Sunday, 23 November 2008

A warming winter tea

There was a real chill in the air today in Leamington (although not a flake of snow in sight!). As a warming tea after some work in the garden, I had rosehip and hibiscus pepped up with a (fairly generous) dash of elderberry tincture. Mmm, delicious! :-)
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Saturday, 22 November 2008

Winter workshops from Springfield Sanctuary

I've just been pointed to these winter workshops on the Springfield Sanctuary website, run in Solihull: I like the sound of the December one "lifting your mood" - it would be nice to know some herbs to help on those really dreary, grey days of winter. :-)
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Keeping up with herbal bloggers

There are some great herbal bloggers out there, but I don't always have time to keep up with of them. A good way to keep up with blogs and news sites is by using RSS feeds, like the one you can subscribe to on this site. If you're not yet familiar with RSS and how to use it to make life on the web a bit simpler, I really recommend the following short, person-friendly video called "RSS in plain English":

In the video they show how to use an online "reader" to follow the blogs you're interested in. That's one way of doing it, but personally I prefer to use my Email programs (Mac Mail and Microsoft Outlook) to follow my RSS feeds - meaning I can keep up with email and news all in one place.

But I follow a lot of blogs, both for my work and personal interests, and that can mean a long list of feeds to go through. Still not simple or quick enough for me! So what I've done is use a free online service called Yahoo Pipes to create a single RSS feed of all my favourite herbal bloggers. You can see it here:

And if you want to follow it then just copy and paste the above address into your online RSS reader or email program. 

Not all of the Herbal blogs I've visited have an RSS option on their site. I'd really encourage bloggers to add this option, which should be available on all blogging services, as it helps your readers to stay in touch with what you're writing about. 

You can see blogs I'm following in this feed at:

It would be great to hear from herbal-ish bloggers who I haven't included in the feed!

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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Calendula & St. John's Wort cream

My dad has been a long time user of Nelson's Hypercal (which they recommend for cuts and sores) and speaks very highly of it. I like a new cream challenge so I decided to take a look at their ingredients and make my own "home grown" version. They list their ingredients as "active" and "other" rather than just a single list - I suppose to highlight the main stars of the show: the calendula officinalis (marigold) and hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort). So, here we have Hypercal:

Active ingredients:
  • Calendula officinalis tincture 0.45% v/w
  • Hypericum perforatum tincture 0.45% v/w 
Other ingredients:
  • Purified water
  • Glyceryl monostearate + macrogol stearate - an emulsifying & thickening agent
  • Apricot kernel oil
  • Theobroma oil - cocoa butter
  • Glycerol (humectant, i.e - helps the skin retain moisturiser)
  • Polawax GP200 (cetearyl alcohol, stearate) - stabiliser/ emulsifier (I think!)
  • Cetostearyl alcohol - stabiliser/ thickener
  • Cetyl palmitate
  • Glyceryl monocaprylate methyl parahydroxybenzoate (E218) - preservative
  • Propyl parahydroxybenzoate (E216) - preservative
There doesn't seem to be anything particularly nasty in their recipe - I wonder if the additional preservatives are needed though, given the use of the tinctures? In my version, 10% of the total ingredients are the tinctures, so no preservative is needed. Here's my version:
  • Spring water
  • Prunus amygdalus (almond oil)
  • Sodium stearoyl lactylate (vegetable-based emulsifier)
  • St John's Wort tincture
  • Calendula tincture
  • Glycerine (humectant)
  • Glyceryl stearate (vegetable-based emulsifier)
  • Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter)
  • Cetyl alcohol (stabiliser/ thickener)
  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E oil)
As with the previous creams I've made from Aromantic recipes using these emulsifiers, its a lovely consistency. I haven't added any essential oils, so it's just a really simple cream, which is what I wanted. Both the tinctures I bought from Baldwins. I'm not much of a guinea pig as I don't have any skin complaints to try it out with right now - so I'll have to wait for feedback from my dad!

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News: Learning and Living Organic Lifestyle with WWOOF

Just came across an interesting article on Natural about WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farms. Here's an excerpt:
Sue Croppard, founder of WWOOF, intends that through WWOOF people can get first hand experience of organic farming, give assistance to organic farmers, get into the countryside, strengthen the organic movement, form links between city and rural dwellers, and "facilitate inter-cultural understanding between people of different nationalities".

WWOOF is used by many to live sustainable lifestyles; living on a self-sufficient farm allows someone to live without driving and paying for food that was shipped from hundreds if not thousands of miles a way.

Wwoofing is also a method for low-cost traveling - since it is a volunteer arrangement, a person does not need a visa to work in a foreign country. Staying at hotels and hostels can be very expensive especially for long periods of time.

Also, those who wish to work in environmental advocacy may have trouble finding adequate work that pays enough for city-life. Through work-stay programs individuals do not have to concern themselves with rent, food, and may even improve their health through the hours of exercise under the sun.
Great idea! Read the full the article here.

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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Sharing veg at Canalside Community Food

Wow! Just look at that! :-) That's my first veg share from Canalside Community Food just outside Leamington Spa. I know this is pushing the topic boundaries of Apotheblogary but I did say in the description that it's all about "self reliance and creativity" - Canalside definitely fits that description!

It was really exciting this evening to go down to Leasowe Farm and collect my veg - the best veg shopping experience ever, and not a vacuum pack in sight. I joined the Canalside Community on Saturday for a work day and social. We planted broad beans (my favourite!) and then did some weeding and pulling out of old runner beans. The wind was seriously chilled by the company was warm and friendly, and I enjoyed getting my hands dirty while meeting new people. I can only look forward to how rewarding it will be to eat those broad beans next spring after partipating in a tiny piece of their journey. The work was topped off by a roaring fire, good things to eat, and a tour of the farm.

Canalside are advertising at the moment on their website, offering veg shares: I think it's a brilliant idea, hats off to all those who run it! I can't imagine why anyone, paying a subscription to a gym to keep fit wouldn't exchange it for joining a few work days and getting lovely veg in return for their investment. And now, there's a cheeky little beef bourgignon bubbling away in the kitchen and just waiting to accompany a helping or two of my first veg share. ;-)

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Aromantic's Autumn/ Christmas newsletter is out!

Kolbjorn Borseth at Aromantic has just published their autumn newsletter, and opens with some great encouragement for all those of us thinking of setting up a small business to sell our products:
The recent news is mostly about hardships economically in the world. Right now we can say that we haven’t felt the downturn. I also have contacts in Europe in the natural cosmetics area and some report that sales have even increased! At least the beauty industry seems to be somewhat recession proof. Beauty sales total about £27 billion in Europe! It seems that people need to treat and pamper themselves. It may be that in these times, it is a good opportunity for people to start small businesses that have low overheads and greater flexibility, as they will have an advantage over the larger companies with fixed overheads.

As Henry Ford said: “Obstacles are the scary things you see when you take your eyes off the goal”.
It's packed full of information about Aromantic's latest raw materials, courses, recipes... and lots of knowledge - I look forward to reading it cover-to-cover! And of course, I'm very happy to see a mention of our Aromantic Students forum, which hopefully means that we'll get some more people joining in the discusson we're having on experiences of making the recipes and starting out in business.
Aromantic customer and course participant, Elizabeth Marsh has set up an online private discussion group for people who have attended Aromantic courses and who would like to talk and network online. According to Elizabeth, a few members who have joined so far have enjoyed talking about their experiences making creams. I think this is a great idea and Elizabeth asked me to put the details of the group in our newsletter, so here’s the address: The criteria for membership is that you must have attended at least one Aromantic Course.
Happy reading! :-)

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