Archive for herbs

Flowers as Gifts: Going Beyond the Bouquet

Just about everybody loves flowers. Flowers are a beautiful gift from nature that smell great, look great and have come to represent love to most of us. They are the most popular gift in the world, given for the many events in our lives, from Mothers Day to birthdays to weddings and even at our funerals. They seem to be everywhere, popping out of the foilage around us, brightening the world whereever they are. We love to give a bit of that beauty to our loved ones when we can. But did you know that flowers are useful in gifts other than bouquets? That you don’t have to put them in vases to give them and there are a lot of ways you can give flowers as inexpensive gifts, even at Christmas. You don’t even have to know anything about flowers to take advantage.

As fall peeks around the corner, we start to see the summer blooms fading and falling in our yards. The grass is littered with slowly wilting bright colors and the last scent of the blooms lingers in the air. Why not capture this now and make gifts you can give later? Homemade food gifts like pickled flowers, flower honey or flower jellies and jams. Homemade beauty gifts like floral perfumes, toners or cleansing creams. Homemade floral soaps, potpourri or candles. Cards and stationary made with pressed flowers. All personalized and special, made by you. And you don’t have to be some creative genius to do these things because I have the recipes, the plans, the step by step instructions. All you need is to round up the dieing blooms you find in your yard and beyond. So get the basket and go picking!

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The Magic of Mullein

From soothing your cough to flavoring your liqueurs, Mullein has a lot of uses, some of them you’ve never heard of. The seeds are cheap and they are easy to grow; simply put in a pot full of soil and water. And if you don’t want to grow Mullein, there are many sources for it online, most of them inexpensive. There are about 250 genuses of Mullein, which is a member of the Figwort family. Mullein is also called by about 30 common names including Velvet Dock, Candlewick Plant, Cow Lungwort, Hags Taper and Aaron’s Rod. These cultivars grow all over Europe, Asia and the Meditteranean. They are also widely cultivated in North America and can sometimes be found growing wild. Very common varieties include Moth Mullein, Dark Mullein, Wooly Mullein and Common Mullein. The cultivar I have used the most and whole heartedly recommend is Verbascum Thapsus or Common Mullein. This particular cultivar has been naturalized all over the US, mostly in Hawaii and also in Australia. So it can be grown almost anywhere. I highly recommend planting Mullein in your garden and using it year round. I have recipes and guidelines for you to use when making use of the plant so bookmark this page for after your plants are growing and blooming. You can use Mullein for many things during every stage of it’s growth so it is well worth the few cents it costs to buy a packet of seeds.

Mullien was considered a magical herb in antiquity and it was given to Ulysses to protect him from the magic of Circe, who had changed his crew into pigs. The soft fine hairs on the leaves and stems of this plant makes a superb tinder and it was used this way throughout history. Hence, the popular name, Velvet Plant. These same soft hairs protect the herb from moisture loss, creeping insects and grazing animals because the down irritates mucus membranes. So this plant has few enemies in the garden, making it even easier to grow. So here are my hints on how to cultivate Mullein and how to use every part of the plant in every stage of it’s growth.

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Natural Cleaning for Spring

If you are like me, you are looking forward to Spring for the new blooming flowers, the heated sunshine, the wildlife emerging from their long hibernation and open windows ushering in fresh air. But when I open our windows I see dust flying. When the sunshine comes pouring in I see the dirt bunnies and the crumb stashes in the dark places. A lot of this stuff is leftover from the holidays! Boy does that sofa have some body oil stains on the arms! And I cannot believe there are old potato chips behind the entertainment center. All winter long our home is like a dark cave. Now the sunshine is revealing way too many blemishes and I am not looking forward to cleaning.

One of things I hate about spring cleaning is the cost of the new supplies. Floor cleaners, furniture wax, rug shampoo, upholstery cleaner, bathtub scrub, window wash and air fresheners! Not only does this stuff put a huge dent in my wallet but it ends up adding tons of chemicals to our home environment. I hate the residue. I have to wipe the furniture down every time I walk past it just because I can see that oily sheen. This year I am passing on air fresheners altogether. The effect is only temporary while the lingering spray ends up all over the house, on surfaces. And it makes me sneeze. So this year I am trying some new ideas. I thought I’d share them with you. Here are some great recipes for natural cleaning alternatives. Some of them will save you money, some won’t. But all of them will help detox your home after the long winter has passed.

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Natural Remedies for Arthritis

As winter fades and spring arrives, we want to get out and get active. We just feel like having fun and playing games outdoors. Walking, gardening, fishing, swimming, water skiing, whatever your poison, you need to need to get rid of your pain so you can start doing it. Arthritis gets bad in the winter, but it doesn’t matter as much as it does the rest of the year. We are indoors, sitting or just doing easy things around the house, going to bed early, sometimes sleeping late. We just aren’t as active so treating the pain is easier. You can tolerate more stiffness, too.

But how do you handle the pain and stiffness? How long can you take NSAIDs without upsetting your system and getting sick to your stomach? Do you switch to Tylenol whent the stomach pain starts? And then you have to be careful about how much and how often or risk hurting your liver. There is no easy solution. It seems like everything you can take for pain has a big price tag. Stomach ulcers, liver failure or addiction to stronger relief like Oxycodone or Codeine. Way too much to worry about when you’re just trying to get moving again and everything hurts.


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Hypothyroidism- Alternative and Natural Treatments

This is an issue dear to my heart because I have this condition. It started with me when I was 11 years old, just after I entered puberty. I started menstruating early and I had a hormonal imbalance right away, with overly enlarged breasts and a startling gain in weight. But I was not, at first, hypothyroid. In fact, treatment with thyroid hormones made me violently ill, complete with seizures and foaming at the mouth. The subsequent rush from doctor to doctor eventually revealed the truth: I had Graves Disease. I had this condition from that moment on and am still considered suffering from it, but in remission. This remission was acheived by destroying my thyroid gland with drugs and forcing it into failure. So today I am dependant on synthetic thyroid for the rest of my life.

Right off the bat, let me say that I would never advocate not taking your thyroid meds. Whatever they are, do not stop, even if you consider trying other therapies. I have made the unfortunate mistake of stopping mine and I can tell you that myxedema, the result of this stupidity, is not an experience you will relish. It takes forever to lose the edema, the puffiness that results but that is the small of it. The loss of hair is substantial and the weight gain is tragic. I was pulling my hair out in handfuls and since then it has never been the same. So DO NOT ever stop taking your meds, not even because of lack of funds.. I would stop buying food or paying for the car before I’d give up my medication. And you should do the same.

But what I do want to suggest or advocate is to experiment with different therapies that might aid your gland, support your immune system and/or lessen the symptoms to some degree. No matter how much thyroid you take (I take the highest dosage available), whether you are only slightly hypothyroid or if you are like me, at the outer limits, you can benefit to some degree by using alternative therapies and supplements. I do not advocate taking thryoid drugs if you do not have a thyroid condition. The urban legend that I keep hearing is that they will make you lose weight and make you feel peppy. For one thing, they take two weeks to get into your system so if you’re willing to wait that long just to feel peppy then that might be the result but it won’t be like you imagine it to be, it isn’t like cocaine or meth. And, on the issue of being a weight control medication, I can debunk that. It is just as hard for me to lose a pound on the pills as it is off of them. They do not make that much difference, even for those who are diagnosed with the disease. They just don’t raise your metabolism anymore than thyroid by itself does this for your body when you’re healthy. Metabolism is created by a large number of various organs and hormones combined in your body. If you’re healthy, just say Thank God! and enjoy it.

For those of you who are dragging around, feeling the exhaustion that so many thyroid sufferers feel, there are treatments you might want to think about. The objective of any supplemental treatment is to improve all sysmptoms, prevent and treat later complications, correct imbalance, adjust the immune system and most importantly to boost energy and strengthen the body for better health and quality of life. The following herbs have been shown to have some effect on hypothyroidism and can be used in combination with the presciption medication.

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How to Do Aromatherapy Massage

The most important thing in performing excellent aromatherapy massage is the choice of oil. As well, the quality of the oil is of utmost importance to the experience and the results. It is the inherent healing properties in herbs that lend the oils their magic and the scents that they impart have everything to do with how well someone feels afterwards. If you use a lousy oil or an impure oil the effects can be dramatically poor. In fact, you might even make someone feel worse if you massage them with a rancid or ineffective oil. So always be careful in the choosing and using of your oils and whenever possible make your own and use it fresh.

Although this blog is too small a format to go into the ins and outs of physical massage, such as where to rub or how hard, which is tantamount to technique. This is what is taught to those who choose to attend school for massage therapy and get a certificate for their trouble. It is extensive and involved, with lessons in biology and muscular anatomy as well as a metaphysical look at which area is affected by what oil or herb. If you wish to become a massage therapist there are many reputable schools that can teach you this trade but it isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to be free. However, here, in this format, I can teach you about the oils and how to make your own effective oils for the private massages you choose to perform on those special people in your life.

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Snacking in the Flower Garden

I have been to many an office party in a fancy hotel conference room, haven’t you? Even if not, I am sure you have had those fancy salads they serve, filled with flowers, fancy lettuces and vegetable leaves. There, among the Romaine, Arugula and Spinach, you have seen yellow, red or orange blooms. What on earth are they? You don’t see them in the grocery store and you don’t see them in most restaurants, but they are obviously ok to eat, and even downright delicious! Even though it’s not common on our menu, the truth is, many cultures use flowers in their traditional cooking. The Italians use squash blossoms and the Indians use roses. Flowers can be spicy, herbacious, floral and/or fragrant. And what they can add to your food is amazing.

As I noted, many of us have eaten flowers in salad. Some of us have had teas made of blooms, like Roses and Dandelions. But they can actually be obtained easily and sometimes for free and used in a many inspired ways that can improve your food. You can use the blooms from chives, garlic or basil in pasta, vegetable sauces and in soups. You can make milk based desserts like custards or ice creams out of Roses or Carnations. You can pickle the buds of flowers like Nasturtiums or Cloves. The ideas are endless as are the recipes. Here are the different flowers that are good to eat with a few interesting recipes thrown in:

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