October is my favorite month (no, not just because it's my birth month)! As I drove to this week's chiropractic appointment, I reveled in the gray skies, the changing leaves (finally!!), and the crisper air. As trees shed leaves so they can focus their energy on root growth, I find this is the perfect time of year for me to also focus a bit more on myself. Soccer is over, these are the final weeks of this pregnancy, and this is usually the time of year I make our fall herbal "toolkit." Of course, this year, I'm extra tired and need time off my feet that I usually do without, and I need to make freezer meals. I hope I can get it all done!! We already have our elderberry syrup made thanks to Chipmunk's vague cold symptoms at the end of the summer. I need to set up our fire cider, and this year I'll be making some throat soothers. I usually ferment some garlic cloves in honey, too, but I'm skipping that one this year in favor of tinctures and teas. There's one fall remedy I started using only last year that both kids loved, and I used it with success, too. I learned it from one of Rosemary Gladstar's writings - I can't remember which one. If someone is coming down with something, I put some onion slices in a small pot on the stove, over very low heat, and cover them with raw honey. The onion juices infuse and thin out the honey just a bit. When it starts getting a little thinner and fluid like, that's when I start giving my kids "honey spoons." I let them eat it by the spoonful, adding to the pot as needed. The honey can soothe a dry, irritated, sore or scratchy throat, give them a break from a nagging cough and the honey doesn't get so warm that it loses its own antibacterial properties. It will lose some, but not so much that it's rendered useless. The onion has properties helping it to stimulate the immune system, fighting bacteria and inflammation. This is like a 30 second prep, on demand cough syrup. I remember from Rosemary Gladstar's story (if I find it again I'll come back and link to wherever I read it. She is such a warm story teller) that she had a wood stove, and so just always had a pot of this going, and never got sick when she used it. We don't have a wood stove (yet...), so I just make it on an as needed basis and keep it on the lowest heat I can get on my stove. A small crock pot might work well, too.
Quickly, some other things we do year round that these remedies complement (and I can talk more about these next week): I use topical magnesium butter daily (the same one that's in my shop), drink my vitamin c in the form of rose hips infused along with whatever my herbal infusion is that day/week/season, and take 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily (that's a lot, but I've been pregnant, nursing or both for over 6 years straight, so I'm never supplementing for just myself. Astragulus is another wonderful, gentle immune system booster. It's a great addition to fall soups, or you can tincture it.
What do you do to keep your family healthy over the fall and winter months?
Someone asked me recently, "Why herbs? Why not use regular pharmaceuticals?" It's actually a pretty common question. We are so accustomed to using a pill for a headache, another pill for allergies, a syrup or a pill for colds, that we have entire cabinets in our homes dedicated to these bottles of pills, vitamins and syrups. There is no shortage of options whether one is looking to supplement their diet, replace a meal, or have a quick remedy on hand.
But what's the true norm? What common? Sure, a bottle of pills for headaches, aches, pains and fever is what's common for us, but is it normal? Is it really a "gold standard?" Is it really even safe? How do we know? Modern medicine is really still the "new kid." The predecessors to acetaminophen and aspirin were only introduced in the late 1880s. Compare that to herbalism, which is around 60,000 years old. Modern medicine, while it certainly has its place and benefits, has yet to stand the test of time. I can hear the replied now, that many of our medicines began as plants. That's true, however those that begin as plants have been chemically altered so much that the plant isn't really there anymore. A plant is so much more than just its parts, or just its constituents. When I make a tincture of white willow bark, for example, I'm not isolating any one particular chemical within the bark. I'm letting the entire plant part shine and let its chemicals work together. When a chemist makes aspirin, she or he is separating the plant's chemicals, thinking they are isolating only what they need. But what are the results? Aspirin can lead to ulcers, so now we have buffered aspirin, low dose aspirin, and I don't even know what other varieties, not to mention inactive ingredients which have their own effects on the body. And of course, another pill to address ulcers. But this doesn't happen with the herb. Could it be that plant constituents work synergistically to relieve pain and fevers, while not damaging our mucous lining, because the herbalist is not dissecting the plant at the molecular level and discarding what has been deemed useless?
Herbalism also takes a different approach than does western medicine. Western medicine has an ailment-centric approach. It assesses symptoms, provides a diagnosis, and then treats those symptoms or a disease. Herbalism, on the other hand, does not diagnose. It looks at the whole person, their constitution, and looks for signs of imbalance in the body's different systems, and how these all relate. An herbal formula will support the human body's various functions, rather than attack a disease. For example, if someone has a cold, an herbalist might create a formula to boost lymphatic drainage, and help the immune system do the job it already knows to do. Herbalists see the body as an ecosystem, and sometimes that ecosystem needs a little help maintaining its equilibrium.
Herbalism also puts control back into the hands of the people. There is so much we can do for ourselves, and that is something that is particularly attractive to me. I don't just sell preparations and formulas. While I'm still pretty new at this, and will always be learning, I try to also teach as I go, showing friends and family how even the "weeds" in their own backyards can help them with everyday nutrition, or common complaints. There is something very liberating about being able to walk outside and know what plant will help a bee sting, for example.
And I hope I've been as careful as I think I have been in communicating that herbalists are not medical professionals. We do not practice medicine, or diagnose or treat disease. We are not doctors. What herbalists do (and to be clear, I'm still a student) is entirely different.
And this is only a glimpse. I didn't even touch on how the body processes herbs differently than pharmaceuticals or safety track records. Those are blog posts for another day. (But I will quickly say that while herbs are safer, not all are without side effects, and some can be very dangerous if not handled properly).
What's your reason for using herbs? Or maybe you're just delving in. What brought you to herbalism? I'd love to hear your story!
Peace, love and health!!
I want to tackle a topic that comes up very often in chatter groups for naturally minded parents. Let me preface this by saying that I understand where some parents are coming from on this one. We all want what's best for our kids, and for some of us, that means the most natural, and most effective, product we can find. There is a popular teething remedy on the market, and it consists of carrier oils and essential oils. So, people are buying a bottle of diluted essential oils. And, this is not limited to only one brand, so I'm not singling out one brand in particular.
So, first, we need to look at how these teething oils are being used in the first place. Product descriptions state to use these oils on baby's gums. So that's internal use right there. Gum tissue is very porous, and we have to assume that anything we put on our babies' gums is also getting into their bloodstream. Some parents might opt to rub the oil on the jawline near the erupting teeth, instead of rubbing it right on their gums. So, we have to look at dermal use, too.
Let's look at why internal use can be dangerous, since I know that's a point of divergence among parents. First, the mouth is full of mucous membranes. Mucous membranes line pretty much the entire gastro-intestinal system. Essential oils are highly concentrated botanical products, so even one drop of an oil could represent multiple pounds of the correlating herb. So the equation begs the question - if we wouldn't eat that much of any food in an entire dish, why would we use its concentrated equivalent in our mouths or our babies' mouths?? In many cases, it could be toxic. Even water can be toxic in large enough amounts, and it's not uncommon. I've seen it myself a few times. (And yes, it's actually called water intoxication). In the ca of essential oils, depending on the constituents, some can be caustic to our mucous membranes, causing internal burns. People will have varying levels of sensitivity, so it might not burn the first time, or even the tenth time, but it might be that eleventh application in the middle of the night that you or your little one experience the painful cumulative effects of internal use of caustic essential oils. (Which cannot be understated. We are talking about the possibility of second degree burns).
So which oils are mucous membrane and dermal irritants? The lists are a little on the longer side, and you can read what the NAHA has to say on it here. Of these, clove bud is common in teething applications. Clove, as an herb, has many benefits, it's analgesic properties among them. However, essential oil applications are not the same, and cannot be used interchangeably due to their high concentration. So, if you're looking for a teething oil, look for one that uses herbs infused in a carrier oil, rather than one that dilutes essential oils in a carrier oil. There's a big difference. You can also look for teething tinctures - this is when an herb or combination of herbs has steeped in what's called a menstruum - usually alcohol, but not always. These can be rubbed on the gums just the same. Both infused oils and tinctures can bring pain relief for a teething baby - and sleep for the whole family.
It's been a long time,. yet again! And so much has happened in this past year. Early intervention has filled our weekly calendar, we've rolled out new products, new labels, herb school has been in full swing for most of the year, we've been at baby expos and even the International Babywearing Conference. We're adding a baby in the next few months, a weekly blog post, and a seasonal newsletter. I am never more ambitious - or more exhausted - than when I'm pregnant. Ha!
We are nearing the end of our first cycle of subscription boxes (quite the learning experience), and I'm brainstorming for the next cycle. It's honestly hard to choose sometimes, when I'm learning so much, and want to share things faster than the pace I can keep up on social media. There's still time to get in on the last box in December, if you'd like a taste of what could be in store for next year's boxes. Just contact me directly if you're interested. I don't have a listing for those anywhere.
A word on the site shop. These are just a few product highlights. Prices are higher compared to my etsy shop because my listings here have to include shipping. That said, I will absolutely refund shipping overages within 24 hours of shipping, usually right away. I also do custom orders, so if you need a custom tea blend, tincture, salve or oil, contact me here, and I'll help you out. Lastly, I sell bulk herbs, too, so if you're looking for an ounce of this, or maybe even a pound of that, just ask.
Enjoy the new site!
I need garden gnomes, and I don't mean the decorative kind. Because we had just moved in, we didn't do a double dig in the fall. The gardening bug bit me over winter, so I make shifted after reading up online, reading the infamous Mini Farming book, and seeing what my WAPF "milk guy" does for his garden. I laid down a ton of straw, not hay, on top, I smothered that in organic soil and compost, I faithfully transplanted with help from some friends. We dug holes in a hill in my yard and planted new squash. And then I left for Virginia with the babies. A church friend reassured me that the June rains would incubate my plants - Alaska peas, two different heirloom tomato varieties, cucumbers, corn, basil, and carrots. Mr Hockey sent me a picture of the garden a few days before I was to return home. The rains gifted mew a beautiful, healthy, lush... grass patch.
I got to thinking that, with all the hand crafted goodies we make here, some might wonder what we eat. I've mentioned our food allergies and sensitivities before. The list is daunting. Here's what I work with:
Mama Moon: gluten. That's it. It might even be just the pesticides or GMOs in conventional wheat. Either way though, I'm the easy one in our bunch.
Mr. Hockey: gluten, dairy, rice, and perhaps eggs. And we're waiting on the results of an allergy test to confirm. So it could get easier or trickier!
Lovebug: she's outgrown her allergies to dairy, banana, avocado and egg white. She still can't eat wheat or even touch anything with gluten (dog treats, play dough, stickers etc), potato, corn, rice, oat and all other grains, apple, strawberry, and new additions to the list are mushrooms and grapes because they give her an FPIES style reaction.
I've played with a couple of Poe's wraps. One thing they all have in common is their strength. I didn't like Harlequin. I liked that I could put my then 40# all torso tall kid in a ruck comfortably, but she didn't exactly have a good seat (to be fair, she's almost 4 and few wraps can still give her a good seat, bb slen Turkish delight is one), and the wrap is too beastly (and I've broken in a few beasts, like ecru pfau, for one).
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Splendor. It would be my first time playing with a wrap made with Tencel, and I was skeptical. I didn't know much about it. Poe has since posted about the fabric here. It's pretty neat stuff, natural, and sustainable. The wrap looked simple, pointed, and had a sort of classic elegance about it in the pictures I saw, so I thought testing it out might be a neat experience. And originally I was supposed to be testing it out close to Christmas, so I figured I couldn't lose.
It finally arrived, and sight alone it is as elegant in person as it is in photos. Herringbone is trendy and classic all in one, and up close I find this to be a gorgeous wrap. At a distance, the intricate weave gets lost, and it looks almost like a solid color.
I was excited to see how this wrap would perform though. My 17# was asleep, so up went my big kid in a ruck. I usually put her in a double hammock, but I wanted something faster. It's hard on my back to stay hunched over even just a little while wrapping her. So I rucked her, tied Tibetan, , and she stayed up for about 15 minutes - a long time for her these days! It was easy to give her the best seat this wrap could - safe, but not very deep. If she really wanted to she could have popped it, but I think honestly that she'd knock us down first, if she tried to leg straighten at more than half my height. It was more supportive than most other wraps I've tried with her lately. Harlequin was more supportive, but Splendor wraps more delicately. I was still impressed to have her up there for 15 minutes without it getting diggy. Nothing in my own stash does that.
Disclaimer: this is for entertainment purposes only. None of these claims should be taken as medical advice, and you should always seek the care of a medical professional if you're sick.
I love fall. I love the leaves crunching under my feet, the smell in the air, sweaters, extra baking, and that its the season to whip up my favorite syrups and folk remedies. I've made elderberry syrup for the past few years, and it serves us well. It's touted as one of mother nature's "flu shots." Elderberry syrup is one tool among our wellness arsenal, so I can't say for sure if it really works, but we haven't gotten the flu yet (knock on wood).
Elderberries are widely known to be a strong source of vitamin c, which they are. I wanted to learn more though, so I found some clinical trials for standardized elderberry syrup extract (aka, the elderberry syrup you can buy in brick and mortar stores and online). What I learned was pretty amazing.
This past weekend I had the privilege of modeling a new woven wrap for Vermont’s own Poe Wovens. I wasn’t planning to blog about it, after all, I only wore the wrap for one hour. But I loved it so much, that I simply have to share. I volunteered to share, and I’m not officially testing this wrap, so there are no incentives for this post. These are strictly my own opinions after wrapping with this wrap for the purposes of modeling it for Poe Woven’s photo needs.
I had seen the wrap in pictures beforehand, and to be honest, before seeing the wrap in person, I wasn’t excited about the colorway. I don’t own a neutral wrap, and the closest I’ve ever owned, I quickly dyed (I wish I left it alone). I’m also not a huge fan of 100% cotton wraps. Yes, I own a few, but I’m thinning them out. Wool has my heart. I have merino and alpaca wraps, and they are by far my favorite. I love them in the Virginia heat, and the Vermont cold. So, the way I saw it, I was going to do the best I could to give Poe some awesome pictures to work with, get to meet Poe’s owner in person for the first time, and of course check out her work.
Last week was International Babywearing Week. I was extremely busy, but I still think it deserves a blog post.
Babywearing has been my lifesaver in so many different ways. When Lovebug was six months old and cutting her first two top teeth, the only way she would nurse was upright in my mei tai. My guess is that it helped with the fluid in her ears. On her first plane ride, also at six months, wearing her helped her feel safe in crowded airports. She could smell me, feel my heart beat, and rest her head on my chest. Experts write about the fourth trimester, and the baby carrier is a great transition from womb to world.
I am the mama who is over the moon in love with her family and green living.