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Herbs

Shining True with Goldenrod

Research shows that the color yellow is the happiest color, and I completely agree! The warm, stimulating effect of golden sunflowers, autumn leaves, and pale yellow houses certainly leads me to think positive thoughts. I’d not want to live in a world that lacks such a glorious hue.

Nor would I want to live in a world without the healing provisions plants can provide. The snappy yellow color often draws me in when I come across a patch of wildflowers. Which leads me to the delightfully cheery Goldenrod. You’re likely to find it in a natural area nearby right now. With over 130 various species, Goldenrod grows in some form in every state and readily around the world. A blazing summer beauty, Goldenrod has something for everyone in its repertoire of medicinal gifts.

For the Wildflower Gardener…

Goldenrod makes a lovely flowering perennial to add to any natural wildflower area. Whether you are looking for a bright plant to hover only a foot off the ground or tower seven feet above it, Goldenrod (in one of its various forms) will fit the bill.

The tiny, blooms atop the stem form a cluster of yellow-which attracts beneficial pollinators. Goldenrod leaves differ from species to species creating a great deal of diversity there, as well. It will happily take root along roadsides, in ditches and fields, and moist areas.

Although, it makes a lovely garden addition it can also spread like wildfire. Some even consider it an invasive weed. Whether it is cultivated by seed or rhizome, be sure to maintain its growth to prevent it from taking over.

For the Cook…

All parts of Goldenrod can be eaten, although it is advised that the top parts (flowers and upper leaves) are where the best flavors reside. Goldenrod produces a variety of different flavors, and much of that depends on what species it is you have available. Some are sweeter while others tend to be more bitter.

Eating seasonally is something that I strive to do. Having various additions to main courses throughout the year keeps my palate fresh and my creative juices flowing. Adding Goldenrod blossoms and leaves to a salad or cooked greens is a great way to include Goldenrod into your diet. You could also infuse the plant in some vinegar or honey to soak up and preserve the many medicinal benefits.

For the Home Medicine Maker…

Like other common medicinal plants, Goldenrod has many properties helpful in healing and restoring distressed and irritated systems of the body. Here are some examples:

Sneezing, Sniffling, and Allergies

Although unjustly blamed at times for causing allergies, Goldenrod is actually an impressive remedy for the classic symptoms associated with allergies, colds, and flu. As an astringent, Goldenrod can dry runny noses and watery eyes with ease. As an expectorant, it can unblock air passages by ridding the sinuses of mucus. And as a diaphoretic, Goldenrod will encourage the body to sweat and reduce fevers. Goldenrod can even provide relief for sore throats due to it antiseptic properties.

The best way to enjoy these benefits is to drink an infusion of Goldenrod tea.

UTI and Yeast Infections

Two very unpleasant things most women will deal with at some point in their lives. If you’ve ever dealt with a UTI or Yeast infection before, you know how painful and uncomfortable they are.

Goldenrod is an aquaretic. It will help to rid the body of water, but you won’t experience the loss of electrolytes. With a UTI it is important to continually flush the bladder as often as possible. Goldenrod is also anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. It will reduce irritation and relax tightened muscles that naturally occur when the bladder and urethra become infected.

Drinking Goldenrod infusions often throughout the day is an effective healing practice for UTIs.

Antifungal compounds allow Goldenrod to be an effective remedy for yeast infections. Using Goldenrod tops to make a strong infusion and used in a sitz bath will encourage the fungal infection to subside. Plus, you will be picking up the added benefits of Goldenrod being anti-inflammatory and calming to irritated tissues, as well.

Digestion

Goldenrod falls in the carminative category. This simply means it makes a great digestive remedy. Carminatives stimulate the digestive system-kicking it into high gear to work effectively at breaking down and ridding the body of waste. Therefore, Goldenrod comes to the aid of those experiencing discomfort from gas and bloating. It can help with stomach tension due to its antispasmodic properties, as well.

Drinking Goldenrod tea following a heavy meal would be wise for those prone to digestive upset.

For the Natural Body Care Crafter…

I woke up recently with one of the worst neck aches I’ve ever experienced. I wish I had a muscle rub salve ready to ease the pain. Then, I read that Goldenrod was especially helpful for this very purpose, and I knew what I would be doing later that day…making a Goldenrod infused oil to be turned into a salve later.

Goldenrod as a salve or poultice to be used externally can calm minor burns, skin irritations, and bruising. It even has reported benefits helping with eczema. And, a Goldenrod tincture is nice to have on hand for wounds. It can halt bleeding and promote healthy healing in minor wounds.

For Teens or those with Social Anxiety…

Do you or someone you know struggle with social anxiety? Often when I’m in a social situation or large groups, I find it difficult to let my true self shine through. I look at everyone else and imagine what they would think of how I live, the things I like, and how I prefer to spend my time. I feel so different.

This is precisely the reason to call upon a Goldenrod flower essence for help. A flower essence made with Goldenrod is suggested for those of us that tend to become a wallflower rather than show our inner selves to the world. That is why it is suggested for teens. During the teen years it is easy to follow along with everyone else while you try to figure out who you want to be. Adolescents may find that a Goldenrod flower essence will help them express themselves while staying true to themselves.

Flower essences are simple to make, and I love how they make me feel closer to nature in a spiritual way. You can easily find them for sale online, too. Either way, give it a try.  Over time it will make an impact on your ability to shine true, too.

For Knitters…

Another use for Goldenrod’s delightful yellow color is to go beyond the medicinal purpose, and bring it into your home for crafting. A lovely homesteading idea would be to make a natural dye from Goldenrod blossoms for wool fibers. I love this DIY (Goldenrod for Dying Yarn) on just how to go about this. I think it’s one of my goals to do this some day. Ultimate sustainability!

Plans for Goldenrod

It is easy to see there are many benefits to this blazing display of golden flowers. Unexpectedly stumbling across this beauty has my mind reeling with ideas for Goldenrod. I’d like to plant more of it throughout my yard. I’d like to make some homemade remedies and include it in some tea blends. And I (someday) would like to use it for dying yarns made from the fiber animals I hope to have.

All of these things are wonderful, but the most wonderful of all is that Goldenrod shows us how to show up as ourselves. Freely giving our all without holding back who we really are. So keep foraging. Keep crafting. And keep doing the things that make you, you. Don’t forget to show the world, too!

 

Super Simple All-Purpose Healing Salve

Have you ever been attacked by mosquitoes? I’m not talking about one or two or even ten of them. I mean a full-on, head-to-toe attack! Obviously, it’s not pleasant. This past February my fiance, Ryan, and I took a trip to the everglades where we experienced an army of mosquitoes that nearly wrecked our trip. Luckily, I was wearing jeans and I had a jacket to wrap around my upper body. But, poor Ryan! He walked away looking like he had chicken pox.

Looking back, I wish I had some cooling, healing salve with us to take the edge off all of those bites. The good news is it’s never too late to reap the benefits of a homemade plant remedy-especially since we are only a month into summer and there is still plenty of garden work to be done. Today, I’m sharing a recipe for a healing salve to take care of those annoying pains, burns, and itches. Make this cooling, all purpose salve for minor cuts, burns, bites, stings, and scrapes. You’ll have an effective, all-natural, home remedy ready to go. I know I’ll be packing an extra jar for our trip to Florida next month!

The Goodies in This Recipe

Before we get to the recipe, I wanted to share just a little about the beneficial ingredients that make this a wonderful first-aid salve.

Plantain

A plant with drawing properties, plantain takes away the dirt or venom of a scrape, bite, or sting to heal the wound from the inside out. Plantain is also an herb of choice for signs of heat (redness, swelling, etc.). The cooling properties of this plant will draw the heat out and soothe the irritated tissues. If you’d like to learn more about plantain check out this posts on it’s healing properties.

Self-Heal

A while back I was delighted to find self-heal growing in the yard. Much like plantain, self-heal is an astringent plant that draws out infections. It even has the ability to halt bleeding, much like yarrow, which makes it a great first aid herb to include in a salve. Read more about self-heal’s place among medicinal plants.

Peppermint Essential Oil

I included peppermint oil to add a deeper cooling touch. Much like plantain, peppermint used on the skin can soothe itchy, inflamed skin. Not to mention, it smells delightful!

Vitamin E Oil

Using vitamin E oil in a salve is useful in prolonging the shelf life of the product, as well as providing added skin benefits. Vitamin E oil is helpful in smoothing and repairing scar tissue.

Beeswax

A popular ingredient in many skin care products, beeswax provides moisture to the skin without clogging pores. It also softens, heals, and protects the skin making it a fine choice for dealing with wounds and other skin complaints.

Making Your All-Purpose Healing Salve

Materials Needed: 

Plantain Infused Oil (Learn how to make it here)

Self Heal Infused Oil (Learn how to make it here)

Peppermint Essential Oil (My pick place for buying oils)

Beeswax

Vitamin E Oil

Medium Pot, Strainer or Cheese clothe, Jars or Tins, Spoon, Measuring Cup or Scale

  1. Gather your materials. I made this in steps. First, I solar infused the oils for several weeks. You can speed up the process by infusing the oils over the stove or in a crockpot. Or you can try to find these oils already infused with the plant material. It might be a stretch for self-heal and plantain, but you may have some luck looking on Etsy or simply doing a google search.
  2. Strain the oils using a mesh strainer or cheese clothe into a medium sized pot. Be sure to squeeze as much of the oil out of the plant material as possible. This will ensure you get as much of the plant’s goodness as you can. (Self Heal on the left; Plantain on the right)
          
  3. Add a 1/4 cup or 2 oz. of beeswax for every cup of oil you have. I had two cups of oil, so I measured out 4 oz. of beeswax. I prefer to use the scale when measuring beeswax to get a more accurate measurement. 
  4. Next, heat the oil and beeswax until the beeswax has melted, mixing occasionally. Once the beeswax has liquified test the mixture by placing a spoonful in a small bowl and placing it in the freezer for a minute or two. If the mix is not hardening, add more beeswax. And if it is too hard, add some more oil.
  5. Once you have the consistency you are looking for when cool, put 10-20 drops of peppermint essential oil and a tablespoon of vitamin E oil in the beeswax/plant oil mix. Give it a good swirl with a spoon, and then pour the hot oil/beeswax mix into your tins or jars. Label your jars with the date and store in a cool, dark place. It’s best to replace salves every 6 months to a year. Any longer than that, and your salve is likely to be rancid. 

Being Prepared Feels Good

I love the feeling I get when I make something like a simple salve. I used the plants that I could find near me to aid in the unfortunate event that someone I love (or myself) gets stung by a bee, scrapes a knee, or develops a summer heat rash. Better than having anything store bought, I can feel confident in knowing what is going on my skin. Now that you know all of the benefits to using these simple plants, and this easy but effective method of making a healing salve, I hope you will try it out and let me know what you think. How does it make you feel to make a super simple, natural home remedy for you and your family?

Healing Home Remedies for Summer Skin Chafing

The excitement of summertime can quickly be squashed by annoying (and often embarrassing) chafed skin. Those of us that deal with sensitive skin year round know that soaring temperatures and sticky humidity often leads to itchy, irritated skin (more than likely due to excess sweatiness).

The good news is that there are some inexpensive, easy, and effective ways to deal with this problem naturally. Depending on the severity of your skin concerns, you may need to call upon more than one method mentioned below. Doing a combination of these things will likely soothe and heal the skin more quickly.

Natural Remedies for Chaffing Skin

  • Aloe Vera and Other Plant Oils

Aloe is very cooling and drying. Applied to irritated skin, it will reduce inflammation and allow patches of chafed skin to heal rather than continuing to spread. That should be your first goal.

For me, the problem begins because of fungal infections. Some skin types are more likely to develop fungal infections than others. Irritated skin is often broken open allowing bacteria to freely enter the body. To prevent this from getting out of control, I turn to plants with antibacterial and antifungal properties. Calendula, lavender, and tea tree oil all fit that bill.

Add lavender or tea tree oil to some fresh Aloe pulp and apply topically. Or make a healing calendula oil infusion to have on hand. A cotton ball makes for easy application.

  • Turmeric Powder Reliever

Famously anti-inflammatory, turmeric (3 tsps.) mixed with water (1 tsp.) will form a paste that can be smoothed over the infected area. You will need to cover the area with a cloth in order to keep the paste from getting everywhere. After 30 minutes, wash the paste away with warm water.

(**Turmeric will stain. Be sure to use a cloth and to wear clothes that you don’t mind staining. It should rinse off your skin alright, but try it out before applying to your face or in a place that is regularly visible.)

  • Bath Soaks

Not my favorite thing to do in the summer, but soaking in a mix of healthy skin goodies is a great way to take care of larger areas of chafing. Use lukewarm water to prevent further inflaming the skin. Place 2 cups of baking soda, 10 drops of lavender essential oil, and 1 cup of rolled oats in the water. Soak for 20 minutes before stepping out and patting yourself dry.

  • Keep the Area Dry

This might be difficult to do in the summer. We all tend to sweat a little more. Without consistent air conditioning and outdoor chores that need attention, it may be challenging to keep an area of chafed skin from too much moisture. Do your best. Take breaks and allow a fan to dry the area. I like to wear dry-wic shirts when I have an area of chafed skin on my upper body. Try placing arrowroot powder over the area for a bit. The more you can keep the area from being further irritated, the faster the skin can heal.

Don’t spend your summer months with the discomfort of itchy, painful, and irritated skin.

Whether skin chafing is a constant summer struggle or a come-and-go concern, you now have ideas for natural home remedies to turn to for help. A handful of plants and a little conscious effort will take care of the problem. In addition you can feel the pride of being self-sufficient in making your own healing home remedy plan!

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Celebrating St. John’s Wort

Young St. John’s wort

Summer is here, and that means the days will gradually be growing shorter again. Seems rather odd, but I’m thinking ahead to the coming winter. Striving to live seasonally is a challenge during those cold winter days. I’d much prefer the warm sun on my back as I play in the garden. A herb that helps me face that challenge is St. John’s wort. In light of the Saint’s celebrated birthday (June 24th), I thought I would share what I know of the herb named after him, and some ideas for crafting with it!

St. John’s wort is a magical, sun-loving perennial with a history richly steeped in spiritual well-being. Before modern science could explain how St. John’s wort works to relieve mild depression, anxiety, and stress, people celebrated this plant for its powers to rid darkness and protect them from evil. Not only is St. John’s wort helpful for the mind, but it has some rather extraordinary healing properties as well. A fitting plant to celebrate, if you ask me.

St. John’s Wort and the Christian Religion

Adding to its magic, St. John’s wort “bleeds.” When pressed between the fingers, a bud or blossom stains the hand with a purplish-red oil. Hypericum perforatum was given its common name because St. John supposedly called upon it quite often for its benefits to heal the body and mind. Though I’ve observed St. John’s wort blossoms prior to the Saint’s birthday, tradition states that the plant blooms on June 24th and “bleeds” on the anniversary of his beheading-August 19th.

Further associations to the Christian religion are found within the plant’s leaves and petals. A great way to determine if you are looking at St. John’s wort is to hold a leaf up to the light of the sun. You should see tiny holes ‘perforating’ the leaves. These holes are symbolic of St. John’s wounds as a martyr. And should you look down at the plant from above, many suggest the four leaves make the shape of the cross.

St. John’s Wort for the Mind

Those of us who have experienced the darkness of mental health disorders know that the worst evil we may go through in this life can come from within our own minds. Whether it’s low self-esteem, a situational depression, or a form of anxiety, we can all feel sad, numb, and scared at any point in time. It’s often the thoughts we think that keep us down and in a place of dark solitude.

Yet, St. John’s wort has the ability to break that cycle of negative, stuck thoughts. The ‘holes’ on the leaves and flowers are actually glands. They emit compounds that can interfere with our brains ability to become stuck in a depressed funk. These compounds are known for increasing the body’s ability to collect light—which is often the reason for feeling blue in the winter when we receive less sunlight.

Furthermore, these compounds are able to enhance our emotional strength by stretching out the neurotransmitters that make us feel good—dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. When these flow through the body for a longer period, we feel less like we are on an emotional rollercoaster—going from highs to lows quickly. In short, the compounds found in St. John’s wort balance the mind.

St. John’s Wort for the Body

St. John’s wort has many health benefits for the body as well. Due to its antiviral properties, St. John’s wort has potential in treating Aids, herpes, and shingles. It is also considered to be antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which is why it has been used topically to heal wounds and ease sore muscles.

St. John’s wort aids in the absorption of nutrients when taken internally. This makes it a wonderful digestive herb. St. John’s wort brings its balancing abilities to the table by stabilizing stomach acid levels—working to raise or lower them depending on what the body needs. Herbalists will often suggest St. John’s wort to treat ulcers, heartburn, and bloating.

Crafting with St. John’s Wort

If any of this has you thinking about how you might incorporate St. John’s wort into your daily life, look no further! The tutorials and products listed below will help you to do just that. Pick one or try them all, and find what works best for you.

DIY: St. John’s Wort Tincture

Tea Blend for A Restful Night’s Sleep 

DIY: St. John’s Wort Infused Oil

DIY: Cayenne, St. John’s Wort Salve

St. John’s Wort Flower Essence  

Make a Sweet Dream Pillow with St. John’s Wort for Better Sleep

Now is the Time…

Now is the time to enjoy St. John’s wort in all of its blossoming beauty. Sit with it, admiring the flowers, buds, and leaves that open so freely in the bright summer sun. Forage and find some ways to make it last once the summer is gone. Thinking ahead to the winter months and their longer nights, I’m relieved to have a friend in St. John’s wort. One that will brighten my spirits on cold, gray days. But for now, I’ll be glad that its summer and that I can visit with St. John’s wort.

I’m curious. Why and how do you use St. John’s wort? What works best for you?

Admiring the Abundance of Red Clover

To be “in clover” still means to have abundance.

I sometimes forget my manners when given plenty of something. I am more careless with how I use a resource when there is more of it. What’s more, my appreciation for whatever it is I’ve been given is lacking when there is more than enough. A common human trait, it makes me feel better knowing I’m not alone in this. It takes conscious effort to identify the ways we have been blessed in a society that consistently tells us we are not enough and we do not have enough.

Recently I noticed that I haven’t said ‘thank you’ for the good fortune of having Red Clover growing freely here. She arrives each year singing the sweet song of summer as she takes over wherever she is planted. Red Clover (and white, too) signifies the successful continuation of the common ‘weed,’ notoriously sought out to be banished from today’s lawns. The very best way to appreciate something or someone is to give them some of my time and undivided attention. That isn’t difficult to spare for a loyal friend like Red Clover.

Nutrient Dense

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) contains many nutrients that the body needs replenished regularly. This is one reason I enjoy Red Clover as a nourishing herbal infusion. More than adequate amounts of beta-carotene, vitamin C, several B vitamins, and calcium all reside within Red Clover. Even some essential trace elements (magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, and selenium) rest within the flower head and leaves. Pretty impressive to think of all of that being packed inside this floral powerhouse.

Cleansing Herb

Throughout it’s history as an herbal remedy, Red Clover has gained popularity as a detoxifying herb. It primarily cleans up the blood and lymphatic system by eliminating toxins from the body. Red Clover (taken internally) encourages an increase in urine and bile production. It also helps clear mucus from the lungs while acting as a soothing expectorant.

Anti-Cancer Potential

The potential to cure major illnesses and diseases using nature’s medicine is uplifting. It just makes sense. Even though Red Clover hasn’t cured cancer, it has some properties that make it rather beneficial. According to the National Cancer Institute, Red Clover contains four significant anti-tumor compounds. In 2008, Matthew Wood commented that “fairly reliably [Red Clover] will cause a membrane to grow around a tumor and contain it, which is helpful, especially if followed by surgery. This has especially been observed in breast cancer.” This is my favorite example of how modern and alternative medicine might work together for a common goal.

Skin Helper

Herbs with skin healing properties are a favorite topic of mine. I’ve suffered from extremely dry skin and eczema most of my life. Red Clover’s ability to stimulate the liver and cleanse the body means it is helpful in treating skin complaints that typically appear due to poorly treated, stagnant bodily systems. Red Clover will assist the body in clearing these complaints away when taken as tea or tincture consistently over longer periods of time. It also makes for a great salve or skin wash.

Menopause Symptoms Reliever

Many woman have turned to hormone replacement therapy during menopause. And many of them report having uncomfortable side effects of the treatment. Fortunately, Red Clover contains plant hormones (phytoestrogens) and compounds (isoflavones) that can ease the irritating and uncomfortable symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, etc.). Taken internally or as a tea on a regular basis, Red Clover may provide the relief needed during this time in a woman’s life without the negative side effects.

Red Clover is NOT a Blood Thinner

Red Clover contains the compound courmarin. This compound can change to a synthetic agent called dicoumarol, which is a blood thinner. This happens when a Red Clover harvest ferments during the drying process. When dried properly, this isn’t a problem. Yet, anyone taking blood thinners would be best advised to stay away from Red Clover.

Drying Red Clover

If you are like me, and lucky enough to have red clover growing around you, then you can easily dry your own for tea or tincture. To do so, find a dry spot out of the sunlight to lay your clover heads out. Either on a screen or brown paper spread them so they are not piled on top of each other. Give them ample room to breathe in order to dry more quickly.

When dried they should retain much of their color and be crumbly. If they turned brown it’s best to compost them and try again. Otherwise you can purchase dried Red Clover at Mountain Rose Herbs.

All in all, Red Clover reminds me to appreciate how good I have it. Because I really do. This life is full of many wonderful gifts, and they are easy to overlook in all of the hustle and bustle. Slowing down and learning to see how important these small but abundant gifts truly are is what makes life worth living. What a perfect meditation to contemplate over a mug of Red Clover tea!

***The quotes used in this post come from the book Backyard Medicine by Julie Burton-Seal and Matthew Seal. (To be “in clover” still means to have abundance; quote from Matthew Wood)