Category Archives: herbs

Herb Storage

We all need a place to put our herbs. Most of us put them in a cupboard in the kitchen so they’re handy for cooking. This is what most kitchen cupboards look like:


Image via Wikimedia Commons John Reid CCA-SA 3.0
Image via Wikimedia Commons John Reid CCA-SA 3.0

All those plastic & glass bottles let in light which, in time, leaches out healthful compounds in herbs.

In school, we were taught to put our herbs in a canning jar, then put that jar into a brown paper bag, close it with a twist-tie and label.

IMG_0033This offends my neatness sensibilities.

I keep a couple months’ supply in the kitchen and the rest is in ziplock bags (with the air squished out) in a plastic tub in the cool, dark, dry basement. I replenish my kitchen stock as needed from there.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an “aha” moment. You may already have had this moment but just in case, I’ll share it with you.

Instead of putting your jar into a paper bag to keep out light, take a little more time and paint the outside of your jar with glass paint!

IMG_0035(I hope you are a better letterer than I am.)

Several coats are needed (this jar has three) but once you’re done, you have something that looks better than a bag and keeps out light.

IMG_0034(The light at the top is from the camera flash. But no light gets through the side.)

You still need to keep them in a cool, dry, dark place but at least this’ll help with the “dark” and “dry” parts.

Now all I have to do is find room for all those pint-sized canning jars…

Thank an Herbalist Day

Today, 17th April, is Thank an Herbalist Day. Based on my extensive research brief internet search, it was started by The Herbal Academy of New England. I think it’s a great idea.

If it weren’t for those who have gone before, I wouldn’t have the knowledge I have. I’m not only talking about those who put their insight into print (although they’re important, too). However, the grandmothers and grandfathers who kept herbal medicine alive even after the invention of synthetic drugs starting in the mid-1800s; the grandsons and granddaughters who helped fuel the “rediscovery” of herbal medicine in the late 1900s; those who have kept traditional healing (by whatever name) alive throughout history, those people deserve our thanks.

My teachers are too numerous to list. Those who wrote books (from the 15th century through today); those who share their knowledge in formal classes, in lectures, on blogs, or talking over the fence…they have my profound gratitude.

The moms and dads today who are teaching their children the wonders of herbs through gardening, cooking, and healing infusions – they deserve thanks, too.

So, from me to everyone who uses herbs to heal


Planetary Hours

If you, like me, read old books on ceremonial magic, astrology, gardening, herbal medicine, or any combination of those subjects, you’ve probably read something like, “do X in the hour of Saturn”. For a lot of modern folks, that has no meaning. So, what in the blazes is the author talking about?

Chaldea was a small nation located in southeastern Babylonia. It flourished from about the 10th century BCE to around the 6th century BCE. The Chaldeans are thought to be the fathers of astrology and their system of planetary influence on Man (and Earth in general) continues today.

I’m not sure I’ve ever met a person who didn’t know his or her Sun sign. They might even know which element rules their sign and perhaps which planet. (I’m a Virgo, ruled by Earth and Mercury.) Even if that’s the extent of your knowledge of astrology (it is mine), you can imagine carrying that further. Rather than pull a Tarot card in the morning to see what their day may be like, some people will do an astrological chart every day. This was so meaningful during the Renaissance that kings – and even Popes – had a professional astrologer on staff, or at least on call. Nostradamus is one of the more famous astrologers of the Renaissance era.

Anyways, back to planetary hours. According to the Chaldeans, not only each segment of the zodiac but each day and even each hour was ruled by a planet. Therefore, if you wanted or needed to do something important, you should do it at the appropriate hour of the appropriate day or night for best results. (To figure out which day is ruled by which planet, the first hour of the day in the chart below shows the day’s ruler.)

Calculating the proper hour isn’t quite as easy as looking at a clock. Yes, it’s based on a 24-hour day (actually, a 12-hour day and a 12-hour night) but each hour isn’t necessarily 60 minutes long. Nor will the hours exactly correspond all over the world. My day (or night) may be a little longer or a little shorter than someone who lives north or south of me.

To calculate your planetary hours: find out when your sunrise and sunset is. The hours between sunrise and sunset are your day and between sunset and the next sunrise, your night. Translate each into total minutes, then divide by twelve to find your “hours”.

For example, here in my neck of the woods, today’s sunrise was 6:50 a.m., sunset will be 7:14 p.m., and tomorrow’s sunrise will be 6:48 a.m. Therefore, my day is 11 hours, 24 minutes long (684 minutes; each hour is 57 minutes long), my night will be 12 hours 34 minutes long (754 minutes; each hour is 62.8 minutes long, or round to 63).

Then you have to consult a chart. Day Hours Night Hours

Then you need to take into account that I’m on Daylight Savings Time (ick) so I have to subtract an hour from my clock time to get to “real” time. So, if it was auspicious for me to do something tonight (on a day ruled by Jupiter) at the hour of Saturn, I’d need to do it in the second hour of the “real” night, which would be between 7:17 p.m. and 8:20 p.m.

Confusing? A little. A major pain? You bet. I understand there are websites that will do your calculations for you. (There’s probably even an app for that.) However, to my way of thinking, any self-respecting witch is going to do their own calculations – it’s all part of the spellwork. I don’t go this far…I prefer short-and-sweet spells and most of ’em are done spur-of-the-moment. But I thought I’d put this out there to help further understanding of old grimoires and such; and because even the Farmer’s Almanac still has zodiacal information for planting and other things.


Using Scent, Evoking Images

As I sit here in my nice, warm, cozy office, it is 15°F outside and the weather app tells me the windchill is -4°F. That’s warmer than when I woke: it was 2°F with a windchill somewhere around -15°F. There’s about an inch of snow on the ground. That will melt in today’s sun but probably be replaced by the next system that’s coming in tomorrow. While not bad compared to what’s happening farther north, it’s still cold for Georgia. It looks cold.


Leo, The-Not-So-Stray should be in his house but is soaking up the sun. Phone-camera is crummy – he’s the lump at the top of the stairs.

Yes, our house has a fireplace. We built and, knowing power goes out frequently here in the mountains, wanted a non-electric heat source. The romantic aspect wasn’t lost even on my husband. However, the fireplace is downstairs and I’m upstairs in the office at the opposite end of the house. There isn’t enough room on the sofa for all my research binders and books so I write non-fiction at my desk. What’s a girl to do?

Use scent, that’s what. I’ve written before about the use of scent for certain situations (here and here for example) and this is no different. I can’t handle smoke in the house so combustible incense is out. Therefore, it’s essential oils to the rescue. I’m trying to match the aroma that would be coming out of my fireplace so in my office oil warmer are equal parts Pine and Cedarwood with a drop of Oakmoss. If I close my eyes I can almost hear the crackle of burning wood.

Scientifically we know that scent can affect the mind and body (aromatherapy) so I use it a lot. During tax season, I’ll go through almost a whole bottle of Rosemary – keeps me sharp. When clients drive me nuts (frequently), Ylang-Ylang calms me. Divination sessions? I will use one of two blended oils: one is woodsy, the other is citrus-y. It depends on not only my mood but what sort of question I’m looking to answer.

While I will glance at my correspondence lists when blending an oil, I mostly go by intuition. And me. What scent affects me in the way I need to be affected? Sweet Orange is the only citrus on my list of “divination” herbs, yet adding a touch of Lime and a couple of others works better – for me.

Don’t have an oil warmer? Put a small pan of water to simmer on the stove and add your oils. (Be sure to wash your pot thoroughly afterward if you plan on using it for cooking again.) Don’t have essential oils? Throw a handful of aromatic herbs into that pan of water (they don’t call it simmering potpourri for nothing). Don’t want water? Plain ol’ dried potpourri works (but takes awhile to make…the scents have to marry). I guess in a pinch you could use a scented candle or those wafer-thingies they’re selling these days but I’m all about natural. Most commercial candles or other scented items use synthetic fragrances and those, while they may smell nice, don’t have the chemical constituents in herbs that work on the physical aspect of things. (Personally, I find most commercial scents don’t quite smell right.)

The next time you find a need to evoke a specific image or emotion, try scent. Look at lists, yes, but experiment to see what works for you. Meanwhile, I’m closing my eyes for a moment, listening to the crackling of a fireplace and feeling warm…

Herb Puzzle!

I love puzzles. Especially word puzzles. Crosswords, word search, Wheel of Fortune… I can and do spend hours on them.

Yesterday, I was procrastinating had some time to kill so thought I’d make up one of my own. Naturally, it had to be herb-related.

For your enjoyment:

HerbPuzzle(click to enlarge to something actually legible, then print)

Interview with a Witch: Jen Rue

Last but not least in my series of snooping into the lives of some friends: Jen Rue. Many of you know her fabulous blog or perhaps her shop (links below). Enjoy!


Do you have a favorite book on witchcraft – perhaps one that influenced you? Asking me to choose a favourite book is like asking me to choose a favourite plant. Oh look…you did that a little further down the page…

I will say that now in my practice, my favourite “witchcraft books” are my field guides to local flora, poetry books, and cookbooks, with fairy tales and folk stories thrown in for good measure.

The first books I read, borrowed from a friend, were Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance,” “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margo Adler (which I shamefully still haven’t finished), and Cunningham’s “Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner.” I then floated around quite a bit reading whatever my tiny library could get in for me – which was very little, as most of the witchcraft books had gone missing.

I think the first two books I bought were “Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs” and one of Christopher Penczak’s books. I would have to say that in the first few years of my journey, Christopher’s books, especially his Temple of Witchcraft series were my biggest influence. I was inspired by how knowledgeable and open minded he is, and how he is always researching, testing ideas, and finding his own way. He has such a deep passion for his work. Although I don’t have the same practice as I did then, I still love his books and I’ve learned a great deal from him.

How long have you been practicing & how did you come to your path? As far as number of years of formal practice – I’m a baby-witch. As of early 2015, it will be seven years since I stumbled across a chat thread talking about Wicca. The woman who was facilitating on that thread was terribly patient with me and a few others and we grilled her mercilessly. She sent us out looking for books and I never looked back. She is still one of my treasured online friends.

My practice today looks much like my life as a child. I grew up running through the woods around my home, working in my grandmother’s garden, camping, fishing, sitting around the feet of the adults, listening to stories. My parents believed in road trips, good music and tall tales, and having family dinners at my grandparents’ home at least once a month on a Sunday night. Although my grandparents are gone now, those things are still important to me.

I was raised Southern Baptist. I believed in magic and faeries, and talking animals, so Jesus wasn’t a hard sell for me. I left the church in my teens, but returned in my early twenties looking for some kind of connection. I thought I found it for a few years, but it wasn’t what I really needed. I went for a counselling session with the pastor, and I told him that I wasn’t finding God in the church. I was finding God in my garden, and in my nieces’ eyes, and on walks with my dog. He said “perhaps your church isn’t a building,” and it was exactly what I was waiting to hear. That was about 13 years ago.

How does being a witch help you in everyday life? There are a hundred answers here – I’ll try to give you one. It doesn’t make life easier, but it makes life richer. I feel a connection in a way…well, in a way I always have, but could never understand before. Even the smallest things seem important, like mowing my lawn, or cooking or cleaning. I do everything with a great deal more presence. And that’s probably the best way to describe it for me. I feel like I’m present in my daily life – not just getting it all over with so I can get on to the good stuff.

Not that I’ve seen it anywhere but your photos (we need to remedy that), but your valley looks lovely. Does living where you do influence your path? It does. I was fortunate in that I grew up with parents who were outdoors-people. Weekends, especially Sundays, were family time and it was important to my parents to be out in the hills or driving through the valley on day trips. They instilled a great love for this land in me, and it has only grown over the years. I drive up the road into the hills and wander around, sometimes for wild-harvesting, but more often just to be out there, breathing, observing. I walk by a river at the edge of my little town each morning. My altar is littered with stones, herbs, feathers, cones, and bits I’ve picked up on my walks. I sometimes wonder how long I could survive without being in the valley – I feel like it is a part of my soul.

The Wheel of the Year gets a bad rap – usually from those of us who don’t consider ourselves Wiccan, but also from those who feel that the celebrations don’t really match the seasons where they live. Here in the valley, it’s about as close a fit as you can get. It’s a spectacular area for agriculture, and by February the thaw begins and orchardists and viticulturists are out in their orchards and vineyards trimming their trees and vines. At Samhain, the final harvests of tomatoes, squash, and late pears and apples have just come in. Every sabbat falls upon some agricultural activity, save Yule (unless you are wassailing the fruit trees). Tuning in to the seasons as they progress in the valley and growing food and medicine with the land, is central to my practice. I may not hit every sabbat on its assigned day, but I’m definitely observing and celebrating the cycles of the land here.

I know your garden is rather extensive and the valley gives you plenty of opportunity for wildcrafting. What’s your favorite herb (yes, I’m making you pick one) and why? This really is the most difficult question to answer. My response changes all the time with the seasons, and often depends on the plants that are appearing around me. It also changes as I gain more experience with, and knowledge of, plants I might be working with.

If I had to pick one today, I might choose common garden sage, because I’ve been struggling with a bit of a cold, and I find a sage tea calming and a nice way to ease a cold or fever out. It works well as a throat gargle, and of course, this time of year tastes fantastic with turkey! Plus, I’m a tactile witch – always with the touching – and I love those fuzzy little leaves! I often just pick one to sniff and carry around with me.

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone new to the witchcraft path? I don’t know that any one piece of advice fits all. Witchcraft is so varied now, in the way people practice it, and even how they define it. My advice has always been to find a way to befriend meditation and I still believe that it, as a tool, is invaluable. I always go back to it. But I think that new folks might want to spend a good amount of time looking into why they want to follow this path. I don’t think it’s the easy choice. Sure, we have fun toys and great parties, and if you want to be a full moon and sabbat witch only, then rock on – but you can find a good party in a lot of places. I think doing some real checking in to why this particular path or lifestyle is important to you is useful.

What is one thing you’d like to accomplish before you die? I live a small life, but a really rewarding one. I’ve had adventures, and travelled. I’ve had great loves, and helped raise my nieces. I have amazing friends and live in one of the prettiest places on earth. My life doesn’t feel like it lacks for anything.

I think, if it counts as an “accomplishment,” I’d like to meet the people that make me smile – those online friends that I’ve made, that are so cool, and brilliant, and funny. I can think of about a dozen or so, right off the top of my head (you included) that I’d love to gather with and hear them tell their stories, and sip luscious drinks together, long into the night.

What are two things about you not too many people know? #1 – I love a drink, but I’m not a big drinker. If you come across me online, I’m inevitably going to be mentioning alcohol. This is how rumours get started, I’m sure. I really love a drink. But I like one. One really great glass of wine when I’m out for dinner, or one well-made martini, or some fabulous concoction that a bartender has invented. I once spent an entire party with the same glass of whisky, just getting my tongue wet. There are always exceptions to any rule though – like when my best friend makes a blender of her famous lime daiquiris, or the trip I took to Mexico a few years ago. (Vacations don’t count, right?)

#2 – I’ve pretty much been afraid my entire life. Of everything. And I used to think that the goal was to be not afraid, and I worked toward that. But that never really had any staying power – being “not afraid.” So I decided that I’d just be afraid and do everything I wanted to do anyway.

I’m afraid to fly, but I travel by plane. I’m terribly shy, but I make an effort to talk to strangers. I’m terrified of fast carnival rides, so I took a trip to California with a friend and went on roller coasters in four different theme parks. I’m afraid of heights, but I walked a rope bridge across ravine, and I went skydiving. I’m nearly paralyzed by spiders, but if they are in my house I get a glass and a piece of paper and pray they don’t jump on my face and eat me before I get them outside. Telling myself “don’t be afraid” doesn’t work. I just say “fuck it – let’s try this anyway.”

And finally, coffee or tea? Both, of course. Like pretty much everything else, the preference will shift slightly with the seasons. I drink more tea in the Winter and Spring. More coffee in the Summer and Autumn. I couldn’t even tell you why.

Jen is the author of the Rue and Hyssop blog and sells her herby goods through the Etsy shop Three Cats and a Broom (and if you’re planning a trip to British Columbia, I believe her stuff is in one or two brick-and-mortar stores, too). Follow her on Twitter @rueandhyssop.

Interview with a Witch: Johanna Lawson

Continuing on with my nosiness where some lovely ladies are concerned, this week we’ll learn a little about Johanna Lawson:


Johanna Bio Picture

Do you have a favorite book on witchcraft – perhaps one that influenced you?  My first book on witchcraft was Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance”. My mother purchased it for me and it was perhaps the greatest gift she ever gave me. She knew I was in the process of exploring my spirituality and thought it would be helpful. The book opened up a whole new world for me, one in which I knew I belonged, and started me on my path. Its pages are now yellowed and dog-eared, the spine creased and the cover flimsy from my multiple readings, from being stuffed in luggage and handbags, and from being pulled from its familiar place in the shelf for often-needed references.

How long have you been practicing & how did you come to your path? When I was 20 years old, living in my first apartment, I was introduced to a woman who was a witch by a mutual friend who thought she and I had much in common. It turned out we did and she started me on a quest to discover my true path. She has been my best friend and mentor since the first day we met. I have now been practicing witchcraft for 26 years and, with each passing year, each turn of the wheel, my practice evolves and becomes one with my daily life.

What was the hardest lesson you had to learn – one that you credit your path for teaching you? Perhaps the hardest lesson I have learned from this path is to be proud of who and what I am, not to hide. For many years, I was in the broom closet, constantly worrying what others may think of me if they found out that I was a witch. It kept me from so many things, most of all from being true to myself. About 12 years ago, I threw that door open and felt as if I was reborn.

How does being a witch help you in everyday life? This was a really hard question for me and the only answer I have to it is this: Being a witch doesn’t necessarily help me in my everyday life. It just is my everyday life. It permeates all aspects of my life, from housecleaning to cooking to raising my son to my job to being a wife, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, and all the roles of my life. I believe witchcraft is much more than just ritual, ceremony, spells and charms. It’s helping a family member in tough times to see things a bit more positively thus creating more positive outcomes for them. It’s cleaning up the skinned knees of little ones with a healing herbal preparation and gentle words of encouragement. It’s whispering a few words of good energy out into the universe at the same time your son is taking the SAT’s. It’s lighting a green candle for prosperity as you place a call to the electric company when the bill is overdue. It’s thanking the basil plant every time you clip off a few leaves for the pasta sauce you are stirring up in the kitchen. It just is everyday life.

I know you’re a Master Gardener. Did/does that designation & the study that went with it help in your path? Becoming a Master Gardener seemed like the natural progression down my path. In my studies, I learned just how magical the plant world is in and of itself, for example the delicate balances in nature that can cause marvelous growth or destructive diseases and the interdependence of different species of certain plant life while others can be deadly when planted together. It also led me to better understand the healing effects gardening can have for not only the planet but for one’s spirit. For me, gardening is my way of deeply connecting with Mother Earth and is a ritual in itself. Being a Master Gardener has also allowed me to bring that magic to other people through volunteer work with the program.

If you were just starting your own herb garden, which herbs would you plant and why? As I learned in my Master Gardeners courses as well as in my magical studies, so many more plants fall under the category of “Herbs” than I ever imagined. Herbs are any plant with flowers, leaves and seeds used in cooking, flavoring, medicine and perfume. This definition opened a whole new world for me when it came to growing herbs in my own gardens. I would tell a new herb gardener to start with some basic herbs, those that are good for cooking as well as in magic, and to throw in a few “witchy” extras that brighten the landscape, lift the spirits, and bring pollinators to their yards. Rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano/marjoram, sage, lemon balm, mint, and parsley are the ones I started my own herb garden with several years ago. I would then add some yarrow, coneflowers, calendula, catmint/catnip, chives, and lavender. All of these can be used in magic and healing, not to mention they bring bees, birds, and butterflies to the garden. Oh, and garlic! Every garden should have garlic!

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone new to the witchcraft path? The most important thing I would tell anyone beginning to walk the path of witchcraft is that there is no right or wrong way. What works for one person may not work for another. Do not let others dictate how your path should proceed or where it should go. Infuse your witchcraft with yourself, your beliefs, your traditions. Therein is the real magic!

What is one question you wish someone would ask you? Oh that’s an easy one. Can I make dinner? I am the chief meal planner and creator in my household and sometimes it would be nice if, every once in a while, I could just sit back and enjoy a meal that I had nothing to do with and that did not come from a restaurant.

What are two things about you not too many people know? First, I love writing in bad weather. Since I was a teenager, a gray stormy, rainy, or snowy day gets my muse all a flutter and I take to the keyboard. Second, I believe the next step in my path is to become a Master Herbalist and I will be looking into that over the Winter.

And finally, coffee or tea? It depends. I must have coffee in the morning and after dinner. But, the rest of the day is for herbal teas, mostly made from my own herbs, and hot or iced, depending on the season and the weather. I also always have a cup of chamomile tea or my own nighttime blend of herbs before bed.


Johanna Lawson is a longtime solitary-practicing witch and the author of the blog, Village Wise Woman, that documents her journeys on the Pagan path, through the changing seasons of her magical garden, and through the life of her small Pagan family. She has been published in several Pagan anthologies and various magazines and newsletters.


I’m always curious about folk healing. First, because it was around (and mostly effective) long before science took over. Second, because it’s interesting to see both similarities and differences between cultures. It’s especially interesting to note how the same herb is used for the same thing, regardless of what part of the world you may be in. Lastly, most folk healing recognizes the connection between our mind, body and spirit – something that is sorely lacking in today’s medicine.

When this introductory course on curanderismo (folk healing in the southwestern US, Mexico and parts of Central & South America) was announced, I saw it as an opportunity to learn about another culture and hey, it was FREE.

Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. The course really should be entitled, “Introduction-Lite”. A maximum of 45 minutes’ of videos a week and a multiple-choice test (where you get two tries to get it right?) doesn’t give a whole lot of information. They don’t explain some things at all – just demonstrate. I’m guessing it’s a teaser to get you to take the two-week, in-person course they offer every summer at the University of New Mexico. For me, ain’t gonna happen – I have obligations that keep me in the office, y’know?

One of the things that sort of befuddled me was in the video about making tinctures (yer standard folk method), they mention that in Mexico, caña is generally used as the menstruum. That’s effectively a cane sugar version of Everclear. In lower proofs, you know it better as rum. However, in the video, they used vodka. That got me a little confused because cane sugar alcohol is readily available here in the US. So, I visited my favorite bartender, who just happens to be from Guadalajara, and asked him. He, too, was confused. But I got a tidbit from him I’ll share with you:

Caña isn’t much available outside the border states with Mexico. That said, apart from your favorite brand of rum (which comes in both 80 and 100 proof if you make your tinctures scientifically), there is something called aguardiente. Here you have to be careful because that can be made with something other than cane sugar but … it comes as high as 54% alcohol, which is 108 proof. Carlos says it’s smoother than rum and, understanding what I was getting at with my questions, thought it would make a more palatable tincture than straight vodka or rum. Although vodka is considered a “cleaner” alcohol than rum (and thus would make a better tincture), I really don’t like the taste of vodka – even in drops –  so I’m going to get some aguardiente and try it.

Back to the course: I had a lot more luck poring through their “recommended reading” books than watching the videos. Although you will never learn to be a curandero/a (the Spanish language differentiates nouns between the masculine & feminine, if you didn’t know) without studying/apprenticing under someone, the reading gave a lot more in-depth information on how they go about things. Of the five books recommended, I found the following two of the most interest:

Woman Who Glows in the Dark by Elena Avila

Sastun by Rosita Arvigo

The first because it’s written by someone with extensive experience in the allopathic (scientific medicine) world who left it behind to follow her heritage. The second because, although it doesn’t really go into a lot of detail, it’s written by someone who grew up in the United States with our allopathic system and apprenticed under a curandero in Belize.

Although I like my doctor, I wish there was a curandero/a nearby. I think it’s important to treat the whole person and, although she tries, my doctor doesn’t have time because she’s dependent on that insurance reimbursement.  If he was a hierbero (or yerbero), we could compare notes between their use of herbs & mine – I studied Western herbalism. I’d find that fascinating.

Straining Herb-Infused Liquids

I was straining the latest batch of my hair rinse yesterday and had a “duh” moment.

I usually strain any herb-infused liquid by balancing a mesh strainer over a measuring cup (or jar) and lining the strainer with a coffee filter. (Yes, I know those aren’t reusable but they do degrade nicely in my compost bin. They have the added benefit of catching all but the tiniest particles of ground herb – something even an old nylon stocking doesn’t do.)

I wanted to strain directly into the jug I was going to store it in but I can’t do that with the strainer (too large a permeable area) and lining a funnel is a real PITA. Since I was in the kitchen and not down in the shop, the “duh” moment came rather quickly – an old, single-cup coffee doohickey I haven’t used in years sitting, with a box of its filters, on one of the top shelves of my cupboards. One of these (image from Amazon):Single CupThis has the added benefit of sitting squarely on top of whatever you put it on – my mesh strainer has a tendency to slew to one side or another because it’s rounded.

I wouldn’t recommend using this for straining oils. The hole at the bottom is tiny and it would take forever to get oil through first the filter then that small opening. But for infused vinegars, like my hair rinse, or tinctures, it works great. It only took about 10 minutes to cleanly strain a half-gallon of vinegar.

A Cautionary Tale

Necessary disclaimer: This post is my experience and should not be construed as medical advice. Also, I know my own body. Some of my symptoms can be indicative of more serious issues. Please consult your healthcare professional for any health difficulties.

Three weeks ago, I got a urinary tract infection. It happens on occasion, sometimes frequently, as a woman gets older and her natural secretions dry up and even change pH. A real pain, to be sure.

This one didn’t respond quickly to my preferred herbal therapy (massive doses of cranberry extract and gallons of water) and I didn’t want to take any more time trying something else so I called my doctor to get an antibiotic prescription. (UTIs can be dangerous. The bacteria can travel up your urinary tract, into your kidneys and from there to your bloodstream. If you get one and it doesn’t go away within 24 hours on an herbal protocol, call your doctor.) I requested a particular antibiotic that I know works on me and is fairly mild as far as those go.

My doctor is wont to automatically prescribe an anti-fungal when she prescribes antibiotics for women because 9 times of 10, women will get a yeast infection when on an antibiotic regimen. The drugs kill not only the bacteria causing the infection but also upset the rest of the balance in your system. I know from experience that if I eliminate refined sugar from my diet during the 7 days on the drugs plus 2 days afterward, I don’t have to take yet another Rx. (Yeast feeds on sugar.) I did that, complaining about missing my sweets for the whole nine days.

What I forgot, though, is to add a probiotic into my diet to counteract the rest of the imbalance.

Two days into the Rx, I started belching a lot more than normal. I didn’t think much of it until a week ago, a few days after finishing the antibiotic prescription, I was awakened out of a sound sleep at 3am with a bonfire in my chest. I’ve never had heartburn before but damn! Now I feel really sorry for those people who get it frequently. At that hour, in the middle of my sleep cycle, I couldn’t remember my own name, much less what herbs I had in stock that might be good for heartburn. Thankfully, I dug grandma’s solution out of the depths of my brain: a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and a half hour of pacing around the house (to let gravity help get the acid back down where it belongs) and I could finally go back to sleep.

Next night, the same thing. Only this time it was two doses of baking soda and an hour of pacing. I don’t think well without a good night’s sleep so it took those two days for the dime to drop that I’d forgotten the probiotic. You see, for the first time in my life, those antibiotic pills had also disrupted my normal stomach function – something the probiotic would’ve handled if I’d remembered to take it. So, an emergency trip to the store was in order!

Even though the stomach acid problem was brought on relatively quickly, bringing the body and all its integrated systems back into balance doesn’t happen overnight. All that excess acid (and my – sigh – smoking) has irritated my lower esophageal sphincter, bringing on dysphagia. That’s where either something is stuck in your gullet or it feels like something is stuck. I know there’s no blockage because I’m not having any difficulty swallowing food. But it’s really uncomfortable; that irritation has to be calmed while the probiotics do their thing.

So, another trip to the store for some slippery elm powder for its demulcent (soothing) effects. It’s tough to find just a jar of powder locally but I got some in capsules that I can open. One a day into a glass of water. I don’t want to just swallow the capsule & let it get digested – I want that powder sliding past & hitting the irritation. I’ll do this until I feel the irritation is completely gone – probably another couple of days.

Six days into the probiotics and three into the slippery elm and I’m finally feeling something closer to normal. At least I’m able to sleep through the night again. And so are the cats! They definitely were upset that they had to get out of their cozy places to supervise my pacing around a dark house in the middle of the night.

So, if you have to be on an antibiotic for something, be aware that it will not only kill the unwanted bacteria but also the good bacteria normally found in your body.