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Medical Preparedness: The Art and Benefits of Making Herbal Infusions
- 1 Why We Should Strive to be Medically Independent?
- 2 What is an Herbal Infusion?
- 3 Develop Medical Knowledge
- 4 No More Blood Pressure Medications….well almost.
- 5 This is What We Did First
- 6 Hibiscus Infusion Recipe
- 7 Rose of Sharon
- 8 How We Monitored Effectiveness and Safety for Blood Pressure Lowering
- 9 Other Benefits of Hibiscus Infusions
- 10 Additional Tools to Help Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
- 11 FINAL THOUGHTS
Why We Should Strive to be Medically Independent?
Increased Contamination and Altered Pharmaceuticals:
In the past 6 years, big pharma has recalled over 8000 drug products, from capsules, tablets to intravenous solutions. That number of pills reaches, not into the millions but into the billions. Chances are at least one of these tainted drugs is or has been in your medicine cabinet or is in a hospital near you or in your local pharmacy. According to an investigation made by Kaiser Health News, these recalls are only a small fraction of the medications that are manufactured and shipped yearly….and not all of the tainted medicines are detected in a timely fashion, as we will see. Contaminated medications are laced with a wide variety of harmful or even deadly components, anything from glass shards to bacteria, mold or as we recently experienced in our own family, a cancer-causing agent!
The investigation by Kaiser also found that there was either too little or too much of the active ingredient in many products. As you might expect, incorrect amounts of medical ingredients can be deadly.
Over that same 6 year period, there were 65 drug manufacturing facilities that recalled almost 300 of the medications they produced….but the kicker is that this occurred within the following 12 months of an FDA inspection!
According to the Kaiser Investigation recall data, “The recalls from those 65 facilities included more than 39,000 bottles of the HIV drug Atripla laced with “red silicone rubber particulates,” nearly 37,000 generic Abilify tablets that were “super potent,” and nearly 12,000 boxes of generic Aleve (naproxen) that were actually ibuprofen”.
It seems that those agencies tasked with safety oversight have been grossly negligent. Personally, I won’t hold my breath and hope that this dangerous problem will be resolved any time soon. We have to step up and change what we can to make ourselves increasingly medically self-reliant as far as that is possible in our individual situations.
In this article, I’ll share with you the process of making simple but powerful water extracted herbal infusion that, for us, has been effectively lowering and stabilizing our blood pressure for a few months now. We’ll learn how to gradually reduce our dependence on some expensive synthetic pharmaceuticals that you may be using or that you may be able to avoid in the future. Each person, of course, has different needs, so as they say, “Results May Vary”. An herb that is effective for you may not be so for me. There are many herbs that may normalize blood pressure so if the one we use is not working for you, try another. But make sure to give it a good try before moving on to another herb.
It is such an asset that preppers are generally innovative, think out of the box and desire to be as independent as circumstances allow. They usually look deeper and find ways to problem solve. That is one thing I’ve learned from you, the BDS community. You’ve shared things that have worked for you that I’ve not thought of yet. We share with and learn from each other. So here I’ll share one example of how herbals have made a big difference in our family’s drug freedom and medical independence. Of course, there are times and circumstances where traditional medicines and procedures may be necessary. Only you know your medical needs and circumstances. Innovative and intentional preppers are usually successful in reaching their goals.
The first process we used to make an easy, quick and effective “medicine” was a simple herbal infusion.
What is an Herbal Infusion?
It is a process of drawing out various nutritional compounds from an herb into a solvent and allowing the herb/herbs to remain in the solvent for a period of time. The time can vary from 4 hours to 8 weeks depending on the herbs and/or the solvent. Basically, an herbal infusion is the method of extracting the medicinal benefits from herbs to allow the transfer of herbal benefits into another medium, making them more concentrated and easier for the body to utilize.
There are several types of herbal infusions and there are various mediums that can be used for the extracting process. Here are some of the solvents that could be used: a variety of oils, strong grain alcohol, wine, vinegar, glycerin or water. Water infusions take much less time than using the other solvents.
When you compare the number of vitamins and minerals extracted from herbal infusions with taking vitamin and mineral pills or capsule the extracted herbs are almost always stronger, but they are always much better absorbed and utilized by the body.
Herbs are plant medicines and should be treated with due caution. Hibiscus sabdariffa L. has a diuretic effect. That is what makes it effective in reducing blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about any herbal substances you may consider using. Herbs can interact poorly with some prescription medications you may be taking. Consumption of hibiscus is not recommended before and during pregnancy and it might decrease fertility in both men and women. Work with a qualified doctor or perhaps a certified herbalist as you strive to become more medically independent through the use of herbal remedies.
Before we get into the mechanics of making an infusion, let’s take a few seconds to consider our choice of working with an M.D or a D.O. Of course, you may have someone else in mind that you feel comfortable working with.
Difference Between an M.D. and an N.D.
Since most medical doctors (M.D.) have very brief, if any, training about herbs most will just tell you to avoid them altogether. That is unfortunate. If that is the case then find an N.D. (naturopathic doctor) to help you find better and more natural health choices to reach your goals. If you can find an N.D. they are usually very receptive to working closely with you in a more natural way and they are less likely to whip out a prescription pad, but they can do that if needed. They are usually better positioned to assist you to achieve big pharma independence.
Not only do N.D.’s study current standards of care but they study herbal medicines and advanced nutrition practices in addition to integrative, traditional and complementary medicine. Both M.D.’s and N.D.’s receive doctorate level training. It’s a matter of having different approaches to illness and disease. Do what is best for you.
Develop Medical Knowledge
As a prepper, forager and registered nurse, in the back of my mind, I always considered what could happen if a family member or any of us were unable to get lifesaving drugs or medical assistance during prolonged chaotic times. That is one reason I set out to find better ways to take care of our medical needs and then try to become as medically self-reliant as possible. If you can develop the knowledge to make some of your own medication then why not do it? You don’t have to have a medical degree to achieve some amazing results. Not all of your medical needs may be fully met but reducing dependence on outside resources is certainly a good thing.
Our Cancer-Causing Contaminated Medications
Another motivation to find an alternative to taking anti-hypertensive drugs was because my husband’s blood pressure medication was found to be contaminated with a carcinogen. Great, just what everyone wants to hear! There was a recall. I did a little digging around and found that the manufacturer had known about the cancer-causing contamination for longer than we were lead to believe although the public information that went out to the pharmacists from the drug manufacturer claimed that they’d only discovered the problem less than 1 month before their “voluntary” recall of that medication from the market!
I’m a total skeptic with pharmaceutical claims so after calling the drug manufacturer and getting a suspiciously quick reassurance that there was” nothing behind the curtain” I then called the FDA to hear what information they had to add, if any.(I’m not totally trusting of the FDA either) This is when I learned that the blood pressure drug known as, Valsartan (from a particular manufacturing site in China, had been known by the manufacturer to contain a carcinogen for the past four years but had been left on the market! Four Years! My husband had been taking a carcinogen for four years! “Other manufacturing locations of that drug were not contaminated” per the FDA.
So what IS safe? Do we really ever know? Do you feel comfortable swallowing either rhetoric or pill? I have to be honest and say that I don’t….but what are we to do if we need pharmaceuticals? It is a hard question with an even harder answer.
When the Valsartan was recalled our doctor wanted to put my husband on another similar blood pressure medication called Losartan. There was, of course, no assurance that this medication was carcinogen free. Even if there had been assurances it would have been fool-hardy to accept their claim of safety in view of their recent deception. Quickly, but not surprisingly, this second anti-hypertensive drug that we’d been offered and refused was withdrawn from the market. Carcinogen tainted again! Does this remind you of playing Russian roulette?
Our doctor agreed that he would give my husband, Dave, another blood pressure medication which I had investigated, so he could take a small dose to assist us in making a transition to a healthier, drug-free option that we could trust to be carcinogen free….. since the place of manufacture would be our own kitchen.
So began our search for a greater degree of medical independence from anti-hypertensive drugs. There was a period of trial and error but the final result has proven more successful than we’d anticipated.
No More Blood Pressure Medications….well almost.
We worked with our doctor and he was in agreement with our goal of decreasing or eliminating our use of hypertensive drugs. Since he had worked with me on other herbal and essential oil goals and knew that we were closely monitoring blood pressure he must have felt comfortable with this relationship and our experiment. He had seen those previous projects succeed and I felt that he was as anxious as we were to make this attempt. We’re fortunate because I think he’s an herbalist at heart!
This is What We Did First
We spent many hours over a one week period reading and cross-referencing various single herbs and checking on medication and herbal compatibility. This information is not always easily available in the form of scientific studies but there are happily more and more studies being done as herbs and alternative options are demanded by people everywhere who are wising up! There are usually many herbal options available. Some herbs may produce undesirable side effects or interfere with other medications so, of course, those should be avoided. Putting in the research time is a necessity and a safety precaution.
A Reliable Science-Based Data Base
The American Botanical Council (ABC) is a science-based, peer-reviewed guide to herbs which has a large database that provides reliable herbal medicine information. Dr. Google is not a reliable scientific source, especially when dealing with health issues.
A Starting Place
Of the nine herbs, we considered I thought hibiscus was a solid place to start. Several excellent scientific studies have been published and this beautiful herb has a long history of success.
Later, I refined the infusion ingredients by occasionally adding other herbs or berries to change up the taste and provide more cardiac strengthening.
What We Did
A water-based herbal infusion is simply a strong tea. It’s easy to make. Fresh or dried herbs can be used. If using dried herbs I use ½ – ¾ cup. Fresh herbs are less concentrated so 2 cups are the equivalent.
Hibiscus Infusion Recipe
Gather these supplies:
- Approximately ¾+ C (about 2 oz.). dried hibiscus flower petals or 2 cups fresh hibiscus flowers. If using fresh flowers, remove the calyx or the green part at the base of the flower to which the stem is attached. Dried red hibiscus flowers and petals are available through Mountain Rose Herb at $12.50 per pound. They have good organic herbs but their shipping costs are high, especially if you are ordering only a few items. It pays to get a small group order together and split the postage or you may have a local health food or herbal store available thus eliminating the shipping costs.
- ½ gallon Mason jar or other heat stable glass jar.
- A two-part lid as shown. If you use a single piece lid it may be difficult to remove after the infusion cools.
INSTRUCTIONS: Put the herb into a clean half gallon jar. Add unfluorinated, unchlorinated near boiling water to 1” from the top of the jar, then affix lid.
Place the jar on a towel on the counter and leave the hot jar there at least 4 hours to overnight. I like to leach out all of the constituents and make the infusion stronger so I leave it there for at least 8 hours. Strain or squeeze out the hibiscus petals then store in the refrigerator. A French press works well for straining too…. that’s on my wish list.
* Option: If you prefer you may just add the herb and good water to a large stainless steel, enamel or glass pot, bring near a boil for 3-5 minutes, remove from heat, cover and allow to steep for 4 hours or overnight. Then strain out the herb. Store in refrigerator. Use water infusions within 24 to 36 hours.
Rose of Sharon
If you already have a Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) bush or two in your yard you’re in luck. These are cousins of the hibiscus and will provide almost the same benefits. It is a medium to large-sized shrub or small tree that produces masses of single or double flowering blooms in a variety of colors; white, pink, red, purple, and blue. Blossoms appear in late spring to late summer and have a nutty flavor to them. I’ve lightly filled the petal cups with cream cheese, chopped walnuts or pecans with a few drops of lemon essential oil blended in for special occasions. You can add a touch of stevia to the mixture if you’d like. This makes a spectacular presentation and it’s so easy. Planting a hardy Rose of Sharon bush in colder climes or a Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in warmer zones is a good long-term backup plan to help with your medical and food self-reliance goals.
Rose of Sharon is used externally as an emollient but is also taken internally for gastrointestinal disorders.
- You can add other herbs or add-ins to hibiscus such as lemongrass, lemon or lime zest or mint etc. We sometimes add ¼ cup of crushed Hawthorn berries or Hawthorn leaves and twigs as a cardiac strengthener. Add almost boiling water and steep desired time. Strain and refrigerate.
- Mix in honey, maple syrup or a tad of stevia until completely dissolved. Hibiscus has a sour citrus taste and most people prefer an added sweetener.
- You can serve hibiscus tea warm or you can chill it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. It brings a lovely brilliant red color to your table. Either hot or chilled it tastes delicious!
- Remember: Don’t make more than you plan to use in 24-36 hours. The medicinal properties begin to decrease.
- Red Zinger tea from Celestial Seasoning contains hibiscus flower petals but is not nearly as concentrated or as fresh as the above recipe. I doubt that it would contain a therapeutic concentration.
How We Monitored Effectiveness and Safety for Blood Pressure Lowering
We began drinking the hibiscus infusion, one 12 oz. mug three times a day for about a week. Then we created a flow chart to record blood pressure readings, taken morning and evening. Next, based upon those twice daily readings we either took the medication or held that dose. (upper limits were approved by our doctor) If either of us was above the pre-set acceptable pressure level then medication was taken and recorded on the flow chart. We didn’t really know what would happen but we were seriously making the attempt.
Results To Date
In the past 70 days Dave has only needed medication 7 times! Even then his blood pressure was only a few points above the set limit. My success was similar. Only 4 times in 70 days.
NEVER stop taking your medicine cold turkey!! Let me repeat that. NEVER STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICINE COLD TURKEY. CONSULT CLOSELY WITH YOUR MEDICAL ADVISOR!
Other Benefits of Hibiscus Infusions
- Reduce Cholesterol Damage: To protect your blood vessels from cholesterol damage, you should drink 2-3 cups of hibiscus tea every day. Studies have shown that it can significantly improve the health of your arteries.
- Insulin Sensitivity: Hibiscus contains natural chemicals which can restore a degree of insulin sensitivity to some diabetics. Studies I have found are not conclusive so far, however at least research in herbal remedies is picking up in scope and frequency.
- Liver Detoxification: Detoxing is one of the ways of improving your liver function, and it can be done in a number of ways, with one of the easiest ones being drinking 3 cups of hibiscus tea every day. Both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) use hibiscus to treat various liver problems. The way hibiscus helps keep the liver clean is that the antioxidants it is rich in, destroy free radicals before they can cause permanent damage to your cells and organs. Hibiscus tea also has many antioxidants, vitamin C, and numerous other nutrients.
- Can Reduce Anxiety: The hibiscus plant is rich in flavonoids which are known to have antidepressant properties. Taking hibiscus tea every day can have a very soothing effect on your mind, and has been used as a mild antidepressant for thousands of years. Just 2 cups a day could decrease ease symptoms.
- Improves Digestion: Hibiscus tea acts as a mild laxative, and if taken regularly, can relieve chronic constipation. Staying “regular” protects you from various gastrointestinal disorders. Hibiscus tea has soothing, anti-spasmodic effects and may even help with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Marinade: Hibiscus tea is a great choice for a marinade, tenderizing beef or lamb while adding heaps of flavor.
- Respiratory disorders: Common hibiscus is used to treat coughs by placing extracts from the plant in the patient’s bath or in water used for steam inhalations. Hibiscus is often combined with other herbs to make a cough syrup. It is used widely in Cuba, where the tropical climate contributes to respiratory illnesses, and where hibiscus is readily found.
- Skin conditions: Hibiscus is a natural emollient, used for softening or healing the skin. The leaves and flowers of the Roselle are used all around the world for their emollient qualities. When the leaves are heated, they can be placed on cracked feet or on boils and ulcers to promote healing. A lotion made from a decoction of hibiscus leaves can be used to soothe hemorrhoids, sunburn, open sores, and wounds. Knowing how to care for our skin properly should be a serious concern because pathogens enter the body through breaks in the skin and without antibiotics these tiny openings can prove fatal.
- Cardiovascular Health: There is a long tradition that hibiscus promotes cardiovascular health. Now, in the 21st century, there are strong preliminary findings that are beginning to verify that that long-standing tradition that hibiscus can specifically help promote healthy blood pressure.
Additional Tools to Help Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
- The semi-essential amino acid, L-Arginine helps lower BP by improving blood circulation and increasing blood vessel elasticity. L-Arginine can cause dramatic changes in blood pressure so I would highly recommend being monitored by your doctor and monitoring yourself at home.
- A diet that is rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber and lower in sodium can be another tool to help decrease blood pressure. Most Americans are deficient in magnesium so check with your doctor and ask to have your magnesium, potassium and sodium levels checked. (This requires a blood draw) Here is a list of 13 foods that may help lower blood pressure. Remember it was Hippocrates who said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
- Exercise and shed a few pounds. Each extra pound over your ideal weight puts extra stress on every organ, especially your heart.
- A few times throughout the day, think about your posture. By this I mean notice your shoulders, are they raised and tense? Is your breathing shallow? If so, take some deep abdominal breaths and relax and lower those shoulders. It might come as a surprise how tense the body can become during the course of a normal day. Relaxing can have an immediate positive effect on your blood pressure. Another herbal Infusion we use is made with a foraged red clover leaf. I make it the same way as any other water infusion. This simple plant has wonderful healing properties and is readily available in pastures and fields. I consider it “free medicine”!
Here are a few of its benefits:
- Improves memory
- Balances hormones (phytoestrogen)
- Serve Others: You’ve heard it said that money can’t buy happiness, but multiple studies have demonstrated that there are health paybacks of putting yourself out there to be helpful to others. A kind word or deed can go a long way to bringing happiness to the giver.
A 2008 study done by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School, examined if where a person spent their money affected their happiness. A total of 630 Americans were interviewed and asked to report their income, their monthly spending including all bills and money spent on themselves, their general happiness, and gifts given to others or charities.
The results? Regardless of a person’s income, people who spent more money on others or charities reported higher levels of happiness than those who didn’t.
This “health benefit” is not limited to giving money or gifts. Simply doing intentional quiet acts of kindness can bring inner healing. It “lifts our spirits”. I think this is something we all instinctively know in our hearts.
Which would you rather take? A natural, effective, made- at -home remedy or synthetic and very possibly tainted pharmaceuticals? Is it at least worth a try?
When the time comes when standard western medicine is unavailable or tainted as were my husband’s medications, you can see that there are other powerful herbal options that my husband and I have found to be effective for us. It is important to learn about your options now…learn what works for you and then have the raw ingredients on hand to “make your own medicine, specific to your needs or that of your family. How vitally important this knowledge and skill may become…..sooner than we expect!
Study herbals that may help your specific condition. If you have hypertension find out if hibiscus flower infusions will work to help control your blood pressure. Perhaps adding Hawthorn Berry, a heart tonic, will strength your ticker and put a little bounce back in your step. Work with your cardiologist, MD or ND. I would absolutely love to hear of anything you have already done or plan to do to increase your medical self-reliance.
Donna takes joy in being a wife / mother / grammy / forager / self-reliance seeker / food preserver / chicken chaser / herb and essential oil user / ham radio operator / spelunker / outdoor enjoyer / raw milk drinker / social media avoider / genealogy searcher / scripture studier / cub master / docent / reader / writer / learner / teacher / helper and faithful friend.