash, sunchokes, maple syrup and so much more! All of these wild and simply cultivated foods are deeply nourishing and healing themselves.

Eating food “from the land”- meaning hunting, fishing, foraging and growing food in garden plots- connects you to the land because you literally rely on the land for your sustenance. This means, also, that you must be concerned about the health of the plants and animals and the environment on which you rely. This kind of eating requires an appreciation for how all life is interconnected, an appreciation that is healing to anyone, and to the planet.

For many, eating traditional foods can be healing because it connects us to other traditional ways, for example, food processing. When our family started collecting maple sap and making syrup several years ago, I did some research as to how maple syrup “used” to be made. After a little digging, it became clear just how well thought out, technical and community/family orientated syrup production was/is. The colonial narrative would have us believe that “wild indians” chopped random holes in maple trees with tomahawks, let the sap drip out and then somehow, mysteriously, turned that sap into syrup. Mysteriously- to the colonial mind- because it was done without metal pots to boil the sap in. Reading about real traditional methods, and understanding that there are many families and communities that still make syrup together gives a sense of pride that is profoundly healing. Its like hearing a completely different story about who you are. What are your favourite traditional foods?

But what about those who can’t hunt, fish or forage? Who can’t grow a garden? What about those who live in cities? What about people whose ancestral traditions are different than the ones of the land they live on?   What about those who live in poverty? No matter how you try to slice it, explain it or wrap it up in pretty language, it is very difficult to eat a healthy, ethical diet when you live in poverty. There are some programs out there to help fill this gap. Some are referenced in links further on in this post. Please add comments to this blog with other helpful hints! Also, there are ways you can still eat healthy, traditional foods! In the modern world, however, eating traditionally often happens through filters

Many traditional methods of food preparation can be done in your own kitchen. And, we are fortunate enough- in North American anyway- to have access to traditional foods from around the world and to resources that help us learn to prepare them.

For those who live in cities or who cannot hunt, gather, and garden you can support those who do! Increasingly there are opportunities to purchase wild harvested and ethically/ecologically grown foods and medicine. You serve two greater goods this way- you are taking care of your own health, and supporting those trying to sustain themselves with traditional skills. You are also helping to revive traditional skills by making it possible for people to support themselves doing it! Many First Nations people already do this (have always done this!), through traditional customs of giving, sharing and barter exchange. Relatives still living on the Rez and (at least partially) off the land often share wild foods with family living in cities or away from the Rez.

(Re)learning traditional skills and sustainable eating habits is more popular now and there are many resources and programs available to those who wish to look for them. Many reserves, also, are finding ways to bring more traditional foods to people’s diets, as well as introducing and running gardening and food security programs.

I dislike making food complicated. This may be different for some- some find comfort in things that are carefully measured and well planned. But, when what I eat becomes a complicated mathematical question of percentages of protein, carbs, fat; of calculating calories consumed vs calories burned, etc, I simply throw my hands up in frustration. I don’t enjoy food anymore. For me, there is something intrinsically unhealthy about stressing about what to eat! In a way, though, this is a privilege for me as I typically enjoy good health, without too much fuss about what to eat. Others have specific health issues, food sensitivities or allergies that require a more carefully planned and restricted diet.

For myself personally, I do not follow any particular diet plan or philosophy. I chose to try to eat traditional foods, to hunt, gather or grow as much as possible, and to learn about and incorporate traditional methods of food preparation as much as possible. I don’t know it all- no one can! I am just starting to learn about fermenting foods, for example! Sometimes financial and time limitations dictate what our family eats more than what we would like to eat does. That’s just reality. And I don’t stress about the occasional fast food meal, or salty snack.

For each person, though, what you feel comfortable eating, what you like to eat and what is healthiest for you is a matter of personal preference and individual constitutional needs. There are some basic parameters of healthy eating that are not too hard to learn. Most people can find a way to meet their nutritional needs within the style of eating which they like. Herbalists, naturopaths, wholistic nutritionists and other professionals can help you sort out what is best for you, personally, based on your own preferences, style and needs. In my own practice, I do not advocate any one particular kind of diet, but can help you to find a healthy way of eating that works for you and for your family!

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