Monday, November 26, 2012

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and its Uses

If you enjoy today's post on valerian and its uses, be sure to visit Amazon before Thursday, November 26, to get your free copy of my ebook Teas for Life: 101 Herbal Teas for Greater Health.

Valerian can be an incredibly helpful herb, though rather on the smelly side. There’s some growing in our neighborhood right near the sidewalk in someone’s yard, and at certain times of the year we literally hold our breath as we pass by. But it’s a plant well worth knowing for its useful properties, and in my opinion, nice to look at!
Found: Roadsides, especially in the Northeast U.S. and parts of Canada. Often in damp places with good soil, although it can be found in drier, more elevated areas as well. Native to Europe, this plant escaped from gardens and is now growing wild.
Identifying: Grows 4 to 5 feet tall with very divided leaves which are a little “ferny” in appearance. Lower leaves are toothed. Flowers are small and pink to whitish, and grow in clusters similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. They flower throughout the summer and often into early fall.
Parts Used: Root
Medical Use: Commonly used as a sedative and as a nerve tonic; pain reliever. Calmative, antispasmodic. Also used for hypochondria, nervous headaches, headaches that take place in the temporal lobe, irritability, depression, and feelings of despondency. Good also for nervous restlessness. Bronchial spasms, asthma. Colds, fevers, measles, scarlet fever. Stomach ulcers, flatulence, spasms and convulsions coming from nervous tension. Nervous heart palpitations, high blood pressure from emotional stress. Menstrual spasms, pains after giving birth, low libido. Lower back spasm, arthritis and gout, incoordination, paralysis. Counters alcohol effects.
Preparation: Can be made as a tea from the dried root, but it’s best as a tincture made from fresh root.
Allergic Reactions/Warnings: Small doses often cause a relaxing result, while larger doses can actually stimulate. However, some people react differently to valerian and even a small dose will wire them. If using tea from the dried herb, and if it’s used regularly over an extended period of time, one may find themselves getting symptoms of depression. Using tincture from fresh root helps avoid this issue.
Allergic Reactions/Warnings: Although it’s sometimes referred to as “Indian toilet paper”, some people are sensitive to the hairs on the leaves. WILDCRAFTER’S WARNING: This plant grows in similar conditions to hemlock, and it looks similar as well. Do NOT harvest on your own unless you’re absolutely certain you know the plant well.
Video: Herbalist Michael Moore collected video footage of numerous herbs, and they’re all on the SWSBM site. Take a look at this valerian video to get a better idea of how it looks. Videos can be quite helpful in learning to identify plants.
Note: These posts are not meant to be a medical guide but an overview. Consulting an herbal specialist is always recommended.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Take Mine with Lemon – Home Remedies Instead of Deodorant

Here are some natural home remedies you can try instead of the usual deodorant. This article originally posted on my blog dkMommy Spot in May of 2007. I still use these underarm remedies.

When I was pregnant, I suddenly became acutely aware of the food I ate, and also the products I used on my body. For instance, deodorant became more of a concern. Knowing things like aluminum and talc were present and bad for not only me but my baby as well, I began eliminating certain products. And after I gave birth and began breastfeeding, the same concerns lingered. I learned that what you use on your pits travels nicely to the breast milk. I’d already tried using an interesting solution in place of deodorant, and I’ve also come across some other alternatives; some of them more – ahem – unusual than others.

I’ll start with my favorite, one that was told to me by a coworker. It’s simple, portable, and it sure smells nice! Lemon. Yes, folks, plain old lemon. You can squeeze a little of the juice on your hand and rub it under your arms. It’s a deodorant and a surprisingly effective antiperspirant. I’ve even taken slices of lemon to work with me. (During certain parts of pregnancy, a little extra protection is good to carry around.) I prefer an actual lemon to the little plastic bottles shaped like lemon, as those have additives. And since the point is to eliminate that sort of thing, it’s good to go straight to the source.

I’ve tried baking soda, and although that works okay, it can sting after shaving. It also irritates some people’s skin. But if you mix it with water and wash with it, I’m told it works nicely.
For persistent body odor, you may be magnesium deficient. Try taking magnesium tablets and see if that helps over time. Some swear by it.

The granddaddy of them all, however, is an old Peruvian remedy. You only need to do this 4 times a year, thank God. Here are the ingredients if you are truly desperate: 1 cup syrup, 2 tbs. lemon, and 10 crushed fireflies. (Or for you Southerners, lightning bugs.) Apparently if you apply this mixture to the ol’ pits and wrap it in Saran wrap for 30 minutes, you shower yourself to fresher underarms. They do suggest stocking up on the bugs for the winter months as they are hard to come by. This gets the gold medal in the gross category. Or shall I say “cate-GORY”.

Whatever your preference, there is something satisfying in finding the natural way to solve life’s little problems, no matter the odor! Overall, I suggest the lemon minus the lightnin’ bugs. Unless you like glow-in-the-dark pits.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cardamom – A Natural Remedy for Nausea & Queasy Stomachs

Cardamom is a wonderful herb probably most recognizable to us in the West as an Indian cooking spice. But what this plant’s fragrant little seedpods hold is much more than culinary delight. Its use as one of the more tasty natural remedies for nausea and queasy stomachs sets it apart.

Cardamom is actually a member of the ginger family. As you may recall, ginger (Zingiber officinale) is another effective anti-nausea remedy, but what’s so charming about cardamom is its tidy packaging in the form of a pod, making it nature’s portable solution for the queasies.

Cardamom pods come in green, black, and bleached white. Oftentimes the best pods, which are saved for culinary use, are bleached before sale. Any of the three colors will work, however, and the pods keep well for years. I have a batch I use that was purchased about four or five years ago and they’re still quite effective.

To use a cardamom pod to ease stomach upset, break open the outside and remove the small black seeds. You can break off a seed (they’re sort of segmented chunks) and suck on the small piece, breaking it apart occasionally with your teeth. You can swallow it when you’re done if you wish, or spit it out; it’s up to you.

You’ll find the cardamom tastes so good and refreshing that you may enjoy carrying a few in your purse or pocket to use as breath fresheners. You’ll also find cardamom such an impressive natural remedy for general queasiness, nausea, even a nervous stomach, that you’ll want to keep them as a permanent member of your herbal medicine chest!

Note: Cardamom - "A Natural Remedy for Nausea & Queasy Stomachs" was originally posted on my blog dkMommy Spot - because everyone loves a good rerun.