Arnica Montana: duct tape for childhood

I have had a number of people ask me what some of my “go-to” herbal/homeopathic remedies are. And, while I’m no herbal guru, there are a few things in my medicine cabinet that are definitely worth sharing and that have worked for me and my family. I’ll start with arnica montana.

Move over Icy Hot, there’s a new sheriff in town!!

Arnica Montana

I have decided that arnica montana or “ahn gock” as Norah likes to call it, is basically the duct tape of childhood. There have been many occasions where one of my girls will fall and bump their head and I’ll think “oof, that’s gonna leave a mark”. So, like a good herbin mama, I slather on some arnica cream and chances are that there wont be anything to show for that owie by the next day.

 Arnica is a small yellow flower with woody stalks that has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500′s. The benefits of arnica montana are many. Arnica can be used both internally and externally, in adults or children. Many people find that, when taking arnica internally they have better focus, less anxiety, and gain relief from headaches and abdominal pain. When used topically (or internally), arnica acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, natural anti-biotic, has pain relieving qualities. It also helps prevent bruising by helping to disperse trapped blood and fluid from the site of injury. Arnica should not be used on cuts or open wounds, but is hugely beneficial when used on strains, sprains, bumps, or bruises.

If you have kids, you need this stuff. Not even kidding.

Arnica is also great for sore and strained muscles. I have used it often after a game of soccer or hockey, or when I returned home from a long hike. One study performed in Norway actually showed that marathon runners who applied arnica to their skin before the event felt less pain and muscle stiffness afterwards. When used topically in gel form at 50% concentration, arnica montana was found to have the same effect when compared to a 5% ibuprofen gel for treating the symptoms of hand osteoarthritis.

Some mothers choose to take arnica tablets after giving birth to aid in healing and to lessen swelling and bruising. It is very safe and effective and has no dangerous side effects unless taken in very high quantities. I took arnica after giving birth to Norah and could definitely tell a difference.

our oft used arnica gel

Many commercial anti-inflammatory creams now contain arnica as an active ingredient because…well… because herbs work!!

You can purchase arnica in tablet form or gel/cream form at your local health store or online. It is an inexpensive herbal remedy that you will use at least a couple times per week. I’d say go for it.

Foraging for Herbs in the City

We took our girls on a walk tonight. They have both been feeling poorly so I figured that spending some time in the wooded area near our apartment complex would be a nice way to get some fresh air, enjoy the outdoors, and teach them about foraging for herbs and edible plants.

My favorite part about taking walks now, is that both my girls have begun to inspect the plants that we pass as we walk along the pathway, and often ask “what is this, mom?” or “can we eat this one?”. Eva does it with genuine curiosity and a growing understanding of the herbin world, and Norah just copies her sissy :)

We each had a girl on our shoulders as we walked down the steeper part of the path. It felt like a real adventure. I grabbed a cattail for each of the girls to hold and we were talking about what cattails were for, how they grew, and how soft they were. We harvested some Amaranth for later use and I was looking for other edibles when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something familier. Here, take a look. Do you know what it is??

I’m not sure if it was from my days of gallavanting through the wilderness as a child, or maybe I read about it in one of my many “edible plants” books, but this plant rang a bell.  I stooped down to rub the leaves together and immediately the strong minty aroma wafted up towards me. Oh, so minty fresh.

Mentha Arvensis, is commonly known as wild mint or field mint is hard to miss. Not only does it have lovely purple flowers, but even from a few feet away, the minty smell draws your attention. One of the most popular uses for mint is to make a nice soothing tea. Which is what I plan do with with my findings. Iced or hot, its a healthy refreshing beverage.

Wild mint is also valued for its antiseptic qualities and for helping to relieve digestion issues. Here is a list of some of its other uses:

  • Holds anaesthetic, antispasmodic properties and has agents that counteract inflammation. 
  • Promotes or assists the flow of menstrual fluid
  • Promotes secretion of milk (thats for you breastfeeding mamas!)
  • Helps relieve fever and thirst
  • Can relieve pain from toothaches or arthritis
  • Dried leaves can be eaten for chest pains and heart ailments
  • Its a natural insect and rodent repellent. 
We were out in the “garden” for maybe 40 minutes. It wasnt long.  In those 40 minutes we found at least 4 edible plants, saw 3 bees, listened to numerous crickets, and watched 2 birds chasing each other through the air. And we spent time as a family, enjoying creation!
Foraging can happen in the middle of the urban sprawl, and its fun! Give it a go, why don’t ya?

The Health Benefits of Aloe Vera

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy!

BBQs, watermelon, lemonade and ….sunburn. We’ve all been there. Spent just a tad too much time at the pool or hanging out with friends at the church picnic, right? It burns us precioussssss (no, I am not a LOTR geek, but I couldn’t resist). Then there’s that greenish goo. The stuff your mom always slapped on your bright red skin after giving you the “I told you so” look.

Aloe Vera is great for treating sunburn or burns in general. But did you know that there are a lot of other benefits of aloe vera? No? Well, read on!Aloe Vera was known to ancient Egyptians as the “plant of immortality”. But, since those folks did not actually live forever, I am guessing that Aloe may not truly hold immortality in its grip. I do know, however, that aloe, when taken internally, has been proven to ease constipation, lower blood pressure, and is helpful in healing the gut and intestinal tract. It also stabilizes blood sugar, halts the growth of a cancer (seriously!), boosts immune function, lowers cholesterol, relieves join pain, is also helpful in treating skin issues such as acne. Aloe vera can save animals and human from severe hemorrhagic shock (blood loss) too. It is also a cell regenerator, and it even assists in the preservation of food. Crazy right? And you just thought it was for sunburn. Pshhh

I have used aloe on many occasions to help with those burns I always seem to get while baking. Like the one below.

Don’t try this at home.

Yes. It hurt. But, I can honestly say that aloe soothes and heals better than any other topical cream I have used. Many people will tell you not to apply aloe to an open cut, but there are others who swear by actually putting aloe IN a wound to speed healing and prevent scarring. So, its really up to you since its your body.

Another wonderful idea comes from one of my favorite crunchy blogs. Check out this great idea on how to beat the heat. Sounds like a cool haven to me. Especially if you don’t have or don’t like A/C. You could also mix some aloe gel with coconut oil and lavender for a nice smooth lotion. But more on that later…

Stay cool friends.