It’s Marshmallow Root Time!

Over the years, I’ve noticed that as the weather gets colder, my digestive tract gets irritated. Yes, my allergies change but I also get acid reflux. I have no idea why this happens, but the first year it was very painful. In fact, it woke me up in the middle of the night it was so uncomfortable. Since I prefer to try to heal myself before I go to the doctor, I did a lot of research.Of course, my first line of attack was to remove the cause. I looked at my lifestyle and tried to identify any changes. Why was my esophagus getting irritated? Why was my stomach acid backing up into my esophagus? Truthfully, I couldn’t come up with a solid answer. However, after several years, the only conclusion I could come to was, that it had to do with the changing of the season, because it starts to happen every autumn and rarely any other time of the year.

Then, I looked at remedies. Most of the allopathic (conventional) remedies reduce the acid in the stomach so it does not irritate the digestive tract anymore. Most people need to take it for the rest of their lives. I understand the logic but I need (as we all do) the acids in my digestive system, I need them to do their job ~ digest my food, allowing my body to absorb nutrients from it. I need those nutrients to maintain a healthy body.

Dried Marshmallow Root

There are lots of remedies and theories out there, for example, when and what to eat. But what I really needed to do was heal the irritation in my digestive system so it could work properly and I could be comfortable again. Luckily, I knew about Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis).  It is very soothing and mucilaginous. It coats, protects and heals all inflammatory digestive disorders and enhances the immune system.  All I need to do is simply drink a cup of cold infusion after each meal and feel the discomfort melt away. Depending on the severity of the heartburn, relief happens instantly or may take a couple of days.  You can find Marshmallow Root in the bulk section of most health food stores. One thing I really love about Marshmallow Root is that after my system has been healed, I can stop using it. I have found that the infusion tastes better if I keep it in the refrigerator.  One important thing to know about Marshmallow Root infusions ~ they can be very thick and mucilaginous, in turn coating the digestive tract, which can inhibit the absorption of some medication. So, if you are taking any medication, be sure to take it at least an hour or more before or after you drink the Marshmallow Root infusion.  Here’s to relief from heartburn!

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

If you are having a difficult time finding Marshmallow Root locally, Healing Spirit Herb Farm is a wonderful company to order from.

Vitex ~ when your pituitary needs rebooting

A few years ago, I learned the hard way how well my herbal remedies worked ~ I ran out during a trip. I was taking some remedies to support my body and others to help ameliorate symptoms. Ever so often, I like to titrate down the dosage in order to if I actually need as much as I am taking; less is always best in my book. However, I don’t normally stop any of the tried and true ones. When packing for a trip to Florida, I didn’t refill my tincture bottles; I thought I had enough for the ten day trip. I did have enough but when the trip ended up being extended for almost a month, I ran out. When I noticed my supplies getting low, I started to take half doses or even less. Unfortunately, I noticed some symptoms coming back and it became obvious that my body really needed more to ameliorate the symptoms. From a “scientific” point of view, this was great news. The tinctures were working very well. Although, it did make me rather uncomfortable until I returned home.

The most obvious absence was noticed from Chaste Berry (Vitex agnus-castus). I had been impressed with it for over a year, but forgot how uncomfortable I was before it became part of my daily routine. It’s one of those herbs that are known both by its Latin and colloquial names ~ Vitex or Chaste berry. It has a long history of use and was even mentioned in Homer’s the “Iliad” as a symbol of chastity, capable of warding off evil. The name “chaste” was referred to by the monks in the Middle Ages who used Chaste Berry to decrease sexual desire. Not sure it actually works that way on men, but it is known to increase the female libido.

Vitex is a reproductive herb. It acts on the brain’s pituitary gland, which controls and regulates all the other glands in the body along with regulating and normalizing hormone production by releasing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). This, in turn, signals the ovaries to produce more of the hormone progesterone. Vitex stimulates the pituitary gland and helps restores balance. Think of it as “rebooting the pituitary gland” and bringing balance and harmony back to the body. As a result, Vitex normalizes hormonal imbalances, such as those that can occur during menopause, premenstrual syndrome, or menstruation; it also helps dissolve fibroids and cysts.

I was experiencing a boatload of menopausal symptoms and found that combining Vitex, Motherwort, and Lady’s Mantle ameliorated almost all of them. I use Vitex primarily for adenomyosis, which is uterine thickening that occurs when endometrial tissue that normally lines the uterus moves into the outer muscular walls of the uterus. It is similar to endometriosis, but the tissues develop beyond the uterus. Before I found Vitex, this disease was very painful and woke me up most morning with a heavy pressure on my lower abdomen; it felt like someone was standing on me. It also caused flooding and severe cramps during menses. The gynecologist gave me three options ~ take painkillers or insert a hormone releasing vaginal ring or hysterectomy. She also mentioned that most symptoms dissipated after menopause. I decided to investigate what herbs were out there that could support my body during this time. I had heard and read about Vitex but there was no mention of ademomysis except it’s abilities to “reboot the pituitary” which relieved the pain of endometriosis along with dissolving fibroids and cysts; it just made sense to try it. Vitex tends to be slow acting; it usually takes three cycles to start working.  Lucky me, I started to feel relief within 3 weeks. All of sudden there was a sense of calm within me during the day and the painful morning started to become a memory (until I ran out).

Vitex has become a key player in my daily herbal routine. Every year I still experiment and titrate down the dosage but am quickly reminded how well it works keeping my discomfort at bay and how very grateful I am to have found it.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Feeling a little burnt out?

There are just those periods when life is merely overwhelming. Sometimes it’s because there are simply too many tasks to complete and not nearly enough time. Moreover, those times are days when you really need a good night’s sleep and it seems impossible to get more than four hours straight. Your body and mind are so fatigued, and everyday you feel worse. With no salvation in the near distance you just spiral downward, perhaps your body will give out and you will simply get very sick, ahhh now perhaps you will get those restful hours of sleep your body has needed for such a long time. Does this sound familiar? I think everyone must go through this from time to time; unfortunately, some experience this more often than not.

At those particular times, it is paramount to take care of ourselves; nonetheless, it is so difficult to do so. There are wonderful herbs known as adaptogens that can really make it easier to move through the day and not collapse. As the word implies, adaptogens increases your body’s ability to adapt and resist stress. It knows what your body needs and helps it adapt so you don’t reach the point of total burnout. When you are exhausted, they give you energy and when your nerves are frazzled, it soothes and calms them. Sounds wonderful, right? You bet it is.

There are a variety of adaptogens herbs out there. Today, I will be focusing on Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera). Ashwagandha (known as Indian Ginseng) has been used as an Ayurvedic herb for over 3000 years. Ayurveda classifies Ashwagandha as a rasayana, which is an herb that deeply rejuvenates and promotes longevity. And that’ something we all need.

There are two interpretations for the name Ashwagandha: the smell of a horse, perhaps because some people think the fresh root smells like horse’s urine and has a strong unpleasant taste but I prefer the other interpretation, the strength of a horse, since it is a wonderful energy builder. It increases the body’s ability to adapt and deal with tension and anxiety. It helps increase memory, facilitates learning, and promotes general well-being as it enhances stamina. Ashwagandha is excellent for both mental and physical fatigue. It can significantly reduce cortisol (which is released when stressed) concentrations and the immunosuppressive effect of stress.  Because it can both strengthen and calm the nervous system, it can help increase energy levels gently, meaning it won’t give you that crash and burn effect that sugar and caffeine often does. Taken over time, Ashwagandha can build up emaciated tissues, decrease the negative affects of stress and increase energy levels.

Since Ashwagandha is not overtly stimulating, one of its benefits is that it is a gentle sedative and supports healthy sleep cycles. Its Latin species name is somnifera, refers to its ability to support sleep. Instead of thinking of it as an herb for acute insomnia, it is something that when taken over time it can restore nervous system health and healthy sleep cycles.

Not only is Ashwagandha excellent in assisting the body adapt to stress it is used for a variety of degenerative, wasting and chronic diseases, including arthritis, TB, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Because it helps builds tissue and supports overall health it can help people regain their strength while strengthens and supporting the immune system.

Ashwagandha seems to help and strengthen the whole body. Research has found that it protects and supports the immune system, helps combat the effects of stress, improves learning, memory, and reaction time, reduces anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness, helps reduce brain-cell degeneration, stabilizes blood sugar, helps lower cholesterol, offers anti-inflammatory benefits, and actually enhances sexual potency for both men and women. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center notes the benefits of Ashwagandha on their website as it was “found to reduce growth of breast, central nervous system, colon, and lung cancer cells without affecting normal cells. It was shown to prevent chemotherapy-induced neutropenia in mice. In a small study of breast cancer patients, Ashwagandha alleviated chemo-induced fatigue and improved the quality of life.”

What’s not to love about this wonderful herb? Well, the taste tends to be a bit strong and unpleasant. That is why when I first started working with it; I made a wonderful herbal honey with it. I blend Ashwagandha powdered root with Buckwheat honey, which has an equally bold but yummy taste. It has a nice balanced flavor. The honey is perfect for sweeten tea, coffee, oatmeal but I enjoy it best on a peanut butter sandwich.  I also make a tincture with the roots for when I need a stronger and more consistent dose. The traditional Ayurvedic preparation of Ashwagandha is to simmer the root in milk, with a bit of honey added at the end.

Ashwagandha root may be found at your local health food store or at Mountain Rose Herbs.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

So what’s a tincture?

Throughout my blogs, I occasionally, mention making tinctures.  I have come to realize that many people do not know what a tincture is, how to make one or simply where to buy it – well, I’ve decided to remedy the situation.

First, tinctures are concentrated liquid extracts of herbs. Most tinctures are made using alcohol; however, you can also use glycerin or apple cider as the menstruum (solvent that extracts the medicinal qualities from the herb). You can buy tinctures at most health food stores or online. If you would like to make a tincture yourself, it is very easy and it can save you quite a bit of money, especially if you wild harvest the herb instead of buying it.

I prefer to make tinctures from fresh herbs but dry herbs work too. I have many books on medicine making, but found “Making Plant Medicine” by Richo Cech to be my go-to-book.

Here’s how to make a fresh plant tincture:

  • Harvest leaves and flowers during the early flowering stage and remove stem. It is important to remember when harvesting any plant it is essential to harness the herb’s most productive energy during the harvest process. Roots are best harvested while all the vital energy is most concentrated within them. This is before the plant’s stems and flowers are developed, so harvest early spring or late fall. I like to collect the aerial parts while the vital energy is rising; so they are actively growing but before they go to seed.
  • Chop up plant/root to break down the cell wall; this will help expose more of the plant to the menstruum, allowing it to extract more medicinal qualities.
  • Place herbs in a clean, dry glass jar. Fill ¾ of the jar loosely, but do not pack herbs too tightly.
  • Fill jar with 100 proof vodka; make sure all herbs are completely submersed.
  • Cover with tight fitting lid.
  • Shake; the more the better.
  • Label the jar with the name of the plant, menstruum, harvest location, and date.
  • Mark your calendar, noting that the tincture will be ready in 6 weeks.
  • Put in a dry place that gets full sun. I put all my tinctures on a windowsill that gets southern exposure on the 2nd floor of my house.
  • Shake every day with ♥love and intention.
  • After 6 weeks, strain out herbs through stainless steel strainer lined with cheesecloth or muslin.
  • Rebottle and label.
  • Your tincture is now ready!
  • It should last for about 7 years if stored out of sunlight and in a cool location. Amber bottles work well to protect the quality of the tincture from sunlight.

There are many ways to make tinctures. This is just one way. I have tried many methods, learned from many herbalists, and read a great deal and this method resonates with me and gives wonderful results. Some herbalists let their tinctures sit in the dark, or control the heat, sit for 2 weeks, a lunar phase…there are so many options. This is just one way, my way; and it just simply makes sense to me. Feel free to experiment.

When you collect any herbs, please keep in mind:

  • Be sure you have made a definite identification, so use a field guide.
  • Harvest it in a respectful way: leave some. Please do not over harvest. Make sure there will be a healthy crop for the future.
  • Harvest away from traffic and areas where chemicals have not been sprayed or animals relieve themselves.
  • If you are unsure, it is best to move on and not harvest in that area.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

These herbs are fresh

We became members of the GreenStar Co-op after we moved to the Ithaca area. Co-ops are rather unique because its members are also its owners. Not only do they get the products and services they need, but also have a say in the Co-op’s business decision. As Co-ops go, GreenStar is pretty awesome with three locations in the small college town of Ithaca. I love their progressive focus on building a sustainable future, using profits in the local community, purveying many products from local farmers, supporting local schools and nonprofits, and harnessing the sun for its energy use. They even offer classes on cooking, nutrition, and environmental topics. They are undoubtedly a positive force in the community and we are so happy to be a part of it.

Whenever I walk into the Co-op, I am always amazed how happy everyone seems to be, whether they are working or shopping. Talk about good vibrations! It always seems like a wonderful place to work or volunteer, so every time I passed the employment/volunteer board I would look, hoping to find an opening in the Wellness department with hours that would fit my chaotic schedule. Last fall, I was overjoyed to see the perfect day and time available, and found out it was in the bulk herbs section.  It was perfect! I have a passion for buying in bulk. I even bring my jars to refill and the thought of being around herbs for a morning every week seems like a match made in heaven ~ and it is!

Not only do I get to be surrounded by all the lovely aromas of over 170 herbs and teas, I am learning a lot. I always knew the bulk herbs I was buying were much fresher than the any bottle of herbs but I had no idea how fresh. At GreenStar, they have someone refilling the bulk herbs daily. They order an average of 40-50 pounds of herbs each week. It takes me two hours to make sure all the jars are filled. If an herb is not being purchased on a regular basis, they don’t keep it around because there is no need to waste the shelf space; there are so many herbs vying for space. These herbs are fresh.

Just think about it ~ when you are buying prepackaged bottled herbs, you really have no idea how long they have been sitting on the shelf. In addition, you are committed to that specific amount. It’s not a big deal when you use the herb on a regular basis but from time to time, we all cook something that needs only a tablespoon of a specific herb that we will probably not use again for another year or more. And the cherry on top, over 80% of the herbs are organic while costing less than pre-packaged herbs. Who wants to buy a full bottle? Not me, so it’s a no brainer ~ buy the amount you need from the bulk herb section. It’s fresher and you can buy what you need, not what they want to sell you.

If you’ve never thought about shopping at a Co-op, I suggest you check out your local store. Here’s a directory to help you locate your neighborhood Co-op. You’ll be happy you did.

Yarrow tested first hand

I do not have luck with manual can openers. They all seem to leave a little connection; never a clean cut around the entire can. I have even shopped around and bought supposedly, “new and improved” can openers, but after awhile they all leave a small frustrating connection.

One day while making supper, I made a mistake. I was in a rush and had very little patience while opening a can. Instead of slowing down, focusing on the little connection and getting a good grip on the can opener or use a proper tool to release the little connection, I attacked the connection with a chopstick. As it popped up my thumb slid into the can with a very sharp edge. It was a bloody mess.

white yarrowI immediately ran cold water over my thumb for a minute or two then quickly grabbed a towel, wrapped my thumb, applied pressure, held my hand above my heart and ran to my garden where I picked and “bruised” several Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) leaves. I slowly opened the towel, wrapped my thumb in the Yarrow leaves with the towel around it, and held my hand above my heart.

Mathew finished making dinner, thank goodness he is much better at opening cans than his mother. After dinner was made and we were waiting for Mike to come home, I looked at my thumb. The bleeding had stopped thanks to Yarrow’s amazing hemostatic abilities. I was very impressed as there was a lot of blood when I first cut it. Since the bleeding had stopped, I took the opportunity to look at the damage. I suspect some people with a similar wound would have gone to the doctor for a couple of stitches, but I decided that it would heal okay on its own. I found a couple more fresh Yarrow leaves, bruised them, wrapped them around my thumb and taped a gauze patch around my thumb. Along with having great hemostatic powers, Yarrow is a powerful antiseptic.

close up yarrow

After dinner, I removed the bandage, no more blood, so I simply put a regular band-aid around my thumb. It was still rather tender but in good shape. The next morning, I was rather impressed at how well the healing process was going.

The day after

The day after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a week, it barely looked like a scratch.

A week after

A week after

I highly recommend that you learn how to identify Yarrow: once you do, you’ll find it is an excellent first aid herb. It can help you in a pinch (or cut, or a slice…). After all, I do have first hand knowledge of it (pun intended).

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Exploring Goldenrod

As I walked our new land the other day, I noticed the tips of the Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) were starting to glow with the promise of their brilliant illumination throughout the fall. The mere sight of them always makes me giddy and gives me such joy. Not only is Goldenrod’s sheer presence marvelous and soothing to the soul, it possesses numerous healing properties. A few year’s ago I started working with Goldenrod to ameliorate my allergies. After I started to delve deeper, I found allergies were just the tip of the iceberg. As I worked with it more I found it beneficial to almost every body system: respiratory, urinary, musculo-skeleton, digestive, cardio-vascular, nervous, and immune, along with soothing wounds, colds & flu plus being high in antioxidants. That’s when I realized I couldn’t keep it to myself and needed to share Goldenrod with as many people as possible. Sure, I can write about it but I think it’s always important to work with a plant in order to really appreciate it. So, I developed the class, “The Golden Answer.”

Well, folks, it’s time for another class. Please join me on Saturday, September 2, 2017, where we’ll explore the amazing world of Goldenrod and discuss the countless healing powers of this Golden Beauty. I hope you will join us and learn about its abilities to ameliorate allergy symptoms, support the urinary system, and soothe pain. And that’s just for starters. You will also learn to make a tincture to bring home.

Space is limited, so please pre-register at www.knowyouroots.com.

For more information, send me an email at debbie@knowyouroots.com

I can’t wait to share Goldenrod with you.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.