For those of you wondering ‘where the heck did this crazy herbal girl go?’ - well I’m on maternity leave. Prior to having the newest love of my life, I vowed to continue blogging, studying for exams, finishing my herbal papers and making medicine. HA! Apparently I had NO IDEA what motherhood really entailed. Ashton will be 3 months old soon and I’m just starting to get a handle on what my new life looks and feels like.
That being said I have in no way abandoned my dream to be a successful herbalist one day. I just have to get my ducks in a row first. My goals have not changed, just been scaled down so to speak. In the year of maternity leave I have (thankful to be Canadian… just saying), I plan to finish writing my monographs and prepare to write my final exams at Living Earth School of Herbalism. If things go really well I also hope to develop a business plan for Spiraea Herbal Clinic. Some sort of idea on how I’m actually going to make a living playing with plants!
My herbal life is being lived in short spurts of time with fewer functioning brain cells than I am accustomed too (yes mommy brain is a real condition!). So while I’m not blogging like I used to I can still be found in a few places:
Pinterest is my newest obsession. It’s a great organizing tool that has inspired me in many ways. It also involves very little time and can be done from the comfort of my smart phone – even while I burp my son!
I can still be found on Facebook and Twitter spreading the herbal information I come across out into the virtual world.
Thanks for the patience while I find my way.
Midwives and doctors will often recommend freezing some menstrual pads to use after you give birth to help sooth your perineum. You can make them with plain water, witch hazel or a soothing herbal bath. While water will provide you with some topical relief, witch hazel or a herbal bath will have the added benefits of healing properties as well.
I used my own product – Mum & Babe Herbal Sitz Bath – to soak the pads. It has the following herbs:
I would love feedback if anyone decides to try this project themselves!
Flower remedies are a powerful energetic helper for a time in your life when you may be wary of taking medications and drugs. While they do not provide the same effects that a Gravol or an epidural will, that doesn’t mean they can’t be of great benefit. Flower remedies do not have any side effects, cannot be overdosed and will not interact with any medications you might be on. They also won’t interfere with breastfeeding or the flavour of your milk if you choose to continue using them after childbirth.
Having a partner that says you are beautiful daily might not be enough. Sometimes pregnancy can leave us feeling unhappy about the physical changes that take over our bodies. Crab apple can help us deal with these changes and bring them into perspective. It is also an excellent remedy for morning sickness.
If time is starting to drag (common in the last trimester) and you find yourself feeling impatient to meet your little one, give Impatiens a try. I also found it during the first trimester when time dragged because I was so sick.
Fear in general is very common in pregnancy. You may be afraid of becoming a parent, of childbirth or of how the dynamic of your family will change. Regardless, if the fear is known Mimulus is indicated.
Feelings of tiredness and fatigue are common during pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimesters. If you are feeling tired and exhausted Olive is the remedy for you. Always check with your health care practitioner if you think it may be something more serious.
Fearing for your child is natural during pregnancy. Anxiety and fear for the welfare of someone other than yourself is an indication for Red Chestnut.
Pregnancy is a time of major change and transition. Walnut is indicated for these times and will help give you consistency/protection from outside influences and allows new experiences in.
For Labour & Childbirth
It’s a good idea to prepare a remedy in advance of going into labour. I would recommend putting all four flower essences into your remedy. If it turns out you don’t need them or they aren’t applicable, they will not interfere with the other remedies.
Unless you’ve been through it before labour and childbirth is full of unknowns. Aspen is indicated for unknown or vague fears.
Contractions, dealing with pain and the possibility of a Caesarean are all normal fears during the labour process. For known fears during childbirth put Mimulus in your remedy for labour.
Star of Bethlehem
No matter how well prepared we feel we are for labour and delivery, shock and trauma are always a possibility. Be prepared with Star of Bethlehem.
Just as pregnancy is a time of transition and so is childbirth.
For After Childbirth
A new baby can leave you with a whole host of new experiences and tasks to cope with. Elm can help you if you are feeling overwhelmed by this workload.
You may find yourself taking every little setback to heart. If you are feeling discouraged give Gentian a try.
Doubting your abilities as a new parent is common. You may lack confidence in your decisions or your ability to successfully navigate parenthood. Larch will help put these doubts into perspective.
While feelings of postpartum depression are normal for a brief period of time, if you find yourself unable to shake the baby blues Mustard can help. If your depression continues don’t be afraid to seek help from a qualified practitioner.
Exhaustion, fatigue and tiredness are all common when you have to wake up four times a night for feedings and diaper changes. Olive can help with this.
Just as you may have worried about the welfare of your child during pregnancy, this worry may continue after the baby is born. Anxiety and fear about the welfare of others needs Red Chestnut.
As you can see Walnut is an excellent remedy to have in your tool kit from conception to after delivery. Even if you already have children, the introduction of another young life into your family is a major transition and change.
Purchasing each of these remedies yourself can get quite expensive. See if you can find a Bach Flower Practitioner in your area that would be willing to make a custom remedy for you. Some may insist on an appointment/consultation in which case it may be cheaper to just purchase the remedies yourself, but some practitioners may only charge a compounding fee. Also check to see if your naturopath, midwife or doula has remedies and is willing to make one for you.
I live in one of the most heavily vaccinated countries in the world. While receiving vaccinations is a common experience that many of us share, it is amazing how much people don’t talk about it. What is even more amazing is how little people actually know about what they are putting in their bodies and the bodies of their children. Most expectant parents put more thought and research into car seats and cribs then they do into the injections their baby will be given. Sounds harsh I know, but the majority of parents find the topic scary, overwhelming and controversial. Many err on the “side of caution” or simply listen to what their health care provider says (and good luck finding a doctor who doesn’t follow the Publicly Funded Vaccination Schedule). If you do choose to become educated in this arena it is an extremely mind-boggling experience with contradicting facts, medical jargon and a serious lack of research. It’s no wonder that parents don’t talk about it!
When I started reading up on vaccinations I felt as if I had opened Pandora’s Box. More than once the thought crossed my mind that perhaps burying my head in the sand would have been easier. Easier yes, but not more responsible. As a soon-to-be parent, isn’t it my responsibility to make the best choice for my child and my family?
You Have a Choice
To a person who is uneducated about vaccinations, it may seem like you don’t really have a choice. I have lost count of the number of parents who have said “but your child won’t be able to go to school!” Seriously people? Again, this may sound harsh, but please realise that the Canadian Constitution protects this right and states that no one can be forcibly vaccinated in this country. Be proud that you live in a place that allows you to make those choices for yourself and your family. Not everyone is so lucky.
I want to clearly state that this blog is not meant to sway you in one direction or another. I am not anti or pro vaccination. I am pro education. Just as I hope that the people in my life will respect the decisions that my husband and I will make about our child, I too respect other parents’ choices. It’s not my place to stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong. However, if I can help someone make a more educated decision, then I will do just that.
The key to making the right decision about vaccinations is knowledge. While the topic can be overwhelming, it is important to realise that there are potential consequences to your choices, regardless of what those may be. Also be aware that a small amount of knowledge can be dangerous too. Believing that your child will die of a deadly disease if you don’t vaccinate because a mom at your yoga class told you this, is not education! Where did yoga mom learn this? Did she do any research? On the other hand, choosing not to vaccinate your child because your vegan friend didn’t isn’t a good reason either. Get the facts (actual facts) and then make the best choice for you and your family.
Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum
Blindly following the masses is no way to live. That being said, walking a path that is different than most is no picnic either. If you choose to alter the vaccination schedule (delaying, selectively or opting out of vaccinations entirely), your decisions will be under a microscope. Some will applaud you for educating yourself and standing up for your constitutional right to make a choice. Others will call you a bad parent and accuse you of putting their children at risk. Either way, you will be amongst the minority. At some point you will be asked to defend your decision. “How could you do something so risky? Don’t you love your child?” This is a hard place to be if you are uncertain or uneducated about your decisions. How do you defend something that you know little about it?
Here are some of the resources I’m using in my quest to make the right vaccination decision for my child. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your fact finding mission. There are other parents out there reading the same books and going to the same websites who are probably just as confused as you are. Don’t get discouraged. Keep reading and keep talking about it. In the end you will make the right choice for your family.
The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child (Robert W. Sears M.D.)
Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide: How to Make Safe, Sensible Decisions about the Risks, Benefits, and Alternatives (Aviva Romm M.D.)
Vaccination Risk Awareness Network - http://vran.org/
National Vaccine Information Center - http://www.nvic.org/
Katie, Jen and I had the taken the challenge to harvest lavender for school. Today we ventured out to The Lavender Farm in Ayr, Ontario to harvest approximately 200 grams of lavender each. Here are some photos of our day.
Fields of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Katie and I hard at work. We need approximately 200 grams to make 2x500ml of tincture.
Working hard in the very very hot sun! Thank goodness for my hat.
Katie had the right idea! Sticking to the shade.
We tried very hard to get to the spikes before the bees pollinated them.
Katie, Jen and I reconnecting and chatting.
Herbs in Pregnancy
The topic of using herbs during pregnancy is a complicated one. There are many health practitioners that will tell you to avoid all herbs while you’re pregnant; with the possible exception of the odd herbal tea. If you or your practitioner has little to no experience with herbs, then avoiding their use is wise. There are plenty of herbs out there, that if used incorrectly, could be quite dangerous to you or your baby.
However, with the proper education and guidance from a qualified herbal practitioner, botanical medicines can have some extraordinary benefits during pregnancy. The key is finding the right information and the right practitioner to help you along this path.
If you are the do-it-yourself type then I will recommend picking up Aviva Romm’s book, The Natural Pregnancy Book. Aviva is a midwife, herbalist and physician working in the United States. The information she provides in her book is well researched, safe and quite helpful for common and treatable pregnancy ailments. While this book is excellent for helping women treat themselves naturally during pregnancy I DO NOT recommend starting any herbal protocol without consulting your doctor, midwife and/or herbalist.
Herbs You Will Hear About
Once you start researching and reading about herbs during pregnancy there are a few botanicals that will start to pop up on a regular basis. The following three herbs are the most common herbs you will come across – however the list of safe herbs is much longer than this (I recommend Aviva’s book for more information). Again I recommend you speak to your herbalist, midwife and/or doctor before starting any herbal treatment.
Red Raspberry Leaf – Rubus idaeus
If your practitioner is herbal friendly, red raspberry leaf (most likely in tea form) will be the first and possibly only herb they will recommend. Red raspberry leaf is considered perfectly safe to use during pregnancy from the first trimester until delivery. Rubus is a uterine tonic, helping to tone and strengthen the uterus (without causing any spasms or stimulation). Uterine tonics when used during pregnancy will help to make your labour shorter, more efficient and easier (please note I did not say short and easy).
Stinging Nettle – Urtica dioica
In infusion or tea form, stinging nettle is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. It also helps to promote healthy kidney function, strengthen blood vessels and reduce varicosities. It is very nourishing to the blood and is highly recommended in cases of anemia. While most people prepare it as a tea, fresh nettle can also be prepared as a vegetable. DO NOT eat it raw as it is called stinging nettle for a reason.
Ginger root – Zingiber officinale
Ginger has long been used and its safety is well documented for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. This makes it a perfect herb for treating morning sickness, a common ailment for women especially in the first trimester. It should be noted in larger amounts (more than 2 grams per day) Zingiber is contraindicated due to its pungency. However a cup of fresh ginger root tea is perfectly safe.
My Herbal Pregnancy
As a student at Living Earth School of Herbalism, I received one year of treatment from my teacher Michael Vertolli. During this time I got pregnant and Michael continued to treat me. For those who are curious about my herbal treatment I will give you an example of the first formulations my teacher put me on. Please note this formula was specific to me. I have been on herbal tincture for years and my body is used to their effects. My teacher also chose herbs that are spiritual and energetically aligned to my needs. I DO NOT recommend replicating this formulation for yourself. Instead seek out the help of a qualified herbal practitioner. If you live in Ontario, the Ontario Herbalist Association has an online list of qualified practitioners you can consult.
First Trimester Formula
I started this formulation on two droppers and was instructed to increase to 3 droppers after two weeks. I had to increase my dosage a bit sooner than that (with my teacher’s consultation) due to some pretty nasty nausea.
Our skin the largest organ in or on our body and it absorbs everything you put on it. Our skin also plays a vital function in protecting us again microorganisms. It is our first line of defense, not our immune system. Needless to say I’ve always been concerned about what I put on my skin. I try my best to use all natural products (usually ones that I make myself).
Since becoming pregnant I’ve been even more concerned than usual. Now my decisions affect other little life, not just mine. As my belly continues to expand I’ve been using a commercial body butter that my husband picked up for me. After looking at the ingredients I decided I must be able to make something better with the ingredients floating around in my apothecary. As it turns out I was right! Here’s what I made:
Cocoa butter has a harder consistency then Shea butter. If you use pure cocoa butter like I did you may want to add more liquid (oil) in your recipe because my cream hardened over night. It is still very useable (especially once you rub it in between your hands to soften it), but it isn’t as ‘creamy’ as I was hoping.
After a very fruitful trip to Ricthers we were happy to add an abundance of medicinal and culinary herbs to our square foot gardening project. Because the mint family can be rather invasive we decided to plant those in pots instead. Check out the photos!
Taking advantage of the May long weekend we planted our shade garden, the seeds in our veggie boxes and the garden in the front of our house (photos of that one to come soon). Check out our progress.
Mayapple - Podophyllum peltatum
Lily of the Valley - Convallaria majalis
Wild Ginger - Asarum canadense
The mostly shade garden is complete! In addition to the herbs we added a few spiraea plants, sweet woodruff and a bunch of hostas called Fire and Ice (we liked the name because of Game of Thrones).
Dividing the square foot garden boxes into 1x1 foot squares. We used thumb tacks and string to accomplish the task.
Planting the first vegetable seeds!
I’m learning quickly that in budget gardening you have to work with what you have. We used popsicle sticks to label our garden.
Spring has sprung(ish) here in southern Ontario and after a rather uneventful and dreary winter I am so happy to be playing outside. The next installment of my garden project was getting our square foot garden boxes built and placed in the backyard.
My inspiration for the design of our boxes came from this fantastic YouTube video posted by user GardenGirltv. The design was simple and easy on the pocketbook. You can find a link to the video below.
Step one was purchasing the wood. We got 6 pieces of 2x10x8 foot lumber and had the staff cut them in half for us. Using four pieces of wood per box that will make us three 4x4 square foot gardening boxes. It’s very important that you don’t buy pressure treated lumber if you plan on having an organic garden (the chemicals in the wood will leech into the soil).
Using outdoor deck screws (again very important) we started to build our boxes. While GardenGirltv suggested pre-drilling the holes, my brother-in-law said it was unnecessary. Seeing as I don’t even own a drill I bowed to his expertise!
While the boxes were being built, we started to turn over the sod where they would be placed. Using the sod (roots up) as the bottom layer will allow us to save a bit of money on soil.
Our first square foot garden box is complete!
My fantastic team hard at work ensuring the boxes are level (our backyard has a crazy slope) and that the push mower will fit between them! Placement of the boxes is key in square foot gardening. Because there are no rows in your garden you want to ensure you can access your garden from at least three sides of the garden box. This is why we left a two foot space between two of the boxes.
Adding soil to our completed boxes. This is only round one. We plan to score some free compost from the City of Oshawa!
The project is complete!
Could not have done it without these guys! From left to right a huge thanks to my husband, my brother-in-law and my father-in-law!
A week later - the flower bed at the side is almost complete and we’ve scored a sweet composter (and some compost) from the City of Oshawa. Our backyard is finally coming together! Stay tuned for more Garden Project updates!