Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Flower Essences




     If you look into Complementary and Alternative medicine for long, you may run across something that almost defies Science. Homeopathy dilutes a remedy down to where science tells us there is nothing left. However, many of these homeopathic remedies still work. Skeptics tell us that it's the placebo effect and only that. However, science also denied the existence of the Higgs-Boson particle (previously referred to as the theoretical “God particle”) until it was finally discovered in 2012. Just because science is not currently able to validate the effects of homeopathy, does not mean that they are not real. However, homeopathy is not what I wanted to introduce you all to today. I want to discuss flower essences.

     In 1928, a British homeopathic doctor named Edward Bach noted that the homeopathic remedies he made with flowers had extremely promising effects on his patients. Thus began his in-depth research and eventual development of the 38 Bach flower remedies. After several years practicing orthodox medicine, specializing in bacteriology and immunology, followed by ten years of practicing homeopathy, Dr Bach had developed a new approach to illness. He was frustrated by orthodox medicine's concentration on the disease as opposed to the patient, and changed his focus. He developed the idea that our emotional states had a major influence on our susceptibility to disease. An idea, that orthodox medicine is just beginning to explore today. The flower remedies he developed work on that concept, helping to change the emotional reactions to disease as well as correct emotional problems that may lead up to disease.

     Looking at the modern world, especially here in America, one cannot help but see a major shift in emotional distress. Anxiety, depression, severe mood changes, and many other emotional effects have begun to plague society. A good portion of that, most likely, has to do with our lifestyles today. We spend more time inside at a desk and less time outside and/or exercising. We have to deal with things such as traffic, which can be horribly stressful, on a daily basis. We don't have time to decompress and we have lost the knowledge of how to do so in the first place. All of this puts major stress on our adrenal glands, which control the fight-or-flight response, so that we are running at a constant level of extreme stress. However, we can help reduce all of our responses to this heightened state by using relaxation techniques, eating right, exercising, and using flower essences.
 
     You're probably wondering about the effects of flower essences when you are taking medication. One of the reasons I usually recommend flower essences is that they do not interact with drugs. This is the real beauty of Dr Bach's dilution techniques. The essences are diluted down so much that you don't have to worry about side effects, or drug interactions, while still being able to reap the benefits of the remedy. And the benefits are so apparent that some of the calming effects can be seen immediately. Rescue Remedy is the only formula of essences left to us by Dr Bach, and animal rescuers across America use it to calm down their rescues. There are even several EMTs that carry Rescue Remedy with them to help calm down accident victims. I have even recommended it to several people who I know that experience anxiety attacks, and they all say it works better than anything else they've ever tried.

     Though Dr Bach only left us with 38 remedies, and one formula, there are researchers all over the world who are diligently studying flowers and how they interact with us. There are a good number of essences, developed by these researchers, from all over, including a good number from native American plants.

     Even though science cannot currently validate the use of flower essences, I hope you see the value of them. How they're able to help without negative side effects and interactions. How they help minimize our susceptibility to disease by working on our emotional state. And how they help speed our recovery by effecting our emotional reactions to disease. Flower essences are an essential part of my personal healing, and are so effective that I recommend them to everyone I know.


Resources:

A Brief History of Flower Essences: https://www.anaflora.com/articles/fe-gen-art/b-his-ess.html
Bach Center's Guide to the Remedies: https://www.bachcentre.com/centre/remedies.htm
Flower Essence FAQ: https://www.desert-alchemy.com/faq/
What Are Flower Essences?: http://www.fesflowers.com/product-info/flower-essences/what-are-flower-essences/


Thursday, May 25, 2017

5 Simple DIY Garden Projects




     I don't know about you, but during the warm weather, I like to spend a little time every day in my garden. I enjoy getting my hands dirty, spending time in nature, and finding creative ways to improve my garden space. So, today, I'm sharing with you 5 easy ways to do so.

1- Brick Markers

Over the years, I've tried lots of different ways to mark my plants. There aren't very many ones that have held up over time. However, these simple markers have lasted the longest, and are really cute and easy to make.





Supplies:
Bricks (1 per plant)
Black Sharpie
(optional) Stencil

Directions:
It's really just this simple. Write the name of the plant on a brick. If you want a specific style of letters, feel free to use a stencil. Over time, the sharpie will fade, but you can always trace over your original letters again, or leave it faded if you like the way it looks.

http://simpledetailsblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/brick-herb-markers.html


2- Tomato Cage Container Trellis

I do a lot of container gardening because my husband and I rent, and I get attached to my plants. Over the years I've found a few tricks to growing just about everything in a container. If you want to grow a vine, you need a trellis. The easiest trellis I've ever used is a tomato cage.



Supplies:
2 wire Tomato Cages
Several black zip ties
Container (filled with soil and your awesome vine)
Wire cutters
(optional) Colorful paint, or green if you want them to blend in with your vine

Directions:
1- Using the wire cutters, cut the legs off both tomato cages, reserving the legs for later use
2- Nestle one tomato cage inside the other, turning them to make sure the long, vertical wires are alternating.
3- Fasten them with zip ties to hold them in place at the intersections.
4- Optional* Paint the tomato cages and let dry
5- Bend the legs (from step 1) in half, like hair pins, and use them to stake the tomato cages down into the soil around your vine.

You can also make a really tall trellis by using 4 tomato cages and stacking two, upside down, on top of the original 2.


https://www.lowes.com/creative-ideas/lawn-and-garden/flowerpot-trellis/project


3- Pallet Gardens

Two awesome trends in home gardening right now are raised beds and vertical gardens. You can use a recycled pallet to achieve both. There are lots of designs, from the very simple, to the not so simple, but I'm going to give you the simplest two designs that I have used.




Supplies:
Pallets (as many as you need for the space you want to cover), you can usually find them free at the dumpster of just about any big, box store
Cardboard or Landscaping paper
Staple gun and staples (for the landscaping paper)
Soil
Plants

Directions:
1- The easiest to do is a basic raised bed. Just lay your cardboard over the ground, place your pallet on top, add in the soil and start planting. The cardboard will kill the grass/weeds under your raised bed and will break down over time, improving the soil as it does.
2- The other design can be used either as a raised bed, or as a vertical garden.
1- Place your pallet upside down, if there isn't much support, add some in using scrap wood, just make sure it's even down the back.
2- Double or triple the landscaping paper. Lay it on the back of the pallet and start stapling. I wrap the paper around to the front of the pallet, framing it, to add support and prevent the loss of too much soil.
3- Fill the pallet with soil, and plant you garden!
4- If you want to use it as a vertical garden, after a few weeks (to allow the plants to take root) just prop it up on an outside wall!

http://snappypixels.com/interesting/25-diy-ideas-using-pallets-for-raised-garden-beds/
http://www.designsponge.com/2011/09/diy-project-recycled-pallet-vertical-garden.html

4- Nesting Planter Towers

Container gardening is awesome. You can move plants around in your garden without transplanting, you can move them inside, or you can use them to be very decorative. Here are two ideas to use multiple containers to create towers of plants.




Supplies:
A center bar, smaller in diameter than the hole in the bottom of your terracotta pots
Several terracotta pots, all different sizes
(optional) Paint
Soil
Plants

Directions:
1- Optional* Paint/decorate your pots and let them dry.
2- Stick your bar in the ground, or in the bottom, largest, pot. (I don't recommend moving it after it's assembled, so build it where you want it to be.)
3- Place your pots on top of one another, threading them onto the bar, then filling them ¾ with soil. You can choose to keep them upright, or tilt them for a different, more whimsical look.
4- Continue until all your pots are stacked, filling the top pot all the way with soil.
5- Plant your garden!

http://balconygardenweb.com/genius-vertical-gardening-ideas-for-small-gardens/
http://weheartthis.com/2013/05/14/diy-garden-project-topsy-turvy-flower-planter/

5- Easy-Harvest Potato Pot

I don't know about you, but I love potatoes. I hate harvesting them though. Or at least I did until I saw a tutorial for making this pot.


Supplies:
2 Plastic pots (one slightly smaller than the other)
X-Acto knife
Soil
Potatoes

Directions:
1- Using the x-acto knife, cut large squares out of the smaller pot.
2- Nestle the smaller pot in the larger pot.
3- Add soil and get to planting!
4- When it's time to harvest, just lift the smaller pot out and pick the potatoes out of the sides.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/539306124109902472/


I hope you find these ideas helpful and fun. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Basic Nutrition for a Happy Cat




     I am not ashamed to admit that I have the potential to be a crazy cat lady. I love cats. They all have super personalities (even the mean ones), they can be very cuddly, like to give massages, and they give attitude, which always makes life more interesting. Yes, sometimes cats can be jerks too, but usually there's a reason. I have had some amazing cats in my life, and a few of them ended up with serious health problems. One common denominator in these health conditions ended up being diet. I prefer to make my cat's food (supplementing with a good quality commercial food), and tend to recommend the same, but learning the natural eating habits of a cat, and their specific nutritional needs can help you find a commercial cat food that you're happy with. There are parts of this entry that will be very similar to an entry I wrote last month, but I promise that this one is specific to cats and their unique needs.

To start, here's a basic introduction to nutrition for cats.

     There are 6 major classes of nutrients: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. A well balanced diet contains a good amount of all 6. For energy needs, we count calories which are determined by proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Vitamins and mineral are essential for proper immune and bodily functions. Water, is by far one of the most important nutrients as most life on earth is made up of at least 70% water.

     Proteins provide the building blocks of cell growth, repair, and maintenance. In domesticated animals, proteins are mostly used for the maintenance of fur and hair. They are made up of 20 amino acids, 10 of which are produced in the body. The other 10, termed “essential amino acids,” must come from the diet. Arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalnine, theronine, tryptophan, and valine are these essential amino acids. If the diet is lacking in just one of them, the body cannot make proteins effectively. Animal proteins are much more bioavailable, and therefore easier for the body to use, than plant proteins.

     Fats provide the most concentrated form of energy as well as fatty acids which are essential for maintaining normal, healthy cells. They also help in absorbing fat soluble vitamins such as the vitamins A, E, D, and K. Not to mention, fats just taste good. However, there are two fatty acids that are super important for normal cellular activity, omega-3 and omega-6. Most animals need more omega-6 than omega-3 to maintain health.

     Vitamins and minerals are essential for daily function of the body. Having a diet deficient in any of them could cause major health issues. Both vitamins and minerals are needed in small amounts, but the important thing is to remember the balance. Balance is especially important with minerals because if you have too much of one, you might interfere with the absorption and usage of another.

     Cats evolved in dry, desert areas, where there wasn't much water. They got most of their water from the juices of their prey. We can see evidence of this in our little home-tigers, when they're picky about their water, or just don't drink often. So when you are thinking about cat food, keep in mind that you want to provide plenty of moisture with it. This is why wet food is typically preferable to kibble.

But what does this all mean?

     When you're buying cat food, make sure that the listed ingredients are whole foods. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity, largest amount to least amount. Check to make sure the meats are listed first. Try to find food that lists a specific type(s) of meat and not a generic “meat” meal. Aim for products that use natural preservatives such as tocopherols (Vitamin E) and Vitamin C. Natural antioxidants (rosemary extract) can also be used as preservatives. Avoid by-products (meat or otherwise), sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and artificial preservatives.

     Cats are carnivorous. This means that they need to consume a lot of meat in order to get their necessary nutrition. Cats do consume the stomach contents of their prey, so some vegetables are in their natural diet, but keep their food content mostly meat and very light in carbohydrates.

     If you decide to make your own cat food, there are a few other things to keep in mind. First, raw food is a really great idea for your cat. The feline digestive track is naturally able to fight most food-born illnesses off, much more so than dogs. However, since the large portion of their wild vegetation consumption is second hand (eating the, partially digested, stomach contents of their prey), I recommend making sure to cook the vegetables you add to their food. I recommend making a cat food of 30% cooked and 70% raw for maximum nutrient absorption. What works best for my home is spending one day a week cooking a little extra food for the kitty and keeping that refrigerated. I also take some time, that same day, to mix up some raw food, pre-portion it out, and freeze the portions (freezing will help to get rid of a lot of potentially harmful bacteria). When I go to bed at night, I pull out one portion and place it in the fridge for the cat's breakfast. I mix the raw and the cooked together each meal. I also sprinkle in some tasty, nutritious herbs, such as nettle or turmeric (you can opt to cook these in with the vegetables as well). These herbs help increase vitamin and mineral intake as well as add to the flavor of the meal. A quick internet search can help you find several recipes to try. Having several good recipes on hand is a good way to make sure your furry friend gets all the best nutrition possible.

I hope this entry has helped introduce you to a good bit of the basics of feline nutrition. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

Resources:
On the Web:
Cat Info: http://catinfo.org/
Cat Nutrition: http://www.catnutrition.org/
Feline Nutrition: http://feline-nutrition.org/

Books:

Dr. Kidd's Guide to Herbal Cat Care by Randy Kidd, D.V.M., Ph.D.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Fermented Salsa




     I have always been a fan of ethnic foods. One of my early loves was Mexican. Where I grew up, in North Florida, there was a great mom-n-pop Mexican restaurant my parents would always take me to. It was there that I learned a serious appreciation for great salsa. Even though I didn't like spicy foods until I grew up, I always chowed down on the salsa that the server would bring to our tables. However, being the do-it-yourself kind of person I am, I had to learn how to make my very own salsa. My favorite recipe was a very simple one, but after I learned about fermentation and how amazing fermented foods could be, I tried to ferment my salsa recipe. It turned out even better than it was before!

But why ferment?

     There are more bacterial cells in our bodies than there are our own cells. These bacteria are considered to be our microbiome. A healthy microbiome can improve immunity, metabolism, sustains the gastrointestinal tract, supports healthy mood and brain functions, aids in proper nutrient production and absorption, as well as helping maintain healthy weight. Eating fermented foods is one of the easiest ways to balance your microbiome. When your microbiome is unbalanced, a number of health issues can easily develop, including depression and digestive conditions. This is especially important after a prolonged illness and after taking antibiotics.

So here it is, just in time for summer, freshly fermented salsa!

Fermented Salsa


1 medium onion, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1-2 jalepeƱos (or habaneros if you like it really hot), diced
Clove of garlic, minced
Handful of fresh cilantro
Lemon and lime juice to taste
One of the following:
2 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. salt and 1/4 cup whey
1-2 tsp. salt and 1/4 cup water kefir

Instructions:
Mix all the ingredients together, if you like your salsa smooth, feel free to use your food processor. Place the salsa in a fermentation container, pressing down to release some liquid. Ideally the vegetables should be submerged under the liquid. Add a bit of extra water if needed. Ferment for 2+ days at room temperature. Once the fermentation period is complete, the salsa can be removed to a storage container and stored in the refrigerator or root cellar.

*If you don't want to wait, this makes a great fresh salsa without the fermentation.



Now, I also have a major love affair for avocados. Because of this, every time I make salsa, I have to use some of it to make some delicious guacamole. I felt that I couldn't share my salsa without also sharing my guacamole. I hope you enjoy!


Easy Guacamole


3 ripe avocados
1/2 cup fermented salsa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 handful of fresh cilantro, optional
The juice of one lime

Instructions:
Cut the avocados in half and carefully remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados and place in a medium bowl. Add the salsa and spices and mash with a fork until just incorporated but still lumpy.




I hope you enjoy this salsa and guacamole as much as my family does! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

Resources:
Mind Body Green: Why Fermented Foods are Good for Weight Loss, Mood, and Glowing Skin : https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14758/why-fermented-foods-are-good-for-weight-loss-mood-glowing-skin.html
Wellness Mama: Health Benefits of Fermented Foods : https://wellnessmama.com/2245/health-benefits-fermented-foods/

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Simply Nettle




     Each plant is made up of thousands of chemicals. This is why so many herbs are useful for so many different things. I have a handful of herbs that are my “go to” herbs for just about everything I need. Today I'm going to share one of my favorites out of that list. Nettle.

     Stinging Nettle, or Urtica dioca, is the most commonly used nettle, but you can also use the Florida native nettle in the same ways. The Florida nettle is Urtica chamaedryoides, commonly known as either heart leaf nettle, or fireweed. Nettles are notorious for their “sting,” which is why the heart leaf nettle has the name “fireweed.” They have little hairs all over their leaves and stems which contain a toxic compound. These hairs are more like tiny needles that inject this compound into whatever touches them. This compound is actually very very similar to the toxin used by fire ants. Depending on the species of nettle you might have come across, the sting can last for as little as 7 minutes, or go on for several hours. Unfortunately the heart leaf nettle is one nettle with a really long sting, as well as being one of the smaller nettles. Despite all of this, throughout history humans have eaten nettles. Once you cook them, the “sting” goes away so that they are safe to consume. Several different cultures have adapted nettles into their diets, so much so that almost every culture has a form of nettle soup. But the most common way that nettle is eaten, is as a potherb. Basically this means that you pick a pot full of nettle, add a little moisture, and cook it. Those of us in the South might immediately think of dishes such as collard greens, or mustard greens. Yup. That's how people usually cook nettle. And, it's delicious!

     All parts of the nettle plant can be used both in the kitchen and for medicinal benefit. There are slight variations as to how you use the root verses the above-ground parts. I tend to mainly use the leaves and stems, largely because I order the dried leaves in bulk, but also because I can continually harvest the leaves while digging up the root can only be done once. However, the root does offer some amazing benefits that may be worth it if you have a particularly prolific patch of nettles in your garden or yard. You can easily purchase nettle leaf in it's dried form at most herb purveyors. However you can also find it as a tincture (an alcohol extract), as a tea, or as a capsule. Some places also have nettle root tinctures. You can also find it easily in nature. Just remember to wear thick gloves when you harvest.

Medicinal Uses:


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Nettles are cool and dry. They nourish the yin, which is the quiet, cooling, and moistening fluid (and nature) of the body. Nettle strengthens and heals the lungs, nourishes the skin, detoxifies the body, reduces tumors, dissolves stones, drains fluids, dries damp conditions, reduces infection, builds blood, enriches both liver and kidney yin, stops bleeding and hemorrhage, helps regulate metabolism, nourishes connective tissue, promotes lactation, and replenishes blood after giving birth.

Ayurveda- Nettles are an excellent rasayana (rejuvenator) and nourishing tonic, especially for the kidneys and adrenals. They increase ojas, which is the essence that gives strength to the body, improves immunity, and takes care of the well-being of the body as a whole. Nettle stimulates the actions of the liver and kidneys, which helps to detoxify the body. Nettles help to clear excess pitta and kapha from the system which helps to improve skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis. In mild doses, it can help to alleviate common vata conditions in the intestines (gas, bloating, etc), but it can increase vata when taken in excess.

Allergies- Nettles are amazingly anti-inflammatory which helps in a lot of situations. However one major effect this has is that nettle helps improve the symptoms of hay fever. Nettles also contain a pretty high amount of histamine, which one might think is bad for allergies, but is actually one of the reasons nettles help to reduce the amount of allergy attacks you may have in allergy season. For hay fever, I recommend making a super strong tea, with nettle leaves, and drinking it throughout the day. You can improve the flavor with mint, but I like it just by itself.

Nourishment- Nettle is considered a super food because of it's high content of vitamins and minerals. Nettles are a great source of the vitamins A, C, D, and K, as well as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and sulfur. Nettles are also a major source of plant-based protein.

Pregnancy- Not only is nettle a great source of vitamins and minerals that are needed for both mom and baby, they also help to improve the health of your reproductive system as a whole. This makes it easier to conceive, carry, and deliver a child. Nettle also helps prepare your uterus for the process of labor, helping to speed up the labor process, especially when used with red raspberry leaves. You can make a strong tea of nettle and raspberry leaves, then freeze it so that mom can suck on herbal ice during labor. The high amounts of vitamin K helps prevent hemorrhage during labor as well, as it's a major blood clotting agent. I usually recommend drinking a strong raspberry and nettle infusion 3 times a day during the last few weeks of your pregnancy, and once a day for the entire pregnancy. Use caution in the first trimester as nettle also stimulates menstrual flow, so consuming to much at the beginning of your pregnancy could cause some problems. However, after the first trimester, nettle is perfectly safe to use on a regular basis.

Arthritis- For hundreds of years, little old ladys have been harvesting nettles bare handed. Eek! However, they have a great reason for doing so. Nettles have a great anti-inflammatory effect, as well a pain relieving effect on arthritic joints. Even the sting can help reduce arthritis pain. Now it's not necessary, as you can get many of the same effects by drinking nettle tea, but it is one way to help ease arthritic symptoms.

Cardiovascular Health- The combination of vitamin C and iron help to stimulate blood cell production. This combination also makes nettles ideal to help prevent and treat anemia. There have also been several studies that show nettles have an effect on lowering blood pressure, so check with your doctor if you are on blood pressure medications.

Urinary and Prostate Health- Nettle is useful to help tone the kidneys as well as to break down both gallbladder and kidney stones. It's also a diuretic which helps the body get rid of toxins faster. This can help prevent infections. But nettle has a special place in prostate health as well. It helps to prevent prostate growth, but it cannot reduce growth, just prevent it.

Skin, Hair, and Nail- Along with providing the proper vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy skin, hair, and nails, nettle also works well externally. Salves including nettle can help with many burns, eczema, and psoriasis. Nettle salves can also help speed healing, reduce the appearance of scars, and help keep your skin looking young. Washes (strong teas) made with nettle help to reduce instances of acne, itchy scalp, and dandruff. These same washes help stimulate hair growth in cases of thinning hair.

Summary of actions- Traditionally used in Europe as a blood purifier and blood builder. Nettle is nutritive, hypotensive, diuretic, laxative, antioxidant, astringent, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, sedative, nervine, anti-anaphylactic, anti-rheumatic, anti-asthmatic, anti-convulsant, anti-dandruff, anti-histamine, decongestant, depurative, hemostatic, galactagogue, immunomodulator, hypoglycaemic, and CNS-depressant. Nettle is both a prostate tonic and stimulating tonic.


I only included a basic introduction to this amazing herb. I hope you have learned a new appreciation for how amazing nettle is. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

References:

April Crowell: Nourishing with Stinging Nettles: http://aprilcrowell.com/asian-medicine/nourishing-with-stinging-nettles/
Chinese Herbs: Stinging Nettle and it's Multiple Benefits: http://www.chinese-herbs.org/stinging-nettle/
Herb Wisdom: Stinging Nettle Benefits: http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-nettle.html
Medicinal Plants: Stinging Nettle: http://medicinalplants.us/stinging-nettle-background-actions
Organic Facts: 11 Amazing Benefits of Stinging Nettle: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/stinging-nettle.html
Purusha Ayurveda: Nettles, an Ayurvedic Perspective: http://www.purushaayurveda.com/articles/2016/3/24/nettles-the-ayurvedic-perspective
Wellness Mama: Nettle Herb Profile: https://wellnessmama.com/4807/nettle-herb-profile/
Whole New Mom: 7 Proven Health Benefits of Stinging Nettle: https://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/benefits-of-stinging-nettle/

Welcome

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...