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180801030659The skin is our first line of defense when it comes to keeping pathogens at bay.  Once the barrier of the skin is broken this opens a pathway for infection.   Topical administration of herbs allows for another access route for administering herbs as well as healing the surface and reducing the risk of infection.

Hydrated skin absorbs better than dehydrated skin.   Therefore, by staying hydrated we more readily absorb substances into the skin.  When herbs are added to water and applied to the skin the water not only acts as a carrier for the herbs, but also increases absorption by helping to hydrate the skin.

Synthetic substances such as toxic chemicals and steroidal hormones are also absorbed rather easily by the skin.  These substances can put a strain on the liver as well as disrupt hormonal function.  Because of this fact we should consider using only natural substances on the skin.

Manifestations on the skin such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, lichen planus and other conditions tend to be a bit more complex.  It might be a good idea to address those kind of conditions with an herbalist in order to determine the best approach.

There are numerous topical applications that can be used not only to cleanse a wound and ease muscle tension but also help to reduce irritation, the risk of infection and expedite the healing process.

 

Herbal Washes/Soaks

An herbal wash or soak can be used to cleanse and disinfect a wound or help to stop itching and soothe irritation.  An herbal wash is merely a strong herbal infusion that is poured over the area or applied to a cloth.

For an herbal soak you can add a quart of herbal infusion to a basin of water and soak the area until it looks clean or the irritation has subsided.

To prepare an infusion for an herbal wash or soak:

1 Quart of water

1-2 cups of select herb(s)

Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the herb(s).  Allow the herbs to soak until the water is cool enough to apply to the skin.  Strain off the herbs.

The herbal infusion can be applied as needed to clean the wound or used as a soak several times a day.  Retain any unused infusion in the refrigerator to reuse for up to two days.  Discard any unused infusion after two days.

 

Compress:

A compress is often used with applications of water only.  However, herbs may be used and applied externally to a specific area of the body using a compress. Compresses can be used either warm or cool and can be used to help ease pain, spasms, sore muscles and to reduce inflammation.

Caution:  Warm compresses are never applied to an open wound.

When making an herbal compress you begin by making a strong herbal infusion like the one mentioned above.  Soak the cloth in the herb solution, wring out the excess liquid and apply the compress to the affected area.

Poultices:

Poultices are a paste produced from grinding, crushing, or chewing fresh herbs and applying them to the affected area. A poultice is used for sore muscles, bites and stings and to relieve pain and inflammation.

Making an Herbal Poultice

  1. Grind, crush or chew up fresh or dried herbs.
  2. Apply the poultice to the affected part of the body for one to eight hours. Wrap the area with plastic wrap to hold the poultice in place.
  3. Cover the wrap with flannel and apply heat if applicable.
  4. Change the poultice out frequently preventing it from drying out.
  5. Olive oil or other oils may be applied to the area prior to applying the poultice to ensure that the poultice doesn’t stick to the skin.

 

Some Herbs to Consider for Topical Applications:

 Aloe (Aloe vera)

  • Helps to reduce inflammation, expedite wound healing and is an excellent application for burns and abrasions

Arnica (Arnica montana)

  • Strains, sprains, bruises, traumatic injury; sore muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments (topical)

 Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

  • Expedite wound healing, reduce inflammation and is antiseptic. May be used for skin irritations, rashes, burns and wounds.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

  • Helps to expedite wound healing and reduce inflammation

Plantain (Plantago spp.)

  • Expedite wound healing, reduce inflammation, soothe irritation, antiseptic, antibacterial and helps draw debris to the surface of the skin

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

  • Antiseptic, antifungal, helps to staunch bleeding, helps to reduce inflammation and mild pain reliever

 

Various Poultice Applications:

Honey or Molasses – may be mixed with flour to make a paste or applied on its own for burns or scalds.

Baking Soda or Clay – prepare as mentioned above for bug bites and stings.

Cabbage Leaves (raw) – Crushed or mashed and applied for inflammations, ulcers, boils, arthritis and infections.

Potato (raw/grated) – apply to inflammations and boils.

Bread and Milk – combine the bread and milk and apply to boils and abscesses.

Corn Meal – mixed with boiling water to make a paste an applied to the chest for pleural inflammation.

Onion – lightly sauté a chopped onion until it is soft and warm and place between a gauze or other cloth.  Grease the chest and apply the poultice to the area.  Onion poultices are very effective for respiratory conditions.

Elm (Ulmus fulva, U. spp.) – Mix the powdered elm bark with warm water and apply to inflammations, swellings and ulcerations.

Mallow or Malva spp. – Chew or crush the leaves and apply to the skin to help soothe irritations.

Plantain (P. lancealota, P. major) – Chew or crush leaves and apply to area.  Plantain is fabulous for helping to draw things out of the skin such as stingers, splinters or glass.

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Stomach Problems

Digestion begins the minute we put food in our mouths. Caring for our teeth and gums is an essential part of the whole process. Digestion is the single most important factor in overall health.

Some common signs of a poorly functioning digestive system include:

  • Flatulence or belching
  • Nausea
  • Pain anywhere in the digestive tract
  • Undigested food in the stool
  • Offensive breath
  • Constipation (less than one bowel movement per day)
  • Chronic diarrhea or loose stools
  • Lethargy or depression after meals
  • Food cravings other than normal hunger
  • Lack of satisfaction after meals

Some things that effect digestion include:

  • The use of antibiotics and other medications such as NSAIDs
  • Chronic stress
  • Diets high in refined and processed foods
  • Diets low in Omega 3 and high in Omega 6 fatty acids
  • Chronic infections
  • Food intolerances
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Ways to support digestion include:

  1. Chew your food thoroughly.
  2. Relax and take time to enjoy your meals.
  3. Eat whole foods and avoid processed, packaged and refined foods.
  4. Incorporate some bitters into your diet. Bitter foods stimulate digestive secretions, which help you to improve digestion and help to improve nutrient absorption. (Think salads with bitter greens before a meal.)
  5. Avoid drinking beverages, to include water, when you are eating as these interfere with digestion by diluting digestive secretions.
  6. Avoid refined sugar. Choose healthy sweeteners to include honey or pure maple syrup.

Some Herbs that Help to Support Digestion:

Elm bark (Ulmus spp.) – helps to soothe irritated tissue

Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) – aids in soothing, toning and healing tissue as well as reducing inflammation.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) – Chamomile initially comes across as sweet, but if steeped for more than 5 minutes it takes on a certain bitterness. This bitterness helps to improve digestion, while the herb itself relaxes the digestive tract relieving cramping, spasms and reducing inflammation.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) – helps to reduce inflammation and relieve digestive tension and spasms.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – helps to reduce inflammation, relieve tension from spasms and helps to heal the tissue.

Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgaris) -reduces spasms, tension, gas, bloating and inflammation.

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – soothes tissue, reduces inflammation and tension from spasms.

Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinalis) – a traditional bitter herb that helps to stimulate digestive secretions, improves elimination and acts on the liver and gallbladder.

spoons and spices

Digestive Formula

¼ cup Coriander seeds

¼ cup Anise seeds

¼ cup Dill seeds

Brandy

Honey

Quart jar

PREPARATION:

  1. Crush the herbs, place them in a jar.
  2. Completely cover the herbs with brandy
  3. Add approximately ¼ to ½ cup of honey to the jar.
  4. Set the jar aside and allow the mixture to sit for 4 weeks.
  5. After waiting the allotted time, strain off the herbs and re-bottle.

Indicated for flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain and spasms.

Adult dose = ½ – 1 tsp in water every hour or as needed

To Learn more about supporting the body as a whole, check out my Free eBook, “The Family Herbal Formulary”. CLICK HERE

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I’m writing to you today, not for pity, but rather out of empathy for those of you who have experienced loss and trauma.  Although these may not be the answers you are looking for, sometimes it helps to know that you are not alone.  It is not until you walk in someone else’s shoes, that you can truly feel their pain.

The Event….

On September 11th, of 2017 we not only lost our home, but also lost my herbal business and apothecary to Hurricane Irma.  The loss itself was great, but the events that led up to the loss also took their toll.

On September 5th, evacuations began in Florida, siting one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic; a category 5 with wind speeds of up to 180 miles per hour.

By the morning of Sunday, September the 10th, the magnitude of the storm began to sink in.  It was at this point that we began packing up our home in North Florida, as we anxiously watched it come ashore South of us in Miami as a Category 4 with wind gusts reaching 130 mph.

We spent Sunday packing and trying to figure out what we needed to take and preparing the house and yard.  Of course, there are the basics; some cloths, toothbrush, bathroom items, herbs and the cat, etc. We even told our teenage son to, “pack as though you were never coming back here”.   And even though we had evacuated before, somehow this time seemed different.

That evening we headed to my in-law’s house, which was only about fifteen minutes away, but free from the large trees like the ones that surround our home; We all settled in for what we knew would be a long night.  At 3 am on the morning of September 11th, we were abruptly woken up by emergency phone alerts going off throughout the house.  The creek was flooding, and we had to move our vehicles.  It was about that time we heard a huge explosion and lost all power.

As the sun began coming up that morning we realized that the water had not only risen outside the banks of the creek, but it had now engulfed the whole underside of the house which stood on stilts.  We were now completely cut off from land and were basically sitting on an island watching the water rush past the house.

Throughout the morning we had cell phone service and were in constant contact with family and friends.  It was difficult to get accurate information on what was going on in the area.  One of our neighbors managed to get through to us to let us know that the creek behind our house had flooded and that it was now very close to entering the house.  Not an hour later we received a video from another neighbor…our house was under water and all she could say was…” I’m sorry…I’m so sorry”.

The Shock….

My once stoic teenage son broke down in tears as he entered our home which was still filled with several feet of water.  He was overwhelmed with the realization that we had lost everything, to include the only home he had ever known.  It was so surreal when we finally realized that we had nowhere to go that night; we no longer had a home.

And then we must pick up the pieces; to sort through the diesel fuel and stagnant water saturated things that were once our lives.    It’s a daunting and very emotional time as you discard those things one by one and recount the memories attached to each one of them.

 

Rebuilding….

After much thought and deliberation, we decided to build a small home to live in while we pulled our lives back together.  We are so fortunate to have very loving and compassionate friends and family who provided us with a place to stay, fed us, donated supplies, gifted us money and who stood by us throughout the whole process.  Family and friends rallied around us, comforting us, consoling us and taking care of the day to day tasks so that we could focus on getting a roof over our heads.  There were others who wished us well, prayed for us and those who just silently melded into the background.

Healing….

Although it has only been 4 months since our world was turned upside down, we are still standing.  Our 478 sq. ft., home is finished, and I couldn’t be more excited.  However, I still have those days where the tears just pour from my face and I wonder when the fear will pass.  When you experience such a traumatic event it really does change your whole way of thinking.  The things that seemed so important before, don’t, but there is always this underlying fear of waiting for the “other shoe to drop”.

I’m sure that as time goes by, and as we begin to heal, these feelings will diminish.  Throughout this whole process, I remain thankful for having so many wonderful people in our lives, for being alive and for having a roof over our heads.

The Future….

I realize some of you may have experienced or still may be going through traumatic events and my heart goes out to you.  All I can offer at the moment is a suggestion to be kind to yourself and realize that healing takes time.

As one who works with others to guide them through the healing process, I am currently the proverbial, “wounded healer”.  Eventually, I hope to pass on things that have helped me, but in the meantime, I’m still in the process of healing.

 

As for my office and herbal apothecary, I’m at a loss.  Because so much has gone on these last few months, I have been too overwhelmed to think about rebuilding.  However, on a positive note, I am getting ready to release some online classes that I began putting together prior to the hurricane, in the hopes of rebuilding the physical essence of, “The Black Creek Center for Herbal Studies”.  If you are interested in finding out more about my online classes, please sign up for my newsletter and I will be happy to share.

Sending Love and Well Wishes,

Natalie

 

 

 

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violet-wreathSpending time outside is something I often crave, especially during the winter months.  Today, the weather was gorgeous so I went out to harvest the most beautiful little violets from under a big oak tree that grows on our property. As I was picking the delicate little heart shaped leaves, I was joined by a bumble bee who excitedly buzzed from flower to flower gathering nectar.  What crossed my mind while sitting under that big oak tree. surrounded by those violets growing in the rich black soil, is how important it is for me to take care of this land that I harvest from.  I made sure that I left plenty of flowers so that the bees had their share and picked the leaves and not the whole plant so that the plant continues to flourish.

There are roughly 500 species of Violets (Viola spp.) that grow throughout the United States.  In my area of North Florida, I know of five different species, but only use two of those medicinally and as a food source (V. sororia, V. villosa).  It is important if you are going to harvest any plant that you make sure you have properly identified the correct genus and species.

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Another thing that occurred to me as I picked and nibbled on the flowers (leaves and flowers are edible), is how fortunate I am to have Violets growing this time of year.  During the winter, I get really dried out from the indoor heat and violet is a moistening plant which helps to counter that dryness.  Violets are a “mucilaginous” plant, which basically means when crushed or infused in cool water, it becomes slimy and gooey.   Since I’ve written about mucilaginous herbs before, I’ll just quote myself here;

“When used externally a mucilaginous herb is called an emollient and helps to soothe inflamed and irritated tissue.  When taken internally a mucilaginous herb is called a demulcent.  Either internally or externally that gooey substance will soothe irritation, help to reduce inflammation and help to stimulate the innate immune response.

If you think about conditions that are hot, inflamed, irritated and dry you can apply this action just by knowing about the benefits of mucilaginous plants.  Some examples of plants with this mucilaginous quality include Plantain, Mallow’s, some Elm species, Cinnamon (to some extent), Violets, Mullein, Okra and Comfrey.”

viola-spp-feb-2011-mb-flaViolet is a wonderful herb to use to help reduce inflammation and to soothe irritation in a host of different conditions such as constipation (lubricates the bowels), sore throats, dry coughs, red and angry looking skin conditions, etc.  As a lymphatic herb, it can help to reduce swollen glands, abscesses and has also been used topically for mastitis and fibrocystic breasts. (though I’ve not tried it for the latter two conditions).

As I mentioned, the leaves and flowers are edible and can be added to salads, vinegar, as a thickener, candied, etc.  Steeping the leaves and flowers over night helps to extract the vitamins and minerals from the plant as well as creating a tea rich in soluble fiber.  Soluble fiber has numerous benefits to include:

  • bulking up stool, increasing peristalsis and helping to ease constipation
  • slows the absorption of sugar which may benefit those with diabetes
  • creates a sense of fullness which may aid in weight loss
  • is a prebiotic food source which helps to balance out friendly flora in the gut
  • traps lipids (fats) and therefore may help to improve cholesterol levels and lipid metabolism

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One of my favorite winter tea’s is a recipe I like to call, “Violet Immersion Tea”.  Not only is this tea moistening, but it really has a great flavor which makes me enjoy drinking it throughout the winter.

Violet Immersion Tea

3 cups water

3 – 5 tbsp Violet leaves (Viola spp.) dried

1 tbsp Plantain leaves (Plantago spp.) dried

1 tbsp Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) dried

½ tbsp. Spearmint leaves (Mentha spicata) dried

Combine all herbs and pour boiling water on top.  Steep covered for 20 – 30 minutes.  You may leave this to steep longer to develop more of the mucilage which makes it even more moistening. You could also leave this until it cools completely to drink it cool or warm it back up.  Strain and enjoy.  May add a little honey for sweetness.

Another thing is that you can adjust the amount of the herbs to suit your taste. Experiment with this recipe and make it your own.

References and Additional Info:

Blankespoor, J. – http://chestnutherbs.com/violets-edible-and-medicinal-uses/

Mcdonald, J. – http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/violet-herb.html

Vaughn, K. –  http://www.henriettes-herb.com/articles/viola.html

Vickery, N. – https://thefamilyherbalist.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/celebrating-spring-with-violets/

A Modern Herbal – http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/v/vioswe12.html#med

Edible Recipes using Violets:

Violet Jelly – http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/violet-jelly.html

Candied Violets – http://userealbutter.com/2014/05/04/candied-violets-recipe/

Violet Lemonade – http://kitchenlane.com/2014/05/wild-violets-make-violet-lemonade.html

Old Fashioned Sweet Violet Syrup – http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2012/02/old-fashioned-sweet-violet-syrup-for-easter-mothering-sunday-cakes-bakes.html

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dog-breathImagine how mortified I was this past year when someone very close to me  revealed that I had developed bad breath…and… THAT IT HAD BEEN THAT WAY FOR QUITE A WHILE….”OMG…WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SOMETHING”, I asked???  Seriously, I know its a difficult subject to broach, but really folks….friends don’t let friends walk around with funky breath without saying something.

Honestly, I had no idea.  I tried that trick where you cup your hands over your mouth and nose and then breath out through your mouth and then in through your nose….nothing…I just wasn’t picking up on the funky smell that was apparently obvious to others.

First thing I did was to schedule an appointment with my dentist and regretfully found out that I had an infection developing under a crown, as well as a few pockets in my gums.  I have to admit that I haven’t always been the poster girl for flossing, but I do brush my teeth regularly and figured that would suffice.

Instead of accepting the dentists offer for very expensive topical antibiotic treatments on my gums, I decided to take a more natural approach and put together this herbal rinse.  I also went out and purchased a water pic which made a huge difference in cleaning out trapped debris from around my teeth.

After using the water pic and the rinse for 6 months, I followed up with my dentist who was just amazed.  Not only had the infection disappeared, but the gums were much healthier and the pockets had receded.  Success!!!

Now keep in mind that bad breath can occur because of other factors not associated with dental problems.  If you develop bad breath, (and you are actually aware of it because someone is kind enough to tell you) have your teeth checked to rule out dental issues.  If all is well in that department, consider that it could be associated with sinus issues such as an infection, other respiratory issues, medications, dry mouth, heavy garlic usage and even digestive issues.

The moral of this story is….as difficult as it may seem….friends….don’t let friends walk around with funky breath without saying something.

Herbal Mouth Rinse

6 ml (or 2 1/4 tsp) (Plantain tincture  (Plantago lanceolata) –  Vulnerary, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antimicrobial

6 ml Beebalm  (Monarda fistula) – antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, stimulant, styptic

6 ml  Peppermint tincture (Mentha piperita) – flavor enhancement, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, analgesic

6 ml Oregon Grape root tincture  (Mahonia aquifolium) – antimicrobial

6 ml  Chamomile tincture (Matricaria recutita) – anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, vulnerary and flavor enhancer

Combine all tinctures together in a 30 ml dark brown glass bottle.  To use, place 5 – 8 drops into a 1 oz shot glass which is filled with water.  Rinse the mouth vigorously after brushing and at least 3 times per day.

 

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insulin-relationship

Are you having a difficult time losing weight, dealing with hypertension, high cholesterol, fibroid’s or other metabolic irregularities?

Come join me for this class where we will be discussing the physiology behind Insulin Resistance and its relationship to a host of conditions including High Blood Pressure, Thrombosis, Obesity, Diabetes, Heart disease, infertility, PCOS and more.  Also, we will discuss, in detail, steps for identifying and reversing Insulin Resistance which in turn can help to resolve many of these underlying metabolic irregularities.

WHEN:  October 7th, 2016 (10 am – 2 pm)

Where:  Black Creek Center for Herbal Studies (Middleburg, Fla.)

Who:  Anyone/No Herbal Experience Necessary

(Space Limited)

Cost:  $60.00

(REGISTER NOW)

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Assessment Skills

When:  September 15th, 2016 (10 am – 2 pm)

Where:  Black Creek Center for Herbal Studies (Middleburg, Fla.)

Who:  Intermediate to Advanced Herbal Students

Cost:  $60.00

As herbalists, our senses are crucial in assessing the states of disharmony within someone we are working with and determining the appropriate remedy(s). When working with others, the herbalist must engage their senses as an aid to determining underlying imbalances. We observe the client and note the subtleties of their complexion and expressions, we feel the speed of their pulse, the texture and temperature of the skin, observe the tongue and we listen to and hear their stories.

Come out and join me to gain insight into the various assessment skills that herbalists use in uncovering the root cause or contributing factors that lead to imbalances.

Discussions will include:

  • Looking for Patterns
  • Client Intake Form
  • Tissue States
  • Assessment of the Nails
  • Assessing the Tongue
  • Reading the Pulse
  • Nutritional Screening
  • Drugs and Side Effects
  • Case Review
  • Looking for “Red Flags”

(Register Now)

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