House Cleansing and Blessing Solution (Angelica)

The weather is starting to change and in the evenings I often feel chilled. I still have a few fresh herbs in the garden. This self care practice is perfect for moving stagnant energy, purifying living spaces and clearing the energy of the “old year”. In many cultures washing floors is more than removing dirt. Some people consider the end of October to about beginnings/birth rather than endings/death.

I lived in Central Asia for 9 weeks and witnessed the regular ritual of the babushka in our apartment block. She would wet and sweep the packed dirt entrance way both to keep down the dust and provide some kind of “magical” service for the community.

When doing a house blessing one can imagine bringing abundance, health, fertility, wealth, good luck and other positive qualities into a home. When doing a clearing one can imagine illness, bad memories, misfortune, conflict, obstacles, traumatic events, stress and negative aspects being expelled. This is an opportunity to do some “house cleaning, start over, repair ruptures with people and nature, or begin a new habit or project.

To prepare the solution pour 1 gallon of boiling water over 1-2 cups of fresh or dried herbs. Let cool to room temperature and strain out the herbs. I like to use a combination of Basil, Rue, Mugwort, Sage, Oregano, Marigold, Lavender, Rosemary Feverfew and Angelica depending on what I have as excess in the garden. Some people like the sensual and ritual practice of squeezing and straining out the plants by hand. Compost and discard them with respect when you are done.

While your herbs are infusing……

1)Open all windows and doors.

2)Pack up anything you no longer want or need and dispose of/donate it.

3)Re-arrange furniture, redecorate.

4)Burn incense in the following areas-rooms, corners, closets, basement, attics, stairwells, chests, armoires, under beds, and any large hidden places.

5)Sweep all floors. I use a special broom just for house blessings/clearings.

Some people might like to prepare themselves in a ceremonial way by taking a bath, wearing white clothes, lighting a candle, or doing an energy sweep/clearing of the body with a straw hand whisk.

Once the infusion is ready use it to mop all floors, Paying special attention to corners and areas under rugs/furniture. If you wish to do more of a ritual start a the doorway of your house, walk in and bless each room going clockwise. You can dip plants, a feather, fan or some other item into the water and flick it vigorously at the walls as you pass through. Finish by dumping an leftover water on the front porch or in your yard.

Angelica archangelica is a biennial/perennial plant in the parsley family. It very important to be sure of with identification for any plants in this family as it includes poison hemlock and hogweed, which are poisonous. Angelica grows well in most urban gardens. In the wild it prefers environments that are damp-swamps and marshes or well watered by rivers or streams. This plant grows 3-10 feet high. The stem is tall, thick, hollow, grooved, and tends to branch at the top. It is bright green with a blue/white matt like bloom. It’s few leaves grow from the stem as a sheath similar to celery. These can be quite large , triple divided and pinnate in shape. The pale green flowers grow as a large , spherical, compound umbel at the top of the plant . The “fruit” are green, oblong and similar to fennel but as they dry burst into yellow two winged seeds. The roots are red to brown. Like most members in its family, the whole plant has a very distinctive smell and taste. Angelica is sweet, spicey, and agreeable with a bitter aftertaste. All parts of this herb have been used as medicine.

Angelica has been used to address all manner of complaints related to the digestive and respiratory systems. It may provide relief for gas, ulcers, indigestion, colic, stomach cramps, vomiting, coughs, colds, asthma, bronchitis, It has a historical use in treating retained placenta, weak kidneys or spleen, headache, poor appetite, water retention, anemia, poor circulation in the hands or feet, painful periods or menstrual problems, urinary tract infections, the flu, and motion sickness.

Externally as a salve, lotion, or wash- Angelica has been used for rheumatism, muscle cramps, wounds, scabies, itchy skin, gout, arthritis, and electric shock.

Studies have shown this herb to be anti-fungal , anti-bacterial and anti-microbial. Useful as an anti-septic or antibiotic.

The stems are candied for desserts and the leaves pair well with seafood or soup.

Energetics: sweet , pungent, warm, dry

Element: fire

Spiritual/Energetic Uses: Inspiration, creativity, clarity, good fortune, protection (especially at moment of birth or death and other life passages), connection and guidance. Helping us to expand beyond our comfort zone and embrace new things.

Contraindications:large dose or therapeutic prolonged use can have a negative effect on blood pressure, respiratory rate and heart action. Do not take during pregnancy, if you are diabetic, with a high fever, have a bleeding disorder/hemorrhage. Use only the dry root.

GF Tropical Starfruit Cake (GINGER)

I needed an uncommon yellow fruit to complete a botanical illustration. I remembered starfruit from a trip to Hawaii but could not find any in the grocery store. So I had to order a small box from an on-line retailer. I only needed one for the drawing. What to do with the other ripe fruit? This recipe includes many of my favorite flavors and ingredients. Candied ginger compliments starfruit in more ways than one.

Gluten Free Starfruit Cake

Preheat over to 350.

In a large bowl add and mix together……..

1/4 cup hydrated (if need be) and coarsely chopped Golden Berries or substitute golden raisins.

1/4 coarsely chopped candied ginger

1/2 cup of sugar

2 eggs

1 cup of blanched and coarsely chopped starfruit with “peel” on but seeds removed

1/2 cup of milk

Set the bowl aside

In a another bowl add…

1 cup of rice flower

1 cup of almond flour

1/2 tsp of salt

1 tsp of baking powder

1 tsp of baking soda

1 pinch of cardamon powder

Sift your dry ingredients into the “wet” bowl. Mix lightly with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined.

Grease, flour (or use parchment paper) a larger springform cake pan. You can use any cake pan but since this is a dense moist cake I do not recommend a loaf pan.

Bake for 35-45 minutes. Let cool before removing. Decorate with powdered sugar or thinned royal icing.

Hawaiian “red ginger” (ornamental and not edible) Alpinia purpurata
Store bought “Chinese ginger”-edible Zingiber officinale

Zingiber is the aromatic rootstock of a perennial plant that grows in the tropics. It is very common and easy to find in most grocery stores worldwide. It can be cultivated or found in the wild. The rootstock is thick, fibrous, and light tan colored. It grows in a finger like/branched formation. As it creeps the root can become quite large, often palm sized. Ginger produces a simple stem wrapped by layers of long, narrow, lance shaped, alternate arranged leaves. It can grow almost four feet high. As the green leaves mature and separate from the stem they can measure 6-12 inches long . Sterile yellow/white flowers with purple streaks grow on short dense spikes. You will often see images for “red ginger”confused with Zingiber officinale. They are not the same plant. Ginger likes partial shade and moist, fertile soil.

Ginger has a “heating action”. It stimulates digestion, perspiration, and breastmilk production. Historically this herb has been used internally to treat colic, gas, bloating, indigestion, nausea/morning sickness, suppressed menstruation, the flu, headache, sore throat, laryngitis, vertigo, blot clots, , colds, cough, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, poor circulation and heart disease. Many herbalists use it to reduce inflammation. Fresh ginger being preferred for respiratory conditions and dried ginger for digestive complaints. Externally this plant has been used to treat, pain, migraines, chills, muscle soreness, congestion, asthma, athletes foot, arthritic joints, and weak kidneys.

Energetics:pungent, sweet, bitter, warm, dry

Element:fire

Contraindications:ulcers, acid stomach, inflammatory/heat conditions. Anticoagulant drugs like Coumadin or aspirin. Although commonly used for morning sickness, use only very low doses in pregnancy. Do not use during childbirth, especially when there is a risk of heavy bleeding.

Allergy Tincture (Horehound)

A good allergy tincture is made of many herbs. Nettles is an obvious choice but what about horehound, echinacea, peppermint, rosemary, yarrow, ginger, Oregon grape root, elder flowers, and calendula too. Consider a blend of plants that are known for

being anti inflammatory

moving phlegm

stimulating circulation

having cooling properties that clear heat

I usually make a big batch of allergy tincture in the late fall using a combination of fresh and dried herbs that I have been growing and harvesting over the summer. Yarrow tends to be ready in early summer while horehound is being harvested right now in early fall. Horehound is a lovely plant with its distinctive smell and soft textured leaves. But its bitter taste means that I don’t harvest it often. You need something with a lot of sugar in it ,like syrup, to make it more palatable. It is a shame that herbalists do not use it more often as it can be used to treat many health conditions.

White horehound is a perennial plant in the mint family that grows easily on several continents. You will find it in gardens, dessert pastures, the wild, and wastelands. The entire plant is downy and has a silver “bloom”. The fibrous twisted root sends up several square shaped stems. Numerous leaves are opposite, petioled, round/ovate, wrinkled and soft underneath. Tiny with a pink/white two lipped flowers with a spiny calyx grow in axillary whorls in late summer. Prefers sun and well drained soil. Harvest new growth to avoid the mature clusters of seeds which can prick your fingers.

Marrubium has been used for healing since ancient times. It is a common ingredient in cough syrups and lozenges because it clears phlegm and prevents infection from moving into the lungs. It is thought to helps with bronchitis, laryngitis, hoarseness, sore throat, asthma, pneumonia, and a hacking cough. Historically this plant has bee used to treat fever, anemia, hepatitis, retained placenta, stomach issues, heart conditions. It balances bodily secretions and makes a bitter digestive tonic. It increases circulation (vasodilator) and sweating. Stimulates the production of bile and supports the liver.

Externally a serum can treat blackheads and rough/dry skin. Adds a healthy glow and moisture to the skin. As a poultice/compress it can be used on deep wounds, a rash or for shingles.

Taste: highly aromatic/pungent (volatile oils) and bitter.

Energetics:Moves energy, clears heat/cooling and toxins. Drying.

Element: Air

Contraindications: pregnancy. Excessive use may lead to hypertension. Fresh juice applied to the skin may cause a reaction. Large doses may act as a laxative.

Ground Cherry Pico De Gallo (OREGANO)

This is my first year for growing ground cherries in the the garden. I was surprised at the size of the plants and that I had a bumper crop. I have tried to grow starts indoors from seed in years past, but never had good luck. I purchased 2 plants from a local nursery and had more than enough fruit for my needs. I think our investment in excellent soil and a location in the sun all day really helped too. Ground cherries are in the nightshade family. Imagine a large tomato plant that trails all over the ground instead of being held vertical in a cage. It was my first year for eating a ground cherry too. They are like a round golden grape in a paper husk. The taste is a bit like a tomato but more tart than acidic, a bit sweeter, with hints of some kind of tropical fruit. Ground cherries can be substituted in recipes that call for tomatoes or firm fruit. The following recipe is best when made from very fresh ingredients and consumed within 24 hours of making. Honestly this pico de gallo is so good that I pretty much ate it all by myself in one sitting just paired with chips. It goes well with shrimp or other fish in something like a simple taco.

Ground Cherry Pico De Gallo

2 TBSP of finely diced onion

1 medium orange tomato diced

2/3 cup of diced ground cherries

1 small mild green pepper finely diced

Pinch of dried coriander seeds

Pinch of mild red chile seeds

Pinch of cumin powder’

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 TBSP of finely diced fresh oregano leaves

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Origanum spp.

As a member of the mint family Origanum/wild marjoram has its own aromatic essential oils. It is a common perennial found all over the world. Lots of small, ovate shaped, gray/green leaves grow oppositely on a single, downy, square stem (sometimes purplish). These are dotted with very small depressions. This plant grows about 24 inches high. Numerous, tiny ,two lipped white flowers ( with pink or purple tints) grow on erect, terminal clusters. Oregano often appears to grow as a bush shaped patch. It will thrive in just about any soil, tolerates drought, and prefers full sun.

Many older classic herbals leave this herb out as it is more known for culinary use in the US. If you wish to dig deep into the medicinal uses of Oregano you might consider resources originating from Hispanic cultures and countries. Here you will see it used for “cold invasion” or a more bile/pitta constitution. Oregano is gaining more popularity in the west for its antiseptic/antiviral and vasodilating properties. Historically this plant has been used to treat childhood illnesses, headaches, the flu, fever, colds, bronchitis, and asthma. It may help with digestive issues such as colic, gas, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, and parasites. Some herbalists have used it for problems related to menstruation, cramps, headaches, earache, insomnia, inflammation and high cholesterol. Externally it is used as a liniment, poultice, or compress for sprains, injuries, swelling, pain, itchy skin, animal or insect bites/stings, dizziness, and bruising. When inhaled as steam it can help clear and open the lungs, relieving a bad cough. In Hispanic cultures oregano is a popular remedy for conditions of a “spiritual” nature where it might be used in a ritual spray, bath or cleansing.

Energetics:pungent, bitter, warm, dry

Element: air

Contraindications: avoid all but culinary use during pregnancy

A Plant Dieta with Chamomile

This month I decided to go on a plant “dieta”. Usually powerful hallucinogenic herbs are chosen for this process. But if one is only wanting to clear unwanted habits, toxins , wastes and energetic stagnation then any Master Plant can be chosen and the journey a “social” one. A dieta can culminate in a group ceremony , be done under supervision or it can be a very private experience. There are weeks of preparation to cleanse and purify the body using the elements in the form of smoke, clay, and ceremonial bathing. Participants gradually remove various foods, artificial fragrances, distractions and stumulants from the diet. There is a period of strict fasting. More attention is paid to sleep , slowing down life, changing bad habits, restricting time on screens. It is a good time to evaluate what you “consume” and does with your precious time. There is a period of seclusion/retreat where in a state of deep meditation/contemplation/prayer one seeks guidance and knowledge from the plant spirit. As an herbalist it is a great time to learn more about and connect deeply with a particular herb though dreams, playng music, studies, journaling, and detailed illustrations. A deep and healing relationship can happen through use of infusions, oil massage, baths, flower remedies, and tinctures. Homeopathy, microdoses and external use should be considered for plants that are toxic or have contraindications. I chose Chamomile because it can be used as medicine in so many different forms and because I have access to it growing in the garden right now. There are many herbalists who believe that one plant alone, when used in a special way ,can heal any illness, Be it physical, mental, or spiritual/energetic. A plant dieta can be a powerful way to transform on all of these levels.

German Chamomile. Is an annual. Latin Name -Matricaria recutia/chamomilla. Family-Aster. Sub Family-Anthemideae (aromatic members of the aster family). Like all asters, this plant is missing the green sepals. Instead it has translucent bracts (modified leaves) surrounding the flower head. Numerous tiny five petaled disc flowers fill the yellow round center which is surrounded by a ring of white single petaled ray flowers. Similar to a daisy but much smaller in size and different leaves. Each flower sits a top a short stalk attached to a long leggy stem ( may grow to 24 inches) which has numerous blooms. The alternate leaves are brilliant green, fine, and feathery. Chamomile has a sweet pleasant aroma, almost like apples. Roman chamomile is similar in appearance but shorter and often a ground cover. In the garden this plant prefers any kind of soil, regular watering and full sun for best growth. This cultivar sometimes escapes to be found in pavement cracks or an empty urban lot. Self seeds and spreads easily under the right conditions. Not to be confused with pineapple weed which can be found growing “wild” in many places.

Chamomile contains several volatile oils and constituents that assist the recovery and health of skin or mucous membranes. Studies show that this herb is anti-microbial specifically for candida, staph, strep, e. coli and fugal infections. Compresses, lotions, salves, washes, douches and gargles have been used externally to cool and speed the healing of burns, eczema, acne, dermatitis, insect bites, psoriasis, cracked nipples, bleeding gums, toothache and eye infections. The flowers have a long history of being used in hair products like dye, shampoo and rinses. They have also been used to flavor food, drinks and scent incense, massage oil or dream pillows. Matricaria reduces inflammation, clearing toxins and heat. Herbalists like chamomile as a sedative for insomnia and anxiety. It is very well suited for restless, nervous and hyperactive kids. A weak tea can support cranky, teething, and colicky babies or reduce nightmares and bedwetting in children. A study shows that this herb acts on the smooth muscle of the intestines and uterus, helping them relax and stop spasming/cramping. The flowers of this plant have been used to treat ulcers, gas, heartburn, morning sickness, IBS, indigestion, diarrhea and other digestive upsets. Herbalists use this plant for menstrual pain and migraines related to PMS/hormone shifts. It is thought that chamomile can reduce the pain of rheumatism, sciatica, and lumbago. Inhaling the stream from an infusion clears phlegm and may reduce the symptoms of asthma.

Energetics: Bitter, sweet, moist, neutral.

Element: Water

Contraindications-avoid large doses in pregnancy. Do not use if you are allergic to ragweed or other members of the daisy/aster family.