Monday, November 28, 2016

'Tis the Season

    This is a great time of year.  People are typically more generous to each other, there are many family gatherings and holiday parties, and good spirits are shared all around.  However, there are also other, not so pleasant, things shared.  Welcome to cold and flu season.  The CDC releases information about cold and flu season every year.  Usually it starts in October and can continue on into May.  The worst part of it is February with December being strong in second place.  So now is the time to pump up your immune system in preparation for the hard times. 

     Prevention is the best medicine.  But how do you prevent the cold or flu? 
1.       Proper diet is paramount to health.  Most people should avoid grains, sugars, and other starchy foods, but everyone has different needs.  Good basics include eating organic as much as possible, drinking plenty of water, and “eating the rainbow.”  Eating the rainbow is my number one rule for daily consumption.  If you eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables from each of the colors of the rainbow, you are consuming a good variety of nutrients.  This season, focusing on the yellow and orange fruits and vegetables will also help you boost your immunity because those colors are associated with higher amounts of vitamin C. 
2.       Wash up often.  Wash your hands for 20+ seconds at a time, don’t forget between your fingers and around your nails.  Hand sanitizers can also help prevent the spread of these viruses, I make one at home that works well, if you are using my recipe, add in the optional rubbing alcohol for this time of year.  Also adding in 10+ drops of peppermint essential oil can help target viruses instead of bacteria. 
3.       Regular exercise helps boost the body’s immune function.  All you need is 45 minutes of stretching and/or moderate-intensity exercise a week in order to increase your immunity.
4.       Herbs can also be a huge help in prevention.  Garlic is great to help prevent and fight viruses, it is best raw and crushed because that releases the allicin which is the main compound that fights off viruses and the allicin can be destroyed by excessive heat.  Ginseng and Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) both can help to boost immune function to prevent viral infections.  Astragalus has also been used in Chinese medicine to prevent viral infections.  Astragalus can be combined with garlic for a great broth, especially if you are making a bone broth which has many health benefits all its own. 
5.       Bone broth helps to boost immunity in addition to its other amazing benefits.  This is why chicken soup is so effective against colds and flu, it’s all in the bone broth. 

     When prevention is not enough we have to look at treatments.
1.       Avoid dairy.  Dairy increases mucus production which can slow healing.  And let’s face it, we’re already producing excess mucus while we’re sick, we really don’t want to produce any more. 
2.       Consume lots of hot liquids.  Warm teas, warm lemon water, soups, these are all beneficial while we are sick.  Our bodies really don’t need to be focusing on digestion much either, so drinking the warm liquids and eating mostly soup will help build up the body’s strength while not burdening it with lots of digestive issues.  Not to mention, bone broth is great at boosting immune function and herbal teas can have benefits all their own. 
3.       Herbs are wonderful remedies as well.  Adding fresh herbs to teas or soups can help speed up the healing process greatly.  Ginger helps with nausea, vomiting, high fever, and headaches.  Ginger goes well in teas and soups alike.  Nettle is a great multivitamin and can also help ease symptoms in upper respiratory infections.  I add it to most foods and it’s great in a tea with red raspberry leaves and peppermintElderberry is so good in treating the flu that you can now find elderberry medicine in your neighborhood drug store.  However it’s easy to make your own, Wellness Mamma has a great elderberry syrup recipe here and elderberry syrup is delicious so you should not have a problem getting your child to take some.  Yarrow is great whenever a fever is involved, and it’s especially good for children.  Unfortunately it is a bit bitter, so adding in peppermint and honey are a good idea, they are both also really good for colds and flu so they can add their own benefits as well.  All the herbs previously listed for prevention are also good to continue while you are ill.
4.       Increasing vitamins C and D intake can also be a great benefit.  These two vitamins help strengthen our immunity and fight off colds and flu. 
5.       Don’t hinder your body’s natural defenses.  We are coughing because our bodies are trying to expel virus-laden mucus from our respiratory track.  Keep coughing and try not to suppress it with over-the-counter medications.  Instead try thinning the mucus out with steam (essential oils can be beneficial here, eucalyptus and peppermint are two good ones) and drinking plenty of fluids.  It may be annoying and, in some cases painful, but as long as your cough is productive (you’re coughing up mucus) it’s beneficial to keep it up.  Same thing goes for your runny nose.  I like to make sure that I don’t sniffle back the mucus in my sinuses.  It can prolong sickness and possibly cause a sinus infection later on.  I just invest in the good tissues (I prefer to use the ones infused with vicks) and blow my nose often. 
6.       Hydration and rest can be the best medicine!  We need several additional hours of rest a day when we are sick, but we also need more liquids to help support immune function. 

     I hope you find this helpful and useful this season.  Enjoy your gatherings, your family, and your friends and stay healthy!


Breaking Muscle- Flu-Buster Bone Broth for a stronger immune system:
Center for Disease Control- Cold and Flu Season:
Dr. Axe- Healing Power of Bone Broth:
Life Hacker- What it means to “eat the rainbow”:
Mother Earth News- 19 Ways to prevent and treat cold and flu:
Mother Earth News- Natural, effective remedies for cold and flu:
Wellness Mamma- 25 Natural remedies to help beat cold & flu:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rosemary Juniper Cranberry Sauce

     I am always experimenting in my kitchen, especially this time of year.  One of the things I try to do most often is add herbs into our food, both to enhance the flavor, and to make sure my family is consuming enough vitamins (herbs are jam packed with vitamins and minerals).  Rosemary and Juniper are two herbs that I absolutely love and they have great health benefits, so when I ran across a recipe online for Cranberry Sauce with Rosemary and Juniper, I decided to try it out and make it my own.  I have included the URL for the original recipe down in my resources, for those of you who want to check it out.

A note about the herbs:

     Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis is excellent for your memory, improves your mood, reduces inflammation, eases pain, protects the immune system, stimulates circulation, detoxifies the body, protects against bacterial infections, prevents premature aging (because of its high amount of antioxidants no less), and helps heal many skin conditions.  Most of these benefits have been known and used for centuries.  Shakespeare even wrote “rosemary, that’s for remembrance” in his play Hamlet.  Rosemary is also commonly added to food in many areas and does help aid digestion and calm the stomach.  Also, because of its antibacterial properties, rosemary makes a great breath freshener. 
     Juniper Juniperus communis is naturally antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic.  This makes it a great choice to fight infections of all kinds.  Juniper is useful to reduce inflammation and to increase the production of stomach acids, which means that it’s great for digestion.  Juniper, like cranberry, is great for the urinary tract and helps to prevent and treat urinary tract infections.  Juniper also helps to lower blood sugar and can alleviate some of the problems associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle. 

Rosemary Juniper Cranberry Sauce

12 cups organic cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 bottle hard apple cider of your choice
2 cups apple cider (the family friendly kind found in your local produce department)
1 cup orange juice
½ cup red wine of your choice
1-2 tsp dried juniper berries, lightly crushed (I love the taste of juniper, so I lean more towards 2 tsp, but it is a strong flavor so start light)
3 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
Raw, local honey
½ tsp sea salt

Combine cranberries, apple cider, hard apple cider, orange juice, wine, juniper, and rosemary in a pot.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 10-15 minutes, or until all the cranberries have popped.  Add ½ cup of the honey and all of the salt.  Stir and taste, if it needs more sweetening, add more honey about ½ cup at a time.  Add more juniper or rosemary at this time as well, if needed.  Simmer until the sauce has reached the desired consistency, remember that it will thicken a bit upon cooling.  

If you want to store it/can it, pour into sterilized mason jars (makes 5-6 pints), leaving ¼ inch free at the top.  Put the jars into a boiling water bath for about 15 minutes.  This sauce will keep, canned, for about 1 year.  Refrigerate after opening, or just serve fresh at Thanksgiving dinner!

I hope you all enjoy this recipe.  Just like with all my recipes, feel free to play around and make it your own.  Change up the herbs (basil or mint should be tasty, or you could go with the classic cinnamon and clove combination), use beer instead of cider (there are some really good gluten free beers out on the market right now), gin instead of wine (for those of you who just love the flavor of juniper), or add some seasonal nuts (walnuts might be especially tasty).  Experiment and have fun making healthy food for your friends and family!

Herb Wisdom – Juniper:
Local Kitchen Blog – Cranberry Sauce with Rosemary and Juniper Berries:
Organic Facts – Health Benefits of Rosemary:

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sage, the Scent of Thanksgiving

     November is a month of gatherings.  When we gather together this month, we are asked to think about things we are thankful for (at least that’s always been my family’s tradition).  Even though the origin of Thanksgiving may not have happened the way we have all been taught in school, it has come to represent a time of family and friends, of thankfulness and of blessings.  What the holiday has become is a wonderful tradition for families and a great celebration of the things in life that we may take for granted throughout the year. 

     As we do gather together over a bountiful table, certain aromas tend to be present.  The smell of the turkey and dressing are, of course, the most prominent.  Now, each family has their own recipes.  Being from the South, I don’t believe oysters have any business in my dressing (supposedly this is common in certain areas, and is even supposed to be an ingredient in the first Thanksgiving dressing recipe).  However there are certain spices that make themselves into every dressing recipe I have ever encountered.  One of these is sage.

     Sage Salvia officinalis is one of the many, many cooking herbs that are also amazingly beneficial to our health.  It’s in the Lamiaceae family, which is commonly referred to as the Mint family.  Plants in this family are characterized by a square stem and distinctive flowers that have petals fused into an “upper lip” and “lower lip,” which is why this family was originally referred to as the Labiatae (labia is Latin for lip).  The Lamiaceae family is also where you find Basil, Mint, Lavender, Thyme, Rosemary, and Savory, so this is a family known for its culinary delights.  When it comes to culinary herbs, I have a pet theory that they were originally added to food because most of them help aid digestion in some way.  However, it may be a “chicken and egg” situation.  Do we know that they help with digestion because they were added to food? Or were they added to food to aid with digestion?  Hmm… 

     Sage has been used in most cultures as a medicinal and culinary favorite (I use it in my Pumpkin Sage bread).  The ancient Romans actually revered this herb so much that they created a special ceremony just for the gathering of sage.  The Greeks and Romans both used this herb to help preserve meat (science believes that this is due to its high level of antioxidants).  Arab physicians in the 10th century believed that sage promoted immortality.  14th century Europeans used sage to protect themselves from witchcraft.  It was also prized in 17th century China for the flavorful tea it makes.  Today, sage has become one of the most commonly burnt herbs for smudging, which is a practice that comes from the Native American use of burning herbs to cleanse one’s self and space, as well as to connect to nature and spirits.  The actual herbs used in this way by Native Americans varied among the tribes (some of them are very secretive about what herbs the used) and were typically not burnt in a bundle, but instead in a bowl or shell.  But the current practice is beneficial (even for you healthy skeptics), as sage smoke helps us to de-stress and fights the bacteria in the very air we breathe.

     I have used a strong sage tea as a mouthwash and gargle to fight gingivitis and heal a sore throat.  Sage tea can also be used to fight fevers, to calm nervous anxiety, to stimulate digestion, improve liver and kidney function, as a wash for the skin (makes a great toner and helps fight acne), as a hair rinse (makes hair super shiny and helps to darken hair if left on for an extended time), helps reduce excessive sweating, is a natural deodorizer (great for body and home), helps relieve hot flashes in menopausal women, helps deal with feelings of grief and depression, helps protect against cardiovascular diseases, and can help improve brain function and memory.  You can also use sage as a steam inhalation to help with asthma.  Sage poultices can also be beneficial in first-aid situations where antibacterial action is needed.  There are many more benefits of sage and I could probably write a small book on the subject! 

     For all of you new moms, and mom-to-be’s out there, you should avoid taking this herb in medicinal doses, or even at all.  It stimulates menstrual flow which could cause complications in the early stages of pregnancy.  It also dries up milk flow, so breastfeeding moms should avoid this herb until it’s time to wean your baby (at which point it could be very helpful).  It could also cause a minor allergic reaction in people who are allergic to other plants in the Lamiaceae family.  You should also use caution with this herb if you are prone to epileptic seizures. 

Parts Used: Leaves, small stems, flowers
Medicinal Actions: Analgesic, Antibacterial, Anticancer, Antifungal, Antihydrotic (refrigerant), Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Antiviral, Aromatic, Astringent, Carminative, Depurative, Emmenagogue, Estrogenic, Nervine, Vermifuge

    Thank you all for reading this.  I hope you enjoy sage as much as I do and if you have any questions or comments, please leave them down in the comments below!

Annie’s Remedy – Sage: Modern Herbal – Sages:
Health Beckon – 20 Amazing Benefits of Sage Herb for Skin, Hair, and Health:
Herbalpedia – Sage, Not Just for Thanksgiving:
Herb Wisdom – Sage Herb:
History – The History of Thanksgiving:
Manataka American Indian Council – The Real Story of Thanksgiving:
Organic Facts – Health Benefits of Sage:
Spirituality and Health – The Ancient Art of Smudging:
World’s Healthiest Foods – Sage:


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...