My Obsession with Branch Basics

Ever since I ventured down the path of allergy-free eating, homemade herbal syrups and supplements, home brewed kombucha and fermented products, nothing is too far fetched for me to make at home as long as it is healthier than the product offered in the store.

I am teaching a weekly enrichment in my daughter’s 4th grade class called Amazing Herbs, which is a make-and-take class based on all the powerful herbal concoctions available within the palm of our hands. One of the topics I wanted to address was homemade cleaners. I am appalled that companies are not required to list their ingredients on their label, so I usually refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning to spot the safest, most transparent products on the market. What bothers me the most is that the exact same cleaning product can have a 1 safety rating in one scent, but if they also make the product in a different scent, the safety rating may boost up to a 6 or 7! Same goes for the same company — the safety rating for one product does not mean another of their similar products is also safe! So frustrating, both as a parent and as a consumer.

But what really pushed me over the edge is green-promoting Melaleuca, which boasts being safer for the environment and better for your home. The reality is that I have not been able to find a list of their ingredients for any of their products, nor has the Enviornmental Working Group rated them. I sadly have  bunch of this product in my closet because I thought it was the safest on the market only to find out they are one of the least transparent companies.

I’ve also heard that a good rule of thumb to purchasing cleaning products is based on ingestion — if you must call poison control immediately upon accidental ingestion, it must be an incredibly toxic product. If the label instead suggests drinking water in the event of accidental ingestion, then it must be relatively safe.

So, I began resorting to homemade cleaning products based on good old vinegar, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, and essential oils. And just as I was about to buy a huge batch to start making my own, I heard about Branch Basics from a health blog that I subscribe to. There was a sale on a starter kit, so I decided to take stab at it and buy a gallon of their concentrated liquid plus three of the refill bottles.

Low and behold, this concentrate is AMAZING! It has taken the mud stains out of my daughter’s white soccer socks, urine stains out of my child’s mattress, and grime off of my kitchen counters. I haven’t used it for my laundry yet, but that is definitely next. The crazy part is that this exact same product is safe enough to wash my hands, face, and even my produce! Though it’s not recommended to ingest, it is perfectly safe to do so!

I’m so excited that only ONE product does all of these things, it just needs different concentrations to do so. For super tough stains, I use the full concentrate. For foamy face and soap wash, I use a 1:5 soap to water ratio. When you purchase a starter kit, it tells you exactly what to do and how much to use! I add my own essential oils, so that each bottle smells differently based on what I want to use it for. I use peppermint for the foamy soap, orange for the all purpose cleaner, etc.

Want to know the ingredients? “Coconut oil, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids come from edible, leafy green and seed-bearing plants. They also use food-grade alcohol as a manufacturing catalyst, which is completely evaporated out before bottling.”

I am not an affiliate, nor am I receiving any promotional material for this post. I am just so excited that I’ve found an all-in-one cleaner that actually works! And right now everything in their store in 25% off site wide through Dec 31, 2014. Check out their products and let me know if you try it or not!

This is not to say that making your own cleaning products is not completely sufficient. I love this product because it’s affordable, plant-based, and it’s one less thing that I have to make at home because it’s equally efficient as buying it from the source.

Now if only they made deodorant…



How I Saved Mommy’s Day (a guest post)

Hi! I am Maleah, and my mommy got stung by a bee today!

20140418-142637.jpg She sat down on a chair that was warm and cozy, but then she was like “What is that?” and it turns out she got stung by a bee.

So, she called me to help her after Daddy gave her a goodbye kiss in case she didn’t make it through the pain. I found her steamed plantain leaves* that she had stored in ice cube trays in the freezer, then I put it on right where she got stung. Within seconds the stinging went away, and she fell in love with me all over again!


*Plantain leaves are nature’s band-aide, and according to A Kid’s Herb Book , it’s also “the bee sting plant.” I store plantain mashes in the freezer for these exact situations — to eliminate the stinging from bee stings, and to heal poison oak, cuts, wounds, and sores. The mash is made by lightly steaming dried plantain leaves in a bit of water for a few minutes, then adding the steamed mixture, including the water, to a food processor. Place the mash in a cheesecloth (this is when it is called a poultice) and put directly on the area needed. Store extra mash in ice cube trays in the freezer for easy access in the event of an emergency like the one today 🙂

Dried plantain leaves can be purchased online from Pacific Botanicals or Mountain Rose Herbs

Homemade Herbal Remedies

My son was up a few times on Wednesday night with a cough, so I woke up early to put together a few homemade herbal remedies for him. I recently took an 8-week class called Beginning with Herbs hosted by Sweet Herb Medicinals, and it was an amazing, empowering class. I now have my own tiny apothecary of herbs and spices that I’ve been dying to put to work. My children have been bragging lately about how they don’t get sick because they get frequent doses of Fire Cyder (also known as Cyclone Cider on the SHM website) and Elderberry Syrup, which has kept them immune throughout the school year. When I see sick children around them, I increase their doses of my immunity-building treats, and they stay healthy. The key is to catch the illness as soon as there are any symptoms.

So this morning I was proactive and started looking through my favorite kidsherbbookherbal book called A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages — and this book has been perfect for me in my beginning stages of herbs. I am gaining more knowledge and comfort with the basic 13 herbs discussed in the book, and I purchased each of the herbs mentioned, so I always have them on hand. The best sources to purchase herbs and supplies are from Pacific Botanicals and Mountain Rose Herbs.

Since my son had a cough with phlegm and wasn’t feeling hot or cold, I made him the following:

HERBAL TEA FOR COUGH herbalteamullein

1 tsp mullein, 1/2 tsp elder berries, 1/2 tsp elder flowers, 1 tsp wild cherry bark, 1/2 tsp licorice root, and let it steep for 3-5 minutes in 1 1/2 cups of water.

HERBAL SYRUP FOR COUGH herbalsyrupmullein

1 ounce of the following herbs: mullein, licorice root, wild cherry bark, elder berries, elder flowers, medicinal ginger spice, and lemon balm, then I simmered in water until reduced, then added raw organic agave syrup (because I ran out of raw local honey), and organic vegetable glycerine.


The herbs used for these herbal pills are marshmallow root, licorice root, fennel seed,
and astragalus root, combined and sweetened with with raw organic agave. The picture shown is solid form prior to baking the pills. We call this herbal “goo” that can be kept in its solid form in the refrigerator for up to six months instead of taking the extra time to measure, form, and bake these pills.

It may have been overkill with all of these different options considering he was barely sick, but I left him home with the babysitter today, and I didn’t want it to be stressful to remember when to take what, so I wanted him to take whichever one of the three options above he felt like taking every few hours.

Low and behold, these herbal remedies really did work, and I’m happy to report that his illness did not progress. Usually when my kids start out with a cold, they always end up with the croup for several days. Because I now pay close attention to symptoms, I am able to combat the start of the illness at the onset and keep it from getting more severe.

I’m pretty much in love with all of my newfound herbal knowledge, and I highly recommend learning from an herbalist, so you also can offer your family that extra level of customized health care.

*Disclaimer: This information is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. This is general information for educational purposes only.

Gifts for Coaches

My two oldest children (ages 6 and 9) joined the Cross Country team this fall, and they have fallen in love with running. Their culmination was running in a 5K, and they both did an amazing job, neither one of them stopping even once for a break. To thank their coaches, I debated between gift cards and homemade gifts, and I opted for the later. Behold the gifts my kids will be presenting today — Homemade Vegan Granola and Organic Sore Muscle Ointment that provides so many relief options for swelling, bruising, sprains, surface wounds, insect bites, eczema, burns (including sunburn) and arthritis. The amazing Master Herbalist Bridget Owen of Sweet Herb Medicinals helped me create the perfect herbal mixture, and I used Organic Sunflower Oil for the oil infusion and Organic Beeswax for the ointment. I hope they enjoy their gifts as much as I enjoyed making them!