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Who here loves Weeds?

chickweed patch in the garden

Weeds = the common plants that grow abundantly with no help at all from the gardener. I adore them!

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is one of my all-time favorite plants. It likes cooler temperatures, so it’s one of the first herbs I see pop up in the Spring (always a cause for celebration!).

Chickweed is succulent and low-growing, sprawls like a ground cover and spreads quickly where it’s happy, engulfing entire garden beds, landing it the “weed” label. My dad curses it every year as he rips it out of his garden. Telling him Chickweed is an “indicator plant”, indicating healthy soil because it only grows where the soil is rich, didn’t change his feelings at all.

A favorite too of Chickens, Mourning Doves, Sparrows, and other birds, they relish the young greens and seed which is said to be how Chickweed got its name. Caged birds like Budgies and Parrots also enjoy eating Chickweed and it’s more nutritious than lettuce!

It’s high in minerals (especially calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorus and potassium), and vitamins (especially C, A—from carotenes—and B’s, such as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine).

Chickweed can be chopped and tossed on a salad, or can be steamed, boiled, or fried. Raw, the flavor is kindof sweet/weedy/green, but cooked it’s more like spinach. It’s great in soups and can even be baked in bread. But what do I make with it every Spring?

(Skin soothing balms of course and… ) PESTO!

Chickweed Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh Chickweed
  • ½ cup fresh Basil (or Parsley, Cilantro, Arugula, Garlic Mustard, whatever green you’ve got)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp sunflower seeds, pine nuts or almonds
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup olive oil

My method isn’t too fancy. I add the seeds/nuts to the blender first and chop them up, then add and chop the garlic, then add the greens, salt and oil and blend it until it’s smooth.

The leaves contain saponins and although toxic, these substances tend not to be well absorbed by the body and pass through without causing harm. Even so, some caution is advised. Don’t eat large quantities raw and avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding. Saponins are broken down by thorough cooking.

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Got Skin? Get Yarrow.

yarrow flowers close-up

Yarrow flowers close-up (image courtesy of trakaislapsis/123RF)

 

Yarrow is a plant many people recognize as it’s commonly seen in gardens and growing wild. It has a pretty flower and is a beneficial companion plant both for vegetables and herbs.

It’s the go-to herb to treat wounds and cuts as it disinfects, stops bleeding by speeding blood clotting, promotes tissue repair, and reduces inflammation.

(To get the medicine though, it has to be the Yarrow with white flowers. Modern, colorful cultivars don’t have it.)

In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, Yarrow is astringent so it’s used in skincare to reduce the size of pores and the appearance of fine lines.

Most often found in creams, balms, salves, and toners, Yarrow makes a wonderfully soothing bath herb for irritated, itchy skin.

(Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough take to the bath!)

* A small caution here: If you are allergic to Ragweed, you may be allergic to Yarrow. Do a patch test before using. Prolonged use of Yarrow may cause photo-sensitivity.

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Yarrow, January’s Herb of the Month

yarrow flowers

Each month, I focus on one herb to write about. January’s herb is Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

Though sometimes said to be native to Eurasia, Yarrow is also a North American native. It is believed that the Yarrow now found growing wild here is a hybrid of the two.

Yarrow has been used medicinally by many cultures and also has a long history of use in magic and divination. One example I’ve always found intriguing is the Chinese tradition of using 50 Yarrow stalks to consult the I Ching.

Irish folklore teaches that even just to dream that you are gathering Yarrow foretells of good fortune.

Yarrow was believed to be protective and often worn as a charm. Do you suppose people got this idea from observing that when Yarrow grows in the vegetable garden, the veggies are stronger and more disease resistant?

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It’s Winter Solstice- Celebrate with Sage

winter solstice sun on snow-covered conifer

Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the beginning of Winter. We toast days past and make plans for the year to come…

One herb I associate with Winter is Sage. It’s in lots of recipes for cold weather foods, and drinking and gargling with the tea is an old remedy for cold weather coughs and sore throats.

Probably another reason I think of Sage as a Winter herb- Sage is practically evergreen in my garden. The leaves get small and curl in the frigid temperatures but they and their stalks keep standing, even in the snow. It reminds me the garden is still there, though out of sight asleep below the ground.

But many old herbalists thought of Sage as an herb of Spring. They taught that the leaves are at their best before the flower stalks rise, so late Spring was the proper time to eat lots of Sage and drink Sage tea if you wanted to ensure good health.

Sage was considered a magical plant too, said to give protection and grant wishes. From my perspective, all plants are pretty magical. They have abilities that are so beyond me (for instance, being able to regrow their whole body when cut down to the root)! Sage does feel special, though; the textured, almost-sticky leaves with their unique gray-green color, the beautiful aroma left on your hands after touching them. Even the feeling you get when you’re hanging out with Sage. It’s so peaceful.

So tonight, as Hawkeye and I celebrate the Solstice, I’ll have a big pot of water with some dried Sage simmering on the stove. We’ll make our Solstice wish and breathe in the soft green scent of the promise of next year’s garden.

 

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How to use Sage Balm

fresh sage leaves

Herbal balms are a simple, natural way to care for your skin. Similar to herbal salves which are made with oil and wax, balms also contain vegetable butter, making them extra rich and moisturizing. Balms can be used for both healing and beauty. I use them all the time for everything from daily moisturizer to gardening nicks and scrapes to seriously dry hands and feet.

Garden Sage is a great herb to use topically, alone or in combination with other herbs. Because Sage has antiseptic properties, it can be used to treat cuts and wounds. Sage is also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, and has been shown to help with acne as well as easing the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.

Of special interest to me as I’m hitting the big five-oh this year and spend so much time out in the sun digging in the dirt, Sage contains calcium, which aids cell renewal, and vitamin A, an antioxidant that provides protection against free radicals that damage skin cells and cause premature aging of the skin

<– This is Sage oil that’s just been strained, ready to be made into Sage Balm. It’s one of my new creations that will be available when our online store reopens in the Spring.

But you don’t have to wait ’til then to try some! If you’re into DIY, here’s a great article to help you get started making your own herbal bodycare:


How To Make Salves, Ointments and Balms

by Lucinda Warner, Herbalist and Naturopath at Whispering Earth


Hit me up with questions if you have them! I’m happy to talk balm anytime 🙂

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Kitchen Herbalism: Sage

sage leaves closeup

When you think of herbal medicine, do you think of Sage?

Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis), the same Sage that’s on your kitchen spice rack, is antibacterial, anticatarrhal, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral. It’s thought of as “cleansing” and has been used throughout history to treat illness and wounds, but is also used as a tonic reputed to bring good health and longer life.

It contains minerals and vitamins that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties including potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, and vitamin A. Fresh sage leaves are a good source of vitamin C.

Sage stimulates cell renewal and increases blood circulation, which is why you’ll see it as an ingredient in skincare as it may help minimize facial wrinkles.

It’s usually recommended to gather Sage leaves before the plant begins to flower, but some believe Sage’s medicine is at its best when flowering. Personally, I love using herbs in flower in my medicine. If you don’t have garden space, Sage can be grown in a sunny spot indoors.

This time of year, you’ll see Sage in many recipes because it helps the digestion of fatty foods. Sage tea after the meal helps with digestion too, so try a cup if you’ve overindulged and are feeling uncomfortable.

Sage wine is an old remedy used to calm the nervous system that I think deserves a comeback. Add a fresh leaf to your glass of white wine to enjoy the aroma and flavor.

For a stronger, more medicinal wine, add 4 fresh leaves to a bottle of white wine, let steep for 2 weeks, then strain. If you don’t have fresh, use a tablespoon of dried herb.

Salud! To your health!

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