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 www.vitacost.com ( 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 http://www.sagemountain.com/rosemary-gladstar.html 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!