Favorite Homemade Body Butter

favorite homemade body butter

Wintertime necessitates the use of double-duty moisturizers that protect us from both the cold wind outside and the heated super-dry air inside—something more emollient and longer-lasting than what we might use in the summer months. Body butters to the rescue! Butters provide heavier moisturizing for dry winter conditions, are protective of the skin, and are easy to make right in your kitchen.

My absolute favorite homemade body butter recipe is the result of hours of kitchen laboratory experiments with different butters, oils, and varying proportions. My goal was to develop a body butter with staying power but without the excess grease.

Now, body butters ARE buttery, without a doubt. They will need a little time to absorb or oil stains may appear on clothing. Apply after bathing, wrap yourself in a thick, warm bathrobe until the oils soak in, and you’ll have baby-soft skin all day.

Continue reading “Favorite Homemade Body Butter”

3 Easy Ways To Dry Herbs

easy ways to dry herbs

As summer winds down, things change. The children go back to school, the days are getting shorter, and gardening season is drawing to a close. Given this, you may be wondering what to do with the herbal bounty still growing in your garden. Must you make pesto with all of your basil? Must you take all of your rosemary and make a chicken dish to feed fifty of your best friends? But while fresh crops are wonderful, your practice of herbalism doesn’t have to end with the summer.

Though you have many options, one way to enjoy these herbs well into the colder months is to dry them. Not only that, giving yourself access to dry herbs gives you the opportunity to experience all of the benefits of your garden without the need to constantly maintain it. The dryness of the herbs ensures that mold won’t grow all over them and cause them to go to waste. Continue reading “3 Easy Ways To Dry Herbs”

Make It: Flower Water

flower water

At this time of year, I am often stopped in my tracks by a sudden sweetness carried by the wind. A quick look around will reveal a blooming delight nearby, spreading its fragrant essence through the air. Today I found the roses outside my house blooming after a long winter’s rest, unfolding their strong petals and sweet scent.

Many people are surprised that roses and certain other flowers can be edible. If you’re not ready to eat edible flowers, making flower essence water is way to introduce the concept.

Delicate essence of the blossoms and a subtle floral flavor are imparted by floating blossoms and leaves in a bowl of water overnight. Making flower water is also a fun and magical way to introduce children to edible flowers, and to help them get involved with gardening and spending more time outside.

The first time I made flower water, I was lucky enough to use the pristine roses, clover, lemon balm, violets (try this violet lemonade, too), and pure artesian well water at Sage Mountain in Vermont. Before bed, we placed a crystal bowl of blossoms in the front garden under the full moon for an extra dose of enchantment.

Flower Water

Perfect choices for flower water are those blossoms that are nectar-sweet or citrusy such as red clover, roses, violets, bee balm, chamomile, gardenia, jasmine, lilacs, and squash flowers. Calendula is beautiful but use sparingly, as its flavor can be bitter.

Many flowers are toxic, so please check carefully in an edible plant guide to be sure you are working with truly edible flowers in your water—even if you’re not eating them. And of course, be sure you only use organically grown flowers that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals.

Making Flower tea

Leafy herbs that work well in flower water are lemon balm, lemon verbena, basil, and other mints.

Flower Water Directions

  • Take a clean glass or crystal bowl and fill it with pure water.
  • Return any insect friends to the ground before floating and submerging fresh edible flowers into the water.
  • Place bowl in your garden or on your windowsill overnight. If the moon is full, even better.
  • Upon arising the next morning, ladle flower-scented water into a glass and slowly sip the delicate sweetness.
  • Add more water to your bowl to keep the flowers fresh and use as a centerpiece!

Enjoy making your own flower water this summer from edible blossoms in your own garden. Let us know what flowers you used!

Nourishing Weedy Tea

Nourishing Weedy Tea

Herbalists have an eye for beauty and worth, seeing usefulness inside what others consider useless. Often reviled plants like nettles, dandelions, burdock, plantain, chickweed, lambs quarters, and red clover often grow nearby in favorite fields or woodland paths, or even on our lawns, and make delicious and nutritious teas as well as herbal vinegars, soups, and salads. Even if you’re not able to conscientiously gather weeds (you should be 100% certain the plant is what you think it is; harvest 50 feet back from the edge of the road, never near telephone lines; never take more than 7-10% of the plants), many weedy plants can be found at your local herb store or co-op. Continue reading “Nourishing Weedy Tea”

Herb Infused Oils

how to make herb infused oil

There are a few ways to infuse oil with herbs and we will go through them here. If you have never made an herbal infused oil you are in for a wonderful treat! You may use infused oils in cooking or in bath and skin products. There are so many herbs to choose from depending on the intended use.

As an example of the many uses of herb infused oil let’s take a look at rosemaryRosemary can be used as vibrantly flavored oil for roasting potatoes or stirring into your favorite pasta sauce.  For topical use, rosemary can be used in a number of bath products. Rosemary is a popular support for an itchy scalp and dandruff and to support hair growth. This is stimulating and invigorating herb. Continue reading “Herb Infused Oils”

Natural Easter Egg Dye

Natural Easter Egg Dye

There are more natural ways to color eggs than using the fizzy tablets we used as kids. You don’t have to run to the store to buy a kit or any special materials. Colorful veggies, fruits and spices all make nice dyes.

This year I experimented with what I could find in my kitchen. I used some slightly freezer-burned blueberries, raspberries and cranberries that I had in my freezer. I also had three carrots, a half bag of spinach and a lime that I thought might work. Continue reading “Natural Easter Egg Dye”

Cup in Hand

What goes through your mind at the mention of tea?  I used to think Lipton and I’m not kidding! Preferring coffee over tea for most of my life I just wasn’t that interested in it unless it had some special connotation like;  afternoon tea as served in England (of which I’ve enjoyed on numerous occasions) or tea party which really means white wine on pretty patios (heavenly).  Hmm, well as the saying goes, that was then and this is now!  I am not only a tea enthusiast but I am an herbal tea/tisane enthusiast maybe bordering on aficionado!

Ever since I began learning about herbs and the wonderful ways in which to use them, I find putting them in my teapot the quickest and most enjoyable method of consumption.  The health benefits range from nutritive to curative.  Now when I hear the word tea I think nettles, red clover, oat straw, chamomile, lavender, peppermint and the list goes on and on. Feelings of happiness, comfort, relaxation and satisfaction accompany my zest for that beautiful warm pot of tea. Continue reading “Cup in Hand”

Hawthorn Tea for the Winter Heart

The trees are bare, the leaves are raked, and the gardens are tucked in for a long winter’s nap. But the pink rose in my front yard, with its deceptively delicate looking petals, still gives its sweet fragrance to the chilled air. Around the corner in my urban neighborhood, there are other bright gems — the hawthorns in someone’s lawn are laden with clumps of red berries. Both hawthorn and rose are part of Rosaceae, the rose family. Their mere presences are colorful and fragrant gifts, but herbalists also use both plants to mend broken and fragile hearts. There is no better time to drink rose and hawthorn tea than the dark days and cold nights preceding the Solstice.

pink rose

At the Solstice, from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), the sun appears to pause in its path before changing direction. But nature, as ever, is perfectly balanced: After the very darkest of days, the light begins its return. The victorious sun is the sacred promise of Solstice, celebrated the world over since ancient times. A few minutes of extra light, however, may bring small comfort to New Englanders, with our coldest days still ahead.

Cold weather and sunlight deprivation are associated with documented and widely acknowledged stressors. From Seasonal Affective Disorder and dry skin, to treacherous roads and high heating bills, to the stress of holiday travel – it all takes a toll on our body and mind. Low temperatures, for example, cause blood vessels around the outside of the body to constrict, which leads to dry skin and noses, which can cause more susceptibility to colds and other viruses.

Chilly winter is particularly hard on the heart. Blood pressure rises and clotting factors in blood increase. And then there is holiday season stress. While the natural world becomes still and turns inward, many of us do just the opposite: there are parties and feasts, gift-buying and dinner planning, rushing to and fro. Add the strain of travel, shoveling heavy snow, high fat foods, and skipping exercise, and it’s no wonder there is an increase in coronary artery disease deaths during the holidays. 1

Everyone knows by now that maintaining high fruit and veggie intake is critical for healthy hearts.2 A lesser known fact is that Mother Nature also provides heart-fortifying and nourishing herbs, like hawthorn and motherwort, and others such as garlic and cinnamon, that may support those with cholesterol imbalances. For the anxious and stressed, aromatic plants like rose, lemon balm, and linden are as delicious as they are soothing.

hawthorn berries

The hawthorn tea recipe below combines heart-opening rose with cinnamon, for a slightly fruity taste with warm cinnamon notes. (This recipe is provided for your information only and should not be construed as medical advice or instruction. Readers should consult appropriate health professionals. If you are pregnant or on heart medication, please consult your healthcare professional before using hawthorn or any other herbal product.)

Hawthorn Tea

Winter Solstice Heart Tea

Hawthorn: The berry and leaf are used to increase blood flow to the heart, strengthen the heart muscles without increasing the beat or raising blood pressure, and support circulation. Other research indicates that hawthorn decreases low-density lipoprotein and triglycerides. In addition, hawthorn “seems to lower accumulation of fats in the liver and the aorta … Hawthorn fruit extract may lower cholesterol by increasing the excretion of bile, reducing the formation of cholesterol, and enhancing the receptors for LDLs. It also seems to have antioxidant activity.” 3

Rose: The beautiful and strong blossoms are mildly sedative and anti-inflammatory. Energetically, it is used to open and fortify the heart. Look for organic and fair-trade.

Cinnamon: Warming, carminative, flavorful, anti-inflammatory. May help lower LDL and triglyceride levels. 4

hawthorn tea

Ingredients

1 generous tablespoon dried hawthorn berries, soaked over night
1 – 2 generous teaspoons dried organic rose petals
1/4 cinnamon stick (or to taste), crushed

Directions

Measure 1.5 – 2 cups water into a pot
Place hawthorn berries into pot and cover
Bring water to a boil, then lower to a simmer
Simmer for 15  – 20 minutes, covered
Prepare roses and cinnamon and place into teapot, cup, or jar
Pour hot water and berries over roses and cinnamon, cover
Steep for 10 minutes, then strain

Stepping out of the mayhem with a cup of rose and hawthorn tea is a heart-healthy way to reconnect us to our inner stillness and keep us centered through the hectic holiday pace.

While we prepare and drink our tea, what if we take a few moments to pause like the sun at Solstice. To let go, like the bare trees and branches. Sink down to our roots, like the sap sinks in maples. As the seeds rest in the dark ground, we can savor the fertility of deep dark wintertime. And like the rose effortlessly giving its scent to the cold winter air, may we enter the New Year with open hearts, offering our own intangible gifts to others, gifts that make our world a little sweeter and brighter.

References:

1 http://www.webmd.com/heart/features/the-truth-behind-more-holiday-heart-attacks
2 http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/fruit/en/index2.html
3 http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-527-hawthorn.aspx?activeIngredientId=527&activeIngredientName=hawthorn&source=1
4 Khan A et al. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 26(2003): 3215-3218. Khan A et al. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 26(2003): 3215-3218