In my yard resides a beautiful gnarly grapevine. It grows along my fence and at times threatens to overtake a lovely Italian plum tree I have planted there. Every year perfect full bunches of grapes form all along the vine. In the Autumn they hang heavy, deeply purple and full of seeds. Their flavor is intense and beautiful, almost too much to sit and munch on for longer than a few minutes.Read More
To me the scent of wild things, of plants and flowers is truly enchanting and brings great joy to my life. Essential oils and hydrosols capture a bit of that magic for us humans to enjoy any time. Hydrosols are the aromatic water that is created during steam distillation of essential oils.Read More
Experiments In Acid-Base Chemistry
What do you get when you mix an acid with a base?
"It is like the acid and the base like each other so much
that they make the best of bubbly friends."
This is one way that I explain the fun, interesting chemical reaction of acid/base mixing to little kids. I also make sure we talk a bit about the ph scale; where an acid and a base are on that scale; and how when mixed together, they meet in the middle becoming neutralized.Read More
An interactive experience from start to finish, the sock bath is lots of fun to make with children. What is the sock bath you ask? I first learned about this great way to use herbs in the tub from my teacher, Brigitte Mars. To make a sock bath simply put your chosen herbs in a sock, tie a knot in the top and toss it in the tub... super easy! Having made sock baths a few times with the kids at preschool, I have come to notice that the kids just love them. They enjoy picking out their very own herbal blend to put in the sock and then they love playing with the knotted sock, snuggling with it and enjoying the scents of the herbs. Once you get the sock bath into the tub it is great fun to watch the water change color as the herbs mix with the bath water. And then squeezing all the herb-rich water out of the sock into the bath makes for a very tactile experience indeed.
~ Making Sock Baths With Kids ~
- A sock for each child. When I do this at school, I ask each child to bring in a long clean sock from home, not a kid size one! You need big socks to stuff!
- Bath Herbs examples are ~ roses, chamomile, lavender, catnip, calendula, and mints.
- Oatmeal, this is optional but it makes the bath so very much fun because when the sock bath is all wet in the tub and the child squeezes it, a skin nourishing slippery, milkiness exudes from the sock, so cool!
- Epsom Salts, totally optional
- Kid Friendly Essential Oils such as ~ lavender, sweet orange, spearmint, rosemary, rose geranium and ylang ylang. These are optional too!
- A Jar or Glass, have one for each child you plan to work with if you are going to do this in a group. Or you can have one jar/glass if you are going to work with each child separately. I used a plastic one to prevent problems with breakage.
- Give each child a jar/glass in which to create their sock bath.
- Working with either one child at a time or a few at a time, have the child(ren) choose the herbs they would like in their sock bath. Help them place about a 1/8 to 1/4 cup of each herb into their jar or glass.
- Add oatmeal and epsom salts if desired using about 1/8 to 1/4 cup each.
- Add the essential oils, about 4 to 8 drops total of whatever combination of oils you are using. If they want they can stir up their bath with a spoon.
- Then help the child(ren) to place to opening of their sock over the opening of their jar/glass and then once the sock is secure, dump the jar/glass over so the contents fall down inside the sock. (You might want to have the child hold the sock onto the jar if it is not a tight seal.) The child(ren) may need to give it all a little shake to get all the bath into the sock.
- Once all the bath is in the sock, remove the sock from the jar/glass and tie off the top!
- You can let the child(ren) play with their sock if you wish.
- Let the children's parents know how to use the bath ~ Just toss it in the tub with the child and let the play begin! Encourage the child to squeeze their sock bath so they can really smell the herbs and enjoy the wonderful herbed water that comes out of the bath.
Happy Creative Bathing!
Nourishing Mama Mission Four ~
Ever heard of herbal infusions? Like a tea but much better with a stronger nutritive and medicinal action herbal infusions are true nourishment in a cup. Plus they are easy to make and easy to drink. What could be better for a busy mama?
This is the fourth pursuit of the Nourishing Mama Mission and if done regularly over time it is very powerful indeed.
Herbal infusions are incredibly useful for providing the body with easy to assimilate nutrition. Infusions differ from tea because the plant material is steeped for a much longer period of time than a regular cup of tea. This allows for all the medicinal constituents including vitamins and minerals to be liberated from the herb. Regular drinking of infusions over time provides a strong base and deep nutrition for the body. You can drink 2 to 4 cups infusion every day or even just a couple of days a week as a way to support yourself.
~ Herbs To Use ~
When making and drinking infusions it is best to use gentle, nutritive and tonifying herbs which act mostly as food for the body. A great way to start working with herbal infusions to start by infusing and drinking one herb at a time. This gives you a chance to really get to know each herb. How does it feel in your body? What does it really taste like?
Good Herbs To Start With Are ~
This is a highly nutritive plant that stimulates blood flow and is a body wide tonic with an affinity for the kidneys and adrenals. Nettle’s high vitamin, mineral and chlorophyll content feeds the endocrine glands, builds the blood, provides essential nutrients for a stressed out nervous system and nourishes the liver. It will strengthen and revitalizes weak kidneys thereby increasing energy. It’s high amounts of iron and calcium increase hemoglobin in the blood encouraging increased oxygen transport to tissues. It is high in vitamin K which facilities proper blood clotting. Nettle activates the metabolism, therefore assisting in the absorption of the very nutrients it provides! It is an astringent plant that tightens and firms tissues. This action arrests bleeding and discharge from tissues, increasing their health and strength.
Oat is a nutritive herb that soothes and protects the nervous system by providing essential vitamins and minerals. Oat creates a sense of well being, supporting the emotions and integrity of the individual. Indicated for nervous debility or exhaustion with depression; fatigue, even with a good sleep; dark circles under the eyes; heart palpitations when pushing too hard; and/or stimulant abuse. It is beneficial for those who have suffered sexual abuse and trauma, resulting in sexual debility. One quart of infusion drunk daily will provide powerful benefits.
The leaves of this plant make a delicious infusion, which is high in vitamins and minerals: especially calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins C, B and E. Raspberry leaf is an energetic tonic for the reproductive organs..
Red Clover Blossoms ~ Trifolium pratense
This beautiful and commonly occurring ‘weed’ is a phytosterol, alterative and nutritive. Red clover is a phytosterol with estrogenic activity. Because of this, it acts as a defense against xenoestrogens (detrimental estrogens that occur in the environment as a result of pollution) by competing for estrogen binding sites. In fact my teacher Feather Jones explained to us that red clover also aids in creating a more powerful estrogen cycle. Red clover is highly nutritive with good quality, easily absorbable vitamins and minerals, proteins, fatty acids and flavinoids. All of which nourish the whole body: particularly providing vitamins for the uterus; minerals for the glands, which act to equalize hormonal activity and relax the nervous system. It also contains coumarins that decrease blood viscosity, hence increasing blood flow throughout the body. Do not take red clover for the first trimester of pregnancy or exceed two quarts of infusion per week during the later part of pregnancy due to its phytoestrogenic properties. Also, when buying red clover look for purple flower tops with a minimal amount of leaves.
Alfalfa ~ Medicago satvia
This amazing plant has a tap root that reaches a full 100 feet down deep into the rich depths of Mother Earth bringing up mineral rich goodness right into it's leaves and stems. Infusion made with alfalfa gives all the wonderful nutrition brought up from way down deep into the cup. Known as "The Father Of All Foods," alfalfa is a highly nutritive herb bringing health the body by feeding it well.
Chamomile is a soothing and relaxing herb that contains high amounts of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B-2, and flavinoids. It helps relieve anxiety and stress as well as pain and irritation in the gut, being particularly useful for flatulence and indigestion. Chamomile is also helpful for restlessness and insomnia. It steadies those suffering from nervous debility. Drinking chamomile infusion before nursing will impart these wonderful qualities to the breast milk and can help sooth an irritated child and alleviate some of the stress of colic. If you are making an infusion of chamomile, only steep for 3 to 8 minutes as it will become very bitter. Don't worry, this one is still very effective with the short brewing time. People who are sensitive to ragweed maybe be allergic to chamomile.
~ Making Your Infusion Brew ~
Place 1 large handful of dried herb in a canning jar (using up to 1 ounce of herb per quart of liquid, experiment with your tastes). Cover with hot or cold water, place a cap on top and let steep for at least 4 hours and then strain. You can dilute your infusion with water or juice, or add honey to taste. I usually make my infusions before going to bed and then strain the infusion the next morning into a bottle I can carry around with me during the day. Please be sure to use appropriate containers such as canning jars as they will not break when exposed to the high heat of boiling water. You can make extra quantities ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If your infusion takes on an unusual smell or begins to bubble it has gone bad. Unused leftovers can be given to plants as a superb growth tonic, and the spent herbal matter makes excellent compost.
~ Infusion Blends ~
Once you get the hang of making and drinking infusions you may decide to try blending your favorites together to create fun tasty combinations.
Here are some of my favorite blends:
- Oatstraw & Lemon Balm ~ Simply add a small handful each of oatstraw and lemon balm in a jar. Cover with water, steep for at least four hours and strain. This is my favorite infusion right now!
- Raspberry, Nettle & Spearmint~ Put a small handful each of raspberry leaf and nettle leaf in a jar and a few pinches of spearmint leaf. Cover with water, steep for at least four hours and strain. Play with the quantities of herbs to adjust to your taste.
- Raspberry, Oatstraw & Chamomile ~ Put a small handful each of raspberry leaf and oatstraw in a jar, fill halfway with water and let steep for at least four hours. About 15 minutes before you are ready to strain the infusion add a small handful of chamomile flowers and fill the jar to the top with hot water. Let steep for up to 15 minutes and strain. Add honey if this brew is to bitter.
Look for more tasty infusion recipes in the coming days and weeks.
Blessings and Love!
More Nourishing Mama Mission...
For more information on using herbs safely check out my guest post on
Natural Living Mama "Herbal Medicine Safety Considerations"
Not long before holiday break we had a lovely day playing with ginger and doing one of the kids' favorite activities, foot soaks! This is a great way to spend a cold winter day especially if little ones are passing any sort of cold around as it stimulates the immune system and helps kids relax.Read More
The first snow is magical. We were blessed with that special magic just over a week ago. Just a light dusting, it was beautiful. The snow brought huge smiles to my girls' faces in anticipation of winter fun. Preparation for the storm included a trip the garden for one last harvest. My little one followed along side me and helped me bring in our veggies and herbs. As we rambled through the yard we found our way to the fairy garden we planted a couple of months ago during the heat of summer. We found a large amount of thyme and lemon balm all ready to come inside and join us for the winter. We decided to make a little treat for getting us through the long winter ahead ~ herbal infused honey, yummy!
Infusing honey with herbs could not be easier...
Pack the herb into the bottom of a jar.
Pour honey over the top. Use a chop stick or a knife to stir the herbs into the honey because the honey will sit on top of the herbs and need a bit of help making its way to the bottom of the jar.
Some fun gooey bubbles will come up and insight potential giggles from little onlookers.
After stirring you will see the honey level go down and will need to add some more to top it off. Perhaps the fairies took a little sip?
Then comes the hardest part, waiting. Waiting for the honey to be done. If you can, try to wait at least a week before you start eating your honey. Truth be told we have already "tasted" the honeys many times and even had some on pancakes. Ah well...
Make sure to label your honey and stir it every day. Or you can simply turn the jar over a couple of times a day. This great tip and a wonderful video tutorial from Mountain Rose Herbs on making herbal honeys can be found HERE. After a week or so has passed either strain the herbs out of your honey or just eat them along with the honey.
Please Note: When infusing fresh herbs in honey you want to be sure to keep the herbs covered in honey so they don't rot. The water content in the herbs is what makes this happen. By keeping the herbs covered the honey preserves them and prevents spoilage. It is really hard to keep the herbs covered which is why turning the jar over a couple of times a day is just brilliant Because the flipping of the jar doesn't keep the herbs submersed in honey, but it does keep the herbs coated and that does the trick!
How to use infused honey...
Well this is the easy part!
A tasty spoonful here and there... Spread on biscuits and toast... A big dollop in a cup of tea...
It gets even better though because the HONEY is infused with the medicinal properties of the plants, it becomes delicious little immune system boost during the winter. Along with the amazing healing benefits of honey, LEMON BALM is a wonderful antiviral which eases tension in the nervous system and lifts the spirits. Thyme, rich in essential oils, is an antiseptic that is amazing for spasmodic coughs and fighting off infection. The thyme combined with soothing honey should be wonderfully soothing for respiratory issues.
Does it get any better than this?
Nature has blessed us with so much. Looking to Nature we can find a multitude of amazing plant allies that can help the whole family stay nourished and healthy during the winter months. A favorite is elder berry which has an extensive traditional use as a preventative for the flu and as a support during the flu. In fact modern research has found elderberries to be active against the flu virus. You can easily make a yummy syrup from elderberries to take on a regular basis during flu season. This is something that most kids really enjoy taking which is a major plus! If you don't want to make your own syrup a ready-made preparation of elderberry Sambucol can be purchased at most natural food stores. And if despite your best efforts, sickness should take hold, syrups can be used during a bout of the flu to hasten healing.
We make the following easy delicious recipe for syrup every year.
~ Elderberry Syrup ~
- One cup of fresh or ½ cup of dried elderberries
- 1 to 2 tsp of whole cloves (use less if you are using ground cloves)
- 1 to 3 tsp of cinnamon chips (use less if you are using ground cinnamon)
- 1 inch of fresh ginger root, chopped
- the peel of one organic orange
- 3/4 cup of raw unprocessed honey which acts as a preservative and enhances flavor
- 3 cups of water
Directions: Simmer the elderberries and spices in 3 cups of water. Once the berries have softened smash up the berries and spices in the water. This is a fun part to have children help with. I use a potato masher and closely supervise my kids while the squish away to their hearts delight! Cook at a low boil for about a ½ hour or until the liquid reduces by one-half. Strain the mixture with a fine mesh strainer. Make sure to get all the seeds out, which can be somewhat irritating to the digestive tract. Return the liquid to the pot and add the honey. Heat until the honey just melts. Then bottle, label (include the date!) and refrigerate your new syrup. It will keep in the refrigerator for about three months. Take 2 to 3 teaspoons for adults and 1 teaspoon for children (ages 2 and up) 3 to 5 times a week as a prophylactic during flu season. If you do happen to get sick with a bout of the flu take the same dosage about four times per day. Only the blue elderberries (Sambucus nigra) should be used as the red ones are toxic. Elderberries are generally considered to be quite safe though they can be drying and irritating for folks suffering from migraines. If you have a reaction, stop taking it immediately.
Recipe and information from Brigitte Mars's Elder.
A highly knowledgeable herbalist, Brigitte Mars lovingly offers her treasure trove of information for us to all learn from. Her classes are lively, fun and interesting. Her books offer an extremely valuable resource to those wishing to study herbs and learn about healthy living.
Make your syrup special
The spices included in this recipe not only make it taste delicious but also help to warm the body, decrease inflammation and support healthy digestion. Other herbs can be added to this syrup to increase its protective properties. Rose hips are soothing and will provide nourishing vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Astragalus has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a tonic to the immune system particularly to prevent illness. However, this herb should not be used during illness as it can drive infection deeper into the body. So do not take astragalus during the flu or cold. A great herb for children’s health is lemon balm. This yummy plant is antibacterial and antiviral, while also calming the digestive and easing nervous energy. Add any of these herbs by the handful to the pot with the elderberries be sure to also add a little extra water during the simmering and a bit more honey.