I decided to make an Echinacea tincture as my first herbal project for Herbal Academy of New England. I’m enrolled in their Intermediate Herbal Course and one of my assignments was to make an herbal recipe and write about it. It’s not chance that I chose Echinacea. We are smack-dab in the middle of cold and flu season, and many of my Kindergarten students are presently fighting off colds. Echinacea tincture is the perfect and practical choice. I purchased one pound of organic Echinacea purpurea root and two large bottles of brandy. I chose brandy over vodka because brandy seems more soothing when you have a cold. Who wouldn’t like a brandy (or whiskey with lemon) by the fire when they’re feeling under the weather?
After a bit of searching the basement shelves, I found my large two-gallon jar. I cleaned it and dried it thoroughly. I put the dried Echinacea purpurea root in the jar and then covered it with the brandy in stages, stirring in between pours to make sure that all the herb was covered by the brandy. I put it in one of my kitchen cabinets to “rest.” Every so often I gave the giant jar a hearty shake. After a few days, I could see that the echinacea root was absorbing the brandy and the liquid wasn’t fully covering the herb anymore (and it should be) so I added additional brandy. After waiting almost four weeks (tinctures can “rest” three to six weeks) , I got impatient. Using a fine mesh strainer, I strained the tincture into sixteen amber glass 4 oz. bottles.
Just as I feared, two days ago, I started to feel sick: sore throat, brain fogginess, sinus pressure, and headache. I have been using the tincture for two days. To take the medicine, I squeeze the dropper and draw the tincture into the glass tube and drop it into my mouth. I do this twice. I prefer to take it this way rather than mixing it with water. Admittedly, it takes a little getting used to the earthy taste. I can happily say that the tincture is helping me fight the virus.
There are nine species in the genus Echinacea. Echinacea is a perennial. You may have some of these beautiful plants in your gardens already. I have the Purple Coneflower, aka Echincacea Purpurea, in my gardens. The pollinators love them. In fact, that’s the reason why I planted them last year. They feed my honey bees and many beautiful butterflies, and when the season is over the center cone provides food for the birds. The flowers, leaves, and roots can’t be harvested until the plant is at least three years old. Harvesting is done in the fall after the first frost when the leaves and flowers have browned.
Echinacea works as immune stimulant. If it is taken at the onset of cold, it can shorten and lessen the severity of illness. It should not be taken on a regular basis longer than six to eight weeks. If you take it to help you get through cold season it is best take it for a couple weeks, then take a week off, then resume. Always consult your health professional before taking Echinacea with other prescribed medications. As with any medication, drug interactions can occur.
After a very fun and exciting trip to Alta Ski Area for a family Christmas vacation, I am back renewed and ready to focus on what 2014 has in store. In 2014, my husband Todd and I will turn 47. He’ll have you know that yes, I. am. older. On June 10, we will celebrate our 25th anniversary. The blessings and love of our lives, our daughters, will turn 24 and 23. What?? Sadly, our Retrievers will continue to age quicker than we will. Mischievous and sneaky Ginger will turn 14 and needy, loyal Sage will turn 7. In 2014, I’ll have lived through 30 New England hurricanes and about 7 big blizzards. But, if you didn’t live through the Blizzard of ’78 you don’t know what a blizzard really is. In 2014, I’ll have worked at paying jobs for 32 years. In 2014, my grandmother Margaret will turn 91 and her sister, my great-aunt Mary, will turn 101. Sometimes it seems that time stands still, but thankfully it moves ever onward and old hurts and worries leave. And so … this June, I’ll have marked 4 years post-accident; in 2010, we experienced our daughter Kelsey nearly die of a car accident and survive, not just survive and be OK, but survive and THRIVE. Miracles do happen. In 2014 and beyond, our daughter Kate will be reminiscing about her month-long Grand Canyon rafting trip with our Three Rivers Whitewater family and inspiring us to live fully in 2014.
Cheers to more friends, more family, more food, and more fun!
So maybe it’s the vegetarian diet I decided to try mid-December (it’s sticking … so far), or the juicing I’ve been doing the past twelve days, but I am feeling energized, focused, and excited for what 2014 holds. Did I say vegetarian? eek. I hesitated, slightly, to write that I’m living a vegetarian lifestyle. It’s a big step and HUGE change for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the taste of meat. I know how to cook it well, and I know how to celebrate with it. Over the past 25 years I centered many meals around it. And friends and family know that I’m passionate about pasture-raised, organic, and sustainable farming practices. What I struggle with, always struggled with, is the ethical dilemma of eating dead animals.
The take away?
I’m trying to live out my beliefs.
At times, I may fail. I may crave a Big Green Egg grilled grass-finished burger or a piece of my crispy, fried chicken and decide to eat meat. I will do so with gratitude.
I am a vegetarian one day at a time (it’s been 30 days), and for now that’s OK.
I feel great.
What’s inspiring me these days?
If you haven’t already watched the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” with Joe Cross I urge you to do it. It’s a moving documentary of Joe’s road to health through juicing. It got me to buy a juicer and commit to a 15-day reboot. I’m on day 12 and may go longer than 15 days.
Another documentary worth finding is “Vegucated”. From their website: “Part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, Vegucated follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Lured by tales of weight lost and health regained, they begin to uncover the hidden sides of animal agriculture that make them wonder whether solutions offered in films like “Food, Inc.“ go far enough.”
and yet another documentary. “Hungry For Change,” is about the food and diet industry and how it’s keeping us fat – overfed and undernourished to be exact.
the NOFA Conference I attended January 11. NOFA stands for Northeast Organic Farming Association. I’ve wanted to go to one of their conferences for years. This year, I decided to go. I went to a class on backyard chickens and kitchen medicine. Being an avid user of herbal remedies, homeopathic medicine, and aromatherapy, I thought the kitchen medicine class would be great and it was. In just two hours I saw all my thoughts about food as medicine, eating with the seasons, and using herbs put together into an informative course.
herbal medicine. I’ve been using herbal remedies for 25 years. Did you know that herbs have been used as medicine since the time of our paleolithic ancestors? Paleo humans ate a mostly herbivore diet that was occasionally interspersed with the meat of a hunted animal. There are cave paintings depicting, what most scholars believe to be, a shaman with antlers. Herbalism is ancient. When I think of herbalism, I think of a shaman, a wise woman, an Ayurvedic practitioner, a Chinese medicine doctor, and Hippocrates (he was an herbalist).
Some common herbal remedies or teas you may already know and use are: ginseng (energy), gingko (brain health and circulation), echinacea (immune support), chamomile (eases aches and pains, promotes relaxation), lavender (antibacterial, aphrodisiac, ease headaches), and St. John’s Wort (eases aches, pains, and depression). Herbalism is a skill that is passed down through generations, but since I don’t come from a long line of shamans I will be getting my education from Herbal Academy of New England in Bedford, Massachusetts. They have a team of experts (including clinical herbalists and doctors) ready to support and encourage new students.
Check them out! In addition to information on herbal medicine they have culinary and herbal recipes, wellness articles, and DIY projects. I’ll be guest blogging for them, too. I’m very excited to be part of their organization.
Interested in modern herbalism?
Sign up for their Online Intermediate Herbal Course and join me!
So… you made it all the way through my post. Thank you! And here’s a recipe for you on a cold, winter day when your body and soul needs some warming.
Butternut Squash Soup
Makes a giant stockpot
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large chunks
4 large carrots, chopped
2 fennel bulbs, sliced or chopped into small pieces
1 large yellow onion, sliced or chopped into small pieces
64 oz. low sodium vegetable broth or homemade stock
3T EVOO or coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1T coarse sea salt
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1t whole peppercorns
2-3t hot curry powder
6 shakes of cayenne pepper
fresh cilantro for sprinkling on top
Directions: In a large stockpot, sauté the onion, garlic, and fennel for 10 minutes. Do not let it brown. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Add the butternut squash, carrots, peppercorns, sea salt, curry, and cayenne pepper to the stockpot. Using a Microplane grater, grate the fresh ginger directly over the pot. Give it all a stir. If the squash in not covered by the stock, add enough water to cover, but not float. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil and cover. Gently boil for 15 minutes or until the carrots and squash are soft.
Using a blender, scoop out the soup and blend in batches to the desired consistency. Return to a different stockpot and keep warm. Note: Using a stick blender works great for this soup and is easier to clean than your blender.
Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy.
Kitchen Medicine or WHY this soup so good for you:
butternut squash – fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A to protect the heart and eyes
carrots – LOADED with beta-carotone that converts to Vitamin A to protect the heart and eyes. From WebMD: “Carrots were first grown as medicine, not food, for a variety of ailments. Carrots can be traced back about 5,000 years through historical documents and paintings.”
fennel – relieves flatulence and colic, stimulates the digestion and appetite.
onions and garlic – antioxidant, stimulate immune responses, reduce inflammation
ginger – aids digestion, antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, promotes circulation, diaphoretic
peppercorns – aids digestion, diaphoretic, diuretic, anti-oxidant, antibacterial
cayenne – stimulates blood flow, rheumatic pains, strengthens the heart and arteries
cilantro – anti-oxidant, lowers blood sugar, in large doses it can aid in heavy metal chelation
sea salt – 84 trace minerals and elements such as iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc.