herbal

How to Make Plantain Leaf Herbal Soap

I’m not a soapmaker. Let’s just start with that. However, I love homemade soap, and I have some amazing friends who are awesome soapmakers.

Soap making is one of those lost skills that truly does take a few tries to learn and get right. Thankfully, it’s really not a hard or complicated process, it just looks a little scary when it comes to using certain ingredients.

Lye, specifically, scares the bejeezus out of me. However, when I got Jan Berry’s book, Simple & Natural Soapmaking, a brand new sense of confidence welled up within me. This book is absolutely incredible and takes all the “scary” out of it! It’s perfect for the beginner soap maker, and even the experienced one.

The photos alone are gorgeous to flip through, and Jan’s ease of instructions are so inviting to the homesteader.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes from her new book, which you can find here.

Plantain is a common leafy green weed found throughout the world that soothes, cools and moisturizes. This soap recipe features nourishing plantain infused olive oil, but for an extra dose of herbal goodness, you could also use cooled plantain tea in place of the water.
Before you make this recipe, you’ll first need to make plantain infused oil. To do so, fill a canning jar about half-way with dried plantain leaves. Pour olive oil over the dried herb until completely covered by several extra inches of oil. Cover with a lid and infuse for several weeks, then strain. For a quicker infusion, set the uncovered jar into a saucepan filled with a few inches of water. Heat the pan over very low heat for 2 to 3 hours. Cool and strain. Use in place of regular olive oil in soap recipes.

Plantain Leaf Herbal Soap

Makes 7 to 8 bars (2.5 lbs/1.13 kg)
Lye Solution
3.95 oz (112 g) Sodium Hydroxide (also called Lye or Caustic Soda)
8.75 oz (248 g) Distilled Water or Plantain Tea
1 tsp French Green Clay (optional, for pale green color)
Solid Oils
7.5 oz (213 g) Coconut Oil
4 oz (113 g) Mango or Shea Butter
Liquid Oils
13 oz (369 g) Plantain Infused Olive Oil
3.5 oz (99 g) Hemp or Avocado Oil
Extras
1.05 oz (30 g) lavender essential oil (optional, for scent)
Notes & Tips
If you don’t have mango or shea butter, try using cocoa or kokum butter, tallow or lard for a similar effect.
To further enhance the recipe, you could add 1 tbsp ground oats and/or 1.5 tsp honey (diluted with 1.5 tsp water) at trace.
All oils, butters, water and lye should be measured by weight. You need an accurate scale to make soap.
Step 1: Make the Lye Solution
Wearing protective gloves and eyewear, carefully stir the lye (sodium hydroxide) into the distilled water or plantain tea until dissolved. Stir in the French green clay, if using, for added color. Work in an area with good ventilation and be careful not to breathe in the fumes. Set the lye solution aside to cool for about 30 or 40 minutes or until the temperature drops to around 100 to 110°F (38 to 43°C).
Step 2: Prepare the Oils
Gently heat the coconut oil and mango or shea butter on low heat until melted. When the solid oils are melted, take the pan off the heat and pour in the liquid oils. This helps cool down the melted oils, while warming up the room temperature oils.
Step 3: Mixing
Pour the cooled lye solution into the warm oils. Using a combination of hand stirring and an immersion blender, stir the soap batter until it thickens and reaches trace. Trace is when the soap has thickened enough so when you drizzle a small amount of the batter across the surface, it will leave a fleeting, but visible imprint or “trace” before sinking back in.
Step 4: Add Essential Oils
If using, stir in the lavender essential oil.
Step 5: Pour in Mold
Pour the soap batter into a soap mold. Cover lightly with wax or freezer paper, then a towel or light blanket. Peek at the soap every so often; if it starts developing a crack, uncover and move to a cooler location.
Step 6: Cut & Cure
Keep the soap in the mold for 1 to 2 days, or until it’s easy to remove, then slice it into bars when it’s firm enough not to stick to your cutting tool. Cure on coated cooling racks or sheets of wax paper for about 4 weeks before using. The soap is safe to touch 48 hours after making it but it needs the extra time to allow the excess moisture to evaporate out.
You’re done!
Enjoy your soap!

How to Make An Herbal Salve

Herbal salves use to intimidate the bejeezus out of me. But when I started making them, I wondered what on earth took me so long to take this next step into herbalism. Salves are extremely easy to make, and equally as beneficial to the homesteading herbalist’s medicine cabinet.
Let me show you just how easy it is….

We make herbal salves to heal irritated skin, soothe sore muscles, speed up the healing process of cuts and wounds, and we can even make salves to help with respiratory distress—like homemade vapo rub.
But today I’m going to give you one of my go to herbal salve recipes. You can adapt this recipe with whatever herbs you see fit. Find the recipe below, and watch the video too!
Use this salve on bumps and bruises, sore muscles, bug bites, and more!

Soothing Chamomile Salve

1 oz calendula infused oil

1 oz chamomile infused oil

1 oz arnica infused oil

.5 to 1 oz beeswax

Method:

  1. In a double boiler (a mason jar setting in a saucepan with water in it), combine all ingredients (in the jar) until completely melted.
  2. Quickly pour into tins and allow to cool completely.
  3. Cap tightly, label, and store for up to 1 year.

Watch the video here:

Buy Organic herbs here:

Bulk Herb Store
Mountain Rose Herbs

Products I use to make salves:

8 Common Chicken Illnesses & How to Treat Them

 

It happens to everyone at some point or another. You go and start your flock with a few chickens—everything in life is happy and grand. And then one day, you walk outside to a dead bird, a sick bird, or a “what the heck is wrong with it” bird. That’s when the death emotion sinks in and you think you’re a failure at chicken keeping.

The reality is that sick or hurt chickens can happen to just about anyone. Of course, there are certainly things you can do to prevent illness and mishaps. Today we’ll talk about some of the common chicken illnesses and hurts, and also, how to treat them effectively.

 

First thing’s first—you need to understand that chickens are prey animals. Meaning, they can be sick and hurt long before ever showing symptoms of being so. This is why monthly (and even weekly) animal checks are important. Look over each and every chicken as often as possible for you on your homestead. For us, at one point, we had a lot of chickens. It wasn’t possible to check them all over in one week. So we did monthly checks.
Next, you’ll need to figure out how you want to treat animals on your homestead—chemically or holistically? Or both, when it comes right down to it.
We are not strictly “holistic” here. If holistic methods don’t work, I certainly go for the chemical method, or cull. However, all of the methods in today’s blog are about holistic treatment. I always try hard to use my herbs and essential oils first.
We are a working homestead. Therefore, sometimes it’s better to cut our losses than throw $50+ into a $10-$25 chicken. It just doesn’t add up for us to do that. We certainly keep things on hand if something goes wrong, but for a single incident? Absolutely not. Culling is our choice when all else fails within reason.
Prevention Is Key

If you take nothing else away from this blog, please take away this. Prevention on your homestead is essential. The bulk of things that go wrong with your chickens could have been prevented or at least counteracted.

So, how do you prevent illnesses in your chickens?
 
 
Give Them A Healthy Diet
Make sure they have all the nutrients they need. Skip the GMO feed if you can. Organic is certainly best, but not possible for some incomes.
Add Supplements to Their Feed
This is a really ideal way to help prevent disease and illness in your flock. I highly suggest adding things such as dried/powdered garlic, Diatomaceous Earth (DE), Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS), Oregano, and Turmeric into their feed and diet as much as possible. Oregano is a natural antibiotic. Garlic aids in immune health and is antibacterial. DE is a natural wormer. BOSS adds extra protein to your chickens diet, and also aids in digestion. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and also aids in aches and pains, purifies blood, aids respiratory health, and strengthens the immune system. I would say out of everything, garlic, turmeric, and oregano are my top picks to put into their feed on a regular basis.
Add Apple Cider Vinegar to their Water
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) helps alkalize the body in any living being. It’s also great for gut and crop health in chickens because it’s filled with wonderful probiotics and has anti-fungal properties. I do not suggest adding ACV to water during the hot months, as it can actually cause them to over heat more in the summer time.
Fresh Herbs and Snacks

Growing your own chicken garden isn’t always the easiest, but when you can set aside time to dry herbs (or order them online), and add it into their feed, you’ll see your chickens health improve dramatically. Herbs and snacks such as garlic, oregano, thyme, marigolds, dandelions, violets, chickweed, red raspberry leaf, elderberry (dried), and autumn olive berry are great, wild grown options for your flock. Some of these things you can find right in your own backyard. Others you can forage for. And still, others, you can grow yourself or order large bags of online here.
Pumpkin seeds and DE in their feed are also great options, and help prevent worms in your chickens digestive tract.

Keep Essential Oils On Hand
Essential oils are a very quick alternative to harsh chemicals. We’ve healed many a chicken strictly with Oregano and Melaleuca! You can find out more about EOs HERE.

Make Sure Their Forage Area and Coop is Safe
Ultimately, some things happen because of unsafe living areas. Whether it’s a predator attack, or a hen getting her leg caught in some contraption—do a check on your barn, coop, and foraging areas often. Rid these areas of any potential safety hazards for your flock and yourself.
Illnesses and Treatment

Now that we have the prevention part of this equation down, lets get right down to the nitty gritty. You’re probably reading this blog because you need help right here and now. You now know how to help prevent illness, but that doesn’t help you right in this moment if your chicken is ill or in pain. Here are some common ailments and the the treatments for them.

Lice and Mites —

We had our first run in with lice about 6 months into our chicken journey when we bought lice infested chickens from someone we thought we knew well, but in fact, were stuck with sick chickens. I made the mistake of treating them chemically, and almost ended up in the hospital myself. After their first treatment, I learned of a much better way to continue treating them (as they need to be treated for an entire month).

Lice and mites transmit from other birds. However, if left long enough, can become an epidemic and kill your chickens by feeding on their blood supply. It takes awhile to get to that point, which is how we knew the chickens had lice before they arrived here (and none of my other flock had them, but had to be treated still). Should you find yourself with an anemic chicken, raw red meat in his/her diet is essential to get their iron levels back up.

The safest and best treatment: Dusting your chickens (very carefully) with wood ash and/or DE will rid them of any parasites that are currently on them. You’ll need to make sure you are dusting them right down to the skin, where these parasites live. You can add DE and wood ash to a special dust bathing area for the remainder of the month, so that they can dust themselves after the first initial  dusting. Or you can continue dusting them individually once a week. In fact, you should do this as a preventative at all times (the regular dust bath). Treating for one month ensures that you catch all of the eggs that have hatched since the first initial treatment. You’ll also need to clean out the entire coop and dust with DE.

Scaly Leg Mites —

Scaly leg mites are very similar in transmittal as lice and mites for chickens. However, I have read some pretty crazy “treatments” online for it. Someone even suggested you douse the legs in gasoline or kerosene. Please, do not do that.

The safest and best treatment: Soak your chickens legs in a warm water bath with dish liquid. Scrub their legs with a toothbrush to help loosen any dying scales. Dry and slather both legs and feet with a thick oil such as coconut oil, neem oil, or olive oil. This will help smoother the mites and allow for quicker growth of new scales. Add this oil to the legs of the chickens for at least 4 weeks, once or twice a week. Offering the same DE and wood ash dust bath to your chickens is also essential. You’ll also need to clean out the entire coop, dust with DE (without the chickens inside the coop) and make sure you’ve gotten all of the old bedding out. Don’t forget to dust the roosts as well!

Coccidiosis —

Cocci can be a vicious parasite in your flock’s digestive tract. While it mostly attacks younger digestive tracts, such as with chicks, it can also attack your adult flock as well, causing diarrhea, unusual feces, blood in feces, and even death if left long enough.

The safest and best treatment: Kocci free is a very effective treatment. We use many of the Vibactra plus products on our homestead. They are an incredible source for herbal remedies. In fact, you can use Kocci free as a preventative as well once a month. Simply add it to their water.


Respiratory Irritation —

Many new chicken owners freak out when they notice their chickens sneezing or wheezing. But it’s not always the “worst”. No, chickens do not get “colds”, however, their respiratory tracts are extremely sensitive. A little more dust than normal in the coop can cause sneezing and wheezing.

The safest and best treatment: Clean the coop out and lay down a less dusty bedding, especially in the summer months. We prefer cardboard bedding in the summer months. Make sure you air out your coop before putting in new bedding, and make sure your coop has good ventilation so that dust can escape easily. Many times, respiratory issues arise because of dust, too much ammonia in the coop, or pollen.

Mycoplasma Gallisepticum and Mycoplasma Synoviae Infection (MG/MS)  —

Mycoplasma is a completely different issue that we really need to talk about in the chicken world. We experienced what I believe was a case of MG here the very first month we started with chickens. The chicken, thank goodness, was on our property for less than 48 hours and was quarantined (and immediately culled), but it was scary, to say the least.

Number one — ALWAYS QUARANTINE NEW CHICKENS. We learned our lesson and are thankful we did.

MG and MS are respiratory bacteria that can seriously sicken and kill your entire flock. It is extremely contagious, and can even be spread by clothing and shoes. Many chicken experts will tell you that MG and MS are not curable, but I  have to respectfully disagree. If preventatives are used, and if caught in time at the first symptoms, I absolutely believe that MG and MS can be cured. It is, after all, simply a bacteria. 

Symptoms of MG/MS: Wheezing, gasping for air, puffy face and swollen eyes, sneezing, sinus drainage, swollen joints, lethargy.

The safest and best treatment: You’ll need to be aggressive with this one. Oregano (antibiotic) in their feed and water at all times during treatment until symptoms have completely passed for ALL chickens. Add turmeric (immune support and anti-inflammatory) and garlic (antibacterial) to their feed as well. Separate any infected birds as much as possible, but treat ALL birds the same. Chickens can have MG/MS and not show symptoms until stressed or weak, which is what happened to us when we brought in a new chicken. Within 24 hours, she was literally on her death bed when she was fine the day we bought her.

Your chickens will need to be treated until ALL symptoms are gone. You should also not visit other farms unless you plan to change your clothing when you get there. And do NOT sell chickens or hatching eggs from your property for at least 4 weeks after symptoms are gone.

Infectious Coryza —

I don’t have any experience with IC, but I’ve read enough, and experienced enough through others, to know that IC is extremely detrimental to any flock. Once contracted, it is extremely hard to get rid of. And can live in your soil for awhile. The fatality rate is extremely high and depressing even with treatment. I have no advice to offer you on IC except that you can treat the same way you would treat MG/MS, however, if it spreads to your entire flock viciously, you may very well consider culling and starting all over again after a 4 week waiting period.

Sour Crop —

Sour Crop is probably one of the most common issues on a homestead when it comes to chickens. At least, it seems to be. We’ve actually never had the issue here, but have had friends with sour crop. Sour crop happens when chickens ingest something that is too big for them to pass through the crop. It can also be fungal, as things can begin to ferment in the crop and cause more issues if not passed properly.

The safest and best treatment: Giving your chicken ACV and olive oil in the crop will help tremendously. ACV has anti-fungal properties, and therefore can help tone down that yeastiness in the crop. You can add oil to your chickens crop and massage her crop, holding her upside down, to help expel anything that may be lodged or compacted.

Bumble Foot —

Bumble foot is another very common issue on the homestead. This happens when your chicken has stepped on something, such as a thorn or has gotten a cut on their foot. The thorn or cut then becomes infected, causing a sore type lesion to pop up on the botton of their foot or in between toes. It can affect their walking, and if left long enough, the infection can spread to their entire body.

The safest and best treatment: You can pick the scab off of the bottom of the foot and expel any infection that way, and also release the core of the issue (if it’s something lodged inside the foot). Or you can wrap the foot with a bandage soaked in tea tree and oregano essential oils. This has proven to be extremely successful for us, as the tea tree oil is antiseptic, and the oregano oil is a natural fighter of infection. You’ll need to do this, daily (direct skin contact with a swab soak in the oil under the bandage) for at least a week or until symptoms begin to subside. This also allows your chicken to walk better with the bandage and extra padding so that it can heal quicker.

When all else fails, you may choose to take a chemical route. However, we have not had to do that in over two years with preventative methods and herbal treatments. Go with your gut, because most of the time it never steers you wrong. And remember that if you lose a chicken, you’re not a bad chicken keeper or homesteader. Sometimes, these things just happen and they are out of our control. But remember, prevention is key!

 

 

 

Herbal Remedies Aren’t God

I laid in bed with my palm pushing on the side of my head. This pain that would shoot down the side of my head, down my face, into my back and neck—it was absolutely, and definitely, one of the worst pains I had ever experienced in my entire life. I tried everything to make it go away. I tried my essential oils, I tried herbs, I tried herbal massage rubs, I tried over the counter pain killers—nothing was touching it. Absolutely nothing.

I was dizzy, nauseous, and an emotional basket-case because I couldn’t fix myself. Of course, you wouldn’t have known it unless you were my husband, because I try my hardest to keep it together as much as possible.

Two days I went through this. Two days. Until finally Mark looked at me and said, “let’s go, we’re going to the ER.”

And I agreed with him…

We drove up the road that afternoon in silence. I know he hates hospitals. He absolutely hates them. They make him twitchy, anxious, and overwhelmed. He becomes moody, nervous, and angry when we step foot into a hospital, but he was going for me. I don’t know why he gets that way, he just does. It’s hard for him, and I respect things that I don’t understand. I especially respect him. But he was beside me and that’s what mattered most. That’s what team work looks like. That’s what marriage looks like.
We got to the ER, at which point I was placed in a very drafty night gown and hooked up to IVs. I was feeling a little better at this point, but it was just the body’s defense going into ramp it up mode. The adrenaline rush was pumping extra blood to the brain, which was expanding the arteries, which was in return, taking some of the pain away.
I had convinced myself that I had had a brain aneurysm or something. Tumor? Cancer? Brain eating bacteria? Had to be something like that, right? It had to be something complicated since I couldn’t fix it myself.
I was kicking myself that I couldn’t heal this on my own at home. Here I am, constantly talking about herbalism and essential oils, and taking control of your healthcare, and yet here I was sitting in an emergency room bed without any control over what my body was doing, or even how to start the healing process.
Five hours and one CT Scan later, I was fine. Everything was ok upstairs. Well, that’s still debatable, but there were no brain eating bacteria that they could see, at least. The craziness? Well, that’s still there.
They shoved some high-tech pain meds in my hand (I asked for the extra strength tylenol, not the loopy stuff!), told me I was having some type of muscular or nerve reacting migraine, and sent me on my way. They also told me to follow up with a neurologist. Oops, that was a long time ago. But I’ve been ok since then.
I got home that night and laid quietly in bed.
 
I cried.
I cried because I couldn’t sleep. I cried because I couldn’t fix myself. I cried because I hated having to go to the hospital and subject my body to even more yucky germs. I cried because my husband, bless his heart, was tired and still had to go to work the next day. I cried because I was mad. I was so mad. I was so mad that nothing I tried at home helped me. Nothing. What a failure I thought I was.
I prayed and cried some more.
I had a pretty big heart to heart with God, not just about my health, but about life in general. I was broken in so many ways other than this pain in my head. I had been dealing with so much on my plate. Why was I just now coming to Him? Why didn’t I come to Him sooner? Now I felt guilty about that too…
I often tell our son that God isn’t some big man up in the sky who is constantly looking at the bad things you’ve done. In fact, we are often times harder on ourselves than He is on us. But it’s easier to say that to someone else than it is to yourself.
The next morning I was feeling much better. Still in a little pain, but bearable. I went about my daily routine, and as I walked into the bathroom to start scrubbing the toilet, I looked up to where my herbal remedies were setting at the time, and I was faced with a very real and emotional reality.
 

Herbal remedies aren’t God.

And it was a hard and raw reality that slapped me in the face. It was convicting, it was numbing.
So often we get into herbal remedies because we want a healthier lifestyle for our family. We’ve taken control of our food source with chickens, dairy animals, and gardens. The next step is taking control of your healthcare and adding herbal remedies and essential oils to your family’s life. But what happens when they don’t work? Or worse yet, what happens when we turn them into idols above our very own Creator and Ultimate Healer?
 
Ouch…
Ouch to the idolater that I’d become. Ouch to the Christian that I had become, leaning more on herbal remedies than on my very own Savior. Ouch to the person I had become who had missed opportunities to talk about Christ with people who were looking for a more holistic lifestyle.
That was almost one-year ago.
And while I fully believe that God gave us plants to use for health and healing (Ez. 47:12), I also know that we can very quickly turn even a good thing into a bad thing if the motive behind it isn’t pure, or if we’re trying to take the easy way out. We can become so quick to want to control our own circumstances, that we forget we have a God who wants to connect with us on a regular basis—a God who created us all. A God who wants to help us, heal us, and love on us. The Creator gave us herbs to help us, but in His goodness and mercy, He reminds us that we are nothing without Him.
In the same respect, I was hosting a live chat on my YouTube channel recently, and someone mentioned to me all of the health issues they encounter on a regular basis. They wanted to know which essential oils to use, and questioned if there were herbs or diet changes that would help as well. I sat there and probably looked dumbfounded. The entire time I was running different oils and herbs through my head—on a live show, mind you—but I was thinking, you don’t need herbal remedies, you need modern medicine and the good Lord.
It’s ok to depend on modern medicine for your needs, in case you didn’t know. Just like it’s ok to depend on herbal remedies for your needs. But it is not ok to idolize either of the two, because ultimately, God is our healer. All things are given by Him and through Him. Both are equally valuable, but too much of either is equally dangerous.
Don’t believe me that modern medicine is from God? Consider this; penicillin was discovered by accident in one of the greatest times of need for it in the history of medicine. It was literally discovered because Dr. Alexander Fleming returned back from vacation in 1928 to an extremely dirty laboratory that he had left behind. While cleaning up, he discovered mold growing on his petri dishes. Bam! Penicillin was discovered to kill bacteria, and the rest of the story is history…literally.
That, my friends, is what we call a miracle.
Yes, a miracle.
What are the odds of a doctor randomly going on vacation, coming back to find a messy laboratory, finding mold growing on the very petri dishes that had infectious bacteria growing on it, and saying, “hey I’ll take a look at this under the microscope.” Only to find the mold was eating away the bacteria.
Even Mr. Fleming tells you it was a complete and total freak accident. But I tell you, it was God.
We know now, in the 21st century, that antibiotics are overly used, which causes antibiotic resistant bacteria. See, even a good thing can become a bad thing when used more than it should be. But it stems from the mindset that we can control it all. My goodness, look where that control is leading us. We’ve become a generation that is reaping the consequences of antibiotic resistance and overuse, and it’s not pretty. It’s why so many people are trying to get back to herbalism.
I don’t know what your life looks like. I don’t know if you believe in herbal remedies, modern medicine, both, or neither. But I will tell you that without the grace and mercy of the Creator of the Universe, there would be none of it. And when we feel ourselves idolizing one or the other, or anything other than Him, it may be time to step back and reevaluate ourselves. Sometimes, I believe God allows us to walk through difficulties in order to bring us closer to Him. Other times, we walk through difficulties because of our own personal consequences. But through it all, He is still good and holy and righteous. God is still God. And none of this is possible without Him….ever.
When herbal remedies don’t work, it’s ok to go to the doctor. When modern medicine doesn’t work, it’s ok to try herbal remedies. But through it all, I hope you’ll remember, just as I had to, to connect with the greatest Healer ever. Even when nothing else works, even when the results are bad and the outcome is grim, there is still God. And God is still good. And in your greatest time of desperation and need, the joy, strength, love, and goodness of the Lord is far better than any doctors orders, roller bottle of essential oil, or herbal tincture.
I promise…

 

 

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