Elderberry Ginger Syrup

Elderberry Ginger Syrup

Elderberry syrup is a time-tested remedy for flus and colds. The elderberry has been used for centuries, offering deep support for the immune system.

When used at the onset of illness, elderberry can prove active at the cellular level with anti-viral activity and has even been shown to be active against the influenza virus.  It’s anti-oxidant properties help maintain balance, and the constituents in the berry promote the health of the upper respiratory system.  They support a healthy inflammatory response and help to maintain the health of the mucus membranes.

It can also help reduce inflammation and pain in the joints and muscles, making it an excellent choice when you feel the beginning of a cold or flu coming on.  The best thing about elderberry syrup?  It actually tastes good!

3 cups water
½ cup dried elderberries
¼ cup dried echinacea root
3 Tbsp minced ginger root
¼ cup dried lemon balm
¼ cup dried yarrow
zest of ½ lemon
½ cup local honey
½ cup brandy

  • Combine the elderberries, ginger, and echinacea root with the water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Add the lemon balm and yarrow and allow to sit for 20 minutes.
  • Strain the mixture through cheesecloth.  Squeeze the bag to get as much of the juice as you can.
  • Stir in the brandy.
  • Add the equal amount of honey.
  • Warm over very low heat until honey is fully incorporated.
  • Pour into bottles. Label and date.
  • Store in fridge – 6 months.

Dose:  1 – 2 Tablespoons, 3x day.

How to make an Herbal Liniment for Pain

How to make an Herbal Liniment for Pain

What is a liniment?

A liniment is an herbal remedy that is used topically to help alleviate pain in sore muscles and soft tissues.  It’s usually made with either rubbing alcohol or witch hazel, so the herbs can be easily and quickly absorbed into the skin.   Oils can also be used, but they don’t have the immediate effect of an alcohol-based liniment, and I prefer to reserve oils for massage oils or creams.

There are several herbs that can be included in a pain-relieving liniment, but I like to include pain relieving herbs, anti-inflammatories, and herbs that help speed healing.

Menthol is naturally cooling and soothing and is often used in salves, balms, mouthwashes, liniments, lozenges, and other remedies

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is my favorite herb for topical pain.  It is useful in both nerve pain and muscle pain, and moves quickly to soothe overused, tired muscles or injured soft tissue.  St. Johns’ Wort is best used fresh in medicine making, so in my liniment I include pre-made St. John’s Wort Tincture (unless I remember to make the liniment during the brief window of time that St. John’s Wort is ready for harvest).

Meadowsweet (Filipedula ulmaria) is uses as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory.  It reduces inflammation, clears heat, and promotes the healing of tissue.  It contains salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin.

Willow bark (Salix alba) is a pain relieving herb with anti-inflammatory  properties.  Rich in salicin, it alleviates pain and reduces fever and inflammation.  It was one of the original ingredients in aspirin and can be used topically to relieve pains of arthritis or other musculo-skeletal issues.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has been used historically to reduce pain and inflammation, heal wounds, and protect damaged tissues.  It helps to alleviate pain, especially in the bones.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) reduces pain and is used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, both externally and internally.  Yarrow helps to move chi and improve circulation by relaxing the peripheral blood vessels.  Topically, it helps to repair tissue, and stop bleeding.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is one of natures greatest gifts as it helps to soothe pain, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds.

Arnica (Arnica montana) has been used traditionally as a remedy for bruising, soft tissue injury, and to increase blood flow to the area of injury.  Not to be taken internally, or on broken skin.

Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens), when used in diluted form it helps to relieve pain by blocking the transmission of pain messages to the brain.  It is historically used in creams, lotions, and liniments for arthritis, joint pain, and sore, achy muscles.


The Recipe:

1 cup Witch Hazel or Rubbing Alcohol

1 tsp menthol crystals

2 Tbsp dried meadowsweet

2 Tbsp dried willow bark

2 Tbsp dried yarrow

2 Tbsp dried comfrey

2 Tbsp dried calendula

2 Tbsp dried arnica flower

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 oz St. John’s Wort Tincture

25 drops peppermint essential oil



  • Coarsely grind all dried herbs with your mortar and pestle.
  • Put all the ground herbs in a pint-sized mason jar.
  • Pour witch hazel or alcohol over the top
  • Steep for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily.
  • Strain and compost herbs
  • Add St. John’s Wort tincture and essential oil
  • Bottle and label.


This liniment will be shelf stable and should last for a couple of years. I recommend bottling it in little spray bottles, so that it’s easy to apply as needed.  Be sure it’s only used on unbroken skin, as this formula is not suitable for open wounds, and the label indicates that it’s for external use only.

Natural Herbal Sunscreen

Natural Herbal Sunscreen

Folks are learning more and more that the dangers of commercial sunscreen may outweigh the benefits.  Many sunscreens have toxic ingredients, that can cause skin problems.  In fact, skin cancer rates have risen and many reports indicate that sunscreens may actually raise the risk of skin cancer.   In addition, it’s recommended that children are not exposed to the chemical found in many sunscreens, oxybenzone, which is known  to disrupt hormones.
Research is also showing that the use of sunscreen is causing damage to ocean life, especially coral. It’s estimated that over 5000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers in the ocean each year.

Additionally, some exposure to the sun is imperative to health.  Moderate exposure to the sun can increase your levels of Vitamin D.  Vitamin D deficiency has been found to be a factor in many types of breast cancer as well as problems during pregnancy.

So what to do?
Moderate time in the sun – a little sun won’t hurt, but you should never allow your skin to burn.
Keep your face shaded by wearing a wide brim hat.
If you are very fair, do wear lightweight fabric to sheild the strongest rays.
Plan outdoor activities in the morning or afternoon and avoid the heat of the midday.
Use a natural sunscreen

Natural Sunscreen
There are some articles that are circulating on the internet now that warn of the dangers of homemade sunscreen, primarily because it’s impossible to tell how strong the sunscreen is and what the SPF of your final product will be.  Use common sense in the sun: limit exposure, stay in the shade, wear a hat, etc.  This natural sunscreen is an extra layer of protection but is not 100% effective in eliminating the suns rays.

Some ingredients that we commonly use in our herbal preparations contain small amounts of SPF.
Coconut Oil – although coconut oil alone will not protect against sun, it does offer support and protects the skin from sun damage.
Sweet Almond Oil – nourishes the skin by providing Vitamin E, and contains a small amount of SPF, about 5.
Carrot Seed Oil – has been shown to have SPF qualities from 35 – 40.
Shea Butter – has a natural SPF of 4-6 and is deeply emollient and nourishing to the skin
Zinc Oxide (non-nano) – has an SPF of 2 – 20 depending how much is used.  Use non-nano type, as it is

Here’s an easy recipe for some homemade sunscreen.

1/2  cup sweet almond oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup beeswax
2 Tbsp zinc powder (non-nano)
1 tsp carrot seed oil
2 Tbsp Shea Butter
10 drops lavender essential oil
1 Tbsp Vitamin E

* Combine all the ingredients except the zinc and essential oils in a glass Pyrex measuring pitcher
* Place the glass pitcher in a saucepan with a couple inches of water
* Heat the water over medium heat until the ingredients in the pitcher start to melt.  Stir occasionally.
* When all the ingredients are melted, remove from the water bath.
* Stir in the zinc oxide, vitamin E, and essential oils.
* Pour into small jars.  Label and date.

The sunscreen is not waterproof.  Reapply often and definately after swimming.
Do not inhale the zinc – wear a mask!
Store in a cool dark place, or in the fridge.  It’s good for about one year.

Healthy Herbs for Healthy Hens

Healthy Herbs for Healthy Hens

by Sara Stewart Martinelli

Keeping hens at home has become increasingly popular over the past few years, and as we see more towns recognizing that people should have the right to keep their own chickens, more and more people are learning how fun and fulfilling it can be.  The hens are full of personality, and of course, the most rewarding thing is the incredibly fresh eggs that these ladies bless us with daily.  Just a few birds can keep a family of four with enough eggs for breakfast and baking.

Keeping hens is relatively easy, especially with today’s modern balanced chicken feeds.  A good healthy pellet, some oyster shell, and some scratch grains serve to keep the hens fed and happy.  If they are allowed free run of the garden, the hens will supplement their diets with all the insects they can find.  Keeping their coop clean and dry will help them stay healthy and vibrant.

But, there are some ways in which adding some herbs to your hen’s life can benefit her health.  Both in her diet and in her environment, adding some herbs can increase her vitality and egg production, while cutting back on environmental pests and bacteria.

Dried vs Fresh

Herbs can be expensive, so choose some herbs that can grow easily and well in your area.  Plant them near, but not inside your coop, and then you’ll have access to the fresh sprigs when you need them.  Any excess herbs you can dry and store for use in the winter.

To supplement the herbs that you grow yourself, we recommend purchasing dried, organic herbs in bulk from a reputable herb dealer.   Our favorites are Mountain Rose Herbs and Monterrey Bay Herbs.


In the Hen House:

There’s any number of herbs that can be used in the hen house to make it smell more fragrant, and to repel insects, mites, and rodents.  In addition to the aroma therapeutic benefits, the herbs offer the hens a little boost of nutrition and variety.


Nesting Box Herbs – Fresh

It’s been shown that wild birds often place herbs in their nests, perhaps to protect the baby birds from bacteria in the environment and to repel insects and other pests.  These herbs can also help the make the coop smell better! Fresh herbs can be placed in the nests to offer the hens a little healthy snack.  Try any of these:

Lavender –  repels insects and mites, has antibacterial properties, and makes the coop smell great!

Calendula – The hens will snack on the calendula petals, and it makes the egg yolks more orange and rich.

Mint – Keeps away mice and rodents, and the hens won’t generally eat it due to its high aromatic oil content.

Dandelion – Use both the leaves and the flowers, which are high in vitamins and minerals.  Helps control internal parasites

Chamomile – Smells great, repels lice, fleas and mites.

Comfrey – High in vitamins A, B12, calcium, potassium and protein.   Feed fresh as a green.


Nesting Box Herbs – Dried Mix

Creating a mix of dried herbs to sprinkle in the nests is a great way to freshen the coop and repel pests during the months when the fresh herbs are not available, (which, truly, is most of the time).  The blend can be stored in a five-gallon bucket for ease of use, and it will become an easy thing to add when cleaning the nests.  Add only a small amount, about 1/8th of a cup, to each nest.   Take a look at our pre-packaged  nest herbs, HERE

4 cups calendula
4 cups lavender
4 cups dandelion leaf
4 cups borage leaf
4 cups thyme
4 cups lemon balm
4 cups peppermint leaf


Chicken Waterer Freshener

One of the most gross things about the coop is the waterers.  No matter what we try, the water is always disgusting and dirty, even with cleaning and freshening it daily.  A quick and easy fix is to add a clove of garlic to the water for every gallon.  The garlic is a strong, natural antibacterial. Not only will it help to reduce bacteria in the water, but it’s a natural immune booster for the ladies too.

Garlic –1 crushed clove to 1 gallon of water.


Coop Freshener Sprinkle with DE

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is made from the tiny fossilized remains of little aquatic organisms called Diatoms.   These diatoms have skeletons that are made of silica which is razor sharp on a microscopic level.  It is often used in products and can be safely added to the barnyard as a good way to control insects, and mites, in the chicken coop.  The DE causes the insects to dry out because it absorbs the oils of the insect’s exoskeleton.  The tiny sharp edges of the DE are also abrasive to the little bugs.

There have recently been concerns raised about the safety of DE because of its potential to cause lung and respiratory irritation.  However, DE has been used for decades safely and effectively and studies have shown that it is safe when used as directed.  Naturally, use common sense when handling it and don’t purposefully breathe in large quantities, just like you would breathe in any type of dust or powder.  If you have pre-existing respiratory troubles, it might be best to wear a mask when handling DE.

So why use it? It can greatly reduce the risk of mites, lice, fleas and other yucky bugs in the chicken coop.

My herbal DE Coop Spread

6 cups Diatomaceous Earth
4 cup Peppermint
3 cup Chamomile
3 cup Lemon balm
3 cup Calendula

  • Blend all herbs in a grinder and add in a large bowl. Mix together.
  • In a bucket, add the DE and the herbs. Carefully mix together – do wear a mask for this mixing part to eliminate the risk of breathing in ANY of the powdered ingredients.
  • Sprinkle about ½ cup per evert 500 square feet of chicken coop.



Herbal Chicken Treats strung on a string


Herbal Treats

Here’s a fun way to get some healthy herbs into your ladies, as well as give them something to do.  These fun treats also have the added benefit of decorating your coop, so use some fun cookie cutter to cut a variety of shapes.    Be sure to hang these treat ornaments where your birds can reach them, but where they will be up out of the dirt and off the floor of the coop.



3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1 – 3 tablespoon dried herbs (use nettles, comfrey, alfalfa, chamomile, etc – whatever herbs you have)
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 cup cooked pumpkin or squash
3 eggs
1 Tbsp molasses

Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  If the mixture is a little too dry, add a tiny bit of water.  If it’s too wet, add a few more oats.

Roll the dough out on floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.

Cut with cookie cutters.  Use different shapes for fun but be sure that most of the shape is simple and large.  Avoid intricate shapes with lots of little parts.

Transfer the treat to a cookie sheet sprayed very lightly with cooking spray.

Put a hole in each treat with a chopstick. Be sure that the hole is large enough to string your choice of string through it after it’s done cooking.

Bake the treats at 350° for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, and allow to cool completely.

Gently string the treat with the string, and then hang in the coop as a special treat for the hens.

Dandelion Bread

Dandelion Bread

Harvest your dandelion flowers in the morning before they fully open.  Be sure to harvest from an area that is as clean as possible.

To harvest, grasp the yellow petals of the flower and twist them off the green part.  Don’t use the green parts in the recipe, they are bitter.   You just want the yellow petals.

1 cup dandelion petals

2 cups  flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sunflower oil

4 tbsp honey

1 egg

 1.5 cups milk

  • Preheat oven to 400.  Butter a bread baking dish.
  • Blend all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well.
  • Add the petals and stir gently, making sure the separate any clumps.
  • In a second bowl, mix milk, honey, oil and egg.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the dry, and stir well to form a wet, lumpy batter.
  • Pour into a buttered bread tin.
  • Bake 25 – 30 minutes.
  • Test with a toothpick – if it’s still too moist in the middle, lower the temperature and check every five minutes.

Serve with honey and butter.