Now that Spring is here, you may be getting the itch to start deep cleaning your home. The commercial products used for house cleaning can be filled with many harmful chemicals. If you would like to try some natural options, add lemon essential oil to existing cleaners or make your own with vinegar, baking soda or borax. Lemon Essential Oil is antibacterial, really great for cleaning sticky items, and this essential oil is known for being uplifting and joyful. Other essential oils great for cleaning include lavender, tea tree, and pine because all are antibacterial and have a wonderful smell associated with them. If you are interested in polishing wood items, try olive oil and lemon essential oil to clean and moisturize the wood.
Recipe for making your own cleaner at home:
3 cups water
1 cup vinegar
50 drops of your choice of essential oil (Our favorite is Lemon Thyme, 43 drops lemon, 7 drops thyme)
By Coco Pile
There are a variety of ways to use plants for health promotion and body care. You have the option of using the plant’s whole parts, such as the leaves, roots, flowers, and berries; or you can use plant extractions such as essential oils and absolutes.
When considering making herbal remedies or products for ingestion, such as tinctures, teas, or honey infusions, it is safest to use whole plant parts. In lavender’s case, you would most likely use the flowers. This practice is more beneficial because the infusion will be more balanced, and offer a wider spectrum of compounds. Using the whole plant may take more time to process and be less powerful as essentials oils but they still have a medicinal affect and a more stable shelf life. Whole parts are also used for oil infusions for this same reason.
Ingesting herbs is typically done for its stronger influence on the body, so taking proper precautions to practice botanical medicine safely is necessary. Our bodies manage thousands of chemical reactions every second of every day to maintain internal balance. If you were to add too much of anything into your body, you would disrupt the balance of the chemical environment and could potentially really hurt yourself. This is the main reason by consuming essential oils or absolutes are contraindicated for ingestion.
The concentration of herbal constituents in essential oils is drastically more potent than its whole parts. For example, it takes 100 pounds of lavender flowers to make one pound of lavender essential oil. That is why essential oils are safest to be used as additives to enhance your recipe. If you wanted to make a cream, salve, oil, etc. for topical uses, you would want to use the proper dilution ratio of 3% essential oils for your product. This is approximately 15-18 drops of essential oil per ounce of whatever medium you are adding the essential oils to.
It is extremely important to note that more is not better when it comes to using essential oils. Although Lavender essential oils are known to be safe in topical application without a carrier, there are incidents where people have adverse side effects. Essential oils do have greater potential to hurt you because of their high concentrations, so use them wisely and start small. Rule of thumb when using essential oils is to always dilute them in a carrier (vegetable or nut oil, salts, or butters) before using them on your body.
As always, when in doubt, ask for help. There are countless botanical resources out there to educate you on how to use plants safely with the greatest success!
Practical Uses of Lavender
One of the best ways that you can benefit from lavender is simply having it around and smelling its fragrance. People around the world recognize the significance lavender’s aroma. That is why it is one of the most popular perfumes for self-care products at home like soaps, cleaners and skin care products. By merely inhaling lavender’s sof t yet bold aroma, your body’s nervous system is gently sedated to promote balance from excessive stimulation. It has been used historically to improve mental well-being by calming the nervous system in behavior patterns of anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, and depression. Not only is Lavender calming to the mind, but it is also calming for the skin and soft tissues. That is why lavender is commonly used as an analgesic, or anti-pain ingredient, in body care products. Responsibly harvested lavender can have high concentrations of the ester functional group, or anti-inflammatory compounds. Using lavender infused oil or carriers with lavender essential oil over muscles and joints can relieve aching pain and soreness. Whole parts, extractions, or topical products with proper essential oil concentrations can be used on skin to reduce irritation or inflammation of the skin. One great herbal product to have at home is a lavender spray. A few spritz over burns will ease the pain, cool the heat, and promote rapid healing of the tissue. Lavender is also effective at easing digestive pains. Its gentle tonifying effects in combination with its strong anti-inflammatory properties are great for topical application over the abdomen. It doesn’t end there! Lavender is known for its benefits for circulation, glucose regulation, insect bite relief and repulsion, skin rejuvenation, and its strong antiseptic properties. There are endless herbal creations that you can make with lavender to improve your health and wellness. Have fun discovering what lavender can do for you!!!
Best Place to Source Lavender
Although lavender typically prefers mediterranean climates for its regularity in available water and moderate temperature changes, it can still be found in extreme climates like Colorado. Unfortunately, no two climates are created equally. Influencing factors such as access to water, nutrients, foot traffic, pollution, altitude, climate, predators, etc. all affect the way the plants look and what constituents they create. This is why there is so many species of the “same” plant and why sourcing your herbs appropriately can make or break an herbal recipe. The most renowned region in the world to source your lavender from is France. This is due to the fact that the harvest fields in France have a climate that doesn’t get too cold to disturb the ester compound formulation. They also have the advantage of altitude, which allows them to distill lavender at lower temperatures. Because of these factors, the Lavandula Angustifolia essential oil from France has the highest constituent content of esters compared to majority of other Lavender farmers/plants around the world. For those of you who are not familiar with functional groups, esters are compounds that have an anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal effect on the body. The esters also contribute to the potency of the plant’s aroma. Making French Lavender one of the greatest sources for perfumes and medicines. Lavender is extensively cultivated around the world for varies reasons depending on the climate and the farmer’s intentions. It is not uncommon for lavender farms and distilleries to add synthetic constituents to their crops and essential oils to boost their medicinal value. Be cautious when purchasing your lavender to make sure it is pure, organic, and unaltered. These adaptations may cause undocumented side effects and/or change the way your lavender acts in the recipe or on your body.
Lavender: History to Current Research
Getting to know herbs on multiple levels is part of the fun and love that is herbalism. So for this blog we are exploring some history and current studies of wonderful lavender. Lavender is part of the Lamiaceae family more commonly known as the mint family which includes the obvious peppermint and spearmint but also sage, rosemary and basil. The most common type of lavender used today is Lavandula augustifolia and it is native to the Mediterranean. The word Lavandula comes from the Latin word lavare meaning to wash so many of the historic uses have to do with cleansing and scenting the body. The use of lavender goes all the way back to the Egyptians who used it in the mummification process as well as in bathing and perfuming. The Greeks and Romans used lavender for bathing as well as in their cooking. Soon they started realizing that these beautiful fragrant little flowers also had medicinal benefits. During the plague it was believed to protect you from infection. What it was actually doing was working as an insect repellant preventing the lice (which carried the plague) on rats from coming near. More recently in 1910 the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who is considered the father of Aromatherapy, had an accident where he badly burned his hand. Gattefosse quickly dipped his hand into a nearby tub of lavender essential oil and discovered that it eased the pain. The burn healed quickly and with very little scarring. This little accident set Gattefosse off on an exploration of essential oils and their benefits. Today we know of the many therapeutic actions of lavender including working as an analgesic (pain relieving), antidepressant, antiseptic, antiviral, carminative (helps with gas), nervine (helps with nervous system including sleep issues), and as a vulnerary (wound healing). Lavender is well known for healing burns including soothing sunburns and is one of the few essential oils that can be used directly on the skin. Some of the current research into the benefits of lavender includes its effects on sleep and anxiety in coronary ICU patients, and looking into lavender as a treatment for migraine headaches. In 2015 the British Association of Critical Care Nurses did a study with 60 coronary ICU patients to see how lavender would affect their sleep quality and levels of anxiety. They found a statistically significant difference in the group that received the lavender and they concluded that it helped the patients with sleep quality and reduced their anxiety. In another study, published in the journal of European Neurology in 2012, 47 patients who were diagnosed with migraine headaches were studied. The group using an inhalation of lavender essential oil had statistically significant relief of their headache pain as compared to the control group. The researchers concluded that lavender essential may be useful in the management of migraine headaches. This is only a taste of all that lavender does and I hope it has given you inspiration to explore more!
Peppermint’s Powerful Effect on Circulation
Peppermint is known for its healing abilities across the world. What makes it so popular is its diverse spectrum of healing properties that can benefit most of our body’s systems. The reason for this is because of peppermint’s unique affinity to influence blood and lymph. Many people are curious as to how peppermint is both cooling and warming. This seemingly contradicting statement actually describes its physiological action on the capillaries of our tissues. The cooling sensation is from peppermint’s strong astringent properties causing the tissues to vasoconstrict. As the cells metabolize the constituents that produced this effect, the body’s response is to vasodilate and bring blood and fluid back into the tissues. The flush of blood provides the heat for peppermint’s warming effect. Imagine being at work and not having what you need to conduct your job. Then all of a sudden a delivery of everything you need and more comes right to you. This is what happens to our cells. The rush of fresh blood filled with nutrients and oxygen stimulates and strengthens the tissue. Peppermint’s unique stimulation of circulation allows tissues to perform their job and have long lasting improvement of function. As much as peppermint is indispensable, it is also problematic.
This herb is known as a counterirritant, meaning that its circulation and endorphin stimulation can reduce pain and discomfort, but in large doses it can actually increase discomfort. If you excessively over use peppermint you can increase blood flow and heat to the area and intensify your inflammation. So use peppermint mindfully and observe its influences on your body respectfully. Herbs can be powerful.
Try someone of our most popular peppermint products here:
Peppermint’s Wonderful Benefits on Digestion
Powerful Peppermint is popular because of the many benefits that it brings to the body. One of the greatest gifts that it can bring to our bodies is its digestive assistance. Peppermint’s carminative properties helps strengthen our digestive tracts. It tonifies the intestinal walls to improve absorption of digested material, and promote healthy peristalsis. As a digestive, it has the ability to bring the secretion of digestive juices into balance. It assists our digestive tract to either secrete more or less digestive juices to optimize or improve our digestion. Peppermint’s antispasmodic characteristic is also useful for digestive stress. It is great for relieving digestive pain or discomfort, by calming the smooth muscle of the digestive tract. Its strong affect on circulation is also beneficial for clearing out and strengthening the digestive tissues. Helping the body to combat majority of instigators that may cause digestive distress. Overall, it is clear to see how peppermint can be used as a digestive aid. Peppermint is best used for acute conditions, it is not recommended to be use over prolonged periods of time. An easy, yet effective way to utilize peppermint’s many benefits for our digestion is to consume peppermint tea. You can drink up to three servings of peppermint tea for larger bodied people. Please be cautious and do not over dose yourself. Peppermint is very stimulating and is actually more effective when used sparingly. But as always, error on the side of caution and monitor your body’s reactions when making dose decisions. Stay smart and enjoy what peppermint has to offer your digestive system!
Elderberry Harvesting Tip
By Coco Pile
When it comes to harvesting wild elderberries, it is common practice for the herbalist to ask the tree for permission to harvest before gathering any parts of the plant. Harvesting responsibly is of the upmost importance to respect the plant and the job it plays in the ecosystem, but also to protect the herbalist. Elder berries are poisonous to consume when they are still green. It is best to harvest them when the berries have developed and matured into their rich black color.
Looking to add some Elderberry in your life? Try our Elderberry Syrup Kit.
The Ancient Medicine Chest - A look into Elderberry
As the sun spends more time beaming down, kissing your skin, and beckoning the plants to blossom, the will to explore and get outside is more ignited than ever. The summer is a common time for most of us to affirmatively set aside time in our lives for some holiday…space to unwind, see new sights, and soak up new energy. Typically, holiday involves time traveling in airports and airplanes and we all know the two are a perfect breeding grounds for the common cold and the flu. There is nothing like the flu to ruin a sought after holiday.
With that said, perhaps the only thing worse than the flu is the summer flu. Fortunately, scientists in Australia have conducted a study that has reaffirmed ancient wisdom of a medicinal herb know as Elderberry or Sambus nigra. The ancient knowledge of Elderberry runs so deep that the “father of medicine”, Hippocrates, adoringly referred to the herb as the “medicine chest” of all herbs because of its endless benefits and the usability of all aspects of the plant.
Elderberry is the ultimate immune booster and has more flavonoids than blueberries and the ever-mystic goji berries…hello antioxidants! The list of benefits goes on but let the focus remain on the immune-modulating properties. The Australian study of 2016 in the journal, Nutrients, examined the power of Elderberry supplementation and its ability to reduce cold/flu duration and symptoms. The study was executed as a double-blind placebo trial on 312 economy passengers travelling overseas from Australia. The passengers took Elderberry extract in capsule form or placebo form for 10 days before their travel and for 5 days after their arrival. After careful analysis and review, the study confirmed that elderberry has a small chance at completely preventing a cold but certainly lessens that duration of a cold by 2 days on average and significantly reduces symptom severity. While the specific effect that Elderberry has on physical health needs to be further investigated (although most scientists agree it is the antioxidants) it is clear that there are beautiful benefits to integrating the herb into your daily ritual or before your next upcoming holiday! You can relish in the benefits of Elderberry in various forms whether it be tea, tinctures, capsules, lozenges, and/or syrups.
Berry to the Rescue
Elder berries are famous for their use in colds and flus, especially for nasal congestion. The use of this herb for helping relieve symptoms and overcoming the infection has been documented for over 2,000 years. The berry not only activates the immune system, but it directly impedes virus’ mechanisms to invade cells. If that wasn’t enough, elder berries are also excellent for their releasing properties. They are considered as diaphoretic and diuretic. Meaning they allow perspiration and urination to release toxins and metabolic waste from the body. This is key for feeling more energetic, recovering from the tissue damage and releasing waste from the immune system defending the body.
How Massage Relaxes Your Nervous System
By Coco Pile
Our automatic (autonomic) nervous system is divided into two systems or programs. One gears up the body to take action for the challenges we face in life, and the other gears down the body to restore, build, and heal. In our hectic society, we most often times practice using mostly our active (sympathetic) nervous system, and allow our healing (parasympathetic) nervous system get weak. Most people only think of the parasympathetic nervous system as our state for rest and digesting, or reproduction. Which is true, these functions do increase during this state, but most people aren't aware that in this state we collect resources to restock our reservoirs and build new cells/tissue to heal from damage in our active state. This imbalance of using one nervous system more than the other is a strong cause for the rising cases of anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, infertility, and so much more. One way to counteract this imbalance is to receive massage regularly. Massage induces the relaxing, rebuilding, healing nervous system to help improve this very important state for balanced vitality and quality of life.
Don't Ignore Body Pain
By Coco Pile
Just because that pain in your body went away after a few weeks, doesn't mean that the tension or imbalance of the muscles has gone away. It means that your nervous system stopped trying to tell you there was an issue because you were ignoring it. It's just like how you loose perception of a ring on your figure, or cloths on your back. If your body is telling you there is an issue, listen to it!! When you practice ignoring the signs your body is giving you, bigger problems start to compound in your body and you'll "wake up" to a serious condition.
Relieving Tension Through Massage
One hour of massage is not going to reverse days/ weeks/ months/ years of tension that you have stock piled in your tissues. The longer you have lived with an issue the more sessions it's going to take to recalibrate and train your body into a new state. A one hour massage can reset a lot within your tissues, but its a team effort. The therapist shows were the tension is and sets up the opportunity to release, but the receiver must be present to let go of the tension. Overall, the receiver's nervous system has to be the one to tell the muscles to relax.
Therapeutic Benefits of Massage
Massage is so much more than a luxury or spa treatment. It has countless therapeutic benefits to remove physical obstacles that impede your ability to live your life. I've had clients that had daily headaches, which were impacting their performance at work. Or clients with so much knee pain that they stopped hiking, biking, and skiing. All of which were caused just from muscle imbalances. We released the built up tension and then they were able to go back to their lives, doing what they want, with improved performance!
Respiratory Spring Cleaning - Elder flower benefits
By Coco PileAround this time of year, a lot of people endure allergy symptoms or colds. With a good portion of the population either stuffed up with congestion or managing runny noses, it’s a great time to clear out the respiratory organs. Elder flower is a beautiful ally for this job. Just like her brother elder berry, the flower is also great for cleansing. Doing an herbal steam tent or drinking tea with elder flower will aid in mucous expulsion, decrease inflammation of the mucosal lining, reduce mucous production, and dry up secretions.
I love burdock!
By Coco Pile
This was one of the very first herbs I learned about in Tonja’s Herb Craft Class. At first I was taken back by her dusty dirt-esque flavor. But as I started spending more time and working with burdock, I have fallen in love with her earthy sweetness! Burdock is a fantastic cleanser. That is why it is used soo much for internal “spring cleaning”. It contains properties that strengthen your liver and immune system, as well as support proper digestion and elimination of your urinary tract. All of these body systems contain functions to remove used waste materials or unusable resources from your body. These removed or eliminated substances are most commonly referred to as “toxins”. You might have heard of Burdock as a blood purifier. It does this by simply supporting the organs that filter or add to our blood circulation. When I feel boggled down, heavy, and discouraged, I think burdock! Removing the weight of water retention and toxins always makes me feel more light, motivated, and clear!
Release. Surrender. Relaxation. The central intoxicating ingredient in Kava Kava or Kava Root is Kavalactone. Kavalactone is a compound primarily found in the root of this relative of the pepper plant. The compound is understood to have effects on chemicals that transmit signals from nerve cells to other neurotransmitters in blood such as GABA, dopamine, and norepinephrine. As an example, the interaction of Kavalactone with the neurotransmitter GABA is known to birth the sleep-inducing and anti-anxiety sensations associated with Kava Kava consumption. Kava Kava is also known for its neuroprotective effects, which has been observed (in a small amount of studies) to be beneficial for degenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) and nervous system conditions. It is clear that Kava Kava is a supreme homeopathic solution and alternative to prescription drugs for individuals with anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, and/or stress. Although Kava Kava is generally a safe and gentle herb, it is important to note that idiosyncratic and rare instances have occurred where Kava Kava has been linked to liver damage. Therefore, it is important to always consult your local herbalist when seeking to use Kava habitually.