One Man’s Trash is Another’s Garden?

One Man’s Trash is Another’s Garden?

I am proud of our garden–it’s been a lot of hard work breaking in a new plot, but with some sweat, hope (and pixie dust) we have a fundamental part of homestead healthcare: garden based nutrition (and exercise =).

IMG_0826

I could brag about our rainbow chard, four different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, but instead I’m going to brag about my community.

This garden is an indirect community project. Everything in the garden came from our local community, and most of it was free. A friend let us use her tiller to break ground. We re-purposed fence posts, the fence netting I rescued from the recycling bin (all of it!) The box beds were re-purposed from an old garden, and the new bed was made from scrap lumber from our local saw miller. The wood chips on the path came from a local arborist. Even our tomato cages, we made from scrap fencing. All of these materials were someone else’s trash.  We were fortunate enough that a Farmer friend of ours let us come by and pick out end-season plant starts, which we babied. A client of mine, passed along more plant starts. One day I came home to eight buckets of dried manure on my front porch, a gift from my father’s sheep =). The few things I had to buy, a friend gave me expert advice on organic top soil (cheap!).

IMG_0827

Yesterday, we finished planting the second half of the garden. The other half is yet to be built, but dreams of beets and Brussels sprouts, drive us to keep digging. Our garden is a labor of love–from which we will be able to give back to our community the gift of nature’s bounty and medicine.

484183_436215629767388_1853256906_n For more information about nutrition, Heirloom seeds, and horticulture therapy, check out our other blogs.

Spring Fever–Liver Health

Tree of life 2Here in NC we had our first week of hot weather. Spring had rushed in, better late than never. Birds were chirping, bees buzzing, flowers popping and pollen flying. The sun shone with clear purpose and I was in a bad mood. In fact, despite the wonderful weather–everyone seemed grumpy. While I was actively avoiding my loved ones, I picked up a book and was reminded of the basis of all the irritation: Spring fever, literally.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a cosmological system called Five Element Theory. Within their system, health is directly influenced by the energetic shifts of the natural world, as well by the internal (physical) environment. When we look at the below chart, we see that the season that corresponds with the Liver (network) is spring-time. The liver is connected with the Wood element, the emotion of the Liver is anger (interesting….) the senses associated are vision and the taste of sour. So, what does this mean for my grouchy mood? Let’s break this down….

 theory-of-the-five-elements1

 The energy of spring is rushing, vibrant, the fever pitch of nature coming to life again. Our physical bodies also waking up, the heat of the sun warming our bodies and causing an increase in atomic vibration. Our energy is moving faster and in TCM, the Liver network is responsible for the smooth flow of energy. If our Liver is not in top shape (cold/flu, too many Christmas cookies, tax time, etc) then it may not be able to command the flow of spring energy giving rise to internal heat and wind (allergies, headaches), anger, insomnia and other issues.

Interestingly, traditional medicine has always used the spring time, as a natural time for detoxification, with special focus on the liver and lymphatic system. The first spring herbs are full of nutrients, but also have special diuretic and detoxification properties, some also have antihistamine constituents  that help with seasonal allergies. Mother Nature is offering us the exact medicine we need to prepare our bodies for the spring rush. Many of us also feel an innate desire to spring-clean our bodies–getting rid of excess winter weight, becoming more active and social.

I came home and shared this information with Brandon. It made sense to him, he had been grumpy too. We decided to do an experiment: drinking an herbal tea to support the liver to see if we could cool the fever from the liver. We mixed Dandelion leaf, Nettle Leaf, and Peppermint to make the tea. Our formula well balanced for liver-fire. The dandelion and nettle both have a slightly sour taste (which is the taste to balance Liver). They are also nutritive and work as both diuretics and mild detoxifiers. Their energy is cool and soothing. The Peppermint is very cooling and helps to take the kinetic energy out of the nervous system.

We both found the tea to be very satisfying and we both felt more calm. I was humbled to be reminded that I am not apart from the natural world, but am more influenced by it then my consciousness knows. By looking in my backyard apothecary at the plethora of spring medicine there, the herbs inspired my conscience-awareness.

Homestead Healthcare Spring Fever Tea

Dandelion leaf         1p

Nettle leaf                  1p

Peppermint leaf      1/2p

Lightly infuse herbs and mix with local honey for added immune enhancement.

Resources:

Crystal Honeycutt, HB: http://www.balancedliving4u.com

Just Bee Apiary: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Just-Bee-Apiary/325542800863610

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal Allergies

pollen-helps-allergies-phot

Are seasonal allergies keeping you from stopping to smell the flowers, or anything else out doors during the spring time?

Over the counter antihistamine medications have come a long way and can be very helpful when people need them for acute management. But, like most medications they can have unpleasant or dangerous side effects. AND they do not address the core issues behind seasonal allergy.  Nature has remedy and recourse. Let’s examine allergy care the Homestead Healthcare way…

Main Underlying Issues:

Chronic Stress. Chronic internal inflammation. Environmental Pollution.

Chronic stress keeps the body in a continual state of degeneration. When stressed, endocrine functioning is taxed (and can eventually “burn-out”), digestion and assimilation of nutrients is impaired, glucose functioning can become imbalanced, the immune system becomes dis-regulated, natural detoxification is slowed. Not to mention, sleep, mood, focus goes right out the window, which makes it more difficult to get though the day and stress builds. Its an on going cycle. ALL of the ABOVE contribute to chronic pro-inflammatory status.  Many health professionals (including myself) feel that chronic inflammation is the primary instigator of degenerative illness.

Allergies are like the proverbial “canary in the coal mine”. They are an in-your-face (pardon the pun) way to let you know its time to change your lifestyle.
 

Histamine are specialized molecules that are involved in triggering the inflammatory response via immune system response.  They are responsible for the host of allergic rhinitis symptoms:

  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Red, itchy, and watery eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Itchy mouth, throat, ears, and face
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Headaches, facial pain or pressure
  • Partial loss of hearing, smell, and taste
  • Fatigue
  • Dark circles under the eyes
Histamine begets inflammation, and inflammation begets histamine. It can be a snow ball effect. The body has natural compounds that help to regulate immune response and the liver is responsible for metabolizing histamines. But, if there are impediments such as liver congestion or ongoing life-stress, then this process can be impaired. Too much histamine can stay active in the body–starting the inflammation process over again….
It is no secret–more people are suffering from allergic rhinitis than ever before. Many, have lived their whole lives without allergies, only to now have them. They want to know why, and so do I!
I cannot substantiate this with good research (yet), but it is my professional opinion that environmental pollution is a huge contributor to seasonal allergies, along with genetically modified plant pollens.  We do know, that thousands of environmental pollutants we are exposed to daily are endocrine disruptors, carcinogenic, AND immune dis regulators.  I cannot help but be highly suspicious….

Homestead Healthcare Solutions:

Deactivate stress response. Down-regulate inflammation. Reinforce health.

I cannot begin to emphasize how important it is to have productive ways of reducing stress. I know, I know. I live a crazy life too. But, it is crucial to being happy, productive, AND HEALTHY!

Keeping stress response under control is going to go a long way in keeping  inflammation down. Those two things help to reinforce good health and well-being. Good nutrition, and healthy habits: sleep,emotional intelligence and hygiene are all basic building blocks to good health.

Nature has provided us an amazing apothecary to help with this.

Foods:

Guess what? Greens leaves and bright colored fruits have vitamins, mineral, bioflavanoids and antioxidants that ALL help with the above issues. (I’m sure you knew that already). Remember “Rainbow” eating.

Don’t forget that CLEAN meats and fats support mental and endocrine functioning….

Herbs:

Go for a walk by a shady river. It will help with stress relief, and you will likely find Stinging Nettles.

Stinging Nettles have been used traditionally as a seasonal allergy remedy. It is a short-acting antihistamine, highly nutritive and promotes detoxification.

Many spring- edibles such as: purple deadnettle, chickweed, cleavers, violets, onions can all help with histamine response, detoxification, and nutritive support. I encourage you to use them in salads and cooking.

Huang Qin (Baical Skullcap) is a very effective antihistamine and immuno-regulator. It is used in TCM, but wildly available here. I definably recommend it to be part of your Homestead Healthcare medicine chest.

Herbal Adaptogens are a classification of herbs that help the body be able to adapt to stressors. Many of them support organic functioning, immuno-regulation, resistance and endurance.  Because we do not have a physical remedy against environmental pollution, I believe that Adaptogentic herbs can help us “adapt” to our environment.  Holy Basil is an adaptogen that could be very helpful with allergic rhinitis.

There are many other herbs that can be tailored to fit your specific allergic patterns.

Other Therapies:

I am a HUGE fan of liver detoxification to help with proper immune functioning, histamine metabolism, inflammation and reactive-load.

Netti Pot with medicinal herbal tea or essential oils.

Quercetin Bioflavanoid

I am a firm believer in not-suffering. If you need over the counter medications to help with acute allergic symptoms, take them with care. I would encourage you to look beyond symptoms to the underlying cause of your allergies. Nature provides remedy, not just symptom control. I know this, because I used to suffer from horrendous environmental allergies. I had years of conventional therapies such as allergy shots with no help. I have always loved spring time, but had to watch it from behind a window in my air-controlled home. Using natural therapies, I changed my sensitivity and immune response.

Now, I stop to smell the flowers every chance I get.

For more information about using natural therapeutics for allergy relief, please consider a consultation with Crystal Honeycutt, clinical herbalist. http://www.balancedliving4u.com

 

Ground Ivy

Glechoma hederacea is originally from Europe. It is in the Lamiaceae family (Mints). It is considered an invasive plant (although why would anyone consider such a powerful medicinal unwanted???), and grows in most temperate zones, and is one of the first spring plants to flower.

Medicinally, it is a powerhouse! One of it’s very unique properties is Luteolin which is antiviral (modern medicines virtually have nothing that fights viruses), making it very specific for colds and flu. It is also an expectorant, anti inflammatory and antioxidant.

GroundIvy
  • Herbalists consider this plant to be specific for Hot/damp (infection) lung conditions. Mucus will be thick, yellow or green.
  • David Winston uses it for infections with persistent coughing (sound like this year’s super cold!) and allergic rhinitis, sinusitis.

I find it very interesting taking Doctrine of Signatures into consideration, the leaflets look a bit like the lung system.

P.S. Topically, Ground Ivy can be made into a poultice for insect bites, bruises, and active herpes lesions.

Ground Ivy Tea for Colds

(Herbalists are fond of using parts instead of specific measurements. Parts are useful way to maintain ratios.)

1p. of dried Ground ivy

1p. Licorice root

1 p. Yarrow flower

1/2p. Chamomile

1/4p. sage

1 Tbs per 6-8 oz of boiling water. Steep 10 minuets, add local wildflower honey. Drink 2-3 times daily while acute.

Ode to Dandelion

beautiful blond kid blow dandelion outdoor

Dandelion, the first flower of spring, it’s seeds bearing my dream.

When Brandon and I were discussing Dandelion, we both remember it being the very first plant we learned as children. I bet it was the same for you.  I made dandelion flower chains, ate its tender leaves, and wished upon every dandelion puff-ball. Dandelions were magical–full of fairy dust. When I became an Herbalist I rediscovered what I KNEW as a child;  they are  full of magical (medicinal) power…

dandel08-l Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) can be found all over the world and is a very common weed. It prefers full sun.

Dandelion is in my top 10 favorite herb list. It is a panacea, and one of a few herbs safe for all groups of people. The whole plant can be used, but its parts are used for different medicinal purposes.

Leaf

The dandelion leaf in the springtime primarily works in the body as a food. Its leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Dandelion greens have been an important part of traditional rural cooking and are a feature green in African American cultural use of Pot Liquor (the water left over from cooking leafy greens. This was used as a building food/medicine). It is full of vitamins and minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium.

In midsummer, the energy of the leaf matures, and the leaves then act as a medicine for the body with its primary action being and Aquaretic (potassium sparing diuretic). They are slightly bitter and help to tonify the gastrointestinal system. Regular usage can help lower triglycerides.

Flower

In Chinese medicine, the flowers are used to nourish the liver and eyes.

Root

The root is the deeper acting medicine (just like the root of the plant). Harvested in autumn, the energy of the plant is consolidated. It is primarily used to stimulate bowl and liver functioning (a formidable detoxifier). It also stimulates the entire digestive system from saliva production, digestive enzymes, bile flow, HCL, and nutrient absorption (See why i LOVE this plant!). In traditional medicine, there is hardly a liver formula, tonic, builder formula that does not have dandelion in it.

Dandelion-Flower-Fairy-Vintage-Print

Dandelion Delight Tonic Tea

1 part dandelion leaf

1 part dandelion root

sprinkle fresh dandelion flower petals

1 part nettle

1/2 Milky Oat

1/2 Chamomile or Lemon Balm

Steep 5 minuets and enjoy! Local wildflower honey to taste!

Winter Wildcrafing ( Purple Deadnettle )

Today was another amazing day to take a walk outside and do some winter wild crafting. There are so many amazing  plants and we had a challenging time choosing just one for this week. We decided to go with one that was surprisingly blooming. It was a small bloom but a beautiful one none the less. This weeks showcase is Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum). Also know as Red Deadnettle, and Purple Archangel. With names like that can you go wrong?

winterwildcrafting 015

It’s a winter annual with purple flowers, square stems( Mint Family), and petioled leaves. The Petioled leaves, triangular and sometimes purplish upper leaves distinguish it from Henbit Deadnettle, which has upper leaves that don’t occur on petioles. If you are wondering why it’s called a “dead” nettle it’s because it wont sting you like other nettles may. Identifying this medicine should be pretty easy for two reasons. One, it’s in bloom(Feb.10th) and two, it’s considered to be an invasive which means it’s pretty much everywhere. It is small though( 5-20 cm.) so you will have to look closely.

winterwildcrafting 017

Medicinally it is an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiallergy, and an analgesic.

There have been a number of studies of Purple Deadnettle. During a study published in the Hacettepe University Journal of the Faculty of Pharmacy in 2007, researchers discovered had a wide range of antimicrobial and antifungal properties and when tinctured fought bacteria and microorganisms like staphylococcus, e.coli, pseudomonas and candida.

Purple Deadnettle is a rich source of germacrene, and flavanoids like vitamin C and quercetin and inhibits the hormone prostaglandin, the principle mediator for inflammation in allergies and chronic inflammatory conditions, which makes this a potentially great medicine for allergies. Always consult your herbalist before mixing these herbs with any prescription medications though.

winterwildcrafting 025

I think its amazing how such a small invasive plant can be so medicinal. did I mention that it’s also good in salads and smoothies? Preferably the leaves and flowers. We made a tea tonight using the fresh plant. It was wonderful. Happy winter wildcrafting.

References