Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Herb Making Boot Camp

Hi Everyone! 

I see we have some new readers from all over the world. How wonderful! I'm glad to have ya'll visiting our page. I hope you comment and let us know how you found us and a little bit about yourselves! 

This week we have a big topic on our hands. Herbs! I am just coming off of vacation time, so I am definitely feeling relaxed (a bit lazy!) as I try to focus on writing about herbs today-- when all I can think about is the ocean and sand I left behind! I do love herbs though. I love thinking about my husband Ben as I write about herbs. He was sort of like the general population (I assume) who thought of herbs as solely for flavors in cooking. When we talk about herbs now, he is almost more excited and enthusiastic than I am. We realize the potential and power they have in helping our bodies become healthy. My husband quickly has become an avid herbalist. I've told some of my friends that I'll never forget one morning that I was inside making breakfast and Ben walked in with a handful of freshly picked dandelion (and a subsequent handful of mud) from a field across from our house. Yes, dandelion leaves that you can now buy at Whole Foods grow as weeds in most gardens and land. Whole foods sells it for salads and juicing-- which it's so good for. Ben just went outside and picked a handful and we scrambled it in our eggs for breakfast, for free! It definitely gives you a whole new meaning to saving money eating organically. We've definitely saved some money as Ben has started foraging on his own which adds some unique produce to our table--- I only suggest this if you know what it is you are picking and what you should stay away from. It's easy to learn some general lessons, and I would encourage anyone to talk to us if you are interested in doing so and learning more! We are still learning more and more and I'm excited to tell you about a conference Ben and I recently went to for the sole purpose of learning about picking and processing herbs. We took this class through CNHP. Laura and I met through attending a CNHP course in Las Vegas, as you've heard about in some of our posts already. CNHP also offers this herb making boot camp, and I'm happy to tell you about how it went! 

Herb Making Boot Camp / Day 1: 

The first day of the camp we went through the woods of Callaway Gardens with Dr. Phil Fritchey-- the master herbalist. You can get his thorough guide to practicing herbalism here. His grandparents were practicing herbalists and used herbs medicinally. So he grew up being familiar with their uses and relationships with them. He has a way with herbs that he so respects them and respects their place in the world. He exuberantly pointed out poison ivy as we walked past it warning us of it, but also pointing out an herb that usually grows next to poison ivy that you can rub on your skin if you do come in contact with the rashy plant, so that you don't end up getting the rash nor the effects. He treats herbs as the living creatures that they are, and it's amazing to see that in action. He begins by "asking" each plant if he can pick it, and he only picks that which he can use. He also always gives something to each plant that he picks-- i.e.: food from his shirt pocket, etc. He walked us through the back woods and would pick up and dig up plants you would initially walk right past thinking they are just weeds! He would talk about the uses for them, what plants are good for helping your body in certain weaknesses, and how to use them. He says even if you know nothing about herbs and their usage, start with the dandelion. Know everything there is to know about the dandelion alone and you will know more than the average person. We spent a while looking at herbs in their natural habitat and hearing about all of their purposes and what specific thing in our bodies they help. The first day was all about growing and picking and the second day was all about what to do after you grow and pick and how to process.

Herb Making Boot Camp / Day 2: 
Dr. Fritchey using fresh herbs to make a poultice
to apply to scrapes and bruises.

The first day we were out in the "field," learning about where herbs grow in their natural habitat and how to identify various ones. The second day we were back to the classroom learning how to use them and process them. You can use herbs medicinally in fresh form and in dried form. I realize this is where most of the common misconceptions occur. Some people think of herbs as the fancy little green things you tie up with baker's twine and add to a pot of simmering chicken noodle soup. That's of course a wonderful way to use herbs and most common, but there's also a whole host of other ways to use them and that's what we spent time learning about on the second day. The most common ways herbs are used for medicinal purposes (and the ways we focused on that day) are the following: to dry them, grind them, and put them in capsule form / to dry the leaves and make them into a tea / to make them into a poultice / to make them into a tincture / to extract them into oils / to use them to make ointments and salves. These are the most common in using them for medicinal purposes. There are of course other uses for them, the least being to add them to your dinner table as greens for salads or vibrant flavorings to your dishes that also contain added health benefits. Below, I will just cover a few of the ways he taught us to process all sorts of herbs and use them effectively.

Capsule Form: 

Jars of Herbs In Their Dried and Powder Forms
Dr. Fritchey taught us how to use herbs in capsule form and what herbs are good for what organs and parts of the body and when to use them. Dr. Fritchey had large jars of herbs that were dried and ground in powder form that we could choose from and fill into tiny capsules (same kind of capsules you would find used for vitamins or traditional medicine). In this picture below I was using black walnut. Black walnut is good for the thyroid and is one of the biggest sources of iodine we can obtain. I plan on taking these to help build up my thyroid.

You also do not have to put the dried powder into capsules, as you can add these into dishes as well. A perfect example of this is cayenne pepper, but also really any other common herbs that are dried and used in cooking.  

Tea Form: 

I do feel this method has become more common in recent years, as there are amazing companies like Traditional Medicine who make fantastic teas that are pretty readily available to everyone these days. Their teas are sold at Whole Foods and they have a whole list of different blends such as: Breathe Easy, Roasted Dandelion Root, Mother's Milk, Organic Nettle, Smooth Move, Nighty Night, etc. You can definitely check out their website as they are a wealth of information about this area of herbalism. During this conference we basically did what companies such as Traditional Medicine do for you. We took different dried leaves and also seeds of herbs and made them into our own tea blends. We even packaged some of them into little individual tea bags. We got to choose from the dried herbs that Dr. Fritchey had available to us and make our own teas. I made a few different blends as you can see. I made one blend for anxiety which I added dried lavender, catnip, and hops flowers to. I made another for general stamina and energy which I added Rose Petals, St. John's Wort, and Chaste Tree.  / St. John's Wort is a used to help with common depressing feelings and general sadness. It helps your body feel alive and happy / I also made another tea of Nettles and Red Raspberry leaf. As Laura wrote, Nettles has been said to alleviate the affects of allergies in your body and also as a general immune support since it's full of minerals. I use it combined with Red Raspberry during different times of the month to help stabilize my immune system and hormones.  / This would also be a good tea to help your body promote fertility. / I also made another blend with dried crushed Juniper Berries which is great to help the body in it's ability to deal with any kidney stones or urinary issues. 

I've really enjoyed sipping on these as I've been home, and I even made a few to give out to others. 

Oitments and Salves: 

This part was especially fun. I'm all about the DIY culture we all admire, but I've never thought making salves and ointments, lotions and even lip balms were so easy. I've also never thought to incorporate herbs in such things and how that can add additional benefits to products we use daily. Dr. Fritchey said we should only put things on our body that we would actually eat. That definitely makes you think about the products we use. I could do a whole How-To on making these ointments, and maybe one day I will. Since this is a overall general post, I will just show a few pictures of how we made these. We also added organic lavender essential oil to the salves for the calming purposes of lavender and how it calms inflammation. 

Well, readers, this is a short recap of my time at the herb making conference. We also made tinctures. I made one with stevia leaves. I will let you know how it tastes (and some of its benefits) after it sits for two weeks! I have really been enjoying sipping on some of my tea since I've been home. I have been traveling, so I haven't gotten to use them as much as I am wanting to in the future. This past week I got a horrible sunburn while at the beach. It was the worst sunburn I've ever gotten. I applied the salve I made with lavender on it and it has gotten increasingly better. So far, I haven't even peeled! I would love to hear some of your stories and uses of herbs! I am looking forward to talking about this topic more as we go forward. As the week goes on we will talk more about this and some sources for referencing, learning, and buying.

Thank you, readers!

P.S. You can read the rest of the posts from this week on herbs here: Monday's: Planting Herbs 101, Wednesday's: Interview with Dr. Shumway (another CNHP professor), Thursday's: recipe on Parsley Chimichurri, and Friday's: post with a little herb video

Disclaimer: PRTLIVING is limited to providing self-help education in natural health matters and advocating of a healthy lifestyle. If you have a medical problem, please seek the advice of your medical doctor. 

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