Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Health Benefits of Fermentation

     If you follow health trends at all, you’ve probably heard of Kombucha, Kefir, or one of the other, currently trendy, fermented concoctions. However, fermentation has been with us for thousands of years. Fermentation is a natural means of preservation and was, in many cultures, the main one until the invention of refrigeration. During fermentation, microorganisms (such as bacteria, yeast, or fungi) convert organic compounds like sugars and starch into alcohol or acids. In Lactofermentation, for example, the starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted to lactic acid and this lactic acid acts as a natural preservative, allowing them to be stored (in a cool place) for a year or more. Because of this, fermentation produces distinctive, strong, and sour flavors. Some other examples of traditional, fermented foods include Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Miso, Tempeh, Yogurt, Dosa, and a number of traditional Cheeses.

     The process of fermentation doesn't only preserve the food, it also creates a number of beneficial enzymes, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. All of this makes fermented foods (and drinks) super beneficial to your digestion and overall health. And it doesn’t take much to provide that boost. You really only need ¼ cup of fermented food/drink a day to provide an amazing benefit. That all sounds good, but what are those benefits?

     Improved Digestion and Metabolism: Fermented foods are a great source of beneficial bacteria and enzymes. The beneficial bacteria improve the general health of your bowels by balancing out your gut flora which can have a huge impact on your digestion and metabolism. The enzymes also help to break down hard to digest food and improve nutrient absorption.

     Better Absorption of Nutrients: Not only do the extra enzymes present in fermented products help improve nutrient absorption, but fermentation increases the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals, helping us to better use what we consume. Additionally, by boosting the beneficial bacteria in your gut, you are promoting their ability to manufacture B vitamins and synthesize vitamin K.

     Get More from Your Proteins: Lactic acid, the main by-product of natural fermentation, supports the growth of healthy intestinal flora, normalizes stomach acid levels, and helps the body assimilate proteins.

     Good Source of Vitamins: Not only does fermentation help us to better absorb and use the nutrients in our food, they also provide an excellent source of vitamins. B vitamins, in particular, are a natural by-product of fermentation. Some fermented foods also have higher amounts of vitamin C, or other vitamins as well.

     Overall Improvement of Health, Mood, and Immunity: Improving gut health has been linked to overall improvement of immunity and general health. A 1999 Lancet study showed regular consumption of naturally fermented vegetables positively correlated with low rates of asthma, skin problems, and autoimmune disorders among children attending a Waldorf school in Sweden. There have been numerous other studies that showed similar results. But your gut is also intrinsically connected to your mood. So not only do ferments help improve your general health, they can help to stabilize and improve your mood. Read more about this connection here.

     Those of you who may have been keeping up with this blog since the beginning may remember that one of the first recipes I ever posted was a fermentation one. Fermentation is something I’ve believed in for quite a long time. As such, I’ve gathered a decent number of recipes and resources. So here are some links for you if you want to pursue home fermentation.

Bat Lady Recipes: 

     Fermented Coleslaw
     Pickled and Fermented Red Onion
     Fermented Lemons

Helpful Resources:

     Kombucha Kamp
     Mastering Fermentation
     Wild Fermentation

     I hope I have convinced you to give fermentation a try, and maybe even try to do it at home. I only included a basic introduction to fermentation and it’s benefits. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!


Eating Fermented Foods Can Give a Boost to Your Immune System: Science Focus:

Health Benefits of Fermented Foods: WellnessMama:

Health Benefits of Fermenting: BBC Good Food:

How To Try Fermentation in Your Kitchen for Probiotics on the Cheap: WellnessMama:

Lacto-Fermentation – How It Works: The Spruce Eats:

Why We Love Lactofermentation: Cedar Circle Farm:

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Red Onions - Pickled and Fermented

     I love pickles, of just about any kind (as long as it’s veggies…..pickled meat is just weird).  I actually eat something pickled just about every day. Whether it’s snacking on a pickled cucumber, or adding a little bit of pickled onions to my dish, there’s always pickles around. However, I also love my fermented veggies, and often eat both preparations interchangeably. Fermenting your veggies, as opposed to pickling them, gives you a greater amount of control over their flavor, and it also provides more beneficial probiotics. If you want them to taste less tart, just stop the fermentation earlier. Both preparations actually help to improve your gut health, pickles help to improve the function of your gall bladder and increase bile production (which is a good thing) and fermented veggies help to boost your immunity and balance your gut flora. Fermented or pickled onions are some of the easier things to add to your food, they go with just about every meal. So I figured I’d share these two recipes with you today and wish you the best of luck in you journey to a healthier gut.

Quick Pickled Red Onions

1 medium Red Onion
1 tsp Salt
½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
*optional 1 tsp Seasoning of your choice (I like Garlic Powder)

     Spice up your red onions, super thin, and leave them in rings. Put them in a mason jar and sprinkle with salt and other seasonings. Cover the onions with vinegar. Place the lid on the jar and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours before consuming. Afterwards (if you have any left over) store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Fermented Red Onions

1 medium Red Onion
½ tbsp Sea Salt (not Iodized!)
Distilled Water
*optional 1 tsp Seasoning of your choice (try mustard seeds)

     Spice up your red onions, super thin, and leave them in rings. Put them in a mason jar and sprinkle with salt and other seasonings. Cover the onions with water. Place the lid on the jar and allow to sit at room temperature, in a dark place, for 3-6 weeks. If there are still bubbles in the liquid, the fermentation is not done yet, let it sit a bit longer for more of a pickled flavor, though it’s safe to eat after 3 days.

     As always, I hope you enjoy these recipes. Feel free to play around with the ingredients and let me know what you think below!

     If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Catnip, Not Just for Kitties

     If you have a cat, chances are you’ve heard of this herb, or may even have a stash of it hidden somewhere. While we may be well acquainted with it’s effect on our feline companions, but do you know that it has a long history of use on us as well?

     In ancient Rome, Catnip tea was a favored beverage. This herb was often combined with lavender and chamomile to induce a relaxing effect. However, it was often said to help prevent, and in some cases even cure, insanity. It’s effect on mood has been seen in a number of cultures, even in the middle ages it was said to have those same properties. However it was also said to make certain people mean, and was given to executioners to get them “in the mood” to do their job efficiently. Catnip tea continued to be a popular drink throughout Europe and Asia, even being the predominant tea consumed in England up until the Elizabethan Era where it was supplanted by the Camellia sinensis plant, the plant we know of as Tea today.

     Native to Europe and Asia, Catnip was introduced to America with the early Colonists and soon spread throughout the continent. A number of Native American tribes recognized the benefits of this herb and discovered their own uses for it. Today it can be found in most continents.

    Catnip, Nepeta cataria, is part of the Mint, or Lamiaceae, family and has the characteristics that the family is known for. It has a square stem, opposite leaves, flowers that resemble lips, and the whole plant is aromatic. While Catnip is not native to his continent, it grows freely in the right conditions. It’s often found near old homesteads. Once established, it needs less water than many plants in the mint family. The size of Catnip varies greatly, depending on available moisture and the soil. It has been seen up to 5’ tall in ideal conditions, but most often does not get above 16 inches when cultivated. If you are looking to add this plant in your garden, make sure you have the scientific name correct as there are a number of hybrids and other plants that are commonly labeled Catmint.

Medicinal Uses:

Common Names- Catnip, Catswort, Catmint, Field Balm, Ment De Gato

Scientific Name- Nepeta cataria

Edibility- The young leaves are edible raw. They have a mint-like flavor and they make an excellent addition to salads. Older leaves are used as a spice in cooked foods. They can be used fresh or dried to make an aromatic herb tea. The tea should be infused in a closed container in order to preserve the essential oils, boiling is said to spoil it so bring your water to a boil and allow it to cool slightly before pouring it over your herbs.

Summary of Actions- Diaphoretic, Nervine, Relaxant, Antifungal, Bacteriacide, Sedative, Febrifuge, Carminative, Tonic, a Slight Emmenagogue, Antispasmodic, and a Mild Stimulant.

Parts Used- The leaves are the primary parts used although flowers and fresh tips can also be included and some herbalists consider the flowering tips best to use for medicinal purposes. The stems are large enough that they should be avoided.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Mao Bo He, Catnip works on the Stomach and Lung Meridians. It releases to the Exterior, Clearing Wind Heat, which makes it useful for colds, flu with headache, chills and fever, sore throat, congestion, wheezing, and restlessness. It revives Stagnant Q, helping to alleviate emotional, mental, or nervous tension, gas, and cramping. It also reduces Inflammation, particularly benefiting to the skin in cases of dermatitis.

Traditional Native American Uses- Several Native American tribes used Catnip to support immune function, and for relaxing muscle spasm and cramps associated with digestion. The Mohegan tribes used a tea made from the leaves to relieve infant colic.

Essential Oil and Aromatherapy- Catnip Essential Oil is most highly regarded for its potential as a mosquito repellent, this is due to nepetalactone, which is the same substance that makes it attractive to cats. The essential oil is also antiseptic, anti-microbial, antispasmodic, and helps to clear up congestion. Catnip Oil may be a skin sensitizer and to use it with caution. Avoid using it in the bath, even if it is diluted and this use may increase chances of having an adverse skin reaction.

Insect Repellent- The active ingredient, which causes unusual behavior in cats, is a volatile oil called nepetalactone, which can be found in the leaves & stem of the plant. The plant itself can be used to keep pesky insects out of certain areas, by placing the plant close to entryways. However the essential oil works best in a preparation to keep those same pests away from your body. It is also interesting to note that this essential oil was found in one study to be about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, which is the active ingredient in most insect repellents.

Digestion- Catnip is a great herb to use as a bitter and gentle nervine. When taken before meals, it improves digestive problems, especially those caused by nerves. It can be especially potent when combined with chamomile or lemon balm for this. Add a touch of licorice or honey and you have a tasty tea for all ages. Try adding a little peppermint in with your catnip to make a pleasant tasting tea that is useful for gas, bloating, nausea or as a general after-dinner type beverage.

Children- Catnip has a long history of use in childhood infections, fevers, aches and pains, bad-tempered moods, sleeplessness and digestive upsets. It was even recommended as a front-line treatment against the dreaded fever of smallpox. This gentile herb is save for use in children of any age.

Fever- Catnip has the ability to release tension and heat from the core of the body, out through the skin. This induces perspiration and helps to reduce fevers. Since it’s a gentle herb, this makes it ideal for working with children and other sensitive individuals.

Anxiety and Stress- This herb is a gentle nervine and can be drunk throughout the day. It’s much less likely to cause drowsiness than some of the stronger herbs such as hops or passionflower, and it helps take the edge off a stress-filled lifestyle. Combine it with tulsi to help improve your ability to deal with stressful situations.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- This herb is generally considered safe for all ages. Keep in  mind that there is always a chance, however rare, for allergic reactions with any plant. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, stop using this herb and speak to a medical or herbal practitioner. Some people caution against using this herb during pregnancy, as it can over stimulate the uterus. But this caution is not universal. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor or midwife before using this herb.

     I only included a basic introduction to this adorable, cat-friendly plant. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!


Catmint: Botanical:

Catmint: Natural Medicinal Herbs:

Catmint: Richard Whelan:


Catnip Essential Oil: AromaWeb:

Catnip: Gaia Herbs:

Catnip: Mountain Rose Herbs:

Catnip (Mao Bo He): White Rabbit Institute of Healing:

Catnip Tea: Healthline:

Medicinal Uses for Catnip: Herbal Wisdom Institute:

Nepeta Cataria: Plants for a Future:

Nepeta Cataria – Catnip: AyurWiki:

Nepeta Cataria Effects on Humans: Nepeta Cataria:

Plant Profile – Catnip: The Forager’s Path:


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...