Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stevia and Mint Tea For Cold Sores

 Ever since reading about stevia in Margaret Roberts’ herb book I have been fascinated. A herb that is sweeter than sugar, but is also good for blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and even fights against tooth decay? Too good to be true, it had to be. So when I was compiling a wish list of plants for my herb garden I added it in, not at all sure that it would be available in our area. To my surprise my sister-in-law returned with it that very day, along with two tea tree plants, which I’d also thought would be a rarity item.

Now my stevia plants have had a couple of months to settle in, I am finally daring to pick their leaves and try out some of Margaret Roberts’ recommendations. Her 100 favourite herbs book makes it incredibly easy to use fresh herbs for gentle medicinal use. Usually all you need is a quarter cup of leaves infused in a cup of boiling water for five minutes. Then sip. I’m constantly surprised at the flavours, which are mostly refreshing and delicious, not needing any honey, which is an optional extra, to sweeten them.

One of stevia’s properties is as an antiviral and antibacterial herb. I’ve just had a chance to test its mettle against cold sores. Horrible things, making your life miserable just when you thought you were getting over the cold that brought them on. Louise Hay says cold sores are caused by angry thoughts and sure enough this time one showed up on Monday when I was seething about the iniquity of banks. So now I’m a guinea –pig. Will a cup of stevia and mint tea a day help prevent the cold sore from developing, or at least reduce its ferocity? Re-reading the book I see it should be peppermint rather than garden mint and she also recommends adding elderflowers:

Margaret Roberts' tea for Cold Sores
1 tablespoon fresh or dried elderflowers
1 tablespoon peppermint sprigs
2 stevia leaves
Crush and chop the stevia leaves to release the sweetness. Pour one cup of boiling water over the herbs. Allow to steep for five minutes. Strain (or not) and sip.
Drink one cup three times a week to clear the Herpes simplex virus from the body.

So now I have two more herbs to add to my wish list. In the mean time I’m going to carry on drinking my stevia and mint tea. I think it may be helping and anyway it’s delicious; fresh and minty with a bit of sweetness that bursts into intensity whenever you bite into a little bit of the chopped herb floating in the tea. Perfect for sugar cravings too, as it has almost no calories and you can just pick a leaf and chew it whenever the need for a sugar fix overtakes you!

I’m looking forward to making a sweet syrup from stevia in summer to add to cool drinks and lemonade instead of sugar. All it needs is 10 leaves to a litre of water boiled for 15 minutes and you have enough sweetness to save you several cups of sugar. I’ll let you know how it goes and more to the point whether it passes the child-taste-test.

Cultivation of Stevia
Stevia is native to South America where it has been used since the earliest civilizations discovered it and named it honey leaf. It grows fairly easily in South Africa, being quite tough and just needing deep watering twice a week. It dies down in winter and sends up new shoots in spring.

Edited to add, two weeks on: I really do think this tea helped keep the cold sore under control. Although this was far from a scientific experiment, and I also drank a few cups of Melissa tea which helps too, the cold sore never developed into a full blown, crusty, miserable beacon and has healed fairly quickly. It also was less painful and tingly than usual. Margaret Roberts recommends drinking the tea three times a week over a period of time to clear the virus from the body, so I will continue and hope that I get fewer as time goes by!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Banking for Kids – B is for Bank Charges, O is for Overdraft

Bank accounts for children are a great idea. They can keep their pocket money safe, save their birthday money and learn how to use a debit card and ATM. If they don’t spend their money it just builds up until they have enough to buy that huge Lego kit or a computer game they are desperate for. Unless your children bank at FNB that is.

We opened bank accounts for our children two years ago, so that they could learn about banking and taking care of their money. We were happy to find that FNB provided a Future account, designed for children, with a debit card, three free transactions a month and no monthly fees. Money could be paid in and withdrawn at the ATM. The kids duly memorised their PINs and paid in their pocket money. Occasionally they used their cards to purchase a toy or a Christmas present, but mostly they were saving their money.

Until last week, when our 12 year old son tried to purchase a book at Bargain Books. He learned first hand how embarrassing it is to have your card declined,not once but three times, despite being sure that you had enough money for the purchase. Luckily his aunt was on hand to bail him out.

Back home I logged on to their internet banking and found that he had much less money than he thought. His savings had been whittled away over a period of time by R5 monthly fees. First thing on Monday morning I rang the bank sure that there was a mistake. No, I was informed, the accounts had been changed to include monthly fees the previous year and there were now no free accounts available.

On asking why I had not been informed of these changes, I was told that the onus is on the customer to check their accounts every month. For children’s accounts?

How can a bank like FNB that presents itself as a family bank offer a children’s account and then change it to start charging fees without informing the account holders by letter?

My son has now lost over R100, most of the money that he had left in his account from his birthday, in monthly fees and declined transaction fees.

Our children have learned a lesson in banking that their parents had not intended. Bank fees can run you into overdraft and you are better off keeping your money in your piggy bank.

Needless to say I am outraged, furious, frustrated and all the rest. We are taking this further with the bank, but in the meantime I am spreading the word any way I can. Front page of the papers would be good.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Herb Garden Growing

Has anyone seen my creativity?

I was sure I had it somewhere around here a while back...

Unless I buried it all in the herb garden and it still hasn’t sprouted.

Everything else is sprouting nicely. My rocket is ready to pick already and I’ve got some recognizable parsley and coriander coming up in not very neat rows. There is still a thrill in planting little tiny seeds and seeing them transform into real plants.

Which I will soon be able to pick. And use unstintingly in my cooking. It is however a lesson in patience. Each day I go out there and wonder whether I can just pinch one little leaf to put in a salad. And contain myself and wait.

Luckily some of the other  herbs I planted as bigger plants have settled in nicely.

I’ve been dosing my cold with lemon thyme tea, pinching sprigs of tea tree for gentle inhalation for the kids’ colds, taking a leaf of sage to go with thyme, lemon, honey and ginger for coughs and using the lemon balm/melissa in a soothing tea too.

There is plenty of oregano for tomato sauces and the stevia is getting big enough to try it out as a natural sweetener in cooking. I’ll let you know when I start experimenting.

The catnip is bushing out wildly, unmolested by the cats, who went mad over it and rolled it half to death when I first put it in. The fennel and chamomile have gone crazy and my established rosemary plant looks like an alarmed hedgehog with all its new spring growth.

And the new mulberries are ripening. We’ve been feasting straight from the tree a few berries at a time, but next year, moles allowing, there’ll be enough for berry muffins and summer pudding again.

It’s a growing patch full of wonderful energy, goodness and vitality.

I have a moon calendar on the wall and decided to go the whole way towards biodynamic gardening, planting by the moon, not just when it is waxing but in the most propitious astrological sign too. I know there is a lot more involved than that but am learning a little at a time.

There are a few rose quartz crystals tucked into beds and I’ve been moving them around nearer to any plants that seem to be struggling.

This little basil plant is lagging way behind its siblings, but is looking a little greener on top since yesterday when the quartz joined it... so maybe it really is working!

Even the grass, which is growing all over the garden from the compost we mixed in, has been useful. Whenever the children’s rabbits and guinea pig need feeding I go and weed a handful of grass for them. They convert it almost instantly back to compost!

I'm loving this whole sustainable cycle. Loving the fact that I can pick fresh herbs for teas as natural remedies for all sorts of ailments. Loving the fact that there are all those flavours growing just outside my kitchen.

Soon , soon, soon I’ll be able to try all those recipes that demand bunches of fresh coriander and parsley. Can’t wait.