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Pocket PoulticeFor those of you who enjoy camping, hiking, walking in the woods or just the great outdoors in general, you know that sometimes accidents happen.  I always like to carry along a few first aid items whenever I am “off the grid”.

An application that is often used in first aid situations is called a Poultice.  A Poultice or Cataplasm as it is also referred to is basically a moistened mass of plant or food materials that is applied to various areas of the body in order to impart it’s medicinal benefits and to provide relief.  There are various ways to create a poultice using either fresh or dried herbs.

One of my favorite items to carry along in my first aid pouch is what I like to call the, “Herbal Wound Healing Pocket Poultice”.  If something like this exists on the market, I am not aware of it and so therefore I created my own.  This is great if you are in an area where you are not familiar with the local plants.

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Carminative drops 4When suffering with accumulated gas, bloating or griping of the bowels we should think of the wonderful array of aromatic herbs which are often found in our kitchen cabinets.  Aromatic herbs can help dispel or prevent gas, relax the area and help to ease colic and griping of the bowels; in herbal terms this action is referred to as Carminative.

With any condition we should look to determine the root cause.  The formation of gas is natural although in excess it should be a signal to look at improving digestion.  There are a number of conditions that may be associated with excess gas formation.  For example, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when the number of “bad” bacteria in the gut outweighs the number of “good bacteria”.  Because “good” bacteria are essential for proper digestion, SIBO prevents foods from being properly digested.  Undigested foods begin to ferment and the process of fermentation leads to the formation of gas.

Certain foods may contribute to gas formation especially if digestion is poor.  The buildup of gas formation can be reduced by eliminating suspected foods.  Herbs can be wonderful adjuncts while looking for the underlying cause of excess gas.

Some examples of Carminative herbs include Anise, Black Pepper, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Clove, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Ginger, Nutmeg and Peppermint.

Here is a wonderful recipe I created which was inspired by a formula called “Confection of Pepper”, that I came across in an old herbal I was reading.  The ingredients in my formula include Black Pepper, Caraway seeds, Fennel seeds and Honey.  Aromatic Carminative drops are designed to be taken as an aid to digestion after a large meal or when there is gas, bloating, colic or griping of the bowels.  This formula may be effective as a palliative remedy for those who suffer with Irritable bowel.

Aromatic Carminative Drops

Ingredients:

½ tsp Caraway seeds (powdered)

½ tsp Black pepper (ground)

2 tsp Fennel seeds (powdered)

Honey

Combine the herbs in a small bowl and add enough honey to make a paste.  The paste can be rolled into small balls about the size of a pea and then dusted in licorice root or anise seed powder.  You can also leave this as a honey paste and just take a about 1/8 – ¼ tsp as needed.

Disclaimer:  In order to continue posting quality content I must rely on your support.  Some of the links found in this post contain affiliate links which I do receive a small compensation for when purchased through my website.

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As herbalists we can learn a lot about an herb just by tasting them.  Our sense of taste allows us to detect not only the flavor of food/plants and distinguish one flavor from another, but taste also initiates responses within the body.  Along with taste we utilize other senses which define texture, sensation and temperature.  As a mechanism for survival our sense of taste perceives the presence of minerals and poisons.   As herbalists we can use our sense of taste to help us match herbs to patterns of imbalance in the body. (more…)

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In using our senses to better hone our skills as herbalists we must also consider what we observe.  Observation is an essential tool which allows us to better understand the terrain of the individual we are working with.  We as herbalists don’t diagnose, but rather use our senses to detect subtleties or deviations from the norm.  We are looking for patterns to help define the imbalance.  For example; what type of cough does someone have; is it dry or moist, does it present with fever or chills, etc.

Another skill which is essential to our success is our ability not only to listen to our clients, but also to “hear” what they are saying.  Many times we listen to someone explaining their health concerns and it’s almost as though we get tunnel vision focusing only on one symptom or another.  However, if we are truly “hearing” what they are saying, they may intuitively give us clues as to what their bodies need. (more…)

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Energetics is basically a tool which assists the practitioner or the lay herbalist in gaining a better understanding of the actions of plants and how they can best be applied to the patterns of imbalance which manifest within people.

Energetics can be applied to both plants as well as humans. Plant Energetics is about using our senses to understand what sort of influence or “action” a plant will have within the body or how the body will respond to a particular plant. Human energetics relates to observable patterns which manifest within the body or are visible on the surface. By observing the various patterns the herbalist is able to gain insight into the state of balance or imbalance within the body. (more…)

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My little guy has come down with a cold which is accompanied by an irritable cough which was keeping him awake at night.  When he first started getting sick I figured I had better go ahead and start making preparations for the cough.   It just so happens that I have wild cherry trees (Prunus serotina ) all over my property which makes it really handy for me when making medicine.  I just love strolling out into the yard for medicine….how cool is that.

Wild Cherry bark is a wonderful simple cough remedy which is primarily indicated for irritable coughs which are keeping you up at night or creating a lot of tension.  Wild cherry bark is a relaxing expectorant and demulcent (soothes irritated tissues) which makes it rather versatile when combined with other herbs. There are numerous other herbs that can be added to the wild cherry depending on the type of cough you are dealing with.  For example, if  the cough is dry you can add Marshmallow, Slippery Elm or Licorice root.  Antimicrobials can be added if you suspect infection

I have always prepared the bark as a cold water inf usion as the properties of the plant are said to be destroyed by heat.  However, I do know of a number of folks who prepare the bark as a decoction, simmering it on low heat, and seem to have success with this method as well.  Here is a quote by William Cook in the Physiomedical Dispensatory of 1869 who writes:

“Cold water, warm water, and diluted alcohol, extract its virtues readily; but its better qualities are volatile, and are readily dissipated by heat.”

I usually harvest the bark in the fall, but I’d say anytime of the year would be appropriate if you need it for medicine.  The aroma is a good indicator of it’s potency as it will smell like almond extract when it makes for good medicine.  I usually cut off small branches with new bark so as to not harm the tree.  The bark should peel quite easily when using a sharp knife.  The peel also includes the inner bark so this is the part I use.  There are a lot of resources out there that say the bark should be dried before preparing, but I have used it fresh with no problems.  If you don’t feel comfortable using it fresh you can always dry some and use it that way.   However, I’ve only ever had to use it in small amounts.  If you have to use large doses for an extended period of time because you are not getting results than this is probably not the correct remedy.  I peel of the bark, place it in a pot or jar, completely cover it with cold water and allow that to sit for anywhere from 4-12 hours.  I find that this amount of time is adequate for extraction.

After waiting the appropriate amount of time I strain off the bark and I’m left with a wonderfully aromatic infusion which has turned a creamy yellow color.  I then mix the wild cherry infusion with half that amount of honey and several tablespoons of pure black cherry extract .  It is not necessary to add the black cherry extract, but it really does enhance the flavor and probably adds additional nutrients and antioxidants to the mixture.  Keep the mixture in the refrigerator for preservation.

I had some of the infusion left over so I will pour that into an ice tray and freeze this so that when I need a quick infusion I can just thaw out a few cubes.  I’m also going to be making a Wild Cherry elixir and tincture, but will save those recipes for another time.

I don’t want to be remiss by not mentioning that the leaves should not be used when wilted or rotten as they are said to be toxic.  I would also not use Wild Cherry for an extended period of time or in large doses such as a daily tea.

And finally, although Wild Cherry has been pigeon holed as a cough remedy it a remarkable plant indicated for a variety of conditions where there is heat, irritation, agitation and restlessness.  However, I will save that detailed discussion for some other time.

This post was shared on Wildcrafting Wednesday at Mind Body and Sole.

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I am an avid gardener and find that being in the garden really helps me to relax.  There is a great sense of satisfaction that I get from growing my own food and medicine.  We often sit at the table marveling over the fact that….”Wow…we grew this”.  I guess you could say it doesn’t take much to impress us.

There are a lot of wonderfully exotic herbs out there that are used medicinally and I have no aversion to using them.  However, there are also plants that can be easily grown in your garden and are truly magical and healing.  Many of these plants you may find in your spice cabinet and you may already be adding them to your food.

If you are just starting out with herbs I think it is so beneficial to attempt to grow some herbs so that you can observe them, taste them, use them as medicine and get a real feel for the plant.  Some really great herbs to start with are some of the culinary herbs that you find in the grocery store such as Thyme, Basil, Bay, Oregano, Mints, and Rosemary.  All of the herbs can be grown either in the garden or in containers if you are limited on space.  Depending on where you are located some other herbs which are easy to grow include Aloe, Chamomile and Calendula.  If you are interested in growing your own medicinal garden check out local resources to see what will grow in your area.

Most culinary herbs we use are very Aromatic.  Aromatic herbs are warming and dispersive which means they spread out through the system, warm things up and get things moving.  If you think about the feeling or effect you get when you inhale the fragrance from an aromatic plant it opens up your head and your respiratory system; that is the effect of dispersive and this effect occurs throughout the body as well.  The movement provided by aromatics increases digestion and peristalsis along with relieving the pain associated with cramps.  Because aromatics alleviate this resistance thereby reducing pain they are often referred to as Antispasmodics.  By reducing tension or resistance aromatics are also considered to be tonics for the nervous system and relaxing nervines.  Most aromatics are also antimicrobials meaning they are effective for a host of infections due to bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Most culinary herbs are also carminatives.  Carminatives are aromatic herbs which help to improve digestion, relieve gas, bloating and cramping.  Many carminative herbs contain volatile oils which help to disperse or create movement freeing up any stagnation that has occurred therefore allowing the body to begin its healing.

BASIL (Ocymum basilium)

An herb used for centuries in both culinary and medicinal applications, Basil is said to be both cooling and heating in its actions. Traditionally, it has been used in instances of melancholy (depression), indigestion, and for insomnia related to nervous tension. Basil is also used for conditions ranging from colds, fevers, kidney and lung troubles.

Remedies using Basil

Make a tea using basil for headaches, indigestion, fevers, colds, flu, menstrual cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

  • Apply as a poultice for bacterial infections and burns.
  • Crush leaves and apply the juice topically to help with the itch of insect bites and inflammation of the skin.
  • Use as a steam for head colds.
  • Mix the juice of the leaves with honey for coughs.

BAY (Laurus nobilis)

Many people know about adding Bay leaves to their foods while cooking.  However, many people may not know that Bay is not just added to food to impart its flavor to the dish.  Bay leaves help to prevent gas and indigestion and were originally added to food as an aid to digestion.

Bay Oil for Arthritis

  • Heat bay leaves in oil on low heat for several hours.  Strain off the oil and apply the oil to swellings, sprains, or achy, arthritic or rheumatic joints.

 CAYENNE (Capsicum anuum)

Cayenne is an herb which is high in Vitamin K making it a natural blood coagulant. With this said it can staunch the bleeding from an open wound almost immediately by just applying it topically.  Cayenne is also a wonderful digestive aid which enhances the metabolism as well as increasing circulation.

Cayenne Liniment for Arthritis:

Add one ounce of Cayenne to one quart of rubbing alcohol and shake well.  Allow the mixture to sit for 2 – 3 weeks.  Apply this liniment to affected joints.

CAUTIONS: Do not get Cayenne in the eyes. Be especially careful if you wear contacts.

DILL (Anethum graveolus)

Traditionally used for colic and gas, Dill is a great herb to grow in your medicinal garden. Dill is an annual and will self seed itself.  Another use for Dill is that it may help stimulate milk in lactating mothers.

GINGER (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger has warming, stimulating, and antispasmodic properties. It is used frequently for stomach cramps, colds, poor circulation, motion and morning sickness. Ginger is also a wonderful herb for menstrual irregularities and discomfort and helps to promote circulation. Ginger can help to relax the smooth muscles thereby helping to alleviate menstrual cramps.

Remedies using Ginger:

Cough/Cold/Flu –  Add a thumb size piece of ginger root to one quart of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer with lid on at low heat for 30 minutes.  Let the mixture cool.  Strain and drink ½ – 1 cup as desired.  May sweeten with honey.  (Do not use for a dry unproductive cough)

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Because of its calming action Oregano is a wonderful herb to help reduce tension and nervousness.  Oregano as a tea is also very beneficial for digestion, improving appetite, to relieve flatulence and bloating. When the leaves of the Oregano plant are crushed they can be applied topically to help ease rheumatic, muscle and joint pain, itching, swelling, and to ease the sting of a bee.

PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley is an outstanding herbal diuretic and may benefit those suffering from bladder and kidney problems. Also high in vitamins and minerals, Parsley is a good herb for the immune system. Eaten or drunk as a tea, Parsley is a great herb to have on hand for stomach cramps associated with gas.

PEPPERMINT (Mentha piperita)

Peppermint is another herb that is great to have on hand in the kitchen as a digestive aid. Not only is Peppermint great for nausea and flatulence but it can help to ease the stomach cramps associated with colic.

 Remedies using Peppermint:

Nausea – Steep 1 tbsp of mint leaves in 1 pint of boiling water for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool and sip on the tea as needed.

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)

A potent antiseptic, antioxidant, and antispasmodic useful in treating circulatory conditions, eczema, rheumatism, stiff muscles, Alzheimer’s, cancer, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome.

SAGE (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is a handy herb to have on hand during cold and flu season. A tea made with sage and used as a gargle can benefit someone with a sore throat. There is some research indicating that sage may help to reduce blood sugar levels and therefore benefit those with diabetes.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

This very aromatic herb can be used internally or externally and is a very powerful antimicrobial herb.  Because of it’s highly aromatic essential oils Thyme can be quite beneficial for treating respiratory troubles such as asthma, coughs, infections and allergies. Thyme also contains strong antifungal properties which make it useful for treating nail fungus, athlete’s foot, and yeast infections.

Thyme and Honey Cough Syrup

Place 3-4 tablespoons of dried Thyme in a pot along with a pint of water.  Bring herbs and water to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool.  Mix the infusion with 1 cup of honey.  Use 1 tsp as needed for coughs.  Keep refrigerated.

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