Sunday, December 6, 2015

Comfrey salve is a staple in our house

Ever since living on the farm in Oregon and learning all the old world holistic trades, I have been a big proponent of do-it-yourself home care. Be it for skin, hair, eating or cleaning, there's so much to be said about making your own.

And one of our go-to items is a healing comfrey salve. Burt's Bees makes a great version (Dr. Burts), and there are several others like it you can buy at Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, etc. So if you don't have time, having one of these store bought versions in your first aid kit or cabinet is a great idea.

The magic of the comfrey plant is legendary - the Native Americans called it "Knit Bone," and used it for all sorts of internal and external remedies. In our house, we use it for rashes, stings, cuts, nicks, scrapes, and most of all, burns. Most versions (home made or store bought) include lavender in their blend, which is an immediate and must-have cure for burns.

So this summer, when our comfrey plants took over the front yard like Little Shop of Horrors, I decided to call in the expert to teach a small group of us to make the salve on our own.

Mary O'Brien of Black Bear Botanicals is legendary in Steamboat herself. A well known herbalist and permaculturist, she leads herbal walks, teaches workshops, and is one of my local gurus for all things herbs.

In our short one-day workshop, we made the comfrey oil, and used Mary's pre-made oil so everyone could take home a small sample of the salve.  We let our oil sit (mine on the top of our hot water heater) for a moon cycle, and then this week I finally dove in and made a batch of salve with it. I have 3-4 cups of oil remaining, so I can make a few other skin care products like lip balm when needed.

To make the infused oil of a plant, it's similar to making tea - pack a jar with leaves from the plant and fill it with organic olive oil or oil of choice. You can make the oil quicker by heating it, but it may reduce the properties of the plant if overheated so keep the temp low, like sitting the pot on the pilot light only overnight. Once the oil is made, store in a cool place, or even refrigerate, and keep up to one year.

Once you have the oil, you can proceed with your salve! 

Make sure you're using cooking equipment that has NOT been used for food to avoid bacteria. 

Mary's recipe is as follows:
Using a double boiler, heat 1 cup herb infused oil with 3/4 oz. beeswax until melted, let cool and add 1/2 teaspoon essential oils (50 drops) (lavender, rosemary), and 400 IU Vitamin E oil.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Healthline: Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

Healthline launched two programs this year to support people with symptoms of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Healthline's new #pselfie program is a collection of photos from people living with psoriasis. Users can upload a photo on Instragram or Twitter with the hashtag #pselfie or upload a photo directly onto our page. You can view the photos here: For every photo they receive, they will donate $10 to the National Psoriasis Foundation.

They've also launched You’ve Got This, a collection of videos submitted by those living with psoriasis giving hope and encouragement to others with the condition. Again, for every video they'll donate $10 to the National Psoriasis Foundation. View the videos here:

Last, Words You Should Know for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. All of the terms and definitions were submitted by users from Healthline's Facebook community for psoriasis sufferers. Check it out at:

More about Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health

660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp

Saturday, March 28, 2015

3 months with our Tower Garden - what we've learned #1

In October we posted when we first got our Tower Garden. Now it's time to share a little about what we've learned!

A quick summary and recap:
What's a Tower Garden

First, it's compact:
It's literally a 4 foot tall by 1 foot wide white tower with 20 net pots that sits atop a 1 foot by 3 foot 20 gallon reservoir.

Next, it's water and energy efficient:
A pump inside the reservoir distributes water with nutrients to the plants' roots that hang from the net pots. In recycling the water every 15 minutes, the Tower Garden uses 10% of the water that traditional gardening does. It's also on a 125 watt timer (included), so it waters the roots every 30 minutes for 15 minutes, meaning no work for you, and costing about $4 per month to run.

So on to what we've learned - Chapter 1 Seeds and Lights...
For anyone who says they can't garden - either born without a green thumb, devoid of space (apartment owners), or simply without the time, Tower Garden is a perfect fit. We love the addition of it to our home!  Picking fresh food from it daily is inspiring, healthy, and fun.

But not without it's lessons. And we DO call ourselves gardeners... well, hobby gardeners. :)

When we first got our Tower Garden we set it up and started seeds immediately.  Tower Garden
For smaller plants that like to share space (lettuce, basil, arugula), put 2-4 seeds per rock wool.
comes with seeds, rock wool (there's no dirt with a TG), nutrients, and pH kit.  Here are our tips so far:

  • For larger plants that need all the room (tomato, cucumber, pepper) for a big stalk, put 1 seed per rock wool. 
  • Soak the rock wool first as the instructions tell you to. Cover the seeds up with a good amount of vermiculite.
  • Cover the seed tray with a piece of carboard and keep warm but not hot.
  • Put a little bit (50mg?) of nutrients in the seed water, and keep about 1/2" of water in the tray. 
  • For those who don't want to mess with seeds, go to Living Towers Seedlings and order when you order your TG so you're growing in less time. But for kids, watching seeds turn to plants is a magical experience and it's easy, just a little more time consuming. 
  • Tower Garden sends you organic seeds, but by all means don't stop there. You can grow edible flowers, beans, and all kinds of fruiting plants - just no root veggies or bushes. 

On to lights! 
We started our TG without lights. For one, just to see how it would do. The light in November - December was not conducive to growing, and our seedlings grew slow through November (in fact, we experienced a failure due to a couple of factors:  we put the seeds on a seed heating pad - they did better without. We also didn't cover the seeds with cardboard at first, and they grew faster in the dark.

Once our second seeds were strong in December, we transferred them to the Tower Garden. They grew about 3" and then plateaued. The custom-designed TG lights came online in late December, so we ordered lights and it made all the difference. January growth was intense! Within a week our plants were thriving, within two the lettuce was ready to eat!

By now we've been eating lettuce, arugula, cilantro, and basil for months.  We are only having one issue with the Tomatoes... they're huge, but not fruiting. So our next post will be on that!

We love this product and company so much that we became distributors and are so glad we did. Helping people learn to grow and have fresh tower-to-table food in their house is truly inspiring. Tower Garden is a product of the Juice Plus company, a company with a heart, that has helped over 1 million kids get healthy! If you want to learn more about the power of phytonutrients and help your body be the best it can be, visit

Our best resources: 
Tower Garden blog
Tower Garden Facebook
Living Towers blog
TG Inventor Tim Blank's Future Growing

Stay tuned for future posts on 
What we learned - tomatoes, pH and water temperature
What we learned - harvesting to keep it growing
What we learned - rebooting the garden