Saturday, October 02, 2021

Winter Teas and Cake

I presented a talk at the PA Tea Festival last week about Teas for Winter Wellness.  It put me in the mood to gather a few blends to share.  While I was at it, a bit of cake seemed reasonable too!
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Sage and Ginger Tea
This tea is terrific for clogged sinuses, or post nasal drip that leads to nausea and a sore throat.
5 or 6 nice sage leaves
1 sprig of thyme
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1” of ginger, very thinly sliced.
1 T honey
1 pint of hot water

Steep together for at least 10 minutes. 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. 

Note:  Licorice root immediately soothes inflamed mucous membranes.

Flu Fighter
Lots of anti-viral activity here:
3 t Holy Basil
2 t Elderberry
2 t Elderflower
2 t Peppermint
1 t Ginger c/s (not powder)
Use 1 heaping t per cup of tea.  Steep for 5 to 10 minutes

The Big E’s
2 parts Echinacea (root, leave, and flower)
2 parts Elderberry
1 part Yarrow
1 part Peppermint
¼ part Eucalyptus
Depending on how much of this you’d like to make, you can use teaspoons for parts, or tablespoons (or more!) 
It’s a good blend to support your body in cold and flu season. 

Banana Apple Bread with Persimmon and Walnuts
A delicious spicy fall bread that's more like cake, this goes great with a cup of tea, served warm or cool.

2 lg. ripe bananas
1 c persimmon pulp
1 c. sugar
1 egg
4 T butter, softened
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 t each, salt and baking soda
1 apple diced small
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan; set aside.

In a bowl mash bananas and persimmon together.  Beat in sugar, then egg and butter. In another bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking soda; add to banana mixture and stir just until all flour is moistened. Add apples and nuts; stir just until well mixed. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 60 minutes. Center will be very moist.  This is why persimmon breads are often called "pudding" but it is perfectly delicious.

If you don't have persimmon, you can just add another banana or some applesauce to make up the difference.

We're looking forward to long sleeves and warm socks, hot drinks, and lots of soups and stews.  Every season has something delightful, and after this past summer, I think almost everyone is happy to turn that page.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Shaming of Home Herbalists

 I am a home herbalist. 
That means that my goal is having the knowledge to offer first aid on things like skin issues, burns, bug bites, etc., and to soothe symptoms of self-limiting illnesses.

Home herbalists can help with sleep, anxiety, and lots of (mild) mood issues.  We can ease the pain of over-used muscles, cramping, indigestion, and nausea.
In short, there are hundreds of issues that we can address.  We know that if they don't improve or worsen, we visit a doctor or a registered clinical herbalist.

We use years of learning, generational knowledge, and intuition. 
Generally speaking, we do not come at this to cure ourselves from some life-threatening illness.  It's just knowledge - like why you add an egg or baking soda to a recipe.  

I've spent the last 30 years working with home herbalists, the last 20 publishing a magazine for home herbalists, and the last 10 writing books for home herbalists.  This life's work was intended to help those who didn't have family showing them plants or teaching them to use chamomile or ginger for their tummies.

Over the last decade, we're being repeatedly told that what we know isn't good enough.  In order to sell classes, new terms are being created to describe that which we all do without even thinking about it.  

Two things happened that really brought this to a head for me yesterday.
I opened an email selling a class that told me that books that (paraphrasing here because I deleted it) list which herbs are good for which issues are not good books.
Imagine having the hubris to say that.  Shame on anyone who wants to trash the books written by virtually everyone who came before them, and taught almost everyone how to incorporate herbs into their lives.

Then I posted on a couple Essential Herbal social media accounts, asking what was the first herb used, and why.  Not one person mentioned their constitution or the taste of the herb (unless it was for food).  They said a relative taught them or that the same place that sent me the email suggested "use this herb for that" - which I found pretty ironic.

I'm sorry to see herbalism being contorted for money.  I hate to see it being complicated so that people feel like they have to spend a fortune to learn it, especially at a time when there is so much information available freely at everyone's fingertips.  I'll keep plugging along, teaching anyone who will listen that they can learn it themselves, one herb at a time. 

I stand by the books I've written, and the 20 years of magazines we've published.  

EDIT:  After speaking to a friend who has been teaching the tastes of plants for over 25 years - to home herbalists - I must add that constitutions and flavors are indeed valuable and can really help people choose which herbs to use. 
My point is that we all come to herbs armed with our own knowledge and learn more each time we come in contact with the plants.  It's even great to take classes and learn more. 
If someone needs to put other herbalists down in order to sell classes, you might want to think about who you're learning from.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Pick As You Go Tea/Tincture

On a quick walk around the yard, I gathered a gang of great herbs for winter, and added just quick listings of their properties.  

Thyme -anodyne, antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, carminative, diaphoretic, disinfectant, expectorant, sedative, and tonic.  
Lemon Balm - antidepressant, antispasmodic, antiviral, antioxidant, carminative, nervine, nootropic, sedative
Sage - antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmotic, astringent, antiviral, carminative
Rosemary - analgesic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antirrheumatic,  antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral,  carminative, digestive, diuretic, emmenogogue, mild laxative, nervine, neuroprotective, stimulant, tonic, vulnerary
Echinacea - antibacterial, anticatarrhal, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antitumor, antiviral, astringent, carminative,  digestive, fever reducing
Elderberry or flower - Properties Flower:  antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, diaphoretic,  diuretic.   
Berry: antiviral,  diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative.  The berries contain proteins that make cells slippery so that viruses cannot attach and replicate.
Horehound - antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, digestive, demulcent, hepatic, stimulant, tonic, bitter, astringent, laxative, sedative.
Goldenrod - antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, aromatic, astringent, bitter, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulating, tonifying and vulnerary
Lavender - analgesic, antidepressant, antifungal, antioxidant, antiviral, diaphoretic, diuretic, nervine, vulnerary

There are a lot of ways that you can have these ready for winter!
They can all be used in tea blends (although horehound is an "acquired taste").
With the addition of things like honey, stevia, or licorice root (especially if a sore throat is present), you might be amazed how delicious the tea is!  
A few nice blends:
Lemon Balm


Holy Basil,

But personally, I make a big jar that includes everything and mix it all up.  You almost can't go wrong!

Another way to quickly put together something for the winter is a blended tincture.  To do this, you'd simply chop up everything you find to use, and add it all together to a jar.  Cover with alcohol, and you're set!  It's always a good idea to have some of them separate, too.  Lemon balm and goldenrod are useful for other things, so keep a little of them out to make alone.  And of COURSE a big jar of holy basil!

Monday, August 23, 2021

September/October 2021 Essential Herbal Magazine



Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
Rubbing elbows with herbies again, what we’re up to, and some business.

About the Cover a bit about New England Asters

An Apple a Day Keeps the Herbs in Play, Alicia Allen
Apples in everything from salad, tarts, muffins, dinner bake, and so much more!  For instance:  Bacon, Apple, and White Cheddar Grilled Sandwiches…

Uplifting Coffee Cardamom Lip Balm, Jessicka Nebesni
Mmmm… the scent of coffee, right under your nose!

A Really “Cool” Way to Dry Herbs, Dennis Mawhinney
You may not have tried this method for your herb preservation.  Yet.

Book Excerpt - Winnie of the Dell
A new fictional book about a young herbalist is coming out soon.

Nighttime Beauty & Medicine: Evening Primrose, Kristine Brown RH(AHG)
All about Evening Primrose, and how to make an infused oil and salve.

Goat’s Milk Oatmeal Lavender Soap w/ Honey, Marci Tsohonis
A luscious skin-loving soap to make.

Planning Ahead for Christmas from the Garden, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
A whole gang of ideas and instructions/recipes to make for gift giving.

Seasonal Favorites, Kathy Musser
All kinds of wonderful flowering plants that you’ll want to consider planting to come back year after year.

The Plant Family Solanaceae, Jackie Johnson ND
A family of delicious foods and some not so harmless cousins.

Rediscovering Traditional Alchemy & Spagyric Medicines, Sarah Akala
Spagyric medicines are becoming more known in the US.  The process is involved, with distillation, reducing herbs to ash, and blending all parts back together. 

On Our Travels, Maryanne Schwartz
Old fashioned apple dumplings!

Meet our Contributors
A little about the folks so generously sharing their knowledge.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Old Sage Apothecarian Virtual Conference '21

 This 2 day conference is pretty exciting (and the early bird special is good for 11 more days).
Have you been thinking about learning to make soap, lotions, and salves?  Do you already make them, but want to up your game?  How about learning more about business? 

As shown above, I'll be demonstrating Balms & Salves.
Maryanne will be talking about her 20 years of soap wholesaling, and sharing the peaks and valleys.
Lotion Making, Distilling Plants, Choosing your Target Market, Business Roundtable, Soap Coloring and Design Techniques, Whipped/Cream Soap, Soap Dough, Elderberry, and Livestreaming will also be covered.  I'm sure I probably missed something. 
You'll get to network online and ask questions.  AND if you choose the option to purchase the recording, you will have it for a full year, to practice along with us or listen to the business ideas a few times. 
Visit the website today to see if it's something you need!  I hope you'll join us.
Click HERE

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

We're back with wings! (new stuff)

 I didn't realize how long it's been! 
It took a while after my sister had surgery to get things back in gear, but here we are.
There are a few things to show you that are new.
The first one might be a little weird to some, but we just couldn't resist when something so beautiful and special showed up.

Find them HERE

Next, these were made a while ago, but I went looking for them in anticipation for the Black Walnut Botanical Conference over this past weekend.  It was HOT for the first half.  I was shocked to find how many we had, so here they are!

SO cooling to wear around the neck on a hot day! 

Check them out HERE

A bunch of new scarves went up on the site yesterday too! 

There are about 30 more up on the website, so take a look at them all!  Click HERE
They are so comfy when the weather get a little cooler.

Tomorrow I'll stop by to tell you about a Virtual Soapmaker's Conference coming up in September!

Thursday, July 08, 2021

3 Categories of Skin Issues, Part 3 - Astringent Teas

Jamie Jackson
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,

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.