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Re-Green & Reconnect to Revitalize

herbs in the garden
“You can fix all the World’s problems in a garden.” ~Geoff Lawton

Really cold. Ice and snow. No close parking…. But the plant people of the Northampton/Amherst Herbal Meetup Group came out last night to watch a favorite film, Numen: The Nature of Plants.

I’ve seen this documentary which focuses on the healing power of plants and the natural world several times, but its herbal stories and stunning plant images still move and inspire me.

This morning, I stumbled across two other inspiring documentaries on YouTube: Permaculture – Greening the Desert and The Great Laws of Nature: Indigenous Organic Agriculture.

Permaculture – Greening the Desert is the story of the re-greening of desertified, salted land in Jordan, 2 km from the Dead Sea. Impossible to grow anything in searing heat with almost no rainfall, right? Watch this film to see how it can be done!

The Great Laws of Nature profiles a group of First Nations People in Saskatchewan, Canada who are reclaiming their Indigenous organic and natural agricultural heritage and getting back on the road to self-reliance. A good lesson for us all!

Real-life stories of people working together to change their lives. The message? Re-Green the planet and Reconnect to Nature to Revitalize yourself and your community, body and soul.

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Hurry Up and Wait!

cardinal in the snow

Gardening catalogs began arriving before the holidays this Winter, and I jumped right on them! Didn’t want any of my first choices to be sold out when I ordered!

(I’m swooning over the “Early Blood Turnip” beets, “Hakurei” turnips, “Listada de Gandia” eggplants, and “Jenny Lind” muskmelons that I’m trying for the first time, and hoping to grow more calendula, chamomile, lavender, and holy basil than ever before)

I’ve been rushing to devour all the organic gardening books I could get my hands on to prepare for our “farm expansion” in the Spring, taking notes and stockpiling supplies like mad.

Now it’s January 11. All my seeds have arrived. Planting plans have been sketched out on paper to make sure I’m keeping good crop rotation, and starts scheduled on the calendar.

Nothing left to do now but wait for gardening season to begin again!

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Keep your Roots in the Ground

tree with roots illustration

I’m not kidding when I say I’m eco-neurotic. I worry about everything I do and use, and how my actions impact everything I’m connected to. Perhaps this comes from gardening. When you garden, you learn to pay attention to all the connections of the plants: the soil and worms, the insects, birds and other animals, the wind, sun, and water.

(And you don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand that everyone and everything on this planet is connected and is in trouble. Pollution is out of control and humans are racing to cover any remaining bit of green with plastic and concrete!)

Many popular herbs are becoming endangered, and we all have to do our part to protect them. So I’m always glad to learn of a more conservative way to use the herbs I love.

Though the book may say to use the root, it’s very often true that you can use the aerial parts of the plant instead (like with echinacea and marshmallow). And why kill a plant unnecessarily?

On the December 8th episode of the radio show “The Herbal Highway”, I learned a new one: Goldenseal! Yes! You don’t need the root- the leaf works just as well.

Listen to this episode online as herbalist Karyn Sanders talks about her favorite herbs for Winter Immunity (you can also download the .mp3).

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Sweet Almond Oil, at last!

skin serum

Until now, I’ve avoided using sweet almond oil because it’s on the hit list for people with nut allergies (although someone with a nut allergy won’t necessarily be allergic to nut oil in a topical product- I just try to err on the side of caution).

But when developing my new Skin Serums, it was hard to find another oil as light-textured, as penetrating and well-absorbed as almond oil is. It feels and smells wonderful!

Sweet almond oil is a rich source of vitamins A and E, and has a long history of use in body care. It moisturizes and soothes skin, and is beneficial for all skin types. It’s also fabulous for your hair, nourishing hair and smoothing hair cuticles.

One of the things I love best about almond oil is that it’s as good used “straight” as it is blended with other oils. It brings its soft, satiny qualities to all my serums while remaining non-greasy feeling.

I’m really excited to have this “best-known beauty secret” added to my herbal pantry at last!

 


With one hesitation- While I am glad that I can source almond oil that comes from the U.S.,

the pollination of California’s almonds is the largest annual managed pollination event in the world, with close to one million hives (nearly half of all beehives in the USA) being trucked in February to the almond groves. Much of the pollination is managed by pollination brokers, who contract with migratory beekeepers from at least 49 states for the event. (Wikipedia)

This practice is one cause of colony collapse disorder. As much as I want to support our farmers, I cannot in good conscience use a product that is so harmful to bees.

I’ll continue this conversation in another post and welcome any comments you have….

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Herbal Shampoo- My weekend D.I.Y. project

natural hair care

At the D.I.Y. Herbal Spa meetup last Sunday, we briefly touched on hair care, and Brittany mentioned she makes her own shampoo with liquid castile soap, herbal infusion, apple cider vinegar, and I forget what else.

Because shampoo is packaged in plastic bottles and because I’m getting pretty hardcore about getting plastic completely out of my life, I’ve been relying on my homemade olive oil bar soap to wash my hair.

It’s workable, but does take more effort, like needing a vinegar rinse. So I was really intrigued by Brittany’s recipe!

A quick search on Youtube turned up this easy D.I.Y. herbal shampoo recipe. The ingredients are:

• 1 tbsp lavender
• 1 tbsp nettle
• 1 tbsp peppermint
• 1 tbsp rosemary
• 3/4 cup distilled water
• 1/4 cup castile soap
• 1 tbsp witch hazel
• 1 tbsp sweet almond oil
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 7 drops cinnamon essential oil
• 3 drops ylang ylang essential oil

 

Watch the short video to see how she puts everything together. I’m going to give it a go myself this weekend 🙂

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D.I.Y. Herbal Spa Meetup

bathtub spa
"The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day." -Hippocrates

 

BIG THANKS to Jennifer Goodheart at Acadia Herbals, Brittany Wood Nickerson of Thyme Herbal, and everyone at the “D.I.Y. Herbal Spa Meetup” on Sunday! SO much fun to relax and swap tips and recipes with other bathtub goddesses while sipping Jennifer’s delightful Jasmine-Lemongrass tea 🙂

(Join our herbal group at Meetup.com if you’d like to catch the next meetup!)

Brittany advocates using salt scrubs to keep skin exfoliated and moisturized for its optimal health, and explained how this also supports our lymph and nerves.

She demonstrated an easy-to-make recipe that I know will leave you feeling just sparkling:

  • 1 cup finely ground sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon peel powder
  • add a few drops of lemon, sweet orange or grapefruit essential oil if you’d like to make it aromatic

I talked about my great love for tub teas (of course!) and all my favorite ingredients for a bathtub spa including salts, baking soda, oatmeal, and apple cider vinegar.

Vinegar restores skin and scalp’s natural pH and is said to draw pollutants out of the body. A soak in a bath with a little vinegar can help relieve sore muscles, itchy skin and sunburn (*but be aware that vinegar can irritate open sores and sensitive skin).

Herb-infused vinegars are really simple to make and make a fabulous addition to your herbal pantry. Some of my favorite blends are:

  • 3 parts rose petals, 1 part spearmint
  • 1 part rosemary, 1 part lavender
  • 2 parts lavender, 1 part lemon balm,  1 part lemon peel

All you need to do is add 1 oz. (weight) herbs to 2 cups apple cider vinegar. Let it steep for 1 – 2 weeks, then strain.

To use, add ½ to 1 cup of vinegar to the tub when it’s filled. Makes a great salad dressing too!

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