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

20 Different Varieties of Mead

In its most basic form, mead is simply the fermentation of water and honey into an alcoholic beverage. Also called honey wine, the craft of mead fermentation has been enjoyed for centuries for social, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes.

Mead comes in various forms and displays huge diversity in regards to ingredients that are used and the flavors these ingredients bestow. These flavors are further diversified through the use of different types of yeast, different types of honey, additives like herbs or fruits (known as adjuncts or gruits), or the method of aging.

Mead taste testing by Herbal Academy

Chai Mead from The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course

In the Herbal Academy’s newest online program, The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course, students explore the many types of mead that are brewed across the world and experiment with recipes from several varieties themselves. Preview the Different Varieties of Mead chart below, a brief excerpt from The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course!

Varieties of Mead

These terms will not only help you navigate some of the informational resources that exist regarding this delightful fermentation experience, they will hopefully also inspire you to experiment. You will notice that many of these varieties of mead include the use of herbs such as hops, rose petals or hips, and even chili pepper as flavoring ingredients! In essence, any of these meads could be considered herbal healing liquors. So, formulating your herbal mead can be about both flavor and healing. Just look at this variety!

The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course by Herbal Academy - recipes

DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF MEAD

Acerglyn

A mead made with honey and maple syrup.

Black Mead

A mead made with honey and black currants.

Bochet

A mead made whereby the honey is caramelized or burned separately before adding the water to bring out toffee, chocolate, or roasted marshmallow flavors.

Braggot

Derived from the Welsh word bragawd, is also called bracket or brackett. Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt—with or without hops added.

Capsicumel

A mead flavored with chili peppers! Yee haw!

Cyser

A blend of honey and apple juice fermented together – similar to a hard cider except sweeter due to the addition of sugars from the honey.

Great Mead

Any mead that has been aged for several years. Distinguished from short mead or quick mead which is meant to age quickly and be consumed in short order.

Hydromel

The Greek and French term for “water-honey” in Greek. It is also used as a name for a light or low-alcohol mead.

Melomel

Melomel is made from honey and any fruit. Certain melomels have more specific names depending on what type of fruit is used. For example, a morat is a type of melomel made from mulberries.

Metheglin

A healing liquor, or mead made for medicinal purposes.

Omphacomel

A medieval mead recipe that blends honey with a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crabapples, or other sour fruit. Lemon or sorrel juice is also sometimes used for additional flavor, as are herbs or spices.

Oxymel

A historical mead recipe traditionally made by blending honey with wine vinegar. In modern times, Western herbalists often employ oxymels as a preservation method for medicinal herbs. For example, some forms of ‘fire cider’ are made with honey and therefore considered an oxymel.

Pyment

A pyment is brewed with red or white grapes or grape juice. A pyment made with white grape juice is sometimes also called white mead.

Rhodomel

Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, rose petals or rose attar, and water. This type of mead could also be considered a metheglin, depending on the intention of the brewer.

Sack Mead

Mead that is brewed with more honey than is typically used and therefore contains a higher-than-average alcohol concentration. Mead that is at or above 14% ABV is generally considered to be of sack strength. Sack mead often retains elevated levels of sweetness, although dry sack meads which have no residual sweetness can also be produced.

Short Mead

Also known as a quick mead and often considered the opposite of a great mead. A type of mead that is meant to age quickly for immediate enjoyment. It can also be champagne-like, depending on the methods and yeast used. Good for brewers with little patience.

Show Mead

A plain mead with only honey and water as a base with no additions such as fruits, spices, or herbal flavorings. Sometimes requires a special yeast nutrient and other enzymes for an enjoyable finished product, as honey alone often does not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its life cycle.

Sparkling Mead

Mead that has carbonation. Usually created through the use of champagne yeast.

Still Mead

Mead that is not carbonated.

White Mead

A mead that is colored white with herbs, fruit, or sometimes even egg whites. Also a name sometimes given to white grape pyment.

As students discover in The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course, brewing herbal mead can be much more than simply making an alcoholic beverage. Brewing herbal mead can be a ritualistic journey of celebrating community and honoring the people, places, and plants that have provided guidance, knowledge, friendship, or support. In fact, brewing herbal mead is one method, among many in the realm of fermentation and food production, that can be used to honor the changing of the seasons, times of year, or memorable milestones in your life and the lives of those in your community.

Herbal Mead Tutorial  The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course

Whether you are interested in creating delicious mead and beer with an herbal spin to share with your friends and family or are looking for ways to expand your probiotic routine with kombucha, water kefir, or fermented foods, The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course will walk you through making these ferments step by step, from start to bubbly finish!

Preview the full course outline and sign up to reserve your seat in class here: theherbalacademy.com/product/craft-herbal-fermentation-course/ 

Cheers!Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy, international school of herbal arts and sciences, and meeting place for Boston-area herbalists. Through the school, Marlene has brought the wild and wonderful world of plant medicine to thousands of students across the globe. Marlene spent several years studying herbs and learning under some of the most revered modern herbalists and continues to practice plant medicine through correspondence courses and teaching others. 

Photos provided and copyrighted by Amber Meyers and Grant Lacouture, Herbal Academy.


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Prepare for Spring by Making Digestive Bitters

Just as we spend spring days clearing rubble from our overwintered gardens, we can also spend the warmer, longer days clearing winter’s accumulated waste and toxins from our bodies. Up to this point, we’ve been in hibernation mode – sleeping more, eating comfort foods that are high in fats and oils – and in early spring it’s time to jump-start our perhaps still resting metabolisms, get the blood moving, and help the liver process the waste efficiently.

Bitter tonics are particularly useful in spring because the simple act of tasting bitters on your tongue triggers the liver and gall bladder to create bile, which stimulates the digestion of fats and oils. With the digestive system working efficiently, toxins are eliminated from the body and, over time, bitters act as “alteratives” or blood purifiers. Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar taught that alterative bitters are “agents that gradually and favorably alter the condition of the blood” (Gladstar, 2011).

dandelion greens
Fotolia/posh

You can introduce bitter flavors into your diet by eating more bitter greens, like arugula and dandelion. Coffee is the most commonly consumed bitter, and steamed burdock is a seasonal bitter treat that’s also fun to forage. An easy DIY option is to make herbal bitters, which are essentially a tincture made with bitter herbs. Although drinking bitters isn’t as much a part of our mealtime traditions as they once were, you may still recognize the term “aperitif” for digestive-stimulating drinks consumed before a meal, and “digestif” for those consumed after a meal.

Digestive bitters can also double as fantastic ingredients in homemade cocktails. For example, the Manhattan cocktail (my personal favorite) calls for angostura bitters, which feature bitter gentian root (Gentiana lutea). Keep the following Digestive Bitters in your medicine cabinet, but don’t hesitate to break them out when a special-occasion cocktail is in demand.

DIY Digestive Bitters Recipe

tincture bottle
Fotolia/rawf8

This recipe uses ingredients that are easy to forage, grow, or purchase in the United States. Yield: 1 pint.

  • 2 parts dandelion root

  • 1 part fennel seed

  • 1 part orange peels

Add combined herbs to a wide-mouth canning jar and then cover with high-proof vodka or brandy. Shake to make sure all herbs are completely submerged, and then let sit in a dark spot for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking every 2 or 3 days to keep plant material covered. Strain through a cheesecloth and store infused tincture in a labeled, amber-colored bottle. Take 1 teaspoon or one tincture bottle dropperful before or after meals. Consume your homemade bitters within 1 year.

fennel seeds on spoon
Fotolia/ksena32

Learn more about bitters by reading this fantastic two-part series by Sharyn Hocurscak with The Herbal Academy: Part 1: History and Benefits of Bitters and Part 2: Making Bitters. 

I’d also recommend reading Guido Masé’s book The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter, and Tonic PLants – Guido is the founder of Urban Moonshine, a company that crafts high-quality bitters that are sold nationwide.

 

 Hannah was inspired to write this blog post during her time enrolled in The Herbal Academy’s online school where she worked her way through the Entrepreneur Herbalist Package. She is managing editor for Heirloom Gardener magazine and senior editor for Mother Earth News. Read all of Hannah's posts here.

How To Protect Tap Water From Legionalla Bacteria

tap water 

For most, there’s nothing easier than turning on the tap when you need a drink of water. This daily act comes with a word of caution for some locations: New research shows that a glass of warm or room-temperature tap water could harbor harmful the legionella bacteria.

What’s hiding in our pipes, and how can you protect yourself?

Legionnaires’ Disease from the Water Supply

Legionnaires’ disease is a dangerous form of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria. Historically, most cases of Legionnaires’ were spread by the infected patient inhaling the bacteria, but new cases have been cropping up that pinpoint warm water from a kitchen or bathroom tap as the source of infection.

The disease can be treated with prompt application of antibiotics, and is usually only fatal to individuals who have underlying health issues.

The first reported case of patients becoming infected due to legionella bacteria in the water supply was in Philadelphia in 1976, where more than 221 people were infected, including 115 hospitalizations and 34 deaths. At the time, officials were afraid that something more contagious, such as swine flu, was the culprit, but that was later disproven.

After months of searching, they were no closer to an answer and believed they might never know what had caused the outbreak.

Recent research from the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology may be able to explain that early outbreak. Dutch researchers have determined the best growth conditions for the legionella bacteria in water sources, such as drinking water pipes or water towers, and  have concluded that drinking water that comes from natural sources, and which may have a higher concentration of dissolved organic matter, is ideal for the growth of the bacteria.

The organic material that’s dissolved in the water creates a biofilm that provides an ideal growth environment. Other conditions that promote legionella growth include:

• Warm temperatures, between 68 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit
• pH that falls between 5.0 and 8.5
• Water that is stagnant (such as that in water towers or other water storage areas)

It’s important for local water control officials to monitor the amount of legionella bacteria in their water sources, because after a bacterial colony has begun to grow, they cannot be eradicated by the chlorination typically used to purify public water supplies.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that there are between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. each year. However, most of these cases are isolated and are not associated with mass outbreaks of the illness.

How to Protect Your Tap Water from Legionella Bacteria

This shouldn’t discourage you from utilizing your home’s tap water for cooking, drinking, or bathing. But prevention and preparation are key to making sure your home’s water supply is safe to drink.

Avoid stagnant water. Stagnant water provides the perfect breeding ground for legionella bacteria. If you’re away from home for a while, make sure you turn on your water taps throughout the house and let them run for a while so the stale water is replaced with fresh.

Consider water testing. OSHA has guidelines for taking water samples, and you can reach out to local or state officials to find out who in your area is responsible for water testing.

Monitor any outdoor water sources. Outdoor fountains, ornamental water features, or hot tubs and pools can all be potential growth mediums for the legionella bacteria. Taking steps to minimize legionella growth risk factors can enable you to enjoy your water features without risking the growth of the bacteria in your yard or around your home.

Stay informed. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are both good resources for any information about potential legionella outbreaks in your area. Keep the risk factors in mind as well, anytime you’re dealing with a source of freshwater in your area.

Legionnaires’ disease is not as threatening as it was back in 1976, when doctors had no idea what it was, but it still presents some danger. Stay informed and make sure you take all necessary precautions to avoid being exposed to the bacteria. If you do, you can enjoy your tap water without worrying about what might be in it.

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. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. 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.

Argan Oil: Its Benefits, Uses and Purity

 

You’ve probably heard of argan oil: the new “miracle” ingredient in DIY natural cosmetics. You may know it’s made in Morocco, where it’s something of a national treasure. You may also know it’s beneficial for your hair, body, and even as a food ingredient.

However, you may not know any specific argan oil benefits — that studies suggest it accelerates burn healing and fights cancer and diabetes.

In this post, I’ve compiled the last 20 years of research on argan oil benefits, Now you can get the real deal about all its benefits without the hype and sales pitches.

Many people making homemade, DIY cosmetics, or looking for non-toxic beauty or health care ingredients, get lost in a sea of available information online... If you’re one of them, use this as a quick reference.

How is Argan Oil Used?

Now let’s see exactly what the liquid gold does and doesn’t do.

Argan oil is only found in southwestern Morocco. Numerous attempts have been made to grow it in other parts of the world with no success, It is mainly used in two very different ways First of all, the oil is used as a gourmet delight because of its nutty flavor and apparent health benefits.

Secondly, it is used as a powerful ingredient in many health and beauty products. It is rich in vitamin E and contains many antioxidants. In fact, the Berbers who populate this region of Morocco have been using the oil for hundreds of years, and it has been particularly valuable in protecting and conditioning hair and skin.

Between June and August, the Moroccans harvest the mature fruits of the argan tree. These fruits are dried for many weeks, the most labor intensive part of oil extraction is removing the pulp and crashing the hard shell nut which contain one to three oil rich kernels.

These kernels are then pressed using traditional extraction or mechanical extraction or chemical extraction to obtain culinary-grade oil, the kernels needs to be roasted before pressing.

Sebum Level Correction

In Morocco, where the Argania tree grows in the semi-desert Sous valley, people have long used argan oil to fight spots, oily skin, acne and other skin problems. In recent years, science has given us hard evidence that explains why.

Here’s the deal. Your body produces a natural, oily substance that waterproofs and lubricates your skin. This substance is called sebum, and it protects you from injury, sunburns and other nasty stuff. Even your ear canal has sebum.

The problem is, the modern lifestyle can mess with your natural sebum levels. Air pollution, unhealthy food and even hormone levels can confuse the body. As a result, many people today have.

• Too much sebum - oily skin, whiteheads, blackheads, acne, pustules
• Too little sebum - dryness, skin injuries and tears, itching and redness, acne

Having too much sebum is a common and dangerous problem. This makes hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin, leading to all kinds of yucky skin conditions. Unfortunately, most oils, including olive oil, can’t stabilize your sebum levels.

The reason for that is, your skin isn’t very good at absorbing vegetable products, which is why many people complain about olive and sunflower oils greasing skin to the point it leaves stains on clothes and furniture.

Argan oil works differently. A 2007 study had volunteers apply a cream with Argania spinosa oil base for 4 weeks. The results took the researchers aback.

Sebum regulation improved in 95% of the volunteers. Areas covered with oily spots were reduced by 42%. The number of active sebum glands stayed level, proving that argan oil fixes your sebum levels naturally instead of messing with your body.

Researchers believe that Vitamin E and linoleic acid (omega-6) are the specific ingredients in argan oil that create this effect. Vitamin E is a unique, fat-soluble antioxidant essential for healthy skin. Omega 6 is a fatty acid that stimulates skin and hair growth.

Argania Spinosa oil may be so good at de-greasing oily skin and moisturizing dry skin because it’s rich in both - another one of many argan oil benefits.

Accelerate Burn Recovery and Reverse Skin Damage

That’s right: a study confirmed that argan oil application can greatly accelerate recovery from burns and other injuries! Didn’t think you’d see this way to use argan oil for skin care, did you? Argan oil significantly speeds up wound healing by almost 50%! as shown in a clinical experiment.

That’s why it’s used for all kinds of exposure injuries in Morocco since a long time ago. It is widely known to heal sunburn, puncture wounds, frostbite, hot and cold burns, etc.

The one question that’s still open to debate is how and why Argania Spinosa oil works to heal the skin. Although we don’t know all the answers, a study has shown why the oil specifically speeds recovery from sun damage.

Melanin - the pigment in our skin that protects us from ultraviolet rays and decreases the risk of cancer - is critical to say the least. Having too much or too little of it can lead to a higher risk of cancer, skin disorders and other problems. Studies have shown that argan oil is an elective melanin biosynthesis inhibitor. This means that argan oil normalizes skin cells that have too much melanin, keeping you healthy and safe from UV rays.

Slows Cell Aging and Oxidation

Argania Spinosa oil is rich in spinasterol and schottenol: naturally occurring compounds that have been clinically proven to protect cells from both oxidation and aging. As an added bonus, they help your body maintain Vitamin E. Since Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, this gives your immune system an extra kick when it comes to fighting cancer.

Here’s what’s really interesting. Normally, antioxidants act by scavenging free radicals: uncharged molecules that are believed to cause aging and aging-related diseases. What antioxidants can’t do is slow down the level of oxidation in your body.

Argan oil is different, because it tackles the free radical problem at the root. It reduces the rate of oxidation in your body, actually stopping your body from creating these particles. In fact, Argan oil has 3 mechanisms that have been shown to specifically fight skin aging and wrinkling. It keeps cells young, protects them from cellular stress, and stimulates new skin growth and the regeneration of old skin.

Improved Skin Elasticity

As you already know, Moroccan oil is a powerful antioxidant. It’s rich in vitamin E and omega 9: the 2 things your skin needs to stay healthy, elastic and hydrated. That’s why Moroccans use it to prevent wrinkles, premature aging and crows’ feet. What does research tell us about its measurable effects on the skin?

Well, in a human subject experiment, a group using argan oil as a skin product for 30 days was shown to have significantly improved skin hydration compared to the placebo group.

Since moisture loss is one of the main reasons for skin aging, this is significant. Hydrated skin loses less collagen and is protected from heat, cold and the sun. Wrinkles may be impossible to reverse, but making sure your skin cells and membrane have enough water prevents signs of aging from happening in the first place.

The evidence doesn’t lie. In another study, 30 postmenopausal women were asked to apply argan oil every night for 2 months. The amount was tiny: 10 drops. The assessments used to measure the oil’s effect were TEWL (transepidermal water loss) and WCE (water content of the skin).

After two months of argan oil use, there was a measurable improvement in the skin’s ability to retain water. It could also “lose” more water without drying, meaning this wasn’t just a cosmetic effect; this was a real, cell-level change.

The proof’s in the pudding: even a tiny amount of Moroccan oil added to a skin product can improve hydration and the elasticity of skin without “trapping” water inside cells and making the user feel bloated.

How Important is the Purity of Argan Oil?

As mentioned above, argan oil is expensive because it’s only produced in one place on earth: Morocco.

Although the Moroccan government plans to triple argan production output in the next few years, and the trees have already been planted, it’s still a premium product.

To save money, manufacturers and retailers have sometimes added other oils to what is labeled as “argan oil”. (This is what doctors hypothesized as the reason for the severe reaction of allergic contact dermatitis.)

If you don’t use pure argan oil, you won’t get its full benefits. In cosmetic products, you risk diluting the nanoparticles that make it so easy to absorb to the point where all the goodness is gone. When consuming it, you risk putting whatever was used to dilute the oil in your body. You probably don’t want that.

So how do you recognize Organic Pure Argan oil?

Real, pure, authentic oil often has a tiny bit of sediment at the bottom of the bottle and appears a bit “cloudy”. It’s also pale yellow in color. If your oil is clear, and has no sediment at all, you’re probably getting a fake.

Argan oil should also have a luxurious, nutty smell! If yours doesn’t have a smell, it could be old, or worse, “deodorized” by extreme heating processes... If it’s even Arganoil at all. The good news is, studies show that even a few drops of pure oil can help you get these wonderful argan oil benefits.

Using Argan Oil Correctly

As a supplement. So, you want to live longer, stay younger, and protect yourself from diseases like diabetes and cancer. In other words, you want some argan oil in your life! A very easy way to get its nutritional benefits is by using it as a supplement.

Argan oil does the most for your lipid levels and insulin sensitivity when consumed with food. 3-5 ml taken with 1 or 2 meals every day will do wonders for your skin and overall health. Many people also report that moroccan oil reduces hunger pangs, and consume it before bed to avoid the night munchies!

In your DIY recipes. When you use pure, natural products in your DIY skincare recipes, you only need a few things to make a great formula you will swear by. Whether you make stuff for personal use, or to sell, argan oils many benefits and low required dosage make it a godsend in cosmetics.

If you want to make that DIY shaving cream, or body butter, or handmade soap, or facial mask, just add 10 drops or so to the formula. Even 1 drop of pure argan oil will have a noticeable effect on dry and oily skin, stretch marks and all skin types - just make sure to warn people with nut allergies!

As a stand-alone product. Argan oil is very rare, even in Morocco, where it’s made. Fortunately for Moroccan women, you only need a tiny bit to get its benefits. Traditionally, locals use argan oil before bed, applying a few drops to their face and hair as part of their night-time beauty routine. You can do the same — it’s so rich you’ll find it easy to make just a little last you a long time!

As a food ingredient. The last (and tastiest) way to use argan oil is in your food. Just use it instead of butter or olive oil and share it with your friends and family members so they get the benefits, too. As another option, you can use it as a great bread dip ingredient, either pure or mixes with a little balsamic vinegar, Italian-style, for a delicious treat!

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not attempt to replace the advice of a medical expert.

Elena Julian is an aspiring farmer, mother, beauty DIYer. Join Elena aver at OilYit. Watch her press argan oil on Youtube, and follow along on Twitter.


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5 Natural Remedies for Insomnia

Between 30 and 35 percent of all adults have some brief or minor symptoms of insomnia while 10 percent of the global adult population has to deal with chronic insomnia. This data is from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and so it is a reliable and accurate representation of the high prevalence of this sleep disorder. Most people who have the problem will tend to brush it off as usual lack of sleep, but it is a serious condition which needs attention.

The good news is that there are many natural remedies for insomnia that can be very useful for people struggling with the problem. The solutions range from lifestyles changes to the use of herbs, and they include the following six.

Meditation

6107353399_f02b40962c_zPhoto by Spirit Fire

Anxiety and stress are a part of most people’s regular day, but they are also some of the leading causes of insomnia. If you are worried about something, it becomes very hard to sleep because you cannot achieve the right mindset necessary for sleeping.

However, meditation can help you get rid of the anxiety and stress because research proves that it is very effective in calming both the body and mind. And so, sparing a few minutes for meditation before bed can help deal with your sleeplessness. Some people do not like or know how to meditate, but yoga or even praying can also be alternatives.

Light Therapy

The body uses light as an indicator of when to sleep and wake up. Human beings have an internal mechanism that controls this function, and the absence of light sends signs to the brain that it is time to sleep. Light therapy is very easy to do as you only need to dim the lights about an hour before going to bed so as to trigger the production of important sleep-inducing hormones like melatonin. You should also expose your body to daylight in the morning to shut down the production of melatonin so as to help it establish a sleep routine.

Herbal Teas

cup-829527_640Via Pixabay

A warm cup of herbal bedtime tea is one of the most efficient ways of dealing with insomnia, and most sleep experts will always recommend it. But, not every herb is ideal for sleep because those that have caffeine will only make your insomnia worse.

You should always go for those that are decaffeinated and make the tea without excess sugar because sweeteners are bad for sleep. Also, it is important to know that there are some particular kinds of herbs that have been proven to be very useful for dealing with insomnia. Valerian root tea tops most lists, and this is because of its ability to reduce the time that it takes to fall asleep and also improve the quality of your sleep. Others like kava, which induces relaxation, and chamomile that has anti-inflammatory and calming effects also make a helpful herbal bedtime tea.

Develop a Strict Sleep Schedule

Instead of concentrating on trying to sleep for as many hours as possible you should focus your energy on creating and following a strict sleep schedule. Research shows that individuals who sleep and wake up at the same time every day tend to get more restful sleep than those that do not follow any schedule. Interfering with the body’s internal mechanism is one of the things that lead to insomnia and so establishing a routine is vital. Getting a sleep routine is also not difficult as you only need to make a few adjustments to your daily schedule.

Lifestyle Changes

woman-918981_640

Via Pixabay

Insomnia is in many instances a product of behaviors and so it is important to make some changes so as to deal with it. Bringing your work home and working late into the night might seem like a good idea because you will do more but it is not. Working in the house makes you feel preoccupied, and the light from the computer or tablet also affects your ability to fall asleep. Other habits such as taking long naps late in the afternoon can also make it hard to sleep at night which is the time you need the rest most. Also, eating heavy meals before bed can also cause insomnia because the body focuses on digestion. Making some changes and avoiding any of these negative things will help solve your sleep issues.

Insomnia comes with serious health implications, and it will also affect your performance at work or school. Whether you go for a healthy herbal bedtime tea or any other remedy, the most important thing is always to take some action.

Ann Katelyn is a homesteader in Alabama whohas dedicated most of her life to gardening and botanical study with growing interests ranging from the popular, world-class roses to the rarest and most exotic orchids. She is currently trying her best to become well versed on plants found in desert areas, the tropics, and Mediterranean region. Connect with Ann on Twitter and her website, Sumo Gardener. Read all of Ann'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.

Homemade Neti Pot Rinse

When I still lived at home with my parents, my mom would sing out “neti pot!” every time I complained of sinus pressure or sounded congested, which was fairly often during cold, dry winter weather. At first I hated using the neti pot, which involves pouring salty water into one nostril and out the other to help clear sinus congestion and rinse out allergy-causing debris, like pollen. I always waited until the infection was so bad that my sinuses were completely clogged and the salt burned my irritated mucous membranes. No wonder I hated it!

In college, I couldn’t afford to buy antibiotics every time my sinuses flared, plus I was becoming more aware about the negative side-effects that antibiotics can have on our gut microbiomes. As an alternative, I started using my neti pot 3 or 4 times a week to prevent sinus and allergy symptoms from taking hold in the first place – what a difference that made!  I learned that Ayurvedic practitioners have used nasal rinses for thousands of years and they complete their rinse with the application of Nasya or “nose” oil to keep their nasal passages from drying out.

neti pot rinse 

By switching my neti pot usage to a preventative habit rather than a last-minute treatment for acute sinus conditions, I completely changed my relationship with the neti pot and my appreciation for sinus rinses in general. I haven’t had a sinus infection for years, and now I’m the one singing out “neti pot!” every time a friend or coworker complains of sinus or allergy congestion.

Infused Salt Rinses

For years, I kept a container of sea salt and a box of baking soda underneath by sink and I would sprinkle a bit of each into my neti pot before adding warm water.  The salt helps prevent irritation because it makes the rinse more closely resemble your own sinus fluids; the baking soda increases the mucus-thinning properties of the solution. Casually mixing the solution on an as-needed basis is a fine technique, but after splurging on a store-bought, infused salt rinse I realized that adding a few drops of essential oil can drastically improve the experience.

The infused salt rinse that I purchased had a gentle mix of rosemary, fir, and cedar wood essential oils, and by inhaling deeply after the neti rinse I felt like I was standing in the center of a cool evergreen forest. Although I loved the infused salts, I didn’t love the price tag, especially for something I could so easily create myself.

I’ve noticed that I’m more likely to use my neti pot when I have a ready-made solution on hand. Plus, keeping this rinse in stock has allowed me to clear the unsightly salt and baking soda containers out from underneath my bathroom sink. When following the below recipe, I mix up enough infused salts to fill a 4 ounce glass jar, which lasts my household about 3 months.

Ingredients:

  • 4 parts fine sea salt (should be the consistency of table salt)
  • 1 part baking soda
  • 5 drops essential oil of your choice (I used rosemary, which is anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory)

Add the sea salt to your storage container and then add 4 or 5 drops of the essential oil of your choice. Stir or shake your container to distribute the oils evenly. Add the baking soda, put the lid on your container, and shake vigorously to mix everything together.

To use: Add ½ teaspoon of the infused salts to your neti pot and then cover with 1 cup of room temperature, distilled water. Lean over your sink and pour half the mixture through one nostril then stop, switch sides, and pour the other half through your other nostril. Clean your neti pot in warm, soapy water between uses.

Warning:  Essential oils are extremely concentrated and should be used with caution. Research your essential oil selection carefully before using it and test the diluted oil on the back of your hand to make sure you don’t have any unexpected reactions. To test the oil, dilute 3 drops essential oil in ½ teaspoon of carrier oil (olive oil, sesame oil, almond oil, etc.). Rub a drop of the diluted essential oil onto the back of your hand and watch it for 24 hours to make sure no signs of redness appear. If no patchy red spots appear, then you can assume it’s safe to use on your body and you can add a few drops to your neti pot rinse. If you use too much essential oil or too much salt then your neti pot rinse will burn.  

 

neti pot rinse materials 

 

 Infused Water Salt Rinse

An even gentler way to incorporate healing plants in your neti rinse is to leave out the essential oils and instead replace the distilled water with an herbal infusion.  If you have a runny nose, then an astringent tea made with raspberry leaf, yarrow, or rose, will help tighten tissue and dry up the mucus membranes. If your nasal passages feel raw and sore, then a vulnerary herb, such as calendula, plantain, or chamomile, will help repair the damaged tissues. Finally, if there’s a sense of intense dryness underlying the issue, then demulcent herbs, like slippery elm and marshmallow will provide comfort. For more information on using herbal teas in sinus rinses, I recommend reading The Herbal Academy’s online blog post Natural Allergy Relief: Nasal Rinses, Eyewashes, and Herbal Steam.

herbal infusion for neti pot rinse
Fotolia/fotofabrika

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon dried herb
  • 1 cup distilled or boiled water
  • ½ tsp salt rinse (follow recipe above for infused salt rinse, but omit the essential oils)

Steep the herbs for 10 to 15 minutes in water then strain. Pour infusion over salt rinse in a neti pot. Wait until it comes to room temperate, then use. Thoroughly wash your neti pot in warm soapy water after each use.

Hannah was inspired to write this blog post during her time enrolled in The Herbal Academy’s online school where she worked her way through the Entrepreneur Herbalist Package. She is managing editor for Heirloom Gardener magazine and senior editor for Mother Earth News. Read all of Hannah's posts here.

How to Make an Herb Journal (Plus a Free Herbalism Class)

Herbalists often create a special type of herbal journal, called a materia medica, which is an inspiring way to stay connected to our studies and to our plants to ensure we are always learning and growing as herbalists. It’s a great tool for all types of herbalists — and that includes homestead herbalists, too!

One thing you can never have too much of on the homestead is knowledge, and that’s true of everything from keeping up with repairs, to working with livestock, to gardening, and even learning how to use herbs to support your health.

Most homesteaders prefer to have a selection of good books and magazines on hand rather than relying solely on a computer or other electronic resources. Power outages or spotty connections are often a reality on the homestead! Because a materia medica can be a journal, a three ring binder, or other hard copy format, it’s an especially valuable learning tool for homestead herbalists.

Plant  - Herbal Materia Medica Course by Herbal Academy

What is a Materia Medica?

A materia medica is a collection of in-depth plant profiles, or monographs, that herbalists use as a tool for learning and reference. It’s a phrase that, roughly translated, means “healing materials.” Materia medicas have been created since before the Middle Ages as accessible repositories of herbal knowledge.

Materia medicas have taken many forms, from hand illuminated manuscripts to typeset volumes and modern books. Here at the Herbal Academy, we encourage our students to create their own personalized materia medicas as part of our Intermediate and Advanced Herbal Courses, and it’s a practice we highly recommend to anyone who is interested in learning herbalism.   

An herbal profile in a materia medica typically includes several useful categories. In a well-rounded monograph, information about what a plant looks like, which parts are used, and important facts about safety are all carefully researched and recorded. Other information, such as how to grow or harvest an herb can also be included.

It’s best to be consistent across all of the herbal profiles in your materia medica by including the same categories for each herb, and also including the resources that were used to research the monograph in case you would like to go back to look for more information later on.

Focusing on a single plant while creating a materia medica allows you to develop a better understanding of the many ways that plant can support health. Exploring topics such as native range, cultivation, and botanical description can breathe life into our academic understanding of a plant.

Materia Medica Course promotion - square

Start Your Own Materia Medica

Just like the wide variety of historical materia medicas, our students’ materia medicas take many forms, but we often get asked for guidance on how to get started. So we came up with the Materia Medica Herbal Course! The Herbal Academy is also very excited to be offering this new course for FREE during January 2017!

The Materia Medica Herbal Course provides a convenient template for starting your own personal materia medica. Having a uniform template to work with as you study herbs ensures that you don’t forget to research any important areas to better understand your herbs.

But the course also goes beyond just explaining how to work through creating a materia medica monograph. We’ve made sure to add plenty of information on herbal safety, researching tips, and activities to help you learn the most from each plant in your journal.  

Like all of our online herbal courses, the online, self-paced format of the Materia Medica Herbal Course is both flexible and accessible. Sign up for free, and as an optional addition to your program, add the Materia Medica Journal during your registration for a treasured keepsake to use and explore alongside your course lessons.

Sign up now to save your seat in class!

The Materia Medica Journal By Herbal Academy

No herbalist should be without a materia medica. In addition deepening your understanding and experience of plants, it’s a convenient way to organize and easily reference all the information you’ve gathered so that you will have it on hand when you need it most. Your materia medica journal could even become a treasured keepsake for your family, much as old pioneer diaries and commonplace books were passed down from one generation to the next.

We hope you will join us for the course and learn to make your own materia medica!

Agatha Noveille is an author, herbalist, and Associate Educator at the Herbal Academy. The Herbal Academy is an educational resource offering affordable online herbalist training programs for students at all experience levels, ranging from very beginner to the advanced professional level. Set your foundation in the Introductory Herbal Course, explore herbal therapeutics for body systems in greater depth in the Intermediate Herbal Course, prepare for business endeavors in the Entrepreneur Herbal Course, and delve into complex clinical topics in the Advanced Herbal Course. Learn more about the Herbal Academy’s training programs, and read all of Agatha's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

Photos provided and copyrighted by Grant Lacouture and Amber Meyers, Herbal Academy.


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