Category Archives: Natural Healing

Natural Remedies — Cherimoya

It’s that time again.  Walking in our backyard has become a hazard.  When you least expect it, heavy green fruit balls just might fall on your head.  So beware!

Our cherimoya, AKA chirimoya, chirmuya or custard apple, tree is loaded this year.   This strange name comes from the Quechua language and means “cold seeds” so called because the tree grows at altitudes of 1,300 to 2,600 m (4, 200 to 8,500 ft) and must have cooler weather periodically or will eventually go dormant.  There are several varieties of cherimoya.  The one in our backyard is the Annona cherimola.

You know a cherimoya is ripe when it has the consistency of a ripe avocado when squeezed, a bit mushy but is not yet brown and rotty. The peel and seeds are not edible.  In fact, the seeds are poisonous when crushed.  They contain small amounts of neurotoxic acetogenins like annonacin.  Dried seeds that have been ground into powder can be used to make a paste that can help get rid of hair lice.

Cherimoya tree bark extract is also dangerous.  If injected it can induce paralysis. I don’t know how anyone would have discovered that by accident, but it’s a useful fact to know. The leaves have long been used to treat hypercholesterolemia in Mexico and scientific study has confirmed that there is a basis for their use in treating high cholesterol. Cherimoya leaves have also been used traditionally in the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery and again, scientific studies confirm its use for those illnesses.

“We had an abundance of mangoes, papaias and bananas here, but the pride of the islands, the most delicious fruit known to men, cherimoya, was not in season. It has a soft pulp, like a

And oh, the taste!  Once you break open a cherimoya, the inside is creamy white. The riper it is, the sweeter and softer the texture.  While I’ve seen descriptions of the flavor ranging from banana to bubble gum, to me, it has a sweet, citrus flavor.  In fact, they are so sweet that I can’t eat more than one.

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There’s more to these huge ugly roundish fruits than meets the eye. Cherimoya is an excellent source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, fiber, and riboflavin.  It’s been proven to help with depression and to be suitable for the treatment of oxidative stress related disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Asperger syndrome, cancer, atherosclerosis, heart failure, myocardial infarction, Sickle Cell disease, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even tempers the wear and tear of normal aging like wrinkles, osteoporosis and gray hair. Cherimoya has also been shown to be successful in the treatment of diabetes and gastrointestinal disorders.

The fruit is only in season a short time, in our area mid-September to November, so it’s best to eat what you can while the cherimoya is available.

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The Herbal Starter Kit by the Herbal Academy

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Herbal Fermentation

One of the things that sold me on the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle was the inclusion of Herbal Academy’s The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course normally retailed at $129 USD.  Just like the previous course I enrolled in at Herbal Academy, the Herbal Materia Medica Course, it was jampacked with information.  I’ll share a few highlights so you can see for yourself.
The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course by Herbal Academy

Unit 1 was all about brewing herbal beer. Not only is it good for you, but the act of making your own beer allows you to become a part of a centuries-old brewing tradition.  The course talked about the history of beer brewing as a medicinal tonic, provided a brewing video tutorial, and even expounded on the experience of herbal beer tasting.  Included were all sorts of downloadable handouts to simplify your beer brewing efforts.

Unit 2 dealt with herbal mead.  This time there were two video tutorials as well as an entire lesson dedicated to herbal mead brewing philosophy. Again, lots of handouts and fascinating tidbits.  Did you know that the Maya made a mead called balché from tree bark and another mead from the nectar of the Morning Glory plant called xtabentún?

Unit 3 focused on kombucha and water kefir. I’d heard these two beverages mentioned time and time again as probiotic drinks and was extremely curious about the material in this unit.  There was a video tutorial for each type of fermented drink along with a lesson about sugar, caffeine, and alcohol safety concerns.

Unit 4 was devoted to lacto-fermented vegetables like pickles and sauerkraut. Again there was a video tutorial and plenty of downloadable resources.  If you are interested in just getting these handouts without enrolling in the course, Herbal Academy has made them available here.

So there you have it–a brief overview of the course.  Sadly, for me, this course was for informational purposes only.  Just like with canning, the supplies I would need to successfully ferment herbally are not available locally.  I did get a nifty badge to display proudly.

beer badge

I am looking forward to my next class with Herbal Academy, the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course, that begins October 30. There’s a discount if you register before then.  Here’s a link to a sneak preview of the course: 3 Nervine Herbs to Help Soothe Stress.

Enroll in the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course

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Blackberry Leaf Tea

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The blackberry bush in the backyard is trying to take over!  Shoots are popping up left and right, and it continues to wrap its spiny clutches around the lemon tree despite being cut back several times.  Since I will not be one of those ill-prepared preppers that lament the loss of coffee and tea after TSHTF (See Into AutumnInto Autumn) if you’ve got it, use it right?

Blackberry tea leaf is easy to prepare.  Just pour boiling water over dried leaves and let steep. It’s a darker color than some of the other teas I’ve prepared.  It has a rich, deep taste, just right with a drop of honey as a sweetener.

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Fermenting the leaves increases the tea’s flavor.  To ferment, crush wilted blackberry leaves with a wooden rolling pin.  Wrap them in a damp cloth and hang in a dark, warm area.  In 2 or 3 days, the leaves will smell like roses which I thought odd until I realized that blackberries (Rubus allegheniensis) are part of the rose family after all.  Remove the leaves from the cloth and allow them to dry completely before storing.

Not only is blackberry leaf tea delicious but it’s good for you as well.  Used medicinally since the ice age, leaves were chewed to strengthen gums and made into plasters to treat shingles and hemorrhoids. During the Medieval and Renaissance periods, blackberry leaf infusions were used as a gargle for a sore mouth, throat cankers and wound washing. Now in more enlightened times, blackberry leaves have been shown to fight cancerous cells and are a good source of antioxidants.  Blackberry leaf has also been effective in diabetes treatment, as a wrinkle preventative, and as a protection against cardiovascular disease.

There’s been some evidence that the tannins found in blackberry leaves, bark and roots may cause nausea in some people.  However, adding milk to the tea neutralizes the tannins quite nicely.  Thus the German regulatory agency for herbs has approved blackberry leaf tea for relieving non-specific acute diarrhea.  In addition, just like our medieval ancestors, the Germans have determined that blackberry leaf tea, mouthwash or gargle is appropriate for mouth sores and gum inflammation.  

(after use, please put it backin its proper place)

With all these reasons to drink blackberry leaf tea, perhaps this spring you should harvest your own.  Pluck the tender light green new leaves before the plant flowers, being mindful of those tiny pickers.  Ferment as described above or hang to dry and you’ll be all set.

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The Herbal Starter Kit by the Herbal Academy
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Natural Remedies–Garlic tea

Although nowadays a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine, did you know that garlic (Allium sativum) arrived in North America with the Spanish conquerors along with onions, pigs, cows, chickens, cheese, and rice? Garlic was quickly adopted both as a spice and medicinal herb.  Even today, traditional curanderos use a garlic clove inserted into the ear as a treatment for earaches, with olive oil for burns, in brandy and brown sugar for asthma, and with honey for a cough. Garlic is also believed to provide protection from negativity and evil spirits.

Apparently, no one told the author of my little book Antigua Recetario Medicinal Azteca that garlic wasn’t used by the Aztecs because there is quite a section about the medicinal use of garlic reportedly used by said people.

Here are some of the recipes I found:

To stimulate appetite and help with digestion: Eat 3 cloves of garlic raw with a bit of water before a meal or cook an entire garlic head in a liter of water, adding lemon juice and sugar to taste.

To help with anemia: Eat a salad prepared with radish, lettuce, tomato and raw garlic with a bit of oil and salt.

To reduce blood pressure: Mince a garlic clove and drink it in a glass of water.

For asthma or a cough: Boil 8 peeled and pressed cloves in a liter of water.  Add a little oregano.  Strain.  Add 2 tablespoons of honey.  Take a tablespoon every hour until better.  OR Boil ½ head of garlic in a liter of milk with 2 carrots.  Sweeten with honey.  Drink warm before bed.

To rid the body of parasites: Mince a head of garlic and warm in ¼ liter of milk without boiling.  Allow to steep 3 or 4 hours.  Strain.  Drink before breakfast for 9 or 10 days.

For scorpion stings: Mash a garlic clove and use it as a plaster over the affected area.  

For rabies:  Soak 100 grams of garlic minced into little bits in a liter of water overnight. Strain and sweeten to taste.  Take several cups a day.

For light burns: 3 or 4 garlic cloves mashed and mixed with oil as a plaster over the affected area.

For athlete’s foot:  Use garlic powder on the feet and change the socks every day.  (The Aztecs wore socks?)

For rheumatism relief: Rub 2 halved garlic cloves on the painful area whenever you need to.  Do not get the treated area wet.  The recipe wasn’t precise as to the time you should not get wet. Two hours?  Two weeks?  Who knows?

Not to be outdone my little book Antiguo Formulario Azteca de Yerbas Medicinales. Manual imprescindible de los secretos indigenas also had a section on garlic. In order to give these garlic claims more credence, the author cited an incident a few days before publication concerning a man in Barcelona who had been bitten by a rabid dog and ate garlic and onions for 8 days thereby effecting a cure. While I wasn’t able to find any scientific evidence to back up this rabies claim, using garlic as a wound poultice does aid in healing. This book also added the following to the scorpion sting treatment: To be extra sure, use a sterilized knife to cut the wound open in the form of a cross before applying the garlic plaster.

Both books also highlighted the medicinal use of garlic essential oil and referred to Dr. Helle de Berlin.  While I was trying to look up Dr. Helle in the cyber world, I came across a plagiarized copy of Antigua Recetario Medicinal Azteca online published under the name Herbolarios Anonimos.  While several other sites refer to Dr. Helle’s pamphlet on garlic essential oil, I was unable to find the original.  (Budda de la Medicina, La Belleza de la salud con el ajo, el cebolla y el limon, Tintura de ajo como medicamento, Las curas con ALOE–AJO CEBOLLA–LIMON, Tintura de ajo como medicamento)

In a nutshell, the esteemed Dr. Helle assured everyone in his famous pamphlet that twenty drops of garlic essential oil diluted in water is good for the heart, helps the liver function better, improves digestion, cures hemorrhages, helps reduce fatigue, headache, and melancholy, and aids in insomnia.  I’d feel more confident in the curative effects of those 20 drops if I could find some information on Dr. Helle.  Wouldn’t you?

However, don’t be so quick to poo-poo these herbal remedies despite the more outlandish claims.  Scientific research has proven garlic to be a near miracle plant.  Quite a number of the aforementioned cures are medically sound. (Health Benefits of Garlic: The Medicinal Use of Garlic)

Look at what garlic can do for you:

Garlic is good for your heart.  It fights cancer.  Garlic is good for your liver and fights bacterial infections including Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, and  Escherichia coli. Garlic is good for the digestive system. It aids the process of expelling parasites, including giardiasis and Candida albicans.

Garlic is especially good for women as it both increases milk flow for nursing mothers, possibly by making the breast milk taste better which encourages the baby to nurse longer, and reduces the severity and occurrence of yeast infections.

Garlic helps with the common cold and reduces cough. Garlic helps treat depression.  It aids in injury recovery. Garlic is an important component in the treatment of heavy metal poisoning, a primary cause of Alzheimer’s.

Garlic is useful in the garden as well.  Planted around other crops reduces disease, deters pests and increases the nutritional value of the soil and nearby plants.

Believe it or not, the whole plant is edible, not just the bulb. I have a pot of garlic sprouting in my back room.  As the tops grow, called scapes, I can clip a few bits and add them as flavoring just like you would with the clove.  The scapes or flowers aren’t quite as strongly flavored as the clove but are tasty nonetheless.

I have big plans of making a little garlic patch out back.  My hope is I’ll have enough in a few years to make my own garlic powder or essential oil. Of course, my efforts at gardening have been repeatedly thwarted.  (See Failing at Container gardening)

Continuing with my herbal tea series, I decided to try some Garlic Cold Buster Tea.  We are in the rainy season, after all,  and it’s likely somebody in my house will catch a cold before things dry out again.  

There are many miracles in the world to be celebrated, and for me, garlic is the most deserving.

It was pretty straight forward.  Boil 3-6 peeled and halved cloves in 3 cups of water. Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice.  That was about 7 smallish lemons from our tree out back.  Add honey to taste and serve.

The tea was a lemonade color, probably because I didn’t skimp on the lemon juice and wasn’t half bad.  I don’t think that I will replace my morning tea with this concoction but in times of illness, it would be no bother.

There are some things to keep in mind when using garlic.  Some people have a sensitivity to garlic and will find it irritates their stomachs.  You should not ingest large quantities of garlic when taking blood thinners. Garlic will give you bad breath and body odor.  (Duh) And finally, applying raw garlic to your skin may irritate the skin.

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