Musings for Change

May 12, 2011
Facial Cleansing Grains

Facial Cleansing Grains

Hello my dear readers. Oh, I wish I could blog more often. The intensity of my full-time day job combined with a busy craft season (actually, every season feels really busy) makes it tough. I am so looking forward to what amounts to an “herbal retreat” for me this June, the Medicines of the Earth Herb Symposium , Black Mountain, North Carolina. Check out the cool PDF brochure if you’re interested. Not only can immerse myself in the world of herbs for a nice, long weekend, but I also get to learn from some of the greatest herbal teachers of our time.

When I begin to shift into a new paradigm or even have some ideas for changes to be implemented, it seems that it takes me a very long time to migrate into a new place. I muse about changes for what seems like months, even years, before I make a move.  A true taurus! I confess. This slow drifting towards change can extend from new curtains to new Lilith’s Apothecary products, to new life practices. Why is this? I’m not sure, but I’ve come to accept that it is just my process. On the flip side, I’m also impressionable. When I read about great ideas, hear convincing arguments about ideas, growing practices, food, and so forth, I can internalize them with a passion. But I don’t flit from one thing to another; rather, I deeply internalize things that make sense to me until they become part of my own personal tapestry. And I’m finding that unlike Athena, who sprang from Zeus’s head fully formed in all her philosophical, conceptual, and ideological glory, it’s taken me 34 years to get me to where I am now. Maybe that’s just how it is for we mortals. Given my nature, I fully anticipate changes ahead to be a gradual, growing process. This is why I fully believe in the power of the third phase of life, the Crone’s stage, as one’s potential arrival at wisdom. Before that, it’s not really possible (as I see it anyway), though we try. We do.

I have some goals for the future of Lilith’s Apothecary. I will begin to slowly move towards the accomplishment of these goals over the next year, following my last craft shows of the Spring, The Art Star Craft Bazaar and the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival Last summer was a time of rest. This summer will be a time of careful implementation of new practices in my business.

1. I am going to move away from the use of Plastic. Yes, the plastics I use are all recyclable, but it just doesn’t make sense. I will probably keep certain components, such as pumps, caps, or mister tops, because at the moment, I don’t really see a way around it.

2. I am going to be focusing my product line much more exclusively on Facial Care. This is my area of expertise, and in an effort to keep my customers happily contented, I have often created products that are not really in this sphere. As they are lovely products, too, it’s hard to part with them! I have far too much diversity in my offerings, however, and I am spread too thin in production, which means that people often need to wait for staples such as facial creams and serums. What I may do is offer certain body creams, lotions, etc on a limited basis from time to time, but they may not be as regularly available. An exception to this is my Chamomile & Calendula lotion, as far too many people depend on this lotion to treat various dry skin conditions.

3. I’m going to have to eliminate my Tea line, which I have been pairing down for the last few years. I am still available as an herbal consultant to make specialized blends for pregnancy, post-partum, breast feeding, insomnia, anxiety, etc, however. Feel free to contact me directly, but realize that custom orders can sometimes take up to 4 weeks.

4. By paring down my offerings, I will be able to put more time into the development of new products that fit into my Facial Care line, such as creams that address skin discoloration (in development), products specific to acne issues, and others that have been bouncing around in my head for months!

5. I’m going to invest the necessary time in the development of my website, www.lilithsapothecary.com which was started over 2 and a half years ago, but for which I have rarely felt the ability to devote the necessary attention and time.

So, there are exciting changes ahead! And as I progress along my learning curve as a business owner and developer of natural bath and body products, I hope all my learning shows!

The main thing is that I love my business and I want to continue working on it in a way that is sustainable for myself, for my customers, and for the earth itself. I always welcome a dialogue with my readers and customers and would love to hear about your own personal experiences as well as favorite products. Thank you, as ever!


Make your own fresh herb tincture

April 16, 2011

I have long wanted to include some ‘practical’ instruction in my blog for the all important preparations that all herbalists and family healers use on a regular basis. This post will be devoted to a simple alcohol extract of a botanical, called a “tincture”. The extracting can actually be done with cider vinegar or glycerin, alternatively, though alcohol does work best. It is important to note that some herbs are better taken as infusions or decoctions, particularly if the vitamin content is what one is after (i.e. nettles).  It is also important to note that some herbs are absolutely best taken as a *fresh* herb tincture rather than a *dried* herb tincture. This post is for making tinctures from *fresh* herbs. Some examples of herbs that should be tinctured fresh are turmeric rhizome, ginger rhizome, St. John’s wort, Milky oat tops, and skullcap. Other herbs I prefer to tincture fresh are motherwort and tulsi.

Oat Tops in the Milky Stage

Oat Tops in the Milky Stage

Step 1:

Organize the necessary container for tincturing. It should be big enough to hold all the herb you would like to tincture. There should not be a lot of excess room in the jar, however.

Jar and herbs for tincturing

Step 2:

Put the herbs in a glass jar. I have a gallon sized glass jar here and I’m using fresh oat tops in the milky stage, shipped to me from Pacific Botanicals organic farm in Oregon.

pouring grain alcohol onto the herbs

Step 3:

After the herbs are in the jar, pour 95% (190 proof) grain alcohol over the fresh herbs. The percentage of alcohol you use is probably the most important part of tincturing aside from the quality of the herbs used. The percentage of alcohol for fresh herbs shouldn’t dip below 50% or the tincture will probably spoil. Because fresh herbs contain a lot of water already, you can assume that just by using fresh herb, you’ll be diluting the % of alcohol in the preparation. So, if you use (40%) 80 proof vodka, for instance, you may end up with a tincture that is only 20% alcohol, and that tincture would certainly spoil. Many herbalists use 100 proof (50%) vodka and have success, even with fresh herbs. I prefer to use a higher proof for fresh. Using 100 proof (50%) vodka for *dried* herbs is certainly okay, though more complicated formulas are used by professional herbalists.  Keep in mind that some herbs require glycerin at about 10%, including milk thistle seed.

So, you pour the alcohol over the herbs and fill the jar to the top. Leave about 1/2 – 1 inch between the alcohol and the rim of the jar. Try to make sure all of the herbs are under the liquid.

tinctured oat tops
Step 4:

Use a chopstick or spoon to press the herb down and stir in order to release any air bubbles that may be trapped in the jar.

Step 5:

Cap the jar. I often like to put a piece of wax paper between the rim and lid so that the lid doesn’t ‘stick’ to the jar. It’s not that this is really a problem, because you can run it under hot water, but it just makes it easier.

Step 6:

Label the jar with the herb, date, and percentage of alcohol. Store in a cool/dark place and allow to do its tincturing  magic for 4 – 6 weeks. You can really leave it for longer if you don’t get to it in that time frame.  I have left herbs in 180 proof alcohol for a *year* and it doesn’t go bad because of the high alcohol content. Sometimes I do up to 3 gallons at a time, so I don’t always decant everything right away!

Step 7:

When you decant, strain the herbs out and compost them after squeezing the alcohol out of them. You can wring out the herbs with a thin, clean dishcloth or cheesecloth. There are also professional herb presses that are available for just this purpose. The herbs will often become quite dessicated, actually, so sometimes it is incredibly easy to extract as much alcohol as you are going to!

Be sure to label your decanted tinctures with the Date and the Herb, as well as the alcohol used. Keep in mind that the % of alcohol is no longer 95%!!! Though it’s not easy to exactly determine, it’s probably closer to 50%, depending on the herb used.

Resources:

Gladstar, Rosemary, Herbal Healing for Women, 1993.
Weed, Susun, Healing Wise, 1989.
Tierra, Michael, The Way of Herbs 1998
Hoffman, David, Medical Herbalism, 2003.
Tilgner, Sharol, Herbal Medicine, 1999.

Good luck with your first tincture. Feel free to comment below if you have questions!
My tinctures can be found on my Etsy site.


Favorite Tea Accessories: Atelier Oker

April 13, 2011

Atelier Oker is a stunning Etsy shop by talented Belgian ceramicist and teacher, Jeannine Vrin. Each piece in her shop is a beautifully designed work of art that is meant to be used functionally. They all seem to fulfill the mission of this studio, in finding the “poetry of ordinary things.” Her exquisite ceramic tea strainer is no exception. It’s a gorgeous piece that would truly turn every cup of tea into a special tea ceremony. I am a great proponent of the need for such rituals in every day life. Be forewarned: Jeannine tells me that these tea strainers sell almost as soon as they are posted, so if you see one and like it, snap it up quickly! If not, contact her directly to pre-order if possible. Dank u, Jeannine!


Events – Spring 2011

April 11, 2011

"Tulip Tree" by Magbug on Etsy

Spring has sprung! There are lots of local events coming up for Lilith’s Apothecary. If you are in the Philadelphia area, I do hope you’ll come to visit me. I often have things at craft shows that I don’t have posted on Etsy, such as a large selection of soaps, lotions, bath salts, and other goodies for your home spa.

April 17
Herbal Medicine Making @ City Planter
{Facebook Event Page}
Location: City Planter, 814 N 4th St, Philadelphia, PA
Time: 2:30 – 3:30 PM.
Come join City Planter’s expert staff to learn about how to grow and maintain common medicinal plants such as Sage, Thyme, Lavender, and Rosemary. And then join me in a discussion and demonstrations about kitchen medicines using these herbs, including tinctures, salves, infusions, and decoctions.
Cost: $10 — but you get two free take-away herbs! Register here {City Planter Events Page}

April 23
Fishtown Shad Fest
{http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fishtown-Shad-Fest/130484343685205}
{website}
A fabulous craft, food, and music event taking place in Penn Treaty Park on the Delaware River. This is always one of my favorite events of the year! Check out the full schedule of events in the latest version of http://www.gridphilly.com/. {May 2011}
Location: Penn Treaty Park, Fishtown
Time: 11am – 6pm

May 14 & 15
Art Star Craft Bazaar
{website}
Location: Penn’s Landing
Time: 11am – 6pm both days
An outdoor retail art/craft show that is organized & juried by Philadelphia’s Art Star Gallery & Boutique. Over 100 local & national artists have been chosen to set up shop & sell their wares along the beautiful waterfront @ Penn’s Landing. For this event, Lilith’s Apothecary will be partnering with Melo Studios, a lovely, local mom-owned company that specializes in beautiful hand-poured soy candles in vintage and upcycled containers. The cut glass goblet candles are especially gorgeous.

May 21
Trenton Avenue Arts Festival

Location: Trenton Avenue, East Kensington
Time: 12 – 5 pm
Another favorite! In connection with the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival is always a great group of local vendors with a wide range of crafts/art on display. Live Music, good food, beer from our favorite Philadelphia Brewing Company.

Can’t wait to see you there!

By the way….where can you find Lilith’s Apothecary products in Philadelphia?
Local Locations:
Affordable Skin Care Salon, Girard Avenue (facial & body care)
Greensgrow Farms (garden products, tea)
Contessa’s French Linens (soap) @ Reading Terminal Market
Herbiary (herbal facial care) @Reading Terminal Market

Coming Soon to:
Bee Natural (infused honey) @ Reading Terminal Market
Barefoot Doctor Community Acupuncture Clinic (east Girard Ave)

* Fine Art Photography image “Tulip Tree” by Magbug (Mary Anne Morgan Photography) on Etsy.com *


Use fresh mint for perfect skin care

March 8, 2011

mint leaves
It may be March, but I’m already thinking about mints. Fortunately, some of the herbs you may have brought inside for winter (or the herbs that may make early spring appearances) are wonderful for all manner of skin care concoctions. I don’t bring mint inside but as a vigorous perennial, it begins to show its minty face fairly early in the growing season.

Mint (mentha), whether one is referring to peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, pineapple mint, lemon balm, or any other variety, is a stimulating herb that is well known for its internal benefits (as a great digestive tonic and cure for indigestion, for example). But have you yet tried it externally in a skin care ritual?

For identification purposes, you can always recognize a mint by its square stem, though mints such as peppermint and spearmint are best known for their potent volatile, or essential, oils.  Mint’s delightful aroma makes it even more appealing to use as a skin care treatment, because it provides some aromatherapy, stimulating & clearing the mind. In skin care, mint is used as a deodorizer, cleanser, and skin soother. The toner below is particularly grand for oily/acne-prone skin because the citrus peels are marvelously anti-septic and ideal for further astringing the skin.

Rule of thumb: Dried mint 1 Tbsp = 3 Tbsp Fresh.

glass toner bottles

Citrus Mint Toner
3 Tbsp fresh mint leaves (lemon balm would be quite wonderful!)
peel from 1 orange
Peel from 1/2 lemon (Meyer lemons are really lovely)
Peel from 1/3 grapefruit
1 cup boiling water
1 Tbsp witch hazel extract or 1/2 cup witch hazel distillate.

1. Place mint leaves in a bowl and bruise with a spoon in order to release their volatile oils.
2. Add citrus peels.
3. Pour boiling water over leaves and peel and allow to cool completely
4. Strain to remove solids.
5. Add witch hazel extract (tincture) or distillate.
6. Pour into a clean container

*NOTE: as an unpreserved toner, this is essentially a “fresh” product that must be kept refrigerated and used up in a week or so. Don’t store it in your warm bathroom! Also makes a wonderfully refreshing facial mist for a pick-me-up any time of day.


Green Living: Real Milk is Raw Milk

March 3, 2011

Milk Bottles

Milk Bottles by Old Crow Black Cat (Etsy)

Guest Post from Sarah Outlaw

Raw milk is a passion of mine. In college I drank the cafeteria milk that came from the seemingly always full silver dispensers and had the worst digestive problems and stomach pains I had ever experienced. I did not realize what it was from until later. The milk I was drinking was powdered, skim milk and my body could not tolerate it. From that point on I had trouble with milk. At that time I was convinced that low-fat was the way to eat so I would buy low-fat or skim milk. I would be doubled over in pain within twenty minutes of drinking it. I began to avoid milk. When my first daughter was weaned and began drinking milk, she experienced stomach discomfort so I assumed she was lactose intolerant and changed her over to soy milk. After extensive research into unfermented soy I did not feel it was the healthiest option for our family so we stopped consuming it. I came across some information about grass-fed, organic raw milk and the health benefits of not pasteurizing or homogenizing it. We decided to give it a try. Much to my surprise, neither I nor my daughter had any digestive issues when drinking raw milk! We were hooked! When friends and family heard that we were drinking unpasteurized milk they were concerned for our safety. They were worried that we would get sick from all the bacteria in the milk. After all, the reason pasteurization exists is so that we will not get a food-borne illness. After showing them existing research that demonstrates that one is more likely to get sick from pasteurized milk than from raw, most of them were convinced that raw milk is the way to go.

Conventional milk goes through quite an extensive process to get it from farm to table. The cows are confined to crowded pens, fed grains and are rarely given grass to eat. They are routinely injected with hormones to increase milk supply and antibiotics so that they won’t get sick. These chemicals get into the milk and into the consumer. The processes of pasteurization and homogenization change the chemical makeup of the milk. Heating the milk destroys the enzymes making it more difficult to digest. Most people diagnosed lactose intolerant are in reality reacting to the denatured milk void of necessary enzymes. It also damages the proteins and diminishes vitamin potency. Synthetic vitamins and minerals are added to conventional milk to replace those destroyed. Homogenization is the process that mixes the milkfat into the milk so that it cannot separate and float to the top. To accomplish this, the milk is extruded through small holes with use of extreme pressure to break up the fat globules. It also undergoes additional heating and high temperatures with can further alter nutrition content. Milk in its raw state contains an enzyme called xanthine oxidase or XO. This enzyme is mutated during homogenization and is linked to heart disease.

Milk Jug : Art by Carey (Etsy)

In sharp contrast, grass-fed, organic cows are allowed to roam in large pastures with plenty of grass to eat and fresh air. If you have ever been to a family farm you know this to be true. There are fewer numbers of cows on these farms and they are taken care of properly with natural medicines and proper food. Cows are ruminants. They have four stomachs and chew their cud. They are meant to eat grass, not grain. When a cow eats too much grain, her body becomes more acidic which affects digestion and milk composition. They friendly bacteria in the gut are diminished thus making her more prone to illness.

Raw milk is a complete food and contains all eight amino acids. It is a healing food and has been known to help prevent or lessen the instance of allergies, asthma, and ear infections. There are also over sixty enzymes present in raw milk aiding digestion and protecting the milk from bacteria. Probiotics in the milk also prevent harmful pathogens. Conjugated linolic acid (known as CLA and also in breastmilk) is plentiful in raw milk. It is an Omega 6 fatty acid that aids in strengthening the immune system and lowering food allergy reactions. No vitamins or minerals need to be added to raw milk. The milk literally goes from the farm straight to your table. There is a recent study that suggests that raw milk from older breeds such as Jersey of Guernsey cows are more healthful because of something called the A1/A2 Factor. This is something that definitely warrants further study.

There are so many benefits to raw milk and so much more information about it that I suggest delving further into the subject using the resources listed at the end of this post. Where you get your milk is very important. Know your farmer and the farm. Know the breed of cow and what they are fed. It is wise to be informed so that you can make an educated decision about raw milk.

Real Milk www.realmilk.com

Raw Milk Facts http://www.raw-milk-facts.com

Raw Milk Advocacy and Resources http://www.raw-milk-facts.com

The Devil in the Milk http://thebovine.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/the-devil-in-the-milk-dr-thomas-cowan-on-how-a2-milk-is-the-answer-to-the-mystery-of-why-even-raw-milk-sometimes-does-not-seem-to-be-enough-of-an-improvement-over-store-bought/

Sarah Outlaw is a work-at-home wife and mother of 3 who is passionate about natural living, natural medicine, and real food. She is the owner of 90210 Organics, an Eco-boutique, and is a Certified Health Coach & Natural Living Consultant.

PAINTINGS/ IMAGES:

“Milk Bottles” by Old Crow Black Cat, on Etsy.
“Old Fashioned Milk Jug”, Art by Carey Pavlik on Etsy.


SPRING SALE! 10% off all orders

March 2, 2011

"Empty Nest" by Bucks County Frames on Etsy

"Empty Nest" by Bucks County Frames on Etsy

SPRING SAAAAALE!

I know it’s not really spring yet, but I’m ready for it to be! I’m celebrating the coming of Spring with this store-wide sale. Take 10% off your entire order using the Coupon Code: SPRING2011 in my Etsy Shop.

Shipping will not be included in that 10% off. Stop by! http://www.lilithsapothecary.etsy.com

Silk Kimono Body Whip

Silk Kimono Body Whip

Try out some of my most popular Body Formulations, including my luscious Silk Kimono Body Whip and the ever-popular Chamomile & Calendula Body Lotion, a wonderful formula for anyone suffering from dry skin, allergies, eczema, or for someone desiring a fragrance free, healing & safe formula for sensitive skin or children. I also have some lovely soaps available, including my Rosemary Mint soap and a Tea Rose & Sandalwood goat’s milk glycerin bath bar.

Rosemary infused Honey

Rosemary infused Honey (organic)

This is a great time to stock up on needed items to get you through to Spring, such as the Herbal Vapor Balm (a natural, healing version of “vick’s”), my Immuni-TEA herbal infusion, the airway-opening Herbal Facial Steam,and the last two bottles of Immune-boosting Herbal Syrup, a tasty syrup concoction of astragalus root, medicinal mushrooms, and ginger for great immune system stimulation.

NOTE: The lovely fine art photo above, “Empty Nest” can be found at Integrity Studio, or Bucks County Frames, on Etsy.


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