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

Use Goldenrod to Relieve Allergy Symptoms

Field of Goldenrod at Nezinscot Farm

Goldenrod field at Nezinscot Farm in Turner, Maine

After a particularly long sneezing fit and several bless you's, my coworker cursed seasonal allergies and the plants that caused them. As someone who has never experienced allergies, and really only understands the baseline of “some plants release pollen that hurts people”, I was curious about how allergies work, and if some plants are the culprit, could others be the solution?

In short, pollen allergies are caused by misidentification, wherein some people's immune systems consider pollen a dangerous foreign substance (it is harmless) and attempt to rid it from the body through sneezing, runny nose, congestion, etc (4). This prompts the body’s inflammatory response to kick in, making the throat tighter and thus more difficult to pass air and food. Unfortunately, it has been found that “More than 50 million Americans have experienced various types of allergies each year” and also that “Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.” (5) In order to relieve these symptoms, people often take antihistamines to help control the body's inflammatory response. As with any over-the-counter or prescription drugs, there are quite a few harmful side effects. As always, talk with your primary care provider and make sure that you know what you’re taking and how the risks/benefits equate.

Goldenrod: Medicinal but Misunderstood

After asking about treatment methods and medications she took to relieve some of the discomforts, my coworker mentioned how she would go home and have her goldenrod tea. While it wouldn’t cure her allergies, it would definitely help to reduce the symptoms.

This begged the question, If goldenrod is useful in reducing allergies symptoms, why doesn't everyone use it? 

What I soon found was that goldenrod is often mistaken for ragweed, and unfortunately assumed to be the cause of many allergens. “The most common culprit for fall allergies is ragweed, a plant that grows wild almost everywhere, but especially on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Ragweed blooms and releases pollen from August to November. In many areas of the country, ragweed pollen levels are highest in early to mid-September.” (3) The truth, however, is that while Goldenrod is in the same family as ragweed (shared by over 23,000 different plants), it differs in genus and tribe (7). Specifically to allergies, they differ in pollen type, with goldenrod having “large, heavy pollen that is less likely to be allergenic.” (6).


Close up of goldenrod glowers

Using Goldenrod for Allergy Relief

Though our farm is constantly surrounded by it, this is the first year I’ve actively noticed and harvested goldenrod. It is a beautiful yellow flowering plant that dries quickly and easily for tea.   We’ve recently added it to our House Tea blend as it supports the bronchial passages, which we’ve found are more susceptible to sickness caused by seasonal changes in the air.

Furthermore, goldenrod can be used in conjunction with other anti-inflammatory plants (elderflower and nettles)(1) to make an effective allergy-relief tea! Simply gather the required ingredients (or purchase the herbs already dried & mix!), dry them on a screen, making sure to turn them once a day to prevent mold, and finely crush them together when fully dry. Try adding stevia leaf or peppermint to the mixture to make it more to your liking! 


Processing dried goldenrod into tea

Outside the realm of allergies, goldenrod is a supporter of the urinary tract, helping to dissolve kidney stones (2). It also acts as a natural plant dye, turning natural wool a vibrant yellow (8). 

Less medicinally, and more aesthetically, I’ve taken to hanging golden throughout our house, over doors, and tucked into woven baskets in every corner. Seeing the bright yellow flowers contrast the dark green leaves makes even the dullest spaces look alive and happy! 

This is the power of goldenrod, and I suppose of most healing herbs, while they work to physically nurture the body, the process of collecting, transforming, and using them nurtures the soul.



(2)  Edwards, F. Gail. Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, 2000. pg. 121-22







Mackenzie Varney is an apprentice herbalist on Nezinscot Farm in Maine. She has degrees in biology and health and has lived and worked on farms all her life. Connect with her on Instagram, and read all of Mackenzie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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Food Medicine: 5 Autumn Healers

 October Food Medicine

Now that we are post-autumnal equinox, mid-October, between a Harvest and Blue Moon, it is easy to notice the way the Earth is changing. The temperature has dropped, the leaves are dressing the trees in oranges and reds, the sky is becoming more overcast. A change of seasons makes it easier for us to have more heightened awareness than usual, and after the busyness of summer  —even a slower than usual pandemic summer — autumn offers us the chance to reflect on the year and prepare for the long cold months ahead.

Winter often brings illness and negatively-associated emotions. Thankfully, Mother Earth gifts us every autumn with produce to heal seasonal illnesses and balance us with our natural environments. We’re all aware that apples and pumpkins are in season now, as well as a variety of root vegetables. The Earth gives us exactly what we need; each of these foods holds medicinal and spiritual properties that align with the cooler seasons and bring us into balance.

Here are a few offerings from the earth that can heal and balance us this autumn:


Going apple picking at an orchard is a popular autumn activity, and while baking pies is a great way to enjoy this fall fruit, there are many reasons to make them a regular part of your diet. Apples are loaded with fiber and antioxidants and are a great source of vitamin C, which boosts immunity and keeps skin healthy. Apples also contribute to bone health and are anti-inflammatory. But this popular autumn fruit does more than just help your body fight off colds; as a symbol of love, health, wisdom, and abundance, you can use apples in your autumn and moon rituals to remind you of these qualities. And since apples have a red skin, you can use them to help balance your root chakra, helping you stay grounded through the long winter.


People either love beets or have never had them cooked right, and there are plenty of reasons to cook them until you love them. Beets have a variety of nutrients, such as fiber, iron, manganese, and vitamins B2, A, K, and C. They regulate blood flow, which is important when it starts to get cold and we lean toward a more sedentary lifestyle. Beets keep the heart and liver healthy, and they also aid digestion. The strong earthy taste of beets is a reminder that this root vegetable offers grounding qualities, and understandably, are another great food for balancing your root chakra. These deep red veggies also have a long history of being associated with passion, love, and beauty, so when the autumn and winter months begin to feel dreary, cook up a batch of beets to heighten your awareness of these necessary characteristics.


Everybody has heard that carrots are good for your eyes, but this autumn root vegetable has much more to offer than good vision. Carrots are chock-full of vitamins A, K, B6, and C, which contribute to skin and brain health; they also contain potassium, fiber, and biotin. Carrots historically have been used to promote healthy pregnancies and ease cramps, which is hardly surprising. Orange foods balance the sacral chakra, which regulates creative and sexual flow, so if winter leaves you feeling empty and uninspired, add this vegetable into your diet!


When you sense a cold and flu coming on, you might not think to reach for garlic, but there are plenty of reasons why you should! Garlic is used in both eastern and western medicine to prevent infection and influenza. Another vegetable containing Vitamin C and manganese, it is useful for detoxification and anti-inflammatory purposes. Maybe this is why garlic has developed a reputation for being used for protection, purification, and even exorcism. Keep lots of garlic around your home this autumn and winter (and not just for its healing properties; it also makes everything taste better!).


We know we can carve pumpkins and bake them into pies, but what is lesser known is that this popular autumn food, like its orange carrot friends, is great for skin and eye health. Pumpkins contain vitamins A, B, C, and E, copper, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. There are plenty of healthy savory ways to cook pumpkins—soups, curries, even pizzas—so don’t feel limited to pumpkin sweets, whose sugar content can weaken your immune system.

And this orange food is good for (you guessed it!) balancing your sacral chakra. Pumpkins symbolize abundance, generosity, home, and creativity, so decorating with them and increasing the intake of them in your diet does more than make it feel like fall; these autumn fruits can increase your sense of gratitude, which is key for maintaining mental and spiritual health, especially in autumn, when nature begins to minimalize its liveliness.

Winter has many beautiful aspects, but often these get lost in the negative qualities and the slow quality of time. To survive winter, we must be grounded, connected with our surroundings, aware of the very elements we endure. It makes sense, then, that we must eat more vegetables that grow directly in the ground, or ripen on the ground, foods that are red and orange, aligning with the chakras that keep our sense of groundedness and adaptability balanced. And it should come as no surprise that these vegetables and fruits contain the very nutrients we need to fight off winter illnesses and keep cold weather ailments, like dry skin, at bay.

There is no one way to maintain physical and spiritual health; each of us must tend to our own personal bodies, minds, and souls. Using foods that heal in universally similar ways, we can guide ourselves through the difficult, beautiful seasons. Mother Earth has given us all we need; it is up to us to receive and use what we have to heal ourselves and each other.

Amanda Nicklaus is a writer and aspiring urban homesteader based in Minneapolis. She spends her free time trying new recipes, going to farmers markets, and writing about everything she learns. Read all of Amanda’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.

Elderberry Syrup for Back-to-School Immune Support

Photo by RitaE on Pixabay

During back-to-school season, now more than ever, I’ve had a level of anxiety and stress about the return like never before. Whether you choose to homeschool, virtual school, or opt for online classes, or send your child to public or private facilities, these are my thoughts to help you and your child have a successful and healthy school year.

Nutrition and the Immune System

Everyone generally needs the same type of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. But children need different amounts of each nutrient at different ages. To be healthy and ensure adequate growth of body and brain, among the important nutrients your child needs every day are calcium, iron, vitamin D, vitamin C, omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil), probiotics, as well as protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Eating these foods in abundance every day keeps the immune system humming, and keeps colds and the flu-bugs at bay.

Starting your child’s day with a good breakfast of quality protein with plenty of fruits and vegetables provide energy, a sharp mind, concentration, and it sets the stage for healthy eating the rest of the day.  I’ll share my Immune-Boosting Berry Smoothie Recipe as a morning option.

Nutrients children (and adults) need for health and growth:

  • Protein. Grass-fed meat, hormone-free poultry, wild-caught fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  • Vegetables.  Serve a variety of fresh, whole-food vegetables; avoid canned; frozen is 2nd best.  Include a variety of colors: dark green, red, yellow, orange, and purple. Aim for 4 to 6 servings a day.
  • Fruit. Fresh is best, canned, frozen and dried are good too. Encourage a variety; limit juice; no sugar. Aim for 2 to 4 servings a day.
  • Grains. Whole grains, such as whole wheat products (limit additives, sugar, preservatives), oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, brown or wild rice. Limit or eliminate refined grains such as white flour, pasta and rice.
  • Dairy or calcium-rich foods. Dairy products are a common food allergen and many people have a sensitivity or intolerance to this food. If your child gets sick often, has a runny nose, stomach issues, or is easily congested, consider eliminating dairy for a while. Eating plenty of fresh vegetables, (dark leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, kale, swiss chard), legumes, nuts, seeds, and fish are all good sources, and supply ample calcium, vitamins and minerals to the diet.  Many foods and juices are also fortified with calcium. 

Food to limit:

  • Sugar depresses the immune system; can cause mineral imbalance.
  • Saturated and trans-fats clog arteries that can put one at risk for heart attacks and strokes.
  • Processed foods and junk food are not whole foods, and contain chemicals, colorings, preservatives and are usually high in calories, sugar and fat.

Immune-boosting activities:

Having a healthy immune system is not just about what you eat, although that is a huge part of it and is a great place to start. A few other things you can do at home to enhance the immune system:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. This keeps the body humming, especially the immune system.
  • Avoid sugar. One piece of candy lowers the immune system by 60% for 4 to 6 hours afterward. (Scientific American, 2018)
  • Quality protein at every meal for growth and repair, which boosts the immune system.
  • Include lots of garlic, onions, ginger, spices, like oregano and turmeric into meals.
  • Eat multiple colorful fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Sleep. Encourage bedtime routine, getting to bed before 10:00 pm; limit technology 2 hours before bed
  • Exercise. I feel children need to have at least 15 minutes of activity of outdoor activity of any kind each day.

About Elderberries

Elderberries are a commonly grown fruit of the Sambucus tree. If you are lucky enough to have one of these easy-to-grow trees on your property, then you can easily make your own elderberry products to enhance your families’ health and vitality.

Elderberries are found along roadsides and in the wild, and are grown on a shrub or tree of the Sambucus variety. They are hardy to Zones 3 and 4. Elderberry shrubs produce tiny white flowers late June that develop into berries in late summer or early autumn that make a delicious sweet juice, jelly, or syrup.

Elderberries must be cooked before consuming, as raw berries are too astringent. Elderberry shrubs are a common “wild” tree found along the side of the road, are easy-to grow, and are very prolific.

Immune-Boosting Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Elderberry syrup on ice cream.

Purchased elderberry syrup can be pricey, so why not make your own, especially if you grow your own elderberries? Here is an easy recipe to make at home that your children will love! Elderberry syrup can be taken every day, especially during cold and flu season and has many health benefits. Elderberries are rich in antioxidants, which fight inflammation, and have been shown to relieve colds, help fight the flu, and boost the immune system. (Phytotherapy Research, 2009). Elderberries’ anti-inflammatory qualities also show promise to treat acne and reduce wrinkles when taken internally and applied topically (Today’s Dietician, 2019).

You can make this easy recipe with either dried or fresh berries.

Ingredients and medicinal properties:

  • ½ cup dried elderberries or 1 cup fresh – anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antidepressant, astringent
  • 2 teaspoons dried echinacea root (optional) – immune support, anti-bacterial, anti-viral
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice of orange juice – anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, Vitamin C, memory, endurance
  • 1 cinnamon stick – anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, blood sugar control
  • 3 whole cloves – antibacterial
  • rind of one lemon or orange – Vitamin C, bioflavonoids for immune system
  • 1/ 2 cup raw honey – raw honey contains a higher concentration of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and is anti-viral, anti-inflammatory. It boosts the immune system, encourages sleep, and can be used as a natural cough syrup. Warning: Do not give honey to children less than 1 year of age.


1. Add all ingredients, except honey, to a 1-quart saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat, and simmer for 1 hour, or until liquid is reduced to half. If elderberries still appear hard or uncooked, simmer another 20 minutes or so until soft and tender. Warning: Consuming raw elderberries and juice can cause gastrointestinal issues; however flowers of the elderberry can be eaten raw or infused into a tea.

2. Strain and let cool until lukewarm for 30 minutes or so. Add honey and stir until well mixed. Do not add honey while boiling, or very hot, as this damages the important anti-bacterial properties as well as vitamins and minerals. Toss elderberries and spices into the compost.

3. Pour cooled mixture into jars or bottles. Seal with a tight lid and store in refrigerator. Keep up to 3 months.

Dosage: 1 tablespoon a day during cold season; 3 to 4 times a day if ill or exposed to illness. Elderberry syrup can be added to smoothies, juices, desserts or eaten as is. It also makes a delicious ice cream topping! I use it on my dairy-free, sugar-free Banana Ice Cream Recipe.

Veronica Worley is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and avid gardener, who helps men and women overcome chronic illness with functional lab testing, food and lifestyle changes. Connect with Veronica at Veronica’s Healthy Living, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Schedule an appointment with Veronica using this link, 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.

Herbal and Fruit Hot-Water Infusions to Promote Well-Being

Herbal teas and hot-water infusions go far beyond the conventional store-bought tea bags and hot water. Infusions are an art, and tea can be transformed, manipulated into inspiring beverages. Whether you are trying to fall into a deep slumber, get an energy kick, or tame an upset stomach, tea has your back! Let’s dive into some easy batches of herbal tea you can whip up in your home. Locate your pot filled with water and let’s get brewing!

Fall Brew Infusion

  • Apple slices
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • (Honey for added sweetness)


Flu Fighter Infusion

  • Lemon
  • Ginger
  • Garlic clove
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Honey (for added sweetness)


Sweet Dreams Tea Infusion

  • (Tila) Linden flower
  • (Menta) Mint
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon bark

Herbal Remedy Infusion

  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon grass

This is one of my favorite teas to make. If you have a garden and grow your own herbs simply use whichever ones you have at hand. Bring them to a boil in a large pot and let them steep for at least an hour. This tea is more on the bitter side, however, jam packed with healing properties from the steeped herbs of your choosing.

Fruit Peel Infusion

Use the peel from fruits to create a delicious citrus infusion. Make sure the peels are cleaned before, bring water to a boil, steep, and strain before serving.

Gut-Healing Infusion

Collect veggies scraps leftover from cooking.Throw them in a pot of water and bring to a boil.Let it sit for a few hours and strain.Resulting in a freshly brewed veggie broth!

Tea is extremely versatile so create your blends according to your taste buds or how you are feeling. If you feel bloated, stressed, or dealing with an upset stomach there is a tea for every occasion. Follow any of the previously mentioned recipes or tailor it to your own preferences! These blends are also amazing ways to increase your water intake by infusing delicious flavors together. Feel free to throw your batches in the fridge and enjoy a refreshing beverage throughout the day. Happy brewing!

Taylor Goggin is tropical gardener in Florida who gained her skills in cooperative agriculture while work-trading with a World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program on the Hawaiian Islands. She now grows papaya, banana, avocado, fig, tomatoes, and medicinal herbs to make into inventive plant-based recipes. Connect with Taylor on Instagram, 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.

Off-Grid Simplicity: Discovering Peace on the Porch


Guest blog post by Tim Scarbrough

Simplicity. For many months now, this seems to be a place I must inhabit — a place of peaceful simplicity. A definition of the word "simplicity" is a thing that is plain, natural, or easy to understand. It might be pluralized as "simplicities of pastoral living".

Yet, to further the concept, I think the perception of simplicity is as personal as the feelings a sunrise might create in your heart, or perhaps the giggle of a baby or the mew of a kitten. Is it a place of raw basic emotion? Perhaps one of nostalgia or sweet memory?

I believe all these examples are true and much more than many of us might consider. Let me elaborate from a recent discovery as I was recovering from some of the worst effects of radiation and hormone treatments I experienced while fighting prostate cancer.

I recently rediscovered my front porch, a place of simplicity.

I have a small farm in rural southern Illinois and have always had a great view from my porch. I’d commonly see bees and trees, dogs and cats, gradual and sometimes rapid growth of plant life, especially mid-summer crabgrass and field corn. Before my divorce some years ago, throughout 22 years married, our porch was seldom used — and not at all for meetings, quiet time with God, calm reflections, or meditation.

Last year, a former girlfriend of mine gave me a nice cigar. We sat together and laughed, smoked it, and drank a little just spending quality time together, on the porch.

I newly saw, even in the beginning of 2020, my porch was a place that gave me comfort. In this place, I found a peace that I’d not known since my marriage was sound, and all of my children were smaller, living inside.

How utterly simple and profoundly peaceful!

In my deep pain from treatments, work stresses, and old terrible memories that bubble up from time to time I was able to sit comfortably on my porch, just me and the Lord.  Sometimes with a glass of tea or coffee, maybe a pipe of aromatic tobacco and a brandy: There I found a deeper place of simplicity and peace. Afresh I saw trees and grass. With new insight I saw my small herds of goats and sheep grazing. Hummingbirds, honeybees and wasps buzzed by, And goldfinches flew across the yard.

I could see the faint expression of a breeze through a leaf on a low branch or through only the top of the boughs of very tall trees. A thunder storm might cause the rain to fall and the trees to bend but there I sat, enjoying the sight and feel of it all. A dog or cat at my feet and I was not suffering but just basically at rest. I might have been utterly exhausted or feeling terrible but I could find peace sitting there and letting the wind blow and simply just be.

porch view

View from the porch.

For some months since this rediscovery, my porch remains a place of simple peace.  An escape for me from a world of pestilence and uncertainty, in all seasons a location to quietly commune with God and the world he created — a basic place of simple joy.

I encourage you to search your home for this special secret place. I guarantee it exists. You just need to search it out. When you find it, make it your own and use it often if not daily. Each of us needs this to live life in order to decompress or be quiet amidst worldly noise. Your body, mind and especially your soul will be thankful of the decision and the time spent in this peaceful place of simplicity.

Seek it out….right now!


Tim Scarbrough is a retired Army veteran, single dad of four awesome kids and owner of a small farm. He serves others through his local church, mentorship and public speaking in Toastmasters, and building missions with Habitat for Humanity.

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.

Homegrown Fruits and Vegetables for Sunburn Protection


Summer at my house means spending many hours each week outdoors, with most of them tending to my garden and yard. But sizzling in the summer heat means exposure to ultraviolet rays that can cause skin damage. Even while summer is winding down throughout much of the United States, here in Alabama we have steaming heat and lots of sun through September and October.

When we think of protection from the sun, most of us think of sunscreen (30 SPF and above), avoiding the sun between 10 AM and 3 PM on a sunny day, covering up while in the sun, and of course, staying hydrated!  You want enough sun exposure to help your body convert cholesterol to Vitamin D3, but not too much so as to prevent sun damage. I worry that when I slather my skin with suntan lotion, I not only expose my body to toxins, but I will not absorb enough sunshine in order to convert to Vitamin D3.

But what if I were to tell you that there are foods you can grow and consume that will help prevent sunburn naturally? (And better yet, that these are foods that are easily grown in your backyard throughout hot summer months when you need the protection the most.)

Eat Your Vegetables to Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage

Research suggests that certain types of foods can help prevent sunburns and skin damage.  High fruit and vegetable consumption along with certain kinds of fish (Carcinogenesis, 2003), and daily green tea (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2001) may help prevent sunburn and skin cancer, like melanoma. And there is now research showing that slathering the skin with suntan lotions can actually harm the skin, potentially causing cancer as well as preventing Vitamin D absorption (Environmental Working Group).

Sunburn occurs because the body is unable to make enough melanin to protect the skin. When the skin is repeatedly exposed to the sun, causing many burns over a period of time, skin cancer can result. Serious skin cancers often occur later in life, usually as a result of multiple blister-producing sunburns as a teen.  In fact, a study shows that each serious sunburn occurring in adolescence can double the risk of developing melanoma. (Skin Cancer Foundation)

I was one of those teens, staying hours and hours in the sun, and have had many blistering sunburns. Now, I watch my skin carefully and take steps to protect myself in the sun. I still love the sun, and spend many hours out in the yard as an avid gardener. But I do believe that my diet, which consists of eight to 10 servings of vegetables (mostly garden fresh), and lots of fish, and green tea have kept me from any skin cancer to date.

Several studies suggest that vegetables contribute to a diet high in antioxidants and may play a role in helping you avoid sunburn. The more antioxidants in your skin, the less your risk of getting burned by the sun. Although it is unknown exactly how vegetables and fruits protect your skin from sun damage, specialists say that it is most likely related to the antioxidants’ anti-inflammatory properties that fight the inflammatory process the sun has upon the skin. (National Center for Biotechnology Information)

Best Fruits and Vegetables for Sun Protection

The best kind of fruits and vegetables to consume for sun protection are likely those harvested fresh from the garden, because garden-fresh produce most often contains higher nutrient content than store-bought alternatives. The deeper more vibrant the color, the more anti-oxidants these foods contain, providing more nutrients and helping the body become less susceptible to cell damage and disease. Store-bought vegetables often are not ripened in the sun and have lost many of their nutrients by the time they reach your kitchen table — some losing up to 90 percent of their nutrition within the first 24 hours (spinach is often cited for this). (Chicago Tribune, 2013)

Examples of dark leafy greens for sun protection include collards, kale, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, as well as many herbs. Also let’s not forget about the deep red, orange and yellow vegetables as well as purple vegetables in the garden: tomatoes, red peppers, radishes, yellow squash, melons, eggplant, even strawberries and blueberries, as well as many more fruits from a tree that come in bright delicious colors. All can be grown and consumed to help cells of the inner and outer skin layers bounce back from damage.

Studies suggest that foods high in beta-carotene, lycopene and Vitamin C, as well as Omega 3 fatty acids are key to preventing sunburn and sun damage. (John Hopkins Magazine)

So, eat up! Now is the time to enjoy your summer harvest, and begin planning on what to plant next season to help prevent sunburn and skin damage. I’ve developed a Superfood Blueberry-Spinach Salad recipe in order to get a lot of these nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables in a single meal.

Veronica Worley is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and avid gardener, who helps men and women overcome chronic illness with functional lab testing, food and lifestyle changes. Connect with Veronica at Veronica’s Healthy Living, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Schedule an appointment with Veronica using this link, 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.

Make Homemade Comfrey Balm to Ease Soreness and Heal Wounds

Native to Europe and Asia, comfrey, often called the “miracle plant,” is a rather attractive perennial herb with hairy or prickly stems and lance-shaped leaves. Comfrey’s small bell-shaped flowers grow in various colors, typically cream, pinkish, or purplish (depending on the specific variety of the plant), and the plant has dark-hued roots that extend quite deep into the ground. 

Comfrey grows to approximately 3 feet tall. Its first reported medicinal use dates back to approximately 400 BCE.  Latin in origin, the word comfrey means “to grow together,” leaving little speculation as to why Greek physicians often relied on the herb to treat inflammation, wounds, ulcers, gangrene, burns, fractures, and sprains.

As an herbalist, licensed holistic esthetician, professional aromatherapist, and certified reflexologist with an affinity for formulating products that are effective via topical application, comfrey is one of my go-to herbs — it has so many remedial uses. Comfrey-infused oil, available from better health food stores, herb shops, and online retailers such as Mountain Rose Herbs, is the base of the following recipe, which contains a key oil-soluble, pharmacologically-active constituent called rosemarinic acid.

Being a rather formidable polyphenol or antioxidant, rosemarinic acid boasts antimicrobial, anti-allergic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties, plus it is gently astringent or tissue-tightening. Like Vitamin E, it may help prevent cellular damage within the skin and speed wound healing.

Applied topically on a regular basis, comfrey-infused oil offers pain relief for muscular soreness and stiffness, bruises, strains, sprains, achy or arthritic joints, and gout. Great for everyday achy hands and feet, too. In fact, I make my own comfrey leaf-infused oil and use it liberally with my clients in my foot and hand reflexology practice in Marble Falls, Texas. It comforts their sore, tired, stressed muscles, tendons, and ligaments and prevents my heavily-worked hands from barking at the end of my long day performing manual therapy.

Cooling Comfrey Balm Recipe

Photo by Mars Vilaubi (copyright 2018)

This is a gorgeously rich balm with the unusual spicy-sweet aroma of German chamomile, the cooling pop of peppermint, and the relaxing floral of lavender.

It counteracts the itch, redness, inflammation, and heat of most generic and poison plant rashes and is the ultimate soother for relieving pesky insect bites and stings.  It calms and comforts irritated skin tissue and encourages healing. Plus, it’s incredibly beneficial for conditions such as minor burns or sunburn, cuts and scrapes, scars and stretch marks less than two years old, dry eczema and psoriasis that is accompanied by itching, peeling, flaking skin, and dry, cracked, chapped, or fissured skin.

I often reach for this beautiful, aromatic balm at the end of the day, right before retiring — massaging it anywhere achiness and irritation reside. The scent lulls me to sleep and my discomforts fade away. Ahhh!

Make yourself a batch or two, won’t you? This recipe is also perfect for gift-giving — design a decorative custom label with directions, ingredients, and date made. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want a jar for their natural medicine cabinet. It’ll come in handy year ‘round.

Recipe notes: Safe for folks 6 years of age and older.  For children aged 2 to 5, reduce the essential oils by half. Do not use on deep cuts or puncture wounds (a seeming contradiction), as comfrey oil may stimulate the outer layer of skin tissue to mend and seal the wound before regeneration of deeper subsurface tissues, which could result in an internal infection. Use balm after the wound has significantly closed.


Yields approximately 4 ounces (120 ml), or ½ cup

  • 10 drops German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) essential oil
  • 10 drops peppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oil
  • 4 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil
  • 7 tablespoons comfrey-infused oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons beeswax pastilles or flakes (use the greater amount for a firmer balm)
  • One 4-ounce dark glass or plastic jar


1. Combine the comfrey oil with the beeswax in a very small saucepan over low heat, or in a double boiler, and warm until the beeswax is just melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, stirring a few times.

2. Add the German chamomile, peppermint, and lavender essential oils and stir again to thoroughly blend.

3. Slowly pour the liquid balm into the jar. Cap, label, and set aside for 30 minutes to thicken. No refrigeration is required. Store at room temperature, way from heat and light. Use within 1 year.

How to Use Comfrey Balm for Healing

A little goes a long way, keep this in mind! For irritated, rashy, hot, inflamed, sunburned skin or insect bites, first wash the affected area with mild soap and cool water. Pat dry. Massage a small amount of balm onto the area and surrounding skin. Continue twice daily until irritated area has healed.

For aches, pains, bruises, strains, sprains, cracked skin, and minor skin burns that have cooled, apply a small amount as needed up to three times per day.

Recipe excerpted from Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide (available in the Mother Earth News Store). Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

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; Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils; and Naturally Bug-Free (all available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store). Visit her website 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.

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