Herbal Household Remedies: Mint

Most plants of the mint family have a wonderful fragrance and can be used in various ways. Check out this link to find out more.

Here is an interesting article on the OFA‘s website about mint and its uses.  If you have some in your yard, you know just how prolific all the mint family plants are.  Make use of them instead of fighting them as ‘weeds’!

12 USES FOR MINT LEAVES FROM HEALTH TO HOME

How do you use extra mint leaves? Here are 12 marvelous uses for mint around the home and garden—from culinary to medicinal to mouthwash to bug repellent!

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All images on this post are straight from the article we are linking to, only slightly edited

Link: Harbinger of Spring Look-Alikes: Dead Nettle & Henbit — The Herb Society of America Blog

Dead Nettle is just beginning to take off in the yard. Have a look at this great post about uses of it!

By Susan Belsinger

The first spring wildflowers, herbs, and weeds are popping out all over. Two that frequently appear together are both members of the mint family, Lamiaceae: dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) and henbit (Lamium amplexicaule).

via Harbinger of Spring Look-Alikes: Dead Nettle & Henbit — The Herb Society of America Blog

Disclaimer: The author of this blog is not an medical professional, nutritionist, or dietitian. Content on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for legal or medical advice, or medical treatment or diagnosis. Consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms and before using any herbal product or beginning a new health regimen. When wildcrafting or foraging for plants, do so ethically; be accompanied by an expert; and always have absolute certainty of plant identification before using or consuming any herbs. By using any or all of this information, you do so at your own risk. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.

Sourdough Starter and Sourdough Bread Recipe

This is a somewhat minimalist approach to making a sourdough starter: Nothing else needed but flour, water, and time. Scroll down to find the bread recipe if you already have a starter going.

Sourdough is probably the oldest form of ‘raised’ or ‘leavened’ bread that we know.  The dough sours by ‘catching’ wild yeast out of the air, basically.  Columbus brought some with him when he crossed the Atlantic, and it has been used by European settlers in this country from the very beginning.  Even when commercial yeast became available, the pioneers continued to use sourdough at every new frontier, including the prospectors of the Yukon during the Alaska Gold Rush of the 1890s, which might be why sourdough became associated to a degree with all of the ‘Old Alaska’ crowd.

It’s fun to make your own starter.  You can get fancy with it and use 1 Tbl of sugar and 4 Tbl of buttermilk along with flour and water in your initial starter, or just use flour and water as described below.  The time it takes varies, so don’t worry if your starter isn’t quite going on Day 2: It just might surprise you on Day 3!

How To Make Your Own Sourdough Starter
Makes 4 cups of starter

Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Water (preferably filtered)

 

Instructions

Overview

Making sourdough starter takes about 5 days.  Each day you “feed” the starter with equal amounts of fresh flour and water.  As the wild yeast grows stronger, the starter will become more frothy and sour-smelling.  On average, this process takes about 5 days, but it can take longer depending on the conditions in your kitchen.  As long as you see bubbles and signs of yeast activity, continue feeding it regularly.  If you see zero signs of bubbles after three days, you might want to start over.

Process

Day 1: Make the Initial Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Measure out the flour and water, and combine them in a 2-quart glass or plastic container (not metal).  Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter.  Scrape down the sides and cover the container loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

Place the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature of 70°F to 75°F (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 2: Feed the Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Take a look at the starter:  You may see a few small bubbles here and there.  The bubbles mean that your starter is beginning to sour according to plan.  At this point, the starter should smell fresh, mildly sweet, and yeasty.

Measure out the flour and water for today, and add them to the starter, stirring them in vigorously again.  Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container again.  Place the container back where it was and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 3: Feed the Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Check your starter.  The surface of your starter should show bubbles and look visibly larger in volume.  If you stir the starter, it will still feel thick and batter-like, but you’ll hear bubbles popping.  It should also start smelling a little sour and musty.

Measure out the flour and water for today, and add them to the starter, stirring them in vigorously again.  Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container again.  Place the container back where it was and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 4: Feed the Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Check your starter.  By now, the starter should be looking quite bubbly with large and small bubbles, and it will have doubled in volume.  If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and honeycombed with bubbles.  It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent.  If you taste a little, it should taste sour, sort of vinegary.

Measure out the flour and water for today, and add them to the starter, stirring them in vigorously again.  Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container again.  Place the container back where it was and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 5: Starter is Ready to Use

Check your starter.  It should have doubled in bulk since yesterday and look practically frothy.  When you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and be completely webbed with bubbles. It should still be smelling quite sour and pungent. 

If everything is looking, smelling, and tasting good, you can consider your starter ripe and ready to use.  If your starter is lagging behind a bit, continue on with the following instructions.

Day 5 and Beyond: Maintaining Your Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Once your starter is ripe (or even if it’s not quite ripe yet), you no longer need to bulk it up.  To maintain the starter, discard (or use) about half of the starter and then “feed” it with new flour and water as described above.

If you’re using the starter within the next few days, leave it out on the counter and continue discarding half and “feeding” it daily.  Whenever it is actually frothy and smells a little sour, you have what sourdough bakers call a sponge (see below), which is what goes into your bread dough.

If your sourdough starter will not be used for a while, cover it tightly and place it in the fridge.  Remember to take it out and feed it at least once a week!

How to Reduce the Amount of Starter

If you don’t need all the starter we’ve made here on an ongoing basis, you can feed it with half the amount of flour and water.  Continue until you have whatever amount of starter works for your baking needs.

Sourdough Bread

Now, in order to bake with your sourdough, you need to make what they call a ‘sponge’, and it needs proofing before you can bake with it.  If your starter is just five days old and looks and smells as described, you can use it as your sponge.

If you take your starter from the fridge, it needs proofing first:

  • Take your starter out of the fridge, pour it into a large glass bowl and add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour.  Stir well and let sit on the counter.  In the meantime, wash the jar the starter was in and rinse it well, even with boiling water.  You want only your sourdough growing in that jar!
  • Watch for froth and sniff: When your sponge is bubbly and has white froth, and smells a little sour, it is ready.  The longer it sits, the more sour the flavor will be.
  • Proofing time varies: Some starters can proof to frothiness in an hour or two, some take 5-8 hours.  Just go ahead and experiment to see how long your starter takes.  If you want to bake in the morning and your starter is slow, letting it proof over night just might work for you.

The Actual Recipe (for 1 two-pound loaf)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sponge (proofed starter)
  • 2 Tbl olive oil (can be substituted for soft butter, or omitted)
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour, preferably unbleached

First, take care of your leftover sponge: You should have some as it is your starter for next time.  Put it into its nicely rinsed jar, give it a fresh feed of half a cup of flour and half a cup of water, stir it well, close it tightly and keep it in the fridge until next time.  Or, if you will bake again quite soon, leave it on the counter/ top of the fridge and continue feeding it as described above in the section ‘Day 5 and Beyond’.

Directions

In the same glass bowl in which you proofed or grew your starter, add sugar, salt and oil to the sponge.  Mix well, then knead in the flour half a cup at a time until you have a good, flexible bread dough.

First rise

Let dough rise until it doubled, approximately an hour.  This might take longer than yeast dough, depending on your starter.  Your dough is risen when you poke a finger into it and create a pit that doesn’t spring back.  If it still springs back, you can let is rise a little longer.

Second rise

Punch down your dough and knead it a little more.  Make a loaf and place it on your (lightly greased or sprinkled with corn meal) baking sheet.  Slit the top if you like.  Cover and place in a warm place to rise again until doubled in size.

Bake

DO NOT PREHEAT THE OVEN.  Place pan with (now uncovered) loaf into the oven and turn to 350ºF.  Baking will take 30 – 45 minutes.  The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon.

Let cool on a cooling rack and enjoy.

 

Herbal Household Remedies: Dandelion

“Dandelions are Nature’s way of giving dignity to weeds!”

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) grows in abundance all over the fruited plains.  It’s a perennial with deeply cut leaves forming a basal rosette in the spring and flower heads born on long, hollow, milk-sapped stalks.  Both leaves and flower stems grow directly from the rootstock.  The root itself is surprisingly long, going straight into the ground.  Its root is one of the reasons why dandelion leaves are so healthy: The plant pulls its nutrients from deep in the soil and thus is chock full of vitamins A, B, C, and D as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc.

dandelion

Dandelion tea is for good for hypertension (high blood pressure):  In the spring, dandelion leaves and roots produce mannitol which is used in the treatment of high blood pressure and a weak heart.  A tea made from dandelion roots and leaves is good to take during this period, from about mid-March to mid-May.  In this tea, both root and leaves should be used fresh.

Dandelion tea also helps reduce fever during childhood infections like mumps, measles and chicken pox, and is excellent for upper respiratory infections like chronic bronchitis and even pneumonia.  For this tea, dried roots and leaves are used.

Below are the two tea recipes, the first for high blood pressure, the second for childhood infections.

Dandelion Tea for Hypertension

For dandelion tea, bring one quart of water to a boil, reduce heat and add about 2 Tbl cleaned and chopped fresh roots.  Simmer for 1 minute, covered, then remove from heat and add 2 Tbl chopped, freshly picked leaves.  Steep for 40 minutes.  Strain and drink 2 cups per day.

Dandelion Tea for Childhood Infections and Upper Respiratory Infections

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil.  Reduce heat and add 2 1/2 Tbl dried, cut dandelion root and simmer, covered, for 12 minutes.  Remove from heat and add 3 tsp dried, cut leaves.  Steep for half an hour.  Strain and sweeten with 1 tsp of pure maple syrup or 1 tsp of blackstrap molasses per cup of tea and give to the child, lukewarm, every 5 hours or so until the fever breaks and the lung congestion clears up.


 

Disclaimer: The author is not an medical professional, nutritionist, or dietitian. Content on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for legal or medical advice, or medical treatment or diagnosis. Consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms and before using any herbal product or beginning a new health regimen. When wildcrafting or foraging for plants, do so ethically and always have absolute certainty of plant identification before using or consuming any herbs. By using any or all of this information, you do so at your own risk. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.

Cinnamuffins

Quick and easy and done in a blink.

If you like molasses, these muffins are just right for you.

Cinnamuffins

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Mix the three wet ingredients.  Sift together the dry ingredients, making sure there are no soda clumps.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until blended.  Fill into the muffin tin and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until an inserted wooden toothpick comes out clean.

These are rather soft muffins, so have a care when you take them out of the tin or they will look somewhat squished.  But truth be told, they taste great one way or another.

Variations:  Add half a cup of raisins into the dry ingredients before mixing it all together, or substitute a can of drained mandarin oranges for the applesauce.

IMG_2707 - Edited

This is a slightly modified version of the Cinnamuffin recipe from The New Laurel’s Kitchen by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders and Brian Ruppenthal, published in 1986.

Herbal Household Remedies: Reconsidering Over-Socializing

‘Social distancing’ appears to be a scary thing for many.

No herb talk today – again! – because I have something else on my mind.  In these days of virus fear and quarantine, people are told to practice ‘social distancing’, even that social distancing is something they might have to continue practicing after the immediate threat of this virus has passed.  It seems that the term ‘social distancing’ has become something dreaded, as though life were over when one cannot freely socialize (or travel, for that matter) anymore.

Maybe instead of dreading what is to come – a very unhealthy attitude indeed – we can ponder what was because we do know what was, whereas what is to be is altogether speculative.  In other words, instead of fretting about ‘social distancing’, ponder the amount of socializing that people have become accustomed to.

Is it truly necessary to spend every waking moment in the company of ‘friends’, physical or virtual?  Or indeed, in the company of people other than your immediate family?  How about enjoying some quiet time all by yourself?  Do you even know, let alone have any control over what is going on inside your head?  It is the only thing you truly COULD have control over, you know, if you just put the effort into it.  How much time do you normally spend pondering things, or reading for meditative purposes rather than entertainment or education?  Any at all?  This time of ‘social distancing’ could be a wonderful time for turning inwards, if only you dared.

At least, let this time of ‘social distancing’ be a time to reconsider the over-socializing that has become the new normal.  Social distancing is what used to be normal.  Only then, it was called discretion, indicating a cautious reserve in word and deed.

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Herbal Household Remedies: Home

Home is where the heart is.

Among all the news about Covid 19 and the recent developments in Italy, the tidbit that struck me the most was that having to stay home purportedly took the joy right out of life for many Italians.

It makes me wonder.  How common is it that people do not actually like to be home?  Do people not like their families, significant others or pets, for that matter, well enough to actually spend time with them?  What’s wrong with staying home that it would deprive people of what makes life worth living?

I guess the thrust of my health-considerations for today is clear by now:  How healthy can it be to call a place ‘home’ that you don’t actually like to be at?  Where do people prefer to spend their time that being home is experienced as such a burden?

Here is something to consider:  Many people even of our grandparent’s generation still spent most of their life living in the same area, and most of their days in or around the house or homestead.  In fact, for by far the larger chunk of human history, spending time with your family or clan was the normal, traditional way of life.  Neither extensive circles of friends, nor many hours spent shopping or being entertained otherwise, nor extensive travel were part of people’s lives, surely not on a regular basis.  Consequently, people were a lot less concerned about other people’s business and a lot more concerned with their own, and put a good bit of effort into making their living place a home indeed.

Every crisis is also an opportunity.  Maybe we can use this pandemic to reconsider our lifestyles and turn our houses into homes again, places where we love to spend time rather than places that we flee.  It’s the way our ancestors lived.

Home is where the heart is.  If you do not have a home, where, pray tell, is your heart?

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Happy puppy

Herbal Household Remedies: Do Yourself a Favor

Less is more, did you know?

Did you know that among the good things you can do for yourself is achieving something?  If you do something with your own hands, or achieve something by your own strength of will, that’s a very healthy thing for you.

Right now is the time when some religiously inclined people do the annual Lenten fast, that is, they do something, or refrain from doing something for forty days (and a week), between Ash Wednesday and Easter Saturday night.  Some do not watch TV during this time.  Some stop eating chocolate.  Some pray the Rosary or the Chaplet of Saint Michael every day.  Some work on a particular flaw they feel they have, like their volatile temper or their laziness.  Some stay away from coffee.  Some fast.  Some read a chapter of the Bible every day.  Some start visiting lonely community members.  Some do not use social media.  Some do not buy their usual morning drink at a local fast-food chain every day but save the money and donate it to a charity at the end of their fast.  The list, in fact, is endless.

What all these seemingly unrelated things have in common is this:  If you do any of them, you are doing yourself a favor.  In all of us, there is always room for improvement.  If we pick one of the constructions sites of the Self to work on for 40 days, the good we learn during this time will have become a habit.  After all, it takes only 21 days to form a habit, or so they say.  If you take your spring fast seriously, no matter which form it takes, you will come away with a definite sense of achievement that adds to your quality of life more than a cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate ever will.

Try it out!  And I sure hope you are not wondering what all this has to do with Herbal Household Remedies.

three trees header

Herbal Household Remedies: Poultices

Our forefathers and -mothers knew full well how to use Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet.

A poultice is a raw or mashed herb applied directly to the skin, dry or wet.  Some herbs, grains or vegetables are better encased in a clean cloth before applying them.

Poultices are used to heal bruises, break up congestion, reduce inflammation, withdraw pus from putrid sores, soothe abrasions, or withdraw toxins from an area.  They may be applied hot or cold, depending on the health need.  Cold poultices and compresses are used to withdraw the heat from an inflamed or congested area, hot poultices to relax spasms and for some pains.

Here is a list of a few effective poultices that use either common kitchen items, kitchen herbs or weeds that can be picked just about anywhere.  If you research poultices a little, you will find that there are many more fairly common herbs that work well for poultices, so this list is really just an appetizer, so to speak.

garlic

Garlic: Known for its antibacterial action and drawing power.  Use it grated or boiled, added to milk and softened bread.  Apply bread as a compress to soak out poison or pus.

Marjoram: For liniment, use equal amounts of marjoram, thyme and olive oil for back ache, arthritis, sprain, muscle sores, bruises, rheumatism and the like. For a sore throat, a folded cloth dipped in a strong brew of marjoram and wrapped around the throat can relieve the soreness. (The featured image shows marjoram.)

Oatmeal: Apply hot, cooked oatmeal, encased in a clean soft cotton cloth, to relieve inflammation or help withdraw foreign objects.  Use for stings and bites.  It can be applied directly to the skin as well.

Plantain: Plantains is a common green weed.  Learn to recognize it, as it is invaluable in first aid medicine.  Apply mashed or crushed form on a cut, swollen sore or running sore, and wrap around finger for whitlow; attach with any clean cloth or bandage.  Throw away the pulp when it gets hot and apply fresh plantain to the wound.

plantain

Vinegar: Vinegar made from either blackberries, grapes or apples has a very healing effect on sprains, strains, sore throat, swollen glands and aching muscles.  Dip a folded cloth into such vinegar and apply to the body.  Attach with a clean bandage.  Fore sore throat, make a ‘double compress’:  First dip folded neck cloth into the vinegar and wring out.  Apply and pin so that no air enters.  Then take slightly larger woolen cloth or large wool sock and pin it over the first, wet bandage.  Make sure no air enters.  Fairly soon the throat will heat up from within, and the pain and congestion will be alleviated.


 

Disclaimer: The author is not an medical professional, nutritionist, or dietitian. Content on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for legal or medical advice, or medical treatment or diagnosis. Consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms and before using any herbal product or beginning a new health regimen. When wildcrafting or foraging for plants, do so ethically; be accompanied by an expert; and always have absolute certainty of plant identification before using or consuming any herbs. By using any or all of this information, you do so at your own risk. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.

Herbal Household Remedies: Comfort

The Stoics knew: Being bothered is unhealthy.

Reading about Sebastian Kneipp with his cold showers and cold wading exercises probably made some of you, esteemed readers, shiver.  And rightly so:  Shivering is part of the benefit!  So today, I would like to elaborate on this a little, more precisely on (dis-)comfort, and your comfort zone.

Before you turn away bored or disgusted:  I am not talking about comfort zone in contrast to ‘where the magic/money/success/life’ is, as in, everything that’s worth achieving lies outside of your comfort zone.  Surely you have heard enough about all that.  I am talking about your tolerance for physical discomfort, particularly with regards to temperature and surfaces.

The Stoics already knew:  If you subject yourself to discomfort every once in a while, voluntarily, your tolerance for this discomfort will increase and your comfort zone will grow, in other words, you won’t be bothered by discomfort so easily.  Too much comfort makes us soft and unhealthy; a bit of discomfort makes us more resilient: a good thing.

Concerning cold water, Kneipp operated on a similar principle.  If you learn to endure and even enjoy cold temperatures for short periods of time, your personal comfort zone with regards to temperature will expand.  The result:  The cold will not bother you as much anymore.  After all, if we lived with nature and did not try to avoid the outside at all costs, we would experience a lot of different temperatures and be used to them all to a degree.  Living in an evenly ‘climatized’ environment and avoiding nature as much as possible has very little to do with how we were designed to live and is, hence, unhealthy.

Another example that points in the same direction concerns how we sit and sleep.  If your bed as well as all your furniture is soft and deep, you will quickly become much like the Princess on the Pea:  Every little discomfort will bother you.  Sitting on hard chairs, preferably the kind without back or arm rests, throwing out your couch in favor of furniture that does not encourage slouching, and sleeping on a hard bed or on the floor every once in a while, especially when you do not have to, will improve your posture, strengthen your muscles and increase your tolerance for physically uncomfortable situations.  Feeling comfortable leads to peace of mind (and good breathing!).  It pays to broaden your physical comfort zone.

The Stoics valued above all their peace of mind, their inner tranquility.  Being bothered by such trivia as uncomfortable chairs or a cold breeze was among the first things that needed to be overcome if a joyful mindset in all situations was the goal.  They knew what they were doing.

talb on stoicism

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