The Survival Mom » Staying Healthy http://thesurvivalmom.com Helping moms worry less & enjoy life! Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:00:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Here’s a honey of a post! 17 things you probably didn’t know about honey, but should! http://thesurvivalmom.com/heres-a-honey-of-a-post-17-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-honey-but-should/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/heres-a-honey-of-a-post-17-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-honey-but-should/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:41:06 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=10755 Not all honey is created equal. Or, more accurately, not all honey on the grocery store shelves is equal. Some international honey has been treated and no longer has the health benefits discussed here. If you can possibly buy from Read More

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honey facts

Here are 17 facts about honey.

Not all honey is created equal. Or, more accurately, not all honey on the grocery store shelves is equal. Some international honey has been treated and no longer has the health benefits discussed here. If you can possibly buy from a local farmer, farmer’s market, or a reputable local company, it really is the healthiest choice.

Honey and Baking

1. Never refrigerate honey.

2. Slightly warmed honey is easier to measure out and mix.

3. One 12-ounce honey bear is equal to one cup.

4. It never spoils, making it a real food storage winner. If it crystallizes or becomes granular, place the open container in a bowl of hot water until it liquifies again.

5. To replace sugar with honey in a recipe, substitute 2/3 to 3/4 cup of honey per cup of sugar, and decrease the amount of liquids by 1/4 cup per cup of  honey used.  Stir the mixture very thoroughly. Lower the baking temperature by 25 degrees. Watch the baking time carefully since foods brown more quickly when honey is used.

Health Benefits of Honey

6. Honey contains antioxidants, which help protect against cellular damage.

7. Use honey on wounds, including burns, to help them heal faster. Honey is a natural antibiotic.

8. Manuka honey is the preferred variety for first aid treatment.

9. It can be used as a treatment for chapped lips!

10. A good rehydration beverage combines 1/2 c. honey, 1/2 t. salt, 2 c. orange juice, and 5 1/2 c. water. Use lukewarm water to help the honey dissolve faster, then cool.

11. Adding a little local honey (produced within 50 miles) to your kids diets may help prevent some allergies. The bees have been collecting pollen from plants in your specific area, the same pollen that is the culprit behind many allergies. Tiny doses of this pollen has the same effect as allergy shots, helping the body build immunity against pollen. (Note: filtered honey has had the pollen removed, so do not expect the same benefits from filtered honey.)

Odd Bits and Pieces

12. Bees have been known to produce blue and green honey.

13. It can be purchased in a crystal form. When rehydrated, it can be used as liquid honey.

14. Honey should be stored in closed containers because it absorbs moisture from the air, which can cause it to ferment.

15. An African bird called the Honeyguide locates and feeds on wild honey. The Honeyguide becomes very chatty when it finds a beehive, making it possible for people to retrieve honey themselves.

16. Ancient Egyptians used honey as a form of money and fed it to their sacred animals.

17. Honeybees are the only animal that actually produce food for humans! Just one reason to learn about beekeeping and becoming a beekeeper! Pay back the favor!

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Healthy Eye Care: Q & A With an Optometrist http://thesurvivalmom.com/healthy-eye-care/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/healthy-eye-care/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 08:00:25 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=19152 Chances are you have considered how you’d fare without modern medicine in a disaster situation and have stashed away bandages, topical antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and other supplies “just in case.” Have you considered the health and optimal function Read More

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healthy eye care

Chances are you have considered how you’d fare without modern medicine in a disaster situation and have stashed away bandages, topical antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and other supplies “just in case.”

Have you considered the health and optimal function of your eyes?  In a survival situation where keeping clean is more difficult (no electricity, no running water, etc.), eye infections could become more common—especially among children.  I don’t want to take any chances with their eyesight.  I’m not a doctor, so I asked the best optometrist I know: my sister.  Here’s her advice for healthy eye care tips.

Pink Eye

Q:  I have a bottle of eye drops from the last time my kid had pink eye.  How long is it good? Can I still use it? Would it be different if I had an unopened bottle?

A:  All bottled eye drops have an expiration date stamped on the bottle. Unopened bottles should be adequate for up to a year after the expiration date (same for unopened blister packs of contact lenses). If the bottle has been opened, discard after 6 months (regardless of expiration date). When inserting drops, avoid touching the tip of the bottle to skin or eyelashes as it can introduce bacteria into the bottle and cause contamination of the medication.

Q:  Can pink eye be treated with oral antibiotics, or do I have to keep some drops in my cabinet?

A:  Pink eye is best treated with antibiotic eye drops, although you could try using orals in a pinch. Pink eye actually tends to be self- limiting (it will go away on its own in time) in non-contact lens wearers, as long as you keep the eye and surrounding area clean, although antibiotics do shorten the course by several days.

Apply a warm wet cloth for 5-10 minutes to loosen debris in the lashes, then a gentle scrub of the lids/lashes with baby shampoo 2-3 times daily until the infection resolves. Cleanse from the inner corner of the eye to the outside corner. This keeps debris and bacteria out of the tear drainage ducts which are located at the inner corners of the eyes.

Debris in the Eyes

Q:  Is water really a good enough flush, or do I need to keep that expensive eye wash in my medicine cabinet? Would a bottle of saline be just as good?

A:  Saline is just as good. I would only use water as a flush if saline is not available. Even in running tap water there are bacteria that are okay for your gut, but not for your eyes. You can increase your risk of a secondary infection with a water flush. Stay away from saline intended for I.V. flushing. The pH is too high in that stuff for the eye.

Contact Lenses for healthy eye care

Q:  Can I stretch the wear of my contacts longer than the recommended period?  If I tried it, what might the consequences be?

A:  The longer you wear a contact lens, the more deposited they become. More deposits equals more risk of infection or allergic reaction to something on the lens. Also, more deposits reduces oxygen transmission of the lens material, and this can lead to complication from oxygen deprivation to the eye. All three scenarios lead to red, painful eye. In a survival situation probably best to switch to spectacle wear.

Spare Specs

I put off getting a spare set of glasses because of the expense. Heck, I put off getting a pair with my newest prescription for two years since I spend a good deal on contacts that work well each year! However, having backups are essential as a prepper.  So here’s a great website that will let you get a backup pair for each member of the family for pennies on the dollar.  I spent about $400 on the perfect pair of glasses a couple of years ago.  Last summer I took my newest Rx and bought TWO pairs of glasses for less than $40!

EyeBuyDirect* lets you browse your options for frames (I sorted by cheapest, since I didn’t care about fashion and was only buying them as a backup).  Once you’ve chosen frames you can enter all the information from your optometrist’s prescription. I didn’t ask for a copy of mine, but all the info I needed was right on the side of each box of contact lenses.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure what all the information means or where to find it. The website includes a tutorial on how to read the prescription so you get all the boxes filled in correctly.  If you really want the anti-scratch, anti-glare, or other special features you’d get at the doctor’s office, you can request them for a slightly higher cost. As with most online purchases, you must check out with a credit card or Flexible Spending Account card.

Voila!  Within a week I had two brand new pairs of glasses for 90% less than my last pair.  So no more turning your nose up at having an extra pair in your bug-out bag, purse, or glove box.  If you have rambunctious kiddos wearing glasses, this option is perfect for lots of reasons.

Let’s prepare our families to see the world clearly, and that means healthy eye care!

*Neither the author of this article nor the Survival Mom blog are affiliated with EyeBuyDirect. We just think it’s a great resource for budget-friendly eyewear!

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5 Tips for Correctly Using Hand Sanitizer (From a Nurse Who Knows) http://thesurvivalmom.com/using-hand-sanitizer/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/using-hand-sanitizer/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:39:45 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=19117 1.  Use a large amount. More is better when using hand sanitizer. 2.  Slather the sanitizer between fingers, on front and back of hands, up to your wrists. 3.  Rub the sanitizer vigorously into your hands. 4.  Rub sanitizer under Read More

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using hand sanitizer

1.  Use a large amount. More is better when using hand sanitizer.

2.  Slather the sanitizer between fingers, on front and back of hands, up to your wrists.

3.  Rub the sanitizer vigorously into your hands.

4.  Rub sanitizer under your fingernails and beneath your rings.

5.  Continue rubbing in the sanitizer until it dries. Do not wave your hands in the air to dry them.

Anywhere you see a bottle of sanitizer, take advantage of it. ATM touchpads have been touched by how many people, just today? Who else leaned against that fast food counter? Money? Ewww, when you think about it.

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10 Things You Should Know About Ebola http://thesurvivalmom.com/things-know-ebola/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/things-know-ebola/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 07:00:41 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18779 Like many of you, I have been trying to keep up with stories about Ebola, ever since this terrible virus reared its deadly head, again, in Africa. At first, the stories were interesting and a lot of us in the Read More

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things know ebolaLike many of you, I have been trying to keep up with stories about Ebola, ever since this terrible virus reared its deadly head, again, in Africa. At first, the stories were interesting and a lot of us in the prepper/survival niche toyed with the idea of, “What if it came to America…”

Well, now it’s here, and by the time you receive this email, things could have gone very, very wrong, indeed. Or, perhaps not. We now know of at least one more confirmed case of Ebola, a nurse who had been attending the infamous Liberian patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. If we’re lucky, that will be as far as the virus spreads.  Another possibility is that the Ebola hype has died and another potential pandemic is on the horizon.

I originally sent this article to my newsletter subscribers but I’ve received so much positive feedback that I wanted to share it on the blog as well. I do send out exclusive articles to my subscribers, and you can sign up for these here.

There are 10 things you should know about this Ebola scare, and they apply to any type of outbreak:

1. If you’re prepared, in general, you’re already prepared for Ebola or any other outbreak. Almost. Be reassured that you have many survival pieces in place and are way ahead of the game, if the worst should happen. Now it’s just a matter of adding some additional supplies and making a few, new plans. Just in case.

2. Almost prepared for something like Ebola isn’t good enough! In addition to your food, water, cooking/heating, and other preps, you should begin adding:

  • Heavy duty trash bags. These will serve a multitude of purposes, but this story about a woman in Liberia who was able to treat her family members with little more protection than a raincoat, rainboots, and trash bags is inspiring and shows the need for this basic supply.
  • Multiple pairs of Nitrile gloves. They’re inexpensive, so stock up.They’ll come in handy for far more than Ebola.
  • Face masks. Read this article for more details, but a respirator is highly recommended. The ReadiMask is a good, inexpensive option, but the most recent reports seem to indicate that nothing short of a respirator is the best choice in an Ebola hot zone.
  • Safety goggles. If you ever have the misfortune to be in the presence of an Ebola patient, every bit of skin should be covered. You’ll need safety goggles to protect your eyes and the skin around them.
  • Several gallons of bleach. If you know how to use calcium hypochlorite to make your own bleach, that’s a better option, but it’s also more of a challenge to get the chlorine at a safe level.
  • Hand sanitizer in every possible form and plenty of soap.
  • Protective clothing, if possible.

Here’s a big word of warning. We’re seeing healthcare workers who have worn professional, protective gear become infected with this virus. In no way am I suggesting that the supplies on this list will keep you safe if you are face to face with an Ebola patient. Until we know more about how the virus is transmitted, and I don’t believe even our most expert experts know for sure, the best course of action is to avoid any known areas with the infection.

3. Begin thinking about hunkering down, in place, for weeks or possibly months. If any pandemic grabs a foothold in your area, say within 100 miles, you won’t be able to go to work, the kids will stay home from school, even going out to buy groceries or other necessities may be too dangerous. What should you have on hand in this case? Could you begin homeschooling your kids? Do you have cash on hand, rather than just in the bank? Read The Jakarta Pandemic for some practical tips.

4. Keep track of news from multiple sources. Information coming from the CDC is scary, not reassuring, and they are supposed to be the ultimate source for controlling disease. On the other hand, some voices on the internet are screaming that it’s all over and we’re doomed. Read everything you can and assess information from multiple sources.

These five articles that have given me a lot of insight and food for thought:

  1. When Ebola Protection Fails
  2. What We’re Afraid to Say About Ebola
  3. Ebola, A Nurse’s Perspective
  4. The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola” (This one is sad.)
  5. Firestone Did What Governments Have Not: Stopped Ebola in its Tracks

5. If now is the time to panic, you absolutely must not panic! This is the time to assess your preps, get the facts and the latest information. Prepare to hunker down or pack up what you can and head for a part of the country that remains unaffected. Thinking clearly and making logical plans will be your 2 best survival preps.

Having said that, if a particular website or radio host or friend is a source of nothing but negative, doomsday information and you find yourself swallowed up in it, avoid them. Just a friendly tip from Survival Mom!

6. At this point, normalcy bias could be your worst enemy. I never dreamed that you and I would be talking about EBOLA in AMERICA, yet here we are. There’s no point in trying to take comfort in, “It’s just one guy in Dallas.” That’s normalcy bias talking. If the virus made it this far, it’s likely to pop up again, and again. That could be our new reality. Hiding behind, “It couldn’t happen here…” is the least helpful thing you can do.

7.  Work hard to become as healthy as you possibly can be. It doesn’t appear as though Ebola’s effects are more profound against the unhealthy, aged, and/or weak, but Ebola isn’t the only potential pandemic on the horizon. Build your immune system by paying attention to your body, first and foremost. When you’re tired, rest, and get plenty of sleep. Spend time outdoors in the sun and nature. Eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet as much as possible. Strengthen your muscles and overall stamina through regular exercise.

8. Introduce any changes to your family routine slowly and matter of factly. Scaring kids with horrific tales of Ebola or any other disease and its effects will only instill panic. Being a bit more cautious than usual around sick family and friends, taking some time off from school when flu reports become widespread, teaching kids to wash their hands more frequently — none of these are wild-eyed, tinfoil hat responses! They make sense and when you have a low-key explanation, kids will cope just fine.

9. Be prepared to take action before officials give the go-ahead. Officials at all levels, including school districts, fear nothing more than panicked citizens. When a large number of people panic, they begin to take actions of their own. This might take the form of demanding accountability from individuals and agencies or it could take the form of riots or worse.

Try to stay one step ahead by getting your information from multiple sources. If you have friends or family in the medical field or in government agencies, ask for insider information.

10. Continue to enjoy life. Make plans for holidays and birthdays. Go ahead and try to lose those last 15 pounds! We’ve seen good times and bad times come and go, but what keeps us steady and sane are the little things in life that aren’t so little — family, faith, friends. In the stories coming from the Ebola hot zones, there’s something that comes up over and over: family bonds and traditions. It’s important that we keep those going in our own homes and communities.

As a Christian, this verse from Ephesians 6:13 comes to mind:

“Therefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

You may not be a Christian and this article isn’t about the armor of God, but as a group we are determined to survive and are every bit as determined as any ancient warrior. So to paraphrase, “Take unto you all common sense preparation plans both for you and those you love that you may be able to stand strong during worst case scenarios, and when you’ve done all you can, stand strong.”

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3 Herbs for SHTF Hygiene http://thesurvivalmom.com/shtf-herbal-hygiene/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/shtf-herbal-hygiene/#comments Sat, 11 Oct 2014 06:00:54 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18484 I have a confession: I don’t use coupons. I know, I know. They can be a great way to help stock up on extra personal hygiene products to round out your preparedness kits. But my main focus has always been Read More

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SMHerbalHygieneI have a confession: I don’t use coupons. I know, I know. They can be a great way to help stock up on extra personal hygiene products to round out your preparedness kits. But my main focus has always been having a back up plan for the backup plan.

Herbal Hygiene

Rather than keep ten years’ worth of deodorant and toothpaste on hand, I’d rather just keep one or two extras in the medicine cabinet and know what I can use from my garden instead. Part of this is because space is at a premium in my living quarters, partly because I’m a stubborn minimalist, and partly because I’m a kooky herbalist. Take your pick.

So, let’s take a look at the three most basic components for personal hygiene: something to wash skin, hair, and clothes; something for oral health; and something to keep the arm pits from getting quite so stinky. Three easy to grow, perennial herbs that fit these functions perfectly are soapwort, licorice, and sage. Being able to use these three herbs in a pinch can be handy, or they can supplement an existing daily routine as a more natural option.

Soapwort- Saponaria officinalis

Soap Substitute

Soapwort is a beautiful perennial plant that is hardy in US zones 3-9. It grows to be about three feet tall, and prefers rich, compost-heavy soil. It can be a little finicky about light requirements, as it likes sun but not too much afternoon sun. If it likes its growing location it can become invasive, but if that happens, just harvest more of it. Soapwort leaves and roots can be dried for later and still lather when used.

To make a soap solution with soapwort, use 1 tablespoon of dried leaves or roots (three tablespoons if the herb is fresh) per cup of water. Bring the water to a boil, add the herb, and allow to simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. Strain and cool before use.

Soapwort solution can be used for hair, skin, and clothing. It is very gentle, and is often found in high end organic facial care products and used to clean antique textiles. So by all means, don’t wait for SHTF!

Soapwort is toxic to fish, so don’t wash with or dump soapwort solution directly into a pond or stream where live fish are present.

Licorice Root- Glycyrrhiza glabra

Toothbrush/Toothpaste Substitute

Another perennial in the three to four foot tall range, licorice is hardy in USDA gardening zones 7-9. It prefers full sun and moist soil but doesn’t appreciate clay.

The plant will need to grow for two or three years before the roots are large enough to harvest. Once they have matured, they should be harvested in the fall, when the plant has focused all of its resources down into the roots before winter. The flavor and chemistry of the roots will be at their peak during this time.

Not only does licorice root contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory components, it’s also shaped perfectly for turning into a simple toothbrush substitute. I use them in addition to a regular toothbrush/toothpaste routine, but some people successfully use licorice root alone.

Licorice root typically grows in a long, thin shape. Once it has been dried (this technique won’t work on a fresh root), choose one end of the root and soften it by standing in a glass with a half inch of water or by sucking on it until the root softens (usually about sixty seconds either way). Peel back the outer root bark (the brown looking skin on the root), and gently chew the root until there is a quarter inch or so of “brush” at the end. Gently rub along the gumline and over each tooth to clean the mouth.

Licorice has a sweet taste, so there’s no need to fear that your brush will taste like pencil shavings. After each use, trim away the used “brush” with a knife or scissors and store in a clean place until next use.

Sage- Salvia officinalis

Deodorant substitute

Sage is a small to medium perennial herb that prefers a very sunny location with dry, well drained soil. It will grow from zones 4-8 in the US. Many people are familiar with sage as a culinary herb, but it also has more medicinal uses.

Make a strong infusion of the fresh or dried herb to spritz or splash the underarms and help control body odor. For best results, make the infusion in the evening and allow to sit overnight before straining. It will need to be applied more frequently than a store bought deodorant, because it will not be as strong. It is not an antiperspirant, either, so it won’t keep you dry.

Fresh sage leaves can also be added to an oral hygiene routine with licorice root. Simply rub a fresh sage leaf over the gums and each tooth. Sage has a stronger flavor than licorice, but the leaves can be harvested more often and more easily than licorice roots, so it’s a good option to know.

Soapwort, licorice, and sage have many other herbal uses, but they are definitely botanical all stars when it comes to personal hygiene. Knowing how to grow and use them will mean you always have a back up plan for soap, toothpaste, and deodorant.

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Stomach “Bugs”: An Herbal Back-Up Plan http://thesurvivalmom.com/stomach-bugs-herbal-back-plan/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/stomach-bugs-herbal-back-plan/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 06:00:27 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17779 These tips may come in handy someday soon! Click here to pin! So perhaps it’s that time of year, and stomach “bugs” are starting to make the rounds at school and work. Or, perhaps you’ve had a run in with Read More

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stomach bugs

These tips may come in handy someday soon! Click here to pin!

So perhaps it’s that time of year, and stomach “bugs” are starting to make the rounds at school and work. Or, perhaps you’ve had a run in with a mild bout of food poisoning. There are plenty of OTC drugs available (Imodium, Pepto and the like), but let’s take a look at some alternatives in the event that OTC meds aren’t available for whatever reason.

Basic Care for Stomach Bugs

There are many other herbs with a history of use for digestive support, but these five are especially easy to grow and identify, so I think they are particularly well suited for emergency preparedness scenarios where OTCs might be in short supply or unavailable. Combined with a commonsense care approach focusing on food and fluid intake, they should provide a decent family or community back-up plan.

First, regardless of what else is available, food and fluid are going to be key in keeping the situation from getting out of hand. Fluid loss from diarrhea and vomiting are especially dangerous for children and the elderly, so pay close attention to what is going in, not just what’s coming out.

Bland, soft foods are important so that the digestive system isn’t stressed further, so stay away from offering spicy or greasy foods. Make sure the foods still have nutritional value. Sugary gelatin and pudding really aren’t the best idea here. Some nutrient dense but bland foods include oatmeal and other whole grain porridge, meat and veggie broths, yogurt, and plain fruit and vegetables that are cooked until soft.

Maintaining electrolyte and fluid balance is even more important.  Make sure they drink plenty of water, diluted fruit juice, and herbal teas. Stay away from sugary drinks and anything with caffeine. An electrolyte formula can be used if the fluid loss is especially severe, and is a good idea for children and the elderly.

If you don’t have access to Pedialyte, the World Health Organization recommends ORS (Oral Rehydrating Solution) which is 5 liters of water, 6 level teaspoons of sugar, and ½ level tsp of salt. The solution is good for 24hrs, after that you will need to make a fresh batch. It can be used by alternating with other fluids.

Beyond that, these five herbs have a tradition of use for digestive upset. I’ve included some information on the growth habits of the plants as well as how they are used, and hope that will be useful for my readers interested in growing their own herbs and being less reliant on outsourcing their dried herbs.

Herbs for Vomiting

Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)

This plant is soothing for the stomach and the throat when there is a lot of vomiting and the stomach acid leaves the throat feeling raw. Marshmallow has a high level of mucilage, which makes the tea take on a distinctive “slippery” texture.

The best way to use marshmallow as a tea is actually by allowing the dried root to soak in room temperature or cool water- not brewing it with hot water as is common with most herbs. Leave it overnight for best results, but it can be used anytime after it has soaked for thirty minutes.

Marshmallow is traditionally understood to coat and soothe inflamed tissues of the digestive tract. It is one of my go-to herbs for the aftermath of food poisoning. Marshmallow is native to Africa but it is not a fussy plant and is usually happy to grow in rich garden soil as long as it gets enough water. It is a perennial that is hardy across most zones and prefers consistently moist soil.

Ginger (zingiber oficinale)

The root of this herb can help settle a stomach, and is traditionally used for nausea and improving digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Tea from fresh ginger root is best, but dried will also help. Some health food stores carry candied ginger root, which is convenient and palatable to most people. I enjoy adding it to trail mix, too, so I usually keep plenty on hand.

Ginger is a tropical plant, so for most parts of the US it will do best if grown in pots that can be brought inside during winter and placed in a sunny window.

Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

The bark of slippery elm is traditionally used as a thin porridge – a gruel – or added to porridge such as oatmeal. Like marshmallow, slippery elm is helpful for coating the stomach. The main difference between the two is that slippery elm is considered to be more nutritive and was used during convalescence as a food. It was often turned to when the sick person couldn’t seem to keep any food down.

Some good flavorings for a gruel that uses slippery elm are ginger or cinnamon, for an extra boost of stomach settling goodness, and honey as a sweetener. To make a slippery elm porridge, start with a bowl of oatmeal or other whole grains, and stir in a tablespoon of slippery elm powder.

To make a slippery elm gruel, place a tablespoon of slippery elm powder into a bowl, and add one cup of hot water. Add cinnamon or ginger, if desired, and allow to cool to a safe temperature for drinking.  It will thicken as it stands, so if it becomes thicker than you want, add more water.

Sometimes, herbalists mix honey and slippery elm powder to form a dough, and then roll the dough into bite sized pieces This can be eaten a few pieces at a time, rather than making a gruel.

Native to central, eastern and southern US and parts of Canada, this tree is an excellent addition to the landscape as a shade tree. Harvesting is a little trickier for trees than for other herbs. It is usually done in the spring, when the rising sap makes the bark easier to peel from the tree. It’s best to learn how to do this from someone who has had experience. “Girdling”, or stripping the bark all the way around the tree, can kill it.

These herbs are especially good if there is vomiting. But what if the problem is at the, ahem, other end?

Diarrhea

Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

Blackberry is the old-timey standby for diarrhea. The leaves were favored by traditional European herbalists, while the Native tribes in the US favored the roots. In the US, blackberry plants are grown domestically and it is also a common wild plant.

The leaf is easier to harvest, and usually easier to find commercially than the root.  Leaves from raspberry (a close relative of blackberry) can be used as well, and both are best prepared as a hot tea. If you are making use of blackberry leaves from your own plants, harvest them as the plant is beginning to bloom and arrange them on screens or hang in bunches to dry until you need them.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

The go to herb for end-of-meal digestive support, peppermint is also excellent for stomach bugs that leave you feeling gassy and bloated. Try hot peppermint tea with a little honey for best results.

In the garden, I always recommend planting peppermint in containers; if you plant it directly in the ground be aware that it spreads by runners and rootlets and is vigorous enough to kill other, more mild mannered, plants by crowding them out. I have also commonly found peppermint growing wild around old home sites and damp fields. It’s quite hardy and spreads freely.

As always, be aware that although many herbs have a long record of safe use, they can interact with prescription and OTC medications, so be sure to check with your doctor for potential problems before you use an herb for the first time.

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Fast, Free Survival Mom Maintenance http://thesurvivalmom.com/fast-free-survival-mom-maintenance/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/fast-free-survival-mom-maintenance/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 06:00:47 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18145  Pin this —> Taking care of the mom who takes care of everyone else! The most important thing you can do for your children? Take care of their mother! You’ve heard that if the momma isn’t happy, nobody’s happy.  You Read More

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mom maintenance

 Pin this —> Taking care of the mom who takes care of everyone else!

The most important thing you can do for your children? Take care of their mother!

You’ve heard that if the momma isn’t happy, nobody’s happy.  You need to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually to be at the top of your game so you can be the mom your kids deserve every day—including in times of crisis.

But with both time and money in short supply, what’s a survival mom to do? It’s surprising what fast, free actions can help you be better prepared.

Take care of your body

Eat in the morning

If you’re still having aspirin and coffee for breakfast, you need to rethink your routine! You’d never send your kids to face a full day on an empty stomach. You shouldn’t, either. Even if you mix up a quick protein shake the night before and down it in the car, you’re less likely to experience low blood sugar and that irritable, panicky, I’m-late-again tantrum. (‘Cause that’s not just me, right?) You’ve prepared for having to make it home without your car, deal with ugly weather conditions, and countless other unpredictable emergencies. Will you really be able to do it on an empty stomach?

Drink water

Years ago I read a book called You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty.  It makes for pretty dry reading, no pun intended, but you can glean much from just the summary.  While recent research indicates that forcing gallons of water down your gullet isn’t necessarily beneficial, Mother Nature never intended you to drink a 2-liter of soda a day, either.

Staying hydrated boosts your energy and helps fill your tummy, too. If you’re one of the handful of women who doesn’t have to diligently watch her waistline, well, I’ll keep my snarky comments to myself. But for the rest of us, water may be our diet’s best friend.

Stretch 

You know you’re supposed to exercise at least 3 times a week; it’s not news.  But I promised free and QUICK strategies, so try this one! Find 30 seconds in your day—especially when you feel a bit sluggish—to stretch your back, arms, and legs. Touch your toes. Take a deep breath. You’ll feel energized instantly.

Floss 

Statistically, most of us don’t floss our teeth regularly. Your oral health provides a window to your overall health, according to the Mayo Clinic.  You probably have imagined a scenario where dental care could be unavailable or unaffordable.  A 2-minute date each day with some dollar-store floss seems like a pretty cheap insurance policy.

Stop smoking, already!

This is beyond free, because you’re actually saving money. And your health, and your kids’ health. If it hits the fan, you’ll have to go cold turkey, anyway, so you might as well get ahead of the game and put that money to better use now.

I know, I know, it’s easy for me to say because I’ve never been addicted. So I’ll tell you what I tell my kids: If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way.  If not, you’ll find an excuse. Breathing is kind of essential to survival—more than any food stores or silver stash. Give your lungs the priority they deserve.

Get some sleep!

Seriously—your mind and body need rest.  Limit your late nights to just a couple a week.  The laundry will still be there in the morning, I promise. But if you drive to school groggy, snap at your kids unnecessarily, or slog through your day doing everything at half speed, you’d be better off getting that extra hour of zzz’s.

Keep your mind sharp

Read!

Download a free kindle app. Then, download some free kindle books. Even without a kindle, you can find enough to keep your brain engaged. Read short articles while you’re at the doctor’s office. Read The Survival Mom on your lunch break. Read to your kids before bed! Keep that tradition going even when your kids can read on their own. Current research indicates that it’s even good for teenagers! Read a book together (or at least talk about it when you’re both done).

Journal

Neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Nussbaum has laid out a prescription for keeping the brain so healthy that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease can be delayed until death—even when physiological changes consistent with the disease are already present. His recommendations include reading and writing just a little bit every day. Don’t bog yourself down wallowing in only survivalist reading. A cheesy romance novel can be good for the brain and spirit, too.  Still no time? Read on your treadmill. Surely multitasking can help you justify 30 minutes to yourself. (I like to read the kindle and walk the track while the kids play at the playground.)

Nurture your spirit

Develop an attitude of gratitude

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your lists of things to do/buy/learn before everything hits the fan, make a mental list of all the things you have to celebrate. It’s impossible to wallow in the doom and gloom of internet news when you ‘re picturing the faces of your smiling kiddos or grandkids! Even in the midst of divorce, illness, financial difficulty, or multiple loads of unfolded laundry, you have lots to be thankful for. If you’re not dealing with any of those issues, you know where to start your list.

Pray or meditate daily

Even if you’re not religious per se, Dr. Nussbaum says daily time in quiet contemplation (maybe making that gratitude list?) has powerful effects on the brain and body. I know it’s tough to find quiet time.  Might I suggest the minutes between “snooze” hits on your morning alarm? Works for me.  I find I can be very contemplative on Monday mornings.

Ask for help

It’s not against the rules.  It doesn’t make you a bad mom. It just means you’re human, and you’ve accepted it. That can be really powerful! Showing your kids how to take care of simple chores, meal prep, and organization can be empowering for them and liberating for you. And if we’re being honest, go ahead and admit that you don’t ask your husband for help because you hate admitting you need it, not because he won’t do it. Mine started snapping beans with the ballgame on and worked his way up to slap-chopping vegetables with the kids (it’s hilarious to see them all lined up and pounding their way toward homemade salsa!). Now he’s an expert tomato skinner, pear peeler, and taste-tester. Plus we get to spend time together instead of me busy in the kitchen while he does…well, whatever he does out in the workshop.  I have found he’ll help with pretty much anything if I ask. But expecting him to notice a sticky hand print and attack it without prompting is unrealistic. I don’t get too worked up about it—especially now that I feel like I’m not doing it all on my own. (Again, that’s not just me, right?) Asking for help will also allow you to make time to exercise, read, and get enough sleep.  I bet your husband will agree that you deserve those things! Give yourself permission.

You’re too important to your family to neglect yourself. They need your “A” game every day. And because you never know when emergencies—major or minor—could require peak physical, mental, and emotional performance, taking care of the mom who takes care of everyone else may be the most important preparation you’ll ever make.

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The Star Wars Guide to Surviving Flu Season http://thesurvivalmom.com/star-wars-guide-surviving-flu-season/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/star-wars-guide-surviving-flu-season/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:02:31 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17786 Pin this so you’ll have easy access to these great tips! It happens each and every year.  No, it’s not your birthday. Well that happens too, but that’s not the topic. It’s that oh-so-rude life interruption that comes every fall.  Read More

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surviving flu seasonPin this so you’ll have easy access to these great tips!

It happens each and every year.  No, it’s not your birthday. Well that happens too, but that’s not the topic. It’s that oh-so-rude life interruption that comes every fall.  We go about our business as usual and then some blimey news anchor reminds us that it’s Flu Season. UGH. It’s a reminder that it’s time to be on our ‘A’ game as far as avoiding that little bugger that cause such angst among us.

Well, I’m here now to impart of my wisdom to you. I’m knocking on wood here, but also letting you know that I’m in my 40’s and happy to say that I have NEVER had the flu. I hope that something I share today can help you  claim that distinction for this year too.

Instead of just a list of things to do, I thought it a great idea to impart some wisdom from another realm. However, in my research (which consisted of consulting my 19 year old Star Wars guru son) I discovered that the flu does not exist in a Galaxy Far Far Away.  However, The inhabitants of that galaxy do have lots to say about different aspects of this article, so I’ll include their commentary below.

The Star Wars Guide to Commentary on Surviving Flu Season

Stay healthy:  Our bodies are an amazing thing if we treat them right.  They are designed to fight and destroy invaders. When we keep ourselves healthy by eating healthful foods that fuel our machines and exercise regularly our fighting force is kept in tip top shape. Avoiding stress also plays a roll here. Stress taxes our body and our fighting force is much less effective.

Hydrate: We hear this a lot in the summer months – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – but it’s even more important in the winter months. Hydration keeps our outer defenses in place. If we allow our Shields (skin) to be compromised then the virus can enter more readily. Our Skin is our first defense, keep it solid and it will serve us well.

Hydrating in the winter is harder because our thirst mechanism is less keen when it’s cold outside. We just don’t feel thirsty so it must become a more conscious process to stay hydrated. Plan to keep 2 quarts of water in you at all times. After a few days of making this a habit, our bodies adjust to the new level of hydration by utilizing the water better and we aren’t running to the bathroom like we will the first couple of days.

If you feel the need to apply lotion to your hands often, that’s a good clue that your body is dehydrated. Drink!

Wash Hands: We tend to chant this mantra especially during flu season but that’s usually as far as it gets. The flu virus is airborne via droplets that are expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those little droplets land on EVERYTHING.

Even Uncle Owen knew that cleanliness is very near to godliness:

Unless our hands are in our pockets all day long we WILL pick some up when touching things like door knobs, elevator buttons, keyboards, light switches, telephones, toilet flushers, buttons on merchant card machines, shopping cart handles, etc.  FREQUENT hand washing must become a habit.

Those little buggers aren’t crawling up under our fingernails and drilling their way through our skin. Nope, we get sick from touching things and then touching our face, eyes, mouths etc.  Just take the next 30 minutes and count how often you touch your face area and you’ll be amazed.

Many of us spend time during the day where we aren’t able to run to a sink whenever we like.  But we all can carry and USE hand sanitizer for those times when we can’t.  Remember to stay hydrated because hand sanitizers contain alcohol and it can be very drying. As Darth Vader would say, “It is unwise to lower your defenses!” Keep your  hands clean!

Social Distancing: Staying away from crowds and putting space between your mucous membranes and the potentially infected droplets of others is Social Distancing.

This is a tough one because we love to congregate for all sorts of reasons, especially during the holiday season, and sometimes we must for our work.  Just being aware that a certain percentage of the people in your vicinity haven’t read this article and won’t be doing what they could to avoid the virus will go along way to sparing you from it. 

You’ll start to notice the sickos in the elevator and then maybe decide to take the stairs instead. (That’s a more healthy choice anyway, see the first item above.)  Although they should, sick people don’t stay home when they are sick most of the time.  It might seem a bit rude but maybe think about NOT shaking hands during the flu season.

C3PO might have been better off maintaining a bit of social distancing from the Jawas. Am I right?

Cover your mouth: Did you hear your mothers voice when you read that? Mom’s are so smart. Covering your mouth helps contain your droplets from flying around the room. Growing up we were told to cover our mouths with our hands. That helps, but then the hand is covered with droplets, and since we touch so many things with our hands, that’s a problem.

A tissue covered hand is a great option but most of us don’t have a tissue at the ready. A better option is to cough or sneeze into your arm. It does look a little weird but pretend like you are trying to kiss your shoulder and you’ll have the correct sleeve-sneezing position.

Coughing or sneezing into the fabric of your sleeve contains the droplets much better than our hands. You tried kissing our shoulder didn’t you? Good job, practice makes perfect.

Stay home:  Now if we’ve followed the above advise this one is a non-issue but if not…read on. Just stay home if you are sick. Our co-workers would thank us if they new the little ickies that we protected them from. We all have stuff to do, but the reality is that most of the time it will wait or someone else can do it. The world will keep on spinning if we take a couple days off work to stay home and keep our germs to ourselves and let our bodies recover from the foreign invasion.

If the first person with the flu just stayed home….There would be only one person with the flu that season. I realize that’s an oversimplified statement, but the person to person transmission would be cut down significantly. C3PO makes that declaration very clearly:

If the worst does happen, be prepared

Before flu season arrives, equip yourself with everything you would need if the worst happens and little Johnny brings home a flu bug. In a box, bucket, or other container, assemble products that will see you through 3 or 4 days of dealing with a family affair with the flu.

  • Ginger ale for queasy tummies. Ginger is the key here, so make sure it’s a brand that actually contains ginger not just a flavoring.
  • Sick People Food: chicken noodle soup, crackers, gelatin, possibly even broth or rice
  • Gatorade or Pedialyte for dehydration
  • An extra box or two of tissues and hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant spray and /or wipes
  • Thermometer (Remember to disinfect it before putting it away!)
  • Vomit bucket  A drink pitcher can work well. Trash cans can be too big for little hands to hold, if you aren’t in the room when they need to use it.
  • Kid’n Pets Stain & Odor Remover
    • This will eliminate smells and stains associated with the flu, including vomit. My family uses this on a regular basis, and I’ve reviewed it here. The next time you’re at a Walmart, look for Stain & Odor Remover in a big white and yellow bottle in the cleaning products aisle.

Fortify your Defenses: For me this means boosting my immune system using essential oils (EOs) and other things like Vitamin C.  Taking a multivitamin will also help our bodies have what they need to defend.  There are many companies that sell different EO blends to combat germs. You can search those out, but I prefer to make my own blends.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned getting a flu vaccine.  That is a very personal decision that I’ll leave to each of you.  I will say that In my 40 something years I’ve NEVER had the flu…and in those same years….well you can finish that thought.

Do your homework where vaccines are concerned and make the best decision for your family.

Princess Leah looks  none too pleased at the needle headed in her direction.

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REVIEW: ESSIO Aromatherapy Shower http://thesurvivalmom.com/review-essio-aromatherapy-shower/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/review-essio-aromatherapy-shower/#comments Sun, 07 Sep 2014 16:00:00 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17932 I have become a big fan of essential oils over the last few years, so I was curious when I had the chance to review the ESSIO Aromatherapy Shower kit. The kit includes a plastic arm that clips onto to Read More

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aromatherapy showerI have become a big fan of essential oils over the last few years, so I was curious when I had the chance to review the ESSIO Aromatherapy Shower kit. The kit includes a plastic arm that clips onto to the showerhead pipe, three types of oils, and a plastic tray to hold the oils.

To start, if I didn’t make every possible mistake with the first pod, I’m not sure which one I missed. This is good for you, since I can tell you what to watch out for.

After I got all my mistakes out of the way, it was easy to use.

The First Pod: Breathe

They clearly state that these aren’t designed for use with a hand-held shower. The master bath shower was in the middle of being recaulked, so I tried it in the kids shower. Naturally, it has a hand-held shower. (If I wasn’t writing a review, I would have waited, but I thought it might be helpful for readers to know how it worked out – I’m thoughtful that way.)

The short answer: It wasn’t terrible, but the oil pod wasn’t directly in the water as is intended. It might actually have made it, if I had realized that the plastic arm the pod attaches to telescopes out to become longer. My user errors didn’t stop it from filling the room with a lovely scent, but it just didn’t seem quite as effective.

When I pulled out the pod, there was a plastic cover on it. The instructions didn’t mention removing anything before attaching it to the plastic arm, so I thought it was paper that would be punched through. It does not punch through, it twists off – and you’ll need to put it back on when you’re done, so don’t throw it away.

Even after I removed the plastic cover, I had a difficult time getting the pod attached and dropped it a couple times, once into running water. The instructions warn you it will dilute the oil if you get water into it by putting the entire pod under the water flow.

When I finally attached it, I wasn’t careful and managed to ram the tip that is supposed to go into the water flow back inside the pod. Between dropping it, ramming the tip inside, and other user-errors, I used up all the “Relax” oil in the first usage.

I did find that it made me more relaxed, even with the problems getting started, and both my boys enjoyed the scent when they took showers a little later in the evening.

The Second Pod: Passion

I used it in the master bath and it went far more smoothly. The plastic arm easily attached to the pipe in both bathrooms, and I was able to attach the pod easily now that I knew what not to do.

The pod easily reached the water flow. Flipping it up to reduce usage and back down to add more aroma was a piece of cake. The “lid” went back on the pod for storage without any challenges.

I used very little of the oil this time and have more than enough for several more showers, and I really enjoyed the smell.

The Third Pod: Breathe

I can’t testify as to whether this helps on a stuffy head since I don’t have one right now, but it smells nice and like something that would help, if I was stuffy.

I had a little more trouble attaching this one than the second, but nowhere near the difficulty I had the first time, and I still had it attached in well under thirty seconds. As with any product that requires a tight fit (you don’t want the pod dropping off mid-shower), sometimes the fit is simply a little tighter than others.

While my kids aren’t tall enough to tilt the pods up and down, the youngest loves the idea and the eldest is willing to give it a try. The next time they have a cold, we’ll use this. I may even buy the “Night” pods for nights he’s not very sleepy at bedtime.

Overall

aromatherapy nightI could understand readers thinking that putting oils in your shower could make the shower slippery or leave your hair or body oily or greasy. The truth is, as with all things essential oil, we’re talking about drops of oil, not cups of it. In addition, it’s not dripping on you. The drops of oil are delivered through a specialized tip that diffuses them in the shower water.

Even when I dropped the pod directly on the tub floor, it wasn’t oily. And even with using an entire pod in one shower, I didn’t feel any residue on my skin or hair. The whole family could, however, smell the oil throughout the upstairs for quite awhile after my shower.

As I said, I’m a big fan of essential oils. These are a fun, easy way to get aromatherapy benefits – and an excuse to take a little extra time both in the shower and in the bathroom afterwards, pampering yourself a bit and enjoying the lingering aroma.

The Actual Pods

Since you are probably wondering, while a refillable pod that you can put your own scents into would be great, they don’t offer those. They do have a nice selection that covers what are probably the most-often-wanted uses for for aromatherapy including the three discussed, Night, Wisdom, and Clear.

We’ve all seen McCormick’s little oval squeeze containers of dye for coloring food. Each oil pod is approximately the same size (and shape) as those dye containers, but they aren’t squeezable. They also aren’t refillable, but you can buy replacement packs of 4 or 8 pods for $19.99 or $29.99. Given that they are 100% certified organic oils with no chemicals or synthetics added, that price seems reasonable.

If each pod lasts for 4 showers, that works out to about $1.25 or $0.94 (plus shipping ad handling) per shower for a home-spa experience. (They are actually offered at my favorite day spa!) I’ll take that deal.

Giveaway

ESSIO is running a giveaway from now through September 25th. Five lucky winners will receive a free Shower Kit.

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Five Misconceptions About Herbal Preparedness http://thesurvivalmom.com/five-misconceptions-herbal-preparedness/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/five-misconceptions-herbal-preparedness/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 06:00:04 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=16707 As an herbalist and a prepper, I have noticed several common misconceptions people have about using herbs in general, but that especially apply to people interested in learning about herbs for preparedness. These misunderstandings usually come from overly simplified ideas Read More

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5 MisconceptionsAs an herbalist and a prepper, I have noticed several common misconceptions people have about using herbs in general, but that especially apply to people interested in learning about herbs for preparedness.

These misunderstandings usually come from overly simplified ideas about plants and herbalism.

Keeping it simple is good, but oversimplification can get in the way and, in this case, even cause harm. So what’s a would-be herbal prepper to do?

Let’s look at the five most common misconceptions about herbs that seem to affect the prepper community.

Misconception #1: If It’s Natural, It Must Be Safe

Reality: Not necessarily! Most herbs have a high margin of safety, but some are toxic in large amounts or under certain conditions. Some herbs should be avoided during pregnancy because of historical use as abortifacients.

Other herbs that were considered safe traditionally have been found to contain toxic compounds when subjected to modern research. Examples include herbs like Borage and Comfrey, which contain alkaloids that can cause liver problems.

Herbs can also interact with other medications, so make sure you keep your doctor apprised of any herbal supplements you take regularly.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbs are classified into three groups: the first level are as safe as foods. The second are more targeted in their effects on the human body and are used safely as needed. The third level are used sparingly, and may contain plants that modern science has identified as toxic.

For example, lobelia is an herb commonly used for lung problems and as a natural aid to stop smoking. Lobeline, part of the plant’s chemical profile, is similiar in structure to nicotine but is non- habit forming. However, in large amounts, lobeline can act as an emetic and cause vomiting.

Misconception#2: Herbs Don’t Really Work – I Tried Them

Reality: You may not have been using the right herb for the job, or used it the right way. Herbs actually have a complex relationship with the human body when used correctly. Because worldwide traditions of herbalism focus on the state of balance within the human body as a whole, rather than the modern, western fascination with disease as a separate entity, it can be difficult to translate the proper use of herbs into a modern context.

Many resources make the mistake of oversimplifying, listing herb after herb under each category with no distinction of the most appropriate situation for use. A great example of this is herbs for coughs. The list typically goes something like this: plantain, coltsfoot, thyme, marshmallow, cherry bark, pleurisy root, elecampane, mullein…and it could go on! Does that mean that all the herbs on the list can be used interchangeably? Far from it!

Plantain and Marshmallow are going to give the most benefit to a dry cough where there is only a little mucus that is hard to bring up. Herbs that can be used when there is lots of mucus that the body is trying to expel include cherry bark and elecampane.

Mullein is a wonderful herb for coughs, but it is traditionally used for allergies and asthma rather than an acute respiratory illness. Herbalists observed that it works on the cough reflex, so using it while the body is trying to get rid of lots of mucus is not a good idea! Suppressing the reflex and having the mucus just sit around in the lungs can set the stage for infection.

So, as you can see, all of the above herbs are great for coughs, but it’s important to consider the type of cough for best results.

In addition, some herbs are drunk as a tea, others are inhaled in steam, and still others are applied topically. You can rub chamomile on your tummy all day long, and it still won’t help you sleep the way drinking a cup of chamomile tea does.

Misconception #3: Herbs Don’t Really Work – There’s No Science.

Reality: Much of the current research on herbs has been done overseas, rather than here in the US, but there is actually plenty of literature in medical journals worldwide to explore. Most research focuses on identifying the active constituents in the chemistry of plants. This leads to more information on why a plant traditionally used for a given ailment was effective, and how that can be harnessed for the modern pharmaceutical industry.

Digitoxin is a cardiac drug that is one example of this. It was originally extracted from the herb Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), used by medieval herbalists.

It is interesting to note that many traditions of herbalism rely on taste to group herbs into different useful categories. Before modern chemical analysis emerged, this was a crude way of noticing that the chemical make ups of the plants were different.

Many “bitter” tasting herbs were observed to have a “cooling” effect on the body, and therefore matched with the observation of “heat” in the body. “Heat” conditions in traditional herbalism are a broad category that include cases that would be explained by modern science in terms of bacterial infection. Modern science confirms that many of the bitter principles found in herbs have an antibacterial capacity that makes them suited for use in an infected, or  “hot”, condition.

It’s also important to note, however, that the chemical makeup of plants is complex enough that science is only beginning to scratch the surface of the way they interact with the body. Sometimes reducing the plant down to one or two chemicals that seem to be “active” is actually another oversimplification in itself. But it’s a start.

A great resource on the chemical science behind herbalism is the textbook Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman.

Misconception #4: Animals can tell what plants they need instinctively or by taste. So can I!

Reality: This is a really, really bad idea.

Here’s why:

Yes, herbalists traditionally group herbs for use by taste. Herbs that were sweet, salty, bitter, or sour were believed to have an affinity for different body systems and conditions. (See number three, above.) However, when this myth comes up in the prepper community, people are usually talking about using taste and instinct to IDENTIFY random plants they find growing nearby and make use of them.

This is either used as an excuse to avoid learning how to identify plants safely out of laziness, or for the sake of some weird “I’m Very in Tune with my Body” bragging rights. Either way, considering that cattle poison themselves rather frequently (just ask any experienced rancher), and that most of the people who have this misconception can’t “intuitively” identify poison ivy, it’s safe to say that there is an incredibly dangerous disconnection here.

A great example here is water hemlock, which regularly poisons both people and livestock. It is a common wild plant in the carrot family, but a single bite of the root can kill an adult human, and cattle have died in less than fifteen minutes after ingesting more. The few people who have survived accidental ingestion have remarked that it’s quite pleasant tasting.

Exhibit A: If you don’t know what it is, don’t put it in your mouth. Period.

Misconception #5 I’ll Just Stock up on Field Guides and Books. If SHTF, I can Forage for Everything I Need.

Reality: People who don’t spend a lot of time in nature often don’t realize that it is a far cry from the mythical, unspoiled bounty of the collective imagination. Nature is not a grocery store.

For one thing, just like garden vegetables, wild herbs and plants have an ideal harvesting window that can vary by the length of their life cycle. We don’t experience this in our modern grocery stores because of worldwide shipping and greenhouse growing, but very few plants can be harvested year round. There’s almost nothing available from late fall through mid-spring in most natural settings.

Why do you think canning was invented?

Another problem with relying on books and planning to harvest “as needed” in a SHTF scenario is the potential difficulty in resource management – the threat of over harvesting. Stands of wild plants require special care to avoid wiping them out permanently in a single harvest. In some cases, this means harvesting less than 1/10 of the plants in an area that can be acres in size, and allowing rest years for the population to re-stabilize.

SHTF, you can bet no one is going to be concerned about whether they pick too much. This problem doesn’t even occur to most people now. “Poaching” and over harvesting for the commercial trade is an issue even without the desperation implied by a SHTF scenario.

During a major disruption, it’s possible that many areas would be stripped of available edible and medicinal plants in short order and take years to recover.

The Take- Away

So, considering these five misconceptions, I think there are three very important things the prepper community needs to take into account if we want to consider herbalism as a viable skill for our personal and community toolkits.

For one thing: know thy plants! It’s better to know a few herbs very well than to have had a brush with many. Learn how to identify the herbs which you use the most in every stage of growth, and learn all of the small distinctions in use that set them apart from other herbs in the same category.

For another: get set now. Stock an herbal pantry with your most commonly used herbs in their dried, bulk form and in alcohol extracts. As a minimum, consider four oz of the dried herbs per person, stored in an airtight container away from light and temperature extremes. This will need to be replaced yearly.

Keep a minimum of four oz of each extract per person. These can last much longer (in some cases more than ten years!).

And last, whenever possible, learn to grow your own herbs. Even a small container garden on a patio can be used later to grow a larger garden if it becomes necessary.

By learning from these five misconceptions, not only do you have a much better chance of using herbs safely and effectively for health and well-being now, but also in scenarios where you are down to no other options.

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