Monday, September 30, 2013

Toner and Sugar Scrub

     Fall is the season I come alive both figuratively and literally.  I was born in October in the wee hours of the morning.  It seems to have set the pattern for my life. I am a morning person.  I wake early and create what I need to before most people (or most people in my house) are awake.  That may be cleaning, cooking, medicine or beauty products.
     Saturday morning I was up making a fresh batch of toner and vanilla sugar scrub.  For the toner calendula flowers need to steep in hot water a few hours.  The water is deeply colored from the orange blossoms.  I mix it with witch hazel.  I use this daily as part of my beauty routine.

     The sugar scrub is a combination of coconut oil and sugar.  I usually add a few drops of essential oil but this time I used vanilla sugar.  Any time I use vanilla beans I take the pods and stick them in a jar of sugar.  This infuses the sugar with flavor and a heavenly scent.  I often use this in cooking for added flavor.  In one of those middle of the night inspirations I thought to put it in the sugar scrub.  Yum!  It smells divine.  The sugar makes it a gentle exfoliater as opposed to a salt scrub.  It can be used any where on the body.  I'd use a little caution on the face though I tend not to use it there.  Friends who have tried the sugar scrub have come up with additional uses. I have one friend who uses it on her bikini line after shaving to prevent those little red bumps.  I must say I was skeptical at first but it really does the job.  Another uses the scrub on his dry itchy psoriasis patches.

      I also started three batches of tincture.  These will be steeped for six weeks and are part of a menopausal formula.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Autumn Olive

Last year my hubby mentioned we had to small trees growing on the bank of our front yard.  He thought our crabapple had spread its wings.  This year as they grew it was obvious they were not crabapples but some other fruit barring tree. One I was unsure of but soon discovered was an Autumn Olive. By this time I had already popped a berry or two in mouth and determined they were pretty good.  They weren’t completely red at this point. It’s an invasive plant I was told.  Now, I knew where to look.  I pulled out my book Invasive Plant Medicine by Timothy Scott and there he was. Steve Brill’s name kept popping up as well.
Elaeagnus umbellate meaning sacred olive tree is from the Greek elaia (olive tree) and agnos (sacred).  The tree originates in China, Korea and Japan and was brought to the United States in the 1800s along with the Russian Olive as a supplemental food source, ornamental use, as a fast growing wind break and as a nitrogen fixing crop.  The Autumn Olive is found throughout  the eastern half of the United States and the Russian Olive is found more in the central and Western United States. 
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the stems and leaves are considered bland, cool and associated with the liver. They dispel wind and dampness, reduce swelling and stagnation. In Western Medicine the fruit is considered antimicrobial and an antioxidant.  The berries contains vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E, beta-carotene, lycopene, boran, calcium, carbohydrates, protein, chromium, copper, fat, fiber, folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, tryptophan, and zinc. The lycopene levels are up to 17 times more abundant than in raw tomatoes.  Research has been done in use with cancer.  A USDA study has shown the berries inhibit the proliferation of human leukemia cancer cells and human lung epithelial cancer cells.
As a food the berries can be made into jams, jellies, and preserves, made into fruit leather, or cooked with other foods.  In Asia an alcoholic beverage is made from them.  This year our trees are loaded with berries. I read that when they are completely ripe you can run your fingers over the berries and they will drop right into your bowl.  This morning I tested that theory and harvested 16 cups of berries in about 15 minutes. Leaves came with the berries as I rolled them off the stem and into my bowl.  Tapping the bowl gently brought the leaves to the top and were easy to pick out once I was done collecting what I needed. I left plenty for the birds and animals and a few more harvests.  From the grasses matted down in front of the tree I believe Mama Bear is enjoying the fruit.
The berries are the size of a small blueberry.  They grow in clusters.  They start out green and turn a deep red.  Today’s harvest was mixed with some orange juice, cinnamon, clove and honey and cooked into a jam. It was my own variation of one of Steve Brill’s recipes.  I then ran it through the food mill to get rid of the seeds.  I ended it up with 7 cups of jam canned and ready to enjoy later.  I have a half jar to enjoy today with supper.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Lip Balm

     I remember making pomanders as a kid.  A bowl full of whole cloves, an orange and some ribbon for hanging it was such an easy craft and smelled so good. It was a simple gift for a child to make and give.

     I read a recipe recently for a lip balm using that same scent combination.  I ran with the idea using "my" recipe and organic essential oils of sweet orange and clove.  It smells yummy.  And the vitamin E and carrot seed essential oil make it oh so good for your lips. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the coming of autumn.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why I do what I do

Why did I become an herbalist?  How could I not?  It really was a long time coming.  I love to learn.  Most people read a book or take a class when they are curious – I usually get a degree.  Life changed and I couldn’t afford to keep going to school for the fun of it and I started taking classes here and there.  Several were classes on herbs and I loved them.  It fascinated me that I could step out my door and pick a few weeds and heal myself.
This brought me back to childhood.  I remember my grandpa pointing out different plants in the woods behind our house that were good to eat.  I love pointing those same plants out to people on hikes.  Grandpa also had a huge garden.  He had the regular lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash but he also had peas, beans, and parsnips among many other things.  It was great.
And grandma was a nurse.  She was forced into retirement before I was born but her passion filled her.  She was a healer.  She hoped I would follow in her footsteps.  I have in so many ways.  And her maiden name was Weed.  I dedicate my materia medica to her.
The doll my Grandma bought me as a little girl.

So, I started on this path of learning the weeds, the plants and their healing properties.  And then I became a Mom of four.  I fell in love with a man with full custody of his four children.  I was involved while we were dating but took on full responsibility at our wedding and beyond.  I even said vows to them on our wedding day.
I was determined to feed them well and to feed them nutritiously.  I learned a lot on that journey.  Busted a few preconceived notions that I had about healthy along the way.  They went from missing days and weeks of school to having perfect attendance.  A cup of tea became the first line of defense at the onset of something.  Immune boosting herbs were simmered in soups and spaghetti sauce.  We would sit down together every night for supper and I would start by telling them how many bay leaves and astragalus roots to beware of. I love to cook and garlic and onions are my go to.  Herbs of all kind are mixed in with our food.  Eating healthy is eating well.
I took formal classes with Rosemari Roast of Walk in the Woods.  I took informal classes every chance I got.  I read book after book after book.  I love to read books that require a highlighter so this was and is fun for me.  She introduced me to the New England Women’s Herbal Conference and I have not missed one yet soaking up everything I could.  I bring my daughter’s with me as well.  I have attended a few International Herb Symposiums and I mustered the courage to attend the Advanced Herbal Class at Sage Mountain Retreat Center headed by Rosemary Gladstar.  I have met many wonderful people, teachers and mentors along the way.  With their support I opened my business.  I wanted to expand my gifts beyond my family and into my community.
To combine my love of cooking and nurturing people with the herbs and healing is a joy I can’t even describe.