Spring is here in beautiful Peterborough, NH and there is nothing like getting outside to work in the garden or heading to the woods, lakes and mountains to explore.
These activities can come with many joys and rewards, but a Poison Ivy rash is not one of them. The rash is caused by the skins reaction to the urushiol (yoo-ROO-shee-all), an oily toxin which is found on the leaves, stems, flowers, berries, and roots, even when the plant is dead. This toxin is also found on Poison Oak and Sumac. Urushiol is one of the most toxic natural poisons on earth. The amount that can fit on the head of a pin is enough to affect the entire population in this country.
Coming into contact with poison ivy can result in swelling, blisters, pain and incredible itching of the area that is affected. Some cases may also appear as red bumps, intense burning and irritation and even fever. The reaction can appear within hours or from seven to ten days after exposure to the toxin. The rash can then spread within a few days, which is quickened when the affected area is scratched. Most poison ivy cases are mild but some people can develop a serious rash and irritation that can cause a lot of suffering.
Luckily there are many natural remedies to sooth a poison ivy rash:
Aloe Vera gel, can be applied directly onto the rash to cool and sooth the skin. Himalayan Sea Salt is drying to the skin and will help by pulling the excess water and toxins from the body. A cup of Himalayan sea salt can be put into a warm bath to soak the body for 20-30 minutes. It can also be made into a paste by mixing it with water and applying it directly to the rash.
Witch Hazel is both cleansing and itch relieving when dabbed onto the rash. Cucumber is very cooling and can be made into a paste to bring soothing relief to the hot rash. Some folks will rub the rash with the inside of a banana peel, which can produce a cooling and soothing effect.
A small amount of powdered organic Goldenseal root, made into a paste with hot water, can be rubbed onto the rash to help prevent infection. Goldenseal can also be taken as a tea or supplement for quicker results.
Jewel weed is a famous remedy for poison ivy. Ironically, it often grows near poison ivy and oak. Apply the juice of the fresh plant on the rash, or make a tea or tincture to apply topically.
Some essential oils are also helpful. Combine 3 drops each of lavender (for itch relief), tea tree (as an antiseptic) and peppermint (cooling menthol) essential oils with 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 2 tablespoons of raw Apple Cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of distilled water. Be sure the salt is completely dissolved and then dab the combined mixture onto the rash as needed.
An oatmeal bath soak with essential oils can also be very soothing. Combining 3 cups of quick oats with 3 drops of Chamomile essential oil and 1 drop of peppermint essential oil tied in a piece of cheesecloth. Run a bath, and dissolve a small box of baking soda in the water while filling the tub. Toss in the oatmeal cheesecloth and soak the body as often as needed. The oatmeal cheesecloth can also be gently rubbed onto the rash while in the tub to help sooth the skin.
There are also many homeopathic remedies that can be helpful for poison ivy, oak and sumac:
Arnica for heat, Apis for swelling, Bryonia for hot pale skin, Kali sulphuricum for treating yellow pus, Arsenicum album for itch and swelling, Graphites for oozing and chills. Rhus Tox for swelling , Sulphur for intense itching, Ledum for stinging or burning.
Many of these remedies are available in 30C dosage pill form and are also available in some lotions, creams and gels. Be sure to avoid using remedies containing oils, as the oil can worsen a poison ivy rash.
Homeopathic silver, in gel form, fights skin infections and calms inflammation when applied to the affected area.
So, when you are out in the yard be sure to dress appropriately to protect yourself from exposure to poison ivy by wearing protective clothing such as gloves, long sleeved shirts and long pants. If you do become exposed, be sure to get any serious reactions checked by a qualified healthcare professional.
Many of the remedies in this article are found on the shelves at Maggie's Market. When Poison Ivy strikes we can help.
Blog posted by Melissa Mustapha, who works as a Manager and Buyer at Maggie's Market. She is qualified as a certified Herbalist and Aromatherapist.
The Immune System is our defense system: It protects us from invaders. Just like any defense system, the immune system needs to have support to keep it strong and to help build it up when it is time for battle. As an herbalist, I have learned a lot about using herbs and botanicals to aid in strengthening the immune system. Using herbs as foods is a simple and practical way to improve health and well being.
I am going to share some of my favorite home remedies that I have used over the years, which have been effective in allowing me to avoid all of the many cold, flu and stomach bugs that seem to be a regular occurrence in the population. If I do fall victim to a cold, these immune enhancing herbs have allowed me to shorten the duration and to not have to suffer for days or weeks on end.
Astragalus root: Astragalus membranaceus
This herbs antiviral properties help the body to build resistance to cold and flu. It is great when used weekly in soups or stews to keep the immune system strong in the winter. I use the root in soups and stews to keep my immune system strong. I add the root slices, usually 2-4 depending on the size, with the liquid and raw veggies to thoroughly cook and release all of the immune enhancing properties into whatever I am preparing.
Medicinal Mushrooms: Glorious fungi for our health.
I typically use Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) and Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms have long been studied for their effectiveness in healing and for strengthening the immune system. I will make a mushroom infusion and add astragalus root for a healthy combination to add to soups and stocks. Simply chop up the mushrooms and add the astragalus and put them into a stock pot or crock pot and fill with fresh water. Bring the liquid up to a gentle simmer and let the mushrooms and herbs slowly cook for 2-4 hours, adding water if needed. Let it cool completely, sift out the mushrooms and herbs, pour the resulting liquid into glass bottles and refrigerate or freeze the stock for future use. I have found that this stock adds a meaty flavor to soups and stews as well as giving your immune system a wonderful boost to fight against invaders.
Stinging Nettles: Urtica urens
This herb contains more protein than any other native plant. When preserved properly this herb retains the proteins and trace minerals to help keep your immune system healthy. I typically add a handful of the dried herb to soups and stocks in the early stages, as it takes time for the nettles healthy minerals to infuse into the liquid. I think of nettles as the natural mineral supplement for my body. The high protein content in this herb is a wonderful property for those of us who choose not to eat meat protein.
Wicked Hot Fire Cider:
Now this is a remedy that has been around, in some form, for generations. Basically, it is a base of warming, energizing and pungent herbs bathed in Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar. I use horseradish root, ginger root, garlic, onions, & cayenne pepper, and when combined with the vinegar, produces a glorious tonic to help keep your immune system strong during the cold and flu season. I will also add black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, orange rind, turmeric and schizandra berries for even more immune strengthening and stimulating properties. I chop up the herbs and place them into a large glass jar, cover them, by about 2 inches, with Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar and let sit for at least 4 weeks, shaking daily. After I sift out the herbs, I then add some local honey to the infused cider, and use it throughout the cold and flu season. It can be taken as a daily shot, or used as a hot and healthy dressing or marinade for poultry, fish, vegetables or grains.
I also include my Elderberry Elixir (details in my November 2016 Blog) with these remedies, to further strengthen my immune system.
So, that is my winter arsenal of herbs to help keep my immune system strong and healthy. Along with drinking lots of water and getting proper sleep, fresh air and exercise, these remedies are a wonderful addition for your health and well being and for keeping the immune system strong and healthy.
In Health & Wellness,
So let’s talk about Depression. The Blues… The Blahs… and how some simple and effective herbs and botanicals may assist with these conditions of the mind and spirit.
Most of us have been there to some degree, and there are millions of people who struggle with depression every day. I once read a quote that has stayed with me, “If you’re not depressed, you’re not paying attention.” Man, how depressing is that?!?
I have read a lot about the subject of depression, in the hope of trying to understand some of the reasons behind depression, and to find simple, healthy tools to hopefully deal with depression and to improve quality of life. The herbal therapies I have listed here, are much more effective when coupled with a healthy diet and moderate exercise.
Flower Essences: These traditionally come in small dropper bottles and are the result of gathering flowers at the peak of bloom and setting them in the afternoon sun in a bowl of clean, clear water for a few hours. The resulting liquid is then poured off and preserved with a bit of brandy. The flower essence is then used a few drops at a time to assist with the challenging emotional aspects of life… fear, depression, anxiety, aggression, anger, just to name a few… these drops can be put directly under the tongue or into water to be sipped throughout the day.
I have personally had wonderful results with using flower essences to assist with moving through difficult and challenging times in my life, and believe that they can be a wonderful tool for helping with mild to moderate depression and the blues.
Essential Oils: Scent is a powerful thing… who doesn’t smell pine or peppermint and think of winter and Christmas? The wonderful smells of the season are found in cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg! I love this time of year as my home is filled with these warm and comforting scents.
When it comes to depression, there are many essential oils that may be very effective… Clary Sage, Neroli and Rose can lift your spirits… Lavender, Lemon Balm and Chamomile are often used to calm and soothe the emotions. These essential oils are also found in many massage oils and body lotions and may have similar effects on the emotions. When I need to calm down I get assistance from Lavender and Lemon Balm and I tend to cheer up with Neroli and Lime… essential oils are an easy way to sniff away my troubles and to even out my frayed nerves.
Herbs & Supplements: As with essential oils, the same properties are in the whole herb. Herbal preparations are typically in the form of tinctures, teas and capsules. Many herbs that may be effective with depression of the nervous system are, St. John’s Wort, Holy Basil (also called Sacred Basil or Tulsi), Lemon Balm, Skullcap, Valerian, Oats, Passionflower, Chamomile & Rose. Depending on the individual, one herb may be more effective than another. But the comforting thing is that most of these plants are non toxic and safe, when used as intended. I adore a warm cup of Rose Tulsi tea to sooth me after a long day, relaxing my nerves as the stresses of the day just melt away…
This blog, by no means, encompasses all the many ways that depression can be managed with natural and alternative therapies and tools. It is just some helpful information from your local Herbal Bee. There is hope for those suffering from depression and Maggie’s Market has many more healthy and effective ways, to help you get there.
Bee well and Take Care,
Melissa, The Herbal Bee
There is evidence of the Black Elder being used since the stone ages. Folklore tells of Elder having magical powers of protection and longevity. It was also known as “the medicine chest of the country people”.
The berries of the elder plant are high in iron and vitamin C. They contain antioxidants and flavonoids as well as many other beneficial healing properties. The berries activate immunity by increasing cytokine production to prevent damage caused by free radicals, helping to keep the immune system healthy and strong. Elderberries antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-rheumatic properties have been scientifically shown to stop the symptoms of the cold and flu virus.
The flowers of Black Elder have decongestant and relaxing effects to ease cough and respiratory congestion. They are also antispasmodic to the gut which protects against irritation and inflammation.
One of the best ways to reap the many benefits of Black Elderberry is with delicious Elderberry Syrup. Most syrups are made with fresh or dried elderberries, elder flowers, warming herbs and spices and raw honey.
Every year I make up a batch of Elderberry Elixir, adding astragalus root and medicinal mushrooms to my Elderberry Syrup, for additional immune enhancing properties. It is my go-to remedy, taken at the onset of cold symptoms, and it is also useful to take daily, for prevention, during the cold and flu season. I like to add a healthy tablespoon to hot herbal tea or to make a cool drink by adding it to water or seltzer. Elderberry Syrup can be poured over yogurt or even ice cream for a healthy dose of immune boosting herbal joy!
At Maggie's Market we have many wonderful herbal companies that produce the most glorious Elderberry Syrups, teas and tinctures. We are always happy to assist you in making the best choices for the benefit of your health and for a healthy lifestyle.
The most common time to contract Lyme infections is in May and October, when the tick, the most famous carrier, is most active. Many people living in New Hampshire enjoy visiting the many beautiful lakes, parks and trails. So avoiding the out of doors is not an appealing option to those who live in this beautiful state.
The Best Thing is Prevention:
Some Facts About Lyme Disease
If you suspect that you have been bitten by a deer tick:
“Herbal medicines are tremendously sophisticated interventions for chronic conditions, such as Lyme disease and its co-infections”, Healing Lyme, 2nd Edition by Stephen Harrod Buhner
The information contained in this blog was collected from lectures from those who have been living with Lyme Disease and from books, mainly “Healing Lyme, 2nd Edition by Stephen Harrod Buhner”
Some Excellent Resources & Information for Herbal Treatment & Prevention of Lyme Disease:
“Healing Lyme: Second Edition by Stephen Harrod Buhner”
For More Information About Lyme Disease:
Melissa Mustapha Herbalist/Manager at Maggie's Market