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

Myrtle: Medicinal and Culinary Properties


Myrtle (Myrtus communis) is an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean region and is extensively grown in Israel, mostly for decorative purposes and also for its uses in the Jewish tradition. Its pleasant smell and year-round fresh greenery make it a great choice for decorative hedges, but myrtle also has some wonderful health properties and, as we have recently discovered to our surprise and pleasure, culinary uses.

Myrtle has some highly effective antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and astringent qualities, which makes it valuable in the treatment of many respiratory ailments and skin issues. The plant contains high levels of salicylic acid (a compound related to aspirin) and is an expectorant (helps to get rid of mucus), which makes myrtle tea an excellent choice for colds and flu. Myrtle essential oil is especially prized, often applied together with other essential oils.

It is actually possible to distill essential oils at home by steaming the leaves and directing the steam through a pipe which is cooled with the help of cold water or ice, thus turning the steam into liquid form. However, a much easier way for home remedies would be to make oil infusion by boiling the leaves in neutral base oil such as olive or grapeseed. It is also possible to make cold (no cooking) infusion by placing a jar filled with myrtle leaves and base oil in a sunshiny spot. This takes more time, but the valuable compounds of the plant are better preserved this way.

Clear, straightforward instructions for making and using myrtle oil infusion at home can be found here.

In the kitchen, myrtle leaves can be used for flavoring soups and stews in much the same way one would use bay leaves. The berries are also highly edible, with a fruity, slightly astringent flavor which goes particularly well with enhancing chicken, fish and meat dishes. They can also be made into jam (usually combined with other fruit) or, in the Sardinian tradition, steeped in alcohol and sweetened with honey to make a unique-flavored beverage.

Myrtle berries are fully ripe when their color is purplish-black. Around here this happens as late as November or December. If you don’t grow myrtle yourself, places with myrtle hedges are good spots for picking – a bit of foraging to be done in the local park. The berries don’t keep very well and must be either used right away or frozen. Warning: chickens love ripe myrtle berries, so take the necessary precautions to eliminate competition from your feathery friends.

While the health benefits of myrtle are well-known, its culinary uses are, in my opinion, greatly underrated.  I hope more people get to know and appreciate this wonderful shrub with its diverse uses and introduce it into their kitchens.

Anna Twittos academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in 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 Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna'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.

5 Botanically-Inspired Gifts for Anyone

The December holidays are a perfect time to treat the loved ones on your list to botanically inspired gifts. For those interested in botany or herbalism, these gifts will encourage the learning journey, offer up inspiration, and encourage a bit of rest and relaxation in this busy month. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite botanical resources and herbal creations below!

Botanically Inspired Gifts for the Holidays

Easy Handmade Herbal Blends

For those of you who enjoy making gifts, herbal tea and spice blends are easy to make, satisfying to give, and a delight to receive.

For tea drinkers who enjoy settling in with a mug of hot tea, you may find inspiration in 4 Herbal Teas for Autumn and Winter or Teas for Cold & Flu Season. An herbal tea blend (or an assortment of blends!) is a lovely gift when paired with a tea infuser and a beautiful mug from a local potter. A favorite of ours at the Herbal Academy is our Nourishing Weedy Tea blend.

Nourishing Weedy Tea


• 1 Tbsp dried nettle leaf
• 1 Tbsp dried peppermint
• 1 Tbsp dried dandelion leaf
• 1 Tbsp dried red clover blossom


1. Add your herbs to one-quart hot water. Steep for 20 minutes to four hours, strain, and enjoy drinking your weeds!

For those who love to cook or just need some new inspiration, choose from these recipes for 5 Herbal Spice Blends from around the globe to add a creative dash of flavor in the kitchen. Spice blends can be packaged in beautiful jars and given along with recipe cards with your favorite recipe suggestions.

Foraging Tote - Plant Identification Key guide

Plant Identification Foraging Bag

For those who like to forage for wild plants, this beautifully designed crossover bag is a practical and beautiful tool. The plant identification chart on the front panel will help you become acquainted with the many plants growing in your area!

The Plant Identification Foraging Tote is made of 100 percent cotton, organic, and comes in natural. The large interior pocket is perfect for carrying an iPad or journal when the time comes for jotting down plant identification notes and harvesting locations.

Shop the Plant Identification Foraging Tote bag here.

Herbal Academy Organic Cotton Beanie

Herbal Book

There are so many wonderful herbal books for the budding botanist or herbalist, and speaking from experience, a book is always a welcome gift! You can choose one of the titles on our 101 Herbal Books compilation based on experience level and topic of interest, or one of the books below written by two of the herbalists who are teachers in our Advanced Herbal Course.

For the herbalist, Body into Balance by Maria Noel Groves is accessible for folks new to herbalism as well as those wishing to continue their learning journey. The book describes the foundations of good health and walks the reader through the body systems, describing herbs, recipes, and protocols that can be used to regain and maintain balance. Short herbal monographs and instructions for making herbal preparations are also included.

For the botanist, Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and James A. Duke and Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Christopher Hobbs, Steven Foster, and Roger Tory Peterson have color photographs, are helpful for plant identification in the field, and also present information on medicinal uses of plants.

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Magazine Subscription

A monthly or bimonthly magazine can bring welcome inspiration and practical tips to the plant lover’s mailbox. Mother Earth Living, Mother Earth News (photographed above), Willow & Sage, and Taproot magazines are a few of our favorites for information on gardening, cooking, and making herbal products.

Your business plan - Entrepreneur Herbal Course

Gift of Education

Herbalism education offers the opportunity for someone to take a passion for plants and herbalism to the next level as they learn to use herbs in a meaningful way to support their own and others’ wellness. Many courses, like those at the Herbal Academy, offer not only information but also community, nurturing and inspiring growth while also providing connection within a supportive community.

Herbal Academy offers four online herbalism courses: an Introductory Herbal Course to give students with little or no herbal experience a glimpse into the world of herbs, an Intermediate Herbal Course for students with some herbal training who are ready to dive in deeper into body systems and herbal therapeutics, an Advanced Herbal Course for students who are interested in taking their studies to a professional level, and the Entrepreneur Herbal Course for those interested in launching a small herbal products business. The Herbal Academy courses are on sale at 10% off through December 2016.

Learn more about the herbal courses here!

Herbal Academy also offers The Herbarium, a membership website that includes a searchable plant database full of carefully researched monographs. We created The Herbarium to provide an accessible place online for our members and curious herbal enthusiasts to be able to find reliable information all in one place! Besides the ever expanding research database, The Herbarium also includes thoughtful articles on the practice of herbalism that you won’t find anywhere else, and members have access to great discounts and other member perks. Learn more about The Herbarium here!

We hope these options provide some inspiration for the plant lover on your holiday gift list. Happy Holidays!

Jane Cookman Metzger is the Assistant Director at the Herbal Academy. Herbal Academy programs offer multiple levels of comprehensive herbal education, ranging from very beginner to advanced professional levels. Set your foundation in the Introductory Herbal Courseexplore herbal therapeutics for body systems in greater depth in the Intermediate Herbal Courseprepare for business endeavors in the Entrepreneur Herbal Courseand delve into complex clinical topics in the Advanced Herbal CourseThrough the Herbal Academy’s training paths, students will gain the knowledge and experience required for careers as professional herbalists, and with additional hands-on training, clinical herbalism. All programs are held online, and designed with an international classroom in mind. Read all of Jane'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.

Natural Winter Skin Care

Winter is here, and with it cold, dry air, sharp winds, and chapped, cracked skin. This can be a real pain, especially for those of us who still have to tend to outdoor chores every day. Last winter, I suffered from a very bad case of red, dry, painful hands and spent a fortune on expensive medical-grade creams and lotions, but this was before I fully discovered the wonders of coconut oil and shea butter and the satisfaction of making one's own simple skin care products.

Try the following easy, natural recipes to keep your skin smooth and healthy during the winter:

Easy Coconut and Almond Body Butter

Coconut oil has wonderful anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and moisturizing properties — and it smells delightful!


• 1\2 cup of coconut oil
• 1 tbsp. almond oil
• A few drops of essential oils (optional)


1. Put oils into a bowl and mix with an electric beater until you get a smooth, fluffy texture resembling whipped cream.

2. Place in glass jar and use on skin after shower to retain moisture, or apply just before going out. This can be also a great handmade gift if put in a pretty jar with a colorful ribbon.

Another tip for healthy hands: if the wind is especially sharp and biting outside, wear gloves even if it isn't very cold. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it has been really helpful for me. It's easy to say, "oh, I'm just nipping out for a minute to feed the chickens", but even so, wearing gloves does make a huge difference.


Whipping up coconut body butter. Doesn't it look delicious?

3-Ingredient Homemade Lip Balm

Melt equal proportions of beeswax pastilles (can be ordered online), coconut oil and Shea butter in a small pot. Pour into small jars and let set.

Optional: Add some drops of your favorite essential oil.

Apply liberally before going outside or when weather is particularly dry.

Find more natural health, beauty and household tips and recipes in my book, Your Own Hands.

Anna Twittos academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in 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. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna'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.

A Step by Step Guide to the Oil Face-Cleansing Method


What is the Oil Cleansing Method?

Oil cleansing has been around for centuries as a way to naturally cleanse the skin. It’s not soap, and it’s not “washing”. Did you know the industrialization of soap wasn’t even around until the 19th century? How did people get clean before soap? Jumping in our hypothetical time machine let’s go back and visit the ancient Roman Baths. Traditionally, the first thing one would do is lather the skin with oil. This oil would gently loosen any dirt on the skin and in the pores, then, using a strigil, the oil and dirt would be scraped away. Only after this oil cleansing would one be permitted to plunge into the baths.

Because oil dissolves oil, the oil cleansing method (OCM) works very well to cleanse, tone and moisturize the skin all in one step, all without the need for soap. The basics of the OCM is to use the right ratio of astringent oil with conditioning oil (more on that below) and massage onto the face in a circular motion. This allows the oil to dissolve any make-up, dirt and oil lurking on one’s face. Meanwhile, the oil softens and removes any built up dirt or dead skin cells within the pores, gently clearing them away. Adios blackheads! (This is also a wonderful and gentle eye makeup remover, but take care not to get it in your eyes.) The last step is to place a hot, wet washcloth over one’s face, allowing the steam to further loosen dirt and grime, then gently wipe away. A thin layer of oil remains on the skin which both protects and moisturizes throughout the day.

Oil cleansing is not a miracle cure for skin issues. The most effective treatment for acne, eczema, psoriasis or other skin ailments is through proper diet and nutrition. However, if you find yourself dealing with these issues, oil cleansing can become your best friend as it’s a much more mild and gentle approach to cleansing and moisturizing your skin than harsh soaps and cleansers.

First Things First - Know Your Skin Type

Is your skin oily, dry or a combination of the two? Do you feel the need to dab your t-zone of excess oil throughout the day? Or does your skin seem dull, dry and even flaky at times? How about oily in some areas while dry in others...and perhaps a pimple or two thrown in for good measure? Once you nail down your skin type, you’ll know which oils will be most beneficial for you and your unique needs, and can begin to combat those pesky issues showing up on your face.

Astringent Oils

Astringent oils, believe it or not, are oils that can be drying to the skin. Which makes them perfect for oily or combination skin, as well as for those with dry skin (in smaller amounts). Astringent oils will temporarily constrict the outermost layer of the skin (the epidermis) by reducing the blood flow, thereby minimizing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, as well as shrinking pore size.

The following oils fall under the category of “astringent oils”: Argan oil, Castor oil, Grapeseed oil, Hazelnut oil and essential oils of Carrot Seed, Cyprus, Ginger, Myrtle, Patchouli, Rose, Rosemary and the citrus oils (Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Mandarin and Sweet Orange). Lavender also falls under this category as it has both astringent and conditioning properties.

Hydrating & Conditioning Oils

The majority of your oil cleansing combination will be made up of conditioning oils. These oils soothe the skin as well as provide all day moisture and nutrients. Conditioning oils are beneficial for all skin types, even those prone to oily skin and breakouts. Oftentimes breakouts occur when our skin is over-producing oil due to a lack of hydration. Many times this lack of hydration is caused by harsh cleansers, scrubs and acne treatments designed to dry out your skin while clearing up blemishes. To make matters worse, a common misconception for those prone to breakouts is to skip the moisturizers altogether due to the excess oil production (truly a vicious I was caught in for years during my early twenties).

Hydrating oils will help keep dry skin moisturized while normalizing oil production, all while improving the look of dull, aging skin. The following oils are considered “hydrating”: Avocado oil, Coconut Oil, Hemp Seed oil, Jojoba oil, Olive oil, Sweet Almond oil and essential oils of Basil, Bergamot, Camphor, Evening Primrose, Lavender, Roman Chamomile and Sandalwood.


Finding the Perfect Combination

There are countless combinations that can be made with the astringent and conditioning oils, and finding which combination is right for you may take some experimentation. But there are some general rules of thumb to follow when you first start with the OCM.

No two skin types are the same, and simply narrowing down your skin type doesn’t mean the following ratios will work perfectly for you. Once you begin using the OCM regularly, pay attention to how your skin responds and make adjustments accordingly. The following are merely guidelines, but let your face have the final say.

Oil Blends for Dry Skin

A good starting ratio for dry skin will be one part astringent oils to ten parts conditioning oils (1:10 ratio). So go through the list and pick out your oil of choice...chances are high you already have these in your house! You may be wondering why we’re adding an astringent (drying) oil to our dry skin blend. It’s true these oils can be drying, but the benefits of the astringent oils far outweigh any drying that may take place at such a small ratio to the conditioning oils. The pore refining and skin tightening properties will be welcomed along with the soothing and moisturizing properties of the conditioning oils. With this ratio you’ll have the best of both worlds.

Dry Skin Option: 1 Tbs Castor oil mixed with 10 Tbs Avocado or Olive oil . A tsp of Vitamin E or Emu oil (these have deep moisturizing components that will be noticeable all day long). 10-20 drops Lavender and/or Roman Chamomile essential oils for their soothing and calming properties. Mix it all up in a re-purposed glass bottle and use 1 tsp each day.  

Oil Blends for Oily Skin (and blemishes)

For oily skin it’s important to increase the astringent oils to help combat the overproduction of oil. But don’t go overboard, remember the overproduction of oil often means your skin is crying out for hydration. One part astringent to three parts conditioning oils should be a good start.

Oily Skin Option: 2 Tbs Hazelnut oil mixed with 6 Tbs Avocado oil (contains Vitamins A, B, D and E). For acne prone skin add 10-20 drops Tea Tree (Melaleuca), Lavender or Patchouli essential oils (or a combination of the three). Tea Tree is antiseptic, great for healing current blemishes, Lavender is anti-inflammatory and calming and Patchouli is also anti-inflammatory as well as antiseptic, both great for soothing current blemishes. (Read this post for additional benefits of Lavender.)

Oil Blends for Combination Skin

For normal to combination skin try a ratio of one part astringent to four, five or six parts conditioning oils.

Combination Skin Option: 2 Tbs Castor oil mixed with 8-12 Tbs Almond oil. Add 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil such as Lavender, Frankincense and/or Roman Chamomile and you’re good to go. (Read this post for additional benefits of Frankincense.)

Oil Blend Tips

The options listed above are examples for different skin types, but it doesn’t mean they’ll work perfectly for you. If you have oily skin and a 1:3 part ratio isn’t helping normalize your oil production, you may need to make your ratio 1:2 parts astringent to conditioning oils. Increasing the astringent oils until your face regulates oil production may be necessary temporarily, then, if you find that ratio begins to dry out your skin, try upping the conditioning oils again until your face is happy.

The sample recipes above should last approximately 2-4 weeks (depending on how much oil you’re using daily). It’s my recommendation to stick with a new oil combination for about a week or two before deciding to try a new combination.

Barring allergic reactions (which you then should discontinue use immediately), your skin may require time to adjust to this new method of cleansing, especially if you’ve been using harsh cleansers filled with chemicals. Allow your pores to do their job, which is to help detox our body by cleansing and pushing out toxins.

You’re Ready for the Oil Cleansing Method

Step 1: Gather your oil blend and a washcloth or two and be sure your hair is pulled back, away from your face.

Step 2: Starting with a dry, or slightly damp face, take 1 tsp of your oil blend and gently massage the oil into your skin with your fingertips, moving in an upward, circular motion. Continue rubbing the oil into your skin for 1-3 minutes, even working along your jawline and neck. If you’re wearing eye makeup, wait to rub that off until just before Step 3, doing your best to keep oil out of your eyes.

Mother-Earth-News_Oil-Cleansing_Step-2 (1)

Step 3: Run your washcloth under very hot water (hot enough to tolerate but not burn), quickly wring out excess water and press washcloth gently over your face. Hold the washcloth on your face to allow the steam to open your pores, allowing any excess dirt and oil to loosen. Hold the washcloth on your face for 30-60 seconds. Do not wipe your face with the washcloth, this step is purely to allow the steam to open and cleanse pores.


You can repeat Step 3 two or three times, rinsing the washcloth between each application.

Step 4: Rinse your washcloth well, or grab a clean cloth and wet it with hot water, then gently wipe away excess oil from your face. A thin layer of oil will remain (unless you scrubbed too hard, if this is the case, you can always add a bit more), this oil will protect, moisturize and condition your skin all night long, and even into the next day.


Step 5: If you feel you want a bit more moisture, simply rub a small amount of your oil blend into your damp skin and let air dry.

Step 6: The following morning, simply wipe face clean with a damp washcloth and apply a small amount of oil if needed. Allow oil to soak in before applying makeup.  

OCM Tips

Depending on your skin type, you may be working on clearing up blemishes, eliminating eczema or combating dryness. The OCM can be used up to three times daily. Once your face is clear and moisturized, oil cleansing once daily should be sufficient to keep your skin balanced, smooth and blemish free (assuming you’re keeping that healthy diet in check!).

Remember, no two faces are the same, do what’s best for your skin and continue to experiment with your oil blend until you find just the right combination for you.

Kelsey Steffen is an aspiring farmer, wife, mom of four (with one on the way), and home-school educator in North Idaho. Join Kelsey and her family over at Full of Days as they blog about life in the Steffen household, and follow along on Facebook and Twitter. Read all of Kelsey’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.

Nature's Multi-Vitamin: The Many Benefits of Bone Broth (with Crock Pot Recipe)

Medicinal Bone Broth

I must admit, when I first heard about bone broth, I wasn't sure quite what to expect. It took me getting a 'winter bug' to give this soup dubbed 'Nature's Multi Vitamin' a try and I was so happy I did. After enjoying homemade bone broth, I set out to discover all of the benefits and I want to share them with your family in hopes that you will add this medicinal soup to your daily nutritional routine. I was pleasantly pleased with all of the benefits this broth offers and can't wait to share them with you.

For starters, bone broth isn't touted 'Nature's Mutli' for no reason. It boasts over 19 easy-to-absorb, essential and non-essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Collagen/gelatin which helps form connective tissue and promotes strong hair and nails (and who doesn't love that!). And it offers nutrients that support your immune system, good digestion, and brain health.

Bone Broth is excellent for promoting overall gut health and helping with 'leaky gut'. It does this by proving a concentrated source of vitamins, amino acids and minerals as well as vital proteins that help to greatly build up your bodies nutritional reserve. 

Leaky gut is something many people suffer with and can result from poor food choices, environmental factors, use of antibiotics and overall chronic inflammation that destroys your gut lining which in turn allows toxins into your blood stream. Long term, this can lead to chronic diseases and conditions.

Bone Broth Benefits and Healthy Considerations

Bone broth is touted for shuffling vital nutrients to the gut in order to help begin the process of 'healing and sealing' the gut. There is a specific type of gelatin contained in bone broths that in combination with the collagen, help to line your stomach and create a barrier against toxins and food getting into your bloodstream. 

Another awesome benefit is that bone broth helps to promote strong healthy bones! Yes, who doesn't need this? Especially as we age, it is important to keep our bones as strong as possible. Bone broth contains calcium and magnesium that promote bone health. Who would've thought a broth packed such powerful punch? 

Here are just a few things to keep in mind and be aware of when it comes to bone broth: 

Store-bought broth is a completely different "animal" (no pun intended). Store bought broths can contain copious amounts of sodium, preservatives and even MSG! This is not the same thing as a properly prepared bone broth.

Proper preparation is key. The most often missed step when it comes to bone broth is not allowing the bones to simmer long enough. You don't want to miss out on the vital nutrients the bones provide so patience is key with this process. Allow your bones time to steep properly to release the most nutrients such as glucosamine, glycine and chondroitin sulfate.

Don't forget your veggies and herbs. These are an excellent compliment to your bone broth and allow the potency of the bones to be greatly increased. Some great herbs to consider adding are:

Bay Leaves
Shitake Mushrooms

With all of the benefits listed above, I bet you can't wait to get started on making your own broth at home. Alex and I have worked to perfect our bone broth soup to our liking. We use an 8 quart crock pot and I would like to share our recipe for you to modify as your own.

Medicinal Bone Broth  

A+A Crock Pot Bone Broth

Start by choosing your bone marrow bones from healthy grass fed animals. My suggestion is to look up local organic farms or check with your local Whole Foods (ours sells Grass Fed bones). If you are local to metro ATL you can also check out Two by Two Farms they offer a fantastic assortment of various bones, pastured eggs etc.

1. Rinse your bones with cold water. Place bones in the crock pot with your veggies and herbs of choice. We like to add carrots, celery and a variety of herbs such as turmeric, bay leaves and also shiitake mushroom.

2. Fill pot with distilled or purified water. You can use a soup pot but we prefer the Crock Pot (8-qt) because it has the slow simmer option.

3. Add apple cider vinegar. Add 1/4 cup of raw unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar per one gallon of water used.

4. Stir well and bring to a boil. Once the soup comes to a boil switch to the lowest setting and allow to fully simmer for 48-72 hours (the longer it simmers the better). Make sure to keep a close eye on water level and top off if needed. Just prior to turning off your soup (about 20 min prior) add in some fresh organic parsley.

5. Turn off soup and let it cool fully.

6. Remove bones and veggies/herbs using a strainer.

7. Take crock pot and place in fridge for broth to cool OR move to another pot and place in fridge. Allow it to harden in the fridge for 4-6 hours. Make sure there is a layer of fully hardened fat on top before removing (like a little mini ice skating rink).

8. Remove fat from top and then strain broth using a cheese cloth. Very important that you not miss this step as you want to make sure no pieces are left in your broth.

9. Store in quart-sized mason jars. Be sure to not fill to the top or they will rack if youa re storing in the freezer. Only fill to about 75-80% full. You can keep your broth in the fridge but if you wont use in 7-10 days we suggest taking leftovers and storing in the freezer. Note: You can mass make your broth for use throughout the month which is what Alex and I do.

Alex and I hope that this excites you enough to further research the benefits of bone broth and to add 'Nature's Multi' to your nutritional regime. We have greatly enjoyed the benefits and hope you do as well.

Alexander Poptodorov is a health and wellness enthusiast who has a passion for helping others to achieve their very best through optimal living. In 2005, he and his wife, Ashley, opened A+A Wellness in Atlanta, Ga. Today, Alex has embarked on his newest adventure, obtaining his N.D. Degree. Alexander and Ashley are excited to share their experiences and excitement with you about the endless possibilities of being healthy. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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

Comforting Comfrey Can Speed Recovery


Poison ivy. It’s my bane, my scourge, the melter of my skin. And now? I will add a breaker of my bones to the list of frown-inducing encounters that I’ve had with this pesky climate change lover.

You may have noticed that I’ve been somewhat quiet lately — that’s because I fractured my wrist about 7 weeks ago. I was cleaning up that last large bed next to the house when I had a pivotal argument with a vine of poison ivy. It quickly escalated into a tug o’ war worthy of filming (though, to my knowledge, my pride escaped being caught so compromised)

To be fair, I admit to having muttered aloud hateful things for a good three hours as I pulled all the offspring of this evil mother plant. I told each and every morsel that it was mean and horrid and unworthy. Definitely one for the karma books that the tug o’ war ended in point ivy.

After ignoring the little voice suggesting that I’d done enough for the day, I decided “one more vine.” After all, I was already protectively clothed and so close to being finished that I might as well just do it.

We seemed evenly matched, that vine and I. I tugged, it held strong. This continued for several minutes. I strengthened my tugging, it continued to hold. Then all of a sudden, quick as you please with no warning whatsoever… bam. It broke and I tumbled backward on a slight downslope, all of my body weight and quite a bit of momentum onto my left wrist. A loud crack followed by a small snap then my “Aw, man!”

I checked in on my body. No nausea (whew), a little light-headed, and my wrist was starting to hurt. I hoped for a sprain. I carefully shoved the offender into the trash bag and carried it to the curb. On the way back to the house, I had to sit down twice due to the light-headedness. Not good—and my wrist was developing a rather sizable knot. Off to the hospital we went.

Confirmation: a closed, distal fracture of the radius. They wrapped me up and referred me to an orthopedic office. Thankfully, I was able to get in the next day and they fixed me up with a brilliant Exos cast (by Boa Technologies). This made me happy because I would be able to take the cast off and apply comfrey several times a day.

I would also be able to tend to the rash that developed over the next couple of weeks — that dreadful ivy plant had transferred just the tiniest bit of oil to my skin which, in turn, spread and covered the entire inside of my left arm.

The good thing is that I didn’t have to turn to steroids this time as I have figured out the perfect combination of homeopathic remedy and a wonderful product from John RedDeer Cruz. While my skin still blossoms (to put it nicely), it actually no longer melts off leaving a trail of ooze all over everything it touches.


Using Comfrey as a Healing Agent

What about the comfrey? I have used comfrey oil, tincture, and  compresses on my broken toes for years. It has always cut the healing time in about half. I swear by the stuff! It can do wonders healing many things. I urge you to spend a little time looking into this plant if you don’t already know about it.

Two very important things to remember when using this wonder for healing:

1. Never use it on any area where infection is present (you’ll seal in the infection).

2. Don't use it without a lot of study and research when the bone has broken all the way through. Comfrey (aka boneknit) heals bones and connective tissue so well and so quickly that when used on some injuries, it can move the bones out of alignment before knitting them together out of place. Then you’re in for surgery and longer rather than shorter healing times.

This is where my closed fracture break was a blessing. I knew from experience that there was a distinct possibility that my orthopedist might be proven wrong with his initial doubt that my nearly 60-year-old body could mend this in anything close to a quick timeline.

At my two-week check-up, I was thrilled to see his raised eyebrow and suggestion that I was healing more quickly than normal. He even let me start physical therapy sooner, though on a slow track. My Physical Therapist referred to me as an outlier more than once. Both he and my orthopedist urged me to be patient as I was healing much more quickly than most people.

Patience is not one of my strong suits when I have a garden to put to bed and arting projects queued up and waiting. I’ve recently become very adept at one-handing all sorts of chores.

Comfrey Oil and Comfrey Compress

I applied comfrey oil up to five times a day, with frozen compresses once a day during the first week. In addition to my use of comfrey, I had one session of acupuncture, consumed several bowls of bone broth, was religious in taking organic plant calcium, and worked healing energy.

At this point, the only lingering hindrance is my TFCC ligament. The orthopedic physician’s assistant tells me that will take another six months to heal. My comfrey and I accept that challenge with vigor and a wee knowing smile.

Now, if I could just figure out how to make a comfrey bath large enough to immerse the planet in…

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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

10 Herbs for Tea-Kettle First Aid

Learning to use herbs in your everyday life can seem overwhelming at first. There are so many different herbs and ways to prepare them! Thankfully, a tea kettle and some dried herbs are all you need to be able to begin using herbs in your own home and even provide herbal support for common first aid complaints.

Herbal teas, or infusions, aren’t just good for drinking. Besides being enjoyed as a hot drink or over ice, they can be applied topically as a compress or added to bathwater to make an herbal soak.

10 Herbs for Tea Kettle First Aid by Herbal Academy

10 Herbs for Your Tea Kettle

These ten especially versatile herbs can make a serviceable Tea Kettle First Aid Kit for your homestead or farm:

• Elder
• Sage
• Goldenrod
• Rose
• Calendula
• Elderflowers
• Yarrow
• Plantain
• Horehound
• Meadowsweet

Here are a few of the ways you can utilize these herbs support your health and wellness!

TEN Herbs for Tea Kettle First Aid by the Herbal Academy

Upset Stomach

An upset stomach is uncomfortable, to say the least. Two herbs from the list above stand out as particularly beneficial for digestive support. Sage, which is astringent, has traditionally been used to help resolve diarrhea. Horehound’s incredibly bitter taste helps prime the digestive system to do its best work, and can also help bring a little ease to an overburdened digestive tract after a big meal.

In addition, rose was once considered to be a valuable liver tonic and meadowsweet has a reputation among herbalists as being helpful for normalizing digestion when acidity is too high.

Settling Down for Bed

Several of the herbs in the list above are nervines that help support the health of the nervous system in various ways.

Rose is a soothing and nurturing option and a cup of rose tea can be just the thing to wind down after a stressful day. Sage is a calming herb that supports frayed nerves and helps put the mind at ease, and even elderflowers can offer a gentle reprieve from stress or daily cares when added to your tea cup.

Soothing Skin (Use as a Wash or a Compress)

Your tea kettle first aid kit’s versatility extends past your tea cup with herbs that you can also apply topically! Calendula is well loved for antiseptic properties that help keep cuts and bug bites clean, and may also help promote a healthy response to inflammation. Yarrow can be used to support healing and hygiene for cuts, as an astringent to balance the circulation when there is excessive bleeding, and even makes a good wash for sores and bruises.

Many herbalists can attest to plantain’s drawing energy that supports the body’s process for expelling dirt and debris from hard to clean or infected wounds. Plantain is also traditionally used on insect bites and stings. Rose petals make a good alternative to lavender when addressing burn or sunburn after care from an herbal perspective.

Taking Care During a Cold

Many of the herbs in this tea kettle first aid kit are also very balancing and comforting when your body is facing down a cold. Yarrow is a diaphoretic herb, traditionally used by herbalists to help promote sweating as the body works to break a fever (more on that here).

Elderflower is also a diaphoretic, and a boon for runny noses—because one of elder’s actions is to dry up and balance excess secretions. Sage can help in a similar manner as elderflower, with the added bonus that its astringency makes it a go-to herb for many herbalists when they have a sore throat!

Calendula can be helpful during a cold, but for different reasons. This herb is used to help gently cleanse the lymphatic system, which herbalists believe can give the immune system an edge and help ease uncomfortable swelling in the lymph nodes.

Breathing Easy During Allergies and Coughs or Colds

Sometimes the worst part of a cold is the respiratory struggle that ensues as your nose runs or feels stuffy and your lungs try to eliminate phlegm. The same can be true of allergies, and thankfully there are several herbal allies that we can turn to in either case. Elder and sage, as mentioned above, are two, thanks to their penchant for drying up excess secretions.

Horehound is one of the most venerated cough remedies in traditional herbalism—but beware! The bitter brew of horehound tea may take both a little getting used to and a little dab of honey. Plantain is traditionally enlisted in herbal lung formulas as an ingredient to thin and expel mucus, and has a much milder taste than horehound. If your breathing woes are allergy related, goldenrod may helpful to you.

Sore, Tight Muscles? Relax!

If stress or a hard day of physical work have your muscles tied up in knots, you can use several of the herbs in your tea kettle first aid kit to put your muscles at ease. Goldenrod is often included in liniments and salves for just that reason, but it works equally well if you make a strong infusion to add to your bath water. Meadowsweet contains some of the same compounds as white willow, the herb that inspired the development of aspirin, so a cup of meadowsweet tea can be a welcome respite when you are feeling achy and uncomfortable.

If you feel cold and achy, sage is wonderful in the bath to help warm up your joints and limbs, and has the added bonus that its nervine properties make it soothing and comforting to the emotions and not just the body.

Ten Herbs for Tea Kettle First Aid - Herbal Academy

Stocking and Using Your Tea Kettle Kit

When you are creating your Tea Kettle First Aid Kit, be sure to source your herbs from reputable companies that specialize in herbs. This will guarantee that the herbs are free of contaminants and don’t contain misidentified plants! Many good companies exist that sell herbs in tea bags or loose leaf, in bulk. If you decide to purchase dried herbs in bulk, be sure to store your herbs in an airtight container away from moisture and sunlight to protect their shelf life and keep them as fresh as possible.

More tips for storing your herbs can be found here.

Making Tea

To make an infusion from loose leaf herbs, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of dried herbs to a heat safe glass bowl and add 8 ounces of water just off the boil. Cover the bowl and allow it to steep for 5-10 minutes before straining. If you have a tea strainer, you can brew your infusion right into your favorite tea cup.

For creating an herbal tub tea or bath, place ¼ to ½ cup of dried herbs into a quart canning jar. Fill the jar with water and allow it to steep, covered, for 20 minutes. Strain the infusion and pour the tea into your bathwater, then enjoy as you would a regular bath.  

Building on a Tea Kettle First Aid Kit

The art of making herbal teas is a versatile place to begin learning herbalism, but there are many other ways herbs can be used around the homestead. With reliable, well-researched online programs, the Herbal Academy’s Introductory Herbal Course can help you establish a solid, practical foundation in herbalism that’s perfect for your home or farmstead!

Photos copyright Herbal Academy.

Agatha Noveille grew up in gardens, and under the teaching of her grandparents, she learned how to identify native plants and how to grow fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs in miniature Edens that reflected the personalities of their caretakers. It was only natural that she blossomed into a plant-related career, and she is now a writer and herbalist in Dalton, Ga. Agatha is an Associate Educator at the Herbal Academy, international school of herbal arts and sciences. Learn more about the Herbal Academy and read all of Agatha'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.