Hal's Hat

Hal's Hat

Saturday, April 16, 2011

spring here...Nettles!

One of the most wonderful parts about spring is the fresh herbs/ food that becomes available. Pretty much everybody is on the farmer's market/ csa train, as well as the "plot of one's own" block party. But there are also wild foods available to us....
Why? Nutrients, minerals, energy right from the source. No cost involved. Adventure. Engagement in my own well-being. Nothing's a mystery- well, lots of stuff is a mystery. But not in a mysterious white pill!
What does it supply? Okay, let's start with Nettle. Urtica dioica. This grows wild everywhere. Bane of farmer's lives- stinging nettle. Old men HATE it (as a rule). Spring time is its heyday. Ohmygoodness, I love nettle. Natural source of Vitamin K, Selenium, Magnesium, Calcium, etc, etc, etc. What I'm suggesting is not new to natural food- Susun Weed advocates and writes about Nettles brilliantly. I'm saying, get some gloves, scissors, a bag and go pick some!
How? Make an infusion. One ounce of dried nettle, steeped in boiling water in a quart jar for four hours is a strong infusion. This is like a tea, but for real. Tea tastes pleasant but has little of the nutrients of the plant in it. An infusion really gets the good stuff from the plant!
Where? Partial sun, wild spaces, near water (creek beds, moist bottomlands) are a haven for this plant. I pick mine right off the levee in North Lawrence. Along the mown edge of the green, before the trees start is a small jungle of ground covers and stinging nettle.

What to look for: Serrated leaves, square stem, hairy neck, STINGING! Do not be afraid of the stinging. It doesn't feel great but have a conversation with yourself about it, wear gloves or deal with the itch. It is an old wives remedy for arthritic joints- lash the offending area with nettle and all the prickles are supposed to release the uric acid (hope I got that one right; it's from memory there) and lessen the pain. Always look for the sting to tell you you have the right plant. There is a wild vervain/ verbena type thing that looks similar but no sting and a round neck. Not poinsonous and not dangerous but look for the sting!

I took Greer in the Ergo and Myrna on foot to get it. It felt fast- after all the hustling the girls out of the car in the cold blowy morning; it took only minutes to walk around the gate, down the levee, spot some medium tall plants and walk down for a closer look. I tend to trust the levee plants because they don't spray. Poison ivy and all sorts of other wild plants live down there relatively undisturbed. The nice thing about spring Nettles? Nearly no sting- Myrna was nervous and put on my gloves. But I cut it all, tucked it into my pocket and we went off. Too cold to walk further but fun to find something useful amid the wild strawberry, spring violets (also a great eating herb. Myrna loves to eat the flowers!) and periwinkle vine (an invasive domestic gone wild?).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One additional note....

The kind of fish oil you take matters. It doesn't matter if it is from WalMart, CVS or the Merc. But it does matter that your fish oil is pure, clean and has no heavy metal (Mercury, the element, not the daughter). Please look closely. Pay more for the supplement that says it's clarified, free of metals, etc.
And I'll talk about vitamin e and vitamin b next time... if that is too boring, give me a new topic!

xoxo Laurel


Going to try to keep this one simple- this is about OIL. Not cooking oil- that's a different post. Most supplements I take daily are oil- fish oil, cod liver oil, vit e and borage oil. I want to explain and encourage you to take oils and feed them to your families. Really, the typical western developed-world diet is so lacking in these oils. The results are heart disease, joint issues, skin issues and problematic insulin production (diabetes).
Fish oil: is omega-3 fatty acid. Necessary to the body for cardiac health, healthy joints (anti-inflammatory), cognitive funtion and MOOD. EPA and DHA in the right balance is key! EPA should be about twice as much as DHA in your supplement and you should purchase an oil that has been distilled so the mercury level is low. This can be obtained from fresh fatty fish (tuna, salmon, cod) or walnuts, flaxseeds and soybeans. The American diet of crappy fats (McDonalds, processed foods, etc) does not supply fat that we need to keep our hearts and brains functioning. If we look, geneologically, at what our particular ancestors ate, most of us would find that we lived on vegetables, fish and whole grain (add dairy for my ancestors). Even our great grandparents likely ate this. If you haven't heard Oprah, Dr. Oz, your neighbor or the newspaper talking about this for the last 5 years, you've been under a rock. Go to a Walmart and buy some fish oil. For goodness sake, stop the McD and add fish to your diet!!!! We should all know by now that the amount of fat in your diet does not matter as much the KIND of fat.  Dessa, Chester- I'm lookin' at you. Take 2,000 mg a day.
Cod Liver Oil: is vitamins A and D in a pure form. Also has a lower level of EPA and DHA. However, take this to combat inflammation and get enough vitamin D.

I'll stop here because it's been awhile since I posted! I'll write more later. We are moving house, and it's hard. Myrna starts a new school MONDAY. Last day at old school is tomorrow. *Arg*

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kid's Health

Since I changed the name of this blog (from some poorly focused garden blog to the vit/herb/ health thing), I will just start by writing about what obsesses me as a mother.
1. Kid's thrive with good nutrition. For some this may not include milk, cheese, peanut butter, tree nuts etc. For us though, it resembles Adele Davis mixed with a little hippy mama and a dash of americana country. I mean PROTEIN. Complex carbs from whole grains. A bit of natural sugar here and there for lovin' pep (both fruit and honey/ maple syrup). Fresh food (good eggs, homemade bread, beans and cheese, fruit, a sly vegetable when I can) and some basic nonchalance about junk food. Yep, I've been letting it go. Cookies at school? Whatev. A bag of candy? Yes, you can have a piece after you eat your peas and salmon cakes.
2. Kid's immune systems might need a boost too. I use an Elderberry, echinacea syrup. It helps with the constant barrage of preschool colds, infections, germs. It is a syrup so easy to drink.
Here are two different kinds: Elderberry echinacea syrup by NOW, Nature's way Elderberry syrup. NOW is a great vitamin company my dad always believed in.  Maybe because it was cheap?? Just sayin'; my dad was a confirmed cheapskate!  But more or less, NOW has always had less flashy packaging, less "bio-certified by lab tests" stuff and just as much potency.  So I stand by them as well.

*Just a word here: I use Lucky vitamin dot com, as well as Vitacost dot com. These two sites allow me to be busy and working and still get vitamins.  HOWEVER, I love and respect the Community Mercantile. And when I'm in Lawrence, I try to keep them in business by getting my necessities there. Supplement emergency? Go to the Merc! Need guidance? Ask Tyra! My dad, Hal Sears, helped to start and make their wonderful department what it is today. He guided and helped and healed lots of people from his place at the Merc.

Back to the info. Why elderberry? It is hugely anti-viral. It's botanical name is sambucus. It's an anti-oxidant and gets your immune system kicking. My daughters' respond quickly to it. Remember that potency is not what you may think. Stronger is not necessarily better. It is important to look at how far away from it's native environment the supplement is. There is a school of thought that believes that only whole food sources can provide health benefits. I believe it too- but pragmatically, I can't get elderberries into my food.  Dude. I'm just not up to the task!! So I look at syrup- a glycerin extract. This means that basically the berries are soaked in glycerin (sweet, vegetable based and kid edible!). Very close to the source! No huge machines, no high concentrations that may do more harm than good, nothing created in a lab. I could recreate this in my kitchen after picking elderberries this summer! I encourage you to do this if it floats your boat. Get back to me about plant identification- I'll give you some information on correctly identifying the elderberry plant and berries. DO NOT GO EATIN STRANGE BERRIES IN THE WOODS. Jeez. Do I have to tell you everything?? (Also, do not attempt to sue me. See disclaimer in my info section.)

be well- feed your kids and yourself good food. lay off the sugar. refined sugar makes your immune system crash- a complex thing with sugars inhibiting absorption of vitamin c I think.

Herbal Vinegar presentation, Greater KC Herb Study Society

Herbal Vinegars- October 14, 2009

Herbal Vinegars can be grouped in two ways.
Medicinal and Culinary
In most cases, they are NOT mutually exclusive. This presentation will briefly discuss the benefits (medicinal qualities) of the most common and easy to grow culinary herbs.
They are a traditional and ancient way to preserve herbs for use when an herb is not available (out of season, etc). Vinegars add flavor to foods and also preserve herb’s oils and vital ingredients.

Rosemary: Stimulates digestion (helps the gall bladder produce bile, necessary for proper liver function) Anti-bacterial Anti-fungal (topical and internal) Circulation! Direct application of oil or vinegar to arthritic joints or damaged blood vessels can stimulate and ease pain. Sage: Cold remedy (hot tea) Anti-bacterial: especially for Staph. Vinegar can be used as a gargle for laryngitis and tonsillitis.
Major components are vermifugal (kills worms)
Kills infections in mouth as a gargle Bronchitis- eases the pain and infection Eases flatulence (anti-spasmodic in smooth muscles in colon, bowels, etc)
Fennel: Soothes digestion (anti-spasmodic again in smooth muscles), helpful against colic, gas in infants and adults alike. Promotes production of breastmilk.
Hot Peppers (capsicum): Externally to stimulate muscles and ease arthritis Internally: ward of chills, aids circulation and early onset of colds Most effective heart stimulant around! Supports immune function (very high concentration of Vitamin C)

How do I make herbal vinegars?
Simply choose a clean jar with a tight fitting lid. The smaller the jar, the less vinegar you will use. Your jar can range from a peanut butter jar to an ornate Belgian beer bottle. If the lid is metal, cut a small piece of wax paper to put over the jar mouth when you are through. This will prevent the vinegar from corroding the metal lid!
Pack your herbs in. If you don’t care for the taste of the herb or the medicinal qualities, simply use a sprig. You won’t taste much nor will you get much out the herb. Usually, I use as much as I can harvest. I use half a jar to a whole jar full, depending upon the purpose. Then I pour in the vinegar until it covers all of the herbs. I put my wax paper on top and close my lid. Store for 2-4 weeks in a dark place. Light degrades the efficiency of vinegars and herbs alike. Pour off or remove herbs from jar (leaving one or two for looks, if you like). Enjoy in soups, salad dressings or as a medicinal gargle.
[A word on vinegars: for medicinal purposes, use unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. This will not have been heated to remove any bacteria. Therefore, a "mother" will grow in your vinegar. It is a harmless, actually helpful, active culture that will appear as a moldy or cloudy film within. It's all part of the medicine...]