Autumn, 2012: This summer was difficult for many gardeners and farmers. Mother Nature was unpredictable and tested many of us during the storms and drought. Despite these harsh conditions, many of my herbs still thrived. So hang in there and put them to bed with pruning and mulching before winter. I look forward to starting again next spring.
3/10/2012: Spring is around the corner, so start planning for your herb garden. You don't need much space--see my garden above. Think about what you like to use for cooking, drinking teas, and healing and then draw up a map of how each plant will fit.
There are so many choices! Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking: Prepare your garden with a standard herb mix of two parts potting or garden soil, two parts peat, one part sand, and one part compost of cow manure. **Tea garden: try peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, anise hyssop. **Cooking garden: rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, cilantro, parsley, tarragon, and basil. Don't forget about garlic, chives, dill, and bee balm. **Medicinal garden: chamomile, thyme, yarrow, rosemary, lavender, parsley, anise hyssop, sage, lemon balm, peppermint, and spearmint, calendula, and bee balm.
Don't get too eager--wait until your last frost days in whatever zone you live in. Think in terms of height, shade, sunlight, moist and dry soil and do some observing of your garden area.
Most importantly, have fun planting, watching the herbs grow, enjoying their beauty, and feeling the connection to Mother Earth. So get started!
08/29/2011: Basil Pesto --Now is the time to harvest your basil and make up batches of pesto for the fall. Freeze in plastic containers. Ingredients:
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic 1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts) 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup grated parmesan and romano cheese Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Directions:
Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process
until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until
smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the
If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle
remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in
6/16/2011: MINTS: Now that you have your chosen herbs planted, they should be doing well if you live in the Midwest. The spring rains and increasing sunlight have created perfect conditions for growth and vitality. It's time to harvest the mints: peppermint, spearmint, or any other variety you have chosen, and lemon balm. Their oils are strong and ready to make wonderful iced tea. Harvest the top 8 inches and hang upside down in a cool place until they are crisp-dry. Then gently strip the leaves off the stems and place in clean container until you want to make your tea. Use a couple teaspoons per cup. If you want sun tea, fill a large tea ball and place in a pitcher with water. Set in the sun. Yummm! Nothing better than fresh mint tea on a hot day. Enjoy!
BASIL: No matter what type of basil you are growing, now is the time to start harvesting. Clip top and side leaves so the plant will grow bushier. Enjoy fresh with tomatoes and mozzarella dripped in olive oil or italian dishes.
Try an herbal satchet with lavendar and rosemary for relief of tension headaches. Cut out material in whatever shape you like and fill with herbs. Glue or sew. That's all there is to it! Spearmint, peppermint, and rosemary have a cheering effect.
Red, swollen, eyes? Make an infusion with one teasppon dried chamomile flowers to one cup water (or two teaspoons of fresh flowers). Dip cotton balls into the cooled liquied and place on eye lids.
Lavendar skin oil: 2 cups fresh lavender flowers, 1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves. Pound with a pestle and mortar and pack into a jar. Add 2 cups grapeseed, almond, or jojoba oil--cover herbs completely. Place the jar in a sunny window for two weeks. Shake the jar daily. Strain through the muslin into a clean container. Cover with a lid and label.
4/20/2011: Hello spring! Mother Nature is in her glory as the earth comes alive! Springtime is the perfect season to use herbs as a cleansing tonic for clearing away the sluggish build-up of winter foods. Ancient people eagerly gathered the first plants erupting from the soil because they were desperate for fresh greens and the life-giving nutrients these plants provided.
Here are some of my favorite herbs to use as spring tonics. Not only do they cleanse, they also provide many vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system. Please remember the rules of harvesting: don’t pick in protected lands, ask for permission on private, make sure plants are chemical free, and know what you are picking!
Blue violet: Try the flowers and leaves fresh for a high dose of vitamin C and vitamin A. These are considered a great purifier for your entire system. You’ll cleanse through the pores of your skin, through urine, and through the bowels. You’ll know if you eat too many!
You can also make a tea by steeping two teaspoons of fresh leaves for fifteen minutes in almost-boiled water. This will soothe and sedate a cough or sore throat. The tea can also relieve headaches built up from a congested feeling in the head.
Dandelion: Don’t discount this herb as a lawn pest—the leaves are a very good source of vitamin A and C, and the flowers provide lecithin. Lecithin helps the brain and also makes dandelion a great medicinal herb for the liver. Dry the roots and chop up to add to a tea. Make a tea from one teaspoon of the dried roots and two teaspoons of the dried leaves and steep in a cup of hot water. The tea also works well in flushing out bacteria in the bladder. Dandelion contains potassium--which balances any loss due to the extra urination it causes. If you are prone to water weight—this is your tea! One cup a day should do it.
Stinging Nettles: This is a mineral-rich plant loaded with iron and vitamin C. Great for menstruating girls and women. It increases energy and corrects physical fatigue.
Works well as a female tonic (try adding raspberry leaves and alfalfa). Nettles helps detoxify the liver of built-up estrogen so will combat PMS. Drinking the tea can also reduce excessive bleeding during menstruation. Use one teaspoon of nettles per cup of water.
Harvest the supple green leaves (wear gloves!) when the plant is between 8-12 inches, by cutting the entire above ground plant a couple inches above the ground. Lightly steam the fresh leaves or make into a tea. You can also dry the plant upside down and store for later use as a tea. If you don't want to harvest yourself--go to a local herbal store and buy it in dried bulk form.
Nettles is a natural antihistamine so if you suffer from hay fever and allergies—try it! You can use the capsule form (3-5 500 milligram capsules daily) or 1-2 cups of nettles tea daily. It will not only lower your allergy responses, but also increase resistance to springtime colds.
Red Clover: Make a tea using 2 teaspoons of dried flowers or 4 teaspoons of fresh and steep in hot water for fifteen minutes. Red Clover tea purifies the blood gently by draining toxins from the liver, lymph and lungs. It’s another natural remedy for hay fever and pollen allergies, along with sinus infections. Also good for psoriasis and eczema.
2/22/2011: Winter isn't over yet and flu and colds season has taken hold, so now would be a good time to boost your immune system. Nature has given us some powerful herbs to do just that. Three of my favorites are ginseng, licorice, and astragalus. Read on for more information about these herbal tonics that have been used for thousands of years to enhance the immune system.
GINSENG: King of the herbal tonics. Ginseng is one of the best known and most prescribed herbs in Chinese medicine. It is used to balance and restore the body. This fascinating herb with ivy-like ground cover and roots that can resemble a man, is really classified as three distinct herbs:Panax ginseng (Chinese, Korean, Japanese), Panax quinqefolius (American) and Eleuthrococcus senticosus (Siberian). It appears to stimulate the immune system by revving up macrophages and natural killer cells that devour disease-causing microorganisms. Ginseng also spurs production of interferon, the body's own virus-fighting chemical. It is recommended for people over 40 to take six weeks of ginseng twice a year. This is intended to regenerate the endocrine system and invigorate the blood. Botanist James Duke cites clinical studies that ginseng may also reduce bad cholesterol while raising the good cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, normalize blood pressure, help the liver filter, and restore normal function to the thyroid and adrenal glands. No wonder this herb is the most prescribed! I have read that 80 percent of American ginseng is grown in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Ginseng is considered at risk and should not be wildcrafted. DOSAGE OPTIONS: Capsules: take a brand you can trust! Standardized is best. Take as directed. Tea: Place a small root (about the size of the little finger) in the top of a double boiler. Add 2-3 cups water in the top pan. Cook root until the water is nice and yellow. Drink one cup daily. Vials: Drink one daily. Tincture: Take 5 mls. per day. (for eleuthrococcus, use 8-10 mls. per day.)
LICORICE: An adaptogenic herb due to its normalizing action. Only Mother Nature can create medicine that will balance what needs to be balanced! This is a whole-body tonic used to enhance the immune system by having an effect on the endocrine system. The roots are unearthed in late autumn. Chinese have used licorice medicinally for thousands of years and it has been studied extensively. Licorice has been recommended for coughs, asthma, and other respiratory complaints, along with being prescribed for stomach and heart problems. Licorice can break up phlegm and sooth irritated mucous membranes while also fighting inflammation. Native Americans used licorice tea as a cough remedy. It is considered an antiviral and antibacterial and enhances the immune system by stimulating the production of interferon. I have personal experience using licorice for stomach complaints--it works! Licorice works for reducing gas, indigestion, and also reduces gastric and duodenal ulcers. Dr. James Duke suggests using deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) form to avoid negative side effects from higher dosages. DOSAGE OPTIONS: Don't exceed 50 mg. per day. Take 4-6 weeks at a time to avoid side effects. Capsules--1-3 daily standardized 200mg. of root extract). Dried root--make an infusion with 1 tsp. (1.5 gram) per coup boiled water and steep 15 minutes. Liquid extract--1/2 to 1 tsp. three times daily. Tincture--1/2 to 1 tsp. three times daily.
ASTRAGALUS: Another adaptogenic herb, astragalus has the ability to raise white blood cell counts and fight off infection. It is an antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. Studies have found this ancient Chinese herb should be considered if you suffer from chronic, recurring infections. It protects against the common cold, reduces water retention, and lowers high blood pressure and high blood sugar. DOSAGE OPTIONS: Capsules--take as directed. Dried root: Infuse one tsp. (3 grms.) per cup of boiled water and steep for 15 minutes. Drink twice daily. 1:3 tincture--5m.l. three times daily. 1:1 fluid extract--2ml. three times daily.
When Dreamwalker agrees to learn the Healing Ways, she knows she must learn the healing plants and how to use them in order to be a good medicine woman. Her grandmother teaches her herbal knowledge passed down through the generations. The cliff dwellers in The Dreamwalker Trilogy expected their Healing Ones (medicine men/women and shamans) to use plants in healing ceremonies and as medicine. This is the basis for healing medicines used today in every culture around the world. Phytotherapy is one term that refers to the use of plants for medicinal purposes.
I love herbs! I grow herbs, cook with herbs,
use herbs for aches and pains, chronic conditions (like allergies), and
for cleansing or strengthening the body. If you have never turned to herbs to heal, I hope the following information will interest you enough to give it a try. This is also a good time of year to plant an herb that appeals to you and watch it grow. Most herbs grow easily with minimal care. I will continue to add herbal
information throughout the summer, so stay tuned!
something about wild herbs: once you try them, you know they vibrate
with more energy than their confined cousins. Using herbs is a very
empowering feeling. You are connecting with nature and bonding with
Mother Earth in a very unique way.If you would like to try wild
harvesting, there are some guidelines I hope you will abide by.
Respected herbalists and nature groups, such as United Plant Savers,
agree that we must ethically wildcraft. What does that mean? It means
that you are aware of the plants around you and respectfully enter their
space. Your intention is focused on why you want the plant and what you
will do with it. Listen to the plant, know the "grandmother plant" and
leave this one for the health of the group, and only take plants that
Harvestingat specific times: plants have specific life cycles when their medicine is strongest. Certain roots are more potent in spring or fall when they aren't producing leaves and flowers. Harvest roots at new moons when their energy is more concentrated. Leaves, flowers, stems, twigs, and fruits are the above-ground parts and best gathered between the new and full moons. Leaves and flowers are strongest when collected on clear, sunny days in the morning before they may wilt. Wait until after the dew has evaporated if you plan to dry them. Gather flowers after they open. Tree barks are best collected in early spring before the leaves unfold or in the fall after the leaves drop. Take the bark from pruned branches and then scrape the bark. Never take from the main trunk. Collecting seeds takes close observation since the ripening varies for every plant.
So, if you are interested in using herbs, keep on reading!
More tips for wild harvesting: * If the
land is not yours, get permission first. * Never harvest where
chemicals have been used. * Bring water for yourself and for the
harvested plants. * Bring a sharp knife, garden clippers, and a
small shovel. * Keep harvested plants in a sturdy basket, brown
paper bags, or canvas sacks. * Know your plants well! Get
advice from herbalists. * Leave at-risk or endangered plants in
the wild. * Thank the plant and leave a "gift" in its place.
The following discussions of healing herbs are not meant as
medical advice. Seek a trusted medical practitioner before you begin any
herbal treatment. There is always a possibility of allergic reaction to
YOUR HERBAL MEDICINE CHEST (Enjoying the Harvest)
Once you try an herbal treatment, you will be surprised and pleased at what plants offer. The following is a general explanation of the types of herbal preparations you can make for yourself. There is something powerful about the rituals used when working with the healing energies in nature. Enjoy them!
Drying herbs: It is important to dry herbs properly and be creative with the spaces available to you for drying. General guidelines-- Choose a warm, darker area with good circulation (kitchen, attic,stairwell). Hang in loose bundles using rubberbands or string, or use non-metal screens (fiberglass mesh from hardware stores). Dry thoroughly. Store your dried herbs in glass jars or brown paper bags placed inside sealed plastic bag. Don't forget to label and date! (Dried leaves and flowers hold medicinal properties for a year, roots and tree barks for two years.)
Teas: Preparing tea is a simple act used for both nourishment and medicine. This is one of the simplest, most enjoyable ways to connect with Mother Nature. A tea made by steeping or infusing leaves, flowers, and certain seeds, in hot steaming water is called an infusion. If you are using fresh leaves and flowers, you can either chop them or leave them whole. To make an infusion from dried herbs--use 1-3 teaspoons of dried herbs for every cup of water. Use larger amounts if you want to fill a tea pot (1-6 tablespoons). Pour hot steaming water over the herbs and steep for ten minutes minimum, or longer if using the tea for medicinal purposes (about twenty minutes). To make an infusion from fresh herbs--use around twice the amount you would use if the herbs were dry. The water content in fresh herbs dilutes their flavor. To make sun tea--place fresh or dried herbs into a glass jar, pour cool water over the herbs, and cover with a lid. Place in a hot, sunny location for several hours. To make moon tea--gather fresh flowers and leaves or use dried and place in a bowl, Cover with cool water and leave the bowl uncovered in the full-moon light all night.
Decoctions: A decoction is a tea made with hard or woody parts of herbs (roots, tree barks, some seeds and nuts). Place 4-6 tablespoons of the dried herb pieces into a glass, enamel, or stainless-steel pan and cover with a quart of cool water. Let sit overnight. Then slowly bring to a boil and simmer for twenty minutes. Strain (herbs can be saved for one more batch of tea). Can be stored in the refrigerator and heated up the next day.
Tinctures: A tincture takes a little more time but is a beneficial way to deliver herbs medicinally.Tinctures usually are alcohol and water based preparations. (Sometimes glycerin is used to avoid the alcohol.) Alcohol is more common because it easily extracts the alkaloids, resins, and volatile oils found in herbs. Vinegar can be used, but it only extracts alkaloids and minerals and vitamins from the plants. Shelf life is long: up to 10 years for the alcohol tinctures. For fresh tinctures-- Use 100 proof vodka for an alcohol tincure Harvest fresh plants, remove damaged parts Wash leaves and roots Fill a glass jar full of plant matter, leaving an inch of space Shake the bottle 50-100 times (you can offer a prayer or song too!) Label and date Place in a dark closet or cupboard for 2-6 weeks. Shake bottle daily. After the time is up, strain the tincture through cheesecloth.(Use in colander.) Squeeze liquid out of plant matter. Pour all liquid into a glass bottle with tight-fitting lid. Label/date/store cool,dark place. To make a tincture from dried plants (like blue cohosh)--take 4 0z. of dried herbs and grind to a powder. Place the herbs into a a 1-pint glass jar and fill the jar to the top with vodka or brandy. Secure lid tightly. Complete using same instructions above.
To make a tincture from glycerine--buy at herb stores/coops. Glycerine can extract plant alkaloids and mucilage (like marshmallow and comfrey roots). Powder 4 oz of herbs in a coffee grinder or blender. Place in a pint glass jar. Mix 1 1/2 cups of vegetable glycerine and 1/2 cup of distilled water together and pour over herbs. Secure lid tightly. Follow directions under fresh tinctures.
Herbal Vinegars: You can use organic apple cider vinegar, brown rice vinegar, or white or red wine vinegar to make nutritious herbal vinegars for use on salads, in soups, and in sauces. Use garden herbs such as tarragon, thyme, basil, or rosemary along with a touch of spring greens like dandelion, chickweed, and nettle. Fill a glass jar with fresh herbs and cover with vinegar. Cap with a glass or plastic lid and place in direct sunlight. Let sit for 4-6 weeks. Separate the vinegar from the herbs by pouring through cheesecloth. Store in a glass jar with a glass or plastic lid in a cupboard.
Here are some
of my favorite herbs:
Arnica (Arnica montana): This plant is
part of the thistle family and grows in mountain states in America and
Canada. Bright Star journeyed to the mountains to find it and brought
the root back to Chases Butterflies to help heal her internal bleeding.
Arnica is most commonly made into ointments and creams and used for sore
muscles and bruised skin. (If you bruise a lot or are active and get
achy muscles, you'll really enjoy the ointment!) In this manner it works
as an analgesic and helps the healing of tissue. Arnica can also be
taken as a precaution in the form of a homeopathic remedy to prevent
excess bleeding during surgery and help the healing process.
Stinging Nettle: I love this herb! Found in
moist, dapple-shady places at various elevations with rich soil. Common
in midwestern woods and you'll know it when you rub next to it: the
stings do hurt! If you are like me and suffer from hayfever and
pollen-related allergies, you may find this plant very helpful. Stinging
Nettle is a natural antihistamine. If used daily (one or two cups of
tea or up to five 500 mg capsules) you may agree with those who have
reported significantly reduced allergy symptoms. Nettle is a
mineral-rich plant with vitamins and protein and may be able to correct
physical fatigue and low energy. A great herb for women because it aids
the liver in eliminating built-up of estrogen, (which reduces excess
bleeding during periods), is a great postpartum tonic, and increases
breast milk. It also eliminates toxins and uric acid through the kidneys
(which can help those suffering from gout, arthritis, or kidney
stones). I could go on and on...but you get the idea. Give it a rest
after three weeks, for about a week, because it can overtax the kidneys
You may want to include better-tasting herbs with
the nettles if you make the tea. I suggest hibiscus (high in vitamin C
and adds a lovely red color), spearmint, or lemon balm.
the infusion: add 2 teaspoons of the dried leaves/root per cup of
almost-boiling water. Steep for ten minutes. Drink two to three cups
Lavender: This pretty plant with its purple
blooms is another favorite of mine. It smells wonderful in a garden and
can be used in multiple ways. Lavender is excellent for reducing stress.
Use a teaspoon of the dried flowers in tea for headaches or
nervousness. Dry the purple stems and flowers and burn as incense. Dry
the flowers and make sachets. Use fresh flowers for a bath soak by filling a large tea ball or muslin cloth and hanging it under the faucet so the hot water runs through it. I also keep lavender essential oil on
hand. Rub a drop of the essential oil into each temple and neck for
tension. Put seven drops of the essential oil in the bath water and
luxuriate in the smell while it relaxes your body and mind. Three drops
of the essential oil in a bowl of steaming water (then breathe in the
steam) will give your sinuses relief. I especially love to add lavender
essential oil (sold in small bottles) to a base oil such as almond, grapeseed, or apricot kernal oil and
apply for muscle aches, strains, and spasms. It works wonders!
Ginger root: This is another hard-working herb.
Stomach problems? Try a teaspoon of fresh ginger root shaved into
steaming water and steeped for about fifteen minutes, then drink. Ginger root
capsules work well for indigestion, flu, and motion sickness. If you are
going to be on a plane, train, boat, car or whatever makes your tummy
queasy, begin taking ginger root capsules about three days before and
continue daily. It works! You can also make an instant herbal oil: grate fresh ginger root, squeeze about 2 tablespoons of the gratings in your hand to release the juices, and add a tablespoon of base oil, such as olive oil. Rub into sore muscles. If you harvest ginger root, wait until autumn and only harvest larger roots that are older.The leaves are dark green, roundish, and about the size of your palm. They grow low to the ground in woods.CAUTIONS: Stop taking ginger a couple weeks
before surgery to reduce risk of excess bleeding.
Dandelion: Did you think those pretty yellow
flowers and green leaves that pop up in your lawns are just weeds? This
plant is one of the best for cleansing your kidneys, bladder, and liver...
which helps them do their jobs better. Harvest only dandelions you
know have not been sprayed with chemicals, or buy the dried leaves
and roots at a local herbal/health food store. Use a teaspoon each of
dried leaves and roots to two cups water. First, boil the roots for ten
minutes, then steep the leaves in the same water for ten more minutes.
Strain and drink 2-3 cups daily for about five to seven days. You may
want to add lemon or honey to hide the bitter taste of the roots. Double
the amount of herb if it is fresh. Dandelion leaves are a great
diuretic, but also contain potassium--Mother Nature's way of balancing.
DO NOT take this tea if you are already taking a diuretic.
You can grow herbs in a small space just like this garden.
Try growing some of these herbs in your garden!
Mints: There are too many species and varieties
of mints to list, so I will discuss spearmint, lemon balm and
peppermint. Spearmint: This mint can be found naturally
in wet meadows, pastures, along riverbanks. It grows well in a garden
with rich soil. Yes, its the mint grown for spearmint gum! All mints
grow well, so well that you may prefer to grow in a container. If you
want to grow it in your garden, you may want to consider surrounding the
plant with some edging placed in the ground to keep it from spreading
too much. Cut plant before it flowers (several inches above the ground)
and wrap with a rubber band, then hang upside down on a drying rack. As
soon as the leaves are dried, gently strip the leaves off the stems and
put in a clean glass container. Use two heaping teaspoons of dried
leaves for one cup. Most people think fresh is best, but I like it both
ways. For fresh spearmint infusions, steep leaves for 20 minutes in
water that was boiled but has cooled down, or you can make sun tea and
leave it out for a few hours. Spearmint is milder than peppermint so use
one-half cup of fresh leaves for one cup of tea. Uses: Because
spearmint is mild, it is a good digestive tonic for colic in babies (2-3
crushed fresh leaves in 10-12 oz. of hot distilled water OR
one-sixteenth of a teaspoon of dried leaves). Feed the cooled liquid in
baby-sized spoonfuls until the pain subsides (you won't use the entire
amount). For upset tummies in older children, add a little more,
depending on weight. It is said to be effective against anxiety and mild
depression. Also good for nausea and morning sickness when combined
with ginger root. Lemon Balm: This plant has been used
for centuries to calm humans. It is also known to lower blood pressure.
This mint may be a little more sensitive to taking hold in your garden,
but when it gets going, it spreads like crazy so you may want to
surround the plants with edging below the ground to contain it. Cut
before it flowers. Fresh is best for medicinal purposes. If you choose
to dry it, lay on top of a drying rack or tie together loosely and hang
with plenty of space. It should dry in a few days. Gently strip dried
leaves into a glass container and seal well. Make a tea (infusion) by
using 1 tablespoon of fresh leaves or 2 teaspoons of dried leaves per
cup of hot (not boiling) water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Or sun
tea works too! Drink up to three cups daily. Uses: Lemon balm is
considered the "gladdening herb" for its ability to relax and settle
emotions. This herb can be beneficial to people who experience grief,
despair, stress, panic, anxiety, or nervous headaches. It is also good
for relieving stomach gas and other digestive difficulties, along with
menstrual cramps. For a bath soak: steep 12 oz. of fresh herb or 8 oz of
dried leaves in several quarts of hot water for 20 minutes . Strain and
pour into the bath, then soak your cares away! (Great with lavender
too.) Peppermint: Peppermint grows like crazy! Consider using edging below the ground to contain it. You may
choose to contain it in pots and use a variety of mints and different
sized pots--one on top of the other to create an interesting peppermint
tower. Plant the peppermint around the edges of each pot. Harvest the
leaves before they flower.Peppermint tea is so delicious that drinking
it purely for a refreshing drink is enough reason to have it in your
garden. Use it to balance the spicy foods in hot weather. Fresh is best
for the tea (infusion) because you get the volatile oils at their
strongest. Many prefer to make a slow sun tea to draw the oils out. Just
place 2 tsp. of fresh leaves per cup of water in a glass
container filled with cool water and set in the sun. If you prefer to
dry the leaves, place on a rack or hang loosely upside down.It may take
only a week, depending on how cool and dry it is. Gently strip from the
stems and crush into a glass container, then seal tightly. Uses: Peppermint
tea is still used today for indigestion, nausea, flu, congestion, and
headaches.You can make a strong tea and use as a skin splash for itchy,
chafed, or sunburned skin. Peppermint essential oil is VERY
potent and can irritate, so use carefully. Use only 3 drops of the
essential oil in a bath for relaxation. Use 1-2 drops in steaming water
and inhale for sinus congestion and infection, asthma, and bronchitis,
but inhale with eyes closed! Put 5 drops in a base oil (like almond or
grapeseed) and rub in the skin for neuralgia and muscular pain.
CAUTIONS: Do not use in the first three months of pregnancy or while
nursing (may stop milk flow). Those who suffer from gastroesophageal
reflux, gallbladder inflammation, or sever liver damage should not use
peppermint. Calendula: Herbalists world-wide recommend calendula’s
blossoms to soothe the skin. Calendula essential oil compounds soothe
inflammation and help new tissue form. Make a poultice by steeping a ½ cup of
fresh or dried calendula petals in a 1/2 cup of boiling water until soft.
Squeeze the petals together and press the wad on the afflicted area. Tie on the
poultice with cotton gauze and leave for thirty minutes. Repeat three times a
day until pain is gone and the skin has begun to heal. Calendula also contains
betacarotene and other carotenoids, along with vitamin C. Sprinkle the blossoms
on your green salads.
How to Use: To make a skin toner, steep the petals, minus
green flower heads, (about 1 tblsp.) in a cup of hot water for four minutes.
Strain and splash on skin. Store the splash, covered, in the refrigerator for
up to a week. Also good for irritated skin from shaving.
grows two different chamomiles: German and Roman. They look and smell very much
alike. For medicinal purposes, German chamomile is preferred. Gargle the tea to
prevent gum disease. Chamomile has many therapeutic powers: antibacterial,
antifungal, antiseptic, and antispasmodic. Use the fresh flowers in a tea ball or muslin cloth for a bath soak by hanging under the faucet so the hot water runs through it. Drink the tea to relax, when you are
feeling sick, or have an upset stomach.
How to Use: Make
an infusion (tea) by steeping 2-3 teaspoons of dried chamomile tops in a cup of almost-boiling water for about ten
you’re allergic to ragweed (like me) you might also suffer from a
cross-reaction and should avoid.
Catnip: Most cats love this herb, so
if you have one, give them a treat by sewing up a handful of the herb in an old
sock! Like other members of the mint family, catnip contains lots of Vit. C and
E. The active ingredients are also good for a mild sedative effect, quell stomach
spasms, and help stimulate menstruation.
How to Use: Make
an infusion by steeping 2 teaspoons of the dried herb in almost- boiling water
for about ten minutes.
Feverfew: This herb is a relative of
dandelion and marigolds and has been used for hundreds of years for the
treatment of migraine headaches, arthritis, and the reduction of fever. It’s
best documented use is against migraines, so if you suffer from them, try
feverfew as a prevention. Feverfew is also an anti-inflammatory.
How to Use: Steep
2-8 fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water to drink at least once a day. You
can also eat up to 4 fresh leaves a day—but that may cause mouth sores (it did
Thyme: The thymol in time fights a
host of bacteria, including staphylococcus and e.coli. How to use: Make an infusion with 1 tsp. dried leaves or 2 tsps.
fresh leaves by steeping in almost-boiling water for ten-fifteen minutes. Drink
for respiratory problems, sinus aliments, sore throats, and mild asthma. Drink as
hot as possible and take about 4 cups a day while sick. Thyme is a good gargle for
sore throat and sore gums (double the tea recipe). Time can ease stomach cramps
from menstrual difficulties, gastritis, or tension.
Hang dried thyme in closets or a muslin bag to deter moths.
use during pregnancy—could cause uterine contractions.
Parsley: Parsley contains potassium
and so is good to eat in hot weather if you sweat a lot and need to replace
this mineral. It also helps digestion when chewed after a meal.
How to Use: Chew a
few sprigs after eating.
Echinacea: (also called
purple coneflower or snakeroot) This native wildflower has been used by
traditional people for hundreds of years to fight colds, flu, yeast and
respiratory infections. Also infections of the skin, throat, and urinary tract.
It is an herbal Vitamin C and a potent immune system stimulant. The root is
considered to have the strongest effect.
How to Use: Boil 2
tsps. of dried root in a cup of water (this is a decoction) and drink 2-3 times
daily. Other forms, such as tinctures or standardized capsules, may be more
overdo it: stop after a couple weeks. Anyone with an autoimmune disease should
herb has been used for centuries by Peruvian Indians as a remedy for coughs,
colds, and the flu. It contains a natural antibiotic that is effective against
respiratory conditions. Eat three fresh leaves three times a day or drink the
tea three times a day. In India,
nasturtium leaves are massaged over teeth and gums to stimulate and cleanse.
Try it and see how clean your mouth feels! Nasturtium leaves can also be used
as a poultice for a minor cuts and scratches: lightly bruise 3-4 fresh leaves
and pack around the cut or scratch. Tie with gauze and leave on for about an
hour. Repeat 2-3 times per day until healing begins.
How to use: Make
an infusion (tea) from two teaspoons of the bruised fresh leaves by steeping in
a cup of hot water for ten minutes.
strong volatile oils in this herb have been used to treat poisonous insect
bites, coughs, and digestive problems. So, sprinkling oregano on food may
improve your digestion as well as enhance the flavor.
Sage: Harvest sage leaves just
before the plant flowers. Cut the stems 4-5 inches above ground and gather
about 5-8 together with a rubber band. Dry upside down in a cool, dry
environment away from sunlight until brittle. Strip the leaves from the stems
and store in an airtight glass container. Sage is an astringent and
disinfectant and should NOT be taken more than about 7 days at a time. (The
active ingredient is thujone and shouldn’t be taken over long periods—can be
How to Use: Steep
2 tsps. of the fresh herb or 1 tsp. of the dried herb in a cup of hot water for
about 10 minutes. Great for a gargle—kills bacteria, relieves bleeding gums,
reduces canker sores, and eliminates bad breath.
Use sage tea against mental fatigue and to improve
concentration and memory.
Prevent night sweats during menopause by drinking a cool cup
of sage tea before bedtime.
Rub a crushed sage leaf on an insect bite or minor scrape
and press it to the area.
not drink sage tea if pregnant (uterine-stimulating qualities). Avoid if you
have high blood pressure or have seizures due to sage’s stimulating properties.
herb is considered “The King of Herbs” in French cuisine and has been used in
the Middle East for hundreds of years. It
contains rutin, which regulates blood pressure and could help prevent cancer.
Tarragon is a good source of potassium. The Greeks used tarragon for toothaches
because of its mouth-numbing eugenol. Fresh is best and to keep the oils in the
plant, freeze sprigs in a plastic baggy. Will keep for 3-5 months.
How to Use: Simply
eat it! Try a tablespoon or two of the fresh, or a teaspoon of dried in a
healthy salad. Lemon juice brings out the licorice-like flavor (like anise) and
tones down the camphor effects. Tarragon is best by itself or with lemon, but
you can also blend chervil, parsley, and chives to make a traditional “fines
To make tarragon vinegar: Fill a wide-mouthed jar with
fresh-picked leaves (strip from stems) just before the plant flowers (on a dry
day). Make sure leaves are dry. Fill jar with good vinegar. Let stand for a few
hours. Strain into bottle and cork.
Basil: Mmm, basil. The scent of this herb hints of mint, cloves, and thyme and is a favorite of mine and many herbal gardeners. Let your taste buds guide you into planting some of the many varieties such as lemon, cinnamon, spicy, and licorice. In India basil sprigs are used for their uplifting aroma--to give people "sattva"--enlightenment and harmony. Aromotherapists use basil essential oil to promote clarity of thought and uplift a troubled mind and heart. The essential oil is also great for sore muscles and joint pain--mix 5 drops into an ounce of carrier oil like almond, grapeseed, or olive. How to use: make a skin toner by packing a handful of fresh basil leaves into a mug and pound with a pestle to bruise leaves. Pour boiling water over and steep for twenty minutes or so. Discard leaves and splash the cooled liquid on your face. Pesto What is a discussion about basil without mentioning a pesto recipe? This is one of the best things about summer! Easy and quick. Blend the following ingredients until smooth and creamy:1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder, 3 tablespoons of pine nuts or walnuts, 2 cups fresh basil, 3 large cloves of garlic. Add 1/2 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup romano cheese. Stir into drained pasta. Enjoy!
Making herbal oils and salves: what a great way to apply healing medicine!
Oils: General Method for
Infusing an Herbal Oil: Add 1 ounce of ground herb for each 4
oil. Place herb in a jar and cover completely with oil. Let it steep
warm place (like a windowsill) for about five days. Then strain out the
herbs with cheese cloth or coffee filters.
Prepare base oil with Arnica, Calendula, or Comfrey and then add ¼ oz
of essential oil for 12 oz. of the base oil (lavender, sandalwood, rose, or
whatever you like for scent or healing.)
to use: fixed oils like safflower, olive, sweet almond, wheat germ, and
herbs to use:Mullein
flowers for outer ear infections and swollen neck glands. (Place in jar in a
paper bag for 1-3 weeks.) Arnica
flowers for bruises, strains, and sprains. (Prepare like Mullein.)St. John’s Wort for
neuralgia, nerve pain, sciatica. Use pestle and mortar to bruise fresh flowers first
and then cover with almond or sunflower oil until the oil turns ruby red.Lavender flowers
for muscle aches and pains. Relaxes the mind, body, spirit! Great for relieving
tension headaches and stress-induced tension, anxiety, and general worries.
Herbal Skin Salve:
excellent for diaper rash, eczema, poorly healing wounds and chapped skin.
grind (coffee grinder) 1
ounce Calendula petals, 1
ounce Comfrey root, 1
ounce Chamomile flowers. Cover
herbs with 16-24 oz. of oil (add more oil if necessary). Prepare
in a double boiler.Heat
one hour minimum. Strain
through pressing cloths. Squeeze well. Measure
oil: to each 4 oz. add ½ oz of chopped beeswax. Heat in double boiler
until melted. While
warm, add preservatives (add 1/8 teaspoon of Vitamin E or 10 drops of tincture of Benzoin
per 4 oz.) and essential oils of choice and then pour into salve
containers. (Just a drop or two of essential oil will do—like lavender.).Don’t
forget to label!
Herbs for Hair: Fresh herbs are cheap and very effective to use as rinses. Choose one of the herbs below and make an infusion by using 1/3 cup of herb to 16 ounces of water and setting the glass jar in the sun for a few hours. For blondes--try fresh chamomile flowers. For redheads--try fresh basil leaves. For brunettes--try fresh rosemary leaves.
Herbs for the skin: Try these herb oil recipes for soothing, moisturizing, and disinfecting the skin. Using fresh-- 2 cups fresh lavender flowers 1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves 2 cups grapeseed, almond, or jojoba oil Pound the herbs with a pestle and mortar. Pack them into a glass jar and add the oil, making sure to cover the herbs completely. Use a knife or chopstick to release air between the herbs. Cover with cheesecloth. Place the jar in a sunny window for two weeks. Shake the jar daily. Strain with cheesecloth into a clean container. Cover and let sit for one day.Then siphon off the oil that sits on top of the water and sludge that has settled to the bottom and put in original jar. Place a tight-fitting lid and label. Store in a dark, cool place.
Using dried-- 2 cups of olive oil 1 cup of dried calendula flowers Blend and grind them together and then pour the mix into a clean glass pint jar. Cover with a lid and put in a warm place (like a sunny window) for two to four weeks. Pour off the oil through cheesecloth and squeeze as much as oil as you can out of the flowers suing cheesecloth or a small press. Bottle the oil, label and date it. Store in a cool, dark place. Most oils have a shelf life of one year.