Why I Bought Bleach (AKA How to Kill Norovirus) |
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Why I Bought Bleach (AKA How to Kill Norovirus)

admin March 7, 2014

sick

Image by The Italian Voice

I don’t usually get too personal around here.  But I am absolutely fed up right now.  I’m hoping that *at least* my recent experiences will help some of you.

It was about two weeks ago — or close to it.  One of my children began to complain of an upset stomach.  There was a truly nasty stomach virus going around, and I had been sort of hyperventilating about it, ready to stay in solitary confinement, anything not to get sick.  Of course that is not possible, we have to go to the grocery store and such.  We avoided major indoor play spaces, though.  Still it was so nasty that I practically felt like we would get sick just from reading peoples’ stories through the computer screen.

These stories.  People who were violently ill for 24 – 72 hours.  Some were nearly hospitalized for dehydration.  Still others probably should have been.  People who slept in the bath tub because they were too sick to leave the bathroom.  Really crazy stuff.

So when my child complained of a tummy ache, I thought — oh no.

For the first five days, it seemed like it might be okay.  Kids were taking turns with minor stomachaches and some diarrhea (sorry for TMI), but everyone was eating and playing and acting normal.  Maybe we would get through okay.  Maybe this was it.

But then it was Friday night.  For the first time in months, we had planned for my parents to come and visit the next day and take the kids for the morning, so that we (my husband and I) could go out alone.  I was praying, please let us get through this night with no one sick.  Please let us have this reprieve.  (It had already been a stressful few weeks with some minor colds, earaches, a baby who napped late and wouldn’t go to bed, and so on.)

No.  The 4-year-old woke up sick at midnight.

On Monday, the rest of the kids got sick.  Then my husband.  Then I did, on Wednesday.  One kid was better for a couple of days, then had more issues.  He seemed to be getting re-infected, some two or three times already (as of this writing).  I’ll spare you the gory details of all of this.

All of this was despite daily detox baths, ingesting clay, drinking lemon water, taking heavy-duty probiotics, and all the usual stuff that kicks (or even stops) stomach viruses.

By Thursday, between the stress of all of this, lack of sleep from caring for sick kids (and myself), and generally not feeling right, I hadn’t eaten more than one or two “real” meals in a week.  I struggle a bit with anxiety anyway, which is centered around people getting sick, so this was not helping my frame of mind.  At all.

I broke down.  I went to Walmart.  And I bought poison to clean the house from top to bottom.

What Is This Nastiness?

This, as far as we know, is norovirus.

Norovirus is responsible for many stomach bugs — most, in fact.  (Rotovirus, salmonella, and others are responsible for the rest.)  It can make people really, really sick because of the way it works.  Many are sick for about 24 – 48 hours, sometimes a bit longer.  It’s typically rather “explosive” and leaves you weak, but doesn’t last too long.

Unfortunately, it can also be a slow and steady illness, lasting several days, which is what has happened to us. It is also possible to get re-infected, as the virus can mutate quickly.

In a house with four littles, who need adults to clean them up and who aren’t exactly conscientious about sanitation, we’ve got a major problem.  A kid can walk around with a dirty diaper and sit on surfaces or even touch it and wipe hands on things, before we catch them.  They can forget to get to the bathroom on time.  They can forget to wash their hands, or not do a good enough job.  And we can’t police them all closely at all times.

Norovirus comes with:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

If you’ve had a stomach virus like this, and it seems to be clinging more fiercely than usual, then you might be dealing with norovirus.

The thing is, the virus can live on hard surfaces for a few days, and it can live in carpets/towels/etc. for up to twelve days.  So there are lots of ways to become reinfected.

Thankfully, it is not (generally) airborne.  But it can get into the air if someone vomits forcefully, so watch out in bathrooms especially.  Still you have to inhale it or touch a surface and touch your mouth to catch it.

This is some nasty, nasty stuff.  But there are ways to kill it.

Getting Rid of Norovirus

I’ve been researching this for days — on mainstream sites, on alternative sites, talking to herbalist friends, and more.  I have a number of tips on how to kill it at this point, and I’m working my way through this list myself.

Use Gloves

Protect your hands from all the chemicals you will be cleaning with and use gloves.  You may also choose to use gloves when changing dirty diapers or cleaning up soiled towels or sheets.

Use Bleach

Nothing much kills norovirus besides bleach.  I’ve looked and looked, but this seems to be one of those times that bleach is simply necessary.  Oregano essential oil does kill norovirus too, but not as effectively.  I recommend using both.

Bleach everything possible — use diluted bleach to spray down toys, surfaces, clothing (where possible — color-safe bleach doesn’t work though), trash cans, etc.  I bought bleach-containing wipes to clean up many things as well.

Boil Cloth Diapers

I believe that one of the children is getting reinfected because of not-completely-clean cloth diapers.  I haven’t bleached them and the hot water in the washing machine doesn’t get hot enough.  The potty trained children are fine, and the baby (who hasn’t had much diarrhea and has separate diapers) is fine.  It’s just the toddler who keeps having issues.

Very hot water will kill norovirus, too.  So if you can’t bleach something, boil it.  Boil diaper inserts for several minutes, and dip covers for 5 – 10 seconds (don’t want to melt the plastic parts).  Put babies into disposable diapers for a few days until diarrhea is clear, and all diapers are boiled to stop reinfection.  Boil towels that have been thrown up on or used to clean up messes too.  In fact, use disposable stuff for cleaning messes if possible so you don’t have to — I used a combination of paper towels and cheap microfiber cloths.

Steam Clean Carpets and Surfaces

If there are any upholstered surfaces in your home that have been thrown up on (especially) or may have been touched with unwashed hands (not as big a deal), steam clean them.  That means carpets, couches, chairs, etc.  This nastiness can live on these surfaces for up to 12 days, so you don’t want to mess around.  You probably can’t bleach them, so stick to steam cleaning.  A little oregano oil in the cleaning water couldn’t hurt, either.

Use Hot Washes on Everything

Water has to be really hot (I believe over 160) to kill norovirus.  Wash everything possible, especially if it is soiled, on hot.  Boil it if you can.  This means wash all towels, sheets, and clothing on hot water, even if the label says not to.  What is worse — possibly shrinking/ruining the clothing, or getting sick again?

Throw Stuff Out

If you can’t get it clean, throw it out.  This includes pillows, cheap clothing, cheap blankets or towels, cheap toys, etc.  Just get rid of it.  You don’t want something that’s going to hold onto this.

If it’s a true favorite item, try boiling or steam cleaning, then putting it away for a couple weeks so that the bugs will die.

Get Rid of Plastic (Where Possible)

Plastic can easily hold onto germs, unfortunately, just because of how it’s made.  Get rid of any plastic items that may have been contaminated (like vomit buckets or bowls).  But drinking cups, eating bowls, spoons, etc. — get rid of them, too, especially if they’ve been used by sick people.  I’ll be replacing mine with glass and stainless steel as much as possible.  It won’t be cheap…but it’s safer.

Clean All Toys

Any and all toys should be cleaned.  Submerge them in bleach water for a few hours then rinse and allow to dry.  This is especially necessary for plastic.  If there’s anything cheap, then just throw it out — I’m getting rid of most of our bath toys.

Larger toys can be sprayed with bleach water and allowed to dry.

Clean All Hard Surfaces (Especially Those Often Touched)

The most important areas to disinfect include often-touched surfaces — door knobs, light switches, rails, fridge handles, cabinet handles, and so on.  I used disposable bleach wipes for this job.  Don’t forget backs of chairs, leather couches, table tops, and so on.  Plus laundry baskets that are used to carry soiled laundry to the basement!!  You could even wash money (coins).

Diffuse Essential Oils

Since oregano oil does help kill norovirus, it’s a good idea to diffuse it in the air.  I have this diffuser and will be putting it in different rooms of the house over the next couple days and allowing it to diffuse for a few hours (longer for larger rooms, less for small bathrooms).  You can do this in rooms where people are currently sick, too, to help them.

Spray Essential Oils

If you don’t want to use bleach, or want to clean surfaces that you’re not sure are contaminated, then spray diluted oregano oil on these surfaces.

Wash Hands A Lot

The only way you can get infected is by putting something contaminated on your hands, then into your mouth.  If you wash your hands frequently and try not to touch your face, infection (or reinfection) is much less likely.  I bought foaming antibacterial hand soap that has an active ingredient of benzalkonium chloride.  It’s not super safe and I wouldn’t recommend it long-term (Dr. Bronner’s with a few drops of tea tree oil is going to be much safer), but this ingredient does kill norovirus.  We’re using it temporarily.  Once we’re sure that norovirus is gone, we’ll pour it out and use the pump bottles for safer soap.

Drink Lots of Tea

The tannins in tea, according to my herbalist friends, will inactive these viruses in the gut.  These include pomegranate fruit and leaf, blackberry leaf, raspberry leaf, black tea, nettle tea, and more.  It’s ideal to drink it frequently to keep this junk at bay.  These tannins are also known to stop diarrhea and nausea, so it’s just a good idea.  Blackberry leaf is pretty mild in flavor.  I’ll be making big batches of blackberry leaf and nettle tea (mixed together) and storing it in the fridge in half-gallon glass mason jars.  Try to use glass, not plastic.  Adding a small amount of honey and even a pinch of Real Salt can help replace lost electrolytes from illness.

Take Probiotics

Help your gut flora out by giving it the good stuff — probiotics.  I take Garden of Life for Women, and my kids have this version.  We also have yogurt, kefir, Bubbies pickles, and other probiotic-rich foods.  A lot of the good flora is getting washed out during illness, so help your body replace them.  I also have noticed that I’ve had somewhat fewer issues with this, possibly because I take probiotics.  The mostly breastfed baby has had the mildest case of all.

Take Detox Baths

Hot baths with bentonite clay can help to pull the “junk” out of your system.  We do these daily during illness.  Use about 1/2 – 1 c. of clay per bath and soak for 10 – 20 minutes.

Drink Clay or Charcoal

If you cannot stop vomiting, wait a short time to allow your stomach to settle, then take bentonite clay or activated charcoal.  This can be done in capsules, or dissolved into a drink.  These absorb all the “junk” in your system and help to carry it out.  This is more of a remedy for “in the middle of” the worst of it.

Isolation

Keep sick people away from non-sick people.  Ideally, in one room.  This will help prevent the spread.  I put two sick kids on my bed (covered in towels, a blanket, then a sheet, with additional towels on their laps) and kept them upstairs, and kept the healthy children downstairs.  This protected people (and my bed).  If you’re dealing primarily with older children or adults, you may even be able to stop it from spreading to more than one person.

Grace for Mamas

This stuff is hard.  It’s really difficult to be sleep deprived and to have people getting sick again…and again…and yet again, just as you think it’s over.

Do what you have to do.  In most cases we like to avoid chemicals, but occasionally it’s just not possible.  There is no shame in this.  You do what you have to do to keep your family healthy!  I wouldn’t (don’t) recommend cleaning like this all the time, but when there’s something truly nasty — that is why we have this stuff.

As for making it day to day during something like this, do what you need to do to cope.  Forget the dishes, forget to take out the trash.  Just get through it, and then get back to all those things.  It’s okay to leave it for awhile, and rest.

Have you faced norovirus?  How did you beat it?

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32 Comments

  1. This is kind of depressing! I thought if you took lots of probiotics, didn’t eat sugar, etc. that your chances of getting this flu were pretty slim…

    Reply

  2. We dealt with this a few weeks back. My 2-year-old went down for a nap, woke up halfway through and vomited everywhere. Couldn’t keep anything down at first, even my milk, and we ended up taking him to the ER out of concern. (They gave us nausea meds, which helped significantly… didn’t stop him from vomiting completely, but they reduced it and helped him sleep it off for a day.) I came down with it the following night (not surprising, since he vomited all over me a few times) and my husband got it the day after that. I wish we had known what we were dealing with so that we could have taken more precautions to keep ourselves from getting it too! My husband and I recovered fairly quickly, but I realize now that my son probably got reinfected a few times; he would go for a day without throwing up, and I’d think he was better, and then he’d vomit again, although these times were not nearly as violent as the initial time was. I was washing stuff in hot water, but it definitely would have helped if I had broken down and gotten some bleach. And continuing to use the cloth diapers through his upset-tummy poops didn’t help either; I wish I had known to boil them, although I was using hot water to wash. Ah well; now I know for next time. It all lasted about a week for my son, and he’s back to his usual cheerful self now. But our experience with norovirus was very, very unpleasant, and I will be saving this article in case we encounter it again.

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  3. So sorry you guys are dealing with all this. You have a good plan to deal with it all, but it must be exhausting to have to do all that while not feeling well. Best healing wishes to you!

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  4. Wow! So sorry! I thought we had Norovirus a month or so ago, but it was definitely not as bad as what you’re going through. Ours lasted about 24-48 hours, spread out over almost a week as it hit each of us…1 year old, 3 year old and me (Papa avoided it somehow). With two toddlers in diapers and without the know-how to puke in a container or toilet…it was a rough several days and then with me getting it last, the house was a disaster for another week after as I recovered and then attempted to disinfect everything. I hope you all beat this soon, and that you can have your night out too!

    Reply

  5. Where did you get disposable wipes with bleach? Are you talking about Clorox wipes? I didn’t think those actually contained bleach. I try to keep it natural as well, but after my sister came down with a stomach bug while satying with us, about an hour after my daughter’s birthday party one year, I had to do some quick research and came to the same conclusion you did. I didn’t know that benzalkonium chloride would kill it, however. I know that alcohol based hand sanitizers will NOT kill it, but that Clean Well products did a better job–not as good as bleach or a good old hand washing, but better than other hand sanitizers. I’ve been buying the seventh generation wipes to keep in the car when I need some on-the-go sanitizing because they are “powered by Clean Well.” I don’t know how effective they are, but it makes me feel better anyway. I saw you recommended oregano oil. I just wondered if you knew anything about thymol or thyme EO as well. What would you think about just using your regular Dr. Bronner’s soap and water mixture in the foaming pump and adding oregano oil (or thyme, which is what Clean Well uses) to make it a natural antibacterial soap? Not as effective?

    Reply

  6. We had this all last week(2 adults, 3 kids). Nasty stuff.
    I am still washing linens, towels etc. as I type this.
    I steam cleaned the kitchen floor today also.
    We eat pretty healthy, take elderberry syrup every day etc. and still all came down with it.

    Reply

  7. These are all really awesome ways to help you get better when you have norovirus….would they also be good ways to prevent it too?

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  8. There is a study that shows that the virus can become airborne when someone vomits, and can travel at least 150 feet. Someone vomited in a crowded restaurant, and patrons who continued to finish their food, even in the back corners of the restaurant 150 feet away, became I’ll a few days later with the same virus.
    The last time my family dealt with Norovirus my toddler, who had been confined upstairs, toddled into the kitchen and threw up on the floor right as I was pulling dinner out of the oven. I had to throw dinner out and order in for the night…but that was better than infecting the rest of the family. Something to keep in mind.

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  9. Take colloidal silver & use myrrh & a collection of young living oils such as rosemary, thyme, white Angelica, Idaho tansy etc will help kill all fllu/ stomach virus. 🙂

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  10. This sounds like what we are experiencing right now, how do you know for sure if you have norovirus? Is there a way to confirm that’s what it is?

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  11. So glad as I was reading this that you mentioned essential oils. I have to say, although we haven’t experienced the norovirus, every illness we have encountered thus far has had extremely quickly recovery rates- because of using oils.

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  12. I’m severely allergic to oregano oil. Will no other oil kill this? I have it right now, though it is very very mild, possibly due to our lifestyle. We are chemical free, nonGMO, whole food, gluten free vegetarians. Our immune systems tend to be very strong since our lifestyle change, but it still got to me.
    I’m too afraid to diffuse oregano, though. Bleach gives me asthma attacks, but that’s better than anaphylaxis! I’ll have DH stop on the way home from work. I have 4 littles, too, and have isolated myself upstairs in my room, praying that no one else gets this. I’ve not vomited, I came down with it yesterday morning, and woke today feeling 90% better…just mild stomach cramps and diarrhea (sorry!).

    Thanks,
    Stephanie

    Reply

  13. Hi Stephanie,

    Some say that Thieves blend or tea tree oil will kill it, but I haven’t seen any scientific evidence to back it up. Still, if you’re allergic to bleach and oregano oil, it can’t hurt to try.

    Reply

  14. […]  It took us a good two weeks to get it out of the house completely (you can read how we finally did that here).  Since that time, we’ve seemed to catch colds and other little things going around […]

    Reply

  15. Good advice. Don’t forget the importance of fasting, sipping boiled water only for at least 24 hours. Eating feeds the virus, and the body needs time to recover from the wretching. Food, juices and milks will aggravate the stomach and intestine. But be sure to drink enough of the water, in slow sips.

    Reply

  16. We had this same experience this past winter. It lasted from December until March for us. It was by far the worst thing we’ve been through as a family. I would think we were past it and then someone would start throwing up again. I’ve definitely learned a bunch, so if we have to deal with it again, hopefully we’ll be able to stop it in its tracks earlier!

    Reply

  17. This article is very important. Being in bed 5 days with the nastiness of this bug. I know how important getting your house clean again is. I may have over looked one item to throw away. Your Toothbrush. I am going to the nursing home tomorrow to clean my Mom’s room. Thanks for this important information.

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  18. I’m glad I read this! My kids have the bug this week and last and I think they are just passing it back and forth because of my anti-bleach thing. Going to buy some NOW!
    Also, I also suffer from stomach bug FEAR!!!!!! It’s nice to know it’s not just me!

    Reply

  19. My husband started throwing up this past Saturday night. He threw up in the toilet a few times, & then went & laid down in the bedroom. When I got home from shopping, he told me I might want to clean the toilet. Because of my phobia of Norovirus (AKA stomach flu), I knew bleach was the only thing that could stand up to it, so I cleaned the toilet and ALL of the surrounding area. When a person vomits, that stuff can travel & rest on anything & everything in that area. I scrubbed the floor, wall, toilet paper holder, anything on the open shelf & the shelf itself. I washed the bath mat & curtain in hot water & threw it in the dryer on high heat for a long time. I bleached all taps, light switches, & anything else I knew he’d touched (doorknobs, cabinets, Keurig, etc.). He threw up in a garbage can in the bedroom, as well, & bleached the surrounding area (floor, night table, objects on night table, door of my closet, and anything hanging out of it was washed & dried) & I bagged (quarantined) any papers & stuff I couldn’t just wipe down with bleach). I washed his bedding in hot water & threw it in the dryer on high. Same with his clothing. I also bleached phones, etc. & I continue to, and it’s been a week, tomorrow. Sunday, he had the runs. So I kept the toilet scrubbed. We’re fortunate we have two bathrooms. I had my son sleep downstairs & only use that bathroom. He has Autism, so it’s hard to get him to understand the importance of hand washing at all times. I kept my husband isolated. I sleep downstairs, anyway. When I cleaned the barf bucket, I dumped a bunch of bleach in it mixed with water, and let it sit in the tub. After all that, I scrubbed the tub with bleach. I continue to be diligent in hand washing (you have to scrub your hands hard and wash the virus down the drain—you can’t kill it with soap). Just think, you have to swallow the virus, so it’s especially important before you eat. Don’t put your fingers in your mouth. I washed all his utencils & dishes on the longest cycle in the dishwasher, and if you don’t have one, put some bleach in water in your sink, and let it sit. As far as what I took to keep myself from getting it IF all this failed and I swallowed the virus, from when I found out Hubby had this, I always keep Welch’s purple grape juice on hand, and I started drinking a large glass of it with each small, bland meal. I also took apple cider vinegar tablets (I just can’t stomach the straight stuff). What those things are supposed to do is make your tummy alkaline so that the virus can’t thrive. I take probiotics daily, anyway, but I upped them & took extra throughout the day. When cleaning barf bucket, bedding, etc. I wore one of those masks that can prevent infection and disposable gloves. I also made sure I wore old clothes & stripped them off & washed them after I was done cleaning. Hubby is not very diligent with hand washing & he only does it very quickly, and not efficiently, so I’ve had to be diligent. So Saturday night, he started barfing. Sunday, diarrhea. It’s Friday, late afternoon, & so far, so good. But that stuff can live for a long time outside the body, so you gotta make sure, like you said here, you clean with bleach ANYTHING that may have been infected. There are also peroxide cleaners effective against Norovirus. There’s a list on the internet. Of course, peroxide is basically bleach minus the chlorine. So a bit of OCD/paranoia/elbow grease/diligence can help stop the spread. & like I say, try the Welch’s (Purple) & apple cider vinegar. Google those & check out different articles about how they can help you not get sick when exposed.

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  20. Thieves didn’t work when Hubby swore by it & he kept boasting to me how he wasn’t sick because of it, and I thought it my head, ‘It hasn’t been 24 hours since I got it, yet. Give it time.’ (this was many, many years ago, now). Well, guess who got sick a day later? Nothing quite like bleach for this. But, like I mentioned in below comment, there is a list online of effective cleaners against Norovirus, and peroxide-based ones aren’t as harsh. Actually, here’s the list: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-g-epa-registered-hospital-disinfectants-effective-against-norovirus

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  21. Thank you for being more vigilant than me. Your story has made me feel much beter. I have to return to work on friday. Ive been off sick for a week now. Im dreading returning. My house and all items that ever came into contact with my work place has been bleached. I look after chronich psychiatric patients who do not attend to hygiene. The hospital is being cleaned by a sole cleaner that does not know how to clean toilets (IM sure.) I live in Holland and wish I was in Scotland right now we pay more attention to hygiene. Ive boght some second hand clothes that I can boil after work and I will be wearing gloves and masks. I got the viris by cleaning all the doorknobs with alcohol not realising at the time that bleach was necessary. I still feel quite ill thinking about this!

    Reply

  22. […] norovirus (see our experience here) hit on the last day of February, starting with my now 5-year-old.  It took about 10 days to run […]

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  23. […] stuff is nasty.  It took us a good two weeks to get it out of the house completely (you can read how we finally did that here).  Since that time, we’ve seemed to catch colds and other little things going around much […]

    Reply

  24. Hand towels-Many people don’t think about hand towels being transmitters of illnesses, but they are! Toss the hand towels and change to paper towels during sicknesses.

    Disposable plates, cups, utensils- throw as much away as possible! Don’t refill a cup at the water dispenser in the fridge toss anything contaminated and start fresh!

    Extra showers- Toss those “Littles” into the shower after each vomit. Wash it off! I always leave Daddy in with the showering kid while I clean up the area of sickness (in my hazmat suit ) Then finish by spraying down the shower with bleach!

    Wash your hands-Don’t forget to wash your hands and your child’s hands! Otherwise you recontaminate.

    Lysol aerosol- Lysol aerosol is also effective against Norovirus, so you can spray down those areas that might not work to bleach (carpet, sofas, mattresses, rugs). Not great on a regular basis, but nice to have handy for when a pukie bug sneaks into your home. It gets where the bleach doesn’t!

    Fomites- Don’t forget to wipe down those regularly touched objects with bleach (fridge ice & water dispenser, water fountains in schools, door handles, drawers, cupboards, lights, remote controls, covers of cleaners, washing machine handles, etc.) Anything you or your pukie kid touches with vomit or poo on hands can cause spread or recontamination

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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