Whew, has it really been that long since I posted on the blog? Well, Happy New Year to all and I hope your winter and holiday seasons have been warm and great!
We had a very low-key celebration of Hanukkah, except for a visit to our friends about an hour away who always put on a lavish and homey homecoming for family and friends. It was a repeat of Thanksgiving, with a Hanukkah twist, and I contributed some home eats to the mix both times. Food, friends, and enough eating to fuel all sorts of new resolutions afterwards, ha! It was a happy time at a distance, too, as we learned of friends welcoming babies to their families during this season...which really is a bright spot for everyone's new year! I was remiss in getting out ANY holiday cards this year (some years I do better than others).
Florida isn't very cold in the winter, but there are some cool spells that seem to coax certain trees and plants into dormancy and give the milder weather ones a time to perk up again. All the new succulent growth of the re-sprouters can be found now, so I'm putting the sunshine to good use and will be plucking up fresh plantain herb today, and trying to identify other "weed" herbs at their young growth stages...I still lack a good working knowledge of "what's what" in the weed and wild plant world. So, slowly I learn. But I know better than to nibble without identifying correctly first.
Loving Those Weeds and Herbs So Much
Sometimes the paths of necessity and interest converge in unexpected places. Had we not found ourselves in the situation a few years back of making the most of our situation and becoming more self-sufficient, I think we wouldn't be nearly as rich in life experiences and new interests (really useful ones!) as we are now. I simply LOVE pairing a better way of eating (and all the while, the simpler and cheaper way has ended up being the healthiest by far) with a burgeoning interest in not only the multi-use plants, but the older uses of certain plants that have fallen out of use in modern times, AND the use of weeds and herbs as healing foods/herbs.
Thank You For Your Comments!
Sometimes there's a delay in my seeing the comments that get left here, since they no longer (for whatever reason??) no longer always send a notification to my email. But I find them eventually..and thank you for your recommendations and advice, I take it all to heart! So please pardon my delays in responding.
I Want to Be An Herbalist
...when I grow up?? Well, now, anyway! Or taking those beginning steps along that path. At the moment, I'm in love with some of the simpler "weedy" herbs...nettle, burdock, yarrow, dandelion, chickweed to name a few. But I'm way beyond infatuation with a tonic here or a cute little box of herb tea there. I love the way internally and externally the simplest "weedy" herbs (that are the bane of People Who Market Roundup) are THE nutrients this world, this society, this generation NEEDS for vibrant health, cell regeneration, stress repair, and vital nutrients no scientist can adequately list. I am particularly interested in the simples...single herbs...made into more concentrated but mild infusions.
I found a source only in the past couple of days for dry nettle and for oatstraw. I'm going to make infusions according to the instructions I found on Susun Weed's instructional youtube videos, since each of these herbs can be made into nourishing infusions, with benefits too numerous to list, that both Jack and I can benefit from. He's not only my willing partner in these adventures, he's as motivated as I am, and as happy when we find something really good.
For example, he experiences muscle strain since he puts in a lot of miles walking at his job, a lot of it up and down concrete stairs. He used to come home with his leg muscles in knots, and they would often cramp repeatedly. At some point, though we were using it for something else at the time, we found that a very low dose of wormwood tea (made with hot water and the dried herb, very small dose) had the interesting "side effect" of his being able to have faster muscle repair...the days he took the low dose wormwood before work, he had much less muscle tiredness and oftentimes no cramps or pain afterwards at all. He already was taking Hyaluronic Acid for his joints (we swear by this), so having the simplicity of a couple sips of wormwood tea (it's not for the fainthearted...it defines "bitter") as a muscle support herb has been wonderful! For stubborn cramping, I ran across a mention in Maria Treben's Health Through God's Pharmacy that a simple tea of sage (yep, like the one in the spice rack) could help, so I made that with a heaping teaspoon the next time Jack had leg cramps, and it really helped, along with the wormwood, as well. This is just our own experience, but it is valid for us. We just reduced my husband's reliance on 800 mg Ibuprofen, in exchange for a few pennies' worth of herb and an occasional swig from our one dollar bottle of clear liquid Magnesium Citrate (found in glass bottles in the laxative section of any drugstore...another of our cheap tips). We use the Magnesium citrate in tablespoon doses to add electrolytes anytime there is muscle pain or tightness, or exposure to a lot of outdoor heat. But I digress...
Back to the Herbs
I've slowly been gathering some reference books around me, too, in order to go forward filling in the learning gap, and to have some reliable information other than things gleaned at random on the internet. If anyone has a particular recommendation of really good and sound herbal books, I'd love to hear about them :)
A Reader's Experience with the Gynura
I was contacted a few weeks ago by a blog reader who had come across a post of mine from 3 years back about the Gynura procumbens plants we had ordered then. We have grown them in pots and in the ground ever since, and they were originally purchased because I had read somewhere that in Malasyia and parts of Asia, they are used as blood sugar reducers for diabetics. When I was contacted by the very nice man recently, he told me he bought some of the Gynura plants for the same purpose and was calling to let me know he ate the leaves fresh daily and his blood sugars were lowered from their original higher readings to completely normal since he began with the Gynura. I'm just relating his experience, but he was the first person I could find who could provide evidence of a safe dosage amount of the fresh leaves. He has been taking them a year and a half or more, with completely normal blood sugar readings as long as he continues eating the fresh leaves daily. So he grows enough plants in his guest bedroom to keep him in the green all year around.
This really jump-started me, and I found further evidence in the meantime that Gynura can be made into an extract in alcohol, so in a couple weeks' time, my own extract will be ready. I'm finding with certain herbs and plants that an alcohol based extract will keep for a very long time and can be made in concentrations that are therapeutic, portable, and easy to measure out. There are a lot of good herb books out there with the specifics of preparation and dosage of many types of medicinal herbs.
So, I am my own guinea pig. I will not go off my prescription medication, no, not yet, but I've already lowered my dose (I've been taking blood sugar-supportive herbs, yay!) My plan with the Gynura tincture is to start with a couple drops of the tincture, and slowly work up to more drops as my sugar count goes down. I found a scientific study from Singapore that said the Gynura tincture has the similar effect as Metformin on blood sugar, and this is one of the two types of meds I'm on. SO...I intend to pull a slight switcheroo. Reduce the one slowly while incorporating the other. Let's see how it goes. My doc will be involved all along the way, just saying...
Everything Goes Back to the Eating
I wish I were the person who grew EVERYTHING in our backyard. I'm not. Yet. But we have learned that almost anything homemade from scratch is better than almost anything from a store not homemade from scratch. That said, we still have our Pan Pizza moments, and I love fresh sushi rolls.
Our diet has improved greatly. Getting starches to a lower percentage of our meal intake has been a challenge, mostly regarding rice and potatoes. We have not totally eliminated rice, and we'll never eliminate potatoes, but we HAVE nearly eliminated wheat flour and most dairy (exception, butter). Since we make black beans, the rice just goes with that so well. But there's been no more homemade bread, other than a random homemade banana bread loaf, or cake for a celebration now and then. We've substituted fruit, and a slightly "faster" food concession has been keeping a big can of cold canned peaches or applesauce in the fridge for those moments when we have a sweet tooth. Adding in the fresh juiced carrots and the greens --- a keeper for good. And where Jack is, garlic gets added into nearly everything. Our meats are greatly greatly reduced...I can stretch a few chicken breasts out an entire week as a small addition here and there to meals, but not as a main course. Simplicity can be delicious and filling.
An Interesting Side Effect
I still have a lot less energy than most other people, or maybe less motivation to drive myself than I did when I was younger. Or maybe I just like simplicity and hate chaos, and have embraced a slower life. The interesting side effect embracing a bit of frugality and a big dose of simplicity has been...that other areas of my life are coming into order. I guess maybe the refusal to be busy for busy-ness's sake has made me a stubborn "simplist" but it's helped me recognize the more important things, and cleared my mind even in small matters, like organizing my house. Slowly, those forgotten corners are being cleared out in the same way. I simply don't NEED a lot of possessions. I can reuse things (like glass jars, etc) rather than create more waste. I don't need as many clothes, and don't need trendy things. I don't need constant entertainment...that's been VERY interesting...silencing the voice of the TV the past number of years has helped with distractions. I'd go through Google withdrawals and Netflix convenience, but I COULD easily adjust to not having this computer. I'd miss the convenience of emails because we do use that a lot. But it could be done. I LIKE the clear spaces in my life now that used to be cluttered with detritus that was unnecessary or not really being enjoyed fully. In a way, it's like eating a little bit of great nutritious food rather than immense amounts of junk that don't actually satisfy.
So, a good side effect! Evidence that things are still constructive, a good sign :)
I still have to rest a lot more than a lot of people. I am hoping this will not be forever. I am treating that need with respect, understanding my body needs healing. There is a time to mend...
But while the sun still shines, I'm headed to pick some fresh papaya (yayy!!! our first!) and see if I can decipher the little green leaves that are popping out all over the ground. I need to learn what they are..there is a world of wealth underfoot!
What does your New Year find you doing and looking ahead to? Thank you for your comments and advice!
Happy New Year!!