Stock Your Natural Remedies Cabinet

Summer involves lots of activity and lots of activity will inevitably lead to a few bumps and bruises, scrapes and the occasional run it with a natural pest (mosquito, poison ivy). Being prepared to prevent when possible and treat easily and naturally reduces stress and makes life easier.

Please Note: This is not to be taken as medical advice. I am sharing what we do for our family. Hopefully, this will prompt you to make a plan for your family for various possible needs. Doing your research, planning and preparing now will make your summer run more smoothly and be more fun!

Natural Remedies for Summer

Here are a few things I keep on hand year-round to keep us healthy and deal with minor illness and injury:

Healthy food and healthy movement makes for a healthy body. Even while on “vacation” choose to keep the sugar and refined carbohydrates low and to eat lots of fruit and veggies. Even when we eat like this, our bodies can still benefit from some basic supplements. We take a homemade herbal multivitamin year-round and try to eat lots of probiotic rich foods (like kefir, yogurt, kombucha and fermented veggies). There are many good multi-vitamins you can buy (or make). Do your research and choose the best one for your family.

I keep homeopathic Arnica Montana on hand for all sorts of major and minor trauma. It is great for bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes as well as for sore muscles and headaches.

I keep a few rice packs in the freezer at all times. These can be as easy as a sock filled with uncooked rice, tied off and put into the freezer or you can also find nicely sewn squares at craft sales and online. This is my favorite form of “ice pack” it easily molds to various body parts and has no hard edges to add to the hurt, but it is also cold enough to get the job done but not so cold that you have to worry about freezing skin and then don’t melt into a puddle and cause a mess! These are magic with kids, so easy and reusable!

I keep bandages on hand in a couple of sizes and shapes, but the basic size works well for most things. I like to keep the plain flesh colored ones for adults as well as “fun” ones for the kids. (I buy my fun bandages from the dollar store, only $1/box!) My kids would use these fun bandages for all sorts of non-necessary boo-boos so we have made the rule that blood has to be present in order to need a bandage!

Instead of an antibiotic cream on cuts and scrapes, I use extra virgin coconut oil. It keeps the wound moist, which promotes healing, and extra virgin coconut oil is naturally anti-bacteria and anti-fungal.

For cuts and scrapes that are larger than a regular bandage can handle, I use non-stick gauze pads and vet wrap. A non-stick gauze pad covered in coconut oil will protect the wound and provide a barrier to infection, securing the gauze pad is easier, sturdier and more comfortable with vet wrap than with tape. Vet wrap can be found at most farm supply stores in a large variety of bright colors (or ordered here). It is the same stuff that can be found at most drug stores in a flesh colored hue but at about two to three times less in price! Vet wrap sticks to itself but not to skin and while wrapping it around the injury may look a bit beyond necessary, it holds the gauze pad securely in place (even while swimming). I was a summer camp nurse and used vet wrap all the time! It kept even minor scrapes and cuts free of dirt and sand while playing rough and tumble games and while swimming. Remember to change the bandage after wet or dirty activities. 3M NextCare waterproof bandages are truly waterproof and very sturdy when correctly applied to clean, dry skin (to correctly apply them so that they are waterproof and last can take a bit of practice…). They are a bit expensive (as far as bandages go) but depending on the situation are very worth the price!

Aloe Vera Gel with added lavender essential oil is my favorite skin soother! It is great for dry skin, sun burn and rashes of various kinds. Use a 100% pure aloe vera gel and a high quality essential oil. (Plant Therapy is my preferred essential oil brand but there are many other high quality options.) I also like to keep diluted lavender essential oil handy in a roll-on bottle. It works good to roll onto any little bump, bruise or rash. My youngest even likes to use it for mosquito bites! It is extremely safe and kids can put it on themselves which they like!).

Sniffle Stopper essential oil blend (from Plant Therapy’s KidSafe line) is great for helping kids to breath easier and sleep well when dealing with summer colds or allergies. I just put a couple of drops on a rag and set the rag on their night stand. You can also use an essential oil diffuser or apply it to the chest or back when properly diluted.

Where we live in Minnesota, some form of bug repellent is almost a necessity at certain times of day and in certain locations. The mosquitoes can make being outdoors almost unbearable during parts of the summer and in the evenings. I prefer the most natural option possible and have had good results with a lemon eucalyptus repellent (Repel Brand or Cutter Brand can be found at most stores). There are also small companies that make truly natural insect repellent (MadeOn and Earthley are a couple that I may try this summer).  If you make your own with essential oils, place your essential oils in a carrier oil (like almond or coconut oil)or turn it into a lotion bar with shea butter and bee’s wax and then apply.  This will keep it from evaporating quickly and “wearing off” like the essential oils do in a base of witch hazel. 

Ticks and Lyme Disease is always a concern since we live in a Lyme-indemic area.  I’ve done a whole post how we have treated Lyme Disease in the past and what we are doing to prevent future infections.

Living “up north” and spending more than six months of the year without adequate sunlight on our skin to make vitamin D, I avoid using sun block whenever possible. Eating a diet full of healthy fats will make your skin naturally more resistant to sun burn. However, if I know that we will be in full sun for over and hour during peek times (10am-2pm) I choose to use a natural sun block on the areas that are the most likely to burn (face and ears, shoulders and upper chest and back). I’ve used and liked the sunblock from Tropical Sands for many summers.  Katie from Kitchen Stewardship has an awesome and very comprehensive safe sunscreen guide

I keep Bentonite clay on hand year-round and use it daily in my tooth powder and face powder but it is absolutely amazing  in dealing with summer pest bites and stings. It stops mosquito and fly bites from itching and bee or wasp stings from hurting within a matter of minutes. You can make a paste simply be adding water to the dry powder until it reaches your desired consistency or you can buy a pre-made paste which is easy to use and carry with you.

Another thing we always keep on hand (but hope we don’t have to use) is homeopathic poison ivy/oak tablets. Avoiding exposure to poison ivy is the best, but sometimes it happens. Using these tablets as directed (a few times a day) for a couple days completely dries up the rash and greatly reduces the itching! 

What are your favorite natural remedies for summer?



Preventing Lyme Disease Naturally

Winter is slowly melting into spring here in Central Minnesota.  It’s raining instead of snowing; robins have been spotted; the backyard chickens are back to full (?) production.  The grass isn’t green yet; the trees are still dormant, but the sun is feeling warm and I’ve put the winter coats away.

Influenza is still being spotted.  Thankfully, our elderberry syrup has been helping us stay healthy.  I have another couple weeks of elderberry syrup already made so we will continue with that until it is gone; then we will transition from influenza prevention to Lyme Disease prevention.

We live in a very Lyme-indemic area.  Twenty-five percent of our church family has or has had Lyme Disease.  Two out of the five people in our family have dealt with Lyme Disease.  Where we live, I feel it is not a question of if we will be exposed to Lyme Disease but a question of when.

One Experience with Lyme Disease

In November of 2014 Tony developed neurological symptoms that were consistent with Lyme disease.  From speaking with people we knew who had dealt with or were dealing with Lyme Disease (including his brother and the family of a co-worker) we began treating him naturally with goldenseal tincture.  He noticed some improvement but was still having symptoms and by spring we were no longer seeing improvement, instead were seeing more symptoms develop.

We consulted a naturopath who pointed us to the book Healing Lyme by Stephen Buhner and “prescribed” his protocol for dealing with Lyme DiseaseThis is a book worth owning if you live in a Lyme-indemic area.  It is quite technical in places about what Lyme disease actually is and why it is so difficult to deal with.  Even without a good understanding of microbiology, it will be beneficial to at least skim these parts because it helps you to better understand his protocol, why it works and why the order of implementation is important.

We started Tony on this protocol and worked up to the full-strength dosages.  He began to notice improvement in his symptoms within a couple of weeks but it was not until being on the protocol for a few months before he began to be symptom free.  Thankfully, we were able to reduce his dosages and completely take him off the protocol without a recurrence of symptoms!  This entire process took about nine months.

Another Experience with Lyme Disease

During July of 2015 Asher spent a couple of days running a low-grade fever and sitting/lying around.  About a week after the fever cleared up, he developed red splotches on his face first then spreading to his arms, legs and torso.  These splotches didn’t hurt or itch but began to fade from the center.  That is when we first recognized it as the “bulls eye rash” of Lyme Disease.

Lyme Rash

Bull’s Eye Rash

We were able to get Asher into the clinic the next day. He was prescribed antibiotics.  I am NOT a fan of antibiotics.  We try to avoid them whenever possible, but antibiotics are very effective when given quickly in acute Lyme Disease cases often eliminating the disease quickly so chronic Lyme Disease does not have a chance to develop.

We gave Asher lots of yogurt and kefir throughout his three week round of antibiotics for several weeks after.  He has had no occurrence of Lyme Disease symptoms since!  Had the first round of antibiotics not worked, we would have begun Buhner’s protocol for Asher as well.


From spring through fall of 2016 the whole family took astragalus root (per Buhner’s protocol) along with Lyme Nosode (a homeopathic) to strengthen our immune systems to be able to fight off Lyme Disease on its own if we were exposed.  Thankfully, none of us developed symptoms (and I assume we were exposed)!


Astragalus Root

As spring 2017 begins, we have increased our intake of astragalus root via tincture or capsules.  We also take Lyme Nosode a couple times each week.  I praise God for His provision of substances to treat and prevent illness and disease!

If you live in a Lyme-indemic area please do your research and make informed decisions for your family.  In case you are wondering, here is what we use:

For more information about astragalus root see HERE or HERE.


Herbal Multi-Vitamin Recipe

I believe good health starts with real food…but even with a diet full of real foods our bodies need an extra boost.

I’ve been making a liquid, herbal multi-vitamin for years and have been very happy with the results.   Herbs are plants full of vitamins and minerals…in rations and combinations that are easy for our bodies to use.  Herbs have been used for centuries to promote health and treat illnesses and diseases.  Thanks to the internet a wide variety of herbs are easy to obtain and often inexpensive.

These are the herbs I use in the multi-vitamin I make for my family:

Disclaimer: I am sharing what our family uses.  Do your research and make the best decision for your family.  This is not to be considered as medical advice!
  • Alfalfa contains the vitamins A, C, E, and K; and the minerals calcium, potassium, phosphorous and iron.
  • Nettle contains the vitamins A and B-6; and the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.
  • Red Raspberry Leaf contains the vitamins A, B’s, C and E as well as the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and chromium.
  • Dandelion leaf contains the vitamins A, B-6 and C and the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.
  • Spearmint contains vitamins A and C and the minerals calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.  Spearmint also adds a pleasant taste to your herbal vitamin!

I choose to use organic herbs if at all possible because any herbicides or pesticides used in growing these herbs would be concentrated on the leaves (which is what I am using to make my vitamin tincture).

Herbal Multi-Vitamin Tincture

Place the following in a quart-sized jar:

Pour very hot water over the herbs (I use about 2 cups).  Then, fill the jar the rest of the way with food grade vegetable glycerin.  Let sit for 6 weeks, shaking occasionally.  After 6 week, strain out herb leaves with a mesh strainer and pour into a quart-sized glass jar.

As adults we take 2-3 Tbsp each day.  The kids get 1 Tbsp each day.  Tony and I each drink 1 to 1.5 quarts of green smoothie spread throughout each day (we’d rather drink our greens than eat them!).  So I add ours to our smoothies.  The kids each get a tablespoon in their morning breakfast (usually baked oatmeal or overnight oats). During the winter months I also add elderberry syrup to our smoothies or breakfast.


Herbal Vitamin

I order all of my bulk herbs from Vitacost (use this link to get $5 off your first order!)  I also order all of our supplements from Vitacost as well as all my “specialty” Trim Healthy Mama foods, shampoo, lotion, soap, etc.  I like that I have no trouble reaching the free shipping minimum and that my order arrives quickly.  There are also great sales, especially on Vitacost Brand products (often buy-one-get-one for buy-one-get-one-50%-off).

The initial investment for all these supplies can seem rather expensive, but these herbs will last you for a long while.  We use about one quart of herbal multi-vitamin each month, and these herbs last me over a year!  I make up several quarts at once and just strain out the herb leaves as we needed.  This takes just a couple minutes each month.

However, if you don’t want to bother with making it yourself, you can order a similar product from Earthly.

How do you ensure your family gets the nutrients they need?


Fun Stuff from Around the Web

Tony and I spent Saturday to the Back to Basics event.  It was such a fun time!  Tony presented on building systems in order to simplify everyday life (the thought process behind our Everyday Simple book).  I was able to present about Capsule Menus.  The process of building and following a capsule menu has made my life so much easier!

There has been some fun and useful stuff floating around the web lately, here are some of the things that have been interesting/helpful/fun to me:

Enjoy some fun (and hopefully useful) browsing!

What “new to you” things do you want to share with others?  Please leave a comment and share!





4 Real Foodie Misconceptions About THM

I am a dedicated (though realistic) real foodie.   I’m also a Trim Healthy Mama convert — I’ve adopted it as a lifestyle because I just.feel.good when I eat this way.  I feel that most dedicated real foodies see the THM lifestyle as a “fad diet” full of franken-foods.  This is just not so and comes from some misconceptions about THM.  So, to offer some clarification, here are five objections real foodies have with the THM lifestyle and some further information about each topic.

Myth #1: THM is a low carbohydrate diet and carbohydrates are needed by the body for energy.  Carbohydrates are needed by the body for energy, but THM is NOT a low carb diet.  It is a lower carb diet (lower than the Standard American Diet).  It is a smarter carb diet.  It advocates eating only whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal) and in moderation.  It uses very few flours made from grains (oat flour and spelt flour only).  Following the THM plan means eating some E (energizing meals and snacks) because your body DOES need carbohydrates!

My body does best when I eat an E meal for breakfast.  I feel more energized for my day and I am a happier person.  I eat soaked overnight oatmeal made with Jigglegurt instead of Greek yogurt.

Myth #2: THM is a low-fat diet.  Fat is needed for your body to absorb essential nutrients.  Fat is needed to produce hormones and for healthy brain function.  Plenty of healthy fats ARE needed by the body to function properly.  The THM diet encourages S (satisfying) meals and snacks, especially coconut oil, olive oil and grass fed butter (if not dairy free), nuts and seeds.  Even when eating an E meal or snack (low fat), it is emphasized to include a small amount of fat to aid in the digestion and absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.

THM is not a low fat or a low carb diet.  If you are looking to loose weight, it emphasizes the separation of fats and carbs so the body can completely use up each fuel and therefore not have extra fuel to store as fat.  (Read this for more information.)

Myth #3: Following THM may work to loose weight, but what about for pregnant/nursing women, kids and people who are at a healthy weight or who have very physically demanding lifestyles.  Crossovers (S meals/snacks that include a healthy serving of carbs) are an integral part of the THM lifestyle.  My husband and kids eat crossovers almost exclusively.  All serving sizes (for weight loss or not) are based on hunger levels and even suggested serving sizes are generous.  Calorie counting is considered a “no-no” in the THM lifestyle.  This lifestyle can work for all ages and stages of life and activity.

Many people also think that they need to made two separate meals, one THM meal for themselves and one meal for the rest of the family.  This is not true!  It is easy to convert family favorite recipes to be THM friendly (S or E and/or crossover).

Myth #4: using their recipes to make treats involves lots of “franken-foods” instead of real food ingredients.  They are just trying to sell their own specialty foods.  If you look carefully at their “specialty” ingredients, you will see that they are all “real foods.” (See my definition of real food here.) 

You can source the same ingredients from other companies but the quality from the THM brand can’t be beat.  For most things the price of the THM specialty ingredients is the same for even lower than other brands!  For convenience sake, I buy most of my THM “specialty foods” from Vitacost because I regularly order from them anyway.

4 THM misconceptions

The main reason most real foodies have a problem with THM is that they don’t understand the program or the science behind it.  (Many people that try to follow the THM lifestyle don’t understand it and then don’t follow it correctly and then don’t loose weight).  It really is not complicated, just very counter-cultural to many main stream thoughts/beliefs.

What are your thoughts and questions about THM?


The Nightshade Family of Foods and Why We Avoid Them

Over six years ago we began our real food journey and soon after that we realized that Tony’s diet had to change even further.

Tony has had muscle and connective tissue pain and fatigue for as long as he can remember — he thought it was “normal”.  Through some internet research (thank you Google) we discovered that some people with muscle/connective tissue disorders like arthritis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are helped by going on a nightshade-free diet.  If you want more information, HERE is a great article.

While gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, whole30, etc are becoming more and more common to most people, many people still have no idea what it means to be nightshade-free.

Nightshade is the name of a plant family.  This plant family contains contains these common foods: tomatoes, all peppers (bell peppers and spicy peppers but not black pepper), eggplant, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), okra, goji berries, ground cherries, gooseberries and tobacco (smoking/chewing and second hand smoke).

Many good real foods are a part of the nightshade family, so even a real food diet poses some challenges, especially in the spices and condiments categories:

  • Green olives are often stuffed with pimentos, pimentos are in the nightshade family.
  • Paprika and chili powder are made from peppers and are in many spice blends, lie Mexican and Italian spice mixes and curry powder.  Paprika is also often hidden in ranch seasoning.
  • Any prepackaged food with the word “spices” in the ingredient list probably contains nightshades…even a basic salad dressing or mayonnaise or mustard contains paprika.
  • Second-hand smoke can cause major problems for those sensitive to nightshades…even for a few minutes.
  • Also, those living with someone who is sensitive to nightshades will need to be careful about cross contamination in the kitchen…using  separate cutting board for nightshade foods and possible washing nightshade contaminated items separately.  We have decided to just be completely nightshade free at home because it is easier!

Eating in restaurants, as guests in other people’s homes and at potlucks becomes a problem for those sensitive to nightshade foods because many foods will “appear” safe but care contaminated due to the spices used in the preparation or the other foods in the restaurant.

Thankfully, we do not have to worry about a severe anaphylactic-type  reaction due to accidental exposure…just a few days of muscle bone and joint pain and fatigue…remember to be thankful in the little things!


Elderberry Syrup…Our “Flu Shot”

Welcome to Fall!  The time of pumpkins, colored leaves, applesauce, wind, frost and firewood.  Here in Central Minnesota there are so many things to get done in the fall so that we are ready for the winter…that garden emptied and “tucked in” for the winter,  firewood split and stacked and leaves raked.  I also make sure to restock my supplies for making Elderberry Syrup.  We take elderberry syrup throughout the fall and winter as an immune system support to help us naturally fight off winter sick bugs.  It is useful as an immune support for a variety of colds and illnesses but especially for influenza.
I have a list of natural remedies that I keep on hand for acute illnesses  but preventing illness is better still!  About five years ago I learned about the benefits of elderberry syrup — it is very high in antioxidants, its antiviral properties are effective against many strains of flu (including avian and swine) and it’s also a great general immune system support.

image source

That winter we mixed a spoonful of elderberry syrup into our daily yogurt.  We had only minor illnesses that winter and no bouts of flu!

The next winter I read some cautions about using elderberry syrup daily and we cut back on our usage greatly.  We struggled with our health more that winter and all came down with the flu.  We did start taking elderberry syrup quickly once we were ill, and it did lessen the symptoms and duration of the illness.

Since then, we have decided to take elderberry syrup quite regularly (five or so days a week).  We take a small dose (1 tsp for kids and 2 tsp for adults, once a day) as a preventative for illness.  If we come down with something resembling influenza, I will increase the dosage to four or more times a day.  This is what we have decided to do for our family.  You must do your own research and consider your health history and make the decision you think is best for your family.

You can buy elderberry syrup from many retailers, but it is very easy and much less expensive to make your own!  Here is the recipe we are using; it is adapted from the ebook, Herbal Nurturing by Michelle Augar and from the new recipe from Modern Alternative Mama.

1/2 cup dried elderberries
1/2 cup dried rose hips (very high in Vitamin C)

2 Tbsp astragalus root (immune supporter and also successful at preventing Lyme disease)
4 cups filtered water
Mix together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Boil for 2-3 minutes and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 20 minutes. Stain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing the berries gently to remove more juice.
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
When cool add:

1/2 to 1 cup raw honey

I divide this batch into three pint sized freezer jars.  I put two jars in the freezer and 1 jar in the fridge.

Take 2-3 tsp daily for an adult and 1 tsp daily for a child.

I order all our supplements, vitamins and herbs from Vitacost.  I’ve been very happy with the quality of the products as well as the prices…there are often sales and I always have a big enough order to quality for free shipping.  Delivery is also quite fast.  Use this link for $10 off your first order (new customers only).

I add it to our daily smoothies.  It tastes quite pleasant on its own (especially if you use a full cup of raw honey) but it also is undetectable in smoothies so it is just easier for us to take it this way.

Here’s to a healthier winter!

Disclaimer: Even though I am an RN turned Naturally Minded Mom, this is not to be taken as professional medical advice.  I am just sharing what I learned and what we use for our family.  You are responsible to do your own research and make educated decisions for your family.