Friday, January 30, 2009

Jungle Wisdom

This is an excerpt from The Green Pharmacy by James A. Duke, Ph.D. You can get it from Amazon, of course. My home copy is a bit different--the subtitle on mine is The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from The World's Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs. Duke is an ethnobotonist, a guy who studies how healing foods and herbs are used in the world's cultures. It's a terrific book, ranks up there with Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs and Spices (reviewed here) as an excellent resource for households wanting to use natural medicines.

I thought you all might be interested in what Duke has to say about folk remedies, herbs, and pharmaceutical synthetic medicines.

Jungle Wisdom

At the beginning of this chapter, I mentioned a pepper plant that the Choco Indians use to numb the pain of toothache.

I encountered this plant again years later, on my first ecotour to Iquitos, Peru. My Indian guide pointed to the plant and reiterated that it relieves toothache. He pulled it up by the root, scraped off the dirt, and invited me to bite into it. As before, it immediately anesthetized my mouth.

Fruits and roots of some species of pepper plants are known to contain anesthetic compounds. Even black pepper contains some.

People who have lived for thousands of years in the world's jungles have toothache remedies that really work. And that's the main reason I wrote this book--to show that traditional medicine has legitimate scientific value.

Scientific critics counter that "old folk tales" are no match for Western-style scientific experimentation. But the basis of science is careful observation, and that's what traditional peoples have been doing since time immemorial--observing and experimenting with the world around them.

In general, traditional people have managed to select the good medicines and have rejected the bad, leading to what we today call folk medicine. Most of these folk medicines have thousands of years of experimental selection behind them, and few are associated with adverse reactions.

That's something that you really can't say about our modern pharmaceuticals, only a few of which have been on this earth for more than a hundred years. All too often, synthetic drugs turn out to be hazardous. This is evidenced by the number of pharmaceuticals that the Food and Drug Administration orders withdrawn because of adverse reactions.

End of excerpt. I love the understatement of that last sentence--withdrawn because of adverse reactions. Such as 27,785 deaths from Vioxx before the FDA got around to taking it off the market. OK, so that is nearly 30,000 deaths in about 20 million people who had taken it. Seems small when you look at it like that. But as the last paragraph of the linked article says:

"Because heart attacks and strokes occur in the general population, one cannot say that if someone had an event while taking Vioxx, that Vioxx caused it," a Merck spokesman said.

Of course, Vioxx was a $2.5 billion a year drug for Merck, which, as the article also says, fought for years to keep this bad news of heart attacks from the public. Wonder how they did that? By influencing the FDA perhaps?

If you're interested in seeing the mischief and wrong-doing of the pharmaceutical industry, you should check out this blog, by Dr. Doug Bremer, a physican and professor at Emory University. His blog is called Before You Take That Pill and it is enlightening and entertaining reading.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Meet the Herb Blogs

If you're interested in herbs and herbal medicine for your family, then you will want to check out some of these herbalist blogs. I don't read them every day, but then hardly any herbal blogs are posted every day. It is more like once a week or a few times a month. But by reading these blogs, you can greatly increase your knowledge of herbs, herbal lore, and herbal medicine. These are not listed in any particular order but there are ones that I like a lot and have learned a lot from.

The Medicine Woman's Roots

Kiva Rose writes very well and her blog is entertaining, knowledgeable and fascinating. A great resource.

Methow Valley Herbs

Some really neat herbal chai recipes this month.

Kitchen Witchen Beginner Herbal

Tammy says she's a beginner but she's quite wise. I picked up my goldenrod salve from her and Kiva Rose--it's great stuff for sore muscles and arthritis.

Herbal Medicine and Spirit Healing the Wise Woman Way

Susan Weed's excellent webpage. Sign up for her free ezine if you're interested.

The Essential Herbal

The blog supports a magazine that I want a subscription to next time I have extra money.

The Herbwife's Kitchen

Some excellent articles. Use the search function and find what you're looking for.

There are many other really great blogs on herbs. Rather than try and list them all here, see the links on the herbalists' pages above. Click on those and find even more.

Good luck and enjoy!

Cream of Weevil :)

First of all, I apologize for not posting for a bit. My energy is really low in January/February, so posts may be spotty for a bit.

Every once in a while, my husband will deign to tell the entire freaking world that we have bugs in our stored food, in the rice or beans, a few posts back in time. If it was left up to me, I could get along quite well without telling the entire freaking world much of anything.

I've even mentioned to him in my typical demure and calm way TO NOT TELL everyone every damn little thing. But he ups and does it anyway, and I have to swallow my middle-class upbringing and just wince my way through it. Oh well. One of the prices we pay for the benefits of marriage. And I know there are some. Really.

However, I've decided that with the world quickly going to rack and ruin to simply toss all my expectations and desire to have everything the way it was out the window. I think this is a very good idea because then my great expectations won't be crushed when life fails to deliver. As Jim Dakin of bisonblog said: "It's time to cozy up to the concept of better than nothing."

We've done what we can to avoid getting "weevils in the flour." (The link is to an old union song from Australia in the '30s.) There are some things you can do to avoid the dreaded bugs in your stored food goods. Or try here.

On the other hand, it may be time to rethink this whole middle-class upbringing thing. After all, people all over the world eat bugs. As a kid, I'm sure my brothers and I ate bugs and dirt and all kinds of weird stuff. We lived and are a fairly hardy bunch.

So why not cream of weevil? I remember a former boss of mine. He'd been having trouble with woodchucks in his yard, digging and making messes and eating his flowers and such. I managed to find a recipe for him for Cream of Woodchuck Soup, believe it or not. A neat solution to his problem, right? I can't find that recipe now, but I sure wish I'd kept it. If anyone out there has it, let me know and thanks!

Since I moved here some years ago, I'd become far more hillbilly-ish than I ever was before. And I like hillbilly life. It suits me well and makes me laugh. Do hillbillys piss and moan when they get a few weevils in the flour or rice? I kinda doubt it.

I read historical fiction and history for pleasure. Can't tell you how many times I've read of soldiers or sailors getting their ration of weevily hardtack. They'd complain, but they'd eat it. Complaining about the food is a sweetheart of a pasttime, anyway, right up there with complaining about the weather.

So, if the damn rice or beans have some bugs, I think what I'll do is merely think of it as extra protein and not worry about it. There is certainly precedent for eating bugs, whether we do it with pleasure or with a heartfelt wince. For those of you curious about bugs as a survival food, or even as a gourmet treat, you might check out this page for the pictures (urf) and this one for interesting information. Here's a couple of facts I might never have seen if I hadn't been thinking about this topic:

There are 1,462 recorded species of edible insects. Doubtless there are thousands more that simply have not been tasted yet.

100 grams of cricket contains: 121 calories, 12.9 grams of protein, 5.5 g. of fat, 5.1 g. of carbohydrates, 75.8 mg. calcium, 185.3 mg. of phosphorous, 9.5 mg. of iron, 0.36 mg. of thiamin, 1.09 mg. of riboflavin, and 3.10 mg. of niacin.

Hmmmm. Now that's some good nutrition, isn't it? Protein and minerals. Not bad. Not that I have 100 grams of cricket in our rice and beans, but it is good to know. You'll even find some recipes at the Manataka page.

I have a feeling that in the new world coming our way, we might be hunting bugs to eat as well as picking them out of our rice. It is possible to change our viewpoints, learn some new skills, adapt to the world as it changes. Maybe we should all lighten up when it comes to former taboos such as eating insects.

If I get around to actually making cream of weevil, I'll post the recipe. Until then, do what you can to get rid of bugs, or say t'hell with it. If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Interesting Home Remedies

The more I read about home remedies, herbal remedies, simple kitchen medicines, the more impressed I am by all the "old wives" who came up with this stuff. I've been trying them out all winter, and I've been very pleased with the results, i.e., they worked, they're effective. These remedies are inexpensive, use easy to come by items (for the most part), and can by done by anyone.

In the upcoming depression, when I am sure the Powers That Be will leave us all high and dry, except when they're desperately trying to get us to do silly, stupid, and dangerous things (like vaccinations and flu shots), we will have to learn to rely on simple and cheap methods of taking care of ourselves. We are learning more and more about nutrition and how the body works to heal itself. These simple treatments work with the body, not against it. That's a big selling point as far as I'm concerned.

Here are some of the treatments I've tried that worked for me. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary. Not every remedy will work for every person. So take what makes sense to you, try it out. Try not to be negative if it doesn't work--simply move on to something else.

For Colds and Flu

Slice up garlic and place the slices on the bottoms of your feet (not an easy thing to accomplish, btw). What I did was place some plastic wrap on the floor, put the garlic slices on the plastic wrap, put my foot down on top of the slices and wrapped the plastic around my foot. I left this on overnight and discarded the garlic in the morning. And yes, I felt much better the next day. Not completely healed, but much better.

Vicks VapoRub also worked and felt very calming and soothing. Felt better the next day and the skin on my feet was very soft.

Here's another one for cold/flu/respitory problems:

Cold Wet Socks Therapy

What's that you say? Cold, wet socks? For what?

This is the first time I've heard of it. I was reading around the herbal blogs (and there are a lot of excellent ones--for another post) and found this fascinating idea. I found it at Herbalist Liza Zahn's website. If you have a stubborn cold or flu, you put on a pair of cold, wet cotton socks. Over them you put on warm, dry wool socks and then hop into bed. When you wake in the morning, your body will have had to overcome the coldness and wetness by working overtime...

I'm not explaining it well. Read about it at Liza's page. It makes perfect sense to me, and it is using your body's own power to heal, which I like.

I'm not about to snafu myself again by saying I don't get colds or flu. Next time one jumps me though, I will try the cold, wet sock therapy.

Post-Nasal Drip/Sinus Infection

OK, I did do this one, and boy did it work! And kept working! It got rid of the problem completely for at least a week. Then the infection started in again, but a repeat of the treatment kicked its ass again. Here's my earlier post about it.

I put a dropper full of Hydrogen Peroxide in a 2 oz medicine bottle (the eye-dropper kind you get herb tinctures in), then added a pinch of sea salt, a pinch of baking soda and a pinch of powdered cayenne pepper. I put 2 droppers full into one nostril, then bent over and rolled my head around, trying to get the stuff to all areas of my sinuses. Ditto with the other nostril. By this time my eyes were watering and my nasal passages were exploding... I can't say it was fun. I did 2 more droppers full to each nostril, repeatedly blowing my nose (gently) throughout. I had to keep blowing my nose for about a half and hour. And yes, it stung. It was weird.

But it worked. The infection disappeared.

I could have gone to my doctor, paid about $75 for the doctor's visit, got a prescription for antibiotics maybe or maybe for some other drugs, paid more money for those, and after two weeks still have been miserable and miserably out-of-pocket, with the added disaster of having to rebuild my immune system and all the good bacteria in my system.

There's a website called the Skeptic Detective, which nicely points out logical fallacies and demands double-blind scientific studies for home remedies. It makes for interesting reading, but let's face it. Doing large double-blind studies for something that can't be patented (like garlic) and thus profited by just isn't going to happen. No one could or would spend the money to do those kinds of studies. The Skeptic Detective also pooh poohs anecdotal evidence, or demands "scientific" evidence. However, as one commentor says: she tried it, it worked, and that's all the evidence she requires. Or, one can always say "it's the placebo effect" and that may be true too. In which case, hurrah for the placebo effect. Our minds, our thoughts, have a big effect on the body (which is why the placebo effect works). We might as well use it for our benefit.

In my case, I'll try something even if I doubt it could possibly work. I've done that before and been pleasantly surprised when it did work. It is always good to question, and a dose of skepticism is not a bad thing at all.

However, in my opinion, allopathic medicine and so-called "objective science" is failing so abjectly when it comes to helping with chronic diseases, or the biases are so obviously towards pharmaceutical "medicines" that it makes me question their treatments. Giving patients poison for cancer isn't helpful. We've had years of chemotherapy and radiation now and it is ineffective for one, and it drastically harms the patient. Why? Why is it still used? Follow the money trail and you will find out why.

Ach, that's a whole other realm of discussion and posting. Suffice it to say that I think there is a lot of good in simple home remedies, most remedies are cheap, using simple things you already have in your kitchen, and they're easy to do for yourself.

I have always used home remedies, I think most people do. We don't always tell other people for fear of being called names, made fun of, put down as idiots. Well, I go by "prove all things." If it works for me, it works. I might like to know how and why it works, but if I don't, I'm still fine with it.

Anyway, these are a few that have worked for me. In my view, it's definitely worth looking into, researching a bit, finding what might work for you and your particular problem, and taking action. Be in charge of your own health care. That's progress, by damn.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The One Best Thing to Do for Your Health

The One Best Thing to Do for Your Health? Easy. Kill your television set. Put it outdoors and shoot it (if local law permits...). Turn it OFF.

This is something that I imagine most readers of this blog will not do. TV is simply too deeply ingrained in the culture.

If I could do one thing that would radically CHANGE American culture, nearly overnight, I would unplug every television set in the nation. Yep. Make them all non-functioning. And believe it or not, that would do the trick. "Waking up the sheeple" would be easy then, because they would be far closer to a real state of being awake than they ever were before, with all their typical unconsciousness due to the power of the Tube.

What does television watching have to do with your health? Oh, everything, sez me. For one, if you watch TV regularly, you have lost your ability to concentrate, to focus, to think in any kind of sustained manner. Why? Because images change every few seconds on the screen, first one angle, then another shot from another angle. I don't have the jargon to explain this technically, nor do I wish to. It's obvious. At least to me, since I don't watch television.

Caveat: yes, we have a tv set. We watch movies on it. That's bad enough, though it we only watch once or twice a week, if that. We got our TV turned off six years ago and neither of us have regretted it.

I don't think ADHD is a genetic problem. It's an environmental problem. Kids did not have ADHD when I was a kid. They might have been bored and jittery/fidgetty in school, but they could use sustained attention readily enough if called to the task. However, years and years of heavy TV watching has taken its toll on people's ability to function mentally.

My husband and I do not have the levels of stress that we see in other people. I think it is because we are not constantly exposed to the fear-mongering of the TV news, nor are we exposed to the hours of commercials telling us how rotten and awful and unlikeable and unsexy we are since we don't have this or that product. (We are, however, perfectly capable of being rotten and awful, etc., without any help from :)

To provide some evidence for my claims, I will direct you to an article posted a while back at called The Plug-In Drug. It is written by a guy who is a professional in the television business, but who got rid of his home set when his son came along. According to Tokyo Mike, television is a drug. I agree. A very addictive drug.

And I will share the article below. I found it at on the web and kept it to remind me why TV is so deadly.

Read these two articles and see then what you think about TV. Yes, the damn thing IS killing you. Slowly, but surely. And like it or not, you are brainwashed and your IQs diminished. Turn it OFF. You'll be smarter and happier. And, come the doom/crash, you won't have withdrawal symptoms to worry about. Get them over with in advance. :) And check out the last line of the article--now, that's a kick in the head, ain't it?

(If you're wondering why you're reading this on a blog that purports to be about foraging wild food and herbs and such, well, me too. But hell, it is JANUARY and foraging is not a big activity this time of year. )

Television: The Hidden Picture
Rixon Stewart

The old line about British television being the best in the world is a debateable one. What is beyond dispute though is the fact that Britons are a nation of TV addicts and with the advent of cable and satellite TV that trend is likely to continue. Whether or not that is a good thing is another matter entirely. For its influence could literally be described as deadening, as a growing amount of scientific evidence would seem to indicate. But don’t expect to hear that from the mainstream media, particularly television; there is simply too much at stake here, politically and economically, for what follows to become more widely known.

According to Daniel Reid, writing in the Tao of Health Sex and Longevity, the rays from a TV flicker erratically, causing uneven and irregular stimulation of the retina. “This choppy stimulus is transferred directly into the brain via the optic nerve, which in turn irritates the hypothalamus. In scientific experiments conducted in the US but ignored by both the government and the television industry, rats exposed to colour TV for six hours a day became hyperactive and extremely aggressive for about a week. Thereafter they suddenly became totally lethargic and stopped breeding entirely.” In effect their endocrine systems had been ‘burnt out;’ equally significant was the fact that during the experiment the TV screens were kept covered in thick black paper so that only the invisible rays came through. Thus the damage was done, not by the visible rays, but by the invisible radiation.

These findings were echoed by Dr H.D. Youmans of the U.S. Bureau of Radiological Health, quoted by Associated Press in 1970: “We found rays escaping from the vacuum tubes to be harder and of higher average energy than we expected. They penetrated the first few inches of the body as deeply as 100-kilowatt diagnostic X-rays. You get a uniform dose to the eyes, testes and bone marrow.”

The same year Dr Robert Elder, director of the BRH, testified before Congress that even very minute doses of radiation, which fall below the legal limit cause damage and that the damage is cumulative.

In fact the evidence is beginning to mount to the point where it can no longer be ignored, unless you happen to watch a lot of TV, in which case you may not have noticed the results of a study by Sally Ward. One of Britain’s leading authority’s on children’s speech development, she completed a ten year study which showed that the background noise in the average two year olds day can delay his or her acquisition of a language by up to a year. Almost invariably the background noise came from television.

Amongst other things she found that:

· Children learn to speak from their parents and parents don’t play or talk enough with their children when the TV is on.
· Background noise from TV or radio, confuses infants. In response they learn to ignore all noise and then they ignore speech.
· Children of two years or older should not be exposed to more than two hours of TV a day.
· Children of one year old or younger should not be exposed to television at all.

Sally Ward is currently preparing to focus on television and the way it affects our attention. In particular she will be looking at Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “. . . a lot of people think it’s chemical,” she says, but in her view . . . “it’s very peculiar that at the onset of children’s television it got a lot more prevalent, and at the onset of children’s video’s it got a lot more prevalent.”

Her concern is being reiterated in America where child psychologist John Rosemond has stirred some controversy by suggesting that ADHD is environmentally created; a suggestion that is completely at odds with the pharmaceutical industry, which maintains that the disorder is genetically inherited and makes considerable profit as a result.

“Ritalin may work, temporarily,” says Rosemond, “But pharmaceutical intervention won’t change behavioural and motivational problems.” And these he blames on television – “the endlessly changing images, flickering like the attention spans of ADHD children.”

Interestingly, Rosemond began questioning the role of TV after his own son began displaying symptoms of ADHD. In response he got rid of his television and within six weeks the boy’s behaviour was transformed. Today he is a commercial airline pilot, a job which requires some concentration.

Still, there may well be a place for television in modern society: in our prisons. No seriously. At a time when its budget is being cut by over 15% you may ask why the prisons service is spending an estimated £5 million on television sets for a third of its inmates? Why? Well, according to David Roddan, general secretary of the prison governors association: “It’s the best control mechanism you can think of.”

Extracts from The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity, Simon & Schuster and GET A LIFE! David Burke and Jean Lotus (Bloomsbury ISBN 0-7475-3689-9)
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Last updated 12/09/2006

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Herbal Infusions

I've been making herbal infusions nearly daily. I have a lot of dried herbs and wild plants and so I've been using them to make herbal tea. There's a slight difference between a basic herbal tea and an infusion and that is the infusion steeps quite a bit longer.

It works like this, very simple. Put about a cup of dried herb into a quart jar. Add boiling water. Let it steep overnight or at least a number of hours. Strain.

And that's it. You have your vitamin/mineral tasty drink and the medicinal properties of the herb will have infused into the tea.

The last batch I made was catnip/lemon balm. That made a really nice relaxing tasty tea. It made me a bit sleepy so it was ideal for night-time drinking. I usually put my mason jars into the fridge once they've been steeped and strained. Then you can either drink it cold as I do or heat it up on the stove.

The batch I made yesterday is a nettle-sassafrass blend. I'm drinking some of the nettle infusion now, but I made a second quart with nettles and sassafrass because I want to ferment it and get the extra benefit of the lactic fermentation: numerous enzymes and anticarcinogenic substances. I've posted about this before here. This is a very easy thing to do, really all you need is the dried herbs. And some whey, if you want to ferment your infusions. I made the nettle-sassy blend according to the directions given by Kiva Rose in the post I linked. Once the nettles were strained and the sassafrass root removed from the infusion, I added some honey and a cup of whey. (Kiva Rose also describes how to get your own whey in that post.) I added about 4 chunks of ginger to the brew as well. It is fermenting now and will be ready in a few days.

I have never been a soda drinker--since I don't have a sweet tooth I find Cokes and everything of that nature to be way too sweet. The diet varieties are even worse, tasting chemically on top of the almost sickly-sweet. I do understand that most Americans love their pop and have a hard time giving it up. I sympathize because there are things I hate giving up too. But if you want to strengthen your health, enhance your health, perhaps fizzy fermented herbal infusions would offer you something tasty to drink that will benefit you rather than harm you.

The flavors you get would of course vary by the herb/root/seed concoction you start with, as would the medicinal properties. I like horsetail tea very much--it's mild and full of silica, which helps absorbtion of calcium and other minerals. Nettles make a delicious infusion with a very greeny sort of flavor--you can almost taste the vitamin/mineral inherent in it.

Here are some herb combinations I'll be trying in the next few days and weeks:

Pine/rosehip: pine for the vitamin C and rosehips for flavor (also high in Vit. C)
Mullein/mint: mullein is very soothing to the respitory system, which is always nice in cold weather, mint for the flavor
Horsetail/lemon balm: horsetail for the silica, lemon balm as a calming, flavorful addition
Skullcap/catnip/mint for a sleepy time brew
Juniper berries/mint: just to see what that flavor is all about
Nettles and just about anything else: yummy and very good for you.
Sumac berries/mint: I have a few sumac berry heads I both dried and froze. They made a great lemonade then and probably will make a nice lemony tasting tea.

Nettle infusions have been traditionally given to worn-down or convalescing patients, due to its high mineral content. Mints have made flavorful teas for eons. Really, any dried herb you have can be used.

This coming spring and summer, gather what wild herbs and plants you have fully identified. If you don't use them right away, then dry them and use them to make a winter's full of good, tasty, health-enhancing drinks.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Medicine Cabinet Herb Garden

This year, I want to plant some herbs in a little garden outside the lodge here where we live. Last season, the Gruff Lord wanted a "food storage garden" instead of the traditional "salad" garden. We ended up with a bit of both because I insisted on tomatoes, cayennes, beets, onions, rutabegas, potatoes and some herbs. The rest of the garden was dry beans and corn. All to the good. We got pounds of excellent beans and, although the corn didn't turn out too well, we did get seed corn from it anyway.

But downstairs I want some herbs that I know we will want for our simple (but effective!) medicines. This is, after all, how our grandmothers and great-great grandmothers got medicines to treat their families. It will no doubt ease my mind to know that right outside my door I'll have a lot of simple remedies for the normal aches and pains of human existence. And some of these herbs are being proven at potent remedies for what ails us. Red clover for cancer, for instance. And that, and many other terrific herbs grow wild, also right outside the door.

Here's the list of herbs I want in the "medicine cabinet" garden:

Catnip--for the cats, natch, but also because it makes a tasty tea to put one to sleep.
Chamomile: multiple uses, nice tea
Echinacea: great immune booster
Hyssop: so I can learn this plant
Lavender: intoxicating scent, many uses
Lemon Balm: incredible tea, very calming and soothing on raw nerves, something I expect to see a lot of in future
Lobelia: antispasmodic
St John’s Wort: antidepressant, makes a useful oil or salve
Skullcap: a nervine, good for sleeping draughts
California poppy: relaxing, need to learn more
Calendula: pretty flowers, makes a great salve for skin
Stevia: we need a sweetener that is off-grid, so to speak
Wormwood: for worms, natch.
Yarrow: for wounds and a salve for aches and pains

And probably more than that. But that's a good medicine cabinet start. I don't know if I'll get them all started this year, but I will get the garden patch started. I want to try a lasagne layer patch and maybe another raised bed. I'll start small, because I'm the main horsepower in our food garden, and that will require lots of work I know.

Here's a few listings for medicinal herb seeds, if you're interested in putting in your own medicine cabinet herb gardens.

Horizon Herbs

A HUGE variety of herbs, the normal ones you see all the time, both culinary and medicinal, and a host of others, many of which I've never heard of. Sometimes you only get a tiny amount of seeds for a large price, so read the descriptions of individual herbs carefully. There's a host of germination and cultivation info as well as some discussion of medicinal properties as well. A very useful site. I haven't ordered from them before, so I know nothing about them as a company. But...the selection of medicinal herb seeds at both Mountain Rose Herbs and are Horizon Herb seeds.

Mountain Rose Herbs

As I mentioned above, their selection comes from Horizon Herbs. But there's a medicine cabinet selection already set up, called the Lifeline Medicinals. If you want to start an herb garden, this collection of seeds might be just right for you:

This handsome, and conveniently packaged set of seeds is a great foundation primer for those wishing to start a medicinal herb garden. Each packet of seeds is certified organic through OTCO. Each kit contains 1 packet of each: Astragulus (50 seeds), Holy Basil (100 seeds), Burdock (100 seeds), Calendula (100 seeds), German Chamomile (500 seeds), Echinacea purpurea (200 seeds), Elecampane (100 seeds), Evening primrose (200 seeds), Flax (200 seeds), Lemon Balm (200 seeds), Marshmallow (100 seeds), Motherwort (200 seeds), Nettles (400 seeds), Cayenne pepper (100 seeds), Sage (100 seeds), Valerian (100 seeds), Wood Betony (100 seeds), Yarrow (200 seeds). $24.95.

I have ordered from Mountain Rose before and they are a good company. Shipping was expensive, but hell, all shipping is expensive these days.

Garden Medicinals

A selection of 147 herbs and wild plant seeds. I ordered from them last year. Some of the seeds didn't germinate, but that wouldn't stop me ordering again.

Seeds of Change

A nice selection of medicinal herb seeds this year as well as a lot of great culinary herbs. I've been salivating over their gorgeously-photographed catalog that I got in the mail. We've ordered from these folks for years. I like their mission and their style. Good seeds too. Pricey.

Don't you love it? Dead of winter, and these seed companies KNOWS that gardeners have the jones for their gardens, so they send us gorgeous catalogs in January when we have nothing better to do than gaze at all those mouth-watering photos of veggies and herbs. Oh my. :) I don't blame them a bit and I love the catalogs.

Increasing Nutritional Value of Food: Lactic Fermentation

One of the simple techniques you can use to increase the nutritional value of your food is lactic fermentation. I've posted about this before, here and here. I thought what I would do here is provide a couple of brief introductions, one from Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning (reviewed here), and another from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. Their descriptions of the process and the "how-to's" are simple and elegant. While there is naturally some repetition in the two descriptions, they have slightly different takes and provide a few different details that make it worth reading both.

I think you'll be convinced to try this age-old artisianal craft for preserving some of your harvest this coming year.

Preserving Food by Lactic Fermentation

Preserving vegetables for months, using neither heat, cold, nor preservatives, yet retaining the original freshness and nutritional value of these vegetables--this is the "miracle" of lactic fermentation.

The process is so easy and effective that we wonder why it has nearly disappeared from use. Still used for making sauerkraut, and for turnips in a few farms in Alsace and in Franche-Comte, lactic fermentation was the primary method for preserving vegetables before heat sterilization was discovered. Let's recall how it is done.

The vegetables are grated or cut up, seasoned with a bit of salt (or a mild brine) and herbs, and left to soak in their own juice. (Salt is a key: A good rule of thumb is about 1 1/2 percent salt by weight of vegetables, which generally translates into 2-3 tablespoons of salt per quart.)

Lactic microbial organisms--similar to those that curdle milk--develop spontaneously and convert the natural sugars of the vegetable into lactic acid. This environment rapidly acidifies, to the point that it becomes impossible for bacteria responsible for food spoilage to muliply. Vegetables preserved this way will keep in a cool place, such as a cellar, for many months.

This process is remarkable in its simplicity, effectiveness, and beneficial effects on nutritional value and digestibility. For most people who discover them, lacto-fermented vegetables become part of their daily diet and provide year-round access to ready-to-eat raw vegetables. Due to their acidity, however, they should not be eaten in large quantities; they should complement rather than replace cooked and raw vegetables. We prefer to eat lacto-fermented vegetables uncooked, to retain their enzyme and vitamin contrent, although certain ones, such as sauerkraut, can also be cooked. Once cooked, larger quantities of these foods can be eaten, since cooking reduces their acidity (however, cooking will also destroy some of the nutrients).

One other cautionary note: Don't use tap water in these recipes if it is chlorinated, because chlorine inhibits lactic fermentation. Also, the stones should be noncalcerous, that is, not comprised of limestone, calcium carbonate, or calcium.

For further information about lactic fermentation, see Beatrice Trum Hunter, Fermented Foods and Beverages (Keats Publishing, 1973).

*CAUTION: The USDA and the FDA recommend that all fermented foods should also be canned in a hot water bath to protect against botulism. However, traditional lacto-fermentation methods such as those described here seem to effectively prevent botulism by creating a sufficiently acidic environment. There is good reason to think these recipes are safe without canning. Readers should of course use their best judgment.

And from Nourishing Traditions:

Fermented Vegetables & Fruits

It may seem strange to us that, in earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines. This was done through the process of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things and especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. Man needs only to learn the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation to put them to his own use, just as how he learned to put certain yeast to use in converting the sugars in grape juice to alcohol in wine.

The ancient Greeks understood that important chemical changes took place during this type of fermentation. Their name for this change was "alchemy." Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation by also promotes the growth of health flora throughout the intestine. Other alchemical by-products include hydrogen peroxide and small amounts of benzoic acid.

A partial list of lacto-fermented vegetables from around the would is sufficient to prove the universality of this practice. In Europe the principle lacto-fermented food is sauerkraut. Described in Roman texts, it was prized for both its delicious taste as well as its medicinal properties. Cucumbers, beets and turnips are also traditional foods for lacto-fermentation. Less well known are ancient recipes for pickled herbs, sorrel leaves and grape leaves. In Russia and Poland one finds pickled green tomatoes, peppers and lettuces. Lacto-fermented foods form part of Asian cuisines as well. The peoples of Japan, China and Korea make pickled preparations of cabbage, turnip, eggplant, cucumber, onion, squash and carrot. Korean kimchi, for example, is a lacto-fermented condiment of cabbage with other vegetables and seasonings that is eaten on a daily basis and no Japanese meal is complete without a portion of pickled vegetables. American tradition includs many types of relishes--corn relish, cucumber relish, watermelon rind--all of which were no doubt originally lacto-fermented products. The pickling of fruit is less well known, but, nevertheless, found in many traditional cultures. The Japanese prize pickled umeboshi plums, and the peoples of India traditionally fermented fruit with spices to make chutneys.

Lacto-fermented condiments are easy to make. Fruits and vegetables are first washed and cup up, mixed with salt and herbs or spices and then pounded briefly to release juices. They are then pressed into an air tight container. Salt inhibits putrefying bacteria for several days until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the vegetables for many months. The amount of salt can be reduced or even eliminated if whey is added to the pickling solution. Rich in lactic acid and lactic-acid-producing bacteria, whey acts as an inoculant, reducing the time needed for sufficient lactic acid to be produced to ensure preservation. During the first few days of fermentation, the vegetables are kept at room temperature; afterwards, they must be placed in a cool, dark place for long-term preservation.

It is important to use the best quality organic vegetables, sea salt and filtered or pure water for lacto-fermentation. Lactobacilli need plenty of nutrients to do their work; and, if the vegetables are deficient, the process of fermentation will not proceed. Likewise if your salt or water contains impurities, the quality of the final product will be jeopardized.

Finally, here's the recipe I use to make fermented red onions, which I eat nearly every day with whatever else I'm having for lunch. They're delicious and to me, irresistable. I crave them if they're not around...

Fermented Red Onions

2 red onions, chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey
filtered water to cover

Chop up the red onions, pack them tightly into a quart jar. Add sea salt and whey. Cover onions up to within one inch of the top of the jar with the water. Put the lid on the jar. Leave at room temperature for 4 days (depending on your room temp). You may find some white froth at the top of the jar, but just spoon that off. After the 4 days or so (smell them to see if the onions smell tangy), put them in the fridge and enjoy!


Monday, January 12, 2009

What to Do for Sinitus and Post-Nasal Drip

Arrrrrghhhhh. For the past few days, I've had a nasty post-nasal drip going on. Slimy snot dripping down my throat. YUCK. I absolutely detest this condition. What I have been stupidly doing about it is ignoring it and just sucking on sugar free cough drops. They help the tickle in my throat, or rather, they make it so I don't feel the tickle in my throat so I can ignore the fact that I have a problem. See? Stupid.

Yesterday was particularly bad. I had so much mucus in my stomach (from the snot dripping down my throat) that I kept having to puke. Which I also hate. This is my body's intelligent way of telling me to FIX THE DAMN PROBLEM and quit ignoring it. I like that about the human body--it wants the root cause fixed, not the damn symptoms that we all spend gazillions of dollars allievating, or did before we all became broke. Big Pharma would rather you just keep treating your symptoms, because they'll make a LOT more money off of you when your body can't cope with the crap anymore and starts giving out and getting a really terrible disease.

To hell with that. Today I snorted salt-water up my nose to rinse out my sinuses. That helps some and has cleared it up a bit. I also gargled with it. I checked Dr. Duke's The Green Pharmacy, and he said these things: eat raw garlic, or add lots of garlic and onions to a basic vegetable soup, goldenseal, echinacea, eucalyptus (put a few drops in steaming water to inhale), oregano tea, ginko, horseradish (a straight spoonful if you're brave), shoving mint leaves up your nose for a bit, and eating pineapple. I have nearly all of those and I'll be using them over the next day or so. Then I checked Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs & Spices, and he mentions horseradish and a walnut leaf tea.

I want to kill the infection that is causing this, though, so I also checked Earth Clinic. There's pages and pages of what to do for sinitus, post-nasal drip, sinus infection. Here's the one I think I'm going to try next:

[[YEA] Penny from Fresno writes: "Clean out a medicine bottle with an eye dropper. Put one eye dropper of 3% hydrogen peroxide, one pinch salt, one pinch baking soda, and purified water. Shake well. More hydrogen peroxide can be added if a little discomfort is not felt (some is normal). Next, get down on knees putting head on floor and put a little in each nostril and keep in there awhile, making faces to move it around, move head, etc. to move it around. This has stopped a severe sinus infection I had dead in its tracks AT ONCE. I learned it online by a man who does a much more severe version of this, so you can make it stronger at will, but start weak like I mention. Just a normal medicine bottle. Never put the straight peroxide into the nose! It must be very diluted, so one eye dropper per bottle. It should sting just a little bit. Some say a TEEEEEENNY bit of cayenne in the formula works wonders too."

[YEA] Dani from Savannah, GA writes: "I have had a sore throat due to my sinus congestion/drainage for 4 days now. I assume it is due to allergies. I never had this problem until a few years ago, and it happens several times a year. I always end up at the doctor with a sinus infection and bronchitis. I'm tired of taking antibiotics, so I found this website and thought I'd give it a try. I tried 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp hydrogen peroxide mixed in about a cup of warm water. I layed on the couch and used a bulb syringe to squirt up my nose. I won't lie-when it flushed my sinuses and ran down my throat it did burn. Immediately after, I could breathe from both nostrils. It took a few minutes to quit burning, but it works. My nose began draining lots of mucus that was trapped in my sinuses. I gargled with milk and that soothed it. I also did the gargle recommended on this site for a sore throat-10 oz warm water and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper and drank a shot of it also. This also immediately soothed my sore throat. I'm really amazed and relieved after days of feeling terrible. This really works and I'm very grateful to everyone who posted these remedies !"

I know the herbs will help kill the infection, ditto the garlic, but if I still have this crap tomorrow, I'm going to try this cure, mainly because I think it will work for me. If the salt nasal irrigation worked, as it did a bit for me today, then maybe the added baking soda and hydrogen peroxide will kick it up a notch. With home remedies, it is good to remember that one size does not fit all. It's best to try things and see if they work. If they do, great! Hey, they're cheap! And you're starving the beast of big pharma. If not, try something else. Our bodies are remarkably similar, and remarkably different as well.

Sorry about the disgusting aspects of this post. But what the hell. You're all grownups, and if you are a kid, you know all about snot, right? :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cayenne does stop bleeding!

I sharpened my kitchen knives the other day. Usually after I do that, I'll cut myself on the now sharp as hell knife. And sure enough, I was cutting up potatoes for mashed potatoes tonight and cut my finger a tiny bit. No big deal, but then I remembered a post I did on cayenne pepper a while ago...

And immediately put some powdered cayenne into the cut. I thought it might sting like hell, but it didn't. Didn't hurt at all. And it did stop the bleeding!

I'm not sure I'd use it on a gushing cut femoral artery, but on any other cut or gash I certainly would. So now you know--cayenne will stop bleeding within a few minutes or less. Yipppeeee!

Dandelion Wine

As y'all have probably figured out, I'm a lazy bloggista who doesn't do pictures of my own, I merely steal them from a google images search. Nevertheless, this is pretty much what my dandelion wine looked like as it went through its fermenting and holding stages.

Dandelion wine is something you make as soon as the dandelions blossom, sometime in early May. And last May, I harvested bags and bags of the blossoms from various fields and lawns and wherever I found them, as long as they weren't sprayed with chemicals. At that time, I was focused on the blossoms, as I wanted to make dandeldion wine, but this coming May, I'll be getting greens and roots as well as blossoms at all the same time. I'm awfully hungry for wild greens here in gray, cold January and I could have frozen lots more than I did.

The bags and bags of blossoms became dandelion wine. This was the first time I'd made it, so I used a recipe which I got at Jack Keller's winemaking page. There you can find a wine recipe for anything, and I do mean anything: cabbage wine, beet and parsnip wine, basketball wine, chickweed wine. You name a fruit, vegetable, herb or any plant known to mankind and Jack Keller probably has a recipe for wine for it. Amazing. Who would've thought? Just kidding about the basketball wine, though. :) I'm planning on making lots more wines next year. Since it was my first time, I wanted to see if it worked first. And did it work!

The recipe said the wine must age for six months, and so I made it, let it ferment, finally tightened the cap at some point and put it away and forgot I even had it. Til yesterday, when I nearly stumbled over it. I picked up the big ol gallon jug, cleaned it off in the sink (it was dusty), and poured a glass. Wow. A very pretty golden-yellow liquour flowed into my wine glass.

And it was tasty, rather more sweet than I'm usually inclined to, and more potent than I thought too. I had a few glasses by the time the day was done and I had definitely drank more than I should have. It was delicious, with a tiny dandelionish bitterness underneath that I enjoyed.

The wine-making process isn't difficult with this kind of wine. I didn't have the fermentation airlock thing, so I just put cheesecloth over the top of the bottle and only put on the cap and tightened it when it was done fermenting. Nor did I rebottle it, I just left it in its jug.

Alcohol is one of the traditional means of preserving food. And rather than spend a lot of money on weed-killer, just pick those dandelion blossoms and make wine with them. You'll be glad you did, as it is excellent in mid-winter, a fine reminder of pretty spring days when everything is greening and blossoming. Man, I can't wait!


Friday, January 9, 2009

Nutritional Value of Food

Many people today are storing food against hard times. We’re buying storable grains, canned fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, vegetables and meats, and freeze-dried storable foods as well. This is only prudent. I lived in an upstate New York city that was prone to huge snowfalls and ice storms. When a storm blew in, you might be stuck in your house for days on end. You had better have some food and water stored for those times.

And it isn’t hard to store food up against bad times, whether it be a winter storm, hurricane, a job layoff, another depression. Even folks without very much money can buy cans of food here and there and keep it on hand. Ditto with water.

But there is something else about food that people need to be aware of. And that is, today’s food holds less nutritional value than food did decades ago. Due to modern big business agricultural methods, the soil is no longer mineral-dense. As the quality of the soil has declined, so has the nutritional value in our foods.

In my research I found a couple of articles that explain this issue well. Of course, I’m biased toward organic farming methods, herbs rather than pharmaceuticals, traditional folk remedies rather than high-priced, intrusive allopathic medicine practices, whole, real, God-made foods rather than processed, chemical crap posing as food, etc. If you’re a reader of this blog, you should be aware that I’m not at all impartial about this. Just something to keep in mind.

If you are interested in the nutritional value of your foods, stored or otherwise, then do read all of the following articles. Interesting reading, to say the least. However, I’ve pulled a couple of pertinent quotes that get the point across.

The first article is called Human Health, the Nutritional Quality of Harvested Food, and Sustainable Farming Systems by John B.Marler and Jeanne R.Wallin

Food grown in nutrient deficient soil lacks the nutrients needed to keep people healthy. Studies reveal that the nutritional values in food have declined significantly over the past 70 years. The declines in the nutritional values in food have been attributed to mineral depletion of the soil, loss of soil microorganisms along with changes in plant varieties.

Without adequate nutrition from food, we become susceptible to disease. Simply stated … a lack of nutrients leads to malnutrition … malnutrition leads to disease. Wellness stems from eating nutrient rich, flavorful food. A critical need exists to provide assurance of the nutritional values in the food we eat.


According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans typically lack a sufficient amount of the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and the vitamins A, C, D and E needed to maintain good health. As an example, calcium is essential for the formation of blood clots, the transmission of nerve impulses, as a metabolic cofactor to release energy from macronutrients, for maintaining a rhythmic heart rate and controlling concentrations of substances on differing sides of cell membranes throughout the body. Mild calcium deficiencies can cause heart palpitations, insomnia, irritability, nerve sensitivity, muscle twitching, mental confusion and a feeling of depression.

Serious calcium deficiencies can lead to bone loss, a common health problem. Other mineral deficiencies lead to a host of well documented health problems. Without adequate nutrition, especially minerals, research has shown that people develop chronic health conditions. More and more nutritional studies have linked many of today’s most prevalent, life threatening chromic diseases – diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, macular degeneration, bone loss, dementia to nutritional deficiencies. Research is finding simple nutrition may eradicate many of these common conditions as it has with scurvy, pellagra, beriberi and others. The simple truth may be that susceptibility to disease is linked to either toxicity or nutritional deficiency. Increasingly, scientific research has shown that the secret to life-long health is good nutrition.


The decline in the nutritional quality of food has been linked to production methods that result in soil degradation or the “mining” of soil fertility. Globally, the Green Revolution of the past 50 years has resulted in the use of large amounts of petroleum based, synthetic fertilizers to increase productivity. To increase yields, a vast over-application of inorganic, synthetic nitrogen has been applied to farmland. This over-application of labile, inorganic nitrogen stimulated the soil microbes and resulted in the destruction of the natural balance of carbon reserves in the soil.

With the destruction of moisture holding carbon, soils have lost the ability to grow healthy plants and to hold moisture. Along with losing the ability to hold nutrients, the bio-availability of minerals for plant growth has been significantly decreased as a result of the accelerated withdrawal of minerals from the soil without corresponding additions.

The second article to take a look at is A Sharp Decline of Nutrients in Our Food

Vital vitamins and minerals have dramatically declined in some of our most popular foods, including potatoes, tomatoes, bananas and apples, the analysis reveals. Take the potato, by far the most consumed food in Canada. The average spud has lost 100 per cent of its vitamin A, which is important for good eyesight; 57 per cent of its vitamin C and iron, a key component of healthy blood; and 28 per cent of its calcium, essential for building healthy bones and teeth. It also lost 50 per cent of its riboflavin and 18 per cent of its thiamine. Of the seven key nutrients measured, only niacin levels have increased.

The story is similar for 25 fruits and vegetables that were analyzed.

And just one more article, Taste, nutrients decline as size of crops grow

Donald Davis, a senior researcher at the University of Texas, did some of the most illuminating research into the disappearing nutrients.

He compared Agriculture Department figures on nutrient content for 43 common fruits and vegetables.

Davis says historical data spanning 50 to 70 years show apparent declines of 5 percent to 40 percent or more in minerals, vitamins and proteins in groups of foods, especially vegetables.
Higher-yield crops also decrease the concentrations of cancer-fighting chemicals and anti-toxins -- known as phytonutrients or phytochemicals. Food scientists have identified the benefits of only a few of these.

"We are beginning to understand how valuable these phytochemicals actually are," Davis said. "We can only guess what the loss of these from high-yield farming will mean to the health of the consumer."

So yes, if we value our health, and we'd better, we need to focus on the nutritional value of our foods, and ways we can increase the nutritients available to us by certain, simple techniques. In my next few posts, I'll be discussing these techniques, but I'll provide a short list here:

1. Make bone broths for a mineral-rich, nutrient-dense soup base.

2. Sprouting seeds

3. Lactic fermentation

4. Tonics: rejuvelac, beet kvass, fermented herb drinks, etc.

These things all increase the nutritional value in the basic foods, or they make the available nutrients more available for your body to use. Besides producing good flavor and attractive foods, these techniques all "kick it up a notch" "BAM" as Emeril says.

If readers out there know of other methods, please let me know in the comments. I'd like to learn as many ways of making our foods even better for us as I can. These are only the ones I've thought of or discovered in my reading. I'm certainly willing to learn more, so please do comment. Thanks,


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Review (Sort of): When Technology Fails

I got a copy of this book from the library. Amazon has it listed for $23 bucks, which is, in my opinion, a very good price for this book.

First, let me say that I am not really reviewing this book here, since I haven't had the time to read it. All I've done is look through it for a few days. But I will say that I definitely want a copy of my own. I no long buy novels, I use the library for my "entertainment" reading. I do buy good reference books, however, and WTF (When Technology Fails, not What the .....) fits in that category for sure.

I'll tell you about the book instead of reviewing it. How's that? I think most readers of this blog and other preparedness-type blogs will want a copy of Stein's encyclopedia. Herewith the main sections of the Table of Contents:

1 Introduction of Self-Reliance
An Uncertain Future
Technology Failures Are Common
Why This Book?
Be Prepared
Preindustrial Self-Sufficienty
Old-Fashioned Self-Reliance and Modern Sustainable Technology

(I'm not going to type out all the subcategories in each section--the TOC goes on for 5 pages! But I will put in a few subcategories from each chapter so you get a taste...)

2 Present Trends, Possible Futures
The Main Threats to Our Future
The Eco-Threat
Peak Oil
The Bio-Threat
The Terrorism Threat
Other Important Trends

3 Supplies and Preparations
Planning for the Short Term
72-Hour "Grab-and-Run" Survival Kits
Long-Term Planning and Storace
Calculating a Year's Food Supply
Notes on Camping Gear

4 Emergency Measures for Survival
Survival Strategies
Developing a Survivor Personality
Simple Tools
Surviving a Nuclear Disaster

5 Water
Water Requirements
Stocking Up for Emergencies
The World's Water Crisis
Preserving Water
Treating and Finding Water the Low-Tech Way
Modern Water Treatment

(All chapters have a References and Resources.)

6 Food: Growing, Foraging, Hunting, and Storing
World Population and Food Supply
Grow Biointensive
Sprouting: Your Own Mini-Garden on a Windowsill
Foraging for Food
Brief Guide to Wild Edible Foods
Poisonous Foods to Avoid
Preserving and Storing Food
Dairy, Tofu, and Tempeh
Raising Animals
Hunting and Trapping

7 Shelter and Buildings
A Survey of Various Green Building Systems
Straw Bales
Earth-Based Building Systems
Rammed Earth
Cast Earth
Passive Solar Design
Preventing and/or Battling Mold
Health Effects of Mold
Traditional Low-Tech Structures

8 First Aid
Initial Evaluation
ABCs of First Aid
Bandages and Dressings
Fractures and Dislocations
Heat-Related Trauma
Bites and Stings
Moving Injured People
Emergency Childbirth

(This chapter is a virtual first aid guide all in itself. With the addition of the next chapter, this information alone makes the book worth the price.)

9 When High-Tech Medicine Fails
The Holistic Health Movement
The Low-Tech Medicine Cabinet
Simple, Effective Remedies and Supplements to Have on Hand
The Essence of Healing
Colloidal and Ionic Silver
Healing with Herbs
Supplements and Food
Sinus Health and Molds
Electromagnetic Fields
The Beck Protocol
Healing with Energy
The Power of Prayer
Hypnosis for Pain Control and Healing
Visualization and Mind-Body Healing

10 Clothing and Textiles
Fiber Arts
Preparing Fibers
Sustainable Fibers
Furs and Skins
Patterns and Custom-Tailored Clothing

11 Energy, Heat and Power
Shifting to Renewable Energy (RE)
RE Systems
Wind Power
Solar Hot Water
Solar Water Pumping
Steam Energy
Fuel Cells
Heating with Wood
Energy, Power and Electricity Primer

12 Metalworking
A Brief Introduction to Metals
Casting Metal

13 Utensils and Storage
Making a Simple Wooden Cup or Bowl
Basket Basics
Storing Fluids in Skins and Other Animal Parts
Primitive Pottery

14 Better Living Through Not-So-Modern Chemistry
Natural Glues
Vegetable Oils

15 Engineering, Machines, and Materials

16 Making the Shift to Sustainability
A Poor Track Record
Proactive Success Stories
Tragedy of the Commons
Sustainable Communities
Sustainable Cities
Cradle to Cradle
The Natural Step
Negative Population Growth
The "Hundreth Monkey Phenomenon"
Plan B: Live Locally, Think Globally
Effective Action
Choose Wisely


One of the blurbs on the inside first pages:

"I liked this book. It's carefully researched, comprehensive, well-illustrated, and readable. It presents much needed alternate information, for, in my opinion, technology has already 'failed'. . . . so replacement of polluting 'high' technologies with non-polluting 'low' ones is urgent, and Matthew Stein's handbook systematcially and accurately surveys a wide array of possible low-tech options. Much hard work, time, and talent went into the building of this basic reference survey of low tech options." Carla Emery, author of The Encyclopedia of County Living: An Old Fashioned Recipe Book

I have enjoyed looking through and reading parts of this book. The foraging section is basic, but it'll do in a pinch. The health section is fascinating, the first aid chapter very good. It really is a good basic guide to most of the knowledge we will want to have on hand if the world crashes around us. Stein suggests a lot of books, magazines and other resources for each chapter. The bibliography is extensive and the index looks top-notch. I know I want a copy. :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thinking about Stored Food and Nutrition

I've been thinking a lot lately about our stored foods and about nutritional value of foods. We have stored a goodly amount of corn, rice, beans, canned fruits, vegatables and meats. And I'm glad we have, for the outlook on the world is nasty and getting nastier. I'm very grateful that we've been able to do this on our little income, but we have and it is all to the good. I know I'll be glad we have it, for ourselves and for friends in need.

But I worry about nutrition. Specifically, the nutritional value of our foods. I've read that the nutritional value of food has declined greatly over the past 50 years. When once you would eat one orange, you'd now have to eat 5 oranges to get the same nutrition out of it. It is all due to agribusiness methods of food production. Taking from the soil, but not giving back to it in the form of organic compost or cover crops or manure. Thus the soil has been basically mined of all its life-enhancing minerals and trace elements.

I'll be posting a bit about this once I've done some further research, and I'll share what I find out. As we all get busy this spring and make gardens, we'll be able to get better, more nutritionally dense foods. Until then, the stored foods will do. I'll also post on some simple and easy techniques for making nutritionally enhanced foods to ensure we get the good building blocks we need for our health.

Herbal Substitutes for Common Pharmaceuticals

From: When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein

From a chapter titled When High-Tech Medicine Fails

(In the book, this is a chart with columns, but I can’t do that here. Please bear with the list instead. I have read of some of the uses for herbs, and others are new to me in their usage for a particular ailment. Just FYI.)

Herbal Substitutes for common pharmaceuticals

Ailment: Acne
Pharmaceutical: Retin-A, tetracycline
Herbal options: tea tree oil (external), calendula

Ailment: Allergies
Pharmaceutical: Synthetic antihistamines
Herbal options: Garlic, stinging nettles, Ginkgo bilboa

Ailment: Anxiety
Pharmaceutical: Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin
Herbal options: Hops, kava-kava, valerian

Ailment: Arithitic pain
Pharmaceutical: Tylenol and other NSAIDs
Herbal options: Cayenne (external), celery seed, ginger, tumeric

Ailment: Athlete's foot
Pharmaceutical: Griseofulvin
Herbal options: Tea tree oil, garlic, coffee grounds (all external)

Ailment: Boils
Pharmaceutical: Erythromycin
Herbal options: Tea tree oil, slippery elm (both external)

Ailment: Body odor
Pharmaceutical: common deoderants
Herbal options: coriander, sage

Ailment: BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia)
Pharmaceutical: Hytrin, Proscar
Herbal options: Saw palmetto, evening primrose, stinging nettle, pygeum africanum, Serona repens

Ailment: Bronchitis
Pharmaceutical: Atropine
Herbal options: Echinacea, garlic

Ailment: Bruises
Pharmaceutical: Analgesics
Herbal options: Arnica, St. John's wort, yarrow, plantain (all external)

Ailment: Burns
Pharmaceutical: Silvadene cream
Herbal options: Aloe vera gel (external), calendula

Ailment: Colds
Pharmaceutical: Decongestants
Herbal options: Echinacea, ginger, lemon balm, garlic

Ailment: Constipation
Pharmaceutical: Laxatives
Herbal options: Flaxseed, psyllium, cascara sagrada

Ailment: Cuts, Scrapes, Abscesses
Pharmaceutical: Topical antibiotics
Herbal options: Tea tree oil, calendula, plantain, garlic (all external)

Ailment: Depression (mild)
Pharmaceutical: Prozac, Elavil, Trazodone, Zoloft
Herbal options: St. John's wort

Ailment: Diarrhea
Pharmaceutical: Imodium, Lomotil
Herbal options: Bilberry, raspberry

Ailment: Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)
Pharmaceutical: Naprosyn
Herbal options: Kava-kava, raspberry

Ailment: Earache
Pharmaceutical: Antibiotics
Herbal options: Echinacea, garlic, mullein

Ailment: Eczema (itchy rash)
Pharmaceutical: Corticosteroids
Herbal options: Chamomile

Ailment: Atopic eczema (allergy-related rash)
Pharmaceutical: corticosteroids, sedatives, antihistamines
Herbal options: Evening primrose

Ailment: Flu
Pharmaceutical: Tylenol
Herbal options: Echinacea, elderberry

Ailment: Gas
Pharmaceutical: Mylanta, Gaviscon, Simethicone
Herbal options: Dill, fennel, peppermint

Ailment: Gingivitis (gum inflammation)
Pharmaceutical: Peridex
Herbal options: Chamomile, echinacea, sage

Ailment: Halitosis (bad breath)
Pharmaceutical: Listerine
Herbal options: Cardamom, parsley, peppermint

Ailment: Hay fever
Pharmaceutical: Antihistamines, decongestants
Herbal options: stinging nettle

Ailment: Headache
Pharmaceutical: Aspirin, other NSAIDs
Herbal options: Peppermint (external), feverfew, willow bark

Ailment: Heartburn
Pharmaceutical: Pepto-Bismol, Tums
Herbal options: Angelica, chamomile, peppermint

Ailment: Hemorrhoids
Pharmaceutical: Tucks
Herbal options: Plantain, witch hazel, calendula (all external)

Ailment: Hepatitis
Pharmaceutical: Interferon
Herbal options: Dandelion, milk thistle, tumeric

Ailment: Herpes
Pharmaceutical: Acyclovir
Herbal options: Lemon balm

Ailment: High cholesterol
Pharmaceutical: Mevacor
Herbal options: Garlic

Ailment: Hives
Pharmaceutical: Benadryl
Herbal options: Stinging nettle

Ailment: Indigestion
Pharmaceutical: Antacids, Reglan
Herbal options: Chamomile, ginger, peppermint

Ailment: Insomnia
Pharmaceutical: Halcion, Ativan
Herbal options: Chamomile, hops, lemon balm, valerian, evening primrose, kava-kava

Ailment: Irregularity
Pharmaceutical: Metamucil
Herbal options: Flaxseed, plantain, senna psyllium

Ailment: Lower back pain
Pharmaceutical: Aspirin, analgesics
Herbal options: Cayenne (external), thyme

Ailment: Male pattern baldness
Pharmaceutical: Rogaine
Herbal options: Saw palmetto

Ailment: Migraine
Pharmaceutical: Cafergot, Sumatriptan, Verapamil
Herbal options: Feverfew

Ailment: Motion sickness
Pharmaceutical: Dramamine
Herbal options: Ginger

Ailment: Nail fungus
Pharmaceutical: Ketoconazole
Herbal options: Tea tree oil, garlic (both external)

Ailment: Night blindness
Pharmaceutical: Vitamin A
Herbal options: Bilberry

Ailment: PMS
Pharmaceutical: NSAIDs, diuretics, analgesics
Herbal options: Chaste tree, evening primrose

Ailment: Rhinitis (nasal inflammation)
Pharmaceutical: Cromolyn, Vancenase
Herbal options: Echinacea

Ailment: Shingles
Pharmaceutical: Acyclovir
Herbal options: Cayenne (external), lemon balm

Ailment: Sprain
Pharmaceutical: NSAIDs
Herbal options: Arnica, calendula

Ailment: Stress
Pharmaceutical: Diazepam
Herbal options: Kava-kava, valerian

Ailment: Tinnitus (ringing ears)
Pharmaceutical: Steroids
Herbal options: Ginkgo

Ailment: Toothache
Pharmaceutical: NSAIDs
Herbal options: Cloves, willow bark

Ailment: Urinary tract infection
Pharmaceutical: Sulfa drugs
Herbal options: Cranberry, stinging nettle

Ailment: Vaginitis
Pharmaceutical: Clindamycin, Flagyl
Herbal options: Garlic, goldenseal

*NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Source: adapted from "Nature's Medicine--The Green Pharmacy" by James A. Duke, Ph.D., Mother Earth News (December/January 2000), pp. 22-33).

I have Duke's The Green Pharmacy, which I'll be reviewing one of these days. He's a real expert on herbs, so this is probably a pretty good list. You'll have to do a bit of research on what to do with the herbs, i.e., tea or extract, how to apply if external, but now you have the list.



Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bone Broth for Nutrients You Can Use

Yesterday, Fred and I went to the Amish farm as we usually do. As we came in the kitchen, we found Lydia and the girls getting ready to can some chicken they had just butchered. And in a big pile on the table were bones, lots and lots of chicken bones.

Hmmmmmm. Now, Fred's in his eighties and a child of the Depression, and I'm a thifty type and I looked at him and saw that we were both thinking the same thing.

So after our greetings and letting Lydia know what we needed that day, Fred asked what they were planning on doing with all the bones. Lydia said she'd hadn't thought about it--probably toss them.

"Can we buy the bones from you, Lydia?" asks Fred.

"Well, no," says Lydia. "But you can have them if you want."

See, these bones had already been cooked once. Lydia had already gotten her use from them, but there was still bits and pieces of meat on the bones and they'd still be good for bone broth. Which is another way of saying that even if you've cooked your chicken or beef or whatever, save the bones for broth.

Bone broth is very good for your health. Here's what Sally Fallon, author of the cookbook and encyclopedia on traditional nutrition, Nourishing Traditions, has to say:

Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

So we took the bones home, or rather I did for I'm the one with the stock pot. I put the bones into cold water, added a couple heads of garlic, an onion quartered, some onion skins and other veggie bits I keep in a bag in the fridge for broth-making, parsley and other herbs and a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar is important as it helps extract the minerals from the bones. The chicken bone broth has been simmering on the back of the stove for almost 24 hours now. About time to finish it off, which is merely straining it, cooling it, and putting it in appropriate containers.

This bone broth will go to Fred, for an all out attempt to get his elbow healed by the next time we have to go to his doctor. He's sick and tired of that cast on his arm. Well, I'll probably keep a quart of it for soup-making purposes, but he can have the rest.

The broth smells lovely. It smells like home, like health, like all good, simple things. And it will do wonderful things for a soup. You can't beat it. In a pinch, if I don't have any broth in the fridge or freezer, I'll use canned chicken or beef broth, and a decent bouillon cube (non MSG for me) if I have too, but you really can't beat homemade stock or broth for flavoring a soup or sauce.

It's great to know that this very simple cooking technique can give you such great health benefits as well as provide potent flavor. Peasant societies and all of our grandmothers knew what was best all along.

You used to be able to get critter and chicken bones from the butcher just by asking for them. These days you have to buy beef or lamb bones--they get packaged and sold with the meat. And that's a shame, but hell, I'll buy them. Or sometimes get lucky and stop by the Amish farm after they've been butchering....

For a couple of great articles that can explain the health benefits of broth better than I can, check here and here. You'll be glad you did, especially if you start making broth yourself.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

10 Herbs to Know

(I don't know where I found this article the web, but it is a good informative article, so I copied it to my hard drive. Enjoy, HM)

Ten Medicinal Herbs You Should Know: by Debra Nuzzi, MH
(From The American Survival Guide-July 1991)

(Debra Nuzzi holds Master Herbalist degrees from Dominion Herbal College and the School of Natural Healing. She has been a student of herbal medicine for 22 years and has taught herbology since 1984. She is the author of the herbal video series, HerbalPreparations and Natural Therapies-Creating and Using a Home Herbal Medicine Chest She is president of Nature's Apothecary Inc, a fresh plant herbal extract company, and Essential Aromatherapy, which manufactures aromatherapy inhalers. Both are inBoulder, Colorado - The editors.)

By Debra Nuzzi, MH

ONE hundred years ago, the kitchen garden was also the medicine garden, and plants which produced medicinal benefit were part of the working knowledge of the common people. Those plants which were difficult to cultivate were sought in the surrounding fields and meadows, then preserved and added to the harvest storehouse to soothe and heal the illnesses of winter.With the advent of the chemically synthesized drugs, the home pharmacy has all but disappeared, and with it the knowledge of simple herbal remedies for common ailments. This knowledge is now resurfacing: researched and regenerated by people who want to take an active and independent role in their own health care.

A very necessary part of this renaissance is self-education. Starting is easy. Just familiarize yourself with a few key herbs and begin to use them in your daily life. As you see how effective they are it will spark your desire to learn more, and you're on your way!

Following is a list of 10 commonly available herbs and simple ways to use them in personal health maintenance. These herbs are easily available and fulfill a wide range of benefits with a minimum amount of effort.

ALOE LEAF (Aloe Vera) - This plant has hundreds of uses, the most popular being its ability to alleviate the pain of burns and to speed their healing. It is very easily cultivated as a house plant, and should be in every kitchen. It is the best remedy for sunburn, often preventing later peeling. Immediately immerse the burn in cold water or apply ice until the heat subsides, then generously apply the aloe. It is best to trim the prickly sidesoff the succulent leaf, then split the leaf in half and gently rub the exposed gel onto the affected area. Aloe may also be applied to any cut or skin abrasion, and onto skin eruptions, remarkably speeding healing. To relieve the pain and itching of hemorrhoids, carve out a suppository sized chunk of the inner leaf gel and insert into the rectum.

BURDOCK ROOT (Arcticum lappa) - Well known as a blood detoxification agent and eaten as a vegetable known as Gobo in oriental cuisine, Burdock root is available throughout the U.S. It is used for skin eruptions and dry scaly skin conditions. Burdock is also used as a digestive stimulant and to lower blood sugar. Its seed is used as a diuretic and kidney tonic. The root is now found in supermarkets and can be cooked as a vegetable or made into a decoction. Fresh plant fluid extracts of the root and seed arealso available in health food stores.

COMFREY LEAF/ROOT (Symphytum officinalis) - Comfrey should be grown as a house plant in every home. Like Aloe, it is a natural herbal bandaid, useful for cuts, scrapes and burns. It is styptic, which means that it will stop bleeding. Commonly known as "knit-bone," it stimulates tissue regeneration. Used externally as a poultice, it helps heal bone fractures and deep wounds. Recovery rate is accelerated with use of this fresh plant poultice on muscle, tendon and ligamentous injuries. Thoroughly cleanse the wound with an antiseptic first, because Comfrey is so quick to regenerate the tissue that it will seal over the wound with the bacteria still inside.

DANDELION ROOT (Taraxacum officinalis) - Dandelion is naturally high in potassium, making it a safe diuretic, increasing the ability to eliminate waste products through the urinary channels. It helps restore kidney function and relieves liver and spleen congestion. It is extremely beneficial as a spring tonic which stimulates sluggish liver function. The root should be made into a strong decoction, which means that it should be cut into smallpieces and simmered in a glass or enamel vessel for at least 10 minutes before straining and drinking. The fresh plant fluid extract can also be used. set 20-30 drops into a cup of hot water and drink as a tea.

ECHINACEA ROOT (Echinacea angustifolia) - A powerful immune stimulant, Echinacea has become increasingly popular in recent years. Its antiseptic and anti-viral properties are used for sore throats, flu, colds, infections and allergies. It also has tumorinhibiting properties. The most potent form is a fresh plant fluid extract, however, medicinal benefit can also] be derived by mixing a decoction, as explained under Dandelion.

GARLIC BULB (Allium sativum) - Best known for its antibiotic effect, garlic bulbs or the milder garlic greens can be eaten raw at the onset of a cold or flu. A small piece of bread may be necessary to make the spicyness more palatable. You can growgarlic greens by planting the bulbs in a 4-inch-deep pot, and trimming them to use in salads or stir fry dishes. Garlic oil is effectively used for ear infections. It is easily made by finely chopping enough fresh organic garlic bulbs to fill a jelly jar, and covering them with organic olive oil. Cover the jar with cheesecloth held on with a rubber band. Let the mixture sit in a warm room for a week or a sunny window for several hours (if youneed it right away). Strain the oil and store it in an amber glass jar. The warmed oil is then placed in the ear and plugged with a cotton ball. Leave in overnight and treat nightly until the infection is gone. This therapy is not to be used in cases of eardrum perforation. A wonderful garlic cough syrup can be made by simmering freshly chopped garlic in apple cider vinegar for 10 minutes. Strain the resulting liquid, add honey and simmer down until the mixture is thick and syrupy. The vinegar neutralizes the garlic taste, making it much more tolerable, yet preserving the antibiotic effect.

GINGER ROOT (Zinziber officiale) - Ginger has a carminative effect, which means that it will help relieve digestive problems which result in gas formation. It is also a diaphoretic, used both as a tea and added to a soaking bath to stimulate sweatingand reduce fevers. In cases of abdominal menstrual cramping, a ginger fomentation can be made. A fomentation is prepared by slicing 1-3 large roots into a half gallon of water and simmering in a covered pan for at least 30 minutes. A cotton cloth is then dipped in the mixture, wrung out (wear rubber gloves, it's hot!) and applied to the abdomen as hot as can be withstood. Two folded bath towels are placed on top to help maintain the heat of the fomentation as the therapy progresses. Internally, 1/4 teaspoon of ginger or one dropperful of the fluid extract can be added to 1 cup of warm water to alleviate nausea/morning sickness/motion sickness and to aid digestion.

KELP (Nereocystis leutkeana) The kelp family, which includes kombu, wakame, arame and hijiki, is known for its ability to combat the effects of radiation in the body. Radioactive strontium-90, one of the more prevalent sources of radiation, isstored in our bones, and contributes to long term diseases such as leukemia, bone cancer, Hodgkins disease, anemia, and decreased production of red and white blood cells. The sodium alginate found in the kelp family binds with the radioactive isotope in the gastrointestinal tract and forms an insoluble gel like salt called strontium alginate, which is safely excreted in the feces. (For more information on radiation detoxification, see Fighting Radiation with Foods, Herbs and Vitamins, by Steven Schechter, ND. Kelp is recommended as a daily addition to the diet.)

ST. JOHN'S WORT (Hypericum perforatum) - The extract and oil are used externally for bruises, strains, sprains, contusions and wounds. The extract is used internally as an immune system stimulant, for retro-viral infections, as an expectorant and anti-bacterial. It speeds the healing of wounds and burns and aids the regeneration of damaged nerve tissue. It is used as an anti-depressant and to treat bed wetting and children's nightmares. It is also known as Klamath weed, a common pasture plant, and is found throughout the U.S.

VALERIAN ROOT (Valeriana officinalis) - Valerian is classed as a nervine and sedative with mild pain relieving properties, which makes it a good candidate for stress, anxiety and restless insomnia. It has also been used for intestinal colic, menstrual cramps, migraine headache, and rheumatic pain. Although it smells like well used socks, the extract and tea are both recommended.

It is vitally important to properly identify the plant you are harvesting before you use it. Forest Service visitor centers carry plant identification books for their region, and the Petersen Field Guide series plus a range of medicinal plant hand books are also sources of botanical identification. Most of these books can be found in local bookstores. It is wise to take classes or go with an experienced guide when you are in the early learning stages. Herbs are precious natural resources, and should be ecologically harvested. The following guidelines for harvesting help insure herb potency and purity and help preserve the species for further enjoyment.

Medicinal herbs should be:

1) Gathered in the proper season. General rules are: Barks in the spring; leaves before the plant flowers; flowers on the first day of opening; roots are best in the fall (although they are sometimes harvested in spring, previous to aerial plant development).

2) Gathered in wild habitats where the plants naturally grow or should be organically grown according to certification standards established by the state in which they were harvested.

3) Harvested in an area free of chemical/industrial pollution of air, water and soil.

4) Gathered at least 1/4 mile from any traveled roads, and at least 10 miles from any waste disposal or toxic dumping areas.

5) Protected from over-harvesting by leaving at least 3/4 of the stand intact for reproduction and continuance of the species. If roots are dug, root crowns and seeds must be replanted to perpetuate the growth and proliferation of the plant.

Even if you only learn to use a few of these simple herbs it should be of great benefit to you.