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California Mugwort Dreamin’& Herbal Recipes

article, photos, and recipes by Jessica Shepherd

First, I’d like to give a big green Thank You to my fellow Herbalist and talented friend Nicole Gagliano of Wild and Wise Herbal CSA for inspiring me to write this article–check out her amazing website full of hand-crafted herbal products featuring local ingredients at http://www.wildandwisecsa.com. Thanks Nicole!

spring growth of California Mugwort

spring growth of California Mugwort

Spring is here and the herbs are rising up with vigorous new growth.  It’s a time we can envision our goals, plant seeds of our dreams, and sprout them into our reality. The opportunity is here to energize, purify, and thrive from the renewal this spring season gifts us with!  To spark your dreams and visions this spring, we can turn to the wild California Mugwort known as Artemesia vulgaris var. douglasiana, to be very specific—as the genus Artemisia includes about 300 species.

Common along the coast and the west slopes of inland foothills, Mugwort thrives in well drained moist to dry sandy soil in open to shady sites, forest edges, and streambanks.  Each season I happily visit certain stands of Artemisia douglasiana along the riverbed that I have come to know and love over the years.  As I approach these special spots, I delight in seeing the silvery blue-gray hue glowing from the cluster of plants sprouting about from the ground.  The plants have a certain magical “silver-glow” about them, almost as if charged permanently by the moonlight.  Artemisia vulgaris is historically associated with the beautiful Moon Goddess and the Huntress herself Artemis, the Greek Goddess whom is credited with the ultimate inspiration for the genus.  But sources say the immediate inspiration was probably Queen Artemesia of Caria (Helicarnassus), a Turkish female botanist who lived about 400B.C.E. Apparently after her husband Mausous’s death, she built a most beautiful memorial that became one of the “Seven Wonders” of the ancient world and the origin of the word “mausoleum.”

California mugwort

New growth spring Mugwort sprigs are soft and slightly furry to the touch—and when rubbed between the fingers just a bit they are left smelling incredibly pungent with a sage-like aroma, mixed with an earthy richness that uplifts, and sparks the spirit.  I look forward to summertime when these stands of plants–which are tiny sprigs right now, will be soaring tall and will have spread far and wide.  Artemisia is a colony plant, so she forms stands of several to hundreds of individuals all interconnected by underground rootstalks.  During summer months as the sun begins to set and the days heat is just letting up, the Artemisia emit off their pungent sage-like aroma and it diffuses into the air.  I have taken many hikes in the hillsides high up from the riverbed and when the breezes come through catching the aroma just right– I can smell the diffusing California Mugwort fumes traveling on the wind.  This herb-scented breeze stops me in my tracks, and I take a deep breath becoming even more reverent and grateful to the land I care for and the plants that offer us so much.

bundle of dried mugwort

Protection, purification, and dreamtime amplification have long been associated with Artemisia vulgaris by many cultures and native tribes.  The sage-like herby aroma of Artemisia vulgaris has been used for smudging, and also as a visionary herb.  Some consider it able “to give one a clearer view on life and impart a deeper sense of peace”–Herbal Tarot book.  For smudging, take dried mugwort and burn it in a fire-safe receptacle such as a mini cauldron, clay vessel, or abalone shell. The smoke can be circulated around to purify oneself and the environment/space around them.

Mugwort is usually the star of any dream pillow and pairs nicely with other calming aromatic herbs like lavender and rose.  Every Spring I gather a tiny bundle of California Mugwort to hang near my bed—not only is a bundle of Mugwort said to offer protection, but having it near the bed will also stimulate your dreams and connection to the dream-state. Artemisia vulgaris is well known to enhance visions in dreams and assist with dream recall—some even go as far to say it can help achieve astral projection. I’m quite fond of crafting an infused oil of Mugwort leaf and flower that can be useful for many things. As an annointing oil it can be used before any sort of ritual or rite of passage, as well as rubbed on the third eye area before bed to enhance your dreaming experience. This can be especially powerful when used with set intentions, or when seeking guidance/messages via the dreaming realm.

I will also anoint with infused Mugwort oil before I travel for protection, especially if I cannot smudge.  The infused oil is additionally wonderful for massaging of stiff muscles like neck and shoulders, or over the abdomen for menstrual cramps or spasms.  Mugwort is well known for its ability to warm and circulate energy throughout the body and is specific for breaking up congestion or stagnation.  And of course the infused oil can be used as a base or an addition to many types of salve recipes etc. *To make mugwort infused oil simply fill a mason jar about ¾ of the way full of dried mugwort leaves and cover with olive oil or sunflower oil, seal it with a lid and put it in a cool dark place—shaking it every few days. Allow it to infuse for 3-4 weeks, the strain through cheesecloth or muslin cotton into an amber bottle and label it and its ready for use!

Because of Mugwort’s ability to circulate blood and move energy in the body it is the prime ingredient in moxibustion– an extremely useful Chinese heat therapy practiced by TCM physicians, Acupuncturists, and some Herbalists. Mugwort is valued in moxa also for its ability to burn quickly and for its deep penetrating heat.  Burning moxibustion over a painful area increases blood circulation, relieves pain, and quickly heals injuries, bruises and more. Sometimes acupuncturists actually burn moxa on acupuncture points as an alternative to needles (do not try this on your own!).  Moxa can be sold in the form of a smudge stick, or it can be made by rubbing aged, dried mugwort leaves, with stems removed, between your palms until a wooly consistency, then formed into balls or tiny cones that are sometimes burned in specially crafted “moxa boxes.

in TCM mugwort goes by the name Ai Ye

mugwort leaf and a few fresh rolled moxa balls

Medicinally Artemisia vulgaris is a well-known bitter and digestive aid.  It is considered a bitter tonic and Mugwort has been used to treat stomach disorders and improve digestion, while also having antifungal and antimicrobial properties.  I appreciate what the late and great beloved herbalist Michael Moore wrote about Mugwort in his book Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West: “California Mugwort is also an antioxidant for cooling fat metabolism.  If you wake up in the morning with a grey sheet over your psyche, your head hurts in the front, your mouth tastes like a three day old Greek salad, your hemorrhoids are aching, and you crave things like pizza, potato chips, or fry bread take the infusion once at night for a couple of weeks.”  That’s right folks, he says take the infusion once at night for a couple of weeks—the cold infusion is rather tasty in my opinion especially if you like the flavor of sage tea.  Michael goes on to recommend the cold infusion for chronic gastritis and ulcers, and the hot tea more for its diaphoretic properties—to break fevers and stimulate discharge of mucus in the sinuses and the lungs.  Artemisia vulgaris is also valued as a nervine having indications for shaking, nervousness, anxiousness, and insomnia.  Because of its warming, blood-moving qualities mugwort can stimulate the uterus and is not to be used during pregnancy internally, nor is it recommended topically unless you are under the direct guidance and care of a trained or licensed practitioner.

stand of California Mugwort

A mugwort liniment can be applied to relieve itching, fungus, or other skin infections and can be applied topically for general skin healing of bug bites and stings, poison oak rash etc.  The acetum (vinegar extract) tincture can also be used as a liniment for sprains, bruises, and is a mild counterirritant.

Because of the pungent aromatic compounds in mugwort (mainly cineole, and thujone) the scent is believed to repel insects, and ticks while also helping to ward off and treat poison oak.  To use as a repellant simply rub the fresh leaves on your clothes, near the ankles, along the waistline, on your sleeves, and at the back of the neck. You can also rub it directly on your exposed skin.  For arthritis, pain, swelling, aches etc. you can add Mugwort tea to a footbath, or a salt blend soak—the tea can also be used as a rinse for skin rashes and poison oak rash.  Mugwort is a marvelous herb to include in your all-purpose herbal first aid salve and dream-time balms.

Here are some basic preparations and recipes to get crafting with the beautiful Artemesia vulgaris var. douglasiana—California Mugwort: *as with all my recipes home-grown, or locally grown/ethically wild crafted herbs are preferred to be used–otherwise–support your local herb store!

Basic Cold Infusion tea: Use approx. ½ ounce of dried leaf per 32 ounces of water. It’s helpful to moisten the dry herb first before suspending it in the water. Infuse covered overnight, then strain off the herbs.

Basic Hot Infusion tea: Use approx. ½ ounce of dried leaf per 32 ounces of water. Bring water to a boil, remove from heat and add in the dried herb. Steep covered for 20 minutes up to an hour, then strain off the herbs.

a "trinity" of herbs basket of California mugwort, St. John's Wort, and Yarrow

a “trinity” of herbs basket of California mugwort, St. John’s Wort, and Yarrow

The Huntress of Healthy Hair Vinegar

Herbal vinegar hair rinses restore the natural acid of the scalp and are great for itchy scalp, dandruff and dull hair. This recipe is adaptable to your preference and what you’ve got growing in the garden!

Equal parts each of the following:

Mugwort leaf

Nettle leaf

Rosemary leaf

Dandelion leaf/blossom

½ parts each of:

Lemon Balm leaf

Calendula flowers

Lavender flowers

Apple Cider vinegar

10 drops of Rose Geranium essential oil

 Fill a quart jar with your herbal blend halfway then cover with vinegar and cap tightly. Keep the jar in a warm spot to infuse for 3-4 weeks. Shake the mixture daily. Strain the vinegar, then add to it the essential oils, bottle and label. Before you bathe, dilute the rinse with distilled/spring water—generally, a 1 part herbal vinegar to 7 parts water dilution. Make the rinse and set aside. After shampooing and rinsing, pour the vinegar rinse slowly through the hair, massaging it into the scalp. Rinse with warm water and then, if you can take it cold water—this stimulates the scalp and leaves your hair glossy and sheen!

Revitalizing Silver Moon Foot Soak

Refreshing and relaxing, stimulates circulation and reduces pain and inflammation of the feet.

¼ cup Mugwort dried leaf

2 tablespoons Rosemary, dry or a handful of fresh sprigs

2 tablespoon Peppermint leaf dried or 3 tbsp. fresh

1/2 cup of Sea Salt or Epsom Salt

6 drops of essential oil of Lavender

2 drops of essential oil of Peppermint 

1 tablespoon of jojoba oil

Mix Salt, herbs, and essential oils together. This makes one foot soak.

Add to a warm footbath tub the aromatic herbal salt blend and the jojoba oil, stir things around a bit to mix– then soak those pups! *You can also brew the herbs into a strong tea in advance. Just use the above listed amounts of herbs to one quart of water, and steep for an hour, then strain into your footbath. If you do it this way be sure to add the jojoba and essential oils together before adding it to the bath to help it disperse better.

Artemesia Healing liniment

Good for bruises, sprains and strains, and skin healing. This is great to infuse in vinegar and if you do, it can later be combined with some Aloe Vera gel (1 tbsp. vinegar to 2 ounces gel) for sunburn or rash.

Equal parts:

Mugwort leaf

Comfrey leaf

Calendula flower

Lavender flower

Combine the herbs and place in a jar that the herbs take up 2/3 the space of. Cover and fill the jar with either apple cider vinegar, or vodka, or witch hazel. Apply with a cotton ball to affected areas—dilute in water prior if needed.

silver-blue hued leaves of California Mugwort

The Huntress-Gatherer Salve

An all-purpose, all-healing salve. When in doubt “put some salve on it!”.

1 part Mugwort leaf

½ part Calendula flower

½  part Comfrey leaf or Plantain leaf

1 part St. John’s Wort Flowers

½ part Yarrow leaf and flower

½ part Western Red Cedar leaf tips, or Fir Needle tips, or Redwood Needle tips

Lavender essential oil 5 drops to each ounce of herbal infused oil

Eucalyptus radiata essential oil 3 drops to each ounce of herbal infused oil (optional)

Combine the herbs and infuse with olive or sunflower oil—use a pyrex filled with the herbs and oil 1 part herbs to 7 parts oil, place pyrex into simmering water in a saucepan and let it warmly infuse yet not “cook” for at least an hour—keep an eye on the water in the saucepan and add as needed. After a few hours of this low-heat infusing method strain off the herbs from the oil and store in an airtight jar with a label. *Another infusing method would be to grind the herbs a bit in a grinder, then blend the oil and ground herbs together in a blender just until warm, then jar it up and soak for 2-3 weeks, after which strain off the herbs. To make salve from this herbal infused oil: simply use 1 cup of herbal oil to approx. ¼ cup of grated beeswax—heat together the oil and beeswax in the pyrex by sitting it in a saucepan of simmering water, let it warm until the beeswax has melted into the herbal oil—stir with a chopstick to mix, remove from heat. Then add in your essential oils, stir well, and pour into jars. Label and share with your friends!

Artemis Dream’s Potpourri Blend

1 cup Mugwort leaves

½ cup Hops flowers

¼ cup Marjoram herb

1 cup Lavender flowers

½ cup Rose Petals

½ cup Lemon Verbena whole leaf (optional)

20 drops of Lavender essential oil

10 drops Ylang ylang essential oil

5 drops of Clary Sage essential oil

Combine the herbs and mix well, then add in essential oils and mix things around again. I like to let this sit in a sealed bag or jar overnight to infuse the scent throughout the herbs. Then stuff into small cotton drawstring bag(s)and keep by the bedside for fragrant dreams and peaceful sleep. You can also store the blend in a pretty glass jar and simply uncork or unscrew the lid to diffuse the fragrance whenever you choose—this is always a great gift!

California mugwort stand with Lupine

California Mugwort Dreamin’ Tea

A tea blend to relax, and calm—sweet dreams to you!

You will need:

½ part California Mugwort

1 part Linden

½ part Spearmint

¼ part Orange peel

1 part Oat tops

1 part Lemon Balm

½ part Chamomile

Mix the herbs together and store in an airtight jar. Use 1 tablespoon of the blend per cup of water. You can make it as an overnight cold infusion, or steep it warm 10-20 minutes or longer if you prefer.

Sweeten with honey if you desire.

California mugwort

“I now grow Artemisias in tubs, borders, trimmed hedges, and as single accents. Never again will I relegate them to the sidelines. Artemesias add sparkle to every planting, enhancing neighboring bright colors, and create soothing oases during the hot days of summer and fall when they reach their peak of form.  Growing artemsias is an herb lover’s dream, uniting utility and beauty.” Jo ann Gardner (from an article she wrote for Herb Companion 2000)

 

*Cautions/Contraindications for Mugwort: Not for use during pregnancy. Bear caution using if you have any pre-existing allergy to the daisy family (asteraceae family). Not advised to be taken in large dosages over extended periods of time. Please consult with your local herbalist or licensed practitioner before using.

Sources Cited:

Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore

Healing with the Herbs of Life by Leslie Tierra

The Herbal Tarot Book by Candice Cantin and Michael Tierra

After the First Full Moon in April by Josephine Peters and Beverly Ortiz

Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar

The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Tucker and Debaggio

Other links to check out:

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mugwor61.html

http://www.crimson-sage.com/item/Mugwort-Native-Californian-Artemesia-douglasii-100236

For Supplies and Herbs check out:

humboldtherbals.com

mountainroseherbs.com

*This article is intended to be an exchange of information in hopes to keep the herbal healing traditions alive and well.  It is not intended to treat, or diagnose, nor is it intended to replace the care and treatment from a licensed practitioner or health care provider.  These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

 


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Spring Thyme Wine Spritzer

J.Shepherd Spring Wine Spritzerrecipe and photos by Jessica Shepherd

Every month our small town has an event called Art’s Alive where many small shops stay open late to feature the talent of a local artist’s work in their store accompanied by live music, free drinks, and tasty eats.  The herb shop I work at (Humboldt Herbals) participates in this exciting art filled event every month.  We always come up with an herbal inspired cocktail to share with everyone that comes out for the fun and this time around it was my turn to concoct the drink.  I came up with a Spring Thyme Wine Spritzer–and it was enjoyed by many!  I hope you too will enjoy this refreshing drink.  Cheers to renewal and a fabulous Spring!

First you need to make a “simple syrup” of lavender and thyme.  Here is what you will need for that:

approx.  a generous 1/2 cup worth of fresh thyme from the garden  (I used a lime and lemon thyme variety)

fresh thyme

1 cup lavender tea –to make this take 1 heaping TBSP. of dried lavender flowers, bring a cup of water to a boil-remove from heat and add the lavender, cover with a lid and let steep for about 15 minutes.  Strain the tea and set aside in a mason jar.

1 cup organic sugar 

To Make the Simple Syrup:

Begin by making the lavender tea, then strain and set aside in a mason jar.

Now out to the garden you go to snip some fresh thyme!  Be sure to either snip fresh growth or pluck the leaves off of any hardy woody stems.  You want to avoid thick hardy woody stems, as they will give the syrup more of a bitter flavor–we don’t want that.

Next, put your 1 cup of lavender tea in a saucepan, add in the organic sugar, then add in your  fresh thyme.  Bring everything in the saucepan to a boil, then turn the heat to a med- low simmer, and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and strain well.  Set the syrup aside in a mason jar and allow to cool.  Refrigerate the syrup if you won’t be using it right away.  Viola’ you have now made Lavender-Thyme Simple Syrup!  This will keep for a few months in the refrigerator.

Now to craft your wine spritzer:

1 cup Pinot Grigio white wine 

1 cup sparkling water 

1/2 cup ginger ale 

2-3 TBSP of Lavender Thyme Simple Syrup (begin with 2 TBSP. taste it, and adjust as you prefer)

Combine all the above and serve it chilled.  As always I encourage you to experiment with proportions of this recipe to your desired taste!

A non-alcholic alternative could be:

To 1 cup of sparkling water add 1-2 TBSP of Lavender Thyme Simple Syrup and serve chilled!  This tastes savory and refreshing, with a delicate floral undertone.

lime thyme JShepherd

Take “thyme” to celebrate Spring with friends and family–no “thyme” is like the present “thyme”!!!


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Flourless Chocolate Spiced Cake with Rose Whipped Cream

Flourless Chocolate Spiced Cake with Vanilla Caviar & Rose Whipped Creamby Jessica Shepherd

This flourless cake is dense and truffle-like, moist and velvety, using in total about 3/4 of a pound of chocolate!    Brace yourself for a most brilliant cocoa-buzz, then prepare for lift off cause we’re gonna top it off with Rose Whipped Cream!

For me that’s what makes this cake–the delicate and exquisite rose flavor of the whipped cream kissed with the addition of vanilla caviar making it taste all the more heavenly. Then pair that with the deep chocolate and spices and  wow, its an incredible treat.  Enjoy this with your lover or your loved one’s!

The cake is a recipe I adapted from a Real Simple food recipe–adding to it a kick of warming spices that harmonize with the cocoa, and of course, home made vanilla extract.

Flourless Chocolate Spiced Cake Recipe

You will need the following organic ingredients:

2 sticks of butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan

1/4 cup raw cacao powder, plus more for dusting the pan

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg powder

1/2 teaspoon of ginger root powder

1/4 cup of heavy cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

5 large eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar (or your choice of sweetener adjusted to taste)

1 tbsp. rose petals ground, for dusting the cake with

  • Heat your oven to 350
  • Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with the raw cacao powder.
  • Mix 1/4 cup of raw cacao powder and spices together, set aside for now.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the butter with the 1/4 cup of heavy cream over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Then stir in the chopped chocolate, until melted and smooth; remove from heat
  • In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and spiced cacao powder blend, then finally, whisk in the melted chocolate/butter mixture.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, 35-40 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for 1 hour.
  • Once cooled dust the cake with the ground rose petals and serve topped with Rose Whipped Cream!

Rose Whipped Cream

Rose Whipped Cream Recipe

You will need the following organic ingredients:

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon of vanilla caviar (optional)

2 teaspoons of Rose Hydrosol

1 Tablespoon of coarsely ground Red or Pink Rose petals

1-2 Tablespoons of maple syrup

Using an electric mixer, beat all the above listed ingredients–except the ground rose petals.  Beat until soft peaks form.

Transfer the whipped cream to your desired serving bowl and dust it all over with the ground rose petals.  Serve with the decadent flour-less chocolate spiced cake!

Let the Rose amplify your heart to the highest! Fiore Amore!

note: you can find rose hydrosol and rose petals and other wonderful things at Humboldt Herbals and Mountain Rose Herbs


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Romantic Ylang ylang: 5 Sensual Recipes to Caress Body & Soul


photo by j.shepherd

article, recipes, and product photos by Jessica Shepherd

Night blooming flowers intrigue me, especially those reaching peak scent production during the night—their romantic fumes perfuming the evening air.  One such flower is that of the “heavenly-sensual” Ylang ylang tree, pronounced EE’-lang EE’-lang, with its botanical name being Cananga odorata.  The tree’s starfish shaped yellow clusters of flowers are not only night bloomers, but are considered the “Queen of Perfumes” emitting a scent often described as sweet, intensely-floral, exotic, creamy-custard, rounded with rich balsamic notes.  Ylang ylang is also called the  “flower of flowers” because it smells like many flowers swirled into one sexy scent.

It takes five years for the ylang ylang tree to even begin producing these fumy blooms and after it does, she will go on producing an average of 45 pounds of flowers annually for somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 years! Ylang ylang trees in the wild can reach 60ft. if not higher, and are native to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other lowland countries of East Asia.  The trees also grow, and are cultivated in other warm tropic locations as well, like Madagascar—a top exporter of ylang ylang essential oil.

So how is Ylang ylang essential oil made?  Reaching their “crescendo” of scent during the night, the careful hand collection of ylang ylang flowers ideally begins during these night hours, and usually by dawn the harvest is in full swing.  Harvest timing is crucial, as the freshly harvested flowers begin to lose their scent once exposed to the light. The best essential oil is said to come from flowers that have gone from a green color to reach their mature rich yellow color and that are harvested in dry weather—not during rain. It takes on average 50 pounds of fresh flowers to yield 16 ounces of essential oil.

Once harvested, the flowers go through a steam distillation process also called “fractional distillation”, Depending on the expertise of the distiller, the distillation process is interrupted at precise times to pour off and collect fractions of the essential oil.  It is important to keep this in mind when you go to purchase ylang ylang essential oil because you’ll often find a range of options, including:

Ylang ylang Extra grade—Extra grade is the very first fraction collected from the still, taken after the initial first hour or so of distilling. This fraction includes the smallest molecules making its scent the sweetest and most floral in aroma compared to the other fractions—highly valued in not only aromatherapy, but also for perfumery.  Some aromatherapists find this to be the most delicate in scent and have noted it is the least to cause a headache in highly sensitive individuals verses ylang ylang III.

Ylang ylang I grade: this fraction is collected after approx. 4 hours into distillation

Ylang ylang II grade: this fraction is collected after approx.7 hours of distillation

Ylang ylang III grade: this fraction is collected after approx.10 hours of distillation. These grades (I,II,III) are commonly used throughout the food and flavor industry and additionally in the cosmetic/perfume industry, and sometimes in aromatherapy.  These grades also have a bit of a “greener” smell to them.

Next is the Ylang ylang Complete grade– after the approx. 15 hours of distillation this last fraction of essential oil is collected and then is often mixed with the previous four fractions into one blend called Ylang ylang Complete– encompassing all the different chemical components from each fraction.  Having a rounded delicate floral scent, it too, especially when obtained from an organic reputable source, can be lovely for skin care and aromatherapy.

And finally, the ultimate full spectrum essential oil is Ylang ylang Complete-Fine grade, also sometimes called VOP (very old process). This essential oil indicates that the steam distillation process was never interrupted resulting in a “complete” distillation–not a blend of the separate fractions.  It is deep and delicate in its floral scent, custard-rich, and is a most excellent choice for use in aromatherapy and hand-made body products.

No matter the grade, Cananga odorata is always the botanical name for true Ylang ylang–remember to cross-check your botanical name to confirm you have the correct plant!  All choices of course have their own special value and slight variations in scent.  My current favorites available from Humboldt Herbals are Veriditas Botanicals organic Ylang ylang Extra, and Primavera Life’s organic Ylang yang Complete and from Eden Botanicals all choices they offer are great, but their  Ylang ylang Compete VOP is my recent favorite.

ylang-ylang photo from base formula blog

What are the healing properties of Ylang ylang essential oil?

In aromatherapy Ylang ylang is used for anxiety, stress, anger, irritability, tension, shock, and insomnia.  It is has calming, balancing, sedative properties widely used to combat many forms of stress.  With its romantic aroma ylang ylang has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac and sexual stimulant– relieving tension and imparting joy.  It can help support breakthrough in blockages of fear and timidity around intimacy providing a sense of relaxation and letting go.  It is said the scent of Ylang ylang can “calm the passions of jealousy by generating the ability to feel more loveable.”   The scent encourages enthusiasm, uplift, and is considered anti- depressant. It is one of the best at relaxing the mind and body as it sweetly soothes jangled nerves and emotionally charged states.  Renowned Aromatherapist Valerie Ann Worwood says that ylang ylang “may soften the hard-hearted and allow those who use judgement against others to feel the soft seduction of heaven”—beautifully put indeed.

The scent when inhaled, stimulates the adrenal glands, supports the thymus gland, and also stimulates the immune system and liver. Topically, when diluted, it is antiseptic and antifungal and is a great addition to your herbal “all purpose” healing salves.  Ylang ylang being a sedative, can help lower mildly elevated blood pressure even just a few drops of the essential oil diluted in a carrier oil (jojoba, olive oil etc.) and applied topically over the heart area of the chest can have a remarkable effect in producing relaxation, and calmness. Ylang ylang is antispasmodic and relieves muscle spasms, also relaxes nerves, stimulates circulation, and is effective for musculoskeletal cramps and digestive cramps—making it a nice addition to massage oil blends.

Ylang ylang essential oil is especially suited in skin care for treating dry, mature skin, but will benefit any skin type.  It promotes healthy supple skin, balances oil production, gently stimulates circulation, and strengthens the capillaries. Ylang ylang soothes a dry scalp and indigenous people of the tropics have long mixed ylang ylang in coconut oil to use as a hair and scalp tonic, and to protect hair from salt water damage (add 3-4 drops of essential oil to every ounce of conditioner or ¼ cup of coconut oil).

When using ylang ylang essential oil—remember it is highly concentrated and powerful in its scent intensity.  A few drops go a long way and too much can be over-powering—potentially causing a headache.  So, when I blend with ylang ylang it is always one drop at a time and I smell as I go, gauging the intensity.  I aim for a delicate but rich floral addition, while not letting it dominate over the other scents I have chosen to combine it with.  In my experience people respond most positively to the scent of ylang ylang oil in light amounts. I recommend starting with just 1-3 drops per ounce of carrier oil.  You can always add more drops to your blends, but you can’t take them back out!!  Ylang ylang combines nicely with many other essential oils such as: bergamot, clary sage, vetiver, most citruses (blood orange, mandarin), spice (cardamom), and wood oils (sandalwood, cedarwood).

Now time to enjoy the gifts of Ylang ylang with some recipes to caress your skin and soothe your soul! Craft with Love and Enjoy!

Sensual Ylang ylang Spritzer

photo by J.Shepherd

Use as a mist for your body, bedroom, linens, sheets, and lingerie—divine!

You will need the following:

2 ounce size glass bottle with atomizer top

5 drops Ylang ylang Extra essential oil

3 drops Bergamot essential oil

2 drops Peru Balsam essential oil (optional)

1 teaspoon organic Vanilla extract

1 oz. Ylang ylang hydrosol/or Rose Hydrosol

Put drops of essential oils, vanilla extract, and hydrosol in the bottle.  Fill the rest of the way with purified or spring water.  Shake well, mist as desired to feel the bliss!

Romantic Cananga No. 5 Roll-on Perfume

photo by J.Shepherd

Ylang ylang essential oil was actually used in the famous perfume Chanel No. 5 and other popular fragrances.  With this recipe you can make your own romantic scent to adorn with–minus the yucky synthetics normally utilized in commercial perfumes.  The “flower of flowers” takes center stage, with a touch of vanilla, and hints of robust coffee bean.

You will need the following:

1/3 oz. glass perfume bottle with roll-on top

1/3 oz. of organic Vanilla infused jojoba oil (to make this simply split and chop one organic Vanilla bean, next put in a glass jar, then cover with 4 ounces of organic jojoba oil, seal the lid on and put in a cool dark place allowing it to infuse for 2-3 weeks, then strain off and store in a glass bottle for use on its own or in endless other recipes!)

9 Drops of organic Ylang ylang Extra essential oil

4 Drops of organic Coffee essential oil (optional)

Put drops of essential oils in bottle, then fill with your vanilla infused jojoba oil, put roller cap on bottle.  For an added touch, I left a tiny piece about ¼ inch of chopped vanilla bean in the bottle with all the above.  Shake well before applying your roll-on perfume to pulse points, and neck.

Feelin’ the Love Massage and Body Oil

photo by J.Shepherd

Sensually sweet, with a touch of spice and warmth relieving tension while centering the heart and soothing the soul.  Perfect for a relaxing massage and as an aromatic moisturizing body oil.

You will need the following:

2 ounce glass bottle

1 ounce og. Macadamia nut oil (or any other oil you like for massage)

1 ounce og. Vanilla infused jojoba oil (or jojoba oil)

6 drops og. Ylang ylang Extra essential oil

3 drops Atlas Cedarwood or Sandalwood essential oil

2 drops Cardamom essential oil

Put all essential oils in bottle, then fill with the vanilla infused jojoba oil, and macadamia nut oil.  Cap up, label, and shake well before use.

Sexy Organic Coconut Milk Soak

photo by J.Shepherd

The ultimate “treat yo’ self-soak”!  Not only does this soak smell richly  divine– it completely relaxes the body melting all your tensions away. After getting out of the tub your skin feels like silk from the moisturizing coconut milk and will be delicately perfumed from the ylang ylang all night long!

You will need the following:

1 can of organic coconut milk

½ cup Dead Sea salt

1 teaspoon of organic Vanilla extract

8 drops of organic Ylang ylang essential oil

1 drop of Cinnamon bark essential oil (or Cinnamon leaf)

1 cup of organic dry rose petals

4×6 muslin cotton bag (for the rose petals)

To the can of coconut milk add the vanilla extract, and essential oils, then stir a bit to mix.  Fill your muslin cotton bag with the dry rose petals and tie.  As the tub is filling, pour into it your can of aromatic coconut milk, the Dead Sea salt, and toss in your yummy bag of rose petals.  Be sure and stir everything around just a little bit to mix the coconut milk throughout the bath water.  During my soak I always squeeze the rose petal bag letting the water rinse my face—rosy and delicious feeling.  Prepare for relaxation and euphoria! *Caution your tub and you will be slick after this, and you will also be in a state of euphoric bliss so be careful when getting out!

Love Me More Body Butter

photo by J.Shepherd

There’s nothing better than a body butter to caress the skin—especially one that smells of sweet ylang ylang flowers and cocoa butter.  The consistency of this body butter is on the softer side, making it easy to get out of the jar and slather on.  Highly moisturizing and protective to the skin, it can also on occasion be used as a hair and scalp treatment.  Perfect too for massaging tired hands and feet after a long day.  This smells so delicious!

You will need the following:

2– two ounce size salve jar or other glass jar (recipe yields about 4 oz. total)

2 Tablespoons organic Coconut oil (I used “heaping Tablespoons”)

1.5 ounces organic Cocoa butter

1 teaspoon organic Vanilla infused Jojoba oil or jojoba oil

½ teaspoon organic Vanilla extract

12 drops organic Ylang ylang Extra essential oil

In a saucepan of gently simmering water, place in a pyrex measuring cup and melt down in it the coconut oil, cocoa butter, and jojoba oil.  Remove the pyrex from the water bath, then to the melted oils add the essential oil and vanilla extract stirring well to combine.  Pour into your jars, label, and enjoy!

Sweet Dreams Ylang ylang Laced Lingerie

Last but not least, this one is recommended by the famous Jeanne Rose and is too easy not to try!  Just take a few cotton balls and on each put a drop of ylang ylang essential oil, then tuck it into your lingerie drawer to have your garments smelling kissed of ylang ylang.

Sources Cited:

photo of ylang ylang flower courtesy of: http://www.baseformula.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ylang-ylang.jpg

The Healing Trail: Essential oils of Madagascar by Halpern/Weverka

Aromatehrapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art by K. Keville and Mindy Green (this is one of my “must-have” aromatherapy books!)

Aromatherapy for the Soul by Valerie Ann Worwood

Essential Oils: A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice by Jennifer Pace Rhind

The Aromatherapy Book by Jeanne Rose

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cananga_odorata

Vibrational Aromatherapy by Deborah Eidson

*This article is intended to be an exchange of information in hopes to keep the herbal healing traditions alive and well.  It is not intended to treat, or diagnose, nor is it intended to replace the care and treatment from a licensed practitioner or health care provider.  These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.


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Help with putting the cigarettes down

By Kate Maxey

Cigarettes kill a lot of people. Not only is cigarette smoking the single greatest cause of preventable disease but it is probably the most difficult addiction to kick. We all know the health problems that come with cigarettes, from respiratory and heart issues to impotence and cancer. I am not going to cover the problems with this habit so much as I want to talk about ways to kick it. For some you just might feel that it is time to do it, but maybe you need a little help.

So here are some suggestions in the herbal and psychological realms:

* Social support: Grab a friend to quit with you. If you know of another person who also wants to stop ,do it together. Your odds of continuing cessation will greatly improve. One study found that if someone’s spouse quits with them their chance of continued smoking decreased by nearly 70 percent.

You can also tell your friends and family that you are trying to quit so that they can provide support and motivation. Social media can be useful for this as well.

Psychological treatments:  Behavioral therapy can be beneficial like setting up some sort of rewards system for when you don’t smoke. Whatever it may be try to make your reward something healthy, like giving yourself time to relax or be in nature or buying a special small thing for yourself.  Sweets and fatty foods might not be a good idea as rewards because people tend to put on weight when they quit smoking.

Another idea is hypnotherapy. I have personally had really good experiences with hypnotherapy which is why I mention it here.  It doesn’t work for everyone and the clinical results are mixed, but it is something to look into if you have the extra funds to pay for a few sessions. For more info on this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/11/hypnosis-quit-smoking_n_1248444.html

*Exercise: Exercise not only helps to relax the nervous system but it helps the brain to be happy and healthy. Aerobic exercise especially helps with clearing out the lungs as well. I have a friend who when she was trying to quit ran everyday, and what really kept her from smoking was seeing all the black tar nastiness that was coming out of her lungs! No good!

*Nicotine Replacement Therapy:  This comes in the form of patches, gum, inhalers, ect and can help with the intense cravings that come with putting down cigarettes.   Clinical studies have shown that NRT is more effective then a placebo treatment, however abstinence rates are only about 50 percent at 12 month follow ups. Also, a smoker can become dependent on these things so it is good to be aware of other options.

*Herbal Treatment:  There are many herbal allies to help with putting the cigarettes down. Here are a list of some of the main ones:

Lobelia: (Lobelia inflata) Lobelia has a general depressant action on the central and autonomic nervous systems and is a great anti-asthmatic.  Clinical studies have shown that a constituent in Lobelia called lobeline, acts similarly to nicotine in the brain, making it helpful with withdrawal symptoms. It also thins the thick mucus that accompanies cessation from smoking. This is a low does plant so it is best to take it as a tincture or you can also smoke it in a herbal smoking blend. (More on this later)

Oatstraw: (Avena Sativa) Oatstraw is a phenomenal nervous system tonic.  I personally believe it should be in our water supply it is so amazing. It calms and balances the nervous system and not only helps with nicotine withdrawal, but it also helps with other addiction withdrawals that come with opiates and alcohol.

Skullcap: (Scutellaria laterifolia)  Is a strong nervous system sedative that works for the acute symptoms of withdrawal. It effectively soothes nervous tension while renewing and reviving the central nervous system.

Skullcap

Skullcap

Yerba Santa: (Eriodictyon californicum) This stimulating expectorant thins and stimulates the free flow of mucus from the lungs when there is congestion with thick mucus.

Elecampane root: (Inula helenium ) Another great lung herb that helps  get the gunk up and out of the lungs. It also soothes irritation in the lungs which is nice for the lungs of a smoker. It is useful for asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, COPD and for chronic coughs.

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Elecampane flowers

One great tea recipe for soothing the lungs is:

Coltsfoot 2 parts (A great expectorant and anti spasmodic)

Marshmallow root 2 parts  (A great soothing demulcent)

Hyssop 2 parts (Expectorant, nervine and anti-spasmodic)

Licorice 1 part ( Soothing demulcent, as well as a nice liver and adrenal supporting herb)

Anise 1 part  (A great anti-spasmodic)

Some other great tea blends for the lungs are made by Humboldt Herbals. One is a lung tonic and the other is a nice expectorant tea. you can find them here:

http://www.humboldtherbals.com/organic-bulk-teas/herbal-tea-blends/expectorant-cough-relief.html

http://www.humboldtherbals.com/organic-bulk-teas/herbal-tea-blends/lung-tonic-tea.html

They also carry a great herbal smoking blend that can be useful when you are dealing with the habit of the hand to mouth action of smoking. You know, when you just need to smoke something. They don’t put Lobelia into their blend, but you can add it to this blend or get an idea of some other good smoking herbs.

http://www.humboldtherbals.com/organic-bulk-teas/herbal-tea-blends/actors-smoking-blend.html

They also have a great tincture to help with the nicotine withdrawal symptoms that I have seen be very effective for people:

http://www.humboldtherbals.com/tinctures-and-glycerites/humboldt-herbals-formula/tobacco-remedy/tobacco-remedy-1-oz.html

Well I hope this helps. And good luck to all those who have decided to put the cigarettes down!

Sources:

Medical Herbalism by David Hoffmann

Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth by Sharol Tilgner

Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson Haas


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Spring Nectar Lip Gloss–oooh, la, la!

Spring Nectar Lip Gloss

photos and article by Jessica Shepherd

Nothing compares to the quality of  hand crafted lip gloss made from the most exquisite and organic ingredients.  I recently had so much fun gifting out this Spring batch of lip gloss I made to a group of my lovely herbalist friends.  I felt like I was the lip gloss fairy!  Then watched with a smile, as all the gals tried it out saying “oooh, aaah, feels great and tastes great”!  Sheer satisfaction for me—gifting my friends hand-made herbal treats!  Truly “good for you” gifts!

This lip gloss takes care of chapped or wind-burned lips and contains especially  hydrating and soothing ingredients like cocoa butter, coconut oil, honey, and the deep healing and repair of the herbal infused oils. I also had some locally grown and produced Macadamia nut oil that I was lucky to purchase at a Farmer’s Market in Hawaii, while there on a trip this past March.  Its truly the glossy definition of emollient which means: “making soft or supple; soothing especially to the skin or mucous membrane”.  Personally, I prefer to pass on the petroleum, propylene glycol, paraben’s, and other synthetic chemicals that conventional lip balms, and other body products contain.  I know that what I put on my skin can and usually will, find its way into my bloodstream. So I take pride in discovering ways to make my own healthy plant-based body care recipes, and hope that sharing some of my recipes will inspire and empower you to do the same!

Spring Nectar Lip Gloss

I am calling this a gloss, rather than a balm, because I wanted a slightly softer lip balm that was able to glide easily across the lips and soak right into dry areas.  This lip-gloss offers healing skin repair to chapped, wind-burned, and sunburned, lips while also working to keep the lips supple, moist, and plump.  Yum, it has a great subtle taste from the herbs and added essential oils, making the lips feel lovely and silky smooth!  Keep in mind if you don’t have an herb infused oil on hand, or if you don’t have or want to get the Mac nut oil (you really should treat yourself to it though!)–you can always just substitute any regular organic oil like plain Sunflower oil, or Almond oil, Hemp seed oil, Sesame, Olive oil, you get the idea–any of those will work–just be sure to use the total amount of 6 ounces of oil and follow the directions from there!

lip gloss ingredients

Here is the recipe– and as always organic ingredients are preferred!  

Yields aprrox. 28 tubes

¼ oz empty lip balm tubes, about 28 you’ll need

4 oz. Herbal Infused Oil —  I used a blend I always have on hand which is Lavender, Calendula, and Rose petals infused in Sunflower oil.  To make this:  Take 1 ounce of each dried herb and put them in a quart sized mason jar. Cover with your sunflower oil to fill the jar.  Seal the lid on the jar and let the oil and flowers soak for 2-4 weeks in a cool dark place, visiting your infusing oil every few days shaking it to distribute the oil around, and offer it your blessings and love!  Then after that time, strain off the herbs from the oil, and viola’ you have an infused herbal oil!   You can add 1 tbsp.  of Vitamin E to this to help preserve it and it should keep for up to one year.  It can not only be used in your lip balm base, but also on its own as a body oil or massage oil, and in your other body products like creams, lotions, and salt or sugar scrubs.

2 oz. Macadamia nut oil-- a protective oil to the skin with a high absorption rate, soothes burns, and helps with scars, nourishing to the skin

2 ½ tbsp. Cocoa butter–reduces dryness and helps improve the elasticity of the skin tissue, it also lends a thick and creamy consistency to blends like lip balms, lotions, creams etc. Oh, and of course, it smells like chocolate!

cocoa butter

4 tbsp. of grated Beeswax–increases essential moisture in the skin, has mild anti-bacterial properties,  contains Vitamin A, and is a natural emulsifier suitable for use in all types of body products (lotions, salves, balms etc.)

Beeswax

1 tbsp. Coconut oil- soothing and moisturizing

Coconut oil

2 tsp. Honey- anti-bacterial and humectant– meaning it promotes the retention of moisture

a spoonful of honey

8 drops Lime essential oil–bright and cheery, anti-septic, acts as a “natural preservative” (all essential oils help to add a preservative quality to your home made goodies (creams, lotions, balms etc.) and lengthen their “shelf life”

15 drops Wild Orange essential oil–adds a yummy flavor, cheers the spirits, and is anti-bacterial

10 drops Lavender essential oil–soothing to burns, helps scars, and nourishes

5 drops Rose Geranium essential oil--soothing, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, has a delicate herbaceous rose scent

2 tsp. Vanilla extract--excellent for burns, cooling and soothing, also adds that flavor we all know and love!

To make the lip gloss: Take  a sauce pan and fill it halfway and bring the water to a simmer then turn heat to medium-low.  Take your glass pyrex measuring cup and fill it with specified amount of herbal oil, mac nut oil, and then add in the cocoa butter, coconut oil, and beeswax to that.  Set the pyrex in the hot water of the saucepan, stir with a chopstick here and there until everything has melted together.

melting the butters oils and wax

Now, before adding your other ingredients do what we call a “spoon test” with your lip gloss base—the melted goods you have in the pyrex.  So take a spoon and scoop a little of the hot liquid and set the spoon in your freezer (I usually set it on a paper towel in case of spilage).  Let the spoon sit in the freezer for about 10 minutes.  After that time take it out and dip your finger in it, getting an idea of the consistency of the gloss.  If it seems to liquidy and not solid enough that is a great indicator you want to add more beeswax to make it more solid.  On the contrary, if it is too solid and hard, you want to add a little more oil to your pyrex of melting goods.  I adjust it usually by the ½ tablespoon or so until I do another spoon test and reach my desired consistency.  Once you have that perfected you can take the pyrex with melted oils, butter, and wax and set it on the counter to cool down for a good 10 minutes.

After that grab a clean chopstick and add in your honey and mix well, then add in the essential oils drop by drop mixing well after, and then finally add your vanilla extract.  Stir it all together mixing with love!  Now, from the pyrex you are ready to pour up your lip gloss into the tubes.  I just hold a tube in my left hand and slowly, with my right hand pour from the pyrex, until the gloss reaches the top of the tube, or even spills over the sides if you go too quick—that’s okay you can clean it up!  In between filling a few tubes, be sure to give the oils and wax a stir again to help distribute the vanilla, honey, and essential oils throughout.  At a slow and steady pace you’ll get the hang of it– and before you know it you’ll have filled 28 lip balm tubes!

I let them stand on the counter for a bit before I put the caps on and move em’ around.  You want to allow for a wee bit of time for the lip gloss to cool and “set” or harden in the tube.  You can speed this process up after letting it cool enough on the counter that you can put the lids on with out spilling liquid, just put them in the refrigerator for about a half hour, and it will be “set” and ready to gloss upon your lips!  Of course, my final step is to wipe the tube off of any spilled gloss that occurred during the pouring procees (rubbing alcohol works well for this!), then label it with a fun name and your ingredients.  Your lip balm will stay good or have a “shelf life”  for at least one year!

Spring Nectar Lip Gloss

Spring Nectar Lip Gloss

If I purchase a lip balm, which I do sometimes if I can’t find time to make my own, these are a few of the brands I choose—Wild Carrot Herbals rich and creamy with a few different choices, Terra Firma Botanicals  makes a lip balm called “Love Oil Lip Balm” and its one of my favorites– super silky with an awesome flavor, and then there is  Eagle Peak herbals–they make a wonderful herb infused lip balm using all the top skin loving herbs many of which they grow themselves or ethically wildcraft!

Enjoy and Cheers to your happy juicy lips!!!  Now go give someone a smooch!

Spring Poppy flower


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Spring: Love of the Wildflowers and Nourishment from Nettle and Dandelion

wild Mustard flower

photos and article by Jessica Shepherd

Spring is afoot!   Fresh green growth sprouts from barren trees as life springs forth and thrives again. Our resting plant friend’s wake up and grow putting all their energy upward, and we too, begin sloughing off the winters introspection and rest, to set our selves—or rather “spring” ourselves back into motion.  Its that “feverish” season where we “clean house” and are inspired to tend the seeds of our dreams and hearts desires, work to cultivate them into our bountiful gardens, then have them be our fruit of reality come fall time.  Now is when we can turn to the Green and let the plants nourish us– body and spirit, helping to process away that which no longer serves us— and bring balance to assimilate all that will nurture, build, and revitalize us.  And the Spring flowers bloom too, fitting that the sensory organ of Spring according to Traditional Chinese Medicine is the eyes.  So much to see!  Rhododendrons, Irises, Trilliums, Lilly’s, the bright yellow flowers of the Wild Mustard, Lilac’s, Daisies,  California poppy’s, Apple and Cherry blossoms galore and more!  For the herbalist it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “eye candy”!

In this Spring-time moment, I feel the plants, trees, and flowers are so content and happy to offer their love and I am marinating in it– just soaking it up—saying thank you, and I love you too!  I am present in the peace of nature, and am so grateful for all the lush green plants and bouquets of wildflowers scattered about the forest floor and the mountainside hills and meadows.

mountain side meadow of wildflowers

Spring is the season of the Wood element in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is ruled by our Liver and Gallbladder.  Our bodies “filters” are always hard at work for us, and doing all they can to process whatever we send our bodies way, in addition to what we are exposed to environmentally—some things healthy and great, and some things we give thanks to have a liver for!  So it’s a fitting time to pay some extra care and attention to those organs through the support of nourishing herbs and foods.  For this herbal ode’ to Spring post (its a long one, maybe best read in the evening with a warm mug of tea!), I ask you join me in celebrating two powerhouse spring tonics most of us know and adore: Nettle and Dandelion.

First up is the one the only Nettle–Stinging Nettle that is…

IMG_8080

Nettle  Urtica dioica

…“Our nurse would not come nettle hunting.  Mary (the cook) would, and what is more, she made and doled out the nettle beer.  It was lovely to think that whole beds of nettles were entirely yours to do as you liked with and that, literally, no one cared if you picked the lot”… –excerpt from the book: The Surprising Life of Constance Spry by Sue Shephard

Spring is the perfect time for honoring the deep green nourishing beauty of the Nettle plant.   Many of us have met this plant and have felt the sting–you feel the tingles (ouchie!) and know you are alive!!  For me, it is a reminder to wake up, become alert, active and present in the current moment—alive, and receptive to nature’s wisdom and beauty.  No wonder Nettle was traditionally used for inactivity—if I brush upon it and feel its little sting I am “activated” and energized!  The Nettle plant is one of the first herbs I learned of and has always remained one of my favorites.  I love to put a few fresh leaves in cool water letting it steep for some hours as this delicate infusion tastes like the essence of the Green!

And like the excerpt above mentions, if you are lucky enough to find a big ole’ patch or even have one in your yard, you are a very happy foraging herbalist!  Most folks will not become as excited as us over these finds—I remember my neighbor giggled at me when I beamed in delight over the wild nettles in each of our backyards, before he could finish giggling I was rattling off all the wonders of the nettle and he was impressed.

patch of Nettles

I won’t “pick the whole lot” but, a good paper bag full or two, of vibrant green, young upper leaf clusters will get the job done.  Yes, gloves are worn in this process, and long pants and my rubber boots too!  I am entering a Nettle patch after all!  The stinging hairs on the leaves and stems release acids when touched like an injection–acetylcholine (a histamine), galacturonic acid, oxalic acid, tartaric acid and formic acid to name a few.  Once released, these acids cause a reaction with the skin, the “sting” can itch and leave a slight rash and raised welts, but for most people the itch subsides shortly.  However, being able to properly identify Nettle, and harvesting wearing gloves makes your chances of getting “stung” quite minimal.  Not to mention, as we herbalist’s all love to point out, there are usually other plants that act as antidotes to the Nettle sting that tend to grow close by—like yellow dock or plantain leaves to make into an on the spot poultice for soothing the sting.  Even the juice of the fresh nettle leaf itself is claimed to be an antidote of its own sting!   The sting has in fact been used as a topical application, called flagellation, or urtication—where the fresh plant is essentially used in a whipping action for stimulating inactive organs (even paralyzed limbs) and nerves and also to relieve specific types of pain.  Flagellation is not a very common practice these days but some still practice it, and some books even deem it as the oldest known use of the nettle.

Harvesting:  Spring and Early Summer when the leaves are not as tough, and the young upper leaf clusters and stems are best to harvest.  Once Nettle goes to seed and has become rather tall (it can reach up to 9ft!) it is too concentrated in silica and renders it past the recommended time to gather leaf—but in temperate climates you can get a second growth of nettle and harvest again once the new growth sprouts, or if you have a patch you can cut it back after your first spring pick to yield another one!

Parts used: All parts—seed, root, leaf, stem, of this plant have some use and overall nettle provides food, fiber, and of course medicine. The nettle stems have fibers running through them that have been used to make cordage, netting, even clothing—the linen is of fine quality and is able to last a long time, in fact some ancient burial sites of western China have discovered 2,000 year old nettle clothing still in perfect condition.  It is a time consuming process to make the fiber into clothing but presently some herbalist’s are putting the efforts in, and are making their own nettle fabric and other wares from the fibers.

 Medicinal properties of the stem and leaf:

Coined the “spirulina” of the plant kingdom by the late and great herbalist Michael Moore, ounce for ounce Nettle leaf contains twice the amount of protein as spinach, and while we’re at it– more protein than any other native plant. It is also rich in: iron, calcium, magnesium, amino acids (lysine), protein, potassium, silicon, manganese, zinc, chromium, selenium, beta-carotene, sulfur, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, C, and E.

I agree with the renowned and most beloved herbalist Rosemary Gladstar that nettle is “…one of the superior tonic herbs and is as important as many of the famous Chinese “long life” herbs”.  Nettle is a highly nutritive alterative that tones and strengthens the entire system.   The mineral rich tea helps to add electrolytes and alkali to assist the buffering system when under stress making Nettle leaf a wonderful tonic for the adrenals that have become taxed from excess or prolonged stress. 

It restores and aids the liver and kidneys to cleanse the body of toxins and waste—essential for vitality and energy; builds and nourishes our adrenals aiding with our stress response and how our system processes stress; nettle leaf helps build up a healthy supply of blood in the body and purify unwanted waste and uric acids from the bloodstream resulting in clearing up skin conditions and some inflammatory conditions like arthritis and in particular gout. The nutritive rich tea is well known to use for strengthening and promoting healthy hair, bones, teeth, and nails.  It has anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory effects employed for seasonal allergies and hayfever– for this you may try seeking out fresh “freeze” dried nettle in capsule form, as it has been found that the formic acid contributes to its antihistamine effects and that acid is only present in the fresh plant. It has also been used for myalgia, osteoarthritis, and arthritic conditions.  The amazing herbalist Matt Wood writes: “Nettle is a remedy that gets the job done.  It works with complicated protein building blocks to build some of the most complicated molecules used in the body.  It is a highly nutritious food which supplies these materials, but it also supplies the know-how, the intensity, to use them”.

Nettle leaf is also a reproductive tonic for women and men, and a mild diuretic helpful for edema and water retention.  Nettle has been used as a galactagogue (to enrich and increase the flow of breast milk) in nursing mothers, and can aid in restoration and recovery after childbirth building back up the blood supply. It has also been used as a post surgery recovery tonic to facilitate healing and to build back vitality.

Whew, I know the list of nettle’s benefits are plentiful (and there are even more!)—I never get tired of an Herbalist speaking or writing about nettles, and in all my many years of working at an herb shop I always loved filling the big bulk glass jar– to only empty it time and time again to happy nettle seeking customers!  Your pet companion’s can also benefit from nettles minerals and vitamins as well– helping to promote a healthy skin and coat, and offering support to the liver, urinary tract, and immune system.  A little sprinkle of the powder on food is a great way to incorporate it and it pairs very well with powdered dandelion leaf for a green sprinkle.  You can start with a 1/4 tsp. per 10 lbs. of animal body weight.

Preparations: Fresh young Nettle leaves have a deliciously mineral rich green flavor. Once prepared for use and the sting is removed (which is a quick and easy process), nettle can be used to replace spinach in all types of recipes.

The acids that cause the sting deteriorate rapidly once the leaf is dried or dehydrated, or gently steamed or boiled for about 15 minutes, just long enough to wilt and remove the acids.  To blanch nettles, use tongs to transfer the leaves into a pot of salted boiling water, wait 30 seconds, then remove to a bowl or sink of ice-cold water to stop the cooking process—then squeeze out excess water with your hands and the nettles are ready to go. To boil nettles, fill a pot with the nettle leaves and add 1-2 cups of water, bring it to a simmer turning the leaves a few times with tongs until wilted, then drain into a colander, when cool chop and use.  Remember if you blanch, steam, or boil nettle leaf to use the water that many of the vitamins, chlorophyll, and nutrients have ended up in—sip on it as tea, add it to soup stocks etc. it’s the goods and you don’t want it to go to waste—your houseplants will even thank you for it if you treat them to a sip!

You can freeze harvested young nettle tips after blanching, to store for future use throughout the year. Hooray for Nettles all year round!

Nettle leaf can be made into infusions (tea)—hot, and cold; I like to use 1 heaping tablespoon per cup of water of dry leaf and about 2 tablespoons of fresh, bring your water to a boil add the leaf and remove from heat.  You can infuse it for a minimum of 20 minutes and up to overnight.

Other yummy things to do with Nettle leaf: pickle nettle tops in apple cider vinegar with a bit of honey and garlic-Yum! ;dried and chopped leaves are great for use in seasoning and marinade blends; nutrient rich syrups can be made and no doubt the endless array of culinary options like mineral rich soups and broths, purees, lasagnas, stir-fry’s, quiches, simply just steamed with balsamic lemon and olive oil, of course there is spanakopita-gone-nettle too; nettle pesto is super yum,  also fantastic to powder after its been dried and you can add it to smoothie herb powder blends, and of course leaf powder or finely chopped leaf can be added to seasoning blends to be liberally sprinkled upon meals. As I have always been taught (thanks Jane!) “Eat your medicine!”  Give thanks for and to the lovely green Nettle!

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Nettle Hazelnut Pesto from Greg Higgins, Higgins Restaurant Portland, OR

2 cups Nettle Leaves, lightly blanched

2 cups Italian parsley leaves

2 cups crumbled feta cheese

2 cups hazelnuts, toastes

¼ cup minced garlic

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

freshly ground pepper

Salt

Rough chop the nettle and the parsley leaves. Combine in a mixing bowl with the feta cheese, hazelnuts, garlic, and oil and pulse in batches in the food processor or crush with trusy mortar and pestle until thick and saucy. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Serve on pasta or as a sauce or dip—you know the deal!  And reminder: pesto freezes well!

Nettles Gone Spanikopita

1/3 cup olive oil

2 pounds fresh nettle leaf, lightly washed and drained (wear gloves!)

1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled

1 to 2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

1 pound filo pastry sheets

You can make this in a casserole dish or you can fold them into “triangles”.

Click this link to get the full preparation instructions as I just adapted the ingredients from a Food Network recipe.  Click here for those instructions at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/spanakopita-spinach-triangles-or-pie-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

 Spring Nettle and Savory Herbs Sprinkle

1 part Nettle leaf powder

1/2 part Parsley

½ part Marjoram

½ part Thyme

¼ part Oregano

¼ part Garlic granules

Mix all above dried herbs together and keep in a glass jar.  This tasty sprinkle can be liberally added to all types of dishes try it on: roasted veggies and potatoes, eggs, baked chicken, salads, and its especially good on a little bit of toasted bread with olive oil.  Lots of possibilities with this sprinkle and also plenty of room for your own twists—like adding some seaweed powder or dulse flakes.

 Spring Nourish-Me Tea

1 part dried Nettle leaf

1 part dried Dandelion leaf

½ part dried Oatstraw Tops

½ part dried whole Red Clover Blossoms

½ part dried Peppermint leaf

½ part dried Orange Peel

¼ part dried Hibiscus

This is a simple and highly nutritive tea to enjoy during the Spring season.

Mix ingredients together in a bowl—making sure to infuse your intentions of love and nourishment into the blend as you mix. Then use 1 heaping tablespoon per cup of water.  Bring water to a boil and pour over the herbs and letting them steep for at least 15-20 minutes and as long as overnight.  Then strain off the herbs and you can enjoy up to two-three cups of tea per day throughout the Spring to offer support to your liver and nourish your body.

Fresh Spring Garden Sun Tea

Spring Garden tea

Celebrate spring with simple garden infusions—depending on what you may have coming up like lemon balm, rosemary, marjoram, a dandelion or two, violets, nettle, and perhaps some sort of mint—I currently have an orange mint.

Grab a quart jar or larger if you desire—forage around your garden and yard picking fresh sprigs, blossoms, leaves—whatever is vibrant and calls to you.  I usually end up with about ¾ to 1 cups worth of “fresh picked herbage” that I then set in my glass jar, pour cool water over the herbs, put the lid on and let it sit in a sunny spot for at least 2-3 hours– up to overnight.

This is a marvelous way to connect with the fresh energy of the Spring season and taste the delicate essences and aromatics of the vibrant plants in your yard and garden.

Here are the herbs I chose for my most recent Garden Tea: Lime Thyme, Lemon Balm, Rosemary sprig, Orange Mint, sprig of Lavender flower, Pineapple spearmint, English Daisy, Nettle Leaf, Redwood Needle sprig, and Dandelion blossom and leaf–Yum!

And next up– that infamous weed with the very easily recognized yellow flower head sometimes referred to as “Fairy Clock” or “Blowball”—yup I’m talkin’ bout’ Dandelion.  

Spring Dandelion's--make your wish!

 

 Dandelion  Taraxacum officinale

“Eat em’ don’t weed em’ ” one of my favorite pro-Dandelion slogans from Dr. Peter Gail and the folks who make a concentrated herbal coffee substitute called Dandy Blend.  Every now and then I catch a “weed killer” commercial with a dramatic plot to eradicate the Dandelion from your yard—a chemical battle never to be won my friends, this is a longevity herb that will sprout right through the cracks of concrete to say ha! –“the Green shall prosper!”  dandelion growing out from concrete

My lawn is only about 15% Dandelions and that’s fine by me, they are more than welcome to stay in my yard!  I always enjoyed talking with folks at the herb shop I worked at about this terrorized weed—people new to herbs as medicine are generally surprised at how much the dandelion offers–giving them reason to hopefully not want to kill it!  The dandelion too is such accessible and abundant medicine packed with minerals and vital nutrients.  Not to mention who hasn’t felt the magic of getting to make a wish on a seeded dandelion head!  Many common weeds in your backyard are able to heal common ailments and beyond—thanks Mother Nature! You need not seek out an exotic “designer” plant from a whole different bioregion when the dandelion and nettle are thriving right there in your own neck of the woods.

A superb spring green or potherb, and fantastic nutritive alterative, the tender young leaves are quite tasty and can be incorporated into culinary dishes, or with a little sautéed garlic, onion, olive oil, and balsamic it can be a side dish all on its own.

Dandelion

Medicinal Properties of the Leaf and Root: The leaf is generally used as a nutritive tonic and is high in potassium. Compared to romaine lettuce, dandelion greens have 4 times the vitamin C, 7 times the Vitamin A, and twice the amount of potassium!  The leaves are also higher in beta-carotene than carrots!  It also offers a bio-available form of iron, and calcium—way more than spinach contains.  Also vitamins C, A, B (1,2,5,6, and 12), E, P, D, biotin, inositol, lecithin, phosphorus, zinc and contains the sugar inulin.

Herbalist and Acupuncturist Leslie Tierra says “taken cool, dandelion leaf tea is one of the most effective diuretics, as effective as Lasix, and because it is rich in potassium, it isn’t as harsh, thus cleansing the kidneys, eliminating water retention and lowering blood pressure.”  I saw this to be true with a lot of the folks I helped while working at a local herb shop. Some folks with water retention issues found relief, and women whom had cyclical swelling in their breasts with tenderness to the touch also gave positive feedback about dandelion leaf tea.

white milky "sap" of the dandelion stem

The white milky sap of the dandelion stem used as a folk remedy for getting rid of warts!

The leaf gently supports the detoxification of the liver and has an affinity for building and cleansing the kidneys. The milky white sap squeezed from the fresh stems of the dandelion is touted as an old folk remedy as an effective topical treatment of warts, moles,calluses, and can sooth stings and blisters.  Why not try– if it’s already growing in the front yard?

Dandelion root is a superior safe and gentle, liver and gallbladder cleanser helping to strengthen the entire body and promote the building and restoration of vitality. The root promotes bile flow and reduces inflammation of the bile duct.  It has the capacity to clear stagnation and/or sluggish liver activity by aiding in liver function stimulation, thus helping the liver more effectively eliminate toxins from the bloodstream.  With modern lifestyle and a diet too rich in dairy, meat, sugar, white flour etc. it’s rather easy to put a load on the liver to deal with.  In addition, pent up feelings or repressed emotions, and stress also add their toll to the work of our liver and can manifest symptoms like anger, rage, short-temper, irritability, and even depression.  Dandelion root tea is “…recommended for stressed-out, internally sluggish, and sedentary people.  Anyone who’s a victim of excessive fat, white flour, and concentrated sweeteners could benefit from a daily cup of dandelion tea ” says “Wildman” Steve Brill.

The root has a high content of lecithin, which contributes to its liver supportive qualities, and in particular works as a liver protector that some say can even help with the prevention of cirrhosis of the liver. It also has reported use for hepatitis, reduces liver swelling in jaundice.  With its high mineral content dandelion root is an excellent blood purifier useful for conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and acne.  The root is also a mineral rich blood builder used for treating mild anemia and promoting vitality.  A well-known “bitter” that stimulates all digestive glands and organs, dandelion root gets the juices flowing like– bile secretion, hydrochloric acid production, and digestive enzymes thus rousting the appetite and supporting more efficient break down, and assimilation of nutrients from our food.  It is a chart-topper when needing an herbal coffee substitute—when the root is roasted, it pairs very well with chicory root and together they make what some herbalist’s call “Cowboy Coffee”.  Not only is it a rich, roasty, bitter tasting stand in for coffee, its going to help repair and restore your liver from your coffee habit–if you have one! I know I like a good cup, I am not afraid to admit it—some have gotten off coffee altogether with their yummy roasted root blends.  And some just make sure they have a cup of dandelion root tea a few times a week to counter the effects of the coffee they consume—hey better than nothing!

The name Taraxacum actually translates to “bitter herb” in Arabic and Persian, but it does such a balanced job at it—I would describe it as “gracefully bitter”.  It is full bodied indeed, but unlike other bitter herbs that can become intensely bitter and almost intolerable like gentian or goldenseal etc. to drink, dandelion root even after steeping for a while, remains palatable. The root contains inulin which is a sugar that doesn’t promote increased production of insulin, like refined sugars do, so with that being said it is a great herb to consider and incorporate into a wholistic regime for mature onset diabetes and hypoglycemia, and can also act as a specific herb in blood sugar balancing tea blends and formulas.

dandelion blossoms and leaf

Harvesting: Leaves, usually before it flowers when tender and smaller—although I have read of people preferring after it flowers so try for yourself and see!  This herb is pretty perpetual in most climates so prime harvest of the root is late fall and early to mid spring.  For some climates you can harvest year round!

Be sure to harvest in areas that have not been treated with pesticides or herbicides!  Some of us (depending on where you live) can also find dandelion leaves these days at your local natural food store or Co-op in the produce section or at your Farmer’s Market

Preparations: The root of the dandelion can be simmered into a decoction: take 1-2 tsp. dried root per cup of water and simmer in a saucepan with the lid on for 15-30 minutes.

To make an infusion from the dandelion leaf use 1 tbsp. dry or 2 tbsp. fresh per cup of water, bring water to just about a boil then turn off from heat add your herbs and let steep covered for 15-30 minutes or longer if desired.

To roast your dandelion root place dry chopped root on a cookie sheet, preheat oven to around 250 degrees and slow roast for about 45 minutes Otherwise if its fresh chopped roots your using, do the same process but allow for it to take up to 3 hours to slow roast and dry for use in tea’s etc.

You can also roast the dry root on a cast iron skillet over low heat until it reaches a nice roasted brown color about 15-20 minutes.

Most folks generally drink 1-3 cups of tea per day depending on their needs and sensitivities.

The leaves are wonderful in salads, sautéed, or steamed. Great in lasagna, pasta dishes, spanakopita and quiche and even in your green smoothie!  The flower petals can also be tossed into salad adding a bright floral element and texture.  Dandelion flowers have also been made into wine, syrups, pickled, added to stir fry, or even dipped in batter to become fritters.  The root can be added to soups, and grains can be cooked in the decocted tea (after straining out the roots).

“Rootsie Tootsie” Tea

Roasty rich and rootsie, this tea supports and nourishes the liver, aids digestion, and relieves indigestion and gas, and can also help to balance blood sugar levels and help with sugar cravings.

1 part dried roasted Dandelion root (raw/unroasted is fine too!)

1 part dried roasted Chicory root

½ part dried anise seeds (fennel seeds are good too)

¼ part orange peel

¼ part dried cinnamon chips

Mix together above ingredients.  Use a nice heaping teaspoonful of the blend per cup of water.  In a saucepan bring your water to a boil toss in your root blend, put the lid on and turn heat to a very low simmer for about 15-25 minutes.  Strain off herbs and enjoy your richly bitter with a hint of sweet, herbal tea.  You can make a quart or so at a time if you want and keep the extra in your refrigerator—it will be good for about 3 days and you can just re-heat it as you want a cup.

Dandelion Pasta (adapted from an Herb Companion magazine recipe)

3 cups prepared dandelion greens

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves

½ cup diced spring onions

¼ to ½ cup of kalamata olives

1 green bell pepper cut into strips

1 red bell pepper cut into strips

½ pound cooked pasta

Parmesan cheese to taste

Cook dandelion greens in 2 quarts salted boiling water for about 7 minutes  Drain and squeeze greens dry and set aside

Sautee’ garlic, onions, and peppers in olive oil.  Add the greens and kalamata olives to this mixture and stir, then add it all into your desired cooked pasta, tossing with salt and pepper and grated parmesan to taste.

Dandelion Sautee’ from Wildman Steve Brill

Serves 4-6

3 cups chopped onion

3 tbsp. olive oil

4 cups chopped dandelion leaves

2 cups grated carrot

several cloves of garlic, minced

1 tbsp. of wine

1 tbsp. tamari soy sauce

black pepper to taste

Sautee’ the onions in the olive oil.  When soft, add the dandelions, carrot, garlic, wine, and soy sauce.  Cook for 10-20 minutes until all the flavors blend.

Liver Support  Massage Oil– a nourishing general tonic to support  the liver “the organ that regulates and replenishes life force”, it can be also used on areas of tension and stagnation to reduce inflammation and get the blood moving.  It can also support water retention and mild female hormonal imbalances (our liver plays a big role in “filtering” out excess hormones from the body) like pms, and irritability especially if coupled with some dandelion root tea!

  • First make your Dandelion blossom oil 2 oz. To make this: Take fresh blossoms and let them wilt for a day or so to release some of the water content.  Place the herb in a glass jar and cover over plant material a good 2 inches above it with the oil (olive oil, sunflower oil, or even castor oil are all great choices) and seal the jar with a lid.  Let it sit in a sunny window or counter for 2-4 weeks, shaking it every few days to cover all the surface area of the plant material.  Strain and viola’ you have your herbal infused Dandelion Blossom oil!  It has been used topically to support the overall health of the liver and general metabolism.IMG_1593
  • Next, add to this herbal infused oil the following liver supportive and regenerative essential oils:

5 drops Carrot Seed essential oil--one of the most effective liver regenerating and stimulating essential oils there are!

2 drops of Rosemary essential oil- stimulating, anti-inflammatory,

 3 drops of Juniper Berry essential oil- invigorating and energizing, supportive to breaking up stagnation and getting things           moving

5 drops of Lavender essential oil--  a harmonizer to the blend and my favorite stress-buster, promotes peace and relaxation while also helping to calm tension and stiff muscles

4 drops of Lemon essential oil– a well known “cleanser” and antiseptic with a cheery and  uplifting disposition

  • Now to create the whole combination:  Take a 2 ounce amber bottle and add the essential oils drop by drop to it. Then, fill the bottle with the Dandelion Blossom infused oil you made.  Shake it all up to mix the e.o.’s well.  Label and Date your creation and its ready for use.  

The oil can be massaged over the liver area of the body which is located on your right side, upper quadrant area below your diaphragm.  You can massage the oil over this area for liver support, and you can also use this massage oil on any other muscles or areas of the body experiencing tightness, stiffness, or where any stagnation seems to be causing tension– for a lot of us that is the neck and shoulders.  If you don’t want to make this oil but are interested in purchasing something similar I recommend trying Dandelion Dynamo a fabulous infused oil offered by Flower Essence Services, the link I provided also includes their descriptive actions of the oil which can be applied to the above recipe I am sharing.

Make a Wish!

Make a Wish!

Happy Spring!—Give thanks to the Earth—“The Earth is our Mother–We must take care of Her/ Her sacred ground we walk upon, we must take care of Her!” 

May you delight in the Green this Spring and let nature’s Wild Garden nourish and feed you body and soul. 

May love bloom in your heart!

A hummingbird moth--the first I have seen!  Hovering over the wildflowers!

A hummingbird moth–the first I have seen! Hovering over the wildflowers!

Sources Cited:

Besides Author’s own thoughts, feelings, and acquired knowledge from her cherished Herbal Teacher’s the following books:

Identifiying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by “Wildman” Steve Brill  with Evelyn Dan

Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon

Peterson Filed Guide Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Hobbs and Foster

Staying Healthy With the Seasons by Elson Haas, M.D.

Pacific Feast by Jennifer Hahn (I am loving this book right now!)

The Surprising Life of Constance Spry by Sue Shephard

The Humorous Herbalist by Laurel Dewey

Healing With the Herbs of Life  by Lesley Tierra

 Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar

The Book of Herbal Wisdom Using Plants as Medicine by Matthew Wood

and of course you can always find vibrant herbs and supplies through Humboldt Herbals–I am not an affiliate, nor do I make any money off of this blog it is just to share and spread information out of love for the plants and people!

a fun song for Spring if for some reason you are still here reading–Thank You So Much for reading what I have to share!

*This post is intended to be an exchange of information in hopes to keep the herbal tradition alive and well.  It is of course not intended to treat, or diagnose, nor is it intended to replace the care and treatment from a licensed practitioner or health care provider.  These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

 

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