Grow Your Own Patchouli Plant

Family:  Lamiaceae
Hardiness:  Protect from frost
Tropical perennial native to Asia.  May be grown in the temperate zone in pots, brought indoors for the winter.  Plant prefers full to part shade, moist, rich soils, humidity.


The plant thrives under good care but fades fast with neglect–it needs watering almost daily, has zero tolerance for frost and will sunburn if not protected by shade.  The seeds are small and are best sown in warm soil, in the light. My favorite method for planting seeds of this sort is to prepare a pot or flat with nice humus potting soil, filling to the lip and leaving the surface rough, not smooth and patted down.  Then, sprinkle the seed over the surface of the soil and tamp firmly.  This allows the seed to fall down between the roughened particles of soil, and then when you tamp it down with the palm of your hand, the seed is nestled into place on the surface or barely sub-surface.  Then, mist with water very carefully so as not to dislodge the seeds, and keep in the light, ever moist,  and nice and warm until germination, which takes between one and three weeks.  Allow the seedlings to grow closely together at first, and when they attain their second set of true leaves, then individuate them carefully and pot up individually to 4-inch pots.  Grow them out that way for awhile, until they fill the pot with roots, and at that point transplant up to gallons. Soon after that, you can make a harvest of the leaves to produce a patchouli sachet, or you can extract your own essential oil if you have a distiller. For all practical purposes, under good growing conditions, you can figure 3 months to harvestable years and 1 year to flowers. As I write this, the pervasive fragrance of Patchouli rises up from the packet before me, and I give thanks for this incredible plant, and wish you to have it!  Also, in cleaning the flowers to obtain the seeds, the scent of patchouli was almost overwhelming, so this leads me to believe that the essential oil content of the dried flowers may be the highest as compared to any other part of the plant.

Patchouli likes a warm, damp climate in fertile, well-draining soil in an area of full to partial sun exposure. This herb is conducive to container growth, or you can plant it directly into the garden. Patchouli herb plant thrives in a soil pH of between 5.5 and 6.2.

Dig a hole matching the depth of the container in which the herb comes in. Place the plant in the hole and tamp the soil down around the herb to eliminate any air pockets. Give the herb 20 inches of room around it to grow into and water it in thoroughly. Thereafter, allow the topsoil to dry before watering. A good layer of mulch around the patchouli herb plant is recommended to retain moisture.

Patchouli Plant Care

Fertilize the herb each spring with an NPK plant food in the amount of 10-10-10 and thereafter once each month until the fall.

Prune any leaves that are dying, diseased or otherwise damaged. Patchouli is susceptible to infection with leaf blight. Prior to pruning the plant, dip the shears in a mix of 70% denatured alcohol and 30% water to retard the spread of the disease.

Caterpillars love patchouli plants as well, so be vigilant about their discovery and removal.

Winter watering should be reduced to allow the plant to go into dormancy. If you grow patchouli plant in containers, they can be moved indoors for protection, especially in areas with harsh winters. First, acclimate the plant by setting it in a shady area for a few days prior to bringing it inside; this will keep it from becoming shocked by the sudden temperature shift. Place the container in a south facing window where it can then receive at least 6 hours of sunlight.

Harvest patchouli on dry mornings when the essential oils have peaked to get the most benefit from the plant.

Winter Herbal Kitchen

In this winter season when we don’t have the fresh herbs handy, like our foremothers, we rely on herbs that we have preserved for the winter. I drink nettle infusion almost every day, covering a cup of the dried herb with a quart of boiling water in the evenings, to steep overnight and heat up the next day for my warm mugs of infusion.

This week, I’ve also been enjoying brewing three other dried herbs, each in her own water-based form of extraction–depending on which method optimizes the medicinal properties of that particular herb.

I was delighted to find local reishi mushroom at the food coop last week. I am adding a handful of the dried slices to each pot of bone broth, for the adaptogenic and deep immune support that reishi offers.

Reishi mushroom broth

Similar to making stock, a long slow simmering is the most potent way to extract the medicinal properties of reishi, which adds a rich, deeper flavor to the bone broth. As the name suggests, adaptogens support our bodies and hormonal systems to adapt to a wide range of circumstances and changes, both physically and emotionally.

I am also making cold infusions of marshmallow root. Now, we’re not talking about sugary puffs that you roast over the campfire! . . . Although the marshmallow plant was originally an ingredient in the candy, contributing mucilaginous properties.

Marshmallow (aka marshmallow) belongs to a family of plants known as the Mallow family (Malvaceae). The edible low-growing common mallow (Malva sylvestris) grows as a weed in many gardens, and I have enjoyed cultivating the much taller marshmallow (Althaea Officinalis) in my garden as well.

Marshmallow infusionThe mucilaginous properties of marshmallow offer beneficial support for the mucous membranes which line all of our systems that are open to the world–including the respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems. As a winter ally, marshmallow has a long history of nourishing the lungs and easing coughs.

Because some of marsh mallow’s mucilaginous and delicate medicinal properties degrade with heat, this is one of the few herbal infusions that I actually prefer to prepare with cold water rather than with boiling water. I put a half cup of dried herb into a pint jar, cover it with cold water and leave it on the counter overnight. The slippery infusion can be strained in the morning to drink, or refrigerated to extend the life for a day or two.

Tulsi herb to be infusedThe third herbal preparation I’ve been enjoying, is, ah, tulsi, also known as sacred basil, an adaptogen as well. Those of you who know tulsi may breathe a sigh just hearing her name!

I savored her in my garden all of the last summers, and then just before the fall frosts, we harvested the remaining flowering stalks to dry.

It is such a treat in the winter to add a small bundle, tied up in cheesecloth, into a steaming bath. Or you can simply boil a small pot of water and inhale the steam (with a towel over your head to keep the steam concentrated) to relieve dry sinuses and skin. The pleasurable fragrance reduces stress, nourishes the skin, and opens up the lungs.

I know I’m not alone in this year round love affair with the plants! And that even through the winter, as wise woman herbalists, many of you continue to weave with the herbs in your day to day lives, from broths and infusions to steams and baths.

Keep using your kitchen creativity to dream up your own medicinal, fun, delicious, tonifying concoctions to nourish and soothe you through these dark days of winter.

February blessings!~

Down To The Roots: Burdock And Chicory

For centuries, burdock and chicory have been considered important remedies to help the liver. They have also been used to help rid the body of uric acid, to treat rheumatism and to eliminate skin conditions. By helping the liver, they also improve hormonal imbalances. The Chinese eat burdock to relieve constipation. Chicory is an effective digestive tonic, and can be used as a coffee substitute – chicory coffee does not contain caffeine, but it does taste somewhat like coffee. Chicory increases bile production, moderates a rapid heart rate, lowers cholesterol and destroys bacteria.

Burdock and chicory roots are versatile. Burdock can be used much like a carrot – it can be grated, sliced or blended. My favorite introductory-level burdock dish is a gravy. Thanksgiving, I made the dressing and gravy from burdock. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the guests when I told them that it was made from burdock. Of course, I waited until after they had told me how delicious it was! Even after I told them it was burdock, no one refused seconds.

effortless-gravyBurdock Gravy

1 cup chopped burdock root {1 medium-size root}

1/2 cup yogurt, sour cream or soy milk

1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon honey

Blend ingredients until smooth. Heat mixture over low heat, stirring until it thickens, about 4 minutes.

Fresh burdock and chicory roots are not hard to find. Many natural food stores carry them, at least in the fall and into the spring. Japanese groceries sell burdock as gobo. Even some regular grocery stores sell these roots, especially in Hawaii. You can also grow your own – look for them in the vegetable seed section of a nursery or seed catalog.

In the North American colonies, in the early days of colonization, coffee was cut with chicory so that supplies of the expensive bean would last longer. Later, chicory coffee became a Louisiana specialty. Roasting gives chicory a bitter-sweet flavor. To roast chicory, chop fresh roots, place a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast in a 325 F degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Roasted chicory roots can easily be made into a tea – just grind them in a coffee grinder and steep.

Millet Loaf

This dish can be cooked as a millet pilaf or a millet loaf of “bread” that is nutty tasting and satisfying for a holiday main meal.

Overnight Preparation Time

You may want to start soaking the millet the night before you want to make this dish (soak for 8 – 12 hours). The recipe itself takes about 10 minutes to prepare and 15 – 20 minutes to simmer on the stovetop.

Servings: 4 – 6


  • 2 cups presoaked millet
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons dried burdock root or fresh burdock root, diced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons astragalus powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt


  • In a saucepan, bring water to a boil.
  • Once water is boiling, add soaked millet and reduce heat to simmer.
  • Add spices, sea salt, astragalus root powder and burdock root.
  • Simmer until millet is completely cooked and the grains are translucent and fluffy.
  • Add coconut oil and stir thoroughly. If you are eating this as a millet pilaf, it is now ready to serve with your favorite vegetable side dish.
  • If you are making millet loaf, let the cooked millet pilaf sit for 15 minutes to cool. Once cooked, transfer into a greased bread loaf pan and cook in a pre-heated oven at 300°F for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cool.
  • Slice of bread, spread with some coconut oil, raw butter or ghee if you like and serve with salad and cultured vegetables or with a vegetable soup


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!

Nettle, fresh or dried
Brandy or vodka

Mason jar
Muslin or cheesecloth
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 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


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


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.


de la Floret, Rosalee. (2013, June 15) Meadowsweet Herb: Queen of the Meadow. Retrieved from

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

Fire Cider Is Like Liquid Summer Warmth For The Darkness Of Winter

With fall upon us, we all feel the pull to visit our local farmers and collect the bounty of the fields! One way to preserve some of our most powerful immune-enhancing foods is too steep them in raw apple cider vinegar. The health benefits of raw apple cider vinegar are many. From live enzymes and bacteria to a wealth of B-vitamins, what more could you ask for in a little immune enhancement?

We decided to add a little flare to the traditional fire cider recipe, to help better capture the summer energy of bright colors and vibrancy. The possibilities are limitless and we encourage you to get creative with it.

fire-cider-ingredientsFeatured: powerful and pungent fresh horseradish, ginger, garlic, onion and hot pepper.

Added enhancement: fresh, curcumin-rich yellow turmeric, deep ruby red dried hibiscus petals containing naturally occurring vitamin C, and peppery yellow, gold, red nasturtium blossoms that embody summer’s vibrancy!

Fire Cider is traditionally used for fast-acting support. The immune-enhancing effects of the veggies, herbs, and spices in this formula support our bodies as we transition from the warmth of summer into the cool temperatures of fall and winter. Whether you need an immune system rev up or want to spice up a salad dressing, this can be taken as frequently or as little as you want.

For immune support, take 15-30 MLS every couple hours. It can be diluted in water or taken straight. As Rosemary Gladstar recommends, a small shot glass daily serves as an excellent tonic. Take it more frequently if necessary to help your immune system do battle.

Fire Cider is like liquid summer warmth for the darkness of winter; the high point of summer’s bounty preserved for the cold months that are to come.


  • ½ cup grated fresh horseradish root
  • ½ cup or more fresh chopped onions. (We used red onion.)
  • ¼ cup or more chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup or more grated ginger
  • Chopped fresh or dried hot pepper ‘to taste’. (We used one whole pepper. Can be whole or powdered.  ‘To Taste’ means should be hot, but not so hot you can’t tolerate it.  Better to make it a little milder than too hot; you can always add more pepper later if necessary.)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric root
  • 1 tablespoon dry hibiscus petals
  • Handful Nasturtiums flowers
  • Optional ingredients; Echinacea, cinnamon, etc.

Fire Cider Recipe Step Images


1. Place herbs in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least three to four inches.  Cover tightly with a tight fitting lid. If the jar has a metal top and ring, place a piece of parchment paper on the opening before closing the lid, to prevent erosion from the vinegar.

2. Place jar in a warm place and let sit for three to four weeks.  Best to shake every day to help in the maceration process.

3. After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs, and reserve the liquid.

4. Add honey ‘to taste’.  Warm the honey first so it mixes in well.  “To taste’ means your Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet.  “A little bit of honey helps the medicine go down……”

5. Rebottle and enjoy!  Fire Cider will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool pantry.   But it’s better to store in the refrigerator if you have room.

Fall Allergies ~ An Herbal Approach

Seasonal allergies can really get you down, and over-the-counter meds can knock you out. Try these natural herbal remedies to soothe pollen induced headaches, scratchy throats, chapped skin, and more.

allergy-teaAs allergy sufferers, we’re acutely aware of seasonal changes in air quality. Earth’s reawakening in spring brings us welcome warmth, but it also delivers not-so-welcome tree pollen. Summer’s riot of plant bounty includes grasses and the associated output of pollen. Fall has its own offenders in the form of ragweed pollen and mold from fallen leaves.

If you’re an allergy sufferer, you may be thinking about closing the shutters and latching the door. Venturing out into this minefield of airborne plant pollens can feel treacherous. Fortunately, Mother Nature has provided us with a phyto-pharmacy that can help carry you comfortably through each season.

What’s an Allergy?

Seasonal allergies are common, affecting more than 35 million people in the United States and more than 400 million people worldwide. Genetics, diet, over-cleanliness and exposure to pesticides and toxic chemicals may predispose a person to develop allergies.

An allergy is an immune system response to a substance that your body is hypersensitive to – for example, pollen, dust, or a particular food. Your immune system’s job is to help defend against pathogens {such as bacteria and viruses} and other antigenic molecules that it comes into contact with. Some allergens are perfectly harmless, but if your immune system recognizes them as antigenic, then it will illicit an immune response or allergic reaction.

When an antigen gains access to your body, white blood cells {in this case, lymphocytes} produce antibodies in the form of immunoglobulin E {IgE}. IgE attaches itself to another type of white blood cell {the mast cell}, preparing your immune system for the next exposure to the antigen. Mast cells are equipped with potent, biologically active molecules, including histamines, which the body releases to stop an antigen in its tracks. This release triggers the inflammatory response that’s all too familiar to allergy sufferers – headaches; puffy, red eyes; swollen and itchy throats; runny noses and sneezing; stuffed-up noses; and exhaustion, irritability, and depression.

When seasonal allergies do occur, simple herbal remedies offer an effective way to help alleviate the symptoms. additionally, the nutritional and lifestyle choices you make on a daily basis can strengthen your constitutions and perhaps reduce your future susceptibility to allergies. Eating a diet rich in whole foods that provide a good supply of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids is an important component of your overall good health, as is supporting your immune system and liver so they can mount their defenses when called upon. You can also integrate herbs, such as dandelion, nettle, and burdock, into your daily diet to help create a stronger constitution for lasting good health.

It’s prudent for all of us to preempt the onset of seasonal allergies by strengthening our immune systems and building up resistance throughout the year, instead of just controlling our symptoms in the midst of a pollen-packed allergy season. After all, an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. Many remedies support and strengthen the body while also relieving allergy symptoms.

Learning about our bodies and the plants that are available to us in our natural and local environments can lead us on a journey of healing and thriving in the increasingly complex biosphere we breathe in.

nettle-via-g215Nettle Tincture for Allergy Relief

Nettle can relieve allergy symptoms before they become a full-blown nuisance by reducing the body’s histamine response. The key is to use fresh nettle, either in the form of a simple nettle tea or tincture, or freeze-dried nettle capsules.

Yield: about 1 pint.


  • Fresh or freeze-dried nettle
  • Vodka or brandy {80-proof or higher}


Chop enough fresh nettle to nearly fill a sterilized pint jar. Gloves are helpful here; it’s called “stinging nettle” for a reason! Add alcohol to cover the nettle by 1 to 2 inches. Cap the jar and give it a shake. Let macerate in a cool, dark cupboard for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking every few days. Using a wire mesh strainer or a few layers of cheesecloth, strain the nettle tincture into a clean bowl. Transfer the tincture to a sterilized jar, cap, and label it. Store tincture in a cool, dry place. Suggested dose is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon 3 times daily during allergy season.

homemade-lozengesHerbal Headache Lozenges

Nasal and sinus congestion can cause headaches with localized pain and pressure over the sinus area. Anti-inflammatory herbs, such as chamomile, meadowsweet, and willow, and anti-spasmodic herbs, such as rosemary and peppermint, will help relax muscles and decrease the inflammatory response while improving circulation.

You can use the following blend of herbs for a natural approach to headache relief. Powder and mix the herbs with honey to make a thick, dough-like paste that you can roll into lozenges. The drops can be prepared ahead of time and are convenient to have on-hand during allergy season.

Yield: approximately 60 lozenges.


  • 2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers
  • 2 tablespoons dried meadowsweet
  • 2 tablespoons dried willow bark
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons dried peppermint leaves
  • Raw honey


Grind the dried herbs into powder using a clean coffee grinder. Place herbs in a small glass mixing bowl and pour in just enough honey to cover the herbs lightly and allow you to mix in all the herb powder. Pour or shape into small rounds no larger than 1/2 teaspoon in size, and let harden at room temperature for several hours. Store the lozenges in a glass jar in the refrigerator, where they’ll stay good for several months. Take as needed.


A Cough and Itchy Throat Syrup

Raw honey, lemon, and herbs make wonderful natural syrups soothe a sore throat and cough. Herbs to consider using for irritated coughs and itchy throats include demulcent herbs, such as marshmallow, violet, mullein, and cinnamon.

Yield: about 1 1/2 pints.


  • 1/2 cup dried elderberries
  • 1/4 cup ginger root, freshly grated
  • 1/4 cup marshmallow root
  • 1/4 cup dried hyssop
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1-quart water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup raw honey or manuka honey


Combine herbs, spices, and water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for approximately 1 hour, allowing the volume to reduce by half {be sure the liquid doesn’t simmer away completely}. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool. Strain through cheesecloth. Add lemon juice and honey and stir. Keep refrigerated in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for 1 to 2 months. Suggested dose is 1 to 2 teaspoons, as needed.

salves-how-to-makeSoothing Skin Salve for Raw Noses

Salves are healing, moisturizing remedies to consider for allergy symptoms. Salves are generally made with oils, beeswax, and herbs or essential oils. Vitamin E can be added as a natural preservative. For dry, chapped, and irritated skin, use demulcent herbs, such as comfrey, chickweed, and calendula, in an infused oil.

Yield: about 1 cup infused oil; about 5 ounces salve.


  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dried comfrey leaves, crushed
  • 3/4 ounce beeswax, shaved
  • 10 to 12 drops lavender essential oil
  • 2 to 3 drops vitamin E

Infused Oil Directions:

Place olive oil and comfrey in the top of a double boiler. Simmer for 45 minutes, never allowing the oil temperature to exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the oil to cool slightly before straining.

Salve Directions:

Add the beeswax and 4 ounces of infused comfrey oil to the top of a double boiler. Warm just enough to melt the beeswax, stirring until melted. Add the essential oil and vitamin E. Stir. Pour salve into four 2-ounce glass jars or tins for storage. To use, apply a dab of salve to irritated skin. To avoid introducing bacteria into the salve, use a cotton  swab instead of your finger.

Easy Herbal Oils, Salves, and Syrups

Soothe injuries and boost your immune system with these simple, plant-based recipes.

herbal-infusionsInfused Herbal Oils

Herbal oils are convenient and easy to use. These are made by extracting ground-up herbs with organic olive oil. You can apply this herb-laden oil directly to your skin, where it will exert its healing influence through absorption, or you can use the oil as a base for making a salve or lip balm. Infused oils aren’t the same as essential oils, which are composed of concentrated, steam-distilled volatile oils of a plant. Infused herbal oils may be made from dried arnica flowers, bergamot leaves and flowers, calendula flowers, cayenne peppers, cannabis leaves and flowers, chickweed leaves and flowers, comfrey leaves, ginger roots, helichrysum flowers, mullein leaves, turmeric roots, and virtually any herb containing essential oils {such as rosemary, thyme, and lavender}. All will extract well in warm oil.

Fresh garlic cloves, cottonwood buds, elderberry leaves, horse chestnut buds, mullein flowers, and especially flowering Saint John’s wort also extract very nicely in warm olive oil.


To make Saint John’s wort oil, grind fresh Saint John’s wort flowers and leaves into a mash and add 1 part of this fresh herb mash to 3 parts olive oil. Stir thoroughly, and then pour the mass into a gallon jar, capped with cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band. {The cheesecloth will allow excess moisture to escape.} Set the jar in the sun for 2 weeks, stirring daily. The oil will eventually take on the ruby-red color of its active constituent, hypericin. After 2 weeks, squeeze the contents through 4 layers of cheesecloth into a clean bowl, pour the oil into a clean gallon jar, and allow it to settle overnight. Then, excluding the watery sludge, pour the bright-red oil into clean containers for storage, and use as needed.

To make an infused oil of dried herbs, first, grind the herbs to a medium-fine consistency. In a crockpot, stainless steel pan, or gallon jar, combine 1 part herbs with 5 parts organic olive oil {for 1 ounce of herb, use 5 ounces of oil}. Or, simply put the dried herbs into the vessel and add sufficient olive oil to make a thick mash that you can just stir with a spoon. Stir daily to encourage extraction, and keep the oil very warm {110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit}. Some folks set the macerating oil close to a woodstove or in the sun to stay warm. In any case, never heat the oil directly on a stovetop-temperatures in excess of 150 degrees will denature the oil. After 1 week, pour the warm mass through 4 layers of cheesecloth draped over a bowl. Lift the corners, gather them together, and squeeze and squeeze, allowing the clear oil to flow into the bowl. Alternatively, you can use a tincture press, which is certainly more efficient. Collect the infused oil in a jar and allow it to settle overnight. Then, being careful to exclude the sludge that will have formed on the bottom of the jar, pour off the clear oil into amber glass jars for storage. Store in a cool, dark place. The shelf life of infused herbal oils is 1 year.


Salves and Balms

Homemade salves and lip balms call for beeswax and oil, which mix only if heated to 150 degrees. You won’t need to use a thermometer; simply pour an infused oil into a heat-resistant glass beaker, set it into a saucepan half-filled with water, and bring the water bath to a gentle simmer on the stovetop.

To make a soft salve, use 0.6 ounces of wax for every cup of oil. Grate the beeswax with a cheese grater, mix the grated wax into the oil, and gently heat the mixture until the beeswax melts, stirring constantly with a chopstick or wooden spoon. After the wax incorporates perfectly into the oil, immediately remove it from the heat and pour the liquid salve into suitable containers. It will harden as it cools.

Lip balm is made in the same way, except you’ll need to increase the concentration of beeswax to 2 ounces of wax for every 1 cup of oil. This will make a harder product that won’t melt in your pocket or purse, but will still protect and heal chapped lips. You can use the infused oil of calendula flowers or chickweed to make a very pleasant lip balm. For additional flavor, per 1 cup of lip balm, stir in 1 drop of mint essential oil, 3 drops of vanilla extract, or both.


lip-balm-tin-beeswaxTo make lip balm, first make herbal oil by combining equal parts dried chickweed leaves or flowers and dried calendula flowers {follow my earlier instructions for making infused herbal oils}. Combine 1 cup of this oil with 2 ounces of beeswax. Stirring constantly, gently heat the oil/beeswax mixture in a hot water bath until the beeswax melts. Pour the liquid lip balm into small, flat salve containers or empty lip balm dispensers-this recipe will yield eleven 1-ounce tins. As it cools, it will harden.

While some balms are suited to everyday use, occasionally you’ll need a stronger salve for soothing specific ailments.

Trauma Oil is traditionally made by combining the infused oils of 3 powerful herbs: calendula, arnica, and Saint John’s wort. You can make the oils separately and then combine them in equal parts to make the trauma oil. Heat the oil and mix with beeswax to make trauma salve, and then store the mixture in a flat tin. To use, rub the salve as needed into an afflicted area. I’ve seen this remedy used as-is to reduce inflammation and pain in a swollen finger, a twisted ankle, and an inflamed tendon.

Healing Syrups and Teas

Herbal syrups are the most universally accepted ways to ingest herbs. I find them to be particularly well-suited for children, who may disagree with the strange and bitter tastes of many herbs but actually look forward to their daily spoonful of syrup. Syrups may be administered by the loving hand of a parent who has the foresight to fortify their child against common colds and flu.


elderberry-syrupBlack elderberry syrup packs a powerful immune-enhancing punch. To reconstitute dried berries, simply cover them with boiling water in a jar overnight and allow them to plump up. To make syrup from reconstituted dried berries or from fresh berries, place the berries in a saucepan with a little water and set on low heat. Stirring frequently, cook until the berries are thoroughly softened, and then remove from the heat and allow them to cool enough to be handled. Press out the juice in a tincture press or through a large sieve, thereby excluding the skins and seeds. Return the clear purple juice to the saucepan and set on low heat, stirring frequently. Reduce to 1/4 the original volume, producing a very thick product. This will take about 1 hour. Measure the liquid, and then add an equal volume of vegetable glycerin or honey. Pour into 4-ounce amber dropper bottles or small jars. A child’s dose is 1 teaspoon up to 3 times per day. An adult dose is 1 tablespoon up to 3 times per day.

A decoction is a concentrated herbal tea, often used to extract the essence of roots, barks, and seeds that don’t readily relinquish their properties in a simple tea.

Strong decoctions are double-strength and may easily be made into herbal syrup. Combine 1 part strong decoction with 2 parts vegetable glycerin or honey. Stir until thoroughly incorporated, and then store in 4-ounce amber dropper bottles or small jars. The shelf life of syrups made in this manner is about 6 months and may be extended by refrigerating the syrup. If mold appears on the surface, discard.

To make, use 2 handfuls {about 2 ounces} of sliced or coarsely ground herbs in 4 cups of water. Combine in a stainless steel saucepan, cover, and leave overnight to soak. In the morning, stir the contents with a wooden spoon and heat on a low burner, simmering for 15 minutes. Then, strain out the root pieces and return the liquid to the stovetop. Stirring frequently, reduce the volume by half.

allergy-teaMany kinds of roots, barks, and seeds can be made into strong decoctions and then combined with honey or glycerin to produce herbal syrups or cough syrup. Astragalus roots, cascara sagrada bark, elecampane roots, hawthorn berries, motherwort herb, turkey rhubarb roots, self-heal flowers, spikenard roots, yellow dock roots, violet flowers, licorice roots, and fennel seeds all make good herbal syrups.