Showing posts sorted by relevance for query thieves. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query thieves. Sort by date Show all posts

Oct 12, 2012

The Plague, West Nile, and Thieves' Vinegar

Thieves' Vinegar herbs from the Bulk Herb Store.
Did you know the plague is back? Yes, I mean the same Black Death that ravaged the world in the 14th century. In the last year or so, there have been diagnosed cases of the plague in Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, and California; go back a few more years, and you'll find cases in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma. (See the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, website for more information.) It seems most cases are of bubonic plague, spread by biting or scratching insects and animals. (To learn more about how the plague is spread, check out this post by the state of Vermont, as well as this piece at Wikipedia.)

Add to this the news that the West Nile virus (spread by biting mosquitoes) is spreading in the U.S., and you have a case for thinking more about bug spray!

All these recent news stories immediately brought to my mind the legend of the Thieves' Vinegar. For those who are unfamiliar with this story: It's said that during the Black Plague four men were stealing valuables off dead, infected bodies. When they were finally caught, the local law told them if they'd reveal how they escaped becoming infected, they'd set the thieves free. Supposedly, one of the thieves said his sister was an herbwife who gave them a special vinegar to spray themselves with in order to protect them from the disease.

Whether or not there is any truth in the story is something we'll probably never know. The earliest record I can find of the recipe isn't until 1910, in Scientific American. It lists rosemary, sage, lavender, rue, camphor dissolved in spirits, garlic, cloves, and distilled wine vinegar as the "original" ingredients, but it's clear Thieves' Vinegar has many variations and that the original recipe is probably lost to history.

But then I happened upon the Bulk Herb Store's write up on Thieves' Vinegar. What impressed me here was the idea of using modern knowledge about herbs to determine which antique ingredients might be most effective. And then I read the comments at the end of the post, which include stories about using the Bulk Herb Store's recipe to stave off insects in the Amazon.

I plan to can some of this Thieves' Vinegar, according to the directions given at the Bulk Herb Store's website, then transfer the vinegar to a small spray bottle to use as needed. Will it protect my family from the plague? I can't say for certain. But I do believe it will make an organic, safe insect repellent.

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I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website ( be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

Jun 19, 2017

Dealing with Ticks, Naturally

How to Naturally Deter Ticks
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Country living isn't new to me; I grew up in a rural area. But ticks? Yep, definitely a new-to-me experience. And this year, ticks are already much, much worse than they were last year - a trend throughout the nation, I read. And while the little buggers completely gross me out (just writing this post makes me feel like ticks are crawling all over me), I don't relish the thought of spraying my family with DEET day in and day out. So here are a few things that have helped us keep the ticks at bay naturally.

(Please bear in mind that I don't live in an area where Lyme disease is currently a factor. If I did, I might be more inclined to use DEET as the lesser of two evils.)

1. Yard Maintenance. Keeping the grass mowed goes a long way toward keeping ticks out of the yard. Yes, some ticks hang out on bushes and trees, but a many more seem to lurk in tall grass. Keeping that grass short obliterates a tick's favorite hang out. In addition, having gravel or bark borders surrounding common human hang outs (like the deck) may help keep ticks at bay.

2. Dress Right. When you're in tick-infested areas, wear boots with long pants, or tuck your pants into your socks. It may look dorky, but it keeps ticks from climbing up your legs. Long sleeves help, too.

3. Cloak Your Scent. Many types of ticks know what to jump on by that creature's smell, so anything you do to mask your smell will help deter ticks. We've been using tea tree oil - apparently successfully. (That is to say, we've never found a tick on us after applying it.) I just dab it onto our ankles (or the ankles of our boots), our wrists (at the pulse points, just like you'd do with perfume), and our necks. Since mosquitoes are also a problem for us, I also want to experiment with using Thieves' Vinegar. I've made a batch (you can read about that here), and it stinks a lot, but we haven't had a chance to use it yet.

4. Check Right Away. As soon as you're out of the tick-infested area, check for ticks. Remove all your clothes and check every nook and cranny. It's best to put those clothes directly into a sealed, plastic garbage bag, or directly into the washing machine (which should then be turned on), so any ticks on your clothes won't be loose in the house.

5. Remove Ticks CORRECTLY. If you find a tick, remove it carefully. So many of the tick-removing ticks neighbors and family told us about - or that we read about on the internet - are not recommended because they allow the tick a chance to regurgitate into your blood stream, increasing the likelihood it will pass on some disease to you. Methods to avoid include using a match or heat source, using manual rubbing, or using bag balm, petroleum jelly, or some other oil. The CDC recommends using tweezers, but I find this usually results in the tick's head being left behind - definitely not what we're after! Then I discovered the Tick Twister. When I first bought this device, I was highly skeptical. It seemed too simple and too much like tweezers. But trust me, this baby works! You just insert the tick between the tongs of the device, then turn, like a screw driver. Out comes the tick, head and all!

6. Dealing with the Dog. One area where we still struggle is with the dog, who is basically a 90 lb. tick magnets. Tea tree oil is toxic to dogs. (According to Pet MD, uou could could safely use .1% to 1% tea tree oil, but I doubt it would be strong enough to keep ticks at bay.) Our neighbors use garlic powder, sprinkled into their dog's food. When they told me this, I was surprised; I thought garlic was toxic to dogs. But further research online and in books indicates that it's a matter of proper dosage. The book All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets claims dogs can have 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder per pound of food, 3-4 times a week. (If your dog is anemic or has other health issues, talk to your vet before giving the dog garlic.) I plan to start feeding our dog this tiny amount of garlic powder to see if it really does keep ticks at bay.

How do you deal with ticks? Leave a comment and share your wisdom!

May 24, 2016

How to Repel Mosquoitoes Naturally

We hope we are soon moving to beautiful acreage - where mosquitoes are more prevalent than they are where we currently live. I really don't love the idea of spraying my family with DEET on a daily basis, so I've been researching some more gentle, natural ways to deter mosquitoes from biting us.

I have not yet tried any of these remedies (because we haven't moved yet), so the information I'm sharing here is strictly from researching trusted herbal sites, university pages, and the like. Experiment with me, and please let me know what works for you!

Plants that Repel Mosquitoes

In my research, I found many sources that claimed simply having these plants growing in your yard would repel mosquitoes. I am skeptical. It's believed these plants work by having a strong scent - a scent that covers up the smell of you to mosquitoes passing by. But most of these plants have a far stronger scent when the leaves are crushed (which is why they work in homemade mosquito sprays; more on that later.).

Nevertheless, I think it's probably worth placing these plants in areas where you are most likely to be troubled by mosquitoes - like a picnic table or grill. Just know that these plants will all work far better when crushed and rubbed on your skin. (But do use common sense; before you cover your whole body, it's a great idea to rub a little over a small area of your body and wait to see if you have any type of reaction.)

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
This is an easy to grow herb that has many medicinal uses, too. It likes sun or part shade, and can grow to 2 feet high. Like most herbs, it can take over the garden if left to it's own devices, so I recommend putting it in pots. Zones 4 -9. Learn more here.

Lemon balm. (Courtesy JoJan and Wikimedia Commons.)
Catnip (Nepeta faassenii)
In  a 2010 study by the Iowa State University Department of Entomology, scientists discovered that oil from catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes. This is another easy to grow herb that needs to be potted or it will take over your garden. Use with caution if you have one or more cats. Not only will kitties eat and roll in this plant, but it acts as a hard drug for them and, much like LSD, will give them flashbacks. Zones 4 - 8. Learn more here.
Catnip. (Courtesy of Kurt Stüber and Wikimedia Commons.)
Pyrethrum (Tinacetum cinerariifolium)
Pyrethrum is said to be excellent not just for repelling mosquitoes, but also many other insects, including aphids, bed bugs, leaf hoppers, cabbage worms, spider mites, and ticks. Zones 3 - 7. Learn more here.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Another easy to grow herb that should be potted, but which is thought excellent at keeping mosquitoes at bay. It grows in full sun or part shade and can get up to 18 inches high. Zones 3 - 7. Learn more here.
Peppermint. (Courtesy of
French Marigold (Tagetes patula)
French marigolds contain pyrethrum, which is used in many natural commercial insect repellents. Marigolds are very easy to grow, and gardeners often plant them near vegetables to repel aphids, too. Zones 1 - 10. Learn more here.
French Marigold. (Courtesy of Joydeep and Wikimedia Commons.)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender is an attractive herb with some medicinal uses. It's also said to repel mosquitoes. There are about a gazillion different types of lavender, so choose one that has a strong scent and fits your growing requirements. Zones 4- 9. Learn more here.

Lavender. (Courtesy of
Basil (Ocimum americanum)
This herb is best known for it's important role in the kitchen, but it also acts as a mosquito repellent. Zones 4 and up. Learn more here.
Basil (Courtesy of
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Eating garlic may repel mosquitoes - but only if you eat enormous quantities. However, the plants themselves are said to keep mosquitoes at bay - and garlic is not only a healthy addition to your diet, but medicinal, too. Zones 3 - 9. Learn more here.
Garlic. (Courtesy of
Floss Flower (Ageratum)
This pretty flowering plant grows between 6 and 20 inches tall, depending upon the variety. Choose a variety with a strong scent. Zones 3 - 9. Learn more here.
Floss Flower. (Courtesy of Thomas R Machnitzki and Wikimedia Commons.)
Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) 
Rosemary is an excellent cooking herb, has medicinal properties, and is said to repel mosquitoes. It loves a warm spot and will grow up to 5 feet tall. Zones 6 to 10. Learn more here.
Rosemary. (Courtesy of H. Zell and Wikimedia Commons.)
Snowbrush (Ceonothus velutinus)
This shrub grows up to 10 feet high in full sun or part shade. Zones 3 - 10. Learn more here.
Snowbush. (Courtesy of Walter Siegmund and Wikimedia Commons.)
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
entha pulegium

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb
Mentha pulegium),

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb
Mentha pulegium)

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb
Mentha pulegium)

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb
This old timey flower is a great ground cover, and is said to repel mosquitoes while attracting butterflies. It's also medicinal. Zones 5 - 9. Learn more here.
Lemon Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Some people say any thyme will repel mosquitoes; others say only lemon thyme will. Regardless, thyme is an easy to grow herb that I recommend putting in pots so it doesn't spread. Thyme is also an excellent kitchen herb, and medicinal. Zones 4 -11. Learn more here.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)
Another excellent kitchen and medicinal herb said to repel mosquitoes. Zones 9 - 10. Learn more here.
Lemon Verbena. (Courtesy of H. Zell and Wikimedia Commons.)
Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus)
Most likely you've heard of this plant, because it's the main ingredient in many mosquito repelling products sold in stores. Yet despite citronella's reputation, some people who've tried growing the plant to repel mosquitoes say citronella doesn't work at all, even when the strong-scented leaves are crushed. I include it here because plenty of others disagree. Citronella grows to be about 5 feet tall, but can be grown in containers, as well as directly in the soil. Zones 9 - 11. Learn more here.
Citronella. (Courtesy James Steakley and Wikimedia Commons.)

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent Sprays

I've looked at a lot of homemade mosquito sprays, but these three (or variations on them) appear to be the most effective.

Four Thieves Herbal Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Place 2 quarts of apple cider vinegar in a glass jar. Add 12 tablespoons of The Bulk Herb Store's Vinegar of the Four Thieves mixture. Put the lid on the jar and store in a cool, dark location, shaking once a day. After 2 weeks, strain, reserving the liquid. Pour the liquid into a clean jar; crush a few cloves of garlic and add to the jar. Allow to soak for 3 days in a cool, dark location, then strain again, reserving the liquid. Store in the refrigerator. Shake before every use.

Herbal Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Coarsely chop mosquito repelling herbs like lemon balm, catnip, lemon verbena, and lavender. (See the list of plants, above, for more ideas on what you could include.) Chop enough to fill a glass jar. Pour rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, or vodka over the herbs, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Place a lid on the jar and put it in a sunny location for 2 weeks, shaking the jar every day. Strain, reserving the liquid. Pour liquid into a spray bottle. Shake before every use.

Essential Oil Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Fill a spray bottle 3/4 full with either witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, or vodka. Add the following essential oils:
  • 10 drops mint
  • 10 drops citronella
  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 5 drops eucalyptus
  • 5 drops lavender
  • 5 drops cloves
Add distilled water until the bottle is full. Shake before every use. (If desired, you can experiment with the essential oils of other plants mentioned above.)

Homemade Mosquito Trap

This DIY trap is all over the internet. All you need is a 2 liter plastic bottle, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast. See the complete instructions over at DIY & Crafts.

Title image courtesy of icools.

I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website ( be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

Jan 4, 2016

What You Need to Know About the FDA and Natural Medicine

Last week, I received an email notifying me of FDA regulations that affect this little ol' blog. I wasn't the only one, either; in fact, bloggers all over the Internet are pretty darn freaked out about the FDA  preventing us from telling readers about natural remedies. This deeply saddens me, since for decades I received no help from the medical establishment, but am finally finding health through natural medicines. I recommend you learn what you can about natural remedies now, because every year the FDA is tightening things up to make it harder.
Part of the problem is that the FDA hasn't been clear about what they expect from bloggers. The email notification I received was actually from a popular affiliate program, concerned about following federal law. (An affiliate program is something nearly every blogger joins; we know we want to recommend certain items - in this case, natural medicines - to readers, and affiliate programs allow us to earn pennies if you happen to click on our link and buy the item.) This affiliate company stressed that the FDA makes it illegal for bloggers to make any type of disease claim. Unless I'm a doctor (which I'm not), or am talking about a medicine the FDA has approved for a specific use, I cannot recommend any natural remedy, I'm told. In fact, I specifically cannot even mention a disease (or a portion of the name of the disease). I cannot use words like "treat," "prevent," "correct," or any other word that might suggest healing or prevention. I also can't make "unsubstantiated claims" - in other words, claims about a medicine the FDA hasn't approved for a specific disease. Of course, the problem with this is that very, very few natural remedies have been studied scientifically; there just isn't enough money to be made selling natural medicine for scientists to bother studying them at length.

However, when I look at the FDA's website, I don't find any regulations like this for bloggers. I do see the FDA has all the rules I mentioned above for those who are selling herbal supplements. Therefore, I suspect the FDA is mostly concerned about bloggers who are making money (no matter how little) through affiliate links for natural medicine.

That said, I'm no lawyer, and many bloggers disagree with my conclusions. Indeed, given the fact that the FDA has been going after herbalists and other alternative practitioners, many of my fellow bloggers are convinced the FDA is trying, little by little, to make it impossible for consumers to learn about and use natural remedies.

I don't have the means to hire an attorney to figure this out, and the FDA doesn't seem to want to make this clear for bloggers. So I'm going to assume that if I'm just recommending something to you as a friend - not as someone who will earn anything off a sale - the FDA will leave me alone.

I didn't go into blogging to become rich. I blog because I want to help people. So I'm going to continue to recommend natural medicines I believe (often from personal experience) work. I just won't be earning pennies if you click on a link and buy a natural medicine.

In the meantime, though, I hope you'll try to learn as much about natural medicine as you possibly can. It's difficult for me to imagine the FDA won't soon be going after authors who write books about natural medicine; even if those authors are herbalists, there is no government-approved herbalist training, so the government isn't, in my opinion, going to consider those books proper medical advice. And from there...who knows where the FDA will go?

With that in mind, I recommend learning as much as you can about natural remedies. I'll be posting more natural medicine/herbal education links on this blog's Facebook page. You may also wish to view my Pinterest "Herbals" board. In addition, past posts from this blog will give you a nice start learning more about this topic:

Aug 8, 2015

Weekend Links

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons  
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

* Two adults have died of the plague - yes, THE PLAGUE - in Colorado. Actually, there are usually several cases every year in the U.S. It's one reason you might want to consider using Thieves' Vinegar to repel insects. I blogged about that in 2012. (P.S. A child caught the plague at Yosemite, too.)

* Got a mean rooster? Here's an excellent article on how to deal with him!

* If you grow corn, consider planting it early (or late) in order to avoid cross contamination with farmer's GMO corn crops.

Jan 7, 2010

Fruits & Vegetables - Even from a Small Yard

Winter is the time to plan your spring and summer garden, but what if you want to start growing some of your family's food, but don’t have room for a traditional vegetable bed or orchard? Or what if you simply want to use every available space in your yard to produce food? With a little creativity, you can grow food almost anywhere in your yard.

Growing in the Shade
Most vegetables and fruits require a full six hours of sun to produce decently. However, there are some vegetables that will grow in three to five hours of sun a day. These include: beets, lettuce, arugula, endive, cress, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, peas, Brussels sprouts, radishes, Swiss chard, collards, spinach, mustard greens, kale, beans, onions, garlic, chives, radishes, mint, blackberries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, and even strawberries.

Just be sure you measure your garden's light in the season the crops will be growing, since the amount of sunlight your yard receives can change from season to season. Not sure how to measure your garden's light? Simply choose a location in your garden and every hour, check to see if it receives at least six hours of sun. If you're too busy for that, use a handy little gadget called a SunCalc; all you have to do is set in the soil in the morning and read it in the evening.

Growing in the Front Yard
The newest trend in vegetable gardening is to dig up the lawn and replace it with a full veggie garden; this is an excellent option if your front yard receives at least six hours of sun, but do consider whether or not your plants will be too tempting for passers-by. My mother grows blueberries near the sidewalk, and each year people steal the fruit – some even bring buckets with them. At my own house, I’ve seen people stop their car, pull up to the mow strip (the space between the street and sidewalk, which I have planted with flowers) and pick a bouquet of blooms; I can’t imagine how much worse it would be if I had edibles growing there!

If your city allows it, a fence around your edibles, even if it’s only the short variety allowed in many suburban areas, can help deter thieves. Planting edibles close to the house – and especially the front door or large windows – may help, too.

If you don’t yet have trees in your front yard, or you’re willing to kill purely ornamental trees in your front yard, you can plant trees that produce fruit and nuts. Hedges that are only for looks can also be replaced with berry-producing shrubs like currants, gooseberries, pineapple guavas, blueberries, bush plum, hazelbert, natal plum, and American cranberry bush.

Some plants we consider completely ornamental also provide food, including roses (the petals are edible and many roses also produce rose hips), some honeysuckles, some dogwoods, and nasturtiums (which are great in salads). Excellent edibles for foundation plantings include current, blueberry, currant, gooseberry, natal plum, bush plum, and rosemary.

And try mixing some attractive lettuces, Swiss chard, pepper, scarlet runner beans, eggplants, chives, rosemary, lavender, carrots, artichoke, rhubarb, and okra in with your purely ornamental plants.

Go Vertical and Small
Many fruits come not just in “standard” sizes (the tallest variety, 20 to 30 feet, and sometimes taller), but also semi-dwarf (about 10 to 16 feet tall) and dwarf sizes (about 5 to 8 feet tall). Despite their small size, one semi-dwarf apple tree, for example, can produce 500 apples a season. And dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties live a long time, producing for about 15 or 20 years. Dwarf fruit trees can also be grown in pots that are 24 inches larger, making them somewhat movable. (Not all fruit trees will live longer than a few years in a pot, however. Check out this article by the University of Florida's on growing trees in pots before you make your decision.) Just remember that fruit trees usually need to be planted in twos to produce fruit.

You may also grow any size fruit tree in a style called espalier, meaning flat against a wall. Espalier takes patience and time, but with careful training and pruning, espalier fruit trees take up a small amount of space, but produces 30 to 60 pounds of fruit each season. If the idea of training a young fruit tree flat against a wall, fence, or trellis in your yard is intimidating, you can even buy already-trained espalier trees at some nurseries.

Some variety of apples grow in what looks like one tall branch; these are called “columnar” varieties, and grow 8 to 12 feet tall, but are only about two feet wide. These could be a great choice if you can't fit even a dwarf tree in your yard.

Many fruits also gr
ow on vines, making them fit more comfortably in many small yards than trees will. Kiwis, grapes, passionflower (some varieties produce fruit if you live in a warm area), hops, scarlet runner beans, and groundnuts are just a few possibilities. You can even go vertical by using planters attached to a fence or wall.

Think creatively! Squash, zucchini, and eggplant look gorgeous grown on a sturdy arbor. Beans grow up corn stalks, without taking up an extra row of garden space. With limited resources, herbs can be grown outside a hanging shoe storage device with fabric pockets.

Many vegetables and herbs can also be grown in pots, too. I don't recommend the hanging variety, except for small herbs, because most veggies need plenty of room for their roots. In addition, whenever you plant in pots, the soil gets leached of nutrients quickly. Therefore, always try to water your potted plants from the bottom. You can do this somewhat effectively just by placing a pot saucer under your potted plants and only putting water in the saucer, or you can buy or make an "earth box."

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