Are Name Brands Supplements Worth the “extra” cost?

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The “name brand” SJW is on the top. The store brand (in this case, from Walmart) is on the bottom.

In the case of herbal supplements, they sure are!

Several months ago I purchased a store brand “St. John’s Wort” supplement. I took 1 capsule and proceeded to get a head ache. I tested it again on 3 separate occasions, and each time I got a head ache after taking it, so I just assumed I was one of the few people who get “side effects” from taking St. John’s Wort. Then I read this article recently, and it told me what I already “knew” in my head, but was in denial about to be honest.

So I decided to buy a good name brand supplement and give St. John’s Wort a try again (I need some emotional support postpartum and I’m trying to avoid going back on Zoloft). On the recommendation of a midwife, I took 2 yesterday morning – no headache. I took 2 at lunch – no headache. I took 2 with dinner – no headache.

I decided I needed to look closer at these supplements. Upon examining the store brand capsule next to the name brand capsule, they were not even the same color!  I opened both capsules and poured them on to a plate. The store brand smelled vaugely of SJW (short for St.John’sWort), but also had a strong “burnt” smell. The name brand smelled fresh and like the dried whole herb of SJW that I have in my pantry. The store brand felt like ashes when I touched it. The name brand felt like other reliable sources of powdered herbs I’ve dealt with.

Moral of the story – if you’re going to give the natural remedy of herbs a try, don’t skimp. Go for the trusted names. In the case of herbal capsules, I prefer the “Nature’s Way” brand, which is the name brand I went with.

How We Fight the Flu

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I just wanted to share what we do when we have illness in the house and the various remedies that have been very helpful in keeping illness at bay, treating symptoms, and hastening the healing process.

****As with any medication or natural product with medicinal action – please take the time to educate yourself on any herbal remedy you might take or give to your children.****

The first step is prevention during times of increased exposure to illness – we try to stay on top of taking elderberry syrup religiously through the cold and flu season.  I have a recipe you can find here with details on how we use it.  Also avoid excessive amounts of treats (which is hard with the holiday season happening, I know!) and processed foods will go a long way in keeping your immune system in tip top shape.

When anyone in the house starts to feel a tickle in the throat, a funny feeling in the nose, starts to cough a little bit, I give them a weight appropriate dose of astragalus root, echinacea root, licorice root, and additional elderberry or elderflower, all in the form of tinctures or glycerine extracts, 2x a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.  I make most of our herbal remedies at the moment (which saves our family hundreds of dollars over the course of the year), but high quality extracts are available.  For children – “Herbs for Kids” is an excellent brand available from many online retailers including Amazon and Vitacost.  For adults, I have been pleased with the product I tried from TriLight Health, but any brand of herbal extract will do – most come with clear dosing instructions and or possible contraindications.  Licorice root is the only one that may need to be omitted or reduced depending on the pre-existing health conditions of the person taking it.

If viral illness has taken hold already or if it seems severe, I increase the frequency of how often they receive the same herbal dosage as above to 3-4x a day.  We’ve seen first hand how it has gone for one child who did not receive adequate herbal support right from the get go vs one who did with a severe viral illness (hand foot and mouth disease) and the difference was striking.

Natural Symptom Treatment Options:

For Swollen Lymph Nodes & Sore Muscles: We use a blend of lavender, frankincense, copaiba essential oils diluted with olive oil and gently rubbed into the lymph nodes and for sore muscles we dilute it further and the sick person gets a little massage with it :).  Any of these would work on their own, but I like them as a trio.

For congestion (head or chest congestion): fennel seed and/or anise seed extract (or a syrup made just like the elderberry recipe using a mix of half fennel and anise seed instead) has been very effective at thinning and breaking up congestion, preventing mucus build up and decreasing the likeliness of infection.  This also prevents that dreaded “thick cough” that children can get that can cause them to gag and throw up in the middle of the night.

For that dry tickle in the throat: Humidity is always and ally, as well as “cooling” essential oil vapors (such as peppermint, eucalyptus, & tea tree), but there are hundreds of blog posts on those and I actually reach for a different remedy more often than those.  We have a tea we make called “Peter’s Cold Tea” because I first made it combat the cough that my Peter usually gets.  Mix equal parts marshmallow root, peppermint leaf, and lemon balm leaf and make into a tea.  Sweetening with honey adds to it’s cooling / soothing properties.  Using a glycerine based peppermint extract is also effective – the peppermint cools and glycerine is a humectant, drawing moisture to itself helping to create a soothing barrier on the throat.

For a deep seated thick cough: Along with the above treatments, licorice root is a potent remedy that reduces inflammation in respiratory tissue and helps to thin mucus.

For Fevers: A blend of yarrow and peppermint tea, or extract is a time honored way to bring down a fever and has worked well for us.  Also, for older children and adults, peppermint oil applied directly to the skin can also aid in bringing down a fever (I prefer to dilute our oils in half with olive oil in a roller top bottle (purchased in bulk from amazon) when using them in this way.

For Sore Throats: Nothing makes a sore throat feel better than a cup of cinnamon and clove tea 🙂 The tea mentioned above works well too (Peter’s cold tea).

Chopping Day (and Crockpot Mashed Potatoes)

Much of my time is spent chopping vegetables… lots and lots of vegetables.  And I knew there had to be some way to not compromise our health and save myself some time.  This week we’re trying out making Monday a chopping day.  We’re chopping onions (which will be stored in mason jars so the whole fridge won’t smell like onions), celery (into dices and sticks), carrots (peeled & cut into sticks – the baby carrots from the store have been terrible lately), potatoes (soaked in water to keep them from browning – this also has additional health benefits, just ask google 😛 ), and bell peppers (in slices and dices).  Today I used 5lbs of those already chopped potatoes to make our weekly potato based dinner and also give “crockpot mashed potatoes” a try.  It turned out so well, I just had to share!

 

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Ingredients:

  • 5lbs of potatoes, chopped in 1 inch pieces
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp each of salt, garlic power, & onion powder
  • 1 stick of butter, cut up into pieces

Recipe:

  • Take a piece of your butter and rub down the inside of the crock pot
  • Add 1.5 cups of water to the bottom of my crockpot and whisk in the salt, garlic power, and onion powder
  • Dump in those potatoes and drop pieces of butter on top
  • Cover and cook on high for 4 hours (or until soft)
  • Mash right in the pot when soft and you’re done!

You could sub broth for water, or you wait to add your seasonings, and you could add additional ingredients like yogurt or cream cheese, etc.  But this was my easy peasy way of doing it and I will definitely be doing it again!

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Basic Elderberry Syrup Recipe w/ Variations

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried elderberries
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 – 1 cup honey
  • addition water or ice to reconstitute  water after boiling

Tools:

Procedure:

  • bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add elderberries (and any other additional ingredients that I will discuss in the variations section below)
  • cover and simmer for 30-60 min
  • strain into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer & press down on the herbs with a spoon to squeeze out all the medicinal goodness
  • re-constitute your strained liquid with water (or ice to cool it if using raw honey) until it measures 3 cups again
  • add honey and stir or shake until well combined
  • store in the fridge in a jar

How long will it stay good?

  • Approximately 1 month in the fridge.  If you don’t think you will use it up that quickly you can cut the recipe in half *or* freeze half of it right away for use later

How we use it:

  • Preventatively we try to either eat a little bit every day during the months of Sept – March (I love to add it to oatmeal, in smoothies, over pancakes, etc).  If we haven’t eaten some, I will give all the children about 1Tbsp in the evening after dinner and for those who are adults (or of adult size), I will give 1.5-2 Tbsps
  • During cold or other viral illness I will repeat the above dose up to 4 times during a day

Variations: (these are in addition to the above recipe ingredients except where noted)

  • 1tbsp sweet cinnamon chips, 1 tsp cloves – these add a nice flavor and contain their own medicinal properties
  • 1/4 cup astragalus root either in addition to *or* sub for half of the elderberries in the recipe
  • 2-4 Tbsps rose hips
  • The recipe I make most frequently includes 1/4 cup elderberries, 1/4 cup astragalus, 2 Tbsps rosehips, 1Tbsp sweet cinnamon chips, 1 Tbsp orange peel, and 1 tsp whole cloves

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Remember when ordering herbs, please consider shopping through our affiliate link on the sidebar of this blog or the one you’ll find at the bottom of this post 🙂 we appreciate the support very much!

A passion for organics

Eczema Itch Relief

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When I became pregnant with our current sweet little bundle, my eczema flared up in a big way (all over my forearms and legs) and I felt the need to switch from using a topical steroid, although I was only using it very sparingly, to help manage my symptoms.  First let’s talk about combatting the ITCH that comes with eczema.  I needed something that WORKED.  Half the battle with most varieties of eczema is the itch is so irresistible and scratching breaks and damages the skin further in addition the the inflammation that is already occurring.  So finding something that would tame that itching sensation was a high priority.

I made a simple salve, with shae butter, peppermint essential oil and spearmint essential oils (EOs) that I carried with me at all times during a large active flare up so when things started getting itch very quickly, I could apply a small amount and avoid further damaging my skin from scratching it.  Both peppermint & spearmint EOs have “antipruritic” properties (another name for this is “anti-itch”).  I like to blend the two, as the high menthol content of peppermint essential oil can be problematic.  (Read more about peppermint essential oil safety here).  If you’d like to explore using these EO’s for their anti-itch properties, keep in mind that a little goes a long way.  The most convenient way to test what concentration is right for you is get a small bottle with a roller top (like this one) and fill it with 1 tsp olive or other liquid oil.  Then add 1 drop each of peppermint & spearmint oil and give it a try.  This gives it an approximate 2% EO concentration, which is a lower end medicinal amount for an adult (read more about essential oil dilution HERE and HERE).

I found I personally needed a 4-6% concentration to provide the relief I needed with using the smallest amount of salve.  We also found that this worked wonders on bug bites & poison ivy rashes as well.  An added benefit is you get to smell wonderful :D.

Peppermint EO is VERY POTENT and not recommended for use on infants and young children.  Lavender EO is a good alternative for young children (you still need to dilute it!) and I am also looking into peppermint/spearmint/plantain infused oils as a safe alternative for young children suffering with eczema.

“All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison….” Paracelsus (1493-1541)

Six Years Debt Free

In 2008 we set out to get out of debt knowing it was a good thing, but not really knowing how good. The journey was intense, but it remains one of our best memories and learning experiences. If you’re not familiar with our blogging history, the precursor to “The Scott Family Adventures” was a blog called “If I Were Debt Free” in which we documented our life changing steps towards being debt free.

Six years later, a lot has changed but not our desire to live debt free. It hasn’t been easy as we have to preach to ourselves often to trust God in the tough situations.

In 2008 we did debt countdown in which we came up with (almost) 100 ideas of things to do when debt free. We hadn’t looked at the list in a while, and at first thought it would be fun to comb through and give an update on everything. But that was proving way too tedious. And we found that our priorities and desires have changed drastically in some cases. So we’ll just highlight a few of the major things.

  • 82 – Buy a House | We “bought” our first house in 2012- not quite according to our ideal preferences stated in the original post, but we are thankful for how God worked things out.
  • 77 – Pay cash for a second car | We bought our 15 passenger van with cash when our Thomas, our 6th child, was born and we outgrew the minivan. The big van was well used but it is still serving us well. We were able to pay cash for another car as well when the aforementioned minivan-turned-commuter-car was totaled after hitting a deer. Praise God it was only the van (and deer) that was injured.
  • 70 – Climb a mountain | In 2009, we climbed the West Spanish Peak in Colorado. In subsequent years, we spent several months hiking little parts of the Appalachian Trail close to home.
  • 43 – Plant a garden | We got to plant our first garden last year (2013), and we expanded it even more this year. It’s hard but rewarding work!
  • 41 – Have more kids?!?! | At the time of writing the original post we had four blessings. We have welcomed four more since, and are about to be joined by #9 early next year.
  • 34 – Get wisdom | “Dad” spent this whole year reading through Proverbs each month and it has been enriching. We’ve read together as a family as well, learning quite a bit!
  • 32 – Get the kids in some activities | This year we’ve found ourselves in a quite a few – ballet, soccer, homeschool co-op, youth group…

Today we celebrate six years of being debt free (except for the house now). We would love to hear your debt-free adventures!

What did I do wrong?

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The sky has been so grey lately.  I have felt so tired, so withdrawn, so unmotivated.  I caught myself asking “what am I doing wrong???”  UGH.  Why is that always my first assumption?  That I did, or am doing something wrong, therefore that is why life isn’t easier.  I keep having to preach the same refrain to myself…

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33 ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:2-5 ESV)

God is not surprised by my lack of motivation.  Nor the grey and rainy days.  He is not surprised that my children are not obeying me like little robots and that I will constantly have to discern the difficult line between grace and obedience when training them.  He is aware that my energy will fail me when I need it most and my body will refuse to continue on despite the fact that there are a million things that need doing.  He has overcome the world.  By his grace and his mercy, all those little things left undone will be covered over.  All these parenting failures, he will make it right in the end.  He is refining me.

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Psalm 95:7-8a)

Lord, do not let me harden my heart in my frustration.  Be my peace in the chaos.  Be my JOY in despair.  Turn these ashes into something beautiful.  Amen.