Self-Sufficient Living | Homesteading | Gardening

My Journey to Herbal Medicine: Self Heal, the Little Plant That Can

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When we moved from the city to 9 acres in the country, I was given a book called “Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable” by Juliette de Bairacli Levy (1977), now revised and updated as The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable” (2009). I was amazed to learn about all these wild plants that I never paid any attention to before. Now I realize that many of them were also growing on our city lot but since we had it all manicured, the wild plants were just weeds to us!

(Editor’s Note: Not only is that an awesome classical herb book, but if you use the link above to purchase it you can help keep this site going just by buying things you would already buy so thanks!)

We were given chickens right away and 2 bummer lambs and we launched into country living. It was fascinating to me that there were plants and remedies for every ailment of farm animals, including dogs and bees. That started to transfer into “what could help humans” in my mind. I was already quite involved in natural health with organic gardening, cooking from scratch ( including grinding my own grains, culturing yogurt and sourdough, preserving), and 12 years of running a marketing arm of an international health and wellness company. But this was a whole new area of learning.

The DIY possibilities were intriguing. Could I create my own herbal preparations? I had been discovering that the prepackaged ones were not very potent or high quality. When I started making my own herbal remedies I came to realize that since I had no lab I actually had no idea what was in – or not in – the plants I was harvesting! That transferred to wondering about the integrity of companies I was buying supplements from, especially when these articles appeared in the news over the last year!

New York Times:  New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers

NBC News:  Hidden Speed: What Is BMPEA and Why Is It Dangerous?

USA Today:  Oregon AG accuses retailer GNC of selling drug-spiked dietary supplements

So, I had to consider where I was harvesting from: no roadsides, for instance and away from chemicals of any kind, that I was aware of. Then I looked for the healthiest plants and hoped for the best. I was rewarded! My own preparations were out-performing “identical” items purchased from reputable health stores.

When we moved to our present property 8 years ago I wondered, “What is this interesting plant growing all over in my garden and pasture and is it useful?” Being all into using resources we have around us, I was pleased to learn it was Prunella vulgaris, commonly known as Self Heal or Heal All. A friend I had visiting for the first time said they just considered it a weed. I have heard that said so many times about useful herb plants!

Self Heal is one of the ingredients I use in a product I call Healing Salve, which has brought wonderful testimonies. One friend called it the best skin healing item they had ever used.  Another said it got rid of a rash around her eyes and started making her wrinkles go away!

For centuries it has been used as a healer of fresh clean cuts in the days before stitches and styptic (stops bleeding). The plant is known as antibacterial, diuretic, astringent, lowering blood pressure and cooling. It can also be made into a tea or tincture for bleeding gums, mouth inflammation, sore throats and is a good spring tonic and other uses. I like how there are many plant choices in nature for the same ailment and many things one plant will do.

Here is my video of harvesting Self Heal and what the plant looks like, while I share helpful tips:

 

 

I started making remedies, just for my family, from premium, freshly harvested ingredients. I was saving money, too! I felt so accomplished in rediscovering a ‘lost art” that helped us care for ourselves. The mystery of how health and beauty products were made started to unfold. I was so excited and felt such satisfaction.

This subsequent video shows the jar full of the Self Heal plants and explains pouring olive oil over them to extract the beneficial medicinal elements:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My set-up and final tips for straining the oil out of the plant matter, on video:

Then I started making enough to sell to a few friends and my cottage industry was born! Since I do this all myself, I realized it could not get very big since I make everything myself and grow, pick or forage for most of the herbs.

Self Heal Oil Infusion Recipe

Ingredients:

Fresh Self Heal

Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Directions

  1. For whatever size glass jar you choose to use, stuff it as full of plant material as you can.
  2. Leave some head room for shaking and fill the jar with olive oil so that all the plant material is submerged in the oil.
  3. Shake daily or turn over and let all the oil run down for a minute and turn it back over. Repeat several times. Do not leave the jar upside down as the oil may start leaking through the lid.
  4. Let soak for 2 weeks minimum, then strain through cloth straining bag or coffee filter.

 

For more details go here:

Since this is fresh material, there is a water element you do not want to start spoiling. Dried plant matter doesn’t have this situation. Any water will settle in the bottom after straining and I exclude this layer when I bottle it.

*Note, mark all containers with permanent marker or temporary labels so you do not lose track of what is in your jars and how old it is!

24 years later it has been a wonderful journey. There is always something new and useful to learn!

So, does this inspire you to “save the goodness” and make things for your family? It is very much like following a recipe and there are a number of books available to guide you through the process. Watch for more articles that will walk you farther down this path or jump ahead and study it for yourself.

This has been very rewarding for me and our family. All of our married kids, three daughters and a son, have gone on to make herbal combinations for their families, for gifts, and to sell! I am so proud of them and realized I led by example, demystifying the process. Would you like to pass this heritage on to your own children?

 

What other things would you like to be able to make for your family?

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