Thursday, May 22, 2014

Herbal Bug Repelent

A few years ago my family and I went camping in the Ocala national forest.In the middle of the night I was itching so bad that I became a raving lunatic. I threw myself out of the tent and into the rain in a feeble attempt to rub off whatever it was that causing me to itch. The next morning I looked at my skin and saw little "scabs" all over. Well those "scabs" I discovered were all over my children and my dog. My husband however, was unaffected. Pretty soon I noticed them swelling on the dog realized what I was dealing with, ticks!

I'm not sure exactly how many I pulled off of everyone but it was hundreds. Now why on earth did we get ticks and not Shaun? We discovered the answer when I looked for an herbal remedy to rid the dog totally of those nasty little creatures.

Prior to our camp out Shaun and I had been reading a most interesting book by Stephen Harrod Buhner;Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. He was intrigued by a beer that contained the herb artemisia absinthium also known as wormwood,the ingredient that gives absinthe its flavor and bad reputation. He was also interested in a beer with yarrow, and one with juniper. Well he was interested in all the recipes and couldn't make up his mind so he mixed them all together. Now I'm sure he didn't measure so I can't give you the recipe but it doesn't matter because the stuff was dreadful ,absolutely dreadful.It was so bitter that one swallow was all I could take. He however, wasn't going to waste all that good beer so he sipped it throughout the entire campout. I suppose the bugs must have felt the same way about Shaun's herbal healing brew as I did because they didn't touch him.

When I consulted my herb books for an insect spray it read something like this- "Herbalists have used different combinations of aromatic herbs to kill and repel pests for millennia. Wormwood, yarrow,and juniper are most effective." He got the last laugh on that one.

I always question the long term safety of deet based repellents and even if they are proven safe, the smell is just nasty.

Health food stores sell many all natural repellents that are effective and smell pleasant however they are all expensive.

Tick season is at  it's peak and the wisdom of God is such that the very herbs that repel insects are now ready to be harvested. Most likely you have an "weed" or two growing in your yard that can be used to ward off skeeters, ticks, no see ems and other pesky bugs.
                                 A simple repellent can be made  
                                   crushing the fresh leaves of                                 
                                  mint, basil,and/or lemon balm. 

The list of insect repellent herbs is exhaustive.
A few of the most common include:
clary sage
lemon balm                                                                                            
rose geranium

There are many ways to make repellents.
1.You can do it my husbands way and drink it. Apple cider vinegar and garlic are the most commonly recommended internal remedies.  If you are brave enough to try herbal brews consult the book Sacred Herbal Healing Beers. Remember the evidence for effectiveness and safety is purely anecdotal.
2. Tinctures are effective ways to extract the active constituents of herbs.Tinctures are simply herbs soaked in a solvent, usually alcohol or vinegar.
3. Essential oils are highly effective albeit expensive insect repellents.

Here are 4 recipes to get you started. Remember, be creative and feel free to experiment.

Garlic and Apple Cider Vinegar Tick Drink
In a quart mason jar crush a clove of garlic. Add 2 tbs apple cider vinegar,preferably organic unfiltered.
Allow the mixture to steep for 1 hour. Next add a tbs honey or more to taste. Then fill the jar up with fresh water.
Hold your nose and drink up!You can also rub it on your skin without the honey.
The results should last as long as you can still taste the garlic.
Unfortunately, bugs may not be the only thing you repel!

Everclear Bug Be Gone
1 handful fresh wormwood leaves
1 handful yarrow leaves
1 handful fresh mint leaves
1 tbs dried basil ( it's not in season yet)
5 bay leaves
1/4 cup juniper berries or cedar berries
Place all ingredients in a quart mason jar. Cover the herbs with Everclear or another clear flavorless alcohol. You can use isopropyl alcohol but it tends to dry out skin.
Allow the mixture to steep for at least a week.
Gently swirl the mixture every few days.
When the tincture is made strain it through cheesecloth into a clean mason jar. Add 1/4 cup per quart of water. Place in a sprayer and use like store bought spray.
You need to reapply every few hours or after sweating and swimming.

Herbal Tea Bug be Gone
Use the same herbs as above but instead of alcohol use a quart of water. Bring the water to a boil and pour over the herbs. Steep for an hour. Strain the mixture.Place it into a sprayer and use it straight.

Essential Oil Bug Repellent
rose geranium essential oil
citronella essential oil
lavender essential oil
eucalyptus essential oil
or a combination of three from the list above
olive/grapeseed/almond oil
Fill a pint jar with a carrier oil such as olive.
To it add 10 drops of each of the chosen oils.. You may add more if you want a stronger fragrance but do not exceed 75 drops.
To use, dip a cotton ball into the oil. Dab it onto the backs of your legs and wrists.
This is very long lasting.Reapply after swimming or sweating.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sweet Treats

I have a fascination with candy making. I guess it's in my genes. My grandparents owned Grimaldi Candies and were "inventors" of the famous chocolate covered potato chips.The funny thing is that I really don't have that much of a sweet tooth(although my husband disagrees).
My daughter shares this love of candy making and I often find her experimenting on her own.
The truth is that I find candy making in some ways easier than baking, and as the weather gets warmer who wants to heat the whole house up with the oven.
Unfortunately, I am under no delusions that any of my candy recipes are healthy they contain only natural ingredients.
To start making candy, the one thing that I strongly recommend is a candy thermometer. The one that I have has the candy making terms written next to the corresponding temperature, for example soft ball which is the temperature used for fudge making is 240 degrees.The only other thing you need is a pot or sauce pan.
So here are two of my favorite recipes-
Honey Sesame Taffy 

I adopted this recipe from Jewish Halva or Sesame Fudge.
It contains 2 ingredients.

Honey- 2 cups
Sesame Tahini 1 1/2 cup

First, line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
Rub the parchment with a little butter.
Next, heat the honey on medium heat to the hard ball temperature of 260 degrees
Meanwhile, in a separate pan warm the sesame tahini in a separate pan to between 100 and 110 degrees.
(this temperature does not have to be exact)
When the honey reaches 260 remove it from the heat and add the tahini, whisking it continually.
When the honey and tahini are thoroughly combined, pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan.
When the taffy feels cool score it with a sharp knife.  It will take about an hour to cool thoroughly, at that time you may remove it from the pan and place it in an airtight container or eat it.

Peanut Fudge with Chocolate Chips
This recipe is similar in process to the sesame  recipe except I use sugar and don't cook it quite as long.
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

First, sprinkle the chocolate chips onto a 9x5 baking pan.
Next, in a saucepan, mix milk and sugar until sugar begins to dissolve.
Cook the sugar mixture on medium stirring occasionally until it reaches 240  degrees soft ball phase.
While the sugar is cooking warm the peanut butter on low to between 100 and 110 degrees.
Add the vanilla to the peanut butter and stir well.
When the sugar mixture reaches the correct temperature remove it from the heat and add the peanut butter mixture. Whisk until thoroughly incorporated.
Pour the mixture over the chocolate chips. Allow about an hour for the fudge to cool.