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:

E-journal

Crafting with Moon Magick

Maybe it is the changing of the seasons. Or maybe it is the influence of the homesteading and green witch videos I have been watching lately. Either way I have been busy each day crafting, preserving, and making medicine.

Echinacea :: root medicine

Three springs ago I planted Echinacea seeds which bloomed into flowers each successive summer. Now it is fall here and I am beginning to harvest the roots because their immunity-supporting medicine is most potent after 2 or 3 years growing.

During the three days surrounding the full moon I have been preparing all kinds of medicinals – marmalade and teas and this immunity supporting tea with Echinacea roots & leaves as well as orange peel harvested in winter. In order to charge the tincture with the healing vibes of this most recent full moon in Virgo, I left the tinctures (sealed) outside in the garden to soak up the rays of the full moon.

Medicinal Marmalade

Since moving to this farm I have gotten to know a truly magical tree that lives on the edge of the woods. This tree is called Hawthorn and is abundant with medicine – flowers in the spring and bright red berries in the fall. Last spring I collected and dried a huge jar of the flowers and now I am working on recipes to encorporate the heart healing medicine of the berries.

Besides hawthorn, quince and rose hips are also in season so I made a marmalade with all three plus a little ginger & cinnamon to add some extra warmth as I we plan to eat these during the winter months.

I will post the recipe for this marmalade and pictures of the final product soon. Until then I wanted to share a few of my favorite magical channels that have been inspiring me, my herbalism practice and crafts lately:

Gardening

Garden Journal :: Late Summer Bouquets

Zinnias for happiness, Dahlias for beauty & mystery, Goldenrod to bring inside the brightness or the sun and blue sage foliage for grounding & protection.

Call it a bouquet or a sculpture made of flowers, anytime one makes art there is the possibility to infuse life with meaning 💐🌻🌼

For drying, for salads, for indoor decoration 🌿🌼 these are just some of the gifts for the garden in the magical time when summer transforms into fall.

And speaking of fall which is quickly approaching, these past few days I have been spending time each morning harvest & processing. I am drying herbs, making tomatoe sauce, and medicinals jams – trying my best to save and savor the abundance.

These hours in the morning become my own little rituals. A way to connect with the place where I live and be in the now moment, while simultaneously preparing for colder months ahead when flowers and fruit will be scarce.

Vara de Oro – Golden Rod flowers
Gardening · Herbalism

Making Herby Pesto : with wild greens and other “weeds”

Traditionally pesto is made with fresh basil leaves, nuts, olive oil & grated cheese but there are many alternative recipes that I am going to share with you in this post, including pestos made with edible weeds and garden herbs. Today I will be sharing my recipe for pesto made primarily with a common garden weed: Amor Seco or Spanish Needles – Bidens pilosa.

The recipe::

then I will explain step by step:
-1/2 cup roasted peanuts
-3 garlic cloves
-3 cups fresh Bidens pilosa or dandelion leaves
-3 sprigs of an herbs like oregano or rosemary
-3 sprigs of fresh basil or cilantro
1/2 cup olive oil or sunflower seed oil
-Optional: 6 – 8 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (only if you will be using within thr next few days)
-1/4 cup hard cheese (like Parmesean) grated.

The process::

First I went out to the garden and picked 3 cups of fresh Amor Seco which is growing in abundance and will soon go to seed. I tried to collect mostly leaves with some flowers, avoiding the stems and stalks. The entire plant is edible but the leaves & flowers are best. Next I grabbed a few sprigs of other herbs – I chose basil and oregano but you could also pick rosemary, sage and cilantro.Back in the house I chopped the fresh leaves and put them in the blender. You can of course use a food processor or chop up the herbs super finely by hand which will take around 10 minutes.If you are using a food processor, add the greens, and all the other ingredients to the food processor little by little.If like me you have a blender and not a food processor, add the chopped greens and fill the blender with twice as much water, blend for several minutes then filter out the water with a tea filter or cheese cloth. Be sure to press the water out as much as possible. For regularl pesto with basil, a food processor is ideal but with more bitter, wild greens, blending with water helps release a bit of the bitterness without losing the nutrients or flavors.Next, toast your peanuts, pecans, pine nuts or whatever seed you wish to use.

Chop the nuts or seeds well and either add them to your food processor or – if you used a blender- to your herby paste made by the blender. Then add the oil, minced garlic and all the other spices listed in the recipe. I also like to add balsamic vinegar only when planning to eat right away or within a day or two.&& that all! I like to put the pesto in a cute ceramic bowl to accompany a variety of meals from steamed vegetables to pasta dishes – this pesto is delicious on anything!

The flowers are also edible:

And small butterflies love them too.

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!