Spring Medicine: Dandelions

Dandelion3

Spring has been teasing me along where I live and hasn’t fully expressed itself, but that hasn’t stopped the plants from sprouting. Dandelion is such an excellent Spring green to begin incorporating into your diet for three main reasons: 1) it grows in abundance everywhere, 2) none of the lookalikes are poisonous, and 3) it’s a great supplement for your Spring cleanse (like spring cleaning, but for your body!)

Dandelions are full of antioxidants, help to curb seasonal depression, and perhaps the most delicious fact of all is that all parts of the dandelion are edible: flower, leaves and root. After my partner and I’s foraging session today, we created a few different dandelion-derived goodies.

Leaves

Dandelion Leaves Soaking

Dandelion leaves are incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals. They are a diuretic, which can aid in filtering toxins out of our body and helping to lower blood pressure. Just be sure to drink a healthy amount of water when consuming dandelion leaves to compensate for the water your will lose! Now, the leaves are dandelions are quite bitter, but there are a few methods to rectify this bitterness. The most simple method yet delicious method is to lightly sauté them with olive oil, pepper and salt. Perhaps I’ll share my recipe for Dandelion greens & risotto one of these days. A quick blanche always does the trick too.

Flowers

The blossoms of dandelions remind me a bit of chamomile. They have that gentle sweetness, yet fresh floral quality to the taste. If you’re looking to both extend the shelf life of your herbs, but you still want to process them while their fresh, then a medicinal syrup might be the fix for you! This is really a matter of creating a simple syrup from a brewed dandelion tea.

Dandelion Simple Syrup

1 cup Dandelion Flowers
2 cups of Filtered, Distilled or Spring Water (thumbs up for fluoride-free!)
2 cups of raw or white sugar

Dandelion SyrupPour your water into your pot and toss in your gently washed dandelion flowers. Cover your pot and bring the pot to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, set it to a simmer and allow it to brew for half an hour. Strain your tea through some cheesecloth and put it back into the pan. Put it onto the stove at the same temperature as your simmer and add your sugar. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Transfer your syrup to a sterile mason jar, put a lid on it and allow it to cool. Store your Dandelion Simple Syrup in the fridge and add to teas, smoothies, and especially over your morning granola.

Root

Dandelion RootDandelion Root is an excellent detoxifying material. Like Dandelion greens, the root is also a diuretic and helps the body to expel toxins through our urine. Because of this, dandelion root is a good addition for cleansing the liver. Dandelion root can also fight off infections within the body. And not only may it be helpful in riding the body of some cancers, but it’s also rich in antioxidants. After a thorough washing, you can brew it in water to make a tea, or you can slice it then dry the pieces to preserve them and make tea in the future. It can also be roasted and then brewed to make an energizing and detoxifying coffee substitute.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to harvest your own food and medicine can be so liberating! Dandelions are such an achievable forage-able and it truly is worth the effort. The best advice in harvesting dandelions is to be aware of the traffic on and near the land from which you harvest. Dandelions next to a busy city street or in a park where many of the plants are sprayed with pesticides are not going to be as beneficial as a those found in a forest or even in your own backyard. With all of this said, go out and make an adventure for yourself by hunting for your own medicine! You can do it!

 

8 Herbal Tinctures for a Better Life

What is an herbal tincture and why use them?

If you are looking to use your herbs primarily for their health benefits, then this is the best way to preserve them while maintaining their medicinal value. Preserving your herbs and other various plant matter in alcohol is what’s known as the folk method of making tinctures. It is an manageable method for concentrating and preserving your herbs to reap their healthful benefits. All you have to do is add your plant matter to a mason jar about 1/2 to 2/3 full and then fill the remainder of the jar with a high proof grain alcohol, typically I use 90-proof clear alcohol to showcase the color that the tincture develops while steeping. Keep your tincture out of the sun and everyday for 4-6 weeks (depending on the herbal tincture you’re making) shake the jar in order to saturate all the herbs and prevent any kind of bacterial growth or molding. When you’re finished with the steeping process, you can strain your tincture well and store it either in its original mason jar or in dropper bottles. For a more comprehensive guide to making tinctures, you can visit Mountain Rose Herb’s Guide to Making Tinctures for greater details. So without any further delay, here are 8 different tinctures that you can easily make at home to support your health and well-being!

Cinnamon

1. Cinnamon Tincture

Cinnamon is such a rejuvenating spice.  Cinnamon tinctures are an easy recipe for beginners and it steeps rather quickly with little plant matter. Not only can a cinnamon tincture be used for baking to flavor various recipes, but it is also an excellent base ingredient for making a homemade mouthwash. It works wonders for freshening breath! Cinnamon is anti-inflammatory and contains antioxidants. It will help to fight off colds, the flu and other various infections. It is great for helping to boost energy and support the immune system. Cinnamon is also wonderful for increasing yang energy.

Clove

2. Clove Tincture

Clove is also another excellent yang-boosting spice that can be used as a base for a mouthwash. I prefer the clove mouthwash over the cinnamon because it creates a tingling sensation. Clove is a great spice for a wide variety of dental care purposes. Not only can it numb the pain of a toothache by chewing on whole cloves, but it is a powerful breath-freshener. The essence of clove can also keep nausea at bay which makes it a great multi-purpose tincture. Clove tincture can be diluted in water to create a anti-acne toner for the face and taken daily to fight off seasonal colds.

 

Dandelion Root

3. Dandelion Root Tincture

Dandelion is perhaps one of the most prolific and beneficial plants. Typically considered a common weed, the whole plant can be used for medicine from its flowers to its leaves to its roots. Dandelion root in particular is a great supplement for cleansing the liver, purifying the blood and supporting the digestive tract. It can also benefit one’s mood by bringing a sense of peace and calm to its user. Dandelion root is a diuretic and can also be used to increase the appetite, so it serves as a wonderful supplement to help detox the body. It will help to filter out the toxins while stimulating the appetite for healthier foods.

 

Elderberry

4. Elderberry Tincture

If you are looking to boost your immune system then look no further. When taken daily, elderberry tincture prevents colds, the flu, viruses, and cancer. It has loads of antioxidants, which helps to keep the body at optimum health.  As far as tinctures go, elderberry has a wonderfully pleasant taste. I like to put 10 drops or so in a cup of hot water and a spoonful of raw honey to taste. Elderberries also have anti-inflammatory properties which can help to alleviate general body pains when taken consistently.

 

Garlic

5. Garlic Tincture

Garlic is anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and contains antioxidants. It is a powerhouse of health. Garlic tincture can be diluted with water and applied to the ear canal to help cure ear infections. It can be sprayed onto fungal infections that occur on the feet. It supports healthy digestion and has even been shown to prevent cancer cells. The reason why I love a garlic tincture is because it keeps the garlic raw (maintaining the medicinal properties) and can be used to flavor foods and savory drinks (bloody mary anyone?)

 

Ginger

6. Ginger Tincture

Ginger is always my go-to remedy for nausea and indigestion. Its spicy sweetness soothes the stomach and helps to increase the appetite. I also tend to use ginger to help soothe a sore throat and it has always been quite effective for me. It is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties making it great for soothing sore muscles, but it must be taken daily to be most effective. Ginger can lower cholesterol, prevent colds and the flu, and may even be effective in fighting the growth of cancer cells. I tend to keep a bottle of ginger tincture in my purse at all times, because it is such a handy health supplement.

Oregano

7. Oregano Tincture

Oregano is an easily overlooked herb, but it has served me well as a multi-use medicine. Not only does it help to alleviate menstrual cramps (always a plus), but it also helps to regulate a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Oregano is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal which helps to support the immune system and keep our body’s natural yeast levels in check (again, promoting healthy digestion). Oregano tincture can be used as a mouthwash to promote throat and sinus health, and it is also a good toothache remedy!

 

Rose

8. Rose Tincture

Rose is a powerful tool to fight eating disorders and its essence has been used for centuries to promote self-love and passion. Rose has anti-depressant qualities which can be useful when utilizing its scent as aromatherapy. When made into a tincture, it can also be used as a base for creating homemade perfumes. Rose tincture can also be taken daily to help to curb the appetite and promote healthy eating patterns. Roses are antiseptic and can be beneficial for a herbal first aid kit. It will also serve to kindle positive feminine energy.

3 Herbs for Eating Disorders

Our relationship with food is perhaps the most fundamental necessity. It provides us with health, security, and even pleasure. In our consumer culture, we have many conflicting ideas about food, health and body image. Our society promotes ideas of unhealthy and unattainable beauty. We market food items as an experience. Sometimes we even sexualize our food commercials. Food addictions and food aversions (both of which are the basis of eating disorders) have a shared nature: it’s about the anxiety to fulfill our fantasies.

I’ve had my own experiences with eating disorders when I was younger and it’s not as straightforward as people think it is. Initially I felt as though my eating habits were harmless enough, it seemed to begin harmless enough. I made a lot of excuses for why I behaved the way I did, which seemed reasonable at the time. But eventually I found myself in a consistent binge and starve cycle, driven by the fear that I wasn’t lovable. It took me an awfully long time to admit to myself what I was doing. But eventually I realized that my behavior was not healthy. My problem is that I love food. I love food so much. Yet, there were times when I felt like food was my enemy.

It always happened in cycles. In the beginning, I felt healthy, happy and carefree. And then I would eat sweets. And it was so hard to stop. I would eat and eat, and I wouldn’t keep track of how much I had eaten. ‘Just one more’ was my national anthem. And soon after I would naturally feel ill. I’d spend the following days wondering why I did this to myself; I knew better. I would indulge in the guilt I felt. I would belittle myself, calling myself ‘fat’ and a ‘pig’ (disregarding the fact that I’ve never exceeded 120 lbs). These were some of the tamest names. And as ridiculous as it is, a part of me thought that – if I had more chocolate – then maybe I’d feel better. Every time, I’d feel sick to my stomach from eating too many sweets. I’d spend the following days only eating what I could palate, mostly dry toast, steamed greens and water. At this point in the cycle, I’d feel like food was my enemy, and by overcoming the temptation to binge then I would have gained some sort of self-mastery. I actually convinced myself that my strict starvation was being valiantly disciplined. I’d eat my small portion of bitter, lifeless spinach and tell myself “this is for your own good” until – days later – I wouldn’t feel so nauseated anymore. And thus the cycle would repeat itself, with the same anxiety-driven, binge-eating, self-loathing, food-denying conclusion.

The root of my eating habits stem back to events in my early childhood. I know this now after years of reflecting, but just because you have awareness of the root issue doesn’t mean the problem immediately corrects itself. It takes a lot to feel comfortable in your own skin. Our health begins in the mind. By promoting healthy thoughts and developing healthy habits, we create a lifestyle that is built on a healthy foundation

Herbal remedies will not do all the work for you, but they can yield incredible results when you make a commitment to your own well-being. Here are a few loving herbs that will help to stave off eating disorders.

Blessed Thistle

 

1. Blessed Thistle

Blessed Thistle, also known as Holy Ghost herb or Holy Thistle, began as an Ayurvedic herb and is a great remedy to increase appetite while having a calming effect. It comes from the same family as dandelions, daisies and chamomile. Like many other herbs, Blessed Thistle has a wide variety of uses which makes it a beneficial medicine to keep on hand. Not only does it stimulate digestion, but it is also a useful herb when you have a cough, a cold or a fever. It’s a diuretic which promotes milk production for new mothers and it could be a gentle and beneficial tea after a period of binging. Just remember to continue to hydrate when taking diuretics. Drink lots of water!

Blessed Thistle can be taken via capsule or cooked, but I prefer to brew it into a tea. I tend to add either some mint or you could add some rose petals, which brings me to the second herb…

Rose2. Rose

Roses are amazing flowers! There are over 100 species of roses which smell divine and fruit into vitamin-C rich rosehips. When brewed into a tea, this rosewater eases digestion and makes a cleansing facial toner. Roses are wonderful as aromatherapy. Rose petals can be added to your bath. Rose essential oil can be diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin or it can be added to an oil diffuser. The scent is useful for easing anxiety, guilt and grief, as well as creating a peaceful environment.

Rosewater is effective for anorexia and bulimia nervosa, as well as binge-eating. It will support self-love, self-care and help to alleviate the guilt and anxiety that are associated with eating disorders. It is a soothing brew to aid a number of digestion issues. Rosewater can be found at many major grocers. It can also be made from easily scratch. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Once the water has boiled, pour the water over 3 handfuls of rose petals. If you want to get traditional, the folk method is to choose red rose petals, but above all make sure that your roses are pesticide-free.
Bud

3. Cannabis

Cannabis is an exceptional herb for stimulating the appetite. Cannabis is a flower which has a psychoactive effect, hence its current role as a schedule I substance in most of the United States. I am lucky enough to live in the beautiful state of Oregon, where it has been legalized for recreational use to those who are 21 and older. Despite its bad reputation, cannabis is a gentle herb that can be smoked, decarboxylated and infused into a fat (like butter or coconut oil for a vegan alternative), or if you prefer to avoid the psychoactive effects then it can be made into a tea. Although I will tell you from personal experience that its appetite-stimulating property is much more potent when the THC in the flower is activated (this is the basis for decarboxylation). If you choose to take it as a tea then might I recommend adding some mint. Mint will help ease digestion and calm the nervous system while the cannabis stimulates the appetite.

Further advice on combating eating disorders….

The healthiest choice you can make is to learn how to love yourself just as you are. This is way easier said than done.

Nothing will ever be truly perfect. This is a frustrating reality, but it is also a liberating reality. In acknowledging that nothing is ever perfect, we admit that we’re all in the process of bettering ourselves. We are all works in progress. Starving or binging or purging is really a desire for fulfillment, whether that be attaining the “perfect body”, experiencing the warmth and security of a full stomach, or attempting to fill the emptiness we feel inside . These disorders arise from a fear that we will never get what we want, that we are not good enough, that we don’t deserve to be happy or healthy. And all of these fears and worries and anxieties rip us away from the pleasure of the present moment.

Now that you are seeking a healthier means of living, I encourage you to take a minute and be grateful for how much good your body does on a daily basis. Thank it for all the times your wounds have healed, all the illnesses your body has overcome, all the traumas your body has endured. It is beautiful. It is here to support you. And your body loves you.