Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tea Recipes from May/June '16

If you're a subscriber, you've seen Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh's article offering TWENTY ONE tea recipes to help build a tea habit.  We loved it so much that Maryanne put each blend into its own box and laid it out on the center spread of the magazine.  This created a challenge for the imposition department at the new printer, but it also allowed us to catch it on the first round, and address it.
Two of the recipes were a little crimped.  They are as follow:
 Day 4 - Soothing Throat Herbal Tea.  The ingredients are all clear.  Text reads, "In describing it to a friend once they wrinkled their nose thinking it would be "strong."  She stated she expected it to taste like menthol or something.  She was surprised when it had a "lovely, soothing taste" instead."
Day 18 - Summer Season Tea
1 part chicory root
1 part blackberry leaf
1/2 part rosehips
1/2 part lemon grass
1/2 part hibiscus flower
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch powdered ginger
1 broken piece of cinnamon stick (about 1 inch)

Now to be perfectly honest, I expect that anyone who has spent any time working with herbs to be perfectly at ease with the way it came out, and not have any questions at all - but for anyone new to herbs, it seemed like a good idea to straighten this out.  There are some spectacular tea blends in Marcy's article.

If you haven't seen the issue, you should really think about subscribing!  Visit us at The Essential Herbal.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Friend in Need...

I am running a fund-raiser for a friend of over 45 years.  We have a GoFundMe Campaign set up, but since there doesn't seem to be a good way to show the incentives, and we've gotten some nice ones, I intend to show them here.

The quick story is that my friend Patty Sigman has worked hard her entire life, but she's waving the white flag right now.  In the middle of her second bout of cancer (breast before, now multiple myeloma), she found her beloved husband Mark unresponsive 8 days ago.  He's been disabled from Lyme disease for several years, but now it looks like perhaps myasthenia gravis was also working away on him.  He was disconnected from life support 2 days ago, but seems to be rallying.  And she's handling all this while on chemo herself.
I could go on and on about what a wonderful person she is, but will settle with this:  we have been friends since we were 13, and have never had a cross word between us.  Now, that isn't my doing.  It is hers. 
So on to the incentives!  Please order them from the campaign link in the first sentence.  I'm providing their website links so that you can get the details AND because you should look around these websites whose owners have been so generous.
First, we have a truly wondrous bath powder from Nature's Gift and the container will last for 15 to 20 baths.
Richly infused with pure Rose Otto, well... read about it here:  Rose Bliss Bath  

Next, we have some amazing oil-free organic face magic!  From Lillian's Organics:

Read all about it here: Superfruit Smoothie

We also have a NEW, as yet unreleased book by Gail Faith Edwards (mine's already on order!) that is long awaited by the herbal community "Herbal Pharmacy - The Art of Herbal Medicine Making"
It will be shipped in early May, and you can read all about it on the Blessed Maine Herbs site!

I have personally put up several books, subscriptions, and also the violet sugar scrub we made last week -
Maryanne put up soaps, and is working on some jewelry.  We will be adding more as things come in, so follow us to see what's new.

Just FYI - it doesn't seem like I can assign more than one incentive the same price, so I have to add a dollar here and there to avoid having 2 $20 incentives (for instance).  For something like this, I'm not going to fret about that, but wanted to let you know why we're doing that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rosebuds. Gather them.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
  by Robert Herrick

John William Waterhouse, 1909 - Gather Ye Rosebuds

I woke up on this fine spring morning, thinking about a friend who's been gone for a while.  But I'd forgotten that in the moment, and was thinking about our days as roommates (often among many in a big house), and how on such a morning we'd find a way out of working and come up some other way to spend our day.
We'd hike in the woods, or decide to drive to Philadelphia and take in museums for the day.  We'd grab a bottle of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill, and dare each other to go skinny dipping down at Suzie's Hole.  Maybe we'd round up the boys we were dating at the time and include them in the shenanigans, but either way, we'd have fun.
As I lay there, not quite ready to leave those memories behind for the day, I realized that although I do miss my friend, more specifically, I miss the things that only she knew about me.  I miss the person I was then, and I miss us.
Yesterday I got a brief lecture from my daughter on my health because she thinks I need to ____, ____, and ____ more.  It's hard to explain to 25 that 60 sometimes feels like your car stalled on the tracks and the train was on time.
That's probably why I woke up thinking about my friend, and all of our days together.
I offer this advice to anyone willing to listen:
 As spring fever hits this year, get a good case of it.  Drink it in, bath in it, and give yourself to that wild abandon.  It doesn't happen very often, and it sure as hell doesn't last forever. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Bit of a Runaround

by Molly Sams

Today was a pretty special day for me. It has been one year since I met my partner in mayhem. We decided to celebrate as I guess many kids do by going on a hike. We went to my favorite hiking spot - Chickies Rock. Unlike other times however we went on a path we had never seen before. Now, this trail is not one I would suggest. I'm pretty much covered in scraps and the boy passed out as soon as we got home. But the memories we have and the pictures I risked life and limb to capture make it all worth it.

Spring Beauties!

Some pretty fungi. Lots of garlic mustard, already in bloom.

We climbed up the rock face.

Is that trillium I see?! Or Jack?
I guess we'll have to come back to see them in bloom.


Jack in the pulpit, and maybe toothwort at the base, next to tiny jewelweed.

Hey Jack! 
Massive Skink Cabbage
The brave young man checking the drain for trolls.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Symbolism of Flowers

                                      Marita A. Orr (May/June '08 issue, The Essential Herbal)

May Day Tussie Mussie

    Flowers and herbs have been used for thousands of years as food, medicine, shelter, clothing, divination, and spiritual work. They have played a crucial part in the history of mankind. It is interesting to read about the many uses of plants from the times of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, through the Middle Ages, and right up to the current time. I like to think that plants not only connect us back to the earth, but to our ancestors as well, and consequently back to our authentic selves.
    Human beings have used flowers and herbs with the intent of shifting their world for thousands of years . Since earliest times people believed that flowers and herbs have been endowed with magical, mystical or divine properties. They also were seen to possess an in-dwelling spirit or soul which determined each shape and form, way or habit of growth, and purpose in the world. There has been a great movement toward honoring and rediscovering the ancient ways of flower and herb magic, alternative medicine practices have embraced their healing powers and are becoming increasingly more common.

     From the beginning of recorded time flowers and herbs have been used in ceremonies. The occurrence of pollen around bodies in ancient burials suggests that flowers were being buried with bodies as offerings for the dead as far back as 80,000 BC. Bunches of herbs have been found in mummies hands. Papyrus scrolls give comprehensive accounts of sophisticated gardens. In the old days herbs, or simples as they were sometimes named, really meant any plant. The Romans brought large numbers of herbs to Britain and they plant them around their houses and all the monasteries had large herb gardens. Some of them can still be see today in England. Hippocrates revealed over 400 plants in the 4th century which could be used in medicine, about 200 of these are still used today.

     The "Doctrine of Signatures" has been an idea of herbalists for centuries, but it did not become part of the medical philosophy until the middle of the seventeenth century. In uncomplicated terms, the "Doctrine of Signatures" is the idea that God has marked everything He created with a sign (signature). The sign was an clue of the reason for the creation of the item. The Doctrine states that, by watching, you can establish from the color of the flowers or roots, the shape of the leaves, the place of growing, or other signatures, what the plant's intention was in God's design.

St John's wort
     The magical properties of flowers and herbs have been tied together for centuries in love spells, healing flower remedies, and to send messages between lovers. Assigning significance to different flowers first became popular during Victorian times, when courtships began with much less immediate personal contact, and communication was presided over by very firm and complex communal system. With rising complexity of flower symbolism and the language of flowers, handbooks were written to guide the understanding of flower meanings. The first book written on flower symbolism in modern times was Le Language des Fleurs by Madame Charlotte de la Tour in 1819. The most popular book on flower symbolism, is Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers (1884). Some of these characteristics have stayed in place, such as red roses for love, and white for purity. The majority fell out of fashion over the years. With renewed awareness in gardening though, these symbolic meanings are now more stylish then ever. The next time you receive flowers, look closely. There may be a concealed meaning, in the flowers themselves.

rosemary blossom

    Intent is and remains the first factor of the hidden powers that exist in every human being. With the right intent, we can work miracles. With the appropriate intent, we can project ourselves and our energy. As you learn the properties of each plant and use them you will wonder why you planted any other way. When you decide to plant with intention you will never plant the same again.
    I love to put the plants together in containers. They are easily moved and cared for. I also love giving them to those that I love. Everyone could use a container of flowers and herbs that can bring a wealth of harmony into your life or a pot of protection or love to be bestowed upon them.
Here are flower and herbs to get you started:

Plants for love-, Balm of Gilead, Basil, Betony, Catnip, Cinnamon, Cinquefoil
Coriander, Elder, Elecampane, Gardenia, Red Geranium, Hyacinth, Ivy, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon Verbena, Meadowsweet, Myrtle, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rose, Spearmint, Thyme, Valerian, Vervain, Violet, Yarrow

Jason Spring from with his groovy partchouli

Plants for protection-Acacia, Aloe, Angelica, Anise, Basil, Betony, Birch, Burdock, Cactus, Caraway, Cinnamon, Cinquefoil, Comfrey, Coriander, Cypress, Dandelion, Dill, Dragon's Blood, Elder, Fern, Garlic, pink Geranium, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, Hyacinth, Hyssop, Lemon Verben, Marjoram, Mugwort, Mullein, Myrrh, Nettle Leaves, Oak, Onion, Rosemary, St. John's Wort, Thistle, Vervain, Willow, Wormwood

Lemon Verbena

Plants for prosperity-Allspice, Almond, Basil, Bergamot, Chamomile, Clover, Ginger Root, High John, Honeysuckle, Mint, Peppermint, Rosemary,

Greek Columnar Basil
 Plants for healing-Flax, Heliotrope, larkspur, thistle, comfrey, yarrow, sage, fennel, tansy, speedwell, garlic, onions, wintergreen, cucumber, anemone.

 ~This is just a small list of what you can find out there. I hope this can give you some ideas.
    People have been always been captivated by flowers. The emergence of blooms at the same time each year was a living demonstration to the power of nature and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Flowers call to mind the principle of understanding magic, remind us of other objects by their shape or color. Their fragrance evokes memories of other times and places in our minds. As colors have come to symbolize dissimilar facets of life, flowers have also take on these magical associations. Most people are conscious that each flower and each color of flower has its own meaning, even if they aren’t aware of very many of these meanings. You can also plant certain color gardens to attract a certain purpose. This is a widely acceptable practice.
White-Purification, protection, peace, service, innocence, truth, wisdom, sincerity.

Valerian blossoms

Pink-Love, friendship, work, creativity, honor, morality
Red- includes pleasure, desire, vitality, will to win, love of sports and the survival instinct. Strength, Faith, Courage, Sex, lust, Vitality, Passion, Communication.
Orange- creativity, confidence, intuition, friendliness and the entrepreneurial spirit. Friendship, learning, stimulation, strength, energy, enthusiasm, authority, luck, adaptability, attraction
Yellow- enthusiasm, cheerfulness, sense of humor, fun, optimism and intellectuality.

yellow sweet clover

Green - Money, healing, abundance, determination, will, luck, fertility, growth, employment, finances
Blue- for Healing, patience, intuition, comfort, love, joy, happiness, tranquility, meditation.

blue vervain

Violet - the psychological quality of transformation, transmutation and the balance of power and love. Additional meanings include charm, magical abilities, spirituality, gratitude, healing severe diseases, meditation
Black- Exorcism, banishing, Healing severe diseases, absorbing and destroying negativity.
    You can research for hours on end to find historical information. You can read books on mythology and plant lore too. Spend countless hours on the internet. There are many resources out there for gathering this information. You will have to gather it though. Two authors that had accurate information and a reasonable amount of flowers and herbs are the late Scott Cunningham and Ellen Dugan. Matthew Woods books are great too! He gives you more insight on the spirit that lingers within the plant as well. Although these may be considered pagan authors, and may not be accepted by all, their work is superb. It has checked out in many plant history and lore reading materials. Their works area great starts. You may not even need to go any further.
    The best way for you to experience the magic is to sit with the flowers and herbs. Understand them. Make it a personal experience. You can even ask them for what you need. Be open to what they have to give. If a plant excluding a weed unexpectedly grows in your garden, make a note of it. Things materialize for a reason and it may be that you or someone you know is in need of the healing characteristics of the plant. It could just be that your garden is in need of a little healing as well.  
Remember most importantly that you need to rely on your intuition. I hope that you will enjoy the prospect of intentional planting and begin practicing it today. It is very enjoyable and exceptionally healing.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Violet Sugar Scrub

The yard performed one of her many yearly feats of magic the other day, and turned blue and purple, with many dots of bright yellow.  For over 20 years that has been the signal for Molly and me to spend a couple of hours picking the violet blossoms and make syrup.  The recipe and instructions are HERE and you'll find a link to violet jelly there too.

We didn't feel like making syrup this year, and decided to make some sugar like we'd seen on a site called Gather Victoria.  There, they used the sugar to coat shortbread cookies, and it was stunning.  We went another direction.  We decided on a sugar scrub.
One of our favorite things is sitting a few feet apart and having long, meandering conversations while picking violets.  It's a spring ritual.  The time goes too quickly, but since we both love the way this came out, we'll just have to go back out there and pick a lot more.
We used our mini food processor, pretty much filling a cup with sugar and a cup with unpacked violets.  Once they were thoroughly blended, we smoothed the mixture out onto wax paper covered cookie sheets.  Parchment would be good too, but we were out of that.
 By the next morning, it was already dry.
 We mixed about equal parts olive oil with the violet sugar.  Because my sister was (probably rightly) concerned about the sugar losing its color, we added a squeeze of lemon juice. 
 Several days later, it is still gorgeous and if possible, even more vibrant.  We used olive because it was handy and we were just messing around.  I'd probably use something with less color and scent next time - maybe fractionated coconut oil.
 It feels wonderfully nourishing to the skin.  While the flowers are beautiful, I may want to try using the leaves next time, or some flowers and leaves that are noted for their skin-loving properties.
 Definitely a keeper in the recipe file!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

TEH Goes To The White House

by Molly Sams
This weekend I went down to DC with a few friends to walk the 2016 National Walk for Epilepsy. It was a three mile course and was full of stunning landmarks, monuments, and of course some of the most wonderful people I had ever met. Afterward we all decided to do a bit of site seeing. First was the Washington Monument since it was well, right in front of us. Then we made it down to the White House. Now I had never seen the White House in person before so I was thrilled. I was shocked that I was starstruck by a building most people drive by everyday. I couldn't get over what had occurred in there and what I was sure was occurring in the building that day. After ogling for quite some time we decided to rest and sit on a bench. Just as we began getting comfortable a impeccably dressed couple came up to us. They had planned to go on the garden tour but decided they did not want to wait in line.

In a twist of fate, as soon as we stepped into line it moved almost immediately. Here is a peek of what we saw.

The entrance was a beautiful crimson red.

Tulips were literally EVERYWHERE!

Yes, that's right. I got to see one of Obama's dogs. It was great!

This was the entrance to the First Lady's kitchen garden.  

While it is still growing there is already more lettuce in their garden than in my entire diet.

Seriously. I think during this time of year there are more tulips than people in DC.

And I wanted them all.