Monday, 28 April 2008

The Herbal Research Engine

I've just set up a bespoke herbal search engine on Google for herbalism and related sites. At the moment, it only has a few sites in - but as I come across sites that are good information resources I will keep adding them to the list of sites. This will be great for research purposes as you can get really tailored results without sweating over what you put in the search query.

You can use the search engine from the link above, and I've also added it to my Resources list (further down on the right hand column).

If you know of any great herbalism sites with lots of good information, please let me know and I will add it to the list, so that as a research resource it will get better and better. :-)

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Dandelion pesto

Well! Why not? You get rocket pesto, red pepper pesto, aubergine pesto etc. So I've just made up dandelion pesto, adapting a Jamie Oliver recipe for normal basil pesto (I bet he didn't see that one coming! LOL):

3 handfuls of fresh, chopped dandelion leaves
1 handful of lightly toasted pine nuts
1 clove of garlic

Whizz the above ingredients up in the blender (or by hand using a pestle and mortar) and then gradually stir in 1 handful of parmesan and some olive oil until it's the right consistency. Season it and (if you want) add a squeeze of lemon.

And the verdict is... I've just had it with spaghetti and it is of course quite bitter tasting, but it's not bad. Pesto is just about one of my favourite sauces, and this is never going to replace it - but for a change once in a while, and when the fridge is a bit empty (but the garden is full), I can eat this! ;)

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Sunday, 27 April 2008

Vitamin A & Calendula cream

I'm excited! :) I've just made a very healing cream - an adaptation of Kolbjorn Borseth's Vitamin A cream, and thanks to a suggestion from him on the course last week. The purpose of this cream is for my father who has damaged skin on his fingers from many years working with strong chemicals in the printing trade. The tips of his fingers crack in cold weather or after intense usage (e.g. - playing his lute). It is also a generally therapeutic and regenerative cream (the base recipe is one for eczema). 

Amongst it's ingredients - and in addition to the Vitamin A and Calendula oils which you've probably already guessed! - are shea butter, borage oil, vitamin E oil, aloe and little lavender.
So if I may present the cream, in three stages:

1. Getting both the fat and water stages to 75-80C

2. The finished cream - very well whisked!

3. Bottled, and ready to go :)
Update! I've made a few other healing creams since this post:

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Free salad!

Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinalis) leaves can be picked and added to salad, cooked like spinach or drunk as a tea. The leaf has a slightly bitter, tangy taste. There are a number of health benefits:
  • Good for the health of the liver
  • An alkaline food helping the body to redress too much acidity in the body
  • Purifying and cleansing for the blood
  • Good for digestion
And what's more, they're free in our gardens and hedgerows! :)

PS - they need to be picked just before eating as they wilt quickly (as I just found out).

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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Researching propolis cream

A friend from Bulgaria introduced me to propolis in the form of a cream purchased from Holland & Barrett. She recently gave it to another friend who has eczema on his hands and had tried many other creams without success, but found that the propolis cream provided relief. I decided to research it and have been reading James Fearnley's book 'Bee Propolis - Natural Healing from the Hive'. Propolis is a sticky substance made by bees from plant resins to protect the hive, and is reputed to have quite a wide variety of therapeutic uses. James Fearnley, on the back of his book lists a few:
"Worldwide research has found that propolis is effective:
  • in the alleviation of joint and muscular pain, arthritis and rheumatism
  • as a treatment for skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis
  • in relieving asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems
  • as a healing agent for wounds and burns
  • in treating gastro-intestinal problems and blood disorders
  • as a stimulant for the immune system
Most importantly, propolis contains powerful antibacterial properties which are capable of destroying strains that have become resistant to conventional antibiotics. Could it be the natural antibiotic of the future?"

I've just been looking at some of the propolis creams that are available on the market:
  • Bee Health propolis cream is available online at £3.45 for 30ml or £4.95 for 60ml. However the first things in the ingredients list are "Petrolatum" and "Paraffinum Liquidum" which act as suppressants. So yes, the condition the cream is being used for may appear to get better but it has only been suppressed. It is also over-protective, so the skin becomes dependent on it. Not a good start!
  • BeeVital propolis cream is available online for £5.25 for 50ml. There are lots of ingredients that I'm not familiar with, but there is no petroleum - the oils used instead are almond and coconut. It uses a 90% propolis tincture which is very high (I've bought some propolis tincture from Comvita which is 26.3%). The company is actually run by James Fearnley and they have a good website with lots of information.
  • Earthbound Organics propolis cream sounds really nice and is available online for £7.55 for 50g. I can't see the whole ingredients list but it uses sunflower oil, St John's Wort, orange blossom water and Welsh propolis!
As raw propolis seems to be quite hard to get hold of in the UK, I decided initially to just buy a tincture to experiment with. However, having seen the strength of the tincture in BeeVital's cream (and even the tincture they sell is 50%) compared to the 26.3% I have from Comvita, I've decided to persevere in trying to get hold of some propolis to make my own tincture, and then make the cream. I think it will be an exquisite and therapeutic product by the time I have taken care of each and every step! :-)

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Monday, 21 April 2008

3 wonderful days of Aromantic courses!

I've just spent three wonderful days on Aromantic's courses in Natural Skin Care run by Kolbjorn Borseth. Here is a man determined to share as much of his knowledge and experience of complementary health and cosmetics as he can - and with such a passion and love of what he does. I have come away not only with lots of ideas for my own products, but also with the 'tools' to be able to materialise them!

The first day certainly felt like stepping onto a roller coaster as the fast pace of the course combined with Kolbjorn's sometimes-difficult-to-grasp accent (I'm sure it gets more Scottish in the afternoons?) and the sheer amount of information to be absorbed. I think it took me this first day to get into 'rollercoaster tempo'. This is cookery classes for cosmetics!  And with the sessions alternating between learning about the recipes and ingredients and then rolling up our sleeves and making them! 

One of the really rich aspects of the whole experience is the wide variety of skills, interests and knowledge that the participants bring - aromatherapy, herbalism, conventional cosmetic science, bee keeping, kiniesiology... to mention but a few that I bumped into! 

By the end of the three days, my coffee table was covered in pots and bottles of all the wonderful products we made! So, if I may introduce the potions...

Day 1 - Beginners. I'd already made some of these products, especially the shampoo which I've already blogged about. Nevertheless, there were lots of useful 'little' tips and tricks that I picked up and which you just don't get from a book. There was also an introduction to some of the oils and some general information about the cosmetics industry. For example - cosmetics companies only have to list the ingredient name on their products, but NOT the (undesirable) source of the ingredient. As for the lip balm... it's really gorgeous, definitely better than anything I've bought from a shop before. I sheepishly threw away my Vaseline based Lypsyl when I got home (after learning about the negative impact of petroleum based products on the skin). :-o

Day 2 - Intermediate. In the morning Kolbjorn gave us detailed information about treating eczema holistically, illustrated with stories from his experiences with Lily Johanssen (I love stories! :-).  This included how to get an acid-alkaline balance in one's diet (Ok, ok I went out and bought some carob today and it's not bad! LOL), how to apply compresses, and use herbal baths/ teas. I only know one person with eczema right now but I know the knowledge will come in useful, and the recipes can also be adapted for other therapeutic purposes. For example, I'm going to make a version of the Vitamin A cream with added Calendula for skin damage on my father's fingers from exposure to strong printing chemicals over many years. (I'm also planning to try making a propolis cream - but more about that in another post!).

Day 3 - Advanced. In the morning we looked at a holistic approach to treating psoriasis. I understood that some of these treatments can also be used for scabies (I only wish I'd known this a while back as my brother's dogs were suffering badly from it). The compress demonstrated was with green cabbage, which is used to draw out infection/ impurities from the skin.

By lunchtime of day 3, when you enter the room it's like walking into a wall of essential oils! And by the end of the day, information overload is setting in as we try to absorb every last bit of the course. I'm not sure how coherent I was by the end of the day, but for sure I went away ready to make some new recipes. And I'm happy to announce that I've now replaced everything in my bathroom with my own products! :-) (Well, apart from the toilet cleaner - but that's on the list! LOL)

When I think about all of the knowledge involved - I mean Kolbjorn's knowledge, all the knowledge of the participants each from their own field or country or walk of life, and all of the new knowledge that will be generated as we each make up our own recipes and experiment... that's something quite amazing! :-) But I believe it could have a much wider reach if we all have a means to share this knowledge on an ongoing basis. Some kind of online forum for all those who have participated in at least one course (for example) would be brilliant. In this way, we can share our ideas, ask each other questions, network etc. etc. Something like Ning or YahooGroups, which are both free, would work.

And lastly, a simple but very big THANK YOU to Kolbjorn, Benj, Aromantic and everyone I met at the course! :-)

PS - for anyone reading from the course in the UK. I found that Lakeland sell those curly whisks in their online store (a bit pricey) and also Dunelm Mill (99p) if you can't make it to IKEA.

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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Perfume that lasts all day!

I recently purchased Perfumes, Splashes & Colognes - a simple book that provides an introduction to making your own perfumes at home. As I'm not looking to get into perfume in a big way it's just the right level of knowledge for me. 

I've made up a few of the recipes in a base of jojoba oil. I've used fragrance oils (from Soap Kitchen) where the particular scent doesn't exist as an essential oil (e.g. - amber) or where it's very expensive (e.g. - jasmine). Once I find a scent I really like, then I'll use essential oils as far as possible.

The perfumes now need to sit for a couple of weeks while the oils get to know each other and agree on the final scent. But I decided to try on one of them today, after only a couple of days. Ok, I know it was a bit impatient! ;-) It's a lovely simple recipe that blends gardenia, jasmine, rosewood and amber. After a few days it's already a subtle, feminine scent that doesn't overpower the senses. Anyway, I put it on at about 8am and I could still smell it - albeit more faintly - at 8pm this evening, after a busy day out in London! This is the first time I've experienced such a long lasting effect. The Lemon Musk that I recently made up was a lovely smell, but only lasts 3-4 hours. 

So, even before the perfume is officially "ready" - that's a result! :-)

As an addendum to this post... the whole world of perfume making is such an industry secret, so I find it wonderful to discover more "open" information about it. And if I was looking to go into it further then I would be very excited by the mention of a "professional Perfume Course of international standard" in Aromantic's Spring Newsletter. It's a 6 day course that AromaSciences are planning to run later this year (and back-to-back with an Aromantic Skin Care course). It's not cheap but it does sounds like popping your clogs and going to heaven - from which you come home with a scent kit of 300-500 scents!!

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Swedish Bitters - Addendum

Today I've been on an Aromantic course (more about that - lots more - to follow!). I brought up my use of and interest in the therapeutic benefits of Swedish Bitters. Both Kolbjorn Borseth (who delivered the course) and a qualified herbalist who was attending expressed the view that Swedish Bitters is too aggressive, and that many of the herbs it contains are no longer used in modern herbalism for this very reason. All of this was a revelation to me! I can't dismiss the positive results that I and my friends have experienced, but at the same time it's given me a new angle to research. In particular, my sense is that a more modern and less aggressive formula would be very worthwhile uncovering - taking the best and most relevant from the "old" and blending it with the "new".

The conversation also brought forth the very useful reminder that one can never replace the hard-earned knowledge of a qualified herbalist with sheer enthusiasm (even though it does count for a lot!).

Updated 24.04.08
I posted about bitters on a herbal forum I belong to, which turned up some interesting information from the list owner, Henriette Kress. Senna in particular seems to be undesirable. Henriette sums it up in a straightforward way on her blog:
"The senna in the blend can be addictive: you won't be able to take a dump without it, if you've been taking it daily for long enough. Long enough being 2 weeks, give or take a few days."
Senna is a "contact" or "stimulant" laxative meaning that it stimulates the muscles in the walls of the colon to get things moving. The South African Medicines Formulary gives the following warning about this kind of laxative:
The use of irritant laxatives that stimulate colon motility cannot be recommended for other than special short-term indications. They can precipitate chronic colonic changes, and dependency, both physiological and psychological, can occur. Stimulate (or contact) laxatives include bisacodyl, senna, phenolphthalein, castor oil and cascara.
Aloe juice and rhubarb are also (milder) contact laxatives. In her post to the list on Swedish Bitters, Henriette sums up by saying:
"What you have there is not a liver formula. It's a cathartic formula (with a bit of aromatics thrown in) which will ream you out, and which will probably leave your gut addicted to contact laxatives. It's not something I'd give to anybody at all, nevermind daily "to make you healthy". A honest liver formula would consist of a load of BITTERS, with one or the other helper herb (like Silybum [no pun intended? LOL]) thrown in."
I've just been discussing all of this together with my father, Robert (who is studying herbalism), and we are going to work on a new formula for a digestive tonic together - which also sounds like lots of fun! :-)

Updated 26.04.08
A couple of gems from my research: a discussion about bitters on the Herbwifery forum and a professional formulation brought to my attention on Henriette's forum.

I'm learning about the psychological effects of bitters (can be anti-depressant, have a grounding quality, and shift the focus from the head to instinct), as well as the fact that they can be cold and therefore need to be balanced with other herbs, and the need to eat bitter foods and just use the medicinal formulation as and when really required.

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Friday, 18 April 2008

Swedish Bitters cream

I'm researching external uses for Swedish Bitters in preparation for a therapeutic cream I want to make that contains it. As with it's internal uses, it seems to be very diverse and was apparently recommended by Maria Treben for all kinds of skin problems. 

Uses reported for Swedish Bitters cream:-
  • Circulation problems
  • Pain relief (I've seen combined bitters & cayenne pepper creams for this as well)
  • Chapped or sore skin
  • Varicose veins
  • Eczema
  • Athlete's foot
  • General skin irritations
  • Relief from insect bites
Some of the above uses I found in testimonials from people who have used the cream on the website,

In all cases, the liquid could be used directly on the skin but this has the disadvantages of staining the skin somewhat, drying the skin (due to the alchohol), as well as being more difficult to apply. Not to mention missing out on the additional therapeutic and soothing benefits of the oils used in the cream. 

The only case I know so far where the liquid should be chosen over the cream is when it is being used to get rid of scars. I have to try this out as I have an old scar on my hand. In the "Old Manuscript" it says "They [Swedish Bitters] take away scars, even if very old, wounds and cuts if moistened up to 40 times with them". I only hope that it doesn't remove the scar and leave a stain. LOL

Talking of the "Old Manuscript", here are the external uses it lists that I haven't already covered above:
  • Inflamed eyes (a moistened piece of cloth applied to the closed lids)
  • Scabs
  • Blisters on the tongue
  • Earache (a moistened piece of cotton wool is inserted into the ear)
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Fistulas
  • Burns
  • Swellings and bruises
  • Frost bite
  • Rheumatic pain
Now, I just have to decide which oils I want to use for the cream and then... to the lab (kitchen)! :-)

Update! I've made some other healing creams since this post:

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Monday, 14 April 2008

Introducing Swedish Bitters

I don't know about you but I had never heard of Swedish Bitters until some friends came visiting with some very good things to say about this traditional remedy. :) Excited because of it's reputation for curing many different illnesses and for promoting general good health, it wasn't long before I was brewing my own. The after dinner ritual of passing round the bitters, seeing the expressions on people's faces as it greets the taste buds, and then feeling the warming sensation as it goes down, is a lot of fun - quite besides the health benefits!

Originally said to have been formulated by Paracelsius, the Swedish Bitters recipe was re-discovered and popularised by the Austrian herbalist, Maria Treben, in the late 20th century. If you read her wonderful book 'Health through God's Pharmacy' you will see that Swedish Bitters has many different curative properties, the most noticeable (to me anyway) has been to promote a healthy digestive system. I've also read elsewhere that our diets today tend to be missing a bitter component, while we eat more than enough of sweet, savoury, and sour foods. This preference for non-bitter tastes may explain the decline in popularity of bitters as a medicine?

As well as Swedish Bitters, there are a long list of other bitter recipes that have mainly died out. The remaining ones - such as Benedictine, Angostura and Peychaud's - tend to be known as cocktail flavours or aperitifs, rather than as remedies or digestifs. Interestingly, it is sometimes recommended that bitters is drunk before the meal as it stimulates the secretion of bile and therefore gets the digestive system going before eating. This seems to make sense! However, it somehow feels right to have it after the meal (perhaps because of the enjoyable ritual of handing round the bitters) and a friend recently told me that he actually finds it effective when taken after the meal, but upsetting to the stomach when taken before the meal. Hmmm!

The bitter recipes still available use a variety of different bitter herbs as their ingredients, with some of the most common being: angostura bark, cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel and quinine.

Maria Treben's recipe for "small" bitters contains the following herbs:
  • Aloe (Aloe ferox) only grows in one region of South Africa and is used for it's laxative, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities.
  • Myrhh (Commifora molmol) has a variety of uses - probably the most relevant here is it's effectiveness in lowering blood fats and therefore helping to reduce deposits of cholesterol and triglycerides (whatever they are). It is an ingredient in the Italian beverage Fernet-Branca, which is very popular in Argentina, and is drunk as a digestif and used to treat gastro-intestinal discomfort.
  • Saffron (Crocus sativus) is apparently one of the oldest herbs used for medicinal purposes, as well as being renowned as a spice, and an ingredient in dye. Medicinally it is used for coughs, bronchitis, insomnia, hysteria, menstrual disorders and depression.
  • Senna (Cassia angustifolia) leaves are used in cases of constipation (as are the pods).
  • Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) seems to have been used historically for a variety of benefits (for which there are an equal number of arguments against them) from reducing sexual urges to cholera! Today it is mostly only used externally in stimulating lotions to increase surface heat (I recently added it the essential oil to a massage lotion for bursitis). I'm not quite sure what it's purpose is in Swedish Bitters - it's general effect seems to be warming, which is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. :-)
  • Rhubarb (Rheum palmatan) roots have apparently been used as a strong laxative for over 5,000 years.
  • Zedvoary (Curcuma zedoaria) roots are part of the ginger family, and closely related to turmeric. Originating in North East India, it is widely used in China and Japan for medicine, perfume and liquor. As with other bitter herbs, it aids digestion by stimulating bile secretion. It is also said to purify the blood.
  • Manna (Fraxinus Ornus) resin is not, as I originally thought, the manna or "bread of heaven" to be found in the bible! LOL I wasn't too far off though as the name of this deciduous tree originated from a comparison of it's sweet resin to the substance known as manna in the bible (which is also tree resin that falls to the ground as a sort of pellet). In terms of medicinal use, it is supposed to be a gentle laxative (often being used for children or pregnant women) and tonic.
  • Theriac Venezian (Pimpinella saxifraga), also known as Burnet Saxifrage, is most often used as a remedy in cases of bronchitis, coughs, sore throats and stomach complaints. It is expectorant and antioxidant. The root is used. In Roman times, the physician Galen used theriac in his most famous medicinal formula known as Theriac Venezian (Venetian treacle) - a "cure all" for many diseases and antidote to poisons, that contained 64 ingredients.
  • Carline thistle (Carlina acaulis) is only occasionally used in modern herbalism - for digestive complaints, skin disorders and as an antiseptic for wounds. The roots are used in bitters.
  • Angelica (Angelica archangelica) roots are often included in digestive tonics, either with other herbs or on their own as either a decoction or tincture.
In researching the ingredients of Swedish Bitters, there is a sense of antiquity and going back to our roots - if you'll excuse the pun! I feel like I have journeyed through many a dusty old tome of folk and ancient herbal wisdom. A common theme I noticed, is that many of these herbs are little used in modern herbalism... I'm not sure yet why? But I do know that so far all of my friends who have been using Swedish Bitters have reported positive effects.

See also my Swedish Bitters - Addendum post, a warning about Swedish Bitters being too aggressive on the system, and which I'm still looking into. I've also written a post on Swedish Bitters cream.

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Saturday, 12 April 2008

Ingredients for an alternative laundry powder

For a while I've been using a homemade laundry liquid which seems to work reasonably well. It's a recipe I found on House of Strauss website and it's called Gloop! It's made up using water, castile soap, washing soda crystals, and lavender essential oil. The end-product is a fairly undesirable looking tub of, well, gloopy stuff. I'm still looking for a recipe that I'm happy to settle on for my regular wash.

Today I happened upon some washing powder from the
Bio-D Company Ltd which I found in an Oxfam shop. I bought a bag to try out which will last a while - as well as testing out it's effectiveness, I want to do some research on the ingredients to help with my own home formulation. Here are the ingredients as listed on the bag:
  • 15-30% Zeolite and Sodium Carbonate (both water softeners)
  • 5-15% Sodium Sulphate (a "filler"), Sodium Metasilicate (a detergent builder), Vegetable Soap, and Sodium Perborate (bleaching effect)
  • 1-5% Non-ionic detergent and Cellulose Colloids (an antiredeposition agent)
So, what does that all mean?

Zeolite is a mineral (a hydrated aluminosilicate mineral, to be precise!) that has quite a wide variety of uses, but in the case of laundry detergents it acts as a water softener. As well as being produced synthetically, it also occurs naturally in volcanic rocks, and this natural form is used in a form of therapy called cellular zeolite which is said to reduce the risk of cancer and boost the immune system. 

Sodium carbonate (more commonly known as washing soda) is as sodium salt of carbonic acid, and acts as another water softener in laundry detergent. It is apparently a close relative of the other household friend, baking soda, but is more strongly alkaline. A caustic substance it removes grease, oil, wine and more.

Sodium sulphate is the sodium salt of sulphuric acid and is principally used for the manufacture of detergents. It occurs naturally and as a by-product of other chemical processes and is apparently used as a "filler" in powdered laundry detergents (it's very cheap). Apparently it's use in these products is declining due to consumer preference for compact or liquid products. Interesting! It sounds like I can leave this one out of any homemade products as being unnecessary.

Sodium metasilicate is a form of Sodium silicate which is used in floor, laundry and metal cleaning products as an alkaline detergent powder.

Castile soap is soap made only from vegetable oils (rather than animals fats).

Sodium perborate is a white, odorless, water soluble chemical compound that is manufactured and provides a source of active oxygen in laundry detergents and has a bleaching effect. It was discovered in 1904 by the chemist Dr. Otto Liebknecht and was used 3 years later to produce the washing powder, Persil.

Non-ionic (or neutral) detergent is used in washing liquids and it less toxic than the more commonly used cationic or anionic detergents. Apparently cationic is the most toxic with a 1% solution being damaging to the mucous membranes (which is interesting as I'm trying out some Ecover fabric conditioner which contains <5%>

Cellulose colloids sounds like a terrible disease, but they apparently act as an antiredeposition agent in laundry powder. Who would have guessed! They appear on the ingredient lists for a lot of alternative laundry products, and one assumes they stop the dirt that has been removed from re-attaching itself to the clothes.

What more can I say other than THAT is what I just washed my clothes with, and they appear to be clean and in one piece. ;-) My next job is to work on my own homemade powder from what I've learned here. :-o

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Monday, 7 April 2008

Nettle soup

I don't usually get into cooking on this blog, but as it's herbal cooking I think it qualifies! LOL Following my nettle picking expedition today I'm now making nettle soup. I think this is a make-it-up-as-you-go-along kind of recipe so this is roughly what's gone in it:
  • As as stock base I've chopped up half a small potato, half an onion, half a carrot and a piece of bacon - these are cooking in a little olive oil and butter on a very low heat.
  • When they are softened I'll add the colander full of fresh nettle leaves and some water and leave it to simmer gently for a while. Salt and pepper as required.
  • And then put it in the blender. Et voila!
What I don't have in the fridge, which I think would work well, is a bit of cream mixed in and perhaps a little nutmeg. Next time!

It's pretty much like having spinach soup. Tasty and very healthy feeling.

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Nettle root tincture

I've just been nettle picking and made up a tincture of the roots

Uses for nettle root tincture:-
  • 2-4ml taken 3 times a day during the hayfever season to alleviate the symptoms (although capsules of the freeze dried herb are said to be the most effective). It is also used for other allergies.
  • Irritable bladder, and gall bladder inflammation
  • It is prescribed in cases of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), or prostate enlargement.
  • Taken internally, it is said to help in cases of childhood eczema. It can also be added to an ointment and applied topically.
  • Rubbed into the scalp for healthy hair and scalp, and prevention of hair loss.
And this is how I made it:-
  1. Pick nettles, lots of them, pulling up as much of the root as possible.
  2. I chopped off the roots (saving the leaves for other uses), pulled off all the bits and gave them a good wash and then chopped them up using scissors.
  3. I've just used an empty vodka bottle, put the chopped roots in and covered them in vodka
  4. Let it brew for 2 weeks in a warm place and give it a shake every day
  5. Strain off and store in a dark glass bottle

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Saturday, 5 April 2008

Lemon musk perfume

I'm sitting surrounded by essential oils this evening! :-) I've just tried out a ladies perfume. Instead of using an alcohol base, this time I tried out jojoba oil. Apparently a perfume oil is supposed to stay on longer. 
I've made up a very small amount as it's an experiment. Here's the ingredients list:
  • 42 drops jojoba oil
  • 6 drops bergamot
  • 1 drop patchouli
  • 1 drop samarkand musk
That makes a mixture of 16% essential oils to base oil, which is a perfume strength blend (around 6% would be an eau de toilette strength).

It should have about 3-6 weeks for the oils to become acquainted. I've just tried it on anyway and all I can smell at the moment is the musk, powerful scent that it is! If this doesn't change as it matures I will need to increase the other ingredients by about x2 or x3.
Now I just need to think of a name for it...

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Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Myrrh mouthwash

I just made up the following very simple recipe for a mouthwash using myrrh essential oil:

2 drops of myrrh essential oil to each 1 tablespoon of vodka

You add 2 drops of this mixture to a glass of water as a mouthwash. I've written more about the benefits of myrrh for the mouth in another post.

This is a recipe from Valerie Ann Worwood's 'The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy'.

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Ingredients for teeth and gums

I've been looking through my various books and recipes to find out more about the common ingredients that get used in tooth powders, toothpastes and mouth washes. I will keep adding to this list as I find more goodies on my travels! 

Bicarbonate of soda is added to tooth powders for it's abrasive cleaning action and whitening.

Cayenne pepper can be used for toothache by applying it directly to the effected area (get ready for take-off!)

Cinnamon bark (Cinnamonum zeylanicum) essential oils for it's antiseptic properties.

Clay is used in tooth pastes and powders for it's abrasive cleaning action. I've used both kaolin and chalk in toothpaste recipes.

Cloves (Eugenia caryophyllus) provide a mild local anaesthetic if you're suffering with tooth ache. Rub some around the affected tooth and gum. Apparently you can also chew clove buds for a similar effect.

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) essential oil is said to reduce inflammation and pain.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) tincture is recommended for mouth ulcers. 5-10 drops in a glass of water as a mouthwash.

Horseradish root (Armoracia rusticana) can be added to toothpaste to help clean teeth effectively, kill bacteria and control mouth ulcers. I've not tried this one but I'm guessing that a powder would be the best form to use? 

Lemon (Citrus limonum) essential oil is antibacterial and antiseptic.

Myrrh (Commiphora molmol) gets a stunning write-up by John Heinerman in 'The Science of Herbal Medicine': "From the days of Moses to the time of Christ and since then to the 20th century, Myrrh has proven over and over again to be one of the finest antibacterial and antiviral agents placed on earth". Both the tincture and the essential oil are used in mouthwash and tooth powder or paste recipes for sore or inflamed gums and mouth ulcers.

Propolis is a substance made by bees from plant resins to keep their hives free of harmful bacteria. It has various therapeutic uses, and is sometimes used in mouthwashes and toothpastes for general oral hygiene, preventing a build up of plaque and gingivitis.

Peppermint like clove can be applied in cases of toothache

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is good for inflammation or ulceration of mouth, gums and throat. A tea can be made and used as a gargle or mouthwash once it has cooled. I've just used ground dried sage in a tooth powder recipe.

Salt (for which there are apparently 14,000 different uses!) is a common ingredient in tooth powders and it meant to help remove plaque, whiten the teeth and also be good for the gums. I started off using common table salt but upgraded more recently to Himalayan rock salt for it's therapeutic qualities.

Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil for it's antiseptic properties. According to the Australian Medical Journal it is the "Finest antiseptic known to man".

Tormentil (Potentilla tormentilla) can be used in a mouthwash or chewed (leaves or roots) for mouth ulcers, and sore gums or lips.

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Swiss 'Snow Caps' tooth powder

I've just tried out another tooth powder recipe I came across in Valerie Ann Worwood's 'The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy'. Apparently it's based on an old Swiss recipe and is supposed to help keep the teeth white. The ingredients are:
  • 1 tablespoon of ground dried orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons of ground dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (I use Himalayan rock salt)
  • 5 drops of lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops of peppermint (it said 1 drop in the original recipe, but I didn't believe it)
I only had dried orange peel in chunks so I had to put it through the coffee grinder (I don't think it was too impressed... and, no, I don't use it for coffee! LOL). I just tried this out and first impression were good. 

There's also a suggestion to mix in 15 drops of myrrh tincture (into which you've mixed 1 drop of myrrh essential oil) if you have gum problems.

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