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.

DIY Simple Salve

This is my favorite salve for, well, any skin condition, but we are using it up here on the dry skin that has reared its ugly head in our house this winter.

It’s simple, effective and easy to make. 3 ingredients:

Here you go….

4 tbl. Cocoa butter

4 tbl. Tallow

2 tbl. Lanolin

Melt in a double boiler and pour into your container of choice. Makes 4 oz.

During the melting, you can add essential oils for scent and therapeutic properties if desired, but I like it just the way it is.

Ingredients

Measured out

In double boiler

Melting

Poured up

Cooled. Creamy goodness.

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.)

Essential Oil Remedy for Bumps and Bruises

IMG_0977Last summer my two-year old got a nasty bump on her cheek right along her cheekbone from running full force into the corner of a table. Even after forcing her to hold ice on it I could tell it was going to develop into a horrible bruise. We were out of town at the time, so I pulled out my travelling essential oil kit and essential oil quick reference chart to see what I had that might help. I immediately applied a bit of diluted lavender and cypress oil. Lavender is healing to the skin and cypress is good for circulatory issues so I thought it might help. I tell you, I was shocked! The bruise barely developed and after about 3-4 applications in the morning and at bedtime over the next two days it had healed so that it was hardly noticeable. This is my go-to remedy for bruises now. It’s the most effective remedy that I’ve found for healing a bruise. If you get a bad bump mix 2 drops of lavender and 1 drop of cypress in 1 tsp. of olive oil and apply directly to the affected area. Use wisely (read my full Disclaimer here).

Postpartum Sitz Bath

IMG_0887I’ve been mixing this up a lot lately. Three friends have had babies in the last few weeks. I didn’t discover herbal sitz baths for postpartum use until my second child. This is one of my favorite remedies. It makes a great gift for a new mom. It really helps speed and facilitate postpartum healing. Be sure to bathe the baby  too. This mix will help disinfect and heal the baby’s cord stump.

All of these herbs are helpful in some way. Opinions may vary, but I think the most important to postpartum healing are shepherd’s purse, yarrow and red raspberry. But, if you don’t have one of the herbs below, that’s okay. They are all beneficial in some way. Just omit the ones you are missing and substitute more of one of the others in the list. Keep in mind though that lavender, yarrow and shepherd’s purse are fairly potent and should not be used in excess. Use the others as the base herbs and add lavender, yarrow and shepherd’s purse in moderation. A little of those goes a long way. Also, chamomile and yarrow should be avoided if you have an allergy to sunflower, safflower or dandelion.

Use wisely. Read my Disclaimer here.

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All bagged up ready to pass along to a friend.

Postpartum Sitz Bath:

4 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
2 parts Plantain
2 parts Comfrey
2 parts Calendula
2 parts Shepherd’s Purse
1 part Lavender
1 part Yarrow
1 part Chamomile
1/2 -1 tsp. Sea Salt

To use, steep one cup of the herb mix  in four cups of water to make a strong tea. Strain the herbs an add the tea to your bath water. You can also add this to your peri-bottle and apply after you go to the bathroom to disinfect and heal.

Where do I get these herbs you ask? My favorite places to order herbs are The Bulk Herb Store and Mountain Rose Herbs.

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. 🙂 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?

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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!

The Home Remedy Maker’s Tips and Tricks

If you’re into making home remedies, you’ve may have a stash of herbs, clays, syrups, tinctures and essential oils.

Once you’ve had some experience making and using your own remedies to heal illness, wounds and improve ailments you discover little “tips and tricks” that aid you in your efforts. Here are some of the things that I’ve found work well.

9.27.13 046Administering herbal syrups and tinctures:

One of my favorite ways to administer herbal syrups and tinctures to my kids (otherwise known around our house as “drops”) is to use these nifty little measuring cup shot glasses. You can measure out the dose and your older ones can drink it themselves. If you’re concerned about letting your kids drink out of a glass cup, you can look for stainless steel condiment cups at Walmart and use those. They don’t have the measurement markers on the cup but they aren’t breakable. These little cups are also nice for mixing remedies as well.

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Injuries, wounds, scrapes, cuts, skin abrasions and irritations:

9.27.13 049Figuring out how to apply herbal salves, poultices, creams, clays, compresses can be challenging. Band-aids and gauze bandages will only go so far at holding those herbs in. I’ve found that my husbands old t-shirts cut into strips work the best for applying dried herbs, compresses and clays. You can roll the herbs into the cloth and then tie it around the affected area. It works especially well on arms and legs as a bandage and application for homemade herbal remedies. For injuries or issues on the hands and feet the cuff of an old sock actually is an excellent way to cover a wound or irritated skin with a salve, clay or poultice. You don’t have to tie anything and it holds everything in place. So save all those mis-matched socks and save the ones with holes too. Just cut off the foot saving the cuff. Kids socks work great around the hands and feet since they are smaller. Cuffs from adult socks are good for arms and legs.

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!!