White Sage {Salvia apiana}

Also, Known As:

  • Bee Sage
  • Sacred Sage
  • White Ceremonial Sage
  • White Sage

Salvia apiana or white sage is a perennially growing evergreen shrub that is indigenous to the southwestern regions of the United States and the adjoining north-western areas of Mexico. This herb is mostly found growing in the wild in the scrub habitat in the coastal regions of Baja California and Southern California, located on the western peripheries of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts.

White sage possibly derives its name from its ashen evergreen leaves, which contain oils and resins. The leaves of white sage emit a potent aroma when they are rubbed. The white to light lavender hued blooms of this plant attract bees, and this is described in the plant’s specific name – apiana. White sage bears many flower stalks, which measure anything between 1 meter and 1.3 meters (3.3 feet to 4.3 feet) in height. Occasionally, the flower stalks of white sage have a pinkish hue and they grow higher than the foliage, especially in spring.

White sage usually grows up to a height of five feet. The plants bloom during the summer. The petals of white sage pucker back, as the stamens dangle on the sides. The white sage flowers are often troublesome for the bees, as they can neither go inside nor get out with ease. However, bumblebees are more apt at dealing with these flowers, while hummingbirds have no trouble at all in collecting nectar from white sage flowers.

Plant Part Used:

Dried leaves.

Herbal Remedy Use:

Native American groups inhabiting the United States’ Pacific coast extensively use white sage or Salvia apiana. The seed of this plant formed the main ingredient of their staple food, locally known as “Pinole”. People belonging to the Cahuilla collected the white sage seeds in large amounts. They pounded the seeds and blended it with wheat flour as well as sugar for preparing biscuits or gruel. Even the leaves and stems of white sage were consumed by members of the Chumash as well as other local tribes.

Many tribes used the seeds of white sage to clear their eyes of foreign objects, much in the same manner as the Europeans used the clary sage seeds. Cahuilla women also used the roots of this plant to prepare a tea, which is reported to provide strength after childbirth, in addition to healing. Several Native American tribes also burnt the leaves of white sage and the smoke was used in various rituals undertaken for purification.

The leaves of this plant were also used to make an infusion, which was employed in the form of a blood tonic as well as to treat colds and coughs. The leaves are also edible. In addition, they are used in the form of a sweat bath and also to treat colds. As aforementioned, the seeds of white sage are used in the form of eye cleaners.

Several native tribes in America, including the Costanoan, Cahuilla, Kawaiisu, Diegeno, and Maidu of California used the seeds of white sage or chia, as known locally, for cleansing as well as healing their eyes. One means of cleaning the eyes was placing a few white sage seeds inside their eyes at bedtime. These seeds became swollen and gelatinous during the night. While the seeds moved around underneath the eyelids during sleep, they pull together foreign substances, if any, on the eyeballs. The seeds were taken out in the morning, cleaning the eyes and also getting rid of all foreign particles.

sacredsmokeFor centuries, various native groups have been using the leaves of white sage in the form of a hair shampoo, hair straightener, and hair dye. They crushed the leaves in water and applied the water to their hair. In addition, freshly crushed leaves were also used to make a poultice, which was applied to the armpits to get rid of foul odors. They also burnt the leaves and used them in the form of an incense to fumigate their homes following the outbreak of infectious ailments like measles.

These native tribes collected the seeds in a flat basket or beater basket. Subsequently, the seeds were dried and pounded into a powdered form for use in meals. In southern California, the Cahuillas used one part of the pounded seeds to blend with three parts wheat flour and a small amount of sugar. This blend was consumed dry, mixed with water in the form of gruel. Alternatively, they baked the powdered seeds into biscuits or cakes.

These tribes harvested the seeds in large quantities and kept them in baskets at home after drying. For instance, the tribes inhabiting north of Santa Barbara stored the dried seeds as well as other foods in small baskets on hand. They especially stored some seeds for the winter, when many other foods were not available. In California, the Chumash, as well as other tribes, also consumed white sage leaves and stems.

Women of the Cahuilla drank an infusion prepared from the roots of white sage after childbirth with a view to getting rid of afterbirth problems as well as support internal healing. Cahuilla people also consumed white sage seeds for treating colds. Similarly, the Diegueno employed the white sage to prepare a tea for curing colds.

These native tribes of America used the white sage leaves in various ways – they smoked the leaves, used them to prepare an herbal tea and also employed the leaves in sweat-houses for treating colds. Members of the Diegueno tribe used the leaves of white sage in the form of a shampoo to cleanse their hair as well as to prevent them from becoming gray untimely. Some tribes also rubbed the leaves against their body or applied the crushed leaves to their body to get rid of any foul smell. In fact, men of the Cahuilla tribe usually did this prior to venturing out for hunting. They also burnt the dry white sage leaves and the smoke was used in the form of an incense during purification rituals. Several native Indian tribes in America hold the white sage in high esteem. This herb is also cherished by many other cultures across the world even to this day. White sage is especially valued for its tender feminine attributes.

White sage is an aromatic herb that has been widely used over the centuries in the form of incense as well as in smudge pots during ceremonies. Hence, this herb is commonly also known as the white ceremonial sage.

Some people also burnt the white sage leaves to fumigate their houses or dwellings following any contagious disease and also for purifying the air during ailments. When drunk in the form of an infusion or tea, white sage offers potent anti-inflammatory properties. White sage tea may also aid in reducing the symptoms of an ulcer.

Culinary Use:

White sage seeds are used for culinary purposes, either raw or after cooking. Native American tribes also mixed the seeds with cereals like wheat or oats, toasted them and subsequently ground them into a fine powder for consuming it dry. Alternatively, they also soaked the white sage seeds in water or fruit juice for the night and drunk the liquid or consumed it along with cereals. Sometimes, the seeds were also used in the form of a spice. On the other hand, white sage leaves are consumed after cooking. The leaves are also used to add flavor to seed mushes. Often, people also consume the young stalks of white sage raw. The tops of ripened or mature stems are peeled and consumed raw.

Native Habitat:

Salvia apiana (white sage) is indigenous to a very small region in southern California as well as the northwestern areas of Mexico. This plant has a preference for the conditions found in this dry, coastal region, which has a sloping milieu on the fringe of the desert. The plants need deep watering only once in two weeks, especially when grown in a sandy soil having proper drainage and a sunny location. Although white sage can endure cool climatic conditions, the performance of the plant will be poor when grown in shade and humid conditions and if they are watered excessively. If you are living in areas where frosting is common, you can grow white sage in pots and keep them indoors. It is best to grow the white sage as annual plants in such areas.

White sage hybridizes very easily with other species belonging to the Salvia genus, especially Salvia clevelandii and Salvia leucophylla.

The ideal conditions for growing white sage include a dry climate. In fact, these plants may be killed if the winter months are too wet. Salvia apiana is unable to endure colder climates and, hence, they die. Plants of this species can only tolerate low temperatures in the range of -5°C and -10°C. White sage seeds are available in health food stores and are usually used to prepare beverages – infusion or tea. White sage is an excellent bee plant. Plants belonging to this genus are seldom disturbed by browsing deer.

For commercial purposes, white sage is usually propagated by its seeds, which are ideally sown in a greenhouse during the March-April period. Normally, it takes about two weeks for the seeds to germinate. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently big to be handled, prick them out and plant them in separate pots. You may transfer the young white sage plants to their permanent positions outdoors during the onset of summer next year. In places where the temperatures hover around the endurance levels of white sage, it is advisable that you grow them in a greenhouse throughout their first winter. You may plant them outdoors during the end of spring in the subsequent year.

White sage can also be propagated from semi-mature wood cuttings. These cuttings can be done at any time during the growing season, as they are generally very successful.

Research:

In 1991, scientists at the University of Arizona undertook a study which showed that white sage (Salvia apiana) possesses potential antibacterial qualities, especially against Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus, Candida brassicae and Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Constituents:

White sage contains triterpenes and diterpenes, including oleanolic acid, carnosic acid, and ursolic acid.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions:

Although white sage is safe for consumption by most people, this herb should be avoided by women during pregnancy.

 Harvesting White Sage:

While harvesting white sage (Salvia apiana) by cutting the stems one needs to be careful to discriminate between the fleshy and woody parts of the stem. Cutting the fleshy top of the white sage stem will produce two stems in the following year. On the other hand, cutting the woody base of the plant will not promote the growth of new leaves or stem. After cutting the stems, hang them upturned to desiccate them and subsequently bundle them in the form of smudge sticks (dried herbs). You may preserve the dry leaves of the herb for preparing tea or, if you prefer, even use them in your food. The seeds can be collected for sowing in the next year. For this, you need to save the brownish fruits, which are akin to nuts, prior to the release of the seeds.

Herbal Chemistry

A herbalist should be fully aware of details about the pharmacology of herbs, a basic understanding of it is more than enough. Herbs are used for healing the human body, they are considered to be holistic agents, and they are used on a physical and biochemistry level. Many pharmacologists try to find out the constituents of herbs, place them according to their chemical groups and have done numerous researches and have found herbs to be very complex in their characteristics. Herbs contain a huge variety of chemicals like water, inorganic salt, sugars, carbohydrates, proteins that are highly complex, and alkaloids.

Plant Acids:

An example of weak organic acids is generally found among plants, lemon is the perfect example of citric acid. Organic acids can be split into those based on a carbon chain, and those, which contain a carbon ring in their configuration, but what both have in common is the -COOH group. Chain acids are also known as aliphatic acids, which can range from formic acid (the simplest one, found in the stings of the nettles) to the more complex chain acids like valeric acid and citric acid. Valeric acid is being used in sedatives in allopathic medicine.

The ring acids are known as the aromatic acids, they form a crucial pharmacological group. The most uncomplicated aromatic acid is benzoic acid, which is found in foods like cranberries, resins, and balsams, like Peru balsams, gum benzoin, and tolu. These acids are used in antiseptic lotions and ointments and they are also used for antipyretic and diuretic actions. One can cure a chronic bronchial problem just by inhaling these acids.

Alcohols:

Alcohols are found in a variety of forms in the plant kingdom, they are mostly a component of volatile oils or sterols, for example, geraniol in attar of rose and the menthol in peppermint oil. Waxes too are also a common form of alcohol. Mixtures of alcohols and fatty acids are generally found on leaves and other parts of the plants. Carnauba wax is acquired from the palm Copernicia cerifera.

Volatile Oils:

Volatile oils are a combination of simple molecules like isoprene or isopentane, which can mix in various ways to produce terpenes. It is a basic mix of 5 carbon molecules, sometimes with slight differences here and there. All this combines to make the volatile oils.

Volatile oils are mostly found in aromatic plants, herbs like peppermint and thyme are the perfect example of volatile oils. The combination of the oils and the smell can be in variations, even if they belong to the same types of the plant, basically, it all depends on the concentration of the oils. When these oils are extracted from the plants, the aromatic oils are produced, which are used for many therapeutic treatments, and the major part of the production is used to manufacture perfumes.

There is a wide range of aromatic oils and they each have specific qualities, though most of these oils have some common characteristics, which are worth learning about.

Most aromatic oils are antiseptics; oils like eucalyptus oil, garlic oil, and thyme oil fall under this category. These oils are absorbed with ease inside the body and they are effective for both internally and externally on the whole body system. When they are consumed internally or applied externally they land up finally in the urinary system, lungs, bronchial, sweat glands, saliva, tears or vaginal fluids. They can even occur in breast milk and during pregnancy can go to the placenta inside the fetus. Apart from having antiseptic functions, it can also encourage the creation of white blood cells, therefore increasing the immune system of the body.

Volatile oils have the quality of arousing the tissues they come in touch with, some oils like the mustard oils irritate the skin slightly while oils like menthol and camphor leave a numb feeling. Both these oils help in digestion arousing the lining of the colon which gives reflex reaction thus increasing the gastric juices to flow, which also makes the person feel hungry. People, who suffer from acute pain, can benefit from these oils by calming the peristalsis in the lower part of the intestines.

Volatile oils are also beneficial for the central nervous system. Oils like for example chamomile oil, are known to calm and sedate while peppermint oil helps in stimulation, both these oils have the quality so easing out any tension in the body system thus reducing conditions like depression or tension. When there is an external application of aromatic oils on the body, the aroma is easily transferred through the nose to the brain, triggering an instant reaction.

Herbs, which contain volatile oils, have to be retained by storing them carefully in sealed bottles or containers, as volatile oils can evaporate with ease.

Carbohydrates:

There is a huge variety of carbohydrates in the plant kingdom, they are found in foods like sugar: fructose and glucose, they are also found in starches, which is the storage of the main energy and they can also be in the form of cellulose which is much more complex or elaborate, which helps in supporting the structure of the plants.

Large cellulose known as polysaccharides combines with other chemicals and produce molecules known as pectins, which are generally found in fruits like apples or even in seaweeds like algin, agar or even carragum, which are found in Irish moss. They are very effective and have the power to cure and are used in producing gels, which are further used in medicines and foods.

Gums and mucilage are carbohydrates, which are complex in nature and are retained in soothing and healing herbs like coltsfoot, plantain, and marshmallow. Once applied it relaxes the lining of the gut, arousing a reflex reaction that goes to the spinal nerves to areas like the lungs and the urinary tract. The mucilage not only reduces irritation, it even reduces inflammation of the alimentary canal, it also decreases the sensitivity of the gastric acids, can cure diarrhea and reduce peristalsis, it also cures the respiratory system, lessens coughing and tension, and increases the secretion of watery mucus.

Phenolic Compounds:

Phenol is a bulging block of many components of plants. The compounds of phenol could be simple in structure or could be a composite of a variety of basic molecule. One of the simplest phenolic compounds is salicylic acid, which is generally found in the combination of sugar, it forms glycoside found in willow, cramp bark, meadowsweet, and wintergreen. It functions as an antiseptic, painkiller and has anti-inflammatory functions too. It is utilized in most allopathic medicines like aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid is the main component if this medicine.

Eugenol oil is found in cloves and it functions like a painkiller, even thymol from thyme oil also cures pains, and both oils contain salicylic acid. Bearberry acts like an antiseptic on the urinary system of the body because it contains phenol hydroquinone.

Tannins:

Tannins in herbs have the quality to function as astringents. They act on proteins and other chemicals to protect the layer of the skin and the mucous membrane. It can even bind the tissue of the gut, decrease diarrhea and also stop any internal bleeding. They are also used for an external application like the treatment of burns, healing wounds and reducing inflammation. Tannins can cure eye infections like conjunctivitis or even infection in the mouth, vagina, cervix or rectum.

Coumarins:

The evoking smell of hay is due to the coumarin chemicals. The grass is not the only plant, which contains this aromatic component of coumarins; sweet woodruff also contains these chemicals. Coumarins do not have much effect on the human body but one of its components known, as dicoumarol is a strong anti-clotting agent. Coumarins have been used extensively in allopathic medicine. Small doses of warfarin are used as an anti-clotting drug to cure conditions like thrombosis and as a rat poison, large doses are used.

Anthraquinones:

Anthraquinones are found in plants, which are supposed to be effective laxatives and they are also natural dyes. They are generally glycosides and are found in plants like rhubarb, yellow dock, senna, aloe, and buckthorn. Anthraquinones stimulates the colon after eight to twelve hours of ingestion and they also stimulate the peristalsis of the intestine, all this can be achieved if the natural bile is present. If the colon is over stimulated, then colic pain could occur. Anthraquinones are usually combined with carminative herbs to cure this type of condition.

Flavones and Flavonoid Glycosides:

Flavones and flavonoid glycosides are chemical groups commonly found in most plant components. They can actively act as anti-spasmodic, diuretic, circulatory and cardiac stimulants. Some like rutin, hesperidin, and bioflavonoid vitamin P can aid circulatory system and decrease blood pressure too. Buckwheat is a herb, which can be used effectively for such health problems. Bioflavonoids help in absorption of vitamin C. Milk thistle is another herb, which has a strong presence of flavonoid and can cure an ailing liver.

Saponins:

Saponins have drawn the attention of majority pharmaceutical chemists in the world. They are utilized in the synthesis of cortisone, which is an anti-inflammatory drug, and they are also widely used in the synthesis of sex hormones. Saponins are found in herbs, which do not essentially act in a similar way, the body can use them as raw products to build the necessary chemicals. Natural saponins and synthesized drugs are quite similar, like cortisone and diosgenin, which is found in wild yam.

Golden rod, chickweed, figwort and wild yam all contain saponins, which are used to produce anti-inflammatory drugs. Saponins are very good in stimulating the upper digestive tract and herbs like primrose, mullein, violet and daisy are rich in saponins.

Cardiac glycosides:

Cardiac glycosides were discovered in 1785 in foxglove. A lot of investigations has taken place over this chemical component. They have a lot of similarities to saponins and are used in medicine to give support to heart problems.

Cardiac glycosides are made of a mixture of sugar and steroidal aglycone. The center of activity is charted out by the characteristics of aglycone. In the combination, sugar determines the bioavailability of aglycone, which is quite active.

Cardiac glycosides are found in most flowering plants. Lily of the valley, squill, foxglove and Strophanthus family are the best resources of cardiac glycosides. In therapeutic treatment, cardiac glycosides are very effective in increasing the force and power heart beats, and at the same time keeping the level of the oxygen intact for the heart muscles. They can help the heart to function in a steady manner without straining the organ.

Bitter principles:

Bitter principles stand for a group of chemicals that have an extremely bitter taste. They are diverse in structure and the bitterest ones are iridoids, terpenes, and other groups.

Bitter principles are known to be very effective in most therapeutic treatments. Through the taste bud, they arouse the secretion of the digestive juices and also help the liver to be more active, helping in hepatic elimination.

Sedatives like hops and valerian, cough remedies such as white horehound, anti-inflammatory herbs bogbean and devil’s claw, and the vulnerary marigold have all the properties of bitterness.

Alkaloids:

Alkaloids are the most powerful group of plant constituents that act effectively on the human body and mind. Under the category of alkaloids, you will find hallucinogen mescaline and the very poisonous brucine. These alkaloids can work on the liver, lungs, nerves and the digestive system of the body. You will find alkaloids in most of the herbs. Alkaloids inside the plants do not really have any specific function, apart from storing excessive nitrogen. Alkaloids as a group are very different in their structure and they have separated into 13 groups accordingly. Their structure is dominated by nitrogen and they have a distinguished physiological activity.

To encourage weight loss there is a supplement known as chitosan, which is basically a fat blocker. Chitosan is derived from chitin which is found in exoskeletons of shrimps and crabs, it is quite similar to plant fiber and cannot be digested easily. If chitosan is consumed orally it behaves like a big sponge absorbing the fat of the body up to four to six times than the body usually does while passing the digestive system. It helps flush out all the excessive fat of the body which could have been metabolized and settled inside the body. It is like you can eat as much as you want if you are consuming chitosan.

The disadvantage of chitosan is that it does not cure chronic overeating at all. It should only be consumed for two weeks at a time to just get a weight loss diet started. Chitosan can be very good in absorbing fat, but at the same time it can be quite harmful in the sense that it can rob the body of essential vitamins like E, A, D and K. If chitosan is consumed, diet supplements like vitamins and essential fatty acids should also be included in the diet too. According to studies, chitosan is considered quite safe for any weight loss program. A test was conducted on two mice, one was administered chitosan while the other was not, the mice which had consumed chitosan and other supplement diets had few precancerous lesions than the one who did not have chitosan at all. It can also lower total blood cholesterol level in the body and raise the level of HDL, known as the good cholesterol, which in turn protects the body against any heart disease. Chitosan is a versatile supplement, it is a good antacid and helps prevent tooth decay.

Winter Self-Care

When you feel those dreaded flu symptoms coming on, you want to take something you know will stop sickness in its tracks. According to a recent study, your options now include herbs. A new study shows a combination of echinacea and elderberry is as effective as the conventional antiviral medicine Tamiflu in the early treatment of influenza. In the study, 473 patients with flu symptoms for less than 48 hours were randomly given either a syrup containing echinacea herb and root supplemented with elderberry for ten days or Tamiflu for five days followed by a placebo for five days. Observing the two groups at one, five, and ten days of treatment to see who had mild or no symptoms, researchers found a similar number of patients had recovered in both groups. Researchers even noted a small trend towards a higher percentage of recovered patients after ten days of treatment with the herbal syrup. Early intervention is key with any flu treatment, so consider keeping a bottle of echinacea/elderberry extract on hand just in case.

Winter Health Benefits Of Echinacea And Sage

Beautiful Echinacea and earthy sage both have extensive historical uses. They’re easy to grow, and — in the case of Echinacea — you’re helping to cultivate and restore an endangered plant if you grow certain cultivars. The health benefits of Echinacea and sage are particularly helpful in winter, as both plants can be used for respiratory ailments and to ease sore throats.

Health Benefits of Echinacea

Members of the genus Echinacea have been used most effectively as an internal application against the common cold, fatigue, upper respiratory infection. Practitioners often recommend Echinacea for a sore throat, strep throat, tonsillitis, bronchitis, flu symptoms, canker and cold sores, swollen lymphatics, septic conditions, and gangrene. Externally, as an ointment or poultice, it’s been used for boils, eczema, bee stings, and snakebites.

Echinacea is not, contrary to popular belief, useful to take day in and day out as a preventative. The compounds within this plant marshal our white blood cells to move efficiently toward a place where our body is losing a battle with infection.

Contraindications: Echinacea may be detrimental to those with autoimmune diseases. People who have allergies to chamomile, marigold, yarrow, ragweed, chrysanthemum, or daisy, or people who have asthma, might develop allergic reactions to Echinacea.

Growing: Three species of Echinacea are most commonly grown and used medicinally: Echinacea purpurea, E. pallida, and E. Angustifolia. Newer hybrid cultivars grown for interesting color may not have the same potent medicinal properties as these three traditional species. The perennial prairie plants are in danger of overharvesting and loss of habitat, so source Echinacea responsibly or grow it yourself — it’s easy to do.

Echinacea seeds germinate best when given a period of stratification (cold conditioning). Either store the seeds in your refrigerator before planting, or direct-sow untreated Echinacea seeds four to six weeks before your average last frost. Sow seeds in full sun or partial shade, and keep the soil well-drained. Echinacea will thrive almost anywhere and will require very little tending, as long as it’s not overwatered.

Harvest notes: All parts of the plant are useful; however, it is the root that has primarily been used in traditional applications. Harvest leaves just as the flower is developing; harvest flowers just as they’re unfurling, and dig the roots either in spring or fall after they’ve had three or four years to become established.

Health Benefits of Sage

One of the most prized herbs on our farm, the health benefits of sage far exceeds its culinary flavoring. Sage (Salvia officinalis) is high in volatile oils, which makes it especially good for ailments in the digestive system, for bleeding gums and tongue inflammation, sore throat, laryngitis, tonsillitis, gas, chronic diarrhea, ulcer, and excessive salivation.

This wonderful plant is also well known for its work on the reproductive system. It has been talked about and researched for some time in regard to menopausal hot flashes. It does indeed cool the experience of a hot flash while also providing a tonic to the underlying endocrine imbalance in the adrenal glands.

Sage is also useful for missed cycles and a lack of sufficient bleeding in them, for morning sickness, preventing yeast infections, and for cysts in the breasts. Because of its ability to decrease fluids in our bodies, sage is often used to decrease the flow of breast milk while weaning a child to solid foods.

Sage behaves differently depending on the temperature at which it’s served. A warm sage tea will encourage secretions in the body, stimulating sweating to reduce a fever. A room temperature tea will allow the antibacterial qualities of sage to shine — this is how you want to serve your sore throat tea (see the sage tea recipe below). A cold tea will decrease the flow of secretions and cause tissues to dry.

In the nervous system, sage has applications for canker sores, memory improvement for Alzheimer’s patients, treating symptoms of arthritis, headache, and insomnia. For the circulatory and lymphatic systems, sage has benefits for lipoma, hair loss, dandruff, excessively dry skin, and blood stagnation. In the urinary tract, it can help with cystitis and stones.

Contraindications: Sage should not be taken long term or in excessive doses during pregnancy. Except for in small amounts in food, it should be avoided during lactation. Avoid internal use of essential oil or alcoholic extracts during this time as well; the thujone in sage stimulates blood flow to the pelvic area, thus promoting menstruation and possibly causing miscarriage.

Growing: Sage grows well in full sun and cooler climates, so plant in partial shade (if you have hot summers) and in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Prune plants to 4 to 6 inches as soon as they begin to grow the first year, and pinch back stem-tips two or three times during the first summer to encourage branching.

Plants become woody and less productive after three or four years, so you can replace them or root a few stem cuttings each year.

Harvest notes: The leaves are used for medicine, and the flowers are a delicious edible. Collect leaves on a dry day just before or just as the plant is beginning to flower. You can harvest leaves during the first year after the plants become established.

Hang small bunches of sage upside down to dry in a well-ventilated area out of sunlight or dehydrate leaves in a 150-degree-Fahrenheit oven. Store your sage in airtight containers.

Keep your dried sage on hand for a hot or room-temperature tea or to use as a garnish or flavoring in a variety of warming winter dishes.

Sage Herbal Tea for Sore Throat

For sore throats, my absolute favorite remedy is sage herbal tea served lukewarmly. Remember that temperature does matter when it comes to this plant, and lukewarm is where it’s at its best in fending off bacteria. In our house, if someone has a mild sore throat, we make a strong sage tea with honey and lemon, and the throat heals very quickly. When a sore throat is a little more serious, we use sage herbal tea as a gargle and combine it with a pinch of salt and cayenne. The gargle is used every couple of hours and is also effective.

Sage Tea Recipe: To brew an infusion of our own sage herbal tea at home is not just as easy as throwing a tea bag in some hot water. To obtain the most medicinal benefit from your herbs, consider different methods depending on the part of the plant that’s being brewed.

When using leaves, fruits, flowers, and roots high in volatile oils (such as sage), heat water in a tea kettle and then pour over the herbs. (On the farm, we use a mason jar and brew teas by the quart for simplicity.) Cover and let steep for at least 10 to 20 minutes. Then, strain, (let cool to lukewarm for sage) and drink, or store in the refrigerator for one to two days.

Looking for more ways to use Echinacea?

We often use Echinacea for a sore throat. If we need to be away from the house while one of us is suffering from a sore throat, I will often make an Echinacea spray. The best part about this throat spray is that it can fight the infection while providing a soothing, numbing sensation.

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons Echinacea tincture
• 2 tablespoons raw honey
• 1 tablespoon warm water
• 2 drops essential oil of your choice (peppermint, eucalyptus, or tea tree are great options)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a small spray bottle (preferably glass).

Store the bottle in the refrigerator, and it should keep for a couple months.

Always shake before spraying. Use as needed.

Lemon Balm

Learn the medicinal and culinary uses of lemon balm, how to grow it, and how to make your own traditional Carmelite water.

To get the best flavor out of lemon balm, shear it with scissors, cutting it down by half or more, at least once a month. You can safely harvest three-quarters of the plant every three to four weeks and not harm it.

Often when someone asks me what my most favorite herb would be, I enjoy the surprise on their face when they hear my answer: Lemon balm, I say, without any hesitation.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) isn’t at the top of most people’s favorites list. Basil, parsley, and lavender are the most popular herbs in America, but lemon balm isn’t even on the top 10 list. But it is deserving of considerably more recognition.

Lemon balm is a perennial herb from the mint family (Lamiaceae). The plant, originally from the Mediterranean, is reliably hardy in nearly all parts of the United States. The mildly lemon-scented leaves are the parts used for tea, cookies, cakes, and medicines. One of my garden interns even made a lemon balm pie last year!

Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, lemon balm has been cultivated as a valuable culinary and medicinal herb. It was once traditional to rub lemon balm leaves around the openings of beehives to encourage the bees to produce more honey. For at least 2,000 years, lemon balm has been planted and encouraged in gardens and orchards to entice more bees for pollination.

Medicinal Use

This important herb is used for relieving upset stomach, bloating, intestinal gas, vomiting, colic, and menstrual cramps. It’s valued for its calming effects in soothing restlessness, sleeplessness, and anxiety. Besides those uses, it can be applied as a poultice directly onto insect bites to remove the pain and swelling. According to the website WebMD (webmd.com), “Taking a standardized extract of lemon balm by mouth daily for four months seems to reduce agitation and improve symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.”

The 17th century Carmelite nuns (or monks, depending on what source you check) became famous for their “Carmelite Water,” which was a combination of lemon balm, the peels of lemons, nutmeg, coriander, and angelica. The nuns used this tea or decoction (strong tea) in treating nervous headaches, upset stomach, depression and digestive problems.

Lemon balm in the form of cream or tincture has shown positive effects when treating cold sores (herpes labialis). Simply applying a lip balm with as little as 1 percent lemon balm extract reduces symptoms and speeds up healing time. The herb itself is known for being an anti-viral, therefore good for relieving colds and fevers. Dr. James Duke suggests that regular doses of lemon balm tea can help with chronic fatigue syndrome and the symptoms of shingles because of the herb’s antiviral actions.

For anxiety and mild depression, lemon balm is often combined with other calming herbs including valerian (Valeriana officinalis), chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and hops (Humulus lupulus), and drunk as a tea. A simple cup of hot lemon balm tea, by itself, helps encourage appetite.

But as good as the reported medicinal benefits of lemon balm are, it’s the culinary aspects that impress me. I began making lemon balm cookies and lemon balm cakes to serve to my guests. The flavor of this herb is satisfying to almost everyone, and the herb is so easy to grow that even beginning herb people can grow it with success.

lemon-balm-flowers-img-e1474270692497Growing Lemon Balm

Lemon balm can be started from seed, although the most common way is to grow it from a plant or root division. Being in the larger mint family (Liminacea) it will spread somewhat from the roots, though not aggressively like its mintier cousins. It isn’t picky about soil, though it does require plenty of sunshine. While it will do fairly well in part shade, the more sun you give it, the better it will grow.

There are two important things to note about lemon balm. It can reseed itself somewhat without becoming a pest. That habit is easily prevented by the other important fact, which is, the more you harvest lemon balm leaves, the better the flavor will be. If you neglect this flavorful plant by not harvesting, the leaves will become slightly bitter and “soapy” tasting. To get the best flavor out of lemon balm, shear it with scissors, cutting it down by half or more, at least once a month. You can safely harvest three-quarters of the plant every three or four weeks and not harm it. By harvesting often, you won’t have any problems with it reseeding itself.

Bees and butterflies love this plant, and honey from bees that have fed on lemon balm is heavenly. The herb dries well and can also be used in herb jellies, iced herb teas, and many, many other ways. Few insect pests bother lemon balm and it can be grown in the garden, in patio pots, along fence rows or in the perennial bed where the bright green leaves make everything around it look good.


Make Your Own Traditional Carmelite Water

(Also known as “Eau de Melisse des Carmes”)

This can be made from either dry or fresh herbs; if using fresh, use twice the amount listed.

• 1 1/4 cups vodka (to preserve the mixture)

• 3 tablespoons dried angelica root, or leaves and stalks

• 1/8 cup dried (or 1/4 cup fresh) lemon balm leaves

• 2 tablespoons lemon zest (avoid the pith)

Combine the herbs and vodka in a quart jar. Cover tightly and leave in a warm but dark place (pantry or cupboard) for two weeks. Jiggle or shake the jar slightly every day or two.

After two weeks, add the following:

• 1 tablespoon coriander seed, slightly crushed

• 1 whole nutmeg, cracked in a blender

• 2 tablespoons whole cloves

• 1 4-inch cinnamon stick

Leave for a week, then strain into a sterilized bottle and store in a cool place. Best if used within six months.

lemon-balm-cookiesLemon Balm Cookies Recipe

Enjoy the fresh taste of the lemon balm herb in these easy-to-make lemon balm cookies.

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Yield: 18 cookies

Ingredients:

• About 1/4 cup coarsely chopped lemon balm leaves

• 1 1/2 cups sugar

• 1 cup butter or margarine

• 2 eggs

• 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 2 1/2 cups flour

• 2 teaspoons baking powder

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a food processor, place 1 cup of the sugar and the lemon balm leaves. Pulse until the lemon balm leaves are well chopped.

3. Add the remaining sugar and the butter and process until fluffy, then add remaining ingredients and process until well combined.

4. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges just begins to brown.

5. Loosen from cookie sheet while still warm; allow to cool. These cookies freeze well.

Lemon Balm Lemonade Recipe

The lemon balm adds a refreshing twist to this traditional summer beverage.

Ingredients:

• 3 large lemons

• 1/2 cup lemon balm leaves

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 1 cup boiling water

• 3 additional cups cold water

• Ice

Instructions:

1. Slice lemons into a bowl and add the fresh lemon balm leaves.

2. Pour boiling water over lemons and leaves. Let steep for 15 minutes. Strain, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add remaining water.

3. Fill two glasses half full with ice, then finish filling the glasses with lemonade.

Burdock Root

Burdock root is a medicinal herb and food that has powerful anti-tumor, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties. Burdock root is one of the top recommended herbal remedies for cancer due to the belief that it can stop cancer cells from metastasizing and it is one of the star ingredients of the famous natural cancer remedy known as Essiac tea.

It is also highly beneficial for colds, flu, sore throats, bronchial congestion, ulcers, gallstones, anemia, kidney stones, chicken pox, gout, measles, strep throat, urinary tract infections, bladder infections, hepatitis, and enlarged prostates. Burdock root is an essential blood purifier and detoxifying herb as it can neutralize and safely eliminate poisons and toxins from the body.

Burdock is one of the most important herbs for treating chronic skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, and shingles. It can also help to stimulate metabolism, re-grow hair, strengthen nails, and aid in edema and weight loss. Burdock root is an effective painkiller that can help alleviate symptoms of inflammation that affect auto-immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, bursitis, lupus, and diabetes.

Fresh burdock can be juiced with celery, kale, and apple or used in recipes similarly to carrots. It is often steamed or added to soups and stews. It has a subtly sweet and earthy flavor that works well with potatoes, mushrooms, and onions. Dried burdock root is often used as a medicinal tea.

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of dried burdock root and let steep for at least 10 minutes or more, sweeten with honey if desired. Burdock root can be readily found in a cream, salve, tincture, extract, and capsule form. It’s potent healing abilities has made it a vital herb for your natural medicine cabinet.

MEDICINAL QUALITIES OF BURDOCK

Burdock Root contains a number of medicinal properties that have been used for hundreds of years.  Traditionally herbalists all over the world use Burdock Root as a blood purifier.  It is the root of the Burdock plant that is harvested for folk medicinal use. The roots are about an inch wide but up to three feet long and are best dug in July.  They should be lifted with a beet lifter or a deep-running plow, due to the long tap root.    As a rule, they are 12 inches or more in length and about 1 inch thick; sometimes, however, they extend 2 to 3 feet, making it necessary to dig by hand. They are fleshy, wrinkled, crowned with a tuft of whitish, soft, hairy leaf-stalks, grey-brown externally, whitish internally, with a somewhat thick bark, about a quarter of the diameter of the root, and softwood tissues, with a radiate structure.

Burdock has been used by herbalists worldwide to treat a variety skin diseases such as abscesses, acne, carbuncles, psoriasis, and eczema.    Burdock can be either taken alone or combined with other remedies, such as Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla.    The beneficial effects of this herb include increasing circulation to the skin, helping to detoxify the epidermal tissues.   Burdock Root has been reported to destroy bacteria and fungus cultures.  It is a popular detoxifying agent that produces a diuretic effect on the body which aids the filtering of impurities from the bloodstream.   By promoting perspiration, Burdock Root eliminates toxins through the skin.   By producing a detoxifying effect, Burdock Root aids blood circulation and produces a variety of positive side effects.  As before mentioned, it contains inulin, a carbohydrate that strengthens the liver.    The high concentration of inulin and mucilage aids in the soothing effects on the gastrointestinal tract. The high concentration of inulin is helpful for individuals that are afflicted with diabetes and hypoglycemia as it provides helpful sugar that does not provoke rapid insulin production.   Inulin, which is very high in Burdock, is a resinoid or camphor-like hydrocarbon that is aromatic, stimulant, expectorant, tonic, stomachic, and antiseptic.

burdock_medical_mediumBurdock Root contains polyacetylenes that give the herb its antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is used as a mild laxative that aids in the elimination of uric acid or gout.  It is classified as an alterative, diuretic and diaphoretic. It helps the kidneys to filter out impurities from the blood very quickly. It clears congestion in respiratory, lymphatic, urinary and circulatory systems.    Burdock  releases water retention, stimulates digestion, aids kidney, liver, and gallbladder function.  It also functions as an aperient, depurative, and antiscorbutic.

Decoctions of Burdock have also been historically used for soothing the kidneys, relieving the lymphatic system, rheumatism, gout, GI tract disorders, stomach ailments, constipation, catarrh, fever, infection, fluid retention and skin problems. An article in Chemotherapyidentified the chemical arctigenin contained in Burdock as an “inhibitor of experimental tumor growth.”
Both European and Chinese herbalists have long considered burdock root’s “lightly warming, moistening effect an excellent tonic for the lungs and liver.  It reportedly stimulates toxic waste through the skin and urine, improving digestion and is good for arthritis and rheumatism.

Burdock is an aid to circulation because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

A recent study showed that Burdock blocked dangerous chemicals from causing damage to cells, suggesting the possibility that burdock may help decrease the risk of developing cancer from toxic chemicals.

Some other miscellaneous disorders Burdock Root is good for are:
Helpful in cellular regeneration
Useful in cleansing and treatment of Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis
Aids in alleviating distress related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Useful in the treatment of recovery from Hepatitis
Burdock stimulates the appetite, so modern experts recommend it for anorexia nervosa

Burdock is useful for most of the same needs as Yellow Dock (rumex Crispus) and is effective in treating gout and high cholesterol.

Based on many studies with animals exposed to toxic chemicals, the tea very effectively protects the body against cellular damage and abnormal growths.   The tea also has powerful anti-inflammatory activity based on studies and reduces liver damage from toxic chemicals.   As a mildly bitter-tasting herb, it increases saliva and bile secretion, which aids digestion and cleanses the liver.  Burdock root tea can also be applied externally for treating skin conditions.

burdock-flowersDespite Burdock’s reputation as a noxious weed, it is the source of several very palatable foods.  Edible components of the Burdock plant are its roots, seeds, and its young stems.   Young stalks are boiled to be eaten like asparagus, raw stems, and young leaves are eaten in salads.      Both the root and leaves are used in herbal remedies, but most recipes call for the root which has  a sweetish and mucilaginous taste.   Fresh burdock root also has a distinct aroma. It has been used, after chopping and roasting, as a coffee substitute.

Originally cultivated in China for medicinal purposes, this unique root has become a sought-after specialty in Japan. Flavorful and crunchy, burdock is an excellent source of fiber, along with the vitamins and minerals.   Its nutty taste is delicious sautéed in combination with carrots or just some soy sauce and a bit of sugar, or it can be deep-fried in a tempura batter. Avoid rinsing this brown-skinned vegetable until you’re ready to use it.  In markets, it’s sold with the dirt still lingering on the roots because it is quick to wilt when washed.    The white flesh immediately discolors once peeled.   You’ll want to soak it in a mild vinegar solution until you’re ready to cook it to maintain the color.

You can harvest the large, deep, beige taproot from the basal rosette form (as soon as the flower stalk appears, the root becomes tough and woody) from early spring to late fall.

burdock-root-largeScrub the root with a coarse copper scouring pad, but don’t peel it. Slice it razor-thin on a diagonal, oriental-style, or use the finest slicing disk of a food processor.  Simmer 20 minutes or until tender. You may also sauté  it, but add liquid and cook it in moist heat another 10 minutes afterward, or it may not get tender.    You may also harvest the immature flower stalk in late Spring, before the flowers appear, while it’s still tender and very flexible.  Peeled and parboiled for 1 minute to get rid of the bitterness, it tastes like artichoke hearts, and it will enhance any traditional recipe that calls for the heart of artichokes. Cook this another 5-10 minutes.

Its hearty flavor is a little like that of potatoes, although it’s related to artichokes. Mashed roots can also be formed into patties and fried.  The white pith can be added to salads or simmered in syrup to make candy or soaked in vinegar  to make pickles.

Kinpira Gobo Recipe
Beginners usually get into trouble when they sauté root (gobo in Japanese) instead of simmering or steaming it because sautéing makes it harder to make the root tender. The trick is to slice the root razor-thin and braise it after sautéing, as in this spicy Japanese side-dish.

2 tbs. dark (toasted) sesame oil
2 cups  root, very thinly sliced
2 cups wild or commercial carrots, thinly sliced
2 tbs. fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled but not cut
1/2 cup redbud wine, mirin (Japanese rice wine), or white wine
1/4 cup whole sesame seeds
2 tbs. tamari soy sauce
1 tbs. chili paste or 1/2 tbs. cayenne hot pepper, or to taste

Sauté the carrots, ginger, and garlic in sesame oil 10 minutes, stirring often.  Remove and discard the garlic as soon as it turns slightly brown.  Meanwhile, toast sesame seeds in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they pop and become slightly brown and fragrant.  Remove the sesame seeds from frying pan and set aside.  Add the remaining ingredients to the sautéed vegetables, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.  Add the sesame seeds.  Serve hot as an appetizer, a condiment, or a side dish.

Makes 2-1/2 cups
Preparation Time: 35 minutes

burdock-rootAdditional Information About Burdock Root:

COMMON NAME

Standardized: burdock
Other: great burdock, gobo, goboshi

BOTANICAL NAME

Arctium lappa L.1
Plant Family: Asteraceae

OVERVIEW

Burdock has been an important botanical in Western folk herbalism and traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, primarily valued for its cleansing and skin smoothing properties. The entire plant is edible and is a popular vegetable in Asia, particularly in Japan. More recently, burdock has been an ingredient in hair tonics and in cosmetics for mature skin.4,5

BOTANY

A biennal member of the Asteraceace family, with bright pink-red to purple thistle-like flowers on long stalks, and oblong to cordate, huge hairy leaves3,6 that is native to Europe and Asia, and now naturalized in North America and Austrailia.1 This plant can grow to a very robust height, reaching up to 9 feet,6 and its aromatic “carrot-like”7 taproot can grow as much as 3 feet deep into the ground (making them difficult to harvest).8 It is naturalized and abundant in northern U.S and Europe and is considered a weed in such areas.

The generic name arctium is derived from the Greek word for bear or arktos and the species name, lappa, is from the Latin word lappare which means “to seize.” The fruit (bur) looks rough and hairy resembling a big, fuzzy bear and will grab on to anything in the vicinity in order to spread its seed, hence the name.8,9 Its common name is derived from the French word bourre referring to a tangle of wool (often entangled with burs) and the German “dock” referring to large leaves.8 Various species, such as A. minus or A. tomentosum, may be used interchangeably.10 However, burdock is often confused with cocklebur or Xanthium spp. that has entirely different properties.7

CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING

Cultivated in China, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and in various countries in Europe.1

Seeds are picked in the fall and can be loosened from the chaff with a rolling pin. Harvesting the roots is no easy task yet can be done in the fall of the first year or spring of the second, preferably the former. According to the late herbalist Michael Moore “harvesting full flowered plants in the fall can be as much work as digging up a small tree”7

HISTORY AND FOLKLORE

Burdock is an all-purpose herbal that has been used continually for myriad purposes the last few thousand years in Asia and Europe, and more recently in North America. It is a food plant called gobo in Japanese and is a much consumed vegetable in Japan. The root may be eaten fresh or cooked and the young leaves can be cooked like any other vegetable.9 The stalks have a taste somewhat like asparagus and can be eaten raw in a salad, boiled, or candied with sugar.8

In traditional Chinese medicine, burdock fruit has been used continually for thousands of years. It is known to balance internal heat, is specifically helpful for supporting skin health, and is associated with lung and stomach meridians. It is considered energetically cold and having a slippery consistency that soothes mucus membranes. The root is also commonly cooked in order to change its energetic properties and specifically to make it easier to digest.2In European folk medicine, an infusion or decoction of the seeds was employed as a diuretic. It was helpful in enhancing health through supporting digestion, and as topical poultice.

-Culpepper in his Complete Herbal, written in 1653, says the following about Burdock:

It is so well known, even by the little boys, who pull off the burs to throw and stick upon each other, that I shall spare to write any description of it……The Burdock leaves are cooling and moderately drying. The leaves applied to the places troubled with the shrinking of the sinews or arteries, gives much ease. The juice of the leaves, or rather the roots themselves, given to drink with old wine, doth wonderfully help the biting of any serpents.11

Further, Culpepper, an avid astrologer in addition to being an herbalist, considered burdock to be a feminine plant, ruled by the planet Venus and took this into consideration when preparing his burdock elixirs.11 Traditionally the root was thought to carry magical power, particularly powers of protection and healing. It was believed that wearing a necklace that is made from the root, gathered during the waning moon, would protect the wearer from evil and negativity.12 In the Native American healing tradition, the plant was used by the Malecite, Micmac, Ojibwa, and Menominee for skin health. Further, the roots were dried by the Iroquois over a fire and stored for food for the following year.13 They also utilized the related A. minus in medicinal baths.

According to the William Cook, author of the Physio-medical Dispensatory in 1869, burdock “enters into a sort of family beer along with such agents as yellow dock, spikenard, elder flowers, and ginger” making a beneficial spring beverage. Herbalist Matthew Becker states that burdock is a “potent yet safe lymphatic decongestant.” Also, that as a subtle alterative it works best over time and demonstrates restorative properties due, in part, to its bitter tonic effects on the digestive system. It also contains inulin which feeds the healthy bacteria in the colon.14

Burdock is considered by many herbalists to be the best known medicinal for skin conditions (Hoffman, Moore). This herb is highly effective, gentle, and multipurpose. It promotes the flow of bile and also increases circulation to the skin. Further, it is a mild diuretic and lymphatic.15 Burdock is used widely as an alterative and blood purifier. The leaves can be made into a fresh poultice to soothe poison oak and poison ivy and a leaf decoction makes a therapeutic wash for the skin.3

FLAVOR NOTES AND ENERGETICS

Flavor: acrid bitter cold,2 sweet8

HERBAL ACTIONS

Diaphorhetic,10 mild diuretic, mild laxative, alterative,3,7,8,14,15,16 cholagogue3

USES AND PREPARATIONS

Dried root or seed as a cold infusion, decoction, tincture, or powdered and encapsulated. Fresh or cooked root and leaf as an edible vegetable Fresh root or seed as a tincture Fresh leaf as a poultice

CONSTITUENTS

Sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene lactones, acetylenic compounds, phenolic acids, and up to 45% inulin,16 flavanoid glycosides, bitter glycosides, alkaloids,17 chromium, copper, iron, magnesium,18 Arctiin2

HERBAL MISCELLANY

The inspiration for Velcro came from the burdock bur. The inventor, a Swiss electrical engineer named Georges de Mestral, was walking along one day in the mountains and saw burs sticking on his wool socks and his dog’s fur. He went home and examined the barbed, hook-like seeds that make up the fruit and thought he could replicate this “gripping” action in the laboratory. And so he did, and, in 1955, Velcro was patented and released to the world.19,20

PRECAUTIONS

Specific: No known precautions.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.

REFERENCES

  1. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Accessed athttp://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?8457 on June 20, 2014.
  2. Bensky, D., Gamble, A., & Kaptchuk, T. J. (1993). Chinese herbal medicine: materia medica.
  3. Lust, J. (2014). The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published. Courier Dover Publications.
  4. Knott A, Reuschlein K, Mielke H, Wensorra U, Mummert C, Koop U, Kausch M, Kolbe L, Peters N, Stäb F, Wenck H, Gallinat S. Natural Arctium lappa fruit extract improves the clinical signs of aging skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008 Dec;7(4):281-9.
  5. Leung AY, Foster S, eds. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc; 1996.
  6. Foster, S. and J. A. Duke 2000. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  7. Moore, M. (2003). Medicinal plants of the Mountain West (No. Ed. 2). Museum of New Mexico Press.
  8. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. Accessed at http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/marigo16.html on June 20, 2014.
  9. Nature’s Pharmacy Deck: History and Uses of 50 Healing Plants. New York Botanical Gardens: New York; 2002.
  10. Stary, F. 1992. The Natural Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Plants. Ed. Dorset Press, NY, USA.
  11. Culpeper N. Culpeper’s complete herbal: a book of natural remedies for ancient ills. Accessed at: http://www.bibliomania.com/2/1/66/113/20971/1/frameset.html on June 23, 2014.
  12. Cunningham, S. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications; 2000.
  13. Moerman, D.E. 1998. Native American Ethnobotany. Accessed at http://herb.umd.umich.edu/ on June 23, 2014.
  14. Becker M. Materia Medica Intensive Seminar. Boulder, CO: North American Institute of Medical Herbalism, Inc; 2005.
  15. Bergner P. Immune – Lymphatics and antibiotics. From The Healing Power of Echinacea and Goldenseal 1997 in Medical Herbalism: Journal for the Clinical Practitioner. Accessed at http://medherb.com/Therapeutics/Immune_-_Lymphatics_and_antibiotics.htm on June 23, 2014.
  16. Mills S, Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 2000.
  17. Hoffmann, D. (1998). The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.
  18. Duke J. A. Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Accessed at http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/ on June 20, 2014.
  19. Accessed at http://www.velcro.com/About-Us/History.aspx#.U6hekfldWSo on June 23, 2014.
  20. Accessedhttp://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/archive/How_a_Swiss_invention_hooked_the_world.html?cid=5653568 on June 23, 2014.
For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Modern Herbal Medicine ~ ‘Bitter Principles’

In modern herbal medicine, bitter principles occupy a central place in herbal therapeutics beating the acrid constituents. Most people consuming herbal medicines complain about the bitterness of the medicines prescribed. This is the only defining attribute of herbal medicine and the only feature to set it apart from other therapies.

The bitter principles work by stimulating the bitter receptors of the tongue and increasing saliva secretion. Thus, it is always advisable to taste and chew the herbs for making them most effective. The bitter principles also bring about an increase in the secretion of digestive juices, thereby increasing appetite. They protect the tissues found in the digestive tract, boosts up the bile flow and strengthens the pancreas.

Their chemical composition includes a complex pattern of molecular structures. Since they act on the bitter receptors of the mouth, thereby producing the bitter taste in the mouth, their stimulation does not produce any electrical changes on the surface of the cell. Instead, the bitter molecules bring about intracellular biochemical changes by acting on the cell membrane receptors. This facilitates an increase in calcium concentrates within the cell and signals the gustatory nerve.

The bitter substances are mostly of terpenoid structure, especially the sesquiterpene lactones, monoterpene iridoids and the Seco iridoids. Iridoids are responsible for the chief bitter constituents of the plant familyGentianaceae, Cichorium intybus (chicory), dandelion, Valeriana officinalis (valerian), wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa), and quassia bark.

Sesquiterpenes account for the bitter taste of the Artemisia plants, or wormwood genus, Cnicus benedictus (blessed thistle), and ginkgo Biloba (ginkgo). Other components which add to the bitterness are diterpene bitters, found in columbo root (jateorrhiza palmata) or white horehound (Mar.rubium vulgare). Triterpenoids are the cause of bitterness for the Curcubitaceae family of plants, which includes pumpkin, cucumber, colocynth, marrows and the bryonies.

Many alkaloids also contribute to the bitter taste as in the protoberberine isoquinoline alkaloids of goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis), and Berberis, the morphine alkaloids, the quinoline alkaloids of quinine and angostura and the purine alkaloids ( in coffee). In addition to this, many miscellaneous compounds like ketones and amino acids are responsible for the bitterness, as found in hops.

Bitters are indispensable when it comes to counter a heavy meal. Sometimes, chicory and dandelion roots are mixed with coffee beans to produce a bitter drink usually taken after meals. The drink vermouth is a good example of an appetizer which gets its name from bitter herb wormwood. The traditional beer that is brewed with hops can also be used as a digestive remedy due to its bitter principle. Even nowadays, bartenders are faced with the inquiry of a tot of Angostura Bitters (Cusparia angustura) which is commonly used to shoo away a hangover. What’s common to all these practices is the belief that a bitter medicine can balance a heavy or rich meal and can be the basis of excellent tonics. Our grandpas used to believe that medicines that didn’t please our tongue were the best of all. When we go through the records of traditional plant medicine we find a reflection of this notion. All the bitter medicines are cited as ‘genuine stimulants’ and the real panacea for all.

With the passage of time, we have come to discover and understand some more features of the bitter medicines. It is accepted that bitters stimulate only a certain type of taste receptors. Thus, they will have no effect if they are taken in capsules or by intragastric tube. The bitter taste buds are thus the mediators in the way of making the responses happen. This is one of the best examples of a reflex response which takes place when a small stimulus initiates a complex reaction. As soon as the bitter taste bud is stimulated, it releases the gastrointestinal hormone gastrin. If we study the common physiological actions of the gastrin, we find a close similarity with the traditional remedies of the bitters. We can therefore tally the actions of bitters with that of gastrins.

Basically speaking, gastrins are beneficial in numerous ways. Researchers over the years have established that it increases gastric acid and pepsin secretions, hepatic bile surge, hepatic bicarbonate production, intestinal juice production, pancreatic digestive secretions and intrinsic factor secretion. At the same time, gastrins help in enhancing the flow of Brunner’s glands secretions, insulin, glucagon and calcitonin release, helps muscle tone of lower oesophageal sphincter and muscle tone of stomach and small intestine, augments cell division and growth of gastric and duodenal mucosa as well as helps in cell division and growth of the pancreas.

This information will now help us to explain the role of bitters in the herbal medicine. Let us examine them one by one.

Bitters Act as Appetizers

Gastrin is known to be very effective in increasing the appetite. It acts directly on appetite centers in the hypothalamus and indirectly through increased stomach motility. As we have seen earlier, bitters have also been used as key elements in aperitifs or for increasing appetite during convalescence. They can be very useful indeed in treating anyone for whom anorexia is posing an obstacle to recovery. Sometimes, lack of appetite is the body’s own signal to prevent over-stuffing. But this type of anorexia should be distinguished from other harmful types that reduce the strength of an individual. Administering bitters then come in quite handy and especially in the case of anorexia nervosa where bitters are a very helpful tool to counter the problem.

Bitters Increase Secretion of Digestive Juices

Bitters are known to expedite the process of digestion by boosting the stomach and pancreatic enzyme secretions. In those cases where these secretions are irregular or malfunctioning, bitters can help a lot towards speedier digestion by breaking down the food material. Digestive secretions sterilize the food material inside the stomach and break down protein and other large molecules that threaten the body’s immune system.

There is a paradox with food. It is certainly the most important source of nourishment for the body, but it also poses the greatest immunological threat to it. This is reflected in the presence of lymphoid tissues in the digestive tract. The digestive juices denature the antigenic material that prevents the situation from going out of control.

Sometimes, a low rate of secretion arises due to enteric infections, or if any suggestion is found of antigen penetration through the gut wall. This may occur in the case of a food allergy or any autoimmune problem that contains the symptoms of reduced digestive abilities.

Herbal therapeutics point out that a fall in digestive secretion can damage the body to a great extent. It should always be corrected immediately as and when encountered. Besides enteric infections and food allergies, such reduced ability to digest can be understood by the symptoms of a nauseous feeling, or feeling bloated even after taking a little food. Passing small malodorous stools is another sign.

As modern food items contain an increased percentage of adulteration, the risk of depressed digestion has increased greatly, and the only measure is to administer bitter remedies.

Since the bitters increase the destructive components of digestive secretions, their use is generally not advised in cases of hyperacidity or those with peptic ulcerations. But it also raises the secretions of protective fluids, such as bicarbonate from pancreas and liver and from the Brunner’s glands. This is not the case for the acrid constituents. The bitters expedite the whole digestive process. For other reasons, they are not prescribed in hyper-acidic conditions.

Bitters Offer Protection to the Gut Tissues

In cases of heartburn, hiatus hernia or esophageal inflammation, the reflux of corrosive stomach contents into the esophagus is prevented by bitter remedies. This task is achieved by increasing the tone of the gastro-oesophageal sphincter. The bitters also decrease the harmful effects of the digestive juices and dietary toxins by enhancing the already rapid rate of mucosal regeneration in the stomach and duodenum. This acts as a healer in the case of ulceration or an infection. Similar action, if performed on the matrix of the pancreas might as well help in pulling through a pancreatic disease.

Bitters Enhance Bile Flow

Bile juice is secreted by the liver. It is also considered as the excretion of liver. The liver contains the extremely dynamic flow of juices. If pictured, each cell can be seen as being in a stream of a mixed nutrient-rich portal blood from the gut and oxygen-rich arterial blood from the general circulation. These fluids disseminate through the cell and are subjected to heavy dispensation that is a part of the liver function. The metabolic products that are born out of this activity move from the liver cell into the outgoing blood flow. Some of the most important, however, are channeled into a separate exit that drains into the biliary system. The liver thus self-cleanses by its own mechanism.

This is the organ which suffers from all the harmful effects of binge eating, defective digestion or ill health by being overloaded with toxins or the deposition of waste material. The fluids which pass through the liver cells may not be enough to wash out the toxins. This poses a threat to the liver making it prone to liver pathology or more common range of functional disorders. An improved flow of bile juice will definitely not allow such waste material to accumulate. Bitters play this role very effectively. With the consumption of toxic materials increasing, this is certainly one of the advantages.

The bitters have been proven to be effective in curing all allergic, metabolic and immunological conditions where the diagnosis points to the digestion. The liver exerts an influence over the immunological system as well. Even in the case of herbal therapies for migraines, hepatic remedies are suggested, most of which use the bitter.

The use of bitters leads to a greater production of biliary elements and dilutes the bile as well by increasing the bicarbonate content. In the case of gallstone formation or gall-bladder disease, that is formed by the over deposition of bile, bitters are known to work wonders. Along with lemon juice which dilutes the bile as well, bitters are also an effective and accepted treatment of these diseases.

Bitters Improve Pancreatic Functions

Gastrin helps pancreatic secretion and also increases the secretions of insulin and glucagons, the two main hormones the pancreas produces. However, these are conflicting in nature. There is a possibility of a ‘state dependent’ effect. This is a response to gastrin that varies according to the condition of mutual and simultaneous secretion of the two hormones.
Bitters have also been used in controlling late-onset diabetes. Chinese physiology states that bitters can effectively reactive hypoglycemia and produce immediate and excellent results.
Thus, we conclude that bitters neutralize pancreatic hormone secretions by increasing the amount of glucagon when insulin is high and vice versa. They are more likely to raise a hormone level when it is deficient. Bitters control fluctuations in blood sugar levels permanently and temporarily as well.

Bitters Act as Tonics

All the above contributions of bitters make it easy to understand that they can boost your health to a great extent. Their primary role is to stimulate all the above mentioned digestive functions. The digestive processes are the platform where the nourishment requirements of the body are met. This is the place where the body examines the materials it is fed with and most calorific and metabolic processes are regulated. Depending upon the extent to which this platform is in danger under the modern living conditions, it might or might not respond to the bitter remedies.

Bitter remedies were mainly resorted to in old age or in a convalescent state in order to be able to improve the quality of nourishment to the body. However, in the modern age, as illnesses become chronic in nature and more frequent, attacking persons of all ages, it is advisable to resort to bitter remedies. Food has also become less wholesome and more prone to indigestion. Bitter remedies can definitely offset the harmful effects of adulteration to a great extent.

How To Make A Tincture

Have you ever roamed the supplement aisles and wondered if you could create your own herbal apothecary? Well, you can! There are many ways to create effective products right from your home garden. Even if you don’t have a green space of your own, these days quality herbs are easily available for purchase. One of the first things most budding herbalists learn how to make is tinctures. Tinctures are alcoholic extracts of plants, they have a long history of use, and can easily be taken on the go.

tincture-bottles-littleWhile there are many different ways to create tinctures, we’d like to start off by teaching you all the “folk method.” This method is a simple way to make tinctures without having to fuss over weighing the herbs or doing lots of math. We prefer using brandy or vodka when first starting out because their ratios of alcohol to water are appropriate for many herbs, such as the nettles we have chosen to use in this article. If you are feeling creative, you can use this format with herbs from our tea bags! If this is something you’re interested in doing, we’d suggest making tinctures from herbal teas.

Nettles are a great spring green to tincture. It’s a superior herbal tonic that supports joint health* and grows abundantly in many places across the United States. While it is covered with microscopic hairs that sting you when touched, we still adore this plant. Nettle’s fierce exterior is just a front, and underneath is a gentle and nourishing herb that can be used in tinctures, eaten as a food or made into a rope from its strong fibers. We recently dedicated an entire article to nettle called Nettle 101, which gives you, even more, information on this incredible herbal ally.

Now let’s get started!

Ingredients
Nettle, fresh or dried
Brandy or vodka

Materials
Gloves
Mason jar
Muslin or cheesecloth
Labels
Amber dosage bottles
Small funnel
Large bowl
Liquid measuring cup

The first step to creating this tincture is to gather your herbs. You have a few options: you can harvest nettles carefully with gloves, purchase them dried locally or order in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs. Nettles are often found growing abundantly in the wild, but if you do decide to do some wild harvesting, we would suggest that you get a Peterson’s Field Guide or find a herbalist to help you identify the plant and reference The United Plant Savers “Species at Risk” list before harvesting.

nettle-via-g215If you are working with fresh nettles, we recommend using gloves and wearing clothing to cover your skin to avoid a sting that may itch and tingle for a few hours. Chop the nettles as small as possible, because the more herb chopped, the more surface area covered during the maceration (or extraction) process. Then fill your Mason jar about ¾ full of freshly chopped herb, and cover all the way to the top with alcohol. When using dried nettles, we’d suggest filling your jar ½ way and then cover all the way to the top with alcohol (also known as your menstruum in herbalism).

Then, put the cap on it, sit it upright and label your jar. We suggest writing down the following on your label:

1. What kind of alcohol you used, and the percent of alcohol by volume.
2. Whether you used the fresh or dried herb.
3. The common name and the Latin name of the plant used (in this case nettle in Latin is Urtica dioica).
4. The date you made the tincture.

Let the mixture macerate, shake the jar every day and store it in a cool dark cabinet. Make sure the herbs stay covered with alcohol, and add more if needed. This is a great time to put good energy into your herbal creation and visualize all the ways it’s going to help you once it’s finally ready.

After 4-6 weeks have passed, you can then press out your tincture. Don’t worry too much about the time, some folks wait as little as three weeks and some wait much longer. To start the pressing process, unscrew your Mason jar, put your muslin or cheesecloth over the top and then flip over the jar above a large bowl to drain out the liquid while separating the herb. Once all the liquid has gone into the bowl, you can then use both your hands to squeeze out any remaining liquid from the herb.

Next, pour that liquid (which is now your tincture) into a liquid measuring cup. Place your funnel in the mouth of your dosage bottle and carefully pour your liquid into it. The number of bottles you’ll need to store these tinctures in will depend on the amount initially created. You can also put the tincture back into the Mason jar until proper storage is found.

Lastly, make a label that replicates your first one for each dosage bottle filled. Store in a cool dark place and enjoy! We suggest taking about ½-1 teaspoon of nettle tincture 2-3x a day when you’re feeling like you need some joint support or an herbal tonic.*

You can now use this format with many of the medicinal herbs in your own home garden. Of course, it is important that you get to know the identity of the plants you’re working with first and research the dosage and safety information from trusted sources. Each tea, tincture or herbal preparation created is an opportunity for you to take your health into your own hands. We hope this ritual empowers you as a growing herbalist and inspires you to establish an even deeper connection with the plants around you.

Consult your healthcare practitioner prior to use if you are diabetic or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. In sensitive individuals, nettle leaf preparations may occasionally cause mild gastrointestinal upset or allergic reactions. Do not use this product if you have a known hypersensitivity to nettle plants. Not recommended for use with children under 12 years of age.

HOW TO MAKE A POULTICE WITH DRIED & FRESH HERBS

It’s easy to focus on the internal herbal preparations, like teas, extracts, and syrups, because we are so conditioned to “taking something” – whether that be supplements, OTC medications, or prescriptions – to manage our health. Topical herbalism, though, has many unique preparations that have benefited people for generations. In this post, we’ll teach you how to make a poultice using both dried and fresh herbs.

Poultices are probably one of the most often overlooked topical applications of herbs – which is a shame! This simple type of preparation can be used as herbal first aid and aftercare for things like burns, splinters, cuts, and bruises, or they can be used for more chronic health challenges. Poultices can be used on the chest to help the body handle congestion, on joints to soothe injuries or arthritis, and on immune-related skin troubles like shingles. Not only are they very simple, they are also versatile.

What Is a Poultice?

Even though the word “poultice” sounds a little odd, a poultice is nothing more than a direct way to apply herbs to the skin. For making a poultice, herbs are usually crushed into a pulp or made into a paste that is spread directly onto the surface of the skin, up to an inch thick, and held in place with gauze or muslin wrapped around the area to keep the poultice from rubbing off. A very basic poultice can even be made with a whole leaf held in place with an adhesive bandage!

By changing the temperature of the poultice, the healing actions can be altered. A warm or hot poultice will help to increase circulation to the area, and a cold poultice can help soothe inflammation. Adding skin tingling, stimulating herbs like ginger is another way to use herbs to help increase circulation to the area.

Benefits of using a poultice over, say, a salve or a cream include the ability to use fresh herbs, which have the fullest amount of the herbs beneficial characteristics; the tendency of poultices to help draw out foreign material from the skin or a wound; prolonged contact so that the beneficial constituents of the herbs can be absorbed by the skin over a longer period of time; and a very simple list of ingredients.

The downside to poultices is that they take a little more time to do their thing and are a bit messier than other topicals, which is why you need to wrap the area or cover with a bandage to keep the poultice in place. But if you apply them before bed and wrap them up well this is no problem at all. Whereas a cream or an oil can be rubbed into the skin and then you can move on to other things, it’s best to do most poultices at night so the herb can work while you sleep.

Using Dried and Fresh Herbs in Topical Applications

What Herbs Make Good Poultices?

Although most herbs can be used as a poultice if the situation calls for it, it’s important to remember that if it’s a herb you would not take internally you should not apply it as a poultice either. The herb will still be absorbed into the bloodstream even though it’s being applied topically. So herbs that shouldn’t be used internally while pregnant or because they might interfere with prescriptions or a preexisting condition are still contraindicated as a poultice. A few herbs – like angelica – don’t make good fresh poultices because they can cause contact dermatitis in some people. Make sure to get to know your herbs before you try them as a poultice, and if you have any known allergies to herbs take that into consideration before you try a poultice.

That being said, there are several herbs that are classics for making poultices and are well known for their safe and versatile natures. This include:

  • Plantain (leaves)
  • Chickweed (leaves and stems)
  • Calendula (flower petals)
  • Dandelion (leaves)
  • Burdock (root)

Poultices are very simple to make and they have the shortest ingredients list of any herbal preparation: just the herb! Well – the herb, and a little water if you are using dried herbs. Here’s how to make a poultice using three different methods. Try this easy herbal skill yourself!

How To Make A Poultice With Fresh Herbs

  • Determine which herbs you would like to use, and estimate how much you will need. The amount of herbs to use depends on the size of the area that needs to be covered, so just give it your best guess.
  • Take the herbs you have chosen and chop them into small pieces on a cutting board. Transfer the herbs to a mortar and pestle, and crush the chopped herbs until they become a pulp. The end result needn’t be silky smooth – the main thing is to start the juices flowing. As you chop and mash, the herbs will release their natural juices and the leaves will become softer. Herbs may also be chopped using a blender instead of a cutting board and mortar and pestle.
  • Spread the crushed herbs onto the desired area of the skin. How thick to apply the herbs is up to you, but do make sure that the poultice is applied evenly across the area.
  • Wrap the area with a layer of gauze or muslin to hold the paste in place. You might even wish to apply a layer of plastic wrap to the outside of the finished poultice, which will help ensure that the juices don’t make a mess.

How To Make A Poultice

How To Make A Poultice With Dried Herbs

Making a dried herb poultice is even less work than using fresh herbs because there are less chopping and mashing involved. It’s a tradeoff, though, because fresh herbs are usually stronger than dried and have a more complex makeup. Dried herbs will still work well, though, and it’s nice to know you can still make a poultice even when fresh herbs aren’t available.

  • Take desired dried herbs and combine with just enough hot water to moisten them. For roots, it’s best to use a powdered form. Simply add hot or cold water a little at a time to create a thick paste.
  • Spread the paste evenly over the desired area.
  • Wrap with gauze or muslin.

How To Make A Poultice using Dried and Fresh Herbs

How to Make A Quick Poultice

Sometimes an even easier type of poultice will do the trick: one simple leaf and an adhesive bandage! This type of poultice is great for little cuts or scrapes, splinters, or aftercare for an insect bite or sting.

  • Select a leaf from the plant you wish to use. Plantain, mullein, bee balm, or lemon balm are good candidates.
  • Roll and knead the plant between your fingers so that it is crushed and begins to feel damp.
  • Smooth the crushed leaf over the affected area and secure it in place with a bandage.
  • Change for a new leaf in a few hours if desired, or remove with the bandage when it is time to let the area breathe for a bit.

Poultices are a basic part of the herbal tool chest because they are quick and easy to prepare. Whether they are made using fresh or dried herbs, or even just a simple leaf and a bandage, they are versatile and well worth learning to make. They even make a great stand in for other topicals in a pinch – the next time you run out of your favorite herbal salve, remember poultices!

How To Make A Healing Salve

Studying plant energetics and their actions? Many of us in the herbal community share a passion for seeking out natural homemade remedies. We are not only studying plant’s actions individually but also how to create vehicles for these herbs to work together with the body. These vehicles have names like a healing salve, tincture, infusion, decoction, and much more.

One of the best ways to receive the benefits of herbs as well as alleviate dry skin is through the creation of a healing salve. The skin is one of the largest gateways on the body to receive actions of the plants. Calendula or Calendula officinalis, known commonly for its skin healing magic is a great herb to start within salve making. It is used to heal wounds, rashes, and other skin irritations. This time of year, dryness, and irritation can be prevalent due to the weather’s icy bite and moisture-sapping indoor heat.

how to make a healing salve by HANE

A How-To Guide to Making a Healing Salve

If you would like to play with your own mixture, it is highly recommended to research the actions and energetics of herbs. For the recipes provided today, here is some brief information on the herbal actions indicated.

  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) has anti-inflammatory actions. Meadowsweet, combined with calendula, which is healing for the skin, can soothe sore feet, hands, and shoulders as well as rough cracked skin that goes along with hard work.
  • For a dry skin salve, you can use a calendula base, then add lavender (Lavandula), which is soothing and anti-inflammatory. The addition of coconut oil is very moisturizing as well as a nice compliment to the lavender smell.

To make a salve, you must have the following materials:

  • 1 cup of oil (coconut or olive oil is best)
  • Equal parts dried herbs
  • 1 ounce of beeswax (shaved)
  • Cheesecloth
  • Jars or containers to store salve in – We recommend using glass or tin containers which you can find easily on Amazon. Containers can be purchased in a number of sizes based on personal preference.
  • Essential oils are optional

For the suggestions recommended above, here are the homemade salve recipes below.

Aches and Pains Salve

 Ingredients

One part dried meadowsweet
One part dried calendula
One cup of olive oil
One ounce of beeswax
15-20 drops of roman chamomile essential oil to relax

Winter Salvation

Ingredients

One cup of coconut oil
One part lavender
Two parts dried calendula
One part dried rose
One ounce of beeswax
15-20 drops of grapefruit essential oil to uplift

The first step to making a healing salve is to create an herbal oil infusion.

Creating an herbal oil infusion can be completed through the double boiler method:

  • Place herbs and oil in Pyrex container or smaller pot, over the top of a large pot with water about  ¼ full.
  • Bring water to a boil.
  • Once water is boiling, you can then turn the stove down to a simmer and let the herbs and oils infuse in this double boiler method for 30-60 minutes.
  • Take care not to splash water into your oil/herb infusion.

making a healing salve- infusion

Another method for making an infusion is called solar infusion. In this method, place herbs and oil in a sealed Mason jar and then position the jar in a sunlit area for 4-6 weeks. You can find more methods for creating making herbal infusions here.

Once you have completed your oil infusion, remove from heat and set aside.

Now you will prepare your infusion for the salve:

  • Place three layers of cheesecloth over the top of a funnel or atop a bowl.
  • Pour the infused oils over cheesecloth to strain the oil and keep herbs separated.
  • Once drained, gather the cheesecloth with your clean, dry hands and squeeze out the remaining oil.

Super Side Note! You can compost the remaining herbs in the cheesecloth. Or if you are using coconut oil, you can tie off the cheesecloth with a rubber band or string and place into a steaming bath for moisturizing and soul-awakening deliciousness.

beeswax for healing salve

Making The Healing Salve

  • Place your shaved beeswax in a pan over low heat, and pour the infused oil over top and melt together.
  • Once the beeswax and oil have combined, pour the mixture into jars.
  • Place your herbal salves the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes to determine the solidification of the salve.

Using less beeswax will yield a more creamy salve, and more generous usage will yield a harder salve.

healing salve tutorial

Salve Application

Once complete, you can simply rub fingers over the top of your salve and then spread over the desired area on the body, avoiding the eyes. One of the hidden benefits of salves is that they can make wonderful massage oils. Coconut oil is especially known for its ability to heat at lower temperatures, so it warms very well with natural body heat and the salve instantly becomes a massage-like oil. Use this opportunity, after a bath or whenever you are using your salves, to mindfully take time for yourself or your loved one and massage any worries or tension away.

REFERENCES

de la Floret, Rosalee. (2013, June 15) Meadowsweet Herb: Queen of the Meadow. Retrieved fromhttp://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2013/06/meadowsweet-herb-queen-of-meadow.html

Gladstar, Rosemary. (2012). Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.