Archives

Spring Allergies – UGH

I really dislike it! I want to get busy outside and get things cleaned inside, but I am stuck holding a tissue box in one hand and holding a tissue to my nose with the other! Not to mention clogged and itchy ears, voraciously itchy throat and intensely bothersome itchy, watery eyes! However there is a relief, and it is not found packaged in a big pharma bottle! Or prescribed by a doctor. Before we get to the allergy helps, lets learn what is going on to cause allergies in the first place.

We hear a lot about histamines and rightly so! These chemical substances are the key star player in what we know as allergies and allergic reactions. So just what exactly are histamines anyway? And how do they cause all this trouble?

First note that the immune system is involved in recognizing “invaders”, seeking them out to destroy them, keeping our internal environment healthy and functioning at its best. Histamines are a tiny fraction of the immune response inside the body. They are involved in 23 known different physiological functions! We have all had to deal with the affects of histamines at one time or another. The stuffy nose that accompanies the common cold, or the swelling of a banged knee, also the red soreness form a cut on the hand. These all begin with histamines. They are pretty powerful chemicals!

Histamine actions:
Histamines seek out certain receptor cites on cells in different areas of the body! They are produced in response to a “foreign” substance, such as pathogens (germs, bacteria). Sometimes pollen or insect venom is mistaken by the immune system as an invading pathogen.The histamine receptor types have been categorized: H1, H2, H3, and H4.
H1 Receptor:
Are specific to smooth muscles on vascular endothelial cells, in the heart, and in CNS (Central Nervous System). Anti-histamines act on these receptor cites. ( anti-allergy drugs)

H2 receptor:
Found in smooth muscle of stomach – the gastric parietal cells involved in acidity of the stomach.

h3 Receptor:
Found in the central nervous system and somewhat in the PNS (Peripheral Nervous System). They regulate the amount of histamine and other chemical neurotransmitters. They are thought to play a role in satiety.

H4 Receptor:
Located in bone Marrow and white blood cells – regulates neutrophils (most abundant of the white blood cells – a “first responder” of inflammatory cells that move to an area of injury. You best know it as the yellowish/whitish color of pus.) released from the bone marrow.

Functions of histamines:
1. Is a chemical neurotransmitter ( a neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that helps signals pass between 2 neurons in the nervous system. This happens countless times in succession between countless neurons. But the end result of all this transmitting activity is the specific reactions specific to a certain type of neurotransmitter that is passed.)
2. Seek out certain receptor cites in different areas of the body
3. Cause inflammation by making smooth muscles ( as found inside sinuses) to constrict and relax letting the blood vessels enlarge. This is vasodilation.
4. Induces the secretion of fluid at the site of infection on injury-swelling! Hello runny nose!
5. Aids in the stimulation of certain macrophages and the helper T-cell responses. (helping the immune system with production of antibodies, ironic, huh?)
6. Helps induce the production of stomach acid.
7. Has a role in sleep/wake-up cycle, helping our bodies to be awake and alert. This is why the amount of histamine is closely regulated inside the body and the amounts meticulously kept
in balance.

Histamines cause small blood vessels to enlarge and the smooth muscles to constrict- such as in our airways and digestive tract. Can also cause hives known as a allergic response.
How an allergic response happens:
1. An allergen (dust, pollen, venom of bees, etc.) is introduced to the internal environment and is attracted to the lymphocyte, or B-cell.
2. Antibodies called immunoglobulin E (or IgE) are made and are attached to mast cells- mast cells have histamines.
3. When the foreign protein allergen is again introduced internally to the waiting mast cells with their  antibodies (IeG), the antibodies attract the protein part of the “invader” and a reaction happens
that destroys the mast cells.
4. Histamine is one element released from the destroyed mast cells. In a situation where a harmful bacteria or virus is the offender, great, all is going according to design and, health is regained. But when the whole reaction happens because “pollen” is mistaken as harmful, bad symptoms we all hate are cascaded on an person who is allergic, such as myself!  These can include:
-itching: body, eyes, ears, nose
-running sinuses
-hives
-sneezing
-fever
-nausea/vomiting
-diarrhea
-swelling
-asthma
-inflammation
-anaphylactic shock: cell fluids being deposited into the tissue of the throat so fast, swelling to the degree of suffocation!

 Four types of allergens:
1. Injectants- injected through the skin by stings
2. Contactants- irritants to the skin by detergents, plants (poison ivy), cosmetics and so on
3. Inhalants- enter when we breathe, things such as pollen, dust, pet dander
4. Ingestants- food allergies, main ones being peanuts, milk, eggs.
All thanks to an overzealous immune response and histamines!

Don’t you feel like an expert on histamines now? So you are now asking, what can I do to relieve this whole mishap in the Spring, Summer, and Fall? One word, LOVE! No, just kidding, love cures a lot of things and may help, but lets get real here…

Local Bee Pollen:
Begin taking in January or February, before any plants are Springing back and growing again. It must be local so it contains the pollen that you will be subjected to when the plants get in gear and the wind blows in you the face. Ask around and locate a local bee keeper. Orchards sometimes carry local bee products.

Stinging Nettle for Allergies?
Internally has been used for hundreds of years for painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. The tea is a perfect, easy way to take stinging nettle. It’s an herb noted for its anti-histamine effect. An infusion is easy to make. Dr. James Duke recommends nettles for allergies, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, baldness, bladder infection, bronchitis, bursitis, cough, gingivitis, gout, hives, kidney stones, laryngitis, MS, PMS, enlarged prostate (roots), and tendonitis. The miracle of nettles is provided by readily assimilable  calcium, silica, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, iodine, silicon, sulfur, chlorophyll,l tannin, Vitamin C, beta carotene,  B complex vitamins, and amino acids (protein).  Quite a complete list for nutrition I would say!!

Dr. Christopher has a capsule called ImmuCalm.  It contains marshmallow root and astragalus. These two herbs calm the immune system while supporting and strengthening it at the same time, I know it sounds weird, but that’s the way of herbs.  I have used them with great success.  You can order them at http://www.mynaturalmarket.com.

Love life and breathe deep,
Angela

Advertisements

Another Injury . . .

Nathan, my youngest son, came home with this.  He had an altercation with a sawzall and by the time he got home his finger was stiff, sore, and throbbing.

So I go out to the garden head straight to the comfrey patch to gather some leaves.

I gathered some good-looking leaves, some small and some medium-sized.

I place them in the blender to give them a quick chop, someday I’ll get a fancy food processor:).

Next, I had to use a pestle and mortar to finish macerating the leaves into a paste-like consistency.

I spooned some of this mixture onto some cheesecloth, which was placed on top of some plastic wrap.

A close-up

This was wrapped around his finger, around the hand, and then taped in place, he loved this, . . . . not really.

He just sat at the table for a long time . . . .don’t ya just love the look only a teenager can give you?

Comfrey is a go-to herb for any external wound, bruise, or laceration.  I have comfrey fresh, in an ointment, in a mucilage, and dried.  It is stupendous, I love it.  Everyone should have some on hand for first-aid.

Love life & breathe deep,

Angela

Yarrow

Yarrow   Achilles millefolium

Yarrow

Parts used:  all aerial parts

Yarrow was used and valued by ancient Greeks.  The Latin name Achilles is from the legend of the same name.  He used it on his soldiers, calling it “military weed”.  Millifolium is Latin for “a thousand leaves”.  The leaves of yarrow are very fine and feathery.

Achillea millefolium - leaves (scan)

Medicinal Actions of Yarrow:  diaphoretic, hypotensive, astringent, diuretic, antiseptic, stimulant, emmengogue, vulnerary, anti-catarrhal, hepatic

Some plant constituents yarrow contains:  volatile oils, flavonoids, tannins, bitter alkaloid, potassium, calcium, selenium, silicon, phosphorous, lysine, beta-carotine, iron, inulin.

Historical Uses:   Hot Infusion – for colds, flu combine with peppermint , elder flowers, and/or boneset, diarrhea, hemorrhage of lungs and bowel, eruptive skin diseases, indigestion, gastritis, colitis, tonic to nerves, hypertension with hawthorn, lime blossom, and mistletoe, suppressed urine, colic, jaundice, typhoid fever, diabetes.

Yarrow can be used dried or fresh to make a tea.  An ointment can also be made with yarrow and used for old and new wounds, burns, ulcers, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and eczema.  Fresh leaves will staunch bleeding, just crush them and make a quick poultice.

Yarrow tea drunk as hot as can be tolerated is super for cleansing out toxins via the skin, our largest organ.  We have upwards of 2 million sweat glands and when they are functioning correctly they can eliminate putrid mucusy matter fast.

My sister was having trouble with her monthly cycle after going off the “pill”, and the first herb we used was yarrow.  She drunk about 2 cups every morning on her way to work.  By the time she got there , her drive was about 30 minutes, she had sweat beads on her face!  She did this for 2 weeks, and then we switched to different teas to help her get back to normal.  It was not long before she was expecting her first baby.    

Yarrow is one of my favorite teas to employ for any ailment due to its cleansing and toning properties.  It tastes bitter, but that is one of the attributes that makes it medicinal.   Yarrow is very easy to grow and you can harvest much of it to dry for later use.  I have actually moved my yarrow patch 3 times and it still grows beautifully.

So, now you have learned about a great medicinal herb and how to use it.  Hope this inspires you to maybe research it some more and try it out.

Love life & breathe deep,

Angela

Fomentations

This post is all about fomentations, what they are and how to utilize them in healing the body. If you know what an infusion or a decoction is, than understanding what a fomentation is will be simple.  A fomentation is an application using a natural fiber cloth dipped in a hot herbal tea. 

A bottle of castor oil sitting on the window s...

Other medicinal substances could be applied utilizing this method.  Hot apple cider vinegar, cayenne, water, herbal oils, essential oils, freshly prepared juices (carrot, onion, garlic), castor oil, olive oil, or a combination of some of these will affect relief and healing.

To prepare a fomentation heat up your tea or chosen medium, soak up a cloth until saturated(I use cloth diapers or old 100% cotton socks cut up), wring out most of the moisture, apply to affected area as hot as can be tolerated, cover with plastic wrap or an oiled cloth to prevent seepage and keep the wetness contained, and put a heat source over to keep warm.  In cases of sore muscles or sprains great help is attained by alternating the hot pack with a cold pack.  Apply the fomentation and plastic wrap, apply heat for 7 minutes or so then switch to cold for 4  minutes, and back to hot for 7.  The times are not so important as the actual alternating of the hot and cold.  Usually the affected person will know when to change because it does not feel so good after a bit.  This really moves the blood in and out of the affected area, speeding up healing. 

The heat can be supplied with a heating pad or hot water bottle, and the cold pack by a bag of crushed ice or a bag of frozen vegetables.

“Why use a fomentation,” you ask? 

A fomentation provides heat, moisture, pain relief,  nutrition, and cleansing. It also relaxes strained and stressed tissues, and reduces inflammation.

It is super great for many conditions:

Sore muscles, aches, pains, swellings, boils, sprains, broken bones, constipation of the liver, constipation of the bowel, constipated capillaries, varicose veins, chest congestion, glandular swellings, arthritis, rheumatism, muscle spasms, sore joints, tumors, cancers, skin conditions.

Couple of  things,

  • A careful study is required to ascertain which herbs, oils, juices, etc. to use. 
  • Never let the cloth dry out completly, always soak the cloth again before it gets too dry.

Examples:

  1. Miranda had a swelling under her jaw bone on one side, I was quite suspicious it might be mumps.  We went to the doctor and learned she had an infection, but thank goodness no mumps.  I made a tea with 3 parts mullein and 1 part lobelia, made a fomentation, applied it to her neck,  and wrapped it with plastic wrap. The left over tea, she drank.  Off to bed for her and the next morning, this was repeated.   At the same time her diet consisted mostly of fresh juiced fruits and veges, lots of tea and distilled water.   It took one 24 hour period for the swelling to completely disappear, but we kept up this regimen and she was back to her normal schedule in 3 days. 
  2. While at a reunion that was held at a campground this summer, a small 8 year-old had a severe constipated bowel.  Pour thing was in so much pain and the tears coming out of her sweet eyes was quite disconcerting.  We made a castor oil fomentation and applied hot and cold packs for about 3 hours.  She drank apple juice every 10 minutes, followed by water.  She went to sleep and the next morning was greatly relieved.  The oil had done its job loosening and dissolving all the “stuff” and helped it along its way. The extra water and apple juice helped to hydrate her.

As you can see fomentations are a superb way to get the  medicinal qualities of a substance into the system via our largest organ – the skin.  Even unconscious people can be helped using this method of application.  Just using a hot and cold pack alternately will help drastically if that’s all you have.  Just research what herbs, juices, oils etc.  have the actions you are looking for, and go to work!!

If you choose essential oils, mix 5 – 10 drops with a carrier oil such as olive or almond oil, as most of them will irritate the skin.  Cayenne pepper will allay pain and bring needed blood to the area, just use it with a carrier as oatmeal, or rub the area with olive oil first.  Remove cayenne after a few minutes, it will sting if left too long.  Ask my husband:) It’s not unbearable just uncomfortable.

 I use this method often and have always had great success.  It is simple and effective, give it a try.

 Love life & breathe deep,

Angela

A Tea For Wendell

Wendell came home not feeling too good, so I made him some tea.  He said he felt like a cold was coming on, so here is what I used: Peppermint, elder flowers, and red clover.  Peppermint and elder flowers are a standard for colds and flu.  Peppermint is a stimulant that wakes up the cells, a febrifuge so it helps with fevers, a sedative and nervine to help relax and support tissue function.  Elder flowers are a great addition to any cold remedy, it is diaphoretic, expectorant, diuretic, and decongestant.  Red Clover is an alterative herb.  Alterative herbs alter the existing nutritive and excretory processes and gradually restore normal body functions.  They clean the blood, eliminative tissues, and organs.  Sometimes they are called “blood sweeteners”.  I refer to them as blood purifiers.  Red Clover is one of the best.

In a stainless steel saucepan (could use glass also, never aluminum!!!) I poured some distilled water and brought it to a good simmer and removed it from the heat.  I added the red clover right to the hot water first.

I then added the elder flowers.  It looks like more than it is, it spread out.

Last I added the peppermint.  I did this because it is the most volatile and loses its oils quickly when it hits the hot water.  You will notice I do not give measurements for the herbs.  This is because I don’t measure.  When asked how much I usually give the standard of 1-2 tsps. per cup of water.  I use more than that.  You make it to the desired strength you prefer.

I slapped on the saucepan lid and let it steep.  You can see the steam collecting on the lid already.

I let this steep for 15 minutes.

I used a small strainer and poured Wendell a cup of tea.  Drying herbs correctly captures their essence, phytochemicals, and nutrients.  You can see the colors as they were.

Lastly I add some honey.  I buy honey from a local bee-keeper.  It is soooo tasty and sweet.  I never use sugar in herbal tea.  Sugar is a nutritional negative and that is not what we want when fighting an illness.

These herbs are easy to find and I think you should get some today.  Winter is coming with its colds, runny noses and what not. So the next time someone says, “I don’t feel good”, make them some herbal tea.  Wendell drank all the tea I made and he was feeling pretty good the next day.  Hurrah for herbs!!

Love life & breathe deep,

Angela

Garlic

As a Master Herbalist I am asked often what is good for this or that.  There are some herbs that I am always listing off.  One of those is garlic.  It is surprising to me that most people don’t know that before big pharmaceutical companies rolled out their drugs, garlic was used to treat infection.  It was, and is still extremely effective.  Garlic is ubiquitous to all civilized areas as a food and medicine.  It is mentioned  in written records as long ago as people have been on the earth.  It is believed to originate in South Central Asia and it grows wild in Italy and Southern Europe. Herbalists employ garlic in bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, and catarrhal conditions.

Here is the rundown on Garlic:

Garlic             Allium sativum             part used: fresh bulbs

Garlic contains the phytochemical alliin, and when the tissue of the garlic bulb is crushed it is converted into allicin.  This is where the familiar odor of garlic comes from, the allicin.  This allicin is a main component of the volatile essential oil that makes garlic so powerful as a medicine.  Allicin has been shown to lower cholesterol and Lower Density lipoprotein (LDL), reduce blood clots, and it is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. 

Garlic also has: beta carotene, caffeic acid, quercetin, rutin, saponin, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, and C.

The actions of garlic are: antiseptic, antimicrobial, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic, antiviral, antiparasitic, antifungal, diaphoretic, hypertensive, anthelmintic, expectorant, pectoral, rubefacient, stimulant, tonic, vulnerary, and cholagogue.

Garlic has an affinity for the respiratory area and diffuses throughout the entire system quickly detoxifing body tissues.  It has a stimulating effect on the gastric juices helping digestion and infection in this area. Garlic is a specific antibiotic, meaning it targets pathogens, and it actually  helps build the friendly flora in the gut. Pharma drugs target all and every bacteria in the system, it being non-specific. Four average size cloves of garlic is equal to 1 adult dose of penicillin. It is effective against Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Typhoid, Diphtheria, Cholera, Tuberculous, Tetanus, Rheumatic bacteria, and others. It is tonic to the nervous system and has been proven to help with cancer. Garlic has 200 sulfur compounds making it a free radical scavenger.

Garlic was employed in WW I and WW II, and was wonderfully successful in treating pus, bacterial, and viral conditions.  It is referred to as “Russian Penicillin” because the oil is a popular remedy used in Russia.

Garlic is a wonderful medicine that should be in every medicine cabinet in every home.  I am never without it.  I make garlic oil and have fresh cloves on hand not only for cooking, but for illness as well.  It may stink up the place, but you will be much improved in health for the eating of it!

Uses of garlic:  any infection, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, earache, cancers, abscesses, hay fever, typhoid, cystitis, diphtheria, ringworm, athletes foot, threadworms, coughs, tuberculosis, colds, flu, asthma, whooping-cough, croup, colitis, diarrhea, dysentery, high cholesterol, strep throat, tonsilitis, boils, bronchitis, sciatica, flatulence, dizziness, heart weakness, swolen glands, pimples, smallpox, indigestion, headaches, chills, bladder weakness, eczema, cramps, dropsy.

When you feel a cold coming on, just eat 2 or 3 cloves three times per day, along with distilled water, light foods, and rest.  This dose is average, you can certainly eat more. Some eat this amount every day as a preventative measure against cancer, heart disease, bowel complaints, and stroke. 

To make garlic oil, crush several cloves of garlic and place in a glass jar, cover by 1 inch of olive oil, put the lid on, label and date it.  Shake the jar several times each day for 3 days.  After three days strain, bottle, label and date it.  I use this in the ear for ear infections (as long as the ear drum has not ruptured), and topically for skin infections, fungal infections, nerve pain, and combined with mullein oil for chest congestion.

I hope no one will be ill . . . but just in case, get some healing, detoxifing, stimulating garlic today!! 🙂

Love life & breathe deep,

Angela

Herbal Fundamentals

Infusions and decoctions – the basic quintessential herbal preparations.

  • What is an infusion and decoction?  Well, an infusion is a fluid extraction using the soft parts of the plants.  They can be fresh or dried, cut, and sifted leaves, flowers, berries, and stems.  A decoction is a fluid extraction using the hard parts of the plants – roots, root barks, barks, inner bark, seeds, or twigs.  To be succinct, you are making a tea, ha!
Some visual examples of herbs in their dry state.
  • How do ya make a tea? For the fresh or dried, cut, and sifted leaves, flowers, berries, and stems you make an infusion.  You bring some distilled water to a simmer and pour over the herb or herbs, cover and let steep for 10 – 15 minutes.  You can use some of the gadgets for tea making such as a tea ball with any cup, tea bag with any cup, or use a tea-pot! I use a saucepan because  I generally prepare a good amount at a time. For a decoction, place your  barks, seeds, roots, or twigs in a glass or stainless steel saucepan, pour distilled water over and bring to a slow simmer and simmer for 15 minutes.  How much distilled water and herbage do you use?  Ok, pay close attention: it is up to you.  This question is answered by how strong  you like your tea and how much are you wanting to make?  Try making some and then adjust to suit your pallets, yes it’s that simple.
A cool teapot from http://www.mountainroseherbs.com
Handy muslin tea bags with drawstrings and a useful tea ball.
  • You will hear, is “hear” the right word or should I say “read”?, Hmm, but I digress, I will instruct you to use steam distilled water in all your herbal preparations.  Why you ask?  Because steam distilled water is a pure “hungry” water and it pulls the maximum level of medicinal properties and constituents out of the herbs.
Purchase distilled water at any grocer.
  • I always sweeten my tea with honey I bought from a local bee keeper. MmmmMmmm.  Try making your own tea today, the making of a tea is therapeutic in and of itself!