It is so beautiful to know that Spring on the East Coast is almost here. With Spring just around the corner we will be filled with flowers and weeds. Weeds, as are flowers, play an important role in our daily herbal life.
Most of us think of weeds as bad but they are so important to us that we should not remove them from our gardens. Take this weed for instance yarrow.... most would not think of it as a weed since it flowers, but it is a weed and we like seeing it and having it around.
Before the commonplace drug store existed, our forebears found helpful medicinal compounds in the plants that grew around them. Since store shelves today are stocked with medicines of every kind, it’s easy to forget that many of those medicines were first discovered in wild plants. Yarrow plant is also referred to as Nature’s Neosporin in the herbal community. The flowers are rich in chemicals that are converted by steam distillation into anti-allergenic compounds, of use in the treatment of allergic catarrhal problems such as hayfever. The dark blue essential oil, azulene, is generally used as an anti-inflammatory, or in chest rubs for colds and influenza.
It should provide a sense of comfort to know that common injuries and ailments can be treated with common plants. One of the best of these medicinal plants is yarrow.
Yarrow, also known as millefoil, is a pretty foliage that is native to Europe but can now be found throughout North America growing in many meadows and fields. Many indigenous people like the Shakers began to use yarrow for its medicinal properties many years ago. This plant flowers from the month of June through October.
The yarrow plant also has a long history as a powerful “healing herb” used topically for wounds, cuts and abrasions. The genus name Achillea is derived from mythical Greek character Achilles, who reportedly carried it with his army to treat battle wounds. This medicinal action is also reflected in some of the plant’s common names, such as staunchweed and soldier's woundwort.
While yarrow was once used as a divine plant to assist with furthering spirituality it now has a number of uses in the herbal world. Yarrow can help a wound stop bleeding, which is why it was used in the military years ago for battle wounds during World War I and the Trojan War. The active components of yarrow include lactones, tannins, flavonoids, amino acids, sterols, coumarins and saponins.
Yarrow herbal oil has much healing potential and in addition to its ability to stop the flow of blood this herb is also a great antiseptic, it is antispasmodic and has antibacterial properties. Yarrow oil can even be used on the hair follicles to help stimulate growth. You can also find yarrow in dried herb form, and as a tincture.
Yarrow is a very beneficial ingredient to keep on hand as part of a holistic and homeopathic medicine collection. You can find more information on certified organic herbal infused yarrow oil by visiting the Just Skin Food website. All of our herbal infused oils are USDA certified organic and they are made of organic herbs and an organic carrier oil (olive). All of our herbal oils are also used in our salve products as well.
Homeopathy as well as herbal remedies are both natural forms of medicine. They have common factors such as their use of herbal extracts but homeopathy uses herbs as well as many other natural sources for its practice of healing such as minerals and other animal products. While many people may believe these two practices are similar they actually have many differences including how alternative remedies are prepared and what types of products are available.
Homeopathic medicine is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It regulates the manufacturing and sale of homeopathic medicines. The Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States was written into federal law in 1938 under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, making the manufacture and sale of homeopathic medicines legal in this country, and most are available without a prescription.
Preparation and Products
Homeopathy uses dilution methods to eliminate the toxicity of an herb and also to increase its benefits. Herbalism administers herbs directly to the patient often without dilution. Most commonly you will find homeopathic remedies to be in pellets, liquid tinctures or in ointment cream form. Some homeopathic liquid tinctures are added to herbal salves as well. Herbal remedies come as pill form, extracts, infused herbal oils, herbal salves, essential oils and teas in general.
Infused Oils and Essential Oils
Herbal infused oils are beneficial and can be used in the practice of homeopathy. Herbal salves are made of infused herbal oils and applied directly to the skin as skin is extremely absorbent and healing can be promoted in an affected area by way of these types of products. These infused herbal oils and salves can be used topically for a number of issues such as burns, rashes, injuries and also for pain. Infused herbal oils are very gentle whereas essential oils are a much more concentrated product that can actually be dangerous to use directly on the skin or to inhale directly without proper instruction or advisement.
Coming up in my next blog article you can read much deeper into the differences between infused herbal oils and essential oils including how their production methods are different. I will also talk about the benefits of infused herbal oils as well as the dangers of using essential oils improperly.
For more information on any of the topics discussed in this article including the use of herbal salves and infused herbal oils you can visit www.justskinfood.com. Nine certified organic herbal infused oils are available on the website as well as herbal salves, essential oils and many other products that will help aid you in the process of living a much healthier and happier lifestyle.
Calendula and arnica are very important when it comes to natural medicine. Both of these commonly used homeopathic ingredients are included in a number of products including tinctures, creams, oils and salves for first aid use. Both of these products look very similar and may be hard to differentiate by the untrained eye but they are very distinct when it comes to their healing properties.
Calendula is also known as the marigold flower, which is very easy to grow and once established it spreads quickly. The medicinal ingredient that is within the calendula flower is called saponoside and it is a very powerful anti-inflammatory. Essential fatty acids, etheric oils and carotene are also part of what makes calendula so beneficial. It works best when applied to a cut or wound rather than taking it orally and it is extremely gentle to use. As a complement to calendula you can also use arnica.
Some uses for Calendula:(external only)
- Bed sores
- Open wounds
- Slow healing wounds
- Skin abrasions
- Skin and nail fungus
Arnica is much more rare to find out in nature than say calendula. It grows most commonly in the Alpine regions of the world and it has muscle relaxing properties as well as anti-spasmodic qualities. In addition, arnica is a natural antibiotic and a natural anti-inflammatory herb. Arnica is not intended to be used on an open wound but rather on a bruise or healed cut to help relieve discomfort, reduce swelling and bruising.
Some uses for Arnica:(external only)
- Joint Inflammation
- Muscle strain
Calendula and Arnica Together
The two of these holistic treatments have the potential for being used together for ultimate healing qualities. Calendula is placed on a fresh, unhealed cut to help prevent infection and promote healing. After the initial healing has taken place, if there is a bruise or pain remaining, arnica can then be applied topically to further help during the healing process.
Calendula and arnica are both very beneficial and common ingredients when it comes to a holistic-based medicine cabinet. For information on these herbs or to purchase them in a certified organic herbal infused oil form you can visit Just Skin Food. The newly released line of USDA certified organic herbal infused oils are made entirely of certified organic herbs along with certified organic olive oil as a carrier. These oils are also used in many of our other products including our skin salves and body butters.
As herbalist Ryan Drum once said: Usnea is among our best herbal antibiotics against gram positive bacteria, particularly Streptococci and Staphylococci, both internally and externally.
Usnea is tree-moss, a lichen, which is a symbiotic relationship between an algae and a fungus. While usnea is certainly an herb, it’s not a plant! It grows on trees around the world. It especially likes pine, spruce, juniper, firs and hardwoods like oak, hickory, walnut, apple and pear. It prefers moist habitats.
Usnea is useful for many applications such as, infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sore throat, fungal infections, vaginal infections, sinus infections, colds/flu, mastitis, and boils.
Looking at the above list of uses for usnea you might guess that this is one powerful herb, and it is!
I use this powerful herb in my Anti-Fungal Salve. Not just a pinch but as one of the main ingredient. My salve was tested by Jim Stivaly* in Montclair, NJ, who practices biofeedback and other holistic modalities, and he indicated that it is one strong anti-fungal salve.
Brief History on Usnea
In Chinese Medicine several types of Usnea were used. The specific indications were for infections with signs of heat and dampness: redness, yellow pus, fast pulse, etc. Today Usnea is used for infections of all types even without indications of heat.
Today Usnea is used as an antibacterial herb, an antiviral herb, and as an antifungal herb.
- Usnea as an antibacterial herb
Usnea is an anti-microbial herb, meaning that it effects a wide range of pathogens. It is not an antibiotic herb that kills all types of bacteria; it effects mainly gram positive bacteria. It can effectively kill unwanted pathogens without totally disrupting healthy gut flora!
- Usnea as an antiviral herb
Herbalist Kiva Rose says it best – The Usnea are their own delicate medicinal miracles. They have a special affinity for rebalancing bacteria and eradicating infection throughout the mucus membranes, from mouth to lungs to gut to urinary tract and on. This medicine is a special gift for those with signs of infection in the lungs and bronchial area, often indicated by yellow or green phlegm, chest pain, difficulty breathing and sometimes accompanied by a fever.
- Usnea as an antifungal herb
Usnea is effective at killing many types of fungal infections, including Candida species. It can be taken internally as well as used topically.
Here are some examples of fungal infections that you may use usnea for: athlete’s foot, jock itch, dandruff, ringworm, vaginal infections, etc.
- Homeopathic Version of Usnea
In HomeopathyUsnea Barbata (known as tree-moss) is a remedy used in some form of congestive headache; headache from sunstroke. Head - Bursting feeling, AS IF TEMPLES WOULD BURST, OR THE EYES BURST OUT OF THE SOCKETS. Throbbing carotids. It is one of those remedies that has a limited or specific use for these types of headaches.
It is very interesting to see how the uses in herbology, chinese medicine and homeopathy can differ but have similar relationships.
I can not personally speak for a painful fungal infection, never had one, but I can ascertain that from the various conditions Usnea is used for there must be a connection with a bursting throbbing headache, and throbbing in general in fungal infections.
When I infuse Usnea in oil, it looks like tightly wound brains, that are throbbing. I also infuse Usnea as a powder with the whole herb which makes it even stronger.This is what my Herbal Infused Usnea Oil looks like.
Nature is bountiful, useful, and healing in all sorts of ways.
PS: Strega Nonna's Vapo Rub and Winter Brew available in stores now and online.
*JAMES STIVALY can be reached at 973-746-8007. His website will be up and running soon and I will post it in my next blog.
Strega Nonna’s Vapor Rub, Homeopathy and other simple remedies for seasonal common colds, coughs and congestion.
Strega Nonna’s Vapor Rub, Homeopathy and other simple remedies for seasonal common colds, coughs and congestions.
Most of us are familiar with the chest rub that comes in the little blue bottle. You know…the super popular over-the-counter treatment for symptoms of cough and congestion!?!
But did you also know that it’s made — just as many other commercially-prepared cosmetics, personal care items and over the counter “stuff” — in a base of petroleum with too many artificial additives and chemicals?
For those who desire a chemical-free alternative, my Strega Nonna’s Vapo Rub may come in handy this fall and winter.
Herbs such as peppermint, eucalyptus, camphor, rosemary, lavender and thyme have been used for centuries for their decongestant properties and my wonderful Strega Nonna’s Vapo Rub contains these herbs. My Vapo Rub also contain herbal infusions of chickweed, yarrow, chamomile, echinacea, oregon grape root, and yerba santa. All to soothe a cough and congestion.
I did not include Thyme to this rub since I have a Thyme Soap, which complements this Vapo Rub. Great soap to use in shower and bath time during the fall and winter months.
So the next time a cold or cough strikes in your family try Strega Nonna’s Vapo Rub.
It is packaged as a Lotion "pop-up" Bar - biodegradable- so you can carry it with you, which allows you not to touch it in case of germs on those hands.
It is still made with our local Cape May Honey Farm beeswax – just love that beeswax. Its local, pure and real beeswax – no artificial anything.
Homeopathy for Colds, Coughs and Congestion
In homeopathy it's more important to focus on the "cough" rather than the "cold." Unless of course, you don't have a cough, then you would look at sinus. But for this purpose we will focus on coughs.
There are many types of coughs and with many different types of symptoms associated with each cough. I will highlight 7 important homeopathic remedies, even though it is not a complete list, but sufficient for most coughs.
Remedies: Can be found at your local health food store
- Pulsatilla: Main cough symptom- a wearying night cough that forces the cougher to sit up. Other symptoms may include burning eyes, dry sore throats and thirstless, chilly fevers that cannot stand external heat. Particular to this remedy is their personality type - something like ‘soft, gentle, mild, affectionate, as well as clingy, weepy, moody, sometimes childish’.
- Nux vomica: A suffocating cough highlights a restlessness cold or flu with extreme chilliness. This extreme chilliness also marks a Nux fever– drafts are unbearable. Ear pain that hurts on swallowing will often find relief in Nux, as well.
- Kali bich: Stubborn, gagging cough. Beginning with the sinuses, the thick, ropy, yellow to green, sticky, stringy, stubborn, smelly mucus crusts up in the nose and fills the sinuses causing choking post nasal drip, a stubborn cough to clear the throat, hoarseness and pain especially at the root of the nose.
- Phosphorus: A racking violent cough set off by a tickle in the aching raw throat. The colds Phosphorus treats best move quickly into the chest. The cough may set the body trembling and cause labored breathing and tightness across the chest. A key trait to its fever is great thirst for cold drinks that are vomited soon after warming in the stomach. Hoarseness usually results from these colds.
- Bryonia: A dry, hacking cough with stitching pains. Bryonia relieves ailments that approach slowly, linger too long and may result from being chilled when overheated or from fast weather changes. Its slow moving flu and colds are marked by dryness. fever, great thirst for cold water, dry throat and a “don’t touch me, leave me alone” growl.
- Hepar Sulph: A dry or rattling cough. Chilliness and yellow phlegm also dominate this cold and there may be sinus pressure with splinter-like sore throats. The individuals needing Hepar sulph most lack internal heat, are easily offended, can get violently angry especially regarding rudeness or causes.
- Natrum mur: A dry tickling cough. Dryness underlies many of Nat mur’s applications. Its colds and congestions have a dry rawness along with thickening clear to whitish mucus.
Simple Homemade Remedies
Honey and apple cider vinegar are 2 excellent simple remedies for cough and congestion. A simple herbal tea with lots of honey and raw organic apple cider vinegar about 1 table spoon or 2 sipped throughout the day will break up that congestion and mucus.
Make sure your honey is local raw and pure not those supermarket bought fake honey. Raw local pure honey found at your health food store or if you are lucky to have one in your hometown from a honey bee farm.
Something I recently learned from a New Englander (from a book I read for a class) is called Fire Cider – oh boy it burns like fire but it will put out and get rid of your cough and colds.
This fire cider is a spiced up synergistic blend of health enhancing, immune boosting, organic roots and fruits.
Here is a recipe for it… there are many different variations of it but all have at least these ingredients.. It takes a month to brew it, so start now!
1/2 cup fresh grated organic ginger root
1/2 cup fresh grated organic horseradish root
1 medium organic onion, chopped
10 cloves of organic garlic, crushed or chopped
2 organic jalapeno peppers, chopped
Zest and juice from 1 organic lemon
Several sprigs of fresh organic rosemary or 2 tbsp of dried rosemary leaves
1 tbsp organic turmeric powder
organic apple cider vinegar
raw local honey to taste
Prepare all of your roots, fruits, and herbs and place them in a quart sized mason jar. Use a piece of natural parchment paper or wax paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal. Shake well! Store in a dark, cool place for one month and remember to shake daily, or at least try to shake daily.
After one month, use a cheesecloth to strain out the pulp, (I use non-bleach coffee filters found at your health food stores) pour the vinegar into a clean mason jar. Be sure to squeeze as much of the liquid as you can from the pulp while straining. Next, comes the honey! Add 1/4 cup of honey and stir until incorporated. Taste your cider and add another 1/4 cup until you reach the desired sweetness. Again make sure your honey is local, raw and pure.
- How to take it
Well, you can have it straight up, or add to water. But straight up is best at the first sign of any cold or cough. Take 1 to 3 tablespoons at first sign of something coming on.
HAPPY WINTER SEASON TO ALL!!!
This is what it looks like