My Herbs Blog
Getting Back to Nature
It is a new week. I am grateful that you are reading this post. I am so happy to share my passion of herbs and the art of life with you!
A lot is happening in the our household right now. I am constantly trying to make sure that I am aligning my life with my life goal. My goal or mission statement is: "I want to inspire millions of people worldwide to restore, mind, body and spirit with herbs, art and nature."
I love this quote from Paul Harrison in a paper written on the Native American Indians. "The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his youth close to its softening influence."
I am sad at the state of affairs in the world. The many many efforts to bring us into a technological future of science-based everything. Rather than focus on the "evils" of the world and what evil men are doing, I need to stay focused on the beauty and the hope in the world.
I do not think that the above quote could be better stated. A true journey of healing, requires a reconnection to the earth and plants, and elements that make up our glorious planet. I do not think healing is separate from nature. It is nature. Our bodies will eventually fail and there is no amount of herbs or chemical medicine that can stop that inevitability. Our spirit/ soul lives on and I do believe our spirit the condition of our spirit has an unbreakable tie to how we treat our fellow human beings and other life on earth- including plants and animals. "A lack of respect or growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too..."
This all brings me back to my belief that healing is found in the respect, the notice, the care of the living plants and animals in our own personal environment. Where ever you are, you have plants growing. They are so tenacious and unstoppable. A sidewalk, a pavement, a roadside, all gives way to the growth of plants. Trees are amazing, just walk around the edges of your yard and notice. I am amazed at where I see little trees blooming. Their seeds fall and sprout just about anywhere.
The earth is teeming with plants and seeds that can be guided and grown into lovely medicine to heal and refresh the mind, body and spirit.
-Infused oils are an ancient way to extract the principle elements, and scent from plants and preserve them. My favorite, and most herbalist's favorite oil base is Olive Oil. When I say olive oil, I mean extra virgin, 1st Cold Press- ONLY! The first press, with cold extraction is pressed from the oil, usually with an ancient wooden pressure press that squeezes the oil from the olive fruit. This is this the most pure and energy filled oil you can use to make infused herbal oils.
".....I like them all, but especially the olive. For what it symbolizes, first of all- peace with its leaves and joy with its golden oil."
"The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven."
There are other vegetable oils that can be used, and they are apricot kernel oil, almond oil, and grape seed oil. I just personally prefer Olive Oil and that is what I choose to use just about every time I make an infused oil, or ointment/ salve.
When you make your infused oils- you will want to use dried herbs or "fresh" wilted herbs and flowers. To wilt- pick fresh and place on a paper towel on your counter for a few hours. Some of the water will evaporate, making the herbs more stable for infusing. When they contain too much moisture content, there is risk of spoilage. I love how Rosemary Gladstar explains the proportions when making infused oils. She recommend the "simpler's method," whereby you put the desired amount of herb in a jar, and cover it completely with oil, making sure you leave 2-3 inches of oil over the top of the herb.
The herbs must be covered with the olive oil, because any portion that is not- can spoil, especially if you are using fresh wilted herbs. After covering the plant material, cover the jar tightly with a lid and place it in a warm sunny spot. (This method is called solar infusion, because you will be using the sun's heat and energy to extract the essences of the plant, rose, in this instance.) I love this method much more than heating my oil and herbs with the stove, or a crock pot.
and shake, or agitate your jar of rose petal oil at least once a day. This actually makes a big difference in the quality of the finished oil. I agitate about 4 or 5 times by gently turning my hand back and forth with the jar. The typical amount of time that you can let your oils sit, is two weeks. If you want the rose oil to be stronger you have a few options, 1. let the petals sit in the oil an extra week, or 2. strain off all the oil, compost the rose petals and then put a new batch of petals in the oil and start again.
When you strain the oil from the petals, use cheese cloth, so you can really squeeze the essence from the petals. To store your homemade rose oil, it is more preferable to use brown, glass bottles. I have used clear glass, but only when I am storing in a dark cabinet to keep the light and heat from affected the made oil. It is kind of strange that the oil needs to sit in the sun when you are making it, but when it is finished, you need to keep the new oil in a dark, dry storage space.
Do not forget to label your herbal product with the ingredients, the date, and I sometimes even write down the plant source, and the type of oil I used. Your new rose oil will not have a super strong scent of rose, but can be made more prominent by double and triple infusing the petals, or by adding a drop of pure rose essential oil to the finished product. For heart issues, and issue of sadness, grief or a feeling of apathy, gently massage the rose oil over your heart one to two times a day. Enjoy and God bless!
photo credit is to www.unsplash.com (except for first pic of the olive oil container.)
When it is a Rainy Day.....
,Lately, and because it is summer and the plants are blooming, and fresh every day, I usually wake up and pick something fresh for my morning tea. Today though, it is rainy and I am not feeling like going out to pick my herbs. I do think it is important, however to spend time outside in all types of weather. We just returned home from vacation where we I had much opportunity to really connect with nature. The home where we were staying was so natural... I felt the earth permeating the whole house.
Our vacation stay was at an old farmhouse in Maine. I have always been attracted to old homes. I even grew up in a one rooms school house (which had been converted and added upon), but there was a definite feel and a wisdom to that home. When I look at all the places I have lived, when I had the express option, I chose homes with that age, and natural feel that reminded me of where I was raised.
Somehow along the way of getting married, and having children, I lost a lot of myself. I want to say that this is normal. I do believe this happens to people, especially women when they have children. Our needs kind of get displaced by the immediate needs of the little ones. It was during my years of child bearing that I found a lot of healing physically, but emotionally and spiritually, I just did not have the time to focus on myself.
I bring this up because healing- or living a life of harmony has more to do with plants that we eat. It has a lot to do with them, but also it is in the way we live. As I write this, I remember a museum I worked at in Vermont- callled Rokeby Museum. I loved working there. It permeated with history. The museum was actually a homestead of a Vermont family. It was rich with the writings, possessions, stories, and art from a few generations of the Robinson family. It is a true treasure because of the consistent amount of preserved history from this particular family over a few generations. It allowed the visitors and employees to really step back in time, and feel the past.
Where am I going with all this? I am heading to this place. I currently live in a newer home. My home has very little of the features that I know in my soul that I am attracted to. I do not have hardwood floors, it has a lot of carpeting, there are a number of natural materials in some stone flooring, and a stone fireplace, and with natural wood beams, but this home has never felt like "home" to me. I have worked on it, reworked it, changed things, moved things, painted rooms, decorated, added artwork, incorporated plants, pretty much everything one can do, besides a full remodel. Yet this home does not feel like home.
I have never understood the reason until now. I understand because I have gotten closer to who I am as a person. This investigation to who I am, as revealed to me a number of characteristics I need to feel at peace or at "one" with my environment. I've denied them to myself. I have felt irritated on a daily basis, and did not understand why I felt so out of tune or like I was missing something. These realizations are good for me. They are good because when we deny our own truth on a regular basis, it does something to our physical bodies. It often brings upon illness or "dis-ease" when we deny who we are, what we know to be true in our deep inner most self.
Where do I go from here? Well- we have been talking about moving for a while now, and I have been looking at homes. Again I have found myself having a really difficult time staying true to myself as I look for a home. I here the voices in my head telling me that "my husband would like this," or "my friends might think that," or "so and so might have this opinion." This is crazy! I can't believe that the thoughts of others are affecting how I live and what type of house I have.
All of this is turning into a bit of a ramble, but it is what I am going through right now. I am determining, or finding out what I want in a home. I am nearly 40 and I know what I want. I have known. I think back on all the homes I have visited, and places I have stayed, and I have recorded those thoughts into my mind. Yet- I have not really executed those thoughts or voiced them and made it a reality in my life. I believe this is important. I believe it is important to one's health to voice and state and make happen those hidden likes and desires. If I don't it is like living with my truth buried, and the body will manifest that discontentedness.
So today, I will take a small step towards making my home a place I can really enjoy. Today I will put forward what efforts I can, one small step at a time to creating change in my life. I will not look at the whole picture as something overwhelming, but will take little bits and try to make those little bits add up to one big piece over time. Step by step, inch by inch, I will let my truth out. I will also continue to look for a new house, and keep in mind that my truth is a home with history, natural materials, and wisdom permeating its beams.
Getting to Know St. John's Wort
I have been studying herbs for a long time. It will be 20 years this September. I have been fully incorporating herbs in my life almost as long. I think it was after my first son was born, 13 years ago that I really dived into integrating herbs in my life in a total and complete way. Life is dependent on plants. Do you know that at one time in history- that is how all peoples lived. Everything was obtained from the land, and made from the land. Plants have sustained us, provided for us and given life for thousands of years. Man has of course depended on animal sources for food, but it is the earth, the trees, the plants, the herbs that have made life possible. Thank you Lord!
beThis brings me to St. John's Wort- Hypericum perforatum. I of course know this plant and of this plant and have used dried St. John's Wort in preparations. However, you do not really get to know a plant until you search for it. Find it in the wild. Know it's habitat, and pick it and feel it and smell the blossoms, dry it and prepare it for medicine. I believe that an herbalist becomes an Herbalist when spending ample and concentrated time with the plants where they grow.
This year was the first year that I got to know Hypericum perforatum. This was the first year where I searched for it in the wild. I was happy to find it growing many places near my property and where we vacationed in Maine. Once you see a plant, and know it by sight, it stands out wherever you go. As we drove the 500 miles to the North coast of ME- I spotted it everywhere, as I did dozens of other plants that I have become very intimately aware of.
I think the most interesting aspect of St. John's Wort is that the oil from the petals turns red. In Desk Reference to Nature's Medicine (p. 338)... it states that St. John's Wort was named after St. John the Baptist and the herb is said to bloom on the saints birthday, June 24th and to bleed red oil from its flowers on August 29, the day that John the Baptist was beheaded. It also states that for centuries, St. John's wort was credited with the power to drive away devils. I personally think this refers to the known and tested uses of this plant as one of nature's best anti-depressants.
I am currently making St. John's wort oil from the flowers and parts of the leaves. Before I left on vacation I had dried some of the herb and began soaking it in olive oil. I did this however pretty early in the season, and I noticed my oil was not turning red as it should be. I think (according to my research)... that I picked the flowers a little too soon to really extract the red oil from the petals. It is now about 2 weeks since I first picked the flowers and I am on vacation. Every day I have been making herbal tea from the St. John's wort plant. In the morning I go outside and pick some fresh herbs for the day. I have been concentrating on taking St. John's wort by itself to really get a good feel for the plant.
When I pick this herb, I cut off about 3-4 inches total from the top of the flowers down the stem. I boil my water on the stove and when it has boiled, I put what would be about the equivalent of 2 Tablespoons of the fresh herb into the pot, remove from heat and cover with a lid. I wait 10 minutes and when I return, the tea is a beautiful red color. So, I know that the red oil is present, but I think it will keep increasing in strength as the month continues. I will need to keep experimenting with harvest time.
The tea has been quite delicious. It is hard to define a new taste. I can't really say it tastes like another flavor- for now that I have tasted it fresh from the ground, I would say it tastes like St. John's wort, but to someone who has no reference that is hard to define. It is herby and earthy- with a slight pine or citrus scent. I think that is the closest description I can come to at this time. 😊
As for the effects. I really think that this is the type of herb that needs to be consistently enjoyed to see reap the emotional or spiritual benefits. I must say though- that I have been sleeping very well since we have been on vacation and I have been drinking an infusion of St. John's wort. I do struggle with sound sleep, and I am not sure if it is a number of factors, such as the relaxing bedroom... (my home bedroom needs some more balance), the sea air, the quiet of nature, or the tea). More than likely it is all of these, and what I have learned from this trip, is that I need to create an air of vacation at home. My home should feel like I am on vacation. I want to live my life, as a healer should be one where I am filled up so I can pour out on others.
As I learn more about this intricate, beautiful plant- I will post again.
A field of Queen Anne's Lace
Not sure if there is a more beautiful sight than a blooming field of Queen Anne's Lace flowers. It is truly a picture to behold. There are of course many rivaling sights to be seen on God's beautiful planet, but it is one of those marvels. Fortunately you can see this pretty plant bloom almost everywhere, as it has often been considered an invasive weed. Perhaps it seems that way, before the flowers bloom. I know I am often tempted to weed them out of my garden beds, but I hold off. I wait- because I know when the blooms come it will be worth the vision.
Gorgeous! Isn't it? The best time of year to witness these blooms is the end of July into August, and they bloom rather long before turning to seed. So you can't really miss it. The story behind the name of this plant is that "Queen Anne of England (who died in 1714) pricking her finger—drawing a drop of blood—while sewing lace." (https://www.motherearthliving.com/gardening/herb-to-know-queen-annes-lace)
If you look closely at some of my pictures below you will see the little red dot (dark red) in the center of some of the flowers. I love the name. I love the story. I love the unique red center of this plant. The uses of Queen Anne's Lace are also quite extraordinary. The modern day carrot is derived from this plant. If you dig up the roots, they are not as pretty and "carrot-shaped," but they definitely smell of carrot. You can wash the roots and chew them. They are a little tough, but the flavor is unique. Or you can wash and dry and boil in a decoction.
To decoct the roots. You will want to use one, 2-3 inch root per cup of water. Place the clean roots in a pot for boiling/ simmering. Cover with the appropriate amount of water. Turn the heat to a medium temperature, and bring to a low boil/ simmer. Continue to "cook" the roots for 30 minutes, while you have a lid on the pan. When the time has elapsed, remove from heat and let sit for another hour. You can then drink hot- and store the rest in the refrigerator for probably a week before it would spoil.
The decoction of wild carrot is known to help with low energy in the gall bladder, and kidneys. It reinvigorates these organs bringing about a cleansing effect to the system. I recommend drinking the decoction with just the Queen Anne's Lace first. Anytime trying a new herb. I do not recommend combining with other plants. You want to get a real feel, and taste for the herb by itself before mixing in other herbs. Companion plant you may want to blend with Queen Anne's Lace are fennel seeds, a touch of lavender, and a bit of chamomile. I like to mix more earthy tasting plants with floral flavors.
There is some interesting history about the use of wild carrot seeds as a natural contraceptive. I am not going to go into the details on how to accomplish this, but will share my own personal trial with this herb, in this way. You can read more on this here (https://herbalisl.blogspot.com/2009/11/queen-annes-lace-conscious-choice-for.html). I would recommend cross referencing a few sources before attempting this method. For me personally I do not believe in taking any "drug" or hormone related birth control substance. I also do not believe in getting "fixed" and changing the body through surgery, unless there is an absolute need or emergency. I believe in doing things naturally. I also believe in a God that provides natural solutions- if we look for them.
Our Father has given us a monthly cycle with a natural rhythm that we can follow with practice and experience. There is a window of days when we as women are most fertile, and very likely to get pregnant. Thankfully it is a window, because it does allow us some choice over our bodies. To me the choice is something you think about before coming together with your spouse. The choice to end another life is not a choice that is a definite destruction of life begun.
Besides the natural rhythm method also called Natural Family planning, there are herbs that have been used for thousands of years by herbalist to aid the body in pregnancy, child birth, nursing, post partum, pre-pregnancy and even to discourage pregnancy. I believe that wild carrot seed can be a blessing for a mother who is in need of some personal healing time for herself. Although I believe in big families, having many children in a row can be very hard on the mother.
I have collected the seeds in volume in the fall when the heads turn brown. You can just cut them off. Now the first year I did this, I dried the seeds in the umbral. I would not suggest doing this. I plan on collecting this year, and will shake the seeds loose onto trays and then dry further in paper bags. You will need to collect a lot of seeds- because they are tiny, and I believe when drinking as a tea, you will want a teaspoon at a time- so yes that is a lot of seed collection!
Thankfully Queen Anne's Lace grows so abundantly it will be no trial to collect enough flower heads for the seeds. Just remember to collect from areas that are healthy, and not in roadside drainage. If you have access to a field- that is the best place for your collection. During times of intimacy- when I know that I have been close to my fertility time, I will drink the wild carrot tea for a few days. I enjoy the taste quite immensely, and I know that I am benefitting my kidneys and gall bladder as all herbs have many functions, many purposes. That purpose could just be to provide some beauty and joy to what may be a dismal day.
I was on vacation when I took these pictures. Feeling very sad at the recent loss of my dad. The one morning I had decided that that was enough mourning (for now). I need to dwell on the positives. I woke up and watched the sun rise, and then went down to the field of Queen Anne's Lace growing outside my window. I picked a bouquet of the flowers and placed them on the table with Bee balm and Golden rod. Just the act of picking a bouquet is enough to turn around a sad mood. Would love to hear your experiences with this plant below. Thank you for reading this through. 😊
**Update- I recently came across an article about Queen Anne's Lace by the HappyDIYHome website. It is an exceptionally thorough and well researched article on Queen Anne's Lace, and you will find a lot more information including habitat, growing patterns, and also some look-a-like information as Queen Anne's Lace should not be mistaken with Poison Hemlock. Check out their article!
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