My Favorite Books on Herbal Medicine

I spent a fun morning talking about herbs with some local moms today. ūüĆŅ

Below you can find my favorite herb books with the reasons why I like the them. Maybe you’ll find something to add to your bookshelf. (Note: Links are affiliate links.)

(Books are not listed in any particular order.)

Basic Book Resources:

1. Nutritional Herbology by Mark Pedersen,

Has nutritional profiles for each herb.

2. Prescription for Herbal Healing, by Phyllis Balch,

Complete. Very good at listing possible cautions and contraindications.

3. Northeast Medicinal Plants,

Very good on listing plants that grow in this area, as well and when and how to ID, harvest, and the remedies best suited for each plant.

4. Botany in a Day,

Best book for learning plant ID and plant families.

5. Homegrown Herbs, by Hartung,

Best book for growing and using medicinal herbs yourself. Excellent charts for growing and harvesting.

6. The Herbal Apothecary,

This is excellent at giving you the personality of each herb and helping you get to know the plants.

7. Wild Remedies by Rosalee de la Floret,

Good for wildcrafting basics.

8. Alchemy of Herbs,

Anything by Rosalee is well done. I find the herb profiles on her website useful and have found some of her podcasts to be interesting.

9. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs,

Very basic. Good for beginners who don’t know where to start. Has some good basic recipes.

10. The Herbal Kitchen,

Good for using herbs medicinally in your kitchen as food. Also good basics for making infused oils.

11. The Healing Garden,

This book is newer to me. It includes some herbs that my other books do not have listed that I wanted to study. I haven’t delved too deeply into it but it is a lovely book.

Technical Resources:

These are more technical and get into the more medical side is using herbs.

1. Practical Herbalism by Fritchey,

2. Modern Herbal Dispensatory by Easley,

3. Materia Medica of Western Herbs by Carole Fisher,

Other Resources:

1. The Big Book of Homemade Products by Jan Berry,

This is her newer book. I had the older one with me. It is excellent as are herb books on soapmaking.

2. Fermented Vegetables by Shockey,

Anything by the Shockeys is good. I also have their books on Vinegars and Firey Ferments.

Botany Basics:

Exploring Creation with Botany by Apologia,

Good intro to basic Botany.

Elementary Botany Class:

This is a link to my online Botany class which includes learning to ID plants by plant family.

Last but not least, write your own book…

Keep your own notes on each herb and ailment you study by creating your own book. I use an old address book that has alphabetical sections. I write the name of the herb or ailment alphabetically and make notes of what I learn about it.

Reviving my Kombucha

So I decided to revive my kombucha. I hadn’t made any since before our last move. Somehow between packing and morning sickness at the time, I couldn’t keep up. So, I put it in a jar with some of the kombucha liquid, stuck it in the fridge and it has sat there ever since. Two years later I’m finally ready to try again.

Tea and sugar water cooling.

I took my jar out and let it sit on the counter overnight so that it could warm up to room temperature. The next day I made up my sugar and tea mixture. For more specific directions on how to brew kombucha see my other posts – (Cranberry Ginger Kombucha).

I brewed three batches before I started drinking it again to be sure that it would revive. I’m pouring up a new batch today.

Ferments amaze me. The fact that all those little bacteria do what they do fascinates me. I think I need to start another ferment. Maybe I’ll go back to one of my favorites – Garlic, Onion, Jalepeno Relish. Or maybe I’ll try beets. Fermented beets are delicious. Until I get around to that, I think I’ll go enjoy my kombucha.

“More Drops please, Mom?”

I’ve been making what we call “Drops” for at least six years. My base recipe has changed little over the years except that for about the last four years rather than making an herbal tincture, about once a week I make an herbal syrup since it’s more economical than tinctures, and that’s about how fast we go through them giving them to four kids every day.

So, here’s what’s simmering on my stove right now. You can visit The Herb Shed for more herb recipes and ideas.

Well Drops Herbal Syrup:

This is my base recipe.

6 cups of water in a sauce pan

1/2 cup nettle

1/4 cup dried elderberries 

2 cinnamon sticks

1 head of garlic, chopped with peelings left on

2 tbls chopped ginger

Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Cool, strain, rinse the pan. Return to the pan. Bring back to a simmer and add 1-2 cup of honey. Stir and simmer for about 15 more minutes. Cool again. Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge. Use within a week. Makes about 32 ounces. 

I give my kids 2-4 ounces a day. These taste great and are a great carrier for other supplements like vitamin d, iron, cod liver oil, etc.

These are easily customizable. For example, my kids all have coughs and colds right now so today I threw in two handfuls of mullein to the mix as well to help with the coughs and congestion. Another one I toss in occasionally is milk thistle for liver support. 

Drink up everyone and stay well.

Magnesium Oil: uses for pregnancy


magnesium oil

Have any of you tried the Magnesium Oil recipe from Wellness Mama? I’ve been using it for several years now and recently loaned my friend a bottle to use on her husband’s sore back.

She started using it and found that really helps the muscle cramps that she gets during pregnancy. She says that it’s magic. As soon as she sprays it on she says that the muscle releases. I’ve also used it during pregnancy and though I don’t typically get muscle cramps, I struggle with restless legs and sore ligaments. I’ve¬†found to be especially helpful with my¬†sore muscles with my last¬†pregnancy and in terms of mobility – the aches and pains disappeared and I didn’t even feel like I was pregnant.¬†So, make up your own magic potion for sore muscles. Why suffer? Give your muscles what they need – extra magnesium! (Note: magnesium oil can sting when first applied. Do not use on broken or cut skin or apply after shaving.)

Eczema Healers

IMG_0718I have some pretty bad eczema that flares up during times of stress. It’s been a problem on and off for the past year. If didn’t know it was eczema at first. Actually, I thought based on my symptoms that I might have an auto-immune disease. I had coin shaped red patches that flared up on my legs, arms and hands. I struggled and struggled for a long time to find a remedy that would help it and found nothing. That’s when I broke down and finally went to the dermatologist. They identified it as “numular eczema” and gave me a prescription for a low-level steroid cream to use when it flares up. I used it initially to get a handle on it as it was getting out of control and the spots were spreading to new places. Since then I’ve tried to only use it during particularly bad flare ups but I’ve still been at a loss to find a remedy that actually helps it besides the steroid cream the doctor gave me. Most natural remedies I’ve tried have actually inflamed it and made it worse. Particularly oils. Any type of oil or oil based remedy makes it worse and not better. This is particularly true of essential oils but also of very basic oils like olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil, etc.

In the past year I’ve tried pretty much everything you can think of to help improve this eczema from topical remedies to diet changes to traditional medicine. My particular form of eczema is stressed based. I admit – it’s been a stressful year. So, my eczema comes and goes and waves but since this ailment began it has never completely disappeared. It’s gotten better for periods of time and then worse again. I eliminated various foods (sugar, caffeine, etc.) to see if that made a difference. It didn’t. In fact, the doctor told me that this particular form is not related to diet like many forms of eczema is, but instead is the body’s¬†direct response to stress.

While it was relieving that my condition was only eczema, it was not particularly encouraging that it was related to stress since I can’t exactly eliminate that from my life. Life is life right? It’s stressful sometimes and you can’t always remove those stressors. I also suspect that my flare ups are related to hormone fluctuations. Also I¬†thing that I can minimally control. So, I kept trying things and I think I’ve finally landed on a couple of things that are causing my eczema to actually heal and improve.

As I started researching further I looked specifically for herbs that have steroid-like actions and properties. I found three. Then I started experimenting with a medium that I could use to apply these herbs that wouldn’t aggravate my eczema. I found two.¬†Here are my solutions that seem to be helping my eczema.

1. Powdered Herbal Paste: yarrow flower powder, lavender flower powder, turmeric powder, bentonite clay. Yarrow is a very powerful healing herb. Lavender has anti-histamine and healing properties. Turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Bentonite clay is cleansing and toning to the skin. Mix all the powdered herbs and the clay. Store the combined powder in a glass jar. When ready to apply, remove a small amount of powder and mix with a small amount of water in a glass container to make a medium textured paste (not watery, but not like mud). Apply with a popcsicle stick to affected areas of eczema and leave until it dries. Gently remove with a washcloth and warm water. If this paste feels too drying to your skin, remove the bentonite clay and make a paste with just the powdered herbs. This paste can calm a flare up that is dry and scaly. Note: Turmeric stains clothing yellow so avoid getting the paste on your clothes.

IMG_07052.¬†Natural “Hydrocortizone” Cream:¬†I know, I know…. Combining the words “hydrocortizone” and “natural” in the same sentence is an oxymoron right? Well, here we will combine the three herbs that have naturally occurring “steroid-like” properties with the two mediums that did not aggravate my eczema – tallow and lanolin. Tallow is the rendered fat of beef. It is a fat that is solid at room temperature and has historically been used for skin ailments. I had heard and read that it was good for eczema but had never had an occasion to try it. Well, I finally was able to get my hands on some grass-fed soup bones and I made some. I was pleased to see that it did not aggravate my eczema like all the other oils and fats did. However, alone it did not particularly improve it either. I also found that lanolin was not aggravating. I saw some improvement from applying lanolin overnight on the worst spots and putting a cotton glove on my hand so that the lanolin didn’t rub off while I slept. I was always better in the morning but then would flare up during the day from washing my hands, heat from cooking ,washing dishes, etc. So, for this remedy a combination of lanolin and tallow will be the medium in which we are going to infuse the steroid-like herbs. Those are chamomile, licorice root and calendula flowers. To make this cream, put your lanolin, tallow, chamomile, calendula and licorice root in a jar and loosely cover with the lid. Use 1 part lanolin to 3 parts tallow. For the herbs use a 1:2 ration of dried herbs to fat/lanolin. Set the jar in a sauce pan on top of a washcloth and fill with about 2-3 inches of water. Simmer until the tallow and lanolin have melted. Swirl the herbs around in the jar to cover them all. The herbs should be fully immersed in the tallow/lanolin mixture. If they aren’t add some more tallow and lanolin. When everything is melted, simmer for about 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat. You how have infused the herbal properties of the chamomile, calendula and licorice root into the tallow and lanolin. Strain immediately while hot through a wire mesh strainer into a glass storage container. For convenience, I also poured some into some old, empty lip balm tubes so that I can easily take this with me when we are out. I find that environmental factors make my flare ups worse. We took the subway the other day and something down there made the eczema on my hand flare up from being almost completely clear to a red, itchy mess. So I plan to apply this all day even when we aren’t at home.¬†Allergy Note:¬†If you have allergies to ragweed, dandelion, sunflower or safflower you may want to omit chamomile as it is in the same family.

tallow and lanolin melting and herbs infusing

tallow and lanolin melting and herbs infusing


tallow, lanolin and my little jar of eczema salve

tallow, lanolin and my little jar of eczema salve

I hope these remedies help your eczema stay clear. It’s making mine better already.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. Use at your own risk. Author takes no responsibility for the results of using these remedies. Read full Disclaimer here.

Spicy Limeade

IMG_0517 crop (2)Just saw this recipe for Spicy Lemonade posted by the Bulk Herb Store. It sounds good for any illness. I came down with a cold yesterday and may try this tonight. Except, I’m out of lemons. I’m a Texan after all so I do have limes on hand. I think I’ll use those and turn mine into Spicy Limeade. ūüôā Stay well everyone!

Spicy Lemonade or Limeade:
2 fresh garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
Juice of 3 freshly squeezed lemons (or limes)
Organic Honey to taste
Small pinch Cayenne Pepper

Texas Fire Cider

IMG_0518I ran across this Fire Cider recipe from Mommypotamus this week. I decided immediately that I wanted to make it mostly because I was curious as to how spicy it would be. So, sick kids got me to thinking about it again. I decided to make while all my sick ones were napping yesterday afternoon. I couldn’t find all the ingredients (like turmeric root) and some (like horseradish) are ones that I’m not a big fan of. So, I changed it up a little and made my Fire Cider – Texas style with flavors and ingredients that I love from my native Texas. And I promise, it will be just as spicy and beneficial towards fighting off the bugs and viruses as the original. Here’s what I did.

Start with quart size jar and throw everything in.

Texas Fire Cider:

2 heads of garlic, coarsely chopped (I left the skins on they are a good source of quercetin)
2 tbl. ginger root, peeled and chopped
3 jalepenos, quartered
1/2 cup white onion, sliced
3 limes, juiced along with some zest
1 tsp. black peppercorns
dash or two of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper (I used some of both – I know, crazy right?)

Fill the jar and cover with raw apple cider vinegar (Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar¬†is good – don’t use the grocery store brand) covering everything. You may want to use a fermenting weight if your items float to keep everything below the liquid. This will prevent spoilage. Put a lid on. If the lid is not plastic you can put some wax paper under the lid before you put it on to prevent the vinegar from coroding the lid. Let it sit for 2-4 weeks. Strain and drink as shots or dilute in water.

I’ll let you know how spicy mine is. Are you brave enough to try it?


Everything in the jar.


Vinegar added.

Vinegar added.


Instant Homemade Chicken Soup

Homemade bullion cubes after they have dried. I store mine in the fridge.

Homemade bullion cubes after they have dried. I store mine in the fridge until I need them.

I’m so thankful for these homemade bullion cubes¬†today (click here for directions on how to make your own).¬†As I type, I have instant homemade chicken soup simmering on the stove for my sick toddler. Not only does it taste delicious, but her sick tummy will get all the benefits of homemade chicken broth with all it’s vitamins, minerals.

These homemade chicken broth cubes are worth their weight in gold when family members are sick. They are so convenient to have on hand when you are dealing with the stress of illness. I just throw some of these cubes in some cold water along with whatever noodles or rice I have on hand and simmer until the starch is done. Use about 4 1-inch size cubes per cup of broth. It’s easy, delicious, nutritious and healing. Stay well!

Herbal Syrups

9.30.12 003Herbal syrups are a great, quick way to make up herbal remedies that you are going to consume quickly – for example, something that you would take every day or something that you would take a lot of during at time of illness. Since I can’t make glycerine tinctures any longer due to a family allergy, I’ve gotten pretty good at syrups. The shelf-life of a syrup isn’t as long as a tincture so if you need a longer shelf life then go with a tincture. If it’s something that you will use up quickly then a syrup will fit the bill and probably be cheaper to make than the tincture.

A syrup is basically a very strong tea that is sweetened with honey. Ready to get started? Here’s what you do….

Start with about 6 cups of water in a saucepan. Add in about 2 cups total of the herbs of your choice. (I use this method all the time for Well Drops and Cough and Cold Drops.) Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Let the herbs sit. When cool strain off the herbs using a cheesecloth and squeeze out all the juice from the herbs. Pour the liquid back in the pan and add about 1/2 cup of honey (or more to taste). Turn the heat on and simmer again stirring to combine the honey. Reduce by half until the liquid measures 2-3 cups. Bottle in a sterilized glass jar (scald with hot water) and store in the fridge.

These will probably last about 2 weeks in the fridge. You will know if they have gone bad by the taste. Traditional syrups should last about 6 months or more but these require adding much more honey (typically a 1:2 ratio of honey to liquid) than what is appealing to my palette. If you want your syrup to last longer add more honey to your mix and boil if for longer after you add the honey in.

And here’s a helpful tip…. If you don’t think you’ll use your syrup up fast enough before it goes bad, freeze half of it and thaw it out when you’ve used up the first half.

Stay well and syrup making!!

Mineral and Herb Deodorant Spray

8.30.13 049This is a new and improved deodorant spray recipe. It combines the antibacterial properties of herbs, ph correcting properties of apple cider vinegar, and the added benefit of getting a daily dose of magnesium which is efficiently absorbed through your skin.

Deodorant Spray Recipe:
32 oz. Magnesium Oil (recipe by Wellness Mama).
32 oz. Herbal infused vinegar

Mix equal amounts in a spray bottle. Spray on. Will keep indefinitely in your medicine cabinet.

(Note: Both the vinegar and magnesium oil will sting if applied to freshly shaved skin. So do not apply if you have just shaved your underarms.)

What books are popping off my bookshelf?

Peruse the shelves to find out what I've been reading lately....

Peruse the shelves to find out what I’ve been reading lately….

Visit the¬†Library¬†to see what I’ve been reading lately. The topics that I’ve found interesting include cooking, gardening, historical recipes, herbs, natural cleaning and remedies, etc. Maybe you’ll find something¬†that peaks your curiosity there too.

How I got rid of a UTI without using conventional antibiotics

(Note: Urinary Tract Infections can be serious, so please don’t consider this treatment in place of medical advice. If symptoms are severe or you have fever definitely see your doctor right away as you don’t want to ignore a UTI as it could develop into a kidney infection which is much more serious.)

130705_0002I have successfully treated two UTI’s in the last three years using garlic. Here are the steps I followed.

1.¬†For the first three days eat 8-10 garlic cloves a day. I usually eat 2 cloves with my meals and then 1-2 more in between meals with a light snack. (If you can’t stomach eating a whole clove you could try a garlic supplement but I’m not sure that it would be as effective.)

2. Rub garlic oil (click and scroll down for the recipe to make your own) on your lower abdomen and the bottoms of your feet 4-5 times a day. Focus on massaging the lower 2/3 of your foot below the toes and heel and around the arch of your foot.

3. Drink a glass of water every hour. Drink nettle tea.

4. Avoid sugar for the first 5 days. Sugar will feed the bacteria.

5. Between day 3 and 5 (or when all symptoms are gone) the amount of garlic eaten can be reduced to 4-6 cloves a day. Continue eating 4-6 cloves of garlic for 10-14 days from the onset of symptoms. It is important to continue eating the garlic for the full 10 day to two week period. Garlic is an effective antibiotic but just like with regular antibiotics, if you stop a course of antibiotics too soon your infection can return. I stopped too soon one time before the infection was completely gone and my symptoms came back. If you stop eating the garlic and symptoms return, continue eating for at least a week to 10 days more.

garlic oil

garlic oil

Within 4-6 hours of beginning to eat the garlic and using the garlic oil on the first day when I realized I was getting a UTI, my symptoms diminished. For the first three to four days they would tend to return in the morning after going overnight without additional garlic or fluids, and then diminish again throughout the morning and be mostly gone by afternoon. By day 4-5 my symptoms had basically disappeared. But, DON’T¬†stop eating the garlic. Eat it for the full 10 days to two weeks just as you would finish a course of normal antibiotics.

Most people know that cranberry juice is recommended for UTI’s. The reason is that it changes the acidity level of your urine making it more acidic and thus creating an environment were it is difficult for bacteria to survive. I chose not to do cranberry juice because I don’t like it and I don’t do well with juice in general. If you choose to drink cranberry juice in addition to eating garlic, be sure that you buy unsweetened cranberry juice as the added sugar won’t help.

And be if you’ve never eaten this much garlic at one time before be prepared for it to clean you out. Garlic is a good cleanser and you may experience some bowel discomfort due to it’s cleansing effects as it works all the bad stuff out of you.

Here’s to good health!