Posts tagged: herbs

Juice Your Kitchen Scraps!

By , February 22, 2011

I was inspired today by this post about raw vegetable juices over at Wooly Moss Roots. I’ve never been into juicing because separating the fiber from the juice just doesn’t seem natural, and it’s not the ideal way to consume vegetables according to what I’ve read. But then I’ve also read that as long as juicing is used in addition to your regular consumption of fruits and vegetables, it can actually be a very good way to boost your intake of vitamins and minerals. I can certainly see both sides of the story.

We actually have a juicer already (it came with my Hubby), so today I decided to go for it. I used some kitchen scraps that would’ve otherwise gotten tossed (cilantro and parsley stems, a mandarin orange with very tough membranes, and spent beet chunks from making beet kvass), as well as a carrot and some celery. It turned out pretty well! I was especially thrilled to be juicing the last drops of lacto-fermented, enzyme-rich goodness out of those beets! (I’ll share my beet kvass recipe soon. We love beet kvass in this household!)

Remembering that all those vitamins and minerals would probably need some fat in order to be absorbed properly, I added some grassfed whipping cream in a ratio of about 3 or 4 parts juice to 1 part cream.

OH YEA.

The cream was the key. Better nutrient absorption, better taste!

I even felt a sort of…uplift…after drinking this raw veggie juice. And I loved how it was such a clean, light way to start the day!

What’s your opinion about juicing? If you juice, what are your favorite veggie combos?

Pretty layers of juice!

Springtime Dandelion Salad

By , January 29, 2011

Light lunch: Dandelion salad & raspberry leaf tea with grassfed cream

Spring’s in the air! (…till Tuesday, at least, when it’s supposed to get down to -8!) It’s been shorts & t-shirt weather here — the robins have been chirping their summertime songs, and I opened all the windows yesterday to let the fresh air in. My body also seems to know that spring’s coming and it’s time to eat light, clean, liver-cleansing foods. I’ve been craving juicy oranges, fresh lemons, and bitter dandelion salads. Bitter is usually my least favorite taste, but I’ve been eating dandelion salads almost daily lately. Dandelions won’t be growing in the yard for another couple months yet, so I buy the greens at our health food store.

I’ve been really enjoying this particular salad:

dandelion greens mixed half and half with lettuce (sometimes I leave out the lettuce altogether)

green onions

avocado

sunflower seeds

fresh lemon juice and flax seed oil generously drizzled over, with salt & pepper to taste

Chop the greens up nice and small and eat the whole thing with a spoon!

Nourishing Mixed-Herb Pesto

By , August 17, 2010

Oregano, parsley, & cilantro pesto

Pesto is such a versatile condiment — it’s wonderful over fish or chicken, on crackers, tossed with pasta, spread over eggs or sauteed zucchini, in a roasted vegetable sandwich, used as a pizza sauce, or straight off the spoon. And although basil pesto is the most common type, pesto can be made with any combination of herbs. In fact, I think I like mixed-herb pesto even better than basil-only — it has more layers of flavor! And don’t forget that herbs are mineral rich and packed with nutrition, and can definitely be thought of as a medicinal food.

Make a healthy snack with goat cheese and mixed-herb pesto on a raw zucchini slice "cracker"

Use any combination of fresh herbs that you want; pesto is a great way to use up heaps of herbs at once, such as the cilantro sitting in the back of your fridge and the overabundance of oregano in your garden. It’s also a nice way to preserve those herbs for use later in the year; use ice cube trays to freeze pesto into small portions and thaw as needed over the winter.

One nice combination is oregano, parsley, and cilantro — this is probably my favorite. Use equal parts…or not! Just combine according to the amounts you have. I do suggest, however, that you go easy on the fresh sage if you choose to use it; it lends an overpowering (and not all that tasty) element. Also, mint is nice as an added “splash” but go easy on that too, since it can also overpower.

My basic pesto recipe is as follows, though you’ll probably find you don’t even need a recipe. Just gather a bunch of herbs, add a clove or two of garlic (start with less garlic and add more later if needed), add nuts, cheese, and salt, and then olive oil to form a paste.

Basic Herb Pesto

1 cup fresh herbs, packed

2 garlic cloves, small-medium size

3 Tbsp olive oil, approx.

3 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese, approx.

1-2 Tbsp pine nuts or walnuts, approx. (optional)

Salt to taste

Put everything into the food processor and blend until a paste is formed.

Instead of using the food processor, though, I like to make mine the old fashioned way using a knife and cutting board. If you use a nice sharp chopping knife, the task goes faster and is more fun than the food processor (at least for me — I get angry at my food processor when making pesto!). The key is definitely the sharp knife. Chop your herbs, garlic, and nuts as finely as possible, add the parmesan (chop it up too, if you like), and then add olive oil until a loose paste is formed. You can replace a little of the olive oil with water if you want. Add salt to taste. The texture will be more rustic than paste-like, but that’s not a bad thing. 😉

Making pesto without a food processor

The “Salad Taco”: A New Way to Eat Your Greens

By , June 3, 2010

Salad Taco drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. Ready to be folded up and eaten!

We’re all familiar with the taco salad. It’s present at almost every single potluck I’ve been to. But this is a salad taco, and if your kids don’t enjoy eating veggies, this might be a novel way to present salads. The salad taco idea came about because I like to forage in my garden, picking lettuce leaves and adding bits of whatever else is growing — onion tops, baby chard, cilantro, dill, oregano — and then folding it all up like a taco to munch on.

Today, though, I decided to give the whole thing a little more formality and class. I cut up some avocado and added tomato, along with some other garden goodies — dill, cilantro, and green onion. Drizzled with some homemade balsamic vinaigrette and then folded up and eaten like a taco, it was fantastic!

Apart from using your fingers as salad tongs (which was my preferred method as a kid), this seems like a more efficient way to consume a salad. And loads more fun than trying to use a fork to spear micron-thin lettuce leaves (not to mention a cherry tomato).

You could even take this idea to the ‘next level’ by doing a salad taco buffet at the dinner table — little bowls with different vegetables and toppings that you spoon onto lettuce leaves, and then drizzle with your choice of dressing.

Vegetable ideas: cucumbers, shredded carrots, radishes, tomatoes, green onions, red bell peppers, avocados, sprouts, fresh herbs.

Topping ideas: sunflower seeds, blue cheese, dried cranberries, chopped pears, toasted pecans, hard boiled egg, crumbled bacon, bits of ham, croutons, feta cheese, kalamata olives, black beans, raw cheddar cheese.

Dressing ideas:

– Balsamic Vinaigrette (Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, thyme, basil, salt, pepper)

– Blue Cheese Vinaigrette (Apple cider vinegar, olive oil, crumbled blue cheese, powdered dry mustard, salt, pepper)

– Greek (olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper)

– Salsa & Sour Cream for a Mexican-style dressing

Kids or not, this makes salad-eating way more fun! 😉

Healing From Surgery, Part 3: Topical Skin-Healing Remedies

By , November 9, 2009
Natural Skin-Healing Remedies

From left: Tea Tree Oil, Goldenseal extract, Homeopathic Bone Strengthener, Homeopathic Arnica Gel, Homemade Herbal Wound-Healing Oil, & Virgin Coconut Oil

Time for another installment in the series!

For an introduction to the series, and the pre-/post-surgery homeopathic regimen I created, visit Part 1: Homeopathy.

For instructions on how to make your own Antiseptic Herbal Wash and Herbal Wound-Healing Oil, visit Part 2: Herbal Wound Remedies.

Part 3: Topical Skin-Healing Remedies

After the bandage was removed, I didn’t really put anything onto the actual incision sites (except my Antiseptic Herbal Wash) until they were more healed (therefore, less risk of sealing in any infection).

I kept my incisions clean by washing them with gentle (castile) soap and water; the nurse I talked to urged me not to use either hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean or “sterilize” my wounds; they’re too caustic and harsh on the new tissue that’s forming.

If a wound looks like it’s getting infected (pain, heat, swelling, oozing/draining, and/or bright red color around incision), the essential oils of Tea Tree, Manuka, and/or Lavender can be used neat (full strength) right on the wound (or diluted, if you prefer). I used them a few times on my wounds just to help prevent infection. You can also use a thin layer of regular ol’ triple antibiotic ointment; in my experience, that stuff really does work. However, you don’t want to totally slather it on, because it might trap moisture inside the wound.

As a side note, I also exposed my wounds to direct sunshine when I could; MRSA (drug-resistant Staph) is killed by sunlight. You can read an article with similar implications here: CBS News: Blue Light Kills MRSA. (Though, the sunlight method isn’t totally foolproof since MRSA bacteria can cluster together and form a protective cover over itself called a biofilm, sheltering it from its environment.)

(Obviously, when in doubt, have your incision looked at by your doctor, since infections aren’t to be taken lightly.)

Goldenseal extract is another good topical remedy for infections. It has broad-spectrum antibacterial properties, but keep in mind that Goldenseal is not a systemic antibiotic. In other words, Goldenseal does not course its way through your blood, killing bacteria in its path. Rather, it acts as a contact disinfectant — killing bacteria, fungi, parasites, and protozoa that it comes into direct contact with in the mouth, GI tract, urinary tract, and on the skin.

Also, Goldenseal is one of the most over-harvested and endangered wild medicinal plants in North America. Even so, many (most!) of the Goldenseal that is sold is “wild harvested” or “wildcrafted.” While these terms sound enticing, do avoid them! Instead, only purchase Goldenseal that is “certified organic” or “cultivated.” Herb Pharm puts out a nice, certified organic Goldenseal extract that does not contribute to the demise of this precious healing plant.

Fortunately, Oregon Grape is a more abundant plant, with very similar properties. Oregon Grape root is a great replacement for Goldenseal root!

Anyway. Twice a day for a month or more after the bandage was removed, I put homeopathic arnica gel and virgin coconut oil (which is great for skin) all over my foot, avoiding the incision sites. The arnica gel definitely reduced the bruising discoloration, although my foot still felt bruised to the touch. The coconut oil was great for moisturizing. I noticed that since my foot was swollen, it would get very dry and itchy (like, scratch-it-with-a-steak-knife itchy) unless I was careful to keep it moisturized twice a day.

Once the incisions healed more, I began spraying my Homeopathic Bone Strengthener spray directly onto the skin over the bones that were healing. I also continued to take the spray under my tongue.

And lastly, I began using my homemade Herbal Wound-Healing Oil on the incision sites, and continue to use it daily. I also massage Vitamin E oil (from a punctured capsule) onto the scars.

All in all, my foot looks great! It’s not swelling too much, it’s not visibly bruised at all (though as I said above, it does still feel bruised to the touch…for me, arnica takes away the ugly color, but not the pain), and the scars are healing quite well. Of course, I’m not sure what my foot would have looked like without all these remedies. But since the incisions are healing so well, I definitely feel that they’ve helped.

Do you have a favorite natural skin-healing remedy? I’d love to know!

Healing From Surgery, Part 2: Herbal Wound Remedies

By , October 21, 2009

Calendula Petals for Herbal Wound-Healing Oil

Welcome back!

For an introduction to the series, and the pre-/post-surgery homeopathic regimen I created, visit Part 1: Homeopathy.

For Part 2 today, I’ll be showing you how to make Herbal Wound-Healing Oil and an Antiseptic Herbal Wash. You can make these and keep them on hand for cleansing and healing any type of wound.

One thing: Be careful when applying the Wound-Healing Oil to burns or infected areas, because they may heal over “too quickly,” sealing in heat and bacteria. For these situations, make sure the burn has completely cooled, or that the infection has first been treated with a good antimicrobial preparation.

For me…since the incisions were on my foot (where there’s a higher risk of post-surgical infection because of decreased circulation), I conservatively used only the Antiseptic Herbal Wash until the wounds had completely closed up and there was no sign of infection. At that point, I no longer needed to use the Antiseptic Herbal Wash…and began to then use the Wound-Healing Oil.

Herbal Wound-Healing Oil

Herbal Wound Healing Oil

Wound-Healing Oil infusing on a sunny windowsill

Making herbal oils is easy because you don’t really need any special ingredients or equipment. Herbal oils can be made by either hot infusion or cold infusion. For a hot infusion, equal amounts of herbs and oil (often olive oil) are simmered over low heat for a few hours.

Cold infusion is a much slower process whereby you pack a clear glass jar with herbs and oil and let it stand for several weeks, often in the sun. Sunlight encourages the herbs to release their active constituents into the oil. Cold infusion is the best method for fresh plant material, especially for more delicate parts such as flowers. Since my herbs were fresh, and I was using delicate calendula flower petals, I chose the cold infusion method. Olive oil is very good for cold infusion because of its resistance to turning rancid. The intensity of sunlight and the length of time the herbs are infused will affect the strength of the end product. For a stronger oil, strain out the first batch of herbs, add a new batch of fresh ones, and infuse again for another few weeks.

Cold Infusion Step 1: Gather your plant material — either dried or fresh, or a mix of both. I used all fresh plants this time (fresh is almost always better). Any medicinal plant will work, and you may use just one type, or a mix. For my Wound-Healing Oil, I chose a mix of antiseptic, skin-healing, and bone-healing plants:

Sage (leaves) – antiseptic

Yarrow (leaves) – antiseptic, heals wounds, anti-inflammatory

Thyme (leaves) – antiseptic (contains Thymol, a very potent germ killer)

Comfrey (leaves) – heals wounds, assists with bone fusion (it’s also known as “Knitbone”)

Calendula (flower petals) – antiseptic, heals wounds, anti-inflammatory

Step 2: Chop the herbs into little pieces. Stuff them into a clear glass jar that has a lid. Pour olive oil into the jar until it completely covers the herbs. You may need to poke around with a spoon to get the oil to seep down to the bottom of the jar. If there’s any plant material above the oil, it will probably mold, so try to pour enough oil in to cover everything. I had a little mold growing on the surface of the oil after a few weeks (probably on a plant piece that wasn’t submerged), but I just scooped it up and threw it away. No harm done.

Step 3: Screw on the lid, and place the jar in a spot where it’ll get plenty of sunshine, but where it won’t be disturbed. (Again, if any herb pieces are washed out of the oil and onto the side of the jar, they’ll get moldy. It’s not a big deal, but if they get moldy you should scoop them out.) Leave it there for at least 2 weeks, but preferably 4 weeks or longer.

Wound-Healing Oil. Twice infused, strained, and ready to use.

Wound-Healing Oil. Twice infused for a total of 6 weeks, strained, and ready to use.

Step 4: Set up a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Pour the contents of the jar into the strainer and squeeze the herbs tightly in your fist to get as much oil out as possible. It’s a messy job; don’t wear your Sunday best. Run the oil through the strainer again if any plant material accidentally got into the bowl. Discard the plant material.

Step 5: I like to puncture a Vitamin E capsule and squeeze it into the jar of finished oil. Vitamin E is a good preservative. Store the oil in the fridge for a longer shelf life.

Step 6 (optional): For an even stronger oil, chop up a new batch of fresh or dried plant material, and put it into the oil you’ve just strained. Place in the sunny spot for a second round of infusion. For my Wound-Healing Oil, I strained the oil after 3 weeks, and then added more fresh Calendula petals and Comfrey leaves (both fresh and dried), and left it to infuse for another 3 weeks.

Antiseptic Herbal Wash

Making the Antiseptic Herbal Wash

Making the Antiseptic Herbal Wash

Antiseptic Herbal Wash is what I applied to the surgical incisions until they were completely healed. After I made the Herbal Wash, I froze it into ice cube trays, and then stored the ice cubes in the freezer. Each night, I would take out a cube and let it thaw in the fridge. Then, both morning and evening the next day, I would pour the liquid over my foot, rubbing it into the wounds. It didn’t sting, but I tasted a little bit of it once, and it was very strong and very disgusting! Not something you want to drink, certainly! After the wounds had completely closed up and there was no sign of infection, I then stopped using the Wash and began using the Wound-Healing Oil.

Step 1: Gather your plant material — either dried or fresh, or a mix of both. I used all fresh plants this time (fresh is almost always better). For this Antiseptic Herbal Wash, I chose these medicinal plants:

Sage (leaves) – antiseptic

Yarrow (leaves) – antiseptic, heals wounds, anti-inflammatory

Thyme (leaves) – antiseptic (contains Thymol, a very potent germ killer)

Lavender (leaves) – antiseptic, soothing

Step 2: Chop up the plant material, and place into a large jar that has a lid. Pour enough boiling water over the plant material to cover it completely. Screw the lid on loosely. (If a lid is not used, the precious volatile oils will dissipate into the air.)

Step 3: Let the mixture steep until the water has cooled to room temperature…or longer. I let mine steep for the whole day. Pour the water through a strainer, squeezing the herbs tightly to get all the water out. Discard the herbs, and either refrigerate or freeze the herbal water. Again, I like to freeze mine into ice cubes that can be defrosted when needed.

Antiseptic Herbal Wash frozen into ice cubes

Antiseptic Herbal Wash frozen into ice cubes

Healing From Surgery, Part 1: Homeopathy

By , October 19, 2009

Homeopathy for Bone Healing

Before the recent bunion surgery on my foot (bunionectomy with osteotomy where the 1st metatarsal bone was broken, a wedge of fake bone was inserted, and a plate and 4 screws were inserted to secure the area), I thought about what I could do beforehand to prepare my body to heal well afterward. I prepared in many different ways, and there are also plenty of things I’ve done since the surgery to support my body in healing. In this “Healing From Surgery” series, I’ll be sharing everything I did, including:

  • extra-nourishing foods I’ve prepared
  • herbal remedies I’ve made
  • supplements, creams, and alternative therapies I’ve been using

I’ll be focusing especially on bone health & healing, since the surgery involved cutting one part of a bone, breaking another part, and installing 4 metal screws into it. So this series would certainly apply to healing from a broken bone, too.

Part 1: Homeopathy

I used to think it was total hogwash, but I’ve had a few surprising successes with homeopathic remedies, and I find myself turning to it for minor first aid issues. Any suggestions for good online resources? So far, www.abchomeopathy.com is the best from what I’ve seen.

Homeopathy is a form of vibrational medicine (it’s not “of the physical realm”), and therefore will not interfere with any other drug or treatment, so combining homeopathy with western medicine is not a problem.

Here are a couple good explanations of what homeopathy is:

Hyland’s website

Society of Homeopaths website

Before my surgery, I consulted a few different homeopathy books and put together a remedy regimen for myself:

Beginning one week before surgery, I took:

Arnica 30c – twice a day (to prepare for bruising, swelling, trauma of surgery, soft tissue damage, etc.)

Phosphorus 6c – twice a day (to prevent hemorrhage during and after surgery)

Homeopathic Calm Drops – as needed, for fear and anxiety

Then, after surgery I took:

Arnica 30c – each hour for the first day, then multiple times a day for the next couple days, easing off to twice a day for the next 2-3 weeks (for bruising, swelling, post-surgical trauma & soft tissue damage)

Nux Vomica 30c – twice a day for one week (to help rid the body of the anesthesia drugs)

Symphytum Officinale 6c – twice a day for about 4 weeks (for healing of bone fractures)

Calcarea Phosphorica 6x – twice a day for about 4 weeks (For the Hyland’s brand that I got, it was 4 times a day. Just follow dosage instructions on the bottle.) (supports bone health & healing)

King Bio Bone Strengthener – One dose (3 sprays) into mouth or on affected area up to 6 times a day. I’m still taking this remedy until the bone has healed more and I’m walking comfortably.

Of course, I’m not sure if all these remedies have worked. I don’t know what my foot would have looked like or felt like without the remedies. But I will say that my hubby and I were genuinely surprised at how little swelling and bruising we saw when the bandage was removed after two weeks. Even my neighbor, a nurse, was impressed.

As for the bones, of course, who can say? Who knows if the homeopathy helped. However, so far my x-rays look good, and I’m right on schedule for healing; in the next few days I’ll be weaning off crutches (yessss!). At the next visit, the doctor may even let me put my foot into a regular shoe…which would mean that my healing is ahead of schedule. And also, I’ve been doing lots of other things to support my healing process, which I’ll write about in the other parts of this series. Perhaps each little thing plays its own part. I know that I’d do this homeopathy regimen again, though. Since it probably helps, and certainly doesn’t hurt, why not?

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