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!!

Chocolate Spice Tooth Powder

9.16.13 021This is my new favorite invention. My kids don’t like the powdered texture as much as their regular toothpaste but I like that this recipe has an indeterminate shelf life, the cloves and cinnamon disinfect, the bentonite clay absorbs the toxins and helps remineralize the teeth, and the cocoa powder whitens. I can say that I did see a noticeable difference in the whiteness of my teeth after just two uses. And it tastes pretty good too!

While researching for this recipe I found this interesting article on Science Daily about the oral health benefits of cocoa. Chocolate good for the teeth? Who is going to argue with that? Here’s what they say…

“… an extract of cocoa powder that occurs naturally in chocolates, teas, and other products might be an effective natural alternative to fluoride in toothpaste. In fact, his research revealed that the cocoa extract was even more effective than fluoride in fighting cavities. The extract…helps harden teeth enamel, making users less susceptible to tooth decay.”

That sounds pretty good to me. I actually initially thought of the cocoa powder in this recipe for taste and I thought that it might help in whitening teeth, but the research above seems to indicate that it may offer even more benefits.

9.16.13 045So, wanna try the chocolate tooth powder with me? Here’s what you do… it’s easy!

Combine 1 tsp. powdered cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1 tsp. cocoa powder, 2 tsp. bentonite clay an a pinch of sea salt. Stir and store in a glass jar (due to the bentonite clay it is best not to store in plastic or metal containers).

To use, wet your toothbrush and dip in the jar and brush adding more water to your toothbrush if needed. Try it out!

(See Disclosures and Disclaimers here.)

Mint Berry Toothpaste

9.16.13 047This is an updated version of my Candy Cane Toothpaste recipe. The taste is not drastically different, but the dried elderberries at an extra touch of flavor and color. It is made the same way as the Candy Cane Toothpaste with a few minor adjustments.

FIrst, simmer the following ingredients to make a very strong tea using 2 cups of distilled water (this will prolong the shelf life), 1/2 cup peppermint leaf (for taste and disinfecting purposes), a bit of stevia leaf (to sweeten –  doesn’t take much – 1 tsp. or less), and 1/8 cup dried elderberries,. Strain the dried herbs and reduce the liquid to about 1/2 cup. Mix your tea into bentonite clay with a popsicle stick (do not use metal utensils) until desired texture is achieved. To prolong the shelf life and add a little taste, add one drop of peppermint oil (take care not to add more than that or it may be too strong). Store the mixture in glass jar (as pictured above) and apply to toothbrush with a popsicle stick. This mixture should last about 3 months at room temperature.

Cranberry Ginger Kombucha

Cranberry-ginger Kombucha

Cranberry-ginger Kombucha

We’ve been brewing kombucha lately. A friend gave us a scoby and this is our fourth or fifth batch. If you’ve never brewed kombucha you can read more about what it is and it’s health benefits at Wellness Mama.

So, once you brewed your kombucha and decanted or siphoned it off from your brewing container, add the liquid to a glass swing top jar.  Then toss in about 1/2 cup of ginger root (peeled and chopped), and 1/2 cup cranberries.  Let it sit again on your counter for about 3 more days. It will continue to ferment feeding off the ginger and the sugar in the cranberries. This second fermentation will also add carbonation. Be sure you release the carbonation about twice a day, otherwise the pressure will build, and as the swing top jar is designed to do, it will fly open on it’s own. If you want more carbonation, leave it on your counter for a day or two longer until the fermentation is slowed and there is very little pressure when you open the lid.

Once you are satisfied with the amount of carbonation, remove/strain the ginger and cranberries, and refrigerate your new delicious, homemade drink.

Our kombucha fermenting. You can see the scoby floating on the top.

Our kombucha fermenting. You can see the scoby floating on the top.

For more information on starting your own kombucha you can refer to the resources below. They are my favorite books. Some of them are even on the Kindle.  Wild Fermentation is especially facinating as it discusses how to begin cultures and ferments using just the natural yeasts and bacteria in your environment without using purchased starters – after all that’s how Maggie would have done it – passing each starter along from friend to friend and neighbor to neighbor. So, if you don’t want to buy a starter go about it the old-fashioned way using a little modern technology to boost your efforts. Post on Facebook and ask your friends. You never know who secretly has kombucha brewing on their counter. And if you find someone they will certainly have a scoby to share and you’ll be off on your brewing adventure.

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

Real Food Fermentation: Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen

How to Make Probiotic Drinks for a Raw Food Diet: Kefir, Kombucha, Ginger Beer, and Naturally Fermented Ciders, Sodas, and Smoothies

(See my Disclosures page here.)

Herbal infused vinegar

8.30.13 047I’ve been making herbal infused vinegars lately. I started making one to use as a hair rinse and found that I like it in my new deodorant recipe too (coming soon).

It’s easy to make. Just takes a little time.

Here’s what you need….
1 – 32 oz. glass jar and lid
apple cider vinegar
1 cup herbs of choice (I use nettle, lavender and rosemary)

Place the dried herbs in the glass jar. Pour the apple cider vinegar over the herbs filling up to one inch from the top of the jar. Seal. Let it sit for 3 weeks agitating the jar daily. After 3 weeks (give or take) strain the herbs and rebottle using in the shower as a hair rinse, toner for your face, or as an ingredient in homemade deodorant.

For complete list of all my homemade recipes visit the General Store.

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!

How to make Garlic Oil

130705_0003Whenever my kids are sick they smell like garlic. I rub garlic oil all over them. I rub it on behind their ears, down the sides of their neck, on their feet, on their chest. You get the idea. Garlic is anti – everything (bacterial, fungal, viral, septic, etc.). It’s one of the most effective herbs at healing the body from infection and it is very effective at cleansing. One of my herb books tells the story of how in WWII when penicillin was scarce the medics carried cloves of garlic with them which they used to triage their patients. It’s one of my favorite herbs and one of the reasons that I like it so much is that it’s safe. It’s food after all. I add it to almost all my cooking. A whole head of garlic goes in to each batch of chicken broth and I use it in my well drops too. So, rub it all over and eat it up to stay well. For the directions on how to make your own garlic oil, visit the Herb Shed and scroll down.

Magnesium Oil: new uses and benefits

Have any of you tried the Magnesium Oil recipe from Wellness Mama? I made some up earlier this summer. And I just found a new and exciting use for it. Let me explain.

magnesium oil

magnesium oil

I typically take a magnesium supplement, which I found to be especially helpful during my last pregnancy. (All my aches and pains from sore muscles disappeared as long as I took it – it was amazingly helpful! In terms of mobility I didn’t even feel like I was pregnant.) And I’ve been using Wellness Mama’s magnesium oil recipe off and on too (honestly – I’m not very good at remembering to use it). However, last night I had a very sore muscle in the middle of the night from overexertion during the day. I was using peppermint oil for the discomfort which helped, but in the morning when I woke up I thought that I should try applying some magnesium oil on it. I knew that the magnesium was good for muscles and had helped before when I was pregnant, so I tried it. I sprayed some on and rubbed it in. It helped a lot! Now by afternoon the muscle is barely sore. I wish I had thought of this in the middle of the night. Keep it in mind in the future for sore muscles. It helped me immensely.

My General Store – one stop shopping for homemade things

Brookshires store shelvesVisit my General Store to find all the recipes for the things that I make myself in one convenient place. They are organized by category for easy reference. Let me know if there is a recipe that you’d like to see that isn’t posted yet. I’m updating things all the time. Happy shopping!

“Candy Cane” Toothpaste

toothbrushesIn my quest to keep those little teeth clean, a homemade toothpaste that will clean their teeth and mouth and taste good too. Click here to read about our “Candy Cane” Toothpaste. It’s a simple recipe. Only three ingredients. And safe to swallow if you have little ones who don’t know how to spit out their toothpaste.

Easy remedies for ear infections and sore throats

Weiland_Lighting-the-FireCaring for sick child is one of the most difficult jobs that a parent faces. Ear infections and sore throats are some of the most common and most painful ailments to deal with. Here are some easy remedies to try at home to help your child when they are hurting. Ear drops for ear infections and Throat Soother for sore throats. Be well.