Monday, February 24, 2014

Aromatherapy Cold & Flu Remedies - Part 3: The Ancient Secret

Greetings To All!  I've enjoyed a brief 1-week respite from the bone-chilling cold and heavy snowfall as of late.  I say brief because it will be in the single digits again by mid-week . . . brrrrr . . . and Maine springtime is still a long way away!  Because all this cold, dreary weather is planning on hanging around for a while (here and elsewhere in the northern USA), that means that there's still a chance to succumb to a nasty cold or the flu.  So, for that reason, I will share with you yet another herbal cold and flu recipe to add to your arsenal of illness-fighting remedies.

Today's recipe is a variation on a very old formulation - used by herbalists around the globe for centuries. You can find it in my latest book, Hands-On Healing Remedies (pages 122-23).  It works quite nicely as a cold and flu preventive, and if you do get sick, will help get you back up and running quickly.  Because the herbal extraction process takes a full month, I suggest you make this formula now so that you can have some ready by late March and still have plenty left over for next winter.  Enjoy and be well my friends!

THE ANCIENT SECRET (Formulated for topical use only.  Should you decide to take it orally, do so only after educating yourself as to the properties and safely of each herb in the recipe.  Remember, it does contain consumable alcohol, so be judicious with intake and keep away from children and pets.)

A potent antiviral, antibacterial cold and flu preventive called the "Thieves Formula" has been bandied about by herbalists for centuries.  Its herbal ingredients change a bit, as does the menstruum (extracting liquid), depending on who is concocting it and whether it's intended for topical application or oral intake.  Some herbalists like to brew it in vinegar, some in ethyl alcohol, and some in oil.  This particular formula uses vodka.  The original Thieves Formula, as written in older herb texts, included highly protective essential oils and herbs said to have been used by thieves (orally, topically, and as inhalants) during the bubonic plague or "Black Death" of the Middle Ages to avoid contracting infection.  Supposedly, even though nearly the entire population was dying of the plague, the thieves who stole valuables from the dead and dying never got sick.

Use this strongly aromatic remedy before, during, and after cold and flu season as a protective agent and a topical healing liniment spray if you do succumb.  The benefit is derived via inhalation of the herbal properties as well as absorption into your bloodstream through your pores.  NOTE:  This formula will sting raw skin or open wounds.

- 1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup freshly wilted lemon balm leaves (To "freshly wilt" an herb means to take a fresh herb that you have recently picked or purchased (stems, leaves, and/or flowers) and allow it to wilt for 24-48 hours.  This process does not dry the herb, but simply allows it to become limp and soft - indicating that some of the moisture has evaporated - which is what you want.  To do this, I place a double layer of paper toweling or a soft, clean bed sheet on top of a table in my house or else on the back seat of my car and then spread the herbs in a thin layer atop.  I check the herbs in a day or so and if they are nice and limp or soft and leathery, then they are ready to process in this recipe.)
- 1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup freshly wilted lavender buds
- 1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup freshly wilted peppermint leaves
- 1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup freshly wilted rosemary leaves
- 1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup freshly wilted sage leaves
- 1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup freshly wilted thyme leaves
- 1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup freshly wilted yarrow flowers & leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks, crumbled, or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemon peel
- 1 tablespoon cloves, crushed, or 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 15 drops eucalyptus (species radiata) essential oil
- 5 drops clove essential oil
- 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
- 3-4 cups unflavored, 80-proof vodka (any brand - inexpensive is just fine)

Equipment:  1-quart canning jar, plastic wrap, fine-mesh strainer, fine filter such as muslin cloth or coffee filter, funnel, glass or plastic spritzer bottles

Prep Time:  10 minutes, plus 4 weeks for extraction

Yield:  Approximately 2 1/2 cups

Storage:  Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 2 years

Application:  2 or 3 times per day

TO MAKE:  If you are using any freshly wilted herbs, strip the leaves, buds, and flowers off and discard the stems. Cut, tear, or gently mash the herbs using a mortar and pestle to expose more surface area.  Place the lemon balm, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, sage, thyme, yarrow, cinnamon, lemon peel, and cloves in a 1-quart canning jar.  Add the eucalyptus and clove essential oils, along with the glycerin.  Pour the vodka to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar.  The herbs should be completely covered.

Place a piece of plastic wrap over the mouth of the jar (to prevent the metal lid from coming into contact with the jar's contents), then screw on the lid.  Shake the mixture for about 30 seconds.  After 24 hours, top up with more vodka if necessary.  The herbs will settle a bit in the jar, but that's okay.

Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks so that the vodka can extract the valuable chemical components from the herbs.  Shake the jar at least once a day for 30 seconds, and two or three times per day if you've included cinnamon and clove powders, as they will settle into a paste.

At the end of the 4 weeks, strain the herbs through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a fine filter such as muslin fabric or, preferably, a paper coffee filter, then strain again if necessary to remove all herb debris.  Press or squeeze the herbs to release all the valuable herbal extract.  Discard the marc (or spent herbs).  Pour the liquid into spritzer bottles, then cap, label, and store in a dark cabinet.

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS:  Shake well before each use.  Spray the formula onto your hands, then rub the liquid onto your throat, the back of your neck, your chest, your ears, and your temples.  Do this two or three times daily.  Massage the formula into your feet prior to bed and again before getting dressed in the morning.  The aromatic medicinal properties extracted from the herbs will penetrate your nasal passages as well as the thousands of pores in your skin and feet and be absorbed into your bloodstream.

I recommend keeping a small spritzer bottle of this formula handy during the height of cold and flu season, so you can sanitize your hands frequently throughout the day.

BONUS:  Keep a bottle by the sink to spray on hands to eliminate the lingering odor of garlic, onions, or fish; it also acts as an everyday hand sanitizer.  Applied by the drop to fingernails and toenails, it will help get rid of fungus, and it can be used as a spot treatment for acne blemishes and other minor skin abrasions and/or infections.

DISCLAIMER:  This blog was written by Stephanie Tourles, Lic. Esthetician, Herbalist, and Aromatherapist.  Portions were excerpted from her book, "Hands-On Healing Remedies" (c2012), with permission from Storey Publishing.  The information in this article is true and complete to the best of Ms. Tourles' knowledge.  All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of Ms. Tourles.  She disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information.  It is for educational purposes only.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Aromatherapy Cold & Flu Remedies - Part 2: Winter Defense Body Oil

Hello My Fellow Health Seekers!  I hope everyone is warm and well during this unusually cold winter season!  As promised in my last blog, today I will continue with Part 2 in the Aromatherapy Cold & Flu Remedies series of recipes.   I will be sharing with you my recipe for Winter Defense Body Oil that comes from my latest book, Hands-On Healing Remedies (Storey Publishing, 2012).  I hope you find it useful in your arsenal of herbal cold and flu preventive medicines. 

Winter Defense Body Oil

Traditional healers around the globe have used sage for centuries.  With sage growing in your garden, you have an elixir of good health right outside your door.  Their soft, gray-green leaves will be at the ready for making this potent, aromatically earthy, warming infused oil. 

When massaged into the skin from head to toe on a daily basis, sage-infused oil aids in strengthening the body's immune system, supporting its defenses against outside invasion of the three main sources of disease:  bacteria, viruses, and fungi.  The oil conditions the skin, too, keeping it soft, elastic, and healthy.

I can hear you thinking, "If I put sage oil on my skin, won't I smell like Thanksgiving stuffing?"  No worries. The fragrance may be rather potent in the bottle, but it becomes quite subtle upon application.

Note:  I prefer to use the stovetop method of extraction (versus the slower, canning jar - solar method of extraction ) for this formula, as I feel that the resinous sage leaves release their best medicinal properties and strongest aroma when processed in this manner.

- 1 1/2 cup dried or 3 cups freshly wilted sage leaves (To wilt fresh-picked sage leaves, you simply spread them out on a clean cloth in a dry, warm, low-lit area for 24-72 hours so that they become limp and soft, but not dry.  This process removes a great deal of moisture from the leaves prior to putting them into the oil for extraction.)

- 3 cups extra-virgin olive, organic soybean, or almond base oil (use almond or soybean oil if you want a lighter fragrance and texture)

- 2,000 IU vitamin E oil

Equipment Needed:  2-quart saucepan or double boiler, stirring utensil, candy or yogurt thermometer, fine mesh strainer, fine filter (such as a coffee filter), funnel, plastic or glass storage containers

Prep Time:  4 hours

Yield:  Approximately 2 1/2 cups

Storage:  Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year

Application:  Once daily

Directions:  If you are using freshly wilted sage leaves, first cut or tear the slightly leathery leaves into small pieces to expose more surface area to the oil.  Combine the leaves and base oil in a 2-quart saucepan or double-boiler and stir thoroughly to blend.  The mixture should look like a thick, pale green herbal soup.  Bring the mixture to just shy of a simmer, between 125 - 135 degrees F.  DO NOT let the oil actually simmer - it will degrade the quality of your infused oil.  DO NOT put the lid on the pot.

Allow the herb to macerate (or infuse) in the oil over low heat for 4 hours.  Check the temperature every 30 minutes or so with a thermometer and adjust the heat accordingly.  If you're using a double-boiler, add more water to the bottom pot as necessary, so it doesn't dry out.  Stir the infusing mixture at least every 30 minutes or so, as the herb bits tend to settle to the bottom.

After 4 hours, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.  While the oil is still warm, carefully strain it through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a fine filter such as muslin or, preferably, a paper coffee filter, then strain again if necessary to remove all debris.  Squeeze the herbs to extract as much of the precious oil as possible.  Discard the marc (or spent herbs).

Add the vitamin E oil and stir to blend.  The resulting infused oil blend will be a rich medium to dark green in color, depending on which base oil you chose.  Pour the finished oil into storage containers, then cap, label with product name, creation date, and ingredients, and store in a dark cabinet.

Application Instructions:  For maximum benefit, massage this infused oil into slightly damp, warm skin - fresh from the shower or bath.  Apply daily for at least a month prior to cold and flu season, and continue to use it throughout the winter.

Bonus Uses:  Sage oil makes a terrific diaper rash preventive and is wonderful added to salves and balms to help heal minor skin afflictions, respiratory infections, and dry rough skin on the feet, elbows, and knees.

Quote:  "Why should a man die when sage grows in his garden?" - popular medieval saying

NOTE:  The recipe in this blog was excerpted from the book "Hands-On Healing Remedies" (c2012, Storey Publishing, Stephanie Tourles-author) and reprinted with permission from Storey Publishing. The information in this article is true and complete to the best of the author's knowledge.  All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of Ms. Tourles.  She disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information.  It is for educational purposes only.