Here’s to your Health!

Here’s to Your Health!


Herb of the Month: In the Garden

QUESTION: I’ve planted several herbs in my garden and wonder if I should mulch them. If so, what should I use?

ANSWER: Nowadays, we hear so much about the real and alleged benefits of mulch that we forget that it is optional. Old- timers didn’t use mulch at all, preferring to weed and loosen the soil regularly with a hoe or a cultivator. Their herbs grew perfectly well.

If your garden’s not too large, you have a tool that’s a joy to use, and you like the simple look of clean, bare soil – don’t bother to mulch. Be aware that each kind has its merits and drawbacks.

An Herb To Grow

Each summer, on a sunny morning, and depending on where you live, it can come out in late July in New England, but as early as June in more Southern and South West states, take a drive out into the country. The scenery alone will refresh and reinvigorate you! Park your car and walk, taking in all the scents and sights nature has to offer. In my part of the country, I drive down a gravely road, park my car, and walk up a hill, only to be in awe of the beauty before me. Below is a sea of bright yellow, honey scented froth — a thriving patch of Our-Lady’s bedstraw at the peak of bloom. With a pair of scissors that I keep in the car for just this purpose, I cut a few sprays to brighten the rooms of my home. This had become something of a ritual until I started to grow it myself.

This was just one way many people over the centuries have celebrated this beautiful and very useful herb.

The genus Gallium comprises some 400 species 400 species of annual and perennial herbs found nearly worldwide. Our-Lady’s bedstraw (G.verum), also called yellow bedstraw, is native to Europe and Asia but is naturalized throughout North America. It is a perennial herb with creeping stolons and 3-foot-long erect, trailing, or sprawling stems that may be four-angled like those of mints or rounded. These are branched, often woody at the base, and usually covered with minute hairs. The leaves are shiny, needlelike (about 1/2 inch long), and borne in whorls of six to twelve. They are hairy on top and closely covered with minute hairs below. The plant’s defense clusters of tiny, four-lobed tubular flowers blossom in mid-summer.

Occasionally, bedstraws with looser clusters of odorless, lemon yellow flowers are found intermingled with this fragrant, bright-yellow-flowered form. Some botanists have assigned these plants to G. verum, but others consider them a subspecies (subsp. wirtgenii) or even different species. Herbal relatives in the genus Galium include sweet woodruff, a handsome ground cover and the source of the essential flavoring for the German spring punch Maibowle, and cleavers, a weedy plant prized in some folk traditions as a diuretic and spring potherb.

Uses

Like sweet woodruff, the tops of Our-Lady’s bedstraw are fragrant when dried because the presence of coumarin, whose scent has been likened to vanilla or newly mown hay. Some people, even today, use the tops of this herb to fill their mattresses. But don’t be surprised at how much you will need, and the rustling sound it will make when you move in bed. Such practice may be linked to the legend that the Virgin Mary’s bed was lined with this herb, hence the name “Our-Lady’s bedstraw.” This herb is also used in cheese making. The extract of the tops are used in cheese making, the tops contain an enzyme that curdles mild. The generic name, Galium, derived from the Greek gala, means “milk”. Sometimes the extract was mixed with calf rennet, a curdling agent derived from the fourth stomach of calves. An acidic beverage made by distilling the tops in water dates at least to the seventeenth century.

The tops also yield a yellow dye that has been used to color butter, wool and silk yarn, woman’s hair ( in 15th century England) and cheese, especially English Cheshire cheese.

The first-century Greek physician Dioscorides prescribed an ointment of bedstraw to treat burns, and the seventeenth century English herbalist Culpeper found it useful for treating children’s skin disorders. Folk practitioners recommended the use of Our-Lady’s bedstraw in a footbath or as a tea to be used as a diuretic, laxative, or treatment for epilepsy. NO SCIENTIFIC STUDIES SUPPORT THOSE USES, however, and Our-Lady’s bedstraw today is known principally as a pretty landscape plant.

Planting It

Unlike the shade-loving sweet wood-ruff, Our-Lady’s bedstraw thrives in bright sunshine and tolerates dry soil. It is hardy in Zones 3 thru 8. To counter its invasive tendencies, plant this herb in a bottomless pot or in a spot where it won’t matter if it spreads. If it flops over, you can prop it up with twigs, or a peony hoop. Fresh seeds germinate more readily than those that have been dried or stored. You can easily increase your stock by dividing established plants in spring or early fall.

Making A Dye

To make a yellow dye: harvest the flowers tops when in full bloom, simmer them in water for 30 to 60 minutes, then strain the dye liquid.

To make a red dye: dig the roots of the established plants in late fall. Wash, then chop them into small pieces. Simmer in water to cover for an hour, let stand overnight, and strain the liquid. You may repeat this step, using fresh water, until no more dye is released. Four plants yield enough roots to dye 4 ounces of wool.

Herb of the Month: Lemon Balm Oil

Dear Friends,

Here is our new herb suggestion of the month.  I am giving you all the information on this wonderful, aromatherapy herb to help keep you, and your family feeling uplifted, happy, as well as a sense of well being.  I hope you enjoy it!

 Lemon Balm Oil

Also known as Melissa or simply balm, lemon balm originated in the Near East.  Benedictine missionaries first brought this herb to the West, planting it in kitchen gardens all over Europe.  American colonists used lemon balm as well, both as a medicine and as a flavoring agent.  It is said that Thomas Jefferson grew the plant at Monticello.  The name “Lemon Balm” can be attributed to the lemony scent of its nettle-like leave.  Similarly, its nickname Melissa, which means “honey bee” in Greek, is also a tribute to this distinctive fragrance, which attracts warms of bees to the plant.  Today, this essential oil serves as a panacea in home remedies and has many therapeutic benefits.  For instance, it is commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, depression and menstrual complaints.  Although in most cases lemon balm essential oil is diluted then massaged into the skin or utilized in aromatherapy regimens, it also can be taken orally to induce a mild relaxing effect.

Overcoming Insomnia:

Place these calming oil mixtures in a simmer pot and breathe them in at night to relieve insomnia and nervous tension.

3 drops lemon balm oil

3 drops ylang-ylang oil

1 drop sandalwood oil

  OR

3 drops lemon balm oil

3 drops lavender oil

1 drop rose oil

Therapeutic Effect: 

Lemon balm oil can help fight infections caused by viruses and bacteria; relieve spasms and cramps; stimulate liver function; and reduce pain, fever and flatulence.  It also has calming and stress-reducing effects.  The oil’s most important active ingredients are citral, citronella and geranial.

Comfort and Relaxation:

Add a couple of drops of lemon balm to a diffuser to promote relaxation and help you regain your over all balance.

Respiratory Relief:

Lemon balm oil helps relax the muscles of the airways.  It makes breathing easier when respiratory passages become tight or congested due to allergic reactions, asthma, coughs, colds and other respiratory complaints.

For Nervous Children:

Lemon balm oil eases nervousness tension and restlessness.  When dispersed by the diffuser, the oil can help soothe and calm agitated children.

A Natural Remedy for Menstrual Complaints:

Lemon balm oil is an excellent remedy for menstrual disorders.  its antispasmodic and muscle relaxing properties help relieve menstrual cramping and pain.  Some healers also claim that its hormonal actions can help regulate irregular periods or restore missed ones, particularly during menopause.

Pure Lemon Balm Oil:

Pure lemon balm oil is one of the most expensive of the essential oil, because about 3 1/2 tons of the leafy plants are needed to make 1 quart of purified oil.

Applications:

External Use

Lemon balm oil is a great remedy for stress-related skin and facial blemishes.  Mix 2-5 drops of lemon-balm oil with 1 1/2 oz. of base oil, such as sweet almond or wheat germ oil.  Massage the mixture into the back, on either side of the spine, to reduce stress and anxiety.

The same diluted mixture can be applied to many kinds of skin inflammations and insects bites.  It can also be rubbed into the  lower abdomen to relax muscles and alleviate menstrual cramping.  Relieve mild chest pain (angina) with a mixture of 1 drop lemon balm, 1 drop rose oil and 5 drops jojoba oil.  Rub it gently into the skin around the heart area. 

To relieve fever blisters on the lips, apply a drop of diluted lemon balm to the affected area.  Use the oil at first signs of irritation to maximize its protective effect and help speed healing.

To relieve the irritating itching of insect bites, prepare a lemon balm ointment.  Combine 1 tsp lemon balm essential oil with 3 1/2 oz. petroleum jelly or soft paraffin wax.  Apply to your infected areas.

To mitigate the pain of shingles, add 5 drops of lemon balm essential oil to 1 tsp. olive oil.  Regularly massage this mixture gently into any painful area.

This information is up to date and accurate in accordance with The Complete Guide to Natural Healing and is intended to complement, not replace, the advice of your physician.  Before undertaking the advice contained in this publication, you should consult with a health care professional, who can best assess your individual needs, symptoms and treatment.

 In good health to you all!
Vicki

Here’s to Your Health!

Vicki is getting back to a part of  her roots!  Having a Ph.d in Holistic Medicine she wants to share with you some of her knowledge in Herbology, homeopathy, as well as Acupressure etc….

Each month watch for “Here’s to your Health!”  This page is designed to give you informative decisions and learn what different medicinal can do for you.  However please note:  This does not promote the usage of, or combining of medicines, and never should an herb or new medicine spoken of here on this page be used unless you have spoken with your health care provider, as herbs can interact with what you are already taking.  Always seek the advice of your doctor before using any remedy or suggestions listed on this page.

Calming Chamomile & Therapeutic Teas

As written in “Nature’s Cures.”

“To ease the body’s pain, the great spirit sent us chamomile.”  The line from a nineteenth century poem validates how important chamomile has been in alleviating pain and discomfort throughout time. In fact, the medicinal use of chamomile dates back even further, to the days of the Romans, who relied on its antispasmodic and anti inflammatory properties.  Today, chamomile tea is one of the most effective medicinal teas known.  The gentle action of this herb makes it suitable for children and adults, and the tea can be safely used on a regular basis.  To be prepared when stomachaches, insomnia, sore throats or cramps strike, keep a supply of chamomile flowers or loose tea on hand.  Be sure to buy Matricaria recutita, or German chamomile; this variety contains the highest concentration of the essential oils responsible for giving chamomile its healing power.

Preparation of The Tea

In a teapot, place 1 tsp. of chamomile flowers per cup of water.  Boil the water, then let it cool slightly (using boiling water will cause the various therapeutic compounds in chamomile to evaporate).  For best results, steep the tea less than 5 minutes.

Healing Tea Mixtures

For Gastric Complaints:

1oz. chamomile

2/3oz. peppermint

1oz. caraway seeds

2/3 oz. angelica

Use 1 tsp. of the mixture per cup of hot water.  Steep the mixture 10 minutes and strain.  This tea soothes the gastrointestinal tract and stimulates digestive activity, making it useful for stomach aches or a too full feeling.

For Cystitis:

1oz. chamomile

1oz. yarrow

1oz. sage

Use 1 tsp. of the mixture per cup of hot water.  Steep the mixture 5 minutes and strain.  The anti inflammatory components of this tea relieve bladder pain and urinary discomfort.  Drink as much tea as you wish daily until the inflammation has healed.

For Skin Problems:

1oz. chamomile

1oz. dandelion

2/3oz. fennel

Use 1 tsp. of the mixture per cut of hot water.  Steep 5-10 minutes and strain.  The medicinal tea blend stimulates metabolic activity, which helps promote the healing of inflammatory skin conditions, such as abscesses, boils and acne.

For Intestinal Cramps:

The flavenoids in chamomile tea can prevent gas and relieve cramps.  However, for menstrual cramps, a chamomile tincture such as the one listed below is better because its flavenoid concentration is a third higher than that of the tea.

Menstrual Cramps:

A chamomile tincture can alleviate menstrual cramps.  To make the tincture, add 2/3 oz. of chamomile flowers to 1 1/2 oz. of 100 proof alcohol and let it steep for 1 week.  Strain and store in a dark vial.  Take 10 drops in a glass of water.

Flu and Cough:

The germicidal effect of a chamomile vapor helps destroy the germs that cause flu and alleviates coughing.  Pour 2 qts. of hot water over 2 cups of chamomile flowers.  Cover your head with a towel and in hate the vapors.  WARNING: DO NOT use this method if you suffer from cardiovascular disease!!!

For Inflammation, Restlessness and Insomnia:

A chamomile-tea bath provides quick relief from skin inflammation, restlessness and insomnia.  Add 1 qt. of chamomile tea to a bathtub full of warm water.  For insomnia, take the bath before bedtime.

For Eye Problems:

Chamomile-tea compresses help relieve eye pain, eyestrain and eyelid inflammation.  Soak 2 cotton pads in luke warm tea and place them on the eyes for a few minutes.   WARNING: Strain the tea thoroughly first, to remove and pieces of chamomile flower that may irritate delicate eye tissue.

Lastly, Take Care!

Chamomile is wonderful and has amazing healing properties but is not for everyone.  Chamomile has been known to cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to ragweed or other members of the daisy family.  If you have such an allergy, you should avoid using it. 

Extra Tip

During hot summer months, when you may not want to drink a warm beverage, opt for chamomile ice cubes.  Prepare the tea as usual, and freeze the liquid in ice-cube trays.  These chamomile ice cubes will not only relieve stomach discomfort, but will cool you down.

The Complete Guide to Natural Healing makes every effort to provide medically accurate and up to date information that is intended to complement, not replace, the advice of your physician.  Before undertaking the advice contained on this page you should consult with a health care professional, who can best assess your individual needs, symptoms and treatment.