Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Ode to Calendula



 ODE TO CALENDULA
excerpt from May/June '13 article TEH
Marci Tsohonis

Midsummer is only a few sunrises away.   After a terminally gray winter and an unpredictable spring, I am as eager as a honey bee to begin harvesting herbs and flowers.  In just a few weeks my favorite herb flower, Calendula, will be hard to keep up with.   I celebrate using the last of my stash of dried Calendula to make Calendula Castile soap. I make this soap in honor of the summer solstice every year. Castile soap has a reputation for being “difficult” but I have never had a failed batch.  It is a mild soap, gentle enough for use on toddlers.  The Calendula petals add a beautiful, random play of color to cold process soap.  Even the heat of the gel process will not fade their color.   


 Calendula is considered a solar plant because the petals open to face the sun when the sun is out, and close up slightly towards evening or on cloudy days.  Full-on, all day sun is just what Calendula needs to thrive.  I am up with the birds every day during the growing season, dead heading our Calendula plants.  If you are growing Calendula for the first time this year, know that every one of the prolific open blooms must be picked at least every other day, or they will quickly go to seed.  However, you’ll find that Calendula is well worth the trouble.

Calendula has been loved by herbalists through the centuries as a remedy for wounds and skin conditions.  It has anti-inflammatory properties and resolves bruising beneath the skin.  Aerial parts of the plant, tinctured, are excellent first aid for wounds, preventing infection and hastening healing.  The dried petals, prepared with boiling water as a tea (and cooled), are a first rate wound wash, and soothing to scalds. 
Creams made with Calendula oil soften the skin, soothing eczema and helping to keep the skin nourished and supple.  Calendula makes a beautiful, soothing salve for chapped hands, nicks or scrapes.

DRYING CALENDULA FLOWER HEADS:
When I harvest Calendula flower heads, I leave a half inch stem attached, making it easier to press the whole flower face down on a screen for drying.  As I flatten it, I gently break off the remaining stem.  If the weather is warm, the flowers should be almost weightless, dry and crispy in less than a week.  Each petal will shrink to half its width.  You’ll be able to tell when they are ready.  Once they are dry, hold the flower head and gently pull outward at the edges of the petals to remove them from the head. 
Calendula flowers dry beautifully on a rack or screen in a warm, covered, shady area when given plenty of air circulation.  I press them onto a screen in our garden shed, and leave the windows ajar to promote air flow.  A garage would work, or even a covered patio that is out of the wind.  I sometimes notice bulk Calendula flowers for sale in natural food stores, stuffed in jars every which way, in a brownish tangle.  They lack memory of the life force when handled that way.  When carefully dried, they are a joyous addition to a summer Potpourri.

NOTE!  If you see something resembling worm larvae in either the finished oil or soap, it is most likely just a Calendula seed!  Simply lift it out with tweezers or a spoon. It is easy to inadvertently pull a seed off the head when you are removing the petals. I found several the first time I made the infused oil.  The seeds are a somewhat curly, crescent moon shape.

SOLAR INFUSED CALENDULA OIL:
This is my favorite method.  Fill any size jar half full of dried Calendula petals.  Pour Olive oil over the petals, filling jar to within 2 inches of the top of the jar.  A little headspace is needed as the petals will expand once they become saturated with the oil.  (an overflow is quite messy) Stir the oil and petals a few times.  Cover the top of the jar with a double layer square of cheesecloth and apply the screw band (or a rubber band) over that.  Place in a sunny, south facing windowsill for at least 6 weeks.  Stir contents daily.

HURRY-UP CALENDULA OIL:
Place dried Calendula petals and olive oil in a crock pot.  I suggest you use a Rheostat/Light dimmer to regulate the heat setting on your crock pot.  Alternately, take the temperature of the oil frequently, turning the crock pot on or off, to ensure the oil temperature is maintained between 100 and 110 degrees for several hours.  The crock pot method works well, though the oil will not be quite as resinous as it would be using the solar method with a longer infusion period.


RESINOUS, FRESH CALENDULA OIL: 
I don’t use fresh infused Calendula oil in soap recipes, generally, though there is no reason you couldn’t. It is more work to make the oil, and the yield is not as good.  But this is a special oil.   Alcohol frees and dissolves the resin in Calendula, adding medicinal properties to the oil that you would not be able to access with water or plain oil alone. I’m including the recipe, while I’m up, because it makes a highly resinous, healing oil, courtesy of the late Michael Moore.  He stated that most of the Alcohol evaporates during the cook.   Some expert herbalists consider the scent from the trace of Alcohol remaining in the oil to be unpleasant.  Others swear by this method.  You’ll need to make that call for yourself.

Want to try it yourself?  Fill a food processor with cut Calendula heads.  Little bits of stem are fine to add as well.  Pour 1/8 to 1/4 cup of 100 proof Grain Alcohol over them.  Process briefly, long enough to chop the Calendula and distribute the Alcohol.  Allow to sit several hours.  Transfer ingredients to a blender.  Cover with Olive Oil.  Blend on “Chop” until Calendula is finely diced.  Scrape contents into a crock pot.  Maintain temperature of oil & herb mixture at a range of 100-110 for 8-12 hours. Strain thoroughly through Cheesecloth or old t-shirt, squeezing every last drop of this incredible oil.

TO INTENSIFY OIL COLOR: Annatto Seed (Achiote Seed) is a natural colorant that can give your soap a gorgeous yellow-orange color, just like cheese or butter. For a light to medium yellow, heat Annatto Seed and Olive Oil 1:4 in the crock pot or on low heat on the stove burner.   Upping the ratio of seed to oil will deepen the color.   What appears to be a yellow colored oil may turn to more of an orange color once the soap has been processed in the mold, especially if you allow it to gel.  For some reason, Annatto oil turns darker in soap that has gelled than in soap that hasn’t.  If you don’t allow your soap to gel, keep the Annatto seed to oil ratio on the light side.  Too much Annatto will bleed out into the lather as the soap is used.  

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Cheese "Cookies" with Herbs

While we're busily working away on the May/June issue, here's a little taste of the current issue...

Cheese Cookies with Herbs

Rita Richardson

Need an easy, go to idea for drinks or cocktails that is tasty, simple to make, freezes well?
Why not try herbal cheese cookies. 
On the spur of the moment a friend asked me to bring a "nibble" for drinks before dinner, nothing too heavy. I trolled  the Internet for a minute or two and decided on making these ultra simple cheese cookies but I also planned to "herb them up" a bit for added flavor. 
Cheese Cookies with Herbs

1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup flour
1 cup shredded cheese
1 dried herb like thyme, rosemary
Or
Press a leaf of parsley, snip of chives,a frond of fresh dill into cookie dough ball
Mix the butter, flour, cheese and thyme, if using.
Form into small balls and place on a cookie sheet.
Flatten slightly with a fork.

 Add the fresh herb if you are using them now.
Chill these for one hour then bake in preheated 400 oven 15-20 minutes.
Cool or serve warm or freeze and warm as needed.

Other herb suggestions-
Mix 1 t of dried thyme or dill into the dough
Roll balls in powdered sage or minced herbes de Provence
Dust dough balls with cayenne or smoked paprika
Roll balls in grated Parmesan cheese
Make a batch of these and store in the freezer, reheat in 400 oven five to seven minutes.
Nice to have on hand and a clever take on cheese and crackers.

Editor's Note:
I made these exactly as listed and they're great.  We're big soup eaters around here, and breaking one or two of these over the top of the bowl is wonderful!  Same goes with a good salad, and for a smaller family, making these and freezing them means that there's always some great cheesy garnish around.
I also *had* to play with the recipe, because I'm wired that way.  Adding one egg and a little more flour (1/4 c) turned these into something like a super cheesy oyster cracker.  I love them both!

( With Spring right around the corner, these might be interesting with additions like minced weeds - garlic mustard, dandelion petals, nettles, or anything interesting that catches your imagination! )



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mar/Apr '17 Essential Herbal

We had a great time putting this issue together.  Such fun and informative articles!  For some reason, we had the time to make most of the things inside, and enjoyed every minute of it.  We think you will too!  You can subscribe today on our website.  I expect to run out of this issue before May/June comes out, so don't wait too long.


Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams   
     Before we get too busy planting, read about the new things happening with TEH.
About the Cover
     Debra Sturdevant is the artist of this issue's cover. 
A Peach of an Herb, Kristine Brown
     Did you know that peaches offer us good medicine in addition to deliciousness?  You will.  

Cheese Cookies with Herbs, Rita Richardson
     Elegant, tasty, and oh so versatile nibble.   
 
 Delights of Travel, Maryanne Schwartz   
     Can any of us visit a new part of the country (or world) and not be enchanted by the flora?
Making Your Own Deodorant, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
     We've already made and fallen in love with this recipe.   
Growing with Kathy, Propagation, Kathy Musser
     It's time to get those seeds started.   
List Article, That ONE Herb
     What would you choose if you could only have one?  

 Plant a Rainbow in Your Herb Garden, Julia Scheid
     We often overlook beauty when planting our medicinal gardens.   
Sage - Beyond Turkey, Jackie Johnson
     Read this, and you'll need more than one plant and several varieties!   
Salt Dough - Not Just for Christmas, Cathy Calfchild   
     A craft that can be used year round.

Graceful Solomon’s Seal, Ruth Davis   
     This beautiful woodland plant is well worth encouraging and propagating for its healing properties.

 Louisiana Lagniappe, Easiest Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies, Sarah Liberta   
     Who doesn't need a quick and easy go-to recipe to wow guests?
The Beginning, Angela M. Dellutri
     We all have some story of how we were led to herbs.  This is Angela's.   
Chives, Sandy Michelsen   
     If you're not growing herbs now, you'll want some of these useful, carefree, and cheerful allium.
Urban Gardening, Molly Sams
     Sometimes the best intentions just aren't enough - but there's always next year.   
Carmelite Water, Susanna Reppert Brill   
     Try this traditional, historical recipe using the herb of the year!

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Homeopathy vs Naturopathy



Do you know the difference?  It's pretty important because they are nothing alike!

I was just reading something, and someone wrote about using apple cider vinegar in their “little homeopathic repertoire.”  This is closely akin to nails on a chalkboard for me.
Homeopathic medicine isn’t easy to explain, and I’m no expert.  Still, maybe I can help a little bit.  To create a homeopathic remedy, they begin with 1 part of the remedy ingredient, and 100 parts of a diluent.  This mixture is succussed for a specific period of time, and then 1 part of THAT is taken, and added to 100 parts of the diluent, and succussion is repeated.  For a 6X remedy, that is repeated 6 times.  For something like 30C, (I think) it is 3000 (30 x C), but for a full explanation, check here:
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathic_dilutions
The higher the number of times it is repeated, the more potent the remedy.  Professional strength is much, much higher.  In the end, it is the essence of the remedy and it would be like trying to find a molecule of that substance in a swimming pool of water.  You could take all the little pellets in a vial, and not overdose or even get sick.  But if you get the right one, it can instantly correct a problem.  This is highly contested, and some call it quackery. I've used them successfully.  I don't argue or try to convince anyone, though.
One remedy that is fairly well known is Rhus Tox, and it is used for poison ivy.  It IS poison ivy.  The theory boils down to “Like Cures Like.”  That means that you choose a remedy that would if given in normal quantities cause the symptom.  Taken a step further, it is thought that the body exhibits symptoms asking for that which would normally cause those symptoms.

So…
That is VERY different from Naturopathic medicine.   

Naturopathic encompasses a whole range of alternative healing modalities which, ironically, even includes homeopathy!  Typically it might involve herbs, massage, Reiki, nutrition, acupuncture, meditation, and any number of other means of regaining health.

These terms can’t be used interchangeably.  They are nothing alike.  If you are going to use either one – use it correctly because it really is important.

Friday, February 03, 2017

5 Herbal Winter Remedies Every Home Needs

Essential Herbal Magazine readers probably know these remedies, and many other ways to stay up and at 'em over the winter time.  Even with the best preventative care, we all catch a bug sooner or later.  When we do, or even just suffer a little discomfort from the dry winter air, it's good to know some simple ways to take care of yourself.

We hope you'll try some of these.


1. Fire CiderWe make this every year, and have counted on it to ward off viruses, heartburn, and all kinds of aches and pains in our home. You don't really need a recipe.  Get a quart mason jar.  Add a chopped onion, a few chopped garlic cloves, a few cayenne peppers, and a few inches of horseradish and the same of ginger.  Chop up a lemon and/or orange.  Cover with good apple cider vinegar and use a non-metal lid (or line lid with waxed paper) for a few weeks.  Strain and add 30 to 50 percent honey.  Or, put your feet up and watch Rosemary Gladstar make it!



2.  Elderberry Syrup:
I refuse to enter winter without a goodly supply of berries and myriad preparations made with them.  They kept me virus free for 3 years when I absolutely could not bring an illness into the house, and that was all the proof I needed.  Here's my recipe...

3 cups fresh (I use frozen) elderberries (or 1 - 1 1/2 cups dry)
1 lemon sliced
1" or more of ginger, sliced
6" cinnamon stick broken up or 1 tsp powder
4 or 5 cardamom pods
I add a few inches of vanilla bean for no other reason except flavor.


If using fresh or frozen berries, add a cup or less of water to the ingredients in a pan.  If dried, add 3 cups of water.  Simmer very gently for an hour.
When you've been exposed to someone sick, take 1 T several times a day for 3 days.  That's the same thing to do if you start coming down with something.

This recipe will work even if the only thing you use is the elderberries.  The rest of the spices and lemon do have purpose, but the elderberry is great on its own.


3.  All Purpose Salve

Things get pretty arid in the winter, and our skin shows it.  Our lips, faces, hands and feet are the worst, but elbows, knees and all kinds of patches of skin need help. This salve is also very nice for scratches and scrapes.  In the spring it can help with stings, bites, and rashes of many sorts, too.

Recipe:
¼ oz Plantain
¼ oz Chickweed
¼ oz Calendula flowers
6 oz olive oil
2 T beeswax
40 to 50 drops Lavender essential oil

Combine the herbs and olive oil & simmer 25 minutes; strain herbs. Add beeswax, stir until melted. Add essential oil. Pour into containers and let cool.
Note: You can use one or all of the above herbs - or none at all. 


4.  Warming Winter Tea
There are several reasons you might want a specific tea in the winter. 
Sore throats can be a problem.  In my part of the world, sage, thyme, and horehound are all still doing well in the garden, even if they're covered by snow.  I have to be in agony to add horehound to a tea - but it will do the trick.  Usually its this:
5 or 6 nice sage leaves
1 sprig of thyme
1/2 lemon
1 T honey
1 pint of hot water
I don't remove the herbs, but use a licorice root stick to push them out of the way.  This is really a delicious tea.



For cough and colds I add
1 T chopped fresh ginger root

1 t elecampane root (dry)
1 t slippery elm bark
to the sore throat tea.

As with the recipes above, you can use as many or as few herbs as you have on hand to help with the situation.  For sore throat, I'd suggest especially the sage.  For the cough/cold, ginger and elecampane (with lots of honey).

5.  Colds/Cough Syrup
Roots and Barks Syrup:
3 or 4 nice pieces of osha root, broken up
2 T elecampane root (dried, chunks)
6" licorice root, broken up
6" cinnamon stick, broken up
1 lemon sliced
1 or 2 inches ginger root, chopped coarsely
handful fresh horehound (probably about 1 Tbsp dried)
handful fresh thyme (1tsp dried)
1 T wild cherry bark
Add 3 - 4 cups water to the ingredients in a pan.  Simmer very gently for an hour.


Once you have the decoction prepared as described above and have strained the roots and barks well, you can proceed in a number of ways.
Method One - Sugar
Add 1.5 parts sugar to 1 part decoction.  So if you have one cup of liquid, you'd add 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar.  Combine and heat to a rolling boil.  Hold for three minutes.  Cool and bottle.  The sugar acts as a preservative, but I refrigerate the syrup for longer shelf life.
You can also add about 10% 100 proof alcohol to further preserve the syrup if you'd like.
 Method Two - Honey
For a syrup made with honey (local please!), you would use 1 part honey to 1 part decoction.  For a honey syrup, I really like to add a little alcohol to increase the shelf life.  The honey syrup shouldn't be boiled - just add the honey to the warm decoction and stir to blend thoroughly.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Just some pictures...






I made these up for our facebook page.  If you need to enlarge them to read, just click on the picture and it will pop up. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Women Herbalists (Series): Lydia Pinkham



Women Herbalists:  Lydia Pinkham

The Essential Herbal (www.essentialherbal.com) Mar/Apr ‘12

While Lydia Pinkham might not be at the top of the list as a famous female herbalist, I think she appeals to me so much because of business savvy and because her business began as a family enterprise.  Her Vegetable Compound continues to be produced today.
   
Lydia Pinkham lived from 1819-1883 in Lynn, MA.  To better understand her success it helps to have a little bit of background on the medical history of that time.   The beginning of the century medicine was in a “heroic phase” of purging, bloodletting, and blistering.  This was the common treatment form everything from pneumonia, hernia, to amenorrhea.  Emetics, leeches, lancets, harsh purgatives were all used with a free hand for any ailment.   And then in addition was calomel (chloride of mercury) a powerful cathartic.  Therapeutically useless calomel broke down the intestines into a virulent mercurial poison.  It produced a violent laxative effect and profuse salivation as the body continued to rid itself of the drug.   Continued use lead to softening of the gums and mucus membranes and loss of teeth.  These treatments continued through to the middle of the century and into the end of the century by older docs.
 
In addition to purging, puking and bleeding, Doctors of the time were creating an anxiety within women of the weakness of their sex.   The concept of the delicate wife or the woman taking to her couch with the vapors was played upon. Menstruation was seen as an infirmity.   In addition physician’s odd treatments of prolapsed uterus, leucorrhea, menstrual pains or menopause lead women to feel they had little to gain with a visit to the regular doctor. 

As people were gaining a mistrust of “regular” doctors, other medical theories were being developed.  Samuel Graham (of Graham bread and crackers) was lecturing on diet. Thompson studied with a local yarb and root doctor and learned of Lobelia inflata, Indian tobacco, leading to his theories of disease “heat is life, cold is death” and his Thomsonian School of medicine.  Then Hahnemann came with his theories of “infinitesimal dose” and his homeopathy school.  
 
 Lydia Pinkham began selling her compound in an era marked by medical controversy, public dissatisfaction with the medical profession and an obsessive concern with woman’s weakness.    Lydia Pinkham had been making her compound for years and giving it to friends and neighbors.   Her family had the idea to sell the Vegetable Compound when her husband a speculative business man hit financial ruin in the “Panic of 1873”.  It was a true family business sons working on promotion and advertising, daughter turning over her paycheck to underwrite the business, Lydia did the manufacturing and so the business of  “Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound” began.

Promotions began with circulating flyers door to door in small towns and larger cities.  The return on the investment of the printing and time spent circulating was not worthwhile so the Mrs. Pinkham bravely took out a four page ad in the Boston Herald for close to $900.00.    Sales soared!  The company continued to print advertising in newspapers and magazines, hiring agents and eventually having an in house advertising agent for over 60 years. The advertising expenditures for 1900 were over $770,000!   The company also produced a variety of booklets on such topics as Home Dressmaking or War time Cook and Health Book as cleverly camouflaged advertising.  In 1920, 11 million booklets were printed and the company built their own printing press to do so.  Part of the advertising campaign encouraged woman to write for help with their health.  Advertising that “Mrs. Pinkham regards every letter as a Sacred Message” and that “No man will ever see your letter”, thousands upon thousands of letters were received and a bevy of young women hired to write standardized responses.
from my collection
 The company certainly went through its share of problems through its 100 year history.  By 1905 a steady barrage of criticisms were being leveled at patent medicines hurt business.  Major magazines such as Ladies Home Journal and Colliers were printing articles with such titles as “The Great American Fraud”.  Patent Medicine Counterfeiters were fairly common to the industry.  The Passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1911, whose slogan “Let the Label Tell” required proprietary medicines to list ingredients which cut down on quackery.  While the Vegetable Compound needed to change its labeling and its healing claims, this led to an era of prosperity for the company.  Family squabbles occurred and in the 1930’s-1940’s, with all of the original family deceased, there were numerous court battles among the cousins for control of the company.   The 1940’s changes were brought on by the Federal Trade Commission, American Medical Association and the FDA, the company adapted and complied. 

In 1950, sales hit below the two million dollar mark for the first time in a decade.  Lydia Pinkham was now an old woman in old fashioned clothes.   Druggist’s described the consumer of the Vegetable Compound as well over 30, mature, less educated and in the south or cities often Black.  The company created a fictitious and modern Ann Pinkham but in the end did not respond astutely enough to changing times.  In 1968 the company was sold to Cooper Labs and moved out of the country.
from my collection
  In 1980, when I first began giving garden tours in the herb gardens of The Rosemary House, when I spoke of pleurisy root as one of the ingredients in Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound invariably there would be a woman say “a baby in every bottle” a carry over from one of their stronger advertising campaigns.  Now, at the mention of Lydia Pinkham I am faced with blank stares.  While today it seems easier to find a bottle of her Vegetable Compound in an antique store then in a pharmacy, I still admire the woman behind the compound for her shrew business sense and for her willingness to talk about female issues honestly and forthrightly.

The original formula of Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound   was based on John King’s American Dispensary.
For 100 pints:
8 oz Unicorn Root (Aletris farinose)
6 oz Life Root (Senecio aureus)
6 oz Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
12 oz Pluerisy Root (Asclepias tuerosa)
12 oz Fenugreek Seed (Foenum graceum)
Suspended in alcohol
 
Susanna Reppert Brill, The Rosemary House, Mechanicsburg PA

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin