Friday, February 20, 2015

Herbalism: Practical Crafting

Herbalism time! Made a batch of my favorite cough syrup: fresh ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, raw honey, vinegar. Should have been taking this all week; bet I would have my singing voice back by now! (Pharmaceutical cough syrup never worked for me!)
Cough syrup: ginger, garlic, vinegar, honey, and cayenne.
I just love making things; I always have. But so much stuff I can make doesn't really contribute much to my quality of life. (My art journal and ATCs do not qualify – they are pure art for art's sake.) Herbalism, though, makes my life better in so many ways.

First, making things allows me to control some aspects of my environmental exposure to toxins. (Do you know what's in your Softsoap? Did you sign up for a formaldehyde releaser? It's not in my homemade soap!)

Second, it improves my health. An example: since I discovered fresh ginger tea with cayenne, honey, and lime, I've been able to ward off some of the colds my husband brings home! When my husband got food poisoning, I remembered reading about apple cider vinegar. It worked immediately, fortunately; Atlanta was practically shut down by snow and ice all week.

It saves me money, too; I made my own "hot cloth cleanser", AKA "waterless cleanser" for a fraction of the cost of equivalent store-bought products. And mine is perfectly balanced for my skin. And it contains frankincense essential oil, which is awesome for my rosacea-prone skin. (Seriously, I made about two ounces for less than five dollars, including the cost of the jar!) My friends and family love my homemade sugar scrubs, which are very inexpensive to make but high quality and effective.

Harvesting aloe from my houseplant. 
I've also reduced my environmental impact. I buy the raw ingredients – oils, honey, beeswax, herbs and spices – and make it myself. Much of it I can buy from the bulk department, like the spices and olive oil I get from my local natural foods store. Honey and beeswax I buy from a local beekeeper; my honey comes in mason jars, which I reuse, and he puts the beeswax chunks in my cloth bag. Garlic and ginger come from the local international market, without packaging. Even the stuff that gets shipped is better; minimal packaging and minimal processing translate to less trash produced by the manufacturer. (Check out The Story of Stuff for an explanation of how that works.) I'm pretty sure I produce a lot less waste making a salve than Johnson & Johnson creates for a tube of Neosporin. Much of the packaging of my ingredients is reusable or recyclable. The containers I use (mostly mason jars and tins) are safely reusable long term.

I can choose ethical and sustainable sources. I've been able to make a lot of replacements. Local raw honey and sustainably-produced coconut sugar instead GMO beet sugar. Homemade vinegar made from fruit scraps replaces Windex. Small-producer, ethically sourced coconut oil has eliminated the need for Crisco shortening or a lotion like Jergens. If I choose to, I can grow many of the herbs in my yard.

Natural soap made with a friend.
Most of all, I have learned an important skill that is satisfying to practice. I can take care of my husband, my extended family, and my friends. I have options; I am not entirely dependent on the medical or beauty industries to take care of me. I can try simpler treatments first – an herbal steam, a neti pot, or an epsom salt soak. If I decide I really need to, I can head to the doctor then. As for rosacea, my all-homemade beauty regimen has worked far better than the Metro gel a dermatologist prescribed (once upon a time). Is there an ice storm? Is it a holiday? I have options, which are right in my house or yard.

How's that for an improved quality of life?