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Wear Your Herbs: Echinacea

echinacea

Because I’m limited to how many plants I can have in my small space, I look for plants that are multi-talented and can be used in different ways.

Echinacea (or Purple Coneflower, currently blooming all over the garden and bringing in hungry goldfinches) is one you probably know as an immune-stimulating medicinal herb, but its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties have an important place in your first-aid kit too.

Plants for a Future, a charity researching and providing information on ecologically sustainable horticulture, lists Echinacea in its database saying the plant has long been used by North American Indians as a universal application to treat the bites and stings of all types of insects.

It’s used also as a pain killer and healing agent for burns, to reduce pain and prevent infection in recent wounds, and to clean out wounds that become infected.

Use the tincture, or make yourself a nice healing salve.

The past few years, I’ve been making an olive-oil based salve with Echinacea flowers, Rose petals, Comfrey leaves, Yarrow leaves and flowers, and Holy Basil leaves and flowers. The blend works well, soothing irritation and speeding up the healing time on the nicks and scrapes I get so often from my habit of gardening without gloves.

Are you using Echinacea topically? I’d love to hear your experiences!

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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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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).