Pantry Healing

I've been working on this blog for some time now. At least idea wise. It is so hard to choose what I want to include in it since there are so many beautiful healing foods that we can reach to on a daily basis. I finally decided I am not going to write about fruits and veggies and their healing power. This information has gone mainstream and is in every women's magazine out there ( or at least the basic information is). I want to write about the oils, the spice cabinet, our bread, and a lot of other things that have been condemned into the "questionable health benefits" isle.
 I have re-started my health journey recently in order to teach my son the value of nutritional food and be an example. We can not instill any value in our children unless we truly believe in it. And I am a firm believer that Mother Earth gives us everything we need to stay healthy and strong. I also believe that science is good but sometimes we get carried away and forget that we are only nature's children. As a full time employee and a full time mom I often took shortcuts that science gave me to make life easier. But life became unhealthy, or at least for me. I've always provided my son with healthy nutritious food, chemical free detergents for his clothes, toxin free washes and creams for his skin, and herbal medicine for his aches. But as often as I did it for him, I neglected to do it for myself. The pounds kept going up, multiple aches and pains started sneaking on me, the constant fatigue, sleeplessness, mood changes. Thyroid and adrenal problems started. It was easy at first to blame the fact that we had a newborn , and eventually went back to full time hours at my job. But my son is almost two now and I had to face the facts. Changes needed to be made and it was all up to me. I am the one that buys food, cooks the meals, so practically I am the one responsible for my family's well-being and their health.
 I've been going through my expanding library of books on nutrition ( really thankful for my Kindle ) and I've been trying to figure out the common denominators. Here is what I've summed up as the basic steps on the journey to health:
  • Cut out all processed foods - It is very important to eat foods that are closest to their natural state, like raw fruits and veggies, whole grains, raw nuts and seeds, grass fed meats and pastured eggs. Giving up all processed foods doesn't mean giving up everything we love, it doesn't mean eating only raw salads ( which is a great thing if you are up for it), or giving up condiments and delicious crusty breads (for example). There is a wonderful book called  "Nourishing traditions" and it is a great starting point for anybody who wants to return to basics and embrace the "whole foods" way of eating. I look at modern processed food as a chemistry experiment and I have decided not to take part of it as much as possible. I like to eat food that eventually spoils and that I can make at home. If I can't pronounce the ingredients I don't eat the product. 
  • Eat your fruits and veggies - It is so simple it almost seems like there is no need to mention it. Still, there is people that have never tasted a lot of what their grocery store offers, not to mention that there is even more people that have never been to a farmers market. There is also the big controversy about going all organic and avoiding all non organic produce like poison. I think that both those are extremes and we can find an easier path to healthy nutrition when we educate ourselves. In our house, we try to follow the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 rule. If it is on the Dirty Dozen list , we buy organic or local ( which is often grown organic but the farmer has not been through the expensive process of getting certified). If it is on the Clean 15 list , we can buy the items from the grocery produce section. Snack on fruit and have fresh or steamed veggies with each meal and you will be on you way to health in no time.
  • Meat , Dairy and Eggs - The opinion here is again divided into two points of view : vegetarians/ vegans  and followers of diets like Atkins.  For me, it doesn't matter which one you choose . What matters is the quality and the nutritional value of the products we put in our bodies. Choose grass fed and pastured meats, pastured eggs, organic, non homogenized milk ( or raw milk if you have access to it). Use nourishing bone broths for soups and stews. 
  • Fermented foods - Fermentation is a natural process and is a traditional way of preserving food without the use of fancy equipment. Fermented veggies, like sour kraut , kim chi, pickles, carrots, and others, make great condiments and are full of probiotics. Homemade yogurt, kefir, kombucha , are an amazingly easy additions to our diet that can keep us healthy and "doctor" free. 
  • Know your grains - There is such a great variety of grains out there. Experiment. play it safe at first and use some barley or brown rice instead of white rice. Add some quinoa to soups and stews. Try buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. Use spelt flour for baking.  I love using almond meal and coconut flour for making muffins and loaf breads. It is delicious, grain- free option. My family didn't know until I told them, and they are still pretty excited, since muffins are now something we have at home all the time.
  • Sweeteners - Forget all that zero calorie, made from sugar, but not sugar, stuff. Use real healthy , unprocessed sweeteners like sucanat (evaporated unprocessed cane juice), honey, maple syrup( not pancake syrup, the real stuff), dried fruit and molasses. They not only sweeten your food but are full of vitamins and minerals.
  • "I can not afford to eat healthy" - I feel like this is the number one excuse for people not to eat healthy. In our house we spend a good portion of our income on food. Produce is expensive, but we try to buy things in season, which are often on sale. So, we won't eat strawberries all winter and go for a pumpkin desert instead or use frozen berries for muffins and smoothies. It is still healthy and delicious and it does not break the bank. Pastured, grass  fed meats and eggs are expensive but we try to make veggies the main event in our meals and use broths to make soups and stews. This still brings the nutritional value of the meat into our diets. Basically, think about how much nutrition you get for your dollar and spend some extra time in the kitchen. If you spend some time planning and prepping when you have the time and energy , you can be eating healthy foods all the time, even when exhausted after a long day at work.
I adopted these basic steps for our household. We've always liked to eat more veggies than meats and grains, but I still try to balance things out for us so we get the best nutrition possible. In the next few blogs I plan to share with you details about our food choices and how they help me get closer to health.

 What are some ways you keep your family nourished and healthy?

Kombucha - some of the facts about this wonder drink

Unlike many of the "new" healthy trends, Kombucha is not a modern discovery but has been around for millenia. This fermented drink gets its name from the name of the Korean physician , Kombu, who tended to the Japanese Emperor's health back in 415 AD. There are other sources that link it to an even earlier period in history, during the Chinese Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) , when it was mentioned as the "Godly Tsche"(Tea) , " a drink with magical powers enabling people to live forever".
 From China, Kombucha spread throughout Asia, and then to Russia , where it is known as "tea kvass". Since the 1990s it has been gaining popularity in the United States and the rest of the Western World.
  For most people Kombucha is an acquired taste, but people that use it in their everyday life and see the benefits, swear by it.
 So, where is the truth about Kombucha? Is it really a miracle drink or is it another one of those "healthy " things that we'll be regretting getting into later?
 Here are some facts that can help you decide:

  • Kombucha turns black tea and sugar into a healthy beverage. In many "healthy" households both black tea and sugar are on the "naughty"list. However,through the process of fermentation the Kombucha "fungus" produces metabolic by-products like glucuronic acid, hyaluronic acid, glucosamines, and many B-Vitamins, including Vitamin B12.
  • Glucuronic acid has the ability to connect to the toxins in our bodies and render them water soluble, meaning they can be passed through the kidneys and flushed out of the system. Glucuronic acid is also one of the few substances that can detoxify petroleum-based products.
  • Another by-product of the fermentation process in Kombucha are glucosamines. Glucosamines in the body are associated with cartilage, collagen, and fluid, which lubricates the joints. Glucosamines increase hyaluronic acid production which allows the connective tissue  in the body to bind moister thousands of times its weight and maintains tissue structure, moister and flexibility, as well as lessening free radicals damage. This prevents and relieves arthritic pain, and as an added benefit slows down the aging process.
  • Due to all the above mentioned reason Kombucha is known for its rejuvenating effect on the body. Gray hair grows back in color again, skin is tightening, and overall feeling of health and vitality is often experienced.
  • Due to its detoxifying effect on the body Kombucha is being used in a lot of natural treatment regiments for cancer and autoimmune diseases. 
So, Kombucha really does seem to be the super drink that it claims to be. New research keeps coming out with its increased popularity.
 I recently used Kombucha to fight off a cold. I wanted to detoxify my body a little bit and boost my immune system in order to prevent really getting sick. I also read that Kombucha balances the acidity in the body , creating an environment of good bacteria, which helps you fight off any harmful organisms. I have to say , I was impressed. I didn't catch my cold early enough to prevent it but I was able to shorten the duration, and experience less symptoms, making it a lot easier to recover.
I have decided to try and make Kombucha at home. But this will be a topic for another blog, after all the experimenting is done and the recipe is improved. :)
  So go ahead and give Kombucha a try if you haven't already. And stay healthy and happy!

Herbal remedies for kids

Today I wanted to share with you some of the herbal remedies we use to treat our two year old son. He goes to daycare three days a week and likes to bring all kinds of bad germs back home. Some of them stick around and like to cause trouble. :) So we like to keep the following herbal remedies around to help us fight off all the troublemakers.
  • Common Cold / Flu
The first thing I do when my little boy gets a stuffy nose or a slight cough is to give him Echinacea  Tincture. I make my own but there is some really good quality tinctures out there.
 To make your own glycerin based Echinacea tincture fill a quart size mason jar halfway with herbs. I use Echinacea  purpurea root but any part of the plant is ok to use.On top of the herb pour 1 1/2  cups vegetable glycerin and 1 1/2 cups water.Mix well and put a little more vegetable glycerin if you need to fill the jar to the top. I like to let my tinctures sit for six weeks before I strain them. Label you jar with the contents and the dates of preparation and when you need to strain it. Keep the jar in a cool dark place and shake it every day. The herbs will expand so add more liquid if you need to.

 Echinacea purpurea has the ability to stimulate the body's immune system to produce leukocytes, or white blood cell. The white blood cells are responsible for finding and eliminating any harmful bacteria or viruses in the body.  So make yourself a jar of this wonderful tincture and fight off anything that comes your way this winter.

  • Cough / Sore Throat
 My favorite herbal remedy for coughs and sore throat is Elderberry Syrup. It is so delicious and kids love it. Making it at home is easy and a lot less expensive than buying it at the store. I use Rosemary Gladstar's recipe and love the finished product.
  To make Elderberry syrup you will need 1/2 cup dried elderberries, 3 cups water, and 1 cup honey. Place the berries and the water in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 30 to 45 minutes. Smash the berries, strain through a fine mesh strainer and add the honey. The syrup can be kept in the fridge for 2 to 3 months. I keep mine in a jar since it turns into jelly from the cold and I like to eat it with a spoon. I always pull some out to come to room temperature when I need it for my 2 year old.
  You can add some dried rose hips to this syrup to increase the vitamin C content. And, of course, you can adjust the sweetness by adding more or less honey. Use raw unfiltered honey, it makes a great difference in both taste and healing properties. If you are making this syrup for children under 1 year of age, you can use brown sugar instead of honey.

  Elderberries and elder flowers are also a  diaphoretic; by inducing sweating, they reduce fevers. A wonderful benefit, when you think that most coughs and sore throats in children often come accompanied by a fever.
  • Fevers
  Fevers can be a scary thing when you have a little baby. I know I don't like going through fevers with my little one. But fevers are also a good thing. Fevers tell us that our immune system is working and that are bodies are fighting whatever makes us sick. I never treat a fever that is lower than 102 F. I give my little boy herbs that will boost his immune system and rid his body from the cause of the fever. The fever is just a symptom and not the disease to be treated. Most of the time when he has less than 102 F he just wants to snuggle and sleep. This is great, there's no better medicine than sleep.
 Unfortunately , a couple of times we had to deal with fever close to 105F. First thing I do is to make sure that my little boy stays hydrated. I give him a lot of water, coconut water, fresh fruit juice,or herbal tea with honey. If he is too lethargic to drink from his sippy cup I  just give him little spoonfuls of the liquid.  A great thing to bring down the fever in babies and little kids is to give them an herbal bath. Herbs like yarrow and ginger are a wonderful addition to the bath water. They will help the body to sweat and thus lower the temperature. Make sure the bath water is as hot as possible without burning the gentle baby skin and add the herbs in a reusable fabric tea bag or just tie them in a piece of old t-shirt. It's like making a huge pot of tea that you will use for bathing instead of drinking. After the bath you can put some Vaseline and garlic on the bottom of the baby's feet and put some socks on.( Vaseline will prevent the garlic from burning the skin. Use a non-petroleum product if you want, like almond or olive oil.) Let them stay in bed , under the covers, until they sweat. Make sure you change their pjs after they sweat and let them go back to bed. Snuggle with your little one if you have to in order to keep them warm.
  The most important thing to remember when dealing with fevers is that moist heat heals and dry heat kills. Herbal baths are moist heat. They will raise the body temperature even more and trigger the natural reaction of the body when it needs to cool down- sweating. This is what you want to happen if you want to bring down a fever. Help the body and support its natural healing power instead of interrupting the healing process with medicine.
  • Congestion
Saline and eucalyptus are my best friends when it comes to congestion. I like to use a wonderful product  by California Baby - Eucalyptus Ease.   It is amazing and works great for my two year old who loves bubble baths. They make the product in drops you can add to the bath water instead of the bubble bath.
 I also add eucalyptus oil to our vaporizer and let it run in the bedroom all night, Guaranteed good night sleep.
 Another product I often use for congestion is Nature's baby "Ah-Choo! Chest rub" My two year old even rubs it on himself. It works great and he knows it makes him feel better.
 You can find both those products in you local health food store or online at ( great prices).
  • Ear Infection
Congestion can easily turn into an ear infection and ear infection is most commonly treated with antibiotics. I have to say I dread antibiotics. I was given a lot of them when I was little and I suffer the consequences to this day. When I became a mother I decided that I would do everything in my power to avoid giving my son antibiotics. I understand that antibiotics are life saving in some cases but I also think they are overprescribed.
 So, the best way to treat ear infections ,(and to avoid antibiotics), is prevention. You can prevent an ear infection by following a few simple rules:
  1.  Don't let babies fall asleep while still sucking on their bottle. It is bad for their teeth and can cause the  ear canals to fill up with fluid. Don't forget that an artificial nipple will keep dripping after the baby stops sucking, unlike a real breast.
  2. Treat nasal congestion. Keeping the sinuses open will prevent the ear canals from collecting fluid as well. 
  3. Avoid dairy when your child has any kind of congestion . Processed dairy is very mucus forming. Our little boy suffered from an ear infection, a sinus congestion, cough and fever for almost a month and a half before we decided to try and eliminate dairy . He hasn't had any problems since. We allow him to have dairy a couple of times a week but he consumes mostly organic almond and coconut milk. He loves the taste and mommy doesn't have to stay up all night worrying.
If it is too late to prevent an ear infection, mullein oil and garlic oil are the two staples you should have in your herbal medicine cabinet.Both are easy to make.
 Garlic is a natural antibiotic. It has a great antiviral and antibacterial power. To make garlic oil chop a few garlic cloves and put them in a small jar. Pour enough olive oil to cover the garlic.  Strain after three days and you will have a wonderful garlic infused oil. I keep mine in the fridge to extend the shelf life.
 I make mullein oil in a similar way. Put the herbs and the olive oil in a heat proof container (preferably glass) and bring to a boil in a double boiler. We don't want to fry the herb just to heat it up . I put everything in a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water. After the water in your double boiler comes to a boil turn down the heat and let it just simmer. This will keep the oil warm enough but it won't cook the herbs. Let it infuse for a few hours and remove from the heat. Let it cool down before you strain it.
 Mullein is a wonderful herb for reducing swelling and easing pain. It is used not only for ear infections but for any swollen gland. I use it as drops , combined with garlic, and I also use it to massage the neck and around the ears. By reducing the swelling from the infection , the mullein oil helps the garlic oil to penetrate and do its wonderful bacteria fighting job.Two great herbs to have around.

  So , those are some of the herbal remedies we always keep around the house. Often I have to use a combination of treatments to fight off whatever is bothering us. All the remedies described above are wonderful for adults as well as children.
 I hope this post was interesting for you and will help you family stay healthy and strong this winter season.

A few great books about herbs

Today I thought I will share with you some of my old time favorite books about herbs. People that are interested in herbs often don't know where to start. Too many resources , too many books are being published each year. This is how I felt at first and that is why I wanted to share those few titles, which make good "novice" herbalist books.

 "Herbs and Old Time Remedies" by Joseph VanSeters is one of the most amazing books about herbs you can find. It might not be full of complicated technical terms of compounds but is full of experience. The healing power of every herb is made part of a personal story. It's great! There is no better way to learn than from experience.The first time I read this book as a novel - front to back. Now I use it as a reference book but it is still one of my favorite herbal reads.

  "Herbal  Recipes for Vibrant Health" by Rosemary Gladstar is a must for everyone who strives for better health and relies on natural herbal medicine.This book is an amazing collection of recipes for teas, tinctures, natural beauty products. You can find anything here from basic information about herbs to a five step beauty routine.
  Rosemary Gladstar is a pioneer in the herbal movement and has been called the 'godmother of American Herbalism'. She began over 35 years ago developing herbal formulas in her herb shop, Rosemary's Garden in Sonoma County, California. She is the founder of the California School of Herbal Studies, the oldest running herb school in the United States, author of The Science and Art of Herbalism home study course, and is the director of the International Herb Symposium and The New England Women's Herbal Conference held annually in NE. She is the author of numerous herb books including the best seller Herbal Healing for Women, The Storey Book Herbal Healing Series, Herbal Remedies for Vibrant Health, and the Science and Art of Herbalism, an extensive home study course. Rosemary is also the co-founder of Traditional Medicinal Tea Company and did all of the original formulations for the company. She has taught extensively throughout the United States and worldwide at venues as varied as backyard gardens, native villages, garden clubs to universities and hospitals. ( visit for more information about Rosemary Gladstar)

 Another one of Rosemary Gladstar's books makes the list of my favorites.  "Herbal Remedies for Children's Health" is only 80 pages but it is full of useful information about herbal remedies safe for your child and baby. I bought this book when I got pregnant with my son and I've often used it as a reference in the last two years.  It has wonderful recipes for almost every childhood problem. It also has great information on how to determine dosage for different ages and advice on the appropriate environment that can aid in the recovery process of the child itself. This is often neglected by mothers, who often think medicine is enough to make their babies well. Environmental factors play an enormous role in our children's health, especially stress and anxiety levels, which can be very devastating for children and babies.

   Last, but not least on my list, is this wonderful book by Sandra K. Livingston Ellis called "Dr.Mom's Healthy Living". Sandra Livingston Ellis was a regular mom and wife, relying on conventional medicine until her husband was diagnosed with diabetes and had to go on insulin, which meant the end of his career as an airplane pilot. The family began a journey of discovery from which this book was born. It has advice on healthy eating habits, it includes advice on how to deal with every disease or problem -from the common cold to broken bones;it also includes an herbal regiment for pregnant women; and multiple references to useful herbal books.

 These are some of the books that I use almost daily and I often re-read parts of them just for inspiration. A good book about herbs is not only a reference guide. it should be full of respect for Nature and her gifts to us. As Joseph VanSeters says in his book: " Herbs have helped people gain health and strength for thousands of years. Learn all about herbs. First, learn all there is to know about ten different herbs. You will be surprised how helpful they can be. Then learn all about ten more herbs. Then people will seek you out and then you will become a friend of man. Give freely, for you have received freely."

Happy reading!

Herbal Health Care Kit

 Winter is fast approaching here in beautiful Colorado. I decided it is time to go over my herbal health care kit and replenish some of the things that will get us through cold and flu season.
  Before I had my son I rarely kept cold and flu medicine on hand. As an adult I could put up with a night’s suffering before I get the chance to run to the grocery or health food store and get the medicine I need. After Max was born I decided I needed to be more organized and keep enough natural remedies prepared to get us through the cold fall/winter/spring months, and to be able to provide relief immediately. An unhappy baby makes for unhappy mom and dad. I had to be better prepared.
 So here are a few items I always keep in my health care kit. (I call it a health care kit and not a first aid kit. Even though I keep first aid items in the kit as well, a lot of the remedies are intended for prolonged use and provide immediate as well as long term healing/ relief).

 I always keep a few tinctures on hand. A tincture is the fastest way to get the benefits from the healing properties of the plants. Tinctures are a concentrated form and do not require a great amount to be administered in order to see results. I use some alcohol based and some glycerin based tinctures. It really depends if I use the tinctures for my husband and I or for our son.
  Cayenne is a wonderful all purpose herb. I often use it to ward off a cold or to relief indigestion. Cayenne moves the blood and is great for circulation. It is very useful if you live in an area where it is cold and if you spend a lot of time outside. It helps to bring the circulation back to the extremities and will warm up the body from the inside. I use cayenne in capsule form as well. It is a great way to administer it to someone who can’t take the heat otherwise.
 Lobelia is a wonderful nervine herb. I personally use it only externally, as a rub. I find it a miracle cure to relieve the pain from a pinched nerve, or my lower back pain after standing for 8 hours at work. I use it to massage the area and the pain just goes away. Lobelia is an emetic so you have to be careful if taking it internally. A couple of drops will stop dry heaving when someone feels sick or has been vomiting for awhile. Taken in larger quantities it will promote vomiting (hence its emetic properties). This is something that I do not recommend since it can be dangerous.
 Willow Bark is a great pain reliever. Mixed with other herbs, this commercially available tincture became my substitute for pain relief medications like Ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc.
 The Agrimony tincture is a great help when our little one has diarrhea. We’ve experienced the stomach flu twice in two years and it can be very dangerous since the little one gets dehydrated pretty quickly. With this tincture and a calming mixture of Chamomile, Fennel Seed and Spearmint, we are able to keep the symptoms of diarrhea and upset stomach in control, so our 2 year old can keep enough food and liquids down to get him through the sickness.
 I usually keep a lot of Echinacea Tincture on hand and administer it in the first signs of a cold. At our daycare center they have a list with the diseases that go around and how many children have been sent home. When that list starts getting long I start giving my son Echinacea tincture even if he doesn’t have any symptoms. It boosts his immune system and often times the viruses that go around don’t affect us.

 Essential oils are an important part of our health care kit as well. I often use Eucalyptus oil in a vaporizer or add it to the water in our humidifier. During cold and flu season it is the best thing for a peaceful sleep. It will clear the sinuses and promote deep healthy breathing. Add a little Lavender Oil for that extra relaxation and to promote deep sleep.
 Tea Tree Oil is a great antiseptic. I use it as an ingredient in my Healing Salve since it is too strong to put on the skin without being diluted. You can use it as antifungal as well.
 I keep Peppermint oil on hand as an anti itch help.  Even though my Healing salve helps with rashes and bug bites, I sometimes need the little extra help from peppermint oil. It will cool down the skin and help relieve itchiness. I prefer to dilute it with a little bit of Almond or Jojoba oil to help nourish the skin.

 Since I have a very active two year old, whose sole purpose in life is to run as fast as he can and climb as high as he can, I had to create a salve to keep scraped knees healthy and cuts and wounds healing fast. My Healing Salve uses Calendula, Plantain, Comfrey, St.John’s Wort, Lobelia, Tea Tree oil and other essential oils. It promotes fast healing and the antiseptic properties in the herbs and oils keep the wounds from getting infected when Max is ready to dig in the dirt again. (A two year old doesn’t have time to wait for his scraped knees to heal before he is off and running again, and it seems he doesn’t have any tolerance for band-aids either.)
 I always keep some Aloe Vera gel on hand. It seems that the adults in our family use it more than the kids. It is a wonder full thing to have around since you can use it not only for treating burns, but for wounds and cuts. It will promote fast healing and will even take away the terrible itch from the mosquito bites.

  As a part of my herbal health care kit I keep Garlic oil and Mullein oil. Garlic oil is has natural antibiotic properties and is the best thing you can use for an ear infection. I use a lot of garlic in my everyday cooking in order to boost my family’s immunity and to keep them healthy. I always have a small jar of already finely minced garlic on hand. Don’t use the processed stuff from the store if you can avoid it , homemade is always best.
 Mullein oil is something that I started using last year when our then one year old had swollen glands due to an ear infection. It worked miracles. The swelling was gone the within 24 hours. I used it as drops for the ears mixed with garlic oil. What a wonderful medicine!

 So, this is part of what I always keep on hand in my herbal health care kit. I am in the process of preparing a couple of other herbal remedies in preparation for the winter season.  Those I will share with you in another posting.
  Thank you for reading! Please share your own healthy natural remedies and experiences!


  I never thought of myself as much of a blogger but the truth is that a lot of my questions are being answered by blogs and postings in different forums online. I've always been convinced that nature has a lot more to offer than conventional "man-made" medicine. During my pregnancy, two years ago, finding natural cures for common illnesses became a priority. I've learned so much that I want to share. I also think that I have a lot more to learn. I hope this blog will help me and others on the journey of raising a healthy mindful family.