Thursday, February 16, 2012
Eggshell Medicine and Their Other Uses
My chickens are starting to really rev up on their laying again. Actually, this winter they didn't slow down as much as they usually do. While this is just a guess, I think it is because the winter was so warm and the girls were able to wander around instead of having to stay in their coop huddled around the beer can heater. So, I have more eggs this week than I can use and I haven't upped my selling of them to keep up with their laying. When this happens, and the kids start seeing the egg cartons pile up in the spring house, they start asking for angel food cake and flan. Last night I gave in and made it. Not that I needed a whole lotta persuasion, I like those things too. Making these things leaves me with a good amount of eggshells, so I pealed out the membrane, washed up the shells and dried them off over the wood burning stove.
Eggshells are just as important as the eggs inside them here in this house. We really, truly can't get enough of them. When I found out one of my friend, who raises her own chickens, was just throwing them out, I asked her to save them for me. After finding out all the uses for them, she decided she and her family needed them more than I did.
Now, when I'm talking about using eggshells, I'm talking about those of us that raise our own laying hen and therefor our own eggs. If you don't or can't raise your own, I understand, but see if you have people around you that do that will sell you some. Home raised eggs and their shells are SO different from the ones you buy in stores. The shells are thicker, chemicals aren't used to clean the shells, the shells aren't waxed, and the eggs themselves are higher in healthy amino acids than their distant store bought relatives. The main difference is this case is that eggs raised on a home farm tend to not be exposed to as many bacteria as eggs from a factory farm and so the shells are safer to use. If you can't find farm raised eggs, make sure to sterilize your eggs shells by baking them in a 220 degree oven for a couple of minutes to kill any nasty stuff that may be on them.
So on to the uses. Most people who raise their own laying hens will have done several of these uses, but just in case, here are some I know. Please list your uses so I can add it to my list of reasons I wish I had more eggshells.
First is that eggshells are pure calcium. If the chickens can't scratch or aren't given some sort of calcium supplements (such as oyster shells), their bones will get weaker and the eggshells will get thinner. The chicken uses the calcium from their own body to make the shells. So you can feed them back to your chickens to help keep them healthy. If you think of this as cannibalism, many birds will eat the eggshells after the chicks hatch just to keep predators from finding the chicks. It is natural for birds to eat their own eggshells.
You can also grind it up and sprinkle it over your dog food and cat food. Predatory animals need a good amount of calcium and most cat and dog food does not have enough in it. We put some in the hog slop to keep their bones strong too. Even though we have heritage breed pigs, they still can put on weight so fast their skeleton can't support them. The more modern breeds of pigs are bred to put on lots of weight really fast. Their skeleton can literally collapse from all the extra weight they carry.
Of course we humans can use it the same way too. Calcium deficiency is on the rise in industrial countries because we are eating poorer diets. Too little calcium leads to bone deterioration, thinning hair, and what most people notice, receding gum lines. Eggshells is what our hunter/gatherer ancestors use to eat and so our bodies have evolved into being able to assimilate this calcium into our system. Not into eating eggshells? Well, an eggshell tincture worked even better.
This is the one I made last night. If you want to make one, they are quite easy to do. First crush up your eggshells and put them into a jar with a cover. Then you cover them with an acid. Apple cider vinegar works best because it helps aid in digestion and makes sure your body can absorb most of the calcium in the shells, but lemon juice works too. Don't fill the jar all the way to the top though because you can see when you combine the alkaline of the eggshells with the acid of the vinegar, foaming does occur. Shake this a couple time a day for about ten days. No need to strain this tincture. The acid is slowly dissolving the eggshells and making them easy to drink. As long as there are still eggshells in the jar, you can keep adding more acid over them. This one jar with about 7 eggshells in it will last me 6 to 9 months. This can be tweaked for extra minerals by adding some nettle and/or horsetail tincture to it. Either way, this is a better source of calcium than those pills some people take because this is what our bodies already know how to consume.
Other medical uses for eggshells are as an antacid. If you even hear the Tums commercials they always tote that it is 'Tums with calcium'. Yep, that's because calcium neutralizes acid (it is an alkaline). By crumbling up eggshells and taking a spoonful if you have over indulged, you are doing the same thing without all the artificial colors and flavors of tums. If you still need a bit of flavor to help the eggshells go down, make a thick paste of honey and eggshells and take a spoonful of that.
For the garden, eggshells can be added in bulk to help neutralize acid soil as well. It take a great deal of eggshells to do this, but adding them with hardwood ash will make acid soil be able to grow many more crops than it could before. In smaller amounts, eggshells add calcium back to the dirt your food is grown in. Those plants use this calcium and will be stronger and also will give you more calcium when you consume them after harvest. Ground up eggshells sprinkled around tomato plants will help prevent blossom end rot, a disease that is caused by too little calcium. Some people go as far as starting their tomatoes in eggshells to give them that extra boost in calcium. Then they plant the whole thing, eggshell and all, deep into the garden. Roughly broken up eggshells will help keep things like slugs and snails away from your plants because they don't want to crawl over the sharp eggshells.
For another use for eggshells, we turn to science and see what they are up to. A study out of Denmark is showing that a thick eggshell tincture made of lemon juice and abraded eggshells (don't ask me what is different between abraded eggshells and crush eggshells) are helping young children with stress born food allergies. The eggshells are sterilized in a 220 degree oven (important for children because of their undeveloped immune system), then abraded into a small amount of lemon juice. This is given to young children 3 times a day. Studies are showing the the food allergies can disappear in as little as 2 weeks. It is an interesting study that I am keeping an eye on to see what it is in the eggshells that help children overcome stress.
Moving on from the shell itself is that membrane that we took out before we washed the egg. It has it's own healing uses as it is protein (the egg being the most complete natural protein known). This membrane can be to "draw out" things that are inside our skin. Such as if you have a sliver or tiny piece of glass you just can't get to come out, wrap a piece of eggshell membrane over it. It acts as its own bandage and draws on the foreign object, making it easier to take out. It can also be used over boils and blisters to draw out the moisture and pus that may lay under the skin. If you can get enough of them, they can be wrapped around sprains and bruises to draw down the swelling. Pimples can be brought to a head by wrapping an eggshell membrane over them and can really be helped in a thin sliver of garlic is put under the membrane. Ingrown toenails and swollen, torn cuticles can be helped with this method too. Again turning to science we see that they are starting to use eggshell membranes combined with household sugar on large area burns to keep infections from forming.
Eggshell membranes work best fresh, but can be dried and wetted when needed in a pinch. Still, if you can, try to use them fresh from a chicken egg. Duck eggs can be infected with bacteria that makes them unsafe to use the same way.
Because this post is getting really long I thought I would get to the egg itself and only put a couple uses for that (because mostly what we do with eggs is EAT them).
A hard boiled eggs crushed, shell and all and wrapped in a piece of cheese cloth can be applied to bruises to bring down swelling. Egg whites can be beaten into a frothy cream and soothed over minor burns, including sunburns, especially if you add a couple teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to it. This will help keep the skin from tightening up, causing more pain.
So the incredible, edible egg, as the old commercials use to say, has so many more uses. It has been used for healing as well. An eggshell tincture is one of the easiest home medicinals you can make, and yet can give you and yours a great deal of return. Give it a try. If you've been buying calcium supplements, here is a much cheaper, yet much better source. Our bodies crave it, because our hungry ancestors use to eat the egg, shell and all. Our genetic code remembers this and is waiting for our thinking mind to do so as well.