Herbs for Healthy Breastfeeding

Herbs are a natural, gentle way to support and nourish a breastfeeding mom and baby. Certain herbs, called galactagogues, actually help to encourage and increase breast milk. Many of these plants also provide essential vitamins and minerals to help keep mom healthy and relaxed through the stresses of breastfeeding and infant care.

The following herbs are well-loved galactagogues that can be used regularly for plentiful milk:

Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)

This herb, also called mother’s milk thistle, is known for its ability to increase milk supply and improve the vitality of a nursing mother. It is also helpful for easing depression. Herbalist, Susun Weed, recommends a dose of up to 20 drops of tincture, 2-4 times daily.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

The leaves of this plant can be made into a tea to help increase milk flow. Weed states,”Half a cupful of Borage infusion at each nursing insures an abundant supply of milk, acts as a mild laxative, and soothes jangled nerves.”

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

The seeds of this plant are especially nourishing. They can be made into a tea that helps to promote milk production.

Hops (Humulus Lupulus)

Hops increases production and enriches milk. It also helps promote sleep and relaxation.

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

This nourishing herb is an important source of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, which is important for lactation. It increases richness and amount of breast milk produced.

Raspberry leaf (Rubus)

This herb contains calcium in its most absorbable form. It has high amounts of vitamins and minerals that nourish mom and help to ensure plentiful milk production.

Other

Aromatic seeds such as, anise, cumin, fennel, caraway, coriander, and dill, also increase milk production and additionally, tone the digestive system. Their benefits are passed along through the milk and can help to reduce colic and indigestion for baby.

Herbal teas are a great way to benefit from herbs while simultaneously increasing fluid intake. It is essential that breastfeeding moms drink plenty of water, around 12 cups daily. Drinking daily teas of vitamin & mineral rich herbs like raspberry leaf, nettle, alfalfa, and red clover will help to encourage an abundant supply of breast milk and provide important nutrients for mom and baby.

Herbalist, Susan Weed, recommends the following tea blend for breastfeeding mothers. This recipe is excerpted from her book, Herbs for the Childbearing Year.

Susun Weed’s Nursing Formula

•1 ounce dried Blessed Thistle or Borage leaves

•1 ounce dried Raspberry or Nettle leaves

•1 teaspoon of any one of these seeds: Anise, Cumin, Fennel, Caraway, Coriander, Dill

Place leaves in a half-gallon jar and fill to the top with boiling water. Cap tightly and let steep overnight. Strain out herbs and refrigerate liquid until needed. As you get ready to nurse, pour off one cupful of the brew and heat it nearly to the boil. Pour it over a teaspoonful of any of the aromatic seeds. Let it brew and cool for five more minutes before drinking.

This brew can be drunk freely, up to two quarts a day if you desire.

In her book, Herbal Healing for Women,

Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, recommends regularly drinking one of the following tea blends to promote breastfeeding.

Rosemary Gladstar’s Mother’s Milk Tea

3 parts fennel seed

1 / 2 part fenugreek seed

1 / 2 part blessed thistle leaf

1 / 4 part hops

Blessed Thistle Tea

1 part blessed thistle

4 parts fennel seeds

2 parts nettle

2 parts raspberry leaf

To Make: Use four to six tablespoons of herb mixture per quart of water. Add herbs to cold water and bring to a slow boil over low heat. Remove from heat and infuse for twenty minutes. Strain. Drink three to four cups daily.

Herbalist, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, also recommends eating plenty of green herbs in salad to help produce milk, especially wild garlic leaves, spring onions, milk thistle hearts, comfrey leaves, chicory, mallows, dill, coriander, dandelion leaves, watercress, and alfalfa. She mentions that borage flowers and all the clovers are also beneficial.

Herbs are a great way to naturally increase milk production while breastfeeding. Many galactagogues are also nutritious and have other important benefits, such as soothing the nervous and digestive systems. If your a nursing mom, try adding a few milk boosting teas to your daily routine. Your body and your baby will thank you!

Resources:

Fallon, Sally & Thomas S. Cowan, MD. The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care.

Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women.

Kloster, Jethro. Back to Eden.

Levy, Juliette de Bairacli Levy. Nature’s Children.

Weed, Susan. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year.

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Make Your Own Immune Boosting Fire Cider

Fire ciders are a well loved folk preparation that have been used traditionally to boost digestion, aid healthy body processes, warm one up on cold days, and help to ward off illness. Autumn is the perfect time to make a big batch of fire cider so that it can be used to promote health throughout the winter months.

Fire cider is simple to prepare, but it does need to infuse for some time before it’s ready. Depending on who you ask, the exact recipe varies, but the basic formula remains the same: vinegar + health boosting herbs + honey.

For my version, I use a homemade fruit vinegar as the base. This adds a pleasant flavor and extra health boosting properties. However, using organic apple cider vinegar will work perfectly fine too.

Onion is often used to treat colds, flus, and coughs. It is antibiotic and helps to reduce mucus. It is also anti-inflammatory and is helpful for rheumatic conditions.

Garlic has antiseptic and antibiotic properties. It has long been used to treat colds, flu, and ear infections. It is also an expectorant that helps to reduce mucus.

Ginger is a warming herb that is helpful for treating sore throats, colds, coughs, and chronic bronchitis.

Nettle is a tonic herb that improves overall health and resiliency. It is beneficial for treating fevers or colds. It can also be used to boost the immune system. The root has high levels of sterol, which enhances production of white blood cells.

Thyme is an antiseptic herb that is an effective remedy for colds, flu, coughs, bronchitis. It also is helpful for boosting the immune system and relieving congestion.

Oregano is a powerful antiseptic that can be used to treat respiratory problems, like coughs, tonsillitis, bronchitis, and asthma. It also helps to boost digestive processes.

Turmeric is helpful for inflammatory disorders, like arthritis. It boosts digestion and improves liver function. It also has antibacterial properties.

Lemon is valuable as a preventive medicine. It improves circulation and the body’s ability to fight off infection. It is also an antiseptic and antibacterial that can be used to treat sore throats, colds, flu, and chest infections and to reduce fevers. It eases rheumatism and arthritis. It also helps to detoxify the liver and promotes a healthy digestion.

Aji and cayenne peppers are warming and stimulating. Both are high in capsaicin. This constituent improves circulation and thus helps to bring more blood to the hands, feet, and vital organs. It helps to relieve pain and arthritis. It is antimicrobial and has been used traditionally to help prevent infections. It also relieve gas and digestive problems.

I like to enjoy a shot of fire cider diluted in a bit of hot water on cold nights. It’s also a delicious, healthy addition to soups, stir fries, and salad dressings. It can also be taken straight if you don’t mind some spice! I like taking bigger, more frequent doses to boost immunity if it seems like illness is threatening to come on.

Below you will find the recipe for my version of fire cider. It yields roughly a half gallon of cider. If this seems like it will be too much for you feel free to half the recipe, however, you may just find that you appreciate having lots of this spicy tonic on hand throughout the winter.

How to Make Fire Cider

Ingredients:

  • homemade fruit vinegar or apple cider vinegar (about 1/4 gallon)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 15 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp fresh ginger root, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh stinging nettle, roughly chopped
  • several sprigs of fresh thyme
  • several sprigs of fresh oregano
  • 2 Tbsp fresh turmeric root, chopped
  • 1 lemon, juice & zest
  • 2-3 fresh aji peppers, chopped or 1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
  • honey, to taste

Directions:

Roughly chop onions, peppers, & herbs and put into a large jar. (This recipe works best in at least a 1/2 gallon size jar.) You can substitute dried herbs if fresh ones aren’t available, but if so, decrease the amount of herbs you are using. Dried herbs will expand as they absorb the vinegar.

Pour the vinegar over the other ingredients until they are covered by an inch or two of liquid. Cover the jar and let sit for 4 weeks. Strain out the liquid and set aside. Compost the other ingredients. Add honey to taste and mix well.

Resources:

Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. 2nd ed., Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 2000.

Grieves, M. A Modern Herbal. http://www.botanical.com

Kloss, Jethro. Back to Eden. Lotus Press, 2009.

Herbs for Childbirth

Herbs are a safe, natural way to support new moms emotionally and physically during labor. If you plan on having a natural childbirth, or just want to reduce the medications that your infant is exposed to during the birthing process, herbs are a great, effective alternative to pharmaceuticals.

The last few weeks of pregnancy are a great time to start putting together your herbal birthing kit. Having everything in order can help set your mind at ease as your due date approaches. The following preparations are helpful to have on hand for a smooth, natural child birth.

Tea

Labor Support Tea Blend

  • 1 part raspberry leaf
  • 1 part nettle leaf
  • 1/2 part chamomile

Make a large batch at the first signs of labor and drink freely as labor progresses. You may want to have the herbs blended ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it when labor begins.

To prepare: Add 1-3 tablespoons of above herb mixture to a strainer or tea ball and place in a cup. Bring water to a boil. Pour hot water over herbs and cover. Let infuse 15 minutes to an hour and then strain out herbs.

When drunk throughout labor, raspberry leaf helps the uterus work strongly and smoothly. This helps the birth effort and facilitates placenta delivery. Nettle leaf is helpful throughout the birthing process as it aids in preventing post-partum hemorrhage and helps to restore energy and vitality. Chamomile is helpful during labor as well due to its calming, relaxing, and pain reducing effects.

Tinctures

St.John’s Wort

St. John’s wort tincture can be used during labor to ease pain. It is also helpful for controlling spasms in the back, sides, and uterus. Dose: 25-30 drops at 30 minutes intervals.

This herb combines particularly well with Skullcap for pain control. Dose: 25 drops of St.John’s wort tincture combined with 3 drops of Skullcap tincture for pain, as needed. Take as often as every half hour.

Motherwort

This herb is an lovely ally throughout the birthing process. For labor pains, try 5 drops at half hour intervals. The effects will be felt in 20 minutes and will fade over 1-3 hours. This dose can be repeated as needed.

When taken after birth, motherwort helps to prevent hemorrhage & shock, soothes & calms, and tones the uterus. Dose: 10 drops tincture post-partum.

The tincture can also be helpful in easing after birth pains and for helping the mother adjust emotionally after the birth. Try 5 drops in water, repeated as needed, to relieve tension and confusion of overwhelming emotions post-partum.

Blue Cohosh

Blue cohosh encourages the uterus to start contracting and increases the force of these contractions. Using 10-20 drops of tincture in water repeated hourly as needed will produce regular and coordinated contractions.

This herb also promotes the release of oxytocin and helps the uterus to contract, close rapidly, and quickly regain its pre-pregnancy shape post-partum, which helps to decrease after birth pains.

Blue cohosh works synergistically with black cohosh, so midwives often use these two herbs together as the combination is more effective than using each herb on its own.

Black Cohosh

This herb aids in softening and ripening the cervix and helps the uterus contract in a coordinated and effective way. It works synergistically with blue cohosh to help strengthen or restart contractions during stalled labor.

Skullcap

This herb is a valuable remedy for pain. Taking 3-8 drops of tincture in water will help with the pain of cervix dilation. This dose can be repeated as needed, but watch out for the herb’s sedative effects.

As previously mentioned, skullcap combines well with St. John’s wort for pain relief during labor.

Post-partum, skullcap is helpful for fatigue and tension. It is an effective sedative that will bring sound sleep to an over-excited, exhausted new mom. It can be used in large doses if needed when being used for promoting sleep, as it has no negative side effects.

Shepherd’s Purse

This herb is a blood coagulant and vasoconstrictor that is particularly indicated for treating post-partum hemorrhage. Taking several dropperfuls during labor can help prevent excessive bleeding and help to form blood clots after birth.

When used post-partum, it promotes uterine contractions, helps the uterus clamp down, and stops bleeding quickly. Dose: 1 teaspoon or 150 drops, repeated every minute as needed.

Post-Partum Tincture Blend

  • 1 part shepherd’s purse tincture
  • 1 part motherwort tincture
  • 1/2 part blue cohosh tincture
  • 1/2 part black cohosh tincture

Dose: take 1 dropperful under the tongue. Repeat in 1 minute, as needed.

When taken post-partum, this tincture blend:

  • helps the uterus to clamp down
  • promotes the release of oxytocin
  • prevents shock
  • stops excessive bleeding
  • helps blood clots to form
  • relieves pain
  • calms and aids in the processing of emotions

 

Other Preparations

Lavender essential oil

Lavender is calming and helpful for boosting spirits during labor to aid in the birthing process.

Bach’s Rescue Remedy

Rescue Remedy is a blend of flower essences that helps to bring calm and relaxation in times of stress or trauma.

Raspberry leaf infusion ice cubes

As previously mentioned, raspberry leaf is helpful when taken throughout labor. Sucking on ice cubes made with the infusion is a refreshing way for mom to get the benefits of this lovely herb.

Herbs or Flowers

Fresh or dried herbs and bouquets of flowers can bring a touch of beauty and vitality to the birthing space. Traditionally, sprigs of lavender, lemon balm, and rosemary were placed in the birthing room to help bring courage to women in labor.

 

For more information on using herbs to nourish and support baby and mother throughout pregnancy, check out my post, Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy.

Herbs are great allies post-partum too! Check out this post from the Herbal Academy to learn more: Gentle Herbal Support for New Mom’s. 

 

[Resources]

Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women.

Levy, Juliette de Bairacli. Nature’s Children.

Weed, Susan. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year.

Resources for New Herbalists

A newly found interest in herbalism can spark one’s curiosity in a serious way. There is much to know about the many different wonderful medicinal plants – how to grow & harvest them, how to prepare them, how to use them, and so on.

The following list is a compilation of some wonderful blogs & websites, books, and a few other resources to get you started on your green journey.

Many of the blogs listed are favorites of mine, ones I turn to often for inspiration, to learn something new, or to rediscover a plant I haven’t used in awhile. The books listed are ones that I have personally read and enjoyed. There is lots of great literature on herbs and various aspects of natural medicine, but I chose to list books that will be helpful to lay some groundwork as you delve into herbalism. You will also find these books useful later on as references.

I’ve also included links for some herb and seed suppliers to help get you started with herbal preparation and cultivation.

Best wishes as you embark on your adventures in herbalism!

Websites

herbcraft.org – Michigan based herbalist jim mcdonald’s website. Here you will find info about a variety of herbs, as well as some recipes and how to’s. There is also a schedule of his upcoming herb walks and classes (which are really informative, fun, and worth attending if you live in the area!)

matthewwoodherbs.com– Herbalist, Matthew Wood’s, website has links to many of his writings on topics related to nature and herbalism, including detailed information on specific herbs and his thoughts on nature wisdom, the philosophy of healing, energetics, and lots more.

Kiva’s Enchantments – Folk herbalist, Kiva Rose’s, blog where she shares herbal recipes, information about using specific herbs, musings about herbalism, and a lot more.

7song.com – Herbalist 7song’s website links to lots of great PDFs covering botany, medicinal preparations, and specific herbal treatments useful for first aid, various health issues, and the different body systems. It also includes information about classes and apprenticeships at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine.

Mountain Rose HerbBlog– Mountain Rose Herb’s blog is a collection of awesome DIY herbal how to’s, recipes, product profiles, and other feature stories about different projects they’re involved in.

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50+ Ways to Enjoy Your Favorite Summer Berries

An abundance of fresh berries is certainly one of the best things about summertime in the Midwest. Many hot afternoons during summers I spent in Michigan were devoted to collecting sweet, ripe berries for eating and using fresh and for preserving to enjoy during the long, cold winter months.

This recipe round up features fifty-two delicious ways to enjoy a variety of summer berries this year. Below you’ll find some classic recipes you know and love mixed in with some fresh, fun recipes that just might become your new summer favorite. Enjoy!

Breakfast & Brunch

1. Blueberry Basil Muffins from Oh My Veggies

blueberry_basil_muffins

2. Triple Berry Baked Oatmeal from Happy Healthy Momma

3. Chévre & Blackberry Doughnuts from Bakeaholic Momma

4. Raspberry Breakfast Bowls from Pinch of Yum

5. Strawberry and Yogurt Bran Muffins from Dishing Up the Dirt

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Holistic Treatment of Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Rash

Photo Credit: WebMD

If you live in the United States (or parts of Canada), there’s a good chance that you are all too familiar with the effects of a run in with poison ivy, oak, or sumac. These plants contain an oil called urushiol (you-ROO-shee-all) that causes an itchy, blistering rash when it comes in contact with the skin. This rash often goes away within a few weeks, but can cause a lot of misery in the meantime. Try the following suggestions to avoid getting poison ivy, oak, or sumac this summer.

Preventative Measures

If you live in an area where one or more of these plants grow, learning to identify them is an important first step to avoiding exposure in the first place. Once you know these plants, be careful to respect them and keep your distance.

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac grow prolifically and vigorously throughout the United States. The below images from poison-ivy.org map out specific areas where you can expect to find each of these plants.


This PDF from Michigan herbalist, jim mcdonald, is helpful for learning to ID poison ivy. Poison-ivy.org also offers information on identifying the different types of poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

You can sometimes prevent an outbreak of a urushiol rash by washing well with fels naphtha soap. (You can find it online or in grocery or drug stores.) Try this if you have been walking or working in an area where poison ivy, oak, or sumac grows. The sooner you do this after possible exposure the better. It takes about 12 to 72 hours for a rash to form after coming into contact with the plant, so you will want to wash off the urushiol oils long before then to avoid an outbreak.

If you do end up with a rash from exposure to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, the following holistic treatment plan can help speed recovery time and reduce symptoms, without the use of conventional medications, such as antihistamines and steroids.


Cleanse & Support the Liver

The liver plays an important role in cleansing the blood and ridding it of metabolic wastes and environmental toxins. An unhealthy liver that isn’t functioning properly can cause issues with kidney, heart, skin, respiratory, and glandular functions. Thus, when skin problems manifest, it is important to boost liver health as support therapy to help the body regain balance.

The following regime will help improve liver health:

Liver Cleansing Tea

  • 3 parts dandelion root
  • 2 parts burdock root
  • 2 parts cinnamon
  • 2 parts licorice root
  • 1 part pau du arco
  • 1/2 part yellow dock
  • 1/4 part echinacea

Combine about 3 tablespoons of the above herb mixture per quart of water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture slowly to a boil, then simmer gently for 20-45 minutes. Then remove from heat and strain the herbs from your tea. Drink 2-3 cups daily.

 

Liver Tonic Tea

  • 3 parts peppermint
  • 2 parts lemon balm
  • 2 parts red clover blossom
  • 2 parts nettle
  • 1 part alfalfa
  • 1/2 part parsley
  • 1/4 part stevia

Add 1-3 tablespoons of above herb mixture to a strainer or tea ball and place in a cup. Bring water to a boil. Pour hot water over herbs and cover. Let infuse 15 minutes to an hour and then strain out herbs. Drink 2-3 cups daily.

Switch to a Cleansing Diet

To support the body during flares of any skin related problems, the diet should be cleansing and eliminative in nature.

Eat light simple foods, including:

  • Miso
  • Vegetable broth
  • Millet
  • Brown rice
  • Tofu
  • Steamed veggies

Avoid:

  • Sweets, chocolate, and foods high in sugar (even fruit and juice)
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty foods
  • Large or complex meals
  • Processed or refined foods

 

Relieve Stress & Support the Nervous System 

Supporting the nervous system is especially important during flares of skin issues, like poison ivy, oak, or sumac, as the rash and itching can cause stress and increased inflammation.

Try one or more of the following to help soothe nerves and reduce irritation.

Peppermint-Valerian Tea

  • 2 parts peppermint
  • 1 part valerian
  • 1 part milky oats and/or oat straw
  • 1 part licorice root

Combine water and licorice root in a saucepan. Bring the mixture slowly to a boil, then simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add other herbs, and let infuse for 45 minutes. You’ll want to use about 3 tablespoons (total) of herbal blend per quart of water. Strain the herbs from your tea. Drink as often as needed throughout the day.

Nerve Soothing Tea

  • 3 parts chamomile
  • 2 parts lemon balm
  • 1 part milky oats and/or oat straw
  • 1 part lavender

Add 1-3 tablespoons of above herb mixture to a strainer or tea ball and place in a cup. Bring water to a boil. Pour hot water over herbs and cover. Let infuse 15 minutes to an hour and then strain out herbs. Drink as often as needed.

Valerian tincture

Take 1-2 teaspoons diluted in water or tea 3 times daily or as often as needed.

Skullcap tincture

Take 1/4 tsp diluted in water or tea 3 times daily.

Reduce Further Irritation

Dealing with poison ivy, oak, and sumac rashes can be pretty miserable. Do yourself a favor and don’t make things worse! Try the following suggestions to avoid further exacerbation.

  • Avoid hot showers, water, & heat. For a relieving soak, add baking soda to lukewarm bath water.
  • Avoid oil based treatments, like salves and ointments.


Internal & External Treatment

The following natural treatments will help to dry up poison ivy, oak, or sumac rashes, relieve itching, and speed recovery.

  • Drink drying, astringent teas of mugwort, oak bark, or witch hazel.

  • Mix clay with enough apple cider vinegar to form a paste. Spread into the affected area and let dry. Rinse with cool water.

  • Apply yogurt to affected areas. It is slightly astringent and drying. It is also a good option for topical treatment for the skin around the eyes, as other treatments may be too harsh.

  • Dilute the below linament with a little cool water and apply to affected area.

The following recipe is adapted from Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss.
Jethro Kloss’ Herbal Linament

  • 1 oz golden seal root
  • 1 oz myrrh gum
  • 1/4 oz cayenne
  • 1 pint rubbing alcohol

Combine ingredients in a glass jar with a lid that fits tightly. Cover and let sit in a warm place for 2 weeks or more, shaking daily. After 2 weeks, strain well and store in a glass jar.

  • Mix green clay, sea salt, & water till a paste forms. Stir in a few drops of pure peppermint essential oil. Apply to affected area as needed. Store in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.

  • Apply the following tincture to affected areas frequently.

Poison Ivy/Oak Tincture
Fill a jar with wilted fresh mugwort and cover with apple cider vinegar. Cover jar and put in a warm place, out of direct sunlight for 14 days. Then strain and add 2 tablespoons of salt per pint of tincture.

To use: dilute a small amount with water and apply as needed.

 

The consequences of a too close encounter with poison ivy, oak, or sumac can certainly be uncomfortable, however, hopefully with increased care and awareness when working or walking in areas where these plants grow can help to reduce these types of run ins for you in the future. And if you do end up with a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash, it is nice to know that there are natural options for treatments, as antihistamine and steroid medications can often have unpleasant side effects.

If you’re struggling with why “pesky” plants like poison ivy even exist, you may want to check out this short video featuring jim mcdonald. He offers a more positive point of view on poison ivy that may be helpful to you. Best of luck this season as you share the woods and fields with these powerful plants!

Have a favorite natural remedy for poison ivy, oak, or sumac that I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!

 

[RESOURCES]
Gladstar, Rosemary. “Herbal First Aide: Skin Problems and What to Do About Them.”

Gladstar, Rosemary. “Herbal Therapeutics for the Liver.”

Kloss, Jethro. Back to Eden.

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac.” American Academy of Dermatology. 6/21/2017.

Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs.

The Incredible Nettle


Nettle (Urtica dioica), also known as Stinging Nettle, is a lovely plant that is is a favorite if many an herbalist (including myself!). It sometimes gets a bad reputation because its stems and leaves are covered in small, sharp spurs that can cause severe irritation and pain on areas of skin that come in contact with the plant. However, despite its sting, nettle is a valuable wonderful medicinal and a tasty, nutritious edible. There’s much to love about this wonderful herb!

Nettle grows in temperate regions all over the world. The entire plant can be utilized for food or medicine. Young nettle leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach. (Old plants may cause kidney damage when eaten raw.) Nettle is a valuable edible, as it is an excellent source of vitamins- including A, C, D and K- and minerals, like choline, lecithin, silica, and iron. The aerial parts are utilized for teas and tinctures and the roots are medicinal.

For some tasty ideas of how to add more nettle to your diet, check out these recipes:

Note: If eating nettles sounds a little dangerous to you, never fear – the plant loses its sting once it is dried or cooked. But, you may want to wear gloves while harvesting nettle and preparing any recipes with nettle to avoid getting stung during those processes. 

Nettle Beer from The Herbal Academy

Nettle Garlic Buttermilk Biscuits from Mountain Rose Herbs Blog

Stinging Nettle Spanikopita from Join Me For Dinner

Nettle Pesto Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes from The Bojon Gourmet

Nettle Chips from Mountain Rose Herbs Blog

Stinging Nettle Lasagna from Learning Herbs

Ali Baba’s Savory Stinging Nettle Muffins from Palachink

Garlic Cream & Nettle Pizza from Food & Wine

Wild Weed Frittata from Mountain Rose Herbs Blog

Nettle-Mushroom Pie with Pine Nuts from Voodoo & Sauce

Stinging Nettle Ravioli with Butter & Sage from La Tavola Marche

Hungry for more ways to enjoy nettle? Check out these 12 stinging nettle recipes from The Herbal Academy.

In addition to being a delicious and healthful edible, nettle is also a wonderful medicinal plant. It is a general toning herb that strengthens and nourishes the whole body, balances metabolic function, and improves circulation. It has been used traditionally as a cleansing herb because of its ability to aid elimination of waste from the body.

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A Holistic Treatment Plan for Seasonal Allergies

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you know how frustrating the symptoms can be. Dealing with running, itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing can make life very uncomfortable and unfortunately, prescription allergy medications can leave you feeling groggy and tired. There are ways, however, to treat allergies holistically. The results are not immediately effective, however, when the treatments are done faithfully, the result is permanent relief from seasonal allergies and better health overall.

PREVENTATIVE PROGRAM

It is best to start this part of the treatment when you are having the least amount symptoms, well before the onset of an acute allergic reaction. Continue the below program for 6 months to a year.

Support the Liver with Diet & Herbs
Allergies occur when the liver over reacts to foreign protein bodies in the environment, including things like plant pollens, dust, animal hairs, chemicals, foods, and cosmetics. Usually, this hypersensitivity to environmental factors is caused by a weakness or breakdown somewhere in our internal system.

If cellular wastes are not being efficiently broken down or eliminated, they build up and begin to weaken internal tissues and organs. This excess protein build up in the blood triggers white blood cell activity, which activates other defense systems in the body. This creates a state of chronic low level agitation in the body that makes it hypersensitive to foreign proteins, also known as antigens.

When an antigen enters the blood stream, the body produces antibodies to “protect” itself. This reaction causes the production of histamine, which is toxic to membranes. This substance causes blood vessels to dilate and makes them more permeable. Histamine is responsible for causing allergy symptoms, like swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, and lungs, and the contraction of air passages that results in wheezing and edema.

The liver is responsible for deactivating poisonous substances in the body, even those that the body itself creates. When the liver is healthy, it is able to produce an enzyme, histaminases, which is a natural antihistamine. However, when the liver is stressed, it can not produce enough histaminases to eliminate the histamine the body produced and allergy symptoms continue. Thus, a healthy liver is crucial to being able to eliminate allergies.
Because the liver plays such an important role in the allergic process, the first step to treating hay fever and getting rid of allergies is cleansing and toning the liver.

Diet

Most liver imbalances can be classified as deficiencies or excesses. A person who suffers from hay fever tends to be liver deficient.

In this case, the liver function is slow and weak. Cellular wastes are not properly eliminated, and the body is polluted with its own toxic metabolic wastes (as described above). A liver deficiency results in poor use of ingested nutrients and inefficient uptake of the proteins and cholesterol the body needs to regenerate cells. Diet is crucial to helping to improve the health of the liver and establish balance in the body.

Deficient livers are often caused by a diet that includes too many simple carbohydrates and not enough quality protein and fats. Usually, too much emphasis has been put on raw, or cold “yin” type foods; dairy, fruits, and carbs. So in general, a corrective diet for a liver deficient person should include more high quality proteins, fats & oils, and warming foods, as well as:

  • dark leafy greens
  • fresh sprouts – especially clover, fenugreek & alfalfa
  • fresh, steamed vegetables – especially beets and other root veggies
  • whole grains
  • seeds – especially sesame
  • raw almonds
  • fresh, alkalizing fruits, like lemon & grapefrui

Foods to Avoid 

  • alcohol
  • cold drinks and foods
  • fried, fatty, oily foods
  • dairy
  • food preservatives and additives
  • sweets, sugar, and fruit juices
  • raw fruits and vegetables

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Ode to Beets: 150+ Reasons to Love this Root Veggie

Beets, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 

Beets are definitely one of my favorite vegetables. One of the most amazing things about them is how good they are for your health. They are loaded with nutrients and are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, & phosphorus. They also provide fiber and antioxidants.

This root veggie also has some medicinal benefits. It helps to cleanse the liver and can be helpful for promoting healthy digestion. Because beets contain nitrates they aid in improving blood flow, lowering blood pressure, and can even boost stamina so you can excerise longer. They also contain betaine, an anti-inflammatory amino acid that helps to protect the body from environmental stress.

Beets contain several minerals that are essential to healthy nerve and muscle function and promote bone, liver, pancreas,and kidney health. They also contain B vitamin folate, which helps reduce the risk of birth defects.

Beet greens are extremely healthy too. They are an important source of essential nutrients, like vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. They also contain more iron than spinach and are a good source of fiber and protein.

In addition to being super healthy, beets are also really tasty and versatile. They are a great addition to soups, pastas, salads, juices, smoothies, and even make lovely desserts and condiments.

Below are 150 recipes to help you fall in love with beets. If you’re already a beet lover, some of these recipes may be familiar, but there’s also a lot of fun, unique recipes that will have you wanting to eat beets for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Enjoy!

[BREAKFAST]

1. Beet Hashbrowns from The Roasted Root

Photo Credit: The Roasted Root

2. Beet & Chia Pancakes from The New York Times

3. Chocolate Beet Muffins from Cake Student

4. Beet Hash Breakfast Wraps from Reclaiming Provincial

Photo credit: Reclaiming Provincial

5. Pink Breakfast Bowl from Ricki Heller

6. Roasted Beet, Baby Spinach & Goat Cheese Quiche from Food52

7. Red Flannel Hash Cakes from Martha Stewart

8. Beet & Carrot Muffins from Hidden Ponies

9. Breakfast Beet Shakshuka from The Whole Tara

Photo Credit: The Whole Tara

10. Beet Crust Leek Quiche from Prevention

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Herbs for A Healthy Pregnancy

Herbs are a lovely, natural way to support mom and baby during pregnancy. They can help provide important vitamins and minerals, ease morning sickness, relieve stress, and help to level out mood swings.

The following tea blend is one that herbalist , Rosemary Gladstar, recommends for pregnant mothers. It is tasty and nourishing. This blend can be enjoyed throughout pregnancy to provide essential nutrients, strengthen muscles used during childbirth, ease stress, and gently boost energy levels.

Pregnancy Tea 

  • 4 parts peppermint or spearmint
  • 3 parts raspberry leaf
  • 3 parts lemongrass
  • 2 parts nettle
  • 2 parts oat straw
  • 2 parts strawberry leaf
  • 1 part comfrey leaf
  • Optional: a pinch of stevia

[TONICS]

Tonic herbs strengthen and improve general, overall health and vitality of the whole body or in some cases, a specific body system. They are gentle enough to be used often over an extended period of time, and in fact, often work best when used regularly.

Raspberry (Rubus)
Raspberry leaf is a safe and widely used herb for supporting pregnancy. Prepared as an infusion,* it makes a lovely uterine and general pregnancy tonic. It can be used regularly throughout pregnancy to nourish mother and baby and to strengthen the muscles used during childbirth.

The leaves of raspberry contain an alkaloid called fragrine, which helps to tone the muscles of the pelvis and uterus. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B complex, C, & E; phosphorus, potassium and iron. The infusion of raspberry leaf also contains calcium in its most absorbable form. The uptake of this mineral is further enhanced by the aforementioned phosphorus, vitamin A & C contained in the leaf.

The regular use of this tonic herb is especially beneficial before and during pregnancy. Prior to conception, raspberry leaf combined with red clover blossoms can help to improve fertility in both men and women. During pregnancy, it can help to ease morning sickness by gently relieving an upset stomach and nausea.
If taken throughout pregnancy, Rubus helps to tone the uterus, which helps prevent miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage. During childbirth, this toning allows the uterus to contract more effectively, which may make birth faster and easier. Also, because it strengthens the muscles used during labor and delivery, regular use of raspberry leaf during pregnancy can reduce labor pains and healing time after birth.
Raspberry leaf can also be beneficial after the baby is born. The high mineral content of this herb often helps the mother’s body to produce enough breast milk. However, since it is slightly astringent, some mothers may actually experience the opposite effect.

Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Nettle is a wonderfully nourishing tonic herb, especially during pregnancy. It has a high chlorophyll content compared to other herbs and is source of nearly every vitamin and mineral that is known to be needed for human development. It is rich in vitamins A, C, D, & K; calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and sulfur.
Nettle is easy to enjoy. The infusion* is deep and rich tasting. It is also a delicious spring edible in temperate zones. If you’re lucky enough to live in warmer climates, it can be eaten year round.
There are many benefits to regular consumption of nettle before and during pregnancy. Before pregnancy, nettles help to improve fertility in both men and women.

During pregnancy, this herb helps to provide essential nutrients for mother and baby. Nettle infusions supply readily absorbable phosphorus, calcium, and vitamins A & D.

Nettles also help to ease leg cramps and other muscle spasms. Since this herb is mildly astringent and generally nourishing, it strengthens the blood vessels can help to reduce hemorrhoids. Additionally, nettles tone and strengthen the kidneys, which have to cleanse 150% of the normal blood flow during most of pregnancy.
Regular use of nettle throughout pregnancy helps to reduce pain during and after childbirth because it is high in easily assimilated calcium, which reduces muscles pains in the uterus, legs, and other areas. It also is an excellent source of vitamin K and increases the amount hemoglobin that is available, both of which help to decrease the risk of bleeding postpartum. In case bleeding after birth does occur, drinking fresh nettle in teaspoon doses will help to slow it. After birth, nettle helps mothers produce rich, abundant breast milk.

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