Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mountain Rose Herbs and The Essential Herbal Magazine giveaway!

Check it out, folks!
Visit the Mountain Rose Herbs Blog and get all the details.  You can enter to win all the ingredients for a winter cough syrup recipe I use here at home a lot AND a year's subscription to The Essential Herbal Magazine.

I snitched this picture from their blog to whet your whistle...
Don't wait too long, the contest is over on Oct 2nd, so hop on over to their blog and find out how to enter.  Now!  Go on, Scoot!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Women Herbalists: Lydia Pinkham

Women Herbalists:  Lydia Pinkham

The Essential Herbal ( Mar/Apr ‘12

While Lydia Pinkham might not be at the top of the list as a famous female herbalist, I think she appeals to me so much because of business savvy and because her business began as a family enterprise.  Her Vegetable Compound continues to be produced today.

Lydia Pinkham lived from 1819-1883 in Lynn, MA.  To better understand her success it helps to have a little bit of background on the medical history of that time.   The beginning of the century medicine was in a “heroic phase” of purging, bloodletting, and blistering.  This was the common treatment form everything from pneumonia, hernia, to amenorrhea.  Emetics, leeches, lancets, harsh purgatives were all used with a free hand for any ailment.   And then in addition was calomel (chloride of mercury) a powerful cathartic.  Therapeutically useless calomel broke down the intestines into a virulent mercurial poison.  It produced a violent laxative effect and profuse salivation as the body continued to rid itself of the drug.   Continued use lead to softening of the gums and mucus membranes and loss of teeth.  These treatments continued through to the middle of the century and into the end of the century by older docs.

In addition to purging, puking and bleeding, Doctors of the time were creating an anxiety within women of the weakness of their sex.   The concept of the delicate wife or the woman taking to her couch with the vapors was played upon. Menstruation was seen as an infirmity.   In addition physician’s odd treatments of prolapsed uterus, leucorrhea, menstrual pains or menopause lead women to feel they had little to gain with a visit to the regular doctor.  

As people were gaining a mistrust of “regular” doctors, other medical theories were being developed.  Samuel Graham (of Graham bread and crackers) was lecturing on diet. Thompson studied with a local yarb and root doctor and learned of Lobelia inflata, Indian tobacco, leading to his theories of disease “heat is life, cold is death” and his Thomsonian School of medicine.  Then Hahnemann came with his theories of “infinitesimal dose” and his homeopathy school.  

 Lydia Pinkham began selling her compound in an era marked by medical controversy, public dissatisfaction with the medical profession and an obsessive concern with woman’s weakness.    Lydia Pinkham had been making her compound for years and giving it to friends and neighbors.   Her family had the idea to sell the Vegetable Compound when her husband a speculative business man hit financial ruin in the “Panic of 1873”.  It was a true family business sons working on promotion and advertising, daughter turning over her paycheck to underwrite the business, Lydia did the manufacturing and so the business of  “Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound” began.

Promotions began with circulating flyers door to door in small towns and larger cities.  The return on the investment of the printing and time spent circulating was not worthwhile so the Mrs. Pinkham bravely took out a four page ad in the Boston Herald for close to $900.00.    Sales soared!  The company continued to print advertising in newspapers and magazines, hiring agents and eventually having an in house advertising agent for over 60 years. The advertising expenditures for 1900 were over $770,000!   The company also produced a variety of booklets on such topics as Home Dressmaking or War time Cook and Health Book as cleverly camouflaged advertising.  In 1920, 11 million booklets were printed and the company built their own printing press to do so.  Part of the advertising campaign encouraged woman to write for help with their health.  Advertising that “Mrs. Pinkham regards every letter as a Sacred Message” and that “No man will ever see your letter”, thousands upon thousands of letters were received and a bevy of young women hired to write standardized responses.

The company certainly went through its share of problems through its 100 year history.  By 1905 a steady barrage of criticisms were being leveled at patent medicines hurt business.  Major magazines such as Ladies Home Journal and Colliers were printing articles with such titles as “The Great American Fraud”.  Patent Medicine Counterfeiters were fairly common to the industry.  The Passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1911, whose slogan “Let the Label Tell” required proprietary medicines to list ingredients which cut down on quackery.  While the Vegetable Compound needed to change its labeling and its healing claims, this led to an era of prosperity for the company.  Family squabbles occurred and in the 1930’s-1940’s, with all of the original family deceased, there were numerous court battles among the cousins for control of the company.   The 1940’s changes were brought on by the Federal Trade Commission, American Medical Association and the FDA, the company adapted and complied. 

In 1950, sales hit below the two million dollar mark for the first time in a decade.  Lydia Pinkham was now an old woman in old fashioned clothes.   Druggist’s described the consumer of the Vegetable Compound as well over 30, mature, less educated and in the south or cities often Black.  The company created a fictitious and modern Ann Pinkham but in the end did not respond astutely enough to changing times.  In 1968 the company was sold to Cooper Labs and moved out of the country.

In 1980, when I first began giving garden tours in the herb gardens of The Rosemary House, when I spoke of pleurisy root as one of the ingredients in Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound invariably there would be a woman say “a baby in every bottle” a carry over from one of their stronger advertising campaigns.  Now, at the mention of Lydia Pinkham I am faced with blank stares.  While today it seems easier to find a bottle of her Vegetable Compound in an antique store then in a pharmacy, I still admire the woman behind the compound for her shrew business sense and for her willingness to talk about female issues honestly and forthrightly.

The original formula of Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound   was based on John King’s American Dispensary.
For 100 pints:
8 oz Unicorn Root (Aletris farinose)
6 oz Life Root (Senecio aureus)
6 oz Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
12 oz Pluerisy Root (Asclepias tuerosa)
12 oz Fenugreek Seed (Foenum graceum)
Suspended in alcohol

Susanna Reppert Brill, The Rosemary House, Mechanicsburg PA

Friday, September 21, 2012


The official end of summer is here, but we've been feeling it for a few weeks now.  Flowers have given way to seeds or fruit, with only a few stragglers like the flowers of the sunchokes, the stray fall spikes of lavender, complementing the sprays of goldenrod, fireweed, asters and Joe Pye weed in the meadows.  This year there was barely any blue vervain.  Elderberries suffered because of the drought, and for some reason the early summer harvest of lavender was lacking.
I'm trying to balance the feelings of sadness at watching another growing season fade with the relief of being able to rest for a few months.  While I have lots of friends who feel that named days are just another day, something like an Equinox is an opportunity for me to think about what is in or out of balance in life.
We're meandering along, trying to find a little more time for doing our favorite things like writing, walking in the woods, and playing in the gardens.
Work is the major part of life here on the farm, but we have all managed to make it about things that we love, so it seems more like play.  We often start early in the morning and continue well past dinner - sometimes until we fall into bed.  Our children are now struggling to find ways to live their lives similarly, doing things they love well enough to make a living while enjoying enough to perhaps put in 18 hour days and still want to continue.  We learned it by putting those hours in for others before figuring out that we'd prefer to do it for ourselves.  I hope the kids don't need to do that, but it might be necessary.
Lately we've been pulling back from some of the extraneous things, trying to put aside some time for fun.  Right now we're racing against the calendar, trying to find a few days to go to the beach for a few days before it gets too cold.  It's been many years since my sister and I took a few days that didn't include a speaking engagement somewhere along the way.  If you travel for business, you know that it's tough to enjoy the trip as anything resembling a vacation.  Usually, it's just trying to get where you need to be on time, and then scooting back home to catch up on what piled onto the work tables while you were gone.  We've enjoyed speaking to 100's of groups over the years, criss-crossing the country on wild road trips (pre-GPS, lol).  We've cut back to about 3 shows that we really enjoy each year.  That feels about right.  It would be nice to be able to go as participants for a change...
Another thing about balance is fitting in the needs of others while still taking care of ourselves.  We're thinking that the current fall schedule of classes will be our last - and we're not completely sure we'll be doing these.  Each year people ask for classes, and we schedule them, but they just don't seem to work out time-wise for enough people to make it worthwhile.
To be honest, we won't be sad to let them go.  Both of our businesses (the magazine and the wholesale soap) have crazy schedules that can blow up overnight.  We may think we've got everything under control and then wake up to find that we've been slammed with orders while we slept.  That's a great thing, but it makes classes difficult, working around that kind of craziness.  We're thinking that after working to build our businesses all these years, maybe it's time to stop trying to do "everything" and concentrate on the things we do best and enjoy the most.

So we'll see.  We always have a hard time letting things go.  Well *I* do.  Maryanne doesn't, but she lets me drag them back into the schedule without too much squawking.  Who knows how things will shake out?
I hope you give some thoughts to balance on this Equinox too. 
We burned out pretty hard in 2000 from doing too many different things, and know that the magazine and the soap are our top priorities - and having some fun.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rose Hip Jelly

From The Essential Herbal Magazine Nov/Dec '11

Pure Rose Hip Jelly Recipe

by Twyla DiGangi

Rose hips are the ‘fruit’ of the rose plant. They appear late in the summer and stay on the bush the entire winter.

Wild roses (Rosa spp.) have been used for a wide variety of uses through the ages. The entire plant is both medicinal as well as a natural source of food. The petals can be added to salads, or eaten on their own as a trail snack. The petals also make a nice natural band-aid for minor cuts when camping or hiking. The root is used to treat diarrhea, flu, dysentery, and worms. Decoction of the root and leaves makes a wonderful cleanser for your system. The entire plant can be used as a wash for wounds and injuries. Roses and the hips are high in vitamin C, E, B, and K as well as a good source of beta-carotene. This makes them a very nourishing meal that is highly nutritious. The spring shoots can be stripped and eaten raw.

Medicinal Uses of Rose Hips
During World War II importing oranges became impossible for a lot of different countries. British soldiers would gather rose hips by the hundreds because of their high vitamin C content. They would make syrups and jellies to keep away scurvy. Three rose hips have the same vitamin C content as one large orange.
The seeds of the rose hips were sometimes cooked by some native groups. They were then used to treat muscular pain. The fibers in the seeds have been known to irritate the digestive tract. They also have a cyanide-like compound that is destroyed by drying or cooking, making the rose hips safe for consumption.

Using Rose Hips for Food
Rose hips can be added to stews, teas, made into pemmican, jams, and jellies. It is better to collect rose hips after the first frost. This makes them even sweeter as well and softens them a bit. Collect on a sunny day after the morning dew has evaporated.  Make sure to cook or dehydrate rose hips before eating them.

Recipe for Pure Rose Hip Jelly

You can collect rose hips even in the middle of winter to make jelly all winter long. Take extra care if harvesting in the winter and dress for the cold weather. The rose hips will be very soft after you get them home and they begin to thaw out.  Always make sure that the plants haven’t been sprayed with pesticides.

16 cups (4 quarts) ripe rose hips
8 cups (2 quarts) water
2 packages of pectin powder
5 cups of sugar
½ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon margarine (optional, will reduce foaming of the jelly)

After you have cleaned your rose hips and removed the tops put them in a large stainless steel pot. Pour the water over them and bring to a simmer. Let them simmer until soft. It will take about an hour. Remove from heat and with a potato masher mash the rose hips up a bit. Strain it all through a jelly bag or large piece of cheesecloth until you get 4 cups of rose hip juice.

In pot add rose hip juice, lemon juice, the two packages of pectin and the margarine. Stir until well combined and bring to a boil. Add your sugar and mix well. Return mixture to a boil that can’t be stirred down. Stir constantly for one minute and then remove from heat.

Ladle into sterilized jars. If you are going to process the jelly in a water bath canner process for 10 minutes. Let the jars sit for 24 hours without disturbing them. Label and put your jelly away.

This jelly is filled with vitamin C making it a healing agent to help boost the immune system, as well as a nutritious jelly for sandwiches or toast.

Friday, September 07, 2012

"Parts" in a Recipe?

Measuring in “Parts”

Tina Sams
The Essential Herbal, Sept/Oct '10

Often people have a difficult time converting recipes from “parts” into a more familiar standard of measurement.  Once it is understood, it is a very freeing way of communicating a recipe.  I generally assume that parts refers to measurement by volume, but it can also refer to weight in some cases.

Let’s take a recipe for an herbal tea blend:

2 parts chamomile
1 part raspberry leaf
½ part peppermint

If we exchange the word part(s) with cup(s), the recipe would translate to:

2 cups chamomile
1 cup raspberry leaf
½ cup peppermint

But perhaps we would like to only make a small amount in order to see if we like it.  In that case, we could exchange part(s) for teaspoon(s), translating to:

2 t chamomile
1 t raspberry leaf
½ t peppermint

In this way, a part can be any type of container which is then used as a unit of measurement.  Shot glass, Dixie cup, quart deli container, gallon, 5 gal bucket, bushel, barrel, truckload  – anything at all!

This works for dried herbs, liquids, and just about anything that one would like to blend.

In the recipe given above, exchanging “part” for “pound” (or other weight unit) is not appropriate because a pound of peppermint is smaller in volume than the chamomile or raspberry leaf.  When we create a formula that we intent to use parts by weight, we note that specifically when writing the recipe down.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

New! Elderberry e-book!

 An Elder Gathering

What do you get when you gather 6 herb women with a combined experience of nearly 150 years?  A lot of great information, that's what!
For the last month, we've been working together, choosing recipes, sharing methods, and thinking about how much we love elderflowers and berries, and even learning from each other.  We're very happy with the results.  Condensed into 40 pages, the e-book is available for just $5.
Purchase it today and use the information and recipes for your elderberries right now!
Link to purchase:

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Pineapple core - dried

Over the past few months, I have been eating pineapple a lot.  It started when we dropped grains and sugar from our diet here.  It's always easier to take something away if it is replaced with more variety in what will become regular.  So instead of starchy, sugary snack-y stuff, I chose some fruits and foods that wouldn't typically have been affordable.  It's was a good trade-off, and fresh pineapples landed on the counter at least once a week.
A happy side effect came from the bromelain, an enzyme that decreases inflammation.  People often notice relief from joint pain and arthritis when taking bromelain, and that was true for me too.  I also noticed another side effect in the easing of gastro-intestinal symptoms I've been working on through diet.  The core has more bromelain than the fleshy fruit portion, and it seems like there has to be a way to preserve them. 
I have chopped up a couple of cores and have them soaking in vodka.  Pulling a slice out one evening in an attempt to stave off stomach problems worked, but woo boy - very potent to chew.
Today I decided to dry the core in the oven.

  First I sliced it very finely into small pieces, and laid them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
They went into the oven on the lowest setting (Warm) and I left to do some work for a few hours.
When I returned, they were done. 
They taste just like small pieces of pineapple flavored candy.
Never again will a pineapple core go to waste!  These would be worth drying even if it was just for the deliciousness, never mind the health benefits.