Tuesday, November 26, 2013

DIY Gifts for "Natural Product" Lovers

I don't know about you, but I'm in Christmas mode - and that means I'm thinking about what to give all of the lovely people in my family this year.   I wanted some ideas on natural, chemical-free presents I could make for a few individuals, so I decided to create a Pinterest board dedicated to just that - DIY Gifts for "Natural Product" Lovers.  While you're fighting that after-turkey nap, kick your feet up and check it out!  There are some really great gifts on there :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Medicine Cabinet Detox Project - Easy Homemade Cough Syrup Recipe

When I say easy, I mean easy!  This recipe is basically herbalist Rosemary Gladstar's Honey Onion Cough Syrup recipe (I don't have a link to the recipe, otherwise I would have included it - here is a link to the video of her making it) - all I did was add some ginger and garlic as she recommends.  Just cover the three ingredients in honey, cook on low for about 30 minutes, strain and voila!  You have an awesome cough syrup.  (After I strained out the onions and garlic, I put them on the burgers I made that night - yum!)

According to www.livestrong.com, "Honey...has been found to be especially useful in treating upper respiratory infections.  A study at Penn State College of Medicine in 2007 found that a small dose of buckwheat honey was more effective than an over-the-counter cough treatment for children."  Not to mention the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that children under the age of four should not ever be given over-the-counter cough syrup (and I don't even use it myself due to the questionable ingredients, so why would I give it to my kids?).   Yet another reason to just go ahead and make your own!

Easy Homemade Cough Syrup
 Rosemary Gladstar says that this recipe is a remedy for colds, the flu, sore throats and coughs, and should be taken by the teaspoon (as needed) by children or adults as soon as they feel a cold or flu coming on, as it boosts the immune system.  (Due to the raw honey content, do not feed the syrup to children under the age of two.)  I didn't think I would like the flavor, but alas, I have been proven wrong.  I could do that bottle some damage!  My five-year-old even loves it.

Since I'm stingy with my raw honey (because it's usually expensive and I use a lot of it), I cut Rosemary's recipe in half and made a smaller batch so I'd have some honey left over for my Elderberry Immunity Syrup.  I'll bet you have all of these ingredients within reach - give it a try! 

Easy Homemade Cough Syrup

1/2 of a medium onion
1 cup raw honey (see instructions below)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2-inch slice of fresh ginger

Directions:  Slice onion into very thin half-moons.  Place in an iron skillet or small saucepan and cover with honey until onions are just covered (depending on how big your onion is, it might take more than one cup).  Add garlic and ginger.  Cook on low heat for 30 minutes, or until onions become soft (make sure the heat doesn't go above low on your stove, otherwise the honey will become too hot and the enzymes will begin to be destroyed).  Strain and pour into a glass jar.  Label, refrigerate and use as needed.  The mixture should keep for several weeks.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Medicine Cabinet Detox: Elderberry Elixir Recipe (For Cold Care)

I can't even begin to describe how much I love this stuff!  It's like Elderberry Syrup on steroids.  I recently had a cold and took approx. 1/2 tsp of the elixir every 2 to 3 hours (along with about 1 tsp. of Fire Cider in the morning and at night), and my cold immediately started improving and was completely resolved within 2 days.  My husband was not a believer until HE got the cold...I started him on the same regimen (except he insisted on taking more than 1/2 tsp. at a time), and guess what?  His cold immediately started to improve and was gone within a day or two as well.  His only complaint was that it tasted like cough syrup, which it does, but that's because of the alcohol content.  The taste does not bother me at all, but it is strong.

According to herbalist Kiva Rose Hardin, " Elderberry is MUCH more effective when not heated in any way…  Elderberry does not simply stimulate the immune system, which would make it somewhat dangerous to those with autoimmune disorders or certain other chronic diseases. Rather it modulates the immune system to more appropriately respond to environs and circumstance. It also disarms the virus and helps it flush through body quicker, while strengthening the mucus membranes, supporting the body’s natural fever mechanism without overheating, improves energy and stress handling AND last but certainly not least, it tastes great too...If I had a snake bite, you bet I’d reach for the Echinacea. But for viral afflictions and general immune support, there’s no better herbal ally than the bounteous and lovely Elder!"

I would have to agree with Kiva - I did notice the huge difference in effectiveness between the unheated elixir and the heated Elderberry Syrup.  Her recipe on the link above is simple and great - just elderberries, raw honey and brandy - but I used a more "loaded" recipe from The Herb Society.  Please visit the link, because it includes some more great information on the Elixir, as well as variations and dosage information.  I did alter the recipe slightly based on the ingredients I had available at the time, so I re-wrote it below.   Hopefully, you will get over your initial fear of leaving a jar of edibles in the cabinet for 4 to 6 weeks like I did and give this a try.  It's probably my favorite cabinet detox project yet!

Elderberry Elixir
2 pint jar and lid - sanitized in boiling water
1/2 ounce dried elderberries (or 2 oz. fresh elderberries to fill approx. half the jar)
1 cinnamon stick
1 oz. ginger root, peeled and chopped
large handful of fresh rosemary and thyme (1/2 rosemary and 1/2 thyme)
chopped peel of half an orange
approximately 1 pint good-quality brandy
1/2 to 1 lb. honey

Directions:  Place the herbs in the jar, cover with honey and mix well with the end of a wooden spoon.  Add brandy until the jar is full to the brim and mix well again.  Place in a cupboard to macerate for 4 to 6 weeks.  When maceration is complete, strain with a cheesecloth (make sure to squeeze out the herbs well!) and store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid in a cool, dark place.

Dosage:  15 drops or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. every 2 to 3 hours at the first sign of an oncoming cold.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Medicine Cabinet Detox Project: FIRE CIDER Instead of OTC Decongestant!

Fire Cider...sounds intimidating, right?  Well, it smells intimidating, too, let me tell you!  I came across this traditional cold remedy recipe last year on the Mountain Rose Herb blog and made sure I had all of the ingredients to make it right at the beginning of the Fall, since it needs to "macerate" for approximately 4 weeks.  I know, it looks like orange juice, but looks can be deceiving!  According to Mountain Rose Herbs,  "The tasty combination of vinegar infused with powerful immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, decongestant, and spicy circulatory movers makes this recipe especially pleasant and easy to incorporate into your daily diet to help boost the immune system, stimulate digestion, and get you nice and warmed up on cold days."  This remedy is a tangy, spicy, sinus-opening blend of vinegar, jalapenos, horseradish root, ginger, onion and turmeric, among other cold-symptom-fighting ingredients.  Thankfully, my batch of Fire Cider finished macerating the same week I came down with a nasty cold - and let me tell you, it cleared up my sinuses immediately and cut my cold symptoms IN HALF by the next day (I took a teaspoonful every 3 to 4 hours).  The cold was completely resolved within a few days.  (On a side note, my Homemade Vapor Rub was extremely helpful at night.)

Even though it's spicy, it's definitely tasty, and I'm looking forward to making a stir-fry and maybe even some salad dressing with this Fire Cider.  Instead of reaching for that OTC decongestant that probably contains phenylephrine (which boasts hypertension as its most common side effect), take a spoonful of Fire Cider instead!  It might cause your eyes to water, but that's about it in the way of side effects :). (See the link above for the recipe.)

**NOTE:  Don't get too close to the horseradish root while you are shredding it - it's about 100 times worse than cutting an onion.  Also, the turmeric will stain surfaces, so be careful to quickly wipe up any spills during the straining process.**