Dandelion Blossom Poppers

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

When I walked to the mailbox this morning I noticed dandelions coming up in the yard not far from where crocus' were peeping out too! Can springtime be far behind?

Besides their wealth of medicinal benefits, the happy little dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) reminds me of so many lovely things like... sunshine, generosity, abundance, poetry and yes, these delicious blossom poppers!

It's a comfort to know one can forage for food in the wild (or your own yard) for free, craft remedies and cook meals from what you find. Just be considerate and get permission if you need to and be a good steward of the plants and their habitat. Choose plants that are free of pesticides. Know for certain what you are taking and leave much more behind than what you take. It might be hard to wipe out the prolific dandelion but you understand.

This is a simple recipe that needs minimal guidance. Give it a try and surprise your family and friends with just how tasty these are.

Ingredients

Fresh dandelion blossoms
Salt water
Egg - whisked
Ghee - or oil of your choice
Flour - seasoned to your liking (I just use what I have on hand like I would for chicken, such as salt, pepper, paprika, etc. and taste it along the way until just right).

Note: Proportions will be according to how many blossoms you choose to fry up.

Directions


Pinch the blossoms off as close to the stem (sepal) as possible, wash and place in a bowl with a little salt water for about 10 minutes. This encourages any little critters to vacate!

When you're satisfied that they're nice and clean give them a final rinse and bounce them around in a strainer to get the excess moisture off and lay them on a paper towel.

Next, whisk the egg in one bowl and put your seasoned flour in another one. Toss your blossoms into the egg to quickly coat and then remove them to the flour for a stir until they're coated. At this point let them sit a few minutes while heating the ghee in a skillet; it gives the flour and egg a good chance to hold on.


Once the ghee is hot enough add the seasoned blossoms and fry, stirring and turning until golden brown. When they're ready, remove to a paper-towel and drain.

Oh my goodness, these are so yummy and you don't need any more of a recipe than this. Use your instincts on how to season and for how long to fry. You can do it...have confidence in your inner forager-fryer person!!


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Calendula Salve

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

I absolutely love this photo of Calendula blossoms infusing in olive oil. One of the reasons it's special to me is that I planted, tended, talked to, watered, and snipped every one of those blossoms. All season long, every day, me and my little wooden bowl and scissors went the few steps out my back door into my small garden and removed these little treasures to my drying rack.

Growing your own herbs is a great way to get acquainted with them! I had four Calendula plants growing in a half barrel and they did extremely well - absolutely prolific.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) has long been used topically to soothe and mend cuts, burns, bites, sprains, bruises, rashes, sunburns and abrasions. It's for this purpose that I chose to infuse this gold bounty in olive oil and make a salve from it.

If you need to purchase your calendula oil for this recipe there's no shame in that, but the price of it will inspire you to add calendula to your own herb garden for next time! If you have dried calendula blossoms on hand and would like to infuse your own, take a look at Making Herbal Oil Infusions.

Ingredients For Calendula Salve

4 ounces by weight of calendula oil (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 ounce by weight of beeswax (about 2 tablespoons)
20-80 drops essential oils (optional)

Instructions

First, set out the containers you plan on filling. I like these small tins but I've used glass containers and recycled tins as well.

Gently warm the infused oil using a double boiler. If you don't have one you can easily just place a stainless steel bowl over a pot that has a couple inches of simmering water in it.

It doesn't take the oil long to warm up at all, just a minute or so. Then add in the beeswax and stir until thoroughly mixed and melted. Add in the essential oils if using them and stir again.

Carefully pour the hot salve into the tins or jars. Completely cool before using. Don't forget to add a label!

Tip: Using less beeswax will produce a creamier salve and using more will make it more solid. Sometimes people test salve consistency before filling their containers by putting a small amount on a spoon and putting it in the fridge for about 15 minutes (I am one of those people). In any case, if you make a batch that's too hard or too soft, you can always warm it again and add more oil or beeswax. 

I'm very happy with how this batch turned out. I did use the spoon test mentioned in the tip and decided to add a tiny bit extra oil to the mix before pouring out. Also, I had decided I was not going to add any essential oils this time but hubby requested I try adding some Vetiver. I had to use a lot to get a very subtle aroma but we both love it.

It's very satisfying making my own herbal oils and salves all the way from harvest to label. And that brings me to the fun finale of this project... what do I name it?! Vetiver has that lovely earthy aroma and with spring gardening, bug bites, scrapes and other boo-boos around the corner I think I'll call it...



References:

Herbal Academy. (n.d.) Calendula monograph. Retrieved from 
https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/2025



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Candied Cardamom Seeds

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) of the Zingiberaceae family is a lovely seed within a pod much loved for its unique pungent yet sweet flavor. The uses for cardamom are numerous and I hope to do my own monograph soon, but for this little recipe I’m turning to it for its well known digestive benefits.

Cardamom stimulates the gastrointestinal tract by means of absorption and assimilation of nutrients in the body. It influences liver and pancreas function, and as a carminative, cardamom assists in relieving GI discomforts such as burping, acid reflux, nausea and vomiting. Furthermore, it tastes good and refreshes breath!

One of my favorite herbalists, Julie James does a wonderful lesson on Cardamom. It was her mention of using cardamon in lieu of fennel this way that got me curious about it. As a humorous but worthy side note, she also dropped a hint that it’s great for your old dog’s bad breath and stinky farts too! 

You don’t have to candy the cardamom seeds to get their digestive benefits but they sure taste good prepared this way. Just a good pinch after a meal to chew on until fine enough to swallow is how I use it. 

Candied Cardamom Seeds

4 Tbs organic sugar
4 Tbs water
¼ cup cardamom seeds (not the pod!)

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small pan over med-high heat. Stir until the mixture gets thick and bubbles. Lower the heat to medium and add the cardamom seeds. Keep stirring until the seeds are coated, dry and separated. Immediately remove from the heat and stir a bit more to make sure there are no clumps. Store in a small container with a lid.

Safety considerations – Avoid intake when a person shows strong signs of heat. Also, if consumed in excess, cardamom may overstimulate upper gastrointestinal secretions. Avoid use beyond mild culinary applications in those with blocked bile ducts. And of course, avoid if allergic to any of the ingredients in this recipe.


References:

Julie James – Green Wisdom – Cardamom. FB live Plant Exploration 11.05.18. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/GreenWisdomLongBeach/videos/vl.330770827616021/346824069414311/?type=1

Herbal Academy. (n.d.). Cardamom monograph. Retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/5161



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Castor Oil Packs ♥ How and Why

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

I want to confess right up front. I LOVE castor oil packs! I know that's not something you hear everyday. As a matter of fact, when it does come up in conversation I often get responses similar to this one...

"Castor oil packs, really? Isn't that something people did in the olden days? You're pulling my leg right?"

Or, a recent favorite...

"When I think of castor oil I think of Tom and Jerry cartoons!"

The inquiries and expressions I've received over the humble castor oil pack are truly a thing of mutual wonder. I'm guessing it fell out of use because of a perception that it's complicated and takes too much time. Fortunately, that is NOT true!

It's Not Complicated

If you're like me, sometimes a new thing seems complicated when really it's just unfamiliar. Do the thing a time or two and it's a breeze. Same with castor oil packs. If I can do it, so can you!

It Doesn't Take Too Much Time

I don't want to get all philosophical here but honestly... what IS too much time? Sure, giving yourself a castor oil pack takes some time, but so does preparing a meal, walking the dog or reading a good book.

Many of the best things for us take a little bit of effort done with intention. After I experienced  the benefits and even enjoyment of this simple but amazing application I was hooked. Now I look forward to making my little nest, setting the atmosphere and gathering my comforts for a nice relaxing hour. Not to mention feeling better afterwards!

Okay, So What Is Castor Oil?

Castor oil (Ricinus communis) comes from the castor seed. Topically, it's often applied over an area of inflammation or injury, or in the form of a castor oil pack to promote a gentle movement of the bowels and/or detoxification of deeper tissues such as the liver.

Topical applications are safe because the main toxic ingredient, ricin is NOT extracted from the seeds into the commonly used oil. However, please note this warning: Internal use is not advised unless under medical supervision. 

I Do Castor Oil Packs Because...  

Two words - Gentle Detox. My digestion has been an iffy friend for many years. To make things worse, my gallbladder was removed one night when it suddenly and painfully took me to the emergency room! Not too many years later I found out that I have a MTHFR genetic mutation which causes poor methylation and enzyme production. My ability to detox is greatly reduced compared to someone without the mutation. I suspect (meaning I have no proof) that my gallbladder failed due to an 8 day detox fast I did just a couple weeks prior. Was the fast too harsh because of the mutation? I wonder...

Nevertheless, I've concluded that for me, most of the popular detox regimens are a little too demanding for my system. Maybe for anyone's. My motto is "low and slow", especially when starting any new form of self care. Our bodies are marvelously created and are designed to support us. Why force it to work outside its comfort zone! If my digestion is being a little on the cranky side or my liver is hurting I turn to the castor oil pack!

Make Your Kit With The Following Items

Castor Oil. Make sure to purchase oil that's hexane free. I got this 2 pack to make sure I had plenty.


A clean glass quart jar with a lid. It doesn't have to be fancy or new but a wide mouth jar will be easier to work with.

A thin towel, dedicated to this process (it may get oil on it which stains).

A small sheet of plastic. I cut up a plastic garbage bag to the size I wanted.

A heating source. You can use a hot water bottle or a rice bag but someone will have to heat it up for you when it cools. I use an old heating pad just like this one, with the cover removed.

When I do mine, I lay on a cheap shower curtain liner. They work perfectly and I don't have to worry about getting oil all over my bedspread.

Note: you will not need to buy new oil and cloth each time. It lasts for quite some time.

Once you have your supplies, take the flannel cloth and fold it so that it will fit nicely into your glass jar. Pour the oil over the cloth (start with just one of the bottles) and put the lid on. Let is sit (turning over occasionally) until thoroughly soaked. Add more oil if you need to. I allowed a full 24 hrs for this process.

Get Set!


This is my routine but once you get the hang of it you can tweak it to your own liking. As long as you keep the main elements on board... applying the oil and heat.

Lay the shower liner down on the bed and adjust the pillows. I like to use one under my knees; it helps my back when laying flat.

Put down the heating pad (plug it in), and a light blanket.

Lay out the thin towel, the piece of plastic and the castor oil pack.

Get the things you want to have at arms length for an hour. I usually get the timer, my phone and a pair of glasses.

Set the atmosphere. I lower the blinds, turn off the light and sometimes burn a bit of frankincense.

Now Let’s Do It

Get onto the bed and position your knees under the blanket and heating pad but over the knee pillow.

Lay back so that a few inches of the thin towel and plastic is under you, held secure by body weight on the right side.

Make sure your head and pillow are arranged for a comfortable position.

Now, put the castor oil pack into place (I have mine set to go over abdominal/liver area).

Next, put the piece of plastic over the pack.

Then put the heating pad over the plastic.

Finally, pull over the thin towel, rolling your body up just enough to secure it underneath your body weight on the opposite side. You should feel nice and snug wrapped up and ready. Turn the heating pad on, set the timer, pull the blanket over you and settle in for a nice relaxing hour. I often fall asleep!

When the timer goes off, simply unwrap, unplug and head straight to the shower to wash off the oil. It's that easy!

Tips: Don't wear anything you don't want to get oil on. Or better yet, just don't wear anything. Also, you might want to use the restroom prior to getting settled in – really aggravating to get all tucked in and then feel the need! Lastly, my personal preference is to wait at least 2 hours after eating before doing a castor oil pack. 

Box It Up For Next Time

When I'm finished I just roll up the liner, the heating pad, the towel and plastic and put it all in a little box I keep just for these supplies. The oiled flannel gets rolled up and put back in its jar which goes into the box also. This makes for a nice little kit ready to go for the next time. 

Next time for me depends on how I'm feeling. If I'm feeling the need (pain) I may do a pack 3 times a week. If I'm keeping to a preventative plan it's once a week. Sometimes, it's once a month. We are all individuals and if we're paying attention to what our body is telling us each of us will find our own routine. 

This process may feel a little awkward the first time out but after a time or two, you will hardly have to think about the set up. I hope you'll come to know and enjoy the benefits of the gentle but amazing castor oil pack as much as I do!! 

Note: I've heard some people say that they can only do 15 minutes at a time. That's not been my own experience but nevertheless, remember the motto when starting anything new... LOW and SLOW. You can always work up to more time. You'll find your way.



References:

Botanical Medicine. Ricinus communis (Castor bean) by Dr. Marisa Marciano & Dr. Nikita Vizniak. p. 368-369

Dr. Jill Carnahan. MTHFR Gene Mutation: How to Know If You Have It and What to Do. February 23, 2014. Retrieved here: https://www.jillcarnahan.com/2014/02/23/health-tips-for-anyone-with-a-mthfr-gene-mutation/



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Joyful Tea Blend

Monday, February 3, 2020

The art of creating a good therapeutic tea blend is something a little mysterious. It certainly involves knowledge of herbal actions and flavors but there's more to it than that. I've observed that some people just really have an intuitive knack for it. For me... not so much. I keep playing at it though and now and then I come up with a keeper!

It is so true that "necessity is the mother of invention". A simple wish often inspires a creative spark!

I wish I may, I wish I might... create a tea blend that would bring some calm and enjoyment into my stressful work days. That was what I needed. This is what I came up with... 

Joyful Tea Blend

Combine the following herbs in equal parts. Steep 1-2 teaspoons for 15 minutes, up to 4 times daily. I don't usually sweeten my teas but you can add a bit of stevia or honey if you prefer. 

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) ---  Spicy and warm. An ally for the brain (enhances cognition), mood elevating, and seasonal affective disorder.

Linden (Tilia platyphyllos, T. cordata) --- Sweet and moist. Anti-depressant, lowers blood pressure,  soothes tension and stress. Thought to relieve impatience and anger. 

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) ---  Sweet and moist. Anxiety, upset stomach, irritability, and nervous headache.

This blend is truly a joy anytime of the year but it's especially nice in the wintertime due to its energetics - spicy, warm, sweet, and moist. Just the ticket for cold/dry constitutions. You may have noticed that each herb is wonderfully aromatic as well. This alone is very uplifting! 

In my experience, the beneficial activity of these plant allies bring some relief to a stressful work environment. And never underestimate the additional reward that comes with slowing down long enough to do something with intention. Enjoy!


Safety considerations: Do not consume if allergic to any of the flowering herbs or leaves in this blend. Lemon balm has a mild thyroxin-inhibiting activity so those with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and other hypothyroid conditions should avoid large quantities of it (small amounts as part of a larger formula should not be an issue). 


References:

Adaptogens - Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief. Materica Medica - Nervines. By David Winston, RH (AHG) with Steven Maimes. Lemon balm p. 252-253.

Adaptogens - Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief. Materica Medica - Nervines. By David Winston, RH (AHG) with Steven Maimes. Linden p. 253-254

The Modern Herbal Dispensatory by Thomas Easley | Steven Horne. Linden - p. 262

The Wild Medicine Solution - Healing with Aromatic, Bitter, and Tonic Plants by Guido Mase. Linden. p. 100

Adaptogens - Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief. Materica Medica - Nervines. By David Winston, RH (AHG) with Steven Maimes. Chamomile p. 247-249



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Skullcap

Sunday, February 2, 2020


Common name: Skullcap. Aka – scullcap, blue skullcap, mad-dog skullcap, madweed, hoodwort, helmet flower, blue pimpernel, hooded willow herb, Virginian skullcap.
Botanical name: Scutellaria lateriflora
Family name: Lamiaceae (mint family)

Overview: Native American herb. Harvest the aerial parts when flowers are blooming, mid to late summer. Skullcap became well known in the 19th century as a treatment for rabies, hence the folk name “mad dog”. There are around 100 species of Scutellaria.

Historically, the Cherokee used skullcap to stimulate menstruation, relieve breast pain and encourage expulsion of the placenta.

Today it’s mainly appreciated as a nerve tonic and for its restorative properties.

Primary therapeutic constituents: flavonoids (including baicalein, baicalin, scutellarin, wogonin), volatile oil, tannin, bitter glycoside, fat bitter principles, sugar and resin.

Medicinal actions: sedative, nervine, antispasmodic, hypotensive.

Common uses: Anxiety, headache, stress, tonic for almost all disorders of the nervous system, insomnia, hysteria, convulsions, hydrophobia, epilepsy, neuralgia, relaxes uterine tissue, reliable calming action on an agitated mind, inability to pay attention, alcohol and drug withdrawal, epilepsy and chorea.

Skullcap has an affinity for the peripheral nervous system. Especially, “When one is experiencing colors as too bright, lights are too intense, and things are felt too intensely in general and they feel nervous inside; muscles are often twitchy; twitching during sleep; wants to crawl out of their skin”. ~ Matthew Wood1

“Skullcap is perhaps the most relevant nervine available to us in the Western materia medica. It effectively soothes nervous tension while renewing and revivifying the central nervous system” ~ David Hoffman2

Other specific indications: Lack of resistance to stimulation, headaches after stimulating meetings and events (can take preemptively). Nervous fear.

Technique: Extract, tea, freeze-dried leaves, smoking, massage oil, capsules.

A typical mild sedative is a combination of equal parts skullcap, hops and valerian root tea or extract taken 3 times a day, especially a half hour before retiring. Dosage information from The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra.

Skullcap seems to work best as a tonic when extracted fresh. Dried skullcap has a more sedative action.

Cautions and Contraindications: Considered safe even at high doses BUT, be sure to obtain from reputable sources – some reports of liver damage from cross-contamination. Can potentiate sedative medications. Avoid during pregnancy.

Taste: Bitter (mild), earthy, slightly sweet

Energy: Cooling, warming, drying, grounding, relaxing, restorative. Persons with a hot constitution feel the relaxing effects quicker – almost as a sedative. Cool constitutions enjoy effects as a tonic; restorative remedy.  

Educational Video by 7Song (a personal favorite - don’t miss it!). It covers botanical identification, useful species, wild crafting, medicine making and parts of the plant used. It covers uses of the plant as a nervine, sedative, skeletal muscle relaxant and how it combines well with other medicinal plants.



References:

The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, L.Ac., O.M.D. p. 194

Herbal Academy, n.d. Skullcap monograph. Retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/3047

The Earthwise Herbal vol II – A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood1. p. 323-326

The Modern Herbal Dispensatory – A Medicine Making Guide by Thomas Easley | Steven Horne. p. 301

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH. p.135

Medical Herbalism – The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffmann2, FNIMH, AHG. p.



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Windowsill In Winter

Saturday, February 1, 2020


Rosemary and her friends - Pepper, Marj, Reggie and Al are wintering over in the kitchen this year. They love this southwest facing window during the daytime. They look out and chat about the birds who come to hop around and nibble at the feeders. They watch the wind when it blows, the rain and the snow when it falls and they dream of springtime.

Truth be told, they’re spoiled now - being indoors. Every Sunday they go to the spa for a soothing chat with mom as she bathes them and they drink deep of clean warm water. It’s a good life if you can get it.

They know the days are getting longer and even though it’s just barely February their talk turns to the smell of earth warming in the sun. There is hope.

And… there is mom, sipping her tea, thumbing through seed catalogs!


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