natural motherhood, part 6: herbal baby care

i know that some of you out there love the super-informative posts, but i also know that there are a lot of folks who really love the project-y d.i.y. stuff—-this post is for both of you but will be a special treat to the latter.  (i’m right there with you, hands-on people!) for this entry, i wanted to take a good long look at all of the stuff we put on our babies (creams, ointments, lotions, oils, soaps, powders, balms…..oh my!) breaking everything down into the good, the bad, and the ugly.  a walk down any baby care aisle in the grocery store bombards us with all this crap (yes, most of it is crap), but because “that’s what you put on babies,” that’s what we all buy.  if you’re at all concerned about what goes into your baby, you should pay mind to what goes on her as well—pores, after all, are like little gateways to the bloodstream. Read the rest of this entry »

herbal preparations: honeys, oxymels, and elixirs

a bee from an egyptian hieroglyph

i figured i would take a short break from the series that i’m doing on natural motherhood and crank back up on a couple of my other projects.   something that i’ve been meaning to add for a while is a basic herbal preparations entry for sweet medicine—for honeys, oxymels, and elixirs.  honey (the common denominator between all three of these preparations) is a mysterious substance.  in the archaeology of beekeeping, author eva crane posits, based on neolithic cave paintings in valencia, spain, that honey has been a food source for humans for at least 10,000 years.  since the beginning of written history, thousands of medicinal and culinary uses of honey have graced the tablets and pages of our past.  yes, dried bee puke has held our interest for quite some time!  it has been used to treat wounds, to aid in the mummification process, to preserve food and drink, to sweeten things, and, as every granny knows, to stop a cough dead in its tracks! Read the rest of this entry »

herbal preparations: tinctures

when folks begin to stick their little toe into the big river of herbalism, tinctures are usually one of the places they start.  if you’ve ever been into a health food store, then you’ve probably seen tinctures before—they’re the little amber dropper bottles with bold plant names on their labels and little black squeeze droppers at the top.  they’re often in eye-shot of the registers because they are alcohol-based medicine (although i pitty the fool who downs an ounce of wormwood tincture thinking they’ll get a buzz…..blerrrg!).  they also come in glycerine as well, but these are harder to find and are usually less effective. Read the rest of this entry »

herbal preparations: lozenges

lozenges are one of my favorite herbal preparations because they give nearly instant gratification.  oils and tinctures are wonderful, but there’s all that waiting for the finished product.  with lozenges, you skip the 5 weeks of infusion in favor of a mix and a quick dry.  they’re less like a scary science experiment and more like instant proof that you’re your own herbalist!

there are other, more fundamental preparations that i was going to teach about first, like vinegars and tinctures, but today was my day with kindergartners and first graders, and you can only be coughed on so many times before you take the hint and write about something that folks obviously need this time of year.   the lozenges that i’m going to show you how to make are specifically for coughs and throat irritation, but with a few adjustments (that i’ll mention later) the recipe can be tweaked for stomach remedies as well. Read the rest of this entry »

herbal preparations: salves

before i started practicing herbal medicine, i think the one time i’d ever heard the word “salve” (pronounced “sav”) was at my grandmother’s house.  salve-making is really a lost art, but it’s so simple and is such a fundamental way of delivering medicine to the body that i can’t figure out we don’t all learn this skill in kindergarten.  for those of you thinking (from my last prep post) about making herbal oils, salve-making is the next logical step in the process, and it gives you a lovely way to showcase your sweet medicine for your family, friends, and local farmer’s markets! Read the rest of this entry »

herbal preparations: infused oils

one of my favorite things to do with herbs is to make infused oils.  you can make many different kinds with many different purposes—anything from cosmetic oils to cooking oils to healing oils to personal lubricants.*  under the right conditions, herbal oils will store for a long time, which is good considering the cost of most base oils and the time that it takes to infuse the plant materials.  when you infuse herbs in oil, you extract those medicinal plant constituents which are fat soluble as well as the essential/volatile plant oils.  one very important thing to keep in mind about infused herbal oils is that they are not essential oils. essential oils come in very small bottles and they are a highly, highly concentrated plant oil.  it takes tons upon tons of plant material to extract any significant amount of essential oil, and many of them are too strong to be used directly on the skin.  when i say infused oils, i mean using a base or carrier oil to extract goodies out of a relatively small amount of plant material.  Read the rest of this entry »

it’s better than tea–it’s an infusion!

one of the very first herbal preparations that i was ever introduced to was susun weed’s herbal infusion.  an infusion is like a tea, but stronger, and it’s a great substitute for your daily multi-vitamin!  with infusions, you can draw both the nutritive (vitamins, minerals, chorophyll, essential fatty acids, etc.) and the medicinal (tannins, alkaloids, flavonoids, etc.) properties from dried herbs, and in much larger amounts than a fifteen-minute-steep tea. Read the rest of this entry »