Tummy Calm Salve (Fennel)

Whether you are a first time or seasoned mom, it is difficult and exhausting to sit with a baby who has “colic”. Symptoms can be stomach spasms, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and pain. Causes can be an immature nervous system, allergies, poor/sluggish digestion, contaminated food, inflammation, tight muscles, and stagnation/energy blockage. Mom often just needs to buy some time for her little one’s system to mature, reset, and heal. Combined with infant massage techniques, this salve can help relieve symptoms. Mood and rest will improve for both mother and child so that bonding can occur.

Instructions: Fill a 16 ounce jar with equal amounts (about 3/4 cup each) of fresh basil, fennel tops, dill tops, lemon balm, spearmint and chamomile. Press down if your jar overfills. Then fill the jar with organic olive oil. Let sit and top off before sealing. Infuse for 2 weeks and then strain. Proceed to use in your favorite salve recipe.

Foeniculum officinale

Foeniculum is a member of the parsley/carrot family that is often found in colonies. It is important to identify this herb accurately, even if growing in an urban yard or garden. Warmer climates produce a perennial almost 5 feet tall. A carrot shaped root is below the ground. When very mature the stem can form a large white “bulb” (like celery) at its base. There are 2-5 hollow, pithy, finely grooved bright/jade green stalks with bluish stripes. Some plants appear to have a waxy/white “bloom”. The leaves grow from the center/basal (immature) or branch off upper stalks as wide alternate sheaths (mature) that wrap around the outside. Leaf shape is pinnate, very compound, and constructed of numerous threadlike filiform segments (like some ferns or asparagus). Compound umbels produce yellow flowers in late summer or early fall. When cut, torn, or rubbed the plant parts produce a strong licorice scent. Fennel seeds are light green (becoming a bit yellow as they dry/mature) oblong, dense and a good size.

Caution: Poison hemlock and fennel are easy to confuse. Hemlock will have purple blotches/spots on the stalks, leaves that lacy/broader/more triangular, white flowers, and an unpleasant scent. Poison hemlock and young dying fennel in the fall can be especially hard to tell apart. When in doubt crush plant material or seeds with the foot and smell without touching the plant.

Foeniculum is well know as a remedy for stomach and intestinal complaints. It has been used to treat abdominal cramps, bloating, indigestion, nausea, constipation, heartburn, bad breath, gas, and colic. It expels mucus, relaxes bronchi and clears congestion in the lungs. It relieves a horse throat, moves stagnation in the liver, and increases the flow of breast milk. This herb may help stabilize blood sugar levels, Chewing dried fennel seeds stimulates the digestive juices, helps digest fats, assists in the assimilation of food and treats bad breath. As an infusion it serves as a diuretic for kidney stones and gout. As a weak tea it can lower fever, reduce teething pain, and stop hiccups in children.

Parts Used: Leaves and seeds

Energetics: sweet, warm, moist

Element: fire

Spiritual and Emotional Uses: To move stagnant energy and bring sweetness and freshness back into life. To restore trust, security and purity to a relationship. To repel negative energies.

Contraindications: Avoid therapeutic doses in pregnancy. Excess consumption can stimulate the nervous system.

Winter Bath Salts (Spruce)

Using herbs for winter baths is one of my favorite cold weather rituals. There will come a day in February when one is low in energy and craving a sensual experience that enlivens your very soul. When it comes to formulating a bath mixture I am all about letting instinct and aesthetics guide my hand. There are no measurements or proportions. Let the time of day, month, weather, and your garden whisper instructions as to what you need to harvest and how much. Feel free to add in essential oils. Though if you choose the right fresh plants you won’t have too. Good choices are mint, rosemary, hyssop, horehound, thyme, or lemon balm. Anything in the mint family or with aromatic/volatile oils

I used to think that wild fires happened in late summer. We have had several grass fires this late winter and early spring. Fueled by high winds that also brought down several tall spruce trees in our neighborhood. Never to let anything go to waste, I harvested a big basket of spruce boughs. After stripping the needles I ground them up with epsom salts in my food processor. When added to a bath they release the volatile oils that soothe the lungs, tired muscles, and the sprit. An inexpensive, easy, and lovely addition to to my fire victim care packages.

I recommend that you harvest only pine, fir, or spruce when making medicine or food. Some species of conifers could be toxic when consumed internally. It is best to use a field guide for identifying trees so I will not attempt the botany and descriptions in this post. Conifers have needles instead of leaves, “cones instead of flowers”, resins, and highly aromatic essential oils.

Those conifers with a historical use as medicine tend to be similar in their properties and uses. You will find them in syrups for cough, laryngitis and flu. An infusion can be made for indigestion and fever. As a bath they promote sweating and sooth aching muscles. A liniment can be used for arthritis, sciatica, and rheumatism. Steam inhalation can be helpful for congestion and sinus infections. Ointments and poultices have a history of treating wounds, eczema, boils, acne, and splinters. Tips are particularly high in vitamin C and have been used for blot clots and scurvy.

Contraindications. Use sparingly. Avoid if you have issues with your kidneys. Contact dermatitis may result from contact with the bark or pitch.

In years past I have used fir tips in a tincture and simple syrup. They make fantastic pickles, similar to capers in dishes that include wild salmon as a main ingredient. I have a jar that is two years old. They seem to last quite awhile if refrigerated.

Cysts and Growths Salve (VIOLET)

This salve may take a bit of planning to make as it really does require fresh dandelion, violet leaves, and milkweed leaves. You can infuse the ingredients separately and combine the oils when you make the salve. Or depending on where you live, timing might allow you the harvest and make an oil with all three at once. I use an oil infusion of these same herbs as a base for my daily homemade deodorant. Dandelion, violet and milkweed are know for their properties of drawing , clearing heat, clearing lymph congestion, reducing swelling, removing wastes/toxins, purifying “blood” and treating infection. Chickweed and red clover blossoms would also be possible additions to this recipe.

Cysts and Growths Salve

1 cup of infused oil. I use organic US grown olive oil. Pack a 16 0z. jar with clean, dry leaves if using fresh. Do not crush or macerate the leaves during processing to avoid releasing water into your infusion. Fill jar to the rim with oil, make sure no plant material has risen above the oil. Screw the lid on tightly and set jar on a saucer in case there is expansion. Let set 2 weeks before straining.

2-3 ounces of beeswax pellets

1 oz of shea butter

Add your strained oil infusion to a double boiler. Heat on medium for 5 minutes. Add in the 2 ounces of beeswax and all of the shea butter. As soon as it is all melted and you see no floating pellets-test consistency by dipping a metal spoon into the mixture and placing it in the freezer for 1 minute. If you are happy with the result remove from the heart. If not, add beeswax and test until you are satisfied. Let cool 2 minutes . Pour into small tubes, tins or jars. Let sit 2 hours before capping and storing.

Viola

Garden violets can be found in lawns, woods, meadows, and roadsides that have light shade. This small (3-6 inches) perennial sends out runners/a creeping rootstock which takes hold and allows it to slowly spread. Vivid green heart shaped leaves are basal, petioled, and cordate. Nodding sterile purple flowers with 5 irregular petals appear on long peduncles in the early spring. The true seed producing flower are tiny and very hard to see. This plant prefers rich soil and a wet environment.

Violets are a lot more that French perfume and pastilles. As medicine they have a history of being used as an expectorant for colds, bronchitis, asthma and childhood illnesses. Clears heat, pain, infection, swelling and inflammation. Has been used to treat arthritis, rheumatism, cancer, tumors headaches, fever, and ulcers. Considered by some to be a blood purifier. High in mucilage which soothes irritations of the bladder, urinary tract, stomach, intestines, throat, and gums. This plant may help with constipation, insomnia, anxiety, eczema, cracked nipples, mastitis, acne, cradle cap, psoriasis, sore feet, skin growths/cysts, swollen glands/lymph nodes, varicose veins, conjunctivitis, hemorrhoids and bad breath. Violet can be used to ease heartbreak and grief.

Violet has become my go to for relieving flu like symptoms fast.

Violets make a lovely floral addition to syrups, sugars, salads, desserts, jellies, and other dishes. Infused into wine, vinegar, oil, glycerin and honey.

Family:Viola/Violet

Parts used:leaver, flowers, and roots

Energetics/Taste:Cool, moist, pungent, bitter, sweet.

Element:Water

Emotional/Spiritual Uses: to support fragility, vulnerability, subtleness, solitary life choices OR to encourage connection, openness, calm realtionships and sharing with others.

Contraindications: The seeds and roots may cause vomiting. Health issues that are “cold” in nature

PEONY Petal Hand Lotion

This is a lovely hand lotion to make. The scent is fragile and hard to describe. Peonies are my favorite flower. I love the smell, their delicate flowers, and the fact that ants harvest their nectar. I chose peonies for my wedding bouquet. Their appearance in early June (when snowfall is truly at an end) always lightens my spirit.

Peony Petal Hand Lotion

2 cups of shea butter , One 16OZ container of shea butter

1 cup almond oil

3 TBSP of beeswax beads

2 cups peony petals

10 drops lemon essential oil

1 TBSP of vitamin E oil

In a double boiler melt the first three ingredients. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes . Place contents into a food processor and add the petals. blend for 1 minute. Remove and quickly strain. Add in your lemon and Vitamin E oils. Place liquid back into the processor and pulse/whip until you get a thick, opaque, white lotion. Spoon into small jars. Let finish cooling before screwing on the lids. Store in a cool dry place.

Paeonia

Paeonia is a perennial cultivar in the United States. A thick knobby rootstock sends up several (reddish green) shoots in late spring. These become totally green 2-3 foot high stems as they mature. At the end of which are sets of dark green ternate or bi-ternate leaves with large ovate-lanceolate leaflets. Flowers resemble roses and can have single or multiple rings of petals. When mature the plant resembles a bush. Flowers can be white, red or shades of pink in color. The scent is quite distinctive and perfume like.

I bet you never considered peonies to have healing qualities unless you studied Traditional Chinese Medicine. In TCM it has been used to clear heat, blood stagnation, and improve circulation. It is the root that gets used for seizures, irritability, restlessness, coughs, headache, stomach pain, sleep issues, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fever, muscle/menstrual cramps, diabetes, high blood pressure, jaundice, gout, asthma, infertility, anemia, vertigo, yin/kidney deficiency and absent periods. Externally the root has been used for boils, eczema, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins. The petals are great for rashes or aging skin with their anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. I only have one large plant which I can not bear to dig it up to harvest roots. I feel fine about using the petals when they are about to fall. I hate to waste anything in the garden if it has a use.

Part used: root

Energetics: bitter, sour, cool

Element: Fire

Spiritual and Emotional Uses: To repel negative energies and prevent nightmares.

Contraindications: the entire plant is considered poisonous by some. Use with caution under the supervision of a highly trained TCM practitioner.

GF Dandelion Flower and Apple Cake

I am posting this recipes a bit early to tempt you. Before you know it lawns will be covered in dandelions beautiful bright yellow blossoms. We think of using the roots or leaves of this plant but there are so many uses for the flowers in things like fritters/tempura, wine, jelly, flan/quiche, cookies, and syrup. This gluten free cake has a lovely taste and nice texture. If you celebrate the spring equinox, Purim or Nauryz this dessert would suit all of those festivals well.

Gluten Free Dandelion Flower and Apple Cake

In a small bowl mix all of your wet ingredients……

1/2 cup of walnut oil

2 eggs

3/4 cup of honey

Stir in……..

1 and 1/2 cup of shredded apple

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 cup of milk or substitute

1/2 cup of dandelion flowers green parts removed

In a larger bowl add and mix your dry ingredients……

1/2 cup of rice flour

1/2 cup of almond flour

1tsp each of baking powder, baking soda

1/2 tsp of salt

1/2 cup of sugar

Pinch each of dried-star anise, clove, cardamon, ginger

Add your “wet” bowl to the “dry” bowl and mix until there are no lumps.

Grease, flour and line with parchment paper -a 9 inch springform cake pan. Pour in the cake batter and level. Let sit while you pre-heat your oven to 350.

Bake at 350 one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Latin Name: Taraxacum officinaleFamily: AsterSubfamily: Cichoriodeae/Chickory

Taraxacum has yellow ray flowers that overlap all the way to the center. There is no round disk in the center like other plants in the aster family. The “petals” are straight and do not taper. It has bracts/modified leaves where the stem joins the flower instead of sepals. It has a hollow, round stem full of a white, latex like, sticky sap.There are related plants that look like dandelion (sap, yellow flowers etc.) BUT Dandelion has a reddish green , non branching stem that is 2-6 inches long (sometimes 18). The leaves do not grow off the stem, instead they grow around the base in a ring. There is one flower per stem .The leaves are very serrated like teeth , they get broader towards the top before ending in a point. Nothing about a dandelion is prickly or hairy. Single seeds look like a tiny parachute but together form a white fluffy ball.Habitat-lawns, parks, fields, waste land. Dandelion likes poor soil. Blooms and makes seeds all year round. One of the first flowering plants to appear in spring.Growing:will grown anywhere. Self seeds. No need to cultivate, it is an invasive but useful weed.Edible parts:Root, leaves, flower heads.Harvesting:Dandelion roots and leaves are most bitter in the spring, this is also when they have most medicinal qualities. Plants growing in the shade may be less bitter. Pick flowers mid morning when they are dry and have reached their biggest size. Wash well, the root may need to be scrubbed with a brush. When picking be aware of contamination from pets and pesticides/herbicides. Watch for bees, it is their favorite source of food right in the early spring.

Historically Dandelion has been used as a diuretic (water retention) and laxative (constipation). As a tonic it cleanses the blood/tissues/organs of wastes/toxins and clears heat. Dandelion is useful for skin disorders (acne, cysts, fibroids, poison ivy, rashes, eczema, abscesses etc.), hay fever, candida, allergies, varicose veins, gout, rheumatism, and weight loss. It cools heat (fever) , stimulates the immune system, and removes infection ( sinusitis, bronchitis, mastitis, hepatitis, herpes, and mono just to name a few) Internally Dandelion is best known for its action (astringent, tonic, stimulant) ) on the digestive system (gas, indigestion, appetite loss, heartburn, ulcers) the bladder ( urinary tract infection) liver (jaundice, cirrhosis) and gallbladder (gallstones) pancreas, spleen, and kidneys (kidney stones). Internally the flowers can be used for pain/anti-inflammatory (arthritis, cramps, headaches, and backache). Externally the flowers can be used for wounds and fungal infections. The sap from the stem is thought to remove warts.

Culinary uses- coffee substitute, wine, beer, syrup, jelly, baked goods, stir fry, juiced, pickles, and salad green just to name a few. Herbal products products-tea/infusion, tincture, oil/salve. The fresh leaves can be added to salads and soups or the dried to condiments to add a mineral source to the diet.

Parts Used: leaves, flowers, root

Energetics: bitter, sweet, cold, moist

Element: Air

Emotional/Spiritual Use-for cleansing, rejuvenation, reflection, stress/tension, fear, or hesitation. Promotes trust, openness, balance, ease and relaxation in those who overdue it or have perfectionist tendencies.

Contraindications: safe during pregnancy and nursing in small amounts. Because it is in the aster family, it may cause allergic reaction in people sensitive to those kinds of plants. The sap may cause contact dermatitis.