Mary Helen Leonard, author of The Natural Beauty Solution and professionally trained culinary instructor, shares recipes, projects, tips, and stories about living a more natural, handmade, and creative life with her family in Austin, Texas.
When the spider bites. When the bee stings. When you're feeling bad.
The practice of using poultices to draw out toxins and cleanse wounds is age-old. This is pretty much medieval medicine we're talking about here.
While great advances have been made since people started slopping mud onto insect stings, there is still some virtue to be found in the original idea.
Bentonite Clay, most well known under the Aztec Clay brand, is extremely effective at pulling out nasties from deep under the skin. This makes it a great first-aid treatment for bug bites, bee stings, or spider bites.
You can mix this with plain water to make the most simple of treatments, but I like brewing a cup of chamomile tea instead. The soothing anti-inflamatory properties of the tea can help take the edge off any itchiness and discomfort you may be dealing with.
The addition of honey is totally optional as well. Manuka honey is the best choice. It is a bit pricey, but the only variety of honey that has been documented to have real medicinal and antibacterial properties. (You can geek out about that over here.) All honey, however, is known to have humectant properties. That means that it can help draw moisture and keep things well hydrated. That's a helpful quality to have in a poultice too. Also keep in mind that honey may not be safe for kids under one year old.
Reality Check: Just in case this doesn't go without saying, this is a home remedy - on par with gargling salt water to treat a sore throat. It's lovely and all, but no replacement for modern medicine. If you have a serious injury, an allergic reaction, or a gnarly festering wound, get thee to a doctor! Post. Haste.
Honey & Chamomile Clay Poultice Makes about 1/2 cup
CC can't really seem to figure out which side of the banana is the business end. Sometimes he enjoys mashing the fruit into his gummy little mouth, but most times he just like gnawing on the end. This gives you a brief glimpse into the messy life of a baby learning to eat solid food. It's sticky. It's slimy, and it's far-reaching. As if the sheer squalor of it all weren't enough to deal with, I am also racked with anxiety over where that banana has been.
Bananas come from the tropics - so does malaria... and posion spiders. MY BABY!!!!
(Plus there is the whole pesticide thing.)
It didn't take long for me to determine that some kind of produce washing solution was in order. We really should be washing all of our produce more thoroughly anyway (at least according to this) so it was about time I made up a batch.
I started out by sticking some orange peels in a jar of vinegar. I'd been seeing other people doing this lately and it looked... wait for it... appealing.
Ba ha ha ha ha.
But really, there is something really attractive to me about orange peels floating in jars of clear liquid. I jarred some of my own and propped them up on my kitchen window ledge just so I could gaze at them for a while. It was almost a shame two weeks later when I finally got around to making something with it.
Anyhoo - here's the recipe. Watch out for the fizzing bit. It's no joke. Baking soda and vinegar = volcano. Ask me how I know.
Orange Peel Veggie Wash Makes about two cups
the peel from one orange
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup distilled water
the juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon baking soda
Combine the orange peel and white vinegar in a jar and set aside. Wait two weeks, then strain the vinegar and discard the peels.
Combine the baking soda and water in a very large pot or pitcher - something with high walls to help contain all of the fizzing that is about to commence.
Add the vinegar and lemon juice. The mixture will fizz like crazy then eventually settle into a flat liquid. Stir it well to make sure it is fully mixed, then transfer it to a spray bottle.
Spray on fruits and veggies before giving them a gentle rub-down. Rinse with tepid water.
P.S. You can make a very simple all-purpose cleaner using a similar method. Stetted has a recipe you can check out along with some tips for keeping your digs in ship-shape.
My sisters all love naming things. Each of their cars is named with the same care that one might name a pet, or nickname a close friend. My husband, Scott, gets mad at me for "talking shit" to his car while we are driving, afraid that I'll offend the car (or maybe the car gods). If his aged Volkswagen suddenly keels over, he'll be sure it will have died from a broken heart. If only I'd been nicer to it!
Personally, I find this personfication of inanimate objects offensive to the living. The car does not have feelings. It does not care who drives it, what I say about it, or how it looks. It is not "happier" when it is clean or full of gas, and it does not have a personal preferences, biases, or desires. It is a thing.
Scott and I were freshening up on this argument the other day when the air conditioning system suddenly went out.
"It's HOT in here. What the hell is wrong with this car?", I complain.
To which Scott replies, "Don't talk to it that way! This is why it's having problems. Shhhhh. Don't listen to her. You probably just don't have the dials set right." He proceeds to push every button on the console, while hemming and hawwing over my insensitivity.
"I think it's broken."
"This is EXACTLY what I've been talking about. You are jinxing the car with your bad attitude. Mind over matter, Mary!!"
It's all a blur after that. Have you ever driven across town with hot air blowing at you on a 102 degree afternoon? I was seeing stars.
About forty-eight hours later we're sitting at the Nissan dealership, signing the next thirty-six months of our life away in exchange for a car that can turn climate control on before you even get inside. The dealer is setting up a smartphone app for the car and asks, "What would you like me to name the car?".
Name the car? Name the car?! Here we go again. Before Scott can come up with anything too humanized I shout out "KITTEN FINGERS".
"Kitten fingers?", he asks.
Kitten Fingers the electric car is sitting outside in our driveway, charging up for our next jaunt around town. It's pretty neat, actually. It never needs gas, oil, or spark plugs, and beyond windshield wiper fluid and an occasional tire rotation, it pretty much maintains itself. The car is whisper-quiet. So much so that the makers had to install beeping and sonar to alert pedestrians when the car is moving.
It also has plenty of pep. You can drive it in different modes for efficiency or performance, but even the eco mode is pretty zippy. The best part is that it still feels like a real car. It's nice and heavy, with comfy steering and big mirrors. It even has a fancy onboard computer and stereo.
Scott sometimes complains about how the car can only go 70 to 100 miles on a charge.
"Don't talk about my car that way!", I tell him. "Shhh. Don't listen to him Kitten Fingers. You're the best."