An Herbalist’s Toolbox: A Juicer

Grinding herbs
Grinding yarrow with our Sana 707 juicer

Ground herbs have a wide variety of uses. You can use them for seasonings, make your own teas, infuse them in oil for salves, even make your own herbal tinctures. In the past, I always used my big mortar and pestle or even scissors.  Recently, my husband asked me why I don’t use our juicer, since it has a screen for grinding herbs. I had seen him use it to make cashew butter and salsa, but never realized it could grind herbs as well. So I tried it, and really couldn’t believe the difference. Because it ground my herbs more finely, there is more surface area for the herbs to interact with the menstruum (the liquid: oil, alcohol etc…). I noticed it right away in my infused oils and salves, which were a much more vibrant color, thus denoting a more medicinal infusion.

herbs 2
Putting the ground herbs into a tea bag

We like to collect and dry our own herbs to make natural herbal teas. Some of the plants we gather and dehydrate that we use for tea include Echinacea, yarrow, comfrey, chamomile, mint, and nettles. I also noticed that my teas I made using the juicer were stronger, since the water could infuse more of the finely-ground herbs.

If you own a horizontal juicer, give it a try!

Skin Solution Salve

My husband Dan’s face is in the sun constantly. For decades he has been hiking, biking and running every day outside no matter the weather. About 10 years ago, some spots showed up on his face that were sore, would peel and bleed. We were already living in the Czech Republic and weren’t sure what to do. We spoke with our general practitioner about it and he made an appointment for us with his mum (!) who is a dermatologist. When we arrived a few weeks later for our appointment, our general practitioner was there to meet us at his mum’s office. He was dressed super casually and holding his dog. His mum was really old school but funny as she was constantly bickering with her son during our appointment. He told her she was suffering from dementia and she told him to kiss her bleep. It was entertaining.

She looked at Dan’s spots and said not to worry and gave him some cream. We left laughing and happy that we have some cream and got to see the reality show that is our doctor’s home life.

Dan used the cream for a while and it worked well. The spots diminished and caused him no more problems. Unfortunately, on our trip to the United States that year, Dan accidentally left his cream at his dad’s house. Dan is not one to voluntarily go to the doctor, so he hasn’t had the special cream for years now.

Because my husband won’t go to the doctor, I researched medicinal herbs for skin irritation and precancerous cells. This formula works well, diminishes the spots and keeps them from pain, peeling and bleeding. When Dan doesn’t use it, the spots worsen.

Remember, I am not a doctor. Dan needs to see the doctor about his skin. If anyone has ideas about how to get a stubborn man to the doctor, please leave them in a comment below. Until then, I will help him with this herbal remedy.

Skin Solution Salve

  • 3/4 cup Mistletoe-infused olive oil Infused Oil Recipe
  • 1/4 cup Red Clover-infused olive oil
  • 1/4 cup bees wax
  • 10 drops each: Clary Sage, Frankincense and Myrrh essential oils

In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils and beeswax. 

Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.

Add the essential oils. Stir.

Pour into clean and sterilised jars.

Safety: Mistletoe should not be used internally

Herbal actions:

Mistletoe (Viscum album): neuralgic and rheumatic pain reliever, rubefacient and vasodilator, nervine. Research is being conducted through clinical trials regarding mistletoe’s effectiveness against cancerous cells.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense): blood cleansing, pain reliever with an affinity for psoriasis and eczema, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and aid against skin cancer.

Clary Sage (Salvia sclerea): anticancer, nervine, antispasmodic, antioxidant.

Frankincense (Boswellia sacra): anti-inflammatory, nervine, vulnerary, cytophylactic, cicatrisant.

Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha): anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, research is underway regarding its potential anticancer benefits.

Stings and Bites Workshop

Our Stings and Bites Workshop was really fun!

It was really awesome meeting some new people who want to learn how to take their health into their own hands. We enjoyed making the Stings and Bites Salve and the Leave Me Alone! Repellent  together, from beginning to end. We dehydrated plantain and catnip, ground all the herbs, plantain, chamomile, as well as neem and catnip in the juicer. We infused the oils in the breadmaker. We made a strong catnip and neem tea for the repellent. Then we made the salve and the repellent, bottling it and adding labels.

Many questions were asked about making these homemade remedies. We talked a lot about plant medicine and the benefits of different plants. One remark that was often heard was how easy it is to make the herbal products.

In between recipes, there was a short break where Dan made two kinds of juice: watermelon, lime and mint (perfect for the super hot day) and carrot, apple and ginger. There was a snack for the participants to try, kale chips with cashew cheese. At the end, each participant was presented with a gift of a couple of Krista’s Herbs products.

We started out small to see how things would go and we are already planning our next workshop for October 4th with the theme: Cold and Flu Season.  If any of you are in the area, I would love to see you at the next workshop!

Poppy Seed Oil

Recently, I have written about makeup removal using olive oil. It has been working great and I truly believe that I won’t be buying makeup remover again.

On our trip to Kiev, my husband had a business meeting with a partner in the company he works for. This partner, Alex, makes his own cold-pressed oils. He gifted me with a flax seed oil and a poppy seed oil.

I have made my own poppy seed oil with our oil extractor. But now that I know the benefits of straight olive oil on my skin, Alex from Ukraine inspired me to try the poppy seed oil again. Thanks again, Alex!

Since we have been back from our trip, I have been cleaning my face every evening with pure, cold-pressed poppy seed oil. It removes every bit of makeup and leaves my face feeling amazing. I am in love with our oil extractor which allows me to make the poppy seed and hemp seed oils fresh for us every couple of weeks.

Poppy seeds are well-revered in Ayurvedic medicine for a whole host of ailments as well as to promote healthy and glowing skin. Poppy seed oil is high in Vitamins C and E and Linolenic acid. It aids in cell regeneration, absorbs slowly into the skin, thus providing skin protection and is not greasy.

Here is some information on the Oil Cleansing Method:

“The basic concept of this skin care and cleansing method is that the oil used to massage your skin will dissolve the oil that has hardened with impurities and found itself stuck in your pores. The steam will open your pores, allowing the oil to be easily removed. Should you need it, the smallest drop of the same oil formula patted over damp skin will provide the necessary lubrication to keep your skin from over-compensating in oil production.”

Currently, I am using just poppy seed oil. Both of my girls have switched to the oils. Rebekah is using a blend of poppy seed oil and olive oil. Roxie and I did some testing on her skin and her sensitive skin can only handle the Hemp Oil and Salve which she applies every night.

Recipe ideas:

  • Oily Skin: 1/3 Castor Oil or  Hazelnut Oil and 2/3 Olive, Sunflower or other oil
  • Combination Skin: 1/4 Castor or Hazelnut Oil and 3/4 Olive, Sunflower or other oil
  • Dry Skin: All nourishing oils like poppy seed oil, olive oil, or a very small amount of Castor/Hazelnut Oil added to the nourishing oils.

Directions for cleansing with oils according to Wellness Mama:

  1. In the shower or at the bathroom sink, pour about a quarter size amount of the oil blend into your hand and massage into the skin on your face (don’t wet skin first). Use smooth circular strokes and let this also be a gentle facial massage. Massage for at least a minute (two minutes is better) or until you are sure that the oil has saturated your skin. This will also remove make-up very effectively, so there is no need to remove make-up first. You can even leave the oil on the skin for up to 10 minutes to really deep clean pores.
  2. Place a clean washcloth under very hot tap water (or shower water) until it is completely soaked and quickly wring it out. Open it and place over your face. This will create steam against the skin to remove the oils and any impurities in the skin. Leave the wash cloth on for about a minute, or until it cools. Repeat if needed with the other side of the washcloth and then use the corners of the washcloth to gently remove any remaining oil. There will still be a thin layer of oil on the skin and this is beneficial.
  3. Typically, no moisturizer is needed after the adjustment period, but if you still have dry skin, try reducing the amount of astringent oil and using a tiny bit of organic face cream to moisturize skin.

Headache Relief

The past week or so here in the Czech Republic has seen a large amount of thunderstorms and with them barometric pressure changes and headaches all around. My youngest daughter and I suffer the most with actual migraines, complete with nausea and light sensitivity, whereas the rest of my family feels the pressure in the sinuses and the band of tension around the head. Either way, when a pressure system comes in and a headache is imminent or presenting, we reach for our headache relief.

According to Migraine Relief Center:

“Barometric pressure is the method scientists use to measure the atmospheric pressure or weight of the air where it presses on the surface of the earth. This affects the weather by causing changes to the way air currents move around the earth. A device called a barometer is used to identify the pressure, and the barometric reading is helpful in forecasting incoming weather changes. High barometric pressure is usually linked to clear, sunny weather, while low pressure provides the perfect conditions for clouds and moisture to develop.

SYMPTOMS OF BAROMETRIC PRESSURE MIGRAINES

Apart from the debilitating and severe pain, symptoms of a barometric migraine include:

  • nausea and stomach pains, which are sometimes accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea
  • pain around one or both temples, which can also affect the eyes, ears, forehead or back of the head
  • feelings of depression and changes in perception of things
  • increased sensitivity to light or the development of an aura, which may last for several hours
  • numbness and tingling in the face, head and neck, which can also spread to the arms and legs
  • waves of pain that throb in time with the patient’s heartbeat”

Headache Relief Tincture

  • 3 parts Feverfew, leaves and flowers (dried or fresh)
  • 1 part Lemonbalm leaves (dried or fresh)
  • 1 part Peppermint leaves and flowers (dried or fresh)
  • Alcohol (at least 45%, brandy, vodka or Everclear)
  • Sterilised jar and lid

Grind or chop the plant material as finely as possible. I use my juicer to grind the dried plant material.

Add the plant material to the jar: Dried- fill 1/2 of jar

                                                            Fresh- fill the entire jar

Add the alcohol. Fill to the brim. Keep an eye on it for the next several minutes and keep adding alcohol until all the plant material is covered.

Seal well and label with the plant name, date, percent and type of alcohol and the date 6 weeks out.

Shake the jar daily and store in a cool, dark place.

After 6 weeks, strain out plant material and decant the tincture into sterilised bottles for use.

Label bottles with the tincture name.

Adult dose: 3-5 ml 3x day as a preventative, or 5 ml as needed during an acute migraine.

Herbal actions:

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium): well-known for its prevention against migraines, it is an anti-inflammatory, pain-reliever, antirheumatic, stomachic and against menstrual pain and pain during childbirth.

Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis): carmintaive (aids in digestion), antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, nervine, diaphoretic.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita): anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic and nervine.

 

My Herbal First Aid Kit: Travel Edition

This is what we carry with us when we travel:

Arnica Salve for bumps, bruises and sprains

Hemp Salve for skin irritation and as a face moisturiser

Anti-Fungal Salve for any yeast or fungal infections and as a good antibacterial ointment

Lavender essential oil for insomnia, stress and shock after an accident or with severe illness

Yarrow Tincture for fever support and as an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic for stomach cramps.

Yarrow Healing Powder  for any cut to stop the bleeding and clean the wound

Peppermint essential oil for any stomach issues

Echinacea Root tincture for immune boosting

Red Clover tincture as an antitussive for cough

Valerian Root tincture as a muscle relaxant for muscle cramping and insomnia

Thyme Salve as a powerful antibacterial

White Willow Bark tincture as a pain reliever

St John’s Wort tincture as an all around wound healer and help for a stressed-out psyche

Healing Herbal Salve as an all around topical wound healer

Headache Relief tincture for headaches and migrainesa

Stings and Bites Salve is beneficial for any stings, bites, splinters, blisters or pimples.

During cold and flu season: 

Cold Relief tincture for a progressing respiratory illness

Cold First Aid tincture to combat the onset of a cold or flu

Travelling to a foreign country:

Wormwood tincture to combat any intestinal parasites

Agrimony tincture to clear up diarrhea

 

All of this fits into a small rectangular sack about 15cm x 5cm x 5 cm. I never regret bringing these medicines with me. I only regret those that I don’t have on hand.

Bye-Bye Bruise Salve

I was just exiting the parking shuttle which was dropping us off at the airport for our trip to Kiev. The shuttle driver closed the van door behind me and caught my leg in it. I guess I was standing too close to the van. Needless to say, I looked down and saw a nasty red welt growing on my leg. This was going to be a doozy of a bruise.

Dan and I travel with a pretty comprehensive herbal first aid kit, yet every now and then an issue comes up where I wish I had something with me. When I get home from travelling I add that item to my kit. This was one of those times…

When I get a bruise, I reach directly for arnica. If I can get arnica on an impending bruise immediately, sometimes the bruise doesn’t even develop. I have tested this on myself and my family numerous times, going so far as to apply arnica on some bruises and not on others to see the results. Arnica helps bruises no matter how old they are, but if it is applied promptly after an injury or bump or at the first sign of a bruise it will increase the healing rate exponentially. When we have done side-by-side testing on bruises it is clear the benefit of arnica. A bruise to which arnica is applied straight away may last only a few days and be very lightly coloured as opposed to the week or two weeks of gross purple and then yellow-green blotches.

Arnica is a powerhouse plant that does a few things really well. It is anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling thus benefiting in the treatment of sprains, strains, fractures, contusions and other injuries. It speeds up the healing of bruises by prompting your body to send more white blood cells to clean up and repair the bruise. It is a natural pain reliever as it doesn’t just cover up the pain; it actually stimulates your body’s healing process. Arnica is especially recommended for trauma (such as a fall) or inflammation (as from arthritis).

…I had no arnica salve with me. So I walked around Kiev with an unsightly bruise. I have since added arnica salve to my travel first aid kit.

 

Bye-Bye Bruise Salve

  • 1 cup Arnica-infused olive oil Infused Oil Recipe
  • 1/4 cup bees wax
  • 10 drops each: Rosemary, Lavender and Fennel essential oils

In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils and beeswax. 

Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.

Add the essential oils. Stir.

Pour into clean and sterilised jars.

Safety: Arnica should never be used internally or on an open wound.

Medicinal Actions:

Arnica: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-microbial, vulnerary

Rosemary: anti-oxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory

Lavender: nervine, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial

Fennel: diaphoretic, stimulant, anodyne, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory

Stomach Flu Blues

Kiev is a lovely city. Possibly one of my favourites. Dan and I had an amazing time walking around and exploring this unique city. The Cyrillic script tripped me up the first day, but after the second day, I got the hang of it and could decipher what was going on, as it is a bit similar to the Czech that we speak.

It was with a bit of sadness that we lined up to board our plane home to Prague. I noticed as we were standing in line that I felt a little dizzy. Once we were settled in our seats I began to feel nauseated. I ordered green tea and hoped it was nothing. By the time the short flight was over I felt like I would pass out. In the car on the way home from Prague to our town, I had waves of nausea, severe stomach cramping, cold sweats, numbness and tingling in my arms and legs and heart palpitations. Dan thought I was dying.  We even had to pull over so I could lay with my legs above my head to keep me from passing out.

I was kicking myself for not having lavender oil in my first aid kit to aid in the shock my body was in due to whatever illness I was experiencing. At this point I was thinking that the water in Kiev finally got to me.

By the time we got home I couldn’t walk upright for the stomach cramping. Rebekah told me there was a severe stomach flu going around our town and perhaps I got it before I left. I took a bunch of herbs and a very special tea and went to bed, hoping for some sleep and for the cramping to subside.

The next morning, I was relieved to see that I had slept and my stomach felt very delicate but the cramping was lessening. I was exhausted and shaky and cold. Taking my temperature I saw that I had a fever of 38.5. My youngest daughter insisted that I return to bed. She tucked me in and my bed never felt so good. I slept a lot of the day with those weird fever dreams. I continued to drink this amazing tea and got out of bed at about 8:00 in the evening feeling a whole lot more human. The next day I was careful with my stomach and what I ate, but I felt like me again.

Rebekah got the flu a day later than me and had a very similar experience.

 

Fever Buster Tea

  • 1 part dried and ground Yarrow leaves and flowers
  • 1 part dried and ground Mint leaves and stems
  • 1 part dried and ground Elderflowers

Use a heaping tablespoon per cup of tea.

Allow the tea to steep covered for 10 minutes or longer.

Drink up to 5 times a day during and acute illness.

 

During a stomach flu, Yarrow acts as a diaphoretic (fever supporter), antimicrobic, antispasmodic (stomach cramps be gone!), analgesic (pain relief).

Mint relieves pain and spasm in stomachaches. It relieves nausea. It is a nervine, calming anxiety and tension. It is antibacterial and antiseptic and active against a wide range of bacteria including Salmonella enteritidis and E. coli.

Elderflower supports the immune system. The flowers are antimicrobial, they eliminate toxins and heat and they are anti-inflammatory. They protect the gut against irritation and stress with their antispasmodic and astringent actions.

This tea is a must have for cold and flu season and for this stomach flu with fever it was an excellent support, decreasing the duration and severity of our flu.

 

Related Videos

Yarrow Healing Powder and Anti-Flu Tea

 

Traveller’s Belly

Wormwood

This summer has seen us travelling quite a bit. We have been to a three-day outdoor music festival in Tabor called Mighty Sounds , Berlin for a girls’ trip and, right now, Dan and I are in Kiev for business and sightseeing.

At the music festival were thousands of people using a small number of outhouses. Yikes! In Berlin, we ate sashimi of what we thought was white fish and ended up being escolar…we got diarrhea! In Kiev, it is not recommended to drink the water without boiling it first, but what if we accidentally did, or swallowed some when brushing our teeth?

In our travel first aid kit we always carry Wormwood and Agrimony extracts. These two make a powerful partnership to fight parasites and to relieve diarrhea.

According to Herbwisdom:

The bitter components and acids render wormwood an excellent remedy for digestive issues. This is primarily because a bitter flavor on the tongue actually causes the gallbladder to produce and release bile. Contrary to popular belief, it is often too little acid production that leads to most indigestion, not an excess of it. It is also noted as being useful in alleviating fever, expelling parasitic worms like roundworm from the digestive tract, and for its tonic effects.

 

According to Organic Facts:

As an anti-inflammatory agent, agrimony has often been used to eliminate digestive and gastrointestinal issues, particularly diarrhea and other irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. By reducing irritation and inflammation in the membranes and tissues of the gut, it can significantly soothe the stomach.

In Kiev, I have been dosing us with wormwood 3x a day to keep any microbes or parasites away. It is extremely bitter, so I recommend it in tincture form. The bitterness aids digestion well, keeping a happy belly no matter what new and exotic foods you are trying. Agrimony together with the wormwood aid in protecting the gut as well as supporting the body in dealing with diarrhea.

A traditional remedy for gastric complaints is wormwood, black walnut shells and clove. A lot of information can be found on the internet.

Wormwood shouldn’t be used long-term. When we are home from our trip on Friday, and if all is well with our bellies, we will put the wormwood away for our next exciting, exotic journey.

Olive Oil: Natural Makeup Remover

Two days ago, we ran out of makeup remover. I buy the normal kind you can get anywhere. It’s a name brand, expensive and half-blue, half-clear liquid. It works well and I never thought about using anything else, until yesterday.

I was trying on some of my daughter’s new mascara that is supposed to make your lashes super long. It worked (I will probably buy some) but it is water-proof and I was unaware of this.

No makeup remover+water-proof mascara=total raccoon eyes. I scrubbed and scrubbed and all I managed to accomplish was irritate the skin around my eyes.

After a quick search, Rebekah found out that plain olive oil can be used as a substitute. It is miraculous! I put some good olive oil in a pump bottle and used it last night to take off my makeup. I am hooked! I have read some recipes this morning and will try a few and let you know what works best. But, as far as I’m concerned, plain olive oil did the trick!

The skin around my eyes feels beautifully silky this morning. I’m going to keep trying this and see what the results are over a longer period of time.

Try it out and let me know your thoughts.

 

 

Calendula Healing Salve

I grow tons of Calendula in my garden. Every day during summer, I harvest a basket of Calendula blossoms, dehydrate them and add them to my ever-growing jar of dried Calendula blooms. This jar (it’s huge) will serve all of our Calendula needs for the entire year. As I harvest the flowers, I also harvest seed so that I will have more to plant the next year.

Why go to all this effort? Because Calendula is used in so very many of my recipes, tinctures, salves, creams, soaps and teas. It is an amazing healer!

 

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

Calendula is an annual flower native to the northern Mediterranean countries. It has historically been used as a food, adding flavor to cereals, rice, and soups. The petals can be added to salads for their brilliant color. As recently as 70 years ago, American physicians used calendula to treat amenorrhea, conjunctivitis, fevers, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and burns, as well as minor infections of the skin. Calendula creams and washes are still used to disinfect minor wounds and to treat infections of the skin. The antibacterial and immunostimulant properties of the plant make it extremely useful in treating slow-healing cuts and cuts in people who have compromised immune systems. The herb stimulates the production of collagen at wound sites and minimizes scarring. Gargling calendula water may ease sore throat. Because of the vivid and brilliant color of calendula, it was thought to possess powers for the protection and benefit of humans… An often overlooked application of this herb is the treatment of post-mastectomy lymphedema. The herb will not reduce swelling, but it will reduce pain.” 

 

Recently, I have prescribed my Calendula Salve for skin healing, eczema, stretch marks, baby belly, diaper rash, cuts, scrapes and burns.

This salve is a vibrant orange, the more colour extracted from the flowers, the more potent the medicine.

Calendula Healing Salve

  • 1 cup Calendula-infused oil (olive oil for medicinal salve, almond oil for cosmetic salve) Infused Oil Recipe
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 20 drops Lavender essential oil

In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oil and beeswax.
Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.
Add the essential oil. Stir.
Pour into clean and sterilised jars.

 

Medicinal Actions:

Calendula: Vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, immune stimulant, antifungal, antiviral, cholagogue, diaphoretic, lymphatic, antispasmodic, emmanagogue

 

Yarrow Tincture

This tincture can be used effectively to support a fever, in the instance of cold and flu and to put on a wound to prevent or treat infection. It is a great component to an Herbal First Aid Kit.

Yarrow Tincture

  • Yarrow stems, leaves and flowers (dried or fresh)
  • Alcohol (at least 45%, brandy, vodka or Everclear)
  • Sterilised jar and lid

Grind or chop the plant material as finely as possible. I use my juicer to grind the dried plant material.

Add the plant material to the jar: Dried- fill 1/2 of jar

                                                             Fresh- fill the entire jar

Add the alcohol. Fill to the brim. Keep an eye on it for the next several minutes and keep adding alcohol until all the plant material is covered.

Seal well and label with the plant name, date, percent and type of alcohol and the date 6 weeks out.

Shake the jar daily and store in a cool, dark place.

After 6 weeks, strain out plant material and decant the tincture into sterilised bottles for use.

Label bottles with the tincture name.