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Herbal Medicine as Guardianship


Winter is ruled by the North which highlights and is aligned with the concepts of guardianship, setting boundaries, and protection. To me, in this time of the year when sickness is rampant, even *more* so this year with how persistent and pervasive the flu has been, it is important to set strong immune boundaries and become your own guardian, even if sickness has already crossed your personal enemy lines. I wanted to share some recipes and ideas through each of the Elementals that could be considered to help you strengthen and reinforce your personal boundaries and immune system this season.

Earth - Sick Syrup

The tangible stickiness of syrups always remind me of Earth. Of saps and honey bees and nourishment. For me, there is something very grounding about making a syrup. I think that it has to do with the thickening and the stirring. I prefer to make these when the moon is waxing or full and in an Earth sign, but as we all know, sickness doesn’t wait for a moon shift, so you do you, my friend.

This is my personal recipe that I use in my house. I always use whisky (Irish, of course) to help as a preservative. In addition, the Irish believe the whiskey is one of the great healers, and I tend to agree. It can be omitted for littles or people who do not want/need the alcohol component. For the honey, you could substitute with organic vegetable glycerine, however, I would suggest monitoring the sweetness component as it can get saccharine quickly when substituting.

Sick Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c dried organic elderberries

  • 1/4 c dried organic rose hips

  • 1 tsp dried organic licorice root (unless you have high blood pressure, then omit)

  • 1 tsp organic cinnamon chips

  • 1 tsp dried organic ginger root

  • 1 tsp dried organic echinacea root

  • 3 cups water, preferably filtered

  • 1 tsp dried organic elderflower

  • 1 tsp dried organic thyme

  • 1/4 c Irish whiskey of choice or more or less to taste (if using)

  • 1/4 c raw local honey or more or less to taste (or organic vegetable glycerine)

Equipment:

  • Medium saucepan

  • Measuring cups/spoons

  • Fine mesh strainer/cheesecloths (depending on how fine your strainer is)

  • Spoon for stirring

  • Glass Bottle(s) for storage.

Directions

  • Soak 1st 6 herbs (elderberries, rose hips, licorice root, cinnamon chips, ginger root, echinacea root) in water for 30 minutes and then simmer until mixture is reduced by 1/2 on stove (typically 30-40 minutes)

  • Remove pot from heat

  • Add elderflower and thyme to mixture (still off heat) and steep for 10 minutes.

  • Strain everything with strainer into measuring cup. Put spent herbs in your compost.

  • When cool (but not cold) add honey and whiskey. Pour into bottle (s)

  • Store in fridge for 6 months. I usually take 1 tsp a day for preventative more for acute sickness. The amount that is made will vary depending on if you add whisky/honey and if so how much.

Air- Aromatherapy

With the element of Air, I think of the lungs, the air we breathe and aromatherapy. This could be as simple as using an essential oil diffuser, making a steam cave, or creating your own personal inhaler. I am also a fan of opening up the windows in your house regularly and airing out your space. I have 2 “go to” essential oils for when I want to support my respiratory system. Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) and Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata, specifically). These are generally well tolerated by almost everyone and can add another layer of prevention (or purging depending on your state). Do be sure that you are using a high quality oil (preferably organic) that you know its genus and species and where it is harvested, and that it is harvested responsibly. Eucalyptus, for example has many different species, and they all do not support the same things. Some of them have contraindications and situations where they should be avoided.

Diffusing - Generally speaking, I just follow the directions on my diffuser. I typically do not put more than 3 drops of EO in my entire diffuser with the water. I will run it in spurts of 30-40 minutes as it is not necessary to run it for hours on end. As always, do your research on if these oils are safe for your feathered and furry friends that are living with you.

Inhaler - This one is easy peasy and you don’t really need any fancy equipment. Simply take a tissue and twist it up. Add one drop of the essential oil on the tip. Place the tip in one nostril, close the other nostril with your finger and inhale. Repeat other side.

Steam Cave - Grab a heat resistant bowl, large towel, and an EO of your choice. Boil some water. Once off the heat let it sit for a moment to cool slightly so the steam doesn’t scald your face. Once it is at a temperature that is good for you, pour the water into the bowl, add 1-2 drops of the essential oil to the water. Put face over the bowl and cover your entire head and the bowl with the towel so that no steam escapes. Breathe deeply. I like to stay here for at least 10 minutes. I also find this lovely if you have Eucalyptus leaves/herb around and will often opt for the herb instead of the essential oil.

Fire - Fire Cider

When I think of the element of Fire and sickness it ranges from “Burn it all down” to “Create a wall of impenetrable fire so no germs can get through”, depending on where I am with a sickness. Fire Cider is a traditional herbalist remedy that has currently been under attack by greedy people wanting to trademark a remedy that has been used for years by herbalists world wide. They are also going after herbalists for making and selling it. You can learn more at www.freefirecider.com. Because of this, the second component to guardianship for this particular Element it to protect this herbalist tradition by giving them the middle finger and make your own and not buying their product. It’s easy to do and the recipe can be customized to your hearts (and tastes) delight. I’ve included my own below, but you can head over to the Fire Cider website for more information as well as updates and recipe cards and community. I’m a fan of making this/straining this when the moon is in Sagittarius.

Fire Cider- McClellan Style:

Real talk for this one, friends. I totally eyeball this and just shove stuff in my mason jars. I like it better this way. I typically make three 32oz mason jars full of this and then have enough on hand. I store them in a dark, cool place away from heat and have had no issues. I typically don’t store this for long amounts of time, simply due to the fact that it isn’t really around that long. You will see (if you go to the free fire cider website) that some people will grate all of their items and that is fine too. I just don’t like to. Herbalists, choice y’all.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Horseradish root

  • Fresh chopped onions

  • Chopped (or crushed) garlic

  • Chopped ginger

  • Chopped jalapeno

  • Chopped fresh turmeric

  • Sliced lemon

  • Fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme

  • ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) with the mother

  • Honey to taste

Tools:

  • Mason jars of your size and choosing

  • Measuring cups/spoons

  • Fine mesh strainer/cheesecloths (depending on how fine your strainer is)

  • Spoon for stirring

  • Bottles/mason jars to store finished product.

Directions:

  • Place herbs in your jars of choosing and cover with enough raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least three to four inches. Cover tightly with a tight fitting lid. Some people also opt to put a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap down prior to screwing the lid down. I never have luck with the seal this way, but give it a whirl if it resonates with you!

  • Place jar in a warm, not hot, place and let for three to four weeks. It’s best to shake every day to help in the maceration process.

  • After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs (I do this in a measuring cup so it is easier to pour later.), and reserve the liquid. Put spent herbs in your compost OR eat them! Word on the street is that it makes a delightful chutney, though I have yet to try this.

  • Add honey ‘to taste’. Warm the honey first so it mixes in well. You can do this by putting it in a warm water bath. For the love of all that is holy, please do not microwave it. I do not substitute nor do I suggest substituting the raw honey here for organic vegetable glycerine. It does not contain the same healing benefits/medicinal qualities as honey. If you do not want to use honey, you can choose to omit it and drink the vinegar on its own) “To Taste’ means your Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet. “A little bit of honey helps the medicine go down……”

  • Rebottle and enjoy! Fire Cider will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool pantry. If you have room and you are concerned, it can certainly be stored in the refrigerator as well.

A small shot glass daily serves as an excellent tonic, or take a couple of teaspoons a couple of times a day if you feel a cold coming on. Take it more frequently if necessary to help your immune system do battle. PS: Pro-tip- it is also great when used as part of a salad dressing as well!

Water - Herbal Tea

It saddens me that so very often people overlook the healing power of a simple cup of tea in favor of the “quick fix/pill” mentality. Tea helps nourish mind, body, and soul when prepared properly. Herbal tea uses the whole plant to nourish and encourage the healing in the whole you. They generally work so much better when they can work in harmony, synergistically, without cherry picking the one constituent that the latest research or fad thinks is the end all be all answer. This is my go-to for when I want a hot cup of warm healing love. Make the batch of tea when the moon is in a water sign (Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio) for extra lunar love.

Stick it to the ick herbal tea

I will typically do this as an overnight infusion, but you can also make it by the cup. Also, parts can be whatever you designate it to be, but for ease you can start small with 1 tbsp = 1 part and then take it from there if you need more…

Ingredients:

  • 1 part Organic Dried Licorice Root (avoid if you have high blood pressure)

  • 1 part Organic Dried Peppermint Leaf

  • 1 part Organic DriedGinger Root

  • 1/2 part Organic Dried Cinnamon Chips

  • 1/2 part Organic Dried Eucalyptus Leaves

  • 1/4 part Organic Dried Thyme Leaf

  • 1/4 part Organic Dried Yarrow Leaf and Flower

Directions:

Mix them all together with authority, love, and healing vibes and store in an airtight container away from heat and sun.

Overnight infusion: Infuse 4 tablespoons of tea in 32oz of hot water overnight. Strain and Drink throughout the day.

Simple cuppa: 1 tablespoon to 1 cup hot water. Steep for at least 10 minutes. If I’m feeling really crummy I’ll also get into a hot-as-I-can-stand-it bath and soak while sipping on my tea to help exorcise the ick.

Spirit/Ether - Self Care

It goes without saying that self-care is paramount in not only winter wellness, but overall health and vitality…it really ties the room together, so to speak. I’ve listed some easy ways to promote self care below. Take what works, leave the rest behind:

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Meditation

  • Cutting toxic things/people/situations out of your life

  • Exercise

  • Eating some damn vegetables

  • Daily Gratitude lists

  • Take a quick walk outside

  • Get into nature and roll around in some dirt

  • Epsom salt baths (for the whole body or just the feet)

  • Reflexology

  • Drinking half your weight in water…daily.

  • Tell yourself “I love you” in the mirror

  • Massage

  • Quality time cuddling with cute animals

I hope that some of these prove helpful to guard against any ick, flung, drippy bits, lung hacking and carrier monkeys you may encounter this season. Be well, my friends!

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