3 Herb Mamas

Seasonal Living: Facing Colds & Flu Season

Pantry Blessings

Be Prepared! is a good motto for herbal homemakers as well as  boy scouts.

My Feeling-Under-the-Weather First Aid Kit

Along with being Autumn, and Back-to-School, it is also the season for colds and flu “bugs” to start making their appearance. I like to be pro-active so my herbal medicine chest is well-stocked by now. I know that an ounce of prevention is absolutely worth at least a pound of cure so I do all I can to make sure we are eating nutritious whole foods in wide variety, staying well-hydrated with plenty of pure water, herbal teas, and warming soups and broths. Since we heat our home with wood stoves I like to make sure the air stays moist with humidifiers (water pots on the wood stoves) to which I add a variety of essential oils particularly supportive of the respiratory system, like Eucalyptus, Lemon, and especially Rosemary.

For the times when I do feel something coming on…like right now…I turn to these tried and true natural allies:

*Pots of Herbal Teas. Yes, as pictured, I often use a canning jar for my “teapot”. That clear glass jar catches my eye and reminds me I still have more tea and I find that I remember to drink more throughout the day. Today I am drinking a blend of Nettles, Red Clover, Comfrey, Horsetail, and Dandelion leaf but I custom blend for current needs on a daily basis. A quart a day is fairly normal for me but I will double or triple this if I feel a cold coming on. Brewing in a thermos is a good way to not only keep your tea warm but also carry it along if you have to be away from home.

*YEGG(-ish) capsules I make using freshly dried and powdered roots of Yellowdock (Rumex crispis), Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia see my note), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) based on a formula of the same name that I learned from my herb teacher, Jeanne Rose. I actually like to take Echinacea in the form of a fresh root tincture so I leave that out of the capsules now and take it alongside the dried herbs.

Encapsulating herbs Tinctures & Fire Cider

I like to have a variety of encapsulated freshly powdered herbs like YEGG, tinctured herbs like Echinacea, and vinegars like Fire Cider on hand at all times.

*Neti Pot. I use a neti pot to keep sinus passages clear and healthy. Once a day is fine but if I feel a cold coming on or am stuffed up I have used it as often as hourly to keep breathing easily.

*Hydrogen peroxide. My ears are often the first place I can feel a virus trying to gain a food hold. They may feel dry and itchy. I place a few drops of peroxide in each ear, doing one at a time, and allow it to bubble and foam, then tilt my head back up to let it drain out, and repeat on the other side.

*Garlic (Allium sativum)…and lots of it in whatever form. Our favorites are probably delicious Garlic Soup with a slice or two of toasted bread slathered with freshly whipped Garlic butter. Roasted Garlic, raw, or any way I can ingest it, I eat as much Garlic as possible for its immune strengthening, anti-microbial talents.

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Mugs of delicious Garlic Soup are warming and healing.

*Quercetin & Fresh Nettles Tincture. These two in combination are an invaluable resource for promoting clear nasal passages. They probably need a whole blog post to themselves so I will write that on the calendar for a Spring Allergy Tactics article. For now, I’ll include the Reader’s Digest version and say that Quercetin is a flavonoid extracted from fruits and vegetables and often combined with Bromelain (a Pineapple stem extract enzyme) to enhance absorption and effectiveness. It is available encapsulated at health food, vitamin, and some grocery or drug stores. Although research indicates uses as an antioxidant and in lowering cholesterol, the main purpose I have for using it is its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) is a traditional respiratory health and hay-fever remedy. In my experience, it must be used fresh or tinctured using fresh plant material for maximum effectiveness.

*Hot Ginger Baths (and tea). If I have chills or just can’t seem to stay warm, I chop up a nice sized fresh Ginger root and simmer it in at least a quart of water for 20 minutes or more. Then I strain and add the “tea” to a hot bath. I like to pour some of the Ginger tea into a mug along with some raw honey and a squeeze of lemon to sip while relaxing in the tub as well. Very warming! Keep the room warm and dry off quickly, dressing in warm pajamas and a robe. I like to cuddle up in bed under warm quilts and get a good night’s rest to assure a healthier tomorrow.

*”Flu Shots” as some call them. I like to use Fire Cider, which is a blend of Horseradish, Onion, Garlic, Ginger roots, and Cayenne in an apple cider vinegar base and sweetened with just a touch of local, raw Honey. As a prevention, I take a tablespoon in a couple of ounces of water once a day during fall and winter, but if I feel a “bug” coming on I take that much hourly until symptoms begin to subside. For those who don’t care for the kick-in-the-pants variety of hot shot remedies that Fire Cider provides, there is always the sweetly warming tonic, Elderberry Syrup. It can be taken in exactly the same ways and amounts as Fire Cider.

Elderberry Syrup

Happy, healthy Autumn to All! ~Leenie

Edited and updated 12/30/2014  This information is shared descriptively as opposed to prescriptively. Always research thoroughly anything you plan to ingest and consider its potential benefits vs. possible risks in light of your own unique health condition.

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21-Day Real Wild Food Challenge & Ponderings

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A generous gallon-sized  colander serves as my gathering basket three times a day and returns to the kitchen loaded with both organically cultivated and wild-crafted foods.

I have a penchant for challenging myself to look at my own assumptions, perceptions, and perspectives. When I reach that jaded, all-too-familiar point where I think I know what comes next or how things work…every time…I like to shake things up and turn my world on its head so I can look at it with new eyes and come to it with a beginner’s mind. So, a few days ago I decided to challenge myself to 21 days of eating only real (mostly from our garden and farm) and wild foods. The goal is not to lose weight or even “clean up my diet.” Rather, it is an exercise in awareness.

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Blueberry and Red Raspberry leaves, Nettles tops, and Lemon Balm destined for the teapot 

Like many of these “games of awareness” I like to play, this one was designed and embraced in a flash of a moment of insight, seemingly out of the blue, and was led by a cluster of little “What if…?” questions. Because I said yes to the inspiration, I spent almost no time in planning or setting up parameters. I am figuring those out as I go along and questions arise. I’ll describe the beginning phase of my challenge below but first here are some of my “What if’s…”:

What if…

…I look to the Earth and its provision daily instead of the weekly sale flyers, my budget, or coupon circulars to decide what to eat?

…the seasonal abundance informs my food choices rather than diet plans or nutritional philosophies?

…I trust that real food, just as it is, is really good for me?

…I belong here and my life, health, and vitality are supported by the Earth, the sun, the atmosphere (creating all these weather patterns and seasons), and beyond? 

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What if…tea doesn’t come from a bag with a string on it, or a box or a tin? What if…it comes from my yard and garden? 

We have a fair amount of early greens, herbs and edibles in our permaculture beds now so I qualify this as “real” food. I know some wild food plants and I know that they are available and easy to obtain right outside my door so I qualify these as “real wild” foods that nourish parts of me beyond RDA’s, food pyramids or My Plate analysis and assessments. I don’t want this to be laborious or tedious so I allow things like olive oil, butter, grains, etc. When I purchase or obtain these from our pantry I simply ask myself, “Is this real?” If I can picture someone(s) gathering in a harvest of olives and pressing them, dairying that involves milking, culturing or churning, harvesting wheat or rice and minimally processing, then I deem it “real”. Just try to envision how that can of spray cheese comes to be and you get the idea of what my mind cannot wrap itself around as “real” although its existence is a pretty wild concept to me. Remember, this is a self-created challenge on the order of playmates deciding to “pretend we’re Robinhood and his Merry Men living in Sherwood Forest” so it is about the romp and the discoveries more than the science and theory.

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Real & Wild Breakfast: a variety of braised garden-grown and wild-crafted greens (kale, spinach, dandelion, mallow, lamb’s quarters, garlic mustard, nettles, wild onion) with curried free-range eggs and a light crumbling of goat cheese; home canned peaches and fresh grapefruit; homemade corn crepe.

As I said, I am only a few days into my challenge. I am recording what I gather and eat, how I feel, and my reflections on the process. At the end of 21 days I will share some of these and welcome feedback and any ideas it might spark for others. I am taking pictures of many of the meals, plants, nature treks, and other inspired adventures beyond food…like making goat milk soap or cheese.

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When a spring cold threatened in the family I asked, what if…pots of fresh herbal teas and rich Garlic soup (and rest) can address it as well as antihistamines and pain relievers? 

Lots of ‘What if’s…?” to explore and many discoveries lie ahead in the next few weeks. Wishing you a season of growth, abundance, and an awareness of your place in the grand scheme of life. ~Leenie

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