Mar 30, 2010

Herbal Medicine Trends and Traditions


I received this book for my birthday and am really enjoying it. Trends and Traditions is very in-depth and covers the uses for over one hundred herbs. It includes instructions on  wildcrafting, preparations, dosage and cautions. The section on tinctures, salves, teas, ointments, syrups, etc is extremely thorough and covers methods not taught in my other herb books. It explains how and why the hebs work rather than just a list of herbs to use for different ailments. There is a section in the middle with color pictures for identifying herbs. The book is very well laid out and organized, making it easy to find the information you need. In my opinion it is very reasonably  priced for the vast information it contains!
Herbal Medicine: Trends and Traditions (A Comprehensive Sourcebook on the Preparation and Use of Medicinal Plants)


Mar 29, 2010

Coconut Honey Lip Balm

For an easy, creative project try making your own lip balm. It's fun to experiment with different oils, scents and tastes. The recipe that follows is very basic and makes a firm lip balm. If you prefer a softer balm try adding oils like almond or avocado. Caster oil can be added to make shiny lip gloss. If you want a tinted lip gloss add a little of your favorite lipstick for color. Essential oils like peppermint or lavender can be added for taste and scent. This makes a fun project for the the kids to join in with.

Coconut Honey Lip Balm

Melt together on low

2 tablespoons beeswax
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Add and mix well

 1 teaspoon honey

Pour into containers and let cool.

The Complete Guide to Creating Oils, Soaps, Creams, and Herbal Gels for Your Mind and Body: 101 Natural Body Care Recipes (Back-To-Basics)

Natural Beauty at Home, : More Than 250 Easy to Use Recipes for Body,Bath, and Hair (Revised Edition)

Organic Body Care Recipes: 175 Homeade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin & a Vibrant Self

Mar 23, 2010

Yummy French Toast

For some strange reason I've been craving French Toast for a while now. My mom made French Toast often growing up, but of course hers used milk. I decided it was time to come up with a new dairy free family recipe. Maybe it's because I haven't had the real thing in such a long time but I think this recipe is just as good as mom's.

Yummy French Toast

Mix together

8 eggs
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt

Dip bread slices in the egg mixture and fry on a griddle till browned, usually about two minutes on each side. This is a great way to use up old, gluten-free bread, but be sure to let your bread slices soak a couple minutes in the mixture if they're really dry.

We like to eat these with homemade peach syrup made by mixing one 29 OZ can of peaches and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Enjoy!

Mar 17, 2010

Vitamin Smoothies

I've been wanting to find a good quality, affordable vitamin that my kids could take. Most children's vitamins contain dye and sweeteners that I don't want my kids eating. Good children's vitamins do exist, but with five kids they get pretty pricey. I was reading The Bulk herb Store newsletter and saw their Daily Boost Herba-Smoothie. I thought it was a great idea but wasn't sure it would work for us. We don't have access to raw dairy in Wyoming and I'm not about to feed my kids ultra pasteurized-homogenized milk from the store. After thinking about it for a few days I decided to start experimenting with smoothie recipes to see if I could come up with a non-dairy smoothie. I also wanted our smoothie to use less berries than the Bulk herb Store recipe since berries are so expensive. After quite a few not so good smoothies I have two recipes that my kids and husband like, and gladly drink every morning.

Orange Julius Herb Smoothie

3 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1 cup water
1/2 frozen banana
1 tablespoon coconut milk
1 teaspoon powdered herb mix
*1 tablespoon water from lacto-fermented veggies

Blend all ingredients in blender and serve

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon coconut milk
1 teaspoon powdered herb mix
1-2 frozen strawberries
1/2 frozen banana
*1 tablespoon water from lacto-fermented veggies

Blend all ingredients in blender and serve.

The lacto-fermented veggie water is optional but add natural probiotics to your smoothie.

You can use any of the herb mixes the Bulk Herb Store sells or make your own. I wanted herbs that would supply calcium and other minerals, be good for my husbands heart, give us an energy boost and help with cleansing and detoxing. I decided to use the same mix of herbs as The Bulk Herb Store, ginkgo, siberian ginseng, oatstraw, bilberry fruit, hawthorn, burdock root, and horsetail plus I added some rosehips for extra vitamin C. We enjoy our smoothie every morning and I love knowing my kids are getting a yummy, natural vitamin shake.

Mar 13, 2010

Healthy Habits

Trying to start a new healthier lifestyle can be overwhelming. What foods should you eat, which ones to cut out, should you take supplements and don't forget to start a new workout program. Many people that I talk to wonder where to even begin. It can be a daunting task, but I think with a little planning, making healthy changes doesn't have to be that hard.

A great way to start living healthier is to start new good habits. Pick one goal and implement it into your routine. Choose something simple like cutting back to only one desert every week, stop drinking soda, eating raw veggies each day, drinking more water, switching to whole grains or making time to exercise. Once you're new habit is firmly established as part of your routine add another health goal. One healthy habit at a time can lead to a much healthier lifestyle.

Mar 12, 2010

Red Rooibos Spicy Chai Tea

I recently started drinking red rooibos tea daily. I like the almost sweet, slightly nutty flavor but wanted something a little more exciting. I decided to try and make a chai tea using red rooibos. After a few experiments I came up with a spicy, tasty tea that the whole family enjoys.

Mix together

1/4 cup red rooibos

1 tablespoon dried cut ginger (not powdered)

1 dried and crushed orange peel

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 crushed bay leaves

1/8 teaspoon whole or slightly crushed peppercorns

Brew one rounded tablespoon in 1 1/2 cups water. Strain and add 1-2 tablespoons coconut milk or cream. Sweeten to taste.

Red Rooibos is grown in Africa and was first drank by the Khoisan, a tribe of bushmen. The tea is chopped and bruised before being fermented. It is then dried in the African sun, where it turns from green to a brilliant orange-red. Rooibos is full of antioxidants and minerals, contains alpha-hydroxy and is naturally caffeine free.


Quinoa is grown in South American and was a staple food for the Incas. It is thought to stimulate the milk production of nursing mothers. While we normally prepare quinoa much like rice or millet, it is not a grain but the seed of the Goosefoot plant. Quinoa is nutritionally rich with a 12-18% protein and 6-7% fat content . Unlike wheat or rice which are low in lysine, quinoa has a balance of all eight essential amino acids . Quinoa is also a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium and is even gluten free.

Quinoa needs to be soaked and rinsed before cooking. It has a coating of saponin which gives it a bitter taste. While the need to rinse and remove the saponin coating adds an extra step in preparing quinoa, the bitter taste protects the seeds from hungry birds when it’s growing. In South America the saponin that is removed when washing quinoa is used for laundry detergent and sometimes as an antiseptic for wounds.

In our family we usually eat quinoa much like rice, served with butter and salt. It can be used in many recipes and makes a great addition to soups, hot cereals and even cold salads. Here is how I cook basic plain quinoa

Rinse one cup quinoa thoroughly and drain.

Place quinoa and two cups water in a pan and bring to a boil. Turn temperature down to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until grains turn translucent.

Quinoa can also be sprouted and used in salads and wraps. For more information on quinoa, instructions on how to sprout and recipes visit

Making Herbal Tea

Making tea is a regular part of my morning routine. I fill my pan with water, and while it comes to a boil, pick out the herbs I want for our breakfast tea. If my oldest daughter could choose we would have peppermint everyday while my younger ones prefer elderberry with a little licorice. One of our favorite combos that the kids call gingerbread man, is ginger and cinnamon with a little honey. A few other fun things we have tried are adding spices like cinnamon or cloves and even dried orange or lemon peels to our herbal blends. For iced teas I sometimes like to add a little fruit juice. I’ll admit though, that I’m usually more focused on the medical benefits of my teas, and making really tasty blends is not something I feel I’ve completely mastered yet. I’ve been looking for new inspiration and found quite a few yummy looking ideas at

Besides tasting good, herbal teas are a very healthy habit to start. Herbs release their water-soluble beneficial properties into the hot water making their nutrients easily assimilated by your body. Depending on the herbs you choose, teas can be calming and relaxing, help your immune system fight off a cold, and even be a good afternoon pick-me-up.

To make tea, heat your water until it boils, add your herbs, remove from heat and cover. Covering the pot helps to prevent the herbs volatile oils from escaping with the steam. Let the tea steep for about five minutes before straining. A good rule of thumb is to use one to two teaspoons of dried herbs, or four teaspoons fresh herb per cup of water. If you are using roots, bark or seeds to make your tea, let them simmer for ten to twenty minutes before straining. Many times I use a combination of leaves and roots for my teas. In that case simply go ahead and simmer the roots/bark, then add the herb leaves and remove from heat to let them steep.

Here’s a few herbs to try in you teas…

chamomile is relaxing, rich in essential oil, good for your skin and digestive track.

Ginger makes a strong-tasting tea but has powerful medical properties. It’s an anti-fungal and very soothing for an upset stomach. Studies have shown ginger to very effective against nausea .

Peppermint is good for all digestive problems, excellent for colds and flu, and is a stimulant.

Mullein is very effective at expelling mucus making it a great herb to add to your tea if you are congested and fighting a bad cough.

Alfalfa is super rich in vitamins and minerals such as , iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine, and potassium. It also contains all eight essential amino acids and has the highest chlorophyll content of any plant.

For those of you that like to garden, visit Gardens Ablaze to learn about herb gardening.


My cat gets much more excited about catnip than me but after learning more about it I think it’s pretty exciting too. Catnip is an antispasmodic and nervine, making it calming for both your tummy and your nerves. It’s a perennial and a member if the mint family. It can be used as a tea to help gas, stomach cramping and colic. A combination of fennel and catnip makes a wonderful tincture for gas or colic in babies. Catnip is very gentle, making it a great herb to use for children.

Sprouted Wheat Bread

I’m now gluten-free but back when I could eat wheat this was my standby sprouted grain bread. It makes a pretty dense loaf but the flavor is great!

Sprouted Wheat Bread

3 cups hard red wheat

1 teaspoon yeast

2 tablespoons warm water

3 tablespoons honey

Rinse 3 cups hard wheat (any high gluten/protein wheat) with water and let stand 12-18 hours at room temperature. Drain off liquid, rinse grain with fresh water, and store in a dark place covered with plastic wrap. Rinse every 12 hours for 36 to 48 hours maximum. Most of the grains should sprout. Drain well and refrigerate until cool.

Dissolve 1 teaspoon yeast in 2 tablespoons warm water. Measure two cups of the sprouted wheat into the food processor bowl using the cutting blade (not the bread dough blade). Pour about 2 teaspoons of the dissolved yeast liquid, a table-spoon of honey, and about 2/3 teaspoon of salt over the wheat.

Process about one minute or until the wheat forms a ball. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and process about two more minutes. Stop processing before the ball falls completely apart. Repeat with the remaining 2/3 of the ingredients in two batches. Knead the three dough balls together by hand.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place. Check after an hour and a half by gentle poking the center of the dough with a wet finger. If the hole doesn’t fill in or the dough sinks it’s risen as much as it can. (if the dough fills the hole back in slightly let it continue to rise). Gently turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and press flat, form into a ball and let rise again. Check the dough by poking with your wet finger after 45 minutes to see if it’s fully risen.

Divide in half and gentle knead into rounds. Cover the rounds and let them rest for about ten minutes or until soft.

Press the dough flat and shape into loaves. Place in greased bread pans. Cover with a plastic grocery sack and let rise in a warm place until the dough slowly returns a gently finger poke.

Bake about an hour at 350.


Parsley is usually thought of as a garnish at a restaurant that most of us discard rather than eat. Parsley actually has many medicinal uses. It’s a mild diuretic that is high in potassium. This is important as unlike most over the counter diuretics, parsley won’t deplete your potassium levels. Used as a diuretic parsley is good for water retention and prostate problems. As with any diuretic it should be used in moderation during pregnancy. Nursing women should also avoided large amounts of parsley as it can dry up your milk, although it can be used as a poultice to help with the uncomfortable engorgement that sometimes occurs while breastfeeding.

Parsley, like most herbs is very nutritious. One cup of parsley has more calcium than a cup of milk and two times as much vitamin C as an orange. Other nutrients it’s high in are vitamin A, thiamine, niacin and riboflavin. You can make tea by adding two teaspoons either fresh or dried parsley to eight ounces hot water. It can also be used in place of basil in your favorite pesto recipe or even added to your breakfast smoothie for an extra boost. Hmm… maybe next time we’re eating out we should all try that pretty garnish.

Sore throat

Having a sore throat is not fun. If you’re like me and your tonsils swell up like a couple golf balls covered in flem, it can be downright miserable. Here’s a few tricks that I’ve used to help get rid of that sore throat as soon as possible.

As you know garlic is my favorite remedy, so I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’m recommending it again. The key seems to be taking plenty of it. I usually try and take a whole clove every hour. In addition to eating garlic I make garlic oil by soaking a couple crushed garlic cloves in olive oil for a few minutes and straining. I use the garlic oil to massage the side of my throat in a downward motion for about fifteen minutes, every hour or so. This helps drain the swollen lymph nodes and really relieves the pain. You can also use a garlic poultice on your throat but I’ve found that it’s the massaging that seems to help with the pain.

Gargling also helps to speed up the healing process and relieve the pain. Try gargling frequently with hot salt water, a couple drops of tea tree oil in water, garlic water, two drops of grape fruit seed extract in water or even just plain hot water. Make sure to drink plenty of liquids and avoid all sugar. Sugar lowers your immune system and that’s the last thing you need when your body is fighting a cold.

Red Raspberry

Red raspberry is probably the best known herb to use during pregnancy. It is the main ingredient in most pregnancy teas. Drinking raspberry tea is said to help with infertility, morning sickness, strengthen the uterus, lessen postpartum cramping and bleeding and even enrich breast milk.

Red raspberry is native to many parts of Europe. It’s commonly grown in gardens for the delicious tasting berries but it’s the leaves that are used medicinally. Raspberry leaves are an astringent, (a chemical that tends to shrink or constrict body tissue), stomachic, (good for your stomach), and a tonic. It is high in iron, vitamin A, selenium and vitamin C.

Traditionally red raspberry has been used to soothe an upset stomach and to treat diarrhea and vomiting. Research has indicated raspberry to have antiviral properties making it effective against colds, flu and fevers. Red raspberry can also be used externally as a mouth wash for a sore throat, bleeding gums or canker sores.

Raspberry leaf tea is mild and tastes great by itself or mixed with other herbs. Try it iced in the summer and hot mixed with peppermint in the cold months.

The Perfect Gluten-Free Bread (finally)

Over the last couple months, as we have switched to eating gluten-free, I’ve baked many loaves of bread. Most of them were okay, a few inedible but none of them were really good. There were the bricks, the doughy, the sawdust like and even a few that tasted pretty good straight from the oven, only to completely change into a crumbly, dry, really odd tasting creation by the next day. Baking bread gluten-free bread can be really frustrating!

Before switching to gluten-free I used to make really great bread. I loved baking and experimenting with different recipes. I especially enjoyed free-form sourdough loaves. The wonderful smell while they bake, the crunchy crust and chewy center. Hot from the oven and slathered with butter, what could be better!

Guess what, there is a gluten-free bread that’s just as good. This is not just a good gluten-free bread, it’s simply a great loaf of bread. Not only that but you mix enough dough to make four loaves. The dough is stored in the fridge ready and waiting until you want to bake. For a busy mom it’s a dream come true. I love it, the kids love it and even my husband said you’d never know it’s gluten-free. Try the recipe at Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It’s yummy!

The Wonder's of Garlic (part two)

As a mom to five I’ve spent many nights walking the floor with sick kids. Sometimes it seems like you can put them to bed perfectly healthy and two hours later they wake up with a miserable full-blown cold. Whether it’s the middle of the night or during the day, garlic is a quick, simple and effective way to help them to a speedy recovery.

For adults and children able to eat solid food, the best way I’ve found to give garlic is orally. Chop it finely and swallow it like you would a pill with water or juice. For children, mixing it with honey makes it taste better (never give honey to infant under one.) For adults I usually chop a whole clove, but for children one quarter to half a clove seems plenty. Garlic is an emetic (to much will make you vomit) so start with a small amount at first. Make sure to take the garlic several times a day until all the cold symptoms are gone.

Getting a baby to take garlic orally is next to impossible. Thankfully you can get garlic into their system be using a compress, which is super simple and fast.

Start by crushing and chopping one or two garlic cloves finely. Place the chopped garlic between several layers of paper towel and wet the paper towels with warm water. Hold the compress against the baby’s chest or back until the compress cools. Check for redness since garlic can burn their sensitive skin. Rubbing a little oil on their skin before using the compress can help protect it. Repeat with a fresh compress several times a day.

Another way to get garlic into a baby or young children that can’t be persuaded to eat garlic is to make a salve. Mix three tablespoons coconut oil, three tablespoons olive oil and three table spoons chopped fresh garlic. Blend the mixture with a stick blender for two to three minutes and strain. This can be stored in the fridge for one or two weeks. Use by rubbing the oil on the bottom of the child’s feet and covering their feet with old socks. This seems to work well for young children but in my experience needs to be repeated every couple of hours to be effective. Your little ones won’t smell too good but it’s well worth getting rid of that runny nose!

The Wonder's of Garlic (part one)

Garlic could very well be my favorite herb. So far it has been the fastest acting and most effective home remedy I have tried. I have personally used it successfully with the common cold, stomach flu, yeast infections, ring worm and ear aches.

The first time I learned about garlic was when my oldest children were three and one and a half. They had a nasty virus that had lasted for over two months. Their main symptoms were coughing and vomiting. It felt like we would never get through a meal without someone regurgitating their meal all over the table.

I was feeling pretty desperate as even after a trip to the Dr. we just couldn't seem to kick this thing. I did a little research and read that garlic could be helpful for fighting a cold and decided to give it a try. I finely chopped up a clove, mixed it with honey and amazingly my toddlers ate it without too much fuss. They continued to take garlic several times a day and finally recovered from their cold. Needless to say I was impressed and decided to research garlic further.

Garlic contains allicin which is a natural antibiotic. It is effective against viruses and fungus. Garlic woks as an antiparasitic, and an antibiotic. It is one of the oldest horticultural crops known and has been used as both a food and medicines since the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs.Whether it’s a simple head cold with sniffles and a sore throat or a nasty tummy bug with throwing up and diarrhea, the first thing I use in my fight for healthy children ( and a decent nights sleep for myself) is garlic.

Tummy Calmer

Even the healthiest, breast-fed only baby gets an occasional tummy ache. When my babies have a tummy ache, the best natural soother I’ve found is a homemade catnip/fennel tincture. I was scared to start making my own tinctures. It sounded difficult and expensive. It turned out to be simple, inexpensive and pretty fun. Here’s how I make ‘Tummy Calm” for my little ones.

You will need

1 pint-sized jar

1/4 cup dried catnip

1/4 cup fennel

hot water




Put the catnip and fennel into the pint jar. Cover with just enough water to wet the herbs. Fill the jar with glycerin leaving one inch of head space. Stir well to get out any bubbles. Place the dishcloth in the crockpot and put the jar on top. Fill the crockpot with water making sure not to completely cover the jar. You don’t want any water getting into the tincture. Turn the crockpot on low, leave for three days or until you can really smell the herbs. Make sure to keep plenty of water in the crock pot and shake or stir the herbs daily. After three days cool and strain the tincture. Store in a cool dry place for up to one year.

I use a quarter to a half teaspoon for a baby as needed. An older child usually needs more. Both the fennel and the glycerin are sweet and my babies seemed to like the taste.