The Magical Many Use Herb – Sida rhombifolia – And one of the most effective antibiotics on the planet – Grows Wild Here 8-19-19

And one of the most effective antibiotics on the planet – Grows Wild Here

Australian National Botanic Gardens





For years I was pulling up this amazing woody perennial plant from my garden. Until one day I identified it and became a convert. It still takes over part of my garden every year so I have had to harvest it or be overwhelmed because it likes to grow in pathways. But it self seeds so well I don’t worry too much, I just don’t harvest all of the plants in the areas it grows (many).

Like my herbal women friends in the Wise Woman movement, where they say if there is a problem with your body, nature will provide the plant to handle it within a short distance from your home. Of course this might be harder in a big city, but out here in the foothills of the Appalachian Blue Mountains, it is really true. So, when a plant keeps showing up, I pay attention. Nature is trying to help me or someone I love.

When I first was introduced I discovered this plant is one of the strongest and most effective antibiotics in the world. Sida has a number of varieties all with similar medicinal properties but the one that grows wild here is the rhombifolia variety. It has a lovely little yellow flower in the summer, which turns into a little seed pod with small black seeds. It grows about 3’ tall and wide, in profusion usually.

The stems are tough and are used to make brooms in various places. The bark makes a lovely white fiber used to make cord, rope, fish nets, and fine thread. The leaves are edible as a pot herb. And it makes a nice tea and delicious alcoholic tincture. So, in a few words, it’s highly beneficial.

But it has been used traditionally around the world as medicine. It shows up in Ayervedic (India’s traditional medicinal system), Traditional Chinese Medicine, and even the early Eclectic physicians of this country considered it valuable as medicine.

So, in the spirit of loving our planet and the plants on it, I thought I’d share what it can do. I didn’t pull these plants entirely before I learned of its bountiful gifts but enough to know I had no clue. So, being clueless in this case was reversed happily. The more I study this gem, the more regard I pay it.

So, once you find a source of it growing or can acquire it, here is what you can do DIY to benefit from it in so many ways.

Probably the best medicinal preparation of it using the whole plant is to make a double extraction tincture of it. Pull up the whole thing root and all. Clean the roots well, finely cut up the stems, leaves, flowers roots and all – or seeds if it has gone that far in the season. Then cover with acidic water (you don’t want it to be alkaline or neutral because the chemicals in it are released only in an acidic environment. You could add some vinegar because it likes pH between 1 and 6 – very acidic). Decoct (i.e. simmer in pure water) for several hours, cool, strain, measure the liquid. Replace the plant matter and add the same amount of grain alcohol (I would use Everclear or organically grown and prepared moonshine) as close to 100% ethanol as possible. Then cap it tightly, label, and shake it daily for 4 to 6 weeks. Then strain, bottle in colored glass and label it, and you have your double extracted tincture. This has been advised to take 20 to 40 drops up to 4x a day. More if you are fighting a gram negative bacteria.

Or you can make a tea with it, using acidic water. 1-2 tsp of the powdered leaves in 6 oz. water steeped 15 minutes. For prevention 1-2 cups/day. If fighting an infection up to 10 cups a day. For an eye infection, 1-3 drops in the eyes when cool. 3-6 x day. A cold extraction works but is not nearly as effective as a hot infusion. Because the medicinal components are alkaloids, you must use an acidic water to remove the medicine from the plant matter.

A powder of the whole plant (cleaned well) cut up and dehydrated then powdered also has many uses topically to treat a bacterial infected skin such as septic wound or eczema by liberally sprinkling on the affected areas.

The powder can be put in capsules for internal use. As a preventative for bacterial infections (or virus, protozoal infection, Candida, and the many other things mentioned below), 3 “OO” sized capsules 3x day. If acute infection up to 30 capsules a day or 1-3 Tbs. powder in water or juice.

Poultices of the leaves, roots, or whole plant can be applied to snake bites, particularly the kind of snake whose venom destroys blood cells. It is a drawing herb regardless, helping to bring out poisons. The poultices can be used for sores and boils, itching skin, and infected wounds. It also draws poison from scorpion stings and other stinging insects.

A poultice of the whole plant also treats headaches, boils, cramps, rheumatism, tooth aches, chapped lips and pimples. A poultice preparation of grease and sugar softens abscess and releases pus.

According to my research, Sida r. even handles systemic resistant Staph infections. The tincture is then used. In dosages of ½ tsp to 1Tbs. 3-6 x a day (high dosage). It is suggested not to take this high amounts for more than 60 days running but that is usually sufficient.

The list of physical conditions is long and amazing. From colds and flu to Diabetes, E-coli, ulcers, Tuberculosis, Lyme disease, Herpes, blood cancers, bronchitis, sepsis in wounds, and Malaria just to name a few. It is a pain reliever; it can be more effective than even the latest antibiotic pharmaceuticals without damage to the host (people or animals) including those that treat gram positive and negative bacterial strains. It even handles the most resistant to antibiotic strains, including those that people pick up in hospitals. It helps and protects blood, the liver, the skin, the nervous system, the digestive system; just about every part of the body has some benefit from it.

It is an immune booster and ‘adaptogenic’ i.e. it helps to balance over or under conditions in the body or where there is an imbalance of any kind.

It brings down a fever. It’s a pain killer. It lowers blood sugar for diabetics or hypoglycemics. It knocks out free radicals which cause mutations in cells and other kinds of havoc, aka ‘antioxidant’. It protects the liver and helps to regenerate it, and handles jaundice. It brings down inflammation in joints, and other parts of the body. After a heart attack, the strong antioxidants in it help to heal the heart tissue. It protects the nerves and is used for depression and other nervous system disorders. It handles diarrhea and dysentery. A paste of the whole plant treats indigestion.

The leaves are a diuretic, i.e. it makes the body pee more, flushing out toxins and freeing the kidneys. It treats kidney stones as well. A juice of the leaves mixed with vinegar is anti-inflammatory and helps with digestive problems.

The yellow leaves eaten with wild ginger eases labor for women.

A paste of the roots is applied to boils.

It’s a powerful anti-parasitic expelling worms and other internal parasites for both people and animals (NOT GOATS), treating flat worms, flukes, tape worms, and round worms. It not only kills bacteria but also amoebas, Candida, illness causing microbes, protozoas, aspergillis, a long list of kinds of bacterial and amoeba infections, and virus. It treats skin rashes like impetigo and eczema.

And because it is considered a ‘tonic’ herb, unless being used in very high dosages for specific treatment, it can be used long term and uninterrupted, being considered something that is ongoing and that tones the body. Unlike most antibiotic plants, which usually only handle ‘acute’ short term problems, this is OK to continue using.

Being edible, the leaves used as food with a very high protein content (16-25% depending on how it’s grown) it is an excellent food source and can be used as a main protein for the diet.

So, if you need seeds, contact me. I’ll send some to you for a small fee. But realizing it can be invasive if not controlled, give it a specific location with plenty of room to grow. The good news is that once it establishes, you will have an almost endless supply of medicine as well as food and fiber. Or if grown in a pot, collect the seeds when late summer rolls around. It’s pretty when in bloom, with its little yellow flowers. It will die out in winter, but can be pruned  (harvested) down to the ground and return in the spring. I prefer to harvest it when it is still in bloom for the many uses I make of it.

In Summary, this is one of those treasure of the plant world. I hope it helps you.

Diann Dirks 8-19-19

Here are some of the related sites which contain a lot more information. Worth reading over if this is of interest to you. (Cordifolia like Rhombifolia are related and share many of the same medicinal properties)







Posted in Adaptogenic herb, Anemia, Antibiotic herbal, Antiinflammatory herb, Antioxidant herb, Antivenom traditional herb, Asthma herb, Broom making, bug repelling in garden', Cancer of the blood, Candida, Cording, fiber and ripe plant, detoxification, Diarrhea and dysentery herb, E-coli, Emergency Preparedness, Flowering herbs, Gardening, Herb gardening, Herpes Simplex, Immune booster, Insecticidal herb, Joint pain, Kidney problems, Kidney stones, Liver protection herb, Lung problems, Lyme disease, Malaria herb, organic gardening, Parasites, Permaculture, Salmonella, Seed propagation, Self-Sustainability, Skin diseases, Staph infection, Uncategorized, Wild crafting and wild plants, Wound care | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


We woke up night before last with the A/C crashed and the house slightly uncomfortable. It’s well insulated so it retained the temp in the mid 70’s but didn’t portend well for the next day with the temps close to 100.

My husband fixed it.

Here’s what he did (before we called an A/C company and spent a pile of cash):

He checked the breakers – too great a draw can trigger it to shut down,

Checked the outdoor unit for ice – sometimes if it works too hard, ice will form inside and it will close down the system until it melts,

Then he got out the shop vac and vacuumed out the drain line from the A/C unit coming down from the attic. This was clogged and he had to pull a lot of junk out.

Clean the filter – this can get too clogged and strain the system so much that it shuts down.

Check the overflow pan by the furnace/A/C unit. If it has a float switch that closes down if the pan gets too full. If no float switch, you can find water running down a wall. This happened to us last year with water flowing out of a light socket – yikes. This ended up being full. We siphoned off 5 buckets of water.

He rechecked the drain line to the outside of the house which was then running well.

The A/C turned back on and we now have a cool house once again.

I thought you might like to know what you can do for yourself. A visit from an A/C company can easily go to $100 or more.

About the only thing people don’t do by themselves is recharge the refrigerant. I hope this helps.

Keep your filter cleaned out on a regular basis. In particularly hot weather, close off rooms that aren’t in use by closing the vent outlets. Keep your windows covered where sun comes in. Keep doors and windows closed. Limit the amount of stove and oven use inside. If you need to cook something, consider a slow cooker/crock pot or quick Instapot.

Stay cool.

Posted in Emergency Preparedness, heat protection, Self-Sustainability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

USING HERBS AND OILS TO HANDLE YOUR SKIN – Salves, Ointments and Other Skin Preparations DIY 8-6-19

Our skin is our largest organ. It not only keeps everything inside but it protects us from environmental damage, toxins, damage. It also absorbs things out of the air and water around us. For example taking a hot bath, the body can absorb as much as 2 liters of liquid. It also absorbs nutrients and medicine thru the pores which affects not only the skin itself but also can influence what is below the layer of skin on things like joints, organs, nerves, blood vessels, etc. This can lead to the inflow of toxins or can be used to deliver nutrients or medicines into the body.

So when the body starts to have problems, we can help it by providing nutrients, natural medical chemicals found in food, herbs, minerals, etc., or by drawing out toxins, poisons, particles (like slivers, thorns, aggravating plant hairs such stinging nettle hairs, or bug bites), or heat from an infection or inflammation.

Traditionally the natural medicines and folk remedies (we called them home remedies when I was a kid) were applied to handle all things related to the skin. Even really dangerous things like snake bites, or bad wounds. It turns out that so many of the plants we have growing around us, whether cultivated or wild contain helpful and beneficial agents that when properly prepared can alleviate so many of the problems we find both aggravating or dangerous. These include itching, blisters, bruises, cuts, infections, venom from insects and snakes, or harmful plants.

We all have differing responses to the world around us, so what one person finds helpful, another might find not so, or even cause allergic reactions. So, usually when one is formulating one of these remedies ingredients are chosen for their safety, or target the majority of people who don’t find them problematical. If it’s a custom formula, muscle testing can eliminate the ones a specific person would not do well using. And there are some ingredients that can cause problems but when specifically used, can bring about amazing results in a specific situation. It’s in the hands of a health professional such an herbalist or Naturopath when something is particularly troublesome – like psoriasis, or even a genetic or auto-immune condition.

But in general, that boo boo your child brings you with a skinned knee can easily be handled by washing it off, and applying a well formulated salve or ointment. When you get a sliver, a drawing salve is a quick, simple remedy. When you get a rash from poison ivy a Jewel Weed ointment works wonders. That bee sting or ant bite is quickly calmed with the pain and inflammation quickly removed by a salve with Plantain herb and a couple of others. Pain in a joint or a muscle over-used or bruised responds well to a salve with herbs with capsaisin (such as cayenne), and several kinds of well chosen essential oils such as Arnica, Menthol and Camphor to name but a few.

Even skin cancer has been successfully handled with a black salve called “Black Salve” aka Cansema. These are folk medicines which have been used for hundreds of years before pharmaceuticals and patented medicines so they have a history of workability.

A broken bone can be helped to heal more thoroughly or quicker with a Comfrey oil or ointment. I had a bad ankle break a few years ago. One of my herbalist friends brought me Comfrey Oil, and it healed much more rapidly than a normal person of my age. And it lessened the pain and inflammation as well.

There are several kinds of applications of plant medicines which can help remedy something of the skin. Salves and Ointments are oil based with various infused plants, and usually have some kind of thickening agent such as bees wax so they can be applied to the skin and don’t run off but hold in place long enough to be absorbed or protect the surface.

A Poultice or Plaster is made of various medicinal plants mashed, applied raw and held in place on the skin by a piece of fabric usually such as flannel or muslin wraps.

A Wash or Fomentation is a liquid infusion (tea) of medicinal plant leaves usually in water base, and used to sooth or clean to prevent infection or remove debris and dirt from a wound, or a kind of soak – either in a pan, or in an absorbent fabric and held in place with plastic wrap. The ingredients of it are meant to be absorbed into the skin as in the fomentation, or to prevent damage as in a wash.

Massage Oils are usually infused ‘carrier oils’ such as olive oil, sweet almond, grape seed, or other natural non-GMO oils used as massage oils. These oils are either cold infused with medicinal plants for a month or so, or gently heated with the plant to absorb the medicinal qualities. The plant benefits are absorbed into the skin while the underlying muscles are massaged bringing the blood to the area. This increases the effectiveness of the massage work.

Or oils such as olive have essential oils added to them to dilute the powerful condensed properties of the EO so they don’t aggravate or overpower – and then taken into the body orally. One such powerful oil is Wild Oregano Oil – a powerful natural antibiotic, diluted with a carrier oil, a few drops placed on the back of one’s hand and licked off – especially good for quick absorption.

Lotions are like an ointment but they have mixed in with them not only oil but some kind of water based ingredient, or alcohol. This usually requires a mixing agent called an Emulsion. Traditionally this is usually some kind of wax such as carnauba and candelilla. These can be purchased from Mountain Rose Herb Company for home use.

Butters are similar to an ointment but are lighter consistency but of oil base feeling ‘whipped’. They are about half way between a lotion and a salve by consistency and are usually meant as a light nourishing and soothing application.

Balms are like an ointment but they are meant mostly as something soothing to the skin, meant to heal or mitigate pain. They are usually fragrant.

Creams are an herbal preparation that moisturize, heal damaged skin or calm and nourish the skin, containing various kinds of oils such as Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, or other thicker oils and infused lighter oils. They usually contain specific herbs that help the skin regenerate such as Calendula, and help with inflammation and pain such as Cottonwood, help ward off or heal scars such as Rosehip Seed oil. They are usually light like a butter, are easy to apply.

Depending on the intention of the preparation, these preparations can heal, sooth, be cosmetic targeting wrinkles or poor skin strength and consistency, help with pain such as arthritis, or from a wound or bone break, or after surgery.

As you study a problem of the skin, certain herbs will keep showing up that are especially good for skin. Calendula is a powerful skin soother – a flower that is infused in oil. Arnica is another flower that is especially good that handles inflammation. Yarrow is another flower/leaf that regenerates and heals powerfully. Oregano and Thyme infused in oil are powerful antibiotics that protect the skin from infection. One of my favorites is a powerful drawing and drying herb that pulls infection and toxins or poisons out of the skin (called an astringent) so common almost anywhere – Plantain herb (not the banana fruit). This goes in all my ointments, salves and skin preparations because it is so universally powerful for the skin. Comfrey and Dandelion are so rich in minerals and nourishing compounds that they go in wound and bone healing formulas as oil infusions. There are so many others

Oils that are excellent for preparations act as delivery systems for the medicinal properties of plant medicinal herbs, but often have their own healing powers. I often blend the various oils for their specific benefits.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is one of my favorite being the base for most of my salves and ointments. It is healing in itself, is light in texture so it is easily absorbed by the skin, is moisturizing and nourishing.

Coconut Oil is often used as a moisturizing oil that has a larger molecule and isn’t as easily absorbed into the skin, useful if you want the healing elements to rest on the skin as protection, moisturizing, and soothing.

Sweet Almond Oil is a great oil for cosmetic and light applications such as butters and creams. Grape Seed Oil has healing benefits.

Shea Butter comes in various strengths, is more of a resinous oil and being thicker, can be used to thicken a salve or ointment. It is very moisturizing.

There are many other oils used but these are my favorite.

Essential Oils are very condensed essences of aromatic parts of certain plants. This process of removing the volatile oils from plants has been used for thousands of years to get the most powerful concentration of certain healing properties. Used in salves, ointments and the above kinds of preparations give power to the formulas, with just a few drops mixed into the blends. They have various actions. Oregano and Thyme EO are antibiotic and protect against infection. Lavender EO makes a good preservative as well as being very calming and soothing, and this goes in most of my formulas. Myrrh & Frankincense EOs are deep healing with many medicinal benefits. I use over 30 of these oils that I add and interchange in my formulas – too many to list all here.

Be sure you get your EOs from a reputable source and company that have only therapeutic grade oils from organic uncontaminated sources. Young Living and DoTerra are good ones but I have found a number of others that work well. They can be a bit pricey though, but a dram or so keeps for a long time, and you usually only use a few drops of them so they last. Don’t confuse fragrance oils with Essential Oils. I never use ‘fragrance oils’.

Unless you need to mix oil and water in a formula such as a lotion, a supply of bees wax in pellet form is my favorite way to utilize it because it is easy to measure and melts nicely is about all you’ll need. If you want to have an emulsifier, then get an adequate supply of Carnuba Wax to start out. These can be purchased online at Mt. Rose Herb or other supply houses.

Making a Salve or OintmentT

The general flow of making these is first decide what effect you want to create for your skin. Then research which herbs will help you do this. There are a number of excellent sites which have good already created formulas for various kinds of salves and ointments with the measurements already set. If you have an herb garden, often the herbs you already grow will give you a nice supply of the medicinal plants. I grow a large variety so my choices are many. But sometimes you can just do a little wild crafting in a field or along the edge of a woods to find many useful plants. Just make sure you are sure of the identity of every plant you use. I suggest you take a class with a qualified herbalist and do an herb walk for wild craft foraging. Often a nature center in your area will know who does these.

Gather your herbs and let them wilt overnight. Water in an oil formula without an emulsifier will often spoil the final product after a short while. But you can see the water/herb at the bottom of an infused oil. If you like, you can freeze the oil once infused and draw off the oil leaving the ice at the bottom, or carefully siphon or pour off the oil leaving the liquid behind. Wilting eliminates most of the water as the moisture evaporates before use.

Have on hand the kinds of oils you want to use. Organic is preferable but use what you can obtain if it is fresh and in good condition. Avoid any GMO oils such as cotton seed, Canola, or Soy.

Use a little double boiler with water at the bottom part, and the oil on the top. This makes for gentle heating. You do not want to boil your oil or herbs as this alters the medicinal properties and can spoil your final product.

Put in your measured oil, and the fresh (or dried) herbs. I usually chop fine my herbs so the oil can reach and absorb as much of the medicine as possible or you can use a mortar and pestle to make it into a paste, or if dried, grind to a powder.

Bring the heat up to just beginning to steam and maybe a bubble now and then – a very gentle simmer. I usually simmer my herbs for at least an hour. Let it cool down. Once cool enough to touch, strain thru cheese cloth or make a bag from muslin fabric, and squeeze it as hard as you can to get every drop out of the plant matter. This can be composted.

Return the oil to the double boiler on low heat. Depending on the consistency you wish for your salve, add a measured amount of wax pellets to the oil and let it melt – stirring with a wooden spoon or clean stick (I use a chop stick) till it is melted. Then taking a cold spoon, dip it into the oil, let it harden, and test it for thickness. If it’s too oily, add more wax, if too hard, add a bit of oil. Get it just how you want it.

THEN add any essential oils you wish – a few drops usually, it disappears quickly. This is when I also add some drops of Vitamin E oil and Lavender Oil as preservative.

Have your containers cleaned and ready. Pour or spoon the liquid salve into the containers, scraping the last of it out of the double boiler, that are set on a flat surface (I put my tins on a cutting board covered with butcher paper, so I can peel off any salve that drops out of the tin, and keep my surface clean).

Let it set up.

Clean off any drips with a bit of rubbing alcohol on a paper towel. Label, and refrigerate. Usually if there is sufficient preservative this isn’t really necessary, but it will make for longer lasting shelf life.

When making oils for massage or other topical applications, skip adding the wax, but infuse it the same way with the herbs in the oil. Then at the end after straining out the plant matter, add any essential oils and preservative Vit. E and Lavender Oil, bottle and label.

When making oil/water mixtures, have an exact recipe and follow it. There are usually instructions on when to add the components, wisking or whipping them to combine ingredients till they achieve the right consistency. Then put them in their respective containers, label them, and either refrigerate them or not depending on the instructions.

A note on labeling: Ingredients are listed in order of greatest volume to smallest. I usually label separately the oils, the herbs, the EOs, and the preservatives, and note if they are organically grown or not. I list the benefits and uses and display my contact information. I also note any warnings (such as potentially allergic reactions or counter indications such as for pregnant women or people with various health concerns of there is a danger of setting off a bad reaction). Never say it cures anything as this is illegal. But if it’s recommended for use for poison ivy for example, that can be noted.

A note on containers: You can purchase metal or plastic containers new, or you can repurpose already used containers such as jars, bottles, dropper bottles, and tins. I don’t make huge numbers of salves and like repurposing. I save my mint tins, clean them well, and use them for the ointments and salves that set up with bees wax, and don’t bother to paint them over, just use a label on the top. But I’m not selling commercially. If you are selling at a store or if your farmers market requires it, purchase new. Small Mason jars work well for some butters and creams but they tend to be pretty large volume for that kind of product. 1 and 2 oz. tins work great.

Bottles of massage oil can be glass or strong plastic, and need good lids that don’t leak. I don’t recommend cork. You can use small Mason jars but these are hard to get the oil out. You can repurpose pump bottles as long as you clean them very well.

Labeling: Self-adhesive labels that can be printed out on a computer printer are available in various sizes and shapes. You can get them printed commercially, or have them made up with a logo or color or b&w decorations for the containers. These can be purchased online or thru a stationary store.

As a final note, I have been in love with making my own skin preparations such as salves, ointments, oils, and the rest for many years. One of my early interns here at Hillside Gardens was a certified Herbalist. She opened me up to the treasures I had growing here for use as medicine. She helped me make my first salve, and I’ve been making them in ever greater variety and use ever since.

I had a beloved cat who had a bad car accident. When the vet cleaned up two skin wounds, one where the skin was open to the white under layer, they wanted to put on an antibiotic cream. These tend to be toxic and cats will lick at them even with bandage till they are gone. So, I said no, and took him home. On his foreleg was a 4” long ¾” wide open wound. I put my herbal healing ointment on it which contained a number of healing and antibiotic herbs as well as Vit E and Lavender Oil. 9 hours later (the next morning), it was completely healed over and only pink. There was an area on his shoulder that was the size of a silver dollar, all fur was off, and deep lacerations. By the morning that was all healed over and only the lines of the lacerations showed as lightly pink lines. I did not cover these with a bandage. They handled the pain and inflammation, and he didn’t lick it off.

I have used these herbal salves on myself and seen the miracles they perform on my friends and family. I have used them on bad burns, cuts, scrapes, gashes, bruises, inflamed areas, minor infections, athletes foot, arthritic joints, drawn out slivers, handled sunburn, rashes, and scars, and helped a friend overcome horribly painful psoriasis, that  I know plant medicine works for the skin. I personally never use commercial antibiotics because nature provides such an abundance and variety of them naturally, with no side effects and powerful, that I prefer using what nature provides. It’s just about using the specific plants and ingredients that work for the specific problem.

I always do my research!!! If I want to make a specific formula for someone (like I did when my chiropractor had rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder) I find out what is the most effective plants and essential oils, the most healing herbs, and carrier oils for that application. Then I gather what I can usually from my own garden, and make up a batch. I always take care to note exactly what amounts of each ingredient and carefully label each formula, then have those formulas in a place where I can find them and reproduce them if needed later. I also note which ones were most successful and if I make a kind to sell, I often tweek it for better results, giving it a name like my “Super Boo Boo Cream IV”. I sell these at a local historical gathering each year and people come back every year to get it, telling me amazing stories of how it has helped them. (This is available mail-order if you are interested, via this blogsite. I also make a number of other such preparations for psoriasis, pain for muscles, poison ivy, after surgery salve, and upon demand).

So, the lesson of all this is – you can take care of yourself and your family with knowledge, a few simple tools (double boiler, ladle, hand held stick blender for lotions and butters), some oil, some herbs, some essential oils (optional), Vit. E oil, and wax, some small containers, and the will to experiment.

Here are some helpful websites for recipes and information about materials:                  

Good Luck with your journey.

Diann Dirks, Herbalist, Organic Gardener, Certified Permaculture Designer


Posted in Antibiotic herbal, Antiinflammatory herb, Bone Health, Emergency Preparedness, Gardening, Herb gardening, Joint pain, organic gardening, Permaculture, Self-Sustainability, Skin diseases, Uncategorized, Wild crafting and wild plants, Wound care | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perilla aka Shiso, aka Korean Sesame herb 8-4-19

Here at Hillside Gardens in Auburn, Ga., we grow about 150 different kinds of herbs, mostly medicinal but many with multiple uses.

It’s the season for Perilla herb.

It’s in the mint family, is a self seeding plant that easily naturalizes, is delicious and edible as well as medicinal. Here is a good site to understand its medicinal properties:

It is loaded with minerals and vitamins, so it’s good to increase the nutritional value of anything you put it with in cooking. It is anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, asthma, is a nervine – i.e. for nervous disorders like anxiety, depression, insomnia etc., GI complaints, allergies, anti-oxidant (helps neutralized free radicals), etc. (read the above article).

It has been used to help keep foods sterilized and preserved. So, using it in canning and in pickles is traditional in Japan and other Asian food.

And it comes in various colors and variations of flavor.

Someone asked for ways to use it because it can be very prolific. Here are some of my favorite ways:

Dry it and mix with roasted sesame for a wonderful sprinkle on rice dishes. Make a tea of it, it’s delicious – I mix it with sweet mint and lemon balm for a relaxing tea and play with it for flavors. It’s highly medicinal and can be mixed with other herbs for immune boosting and many other things. Do your research.

The Japanese pickle it with tiny plums called Oomiboshi, which is delicious and a digestive aid. And it can be pickled by itself or put into vinegars for salads or other culinary uses. It’s considered an aromatic herb. It also can be tinctured for the medicinal properties.

The larger leaves can be lightly steamed to make them limp, then used as a wrap for rice and veg or meat dishes – this is a Korean treat. It is great in stir fry. I put it in salads (the smaller leaves). I use it in various Japanese dishes like Shabu Shabu or Somen Noodles as one of the side additives to the dish.

I grow three kinds – purple, Korean Sesame green, and curly leaf which is between those two in color and slightly more spicy flavored. I usually do a large harvest just before the flowers start to mature to keep the seeding down to a dull roar.

It’s one of the ingredients in my immune boosting tea and makes a nice Christmas gift.

I must say that this is one of my all time favorite herbs. It is used a lot in Oriental cooking and medicine, and luckily once it gets established, it’s a freely seeding, self seeding annual.

It can be invasive but if you pick the flowers before they become seeds in the garden, you can keep it to a minimum. Just leave a nice plant to seed, let the seed stems dry (you can put a net bag over them to control the spread), so you don’t loose it for next year.

Enjoy this wonderful member of the mint family. All of this family help digestion and are edible so just do your research. If you need seeds, PM me on FB.

Georgia Dirks

Posted in Antibiotic herbal, Antiinflammatory herb, Antioxidant herb, Asthma herb, Diarrhea and dysentery herb, E-coli, Flowering herbs, Food Forest, Food protection, Gardening, Gut health, Herb gardening, Immune booster, Lung problems, organic gardening, Permaculture, Seasonal gardening plants, Seed propagation, Self-Sustainability, Skin diseases, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


    This is a handout I gave at a presentation to Ladies Homestead Gathering about Seed Saving on July 29, 2019, and below it the Power Point delivered at that event. I’m sharing it in the hope that more people will take the time to save the seeds of their non-hybrid, non-GMO, garden seeds. We have lost 90% of the edible plants on this planet in the last 100 years or so, and by loosing this bio-diversity of food genome resource, we put ourselves at risk. You are welcome to copy any part of it. Enjoy.


The only kinds of seeds that breed true season after season are Heirloom, Heritage or Open Pollinated ones. Not hybrids or Genetically engineered. GE seeds are mostly for big farm operations, but Hybrids are common when buying seeds but they can’t be saved as they do not breed true. Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange and other reputable heirloom seed companies sell these, or exchange with friends or seed swaps (but be sure they are H, H, & OP (as above)).

Seeds come in all sizes and shapes, and depending on whether they are inside a fruit, on the end of a grass or other stem after flowering, they have different methods of offering their seeds. Below are the most common. Other information can be found online. Save seeds from fruits at their peak, or non-fruit – after the flowering stage has created seeds which are dry or mostly dry on the plant. If you harvest them too green, the seed will not have developed enough to reproduce (fruit or non-fruit – they must be mature). Save only very dry seeds, as if they are the least bit moist, they will mold or rot and not work. Package seeds in paper, glassine or glass, not directly touching plastic if possible, as this can condense moisture and rot the seed especially in a refrigerator. Store them in cool, dark, dry space or in the refrigerator in water proof containers (like a ziplock outer, paper inner envelope), or in the freezer in freezer proof containers, with air removed as much as possible.


Always label seeds before harvesting. Keep the label with the seed at all times.

Label: family, species (cultivar), year, if organic, if heirloom, location of harvest (like ‘my farm’)

Each family of plant such as Nightshade (tomatoes), Brassicus (cabbage), Curcurbit (gourd and pumpkin), and other families each ripen and make their seeds available in different ways. Taking the seed from the fruit such as tomato is done when the fruit is at the height of its ripeness. With squash, cucumber or pumpkin the seeds must fully form and are usually harvested when it has turned yellow and is beyond being eaten. Usually the fruit of a plant has seeds within it and that seed is removed from the pulp of the fruit and cleaned, then dried and stored. When the plant sends up a stalk with flowers and produces seed pods (brassicus) or clusters of seeds (beet/chard), or small seed pods with fluffy heads (lettuce, grasses).

Brassicus (cabbage family) seeds create huge masses of narrow seed pods at the top of the stem of the plant that dry looking like paper pointy envelopes. These are allowed to dry on the stems but must becaptured before they start to split and disseminate on their own.

Grasses (not including corn but most grains) send up shoots with the seeds attached by tiny side stems and can be immediately separated from the stalk and dried. Corn is harvested when the corn silk becomes brownish and dry looking and the husk is dry. It can be left

on the stalk until fall or removed, de-husked, and left to dry inside (garage on old screens works great) with good ventilation. When the kernels are hard, they are removed by hand or a removing device, and kept in a dry container, paper bag, or mason jar – but ensure they are completely dry. The cob can be kept in a basket for even years before removing kernels just as long as they are protected from pests.

Lettuces after flowering create little covered packets of seeds with a fluffy head which tells you the seed

is mature enough to harvest. These pods are allowed to dry completely, then gently rubbed to let the seeds fall out.

A tip is to harvest the stalks with pods or fluffy headed packets and place them in a paper grocery bag to allow to dry to keep the seeds from

escapingAnother way is to put the large bunches of seeded stems into finely meshed bags such as netting filters used for paint, and hung in a

dry well ventilated space.

Tomatoes must be cut open, the gelatinous seeds squeezed out into a glass, a little water added, covered with a piece of paper towel secured

with a rubber band, labeled and allowed to mold for a few days. When the mold is a white covering, pour into a close, fine strainer, and

gently under running water, with the fingers, work off the coating, leaving the light tan seeds. These get put onto a paper towel labeled and

allowed to air dry for a few days, then pulled off and saved in a glassine labeled envelope.

Peppers are opened and the seeds pulled off the inside membrane onto a paper towel, labeled and allowed to air dry, then saved as the tomato


Beets (incl. Chards) form clusters of round seeds along an upright stalk. These are allowed to dry on the plant until they look almost papery,

then gently hand removed from the stem, allowed to further dry, labeled and into an envelope.

Beans (or peas) are allowed to dry on the vine until they look papery and are crispy feeling and have visibly protruding seeds inside, or are

harvested when the bean fills out with a seed, removed and dried.

Then the bean pod is opened and the seed is brushed out, thoroughly dried and saved in a paper bag or

glass jar with a moisture absorbing packet.

Radish (or Arugula), like Brassicus, form pods but shaped fatter and have less seeds per pod. Saved

same as Brassicus.

Parsley, carrot family form ‘umbels’ like an umbrella flower. The flowers fade and the umbel closes up

and looks brown and dry. When they are obviously well dried on the plant, they are cut off, and the seeds

are rubbed off into a bowl, saved in glassine.

Flowers such as calendula form round clusters of seeds when the petals dry out. These are cut off, dried, separating the seeds and kept in glassine. Other flowers such as Echinacea form spiky balls that turn black. Ensuring them being dry, they can be broken up and seeds removed. Some flowering plants such as milkweed form pods which have rows of seeds attached to silky fluff. They open when they start to ripen and as the pod opens and the fluff drys and expands, the fluff carries the seed with the wind. Cut off the pod once it peels open, and let it dry in a paper bag or fine mesh bag. The fluff of milkweed can remain on the seeds or removed for other uses.

Herbs that flower are treated as ‘flowers’ above.

Diann Dirks 7-19 for LHG Statham

Power Point presentation:



–           Increase your self reliance and sustainability. <

–           Keep rare plants alive through time. <

–           Bio-Diversity <

Learn patience and connect with the earth. <


–           We have lost 90% of the edible plant genomes available 100 years ago. <

–           Diversity of nutrients  <

–           Varieties of color and look for cooking and culinary presentation. <

–           Varieties of available foods for those sensitive and with food allergies. <


–           Best of a crop to improve the species. <

–           Ones least affected by bug damage, wilt, drought or other environmental challenges. <

–           Only Heirloom, Heritage or Open Pollinated ones. Not hybrids or Genetically engineered.  <

(Show photos of hybrid vs not; both examples of titled and numbered)



–           Depending on the species and how well they are kept, 1 to 8 years. <

–           Seeds must be thoroughly dry and kept out of the heat or dampness  <

–           Seed Banks keep their seeds in subzero freezers for many years, or refrigerated in

special moisture protected containers. <

  • Containers for seeds can be paper envelopes, or glass jars <

(expiration recommendation photo)



–           Seeds are saved at the end of their growing cycle and when they are at their peak. Each kind of seed has a different way of processing it, but generally you take the seed when the plant has finished flowering and has a mature seed created.


–     As described, seeds are gathered with labels and allowed to dry. If it’s a large amount of stems put them in grocery paper bags and write on the outside for ease of processing. <

–     Once dry, separate the seeds and put in containers well labeled. <

Wet: Seeds processed from wet fruit need to separate pulp from seeds then dried.

Can use paper towel over Styrofoam trays to dry them.

Dry: Seeds from non-fruit are gathered with labels and allowed to dry. If it’s a large amount of stems put them in grocery paper bags and write on the outside for ease of processing. <

There will be debris left over after separating the seed from the dried plant matter. This process is called GARBLING – the final step of plant use after harvesting where the best bits are sorted out and the rest is disposed of.

Work over a large bowl (usually stainless steel) when garbling or processing dried seeds.
Once garbling is complete, remaining dry debris needs to be winnowed leaving only seeds.


–     Labeling is vital at all stages of seed saving because many seeds look identical but contain very different plants at the end. So, keep the original labels of types and transfer that to any containers. For yourself, merely the cultivar name and date. For more elaborate uses such as sales, you need to do like a professional seed packet does. (Picture ATTAINED)




Long term survival






If you are in the NE Georgia area or nearby in North Carolina or South Carolina, this presentation can be delivered in person. PM me on FB or email me at


Posted in Emergency Preparedness, Flowering herbs, Flowering plants', Food Forest, food forest management, Food protection, Gardening, Herb gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Saving seeds and cultivars, Self-Sustainability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garden Walking – The Garden Daily Walkabout 6-27-19

If you have a garden you know the old saying. “The best fertilizer there is the shadow of the gardener.” In that vein, spreading that shadow around the garden is a big part of not only the care of a garden but the joy of it, the experience of it, the awareness of it.

I can close my eyes and name every plant in every bed in my garden. Most of them I can tell you their use; if medicinal, edible, bee or pollinator helping, and a lot more about each plant. I love my garden. It’s because I walk my garden almost every day.

Yesterday I spent over an hour with one of my interns educating her on what to look for, how to respond to various things sighted, and a lot about the plants and soil. It’s about awareness and understanding of the whole of it, not just one bed or one plant. It’s a big jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces fitting together. It’s an entire eco system with each element fitting in with each other one.

Plants as a rule are not competitive, they are cooperative. It’s only when they are mismatched and need the same thing out of the soil, without adequate resources, that they compete. Then it’s the stronger of the competitors that make it, and even in that are lessons. We here at Hillside Gardens don’t row plant. We integratively plant using companion planting called “Guilds” in Permaculture Design parlance. They are meant to help each other.

So, the walk thru the garden gives you an overall sense of the health of the garden, any major or minor needs of the plants and critters, and things that need doing.

I listed a number of things to look for: yellowing leaves (magnesium deficiency or soil problems), holes in the leaves (bug damage – looking for predatory bugs and their eggs), wilty looking leaves (needs water or too much water and fungal or yeast wilt), not thriving plants (needs fertilizer or other stresses like hidden vole tunnels), lack of fruiting (lack of potassium or phosphorous and possibly too much nitrogen if the leaves are thriving), obvious bugs on the leaves like aphids, squash beetles, Japanese beetles and other pests, and on tomatoes leaves with only the veins remaining, (green stripped tomato or tobacco horned worms, or brown worms). These are the negative things that need attention. Sometimes you will see white ‘blooming’ on leaves meaning powdery mildew.

I always carry a pair of secateurs (hand held pruner), in my belt, and if I know I’ll find things to harvest, a basket.

Other things to observe are related to the stages of growth each plant is at. Young plants are green or not thriving meaning some attention is needed. Maybe they need some gentle fertilizing with compost tea, or not enough water, or light mulch to cover the surrounding open soil. Plants that are thriving and growing fruit (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) – are the blossoms progressing into fruit or falling off – for example – tomatoes, squashes, egg plant, etc. Are the fruits looking healthy and abundant or are some or all of them evidencing rotting or bug holes. With tomatoes ‘bottom rot’ means either a calcium deficiency in the soil (remedied by egg shells infused in vinegar, diluted and supplementing the soil) or inconsistent watering.

Some families of plants have their own particular problems like the curcurbit family (squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, gourds) get worms that invade the main stem cutting it off or so disabling it so that the upper vine starts to rot and doesn’t produce. Tomatoes get various kinds of worms, and even squash beetles, the flying kind, eating on the fruit or the leaves. Parsley gets monarch butterfly larvae (stripped caterpillars) eating the leaves but we let them have some because we need the butterflies.

We look for the beneficial insects like writing spiders (big black and yellow spiders that are our friends and eat bad bugs), lace wings, tiny transparent flies, dragon flies, bees, butterflies, and even paper wasps (bronze colored) and others. These we support.

We watch the progression of the plants that seed using pods and wait till their pods are dry and collect them to save for next year – before the seeds all fall off. The seed bundles get cut and put into grocery paper bags and labeled. This is particularly good for greens like lettuce, chards, spinach, all the cabbage family like kale, broccoli, turnip etc. (this is a large edible family). I leave the best of the plants to go to seed, and often let the plants ‘bolt’ (flower and go to seed) for the flowers which bees need for food.

We don’t grow anything here but heirloom, open pollinating, or heritage seeds so all the seeds are valuable for future generations. But often we get tremendous excesses, especially in the brassicus (cabbage) family. The excess are saved too because in the winter they are delicious sprouted for greens when good greens are hard to come by. I sprout mine in linen bags and use them in all the things I would use lettuce for in such things as sandwiches, salads, etc.

While I’m about, I pick spent marigold flowers, pull a few weeds here and there, note where I need more mulch if soil is exposed, pick off flowering basil heads, tuck a lengthening tomato stem back into the support cage, note where pruning is needed for trees or bushes blocking pathways or invading the road, note where dead heading is needed on roses or other flowering plants, watch for beets and carrots ready to harvest, or just pull them and bring them in.

When roots or single plants are harvested this leaves a hole of unused garden space, which is precious and not to be wasted. So a note of where and what would go well in that space is made and later I bring in a replacement. This is called supplanting or succession planting and is a way to increase yield in a garden. Many plants are pull and replant, others are cut and cut again as in leaf lettuces, chard, etc. The replanting kind is a double resource in a season because it means a second or third crop in the same space. Radishes, root crops such as beets and carrots, lettuces, bush beans and other kinds of vegetables can be planted every two weeks for a continuous supply and these little holes in the garden are perfect for this kind of succession.

Thru the season many plants come ready to harvest. Here we have a number of kinds of berries, which ripen at various times in succession. I have specifically planted various cultivated varieties (cultivars) of blueberries which ripen at different times in the summer. That way we get fresh blueberries for about 6 weeks running as one kind then another ripens.

Tomatoes are either determinate or indeterminate varieties. The determinate ones such as ‘Homestead’ were bred to come harvestable all at once for canning purposes. Then the vine dies out and is no longer viable. Indeterminate varieties continue to bloom and fruit throughout the season. They stay put and keep growing. So, if you are doing your walkabout, you will notice which kind the tomatoes are and look for large numbers of green tomatoes on the determinate verities so you can plan for harvest and canning days. The indeterminate ones get picked as they ripen.

Peppers can be harvested green or colored depending on the use. Hot peppers often wait till they are red or yellow, as well as sweet kinds. On the walkabout, if you know it’s going to be an available harvesting day, I bring a big basket and pick as I do my other observations. I put all the various kinds of things in the same basket except the berries for which I bring a little separate plastic harvest box (used blue plastic mushroom packaging makes the best berry collecting containers). Often I will come in with a full basket and have to return for another at peak season.

We grow many kinds of cooking herbs such as basil, tulsi (holy basil which is medicinal but also a delightful tea), parsley, thyme, oregano and many others around the garden. Usually I just keep an eye on their health and only harvest them when I need to use them as they are best used fresh. But I watch for peak periods of medicinal herbs – often critical which stage of growing they are picked for greatest medicinal value. Some herbs in the mint family like lemon balm can become so abundant that I pick bundles of them before they flower and preserve them in my dehydrator or make tinctures or salves with them. So as I walk about I see which ones are ready for pruning back, and that becomes a larger harvest.

Some of the herbs such as motherwort will flower and seed sequentially on the same plant – seeds at the top with flowering under on the main stem – thru the summer. So, I prune off and save the dried seed stalks and process the seeds in the house, leaving the plant to flower again. The bees love the flowers so this also gives them abundant food throughout the summer.

I also look under the huge leaves of the squash, pumpkin, gourd, and pumpkin plants looking for those hidden fruit which can go nuts and grow huge. I also look at the under side the leaves of these plants looking for the little rows of bronze colored eggs of squash beetles, or the yellow clusters of furry looking eggs of the yellow with black spots Japanese lady bugs. I squish these eggs or pinch the clusters off the leaves, leaving a hole in the leaf that mends itself, and squish the whole cluster. I also look for the little white or red colored baby beetles and track them down to pinch them with my fingers. If you get them when they are young you will stay ahead of their invasive destructive behavior.

I love plants and admire them. I often tell them they are beautiful, or the babies I tell them they will grow up big and strong and make lots of fruit and food for me. They respond, believe it or not. Sometimes I even sing to them. This isn’t nutty behavior. There is scientific research that relates sounds of singing and talk to plants and the benefits from that. Plants obtain 80% of their food from the air, with little opening and closing pores on the undersides of their leaves. These pores open and close to absorb air and nutrients (like nitrogen and star dust minerals) opening when they are exposed to song bird music or the music of Bach. Yes, it’s real science.

As I walk around deadheading, harvesting, squishing a few bugs here and there, pulling a few weeds, I listen for bird song, for the sisserous music of bugs, and sniff the air. It’s amazing what the body can pick up from just taking the time and attention to absorb the perceptions in a garden.

By the time I make the rounds up one path and down another, I also note what time of day it is, where it is shaded and where it’s hard sun, or partial shade. And I note how the plants growing in those conditions are doing. Sometimes I note sunburn on leaves, making them light tan, meaning they may need some shade cloth or being moved (especially true of perennials). Or several tomato plants doing well next to one not thriving, usually where there isn’t enough sunshine. They can be dug up and moved to more favorable spots but best done when smaller.

I’m always looking for plants that aren’t thriving, needing a dose of compost tea, or a top mulching of chicken manure (with bedding). If I see areas of soil between plants that are raw uncovered spots, I go back with straw or chicken manure/bedding and cover them. This is because that area is loosing moisture and the soil is heating up putting stress on the roots. This is about Permaculture precepts – laws of nature. In nature you rarely see uncovered soil. It gets covered up with organic matter like leaves dead grasses, etc., or opportunistic plants (we call weeds) will come in and satisfy the vacuum created. Nature considers top soil valuable and leaves these pioneer plant seeds in the soil for sometimes hundreds of years to act as band aids when the conditions say ‘protect the soil’. So, if you don’t want weeds, mulch.

As far as weeds go, we are located in the Piedmont (foothills) of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The whole Appalachian range is one of the most bio-diverse beneficial areas on the planet for medicinal and edible wild plants. The Cherokee people identified and used over 1500 varieties (not a typo) of medicinal herbs – most of them the same ones used in Traditional Chinese Medicine which you probably know if you’re an herbalist. So, when I first came to Georgia, I had that mentality that if I didn’t plant it, it was a weed. Then I took an herb walk from a noted herbalist in North Carolina, who pointed out one after another the plants I had been busily pulling as weeds in my garden.

It was a revelation.

Now I don’t pull something unless I know what it is, We get lots of things volunteering in my beautiful soil and pathways. So after that herb walk I started to study every plant on my property. When I got to 500, I stopped counting. I still find new plants and their medicinal uses (or edible, or dye, or fiber and basket making, or pollinator attractor, or nitrogen capturing – free fertilizer, or other beneficial properties). I’ve learned to respect what nature provides. I never spray bug or weed killer EVER. The only exception is tunneling or nest building yellow jackets or hornets. I don’t like being stung.

There is a spiritual relationship I have with my garden. It’s so amazing that sometimes I’ll just put out a little wish that I had a particular plant in my garden, and find it growing there that year or the next. So, in my walk about I note plants I don’t recognize, or ones that I am not sure about the uses. I try to identify it. And I get curious about the provenance of them.

I have native passion flower vines coming up at odd places, and instead of pulling them out, I get out a tomato cage and give it some support. This was one of those gifts from nature, as these beautiful flowering vines provide one of the best nerve tonics ever, as well as fruit.

That doesn’t mean I don’t pull the hundreds of baby oak trees that the squirrels plant in my soft rich garden soil every fall. Or that I never pull a spiny deadly night shade weed. I just know which are good guys and which are not. And even if something is beneficial if it’s in too great an abundance, I will remove it. But if it’s a beneficial, I don’t think of it as weeding, I think of it as harvesting. Usually I leave one or two of them to seed and carry on the next year. But if I don’t do that I would have no room in the beds for the vegetables and plants I actually intend to grow. I’m still the god of my garden’s universe with the power of life and death. I just think of myself as a beneficial one. Maybe garden fairy is a better way to say it though.

Every day I am out there I see something new and usually come back to the house with something I can eat or seeds to plant later, or something medicinal. We are so surrounded by such beneficence, such natural generosity, such abundance; I often have to remind myself that this is my responsibility too. Because as Luther Burbank, famous horticulturist of the 1930s and 40s (responsible for thousands of new cultivated verities which you probably have growing in your garden) said, when you breed out a characteristic from a native plant to suit humanity, you make a covenant with it to provide for it what you have taken from it in the breeding process. That means feeding, protecting, harboring, breeding, watering and giving it space.

Even if you only have a little bed of tomatoes, or a big flower garden, or an acre of food growing plants, the daily walkabout will provide for you and the garden valuable information, intimate understanding, and ongoing maintenance. And hopefully a few minutes to an hour of joy.

Good Gardening,

Diann Dirks,

Certified Permaculture Designer, 55 year organic gardener.



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Making Supplements and Home Remedies for Self Reliance 6-17-19

Almost anything we buy these days, for money, I ask myself – “Can I make this myself or save some money in some way.” We have moved up in the years department, I do research every day, and I am savey when it comes to thrift, frugality, and paying attention especially to what we put into our bodies. This is about self-reliance and sustainability. I also think if the grid suddenly went down, would we loose health because we can’t just go down to the vitamin store and load up, or have the healing and tonic herbs we use to keep ourselves healthy.

Of course growing your own organic fruit and vegetables is a big part of being self-reliant and ensuring food safety and provision. But we expect most of your food comes from the store. However, if you rely on fast food, restaurant eating, pre-packaged foods or other convenience eating, you know you aren’t getting the

nutrition you need to provide your body with the full spectrum of sustenance you need to stay healthy, young and vital, or overcome existing health issues.

So, here we have the subject of supplementing your diet or providing yourself with home supplied remedies for the usual low level health issues like colds, flu, rashes, bug bites, etc. There are so many plant based remedies for these things, you probably can go outside and throw a rock and hit three of them growing in your lawn, unless you use chemical weedkillers. We don’t! If you use chemicals, don’t use those plants. Find a chemical free place to harvest the things i recommend below to make yourself more self-reliant.

Several years ago one of my interns was a certified herbalist. I have always been interested in herbs both medicinal and culinary, so this was fascinating to me. While I was increasing her growing skills she was teaching me about using herbs. We made tinctures with alcohol, vinegar and glycerin; salves and ointments with the herbs on hand; teas, infusions and decoctions (boiling rather than steeping plants) out of herbs growing here and those we could forage in the woods or open land. It was a revelation.

I also took a couple of classes, one of which was an herb walk, up in the Appalachian Mountains with well known herbalist Patricia Kyritsi Howell. I already had a thriving garden but I was using my regular weeding practices to clear my beds. After that herb walk I started researching and IDing every plant on my land because most of the ones I had been pulling, thinking they were just weeds, turned out to be medicinal, edible, or useful in some other way. What an eye opener that was. I have continued to learn about my local plant friends. When I got to 500 plants, I quit counting because the abundance was so astounding.

As a result, another friend told me about how to fill my own capsules for taking powdered herbs. The little device used to fill it was about $18 from Mountain Rose Herb Company, and I managed to find good sources of bags of the empty capsules from the NOW company online. I now order about 5- to 8000 at a time (in 1000 bags for about $8 a bag).

At first I just made a few things for my husband and I. We couldn’t find salt tablets for weathering the high temperatures we get here in NE Georgia, but I made up capsules that had the good kind of salt – Himalayan or Real salt loaded with minerals. This is actually an improvement over what is available commercially if you can even find them.

But as I got more comfortable with this idea, and because I had a little hand held coffee bean grinder that I could double use to make powders from herbs, I was in business – at least for my husband and myself.

Gradually I started finding bulk powdered herbs commercially for what I couldn’t grow here, or powdered vitamins and other supplements that could be encapsulated. Basically when you buy vitamins from the store you are paying a lot for the marketing, packaging, encapsulating, profit for the middlemen and the store, and not much for the actual product.

Another advantage is that when a pill is a tablet, it’s highly compressed to make it into pill shape, and if you ask anyone who does high colonics for a living, or gut health, they will tell you about the piles of undigested pills that come out of people when cleaning out their guts. One colonic specialist had a pile of tablets in their back yard that was about 4 feet high from what was evacuated from clients. But when you put those same powders into a capsule, they are looser, the gelatin outer capsule dissolves, the powders disburse into the digestion process, and the plant chemicals you want to be used in your body are then utilized. So, you may have to take two or three to get the same volume, but in fact, probably one capsule does the duty of one tablet because it actually can be used by the body.

Yesterday my husband reminded me he was out of some of the things I make for us. So, I sat watching TV and making up capsules. I ground dehydrated blueberries from my garden last year to make Lycopene for him – it’s great for men’s prostates. I had powdered Kelp for the iodine and minerals, and a mixed Himalayan and Real salt container to make up salt pills for myself. If you can take salt, taking Kelp with it gives you the balanced iodine needed with salt. And it’s in a natural form.

We like to take Milk Thistle to clean out the liver and the seeds (the medicinal part) are available thru a friend who is a supply company distributor for farmers (Frontier). They got powdered with the coffee grinder.

My hubby takes two kinds of magnesium, citrate and another kind. I ordered both in powdered form online and made up separate capsules for each. Sometimes one indicates, other times both or the other one.

At other times I have made up a number of kinds of herbs for us from my organic herb garden, useful for many tonic uses or in some cases as home remedies for colds, flu, and other health issues.

I like to make my own Echinacea tincture as an immune booster. I harvest the flowers, leaves and roots, and make the tincture with vodka I get from my local package store, by the half gallon I make so many kinds. So, when I feel a cold coming on, I take a squirt from a dropper bottle a few times a day and don’t get sick. I have a number of other herbs that help with respiratory, gut, headache and other minor maladies. I have done a great deal of research on these, it’s not random.

Many of the herbs in the garden are loaded with minerals like dandelion leaf and root so harvesting them, drying them in my dehydrator, powdering and encapsulating them is as good or better than taking a mineral pill which costs money and probably doesn’t have the freshness or energetics of what I grow here in my own space. Most minerals commercially are tablets so their cellular availability is questionable.

I grow elderberries and in spring, their flowers, both of which are medicinal. The berries when made into a syrup using local honey and a bit of brandy for preservation is one of the best anti-virals there is. Sombucol is a commercial gel cap version of this sold at drugstores. But when I make it, I know it doesn’t have any contaminants, it’s thoroughly organically grown, and it tastes amazing. But when I don’t want the honey I also make it into a tincture with vodka that goes in my coffee in the morning, 20 drops at a time. The flowers also have medicinal and culinary value so they get harvested in the spring and a tincture or tea is also made with them.

I grow so many herbs that make lovely tisanes – the real word for herbal teas since ‘tea’ is a specific plant – Camellia sinensis. Many of the plants growing here are delicious and have multiple benefits. I probably grow about 30 members of the mint family, most of which make lovely infusions – tisanes – for drinking. A short list is: sweet mint, peppermint, spearmint, basil of every kind. Tulsi aka holy basil, catnip, lemon and lime balm, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender, and perilla. I grow all of these here, and more.

Because they are growing fresh I usually just go out and pick what looks lovely and seems right for the moment when making some enjoyable beverage ‘tea’, but in the winter it isn’t usually available so I individually harvest the leaves and flowers at peak perfection and dehydrate them, store them for later use. They get made up into a tisane individually, or because all of them have specific medicinal uses too, I often blend them for those uses. For example I make a calming tea, a digestion enhancing tea, an immune boosting tea, and many others. They are thoroughly dried, labeled, and are ready for use any time. They last several years once dehydrated so they are easy to keep on hand.

Supplementation for vitamins comes in many forms. Most fruit when dehydrated and powdered are loaded with Vitamin C, but often many others are full of the full spectrum of vitamins. We harvest berries of many varieties here: blueberries, raspberries, wild blackberries, wine berries (wild raspberries), strawberries, and elderberries.

Berries have incredible nutritional values, full of the kinds of plant chemicals that keep the body humming and healthy. They are usually only harvest-able during short times, so when they come in season, I try to either dehydrate and powder them, or preserve them in some way. When they are available in the stores they often come from great distances away, or have been stored for varying times, and just aren’t the same quality as what I grow in my own garden, and they sure don’t taste as good either!  Elderberry syrup from my garden is a memorable flavor.  If you can’t grow them yourself, find a local organic grower or get them from your local farmers market. The quality will be better I’m thinking.

So, as a homesteader, Permaculture Designer, and organic gardener, when I want to help the body get stronger, tone up, boost the immune system, heal externally or internally, get better sleep, energize or calm down, even out my hormones or my husband, help with a physical problem, infection, or imbalance, I just find out what herbs or plants help me with that and put them in the ground, then harvest them at their peak.

I grow about 150 kinds of herbs, about 300 kinds of annual plants not specifically medicinal but beneficial in many ways, grow super foods as vegetables or herbs, about 40 fruit, herb and medicinal trees and bushes, and keep good research and records on all of them. So when I need some help from the plant world, my knowledge and my store of tinctures, salves and ointments, dried herbs for tea, vinegars, and oils is at hand.

Not everyone is going to want to get into this as thoroughly as I do because I admit it is a kind of passion for me, so fascinating and enjoyable, as well as healthful. But there are some things you can make up immediately not even having to grow or process your own things. Here is a short list of the companies I avail myself of their products: I Herb, Mountain Rose Herb Company, Bulk Herb Store, Bulk Apothecary, Starwest Botanicals, Frontier, Bulk Herbs and Spice – to name a few – can provide either dried or dried and powdered herbs and supplements in bulk at good prices.

Or you can start with a few plants and gradually increase your skill and knowledge. I like to start with easy to grow plants like the mint family herbs. Most of them you already know about from cooking with them – like sage which is a terrifically medicinal, anti-aging, and other properties herb, rosemary likewise, thyme, a wonderful antibiotic and tea, etc. Just do some research and you will be amazed. Just do a google search asking: Medicinal properties of _________ plant or substance. They will usually tell you if there are any adverse or problematic aspects of them, who shouldn’t take them, etc. so you know if there is anything counter indicated if you are already on pharmaceuticals or pregnant etc. So you can choose wisely about your own health.

Using the internet to learn is a huge benefit we should take advantage of. When I research a plant or substance, I don’t just take the first article I come across. I read everything the internet has on the subject, take good notes, make my own notes of what I could use it for and in what form – ointment, tincture, tea, etc. – and go from there.

I also make good records on the internet of the articles, site URLs and am systematic about which files they go I. I make a general individual plant or substance file, then if it has specific uses for various bodily systems, they go in that file, as well as if it has recipes for blends or tea or ointments, etc. they go in that file. I can bring up almost anything in a couple of minutes if I have a question. And if my files are incomplete, I just do more google searching. I actually don’t use the brand “Google” for my search because I don’t trust them not to forward my internet use to others, but use firefox Startpage instead.

I also keep vitamin bottles from commercial sources to put my capsules in or save baby food jars or other small containers, and label them simply with masking tape or in the case of something with a lot of medicinal properties, a good label generated on my word processor. I have a special cabinet I keep all my pills, another one for bulk tinctures, and keep smaller dropper bottles on my counter where I use them frequently. The ointments and salves are kept in the refrigerator. Individual oils are on another shelf. My house looks like an apothecary but friends who do this on a much smaller scale just keep a cabinet for their home made medicinal and supplement creations.

I am a 1700’s living historian so I have done quite a bit of study into the lives of people 250 years ago. People didn’t have physicians in this area of NE Georgia back then, and any doctoring they had was a home remedy. Both men and women learned the local beneficial plants and how to fight snake bites, insect bites, infections, illnesses, long term illnesses, etc. They often deferred to the local Native American healer for use of local herbs (the Cherokee for example were knowledgeable and used over 1500 native herbs and mushrooms which grow here in the Appalachian range). Women traditionally kept a recipe book (they called receipts) filled with notes and passed down generation to generation, often going back to the Old Country of their origin, and added to as they learned ways to help themselves and their families survive the vigorous and often dangerous environment they lived in.

They kept a cabinet or a chest, or haversack of gathered or grown remedies and often shared them with neighbors if need be. They often foraged or gathered when traveling and taking the plants that were beneficial as they were known and ID’ed. It wasn’t unusual for a family to do all their own doctoring, and foraged also for edible native plants for their high nutritional content, much like we would take a vitamin pill now. Their diets would not be much recognizable to us today, often laced with what we now consider weeds. But the native plants often are of much higher nutritional value certainly than the plump, pretty, but nutritionally deficient grocery store foods we eat now. So, from a survival standpoint, or just from a health viewpoint, it is a wise thing to acquaint yourself with what is available wild in your yard, your area, or from local growers or foragers.

One of my big revelations about this area is the abundance and variety of edible and medicinal mushrooms. This is an area requiring real knowledge and isn’t to be taken lightly because many mushrooms you see could make you darned sick. But on the other hand some of them are so nutritional as to be considered ‘super food’, and some even cure cancer. So, if you can hook up with a mushroom club or knowledgeable forager, or find a forager club on the internet, you can get some really amazing foods and medicines. Some people around here consider it recreational to go on forages and often post their finds on Facebook.

Make sure of your sources, and do your own research before taking anything. But there are some of the most delicious fungi here, it’s a treasure house. We eat Morel, Lion’s Mane, Chicken and Hen of the Woods, Oyster, Shitake, Black staining polypore, Chanterelle, Berkeley polypore, just to name a few which grow here locally in the woods or are cultivated by friends. They all can be cooked into tempting dishes or  harvested, dehydrated, powdered and encapsulated, or cut up and made into tinctures for some amazing tonics. I take them every day. These ‘fungi fruit’ (a mushroom is the fruit of the fungi whose body is actually made of tiny strands of fungi that form layers in the soil) provide some of the most nutritious and medicinal plant substances known to man and can be incorporated into your diet or supplement plan.

In summary, you can grow, forage, or order a high percentage of the substances you need to increase your nutrition from supplements, or remedy yourself or family with very little money, and some research on the internet. Or you can take some classes offered by local knowledgeable people like herbalists, naturopaths, chiropractors or holistic health care professionals, or even homesteading groups or county extension officers.

There are some excellent books on the subjects I have mentioned above. Chelsea Green Publishing Company is a wonderful resource for alternate lifestyle, off the grid, Permaculture, herbalism and other subjects by very knowledgeable people. I have a large number of their books and use them as resources often. One day I hope to publish with them myself, they are that good. Avail yourself of this rich resource as you have the means. Or pick books you like from their catalog and get them used thru Amazon. Sometimes you can even find good ones in your library or order them on their library systems.

Just remember that knowledge is power. The more you know about providing for yourself from what is naturally available, the less money you need to survive well, and the less you have to worry about a culture that is often unreliable and even untruthful about what they are selling you.

Good luck in your quest to be self-reliant and healthy.

Diann Dirks 6-17-19







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