03 December 2009

Herb of the Week: Aloe

Herb of the Week: Aloe (Aloe Spp.)


Parts Used: Leaves (fresh sap)

Properties: Adaptogenic, anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, anti-helmintic, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, astringent, anti-ulcer, culinary, demulcent, emollient, emmenagogue, mucilaginous, purgative, vulnerary

About:  Aloe has been known as a medicinal plant for thousands of years across the middle east and Africa. The thick, fleshy, alien leaves are instantly recognized by almost anyone. Recently, there has been debates by the scientific community about what families to which Aloe belongs. I don't think it's important, frankly, but I thought I would let those who do think it important to know that as of 2003 Aloe belongs to the Asphodelaceae family officially. The name has also changed from Aloe Barbadensis to Aloe Vera for the time being.

Most people, especially if they live in sunny regions, know that Aloe is useful for sunburns. Aloe is also one of the single best things to apply to open wounds, scrapes, or burns of any kind (the other best thing being raw honey).

If you want to have Aloe available in a first aid kit, I learned a trick from my old mentor that keeps much of the plants finer qualities intact:

- Take the whole leaves and wash them thoroughly
- Clip off the ends and the spiny sides of the leaf
- Chop it into pieces and put it in your blender until it is thoroughly pureed.
- Spread the mixture over a clean, ultra-fine screen and set it out in the sun to dry for a few days.

You can rig a set up for this easily by stretching the screen over a wooden frame so it is off of the ground. Make sure it doesn’t get rained on. Use the resultant dried Aloe in tinctures or capsules. I recommend storing it in the whole sheets if possible, and perhaps grinding some into powder to store in a small bottle in any first aid kit you may prepare. The dried Aloe can be reconstituted in water for use on burns or wounds.

When using Aloe (or honey) for wounds, however, please take two very serious precautions:

- clean the skin first with either soap and water or a mild anti-bacterial wash such as sage tea before applying the gel. I also suggest lightly debriding scrapes or cuts as well. If you don’t clean the wound first, the ‘seal and heal’ properties of Aloe will trap bacteria inside of the wound, abrasion, or burn and cause an infection. Aloe is naturally sterile, like coconut water, but it can also be a natural petri dish.

- always use fresh Aloe gel in medicinal products. Anything without color or with added stabilizers will not work for your medical preparations due to the fragile nature of the active constituents. Shelf stable Aloe Vera gel with natural preservative solutions added such as citric acid or GSE are ideal for personal products because it won’t cause lotions, creams, and soaps to spoil.

Aloe Vera is one of the top 15 anti-biotic herbs and it rapidly speeds the healing process. Aloe’s most ideal application for wounds is due to several factors, including:

- keeps tissues moist and pliable
- restores fluids through the skin
- has a soothing, cooling action
- reduces inflammation to swollen tissue

Internal use should be extremely limited, and only when other remedies have failed. Usually this plant is only used by vets for horses when they are constipated. It’s generally recognized as far too strong for humans in most cases.

However, Sergei Boutenko of the Raw Family fame does mention in his new book Fresh that you can make a fabulous smoothie that is especially good for diabetics. Aloe is also good for reducing blood sugar when used in small amounts. Below is his recipe:

Blue-Green Aloe Smoothie

2 cups water
1 head romaine lettuce
1 medium Fuji apple
¼ a lime
¼ cup blueberries
1 small aloe leaf

Blend all ingredients until smooth and enjoy.

Aloe contains aloin, which absorbs approximately 30% of UV rays, so it is an excellent addition to homemade sunscreen preparations. You can look for this in concentration just under the skin of the leaf. Rosemary Gladstar recommends that you remove this part anyway for internal preparations because it irritates the mucous membrane, so it’s great to keep the leaf skin with the brown gel just beneath for formulae which require UV protection.

The fresh juice can also be used as eye drops to protect the fundus of the eye from additional UV damage and age spots. Burns or wounds of the eye can be healed in the same way as the skin with fresh, naturally sterile juice straight from the leaf.

Warnings:  Can cause internal cramping when used internally. Don’t use internally when pregnant or nursing as Aloe can stimulate uterine muscles. Some people may experience light burning or stinging sensation if put directly on an open wound or abrasion. This usually subsides within a few minutes. Again, this is a rare complication.

Dye Colors:  Purple Aloes, like Socotrine, can be used to make a violet color dye that requires no fixative.

Habitat:  Aloes prefer a lot of sun and a warm climate that is closer to tropical than temperate. However, it’s a very forgiving plant to grow. In fact, when we were moving a couple of years ago, my father-in-law stuck an aloe plant in a box, taped it up, and gave it to us for our move from Florida to Kentucky. We forgot about it for a few weeks and then when we took it out of the box, it was still fine! So we planted it and it looks just as good as when he put it in the box. Aloe could probably subsist on thin air for an extended period of time. I know that ours did. So this is a great plant for people with ‘black thumbs’ to try for their first plant.

20 November 2009

Homeschool Minute: rebellious children & the school bucks reward coupons program

I have a very rebellious, headstrong child to homeschool. My son's attention wanders and flits like a butterfly from thing to thing. He has problems sitting still and doing his lessons. He can take up to 3 hours to complete one lesson. He often mouths off to me or his father and often treats his little sister like a plague.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Through hard work, struggles, and tears, we have finally made some headway. The lying and mouthing off we have cured with old fashioned soap. He bites down on the bar for 30 seconds the first time and it increases by 30 second intervals each time he lies to us. I told him at 5 minutes we'd change it to chewing slivers of soap starting at 30 seconds and going up from there. In three weeks we've gone up to 3 minutes of holding the soap in his mouth. Joshua is like a new child with the lying and disrespecting. :)

As for the rest, one of the things that has really helped me to understand my son is the e-book Homeschooling The Rebel by Deborah Wuehler available here. There is also a second part where she has her child speak out directly about how they felt. The book is free, you just have to go through a shopping cart process to get it.

Now, I don't believe in indulging bad behaviour. In her book, she speaks about letting her child cover herself with a blanket and stay that way to do her work because she wanted to have a blanket on her head. I'm the parent, my son is the child and I believe that teaching a child to listen to what you say is more important than indulging them in bad behaviour just to get them to do their work. Children have to learn how to get along in society, as bad as that society is. Children will never get anywhere in the world if they do not learn self-discipline.

With that said, I really loved the book! I had few other problems and it was so terribly informative for me. I talked to my son about it and read some of the passages from the second book to him. Joshua said that he felt the same way that child did.

We've used some of the methods from the book, and they've worked so far. The biggest one is to give breaks between lessons so Joshua can stretch and burn off some energy.

And on a tangent, I don't believe in ADD or ADHD. I think it's utter nonsense. I believe in 'little boy-itis' and I believe that I also am a bit dreamy and distracted. It happens. My personal opinion is that it has to do with a combination of diet, possibly subluxations in the spine, and a build up of heavy metals/chemicals in the body. Just so everyone knows where I stand on that. It's possible to heal yourself of this problem, but it's also possible to deal with it. Labelling someone as 'ADD' gives it power over you. It gives you an excuse. 'Sorry, can't help being distracted, I've got ADD.' Instead you could say: 'I'm sorry, I get distracted sometimes. Let me do that over.' You take personal responsibility for yourself and what you have or have not done.

Tangent completed, moving back to the subject at hand. My son has done wonderfully with taking breaks between lessons. It helps him to focus when he comes back to his school work. Then I thought of an idea that has proved to be even more successful: school bucks.

The school bucks system I created works like a charm. For each lesson Joshua completes in a timely manner (I determine how much time he needs for a lesson and set the timer so he can see it) he gets a school buck. He earns extra bucks for good grades on tests, showing kindness to his sister during school hours, and sometimes if I do a pop verbal quiz or give him bonus questions on a test worth a buck each.

Joshua spends his school bucks on things he wants. I made a list of things, with his help, and each was assigned a price in school bucks. Since the 'annoying little sister' is with us all the time, I also added some things I wouldn't ordinarily add on like '20 minutes of undivided attention' or 'a night out with dad'. That way, he earns some special one on one time with us and we can make a point to give it to him when he needs it.

It has also proved to be an invaluble lesson in handling money and saving up for things he wants.

Below is a copy of our price list:

=======SCHOOL BUCK REWARDS========

(Rewards with * next to them can be used during school hours)

15 minutes on computer = 1 school buck*
20 minutes of undivided attention = 1 school buck*
15 minutes to play across the street = 1 school buck*
30 minute delay of bedtime = 2 school bucks
1 hour of bike riding = 2 school bucks
30 minutes for fossil hunting = 2 school bucks*
Choose dinner menu one night = 4 school bucks*
Have a friend over to play = 5 school bucks
Watch a movie on the computer = 5 school bucks
One cooking lesson = 5 school bucks*
One lesson about blacksmithing
or woodworking = 5 school bucks*
Night out with Mom = 10 school bucks
Night out with Dad = 10 school bucks
Friend over for dinner = 10 school bucks
One book (worth $5.00 or under) = 15 school bucks
Go out for ice cream = 15 school bucks

Have a friend over for the night = 15 school bucks
Sleep over at a friend's house = 15 school bucks
A dinner with grandma = 15 school bucks
Go to Gatti Town = 25 school bucks
Go to Explorium = 25 school bucks
Go to Cincinnati or Louisville for bookstore and museum = 100 school bucks

One lesson completed in the time given = 1 school buck
100% on a test = 2 school bucks
A on a test = 1 school buck

And here is what the school bucks look like.

Please feel free to use this system for your very own if you also have a hard-headed child. Please let me know how it works for you! If you'd like a full size page full of school bucks to use for yourself, send me an email or leave a comment here with your email address and I'll send you the file. Or copy the image above.

I hope this helps some of you out there dealing with the same problem we are having. It's hard, and frustrating, when one of your children is continuously disruptive or disrespectful. Anyone with stories or tips, please feel free to share for everyone's benefit.

19 November 2009

A new column

I'm going to be starting a new column here soon about making your own personal care products and household cleaners. Please look for the first post within a few days. Thanks!

Herb of the Week: Alfalfa

Herb of the Week: Alfalfa (Medicago Sativa)

Parts Used: Above ground portions of the plant

Properties: Alterative, anti-pyretic, anti-thrombotic, anti-spasmodic (smooth muscles), culinary, diuretic, hypocholesterolemic, hypoglycemic, nutritive, stomachic, thermogenic, tonic

About: When most people think of Alfalfa, they think of either animal feed or Alfalfa sprouts depending on where they grew up. It has been known as an animal food for thousands of years and Mark Pederson, author of Nutritional Herbology, states that the origin of the word was traced back to an Iranian word that means horse fodder. But is this herb good for human health as well?

Alfalfa has long been regarded as a blood purifier due to its detoxifying effects, and is correspondingly high in chlorophyll. It is considered a bitter and soothes digestion with the betaine enzyme it contains to help properly digest your food. Ulcers are also healed due to the high levels of vitamin A (b-carotene) this herb contains, especially when mixed with plantain, marshmallow, or slippery elm to form a mucilaginous coating.

Cholesterol and blood sugar levels are reduced when adding Alfalfa to your daily tonic tea, and it makes a great addition to any tonic taken for raising iron levels in those who are temporarily deficient (like during menstruation and after giving or losing blood) or anemic. Correspondingly, Alfalfa raises energy levels. Since the flavonoids Alfalfa contains relaxes smooth muscles, this is also wonderful to take during menstruation to ease cramping. Alfalfa is a double hitter like many herbs!

Speaking on a purely nutritional standpoint, you can’t go wrong by drinking Alfalfa tea or consuming Alfalfa sprouts and I heartily recommend this herb as a base along with Nettles for vitamin tonics for all ages, especially infants or anyone with a weak immune system. Alfalfa also helps to regulate the natural flora contained in your intestinal tract, so consume this to enhance the effects of any probiotic yogurt, cheese, kefir, whey, or OTC supplement you may be taking.

I do, however, advise that you grow sprouts yourself as they are usually the most contaminated of any vegetable available and many people get sick from eating commercially grown Alfalfa sprouts. Buy organically harvested seeds if at all possible and grow them in a sprout jar. Mountain Rose Herbs sells sprouting seeds of all sorts that are either completely organic or cultivated without chemicals. If you are interested in sprouting Alfalfa, you can go to their site and pick up some seeds to start yourself on the path to vibrant health.

Alfalfa contains sufficient or high levels of the following vital nutrients:

· Calcium
· Chlorophyll
· Fiber
· Folic acid
· Iron
· Magnesium
· Niacin
· Phosphorus
· Potassium
· Protein
· Riboflavin
· Vitamin A
· Vitamin C
· Vitamin B-1
· Vitamin B-6
· Vitamin B-12
· Vitamin E
· Vitamin K
· Zinc

Warnings:  None known for moderate use, however, do exercise caution if you are allergic to grass pollen since there is usually some grass that gets into Alfalfa. does have this to say though regarding the over-use of Alfalfa:

“However, some disturbing results from the use of alfalfa herbal remedies has come from animal test subjects, indeed when animals ingested large amounts of the seeds or the alfalfa sprouts, it was seen that the test animals were more likely to be affected by the sudden onset of systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE. The condition known as SLE can affect humans and animals, this disorder is a dangerous autoimmune illness marked by symptoms such as the sudden development of inflammation in the joints and the probability of suffering long term damage to the kidneys. A chemical compound called canavanine is believed to be the agent that induces these deleterious effects within the body. For this reason, it is suggested that alfalfa products must be avoided by all individuals affected by SLE and such products must also not be used by those with a known history of SLE in the family.”

Dye Colors: I’m sure that grass stains don’t count unless you’re very creative.

Habitat: Open fields, meadows, pastures . . . Wherever the seeds fall pretty much. It’s not a picky plant. It likes sunshine, fresh air, and room to grow.

14 November 2009

Herb of the Week: Agrimony

Herb Of The Week: Agrimony (Agrimonia Eupatoria)

                                                             (photo from Wikipedia)
Parts Used: Above ground plant parts, usually in dried form

Properties: Astringent, anti-septic, anti-parasitic, diuretic, haemostatic

About: Agrimony is probably best known for it’s throat soothing properties. Performers gargle with it to clear their throats, but it is also helpful to the average person to soothe an inflamed throat.

It may also be used to treat wounds due to it’s anti-septic properties. Agrimony is also used for intestinal problems and loose stools. Internal hemorrhage problems are also treated with this herb. This includes if you have bleeding ulcers on your GI tract, are bleeding between menstruations, or are bleeding too heavily.

Filter organs such as the liver, kidneys, spleen, and gallbladder are helped in their duties by Agrimony. In addition, skin eruptions, pimples, blotches, boils, etc.

Warnings: None known

Dye Color:  Deep yellow from leaves and stems harvested in the fall, ivory-tan from summer harvests.

Anything else you can think of to add to Agrimony's entry? Please leave your experiences in the comments box. Thanks!

05 November 2009

Herb of the Week: Acacia

Herb Of The Week: Acacia

Part used:  all (flowers, bark, leaves, pods, stems, roots, etc)

Properties: anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, anti-catarrhal, anti-fungal, anti-helmintic, anti-inflammatory, anti-malarial, anti-microbial, astringent, haemostatic, mucilaginous (roots and sap gum a.k.a. gum arabic), sedative (leaves and flowers)

About: Acacia is good for people with stomach ulcers, especially considering the sedative action of the leaves and flowers. Stress is the usual cause of gastrointestinal ulcerations, so all parts of this plant can be used to heal the body and mind together.

A decoction of the plant is also helpful in cases of internal hemorrhaging. I would recommend using the roots for this.

Most cultures in poorer countries know Acacia for its helpfulness in relieving sore throats, laryngitis, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, dysentery, and parasites. Unfortunately, most Westerners presume that we do not contract parasitic infections because we are so much more ‘clean’ and ‘civilized’. This is completely untrue.

Even wealthy pet owners have their dogs de-wormed, so it’s a safe bet to say that we should also probably look to ourselves for internal healing. Acacia is one of many plants that can restore your health by ridding you of parasites and worms.

Acacia is also listed as one of the top 15 anti-biotic herbs in the world, and can be used as teas, washes, powders (for sealing wounds and in tooth powder preparations for bleeding gums), and tinctures.

Use the sap gum, also known as gum arabic, for internal ulcerations in a tea of 1 part gum to 3 parts water. This can be dissolved in cold water and is odorless and tasteless.

Warnings: None

Dye Color: Acacia bark and root are good sources of tannic acid, which can produce a tea-stained wash to a darker brown depending on what material you dye.


Hello out there! This is my first post here and I just wanted to talk a little about myself and what this blog will be all about.

I'm Mrs. Yoder, a 28 year old mother of two R.O.U's named Joshua and Kathryne. We homeschool, and let me tell you, that's so much fun with an 8 year old and a 3 year old. Especially considering they are both Leos. ::shuddercrywail::

Anyway, I'm an herbalist who likes to also sew, knit, cook, uncook, garden, and read. There are other things that I like to do as well, but they come and go. This blog is mostly going to cover my herbs, but I will also be adding other assorted tiddly-bits about other things. If you like an eclectic blog, then this is the place for you!

I lost my job in September 2009, and my husband found a better job at the same time so I am now living my dream as a stay at home mom for the first time. I love it and I struggle with it at the same time. I love that I now have the TIME to do all the things that I wanted to do when I was working 12 hour days like help out at church, putter around in my garden, work on my herbal studies, and homeschool our children. But I also get cabin fever a bit and find that I sometimes miss the morning commute to work, if only for the peace of honking cars and morning radio.

So I'm setting up my first real post now. I'll be doing an Herb of the Week here at my blog, in addition to various other postings about other random herby/lifey/crafty things.

Peas (peace),
Mrs Yoder