Immune Support Truffles

Immune Support TrufflesSaturday we had a great herbal study group on support for colds and flu. I posted a picture on Facebook which showed the snack I brought to share as part of my discussion on supporting the immune system. This is also one of the recipes I taught at the Herbal Resurgence Gathering. I’ve had a few requests for the recipe from people who didn’t attend the class so I thought I should share it. The best part about this recipe is that it can be sweetened entirely with the fruit puree but has enough natural sugars that it is still mildly sweet. For those who have a sweeter tooth than myself, you can add honey. Wolf says that they are entirely sweet enough on their own, and I agree.

Dry Ingredients

1/4 cup astragalus powder
1/4 cup milk thistle seeds -finely ground and sifted
1 T. raw cocoa powder
½ cup ground seeds- I like pumpkin, but you can use sunflower or flax, also.
½ cup ground almonds or other nut. You can also use ground oats here.

Nut butter or tahini
Fruit Puree* or Honey
Mix dry ingredients first and add ½ cup of nut butter, or tahini to the mix. Now mix in your fruit puree, honey or a combination of both until it forms a dough you can work with.

Roll this mixture in balls and roll in a coating of your choice. You could use any of the following:
Raw Cacao powder, ground unsweetened coconut mixed with ground cinnamon or nutmeg, finely ground nuts or seeds- sesame seeds are good here.

You could also dip them in dark chocolate. After reading Guido’s book I am an even larger proponent of dark chocolate as a tonic herb, even though it is not my favorite thing.

Just make it something that tastes good. I see these with slippery elm and licorice on the outside, and roll my eyes. Very few people find those things tasty. Now some toasted coconut with nutmeg on the other hand… Also if you are going to dust them with cacao powder think ahead and make the dough a little sweeter.

Dried Fruit Puree
I’ve seen this done using dates as dried fruit, but I really prefer cherries. It is important to save the liquid you’ve used to rehydrate the fruits because a lot of your nutrients leech out during the re-hydration process. Soak 1 cup dried fruit in 2 cups of warm water overnight. Strain-reserving the liquid. Place re hydrated fruit in food processor or blender.
Whip adding reserved liquid until a creamy paste like consistency is formed.

While they might resemble Rosemary’s zoom balls, these are for everyday consumption and contain gentle, tonic herbs and nutritive ingredients.

Personal Seasoning Blends: Eat Your Bitters

Personal Bitters BlendThe book I have my students reading for our book discussion is The Wild Medicine Solution by Guido Masé which I am very much enjoying, myself. It is fun to read something for the first time with them, because we are all discovering its wonderfulness together.

Guido rocks the bitters section in this book and it has given me new things to think about in terms of bitters mitigating modern diet and environmental conditions. I think my first exposure to the importance of bitters came from Jim McDonald who is a veritable font of information on the subject. His Blessed Bitters is an amazing introduction to the subject, so my purpose in this post is not to explain their importance, but rather to share my ways that I incorporate Bitters into my diet.   As longtime readers know, we cook our own food around here and I am a very large proponent of eating your herbs. I incorporate them into my food whenever possible because honestly I am not going to remember to take 20 tinctures a day. So while it is nice to have a bottle of warming bitters to be able to tuck in my bag when I am out traveling, at home I prefer to figure out ways to cook with them. I eat eggs and greens for breakfast almost every morning braised with seasonings. I also run pretty cold. So even though the classic bitter greens are a hugely important part of my diet, I need to find ways to warm them up a bit. Similarly, if I make chamomile tea chances are I am going to add some orange peel and fennel to warm it up. I attribute that bit of brilliance to Darcy Blue. One of my favorite ways to get bitters everyday is to put them in a seasoning mix that I make ahead of time and keep in a cute little crock by my stove.

To begin making this I grind equal amounts of what I jokingly call  na Tríonóide Naofa of seeds: milk thistle, nettle and burdock seed. To that mixture I add an equal amount of the warming bitter fenugreek, mushroom powder and a good amount of rosemary. You can use any mushroom powder you enjoy but my teacher Sean recommended this 14 Mushroom Powder that is just divine and I’ve heard good things of the owner from many herbalists. To this combination I add long pepper (because it is less drying than black pepper), sea salt, and oregano in equal amounts. My purpose is to try to round the flavors out in a manner similar to the way a curna would be made. You can easily substitute in other culinary herbs that balance out your energetics. Perhaps you need more drying herbs? While not a traditional curna because it is quite heavy on the bitters, I use this frequently to cook with and to season my raw veggies.

My Personal Bitter Seasoning Blend Formula

1 part milk thistle seed
1 part burdock seed
1 part nettle seed
1 part fenugreek seed
1 part dried mushroom powder
1/2 part rosemary
1/4 part sea salt
1/4 part long pepper or black pepper
1/4 part oregano

If you have this made up and easily accessible, you will find it much easier to quickly add bitters to other preparations. I add a quarter cup of this to the crockpot, every time I make bone broth. One of my favorite breakfasts is to sprinkle it on sliced avocados and a poached egg.

Herbal Honey

honeyOne of the most popular classes at the conference this year was Lisa Ganora’s Extracting Herbs with Honey. Lots of people who attended the class were throwing ideas around afterward and I came home determined to get a little more creative in making my honey extracts this year.

I’ve been making sage honey and garlic honey for years. I also use it in elixirs and oxymels-like firewater. I was thinking the other day that I actually use a lot of it for someone who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth. The reason for this, is that honey preparations are a brilliant way to deliver herbs to children or finicky grown-ups and I do know more than a few of those.

I was lucky enough to acquire plenty of amazing local honey this fall, so experimentation just seemed to be in the cards. I had to save some back for my usual concoctions and herbal pills, but I had enough to play with a few new ideas. To begin with, I used the last of last year’s sage infused honey to try something I saw in one of those Facebook memes. I sliced lemons and ginger and placed them in a jar , poured the honey over these slices and stored the jar in the refrigerator.

Then I started some other extractions that I have listed the ingredients for below. I”d like to tell you I measured any of this,  but I didn’t.  The basic process is super easy. Put the herbs in the jar and pour some honey over them. Honey can be a little difficult to work with if it really thick. I use wooden popsicle sticks to poke it down into the jar around the herbs.

Throat Soother I will probably just feed this to the children by the spoonsful when they have a cough, although I am not quick to suppress a cough as I feel that leads to increased occurrence of secondary infections.

Fresh Sage
Fresh Thyme
Dried Osha Root (Just a bit-a little goes a long way where Osha is concerned.)

Sunshine in a Jar I love calendula for all its wonderful properties. I threw the orange zest in as an afterthought and I am so glad I did.

Fresh Calendula Flowers
Orange Zest

Chai Herbal Honey

My thought process here is that we love chai. With this honey, you can make any herbal infusion taste like chai-perhaps use it to mask some stronger flavored herbal infusions like boneset. You can also just brew up some tea and flavor it with this and a little bit of milk. Instant Chai!

Ground Cardamom Pods
Black Peppercorns
Star Anise

I am going to let these sit for a long while on my water heater which keeps them just slightly warm. It is probable that you have heard that heating raw honey ruins it. Raw honey does contain the heat-sensitive enzyme glucose oxidase which serves as a signal to white blood cells to move into an area increasing its healing potential. So if you are wanting to use the honey in that capacity, then it is a good idea not to let it get too warm. Still, Lisa mentioned that it is okay to work with it around body temperature in her class notes, so I am comfortable sticking with that practice. It has produced some pretty good results for me in the past.

I have some additional honey projects in mind due to its wound healing properties. I have fresh St. John”s Wort flowers infusing in coconut oil and calendula flowers infusing in shea butter. Once they are ready to go, I am going to mix them in with some honey probably in a 1:1:1 ratio. I will have to report back on the efficacy of that concoction.
Ganora, L. (2011). Extracting herbs with honey. In Rose, Kiva (Eds.), Herbal Resurgence: Medicine of the People Class Notes and Conference Book (pp. 104-106).

Therapeutic options for acute cough due to upper respiratory infections in children.

Clinical observations on the wound healing properties of honey

Sekanjabin for the Flu Season

sekanjabinI brought back the most amazing yarrow from the Mormon Lake.  There was definitely much wildcrafting to be done there.    I made a pint of tincture, dried some flowers for tea, but I still had about a half cup left.  I decided to give something I thought of when we were talking about yarrow in Matt Wood”s class a try.

Winter is coming and with it cold and flu season, so I was trying to think of different ways I could preserve the cooling herbs I have growing in my yard for winter and use of the last of the yarrow flowers.  This is where being an SCA geek comes in handy.  There is a Persian concoction known as sekanjabin that many of my shire mates enjoy a great deal.  When I first tasted it, I recognized it immediately as an oxymel.   Oxymels have been around for a long time.  Hippocrates speaks of them in On Regimen in Acute Diseases  and the following recipe is found in the Anglo Saxon Leechbook:

“Take of vinegar, one part; of honey, well cleansed, two parts; of water, the fourth part; then seethe down to the third or fourth part of the liquid, and skim the foam and the refuse off continually, until the mixture be fully sodden. If thou wish to work the drink stronger then put as much of the vinegar as of the honey..

My basic recipe for making an oxymel with honey follows:

1 1/3 cup honey
1 cup water
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 cups mint

The process is simple.  Bring the water and the honey to a boil and boil for  about ten -15 minutes, skimming  the foam off the top.   Then you pour in the white vine vinegar into this and bring the mixture back to a boil.  Simmer over low heat until the mixture thickens.  This recipe does not get as thick as those I’ve done with sugar.

Then you take it off the heat,  coarsely chop up the mint and steep it in the mixture with a cover.

To make this something that would be a good drink to support a person with a  feverish condition,  I used equal amounts of yarrow flowers,  dried elderflowers and peppermint.   I covered the pan tightly and then let the mixture infuse all night long.   In the morning I strained it well and bottled the concentrate up.

To use the concentrate you put one part of it in a glass with eight parts water. If you are wanting to work with the diaphoretic actions of the plants, you will want to serve this as a hot drink.  Or you could use it as  to sweeten an infusion.

Make Your Own Mouthwash

I noticed that the dry weather was getting to my tongue the other day. So I decided it was time to whip up a new batch of homemade mouthwash. The base of my mouth wash is a cold mountwashinfusion of marshmallow root which is good for dry and irritated conditions, specifically for when your tongue starts getting those little horizontal cracks. Some of you won”t know what I am talking about, but if you do, you should give this a try.

Even if you don”t suffer from lack of humidity the way I do, swishing this daily may help reduce inflammation of the gums and occurrences of gingivitis. It is so very soothing. To begin, I put 1/4 cup marshmallow root  in a pint of cold water and go to bed. In the morning, I wake up to a nice slimy infusion. I strain this well and add some tinctures. I start with calendula which is broadly anti-microbial and also helps against inflammation. Then I add 1 tsp of sage tincture which is recommended by Matthew Wood in cases of “sore, bleeding, ulcerated, inflamed or receding gums and canker sores”.

I also put in 1 tsp of peppermint tincture. Honestly, this is pretty much for taste, you could add a teaspoon of cinnamon tincture if you prefer.You can also use peppermint extract, from the grocery store, in the place of the tincture. It is the same thing, really, and I will bet mine is cheaper.

Once that is all shaken or stirred together, it will keep at room temperature as long as you use it daily. There is more than likely enough alcohol from the tinctures to preserve a larger amount of the infusion, but it is a simple enough process, that it can be made weekly