Tag Archives: natural remedies

Another Swing of the Magic Wand

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I teased you earlier this week when I told you that I had learned another use for vinegar.  I’m telling you, the stuff is a must have for any household.

My newest reason for loving vinegar is that I took my boys, including our nephew, berry picking.   Christopher has been berry picking many times.  Even his Majesty went a few times last year (although he didn’t so much PICK berries, as much as he did EAT berries).  However, unbeknownst to me, my nephew, who physically lives–and has grown up in– the middle of farm land in the midwest, has never gone berry picking.  Furthermore, he has a limited understanding that food comes from farms… a fact which actually rendered me momentarily speechless.

Have no fear, we’re breaking him in.  And taking him berry picking for the first time was even more fun than it would have been on an ordinary visit.

Except for one thing…

We picked a lot of berries..

8 pounds of strawberries and 2 lbs of blackberries to be exact.  They were having so much fun, and were so intent on picking “good” berries, that I didn’t have the heart to tell them to stop…

That is, until it dawned on me that I only had $31 in small bills, and that unless the farm could change a large bill on a day when we were the only people there picking produce, we were going to have to perform some manual labor if I didn’t put an end to things soon.

So, 10 lbs and $28 worth of berries later, we headed home, the kids with purple and red fingers, and myself wondering how we were going to keep all of these berries in edible condition long enough to polish them all off.

And then, I remembered this pin, which links to a great blog post by FoodLush, about how to use a vinegar rinse to keep berries from molding. It was really quite simple.

Combine 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water in a bowl or in your sink.  I did 1/2 cup vinegar and 5 cups water.  Then add your berries, a little at a time, and gently swish them around.

I did less blackberries at a time, because they’re more delicate than strawberries, and I didn’t want to damage them when I was swirling them around in their vinegar bath.  I changed the water out after every few batches.

After you dip them in vinegar, drain them, and  put them in the fridge.  You can rinse them with plain water afterwards, but I tasted them directly from the vinegar bath and didn’t notice a taste difference, so you don’t have to.

Or just start eating them.  Preferably with homemade whipped cream, made in 2 minutes in your “OMG-howdidIeverlivewithoutyou” Kitchen Aid Mixer.

I can’t speak for the blackberries, as we ate those the same day that we picked them, but I can tell you that 5 days later, the strawberries that were left were still nice and firm and perfectly delicious in homemade strawberry ice cream.  Ooh baby! Summer is here!

So yeah, like I said.  Vinegar is magic.  Why don’t you give it a try?

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Vinegar is Better than a Magic Wand

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I love having a clean home.  One of my favorite things to do in the morning is come down the stairs and take in the sight of  my lovely, clean, home before my children wake up and take the opportunity to redecorate it with their toys and shoes and books.

But the chemicals commonly used for cleaning freak me out.  Even with gloves on, the fumes make me nervous.  Luckily for me, a friend introduced me to cleaning with vinegar a few years ago, and I’ve been sold ever since.  I use it to wipe down counters, sinks, windows (mix it with water and a few drops of old fashioned blue dawn dish soap, and it will keep it from streaking), woodwork, you name it.  I still clean with the heavy stuff, too, but my every day cleaning, for the most part, is done with vinegar.

Over the years, though, I’ve been enlightened to the many used for vinegar outside of cleaning.  You can put it in your pets drinking water to help their coat shine.  You can use it to ease the pain out of wasps and jellyfish stings (but not bee stings, use baking soda for that), and to sooth a sunburn.  It is a good deodorizer for trash cans and diaper pails.  It is a good hair conditioner, and skin toner.  It is an excellent disinfectant for cutting boards and dishes.  Remember that movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the father keeps telling everyone to use Windex to cure all of their aches and pains?  I am getting pretty close to telling everyone to put use vinegar to cure their problems in every realm.  And if it doesn’t work, no love lost, because it’s about $3 a gallon.  No joke.

It seems that I’m always learning new ways to use vinegar, and this month was no exception.  Our ten year old nephew has been staying with us for a few weeks, and he’s not accustomed to removing his shoes when he comes in from playing.  He’s getting better about it, but for a week or so, my carpet got more shoe traffic than it has in the entire time we’ve lived here.  Thankfully, I remembered this pin, about using a vinegar solution to clean stains from carpets (even old, set in stains).  I took photos of my carpet, but you can’t really appreciate the spots in the pictures, so trust me, they were there.  Just dusky, dirty little spots from shoe tread.  Enough to drive me crazy, though.

The source blog, Lizzie Writes, spilled an entire bottle of salad dressing on her carpet, and this is what she used to clean her carpet.   Her results were so amazing, be sure to check them out.

So, I got to work with this magic carpet cleaning regimen.  All you need to do is sprinkle your stains with baking soda or corn starch, and let it set for a few minutes (If you are treating a new stain, blog up what you can first with a white cloth; I used a clean cloth diaper pre-fold, which is another awesome thing to have around the house).   I just poured the baking soda and rubbed it into the carpet, hoping to absorb any oils in the stains.

While you are letting that set on your stain, you can get to work mixing vinegar, original blue dawn dish soap, and water (my favorite multipurpose solution, by the way).

I keep this solution in a spray bottle lying around the house, but the concentration mentioned in the source blog was rather specific, so I mixed a new batch just for this.  You’ll mix 2 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon Dawn, and 1 tablespoon white vinegar.

I just mixed mine in a regular old kitchen bowl.  It’s nontoxic, so no worries.

I then vacuumed up the baking soda, and marked the concerning areas with glass beads (because that’s what I had handy).  That helped me to remember what areas I needed to treat, since they weren’t glaringly obvious.

Then I dipped a white cloth (diaper) in the vinegar/soap mixture, and applied the solution to the stained areas, blotting up all of the excess liquid with a dry cloth. Then I covered them with another dry white cloth, so that no one (the cat) would step on it overnight, and I went to bed.

The next morning, I assessed the dry carpet, and I gotta tell you, this simple solution really does work.  I’d post a picture, but you won’t be able to tell the difference in it, but I promise you, it was magical. I poured the leftover solution from the bowl into a generic plastic bottle, and put it with my cleaning solutions to have on hand in the future.

And I needed it within the week, when my (grown up) little brother passed out bowls of blackberry cobbler to the kids in the living room (shame, shame; he doesn’t have children yet, but one day, he’ll learn), and the morning after he left, I noticed a dime sized purple stain on the cream carpeting.

I wish I’d taken a photo, but I panicked and went straight for my magic solution, not expecting much, but still, ever hopeful.  I even skipped the baking soda step, and just doused it in the solution, and it erased all hints of that cobbler with very little elbow grease at all.

So if you have a hopeless looking stain on your carpet, give this solution a try.  The ingredients are cheap, you may even have them in your house already, and you won’t have to worry about your kids playing on the floor while it’s drying because it’s nontoxic.

And that’s not all I’ve learned about vinegar this month!  Stay tuned! But in the meantime, do you have a natural cleaning tip that you can pass along?

Venturing Into Natural Remedies

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I built a career working in healthcare.  Belief in Western Medicine pays the bills in my house, built the foundation of a good portion of my social circle, and occupies a huge percentage of my long term memory.   I believe in it like I believe in God, which is to say that I’m absolutely and unabashedly sure of its worth and importance in my life, even though there is still much that I don’t know or understand. But, just because I value and believe strongly in Western Medicine doesn’t mean that I don’t also appreciate other approaches towards health and wellness.  In fact, over the past few years, I have tried several homeopathic and herbal remedies with my own family, mostly with the help of my good friend Patty.  She’s steadily becoming my homeopathy guru.

When His Majesty was born, Patty  was one of the first visitors to come to our home.  She’s kind of the matriarch of our social group, the Don of our Mommy Mafia if you will, and she’s got to lay eyes on any newbies ASAP, give her approval, and read them a beautiful story that tugs on your super hormonal postpartum heart strings, and makes you fight back tears.   Anyway, during this visit, she gave me some breastfeeding support, and informed me that my breast milk would cure just about any problem his Majesty might have.  Diaper rash.  Pink eye.  Nasal congestion.  Eczema.   Now, honestly… she’s a little crunchier than I am, and I thought she was a little nuts for a minute there.  But Patty has a handful of children, and years more experience with infants (and with lactating, for that matter) then I ever will, so, when His Majesty woke up with a gunky eye on the day before his newborn photos would be taken, I squirted him in the eye with breast milk.  My husband, the wise man that he is, believes so much in the wisdom of my Patty that he even helped me get my aim right.

His eye was better- I’m talking completely cleared up- in 12 hours.

A few months later, when His Majesty started to become more mobile, and thus, began to bump his head into things, Patty recommended that I buy Arnica.  Do you know what Arnica is? I had never heard of it, but Arnica is magic.  It’s magic.  There’s no other way to describe it. You know how kids will bump their heads into things, and get those goose egg bruises?  Or when your toddler breaks away from your grasp and makes a run for freedom, thus running face first into the crystal clear, streak free, floor to ceiling glass windows at the Apple Store?  Oh, that’s just my nutty kid?  Well, either way, I have personally watched as bumps and bruises fade away in mere minutes following the application or ingestion of Arnica.  And, it must feel better, too, because His Majesty will ask for demand it by name (“Hurt head.  Need Arnica!”).

After His Majesty’s breathing problems earlier this month, I mentioned to Patty that he definitely seemed to have an environmental component to his symptoms.  In fact, after a few hours outside (we have had the warmest winter, it’s been unreal), he required a nebulized albuterol breathing treatment, and another one that evening before bed.    Breathing problems are obviously concerning, even with the proper equipment and an effective medication, and the nebulizer treatments are not only time consuming to administer, but they are also not without side effects (notedly, restlessness and irritability, which are particularly unpleasant in not-yet-completely-verbal toddler). Given that, Patty offered to let me try some of her homemade Elderberry Syrup, explaining to me that it can help ease the symptoms of not only environmental allergies, but also of the cold and flu viruses, and also works to improve mood, and boost immunity. She sells it for $8 a pint, which is far cheaper than the elderberry syrup that you’ll find at the store, plus hers is made with superior ingredients.

Given the solid history of following Patty’s advice, what do you think I said?  I’m not stupid, I took her up on the offer.

Elderberry Syrup from South of the Fork. Isn't it pretty?

After a few doses of Patty’s Elderberry Syrup, His Majesty was noticeably less stuffy, and on the 5th day, even after a full morning of outside play, he did not show any respiratory symptom at all.

The more that I think about it, the more instances of effective homeopathy I can recall. My “work husband” suffered terrible arthritis in his knees that was successfully managed for several years with glucosamine chondroitin, thereby avoiding steroid injections and hefty doses of NSAIDS, which can be hard on the gut.  Fish oil is now a staple recommendation in the  promotion of a healthy heart.  We have long known the benefit of B Vitamins in providing energy and aiding the metabolism (you know those “12 hour energy shots?  That’s what those are.  Take a B vitamin at night and try to go to sleep, and see if you don’t believe me…).  Ginger is useful in treating nausea (perhaps that is why your mother used to give you Ginger Ale when you were sick as a child).  Fenugreek can be used to aid in lactation, lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.  I knew another man through work who, following a terminal cancer diagnosis with the grim prognosis of mere months to live, actually lived for several years, a blessing he attributed to “magic shiitake mushrooms“.  I bet if you really thought about it, you’d be able to come up with several instances of homeopathy at work in your friends and family.

Natural remedies and Western Medicine are not as far apart as you might think.  Aspirin, the “miracle drug”, was originally derived from the bark of the willow tree.  Antibiotics were first discovered in mold.  Warfarin, a popular anticoagulant, is based on a chemical naturally found in clover.  Digoxin, a powerful cardiac drug, is derived from the Foxglove plant.  Modern medicine is often based on some compound that is found naturally.   Science often takes its inspiration straight from God.  It is my belief that the two can not be wholly separated.

I’m not saying that they will work for everyone or for every problem, and herbs and homeopathic remedies can have their own side effects, especially if you go rogue and make up your own regimens without knowing what you’re doing.  Know that I’m not making any medical or treatment recommendations, PERIOD, that’s what you need to see your own health care provider for.  But I am saying that if you are at your wits end about what to do about a certain condition or ailment, don’t discount asking your provider about alternative therapies that may be available.

I should add an extra caution to you that because many natural remedies and herbal preparations are not held to a standard manufacturing quality or recipe, you should be cautious of where you get your products, especially if you don’t have a Patty in your life.  As with most things, cheaper isn’t always better, and if you are seeking herbal remedies, find yourself a trusted provider.  Just like Western Medicine, when you’re looking for advice on health, wellness, or disease, you should find a someone that you are comfortable with, someone that knows their stuff.  Don’t just head to any local vitamin place and pick up elderberry syrup, simply because it’s the closest store to your home that happens to sell it.  Actually talk to the staff, and find out where they get their products.  Then do your research, and come back and ask more questions. You should do this when it comes to your healthcare anyway, regardless of whether you are seeking alternative medicine or not.  It’s YOUR health. It’s YOUR body.  It’s in YOUR best interest.  No one should be expected to look out for you more than you look out for yourself.

Do you have any homeopathic or home remedies that you swear by?  Anything that your mom or grandparent passed along to you that perhaps you don’t completely understand, but you know it to be effective?  If we don’t pass these things along, they disappear when we do…