Nourishing the Immune System

artists conk

Above: Ganoderma mushrooms are one of my favorite ways to support a healthy immune system.

I get a lot of questions about what can be taken to help boost the immune system and prevent getting sick.  There are plenty of remedies I could recommend, depending on the situation!   If you are concerned about your immune system, there are some natural remedies you can take to nourish it.  I will discuss these in this article.  However, I truly believe that if we eat healthy, practice healthy habits, and get plenty of time outdoors, we can set our immune systems up to function that much better!

Concerns

I get concerned thinking about all the people stuck indoors right now.  This is not good for the immune system.  If you are one of those people, try to get outdoors as much as possible, even if its just spending some time sitting on your back deck.  Our bodies absorb vitamin D through sunlight and this vitamin is crucial to immune health.

Another thing that concerns me is all the people sterilizing everything and constantly wearing gloves and a mask.  While this can be helpful, adequate oxygen is also essential to health.  Many masks deprive us of the oxygen we need, while forcing us to breathe in our CO2.  There’s nothing wrong with masks if they are worn responsibly and in moderation, but you may be surprised at all the people driving around in cars – nobody else in the car with them – and they are wearing a mask.  There has already been one reported car accident because someone was driving with a mask on and passed out from oxygen deprivation.

As for gloves, I noticed people wearing gloves at the store while touching their face and hair.  Be mindful of what you are doing.  Hand washing is a great way to prevent the spread of sickness, but the constant use of hand sanitizer may have the opposite-of-intended effect.

Our immune system is exposed to lord knows what on a daily basis.  It comes into contact with these germs and pathogens and then learns how to fight them off more efficiently.  If we live our lives in a sanitized bubble, we may actually weaken our immune systems.

The truth is, we are all going to get sick from time to time.  Yes, even those who eat healthy and do the right things.  This doesn’t mean we have weak immune systems.  Exposure to the pathogens that make us sick may help to create antibodies.

Everything in moderation. It is possible to overdo it with the preventative measures and do more harm than good.  (No, I’m  not saying to not wear a mask and gloves – you do you)

Natural Immune Support

I am not one to recommend taking something daily for an extended amount of time, even if it is to boost the immune system.  I feel strongly that our first line of defense is a good offense (eating healthy, healthy habits, sunlight, time outdoors, etc).  However, there are times when I will reach for something in my “medicine” cabinet because I feel a cold or virus coming on.  Below are a few of my favorite remedies to strengthen and support the immune system:

Rose Hips

I collect rose hips in the fall to create a tincture.  Rose hips are super high in vitamin C.  Our native rose, Rosa rugosa, has particularly large rose hips and makes it easier to collect a decent amount.  Plus, it is invasive in some areas so there is plenty to go around.

wild rose

Above: Wild rose in the summer.  By fall, it will produce bright red fruit called rose hips.  These are high in vitamin C.

I prefer tincturing rose hips to get the most out of them, as heat can eliminate vitamin C in some cases.  Tinctures allow me to create an extract without using heat.  I macerate the rose hips and fill a jar.  Then I cover them in around 80 proof alcohol.  Using too high of a proof makes it hard for the water soluble compounds to be extracted.  I let this sit in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks before straining out through a coffee filter and bottling.  We take this during times when sickness is spreading in our area or when we feel under the weather.  We take up to four droppers full daily.

Ganoderma

There are several species of ganoderma that grow throughout North America.  (A Ganoderma applanatum is pictured at the top of this page) These mushrooms are adaptogens.  Adaptogens are always my go-to for all kinds of issues because they help to restore balance in the body where it is needed.  Ganoderma mushrooms can support and nourish the immune system, as well as the rest of the body.  I make a double extraction with what I find by first separating the chopped mushrooms into two equal groups.  One group is tinctured for around four to six weeks and the other group is saved to simmer on the stove when the tincture is ready.  I boil the other group in water until the amount of water is reduced to around the same amount of liquid in my strained tincture. Finally, I combine the two liquids.  This is a helpful extract to take (in five to ten ml doses up to three times daily) for immune support.

Astragalus

Another adaptogen, the root of the astragalus plant has been used for centuries to strengthen the immune system.  It can be a valuable asset if you are looking for something for immune support.  In addition, its adaptogenic properties make me feel better about avoiding over stimulation of the immune system and cytokine issues.  We take this in supplement form and tincture form.

Japanese Honeysuckle

This is not what I consider an immune stimulant, but I wanted to discuss it here because it is relevant. Japaneses honeysuckle (that invasive vining plant in many people’s yards) is a potent antiviral.  There are multiple antiviral compounds in this plant that may help the body combat viruses more effectively by attacking the virus. It has been studied against Influenza and even Ebola.

To make a tincture from the plant, rip the whole plant out (leaves, vine, flowers, etc) and chop everything well.  Place the material in a jar and cover it with alcohol.  Allow this to infuse for four to six weeks (shaking daily to further promote infusion) and then strain everything out when its ready.  Take 5 ml up to four times daily at the first sign of a virus.

honeysuckle

Above: The jar on the right is my honeysuckle tincture.  Notice the vibrant, bright yellow color!

Essential Oils

There are some essential oils that have been proven to kill viruses like H1N1 in studies. This means that these oils may work with your body to help kill viruses that it encounters.   Two of my favorites are cinnamon and clove essential oil.

You can read more about how they work, other oils that work to kill viruses, and view the studies here: Tisserand Institute

When my youngest son had influenza this past winter, we knocked it out pretty quick using some of the remedies above, as well as diffusing this essential oil combination from my latest book now available for preorder, Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing: 120 Remedies to Restore Mind, Body, and Spirit:

Flu fighters Diffusion Blend

Fill an ultrasonic diffuser to the water line and add five drops of clove essential oil and five drops of cinnamon essential oil.  Diffuse this for 20 minutes.  Twenty minutes is really all you need to kill any airborne pathogens in the immediate area.  If you want, you can repeat this and move the diffuser from room to room to kill any pathogens in those areas.

Use caution with both cinnamon and clove if you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinning medications.  Avoid using this if you notice any nose bleeds.

Other Great Remedies

Of course, I feel like I need to mention other plants, mushrooms, and supplements we take for immune support.  We grow Echinacea purpurea, which is an immune-boosting plant.  We also harvest wild elderberry growing on our farm for immune support.  According to author and herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner, the leaves are much more potent than the berries, so I may make a synergistic blend of flowers, berries, and leaves this year.  Turkey tail mushrooms are a great immune-supporting remedy.  They may help to modulate the immune response depending on the body’s needs.  Making sure we have our daily intake of zinc, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin C is also important.  This can be attained through diet or supplements.  I prefer getting these through diet as much as possible, but we do have supplements on hand for the kids (who we have a hard time getting to eat healthy sometimes!)

Stay healthy and God bless,

Amber Robinson, RH(AHG)

 

 

Combat Multiple Types of Pain with these Natural Remedies: Part 2 of 2

Welcome to part 2 of my pain management series!  In part 1, I discussed my remedies for pain caused by inflammation, nerve pain, muscle and joint pain, and remedies for contusions and sprains.  In this next section, I will be discussing remedies for headaches and migraines, ear infections, UTI/bladder pain, and menstrual pain.

I have had success in using the remedies below to help both myself and clients who needed relief from pain.  Enjoy!

Headaches and Migraines

This is one type of pain I have a lot of personal experience with.  I mostly suffer from tension headaches, migraines, and headaches from eye strain.  Sometimes I can pinpoint exactly what caused the headache (not drinking enough water!) and other times the trigger is unclear.  Below are remedies I use to combat pain from headaches and migraines:

Magnesium – Yes, magnesium is not an herb or an essential oil, but it is an important mineral for the body.  Many people are deficient in magnesium, and symptoms of deficiency can range from muscle twitches and cramps to fatigue.  Research has shown that many who suffer from migraines are also low in magnesium.  A magnesium supplement may help tremendously if you are looking for something to help with migraines.

Feverfew – When pain from a headache is caused by blood vessels in the head constricting, feverfew may be just what you need to help dilate them, as well as help neutralize chemicals produced by the body that are responsible for pain and inflammation.  These attributes put feverfew at the top of my herbal list for headache relief.  I prefer taking it in tincture form.  I will take two dropper’s full at the onset of a headache.  I may take an additional dropper full (up to three more times) throughout the day to manage the headache.  Do not use feverfew if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Lavender – When headaches are caused by tension, lavender may help relax the body and reduce the pain.  The scent of lavender essential oil is often recommended by aromatherapists for headache relief.  When combined with peppermint, the analgesic effects are doubled.

Peppermint – Peppermint essential oil opens the airways and helps to ease pain associated with tension.  Inhalation of peppermint is an ideal way to benefit from its pain-relieving properties.  I love to combine it with lavender essential oil for a headache-eliminating duo.  I included these oils in a remedy to help knock-out migraines and headaches in my latest book, Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing: 120 Remedies to Restore Mind, Body, and Spirit.  This recipe is detailed below:

Migraine Defense Inhalation Blend:

Add two drops of peppermint essential oil and one drop of lavender essential oil to the cotton wick of an aromatherapy inhaler.  Close the cap tightly and take three to five deep breaths of this blend at the first sign of a headache or migraine.  Take a fifteen minute break from inhalation and repeat this as needed until the pain subsides.

aromatherapy book

Above: for more healing remedies, preorder my latest book, Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing: 120 Remedies to Restore Mind, Body, and Spirit here: Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing: 120 Remedies to Restore Mind, Body and Spirit

White Willow Bark – White willow bark has long been used as a natural pain reliever due to its salicin content.  When the body encounters salicin, it converts it into salicylic acid, a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent.  This is how the popular pain reliever Aspirin was created.  Rather than take this, I opt to make my own tincture from the bark of the white willow tree.  I take three to five drops when I feel a headache coming on.

Ear Infections

I have had to deal with my share of ear infections.  Both of my boys had them repeatedly (until we discovered that chiropractic care works miracles).  I used the remedies below to help manage the pain and kill the infection:

Mullein Flower and Garlic Oil – The little yellow flowers on top of mullein stalks are a powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic remedy for ear pain.  Harvest them in the summer from stalks you know haven’t been sprayed with pesticides, etc.  Let them wilt or dry before infusing them in olive oil.  To create this remedy, fill a small glass jar with the mullein flowers you collect.  Try to get at least two tablespoons of flowers.  Next, add two tablespoons of fresh, minced garlic to the jar.  Cover the material completely with olive oil.  Don’t put the lid on the jar.  Cover it with a cloth and a rubber band to secure it.  Set the jar inside a shallow hot water bath (on the stovetop on the lowest heat setting) and let this infuse for at least three hours.  Strain everything out and bottle the infused oil.  Store this in the refrigerator between uses.  When you need to use it, warm it up under a stream of warm water until it is comfortable enough to drop into the ear canal.  Add three to four drops of the oil as needed for pain and inflammation.

mullein flower for pain

Above: Mullein flowers are an effective remedy for the pain and inflammation caused by ear infections.

Oregano Infused Oil – I will start by cautioning that I do not use oregano essential oil, but rather oregano infused oil.  The difference is quite vast.  Furthermore, I do not advise ever putting this in the ear, but rather around the ear.  Oregano infused oil is much gentler than oregano essential oil because it is not as concentrated.  However, being less concentrated means there is less chance it will irritate the skin.  Infuse oregano (wilted or dried) into olive oil and massage this infusion around the ear to help fight infection and relieve pain.

UTI/Bladder Pain

When experiencing a urinary tract or bladder infection, the pain can be tremendous.  Bladder spasms can result when the infection spreads to the bladder.  There may also be pain while urinating.  Another painful bladder issue is called Interstitial Cystitis(IC).  It is characterized by the feeling of a bladder infection or UTI, but no infection is present when urine is tested.  Sometimes nerves are to blame for this condition.  Both IC and urinary/bladder infections are painful and uncomfortable.  Help calm the spasms and soothe the urinary tract with the remedies below:

Marshmallow Root – Marshmallow root, a mucilage, can help to coat the bladder and urinary tract, bringing relief from the inflammation that causes pain while urinating.  It can also help to soothe an irritated bladder.  Marshmallow comes in handy for infections, but it is also a great remedy for those with interstitial cystitis.  I suggest taking a supplement of marshmallow root in capsule form daily for prevention if you have IC, and taking it as directed at the onset of any infection to manage pain.

Goldenrod – Goldenrod is a diuretic, so it can help to flush out infection in the urinary tract and bladder.  Whats more, it is loaded with antioxidants, having significantly more than green tea per serving.  It also has proven anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it may help manage pain as well.  I love to harvest goldenrod in the fall and dry it on my drying racks to make a powerful tea.

Aloe Vera – Aloe vera is so soothing to the body.  Whether it is applied topically on irritated skin or taken internally for pain and inflammation, it can help to provide relief and calm irritation.  Like marshmallow root, it helps to coat the urinary tract and bladder, making the chance of spasms from irritation less likely.  An added bonus is that aloe vera helps to soothe the digestive tract as well.  I purchase food grade aloe vera gel and add an ounce or two to a smoothie each morning.

Juniper – Try diluting juniper berry essential oil and massaging it into the lower abdomen (just over the bladder area) to manage pain from spasms and infection.  It is high in antioxidants, antispasmodic action, and can reduce anxiety and tension as well.  Pair it with Roman chamomile essential oil for additional antispasmodic relief.

Menstrual Pain

Pain before, during, and after your menstrual period can range from minor to severe.  For some women, menstrual pain affects their lives greatly.  They have to cancel plans, call in sick to work, etc.  The remedies below can help you manage the pain and soothe the uterus naturally:

Clary Sage – Of all the essential oils for women’s issues, clary sage is my favorite.  It offers such a wide range of benefits.  What makes it a woman’s best friend is that it has been shown to help balance hormones, calm and soothe (this includes uterine spasms), and promote feelings of optimism.  What better oil to have on hand during your sacred moon time?  Dilute this oil in a carrier oil and massage into the abdomen to relieve menstrual cramps, as well as calm the body and mind.

Red Raspberry Leaf – This common leaf is a great uterine tonic.  I feel that the best way to benefit from it is to drink it in a decoction or infusion on a regular basis.  It is also great in tea.  An added bonus, it is high in beneficial vitamins and minerals as well.  It can help to nourish your body as it works to strengthen and tone the uterus.  It can both soothe and nourish the body.  Combine red or black raspberry leaf (I use black because this grows wild in abundance where I live and has very similar therapeutic properties) with herbs like spearmint or stinging nettle for a nourishing and tasty tea.

picking raspberry leaves

Above: A photo of me collecting black raspberry leaves to use in a tea for uterine toning and nourishment.

Cramp Bark – Cramp bark can actually help to relax and calm the uterus if it is contracting too violently.  This is great for managing uterine cramping.   It can help to soothe the uterine spasms that cause pain and discomfort during the menstrual period, as well as promote healthy uterine tissue.  I prefer this in tincture form.  Take anywhere from thirty to sixty drops of the tincture each hour for uterine cramping.  Of course, start off with the lowest dosage and work your way up if you need to.

I hope you will benefit as I have from the pain relief remedies highlighted in this two part series.  Stay tuned next week for my next blog post on immune health.  

Many blessings to you and yours,

Amber Robinson, RH(AHG)

Combat Multiple Types of Pain with these Natural Remedies: Part 1 of 2

 

Pain is probably the number one complaint I get from clients.  Pain from inflammation caused by an autoimmune disease, pain from migraines and headaches, pain from fibromyalgia, pain from ear infections, and pain from sore muscles and joints are common issues I see almost daily.

Over the years, I have accrued a mental list of the remedies I have found to help with various kinds of pain.  I finally decided to write these things down and share them with the rest of the world. This is by no means a comprehensive list or guide, but it is a great start if you are looking into something to help manage pain:

Pain Caused by Inflammation in the Body

Whether caused by an autoimmune disease or another trigger, inflammation in the body is one of the top reasons people experience pain.  Sometimes, this can be managed by changing your diet.  Avoid foods that trigger inflammation, such as processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates.  Along with diet change, I have used the remedies below to help manage inflammation:

Turmeric – Turmeric is almost always the first thing that comes to mind when I think of natural remedies to reduce inflammation and pain.  It is a source of curcumin, a powerful antioxidant with inflammation-reducing properties.  I like to peel and finely chop fresh turmeric roots and then tincture them with black pepper kernels to create an anti-inflammatory and analgesic extract.  Black pepper has its own anti-inflammatory properties, but one great reason for adding it to turmeric is that it helps the body absorb the curcumin much better.  Dosage varies for each person, but I have personally taken two droppers-full, up to three times daily as needed for pain and inflammation.

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Above: One of my favorite drinks for soothing pain and inflammation is golden milk.  I make this by heating a cup of almond milk (use whatever milk you want) on the stove and then adding cinnamon bark, a tablespoon of ground turmeric, and two cloves. I let this come to a simmer before reducing the heat.  I let it cool sufficiently before drinking it.  Sometimes I add raw honey or maple syrup to taste.  It’s also a great night cap if you’re looking for something gentle to help you sleep.

Ginger – Ginger shares many similarities with its cousin turmeric.  Both are roots with a pleasantly spicy flavor.  Both contain anti-inflammatory compounds.  Ginger is also great for curbing nausea and digestive discomfort.  Ginger is available in many forms. Some people prefer to use ginger essential oil diluted topically over the affected areas.  Some people like to tincture chopped ginger roots to create an extract they can take internally for pain.

Cinnamon – Cinnamon is an incredibly popular and tasty spice with anti-inflammatory benefits.  I prefer ceylon cinnamon, but cassia cinnamon will work too.  One easy way to utilize cinnamon is to infuse some in hot water to make tea.  Turmeric and cinnamon blend very well together and can be infused in water for a tasty anti-inflammatory tea.

Black Pepper – Research has shown that certain compounds in black pepper may reduce the body’s inflammatory response.  It is a great remedy on its own, but when paired with turmeric, you can double the effectiveness, as well as the absorption, of necessary medicinal compounds.

Clove – Clove has been used to treat pain for centuries.  It has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that may come from an antioxidant compound called eugenol.  A simple solution for tooth pain is to gently chew a clove in the affected area.  This can reduce inflammation and pain to provide temporary relief.  Try adding a few cloves and some cinnamon to golden milk (a drink made with turmeric) for a healing treat.

Nerve Pain

Nerve pain could be caused by fibromyalgia or damage from an old incident.  Another big issue I see that causes nerve pain is Lyme’s disease.  The pain is described as the random feeling of a bee stinging the body in different places.  Below are remedies that work on the nerves to calm and provide relief:

St. Johns wort – This plant may be known for its ability to help with mild to moderate depression, but St. John’s wort is also a great remedy for shooting nerve pain.  I especially like St. John’s wort for nerve-related back pain like sciatica.  I prefer to use it in tincture form and primarily use the fresh flowers collected in full bloom.  I tend to throw in a few leaves and stems as well for their synergistic effect.  The resulting tincture is a lovely, deep red.  This coloration is the result of the active constituent in the plant called hypericin.  If you don’t want to take anything internally, you may be able to infuse the flowers in a carrier oil to make a salve to apply externally for nerve pain.

Lemon Balm – Lemon balm is especially soothing to the nerves. It seems to pair really well with skullcap.  Lemon balm has been used to calm the nerves for conditions like shingles and digestive woes.  Shingles is a virus that is characterized by serious nerve pain in the area where the blisters occur.  Rubbing the diluted essential oil onto the area or ingesting the tincture can help with this type of pain.  I also use the hydrosol that I steam distilled from my own lemon balm for different types of nerve pain.  It can be used internally (I take a teaspoon by mouth as needed) and externally.

Skullcap – Skullcap is one of the best nervines I have found to quell nerve pain that causes headaches and migraines.  It soothes and quiets overworked nerves very well.  It isn’t just effective for headaches.  I also use it for nerve-related back pain, neck pain, and shooting pain in the extremities.  I prefer using skullcap in tincture form, but this is because this is the easiest way for me to prepare it using what I wildcraft.  I have also combined skullcap and lemon balm in tea for nerve pain.  This particular blend is both tasty and effective.

skullcap farm

Above: Skullcap grows wild on my farm and I love to harvest and tincture it for nerve pain.

Chamomile – Chamomile has great antispasmodic properties, especially Roman chamomile.  I love the essential oil for nerve pain that results in spasms.  One great way to utilize this oil is in a bath soak.  Combine ten to fifteen drops of chamomile essential oil with one tablespoon of a carrier oil.  Add this to a cup of Epsom salts and then pour it into a hot bath.  Soak in this as long as you can to benefit from its nerve-calming properties.

Passionflower – Passionflower is a gentle sedative, as well as a great remedy for nerve pain.  It calms the nerves but doesn’t make you sleepy or tired (if you take it as indicated).  This is another great remedy for nerve pain that causes headaches or migraines, spasms, and shooting pain.  I prefer it in tincture form.  I pull up a portion of the vine and chop everything before filling a glass canning jar with the plant material. Next, I cover the plant material with alcohol completely.  I let this sit for four to six weeks before straining it out and viola! I have a tincture.  Start with a lower dose, around 10 drops, and go up from there to 30 drops as needed (up to three times daily) for nerve pain.

Sore Muscles and Joints

Whether its from overworking your body or arthritis, there are remedies that can help ease the pain and provide relief from the soreness, stiffness, and deep pain that comes from sore muscles and joints.  Below are some of my favorite remedies:

Peppermint – Peppermint is a great remedy for sore muscles because it is naturally analgesic.  Peppermint essential oil can be applied topically (diluted to a one percent dilution to start) and massaged into sore muscles to help disperse the buildup of lactic acid that causes muscle pain and tension, bringing swift relief. It is also a great remedy for digestive pain and discomfort when massaged into the abdomen.  The leaves of the peppermint plant are excellent in tea as well.  Just make sure you use caution with peppermint if you are breastfeeding, as it has been known to reduce milk supply. It should also be avoided around children under the age of six.

Eucalyptus – Like peppermint, eucalyptus has powerful analgesic properties.  The essential oil is known for its ability to open up the airways, but this wonderfully camphorous plant can also be utilized for sore, tired, or overworked muscles.  Add a drop of eucalyptus essential oil to a teaspoon of carrier oil (this is considered a one percent dilution) and massage this into sore muscles.  Avoid using this essential oil on children under the age of ten.

Rosemary – Rosemary is great for increasing blood circulation to areas of the body, as well as providing soothing relief for sore muscles and joints.  Rosemary is available in many forms, but one of the most popular forms is the essential oil.  It can be diluted in the same way you would dilute eucalyptus (mentioned above) and applied topically to sore muscles and joints, or areas that need increased circulation.  Due to its 1,8 cineole content, it is best avoided by children under the age of ten.

Muscle Miracle Massage Blend

Here is a pain relief recipe from my latest book, Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing: 120 Remedies to Restore Mind, Body, and Spirit: 

Place a small funnel on a 10 ml roller bottle and use pipettes to add eight drops each of rosemary and peppermint essential oil. Next, add 3/4 ounce carrier oil of your choice.  Remove the funnel and close the cap tightly. Shake the bottle to blend the oils.  Apply a small amount of this blend to the areas where you are experiencing soreness.  Massage it into the skin until the oils are absorbed.  Repeat this daily, as needed, for the treatment of sore muscles.

aromatherapy book

Above: For more effective and healing recipes, preorder a copy of my latest book here: Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing: 120 Remedies to Restore Mind, Body, and Spirit.

Cayenne – Cayenne is my choice for those needing help with pain caused by arthritis.  Cayenne contains a compound called capsaicin that helps to reduce both pain and inflammation.  I have a hard time drinking teas with cayenne, so one of my favorite ways to use it is in a salve for arthritis.  I love combining it with ginger for this purpose.  salves

Above: My favorite remedy for arthritis and muscle pain is cayenne and ginger salve.  It can be made by melting one ounce of beeswax in a double boiler and then adding eight ounces of carrier oil.  Blend in two to three teaspoons of ground cayenne and remove the mixture from heat.  Add ten to fifteen drops of ginger essential oil and pour it into tins to cool.

Contusions and Sprains

Unfortunately, this is one malady I have had to deal with a lot in the past year.  I severely sprained my ankle in March 2019 and it still isn’t right today.  I was, however, able to help heal the ligaments and tendons by taking the remedies below.  These remedies also helped to lower inflammation in the area, thus relieving pain:

Solomon’s Seal- Solomon’s seal worked amazingly well at helping to draw my stretched and damaged tendons and ligaments back together in my ankle.  It can really soothe inflamed tissues damaged by injury.  One of the interesting things about it is that it can both tighten or loosen ligaments and tendons, depending on what the body needs.  It is versatile like that.  This is my number one remedy for sprains!

solomons seal

Above: A photo I took of a young Solomon’s Seal plant on my farm.  When the little bell-like flowers start hanging from the stem, identification becomes much easier.  It is often confused with false Solomon’s seal otherwise.  I dig up the roots to use in a tincture for sprains.

Comfrey- A simple poultice of comfrey leaves can soothe inflammation, relieve pain, and reduce swelling when you have a bump, bruise, or sprain.  Try growing comfrey in your herb garden and collecting the leaves when they are big and green.  Dry them and save them for use in poultices, or use them fresh as you need them.  Apply them to the injured area and cover with a wrap to keep the leaves against the skin.  Reapply as needed.

Arnica- Arnica is a flower famous for its healing properties when it comes to pain.  There is a homeopathic arnica remedy that is quite popular, but you can also use arnica flowers by infusing them in a carrier oil to make a salve or massage oil.  There is one catch if you are wanting to use arnica topically – do not get it in any open wounds.  Arnica should not be allowed to enter the bloodstream via open wounds because it can have toxic side effects.  The homeopathic arnica is completely safe to use as directed.

Helichrysum- I  love this essential oil for sprains and contusions!  It offers almost instant relief from swelling and pain.  I used this (diluted) on my ankle in a massage blend to help with the awful swelling and pain that occurred after the sprain.  This oil tends to be a little more expensive than some other essential oils, but it is totally worth it if you want something to heal and soothe bumps and bruises.

I will spare showing you a photo of my ankle after I sprained it last year.  I posted it in the comments under one of my Facebook posts about Solomon’s Seal and I think it disturbed some people…It was pretty nasty.  I am glad it is healed and I was able to get back to doing what I love most: foraging and wandering my property in search of more medicinal goodness!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my pain management series.  The second part will cover remedies for more types of pain.  Specifically, headaches/migraines, ear infections, UTI/bladder pain, and menstrual pain.  Look for part 2 later this week.

Many blessings to you and yours,

Amber Robinson, RH(AHG)

Natural Remedies for Frustration and Anxiety during these Trying Times

 

assionflower

Above: A picture of my passionflower vine in full bloom.  A tincture or tea from the vine is helpful for when you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  It is also an effective remedy for insomnia.

It’s only human to experience moments of anxiety, frustration, and anger during times like these.  It is not natural to be trapped indoors for an indefinite amount of time.  Time outdoors and communing with others is a basic human need that isn’t being met for many.

On top of all this, many are out of jobs, causing a financial strain.  There are also many parents who have been thrust into homeschooling and feel overwhelmed as they try to figure out how to teach their children while working at their essential job.

No doubt, we have all been affected by COVID-19 in some way.

For me personally, the main struggle has been teaching my oldest son.  I taught English in public school for ten years and my nine-year-old son is definitely more of a challenge than any student I ever had over the course of my tenure as an English instructor.  He is incredibly intelligent, but stubborn like his mom!

I notice myself having a shorter fuse than normal some days.  The underlying anxiety, fears and “what ifs” are mingling with the every day frustrations of homeschooling, taking care of the farm, working, etc.  These feelings are manifesting themselves through frustration and anger for me.

Thankfully, I have a few tried and true remedies that have helped me wind down after those especially challenging homeschooling moments, caring for sick lambs on the farm, and/or worrying about the future of our world.  Below are a few of my personal favorites and reasons why I love them:

Motherwort for Frustration and Anxiety

Motherwort is my friend.  I discovered her healing attributes a few years ago and have kept her in my medicine cabinet ever since.  I love motherwort tincture for times when I feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious.  For me, she works quickly and gently.  Five drops in a small glass of water can help get me grounded.  I feel the frustration just melt away.

Skullcap for Frazzled Nerves

For me, skullcap seems to calm my nerves and lower stress.  A great time to take skullcap is when you feel like you are snapping more than usual or need a mental break.  Skullcap is a wonderful nervine that can ease tension and soothe the nervous system.  I take a dropper-full of skullcap tincture up to three times a day for these purposes.

Valerian for Calming the Inner Storm

Of all my remedies, a tincture made with Valerian root is probably my favorite for anxiety and stress. It is really coming in handy right now!  I planted some Valerian seeds in a field on my property a few years ago and harvested roots last year.  They do not smell pleasant.  I think they smell like dirty feet to be honest.  That said, I could care less how it smells when it works as well as it does.   Valerian has been shown to help maintain serotonin and norepinephrine in two specific brain regions that are associated with fear and anxiety.  It seems to work speedily and on top of that, if I take it before bedtime, it helps me sleep much better.  This plant is often used by those wishing to ease their insomnia because it increases GABA, an important sedative neurotransmitter.  I will also say that if I take ten drops during the day, this does not make me super sleepy, but rather helps me relax.  If you are wishing to take Valerian to sleep, try taking ten to twenty drops of the tincture around thirty minutes before bedtime.

valerian

Above: A Valerian plant harvested from my farm.  I utilize the roots in a remedy for anxiety.

More Herbs for Anxiety, Stress, and Frustration

Here is a list of additional herbs that may help reduce anxiety and all the negative feelings that come with it:

Lemon Balm  – lemon balm isn’t just a wonderfully flavorful and aromatic plant, it tastes great too!  I love to drink the dried leaves in tea to help unwind and de-stress.

Chamomile or Pineapple Weed – Chamomile is well-known for its calming and soothing properties, so its a great choice if you are seeking a safe way to calm down and relax.  If you are a classic over-thinker who tosses and turns at night while wide awake, drink a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime to promote peaceful sleep.  If you didn’t plant chamomile in your garden this year, no worries!  Pineapple weed is a close relative to chamomile with many of the same soothing properties.  It grows wild in rocky soil in many regions of North America.  It looks like chamomile, but has no petals.  It smells like pineapple and tastes wonderful in tea!

Passionflower – This is one of the prettiest flowers I have ever seen in my life.  Looking like they came straight out of a fairy tale, passionflowers grow on a vine that can get quite out of control if you let them.  I wish my passionflower vines would get out of control though, because these gorgeous plants are a wonderfully effective remedy for calming anxiety.  Oftentimes, herbalists will prescribe passionflower in remedies for sleep, but the sedative properties of passionflower are also beneficial for when you are feeling overwhelmed.  I tincture the chopped vine in alcohol and take a dropper-full as needed for anxiety and stress.

Ashwagandha – This adaptogenic plant has been an important part of Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Adaptogens are thought to help bring balance to the body where it needs it the most.  Ashwagandha may help to balance and regulate certain hormones and metabolic functions to help the body respond to stress and anxiety better.

Essential Oils for Stress, Anxiety, and Anger

There are many essential oils that can combat stress, as well as many ways to use them! Below are some of my favorite essential oils and how I like to use them to vanquish stress and anxiety:

Lavender – Lavender essential oil has been studied extensively for its ability to calm the body and mind.  It has not only been proven to reduce stress, but also to lower blood pressure.  This is one essential oil everyone should have in their medicine cabinet.  From helping to heal wounds to promoting peaceful sleep – and everything in between – lavender is one of the most versatile essential oils one can own.  One of my favorite ways to benefit from lavender is diffusing it after a long day to relax.

Cedarwood – Like lavender, cedarwood is great for promoting calmness and helping to quiet inner restlessness.  It has a soothing, grounding aroma.  One way we use cedarwood is to diffuse it with lavender in the boy’s rooms when they are having a hard time sleeping or had a bad dream.  It helps them fall back asleep and stay asleep.  Both cedarwood and lavender are gentle enough to use around children with very few reported side effects.

Frankincense – This powerful essential oil isn’t just amazing for scar and skin care, it is also extremely grounding.  Frankincense has a deep, resinous aroma and can help to clear the mind and promote inner peace.  I like to add a drop or two to my aromatherapy inhaler to have on hand for times when I need to clear my head and find balance. Myrrh and patchouli have a similar effect.

Bergamot – This pleasant citrus essential oil can lift the spirits and calm a restless mind.  Bergamot is useful for those with mild depression, and can help to promote feelings of optimism.  I like to blend it with lavender for an especially calming experience.

Citrus Oils – If you are wanting to put yourself in a better mood, one great way to do this is to diffuse citrus essential oils.  Their bright, vibrant aromas are sure to dispel anger, frustration, and anxiety.  Whether it is lemon, orange, grapefruit, or lime, these oils almost seem to pick me up and take me to the beach wherever I am!

Vetiver – This thick, almost syrupy essential oil is taken from the roots of the vetiver plant.  Vetiver has long been known to help calm the body and mind.  I have personally utilized this oil to help my oldest son focus and stay calm during stressful times.  Putting a drop or two on his little lava stone necklace was really effective and I didn’t have to actually put any of the oil on him.  It has a deep, earthy aroma.

Valerian – I have already mentioned that I utilize valerian in tincture form for anxiety, but valerian essential oil can also be purchased.  A little goes a long way!  The smell is not something one would consider pleasant.  It is pungent and very earthy.  I would never use more than one to three drops in most blends.  It blends well with frankincense, patchouli, vetiver, lavender, and cedarwood.  It can help tremendously if you are wanting something to help you sleep.  Try blending a drop or two of valerian with three to four drops of vetiver in a 10ml roller bottle.  (Adding four to five drops of cedarwood to this can be very beneficial as well).  Fill the bottle the rest of the way with the carrier oil of your choice.  Apply this to the back of your neck and wrists thirty minutes before bedtime to help quiet the mind and promote sleep.

Anger Antidote Bath Soak Recipe

I added one of my favorite remedies for anger and frustration to my newest book, “Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing.”  It is simply called the Anger Antidote Bath Soak.  When I am feeling negative emotions, one of the best ways I can get rid of these is to soak in a bath with this blend:

1 Tbsp carrier oil of your choice or unscented liquid castile soap

8 drops bergamot essential oil

10 drops lavender essential oil

5 drops patchouli essential oil

1 cup Epsom salts

Medium mixing bowl & spoon to stir

Directions: Pour the carrier oil/liquid castile soap into the mixing bowl.  Add the essential oils to the oil/soap and blend this well.  Add the Epsom salts and stir everything together well.  Pour the contents into a warm bath and let the mixture dissolve.  Soak for at least 20 minutes to take advantage of the emotional support these oils can offer.

For even more powerful and effective remedies to heal the body, mind, and spirit, preorder my book here:  Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing: 120 Remedies to Restore Mind, Body, and Spirit

Other Strategies

Sometimes, herbs or essential oils are not the answer to the problem.  If you are having trouble consistently, try sharing your feelings with someone who will listen.  You may be surprised how much better you feel when you have the chance to get things off your chest.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, get away for a few minutes if you can.  You don’t have to go far: soak in a bath, sit on your back porch, soak up the sun in your back yard for a few minutes…these things can give you a few moments of peace and help to recharge your spirit.  One thing that really helps me is getting out in nature.  I make it a point to take the boys on a long walk around our farm almost daily.  The fresh air, sunshine, and gorgeous sights are enough to lift anyone’s spirits.  Exercise, whether it is yoga or a walk in nature, has been shown to lift the spirits and elevate the mood.  Discover a new hobby.  What is something you have been wanting to do or learn?  Perhaps now is the time to take that online class or learn to paint!  These are just a few ways you can practice self-care during these times.

If you are interested in learning more about herbs and essential oils, enroll in The Bitter Herb Academy today! The Bitter Herb Academy

Many blessings to you and yours,

Amber Robinson, RH(AHG)

Herbs and Essential Oils for Seasonal Allergies

deadnettle

Above: Purple deadnettle can be utilized for allergies.  This common yard “weed” can be found in abundance from spring to summer.

Does the copious amount of pollen flowing through the air have you sneezing and wheezing?  Let me share a few of my favorite allergy remedies with you!

Each winter feels like the longest winter of my lifetime as I wait in anticipation for the arrival of spring.  As soon as things begin to glow with a deeper green, you will find me outdoors exploring the farm.  However, in recent years, I have noticed that my body doesn’t tolerate the outdoors as much as it used to…

As new plants are breaking the surface and awakening from their winter nap, trees are producing pollen.  For some unfortunate people, this pollen is the cause of seasonal allergies.  Pollen is such a fine powder that it can easily enter our airways.  When our immune system senses this invader, it will defend the body and produce an immune response to deal with it.  Some people are just more sensitive to pollen than others.  I would say that I am somewhere in the middle.  I spend a lot of time outdoors and only experience minor to moderate allergies.  My sister wasn’t as lucky, as she has experienced severe allergies since she was very young.  Over the years, I have created a few remedies to help deal with seasonal allergies.  Both my sister and I can attest to their effectiveness.

Purple Deadnettle

Purple deadnettle is an invasive yard weed that pops up in early spring.  It is pictured above.  It is often confused with henbit, but when you see the two side-by-side, you will see differences that can help you make a positive identification.  For what it’s worth, henbit is edible as well.

difference deadnettle henbit

Above: As you can see, although henbit and deadnettle have similar flowers, the leaves are very different.  Both are members of the mint family and have square stems.

The great thing about purple deadnettle is that it contains flavanoids that may help suppress a histamine response.  Pollen causes this response in the body because the body is overreacting to its presence.  If one can suppress these overactive histamines, they will experience less of an allergic reaction.

Some classic examples of a histamine response to pollen include sneezing, a runny nose, eye crust, and watery eyes.

You can utilize purple deadnettle by collecting the aerial parts and chopping them up.  Fill a glass canning jar with your plant material and then cover it completely with a solvent such as (at least 80 proof) alcohol, apple cider vinegar, or vegetable glycerin.  If you are using vegetable glycerin, add a little water as well.  Place the lid on the jar and sit it in a cool, dark place for at least one month.  Shake this daily to help infuse the therapeutic properties of the plants into the liquid.  Strain everything out when the month is up and store your tincture in a cool dark place. We take 5 ml doses up to twice daily as needed for allergies.

Stinging Nettle

This common plant grows all over and you can usually find it from July to September.  If you touch it without gloves, you are likely to get a rash, as its hairs have irritating chemicals.  Stinging nettle has been used to treat a variety of conditions ranging from arthritis to bladder issues.

This plant is also great for treating allergies. Like deadnettle, it can also reduce histamine released by the body.  The reduced histamine can result in less inflammation, as well as a reduction in allergy symptoms.

Harvest it with gloves to protect your hands.  Dry the leaves for use in broths, tea, and tinctures.  Bonus: The leaves are incredibly nutritious!

Tea Tree Essential Oil

This useful essential oil is one of my favorites, and for good reason. Not only have we used this to eliminate everything from ringworm to sinus infections, we have also used it successfully for allergies.

Tea tree essential oil can be diffused to gently help clear the nasal passages.  It is amazing at killing harmful bacteria and fungus in the body.  Its expectorant properties help the body to get rid of all the gunk clogging up the airways.  Tea tree essential oil also contains anti-inflammatory properties, and might help to control the inflammatory response set off by histamines.  It makes a great essential oil for allergy relief due to these attributes.

Diffuse a few drops of tea tree or put a drop or two in an aromatherapy inhaler during allergy season to help clear your airways and aid the body in the removal of mucus.

Lavender Essential Oil

What’s not to love about lavender?  It is great for healing skin irritation and burns in addition to calming the body and mind.  Like tea tree, lavender has been shown to reduce inflammation.  It has even been studied for its ability to prevent allergic inflammation and the enlargement of mucus cells.  Read more here: Lavender Allergy Study

Diffuse a few drops of lavender or add a drop or two to your aromatherapy inhaler to benefit from this versatile oil.

Antihistamine Rescue Roller Blend

You can also combine both lavender and tea tree for maximum allergy relief!  Below is a recipe from my latest book, “Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing.”  It details how to blend my Antihistamine Rescue Roller Remedy:

Using pipettes, Add five drops each of lavender and tea tree essential oils to around two teaspoons of a carrier oil in a 10ml roller bottle.  Add these through a small funnel to avoid wasting any oils.  Place the roller and cap back on the bottle and give it a little shake to blend the oils together thoroughly.

One way we like to use this is to dab a little on our wrists and bring them up to our face to inhale. Take a few deep breaths to help open up your airways.  This blend is also an effective remedy for rashes and skin irritations.

For more amazing and healing remedies (120 to be exact), preorder my book, “Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing” today! Aromatherapy and Essential Oils for Healing: 120 Remedies to Restore Mind, Body, and Spirit

aromatherapy book

My first book, “Organic Aromatherapy and Essential Oils: The Modern Guide to All-Natural Health and Wellness” is available on Amazon as well.  It contains 150 effective remedies you can create with essential oils.  If you haven’t already, check it out!  Organic Aromatherapy and Essential Oils: The Modern Guide to All-Natural Health and Wellness

organic book

If you are interested in learning more about herbs and essential oils to treat a variety of issues, enroll in The Bitter Herb Academy.  We currently offer four different courses depending on your interests: The Bitter Herb Academy

Blessings,

Amber Robinson, RH(AHG)

Why lemon balm is a must-have for the home apothecary

lemon balm hydro
Above: Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) steam distilled into hydrosol.  Unfortunately, when distilling lemon balm in small batches, you are most likely not going to get a measurable amount of essential oil.  However, the hydrosol is a very useful byproduct of this process.

Growing lemon balm

Lemon balm is not like lavender.  I didn’t have to make multiple attempts to grow it before having success.  I went down to one of the bottom fields in early spring and scattered seeds in a plot.  From there, the lemon balm has taken over.   It didn’t spread so bad that it’s becoming a nuisance, but it did surprise me with its resilience and vigor.

Now I know it depends on the zone you live in, but lemon balm can usually be grown easily in most of North America.  Specifically, in USDA zones 4a through 9b.  The soil you choose to grow it in may make a difference.  Although it will grow in many soil types, it prefers soil that is well-draining and rich in organic matter.  It is also not too picky about whether it is in full sun or partial shade.  The plot where I grow mine is in partial shade, as it is at the wood’s edge.  It does not require fertilizer, which can cause the plant to become less aromatic.  Instead, if you are interested in keeping your lemon balm happy, make sure that it has plenty of organic matter in the soil.

Lemon balm plants are said to require regular watering, but I have to admit that I have never watered mine.  I can’t get water to that area easily, but because it is in the bottoms, the morning dew is heavy on the plants there.  I attribute this fact to why my lemon balm plants are still alive.

Using lemon balm

Do you suffer from anxiety, stress, or a lack of rest?  Lemon balm may be able to help.  She has been used for centuries to help calm the body and mind, as well as to lift the spirits.

Her nervine properties aren’t the only gifts she boasts.  Lemon balm is also very effective when it comes to fighting viral issues.  Specifically, lemon balm can help treat viral lesions like cold sores and shingles.

Because she is a member of the mint family, it is no surprise that she can also be used to help with digestive issues.  Other noteworthy medicinal properties of lemon balm include supporting healthy liver function, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and relieving muscle tension.

Oil infusion or salve

Because not everyone has a still to extract essential oils from plants, a great way to harness the healing power of lemon balm (while capturing some of its precious oil) is to create an oil infusion.  Fill a jar with dried or wilted lemon balm and then cover it with a carrier oil.  Close the lid and give it a good shake every day for about a month.  When the time is right, strain it out.  This can be applied directly to viral lesions, or you can use this infused oil as a base to make a salve.  To make a salve, you would need around one cup of infused oil and one ounce of beeswax.  Melt the beeswax in a double boiler and then remove it from heat and add the lemon balm-infused oil.  You may also choose to add essential oils, depending on what you want to use the salve for.  A salve is nice and thick, making it easy to spread on an affected area and stay put.

Tea

Tea is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to use lemon balm!  Drinking a cup before bedtime can help promote a more restful night’s sleep.  Of course, it can also help melt tension and stress away.  I dry some of my lemon balm and crumble it into a tea tin to use as needed.  I fill up one of my stainless steel tea balls and infuse it into a cup of hot water for several minutes before removing it.  It tastes great on its own, or you can add raw honey to sweeten it a bit.

Tincture

A tincture is one of my favorite ways to use a plant for several reasons.  First, it preserves it so I don’t have to use right away.  Second, it is a bit more concentrated and thus stronger than tea.  A tincture of lemon balm is great for those times when you need relief from tension or anxiety right away.  Just put a dropper-full under your tongue and viola!

A tincture of lemon balm can be created by filling a jar with the chopped (fresh or dry) plant material and then covering it with at least 80 proof alcohol.  Close the lid and store it in a cool, dark place for a month to six weeks.  You may have to top it off again after 24 hours because the plant material soaks up the alcohol and leaves some exposed.  Shake it as often as you can remember and strain it out when it is ready.   Many tinctures last for years, so it will be there when you need it for a long time!

Essential oil and Hydrosol

Lemon balm essential oil is expensive.  This is because it really takes a lot of plant material to get any essential oil.  Although it is expensive, it is well worth the investment.  I highly recommend it for treating shingles and other viral lesions.  It will need to be diluted before application to the affected area.  Try diluting two drops in one teaspoon of carrier oil and see if you notice any progress.  If you do not get the results you would like to see, try upping the amount to three drops.

It can also be added to carrier oil and beeswax to create a lip balm.  (This recipe, as well as more recipes that include lemon balm essential oil, are detailed in my book, Organic Aromatherapy & Essential Oils: The Modern Guide to All-Natural Health and Wellness which can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646114027)

I am able to make my own hydrosol and I love how it smells.  It does not smell like you think it would.  Hydrosols seldom do.  It smells rich, deep, and lemony but with a pungent base note.  It works great for spraying on skin rashes and lesions It can even be drank (in small amounts) for the treatment of viral infections.

Go for it!

If you haven’t yet, try growing some lemon balm this spring/summer. You may be surprised at the results, even if you don’t have a “green thumb.”  Whether you need it for viruses, digestive issues, or to help relieve stress, lemon balm is up to the challenge!

To learn more about how to distill your own essential oils and hydrosols, enroll in our School of Aromatic Distillation!  If you’re interested in learning more about other medicinal plants, as well as how to create your own herbal remedies, enroll in The Bitter Herb Academy today: https://thebitterherb.com/

 

 

Learning from Lavender

lav sun

If you listen closely, you can glean wisdom from the plants you cultivate.  Lavender taught me some valuable lessons, and has come in handy for a wide variety of issues in my household.  She is one of my favorite plants to grow, but it wasn’t always that way.  It took some trial and error before I came to discover her likes and dislikes.

Careful cultivation…and disappointment

A few years ago, I purchased lavender seeds (Lavendula angustifolia) and took it upon myself to gather all the necessary tools for lavender cultivation.  I carefully planted the seeds in my greenhouse and watched in excitement as they sprouted rather rapidly.  I researched how to grow lavender, and took care to water them regularly.  When they were sturdy enough, I transplanted them to my little raised bed where they promptly died.

The next year, I tried growing it again.  This time, I tilled up a field in full sun (because I read that lavender likes full sun) and simply sowed seeds in spring.  They began to sprout, but alas, they did not survive.  I live in zone 6a, according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture.  From my research, lavender will grow in USDA zones 5-9.  I was stumped.  I planted them in soil I thought they would like, I watered them (not too much and not too little) and I put them in an area with full sun.  I decided that the next attempt would be growing it in pots.

Finally success!

When the next spring arrived, I planted lavender (this time a variety of English lavender called hidcote lavender) and watched it sprout in the greenhouse. When it was sturdy enough, I put two decent-sized plants in an old water trough my grandpa had used for his cattle when he had this farm.  The water trough was full of dirt my husband dumped in with his tractor a few days earlier.  It was nothing special, no organic matter or fertilizer.  However, it turns out that lavender doesn’t need much fertilizer or organic matter in its soil to thrive.   In addition, alkaline or chalky soil is usually preferred by lavender and it actually enhances its fragrance.

The trough was in mostly full sun in my yard.  It didn’t take long before the plants were sprouting flowers. I was elated!  I didn’t water it near as much as I had watered the other lavender plants, and it thrived.  Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, so it is very drought-resistant.  Today, my trough is full of lavender bushes.  It has come back every year for at least three years now.

How I use my lavender

The uplifting, herbaceous scent of lavender is an instant mood-booster.  It is lightly floral, but not too strong.  It has an after note that is almost medicinal.  Not only do the buds smell amazing, the whole plant smells amazing.  I have used lavender in several ways:

Tincture for stress and anxiety

Lavender can be infused in alcohol or vegetable glycerin to make a type of extract.  This is an excellent way to benefit from its stress-relieving properties.  Fill a jar with lavender (I use all aerial parts, but especially the buds), and cover the plant material with 80 proof alcohol or vegetable glycerin.  Let this sit and infuse in a cool, dark place for at least one month (shake daily if you can remember) and then strain everything out.  I take one to two droppers full under the tongue as needed for stress and anxiety relief.

Oil infusion

You may not grow enough lavender to make lavender essential oil, but you may still be able to create a lovely oil infusion with lavender.  This can be used in much the same way you would use lavender essential oil.  You can massage it into the pulse points to help promote rest and calmness. It has even been shown to help reduce blood pressure.  We also use a lavender oil infusion to treat rashes.  It is great for helping to calm the skin.  To create this, you must fill a jar with dried or wilted lavender.  Next, cover the plant material with a carrier oil.  Try to pick an oil that doesn’t have a strong scent.  A great oil to use for this is jojoba oil. I find that it does not have a strong fragrance.  It is also great for the skin.  Place a lid on your jar and store it out of direct sunlight for four to six weeks, making sure to shake it daily to further promote infusion.  Some people like to make sun infusions, and sometimes I do this by placing my jar in a brown paper bag and sitting it out in the sun daily to let it gently warm.  I personally don’t like exposing my infusion to direct sunlight, so the paper bag helps to lessen the damaging UV rays.

Essential oil and hydrosol

I love making lavender essential oil and hydrosol! I steam distill the aerial parts to create this potent aromatic treat.  The hydrosol is underrated, but so amazing!  It is gentle, yet effective.  It works wonderfully for treating minor cuts and scrapes, as well as for de-germing surfaces (because lavender is highly antimicrobial).  The essential oil is always a good choice for diffusing at bedtime when we want a restful night’s sleep.  It pairs wonderfully with cedarwood and chamomile.  Together, these oils help to calm, relax, and promote a more tranquil environment.  Another great thing about lavender is that it is often one of the safest choices for use with children.  It can be diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin to treat rashes, burns, and minor skin irritations.

lav neck

Above: I made a charm with the lavender growing in my re-purposed water trough.  It serves as a reminder to appreciate beauty and simplicity.  It also reminds me to have patience through trials.

Lesson learned

It took me a while to learn how to properly grow lavender.  This taught me patience.  However, once I was able to successfully cultivate it, I learned that it is truly a blessing to keep at something until you succeed.  The benefits my family and I obtain from this amazing plant are totally worth all the trial, error, and disappointment I experienced while trying to grow it.  Another valuable lesson I learned from lavender is that sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of expensive fertilizers and potting soils to grow something.  Simplicity is key with lavender.  In keeping things simple, I was able to discover the surprising truth about this plant that eluded me for so long. Stop over-complicating things.  Listen to what lavender is trying to teach you.  Her wisdom is calling.

For more recipes and remedies using lavender essential oil, purchase my book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646114027

To learn more about the plants you can use to heal mentally, emotionally, and physically, enroll in one of our four courses today! https://thebitterherb.com/

 

 

 

The many powers of peppermint

peppermint

Did you know that the peppermint we know today is actually a hybrid cross between watermint and spearmint?  Together, these two species created something lovely and oh so aromatic!

The compounds behind the aroma

I have to say that of all the essential oils I have distilled, peppermint packs the biggest punch when it comes to fragrance.  The house will smell like peppermint for days, if not weeks.  This is because peppermint contains several strong constituents, including menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, limonene, beta-pinene and beta-caryophyllene.

Menthol is a constituent that comes in very handy for relieving joint and muscle pain.  It is also effective at combating congestion and calming a cough.  1,8-cineole is another compound in peppermint that can be very therapeutic.  It is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic (may help to relieve pain), antiviral, antibacterial, hypotensive (can lower blood pressure), and mucolytic (helps to clear mucus from the airways).

1,8-cineole and safety

Although essential oils that contain 1,8-cineole can be effective for a variety of issues, that doesn’t always mean they are completely safe to use on everyone.  Some oils that contain higher amounts of this compound are not recommended to be used on children.  Eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils also contain 1,8-cineole, but in higher amounts than peppermint.  This is why many aromatherapists (including myself) recommend avoiding rosemary and eucalyptus on children under ten years old.  Because peppermint doesn’t has as much 1,8-cineole, it may be used on children over the age of six.  The reason this compound may be unsafe is due to the fact that it may actually worsen respiratory issues for children, which is the exact opposite of why most people use it.  If you are looking for oils to safely use on children during times of congestion, try using tea tree, cedarwood, pine, spruce, or fir.  These can all help tremendously with congestion and coughing!

How I use peppermint

There are several ways I use peppermint here on the homestead.  I planted it in my raised bed and it keeps coming back every year.  It multiplies and continues to provide me with enough medicine to create all kinds of remedies.  One way I use it has already been mentioned, but I take a large amount and steam distill it to create essential oil and hydrosol.

Headaches and heat

The essential oil is great for taking care of my headaches!  Add one or two drops to a teaspoon of carrier oil and gently massage a small amount into the back of the neck and the temples when you feel a headache coming on.  This usually helps take care of headaches caused by tension.   The hydrosol comes in handy during those hot summer days when you feel like the heat is too much.  Simply spray it on your arms, legs, or anywhere else you want to cool down.  This would also be very useful if you suffer from hot flashes!  The hydrosol can also be used to help reduce fevers.  Being gently cooling, it can be applied to a compress and put on the back of the neck to bring down a fever.

Tummy troubles

For tummy issues, I make a glycerite with peppermint leaves, chamomile (sometimes pineapple weed if I don’t have any chamomile), fennel seeds, and ginger.  I add equal amounts of each of these to a jar and then cover them with non GMO vegetable glycerin and a bit of water.  I shake this mixture daily for about a month and then strain it out.  For an upset stomach or nausea, we take 5-10 ml.  It really helps to settle things down quite rapidly.  It is especially useful when there is a stomach bug in the house!

Energy and uplifting

If you want energy, peppermint is good for that!  Diffuse peppermint essential oil when you are feeling sluggish or tired.  It can help provide a refreshing boost of energy and vitality, as well as boost your mood.  It pairs really well with grapefruit and other citrus essential oils, so try combining 4 drops of a citrus essential oil and 4 drops of peppermint in the diffuser to help get you going in the mornings, or put you in a good mood to start the day.

Congestion and sinus infection

As I previously stated, peppermint contains compounds that help open up the airways and relieve congestion.  If you are suffering from congestion, a cough, or have a cold, try diffusing peppermint.  It combines nicely with eucalyptus and rosemary for this purpose.  For a sinus infection, try diffusing peppermint with tea tree to kill bacteria and open the sinuses.

What NOT to do with peppermint

Years ago as a new essential oil enthusiast, I tried putting peppermint essential oil in my bath. I just added with without a carrier to the water and then sat down to soak.  Let’s just say, that was a short-lived bath!  Peppermint can have a cooling effect on the skin.  This is the menthol doing its job. However, a little peppermint goes a LONG way.  Having said that, I will advise not to use peppermint on “sensitive” areas or near mucus membranes.  I would personally not add it to a bath, but if you must, try adding a few drops to a tablespoon of carrier oil or unscented liquid castile soap, then adding that to a cup of Epsom salts.  Stir this together and add to a bath.  This will help break it down so you are not sitting in undiluted oil.

Don’t apply peppermint essential oil to the skin undiluted. Not only is that unnecessary, but it can cause some major irritation.  A safe dilution for peppermint would be starting with one or two drops per teaspoon of carrier oil and massaging this into the skin.  If you have sensitive skin, you may have to cut this dilution down to one drop per two teaspoons before applying.

These are just a few ways I have incorporated peppermint into our lives to help with the issues we face.  Whether it is a hydrosol, essential oil, or extract, peppermint can help treat a variety of ailments, while leaving you feeling refreshed!  For more great remedies using peppermint essential oil, you can purchase my book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646114027

To learn more about how to create herbal remedies or essential oil with peppermint, as well as a variety of other medicinal plants, enroll in one of our four courses today! https://thebitterherb.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Tea Tree: Why this Essential Oil made my Top Five List and How I Use It

tea tree cubes

Above: Tea tree chest and throat rub cubes.  I have included the recipe below!

Tea tree essential oil is often one of the first oils people purchase when they first start looking into essential oils.  This powerful oil can be found in almost every starter kit you buy.  There are many reasons why this oil is so popular, and they range from versatility to safety and effectiveness.

Tea tree essential oil is often made by steam distilling the leaves of the tea tree, Latin name Melaleuca alternifolia.  This tree can be found in various regions of Australia.  As far as scent goes, the essential oil smells herbaceous, camphorous, and medicinal.  I personally love the aroma, which I believe strongly hints to its wonderful therapeutic properties.

Why I love tea tree

One of the biggest reasons this essential oil made my top five list is due to safety.  This is one essential oil that I have always been more confident working with because it usually doesn’t cause skin reactions (when diluted properly).  For this reason, it is my go-to when I need something effective for my children.  I recommend starting with a one percent dilution, which equals one drop of essential oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil.

Another reason tea tree is my go-to oil is due to its strong antiseptic properties.  Although it is strong and effective, it is simultaneously gentle.  Because it can fight bacteria so well, I use it in a lot of remedies for sinus infections, fungal infections, and acne.

The fact that tea tree oil has SO MANY uses makes it a no-brainer when deciding what oils to purchase, which is another big reason it is one of my favorites.  This single oil can be used to repel lice, treat infections (both fungal and bacterial), sanitize, cleanse the skin, and aid in congestion.  Talk about getting more for your money!

Tea tree chest rub cube recipe

The white cubes in the photo at the top of the page are one way I harness tea tree’s medicinal properties for my children.  These are very simple cubes made with organic coconut oil, tea tree, and pine essential oils.  They work incredibly well when rubbed onto the chest for congestion.  I also massage some into my youngest son’s throat nightly when he has a sore throat and I suspect strep.  Another great use for these cubes is for fever, as tea tree may help naturally reduce a high fever.  Avoid using them near the eyes though.

They are so easy to create!  Simply melt the coconut oil (I do this by sitting the jar in warm water for a bit) and measure out three ounces.  Add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and 6 drops of pine essential oil to the melted oil and pour into an ice cube tray.  You can leave it sitting out to harden or place it in the fridge, where it should harden much faster.  Although they will usually maintain their shape if left out, I prefer keeping my cubes in the fridge for storage when I have popped them out of molds.   I store them in a glass jar and grab them as I need them.

Diffusion

You can usually diffuse tea tree safely around children and adults alike.  For this reason, I like to fill my ultrasonic diffuser and add 6 drops of tea tree essential oil during times when we are feeling under the weather.  I have found that diffusing tea tree essential oil comes in especially handy when I have a sinus infection.  Tea tree essential oil may generally be safe for humans, but it is not safe to use around pets.  Please be mindful of any pets in your house if you choose to diffuse this oil.

Keep pests at bay

If you have kids in school, you may have had to deal with head lice.  When lice is going around, I like to add three drops of tea tree essential oil to one tablespoon of a natural hair gel and blend this together to use in my son’s hair.  Not only do they look stylish, but their hair becomes a less-than-appetizing home for lice.  For girls with long hair, this method may not be ideal.  You can opt for tea tree hydrosol and lightly mist it into their hair to help repel lice.  Lice aren’t the only pests that are said to be repelled by tea tree.  Try adding a drop or two to cotton balls and placing them in areas of your home where insects gather, especially door frames.  Just make sure to keep them away from children and pets.

So many more uses!

There are many other ways to use this amazing oil.  I have added several of my favorite (and most effective) tea tree oil recipes to my book, Organic Aromatherapy & Essential Oils: The Modern Guide to All-Natural Health and Wellness.  If you are interested in learning more about what you can do with tea tree oil, check it out: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646114027

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to Oregano: A Valuable Asset for Winter Wellness

ore oil

Above: Freshly distilled oregano essential oil floating on top of hydrosol.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of essential oil collected during this distillation last summer.  I had only collected a brown paper bag full of oregano from my mother’s raised bed and I was able to get a dram of pure essential oil, as well as over a pint of precious hydrosol.

Most know oregano as a common culinary herb, but there is much more to oregano than just a flavorful addition to cooking!  This herb has been utilized for centuries by those who understand its true potential.  The famous Greek physician Hippocrates was said to have used this herb as an antiseptic, in addition to a respiratory and digestive aid.  With today’s technology, these uses are justified further by the discovery of several integral constituents that make up this plant.

Medicinal Compounds in Oregano

Thymol is a constituent in oregano that possesses antiseptic properties.  This compound is named after another popular culinary herb, thyme, because it also contains high amounts of thymol.  Thymol is often credited with giving oregano and thyme their strong flavors.  Another useful compound in oregano is carvacrol.  This compound has been shown to kill many types of bacteria, even salmonella.  In addition, carvacrol is antifungal, making oregano a great remedy to beat fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot.  Carvacrol may also help fight inflammation.  Cymene is another compound found in oregano.  It is antimicrobial, antifungal, and may even help relieve pain.  Other compounds found in oregano include borneol, terpinene, pinene, linalyl acetate, bisabolene, linalool, caryophyllene and geranyl acetate.  Together, these compounds give oregano its antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, digestive, anti-inflammatory, and immunostimulant properties.

 

How to Use Oregano

The great thing about oregano, at least where I live in the Missouri Ozarks, is that once you plant it, it won’t likely go away.  My mom has to call me each summer to come get oregano out of her raised garden bed because it is taking over.  I pull up a bunch, as well as trim some back, but it still persists in its attempts to choke out her other plants!  This is a good thing for me, because I can take as much as I want and get to experiment with many different preparations to see what works best!  I use oregano in several ways, depending on the issues I am trying to tackle.

Oil of Oregano

One relatively simple way to use it is to create oil of oregano.  This is not the same as oregano essential oil.  Oil of oregano is made by filing a glass jar with dried oregano and then covering it with olive oil.  Let this sit and infuse for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily.  Some people like to make sun infusions, but I tend to lean toward protecting my herbs from direct sunlight.  Because of this, I put my jars of oil and herb in a brown paper bag and leave them in a warm place outside during the infusion period.  When the time is ready, simply strain out your oil and bottle it for use.  Store your infused oil in a cool, dark place in between uses to promote optimal shelf-life.  A great way to use this is around the ear to treat ear infections.  The addition of garlic and mullein flower-infused oil is also an effective treatment for this issue.  Oil of oregano makes a much safer alternative to oregano essential oil, which is very strong and can cause skin irritation (especially if you have sensitive skin).

Oregano Tincture or Glycerite

I really like using oregano tincture for treating or preventing sore throats, especially in the case of chronic strep.  Because oregano is so strongly antimicrobial, it is no wonder it can help fight the bacteria responsible for strep.  I can attest to its prevention power because I have been using it to help prevent strep in my youngest son, who had previously been getting strep almost every month.  Since I started having him gargle oregano tincture in a decoction of Echinacea, he has not had strep.   You can make a tincture by filling a glass jar with oregano (chopped well) and completely covering the herb with at least 80 proof vodka.  Let this sit for 4-6 weeks in a cool, dark place, making sure to shake daily (or as much as you can remember).  Strain out and bottle the liquid at the end of the infusion period.  It should be noted that the particular tincture I made was actually a glycerite, which made it easier on my son as far as taste goes.  A glycerite is made in much the same way as a tincture, only you use non GMO vegetable glycerin instead of alcohol.  You may choose to add some water to this to make it less thick.  Try to make sure your glycerite contains at least 55 percent vegetable glycerin. For strep prevention, I give my son a dropper-full in 10 ml of strong Echinacea decoction twice a day to gargle and spit out.  Oregano tincture/glycerite is also useful for digestive issues, immune health, and candida.

ore tinc

Above: Oregano glycerite I made for my son.  I add a dropper full of this extract to a decoction of Echinacea (aerial parts and roots) to gargle twice daily for strep prevention.

Oregano Essential Oil

Of course, I cannot talk about oregano without mentioning oregano essential oil. This is certainly the strongest of the oregano preparations.  I create my own via steam distillation.  When I make oregano essential oil, my whole house smells like an Italian restaurant.  That’s really the best way to describe it!

My favorite way to use the precious oregano essential oil I collect is diluted (around 1 drop per 1-2 tablespoons of carrier oil) and applied topically to kill bacteria and fungal infections.  I also like to add four drops of oregano essential oil to my ultrasonic diffuser to fight airborne germs during cold and flu season.  Other great essential oils to use in combination with oregano to kill pathogens include clove, cinnamon, thyme, melissa, and tea tree.

Because this is a strong oil, a little goes a long way.  Be mindful of using oregano on open wounds or on those with sensitive skin.  Oregano essential oil can interact with certain medications, especially blood thinners.  Avoid oregano essential oil if you have a bleeding disorder, as well as before and after any surgery.  Like many essential oils, this oil should not be used around pets.  It is also best to avoid using oregano essential oil around children under the age of at least two.

Inhalation of this essential oil in an aromatherapy inhaler is one of the safest ways to utilize it in the treatment of sinus infections, colds, and other respiratory issues.  This way, you are not needlessly exposing anyone else, especially children and pets, to this strong therapeutic oil.  In addition, you are not risking any topical sensitization issues.

Hydrosol

With my oregano essential oil comes oregano hydrosol.  Never underestimate the usefulness of hydrosol!  My favorite way to use hydrosol is with my children.  It is a much safer alternative to essential oils when dealing with children.  In addition, it is just as effective.  I spray it on minor wounds to help cleanse and kill bacteria.  I even spray it on some household surfaces to inhibit the growth of bacteria.  Because it is much gentler than most preparations, we even take 5 ml internally as needed for immune health.

More Oregano Uses

For even more information on the power of oregano essential oil, as well as a detailed profile and highly therapeutic recipes, check out my book, Organic Aromatherapy & Essential Oils: The Modern Guide to All-Natural Health and Wellness. I chose oregano as one of the top ten essential oils for this book!  You can order it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646114027

Interested in learning how to distill your own oregano essential oil, or what other herbs complement this powerhouse plant?  Enroll in one of our courses today! https://thebitterherb.com/