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:

Herbalism

My Herbalism Practice – Libra Herbología 

I have been an herbalist for some years now. And recently I began selling herbs from my garden in the local health food store (where I also work).

and just so you know, Libra Herbologia is also a blog on tumblr …

Where I share posts of mine and other herbalist/brujas too, mostly en español. If you want to check out that tumblr page this link will take you there : https://libra-herbologia.tumblr.com/

E-journal

Garden Journal :: herbs of autumn + reading list

The autumn equinox has passed and was celebrated during many days along with my partner’s birthday on the 25th. In the garden the summer fruits like cucumber and tomato are in their last weeks while the leafy greens are being seeded for fall and winter to come.

Basil, lemon balm, and marigolds are all going strong and keeping the garden landscape beautiful during this transitional time. All around the garden in the surrounding hedge rows the trees are turning yellow and loosing their leaves. The sun has changed course and every day is at more of an angle which makes for interesting lighting and photography opportunities.

Reading List ::

As the morning sun is slowly making his way over the mountains, I am spending these chilly first hours each day with a cup of tea, often a cat (or two, or three) nearby, and a book as I continue on in my studies. I wanted to share my herbalist reading list with you all::

– Planetary Herbalism by Michael Tierra — my fav. herbal reference book ever! I go to this book again & again to check out remedies for symptoms as well as research new herbs. There are no pictures in this book, so it isnt for identifying. But what I do love about it is that this book ties western herbalism in with Traditional Chinese herbalism as well as Ayurveda. I found it via thrift books.

– del Cuerpos a las Raíces by Pabla Perez & others — this book is a bit eclectic and was originally published as a zine years ago. It contains stories, interviews, and herbal profiles about medicinal plants common all over & local to Chile. In some ways it is an ethnographical study of herbalism in rural Chile, in other ways it is quite a radical perspective of rural ladies using their herbs and their powers to heal themselves.

– Botànica Oculta : Las Plantas Mágicas — my honey gifted me this book for the New Year and it is quite fascinating. Both magical and medicinal properties are listed for each herb as well as a bit of theory about plant alchemy which is a subject I am just starting to dive into. This book is available in English & many other languages too!!

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 :: Summer to Fall

Looking forward to the fall garden because, to be honest, our summer garden was not very productive.

In years past we harvested more tomatoes & cucumbers than we knew what to do with but this year only the basil did well, sadly.

But I want to be honest, gardening is hard and sometimes things go wrong without any clear reason as to why. I think, in this case, we haven’t had a good summer season because we tried to take on too much: we extended the garden beds, tried out new crops in addition to work and all the other responsibilities of our work-trade for living here.

And another reason might be that this is just a sign (one of many) that we aren’t meant to live here permanently, that the time to move on from this farm is coming.

So, this upcoming fall I’m committing to doing less and focusing on what I know grows well: leafy greens and herbs as well as scaling back to just a few, intensive garden beds and potted plants.

Wherever you are, and whatever season it is , I wish you luck in your gardening efforts.

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

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!

Crafts

Herbal Crafts :: spell bottles

I am all about drinking tea and eating veggies from the garden but, I also like to make art and magic with the harvest. Herbal bottles or bottle spells are a staple in the world of green magick, they are easy to make and very cute. In this article I am going to walk your through a simple floral bottle and some magical meanings of common flowers and herbs.

bottle one

The first step is collecting and processing your herbs and flowers. These bottles are not for consumption so you can use any herb or flower that feels right to you. Depending on the goal of your bottle spell you will use different herb / flower combinations. In this example I used rose & calendula petals and whole yarrow flowers to attract self-love and friendship.

To determine the meaning of each flower I used the book “the Green Witch” by Arin Murphy-Hisock and inspiration from one of my favorite podcasts called Herb Oracle which goes in depth into the medicinal and emotional meanings of one herb each week- I highly recommend it!

As well as the classical magical meanings of each herb, I also incorporate my own intuition and associations with each herb or flower.

magical books

All of the flowers were grown in my garden or collected in the fields of the farm were I live. This place was once a perfumery so there are a lot of roses growing all around. I personally prefer to use herbs I grow or collect myself but, you can certainly use herbs or flowers you bought or collected from a special place. Just make sure the material is thoroughly dried before inserting into the bottle.

Spell bottle combinations:

Protection bottle : yarrow, vervain, rosemary, and cedar or pine.

Friendship bottle : calendula flowers pink or white roses, zinnia flowers, sunflower petals and orange peel.

Self love bottle : vervain, lavender, pink or red roses, yarrow, lemon or orange peel.

These are combinations I came up with based on the spiritual meanings for the plants. I also only included herbs that I have access to. Think of these as suggestions or guidelines and feel free to replace or alter the ingredients based on your intention and what herbs and flowers you have access too. For this craft I like to use a very small bottle or tiny jar, so not much herbal material is needed. It is more important the quality and care you put into collecting and processing the materials for this jar than having large quantities or diversity of herbs.

Making your bottle:

Now that you have all the materials and the herby contents are totally dry, we can discuss when you will construct this bottle spell. Depending on the goal of your spell you will want to choose a specific day to do the spell. For example, if your bottle is about love, beauty or self-love you should work on Friday – Venus or Aphrodite’s day. A bottle for friendship or communication should be made on Wednesday – Mercury’s day. But, you can be flexible and creative with this for example if you want to do a self-love spell to help connect with and accept your emotional self, Monday or Moon’s day would be good too. If you want to make a bottle to encourage you to achieve your fullest protection, SunDay would also work.

bottle two

Next, write out the ingredients and/or your intentions on a beautiful piece of paper. In this example I made a spell bottle for my sister and only wrote the meaning of each ingredient, on the back she can write her personal intentions when she receives the bottle in a couple of weeks – she lives in California so I mailed her bottle from where I live in Argentina.

all the bottles

That day – last Friday – I made several bottles for my sister, a friend, my partner and myself so each person will do as they wish with their bottle and consecrate them in the manner of their choice. Even though I have no control over what day they will receive the bottle or how they are to use them. I made the bottles with love & care and that energy will surely aid whatever magic they are working in their lives

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!

Gardening

The Garden on Portola Way

Wherever I am, I will be working in the garden. And this month I am staying with my family in California and potting around their backyard garden. November may be the end of the growing season for most of North America but, here in California, November is the time to plant leafy greens for the fall and winter garden. My favorites are swiss chard, arugula, lettuce, and kale.

Fortunately the weather has been rainy, so I am making the most of this rare humidity to plant some perennial herbs around the yard. Lavender and Lemon Verbena can stand up to the dry weather common most of the year and also produce aromatic leaves/flowers for our herbalism products.

And lastly – Microgreens!!

I will update this post as progress continues but here are the micro-broccoli plants just bursting out from beneath the soil. I have written about growing microgreens in a recent edition of the Flora Libra Zine, so I won’t get too much into the details at this moment just to say that growing micro-greens is easy and nutritious!