Today we’re going to talk about a good “friend” of mine – burdock.  I am so impressed with this herb, as it is quite the underdog in terms of uses and how beneficial it is to us.  Used for thousands of years for a variety of health conditions ranging from blood sugar issues, to cancer, to acne, this is one herb to make a mental note to take more of!

Let’s start with the nutrients.  Burdock is high in chromium, magnesium, and inulin, making it a great go-to herb for all issues of blood sugar levels, including diabetes and insulin resistence.  It is also high in cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, silicon, thiamine, vitamin A, and zinc.

Burdock helps to strengthen the immune system, the kidneys, and the liver.  Because it has such an affinity for helping the liver to detox, it is highly recommended for treating skin eruptions such as psoriasis, eczema, herpes, acne, and boils.  In addition, it has commonly been used by herbalists in conjunction with red clover as an alternative cancer/tumor therapy because of its ability to help your body cleanse its circulatory system.

Not sold yet?  Due to its inulin content, burdock acts as a prebiotic, which helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut, making it a powerful ally against the negative effects of antibiotics.  It also acts as a diuretic for those days when you seem to be holding your weight in water.

I’m getting excited just thinking about all these benefits – hope you are too!  I actually have a jar of liver cleanse tincture infusing on my counter right now – containing, yep, you guessed it!  Burdock.  I also have a “calcium and Vitamin B” glycerite infusing in my crock pot with.. well, I’m sure you already figured it out.

Now, a treat!  Here is a recipe for burdock root pickles by herbalist Eaglesong in Monroe, WA:

You will need:
Several stalks of fresh burdock
1/3 pt tamari
1/3 pt balsamic vinegar
garlic cloves
fresh ginger

Start by slicing the clean burdock root into bite sized pieces.  Simmer the sliced root in just enough water to cover the pan but not fully immerse the root.  It is done when the root is slightly soft, but still crisp.  Remove from heat and keep the cooking water for later.  Fill a mason jar with the cooked root and add your garlic and ginger.  (For a pint mason jar, use about 3 cloves garlic and 4 slices of ginger, or to taste)
Next fill the jar with 1/3 tamari, 1/3 balsamic vinegar, and 1/3 water.  Store in the fridge, and in a couple weeks, your burdock root pickles will be ready!





Written on April 7th, 2013 , Informative, Recipes

So, before we get into the thick of our Valentine Day candy madness, let’s take a minute to thank our teeth for all they’ve done for us.  They have allowed us to enjoy all the good food we love, they have supplied us with countless Kodak moments, and they were our only source of income as we sold our “babies” to the tooth fairy.  Yes, our teeth have been good to us, indeed.  So let’s be good to them for a change.  And by that, I don’t mean running off to the dentist for another fluoride cleaning (remember my post on fluoride?) – I mean taking their health into your own hands!

Now, I had previously posted a homemade toothpaste recipe, but today, we’re going a different route.  Let’s talk about healing our teeth naturally, hopefully eliminating the need for more drastic procedures.  After all, if for nothing else, it’s worth the shot to save some hard earned money, right?

Let’s talk about some natural options for common tooth problems..

1:  Toothache!
Remember my post on Baltic Amber necklaces?  (If not, definitely check it out!)  I am such a FIRM believer in the healing properties of Baltic Amber because I have seen it myself!  My husband has a couple root canals on his “to do” list, which I’m hoping we can avoid by healing naturally, but needless to say, his teeth and gums would flare up twice a week to the point that he would go running for the prescription pain meds.  So we decided to give Baltic Amber a try, as it is well known for helping with inflammation and pain in the body, specifically that of teeth.  He has been wearing his necklace for 3 months now, and he has not had a SINGLE flare up!
Need more?  He took the necklace off one day, and within the day, the tooth began bothering him again.  He promptly put it back on, and the pain went away.  (It did not make it to a full flare up)

In addition, my son had 2 canines coming in about a month ago.  Three days of not eating well, not sleeping well, being fussy and crying had me at “that point”.  I got him his own teething necklace, and within 10 MINUTES, he had eaten more than he had the past few days, and he was playing AND laughing with his sister after.  And he never did get fussy again.  WOW!  From a frazzled Mom’s point of view, this was a miracle!  I’d really love to hug the person who discovered Baltic Amber’s healing qualities, by the way.  My favorite place to buy Baltic Amber?  Hip Green Baby, of course!
Ok, so what else can you do for tooth pain?  You can try Clove Essential Oil applied directly to the site of pain – or, for that matter, my trusted old Thieve’s Oil blend.  Works great to kill bacteria, as well as help to numb the pain.   Also, lightly chewing on myrrh can help the pain.  Smiling yet?

2:  Cavities
Eeek!  Ok, so now is the time I have to remind you I am NOT a doctor – or a dentist.  If the dentist says you need a filling, don’t take my word over theirs.  But, I can tell you, I personally believe the natural route, in milder cases, can help avoid that dreaded trip to the dentist in the first place.  What are some natural options?
Well, firstly, let’s remind ourselves that our bodies were designed to heal themselves, and that includes our teeth.  What??  Yes, including our teeth.  Given the right nutrition, our teeth CAN heal themselves.  That being said, what can we do to help our bodies do what they’re trying to do?
First, let’s heal from the inside out.  Dr. Weston Price, founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation (and a dentist, I may add) had long ago discovered the amazing health benefits of the historically sacred food of fermented cod liver oil – combined with high vitamin content butter oil.  (Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?)  This amazing combination is very, very high in nutrients, including vitamins A and D, but also has shown potential in helping the body regrow damaged bones, as well as heal cavities and other dental problems.
Last year, I noticed on 2 of my teeth, little holes on the surface (my back molars, in the groove lines).  Having heard about the promises of the fermented cod liver/butter oil supplementation, I decided to give it a try.  After all, I’ve never had a cavity or filling before, and I sure didn’t want to start now!  So I tried the brand Green Pastures, as it had AMAZING  reviews.

Now, being the frugal that I am, I went for the gel, as opposed to the softgels.  Let me give you a recommendation if you decide to try this:  spend the extra and get the softgels!  The first thing I noticed upon opening it, was that it smelled, as my husband cheerfully put it, like “stinkbait” from his fishing days.  I’ve never been fishing myself, but I don’t think I’ll ever be sniffing stinkbait.. awful stuff!
But, I’ll give it this.  The nutritional benefits far outweigh the temporary discomfort of the senses – and by the time I had finished the bottle, my hair was shining, my skin was glowing, and my teeth no longer had little holes in them.  Point and case.  In addition, the Vitamin D content supports the immune system, and I think we all agree that’s something we need ALL the time – not just when our teeth are bothering us!  (ESPECIALLY during this cold/flu season!)  Vitamin D, by the way, is a necessary nutrient that most Americans don’t get enough of.  Unless you live near the Equator, and spend several hours a day outside, chances are, you’re not getting enough.  Consider this, if a bottle of this stuff wards off just one trip to the doctor (or dentist!), it’s more than paid for itself.  Win!
So, where do I buy my Cod Liver/Butter Oil blend?
Perfect Supplements!
Not only do they carry this product, but they also have many other high quality supplements, including Chlorella, Spirulina, Acai, Coconut oil, Probiotics, all-natural weight loss supplements, and more.  Even better, they routinely have specials and sales that keep more of your green in your wallets.  If you haven’t noticed, I did add their company link to my sidebar on the Progress Via Regress’ main page for easy access.
Now, back to our teeth,  in addition to working from the inside out, let’s work from the outside in.  This one is easy – remineralize your teeth!  I came across this recipe for Remineralizing Toothpaste on, and it’s definitely a step up from my plain jane homemade toothpaste recipe:

You will need –
5 Parts Calcium or Cal-Mag Powder
1 Part Diatomaceous Earth Trace Minerals
2 Parts Baking Soda
3 Parts Xylitol Powder
3-5 Parts Coconut oil to desired consistency
Optional* – Essential Oils for flavor
Optional* – A Dab of Castile Soap
Mix ingredients, then add the coconut oil 1 part at a time to desired consistency.

And there you have it, several great ways to get your pearly whites looking (and feeling) their best!  Smile away!

Written on January 28th, 2013 , General, Recipes

I love a good Spring Cleaning, don’t we all?  (Forgive me, I am assuming you all are as OCD about a clean house as I am)  But what about all those chemicals that are lurking in your cleaning products?  Yikes!  That actually scares me worse than the germs do, and I am, as I mentioned previously, quite the germ-o-phobe!

You might be thinking “well, I only deep clean now and again, how harmful could the sprays and soaps really be?”

Let’s answer with a statistic – According to Deepak Chopra (Physician, Writer, and Professor), only 5% of ALL genetic mutations are hereditary.  That means the rest, over 150,000 currently estimated,  are due to a toxic environment/environment products.

So when I say today’s post is about Spring Cleaning, I don’t necessarily mean scrubbing those corners.  Let’s start with the products in our cabinets.  And instead of waiting until the Spring, let’s start now!

We are just beginning to skim the surface on all of the chemicals that have been sprayed on our countertops for generations past, and what we’re finding is not all that encouraging.  According to one of my favorite sites,, the main chemicals you want to watch out for are as follows:

Terpenes, Phenol, Petroleum Solvents, Phthalates, Benzene, Nonylphenol Ethoxylates, Butyl Cellosolve, 1,4 – Diclorobenzene, Styrene, Formaldehyde, and Triclosan.  These petrochemicals that have been formulated into cleaning (and personal care) products have been compromising our health in more ways than one.  According to Jeanne Rizzo, CEO of The Breast Cancer Fund,  just some of these chemicals are responsible for disrupting our hormones, tricking them into thinking hormones are present in our body that really aren’t.  This one side effect has been proven to cause earlier puberty in children, which statistically increases risk of breast cancer.  In fact, breast cancer is approximately 2 times as high among women who use cleaning products (specifically mold and mildew cleaners, and air fresheners).  In addition, these chemicals are also causing reproductive and developmental problems in children, inflammation problems, other forms of cancer, neurological issues, and the list goes on…

I really could make this into a several part series due to the wealth of information available, but I believe there are many great articles out there already, so I encourage you to do your own research on the above chemicals.  One great article I came across was on Dr. Mercola’s direct site, and I highly recommend you skim it over:

So what are we to do now that we’re afraid to touch our cleaners??  I’ve got some environmentally friendly, practical and easy DIY recipes that will take the fear out of your cleaning endeavors.

Some of these recipes, I’ve already referenced on my post on Practical Homesteading, but I will repost again so that you have them in 1 place – however, several are new:

Powdered Dishwasher Detergent:
1 Cup Borax Powder
1 Cup Baking Soda or Super Washing Soda
Optional – several drops of your favorite Essential Oil – and Lemon EO to help with the rinse cycle
Mix all ingredients and shake well.  You will use 2 Tbsp per load.

Liquid Dishwasher Detergent:
2 Cups Liquid Castile Soap
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup White Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
3 Drops EO of your choice
Pour all ingredients into a plastic bottle with squirt top and shake well.  Use 2 Tbsp per load.

Laundry Detergent:
1 Cup Borax Powder
1 Cup Super Washing Soda
1 Grated Bar of All Natural Soap (such as Fels Naptha or plain Ivory)
15 Drops EO
Mix all ingredients well and use 2 Tbsp per load.

All Purpose Cleaning Spray:
1/8 Cup White Vinegar
1 Tsp Borax Powder
1 Tsp Super Washing Soda
1/8 Cup Liquid Castile Soap
16 Ounces Hot Water
10 Drops Lemon EO – or Thieve’s Blend (See my recipe on my post on Thieve’s Oil)
10 Drops Tea Tree EO (Optional if using Thieve’s blend)
Combine the vinegar, washing soda, borax, and soap in a spray bottle.  Fill bottle with hot water and add essential oils.  Blend until dissolved.  Shake before using.
Source – The Herb Companion, September 1999

Carpet Freshener:
1 Cup Baking Soda
10 Drops of EO of your choice
Mix together and shake well.  Leave to stand overnight.  When using, shake on your carpet, then vacuum.
Source –

Furniture Polish:
1 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
Mix the ingredients and use by dabbing a rag into the solution, then wiping onto your wood surfaces to polish.

Powder Scrub:
1/2 Cup Bentonite Clay
1/2 Cup Baking Soda
12 Drops Lemon EO
Place clay in a bowl, and make a small well in the center.  Drop the EO in the middle, then add baking soda and mix until blended.

Floor Wash:
1/8 Cup Liquid Soap
1/4 to 1/2 Cup White Distilled Vinegar
30 Drops Citrus EO
Combine Ingredients in a pail.  Mix the water until it is sudsy.  Make only what you will use at that time.

Window Wash:
Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Cups Club Soda or Water
1/2 Tsp Peppermint EO
1 Tsp Cornstarch
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl, the pour into a plastic spray bottle.  Shake well before each use.

Toilet Cleaner:
2 Tbsp Baking Soda
2 Tbsp White Vinegar
1 Tsp Orange EO
1 Tsp Grapefruit EO
2 Cups Water
Mix all ingredients in a 4 cup measuring bowl.  Note:  it will foam.  Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes before pouring into a spray bottle.
Source- The Herb Companion, March 2006

These recipes are easy to make, practical, chemical free, and will save you money!  Win win!  Don’t have the time?  There are so many “green” brands of cleaners on the shelves as well that use plant-based cleaning agents, and all natural, sustainable ingredient sources – one of my favorites being Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products.  But whether you make it yourself, or buy it, it’s  important that you do some extra research and learn what you are using to clean your environment.  Our health is such a necessity to us, and when our bodies are being bombarded from all sides from environmental chemicals, to the chemicals in our food, we owe it to ourselves, and our families to take some of the burden off of our overtaxed systems.

Hope this post gets you inspired to do some “cleaning” of your own!




Written on January 13th, 2013 , General, Recipes

Can you all tell I LOVE Fall-time. I mean I’ve said it several times, and I’m sure I’ll say it a few more before I’m done. I really just can’t stop gushing! That cool air (sort of), the trees changing colors (starting to), and holidays on the horizon. Really, it makes me want to live outside. Yes. Live. Outside. That’s part of the experience, after all, isn’t it? Saying “ta ta” to the scorching sun, and actually being able to bask outside during peak uv times of the day without baking in 10 minutes or under.
Last weekend, I got more than plenty of fresh air at our city’s local hot air balloon festival. What a blast! I actually rented out a space for my Progress Via Regress endeavors – talking to people about the website, passing out business cards, and, of course, selling my herbal goodies! Considering what a geeky nerd I am, it was pure bliss!

Oh yes, I went locked and loaded! A box of extra product (I had been working my heiney off making extra for the event over the course of the last month), my cards, and a brand new sign to make it official!

In addition, I have been helping teach new (and local) Tae Kwon Do classes the past couple of months, and I had organized a Demo Team for our school. So I coordinated a demonstration for us, and we performed at the festival every hour! That was such a blast, and let me tell you – a 10 hour day, on my feet, running back and forth between my PVR table – and performing demos gave me quite the workout! I was so incredibly grateful to have kept up my energy throughout the day, despite the temptations of sugar-laden festival foods, and deep-fried “don’t need ’ems”. (I brought my own food – how wrong is that?)

Back to Fall. Know what else I love, besides the weather? PUMPKINS! Pumpkin pie, smoothies, muffins, cookies, cakes… oooh yea that is talking my language! So I was thinking about pumpkins, and wondering what kind of wonderful pumpkin recipe I should post. But know what? Too many people have been there and done that! Let’s go our own route! Instead of making something to eat out of your Fall treasures, let’s use them as a beauty regimen! Ha ha! After all, that beta carotene is GREAT for your skin!
And so.. I bring you, your very own Pumpkin Facial Mask!

You will need about 16 ounces of pumpkin puree, cooked and cooled. If that takes too long, a can of pumpkin puree will work fine – but don’t use the pumpkin pie spiced can. Just the plain puree.
You will also need 1 beaten egg, and 1/4 C of raw honey.

If your skin is feeling dry, you can add just a dash of olive oil – or if your skin is feeling oily, you can add a bit of raw apple cider vinegar.

You will mix together all of the ingredients, and apply them to your face. Leave it on for about 15 minutes, then rinse it away. Voila! Your skin will LOVE you for it!
AND it’s a great way to get rid of all those pumpkins you have sitting on your counter! Pamper away!

Written on November 4th, 2012 , Recipes

As I walk down the bakery goods aisle in the grocery stores these days, I can’t help but sadly avert my eyes away from the french breads, cakes, and cookies. Is it the sugar? Probably part of it. But at the front of my mind, I am hearing a voice whispering.. “look at all that gluten! You are going to have a time with that!” (And not a good time)
Is it just me, or does gluten seem to be more of an issue now than it ever was? Could it be possible that all of the sudden, we have gluten intolerant people – and even more gluten-sensitive? Or perhaps, that has been the case all along. Only, we just didn’t realize what we were dealing with.

When gluten first started getting a bad rap, it was mainly due to the roughly 1 in 133 that are completely intolerant to it. Celiac’s disease was rearing its ugly head, and the damage it was causing made us all question the validity of gluten being as safe as we thought. After all, we all know what gluten is, right? The refined, often processed grains that we use for cooking and baking – but particularly the protein found in them. You know when you are baking bread or pasta (just thinking about it gets my Italian genes all in a stir), and you’re cleaning out your bowl or hands, and you’ve got that thick, sticky, glue-like consistency of dough you need to scrub off with hot water? Yep, that would be the gluten. It gives elasticity to our food, helps it keep shape, helps breads to rise, and gives food that chewy consistency we all know and love. These proteins, however, don’t fare so well inside our body. After all, we can’t chug scalding hot water to chase it down, or take a dish brush to the inside of our intestines to remove it all, can we? The point is, if it sticks outside – it’s doing the same inside your body.

Common grains containing gluten include:
Graham, Farina, Wheat Germ, Bulgur, Semolina, Couscous, Durum, Spelt, Kamut, Rye, Wheat, and Barley. This includes, of course, common white flour as well. Oats, unless specified Gluten-free, may fall into this category too.

So what are some of the side effects of a gluten intolerance – or sensitivity? Symptoms can range from mild complaints such as constipation, a sluggish feeling after consuming gluten products – to lethargy, holding water weight, eczema or other skin conditions, bloating, diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain, headaches, ADD, hyperactivity, nutritional deficiencies, allergies, insulin spikes, damaged gut flora, mood swings, and, of course, Celiac Disease. As you can see, many of these symptoms have been going unchecked for years – generations even, and the culprit may have been on the dinner table all along.

Now, I’m not saying eliminate all gluten from your diet. I’m not saying throw away all your breads and baked goods – and forget they ever existed. Why do I think Gluten-free is a better way to go? Frankly, because I’ve tried it. And I have noticed a huge difference in myself, making me realize, quite possibly, I’ve had a mild sensitivity all along.
Now, to be honest, I don’t live a complete gluten-free lifestyle. I love my tortillas, occassional pancakes, and my amazing spelt cookie recipe. But even just incorporating gluten-free options, and being aware of how I felt prior to eliminating gluten, makes me want to make more of an effort to “not go overboard.”
How did GF affect me, personally? First, I noticed my energy skyrocket. Being Italian, I LOVE my pasta! But pasta didn’t love me so much. After eating a plate of spaghetti, I’d often feel like I had a bag of rocks sitting in my stomach – and I’d be so tired afterwards, that was it for the night! A simple switch to brown rice pasta, and that was eliminated completely!
Next, I dropped a few pounds that never have found their way back again. Remember my post on cleansing? When I talked about the microvilli getting clogged, thus you having a compromised ability to uptake nutrients? Well, gluten does the same. It gets stuck in all those hairs, and guess what? You’ve got some extra weight on you as well!
And the most noticeable difference since I’ve tried gluten free, was being much more regular. Enough said guys.

So, we’ve gone over the grains containing gluten – how about the gluten-free grains?

Corn, Rice (wild, white, and brown), Buckwheat, Quinoa, Sorghum, Teff, Millet, and Amaranth.

Personally, my favorite is Millet, as it has pre-biotic properties, which means it nourishes and helps to grow the good bacteria in your gut. Win Win!
I have a great recipe for preparing a Millet cereal in the morning, and it’s a great alternative to common dry cereals!

First, you will need – 1 C hulled Millet, and a pinch of salt. You will soak these in water for 12-24 hours before preparing, so get it ready at least by the night before.
In the morning, drain it off, and pour into a pot with 2 1/2 C fresh water, as well as dried fruit or spices to your choice. Simmer this mixture until all of the water is absorbed – and the millet is soft. Pour yogurt or milk over it, and enjoy!
(This easily makes enough for 2 people, so you can half the recipe if you don’t want to refrigerate leftovers)

What about all the breads, cakes, and cookies we’ve all grown up loving? There are several gluten free baking mixes available at most health food stores – or you can try your hand at making it from scratch! One website that has an amazing array of Gluten-free recipes is Gluten-free Goddess:

So, how about giving Gluten-free a try? You might just be surprised to find a noticeable difference worth the extra couple steps. Remember, when dealing with your health, it’s not always the most convenient taking the off-beaten path, but it’s usually well worth the effort! Happy Baking!

Written on October 29th, 2012 , General, Recipes

We are nearing mid-October now, which I’m happy to say, means goodbye to 100 degree weather, and HELLO 80 degrees! (That’s supposed to be a joke, but it’s accurate here in TX) Sad, right? As much as I love Fall-time (it is by far, my favorite season), I can’t help but look forward to winter with the typical dread of any mother. Cold and Flu season! But that’s the reason for today’s post – to get you all ready and stocked with your herbal remedies so that hopefully, we can lessen the effects of the inevitable germs that find their way into our homes this time of year.
Now, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. This is not going to be a substitute for doctor advice – or doctor visits should you or your kiddos get very sick. I am hoping, however, to eliminate the need to go to the doctor in the first place. Because bottom line is only your body can heal itself, and a properly functioning immune system can do a world of good when it comes to getting (or not getting) sick.
Let’s tackle some of the telltale symptoms of sickness, and address them appropriately, shall we? Because when it comes to Fall – and Winter, don’t we all have better things to do than stay home sick all day?? (Unless, of course, you just want that lay in your jammies, on the couch, watching movies kind of day. In that case, I understand completely! But you don’t really have to be sick to do that. :) )

Firstly, let’s address the immune system. What a powerful, amazing system we have, that was designed to protect us from germs, and heal just about any malady you can think of. A properly functioning immune system is absolutely necessary for optimal health. So how do you keep yours up to par? Here is a couple tips:

Vitamin D! Have you had your sun today? This hormone is utilized by just about every cell in your body, and deficiencies have been linked to just about anything from disease to cancer. As you probably know, your body produces this hormone from direct exposure to sunlight – but many of us still don’t get enough! So what next? Supplementation is key.

Next, avoid sugar! Did you know that eating sugar-laden foods freezes your immune system AND compromises it for a minimum of 5 hours after you consumed it? When you’re around sick people at work, or on the bus – maybe you should think twice about that doughnut, can of soda, or candy bar. That could be the difference between you getting sick as well, or not.

Vitamins and herbs – I’ve covered several herbs up to this point, so I won’t drone on about this too much. Vitamin C does wonders – as does nourishing foods, including Bone Broths. What in the world is that?? And how do you make it? EASY! Every time I purchase a whole (organic, hormone free) chicken – or happen by the local grassfed meat market, I make my own chicken/beef stock using the bones. I just throw the bones into my crockpot, along with some organic carrots, celery, onion – and raw, organic apple cider vinegar (helps to break down the bones and extract the trace nutrients from the bone marrow). You can also add some organic astragalus root, which is a Chinese herb known for supporting the immune system, as well as having adaptogen properties similar to ginseng. Cover it all with water, turn the crock pot on low, and let it cook for 24 hours. The next day, you can strain it off and use or freeze your healthy goodness! This is an incredibly easy, nourishing way to keep your immune system in tip top shape, and it is especially good for anyone who is already sick and cannot tolerate solid foods!

You can also try this recipe from well known MD, Midwife, and Herbalist, Aviva Romm, for an immune boosting beverage:
1) Crush 2 cloves of garlic into a 1 Qt. Mason jar.
2) Cover with boiling water, and let it sit for 30 minutes.
3) Strain; Add honey and lemon to taste for anyone over 2.
For children under 2, you can substitute the honey for maple syrup.
You can drink this incredibly easy-to-make beverage anytime you like to help strengthen your immune system! Better yet, make it a daily affair and get that much more ahead of the game!

Then, of course, we have our common sense tips:
Washing hands, getting plenty of rest, and eating a healthy diet full of organic fruits and vegetables!! This all goes without saying.

Now..what do you do when you actually GET sick? Next post, I’ll have several recipes and tips to help you get back on your feet in a hurry! So be ready with pen and paper in hand, it’s going to be a goodie!

Written on October 11th, 2012 , General, Informative, Recipes

Well, I held back as long as I could. But all this talk about homemade shampoos and soaps finally got to me. I know I had mentioned the herb Soapwort in a previous post, but I never did get far into it as far as the “how to”. And considering my geeky leanings, that’s just wrong!
And so today, we’ll briefly get to know our good herb, Soapwort, then I’ll leave you all to get acquainted afterwards. :)

Soapwort has been, for the most part, used as a cleaning agent (sources debate that it may be toxic when used internally – but others say it is safe to use for mostly laxative/diuretic uses). It was discovered useful when, aptly named, the herb was found surrounded by puddles and producing a sudsy action in them. To be honest, if I were to come across an unknown plant sitting in a soapy puddle, I may not have been as eager to see what was going on.. but, as they say, someone’s always got to be first. In this case, obviously, it was a win!

So I was incredibly excited to have a surprise package arrive this week, with none other than dried soapwort in it! (Imagine my giddiness!) Now, you can use fresh or dried – obviously, the dried will keep longer for “off seasons”, but fresh works better if you have it available.
And what did I do with this goodness?? I made liquid soap – and herbal shampoo! And believe me, guys, it’s incredibly easy! So I’ll get right to it..

For soap uses: Simply boil 2 C water. Add several Tbsp dried soapwort to it. (To be honest, I went overboard and used 1/2 C).

Simmer this for about 20 minutes, then remove from heat to cool. Once cooled, strain off and put into a bottle. Now, here’s the important part – it won’t keep more than a week, so use it, optimally, within a few days.

To use soapwort as a shampoo (this is the fun part!), you are going to begin the process the same way as making soap. But while it is simmering, get together some hair health-enhancing herbs. Below, you can see I added about 1 Tsp of the following: Horsetail, Nettle, Marshmallow, and Maiden’s Hair Fern.

Now, when your soapwort is finished simmering, you will pour it into a heat resistent bowl containing whatever herbs you have chosen to supplement. You will not strain off the soapwort at this time, just like you did above.
Allow the “infusion” bowl to cool, then strain off all the herbs. Pour your homemade shampoo into a bottle – and the expiration date will be the same as the soap. Use it soon guys!

Look at those awesome suds!

So, how does it measure up? Well, first, let me tell you, if you are comparing to soap, it may not measure up in your expectations. Take that into consideration. There is some soapy action going on, but (for me), it wasn’t a whole lot. (Also remember I used a dried form).
As for the shampoo – you may want to consider using a floral fragrance herb to cover the “herb scent” from the soapwort. But me, I’m not as concerned with aesthetics as I am functionality. So my hair did come out smelling “herby”, but it also felt stronger, smoother, and the curls were looking very happy indeed. So I give this herb a thumbs up – I will definitely do this again – rating.
So remember, soapwort is a free-soap alternative that could be your best friend in a pinch, especially if you’ve got kids – or pets – or a husband. But we won’t get into that one.. :)

Written on September 17th, 2012 , Informative, Recipes

As many of you already know, there are icky chemicals in just about any of the personal care products on the store shelves these days. And, if you’re super health conscious, that makes it very difficult to find what you need – without rolling the dice every time you make a choice. I mean, we all have to get clean, right? But, do you have to risk your health every time you take a shower? No, you don’t. Am I being a bit overzealous in my fears of most personal care products? Nope. And that is what scares me most. Because if you trust your health to commercial companies, you will nearly always be disappointed. Especially with all of the research readily available now that was not years ago. I say we are completely justified in wanting to take responsibility for our own health. (Remember guys, this is not a new concept, people used to do this ALL the time back in the day).

The truth is, most of us don’t know what all these chemicals are, their “alternate names”, or the risks they pose to our health. And, we may not want to know. Because then, guys, you would all be paranoid like I am. :)
I came across a great e-article on some of the common chemicals in personal care products, and I certainly encourage you to take a look!

But, aside from that, the target of today’s post is our good friend, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate – present in most commercial shampoos and soaps, some kid’s candy, oh, and heavy duty cleaning products for surfaces such as your garage floor. Does that sound right to you?
Unfortunately, SLS has been justifiably labelled as a carcinogenic substance – and unfortunately, we have been using the stuff on our body’s largest organ (our skin) for years. Remember guys, we don’t have to eat the stuff to be at risk.
But, in defense of all those companies out there who use the stuff, SLS is “a cheap chemical”, and “necessary to produce a foaming action necessary to truly get us clean!” Wow, really? Let’s pretend, just for humor, that there does NOT exsit an herb aptly called “Soapwort” that produces a lovely foaming action as well – and can be used as a soap/shampoo/laundry soap just as well. In fact, I’ll forget altogether that that is what people used to use all the time. Good? Ok.
(I guess I just imagined this lovely flower..)

But, to be fair, we are all used to shopping for our shampoo, not picking flowers and making soap out of them. So I’ve come up with a great compromise – making your own shampoo but without the chemicals! And trust me, guys, this is an EASY one!

Homemade Shampoo!
(Now, this first recipe, I actually used in my “Practical Homesteading” post – and I will rewrite it for quick convenience. I am also adding a few variants to make this a “no excuses” friendly prod. But remember, Castile Soap will irritate your eyes, so use caution when washing. Enjoy!

Basic Recipe:
1/4 C Water
1/4 C Liquid Castile Soap
1/2 Tsp Light Vegetable Oil

Recipe for Dry Scalp:
6 Oz Liquid Castile Soap
5 Drops Tea Tree EO
1/2 Tsp Jojoba Oil

Recipe for Oily Scalp:
6 Oz Liquid Castile Soap
5 Drops Lavender EO

Recipe for Colored Hair:
6 Oz Liquid Castile Soap
1/2 Tsp Avocado Oil
1 Tsp Coconut Oil

And what makes the best finish for your clean, chemical free hair afterwards? No hands, come on guys!
Alright, a Stinging Nettle infusion rinse! Or, you could even infuse your own hair oil, using:
Avocado Oil
Stinging Nettle
Just add your herbs to the oil, and let it sit for 3-4 weeks. When it’s done, strain off, and you will have a vitamin-enriched, lovely green oil that nourishes your hair better than anything you could find at the store!
It’s just a few extra steps, everyone, but believe me, your hair (and body in general) will thank you! Now go strut that healthy hair!

Written on August 13th, 2012 , General, Recipes

Bugs. Pests. We all get them. In the garden, in your yard, nibbling on your meager harvest that you’ve been trying to keep alive all year. The problem is, taking care of the undesirables without harming your plants, the environment, pets, or children who may be playing in that area. There’s a very fine line between getting the job done – and overkill.
Luckily, there are organic options that have been tried and true since long before chemical pesticides were invented – it’s just that we’ve forgotten about them.
Here are some excerpts from an article written by Doc and Katy Abraham that you may just find useful:

For Apple Maggots – Mix one part molasses with 9 parts water, then add yeast to produce fermentation. Pour this mixture into wide mouth jars and hang in nearby trees around your apple trees.

For aphids, mites, leafhoppers, or other garden insects – Daddy Longlegs! These guys are most active at night, preying on these common pests. (Yes, there are actually companies where you can purchase live bugs for this purpose).

Crawling Insects that prey on your fruit trees – Wrap your tree trunk with 6-8 inches of tape, and apply Vaseline or other grease to the tape. Take care not to get the Vaseline directly on the tree, though, it may cause damage.

Red Spider Mites – These guys love to attack tomato leaves, when the weather is hot. To kill this pest naturally, make a spray of 2% oil of coriander, or a spray of anise oil.

White flies, spider mites, aphids, and other various vegetable-consuming insects – Mix 1 tsp liquid dishwashing detergent with 1 C vegetable oil. Shake well and add to a quart of water. Use at a 10 day interval as an all purpose contact-insecticide. Be sure to test on a single plant first, as it may cause tip burn.

Mites – Lime sulfur can be applied to kill most species of mites, as well as their eggs. It also has fungicidal properties and can be used on fruit trees. Note: Lime sulfur will stain paint if you apply it on plants near the house, so take care when applying it close to buildings.

Squash and Stink Bugs – Sabadilla (made from the seeds of a South American lily. It is irritating to eyes and lungs, so take care during application, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Worms – Ryania (made from ground stems and roots of a South American shrub). See directions on container.

Fungus gnats, symphylids, centipedes, root lice, and other underground pests – Tobacco water. Mix a solution of tobacco and water so that it is the color of brown tea; pour on the soil. DO NOT drink it or let anyone else drink it by mistake!!

Cats, dogs, snails, and other munching insects – to discourage them from consuming your vegetables, dust powdered hot pepper or a spray of hot pepper sauce onto your plants.

Ants and grubs – beneficial nematodes. These little guys are great at tackling ant problems, and they eat away at the grubs to keep your gardens free of these common pests. They actually arrive in soil, and you will not see them since they are microscopic.

Other Chewing Insects – Blend 1 C of chopped spearmint leaves, 1 C of green onion tops, and 1/2 C chopped hot red pepper, and 1/2 C water together, and put into a gallon of water. Add 1/2 C of liquid detergent (preferable lemon scented). Dilute by adding 1/2 C mixture to a quart of water. Spray directly onto your plants.

These are just a few of the organic options available to you. I encourage you to do some research, try a few a things, and see what works best for your gardening needs. Remember, pest control does not have to be detrimental to your health. Happy Hunting!

Written on July 24th, 2012 , General, Informative, Recipes

When I first started learning about herbs, I overlooked slippery elm because, initially, it didn’t “jump out” at me. It didn’t seem flashy enough to keep my attention. Of course, I wasn’t sick at the time. :) Since then, I’ve learned that it’s often the underdog that comes out on top, and this herb is no exception.

Slippery elm bark is an incredibly healing herb, and frankly, one of the first I turn to now, when I feel any kind of sore throat or mucous buildup going on. And like magic, the sore throat is soothed, and the mucous begins to break up, almost immediately after taking this amazing herb.
You may notice the powdered bark smells almost of maple, but the taste, not so much. The best way to take this herb, in my opinion, is as a gruel or a drink. Just take a spoonful of the herb, and mix it with water, and eat it right off the spoon – or take a tablespoon and mix it with a pint of water. Either way, you will notice, as it absorbs the water it becomes a grainy consistency similar to a cream of rice cereal.
If I’m giving it to my kiddos (or even if I want additional soothing to a sore throat), mix some raw honey into your slippery elm-water mixture. Bet they can’t say no then! Last resort, it works well mixed into your oatmeal, and you won’t even know it’s there!
Slippery elm can also be used topically as a poultice to help draw out infections from the skin, heal rashes, and protect wounds. To do this, you will simply mix the herb with water, as if you were taking it internally – then place directly on the skin. Voila! How easy is that??
And, of course, no herb post is complete without a recipe, right? This recipe comes from “A Kid’s Herb Book” by Lesley Tierra:

Slippery Elm Sore Throat Drops
You will need:
Licorice Root*
Slippery Elm Powder

First, make a tea of licorice using 1/2 C water and 1 Tsp of chopped licorice root. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, then strain. You should have roughly 1/4 C of tea – if you have less, add the water to make it 1/4 C.
Put 1/2 C slippery elm powder in a bowl and make a hole in the center. Pour your licorice tea in the hole and gently mix into the slippery elm powder to make a dough consistency.
Sprinkle some slippery elm powder on a clean flat surface and roll out your dough to 1/4 ” thickness.
Cut your dough into small circles, using a bottlecap or small lid about the same size – or roll them into balls and flatten and smooth them with your fingers. Make sure all of the edges are smooth, as you do not want it irritating your mouth when you suck on them.
Set your discs evenly spaced on a plate, and leave uncovered 12-24 hours, or until completely hardened.
Store your lozenges in a dark container or tin in a dry place, and use as needed.
Suck each pill so they dissolve in your mouth and coat your throat, healing your throat and lungs.

*If you do not have licorice, you can use plain water as a substitute.

Written on July 19th, 2012 , Informative, Recipes

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