Posts Tagged ‘Herbal Infusions’

Personal FAQ’s

This set of questions comes in frequently enough from blog readers, clients and friends that I’ve decided just to address them all here, even though they’re more personal.

How old are you?

I’ll be 43 in May 2016. Yes, I look young for my age. It’s partly my high raw, extremely fresh (often just harvested) and nutrient dense vegetarian diet, partly genes, partly keeping my skin moisturized (I switch among a variety of natural things depending on season), and largely related to lifestyle. When you live more authentically, you look and feel a lot younger.

Is that your natural hair color?

Yes, mostly. I’ve used henna for about 10 years, but not to alter the color of my hair. I use it to coat the knotty strands and make them far lower maintenance, requiring no conditioner and only minimal hair washes per week. I wrote a popular post on all things henna back in 2009 when people also kept asking about my crazy hair. The day of and day after putting a henna mud pie on my head, my hair’s quite a lot redder than normal, but after that initial color burst, the henna color has very little difference from my natural hair color. I just don’t like to brush or wash my hair much, and without henna, those witchy knots get totally out of control with winter scarves!

What do you use for dental care?

Some of you might remember that I used to have lots of trouble with my teeth due to demineralization, low vitamin D, and a spine injury that compromised my digestive nerves, thereby keeping my body from fully extracting nutrients from my food. It was quite the journey to recover and avoid double digit root canals, but I not only avoided the root canals, I popped out most of my fillings and regrew enamel. A huge part of that process included exorcising someone else’s projected emotional issues that had lodged in my teeth. I won’t go into details here, because they’re private, but beware covert hypnosis by someone with bad teeth!! On the physical level, I found the following things very helpful:

I make my own version of ORAMD, with almond oil, peppermint oil and spearmint oil in whatever concentrations I intuit I need. I’m sure the ORAMD is more standardized, and it does work well. I just got tired of buying little bottles for more money than I would spend if I used bulk items to mix and match. Your mileage may vary. Please don’t ask me to recommend oils companies, as I know people who sell from a variety of lines and don’t wish to show favoritism. I’ve also used NOW oils from health food stores, and my gums and teeth responded well, although I’m pretty sure NOW is not normally considered food or pharmaceutical  grade.

I drink raw goat milk and eat raw goat milk cheese. It’s illegal to sell raw milk in Indiana outside of a herd share, unless you’re selling it for animal use. I have a very hungry pet tooth! Actually, I need to find a new supplier, as mine is selling their goats and packing up the business and the herd share here is full. Raw cow milk did not heal my teeth. It relieved pain and stopped the progression of cavities, but not until I switched to raw goat milk did my fillings pop out and enamel regrow. For a protocol about using diet to heal your teeth, I highly recommend Ramiel Nagel’s book, “Cure Tooth Decay.” You probably won’t want to try everything in there (fish head soup and organ meats anyone?!), but the book also gives a list of the worst tooth offenders, so you can at least avoid those or modify how you prepare them. It includes a lot of recipes for tooth healing, plus information on healing the gut, as well.

I go through periods in which I drink a lot of herbal infusions, especially nettles and oat straw. I find horsetail gaggable, but if i want really shiny hair or super hard teeth, I will occasionally chug down a horsetail infusion. You can find out about infusions here and here.

To fix my underlying back issue, I found several things extremely helpful:

the BioMat (I use this every day, and I prefer the Mini, since you can move it around without much effort)

Dr. John Sarno’s book, “Healing Back Pain”

the DVD, “Yoga for Scoliosis”

and, much more recently, Dr. Eric Goodman’s “The Foundation Exercises”

I’ve also found as a general rule that the more time I spend in the garden and the less time I spend sitting at a computer, the healthier my back feels. I have hauled literally 10’s of thousands of pounds of wood mulch, compost, leaves, trees and more during the past three years. When I send my former chiropractor from Madison (also a dear friend) photos of our yard, she cannot believe — literally cannot believe — my back allowed me to do any of this, as she saw the shocking spinal x-rays from 2011. Even then, she and her chiropractor hubby thought they must have mixed up the x-rays, because by all accounts, I should not have been able to walk, let alone hike up mountains.

Due to an accident in 2011 that re-aggravated the spine injury from my 1998 car accident, when I first went to my chiropractor friends, I was in severe, chronic, crumple-up-and-silently-scream pain. Since implementing the things mentioned above, my back remains pain free most of the time. I’ve not seen a chiropractor since leaving Madison, even though I used to go two or three times per week. Now, on the rare occasion I overdo something, it just takes a few minutes on the BioMat to recalibrate, or else asking myself what I’m feeling pressured to do that’s off path for me. Once I “realign,” the back pain disappears.

Can I have your recipe for ____?

I don’t generally follow recipes — or, rather, I often follow four or more at a time, adjusting them to my own needs, desires and ingredients. I don’t often write things down while in the kitchen, because I’m usually making a horrific mess! That said, here are some recipes and general tips:

Goji Dandelion Red Lentil Curry

A quasi-recipe, plus link, for raw vegan holiday feast fare

Summer squash bundt cake

Seer’s Tea (which also helps balance female hormones)

gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free Yule Log

The Five Flavors Principle:

One secret to delicious soups, curries, sauces, pate’s, and stir fries is what David and I call the “Five Flavors Principle.” We add in whatever ingredients for the base, but then we put in at least a small amount of each of the five flavors — salty, sweet, bitter, pungent, and sour. We don’t use refined sugar or salt, so the sweet might be a base of pumpkin/squash/sweet potato, a little fruit like goji berries, a pinch of birch sweetener, honey, blackstrap molasses or maple syrup. Just a little usually does it for those last ones. For salt, we use Real Salt, Himalayan sea salt, miso, wheat free tamari, kombu (a sea vegetable that makes beans more digestible), or homemade pickle juice. We eat loads and loads of dark leafy greens, which usually take care of the bitter flavor. Many herbs also fit that category and add extra health benefits. For pungent, we use homegrown garlic or onions. For sour, we often use a splash of apple cider vinegar, but depending on the dish, sour could also include lemon or lime juice.

For non-Asian savory soups or dishes, often add some cooking sherry for depth of flavor. We can’t decide what category sherry goes into, as it covers a wide range of tastes. The cooking process removes the alcohol.

There’s a lot of wiggle room with the Five Flavors Principle, and it really gets you thinking about the base flavors of your ingredients. David is “The King of Soups,” so even if I make the entire meal, he usually tinkers with the final flavors during the last few moments of cooking. I honestly don’t know exact proportions even when I do the tinkering, because for me, cooking is a highly intuitive process. When you incorporate the five flavors, your food not only tastes better due to the balance of explosions on your tongue, but you end up getting trace vitamins and minerals that your body needs and therefore responds with a feeling of immense satisfaction.

What’s in your vegan alfredo sauce?

White scallop squash (peeled zucchini or yellow squash might also work, but we love the white scallop squash)

extra virgin organic olive oil

nutritional yeast

garlic

a bit of hot water to aid blending of the above in a Vitamix or other highspeed blender

Amounts really do vary, so taste test as you go.

Add to a pot and bring to a slow boil, continue to taste test for creaminess and add more nutritional yeast if needed. I usually soak dried porcini mushrooms and use peas from our garden, adding those towards the end, along with a splash or more of sherry and just one splash of wheat free tamari. We salt and pepper to taste at the table and garnish the sauce with chopped fresh parsley and chives, served over quinoa pasta (elbows or penne). It is super yum, and don’t be shy with the garlic!

How long have you been gardening?

I had a small garden for two years in Madison, plus some indoor herbs both winters in a sun room there. I began working on our current Goshen, Indiana garden in April 2013. It’s now a mini-farm with raised beds to deal with juglone (from former black walnut trees) poisoned soil, and planted in a permaculture design that incorporates many, many fruit and nut trees, bee and butterfly friendly flowers, herbs, and annual and perennial vegetables. Late this summer, I also took over the smaller yard (and house) next door. I planted around 1000 spring bulbs this fall, so the whole place should be rockin’ next spring!

Although I’ve had three summers here, I do my best to garden in some form year round. I always grow some kind of herbs in winter, along with cuttings of tender perennial veggies that need to winter indoors. This year, I’ve got a two foot long window box of lettuce sprouts, which I hope will keep us in fresh lettuce all winter, provided we get enough light in our southern window. I’ve also got various hoop houses and row covers outside with chard, kale, lettuce, and spinach. If we have our typically frigid Northern Indiana winter, we won’t get much production out of those in January, February and March, but one of the new raised beds sits in front of the south facing wall of the house next door. I hope some heat bounces back to the covered bed to keep us in spinach most of the winter. I do have indoor grow lights, but the laundry room of the new house has not yet made its transition into gardening prep room.

Do you ever teach gardening classes?

I haven’t yet, but I plan to do so starting next spring or summer (2016). If all goes well, I will complete my permaculture design course this winter, and I’m also looking into herbalist certification. I apprenticed with an herbalist back in 2001-2002 and have taken numerous classes, plus private study; however, I’m not certified to teach or consult. I hope to remedy that soon, as people keep expressing interest in herbs, gardening and permaculture. I’d love to share more tips and instruction, as truly, working with plants and trees is one of the most amazing ways to transform your life and our collective world.

Kathleen Wildwood ~ Long Herbal Infusions: Why Drink Nourishing Long Herbal Infusions?

This is a timely post from the lovely Kathleen Wildwood of The Wildwood Institute. David and I had the pleasure of attending many of her herb walks, classes and two wild edibles dinners hosted by Kathleen when we lived in Madison. I was just thinking about making a nettle infusion when her email came through offering permission to post her new article.

Long Herbal Infusions

Why Drink Nourishing Long Herbal Infusions? 

By Kathleen R. Wildwood, © 2015

          During the winter, people ask me what they can do to make up for the generous consumption of sweets, beer and other comfort foods and drinks that people use to keep up their spirits in the dark of the year. Though you cannot make up for the impact of these foods on your metabolism, you can drink nourishing long herbal infusions to help replace the nutrients lost, reduce cravings for less healthy beverages and foods, and help heal all kinds of health issues all the year round.

          Nourishing long herbal infusions provide large quantities of calcium and other minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids and proteins in their most natural form.They also contain anti-cancer phytochemicals and antioxidants, as well as unique combinations of specific nutrients for building healthy bones, supporting the immune system, calming the nerves, stabilizing blood sugar, improving digestion and more, depending on the herb(s) you choose. They are much more effective than nutritional supplements due to their superior absorbability. They are also safer and significantly less expensive!

          I have seen nourishing long herbal infusions, taken over time, heal the following health problems: osteoporosis, anxiety, adrenal burnout, eczema, diabetes, sinus problems, severe allergies, hormonal difficulties, infertility, joint pain, high blood pressure, and more. Please note that there are other herbal preparations that can be used to heal some of these conditions and that the choice of herb matters. However, all nourishing long infusions will provide large amounts of nutrition that cannot be obtained from teas or tinctures.

Working with people as a practitioner over the last several decades, I have noticed that there is no single other food or beverage which can have such a powerful impact on improving health in everyday life, no matter what your health issues are. Drinking long herbal infusions helps people to have more energy and resilience during stressful times. People sleep better because they have enough nutrients to soothe and support their nervous system. Many a time I’ve had a client or student tell me that when they begin to drink nourishing long herbal infusions on a regular basis, their cravings for unhealthy beverages such as soda are reduced or eliminated. I have found that this approach of adding nutrition first, rather than cutting out all the “bad” foods, accomplishes the goal of greater health without as much trauma and struggle. Often, the craving for “bad” foods (usually stimulants and sedatives) occurs because the body is desperate to function without the nutrition it needs. Give it the nutrition, it doesn’t need the stimulants/sedatives as much.

          Why a long infusion, as opposed to a tea? Because you can get certain nutrients out of a dried plant only after soaking it in hot water for a long time. Scientific studies have shown that it takes at least four hours for a significant amount of minerals to extract into the water, and longer (up to eight hours) for roots, which are tougher and take longer to release their medicinal constituents into the water. If you make a cup of nettle tea (1-2 teaspoons steeped in hot water for ten minutes), you would get about 5-10 mg of calcium, but if you make a cup of nettle long infusion (1 oz. steeped in 1 quart hot water for a minimum of four hours), you will get over 200 mg of calcium per cup. And not just the calcium, but all the nutritional co-factors necessary to effectively assimilate calcium, because calcium by itself is not well utilized by the body.

          Not all herbs lend themselves to a useful preparation as a long infusion. A long brew makes some herbs unpalatable. This is nature’s way of saying you don’t need that much of those strong medicinal constituents, and that this preparation may even be harmful. As a young herbalist (if I had dared to call myself that in those days), I remember hearing about long infusions and thinking, yes, this is the way to go! So I made myself some St. John’s Wort long infusion. Can some of you guess what happened? I nearly gagged on the resulting brew – the word “vile” comes to mind! That is because St. John’s Wort contains a larger number of medicinal constituents that are stimulating/sedating, and a smaller number that are primarily nourishing – just the opposite of what we want in a long infusion.

          Although this particular herb is too strong (stimulating/sedating) to prepare as a long infusion, it does work quite well as a tincture. Herbs that are aromatic, intensely bitter or otherwise strongly stimulating/sedating are better as teas, tinctures or other preparations. Examples of herbs that are safe as teas but that could be harmful or even toxic as a long infusion are chamomile and black tea.

          Herbs that do make effective long infusions have the following properties: One, their medicinal constituents (phytochemicals) are primarily nutritive rather than stimulating/sedating. This is what gives nourishing long infusions their characteristic tastes: bland, sweet or earthy. Two, their medicinal constituents are best extracted into water (rather than alcohol, for example). There are many herbs to choose from, depending on your needs – see the list below. Each long infusion herb has its own medicinal properties, actions and uses in addition to its nutrition – choose one or more based on your health needs and your sense of taste.

          Nourishing long herbal infusions can be enjoyed on a one-time basis to provide nutrition, thereby improving your energy and performance for the day. They can also be used on a regular basis as part of a healthy diet. Some people like to rotate them for variety, while others stick with one herb over a length of time as a tonic to help treat a particular health condition (2 cups daily for a minimum of two months). It’s fine to add honey, milk or a pinch of cinnamon, and you can drink them warm, iced or room temperature – listen to your body’s preferences.

          Long infusions are easy to make (instructions included below), and one pound is enough for one month’s supply of two cups of infusion daily. Though they need to steep for a length of time, they don’t take any longer to actually make than a regular cup of tea. You may be surprised to discover that some family members take to long infusions happily and naturally, with their improved mood and resilience of benefit to everyone. One of my apprentices has a fifteen year old son who likes his oatstraw infusion so much he makes it for himself on a regular basis. I use long herbal infusions as my daily beverage, and when I don’t drink them, I can tell how much they help by what I am missing: energy, stamina, and steady nerves. Get your year off to a nourishing start by using the instructions below to make long herbal infusions for yourself!

 

Long Infusion Herbs and a few of their uses

Oatstraw strong and steady nerves, stable blood sugar, osteoporosis, eczema

Nettle – energy, adrenal restorative, hormonal normalizer, immune, lungs, osteoporosis, vein and circulatory tonic, digestion

Comfrey – strengthens and heals bones, tendons and ligaments, repairs inflamed tissues in the digestive system and skin, memory

Mullein – lungs, coughs, congestion, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic

Red Clover – nerves, lungs, lymph, fertility, hot flashes

 

 

How to Make a Long Herbal Infusion

1.    Take one ounce of chosen dried herb (Your best guesstimate is ok if you don’t have a scale.) Rough guide: 1/8 to ¼ of a jar. Less for finely ground herbs, less for heavier herbs like roots, more for fluffy herbs that take up a lot of room.

2.    Place in a canning jar. Use a one quart jar for leaves (such as comfrey), or hardy flowers (such as red clover), one pint jar for roots, barks, or berries (such as burdock root or rose hips).

3.    Cover completely with boiling water, stir with chopstick or knife and add more water until full.

4.    Place lid on, and let sit four to eight hours for leaves or hardy flowers (such as red clover), eight hours for roots. Many people make their infusions in the evening and then strain them in the morning.

5.     When done brewing, strain and refrigerate. Infusion will keep for 48 hours in the refrigerator. (After that, the proteins start to break down and the brew will taste off.)

6.    Infusions may be reheated (preferably do not boil, but still OK to drink if it does boil), iced, sweetened, milk added, etc. Some do well with salt or tamari, such as nettle.

 

Most infusions contain large quantities of calcium, magnesium and other minerals, including trace minerals, in their most absorbable form. They also contain essential fatty acids, vitamins and protein. In addition, they each have particular medicinal qualities, actions and uses.

Many nourishing and tonifying herbs can be used as long infusions, including Oatstraw, Comfrey leaves, Red Clover blossoms, Nettle leaves/stalks, Violet leaves, Linden blossoms, Chickweed herb, Burdock root, Dandelion root.

 

© Kathleen Wildwood 2015

Herbal Infusion for Increasing Bone Density

I’ve been making lots of mineral infusions with nettles, oatstraw and horsetail, usually individual infusions, but sometimes combining them together.

I’ve shared in the past that one consequence of my 1998 car accident was that my brain injury got the primary healing attention, because it was actively disabling me. My neck and back, on the other hand, were pretty much relegated to yoga after the initial acute treatments. When I injured my sacrum in the Summer of 2011, my chiropractor friend, Ingrid, looked at my x-rays and couldn’t believe I have been functioning as well as I have. She found my spine a huge testimonial for the power of a raw food diet, in that my digestive nerves at that point were so compromised that if I hadn’t been eating enzyme-rich food, I likely would not have been able to digest it at all!

I’ve since concluded that for me personally, the raw vegan diet wasn’t enough, as I had gotten quite demineralized over the years. Adding some raw cheese and the occasional raw egg and sometimes a raw, fermented cod liver oil has really helped my teeth, which are great indicators of bone health. For this year, my primary health focus is on radical remineralization. I used to make an infusion a couple times per month, but now I’ve been drinking a quart or more per day. My body loves these infusions!

People often ask me “What’s an infusion?” “How do I make an infusion?” “How do I not break glass?” This video covers the difference between teas and infusions, and he gives you a step by step demonstration of how to infuse dried herbs. He also talks about the benefits of my very favorite “weed” ever: nettles. My new favorite infusion is oatstraw. Love it! Horsetail tastes pretty disgusting, but my body likes it. I’m going to experiment with adding a bit of fresh mint or lemon balm for flavor.

Anyway, super informative video below … Enjoy!