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:

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!!

Herbalism

Oregano :: herbal and culinary uses

Oregano is such a common culinary herb that we often forget to include it in the list of medicinal herbs though it certainly is one. Oregano has many properties – too many to get into here though I do want to mention the main two properties I use oregano for: as a digestive aid and as an emmenagogue. Later on in this article I will also talk about how to cultivate oregano in your garden – spoiler alert: oregano is so easy to grow.

oregano

Medicinal properties of Oregano:

Digestive: when added to meals or drunken as tea, oregano has some amazing digestive abilities. In other words, this herb kick-starts your digestive system. You can prepare a tea when you have a stomach ache, gas, and even helps battle candida overgrowth (aka yeast infections). You can add fresh or dried leaves to beans, meat dishes, and of course, pasta! Oregano is an aromatic herb and ever so slightly bitter which is where the digestive properties come from. Personally, I love to add fresh oregano to pot of beans or eat with butter and cheese atop of steamed vegetables.

Emmenagogue: refers to herbs with that stimulate menstruation. I use about a tea spoon of dried herb per cup of boiled water and let steep for at least 15 minutes. This is one of my go to herbs when having a late or painful period. Not only does oregano encourage menstrual flow but also eases the pain of cramps. I would recommend drinking no more than two cups per day before and/or during one’s period. This is one of those herbs to avoid during pregnancy.

How to grow Oregano:
Grow in a ceramic pot or in a raised bed, in among the vegetables or in a herb spiral – in our garden we have oregano planted in many places but always with full sun & moderate water. This is one of those plants that really doesn’t need much care or attention and will slowly creep – getting bigger with each year.

How to use Oregano:
As mentioned above – I use fresh oregano a lot in cooking & tea. Sometimes I use fresh oregano alone but most often I use it dried mixed with dried rosemary and sage.

sage, rosemary, oregano

I let the herbs dry slowly in a shady, protected place then grind them down to go into a condiment shaker. This herbal combo goes on pastas, cheese-y rice, and potatoes, truly yum!

Further reading/listening:

If you have herbalism books at home, I suggest cracking one open and reading what that book has to say about oregano. And I also recommend the “You know Oregano” episodes by Herbal Marie which goes into many more medicinal uses of this lovely herb: here is the link to the episode. Happy oregano gardening!

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!