Herbal Remedies Tip #10: Tension Headaches

October 28, 2010
Lavender bush

"Lavender": Mooseyscountrygarden.com

Sigh. Tension headaches. I know, I know…in some respects, tension headaches aren’t quite as bad as true migraines (that nausea thing! ugh!), but at the end of the day, if your tension headache is bad enough, it can render you incapacitated. When I was in graduate school, I began to develop severe tension headaches. I ended up in the ER one night (total waste of 9 hours on an icy, snowy, Montreal night) and found that allopathic medicine has just about nothing to offer someone suffering from this condition. The solution for me? Chiropractic medicine. I mean it. Total godsend for me. Now, if you feel a tension headache coming on or you have a mild tension headache that doesn’t necessarily require the re-adjustment of your bones, herbal therapies can help. Think “calming” to begin with. Lavender essential oil (as aromatherapy) can be helpful in getting you to involuntarily relax! Never a bad thing. You can also try the tea below, which has ingredients that can ease tension and pain. Skullcap is an herb of particular import, as it is specific to anxiety, particularly when clenching the muscles, ticks, palsies, or other physical outcomes of anxiety/tension are involved. You can take this herb as a tincture, but be sure the tincture is made from the *fresh* herb and not dried.

Tension-ease Infusion

1 part skullcap
1 part sage
1 part peppermint
1/4 part lavender

Infuse 1 – 2 tsp of the above blend of dried herbs in one cup boiling water for 10-15 minutes minimum. A longer infusion results in a stronger tasting brew with more medicinal effect, but the weaker infusion is perfectly fine & therapeutic. Feel free to add honey and/or lemon to taste!


Home Spa Treatment #1 – Treat those eyes

March 4, 2010
Cucumber

thanks to iChaz on flickr

"Aloe" thanks to Herb Companion

"Aloe" thanks to Herb Companion

I’ve been offering you some Herbal Remedies quick tips, but I’d like to start a new series of Home Spa tips focusing on different treatments you can do at home for your own private spa experience.  Let’s start with those alluring eyes of ours that communicate so very much.

We all know by now why there are eye serums & creams on the market. First, we live insane lives here in the United States, where the response “Busy” has replaced “Fine” when we are asked how we are doing. Second, we don’t get enough sleep. Third, sun damage. Finally, despite our greatest efforts, we are aging, and here in America, we don’t tend to like that. Despite the truth that many skin care product claims might be a bunch of B.S., there is actually some truth to ingredients that attest to reduce puffiness, smooth out wrinkles, and brighten our peepers (or at least the skin around them).

These ingredients, when present in your eye care product, can do a lot to remedy your eye area issues: Retinol (increases collagen production), forms of zinc (may increase elastin production), cucumber extract (anti-inflammatory), chamomile extract (anti-inflammatory), caffeine (diuretic – so it reduces puffiness & seems to “lift” eye tissue), Vit C (decreases melanin production, treating dark circles), and Vit K (helps break down pigment particles in blood, decreasing dark circles).  Extra-emollient oils can also help keep that fragile skin elastic and supple, reducing wrinkles in the long-term and helping repair sun damage. That sun damage part can also be mitigated by anti-oxidants by reducing the ravage caused by free radicals.

Weren’t you wondering why I include green tea (antioxidant, vt C, and caffeine), Vit C, and chamomile in my popular Eye Potion? Don’t worry – I’m making a fresh batch next week. But I’m here to tell you about home remedies you can do yourself! Fortunately, there is a lot you can do yourself at home to do something for your poor tired eyes.

Eye cream

Lilith's eye potion

Tea Bag eye packs
– seriously! That concentrated tea contains caffeine that is proven to reduce puffiness. Leave teabags on eyes for 10 minutes and make sure to use cool water as hot water may burn and can help dry out eyes. Use a caffeinated tea with rosehips and you have a good amount of Vit C in there too. One with green tea, chamomile, and rosehips and you have an eye tea powerhouse!  Hey…maybe I should make these.

Cucumber eye packs. Yeah cucumber! We all know that Cool as a Cucumber says it all. And cucumber truly does reduce puffiness and inflammation, calming the eye area (and the rest of the skin too!). You can use cucumber distillates, mists, or slices of the vegetable placed over your eyes for 5-10 minutes.

Eye Serum. You can create a special oil of emollient oils such as avocado, coconut, shea, meadowfoam seed, hemp seed , evening primrose, and rosehip seed oil. Extra powerhouse ingredients include carrot oil, blueberry seed oil, seabuckthorne berry oil, and essential oils or CO2 extracts of Calendula, blue chamomile, and helicrysium.

Eye Potion. This is a simple Cocoa Butter & Coconut Oil recipe from Herb Companion. You need only two ingredients and you don’t need to use preservatives because there is no hydrous, or water, component. Super rich and long-lasting.

Cooling Cucumber Eye Gel.  I love this recipe from Herb Companion and remember when I first noted it when it appeared in print last year. This is a once & done spa treatment, meaning that it won’t preserve longer than a few days if kept in the fridge. But considering the ingredients, including fresh cucumber juice and aloe vera, it sounds like a great treatment!


Herbal Remedies Tip #9 – How to make a mustard plaster for coughs and bronchitis

January 21, 2010

mustard powder A mustard plaster? What the heck is that, you may be wondering…and even if I knew (your mind continues), wouldn’t it be messy and probably ineffective anyway? Well, I don’t know. But I like the idea of it, and I’m going to try it too! You can use a mustard plaster to bring warmth and circulation to the chest when battling persistent coughs or bronchitis. No one in my house has had a persistent cough or bronchitis in as long as my memory can stretch, but you never know. And the herbalists I trust the most, including MD Aviva Jill Romm, certainly advocate their use. As Dr. Romm indicates, the increased blood flow reduces coughing and speeds healing (Romm 2003). And yes, this is perfectly fine to use with children over three years of age. In fact, that’s who she suggests it be used for, though of course it’s useful for adults too.The only caveat is that mustard plasters must be used with those who have the ability to communicate with you if it becomes uncomfortable, so the individual must be awake and able to communicate clearly.

Aviva states that the process may seem elaborate or complicated, but after doing it once it will be simple. The relief your child will get will make it all worthwhile.

Supplies:
1/4 cup dried mustard
2 cotton kitchen towels
large bath towel
hot tap water
large bowl
warm, wet washcloth
salve or petroleum jelly

Instructions:
1. Lay out one kitchen towel on a flat surface. Spread the mustard powder onto the towel, leaving a 1 inch border around the edge uncovered. Next, fold the bottom border upward over the edge of the powder to keep the powder from following out. Place the second towel over the first one, and starting from each of the short edges, roll the edges to the center, forming a scroll.
2. Place the scroll in the bowl and cover it wiht very hot water. Bring the bowl and all the other supplies into your child’s room. Be certain there are no drafts in the room.
3. Place the large bath towel open on a pillow, take off the child’s shirt, and liberally apply the salve or petroleum jelly onto the nipples to protect them from getting blistered or burned.
4. Thoroughly wring the water out of the mustard filled towel when it is cool enough to be handled. Unroll the mustard bandage to the folded edge. With teh folded edge at the bottom, place against the child’s chest and as far aroudn the back as it will reach. The child should quickly lie back on the bath towel, which you then wrap over the plaster. Cover the child with blankets.
5. To prevent burns, remove the plaster immediately when the child says it feels hot or is stinging. This may be after only a few minutes. After removing the plaster, wash the area with the damp washcloth and cover the child with blankets to prevent chill. Never leave the plaster on a child under the age of eight for more than 5 minutes. Adults can tolerate it for a maximum of 20 minutes. Do not repeat more than twice a day for two days, and discontinue if the area becomes red. Never leave a child unattended while the plaster is on.

Okay….so try it out and please, please, please…tell me how it goes!

Ref: Romm, Aviva Jill (2003) Naturally Healthy Babies and Children: A Commonsense Guide to Herbal Remedies, Nutrition, and HealthNaturally Healthy Babies and Children: A commonsense guide to Herbal Remedies, Nutrition, and Health. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley.


Herbal Remedies Tip #8 – Herbal Hangover Relief

January 7, 2010

You might have needed this post most on New Year’s Day (though I actually went to bed at 11:50 if that tells you how exciting the eve of 2010 was for me this year), but hey – better late than never. Now, my love of nutrition and care of the body prompts me to admonish, “look now, people – metabolic toxins (i.e. alcohol) is not good for the body, and you know it!”, but let’s be fair. There are times when I get into a really good bottle of wine and can’t be stopped. I also lived in Ireland off and on for at least a year and a half, so I have sympathy for the human experience of the fabled hangover.

Hangovers, as most know, feel like a combination of headache, sometimes nausea, fuzzy head, maybe a bit of depression, certainly a lot of lethargy. Most of these are connected to an ‘overloaded’ liver, the organ responsible for processing the metabolic toxins from alcohol. Helping a hangover usually includes helping your liver. Bitter herbs stimulate the liver to release bile, aiding digestion and helping to detoxify the poor, overtaxed organ. You might try drinking some water with freshly squeezed lemon before bed and when you wake up in the morning to help the liver.

Morning-After Tea (no, not morning after *that*, just morning after lots of drink
1 part Vervain (bitter herb)
1 part Lavender (relaxing, calming, aids digesting, analgesic (pain relief)
1/2 part white willow bark (analgesic w/ similar compounds to asprin)
1/2 part burdock root (bitter root, liver tonic, nutritive)
* each “part” can be a tsp or 1 oz depending on how much of a blend you want to make. Try it as a cup first, though
Add 1 pint (2.5 cups) boiling water to a 2 tsp and steep (covered!) for a minimum of 10 min. Strain and sweeten with honey and/or add lemon if desired. Sip throughout the day until you start to feel better. It is a little bitter, but hey – you did it to your liver, after all, and this is what you need now!


Herbal Remedies Tip #6 – Herbal Mouthwash for Healthy Gums

November 17, 2009

Blue bottles for storing mouthwash I’m kind of on a roll here with natural mouth care, so why stop now? Personally, I prefer not to use alcohol-based mouth washes that permeate the market and either make my own, or use ‘more natural’ mouthwashes such as those made by Tom’s of Maine. Happily however, recipes abound for making your own mouthwashes. You can use witch hazel in mouth wash blends too, but try to obtain the natural witch hazel distillate rather than commercial witch hazel made with ethyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

In the recipe below, peppermint and anise seed freshen breath.  Myrrh tincture/extract helps strengthen the gums, and is also antiseptic and also mildly preservative.  The tincture/extract may be made with grain alcohol (but a very small amount in the recipe) or vinegar.

 

Recipe #1:

1 cup boiling water
2 tsp dried peppermint
1 tsp anise seed
1/2 tsp myrrh tincture

Pour the boiling water over the peppermint and anise seed. Cover and steep until cool. Strain and add the myrrh. Store the mouthwash in a bottle and shake before using. This will keep for a week or so if stored in the refrigerator.

 

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel

Recipe #2:

  This recipe avoids even an alcohol extract in favor of sage-infused vinegar. To infuse, simply fill a small jar with sage, fill with warmed apple cider vinegar, and allow to steep for 2-6 weeks. Alternatively, you could heat-infuse the herb in a non-metal (non-reactive pot) and allow to infuse (so that vapors are coming off of the vinegar), covered, for 30 min-1 hour.  Again, try to btain the natural witch hazel distillate rather than commercial witch hazel made with ethyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

1 cup witch hazel distillate
1/2 tsp sage-infused vinegar
1 tsp peppermint
1 tsp spearmint

Recipe #3:

1 cup water
1 tsp vegetable glycerin
1 tsp aloe vera juice (ingestible!)
6 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix the ingredients together and store in a covered container, using within a few days. Peppermint essential oil helps fight odor-causing bacteria, and aloe soothes gums

REF: Laurel Vukovic


Herbal Remedies Tip#7 – Turmeric for Inflammation

November 9, 2009
turmeric

Turmeric

Turmeric is the Indian spice that gives curry its distinctive yellow color, but this commonly used spice contains potent therapeutic activity. Indeed, it is a key ingredient in Kicharee, a therapeutic food from Ayurvedic medicine made up of mung beans, rice, ghee and spices turmeric, cumin, and coriander.

Probably considered one of the ‘favorite’  herbs by nearly all practicing herbalists, turmeric is a powerhouse from Ayurvedic (east Indian) medicine, and part of a 3-5,000 year old tradition. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can be used for internal inflammation,  as well as topically for muscle strain. Because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is a fabulous remedy for arthritis and chronic health issues rooted in excess inflammation. Because turmeric is antibacterial, it may be used topically in powder or paste form by applying it directly to a wound or sore.

Apply the powdered herb paste or extract of the fresh turmeric rhizome externally, but be warned that it may turn the skin yellow (temporarily), or take  300 mg of turmeric internally twice daily as a capsule, or 40-60 drops twice daily of the alcohol extract of the fresh rhizome.  Add liberally to food, as it is a perfect ingredient for soups, curries, egg, and vegetable dishes. 

As part of my work as an herbalist, I  make liver tonic tinctures that include turmeric for supporting liver function and livers under strain from diseases like Hepatitis.  I also use turmeric in my Botanical Assist Pain Relief cream for arthritis and/or menstrual relief. Check out my etsy shop for other Therapeutic offerings.


Herbal Remedies Tip #5 – Herbal Tooth whitener

November 4, 2009

strawberry As a follow up to my recent Herbal Remedies Tip #4 – Tooth Powder for Natural Mouth Care, in which I gave you a basic recipe for making your own herbal tooth & gum powder, I am writing this brief post to give you a few tips on natural tooth whitening.

Many chemical tooth whiteners on the market are very irritating to gums, even painful, and have short-term benefits at best. Regular beverages such as coffee and tea stain the teeth, and while you can do your best to keep stains at bay through brushing, you will still need regular teeth cleanings twice a year. That said, there are some natural remedies you can try to help eliminate stains.

Herbal Tooth Whitener:
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp 3% hydrogen peroxide
Dip toothbrush into the mixture and brush for three minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Fllow with regular tooth paste or herbal mouth rinse.

Strawberry Whitener:
To lighten tooth stains and whiten your teeth, crush a fresh strawberry and rub it onto your teeth. The natural alpha-hydroxy acids found in strawberry should help lighten teeth. Follow by rinsing with water.

REF: Laurel Vukovic


Herbal Remedies Tip #4 – Tooth Powder for natural mouth care

November 3, 2009

Herbal tooth powderThere are plenty of natural or slighly-more-natural-than-Crest toothpastes on the market, but many of them still contain ingredients such as chemical foaming agents like sodium laurel sulfate (SLS). While most of us can (and do) withstand constant contact with sulfates, some people develop allergies such as contact dermititis, which can sometimes lead to more severe skin infections because of broken skin. If you do have an allergy to SLS, you should by all means avoid this allergen as dermititis and broken skin can lead to vulnerability to MRSA infections.

I have no allergy to SLS, per se, but I also like the fact that you can treat various mouth problems with herbs. The power of cloves was recently driven home to me when at my stepmother’s dental practice. I had a cavity (hey! from when I was 18!) refilled three times with a modern filler and I experienced continual discomfort and pain for months, both during and between repeated efforts. Finally, they dusted off the clove oil filling and at last! Pure comfort. It was also nice to have the aroma of clove oil surround me during the procedure. For whatever your reason, you might want to experiment with creating your own tooth powders or trying herbal tooth powders that are already sold by successful etsy sellers such as Joyful Girl Naturals

Herbal tooth powders have been in use for centuries in one form or another, and modern blends contain ingredients such as baking soda, herbs such as chamomile (soothing, anti-inflammatory), sage (strongly astringent), cloves (pain relieving), goldenseal (antibiotic), marshmallow root (anti-inflammatory, demulcent), myrrh (healing), plantain (healing and demulcent). Sage, which some call the “tooth herb” can even be used fresh to treat conditions like gingivitis.

Try this recipe at home in your own kitchen, using a VERY clean coffee grinder to grind dried herbs into a powder. (It’s actually best to own a coffee grinder that you have on hand for grinding herbs and grains). You can also purchase dried organic herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs. Baking soda whitens your teeth and freshens breath. Sea salt tightens the gums, peppermint oil and/or tea tree oil fights bacteria and adds refreshing flavor.

2 Tbsp baking soda
1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt (not table salt)
1/4 tsp powdered sage
1/4 tsp powdered myrrh (or substitute another herb depending on your needs)
3 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix the ingredients (through a sieve preferably) and store in an airtight container. Use half a teaspoon each time you brush. You can sprinkle the powder on your toothbrush, or make a paste using water, botanical hydrosols, or ingestible natural aloe vera.

 


Natural Remedies Tip #3 – Hydrotherapy with Salts

September 10, 2009

bath_teaLGHydrotherapy, or the use of water as therapy, involves the practice of purifying the body, whether in terms of detoxification or ritual purification, and has been in practice for millenia. The Romans and Greeks utilized water-based cleansing and bathing rituals, building elaborate bath houses and saunas, as have many other cultures throughout history. Water itself is seen as sacred in many mythological traditions –so much so that its use for deep cleansing is probably universal. Using water through the use of baths, saunas, steams, or rubs increases circulation of blood & lymph and helps the body detoxify by increasing perspiration.

Using salts, whether epsom, sea salts, or mineral-rich dead sea or himalayan salts can enhance the detoxification process. Salts draw impurities from the body, help heal infections, reduce inflammation, and add mineral content to the body &  aid in cleansing.  Adding salt to a bath replicates natural mineral springs, often seen as sites of healing, cleansing, and transformation. Bathing with mineral rich salts are also wonderfully relaxing and even serve to soften the skin. Salt water baths, all told, are much better for the body than chemically-produced bath bubbles! Below I include two recipes that incorporate the use of salts for your own water rituals.

Cypress & Rosemary Purifying Bath
2 cups Epsom salts or Dead Sea Salts
3 drops cypress essential oil
3 drops grapefruit oil
3 drops ginger essential oil
1 Tbsp whole milk or carrier oil (such as olive)
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Add the essential oils to the milk or carrier oil, mix with the salts, and then add entire mixture to a hot bath. Add the rosemary sprig to gently infuse into the bath water, releasing its fragrance. Soak in the tub for 15-30 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water.

Detoxifying Seaweed Bath
1 cup Epsom Salts
1 cup Himalayan, Dendritic, or Dead Sea Salts
1/2 cup dried kelp, dulse or other seaweed
1 cup baking soda (to soften water and smooth skin)

Combine the epsom salts, sea salt, and kelp in a blender and grind into a fine powder. Alternatively, sift together in a flour sifter (this will still be safe for food use because you aren’t using any essential oils). Add mixture to a tub of hot water along with the baking soda. Soak for 20 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water.

Check out my Etsy shop for Water Ritual and Dream Journey bath teas, Sea Milk Detoxifying Soak, and other bathing pleasures.
sea_milk_soak_2


Natural Remedies Tip #2: Honey mask for oily, blemished skin

August 12, 2009

honey_herbal_4Raw, unprocessed honey is ideal for treating oily, blemished skin. Even better, an herbal-infused honey can add more ‘punch’ to the already wonderful qualities of raw honey. Generally speaking, honey’s antibacterial properties, combined with being a wonderful humectant, serves to moisturize the skin without clogging pores or contributing to excess oil production. A ‘humectant’ attracts moisture, actually drawing water right out of the air, and thus, honey has fabulous hydrating abilities.  Jeanne Rose, the famous essential oil distiller and aromatherapist, recommends a “honey pat” or a facial mask (best done in the bath tub!), wherein raw honey is applied to the face and then tap-tap-tapped with the fingers until it becomes tacky (‘type your face like a keyboard’). When you remove the mask with warm water, best done with a warm washcloth, you will find your skin to be supple and soft. Adding cosmetic clay to the mask provides more drawing & detoxifying properties, thus increasing the cleansing potential of the mask.

Honey & Clay Mask

2 Tbsp raw, unprocessed honey or an herb-infused honey (with antiseptic herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage)
1 tsp cosmetic clay (French Green, Bentonite, Fuller’s Earth, Rhassoul, or Dead Sea)
2 drops lavender essential oil (soothes inflammation, antiseptic, healing

Bonus: If you have it, try adding a tsp of seaweed (powdered or ground in a coffee grinder) to benefit from seaweed’s balancing, mineral rich properties too!


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