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 »

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herbal allies for college crunch time

eeek!

i was remarking to a friend at dinner tonight how odd (and completely wonderful) it is not to be writing 60-ish pages of final papers or preparing for final exams (for the first time in fooorrrrrr—eeeeeee-verrrrrrr).  i graduated with a master’s in english this past august, and for the three years leading up to that, november and april had always been times of anxiety, late nights, endless pots of coffee, sleeplessness, and eye-strain headaches.  i currently teach in the english department, but most of my friends are still in school there and are still having to deal with term papers and finals.  i feel their pain (even when i point and laugh >:D). Read the rest of this entry »

getting an herbal education

i hope those of you who are casually interested in herbs are enjoying my posts so far.  truly this is something that i had to do so that i wouldn’t forget everything i was learning, and i know from my experience at university that there’s no better way to learn than to teach.  it is my sincerest wish, however, that there are at least a few of you who are left wanting more information than i could ever supply in a measly little blog.  i hope there are those of you who, like me, have been bitten by the bug and want to know everything there is to know about herbs and about managing your health and the health of your community.  a word about that before i go further…someone once told me that, to learn everything an herbalist needs to know, you would need seven lifetimes.  at first i thought this was ridiculous, but the more i learn, the more i know that i don’t know….and that’s ok! 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 solutions for cold-weather skincare

there are so many things that i love about cold weather.  i love the feel of clean, cold air on my skin, i love the smell of wood smoke from fires, i love the way that light falls differently in the afternoons, and (oddly enough) i love overcast days where billowing gray clouds seem like they’re reaching down to touch the earth.  emotionally, i start to come alive as the weather starts to cool down—i wish i could say that my skin harbors the same good feelings.  perhaps the only thing that i despise about cold weather (partly, mind you, because i’ve never had to drive in snow) is the havoc that it wreaks on my skin.  i was blessed with a veritable oil well from the neck up, and saharan sands from the neck down.   the good part about this is that i won’t have to worry too much about wrinkles, due to my “dewy southern complexion,” but the bad part is that, between the oil-control soaps i’ve been handed for my face and the arid wintry wind that exacerbates my already-dry parts, i’m quite possibly a walking wildfire risk! 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 »

good sources for herbs and supplies

one of the many joys (insert sarcasm here) about living in a small southern town is that there are very few local resources when it comes to fresh, quality herbal products.  sure you can get some out of this world basil from the snow’s bend farm stand at our local farmer’s market, and sure if you really know what you’re doing you can wildcraft your own plants, but when it comes to the bulk of a budding herbalist’s needs, you really need to know where to turn for quality products.

*note:  when i say “herbalist” i don’t only mean someone who has gone through years of school and now treats clients–I also mean women who know to treat their own bladder infections with cranberry and moms who know that fennel tea will help their breast milk let down.  we’re all herbalists to some extent 🙂 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 »

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