Herbal Medicine


There are as many ways to make elderberry syrup as there are cooks. Everyone has their own take on this medicine. So here’s mine… I think it tastes pretty good.

I definitely have a surplus of elderberries after finding a huge supply at the end of the summer!

Benefits of elderberries

Elderberries boost the immune system and have been used as a immune medicine for a very long time. They are anti-viral and can kill H1N1 virus. They have the most flavanoids of all berries.  Flavanoids are anti-oxidants that protect cells and prevent numerous diseases in the body, including heart disease, metabolic disorders, and cancer. The flavanol in the most content in elderberries is quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that has been found to prevent cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease (such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), and prevent and treat cancer. Quercetin has been proven in a study to be part of a plan to successfully reduce tumor size. It helps support the respiratory system and helps break up phlegm and thus lessen a cough. It can shorten the duration of a cold or flu. Needless to say, elderberries are a powerful medicine.

These are the ingredients you will need:

1 cup fresh or frozen elderberries

1 cup water

¼-½ cup honey

1 T apple cider vinegar

1 T ground ginger

1 cinnamon stick or 1 T cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put water, berries, grated ginger, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan.

Bring mixture to a boil, then set heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, covered. Stir it from time to time. Turn off heat and let it sit until it is warm.

Strain with a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve.

Measure how much liquid you have and add equal parts honey. For example, if you have ½ c elderberry liquid, add ½ c honey. Stir until it is a smooth syrup.

Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to help preserve the syrup. Pour the finished syrup into a clean bottle with a tight lid. Store it in the refrigerator for 1-2 months.

Take 1 tsp. per hour when sickness descends or 1 tsp. per day when healthy.

Note: Do not give to babies under 1 year old, as honey is not recommended for babies.

I hope you enjoy this medicine and that it brings you health!

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It’s been cold and grey lately and I feel the seasons changing. We have had a lovely, colorful fall with a lot of sunny days. But Fall is giving way to Winter. The darker, more thoughtful days are here. It’s time for us to spend more time inside and catch up on some more quiet, indoor projects.

But with this season always comes the dreaded cold and flu season. It’s been so bad in the last few years. I’d started to have a deathly fear of it until we started to learn more about the immune system and wellness. I had begun to think the bugs are getting worse and worse each year, but now I’m pretty sure it’s just our immune systems that are getting worse and worse. Of course, I’m not a doctor and don’t understand all the details about these things, but it certainly can’t hurt to approach the cold and flu season from a different angle:

Don’t fear it, fight it. Don’t let it happen to you, let you happen to it. Strengthen your body so you don’t get it in the first place.

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In order to strengthen our immune systems, we take some things away from our bodies and we add some things to our body.

Sugar, sugar, sugar. Ahhhh! It’s causing so much harm to the world. We take as much sugar as we can out of our diet. This goes a long way to helping us stay strong.

And as for what we add? Here it is.

Thieves Oil

This is the legendary blend of essential oils that was originally mixed by a group of marauders during the Black Plague that looted the plague victims’ homes. The blends of spices and oils that they rubbed on their bodies before looting kept them safe from the bacteria.

Young Living has their take of these spices in a essential oil blend called “Thieves”. This is an awesome blend and I love it. But because I’m super cheap, I just can’t spend the money they want for that oil, so I’ve blended my own.

There are lots of recipes out there with different proportions of oils, but the main components that all these recipes have in common are lemon, rosemary, eucalyptus, cinnamon bark, and clove. I make it from Mountain Rose Herbs organic essential oils, and I also love their recipe. They have good, clear instructions on usage and safety.

This oil smells wonderful and spicy and Christmasy. I add it to the kids’ bath, rub it on our feet, and diffuse it.

 

Rosehip Tincture

This is something I kind of came up with on my own. I found out that most vitamin C supplements are incomplete and not very usable by the body. It actually takes nutrients from your body to process it. Oh my! I really wanted a good source of vitamin C, and was interested in rosehips, since they have 10-50 times more vitamin C than oranges. But heat destroys vitamin C, so making tea was out of the question.

I decided to make a rosehip tincture. There is some information about this on the internet and in books, but not much. It seems to work great for us and as an added bonus, the kids love it. The tincture turns out tasting somewhat like a syrup and the kids beg for it.

**edited to add** Here’s how I make the tincture:

The basics are that I mix dried rosehips with vodka. You could use glycerin instead of vodka if you are concerned about alcohol.

I usually fill a pint canning jar halfway with dried herbs, then fill it to the top with vodka. For the tincture pictured below, I did the same thing, but I used a quart jar for some reason.

I store it in a dark cupboard and shake it every day for 4-6 weeks. Once the tincture is done, I strain out the marc, or solid chunks of herb, and bottle the finished tincture!

This is a great article about tinctures, glycerites, and vinegars.

 

 

Cod Liver Oil

This stuff is so good for you. It’s rich in vitamins A and D, as well as Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 Fatty Acids. It’s good for your mood, skin, bones, and teeth.

But vitamin D is also important in immune function. I think that’s why the flu hits so bad in the winter; we aren’t getting much sunshine and our bodies get depleted of vitamin D. Sunshine is an awesome way to get vitamin D, but in the winter, this is super important that we take this supplement. We use the Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil. The kids love the Cinnamon Tingle flavor. It’s spendy, but it lasts a long time and is worth every drop. It’s cheaper than getting dental work done!

Elderberries

I was able to forage a ton of elderberries this summer, and I’ve preserved them to use for this winter. I froze some for fresh eating and dried some for making syrup.

Elderberries are a powerful plant ally that offer antibacterial and antiviral properties and have been used for a very, very long time by many generations of humans. They have been known to kill the H1N1 virus, and in addition to that, they have been found to reduce the severity and length of a cold. Get to know this plant; it is here to help you!

 

 

I’ve enjoyed sharing how we prepare for cold and flu season. A healthy immune system is a central to a wonderful, healthy body, so don’t underestimate it! Share with us in the comments what you do to ward off sickness!

If you are interested in keeping up with the progress we are making on the tiny house, be sure to like my Facebook page. I post (nearly) weekly pictures of our progress. I will be blogging more about this journey in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

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I have a habit of gawking at plants as I drive. It’s probably not super safe, but this time it was beneficial.

I was driving along a major road when all of a sudden I saw an elderberry bush just dripping with berries in someone’s front yard. I had a quick debate with myself:

Turn around and go ask those people if you can have the berries.

No, that sounds scary and I need to get home for nap time.

Come on. You never do stuff like this and you regret you have lost a lot of cool opportunities. 

OK. I guess the worst they can say is no…

So I turned the car around and bumped down the driveway. Come to find out, it was a elderly lady who was happy to let me have them. She just asked that I leave her a few bunches because she liked them for flower arrangements. I felt like I had won the lottery.

I picked about 25 lbs of elderberries. This picture shows my stash after I had frozen and given away some:

 

 

I was able to give lots away and dry some for coming years. I’m not sure we’ll have access to a bush next summer as we move, so it will be nice to have a stash for that coming winter.

As you can see below, they were in huge bunches. Lucia can hardly hold that bundle up!

 

 

Wood Floors

This week we installed the wood floor in the tiny house. It felt very satisfying to see the floor transformed so fast. There are a lot of projects in the tiny house build that require a lot of work but don’t really make the place look pretty (like electrical), but this was not one of those projects. Thank goodness.

 

 

We were able to get solid hickory floor from Home Depot for about $1.25 per square foot. It was on sale about 75% off. It was such a blessing!

 

 

Trent has worked tirelessly on this house and I really admire him for it. But we are both feeling tired. It’s been about 2 years since we ordered our trailer. We are trying hard to not lose heart because we are nearly done now. We estimate he still has about 9 months of work to do.

 

 

Above is looking into the kitchen, which is where Trent is going to work next. Time for kitchen cabinets!

 

 

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Ever since our oldest was born, we have lived on one income. Both Trent and I feel it works best to have me stay home with the kids while they are young, and we have prioritized making sure our life is affordable with Trent’s income. I’ve loved the time I’ve had with the kids, and living on one income has been totally do-able.

The amazing thing is that we really do feel rich! We eat delicious food, have clothes, are building a beautiful debt-free tiny house, we love each other, and we even have enough money to buy a few “fun” extras.

I want to share some tips for making end meet on one income. These are all things we practice on a regular basis and have found to really make a difference in our budget.

 

Cook whole plant foods from scratch

People often say that healthy food is super spendy, and it is if you’re buying pre-made food, such as bread, crackers, sausage, drinks, and stuff like that. But if you’re willing to buy whole foods and cook from scratch, healthy food is the cheapest food you can buy! I find whole foods to be super affordable for the bulk you get. My family eats a LOT of food, but we still manage to keep our grocery budget around $500 because I mostly buy whole foods. Here’s a list of foods I often buy:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Fresh veggies
  • Bananas
  • Peanut butter
  • Almonds

These are all affordable, nutrient-dense foods that are also delicious!

 

 

Grow a garden 

We eat like Veggie Kings in the summer and usually enough to can or freeze for winter. It’s really nice to have some home-grown food to eat in the winter and it eases our wintertime veggie budget. We usually spend about $20 on our garden and we get way more than $20 out of it!

 

Forage food

We pick blackberries from our yard and freeze them (free!) and forage apples from a nearby orchard’s windfalls (free!) and that really helps in the wintertime. This year so far I have dehydrated a huge bag of apples and picked 7 gallon bags of blackberries! It only costs some time and elbow grease.

 

 

Make broth

Broth is basically made from what would have been garbage: meat bones and veggie scraps. It transforms into a super nutritious liquid which makes amazing soup or rice! Everyone knows that soup helps stretch your budget, and when you make your own broth, you can make a soup dinner for just a few dollars!

 

 

Buy thrift store clothes

Thrifting makes sense on so many levels. It is easier on your budget, helps reduce waste, and it helps not contribute to the toxic problem of the clothing industry. I have also been very blessed to have been given most of my kids’ clothes, and I am very thankful for it! 

 

Make herbal medicine

You can make a few simple medicines that are cheap, easy, and healthy that also save a you a little money! I make wound salve with lavender and plantain from my yard that takes place of Neosporin in our household. I make tea blends with bulk herbs, which saves us a load of money. I also make a few simple tinctures that boost our health for very little money.

 

 

No monthly subscriptions

We don’t keep a monthly subscription such as magazines, Netflix, Amazon prime, Hello Fresh. I feel like these type of things get forgotten easily, but meanwhile, your card keeps getting billed! If I do a free trial of a subscription, I always write on the calendar when I should cancel it so I don’t lose track of time.

Go camping

I realize this isn’t for everyone, but camping can be a really wonderful way of taking a fun, memorable vacation and keeping your expenses low. We took a super fun vacation this summer boondocking for free on BLM land all over Oregon. It was a 5-day vacation and we only spent about $300, gas and food included! It was a vacation we’ll never forget.

 

Sunset in Christmas Valley, OR

 

Call utilities for discounts

I have successfully lowered my phone and internet bills by calling and asking for a lower rate. Sometimes they have a promotion or sometimes they seem to scrape a discount out of nowhere. It has surprised me every time how willing they are to lower my monthly rate. 

 

Check Craigslist first

Before we buy any large purchase, we often check Craigslist first. Sometimes we find what we’re looking for, and sometimes we realize it’s just more cost effective to buy it new. But it’s always nice to make a informed decision and give ourselves the chance to find a bargain and save a few hundred dollars!

 

 

Share your money saving tips in the comments; I’d love to hear them!

 

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Ah, tea. The ancient drink that causes us to slow down, calm our busy minds, and enjoy the here and now. It awakens all our senses: the rising steam mesmerizes, the heat warms, the smell calms, and as for the sound… to be honest, it’s usually the screaming of a forgotten kettle and me running through the house. 

We all need to slow down. The practice of putting on the kettle, waiting for the boil (obviously I need some work in this area), pouring the steaming water over healing plants, and enjoying in good company or wondrous silence— it is a good way to slow the frantic rhythm of our day and just enjoy the moment. 

There are so many ways to make tea. English breakfast tea in a teacup with cream and sugar. Herbal looseleaf tea in a favorite mug. A teabag carelessly plunked in a random mug. 

I’m going to talk about herbal tea because it is a really easy way to begin your journey as a herbalist. Herbal tea is one of the easiest herbal preparations. It is a very gentle, yet effective way of delivering herbal medicine to the body. Teas are extra effective for treating stomach, kidney, bladder, or intestine conditions because it is absorbed by the digestive system.  

 

What is tea? 

Tea, also know as an infusion, is water that has extracted the medicinal compounds out of the plant. You can make two types of infusions:

  1. Hot infusion
  2. Cold infusion

In a hot infusion (also known as hot tea), the boiling water speeds up the extraction of the plant. A cold infusion (think sun tea or iced tea) takes much more time, since the water is room temperature. It uses the power of gravity in a science called Circulatory Displacement. I don’t understand the details of it, but I have seen it at work. Once I made a cold infusion overnight and let the infuser ball drop to the bottom. In the morning, the color of the water hadn’t changed and it definitely wasn’t tea.

 

Hot infusion vs. cold infusion: which should I use?

If it’s a cold day and you want to cuddle with a mug, make a hot infusion. If it’s summer, you might want to make a cold infusion. Just remember that cold infusions take about 8 hours, so if you’re in a hurry, make a hot infusion. 

Getting more herbal-y and technical, cold infusion is good for plants that are slimy, or demulcent (such as Marshmallow or Slippery Elm), since the boiling water will make them coagulate into a hopeless mess. It is also a gentler way to extract from plants that have volatile oils (such as mint or blossoms). 

Whatever method you use just remember this: don’t use one herb longer than 12 weeks without a break, because your body begins to ignore it and it isn’t as effective as it was in the beginning. Our body likes to be surprised by changes in food and medicine.

 

Loose tea vs. tea bags

Tea bags are a great way to go if you’re starting out but aren’t committed to tea-making. I like Traditional Medicinals’ lineup of herbal teas. But if you want to save money and reduce waste, loose-leaf tea is the way to go. A box of tea bags costs about $4 and contains a little more than a 1/4 cup of herbs. Loose leaf teas from Mountain Rose Herbs are about $10 for a cup of herbs. You can get such a superior quality for about half the cost! Another good reason to use loose-leaf tea is that you end up with more small bits of the plants, which feed the good bacteria in your gut. This allows your gut to absorb even more of the nutrients from your cup of tea.

 

Supplies

  • Tea kettle (or a saucepan) for boiling water
  • A favorite mug
  • A infuser (I use this one from Amazon, and these are really fun for kids!)
  • Herbs or herbal blend of choice (I use herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs and they make wonderful tea blends too).

 

How to make a hot infusion 

To make a cup of hot tea, bring water to a boil.

While it is heating up, put 1-2 Tablespoons of loose herb in your infuser. For a pot, use 4-5 Tablespoons of herb or more, depending on how big your pot is.

Once the water is almost boiling, pour it over your herbs and cover. This keeps the volatile oils from escaping. Let it stand anywhere from 10-30 min. The longer it infuses, the more medicine extracts from the plant. I usually let it infuse until it’s a good drinking temperature. Use it within 24 hours. 

How to make a cold infusion

Put 1 Tablespoon per cup of water in your vessel (I use a mason jar).

I totally made this wrong for the pictures. I put 1T for 1 quart of water. I should have done 4T. Duh.

My helper is cute, but as you can tell from the herbs scattered on the table, he is not super helpful quite yet. Oh well, he will be in a few years.

Make sure the infuser is hanging so gravity can pull out the constituents. Let it sit for 8 hours. I usually make it in the evening and Trent takes it to work with him in the morning. Use within 24 hours.

Keep herbalism alive and make a cup of tea today!

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Before you read this, go back and read Why Live in a Tiny House? Part One.

 

Our decision to build a tiny house began an exciting change of several of our values. We tried to analyze different things that society told us is healthy or normal and decide for ourselves whether they were or not. Here is our “re-working journey” in a nutshell:

 

House Size

Obviously, home size was one of the first things we questioned. Our culture tells us that one of the marks of successful adulthood is buying a big, beautiful house. Trent has worked for the last 6 years building and remodeling aforementioned houses. He noticed that although owning such a nice house made clients happy, it didn’t bring contentment or peacefulness to their lives. Houses are no longer simply a roof over your head; they have become castles that allow us to separate from each other and from nature.

 

Food

We began to question the food we were eating. We realized that most of the food we were told was “healthy” was actually damaging our health. Pasteurized dairy products have lost their bacteria and enzymes that help us digest them. Our vegetables have been sprayed with chemicals. Many oils from the store are rancid and have been bleached. Even “healthy” pre-made food (such as crackers and bread) have some questionable ingredients. We also realized that the way conventional agriculture is growing our food is wreaking havoc on our soils, water, and air.

 

Plastic

We started to notice how much plastic we were consuming, and this continues to be an ongoing process for me. Plastic is literally everywhere: shopping bags, food packaging, produce bags, storage containers, toys, shoes, garbage bags, blenders, and water bottles. Plastic is convenient and it plays into our consumeristic, throw-away culture, but it takes 500-1,000 years to degrade. Virtually every piece of plastic ever made still exists, except for a small percentage which has been incinerated.

 

Old Skills Abandoned

We realized how few people know the old skills that almost all generations before us have known: how to grow, harvest, preserve, ferment, and sprout food. How to build a house that uses local resources. How to make medicine from plants. How to survive in the wild. How to care for animals, butcher, and preserve the meat.

Our electronic civilization is truly amazing, yet we have become shadows of the humans who walked the earth just a hundred years ago. We don’t know how to survive in the wild. We can’t live without our grocery stores. We can’t make our own clothes. If anything goes wrong in this well-oiled machine, we’re screwed. Nature needs us, yet we have lost our feeling of need for nature. We have all moved inside to be with our virtual world and have rejected the natural world around us.

 

Breaking free from consumerism

We are selfish and our current system makes being selfish easy. We want to consume, but we don’t want to give back. So we buy our single-use items, consume them, and throw the remainders away.

It’s hard to break out of this mindset. I know it’s been hard for me to be less of a consumer and more of a maker. To be honest, I still have a long way to go. It is hard for me to take my mason jars to the store and grind my peanut butter, to remember my cloth produce bags, to preserve food in the fall, and to cook most of our food at home, yet for the time being, these are the things I am committed to doing. They are my current step in a long journey away from consumerism.

 

It is necessary that we consider what affect our choices are having on our land. I deeply desire to leave a planet to my grandchildren that is worth living in. I want them to have fresh air and clean water. I want them to eat food from soils that have been properly cared for. I want them to be resilient and strong.

As I said in part one, we want a full, rich quality of life for our family, and the tiny house is just a small part of a response we are making to our consumeristic culture. I realize that tiny houses aren’t for every one. I also realize it isn’t feasible for everyone to grow all of their own food. 

But we can all do better than we are doing right now.

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