The Essential Herbal Blog is filled with information, recipes, lore, and crafting ideas and instructions for using herbs and making them a part of your life everyday. The Essential Herbal Magazine is a print magazine by, for, and about herbie people and the things they love about herbs.
There have been a couple opportunities to get an understanding of nebulous concepts in my life. In high school, World Cultures class was an overview of the religions, types of governments, and an assortment of "isms" that served me well and led to further study on my part. In the very earliest days of learning about herbalism, my sister and I took an 8 or 10 week course during which a different healing modality was addressed each week. There we got a rudimentary understanding of things like homeopathy, ayurveda, transcendental meditation, reiki, and several others. It was much more important than I'd imagined at the time, and it opened us up to learn more.
Now we have Evolutionary Herbalism by Sajah Popham. This is another one of those huge learning opportunities.
I've been a fan of Sajah Popham's via social media. He's got some great Youtube videos, and a podcast called The Plant Push that he and his wife Whitney do together. His ability to explain confusing or difficult concepts is fluid and easy-going. You get drawn in and understand the subject before you have a chance to realize you're learning something new. So it comes as no surprise that his innate talent for transferring information and understanding is on full display on these pages. We swoop and dive through many deep and mysterious subjects and see how they bring us back into connection with plants and healing. We walk through several doctrines, elements, alchemy, doshas, astrology, and so much more, leading to helping and healing the soul in evolution. He does a spectacular job of bringing plant/person/condition energetics into focus. Ever want to understand more about the how and why of spagyric processes? I have! And here it is. This is a new and valuable resource that explains a whole system of wholeness. Most importantly for me, there is a lot of material here that is usually approached with a level of woo-woo that leaves me lost in the ambiguity and lack of clarity. This is not the case in Evolutionary Herbalism. Here we have a writer who knows the subject matter well enough that he can convey it without being vague. I'm not sure I've ever seen some of these topics approached so openly.
The book is published via northatlanticbooks.com and I'm sure it's available through the jungle behemoth as well, but I'm not posting that link. ISBN 9781623173135
Now that I’ve left the land of constant sunburn, I find I’m looking forward to a little sun. I spent many years trying to hide from the sun under long sleeves and sunscreen. The sun is beginning to peek through on a regular basis, and it is gloriously below sixty. Judging from last summer, my first back in the great pacific northwest, there will be many hot and sunny days between bouts of lovely fog and rain. I imagine that I’ll be out without sunscreen at some point, getting a little over-done, and my mind turns to Yarrow for relief.
Yarrow contains a large measure of azulene, prized for many properties including being an anti-inflammatory. I’ve used yarrow successfully for sunburn over many years. It has an added soap and toiletries benefit in that it contributes a beautiful yellow color.
About ten years ago I was a wild-crafting heroine, concocting yarrow-based lotion and compresses while staying at a cabin on lake Couer d’Alene in Idaho. We’d all left off sunscreen during a boat ride on the river, and I found a stand of wild yarrow near an abandoned farm. I dragged home a pile of it to make infusions. One caution about Yarrow – it is not good for people who are allergic to ragweed. Even being in the cabin long enough to make the infusions had my poor mother sneezing her head off, so I moved the harvest outside away from the cabin.
Let’s branch out a bit from soap to create a suite of products to soothe a summer’s worth of sunburn. Yarrow is carried into these recipes by infused oil and tea.
I like to use the sun to create my infused oil and teas. You can, of course, also make them by heating them in the kitchen. You can make up a big batch of yarrow-infused olive oil and keep it on hand as needed to create your sunburn products. I’ve found that it is best to make teas as needed.
Yarrow cold process Soap
Yarrow-infused olive oil – 6 oz
Coconut oil – 5 oz
Shea butter – 3 oz
Cocoa butter – 2 oz
Castor oil - .5 oz
Yarrow tea – 4.5 oz.
Lye – 2.2 oz
To prepare for this soap, make a strong yarrow tea with 2 tablespoons of dried yarrow and 4.5 ounces of water. Cool and strain to remove herb pieces. Re-weigh the water and add plain water to make up the full 4.5 ounces. Be sure the infusion is completely cold before making the lye solution.
If you need instruction on basic soapmaking procedures, look on the home page of the Essential Herbal web site.
Weigh out the oils and butters into a heat-proof mixing container. Break up the solid oils into small pieces for ease of melting.
Put on hand and eye protection.
Weigh the cold yarrow tea into a heat-proof mixing container. Weigh the lye and sprinkle it into the tea while stirring carefully and constantly until solution is clear.
Pour the hot lye solution into the oils. The heat from the lye solution will melt the solid oils. Stir well until solids are melted, breaking up stubborn pieces as needed. Stir the soap batter until it is at a good medium-thick trace. Pour into mold and insulate. Let soap sit for two days then remove from mold and cut into bars. Let bars sit for two weeks to dry and cure. Store in a dry area with plenty of air circulation.
Yarrow M&P Soap
16 ounces of natural melt and pour glycerin soap base
Light muslin or heat-seal tea bags.
If you shop around you can find natural, even organic melt and pour glycerin soap base. The most common non-botanical ingredient in melt and pour soap is polypropylene glycol. I like to use a square of light muslin to make a tea bag, but I also use reusable muslin bags and large heat-seal tea-bags for this kind of project. Put three tablespoons of dry yarrow in whichever bag you decide to use. Wet it in hot water and put aside.
Cut the melt and pour soap into small cubes. Using a heat proof mixing container, melt the soap in the microwave. Start with 30-second bursts until you get a feel for how long it takes your microwave to melt it. Don’t let the soap get above 150 degrees. You may also melt the soap using a double boiler. Just be extra-sure not to let it boil dry.
While the soap is very hot and thin, submerge the yarrow bag and poke it around in the hot soap until the bag is saturated. Dunk it a number of times to create a kind of infusion. When it looks like the yarrow has given all it will give, remove the bag and either clean it out or discard it. It is most likely not suitable for compost.
Pour the infused soap into mold. You can eliminate bubbles by spritzing the top with rubbing alcohol. Let the soap sit until it is cold and firm. Remove it from the mold and cut into bars. Wrap in plastic or put into plastic bags. Unlike cold process soap, this kind of soap does best in air-proof packaging.
Yarrow Infusion Light Lotion
Yarrow tea – 7.5 oz
Yarrow-infused olive oil – 2 oz
Borax – 1/2 teaspoon
Beeswax - .5 oz
Gluconolactone and Sodium Benzoate preservative (sold as Microguard and Neodefend) – 1 teaspoon
I believe that unless you’re going to use lotion right away it is a good idea to use a good preservative to prevent mold and spoilage. There have been a lot of advances in preservation technology available to the at-home lotion maker, and I like this one.
Beeswax and borax is not an ideal emulsifier, but it will work well. If you like you can order some vegetable-based emulsifying wax from your soapmaking supplier. Substitute it for the beeswax and omit the borax.)
Heat the water, borax and preservative. Warm the oil and beeswax until the beeswax is melted. Pour the warm oil and melted beeswax into the hot water, stirring with a whisk. Whisk to emulsify. As the mixture cools, whisk periodically as it thickens to maintain the emulsion. Pour into bottles and label with recipe name and date made. Keep the lotion in the refrigerator to extend its life, especially if you omit the preservative.
Yarrow-infused olive oil – 8 ounces
Beeswax, grated, beads or prills - .5 ounces
Warm the infused oil and beeswax until the beeswax is melted. You may need more or less beeswax depending on how loose or firm you want the salve. You can test the consistency with the cold spoon method. When you start to make the salve, place a few spoons in the freezer. Test the consistency of the salve by dipping the frozen spoon into the mixture. Add more beeswax if desired. Pour into jars. Store extra in the refrigerator.
Yarrow Bath Tea and compress –
Dry lavender flowers
Dry rose petals
Dry milk powder
Light muslin square, reusable muslin bag or heat-seal tea bag
Make a mixture of dried botanicals. Three parts yarrow, one part lavender, one part rose petals, one part dry milk. Store a bulk amount in a dry jar with an airtight lid. Fill bags as needed and drop one into a warm bath. Alternatively, use the saturated bag as a small compress for sunburn. Gently swab tender areas.
Some of you might remember last year I decided to make seedless black raspberry jelly, and it dirtied every piece of equipment in my kitchen. It was left to strain overnight, and the next morning it lifted from the bowl in one jelled mass. No sugar, no pectin, it jelled all alone.
Well guess what! Black currants are pretty similar in that respect. I just wanted to juice them. That's all...My juicer doesn't like little seeds. Why do I bother, you ask?
Black currants, (Ribes nigrum) have a ton of health benefits! The tart berries aren't well known in the US, due to most Ribes being banned for about 50 years due to a pine rust problem that has now been pretty much bred out of commercially available plants. They need a little sweetening for most tastes. They contain very high amounts of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant found in elderberries, red grapes, blueberries, and other berries/fruit with that deep purple color.
FYI - smashing the heated berries will send hot berry bits and juice flying as they pop.
Grape-based drinks like wine and juice are known to help decrease plaque buildup in the arteries, but blackcurrant juice is far more potent. The seed oil is very good for joint pain and stiffness. Glaucoma responds well. The berries are very high vitamin C. Both red and black currants have four times more vitamin C than oranges and twice the antioxidants of blueberries.
As little as 1 T of the berries can help with screen fatique for a couple of hours. Slows blood clotting, so use caution if on blood thinning medication.
The leaves and berries also have diaphoretic, demulcent, and diuretic properties Leaves can be made into tea - good for gout, painful joints, and sore throats..
The berries can be made into juice - jelly - syrup - tincture - dried - added to foods - etc.
I make a gallon of green tea every other day, and add lemon juice ice cubes to jazz it up. Now I will use some black currant cubes! It's perfect. Delicious.
I also made a pint or so of tincture. Because it was so wet, I used grain alcohol for the high proof.
It was another BIG mess, but I think it was worth it.
Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams All kinds of changes going on, and appreciating all plants.
About the Artist – Carolina Gonzolez
All in the Family, Pt 2, Jackie Johnson In this issue, we learn about Lamiaceae and Solanaceae.
Plant Parenthood, Miranda Hoodenpyl How is the new generation communing with herbs?
Garlic Mustard, Friend or Destroyer of Trees, Lorie Middendorf You can view it either way, but here are lots of ways to make use of this wildly prolific weed.
Herbs for the Perinatal Period Pt 2 - Doulaing with Herbs, Danielle Bergum Terrific information and helpful recipes for those approaching birth. The relaxing remedies are good for everyone.
When is a Perennial Not a Perennial, Kathy Musser Just when you had the annual/perennial thing figured out…
Summer Herbs for Winter, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh Creative ways to preserve herbs, beyond drying!
Blue Oat Smoothie, Book Excerpt, Tina Sams From the Oat chapter of my book The Healing Power of Herbs.
A Garden Journey - The Fruit Tree Guild, Rebekah Bailey Like most humans, fruit trees do better in a community.
Catnip, Not Just for Cats, S. Marie Carlson Keep some of that catnip for your family. Find out how and why!
Guarding Goldenseal, Kristine Brown In this installment of Kristine’s series on at-risk plants, goldenseal is the star.
Herbal Hempster Soap, Marci Tsohonis Luxurious healing soap using hemp oil, along with castor and some infused oils. We make soap here on a daily basis, but Marci never fails to inspire me to follow her recipe.
Herbal Ice Cubes, Lalanya Bodenbender Stock that freezer with delicious frozen medicine!
Three Easy Pieces, Rita Richardson Yummy herbal recipes for summer dining, indoor or out!
Note: We rather hurriedly switched printers during a period of time when there was much traveling, a wedding, a new book (Living with Lavender) and a bunch of other things, including this issue. We misunderstood a question from the printer and wound up with no table of contents, but Miranda's article is on both pages 3 and 8. Because of that, we're sending a PDF to subscribers, whose copies are on the way. We'll be printing an insert for the copies going to shops, writers, and any new subscribers over the next 6 to 8 weeks. This was a VERY unusual event. Not trying to say we don't make mistakes every single issue, but we've never had one of this magnitude. We are certain that the communications will be ironed out by the next issue. Thank you for your patience.
When I mentioned a clafoutis, Bob headed up the hill and brought back a bucket of berries.
Over the years we've added so many fruit-bearing plants that we've needed to find new ways to use the cherries, figs, gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, saskatoon berries, persimmons, peaches, pears, and currants, among others. There have always been mulberries here, and if the birds have anything to do with it, we always will. The mulberries are also my brother-in-law's favorite, and he always lets me know when they're ripe. We've enjoyed things like cobblers, crisps, and persimmon pudding. There's not much I like better than spending a morning searching through recipes and then adding my own spin. A few years ago, we added clafoutis (pronounced clafuti) to the mix.
Fruit and custard - not too sweet, just enough.
They are simple and custardy, with fruit suspended in the mix. They are extremely versatile. In our part of the country, pie is a common sight on the dinner table. Amish and other plain sects who do lots of home cooking always include deserts. Custard Fruit pies are very common, and this French country version has no crust.
Easy? I threw this together in less than 10 minutes this afternoon. Here's the recipe:
Measuring out the berries is almost as messy as picking them.
Mulberry Clafoutis Preheat oven to 325 F and butter shallow pie pan. Set aside.
Mix the following 1 C milk or half and half 3 eggs 1/2 C sugar 2 t vanilla 2 T melted butter add 1/2 C flour
Chopped kumquats were the perfect addition.
-Pour mixture into buttered pan. -Chop up 2 kumquats, leaving behind the center. -Measure out 2 C mulberries -Drop the fruit evenly onto the batter. -Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. -Dust with 10X confectioner's sugar.
Ready to go into the oven.
Cooling before sifting sugar over the top and serving.
It's good warm plain or with whipped cream. It's good cold for breakfast. It's just plain good! This really brought out the flavor of the mulberries, and if I'd had lemon I probably would have used some zest, BUT I'm really glad there were only kumquats on hand. They were perfect.
You can substitute just about any fruit, and instead of vanilla, use a splash of flavored liqueur like raspberry, cassis, or even peach brandy. The possibilities are endless.
Ground Ivy is commonly known by many names including Gill-over-the-ground, Gill-over-the-hill, Lizzy-run-up-the-Hedge, Gill-go-by-the-Hedge, Robin-run-in-the-Hedge,creeping Charlie, catsfoot, cat’s paw, turnhoof and alehoofe. This plant is not related to Ivy but is, instead, in the Mint family. Many of his names imply his growing habit of being a ground cover while others such as ‘paw’ and ‘hoof’ describe the shape of his leaves. Ground Ivy was historically used in beer brewing, hence the name ‘ale.’
Do you have Ground Ivy growing in your backyard? If so, grab a sprig to try out this experiment. Take a leaf and chew on it. Observe what you taste. Does it seem bitter or sweet? Spicy or pungent? Does your mouth salivate or dry up? How does your mouth feel, does the leaf warm it up or cool it off? Most people describe Ground Ivy as bitter, pungent, drying and cooling.
Nutritionally, Ground Ivy contains vitamin C, copper, iodine, iron, phosphorus and potassium. He also contains triterpenoids, sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, resin, saponin, tannins, the volatile oil pulegone and a bitter principle known as glechomine.
Medicinally, Ground Ivy is said to be analgesic, anthelmintic, antiatheromatic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, mucostatic, urinary tonic, and vulnerary.
Let’s take a look at what Ground Ivy is used for…
Ground Ivy is probably most recognized for his usefulness in being able to remove heavy metals such as lead, mercury and aluminum from the body due to his high levels of vitamin C which bind with the soft, heavy metals. Matthew Wood also surmises that Ground Ivy may be useful for doing the same with petrochemical pollutants as well. Ground Ivy has a long history of being used for chelation and is listed in various historical herbals for treating ‘painters colic’ or ‘lead colic’ as lead poisoning was known by. As a hepatoprotective herb, Ground Ivy protects the liver from these heavy metals by binding with them so they can be filtered and removed from the body through the kidneys.
I became familiar with Ground Ivy after I learned he can help with the inner ear issue known as tinnitus which symptoms include humming or ringing in the ear and loss of hearing. Ground Ivy is also used for those suffering from ‘glue ear,’ medically known as otitis media with effusion, a condition that occurs when the Eustachian tubes fill with fluid in the middle ear, often at the beginning stage of chronic respiratory congestion or with a head cold.
For the respiratory system, Ground Ivy is great for congestion, especially when you have a hot, wet cough as Ground Ivy cools and dries. Other coughs most likely will not benefit from Ground Ivy. Ground Ivy works for both acute respiratory infections as well as chronic respiratory infections, especially when the middle ears are congested, including ailments such as sinusitis and bronchitis. Ground Ivy can also help to soothe a sore throat and makes an all around great remedy for all things cold virus related.
As well as working on respiratory issues, Ground Ivy can be helpful for eye issues such as conjunctivitis, acute redness, itchiness, soreness, tiredness, and pain in the eyes. A tea made of Ground Ivy with a pinch of sea salt added makes a soothing eye wash.
Ground Ivy can be helpful for urinary problems as well. As a urinary tonic, Ground Ivy tones the urinary system, and may be helpful for those suffering from gout. As a diuretic,
Ground Ivy gets the urinary tract back on track and can be used as a tea for cystitis, urinary inflammation and urinary tract infections. Kidney issues may find relief with Ground Ivy as well, from kidney stones to infections.
Ground Ivy is said to help stimulate the bile flow in the gallbladder and liver, and may alleviate jaundice, helping to increase the flow of bile when it seems to be ‘stuck.’ Ground Ivy is also helpful for a congested spleen and lymph.
As a stomachic, Ground Ivy is soothing for intestinal issues such as colic, intestinal cramping, and gas. Because of his astringent nature, Ground Ivy can be helpful for relieving diarrhea.
Topically, Ground Ivy can be applied to hot, itchy skin conditions for gentle relief, as well as cuts and scratches since he is a vulnerary and antiseptic. His traditional use for arthritis and rheumatism suggest that topical applications may be helpful for these conditions as well.
Ground Ivy can also be helpful for sciatica pain, I would use a poultice directly over the affected area along with a tea or extract internally. Dioscorides used Ground Ivy as a “remedy against sciatica or ache in the hucklebone.” Adele Dawson states that she finds that Ground Ivy is not helpful for sporadic, acute cases of sciatica and surmises that Ground Ivy would best be used for chronic cases.
I am curious to try Ground Ivy more in conditions of the heart as research has shown Ground Ivy to be antiatheromatic, hypotensive, and anti-inflammatory as well as hypoglycemic due to his triterpenoids oleanolic and ursolic acid.
There are no known contraindications, side effects or adverse effects with drug interactions. It is possibly safe for pregnant and lactating women though no studies have been done.
Ground Ivy Extract
This extract can be used for respiratory infections, tinnitus, and heavy metal toxicity, as well as urinary, digestive and bile issues.
Fresh Ground Ivy
Fill your jar halfway with chopped Ground Ivy. Add grain alcohol halfway then add water to fill the jar.
Let steep for 4 weeks before using, shaking daily. You may wish to strain off the Ground Ivy at the end of the 4 week period.
Dosage for adults: 30 drops 4-5 times daily. Double for chelation
Children 2-6 - 10 drops; Children 7-12 - 20 drops 4-5 times daily.
Ground Ivy Tea
This tea is used for helping with chelation, tinnitus, and respiratory, urinary, digestive and bile issues. For tinnitus, it may be slow to work; expect results to take 30-90 days to be effective. This tea is also great as an eye wash for eye complaints.
1 T dried Ground Ivy
10 oz boiling water
Steep Ground Ivy in boiling water for 15-20 minutes.
Dosage for adults: 2-4 cups daily.
For children 2-6, 1/2-1 cup daily; 6-12 should drink 1-2 cups daily.
Ground Ivy Vinegar
Ground Ivy vinegar is great for getting a daily dose of Ground Ivy’s minerals. Use it on salads, a tablespoon in a cup of water before a meal to aid digestion. This can also be applied topically to help with hot, itchy skin conditions.
Fresh Ground Ivy
Apple cider vinegar
Fill your jar with chopped up Ground Ivy then pour the Apple cider vinegar over the shoots to fill the jar. Cover with a lid.
Label and shake daily for 2 weeks.
Dyeing with Ground Ivy
Ground Ivy gives a rich palette of greens when using it as a dye. This is a perfect way to use a bunch of Ground Ivy from your yard if he is taking over! You can experiment in getting different shades by using different mordants.
Fresh Ground Ivy
A large stock pot
13 oz. Alum
7 oz. Cream of tartar
Natural dye fabric (cotton, wool, silk, linen are all good - they will dye slightly differently in color)
Section of copper piping or other copper material (if using pennies, make sure they are pure copper pennies made prior to 1982)*
*Optional items to test out different shades - If you want to experiment with the optional colors, place the rusty nails (or other iron objects) into a jar and cover with rain water.
Do the same for the copper piping in a separate jar. Be sure to label both jars so you know which is which.
Let soak for several days until the water turns a deep rust color.*
To begin, add 1 gallon water., alum and cream of tartar to the stock pot and stir to dissolve. Bring the water to a boil then turn off. Have a big person help you with this step if you are not used to using a stove.
Add the dye materials, stirring to soak and let steep until cool. Strain off the water and set aside the dye materials. You can also begin this at the same time as the next step to save time (in separate pots).
Chop up enough Ground Ivy to fill your stock pot loosely with the plant material.
Cover the Ground Ivy with water and place on the stove. Bring the pot to a boil then turn down to a simmer, simmering for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool, steeping for 6-8 hours. You may wish to start this step the evening before you want to dye, allowing the mixture to cool overnight.
Strain off the plant material and compost. If you are doing a dye bath of just this mixture, add your material to the pot and return the liquid mixture to a simmer for 30 minutes. Let sit another 6 hours before straining.
If you want to experiment with colors, split your dye bath in to 2-4 sections, depending on which mordants you want to try (copper, iron, baking soda, plain). Add about 1/4 cup of the mordants to each dye bath, labeling the dye baths accordingly. Follow the instructions to dye the materials.
Once the materials have soaked for 6 hours, use the tongs to remove them and rinse them in cool water until the water runs clear.
Hang to dry.
Creeping Charley gall of gall wasp, Liposthenes glechomae
For the past 18 years, every time we published a book, we have done a pre-sale so that most of the printing costs are covered beforehand. There are a lot of details involved in pre-sales and only a couple sets of hands and eyes to keep it all under control. We decided to try a Kickstarter campaign this time, and it does seem a lot simpler.
Visit our Kickstarter campaign So! Living with Lavender is a terrific little book, offering tons of crafts, recipes, and healthy ideas to take advantage of the lovely lavender plant's offerings. Learn about lavender lore, how to grow it, when to harvest, and so much more. We will have this book in the mail the day after the campaign ends. Check it out - there are some pretty interesting rewards. If you have a shop and are interested in purchasing them wholesale, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll tell you how to place that order through the site. Help us reach our goal! This one is all or nothing.
This is one of several items (Super Lavender Box) that can be purchased along with the book.
Let another season begin! Every day, something new opens and blooms. Overnight leaves burst from buds and flowers unfurl. Bulbs and roots push up, up, up, to reach the sun. My backyard is full of white blossoming trees, a few tulips, and all kinds of green.
We have a great issue to get you inspired and excited to jump in. Get it here: EssentialHerbal.com
Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams All about the perfect season, coming right up.
The Birth of Herbal Wellness, Danielle Bergum A healthy pregnancy is the goal. Ideas and recipes included.
May Wine, Maryanne Schwartz An ancient tradition to welcome the glorious spring.
A Garden Journey - The Still Room, Rebekah Bailey Along the way, with the work comes reward.
Fragrance & Foliage - The Lure of Scented Geraniums,Kathy Musser There are so many varieties of these beauties. Grow one or six!
Our Favorite Essential Oils for Spring Cleaning,Amber M. LaBord Lose the harsh cleaning solutions, and switch to simple and fresh.
Bravo Blackberry, Kristine Brown A plant that offers help from roots to fruit, don’t overlook this beauty.
List Article - Herbal Mistakes Sometimes the lessons that stay with us were mistakes we made.
Recipes from Mountain Mary, Mary Graber Some delights from Mary’s tea room.
Sassafras Soap, Marci Tsohonis A soap full of benefits, this old remedy comes through the process. Souvenirs from France, Rita Richardson Unusual plant markers for the garden.
Sweet Cicely, Theresa Mieseler This fragile looking beauty is a fragrant treat. Flower & Herb Syrups, Tina Sams Fun (and useful) experimentation for the early summer. All in the Family - Pt.1, Rosaceae Family, Jackie Johnson A family reunion of Rosaceae would be enormous! Cherry Bounce, Tina Sams It’s purely medicinal, of course. Really, ask your aching joints.
Summer Iced Teas, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Great tea blends and recipes for keeping cool this summer. We hope you enjoy it!
There is a lot of crossover between herbs for cooking and food for medicine - in fact, I almost cannot divide them anymore. Eventually, you'll probably feel the same way. Indeed, because I live in the middle of a field, several of these plants are wild for me. My "lawn" is sprinkled with the medicine of plantain, chickweed, self heal, yarrow, and occasionally chamomile. Right now cleavers is everywhere, and various mints have been plowed into the fields and will forever be with us. But for a first medicinal garden, planting a few of these along with some good culinary herbs would be a great start. Each of these plants have many uses and I'll just touch on them, so take some time to get to know them.
These bright little daisy-like flowers make a mild tea that has long been the first thing we reach for when someone is over tired, restless, cranky, or tense. Molly reached for it almost every year the night before a new school year began to help her relax and sleep. We usually have some tincture too. It is very easy to grow. Just treat it like a weed in a sunny, well-drained location. I often notice it about to get dug uner when passing new construction, and rescue it for my garden. More about chamomile...
Most people say that lemon balm moves all over their garden. That isn't my experience for some reason, but it has finally taken up a permanent residence out in the back border. Lemon balm is a mint that has a strong, bright, delightful lemon fragrance and flavor. It can be used in cooking, but in medicine it is often a relaxing tea for anxiety, cabin fever, and the blues. It is worth growing simply for the fragrance. More about lemon balm...
Calendula flowers are often infused in oil to make all purpose healing salves, and tea or tincture internally is healing for the mouth, throat, stomach and gut. They grow easily from seed, and here in zone 6b they almost always reseed and volunteer the next year. They prefer sun and good drainage. More about calendula...
I love holy basil. It's one of my favorite herbs because it is so versatile. I started using it for stress, and found that it helped fend off viruses and kept my immune system running. The benefits of holy basil are pretty astounding. It is not generally used as a culinary herb, but it is a great tea herb. It is easy to grow, but I have a problem with birds who chop it up. They use their beaks to snip off the tiny, tender leaves and stems, right down to the ground. Some netting is often required out in the garden, but they leave them alone (so far) in pots. More about holy basil...
I don't use a lot of echinacea anymore, but I love the flowers and will probably always grow them. The entire plant can be chopped up for a tea (more like a decoction) or tincture. It is used to support the immune system. It is a perennial that will spread if happy in the location. More about echinacea...
Ah lavender... Lavender is a very strong flavor, so it should be used sparingly. It is great for so many things, from relaxation, to soothing skin issues, to headaches and much more. Different varieties may be more suitable in your area than others. In 6b we grow Grosso, Provence, Munstead, and Hidcote, and cross our fingers that they'll be back in the spring. They like drier weather and lots of air circulation. More about lavender...
There are several varieties of yarrow, and the native one is white, sometimes with a pink blush. The yellow and paprika cultivars are also medicinal, but the white is generally chosen for medicine and considered to be more effective. It grows like a weed. Sun, semi-shade, and good drainage will give you a plant that returns year after year. More about yarrow...
There are so many others that will eventually find their way into the medicinal garden. Elderberry and St John's wort are allies here, and elecampane, valerian, and Solomon's seal are held in high esteem. Everyone will have their own favorites, but these are good choices to get started.
If you're planting your first herb garden, the choices can be overwhelming. Below you'll find the ones I wouldn't want to be without, in order of importance from top to bottom. They can go in containers on the deck, or be tucked into the soil. They'll love sun and good drainage, and give you lots of enjoyment.
In my area (zone 6b) most of these herbs will be replaced each spring, and it will cost well less than $50. If you use these herbs in cooking, it will be a tiny investment on enormous flavor, and all of them have great health benefits, too. It's always hard to separate herbs into categories such as culinary or medicinal. Most of them cross-over.
These are easy to grow and will bring a fresh, delicious sparkle to your dishes.
Parsley - Parsley is probably the first herb people new to herb think of when we talk about culinary herbs, that sprig on the side of the plate. Once you grow it and have it fresh and handy at all times, it can be sprinkled into nearly every meal. Pasta, potatoes, stews, soups - there's almost nothing that doesn't benefit from a little spiffing up with chopped parsley. The plant is a biennial, meaning that the first year it is just the leaves and it is exactly what you want. The second year, it will bolt (flower) very early in the season and certain butterflies will seek it out as a host plant for their caterpillars. If you can, leave it for them. Here's a recipe you might like:
Tabouli from Sept/Oct '09 Essential Herbal 1 cup bulgur (cracked wheat) Handful or more of fresh chopped parsley (2-3 cups) 1 small chopped onion 2 cloves garlic chopped 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice 3-4 tablespoons olive oil 3 chopped ripe tomatoes 1 chopped cucumber Salt and pepper to taste Pour boiling water over the bulgur and let set 30 minutes or until soft. Drain off excess water. Combine bulgur with remaining ingredients and mix well. This is a great end of summer salad which will supply you with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Enjoy. Since dried parsley has little taste, enjoy it now with all your garden fresh foods. Dry some however to use on your skin this winter! Cindy Jones, Ph.D. www.sagescript.com.
Thyme - Like parsley, thyme is super easy to learn to cook with, because it's fairly mild in taste, but takes the flavor of dishes up a few notches. From scrambled eggs to hearty chili, and everything in between, thyme is usually a good choice. Thyme is also a terrific herb to eat regularly because it has so many great health benefits. It helps us stay healthy, and fights all the things that try "bug" us. There are many different cultivars of thyme. Lemon flavored, variegated, elfin (miniscule leaves) and on and on. Go for the regular garden thyme that is deep green with narrow 1/4" to 1/2" leaves. It is considered perennial here, but mine tends to wander off or doesn't make it through winter, so it is replaced pretty often. It's worth it. Thyme tea is also great in the winter to ward off illnesses. Cheese "Cookies"
Varieties of basil I grew last year
Basil - There are so many basils, and I can't ever choose just one. Last year I tried the "lettuce leaf"in addition to my usuals, and found it to be great on sandwiches. Any dish that would be good withgarlic and parmesan can usually stand some basil. Lots! All of the herbs listed here are very fragrant, meaning that they contain essential oils. Eating them will provide you with the perfect amount. They all have antibiotic properties, among other really healthy benefits, so eat up!
Rosemary - Although there are supposedly varieties that will survive here, it's a 50/50 proposition. It's worth replacing when it dies. The flavor of rosemary is amazing. A nice sprig of rosemary under a chicken while it roasts will infuse the meat with that flavor. It's delicious in roasted veggies, and I've enjoyed it in shortbread, too. Many people plant rosemary in containers that they can bring inside over the winter, keeping it in a semi-dormant stage in the garage or basement. I am not good at that. It is easily dried for use over the winter. Potatoes with Rosemary and Cheese
Cilantro - Not everyone likes cilantro. It can usually be replaced with parsley in that case. However, if you like cilantro like I do, you'll really want to grow your own. Did I mention how incredible it is to go outside and cut fresh herbs to be used immediately? Instant earth-mother vibe comes over you as you serve pure health and life to your family :-) I planted cilantro once and it has always reseeded every year. The seeds, by the way are the spice known as coriander. I do save some of them, but leave the rest to grow the next year. Cilantro is a refreshing lively taste and it makes salsa and Mexican dishes come alive. This cucumber lime salsa recipe made my sister like cilantro for the first time.
Chives - For a nice mild onion-y flavor that also provides a beautiful decorative element to dishes, chives are a plant to have around. The hollow stems are sliced into rings, usually, and most people have seen them sprinkled over sour cream on a baked potato. They're good in salads, eggs, breads, and many places where a little onion would be tasty. The blossoms are edible and beautiful. They grow from little bulbs, and usually do come back each year. They're about the first thing to poke out of the dirt in the herb garden each spring, and that alone is worth planting them. All of the alliums (chives, onions, garlic, etc) share the healing properties that we attribute to garlic, but in different levels. Chives are good for you! Chive Blossom Vinegar
Sage - Sage is strongly flavored, and most people are only familiar with sage at Thanksgiving. It is surprisingly delicious in a tea, and the leaves fried in butter are crazy good. It isn't quite as versatile as the others because of that strong flavor, but it's good to have around. Make some vinegar with it. You can use that in salad dressings or to help dry up skin rashes! Rich, thick stews or roasts are complemented with sage, and it's a natural with winter squash. There are several varieties that are typically used. Garden, Bergarten, Purple, Tri-color, and Golden are the most common. Sages are generally perennial. Too much moisture around the roots will kill them, though. Sage Honey
Dill - The fresh flavor of dill is a little addictive. We get so used to the flavor as a pickle that it can be surprising how good it is without the vinegar. In potato salad or deviled eggs, cooked with fish, and in just about any type of salad, dill peps things up. It's an annual that often reseeds for the next year, and also a favorite of butterflies. Dill tries to bolt from the minute temps are warm enough for it to grow well. Keep after it so it doesn't bloom to have a longer growing season. This dip is a favorite of ours. Dill Dip 1 C sour cream 1 C mayo (not light) 3 t dill weed - not seeds 2 T dried parsley 1 t garlic powder 1 T caraway seeds Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours to allow flavors to blend. Delicious with crudites (I especially love it with carrots).
Fennel - The anise flavor of fennel is bright and mild, with the seeds being a little stronger. The bulbs that grow above ground sort of like celery are so good sliced crossways and mixed with orange sections, chopped red onion, olive oil and lemon juice. It usually reseeds from year to year. Article on Fennel
Try some or all of these. You'll be glad you did! Stay tuned for part 2, where we'll talk about medicinal herbs for the new gardener!