As the weather cools, sometimes a runny nose or two can wiggle its way into my home. I'm always cognizant of home remedies rather than pill bottles - they scare me! - and curating an at-home apothecary full of natural healing cures has been something I've really grown to love, especially since becoming a parent. By making things myself, I feel oddly (but whimsically) connected to nature, and to my own spirit.
I know. I know. I find it hard to explain, but I think with less harmful toxins around, my true healthy self has a chance to actually bust out and grab the reigns for awhile. It encourages me to be more mindful and thoughtful, and these are staples in living a slower everyday life, which is important to me.
It's no secret. I've taken a lot of medication in my life; chemotherapy, radiation, steroids, hormonal supplements - so much more than we ever should in a full life-time. So my apothecary is my way of counter balancing the toxicity I experienced in my young life.
Recently, that at-home apothecary notion was supercharged by a serious weariness that ambushed me when I took a few health and safety courses for the workplace. I signed up for the classes as a way to help Derek achieve a safety designation for his own company, but I had no idea how much I would learn and how much I would bring home with me. I quickly digested all the unknown dangers lurking in many of the cleaning products I use every single day. And it was one of those all-consuming things - once you knew, you could never go back.
You guys. I knew the chemicals I was spraying onto my counters weren't exactly the best thing for me and my family. But it's easy to remain blissfully unaware and turn a blind eye. Honestly, it is. But the more I researched for my exam, the more that new awareness hung around me every time I cleaned my floors, clothes, counters and garbage bins. I felt uneasy.
Knowledge is power.
DANGER IN THE CUPBOARD
Many of the products we use every single day are dangerous and potentially harmful to our health. Young children and pets are in even bigger danger since their immune systems are more fragile than our seasoned adult ones. Regardless of the scary ingredients list, the truly dangerous aspect of many store-bought cleaners is that we simply don't know what we don't know. In other words, we don't know how to properly use the products, we don't know how toxic they are are if ingested, inhaled or come into contact with our skin, and we don't know what their hazards are (corrosive, flammable, oxidizing, dangerous to environment, etc). Actually, we don't know much about a lot of the products we use every single day, other than they are supposed to help us with something that we find an inconvenience - like a dirty counter.
So those at-home cold and flu remedies quickly expanded from healing cures to cleaning cures and I was bowled over at how EASY it was. And how inexpensive. I know I bought many products out of convenience; I thought they were helping me do something, making it easier for me, the consumer. I didn't know how much harder they could make my future life, by being cancer-causing, cell altering, hazardous chemicals.
I shared some of my fears on instagram, and I received an outpouring of support and thoughtful tips. And I've brought them back to the home and they've been working like an absolute dream.
HOME APOTHECARY CLEANING REMEDIES
THE CLEANING BASICS
First things first: there are a few basic ingredients that will essentially clean everything. You can mix them up as many different ways as you want, but they will virtually clean any mess in your home. They are natural and affordable, and as soon as you know them you can always make sure you've got them stocked in your cupboard. They are:
• white vinegar
• baking soda
• vodka (no, not flavoured)
• essential oils
• lemon juice
There are a few others, but these are the ones that have quickly proven themselves in my home.
PINE + EUCALYPTUS ALL PURPOSE CLEANER
PINE/SPRUCE-INFUSED VINEGAR! Let me explain: The more natural cleaning recipes that were shared with me, the more I learned that people had a preference for specific essential oils - like lavender and lemon. I realized how easy it would be to soop up some basic remedies by not relying only on the essential oils for fragrance. And full disclosure: I like a bold scent. I want to smell that the place is clean. I love smells. Infusing the potent vinegar seemed like the easiest and smartest way to get a bold clean scent.
I walked around the yard, snipping a few of the new evergreen growth from the forest and tucked them into a mason jar until it was full. New growth is more potent than mature sprigs, and has a bolder scent. It will be more vibrant in colour, and easy to spot on the tree. I added some whole cloves I had in the cupboard, and boiled the white vinegar (this can be really pungent), poured it over the pine needles, and tucked it in the back of the cupboard (cool, dark place) for a couple days. This helps the scents to set without being altered by lingering heat or light.
It took on a warm amber hue. And smelled like the autumn forest! Here's how I made the cleaner:
• 1 cup distilled water
• 1/3 cup pine and clove infused white vinegar (read above for recipe)
• 1/3 cup vodka
• 10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil***
Add to a spray bottle. Shake before using to wipe surfaces.
*** Eucalyptus is an anti-microbial and disinfectant. It stops the spread of germs and bacteria and leaves a fresh smell behind. It blends well with woodsy herbal scents like pine, and spicy scents like cloves.
FLOOR CLEANER (WOOD SAFE)
• 1 gallon of warm
• 1/2 cup citrus-infused vinegar (see above)
• 10 drops of Saje's Liquid Sunshine essential oil ***
It's bulletproof. Add the ingredients together, swish your mop in the bucket, and get power cleaning.
NOTE: citrus-infused vinegar would be made the same way as my pine/spruce infusion. Put the peels of a lemon in a mason jar, and pour boiling white vinegar over them. Seal with a lid and store in a dark, cool place for a couple days. Read up on lemon's additional practical magic properties here.
*** Liquid Sunshine gets rid of bacteria, sticky spots, and leaves a fresh scent
Load up a couple different scents/herbs into mason jars with boiling white vinegar so you have a fun variety of infusions to switch up your cleaning scents.
HOME APOTHECARY COLD REMEDIES
THE HEALING BASICS
You'll be able to curate a long amazing list of cures that works for you and your family, but I know it can be overwhelming to start. By keeping some of these tried and true homeopathic remedies in your arsenal, you'll be able to make a wide range of remedies to get you through cold and flu season. They are:
• Epsom salts
• essential oils like, eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree, peppermint and lemon
• herbs from your indoor healing garden
- pine needles
• baking soda
• pink himalayan rock salt
• natural honey
Curious about the practical magic properties of some of these ingredients? Click here.
HERBAL BATH FOR CONGESTION
• 1/2 cup Epsom salt
• handful of peppermint leaves
• 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
• 1 tsp baking soda
• mortar & pestle
Mix all ingredients together with your mortar and pestle and keep it in a sealed bag or jar. Add the herbal bath mixture to your bath and deeply inhale the aroma to help loosen any phlegm in the chest and nose. Herbal bath soaks are great for pulling toxins out of the body.
NOTE: You can substitute peppermint leaves for oil, but be sure not to substitute peppermint for other mints such as calamint or spearmint. Peppermint is great for the immune system. I usually use 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
HERBAL STEAM FOR SINUS INFECTION
• boiling water
• sprig of thyme
• 5 drops of tea tree essential oil
• handful of pine needles
• large wooden bowl
Boil a few cups of water and add the essential oil and sprigs of thyme and some loose pine needles. Pour the mixture into a large wooden bowl and sit with your face above the bowl for 10-15 minutes. It helps to cover your head with a towel to trap the steam in, just be sure not to get your nose too close to the water.
NOTE: Wooden bowls are better than glass because they don't get as hot and their porous texture adds a nice heat. Tea tree oil can be pungent but it will loosen up a clogged, achy sinus. Fresh pine will blast open those swollen adenoids.
SOOTHING BATH SOAK FOR ACHING MUSCLES
• handful of dried lavender
• handful of eucalyptus
• 1/2 cup of pink himalayan rock salt
• large tea bag
Add all ingredients into a tea bag and then hang the bag on your faucet while you draw a bath. Let the water pour through the tied bag and then once your bath has reached desired fullness, you can let the bag float in the water. If your brand of tea bags do not have a string attached, placing the filled bag into the water is just fine! This combination of fragrances is very soothing and great for sore muscles. It will also help you get a good night sleep.
NOTE: You can pick up empty tea bags (that seal when they're wet) at many specialized stores where you would purchase coffee or tea.
ANTIBACTERIAL COUGH SYRUP
• few handfuls of garden sage
• mason jar
Sage is amazing stuff. Stuff a few handfuls of clean, stemmed sage into a mason jar and pour honey over the sage until the jar is full. Stir this mixture daily to help the leaves soak. After one week, your antibacterial cough syrup is ready for use. You can keep the leaves in the cough syrup or you can pick them out. Honey holds preserve for a long time so this will last you all season! And did you know? Honey is more effective than store-bought cough syrup. Whoa!
COMMON COLD ELIXIR
• Warm almond milk
• 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
• 2 Tbps of cloves
• honey (optional)
Boil almond milk on the stove and add cloves and cinnamon sticks to the liquid. Bring to a rolling boil until the milk begins to adopt a warmer colour. Strain the cloves and cinnamon and let the drink cool so it's safe to drink. You can add honey to sweeten the mixture if you'd like. Cinnamon and cloves are great for fighting infection and they can help boost your immune system.
Do you have your own set of special remedies or natural home cleaners? I'd love to hear what you're doing at home, and what ingredients are working for you in the comments below.