I am enjoying a few quiet moments to gather my thoughts, after a very fun day of preparing herbal remedies with my kids. I have dabbled in DIY products and herbal remedies prior to this, but my engagement with all things herbal began for real when I started Betty Norton's Herbal Apprenticeship Program in September of this year. I love the format of the course; we meet on Thursday evenings in Brentwood Bay, to discuss different herbs and their properties, put together herbal remedies, and on occassion go out on herbal walks. I am enjoying the course immensely; I am fascinated by the healing properties of the herbs I am learning about, and can see the positive effect on our health and wellness as we have started incorporating them into our daily rituals.
Today's herb crafting was a mix of a few different sources. We started out by reading sections of Lesley Tierra's A Kid's Herbal Book, a wonderful compilation of history, stories, herbal information, and illustrations. I find the lay out to be very engaging, and love how easy it is to pick up and read in small segments as it is made up of many self contained sections. We then continued with a mix of recipes from Betty's course, along with a series of recipes and videos from John Gallagher's Herb Mentor Program, care of Learning Herbs. We had purchased all of the ingredients we needed last week, and had a lot of fun pulling together and prepping ingredients along with the videos.
The first herbal remedy we made was some delicious elderberry syrup. It was part of the Herbal Remedy Kit I purchased when I first discovered Learning Herbs and all of their wonderful courses a few months ago. I have heard really good things about the immune boosting properties of elderberries, and was thoroughly convinced that the syrup was a good idea after the first delicious bite! I suspect it won't last long; my kids and husband were just as enamoured as I was.
We followed this with Betty's Fire Cider and Professor Cayenne recipes, which inspired lots of tears due to the sheer amount of onions and horseradish! The tonics have been steeping for only a few hours, but are already starting to develop vibrant red and yellow tones, due to the cayenne and turmeric we used. I suspect it will be both delicious and potent medicine! As someone who loves all things hot and spicy, I am very much looking forward to some immune boosting heat.
My husband's landscaping work often has him coming home with aches and pains, so our next endeavour was to make up a liniment for him, using comfrey, valerian, calendula, cinnamon and cayenne in a base of rubbing alcohol. I am curious to see how effective it will be, as I have never attempted to use this kind of remedy before! As I understand it the alcohol evaporates after being applied to the problem area, allowing the herbs to penetrate the skin and do their work.
We also put together a couple of tinctures, using echinacea for immunity (it is that time of year after all!) and valerian, as a gentle sleep remedy. My kids and husband are not convinced by its dirty sock smell, but I have it in a soothing tea with skullcap and dried orange peel in the evening before bed, and find that I have come to appreciate its unique aroma. We also put together a couple of vinegar blends, specifically dandelion with balsamic and burdock with apple cider vinegar. I am really excited to try my hand at creating new salad dressing combinations with these mineral rich infusions!
Last but not least we put together a lavender honey, which we all thoroughly enjoyed preparing due to its lovely, soothing aroma. I am highly tempted to make my son a lavender and calendula pillow - or perhaps just a sniff of lavender honey from time to time if he starts getting overly rambunctious around nap time! It will be difficult to wait six weeks to finally taste the fruits of all of our labours, but I suspect it will be worth it in the end. In the meantime we will be busy shaking and stirring jars for the next week, before letting everything sit until Christmas.
I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to engage with herbal remedies with my kids. There is so much wonderful information out there, and I love that we are able to embark on this journey together. In addition to Lesley Tierra's wonderful book, and John Gallagher's recipe videos, we have also completed the Herb Fairies program together (which I can't recommend highly enough - herbs are introduced using stories, recipes and colouring pages, my kids absolutely loved it!) as well as endless rounds of the Wildcraft game. Wildcraft is a fabulous, cooperative game that leads all of the players on a walk up the mountain to the huckleberry patch, learning about herbs and remedies as they move along. I am often amazed at how much my kids have picked up through this game alone! I also love the confidence they have in the healing properties of herbs, my younger daughter's automatic reply, whenever any of us receive a cut or scrape is that "Mama's balms will help with that." I absolutely believe that conventional medicine is essential at times, but I love that these gentle herbal remedies have also found a very important place in our lives. I feel good about all of the love and care that goes into creating all of these herbal tonics, and appreciate that it is something we can all do together.
Betty was kind enough to give me permission to share one of the recipes from our class, a Nourishing Tea that we have been enjoying on a daily basis. Full of gentle, tonic herbs (meaning that they are ok consumed in reasonable amounts over long periods of time) the tea works to nourish and support our bodies, providing lots of essential vitamins and minerals needed to carry us through the cold season. This blend is gentle, however I would use caution during pregnancy. In general it is always a good idea to consult with a health care provider prior to taking herbal remedies, especially if you are unfamiliar with the ingredients.
Nourishing Tea Recipe - from the Herbal Apprenticeship Program with Betty Norton
1/3 cup nettle leaf
1/3 cup alfalfa
1/3 cup oatstraw
1/3 cup peppermint
1/3 cup raspberry leaf
Mix all herbs together in a large bowl, until well blended. This recipe will fit in a 1L mason jar. Our usual ratio is 1 tsp per 8 oz of water, and we have prepared it both as a hot infusion (herbs steeped in boiling water for 10 - 15 minutes) and also as a cold infusion (boiling water is poured over the herbs, which are then left to sit overnight to be consumed the following morning). Warm or room temperature, this blend is delicious!
If you are looking for somewhere to source your herbs, I can't recommend Harmonic Arts highly enough. If you live on the Island and are interested in immersing yourself in some wonderful information, they are hosting a A Night of Tonic Harmonics, along with a Medicinal Mushroom workshop on November 28th, which I am very much looking forward to. If you live south of the border, Mountain Rose Herbs comes highly recommended.
I would love to hear about which recipes and remedies you have tried and loved, I feel as though I am at the tip of the iceberg and cannot wait to delve further!