Carol is a follower of Jesus and a wife, mom & grandma. She worked for many years as a childbirth nurse and prenatal educator. She recently retired from clinical work. She has written articles for nursing journals and devotionals. Her novel, Aliisa's Letter, was published in 2010 and she is currently working on another project.
In recent years I have been charmed by the benefits of a flower that has a long history. According to the Complete Herbal Book: This sunny little flower—the “merrybuds” of Shakespeare—was first used in Indian and Arabic cultures, before being “discovered” by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.*
The medicinal qualities of calendula are listed: Calendula flowers contain antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties that promote healing.*
This year I bought some heirloom seeds from Select Seeds—Art Shades Calendula and Orange King Calendula. Both are growing in my garden.
Calendula is an edible flower, and the dried the petals of this flower have been called poor man’s saffron. I dry my calendula flowers by placing them on cheesecloth or a paper towel over a drying rack.
It takes approximately 2 weeks for the flowers to dry in room air. Then I place them in an airtight canning jar for use throughout the year.
Calendula flowers make a healthy tea. Tips for a variety of ways to benefit from calendula tea are posted at thenerdyfarmwife.com. Be sure to note the caution mentioned for use during pregnancy. Calendula salve is another way to make use of the flowers. It is fairly easy to make. You can find my process here.
Update: My flowers have continued to bloom well into the fall of 2017. More recipes for this special flower are appearing on-line. Vintage Remedies has a simple recipe for calendula & coconut oil salve.
Every couple days I pick the blossoms, but when I am not fast enough they go to seed. The seeds can be saved for next year’s flowers.
The curved seeds with a bumpy surface are released from the dried flower head. It is possible for the plant to self-seed for the following year, but that hasn’t worked well in my garden. I plant the seeds outside in the early spring.
A number of recipes for elderberry syrup are posted on the internet. I have collected ideas for making the best use of my elderberries. I want to preserve the health benefits for this fall and winter.
UPDATE 3/13/2020: Please use caution when taking elderberry syrup during a viral infection. It is possible that it may overstimulate the immune system. This article explains when you should stop taking elderberry.
I have a good harvest of berries this year. Instead of making a syrup to keep in the refrigerator, I am going to can elderberry juice. Then during flu season, I can bring out the preserved juice and add some raw honey. Raw honey has helpful enzymes, but the health benefit diminishes if it is heated.
The recipe for elderberry juice: place 1 cup of water for each cup of berries in a stainless steel pot. (If you are using dried berries you will need 2 cups of water for each cup of berries.) Bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat, covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Crush the berries with a potato masher and add ¼ teaspoon ceylon cinnamon for each cup of berries, a slice of organic ginger root and a couple slices of an organic lemon.
Simmer for 20 minutes more without a cover. Strain the berries in a strainer that has been lined with a double layer of cheesecloth.
Allow it to drain, pressing on the berries periodically with a wooden spoon. Add ¼ cup honey to each cup of strained juice and mix thoroughly. Heat the juice to a simmer over medium heat before pouring into sterilized jars.
According to instructions for berry juice in Stocking Up* the juice can be canned in a hot water bath. Place the prepared lids on the jars. Tighten the lids and then give a quarter turn back. Place in the prepared boiling water–making sure that the jars are submerged, water above the lids. Instructions for pint or quart jars give a 30 minute processing time. I plan to use 8 ounce jars. For 8 oz. jars the time might be a little less, but to be safe I will process for 30 minutes. (If you make a small amount of juice there is no need to can it. Allow the juice to cool. Add 1/2 cup of raw honey to a cup of juice and refrigerate. It will keep for a couple months.)
When the jar of juice is opened for use it can be poured into a larger jar and raw honey added. And then it should be kept in the refrigerator. A child can be given a teaspoon at a time. An adult can take a tablespoon at a time. The dose can be repeated every couple hours when fighting a cold or the flu.
An alternative way to use the juice–place a teaspoon (or a tablespoon) of juice in water or cooled tea. Add a teaspoon of raw honey.
NOTE: This remedy is not for children under one year of age; they should not be given honey.
When the grandchildren come to my home they like to pick berries and flowers. I name the various berries and tell them a little about them. We talk about which berries are safe to eat.
The flowers have names too. The granddaughters have enjoyed picking stalks of flowers— tiny white stars covering a stem that is shaped like a shepherd’s crook—from the front of my yard. This plant has a funny name, gooseneck loosestrife. I bought this plant as a perennial and had no idea how aggressively it would spread. I have to set boundaries and uproot it when it wanders, kind of like a shepherd managing his sheep.
I encourage the girls to look at the herbs in my herb garden. A few days ago we all munched on a leaf from chocolate mint, giving opinions about the flavor.
This is my opportunity to share a love of nature, enjoying the world God has created. Together we delight in the bright flavor of a currant berry or raspberry. We see a new flower with wonder. As a grandparent (and retired nurse) I feel blessed in having this time–finding it easier to pause to see than when my children were little.
What a desolate place would be a world without flowers? It would be a face without a smile; a feast without welcome.—Are not flowers the stars of earth?—And are not our stars the flowers of heaven? Clara Lucas Balfour (1808 – 1878)
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise him in the heights! Praise him sun and moon, Praise him all you shining stars! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.
Psalm 148: 1, 3, 5
I look upon the pleasure which we take in a garden, as one of the most innocent delights in human life. Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
This year the branches on my elderberry bushes are laden with abundant berries. The dainty flowers came first, adding a lovely lace among the green.
Flowers of the common elderberry can be steeped to make a tea, which is often recommended to relieve headaches. The flower cluster can also be battered and fried to make interesting fritters. *
I have three elderberry bushes at different stages of ripeness. It is true that having different varieties of elderberry—like Johns, Adams & York—encourages a good harvest for each bush. I will be picking berries all the way through August. When I pick the berries I cut the cluster of berries and remove the berries from the little stems. The stems and unripe berries can cause a digestive upset. I am freezing my ripe berries until I have enough to make a batch of elderberry syrup.
Elderberries have many benefits. In Israel, Hadassah’s Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual’s immune system. For more information click here.
A couple weeks ago I received an e-mail from the University of Illinois about the MMR vaccine. Here is an excerpt from that message: The Illinois Department of Public Health and Champaign-Urbana Public Health District have recommended that students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign receive a booster shot of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine as soon as possible, even if they have already received one or two previous vaccinations with the MMR vaccine.
This recommendation is based on the ongoing occurrence of mumps infection in a number of students through the recent spring semester and summer sessions. Most cases on campus had two previous MMR vaccinations.
My son is no longer a student at the University, so he doesn’t have to deal with this. If he were a student, I would encourage him to have titers drawn to determine whether he still had immunity before doing another vaccine. He has already had two doses of this vaccine.
According to the CDC’s website these are the ingredients in the MMR: Medium 199, Minimum Essential Medium, Phosphate, recombinant human albumin, neomycin, sorbitol, hydrolyzed gelatin, chick embryo cell culture, WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts. For a full list of vaccines and their ingredients click here.
Knowing what I know now I probably would have refused the vaccine when my son was a toddler. The fact that the rubella portion of the vaccine is developed off of aborted fetal cells (human diploid lung fibroblasts) goes against my view of the sanctity of human life and my faith in God’s design of the immune system. If a child gets the measles or mumps it is possible to support the immune system while they are sick. Measles is most virulent for malnourished individuals. Rest, plenty of oral fluids and vitamin A supplementation (for the measles) is recommended. By getting the measles and mumps in childhood an individual develops lifetime immunity.
As a society we are now in an unfortunate position. The vaccine wears off over time. Women that were vaccinated and did not actually have the measles do not have lifetime immunity. They don’t pass an immunity to their infants, which would last 6 to 9 months. Infants and adults may get the measles if exposed to the virus or even exposed to someone who has recently been vaccinated. (It is interesting that during the outbreak in Palatine, Illinois this year the cases involved an adult and infants. Not school age children. No one died.)
Lee Hieb, M.D. wrote about the effectiveness of the MMR vaccine:
In 2006 an epidemic of mumps broke out in my state of Iowa. Ultimately, 11 states reported 2,597 cases of mumps. The majority of mumps cases (1,487) were reported from Iowa. As reported in “Mumps Epidemic – Iowa, 2006,” “Despite control efforts and a highly vaccinated population, this epidemic has spread across Iowa and potentially to neighboring states.” According to the CDC, “During the prevaccine era, nearly everyone in the United States experienced mumps, and 90 percent of cases occurred among children, although 97 percent of children entering school in Iowa had received two doses of MMR vaccine. ” Of note, this outbreak mostly occurred in young adults of college age who had received the vaccine. Only 6 percent of those affected were known to be unvaccinated, 12 percent received one dose of MMR vaccine, 51 percent had two doses of MMR vaccine, and 31 percent (mostly adults) were not sure of their immunization history.
To read her entire article listing the risks and side effects of vaccines click here.
I am not against vaccines for life-threatening epidemics. Vaccines have been helpful, but more research is needed for our vaccine schedule.
My opinion is that we have become increasingly dependent on medications and vaccines while forgetting to address principles of health that support the immune system. Our medical system encourages a quick fix mentality.
Over years of parenting my husband and I became more actively involved in our family’s health. We have made healthy changes. Of course change in habits is difficult. It took time and persistence and we can still improve. Here are seven practices that our family has adopted to support the immune system.
Eliminate (begin by reducing) refined sugar and flour from the diet. Sugar, in a variety of forms, is in every processed food. I learned to read labels.
Less antibiotics. With my youngest son we avoided antibiotics unless truly necessary. We learned that we could wait and see with symptoms of an ear infection. We took milk out of the diet and added garlic for treatment.
Drink plenty of water.
Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet. Once we eliminated refined sugar our appetite for and enjoyment of fruits and vegetables grew.
Increase the use of garlic and herbs in the diet.
Get adequate sleep. For children this should be 8 to 10 hours each night. We could have done better during the high school years.
Raw honey and elderberry syrup are more recent additions that we have made for cold and flu treatment. More about elderberry syrup in a future post. NOTE: Honey should not be given to a child under one year of age.
For additional thoughts on the MMR vaccine, click here.
UPDATE: The MMR is in the news also because data from vaccine safety studies was destroyed by the research team. Documents from a whistleblower have been given to congress. You can learn more and contact your House Rep. and Senators by clicking here.
Recently I saw a tee shirt online with this message: Just a Michigan girl in an Illinois world. I feel that way. Michigan is home to me even though I have lived in Illinois for many years.
We were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a week ago. We had projects that we were working on, but we found some time to spend along the coast of Lake Superior.
Of the great lakes, Lake Superior is the majestic one—in my opinion. The coastline is rugged.
Many colorful rocks show up on the beaches, thrown up from the deep by the waves. Some days the waves are light, but on other days the waves thunder as they crash on the beach.
Since childhood I have enjoyed looking at the rocks. I still remember showing a rock to my uncle. He exclaimed, “That’s an agate. You found an agate.”
Agates come in a variety of forms and colors. Bands of color mark these stones. At one point in time minerals entered pockets in porous rocks and became fused there. When the rocks are wet it is easiest to see the bands of color.
I can spend a couple hours walking along the shore of Lake Superior, with the sound of waves making a powerful but soothing rhythm. In the process of looking for agates I lose myself, absorbed with beauty that God has created in nature.
A quote from Henry David Thoreau resonates with me: Nature doth thus kindly heal every wound. By the mediation of a thousand little mosses and fungi, the most unsightly objects become radiant of beauty. There seem to be two sides of this world, presented us at different times, as we see things in growth or dissolution, in life or death. And seen with the eye of the poet, as God sees them, all things are alive and beautiful.
Source: Journal entry, March 13, 1842
I forget the latest news. I am away from television, my computer and the phone. I am away from the voices in our culture. I am thankful for this time to be restored. I am thankful for our Creator.
Mightier than the thunder of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!
Psalm 93: 4
Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my body is in agony. Psalm 6:2 NLT
The reality of abortion is before us. The videotapes taken undercover show barbaric practices. What about the women that received abortions? Did they suffer? In the fifth video one of the abortion clinic workers affirms that the women receive conscious sedation but sometimes it doesn’t cover the pain—the patient may not be cooperative for a good collection of the fetus.
I recalled an experience that I had as a nurse in the hospital. My patient experienced a miscarriage. At sixteen weeks gestation, the infant had died in the womb. The mother had experienced wrenching physical and emotional pain as she labored. She had moaned, tossing and turning in bed. As her nurse, I had given morphine ordered by the doctor, but it had not covered the pain. After eight exhausting hours the body of the tiny girl baby was delivered.
We wrapped the baby in a blanket and after the mother held her, I made the memorial card. I held the tiny feet gently, applied ink and made footprints on the bereavement card—a memorial to the life of a baby girl and one aspect of bereavement care provided at the hospital.
At the nurse’s station, a doctor was explaining various medications that he had used to abort pregnancies. He talked about the abortion process and it struck me that women going through abortion may have experienced the same misery that I had just witnessed. The difference was that they did not receive bereavement care. Women went home from the hospital or clinic quietly. The experience may have been traumatic and done in secret.
Health care has physical, emotional and spiritual aspects. That is what I learned in nursing school in the 1970s. Whether a woman experiences a miscarriage or an abortion, it is traumatic. It is helpful if she can talk about it. Our God is merciful and compassionate. He is able to bring healing. As believers we can affirm life, acknowledge loss and speak truth in love. We can reach out to hurting women and tell them about God’s love and compassion.
2. If you know a woman that has had an abortion or miscarriage be willing to come alongside her and listen. Let her know that God loves her.
3. Some of the pregnancy care centers provide post-abortion counseling. Rachel’s Vineyard offers a retreat for women that have had an abortion.
4. The bill to defund Planned Parenthood, sponsored by Joni Ernst, provides funds for women’s health though other health providers. Continue to contact your senators and congressmen, asking them to defund Planned Parenthood.
From time to time a fresh start is good. After six years of blogging I am beginning again on a new website. I will continue to focus on family, home and health. In addition to my nursing experience, I have spent innumerable hours researching health issues. My family has experienced vaccine reactions, food allergies, cancer and fibromyalgia. Through the years of raising a family I have wondered about the changes in general health of children. It is different from my generation.
During my work in the hospital I have learned that not all interventions are necessary. Medications and treatments have side effects. Individuals and parents are best served by being well informed about the risks and side effects. Yes, informed consent. And so I will speak up and raise questions about some aspects of health care.
In caring for my family I have looked at ways to support health with diet and lifestyle. I have depended on God’s word for wisdom and guidance. I will share my experiences and recipes, along with devotional thoughts.
Please take a few minutes to look around. I have kept some of the most popular posts from my previous blog. Look for them under the menu headings listed on the left side of the page. Notice that you can subscribe to my blog. You can follow me on facebook. On my facebook page you will find links to interesting articles and health related news.