Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rose Water


    My mother-in-love brought a sample of lotion to me.  She had found it at a craft fair in Rhode Island sold by a local herbalist.  It was scented with rose water and rose essential oil.  Could you make this, she asked?  Hmmm!  Rose essential oil is extremely expensive but, rose water, that I could do.  Rose water is mildly astringent and is often used as a toner.
     And then it hit me.  As I rounded the corner of my house the thick scent of roses filled the air.  It is June and my rose bush is in full bloom.  Think with bud and blossom this year.  A rose bush my mother-in-law gave me a few years back.  She calls it a cemetery rose.  It grows easily and in abundance.  It spreads quickly if not kept in check.  I pull the spreading shoots regularly and often just like my mint patch. I do not use any chemicals on my roses (or any of my plants for that matter).
     After a perusal of my many books I found several recipes for making rose water.  I have made two batches to date and now have a cup, that's right an entire eight ounce cup of rose water.  I started by pulling the petals from the flower and adding them to my canning pot.  I pushed the petals to the our circle of the pot and placed the canning jar rack in the center.

  I added six cups of water and then placed a bowl on top of the rack.  I covered the pot with the lid placed upside down and brought the water to a boil.  I then turned the heat down to a low simmer and placed ice cubes on top of the lid.  As the steam rises it condenses on the lid, flows to the center and drops into the bowl.  I let this go for about 20 minutes.

     In the bowl was a half cup of rose water.  I bottled it in a mason jar.  Uncapping it the scent smells just as the flowers in my garden.  As more roses blossomed I repeated the process.  It looks like I will have one more harvest this year.  I'm planning to make a limited edition batch of rose lotion.  The first jar is going to my mother-in-love.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Beauty Routine

     When I was a little girl I would sit and listen to my mom and the neighborhood woman talk.  I learned very early if I sat quietly I could stay and listen.  I soaked up all of their stories, experiences and wisdom.  I took them into my being and learned a great deal from their lessons.  I knew that experience brought wisdom and would listen for those nuggets of gold.
     When I was a new teenager my friends and I started experimenting with make up.  One friend had a make up party and I'll never forget what the sales women said,"take care of more than just your face or your face will look great and the rest of you.... moisturize your neck as well or it will look like crepe paper when you are older."
     I attended numerous make up parties in those early years and tried many products but the basic routine was the same no matter who was pushing their product - cleanse, tone and moisturize. I very rarely wear make up now but I still cleanse, tone and moisturize.  The only difference is that now I make my own.
     The soap came first. After a soap making class I never bought soap again.  And call me cheap, lazy or what have you but I use soap to wash my face every morning in the shower.  I can't be bothered with multiple steps.  And to be honest my soap does wonders for my skin.
     Next came toner.  I was at a herb fair and bought a bottle.  I loved it and attempted to duplicate the recipe at home.  I'm happy with the results.  It took a while to get the portions down but the blend of calendula infusion and witch hazel soothes the skin, cleans the pores and leaves my skin ready to drink in moisturizer.
     My face and body lotion sprang from my need to know what I was putting on my skin. It is deeply moisturizing and my skin has never looked better.  I've discovered at shows that people try the lotion sample and are surprised that it is a face cream as well.  Advertising has done a great job of making us think we need separate products body, face and eyes.  I simply find this not to be true.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nettles - Today's favorite herb

      My favorite herb changes almost daily.  There are too many to pick just one but today it is nettle (Uritca dioica). For weeks now she has been my companion and I am breathing easier because of it. She is known as stinging nettle and she is a fierce ally. She offers herself for nutrition, medicine and beauty. I was gifted several plants this spring and am hoping they form a nettles patch so I can experience her gifts more frequently.
     In the spring her young shoots can be cut and eaten as a vegetable.  The greens are great in soup or made into a pesto.  They are high in vitamins, minerals and protein.  Nature's multi-vitamin as I sometimes call her.  She can restore overall energy and vitality because of this.
     Her leaf and seeds is an excellent tonic to the kidneys.  She increases urine production and the elimination of metabolic waste and uric acid.
     Her leaf is safe for pregnant and nursing mothers. She stimulates milk production.  Her astringent and nutritive qualities are helpful for women with heavy menstrual flow or who feel tired, lethargic and stressed.
     Nettle tea can be used as a hair rinse for humans and dogs.  It is helpful for dogs that have red, irritated hot spots.  For your own hair nettle leaf tea or vinegar can improve hair color and texture and remove dandruff. It can be used as a rinse for healing sunburns and insect bites. Nettle leaf tea taken orally can be useful in chronic skin problems such as eczema, boils, abscesses and hives.
     Research by the US, Germany and Japan have all found that nettle root has value as a medicine for benign prostate hypertrophy (enlargement).
    And all of these things are wonderful but what really excites me is that I was able to spend a weekend at my girlfriend's farm without so much as a sniffle.  I have spent years with her at the barn - tissue in one hand, eyes red and watery, stuffy and unable to breath.  I'm not sure if it is the horses, the hay, the dust or a combination but it does a number on me.  Not this time.  I didn't stand at the barn doors in the refreshing wind that keeps the sneezing at bay.  No, this time I was able to spend time in the barn.  And for that I must credit Nettle.
     In the winter months I switched from coffee to Tulsi and as spring approached a little voice said add nettles to your morning brew.  I have finally started listening to that voice.  Nettle is a great spring tonic after all.  She reawakens the life force that has hibernated all winter.  And that she did.  But, what I had forgotten is her aid in treating allergies including hay fever, especially when started a month before allergy season.
     Nettle is considered safe to add to most diets.  Those taking insulin, anticoagulants, antihypertensive or diuretic medications should consult their health care provider as they could potentiate their action.