Thursday, July 08, 2021

3 Categories of Skin Issues, Part 3 - Astringent Teas

Jamie Jackson MissouriHerbs.com
Originally published in The Essential Herbal Magazine 2017

Astringent teas work great for poison ivy, other contact dermatitis and some bites.  For example just pulling ragweed can result in a burning of the skin very similar to poison ivy, but can be worse depending on how allergic you are.  The myth is that this reaction only occurs in men, but I assure you that’s not true.  My favorite astringent tea for this is peach leaf.  Most of us are taught from the beginning that for poison ivy turn to jewelweed.


The problem with using jewelweed for me is that it doesn’t grow where my poison ivy grows, as most books state, and it’s rather hard to find.  Jewelweed works great fresh or brewed into a broth and then frozen into cubes for later use.  Neither of which is convenient when you don’t have a freezer, when jewelweed isn’t in season or can’t be found. For a time I used sweetfern (Comptonia peregrine, a deciduous shrub) brewed into a strong tea.   

By Fungus Guy - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12668609

This is fantastic, however it’s not native here and I couldn’t get it to grow.  



One night sitting up at 3am miserable with poison ivy and out of sweetfern, I looked through the window at the peach tree.  I knew it would work and it was fantastic!!!  For the serious reactions I get, peach leaf tea has worked better than all prior remedies tried and that is especially true of steroids.  Another thing I love about it is that it’s easy to dry keep on hand all year.


That is helpful for those winter bouts of poison ivy from bringing in fire wood. I did find that the spring harvested peach leaves didn’t work.  The leaves from my particular peach tree aren’t useful for skin issues until they are kissed by summer heat.  It’s possible that different peach trees have different levels of effectiveness and strength.  I dry the leaves at around 110 degrees till completely crumbly, then store in a glass jar.




Bring a jelly jar’s worth of water to boil, turn off the heat and put in about 2 tsp of dried crumbled peach leaves, cover and let it steep about 20 minutes, strain and cool.  If you don’t have any dried, then chop up a fat handful of fresh leaves.  Apply with a cloth or paper towel as often as it itches.  Keep the jar in the fridge between uses.  At some point the poison ivy rash will turn from orange/ pink, pustule oozing skin to red, dry and healing.  As soon as that patch of skin turns “new skin” red and dry, stop using the astringent tea in that area so as to stop any further drying out.  Keep in mind poison ivy can take 10 days to fully express itself, so when you are treating it the first few days, also treat all the surrounding skin and anywhere else you think you may have come in contact with it. The first day you’ll need to apply frequently, but as the day goes on and in the subsequent days, the frequency becomes less and less.  Use plantain salve on the new dry skin that appears. 

 


Now for the reason I wanted to write this… super chiggers.  There is a bug here that causes a bite similar to chiggers (red bugs) and that’s what most people think it is.  I’m not convinced.  It likes to bite around the ankles when you are not wearing socks and when I have on sandals, it bites the skin not covered by shoe.  This is completely opposite of a chigger who needs tight clothing or a shoe to push against in order to bite.  These bites are also completely annoyed by plantain salve, again the opposite of chigger bites which are soothed by the salve. 


 
They aren’t fleas, no-see-ums, sand ticks or any other bug I’ve researched. The bites always come in mass abundance and destroy the foot, ankle or if you have on socks and shoes, the upper calf area.  Peach leaf tea is a MIRACULOUS healer for these bites.  It also works better than plantain salve for regular chigger bites too, though salve is more convenient.  I apply every time it itches and after a few applications, the bites will weep orange pus. We’ve tried using an extract, but the alcohol stung and wasn’t as pleasant as the cool tea. 

For poison ivy, contact dermatitis, chigger and “super chigger” bites, a nice oatmeal and Epsom salt bath is helpful. 

Boil 3 cups of water, add ½ a cup of oatmeal and cook for the regular amount of time.  Strain out the oatmeal, saving the liquid and put that liquid in the bath with you along with about a cup of Epsom salts.  The bath should be neither hot nor cool, but just warm enough so that you aren’t cold.  Soak 20 minutes. I’ve heard of so many extreme measures being used to treat poison ivy and that includes severely hot baths, bleach and scrubbing the skin harshly.  Mistreating the skin this way is completely unnecessary and could lead to infection.  Be gentle with yourself. 

Sunday, July 04, 2021

3 Categories of Skin Issues, Part 2 - Vinegars

Jamie Jackson MissouriHerbs.com
Originally published in The Essential Herbal Magazine 2017

Vinegars
are great for burns and bee, wasp or hornet stings. 
From Susun Weed I learned to roll up burdock leaves like a cigar and put them into a quart jar of raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar overnight or until they soften.  Store them in the vinegar until they break down, which takes a long time. 


For wasps stings, the relief is instant.  You can re-use the wraps as long as there is no bodily fluid on them like puss or blood.  They wrap nicely around the hand, arm and leg and stay in place on their own. 
When they dry out, roll them up, put them back in the vinegar and grab another if necessary. We’ve also used these for sprains and bruises.  


Vinegar is also great for sun burns or when stung by a jelly fish. 
Mix half water and half vinegar in a bowl, dip a towel into the mix, slightly wring it out and lay on the burn.  I suppose that would make a nice burn spray.  When the towel is hot, refresh it by dipping back into the bowl. 
I have found this to work in all cases but one and that was a severe sunburn where the top layer of skin had already started peeling off.  In that case the vinegar caused pain and a thin paper towel soaked in cool water was all that could be tolerated to pull the heat out.  Vinegar infused with rose petals for 6 weeks is wonderful for burns, but if you don’t have that, just use raw apple cider vinegar.  

Every pantry should have a bottle. 

 

Saturday, July 03, 2021

3 Categories of Skin Issues, Part 1 - Salve

Jamie Jackson MissouriHerbs.com
Originally published in The Essential Herbal Magazine 2017

One of the first salves I made was a simple plantain salve.  Like most budding herbalists, I learned that plantain was good for cuts, scrapes, bites and dry skin.  Plantain did seem to work for most things when we were in upstate NY and I slathered it on any sort of skin issue I had except poison ivy. 

After moving to property in Missouri that borders a state forest, there is barely a day that goes by that we don’t have some sort of bite, cut or rash to tend to.  I figured out that plantain is wonderful for many things, but not everything.  Even when I wasn’t sure what type of bite or rash I had, they seemed to form patterns and fit into 3 general categories.  I’m not a clinical herbalist or formally trained, so this may be old news to some of you.  But I hope this helps others who have been taught that plantain salve is the be-all and end-all for skin issues.  


 For the most common skin issues, relief seems to fit into the categories of herbal infused oil based salves, raw unpasteurized vinegar or astringent tea.  Fresh poultices have been either a helpful supporter or the first to turn to for all of these categories, but today I’m not focusing on poultices.  




I normally use plantain salve for mosquito bites, small cuts and scrapes and for skin issues that initially fell into another category, but have almost healed.  The salve helps when you have a few chigger bites, splinters and for some stings if it’s all you have handy.  It’s nice for people with dry nostrils who use saline spray; just a thin layer in the nostrils can remove the urge to spray.  Plantain salve in the nose is also helpful when having an allergy attack. It doesn’t stop the sneezing, but slows it down while waiting for the goldenrod extract to kick in.  People who have dry skin, especially those that have to wash their hands all day, like using the salve, though Shea butter whipped with herbal infused oil and 1 – 2% sunflower lecithin works better. 

 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Green (Black) Walnut Liqueur - Nocino

 

There are so many things to do this time of year.  

I should be distilling elderflowers, or maybe making a folk champagne from them.  St John's wort is blooming and the calendula too.  Don't get me started about all the berries in the back yard that need to be picked at least once a day!

Another interesting thing to try is a liqueur made from unripe walnuts.  It is dark, rich, and often sipped as an after dinner digestif.  Here we are surrounded by black walnuts that have their own distinctive flavor, and they are just about ready, but as you can see, we're still on the last bottle of the 4 we made in 2013.  Aged to perfection. I'll probably wait until next year, but you don't have to! 

There are many recipes for "no-chee-no" and here are two. 

NOCINO RECIPE(S)

20 immature green walnuts, quartered
zest of one orange
1 vanilla bean in 1" pieces
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 liter vodka
Combine the above in glass jar for 4 to 6 weeks.

After that has steeped, make the following simple syrup:
3/4 c water
2 c sugar
(can add a little water if needed to create syrup)

Strain vodka well.  Combine with simple syrup.  
Age at least another 6 weeks.  Better to wait a year.


Using regular walnuts from Liquor.com

(In this case, all ingredients are combined at one time, cutting one of the waiting times.)
1 liter vodka
1 c maple syrup
1 c sugar
3 c toasted and crushed walnuts
zest of 2 oranges
6 cinnamon sticks
8 cloves
2 green cardamon pods, crushed
2 vanilla beans
4 star anises

Combine all ingredients in glass.  Steep for a month.  Strain well.  

There's nothing quite as pleasant as a perfect evening spent on the deck weaving lavender wands and sipping a little nocino.


 

Monday, June 07, 2021

Caprese Wonton Cups - and blog news

 If you follow this blog using Feedburner, that will be discontinued in July 2021.  See the bottom of this post for an alternative (and a treat).

Excerpt from Brunch Celebrations (May/June '21) The Essential Herbal SUBSCRIBE
Alicia Allen

Caprese Wonton Cups
12 wonton wrappers
4 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ c sour cream
2/3 c cooked bacon, chopped fine
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
½ c chopped tomatoes
1/3 c chopped basil
12 small basil leaves
12 center cherry tomato slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Crumble bacon. Mix all ingredients except wonton wrappers, sliced tomatoes and whole basil leaves.  Place wonton wrappers in greased muffin tin, one wrapper per cup.  Bake until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Cool.  Divide cheese and bacon mixture evenly among the cooked wonton cups.  Cook for 7 to 10 min until heated through.  Cool.  Top with a single basil leaf and cherry tomato slice per cup.

Don't they sound delicious?


Now for the blog followers
, to my knowledge, nothing other than Feedburner is changing as far as I know, but that means you will not be notified of new blogs. 
If you haven't signed up for our free newsletter "Just the Essentials" this would be a good time.  Every couple of weeks I put together a small and timely sampling of what one might find in the magazine.  There's usually something medicinal, something culinary, and something fun and seasonal. To keep it interesting, we add a special sale from time to time.  

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Elderflower fritters

Elderflower Fritters

excerpt from 5/23/21 "Just the Essentials" free newsletter.  Subscribe with your email address on our website - www.essentialherbal.com



When I was a little kid, I lived down the road from 4 girls around my age in one family – the Caterbones.  Their mom was a really good cook.  There was often a spot at the table for me.  Mrs. Caterbone made corn fritters, delectable nuggets of sweet corn held together with light batter, and served with King’s Table Syrup. 

We make fritters with lots of spring flowers, because we can!  Violets, dandelion, rose petals, and now elderflowers become the ingredient of honor.  They make a nice side dish for a holiday meal or brunch.  They’re ready for Memorial Day here.  They are a simple, elegant and memorable treat.

Choose nice full embels.  I separate them into smaller pieces, according to how they grow.  Often the stems are left on the flowers so that they are easy to maneuver.  Rinse them well and give any critters a moment to escape. Pat dry.
Note:  small amounts of stem, especially cooked are safe to eat.  

Mix up the batter.  I like a thinner batter for elderflowers, to let the flavor through.
1 c flour
1 t baking powder
2 eggs
 ½ c milk
½ c water
1 t vanilla extract (omit for savory fritters)
 ½ t salt  
Mix until smooth and free from lumps.
Heat about 1/4” of oil in a frying pan.
When it’s hot, dip elderflowers in batter and fry until golden brown. 
You will need to flip them, so hopefully you have thin, pliable stems.  Otherwise, snip and flip.
Drain oil on paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Yesterday Cindy Jones of Colorado Aromatics suggested adding lilacs to drinking water for flavor.  That put a bee in my bonnet, and I sprinkled some lilacs over the battered embels on the way to the frying pan.  Very tasty.   It has me thinking about adding all kinds of things to the batter.

I really like the lightest sprinkle of 10X sugar, but some might prefer some nice rose or violet syrup drizzled over the fritters.  It also occurred to me while I was making these today that it might be interesting to add a teaspoon or two to the liquid portion of the recipe – rose, orange blossom, etc.

They really are a delicious treat!
If you have leftover batter, fry some batter-dipped sage leaves.