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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100+ Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is making gifts for my friends and family. Homemade gifts are easily customized to fit the tastes of the recipient and are a truly unique and special way to celebrate Christmas.

This DIY gift round up is sure to give you plenty of ideas for everyone on your list this year.

Gifts to Pamper:

1. Coconut Mango Butter Lip Balm from The Nerdy Farmwife

2. Beach Waves Hair Spray from Wellness Mama

3. Oil Cleansing Facial Bars from My Healthy Green Family

Photo credit: My Healthy Green Family

4. Herbal Mud Mask from The Hippy Homemaker
5. Sweet Lime Lip Scrub from Mountain Rose Herbs Blog

Photo Credit: Mountain Rose Herbs

6. Elderflower Eye Cream from Joybilee Farm
7. Sweet Orange & Rose Perfume from The Herbal Academy

8. Basil Anti-Aging Face Cream from The Nerdy Farmwife

9. Natural Makeup from Wellness Mama

10. Massage Oil from the Mountain Rose Herbs Blog

11. Aloe Mint Lotion from The Nerdy Farmwife

12. Calendula Sugar Scrub from The Herbal Academy

13. Green Tea Skin Serum from the Mountain Rose Herbs blog

Photo Credit: Mountain Rose Herbs

14. Aromatherapy Shower Steamers from The Hippy Homemaker

15. Lavender Cardamom Bath Salts from Shalom Mama

16. Cacao & Vanilla Body Polish from the Mountain Rose Herbs blog

17. Gingersnap Facemask from Growing Up Herbal

18. Honey Body Wash from DIY Natural

Photo Credit: DIY Natural

19. Beard Oil from from Mountain Rose Herbs Blog

20. Buckwheat Relaxation Pillows from Wellness Mama

21. Peppermint Tea Tree Aftershave from The Hippy Homemaker

22. Lotion Bars from Wellness Mama

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Herbal Dream Pillows & Tea


Throughout history, dreams have had a special significance in many cultures. There is written record of dream interpretations dating back to over 5,000 years old. Ancient Egyptians, for example, highly valued dreams, especially vivid ones, as they believed they were messages from the gods. The ancient Greeks also felt that dreams were divine messages and used interpretations of their dreams to help them make decisions, predict the future, and solve problems.
Today, dreams are still a bit of a mystery to us. Some researchers claim that they help to store memories, while others feel that they are important for resolving conflicts and regulating mood. While the specific benefits of dreams are still uncertain, it is clear that healthy sleep patterns are important to health and well being.

Insomnia and difficulty with dream recall can make it hard to benefit from sleep and dreams. Herbal dream pillows and teas, however, promote vivid dreams, peaceful sleep, and dream recall. They are simple to make and are a natural, non-habit forming way to promote healthy sleep and dream cycles.

The herbs in these dream blends are naturally calming and dream boosting. Mugwort is used to enhance and promote lucid dreams. It has also traditionally been used for protection and was woven into necklaces by Native Americans to help keep away dreams about the dead.

Lavender and chamomile are calming herbs. They promote relaxation and restful sleep. Passion flower is soothing and naturally reduces stress. It aids in easing anxiety and quieting a busy or worried mind.

Oats are a natural sedative and are well-loved by herbalists for their soothing effect on the nervous system. They have been used traditionally to help calm anxiety and alleviate insomnia.

 

Dream Pillows

Ingredients:

  • 3 parts lavender
  • 3 parts roses
  • 2 parts mugwort
  • 1 part chamomile
  • 1 part rosemary
  • 1/2 part eucalyptus

Directions:

Combine all dry herbs in a large bowl and mix well. Scoop this herbal mixture into pouches sewed from fabric scraps of your choosing. Sew the pouch closed.

To use: tuck the herb sachet under your pillow to promote peaceful sleep and enhance dreams. Drink a cup of sweet dreams tea before bed for an added effect.

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Digestive Bitters

 

img_3171Bitter foods and herbs play a very important role in digestion and the health of the organs that facilitate it. Bitters stimulate the production of digestive fluids that help to break down food to ensure that the body can absorb the nutrients from it. They also help to tone and heal the digestive tissues.

When you first taste bitter foods, bitter taste receptors on the tongue trigger reactions throughout the digestive tract. In the mouth, bitters promote salivation, which breaks down starches and begins to digest fats.

In the stomach, bitters promote the production of gastrin, a hormone that regulates how much gastric acid is produced. This is especially important because an adequate amount of stomach acid is necessary for the body to be able to uptake minerals from food.

Bitters also aid in the production of pepsin, an enzyme that helps break down proteins and is key to the proper absorption of vitamin B12.

In the pancreas, liver, and gall bladder, bitters promote the production and flow of pancreatic enzymes and bile, which help to break down fats & oils, lubricate the intestines so digested food can pass through, and rid the liver of waste products.

While it is clear that bitters are essential to a healthy digestive system, typical modern diets are severely lacking in bitter foods. According to herbalist, James Green, this can contribute to variety of health issues, including indigestion, abnormal metabolism, liver and gall bladder issues, diabetes, and so on.

Fortunately, adding more bitter foods to your diet can be simple and delicious. Bitter greens taste great, are extremely nutritious, and are easy to find at the farmer’s market or to grow in your own back yard. Greens like dandelion, arugula, mustard, and garlic mustard are tasty additions to stir fries, salads, pestos, or soups. Use sparingly initially if you don’t often eat bitter foods, as they can be a bit overwhelming to a palate that is unfamiliar with bitter flavors. Add acid (like vinegar or lemon juice), fats (like olive oil or butter), salt, herbs, or spices to complement and balance the sharpness of bitter greens.

If you find you aren’t eating enough bitter foods in your diet or know that you have issues with sluggish digestion, making a tincture of bitter herbs is a simple way to benefit from bitters. Tinctures can be stored in small dropper bottles and are easy to keep on hand for cases of acute digestive issues or just to take daily with meals to help promote digestion. In his text, “Blessed Bitters,” Michigan herbalist, jim mcdonald, recommends taking 15-30 drops of bitters tincture for relief of acute indigestion. One could also take a few drops in water before meals to aid the digestive process and help prevent gas, bloating, and stomach pain.

The below recipe for a digestive bitters tincture utilizes the bitter properties of chamomile and yellow dock to help promote a healthy digestive tract and process. Because bitter herbs are cooling in nature, it helps to combine them with a warming herb to help balance this action, thus the addition of ginger to this formula.

Additionally, the aromatic properties of the orange peel and chamomile in this recipe are helpful for relieving gas and bloating. Orange peel has been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years to aid digestion, promote liver function, and relieve gas & bloating. It can be helpful for abdominal distention, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Digestive Bitters Tincture

Ingredients:

  • Vodka (at least 80 proof)
  • 1 part orange peel
  • 1 part ginger
  • 1 part chamomile
  • 2 parts yellow dock root

Directions:

Roughly chop the orange peel, ginger, and yellow dock. Combine with the chamomile in a glass jar.

Fill the jar about 1/2 to 1/3 of the way with plant material. Avoid packing the jar too full. The herbs will need space to move freely in the alcohol so that their properties can be fully extracted.

Pour vodka over top so that the roots and flowers are completely submerged in alcohol. Cover the jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake a few times a week or as often as you remember. Cover with more alcohol if the herbs absorb it and are exposed to the air. Let extract for 6-8 weeks.

Strain herbs from the alcohol using a cheese cloth. Rebottle your tincture into a glass bottle with a dropper and label the jar. Store in a cool, dark place. Tinctures can last for several years of stored properly.

Take as needed for digestive issues or daily before meals to promote healthy digestion.

Cheers to happy, healthy digestive system!

 

References:

“Blessed Bitters” by jim mcdonald. http://www.herbcraft.org/bitters.pdf. Accessed September 17, 2016.

“Citrus Peel Medicine” by Don Matesz. Mother Earth Living. October/November 2010 issue. Article online: http://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/citrus-peel-medicine.aspx. Accessed September 17, 2016.

Natural Pet Care: Preventing Flea Infestations

While many of us love the warmer weather that spring and summer bring, those of us who own pets know that pests like fleas also enjoy these seasons’ milder temperatures. Aside from being highly annoying to your pet, flea infestations can also cause more serious health issues, such as excessive itching (some animals are more sensitive to flea bites than others), hair loss, secondary skin infections, and anemia.

Unfortunately, many commercial flea preventatives and treatments contain highly toxic chemicals. Though these collars, shampoos, pills, and sprays are certainly effective at killing fleas, they are highly unsafe for pets and their owners. Many of the chemicals in these treatments are also highly irritating to dogs and cats so they will lick and bite at them, which increases the amount of toxins that they take in. Herbalist, Juliette de Baïracli Levy, even states, “The modern flea collars, because they work on a chemical principle and carry health-precaution warnings, I suspect are more hazardous to health than the presence of fleas.”

There are, however, many natural options for preventing flea infestations. Essential oils can be used safely on animals to help prevent various pest problems. However, it is important to remember that animals are much more sensitive to scents than humans are. A little bit of essential oil will go a long way, so you don’t need to use very much. Dilute essential oils when using them directly on an animal’s skin and do not apply on the mucous membranes, near the eyes, to the genital area, or in the inner ear. Be cautious about using essential oils on cats, as they aren’t able to metabolize them in the same way humans and larger animals do. Always do your research or consult a holistic professional before using essential oils on pregnant animals.

To use essential oils to help prevent external pests on dogs, you can add a drop or two (depending on the size of your dog) of lemongrass or citronella essential oil to Dr. Bronner’s eucalyptus liquid castile soap and then bath them with this mixture every so often throughout the warmer months. This will deter fleas for a short time.

Making your own natural flea collar is a another way to utilize essential oils to help prevent pests problems. This natural alternative to commercial flea preventatives is effective and safe for both dogs and cats. The below tutorial is adapted from The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Wormwood.

Natural Flea Collar

Supplies:

  • A collar made from soft, absorbent material (An inexpensive cloth collar will work perfectly)
  • 1/2 tsp cheap vodka
  • 1 drop of cedarwood essential oil
  • 1 drop of lavender essential oil
  • 1 drop of citronella essential oil
  • 1 drop of thyme essential oil
  • A heaping 12 tsp of garlic powder or 4″0″ size garlic capsules

Directions:

Blend all ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring cup. If you are using garlic capsules, break them open and add the contents before combining. Pour mixture over the collar until it is fully absorbed. Let the collar dry then put it on your pet’s neck. It should be effective for 1 month.

 

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is another natural option for keeping fleas and other pests from infesting your pets. DE is a very fine powder made up of the crushed skeletons of the fossilized skeletons of diatoms (single-celled marine and freshwater organisms whose cell walls are made up of silica). These extremely tiny particles kill insects by lacerating their exoskeletons and then drying them up.

There are two main types of diatomaceous earth: food grade and industrial grade. Always use food grade DE. Industrial grade DE has been treated with heat and chemicals. It is not safe for use on humans or animals. Food grade diatomaceous earth is safe for internal and external use, but is dusty and can cause lung problems if large amounts are inhaled, so be aware of this when using it.

To use DE for pest control, simply sprinkle onto your pet’s fur. It can also be used on pets’ bedding, in their living quarters, and on carpet to aid in eliminating these pests from your home. Some people feed DE to their pets to help eliminate internal parasites. This is not something I have personally tried as I have had good results with herbal de-wormers.

There are many effective natural external treatments for preventing pest problems on your pets, however, one of the most important parts of treating and preventing flea infestations is to make sure that your pet is receiving a nutritious diet. A malnourished pet with a weak immune system will be more susceptible to parasite related problems (and other health issues in general). In addition to proper nutrition, herbs can be used to support your pet’s overall skin health and boost their immune system.

Echinacea in bloom

Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) is a particularly useful herb for boosting your pets’ immune function to help them fight off infections and pest infestations. Dr. Randy Kidd, D.V.M., Ph.D., advises to use this herb in an on/off way. He recommends using it once daily for three weeks, then taking a week off or using it once daily for 5 days, then taking 2 days off. Repeat either regimen as needed.

Herbs can also be used to help improve your pet’s overall skin health and thus, make them less susceptible to flea infestations and other related problems. The liver is a key organ for clearing out internal toxins that can lead to skin issues, so many of the herbs that are beneficial to the liver will also ultimately promote the health of the skin. The following are a few herbs that are particularly helpful for your pet’s skin.

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Purple Dead Nettle: Not Just A Weed

Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium Purpureum) is a lovely and useful herbaceous plant. It grows abundantly around our site in Southwest, Michigan and I see it popping up all over this area. It can be found throughout the US, Canada, and many other parts of the world. This hardy weed thrives in lawns, roadsides, and can grow in a variety of conditions. It is also frost tolerant. It is most commonly found growing in loamy or sandy soils, but will also do well in clay soils. It is an self-seeding annual. Each plant produces lots of seeds (it’s estimated to be several hundred to several thousand) and those seeds can germinate year round.

Purple dead nettle is considered to be an “invasive species” due to its ability to thrive and reproduce in many environments. In fact, much of the literature available on this plant is geared towards methods of eradication, including pulling up the herb to control its population. It is interesting to note that purple dead nettle seeds germinate better when the soil is disturbed. “Invasive” plants like purple dead nettle often grow in places where humans have disrupted the natural balance.  These plants are simply trying to restore equilibrium to their environment. When we pull and spray these plants we are further disturbing the areas where they grow and actually increasing their ability to return and spread.

If we care about the environment, should be be attempting to eradicate these species, like purple dead nettle, that have been determined to be invasive? Research shows that meddling with nature isn’t necessary and could cause more harm than good. Tomás Carlo, assistant professor of biology at Penn State, states that “Invasive species could fill niches in degraded ecosystems and help restore native biodiversity in an inexpensive and self-organized way that requires little or no human intervention.”In 2011, he conducted a study on how invasive species affect their ecosystems.  He found that some invasive plants actually helped improve natural areas that had deteriorated due to human use. He stated that attempting to get rid of invasive species could actually harm the newly found balance in these ecosystems. In fact, the areas he studied, for example,have actually had an increase in the native migratory bird population because the invasive plants that grow abundantly there provide an important food source that had previously been displaced by human development. Carlo also stated that trying to eliminate invasive species on a large scale could also be a waste of time and money. He explained that when organizations try to rid an ecosystem of a particular invasive plant, it often ends up growing back despite all of their efforts.

Instead of pulling and spraying these weeds, we can appreciate and utilize them. Invasive plants often play important roles in their ecosystem. For example, purple dead nettle blooms in the early spring and is an valuable food source for insects when not much else is is flowering.  Many invasive plants are also useful to humans and make wonderful food and medicine. They require little to no care as they often occur and thrive naturally in our gardens and yards. These wild edibles can be a great low-maintenance, free food source. Foraging wild greens like purple dead nettle is easier than tending to more fickle commercially grown greens and is certainly cheaper than buying organic greens at the store. If you aren’t sure how to forage purple dead nettles, visit the Edible Wild Food site for more tips on finding and identifying this plant so you too can enjoy this spring green.Always be sure you properly identify a plant before eating it! For more foraging tips, check out our post on foraging spring edibles.

Purple dead nettle can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves have tiny little hairs that some may find strange texturally, but I have found that they aren’t bothersome when the plant is cooked. The leaves taste similar to spinach. When bruised, the plant has a noticeable green, earthy scent. Purple dead nettle leaves are great source of fiber, iron, and other important nutrients. They can be used in recipes much as one would use more conventional greens like kale or spinach.

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Natural Goat Care: Calming Herbal Treats

These calming herbal treats are perfect for toning a goat’s nervous system and will help them better cope with situations that normally cause them stress. I like to feed these to my girls before trimming their hooves, doing any other type of grooming, or while they are in heat. They would also be helpful for goats during transport as this can often make them anxious.

Making treats is simple and my goats absolutely love these. I feed them each two daily when I know I will be trimming their hooves, or when they are going into heat. I’ve also used these treats to help calm them during a tick removal, which is actually pretty painless for them (I just put a drop of tea tree essential oil on the tick and it falls right off), but they aren’t keen on any type of grooming. That’s another reason these goat treats are perfect. My goats are very resistant to topical methods of treatment, but they will happily take medicine in a food form. Putting medicinal plants into food is a great way to get healing herbs into a stubborn or skittish goat.

These goat snacks were specifically formulated with herbs that heal and aid the nervous system. Lemon balm is a natural anti-depressant that also helps ease anxiety. Skullcap relaxes nervous tension and calms goats (and people too!). Oats are a good nutritive, tonic herb. Toning the nervous system is important because it helps prevent depression  and other nervous disorders. This can be especially important for goats that are prone to being high-strung or anxious.

The herbs in these treats can be substituted out for other herbs to serve different purposes in your goat care. I like to make these treats with a blend of herbs that supports immune function and general vitality to give the girls during cold or damp weather to keep them healthy. You could also substitute herbs that expel internal parasites for a natural de-wormer. To make these calming, nerve toning treats you will need the following:

Ingredients – 

  • 2 cups dried lemon balm
  • 2 cups dried skullcap
  • 1 cup dried milky oats
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cayenne powder
  • 3 Tbsp slippery elm powder
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 4 cups water
Sage is ready for a treat!

Directions –

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the water and molasses. Stir well. Let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes or until the water has absorbed.

When the water has been absorbed, stir this mixture well. Form into small patties and place on dehydrator racks lined with parchment paper. The mixture will not hold together very well, so you will want to smush it into your desired treat shape on the racks.

Dehydrate at 160°F until patties are dry and firm. The exact time this will take will depend on your dehydrator and the size of your patties, but it will probably be several hours. Finished patties will not be sticky or damp and can be stored in a jar at room temperature. Patties that are still wet will go bad at room temperature after a few days.When patties are done, feed to your goats and enjoy their head butts of gratitude.

Brightening Winter Herbal Tea Blend

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Around this time of year, it’s easy to get a bad case of the winter blues, especially if you are feeling under the weather. I like to drink this tea when I first start feeling like I’m getting sick to give my immune system a boost. This blend is sure to warm you up, keep you healthy, and brighten your spirits.

The rosemary and St. John’s wort in this blend help to fight winter blues and boost spirits while lemon balm brings a calming effect. Thyme and Echinacea help to prevent and fight infection.

 

To make this tea blend you will need:

-Rosemary
-St. John’s wort
-Thyme
-Echinacea
-Lemon balm
-Honey (optional)
-Lemon juice (optional)

 

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