Herbal Remedies for Health

NOTE: The following information is not meant to be taken as a cure for any illnesses. If you’re sick, always contact your health-care professional. The information that follows is common folk medicine, which people have used from generation to generation.

In these times when people across the globe are stressed and anxious about the future, it’s important to maintain and strengthen our immune system. Look around your kitchen and you’re certain to find products that are beneficial to your health: fresh vegetables, fruits, spices. The kitchen, the garden, the meadows are gifts that are good for our health.

Every culture and every household have beliefs and recipes passed down from generation to generation. A number of herbs and products in Bulgarian folklore are believed to help us achieve this. Here are some of my favorites, plus a couple of tasty recipes with simple ingredients you can easily find.

Ingredients for Healthy Living. Photo by Nelinda.

Honey

Bulgarians honor bees and in the summer, on July 8, pay tribute to their patron, Saint Procipius, or Prokopia the Beekeeper. On this day, early in the morning, people who raise bees go to the hives to remove the first honey of the year. They burn incense, allowing the smoke to enter the hives. The beekeepers bring two pitkas (ritual bread) to the hives – one for God and one for the saint. They take the honey and the bread to the church, where the priest consecrates them with a special prayer. The beekeepers then spread the honey on the bread and give them to neighbors to ensure the health of both the family and the bees, so the bees will produce even more honey. The rest of the consecrated honey is used as a remedy for mumps, measles, and other illnesses throughout the year.

Honey is a delicious immune-stimulator! It’s rich in many vitamins, including B and C, and has iron, calcium, zinc, and more. Honey acts as an antioxidant, much like fruits and vegetables. Using it regularly will stimulate your body’s organs, helping to improve your physical and mental state.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm. Photo by Nelinda

The herb is native to the mountainous regions of Southern Europe, but you can buy it in the spring at Home Depot and other chains or local flower nurseries. The leaves of the lemon balm are well-known in Bulgaria and used in herbal teas. I have a few plants in my garden because its lemon smell keeps away mosquitoes and other insects.

Ever since ancient times, it’s been used to cure diseases resulting from the nervous system. The plant has a calming effect, it stimulates appetite and digestion, and suppresses nausea and vomiting. In folk medicine, the leaves are used to treat high blood pressure, dizziness, headache, vision problems, and tinnitus. Gargling with water infused with lemon balm also gets rid of bad breath.

Yogurt

Yogurt is an integral part of many Bulgarian meals. It’s served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I was a child, my grandmother used to make yogurt with jam and call it “ice cream.” It was a much healthier option than regular ice cream.

It’s good for the digestive system, bones, and teeth, but it also helps strengthen the immune system, fighting disease and helping the body resistant to infection.

Walnuts

Walnuts are rich in vitamin B, vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, iron, and mineral salts. They are also high in calories, so limit them to no more than 42 grams a day. Even walnut leaves are a natural remedy, often used in tea to help prevent atherosclerosis, goiter, and skin problems such as eczema.

Nettle

Nettle is also a gift from nature that appears in the spring. If you pick it yourself, make sure to wear gloves, because nettle is not a friendly plant; it “bites.” My grandmother used to say that if you pick up nettle with your bare hands, it’ll prevent you from getting arthritis, but I never tried this. You don’t have to go and look for it in fields, though, because you can buy dried nettle online or in your local farmer’s market. You can drink it as a tea or add it to soup. I like to add fresh nettle to cream soup.

Recipes

Honey-walnut elixir

Combining walnuts with honey creates an elixir that boosts the immune system, and fights colds, exhaustion, and anemia. The elixir is suitable for children, because it naturally increases the body’s defenses.

You’ll need medium-sized jar, about 24 oz. like the ones used to make jam. Cut a handful of nuts into small pieces. Then peel a medium-sized lemon and cut the fruit into small pieces. Add the nuts and lemon to a half jar of natural honey. Stir the mixture well.

Take 2 or 3 tablespoons once a day.

Tip: Don’t throw away a used lemon after the juice has been squeezed out. You can use it to clean your cutting boards. If you add a little baking soda inside the peel, you can use it to clean pots. It works like magic. I even like to massage my hands with lemon peels and yogurt. It makes them soft and cleans the germs naturally.

 

Dessert

Here is one of my favorite desserts using yogurt, walnuts, and honey. If you don’t like walnuts you can omit them.

400 g yogurt

4 Tablespoons honey

50 g walnuts (or other nuts)

Divide yogurt into individual bowls, one per person. Pour honey over it. Sprinkle with the chopped nuts.

Tip: You can bake the nuts for about 5 minutes in a preheated 220 degrees C (about 430 F) oven and then crush them and sprinkle them with milk. The dessert works well if you replace plain yogurt with strained yogurt. It’s best to look at the label and make sure it has Lactobacillus bulgaricus bacteria in it. You can substitute honey with liquid chocolate or your favorite sweet.

Be Kind to Our Friend, the Bee

In the continuing series of posts about Mom’s Favorite Reads authors, today I’d like to introduce you to Sylva Fae, renowned children’s book author.

Sylva Fae

Beautiful lady, and she looks sweet, doesn’t she? She is all that, plus a feisty woman who has a tenderness for those innocents we share this world with. This includes the fae and other beings you may or may not believe in.

(You can find her full bio at the end of this post. Also make sure to visit Sylva on each step of her blog tour this week. Click this link to find out who’s hosting her. )

One of those critters Sylva has written about is the bee. You’ll want to pick up her book, Bea & Bee if you haven’t already done so. She gives you tips on how to treat these wonderful insects.

Bea & Bee

You’ll want to take care of them. Read the excerpt below to find out why.

Did you know…?

Bees are essential for many species of trees and plants to exist. If all bees died, much of our ecosystem would become extinct and our lives would change drastically. Consider a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “If the bee disappeared from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”

I’ll leave you with a folktale story about the bee that you can find in my book Light Love Rituals:

Blessed Bees

Maria returns home to discover Baba telling her children a story.

“In the ancient world, bees were messengers between our world and heaven. One day God decided to marry the Sun. He invited everyone to the wedding except Satan.”

“Yah, he’s bad,” Niki says. “I wouldn’t invite him either.”

“Only that made Satan angry, so he came anyway. He joined a group of guests and laughed while pointing at God. This made God curious what Satan was planning. ‘Faithful bee, you are light of wing and swift of foot. Please find out what my adversary is saying.’ The bee flew away and landed on Satan’s hat to listen.”

“Rada tells me it isn’t nice to eavesdrop,” Niki says.

“In this case it’s okay, since God told the bee to do it,” Rada says. “It’s only wrong when you’re listening to my conversations.”

“Do you two want to argue or listen to the story?” Baba taps her fingers against her leg.

“Sorry, we’ll be quiet. Right, Niki?”

“Yes, sorry, Baba.”

“The bee was shocked at what she heard,” Baba continues. “Satan was saying God was stupid to marry the Sun. ‘Look how hot it gets in the summer with only one Sun in the sky. If they have children, all those extra Suns will burn everything.’ The bee flew to warn God not to marry the Sun. Unfortunately, Satan saw the bee and chased her.”

“Oh, no! Does he catch her?” Niki asks.

“No, but he shot an arrow. It hit her in the waist, almost breaking her body in half. Even wounded, the bee made it back to God and told him what she heard. God thanked the courageous bee and called off the wedding.”

“Let’s hope no bees show up at Helena’s wedding on Dimitrovden,” Rada says.

“I was her age when I got married, but it seems so young now.” Baba sighs. “But to finish the story, the bee was ashamed. Not because she was hurt, but because she had been so afraid of Satan she had wet herself. God told her, ‘Don’t be humiliated. I’ll turn your shame into a blessing. The mess you made will turn sweet-smelling and be given to others as a gift.’ The bee asked, ‘What about my body?’ God told her, ‘It will remain broken, but you’ll always be happy and sing.’ And that’s how the bee came to make the precious gift of honey.”

Sylva Fae – Mini Bio

Sylva Fae is a married mum of three from Lancashire, England. She grew up in a rambling old farmhouse with a slightly dysfunctional family and an adopted bunch of equally dysfunctional animals. She spent twenty plus years teaching literacy to adults with learning difficulties and disabilities but now lives in Cheshire, juggling being a mum, writing children’s stories and keeping up with the crazy antics of three naughty rabbits.

Her earliest memories are of bedtime stories snuggled up close to mum to see the pictures. It was a magical time, those last special moments before dozing off to sleep would feed dreams of faraway lands and mystical beings. She now wants to share that love of stories and inspire children to create their own magical adventures.

Sylva and her family own a wood and escape there at every opportunity. Adventures in their own enchanted woodland, hunting for fairies and stomping in puddles, have inspired Sylva to write stories for her girls.

Sylva published her first children’s book Rainbow Monsters, in 2017. She has since published four other children’s picture books, an anthology of Christmas stories, and has a short story published in the IASD charity anthology, You’re Not Alone. Two of her books have won Best in Category for children’s books at the Chanticleer International Book Awards. She also writes a blog, Sylvanian Ramblings, and enjoys doing developmental editing as part of One Stop Author Services. Recently, Sylva joined the editors’ team at Mom’s Favorite Reads and regularly contributes articles to the magazine.

Books to date

Rainbow Monsters – Winner of 2017 Chanticleer Little Peeps Award

Mindful Monsters – Shortlisted for 2018 Chanticleer Little Peeps Award

No Place Like Home

Yoga Fox – Winner of 2018 Chanticleer Little Peeps Award

Bea & Bee

Elfabet – Illustrated by Katie Weaver

Children’s Christmas Collection – With authors Kate Robinson, Paul Ian Cross and Suzanne Downes

That Pesky Pixie – a series of stories for a story app

  • An Itchy Situation
  • A Stinky Start!
  • A Dastardly Plan
  • A Feast for a Fairy Queen
  • Three Pesky Pixies and a Monstrous Mouse

Links

Blog                 https://sylvafae.co.uk/blog/
Amazon         author.to/SylvaFae
Facebook      https://www.facebook.com/SylvaFae
Twitter          https://twitter.com/sylvafae
Pinterest       https://www.pinterest.co.uk/sylvafae/

Prokopi Pchelar (Procopius the Beekeeper)

July 7, 2016

Prokopi Pchelar

A well-known Bulgarian livelihood is beekeeping. It’s no wonder the country has a day, actually two, honoring beekeepers. On July 8, Prokopi Pchelar (pro-copy pchee-lar) or Procopius the Beekeeper, beekeepers perform rituals to entice bees to produce an abundance of honey. They also give away jars of honey and bread coated with the sticky substance as a way to protect family and friends since they believe honey has magical and curative powers.

Aristaeus, Ancient Beekeeper

The first Thracian beekeeper was Aristaeus. He was indirectly responsible for the death of Eurydice, wife of Orpheus, the renowned lyre-player. Aristaeus became enamored with Eurydice and chased her. As she fled, she stepped on a snake, which bit her and she died. Thereafter, her companions, the nymphs, caused the bees of Aristaeus to die as his punishment. With the help of his mother, the water-nymph Cyrene, Aristaeus was able to bind the prophet Proteus, who then told him what to do to regain his bees.

“You have to appease their [the nymphs] anger, and thus it must be done: Select four bulls, of perfect form and size, and four cows of equal beauty, build four altars to the nymphs, and sacrifice the animals, leaving their carcasses in the leafy grove. To Orpheus and Eurydice you shall pay such funeral honors as may allay their resentment. Returning after nine days, you will examine the bodies of the cattle slain and see what will befall.”

Upon returning to the location, Aristaeus discovered a swarm of bees in the carcass of one of the slaughtered cattle. This led the ancient people to believe that bees were born from decaying flesh.

web_site_small

To learn more about this ritual and other Bulgarian and Thracian Rituals get a copy of our book: Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore.