Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monsanto Facing Biopiracy Charges in India

According to an article published this month in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Monsanto is facing biopiracy charges in India.

In an unprecedented decision, India’s National Biodiversity Authority(NBA), a government agency, declared legal action against Monsanto (and their collaborators) for accessing and using local eggplant varieties (known as brinjal) to develop their Bt genetically engineered version1 without prior approval of the competent authorities, which is considered an act of “biopiracy.”

The journal of Nature Biotechnology reported:
“An Indian government agency has agreed to sue the developers of genetically modified (GM) eggplant for violating India’s Biological Diversity Act of 2002. India’s National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is alleging that the developers of India’s first GM food crop–Jalna-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) partnered with St. Louis–based seed giant Monsanto and several local universities–used local varieties to develop the transgenic crop, but failed to gain the appropriate licenses for field trials. At the same time, activists in Europe are claiming that patents on conventionally bred plants, including a melon found in India, filed by biotech companies violate farmers’ rights to use naturally occurring breeds. Both these pending legal cases could set important precedents for biopiracy in India and Europe.”

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Watch the Movie FRESH For Free

The movie Fresh is available for you to watch for free until Feb 1st.

FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.

Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur’s 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

You can watch it at this link: The Movie FRESH

Friday, January 27, 2012

2,4-D Resistant GMO Corn

Since  Glyphosate (Round Up) is no longer working so well as a weed killer, Dow decided to add a more aggressive, more  toxic chemical to the food chain and to our environment.  That chemical is 2,4-D.  2,4-d is a constituent of "Agent Orange" owned by Dow Chemicals.  Agent Orange (half 2,4-D by composition) was extensively used in Vietnam by the military to destroy forests and crops. Dow has come up with the frightening idea to make a gentically modified version of corn that is resistant to their 2,4-D.  (They want to rake in the bucks like Monsanto has been doing.) Dow is seeking USDA approval for genetically engineered corn that will withstand 2,4-D.

Glyphosate (Round Up) has been used in the same way on genetically modified food for almost 15 years now. Creating crops that could withstand heavy use of Glyphosate, led to so much use of the chemical on  farm lands that glyphosate resistant weeds have adapted to it and are now super weeds that are not effected by the chemical any more. Glyphosate has been used so much that samples of ground water, river water, rain and air in the areas that heavily use this chemical were found to contain glyphosate in them all. Now Dow wants to add 2,4-D to the water, soil and air also.

The public has 30 more days to comment on Dow’s petition for USDA approval, and can do so online at:
http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2010-0103-0001

For past posts on GMO's check these links out:

 Recent Update on What is Happening With GMO's
http://dreamingabeautifulworld.blogspot.com/2012/01/gmo-update-for-11912.html

Washington State Bill to Label GM Food
Washington State Senator Maralyn Chase has sponsored a new bill that would require both raw GMOs and processed foods containing GMOs to be properly labeled beginning July 2014. Any food product containing GMOs will have to bear a list outlining which ingredients are natural and which ingredients are GMO. Learn more:  

California using Initiative Process to pass GM labeling Law

California is poised to be the first state with mandatory GMO labeling laws through the 2012 California Ballot Initiative process. Learn more:  http://organicconsumersfund.org/label/


14 states introduced GMO bills in 2011. Learn more here  

http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/14-states-have-gmo-label-bills-call-your-state-reps/

Farmers Sue Monsanto

On March 29th, 2011, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of sixty family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified crops. Join us for a dynamic, powerful and educational dialog with Jim Gerritsen, President of OSGATA, about the threats to organic farming, the lawsuit, and how all of us can participate in this movement to protect our rights to uncontaminated healthy food.
In Jim’s words: “Today is Independence Day for America.  Today we are seeking protection from the Court and putting Monsanto on notice.  Monsanto’s threats and abuse of family farmers stops here.  Monsanto’s genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now.  Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace – to decide what kind of food they will feed their families – and we are taking this action on their behalf to protect that right to choose.  Organic farmers have the right to raise our organic crops for our families and our customers on our farms without the threat of invasion by Monsanto’s genetic contamination and without harassment by a reckless polluter. Beginning today, America asserts her right to justice and pure food.”

How To Attend The Event
This event can be attended either online or from your phone. Upon registration, you will be sent a link to the event webcast page as well as a call in number.

Free Registration
MedicineCrow events are usually only available to its members. However, because you were invited to this event as a guest, you may attend this class free of charge by entering your name and email above.

When: Wednesday, February 8th, 2012, 6:00pm PST

To register for this free event at MedicineCrow go to this link: 

Two Great Offers From MedicineCrow
If you wish to sign up for Medicine Crow's Grassroots Healthcare Network of videos, they are offering a trial subscription for $1 that you can access here: Medicine Crow's  You will need to enter the code "wiseacres" to get this discounted price.

They are also offering 25% off their essential oils for new customers which can be accessed by this link: Floracopeia essential oils You will need to enter the code "wiseacres" to get this discounted price.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Honey Bee Pesticide Exposure - New Study

Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields is the title of a new research article published on honey bee deaths. It was published on January 3, 2012.

Abstract: Populations of honey bees and other pollinators have declined worldwide in recent years. A variety of stressors have been implicated as potential causes, including agricultural pesticides. Neonicotinoid insecticides, which are widely used and highly toxic to honey bees, have been found in previous analyses of honey bee pollen and comb material. However, the routes of exposure have remained largely undefined. We used LC/MS-MS to analyze samples of honey bees, pollen stored in the hive and several potential exposure routes associated with plantings of neonicotinoid treated maize. Our results demonstrate that bees are exposed to these compounds and several other agricultural pesticides in several ways throughout the foraging period. During spring, extremely high levels of clothianidin and thiamethoxam were found in planter exhaust material produced during the planting of treated maize seed. We also found neonicotinoids in the soil of each field we sampled, including unplanted fields. Plants visited by foraging bees (dandelions) growing near these fields were found to contain neonicotinoids as well. This indicates deposition of neonicotinoids on the flowers, uptake by the root system, or both. Dead bees collected near hive entrances during the spring sampling period were found to contain clothianidin as well, although whether exposure was oral (consuming pollen) or by contact (soil/planter dust) is unclear. We also detected the insecticide clothianidin in pollen collected by bees and stored in the hive. When maize plants in our field reached anthesis, maize pollen from treated seed was found to contain clothianidin and other pesticides; and honey bees in our study readily collected maize pollen. These findings clarify some of the mechanisms by which honey bees may be exposed to agricultural pesticides throughout the growing season. These results have implications for a wide range of large-scale annual cropping systems that utilize neonicotinoid seed treatments.
Christian H. Krupke1*, Greg J. Hunt1, Brian D. Eitzer2, Gladys Andino1, Krispn Given1
1 Department of Entomology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, United States of America, 2 Department of Analytical Chemistry, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America

You can read the entire research article including their discussion of the results at this link: 

Please contact your representatives about this problem and ask them to submit a bill to save the honey bees from neonicotinoid poisoning. I am including a link here that will allow you to easily look up your federal and state representatives names and contact address/email/phone numbers. http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/

If you want to know more about the honey bees, here are past posts on the honey bees.


National Defense Authorization Act - Loosing Our Rights

We are loosing our constitutional rights as U.S. Citizens.

The Patriot Act has been the biggest cause of U.S. citizens loosing constitutional rights. It allowed the government to spy on citizens. Laws were changed to allow law enforcement to search phones, finincial records, medical records, etc. Spy cameras started showing up on every street of every town. Next thing we know, there is the TSA and body scanners at airports. The TSA is now moving into bus stations and there are highway check points starting too. Tennessee was the first state to implement highway checkpoints for random searches to counter terrorism. 
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/ron-paul-calls-tsa-jack-booted-thugs-in-response-to-highway-checkpoints/

Now it is the National Defense Authorization Act. This is an act that Congress passes each year. It is the way congress keeps tabs on what the Department of Defense is doing and how much money it is spending. Generally just the amount of money it authorizes is what changes. This time it passed with additional provisions that have a lot of people feeling uncomfortable with the government.  It now calls for indefinite detention of U.S. citizens if they are "suspected" of being terrorists. With the passage of this law there is no longer innocence until proven guilty. This is unconstitiutional. The Fourth Amendment grants liberty from unreasonable seizures, while the Sixth guarantees every U.S. citizen a trial in front of a jury. The passage of this bill is a violation of these amendments and is therefore unconstitutional. Yet, most of congress passed it and while no one was watching on New Years Eve, president Obama signed it into law. He promised not to use it though.

According to the New York Times Obama said, “The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” Mr. Obama said in a statement issued in Hawaii, where he is on vacation. “I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”
The NDAA absolves the president of the requirement of gathering and presenting to an impartial judge evidence of association with terrorists. The mere suspicion of of association with terrorists now suffices as a justification for the indefinite imprisonment of those so suspected. Even U.S. citizens.

The NDAA places the American military at the disposal of the President for the apprehension, arrest, and detention of those suspected of posing a danger to the homeland (whether inside or outside the borders of the United States and whether the suspect be a citizen or foreigner).

The bill of rights is eroding away. The Bill of Rights has no exemption for bad people or terrorists or even non-citizens. It is a key check on government power against any person. That is not a weakness in our legal system; it is the very strength of our legal system. The NDAA attempts to justify abridging the Bill of Rights on the theory that rights are suspended in a time of war, and the entire Unites States is a battlefield in the War on Terror. This is a slippery slope we are going down.

Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul criticized his fellow lawmakers. “Sadly, too many of my colleagues are too willing to undermine our constitution to support such outrageous legislation. One senator even said, about American citizens being picked up under this section of the NDAA, ‘When they say ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”

Ron Paul described the bill as a “slip into tyranny,” one that will almost certainly accelerate “our descent into totalitarianism.”  Ron Paul left his 2012 presidential campaign on January 18th for a moment to fight directly for all of our freedoms, by introducing legislation to repeal Section 1021 from the 2012 NDAA “law” that authorizes the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. Read the repeal statement here.

Currently only one congressman is trying to help protect these rights. Tell your representative what you think about this. Get more of them standing up for U.S. citizen rights. Ask them to join Congressman Ron Paul and support the repeal of section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act.  

I am including a link here that will allow you to easily look up your federal and state representatives names and contact address/email/phone numbers. http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/



 



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Communicating With Plants

The first time I take a new herb class on an herb walk, I like to remind them that we have many ways to learn about plants. The botanical dissection and visual observation of plants is the usual method people  use to categorize the plant. (Botanists are starting to use genetic material to categorize them.) Then there is commonly agreed upon material that one can get from lecture or books that tells us who that plant is to the human being. However, there are more intimate ways to get to know the true nature of our plant allies.

We can gain information from them by sensual methods using the senses of sight, tactile sensation, olfactory blissitudes, gustatory delights or by supersensory methods such as gut insights, heart knowing, instant knowledge, inner hearing, and plant angels/fairies to name a few.


The sensual methods:

Sight: Colors and shapes of the plant, where the plant chooses to grow in the environment are all visual cues that give us information about a plant. The location of flowers as well as size of flowers can tell us information about the plant. When they open their flowers is another message. The thickness or thinness of their leaves gives insight into their activities...

Tactile: Roughness, prickles, smoothness, velvetiness, mositure content, toughness or tenderness can all give you insight into the plant you are getting to know.

Olfactory
: Your nose can lead you on remarkable plant journeys. There are scents that tantalize and cause euphoria as well as scents that smell nasty and nauseating. All scents are odiferous clues to the personality and activity of the plant. Scents will cause a reaction in your body. Pay attention to this as it is important information.

Taste: This can run from yummy to making you vomit. Tastes usually fall into categories of, sweet, sour, bitter, salty, acrid, pungent and astringent.

Supersensory methods
:

To use supersensory methods be in the now:

Naturally
Open to
Wonderment

When getting to know your supersensory self there are times when you will question the information you are getting. If there is question in your heart, be careful. Always be careful with plants you don’t know.  Some poisonous plants will try to lure you into their  poisonous world and tasting them can be the death of you. Always make sure you know edibility of a plant before eating.

Gut insights
: Sometimes you get gut feelings about things. You can get these about plants also. Learn to trust them, they are usually true.  When a plant is dangerous for you to ingest, you will often notice a gut insight. Do not ignore it.

Heart Knowing: This is a type of wisdom that is heart based. Think of the times you have said to your self or someone else, “I know in my heart this is true.” Your heart does not mislead you. It is our heart that guides us best. It is our heart where love resides. Love is the greatest power and is that which connects us deeply to the plants and the planet.

Instant knowledge: This type of knowing is like a computer download into your mind. Suddenly spirit gives you this tremendous amount of information. It may seem to come directly from the plants, the plant angels or Spirit. Remember, Spirit has an infinite number of messengers and speaks in mysterious ways.

Inner hearing: This type of hearing is not usually one of directly hearing voices. It is as if you heard a voice but actually just got the message. If you are walking around your house and suddenly out of the blue, remember you forgot to water your house plants, listen closely. You will usually find they are screaming at you in their own non-oral way. It is somewhere between a feeling and an audible experience. The out-door plants will also communicate with you. They have stories to tell. They will take you places that their genetic material springs from. They will let you know about their personalities, their needs. I don’t always know if it is them, plant angels or spirit coming through but it does not really matter since ultimately it is all spirit.

Dreaming: The plants will visit you in your dreams, meditations and prayers if you ask them to. Invite them to visit. 


Petting Plants: Besides talking to plants, signing to them, inviting them into your dreams, you can also pet plants. Some plants love to be petted. When you pet them, pet their energy field radiating around them, not them physically. Most of them like this and some love it.  If you can not see the energy field around them, simply pet the air within about one - two inches away from their leaves. Get close to touching them, but don’t quite physically contact them. You will notice them perk up and some may lift their leaves upward. On some plants such as boston ferns it is quire noticeable. Their fronds lift upward into the air in delight.

Biodyanimic Farming & Gardening

I get so many questions about biodynamic farming that I decided to share a couple articles that I wrote a few years back. I hope you enjoy them. They are located on my website resource page. There are two articles. One on biodynamic Farming called "Biodynamic Farming" and the second on the medicinal herbs used in biodynamic farming called "Herbs Used in Biodynamic Farming." To get to the resource page simply follow this link  http://herbaltransitions.com/herbalresources.html and then go to the "Farm Data Blog Series."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

GMO Update for 1/19/12

Farmers Suit Against Monsanto Continues

On January 31, family farmers will take part in the first phase of a court case filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which contaminates organic and non-GMO farmer’s crops and opens them up to abusive lawsuits. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.
 
In many cases farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. Due to these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy. Please stand up for family farmers everywhere against Monsanto's abusive seed monopoly.

Send your vocal support to these farmers. 

Washington State Bill to Label GM Food
Washington State Senator Maralyn Chase has sponsored a new bill that would require both raw GMOs and processed foods containing GMOs to be properly labeled beginning July 2014. Any food product containing GMOs will have to bear a list outlining which ingredients are natural and which ingredients are GMO. Learn more:  

California using Initiative Process to pass GM labeling Law

California is poised to be the first state with mandatory GMO labeling laws through the 2012 California Ballot Initiative process. Learn more:  http://organicconsumersfund.org/label/


14 states introduced GMO bills in 2011. Learn more here  

http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/14-states-have-gmo-label-bills-call-your-state-reps/

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Marshmallow Flowers As a Medicine

I have used the root of marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) for about 25 years as a medicine. A few years ago I started experimenting with the flowers which have a slight mucilaginous characteristic to them. They are not super mucilaginous like the root is but still they seemed promising. I made a guess that they would have some anti-inflammatory and vulnerary (wound healing) ability and tried using them on wounds which proved to be beneficial.

 
I was happy to see this recent research article from Lebonon that examined a tea of marshmallow flower in relation to its effect on lipemia, gastric ulcers, inflammation and platelet aggregation(platelets are involved in blood clotting). The abstract can be viewed here:



What the research found was the following: Marshmallow flowers increase serum HDL (what is called the good cholesterol), they have significant anti-inflammatory acitivity (acute and chronic inflammation) and decrease the growth of gastric ulcers. Additionally there was inhibition of platelet aggregation.

They also examined their effect on liver enzymes to see if the flowers would harm the liver in any way. None was seen.

For information on marshmallow root go to this link: 

Avoiding Dementia As We Age

A neurologist in Portland Oregon by the name of Gene Bowman has just published research that appears to identify a few nutrients that may be good for our brains and one constituent of many prepared food products  that is bad news for our brains.

He studied the brain health of dementia free elders. The mean age was 87 ± 10 years and 62% of subjects were female. He wanted to see if there was something in their diet that protected their brains. Rather than using the usual "food frequency questionnaire" he assayed nutrient plasma biomarkers. He felt the food questionnaires have room for errors when used alone. (I would agree.) The best way is to use the plasma markers and questionnaires together to get a reflection of diet and metabolism. His aim was to see  how various nutrients related to brain health.

He found that those with higher trans fats in their plasma had smaller brains and lower cognitive function. High trans fats in the diet is already associated with poor cardiovascular health.  This is just one more reason to stay away from trans fats. Most trans fats come from processing liquid vegetable oil into solid fats, which includes margarine. Look for the words partially hydrogenated fats on the labels.  (Much of the prepared foods in the grocery store - read the label).  

Here is a list of "foods" that often contain them.
  • margarine and vegetable shortening
  • cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and breads such as hamburger buns
  • cake mixes, pancake mixes, and chocolate drink mixes
  • fried foods, including donuts, French fries, chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
  • snack foods, including chips, candy, and packaged or microwave popcorn
I would like to point out that trans fats are not found much in nature. However, the ones that are found in nature that have been studied appear to possibly be healthy rather than harmful such as conjugated linoleic acid. This is because natures process of making them and the synthetic process of manufacturing trans fats is different.  It is the synthetic trans fats found in a lot of prepared foods that are being shown to be harmful.When you see the words partially hydrogenated on a label, put the toxin back on the grocery shelf and eventually if no one is buying them manufacturers will stop making the disgusting stuff.

The subjects that had the most favorable cognitive and MRI measurements were the subjects with high plasma vitamins B(B1, B2, B6, folate, and B12) C, D and E as well as high omega-3 fatty acids. 

How can we get these nutrients in our bodies. Simply by eating real food. This is just one more reason to eat  lots of fish, pastured non pasteurized dairy and meat, healthy fats,  fruits, veggies, legumes, soaked, sprouted whole grains and nuts and sea vegetables (such as kelp). Keep your diet colorful and varied and eat lots of greens.  That is the take home and seems to always be the take home from this kind of research.

An abstract of this research can be found at this link 

See this past post for more brain info: 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Herbal Tea Making Tips


I promised you some more herbal tea making information. If you have additional questions, let me know.

Why Make Herbal Teas
Many of us use them. We love to grow and harvest our own tea and then consume the wonderful, healthy beverages as we sit and enjoy their flavors or think about their health giving benefits.

They have important advantages
• Inexpensive
• Easy to make
• Imposes a ceremonial process and rest time for individuals.
• Allows the person to take a larger part in their healing process. 
•  It is self-empowering to be more self sufficient.

 They also have some disadvantages
• Dry herb only last for one year - roots and seeds may last a little longer.
• They are bulky.
• Takes time to make them.
• Teas have to be stored in the refrigerator and can only store for 48 hours or if you want to push it up to 3 days.
• If they taste bad, there is a lot to drink.
• Some herbs will not extract well. An example would be resinous herbs.

What To Do With A Formula That Has A Mix of Herbs Needing Decocting & Infusing
What do you do when you want to prepare a tea of many different herbs and some need to be decocted and some infused? In this situation when the formula is being prepared, put the dried herbs into two containers. One container that holds the herbs to be decocted and another container that holds the herbs to be infused.

When putting your formula together make enough to last you for the time period you expect to be drinking these herbs. If you will be ingesting them long term, make up enough to last as long as you wish. Start by making one container of herbs to decoct and one container to infuse. Put all the hard, dense plant parts such as barks, roots, and some seeds into the container that will be decocted. Then put all the delicate and less dense parts of the plant such as flowers and leaves into another container that will be infused. The herbs to be decocted are made up first. When they are finished decocting take the pot off the burner and add the herbs to be infused into the pot. In both cases make sure the lid to the pot is on tight.  Let it steep for the necessary time and strain it all.


Straining Teas
When you strain your teas, pick up the herb in your strainer and squeeze all the liquid out of the herb material. Some of the best stuff is still in the herbs and you don’t want to throw it into your compost before squeezing it out.



Using Ground Herb Vs Cut & Sift Herb
Usually "cut and sift" herb is used for teas. If you grind the herb up into a powder it will extract well but be sure to use cheese cloth or a coffee filter to filter the tea as you pour it into your cup. I also suggest squeezing the powdered herb real well as those small powder particles will want to hold onto a lot of that herbal liquid. You want to squeeze out every drop you can as it is holding the most potent part of your tea. You could designate a special thin tea towel for the task or have cheese cloth just for this use. That will allow you to reuse the material after washing it. Powdered material will cling to more water than the cut and sift herbs and you will get less final amount of liquid tea when you use powdered herb. This is the reason most people use cut and sift rather than powder to make teas.

When to Infuse Seeds and Roots (They are usually decocted)
Delicate seeds or roots as well as seeds or roots with volatile oils need to be infused. If you are making a root or seed decoction and it does not work as you expect it should, make sure it does not have volatile oils in it that require you to infuse it rather than decoct it. Examples of where this might be important is with archangelica root, dong quai root and elecampane root.

If infusing hard seeds and roots you  may need to pulverize them a bit with a mortar and pestle to break them up into small enough particles to extract all their goodness from within. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can put them in a bag and roll over them with a rolling pin. If they are too hard to break that way, double bag them and get out a rubber mallet or even a hammer. Put the bag on your cutting board and break them up by banging on them. I often save old bags that are not good for other things for this very purpose. I break up nuts and all sorts of things this way. Even a pot with a real thick bottom can be used to break up seeds or roots. Just be careful not to hurt your cookware.

Tight Lids & Volatile Oils
When making a tea by decocting it in a pot, make sure the lid to the pot fits well. When infusing herbs in a container such as a canning jar, make sure the jar lid is on tight enough not to loose vapors into the air. This is especially important when you are making tea from  a plant with a lot of volatile oils. Those oils are important and you don't want to loose them into the air. If you open the jar or pot before it has cooled slightly you will loose all your precious essential oils as they volatilize into the air. So even if the tea has steeped long enough, you may need to wait to open the jar lid until the tea changes from hot to the touch to warm to the touch.

How to Make An Herbal Tea Taste Good
What if the tea tastes bad? You have other choices than using it as a tea. However, if you want to use the herb as a tea, try adding other flavors to it that taste good. 

•Adding lemon and honey is a solution that makes many teas taste better.  

•Using additional herbs in the mixture that are added only for flavor is another choice. 

Infusing dried berries such as raspberry, apple, blueberry or even raisins with the herbs while making the tea lends to some wonderful flavors.  

•Essential oils are an additional alternative. You probably have some herbal essential oils in your kitchen that you use in cooking. Look in the pantry. Try anise or peppermint or whatever is there that you think might work for you. It is good to add an essential oil that will have an additive effect to the health benefits of the other herbs in the cup of tea. When adding essential oils, don’t add more than 1-2 drops to a cup or you will be overwhelmed. Put one drop at a time in, stir well and taste. Don’t taste without stirring as the essential oil will still be on the top of the cup and you will get it all in one sip.  
If you can't find essential oils in your area, Floracopia Products has a 25% discount available for my readers. It is for new customers only at the above link if you use the code "wiseacres".


•With kids I have had parents use the fruit infusions mentioned above or mix the tea with a non-sweetened fruit juice. Most kids will take it with dark grape juice if nothing else works as it often hides other flavors.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Herb Walk Videos

There was a problem with the herbal video links from the last series I posted. Thanks for the feedback. I have fixed that error and you can get information and link to the new videos via this blog link.

Hand Pump Update


I posted a blog over a year ago about the hand pump I put in my well. It is a fantastic pump. You asked for photos and I am embarrassed to say it has taken this long for me to get the photos posted. There are two photos here. I am also re-posting some of the pump information for you in case you missed the prior blog.

This first photo is a distance shot of the whole operation. In Front is the hand pump. On the left is my ultraviolet light and filter set up. In the back on the right is the pressurized tank. Note there is not much to the hand pump. The handle is light and easy to pump. I have the pump hooked up to the pressurized tank but you can also unhook it from the tank and pump into a bucket. 



This second photo is a close up of the pump going down into the casing. I wish I had them drill me a second hole for a clean-out opening but did not think to ask for that. I have my original electric pump coming out of what could have been a clean-out opening.






Here is some prior data I had posted previously:
This is a non-electric pump for my well water. It is in the well on top of my electric pump.
It is not just any hand pump. Originally, I was looking at the old-fashioned pitcher pump. The same exact type of pump my grandmother had on her well. However, I realized early on in my search for the perfect pump that there are now new and improved pump options. After careful consideration of all the pumps available I went for what I consider to be the best choice on the market. It is called the Simple Pump. Indeed it was simple to put in and simple to pump. We placed the Simple Pump right over the current electric pump without a problem. However, this is not just any hand pump. This pump can be hooked up to electricity as a primary electric pump if I wish. Additionally the creator of this fine pump had the forethought to make a pump that it is easily hooked up and used with solar power if I wish. I have not done either of these things currently, although I may hook it up for solar use eventually. Living in the Pacific NW that is not something I am jumping at first thing. I do like the option to be able to easily hook it up to solar though.

When I last wrote this blog, the manufacturer did not supply the solar set up, but they have added that on. You can now buy everything through the manufacturer of the Simple Pump. I know this sounds like an ad, but no I am not on their payroll. Just like the pump.

There are many things I like about this pump.  I have the choice of pumping the water into a bucket or I can hook it up to my pressurized tank and pump the water right into the tank rather than a bucket. When the electricity goes off here, rather than going out and pumping into a bucket, I pump directly into my pressurized tank and the water still goes into my house and comes out of my faucet and into the toilet. Wow, that is a far cry from my grandmother having to carry water. You can’t fill the whole pressurized tank, as eventually the pressure is too much to pump against. However, it beats carrying the buckets and is much easier to use out of the tap.  It is made right here in the USA and wow is it quality workmanship. The parts are cut and ground with skill. It is not every day you see such brilliant workmanship.

You can find cheaper pumps, but I doubt you can find a better pump or more versatile pump. If you want more details on this pump you can go to  http://www.simplepump.com
(I  have no affiliation with this company.) If you are in the Eugene, Oregon area and need a person to put this in for you, I can give you the name of the gentleman who helped me put mine in. It is definitely a two person job.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Making Herbal Tea

Herbal teas are inexpensive, easy to make and they impose a ceremonial process during their preparation as well as a rest time while drinking them.

Tools To Make Teas
If you have something to cook water in and a canning jar, you have all the tools you need. Some other useful items are a Kettle, Teapot, French Press, and Mug. Be sure your tools are glass, stainless steel or enamel. You don’t want to use a container that might react with the herbs. 

Safety
Only make teas with herbs that are safe to drink.

Types of Tea Preparations
Teas are divided into two basic types of tea preparations. The infusion and decoction. Depending on what you want to extract from the herb and how dense the herb is will depend on which type of preparation you use.

When To Choose An Infusion 
Infusions are used for extraction of labile constituents such as vitamins, enzymes and volatile oils. They are also used for delicate and less dense parts of the plant such as flowers and leaves. Some seeds are also infused as well as roots with volatile oils such as elecampane or valerian.

When To Choose A Decoction
Decoctions are used for plant constituents that require more time and heat for extraction, such as mineral salts, bitter constituents and hard, dense plant parts such as barks, roots, and some seeds.

Infusions

How to Make An Infusion
An infusion is a gentle method to extract constituents from the herb. When making an infusion, the plant material is cut small, torn up or bruised to release its essence. The idea is to get as many parts of the plant in contact with the water as possible. If you have bought "cut & sift" herb from someone else, it is probably already cut up for use in an infusion.

Example of timing and how it changes the ultimate preparation

If you infuse an herb like chamomile the essential oil will be released quickly and taste and smell divine if drank within a few minutes. However, if you want the bitter constituents in chamomile which often we do if using it medicinally, you want to infuse it longer. The longer you infuse it the more bitter it will get.


Directions for one cup of infusion

Three recommended methods:
(a)     Add one cup of boiling water to one heaping tablespoon of dry herb or three heaping tablespoons of fresh herb in an air-tight container like a canning jar. Let it steep for 10-25 minutes.

(b)   Bring one cup of water to boil in a stainless steel or glass kettle. Remove the kettle from the burner and add one heaping tablespoon of the dry herb or three heaping tablespoons of fresh herb to the water. Cover the kettle with a tight fitting lid.  Steep for 10-25 minutes. Remove the lid, strain and drink the liquid. 

(c)  Put one heaping tablespoon of dry herb or three heaping tablespoons of fresh herb in a pint canning jar. Pour one cup of boiling water over the herb and put the lid on the canning jar. Let it sit overnight and drink the next morning. This method is often used for extracting minerals. When I am attempting to extract minerals I put extra herb in my jar. I often put a handful in and fill the quart jar with water. Most mineral rich herbs are food herbs such as oats and drinking strong teas is okay. If you use herbs in large amounts, make sure they are safe herbs to consume in quantities.
 
(d)  Put one heaping tablespoon of dry herb or three heaping   tablespoons of fresh herb in a pint canning jar. Pour one cup of room temp or cool water over the herb and put the lid on the canning jar. Let it sit overnight and drink the next morning. This will make a very mild infusion and picks up small amounts of volatile oils and energetic essences of the plant. Often this method is used for full moon infusions.

These infusions can be consumed hot or cold, depending on the specific usage. Large quantities can be made and stored in the refrigerator. Do not store tea for longer than 3 days because it may grow mold.


Solar Infusion
This type of infusion relies on the sun to provide heat to draw out constituents.  You put your herb into a canning jar. Then add clean spring water, well water or filtered water using the same amounts as listed above. (1 T per cup water if dry or 3 T per cup water if fresh.) Simply multiple the herb and water depending on how much tea you want to end up with.  You put the herb in the jar. Pour cold water over the herb, tighten the lid on the jar and put the jar in the direct sun. I often make sun tea in gallon canning jars when I have friends visit.

Lunar Infusion
Lunar infusions are wonderful for certain herbs. I place the herb in the jar and pour cold rather than hot water over the herb and place it under the moon at night. Usually I do this when the moon is full. It is especially nice for herbs with volatile oils. I do notice quite a difference when it is hot at night as compared to when it cools down. The heat of course does much of the extraction. When cool out at night, I get just the bare essence of the plant. I have to be sure to retrieve it before the sun is up. It is lovely and somewhat magical with certain plants. I suggest you try this with something like peppermint. Although I have used them medicinally for people, I usually don’t as I generally want the full range of constituents I can get from a hot extraction when I am using a tea medicinally.

Decoctions

How to Make A Decoction
In a kettle, bring one cup of water and one tablespoon of dry herb or three heaping tablespoons of fresh herb to a boil. Cover the kettle with a tight fitting lid, and simmer the ingredients for 15 - 25 minutes. Remove the kettle from the burner and steep ten minutes. Strain and drink.

Examples of when to choose an infusion or decoction

 If you are trying to extract minerals from an herb like nettles you can either use a hot water infusion overnight or you can decoct it for 25 minutes. They will both give you a similar amount of minerals. (I have made both up and sent it to a lab for testing.The decoction gave a tad bit more but not enough to matter.) However, the overnight infused one in my opinion usually tastes better. I am more likely to drink something that tastes good, so guess which one I will make. Usually, leafy herbs like nettles are not decocted and the only time I would decoct them is if I want to extract something like minerals and don't have the time for a 12 hour infusion.

Roots are generally decocted as they are dense and hard. However, if you are decocting a root with volatile oils such as valerian or elecampane you will want to infuse the root so you do not loose the essential oils. To make sure you extract it completely, you can cut up or pulverize the root into small pieces so the water can get into more parts of the root for a better extraction. You don't want a powder, you just want it mashed up or cut small.

Drinking the Tea
Ahhhh, now for the relaxing part.
The amount of tea you ingest will depend on if you are ingesting it for pleasure,  or health. It will also make a difference if using it for health reasons,  why you are using it. It is impossible to give a specific amount to drink, but since I know you want a guideline, I would tell you that  ½ - 1 cup three to five times a day will usually be the range. Some herbs need to be taken in very small amounts to work. For instance if you are using a bitter to stimulate digestion, you only need a few sips of a strong tea for it to help. Acute conditions usually require more of a tea and it is usually taken more often than chronic conditions. Some herbs should only be taken in small amounts as they are can be irritating if taken in large amounts of too often. It is important to always know what you are ingesting before ingesting it.

More On Teas In The Next Blog
There is so much to tell you about teas. What do you do when you want to prepare a formula of 6 different herbs and some need to be decocted and some infused?  How do you make bad tasting teas taste better? What are the advantages and disadvantages of herbal teas. This and more will be awaiting us in a soon to come blog. If you have a question about teas, let me know so you can see the answer in the next tea blog. In fact, if you have any questions about herbs, please speak up so you can get an answer in a future herb blog.