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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Part of my excitement for Spring can be attributed to my annual ritual of nettle harvesting. As I wander the woods around my home, I look to see if the nettles have reached the height of my knee (long before they flower) and are ready for picking. I also notice which patches invite my harvest…which resonate with a “yes” to being a part of my infusions for food and bodycare. (Yes, you’ll find nettles in most of the Sweet Sisters products I make :))
So, with hardy gloves on, I snap off the top portion of the stalk and leaves, leaving the bottom of the plant to grow. I loosely fill each paper grocery bag and place them in a cool area of my home to dry. (I also gather young nettle leaves to use fresh in my cooking and green smoothies.) Every day or so, I fluff the contents of the bags so that the nettles dry evenly. In a week or two, I can strip the leaves off the stalk and crumble them a bit to better fill the paper bags to use until next year’s harvest.

So why do I love nettles so much? Well… because they are so amazingly wonder-full for us inside and out! There’s so much that nettles can offer us if we are open to receive!

Did you know that nettles can:

  • improve the appearance of your skin, making it clearer and healthier.
  • make your eyes brighter, your hair shinier, and your blood clean and healthy.
  • be used as a female tonic at all stages of a woman’s life.
  • be a natural kidney and adrenal-gland tonic
  • assist the body in the detoxification of chemicals and heavy metals
  • reduce water retention (particularly helpful for PMS and menorrhagia, a condition where there is heavy menstrual flow in women).
  • increase vitality in men with its natural testosterone booster.
  • act as an anti-inflammatory, helping many of the symptoms related to arthritis and inflammation in general. (The leaves can even be made into a paste to be rubbed directly on painful areas of skin for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.)
  • help slow bleeding of small cuts and wounds.
  •  help clear constricted bronchial and nasal passages.
  • deliver magnesium components to ease muscle pain (helpful in cases of Fibromyalgia).
  • ease hay fever and allergies with its natural antihistamines.
  • act as a powerful analgesic and much safer than over-the-counter medicines.
  • be used as a super food with its high levels of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and beta-carotene as well as  vitamins A, C, D, and B complex.

Come join me in some healthy recipes:

Nettle Hair Rinse:

A nettle vinegar hair rinse is easy to make and can be used every time you wash your hair. Nettle has been used  in haircare to help prevent dandruff, promote hair growth, protect the scalp as well as nourish and condition the hair, This rinse will provide your hair and scalp with all the benefits of nettle as well as the cleansing, pH balancing  and softening effects of apple cider vinegar.

Ingredients:

  • About 2 cups boiling water, preferably distilled
  • About 1 cup apple cider vinegar, preferably organic
  • 3 tablespoons dried nettles (or 6 tablespoons chopped fresh nettles)
  • Add a few tablespoons of rosemary and horsetail (shavegrass) if you have it (optional)

Pour the boiling water over the plant material and leave to brew for at least 15 minutes, overnight if possible. Strain off the liquid and add the apple cider vinegar. Pour into a plastic squirt bottle for use in the shower. (Also keep a 2 cup plastic cup in the shower to dilute the rinse before use.)

After shampooing and conditioning, add 1-2 tablespoons of this rinse to 1-2 cups water from your shower. Pour over your head, covering your scalp and hair and leave for a minute or two before rinsing well with warm water. That’s it! The vinegar smell will disappear after your hair has dried… promise!

Your hair will be stronger, shinier and softer after just one treatment, but remember, herbal treatments need to be used regularly over a period of time to benefit fully from their properties.

Nettle Infusion “Super Drink”:

This is an excerpt from Susan Weed’s website. I think she is THE authority on infusions, so have included her words below.

“An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long time. Typically, one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly lidded and allowed to steep for 4-10 hours. After straining, a cup or more is consumed, and the remainder chilled to slow spoilage. Drinking 2-4 cups a day is usual. Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions.

I make my infusions at night before I go to bed and they are ready in the morning. I put my herb in my jar and my water in the pot, and the pot on the fire, then brush my teeth (or sweep the floor) until the kettle whistles. I pour the boiling water up to the rim of the jar, screw on a tight lid, turn off the stove and the light, and go to bed.

In the morning, I strain the plant material out, squeezing it well, and drink the liquid. I prefer it iced, unless the morning is frosty. I drink the quart of infusion within 36 hours or until it spoils. Then I use it to water my house plants, or pour it over my hair after washing as a final rinse which can be left on.

My favorite herbs for infusion are nettle, oatstraw, red clover, and comfrey leaf, but only one at a time. The tannins in red clover and comfrey make me pucker my lips, so I add a little mint, or bergamot, when I infuse them, just enough to flavor the brew slightly. A little salt in your infusion may make it taste better than honey will.”

It’s true that a nettle infusion kind of tastes like dirt…but in a good way. Despite its uncustomary taste, I feel so grounded when I drink an infusion. It is as if every cell in my body is being re-mineralized and re-vitalized. Give it a try 🙂

Potato + Nettle soup

The recipe below is from the Vegetarian Recipe club.
1 tbsp olive oil
130g
/5oz young nettle leaves (fresh not dried)
1 large leek, peeled and
chopped OR 4 large shallot OR a medium onion
2-3 tbsp dairy-free nut or hemp milk
Salt (optional) and black pepper
700g/1.5  Ibs
(we used 350g/0.75lbs) potatoes, peeled and diced
900ml/1.75 pints
pints vegan stock

Optional garnishes:
Dairy-free yoghurt
Finely chopped parsley or watercress

1     In a large saucepan, saute the leek/shallots/onion in the oil.
2     Turn down heat and cover. Cook for 5 minutes until the onion is translucent but not brown.
3     Add a little stock if necessary to prevent sticking.
4     Add the potatoes, and cook, covered for 5-10 minutes.
5     Stir from time to time, adding a little stock to prevent sticking.
6     Stir in rest of stock and bring to the boil.
7     Cover pan and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.
8     About 5 minutes from the end, add the nettles.
9     Add non-dairy milk to soup and then blend thoroughly.
10   Season to taste.
11   Serve the soup hot in bowls, each with a swirl of yoghurt and herb garnish if using.

With 10% protein and all the minerals and vitamins, nettle makes for a wonder-full superfood!. In the Spring, any recipe that calls for something green has the potential to become a nettle recipe. You can make nettle lasagna with your favorite spinach lasagna recipe or nettle pesto with any basil pesto recipe, creamed nettle and spinach instead of just spinach or nettle–kale and fruit smoothie… you get the idea!

Happy Spring and Nettle-ing,

Karen

Hello Again!

Have you thought about how much you're worth to all the industries out
there lobbying for your attention and hard earned money? 

I read recently that each of us is worth over 690 BILLION DOLLARS! That's
right! If you don't think you have the power to make a difference in this
world and for yourself, then think again! The advertisers know what we're
worth; it's high time we started realizing it, too!

Did you know that your "voting" dollars are worth about:

170 billion to the cosmetic industry
...14 billion in just anti-aging alone

180 billion to the fashion industry

300 billion to the food industry and

40 billion to the weight loss industry.

That's a grand total of about 690 BILLION DOLLARS!!!

With that much money floating around, it's no wonder that these industries
are spending millions upon millions of dollars designing advertising
campaigns to make you feel unattractive, insecure and inadequate.

Yep, you've got it right!

These campaigns are PURPOSELY designed to make you compare yourself to the
impossible ideals portrayed in the ads and have you long for a life that
isn't yours and maybe you wouldn't even want if you had it.

You see, when you feel like you're missing something, that you need to
be fixed, that you don't measure up to what you see in the ads, you'll
believe that the next new lipstick or that miracle diet is what you need.

This is very different from the desire to take good care of yourself out
of self-love, not fear of inadequacy. The problem lies in believing that
you are not enough, that being at war with yourself is the only way to fix
what's "wrong." What's more is that many of the products and services
these industries offer are toxic to your physical health which can make
you feel even worse about yourself! 

In fact, all the toxic junk that you may have been slathering on yourself
is probably part of the reason you don't feel so good in the first place. 

Did you know that...

Collagen, a popular “firming” ingredient, is really a fibrous protein
derived from animal cartilage and often extracted from the skin of calves. 

Amniotic fluid from pregnant cows is used in facial and body moisturizers
due to its neutral PH of 7.

Thymus extract does NOT come from the herb Thyme, but is a substance
extracted from the thymus glands of animals.

Hyaluronic Acid found in almost every “advanced” moisturizer can be
sourced from Cocks Combs which is cheaper than the similar plant based
alternative.

Kalaya Oil is really extracted from the fat of specially farmed emus even
though it sounds like it comes from an exotic plant or nut.

Formaldehyde is present or activated by many common preservatives. And
what can be even worse is the dangerous bacteria  that can grow in water-
based products if NO preservatives are used at all. 

Phthalates are often found found in synthetic fragrances and can
dangerously interfere with your endocrine system.

I'm not saying we shouldn't use cosmetic products to help us look and
feel our best. After all, it is a part of our human nature to enjoy the
rituals of self-care - remember Cleopatra and her decadent rose milk
baths? The idea that seems to be coming of age is that perhaps we should
be more aware of what we are buying and more importantly why we are buying
it.

Just as we have a relationship with the food we eat, the gardens we tend
and the healthcare practices we employ, so should we think about the
ingredients in the products we use in the name of "beauty". Where do they
come from? What do they do? Why are they helpful? Are there any negative
"side effects," aka toxic consequences? How were they tested? And really,
what IS a "virtual bio-sphere with breakthrough technologies and exclusive
Hydra-Insulation" anyway? And do I even want it? 

Also, does this product really need to come wrapped in multi-layers of
packaging, even if they are biodegradable? And do I really want a tall,
handsome stranger running up to me on the street with a bunch of flowers
promising me unending love if I use an advertised perfume?

I guess the main question is WHO is mainly benefiting from this product?
Is it you or the company who made it? Of course companies need to make a
fair profit, but your life should be enriched by the products you use.

And, you should probably know...

Once you start asking these questions and choosing consciously and
artfully made products that support your self-care rather than degrading
your self-worth, there's going to be a problem... and that's a GOOD thing!

When you choose to vote with your dollars for small-scale, ethical
cottage-industries that have your health and well being as their
highest priority rather than from the cold aisles of your supermarket or
cosmetic counter where products align with the "bottom line" ...

...there's going to be BIG TROUBLE in advertising and corporate offices
everywhere!

...and that's a REALLY GOOD thing!

They've known it all along, but they've been trying to keep it from you.

You ARE beauty! You ARE enough!

Once that becomes clear, you'll realize you're worth A LOT MORE
than 690 billion dollars and you'll stop letting the cosmetics industry
play you for a fool! When you think that most of the money you spent for
that new beauty cream paid for the advertising and fancy box, NOT what
was in the jar, you'll realize that you are definitely NOT getting your
money's worth! You are worth a lot MORE than that!

I see a world where you can:

have confidence without resorting to the use of toxic cosmetics!

feel sexy without having to dowse yourself in phthalate-laden
fragrance!

feel attractive and fresh and sparkly using cleansers, creams and potions
that feel wonderful, smell naturally fantastic and are made with high
quality, healthy ingredients!

May we celebrate love and beauty that's MUCH more than skin deep and have
FUN and JOY using products that truly nourish us inside and out,

Karen

p.s.
here's a quote that bears repeating,
"You don't need to change yourself to please
the world. You just need to BE
yourself, because that's what changes the world."

Every year, billions of dollars are spent on various over-the-counter (OTC) medications designed to suppress cold and flu symptoms. But since the symptoms actually represent your body’s efforts to eliminate the virus, the conventional remedies that try to suppress the fever, runny nose, sneezing and coughing may not be the best way to go. Antibiotics are of even less use because they fight bacteria, not viruses, and if prescribed incorrectly can cause serious resistance issues.

There are more than 100,000 over-the-counter drugs that you can buy without a prescription and they all have one thing in common: they are serious medicines that shouldn’t be taken lightly. OTC medicines and cough syrups are made with harsh ingredients like Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), Dextromethorphan or Codeine, which can put some people at increased risk for significant –and sometimes serious– drug interactions with other OTC medications –never mind the usual unpleasant side effects like drowsiness or brain fog. This is especially true for people with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, as well as the elderly and small children.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has documented the ineffectiveness and potential toxicities of OTC cough and cold medicines in children, and the FDA issued an advisory to remove Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) –a common constituent of OTC decongestants– from those products because of concern for increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. In addition to side effects of the various ingredients, OTC cough and cold preparations also present potential hazards due to dosing errors. And there are environmental consequences that come with throwing those old expired medications (both prescription and OTC) down the drain or flushing them down the toilet.

Think Twice!

When we’re sick, the first thing we want is to feel better. It can be easy to be influenced into thinking that the only sure way of dealing with a common ailment is to take OTC medication. Next time you’re weak and weary and  tempted to reach for the Nyquil, try an herbal, homeopathic, or essential oil-based natural remedy instead. These can be remarkably effective at addressing a wide range of symptoms associated with colds and flu and  run-of-the-mill aches and pains without the added burden on your liver and kidneys that comes with over-use of OTC medications, or the risk of increased blood pressure from cough and cold medicines. They allow your body to do what it needs to do while helping you to feel a bit better. And because they are gentle, they can often be combined for maximum results.

To treat upper respiratory or bronchial ailments, herbal teas, tinctures or cough syrups containing Elderberry, Nettles, Mullein, Licorice Root, Wild Oregano, Osha Root, and immune system boosters like Olive Leaf, Astragalus, Garlic, Goldenseal, Echinacea, Vitamin C and Zinc are a great place to start.

For a sore throat try Slippery Elm and/or Zinc lozenges or a drop of Wild Oregano essential oil in a spoonful of honey added to a cup of Sage or Elderberry tea. You can make your own sore throat gargle with a cup of Sage or Chamomile tea, a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar, and a spoonful of honey with a drop of Geranium essential oil. This mixture is even more powerful if you infuse the honey with sage before adding the essential oil.

Breathe Easier

For fast relief of congestion whether due to colds and flu or seasonal allergies, reach for an essential oil remedy like our Breathe Easy Smelling Salts  that includes Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Menthol (mint) among other essential oils that open nasal passages and improve breathing.

Another option is to add a 1-2 drops each of Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Peppermint essential oils to a cup of Epsom Salt, stir or mix it by hand, and add it to a hot bath. This will help relieve congestion and soothe joint and muscle aches and pains commonly associated with colds and flu, while flushing out toxins that contribute to the exaggeration of these symptoms. You may also use these oils as an inhalation steam by putting a drop or two in a bowl of hot water.

If you’re badly congested, place a drop of Peppermint essential oil onto a teaspoon of honey then place onto your tongue and hold it in your mouth, pushing it up against the roof of your mouth before swallowing –that should clear things up fast!

Many of us grew up using Vicks Vapo Rub for relief from congestion due to colds and flu. Maybe most of our good feelings come from the attention and love we received while having our chests and throats rubbed with the essential oil infused ointment, but here is a recipe you can use to create your own petroleum-free version of an equally effective decongestant chest rub:

  • Natural Vapor Chest Balm Recipe (2 oz jar)
  • Ingredients:
  • 20 Grams of Organic Olive Oil (or Safflower or Jojoba oil)
  • 16 Grams of Unrefined Raw Shea Butter
  • 12 Grams of Castor Oil
  • 8 Grams of Beeswax (grated)
  • 2 ML (approx 50 drops) equal combination of Eucalyptus, Cedarwood Atlas, Rosemary and Lavender Essential Oils. Optional: add a couple drops of peppermint for a bit of tingle & zip!
  • Supplies:
  • Kitchen scale with Tare function
  • Cheese grater
  • A Pyrex measuring cup (16 oz size recommended)
  • Small pot
  • Stirrer (chopsticks work great for this)
  • Candy thermometer

Directions:

  1. Place measuring cup on kitchen scale and turn it on. If the scale is not set to measure in grams then switch it to grams.
  2. Pour and measure first ingredient then press Tare function to re-set scale to zero then repeat for each ingredient except essential oil blend which will be added to the mixture after it is heated.Use the cheese grater to grate the beeswax, which is usually purchased in 1LB blocks (when done, you can heat the grater over the stove and wipe it clean with a paper towel).
  3. Place the Pyrex cup in a small pot with a enough water to create a bath for the ingredients. Turn on the stove and set burner to low/medium heat. Place the thermometer inside the Pyrex cup (make sure it is clean) and stir occasionally.
  4. When the mixture has reached 160 F degrees (the melting point for beeswax), remove the Pyrex cup from the pot (use a pot holder or towel to avoid burning yourself) and place on a trivet. Watch the thermometer and let mixture cool to about 125 F degrees then add essential oil blend and stir for a minute or so. Let it cool (you can place it in your refrigerator to speed up the process but small quantities usually set and harden very quickly at room temperature).
  5. Seal the jar and keep in a cool, dark place when not in use. You can make a larger quantity by doubling the recipe but allow more time for the wax to melt and the mixture to cool down.

Here is some more information about  the natural remedies that serve us well:     

Eucalyptus oil is extracted by a distillation method from the leaves and twigs of the plant. This oil acts as an analgesic, antiseptic, antiviral, decongestant, and so much more. Eucalyptus oil is toxic to bacteria that cause colds and sinus conditions. Eucalyptus is a exhilarating, clarifying oil that rejuvenates and refreshes the body and mind. It can help weakness, headaches and fatigue. The fragrance is woody, sweet and pungent at the same time. Eucalyptus Blue Gum is probably the scent most of you are familiar with, but there are many others too.

Peppermint is a perennial herb that comes in either white or black. It is a very good analgesic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and more.  It is also refreshing and rejuvenating and smells great when you use it for steam inhalation.

Rosemary is an herbaceous oil that is analgesic, antiseptic, stimulant, antimicrobial and more. These are just three of the essential oils that can be used for steaming and they are my favorites.

Wild Oregano possesses superior antimicrobial powers, capable of bringing fast relief from cold and flu symptoms (runny nose, congestion, chills, sore throat, ear aches, cough, fever, fatigue, stuffiness and muscle aches) because it is able to kill the virus which is their cause. Oregano oil has incredible antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal effects. Studies show it also has unrivaled antiseptic (pain-killing) qualities. Many studies have shown that oregano oil can improve the symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold and flu. Plus, as discussed in Dr. Cass Ingram’s The Cure is in the Cupboard: How to Use Oregano for Better Health, oregano oil has been proven effective against a variety of microorganisms. The best part is that oregano oil is completely non-toxic and does not cause any side effects.

The Olive Leaf has the distinction of being one of the few medicinal plants mentioned in the Bible. Studies show that Olive Leaf extract is a potent antimicrobial that has inhibited the growth of every human pathogen it has been tested against, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa, fungi and yeast.

Echinacea has a rich tradition of use by North American Indians who used it medicinally more than any other plant. Echinacea stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infection. In other words, it makes our own immune cells more efficient in attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells; including cancer cells.

Today millions of Europeans use Echinacea as their primary therapy for colds, flu, infections, and for general immune-boosting effects. The main uses of Echinacea include: colds, coughs and flu and other upper respiratory conditions, enlarged lymph glands and sore throat.

Golden Seal has been used for centuries in herbal medicine. Golden Seal has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It soothes irritated mucus membranes, aiding the eyes, ears, nose and throat. Taken at the first signs of respiratory problems, Golden Seal may help prevent further symptoms from developing. It may be used to help reduce fevers and relive congestion and excess mucous.

Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used since the days of the Egyptians to treat wounds, infections, tumors, and intestinal parasites. Modern scientific research confirms the benefits of these and other ancient uses for garlic.

The Allicin in Garlic is responsible for many of its healing properties. It stimulates the immune system, increasing the activity of white blood cells that fight foreign organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and yeast. Garlic is particularly effective in treating upper respiratory viral infections due to its immune-enhancing properties and its ability to clear mucous from the lungs.

Astragalus is a Chinese herb that has traditionally been used to strengthen the Wei Ch’i, or immune system. It is regarded as a potent tonic for increasing energy levels and stimulating the immune function. It has been proven effective in cases of colds, flu and even cancer. American Cancer Society reported that it restored immune functions in 90% of the cancer patients studied. It improves the white cell function and general resistance to infection.

The effect of the mineral Zinc on the immune system is well known. According to medical studies, it can reduce the average duration of colds by 7 days and decrease the severity of all cold symptoms to virtually nonexistent after the third day!

Vitamin C is well known for its ability to fight viruses and bacteria by stimulating the white cells, which are the “soldiers” of the immune system. Vitamin may be the most important antioxidant when it comes to immune system function. It works well with other immune activators and does not cause any side effects.
Of course, the best remedy for the common cold or flu is to get as much rest as possible and eat as lightly as possible to divert as much energy from digestion to healing.  Be sure to have plenty of Chamomile tea and some Lavender and/or jasmine essential oil to help you get a good night’s rest.

Here’s to being and treating ourselves well!

Stay Well,

Karen