Friday, January 18, 2019

The Healing Power of Herbs - Released!

In early July of last year I started writing, and here we are in the very beginning of the new year already printed and released.  I LOVED this schedule.  It fit between magazine deadlines! I really like the way the book turned out, too.
Here are some visuals (because I have talked enough about this)...

Click on the image to read!
It is now available.
You can purchase it from The Essential Herbal
It is available on Amazon
Ask your local bookstore to get a few copies!  Keep those bookstores alive!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Free back issue to download!

Initially, I shared this issue to thank folks for sticking around while I posted incessantly about the new books (see the end of post).  It was very well received, so I'm sharing it further.  It's a couple of years old, but still an excellent example of what we do here.  Please enjoy, and if you like it, share it!

What book, you ask???
 The Healing Power of Herbs!

Available on Amazon
Or on our website

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Warm Up with Ginger

Ginger  (Zingiber officianale)
Mary Ellen Wilcox
Mar/Apr '12 Essential Herbal Magazine

      The legends of the ancient world abound with stories of the magical powers of spices, ginger being among them.  It grew extensively in China, and was one of the spices revered by Emperor Shen-Nung, founder of Chinese medicine, who lived in about 2800 BC.  He consumed large quantities of ground spices each day to preserve health and prolong his life.

      In 550 BC Confucius advised his followers not to eat any food that was not properly flavored with spices.  Ships traveling between ports at that time carried pots of fresh ginger to prevent scurvy among the sailors.  In early practices of Chinese medicine ginger was recommended as a heart strengthener.

     In early Hindu medicine ginger was used to treat liver problems, rheumatism and jaundice.  Given the approval of Islam, it was mentioned in the Koran as a medicine.  The Greek physician Dioscorides referred to ginger’s warming effect on the stomach as an aid to digestion and an antidote to poison.  The English have always been taken with ginger.  Henry VIII ate huge quantities of it to protect against the plague.  American Indians made a decoction of root ginger for stomach upsets.  Ginger is part of many cures for the common cold.  One is a blend of ginger, white horseradish, hyssop and coltsfoot.  Another is a mixture of ground ginger, cinnamon, mustard seed and cayenne pepper  made into a paste with honey.  This is smeared on a piece of flannel and is placed on the chest and covered with warm clothing.  This is said to relieve chest congestion.

      To enjoy the soothing powers of ginger, make a tea:

2-1/2 cups water
½ oz. bruised ginger root or powdered ginger.

   Put the bruised root or powder in a pot and pour boiling water over it.  Let set for ½ hour, strain liquid, and allow to cool.  Take 2 tbsp. at a time.

   In addition to the medicinal attributes of ginger, it is used extensively in cooking and baking, and is available in several forms.  Fresh ginger is the type sold in grocery stores.  The smooth skin is tan colored.  The texture is crunchy with a strong scent.  Do not buy ginger with wrinkled skin, as it will not be fresh.  To store fresh ginger, wrap it first in paper towel, then tightly in plastic wrap.  It should keep this way in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.  Preserved ginger is cooked and packed in heavy sugar syrup.  It can be used in baking or is delicious spooned over fruit.  Crystallized ginger, also known as candied ginger is cooked in a sweet syrup, cooled, and coated in sugar.  It can be nibbled as a candy, or added to cookie recipes.  Ground ginger has a different flavor and is not as pungent or strong.  It should not be substituted for fresh gingers.  It is excellent for  gingerbread, spice cake,  or gingerbread cutouts at Christmastime.

     Ginger is grown in several locations around the world.  In their travels the Portuguese planted it down the coast of Africa, so now it is produced in Sierra Leone and Nigeria.  Further afield, it grows in Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and China.  The Spanish planted the rhizomes in Jamaica.  Jamaican ginger is considered the finest in the world.  The majority of ginger imported to the U.S. is from Jamaica.  England and the U.S. are the biggest users of the spice.

Some ginger recipes:

Molasses Loaf

8 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup walnuts

   Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Mix together the butter, molasses and eggs.  Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt into another bowl.  Stir in oats.  Gradually mix in the molasses mixture and sour cream.  Fold in raisins and walnuts.  Spoon the batter into a loaf pan.  Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out on rack and cool.

Nectarine Chutney

10 large nectarines, pitted and quartered
2 large apple, chopped
Grated rind of 3 lemons
1 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1-1/2 cup raisins
2 inch piece fresh ginger root, bruised
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cup white wine vinegar

   Put the nectarines, apples, lemon rind and juice, sugar, walnuts, raisins, ginger, garlic, peppercorns, cayenne, cinnamon and half the vinegar in a saucepan.  Stir well and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the remaining vinegar and continue simmering, stirring occasionally for 1-1/2 hours or until the chutney is thick.  Ladle into jars.  Label and store in refrigerator.

Ginger Walnut Biscotti

2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped

   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend.  Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl.  Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time.  Add the flour mixture an beat just until blended.  Stir in walnuts and ginger.

   Form the dough into a 13-inch long and 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake until light golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Cool 30 minutes.

   Place the log on the cutting board.  Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices.  Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet.  Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes.  Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.  Store in airtight container for up to 4 days.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Slough Off the Old, in With the New You

Cathy Calfchild
Jan/Feb 18 Essential Herbal Magazine

Winter has a terrible way of making our skin suffer so, from wind burn to dehydration, lack of vitamin D.  Not to mention all the covering up one must do that doesn't allow our skin to just breathe, no wonder after the winter season our skin is looking a little worse for wear. 
It's nice to include a simple facial scrub that is gentle enough you can use it daily or a couple times a week as needed. Very easy to do with few ingredients and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. Since this scrub is completely natural with no preservatives you must keep it in the fridge and use up within a week. It is for this reason we only make small batches. If you need to use it up, it can also double as a scrub on rough parts of the body as well.

Honey Nut facial scrub.
1 tsp dried lavender buds
1 tbsp raw peanuts
2 tbsp raw honey

If you have a nut allergy you can replace the nuts with soybeans or even powdered peach or avocado pit. It is best to use raw because of the natural oils contained within the nut that will be released once you purée the nuts and add benefit to your scrub.

- Powder lavender buds and set aside.  Powder raw nuts in a coffee grinder until you get a smooth consistency.  Any nuts can be used.
- Combine two together until you get a powdery mealy kind of texture. Kind of like when combining shortbread and it's crumbly but can hold together when you clump it together.
- Add two tbsp of raw honey as it will have healthy properties not boiled off in the heating process of pasteurization.  Combine all together until it forms a nice thick paste.  Keep in a small glass jar covered.

- When applying to the face it's important to remember that adding fingers to the container introduces pathogens and contaminates the scrub, so it's always best to take a clean teaspoon and take a level amount onto your hand and disperse it all around your cheeks, chin, nose temples and forehead. Avoid eye area.
-You might also find that this scrub drags a little from the honey, so what I do is add a touch of warm water to the tips of my fingers, you only need to moisten them a little bit and then rub the scrub in circular motions all around  your face for about 2 minutes. 
- Wash off using a warm cloth as it's very easy to remove and since the ingredients are powdered, it won't clog your drain.
- If you find your skin needs more oils, then add half a teaspoon of grapeseed oil and thst should also take care of the dragging issue and you won't need to moisten your fingertips.   I wouldn't put a high end oil in this as it is a wash off product and those expensive oils would be best as a leave on serum instead.
Happy scrubbing.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Over a Dozen Ways to Use Up Some of That Christmas Tree

We gathered up some ideas from over the years of The Essential Herbal Magazine.  If you have a nice, natural tree, keep some of the needles and use them for something to use, or keep and remember until next year!
Here are some great ideas:

From Marcy Lautanen Raleigh  
If you have a pine-phobic in your household here is a great way to make them more pine friendly by seeing the benefits of pine.
I will start with tea you can make with Balsam Fir needles.  Use a heaping teaspoon of fir needles and rose hips in a large mug and cover with water (about 8 to 10 ounces.)  Allow to steep for 10 minutes and sweeten with honey.  This tea will relieve congestion, if you drink 2 to 3 mugs of it during a day.
If you want to ease congestion but do not enjoy the flavor of pine, you can make a balsam steam too.  Add a cup of two of snipped fresh needles to a pan of water and bring to a simmer.  Drape a towel over your head and lean over the pan inhaling the steam for several minutes.

If you enjoy the scent of pine, you can make hot pads stuffed with needles.  Cut a square of cloth about 6 to 8 inches square.  Sew three sides and place some wool or 100% cotton batting inside.  Add ½ cup pine needles to the hot pad.  Sew the final side closed, then stitch or quilt the center of the hot pad to keep the needles from bunching up together.
You can also make these recipes to give as a gift during the winter season.
Sore Muscle Soak
This is a blend of herbs and pine I have been making since early in my business.  It is great for relieving aches and pains, especially those from decorating the house!
1/3 cup Epsom salts
1/3 cup baking soda
1 Tbls. lemon balm
1 Tbls. Pine needles
1 Tbls. Chamomile
1 Tbls. peppermint
5 to 10 drops peppermint essential oil
Combine all the herbs and salts, then add the essential oil.  Place the materials in a muslin bag or a square of cloth tied with string. 
To use: Hang the bag below the tap and allow water to run through and dissolve the salts, releasing the herbal oils. Soak until the water cools and begin to feel the healing.

From Kristine Brown
(If you cut any branches from the tree, you most likely have some sap.)

Pine resin, also commonly known Pine pitch or sap, has antibacterial properties and can be used fresh from the tree or melted into a salve base for treating wounds, sores and insect bites. Native Americans mixed the pitch with tallow to make a salve, which they applied on wounds caused by splinters, boils and external ulcers. Pine resin is very drawing and can help remove splinters, glass slivers and other imbedded material from the flesh. The resin can also be tinctured and great for treating colds, coughs and bronchitis by using 5-10 drops at a time. Resin is often chewed to soothe a sore throat or persistent cough. The resin can also be applied directly to wounds and cuts as an antiseptic band-aid, making it a great wilderness first aid plant to know. The resin will keep out germs while facilitating healing and easing pain.
Infusing the resin into oil creates a healing oil for soothing sciatica pain and sore muscles, as a chest rub for respiratory complaints and on skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The oil can also be massaged onto sprains and strains, bruises and rheumatic conditions.

From Janet Gutierrez
Bohemian Prairie Alchemist

I like to take my pine and cedar needles infuse in Olive oil for about 4 weeks and make my, Winter Tree Balm.   You can also heat infuse on low for 2 days, (no higher than 120 degrees on and off in a crockpot). Fill a jar with as much needles as possible. You must make sure that there is no moisture on the needles. A dry/warm day is best to strip the branches. Then fill with the olive oil. You will use this as your base and add enough beeswax to make a salve or balm.  1.5 cups of oil to 2 oz of Beeswax.

From Sandy Michelson
The Frugal Herbalist
How to make a basic salve after you've infused the oil with pine, fir, or spruce needles:
Use a double boiler or make one with a Pyrex measuring cup in a pan of water.
Pour infused pine oil and beeswax into the measuring cup. (1 T wax per 2 oz. Oil)
Place measuring cup in water and heat until wax is melted.
Pour into clean jar to cool.
Label jar.

Pine Simple Syrup (recipe from The Merrythought)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh chopped edible pine needles
Add ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and let steep for at least 2 hours. You can leave it overnight. Strain mixture through a cheesecloth and then refrigerate the syrup until you’re ready to use it. (Up to one month.)

WARNING: Please be sure that the pine you are using is edible. Do all your research to make sure you have properly identified the tree. (Ponderosa Pine, Yew Tree, Australian Pine, and Norfolk Island Pine are all poisonous when ingested.)
***Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not consume ANY pine.
And, as always, make sure no herbicides have been used on your tree.

From Tina Sams
The Essential Herbal
Make Sachets and Pillows
My favorite needles for these are Balsam Fir and Concolor Fir.

They both have outstanding scents.  Gather the needles off the branches, and lay them loosely in a box or basket so they have a chance to dry.  For a pillow, you'll want to make it very full and taut, and the scent will last for a very long time.  My sister took a trip to Maine as a girl scout (a couple score ago, and I still remember!) and brought home a balsam fir pillow made with a sturdy off white fabric, with a picture of fir stamped on it.  I coveted that relaxing and beautiful pillow!

Make a Vinegar
Fill a jar with chopped needles, and cover with vinegar.
Allow to steep for several weeks.

Strain and use in any way you'd use a culinary vinegar.

Make Christmas Tree Shortbread
Follow the instructions for Confetti Shortbread but swap pine needles for the rosemary and flowers. If you have a pine tree cookie cutter, wouldn't that be perfect?

Make a Pine Needle Basket
I've done this in the past with white pine - which are shorter than those shown in the video  White pine needles are about 4 to 5".  It's fun!

This is a basket I made several years ago NOT using good directions.
There are lots of ways to use them outside, too.  Whole trees can be used as a shelter for wildlife or chipped up to be used as a mulch.  Our municipality will mulch trees for several weeks after the holidays are over, and then allow people to pick up seasoned mulch in the spring.

Please note:  It's very easy to be confused about hemlock, because there are two very different plants.
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), is a poisonous herb in the carrot family that bears a striking resemblance to Queen Anne's Lace, and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) the native North American tree in the pine family which grows widely here in the eastern US and Canada, and is the state tree of my home state, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sneak Peeks from the New Books

It's always good to know what you're getting into before plunking down the bucks, right?

Well, I'm going to share a little taste of each book below.  Links to pre-order (Jan 15 release) at the end of the post!

From The Healing Power of Herbs by Tina Sams:

2 1/4 c water
1/2 c pine needles cut into 1/2" pieces

And from The Herbal Medicine Cookbook by Susan Hess with a little help from yours truly:

Pre-order The Healing Power of Herbs:
Pre-order The Herbal Medicine Cookbook:

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Winter Respite Bathing Herbs

This is a BONUS Recipe.  It is not in the new book The Healing Power of Herbs, but you will learn many things like this.  See below for ordering information.

The book will be released January 15th.
Also, there are 5 ingredients although I say 4 in the video.

We used approximately equal parts (1/4 cup) of:
 - Oatmeal
 - Coconut Milk Powder

 - Epsom Salts
 - Mint (dried)

 - Rosemary (fresh, because it was available)
Use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per bath.

Pre-order The Healing Power of Herbs here:
coconut milk powder -
tea bags and magazine -


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