February Herb of the Month – Roses & Rose Hips

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Rose Petals

Rugosa Roses have highly scented petals. They bloom daily from June until September and can be used to make rose water, a luxurious and expensive facial treatment for tightening skin. Fragrant baths and hair rinses can also be made by infusing Rose petals.

Roses, according to teachings from ancient India, will balance the heart, both physically and emotionally.  They are a common remedy for irritability and stress, known for an ability to cool and calm.

Rose hips

 

Rugosa Roses also provide some of the biggest, brightest Hips of any Rose.

Rose Hips, and to a lesser degree, Rose petals, have a high concentration of Vitamin C and provide protection against colds and flu by boosting immunity.  Tea can easily be made from Rose Hips and makes a tasty way to get extra vitamins as well as lots of minerals contained in them.

 

June Herb of the Month – Yarrow

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Wow!  Where did May go?  I didn’t even get an Herb of the Month for May posted!  Well, spring marches on and so do the herbs.   This month’s Herb of the Month is Yarrow – maybe I can make up May’s Herb of the Month in January when I have more time 🙂

Yarrow is also known as “Woundwort” and has been used since Roman times to stop bleeding in wounds.  The Latin name, Achillea millefolium, comes from the story of Achilles, who is said to have treated his soldier’s wounds during the Trojan War with Yarrow.  “Millefolium” means “thousand leaves” and describes their feathery look.

Yarrow is one of the tinctures I keep in my “medicine bag.”  It is so versatile that it could very well be the ONE tincture I would take with me everywhere.  From insect repellent to immune stimulant to digestive aid, it can be a medicine chest in and of itself.

 

The tinctures I carry in my "medicine bag" or "first-aid kit"

The tinctures I carry in my “medicine bag” or “first-aid kit”

Susan Weed extols the virtues of Yarrow and specifies that the white variety makes the best medicine.  She tinctures the entire top third of the plant for six weeks in vodka (we do the same except use Everclear and R.O. water for three months.)

Yarrow is known as a wound healer.  We learned from Susan Weed that it also prevents infection, killing both staph and strep bacteria.  She uses it as a spray for a sore throat and to relieve the pain of a toothache (others mention chewing a fresh leaf for tooth pain.)  She says it can also be used as a spray on the face, neck and back to treat acne.

Yarrow is considered an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory and is used to treat inflammation and pain in connective tissue.  It also increases circulation which increases its healing action.

Women can treat menstrual problems with Yarrow.  In large doses, it stimulates the uterus and should be avoided during pregnancy.  It is known as a menstrual system regulator and is used to bring on delayed menses.

The flowers are infused in a “tea” to ease upper respiratory phlegm and to treat a cold or the flu.  The flowers are also used in a steam for hay fever and mild asthma.

Besides Yarrow’s medicinal uses for humans, it is “medicinal” for other plants growing nearby.  Yarrow is thought to increase the flavor and fragrance of other plants.  If you compost, try adding a single, fresh leaf chopped into small pieces to your compost pile to speed up the decomposition time.

Yarrow is easy to grow and very hardy.  It is one of first perennials to “green up” in the spring and will produce a few lingering blooms in late October.

Late Yarrow blossom - October 24, 2012

Late Yarrow blossom – October 24, 2012

April Herb of the Month – Chamomile

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Chamomile has a mind of her own and usually chooses to grow outside the garden bed.

Chamomile has a mind of her own and usually chooses to grow outside the garden bed.

April’s Herb of the month is Chamomile – specifically, German Chamomile, the annual variety, also known as Hungarian Chamomile – (see below for complete discussion of the name.)  April is a month of beginnings, and Chamomile is one the best herbs to get to know if you’re new to herbs.  It is one of the most versatile of all herbs and can be quite powerful, but is also very gentle.  It is known as a “cradle to grave” herb.

Internal Uses:  Chamomile tea was given to Peter Rabbit after his harrowing experience in Mr. McGregor’s garden.  It’s been used for centuries to calm restless babies as well as adults.  Chamomile is one of the best-known, best-selling herbs for treating anxiety, insomnia and stress as well as stress-related illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome. indigestion and stomach ulcers.  The small daisy-like flowers have a high calcium content which is good for the nervous system.  They have a soft, but powerful tranquilizing effect.

External Uses: Chamomile is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiseptic.  It is used to treat all manor of skin ailments from itching to wounds.  It is used as a bath for sunburn and windburn.  A compress can be used for puffy eyes; a rinse for gum irritation and mouth sores.  Cosmetically, a rinse makes highlights in blonde hair and a steam is used as a skin-softening facial.

History and Folklore:  Chamomile has been known primarily as an herb for women, hence the botanical name matricaria, meaning “for women.”  It has a long history of use, all the way back to 5000 BC when the Egyptians offered it to their sun gods.  The name “chamomile” comes from Greek, meaning “ground apple”, because of it’s apple-like scent.  Chamomile was used as a strewing herb, a medieval form of air fresheners.

Chamomile was associated with humility which comes from the saying “the more you walk on chamomile the better it grows.”   It was also once thought to bring good luck and wealth.

What’s In A Name:  Chamomile can be confusing because of the many names it has; not just the folk names, but the botanical ones as well.  Below is a good explanation of the way plants are named and why Chamomile has so many names.  It was borrowed from Mother Earth Living:

Every few years, botanists from all over the world convene at an International Botanical Congress to establish or revise the rules that govern the naming of plants. Botanists voluntarily follow the published results, known as International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, in an attempt to make plant names universal and unambiguous. According to the Code, the first valid publication of a name for a particular plant has “priority” over other names. However, when current rules of the Code are applied at a given time by taxonomists, a plant name may change, and chamomile is a case in point.

The starting point of modern botanical nomenclature is Linnaeus’s Species Plantarum (1753). In it, Linnaeus named two entities, Matricaria chamomilla and M. recutita. Both names have been applied to the plant known today as German chamomile, but for more than 200 years, the plant was officially referred to as M. chamomilla. Then, in 1972, a European researcher decided that the plant deserved a genus of its own, and he renamed it Chamomilla recutita. But seven years later, an English botanist reinterpreted the Code and concluded that the correct name for the plant should in fact be M. recutita. Today, any of these three names may be used in reference to German chamomile in catalogs and other botanical literature.”

Growing Chamomile:  Easy!  The seeds are very, very small so be prepared to thin quite a bit.  Just sow the seeds in a well-prepared bed and firm into the soil as early as you would plant peas.  The seedlings can stand a frost.  They will emerge and start a slow growth, then have a growth spurt to produce a lovely little rosette with long spike of flowers.  The plants can get about 2 feet tall and like a little support to keep upright.  They will self-seed if not harvested, but usually not where you want them to grow 🙂

More to Come in April…. Recipes and More Pics

March Herb of the Month – Nettle

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Nettle is our official pick for March Herb of the Month – also our Weed of the Week for the last week of March.  Nettle is one of the first plants to come up in spring and for good reason…Nettle is a blood purifier, also called a spring tonic or liver cleanser.579236_544923902218582_914371737_n

Nettle is often a hated plant because of it’s well-known ability to sting the bare legs of any passerby.  There’s an old saying “Nettle in – Dock out” which is a reference to the common “cure” for Nettle sting – rub the juice of Burdock leaves on it.  I sure wish I would have known that as a child!

That sting is actually one of the medicinal qualities of Nettle.  The leaves are purposefully applied to the skin to decrease the pain of arthritis.

Nettle is chocked full of nutrition due to it’s high mineral content and Vitamin C, which helps absorb the minerals.  They can be cooked  fresh like spinach or made into a delicious soup (recipe below.)  Once cooked, juiced or dried they lose their sting.

Nettle can also help allergy sufferers when started early in the spring as a preventative to the symptoms.  It is noted that drinking Nettle tea daily at the first of spring reduces or alleviates the symptoms of seasonal allergies.  Adding honey boosts the effects!

To add a boost of vitamins and minerals, Nettles are the go-to herb, for people and for plants.  Soak Nettle in rainwater for about 4 weeks then dilute it –  1 part “tea” to 10 parts water – use as a liquid fertilizer for the roots of your plants.

As if all those uses weren’t enough, Nettle is also used as a beauty treatment to strengthen hair.  A rinse made from the tops of Nettle plants going to seed is applied to hair to darken it, condition it and treat dandruff.

If you have a chance to get some fresh Nettle this spring try this recipe for Nettle Soup we found in The Curious Gardener’s Almanac by Niall Edworthy:

Melt a pat of butter then add a large chopped onion and 8 handfuls of freshly washed Nettle.  Cook until tender and add 2 tablespoons of flour.  Cook a few more minutes, stirring constantly.  Add a quart of vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Either pour into a processor or use hand processor in the pot for a few seconds to blend very well.   Reheat, season well and serve.   Alternately, cream can be added before reheating.