Tag Archives: natural healing

Natural healing–Hibiscus tea or agua de jamaica

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate already, I decided to enroll in a 6-week online herbal course through Herbal Academy.  As the program’s aims included sustainability, stewardship, and affordability, I knew this was the place for me!

So I jumped right into the Herbal Materia Medica course. The lessons and a number of print-outs were free.  The herbs I would be studying were left up to my discretion.  I decided to learn more about plants that I had readily available here in Mexico.  So I chose cilantro (coriander), jamaica (hibiscus), sabila (aloe vera), feverfew and wandering jew.  It was more than I bargained for, probably because once I started researching herbs, I couldn’t stop.  I kept adding more and more herbs to my list of useful local and medicinal plants.  

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I’d like to share some of what I learned about the hibiscus flower today.  

Agua de flor de jamaica is one of my favorite aguas frescas here in Mexico. When this is an option, who would every choose a coke? Its deep red color reminds me of Kool-aid, although the flavor is a bit on the tart side. Making it is nearly as easy as Kool-aid as well.

calyx

The calyx (the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud) are added to boiling water until thoroughly wet. Strain the mixture, getting all the juice out, add sugar to taste and stir.

Dried jamaica (hibiscus) calyx are easily obtainable at the market, so I went out and obtained some “for my class project.” I opted to add piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) and canela (cinnamon) to my tea. My son said it tasted more like ponche (fruit punch) but drank an enormous quantity of it. I only used a handful of flower petals, so I have plenty left to perfect my own agua de jamaica.

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Not only is it delicious, but it is good for you too.  Agua de jamaica has citric acid, malic acid (giving it its tart flavoring) used in treating fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome because of its energy increasing properties, tartaric acid which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound useful in treating inflamed joints, pancreatitis and liver inflammation. Tartaric acid has also been shown to improve glucose tolerance and intestinal absorption of nutrients. The flower also contains polysaccharides which aid in reducing fatigue, regulating healthy blood pressure and blood sugar, encourage a positive mood, soothe irritation, support the immune system, and increase libido.  No wonder this is a drink recommended to reduce menopause symptoms! (See also  A Beautiful Transition In Life: Dealing With Menopause Naturally Without HRT and Health Benefits Of Hibiscus)  It’s been used to reduce pain from menstrual cramps, restore hormonal balance which reduces mood swings and depression.

Furthermore, jamaica has cyanidin and delphinidin, antioxidants found to have anti-carcinogenic properties found to be effective in skin, breast and colon cancer prevention.  

Studies have shown that extract of hibiscus (jamaica) is toxic to cancer cells. Why isn’t everybody drinking this?

As if that isn’t enough, flor de jamaica contains anthocyanins which have long been used to treat high blood pressure, colds and urinary tract infections.  As the drink is a natural diuretic, it’s easy to see how it could be just the thing for these all-too-common ailments.

Jamaica has been used to successfully treat obesity and head lice. Drinking agua de jamaica can reduce anxiety and depression.  This tea is low in calories and caffeine-free and can be enjoyed hot or cold. What more could anyone ask for?

hibicus-tea-life

So how much should you drink?  Superfoods Scientific Research recommends a typical adult should drink one cup of hibiscus tea twice daily.  Take 2 tsp of dried blossoms or 1 tsp of crumbled blossom with 1 cup of boiling water, steep for ten minutes.

There you have it, folks!  I would be lax if I failed to mention that there have been reported side effects from drinking this tea.  As mentioned above, it lowers hormone levels which is great for menopausal women but might not be what someone trying to get pregnant would want. So avoid this drink if you are undergoing fertility treatments or are in the first trimester of pregnancy.  As it lowers blood pressure, if your blood pressure is already low, don’t drink it.  As it reduces anxiety, you may feel utterly relaxed or drowsy after drinking it.  In fact, some people have reported hallucinations, although I have yet to experience that particular side effect myself.

Did you know you can make taquitos out of flor de jamaica too?  Check out this recipe!


Well, I have my packet of organic hibiscus seeds and am going to give it another go this year.  I made an attempt before, but the seeds didn’t sprout (See Failing at Container Gardening.)  Once I get my first batch, I’ll walk you through the drying process.  If you can’t wait until then check out the steps at HIBISCUS: A TASTY ADDITION TO YOUR EDIBLE LANDSCAPE OR GARDEN.

So, as you can see, I learned quite a bit as a result of my free course at Herbal Academy. Totally worth it!  Stay tuned for more informative herbal posts in the future!

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Lifelong Learning

Welcome to the August 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Life Learners

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have talked about how they continue learning throughout life and inspire their children to do the same.

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Although I graduated nearly 15 years ago, my education is not finished. In fact, I would say that I’ve learned more since finishing formal schooling than I ever did in school. My husband never had the opportunity to attend school for any length of time, so nearly all his knowledge, which is considerable, has been self-taught. The idea of life-long learning is an important concept for our family.

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Business learning

For a time, I ran my own online business selling children’s organic and homemade items. There was so much to learn. Things like product presentation, taxes, establishing a customer base, web design, networking, marketing, and Ebay were not new to me in theory, but in practice…well that’s a whole different story. What I didn’t realize at the time is that the things I learned in the 18 months or so that I ran my hobby business were just a taste of things to come. Like kindergarten to the business world.

I closed my business when we made the move to Mexico, 9 years ago. Since then, we have “failed” at a number of businesses here. Although for the most part, they were not profitable monetarily, we did learn quite a bit in the process and therefore, don’t consider these ventures a waste of time. The businesses we have failed at include a produce truck, taco stand, clothing store, bread baking endeavor, tire repair shop, bricklaying, ranching, farming, gardening, essay writing, and blogging to name a few. Currently, my husband and I have steady employment, part-time employees, part-time owners. I run my own Saturday school and afternoon tutoring sessions but also work for a private elementary school during the week.  My husband maintains our mini-ranch and sharecropping endeavors in the mornings and is the maintenance man for the same school in the afternoons. Being gainfully employed doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped looking for ways to expand our knowledge base. Recently I was asked to write essays for a Business English course. (See Failing at your own business–University courses) Not only did it pay well, but I learned quite a bit about Business English which I have now incorporated into my Saturday classes, teaching interested students how to write memos and other office documents. My husband was also offered a part-time position at a liquor store. He comes home eager to share what he learned about types of alcohol, inventory processes, and delivery systems.

So how does this impact our son?  He told me just the other day that he’s decided he’s not going to work for anyone else but be his own boss.  Entrepreneur in training I’d say. (Making a Living Without a Job, revised edition: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love)

cultural learning

Cultural Learning

Besides learning how to make a living, I’ve had to learn how to navigate a different culture since moving to Mexico. This includes not only learning new vocabulary but also learning how things are done. I know that I’m far from proficient, but I think I’ve made some progress. I accredit my minuscule advancement to my willingness to make a lot of mistakes and ask endless questions. Who would have thought I’d have to relearn how to bury a person (See Mass and Burial–Mexican Style) or how to shop for groceries?  How about learning how to wash clothes in the stream?  Or how to buy land?

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Natural Learning

As a family, we look for opportunities to learn about our natural surroundings on day-trip adventures.  I’ve recently discovered iNaturalist. Now I can upload all those photos of pretty flowers, and someone somewhere will identify them for me. From there, I can research how the local natural world might be useful (See Natural healing) now that my two main sources of Mexican home remedies, my mother-in-law and my husband’s grandmother, have died.  I’ve learned how to make a tea for stomachaches, use aloe to aid in wound healing, dry feverfew and use agave.  I have so much more to learn!

caves

Cave exploration outside of Cerano, GTO.

Learning in the next generation

Because of our family philosophy, we encourage independent learning of our now 13-year-old son. He wanted to learn how to play soccer, we made sure that became a reality A few months ago, he asked if there were any teachers that I knew that could teach him Portuguese. I asked the Worldschoolers group on FB and was referred to Duolingo. My son has been regularly progressing through the beginning Portuguese course online. He uses it to chat with Brazilian Minecraft players. (See Hey Parents. What Minecraft is doing to your kids is kind of surprising) He thinks he might learn Vulcan after he finishes the Portuguese course.

His most recent interest is in learning how to make Youtube videos. It isn’t an easy thing by any means and one that neither his father nor I can help much with. When an opportunity presented itself for him to make a video of his life (See What is it like to be a kid in your family? ) we purchased an inexpensive mini-camcorder and together made a video that his grandma in the United States is proud of! See it here!

bike repair

Our attitude has always been, if you don’t know how to do something, learn! No one is going to do it for you. Skills that my son has learned at our side include bricklaying, cooking, bicycle repair, and gardening.

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However, we fully realize that my son needs more opportunities for learning than we can provide him. With this is mind, he attends the local middle school, where not only does his Spanish continue to improve, but he also is learning quite a bit about carpentry. So far he’s made a clothing rack and lidded box, quite useful items actually.

We continually stress that even if he is soon to finish his formal schooling, there is no limit to the things he could learn. “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer in our home. Is it in yours?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage — Shortly after they got married, Emily at Natural Parents Network and her husband visited a financial planner. Many of the goals and priorities they set back then are now irrelevant, but one has stuck with them through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing: allowances.
  • Lifelong Learning — Survivor at Surviving Mexico–Adventures and Disasters writes about how her family’s philosophy of life-long learning has aided them.
  • Inspiring Children to be Lifelong Learners — Donna from Eco-Mothering discusses the reasons behind her family’s educational choices for their daughter, including a wish list for a lifetime of learning.
  • Always Learning — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves learning, and lately she’s undertaken a special project that her family has been enjoying sharing with her.
  • We’re all unschoolers — Lauren at Hobo Mama embraces the joy in learning for its own sake, and wants to pass that along to her sons as she homeschools.
  • My children, my teachers Stoneageparent shares how becoming a parent has opened doors into learning for her and her family, through home education and forest school.
  • Never Stop Learning — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses her belief that some of the most important things she knows now are things she’s learned since finishing “formal” schooling.
  • Learning is a Lifelong Adventure — Learning has changed over time for Life Breath Present, and she is more excited and interested now than ever before.
  • Facebook: The Modern Forum — Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains why Facebook is today’s forum – a place where people from all walks of life can meet to discuss philosophies, debate ideas, and share information.
  • 10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by my Life in Japan) — Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different offers tips she learned while living in Japan to help you learn from everyday life.

 

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Natural Healing–Feverfew tea

feverfew

These flowers just popped up in our backyard.

With so many wildflowers growing in La Yacata, at times, I am overwhelmed with being so under informed, not being a native and all. I am sure that these plants are useful, and not just another pretty face, but it has been difficult to find anyone that knows herblore anymore.

My mother was always interested in herbs and I remember drying and using chamomile flowers. For that reason, when I discovered this plant in my backyard, I thought at first it was a type of local chamomile. Locals call is manzanilla, which is chamomile. However, upon closer examination, it seemed just a little bit different than the chamomile flowers my mother dried. Although the flower was similar, it had a flat center rather than a cone shaped one and thus it was feverfew, not chamomile after all.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is also known as also known as altamisa, amargaza, amargazón, arrugas, artemisa, botón de plata, botón de plata común, camamila de los huertos, camelina de los huertos, camomila de Aragón, chapote, flor de la calentura, flor de santos, gamarza, gamaza, gamazón, hierba de altamira, hierba de Santa María, hierba santa, madrehuela doble, madrehuela olorosa, madrehuela rósea, magarsa, magarza, magarza amarilla, magarzuela, manzanilla, manzanilla botonera, manzanilla brava, manzanillo, manzanillón, margaza, matricaria, matronaria, pelitre, Santa María blanca, yerba de Santa María in Mexican Spanich and in Aztec– iztactzapotl or cochitzapotl.

Even with all these names, I wasn’t able to find any information in my Aztec medicine booklets. But I was able to find a page in another of my books in my small, but oh so useful library.

The name feverfew is misleading since this plant has not been shown to reduce fever. However, it has been used for centuries to prevent or reduce migraines. It also has been shown to relieve muscle spasms and can be used a mild sedative.

drying flowers

Cut and hung feverfew drying for tea.

When I asked around, my local sources told me this plant could be dried and made into a tea. I wasted no time in cutting and hanging. I have periodic migraines, leftover from a car accident some 20 years ago, and my husband constantly complains about hernia pain even after his operation, so I figured this was the perfect tea for us.

dry feverfew

Dried feverfew

When the plant was finally dry, I crunched the flowers and leaves, discarding the stems and roots. It had a very strong herb scent, but I was bound and determined to make a tea.

I admit the first cup of tea was so very strong that we had to choke it down. (I made everybody drink a cup). So the next cup, I tried adding local organic honey and our own organic raw goat milk to try and cut the flavor. We decided this tea wasn’t a tea for milk, so the third night I just added the honey and we all agreed that it was passably flavored like that.

This plant is self-seeding and before we even finished the first batch, there were plants to cut and dry. This time, I am going to try and separate the flowers and leaves and try a tea with just the flowers. The leaves are pungent and make the tea a might bit strong for our tastes.

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Natural Healing with Sábila (aloe vera)

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Even before moving to México, I had known that aloe vera could be used for burn treatments.  I now know that aloe vera (sábila) has more uses than that.

Sábila has been used since the time of the Mayans as a miracle plant, treating everything from cavities and cancer to brujaría (witchcraft).  The most potent part of the plant is the clear gel found within its long spear-like leaves.  This gel works as an astringent, pain killer, and coagulator.   It contains beta carotene, Vitamin B, niacin, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, folic acid, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E as well as calcium, phosphoric acid, and iron.  Sounds like a breakfast of champions to me.

Sábila can be used to boost the immune system, regenerate damaged skin cells, as an antibiotic, reduce arthritis inflammation and pain, and stop bleeding.  It can be used as a topical agent or ingested by being made into juices or teas, although having accidentally eaten a bit that was on my toast one day, I’m not sure how delicious a tea would be.  It has an acrid taste.

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Maguey plant

So there is some basis in it being a miracle plant.  My husband had heard that it could be used in treatment for athlete’s foot, so one day he cut what he thought was sábila (aloe vera) and rubbed the gel on his feet.  Unfortunately for him, he had mistakenly cut a leaf from the maguey plant and the result was an extreme burning sensation rather than the itch soothing he was looking for.

Since then, he has gotten savvier in his plant identification and has used sábila successfully in healing animal wounds. (See Animal Doctoring)

When my sister-in-law was being plagued by brujería (witchcraft) being caused by envidia (envy) she bought a sábila (aloe vera) plant and placed it at the entrance of her tortillería (tortilla shop) to absorb any bad feelings being sent her way. (See Battle of the Brujas)

Sábila used as a ward against evil should be placed at the left of the entrance and would be even better if there were two plants, one at either side of the entrance.

I even found a little prayer that can be used in conjunction with incense made from sábila, balsam, ground coffee and sugar.  It goes like this:

Cruz santa y divina, bujas y brujos:

Enemigos que piensan llegar a mí, estoy con Dios por el poder de Cristo, que ha dado en el huerto de la fe.Oh! Dios. Pido que alejes de mí las tristezas y ruinas que vengan hacia mí.  Dios soberano, líbrame de las penas y las traiciones, que bendita sea María y la hostia de la consagración.  María Santísima, cúbreme con tu manto, que mi cuerpo sea parte de cielo, por los tres dulces nombres de Jesús, José y María.  Con Dios y esta mata, sea la prosperidad en mi vida y en mí y en mi casa, Jesús, Joaquín y Santa Ana, líbrame de todo mal.

If the plant wilts or dies, it means that someone has had envy or bad intentions toward you and the plant absorbed the negative.

There is also a belief that if you plant a sábila with a coin at the roots, the household will never lack money.  Since my husband recently transplanted two wild sábila to our backyard, it’s a perfect opportunity to test this out.  We sure could use that bit of financial wizardry.

My little guidebook Antiguo Formulario Azteca de Yerbas Medicinales also has a section devoted to sábila.  For back pain, the halved heated penca (leaf) should be placed on the part that hurts or in inflamed to relieve pain.   For bronchitis or cough, a tea can be made with a little piece of sábila, 10 eucalyptus leaves and 10 flowers from the bugambilia morada plant (bougainvillea) and drunk an hour before going to sleep.

As with all customs and beliefs that we have discovered among our many adventures and disasters in México, we tend to err on the side of belief rather than skepticism.  As they say “When in Rome…

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