Welcome to Hill Country Herbalist

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Home Remedies for Acne Using Herbs

It can be very satisfying to make herbal remedies using plants you have growing on your land or backyard. With just a few pantry staples, you can create toners, baths, and sugar scrubs - all designed to keep your skin healthy and smooth.

Acne can be very worrisome - whether experienced by a teen or a person in the 20's, 30's, 40's or older. Here are some remedies that help me heal my skin and prevent additional breakouts.

Lavender, Citrus Peel, Oatmeal Sugar Scrub
- I love this scrub! I recommend it for anyone with oily skin, breakouts or not. It is an amazing product -

2 cups organic sugar
1/4 cup castile liquid soap
1/4 cup sweet almond oil
1 tablespoon ground lavender flowers
1 tablespoon ground organic citrus peel (I mostly use peels from oranges and grapefruits)
1 tablespoon ground instant oatmeal
10 drops of your favorite essential oil

In a grinder, place lavender flowers, peel and oatmeal and grind until powdered. Add the powdered herbs into a bowl along with 2 cups sugar.
Add 10 drops essential oil. In another container, mix castile soap and sweet almond oil. Slowly drizzle the mixture into the sugar mixture and mix. Package and enjoy! I use each morning and I just love the way my skin feels!

I'm currently giving samples of this scrub out so if interested send me an email - it's a goody.

Herbal Vinegar
Vinegars help tone your skin and remove excess soap buildup from our hair and skin. Try this herbal vinegar directly on the skin to restore, tone, and prevent infection.
- apple cider or white wine vinegar
- purified water
- fresh or dried mint leaves

Fill a jar with mint leaves and stems, packing it full. Pour in the vinegar, covering all the leaves. Place lid and store for 3-5 days in a cool and dark location, shaking it at least once a day. Strain the infused vinegar, discard/compost the spent mint leaves and stems. Dilute the vinegar infusion with purified water (about 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water for a strong toner 1:6 or 1:8 for a lighter toner).

Apple cider vinegar is underused, in my opinion. It has great toning qualities and helps balance and nourish the skin. If the smell is too strong for you, try diluting the finished product with rose water.

Super Body Salt Soak - 3 cups Epsom salt (magnesium is the super star in this salt)
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 20 drops of your favorite essential oil
- 2 pinches chamomile flowers
- 2 pinches lavender flowers

This salt soak helps draw out impurities from our skin and also helps feed the skin magnesium. I read that bathing in magnesium/Epsom salts is an excellent way for the body to absorb magnesium and that taken internally isn't as effective as bathing. I love the drawing out action this soak has along with it's feeding/nourishing action.

I grow my own lavender flowers and harvest them, dry them and store them whole. When I'm ready to use them, I'll grind them to preserve their freshness. I purchase chamomile flowers organically from a very reputable source. These flowers I purchase are whole and vibrant - the yellow is crisp and the petals are still in tact.

In a grinder, combine the flowers and lightly grind. In a bowl, combine the salt, baking soda, lightly ground flowers and essential oil. Mix together and package in recycled glass jars. Stores beautifully and is very fragrant. The chamomile flowers are very sweet smelling.

This soak is excellent for irritated skin. I gave a jar of this to a friend of mine who needed to offer help to a friend of hers. He was covered from head to toe in hives and rashes. The salt soak drew out the impurities and cleared up his skin. I was elated to hear of his results and happy I was able to help him.

I think this would be a great soak for someone with body acne, as well.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Great Way to use Prickly Pears and Be Healthy, too!

Prickly pear cactus represent about a dozen species of the Opuntia genus (Family Cactaceae). In the Texas Hill Country, we see many of these species along road sides, in country landscapes, and is considered the local signature in any pasture, farm, park or field. The cactus blooms in Spring and sets fruit in mid-late summer. We've had this cactus bearing fruit for the last six weeks. For the last three weeks, the color has become richer and darker.

Prickly pear, or tuna, can be juiced and made into several different drink recipes. Today, herbhusband decided he couldn't resist the beckoning call of the deep purple prickly pear any longer - he was determined to make a Prickly Pear Margarita! So... off we went into the back portion of the property where we harvested the beautiful fruit.

Pictured here is the cactus earlier this Spring and also the set fruit earlier today.

Prickly pear is said to keep blood sugar stable, making it an ideal plant friend for people with diabetes. It is also rich in Vitamin C and a good source of carbohydrates - but one must be extremely careful when handling and juicing the fruit to be sure all the spines and tiny pricky hairs are removed. Prickly Pear Nectar is made when you juice the pulp from the fruit and strain out the seeds.

We successfully removed all the tiny spines on the fruit by singeing the outside with a propane torch while holding the fruit with a skewer. Once the outer skin was gently torched, all the harmful tiny spines were gone.

Enjoy this delicious recipe we created today and start taking advantage of the native fruit:

Hill Country Prickly Pear Margaritas
(makes 2 margaritas)

- 8 Prickly Pears
- 4 small limes
- 2 shots tequila
- 1 tablespoon honey

Carefully harvest 8 Prickly Pears using tongs. Place harvested Prickly Pears into a bowl. Being careful not to touch the fruit, insert a skewer where the fruit once attached to the cactus pad. Using a propane torch, gently torch all sides of the fruit (holding the torch about 6 inches away - singeing the tiny hairs/spines). (This just takes a brief moment - you do not have to burn the pear to singe the hairs/spines).

On a cutting board, slice the fruit length wise. Squeeze the pulp out into a muslin or cheese cloth. Over a bowl, squeeze the fruit through the cloth straining the pulp - juicing all the liquid into a bowl. Once you've sqeezed all the juice - discard any remaining pulp and tiny seeds.

Pour the juice into a tumbler. Juice 4 small limes. (We have a lime tree growing on our back porch so we were in luck, there). Add the lime juice to the prickly pear juice. Add two shots of your favorite tequila. Stir in 1 tablespoon honey. Pour over two margaita glasses filled with ice and ENJOY! ;)

Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference: Abiquiu New Mexico

Just got back from Abiquiu, New Mexico and settling into my typical routine. I attended the Traditions in Western Herbalism conference held at Ghost Ranch - an enchanting part of the earth famous for inspiring Georgia O'Keefe to create breathtaking paintings of the heart stopping landscape. This land sings through your body as if communicating you have entered the heart and soul of mother earth. Sounds kind of goofy, I know...but that land does impact you once you are there, I'll tell you that much. The bright blue sky radiates as it touches the orange red earthy hills...ahhhh.

There were so many well known and published herbalists there, I hardly know how to begin featuring each one. I'll simply start in sequential order of my favorite classes attended.

Paul Berger: North American Institute of Medical Herbalism and webmaster of medherb.com
"Diet, sleep, activity...these are the horses that carry the chariot of vitality!"~ Paul Bergner. I just love Paul's energy and view on vitalist principles of herbal medicine. He and I have something in common, we both healed our bodies through careful study of food intolerance and sensitivities. He once suffered from food intolerance leading to immune system disturbances and diabetes. Today, he is symptom free and medical doctors agree he does not present with any signs of having diabetes. He had been so ill, it affected his eyesight and was once considered legally blind. That is certainly not the case now.

Paul's classes focused on vitalism. The "vitalist regimen" prescribes to knowing our bodies have the power and ability to heal themselves. Just as our bodies went astray into the path of disorders and disease - given the right nutrition and support plan it is believed that with time and study the body can correct itself and begin the path towards healing and wellness. Food is a large part of providing basic nutrition for endemic deficiencies. The thought here is one I've believed for some time - food can be building; however, if you do not tolerate a certain food, it can work against your body systems...weakening them... and in time, lead to illness. We all have intolerance to some degree - and with patience and discipline, cutting out the foods that lead to feeling poorly (mental fog, indigestion, sluggishness) can help your body focus on staying healthy. Poor sleeping can lead to health disorders, as well - Paul's studies show we need about 8.5 hours of sleep for optimal wellness. Also, 60-90 minutes of activity per day is essential for our health.

Paul's clinical experience shows his clients are routinely cured by eliminating food intolerance. He has had success relieving people from autoimmune disorders, chronic URI, GERD, chronic lower bowl diseases - all by helping his clients eliminate problem foods. If you know me, you know this hits home - having cured myself of GERD and Gastritis and bowel disorders all by eliminating certain foods.

Howie Brounstein: the Columbine's School of Botanical Studies

"I love herbs - I want to slather them all over my body" ~ Howie Brounstein. He had me at "slather" - as an herbal body care maker, I had to laugh when he said this during his GI Protocol discussion. Howie is a very entertaining herbalist/teacher. Here are a few talking points from his class:

- the GI tract can be inflamed and disrupted by veganism and extreme food habits. The key here is to remove, replace, repair, reinoculate, and restore the gut.
- Remove: all foods that irritate you; you know the ones. We all have them.
- Replace: those foods with nutritive foods you tolerate well - keeping a well balanced diet...ensuring you are getting magnesium - since magnesium deficiency is prominent in most people today. Take in bitter foods we have lost in western diet. Try dandelion leaves in your salad, aromatic mints, basil. Tasting bitter greens before a meal stimulates digestion and gets you systems flowing.
- Repair: Demulcents and astringents are needed. Demulcents (slippery elm, marshmallow root) sooth and coat irritated tissue while astringents (plantain) tighten, contract, and tone tissue.
- Reinoculate: get probiotics, keifer, fermented foods in your belly to help build up the "good guys" and keep the overgrown bad bacteria in check.
- Restore: keep up all of the above to a better feeling better functioning GI tract.

7 Song: Northeast School of Botanical Medicine

What a wonderful way to end the conference! A scenic and informative herb hike in the hills of Ghost Ranch with herbalist 7Song (seen here holding avena sativa or wild oats). Here are just some of the many plants he featured:

- Cotton Wood: deltoid shaped leaves with 10 or more teeth per side gives you a good indication you are looking at a cotton wood tree. The bark is "blocky". A tea can be made of the inner bark then soak in it for pain relief. Willow is stronger; however cotton wood bark is good enough when you are in the woods and need immediate pain relief. The medicine also resides in the buds of the tree - the sticky resin is considered the medicine and can also be a deterrent for insects. the inner bark medium is rich with solicilates - which has anti-inflammatory properties.

- Oats - Avena Sativa: good nervine to feed the central nervous system. Calming effects. Harvest in milky stage. (I personally love this plant and take a few drops of tincture each day and have really noted the difference).

- Blue Spruce: related to the pines; resins good for first aid bandages while out in the woods. Collect the resins and heat them over a fire then cover wound with it to create a seal "nature's band-aid". It is antimicrobial and nontoxic. Applying it on while hot also draws out cactus spines. You can also make a tea from the needles but it does cause a heating/drying effect so if your constitution is hot/dry avoid this tea.

- Lavender: tincture is said to be good for belly aches related to stress (taken in very small amounts).

- Ragweed: counterintuitive, but it can be very helpful as an antihistamine herb when made into tincture before flowering.

In another blog entry, I'll cover Mathew Wood's discussion on the muscular skeletal system and which herbs are helpful as well as other helpful tips I picked up along the way.

In the meantime, please enjoy these beautiful pictures of Abiquiu's Ghost Ranch:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Orange Blossom: The daily lotion

...Thought I'd update you on my hand, today. The lotion feels good when putting it on and does feel like a comfy blanket for my big swollen hand - but let's get serious - wasp stings are vicious and this lovely lotion isn't a remedy for the toxic venom inserted by the stinger of a hornet/wasp.

Even though it felt good after I put it on yesterday...and the swelling went down a little, my hand is still very swollen. Wasp stings are serious, that's for sure. My hand looks like a catcher's mitt :( Later in the night the swelling increased so even though it helped temporarily, it was no match for this sting.

The Orange Blossom lotion I created is a lovely daily lotion that feeds the skin what it needs to have a healthy glow. This lotion features olive oil, calendula, cleavers, and aloe vera. Olive oil is the second most absorbent oil and this lotion may feel "oily" but it's actually absorbing into your dermal layers. It's a humectant so it will continue to draw moisture to your skin keeping it moisturized long after you've put it on. The smell is fresh and clean - and the smell comes from orange blossoms that have been distilled and their fragrance has been captured in the steam (hydrosol). I also use sweet orange, lavender and chamomile essential oil to add to the yumminess of this lotion.

I'm currently giving out this sample so if interested please email me and let me know. I have about a dozen samples I'm getting ready to ship to my herbaunt so she can give out to her co-workers and friends.

(Oranges and orange blossoms photo by Ellen Levy Finch)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Wasp Sting & Orange Blossom lotion

Yesterday, I was stung by a wasp between my pinkie and ring finger. I was sitting outside visiting with my neighbor and noted a few wasps darting about. For the most part I was vigilant about their whereabouts, but as I rested the top of my hand on my lap I got zapped. Ouch!!! I panicked since I already have a tendency to overly puff up to ant and mosquito bites. I tend to be hyperactive in terms of creating histamine. So, I was wondering how I would react to sting of a wasp - a first for me. Things fared okay - no increase in heart rate or temperature....so I'm very pleased my body is strong when it comes to wasp stings. Whew!!

Today, I woke up to it throbbing, aching, and itching. I can't see my last two knuckles and I found it hard to open and close my hand all the way. I decided to read and refresh myself on which herbs work well with inflammation and itching.

Popular anti-inflammatory, soothing, and itch relieving herbs include: plantain, aloe, chamomile, cleavers, lavender, yarrow. As I read this, I thought to myself Orange Blossom has all but two of these herbs. Then I remembered my Uncle Herb reporting this past Spring that when he was stung by an asp, Orange Blossom helped sooth his inflammation and helped relieve some of the itching...hmmm...I decided to try it.

I am quite surprised. When I applied the lotion it felt cool and soothing. After about 10 minutes I noticed I was closing my hand and opening my hand more than I was able to. I started to see my ring finger knuckle, too! The itching subsided - I am amazed. Even as I type I can tell I'm able to use my pinkie finger more than I was able to before putting on the lotion. It's still quite swollen, but it's not as uncomfortable as it was.

Orange Blossom has aloe, chamomile, cleavers, lavender, calendula and other goodies. I guess for my Uncle Herb and I - this lotion is handy for ouchy itchy stings.