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Posts Tagged ‘inflammation’

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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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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Bitter HerbsBitter herbs and foods stimulate digestion by triggering the release of enzymes, hormones and digestive secretions such as saliva, acids and bile.  Because of this fact various organs such as the liver, gallbladder and pancreas benefit from their use.  This increase in digestive function helps to break down starches, fats and proteins and therefore increases metabolism.

Because bitters improve digestion they also help to increase nutrient absorption.  Bitters help to tone and tighten tissue which increases the integrity of the tissue as well as creating a protective barrier (more…)

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Some of the best remedies we have for acute ailments can be found right in our own kitchen cabinets.  For me it is extremely convient to reach for something in the pantry or spice cabinet when I’m in need of a quick remedy.  Long before mail order and online shopping people had to rely on what they had around the house or in the yard to treat illnesses which would arise.

One particular application called a “Poultice” has a plethora of benefits and can be made up using things that you may already have in your kitchen.  A Poultice or Cataplasm as it is also refered to is basically a moistened mass of plant or food materials that are applied to various areas of the body in order to impart it’s medicinal benefits and to provide relief.  The word “Poultice” derives from the latin word “porridge” suggesting a consistancy much like that of porridge.
 

Making and Using a Poultice:

Depending on what you are using as your poulticed material will determine how the material is prepared.  When using fresh plant material you can either chew it up, crush it in a mortor with a pestle  or even chop in a blender until you have made a gooey blob (always ensure you have positively identified a plant prior to chewing or ingesting).  This mass of plant material is then applied directly to the effected area, wrapped with plastic wrap to retain moisture and then secured in place with a gauze or bandage .  When using dry material hot water can be added to hydrate the material and then applied to the affected area.   Warm or cold applications can be applied on top of the dressing to provide additional relief as indicated.  Depending on the type of condition you can apply a light layer of oil, such as olive, to the skin to keep the poulticed material from sticking to the skin once it has dried out (never apply oil based applications to open wounds).  Egg whites can also be added to dry plant material to help add moisture and flour can also be added to help the material adhere to areas such as the top of the ear.  Poultices are effective for various conditions to include inflammations, ulcerations, boils, burns, bites, stings, sprains, bruises, skin conditions and so on.

There are numerous items around the home and in the yard that can be applied as a Poultice.  As a matter of fact I have used plane ole baking soda time and time again to give relief for bee or wasp stings.  Simply add water to baking soda a few drops at a time until you get a thick paste.  Apply the paste to the affected area.  Once the powder is dry I simply wash it off with tap water and we are usually good to go.
 
Various Poultice Applications:

Honey or Molasses – may be mixed with flour  to make a paste or applied on it’s 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, arthitis and infections.

Potato (raw/grated) – inflammations and boils.

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

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

Onion – lightly sautee 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.  Very effective for respiratory conditons.

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 as a very effective emollient.

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

Although I may not have mentioned them all there are an endless number of herbs and foods which can be poulticed.  This application is one of the easiest methods for dealing with acute conditions.  So the next time the need arises try yourself a poultice from the kitchen or the yard.

Skin Condition

Apply oil to skin

Apply poultice material

Apply plastic wrap

Secure poultice

Skin Condition Resolved!!

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A number of people around me have had some sort of crud which starts in the upper respiratory system and moves down into the lungs developing into a cough. Because of the severity of the coughs and congestion they have experienced I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about some of the herbs that are used for the respiratory system.

Pleurisy Root (Asclepia tuberosa) – Is considered a lung tonic which has been traditionally used for conditions such as bronchitis, pleurisy, fevers, dry cough, pneumonia and asthma. Pleurisy root is considered and expectorant and helps to break up phlegm and reduces inflammation.

Marshmallow Root (Althea officinalis)- Traditionally used for dry irritable coughs, pleurisy, bronchial asthma, whooping-cough and congestion.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) – Mullein was traditionally smoked as an aid in certain respiratory conditions. Indicated for use when there is a dry irritable cough as it will help to moisten and lubricate. May also be beneficial for conditions including asthma, pleurisy, croup, emphysema and bronchitis which often reoccurs.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) – Coltsfoot is also an herb that has been traditionally smoked to help reduce respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, general congestion and spastic coughs.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – This is an herb which is commonly found in most peoples spice cabinets. Thyme is a great herb to have around the house. Not only does it have antiseptic properties, but Thyme is also an antispasmodic and an expectorant making it beneficial for breaking up mucous and clearing congestion.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) – Elecampane is indicated for asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath, pneumonia and helps to increase expectoration as opposed to suppressing the cough.

There are a number of other fabulous herbs for the respiratory system which have not been covered here. However, being familiar with some of the herbs listed here that can benefit your family and help relieve their respiratory issues is indispensable.

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