Category Archives: home remedies

Combatting the sniffles with natural antibiotic tea

feeling-sick[1]feeling-sickYesterday a few of the kids along with dh and myself woke up with the sniffles and a sore throat.  I had all the ingredients for this natural antibiotic tea on hand and decided to make a double batch to combat the germs going around.  This is a recipe for the brave and adventurous!  When you see the ingredients, you’ll understand just why.


Powerful Antibiotic Tea


  • 1 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 t. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 t. powdered ginger or 2 T. raw ginger
  • 1 t. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 licorice root
  • 2 T. mullein

MIx all the ingredients together in a pot.  Pour 2 quarts of boiling water on it and let it steep about thirty minutes.  Strain the tea mixture through a cheesecloth and add the sweetener of your choice.  (I usually add the stevia leaves to my tea mixes but forgot to add it this time.)

Drink this throughout the day until it’s all finished.  The best time to take it is as soon as you feel you’re coming down with something but it’s helpful even after you’re already feeling under the weather.  This is very spicy and is best drunk as quickly as possible!



How to help your teeth remineralize

Did you know that your teeth are a vibrant, living part of your body that reflect the state of your general health?  What is exciting about this is that it means you can do something to improve the state of your dental health – and I’m not referring to brushing two or three times a day.  Teeth can heal – remineralize – when given the opportunity.

Recently I shared about ds5’s many cavities.  I also wrote about my plan to give the kids xylitol water to drink five times a day, after every time they eat, to alkalinize their mouth bacteria.  (By the way, since then ds4 and ds11 have had dental check ups – no cavities for either one.  Ds5 is our outlier!)  Too much oral acid is the cause of all cavities, regardless of any other factors – brushing really isn’t a critical factor in preventing tooth decay.  Bacteria can’t survive in an alkaline environment, so this is the first step – kill the bad bacteria.  Also, teeth can’t remineralize in an acidic mouth, so the ph needs to be changed to alkaline so that your teeth can absorb all the good nutrients you’re eating.

Next I’ll share about some other things that can be done to help teeth heal naturally.

The first thing is some information that was totally new to me!  If you’re familiar with Dr. Weston Price’s work,  Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (post with link to free online copy is here), you know that Activator X is the powerful factor that he identified as being responsible for dental health in traditional societies, and this is what we need to have for dental healing. Usually high vitamin butter oil combined with fermented cod liver oil is recommended for your Activator X fix.  But guess what I just learned?  That Activator X has been identified as Vitamin K2 – Mk4, which is available as a vitamin supplement.  Now, doing a little more research showed that although this is the best form to get in your Activator X from food, it’s not the best form to get it from supplements.  As far as supplements go, K2 – mk7 seems to be a better choice.  (There’s a disagreement on this but I prefer the position found here and you can read up on it if it interests you.)  This is something I can order online and have mailed directly to me in Israel, something I can’t do with the fermented cod liver oil and butter oil, so this is a much more doable option for me.

That doesn’t mean that your child won’t still benefit from cod liver oil and butter oil  – they will!  They both are beneficial in many ways, and if you can afford this, then go for it!  Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin D, among other things, which is important for strengthening teeth.

The next thing I’d like to do is cut down on our bread intake.  Since the kids took sandwiches to school every day, bread has become an integral part of their daily diet, and I don’t mean homemade sourdough from freshly ground organic wheat kernels!  Far, far from it. For quite some time I’ve been thinking how nice it will be nutritionally once the kids aren’t in school because they can have a higher quality diet than they do now. That begins with dramatically cutting down on bread.  The reason for this is that nutrients are absorbed directly through your teeth, so you want to cut out foods that are high in phytic acid at the same time that you increase your intake of high quality foods.  (For general guidelines on beneficial nutritional changes to make to benefit your teeth, see my post about how to improve dental health.)

Cutting down on other grains isn’t too hard, since we don’t use that many.  We occasionally have pasta, kasha and most often, rice.  But we can use more potatoes and squash in place of these starches.  My goal isn’t to totally go grain free, just to have a better ration of higher nutrient foods. Although it’s recommended to totally cut out all foods with phytic acid, that basically leaves organic vegetables, meat and eggs  and I don’t think that’s financially realistic for most people – definitely not for us at this time.

There are some good nutritional habits that I had for years that I slowly got out of the habit of.  It’s so easy to get out of good habits!  But to be very fair, not just to myself but to all you moms out there, these are things that take head space and conscious thought as well as time, and often none of those factors are in overabundance.  I’ve had way more things that I’ve wanted to do than the physical ability to do them!   Not only that, once we moved overseas everything got harder – I spent years finding sources for all the different foods I used, and suddenly was back to square one, with a different language, no car and different product availability to boot!  But some of the good habits are just as easy to integrate here as in the US, it’s just a matter of making the effort again.

One of these habits to get back to is regularly fermenting vegetables.  I stopped since I don’t have a food processor and when I make a big batch (2 – 4 gallons) of kimchi, it’s a serious time investment.  The easy ferments like pickles stopped turning out well (a couple of weeks ago week they turned out too salty, before that they were too mushy) and until recently I didn’t consider it a priority to take the time to figure out what factors had changed and experiment – the time and energy issue again! This is very important for your digestive health, since pathogenic gut bacteria will affect your mouth bacteria and probiotic foods and supplements are a critical part of building up your healthy gut bacteria.  (Edited to add: a blog reader emailed me to share that K2 is present in lactofermented sauerkraut, and that adequate K2 lessens the need for supplemental calcium – thanks, Iris!)

Another habit is making bone broth.  I stopped with that pretty recently when the weather got hot, but that’s an easy thing to reinstate.  It doesn’t take much time or effort to prepare, but it’s filled with minerals and then you can use the broth in anything you cook that calls for liquid to boost the nutritional value.

Something else I’d like to do is give ds5 specific homeopathic cell salts for dental health.  Though I purchased these while living in the US and they made the move along with us, giving it to the kids never became part of our daily routine.  (Anything that requires me to do something 3 – 5 times a day, and can’t be done at the same time as meals is very challenging to integrate into my daily routine.)  The dosage is two pellets, four times a day.  As with all homeopathics it’s important not to touch the pellets.  Just shake how many you need into the lid and pop them in your mouth.  Here are the  cell salts that are most beneficial for strengthening teeth:

Calcium Phos 6X – bone health, gives solidity to bones and assists in building strong teeth.

Calcium Fluor 6X – assists with improving enamel of teeth and strengthening bones.

Magnesium Phos 6X – bone development & quick pain relief associated with toothaches.

Silica 6X – assists in building strong connective tissue to support deficient assimilation.

For now I’m not making any appointments to have ds5’s cavities filled (I was told he’ll probably need at least six appointments to take care of them all).  It’s possible that it may eventually be necessary to have them filled – I already point blank refused to use amalgam when the dentist brought it up (why in the world are they still using toxic metals to fill cavities when we know so much about how problematic it is???) but there are other reasons that I’d like to avoid fillings if possible.  Fortunately with school over I’ll have much more control over what kind of foods everyone is eating.

My goal is to to alkalanize the saliva in ds5’s mouth so that the cavities can heal while at the same time changing the oral conditions that have previously led to cavities for him.  The main challenge isn’t knowing what to do, but being able to consistently apply what I know!  My life is always very full, but I’m hopeful that I can apply enough of these strategies frequently enough to see positive changes.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)


Homemade herbal diaper cream

Recently we began giving Yirmiyahu a special hypoallergenic formula, hoping that this will resolve the wheezing that began when he stopped exclusively having mother’s milk.  Unfortunately, just like when we tried soy formula, his bottom began bleeding within a day of having it – clearly something in the formula is irritating his skin (he also simultaneously developed a slight rash around his mouth both times).  And the wheezing has only slightly improved.

The obvious thing to do is stop giving him this formula, but we were told that we need to give his body time to adjust to it.  That’s what we’ve been doing, but everyone dreads when he needs to be changed – he’s usually a very easy going baby, but now he screams when he has a dirty diaper and it takes a few minutes until after the diaper is changed until he stops.

With our last nine children, I’ve almost never used any kind of diaper cream.  The only thing I can remember is applying coconut oil twice when one of them had a yeast infection.  Then again, they were all exclusively nursed. and he hasn’t been, so unfortunately I’ve needed this pretty often to deal with the side effects of different formulas we’ve tried.  However, this is so bad that the standard zinc oxide cream just isn’t enough.  So I decided to make my own supercharged herbal diaper cream.

Homemade Diaper Cream

  • 2 cups coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. comfrey
  • 1 T. yarrow
  • 1 T. echinacea
  • 1 T. St. John’s wort
  • 1 T. chamomile
  • a few olive leaves
  • 2 oz. beeswax pastilles

The first thing you need to do is infuse the oil.  There are two ways to do this, quickly or slowly.  The slow method is to let the herbs sit in a jar of oil for 4 – 6 weeks; the fast method – which is obviously what I needed – is to mix the herbs with the oil and then gently heat it.  This can be done over a double boiler on a low flame for two hours, or in a covered ovenproof dish for three hours at 200 degrees.   I asked one of the kids to do this step, and should have chosen the second choice since we don’t have a double boiler and the herbs got a bit crispy.  Still usable, but it made the final product a darker color.  Strain the oil through a fine mesh cloth.

Mix the strained oil with the beeswax pastilles (I bought them at the local health food store – 45 shekels for 400 grams), gently reheating them together and stirring the mixture until smooth.  Once it’s finished, pour the warm cream into containers of your choice; wide mouth is preferable for access.  I used a two cup size plastic container for household use (past experience showed me it was a mistake to use glass jars for something taken out so often by so many different aged children), and a smaller four ounce lidded tin to keep in the diaper bag.  It solidifies once it’s cool.  The yield is a bit more than two cups.

Most recipes for salves and creams call for extra virgin olive oil as a base, but I prefer to use coconut oil for the antifungal and antibacterial qualities that it has.  I used coconut oil for the huge batch of first aid salve that I made over three years ago that lasted until now (actually, if we hadn’t moved we’d still have some – we only had room to bring one small jar with us), and I was very, very happy with how effective it was.  My inlaws (who got some for Chanuka the year I made it) gave me back the empty container a year later and when I returned it to them refilled, they told me they were very happy I took the hint :) – they said it was excellent.

I decided to boost the healing properties of this cream by adding in a number of herbs that are anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and soothing.  I considered adding in lavender essential oil but decided that enough was enough.  :)   It’s not necessary to use all of these herbs; you can use the comfrey and add in as many or few of the other herbs as you have, keeping each one to about 1 tablespoon.

I just started using this for Yirmiyahu so I can’t say how fast it’s worked, but from past experience with a similar salve I’m optimistic that it will be very helpful.  Though I created this to be used for diaper rash, it can be used for burns, bug bites or cuts.  In a home with small children, a good multipurpose antibiotic cream is worth its weight in gold!


Home remedies for the flu

I realized early on this week that all the kids had the flu (funnily enough, ds18 called home and he has it, too!), though I didn’t feel like mentioning it to anyone in person because I didn’t feel like answering the inevitable question: “You didn’t give them a flu shot?”  Because if I was asked that, I would have felt it necessary to explain that the underlying assumptions about the effectiveness of the flu shot are false, along with a host of other points that I didn’t feel like getting into about vaccines concerns.  And sure enough, the first person I mentioned the flu to exlaimed, “What, you didn’t give them a flu injection?  I take it every year and I never get the flu!”

I really dislike that the seasonal flu is now on its way to being considered life threatening, along with everything else that we have vaccinations for.  Sure enough, this same woman told me about how many people die every year from the flu – as I said, I know when starting even a casual conversation about a topic like this how ready you have to be to intelligently counter the ‘facts’ that people have heard.   

Anyway, let me not get onto the flu vaccine issue!  The flu isn’t fun but it’s really just a super bad cold, and if you can find ways to move through it faster or more easily, that’s a good thing!    Everyone around here has been sleeping lots and drinking plenty of fluids (chicken broth and tea).  My go-to remedy for any sickness is high doses of sodium ascorbate dissolved in juice, but not all of our kids like taking it like this.  

I realized tonight that my brain was on automatic, and I needed to pause and think about other remedies I might have on hand that would be helpful for the kids.  Here’s what I thought of:

– Aconite – this is a homeopathic remedy ideally given at the onset of the flu, which I didn’t do because I wasn’t thinking along these lines.  The early dosage would be 3 pellets of 30 c each; I’m thinking three daily doses along for treating it at this point would be good.  Homeopathics aren’t my first line of defense because it’s not the area I feel most competent with (and I don’t know what happened to most of my remedies when we moved), but I do have aconite on hand so this is a good option even though we didn’t catch it early. 

– Most people are deficient in vitamin D, especially in the winter when the sun isn’t out as often and doesn’t shine as intensely.  Did you ever think about why it’s so common to get sick in the winter and not the summer?  Our vitamin D levels have a lot to do with that!    One of the main immune system functions of vitamin D is to help trigger production of a substance called cathelicidin. Cathelicidin is a naturally produced antibiotic that is able to be made only in the presence of high vitamin D levels in the bloodstream.

The littles have been having cod liver oil a few times a week, but the rest of us haven’t been very consistent with it after my initial efforts.  That’s a good option for vitamin D, but I have high quality vitamin D3 in my cabinet, and this has been shown to be very effective in fighting the flu.  (I researched this back when there was the H1NI/swine flu hysteria going around – here’s one article if you’re interested.)  3000 – 5000 IU of vitamin D3 seem to be recommended just to maintain adequate vitamin D levels; today I gave everyone 10,000 IU right now to fight the flu (this includes all the kids from age 9 and up – the littles are getting just 5000 IU). 

Olive leaf tincture- I made a good sized batch of this back in November.  So I pulled it out and put it to use!  Rather than make everyone aware I was giving them a dose of it, I made a big batch of regular tea (which everyone requests as soon as they wake up from their extended naps), and added a couple of spoonfuls of the tincture to the large container.  The heat will cause the alcohol to evaporate, and the flavor is hardly noticeable because it’s so diluted.

Also, yesterday my first batch of home-cured olives were finished!  These were from the olives that I picked on an outing with ds5 and ds2.  I thought I’d share instructions for this process once we tasted them, but I’m not fully satisfied with the end results – they’re okay but still have a hint of bitterness underneath.  However, as I was eating some today, I was thinking that the effective component in olive leaves is oleuropein, which is bitter.  And the reason that you spend three weeks curing the olives is to remove the oleuropein.  So maybe our health is benefiting by eating olives that still have some bitterness remaining in them!!

A couple of kids had ear pains in addition to other symptoms, and I fortunately had a batch of what I call my ‘ear oil’ already prepared!  Very simply, this is minced garlic that has steeped in olive oil to pull out the healing properties.  Strain, and put a few drops into the ear that has pain.

Another child had red and irritated eyes yesterday – I usually use the homeopathic euphrasia for something like this, but as I said above, most of my remedies disappeared when we moved.  So I did a bit of googling to see what I had in the house that would be useful, and learned that an eyewash made of fennel seeds or raspberry leaves would be helpful to bathe his eye. 

It’s nice to be able to deal with this at home – everyone is feeling kind of yucky, but it’s so valuable to have something in my home arsenal to help my family. 

What are your favourite home remedies for the flu, or even just a cold?   Have you tried any of the things I mentioned, and if so, how effective were they for you?


(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)

Steam treatment for head colds

Today my diligent dd15 went to school in spite of my strong recommendation she stay home another day until she was fully over the flu.  She insisted she felt fine and needed to get back to school, so that she wouldn’t miss too much material.

But the weather today shifted from warm and balmy to cold and rainy, and she came home definitely sick.   Tonight dh suggested that she do a steam head bath, something I had prepared for him a while back when he had a head cold.

This is a simple but effective remedy that will help clear head and nasal stuffiness, as well as chest tightness.  You boil a pot of water, then pour it into a large bowl.  Add a few drops of essential oil to the mixture – tonight dh used eucalyptus oil, but tree tea oil or anything else with camphor-like qualities would also be good. These help clear the sinuses out, and can be found in most health food stores.

[There’s a lot of hype around the quality of different essential oils, and though I happen to use the ones that many people claim are the best (Young  Living – because I was able to barter 60 pounds of spelt for a few bottles of these oils before moving!), I personally have some skepticism about that claim.  I think for this kind of steam treatment, most oils that you find in the store will be helpful.]

After adding several drops of essential oils to the bowl of boiling water, lean over the bowl and drape a towel over your head to hold in the steam.  When I do this, I try to breathe with my mouth open to let the vapors into my lungs (I do this when I have tightness in my chest that makes it hard to breathe).  If you feel it’s getting too hot, lift the towel very briefly for a couple of seconds or totally emerge from the towel.  I try to do this for as long as there’s still steam remaining but it really depends on how you’re feeling – when you’ve had enough, then stop.

When you finish, either pat your face dry or rinse your face with cool water (to close your pores).  Also, have a couple of cups of water to replace any fluids you may have lost during the steam inhalation.  There will usually be a noticeable improvement in how you’re feeling!


(This post is part of Monday Mania and Real Food Wednesdays.)

How to make olive leaf tincture

I firmly believe that in every locale, there are potentially medicinal plants that will be of value to you.  However, it means letting go of thinking there are certain herbs that you must have – for example, in the US I had easy access to plantain, dandelion, and burdock, and it’s a mental shift for me to not feel like I need them when those were well within my comfort zone.

Here in Israel, there are olive trees all over.  And I already knew that olive leaves were good for you, since I bought them a couple of years ago as part of a big herb order.  Seeing the abundance of olive trees here on our very first day prompted me to learn more about how I could include this in my natural medicine chest.

First of all,a little about olive leaves (the following is from the Bulk Herb Store website, where I ordered my herbs from):  Olive leaf is a natural antibiotic and antioxidant that can help or prevent many diseases. The active compounds have been reported to act as an anti-microbial agent, which slows invaders enough for the body’s natural immune system to react. It exhibits powerful anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties that fight over one hundred viral and bacterial conditions. The result is a natural antibiotic and antioxidant with similar effects to garlic and onions… It also works to lower high blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, improve respiratory response, improve skin health, heart disease and fatigue. Olive leaf can rejuvenate your vitality and energy, enhance your immune system, supports your cardiovascular system and promote general health and well-being.

An easy way to use olive leaves is by making tea with them – just brew the leaves with some water, mix in a little sweetener, and drink up!  I also used a concentrated olive leaf tea to wash down ds12’s foot when he had cellulitis.  Be warned that the effective ingredient in the olive leaf is bitter, which is why I suggested sweetener!

So that’s one way to use it, but I like something even faster – having a big family means that I have to find ways to accomplish what I need to as effectively as possible.  There’s also a limit to how much tea you can drink, and when you’re really under the weather, it’s likely you’d like something that will be powerful and effective, without leaving you bloating and running to empty your bladder every fifteen minutes.

Enter olive leaf tincture.  (Read here to learn how amazing olive leaves are – I felt so lucky after learning all about them that I can easily harvest them for free here.)  Making a tincture means that you draw out the medicinal qualities of the herb, and simultaneously preserve it for long term use.  Ideally this can be done with alcohol, though in the past I’ve chosen to use vinegar and glycerin to make tinctures, since I thought my kids would prefer those flavors.  Alcohol stores the best, though.

The instructions for making olive leaf extract/tincture are ridiculously easy:

1) Wash the leaves well, chop finely or shred in a food processor, then  place in a glass jar.

2) Cover with 80% proof vodka.  (A funny story – I asked dh to pick up some vodka at the store for me to make this.  When he went to get it, an elderly Russian man approvingly commented to my husband, who tried to explain that he was getting it for medicinal purposes.  I had also asked dh to pick up some lemon juice for salads, and when a little later in the store the same elderly man saw dh holding the bottles of vodka and lemon juice, the man smiled knowingly and smirked, “Right, medicinal.” )

If you’re using fresh leaves, then the ration of leaves to vodka is 1:2 or 3; ie, if you’re using 8 ounces of leaves, then you’d need to cover them with 16 – 24 oz of vodka.  If you’re using dried leaves, the ratio is 1 leaves: 5 vodka.

3) Seal the glass, and let it sit in a dark place for at least two weeks, but up to six weeks.  (Mine was ‘brewing’ for almost four weeks.)  Shake it every once in a while and make sure the leaves are all covered by liquid; add more vodka if you need to.

4) After two weeks, you can now strain it out.  If you have those wonderful amber colored dropper bottles (like I did, but gave away before we moved, sniff!), then pour it in there for easy use.

5) Use your tincture!  Here’s a good site with information about how to determine your dosage.


(This post is part of Monday ManiaHomestead Barn Hop, Traditional Tuesdays, and Real Food Wednesday.)

Round 2 – dealing with cellulitis

This week I’ve relearned a lesson that I thought I had learned really well by this point in my life – not relax and leave things in the hands of the experts.

A day or two after completing the antibiotics for the skin infection he aquired when he got chicken pox, ds12’s leg started swelling up again.  He showed it to me in the evening, and we got an appointment first thing in the morning.  The doctor was sufficiently alarmed to get us an appointment with an orthopedist right away – literally, we got pushed to the top of the list of people who had been waiting weeks for an appointment.

I was very grateful we were able to see someone so quickly, since the pediatrician told us if the orthopedist wasn’t available that morning, he’d need to send us to a local hospital with an orthopedist on staff.  His concern was that the skin infection – officially called cellulitis – could spread to the joints and lead to arthritis.  (If you’re a medical person and that doesn’t quite make sense, keep in mind that this conversation was in Hebrew and included some medical terms I’m not yet familiar with, so I might have missed some nuances or details.)

The orthopedist prescribed a different antibiotic (which I was glad about, since the option had been to give him intravenous antibiotics), and home we went, prescription in hand.  We also started giving ds vitamin c at this point, about 8 – 10,000 units that day.  The next evening, ds12 showed me his leg – it was now hurting him a lot, and the infection was clearly spreading to his foot from his ankle.  (I could tell because the skin was flushed red, and when I put my hand to his foot, it was very hot.)  At this point, I wasn’t going to tell myself he had been on antibiotics for a day and a half, and it would probably kick in soon.   Because if I was wrong, the consequences could be serious.

This was a little frightening, particularly as I don’t have a strong feeling of trust in the orthopedist that we saw – no doubt he’s competent, but he was very quick and very brusque.  I tried to picture what he would say if we returned, and it seemed he would either brush us off and tell us it was nothing (I’m far from a worry wart, and it was clear to me it was definitely something with the potential to turn major in a very short time), or tell us it was an emergency and to get to the hospital. Where they would….I don’t know what, give him more antibiotics??

I decided we would take him to the orthopedist in the morning (if still necessary), and in the meantime, would get more actively involved in the healing process with the hope being we could reduce the infection before morning.  So I gave him cream to put on the pox mark, which was swollen tight, along with all the skin around it.  A short while later, it started oozing pus – I’m really glad I didn’t see this, since dd15 was there and said it was the second most disgusting thing she’s ever seen in her life (the first was a goat abscess being treated – JB, you know what she was referring to, right?:)).

(Don’t read the following if you’re squeamish.) What was so hard for her to watch was as ds lightly touched the skin next to where the pus was oozing out, a huge amount of thick green pus suddenly burst out, streaked with red.  They told me about this a few minutes later, and I was actually happy to hear this news, since I felt some of the infection was being released from the body, hopefully rather than being passed into the bloodstream.

We rinsed the area with hydrogen peroxide, then sprinkled sodium ascorbate (vitamin c) on the wound opening.  At the same time, we had been upping his vitamin C intake dramatically – about 30,000 by the time he went to bed.  A little later, it started oozing pus again (but not dramatically like before), and we did a hot compress, followed again with hydrogen peroxide and vitamin C.  And prayer.

When he woke up, I felt his leg and foot, and the heat was gone.  I was so thankful.  There was no more pus coming out, and today, we continued with massive doses of vitamin C – 50,000 units – we’ve never experienced a child taking this much without shedding the excess – but it means his body is using it all.  He’s continued the hot compress routine.  (Of course he’s still taking the antibiotics.)

Tomorrow we’ll continue the vitamin C, but decrease the dosage, and start to put salve on the wound instead of vitamin C to heal the skin and start to close up the wound, which thanks to all this excitement has gotten bigger than the original pox mark.   No tests have yet been done to determine what kind of bacteria we’re dealing with, but it seems to be a powerful strain to not have responded fully to the first round of antibiotics, and then to not respond quickly to the second round, even though it was at the very beginning of the infection.  I’m mentally prepared that we will probably need to stay on top of this for a few months to be sure it’s really and truly gone; if I’m wrong and it’s easily finished in a week, I’ll be delighted.

When ds12 took the first round of antibiotics, he didn’t do anything else.  I mentioned that I wanted him to use the salve I made and take vitamin C, but I didn’t make sure he did it.  I guess I was a little complacent, feeling like I had done my part by getting him to the hospital, giving him the prescribed antibiotics, and it would all get better without any more active involvement from me than reminding him daily to take his medicine.

This entire experience was a good reminder for me as a mother to stay very actively involved, even when working with medical professionals.  You can’t relax and assume it will all be okay because you’re doing what someone else told you (as nice as it would be to relax a little) – you still have to keep a constant eye on things and watch, watch, watch.

What would a medical professional have told me to do in this circumstance?  Not what I did, that’s for sure.  But it doesn’t matter  – the main thing is that ds12 kicks this infection.  And I hope the healing process will continue in a straightforward way from here on out.


And now a staph infection…

(In case this appears in your inbox, don’t be worried – I just corrected the title of this old post and sometimes this causes it to post as something new.)

We’ve had a doozy of a time trying to get our health insurance established here in Israel.  To recap, as returning citizens, every family member over the age of 18 has to pay almost 10,000 shekels each (approximately $2700) in order to start our membership in the local health care clinics.  Half of this is refunded within a few weeks, the other half is refunded after a year.

Dh and I figured this expense into our plans, but we didn’t anticipate all of the difficulties in taking care of what we thought would be pretty straightforward.  The weeks stretched on, we repeatedly went to the National Insurance office, and dh and I finally decided to stop trying to fight a battle that can’t be won.  We were at the point that we needed to have the refunded money in hand already to cover our living expenses for the coming month, and had very little faith that if we did pay the money, that we’d get it back. We’ve just seen too much inaccuracy and incompetency, and we didn’t want to risk money we need for our living expenses on office clerks doing what they’re supposed to do, after seeing that they don’t know what they’re doing.  And we were warned that they like to get as much money as they can, and refund as little as possible.  We can’t afford to not get our money back as promised.

So dh went to the local health clinic to find out about getting private insurance for the next four months (after six months of being a resident, the national insurance will automatically kick in without having to pay the large fees).  When he got there, the clerk looked at the computer and told him that I and the kids are already covered!  This was such a nice surprise, and it came just in time.

Ds12 has had a really bad case of chickenpox.  He was burning up for a few days, the inside of his mouth is covered with pox and it makes it very difficult for him to eat or drink anything, and to top it off, he has an infected ingrown toenail that I’ve been working on treating for the last couple of weeks but still looks pretty bad.  I was relieved that we were able to bring down his 105 degree fever, though it went back up to 102 yesterday afternoon.  (I shared about natural chickenpox remedies here , and in the comments, shared some of what I was doing about the fever.)

You know the phrase, ‘no rest for the weary’?  Well, that’s what came to mind when the morning his fever broke, just a couple of hours later he showed me his noticeably swollen ankle.  This worried me, and I asked dh to make an appointment with a doctor – I didn’t yet have any of the info about the health clinic or I would have taken care of it myself.  He went to make the appointment, and an hour and a half later, ds18 told me that ds12’s foot was turning black and he was losing feeling in his toes.  Yes, this freaked me out.

I was so anxious that by the time dh got home a very short time later, I was really uptight.  He said there was a line at the clinic, and because of the Sukkos holiday, the clinic closed mid day instead of at 7 pm,  so he made an appointment for the next morning since he didn’t think it was urgent.  “Tomorrow??  No, no, now, he needs to be seen immediately, it can’t wait until tomorrow!” – yep, I was really stressed.  I rarely take my kids to the doctor, and the very fact I had asked for the appointment was a sign that it was important.

Ds18 told me that ds 12 overheard me talking to dh and it was making him stressed out and to calm down.  But at times when I’m afraid I’m dealing with something serious I don’t have the tools for, the unknown combines with my desire to take the very best care of my children possible and feels like a huge emotional weight.

Ds called the clinic to find out what kind of medical help was available.  Oh, nothing, until tomorrow morning.  How can we live in a city with 52,000 people and there’s no medical help for that amount of time?!?  Well, it seems there’s some kind of emergency station a few minutes away from us, but it’s not clear to me what kind of help is available there, and when the nurse on the phone heard ds’s symptoms, she said there are sometimes complications of chickenpox in older kids that affect their joints and it sounded like that might be what’s happening, and to get him to an emergency room right away.

Easier said than done.  Since our move, we don’t have a car, and we don’t even know where the closest hospital is.  This is such a huge difference from having a car and a major hospital five minutes away, which was our situation until two months ago.  Since moving to Israel,  I use public transportation (and enjoy it!), but taking ds to the hospital by bus wasn’t an option.

We called a couple of friends with cars to ask if they could drive us to the emergency room in a neighboring city, but they weren’t available.  We then called the person we hired a number of times to pick up the furniture we bought from private sellers on a number of occasions to ask him to take us, and as soon as he heard we needed to go to the emergency room, said, “I’ll be there right away”.  And he was.   He’s not a close personal friend, and we called him assuming we’d pay him a few hundred shekels for the drive.  He insisted on waiting two or three hours at the hospital, and when he brought dh and ds home, refused payment.  Can you imagine that?  He said the main thing is that my son is healthy.  We are so blessed with good people in our lives.  (Dd16 made a couple of big gorgeous loaves of challah that we’re planning to take to him today as a tiny token of appreciation.)

At the hospital, they took an xray, and when the podiatrist who was supposed to look at it finally arrived, the xray wasn’t loading for him on his computer.  He was impatient, took a quick look at ds’s leg, and told dh that there was no need to take the xray, it’s not a joint problem and not directly connected to the chicken pox, but is a skin infection that gets into cuts or wounds (in this case it was next to a pox).  (This is what ds12 told me earlier in the day, that the pox right next to it was hurting and he thought it was connected.)  That was a relief.

Dh asked him about the ingrown toenail (which looks bad and though I’ve been treating it, would like to know it’s healing properly), and the doctor says, “It’s an ingrown toenail.”   Umm, yes, we know that.  The question is, is it healing normally or do we need to do something else?  “Come back another time for that, right now we’re dealing with the foot.”  Is he joking??  He’s a foot specialist looking at swelling a few inches from that toe, and after they were waiting two hours for him, he can’t take one minute to tell us anything without making a separate visit?  Sheesh.

He prescribed antibiotics and an antibiotic ointment for the foot, as well as a painkiller.  This is the first time ds12 has ever taken antibiotics or used an antibiotic cream (none of our kids except ds18 have taken antibiotics until now – ds18 had them twice).  I don’t know if it’s any better than the salve that I made that we use, but we’re giving him antibiotics and continuing to keep doing what we’ve been doing (mega doses of vitamic c, chicken broth, olive leaf tea) along with adding in probiotics to offset the negative effects of antibiotics.

So thank G-d though it looks bad and it’s very painful, this morning he was limping but able to walk on the foot (last night he had to walk like a crab, sideways, and pull his leg after him), and hopefully it will be better soon.  It’s a relief just to know what you’re dealing with, you know?

And ds didn’t mind the trip to the hospital – dh bought him some ice cream (ds told me the cafeteria was basically a small room filled with snacks – you’d hope in a place dedicated to healing this wouldn’t be the case!), and during the drive there, he enjoyed seeing an Arab “from a thousand years ago” in traditional garb with a shepherd’s crook herd twenty goats down a sidewalk in the city of Nahariya, which is where the hospital he went to was.  Social studies.  :)

You want to hear something funny but not funny?  Last night, ds12 told me he got worried when he heard that I was worried.  (I tend to be pretty laid back about heath issues and handle things that come up with out getting too worked up.)  I told him that I got worried when I heard ds18 describe his leg to me (as above), and ds12 said, “What? I didn’t say I lost feeling in my toe!  He touched my toe and I said it didn’t hurt!”  And it wasn’t turning black, either, though the healing skin is a darkish pink color, it was just ds18’s way of describing it – so though I’m glad we took ds to see a doctor and had already asked dh to make the appointment before ds18’s description, my extreme worry was based on the equivalent of ‘broken telephone’!

And PS – this morning dh went to the health clinic and the computer now says that I don’t have health insurance.  :(  Apparently it was delayed in processing all the relevant information.  But the kids still do, and we had it in place when we really needed it!

(This post is linked to Real Food Wednesdays.)


Natural chickenpox remedies

Well, it’s happened – five more of our children have come down with chickenpox in the last 36 hours, two weeks after ds5 came down with it. :)

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to alleviate the discomfort of chickenpox.  I’ll start with homeopathy.


a) If you recognize the chickenpox early on, give aconite.  This will bring it to an end very quickly, without compromising the immunity benefits of getting chickenpox.  I learned about this over twelve years ago from a friend who used it at the first sign of chicken pox, and it was over in a day.   I couldn’t find a local store that sells homeopathic remedies, was fortunate to find a friend in the area with a homeopathic kit from whom I was able to borrow the two remedies I needed, but not in time to give the aconite to ds12 and dd10, who broke out first.  But I am giving it to ds2, ds4, and ds9,  and their cases are (so far) significantly lighter than the two older kids  or ds5.

b) Then there are some other remedies you can give, but the main one I’ll mention here is rhus tox.  Rhus tox is good for alleviating the itching, and I’m giving the two older kids rhus tox 30x (3 times a day for 48 hours).

c) Chamomilla is a good remedy for soothing.


Lots of people recommend Aveeno to relive the itchiness of chickenpox – but do you know what Aveeno is?  Oatmeal!  So open up your pantry and use the oatmeal you already have there, and it will be lots cheaper and just as effective.  I  put the oatmeal in a knee high nylon and knotted it at the end, to allow all the helpful substances in the oatmeal to seep out, while keeping the oats themselves out of the drain.  Ds5 had a great time playing with this in his bath, and there was no mess at the end when I let the water out of the bath.  The older kids didn’t play all day long in the bath like he did, but they also found it soothing.

I added some herbs to the oats to speed the healing: chamomile and comfrey.  The chamomile is for soothing, and the comfrey is to help soothe the itching and heal the pox.  (I was so glad I decided to bring my medicinal herbs along with me when I moved!)  I used a tablespoon of each herb combined with a cup of rolled oats (I chopped the oats in a food processor but this isn’t necessary).  Lavender is another good herb to include in the bath.

A couple of other things that can be helpful in baths are baking powder, and powdered ginger.  With ds5, I sprinkled baking soda on the damp pox to alleviate itching.   I didn’t bring along the large containers of powdered herbs that I used for cooking as well as for medicinal purposes (like mustard, cayenne, and ginger), so I didn’t use that.

Another herb that is soothing is slippery elm powder; it can be applied directly  on wet pox.

Cool baths are more soothing that hot baths, which can exacerbate the discomfort of itching.


All of these herbs are good when brewed as tea:  lemon balm, echinacea, St. John’s wort, ginger, pau d’arco, and burdock.  I have most of these, but chose to make ds12 some tea with echinacea and cut stevia (the leaf) for some sweetness.  All of these would be good added to the bath, as well.

Essential oils:

Before I moved eight weeks ago, I bartered fifty pounds of spelt berries and six pounds of natural beeswax for several small bottles of essential oils – lots easier to bring with me!!  Naturally, of the four oils that I now have on hand, I didn’t have any oils that were of help in this situation.

Here’s a couple that can be diluted with a carrier oil or some chamomile tea and applied to the pox: tea tree oil and lavender oil.  A few drops can also be added to bath water.


When dealing with any cold or infection, it’s good to build up the body’s resources to aid it in fighting germs.  Vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin D are always good for any kind of cold. (I posted guidelines for vitamin C dosing here.)

Vitamin E oil is great to apply on the pox to reduce scarring.  Coconut oil can also be helpful when applied to the pox.


Good nutrition is always important, especially when a child is under the weather.  Now’s not the time to give them sugary treats to make them feel better; they’ll be happy for the moment but it will slow their healing.  Lots of liquids are important to keep your child hydrated; I made a huge pot of  chicken broth with garlic and astragalus that we’re going through quite quickly!

Some other external things that can be applied:

Calendula cream – helps to heal pox after they’ve scabbed.  Witch hazel can also be applied to help dry the pox out.

What not to use:

I’ve always thought of calamine lotion in the same breath as chickenpox, but after learning that it’s suppressive, didn’t go out to buy any for this go around with chicken pox.  While it dried up the lesions, it keeps the toxins from exiting the body through the skin like they need to – you always want to allow the disease to leave the body!

Similarly, I personally try to stay away from fever suppressing drugs – eg Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, aspirin, etc. I believe that fevers aid the body in healing, so when a child has a fever that spikes (like ds12 right now), I use sponge baths or a damp cool cloth on the forehead to relieve excess heat.

Have any of your children had chickenpox?  What tips have you found helpful in alleviating their discomfort?

(This post is linked to the Living Well Blog Hop and Real Food Wednesday.)



On the first day of Rosh Hashana began, ds5 showed me a blister on his neck that was bothering him. He couldn’t see it, but felt it, and told me he had a wart there. Since recently I’ve been noticing unusual bug bites on ds4 that I don’t know the source of, I chalked this up to another kind of insect bite. I asked if it was itchy, but he said no.

The next morning ds5 told me the ‘wart’ was hurting him. Thinking it must be a bug bite, I asked him again if it was itchy, and he said no. When I was dressing him that evening, I was concerned to see a number of red bumps all over his back. He’s had a heat rash in that area recently, but this was looking like a bit more than heat rash. We wondered if it might be chicken pox, but it’s been fifteen years since I’ve seen it so I didn’t have a recent memory to draw on, and ds wasn’t itching.

Dh went across the street to a retired nurse to ask her opinion, but she wasn’t home. On his way back into the building, he bumped into a neighbor who has three grown children, and asked her opinion. ‘Chicken pox’, she proclaimed. Dh came upstairs and shared the good news with me. :)

My oldest three kids had chicken pox, though the third was only a few months old, and though she had a pretty bad case, I don’t know if she has immunity. The next six kids haven’t had it, though I’ve been hoping for years they would catch it. I explained to ds5 that he had chicken pox, which was awesome and amazing, so much so that some people make chicken pox parties to share the germs with children of parents who want their kids to aquire natural immunity.

That’s a problem with homeschooling – your kids stay too darned healthy without all the sick kids in their class to infect them constantly. After all these years of keeping my eyes and ears open for families with chicken pox, it took less than a month in school and no effort on my part for ds5 to catch chicken pox! Who knew how awesome school was and what I was missing all these years?

The worst part about this news was that it was on the second night of Rosh Hashana (Thurs.) when we realized what it was, and there was very little I could do to alleviate his discomfort for another two days. Fortunately, he didn’t really get itchy until Sunday, though by Friday morning I could almost see the spots breaking out on him as I watched him, they were appearing so fast. On Sunday I made him a bath with a blend of oats and herbs, and he spent most of the day in the tub; every time he’d come out, he’d cry that he was itchy, then jump back in the tub and I’d add more hot water. He looked like a prune by the end of the day, but he was a relatively happy prune. 😛 The next day I gave him different shaped containers, cups, and silverware for his bath, and he had a great time. Ds4 kept requesting to join ds5in his bath, but I told him he had to wait until he gets chickenpox.:)

Shown for educational purposes and not to gross you out - full breakout stage

When the chickenpox vaccine came out in 1995, it was well-known that it was developed as a convenience to working parents. Chickenpox basically consists of an itchy rash, mild fever, and general fretfulness, and necessitates keeping your child home from school for about a week. And a week is a long time for parents to stay home from work. So most people thought it was ridiculous and superfluous.

Fast forward about fifteen years, and it’s frightening to me how many people think that chickenpox is something life-threatening. A lot of effort was put into PR to make so many parents who grew up with chickenpox as a normal passage of childhood to believe this. This is a pattern with disease education; when there’s no disease, you’ll read how relatively infrequent it is and how minimal the chances of complications are. Enter a new vaccine, and the slant totally shifts to convincing people they run the risk of severe injury or death if they don’t give their child (or self, when appropriate) the particular vaccine. Well, there’s lot of money to be made if you can convince parents that they need your product, so who can blame the producers for finding an effective way to line their pockets? Fortunately, the mothers I’ve so far spoken to here all expressed the unanimous sentiment that it’s a good thing for a child to get chickenpox at a young age.

Anyway, I really didn’t want my kids to reach adulthood and not have chickenpox, because it’s when people get chickenpox as adults that there’s a problem (when it manifests as shingles). There are exceptions, but for the most part getting chickenpox once offers lifelong immunity. Unfortunately, as chickenpox has become less common during childhood, the incidence of shingles has become correspondingly higher.

So far no one else in the family has shown any signs of pox, but the incubation period averages about two weeks, and it’s during this period when a person is most contagious. When my oldest three had chicken pox, it took six weeks until it passed through all of them.

So I’m hopeful that this will pass around and all the kids will get it.