Sunday, September 18, 2016

Herbal First Aid Kit - Some ideas

I was working on an herbal first aid kit for a friend earlier this week and they asked if I could make a cheat sheet for the items included. So, I am writing this blog to do a quick materia medica on a few things you may want to consider having in your first aid kit.

When choosing what items will be in your personalized first aid kit consider the type of ailments that tend to slip into your life and those you spend a lot of time around. For example: Got allergies? Anti-histamines. Have children in your life? Lots of stuff for cuts and scrapes. Make sure you have something to cover those basic ailments.

Here are the items I put in this particular kit and some uses as well as basic medicine making information.

Ragweed - Ambrosia artemisiifolia
Ragweed is used as an herbal anti-histamine. Dosage can be on the higher end of things, particularly in first aid. Used internally. I would begin with a loading dose of 4-5 mls and would take every few hours until symptoms subside. Combines well with Eyebright - Euphrasia. I know it might seem odd as Ragweed causes allergies for many people. However it is the pollen in the respiratory system that causes these reactions. When you gather this plant to make a fresh plant tincture it is best to gather before the Ragweed begins to bloom. It can be tinctured fresh in 75% alcohol 1:2.

Oregon Grape Root - Mahonia species also species of Berberis can be used as well.
As my herbal mentor, 7Song, would say Oregon Grape Root is used to "KILL SHIT". It can be used when infections are present (viral, bacterial or protozoa) internal and external use. Take 4-5 mls every few hours while infection is present. If protozoa is suspected consider using Activated Charcoal as well (see below). I tinctured this root dried 1:4 50%.

White Willow - Salix species
Willow is Anti-inflammatory so can be helpful for a variety of ailments. Sprains and other injuries, headaches and arthritis are some examples where this might be a helpful plant. If asprin usually helps someones ailment this is a good plant to give a shot. Experiment with dosage here start with a few mls and if no difference is noted take some more 10 minutes later. All Salix species will work, the bark is tinctured fresh or dry. Fresh 1:2 75%, Dry 1:4 50%. Note that Willow can thin the blood a bit so there are some cases where it should not be used.

Activated Charcoal Powder
Activated Charcoal can be used externally and internally. When using externally you should make a poultice by combing the powder with a little bit of water and then applying. The charcoal adsorbs anything it comes in contact with so is a go to for staph infections externally and also internally for infections of the digestive system and food poisoning. When taking internally it is best to take it alone without food or medicines as it may reduce their effectiveness. Internal dosage recommendation is 1-2 teaspoons 2 times a day until symptoms subside. Note: your stool will be black if you take the charcoal do not be alarmed!
Digestive Aid Tincture - Blend of Ginger Glycerite - Zingiber officinale - and Medowsweet - Filipendula ulmaria (Chamomile - Matricaria chamomilla and Catnip - Nepeta cataria would also have worked nicely in this blend.) This blend can be used for upset stomachs and nausea. 

Echinacea - Echinacea purperea 
Echinacea is used as an immune stimulant. So is helpful anytime the immune system could use a boost. Take Echinacea in high doses every few hours throughout an illness for best effects. Can be combined with Elderberry and other immune support herbs. I like to make a combination tincture of root and flower. Echinacea is best tinctured in high proof alcohol. Long term use of Echinacea for individuals with auto-immune disease could be of concern as it stimulates and already overactive immune system.

Kava Kava - Piper methysticium 
Kava Kava is a skeletal muscle relaxant and also can help aid sleep. Kava can also be helpful in situations of anxiety. Some individuals find that it makes them a little hyper before making them relaxed so it might work best taken an hour before desired bed time. Tincture can be made fresh or dried. Dosage varies person to person for this particular plant.

Nettle - Urtica diocia 
Nettle is nutritive as well as diuretic. Can be helpful when edema is present. Could be a helpful plant to add into a formula for someone who is nutritional depleted as well. Some individuals find it helpful in allergy blends also. Tincture fresh 1:2 75%. 

I hope you got some good ideas for starting your first aid kit! More herbal first aid to come. Feel free to post in comments with any questions or if you have any particular plants you would like us to cover as far as first aid use goes.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

How to Make a Garlic - Mullein Flower Ear Oil for Ear Infections and Earaches

Earaches happen to all of us--perhaps that cold starts in your throat and ends up in your ears?  Or perhaps you have an ear infection.  These common ailments can be aided with a simple ear oil recipe. This is exactly the herbal oil you need to address ear infections. This post will cover how to make and use garlic-mullein flower ear oil!

Ingredients for Garlic-Mullein Flower Ear Oil

This herbal oil has three ingredients:
  • Fresh picked mullein flowers (see photo of a part of a stalk on the left); a good sized handful
  • Fresh garlic - 3-4 cloves
  • Organic olive oil - approx 1/2 cup
Beyond that, you will need:
  • A double boiler
  • A strainer
  • A glass jar
  • Jars for storage

Harvesting Mullein

The key ingredient in this ear oil is mullein flowers, from a common mullein plant. Mullein plants spend their first year in a basal rosette of soft, fuzzy leaves and send up a tall flower stalk that produces beautiful yellow flowers in their second year. Each day during the flowering season (in this part of the country, July to late August) the mullein flowers bloom over a long period of time, slowly working their way up the stalk, day after day.

To effectively harvest them, you have two options.  Once is to visit a place where there are lots of mullein plants growing, and harvest the open flowers and freshly fallen flowers from a number of plants.  The second way is to visit a few plants over a period of days.  If you put the flowers in the fridge in a bag with a piece of wet paper towel, they will keep good for up to a week while you harvest each day.

Step by Step Instructions

1. Gather your ingredients (as listed above).  Use the freshest garlic possible.  You can have a little bit of green on the mullein flowers (like I do in this photo). Garble your mullein flowers (that is, check to make sure you have only mullein flowers and that you don't have any bugs--let the bugs gently back outside).

2.  Peel and chop your garlic up finely.

3.  Add your garlic, mullein flowers, and olive oil to a double boiler and coat in oil.  Usually, for a small amount (like I'm doing today) you might need about 1/2 cup of oil.

4. The mullein flowers are quite delicate.  You don't want to cook them or fry them, so keep your heat on low.  Because this is a wet material operation (and we don't want water in our oil) don't add a lid (then the steam can evaporate off).

 I typically heat this oil for 24-48 hours.

The photo below is at the end of my infused oil preparation--you will note that the garlic has not browned and the mullein flowers have browned only slightly, but are still intact and not crispy.  If they get crispy, you've used too much oil. 

5. Pour off your oil through a strainer and into a clear vessel.  In this case, I'm using a wine glass.  You want something that you will be able to see clearly to the bottom because, after it settles, you are going to check to see if there are any particles and/or water droplets in the bottom.

6.  Let the infused oil sit overnight, or a minimum of 8 hours.  This will give it plenty of time to settle and you can then check to see if you see plant particles and/or little bubbles on the bottom (those are water droplets).  Both water droplets and plant particles will make your oil go rancid quickly so you want to pour those things off before bottling.

7.  I strained my oil (avoiding the last little bit to avoid several small water bubbles) into small jars.  These will keep for at least a year on the shelf.

Using your Ear Oil

If you start to feel an earache coming on of any variety, you can use this ear oil.  Warm the oil (I use a double boiler for this, putting it in some hot water while it is still in the jar); make sure the oil is only warm, and not too hot.  Gently tilt the head to the side, and using a dropper, put 1-2 drops of ear oil in the ear, slowly and carefully.   It is much easier if you get someone else to do this for you! Use the oil twice a day in both ears.

Please note that this should not be used for swimmer's ear (when water is stuck in the ear) nor if you have a perforated ear drum.