Dandelions: 31+ Medicinal and Culinary Uses for the King of Weeds

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This article is part of a series on weed gardens and identifying and using the plants you’ll often find there. For other articles in the series, please click here.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

As you can see, the weed garden is really starting to come to life. I’ve got henbit, sedges, dayflowers, wood sorrel, pokeweed, and a few other visitors. But one weed I would gladly welcome has yet to show up. Dandelions!

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

Dandelions are pretty much the unofficial mascots for foraging and herbal medicine. They can be found on every continent (except Antarctica) and have tremendous value as food and medicine. They invade lawns, fields, and waste spaces despite every effort to control, contain, and kill them.

Dandelions are survivors, and they pass on a little of that to us when we consume them.

Identifying Dandelions

While dandelions do have a few look-alikes, none of them are toxic. Among the common fakers, you’ll find cat’s ear, chicory, shepherd’s purse, and hawksbeard. Here’s your guide to telling the real thing from the fakers.

Dandelions are perennials1)Perennial: Any plant that lives for more than 2 years. that grow in a basal rosette.2)Basal Rosette: A circular arrangement of leaves at ground level. You’ll never find leaves growing from the stem. Leaves are anywhere from 2 inches to over a foot (5 to 40 centimeters) long and have jagged teeth.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

The jagged pattern of the leaves can vary quite a bit. On some plants, the indentations will go nearly to the midline of the leaf, while others will have fairly shallow teeth. The tips of the teeth tend to point backward, toward the center of the plant. Leaves are virtually hairless at all stages of growth.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

By the way, the name “dandelion” is said to come from “dent de lion” or “teeth of the lion.” And depending on who you ask, this either refers to the jagged leaves or the flower petals.

The scientific name, Taraxacum officinale, could be translated as “the official cure for every disorder.”

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

The yellow blooms are composite flowers. That is, they look like one flower, but are technically a cluster of tiny flowers. The ends of the petals tend to be flat, rather than tapering to a point, and they overlap all the way to the center of the flower. Blooming happens mostly in spring, and again in fall, with sporadic blooming at any time.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

These flowers turn into the puffballs that kids love to blow on to make wishes. A single dandelion plant may produce many stems and flowers, but each stem will have only a single flower. The stems are hollow and can range in length from 2 to 18 inches (5 to 45 centimeters).

All parts of the plant contain a white, milky sap. This would normally be a warning sign, but dandelions are an exception to the rule.

Read More: “How to Not Die While Wildcrafting: 15 Rules for Foraging Safely”

There are even some rather useful applications for this sap, which we’ll get into below. Be aware that dandelion sap has occasionally been reported to cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.

Dandelions can be found throughout the U.S., Canada, and most of the rest of the world, especially around people. This is another plant that loves us and wants to be near us. You can find them in lawns, fields, pastures, waste spaces, and disturbed ground. They seem to survive everything from drought, to over-picking, to digging, to mowing, to herbicides. But why would you want to get rid of these happy little guys? They’re beautiful, and they’re trying so hard to help us.

Edible Uses and Dandelion Recipes

If you do an Internet search for dandelion recipes, you’ll find page after page of preparations for this versatile vegetation. Recipes abound!

I, myself, have only scratched the surface of dandelion delicacies. There are just so many!

Nutritional Value

And why shouldn’t there be? Every part of the plant is edible, raw or cooked. And not only are dandelions plentiful, they’re very nearly a perfect food. Dandelions are rich in potassium; magnesium; manganese; phosphorus; sodium; copper; choline; calcium; iron; lecithin; biotin; inositol; chlorophyll; fiber; and vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, D, and E.3)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.,4)Peterson, Lee Allen, and Roger Tory Peterson. A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.,5)Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016.,6)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.,7)Gladstar, Rosemary. The Beginners Guide to Medicinal Herbs 35 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use. Storey Books, 2012.,8)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.

That’s quite a mouthful. Literally.

They have more vitamin A than any other green plant—six times more than carrots—and a single cup of fresh greens will meet your daily requirement of beta-carotene, iron, calcium, and potassium!9)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.

That tap root really reaches down to bring up the good stuff. You can see why I call them the king of weeds.

Furthermore, when eaten as a whole (roots to flowers/seeds), the dandelion forms a complete protein, with all 9 essential amino acids.10)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014. That’s a pretty good trick for a plant.

Dandelion also seems to help with the absorption and balance of minerals.11)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

Overcoming the Bitter Taste

But let’s address the elephant in the room. Dandelions are bitter. Very bitter. Involuntarily-spit-them-out-and-go-wash-your-mouth-out-with-ice-cream bitter.

Perhaps I exaggerate. But how is one to get past the bitterness to access those amazing nutrients? I’ve got you covered.

First, you should select the best dandelions. The best-tasting leaves have had the easiest life. Don’t pick any sunbaked, twice-stepped-on leaves. Harvest from a plant in a shady, well-watered location. Harvest younger greens, earlier in the year. Leaves toward the center of the rosette also tend to be less bitter.

Next, choose the right preparation. It’s the rare individual who enjoys eating a handful of dandelion greens raw. It’s a lot easier to moderate their taste by chopping them up and mixing them with other greens. They also pair well with savory dishes.

Of all the cooking methods, boiling does the best job of reducing bitterness. Drop the leaves into boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. If you’ve picked a good plant, it shouldn’t take much more than this. If not, you can always boil them longer. Use plenty of water so the bitterness has someplace to go.

Eating the Roots: Stir-fried, Pickled, and as a Coffee Substitute

The root can be eaten raw, but tastes better when cooked. Try them sliced and stir-fried with other veggies. Cooking breaks down the root’s inulin into fructose, bringing out a much sweeter taste. They’re also a fine addition to soups and stews, and—although I’ve never tried it—they are reportedly quite tasty when pickled.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

Dandelion Coffee Recipe

The root is typically harvested from late fall to early spring. Second-year roots are preferred, but good luck on guessing how old a dandelion is by looking at it. If it’s too old and woody to eat, you can still use it to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Slice up the root and slow-roast it in your oven until it turns dark brown and becomes brittle. This should take about 30 minutes at 350°F (175°C). Let it cool, and then grind it up to use like coffee grounds. I’m usually not a fan of coffee substitutes, but this is one I really enjoy.

Dandelion Mocha Recipe

If you’d like to take your dandelion coffee to the next level (and who wouldn’t?), you can turn it into a dandelion mocha. This recipe comes from Rosemary Gladstar, and it is delightful.

Use 1 tbsp each of dandelion coffee grounds and cacao nibs. Simmer in 3 cups of water for 30 minutes. Then strain and add ½ cup milk (or milk substitute), ½ tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tbsp. honey (or other sweetener), and a dash of ground nutmeg or cloves.

It’s excellent. I highly recommend you try it.

Eating the Flowers: Sautéed, Fried, and Infused

The flowers make a colorful addition to salads, soups, ice creams, or just about anything else. Two of my favorite ways to eat them are sautéed in butter and as an ingredient in dandelion lemonade.

  • Sautéed blooms are easy. Just melt some butter and sauté away. (Alternately, you could make a simple egg-and-flour batter and fry them. Yum!)
  • To make dandelion lemonade, just add about a quart of dandelion flowers to a half gallon of lemonade. Let the mixture infuse in the fridge overnight, then strain out the blossoms and enjoy.

The less green you have from the base of the blossoms, the less bitter they will taste. Here’s a brief clip demonstrating a super easy way to separate the petals from the bitter greens:

https://youtu.be/fWyA35Cs5e0

The last way to get past the bitterness is simply to build up an appreciation for it. Sure, it’s not the most popular option, but you really can develop a taste for a food by consistently consuming small portions of it. Gradually, your aversion turns into tolerance. And then tolerance can even become a craving. It really works. Try it!

Medicinal Uses for Dandelions

Dandelion’s medicinal effects are not limited to its impressive nutritional profile. It sports a bevy of benefits. Let’s dive in!

As a Digestive Aid

Dandelion’s bitter taste is likely also its best-known medicinal property. It’s a bitter. Bitters are plants that encourage optimal digestion by stimulating the secretion of enzymes and digestive juices.12)Gladstar, Rosemary. The Beginners Guide to Medicinal Herbs 35 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use. Storey Books, 2012.,13)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

Dandelion stimulates appetite, aids the liver in its detoxification duties, helps to regulate the release of pancreatic hormone, is stimulating to the spleen, supports correct bile duct function, and even helps to repair the gut wall.14)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.,15)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.,16)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. It may even help to resist the progression of cirrhosis of the liver.17)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

Dandelion is a remarkable plant!

To Treat Colitis

In one experiment, participants with non-specific colitis were given dandelion along with calendula, lemon balm, and St. John’s wort. Complete relief from spontaneous and palpable pains was reported by 96% of participants, and stools were normalized in those with diarrhea symptoms.18)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

As a Spring Tonic and Diuretic

Dandelion is also well-known as a spring tonic. It helps to flush and tone the body after enduring the rigors of winter.

The entire plant is diuretic, flushing excess water from the body and generally giving us a good cleansing. The leaf is more powerful than the root, and is comparable to the drug furosemide in terms of strength.19)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. Don’t take it right before bed or you’ll be up all night. Trust me. I know.

Dandelion’s diuretic properties help to relieve fluid retention.20)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. It is also used to dissolve calcium stones and to prevent new ones from forming, and can be used safely over long periods.21)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.,22)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

Dandelion’s diuretic nature may also help to explain its effectiveness in relieving arthritic complaints.23)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

With conventional pharmaceuticals, as the body flushes out water, it’s also flushing out our supply of potassium. This can be rough on your heart and cause problems for anyone with a heart condition.24)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. Dandelion, on the other hand, is so rich in potassium that even while it flushes out the body, it still provides a net gain in potassium.25)Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016. This makes it an ideal diuretic herb for people with heart issues.26)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

For Skin Health

The natural latex in its sap is helpful in getting rid of warts.27)Gladstar, Rosemary. The Beginners Guide to Medicinal Herbs 35 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use. Storey Books, 2012. However, this is not a quick process. The sap must be applied several times a day for 2 to 3 weeks. Direct application of the sap can also help with moles, pimples, canker sores, and other skin blemishes.28)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014., 29)Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

To Fight Cancer and Harmful Bacteria

Dandelion may have anti-tumor/anti-cancer properties, though it is not clear whether this would be from a direct action or indirectly through its ability to cleanse and support normal body function.30)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.,31)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. Dandelion also appears to have selective antimicrobial properties, supporting healthy gut bacteria while discouraging unhealthy ones.32)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.,33)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.,34)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. It even helps prevent plaque buildup on teeth.35)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.

Other Medicinal Uses

Dandelion is also cooling and drying, and can be used as a fever reducer.36)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. It’s a mild laxative and has an alkalizing effect on the body.37)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.,38)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.,39)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. Dandelion may also help some people with allergies and food intolerances.40)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

In animal studies, dandelion has been shown to have hypoglycemic activities.41)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. This may make it a helpful plant for those with diabetes, but could be a contraindication for those with hypoglycemia.42)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.,43)Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

Medicinal Formats and Dosages

You can use dandelion via any of the normal methods: fresh, dried, tincture, decoction, infusion, etc. The dried leaves make an excellent addition to green powders.

Outside of some very specific circumstances, dandelion is widely considered to be safe. Recommendations vary from herbalist to herbalist as to how much you should take.

I will present some amounts that I think are reasonable, but you should view them as suggestions, rather than rules. Other quantities/frequencies could be equally valid, depending on your situation.

Root Tincture

1:5 ratio in 60% alcohol. Use 2.5–5 ml, 3 times daily.

Root Decoction

Use 2–3 tsp of root material in 1 cup of water. Simmer for 10–15 minutes. Drink this 3 times a day.

Leaf Tincture

1:5 ratio in 40% alcohol. Use 5–10 ml, 3 times daily.

Leaf Infusion

Pour boiling water over ½ tsp of dried leaf and allow to steep for 10–15 minutes. Drink this 3 times a day.

Long Live the King!

Dandelions are so impressively versatile that I could never fit everything into a single article.

For example, did you know that the sap can be used as glue, or that the stem can be fashioned into a working flute?

What else did I leave out? What’s your favorite recipe or medicinal use? Do you have any dandelion stories (or horror stories about the bitter flavor)? Are dandelions really the king of weeds, or should that title belong to a different plant? Let me know in the comments!

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Psst! Our Lawyer Wants You to Read This Big, Bad Medical Disclaimer –> The contents of this article, made available via The Grow Network (TGN), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by TGN. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. And, of course, never eat a wild plant without first checking with a local expert.

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References   [ + ]

1. Perennial: Any plant that lives for more than 2 years.
2. Basal Rosette: A circular arrangement of leaves at ground level.
3, 32. Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
4. Peterson, Lee Allen, and Roger Tory Peterson. A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.
5, 25. Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016.
6, 9, 10, 28, 33, 35. Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.
7, 12, 27. Gladstar, Rosemary. The Beginners Guide to Medicinal Herbs 35 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use. Storey Books, 2012.
8, 14, 21, 37, 42. Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.
11, 13, 15, 19, 23, 24, 26, 30, 38, 41. Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.
16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 31, 34, 36, 39, 40. Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.
29, 43. Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

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Pokeweed: The Weed, the Myth, the Legend

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This article on pokeweed is part of a series on weed gardens and identifying and using the plants you’ll often find there. For other articles in the series, please click here.

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a milestone plant for many foragers. It’s the first plant that many of us eat that could also kill us.

Don’t get me wrong. Correctly prepared, pokeweed is absolutely safe. It’s also highly nutritious and delicious. But it’s a rare person who doesn’t feel at least a little trepidation when cooking and eating it for the first time.

Pokeweed = Poison?

My most vivid memory of pokeweed isn’t from painting with the berries as a child, or from the smell coming from the boiling pot in my grandmother’s kitchen. It’s from just last year. Our (then) 2-year-old came up to me with a big purple-stained grin on his face.

“Have you been eating elderberries again?” I asked him.

He shook his head and led me to a tall pokeweed plant. I saw that berries were missing. Lots of them. One of us might have said a swear word. I’ll let you guess who.

It’s funny how panic will totally wreck your ability to think. My mind was racing to recall everything I knew about pokeweed, but all I was getting was the word “poison.”

I took several slow, deep breaths to calm myself. Gradually, my brain started to work again. The berry is the least poisonous part of the plant. The juice from the berry is safe. It’s the seed that’s poisonous 1) http://www.eattheweeds.com/can-be-deadly-but-oh-so-delicious-pokeweed-2. The seeds are designed to pass safely through the digestive tract so that the plant can spread. So unless he chewed up the seeds, any poisons would likely remain safely locked away. And at this age, our boy was more of a gulper than a chewer.

My wife and I decided to wait and see if any symptoms developed. As it turned out, he was fine. He never had any problems with the pokeberries at all.

That day, two things happened:

  1. One was that I cut down all of the pokeweed plants in our yard.
  2. The other was that I became skeptical of the oft-repeated claims of 10 berries (or even 1 berry 2)The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medication and Supplements Together. George T. Grossberg M.D., and Barry Fox. Publisher: Harmony. 2008.) being enough to poison a child.

One study tried to determine the lethal dose of pokeberries for mice. What the researchers found was that it was impossible to give the mice a large enough dose to kill them. After three doses, one per hour, of as much as the mice’s bellies could hold, some finally died. The equivalent amount for an adult, male human would be about 45 pounds (20 kilograms).3)http://digital.library.okstate.edu/oas/oas_pdf/v43/p54_57.pdf Just for the record, 45 pounds of water would also kill an adult, male human.4)http://www.nleomf.org/officers/search/search-results/james-c-mcbride.html

Of course I wouldn’t recommend you eat a big bowlful of the berries. Humans may not be very much like mice. But this study does give credence to some people’s claims of having eaten pokeberry pie.

Let’s Eat Some Pokeweed!

Our grandparents would have thought all this caution and fear was far overblown. For them, pokeweed was a mundane food—a staple of spring. But at some point that familiarity with our wild, native plants began to dwindle, and now pokeweed is something of a daredevil food for aspiring foragers. Let’s take back our horticultural heritage and eat some pokeweed (after preparing it correctly, of course).

This video should help:

Plant Identification

Adult plants are the easiest to identify, so let’s start there. Mature pokeweed (also called poke salad, poke sallet, pokeberry, and others) stands 5–10 feet (1.5–3 meters) tall.

Pokeweed leaf close

The leaves are alternate,5)Alternate: A leaf pattern in which leaves appear back and forth or in a spiraling pattern on a stem. large (4–10 inches or 10–25 centimeters), toothless, oval- or lance-shaped, fairly succulent, somewhat wavy along the edges, and prominently veined.

They also make a neat, rubbery sound when you rub a handful of them together.

The flowers are white, pink, or green; grow on a pink stem; and form a drooping, finger-shaped cluster. Flowers appear in spring through summer and turn into glossy, deep purple-to-black berries toward the end of summer and into fall. The berries are about the size of a pea and are flattened at the top and bottom. A mature pokeweed stem is red or magenta, darker near the base, and has a mostly hollow core.

Pokeweed has a perennial root, with the aboveground parts dying back every winter. The dead stalk can remain through the winter and are one of the easiest ways for beginners to safely ID young plants. Mark the location of a dead stalk and come back in the spring to harvest the new stalks growing where it stood. Once you do this several times, you’ll start to recognize the young leaves by sight even without the older stalk to give it away.

Look-alikes

Overall, the mature plant is very easy to identify, though it might be confused with elderberry. Elderberry does not have alternate leaves, and the berries grow in an umbel,6)Umbel: A flat, disk-shaped or umbrella-shaped cluster of flower. rather than a spike.

The berry clusters resemble wild cherries, though cherries don’t have that garish stem color, their leaves are toothed, and they grow on a tree.

Some people say that pokeweed is a grape lookalike. I don’t see it, myself. But if you’re having trouble, remember that grapes grow on a vine. Pokeweed does not.

Where to Find Pokeweed

Pokeweed is native to the U.S., growing throughout most of the contiguous states, except for in the Rocky Mountain States and North and South Dakota. It can also be found in the eastern provinces of Canada and has been naturalized in the Mediterranean region.

It prefers damp woodlands and open area.

Birds help spread the seeds in their droppings, as well. You can often find pokeweed shoots beneath popular perches. Try fence rows.

Harvesting Pokeweed

The conventional wisdom is to harvest leaves and stems from young plants, no more than 6-10 inches (15-25 centimeters) tall.7)Peterson Field Guides. Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America. Lee Allen Peterson.

Pokeweed young plant

Berries can be harvested whenever they are ripe, from summer into fall.

I do not recommend harvesting the root, as it contains the highest concentration of poison. (However, those who do opt to take the risk typically harvest the root in the fall, after the main stalk has died back.)

Some people harvest from taller plants, even taking the newer growth from mature pokeweed. Depending on your level of sensitivity to the plant and your level of experience, this might or might not be a good idea.

The Pokeweed Boogeyman

And this would probably be a good time to talk about the pokeweed boogeyman.

In my opinion, the poisonous nature of pokeweed has been exaggerated. People tend to repeat warnings about poisonous plants without verifying them. This can cause errors or exaggerations to be perpetuated until they assume the rank of “fact.” This seems to be what has happened with pokeweed.8)http://digital.library.okstate.edu/oas/oas_pdf/v43/p54_57.pdf

Don’t misunderstand me. Pokeweed is poisonous and has killed people. You have to respect it, and you have to use it correctly. But the level of fear exceeds the reality.9)Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria. Stephen Harrod Buhner. Storey Publishing, LLC. 2012.

To further muddy the waters, some people are more sensitive to the toxins in pokeweed than others.

  • For example, the plant juice causes dermatitis in some people (like my wife) and not in others (like myself).
  • Some people get a stomachache if they boil the leaves only once, while others may have no ill effects and always boil once.
  • I’ve even seen a man claim that he saved the cooking water for use in soups. That one’s a bit much for me, but you can see how the claims of pokeweed’s relative toxicity might get confused.

A Common-Sense Caution

So what’s a forager to do?

Go slowly.

Just cook a little bit your first time, and use one of the longer boiling methods described below. The next time, you can cook more.

Just use your own wisdom, listen to your body, and don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. In all likelihood, you’ll be fixin’ a big mess of greens in no time.

Culinary Uses: Cooking and Eating Pokeweed

Nutritionally, pokeweed is a powerhouse plant. It’s a dynamite source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of calcium and iron, too.10)http://www.eattheweeds.com/can-be-deadly-but-oh-so-delicious-pokeweed-2 But how do you get to that nutrition without poisoning yourself?

Poke leaves are boiled before eating. Opinions differ as to how long they must be boiled and in how many changes of water. This is how I do it:

  1. Boil the leaves for 1 minute.
  2. Pour out the water and bring new water to a boil.
  3. Now boil the leaves for another full minute.
  4. Change out the water and boil for 15 minutes.

The whole process looks like this:

Boil 1 minute –> Change water –> Boil 1 minute –> Change water –> Boil 15 minutes

Remember, your timer doesn’t start until the water reaches a full boil. You can keep a second pot of water boiling so that you don’t have to wait for the water to heat up every time.

If you want to err on the cautious side, you can always boil it longer. Two boils of 15 minutes each, or three boils of 10 minutes each, are common cooking protocols.

Serve with salt, pepper, and butter. Some people like to add vinegar or olive oil, as well. I like to add a pinch of brown sugar. My way isn’t the healthiest, but it gets the kids to eat it. Another popular option is to toss the cooked pokeweed into a pan and scramble it with eggs. I like to add barbecue sauce. (Try it, then tell me if I’m crazy!)

Young shoots can be peeled, breaded in cornmeal, and fried. Some people boil them first, but many (including myself) don’t. Another option is to boil and then pickle the stalks. I’ve never tried this one, but it sounds tasty.

Medicinal Uses: Properties and Contraindications

Used correctly, pokeweed is a powerful medicinal plant. However, the margins of safety are smaller than with most popular herbs.

The berry is the safest part of the plant to use medicinally. The root, while a very powerful medicine, is also the most poisonous. Use caution, and get in touch with an experienced herbalist before experimenting with it yourself.

Pokeweed has a wide variety of medicinal uses, both traditional and modern. Most of these likely stem from its antiviral, lymphatic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Properties

Pokeweed has terrifically potent antiviral properties against a wide range of viruses, including SARS and coronavirus. Pokeweed is a powerful lymphatic-system stimulant, helping to prevent cytokine storms.11)Cytokine Storm: A potentially fatal, hyper-inflammatory, immune response often linked to certain viruses. Isolated compounds from the pokeweed plant have even been used to inactivate the HIV virus in rats, rendering them HIV-negative.12)Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections. Stephen Harrod Buhner. Storey Publishing, LLC. 2013. That’s a lot of antiviral potential.

Pokeweed is also strongly anti-inflammatory, and has a long history as an arthritis herb.13)Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The Definitive Home Reference Guide to 550 Key Herbs with all their Uses as Remedies for Common Ailments. Andrew Chevallier. DK Adult. 2000. Some people take 1 berry a day to ease their symptoms. Others use the root in powder or tincture14)Tincture: A preparation in herbal medicine wherein the medicinal components of a plant are pulled into a solution of alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin and administered by dropper. form. One suggested dose of root powder is 60–100 milligrams.15)The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medication and Supplements Together. George T. Grossberg M.D., and Barry Fox. Publisher: Harmony. 2008. A 1:5 tincture of the dried root in 50% alcohol has also been suggested with a dose of 5–15 drops up to 3 times a day.16)Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria. Stephen Harrod Buhner. Storey Publishing, LLC. 2012. 

Again, use caution and seek a trained expert before putting any of this into your body.

Contraindications

Pokeweed has the potential to interact with drugs that have sedative properties. Possible side effects include lowered blood pressure, confusion, weakness, blurred vision, nausea, difficulty breathing, and death.17)The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medication and Supplements Together. George T. Grossberg M.D., and Barry Fox. Publisher: Harmony. 2008. Pregnant women should not use pokeweed.18)Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The Definitive Home Reference Guide to 550 Key Herbs with all their Uses as Remedies for Common Ailments. Andrew Chevallier. DK Adult. 2000.

If you’re looking for similar effects from safer plants, try skullcap or cleavers as alternatives.19)Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections. Stephen Harrod Buhner. Storey Publishing, LLC. 2013. Red root also has some similar properties, though it has safety issues, as well.

Hopefully I’ve scared you just the right amount—not so much that I scared you away, but not so little that you jump in with abandon. Pokeweed is a powerful, nutritious, delicious plant that is safe when it’s given proper respect, and dangerous when it’s not.

What are your experiences with pokeweed? Were they good or bad? Have any of you every tried pokeberry pie and lived to tell the tale? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments.

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Psst! Our Lawyer Wants You to Read This Big, Bad Medical Disclaimer –> The contents of this article, made available via The Grow Network (TGN), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by TGN. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. And, of course, never eat a wild plant without first checking with a local expert.
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References   [ + ]

1. http://www.eattheweeds.com/can-be-deadly-but-oh-so-delicious-pokeweed-2
2. The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medication and Supplements Together. George T. Grossberg M.D., and Barry Fox. Publisher: Harmony. 2008.
3, 8. http://digital.library.okstate.edu/oas/oas_pdf/v43/p54_57.pdf
4. http://www.nleomf.org/officers/search/search-results/james-c-mcbride.html
5. Alternate: A leaf pattern in which leaves appear back and forth or in a spiraling pattern on a stem.
6. Umbel: A flat, disk-shaped or umbrella-shaped cluster of flower.
7. Peterson Field Guides. Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America. Lee Allen Peterson.
9, 16. Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria. Stephen Harrod Buhner. Storey Publishing, LLC. 2012.
10. http://www.eattheweeds.com/can-be-deadly-but-oh-so-delicious-pokeweed-2
11. Cytokine Storm: A potentially fatal, hyper-inflammatory, immune response often linked to certain viruses.
12, 19. Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections. Stephen Harrod Buhner. Storey Publishing, LLC. 2013.
13, 18. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The Definitive Home Reference Guide to 550 Key Herbs with all their Uses as Remedies for Common Ailments. Andrew Chevallier. DK Adult. 2000.
14. Tincture: A preparation in herbal medicine wherein the medicinal components of a plant are pulled into a solution of alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin and administered by dropper.
15, 17. The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medication and Supplements Together. George T. Grossberg M.D., and Barry Fox. Publisher: Harmony. 2008.

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The Home Apothecary: Herbal Medicine, With Recipes

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How are my amazing Apartment Homesteaders doing so far?! Y’all are seriously ROCK STARS.

Please accept another one of my virtual high fives! 🙂

You’ve made the switch to…

Well. Done.

You’re well on your way to a sustainable lifestyle in your apartment homestead. Now it’s time to take control of your personal health and wellness through the use of natural, pharm-free medicines you can grow yourself or source sustainably.

Why Herbal Medicine?

Alternative, herbal medicine—becoming your own “apartment apothecary”—is absolutely vital to your life as an apartment homesteader.

You’ve probably seen the commercials at some point—the “buy this medication” commercials that say they’ll cure psoriasis or help reduce the risk of heart failure or help male members of the species get “ready for action” in 3.2 seconds flat.

But then they list 20 different side effects from that same medicine and you can’t help but stare at the TV with the same look you had last time you watched an ill-funded community theatre play….

Pharmaceuticals are formulated to tackle one problem and one problem only, and that is what the FDA allows them to print on the label: “This medication may help with pain management.” And that is followed with the warnings: “Excessive use of this medication may cause liver failure.”

Wait. WHAT?! Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

We already talked about how eating local, pesticide-free food can help you save money at the doctor and pharmacy.

But the switch to herbal medicine is about so much more than saving money.

It’s about cultivating your own wellness through the use of plants (the kind grown in Nature), not toxic chemicals (…grown in a…um…petri dish?). Why not take your apartment homesteading a step further and teach yourself to be your own pharmacy with natural, sustainable alternatives?

What to Expect With Herbal Medicine

I’ve talked to so many people who tried the “herbal medicine” thing and went quickly back to pharmaceuticals because the herbal remedies “didn’t work.”

And I understand why that happened. We’ve been conditioned to assume medicine works instantly—that they get rid of our headaches, cure our sinus infections, or get rid of our yeast infections as soon as the pill, cream, or spray reaches our skin or blood.

When an antibiotic doesn’t work the first time, we’ve been taught to get a second one to knock out the infection. If one round doesn’t work, we throw more at it. Which makes sense … oh wait—no, it doesn’t!

Herbal medicine is not a “quick fix” like the aspirin or Pepto-Bismol most of us are used to.

Herbal remedies create a lifetime of health and wellness by healing your body and helping each system in your body work the way it was intended to.

Alternative medicine is individualized, holistic care for a lifetime of personal health and wellness.

The goal is to find herbal remedies that work for you. The beauty of alternative medicine is the process of finding what works best for you specifically.

Start with the herbs and plants listed in the next section to start cultivating your own best alternative medicine cabinet and be on the road to your own personal, holistic health and wellness routine.

Natural Medicines to Grow Yourself and How to Use Them

If you’re visiting The Grow Network for the first time, I urge you to click around on the blog in the “Medicine” section while you’re here. The network of gardeners, homesteaders, and writers here has done some absolutely amazing work in alternative medicine already. My list below comes from the wealth of knowledge this network has already provided.

Want to learn even more about herbal remedies and all other aspects of apartment and modern homesteading? Sign up for the Lab!

Marjory published her list of the top 15 antibiotic alternatives in this blog post. I want to reiterate her list and talk about how you can grow some of those 15 super plants and use them in your own alternative medicine practice.

Garlic

Marjory will instruct you on everything you need to know about the wonder that is garlic, and you can even get your free copy of “The Miracle of Garlic: Your First Home Medicine” here.

As Apartment Homesteaders, we can grow garlic in containers in our patio gardens. Make sure you give them plenty of room to stretch out in the soil in a container that is around 18 inches deep and 12 inches wide.1)For instructions on how to grow garlic in containers: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-plant-garlic-in-contain-158494

Check out this video from TGN’s 2016 Home Grown Food Summit on how to grow great garlic!

Echinacea

One of the most visited sections of the pharmacy is the Cold and Flu section. Sinus “yuck” sufferers, get out of the pharmacy and into the garden!

If you’re like the women in my family, you know how nasty the winter sinus infection can be. The only time I’ve had to take antibiotics is for sinus infections, but Echinacea is an herbal alternative that can help knock out the sinus yuck without the harmful side effects of pharmaceutical antibiotics.

You can grow Echinacea in a pot on your garden patio.2)For instructions on how to grow Echinacea in a pot: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/growing-purple-coneflowers-containers-60904.html

But where most people dry Echinacea, recent studies have shown that fresh Echinacea has far more power to treat colds than the dried plant.3)See http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20251749,00.html

Echinacea Tea Recipe

You can make a simple fresh Echinacea tea to drink during the cold and flu season by simply adding 1/2 cup of fresh Echinacea to 8 ounces of water. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the Echinacea. Simmer covered for 15 minutes. Strain and add 1-2 tablespoons of raw, local honey. (The honey is especially helpful for a sore throat and a cough).4)Find Echinacea tea and other recipes for using Echinacea medicinally here: https://thepaleomama.com/2015/07/21/homemade-echinacea-tea/

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper has shown itself worthy to replace over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen—especially for muscle and joint pain.

This is another area of the pharmacy that is overused; acetaminophen and ibuprofen have droves of loyal consumers who take the medicines daily in an attempt to heal chronic pain. But they have side effects like liver damage and ulcers, so we need a natural alternative like cayenne pepper to replace the medicines we take for pain relief.

You can grow cayenne peppers in your patio garden or in a small pot indoors.5)For instructions on how to grow cayenne peppers: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-cayenne-peppers-container-47525.html Then, simply dry your peppers in the oven on parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Cut the peppers into chunks so they dry faster and place them in the oven at about 200°F for 1–3 hours until dry. You can then grind them into a powder to use in this simple pain salve recipe:6)Recipe from https://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/herbal-pain-relief/

Pain Salve Recipe

1/2 c. olive oil
2 T. cayenne powder
1/2 oz. beeswax

Infuse the olive oil with the cayenne powder using a double boiler technique. Strain through a cheesecloth. Then melt the beeswax and stir in the cayenne-infused olive oil. Pour the liquid mixture into jars or tins. Let it cool.

You can rub this salve directly onto the painful area. Not only does it allow you to avoid the dangerous side effects of over-the-counter pain medicines, but it may also work quicker than the oral pain relievers because it reaches the area of pain immediately without having to go through your blood stream to get there.

Turmeric

Turmeric, a bright orange root, is a great one to add to your garden for dietary and medicinal uses on your apartment homestead.

Turmeric has been shown to help mobilize fat in the body and may help reduce bad cholesterol.

High cholesterol is something many American adults struggle with, and too many of us depend on cholesterol medication to keep us out of the hospital for cholesterol-related issues. You can grow turmeric on your patio or indoors and harvest for treating a whole host of other health issues, as well—from inflammatory bowel disease to gall stones.7)For instruction on how to grow turmeric in a pot: http://balconygardenweb.com/growing-turmeric-in-pots-how-to-grow-turmeric-care-uses-benefits/

Live in the Midwest like I do? Here’s how to grow turmeric and ginger in the Midwest.

One of my favorite ways to use turmeric is in a tea.8)For turmeric tea recipe: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/turmeric-tea-benefits/

Turmeric Tea Recipe

Boil four cups of water, add one teaspoon of ground turmeric, and reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes.9)Learn how to make turmeric powder: https://www.turmericforhealth.com/general-info/how-to-make-turmeric-powder-at-home-from-raw-turmeric Then, strain the tea and add honey or lemon to taste. You can also add a pinch of black pepper for increased absorption. 

Ginger

Ginger is another plant you can grow fairly easily indoors on your apartment homestead.10)For instruction on how to grow ginger indoors: https://newengland.com/today/living/gardening/how-to-grow-ginger-indoors/

Ginger has been shown to have antiviral effects as well as antibacterial properties. Replace Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, Nauzene, and other medicines for stomach upset with ginger.

Ginger is one of my favorites to use when I suffer from stomach bugs. This is another one I like to take in tea form.

Ginger Tea Recipe

Simply steep between 1 and 1-1/2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger in boiling water for about 10 minutes; then, strain and sip.11)For the ginger tea recipe: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/easy-ginger-tea-23528 

Essential Oils: Round Out Your Medicine Cabinet

We’ve talked about the power of essential oils before, but we can’t have a chapter on alternative medicine without talking about essential oils!

Essential oils are super-concentrated plant extracts. They can be used to replace any and all over-the-counter medicines. And while many herbal remedies can take a little while to work, some essential oils can work almost instantly to reduce the symptoms of our maladies.

While you won’t be able to grow all the plants you need to create every herbal or alternative medicine in your apartment homestead, purchasing therapeutic-grade essential oils can help round out your apartment medicine cabinet. 

Two of My Favorite Natural Remedies

In my own alternative medicine journey, I’ve had the most difficulty replacing over-the-counter medicine in treatment of the common cold. Here are two of the best recipes I’ve found for natural alternatives to cough drops and cough syrup.

Honey and Essential Oils Lozenges Recipe

2 c. raw, local honey
20 drops Thieves essential oil blend*
20 drops lemon essential oil
5 drops oregano essential oil

Heat honey in a pot until candy thermometer reads 300°F (the “hard crack” stage). Stir constantly. Remove from heat and continue stirring until it cools slightly and starts to thicken. Make sure it is not still boiling continuously before adding your essential oils. Stir the oils in.

Then, in candy molds or on parchment paper, spoon out cough-drop-sized amounts of the honey/oils mixture. Allow to cool completely to room temperature. Store at room temperature.

* Thieves essential oil contains cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus radiata, and rosemary essential oils. I buy mine from Young Living, although you could theoretically make it yourself.

Simple Cough Syrup Recipe

2 c. water
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 c. fresh ginger root, finely chopped
1 c. raw, local honey
1 fresh lemon, juiced
1/8 t. cayenne pepper

Simmer thyme and ginger in water in a small pot over medium heat until the water is reduced by half. Allow to cool completely; then strain the herbs. Return the tea to the pot and whisk in honey, lemon, and cayenne pepper (which you hopefully grew yourself!).

Store in an airtight container.12)I got this recipe from the Traditional Cooking School, but I adapted it so I could make it without an instant pot: https://traditionalcookingschool.com/food-preparation/instant-pot-cough-syrup/ Take one tablespoon to soothe sore throat and calm your cough.

Check out other TGN posts on alternative medicine to arm yourself with all the tools you need to be your own apartment apothecary!

 

You can read the rest of the articles in the Apartment Homesteader series here.

Then, find more tips, tricks, and inspiration in The Apartment Homesteader Facebook group! Join your fellow apartment homesteaders here

 

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

(This article was originally published on December 9, 2017.)

 

References   [ + ]

1. For instructions on how to grow garlic in containers: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-plant-garlic-in-contain-158494
2. For instructions on how to grow Echinacea in a pot: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/growing-purple-coneflowers-containers-60904.html
3. See http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20251749,00.html
4. Find Echinacea tea and other recipes for using Echinacea medicinally here: https://thepaleomama.com/2015/07/21/homemade-echinacea-tea/
5. For instructions on how to grow cayenne peppers: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-cayenne-peppers-container-47525.html
6. Recipe from https://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/herbal-pain-relief/
7. For instruction on how to grow turmeric in a pot: http://balconygardenweb.com/growing-turmeric-in-pots-how-to-grow-turmeric-care-uses-benefits/
8. For turmeric tea recipe: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/turmeric-tea-benefits/
9. Learn how to make turmeric powder: https://www.turmericforhealth.com/general-info/how-to-make-turmeric-powder-at-home-from-raw-turmeric
10. For instruction on how to grow ginger indoors: https://newengland.com/today/living/gardening/how-to-grow-ginger-indoors/
11. For the ginger tea recipe: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/easy-ginger-tea-23528
12. I got this recipe from the Traditional Cooking School, but I adapted it so I could make it without an instant pot: https://traditionalcookingschool.com/food-preparation/instant-pot-cough-syrup/

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Are Tire Gardens Toxic? The Case For And Against

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Are tire gardens toxic?

In a newsletter last year, I shared some thoughts on tire gardens, along with this video:

In response, one of my readers wrote:

“Hello David,
Tires do leach toxic, carcinogenic chemicals into the soil and plants grown in them. No time to research this? Then do not show pictures of plants grown in tires. That is irresponsible and bad karma as you pass on injury to others. Look into it. Fact: tire gardening and straw bale gardening are bad if you do not want toxin-suffused vegetables.”

And Sheila writes:

“One year, my father and I planted potatoes in tires. Just put on another tire and add dirt. We had lots of potatoes with seven high. PVC pipe with holes in it to water the plants. Problem was that they tasted like tires. Since then, I am not a fan of tires for living or gardening.”

Vegetables tasting like tires? And bad karma! Oh me oh my, I just want to give up.

Actually, I don’t care about tire gardens, though I do like the idea of recycling a waste product into a gardening bed.

But growing vegetables in tires isn’t a method I have any personal stake in. I’m happy to drop the method if it’s got its downsides, like straw bale gardening seems to have.

So—are tire gardens toxic? Let’s do a little digging.

Are Tire Gardens Toxic? The Case For Tires

Tires are, of course, cheap and widely available even in the third world. ECHO uses them in their urban garden demonstration area. You can set up tire gardens on driveways, on roof tops, in rocky lots, and in tight spaces.

They’re convenient, too. But are they toxic?

When Patrice at Rural Revolution blogged about their tractor tire gardens, she got a similar response to that which I got … but even harsher.

Someone wrote:

You could have created a floral landscape, a Dutch Masterpiece, an English Rose Garden, a French Formal Garden, and you chose Fords-Ville, Michelin Man, and polluted Mother Earth. Scrap timber is everywhere, so are bricks, tiles, even rockery stones, but tires no. Are you sure the food grown will be free of carbon rubber tire oil moisture? A carcinogen?

You can read Patrice’s response and entire defense of tire gardening here, but most of it boils down to what she wrote here:

“Tires have a lot of nasty things bonded into them, things that arguably ARE carcinogenic. But it’s the term BONDED that must be considered. Intact tires are distressingly inert (that’s why they’re everywhere rather than quietly decomposing into Mother Earth).”

She then quotes extensively from research done by Mr. Farber of www.tirecrafting.com (which now redirects to an Etsy site so the original essay appears to be missing):

Used tires already exist, and in their solid state, they are as safe or safer than any other construction material. The process and the result of this global discard nightmare being recycled by industry, whether grinding them up for road base, burning them as fuel, or recouping the oil, releases more hydrocarbons while costing the global economy billions of dollars for tire cleanup and commercial recycling. Modifying tires to create green space and home gardening available to everyone would not only absorb hydrocarbons, it could well be the key to salvation for practically every family on the planet that is otherwise excluded from adequate sustenance. Personal tire recycling potential benefits far outweigh all perceived hazards.

Still, I am not convinced. After all, if vegetables are tasting like tires, well, that doesn’t inspire confidence. Yet I do love what Patrice has done at Rural Revolution. In her case, it made sense.

Are Tire Gardens Toxic? The Case Against Tires

According to Brighton Permaculture Trust:

“Due to commercial secrecy, it’s difficult to find out the exact ingredients of a tire, and there are lots of different types. The list below is from a ‘typical tire’:

  • Natural rubber
  • Synthetic rubber compounds, including Butadiene—known carcinogen
  • Solvents: Benzene—known carcinogen, Styrene—anticipated to be carcinogenic, Toluene—has negative health effects, Xylene—irritant, & Petroleum naphtha
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: Phenols—some are endocrine-disruptive, Benzo(a)pyrene—linked to cancer
  • Heavy metals: Zinc, chromium, nickel, lead, copper & cadmium
  • Carbon black—possibly carcinogenic
  • Vulcanising agents: Sulphur & zinc oxide
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls—known carcinogen
  • Other synthetic chemicals”

Again, though, these terrible things might have off-gassed during the tire’s usable life or been stabilized and made inert during manufacturing.

Yet as Mischa argues in that article:

“When it comes to growing food in tires, why take the risk?

Whilst the quantity of toxic chemicals may be small, we don’t know the exact amount used in tyres because of commercial secrecy.

People generally grow food organically for themselves to avoid exposure to synthetic chemicals. It seems ironic that a ‘Permaculture way’ of reusing tires could be unintentionally reintroducing potentially harmful chemicals back into the equation.”

And over at Science Daily, it gets scarier:

“Draper’s method has been to make up clean samples of water like those inhabited by several kinds of aquatic organisms—algae, duckweed, daphnia (water fleas), fathead minnows, and snails—and under controlled laboratory conditions, put finely ground tire particles into the samples. By letting the particles remain in the water for 10 days and then filtering them out, she created a “leachate” that included substances in the tire rubber. All the organisms exposed to the leachate died, and the algae died fairly quickly.”

This is not complete tires, of course, but tires will break down slowly over time in the garden—and if it kills ground life, well, that’s obviously a bad thing.

The science isn’t settled, but it is unsettling.

Conclusion

After multiple hours of research, I am now leaning against tire gardening. On my new property, I have not built any tire gardens and I don’t plan to add any.

If you’re in an urban setting, have terrible soil or no soil, and no options, etc., there might be a place for tire gardens. I built mine for fun in a few minutes and have enjoyed them, but I now have no desire to expand and add more. Yet digging beds is free—so why use tires at all?

Especially if it’s going to ruin the karma I don’t even believe in.

If you want simple, tried-and-true and even off-grid methods for growing lots of food without much money in tough times, stick around The Grow Network and keep learning!

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Featured Photo Credit: Mark Buckawicki / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

 

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Henbit and Purple Deadnettle—The Mischievous Twins

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This article is the second in a series on weed gardens and identifying and using the plants you’ll often find there. For other articles in the series, please click here.

How long does it take for weeds to invade a garden? Not long. But in a weed garden, that’s a good thing!

Checking back in on the weed garden, we find that it’s mostly still a patch of bare soil.

Weed Garden Henbit Deadnettle

But upon closer inspection, we can see several guests starting to invite themselves in. It’s a bit too early to tell what they are at this stage, though I expect the larger leaves to be pokeweed.

Weed Garden Henbit Deadnettle

Plant Identification

While we’re waiting on the weeds to properly introduce themselves, let’s take a look at two weeds that have probably welcomed themselves into your gardens: purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) and henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). The name deadnettle comes from the fact that the plant resembles a nettle, but does not sting. Thus, it is a dead nettle. The name “henbit” comes from farmers watching hens eat it.

These two jokers love confusing people. Like a pair of mischievous twins, they’re often mistaken for one another. I’ll help you put an end to those shenanigans by showing you what they have in common and how they’re different.

Purple deadnettle and henbit are both members of the mint family, with the characteristic square stems and opposite leaves.

Aromatically, they aren’t very well-behaved mints, having no distinct minty smell. They do have an interesting earthy scent, however, that reminds me of Easter Sundays as a child. Your nostalgia may vary. Both also have small, pink-to-purple, tubular blossoms with two lips on the bottom outside edge.

Characteristics                                                                                                                                

Being mints, they naturally want to take over the world, but they’re hoping we won’t notice because they’re fairly low to the ground and have such pretty little blossoms. You can find them all throughout the U.S., as far north as Greenland, and through their native home of Eurasia.

They love cool, spring weather and rain. If you have that, there’s a good chance you have henbit and deadnettle.

Both plants love rich, moist soil … and people, too. They’ve long followed humans around with the intent of moving into any soil we happen to disturb.

Purple deadnettle has triangular leaves with petioles (leaf stems). It has a fuzzier texture than henbit, and the entire top of the plant tends to be shaded purple. Henbit has scalloped, heart-shaped leaves with no petiole, and it’s not noticeably hairy.

Weed Garden Henbit Deadnettle

Toxic Look-alikes

They have no toxic look-alikes, though ground ivy (edible in moderation) is fairly similar. Ground ivy differs from our plants by having larger flowers and by rooting at nodes along the stem.

Culinary Uses

All aboveground parts of purple deadnettle and henbit are edible raw or cooked. The best-tasting bits are the blossoms, which are tender and sweet. I’m not a huge fan of either plant raw, but I love them chopped fine on weed pizzas or mixed in with a stir-fry. They’ll also mix well with a salad, and I’ve snuck them into stews a few times.

Henbit has the superior texture and taste, in my opinion. Both henbit and purple deadnettle are good sources of iron, vitamins, and fiber. 1)http://www.eattheweeds.com/henbit-top-of-the-pecking-order/

As a sidenote, stews are great for introducing people to eating weeds, or for hiding a plant that you’re still trying to build an appreciation for. The weeds in question just disappear into the mix and become part of a happy fellowship.

Medicinal Uses

Medicinally, these weedy relatives have a fair bit of overlap, though purple deadnettle is better known and more widely researched. I’ll be focusing on purple deadnettle here, both to avoid any confusion, and because I have more practical experience with it as a medicinal plant.

Lab tests have confirmed that purple deadnettle has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, comparable to Vitamin C.2)https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292812877_Antimicrobial_and_Free_Radical_Scavenging_Activities_of_Some_Lamium_Species_from_Turkey3)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S037887410800189X

This helps to validate its traditional use as an arthritis herb.

Purple deadnettle can also be used to stop external bleeding and has been shown to have moderate antimicrobial properties.4)http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/l/lamium-purpureum=red-dead-nettle.php5)https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292812877_Antimicrobial_and_Free_Radical_Scavenging_Activities_of_Some_Lamium_Species_from_Turkey

Chew up the fresh leaves and make a spit poultice, as you would with yarrow. I assume this would work with dried leaves as well, though I’ve never done it that way. I’ve always had yarrow at hand.

Read More: “Drying Herbs the Easy Way”

A decoction of deadnettle is also said to be effective for any type of bleeding (internal or external)6)http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/l/lamium-purpureum=red-dead-nettle.php

I’m more familiar with yarrow in this regard, but for people allergic to plants in the Aster family (which includes yarrow), purple deadnettle could be a good alternative plant to try. (But, as with all edible wild plants that you’re trying for the first time, remember to start slowly, in case you have an unexpected sensitivity to it.)

One of the more interesting properties of purple deadnettle is its ability to ease allergy symptoms. This might be linked to its anti-inflammatory properties, or perhaps to its flavonoid constituents. Whatever the reason, it really seems to work.

I don’t have much trouble with allergies myself, but I’ve given dried deadnettle to other people. I’ve got a “plant buddy” (client) using it right now. She tells me that when she drinks a cup of deadnettle tea (1 heaping teaspoon with 1 cup of water) before bed, she wakes up with clear sinuses and no drainage. But on the days that she forgets, she’s wakes up stuffy and coughing. And if she goes ahead and makes a cup, she’ll dry right up. If you want to try it, I recommend adding a little cream and sweetener.

So go gather up some henbit and purple deadnettle, and put these powerful spring weeds to work for you before the weather gets hot and they disappear again!

Do you use either of these plants for something I didn’t mention? Do you have any good deadnettle or henbit recipes you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below.

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Psst! Our Lawyer Wants You to Read This Big, Bad Medical Disclaimer –> The contents of this article, made available via The Grow Network (TGN), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by TGN. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. And, of course, never eat a wild plant without first checking with a local expert.

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References   [ + ]

The post Henbit and Purple Deadnettle—The Mischievous Twins appeared first on The Grow Network.

Grow a Weed Garden! Identifying and Using Chickweed

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“Why in the world would I WANT to grow weeds?” That’s what you were just thinking, right? Either that or, “Is this about marijuana?”

As it turns out, I’m writing on the former. And if you’re still with me after learning that this article isn’t about cannabis, let me answer your question with some questions of my own.

Are you interested in growing your own herbal medicines? Grow a weed garden! Many common weeds are also powerful medicines.

Do you want to grow your own highly nutritious, homegrown food? Grow a weed garden! Most wild edibles are ridiculously nutritious; often much more so than the foods you’re already growing in your garden. (I will admit, however, that a potato is much more user-friendly than stinging nettles.) Plus, you’ll know for sure that these weeds haven’t been sprayed with any (gasp!) weed killer.

Are you cursed with gardening failures? Grow a weed garden! Unless you’re growing it inside a chicken coop or downstream from a glyphosate factory, you literally cannot mess this up. Those weedy little boogers are a hale-and-hearty crew, just chomping at the bit to take over any scrap of substandard, underwatered, compacted, nutrient-poor soil.

Are you preparing for the electromagnetic-zombie-pandemic-peak-water-financial-collapse apocalypse? Grow a weed garden! Looters might make off with your tomatoes, but they’ll never think to steal your thistles. Actually, I think I’d like to see them try that. But my point is that these are food and medicine resources unknown to the majority of the population. You can think of them as your backup-backup food supply.

Getting Started With Your Weed Garden

So I’m going to assume that you’re all fired up and ready for a weed garden, or at least not starkly opposed to the idea, and I’ll move on to the “how to” section. Making a weed garden is stunningly easy. At bare minimum, all you have to do is point to a part of your yard and say, “This is my weed garden.” Done! I’ve got a whole bunch of them out back. I’ll leave it up to you to convince your significant other that it’s time to sell your lawn mower. I mean, who mows their garden, right?

But let’s say you want to be a bit more official.

Sure. I knew I liked you. You want to grow weeds the right and proper way. Good for you.

For a “real” weed garden, do the following:

  1. Prepare a garden bed as you would for any other plant.
  2. Stop.

That’s it. Just loosen the soil, because even weeds like fluffy soil, and remove any pre-existing weeds to give everybody a fair chance to compete.

This is especially true of grasses. If you want a really good weed garden, get rid of the grass. No-good, dirty, rotten, grass (grumble, grumble). I’m slightly prejudiced, in case you couldn’t tell.

This is zero maintenance. No need to fertilize, water, weed (apart from the initial weeding), or sow seeds. Trust me. The seeds are already there, just waiting for their chance to shine.

Here’s a before-and-after picture of a weed garden I just set up:

Weed garden - pre weeding
My Weed Garden, Before

 

Weed garden - post weeding

My Weed Garden, After

This was formerly an experimental garden, set up a few years back and eventually surrendered to the grasses. A morning of TLC with a digging fork and an audiobook brought it back into fighting condition. During the clean out, I discovered a goji berry stem that had snaked its way through the sea of grass and was setting out roots where it contacted the soil.

Weed garden - goji

Goji

I couldn’t bring myself to uproot such a tenacious survivor, so it got to keep its place. Also, I added a wood chip border, because, “by golly I’ve got a big pile of wood chips, and I’m gonna use it!”                                                           

Now let’s take a look at the weeds in the… Oh, right. This is day one. Even weeds don’t pop up that fast. Okay. We’ll come back to this later on. For now, let’s take a look at one of the weeds that was growing in that maelstrom of grass before I cleared it out.

I give you … chickweed!

Weed garden - chickweed

Chickweed

Chickweed is a sweet little plant with a love for cool, wet weather. It can be found in every state in the U.S. and throughout much of the world, even growing as far north as the arctic circle.

Where I live, in the Ozark Mountain region of Arkansas, you can find chickweed in the early spring and often again in the fall. The further north you go, the more it can stretch toward summer. Further south it leans more toward winter. If you have just the right climate (or microclimate), it can grow year-round. If you’ve got cool, pleasant weather, you’ve almost certainly got chickweed.

Chickweed tends to pop up in yards, gardens, pastures, and along the edges of paths. It likes rich, moist soil, and doesn’t seem too particular about sunlight. It must really like people, too, because it grows around us a lot. You’ll also occasionally find large patches growing in entirely the “wrong” place, because plants never read a plant book.

This is a great early plant to identify in your weed garden. First, it’s delicious. Some compare the taste to lettuce or corn silk, though I would describe it more like a snap pea. It’s also highly nutritious. Chickweed is a good source of beta-carotene, ascorbic-acid, magnesium, niacin, calcium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, copper, and Gamma-linolenic-acid.1)http://www.eattheweeds.com/chickweed-connoisseurs-2/ It also has more iron, zinc, and potassium than any of your garden greens.2)Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate. John Kallas, PhD. Gibbs Smith. 2010 It can be used in salads, soups, fritters, and almost anywhere else you want something green. I’m partial to homemade weed pizzas, myself.

Do yourself a favor. Mix up some freshly rinsed chickweed with flour, salt, and pepper. Form it up into patties and fry it in coconut oil. Then dip the resulting crunchy goodness in honey mustard or barbecue sauce. Delicious!

Identifying Chickweed

By this time, I’m sure you’re practically salivating for some chickweed. And who could blame you? So let’s move on to identification.

Note that I’m focusing on common chickweed (Stellaria media). There are other varieties of chickweed, such as mouse-ear chickweed, that will match some, but not all, of these criteria. For more information on other types of chickweed, you really should look at a more exhaustive guide or talk to a local plant expert.

Common chickweed is a thin-stemmed plant with small (¼” to ½”), opposite leaves. The leaves vary a bit in shape, but are usually oval, and always have a tiny point at the tips. She’s usually a small plant, but can grow stems more than a foot long when conditions are right. The sap is NOT milky. If you pluck a stem and discover white sap, you’ve got the wrong weed. The bloom is white with 5 deeply notched petals, which will look like 10.

Weed garden - chickweed flower

It has two more dead giveaways. One is a single line of hairs growing down the stem. This line will switch sides after every pair of leaves.

Weed Garden_Chickweed Hair Line Arrows

The hairs are tiny, and you may need to either hold it up to the light or use a magnifying lens to see them. The other telltale sign is an inner core. It takes a little practice, but you can bend the stem back and forth, and twist slightly, to break apart the outer stem, revealing a slightly elastic inner stem.

Weed Garden_Chickweed Broken Stem

All of the aboveground parts are edible. On younger plants, the entire stem is tender. As they age, the lower stems become tough and stringy. You can chop them up, if you’re desperate. But I prefer just cutting off the last 2 or 3 inches at the growing tips.

Medicinally, chickweed is no slouch, either. Its primary claim to fame is in skin care. Owing to its wound-healing, soothing, and cooling properties, chickweed is an obvious choice for various skin irritations. It can be used in poultices, sprays, and creams—both as a beauty aid and for the treatment of rashes, bites, burns, and blemishes. It is also a digestive aid, helping to relieve excess gas in the intestinal tract.3)Reference: The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. Katrina Blair. Chelsea Green Publishing. 2014

I hope I’ve gotten you interested in the idea of a weed garden, or at least in trying out some chickweed. Next time, we’ll check back in with my weed garden to see how it’s coming along and choose a new weed to feature.

Meanwhile, let me know in the comments section: What’s your favorite way to use chickweed?

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References   [ + ]

1. http://www.eattheweeds.com/chickweed-connoisseurs-2/
2. Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate. John Kallas, PhD. Gibbs Smith. 2010
3. Reference: The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. Katrina Blair. Chelsea Green Publishing. 2014

The post Grow a Weed Garden! Identifying and Using Chickweed appeared first on The Grow Network.

12 Uses for Rose Petals—From the Kitchen to the Boudoir (With Recipes)

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The fabled rosequeen of the plant kingdom. Did you know that there are over 100 species of roses?

While the wild roses, Rosa rugosa, are considered the queen of the roses for medicinal purposes, all roses lend their soothing and nurturing support in many ways. You need not go out into the wild to look for roses as you probably already grow some yourself, or at least know someone who does since roses are commonly grown as ornamental plants.

Although roses are fairly easy to grow, often requiring nothing more than periodic pruning, the spectacular sight and heavenly scent of the flowers do not last long and soon give way to the red colored fruits known as rose hips. Collecting rose petals, however, is easy to do so long as one is wary of the thorns.

Read more: 7 Types of Marigolds – Which One is Right for You?

How to Dry Fresh Rose Petals

How to dry fresh rose petals

Rose petals are edible and can be collected at any time for this purpose. However, rose petals that are to be used in recipes or to be dried require a bit of planning. The perfect time to collect rose petals is mid-morning, on a dry day when the dew has evaporated and there’s been no rain for at least the past two days. Bring your fingers over an opened rose flower and tug gently on all the petals at once.

Roses that are ready to release their petals will fall easily into your hands while the center of the flower will remain intact to produce the rose hip soon thereafter. Petals that resist when you tug on them are not ready to be collected, and if you persist you may accidentally pull off the whole flower. While gathering your rose petals, collect them in a paper bag. This will help to absorb any moisture that may be on petals. A wooden basket will work. Only use a plastic bag as a last resort.

To dry the rose petals, simply spread newspaper on a flat surface, distribute the petals across the paper and let them air dry. They should be ready in a few days. You can also let them air dry in a dehydrator, or turn it on and use the lowest setting (95°F).

Read more: Edible Redbud Flowers – The Delicious and Nutritious Harbinger of Spring

12 Creative Uses for Rose Petals

12 Uses for Rose Petals

Now that you know how to collect rose petals, and you know that they are both edible and medicinal, read on to discover some of the ways you may want to experience the beneficial effects of rose petals for yourself or for your family.

1. Let Them Eat Rose Petals on Toast

Place a layer of your favorite nut butter, cheese topping, or spread on toast. Place a fresh petal on top of the spread and continue to cover with petals. Now, eat on up!

White petals make a nice contrast against the brown of a nut butter while dark, damask-colored roses lend their perfume to the air before taking a bite.

Feel free to use a combination of colors or to try this idea with crackers and serve as interesting hors-d’oeuvres. Different colors have different tastes, so have fun experimenting!

2. Add Fragrance to Your Next Salad

Red, light pink, dark pink, white, yellow, orange, mauve, or blue—fresh rose petals make a stunning contrast against the greens in a salad. Not only do they tempt the eyes, but the nose, too. Rose petals contain anthocyanins, so feel free to indulge in these antioxidant-rich delicacies.

3. Help a Boo-Boo or a Sore Throat

Rose petals are antiviral, antibacterial, and antiseptic, so the next time you get a small cut while out in the garden, apply a fresh petal or two and hold in place as a protective covering. To help relieve a sore throat, infuse fresh rose petals in honey.

Simple Rose-Petal Honey Recipe

Add fresh rose petals to a mason jar and lightly pack them in. Pour honey over the petals almost to the top, and stir with a non-metallic object (a bamboo skewer works nicely) to ensure petals are coated. Add more honey to the top. Put on lid and screw cap and let them sit for 6 weeks in the cupboard.

Strain out rose petals using a sieve, pushing down on the rose petals to extract all of the honey with the back of a spoon or, make this task easier by using a nut milk bag. Store your rose-petal honey in a cool, dry place.

Add a teaspoon or two to some warm tea to nix a sore throat “in the bud” (at the first sign of a sore throat).

4. Move Blood, or Stop Diarrhea

Rose tea makes an excellent emmenagogue to help move blood and quell cramps during menstruation. Rose tea can also help to curb diarrhea since roses are astringent (wild rose being especially so).

Rose Tea Recipe

Fill a mason jar to the top with slightly packed dried petals. Pour boiling water over the roses, to the top of the jar. Place lid and screw cap on; let sit 4 hours to overnight. Strain out petals using a sieve, squeezing out the excess tea from the flowers. (You can also use a nut milk bag: Place nut milk bag in a bowl, pour tea into the bag, close the bag and squeeze out the liquid.)

To help relieve menstrual cramps or diarrhea, drink 2–3 cups per day.

5. Soothe and Nourish Your Skin

Roses are considered to be cooling and hydrating, and they offer their soothing energy to help with both irritated and dehydrated skin when made into a floral water. While you can buy rose floral water, you might want to try your hand at this homemade version.

Rose Floral Water Recipe

You’ll need:

A large pot
A heat-proof bowl about the same size as the pot (although you can make a smaller bowl work)
A brick or another heat-proof bowl to hold up the first bowl
Plenty of ice
Approximately 4–6 cups of fresh rose petals
Some spring water
A turkey baster
Clean spritz bottle (optional)
A funnel (optional, but if you’re using the spritz bottle, this makes pouring the Rose Floral Water into it a lot easier)

Place the brick in the bottom of the pot and place the bowl on top of the brick. If you don’t have a brick, use an inverted bowl and place the first bowl on top of the inverted bowl. Next, place fresh rose petals in the pot all around the bowl. The rose petals should come up halfway to the bowl—use about 4–6 cups of fresh petals. Add spring water to cover the roses. Place the lid on the pot and turn on the heat to medium-high. When the water starts boiling, lower the heat to medium. Invert the lid of the pot and add ice to the lid.

It works like this: The rose petals in the water are simmering in the pot. The rose water rises to the top of the pot (vaporization), where it meets the cold lid. Condensation forms on the lid and then it drops back into the bowl. The liquid collected in the bowl is now floral water!

Since the ice will melt, use the turkey baster to suck up the excess water. Continue to add fresh ice for the next 20–30 minutes. You can check after 15 minutes to make sure there is still water in the pot. Let everything cool, and then pour the floral water into a clean spritz bottle (using a funnel makes this task a lot easier).

To use as a gentle toner for the face, help soothe irritated skin (including acne and sunburn), or help rehydrate skin, simply spritz on face after a shower, after being out in the garden/sun for too long, or as needed.

6. Ease Your Pain

Since roses are well-known for their emollient and healing properties, they nourish all kinds of skin types, including skin with rosacea and eczema. Roses are also great for soothing pain and easing taut nerves when made into a simple massage oil.

Rose-Petal Oil Recipe

Fill a mason jar with slightly packed fresh rose petals. Pour olive or sweet almond oil over the petals. Mix to coat the petals with the oil—a bamboo skewer makes a good stirring stick. After mixing, add more oil to the top of the jar. Place lid and screw cap on, let sit 6 weeks in the cupboard, then strain out the rose oil (yes, a nut milk bag or sieve will work). Store your oil in a dark amber bottle.

Variations: To extend the shelf life of your oil, you can add 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil. To make your facial oil more nourishing, you can use walnut or macadamia oil (highly nourishing for dry, sensitive, or mature skin). You can also add in several drops of rose hip seed oil (purchase in health food stores), if desired.

7. Open the Love Center

Roses have long been associated with love, and they are known to help open the heart chakra. They have also been known to help mend a broken heart. Try this sweet and simple recipe for a little emotional healing.

Rose Glycerite Recipe

Fill a mason jar to the top with slightly packed fresh rose petals. Pour food-grade glycerin over the rose petals, stirring to ensure they are coated (a bamboo skewer works well for this). Add more glycerin to the top. Put on the lid and screw cap and store in the cupboard for 6 weeks. Use a nut-milk bag or sieve to strain out the liquid, pressing or squeezing on the petals to extract all of the liquid. Store the rose glycerite in a dark amber bottle that has a cap affixed with a dropper.

You can carry this bottle around with you. Whenever you need a little emotional rebalancing, take 2030 drops in a glass of water. Glycerin is 60% as sweet as sugar, so consider this a sweet “medicine” indeed!

8. Uplift Your Spirits

Roses are known for helping to decrease stress, tension, and depression, and to lighten the mood. So why not indulge in a 0 calorie pick-me-up with some Rose Petal Jello?

Rose Petal Jello Recipe

To 2 cups of rose tea (see #4 above), add a teaspoon of stevia, or more, according to your taste. Put the tea in a glass or ceramic pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add in 1 package of gelatin, stirring to dissolve about 2 minutes; then put in the fridge to set.

Note: Different roses yield different-tasting jello. How strong or weak you make the tea also affects the taste. For example, try using 1/2 oz. rose petals in 1 liter of water if you think it’s too strong, or add in 1 1/2 oz. petals to 1 liter of water for a stronger taste.

Variations: To sweeten the jello more, try adding in a tablespoon of rose glycerite (see #7 above), plus stevia to taste. Since gelatin is great for the skin, you can add in 2 packages of gelatin instead of one.

9. Add Fragrance to Your Unmentionables

Rose petals are commonly used in potpourri, so why not make your own? It’s cheap and easy. While you can add dried rose petals to mini organza bags (purchase in stores or online), for a dirt-cheap DIY solution, simply add dried petals to a paper envelope, seal it and slip it in your drawer.

You could also make your own bag with some leftover fabric scraps. Use shears to cut a square or circle in a piece of fabric. Add a few rose petals to the center, gather the edges together, then secure with a rubber band. Finally, add a ribbon to hide the rubber band.

If you’d like a stronger scent, add a few drops of rose essential oil. If you’d like the scent to last longer, add 1 tablespoon orris root powder to every 2 cups of rose petals.

10. Entice You, Entice Me

It’s no secret that roses are an aphrodisiac. Indeed, rose petal tea helps to tonify both the male and female reproductive systems. In men, it helps to speed up sperm motility, thereby helping with fertility. In women, the bioflavonoids in roses help with the production of estrogen. And the phytosterols in roses help both sexes to balance their hormones. Although you can get some of this love action by sipping on a cuppa rose tea (see #4 to learn how to make rose tea), try using rose tea instead of water the next time you cook rice, quinoa, millet, or your other favorite grains.

11. A Romantic Dinner for Two

Roses have long been associated with love ,and they are also aromatic. Try adding some romance to the dinner table with this simple recipe: Use equal parts rose tea (see #4 above) and apple cider vinegar with the “mother.” Store in a spray bottle. To use: Spritz on salads to lend some romance. You can also pair this with oil to make a romantic rosy salad dressing.

12. Relax in Luxury

What else can I say, roses are simply luxurious! Restorative and relaxing, rose petals are known to calm the mind. So the next time you want some “me time,” unwind by adding rose petals to your bath. Simply add a small handful of dried rose petals to the center of a face cloth, tie with elastic bands, secure the cloth over the faucet and run the water. Or you can add the facecloth directly to the bath water. Add in some Epsom salts or sea salts and let the fragrance of the roses envelop you in serenity.

Do You Have More to Add to this List?

These are only a few simple suggestions about ways that you can creatively use rose petals at home to enhance your meals, your health, and your relationships. If you have other uses for rose petals that I’ve overlooked here, go ahead and add a comment below to share your ideas with our Community!

However you use them, be sure to give carte blanche to a wholesome dose of love and perfume about the air. Enjoy!

(This post was originally published on August 5, 2015.)


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Using Essential Oils: An Interesting Resource

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I came across an interesting resource the other day and thought I would share: If you have an interest in using essential oils, you may enjoy the site Oil-Testimonials.com.

It’s strictly an information resource—no sales pitches or multi-level marketing (although, of course, some people do mention particular products or brands in their stories). And it provides some pretty interesting anecdotal information about how people are using essential oils and which oils they’ve found successful in various treatments.

In fact, Oil-Testimonials has been compiling stories related to essential oils since 2004, and the site claims to have the most comprehensive list of these anecdotes on the Internet. After taking a look at the numbers, I’m betting that’s accurate. If I’m doing my math right, there are nearly 10,000 testimonials on the site (!).

Here’s a brief sampling of some of the site’s most popular posts:

  • Calming a Hyperactive Child: “A friend and coworker of my husband’s sent me some samples of Lavender, Cedarwood, Peppermint, and Peace & Calming essential oils. I was skeptical about how they would work, but after battling it out with a child with ADHD (and no medication because I had run out), I decided it couldn’t hurt anything. I put a couple drops of each essential oil in my son’s hands and had him rub them on his head and neck. Within the next few minutes it was as if I had given my son his usual remedy. This oil application completely changed the way my child acted within a matter of minutes. These essential oils worked better than anything else we have tried. My son now would rather have his oils than the side-effect-laden alternatives.” —Cassandra, Oklahoma
  • Lowering High Blood Pressure: “A friend in his 70s had a physical several weeks ago and discovered that he had high blood pressure (HBP). His blood pressure (BP) had been hovering in the 160/98 range. The doctor suggested monitoring it daily for a month and recording the reading. If it did not come down in a month with better food choices and exercise, medication might be recommended. Meanwhile, I suggested that my friend start using OmegaGize, Essentialzyme, and the NingXia Red juice. After a couple of days on this protocol, I was to meet my friend, but he was late in arriving. It turns out that he had been going from grocery-store pharmacy to grocery-store pharmacy getting his BP checked because he just could not believe the readings. He thought that the blood pressure machines must be broken. After two days on the three products that I had suggested, my friend’s BP was down to 138/78. Needless to say, he is very happy and confident that, by the time he returns to his doctor, his BP will be well within the normal range.” —Rebecca, Colorado
  • Alleviating PMS Symptoms: “My entire life I have had horrible cramps, breast tenderness, and bloating 2 to 3 days before my cycle would start, followed by very heavy, very long bleeding. I could not stand up straight! My mother had read that all of the commercial bath products we use have hormone disrupting chemicals in them. So she sent me Young Living’s shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and face wash. When I received them, I literally grabbed everything else in my shower in one fell swoop and dropped it in the trash. After replacing all of the chemical-laden products with Young Living products, I have not had a trace of any of those symptoms related to my cycle. My periods are shorter and not as heavy, too! In fact, most of the time I forget that I am even on my period.” —Katy, Texas
  • Restoring Feeling in Feet: “My mother-in-law has suffered with the loss of sensation in her feet for MANY years. She is very seldom without her walker. I asked if she would be open to trying something different, and she agreed. I mixed up a blend of Frankincense and Lemongrass essential oils in a base bottle of Ortho Ease Massage Oil and sent it down to her. (NOTE: I added about 35 drops of each to the bottle of Ortho Ease. When mixing up an additional batch, I also added 30 drops of Cypress essential oil.) After applying it twice a day regularly to her feet and calves—about 2 weeks in—she was in the grocery store with her walker. About halfway through, she said she had awful pain in her feet … AND SHE WAS SOOOO EXCITED! She has not had feeling in her feet in so long. The next day she brought her walker into the kitchen with her in the morning and left it there the rest of the day. Her feet felt so wonderful she didn’t feel she needed it!” —Kris, Wisconsin

Again, the Oil-Testimonials site is completely brand neutral, and if you’re interested in using essential oils, I do second its recommendation to “do your own research or ask a trusted friend to find a brand that is reputable.”

Let me know what you think about the site!

 

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Vandana Shiva talks ‘fake cheap’ food (VIDEO)

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Just saw this video of Indian scholar and sustainable-agriculture advocate Vandana Shiva talking about the true cost of cheap food and three keys to ending what she calls “the final stages of a very deceitful system.”

(By the way, Shiva is on our list of 50 Global Changemakers, here.)

She makes some excellent points, and I thought you might enjoy the video as much as I did.

Some of my favorite quotes from the video:

  • “We are living the final stages of a very deceitful system that has made everything that is very costly for the planet, costly for the producer, look cheap for the consumer. So very high-cost production with GMOs and patents and royalties and fossil fuel is made to look like cheap food.”
  • “Every young person should recognize that working with their hands and their hearts and their minds—and they’re interconnected—is the highest evolution of our species. Working with our hands is not a degradation. It’s our real humanity.”
  • “We are not atomized producers and community. We are part of the earth family. We are part of the human family. We are part of a food community. Food connects us—everything is food.”

I also love the way she defines “true freedom” in the video: “Never be afraid of deceitful, dishonest, brutal power. That is true freedom.”

And hey, let me know what you think about her solutions to the problem of high-cost “cheap” food! What others would you add? Leave me a comment below. 🙂

 

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Mustard Greens: What You Need to Know Before You Grow (With Recipe)

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When I think winter, I think of lush, green garden beds. I know that might come as a surprise to some of you, but my garden is full of copious swaths of varied and vibrant delicious, nutritious, winter edibles. And by far, mustard greens are the most prolific.

Most of the growing guides say mustard can tolerate light frost, but in my experience, it can take a whole lot more cold than that description suggests.

Now, I do have a few tricks I use to keep mustard happy over the long winter. And I’ll share those with you shortly.

First, though, let’s talk about why you really ought to think about growing mustard in your fall, winter, and early spring garden. 

The Goods on Mustard

Ridiculously Nutritious

100 grams or 27 calories worth of raw, chopped mustard greens contains more than your daily requirements of Vitamins K, C, and A.1)https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/mustard-greens.html

That makes it a powerhouse for building and maintaining strong bones; a great source for flu and cell damage prevention; and a promoter of strong teeth, healthy mucous membranes, and good eyesight.2)https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002400.htm Those same 27 calories also give you 11% of your daily dose of calcium, 18% of copper, 21% of manganese, and 20% of iron.

Regular use of mustard greens in your diet may also prevent arthritis, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia, and high cholesterol, while offering protection from cardiovascular diseases, asthma, and colon and prostate cancers.

Delicious

A lot of people find mustard too peppery or bitter. However, that is often because the mustard they have tried is grown in spring or later and never receives the sweetening effect of a few light frosts.

Winter mustard still has a bite, but it is much more palatable than the warm-weather stuff. And besides, an appreciation for a bit of bitter is easy to cultivate.

Cook your mustard greens in bacon grease and apple cider vinegar with dried fruit or a spoon of honey to turn them into a decadent treat.

Then listen to your body and see how that green goodness makes you feel. After a couple times of doing that, you might find yourself munching on raw leaves before those greens even make it out of your garden.

Easy to Grow

You can have sprouts in days, baby greens in just a couple weeks, mature plants to cut from in 45–50 days, and your own seeds to save and replant in 90 days.

They are vulnerable to certain pests and diseases, but these can be almost completely avoided by growing mustard during cold-weather months.

Mustard can grow in almost any soil type, withstand drought conditions almost as well as wheat, and self-seed to produce a continuous crop with almost no work on your part.

Help Control Pests and Diseases in Your Soil

When chopped and incorporated into your soil just prior to flowering, mustard greens act as a biofumigant. They suppress pests and diseases through the release of inhibitory chemicals created when water and soil enzymes break down the glucosinolates in the greens.3)http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/10/pdf/Agriculture/GrowingMustardBiofumigation.pdf

(For more details on mustard as a biofumigant, check out this publication.)  

When Allowed to Flower, Make Great Winter Forage for Pollinators Like Honey Bees

Until I discovered the wonders of growing mustard, I had a shortage of bee food for our coldest winter months.

Now, by starting mustard in waves about every two weeks, cutting greens until my new plants come in, and then allowing my old plants to flower, I have another pollen source for those brave foragers that venture out on sunny, slightly warm days.

Oh, and did I mention that mustard can also be grown for seeds to make…

Recipe: Homemade Mustard

Here’s a basic ratio recipe that you can adapt to use for whatever flavor profiles you like. Personally, I use an herbed vinegar infused with sage, thyme, and rosemary as my base and I sub in whey for water. But this is your personal mustard mix, so go crazy!

Mustard Ingredients

Easy Homemade Mustard Recipe

2 parts mustard seeds, finely ground (use a coffee grinder to make into powder)
2 parts mustard seeds, whole (for “L’ancienne” style)
1 part your favorite vinegar
2 parts water (or other liquid—beer, cider, etc.)
Salt and pepper
Whatever other stuff you want to add—tarragon, sage, thyme, rosemary, honey, etc. 

Mix ingredients in jar. You can put this in the fridge to meld for a couple days. Or better yet, if you like to ferment stuff, use live vinegar (i.e., with the mother) and go ahead and leave it on the counter with a coffee filter or cloth over the top of the jar, secured with a rubber band, for 3–4 days. 

If the mix is too thick after a couple of days, add a bit of water, or other liquid, until you get the right consistency. If you don’t love the whole-grain texture, then run it through the food processor or start with 4 parts ground mustard seed instead. If you accidentally make it too thin, add more ground mustard seed. Mustard is pretty hard to mess up, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

A Few Cautions About Mustard

Now there are also a couple of things to be aware of before you make mustard part of your garden and your diet. 

It’s a Cole Crop

If you are using rotational planting as a method for limiting pests and pathogens and managing nutrients in your soil, then even when you use mustard as a biofumigant cover crop, you should still count it as a cole crop in your four-year (or longer) rotation plan just as you would cabbage and cauliflower.

Health Concerns

Be cautious about eating mustard if you are taking blood thinners, need to restrict oxalic acid, or have a thyroid condition.

Those high levels of Vitamin K can be an issue for people taking drugs like warfarin.4)https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/12/vitamin-k-can-dangerous-take-warfarin

Mustard contains oxalic acid, which can lead to oxalate urinary tract stones in prone individuals.

Components of mustard greens may be contraindicated in people with thyroid conditions.

Nutrient Overload?

You can have too much of a good thing. If 27 calories of mustard greens contain all that goodness we covered above, eating lots of mustard greens, such as by juicing them, might result in nutrient overload.

Most dietary recommendations for mustard greens include eating a couple of cups a week, on a daily or every-other-day basis. 

Concerns With Reheating

Reheating mustard greens should probably be avoided. Vegetables contain nitrates. Nitrates may convert to nitrites if you cook, cool, and then reheat your vegetables.5)https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/mustard-greens.html

Since mustard greens are great raw or cold, and are easy to cook, skip the reheating to eliminate potential health risks. 

I love and eat mustard regularly, but I do so in moderation and I don’t have any special health considerations that would make it problematic for me.

Since I can’t possibly be considered qualified to make decisions or recommendations for you, as in all things, I trust that you won’t blindly follow mine or anyone else’s advice on what you put in your body (or even in your garden, for that matter).

So with the pros, cons, and necessary legal advisement that I am not telling you want to do behind us, if mustard is right for you, then I encourage you to get growing using the info and ideas below. 

Growing Mustard Greens 

Soil Preparation

Mustard is pretty forgiving of poor soil quality. However, if you want faster growing times and really tasty mustard, then plant mustard in loamy garden soil with a pH of about 6.5-6.8.

If you don’t have that, don’t fret—just incorporate a few inches of good compost into whatever soil you have, add a handful of granite or other stone dust, and water deeply a few days before you transplant or seed. Note: This will not give you the best garden soil ever, but since mustard is much less picky than other cole crops, it will get you started.

Seed Starting

Mustard can germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40°F. That means that, depending on your climate, some of you may even be able to start some in your garden now.

Keep in mind that things grow slower when days are short, so you may have to wait a while for seeds to sprout and plants to mature.

For those who live in marginal climates, you can try to start seeds under cloches or cold frames.

Failing that, starting under grow lights and growing out until plants have a few true leaves, then transplanting and protecting under cloches or row covers can also work. If it is just too cold where you live to grow winter mustard, then consider using mustard seed for microgreens to tide you over until you can grow some in the garden. 

Read More: “Grow Microgreens and Sprouts Indoors All Winter Long”

You can start your seeds in planting, potting, or straight-up ground soil. As far as I can tell, mustard doesn’t care as long as your seed-starting medium is disease free, loose enough for young roots to grow in, and kept moist.

Young Plant Care

If you are growing mustard in cold conditions, juvenile plants may need some additional protection during extended cold or frost periods. Cold frames, cloches, or row covers can all help protect plants until they develop strong roots and even after if you live in extra cold areas. 

Though mustard is drought resistant, for the best results in winter, you really want to water regularly until the plants are at least 6 inches tall.

I water the root zone of the plant until the soil is moist to about 3 inches down—which, conveniently, is about the length of my pointer finger.

I check the soil moisture every other day by sticking my pointer finger into my soil near my plants to make sure it’s still moist.

I can’t tell you exactly how much or how often to water because it really depends on your soil type and weather conditions. But by using the 3-inch rule, you are giving young mustard roots a good start.

Mature Plant Care

For best flavor and frost resistance, continue to water mature plants. Water at the root rather than the leaves for best cold resistance. Harvest leaves regularly and cut off any flower shoots that form until you are ready to let your plant flower and seed.

Harvesting

You can cut baby greens for use in salads with a pair of scissors. Be careful not to disturb the roots. You can also cut mature greens to chop up and eat raw, sauté, or steam. In addition, flowers can be tossed into salads.

Dry your seed heads in a paper bag, then shake the bag until the seeds fall out of the pods. Sift or use a fan to blow off the chaff. 

Varieties of Mustard

There are quite a few varieties of mustard available. Versions like Mizuna and Tatsoi tend to be a little higher maintenance than the Southern Giant, Green Wave, Florida Broadleaf, or Old Fashioned. There are also different seed colors—yellow mustard (called white mustard in Europe) is the most common variety used for seed and cover crops and is mildest in taste. Black or brown mustards are a bit tangier. 

Unconventional Growing Tips for Adventure Gardeners

Mustard is one of those plants that readily self-seeds if you let it. So, in addition to planting mustard intentionally, I also scatter seeds directly in my garden after they dry on the plant. Then I just let nature take its course—as in, don’t water or fertilize to force germination. Literally just let them lie until they eventually get buried in soil and are triggered by the right conditions to grow on their own. 

Some seeds will inevitably germinate in summer, and since I know they will perform poorly in my hot, humid conditions and be eaten by harlequin bugs or host the dreaded cabbage moth, I pinch those plants out and give them to the chickens or toss them into my salads.

I only allow the plants that germinate in fall or winter to continue growing. If I don’t like their initial location, I’ll transplant them to a bed of my choosing while the plants are still young.

Then, the plants that do well all winter long get to flower and seed. Those plants, rather than my intentionally planted mustard plants, become my seed stock for next year.

By doing this, I have created mustard plants that are adapted specifically for my growing conditions here and are more cold hardy than my initial seed stock.

I also use a cheap season extension trick to get the most from my plants until I let them seed:

  • I take a dark-colored 5-gallon bucket with a 1-inch hole drilled in the bottom and fill it with uncomposted materials like chicken manure, straw, late-season grass clippings, and kitchen scraps.
  • I put the filled bucket in the center of my mustard bed.
  • The mustard grows around the bucket and, as the materials in the bucket compost, they heat up and warm the plants.
  • Also, when it rains, the rain water trickles through the hole in the bottom of the bucket and makes a kind of compost tea that feeds the plants.
  • The dark-colored bucket also draws heat from the sun and cuts down on frost on the plants.
  • If stuff composts too fast, I just add more goodies to keep it composting all winter long. 

Mustard Bed with Bucket

The photo above shows a mustard bed planted in September 2016, that was still growing like mad in February 2017 when I turned over the rest of my garden for spring planting. (You can see my blue season-extending compost bucket in the picture, too.)

It was growing so well, that I harvested from that bed until May when I finally let it seed. That’s 9 months of prolific mustard greens during some of the most difficult growing months. While I can’t swear you’ll have the same results, if you are an experimental gardener like me, I hope you’ll give it a try!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on mustard and if you have any tricks or tips to share with all us winter-green growers. You can use the comments section below to share your experience and ideas. Thanks!

 

References   [ + ]

1, 5. https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/mustard-greens.html
2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002400.htm
3. http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/10/pdf/Agriculture/GrowingMustardBiofumigation.pdf
4. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/12/vitamin-k-can-dangerous-take-warfarin

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Why the Flu Likes Winter and How Vitamin D Can Help

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It’s Flu Season Again

Ever wonder why people tend to get sick in winter? There are a lot of theories, including that we spend more time indoors and close to others. Another reason is that the flu virus can live longer outside of a “host” in the colder, dryer winter air.

But there’s another reason I believe also completes this puzzle of why the flu only seems to come out in winter: Vitamin D deficiency makes us more susceptible to viral attack (along with zinc deficiency, too).

Why Vitamin D Matters

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone (not really a vitamin) that our body creates when it is exposed to direct sunlight. It also comes from foods like pastured meats and eggs, liver, wild fish, sardines, and oysters. Most of us are already low or deficient in vitamin D because unlike our ancestors who lived outdoors, we live inside offices and Starbucks, and because few of us are eating the foods listed above. About 80% of my clients come into my office with vitamin D levels in the “deficient” range.

Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere above the 35th parallel likely produce little vitamin D in our bodies between October and March. I have not yet found a way to invent a computer screen that emits vitamin D-creating light (but if you steal my idea, I expect half the profits – honor system here, folks). The vitamin D theory of the winter illnesses holds some water as evidenced by research from the National Institutes of Health, and perhaps most forcefully in a 2009 study published in JAMA.

Of course the naysayers have some studies suggesting vitamin D has no effect on your ability to fight the flu. After reviewing such research, it appears these studies only looked at the dosing, not the participants’ actual levels. You could give someone all the vitamin D in the world, but if it’s not raising their blood levels within an optimal range, the study results are not reliable.

So What Is an Optimal Level of Vitamin D?

No one knows, and researchers are in a hot debate on this. There are basically two camps: the 35-50ers and the 50-70ers.

I’m in the camp of the 50-70ers, with some exceptions.  That level should be achieved at least in part through sunlight and food rather than by supplementation. I know people who take mega-doses of refined vitamin D supplements for long periods of time to get that level, which I don’t recommend.

And there is some evidence that those dealing with very serious illnesses can benefit from extra high, therapeutic levels.

Learning From Traditional Lifestyles

I base this opinion in part on studies that look at the levels of those modern hunter-gatherers and societies that live outdoors most of the time — like we did more than 10,000 years ago. Studying people in traditional cultures that are relatively free from “Western” diseases is often a good way to know what may be optimal for the rest of us.

A recent study of the Masai people showed their average levels at 48ng/ml (range: 23-67). And the Hadzabe averaged 44ng/ml (range: 24-68). My recommendations are based in part on this study.

How I Manage My Vitamin D

In winter (October-March), I personally take 4,000-6,000 IUs of D3 (cholecalciferol) from a supplement and a teaspoon of Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil / Butter Oil Blend or a tablespoon of Carlson Cod Liver Oil (containing about 1200 IUs of D3) for a total of 5,200-7,200 IUs per day. In summer, I cut back my supplement to 2,000-4,000 IUs per day and stay on the Cod Liver Oil or Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil.

Listen to your body and your chosen team of health clinicians to guide you on the levels that may be right for you. I have had patients who just felt terrible with levels above 50ng/ml before seeing me (possibly because of other deficiencies — see the end of this post) and others who did not get better until they surpassed that. I think the best evidence today suggests that anywhere from 35-70ng/ml would be a widely safe range for most adults.

These are just what I need to keep my levels around 55-60 ng/ml. You may need drastically different amounts. It’s always best to get tested — which is usually covered by insurance, or you can order your own test kits online.

The Best Ways to Increase Your Vitamin D

  • SUMMER: Exposing your skin to direct sunlight (not through windows). The rule of thumb is 15-20 minutes of sunlight on 70% of your body between about noon-4 p.m. or when your shadow is shorter than you are.
  • WINTER: If you live above about the 35th Parallel (Washington, DC, near where I live is at the 38th), you are probably not making any Vitamin D between October and March no matter how much sun you get.
  • Cod liver oil (I only recommend Carlson and Green Pasture — avoid most others).
  • Wild seafood, especially fatty fish, caviar, and oysters. I prefer VitalChoice.
  • Eat mushrooms that have been grown or dried in sunlight.
  • Vitamin D supplements (my favorites are Carlson A&D from Cod Liver Oil and Enzymatic Therapy Chocolate Chewables).

A Word About Vitamin D Supplements

It’s important to know that vitamin D is a family of similar hormones. When you take a pill form of vitamin D, you are often getting just one isolated form. No supplement will ever fully replace the value of getting your vitamin D from direct exposure to the sun and from vitamin D-rich foods.

The Vitamin A-D-K2 Connection

The fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K2) are fascinating, and they work synergistically together. It’s another reason I recommend getting your vitamin D from food because vitamin D greatly increases your need for vitamin A (retinol) and K2, as Chris Masterjohn, PhD, has clearly outlined.

The bottom line is that we now know that getting vitamin D along with pre-formed vitamin A and vitamin K2 in balance is important. Thankfully, if you take a high quality fermented cod liver oil (with a high vitamin butter oil blend) from Green Pasture, you get these in a natural balance. Yet another reason to not rely solely on a refined supplement.

They say you can’t fight the Fed, but you can fight the flu by optimizing your vitamin D. If you got something from this, spread the word or leave a comment/question below.

(This article was originally published December 11, 2015.)

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20219962
  2. http://www.virologyj.com/content/5/1/29
  3. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=414815#qundefined
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22264449
  5. http://www.greenpasture.org/public/Products/ButterCodLiverBlend/index.cfm
  6. http://www.fungi.com/blog/items/place-mushrooms-in-sunlight-to-get-your-vitamin-d.html
  7. http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/cmasterjohn/2012/01/22/new-evidence-of-synergy-between-vitamins-a-and-d-protection-against-autoimmune-diseases/

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The Apartment Apothecary: Herbal Medicine, With Recipes

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How are my amazing Apartment Homesteaders doing so far?! Y’all are seriously ROCK STARS.

Please accept another one of my virtual high fives! 🙂

You’ve made the switch to…

Well. Done.

You’re well on your way to a sustainable lifestyle in your apartment homestead. Now it’s time to take control of your personal health and wellness through the use of natural, pharm-free medicines you can grow yourself or source sustainably.

Why Herbal Medicine?

Alternative, herbal medicine—becoming your own “apartment apothecary”—is absolutely vital to your life as an apartment homesteader.

You’ve probably seen the commercials at some point—the “buy this medication” commercials that say they’ll cure psoriasis or help reduce the risk of heart failure or help male members of the species get “ready for action” in 3.2 seconds flat.

But then they list 20 different side effects from that same medicine and you can’t help but stare at the TV with the same look you had last time you watched an ill-funded community theatre play….

Pharmaceuticals are formulated to tackle one problem and one problem only, and that is what the FDA allows them to print on the label: “This medication may help with pain management.” And that is followed with the warnings: “Excessive use of this medication may cause liver failure.”

Wait. WHAT?! Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

We already talked about how eating local, pesticide-free food can help you save money at the doctor and pharmacy.

But the switch to herbal medicine is about so much more than saving money.

It’s about cultivating your own wellness through the use of plants (the kind grown in Nature), not toxic chemicals (…grown in a…um…petri dish?). Why not take your apartment homesteading a step further and teach yourself to be your own pharmacy with natural, sustainable alternatives?

What to Expect With Herbal Medicine

I’ve talked to so many people who tried the “herbal medicine” thing and went quickly back to pharmaceuticals because the herbal remedies “didn’t work.”

And I understand why that happened. We’ve been conditioned to assume medicine works instantly—that they get rid of our headaches, cure our sinus infections, or get rid of our yeast infections as soon as the pill, cream, or spray reaches our skin or blood.

When an antibiotic doesn’t work the first time, we’ve been taught to get a second one to knock out the infection. If one round doesn’t work, we throw more at it. Which makes sense … oh wait—no, it doesn’t!

Herbal medicine is not a “quick fix” like the aspirin or Pepto-Bismol most of us are used to.

Herbal remedies create a lifetime of health and wellness by healing your body and helping each system in your body work the way it was intended to.

Alternative medicine is individualized, holistic care for a lifetime of personal health and wellness.

The goal is to find herbal remedies that work for you. The beauty of alternative medicine is the process of finding what works best for you specifically.

Start with the herbs and plants listed in the next section to start cultivating your own best alternative medicine cabinet and be on the road to your own personal, holistic health and wellness routine.

Natural Medicines to Grow Yourself and How to Use Them

If you’re visiting The Grow Network for the first time, I urge you to click around on the blog in the “Medicine” section while you’re here. The network of gardeners, homesteaders, and writers here has done some absolutely amazing work in alternative medicine already. My list below comes from the wealth of knowledge this network has already provided.

Want to learn even more about herbal remedies and all other aspects of apartment and modern homesteading? Sign up for the Lab!

Marjory published her list of the top 15 antibiotic alternatives in this blog post. I want to reiterate her list and talk about how you can grow some of those 15 super plants and use them in your own alternative medicine practice.

Garlic

Marjory will instruct you on everything you need to know about the wonder that is garlic, and you can even get your free copy of “The Miracle of Garlic: Your First Home Medicine” here.

As Apartment Homesteaders, we can grow garlic in containers in our patio gardens. Make sure you give them plenty of room to stretch out in the soil in a container that is around 18 inches deep and 12 inches wide.1For instructions on how to grow garlic in containers: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-plant-garlic-in-contain-158494

Check out this video from TGN’s 2016 Home Grown Food Summit on how to grow great garlic!

Echinacea

One of the most visited sections of the pharmacy is the Cold and Flu section. Sinus “yuck” sufferers, get out of the pharmacy and into the garden!

If you’re like the women in my family, you know how nasty the winter sinus infection can be. The only time I’ve had to take antibiotics is for sinus infections, but Echinacea is an herbal alternative that can help knock out the sinus yuck without the harmful side effects of pharmaceutical antibiotics.

You can grow Echinacea in a pot on your garden patio.2For instructions on how to grow Echinacea in a pot: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/growing-purple-coneflowers-containers-60904.html

But where most people dry Echinacea, recent studies have shown that fresh Echinacea has far more power to treat colds than the dried plant.3See http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20251749,00.html

Echinacea Tea Recipe

You can make a simple fresh Echinacea tea to drink during the cold and flu season by simply adding 1/2 cup of fresh Echinacea to 8 ounces of water. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the Echinacea. Simmer covered for 15 minutes. Strain and add 1-2 tablespoons of raw, local honey. (The honey is especially helpful for a sore throat and a cough).4Find Echinacea tea and other recipes for using Echinacea medicinally here: https://thepaleomama.com/2015/07/21/homemade-echinacea-tea/

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper has shown itself worthy to replace over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen—especially for muscle and joint pain.

This is another area of the pharmacy that is overused; acetaminophen and ibuprofen have droves of loyal consumers who take the medicines daily in an attempt to heal chronic pain. But they have side effects like liver damage and ulcers, so we need a natural alternative like cayenne pepper to replace the medicines we take for pain relief.

You can grow cayenne peppers in your patio garden or in a small pot indoors.5For instructions on how to grow cayenne peppers: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-cayenne-peppers-container-47525.html Then, simply dry your peppers in the oven on parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Cut the peppers into chunks so they dry faster and place them in the oven at about 200°F for 1–3 hours until dry. You can then grind them into a powder to use in this simple pain salve recipe:6Recipe from https://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/herbal-pain-relief/

Pain Salve Recipe

1/2 c. olive oil
2 T. cayenne powder
1/2 oz. beeswax

Infuse the olive oil with the cayenne powder using a double boiler technique. Strain through a cheesecloth. Then melt the beeswax and stir in the cayenne-infused olive oil. Pour the liquid mixture into jars or tins. Let it cool.

You can rub this salve directly onto the painful area. Not only does it allow you to avoid the dangerous side effects of over-the-counter pain medicines, but it may also work quicker than the oral pain relievers because it reaches the area of pain immediately without having to go through your blood stream to get there.

Turmeric

Turmeric, a bright orange root, is a great one to add to your garden for dietary and medicinal uses on your apartment homestead.

Turmeric has been shown to help mobilize fat in the body and may help reduce bad cholesterol.

High cholesterol is something many American adults struggle with, and too many of us depend on cholesterol medication to keep us out of the hospital for cholesterol-related issues. You can grow turmeric on your patio or indoors and harvest for treating a whole host of other health issues, as well—from inflammatory bowel disease to gall stones.7For instruction on how to grow turmeric in a pot: http://balconygardenweb.com/growing-turmeric-in-pots-how-to-grow-turmeric-care-uses-benefits/

Live in the Midwest like I do? Here’s how to grow turmeric and ginger in the Midwest.

One of my favorite ways to use turmeric is in a tea.8For turmeric tea recipe: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/turmeric-tea-benefits/

Turmeric Tea Recipe

Boil four cups of water, add one teaspoon of ground turmeric, and reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes.9Learn how to make turmeric powder: https://www.turmericforhealth.com/general-info/how-to-make-turmeric-powder-at-home-from-raw-turmeric Then, strain the tea and add honey or lemon to taste. You can also add a pinch of black pepper for increased absorption. 

Ginger

Ginger is another plant you can grow fairly easily indoors on your apartment homestead.10For instruction on how to grow ginger indoors: https://newengland.com/today/living/gardening/how-to-grow-ginger-indoors/

Ginger has been shown to have antiviral effects as well as antibacterial properties. Replace Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, Nauzene, and other medicines for stomach upset with ginger.

Ginger is one of my favorites to use when I suffer from stomach bugs. This is another one I like to take in tea form.

Ginger Tea Recipe

Simply steep between 1 and 1-1/2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger in boiling water for about 10 minutes; then, strain and sip.11For the ginger tea recipe: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/easy-ginger-tea-23528 

Essential Oils: Round Out Your Medicine Cabinet

We’ve talked about the power of essential oils before, but we can’t have a chapter on alternative medicine without talking about essential oils!

Essential oils are super-concentrated plant extracts. They can be used to replace any and all over-the-counter medicines. And while many herbal remedies can take a little while to work, some essential oils can work almost instantly to reduce the symptoms of our maladies.

While you won’t be able to grow all the plants you need to create every herbal or alternative medicine in your apartment homestead, purchasing therapeutic-grade essential oils can help round out your apartment medicine cabinet. 

Two of My Favorite Natural Remedies

In my own alternative medicine journey, I’ve had the most difficulty replacing over-the-counter medicine in treatment of the common cold. Here are two of the best recipes I’ve found for natural alternatives to cough drops and cough syrup.

Honey and Essential Oils Lozenges Recipe

2 c. raw, local honey
20 drops Thieves essential oil blend*
20 drops lemon essential oil
5 drops oregano essential oil

Heat honey in a pot until candy thermometer reads 300°F (the “hard crack” stage). Stir constantly. Remove from heat and continue stirring until it cools slightly and starts to thicken. Make sure it is not still boiling continuously before adding your essential oils. Stir the oils in.

Then, in candy molds or on parchment paper, spoon out cough-drop-sized amounts of the honey/oils mixture. Allow to cool completely to room temperature. Store at room temperature.

* Thieves essential oil contains cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus radiata, and rosemary essential oils. I buy mine from Young Living, although you could theoretically make it yourself.

Simple Cough Syrup Recipe

2 c. water
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 c. fresh ginger root, finely chopped
1 c. raw, local honey
1 fresh lemon, juiced
1/8 t. cayenne pepper

Simmer thyme and ginger in water in a small pot over medium heat until the water is reduced by half. Allow to cool completely; then strain the herbs. Return the tea to the pot and whisk in honey, lemon, and cayenne pepper (which you hopefully grew yourself!).

Store in an airtight container.12I got this recipe from the Traditional Cooking School, but I adapted it so I could make it without an instant pot: https://traditionalcookingschool.com/food-preparation/instant-pot-cough-syrup/ Take one tablespoon to soothe sore throat and calm your cough.

 

Click around to other posts on alternative medicine here on The Grow Network to arm yourself with all the tools you need to be your own apartment apothecary!

And stay tuned for the next blog in the Apartment Homesteader series, where I’ll talk about how to surround yourself with a community of inspiring, green-living individuals like yourself who can help you take your sustainable living to the next level.

 

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

References   [ + ]

1. For instructions on how to grow garlic in containers: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-plant-garlic-in-contain-158494
2. For instructions on how to grow Echinacea in a pot: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/growing-purple-coneflowers-containers-60904.html
3. See http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20251749,00.html
4. Find Echinacea tea and other recipes for using Echinacea medicinally here: https://thepaleomama.com/2015/07/21/homemade-echinacea-tea/
5. For instructions on how to grow cayenne peppers: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-cayenne-peppers-container-47525.html
6. Recipe from https://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/herbal-pain-relief/
7. For instruction on how to grow turmeric in a pot: http://balconygardenweb.com/growing-turmeric-in-pots-how-to-grow-turmeric-care-uses-benefits/
8. For turmeric tea recipe: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/turmeric-tea-benefits/
9. Learn how to make turmeric powder: https://www.turmericforhealth.com/general-info/how-to-make-turmeric-powder-at-home-from-raw-turmeric
10. For instruction on how to grow ginger indoors: https://newengland.com/today/living/gardening/how-to-grow-ginger-indoors/
11. For the ginger tea recipe: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/easy-ginger-tea-23528
12. I got this recipe from the Traditional Cooking School, but I adapted it so I could make it without an instant pot: https://traditionalcookingschool.com/food-preparation/instant-pot-cough-syrup/

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Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar, the Easy Way—With 29 Uses

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Making apple cider vinegar is a topic that is well-documented on various sites across the Internet. When I searched searched for recipes online, I found a wealth of information—covering how to make cider from fresh organic apples, how to transform that cider into hard cider (with many warnings to keep it out of reach of any alcoholics in the household) and, finally, how to allow the cider to go from alcohol to vinegar.

Making cider from fresh fall apples, as is recommended, can take up to six months from start to finish.

At the time that I wanted to do this, fall apples were not in season, and I was really looking for the quickest, easiest technique I could find. I opted to make my homemade apple cider vinegar using the “path of least resistance,” and here is how I did it:

How to Make Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar, the Easy Way

clean-jar-and-apple-ciderAny large vessel should work for this fermentation project. Stick to glass or pottery; avoid plastic and metal.

Some time ago, a friend of mine was getting rid of unneeded items from her kitchen. She had two large Lipton Sun Tea jars that she thought I could put to use. I have a policy of accepting things that other people want to give me, so I took the jars home with me and started thinking about how I could use them.

When I started researching the method to make my own apple cider vinegar, I realized that these big jars would make the perfect vessel—so I dusted one of them off and headed to the store for some cider.

  1. jar-of-apple-cider-covered-with-cheese-clothI bought the cheapest, no-frills bottle of apple cider that I could find.
  2. After sterilizing my big glass jar, I poured the cider in and covered the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth, secured in place with a strong rubber band.
  3. I placed the jar in the cabinet above my stove to allow it to ferment in a warm, but not too warm, dark place.
  4. fermenting-apple-cider-vinegarVinegar can take between two to four weeks on average to complete the fermentation process. You can begin taste testing your fermenting apple cider after a few days and throughout the process until you are satisfied with the quality of your vinegar.
  5. At that point, you will want to put the vinegar into bottles or jars that you have designated for the storage of your finished product. In a sealed container, you can store your vinegar in the refrigerator indefinitely.

If you are anything like I am, you probably have a motley assortment of jars and bottles that you have saved and you will have plenty of ways to store your batch of vinegar. My grandmother’s oft-quoted motto of, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” is my guideline, so there are always jars, bottles, and containers aplenty in my home.

step 6 ready jars for bottlingI found that homemade apple cider vinegar is easy to make. The hardest part of making the vinegar was waiting for it to finish fermentation.

The next time I make vinegar, I will opt for creating my own organic cider from fresh fall apples and turning that cider into apple cider vinegar.

29 Uses for Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar

Health and Wellness

  • Take a tablespoonful daily in eight ounces of water as a preventative against colds and flu. It works, people. Just give it a try.
  • When battling gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, take a tablespoonful in eight ounces of water several times a day.
  • When battling diarrhea, take a tablespoonful in eight ounces of water several times a day. Don’t argue about it like my husband and kids do—just take it. You will be glad you did!
  • Treat sunburn by soaking a washcloth in undiluted vinegar and applying directly to the burned area of skin. Let the dampened cloth lie on the skin for 5-10 minutes. You will smell like a salad, but your sunburn won’t hurt!
  • Taking vinegar in the same dosage as for flu can help reduce joint pain and is safer than taking anti-inflammatory medicines.

Household

  • Clean and deodorize after pet accidents by spraying the carpet with a solution of 50 percent vinegar to 50 percent water. First, blot up any liquid, then soak carpet with vinegar water. After five minutes, blot the area thoroughly and allow to dry. Once dry, there should be no odor.
  • Clean and deodorize after the toddler’s potty training accidents, following the same process as is used to clean up pet accidents. Pets and toddlers do have some interesting similarities!
  • Use vinegar and water to clean glass and mirrors in a ratio of one part vinegar to eight parts water.
  • Adding 1/2 cup of vinegar to the last rinse cycle of your wash load will help to soften clothes and control static cling.
  • Adding vinegar to the last rinse cycle also helps to reduce lint buildup on clothes and keeps pet hair from sticking to clothes. We all love our pets, but no one wants to wear the evidence of having pets on their clothing.
  • Vinegar can aid in removing stubborn stains such as coffee and tea. Soak the stain in a solution of 1/3 cup vinegar to 2/3 cup of water. After soaking, hang items out in sun until dry.
  • Full strength vinegar can remove stubborn mildew stains from clothing.
  • Use a mixture of 50 percent vinegar to 50 percent water as a stain treatment before washing any items that are stained. Keep this near the washer in a spray bottle. This solution costs way less than name-brand stain removers and contains no petrochemicals.

Beauty Treatments

  • Apple cider vinegar is a great hair conditioner. Mix with water in a one-to-one ratio in an old shampoo or conditioner bottle. Apply to hair and allow to sit for a couple minutes, then rinse.
  • Rinse it through hair to detangle and reduce frizziness.
  • Rinsed through hair, it helps control dry, itchy scalps due to the antifungal and antibacterial properties of the vinegar.
  • Use apple cider vinegar as a face wash. Mix one tablespoonful of vinegar to a cup of water and apply to facial skin using a cotton ball. Apple cider vinegar-water is naturally antibacterial and deep cleans pores. Follow with a moisturizer suited to your skin type.

Dog Treatments

  • Apple cider vinegar can help restore proper pH to your dog’s system. If your dog is itchy, scratches constantly, is losing fur, or is stinky, adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar twice a day to his or her food can help relieve the misery. You can increase the dose up to a tablespoonful a day if you are not seeing results at a lower dosage.
  • Apple cider vinegar is also useful for preventing ear infections in dogs. Apply a few drops inside your dog’s ears following a bath.
  • Spraying your dog after a bath with a 50/50 vinegar-water mixture and allowing him or her to air dry can help kill fleas, ticks, and ringworm.
  • Adding one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s drinking water can help reduce or eliminate the tear stains that light-colored pets often get by their eyes.
  • Apple cider vinegar added to a dog’s water can help to eliminate urinary problems.

Cat Treatments

  • Apple cider vinegar used in a 50/50 vinegar-water mixture can be applied to cats with pink eye to clear the infection.
  • Apple cider vinegar in a 50/50 vinegar-water water mixture can be wiped on a cat’s paws and applied to its neck to combat the urinary tract infections that cats seem to be prone to having. Adding vinegar to a cat’s water can treat the UTI, but cats can be finicky about the way their food and water taste and may avoid drinking the water. Applying the mixture to the paws makes them ingest it as they clean their paws. Do this twice a day for best results.

Horse Treatments

• Apple cider vinegar can be used to treat horses who have urinary tract stones by adding 1/2 to one cup of vinegar to six gallons of water.
• Treat hoof rot by soaking your horse’s hooves in apple cider vinegar two to three times a day.
• Treat your horse’s dry skin and dandruff by adding up to 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar to your horse’s feed daily.
• Adding apple cider vinegar to your horse’s feed and water can help combat fly problems.
• It is effective in relieving painful joints in horses. Add up to 1/2 cup to your horse’s feed daily.

As with any information you read, it is your responsibility to do your research and evaluate the use of apple cider vinegar for yourself, your household, and your pets. I do not claim to be a medical professional or a veterinarian, nor do I play one on television, but I can tell you that I have used apple cider vinegar at home for myself, my family, and my pets with great success for the past twenty years at least.

Because my family and I survive and actually thrive on a tight budget, I have made it my mission to find ways to run my home as inexpensively as I can, while maintaining or improving our quality of life.

I also have a philosophy of thinking for the long term as my husband and I grow older, to find ways of keeping our spending low as our income decreases.

Using natural products such as apple cider vinegar has been a boon to our health and our budget, and I hope you will find similar results for yourself!

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

(This is an updated version of a post that was originally published on September 6, 2015.)

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8 Ways to Detox Your Personal Care Regime

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So you’ve decided to become an apartment homesteader; are already making consistent lifestyles changes to limit your personal use of water, electricity, and fuel; and have committed to producing less trash.

You. Go. *Virtual high five!*

But there is even more to the homesteader’s life than conservation.

In this post in the Apartment Homesteader series, I want to consider preservation.

Preservation comes in many forms. Today, let’s talk about how you can preserve your health by removing harsh, nasty, human-made chemicals from your homestead personal care cabinet and making your own natural alternatives.

Let’s Talk Toxins …

Toxic chemicals are everywhere: in our water, our air, our food, and the products we purchase.

We can’t always avoid them when they show up in our food, water, or air, but we can make a concerted effort to avoid them in the personal care products we buy!

What are the toxic chemicals in common products? What makes them dangerous?

We can group the chemical “yuck” into three categories:

  • Carcinogens: Chemicals that can potentially cause cancer
  • Neurotoxins: Chemicals that mess with our brain
  • Endocrine Disruptors: Chemicals that mimic and mess up our hormones

Every time one of these chemicals gets into our blood stream, we risk damaged cells and organs.

Makeup

Ladies, listen up: the makeup we wear contains some seriously terrifying chemicals!

Did you know that the average American woman puts over 80 different types of chemicals on her face, in her hair, or on her skin before breakfast?

How insane is that?!

And all of those chemicals are absorbed into our skin and enter our blood stream … which means that, just because we put eye shadow, lipstick, and a few other cosmetics on our faces this morning, we potentially have over 80 toxic chemicals coursing through our veins RIGHT NOW.

If you read the ingredient lists of the makeup you buy, you’ll likely come across some or all of the following chemicals with some frequency: phthalates, lead, quaternium-15 and other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, PEG compounds, BHT, BHA, parabens, octinoxate, carbon black, siloxanes … and more.

  • Phthalates are a group of chemicals that may be disruptive to the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone production. Chemical interference in your endocrine system can lead to developmental, reproductive, and neurological damage. Where would you find phthalates? They’re used to plasticize products, making them more flexible or better able to hold color and scent. But just because “phthalates” don’t show up on an ingredient list doesn’t mean they’re not in there. These chemicals can be grouped under and listed as “fragrance.” Companies claim their fragrance formulas as “trade secrets,” which is their fancy way of telling us they don’t want us to know what they put in their makeup. Your best bet is to avoid products that list “fragrance” and choose ones that use natural plant oils.
  • Lead is a proven neurotoxin linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility, and delays in the onset of puberty for females. To find it, look no further than your lipstick, as color additives are a common source of lead in makeup. And, you know it’s true: every time you wear lipstick, you’ll end up ingesting some of it.
  • Quaternium-15 releases formaldahyde. It is used in mascara, pressed powders, and eyeliners. It is a potential carcinogen and can cause skin sensitivities and irritation.
  • Parabens are dangerous. They are the most widely used chemical preservatives in cosmetics, and they easily penetrate your skin and are absorbed into your blood stream. Parabens can mimic estrogen and have been detected in human breast cancer tissue.

Skin Care

Raise your hand if you have a skin care product in your bathroom right now that is labeled as “anti-aging.”

You do?

Well, sorry to break it to you, but the chemicals in your anti-aging lotions and creams may kill you before you have a chance to show off your “younger-looking” skin.

First up, the one we already saw in makeup: parabens. Parabens are used in over-the-counter personal products as a preservative to extend the shelf life of the product. These chemicals can be found in face and body moisturizers, body wash, and cleansers.

Also in makeup: phthalates. These have been classified as a “probable human carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Almost all skin care products contain synthetic substances that are petroleum based. Petrochemicals have been shown to cause anemia, kidney degeneration, and nerve damage.

You should also make it a habit to avoid cosmetic fragrance. The smell of that “lavender-scented” lotion is made from about 2 percent lavender “essence” and 98 percent … other stuff. And if the fragrance is completely artificial, expect it to be made from petroleum or coal.

These cheap, synthetic chemicals mimic the aroma of natural fragrances. Companies use them because they are cheaper than pure, natural scents, which only come from essential oils.

Hair Care

Lotions and potions for hair care are also laden with chemicals. Two biggies are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, which in combination with other chemicals can form nitrosamines, a truly awful carcinogen. Exposure to these chemicals can cause eye damage, depression, diarrhea, and more.

A toxic chemical that shows up in hair dyes is coal tar. A byproduct of coal processing, coal tar is a known human carcinogen. Extended exposure to coal tar can cause mild dermatitis, vision issues, headaches, dizziness, and labored breathing.

Propylene glycol is a chemical used in styling gels, conditioners, and shampoos … and you might also recognize it as the active ingredient in antifreeze. Propylene glycol can cause brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities.

Antiperspirants 

In addition to parabens—the endocrine disruptors—aluminum compounds are often found in antiperspirants. Some studies indicate that they might promote cancer and mess with your hormones.

Another chemical, silica, is a skin irritant and may be contaminated with a carcinogen, which means it could be capable of increasing your cancer risk.

Catch the drift here?

The chemicals found in most makeup, skin, hair, and antiperspirant products on the market can cause more problems than they are created to fix.

When we lather on lotion, style our hair with gel, paint our faces with liquid foundation, and coat our armpits with aluminum-filled antiperspirants, we’re spending thousands of dollars to toxify our bodies and, potentially, permanently damage our health.

DIY for the Win!

But there is another option: DIY the heck out of your personal care products! By making your personal care products yourself, you can know exactly what goes in and exactly what will be absorbed by your skin.

Below, you’ll find recipes for eight common personal-care products you can make using a few simple, natural ingredients — and they won’t even break the bank!

I recommend that you include certain essential oils in each of the recipes below. Make sure you use only therapeutic-grade, 100 percent pure essential oils. (The term “therapeutic grade” is not regulated, but you a better shot at getting high-quality essential oils if you look for that label.) Essential oils can help oxygenate your blood, move nutrients into your cells, and promote detoxification. Plus, they smell awesome.

Store all of these products in dark glass containers (think amber/brown or blue) in a mostly cool, dark place—like your shower or your bathroom cabinet.

Facial Scrub

1/2 c. baking soda
3/4 c. coconut oil (solid at room temperature)
10 drops of essential oil (e.g., frankincense, lavender, tea tree)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until you have a gritty paste consistency. Transfer to an airtight glass container. Use the paste to wash your face in the shower or over the sink.

Shampoo

1 c. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap (unscented)
1 c. organic coconut milk
10 drops essential oil (e.g., lemongrass, tea tree, orange)

Pour all ingredients into a glass container with a pump top. Shake well before using.

Body Soap

2/3 c. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap (unscented)
1/4 c. raw honey
2 tsp. olive oil (can be substituted with sweet almond, grape seed, or sesame oil)
1 tsp. vitamin E oil
20 drops essential oil (e.g., lavender, tea tree, lemongrass, frankincense)

Pour ingredients into a glass container with a pump top. Shake well before using.

Body and Face Lotion

1 c. coconut oil (solid at room temperature)
1 tbsp. vitamin E oil
10 drops essential oil (e.g., lavender, frankincense)

Mix all ingredients and transfer to an airtight glass container. Lotion will melt when it comes into contact with your skin, so use less than you think is necessary at first. A little will go a long way when the coconut oil turns to liquid!

Toothpaste

1/2 c. baking soda
1/2 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. sea salt
10 drops essential oil (e.g., peppermint, cinnamon)

Mix all ingredients and transfer to an airtight glass container. Use 1/2 tsp. of paste every time you brush your teeth.

Beard Oil

1/3 c. olive oil or fractionated coconut oil
10 drops essential oil (e.g., cedarwood, sandalwood, orange, rosemary, peppermint)

Pour ingredients into a glass container with a dropper top. Shake gently to mix. Use 2–3 drops daily for healthy facial hair.

Roller-Bottle Perfume for Women

Fill a glass roller bottle 3/4 full with distilled water. Fill half of the remaining space with vodka (to enhance the aroma). Add 5–10 drops of your favorite essential oils. (I recommend ylang ylang, frankincense, and copaiba.)

Roller-Bottle Cologne for Men

Fill a glass roller bottle 3/4 full with distilled water. Fill half of the remaining space with vodka (to enhance the aroma). Add 5–10 drops of your favorite essential oils. (I recommend cedarwood, cinnamon bark, and copaiba.)

Other Products

You don’t have to stop there! There are plenty of other products you can make with inexpensive, natural ingredients and essential oils:

  • Hand soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Mouthwash
  • Hair spray
  • Hair detangling spray
  • Hair styling putty
  • Deodorant
  • Makeup
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lip balm
  • Lip scrub
  • Hair rinse
  • Hair conditioner
  • Salves
  • Acne treatment
  • Face masks
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Shaving cream

If you find a recipe for one of these products that you love, be sure to comment below and share it with your fellow homesteaders.

Together, we will work hard to live toxin-free lives!

28 Days to Clean Challenge

Do you want to really commit to good, clean living? See if you can do the 28 Days to Clean Challenge!

  • Week 1: Replace all skin care products with natural DIY alternatives.
  • Week 2: Replace all hair care products with natural DIY alternatives.
  • Week 3: Replace all makeup, deodorant, and specialty items (e.g., sunscreen, bug spray) with natural DIY alternatives.
  • Week 4: Replace all household cleaners with DIY alternatives.

References

https://www.diynatural.com/homemade-body-wash/
https://www.annmariegianni.com/toxic-chemicals-in-makeup-industry/
https://www.madefromearth.com/harmful-ingredients-skincare-products.html
https://www.vitacost.com/blog/bath-beauty/4-toxic-chemicals-to-avoid-in-hair-care-products.html
http://www.organics.org/7-harmful-ingredients-in-your-deodorant/
https://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/its-easy-to-be-green-18-homemade-natural-personal-care-products/

 

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30+ Cancer-Fighting Foods

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Last month, the idea that cancer is a victim’s disease and that people are powerless to prevent it received yet another blow.

A World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) analysis of 99 studies and nearly 30 million people with colorectal cancer gives clear evidence that deep nutrition is a major weapon in the human arsenal against cancer.

It’s just the latest in a long line of scientific studies that prove that people who want to reduce their cancer risk can do so by eating nutrient-dense foods.

Ready to pack your fridge, pantry, and garden with cancer-fighting foods?

The foods on this list are a great place to start:

  • Whole Grains: According to the WCRF/AICR report, whole grains contain a veritable cornucopia of anticancer properties—from dietary fiber that can, among other things, help prevent insulin resistance, to a variety of compounds such as selenium, lignans, and vitamin E that “have plausible anti-carcinogenic properties.”1http://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/CUP%20Colorectal%20Report_2017_Digital.pdf
  • Green Foods: Chlorophyll-rich foods like wheatgrass, spirulina, and arugula help purify the blood and detoxify the system. There is also evidence that chlorophyll may block the carcinogenic effects of certain cancer-causing chemicals.2http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/chlorophylls/index.html#biological_ activity
  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain glucosinolates, which the body breaks down into indoles and isothiocyanates, known cancer-fighting compounds.3https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet
  • Nuts and Seeds: Powerhouses of micronutrients, nuts and seeds also contain healthy fats that improve the bioavailability of cancer-fighting nutrients in other foods. In fact, if you pair them with green vegetables, you’ll absorb 10 times more anticarcinogens than you would if you ate your veggies alone.4https://tv.greenmedinfo.com/top-5-cancer-prevention-foods-dr-joel-fuhrman In addition, flaxseeds and sesame seeds contain cancer-fighting lignans, and black sesame seeds are filled with antioxidants.
  • Garlic: If you’ve read the TGN e-book Garlic: Your First Home Medicine, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that garlic is believed to have anticancer effects, especially on cancers that affect the digestive system.5https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/garlic-fact-sheet
  • Onions: According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, best-selling author of Eat to Live, consuming lots of onions can cut a person’s risk of getting major cancers—including breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian—by 50 to 70 percent.6https://tv.greenmedinfo.com/top-5-cancer-prevention-foods-dr-joel-fuhrman
  • Mushrooms: No need to spring for the fancy mushrooms to benefit from the anticancer properties of these fungi. Even the less expensive, more widely available white, cremini, and portobello mushrooms can reduce inflammation, slow the growth of cancer cells, reduce the risk of breast cancer by blocking the production of estrogen—and the list goes on and on!7http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/gombbs_b_996352.html
  • Berries: Blackberries and blueberries have powerful antioxidant properties. Among other life-giving benefits, they help prevent DNA damage and hinder blood supply to growing cancer cells.8http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/gombbs_b_996352.html
  • Tomatoes: These lycopene-rich fruits also contain the carotenoids alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein, plus vitamin E, vitamin C, and potassium. Eat them with healthy fats to increase your body’s ability to absorb tomatoes’ cancer-fighting phytochemicals by two to 15 times.9https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/ohio-state-research-fat-in-avocado-helps-body-absorb-convert-vitamin-nutrients
  • Olives and Genuine Olive Oil: Olives contain an abundance of antioxidants, including squalene and terpenoids.10http://journals.lww.com/eurjcancerprev/Abstract/2004/08000/Olives_and_olive_oil_in_cancer_prevention.12.aspx Olive oil has similar cancer-fighting properties, but if it’s imported, make sure it’s genuine. Several studies within the last few years have shown that a large number of imported “olive oils” are fake or adulterated in some way.11https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/04/olive-oil-real-thing
  • Seaweed: With its incredible mix of micronutrients, seaweed is full of the deep nutrition that keeps a body healthy and fuels its fight against cancer. In Chinese medicine, it has long been used to soften hardened tumors.12http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/preventing-and-reversing-cancer-naturally-anticancer-diet-shopping-list
  • Turmeric: Chemical compounds in turmeric, known as curcuminoids, are anti-inflammatory and neutralize the free radicals that can cause DNA damage.13https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/turmeric
  • Green Tea: Filled with antioxidants, green tea has powerful anticancer properties. It’s been shown to prevent several types of cancer in animal studies, as well as to considerably slow the growth of cancer cells.14http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/preventing-and-reversing-cancer-naturally-anticancer-diet-shopping-list
  • Black Pepper: Piperine, a compound found in black pepper, fights cancer at the cellular level and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well. In addition to its standalone cancer-fighting properties, it also seems to improve the bioavailability of the anticancer compounds in substances like turmeric and green tea.15http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/august_21_2013/CRU_spices_cancer_prevention.html
  • Mistletoe: Studies indicate that mistletoe extracts may trigger a cancer-fighting response in the immune system, in addition to improving symptoms and reducing side effects in cancer patients.16https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/mistletoe-european
  • Magnolia Bark Extract: Magnolia bark extract contains compounds that have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties in animal studies and in the lab. While it has not been evaluated through clinical trials, this herb is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine.17https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/magnolia-officinalis
  • Rosemary: This fragrant herb helps prevent DNA damage and keeps cancer cells from proliferating.18https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6344840_Anti-proliferative_and_antioxidant_properties_of_rosemary_Rosmarinus_officinalis
  • Chili Peppers: Capsaicin, the same compound that makes chili peppers hot, has been shown to significantly slow the growth of prostate cancer tumors in mice. In fact, it caused 4 out of 5 cancer cells to self-destruct in a process called apoptosis.19https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/About-Us/News/News-Releases-2006/Pepper-Component-Hot-Enough-To-Trigger-Suicide-In-Prostate-Cancer-Cells-.aspx
  • Pomegranate: Juice from pomegranate seed pulp has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Laboratory studies have shown it to prevent the growth of cancer cells, and results of a human study suggested it has both preventative and therapeutic effects against cancer.20https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16192356
  • Beans, Peas, and Lentils: These nutrient-dense carbohydrates offer a plethora of health benefits, from stabilizing blood sugar to lowering cholesterol. Filled with fiber and resistant starch, intestinal bacteria ferment them into cancer-fighting fatty acids.21http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/gombbs_b_996352.html

You’ve probably noticed that almost all of the foods on this list would be considered a normal part of a nutritious diet.

In fact, the best diet you can eat to reduce your risk of cancer is the one you’re probably already trying for: rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats and proteins.

As you combine a deeply nutritious diet with other cancer fighters like exercise and low levels of stress and environmental toxicity, you’ll be taking your health into your own hands—and that’s exactly where it belongs.

Watch The 3-Day Live Broadcast, Starting October 5:   “The Truth About Cancer – LIVE!”

Want to learn more about preventing and/or treating cancer from the world’s foremost experts?

We want to mention that we’ve received word that our friend, Ty Bollinger, is hosting his critically acclaimed health summit:

“The Truth About Cancer – LIVE.”

… Starting October 5 at 8:30 a.m. EST.

And you’re invited to watch the live broadcast of this 3-day event for FREE.

Experts will be sharing their most advanced, front-line information about healing and preventing cancer and other chronic diseases…

Register early to make sure you get a spot.

Click Here To Register To Attend.

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/CUP%20Colorectal%20Report_2017_Digital.pdf
2. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/chlorophylls/index.html#biological_ activity
3. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet
4, 6. https://tv.greenmedinfo.com/top-5-cancer-prevention-foods-dr-joel-fuhrman
5. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/garlic-fact-sheet
7, 8, 21. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/gombbs_b_996352.html
9. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/ohio-state-research-fat-in-avocado-helps-body-absorb-convert-vitamin-nutrients
10. http://journals.lww.com/eurjcancerprev/Abstract/2004/08000/Olives_and_olive_oil_in_cancer_prevention.12.aspx
11. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/04/olive-oil-real-thing
12, 14. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/preventing-and-reversing-cancer-naturally-anticancer-diet-shopping-list
13. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/turmeric
15. http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/august_21_2013/CRU_spices_cancer_prevention.html
16. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/mistletoe-european
17. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/magnolia-officinalis
18. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6344840_Anti-proliferative_and_antioxidant_properties_of_rosemary_Rosmarinus_officinalis
19. https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/About-Us/News/News-Releases-2006/Pepper-Component-Hot-Enough-To-Trigger-Suicide-In-Prostate-Cancer-Cells-.aspx
20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16192356

The post 30+ Cancer-Fighting Foods appeared first on The Grow Network.

Top 25+ Cancer-Causing Foods

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There’s a lot of controversy surrounding cancer and what causes it, but everyone seems to agree on at least one thing:

Treating cancer is expensive. Preventing it can be a lot cheaper.

Nearly 1.6 million Americans faced a cancer diagnosis in 2014 (the most recent year for which numbers are available),1https://nccd.cdc.gov/USCSDataViz/rdPage.aspx with a cost of care that, in some cases, ranged upwards of $115,000.2https://costprojections.cancer.gov/annual.costs.html

Yet, while study after study has shown that diet plays a major role in whether a person gets cancer, and that people tend to make healthier food choices when they’re eating at home,3https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2014/01/16/american-adults-are-choosing-healthier-foods-consuming-healthier Americans allocate less money toward food consumed at home than pretty much anyone else in the world. For example, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service,4https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx we spend 6.4 percent of our income on eating at home, while the Finnish spend twice that and the Venezuelans spend triple that percentage.

And it’s not just people in other countries who spend more of their income on food. Our grandparents did, too. Back in 1960, Americans spent about 17.5 percent of their income on all food—including what they ate at home and what they ate out. Now, we spend about 10 percent of our income on eating, regardless of where it takes place.5http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/03/02/389578089/your-grandparents-spent-more-of-their-money-on-food-than-you-do

These numbers represent a disturbing shift in our national mindset. We’ve moved from a time when soils were healthier and food was more nutritious and generally less processed—but more expensive—to the present day, when the soils used in commercial agriculture are more depleted, the produce grown in them is less nutritious, and widely available foods are more processed—but also more affordable.

Simply put, Americans are not used to paying what high-quality food costs anymore.

Even people with access to sustainably produced, locally grown food via a farmer’s market, natural grocery store, or CSA often struggle with the cost. These products are more expensive to grow or raise—and therefore more expensive to buy.

But even though processed, packaged foods are sometimes cheaper than their sustainably produced, whole-food alternatives, their true cost can be astronomical.

According to Dr. Raymond Francis, author of Never Fear Cancer Again, disease has only two possible causes: toxicity and malnutrition.

The foods that increase cancer risk often contribute to both.

The bottom line is that we can pay more now for healthier foods and the deeper nutrition and reduced toxicity that come with them—whether we’re paying financially or, if we’re backyard food producers, through an investment of time and energy—or we can pay more later to treat the diseases that can stem from malnutrition and toxicity. As one young TEDx speaker, Birke Baehr, put it back in 2011, “We can either pay the farmer, or we can pay the hospital.”6https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvVZwJbs54c

In the end, one of the best ways to reduce your risk of cancer is by eating the diet we all know we should—filled with high-quality vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats.

If you’re not quite there yet, and you’re interested in reducing your risk of cancer by cleaning up your diet, the following list of carcinogenic (or potentially carcinogenic) foods is a good place to start. You can improve your health even further by replacing them with foods from our list of 30+ Cancer-Fighting Foods.

One final note: As you read this list, remember the old adage that “the dose makes the poison.” Even water, which everyone would agree is absolutely essential for life, can kill you if you drink too much at once.7https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill While it’s best to avoid these foods on a consistent basis, most of them probably won’t hurt you if they’re consumed every once in a while. After all, what’s a BLT without the bacon?

  • Sugar: Cancer has a favorite food. It’s sugar. Without it, cancer cells can’t grow and spread—in fact, they need almost 50 times more sugar to function than regular cells, according to Dr. Nasha Winters, author of The Metabolic Approach to Cancer. In addition, up to 80 percent of cancers are fueled by glucose and insulin, in one way or another.8http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/recent-observations-indicate-cancer-cells-readily-utilize-fructose-support-proliferation-and It’s easy to see why too much sugar in the diet is a very bad thing. In fact, the less refined sugar, the better!
  • Alcoholic Beverages: Our bodies turn the ethanol in alcoholic drinks into acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen. In addition to damaging the body’s DNA and keeping cells from being able to perform repairs, alcohol also increases estrogen levels in the blood (a contributor to breast cancer), prevents the body from absorbing several nutrients, and may contain carcinogenic contaminants.9https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet#q3 It should be noted, however, that red wine contains resveratrol, a substance that has been shown to have anticancer properties.10https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28123566 While the substance itself has been widely studied, only a few studies have looked at whether drinking red wine reduces a person’s cancer risk.
  • Tobacco: This one’s no surprise. While tobacco is lovely when used for plant gratitude, and Native American cultures believe it offers its own gift of interpretation to help with disputes, it can wreak havoc on a person’s body when it’s smoked or chewed. Smoking tobacco, inhaling secondhand smoke, or using smokeless tobacco—whether chewing tobacco or snuff—all put loads of carcinogenic chemicals into your body.11https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet
  • Processed Meats: Defined as any meat that’s been preserved through curing, being salted or smoked, or by other means, processed meats include bacon, hot dogs, sausage, and lunch meats including corned beef, salami, pepperoni, capocollo, bologna, mortadella, and ham. They are categorized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as “carcinogenic to humans.”12https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf Scientists suspect that the nitrite preservatives contained in processed meats are what causes the harm. The body can convert these nitrites into N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), which damage cells in the bowel lining. To heal the damage, cells replicate more often, which in turn provides more opportunities for DNA replication errors.
  • Red Meat: Beef, lamb, and pork contain heme iron, a naturally occurring red pigment that helps form carcinogenic compounds in the body and has toxic effects on cells and genes.13http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/4/2/177 It’s important to note that, in their research, scientists are lumping industrially produced red meat together with meat from animals raised on a natural, healthy diet. There’s no discussion in the scientific community on whether meat of healthier animals—such as cows fed and finished on grass—has the same negative effects.
  • Charred Meats: Grilling meat at high temperatures can produce heterocyclic amines and polycyclic amines, both of which can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.14http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/diet-and-cancer/how-healthy-eating-prevents-cancer
  • Salt-Preserved Foods: In addition to the processed, salt-cured meats mentioned above, this category includes salted fish and some pickled vegetables. The IARC lists Chinese-style salted fish as carcinogenic, but hasn’t yet made a determination on whether other types of salted fish increase the risk of cancer in humans.
  • Coffee: Is it, or isn’t it? Thanks to a recent lawsuit, coffee’s been in the news lately. At issue is the fact that roasting coffee beans causes the formation of acrylamide, a naturally occurring substance that has the potential to interact with DNA.15http://www.newsweek.com/fear-coffee-causes-cancer-prompts-california-add-warning-labels-672831?yptr=yahoo Coffee isn’t the only culprit, though. Acrylamide develops in many foods when they are cooked at high temperatures for a long time (think baking, frying, and toasting, in addition to roasting). This year, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency launched a “Go for Gold” campaign to encourage people to avoid overcooking foods—thus minimizing the creation of acrylamide—by aiming for a finished color of golden yellow or lighter.16https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2017/15890/reduce-acrylamide-consumption Despite the fact that coffee contains acrylamides, the popular beverage offers several other health benefits. So many, actually, that the American Institute for Cancer Research includes coffee on its list of Foods That Fight Cancer.
  • Areca nuts: About 10 percent of the world’s population still chews this addictive berry. It’s been shown to have several ill effects on the body, and is linked to numerous cancers.17https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080659
  • Artificial Sweeteners: According to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the link between artificial sweeteners and cancer is inconclusive—but possible. Since some studies have shown a correlation between the two in lab animals, the current recommendation is to avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharine altogether.18https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/may-2015/FOH-cancer-love-sugar.html[/note]
  • Toothpaste: Okay, so, technically toothpaste is not a food, but it made this list because it’s ingestible and some formulations may contain disperse blue 1, a dye that’s listed by the IARC as possibly carcinogenic to humans—and that’s also used as a hair and fabric dye.19https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/disperseblue1.pdf Worth keeping an eye on!
  • Very Hot Beverages: Studies in cultures where people typically drink their tea or mate at about 149°F (70°C) have found a correlation between very hot beverages and the risk of esophageal cancer. But, unless you keep a thermometer handy when you’re drinking your morning Joe, how are you supposed to know how hot is too hot? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you have to sip it to be able to drink it, let it cool a bit first.

Watch The 3-Day Live Broadcast, Starting October 5: “The Truth About Cancer – LIVE!”

Want to learn more about preventing and/or treating cancer from the world’s foremost experts?

We want to mention that we’ve received word that our friend, Ty Bollinger, is hosting his critically acclaimed health summit:

“The Truth About Cancer – LIVE.”

… Starting October 5 at 8:30 a.m. EST.

And you’re invited to watch the live broadcast of this 3-day event for FREE.

Experts will be sharing their most advanced, front-line information about healing and preventing cancer and other chronic diseases…

Register early to make sure you get a spot.

Click Here To Register To Attend.

References   [ + ]

1. https://nccd.cdc.gov/USCSDataViz/rdPage.aspx
2. https://costprojections.cancer.gov/annual.costs.html
3. https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2014/01/16/american-adults-are-choosing-healthier-foods-consuming-healthier
4. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx
5. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/03/02/389578089/your-grandparents-spent-more-of-their-money-on-food-than-you-do
6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvVZwJbs54c
7. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill
8. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/recent-observations-indicate-cancer-cells-readily-utilize-fructose-support-proliferation-and
9. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet#q3
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28123566
11. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet
12. https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf
13. http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/4/2/177
14. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/diet-and-cancer/how-healthy-eating-prevents-cancer
15. http://www.newsweek.com/fear-coffee-causes-cancer-prompts-california-add-warning-labels-672831?yptr=yahoo
16. https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2017/15890/reduce-acrylamide-consumption
17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4080659
18. https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/may
19. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/disperseblue1.pdf

The post Top 25+ Cancer-Causing Foods appeared first on The Grow Network.