Friday, June 17, 2016

2016 EARLY SUMMER PLANT WALK

This past weekend my oldest daughter and I attended another herbal workshop.  This time the location was a beautiful farm in North Central, MN and it was the perfect spot since there was a great variety of wild edibles and medicinals spread over the property, even this beauty… truly growing wild, there were just two plants on the 38 acres.


I think my daughter had the most fun hanging out with the chickens 


While I was busy eating wild foods


We talked about many plants including the a variety of uses for Solomon's Seal


and Black Medick


There wasn't a boring minute while Lise Wolff talked


I really can never get enough of these plant walks.  Lise Wolff is like an herbal encyclopedia that I wish I could just put on a shelf and open when needed.  How she mentally files away so much detail about medicinal and edible plants I will never know.

It truly was a great day!

For anyone who lives in MN and may be interested in these workshops, here is a link to Lise Wolff's website .  Her classes are not always posted on her site but if you sign up for emails she'll definitely send you one when a workshop or class is scheduled.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

THE NON SEWERS GUIDE TO MAKING A DOGGIE BELLY BAND

I like to pretend I know how to sew but truth is I'm really no good at it.  I wish I could make fancy clothing or a nice set of drapes but my skill level only allows for sloppy doggie wraps and maybe a tiny hand bag that small children will like.

Doing this post for my friend Julie, my sewing "lingo" is my own, I have no idea what the proper verbiage is for those that actually know how to sew.


The best type of fabric for the belly band is a thin fleece because it is soft against your dogs skin.

Cut two pieces of the same size fabric.  The size will depend on your dog.  I cut two pieces that measure 17" long and 6" wide (remembering the seam allowance of 1/4").


Then I line the two pieces of fabric up together (right side in)





Next, I sew three sides of the rectangle (1/4" seam allowance) leaving one 6" end open to flip right side out later.




After you flip the sewn piece right sides out then you'll bend in the edge of the open pieces of fabric and sew closed.



Then when you are done with that you can apply velcro to each end of your belly band.  I use velcro with adhesive and although the package says it does not need to be sewn on I have found that to be NOT TRUE.  If I don't sew the velcro in place it comes off in the wash so definitely sew it on.  


I sew one line on each side down the full length of the belly band so it goes over the ends of the velcros and then I sew across the width of the fabric through the velcro also so it remains firmly in place.

This is what it looks like when all finished.


P.S. Don't forget the pantie liner that goes inside the belly band to absorb urine.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

SPRING IS OFFICIALLY HERE!!

When you live in Minnesota there's that moment when you say to yourself that yes, spring is officially here.  Today is that day.

Here is what's coming up in the backyard today.

Chives

Mint

Lavender

Lemon Balm

Bee Balm

Yarrow

Sunday, March 20, 2016

HOW TO CONVINCE A TEEN NOT TO DRINK ESSENTIAL OILS

Recently my 16 yr old daughter came home from a friends house asking if I knew people could drink essential oils.  The first thing I said was "let me guess, one of your friends parents sell Young Living Essential Oils" and she asks "how did you know?"

The first time I heard about Young Living was during my aromatherapy certification course when a student brought up Raindrop Therapy.  She was immediately shut down by our instructor but when she refused to stop talking about YL she was told she'd have to leave the classroom.  The focus of the class quickly returned to the proper use of essential oils, not what MLM (Multilevel Marketing) companies often say to get you to use more of their product.

Following that experience I didn't come across the words Young Living again until I was at an herb festival and one of the instructors there was pushing YL essential oils, encouraging people to try Raindrop Therapy, passing essential oils around for guests to drink in a glass of water, and telling people that as long as an essential oil was labelled GRAS it could be consumed.  One of the guests taking part in the drink fest was a pregnant woman.  Following that experience I decided to do some research and discovered some not so savory things about Young Living reps and their founder that concerned me but I don't want this post to be about that, I want it to be about this…

SAFETY!

I didn't appreciate the misinformation about essential oils being shared with my daughter but luckily she's been exposed to the use of essential oils since birth and heard me preach about how to properly use them enough that she knows better than to jump on the Young Living band wagon before verifying things with her mother.  Other teens may not be so enlightened.  In fact, according to my daughter, Young Living has become quite popular at her high school and several teens are using them in ways that they shouldn't.  Next up we'll hear the FDA is going to start regulating essential oils and only people with a certain level of education will be able to dispense them.  Something I've been concerned about for a while now so I'm going to take some of the things reps for essential oil companies love to say about drinking essential oils (including what was said at the Herb Festival) and give the facts. 

They might tell you that when an essential oil is labelled GRAS it means generally recognized as safe for internal use.  They might also say if someone tells you it is unsafe to drink essential oils they are referring to other brands, not their brand, because their brand has the purest and only therapeutic oils on the planet.  One thing a proponent of internal use of essential oils will do to make you believe it is safe to drink essentials is point out foods or other products, like mouthwash, that contain them.

Fact: GRAS does mean generally recognized as safe but does NOT mean you can drink the essential oil.  Click HERE to see how GRAS is defined by the FDA.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ucm061846.htm#Q3
Essential oils are used in the food industry as a flavoring agent, so for example, if you choose to bake with an essential oil you'd need to know which ones are generally recognized as safe (CLICK HERE) and you'd need to know their dilution rate (I won't go into that here - refer to FDA guidelines or pick up a book that specifically covers this). I personally don't use essential oils to flavor my foods, I prefer the benefits I receive from flavoring my foods with herbs, spices or extracts.  Why spend the time researching how to use an essential oil according to the FDA safety guidelines when I can use a spice in its place? Besides, many essential oils are diluted with synthetics like BHT or petrochemicals (It was recently discovered that Cinnamon Bark by Young Living was diluted with synthetics), so why take the risk of ingesting something like that?

Essential oils are also used in items like mouthwash, toothpaste, etc...

Example - Listerine: menthol, thymol, methyl salicylate, and eucalyptus are all essential oils used in Listerine mouthwash.  Ethanol is used as a dissolving agent.  The percentage of ethanol used is between 21-27%, which is required to dissolve the essential oils and ethanol is also considered non-drinkable which is another reason Listerine is not to be swallowed.

You see a DISSOLVING AGENT is being used for the essential oils in the Listerine and there is a warming on the bottle that says DO NOT SWALLOW.

Essential oils are not water soluble so they will not dissolve in water, tea, coffee or juice. The oils will just float on the surface.  Example, using cinnamon bark essential oil as a flavoring agent in hot cocoa makes absolutely no sense because it doesn't mix.  Don't believe me? Take a clear bottle of water and drop in 2-3 drops of an essential oil.  Cover and then shake to see what happens. This is what you'll get.

essential oil floating on surface of water

If you drink a glass of water with lemon essential oil in it the oil could damage your mucus membranes; mouth, throat, stomach… Lemon essential oil is caustic and has been known to eat its way through rubber, do you really want that sitting in your stomach?

Just yesterday I read on a FB page a comment by someone who uses lemon essential oil in her water.  Her post, and I quote "I don't care what the FDA says, I've been drinking lemon essential oil in my water for years and I like it.  Nothing bad has ever happened."

Nothing bad has happened to her! READ THIS to get an idea of what bad has happened to some people who have taken essential oils internally.  Now is that a risk you are willing to take just to have your water smell and taste like a lemon?

There are no nutrients in essential oils.  If you want the smell, taste and benefits of a lemon, squeeze a bit of lemon juice into an 8 oz. glass of water.  A fresh lemon is rich in vitamin C and contains many other vitamins and minerals.  If you want the taste of cinnamon in your coffee, break up a cinnamon stick and boil it in a pot of water with your coffee, it won't only taste great but it is actually beneficial to your body and you won't have to worry about it possibly damaging your throat or harming your stomach. 

Note: Young Living is not the only essential oil company that promotes drinking essential oils, others like DoTerra and Veriditas Botanicals do also.  Plus many more. 

Essential oil companies would love for you to drink their oils because then you'll use them up quicker and return to buy more.  Telling people to drink essential oils is nothing more than a sales tactic.  They'll tell you that people have been drinking essential oils for years and even the French prescribe internal use of essential oils to treat various health issues but what they aren't telling you is that the people in France and other parts of the world prescribing the internal use of essential oils are medical professionals and it's done only in the case of serious diseases and never for every day use.  Those individuals obtain a full medical history from their patients including current medication or supplement intake, assess the necessity and monitor for issues and desired outcome.  So if you still feel the need to take essential oils internally after you've read this I urge you to do so under the guidance of a clinical aromatherapist or other medical professional trained in the use of essential oils.

If you read my post and like the woman above you said to yourself I don't care, I like taking eos internally, and you refuse to consult with a professional then the safest way this can be done according to Robert Tisserand (world's leading expert on aromatherapy) is to use an empty gelatin capsule filled with a fatty oil and the essential oil of choice - Not ideal since it is preferred a person be under supervision while doing this but it is the safest option if going it alone.  *Note - Tisserand DID NOT SAY to take the essential oils internally without guidance this way, he said IF you are going to refuse the guidance then  the safest thing to do is to use the gelatin capsule with fatty oil.

People advising you to avoid the internal use of essential oils aren't trying to keep you from buying anyone's product, they are trying to keep you safe and healthy.  It's the same reason I taught my kids how to read the label on a bottle of Ibuprofrin.  I'm not against them using Ibuprofrin when it is needed but it must be used according to safety guidelines to prevent injury.

So the next time you reach for an essential oil bottle ask yourself, in whose best interest is it for you to take the eo internally. 




Sunday, March 13, 2016

SHOULD YOU CALL LAVENDER A LAVENDER?

I was reading a Facebook post recently where essential oils were being discussed, particularly cassia vs. cinnamon bark oil.  There was a debate over whether two plants from the same genus were essentially equals.  Should we refer to both peppermint and spearmint as mints (mentha)?  Should we refer to both cassia and cinnamon bark as cinnamon? The answer provided by the chemist leading that particular page was NO, just because they are from the same genus does not make them equal and knowing this is important, not just in aromatherapy but in herbalism also and here are a few good reasons why.

If you hear repeatedly that lavender essential oil helps people relax and you're stressed what are you likely to do? You'll probably jump online or head to the store to buy a bottle of lavender.  You'll look at the label and see the common name "lavender" and think you're getting what everyone is raving about but you might just end up buying an oil that does the exact opposite of relaxing you.  Then what happens? You start telling people that essential oils are snake oil, aromatherapy is quackery, and not because you are right but because you weren't educated.

When I studied herbalism and aromatherapy there was a lot of emphasis on learning the latin binomial of each plant.  In fact, latin names were the first on the list to memorize, they repeatedly appeared on exams and quickly it became very apparent why.

Example: lavender essential oil is made from several varieties of the species Lavandula.  Each species contains various chemical constituents and none are exactly the same.  Using the oil from one species can have a different effect on you than if you use one from another species.

Lavandula intermedia - known for its ability to stimulate
Lavendula augustifolia - known for its ability to help people relax

Another example is cinnamon essential oil vs. cassia.  If go to the store looking for cinnamon essential oil you'll see cinnamon eo labelled two ways but both have the same scientific name; Cinnamomum zeylanicum.  The bottle will be labelled either "cinnamon bark" or "cinnamon leaf" and the latin name will be listed as well.  (at least this is how reputable companies label)

Cassia oil is known as a Chinese cinnamon oil but it is always labelled as Cassia on a bottle of essential oils unless someone is trying to mislead the consumer.  A bottle of cassia should also contain the latin name Cinnamomum cassia.

There is no confusing the two essential oils if labelled properly.  Problem is, many companies will label an essential oil as C. zeylanicum when it's actually C. cassia and in the world of spices the same occurs.  A company could pay the price for  C. zeylanicum which is costly but receive C. Cassia which is much cheaper.   Ingesting C. cassia as a medicinal or even just as a food item is also an issue.  If you want to understand why read this, Tis the Season for Cinnamon or this Cinnamon's Dirty Little Secret Revealed. In short, it has to do with the coumarin and cinnamaldehyde content.

When an herbalist reaches for C. zeylanicum (synonym Cinnamomum verum) they are interested in the chemical constituents found in C. zeylanicum, not C. cassia.

I hope I explained that well, let me know if it doesn't make sense.

Why someone with no scientific background would find it appropriate to argue about this with a chemist that makes a living analyzing essential oils is beyond me but I'm grateful to whomever that woman was because it brings up an important issue about the use of essential oils that I don't think gets addressed often; individuals selling and promoting a product they know nothing about.  It also made me reflect on my own lack of understanding of how herbs and essential oils worked in the years prior to getting certified in both - like in college when I dumped an entire bottle of peppermint essential oil into my bathtub not realizing that eos and water don't mix. I'll just say… the results of that mistake weren't pretty.






Monday, November 30, 2015

PUMPKIN SOAP

I recently made some pumpkin soap using pumpkin puree for the first time. It turned out great!

I colored half of it with titanium dioxide and the other half using copper sparkle mica from Brambleberry.  I'm not impressed with the way the TD appears in the soap but I like the copper sparkle mica.




Sunday, November 8, 2015

CRYSTALLIZED HONEY

While I was at Valley Natural Foods the other day I was standing behind a couple in front of the honey shelf and I overheard them discussing the quality of the various honeys.  The woman leans in towards the man to tell him that some of the honeys had gone bad "you can tell because they are crystallized" she said.  I didn't correct them but I had to laugh to myself because prior to becoming a beekeeper (once upon a time) I use to think that too. I'd always toss out honey that had crystallized and I learned to do that from my mother who would say "that honey is bad."  So, here's the truth for those of you who have done the same.  Crystallized honey isn't bad, not even inferior.  In fact, it is great! Trust me, I learned this directly from the bee genius Marla Spivak.

Since I learned about this in my beekeeping course I now prefer my honey to be crystallized.  I'm a firm believer that if it doesn't crystallized at some point then it is an inferior product. Why? Because the more natural (raw) a honey is the more likely it is to crystallized or be sold in that form.

I purchase raw honey from a local beekeeper (sold at our natural food store) and my recent purchase looks like this:







I had two jars from the same MN beekeeper and one was liquid for about 1-2 weeks and the other solid (like you see above).  How is that possible?  Well, how fast a honey crystalizes depends on where the bees found their nectar.  Example: nectar that comes from goldenrod is more likely to crystallized faster than nectar that comes from blackberries.  So, the amount of sugar vs. water content is what contributes to the rate of crystallization or granulation.

Another factor affecting crystallization of honey is in how it's processed.  Heating and filtering is what keeps it from crystalizing and both can destroy the healing benefits of honey.  Commercial beekeepers will heat (pasteurize) up to 150 degrees F, filtering out all pollen, wax and other bee particles.  Makes honey pretty but not healthy.

It's easy to make honey liquid again without destroying the beneficial components (nutrients and enzymes), all you have to do is warm it up a little.  I prefer avoiding the microwave to do this, instead I'll use a pot of hot water (don't heat above 95 F) and set the honey jar inside til it is liquid again.

There is a huge misconception that pasteurizing (heating) makes the honey safer to consume.  That is not why commercial beekeepers or companies do this, they do it because the customer prefers it.  Not sure how that came to be but I'm assuming it is similar to why we preferred white soap over non-white...ADVERTISING! They market liquid & clear honey as "more appealing" to look at but in addition they'll also claim that their honey is also beneficial to your health when it isn't.  What made it clear and liquid also destroyed its beneficial properties.

So, buy RAW and don't be afraid if it is crystallized or granulated or if it was once liquid and becomes crystallized or granulated.  Honey does not expire in the way other foods do which is why you likely will not find an expiration date on locally made RAW honey from a small beekeeper.  When commercial honey is sold it often has an expiration date on the bottle or a "best if used by" date.  When you see this, remember it has nothing to do with the honey but more to do with the company selling it wanting you to buy another bottle.  That expiration date in conjunction with the crystallization will make you think your honey has gone bad but that commercial honey was crap to begin with.  It will still taste great and work fine in your tea, baking, etc… but it will not help you recover from a cold or sooth that sore throat the way RAW honey does.  Much of the commercial honey now is being adulterated with ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup so its best to avoid anyway but now I'm drifting off topic.

End of point… crystallized honey is NOT bad  :-)