The Great Mother Earth provides us with all that we need to have all the necessities to ramp up our immune systems and battle seasonal ailments.
For starters, boosting your immune system can be simple and as easy as increasing your intake of C and B-complex vitamins and zinc. It is vital to consume these nutrients as close to fresh as possible and full of life force; not just by popping pills bought over the counter that can potentially have additives and other harmful chemicals in them. These components have been long dead sitting on a shelf for who knows how long. Consuming your vitamins from whole food sources allows for the vitamins and minerals to be readily used by your body and most effective. Some examples of foods to eat for immune boosting nutrients and their beneficial antioxidants are apricots, asparagus, beets, carrots, kale, mangos, squash, spinach, berries of all colors, broccoli, cantaloupe, kiwi, chard, oysters, avocados, legumes, watermelon, nuts and red peppers. These are just a few examples of vitamin sources, but as long as you are consuming a variety of organic fruits and vegetables you can reap their beneficial nutrients. I call this eating the rainbow! You can also benefit from drinking plenty of water (not stored in plastic), getting lots of sunshine (Vitamin D source), and exercising.
Even with a good immune system our bodies can still come down with an illness. In this event, we are still provided with the tools we need. Theses remedies can be simple to prepare with a little know how. When taken at the first onset of symptoms they can significantly reduce the time an illness stays in your body and decrease the intensity of your symptoms.
First let’s cover some basic medicine making terms and methods!
Made of leaves and flowers, the more delicate parts of the plants. Boil one quart of water for each ounce in weight of plant material. Pour the boiling water over the herbs and set aside and cover. Keeping the infusion covered keeps the medicine that is extracted from the plant from evaporating away. Allow it to steep for 30-60 minutes, the longer the infusion steeps the more medicine that is extracted and the stronger your brew will be. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and cheesecloth and store in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a lid.
This method is used to extract the medicine from harder plant materials, such as roots, bark, or seeds. The same proportions of one quart of water to one ounce weight of plant material are used. These harder materials need to be slow simmered at least 20-45 minutes in order to release their medicine. After simmering it can be left covered on very low heat for 6-8 hours or transferred to a crock pot after and left to steep on the lowest setting overnight. Strain the plant matter and store in a glass jar with a lid in the refrigerator. You can store both of the above finished products in the fridge and the recommended dosing is one cup three times a day until symptoms resolve. They can usually keep in the fridge for up to one week. Use your best judgment for this. If it begins to become sour smelling or appears slimy when poured toss the batch out.
This method typically uses 80-100 proof alcohol of your choice. The alcohol draws the medicine out of the plant material and concentrates it into the alcohol. The alcohol acts as a preservative, allowing the tincture to last for several years without losing effectiveness as long as it is stored out of direct sunlight. To make a tincture use clean glass jars with lids and fill it halfway with herbs. Fill the jar to the top with alcohol, put the lid on, give it a few shakes, and tuck away in a dark place for at least four to six weeks. The longer it steeps the more medicine that will be extracted into the alcohol. After six weeks it can be strained and placed into amber or blue bottles with a dropper cap. The dark colors protect the tincture from light, which can deplete its strength. I will start my tinctures and once the six weeks have passed I will not strain them unless I need them. This ensures that they are as strong as possible. The recommended dosages for tinctures are 15 drops three times daily. For children it is half of the adult dose three times daily. The drops can be put into hot water or tea in order to evaporate the alcohol and drank or place the drops directly under your tongue and swallowed.
“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!” Syrups are an easy and tasty way to make medicine. I ONLY use local raw wildflower honey to ensure that I get the full medicinal benefit of the honey without additives and pesticides or accidently using honey flavored high fructose corn syrup from the store.
These sweet smelling oils can be used alone or used to enhance you salves. They can be made in a double boiler, crock pot (with a keep warm setting only in order to avoid burning the herbs), or allowed to infuse for 4-6 weeks in a glass jar. You can also make a solar or lunar infusion according to the different phases of the moon to add magical properties to your oil. To infuse oil use one ounce weight of dried herb to 1/4c of oil, taking care that the herb is completely covered. If you are using fresh herbs increase the amount of oil to 6 oz and make sure your jar is completely dry. This is very important to make sure that your oil does not become moldy. I also suggest using very stable oil for fresh herbs such as sesame oil or olive oil. Add your herbs to a glass jar and cover with the oil, if your herb is too bulky add more oil until it is completely covered. If warming with a double boiler, pour the contents into the double boiler and warm gently for four hours. If not place the jar in a crock pot with the small amount of water in the bottom or do the same in the oven on its lowest setting. After warming pour the contents back into the glass jar and then put the lid on tightly and store out of the light for 4-6 weeks. Then strain with a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth, store in an airtight container, and viola! Throughout the 4-6 weeks I like to shake the containers every now and then to help loosen the medicine from the plant, I do the same with tinctures. Also, when straining I squeeze the excess oil through the cheesecloth that is trapped in the plant material and then compost the wasted herbs.
Once you master a basic salve recipe the possibilities of the medicine you can make are almost endless. You can use infused oils with herbs and by adding essential oils you will enhance the healing abilities of the salve. The essential oils will also act as a preservative.
My basic salve recipe
(sesame, EVOO, almond, or avocado)
3oz of coconut oil
1oz of beeswax
Using a two cup glass measuring cup with small lines between measurements (these are ounces) fill with oil to the 3⁄4 cup line and then spoon in the coconut oil into the measuring cup until the oil level increases by three lines (=3oz). The beeswax is measured in the same manner, adding beeswax to raise the oil level one line.
The next step can be completed in a few different ways. I like to place the glass measuring cup into a crock pot and then fill the crock pot with water until it matches the oil level. Cover the crock pot and set on low until the beeswax is melted. This can be also done by placing the glass measuring cup into a baking pan or casserole dish filled with water and placing it in the oven on the lowest setting until the beeswax is melted. You can also pour all of the ingredients into a double boiler to slowly melt the waxes.
Once the wax is melted you just need to pour it into jars and allow time for cooling and solidifying. I use a wood skewer to stir the mixture every few minutes until it becomes cool to the touch and cloudy. At this point you can add about 40 drops of any essential oils, stir once more, and immediately put the lid on until completely cooled to keep the essential oils from evaporating. If you are making the salve for others, this recipe will yield about five two ounce jars or for personal use I like to re-purpose glass salsa jars. They have wide mouths and hold this amount of salve perfectly.
Comfrey and Calendula Salve
*use salve recipe replacing the 6 oz of oil with 3 oz of comfrey infused oil and 3 oz of calendula infused oil.
1 quart of water
3⁄4c of dried herbs
1⁄4 lemon or orange juice (depending on what you are making the syrup for)
1T of cinnamon
1 c of honey
Bring the water to a boil and place herbs in a separate pot. When the water comes to a boil pour it over the herbs and simmer them until the volume is reduced by half. Strain the herbs out of the water with a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth, giving the cheesecloth a quick squeeze to get every drop. While the liquid is still warm add the honey and juice and stir well and store in an airtight glass jar with a lid for up to two months. Suggested dosing is one teaspoon for children and one tablespoon for adults taken as needed until you symptoms subside.