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Herbs for You, Me, and the Bees

mid-july herb harvest
July 15th’s harvest basket

Want to know the downside of this beautiful basketful of herbs? It was stolen!

Yes, stolen from the bees. They were already busy at work in the garden when I went out in the morning to pick.

Being all too painfully aware of the horrors threatening the bees’ survival (Colony Collapse Disorder, poisoning, industrial farming, loss of habitat), I grow medicinal herbs as much for them as for myself.

Our animal and plant friends need the nutrition and medicine that herbs offer the same as we do. So make sure you plant lots of extras 😉

(herbs in the photo, clockwise from top left: Holy Basil, Bee Balm, Echinacea, St. Johnswort, Calendula)

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Herbal Lore: Calendula

calendula

To say this cheerful, daisy-like flower is one of the most important plants in the herb garden is really not an exaggeration.

Calendula has a long history of use as medicine, food, cosmetics, and fabric dye. It’s also a valuable companion plant in the garden, but I kindof like having it around just because it makes me smile…. 😉

 

Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Soothing, healing, antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Excellent for all skin types. Especially good for sensitive skin, dehydrated / dry skin, chapped / inflamed skin, wounds and burns.
 

A staple in Old English gardens and pantries, Calendula (sometimes called “Marigold”) was believed to keep you healthy during the Wintertime and its flowers often used in soups.

According to English herbalist John Gerard, author of “The Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes” (1597), “no broth is well made without dried Marigolds”.

(Calendula’s petals contain flavoxanthin and auroxanthin, and its leaves and stems’ constituents include lutein and beta-carotene; carotenoids which are vitamin A precursors with antioxidant activity.)

 

Today, it’s most commonly used topically for wound healing due to its antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.

I use it in my skin care blends for its ability to improve skin’s condition by increasing peripheral circulation, refining pores and encouraging cell renewal.

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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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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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