Every year I have theme that organizes what I am going to harvest and make from the backyard pharmacy. In 2020 I made a lot of tinctures. In 2021 I focused on infused oils and salves. For 2023 it was all about seeing how much I could truly harvest and use for large amounts of dried/bulk products such as teas, baths, and steams. Next year I will experiment with hydrosols and flower essences. Organizing the herbal year like this allows for me to learn and produce a lot while balancing a very busy life.
Once upon a time I was a bee keeper until severe allergic reactions in my family forced me to let that hobby go. Releasing that dream brought unexpected gifts. I now have more native bees in the yard and I “raise” orchard mason and bumble bees instead. I appreciate wasps as crucial pollinators instead of pests. Honey has many medicinal properties all on its own. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial substance. Honey can be consumed orally to treat a cough or used topically to treat a burn or support wound healing. It also has qualities that make it a natural preservative if you can keep it very clean and from crystalizing.
I have infused flowers such as elder, rose, hyssop and clary sage in honey. Honey can be combined with fresh fruit and herbs in an oxymel. Juiced herbs blend with honey in a succus. I whip finely powdered elder berries, lavender flowers, calendula, or rose hips into honey to support the immune system in winter. I coarsely grind herbs such as licorice and marshmallow root or fennel seed to make electuaries. Since one is using dried materials, experimenting with honey as a medicine allows the herbal year to extend into fall and winter. The following recipes combines honey with ground herbs to make an ointment to treat burns. My burn salve is one of the most popular things that I make a give to friends. I hope this product yields equally effective results.
1 BSP of coconut oil
1 tBSP of castor oil
2 TBSP of apple cider vinegar
Melt the above ingredients in a double boiler, pour into two small ( 4oz. caning) jars. These should be very clean and dry before use. Mix well.
Next use a coffee grinder to finely powder dried calendula flowers, comfrey leaf, plantain leaf, lavender leaves, hyssop leaves. You will need about a teaspoon of each. Mix well , divide in half and then add the powder to your jars. Let settle/infuse through the liquid for a few minutes.
Then add warm/runny honey until you have about 1 cm of empty space from the top of each jar. Stir rapidly with a chop stick. Top with more honey. Clean jars externally if need be and seal.
Let infuse for 4-6 weeks. You can warm the honey and strain out the herbs or not. Store in a clean, dark, and dry place until needed.
Comfrey hybrid, possibly Russian or “rough” comfrey. Note the long ruffled leaves.
Comfrey is a common perennial found in meadows, woodlands, along streams, gardens and moist places. Long, lanceolate, alternate leaves have numerous coarse/rough hairs with smooth or ruffled margins depending on the variety. Leaves MAY BE sessile or petioled, often presenting as a close to the ground, basal rosette in the spring. Shoots of tall, flowering, hairy, 1-4 ft long stalks occur as the season progresses. Stems and leaves MAY be winged/angular/ribbed. Clusters of medium sized, white to purple, tube/bell shaped, flowers grow on the tips as droopy racemes. Roots are numerous, small to medium, and spread widely throughout the soil. When cut even a small piece can easily produce another plant. The rootstock is white on the inside, fleshy and dark on the outside. It produces a slimy, glutinous juice. Comfrey is worth having in the garden to attract bumble bees and build soil.
This is plant is well known for its ability to heal due to its ability to encourage rapid cell, connective tissue, bone, and cartilage growth growth. It breaks down red blood cells, and soothing or protecting damaged tissues. Its astringent properties can stop bleeding quickly. When fresh it has the highest mucilage content of any medicinal plant. It is a great expectorant to remove mucus and other discharges from the body.
This plant is commonly used externally for sores, wounds, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, insect bites, burns, tendon/ligament/ joint (pain, inflammation, injury,) sprains, pulled muscles, dislocations, arthritis, back pain, rheumatism , bursitis, phlebitis, mastitis, acne, eczema, carpal tunnel, surgical scars, sunburn, swelling, wrinkles, dry/rough skin, swelling, dandruff, nosebleeds, fractures and bruising.
Historically this plant has been used internally for hemorrhage/internal bleeding, ulcers/inflamed stomach lining, pleurisy, bronchitis , pneumonia, to help regulate blood sugar levels, diarrhea, poor digestion, colitis, asthma, gallstones, heartburn, and broken bones
As a mouthwash is has been used to treat hoarseness, laryngitis, tonsillitis, and bleeding gums.
Latin name: Symphytum (there are several varieties, this plant easily hybridizes so exact ID can be challenging)
Parts used: Leaves and roots
Energetics:bitter, sweet, cool, moist
Spiritual/Emotional uses: to support clarity, connection, unity, inspiration, balance, expansion, manifestation, and pulling ideas together.
Contraindications: the roots contains alkaloids that are toxic/carcinogenic to the liver. The leaves have a lesser amount of this chemical, especially during late summer and fall. Internal use should only be undertaken under the supervision of an experienced care provider and only with the true Symphytum officinale variety. Internal use of the plant by individuals who are pregnant, elderly, or young and prolonged use is not recommended. Do not use on deep or dirty wounds and on bones that have not been set due to how fast it connects cells. Hairs on the fresh plant may irritate the skin or cause dermatitis in sensitive people when initially harvested. Be careful not to confuse it with foxglove which has similar leaves and bell shaped flowers.