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Chamomile in the Springtime Garden

chamomile

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is one of the first signs of green in my Springtime garden, and a very welcome sight it is!

A member of the Daisy Family, Chamomile contains calcium, potassium, vitamin B2, flavonoids, coumarins, and salicylates. The flowers are used for their antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, sedative, and vulnerary properties.

The flavor is described as both sweet and bitter. You’ll notice its appley aroma which is just how it tastes, but if you make the same mistake I did and steep your tea extra long (medicine-making style), it becomes really bitter!

Chamomile is used in skin care to soften dry skin, clean pores, clear acne, and reduce puffiness. It’s also a key herb to use for healing wounds and inflammations such as burns, itches, and bug bites.

Try using Chamomile in a steam to ease nasal congestion. Used as a bath herb, Chamomile can relieve stress and calm cranky children.

I also like to use Chamomile to make a massage oil that soothes sore muscles and aids relaxation. This oil is wonderful on sore, swollen feet!

 

* If you are sensitive to Ragweed you may be allergic to Chamomile. Be careful when you first try it. Otherwise, it’s considered very safe.

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Herbal Lore: Basil

 

basil

When I say “basil”, do you think “pesto”? Pesto made with sweet basil just happens to be one of my most long-standing addictions, but with over 50 different varieties (possibly as many as 150!) distributed around the world, basil is about much, much more….

Since ancient times, basil has found its way into our food, medicine and cosmetics. It’s antibacterial and antiviral, and a good source of vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, and calcium.

Basil has been used medicinally to ease headaches, sore throats, coughs, nausea, and to ease nervous tension. It’s also reputed to strengthen dry or brittle hair, restoring hair’s natural luster and shine.

 

D.I.Y.

One of my favorite hair rinses is a strong tea made of Basil leaves and Lavender flowers. You can pour it over your head and catch the runoff in a bowl to keep repeating, or do it lazy-style like me and just dunk your head in a bowl.

A twist on my recipe: substitute Holy Basil (Tulsi) for the Sweet Basil. For Brunettes: try a Basil and Rosemary blend. For Blondes & Redheads: try a Basil and Chamomile blend.

To make this aromatic, strengthening hair rinse, use 2 Tbsp of herb per cup of water and steep for at least 15 minutes.

 

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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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