With the increasing problems associated with over-prescription of antibiotics, I believe that one of the most under-utilized solutions are herbal remedies for common ailments. Ear infections are the most common reason that children are brought to the doctor, and anti-biotic therapy is the most common prescription given to treat them. However, time and time again studies have shown that over 85% of ear infections are not bacterial related, which means that anti-biotics won’t do a bit of good.
So what do you do the next time your little love, or yourself for that matter, begins to complain of an earache? Reach for your natural remedy toolkit and treat it naturally!
Garlic, mullein flowers, and olive oil combine to make a powerful blend that not only eliminates the infection, but also relieves the associated pain. The medicinal use of garlic dates back over 5000 years. It is widely recognized as having antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. It is one of my go-to measures during cold and flu season – swallowing a raw clove daily can do wonders at keeping illness at bay! Mullein is another of the oldest known medicinal plants and has been used to treat a wide array of illnesses. It is native to Europe, but now grows wild throughout the US. During summer months, you can cultivate your own, otherwise check out your local herb store, or a trusted online supplier such as Mountain Rose Herbs. Because Mullein flowers can sometimes be hard to come by, I recommend keeping a small amount on hand at all times for when the need for it arises.
What you’ll need:
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2-3 tablespoons mullein flowers
- Extra virgin olive oil
- In a small saucepan or double boiler, combine the garlic and mullein flowers. Add just enough olive oil to cover the herbs.
- Warm over very low heat from 20-30 minutes
- Strain well – using either a fine mesh strainer or a piece of cheesecloth over a bowl.
- Store in a tightly sealed glass jar (make sure it is sanitized and completely dry before adding the oil)
- Keep in the refrigerator between uses
- Warm the oil to room temperature. This is best done in a teaspoon or small glass bowl (think ramkin) held over a stovetop burner or candle.
- Using a dropper, suction the oil and place 3-4 drops into the ear.
- Massage the outer ear and around the base after applying the oil
- Administer every 30 minutes or as often as needed.
- Keep a small cloth or paper towel near the ear to catch any excess oil that will naturally drain out on its own within a few minutes.
Avocados are loaded with powerful oils that make it an excellent moisturizing treatment for dry and brittle hair. Honey is naturally high in vitamins and minerals, and has the ability to help your hair retain water and moisture. Olive oil is moisturizing and protecting. Combining all three in a hair mask will help moisturize, strengthen, and give shine back to your hair.
- 1 Large Ripe Avocado
- 1 tablespoons raw honey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Using a fork or spoon, mash the avocado into a smooth puree
- Gradually stir in honey and olive oil
- Wet your hair with warm water and massage the mixture evenly throughout, paying special attention to the ends
- Grab a cup of tea, a good book or magazine, relax and leave on for 35-45 minutes
- Cover with a shower cap (optional)
- Rinse will and shampoo
If you or one of your loved ones happens to come down with a cold or the flu, and an accompanying cough, you’ll be happy to have this simple recipe on hand to help soothe the throat and alleviate the bothersome cough. It’s a simple syrup, both in ingredients (most of us have them at home already), and in preparation. Can’t ask for more than that for an at home healing remedy!
Thymol, the volatile oil found in thyme, is antiseptic, antibiotic, and has expectorant properties. It is often found in conventional cough syrups. German medical herbalist Rudolph Fritz Weiss, M.D. says this of thyme: “Thyme is to the trachea (windpipe) and bronchia what peppermint is to the stomach and intestines”
- 1 Cup boiling water
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme or 4 tablespoons fresh thyme
- ½ cup raw, organic honey
- Pour boiling water over the thyme, cover and steep for 20 minutes
- Strain thyme out of the water
- Add honey
- Warm the tea over low heat to dissolve the honey, if necessary
- Store in a glass bottle with cap or cork
- Take 1 tsp as often as needed
* This syrup should keep for a several weeks if stored in the refrigerator, or other cold, dark location.
Herbal Syrups are likely the tastiest of all herbal preparations. They are concentrated herbal extracts that have been combined with honey, maple syrup, or other sweetener to give them a thick consistency and sweet taste. Kids love them, and because of that they are one of the best ways to prepare herbal remedies for children. Herbal Syrups also make great sore throat soothers and cough syrups. While somewhat time consuming to prepare (you have to wait for the liquid to reduce over low heat), they are easy and will save you quite a bit of money over store bought preparations.
To make an herbal syrup you will need the following supplies:
- Two ounces of dried herb (weight, not volume)
- 1 quart of water
- A medium-sized saucepan or double boiler
- Small-medium colander or strainer
- Medium sized bowl
- 1 cup sweetener of choice. Options include: honey (raw organic is best and most nutritious), succanut, agave nectar, maple syrup, or vegetable glycerin.
- A sterilized jar with a small neck and a good lid or cork. (You can often find lots of these at places like TJ Maxx and Ross)
- 2 tablespoons Brandy or Vodka (optional, to help preserve)
- Combine the water and herbs in a saucepan, and simmer over low heat until the liquid has reduced to about 1 pint.
- Using a small colander or strainer lined with cheesecloth, strain the herbs from the infusion over a bowl. Once the liquid has all seeped through, bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and squeeze out any remaining fluid from the herb. This ensures that you get all of the valuable properties out of the herbs and into the syrup.
- Pour the liquid back into the saucepan, and add the sweetener. Warm over medium heat until thoroughly mixed. If desired, you can simmer the mixture over medium heat for 20-30 minutes for a thicker consistency. However, this will cause some of the living enzymes found in honey to be killed off.
- Add alcohol, if desired.
- Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
- Pour into your bottle and label.
- Syrups will last for several weeks, often months, if refrigerated.
USING HERBAL SYRUPS
A dose of most herbal syrups is 1-3 teaspoonfuls, taken as needed. Take a spoonful of bitter syrup just before meals for best results. Take cough syrups as often as every hour.
If you don’t have a local herb store, I recommend the following online retailers for your bulk herb needs:
Avocados are a wonderful moisturizing agent for the skin and hair. They are rich in vitamins B, E and K, and high in monounsaturated fat and potassium. Unique among land plants, avocados contain polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs), which are widely present in ocean plants but rare on land. PFA’s are well known for their anti-inflammatory benefits.
Avocados can be mashed and applied alone as a hair or face mask, but make a great addition to many home spa and beauty recipes. The one below can be used on your face, or your whole body for a rich, nourishing and moisturizing scrub – just what the skin needs in the heart of winter! The avocado moisturizes, the oats moisturize and lubricate, the cucumber soothes and cools, and the almond meal gently exfoliates.
- 1/2 cup mashed ripe avocado
- 1/2 cup cucumber
- 1/8 cup raw almonds or almond meal
- 1/8 cup oatmeal
- Puree avocado and cucumber until smooth
- If using whole raw almonds, grind them into a course meal using a blender or coffee grinder
- Combine all ingredients and mix well
- Wet your face and/or body with warm water
- Apply the scrub and gently massage into your skin using a circular motion.
- If able, leave on for 5 minutes. Rinse well, and pat dry your skin.
- Note: it is not necessary to follow this scrub with soap. Your skin will be left cleansed and moisturized!
- Also, use caution in the shower as the scrub can cause the floor to become slippery
I’m not the best summertime cook, but when it comes to fall and winter meals, that I can do. I love slow cooked meals, soups, stews and casseroles. They fill my home with their fragrant scents, and make coming in from the cold such a welcoming treat! Last night I made this wonderfully woodsy Wild Mushroom Soup, and it was a hit! Both of my daughters (6 and 1) has seconds! I couldn’t get my son to try it, but hey, now I get to enjoy some leftovers as I’m typing this up
- 2 cups dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 leeks, finely sliced
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 8 oz fresh cremini or wild mushrooms, chopped or sliced
- 1 1/4 quarts beef broth
- 2/3 cup half and half (use can sub heavy cream if that’s what you have on hand or if you prefer your soup a bit creamier and heavier)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh thyme to garnish (optional)
- In a medium bowl, cover the dried porcini mushrooms with the warm water. Allow to soak for 20-30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the water and squeeze to remove as much of the soaking liquid as possible. Chop the porcini, and move the reserved liquid off to the side for later use.
- Heat the butter and oil in a stock pot until foaming. Add the leeks, shallots and garlic. Cook slowly until soft, but not dis-colored, or about 5 minutes. Stir regularly.
- Add the fresh mushrooms and stir over medium heat for a few minutes until softened.
- Add in the beef broth and bring to a boil. Add the porcini mushrooms, reserved soaking liquid, dried thyme, salt and pepper. Lower the heat, half-cover the pan, and slowly simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour about 3/4 of the soup into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Pour back into the stockpot, stir in the half and half, and heat through.
- Serve hot, garnish with fresh thyme, and enjoy!
Did you know that our bodies contain the same concentration of minerals and nutrients as the sea?! And that sea salt can help to stabilize blood pressure, balance blood sugar levels, improve nerve cell communication, prevent muscle cramping, aid in the absorption of nutrients, and help to get rid of sinus congestion, among other things?!
Sea salt is a wonderful addition to culinary creations, and just as beneficial to our skin care regime. When we incorporate it into our bath or shower time, we allow our skin to absorb important nutrients that help our bodies, inside and out. Soaking in a salt bath helps to draw out impurities and detoxify the innermost layers of the skin, while softening the outer most layer. Its high calcium content allows it to clean deep within our pores, while the bromide in it helps to soothe. When used regularly, sea salt baths or scrubs help to balance oily skin, and moisturize dry, chapped skin. Over time, it can also help to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and cellulite. To use, add a cup or so to your bath and soak for 20 minutes, or use as a scrub in the shower. Use twice a week and your skin will soon be thanking you with a very healthy and happy glow. Below is one of our favorite salt scrub recipes.
- 2 cups sea salt (finely ground works best, but regular will do)
- ¾ cup base oil of choice (jojoba, olive, coconut)
- 40 drops of lavender, rose or geranium essential oil
- Using a whisk, combine the sea salt and base oil in a medium bowl, stirring until well blended. Add the essential oil, a couple of drops at a time, blending after each addition.
- Store in a glass container with a tight fitting lid.
- Will keep unrefrigerated, but should be used within 6 months for optimal freshness.
- To damp skin, massage approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the salt scrub using circular motions. Rinse.
Clove essential oil comes from the flower buds of the Myrtacae tree or bush (of the Myrtle family). It is an evergreen that grows up to 39 feet. The English name clove is derived from the Latin clavus meaning nail because of their nail-like shape. The oil is steam distilled from the bud and stems which results in an oil high in the phenol eugenol. Phenols are the most powerful antibacterial, anti-infectious, antiseptic, anti-viral and germicidal constituents in the all of the plant world. They are stimulating to the nervous and immune system, and are very oxygenating. Clove oil is a natural analgesic (relieve pain) and antiseptic (relieve infection) and is often used in dentistry.
Clove oil is great at safely numbing a baby’s sore gums. Simply dilute three drops of clove oil in one-fourth teaspoon of olive or coconut oil and massage the liquid onto your baby’s gums. It is always advisable to test it on your gums before using it on your baby. If it is found to be too strong, you may dilute it further.
Be sure that your child does not ingest large quantities. Clove oil being an anesthetic, can numb the gums for some time, thereby providing relief for the baby and relieve the tension that often builds around the family during this difficult time of life. However, make sure to apply small amounts, as it can upset the stomach if ingested in large amounts. The concentration of clove oil must be very low, because this oil can cause blistering of the gums, if used undiluted.
If your gums hurt – or if you’ve burned your mouth with hot food or drink , try applying the same mixture (three drops of clove oil to one-fourth teaspoon of olive or coconut oil) to the irritated area. Adding water to the mixture makes a great mouth rinse as well.
Clove oil can also relieve toothaches. Simply soak a cotton ball in a mixture of three drops of clove oil and one-fourth teaspoon of olive or coconut oil and place directly on the tooth. Hold the soaked cotton ball close to your aching tooth. Make sure to visit the dentist to uncover the source of discomfort.
Some uses for clove outside of teething and tooth pain is for pulling out infections from tissues, flatulence, flu, bad breath, insect bites and stings, nausea, nettles and poison oak (takes out sting), and is known to remove the desire to smoke (by placing oil from finger to tongue). Its aroma may help improve memory as well as create a feeling of protection and courage. Clove is also an immune stimulant, and does wonders in the kitchen.
This summer a friend shared her secret to a fly free summer. Pierce 20 cloves into a ripe apple and keep it close to you. Fly’s dislike the scent of cloves, and stay away!
It amazes me just how many products are in the oral health care section of the grocery stores and pharmacies. I often wonder how overwhelming it must be as a consumer to decide what products to use and why.
Personally, I stay clear from 99% of the products on the shelf, but then again I represent lines of natural and organic products that I have recommended as a hygienist for many years (call me lucky or cursed to be passionate about the dreaded taboo world of oral health). The years I have spent seeing firsthand what mainstream products do to peoples mouths propelled me into making changes for the patients I serve, myself and the ones I love. Still I am baffled at just WHAT is in these products but more importantly, WHY.
A big thanks goes out to Amy this week for uncovering some of the toxic chemicals in skincare, her posts are always packed with useful and informative information. Instead of loading you down with more information about ingredients and their known effects (which I promise to do soon), I want to offer everyday items that you may have in your home already that do wonders at cleansing and balancing the mouth’s chemistry. This easy to do DIY will give you the opportunity to break free from mainstream products without breaking the bank or leaving you with a drawer full of products that you simply don’t care for.
Oral health care products are in the works for 3Girls Holistic, until then we hope you enjoy concocting some on your own. These are great to do with kids, and can really help in getting them involved with the health of their teeth and gums.
DIY Toothpaste recipe
- ½ cup coconut oil softened
- 2-3 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons Xylitol- powdered in a blender or food processor
- 2-10 drops of essential oil* clove, lemon, lime, spearmint, cinnamon, eucalyptus, peppermint, licorice, rosemary, or orange
- 10 drops myrrh extract (optional)
- 10 drops grapefruit seed extract (optional)
Mix dry ingredients. Add coconut oil one teaspoon at a time, stirring as you go. Stop when desired consistency is reached. Add a few drops of oils to desired intensity of flavor, stir. Finish in a blender or food processor for a smoother texture. Store in a glass container, preferably amber or cobalt to block out the light. Dip toothbrush in and scrape small amount onto bristles. It is recommended that you have individual containers for each family member seeing as you are dipping your brush into the paste, it will help avoid cross contamination from family members and to avoid sickness. Enjoy!!
* Pure essential oils can be the primary active ingredient in your homemade toothpaste. Essential oils are ideal for use in toothpaste because they are both antiseptic and nontoxic, a rare combination.
Let me just say that it’s HOT!!! We recently moved from Seattle to Las Vegas, and while trading the gray days for the sun has been good for me, the heat is definitely a shocker and sure does take a toll on my energy when I’m out in it for any length of time. I’ve always loved popsicles, especially in the summer, and my kids and I have been gobbling these up daily as a wet, cold treat to help cool us down. They’re super easy to make, cheap, and of course, healthy
- 1 tsp dried Hibiscus
- 8 oz water
- 8 oz Orange juice
- 1/2 cup pureed or sliced strawberries
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar, agave nectar or stevia (optional)
- Bring water to a boil and pour over the Hibiscus. Let steep for 30 minutes or so. If you’re adding a sweetener, do so about halfway through steeping process to allow it to dissolve. Discard/compost the hibiscus.
- While the hibiscus is steeping, puree or slice the strawberries
- Combine the hibiscus tea and orange juice.
- Pour into popsicle mold (you’ll need about 8 molds) filling approximately 3/4 of the way to the top
- Add in strawberries to each mold
- Freeze for a couple of hours and enjoy!