Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tumeric for Allergy/Sinus + Health Drink

A while back I posted on Earth Clinic's January newsletter. In that, there was a lady who said that a daily dose or two of tumeric in water helped cure her awful sinus problem, which lead in her case to migraine headaches. Since I'm prone to both awful sinus issues as well as migraines, I started using the tumeric in water. But I was already taking a "health drink" so I added the tumeric to is. Here's what I take: In a glass of water, 6-8 oz, I add 2 T of apple cider vinegar, a tsp of brewer's yeast, tsp of diatomaceous earth, and a heaping tsp of psyllium husks. To that I now add a tsp of tumeric and a drop or two of Iosol Iodine (an iodine nutritional supplement).

Since I've added the tumeric, my sinus problem--nasty post nasal drip, tickly throat, massive buildup of phlegm in my system, etc.--has cleared up. For the most part. I still get the sniffles and have to blow my nose, but that is not a problem. Very interesting, and what a blessing! That allergy/sinus thing was driving me nuts.

So, if you've got some nagging physical problem, you might want to check up on it at Earth Clinic and see if there is some simple, inexpensive already-in-your-kitchen spice or herb you could use. In all my reading there, I've seen very little that could harm you, and quite a bit that could help!

Keep in mind that this is not medical advice. This is just kitchen advice. :) Even though we have the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, the FDA feels competent to regulate speech that might interfere with the profits made by Big Pharma and Big Medicine. The FDA has not approved of this message, and probably won't in our lifetimes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More on Planting by the Signs

In Foxfire's first volume, there's a chapter on Planting by the Signs. I've posted about this already. In that chapter, there is a really neat chart from T.E. Black's Lifetime Planting, Business and Fishing Guide: Information in regards to everyday affairs compiled from 13 years experience. While I cannot reproduce the chart in this post, here's a few tidbits to help you get a little more info:

3rd Sign, Gemini, The Arms
This is an Air sign. I find it one of the second best signs for planting and transplanting All Crops, root crops and crops that bear above the ground. Favors talking things over with people. Also favors making jelly, preserves and pickles.

1st Sign, Aries, The Head
Known as a very fiery sign. Hot, dry and barren. Very good for planting beets, onions and tobacco. Not good for planting and transplanting other crops. Favors welding, getting hair waved, all cooking, making preserves, pickles and jelly. Also destroying weeds and bushes. Good for hunting, fair for fishing.

2nd Sign, Taurus, The Neck
An Earth Sign. No. 1 for all root crops. Peanuts, potatoes, and etc. Transplanting all plants, second best for all crops bearing above the ground and all flowers. Favors buying, attend sales, deal with creditors. Very good for fishing, making pickles and canning.

4th Sign, Cancer, The Breast
A Water Sign. No. 1 top sign for all flowers, planting and transplanting all crops that bear above the ground. When I say bear above the ground I mean cotton, corn, cane, tobacco, peas, beans, peppers, watermelons, squash, cucumbers, okra, wheat, rye, oats and etc. all cover crops, all grasses, all leaf crops. This sign also No. ! for all root crops. Biddies hatched in this sign for laying hens, pigs born for males and brood sows. Good for all cooking, changing jobs, momving, cut hair to stimulate growth. Good for fishing, making potato beds and seed beds.

6th Sign, Virgo, The Bowels
An Earth sign. Doesn't favor planting nor transplanting no crops. Barren sign, but very good for business.

8th Sign, Scorpio, The Loins
This is known as a Water Sign. No.1 for all crops that bear above the ground. Also for flowers. Second best for all root crops. When I root crops, I mean all potatoes, peanuts, chuffas, onions, beets, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, etc. Setting out plants, biddies for laying hens, pigs for males and brood sows. Set out fruit trees. Flower bushes and vines. Good for fishing and hunting.

10th Sign, Capricornus, The Knees
Known as an Earth Sign. No. 1 for all root crops. Second best for all flowers. All crops that bear above the ground, all transplanting. Pull teeth, mark hogs, prune trees and vines. Good for business. Fair for fishing. Canning.

12th Sign, Pisces, The Feet
Water Sign. No. 1 for planting and transplanting above-ground crops. And all flowers. Second best sign for all root crops. Biddies hatched for laying hens, pigs for brood sows. Best for pulling teeth, makring hogs, prune and set out trees, bushes and vines. Good for fishing. Wean babies and animals.

11th Sign, Aquarius, The Legs
Air sign. Very good for planting crops that bear above the ground. Except that seeds are apt to rot. This is a friendly sign. Exchange ideas, seek help from friends, favors dealing with all types of people in all types of business. Favor sports and pleasure.

5th Sign, Leo, The Heart
Fire Sign. Barren Sign favors no planting nor transplanting. Good for destroying bushes and weeds and deading trees. It favors sports, pleasure, love and romance. Ask for jobs. Good for hunting. Get hair waved, baking cakes.

7th Sign, Libra, The Kidneys
Air Sign very good for crops that bear above the ground. Favors friendship and business.

9th Sign, Sagittarius, The Thighs
This is a Fire Sign, fairly good for planting onions and cucumbers. Favors all business affairs. Ask for jobs, deal with lawyers, judges and bankers, work on future plans. Good for hunting. Get hair waved, bake cakes, make candy, preserves, jelly and pickles. Don't transplant anything.

At The Gardener's Calendar, you can always check to see both the phase of the moon (which quarter, waxing, etc.) and the moon sign. So check first, then pull those teeth! :)

And if any of you are going to try planting by the signs this year, keep in touch and let us all know how it turns out. I'll be reporting on my success and failures here as well.

The Lord Giveth, and the Lord Taketh Away . . .

Just want to let you all know that my computer was attacked by a nasty virus. I thought I had a strong virus protection program, but apparently it disappeared. So, bereft of protection, I got hit. That's why I haven't been blogging lately. Today, I'm writing this on my husband's new-ish computer. Yep, his computer was a goner too and he was out a computer for a couple of weeks. A new friend then generously donated a computer to him, one not new, but nevertheless a nice machine.

What a winter. Car Crash, car's a goner. We were down to just my brother's van. Then it had mechanical problems and was stuck over at someone's house for nearly a week. We finally found a friend to get the van working again, but today the roads are very icy and naturally we got it stuck on the ice (on a hill). Jeez!

I'm learning strongly this winter to do without. For two weeks around Christmas time, a pipe in our building sprung a leak and we had to turn the water off to an apartment upstairs from us, our bathroom, and my brother's room downstairs. So we went without functioning (easily flushed) toilets for two weeks. We hauled water from our kitchen sink in a five gallon bucket to manually flush the toilet. And I was glad we could do that! No running water at all would have been a REAL pain. As it was, it was tiresome and inconvenient, but we could do it. We gritted our teeth and did it.

Items, customs we're used to, convenience, all these things I'm learning that I can do without. The trick is how to remain relatively cheerful and non-complaining while doing without. Grumbling or getting angry does not help the problem; it makes it much worse. It is worse because with a complaining attitude, you focus on the problem so much more than if you simply accepted it and went about your business. I've learned to give thanks to the Lord for all of our blessings. And one of those blessings is learning ahead of time how to do without. If you can learn this trick of ACCEPTANCE IS CONTENTMENT before the coming collapse, crash, or depression, then you will adjust to your situation much better.

Daniel Wright, the man who founded the valley community we live in, had Acceptance is Contentment carved into the mantel over his hand-built fireplace. I've learned the wisdom of that statement this winter. No car? We'll work around it. Broke-down car? Ditto. No flushable toilets (without hauling water)? We've got a five-gallon bucket and running water elsewhere. No sweat. AND I was grateful that I didn't have to haul that water out of the pond!! Items getting lost or disappearing? Make something else do what that item did. No sour cream for a recipe? Make some by adding vinegar to cream, or as I did, to ricotta cheese. It won't be quite the same, but it will do.

In his wise and witty blog, Dimitri Orlov suggests that Americans should learn this semi-detached attitude in order to deal with the slow collapse of their standard of living, and indeed, the collapse of their country and the world as we all knew it. The "American Dream" is gradually turning into the American Nightmare. Rather than a rude and panicky awakening to this reality, learn to deal with it now, slightly ahead of everyone else. If you can let go of stuff, of convenience, of your expectations of what life should be, then you will be much happier and better adjusted to whatever our new reality will be. Most of all, make the effort to enhance your attitude. Accept what IS, and learn to be content with it. Cheerfully.

Why? I'll tell you: it is simply a helluva lot less stressful. Major unaddressed stress can and will make you sick and even kill you. Over time, if not quickly. Adjust your attitude, adjust your expectations, learn to do without and still be cheerful, if not happy. You will not only live longer and better, your companions will love you for it. All of us prefer being with positive folks and we tend to avoid negative complainers and other unpleasantness.

OK, enough sermonizing for today. I will blog when I can, so please stay tuned. And I'll try lots of home remedies to help my computer get over the virus. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Foxfire: Planting by the Signs

This is all excerpted from Foxfire, called The Foxfire Book. I believe it was the first one, published back in 1972. My copy cost $3.95 new back then, if that tells you anything about inflation. :)

Anyway, this is from a chapter called Planting by the Signs. There are a couple of charts that I can't reproduce here, unfortunately. I'll try, but can't guarantee anything on one of them.

Sign Symbol Body Part Planet Element
Aries Ram Head Mars Fire
Taurus Bull Neck, Throat Venus Earth
Gemini Twins Arms, Chest Mercury Air
Cancer Crab Breast, Stomach Moon Water
Leo Lion Heart, Back Sun Fire
Virgo Virgin Bowels Mercury Earth
Libra Balance Kidneys Venus Air
Scorpio Scorpion Loins Mars Water
Sagittarius Archer Thighs Jupiter Fire
Capricornus Goat Knees Saturn Earth
Aquarius Waterman Legs, Ankles Uranus Air
Pisces Fish Feet Neptune Water

OK, well I just took at look at the Preview function, and the charts a mess to read. But if you read across the first line, you see the headings: Sign, Symbol, Body Part, etc. The signs line up under that and you can sort of read it. Best I can do here I guess.

Here we go. Begin Excerpt.

How it Works
Every day of the month is dominated by one of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Each of the twelve appears at least once a month, and then for a period of either two or three days. All good planting calendars label each day with the sign that rules over it (depending on which constellation is foremost in the sky at that time), the part of the body and the planet associated with the sign, and the element it is most closely akin to. The chart (above) summarizes this information. The signs always appear in sequence, beginning with the Ram or Head and working their way down to Pisces, the Fish or feet. Following Pisces, the Ram appears beginning a new sequence.

Each of the signs is known as being either masculine, feminine, airy, dry, barren, fiery, earthy, moist, watery, fruitful, or very fruitful. In general, any activity that requires a dry atmosphere, such as painting, should be done in one of the dry signs; and an activity requiring moisture, such as some planting, should be done on one of the moist or fruitful signs.

The best time, of course, to conduct any activity is when a day falls on both an ideal sign and a good phase of the moon.

Over the years, a most specific set of rules has grown up around the zodiac which governs such activities as planting and harvesting. These rules take into account both the sign governing the day and the phase of the moon on that particular day. At the beginning of the planting season, for example, the farmer consults his calendar, picks out one of the fourteen favorable days that occurs every month, and plants only on one of these fourteen "fruitful" days. Should he miss and plant his crops on one of the unfruitful days, his crops will not produce at half their ability, say the believers. T. E. Black even goes so far as to say that a few hours can make the difference between success and failure, and many of his followers agree.

The Rules
The following rules were gathered both from interviews (with the older folks in the community), and wide reading. They do not represent a complete set, but they should serve to give the reader a good idea as to the nature of this system. We also included rules for butchering, cutting hair, killing weeds, pulling teeth, and others to give some grasp of the scope of the subject.

Planting---Planting is best done in the fruitful signs of Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, or Cancer (when the signs are in the loins, feet, neck, or breast).
Plow, till and cultivate in Aries.
Never plant anything in one of the barren signs. They are good only for trimming, deadening, and destroying.
Always set plants out in a water or earth sign.
Graft just before the sap starts to flow, while the moon is in its first or second quarter, and while it is passing through a fruitful watery sign or Capricorn. Never graft a plant on Sunday as this is a barren, hot day (the sun's day).
Plant flowers in Libra, which is an airy sign that also represents beauty. Plant them while the moon is in the first quarter unless you need the seeds, in which case use the period between the moon's second quarter and full.
Corn planted in Leo will have a hard, round, stalk and small ears.
Crops planted in Taurus and Cancer will stand drought.
Plant beans when the signs are in the arms (Gemini).
Root flower cuttings, limbs, vines, and set out flower bushes and trees in December and January when the signs are in the knees and feet.
Never transplant in the heart or head as both these signs are "Death Signs." (Aries and Leo)
If you want a large vine and stalk with little fruit, plant in Virgo "bloom days."
Don't plant potatoes in the feet. If you do, they will develop little nubs like toes all over the main potato. The best time is a dark night in March.
Plant all things which yield above the ground during the increase or growing of the moon, and all things which yield below the ground (root crops) when the moon is decreasing or darkening.
Never plant on the first day of the new moon, or on a day when the moon changes quarters.
In the fourth quarter turn sod, pull weeds, and destroy.

Reaping and Harvesting
Pick fruit like apples and pears in the old of the moon while it is decreasing or shrinking. This will cause the bruised spots and blemishes to dry up rather than rot. They will rot if the fruit is picked on the increase or rising of the moon, or on the new moon.
Harvest most crops when the moon is growing old. This will cause them to keep better and longer.
Dig root crops for seed in the third quarter of the moon. They will keep longer and are usually drier and better.
Gather root crops in the last quarter of the moon when the signs are in the knees or feet.
Can vegetables, cook preseves and jelly, and make pickles in the right sign during the last quarter of the moon.

Cut timber in the old of the moon. It will dry better and not become worm-eaten.
Set fence posts in the old of the moon to prevent loosening.
The part of your body governed by a particular sign is more sensitive when the moon is in that sign. People with heart trouble, for example, will have more trouble in Leo's sign, and lovers are more successful at this time. In Taurus (throat) an operation on this part of the body will be unsuccessful. Conversely, if tonsils are removed and teeth pulled when the signs are in the knees or feet, there is less soreness, loss of blood, and danger of infection. You can easily figure out others for yourself.
Paint houses or cars in a dry sign like Leo or Aries.
Wean a child or animal when the moon is in a sign that does not rule the vital parts of the body (Capricorn, Pisces, Sagittarius).
Set eggs to hatch in a fruitful sign like Cancer. The chicks will mature faster and be better layers.
Quit habits on the second day that the moon is in Sagittarius, or on the new moon, or in Pisces.
If you cut your hair in Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius, or Pisces, it will grow stronger, thicker, and more beautiful.
Purge will pills in Pisces and with liquids in Sagittarius.
Bake and cook in Aries.
Hunt in Taurus.
Lay foundations in Capricorn.
Don't nail shingles or boards on the growing side of the moon, or the ends will draw up and curl and go crooked.
Destroy weeds, kill trees, turn sod in the barren signs of Gemini, Leo or Virgo (especially if the moon is in the last quarter).
Slaughter while the signs are in the knees or feet, and in the last quarter of the moon.

************************************ End Excerpt.

Hmmmmm. Guess if I really want to do this, I'll need to get my hands on the Old Farmer's Almanack. You can find the Ol' Farmer's Almanac online, and Best Days info here. You can find more info on planting by moon signs at the Gardener's Calendar. Keep in mind that this is a UK website, so the info on planting in January may not work for where you live. :) Me, I'm going to get a copy of the Old Farmer's Almanac, so I can have the info at my fingertips if the Web goes down. I'm very curious to see if this works as well as I think it might.

The Foxfire book then goes on to talk about those who believe (older mountain people, etc.) and those who don't (agricultural school grads, etc.) but it is an ancient "science" handed down wisdom from our ancestors and we might just want to give them a listen these days. Obviously, our new-fangled shiny knowledge has been enough to really screw up the world as we know it. Might as well listen to other folks who just might know better after all.

I'll be looking into this more. If any of y'all have any other info or good websites or books, please let me know via email or comments. Thank you!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Planting by the Signs

I've got a question for you all out there. Does anyone out there and reading this blog know anything about planting by the moon signs, i.e., whether the moon is waxing toward full or waning toward new moon. Or planting such and such when the moon is in Cancer or Taurus, etc. Foxfire 1 has a fascinating article on it (which I'll share excerpts from one of these days), and I'm thinking I want to plant our garden by the signs this summer, see if this stuff works.

You see, the moon goes through a bunch of moon signs every month--hell, maybe all of them for all I know right now. As you can probably tell, I'm about to research this in depth, but haven't done so yet. And I'm curious. Some of the mountain folk in Foxfire swore by it, others say it is old wives tales. It'd be interesting to know if it does work, because if it does, it sure could improve garden productivity and yield. Anyway, any of you have any experience with this?

I'll try to post the Foxfire info tomorrow to let you all know a bit more about what I'm talking about. Thanks!

Earth Clinic's posts on Tumeric

A while back I signed up for Earth Clinic's randomly appearing newsletter, and recently one showed up in my mailbox. There were two interesting reader-supplied commentaries on tumeric. I thought I'd share them with you.

Earth Clinic is a site that takes in home remedies that are supplied by readers from around the world. It's a great website to research some of these cheap but effective home remedies. I've written about some of the home cures from Earth Clinic in the past. This is another one like that. Anyway, tumeric. I've never gotten into Indian cooking much so I haven't used much tumeric in my cooking, though that may change! I've used it not only for its flavor, but many times also for it's lovely yellow coloring of foods, especially rice dishes. After reading all I have about tumeric as a medicine, I'll probably start using it a lot more.

Here's the two threads on tumeric from the EC January newsletter:


07/08/2009: Chris from Dighton, MA writes: "I use 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegarin 5 oz. of water per day.I also use 1 teaspoon of turmeric in 5 oz. of water per day.*I had extreme diarrhea, it has gone away.

*My stomach upsethas gone away.

* My blood pressure was 145/90, now it is 120/80.

*I had cholesterol of 260. HDL of 42 and LDL of over ahundred. It is now 190 total and a HDL of 89 and LDL of 100.

* My lower back pain is gone.* My long distance eye sight has come back and I no longer need glasses.*

My tinnitus is still with me though. I am 68 years old."

And the other, which is longer and more interesing:


06/08/2009: Pcline from Springfield, Ohio writes:
"Turmeric has controlled almost all of my health issues! I am amazed! It was given to me by a relative when I fell on the ice, to prevent swelling and inflammation in my injured knee, and while it appeared to make a difference (I continued to be able to walk, and the pain and swelling abated quickly) the most wonderful thing that emerged was that I realized about a week later that the my whole sinus/allergy issue was clearing up. I had been taking at least one Zyrtec and often either more Zyrtec or other sinus medication every day for over 18 years to keep the ever-lurking migraine away. I could not have gone more than 24 hours without taking the Zyrtec or a headache would start creeping up and my sinuses would begin to swell shut. First I saw, after taking turmeric for about a week, that I did not need any "back-up" medication, then I tried missing a Zyrtec, and to my complete amazement, I felt GREAT! No headaches!I can breathe! I cannot believe it.

I take at least a heaping teaspoon of turmeric (from the spice section of the grocery, although I am looking for it in bulk now) stirred in water as soon as I get up, and one in the evening. If I begin to feel any swelling during the day, such as when I am exposed to household dust, I take another teaspoon right away, and it eliminates the "headache creep". I stay ahead of the allergies this way, but if I cannot get turmeric when the swelling starts, and it begins to cause headaches, when I can get to the turmeric, I may have to take several teaspoon doses before it alleviates, leaving a half-hour or so before I take each additional dose, but IT WORKS! It has ALWAYS EVENTUALLY WORKED. I have not had to take more than three additional doses to stop what used to be RAGING migraines, causing me to have to go to bed and be debilitated for hours afterward.

I feel marvelous, but the additional benefits have been that I realize that my arthritis in my knees is all but gone! I can walk up stairs most of the time without noticing any discomfort at all! Finally, most astonishingly, I (and everyone I know who has begun to take this) have begun to LOSE WEIGHT! I determined after a bout of intestinal virus to eat less food at a time. (After all, I had not been able to eat anything for 3 days, so this was a good time to break a habit) This was just before I started taking turmeric. With the addition of the turmeric, I feel, I was able to eat less. Nothing else has ever made a difference in my being able to eat less and not feel ravenous and deprived. In just over 3 months, I have lost 48 pounds!!!! And I feel energetic, fabulous, lively and alert! I cannot say what actual physical role turmeric plays as a weight loss aid, but I don't care. I am 53 years old and feel better than Ihave in YEARS!

I have begun to try turmeric on everything that occurs. I got a spider bite and it began to itch and sting immediately. I washed it right away and put a band-aidwith moistened turmeric on it and in minutes, the pain and itch left, no sign of any bite. My family jokes that I would try to revive the dead by sprinkling some turmeric on them, but I cannot believe what a difference just taking turmeric has made with me."


End of excerpts. Now, keep in mind that no home remedy works for everyone. There's no guarantees here, but if you start reading some of this information, you may want to try some of these yourself (and send your comments to Earth Clinic while you're at it). But for me, I'm certainly willing to give many of these home cures a try. After all, they're usually far cheaper than anything doctor-prescribed, many of them involve items you probably already have in your kitchens, and they're usually easy to administer to yourself. And with the hideous monster "health" bill working its way through Congress's ugly intestinal process, we'll all need safe and effective remedies we can use when no one can ever afford allopathic medical care again. As P.J. O'Rourke says, "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free!"


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Make Your Own Witch Hazel Extract

Someone had dropped off a bunch of old herb magazines at the barn. We use old magazines and newspapers to light fires in the wood furnace there. Anyway, Fred grabbed a bunch of them for me and I've been enjoying reading them. This recipe for Witch Hazel Tonic is from The Herb Quarterly (Winter 1994).

First, here's a few paragraphs from the accompanying article on Witch Hazel:

Witch Hazel has a long history of medicinal use, primarily as an antiseptic and an astringent. The herb was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia of 1882, and it was still listed in the National Formulary as late as 1955. Native Americans applied the leaves and bark as a poultice on painful swellings and tumors and to reduce inflammation. According to James Duke (Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, 1989), the fresh leaves are highly astringent, and were used in tea form by the Cherokee "for colds, fevers, periodic pain, sore throat, and tuberculosis, and to wash sores and wounds." Other tribes used the herb to treat bruises, scratches, bad backs, and sprains, and in a steam bath to relieve rheumatism.

Many of these treatments passed on to the American colonists. In the 19th century, witch hazel extracts of various kinds were used internally and externally to treat myriad conditions, among them burns, diarrhea, dysentery, inflammation, phlebitis, wounds, and ulcers. Witch hazel is still used externally to treat hemorrhoids and varicose veins, and very dilute distilled witch hazel can be used in eye lotions.

Pure witch hazel extract, available in many drugstores and supermarkets, is the most frequently used form of the herb--more than a million gallons are sold each year. Useful as an antiseptic, astringent, or make-up remover, and even providing relief from hermorrhoidal pain and bleeding, it is a all-purpose first-aid lotion and cosmetic aid.


Witch Hazel is an oddball shrub. It flowers from October to April, when all other shrubs and trees lose their leaves. The leaves turn yellow in the autumn and stay that way throughout the winter. "Witch hazel flowers have four-inch long golden-yellow strap-shaped petals that are tinged with red at the base." Hamamelis virginiana is an attractive shrub. You might want to get a tree/shrub identification book and see if you can find some near you. I know of two of them in the valley here, but hadn't thought to harvest any of the twigs. If I can still ID these two to my satisfaction, then I'll see about making some of the following extract. You can see images of witch hazel bushes by using Google images and typing in witch hazel. Sometimes that can help you ID what you are looking for.

Here's the recipe:

Although the Pilgrims' tonic is not as potent as the commercial extract, you can follow this easy recipe to have fun brewing your own witch hazel remedy:
  • Prune one pound of fresh twigs from shrubs as soon as they have flowered. This practice produces the strongest tonic.
  • Strip off the leaves and flowers (save these for sachets) and chop the twigs into a coarse mulch using either a mechanical mulcher or pruning clippers.
  • Place the chopped twigs into a two-gallon stainless steel pot.
  • Cover the twigs with distilled water (available at the supermarket) and bring the contents to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, then cover and cook for at least eight hours; add water as needed to cover the mulch.
  • Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • Pour the witch hazel tonic through a funnel containing a cheesecloth filter and into clean plastic squeeze bottles or other suitable, tightly-capped containers.
  • Use the tonic within a week unless it is kept refrigerated. You can preserve your tonic for long-term room temperature storage by adding nine ounces of vodka or grain alcohol to 23 ounces of tonic. Yield: one gallon.

Warning: Do NOT use internally! Keep out of the reach of children.

I don't know about you, but witch hazel is one of those common household things I've always kept around. I use my commercial witch hazel extract to clean my skin at times. Or, in summer when I tend to sweat, I use it on my face. Or I swab my armpits with it to kill the bacteria there (I don't use deodorants). Also good for cleaning wounds, etc. It's useful stuff and I'll enjoy making my own.



Witch Hazel on FoodistaWitch Hazel

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sassafrass Wine

Sassafrass Wine? Whoever heard of such a thing! Sassafrass tea, yes. Sassafrass as a flavoring for root beers, sure. But sassafrass wine?

Well, yes, Matilda. And it is good stuff (or at least I like it :). Last spring I dug a lot of sassy roots. I love the tea, and found the recipe for the wine over at Jack Weller's amazing wine-making page. I won't bother to copy the recipe over here; just click on the link and you'll come to the recipe.

Wine-making isn't difficult to do, although getting a really fine wine takes time and some effort and good ingredients. I made about 10 gallons of different kinds of wine last spring/summer. Now that it is January, it was time to taste and enjoy at least some of them. When I first tasted my sassafrass wine (probably a month or two into the process) it didn't taste very good. With these 7 months later, though, it has mellowed into a really tasty wine (once you get over the surprise of a wine tasting like sassafrass). I've been enjoying a glass every once in a while. I also made wines from nettles, strawberries, blueberries, raisins, dandelion flowers, peaches, and a few others I can't remember at the moment. All of them using the recipes at Jack Keller's page. And some of them turned out better than others.

Jack Keller has some recipes for wines made out of the strangest things. He's also a forager and enjoys making wines from wild plants and herbs. Here's a few of those I thought rather odd, but definitely fun to make. Wines from turnips, ginger root, eggplant, jalapenos, corn, chicory, leeks, even garlic wine. It's a very interesting page overall. Check out his list of requested recipes. What a hoot! And yes, the sassafrass wine is very tasty. Wish I could share a glass with all of you!



Herbs for Cold and Flu Season

I happened to see this article in an old magazine in some waiting room I was in. Thought I'd share bits of it with y'all. There's a bunch of good herbal allies herein.

15 Natural Remedies for the Season

Echincea (echinacea pupurea and e. augustifolia)
A go-to herb for colds, echinacea may help support your immune system to fight viruses. The root, leaves and flowers are all medicinal. To Use: Take 1/2 teaspoon of tincture every two hours until symptoms are gone. Echinacea also comes in tea bags.

Elderberry (sambuca nigra)
As a syrup (elderberry's classic form) this remedy is tasty and effective. European studies have shown it to be helpful for seasonal flus (talk to your doctor before using it of H1N1 or swine flu). To Use: Follow package directions for the syrup at the first sign of symptoms.

Goldenseal (hydrastis canadensis)
For short-term use only, goldenseal can help to clear up bacterial infections and restore the respiratory system lining after a bad cold. To Use: Goldenseal is very bitter so stick to tinctures or capsules. Use small does of this potent herb. Safety Note: Pregnant women and those with hypertension should not use goldenseal.

Astragalus (astragalus membranceus)
Astragalus, which has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine, may help to strengthen the body against illness when used over time. To Use: Take astragalus in tincture or capsule form thought the cold and flu season. You can also incorporate dried astragalus slices into soups or rice; remover the astragalus before serving.

Eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus)
With antibacterial and expectorant properties, eucalyptus can loosen congestion and help you breathe easier. To Use: Pour near-boiling water into a pot. Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil, turn off the heat, and drape a towel over your head and the pot. Breathe for five minutes. Safety Note: Do not use essential oils internally.

Eleuthero (eleutheroccus senticocus)
Also known as Siberian ginseng, this well-studies herb can help your body resist the effects of stress and boost your immune system. To Use: Take in tincture or sapsule form, or make an immunity chai by blending eleuthero with cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Simmer for 20 minutes and strain; drink two or three cups daily.

Mullein (verbascum thapus)
Mullein's expectorant and soothing properties make it a cough treatment supreme. To Use: For coughs, try mullein tea. Pour a cup of boiling water over a tablespoon of mullein leaves; let steep for 20 minutes and strain. Add honey and lemon to mask the bitter taste. Treat ear infections with drops of oil infused with mullein and garlic.

Elder Flower (sumbucus nigra)
The flower form of the elder plant can induce sweating, which may help reduce fever. To Use: Look for elder in cold formulas. To make a tea, pour boiling water over a teaspoon of dried elder flowers. Steep 10 or 15 minutes then strain. Drink up to three cups per day. Or make a tea that combines elder, echinacea and a pinch of peppermint.

Ginger (zingiber officinale)
A cup of ginger tea can help ease congenstion and warm the body, which helps your immune system fight infection. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it a good sore throat remedy, too.
To Use: Simmer fresh or dried ginger for 20 minutes; strain and add a touch of honey and a squeeze of lemon, if desired. Incorporate ginger liberally into stir-frys and soups.

Slippery Elm (Ulums rubra)
A sore-throat-soother extraordinaire, slippery elm products are high in "mucilage" a substance that coats the throat and help relieves coughs. To Use: Look for slippery elm lozenges at health food stores; follow package directions. To make a tea, simmer one tablespoon dried slippery elm bark per cup of water; strain and drink.

Thyme (thumus vulgaris)
Loaded with antibacterial compounds, fresh or dried thyme is a cold-season powerhouse. To Use: use fresh or dried thyme in stews and soups. To make a steam, pour near-boiling water into a pot. Add a pinch of thyme or dried thyme, turn off heat, and create a tent by draping a towel over your head and the pot. Breathe in the steam for five minutes.

Tulsi (ocimum santcum)
Believed to boost overall health, tulsi (also known as holy basil) contains antiviral and antibacterial compounds. It may help prevent illness when used over time. To Use: Tulsi makes a delicious tea; look for it in packaged form or brew your own with loose tulsi. Aim for two to three cups daily.

Yin chiao
This centuries-old Chinese formula stars a number of immune-boosting herbs and can help ease cold symptoms such as sneezing and congestion. To Use: Use at the first sign of illness; follow package directions or consult with a TCM practitioner.

Sage (salvia officinales)
Common culinary sage can help to ease a sore throat and dry up sinuses. To Use: For a sore throat, make a strong tea. Cool to room temperature. Gargle with the mixture is gone.

Licorice (Glycyrrhica glabra)
Licorice's immune-boosting and throat-soothing properties make it an excellent addition or coughs and cold formulas. To Use: For coughs, make a tea that combines licorice and mullein leaves. Safety Note: People who have high blood pressure should avoid this herb.

End extract of article.

I imagine that many of you would have a few of these herbs in your kitchen, at least the thyme, sage and ginger. These are all good herbs for the cold and flu season. I would also up my Vitamin C, D3 and zinc intake and take a bunch of Echinacea caps. Chew up a couple cloves of garlic. You know the rest: lots of liquids (water is best), rest, stay warm and be peaceful.

Friday, January 1, 2010


My brother and I were in a nasty car wreck on Monday. We survived, thanks to seat belts and airbags, but the car didn't. I've been a safe and careful driver for 30 some years, but somehow I managed to drive into a big truck. Little car, big truck, big truck won. Now we have the fun of paying all our medical expenses out of pocket because the insurance company sneakily makes you *buy* medical expenses coverage extra, but somehow neglected to mention it to me when I purchased the coverage. Oh well. Life and learn.

I could easily get into a huge snit over this and be angry and bitter and hurt and all of that emotional tirade crap, but you know what? If you do one HUGE thing for your health and sanity, it would be to circumnavigate the swampy morass of emotional self-pity. It would ONLY hurt me if I got all angry and bitter, etc. So, I am going to focus on the positive (both Terry and I are OK, sore but OK). Getting an airbag in your face is quite an experience though, I tell you. POW, just like in the cartoons. But to my surprise the things worked and for that I am grateful!

So, no fretting. Accept what is, look at reality straight and deal with it. Our lives did not end in a bloody awful wreck and that is a huge blessing. I think--don't know what with what sounds like a horrible future coming soon to your neighborhood and mine, but I'll take whatever blessings the good Lord sends my way.

Onwards, the only direction there is,