Wednesday, 31 March 2010

'Tis the season to pick nettles!

The young nettles springing up at the moment are perfect for picking and, true to the versatility of this plant, making a whole range of recipes. Spring nettle mania struck here in Leamington Spa at the weekend. Here's what I made:
  • Nettle vinegar - simply cover the young leaves in apple cider vinegar and store somewhere warm for a few weeks. This vinegar will be high in minerals.
  • Nettle tincture - cover the leaves in vodka (or brandy) and store somewhere dark and cool for about four weeks, giving it a gentle shake daily. According to a handout on nettles from Sarah Head this is good for adrenal support in stress remedies.
  • Nettle and apricot iron tonic - this is a recipe I saw suggested by Sarah Head recently. I covered a mixture of nettle leaves, organic apricots, plus peel of one orange with red wine. This is also stored away in a cool dark place for four weeks. This will be a remedy for iron deficiency.

More nettle posts:

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Monday, 22 March 2010

Making herbal bath bags

I recently wrote an article for the Herb Society on making herbal bath bags (Herb Society members can read the full article in the member's area). I enjoyed trying out different combinations of herbs and other ingredients such as oats, epsom salts and sea salt. One of the blends was as follows:
Lavender and oatmeal
  • ½ cup dried lavender
  • ½ cup oats
  • A few drops of lavender essential oil
This is a lovely simple bag for a relaxing bath. When wet the oats give a slightly slimy feel to the bag (and the bath) but leave the skin feeling really soft. You can even use it as a gentle body scrub.
I wrapped the mixture up in a piece of muslin (about a dinner plate sized piece) and tied it with a ribbon.

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Thursday, 18 March 2010

Rosemary wine for boosting memory

I've just decanted a bottle of rosemary wine that has been infusing for the last couple of weeks. This was inspired by my research into herbs to help concentration. I got the idea from James Wong's 'Grow Your Own Drugs' (though I'm sure its been made in many households going way back!). James writes: "Rosemary is called the 'herb of remembrance' and has traditionally been used to improve the memory and help with dementia."

It certainly packs a punch - both the smell and taste are strong, much more so than I've experienced with rosemary tea or cooking with rosemary. As well as sipping this from time to time as a stimulating drink I can certainly see it going into a salad dressing or sauce.

I don't have great circulation so this ought to be a good drink for me as rosemary boosts the circulation (I've also gone back to sprinkling a little cayenne pepper on my vegetables!). Now there's a thought... rosemary and cayenne wine, yee hah!

Rosemary is such an amazing herb that has so many uses. I just did a quick search on my blog to remind myself of some of the recipes I've used it in.

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Sunday, 14 March 2010

Honey and rose bath melts

I've been trying out some herbal bath recipes recently. I wanted to make something with honey to support the Herb Society's Bee Aware campaign to raise awareness of the decline of the honey bee. You can find out about bee-friendly herbs you can grow in an article by Debs Cook on the Herb Society web site.

This recipe makes a really luxurious, moisturising bath melt, although I've kept them in the fridge as the honey makes them a bit sticky.

The recipe I've used is adapted from one I found on the Natural Skin Care Made Easy website:

85g cocoa butter
5g oatmeal
1 tablespoon honey
rose petals
rosewood, geranium and ylang ylang essential oils (about 20 drops)

Melt the cocoa butter in a bain-marie, stir it pretty much continuously as it cools. Wait as long as possible before adding the other ingredients. As soon as you've added them pour them into a mold and put them in the fridge to solidify.
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Thursday, 4 March 2010

Herbs for hard working hands

Who better than the herb gardener to suggest herbs to use for hard working hands? That was a question in my mind last year after a good day's digging at Springfield Sanctuary. In the post I wrote after that day I asked for suggestions from my herby friends on the herbs they would choose for a hand cream.

A year later and I have developed my Herb Gardener's Hand Lotion for Amiya Natural Beauty. I feel a bit like a proud mum because it is such a lovely product, and in fact the best selling product in my current range! It includes a strong decoction of comfrey roots, plus a strong infusion of comfrey leaves, plantain and wild pansy - you can find out more on my website where I just wrote an article about the herbal ingredients.

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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

A herbal tonic to aid concentration?

My mum is currently studying to be a counsellor. Now into her 3rd year of study, the work is getting pretty intense with lots of reading, journalling, and live practice sessions. I've been thinking about what herbal support I can give her especially in maintaining concentration and alertness during all-day courses or long study sessions.

Whatever I make for her, I want it to be simple to take so as not to add any extra hassle - so I'm thinking of a tincture that she could drop into a glass of water (and easily carry with her), rather than a tea that takes more time to make.

My research so far has lead me to look at the following herbs:
  • Gingko (gingko biloba) is well known as a memory enhancing herb that apparently increases blood flow to the brain, strengthens brain cells and increasing neurotransmission. On a completely different note, I met a lovely gingko tree a couple of years ago at Emerson College, and also learnt that there are male and female gingko trees!
  • Gotu kola (centella asiatica) is an adaptogenic herb that is highly valued in Ayurvedic medicine. Research has apparently shown that it can help enhance memory and overcome tiredness. I've used it previously in a tea with limeflower and nettle.
  • Ginseng (eleutherococcus senticosus) is another adaptogen well known for helping the body to cope with stress. It seems to appear quite often in combination with gingko and gotu kola.
  • Rosemary (rosemarinus officinalis) is a herb traditionally used to help boost the memory. It is also known as "the herb of remembrance". In Grow Your Own Drugs, James Wong makes a rosemary wine as a memory booster.
  • Rhodiola (rhodiola rosea) is again an adaptogen. Its not a herb I've come across much before, except for one experience of a friend taking rhodiola pills to help with stress and finding it a bit over stimulating (for him). It is said to enhance mood and improve physical and mental performance.
I came across one recipe for a brain tonic tincture that includes gotu kola, gingko, peppermint, sage, and rosemary. I'm currently thinking along similar lines but with: gingko, gotu kola, ginseng, rosemary and a little ginger.

I'd really appreciate any suggestions from my herby friends...
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