When I began thinking about this blog entry my earliest plan was to give you easy recipes (formulas) to make your own completely natural facial cleansers and tonics. As I started working on a basic outline I found that as I began to explain about why you should use natural products I felt like I had to give you a little history of how my interest in natural products started which has ultimately convinced me to write a series of articles on natural beauty treatments and products and natural herbal and folk treatments for minor problems with a little history thrown in the mix.
Commercially made or store bought facial cleansers, toners, moisturizers are often loaded with ingredients that are totally unnecessary and sometimes are not really good for our skin. Why do we use them then? More often than not, we use them because they are convenient. Another reason we use them is because we have never known that there is another way to have the skincare we need without spending loads of money.
If I had only my mother as a role model for purchasing and using facial and body care products I would probably not have developed my own business. When I started developing allergies and becoming sensitized to different chemicals used in soap and other products that we use daily, I probably would have had to take a different path and start buying the very expensive hypoallergenic commercially made products.
|by Jen Son|
I was very fortunate though. I had a grandmother whose heritage tracks back to a family line that comes from the Appalachians and practiced folk or “granny” medicine as well as firmly practicing self-sufficiency.
Granny medicine was developed because of a lack of access to modern healthcare and a tradition of independence. Families owned and worked their farms, many of which were hours or even days away from a traditional doctor and modern healthcare. Sometimes the herbal treatment or cures were imbued with rituals and mixtures of animal products or were timed on the sign of the zodiak. The knowledge of the cures, treatments and uses of herb to maintain health is often handed down from old to young.
The first time I actually remember my grandmother using one of her folk treatments on me was when I was 5 or 6 years old. My parents had gone to a veterinary medical convention somewhere out west and my brother and I stayed with my mother’s parents. I started having a minor earache on Friday night which by Saturday was extremely painful. I have to admit that much of the crying and carrying on by me was probably due to the fact that I was a mama’s girl and this was the first time I had been away from her for more than a weekend. It was painful though-I swear.
Aspirin was the first thing she gave me. Okay parents, don’t go ballistic. This was 1955 and the potential side effect of developing Reyes Syndrome, a deadly disease that affects all the body’s organs was unknown at that time. I don’t think the aspirin helped at all because by early Saturday I was weeping and wailing.
Mamma told me we were going for a walk and we did. We walked across the barn lot, through the smallest pasture and into the apple orchard that my grandfather had planted for her when they first moved onto the farm in the late 1920’s. She walked up to a huge plant that was taller than I was with huge hairy leaves and topped with a stalk of pretty yellow flowers. She took her butcher’s knife and whacked it off almost even to the ground. She did this to several plants. I can remember dragging this huge plant behind me and trying to climb over the fence stile with it. Now for all you city folk a fence stile is like 2 small ladders built and fastened at the top that goes over the top of a fence. This makes it easy to cross a fence and eliminates the necessity of building a gate.
We walked back to the house and she went into the basement and pulled out one of the 4 window screens that she had saved from the old house before it was demolished. She cut off the flowered portion of the plant and set it aside. The rest of the plant she cut into pieces and spread out over the screen that was sitting on a couple of cinder blocks to dry. The flower stalk of the plant we carried back into the house and she cut it up into small pieces after rinsing it off. She then pulled out a saucepan, added the mullein plant into it and poured olive oil over the weed.
At that time my grandparents had a gas stove fueled by a huge lp gas tank that sit outside the house. This was the first non-wood burning stove that my grandmother had ever owned. Until my grandfather built the huge Bedford stone home in the early 1950’s my grandmother had only used a wood burning stove to cook on.
I remember the burners on the gas stove had 2 separate rings that the gas came out and was burned. The inner ring was very small and this was what she heated the mixture with. I cannot tell you how long she kept it on the stove but it seemed to take forever. I do know that it was night time and my bedtime before she took the warm liquid and filled an eyedropper and put it into my ear and then pulled a tiny bit of cotton from the roll she had in a big blue box and stuffed it into my ear. I remember the warm oil feeling good and giving me a modicum of immediate relief. What I remember best though is waking up in the morning with no pain and and it not coming back. She continued using the warm drops a couple times of day for the remaining time before my parents came to pick us up.
I also remember my mother taking me to our family doctor and being told that there was nothing wrong with my ear.
What I have found out since then is that the mullein plant has many uses in herbal medicine and it has been a valued medicinal herb since antiquity. One of the first people to write about the medicinal uses was a Greek physician Dioscorides. He told about using the herb for curing diseases of the lung over 1800 years ago.
Medical uses and benefits of Mullein
The high content of mucilage and saponins found in the leaf along with the plant's antibiotic and antiviral qualities makes this herb ideal for the treatment of a broad range of respiratory ailments. Mullein is strongly anti-inflammatory and has been used in the treatment of bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and allergies. It is one of the great natural expectorants (rids of mucus and congestion). Because of its anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties it has been used successfully as a treatment reducing boils and other skin inflammation and infections.
The 1917 edition of Potter's Therapeutics noted: "It has long been a popular Irish remedy in pulmonary affections" (asthma and whooping cough particularly). An infusion of the dried leaves in milk was recommended as a valuable expectorant that also eased coughing and improved the general condition and stated it was useful for cystitis, irritable bladder, and diarrhea as well.
In the South and the Appalachians it is commonly used mixed into a poultice with fat and applied to boils to bring them to a head.
A strong tea made from the leaves and applied locally soothes and reduces the pain and inflammation of hemrrhoides and perineal itching and soreness.
Part 2 of this series will contain recipes, formulas and uses for the mullein plant which is one of the most used and effective herbal treatments.