Herbalism

Learning from the Herbs

What was the first plant you connected with?

Personally, I am super grateful for the common herbs for being my introduction to gardening.

Especially I thank the “gateway” herb – Marijuana who opened my eyes to the plant path and widen my conciousness to include all life as beings.

Even the most common herbs: basil, rosemary, and sage (as pictured here) have much wisdom to share.

The best way to learn is by interacting with the plants themselves: harvesting, drying, and using them in meals. Luckily these three herbs are easy to grow & found in nurseries and gardens just about everywhere.

Other tools, like books, classes (both in person & online) and walks with an herbalist friend are also important to the practice of learning. Here are three of my favorite and most used books:

So, let me know, what plants introduced you to gardening and/or herbalism. Leave a 💚 of it was cannabis too 🌿… Here are a few of the responses I got over on my Instagram page:

DIY Health

Grateful for the Sun

A few years ago I began to learn of about the benefits of vitamin D and the necessity of sun exposure for all humans. That was when I lived in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, in the cloudy, rainy state of Oregon. Having grown up in California where most days are sunny, moving to Oregon and living through the nearly sun-less winter affected me & my moods very profoundly. Most winters I was mildly depressed and every year got a cough or cold. Eventually I learned to cope by spending winter in sunnier locations and eventually moved away. I love Oregon and all the greenery of the PNW but, I just need sun!

Oregon winter – cold & grey. & me, cold but still being active and outdoors ~ 2012

At first it was an intuitive thing, I didnt know the specifics of vitamin D or that I was deficient. But with time I got more information about vitamin D deficiency and learned that it is very common – many natural doctors attribute low vitamin D to a variety of ailments from depression to the likelihood of illness from exposure to pathogens. Modern naturopathic research is suggesting that people with sufficient levels of vitamin D are unlikely to become seriously ill from this current pandemic as well as the common cold & flu.

So, yeah, vitamin d is important and the very best way to accumulate vitamin D is by being out in the sun without sunscreen. Sunshine is free and available (almost) all year depending on where you live. And in the depths of winter eating vitamin D rich foods or taking supplements if necessary is recommended.

Ideally we would all be able to travel a bit to catch more sun for a while during the darkest months of the year – solar pilgramages! For me, living in a place with more sunny days was the solution. For those who love where they live or don’t want to move, consider adding foods with more vitamin D to the diet and just taking time every day for sun exposure, even when it’s cold out.

Me, on a fall day, catching the last rays of sun & doing some yard chores. Spending time outdoors, in the sun and in little or no clothing is essential to a healthy and happy life, for me at least.

I’m so grateful that the sun shines, what about you?

Herbalism

Harvesting and Making :: creative ways to use your herb harvests

uring long walks around neighborhoods and gazing into front yards I have noticed something – a lot of people are growing herbs. Rosemary, Oregano and Lavender are all common plants in this dry climate and all are flourishing during summer but, I am not so sure how often people are actually using the herbs they grow. So, here are some of my recipes for common garden plants that might be growing in your yard of a garden near you.

Herby Pesto

Oregano, mint, rosemary, shiso, and of course basil are all leafy herbs that go into my pesto recipe. Month by month the available herbs in the garden will shift and with it does this pesto recipe but here is my general guide:

-1/2 cup roasted nuts like pine nuts, walnut, cashew, peanuts, or hazelnuts
-2 cups fresh mixed herbs (leaves only) rosemary, oregano & sage
-1 cup of softer herbs like basil, mint, parsley, cilantro, or shiso
1/2 cup olive oil or sunflower seed oil -3 garlic cloves (optional)

You can either finely chop the ingredients by hand or use a food processor. By hand takes a lot longer but works well for camping trips or if electricity isnt available. The food processor is great too but remember to add ingredients slowly to avoid straining the machine’s motor. This pesto keeps well in a fridge for weeks and a freezer for months, enjoy!

Dried Seasoning

Warm summer days are ideal for drying herbs. You could even dry them outdoors in a shady & dry place if there isnt too much wind. At the moment I have access to a oven so I place recently collected herbs on a cookie sheet & into a warm oven. The pilot light along will slightly warm the plant material and in an hour or two the oregano, rosemary or sage are dry. Then I separate the leaves from the rest of the stems and branches, discard those and get to work on the dried leaves. You can use your clean hands, kitchen scissors and/or a mortal & pestle to further pulverize the herbs. If the leaves don’t crumble easily they probably need more time drying.

Comforting Tea

Lemon grass & rosemary are my go to herbs these days. Fresh or dried the leaves make lovely teas and infusions.

Cooling Waters

During the summer months and days of 100 degree weather is pretty much normal and cold non-alcoholic drinks are necessary to thrive in this heat. I love to make cold teas & sun teas with berries and herbs collected from the garden. My favorite lately are blueberries & mint as well as stevia leaf & lemon verbena. Happy Gardening!!

DIY Health

Experiments in Germination

I love germinating – it is a part of my daily and weekly routine and has been for a number of years now. Despite my love of sprouting grains, I find it challenging to write about germinating grains in a fun, inspiring way. My wish is to spread the word about this simple way to add some extra nutrition to our diets. And so, I continue to write and hope to find a an inspiring thread here somewhere.

To add something interesting to the mix, I am using a new germinating recipient – a earthen ware pot which my partner, Jona, bought recently. The pot has yet to have been cured, so it is slightly permeable which makes it slightly breathe-able and perfect for germinating grains.

I have written another article about how to sprout grains both on this blog (link below) and in the most recent edition of the Flora Libra zine. Here are a few images from the print publication which is meant to be a companion to this web-based blog:

If you are interested in learning more about germinating grains, you may want to purchase my zine which is available for $3 (plus s+h) on my Etsy page. I would so appreciate it if you do decide to order a copy! thank you!

Herbalism

Backyard Herbalism : Growing Calendula

Beginner herbalists and gardeners just getting started with their herbal garden find no better plant than Calendula officinalis. This herb/flower is much loved by bees & butterflies, has many medicinal properties, and is a useful pest deterrent to plant alongside tomatoes & other crops.

calendulas drying

Calendula is an easy to grow herb that I have been planting for many years, so I have a few suggestions for plantings, caring for and using this magical herb:

Sew seed in a pot first:

calendula in pots

For a healthy and thriving calendula plant, planting first in a small pot and then transplanting into the garden is key. These are cold hardy plants that can be sewn during spring, summer, and fall though they do best when planted in humid & warm months. Calendula needs plenty of water which is easiest to provide if the young plants are all in one easy to water location. When the plants have several healthy leaves, they are ready to transplant into their permanent location.

Transplant in garden bed:

calendula transplanted

As mentioned previously, calendula need humid conditions to get established and the herb has aromatic properties that help deter pests. For both of these reasons I recommend planting calendula alongside tomatoes, kale, and other plants that are prone to insect infestation. Calendula plants need as much water as other vegetables so, planting in a well watered garden will ensure an abundant harvest of the prized calendula flowers.

Collecting and drying calendula flowers:

drying the calendula flowers

Two to three months after transplanting the calendulas should be producing plenty of flowers with new ones blooming daily. The best tile to harvest the blossoms is from mid morning to noon. It is important that the flowers are totally open as they dry much better that way. Calendula flowers are best dried flat in a warm but not sunny area. You can use a dehydrator if you have one but a shelf inside the house will also work. I myself have a covered outdoor shelf where I dry all my herbs and seeds in baskets or on cardboard lids – see photo below.

dried calendulas

In the world of herbalism. supplies and tools are endless but in reality you can make do with what you already have. When I was traveling I used to dry herbs in cloth bags in the sun, not ideal but the point is you do not need anything fancy to begin processing herbs and making herbali medicine. Drying calendula flowers in on a piece of (clean) cardboard on your kitchen counter will work just fine.

After 5 to 7 days the flowers should be dry, you will be able to test their dryness by touch. Store the dried flowers in a brown paper bag labeled “Calendula Flowers” and the month & year. Or, instead of storing, you can use them right away. Calendula has many medicinal properties and can help with menstrual cramps and stomach pain as a tea but my favorite way to use calendula is as an herbal oil.

Making herbal oil with Calendula:

calendula oil making

Herbal oils are simple to make and have many applications in day to daylife. An herbal oil is base oil, like olive oil, that has been infused with the medicinal properties of an herb. My favorite method is cold infusion. In the case of calendula this entails filling a jar half full with dried calendula flowers, then filling the jar entirely with your oil of choice. You can use olive oil, fractionated (liquid) coconut oil, jojoba oil, even sunflower oil! Each oil has different properties though all will soothe and moisturize the skin especially when infused with calendula. Once the oil & calendula floes have been soaking in a dark and cool cupboard for about a month it is time to separate the flowers from the oil. You can do this by using a tea strainer or a piece of cloth like muslin. Now that the oil has been separated it is ready to use as a massage oil or facial moisturizer.

You can use this oil on any part of your body, especially skin with sun damage or another form of irritation. Just be sure to start with a small drop rubbed between your hands before applying. You really don’t need to use much to receive the healing benefits and too much oil can stain clothing.

My personal use of Calendula oil:

Calendula oil is widely known to have healing effects on the skin, hair and nails and I can attest to this. I started using herbal oils about 4 years ago and my skin has made a huge transformation. Previously I suffered from a combination of dry and oily skin as well as adult acne – all of which have been immensely lessened by using calendula oil and salves. Typically I use the oil all over my body when feeling aches and on cuts or burns. Calendula oil made with my homegrown calendula flowers is practically my cure-all for skin related issues. I so hope that calendula can benefit you too!