Tag Archives: herbal medicine

5 Ways to Use and Preserve Herbs this Summer

Summer is the season of abundance. It’s easy to get busy weeding, harvesting, and putting up vegetables but it’s also the time to think about herbs. Summer is the time to use and preserve herbs for the rest of the year. Here are a few ways to put up an herbal harvest.

**We’re gardeners, not doctors. Please consult a physician about using herbal remedies especially if you’re nursing, pregnant, or on any medications.**

Herbal Teas

One of the easiest ways to preserve herbs is to dry them for tea. For best results check out our guide to harvesting & preserving herbs which you can find here. Here are just a few of the easy to grow herbs you can use for tea and their properties. For more ideas check out our medicinal herbs section.

Herb Part of plant Traditional Uses/Properties
Lemon Balm Leaves  Sedative, calmative, carminative, anti-viral
Echinacea Leaves, flowers, roots Immuno-stimulant, anti-viral, bacteriostatic
Calendula Flowers  Anti-inflammatory, soothes sore throats, soothes skin irritations when applied topically or added to a bath
Valerian Roots  Tranquilizer, calmative
Lavender Flowers Carminative, antidepressant, calming tonic for the nervous system
Roselle  Calyx Lowering blood pressure, anitmicrobial, diuretic, high in vitamin C
Skullcap Leaves, stems, flowers Nervine tonic, sedative, anti-spasmodic, used to revivify, calm, and nourish the nervous system
Chamomile Flowers Soothing, carminative, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-spasmodic, anti-microbial, can be used internally or for skin irritations
Mint Leaves Calming, spasmolytic, carminative, expectorant properties, used externally for skin irritations

Tinctures

Preparation

Many herbs can be easily processed into effective tinctures. Add clean chopped herbs (roots, leaves, stems, berries, and even bark depending on the plant) to a glass jar. Depending on the species, part of the plant, and whether it’s fresh you should fill the jar anywhere from 1/3 to 3/4 of the way full.

Cover with high-proof alcohol. Any will do but many people prefer vodka so the flavor of the herbs comes through. The jar should be fairly full of herbs but they should move freely when you shake it. Remember that dried material will expand once you add the alcohol.

Set the jar somewhere dark, cool, and dry for 6-8 weeks. Every few days give the jar a shake and check for evaporation. You may need to top off your jar to keep your herbs covered and prevent mold growth. After you can strain and bottle your tincture. It will last a long time as long as you keep it in a cool, dry, place. It’s a good idea to use a brown glass bottle to keep sunlight out.

This article from Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source for making tinctures.

Using Your Tincture

Many people take tinctures plain using an eyedropper. However, they can also be added to teas, seltzer water, or cocktails. When using tinctures it’s important to note that they’re more concentrated than an herbal tea.

Popsicles

Some herbal teas also make excellent popsicles. Try mixing lavender, lemon balm, mint, or roselle tea with honey or maple syrup and small pieces of fresh fruit to freeze for a refreshing treat.

You can use paper cups and popsicle sticks or find reusable molds at your grocery store or online. Some places carry stainless steel molds for those looking to avoid plastic.

 

 

 

 

Vinegars

Making herbal vinegars is a lot like making tinctures. They can be used medicinally and are excellent for homemade dressings and marinades. Garlic, chives, thyme, ginger, sage, hot peppers, turmeric, and nasturtiums are all excellent choices but you can use a variety of herbs, plants, and fruit to create your own unique flavor. You can also use a variety of kinds of vinegar like apple cider, champagne, rice, or red wine vinegar.

In a glass jar, mix about 1 cup of herbs to every 2 cups of vinegar. Don’t use a metal lid as the vinegar may corrode it. Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for up to a month for strong flavors, shaking it every few days. When the mixture has reached its desired flavor you can strain and bottle it.

Incense

Culturally incense is sometimes used for ceremonies or cleansing spaces and the mind. Even if incense isn’t part of your culture it can be a great way to make your home smell nice. Making your own incense can also allow you to enjoy the fragrances of your garden right through the winter!

This article by Rosalee de la Forêt at Learning Herbs has a wonderful tutorial to walk you through the process. You’ll need fragrant dried powdered herbs (like rosemary, lavender, or sage), a botanical gum (to glue the herbs together), and water.

Summer is a busy time for everyone but if you want to make the most of the herbs you grew it’s time to put up the harvest. Try one of these 5 awesome ways to use your herbs and let us know how it goes on Facebook. We’d love to see how your projects turn out!

9 Herbs to Grow for Digestive Health

Recent studies have pointed out just how important our digestive health is. Did you know that your digestion can affect not just your physical health but your mental health as well? The gut influences the amount of serotonin (a hormone that regulates feelings of happiness) the body produces. While there are many components to a healthy digestive system, the following herbs all have a history of being used to support digestive health. Consider adding a couple to your garden and diet this year.

Fennel

Native to the Mediterranean, fennel has been used as a carminative  (to treat flatulence and related discomfort) for centuries. Medicinally, it’s typically consumed in tea and was sometimes used in “gripe water” once commonly used for infants.

Chamomile

While today many think of chamomile tea as being good for relaxation it’s also excellent for digestion. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties which can help soothe upset stomachs and reduce gas.

Sage

For most, sage is now thought of as solely a culinary herb but it has long been used as a digestive tonic. It’s astringent and antibacterial and is believed to help treat diarrhea and calm gastritis.

Anise Hyssop

A tasty tea made with anise hyssop can be enjoyed with a meal to help promote digestion and reduce gas and bloating. It’s great for bees too!

Mint 

Drinking mint tea is a tasty way to aid your digestion and reduce nausea. In some studies taking peppermint oil has been shown to decrease symptoms related to IBS.

Dandelion

Odds are this one is probably already growing in your garden. It may seem like a nuisance but dandelion is a very tasty and helpful plant! Full of nutrients, all parts of the dandelion are edible and some studies have shown consuming dandelion to help with digestion and reduce constipation.

Ginger

It has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia as a culinary and medicinal herb. Ginger is excellent for treating nausea, heartburn, and morning sickness. It can be made into tea or candied for on-the-go relief.

Goldenseal

Though research into goldenseal is ongoing, gastroenterologist Theodore A. DaCosta mentions that, it has a long history of being used to treat gastrointestinal issues and is believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrheal, antibacterial properties. Largely due to overharvesting this North American native is endangered. Planting goldenseal in your woodland can help ensure its survival.

Turmeric

Its anti-inflammatory properties have lent turmeric to a number of medicinal uses including treating arthritis but it is also excellent at supporting digestive health. Turmeric is traditionally used in a number of Indian dishes. It’s what gives curry that bright yellow color! You can also make it into tea or golden milk for a warm, relaxing drink.

If you often struggle with digestive issues or are simply interested in herbalism you may want to make room in your garden for a couple of these wonderful plants.

Another great way to support your digestive health is by eating plenty of probiotics. Pick up some cabbage seeds and check out our easy instructions for fermenting your own sauerkraut.

***We’re not doctors, always check with your physician before attempting to diagnose or treat any condition.

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7 Medicinal Weeds & How to Use Them

Dealing with weeds may be one of the worst parts of gardening. No matter how diligent you are or how much you cover crop and mulch there will always be a few that get by you and mature. While I’ve often heard gardeners refer to edible weeds with the positive motto, “if you can’t beat them eat them.” It doesn’t always work for me. When I’ve worked hard to nurture a late crop of heirloom lettuce onto our plates, a salad of wild greens just doesn’t have the same appeal. However there are medicinal uses for some of the pesky garden weeds that plague your summer chore list. Here’s a list of common medicinal weeds and how they can be used.

Ground Ivy/Creeping Charlie

Ground Ivy is edible but not exactly tasty. It has been used medicinally treat a variety of ailments. It’s astringent, anti-inflammatory, and very high in vitamin C. It was once used to treat scurvy. Today you can make it into an immune boosting tea or tincture.

Plantain

There are two common types of plantain, Plantago major (left) and Plantago lanceolata (right), and both share the same medicinal properties. Plantain leaves and seeds are edible and full of important vitamins but the leaves are most frequently used externally. The leaves have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and can be crushed and placed on small injuries and insect bites to help soothe and heal.

Chickweed

This plant is often used to treat stomach conditions including constipation. It’s also high in vitamin C and can be made into a tincture or eaten fresh.

Dandelion

Flowers, leaves, and roots, all parts of the humble dandelion are medicinal. Though it hasn’t been well studied dandelion is believed to help support liver function and balance hormones. The leaves and flowers can be dried as tea, made into a tincture, or eaten fresh. The roots are sometimes ground and dried as a coffee substitute.

Cleavers

Also called goose grass or bedstraw, this plant is most commonly used as an herbal tea to treat urinary infections and promote kidney health. It is extensively used in products like chanca piedra which ensure the smooth functioning of kidneys and the gall bladder. The plant and its seeds are very good at sticking to clothing.

Wood Sorrel

Wood sorrel was once commonly believed to a blood cleanser. It has also been used to treat stomach ailments including vomiting and a poor appetite. Juice from wood sorrel plants is believed to helpful in treating ulcers when used as a mouth rinse. It’s also thought to help treat sore feet when added to a tub of warm water, a perfect use for the busy gardener! Though tasty, it should be consumed in moderation as it is high in oxalic acid which can inhibit calcium absorption.

Lambsquarters

Lambsquarter actually is quite tasty but it can also be used medicinally. Traditionally it was used internally, either eaten fresh, cooked, or made into a tea to treat rheumatic pains and chronic wounds. It’s can also be crushed and used as a poultice to help soothe eczema, sunburns, and insect bites.

Using a few herbal remedies won’t eradicate the weeds from your garden or replace your costly health insurance but maybe it will help you connect with nature. Maybe it will make you a little less sad to see weeds popping up in your garden. What weeds have you utilized from your garden?

I’m not a medical practitioner or herbal medicine expert. Please consult a doctor before trying to use herbal remedies to treat any ailment. Some plants may interact with certain prescriptions or pre-existing conditions.

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