Category Archives: Herbal Helps

Fire Cider

A while back, my oldest and I attended a Mother Earth News Sustainability Fair and at one of the workshops taught by Rosemary Gladstar, we received a hand-out for her version of ‘Fire Cider’, something we traditionally make every late summer in prep for much needed fall and winter immune boosts. We call it ‘Super Tonic’. Same thing pretty much, but Rosemary’s recipe has a few quirks that I thought ya’ll would enjoy! Here’s my recipe post, from back in 2008, if you want to compare notes.

Rosemary Gladstar’s Fire Cider Recipe

  • 1/2 cup fresh grated ginger root
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated horseradish root
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 2 cayenne peppers, chopped
  • 1 lemon, chopped
  • unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (with the mother, like Bragg’s brand)
  • 1/4 cup raw local honey to taste (to be added after mixture has steeped for 3-4 weeks)

Optional ingredients:

  • several sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 TB chopped fresh turmeric
  • 1 orange, chopped


Prepare all of the ingredients and place them into a quart sized jar. Cover all ingredients with apple cider vinegar. Use a piece of natural parchment paper or wax paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal. Shake daily. After 3-4 weeks, use cheesecloth to strain. Next comes the honey! Add 1/4 cup of honey and stir until incorporated. Taste your cider and add honey until you reach the desired sweetness.

This is good stuff!! Enjoy…

Black Currant Tea

“Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea.”–author unknown

Two years into my coffee-free lifestyle and hot teas are finally becoming *my thing*! I’m so happy about it, too. The health benefits of tea drinking are fabulous. I’ve already shared here about my favorite, ginger tea, and another one the girls and I enjoy is organic peppermint leaf tea, which we buy in bulk!

Here’s a new one: Black Currant Tea. Long a favorite of the “tea queen” at my church–by that I mean that we’re extremely blessed to have a godly “older woman” who coincidentally throws the BEST tea parties EVER and also hosts meetings for stay-at-home moms every Wednesday at our church. Black Currant tea and orange cranberry scones are staple treats at these weekly gatherings, and though I am a sporadic guest to these occasions, I really enjoy and look forward to a “spot” of this bracing, dark tea.

I asked my friend where she purchases her Black Currant tea, and she highly recommends First Colony Coffees and Teas for the quality and taste, she assures me there is none other!

For one thing, my quest for teas has to keep me away from the caffeinated variety. And I was also curious as to the health benefits of this particular kind. Am I happy about the results? Fairly happy…

No caffeine in the real Black Currant tea, check! However, it seems that it’s difficult to find unless you make your own from dried leaves off the black currant bush! *Edited to add: After publishing this post I was alerted to the fact that First Colony’s Black Currant tea is actually black tea leaves flavored with the essence of Black Currant berries. Too bad, huh! Still, a great tasting tea, however, it does have caffeine.  :O( Which might not bother most of you!

But if you happen upon an authentic Black Currant bush, or tea that isn’t just flavored with the essence of Black Currant, you’ve stumbled on a gold mine of good health! Pioneers relied on Black Currants heavily for their home remedies. Health benefits include:

  • Black Currant berries are packed with Vitamin C
  • It’s soothing to a sore throat, as the berries are full of tannins which fight bacteria at the outset of a cold
  • French plant scientists have long believed that Black Currant is useful in draining tissues…ie: anywhere you have congested tissues as per: inflammations, arthritis, gout, prostatitis and…
  • It’s helpful in clearing up skin problems such as dermatitis, psoriasis, or eczema. According to the French, skin problems respond well to liver therapies, and Black Currant is widely used in France as a liver remedy.
  • Black Currant tea gives many menopausal women relief because it’s a well known hormone regulator
  • It increases micro-circulation which is helpful for women suffering with varicose veins
  • It improves visual acuity
  • It’s believed to be a preventative for Alzheimers
  • It can be used as a treatment to expel intestinal parasites

And so much more!

To make an infusion of Black Current Tea, take one tablespoon of the leaves and pour one cup boiling water over them. Steep for ten minutes and enjoy!

“There is nobody who, having a garden, shouldn’t plant a great number [of black currant bushes] for the needs of their family,” wrote the Abbé P. Bailly de Montaran in 1712. And he added: “Black currant is a fruit that promotes long life in human beings.”

Remedies for Hormonal Headaches

I’ve been getting some behind-the-scenes email queries about certain health issues. I think there is a real desire to go natural when possible, and I have to admit, even *I’ve* been somewhat surprised, and as a result, highly excited by how well all of my herbal experiments have turned out on my family and loved ones! Just last week my own four year old daughter woke up with a full-blown cold, miserable head congestion, sore throat, cough. So I consulted my 10 Essential Herbs book and began giving her the recommended mixture of Slippery Elm Powder and powdered Ginger in apple juice, and would you believe, four days later she was 100%? I also gave her a couple of doses of Super Tonic every day, but that’s it.

But enough on colds, today we’re talking headaches. First, I did my homework, studying up in the above mentioned herb book, and here are a few handy and, er, *interesting* things I found out to aid in getting the upper hand on headaches:

  • Drink fresh Ginger Root tea…if you don’t have fresh ginger root, powdered ginger (again, fresh so it’s nice and potent) works good too, mix 3/4-1 teaspoon into hot water and add honey.
  • Soak your feet in a strong Ginger decoction made by simmering 8 oz finely chopped fresh ginger or 1/4 cup powdered Ginger in a quart or so of water for 20 minutes. Add this concentrate to a washtub of water and soak feet.
  • Try Peppermint oil rubbed into the temples or forehead, behind the ears or in the big “dent” at the base of your skull.

Going to add that for me personally, when I feel a slight headache coming on, I get down my baggie of dried yarrow blossoms (from Farmer John) and make myself some tea. It fixes me right up. Good stuff. Not available at your typical health food store, but widely available when foraged outdoors, so I’m told! Can’t wait till next June so I can learn to recognize it myself!

So last Friday, John and his wife invited me over to talk health, and I mentioned the quest I was on for natural help for hormonal headaches, griefs and pains. They showed me this great foam product in a pump called “Progesta Cream”, made by the Life-Flo company. It’s to be rubbed into the abdomen, inner thighs, inner arms, etc on the three “good” weeks, and skipped altogether during your period. They really recommended it for PMS issues of all kinds, including the hormonal headache, and also for post-menopausal stuff.

Good info to know!

Any other tips out there? Inquiring minds…yadda yadda yadda…*wink*

Herbal Helps for Coughs and Colds

Drying HerbsRubbing my hands together with glee…this is such a fascinating subject! I’ve mentioned here before what an education I’ve received from the book, 10 Essential Herbs by Lalitha Thomas. Farmer John gave me this book–FYI, to those of you who might not know, he’s my knowledgeable CSA farmer-neighbor who has, along with his sweetheart of a wife, taken me under his wing and taught me much in the past two or three months!

I devoured this book in two or three sittings, and immediately ordered myself a supply of six of the harder-to-find herbs showcased in the books. I was that impressed.

If you have even a passing interest in taking control of your family’s health via natural methods, you must have this book! It’s a fascinating read, an educational smorgasbord about herbs and their many uses in maintaining or regaining optimum health within a limited budget.

For instance, my mom has bronchitis–undiagnosed, but she’s had it so many times in life, she should know, right? So I looked up bronchitis in this book, and it led me to the chapter on Slippery Elm Powder.  Evidently, Slippery Elm is excellent for any “itis”, including bronchitis, but also arthritis, colitis, prostatitus, tendonitis, conjunctivitis, etc.

You stir a teaspoon of Slippery Elm Powder into juice or tea, preferably room temperature–so it will dissolve better, 3-5 times a day while bronchitis persists. It’s a demulcent and a mucilaginous herb…which means:

“…it has soothing, softening, buffering and poison-drawing qualities as well as contains significant amounts of mucilage, a slippery, sticky and soothing substance of high nutritional value that coats, protects, and rejuvenates an area from infection, inflammation and other irritants.” (emphasis mine)

Now, I couldn’t force these herbs upon my poor mom without trying them myself first. Imagine my relief to find that Slippery Elm Powder is  tasty, with almost a nutty flavor! Lalitha recommends mixing it with 1/4-1/2 parts powdered ginger (a good carrier herb that complements SEP) to ramp up the action of Slippery Elm in your system. I put these two herbs in the recommended portions (1 tsp SEP to 1/2 tsp ginger) in a cup of apple cider and it was delicious.

Now here is a home-made recipe for cough syrup, also utilizing Slippery Elm Powder.

Cough Syrup

~Slippery Elm helps “collect and expel mucus, acts against inflammations, and serves to soothe and nourish…it really shines as a cough syrup”

  • 4 TB Slippery Elm Powder
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 1 raw onion, chopped (optional)

Simmer and stir gently on stove top for twenty minutes. Store in refrigerator. Feel free to add a little water to bring it to a more runny consistency. You can add ginger to this, a few drops of an essential oil such as clove oil for its antiseptic and pain-numbing qualities.  For maximum potency, store in refrigerator for only a few weeks before starting with a fresh batch.Sweet and Low

This book simplifies herbistry…it’s down-to-earth information even children can absorb and utilize. I’m hoping my family will stay reasonably healthy, but if not, I’m looking forward to putting this great knowledge to the test by making herbal honeyballs, medicinal teas, decoctions, tinctures and even “people paste”–an incredible alternative to stitches!

And it’s one more step towards being more self-sufficient in a world going crazy.

Anyway, Slippery Elm in its dried inner bark form is worth pursuing! It’s a great defense against many conditions including constipation, gall bladder, vaginitis, urinary tract infections, athlete’s foot, hemorrhoids, etc. I’ve shared only a trace amount of the info on this one herb available in Lalitha’s book. Another great reason to buy this book? The author breaks down dosage information for each herb for the different age groups: Infants to 3 years; Children 4 years to 10 years; and Children 11 years to Adults.

Remember, I’m no certified health guru…I’m just a mom, passing along some info for you to have if you want it. Of course you need to use good judgment and common sense when following any home-remedy directives. So buy the book, or do your own research before taking my word for it!

Get proactive about your family’s health!