Pennsylvania German Powwow

Faith healing and folk magic of the Pennsylvania Germans

photo is my kitchen as of January 4, 2020. I am in love with my little humble kitchen as it is my place to create magic and healing. I hope you learn to see your kitchen in this way too!

Welcome to my kitchen!

Powwow can be so much more than spoken charms. In fact, much of my powwow work takes place right in my kitchen! As I get older, I realize more and more the benefits of choosing homemade natural remedies over the highly chemical remedies that you get from the pharmacist. Don't misunderstand me --- if you are prescribed something by your doctor, then you should take it. However, for many common household uses, such as lip balm, skin cream, hair rinses, first aid ointment, relaxing teas, beneficial tinctures, etc, it can be very rewarding to make these things right in the comfort of your own kitchen. And best of all, they are actually really easy to make and often require no more than two or three ingredients. This is much better than what you'll find on the shelves of the local drugstore and, in most cases, the things you create will be more potent.

What do I need to get started?

It's important to have a well-stocked supply of tools and items so you can start making your own remedies. Here is what I recommend:

A good supply of dried herbs
A good supply of glass jars to keep the herbs in
A mortar and pestle
Measuring spoons and cups specifically for herb use
A double boiler
A small hand grater (for beeswax)
A small strainer
A tea ball
A supply of aloe vera gel, beeswax, shea butter, almond or sunflower or olive oil, 100 proof vodka, coconut oil, witch hazel extract, and glycerin

Don't let the list discourage you. You can find a majority of these items at your local WalMart. I also recommend finding a reliable local source of dried herbs. You may be able to purchase or order the final items on the list through them.

I have my herbs and tools in a corner of my kitchen. It's all easily accessible and with everything on display like this, it's easy to find what I need, when I need it. Well... maybe not that easy because I don't have a mental inventory of where everything is located, so sometimes it's a scavenger hunt to find what I need! :) 


A shelf like this is also a good conversation starter and a way to introduce your friends and family to the idea of home remedies. People will instinctively want to check out your jars of herbs and this is a great opportunity to offer to show someone how simple and fun it is to work with herbs and make your own remedies.


Just be sure to keep the more serious herbs higher up, away from the exploring hands of children. Also, remember that if you have animals in the house, they will naturally be attracted to the site and scents of your herbal collection. Always be cautious with what they can gain access to.


Now let's look at a few of the most basic remedies you can make at home. These are all very simple, require only a few ingredients, and are extremely satisfying when they are completed. You will feel a great deal of pride and accomplishment as you learn to make your own remedies. Plus, your powwow clients will appreciate the time you've taken to prepare these things for them in your own kitchen. 


Remember to add powwowing to the creation of your remedies by thanking God for the materials and the skills and asking Him to bless your work so that it fulfills its intended function.


Good luck!

Herbal teas

Teas (sometimes called infusions) are the easiest home remedies to make, and they are often the most effective. Water is truly the best substance to pull out all of the healing properties from dried herbs. To make an herbal tea, you can put the dry herbs into the cup, fill the cup with hot water, then cover the cup with the saucer for about 10 minutes. Then drink.


The benefit to drinking teas this way is that when you are done, you can swirl around the herbs in the bottom of the cup, flip it over onto the saucer to drain, then look in the cup to do a reading with the tea leaves! 


If you prefer a tea without bits of leaves and herbs getting in your mouth, use a tea ball. Steep in hot water for ten minutes, remembering to cover the cup while it steeps.


Never let the essential oils from the herbs escape your tea in the form of steam. Cover all cups of tea for the full ten minutes to really draw out all the nutrition and healing powers of the herbs you've chosen.

Brauch bags

A brauch bag is simply a red cloth bag filled with items necessary in order to bring healing, protection, etc toward the bearer. You can use herbs in a brauch bag along with handwritten charms and metal amulets. There are no real hard and fast rules about the contents of a brauch bag but you should instruct your client how to use it properly; whether that means carrying it, wearing it around their neck, tucking it away somewhere safe, etc.

Skin/lip balm

This recipe not only makes a nice lip balm, but it also doubles as a salve for burns. The best part is that it literally only has three ingredients and takes about 20 minutes to make!


1/8 cup grated beeswax
1/8 cup shea butter
1 tsp coconut oil (the fractionated liquid kind)

Add to double boiler on medium heat for about ten minutes.

When all is melted, remove from heat. You can add ten drops of essential oil at this point if you want it flavored or scented or you can leave it as is.


You can pour this into chapstick tubes and let cool or put in small sealable jars to use as lip balm or burn cream.


Skin cream

This is an amazing recipe for anyone who suffers from dry skin. I made this for both myself and my son. He has brown skin and this blend not only moisturizers but gives his skin a nice healthy shine to it. He also uses it in his hair!


For this you will only need three ingredients:


2 parts organic coconut oil (the solid stuff, not the liquid)

1 part shea butter

10 drops frankincense essential oil


Melt the shea butter and coconut oil together in your double boiler. When completely melted, pour into a glass bowl. Add 10 drops of frankincense essential oil. 


Place the bowl in your freezer for exactly ten minutes. 


Remove from freezer and whip using an electric hand mixer until blend is nice and creamy.


Use a spatula to put into small jars or containers.


Safe to use on your face and entire body. Also good for your hair. It can feel a little greasy going on but absorbs quickly into the skin.


Herbs in cooking

Dried herbs not only flavor to your food but they also add nutrition and healing properties. It's best not to over season your food, but you should know that when you cook the herbs into the food, a lot of the healing properties can get lost. That's why it's good to cook some of the herbs into the food then add the remainder as a sprinkle on top of the dish when you eat. 


I always prefer to use dried herbs rather than fresh because dried herbs do not have any water within them, therefore the healing properties are highly concentrated. 


In measuring dried herbs versus fresh herbs, a good rule of thumb to remember is that it takes twice as much fresh herb to equal the healing power of dried herbs.


Also, when making salves, ointments, oils, tinctures, etc. you will need to dry the herbs beforehand anyway, so purchasing them already dry is a better option.

Acne/rash healing salve

This is an amazing salve that has the toxin-drawing power of lava dust! There are only three ingredients to this. But be warned! This can be a little messy to make and it doesn't smell that great. 


1/3 cup Bentonite Clay. This is lava dust from Wyoming, which is rich in beneficial nutrients and minerals for your skin

7 drops Tea Tree Oil

3 tbs Witch Hazel extract


Put all three ingredients into a glass or ceramic bowl. The messy part is that it is best to mix this with your hands! Get them in there, knead and work that stuff until it is well-blended. Don't feel bad if some gets wasted as you will need to wash your hands really well.


Once it's mixed, use a rubber spatula to scoop into various containers.


To use, put it on the affected area where you have a rash, acne, hives, or a cyst. It does not blend into the skin, rather it will remain on top of the skin until it fully dries. Then you can remove it. Repeat as needed.

Herbal oils

Oils can be used for massage, cooking, or healing certain skin conditions.


Sweet Almond Oil is used for skin treatments or massage oil. Simply add a few drops of your chosen essential oil to the sweet almond oil and it's ready to use.


Olive and sunflower oil are good carriers for the healing properties of dried herbs. You can make your own cooking oil by adding dried herbs to a jar and covering with the oil. Keep this in a dark place for about 2 weeks, remembering to shake it up everyday. If you don't mind the bits of herb floating in the oil, use as is. Otherwise, you should strain it to get the herb bits out, especially if you plan to use on your skin.


Herbal tinctures

Tinctures are made by adding herbs to clear vodka and letting soak for several weeks (typically 4 to 6). Then you strain the herbs out and put in a dark bottle with a dropper. The tincture in the picture to the left will be used for sore throats.


Remember to gentle crush up the herbs in your mortar first. You don't want to turn them into a powder, just break them up a bit to help release their healing properties. Put them in a jar, cover with the vodka, then store. Remember to shake it up everyday.


Generally speaking, 100 proof vodka is best. However, in a pinch, you can use 80 proof. But you may want to add a little extra herbs, just in case.