Nervous about Swine Flu? Look to Herbal Medicine for Immune Boosting

April 29, 2009

echinacea_300x300I’m going to reveal something you might not know about me – as a medical anthropologist (my professional training, aside from herbal studies),- it is tough to find a job that is ‘specific’ to my anthropological studies (as any anthropologists reading this will attest to!). One place where medical anthropologists fit in fairly neatly is in the public health field, particularly anthropologists who are more on-the-ground oriented. I work in a Center for Preparedness Research Education and Practice as my ‘regular’ 40 hour work week job, and part of what I do involves providing support to non-profit service providers of vulnerable populations in the area of emergency preparedness planning and training. I’ve been involved in numerous discussions, planning efforts, and even some research around pandemic influenza planning, and so am well tuned-in to the events of recent days.

There have been numerous reports to date that demonstrate the many ways that Tamiflu and other pharmaceutical antirvirals do not really work in preventing viruses. But for centuries, alternative medical systems have practiced preventative medicine by 1) building the immune system, and 2) using anti-viral and anti-biotic herbs. Herbs contain chemicals with different ‘actions’ on the body, and many of these chemical compounds are extracted or copied in order to produce the pharmaceuticals. The downside of these pharma drugs is that the side effects are often bad and the toll on the body can be hard, particularly for the liver.

Fears about swine flu abound, and with the alert level raised to ‘5’ today, its no wonder that the public is getting a bit anxious. In the preparedness field, we have learned one thing (at least), and that is to give people something that is in their control to do in the given situation. Does that make sense? In other words, if you can be proactive in taking care of at least one or two elements in your situation, you will feel empowered and are less likely to be fearful or panicked.

Approaches to viral and retroviral medicine have shifted over time to favor immune-building approaches to treatment rather than relying solely on antiviral drugs. The reason? The huge rate of mutation and eventual resistance to these drugs (if not immediate resistance). Boost your body’s immune strength and concurrently treat it with antivirals once a pathogen strikes.

So what herbs can we use? Lots. Master herbalist, Michael Tierra of the East West School of Planetary Herbalism, writes about the antibiotic and antiviral powers of pure oregano oil in his blog post about MRSA, and much of this is just as applicable to treating cold & flus. In some earlier posts, I also outlined some Herbal Remedies for Colds and Flus, Part I and Part II, both of which included immune-boosting herbs like Astragalus and anti-viral herbs and foods such as onions, garlic, thyme, etc.

I can’t leave out the power of Adapotens to boost the body’s ability to ward off infection and just generally cope with stress, reduce fatigue, and help us ‘adapt’ better to the stressors of our lifestyles. Adaptogens include well known ayurvedic tonics, Ashwaghanda and Shatavari, and Asian tonics such as Red Ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Eleuthro Root (Siberian Ginseng), and Rhodiola Root. These should be taken regularly and constently, along with Astragalus, for a strong immune-boosting tonic.

muira-puma-capsulesI have recently posted some immune-boosting capsules and herbal syrup on my etsy site and would welcome your comments and feedback both on etsy and here. What herbal anti-virals have worked well for you? I’ve heard about the use of colloildal silver for the treatment of flu, for instance, but have no experience with this treatment. Let me know your thoughts by commenting on this post! This won’t be the last of its kind.


Support Local! Trenton Ave Arts Fest (Phila)

April 28, 2009

poster1I’m still riding on the high from the fabulous Fishtown Shad Fest this past weekend. Awesome weather, great bands, wonderful location in the historic Penn Treaty Park.
Next Up: The Trenton Ave Arts Fest on May 16th!
This street fair is a fabulous event with great local bands, food vendors, and artists and artisans galore, including Lilith’s Apothecary.

Come out to support local vendors, including members of the Handmade Philly team.


Guest Blogger for Herb Companion: yours truly

April 21, 2009

plantainI have  really enjoyed reading the herby magazine Herb Companion in recent years and have had fun discovering new recipes, herbal histories, and lots of fun information and resources. It’s great to have the feeling of an herbal community through periodicals, blogs, and web-based information on top of all that book learnin’. Recently, I decided to begin guest blogging for Herb Companion and it’s a lot of fun, as you all know how much I love to share information about herbs, nutrition, and natural body care! Be sure to check out my latest post on wild crafting healing herbs to make your own infused oils and medicinal salves.


Etsy Item of the Day features Morrocan Rhassoul Facial Mask!

April 21, 2009

facial_mask_4I’m excited that Etsy Item of the Day, a great little blog devoted to highlighting all kinds of wonderful finds from Etsy has featured a second item from Lilith’s Apothecary: one of my favorite products, a fab facial mask suitable for all facial types. The Morrocan Rhassoul facial mask is made up of spa quality Moroccan rhassoul red clay, finely powdered dead sea salts, honey, oatstarch, and powdered myrrh and a few wee drops of precious myrrh essential oil for a balancing mask that provides mineral-rich nutrients, hydration, even skin tone and may improve complexion as much as 75% after the first application! Now you know why spas everywhere are relying on rhassoul clay for great results. Happily, though, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a great facial.


Featured Seller for April – All Natural Baby & New Mama Care – Baby O’Really

April 20, 2009
When I became pregnant with my wee Maeve (now 2 1/2 yrs old), I was excited to research the natural, organic products available to support as sustainable and ‘green’ a pregancy, labor, and delivery as possible. The herbal support and natural baby care products were already at my fingertips, but baby slings, nursing pads, non-disposable baby wipes, and other cloth products were still yet to be discovered.

Baby O’Really contacted me a while ago about providing her with samples of my Mama’s Milk lactation tea and then later for samples of my lavender-scented Tender Baby Bum Balm to include with her orders of sweet felt baby hair clips and cloth nursing pads, available in a wide array of wonderful patterns.  I immediately wanted to trade for one of her hairclips, which are incredibly well made and just equsitely precious. I also thought it was absolutely wonderful that she would include samples from a variety of sellers with all of her sales. There is nothing more delightful than getting a free sample or two with a new order, and trial sizes often lead to full sizes when someone is given the opportunity to fall in love with a handmade product.
As an example of green living and sustainable products for pregnancy, baby, and postpartum/breastfeeding support, I am delighted to feature Baby O’Really for the month of April.  Baby O’Really’s proprietress, Amber, is a wealth of helpful information and green advice, and even writes about the downsides of using bamboo cloth in her Etsy shop profile. She’s full of innovation and has a great sense of style and craft, more of which you can discover at her blog.  Amber lives with her husband, 4 year old son, and 2 year old daughter in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon, and they are happily awaiting the birth of another daughter in August. Here’s the story of Baby O’Really, as told in Amber’s own words:
“I started making cloth nursing pads in March of 2007, my daughter was a few months old. I remember staring at the box of disposable pads, really not wanting to have to use another one ever again! The shifting in the bra, sticky plastic…. and all the waste! I had probably gone through 4 or 5 massive boxes already and my baby was only 3 months old. It isn’t much fun having to buy things you hate to use. I decided to try my hand at making my own, out of fabric I had at the house and I was so very glad I did! It was so soothing to use cloth instead of the scratchy paper and plastic pads. Even the little things can make a huge difference.

I had also found Etsy in March of 2007 quite by accident, while looking for a wool felt supplier. I began selling my little felt hairclips there and had success. I was hooked! After realizing what a demand there was for natural, reusable, products I listed my first set of nursing pads. I wasn’t sure if anyone would buy nursing pads with cute fabric print… plain white seemed to be the normal thing. But I liked them and they were easy to find in the wash! So I went with it. And I sold the first set the same day I listed them. And then another 20 sets in those last few days of June! I am so happy to be providing moms with something pretty and comfortable. Like I said, it’s the little things that make a difference. AFter almost 2 years, and over 1400 sets later, I can officially state that nursing pads are a major part of my life. My children refer to them as “mommy’s circles”, and my husband very patiently tolerates my sewing messes, and thinks the whole idea is pretty amusing. Felt hairclips will always have a soft spot in my heart, and I add them to my shop from time to time, but nursing pads have become my business! My only regret is not discovering the wonderful world of cloth pads while nursing my firstborn!”

Thank you, Amber! I am happy to have a source for those well-loved cloth nursing pads, the likes of which I, too, was happy to use while breastfeeding. No more yucky disposables necessary now that we’ve found the gem that is Baby O’Really!
If there are other eco-conscious sellers of babywear, baby support gear, such as slings, or pregnancy & postpartum products you’d like to share with me and your fellow readers, please do comment below!

Body Butters ~ help me, readers!

April 16, 2009
Whipped Shea Body Butter

Whipped Shea Body Butter

My Silk Kimono body butter is one of my favorite products, and certainly one of the favorites of my customers. Its silky smoothe texture glides onto the skin and soaks right in. The butter is made of whipped shea and coconut oils, with just a touch of vitamin E to protect the oils. I generally use only 100% natural, pure essential oils to scent my products and generally shy away from fragrance oils unless I am sure that they are pthalate free. I also feel that it’s better to use a product that has some aromatherpeutic value, a characteristic that is completely lacking in synthetic fragrances. We all know that there is just no comparison between natural essential oils such as lavender and their fragrance oil versions. 

So, here’s my dilemna. My customers and retailers are clammoring for new scents for this whipped shea body butter, currently only available in the signature Silk Kimono scent. What other scents would you like to see? I’d love to take a poll from my readers and get some feedback about the kinds of blends that would make you want to indulge in the wonders of whipped shea! What do you think?


Home Spa: Beauty Blossom Facial Part III

April 15, 2009
Rose Water, or Hydrosol

Rose Water, or Hydrosol

Part III in the perfect home facial is quite simple, really, in that it requires only a gentle, natural toner to close pores, further tonify the skin, return facial tissue to it’s natural, slightly acidic pH, and leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvinated.

Happily, this final step is easy to achieve with the use of natural botanical hydrosols, which are the water by-product of steam distillation. When making a pure essential oil, the fragrant, therapeutic, volitile oil is separated from the flower pulp. The water by-product, while not containing the essential oil, will retain many helpful, therapeutic components. Some manufacturers of hydrosol actually pay more attention to achieving the perfect hydrosol than they do the essential oil. Hydrosols, the natural distillates, are different from some ‘floral waters’ that are made up of distilled water and synthetic fragrance, so take care to make sure you are obtaining a natural product.

I discussed several different hydrosols in Part II, so you can choose the hydrosol of choice based on those descriptions. I am going to give you a simple recipe, however, for a toner utilizing pure aloe vera, rose hydrosol, chamomile hydrosol, neroli hydrosol, and a touch of white vinegar to re-balance pH. Be aware that any of these ingredients, when used in isolation, provide a perfectly wonderful finishing touch to your facial. The aloe vera also adds some additional moisture that may mitigate the need to follow with a moisturizer. You might want to go without a final serum or cream unless your skin feels too ‘tight’, in which case a simple, non-clogging facial oil may be the best choice, as it is the most likely to be preservative – free and best on that freshly cleansed face.

Beauty Blossom Toner

1/3 cup aloe vera ‘juice’ (pure, natural aloe vera has a thin consistency, as it doesn’t contain synthetic gelling agents)
2/3 cup rose hydrosol (tonifying, regenerative, aromatic)
1/3 cup chamomile hydrosol (anti-inflammatory, calming)
1/3 cup neroli hydrosol (gentle, aromatic, tonifying)
1 Tbsp white distilled vinegar (pH balancing)

Directions: combine ingredients and package in a dark glass bottle. As this is an unpreserved, aqueous product, it is best to keep it refrigerated. You can apply the toner to a cotton cosmetic pad or cloth and apply to face and neck following removal of your facial mask. Alternatively, package in a glass bottle mister and mist onto face when desired. A lovely summer time refresher!

Some sources for these ingredients include Essential Wholesale, which pays a lot of attention to quality control and microbial checks, and Mountain Rose Herbs, which provides organic, incredibly beautiful quality products in their most natural state. From Nature with Love also provides natural hydrosols, but be sure you are buying the hydrosol and not the synthetic “floral waters”.


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