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december blog party: herbal aesthetics
posted on Sunday, November 29th 2009 2:14 am

this month’s blog party is all about the beautiful side of herbs. cory at aquarian bath is hosting. swing by her blog to see all the submissions after dec 1.

we have a lot of fun dying silks using herbs. our two favorites are poke berries and black walnuts. it takes about 2 weeks total to do. all sorts of herbs can be used. i’ve even used dandelion blossoms to make a pale yellow. goldenrod, elderberry and st. john’s wort all make great dyes too! poke berry is not color fast, but it is such a lovely color that we just try to re-dye our silks each year.

to dye silks, first, i fill a half gallon jars with the herb i am using. i mashed any berries a bit in their jar (the walnut hulls i just break up roughly & stuff in. i add enough water to fill each jar to the top. then i set them out in the sun for about a week, shaking every day.

the next week, i strain out the plants and add 1/4 teaspoon of alum to each jar. you can find alum in the spice section at the grocery store.
next, in go the silks. i buy ours from dharma trading. (the 35 x 35 make a great size). i’ve also dyed a silk dress that i found at a thrift shop with the walnuts. it is a beautiful shade of gold. i hope to dye it again to make it darker as it is the same color as my hair right now and makes me look a bit bland.

i push them in with a stick and make sure they are covered. then i let them sit for up to another week, shaking & stirring daily, turning them with a stick to get all areas evenly exposed.

the longer they sit, the darker they get. drain out the liquid and rinse with cool water until the water is clear.

black walnut rinsed and wet:

black walnut dry. can you see the leaf design??? that was a total accident caused by wrinkled fabric but a really nice one.

poke wet:

and dry:

now all that’s left to do is play with them!

these make GREAT gifts for friends! natural herbal dyes can be used to dye all sorts of natural fibers from wool to cotton to silk to linen. each fiber will naturally dye a little differently.

another fun temporary dye using poke berries is for hair dye. poke is not very colorfast, even with alum. when used on hair, it washes out very easily but is a fun way to spice up your hair. simply mash, paint on with your fingers or a wide paint brush and viola!

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November Blog Party: Coffee/Stimulants/Morning Ritual Beverages
posted on Sunday, November 1st 2009 7:46 am

i’m hosting november’s herbal blog party! the subject is morning beverages…be it coffee, mate, or some herbal concoction, we herbalists are sharing our early (or late) morning beverage ritual. want to join in and share with us what gets you going in the morning? give me a link to your post and i’ll add it to the blogroll:

karen vaughan writes about the benefits of coffee and talks about mixing them with herbs

lisl writes all about chai and includes a recipe for her favorite blend

susan lubbers writes about waking up with a holy cuppa…holy basil!

darcey blue french shares her chocamatamatelatte recipe

kiva rose writes of the wild woodlands morning brew, with a combination of herbs that you might never have thought of trying

need a little caffeine in your morning ritual? try rosalee de la foret’s suggestions for black tea

my idea of a great caffeine free morning beverage: roasted root chai

aquarian bath’s secret to a great cup of earl grey tea

stephany shares some great recipes for all sorts of moods!

aartiana writes about her favorite morning infusions

My Morning Ritual
posted on Friday, October 30th 2009 6:34 am

this is my post for the november blog party. be sure to check out all the great posts as there are quite a lot of delicious and eye opening recipes!

during the late spring, summer and fall, my breakfast beverage generally consists of wandering around in the garden and picking a handful of whatever speaks to me. but once winter takes over, i must turn to my shelves for that morning cup. generally, i will do a combination of dried herbs or grab some mate or green tea. but when i want a real treat, i reach for the roasted root chai.

i can never make enough of this ahead of time to store for the winter! seems i’m always searching out more roots to keep myself stocked so i can blend a quart at a time…i should probably blend a half gallon! kids and adults alike gulp it down and request more, every time! this recipe will make about a quart of pre-mixed chai. this chai is caffeine free but you could add some green tea if you’d like a blast of caffeine.

roasted root chai
2 cups mixture: roasted dandelion roots, roasted chicory roots
6 Tbsp. fennel seeds
6 Tbsp. anise seeds
6 Tbsp. cardamom pods, gently broken up
6 Tbsp. whole cloves
4 Tbsp. dried ginger root
2 Tbsp. largely grated nutmeg (i buy it whole and use a cheese grater to grate it for this project instead of using the finer holed nutmeg grater)
3 – 4 tsp. black peppercorns
24 bay leaves, broken up
14 cinnamon sticks, broken up (a mortar and pestle works well for this)

blend the mixture in a bowl and pour into a quart jar to store.
to use, add 1 Tbsp. chai mix per cup water. simmer for 5 minutes then let steep for another 15 minutes.
add 1 Tbsp honey per cup and 2 Tbsp per cup of water. Stir, pour and serve!

November Blog Party Call For Submissions: Coffee/Stimulants/Morning Ritual Beverages
posted on Friday, October 16th 2009 7:22 am

i’ll be hosting november’s herbal blog party! the subject is morning beverages…be it coffee, mate, or some herbal concoction, we want to know all about your early (or late) morning beverage ritual. want to join in and share with us what gets you going in the morning? here’s how:

~write a post on your blog (or if you don’t have one, write a post up anyway and ask someone else to post it on your behalf)
~link to this post in that post
~submit a link to me by nov 1 (in the comments here or to me on facebook)
~come back nov 1 or later and read what everyone’s written!

ready?! grab your cuppa’ and get writing!

October Blog Party: Bio-regional Herbs for the Cold and Flu Season
posted on Thursday, October 1st 2009 9:04 am
a literal medicine chest in a basket…i just harvested these today from the top going clockwise: honeysuckle flowers, wild cherry twigs, self heal, goldenrod and rosehips in the center.

this month’s blog party is being hosted by rosalee of methow valley herbs. head on over there and check out everyone’s postings that are participating!

it’s so easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest new exotic herbs that are being promoted that it’s hard to remember that sometimes, the best medicine is growing right in our own backyards! this blog party is a great reminder to run to our backyard instead of the nearest health food store to find our remedies. i am located in the midwest, near st. louis but most of these herbs can be found across the country.

first, remember the golden rule of health: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! i’ve written a post about what can be done to prevent the flu here.

beautiful solidago

one of my new favorite herbs that i’ve been dancing with this year is goldenrod (solidago spp.). i’ve tinctured him and admired him for several years but i’ve never tried him out until this late summer. and boy, am i glad i did! i was experiencing a headache that was created from sinus pressure and a voice kept whispering to me ‘goldenrod.’ after trying to ignore both the headache, sinuses and voice for 2 days, i decided to break out goldenrod and give him a try. and kicked myself for being a stubborn taurus herbalist and waited so long to try him out. the headache disappeared within a few hours of dosing (1 dropperful about every 30 minutes or so) and though it came back, it was less intense and as i continued taking goldenrod, the stuffy sinuses were gone and with them, the headache, all by the end of the day. goldenrod is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, making him an excellent choice for colds and flus. taken as a hot infusion, he will help you sweat out a fever. taken as a cold infusion (meaning after infusing the herb in hot water, let the infusion cool down) he acts as a diuretic and will flush out the kidneys and liver. to test any goldenrod found growing in your landscape, break a leaf off and chew. if he’s bitter and drying, you’ve got an excellent medicinal herb growing in your backyard! harvest his flowering tops and leaves when the flowers just start to bloom and tincture immediately. you can also dry goldenrod. make sure that the flowers have not opened yet or he’ll set seed in your drying room!


another terrific flu time herb is elderberry! i cannot rave enough about this wonderful elder of ours. both sambucus nigra and sambucus canadensis are found in my area and both are equally useful. elderberry is prophylactic against flus and colds which means if you take her daily, she can help prevent you from getting sick. she also has antiviral properties which will be helpful for lessening the duration and severity of the flu. she’s also full of vitamin c! elderberry is the first thing i reach for when my kids are getting the sniffles. richo cech’s making plant medicine book is an excellent resource for making herbal remedies and he suggests making a glycerin tincture of dried elderberries to be the best choice for tincturing elderberries. this makes a delicious tincture that kids will readily take. don’t forget elderberry syrup though. this medicine is easy to make and delicious to take. she can be taken daily by the teaspoonful or even used to flavor french toast, pancakes and waffles or even drizzled over some homemade vanilla ice cream! yum!!

to make a syrup, gently heat 2 cups of fresh elderberries with 2 cups of water. when it hits boiling, turn off the heat and mash the berries. cover and allow to infuse for about an hour. strain off the berries and add 2 cups of honey to the liquid and warm on the stove until the honey is thin enough to mix together. stir and pour into a bottle. label and keep refrigerated. to help preserve longer, you can add a bit of brandy (about 1/4 c.) and shake.

elderberry also contains diaphoretic and diuretic qualities. elderberry is also an expectorant, helping to relieve lung congestion.

elderflower is also a wonderful cold and flu herb to have on hand. the flowers of elder contain most of the same properties as the berries.

for treating coughs, i like to make a cough syrup or cough drop from our wild cherry bark. he is delicious and relaxing, helping to ease coughing spasms. among other things, wild cherry bark is analgesic and antibacterial which can help ease the painful chest congestion and help prevent a secondary bacterial infection from setting in. if i’m out of the syrup, i will often snip a few twigs from the tree and decoct them for about 10-20 minutes to make a quick cherry bark drink. sweetened with a dab of our raw honey, they will drink it down fairly quickly!

other herbs that grow around us that are helpful for treating colds and flus are bergamot (monarda fistulosa), st. john’s wort and lobelia. lobelia i tend to be cautious with as it is a low dose botanical but bergamot makes a delightful tea that i enjoy immensely as a beverage and has great carminative, diaphoretic, diurectic and antibacterial actions. use of bergamot dates back to native americans who used her for treating bronchial ailments, sore throats, fever and headaches. any of the monarda species can be used but i prefer to use my wild bergamot that grows in my garden. i collected 1 seed head several years back and i now have three beautiful stands in my garden!

st. john’s wort is most often known for his use in treating depression but he has antiviral abilities as well. he is also astringent and expectorant making him great to treat lung congestion. i have not had much experience in using him but i have lots tinctured up and will be trying him out this winter if needed. while st. john’s wort grows wild around here, my tiny wild patch was choked out by honeysuckle last year and is slowly reemerging in another part of the woods so i’m using my cultivated st. john’s wort which makes a lovely blood red oil and tincture. in the future, i hope to be able to use the wild st. john’s wort since i truly believe wild is stronger than cultivated.

honeysuckle, the bane of master naturalists everywhere, is used a lot in chinese medicine and is great for stimulating circulation and removing inflammation. in traditional chinese medicine, she is used for clearing heat and removing toxicity. she is excellent for treating ‘hot’ sore throats and modern laboratory research has proven she has antibacterial qualities. it’s best to harvest the flowers before they open and are great dried (for teas), tinctured or even honeyed or made into a syrup.

rose hips are high in vitamin c which is great to take to help fight off colds and flus and they are also antiviral. a rose hip elixir is a great way to get kids to take their medicine! a great preventative and a great curative as well.


and finally, self heal/all heal, prunella. i wrote all about her on a previous blog party (see my list of resources below for the link)so i won’t go into much detail here. she has an amazingly long list of actions: alterative, antimicrobial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary! as a preventative or treatment, she will work great. make her into a tea or use in tincture form.

some resources and more information:
for more information on goldenrod:

for a great list of all the elders available around the world try this link:

trying to identify elderberry? read my recent post on herbal roots zine:

want to teach your kids more about elderberry? check out a past issue of herbal roots zine on elderberry:

rose or st. john’s wort:

or wild cherry, bergamot or goldenrod:

for more about honeysuckle:

more information on wild rose petals and hips elixir:

my blog party post on self heal:

august blog party: sweet medicine
posted on Friday, July 31st 2009 9:57 pm

this month’s blog party is hosted by kiva over at bear medicine herbals. swing by her place and see all the wonderful submissions this month has to offer!

herbal syrups are one of my favorite things to make. they are so delicious and versatile…you can use them on pancakes, on ice cream, on cake, biscuits or toast or you can take them straight or make them into soda! who wouldn’t like to take their medicine in one of those forms?

my favorite syrup flavors are cherry, elderberry and ginger. all three are great to have on hand and can be stored in the fridge for a month or two, allowing you to make some medicine ahead of time to have on hand for the upcoming cold and flu season.

cherry is great for taming coughs and scratchy throats. it soothes and sedates the nerves that trigger the cough reflex, helping to soothe in that manner. it’s best used in persistent, irritating coughs when you don’t want to increase expectoration such as whooping cough and bronchitis. it has also been mixed with other herbs to treat asthma. wild cherry can also be used in treating sluggish digestion.

elderberry, is specific for treating colds and influenza. both the flowers and the berries have similar properties but for syrup making purposes, i stick with the berries. elderberry relieves lung congestion, can help with cases of pneumonia and has anti-inflammatory actions which makes it wonderful for treating arthritis. being rich in vitamin c, elderberry has been considered a prophylactic against winter colds which means taking a daily dose is not only a delicious thing, it’s a healthy thing!

ginger is warming and stimulating. it’s great for treating nausea, upset stomachs, morning sickness, colic and many other gastro intestinal upsets. it is also soothing to a sore throat.

all three make delicious soda, so you need not be sick to enjoy them! simply add about 2 oz of syrup per 8 oz of seltzer water, stir and enjoy!

to make the syrup, i start with about 2 cups of the fresh herb and 2 cups of water. for the cherry and ginger, i bring to a boil, simmer 10 minutes then cover and steep for an hour. with elderberries, i bring to a boil, turn off, mash the berries, cover and steep for an hour.

after the hour is up, strain off the herbs and compost them (ginger may be reused once or twice. simply freeze and thaw when needed). add 2 cups of locally raised honey to the infusion and gently heat to thin the honey enough. stir together and cool. store in a bottle in the fridge and it will last about 2 months (of course, in our house, it never stays around that long!).

take a teaspoon at a time, serve over pancakes, waffles or ice cream, or turn into a delicious soda! a sweet way to take your medicine.

august blog party: call for submissions
posted on Tuesday, July 14th 2009 6:36 am

It’s time again! The next blog party, graciously hosted by Kiva Rose at Bear Medicine Herbals is going to be on cordials, elixirs, and other yummilicious ways of preserving the summer herb harvest (I think this can include herbal honeys, meads, ferments, jams etc as well).

Submit your posts to Kiva by July 31 for an Aug 1 party date! Happy elixir making!

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July Blog Party: Weeds of Summer
posted on Tuesday, June 30th 2009 3:28 pm

taking a break from working on herbal roots to write for this month’s theme for herbal blog party which is the weeds of summer, weeds we love to love and that others love to hate which is being hosted by darcy blue of gaia’s gifts. you can go over to her blog for a list of blogs that are participating in this month’s party!

there are so many great weeds to choose from, i had a hard time focusing on one! i started to write about my top 6 favorite weeds: plantain, dandelion, burdock, nettles, red clover and self heal but when i started writing about self heal, i realized, this was the herb i needed to tell you about because all the other herbs have been covered a lot already while self heal is left out in the cold!

i thought i had a picture of it in bloom, but i haven’t been able to find it. self heal doesn’t bloom until mid july so i still have a few weeks before i can capture her in bloom.
self heal, or heal all, prunella vulgaris, is a sweet timid herb i find growing at the back of our property. i dug up a bunch and moved it into my herb garden so i could watch her cycle of life more closely. self heal is in the mint family, so those of you growing mint knows what a ‘weed’ she can be! self heal is great to have around, just look at her long list of actions: alterative, antimicrobial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary! it’s like having a built in first aid kit all in one plant. pretty amazing. what does all that mean? essentially, this means self heal can be used to treat all sorts of viruses and bacteria, kills germs, lower fevers without normally lowering body temperature, relieve spasms, drying, help upset stomachs, flush out the bladder and kidneys, lower blood pressure, tone, worm and stop bleeding.

self heal is effective for most internal ailments and also good for external wounds. studies have been done on an extract of the plant being used to inhibit HIV virus as well as showing promise in treating herpes, cancer, AIDS, diabetes and many other maladies. clinical studies have shown it to have an antibacterial action which inhibits the growth of pseudomonas, bacillus typhi, e. coli and mycobacterium tuberculi. traditionally, self heal has been used as an alternative medicine internally and externally as an antibiotic and for hard to heal wounds and diseases.

as an infusion, self heal works wonders for treating fevers, diarrhea, sore mouth and throat, internall bleeding and weaknessness of the liver and heart. the tea is very pleasant tasting which makes it easy to give to children as well.

this little herb which i’m just getting to know is definitely a keeper in my book!

blog party is back!!
posted on Monday, June 22nd 2009 8:22 am

go to darcy’s blog for details if you want to participate in the monthly herbal blog party. this month’s theme is the weeds of summer!

januray blog party: kitchen spices – discover the medicine chest in your spice cabinet
posted on Tuesday, January 1st 2008 11:56 am

a lot of people become intimidated when it comes to herbs because they don’t know where to start. most are familiar with the more commonly used ones such as echinacea and st. john’s wort but what a lot of people don’t realize is that they have a whole arsenal of medicinal herbs in their spice cabinet: garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, fennel, dill and anise seeds, lemons and turmeric are a great start. pull out some salt, vinegar, olive oil and honey (raw) from your cabinet and you’ve got the makings of a first aid kit worthy of treating winter ailments! throw in some vodka or brandy and you can make a full spectrum of herbal remedies.

garlic: natural antibiotic, broad spectrum which body/germs don’t build a resistance to allowing it to be used over and over again. useful for helping to fight off bacterial infections, earaches and other wintertime ailments such as strep throat. can help to reduce span of illness. best raw (but take in small doses as it can irritate in large). can be heated in oil to make eardrops or infused in honey and eaten to help with sore throats, etc. tinctured in brandy or vodka, it can be taken as needed (15-30 drops at a time depending on body size) to help.

to use in oil: crush garlic cloves, place in double boiler with olive oil and gently warm for 2 hours. strain and add a few drops in both ears to treat earaches and infections.

to use in honey: crush garlic cloves, place in mason jar of preferred size and fill with raw honey. allow to steep for at least 1 month. eat a spoonful as needed. the cloves can be eaten too.

rosemary: rosemary essential oil has been tested for use in effective against colon, breast and lung cancer with promising results. it is an antiseptic and is great in tea form. it can smooth the muscles of the digestive tract, helping to calm stomach cramps as well as menstrual cramps. as an infusion, it relieves digestive problems, relieves cold symptoms, and helps as an expectorant.

thyme: great for the respiratory system. thyme is excellent for coughs and sore throats. it has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. it can be used externally as a wash to cleanse wounds. it makes a pleasant tasting tea and is helpful for bronchitis and whooping cough/pertussis. when our family was going through whooping cough this summer, a tea containing thyme was drank in copious amounts to help.

sage: a sage/salt water gargle for sore throats. it is also known as a diaphoretic which means it will increase perspiration. use with caution if breastfeeding as it can decrease the milk production (helpful if mama needs help with adjusting her milk flow though).

fennel, dill and anise seeds: great for digestive problems. seeds can be chewed before and after meals to help settle the stomach. a tea can be made and drank during meals to help with digestion as well.

lemons: an excellent form of vitamin c. a drink made from 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon of honey and 8 oz. of hot water helps to soothe a sore throat. when lots of mucus is present, oranges should not be eaten because they can increase the amount of mucus in the body. lemons provide a great source of vitamin c w/o increasing the mucus.

turmeric: excellent when used in a honey paste for sore throats.

turmeric/honey paste: mix equal amounts of honey and turmeric well and eat. i start with 1 teaspoon of each. after about 3 doses (usually taken w/in an hour) i have always had much relief. this is the first thing i reach for when my throat feels scratchy.

salt: add to water or herbal infusion to make a gargle for sore throats. heat in a pan on the stove and place in a handkerchief (tie opposite corners together tightly to keep salt from leaking out) and place on aching ear for extra soothing power when using garlic oil drops.

vinegar: herbs can be infused in vinegar and added to salads to help with calcium absorption. any herb can be used to increase health benefits as needed.

olive oil: infuse herbs by crushing herbs and adding with olive oil in a double boiler and slowly infusing over low heat for a few hours (or placing in a mason jar and setting in the sun for 2 or 3 weeks). oil can be used as a massage oil to relieve muscle cramps, rubbed on the stomach to relieve stomach cramps, ear drops to relieve ear aches, ear infections and swimmer’s ear (infused with garlic or onions) or combined with beeswax to make a salve.

honey: honey in itself has terrific medicinal powers. infusing herbs in it can make herbal medicine yummy, especially for little ones who aren’t so crazy about herbs. it can be made into a syrup by combining 1 part herbal infusion to 2 parts honey, warming briefly on the stove to combine and bottled. add 1/2 part brandy to help preserve and store in the refridgerator. pastes can be made by adding equal parts of honey and powdered herbs. adding more herb can make a dough that can be rolled into balls and and dried.

these are just a brief synopsis of herbs that you can find in your kitchen that can help with ailments. try googling some herbs in your cabinet by typing the word ‘medicinal’ and the herb to see what you can come up with. you will be amazed at what you can do with what you’ve got! also, check out my fellow bloggers for all of their wonderful posts on the same topic:

shamana flora discusses turmeric in detail

herbwifemama speaks of the joy of thyme

dreamseeds shares a great overview of various spices as well

kiva rose has a wonderful post on bee balm

crabapple herbs
has a thorough post on cinnamon

i’ll be updating this post as others also contribute their entries for this months party. feel free to join in!

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