Saturday, November 23, 2013

Soup's On with Astragalus

     It’s that time of year; the weather is changing, everyone we come in contact with is sniffling and hacking and we are indoors more where the air is stagnant and germs fester.  It is also the time of year to simmer big pots of soup, stew, and other hearty fare.  This is the time of year my family sits down at the table with a bowl in the center and I tell them what roots and herbs to look for and discard into that bowl.  Bay leaves are a common such herb.  I have friends that only include one bay leaf in their spaghetti sauce and the unfortunate finder does the dishes that night.  We have a system in place to prevent that; I cook, we all load the dishwasher, my hubby washes the pots and my daughter much to her chagrin empties the dishwasher and sink of the clean dishes so I can add lots of good things to my cooking. Bay leaf, reishi mushrooms and my favorite astragalus root go in everything that simmers for any length of time. Garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric make very frequent appearances.
      I learned about astragalus when I was first learning about herbs and was enchanted.   I use them as an immune tonic in cooking.  They are slightly sweet tasting but you will not detect a flavor when cooked with other foods.  They are a slightly warming herb. They help prevent colds, influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia and other such viruses.  They are my alternative to a flu shot. I will not say not to get a flu shot if you have made a conscious choice and feel comfortable with it.  I have chosen not to for myself and my family. 
            Astragalus membranaceua is part of the pea family.  The root is harvested in autumn from four year old plants.  It is sliced and dried.  It is often referred to as a tongue depressor from the shape after slicing.  You can also find it sliced in small rounds but this is really hard to detect until you have it in your mouth.  It’s a root so it is fiberous and difficult to chew. Many use it to stir their tea, keeping the root in the tea and using it repeatedly. These methods work great as an immune tonic.  For other medicinal purposes a tincture of the root or a decoction should be made.
 The Chinese refer to astragalus as Huang Qi meaning Yellow Leader.  The healthy roots are yellow in color and it is a leader in tonic herbs.  It is thought of as a spleen tonic, and can be used for lack of appetite, organ prolapse, fatigue, and wasting and thirsting syndrome.  Astragalus strengthens the lung qi and, because the lungs help create wei qi; it is able to strengthen this qi. Wei qi is the protective energy that helps prevent illness caused by external pernicious influences.  When the wei qi is deficient, people can get sick more easily, sweat too much or not enough, and develop sores that won’t come to a head.  In addition, by strengthening the wei qi, this herb reduces excessive sweating, menopausal sweating, and night sweats and promotes suppuration of boils and carbuncles.[1]
American research has focused on the ability of astragalus to restore normal immune function in cancer patients.  Clinical evidence suggests that patients under going chemotherapy or radiotherapy recover faster and live longer if given astragalus concurrently.[2]

[1] Winson, David and Steven Maimes. Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2007. pg. 147-149

[2] Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The Definitive Reference to 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments. New York: A Dorling Kindersley Book, 1996. pg. 68

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Holiday Market Place

   Spirit of Giving:
Holiday Marketplace 2013

Saturday, November 30
10 am to 4 pm
61 Echo Lake Road, Watertown, CT

Join us as we celebrate Small Business Saturday.
All original work by local artists and artisans.
A great opportunity for all your holiday shopping needs

      I'm so excited!!!!! I'm getting ready for my first craft fair.  I will be joining many local artists and artisans at the Spirit of Giving: Holiday Market Place in Watertown, CT, on November 30. A table, tablecloth and display dishes are all ready.  A beautiful shelf was sanded and painted by my amazing hubby.  Products have been lovingly formed, bottled, wrapped and labeled.  New business cards and brochures printed.
     I have new lip balms to show case.  Besides my lavender lip balm and orange & clove I now have Bee's Knees ( a rip on that other Bee featuring mint and rosemary) and chocolate mint.  They not only smell great but make your lips moist and soft.  A great stocking stuffer or special treat.  I hate carrying them so I have a tube every where I could possibly think of - my vanity, my bedside table, office drawer, and in my car.
     I have a new treat as well, cuticle salve.  It is perfect for  winter and easy to use.  It comes in a handy tube.  Instead of digging into a tin of salve you can just wipe it on.  It works great on dry cracked heals and can double as a lip balm.
     Plus soap in a generous six ounce bar, lotions, toner, vanilla sugar scrub and cleanser.  Everything you and your friends need for beautiful skin.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Exfoliating Cleanser

     Daylight savings time has come again.  My body did not recognize this arbitrary change and so I was awake in the wee hours of the morning.  Sometime before 5. Not one clock in my house agrees with another so I am not really sure.  So, with those luxurious quiet hours I made a batch of cleanser.  It is a recipe I adapted of Rosemary Gladstar's miracle grains.  She gives the recipe in her book Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal (now published as Rosemary Gladstar's Recipes for Vibrant Health).  What I love is that you could actually eat your cleanser.  It wouldn't taste very good but you could eat it.  That's what I want to put on my skin.  Something safe enough to eat.  Something not filled with ingredients I can not pronounce.  Something that makes my skin look and feel great.

     This cleanser exfoliates with the addition of ground almonds and poppy seeds.  It calms the skin with oatmeal, lavender blossoms and calendula flowers.  It is bound together with kaolin clay.  A little bit mixed with water is a great cleanser.  Letting it dry on the skin makes for a quick mask.  Mix a spoonful with honey and now you have a moisturizing mask.  You don't want to add wet ingredients to the mix until you are ready to use it or it will grow green fuzzy sweaters as my auntie would say.  I use it at night followed by a generous dose of my face & body lotion.  My daughter uses it sporadically depending on her skin.  She finds a light mask helps her when she breaks out.