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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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Bathtub Therapy

bathtub therapy

Stressful day? Try some “Bathtub Therapy” (or, when the going gets tough, the tough get into the tub)!

Baths can be so soothing, both for body and mind. When I’m feeling fritzed, there’s nothing better than sinking into a big tub with a cup of tea and good book.

I like to soak in herbal teas as well as drink them! San Franciscan herbalist and aromatherapist Jeanne Rose calls herbal baths “the organic antidote to impure air and harsh water conditions”. She recommends taking a herbal bath 2-3 times a week to smooth and hydrate the skin, and keep it healthy and young looking.

I tend to have lots of different herbs on hand, so can make lots of different bathtub teas to suit my mood. Some of my favorite blends are:

  • 2 parts red roses, 1 part jasmine flowers, 1 part patchouli leaf
  • 2 parts lavender flowers, 1 part comfrey leaf, 1 part marjoram leaf
  • 2 parts calendula flowers, 1 part lemon balm leaf, 1 part lemongrass leaf
  • 2 parts chamomile flowers, 1 part catnip leaves, 1 part lavender flowers

But you don’t have to have a huge herbal apothecary- Common kitchen ingredients like apple cider vinegar, oatmeal, and sea salt are perfect for turning your bath into a therapeutic spa experience.

Vinegar and salt (½ cup-1 cup) can be added directly to the tub as it’s filling, but oatmeal and herbs I put in a muslin bag before tossing into the tub. An easy substitute if you don’t have a bath tea bag is to use a washcloth. Wrap a large handful of herbs up in the washcloth and tie it with a string.

(I let the bath tea keep steeping in the tub with me while I soak.)

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your soak. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your luffa!

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Living Large at the Micro-Farm

new garden

One of the expansions I hinted at last week is ready for unveiling: Ta-da! Here’s my new garden-to-be!

I am thrilled about the space- 3/4 acre- though it takes a little over 20 minutes for me to get there. The saving grace is that I drive a greasecar which runs on waste vegetable oil from restaurants, so I don’t have to worry about the price of gas (and emissions-wise, greasecars are considered “carbon neutral” because the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plants grown to generate the vegetable oil exceeds the carbon dioxide released when the oil is burned).

Though originally very hesitant to garden off-site, I have come to embrace the idea. I worked my butt off this year trying to grow as much herbs and veggies as I could, and was sorely disappointed to learn my limitations the hard way. Space being the biggest limit (my house sits on 1/5th acre), sunshine the next.

This new spot is wide open old farmland. It’s so exciting to imagine what it will look like next year! I’ll have lots more herbs for my bodycare, moving me closer to my goal of self-sustainability, plus tons and tons of veggies!

Well, I will if all goes well. Wish me luck and good weather!

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