Imbolc in Dark, Cold winter!

As the cycle of the year turns we are now at the half-way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox at the point known as Imbolc, traditionally celebrated in the early days of February.

You’ve heard of groundhogs day? The legend about the groundhog looking for her shadow on February 2, is a vestige of an ancient divination technique to determine how long the winter would last. If she sees her shadow, she will retreat to her den as winter will continue for six more weeks, until spring equinox.

Imbolc in dark, cold winter can signify endurance in the face of adversity and scarcity: we may encounter fragility, tenuousness, uncertainty, darkness and despair beyond what we think we can endure. Women know these experiences. We have held both new life and death in our hands. We have wondered: will this child make it, will the addict live or die, will my lover come home, will I survive this loss? Will I be ok? Will there be enough resources to see us into spring?”

“I imagine our ancestors sitting in a circle at this time of year, with whatever sources of light they had, listening to one another. Just so, we are invited to sit circle together and share how we “are,” what we need, what is frozen, what is thawing, what is fragile. In the deep winter, we begin again. We say Yes again each year: Yes to returning light, to the coming outward time. We are saying Yes to the living of life again and whatever it may bring. I speak of Imbolc as a time of Faith.

Winter Herbal Kitchen

In this winter season when we don’t have the fresh herbs handy, like our foremothers, we rely on herbs that we have preserved for the winter. I drink nettle infusion almost every day, covering a cup of the dried herb with a quart of boiling water in the evenings, to steep overnight and heat up the next day for my warm mugs of infusion.

This week, I’ve also been enjoying brewing three other dried herbs, each in her own water-based form of extraction–depending on which method optimizes the medicinal properties of that particular herb.

I was delighted to find local reishi mushroom at the food coop last week. I am adding a handful of the dried slices to each pot of bone broth, for the adaptogenic and deep immune support that reishi offers.

Reishi mushroom broth

Similar to making stock, a long slow simmering is the most potent way to extract the medicinal properties of reishi, which adds a rich, deeper flavor to the bone broth. As the name suggests, adaptogens support our bodies and hormonal systems to adapt to a wide range of circumstances and changes, both physically and emotionally.

I am also making cold infusions of marshmallow root. Now, we’re not talking about sugary puffs that you roast over the campfire! . . . Although the marshmallow plant was originally an ingredient in the candy, contributing mucilaginous properties.

Marshmallow (aka marshmallow) belongs to a family of plants known as the Mallow family (Malvaceae). The edible low-growing common mallow (Malva sylvestris) grows as a weed in many gardens, and I have enjoyed cultivating the much taller marshmallow (Althaea Officinalis) in my garden as well.

Marshmallow infusionThe mucilaginous properties of marshmallow offer beneficial support for the mucous membranes which line all of our systems that are open to the world–including the respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems. As a winter ally, marshmallow has a long history of nourishing the lungs and easing coughs.

Because some of marsh mallow’s mucilaginous and delicate medicinal properties degrade with heat, this is one of the few herbal infusions that I actually prefer to prepare with cold water rather than with boiling water. I put a half cup of dried herb into a pint jar, cover it with cold water and leave it on the counter overnight. The slippery infusion can be strained in the morning to drink, or refrigerated to extend the life for a day or two.

Tulsi herb to be infusedThe third herbal preparation I’ve been enjoying, is, ah, tulsi, also known as sacred basil, an adaptogen as well. Those of you who know tulsi may breathe a sigh just hearing her name!

I savored her in my garden all of the last summers, and then just before the fall frosts, we harvested the remaining flowering stalks to dry.

It is such a treat in the winter to add a small bundle, tied up in cheesecloth, into a steaming bath. Or you can simply boil a small pot of water and inhale the steam (with a towel over your head to keep the steam concentrated) to relieve dry sinuses and skin. The pleasurable fragrance reduces stress, nourishes the skin, and opens up the lungs.

I know I’m not alone in this year round love affair with the plants! And that even through the winter, as wise woman herbalists, many of you continue to weave with the herbs in your day to day lives, from broths and infusions to steams and baths.

Keep using your kitchen creativity to dream up your own medicinal, fun, delicious, tonifying concoctions to nourish and soothe you through these dark days of winter.

February blessings!~

Citrus Spiced Dandelion Bitters

Bitters aren’t just for fancy cocktails. They’re also an incredible digestive aid perfect for any holiday season.* We too enjoy mulled wines, grandma’s cinnamon raisin bread and those amazing miniature hors d’oeuvres (that we ate a dozen of) at last week’s holiday party. But sometimes, our bodies have trouble processing all these bizarre combinations of foods. It’s at these times we turn to our bitter allies, like our lovely Citrus Spiced Dandelion Bitters.

Traditionally, all cultures enjoyed bitter foods during their mealtime rituals. Many of these bitter plants were collected from the wild or found in the garden, but farming has actually changed the taste of many of our bitter greens. Our cultivated vegetables have been bred to appeal to our preference for sweet foods, and the consequence is we’re now missing out on the incredible wellness benefits of these bitter plant allies. The bitter taste actually activates the liver and digestive juices to prepare the body to effectively process foods, which is especially helpful when digesting all the rich and fatty foods that we tend to enjoy more of during the holiday season.*

In Western Herbalism, we often create bitters as tinctures, which make it easy to incorporate bitters on the go. Tinctures are plant extracts (usually alcohol based) that can easily be taken from a dosage bottle. Taking bitters can be helpful anytime, but we suggest a teaspoon about 30 minutes before eating to give the plants enough time to activate our bodies’ natural digestive processes.

In this tincture, we have chosen to include herbs that are simple to find in the produce section, spice aisle or perhaps growing in your front yard! One of our favorite ingredients here is dandelion, and while some might consider this plant a pesky weed, the dandelion is incredibly supportive of both our digestive system and our bodies’ natural detoxification process by helping the body break down fats and carry away waste.* If you can’t find any fresh dandelion root, we would suggest using an organic Dandelion Leaf and Root Tea for this recipe.

When you taste your homemade bitters, you’ll notice a rich orange flavor, followed by cinnamon spice and a mild touch of bitter at the end.

 

Ingredients:

1 cup white rum

4 tsp of fresh orange peel

2 tbs dried dandelion root and leaf (or 6 tbsp fresh, chopped finely)

2 tsp fresh ginger

½ tsp cinnamon

6 cardamom pods

 

Materials:

12 oz Mason jar

6-8 amber dropper bottles (1 oz)

Instructions:

tradmed_bp_december_embed02_winterresiliencebitters_v1-forwebPlace all herbs into a mason jar, and fill to the top of the jar.

tradmed_bp_december_embed03_winterresiliencebitters_v1-forwebLabel your jar with the name, plants used, alcohol used and alcohol strength. Include the date on the label.

tradmed_bp_december_embed05_winterresiliencebitters_v1-forwebShake daily for two weeks, and then strain out the herbs with muslin or cheese cloth. Be sure to squeeze out any remaining liquid from the herbs.

You should have enough extract to fill about six (or more) one-ounce dropper bottles.

You can save all this plant power for yourself, or share the bounty as gifts with friends and families. We would like to add that we would not recommend using bitters if you have kidney stones, gallbladder disease, acid reflux, hiatal hernia, gastritis, peptic ulcers, severe menstrual cramping, or if you are pregnant.

Winter Self-Care

When you feel those dreaded flu symptoms coming on, you want to take something you know will stop sickness in its tracks. According to a recent study, your options now include herbs. A new study shows a combination of echinacea and elderberry is as effective as the conventional antiviral medicine Tamiflu in the early treatment of influenza. In the study, 473 patients with flu symptoms for less than 48 hours were randomly given either a syrup containing echinacea herb and root supplemented with elderberry for ten days or Tamiflu for five days followed by a placebo for five days. Observing the two groups at one, five, and ten days of treatment to see who had mild or no symptoms, researchers found a similar number of patients had recovered in both groups. Researchers even noted a small trend towards a higher percentage of recovered patients after ten days of treatment with the herbal syrup. Early intervention is key with any flu treatment, so consider keeping a bottle of echinacea/elderberry extract on hand just in case.

Winter Health Benefits Of Echinacea And Sage

Beautiful Echinacea and earthy sage both have extensive historical uses. They’re easy to grow, and — in the case of Echinacea — you’re helping to cultivate and restore an endangered plant if you grow certain cultivars. The health benefits of Echinacea and sage are particularly helpful in winter, as both plants can be used for respiratory ailments and to ease sore throats.

Health Benefits of Echinacea

Members of the genus Echinacea have been used most effectively as an internal application against the common cold, fatigue, upper respiratory infection. Practitioners often recommend Echinacea for a sore throat, strep throat, tonsillitis, bronchitis, flu symptoms, canker and cold sores, swollen lymphatics, septic conditions, and gangrene. Externally, as an ointment or poultice, it’s been used for boils, eczema, bee stings, and snakebites.

Echinacea is not, contrary to popular belief, useful to take day in and day out as a preventative. The compounds within this plant marshal our white blood cells to move efficiently toward a place where our body is losing a battle with infection.

Contraindications: Echinacea may be detrimental to those with autoimmune diseases. People who have allergies to chamomile, marigold, yarrow, ragweed, chrysanthemum, or daisy, or people who have asthma, might develop allergic reactions to Echinacea.

Growing: Three species of Echinacea are most commonly grown and used medicinally: Echinacea purpurea, E. pallida, and E. Angustifolia. Newer hybrid cultivars grown for interesting color may not have the same potent medicinal properties as these three traditional species. The perennial prairie plants are in danger of overharvesting and loss of habitat, so source Echinacea responsibly or grow it yourself — it’s easy to do.

Echinacea seeds germinate best when given a period of stratification (cold conditioning). Either store the seeds in your refrigerator before planting, or direct-sow untreated Echinacea seeds four to six weeks before your average last frost. Sow seeds in full sun or partial shade, and keep the soil well-drained. Echinacea will thrive almost anywhere and will require very little tending, as long as it’s not overwatered.

Harvest notes: All parts of the plant are useful; however, it is the root that has primarily been used in traditional applications. Harvest leaves just as the flower is developing; harvest flowers just as they’re unfurling, and dig the roots either in spring or fall after they’ve had three or four years to become established.

Health Benefits of Sage

One of the most prized herbs on our farm, the health benefits of sage far exceeds its culinary flavoring. Sage (Salvia officinalis) is high in volatile oils, which makes it especially good for ailments in the digestive system, for bleeding gums and tongue inflammation, sore throat, laryngitis, tonsillitis, gas, chronic diarrhea, ulcer, and excessive salivation.

This wonderful plant is also well known for its work on the reproductive system. It has been talked about and researched for some time in regard to menopausal hot flashes. It does indeed cool the experience of a hot flash while also providing a tonic to the underlying endocrine imbalance in the adrenal glands.

Sage is also useful for missed cycles and a lack of sufficient bleeding in them, for morning sickness, preventing yeast infections, and for cysts in the breasts. Because of its ability to decrease fluids in our bodies, sage is often used to decrease the flow of breast milk while weaning a child to solid foods.

Sage behaves differently depending on the temperature at which it’s served. A warm sage tea will encourage secretions in the body, stimulating sweating to reduce a fever. A room temperature tea will allow the antibacterial qualities of sage to shine — this is how you want to serve your sore throat tea (see the sage tea recipe below). A cold tea will decrease the flow of secretions and cause tissues to dry.

In the nervous system, sage has applications for canker sores, memory improvement for Alzheimer’s patients, treating symptoms of arthritis, headache, and insomnia. For the circulatory and lymphatic systems, sage has benefits for lipoma, hair loss, dandruff, excessively dry skin, and blood stagnation. In the urinary tract, it can help with cystitis and stones.

Contraindications: Sage should not be taken long term or in excessive doses during pregnancy. Except for in small amounts in food, it should be avoided during lactation. Avoid internal use of essential oil or alcoholic extracts during this time as well; the thujone in sage stimulates blood flow to the pelvic area, thus promoting menstruation and possibly causing miscarriage.

Growing: Sage grows well in full sun and cooler climates, so plant in partial shade (if you have hot summers) and in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Prune plants to 4 to 6 inches as soon as they begin to grow the first year, and pinch back stem-tips two or three times during the first summer to encourage branching.

Plants become woody and less productive after three or four years, so you can replace them or root a few stem cuttings each year.

Harvest notes: The leaves are used for medicine, and the flowers are a delicious edible. Collect leaves on a dry day just before or just as the plant is beginning to flower. You can harvest leaves during the first year after the plants become established.

Hang small bunches of sage upside down to dry in a well-ventilated area out of sunlight or dehydrate leaves in a 150-degree-Fahrenheit oven. Store your sage in airtight containers.

Keep your dried sage on hand for a hot or room-temperature tea or to use as a garnish or flavoring in a variety of warming winter dishes.

Sage Herbal Tea for Sore Throat

For sore throats, my absolute favorite remedy is sage herbal tea served lukewarmly. Remember that temperature does matter when it comes to this plant, and lukewarm is where it’s at its best in fending off bacteria. In our house, if someone has a mild sore throat, we make a strong sage tea with honey and lemon, and the throat heals very quickly. When a sore throat is a little more serious, we use sage herbal tea as a gargle and combine it with a pinch of salt and cayenne. The gargle is used every couple of hours and is also effective.

Sage Tea Recipe: To brew an infusion of our own sage herbal tea at home is not just as easy as throwing a tea bag in some hot water. To obtain the most medicinal benefit from your herbs, consider different methods depending on the part of the plant that’s being brewed.

When using leaves, fruits, flowers, and roots high in volatile oils (such as sage), heat water in a tea kettle and then pour over the herbs. (On the farm, we use a mason jar and brew teas by the quart for simplicity.) Cover and let steep for at least 10 to 20 minutes. Then, strain, (let cool to lukewarm for sage) and drink, or store in the refrigerator for one to two days.

Looking for more ways to use Echinacea?

We often use Echinacea for a sore throat. If we need to be away from the house while one of us is suffering from a sore throat, I will often make an Echinacea spray. The best part about this throat spray is that it can fight the infection while providing a soothing, numbing sensation.

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons Echinacea tincture
• 2 tablespoons raw honey
• 1 tablespoon warm water
• 2 drops essential oil of your choice (peppermint, eucalyptus, or tea tree are great options)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a small spray bottle (preferably glass).

Store the bottle in the refrigerator, and it should keep for a couple months.

Always shake before spraying. Use as needed.

Down To The Roots: Burdock And Chicory

For centuries, burdock and chicory have been considered important remedies to help the liver. They have also been used to help rid the body of uric acid, to treat rheumatism and to eliminate skin conditions. By helping the liver, they also improve hormonal imbalances. The Chinese eat burdock to relieve constipation. Chicory is an effective digestive tonic, and can be used as a coffee substitute – chicory coffee does not contain caffeine, but it does taste somewhat like coffee. Chicory increases bile production, moderates a rapid heart rate, lowers cholesterol and destroys bacteria.

Burdock and chicory roots are versatile. Burdock can be used much like a carrot – it can be grated, sliced or blended. My favorite introductory-level burdock dish is a gravy. Thanksgiving, I made the dressing and gravy from burdock. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the guests when I told them that it was made from burdock. Of course, I waited until after they had told me how delicious it was! Even after I told them it was burdock, no one refused seconds.

effortless-gravyBurdock Gravy

1 cup chopped burdock root {1 medium-size root}

1/2 cup yogurt, sour cream or soy milk

1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon honey

Blend ingredients until smooth. Heat mixture over low heat, stirring until it thickens, about 4 minutes.

Fresh burdock and chicory roots are not hard to find. Many natural food stores carry them, at least in the fall and into the spring. Japanese groceries sell burdock as gobo. Even some regular grocery stores sell these roots, especially in Hawaii. You can also grow your own – look for them in the vegetable seed section of a nursery or seed catalog.

In the North American colonies, in the early days of colonization, coffee was cut with chicory so that supplies of the expensive bean would last longer. Later, chicory coffee became a Louisiana specialty. Roasting gives chicory a bitter-sweet flavor. To roast chicory, chop fresh roots, place a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast in a 325 F degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Roasted chicory roots can easily be made into a tea – just grind them in a coffee grinder and steep.

Millet Loaf

This dish can be cooked as a millet pilaf or a millet loaf of “bread” that is nutty tasting and satisfying for a holiday main meal.

Overnight Preparation Time

You may want to start soaking the millet the night before you want to make this dish (soak for 8 – 12 hours). The recipe itself takes about 10 minutes to prepare and 15 – 20 minutes to simmer on the stovetop.

Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups presoaked millet
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons dried burdock root or fresh burdock root, diced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons astragalus powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  • In a saucepan, bring water to a boil.
  • Once water is boiling, add soaked millet and reduce heat to simmer.
  • Add spices, sea salt, astragalus root powder and burdock root.
  • Simmer until millet is completely cooked and the grains are translucent and fluffy.
  • Add coconut oil and stir thoroughly. If you are eating this as a millet pilaf, it is now ready to serve with your favorite vegetable side dish.
  • If you are making millet loaf, let the cooked millet pilaf sit for 15 minutes to cool. Once cooked, transfer into a greased bread loaf pan and cook in a pre-heated oven at 300°F for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cool.
  • Slice of bread, spread with some coconut oil, raw butter or ghee if you like and serve with salad and cultured vegetables or with a vegetable soup

 

HOW TO MAKE A POULTICE WITH DRIED & FRESH HERBS

It’s easy to focus on the internal herbal preparations, like teas, extracts, and syrups, because we are so conditioned to “taking something” – whether that be supplements, OTC medications, or prescriptions – to manage our health. Topical herbalism, though, has many unique preparations that have benefited people for generations. In this post, we’ll teach you how to make a poultice using both dried and fresh herbs.

Poultices are probably one of the most often overlooked topical applications of herbs – which is a shame! This simple type of preparation can be used as herbal first aid and aftercare for things like burns, splinters, cuts, and bruises, or they can be used for more chronic health challenges. Poultices can be used on the chest to help the body handle congestion, on joints to soothe injuries or arthritis, and on immune-related skin troubles like shingles. Not only are they very simple, they are also versatile.

What Is a Poultice?

Even though the word “poultice” sounds a little odd, a poultice is nothing more than a direct way to apply herbs to the skin. For making a poultice, herbs are usually crushed into a pulp or made into a paste that is spread directly onto the surface of the skin, up to an inch thick, and held in place with gauze or muslin wrapped around the area to keep the poultice from rubbing off. A very basic poultice can even be made with a whole leaf held in place with an adhesive bandage!

By changing the temperature of the poultice, the healing actions can be altered. A warm or hot poultice will help to increase circulation to the area, and a cold poultice can help soothe inflammation. Adding skin tingling, stimulating herbs like ginger is another way to use herbs to help increase circulation to the area.

Benefits of using a poultice over, say, a salve or a cream include the ability to use fresh herbs, which have the fullest amount of the herbs beneficial characteristics; the tendency of poultices to help draw out foreign material from the skin or a wound; prolonged contact so that the beneficial constituents of the herbs can be absorbed by the skin over a longer period of time; and a very simple list of ingredients.

The downside to poultices is that they take a little more time to do their thing and are a bit messier than other topicals, which is why you need to wrap the area or cover with a bandage to keep the poultice in place. But if you apply them before bed and wrap them up well this is no problem at all. Whereas a cream or an oil can be rubbed into the skin and then you can move on to other things, it’s best to do most poultices at night so the herb can work while you sleep.

Using Dried and Fresh Herbs in Topical Applications

What Herbs Make Good Poultices?

Although most herbs can be used as a poultice if the situation calls for it, it’s important to remember that if it’s a herb you would not take internally you should not apply it as a poultice either. The herb will still be absorbed into the bloodstream even though it’s being applied topically. So herbs that shouldn’t be used internally while pregnant or because they might interfere with prescriptions or a preexisting condition are still contraindicated as a poultice. A few herbs – like angelica – don’t make good fresh poultices because they can cause contact dermatitis in some people. Make sure to get to know your herbs before you try them as a poultice, and if you have any known allergies to herbs take that into consideration before you try a poultice.

That being said, there are several herbs that are classics for making poultices and are well known for their safe and versatile natures. This include:

  • Plantain (leaves)
  • Chickweed (leaves and stems)
  • Calendula (flower petals)
  • Dandelion (leaves)
  • Burdock (root)

Poultices are very simple to make and they have the shortest ingredients list of any herbal preparation: just the herb! Well – the herb, and a little water if you are using dried herbs. Here’s how to make a poultice using three different methods. Try this easy herbal skill yourself!

How To Make A Poultice With Fresh Herbs

  • Determine which herbs you would like to use, and estimate how much you will need. The amount of herbs to use depends on the size of the area that needs to be covered, so just give it your best guess.
  • Take the herbs you have chosen and chop them into small pieces on a cutting board. Transfer the herbs to a mortar and pestle, and crush the chopped herbs until they become a pulp. The end result needn’t be silky smooth – the main thing is to start the juices flowing. As you chop and mash, the herbs will release their natural juices and the leaves will become softer. Herbs may also be chopped using a blender instead of a cutting board and mortar and pestle.
  • Spread the crushed herbs onto the desired area of the skin. How thick to apply the herbs is up to you, but do make sure that the poultice is applied evenly across the area.
  • Wrap the area with a layer of gauze or muslin to hold the paste in place. You might even wish to apply a layer of plastic wrap to the outside of the finished poultice, which will help ensure that the juices don’t make a mess.

How To Make A Poultice

How To Make A Poultice With Dried Herbs

Making a dried herb poultice is even less work than using fresh herbs because there are less chopping and mashing involved. It’s a tradeoff, though, because fresh herbs are usually stronger than dried and have a more complex makeup. Dried herbs will still work well, though, and it’s nice to know you can still make a poultice even when fresh herbs aren’t available.

  • Take desired dried herbs and combine with just enough hot water to moisten them. For roots, it’s best to use a powdered form. Simply add hot or cold water a little at a time to create a thick paste.
  • Spread the paste evenly over the desired area.
  • Wrap with gauze or muslin.

How To Make A Poultice using Dried and Fresh Herbs

How to Make A Quick Poultice

Sometimes an even easier type of poultice will do the trick: one simple leaf and an adhesive bandage! This type of poultice is great for little cuts or scrapes, splinters, or aftercare for an insect bite or sting.

  • Select a leaf from the plant you wish to use. Plantain, mullein, bee balm, or lemon balm are good candidates.
  • Roll and knead the plant between your fingers so that it is crushed and begins to feel damp.
  • Smooth the crushed leaf over the affected area and secure it in place with a bandage.
  • Change for a new leaf in a few hours if desired, or remove with the bandage when it is time to let the area breathe for a bit.

Poultices are a basic part of the herbal tool chest because they are quick and easy to prepare. Whether they are made using fresh or dried herbs, or even just a simple leaf and a bandage, they are versatile and well worth learning to make. They even make a great stand in for other topicals in a pinch – the next time you run out of your favorite herbal salve, remember poultices!

Fire Cider Is Like Liquid Summer Warmth For The Darkness Of Winter

With fall upon us, we all feel the pull to visit our local farmers and collect the bounty of the fields! One way to preserve some of our most powerful immune-enhancing foods is too steep them in raw apple cider vinegar. The health benefits of raw apple cider vinegar are many. From live enzymes and bacteria to a wealth of B-vitamins, what more could you ask for in a little immune enhancement?

We decided to add a little flare to the traditional fire cider recipe, to help better capture the summer energy of bright colors and vibrancy. The possibilities are limitless and we encourage you to get creative with it.

fire-cider-ingredientsFeatured: powerful and pungent fresh horseradish, ginger, garlic, onion and hot pepper.

Added enhancement: fresh, curcumin-rich yellow turmeric, deep ruby red dried hibiscus petals containing naturally occurring vitamin C, and peppery yellow, gold, red nasturtium blossoms that embody summer’s vibrancy!

Fire Cider is traditionally used for fast-acting support. The immune-enhancing effects of the veggies, herbs, and spices in this formula support our bodies as we transition from the warmth of summer into the cool temperatures of fall and winter. Whether you need an immune system rev up or want to spice up a salad dressing, this can be taken as frequently or as little as you want.

For immune support, take 15-30 MLS every couple hours. It can be diluted in water or taken straight. As Rosemary Gladstar recommends, a small shot glass daily serves as an excellent tonic. Take it more frequently if necessary to help your immune system do battle.

Fire Cider is like liquid summer warmth for the darkness of winter; the high point of summer’s bounty preserved for the cold months that are to come.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup grated fresh horseradish root
  • ½ cup or more fresh chopped onions. (We used red onion.)
  • ¼ cup or more chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup or more grated ginger
  • Chopped fresh or dried hot pepper ‘to taste’. (We used one whole pepper. Can be whole or powdered.  ‘To Taste’ means should be hot, but not so hot you can’t tolerate it.  Better to make it a little milder than too hot; you can always add more pepper later if necessary.)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric root
  • 1 tablespoon dry hibiscus petals
  • Handful Nasturtiums flowers
  • Optional ingredients; Echinacea, cinnamon, etc.

Fire Cider Recipe Step Images

Recipe:

1. Place herbs in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least three to four inches.  Cover tightly with a tight fitting lid. If the jar has a metal top and ring, place a piece of parchment paper on the opening before closing the lid, to prevent erosion from the vinegar.

2. Place jar in a warm place and let sit for three to four weeks.  Best to shake every day to help in the maceration process.

3. After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs, and reserve the liquid.

4. Add honey ‘to taste’.  Warm the honey first so it mixes in well.  “To taste’ means your Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet.  “A little bit of honey helps the medicine go down……”

5. Rebottle and enjoy!  Fire Cider will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool pantry.   But it’s better to store in the refrigerator if you have room.

Easy Herbal Oils, Salves, and Syrups

Soothe injuries and boost your immune system with these simple, plant-based recipes.

herbal-infusionsInfused Herbal Oils

Herbal oils are convenient and easy to use. These are made by extracting ground-up herbs with organic olive oil. You can apply this herb-laden oil directly to your skin, where it will exert its healing influence through absorption, or you can use the oil as a base for making a salve or lip balm. Infused oils aren’t the same as essential oils, which are composed of concentrated, steam-distilled volatile oils of a plant. Infused herbal oils may be made from dried arnica flowers, bergamot leaves and flowers, calendula flowers, cayenne peppers, cannabis leaves and flowers, chickweed leaves and flowers, comfrey leaves, ginger roots, helichrysum flowers, mullein leaves, turmeric roots, and virtually any herb containing essential oils {such as rosemary, thyme, and lavender}. All will extract well in warm oil.

Fresh garlic cloves, cottonwood buds, elderberry leaves, horse chestnut buds, mullein flowers, and especially flowering Saint John’s wort also extract very nicely in warm olive oil.

st-johns-wort-oil

To make Saint John’s wort oil, grind fresh Saint John’s wort flowers and leaves into a mash and add 1 part of this fresh herb mash to 3 parts olive oil. Stir thoroughly, and then pour the mass into a gallon jar, capped with cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band. {The cheesecloth will allow excess moisture to escape.} Set the jar in the sun for 2 weeks, stirring daily. The oil will eventually take on the ruby-red color of its active constituent, hypericin. After 2 weeks, squeeze the contents through 4 layers of cheesecloth into a clean bowl, pour the oil into a clean gallon jar, and allow it to settle overnight. Then, excluding the watery sludge, pour the bright-red oil into clean containers for storage, and use as needed.

To make an infused oil of dried herbs, first, grind the herbs to a medium-fine consistency. In a crockpot, stainless steel pan, or gallon jar, combine 1 part herbs with 5 parts organic olive oil {for 1 ounce of herb, use 5 ounces of oil}. Or, simply put the dried herbs into the vessel and add sufficient olive oil to make a thick mash that you can just stir with a spoon. Stir daily to encourage extraction, and keep the oil very warm {110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit}. Some folks set the macerating oil close to a woodstove or in the sun to stay warm. In any case, never heat the oil directly on a stovetop-temperatures in excess of 150 degrees will denature the oil. After 1 week, pour the warm mass through 4 layers of cheesecloth draped over a bowl. Lift the corners, gather them together, and squeeze and squeeze, allowing the clear oil to flow into the bowl. Alternatively, you can use a tincture press, which is certainly more efficient. Collect the infused oil in a jar and allow it to settle overnight. Then, being careful to exclude the sludge that will have formed on the bottom of the jar, pour off the clear oil into amber glass jars for storage. Store in a cool, dark place. The shelf life of infused herbal oils is 1 year.

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Salves and Balms

Homemade salves and lip balms call for beeswax and oil, which mix only if heated to 150 degrees. You won’t need to use a thermometer; simply pour an infused oil into a heat-resistant glass beaker, set it into a saucepan half-filled with water, and bring the water bath to a gentle simmer on the stovetop.

To make a soft salve, use 0.6 ounces of wax for every cup of oil. Grate the beeswax with a cheese grater, mix the grated wax into the oil, and gently heat the mixture until the beeswax melts, stirring constantly with a chopstick or wooden spoon. After the wax incorporates perfectly into the oil, immediately remove it from the heat and pour the liquid salve into suitable containers. It will harden as it cools.

Lip balm is made in the same way, except you’ll need to increase the concentration of beeswax to 2 ounces of wax for every 1 cup of oil. This will make a harder product that won’t melt in your pocket or purse, but will still protect and heal chapped lips. You can use the infused oil of calendula flowers or chickweed to make a very pleasant lip balm. For additional flavor, per 1 cup of lip balm, stir in 1 drop of mint essential oil, 3 drops of vanilla extract, or both.

 

lip-balm-tin-beeswaxTo make lip balm, first make herbal oil by combining equal parts dried chickweed leaves or flowers and dried calendula flowers {follow my earlier instructions for making infused herbal oils}. Combine 1 cup of this oil with 2 ounces of beeswax. Stirring constantly, gently heat the oil/beeswax mixture in a hot water bath until the beeswax melts. Pour the liquid lip balm into small, flat salve containers or empty lip balm dispensers-this recipe will yield eleven 1-ounce tins. As it cools, it will harden.

While some balms are suited to everyday use, occasionally you’ll need a stronger salve for soothing specific ailments.

Trauma Oil is traditionally made by combining the infused oils of 3 powerful herbs: calendula, arnica, and Saint John’s wort. You can make the oils separately and then combine them in equal parts to make the trauma oil. Heat the oil and mix with beeswax to make trauma salve, and then store the mixture in a flat tin. To use, rub the salve as needed into an afflicted area. I’ve seen this remedy used as-is to reduce inflammation and pain in a swollen finger, a twisted ankle, and an inflamed tendon.

Healing Syrups and Teas

Herbal syrups are the most universally accepted ways to ingest herbs. I find them to be particularly well-suited for children, who may disagree with the strange and bitter tastes of many herbs but actually look forward to their daily spoonful of syrup. Syrups may be administered by the loving hand of a parent who has the foresight to fortify their child against common colds and flu.

 

elderberry-syrupBlack elderberry syrup packs a powerful immune-enhancing punch. To reconstitute dried berries, simply cover them with boiling water in a jar overnight and allow them to plump up. To make syrup from reconstituted dried berries or from fresh berries, place the berries in a saucepan with a little water and set on low heat. Stirring frequently, cook until the berries are thoroughly softened, and then remove from the heat and allow them to cool enough to be handled. Press out the juice in a tincture press or through a large sieve, thereby excluding the skins and seeds. Return the clear purple juice to the saucepan and set on low heat, stirring frequently. Reduce to 1/4 the original volume, producing a very thick product. This will take about 1 hour. Measure the liquid, and then add an equal volume of vegetable glycerin or honey. Pour into 4-ounce amber dropper bottles or small jars. A child’s dose is 1 teaspoon up to 3 times per day. An adult dose is 1 tablespoon up to 3 times per day.

A decoction is a concentrated herbal tea, often used to extract the essence of roots, barks, and seeds that don’t readily relinquish their properties in a simple tea.

Strong decoctions are double-strength and may easily be made into herbal syrup. Combine 1 part strong decoction with 2 parts vegetable glycerin or honey. Stir until thoroughly incorporated, and then store in 4-ounce amber dropper bottles or small jars. The shelf life of syrups made in this manner is about 6 months and may be extended by refrigerating the syrup. If mold appears on the surface, discard.

To make, use 2 handfuls {about 2 ounces} of sliced or coarsely ground herbs in 4 cups of water. Combine in a stainless steel saucepan, cover, and leave overnight to soak. In the morning, stir the contents with a wooden spoon and heat on a low burner, simmering for 15 minutes. Then, strain out the root pieces and return the liquid to the stovetop. Stirring frequently, reduce the volume by half.

allergy-teaMany kinds of roots, barks, and seeds can be made into strong decoctions and then combined with honey or glycerin to produce herbal syrups or cough syrup. Astragalus roots, cascara sagrada bark, elecampane roots, hawthorn berries, motherwort herb, turkey rhubarb roots, self-heal flowers, spikenard roots, yellow dock roots, violet flowers, licorice roots, and fennel seeds all make good herbal syrups.

Herbal Teas For Autumn And Winter

The cool, dry winds, unsettled weather, and decreasing daylight hours that we experience as the season transitions into autumn and winter can be difficult for our bodies and minds. While some of us welcome this rhythmic seasonal change and the downward movement of energy back to the earth and others dread it, we can all benefit by incorporating foods and herbs into our diet that help balance the energetics of the season. By doing so, we can replenish ourselves with the inward movement of energy as we settle into a slower, more deliberate season, enjoying warm soups and stews, bread fresh from the oven, a steaming cup of tea, and nights by the fireplace or curled up on the sofa.

The Bodily imbalance may arise during autumn and the long winter months either due to illness arising from fluctuating weather or passing viruses around, reduced activity, the stress of the holidays, or the decreased daylight hours. We can turn to herbal teas to support our body’s resilience and to correct the imbalance.

The process of blending and the ritual of making and drinking herbal tea is a fine way to tune into the slower rhythms of this season and is therapeutic in and of itself. Sipping a cup of tea allows us to pause for a moment and let the stillness of this time of year nourish us.

tea-by-fireRead on for 4 herbal tea recipes that we can turn to this season to keep ourselves healthy and happy.

Tea Preparation

The recipes that follow use dried herbs. You may already grow herbs in your garden and dry them; if not, you can purchase bulk dried herbs at your local natural foods store or online, or if you are fortunate to have one, at a local herb shop. To make teas, you’ll just need a kettle (or pot) for boiling water, a pot for making herbal decoctions with root herbs, a measuring spoon, a teapot, a tea infuser or strainer, and a teacup (or two or three).

Take note, some of the recipe measurements are in parts. This “part” can be whatever you would like: 1 tablespoon, 1 cup, etc., depending on how big of a batch of dried herb blend you want to make. Just keep the ratio of the parts equivalent to the recipe!

There are two approaches to preparing tea: an infusion, which is used for more tender plant parts such as leaves and flowers or a decoction, which is used for harder plant parts such as roots and barks. Infusions involve boiling water, pouring it over the tea blend, and then steeping for 10-15 minutes.

Decoctions involve simmering the herbs in the water for 15-20 minutes to extract the plant constituents. In both cases, you’ll want to keep the tea covered during steeping/simmering, particularly for aromatic herbs with volatile constituents.

You can drink these teas as-is or choose to sweeten them with a bit of honey or maple syrup. Adding one or two dried apple rings to the tea while it steeps or simmers adds a subtle but lovely sweetness as well

Herbal Teas for Autumn - Winter Nourishment Tea by Herbal Academy

Teas for Autumn and Winter

The words that come to my mind when considering teas for autumn and winter are warmth, nourishment, immune support, and cold and flu relief. We can do much for our wellness just with the foods and herbs we choose as daily nourishment, and teas can be a part of this sustenance.

Herbal Nourishment Tonic

This tea is my go-to, vitamin- and mineral-rich tonic to nourish and support the body through the winter months.

Ingredients:

•2 parts nettle leaf
• 2 parts peppermint or spearmint leaf
•1 part lemon balm leaf
• 1 part milky oats
• 1 part red clover blossom
• 1 part burdock root

Directions:

Blend herbs together. Steep 1-2 tablespoons tea blend in each 1 cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Sweeten to taste with honey, if desired. Several cups of this tonic tea can be consumed throughout the day.  (A longer infusion period of several hours will extract even more vitamins and minerals; you can make a big batch, let it infuse overnight, and drink it throughout the next day, reheating if desired.

Herbal Teas for Autumn - Herbal Chai by Herbal Academy

Warming Adaptogen Chai Tea

This warming tea keeps you toasty as the days turn cool while supporting the immune system and adrenals during the cold and flu season to help fend off illness.

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons reishi mushroom
• 1 tablespoon astragalus root
• 1 tablespoon eleuthero or ashwagandha root
•1 tablespoon burdock root
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon chips
• 2 teaspoons dried ginger (or 7 slices fresh ginger)
• 5 cardamon pods, crushed
• ½ tsp cloves
• 2 cups water
• 2 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)

Directions:

1. Combine reishi, astragalus, eleuthero/ashwagandha, burdock, and water in a pot.

2. Bring to a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes.

3. Add remaining herbs and milk, and heat for another 10-15 minutes.

4. Strain herbs and serve with honey or maple syrup to taste and a dash of nutmeg on top, if desired.

5. Refrigerate unused portion and reheat later. Drink up to 3-4 cups throughout the day.

Those who enjoy a more traditional chai recipe could add a tablespoon or two of loose leaf black tea (regular or decaffeinated) to this recipe along with the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves. Roasted chicory and dandelion root also add a rich, earthy taste.

Uplift Tea

As the dark nights grow longer and the sun is in short supply, support your nervous system and mental outlook with these uplifting and building herbs.

Ingredients:

• 3 parts lemon balm leaves
• 2 parts St. John’s wort flower and leaf
• 2 parts milky oat tops
•2 parts spearmint leaves
• 1 part linden leaf & flower

Directions:

Blend herbs together. Steep 1-2 tablespoons tea blend in each 1 cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Sweeten to taste with honey, if desired. Drink up to 3-4 cups throughout the day.

Nip It in the Bud Tea

At the first sign of a cold or flu, nip it in the bud with this immune- and lymph-stimulating tea! Make a big batch in the morning and sip it throughout the day to support your immune system during acute infection.

Ingredients:

•2 parts elderberries
•2 parts echinacea root and/or leaves
• 2 parts calendula petals
• 1 part rose hips
• 1 part orange peel
• ½ part ginger root (or 1 part fresh ginger root)
• ¼ part cinnamon chips
• 1 cup water

Directions:

Add elderberries and water to a pan. Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat and add the rest of the herbs. Let steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain and drink up to 3-4 cups throughout the day.

Herbal Teas for Autumn - Chai_blend by Herbal Academy

Teas for Colds and Flus

If despite your best efforts you do come down with a cold or flu, herbal teas can provide relief for congestion, sore throats, coughs, fevers, and headaches and make you more comfortable while your immune system does its job.