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herbalism 101

How to Make Fire Cider

Today is World Fire Cider Making Day, so we're joining the herbalists around the world in whipping up a batch of this fiery, stimulating traditional remedy. Ironically, I have a bit of a cold today, so please excuse my dry, scratchy, nasal-toned voice in the video. Apparently I didn't take my fire cider this season. ;)

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Each herbalist tends to take this traditional formula and play with the recipe a bit until it becomes their own, so you'll find a lot of variations of it in books and on the web. Ingredients tend to vary based on the location of the herbalist and which season it is. You'll notice that I've left out Horseradish root, one of the main ingredients in traditional fire cider, because I was unable to source it organically this year. (We're a 100% organic household.) No worries - use what you have available!

The main focus of the formula is to create a fiery, sweet immune boosting tonic that can be taken in small amounts when you feel like you might be getting sick or just need a little extra immune support. You can take it straight or add it to soups or salad dressings. Ready to make some of your own?

CLICK ON THE VIDEO BELOW TO PLAY IT

A BIT ABOUT THE HERBS

GARLIC

Most of you will recognize Garlic as the 'poor man's penicillin.' It's extremely valuable for fighting bacteria and helps boost the immune system by stimulating white blood cell production.

GINGER

Highly anti-inflammatory, Ginger also helps to soothe nausea.

TURMERIC

Another anti-inflammatory herb, Turmeric is often used to help support the body when dealing with coughs and colds.

ROSEMARY

Rosemary is uplifting and helps to relieve pain and ease headaches. It's also a circulatory stimulant.

THYME

Thyme is rich in immune-enhancing antioxidants and can be helpful for fighting infection.

CAYENNE

A warming herb that stimulates digestive enzymes and circulation, Cayenne is good for general aches and pains. It also contains capsaicin, which tells the brain to release the 'happy hormones' known as endorphins.

Enjoy your remedy-making!
Much love,
Erin

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO ADD TO YOUR FIRE CIDER?
Let us know in the comments below.



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Herbalism 101: Make Skin-Nourishing Salves

Salves are some of my favorite DIY herbal-aromatic remedies. They are so quick and easy to make! They also won't spill in my purse, which makes them a convenient favorite for carrying around with me. (I can't be the only one who has ruined a leather bag as a result of a faulty roll-on lid, right?) I tend to keep a variety of salves on hand because they're so useful and handy - my current favorite is an all purpose Calendula salve that I tend to make fresh every few months. If you've been itching to whip up a few salves for your own kit, you're in the right place!

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All salves are a basic combination of carrier oil and beeswax. To customize them according to what you want to use them for, you can use carrier oils infused with herbs. For example, I use Calendula infused oil in skin healing salves, like diaper rash balms and ointments for scrapes and burns. A St. John's Wort infused oil would be suitable in a salve intended to soothe muscle aches or pain and a Lavender infused oil would be lovely in a calming sleepy time balm. You get the idea, right? Decide on what you want your salve to be best for, then use oils infused with the herbs that correspond with that particular issue.

Most herbalists recommend making salves using a 1:4 ratio - 1 part beeswax to 4 parts oil. An overly simplified example of this would be a recipe made with 1 ounce of beeswax and 4 ounces of Calendula infused oil. I tend to prefer salves that are just a little bit softer than this and usually use a 1:5 ratio.

To make a salve, melt your beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. I tend to use a glass Pyrex measuring jar inside a small saucepan as my double boiler. It works perfectly - the pouring spout on the measuring jar is great for pouring the mixture into containers later. I keep the water level in my saucepan at about 2 inches.

Once your beeswax is melted, stir in your carrier oil. Sometimes the cooler temperature of the oil will cause the beeswax to solidify a little bit. If this happens, just keep stirring the mixture until everything is melted again.

After your beeswax and oil are thoroughly combined, turn off the heat and move your jar (or double boiler) away from the stove. If you're adding essential oils to your salve, now is the time to stir them in.

For recipes intended for children, elderly folks, or people with compromised immune systems, sensitivity to smell, etc., use a 1% dilution for your essential oil blend (5-6 drops of essential oil for every ounce of your beeswax/oil mix). For healthy adults, a 2% dilution is perfect (10-12 drops of EO to each ounce of beeswax/oil mix). If you're making a First Aid type balm for occasional adult use in acute situations, you could use a 3% dilution (15-18 drops of EO per ounce of carrier).

Pour your finished balm mix into your sterilized containers and let them sit undisturbed in a safe place until solid. While you're waiting for them to cool you can make some labels for your tins! I like to include all of the ingredients in the recipe, the date I made the batch, and a name for my finished blend on my labels. Label your new salves and use them as needed!

What sorts of salves do you [want to] keep in your home remedy kit?

Much love,
Erin

For educational purposes only. All photos and graphics are copyright Erin Stewart. May not be distributed, copied, or published without express prior written permission from me.

Herbalism 101: Making Herbal Infused Oils (& Using Them In Aromatherapy)

One of my favorite herbs is St. John's Wort - Hypericum perforatum - a sunny, cheery little weed-like wildflower. It's a versatile plant, but can be difficult for me to source fresh. Because it grows so well here in our state, it's made its way onto the noxious weed list so I'm unable to grow it personally and our urban neighborhood is pretty far from areas where I could wildcraft some. I depend on small farms for my fresh plant material and tend to order in the fresh flowering tops once a year - harvested and shipped on ice the same day so they arrive the next morning ready to use. I've just finished processing this year's batch! In honor of this lovely little plant ally, today we're learning how to make herbal infused oils to use in our aromatherapy products.

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After you've sustainably harvested your plant material, you'll want to let it wilt a bit (not in direct sunlight - this can cause protein-rich plants like red clover to rot) so that the moisture in the plant can start evaporating. Too much moisture in your oil can cause it to mold and spoil the whole jar, so taking the time to let your herbs sit first is usually a good idea. It also gives little critters a chance to escape from the plant before you start packing your jars. If you're using dried herb, you can obviously skip this step. Since I'm working with St. John's Wort, which needs to be fresh in order to make a proper infused oil, I let mine sit for just a little while so the moisture from the ice packs it came in could evaporate.

With fresh plant material, you'll want to fill about 1/2 - 2/3 of your jar with the herb. Some herbalists like to give it a bit of a rough chop or snip it with scissors while others prefer to place it into the jar as is. If you're using dried herbs, fill the jar halfway with the herb to give it enough room to expand and still be covered by your menstruum.

Pour the menstruum you've chosen to work with over the herbs until they're completely covered. I like to add an extra inch or so of menstruum to my jars. Use a chopstick or a the handle of a wooden spoon to work any air bubbles in the jar to the surface and top off the jar with more menstruum if needed. I used organic, cold pressed extra virgin Olive oil as my menstruum for this batch. You can use other oils if you'd like - Jojoba and Grapeseed oils are other favorites for infused oils. [Jojoba is a liquid wax and does not spoil, so is sometimes chosen in lieu of other oils with shorter shelf lives.]

If you're working with St. John's Wort, you can choose to include the whole flowering top (usually 4-6" of material), just the top leaves and flowers/buds, or just the buds in your oil. Your choice will influence the final outcome of the product a bit, but no matter which option you choose, your finished oil will be valuable.

Screw your jar's lid on tight and give the mix a good shake to get everything started. With St. John's Wort, you'll want to place your jar in a sunny window, or even outdoors in a place where the jar won't fall and break. [Some herbs are well suited to solar infusions, but others prefer a darker, cooler location - check your favorite herbal books to see what is recommended for the plant you're working with.] Leave the jar to infuse for 4-6 weeks, shaking it each day as you walk by. If you're working with St. John's Wort, you'll find that your oil will gradually turn a rich shade of red! This is supposed to happen. In fact, it is said that the darker and richer the red your oil yields, the higher the quality of it. Label your jar with the herb and menstruum you've chosen, along with the date and the expiration date of your menstruum.

After 4-6 weeks have passed, separate the plant material from the oil. I've found that the best way to do this is to line a potato ricer with a fine muslin cloth and press the oil out of the plant material into a large bowl. You could also line a fine mesh stainless steel strainer with muslin or cheesecloth and use a wooden spoon to work the oil out. Once finished, pour the oil into a fresh, clean jar and re-label it. Include the plant, the menstruum, the date it was infused, the date you strained it, and the expiration date of the menstruum. Once herbal oils have been strained, they are best kept in dark glass bottles in a cool, dark place away from sunlight and heat.

You now have a beautiful batch of herb infused oil to include in your aromatherapy recipes! Infused oils are especially useful in salves, balms, butters and massage oils. I love to include Calendula infused oil in skin nourishing recipes and look forward to using this St. John's Wort infused oil in homemade Trauma Oil and blends for sore muscles. How have you used herb infused oils in your products? If you're just getting started, which oil will you make first?

Much love,
Erin

For educational purposes only. All photos and graphics are copyright Erin Stewart. May not be distributed, copied, or published without express prior written permission from me.

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