Natural Health
Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.


Skin-Soothing Chamomile and Olive Oil Body Butter Recipe

Chamomile Body Butter Recipe Ingredients

Photo ©Michael Piazza Photography. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

Your skin “eats”. Did you know that?

It sure does!  It “eats” or absorbs up to 60 percent of what you apply to it (to what degree depends on age, condition and temperature of your skin, state of current health, and the molecular size of product ingredients).

Now that you’re aware of this, doesn’t it make you want to use only those body oils, lotions, creams, and body butters that are made with natural ingredients versus products concocted with synthetics and deleterious fillers (artificial colors, fragrances, mineral oil, propylene glycol, parabens, etc.)?  As a licensed holistic esthetician, herbalist, aromatherapist, and author, I’ve formulated skin and body care recipes for the last three decades and I’ve figured out — with much trial and error - how to design these recipes so that the average home cook can become a master kitchen cosmetologist — able to churn out effective personal care products that rival their commercial counterparts.

All-natural skin conditioners, whether rich and semi-heavy or light and silky, improve the skin’s barrier function by sealing in moisture and preventing evaporation.  They also lubricate your skin, improving overall suppleness and elasticity. Applying some type of nurturing conditioner, be it a hydrating moisturizer, silky body oil, or thick butter (like the recipe below) or balm, is a daily essential, a vitally important skin care step that should never be skipped.

Chamomile and Olive Body Butter Recipe

Homemade Body Butter Chamomile Recipe

Chamomile and Olive Body Butter, photo by Stephanie Tourles

This herbal butter deeply feeds your skin from the outside and especially benefits inflamed, irritated skin.  It also makes a fabulous cleansing cream and facial moisturizer for all skin types and a wonderful nail conditioning cream. It even works well to moisturize the ends of dry, frizzy hair if applied sparingly, and is a restorative after-sun cream.

This recipe includes both German chamomile (Matricaria recutita, syn. M. chamomilla) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile, syn. Anthemis nobilis) essential oils.  When combined, they offer many beneficial properties for uncomfortable, distressed skin: calming, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, analgesic, and antihistamine.

Important tips: Read this before you start melting and blending any ingredients! Blending homemade creams, lotions, and body butters takes practice.  You’re attempting to combine oily and fatty ingredients with water-based ones — which naturally repel each other — and get them to stabilize chemically and form an emulsion. Just as occurs with homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, or gravy, though, when watery ingredients and fats are blended properly and at the right temperatures, magic happens! A fabulous cream appears right before your eyes.

In order for everything to blend properly, the fatty mixture should be approximately the same temperature as the watery mixture — about body temperature or slightly cooler.

To make your body butter thicker or firmer, add a tad more beeswax or shea butter. Experiment and see which one produces the consistency and texture you like best. Shea butter will always remain softer than beeswax and it takes much, much longer than beeswax to thicken as it cools.

Prep Time: Approximately 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes to completely cool and set up

Yields approximately 2 ¼ cups

Ingredients:

• ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil or chamomile-infused olive oil
•¼ cup unrefined coconut oil
•2 Tablespoons beeswax or vegetable emulsifying wax
•1 Tablespoon shea butter (refined or unrefined)
•1 cup distilled or purified water; or chamomile, lavandin, lavender, or rosemary hydrosol
•1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
•10 capsules 200 IU vitamin E oil
•30 drops German chamomile essential oil
•30 drops Roman chamomile essential oil

Note: You may add ¼ cup of commercial aloe vera gel or juice for added skin-healing benefits, but if you do this, please reduce the water or hydrosol to ¾ cup.

Directions:

1. Heat.  In a small saucepan over low heat or in a double boiler, warm the olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and shea butter until the solids are just melted. Do not allow to simmer, just gently warm the ingredients. In another small pan, warm the water or hydrosol (and aloe vera gel or juice – if you decided to use it) and the vegetable glycerin, and stir a few times until the glycerin dissolves in the liquid.

2. Cool.  Remove both pans from the heat.  Pour the oils/wax/shea butter mixture into a blender and allow to cool for approximately 10 to 20 minutes, or until it begins to turn slightly opaque. Leave the lid off the blender during the cooling process. Time will vary depending on the temperature of your ingredients and kitchen. DO NOT walk away and forget what you are doing and allow this mixture to get too thick or it will not blend properly and you may have a difficult time getting it out of your blender.

3. Blend.  Now, place the lid on the blender and remove the lid’s center plastic piece. Turn the blender on medium speed. Slowly drizzle the water and glycerin through the center of the lid into the vortex of swirling fats below. Almost immediately the cream will turn off-white to very pale yellow and will begin to thicken.

If the watery mixture is not properly combining with the fatty mixture, turn off the blender and give the body butter a few stirs with a spatula, being sure to scrape down any residue from the sides of the blender container. Then replace the lid and blend on medium speed for another 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat this process once or twice more, if necessary, until the texture is smooth.

Turn off the blender and add the vitamin E oil (pierce the capsule skin and squeeze the contents into the mix) and essential oils. Put the lid back on, then blend for another 5 seconds or so, until the body butter is smooth and thick. It should be a pale greenish-blue color.

4. Package and cool. Pour or spoon the finished body butter into dark glass or plastic storage containers(s) — 1- to 4-ounce containers are recommended. Lightly cover each container with a paper towel and allow the blend to cool for about 30 minutes before capping and labeling.

To Store:  This body butter is best stored in a dark, cool cabinet. Use within 60 to 90 days. If your storage area is very warm, please use the butter within 4 weeks for maximum potency and freshness. On the day you notice any mold growing in your container, toss it out and make a fresh batch.

If, after a few hours or days, water begins to separate from your body butter, don’t worry. You can pour off the watery liquid and use the resulting super-thick product as a foot, shin, knee, or elbow balm. The mixture can separate if the temperature of the fatty ingredients and that of the watery ingredients are not relatively equal and cool enough when the two portions are blended. Keep trying — making perfect creams and butters is an art!

To Apply: Immediately following a bath or shower, slather this butter on your damp skin — really massage it in. Because it’s very concentrated, begin with 1 teaspoon at a time. If your skin has an oily residue after 5 minutes, you’ve used too much. Simply wipe off the excess with a towel and use less next time around. Body butter may be used daily, if desired.

Recipe excerpted from Pure Skin Care: Nourishing Recipes for Vibrant Skin & Natural Beauty (c2018 by Stephanie Tourles). Photo ©Michael Piazza Photography. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

Book Cover Pure Skin Care

Stephanie Tourles is a licensed holistic aesthetician, certified aromatherapist, and gardener with training in Western and Ayurvedic herbalism. She has also written many other books, including her best-selling, Organic Body Care RecipesHands-On Healing RemediesRaw Energy In a GlassRaw Energy; Pure Skin Care; and Naturally Bug-Free (all available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store). Visit her website www.StephanieTourles.com to learn more, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Spirituality When You are Living Off-Grid

 fire

I had the unique upbringing to have parents from widely different religious backgrounds; my dad grew up Italian Catholic while later in life he went back to the reservation to be exposed to and study his Native roots, while my mother is from Israel. While my mother grew up with atheistic parents in Israel, everything is grounded in Judaism, from the language, holidays and education. The setting is similar for someone who is not Christian in America but still learns about the Christian knowledge and how we as a country celebrate many public holidays that were original Christian holidays.

My parents didn’t want to force me to be any particular religion therefore as I was growing up wanted me to have a well rounded knowledge of what is available, so we would attend any and all religious events. I have been to almost every type of Christian church (there seem to be hundreds of varieties) from kneeling down in Catholic mass to seeing snakes handled in church to holy holy revivals with people speaking in tongues to being baptized in a river to singing the gospels with thousands, touched my head to the floor with Muslims and Sufis, chanted with New Agers, hugged trees on full moon nights, danced around a fire with hundreds, visited holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, had sweat lodges with elders, talked with self proclaimed gurus, lived with a monk, ate (broke bread) with people (many now friends) of every background, held hands in a circle with hundreds at the Teotihuacán pyramids in Mexico, and have been touched by the spirit at all of them.

My greatest feeling of wonder and greater purpose is when I am in nature. Knowing that my church is anywhere and everywhere I am makes me want to respect, take care off, and have wonder for everything and everyone I see and experience.

I think of God for want of a better word as everything, Oneness. I think at one time we were all One big ball of energy and as times goes on our oneness with each other and the universe has spread out. When we do things together, by occupying the mind and body, whether at a church, religious establishment, or dancing together at a concert, our spirits are free to get reconnected to the oneness and this connection to each other reminds us that we were once all One.

Have you ever felt a connection to everybody, beyond just a telepathic connection, and everything when you get a large group of people together doing the same thing; whether ritual or dance or a concert?

grateful

Since it takes both positive (good) and negative (evil) to make energy, I think that we should never worry about negative things as we need them to be in balance. Without negative things how do we know something is positive? You have to have one to know the other and life is all about having a good balance of both. I think the greatest people I have ever met were people that went through “hell” and therefore know and appreciate what they have. The happiest people I have met have been the ones with the least amount of material wealth.  If we don’t feel grateful for what we already have, What makes us think we would be happy with more?

I look forward everyday to the interactions I have on my Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page and hope you will join the discussion there.

Stay energized, aur

Aur Beck has lived completely off-grid for over 35 years. He has traveled with his family through 24 states and 14,000 recorded miles by horse-drawn wagon. Aur is a presenter at The Climate Reality Project, a fellow addict at Oil Addicts Anonymous International  and a talk show co-host at WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinois 91.1 FM. Find him on the Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page, and read all of Aur's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

What is 'Real' Soap?

Goat Milk Soap

What is soap? Real soap, by definition? Let me nerd out for a second and explain: soap is a fatty acid salt. To make soap you must emulsify an alkaline solution {lye} with fats/oils {goat milk, coconut oil, olive oil etc.} to cause saponification. Saponification is just the chemical reaction between the alkali {lye} and the fats {oils}. Saponification results in the salts of fatty acids and a humectant, glycerin. Then you have REAL soap that works by mixing with water to create micelles {tiny spheres that grab dirt} to wash particles away. Sodium Hydroxide lye is used to make hard soap where Potassium Hydroxide lye is used to make liquid soap.

While ‘lye’ is a big scary word to many people, most aren’t aware that lye is actually made from wood ash. So while it can burn you and you do need to take safety precautions when working with lye, it is nice to know that this chemical does have natural origins. Through the saponification process, all of the caustic qualities of lye are eliminated.

Why should this matter to you? I get the question often regarding my goat milk soap "will this actually clean?" Not only will it give you a great cleansing, it will leave your skin in better condition and more hydrated when compared to commercial 'soap' from the store.  Why? The big name brands we all know from the store aren't soap at all, they are almost always detergents!

Goat Milk Soap

Detergents are made of synthetic cleaning agents, and tend to be a bit more harsh to hold up to hard water. They rarely contain natural oils or glycerin, or very little of it, and almost never use lye which is required for the chemical reaction. Detergents tend to strip away all traces of oil with synthetic lathering agents. While this may be beneficial if I’m in need of a harsh cleaning agent, it’s not what I want when I’m washing my face.

Speaking of washing your face, how many of you need a makeup remover in addition to your facial cleanser? As ‘detergents’ usually don’t contain oil, they have a hard time dissolving oils in makeup. Why? Because of the chemistry rule ‘like dissolves like’. The real soap contains oil, the makeup contains oil. Therefore, both being non-polar substances, the real soap will dissolve your makeup without requiring any additional solvents. They are ‘like’ each other. So to simplify- when I use real soap, not detergents, I wash with soap only and all traces of makeup are gone. Or face paint, or grease, or most any other type of hard to remove substances.

Benefits to Using Real Soap

1. Decreases your exposure to synthetic chemicals and toxins. Our skin is our biggest organ and acts like a sponge with anything that we put on it. It will also keep your skin in its best condition.

2. Real soap can be used not just for lathering up in the shower, but also as a makeup remover, as a shaving cream/lotion for both men and women. It can simplify your bathroom routine!

3. It’s better for the environment as its production is done with natural ingredients.

4. You can use it to clean your whole house: I like to dilute real liquid soap with water in a spray bottle to clean my counters and mop my floor.

If you are looking to make the switch from detergents to real soap, just as you read food labels, start reading soap labels! Look for ingredients such as fats and oils you are familiar with and can pronounce and don't be scared away by lye, also listed as either sodium or potassium hydroxide. If you are interested in real soap from our little farm, you can find it here: Flicker Farm Raw Goat Milk Soap.

So there you have it, soap > detergent!

Nicole Wilkey transitioned from a corporate job to small-scale farmer in 2015. Since then she has run California based Flicker Farm to accommodate meat pigs, mini Juliana pigs, pasture based poultry and sells goats milk soap and lotion on Etsy. Connect with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook.


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The Importance of Unplugging for Your Health

 

When I was in my twenties, I bought into the lie that many people do. The harder you work and the less time off you take, the more productive (and thus successful) you will become. SO many people are afraid of unplugging. The reasons can be many including inability to connect or really relax when taking time off, fear of being replaced in the Corporate world, fear of what others will think if you take time off or simply, the false notion that you will somehow miss out on productivity or success if you do. These feelings are often times heightened and more intense if you are living in the modern day Western society.

Stress and burnout are at an all time high with side effects that can produce chronic illness and a great increase in the decline of mental health and increase in anxiety disorders. 37% of adults in the US stated their stress has increase exponentially between 2012 and 2017 as researched by Statista. Some of the greatest increases came from demands of schedules and financial worries coupled with the inability to shut off. 

My hopes through this article is to encourage you to take a fresh look at unplugging and to realize that it is really essential to success in each area of life. It took me a lot of hard lessons learned and tripping to get these concepts and once I b

What is unplugging? Simply put, unplugging allows you the rejuvenation to better perform in your business, life and various tasks. It gives you the needed TIME to free up your thoughts, think more clearly long-term and to rest and allow your body the needed time to slow down. 

I remember clearly the first time I took a two week vacation (we take several 2-3 week vacations PER YEAR) and I felt so guilty. I kept trying to 'perform' and work. I woke up to my 'to do' lists and I was still trying to do what had for so long...to work myself into the ground. For me, work and my career became my security and somewhere along the way I bought into the lie that I couldn't stop ... because if I stopped, I would lose everything I had worked for. Much of this was deep rooted stuff from my upbringing too — and an unhealthy imbalanced way to achieve success.

Subconsciously, I think many of us are or have in the past struggled with the fear of being replaced or somehow losing what we have worked so hard for. It takes being honest with yourself and taking a long hard look at your life and what you really want most. There is such a thing as balance in this world and when you find it, you'll become more productive than ever. 

It took real practice for me to learn what it meant to unwind and unplug. It started with customizing messages for my email and phone which were auto replies to let people know my 'away dates'. The hardest part of my initial unplugging was learning that I didn't run an emergency service and I didn't have to respond immediately to each and every message that came through. I know some of you can resonate with this. When you take this time to refuel and refresh, it is key to fully allow yourself this precious time to step away from it all. 

Unplugging and Unwinding Benefits

Unplugging allows you to clear your mind and have a better thought flow. When you stay busy 'running' so much and exhausting yourself, you leave no time for reflection and evaluation. This is crucial to success. 

It allows you to connect with what and who matters most. So many times, when you are busy working (and only working) you do so to the neglect of family and those people who mean so much to you. It is true that the best thing you can do for your family is spend TIME with them.

It allows you time to goal set and to reflect on those things that are working in your life and those things that are not. When you give yourself time to evaluate what is or is not working, it gives you valuable opportunity to change gears or move direction. 

It makes having FUN and enjoying the hard work you put in possible. Keeping yourself so busy that you can't enjoy the rewards of your hard work is not good. A balanced life is a life of productiveness but also rest and enjoying the moments & memories that make up life. Spending time enjoying various hobbies you may enjoy, making lasting memories with family or simply allowing yourself 'room' to live without the clock for a period of time.

Ways to Unplug for Health and Vitality

Here are some simple ways to help make unplugging easier for you. Remember, it takes practice to learn how to slow the pace and really allow yourself this needed time to relax.

When you take a vacation set your "away" messages both on email and your phone. Most phones have a 'do not disturb' feature that allows you to customize an away message similar to how you create an auto response on email. I simply customize mine when away and I also use this weekly to auto-respond to messages after business hours. Remember, setting healthy boundaries during the week is as important as when you step away and unplug.

Consider putting your phone on airplane mode and doing a "social media" detox. You can limit yourself more than you typically would and allow your mind this time of rest.

Load up on your healthy vitamins and nutrients to feed your body while you take this time of rest. For example, I tend to load up more on 'magnesium' during these times of rest & especially before bed. When you go from a state of constantly being 'wound up' it can be hard to come down and these little things make a massive difference.

Enlist the help of your family. No one knows us better than our family and likewise, no one knows our hangups and struggles better than family. Ask them to help hold you accountable to being more present and less distracted during your times of unplugging. Having healthy accountability and support is key.

Allow yourself to experience nature whenever possible. When Alex and I take our down time we always love to be close to the mountains or the beach. We enjoy breathing in the fresh air, having great conversations and putting our bare feet on the ground (this is a real thing ya' know.... it's called grounding) and lots of sleep of course. Nature has an incredible way of helping you to relax.

You do not have to feel bad for taking a break, taking a step back or unplugging. Deep down, I know this is something that most people feel makes them 'lazy' but this couldn't be further from the truth. I hope this has encouraged you to look at taking steps towards living a truly productive life that strikes the vital balance between work and play & between work and family. Taking time to evaluate your life, spend time with family and to allow yourself a break from the day to day grind is never time wasted. No matter if you can only take a week or a month, approach it mindfully and use these tips to 'unplug' and watch how rested and productive you feel. I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback after you do. 

Alexander and Ashley Poptodorov are health and wellness enthusiasts who has a passion for helping others to achieve their very best through optimal living. In 2005, they opened A+A Wellness in Atlanta, Ga. Alexander and Ashley are excited to share their experiences and excitement with you about the endless possibilities of being healthy. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

The Apothecary Garden: Elderberry, The Wise Elder of Plants

elderflower 

It is snowing outside, the winter solstice and cold moon passed. The light is returning now, oh so slowly at first. There are many plants that can help us move joyfully through the dark winter time, supported by a vibrant immune system that wards off cold and flu alike.

Black elder (Sambucus nigra) is a wonderful ally in your herbal winter apothecary and a beautiful plant in your garden, blessing you with potent medicine and abundant wildlife that is attracted by her blossoms and fruit.

The Elder in your Garden

You will need a big open sunny spot in your garden that is well irrigated and mulched with a thick layer of wood chips – elder likes wet feet. So much that the Elder Mother grows wild most abundantly in wetlands and along creeks where the big shrub helps to dry the soil after flooding. Peppermint and spearmint are nice companion plants, covering and shading the soil in between and providing aromatic cooling mint teas in the summer.

Elderflower Lemonade

The fragrant umbels of tiny cream colored elder blossoms in early summer attract many butterflies and make a wonderful lemonade. Simply add a few flower heads to a home made lemonade with fresh lemon and honey or maple syrup. A tea from dried elderflower can help relieve a fever by opening the pores of the skin and inducing sweating.

Gathering elderberries in the fall can be a race with birds who enjoy the fruit just as much as we do. Daily harvests are best while the berries ripen over the course of a few weeks.

Elder Medicine

No matter if you are so fortunate to gather fresh berries from your garden or the wild, or if you buy dried berries, elderberries are one of the best winter remedies to enjoy.

Elder, like other dark colored fruit such as blackberries and blueberries, has a lot of anti-oxidants, protecting the body from free radicals, reducing inflammation and freeing the immune system to prevent the invasion of bacteria and viruses. Elderberries have strong anti-viral properties and contain ample vitamin C. The elder plant holds wisdom for the elder body in particular, keeping the immune system strong and responsive and toning the cardiovascular system, while detoxifying and building the blood. Elder is an antispasmodic, relaxes smooth muscles and relieves coughing fits and stomach cramps.

You can make your own elderberry tincture in the fall and and reap its benefits all winter long. I like to tincture elderberries in 40% brandy, it tastes delicious and has the right amount of alcohol to keep it stable.

elderberries

Photo by healthline.com

How to Make Elderberry Tincture

1. Fill a mason jar ½ with dried elderberries, fill to the top if the berries are fresh, then fill the jar all the way to the top with brandy.

2. Close lid tightly, label jar with the plant name, alcohol type, and date and let sit in a cool dark place. Shake jar every few days.

3. After 4 to 6 weeks strain and press the plant matter from the alcohol and voila! – you made beautiful elder medicine for yourself and your loved ones.

Elder works as a preventative and for acute infections alike. Take a teaspoon of elder tincture once or twice daily to stay healthy all winter long. If you feel you have a cold or flu coming on – take more, up to 6 teaspoons daily, to help the body cope with an infection in a short period of time.

Another wonderful way to enjoy elder medicine is elderberry syrup or elixir, made with a strong decoction of the fruit, brandy and honey. I like to combine elderberries with marshmallow root to sooth and heal inflamed lung tissue and fresh ginger for its warming and anti-inflammatory medicine. Feel free to add other plant medicines for the lungs such a elecampane root, thyme or hyssop to your syrup. We are making beautiful and potent Elderberry Elixir at Raven Crest with licorice root added.

Elderberry Elixir Recipe

yields 1 quart

Ingredients

14 oz dried elderberries
½ oz dried marshmallow root
½ oz fresh ginger, cut in thin slices
1 cup raw local honey
1 ½ cups brandy
cooking pot
metal ruler

Directions

1. Combine elderberries, marshmallow root and ginger with 5 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil and with the lid on, let simmer for 2 hours.

2. Remove lid. Measure height of liquid in pot with a metal ruler.

3. Without lid, let the decoction simmer on medium heat until ½ of the liquid has evaporated.

4. Pour through a strainer and press the remaining liquid out of the plant material. You can offer the spent plant material to your compost Goddess.

5. While the decoction is still warm, add 1 cup raw local honey and stir with a whisk until the honey is completely dissolved.

6. Add 1½ cups brandy.

Bottle, label and store in a dark cool place. No need to refrigerate, honey and alcohol are great preservatives.

Raven Crest Botanicals Elderberry Elixir

Photo by Susanna Raeven

Enjoy your elder medicine workshop! You will love how your remedy keeps you healthy through the winter and it makes a great gift for friends and loved ones.

Elder blessings, Susanna Raeven


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Top Books for Herbal Medicine

herbal-medicines 
Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Madeline_Steinbach

Healing herbs and their many medicinal wonders have always fascinated me. What fascinates me even more than medicinal herbs, though, is that we have in the past several decades turned to expensive pharmaceuticals to treat our many ailments instead of referring to time-tested herbal medicines. A lot of conventional pharmaceuticals are indeed rendered from natural sources, but through processing, those beneficial compounds that were once found in herbal remedies are now synthesized in a laboratory in order to mass produce other drugs. It’s similar to processed food versus real food. Processed food at one time came from a natural source, but over the course of time the desire to mass produce food has led to low-quality food made in lab kitchens rather than grown on farms and cooked in kitchens.

Now before anyone gets too mad at me for saying that I claim all pharmaceuticals are bad, I will beat you to the punch and simply say that there are many conventional pharmaceutical drugs that have saved lives and improved the quality of life for many. There are certainly always those exceptions to be made. However, I believe natural and holistic medicines are far too underutilized and could do wonders in preventive healthcare, as well as treatment when used correctly. And these improve quality of life at a far lower cost in the long run than conventional medicines.

Herbal-Healing-For-Women 
Cover courtesy of Touchstone Books

Probably the foremost voice on herbal medicines would have to be herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. I remember my mother buying her first book, Herbal Healing for Women, back in the early 1990s. She’s since expanded her published works to include books covering medicinal plants and herbs specific for natural beauty, stress and anxiety, and common ailments. Medicinal Herbs is a great guide for herbalist beginners. She touches on identifying beneficial plants, how to grow many of them, and how to put them to use when you need them. Gladstar has been teaching and practicing herbal medicine for more than 35 years, and her talks on herbal remedies at the Mother Earth News Fairs are always packed. She is a great conversationalist and this comes through in her books. It feels like she’s right next to you helping make your first tincture.  

 Medicinal-Herbs
Cover courtesy of Storey Publishing

The best advice I’ve heard when deciding what should go in your home apothecary is to determine your most common personal and family ailments, and build your apothecary around this. The Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell is a great book to get you started. Pursell walks the reader through 100 medicinal plants, how they can help, how to use them, and how to store them to maintain their freshness and potency for as long as possible. This gem of a book has a lot of neat tricks when it comes to harvesting and processing your herbal medicines.

Herbal-Apothecary 
Cover courtesy of Timber Press

When you’re ready to dive deep into traditional healthcare and herbal medicines, you’ll want to check out Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech. This is a fantastic reference guide for beginner to veteran herbalists, and it’s chock full of species, their uses, and recipes. With an extensive list of plants, author Cech has continued to update this book to include the latest in herbal healthcare.

My home apothecary wouldn’t be complete without these books and few of my other favorites on hand for quick reference. These three titles make a great starter kit for those getting their toes wet in tinctures, and they complete any herbalists library.


With Rosemary Gladstar's expert advice in Medicinal Herbs, anyone can make their own herbal remedies for common ailments, such as aloe lotion for poison ivy, dandelion-burdock tincture for sluggish digestion, and lavender-lemon balm tea for stress relief. Gladstar profiles 33 of the most common and versatile healing plants and then shows you exactly how to grow, harvest, prepare, and use them. Stock your home medicine chest with safe, all-natural, low-cost herbal preparations, and enjoy better health!

Incorporating traditional wisdom and scientific information, The Herbal Apothecary includes advice on growing and foraging for healing plants, as well as recommendations for plant-based formulations to fight common ailments, such as muscle strain, anxiety and insomnia. Step-by-step instructions show you how to make your own teas, salves, capsules, tinctures and other essential herbal remedies. Whether you want to treat a wound or fight the common cold, taking charge of your health and well-being begins here.

Originally published in the year 2000, Making Plant Medicine has become a preferred herbal reference for learning to make standard herbal tinctures, teas, syrups, oils, salves, and poultices. The formulary still includes such important favorites as: arnica, astragalus, burdock, calendula, dandelion, echinacea, elecampane, gentian, goldenseal, hawthorn, ma-huang, jiao-gu-lan, lobelia, nettles, sage, stevia, and St. John's wort. The fourth edition includes 28 new herbs, including aloe vera, andrographis, Ashitaba, brahmi, Chameleon plant, hops, osha, and rhodiola. May your personalized copy soon be anointed with the happy splatter of homemade herbal remedies!

Bring 'Hygge' Principles In to Your Home: How the Danish Lifestyle Can Change Your Winter

 

Homesteading attracts people wanting a simpler lifestyle and self-sustainability. In the most recent USDA census of agriculture, the government found that out of the approximately 2.1 million farms in the U.S., around 88 percent were small family farms.

In a 2017 survey of over 4,746 young farmers, about 75 percent stated they didn't grow up on a farm and 69 percent had post-secondary degrees. A first winter on the homestead seems long and cold when you aren't used to the lifestyle.

Fortunately, the Danish lifestyle called hygge — pronounced hoo-gah — makes things much more comfortable. Hygge is the concept of enjoying the simple things in life. Most homesteaders already live a relatively simple life, but for the winter months on a small farm, this means staying warm and cozy and enjoying the slower pace after the harvest passes.

1. Use Lanterns and Candles

Overhead lights eat up precious energy stores, especially if you rely on solar. Use candles and lanterns for a soft, homey glow without any energy usage. Just be careful to snuff out candles and turn off lanterns before bed. Never leave an open flame unattended.

If you must use electric light, use a table lamp with a soft watt bulb rather than a harsh overhead light. During the day, take advantage of natural light by opening drapes and blinds.

2. Rev up the Fireplace or Stove

Logs crackling in a fireplace or a woodburning stove add the scents and warmth of the season to your home. An indoor fire provides seasonal ambiance and keeps you warm.

If a tree fell on your property, you probably already chopped it up. You might as well put the firewood to good use and burn it up over the winter.

3. Adjust Humidity

Natural heat sources dry out the interior of your home. Adjust indoor humidity to between 40 and 60 percent to prevent damage to hardwood floors, doors and trim.

Some simple homesteading ways for adding humidity to your home include letting your clothes air-dry inside, adding a bowl of water near heat sources and growing houseplants, because they release moisture from their leaves as a vapor.

4. Add Soft Comfort

One element of hygge is soft warmth. Add details that feel cozy, such as fuzzy throw blankets across the end of the sofa or a thick quilt at the foot of your bed. Not only do blankets and throws add a touch of softness, but they also keep you warm during the coldest months.

5. Make Tea

Warm drinks are a must when the days become blustery and daylight hours are short. Make your own fresh tea blends by drying herbs such as alfalfa, lemon balm, mint and even wild herbs.

There are dozens of herbs and plants you can either grow or find in the wild that turn into delicious and nurturing herbal tea blends. For those who don't like tea, experiment with grinding coffee beans and making steaming coffee, hot cocoa or even hot cider cultivated from apples grown on your farm.

6. Decorate With Memories

Hygge is about simplicity and home. Surround yourself with only pieces with a story to tell. For example, if you own your grandmother's candy dish, place it on a small table and fill it with old-fashioned hard candies.

When people come to visit, share your memories of eating the same candy out of that dish when you visited your grandmother as a small child.

Use pieces that remind you of the past and have a story to tell. Keep things simple and uncluttered, though, in true hygge spirit. One beautiful piece with an amazing story is much better than a lot of clutter scattered around.

Time to Hygge

The most hygge time of year is winter, when you can bundle up in a cozy sweater, sip on hot cocoa and throw a few logs on the fire. Follow the Danish traditions and make your homestead cozy and comfortable this season.

A few simple touches turn the cold weather and your farm into a snug respite from the cold.

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. Connect with Kayla on Google+Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. Read all of Kayla’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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