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