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


Bee Propolis: Make Use of Medicinal, Misunderstood ‘Bee Glue’

Pink Bee Propolis Crystals

 

Honeybees collect nectar and pollen from plants as sources of food. They also collect water to drink and an incredible substance called propolis. Propolis is made from a resin-like material honeybees gather from poplar tree buds, as well as buds from conifer trees. In our area of Western Massachusetts we have many poplar trees, in other parts of the country and the world honeybees collect resin to create propolis from other types of trees. Bees then create a mixture of this resin, pollen, wax, and natural enzymes to make propolis.

 

Inside the hive, honeybees use propolis to fill cracks, smooth out rough surfaces, and coat hive entrances. A few years ago, we observed hives in our apiary with more propolis were stronger, more populated, and had better overwinter survival rates through the long and variable winters in Massachusetts. These observations led to research about this natural substance bees seemed to be using as medicine: Could it have benefits for humans too?

 

How Do Bees Use Propolis?

 

Research led to Dr. Marla Spivak, who has collected extensive data on propolis and its importance to both honeybees and humans. Dr. Spivak notes honeybee colonies continue to collect and coat hives with propolis, regardless of beekeepers’ attempts to remove the sticky substance. She suggests this behavior means honeybees need propolis for some reason, and wonders if bees use propolis as medicine.

 

In her article “The Benefits of Propolis,” Dr. Spivak states: We know that propolis has remarkable medicinal properties for humans. It is highly antimicrobial, meaning that it is antibacterial, ant- fungal and even antiviral. So does it have medicinal benefit to the bees

 

 Our observations, and Dr. Spivak’s research, pointed to a big “yes”.

 

It is important for hive health to leave most propolis where the bees put it — they work hard to create a balance inside the hive for the maximum benefit of the colony. We would be doing them a disservice to undo all their hard work. There are times where bees will use propolis to seal boxes and frames together, lovingly called “bee glue” by many beekeepers. These sticky bits can be carefully scraped from hive boxes and processed in a few ways:

Make a ‘Bee Glue Varnish’ for Hive Boxes

 

Bee Glue Propolis On Hive

 

Propolis that must be scraped from hive boxes can be dissolved in 190-proof grain alcohol and painted back on the inside of wooden boxes. Because propolis is such a thick and sticky substance, it takes weeks to fully dissolve. The alcohol evaporates off the wood, leaving a coat of propolis “varnish”.

 

Propolis has been used for generations in varnish for fine instruments, including violins. This propolis paint is a way for us to give the bees back the propolis they had so carefully collected, while also allowing us to continue managing our hives without having the boxes completely glued together.

 

Medicinal Bee Propolis Tincture

Make Homemade Bee Propolis Tincture

 

For human consumption, propolis can be made into a tincture using 190-proof grain alcohol, that is filtered after sitting for 4 to 6 weeks. This tincture can be taken in water or, for those with strong disposition, dropped directly on the tongue.

 

We use propolis tincture to treat sore throats, toothaches, colds and flu symptoms. Tincture can be used as a natural bandaid when applied directly to cuts and scrapes but the grain alcohol does burn! To solve this problem, I recently made a propolis salve using our beeswax, organic olive oil, and propolis tincture we had prepared. The salve can be applied to scrapes and cuts without worry about the alcohol burn.

 

Two summers ago, I became seriously ill with Lyme disease. My immune system was destroyed after six months untreated for the virus and three months of strong antibiotics. Along with lots of rest, plenty of water and healthy food, I took propolis tincture daily and believe I owe my full recovery to this magical medicine from the bees.

Kristen Tool is co-owner of Olsen Farm in Lanesborough, Mass., where she works with her husband to revive 28 acres of a four-generation family farm by keeping bees, growing fruit, vegetables and herbs without the use of pesticides, raising poultry, cultivating mushrooms, leading workshops, and preparing plant remedies. She is the Secretary of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association and manages a crew of incredible teens who run the local farmers market through a nonprofit program, Roots Rising. Connect with Kristen at Olsen Farm on Facebook, on Instagram @olsen_farm, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Strategies for Stress Management

Adrenal Support Tincture 

Adrenal tincture we made this year

Stress can be debilitating, anyone with anxiety will tell you this. While people deal with stressors in different ways, our bodies all react quite similarly. You may have heard talk of Adrenals, or seen adrenal support tinctures or concoctions for supporting a healthy stress response. This is because your adrenals, which are glands located above each kidney, control specific hormone production. One of these hormones is called cortisol and is increased as your body’s response to a stressful environment (3).

Your Body's Stress Response

When you are faced with a stressful situation, your body can’t distinguish the threat of financial insecurity from being chased by a bear and creates the same internal environment. This response is supposed to be relatively quick, increasing your blood pressure, making you more alert so you can get out of a mortally perilous situation and then go back about your day. When we worry about things, that cortisol level rises.

When we are chronically worried/anxious, cortisol is in our system for a longer time than necessary and can lead to a bulk of health issues. These include a weakened immune system, digestive issues, heart disease, insomnia, depression, skin irritation and many more (4). This is why it’s incredibly important to have certain strategies in place to help reduce stress in our daily lives. 

Tea Blends and Herbal Remedies for Stress

In our present time, I’m sure that everyone is dealing with their own different stressors and maneuvering around obstacles that wouldn’t have existed a month ago. Stress-relieving teas or tinctures are a great ally to have on hand right now. Lavender, Chamomile, Calendula, Motherwort, Rose, Rosemary, and St. John's wort, are all great herbs for relieving stress and tension in the body. Gail Edwards writes that nettles is invaluable at "restoring adrenal function" (1), so if you suffer from chronic stress, a nettle tincture would be a must-have.

At the farm, we drink a soothing tea made up of our house tea blend (see earlier lemon balm post for recipe) with added chamomile and lavender flowers. On top of that, I also take a rosemary tincture to help promote mental clarity and untangle/organize some of the things I’m worried about. Rosemary is a great aid for the whole nervous system, especially when dealing with “fatigue, exhaustion, and stress” (1).

I happen to feel everything in my gut when stressed, so I like to massage calendula oil right onto my stomach and neck. Taking the time to care for yourself is a huge part of the healing, so make sure you’re setting time aside, or taking advantage of those precious moments when you can just breathe and check-in with yourself. 

A 2014 study on chronic stress and pain in the body mentioned that “Stress may be unavoidable in life, and challenges are inherent to success; however, humans have the capability to modify what they perceive as stressful and how they respond to it” (2). Though it may not seem like it sometimes, we have the ultimate control to determine what stresses us out and why. 

Below you’ll find some tips for managing stress along with a list of activities that can be done to improve your living/working spaces!

Tips for Managing Stress

Create a stress board. This activity is better than it sounds: Make a notecard about what is stressing you out and why — then create another notecard that outlines how you could solve that problem / the steps to accomplishing that. This singles out problems that may see larger than life in your head.

Do 10 minutes of yoga or stretching each morning and night to wake up and get ready for bed. This helps you reconnect with your body and is a simple way to check if anything hurts or needs special attention. 

If the outdoors is available to you, go for a walk. If you live in a more crowded area, just sitting on your front porch is a good way to get fresh air. 

Keep a separate workspace so that your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed with switching between home and work mode. 

Try to keep a normal sleep schedule, it is incredibly tempting to stay up and wake up much later, but your body and mind will benefit from sticking to a schedule!

Nature Walk  

Photo from our walk in the backwoods

At-Home Activities

This is a good time to declutter. Go through your room(s) and determine what can be donated, thrown away, or kept. Clutter can be overwhelming, even on a subconscious level.

Make music! Especially if you have young ones, making up songs about menial tasks like washing dishes, making the bed, picking up toys, etc, keeps them entertained while also getting the job done. (My siblings and I did a quarantine theatre which we virtually shared with our friends and family)

Learn something new. Khan Academy is a free site that offers videos and quizzes on a multitude of subjects and is especially good for school-age kids trying to learn from home right now.  

Make a scrapbook with saved movie stubs, photos, drawings, notes, and other things you’ve collected over the years.

Get cooking. Play around with an old family recipe or make a new one. 

Let’s make sure we’re taking good care of our adrenals and coping with stressors we can’t immediately solve. As always, check with your healthcare practitioner before starting herbal supplements as they may interfere with other medications you may be taking, or may not work for you specifically. Listen to your body. We here at Nezinscot Farm wish you all health, happiness, and safety during these times.

Resources

Edwards, F. Gail. Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, 2000. pg. 165

Hannibal, K. E., & Bishop, M. D. (2014). Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Physical therapy, 94(12), 1816–1825. https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20130597

What are the health effects of chronic stress? Medical News Today, 2018.

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.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Homestead Wellness Practices

Coronavirus Advice

There is lot of confusing information out there for the COVID-19 coronavirus. We use some very commonsense wellness practices to keep our family healthy and I wanted to share them with you.

Please seek professional medical attention if you or your children are ill — do not follow a blogger's advice. These ideas are for folks who are currently healthy and want to be cautious. It is important to have a well-functioning immune system.

Keep your fingernails short. This prevents bacteria from building up in your nails if you normally keep your nails long or have artificial nails. I keep mine very short, and I also keep my kids' nails short. I haven't heard any doctors mention this tip, but I think it's pretty important.

Wash hands frequently. This is vitally important. But we also have a spray bottle full of 5% acetic acid white vinegar spray (same as canning vinegar), which we spray on our hands after touching items from the store or post office. We keep one in the vehicle, too. Vinegar can kill bacteria and fungi! It can even kill film-forming bacteria, one of the hardest types of bacteria to get rid of. I spray vinegar on all packages from the store as well. Leave the vinegar on, don't wipe it off. I am not suggesting that vinegar replaces bleach and water for sanitizing. Do what you feel is best for your family and consult the CDC for best practices. Vinegar will not help with respiratory transmission of illness. It's also important to note that the CDC recommends an alcohol-based hand cleanser of at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. 

Avoid sugary foods, sodas, artificial sweeteners, and highly processed foods. Learn to cook at home. Try making something simple like slow-cooked potatoes and chicken. Simple techniques and only a few ingredients can help a newbie cook navigate the overwhelming task of cooking at home. Slow-cooking is the easiest way to make meat dishes taste amazing. Try this simple recipe to start: Put a whole chicken in the slow-cooker or Crock Pot (or a few breasts), add water until it rises up about halfway on the chicken, sprinkle 2 teaspoons of curry powder (or chili powder if you don't like the taste of curry), a generous sprinkle of salt, add optional 2 to 3 large potatoes (chopped) and let it cook for 12 hours on low. I like to squeeze a little siracha sauce on, or sometimes add a can of tomato paste. This recipe is so forgiving because slow-cooking will always make meat taste wonderful, no matter what spices you put in. Now you have yourself a delicious supper that will probably last until the next day's lunch or if you live alone — for many meals.

Slow Cooker Meals

Add lots of fruits and veggies to your diet. Add some wholesome dried fruits such as prunes and apricots to your snacks as well as nuts and plain (no-sugar) yogurt. Whole foods are always a good idea over take-out food or processed microwave meals. If you model this behavior, your kids will mimic it, too.

Avoid alcohol if you are feeling sick. Alcohol suppresses the immune system and also disrupts sleep. If your body is trying to fight infection it needs adequate rest and a strong active immune system!

Eat raw garlic (with the powerful natural antibiotic, Allicin), raw ginger, and turmeric when feeling sick or even just a little off. Not only is garlic anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral, but best of all it contains a natural antibiotic that selects the bad bugs in your gut and doesn't harm the good ones (unlike antibiotics that are prescribed by the doctor, which annihilate everything in your gut — very hard on your body). Yes, garlic is smelly, but don't be tempted to take a garlic pill. As far as I know, garlic supplements do not have the potent allicin in them, unless they are freeze-dried. The cheapest way to get garlic benefits is to eat it raw! You need to smash or chop fresh garlic before consuming it for the allicin to be present. We put it on sourdough toast, mix it into eggs (after they've cooled from cooking), put it into salad dressing and fresh hummus.

Read only the most essential news. A lot of it is full of fear and even the facts are meant to scare you. Limit yourself to 5 minutes a day. Set an egg timer and stop looking at it after 5 minutes when it dings. I'm not saying don't be informed, but many people who read the news tend to get stressed out by it. Stress hastens illness.

Rosemary Hansen is an author, homesteading Mama, and a chef. She has spent the last 10 years “homesteading” in the city. She and her family have just started their off-grid homestead in rural British Columbia, Canada. Her books, Grow a Salad In Your City Apartment and Rosemary’s Natural Cosmetic Guide are a great way to ease into a healthy, pure lifestyle. You can connect with Rosemary at her website or on her YouTube channel. Read all of Rosemary'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.

Experience a Sensory Deprivation Float

floating-in-tank
Photo by Adobe Stock/vlorzor

Life is so busy, I often feel overstimulated. This past weekend was no exception, and I felt pulled in many different directions, with loads of stimulation. I worked at Ogden Publications’ annual Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania. We brought in thousands of people ready to hear speakers, and see our vendors and hands-on classes.

I arrived home sore, super tired, overstimulated, and in need of some TLC, — I was zapped. I thought about what I could do to make a comeback. I have been in a sensory deprivation tank once before but I wasn’t sold, ergo the owner gave me a free visit. If I had time, I would have walked off the plane and into a tank but, alas, family comes first. I knew if there was ever a time I’d see results it’d be now, so I set an appointment for the next day.

Yes, You Really Float!

The tank is filled with 800-plus pounds of magnesium sulfate, which is just a fancy way to say it is filled with a lot of pharmaceutical-grade Epson salt. All the salt makes the water denser than your body, allowing you to float and reap the benefits of an Epson salt soak. If you listen close enough, you can hear the salt crystals crackling when you move.

I was super self-conscience the first visit and somewhat uncomfortable in a new place, not to mention buck naked to boot! I chose a pod and my first question was, “How do I breathe in there?” I was told there is a vent at the back of the unit to let air in and if I needed I could leave the lid open for my comfort. I’m not a super claustrophobic person; however, I indeed did feel a little air on my face.

float-tank-air-vent

I removed jewelry, covered a small scratch with petroleum jelly (for a natural alternative, you could use a beeswax jelly), and inserted molded earplugs before showering excluding conditioner. I prefer to wear ear plugs instead of drying out my ears super well after. They are great for sound reduction; on the other hand, you will need to listen up when the voice calmly instructs you to lie down and clear your mind. I grabbed the head floater as a crutch and draped the dry washcloth as instructed over the inside arm of the tank just in case I had to itch my face.

Inside a Sensory-Deprivation Tank

I hear saltwater stings if it gets in your eye or an open wound, and you will want to avoid shaving 12 to 24 hours before. For five minutes, I felt a tingling sensation on a small blemish I didn’t know was there. The head floater is not necessary, but nice to have for the first float. Some spas keep a spray bottle with water close for you to rinse saltwater out of your eye.

The pod has soft meditation music with controls and soft blue light on at the beginning and end of the float. I focused mostly on my breathing during my float; I believe I reached a meditative state. The temperature of the water is around 93.5 degrees Fahrenheit, about the same as our skin. It’s easy to stop feeling your body, which makes it much easier to reach your relaxed state. The best way to describe this feeling is that, if I didn’t know any better, I’d almost think it was just my brain floating in the water. I’m guessing this is the feeling of an altered state some people report.

I was ready to get out after my thoughts started to bounce around at the end of the float. I didn’t focus on my breathing the second time around. There was no rhyme or reason to my thoughts; I wanted to stay longer. Most pods offer a 60 minutes or a 90-minute option. Next time I’ll try the 90 minutes.

float-tank

I walked into the tank with the thought that I might fall asleep; I do not fall asleep just anywhere. If you are the type to fall asleep in the theater, dentist, or car at a drop of a hat — there's a chance you might fall asleep while floating. I know some will question, what if. Floating takes away all pressure points off the body so you will have no reflex to flip over. However, most locations will have you sign a waiver covering several things, including recently dyed hair. Even as worn out as I was, I still did not fall asleep. Perhaps that’s just the magic of the float.

Keep in mind, very salty water can cause a lot of damage to everything it repeatedly comes in contact with. Go directly to the shower after stepping out of the tank. Take a thorough shower to wash off all salt. All the salt in my hair made it feel like I had used a whole bottle of hairspray. However, my hair was so soft after washing it.

The pod will start its recirculation routine after you exit, making it pass through the tank’s filtration and the UV disinfection system. After dressing, find a place to relax and acclimate yourself to the world around you. This is a good time to rehydrate, because the salty water will make you thirsty. You may notice an inner calm, which some call the afterglow. Enjoy!

Benefits of Saltwater Immersion Therapy

  • Reduced pain relief
  • Aids chronic fatigue
  • Helps PTSD
  • Increases dopamine and endorphin levels
  • Aids anxiety and depression
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Helps fibromyalgia
  • Aids hypertension
  • Helps arthritis
  • Helps athletes relax sore muscles to aid recovery
  • Improved learning
  • Enhanced creativity

Floating is not recommended for people with kidney disease, low blood pressure, epilepsy, any contagious diseases, open wounds, skin ulcers, or severe skin conditions. Unplug from technology, silence your phone and avoid drinking caffeine before for maximum benefit. If your hair is dyed, the water should run clear during washing before floating.

Tonya Olson is a digital content manager for Ogden Publications' magazine titles. She was born and raised in Northeast Kansas swimming in corn, jumping hay bales, and driving go-carts as a child. College took her to Arizona, life moved her to North Idaho, and her heart brought her back home. She’s an artist by nature, her usual outlet is her eye behind the lens of a camera. You can find her on Instagram. Outside the office, Tonya enjoys kayaking local waters, digging in the dirt and wrangling kiddos. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

herb-lovers-spa-book

THE HERB LOVER'S SPA BOOK

The Herb Lover’s Spa Book shows how easy it is to grow and prepare therapeutic herbs for a custom spa experience in the comfort of your own home. It helps you unplug, relax and make the world go away. Since the days of Cleopatra, we have been in search of the "Spa Experience": a mystical place of white fluffy towels, populated by the finest of facial masks and lotions. But this vision of relaxation can come with a hefty price tag. That is about to change. In her new book, herb gardener, spa enthusiast and award-winning garden designer Sue Goetz shows us how to create the luxury spa experience in our own home, featuring fragrant, therapeutic herbs from the garden. With lavish photos throughout, this book gives the reader simple steps for growing and preparing herbs for the home spa: aromatherapy oils, lotions, tub teas, masks, scrubs, sachets, travel bath mixes and more. It has never been easier to enjoy the spa ambiance and let the stress of the day melt away.

Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


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.

Boost Immunity with Homemade Medicinal Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry and Jewelweed Patch 
The patch of elderberry and jewelweed

“Save some for me!” I yelled to the birds on my way back from the river. I don’t typically start my days yelling at animals, but that morning they happened to be pecking away at dark berries nestled in a tall bush, berries that I was hoping to pick later that week to make a syrup effective enough to chase away a cold or flu: elderberries.

If you’d asked me at 10 years old what I thought about elderberries, I would have told you what I knew in my stubborn heart to be true... Elderberries are evil. Every time my mother made me take elderberry tincture, I’d get sick. That was just a fact. It took some years to understand that rather than cause the illness, elderberries were actually helping to ease the symptoms, and moreover, speed up my recovery process. I didn’t realize I was already on the cusp of some cold, or stomach bug, as kids frequently are, but of course, my mother knew better. A cough here, a stomach ache there and we were sent to the medicine cabinet. A young brain, however, correlated two things: elderberries and illness.

Thankfully, I no longer feel that way. My new perspective holds that a life without elderberries would be a difficult life indeed. This season was the first in which I’ve had a more hands-on approach to the harvesting process, which only furthered my appreciation of the bushes themselves. For the gathering, I had to crawl along fallen tree trunks, through dense areas of jewelweed, and, as earlier mentioned, fight off the birds. 

Any herbal guide you get your hands on will praise elderberry for its ability to fight the common cold and flu, shorten the length of the illness and improve the general symptoms. Interestingly enough, I’ve found that modern science will say the same thing. Multiple studies (as cited below) have shown that elderberry syrup is especially good at fighting the flu. Across the board, patients were recovering faster than those not taking the syrup (1) and in one case, an elderberry and echinacea mixture was as effective as a conventional drug when taken at the earliest signs of sickness (3). It turns out that elderberries have specific compounds that hinder viruses from entering your cells, and also works to fight the virus from within during later stages of illness (4). That’s why it’s typically recommended that you take a form of elderberry at the first signs of a cold or flu, so as to prevent any further spread of the virus. 

The various methods of medicine making create something for everyone. I personally prefer the elderberry syrup to the tincture, as it is sweeter and can be taken with tea. The syrup process happens in two steps, first creating the initial elderberry juice, then combining it with honey to create the syrup.

My Mom De-stemming the Elderberries

Elderberry Juice

  1. Put elderberries (off stem) in a crockpot and fill with water until berries are just covered
  2. Let sit for 24 hours on low 
  3. Strain and jar up the juices (the remaining pulp can be composted (we fed ours to the chickens))
  4. Can the jars if you made a big batch (this helps to preserve it for longer). If not, skip this step

Time to make syrup! 

There are many recipes out there so feel free to experiment and find the one that works best for you. Our recipe is as follows:

Elderberry Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups elderberry juice 
  • 1/2 cup honey 
  • 2 tbsp brandy

Directions:

  1. Heat the elderberry juice and honey together, do not boil - just combine
  2. Remove from heat and add brandy 
  3. Continue to stir for 30 seconds 

That’s it! While bottling this syrup, remember that honey settles as it cools, so it’s best to use a ladle and scoop from the bottom up, otherwise your bottles will lack consistency, with some being much sweeter than others. Unfortunately, I speak from experience here.

Final Product - Elderberry Syrup
Final product: elderberry syrup

This season’s elderberries came in handy in many instances of near-sickness during the cold season. Living in a farm store where dozens of people come and go daily makes it that much easier for me and the family to get sick. I’m thankful for that patch of dark berried shrubs tucked behind a small forest of jewelweed on the edge of our path. I’m thankful for the animals that help disperse the seeds and create more patches just like this one for others to enjoy and benefit from. On our third and final day of harvesting, berry-stained and exhilarated, my mom suggested we take them all, but, in the spirit of reciprocity, I opted to leave some for the birds.

Sources:

  1. Zakay-Rones, Z., Thom, E., Wollan, T., & Wadstein, J. (2004). Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections. Journal of International Medical Research, 32(2), 132–140. https://doi.org/10.1177/147323000403200205
  2. Tiralongo, E., Wee, S. S., & Lea, R. A. (2016). Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 8(4), 182. doi:10.3390/nu8040182
  3. Rauš, K., Pleschka, S., Klein, P., Schoop, R., & Fisher, P. (2015). Effect of an Echinacea-Based Hot Drink Versus Oseltamivir in Influenza Treatment: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Double-Dummy, Multicenter, Noninferiority Clinical Trial. Current therapeutic research, clinical and experimental, 77, 66–72. doi:10.1016/j.curtheres.2015.04.001)
  4. Torabian, G., Valtchev, P., Adil, Q., & Dehghani, F. (2019). Anti-influenza activity of elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Journal of Functional Foods, 54, 353–360. doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2019.01.031

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.


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.

Roundup Trials: 2019 in Review and Monsanto's Legal Road Ahead

 Tractor Spraying Pesticide Glyphosate

Photo by Pixabay/maxmann

As you have likely heard by now, the last year and a half has been a rough ride for Monsanto legally speaking.

Ever since August 10th, 2018, when the San Francisco County Superior Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, DeWayne Johnson, there has been a flurry of litigation against Monsanto. Surprisingly, the cases are being decided against the company.

Today, let's take a look at the Roundup trials of 2019, and more importantly take a look at the road ahead in 2020 for Roundup and those impacted by Roundup exposure. 

Here’s the deal, there is too much for one individual to keep up with!

So to get a thorough look into the matter, I reached out to Carey Gillam, author of Whitewash- The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science, and research director for US Right To Know (USRTK), one of the leading sources of information on Roundup litigation.

With her help, let's take a look at how the Roundup Trials have fared so far, and where they will likely go in the years ahead.

The 2019 Roundup Trials: Year in Review

This is crazy, but of the 1,000’s of cases filed against Monsanto. Only 2 were publicly settled in 2019. I suppose that is the legal system for you.

The two trials decided against Monsanto in 2019, in regards to the cancer risks of their Roundup product were:  

March 19th, 2019: a jury unanimously decided that Roundup was a “substantial factor” in the development of Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. May 13, 2019: a married couple, Alva Pilliod and Alberta Pilliod, were initially awarded $2 billion for damages suspected to be caused by Roundup exposure.

Although only 2 trials were decided in 2019. As of May 2019, there were more than 13,000 plaintiffs waiting to have their cases heard. Many trials were postponed until January of 2020. Needless to say, roundup exposure lawyers have been busy!

To get some clarity on the issue I asked Carey Gillan of USRTK how she would summarize the Roundup exposure trials of 2019, and if there was anything that stood out to her. This was her response:

“The Pilliod and Hardeman trials were significant because they continued to expose internal Monsanto documents that showed the company engaged in years of deceptive tactics designed to hide the risks of its herbicides. The juries in those trials, found, just as the jury did in the first trial, that Monsanto should pay punitive damages because its conduct in failing to warn consumers of the risks was so egregious.” - Carey Gillan, Author, Journalist and Research Director of USRTK.

Carey Gillan brings up a point which is too often overlooked by "nay-sayers" that still claim that Roundup is completely safe. Monsanto's hid the risks of using their herbicide product. This is one of the biggest factors which is resulting in decisions against Monsanto.

As a landscaper myself, I simply can not comprehend why the company would pretend like there is zero risk in using a product designed to kill organic life. I myself always thought it was common sense that over exposure to a chemical based herbicide, including Roundup could be harmful and opted to use organic weed killer instead. Why a company would over hype the safety of a product is beyond me.

Lady Justice With Sword

Photo by Pixabay/Edward Lich

DOJ Charges Roundup Attorney for Extortion

One of the more notable incidents that occurred in 2019 in regards to the Roundup trials, was the arrest and charges brought against Attorney Timothy Litzenburg. Litzenburg was on the legal team which won the landmark case on behalf of DeWayne Johnson in 2018.

Litzenburg allegedly told an opposing attorney that he would “take a dive” and “ask the wrong questions” in a new case similar to his first against Roundup in 2018. He is alleged to have offered this service for a consulting fee at the “very reasonable price” of $200 million dollars. Which would have left the individuals that hired him to sue for their damages with nothing.  

2020 and the Road Ahead: The Battle for Justice Continues

As if the 13,000 plaintiffs who had cases pending against Monsanto in 2019 wasn’t enough. Currently, in January 2020, there are over 40,000 people with cases filed against Monsanto with allegations of harm caused by the Roundup product. Needless to say, things are still looking bad for Monsanto, a company now owned by Bayer Pharmaceuticals.

Many of the trials which began in 2019 were postponed for various reasons by Monsanto’s, attorneys and the courts. However, many trials are slated to be heard in January of 2020, but as of the writing of this article, none have been decided.

To find out more about the road ahead, I asked Carey Gillan how she thought the 2020 Roundup trials would go.

Here is what she had to say: 

“We are likely to see a major settlement of most, if not all, of the Roundup litigation in the near future. Both sides would like to see the litigation settled before Bayer’s annual shareholders’ meeting in April. Both sides have a lot to lose in the uncertainty that lies with the appellate courts.” -Carey Gillan, Author, Journalist and Research Director of USRTK.

It’s true many cases get settled before trial. Simply put, having a decision now, is usually more favorable for most people than uncertainty. With many of the Roundup trials already dragging on for longer than one year, most people would be happy to see an end to the stress and hassle of court. 

The Future of USRTK 

One of the biggest resources I have found for researching the Roundup exposure trials as they develop is the US Right to Know, non-profit group. Being that Carey Gillan is the research director of USRTK, I definitely wanted to get her perspective on the issue.

She and the USRTK non-profit have done, and continue to do, a tremendous amount of research regarding pesticides including Roundup. As well as GMO’s, artificial sweeteners and the companies that produce them.

Carey Gillam would like to let readers know that USRTK relies on donations to continue their work. Stating: 

“US Right to Know is a small non-profit with very limited resources. We are in need of donations, large or small, to help us continue to pay for the documents we obtained from court files, which we provide free to the public, and to allow us to continue to do the reporting that keeps the public, and other members of the press, informed.” - Carey Gillan, Author, Journalist and Research Director of USRTK.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of the slow, sloth like process of the American legal system. The fact that the people continue to grind against one of the largest corporations in the world, and win, is pretty astounding. Perhaps these trials will lead to a future where corporations who knowingly place the public at risk, will begin to pay the price.

There is an age old saying that I am reminded of "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12

In a world where so much seems to be going wrong, these trials are a beacon that shows justice is still alive and well. Justice may be slow, but when the people actually focus their efforts. When we don’t give into the distractions put forth by the same system that is causing harm. We can make the right thing happen. Like labeling GMOs, which took many years to happen, and finally came to pass in near silence.


Douglas Dedrick is landscaper, documentarian and environmental law writer. When he’s not looking for things to investigate, he is usually writing articles about lawn care. Connect with him at Healing Law, and read all of Douglas’ MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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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.

Make Natural Beeswax Balms

homemade oil balm 

Homemade balms are one of my favorite natural skincare products. Easy to make, a treat to use, safe, healthy, and wonderfully versatile, they will become a staple in your skincare routine — or a favorite thing to give as a gift — once you get into the swing of making them. 

Balms generally have two main components: oil and beeswax, although people who are allergic to beeswax may use alternatives such as soy wax. 

You can use any natural cold-pressed oils such as olive, almond, avocado, and even coconut if you live in a warm climate. 

Then comes the beeswax part. Generally, the more beeswax you add, the harder your balm will be. I like to have a proportion of 5 parts oil and 1 part beeswax. To measure with precision, I have a digital kitchen scale. 

It's nice to add a few drops of essential oils for good smell and/or relaxing or refreshing properties. I have made olive oil-based balm with menthol and eucalyptus essential oil that smells very invigorating. 

You can also make your own herb-scented oils and use them in making balms (or for other purposes). To do that, place oil in a jar in a sunny spot and add a few sprigs of fresh or dry aromatic herbs such as rosemary, mint, sage, and so on. Leave for a few days to a week, or until the oil smells as strongly as you wish. I am currently using a balm based on grapeseed oil imbued with lavender I had picked and dried myself. It smells divine!

Combine oil and beeswax in a small pot on very low heat and stir continuously until you reach uniform consistency. Pour into glass jars. If you use pretty ones, they can make a great gift. Allow to set at room temperature before using.

Use your balm on any bit of your skin that really needs some thorough care and lots of moisture - cracked heels, dry elbows, chapped lips, rough hands after working in the garden. It works especially great during the winter.

Give your feet an intense beauty treatment: before bedtime, slather natural oil balm, put on cotton socks, and leave until morning. After about a week, your feet will begin shedding dry, dead, cracked skin at a pace that will surprise you. 

Enjoy the new tool in your toolbox of natural homemade personal care! 


Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna, her husband, and their four children live on the outskirts of a small town in northern Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author PageConnect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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This beekeeping business how-to guide offers all of the in-depth answers to the questions you didn’t know you had. Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


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.







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