Monday, September 28, 2015

GETTING READY FOR FLU SEASON WITH ELDERBERRY SYRUP

After learning I have an autoimmune disease and finding that I really struggle to overcome even the most basic illness I've decided to be proactive about maintaining wellness this year.  I've always done a few things to prepare our family for flu season, like making an elderberry tincture and keeping a natural version of antibacterial hand spray on hand for each person in the house but I've been warned by my ND and GP after my two trips to urgent care this past year that I need to be extra cautious about getting sick. So, how does someone NOT get sick? Well, I know it isn't completely avoidable but I'm going to try my best and if I can't keep myself from getting sick I can at least have something on hand to lessen the duration of an illness (time I have to suffer) and to help do this I made an Elderberry syrup.

Elderberry is known for its ability to lessen the duration of the flu, it is also good for alleviating the symptoms of a cold.

If you are interested in making your own syrup for this coming winter, here is how you do it; 

1/2 cup elderberries (dried) - sambucus nigra or sambucus nigra sbsp. canadensis
3 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks (broken up)
1 pinch of ground clove
1 pinch of dried ginger 
1/2 cup raw honey

I normally use fresh elderberries but our favorite spots to find the plant have now been destroyed by development :(  We do grow our own but the deer don't share so… this year I purchased elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs.  They also have a great video on making elderberry syrup if you prefer to follow that.  You do not have to use cinnamon, clove and/or ginger but I think it makes the syrup taste 1000x's better and they contain beneficial properties that aid in relieving various ailments. 

Make sure you use RAW HONEY, preferably local and organic.  There is a significant difference between raw honey and processed honey.  The antimicrobial and antibacterial enzymes found in honey are destroyed when honey is heated beyond a certain degree which is why the processed honey you usually find in grocery stores is not what you want to be consuming.  When people tout the benefits of honey they aren't referring to your grocery store variety, they are talking about the honey straight from the hive.  If you just want honey to use as a sweetener than go ahead and buy the processed version but if you are looking to benefit from honeys healing properties you'll want to buy RAW - ORGANIC - LOCAL
This also means you need to keep in mind that honey should never be heated above 95 degrees F. It's the heat that degrades honey.  In this recipe you'll probably want to have a thermometer on hand to make sure your liquid is at or below 95 F before you add your honey.


Measure out the water and place it in a sauce pan, then add your berries, broken up pieces of cinnamon, a pinch of cloves and a pinch of ginger. 


Bring to a boil and then cover and lower heat to a simmer for 40 minutes.  Make sure to stir the contents every 10 minutes as it simmers (to prevent sticking to the bottom of pan).


After 40 minutes remove from heat and strain.  I did this by covering a jar with cheese cloth because I couldn't find my strainer.  The joys of a disorganized kitchen.


After boiling I was left with 1 1/2 cups of liquid so to make sure the syrup wasn't too sweet or too bland I put in 1/2 cup of raw honey, stirred til it was completely dissolved and the taste was perfect!! (remember: do not add honey until temp of liquid is below 95 F). Pour into a glass jar for storage in the fridge.



Make sure you write the date on the top of your jar since you are going to want to discard any unused syrup after about 3 months.


This recipe makes a liquid syrup that is not the consistency of the syrup most people are use to.  It will not resemble maple syrup or have the thickness of Robitussin.  This is a watery syrup.  Make sure you refrigerate the finished product or it will go bad quickly.  This recipe does not contain a natural preservative, if you want to extend the shelf life of your recipe you'll need to add an alcohol like vodka or brandy.  Natural Fertility and Wellness has a great recipe with brandy included.



You can take this syrup as a preventative at a dose of 1 tsp a day to boost immunity otherwise if ill take 1 tsp 2x's daily. 

**Although a lot of research has been done on elderberry the verdict is still out on whether it is safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding, same goes for if you are on other medication or have any health problems so it is best to speak to your health care provider before using. 



Thursday, September 17, 2015

SHORT REVIEW ON MAD OILS

I placed my first order from Mad Oils recently; love the fast shipping, the personal touch "thank you" gift with FO sample and the quality of their essential oils and micas.  Unfortunately, after using their Lemon Cupcake mica my cp soap ended up looking a little orange instead of yellow :(  Their website says it isn't unusual to end up with orange the first 24 hours but it has been 2 weeks and it is still more orange than yellow.  Their micas do mix up nice and smooth in the raw soap though, better than other suppliers I have used.  I'll try using the yellow again in another recipe, this time with a different essential oil, and see how it turns out.

As for their Grape Nehi mica, that came out perfectly.  A perfect purple that lasts.  Also, their lavender essential oil has the truest and best scent of all those I have used from soap suppliers.

Mad Oils is definitely on my list of go-to shops for soap supplies.




Saturday, August 22, 2015

HERBAL STUDIES: PLANTAIN

Kids are always getting bit by something; mosquitos, black flies, deer flies, gnats, sand fleas… you name it and when they get bit they scratch, scratch, scratch and whine, whine, whine so as a parent you search for something to stop the itch and unfortunately everything you find is usually some commercial concoction that never really works anyway.  So what should you do? Reach for plantain.

Plantain is a child's best friend in the summer.  It not only stops the itch from biting bugs but it also ends the pain caused by stinging insects too.  My kids usually just grab a handful of plantain leaves, chew it up and slap it on the spot that needs attention but sometimes it is more convenient to have a plantain salve, like when out on a lake in a canoe or during travel when bringing fresh leaves along or finding it in the wild just isn't feasible.  So I had Aiyana make her first container of salve.

Here is a picture of plantain and you can read more about it HERE


To help identify plantain in the wild, here are a few helpful pictures

These seeds grow up from the center of the plantain plant

Plantain leaf

When you tear a plantain leaf you should see little vein strings as shown above



First, Aiyana went out and gathered a bunch of plantain leaves.



Washed and dried them.


Chopped them up.



Added them to the olive oil then heated.  The plantain sat in the warm oil for 2 hours.  This is the rush method.  I usually prefer keeping medicinal plants in a jar with oil for up to 6 weeks before straining but my daughter and I are on a mission, or I should say I am on a mission to teach as much as possible before the snow flies. LOL! So… we went with the rush method.  This oil sat for a week in the jar after  they were heated for 2 hrs.



She strained the oil out of the jar.


There are various ways you can extract the medicinal properties from a plant; we chose the solvent oil. You can tell the oil did its job by the color difference you see below.  Olive oil on left, plantains beneficial properties extracted into the olive oil on the right. 



 We poured the plantain oil into a double boiler, heated it up, added some beeswax to make the salve.



We think plantain oil stinks so we added lavender essential oil to to cut the smell.  Some people will add essential oils because of their beneficial properties but it is important to remember that eos are damaged by high heat, so to maintain their effectiveness you do not want to heat them above 80 degrees.  We used lavender eo in this recipe purely for the natural scent.


Here's the finished product after poured into tiny tins.


Couple notes on Plantain salve vs. Plantain leaves, we've found that the plant works much faster to relieve itching than the salve so if you have a choice, use the actual leaves from the plant.  The salve works but it takes a little more time.  We've also learned that it works really well on our dogs.  We have one dog that happens to be allergic to bug bites and certain types of material and when he develops hives the plantain salve brings about relief.

Herbal Roots does have an e-zine on plantain that is really good also.  The salve above is not listed but other crafts and ways of using the herbs are.

Recipe:

4 oz fresh plantain leaves
16 oz olive oil
.5 oz beeswax
24 drops lavender essential oil








Thursday, August 20, 2015

JUST SOME PICTURES

At this time of year we have every insect imaginable hanging out in our backyard.  You have to be very careful if you walk the trail around the Joe Pye Weed and Goldenrod because literally hundreds of wasps, honey bees and bumble bees call the JPW & GR a source of food.
 
One of hundreds of yellow-jackets calling our yard home right now. They are hungry for the Joe Pye Weed and Goldenrod.

Monarch butterflies are just interested in the Joe Pye Weed.

This little lady(bug) has been spending her day poking around the goldenrod.



I saw this frog and thought it was deformed but turns out it was crossing its legs like that on purpose.  Who knew they did that? I didn't.
 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

HERBS, HERBS, HERBS

I decided it was time to teach my youngest about herbs.  After quizzing her I found that she knows quite a bit but it was time to incorporate some fun stuff.  We are going to work our way through as many herbs as we can until winter arrives and our herb garden and wild medicinal plants have died back.  For each herb she is journaling, coloring, and creating. 

A while back I found this book:
You can find this for sale on Amazon - CLICK HERE
It has a bunch of cute kid stories about herbs such as The Lion and the Wise Teacher about dandelions or The Star's Gift about lemon balm.  It is a perfect addition to our herb study.  We also subscribe to Herbal Roots Zine which focusses on one particular herb and contains crafts, herbal remedies, stories, etc... Those we'll save for when the plants are all gone and it's too cold to go outside. The rest is all mom.  I created a "type" of herb curriculum that we'll be following until she tells me "mom, stop, I can't take anymore." LOL!


We started with Aiyana picking out a plant of her own to communicate with and she chose lavender.  She started talking to it, asking it questions… once she understood that on a basic energetic level we are connected to all things, even something as simple as a plant we moved on to lemon balm, my favorite herb.  It was the first herb I planted when we moved into our home 8 yrs ago and it has pretty much taken over a quarter of our yard (expected and wanted).


Unfortunately, our lemon balm has passed its prime for the season.  It now has flowers and no longer has that strong lemony scent which means the oil content is low.  My daughter is already somewhat familiar with the herb so it wasn't a problem, we just picked up the dried version from our local natural food store and worked with that.

No, it's not Lemon Ballom. LOL! We corrected that later. 
What did she create? Tea.  She loved making her own tea, can't say she loved the taste so much though. LOL! I told her as we move into other herbs she'll combine several for a much better tasting tea :-)


Next...

Plantain.

Plantain is perfect for bug bites and our mosquitos are now out in full force so my daughter will be making a plantain salve for those nasty itchy bites she always gets.
So, today we started with Lemon Balm.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

STRAWBERRIES!!! TIME TO GET PICKING!

It is that time of year again, when the kids think they get to sleep in for the first time since the school year ended but instead I am dragging them out of bed at 6 am to go berry picking.

We headed out to our favorite farm yesterday, Sam Kedem's Nursery in Hastings. It was a perfect day; sun was shining and temps were decent.  When we arrived, there were more pickers than I am use to so we got busy before all of the berries were gone.  We ended up with 16 lbs worth of juicy organic strawberries and rushed home to make jam.  

As usual, what was suppose to be a family affair turned into my oldest daughter cutting up all of the strawberries and me finishing the rest on my own. LOL! That's ok, I enjoy it. 












Friday, February 6, 2015

DOES GOD GIVE US THE AUTHORITY TO KILL WOLVES?

Numerous times, while debating the wolf hunt with some Christians, I often hear how it is God that gave us dominion over animals and it is God that gave us the authority to kill them. Now, I've studied the Christian bible (cover to cover) more than once and I've not seen where in the scriptures God gives man the right to kill every animal on earth for their own selfish needs.

To examine the scriptures that are often cited as God giving man the authority to kill wolves I'll use my Concordia Self-Study Bible NIV 

Genesis 1:24 -29

And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind."  And it was so.  God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds.  And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move along the ground - everything that has the breath of life in it - I give every green plant for food." And it was so.

So, according to those that kill wolves, it is ok because God gave them the power to rule over air, land and sea creatures.  God says to "subdue" them. God also gave man the power to rule over plants, trees, etc… (another part of scripture often clung to by people who destroy our environment). God says "let them rule" he says "subdue" and he also points out what they are to "eat." 

Nowhere in Genesis, prior to the great flood, has God said to eat the animals. He does however say "I give every green plant for food".  

Nowhere in Genesis when referencing animals does God say rule or subdue means to kill.  In fact, not even in today's world do those words get defined as kill.

To subdue: to bring under control by force. To conquer or bring into subjection. To bring under (land) cultivation. To reduce the intensity or degree of: tone down. 

To rule: to control or direct; exercise dominating power, authority, or influence over; govern.  To be superior or preeminent, dominate by superiority; hold sway over.

and if your bible uses the word "dominion" instead of rule…

Dominion: rule, control. The power or right of governing or controlling.

So let's move into the scriptures that appear after the great flood.

It isn't until Genesis 9 that God references eating meat and not eating anything live which of course would mean it is ok to kill.

Genesis 9:3-4

"Everything that lives and moves will be food for you.  Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything."

"But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood in it.  And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting, I will surely demand an accounting for every animal."

Then God speaks of his covenant that is not only with man but with every living creature on the planet.

Genesis 9:9-11

"I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you - the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you - every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."

God has made it clear in that last passage that animals are equally as important to him as man is.  He not only makes the covenant with man but with every living creature on the planet.  So… as for wolves, where in Genesis does God say it is ok to kill animals just to kill? Where does God say it is ok to kill an animal for its skull or its pelt? God is very clear that animal is to be killed ONLY for its meat and wolf hunters don't kill wolves for their meat. 

Same can be said for creatures that have gone extinct.  How many creatures have gone extinct and the reason is "human caused?" Hundreds. 

Later, in Leviticus, scripture changes. God no longer states "everything that lives or moves will be food for you."

Leviticus 11:1-8

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, Say to the Israelites: "Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud."

"There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them.  The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean to you. The coney, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean to you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof, it is unclean for you.  And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.  You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you."

Leviticus 11:27

"Of all the animals that walk on all fours, those that walk on their paws are unclean for you; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening."

Leviticus 11:46-47

"These are the regulations conceding animals, birds, every living thing that moves in the water and every creatures that moves about on the ground.  You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten."

According to the dietary laws laid out in Leviticus man must not eat a wolf and the when God gave the authority to kill it was in reference to eating meat. 

So… you can sift through every scripture in the bible and you will not find one where God gives man the authority to kill wolves. Giving someone authority, power, the ability to rule, etc… does not give them the right to kill or torture.  I have authority over my children, I control the day to day schedule of my 8 year old, my husband and I hold dominion over our household, it DOES NOT MEAN we can bring harm to our kids. For those who use the scriptures to excuse their slaughtering wolves you are just bastardizing the book you claim is your guide to life and insulting the God you claim to follow.  The reality is you are just a coward with a perverted view of the world.  You most certainly are not a Christian. 

There is a saying that goes "with great power comes great responsibility" and that is the most important thing to remember when it comes to our wildlife and environment.

People twist the scriptures to abuse the gift their God has given them (power and superiority) and they use that gift instead for selfish purposes.  A wolf killer can rationalize their choice all they want but their  holy book isn't going to be there to back them up.  Instead, what they should be doing, since they believe they were created in God's image, is to act as God would. God saved his animals from the flood because he wants them to live.  If God had saved his animals just for human consumption or for a thrill kill he wouldn't have made dietary rules that forbade man from eating or touching some of the animals he saved.  Think about it! Abusing what your God created is all on you.