Tag Archives: herbs

an herbal remedy review

Last week I attended my eighth and probably my final herbal remedy party for the season. Not only am I thankful God blessed us with the extra income while we were in limbo between unemployment and the first paycheck, but I am also very excited to report that not only has customer feedback back simply positive, but a couple of my remedies have far surpassed my hopes in their design.

Like I tell my customers, I have no further education in herbal medicine – everything I have learned has been through countless hours of research and experimenting on my family. The trouble is, experimenting on one’s family takes a long time to learn the effectiveness of a time-old remedy’s use in today’s world of over-the-counter meds. So it is very exciting to see volunteers come forward, use my remedies, and give amazing feedback.

This is not a sales pitch, but I do want to tell you about these wonderful herbs because God deserves the credit for designing them.

Many of you know that for a couple of years I have been making a diaper rash cream out of comfrey. I’ve been giving this salve away to friends with babies, and confirmed that it wasn’t just my baby’s bums it could heal (because sometimes I really do wonder if I’m just imagining the miracles this salve works), but that it really is a great alternative to store-bought creams.

This year I added a new salve to my line of products, using not only comfrey, but several othe herbs: Calendula, chamomile, yarrow, lavender, rosemary, valerian, lemon balm, thyme, and echinacea.

My hope was that this remedy could be used to treat minor wounds and replace the need for antibiotic ointment. Then Papa discovered that both salves removed pain from his elbow joints, and I was amazed to discover that the first aid salve was able to remove both joint and nerve pain from my hip (thank you pregnancy!). This really is a universal first aid product!

The second most popular remedy among my customers was the clear mind tincture, which I made from basil, oregano, lemon balm, chamomile, and valerian. This remedy was made for treating various nerve-related symptoms such as insomnia, stress, indigestion, and depression. Some of the herbs have been used historically for increasing memory and energy, but while I did say that was a potential benefit, I was excited to see that it was a quick responding treatment for memory problems! The most incredible story yet came from a customer whose son has tourette syndrome. His meds were not really helping with the tics, so she got permission from his doctor to add my clear mind tincture to his morning routine, and right away the tics were dramatically reduced!

Next year I want to work on new ideas I have, such as a cold and flu treatment for young kids, and comfrey ice pack kits, but with a new baby on the way and sleepless nights ahead, I may instead be devoting much of my herbal time to drying and combining teas. We’ll see. I am happy with how the parties went, and I still hope to start a business in the next couple years, but for now I’ll use the remedies I have and encourage family and friends to use herbs for medicine. They really work!

(if you are a family or friend of mine, I do still have TONS of salves and some tinctures available for sale, email me if you are interested!)

Why we are closing our herbal store

Yes, it is true. Just weeks before our 2011 herbal remedies will be available, we have decided to close our online store.

Why the change of plans? For three reasons: one, response to the salves we had available last year was less than exciting; two, I have six herbal remedy parties scheduled among friends and family so far and I don’t think I will have much left afterwards to sell online.

The third reason is a little more complicated. We live in Maine where making and selling herbal remedies is legal, but in order to avoid FDA regulation (which is cost prohibitive to a home-based business) we have to keep our sales within our state.

My interest in herbal remedies began in part because increased government intrusion into people’s lives made me wonder how long it would be before over-the-counter medications became a thing of the past. I wanted to ensure that even if that happened I would be able to treat my family’s illnesses.

My suspicions grew when herbal remedies were made illegal in the UK. How long before pharmaceutical companies decide they don’t have enough control over home-made remedies and start banning them in the US? It’s not that far-fetched, really.

My hope is that not only will growing, preparing, and selling herbal remedies locally will enhance my knowledge and skills, but that I will also inspire others to take responsibility for their own healthcare as well.

That inspiration is why I will continue to share with you how we prepare our remedies, because even if I can’t sell them to you (if you live out-of-state), I can do my best to encourage you to do it for yourself. I have found it a rewarding experience and I’m so glad I was inspired to start in my humble kitchen.

a few changes

A whole week without posts, I can’t imagine how you have managed without updates from our family! (I do hope you hear the sarcasm) Even with the week off, I was in doubt for a few days whether I would have enough time to accomplish my short-term goals for blog development before the time I told you I would be back. Despite the craziness of the past couple weeks I have still managed to make a few changes and breakdown my goals into easy steps which I can take over the course of the next few weeks while still posting updates.

a friend comes to visit

 Updates to AFN this week include adding mentions of our newest baby and house updates on the Who We Are page and Q&A. The Store page has been updated with our current Sale on comfrey salves in prep for the release of our new remedies this fall.

 I also removed comment moderation, which means new visitors will be able to share a comment and not have to wait until I approve it to see their comment on the page. Spam will hopefully be caught by the WordPress program, but if not I will delete it as soon as it is spotted. The last of the noticeable changes is the option in the side column to add AFN to your RSS feed, which some blog readers prefer over email subscription. We want this blog to be convenient for our family, friends, and new visitors to enjoy.

 I can’t wait to put all my ideas in action, but it may take some time. Keep checking back to see what’s new. Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already, and share your thoughts – we love comments!

Garden Designing

With the yard sale over and much of the moving done, Papa has been able to focus on the garden. Our starters have been sitting uncovered in the field, and we’ve been getting anxious to get them in the ground. While life on the homestead is more “simple”, we are certainly not bored! So many projects to do, and an order for getting them all done. The starters just haven’t been on the top of the list, but now that Papa has been able to start working the land, we’re finally able to put them in their new home.

The greenhouse will have to wait though, and we are actually rethinking the purpose of the greenhouse to make sure we don’t overdo ourselves. For now we have nice raised beds. Papa found part of a rock wall that wasn’t being used as a property marker anymore, and he’s been using the kids’ wagon to bring them to the garden area. From there he has built up the outside of the smaller beds with the rocks. The idea being that as the pine rots the frame will be replaced with the stones. While he has a lot on his to-do list, Papa has been having fun taking the time to make these beds look nice.

The larger beds are made from bowling alley material that we picked up off the side of the road. They will never rot and are plenty sturdy! We can build four of them, but we may end up only building two and then the rest of the tilled area will be used for a “regular” garden. Perennial herbs are planted by the side of the chicken run, walled off by small stones, and we’ll have more small gardens for the rest of the perennial herbs, along with sunflowers and other flowers.

While Papa has been building stone walls, I’ve been transplanting most of the starters; all but the tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, blueberries, and some onions that will have to wait until we have ground ready for them (not including all the seeds still to plant!).

I’m amazed how much I’ve been able to accomplish while taking care of the kids! Actually, the kids have had a blast playing in the dirt. Buddy has been finding wild flower seeds and planting them in his own little garden.

Our camper is not currently where we plan to leave it. The place I was standing when I took the first picture at the top of this post is the basically the view from where our front door will be. It will be facing the alcove at the top of our little hill, behind the trees. Other than the power lines, it is nicely tucked into the corner, out of view, and sort feels like The Little House in the Woods.

My biggest frustration in the planting process has been our three hens. As they are free-rangers, they like to dig for grubs, and they’ve been scratching up some of my freshly transplanted herbs, herbs that were already having a hard time germinating. I can only hope they will root themselves into the ground and survive long enough that the chickens will leave them alone.

In the picture below, you can see my drawing of the garden layout. Beware, this is completely inaccurate in scale. It simply gives an idea of what boxes are where. The camper is not drawn in, but will be in the bottom right hand side, at an angle, facing the chicken run and gardens. It also does not include future patches for perennials and flowers, and I have not listed all the vegetables we have yet to plant. This is still a work in process!

Herbal Remedies and Christianity

This post was written Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I’m so excited! This week I transplanted my comfrey and nettle plants from the old house to the new homestead. The chickens were just as excited, because as I dug the holes for the plants they found TONS of grubs and worms. The soil is rich and I think thinning them out like I did will probably help them to spread faster.

My list of remedies for this summer is nearly complete. Looking through my herbal books, I felt like a shopaholic perusing a catalog of the newest season’s line of clothes. There are so many useful remedies I could make from the herbs I’ve started this year! What to make? What to make? I finally narrowed my list down to about 12 recipes, most of which would be beneficial to my own family, but some others I’ve kept in mind for family members who might like them. Remember, I’m planning to start herbal parties to sell these remedies, in part to cover the cost of the remedies my family would use, and hopefully enough to make a little profit too!

So, are you curious to know what I’m making? Here goes…
• Itch-Relief Spritzer
• Baby Bum Salve (currently for sale from our Store)
• Women’s Tonic Tea
• Nourishing Body Cream
• Asthma Relief Tea
• Joint and Muscle Pain Salve
• Cold and Flu Syrup for Kids
• Cold and Flu Tea for Adults
• Nature’s First Aid Salve
• Heart Health Tea
• Digestive Aid Tincture
• Clear Mind Tincture
• Headache Relief Tincture

Like I said, I narrowed them down to this list! The final list of remedies available will of course depend on what the harvest looks like. If it doesn’t turn out so well this year, I may limit my recipes to those I know my family will personally use.

While I’m on the topic of herbs, I wanted to touch on a topic that has been on my back burner of post ideas for at least a year. That of Christianity vs. New Age beliefs and herbalism. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know our family is Christian. We hold the Bible to be the absolute truth and the gospel message of Jesus Christ to be our saving grace. On the other hand, we do not take for granted what “Christian” pastors preach. There are some really funky sermons out there, and many cultural beliefs held as truth by Christians that really make no sense.

Herbalism is one of them. When you ask a Christian about herbalism, you are very likely to hear that the practice of making and using herbs for medicine is a New Age practice, something used by people who worship the mother earth and talk about “body energy” “yin and yang”, and “chakras”. I have a serious problem with this belief. Saying that all herbalists are New-Agers is like saying all vegetarians are animal rights activists. It is a very assumptive judgement, which unfortunately leaves Christians who believe it, unable to receive the benefits of God’s herbal creations.

God made the world, and He made EVERYTHING in it. He designed every cell in this universe and gave each a specific function. Then humans sinned and twisted God’s creation to serve their own purpose. When a person takes something of God and tries to manipulate it, does that ruin God’s creation? Does it make utilizing God’s creation a sin? NO!

Herbs have been used since the beginning of time to promote health and wellbeing, and heal many illnesses. Prescription medicines are often derived from herbal sources. They are typically safe, usually effective, carry few side effects if any depending on the herb, and can be made at home for little expense.

Actually, many of the New Age values are based on God’s creation. Consider yin and yang, a term used in Chinese medicine to describe balance. Your body needs balance. It’s called homeostasis. Yin and yang is actually quite scientific and is used to identify areas of a person’s lifestyle (such as diet) that need to be adjusted to bring health. It’s not voodoo, it’s not satanic, it’s not even “earth worship”. For example, if a person has a fever, they should avoid “hot” foods like coffee, cinnamon and other spices. Instead they should eat fruits and other water veggies that are considered “cool” foods. I don’t personally turn to the yin and yang system to address my own health, but it is much like yoga. You can use the physical aspects to your benefit (using God’s creation and inspiration to maintain health) without worshiping some inner god.

To bring herbalism back into the picture, I am concerned for people who think herbs are dangerous to ones’ health, either because they are unregulated by the federal government, or because of a superstition that all herbalists are anti-God. That is taking for granted God’s wonderful creation, and they not only miss out on personal benefits of using herbs, but they are buying into a false belief that they pass on to other Christians who trust what the general Christian consensus is.

“Behold – I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of the Earth.” ~ God speaks in Genesis 1:29.

Check out www.bibleherbs.net to learn about all the herbs specifically mentioned in the Bible as used to maintain health and heal sickness.

Marigolds, chicks, and ducks

Yesterday when Buddy was treasure hunting behind the garage, he found a few pretty purple flowers, which I shared with you in my last post. He told Papa he wanted to plant some flowers, so we told him we could plant flowers when we started the rest of our seeds.

Being rainy, there weren’t too many projects Papa was able to do today, so he got us all working on starting the starters. First came the marigolds in special pots labeled “Nemo” and “Daphney”, then came the oregano, rosemary, coneflower, peppers, tomatoes, and onions. We have about 8 more varieties of herbs to plant indoors, which Papa and I will be working on later this evening.

What is a day of farming without new chicks? Papa took Buddy to “the chicken store”, a.k.a. the Tractor Supply Company, intending to purchase six Golden Comet pullets to add to our collection of layers. Because we are required by Maine state law to purchase six at a time, we fully anticipated bringing home six chicks, but as it turned out we were able to buy six Red Comet chicks for the price of four, because two of them were runts, so Papa picked out two ducklings as well.

The kids were very excited, of course. While the two men were off on their assignment, Girlie and I prepared the chicks’ (and ducklings’) new home, a rubbermaid tub we used for the last batch of chicks. When they arrived the chicks and ducklings jumped around their home, were held a few times each I’m sure, and settled in for a nap.

Unfortunately, one of the runts has already passed on. We knew she looked sickly and as time went on she was responding less and less to stimuli. We talked to Buddy about the possibility that she might not live through the night, and he was fine with that, provided that we give him the chance to hold her after she died. He did, and he put her in the brown paper bag that we’ll bury her in tomorrow. She was just a chick, and we didn’t even know her, but it’s still sad. I told her runt “sis”, she has to get stronger and live well for her lost friend, but we have a feeling she won’t make it much longer either.

Quite a day of farming adventures really. Life, death, learning, adjusting, and moving on.

Enjoy this video of our six chicks and two ducklings when they first came home.

Update – Both runts died, so we’re down to four healthy chicks and two ducks, and I forgot to mention that Buddy named the ducks (of unknown gender) Maiko and Teaka!

Building starter trays

Ah, yes it is time to start getting our garden stuff out and into action. This time we will be going full bore as if our lives depended on it. Recently we made an eBay purchase for 300 4″ plastic pots and plastic trays with 480 individual cells, and it was delivered to us all neatly stacked together taking up maybe a couple square feet. I sat proudly and thought to myself “Yeah…..we are gearing up for this homstead project” as I gazed upon our growing arsenal of self-relient STUFF. Yet, there was a nagging thought barking in my left ear saying “What are you going to do about getting these seeds started in time when you don’t have any trays to put the planters in, no money to buy them, and really have not a decent location to put it all at this point?”. To get this clear it was not Mama barking in my left ear but a reality check smacking me around!

So after kicking a few ideas around in my head I came up with a solution that would not cost more than $30.00 and hold 680 individual starter pot/cells. I, being king of cheap, decided to use a sheet of luan plywood , 1×4 #4 grade pine (my favorite solution for everything duct tape won’t fix), a few 1 1/4″ screws, and six trash bags to build my six waterproof trays. The day was 4-4-11 and I remembered, “ahh haa!” I had a Lowe’s coupon to get $10 off a purchase of $50 or more expiring that day. However, I did not want to spend an extra $20 just to get $10 off because it seemed too….something or other. Needing to start a fire I went outside to split some wood while pondering what I could do and still be finacially prudent, when “CRACK” the head of my splitting maul fell right off and into a slushy puddle. “Oops! That sucks!” I yelled, and looking up I saw Buddy staring through our door at me with this cunfused gitty look on his face. I went back inside only to have Buddy, trying very hard not laugh, start muttering some alien words describing what just happened. Agreeing with his laugh I too started laughing and said, “well I’m gonna be going to lowe’s. Who wants to go with me?”. It really didn’t matter who wanted to go because it was Girlie’s turn to ride with Papa anyways, so off we went.

The trays I built are 25″ by 33″ and 2 1/2″ deep and have a separated trash bag liner which is secured using staples. I dumped a gallon of water into one and found that it has about a 5/16″ water table height. This good to know for watering purposes. The tray also held water without a problem, even as I sloshed it around during the trip to the drain. Eventually I will most likely build some sort of greenhouse rack system for the trays, but for now we have something to start with.

Goings On

What could I write about today? My book cover being finished? Nemo playing out in the blizzard we had? The materials prepared for the braided rug? The Amish friendship bread I made today? Glen drawing out plans for our cottage? Reaching the halfway mark for my goal of getting 6 doula clients already? Or all of it?? So much happening, and much of it worth writing about, but for now I think pictures and a recipe will have to suffice, as there is also much housework to be done. Piles of laundry all over the house, toys, dishes, and who knows what else!

But enough about housework, here’s the recipe I used for the friendship sourdough starter I received from a friend at mom’s group. It’s a fun family project – Nemo and Daphney both enjoyed squishing it in the plastic bag every day, and feeding it every few days. Today Daphney helped me make the first two loaves of bread!

If you want to start your own sourdough or friendship bread, here’s a recipe I found using just flour and water! The starter I have also had milk in it, but I’m not sure what the original recipe looked like. Yeast is also a common ingredient used in sourdough starters. The only variation I made to the Amish recipe was using 2 mashed bananas instead of the vanilla pudding.

In other food news, I ground up sage and thyme that friends of ours grew and shared. After adding it to the store-bought herbs we had, I was surprised to find that homegrown herbs look much different than store-bought. I showed this to Glen and asked, “doesn’t this make you want to have an herbal garden?” My goodness what do they do to destroy the beautiful color (and nutrition I assume) of herbs?! I really am looking forward to starting another garden this summer…

Okay, now I’m done. Anybody local want some sourdough starter?

My Herbal Cabinet

Honestly, I’ve never had that many pills in my medicine cabinet, and most of them were vitamin supplements. Even before I learned why large amounts of medications are generally not good, Glen and I just didn’t feel that great about using them unless we REALLY needed to. But after my great success with comfrey, I was inspired to learn more about herbs as a natural alternative to drugs, a more gently approach to treating illness and discomfort in the body.

This past spring I added to my garden nettles, yarrow, and skullcap, and decided that I would try making different kinds of herbal treatments including tinctures, infusions, and salves. Unfortunately the nettles did not take, but a friend recently gave me a couple of her nettle plants so next spring I’ll try again.

I found lots of resources for different herbal recipes, and lists of uses for these herbs. Much of it was found through Google, but a few of the books in my collection include The Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, The Pregnancy Herbal, A Garden of Herbal Remedies, New Choices in Natural Healing, and The Ministry of Midwifery. Surprisingly, many of the remedies mentioned in midwifery books apply to other health challenges families face.

I printed a list to post on the wall of all the uses I found for my new remedies. Things like infections, cuts and bruises, headaches, insomnia, pms, toothaches, muscle pain and more. I think it’s very rewarding to be making my own “medications” for far less money and far less side effects.

Speaking of saving money, I started looking up prices for premade tinctures, oils, and salves. Even the ones made from regular olive oil like mine were really expensive! I currently have two quart jars of oil infusing in the closet and each one is worth about $80! I could never afford to buy this stuff already made, but doing it myself it is SO cheap. If you are concerned about the negative effects of long term use of medication, if you can’t afford over the counter drugs all the time, or you just like doing things yourself, I highly recommend making your own herbal remedies.

And they really are effective! Daphney broke out with a rash of some kind, it looked like hives, and I immediately put some of my comfrey/yarrow/skullcap salve on it. Within 45 minutes it was only faint lines instead of big puffy white lines, and shortly after disappeared. The comfrey salve clears up diaper rashes at least as quickly as medicated diaper ointment. The skullcap tincture really does take away headaches, and the comfrey ice packs, well, let’s just say, they’ve saved us at least a couple trips to the ER with Daphney!

Next year I plan to grow even more herbs, except Glen will be doing much more to help me. He has become inspired to take over much of the gardening, beginning with a green house he wants to assemble, from used materials, in the backyard. I’m so excited to see him jump in because now this truly will be a family venture! He’ll do the growing and I’ll concoct the remedies. Who knows, maybe I could even start selling a few of them now and then.

Hodge Podge

Breath. Just breath.

I just spent 20 minutes uploading pictures and writing half this post, only for the page to freeze and the whole thing to be deleted. So do I finish it now and let the kids stay in bed longer or save it for later? (sigh) I guess it’s only 20 minutes right? Let’s try again.

I could spend this post writing about frugality and all the lessons I’ve been learning from Amy, but I feel like I’d be leaving you out on the more significant things that have been going on in our lives for the past couple of weeks. So I hope you’ll bear with me in this hodge podge of posts. I’m not really sure where to start since there has been so much going on, but I guess we’ll see where it goes.

For starters, last week we visited Glen’s grandfather to celebrate his 83rd birthday (that’s where one of my six quarts of home grown/home made spaghetti sauce went). Glen could write a whole post about his Gramps. This man is full of good character and an inspiration to us folks. He’s full of stories and ideas, caring and ethics. Glen really does look up to him and I know he hopes to be much like his Gramps when he grows older. And it is because of this that we get such pleasure from sharing our children with him on these special ocassions.

Glen’s step-grandmother is also a joy to spend time with. She is loving, creative, content, a hard worker, and best friend to Gramps. And she makes a cozy place to take a nap!

Back at home, Glen has been working on his newest instrument, a ukelele. At first he was going to fix up his store-bought one, which has been adopted by Nemo and roughed up a bit. But of course, once he is inspired, Glen jumps head first into a fun project and he collected materials from the old ukelele and another instrument project long abandoned to make this new, beautiful ukelele. Glen could also write a post on this, explaining where all the pieces and parts came from and their significance, the process of creation, and the joy he gets from creating musical instruments, but suffice it to say, this beautiful peice of work has been giving a lot of tender loving care and when it is finished I look forward to hearing it played. In the meantime, here is a video of him playing his old ukelele.

The garden is almost done for the year. All that’s left is carrots, onions, and a couple cukes. It wasn’t as abundant as we had hoped, and I’ve learned some lessons for next growing season, but as my grandfather reminded me, you can’t gain anything if you don’t try. And so we enjoyed fresh garden produce for many dinners, not enough to preserve, but our bodies were better nourished by the work and the food.

On the other hand, I’m still harvesting herbs. Last week my latest infused oil was finished aging and I made a salve out of it for treating wounds other than diaper rashes. This one was made from comfrey, yarrow, and skullcap. Glen has had success using it for the dandruff he gets in his eyebrows, and we’re also experimenting on one of his coworkers who has a case of poison ivy the worst his doctor has ever seen. I sure hope it does him some good!

In the closet are my first tinctures which will be aging for a few more weeks. One is yarrow in vodka, the other is skullcap in vodka. The skullcap is good for many things nerve-related. For example, headaches, insomnia, and muscle tension. It is also a pain reliever, though I think a skullcap tea or infusion might be more effective for wound-related pains, I’m not sure. As for yarrow, the only thing I know of so far is that the tincture can prevent and cure urinary tract infections and kidney infections. Of course I’ll be doing more research to find other uses. I’m almost ready to harvest the rest of the herbs and dry them as they seem to be aging now in the cool, dry weather. Then I’ll be able to make teas with them as needed.

And the most time consuming project Glen and I have both been working on the past couple of weeks is rearranging our house. I hinted at it on my post, Tightwads in Training, but we decided to close off our upstairs bedrooms and only use them for storage. This way we will reduce our heating costs for the winter, and get used to living in a smaller, more simple space. The kids still have their own room, as do Glen and myself. We’re not quite ready for communal living! But there are some immediate benefits which we’ve discovered. For example, when people come to visit we usually end up sitting in the dining room, even though we had a living room with more comfortable seating. Now that Glen’s and my bedroom is in the livingroom, we’ve moved the couch into the diningroom. Now instead of trying to usher people out of that area, we’ll be more comfortable where we more naturally host. We’re almost done with this, I still have to clean up the kids’ new room  and we’ll soon be replacing our 8′ x 4′ table with a smaller one, but when this is done I’ll be sure to share some pictures.

There, I did it, I rewrote the whole post in only 40 minutes. Not bad!