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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Deal With The Pit Falls of Summer, Naturally

Don't let snags and set-backs result in this season becoming a bummer of a summer!
Things happen, we just have to be prepared for those unexpected occurrences that can sideline the fun. Put together an all-natural "to the rescue" kit.

Below is a list of things to be prepared for during the heat and bustle of summer activities:

During exertion and exposure to the summer sun and high temperatures it is important to seek methods of keeping the body hydrated and cool. The following three items feel so good to freshen-up during a hot, sweaty day. Rosewater, Herbal vinegar, and Peppermint all make wonderful body mists.

Roses contain cooling properties therefore rosewater is a wonderful thing keep on hand.
Roses contain a substantial amount of vitamin C which results in an acidic rosewater wonderful to use as a facial toner or facial mist. Fresh rose petals are allowed to infuse in distilled water under the heat of the sun and then added to refreshing witch hazel. Feels wonderful and smells great.
Rosewater facial toner 

Roses and Elderflowers can be combined with a good quality apple cider vinegar to bring you an awesome treatment for soothing sunburn or a skin balancing facial astringent. Vinegar restores the natural acid balance to the skin and also acts as an antiseptic.
Rose & Elderflower facial toner

Rose & Elderflower sunburn soother

Utilize peppermint's minty cooling sensation to bring some relief and perk up on those hot, humid days. Also helps relieve the throb of a headache often brought on by the heat.
Peppermint body spray

Peppermint has a great reputation for aiding in the relief of cramped tummy muscles and well as the headaches and nausea that often accompany motion sickness.
Peppermint tummy oil also contains the essential oils of chamomile and fennel, great aids for calming upset stomachs.
Peppermint belly massage oil

We are told about the rule "if 3 leaves, let it be" but still it may seem every time we work outside or go hiking we somehow brush up against this plant. Nature's antidote, jewelweed, can often be found growing nearby but if not, keep a bottle of this Jewelweed Vinegar on hand to spray onto the affected areas to help neutralize the itch of the urushiol.
Jewelweed vinegar body spray

Combine the cooling gel of the aloe vera plant with Lavender essential oil and you have a fantastic antiseptic and pain reducer to help nip sunburn in the bud. Applied as soon as you notice the burn and you just may avoid peeling.
Aloe & Lavender sunburn body spray

St. Johnswort, Comfrey and Lavender are wonderful for healing minor burns caused by sunburn or an accident. This balm is very healing for damaged skin but needs to be applied only after the skin has been cooled from the heat of the burn. Anything beyond a first degree should be seen by a physician.
Minor burn, sunburn salve

Weekends and vacations can be over scheduled with fun activities but overdoing it can result in muscular pain.

Rosemary has long been depended upon for relief from rheumatic and muscular pain. Used as a liniment this sharp, earthy smelling herb helps warm the muscles and increase circulation.
Rosemary herbal liniment 

Called the living medicine chest, both the leaves and roots of the comfrey plant are used to stimulate and accelerate tissue repair. Comfrey helps reduce swelling and bruising as it strenthens ligaments and tendons.
Overexertion balm

Insects, bees and ticks are a part of our natural environment but we'd rather they leave us alone. Help deter them without the potential risk to yourself of bug sprays containing pesticides. There are aromatic plants in nature that insects detest and avoid. Three good ones are Yarrow, Geranium, and Plantain.

Yarrow acts as a bug deterrent and soothing for skin irritations in this alcohol based body spray. Catnip and Citronella essential oils are added for additional repelling action.
Herbal deet free insect deterrent body spray

Geranium essential oil is detested and avoided by ticks. This aromatic oil is utilized as a body spray to help keep these dreaded parasites off of your family and dogs.
Herbal tick deterrent body spray

 Plantain is amazingly efficient at neutralizing the sting of bugs and bees. It has astringent, soothing, antimicrobial properties that make it a beneficial addition to an herbal bug body spray. Plantain, Comfrey and Yarrow blend well together in this vinegar based deet free bug deterrent body spray.
Herbal vinegar bug deterrent body spray


Public swimming pools, showers, bathrooms, camp facilities
all put one at risk of picking up the fungus, tinea pidas. A few good foot soaks with this salt foot bath containing anti-fungal tea tree, cooling peppermint, and healing lavender essential oils should help with this annoying condition.
Fungal Foot Salts

Summer activities and the occasional boo boo are inevitable. Herbs are nature's medicine chest for aiding and healing those skinned knees and elbows, or irritating mysterious rashes. They also make great healing lip balms for the tender skin around the mouth. Calendula, Comfrey, Plantain and Chickweed are all wonderful for first aid salves and balms.
Comfrey, Calendula Healing Balm

Chickweed, Plantain, Comfrey Healing Balm

Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't Let The Garlic Scapes Escape!

Growing up my father always had a large garden, known then as a "truck patch". Yet, I don't ever remember growing garlic. Hard to imagine now since I can't imagine cooking without garlic.

Though many healing herbs can be labeled "wonder drugs", garlic deserves a special distinction. It is the second oldest medicine (after ephedra)and is even in the world's oldest surviving medical text, the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical papyrus dating to circa 1550 BC.

Before the Age of Antibiotics with the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, garlic was relied heavily upon for the treatment of infection. The source ingredient in this wonder herb was discovered in the 1920's when researchers at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland isolated alliin. When garlic is chopped or chewed, the alliin comes in contact with a garlic enzyme, allinase, which transforms it into another chemical, allicin, a powerful antibiotic.

Known to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce the chance of blood clots, garlic's allicin and ajoene content stand the test of time for a healthy heart.
Diabetics use garlic to reduce blood sugar.
There is growing evidence that garlic can be used in the treatment of cancer.
AIDS patients can even see an improvement in immune function by taking daily galic cloves.

Those who grow hard-neck garlic know to snip off the flowering tops which encourages more energy to go to the growing bulbs beneath the ground. These tops are called scapes. They are considered a gourmet delicacy by chefs with their short 2-3 week season. By the end of June, farmer's markets have a good supply of these scapes, but since they are eagerly sought out by cooks, they soon sell out.

These young spikes have a very mild garlic flavor and can be used in any of the ways we typically use garlic. Sauteed, grilled, chopped for omelettes, chicken, fish, pizza, delicious all the way around. They can be frozen fresh for later use if desired.

If you grow your own garlic and time slips by and those scapes flower, you'll still get a good crop of garlic, though they may not be as large. The flowering tops are also edible or you can let them dry up along with the rest of the garlic leaves and then save them to plant for spring garlic greens (like scallions).

Three popular recipes to use these scapes are in a pesto, a pizza, and pickled:

1/2 pound scapes chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup olive oil
2 cups parmesan cheese

In a blender, combine the scapes and olive oil. Pour mixture into a bowl and blend the cheese in by hand. Serve on crackers, pasta, pita, or potatoes.

Toss the scapes with olive oil and sea salt and grill.
Spread ricotta cheese over a pizza dough shell.
Arrange the grilled scapes over the ricotta.
Optional is additional mozzarella or cheese of your choice.
Bake at 400 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes
Sprinkle with zaatar (a middle eastern herbal blend)

2 pounds garlic scapes
1/4 cup canning salt
2 1/2 cups vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. cayenne pepper, divided
4 tsp. dill seed, divided
optional is one whole cayenne pepper per quart

Trim flower pods off of the garlic scapes and chop so that they will fit in the jars. To make it easier to fill the jars, separate the straight from the curly sections.

Combine salt, vinegar and water in a large saucepot.
Bring to a boil. Pack scapes into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace
Add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper and 1 tsp dill seed to each pint.
Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Remove air bubbles by dipping a chopstick around edges.
Adjust metal caps and rings.
Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner

Yield: about 4 pints or 2 quarts

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice, St Johnswort

June 21st is the summer solstice and it is time to celebrate the peak of the season with all its life and energy. click here for a neat post about summer solstice rituals and ways to use symbolism as a means to connect with the sun, the source of our light.

A solstice is when the rays of the sun directly strike one of the two tropical latitudes. There's 24 hours of daylight at the North Pole and areas north of 66°30' N, and there's 24 hours of darkness at the South Pole and areas south of 66°30' S. The equator receives twelve hours of daylight.
This marks the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and also their longest day of sunlight. The Southern Hemisphere begins their winter along with their shortest day of sunlight.

Traditionally the summer solstice was known as "midsummer", but our modern society now uses it as the first official day of summer.
The word solstice derives from the Latin sol sistere - "sun stand still". The sun is associated with life and the first harvest of crops has always been a reason to celebrate.

Prior to Christianity, pagan celebrations were very symbolic throughout many traditions and cultures.
Fire was seen as an honor to the sun and symbolically encouraged and strengthened it.
Stonehenge on Wiltshire has an entranceway aligned with the solstice sunrise and is a popular gathering point for modern druids and others on midsummer's day.

Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" has Oberon and Titania as the fairy king and queen. Such spirits were thought to make an appearance on the solstice.

Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" celebrates the marriage of Aragorn and Arwen in Minas Tirith on midsummer's day.

In the Christian faith, the summer solstice is close to the feast day of St. John the Baptist.
Combining the pagan and Christian celebrations was the result of the early church's attempts to put a stop to the pagan festivals. The people continued to celebrate them regardless of the church's efforts, therefore the solution was to substitute Christian meanings and Saints to the holidays and continue to celebrate them.
Therefore, the celebration of the summer solstice became the Festival of St. John the Baptist and the celebration of the winter solstice became the Festival of St. John the Evangelist.

St. Johnswort is a summer solstice-blooming yellow wildflower that blooms around June 21st here in the Northeast. The buds and flowers contain hypericin, a treasure responsible for the plants healing powers. You know you have the correct plant if the buds bleed red when squeezed.
St. Johnswort oil is used for nerve related conditions, sore muscles, abrasions and as a sunburn remedy.

St. Johnswort herbal infusions result in a wonderful red healing oil used extensively in natural remedies.

Below are three such remedies utilizing this wonderful plant.
The listings below will take you into the site or you can find them at

Sunburn and Minor Burn Care Salve can significantly aid in healing damaged skin and help prevent the likelihood of peeling, but if you suspect your burn is deeper than first degree consult your physician before treating it yourself.

This St. Johnswort based salve is also wonderful for your pets. Not all breeds have the skin protection of thick body fur and are susceptible to sun burn. Very healing for those tender noses and ears if over exposed to the sun. Check with your veterinarian before using on cats. Essential oils can be toxic to a cat's liver if ingested.

First step is to cool the damaged skin with wet, cold compresses. Once the burn is cool, it is ok to apply applications of this soothing salve. You don't want to apply it before the skin is completely cooled or you'll be trapping in the heat. The advantage of a salve is that it stays put and provides protective coverage without needing a bandage, therefore the burn has needed exposure to the open air.

Radiation cancer treatment usually results in reddened, painful skin at the site of the exposure. The healing, anti-inflammatory properties of this herbal salve can help relieve and heal such irritation.

An herbal anti-inflammatory liniment can be very effective at relieving the swelling, discoloration and pain resulting from strains, sprains or chronic inflammatory conditions.

St. Johnswort helps you recover when your nerves are inflamed or damaged, as this herb is a nervous system relaxant.
For sore, stiff muscles, St. Johnswort acts as a cellular oxygenator that helps remove lactic acid build-up in muscles and can release nerve tension.

Herbs and essential oils work as a team to help relieve pain during the healing process of bruised and strained muscles or to help manage chronic conditions with or without the use of prescription medication.

That time of the month can easily be describes as mensus misery.  St. Johnswort infused in sweet almond oil combines with an essential oil blend for a very relaxing abdominal, back or legs massage oil to help relax the tight muscle cramping associated with PMS.