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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natural motherhood, part 4: downstairs maintenance

whether you’re planning on getting pregnant, are already pregnant, or have just given birth, it is essential to do your research on “downstairs maintenance.”  odds are pretty much in favor of your having to deal with at least one of these issues, and (although we’ve gotten better about it) women tend not to have as many frank discussions as we should when it comes to our lady parts.  actually, this post branches out a little further than “lady parts”–the uterus and vagina are not the only bits of anatomy affected by pregnancy, labor, and delivery.  you’ve also got to talk about your bowels, your bladder, your vulva, and your rectum.  how many of you cringed when you read that last sentence? lol. see what i mean?  we don’t talk about this stuff enough. Read the rest of this entry »

natural motherhood, part 3: the big, bad list of “no-nos”

you knew this was coming, right?  amidst talk of all the wonderful new things you get to do (be goddess-controller of the air conditioning, add frivolous things to grocery lists, stop sucking in your gut for the first time since you were eight) is the dreaded list of “thou shalt nots.”  now, i’m not a doctor, so my word isn’t law here (funny how we assume that five extra years in college=always right!) but i do have some good source material and a lot of common sense.  i’m a teacher and a researcher by trade, and birth is my subject of choice.  just sayin’……this isn’t THE list; it’s the herbwife’s list.  amend as you see fit.  ask for second (and third, and fourth) opinions.  also, don’t assume that doing a few of these things a few times=sure trouble.  repetition increases risk with any harmful substance.  plenty of women have had beautiful, healthy babies after doing a whole slew of these things—-these are just guidelines for giving yourself and your baby the best chance at health. Read the rest of this entry »

make your own goat cheese!

in my attempt to revive antiquated kitchen skills, i’ve learned to make chicken stock, pickled veggies, jams and jellies, but one of my favorite d.i.y. things has been goat cheese.   i’m tempted to pick some up every time i go the store.  it just stares at me from the cold shelves of the “gourmet foods” section of the grocery store, all creamy and rolled in exotic herbs.  it says “buuuuy meeeee” (softly, and with the voice of mike rowe from “dirty jobs” lol). i pick it up, and i aaaaaalmost buy it—but then i look at the price—and i put it down.  let’s be honest.  it wouldn’t make it a day in my fridge—especially if there’s melba toast within reach.  i rarely buy it because i can’t justify the expense.  sorry mike. 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 »

food as medicine: herbal chicken stock

i may be in the minority here, but as a been-drenched-in-sweat-for-six-months alabamian, i must say that i’m quite pleased that it’s finally starting to get cold (yes, here in bama we consider 60 degrees cold!).  cold weather means time for root veggies, pomegranates, greens, and squashes.  it’s a sign to everything in nature to slow down and rest.  aerial parts of plants begin to die back and all of the energy and vital force moves down into the roots for storage and for several months of waiting.  we slow down too—after the cold settles in, only the die-hard runners and joggers can be seen out on the roads.  the rest of us put on our robes, waddle to the windows, look out at the frost-covered cars and say “eh, maybe not today.” 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 »

green up your laundry with soap nuts!

i have been gifted with what i consider to be two fairly fun and healthy qualities….i’m a skeptic when it comes to “miracle products,” those things in life that just sound too good to be true, but i’m also willing to try (nearly) anything once, in order to see for myself.  such a little scientist–i know.  well, when i first heard of soap nuts, i thought it sounded, well….. nuts!  but let me back up a bit.

i’ve always on some level detested the smell of fabric softener and really perfume-y laundry detergent.  (ask my husband to describe the face i make when we walk past that aisle in target! if hell had a smell, it would be that of gain) Read the rest of this entry »

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