Monday, September 26, 2016

Natural All-Purpose Citrus Cleaner

    I have been slowly and methodically ridding my home of chemicals over the years.  One of the things that has been hard to work with in this fight is my husband’s supreme dislike of vinegar.  Vinegar is a great household cleaning supply, but he hates the way it smells (and tastes, but that’s a different story).  So I decided to try using alcohol instead, and it’s been great.  One of my favorite things to make is a citrus vodka cleaner which can be used on just about everything in the house, including windows (though essential oils on windows can be a bit streaky, so just leave those out of your window cleaning version).  You can use any citrus fruit you want, and even get a little creative by adding herbs (pine needles work well) or essential oils like lavender, basil, or mint to spice it up a bit. 

 A Quick Word on Ingredients

Citrus Fruit makes great medicine, tasty food, and awesome cleaning products.  Plus the scent of citrus leaves everything smelling clean.
Vodka is an amazing disinfectant and cleaning agent and leaves surfaces virtually streak free.
All essential oils are also antibacterial, so to an extent you can feel free to vary the essential oils in my recipes, but tea tree and lavender essential oils are typically considered the best antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal oils.  Also consider aromatherapy benefits when choosing essential oils, lavender helps to maintain calm and mint helps to energize so adding these could help create the energy you want in your home.  Essential oils are really strong medicine and should be treated with respect.  Rosemary, eucalyptus, camphor and certain kinds of lavender essential oils have been known to trigger seizures in epileptic patients, please use caution when using these oils.

Citrus Vodka

Citrus peels of your choice

Fill a mason jar (or other jar that seals tightly) ¾ of the way full with citrus peels like lemon, grapefruit, orange, or lime.  Pour in vodka, leaving a little space at the top of the jar, but covering the peels.  Let sit for 2-6 weeks.  Once it has set, strain it for use.  If you want to add fresh herbs to this recipe, add them in with the peels.  This will last for a very long time and if you want to have fun, you can add simple syrup (sugar and water) to turn it into a cordial, but if you don’t want to sweeten it you can use it to clean your house. 

Citrus Multi Surface Cleaner

Citrus Vodka (see previous recipe)
Purified or Filtered Water
15-20 drops of Essential Oil(s) of your choice

I use equal parts vodka and water, but you can mix it up however you want.  Combine ingredients in a spray bottle, shake it up and use it!

    Like all of my recipes (both edible and non-edible), you can feel free to play around with it.  I rarely use the exact same recipe twice for my own purposes.  I hope you enjoy making your own household cleaner and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Apartment Therapy:
Clean Mama:
Do It Yourself:
Green Cleaning:
Organic Authority:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Pesky Eczema

    Ever since moving to Central Florida, I have been plagued by itchy, easily irritated skin.  It flares up during certain times of the year, and especially when I am experiencing a high volume of stress.  The constant itching and scratching combined with burning irritation makes sure that eczema is annoying at best.  The term eczema is actually a blanket term that is used to describe itchy, inflamed skin with occasional blisters and/or scales.  It’s often used interchangeably with the term dermatitis, which translates to “inflamed skin.” 

    Like most of the chronic problems in life, eczema is mostly due to dietary factors in combination with environmental ones.  In short, eczema is inflammation.  Eating inflammatory foods can trigger it, and being in stressful, inflammatory situations can trigger it.  I have noticed that mine flares up worse in the summer as well, because of the stress of heat and the moisture I loose through excessive perspiration.  

    Conventional treatments all work on the external side of things, mainly by just suppressing the symptoms.  Some of these include bleach baths (I cringe at this thought because bleach makes my eczema much worse) and steroid creams.  Neither of which address the actual cause of eczema.  Eczema starts in the gut.  Yup.  You heard me right.  An annoying skin condition is actually caused by inflammation in your intestines.  This means that diet is really the only true “cure” or preventative measure for this condition. 

    Inflammation in your gut, which leads to eczema, is caused by food allergens.  The most common allergens are cow’s milk, eggs, gluten, soy, peanuts, fish, beef, corn, citrus, and tomatoes.  In order to figure out which one is causing your particular symptoms, you should stop consuming all of them.  After a period of time where you are symptom free, begin re-introducing them into your diet, one at a time.  Wait a period of time before adding the next one in so that you can assess your possible symptoms.  If you encounter one that causes issues, that’s your allergen.  You may have more than one, so continue the process until you have eliminated all of those allergens.  Other things that cause inflammation in your gut include herbicides, pesticides, GMOs, and radiation.  Eliminating these toxins from your diet is a good idea even if you do not show signs of eczema or other inflammation.  Also, inflammation in your gut can happen when there is an imbalance of healthy gut flora.  Probiotics are great to help prevent and correct this, as well as fermented foods (yogurt, Kombucha, keifer, etc). 

    Now that we’ve addressed the root cause, what makes eczema worse?  If you have eczema, then your skin is not holding in moisture properly.  This means that any harsh soaps or excessive scrubbing can wash away too many of your natural oils that help to hold in moisture, making your eczema worsen.  Harsh chemicals can do the same.  I’ve heard, through the years, that bathing is bad for eczema, that bathing is good for eczema, that you should or should not use lotion, etc.  There are many contradicting thoughts out there for what makes eczema worse, and what helps.

    What actually helps?  Hydration is key.  Internal hydration, by drinking plenty of water, as well as external hydration, such as soaking in lukewarm (not hot) water.  But hydration is not just about water.  You can be dehydrated and drink your weight in water every day, simply by not having enough fats/oils in your diet.  Healthy fats are the real heroes of hydration because they help our bodies hold in moisture.  Making sure your diet has plenty of healthy fats (coconut oil and flaxseed are both great sources) is a great way to stop eczema before it starts.  However, when a flare up does occur look to lotions, salves, and ointments.  These can all help by adding healthy fats to our skin to help it hold in the moisture.

    One of my favorite things to use is coconut oil.  In more northern climates, people consider coconut oil an already made salve.  In Florida, however, it turns completely liquid at room temperature.  But it still provides a great amount of moisture for hair, skin, and internally as well.  It also makes a great makeup remover, just wet a cotton pad with coconut oil and remove away!  Jojoba oil is also amazing to use with eczema.  Just apply it externally when needed.  Also, when you are thinking about baths, adding chamomile or oats to your bath can help ease the itching and burning of eczema as well as lessen the inflammation.  Lavender essential oil is also something I use for my eczema, it helps to prevent infections in any open wounds and it’s a natural pain reliever, so it helps to minimize the burning that accompanies excessive scratching.

    I hope this brief introduction helps you out and gives you a good start on living an eczema free life. 

Every Day Roots:
Natural Healthy Concepts:
Wellness Mama:

Monday, September 12, 2016


    Many of you may have seen Kombucha in the grocery store.  Some of you may have even been brave enough to try it.  But I don’t know if any of you realize just how easy it is to make. 

    First though, what is Kombucha?  Kombucha is a fermented, sweetened tea.  The first recorded use of a fermented tea comes from China circa 221 BC, during the Tsin Dynasty.  Then, it was simply called “The Tea of Immortality.”  When you find out all the possible uses and health benefits of this drink, you’ll understand why it earned that name.  The name Kombucha is said to have first been used in Japan around 415 AD.  However, it has been used all over the world.  It was actually extremely popular in Russia up until the Second World War, when there was a sugar shortage and people could no longer brew it.  This may be why it never really gained much popularity in the West.  Well, that and the tea we have gotten, historically, here in America is the worst quality that shipped out of China.  China kept the best, then each country that it ships to kept the next best quality, until finally it makes it here to the USA, where we got the stuff that’s left over.   Then it was so heavily taxed, no wonder the Boston Tea Party happened!

    So why has Kombucha become popular in recent years?  Not only is it tasty, but it is also amazingly healthy.  Kombucha is beneficial for your whole body in a number of indirect ways.  However there are four things that Kombucha is really known for.

Liver Detoxification

    Our livers naturally create an acid that binds to toxins and helps flush them out.  This acid is glucuronic acid.  When a healthy lifestyle and diet are followed, our bodies naturally produce enough glucuronic acid to keep us detoxified and healthy.  However, in modern times, this lifestyle is impossible to keep up, if only due to the amount of environmental toxin exposure we face daily.  Kombucha contains many organic acids, but the main one is glucuronic acid.  When this acid comes in contact with toxins in the body, they cannot escape their fate.  They are flushed out via the kidney.  This helps a number of health conditions, including allergies.  Glucuronic acid has also been studied as a cancer preventative, and possible cure.  There are a number of testimonials out there where people have claimed to have cured their cancers by drinking Kombucha daily, in combination with changing their diet to 100% organic, vegan, and 80% raw/fermented.  I do not have any personal experience with this, but there are studies out there and it might be worth a little research. 

Joint Care

    One of the side benefits that come from the glucuronic acid is that a by-product is the creation of glucosamine.  Glucosamine is typically found in healthy cartilage, typically in the fluid surrounding the joints.  When the joint begins to degenerate, glucosamine can actually halt the rate of degeneration and, in a few cases, even reverse the degeneration.   This happens because it increases the rate of the production of synovial hyaluronic acid in the body.  This acid helps to preserve the lubrication of the joints, and even helps other parts of the body, including connective tissues, to maintain moisture levels which help with natural lubrication and flexibility.  Which all works together to make Kombucha a great drink for athletes and arthritic patients. 

Improving Digestion

    Glucuronic acid is not the only organic acid present in Kombucha.  Lactic acid, acetic acid, usnic acid, oxalic acid, malic acid, gluconic acid, and butyric acid are all present as well as a great number of probiotics, enzymes, and antioxidants.  All of this means that Kombucha is a powerhouse of health for digestion.  Each acid listed has a slightly different function, but they all work together to prevent an overgrowth of candida (the yeast that lives in your body and can cause health issues if allowed to produce out of control), fight off harmful bacteria, improve the health of helpful bacteria, strengthen the lining of the stomach (thus preventing ulcers and leaky gut), prevent constipation and bowel decay, and detoxify the liver.  With the recent studies connecting gut health and brain function, all of this can also lead to improved mental clarity and mood stability.  This all also helps to reduce inflammation in the whole body, which can help to reduce the symptoms of autoimmune conditions as well as fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue.

Improving Immune Function

    Kombucha is extremely high in antioxidants which help to fight free radicals.  Kombucha is made from tea (Camellia sinesis) which is jam packed full of antioxidants already.  But during the brewing process there is a very significant antioxidant which is created.  D-saccharic acid-1, 4-lactone (DSL) has been studied in relation to a number of health issues.  It has been found to be one of the more powerful antioxidants in its fight against free radicals, it has also been found to significantly reduce the rate of cell degeneration and death, and lessen the tissue damage incurred in diabetic patients.  DSL in conjunction with high amounts of vitamin C are suspected to be the main cause for the improvement of immune function in people who drink Kombucha regularly.


    There are a few cautions that come with Kombucha.  As with all things in life, please consume in moderation.  It’s good to start with about 8oz a day and work your way up to a greater number over time.  A small number of people have reported stomach upset, allergic reaction, and infections.  Consuming an excess (which admittedly takes a lot) can cause problems for people with existing digestive issues related to high acidity, due to the high amounts of acid present.  People with compromised immune systems should use extreme caution with Kombucha as it is full of helpful bacteria and yeast which could cause infections in those with weak immune systems.  Kombucha does contain a trace amount of alcohol and caffeine, so pregnant women should use caution in drinking it.  People who cannot tolerate even small amounts of caffeine, sugar, and/or alcohol should not consume Kombucha as all three are present.  Kombucha is perfectly safe for minors because the alcohol content is so low, but if you are worried about your child having alcohol, please know that it is present in homebrewed Kombucha.  Keep in mind that the number of people who have these issues is a small percentage of the population, and most people consume Kombucha regularly without any detrimental effects. 

How to Make Kombucha

    First off, let’s talk about the SCOBY.  SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.  This is what is responsible for fermenting your Kombucha.  Some people refer to the SCOBY as the “mother” or the “mushroom.”  I think SCOBY is fun to say, so that’s the term I use.  So where do you get one?  Well, you can purchase one from a variety of places online, a simple search at will bring up quite a few in fact.  You might be lucky enough to have a friend who makes Kombucha and is willing (as most of us are because they reproduce like mad) to give you one.  But you can also just go to the grocery store, find an organic, raw Kombucha, preferably one that is a little cloudy or looks like it has stuff floating in it.  Bring it home and sit it on our counter for a few days (in Florida it may take less than a week, but other, cooler climates may take up to a month).  Eventually there will be a light colored film over the top of the Kombucha, this is a baby SCOBY.  Continue to let it sit and your SCOBY will develop into a light colored mass about ¼ inch thick.  Now in 2010 there was a Kombucha recall at most stores, these brands reformulated their Kombucha to no longer contain alcohol (the recall was based on the “high” alcohol content of Kombucha, which contains about the same amount of alcohol as most non-alcoholic beer).  They will not grow a healthy SCOBY very successfully, and if they do, the SCOBY does not reproduce as healthy of babies. 

   So, on to the Kombucha itself. 

Basic Kombucha Tea

1 cup organic sugar (yes, you have to use sugar), if your vessel is over a gallon, you may have to increase this number
4-6 bags of tea (or 4-6 teaspoons of loose leaf), if your vessel is over a gallon, you may have to increase this number
1-2 cups starter liquid (this can be the rest of the store bought Kombucha, or just retain some from a previous batch of unflavored Kombucha), if your vessel is over a gallon, you may have to increase this number
Purified/well filtered water, enough to fill your vessel
Tea kettle or pot
1 brewing vessel (I use gallon mason jars, or reused pickle jars.  Just DON’T use metal)
A cloth cover (choose something with a tighter weave than cheesecloth in order to keep the fruit flies out) or paper towel
A rubber band

Boil 4 cups of water and add tea bags and sugar.  Let steep for 10-20 minutes.  The longer it steeps, the stronger the tea.  Pour the tea into your vessel and fill the vessel with cold water, leaving about 1 inch of space at the top of your vessel.  If the tea is body temperature you can continue, otherwise wait for the tea to cool to body temperature (you can use it when it’s colder, but the Kombucha will take longer to brew).  When the tea is the appropriate temperature, add the SCOBY and starter liquid.  Cover with cloth or paper towel, secure with a rubber band.  Now you wait. 

In Central Florida, it takes about 3-5 days to brew.  In colder climates it will take longer.  But ultimately you decide when the brew is finished.  After 3 days, simply stick a straw (not metal) into the liquid (between the SCOBY and the edge of the jar, the SCOBY is tough so you would have a hard time puncturing it) and taste it.  If you think it’s too sweet, let it sit longer.  The longer it brews, the more like apple cider vinegar it will taste.  I like mine on the sweeter side so I usually consider it done in 3 days.  If your Kombucha tastes like straight vinegar this means that the brew has continued on too long.  But don’t fear, you can still use it as a cleaning liquid, or in any way you would use apple cider vinegar.  Don’t worry if it’s bubbling.  The process of fermentation causes a natural carbonation to occur, bubbles mean that the SCOBY is happily brewing away! 

What kinds of tea can I use?

    Kombucha is traditionally made using black tea, but as long as you are using tea leaves from Camellia sinesis (tea tree) you can play with the tea a bit.  These teas include green tea, white tea, red tea, and oolong.  Herbal teas might make a single batch of Kombucha, but most of them are highly antibiotic and can kill the SCOBY after one use (this is also why you have to use sugar and not honey).  If I want to make Kombucha with herbal tea, I add it in as a flavoring agent.

Flavoring your Kombucha

    There are two main ways to flavor Kombucha.  One is to add your flavoring agent (berries, herbs, etc) to your tea while you are boiling/steeping it.  The second is to add your flavoring agent to the Kombucha once it is done, and let it undergo a second process, one of infusing the flavor.  This one adds a few extra days to your brewing time.  I use both methods depending on my flavor.  I prefer to use the first method with fruit and the second method with herbs.  Both methods are fun and experimentation is highly encouraged.

A word of caution about using strawberries

    Strawberries are delicious and strawberry Kombucha is one of my favorite flavors.  However, strawberries cause a highly explosive amount of carbonation (kind of like shaking up a bottle of soda then trying to open it).  So much so that many people have had to clean their ceilings in the process of brewing strawberry Kombucha.  This effect seems to be tempered by the use of frozen strawberries, or when strawberries are mixed in with other fruits.  My favorite flavor is a mixed berry one that uses frozen strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.  I have yet (crossing my fingers here) to have an explosive reaction with this mixture.

Back to the SCOBY

    One of the major cautions when brewing Kombucha at home is keeping an eye on the health of the SCOBY.  SCOBYs are great reproducers as long as they are healthy.  Each batch of Kombucha will yield a new baby SCOBY.  You can keep it attached to the mother (the bottom one) or peel it off to start a different batch.  You can also compost your old SCOBY.  There are actually tons of uses for SCOBYs that you can find online, including SCOBY leather and SCOBY jerky.  I have not been brave enough to try the SCOBY jerky myself, but I’ve heard it’s tasty.  If the SCOBY is black, it’s dead and will not brew any more, please compost it.  If the SCOBY has white and/or green mold on the top, it has been contaminated and the Kombucha it is in can be poisonous.  Throw away both the SCOBY and Kombucha.  Contamination happens most often when the SCOBY is kept too close to garbage or other ferments (this is a caution for those of you who do other homebrews such as wine, beer, and/or vinegar).  If you refrigerate the SCOBY it won’t die, but it will become dormant.  This is a good way to store a SCOBY without creating lots of baby SCOBYs, but your first brew will take a bit longer than usual.  You can also kill the SCOBY in excessive heat (this is why it’s important to cool down your tea before adding your SCOBY).  Please do not let your SCOBY come into contact with metal, metal can kill it or cause a negative chemical reaction that could contaminate your Kombucha.  There are few things I recommend plastic for, but when filtering out Kombucha, I recommend using a plastic strainer to prevent the SCOBY from being in contact with metal. 

    One of my favorite resources for Kombucha craziness is Kombucha Kamp.  There are also Kombucha classes taught regularly at The Florida School of Holistic Living in Orlando.  If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment below!

Dr. Axe:
Food Renegade:
Kombucha Kamp:
Nourishing Cook:

Seeds of Health:

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Amazing Aloe

    I have a few herbs that I keep coming back to time and time again.  These herbs are useful in most situations, and are typically herbs that are easy for most people to access.  Aloe is one of these herbs.  I recommend it for everything, to the point of my friends and family making fun of me about it.  Whenever I say they should use something, they stop me before I finish and say variations of “I know, I know, Aloe.”  If you’ve been reading this blog for the past several months you’ll also notice that aloe is a key ingredient in many of my recipes.  So today, I’m writing about aloe.

    Aloe vera is in the Liliaceae (Lily) family.  This spiky succulent is native to Africa and was well known by the ancient physicians of Egypt, it was even called the “plant of immortality” by them.  As such, it was often given as burial gifts to pharaohs.  Hippocrates documented over 14 different remedies using aloe.  Alexander the Great even conquered a whole island just to ensure that his troupes had enough aloe to keep them healthy.  Today it is still one of the most popular medicinal herbs in the world, and scientists have identified over 200 biologically active compounds in the plant.  Pretty awesome for a plant that’s over 99% water. 

    Most people know aloe is great for burns.  Some people also know that it is great for wounds in general.  This is such common knowledge that there have been a number of scientific studies done comparing aloe to other common burn and wound creams.  In most of them, aloe heals the wounds and burns faster by a significant amount of time.  Aloe is also used to help treat other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.  But it doesn’t just work on external wounds.  Aloe is great for internal sores as well, sores like mouth and stomach ulcers. 

    Aloe is also my favorite anti-inflammatory.  It is so amazing at this that it can relieve internal inflammations with external application.  This means that if you have inflammation in your gut, applying the aloe leaf to your abdomen may reduce that inflammation.  Now if it is serious and reoccurring inflammation, please see your doctor!  However, when I have a sore and swollen joint I always slice an aloe leaf and apply it (wrapping it with a bandage and elevating the joint for 20 minutes minimum).  It almost always does the trick.  I even worked with aloe when I tore a tendon in my foot, I’m convinced it was the aloe that helped to heal the tendon 3 months ahead of when I was told it would be healed. 

    Aloe is also a really effective laxative.  Especially the outer parts of the leaf.  The gel will help improve digestion, but the outer leaf will make sure your sluggish digestion gets a move on.  I don’t recommend the leaf for anything less than serious constipation.  The gel and juice, however, can be taken daily to help keep things more regular, particularly in the case of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). 

    Aloe improves immune function.  It can stimulate the immune system in people who have immune deficiencies.  It can also reduce immune function in the case of excessive stimulus such as allergies.  Because of this, scientists are currently research its effectiveness in HIV, AIDS, diabetes, and certain cancers.  But for most of us, this means that a daily dose of aloe is good for immune health.

    When you combine all the benefits of aloe, it seems like there are limitless possibilities for how this plant can help.  There’s really only one warning I can give with this herb, if you have a staph infection, please don’t try aloe.  Aloe is the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria that causes staph infections.  But don’t hesitate to use aloe in any other situation.  It’s an antimicrobial (it fights bacteria, viruses, and fungi), anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, digestive aiding, and all around amazing powerhouse of wellness.  I encourage everyone to have at least one of these plants in easy access to their home for first aid purposes, but taking a small amount every day is also of great benefit to almost everyone.  And, it tastes pretty good in smoothies! 

Dr. Weil:
Dr. Whitaker:
Happy & Raw:

Herb Wisdom:


Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...