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Blog, Fire Cider

Fire Cider: What it is and how to make and use it

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What is Fire Cider? Fire Cider is a blend made with raw apple cider vinegar, horseradish, garlic, onions, ginger, hot peppers and raw honey. The name Fire Cider comes from Rosemary Gladstar, who started making and sharing her adaptation of this tonic back in the 1970's. Rosemary has written a number of books that include her Fire Cider recipe. She has been sharing this recipe and the name Fire Cider with people for over 30 years, so it came as a great shock when the herbal community recently learned of a company in Massachusetts having trademarked the name Fire Cider. The herbal community is responding by asking folks to sign a petition to revoke this trademark as well as boycotting the product until this issue has been resolved. We do hope this situation will be quickly and respectfully addressed, so herbalist can continue selling their version of Fire Cider.

https://www.change.org/petitions/united-states-patent-and-trademark-office-revoke-fire-cider-trademark

Herbalist and farmers from all over the country have been make this blend for many years, adding their own twist to the recipe. Here at Herbal Revolution we like to add hyssop, turmeric, nasturtiums, burdock root, dandelion root, lemons, rosemary, thyme and sometimes lemongrass and elecampane to the basic recipe.

Fire Cider has traditionally been used to help ward off a colds, flu, congestion, head colds, sinus issues, digestive woes, aching joints, etc. It is a wonderful way to warm the body, support and boost the immune system, promote healthy flora in the digestive system, aid in removing toxins and balance the ph level in the body. It’s high in minerals and vitamins and is great way to keep our bones and teeth strong and healthy.

Here in mid-coast Maine we are fortunate to have the oldest running organic apple orchard, Sewall’s Orchard. Bob Sewall the owner, planted every tree on his property over 20 years ago and has been caring for them since. He has been a huge advocate and voice for small organic farmers here in the state of Maine, working closely with Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association for years. I use his raw apple cider vinegar for our blend of Fire Cider.

When making a Fire Cider you can find almost all of the ingredients at your local farmers market and apple orchards. If you don’t have access to any local farms or markets then these items can easily be found at your local grocer as well. Making Fire Cider is easy, fun and comes in handy during the winter months.

I highly encourage folks to make their own Fire Cider, to be creative, support your local small organic farmers and enjoy the rewards of this nutritious spicy mix. Below you can find a Fire Cider recipe with great thanks to Heather Bruntil for creating such a beautiful poster and writing up a great blog on Fire Cider as well.

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There are lots of ways to use your Fire Cider once its ready, personally I LOVE to cook with it. I use it when making salad dressings, ketchup, salsa, spicy peanut sauce and lots of other sauces, sautéed vegetables, wilted greens, soups, and for deglazing pans when cooking. I like to sip on it and add it to bloody marys as well.

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Patties with Tahini Yogurt Dressing adapted from the book: Recipes for Repair by Gail and Laura Piazza

1 cup sweet potato, mashed

1 cup chickpeas, mashed

¼ red pepper, finely chopped

garlic

2 scallions finely chopped

salt

pepper

pinch of paprika

2 tbsp mayo

Fire Cider   

I like to roast the sweet potato with olive oil, salt pepper, maybe even a little cumin seeds. I like a lot of garlic, the original recipe calls for 1 clove so use what you like and chop the garlic up nice and fine and saute with olive oil, salt and pepper. I also sauteed the peppers with olive oil, pepper and a little Fire Cider. Mix all the ingredients together, add the finely chopped cilantro and Fire Cider to taste, just be cautious to not make the mixture to wet. Let it set in fridge for 30 minutes. The original recipe called for making the mixture into small patties and dredging in almond flour and pan fry. I found this to not work out so well so I omitted the almond flour and baked them instead on a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper at about 350' . I would check on them every so often flipping them over, honestly, I wasn't really paying attention to the time I just eyed them until they had a nice golden brown coating, which roughly seemed like 15 minute for both sides.

For the sauce I used about 1-2 tbsp of The Milk House Greek Yogurt, 1 tbsp of tahini, olive oil, salt pepper, Fire Cider, lemon juice and finely chopped cilantro, dash of raw honey. The ingredients that don't have a measurement, I suggest adding to taste. I suggest this even with the ingredients that I do give measurements for as well. I place everything in a bowl except for the olive oil and I blend together using an immersion blender and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. I am always tasting and adding what flavors that I desire the most.

I serve this dressing over the patties topping it off with cilantro.

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St. John's Wort, Blog

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Oil

Fresh St. John's Wort Oil infusing in the sun.

Here in Maine, St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) grows in abundance along the coast, islands, fields and blueberry barrens. While living on an island a few miles off the coast in my early 20's, a friend showed me a brilliant way to identify this wonderful medicine. He picked a leaf off a plant that was growing in the back yard and held it up to the sun and had me look at it and I loved what I saw. The leaf was full of tiny see through holes that looked like perforations in the leaf, providing me with an "ah-ha" moment of where the name Hypericum perforatum came from. The holes in the leaf are medicinal oil glands, recognized by herbalist of old the holes in the leaves reminded them of the pores in the skin.

"The little holes where of the leaves of Saint Johns wort are full, doe resemble all the pores of the skin and therefore it is profitable for all hurts and wounds that can happen thereunto." - William Coles (1626–1662)

The beautiful yellow flowers have little black dots along the petals.  When you rub the flower between your fingers it will stain them red. This is another great way to identify the plant and the medicine it provides. St. John's Wort makes brilliant and beautiful red medicine. This is how you know the medicine is of quality and prepared properly. I have had people come up to me and tell me that they have bought the tincture or the oil in health food store only to find that the medicine is brown. When they asked my why there is such a drastic difference in color from what they bought and the medicine that I make.  I believe that if using the dried plant material you will not get the deep richness that you do from using carefully and ethically harvested plants. When making medicine with St. John's Wort you also want to place it in the sun. I don't suggest this for other oils or tinctures but it is necessary that you place your jars in the sunlight. A chemical reaction occurs with the plant material and the sunlight pulling out the hypericum in the plant which also is what gives it the beautiful color. I don't feel you are going to get as high a quality medicine when using dried St. John's Wort, which is why I only use fresh. 

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Oil

When purchasing the oil if it is in a clear bottle you will be able to see the quality, good quality oil looks like a bright candy red to a nice deep dark red, and if you are looking to purchase tincture look on the label to see if fresh plant material was used. The best bet when purchasing most herbal medicine is to find a local herbalist that you know works with fresh plant material and ethically gathers plants that are growing in your bio-region. Then you can know for sure that you are getting good high quality medicine that was made with care.

I truly love using St. John's Wort oil, it has a beautiful rich scent that has a hint of sweetness to it. I use it often in my massage practice as well as almost daily on myself sometimes mixed with goldenrod oil. Being an avid herb gardener as well as dealing with Lyme disease, I often deal with achy sore muscles and joints. Self massage is a wonderful way to nourish and ease the nervous system as well as sooth tired sore muscles and joints. I choose the combination of  St. John's Wort and goldenrod oil. Goldenrod is great for muscle aches and pains as well as St. John's Wort. St. John's Wort is also soothing to nerves and can ease nerve related pain such as sciatica. 

I recently had surgery and the surgeon went through my abdomen in three different spots. As I was healing, my skin felt numb and painful to the touch, this was from the nerves that had been damaged and were still in the process of regenerating. I started to gently use St. John's oil on my lower abdomen to help encourage the regenerations of the nerves as well as to sooth the numb and painful sensations.

St. John's wort oil is also great for sun burns as well as other first degree burns. I tend to first put raw honey on the burn and once the heat has been pulled out a bit I than cover the area with St. John's Wort oil, I have done this a number of times with great success.  The oil can be used on bruises, inflammations and scrapes.

I love using St. John's Wort Oil alone but I also love to blend it when needed. Here are some of my other favorite oils to use with St. John's Wort. Sore and aching muscles:  Goldenrod, Ginger, Tumeric and Lavender.

To make St. John's Wort infused oil, gather from plants that are far from roads and any other type of possible areas of pollution. It's important to be conscious of the amount of plants when you find them. If there are just a few then leave them. As a wild gatherer it is you responsibility to make sure that your harvesting in an ethical manner. Only harvest what you need, and when I come to a healthy stand of plants I harvest so you wouldn't know that I had ever been there. Some herbs though are considered a weed or invasive and St. John's Wort is considered a weed to many organic blueberry growers. So if you live near an organic grower it might be worth while to contact them to see if you can harvest from their fields. 

When harvesting your looking for healthy, vibrant plants that are at their flowering peak. Years ago I used to only harvest the flowers one at a time, I found this to be extremely meditative, and it created a gorgeous red medicine. Over time though I started to harvest the top third of the plant, flowers and leaves as there is medicine in the leaves as well. 

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Once I have gathered what I need for the year, I coarsely cut the plant material and then loosely pack the cut material into a mason jar. I then fill the jar with a high quality oil, I often use an organic olive oil for it's own wonderful medicinal properties but also for its lengthy shelf life and stability. I do play around with other oils though such as jojoba, sesame and grape seed.

Once you have filled the jar with oil, use a stem from the plant or a skewer stick also works well, and gently poke the plant material down. This will help bring any air bubbles to the surface. This may take awhile so be patient. Once you have gotten most of the bubbles out, cover the jar but not to tightly in case more air still needs to be released. If keeping the jar in the house, place it on a plate in a sunny spot. You could also place your jar outside in the sun. I like to let my oils sit for a least 6 weeks before straining, I check on them regularly topping them off with oil and shaking them. After six-weeks, strain the oil, and place in a beautiful jar, label and use liberally. Enjoy!

Blog, Dandelion

Making and Using Dandelion Oil

Here in Maine, as with many places that experience the four seasons, we welcome the coming of spring with open arms. The return of spring, also means the return of the plants, trees, migrating animals and the wild edibles and medicinals.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is one of these wild edible/medicinals that I eagerly welcome back. The entire plant is both edible and medicinal and I use the flower, leaves and roots to make tea, tinctures, oils, vinegars, wine, beer and I also cook with them.

Today I am going to highlight the beautiful dandelion flower and how to make and use dandelion flower oil.

A field of dandelions in full bloom is a brilliant sight to see in the springtime. These flowers not only bring a smile to my face but they also bring warmth to my heart, and every spring I make a golden herbal oil with these flowers.

Dandelion oil has a lovely relationship with breasts and the breast tissue, making it a great oil to be used for breast massage. Dandelion oil can help ease and release tension and the deep emotions that can be stored away in our breast tissue. I believe that regular breast massage, using oils that have an affinity for the breasts, will help encourage us to provide our breasts and ourselves with a deeper sense of support, confidence, kindness and love. Here are some, not all, but some other oils that mix well with dandelion oil for the breasts: Dandelion root, Lady's Mantle, Violet, Calendula, Burdock seeds, Rose and Sacred Basil.

Dandelion flower oil can also be used as a fabulous moisturizer for the body, and a deep relaxant and tension reliever. Dandelion oil makes a great choice of oil for receiving a full body massage. It has the ability to help release stored emotions that are being held with in our muscle tissue, which can cause us deep tension and stress. It also works well on achy sore muscles, joints, swollen breasts and tense backs and necks.

To make this lovely oil, find a place to gather the flowers that is away from roads and free of pesticides and chemicals. Pick a nice sunny day or at least wait till the morning dew has evaporated off of the plants and gather the the full, non-damaged, healthiest looking blossoms. Please be mindful and thankful when you are gathering the dandelion blossom as with all herbal gathering that you do.

Once you have gathered the flowers bring them home, spread them out evenly on a drying screen and let the flowers lay out for a day. I suggest letting the flowers wilt for a day as opposed to using the freshly picked flowers due to the water content in the flowers. Water and oil don't mix and the presence of water in the oil can encourage the oil to go rancid. This has happened to me a number of times while making fresh herbal oils, so now, depending on the plant, I will usually let the plant material lay out on screens for a day.

After the flowers have wilted for a day I then place them into a sterile jar, I use mason jars which come in pint, quart and half gallons sizes. I fill the jar right up with flowers, making sure not to pack the flowers in to tight, I keep them nice and loose. Then I use an organic or pesticide free olive oil and slowly fill the jar with oil. You will see little air bubbles finding there way to the top of the jar. I use a wooden skewer to help encourage the air out of the jar, this is very important, the presence of air can also spoil your oil. Getting all of the air out can take sometime, keep refilling the jar with oil until you know longer see any air bubbles. Cover the jar and place on a plate or in a container, because the jar will weep a bit and can make a mess. You will want to check the oil over the next few days and weeks, checking to see if more oil needs to be added to the jar. You should place the oil in a dark place that is not to warm and not to cool for at least two weeks and up to six.

Label your jar clearly, write the date that you made the oil, what the oil is, did you use fresh, wilted or dry material, and sometimes it can be nice to keep track of where you harvested on the label also.

After two to six weeks it is time to strain the oil. I use a metal mesh strainer and a piece of unbleached cheese cloth inside of that strainer. I use bowl that has been cleaned and sterilized and slowly pour the jar of oil with dandelions into the strainer. As the flowers come out I squeeze the excess oil out of them and then add them to the compost, I do this in stages. It will make a mess if you pour the whole contents into the strainer at once.  When you have strained everything off, place your new golden oil into a sterile beautiful bottle or jar and admire. If you are going to use a clear jar store the oil in a dark place. Amber colored jars or bottles make a great storage place for oils, but then you don't get to see the beautiful colors, so just be aware of where you store the oil. Olive oil comes in dark jars for a reason, it helps keep the oil stable, where the presence of air and light can encourage the oil to spoil. I use olive oil the most when making herbal oils because it is one of the most stable oils and it does a great job of extracting medicinal properties from plant material.

I have mentioned to avoid things that could spoil or cause your oil to go rancid a few times, this is something to be aware of. When making an oil sometimes they can go bad and when they do you will know. It is just an awful smell, a smell that makes you understand something has gone wrong. If this happens, don't be discouraged, compost the jar contents and try again. Think about what you could do differently next time, like check on it more often to make sure the oil is to the top covering all of the plant material. Plant material that is exposed to air and not covered with the oil can also encourage spoiling.

The last thing to be aware of when making herbal oils is that sometimes mold will grow in the oil, this usually happens when the plant material is left to long in the jar. If this happens and the oil still smells good and not rancid, then just scoop the mold out of the jar with a spoon, making sure that you got it all. The oil should be fine to use after you remove the mold.

Now that you have your lovely dandelion oil, use it, share a bottle with friends and family and enjoy!