Here’s to your Health!

Here’s to Your Health!


Herb of the Month: Verbena Officinalis

Compared with its flashy garden verbena cousins, common vervain (Verbena Officinalis) is an unprepossessing plain Jane. You may know it for keeping Vampires free to walk in the sunlight if you are a fan of the CW’S Vampire Diaries. It has also been an herb that was used for magic and religion. There is no herb in the garden more worthy of attention, for this simple plant without fragrance, without an outer look of power, without a flower of significance, was singled out from among all other plants and herbs as the most sacred of the growing things of earth between the Pillars of Hercules and the roots of the Caucasus.

Vervain is one of some 250 species of annuals, herbaceous perennials, and sub shrubs in the genus Verbena. Although most members of the genus are native to tropical and subtropical America, vervain is native to southern Europe; it probably came to North America with the early English settlers.

The loosely branched stems are stiff, erect, and four angled. They may grow to 2 and 1/2 feet tall. The leaves opposite and rough in texture, are of three types. Those lowest on the stem are coarsely toothed and stalked; those in the middle, also stalked, are oval and deeply lobed or cut; while the leaves highest on the stem are oval or linear, stalk less, and irregularly toothed.

From early summer through early fall, tiny purplish flowers occur in narrow spikes at the tips of the stems or in the leaf axils. Only a few flowers are open at any time. They are insect pollinated. The dry fruits contain four nut lets that are dispersed by ants. Vervain is hardy in Zones 4 through 8. It is a great plant in the landscaping area. And is easy to start from seed.

You may know other family members more readily in the garden such as blue, an American native, and has been used for both food and medicine. Lemon vervain is another name for the familiar fragrant herb lemon verbena. Chaste tree, used to treat gynecological disorders, Aztec sweet herb and Mexican oregano are other herbal relatives.

Vervain’s reputation as a sacred plant dates at least to ancient Egypt, where is was thought to have sprung from the tears of the goddess Isis as she mourned the death of the god Osiris. It was also sacred to the Persians, Druids, and worshippers of Thor in Scandinavia. The Greeks called it hierobotane, “holy plant;” the Roman version of the name was herbal sacra. Both used the altars of the temples; the generic name Ver-bena “leafy branch,” alludes to this practice. Legend has it that vervain was also used to stanch the bleeding of Christ’s wounds on the cross; the herb is sometimes known as herb-on-the-cross. During the Middle Ages, vervain was an ingredient of magicians and witches potions, but common folk could
use it for protection, as Gertrude Foster notes in Herbs for Every Garden (1966): “Vervain and Dill/ Hinder witches from their will.” It was also highly re-guarded as an aphrodisiac, earning it the name herbal veneris, “herb of love.”

Uses

Vervain is one of the classical medicinal herbs; it has been used to treat practically every known disorder from snakebite, nervous disorders, and headaches to “pain in the secret parts.” A medieval cure for a throat tumor called for tying part of a vervain root around the throat and drying the rest over a fire. As the fire shriveled the root, the tumor would shrivel, too, or so the theory went.

James A. Duke’s Photochemical and Ethno botanical Databases list more than fifty medical conditions for which vervain has been used, but it has never been proven effective in alleviating them. In China, vervain has been used experimentally to treat malaria, blood flukes, coughs and inflammation. It is suspected of poisoning cattle in Australia, and touching it can cause dermatitis in humans. The common name vervain is believed to come from the Celtic words fer, “to remove,” and faen, “stone,” in reference to its reputation for curing kidney stones. A 1994 study of vervain and six other herbs traditionally used to prevent and treat kidney stones did find some beneficial effects, but the researchers concluded that more effectible and equally innocuous substitutes are well known.

The delicate young leaves may be par-boiled and eaten or brewed into a tea. A big batch of tea added to your bathwater is supposed to be soothing. The flowers may be made into wine, used as a garnish, or, as they do in Turkey, used to flavor salt. The seeds of blue vervain may be roasted and ground for use in fried cakes.

Or plant some vervain to keep the pigeons and turkeys happy. Two more commoon names, pigeon grass and turkey grass, commemorate these birds’ attraction to the herb, but both names have also been applied to other plants.

Growing It

In Europe, vervain is found growing wild in well drained or dry alkaline soil or in sun or half shade. Vervain is not choosey about soil but likes a sunny place. It’s advised to plant them well back in the border, planting them in a close growing line, and facing them with some shorter and compact perennial.

Vervain reseeds readily. The Druids advised gathering plants when neither the sun nor the moon is in the sky and leaving honey combs on the ground in exchange for the harvest.

Sources

Goodwin Creek Gardens. Article provided by The Herb Companion Magazine.

Herb of the Month: Poor Appetite?

Herbs that can increase a poor appetite are catnip, fennel seed, ginger root, ginseng, gota kola, papaya leaves, peppermint leaves, and/or saw palmetto berries. Caution: Do not use ginseng if you have high blood pressure.

Okay, yes, there are herbs that do increase your appetite, but let’s take a look at why you may have a Poor Appetite and how we can treat it.

First

Always see your primary care practitioner, doctor and/or Nutritionist, and do not substitute these treatments for other medications that have been prescribed for you. You always need to speak with your doctor first before adding anything new. Just because herbs are natural doesn’t mean they are not medicine.

Poor Appetite

A poor appetite is not a disorder in itself, but more than likely an issue pertaining to something else. Emotional issues such as depression, stress, illness and trauma can cause appetites to be weakened or non-existent. There are controllable things such as the use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, than can also increase the no desire to eat. Lastly, an underlying sickness may be the culprit. Heavy metal poisoning or nutritional deficiencies my be involved.

To stimulate a poor appetite – try using the herbs listed above, one at a time, to see if one will work. Do not try all of them at the same time. You may not need them.

Recommendations

To get the protein and calories you need, drink 3 or more cups per day of skim milk. This can be in the form of Soy, Almond and all other types of milk, especially if you suffer from a lactose intolerance. Use a carob-based milk, it gives you more of a feeling of being a treat but without all of the added sugars and lactose.

Yogurt mixed with fruit for shakes gives some added protein as well as some essential Pro-Biotic, very essential to your stomach and entire bodies disease fighting center. Eat cold cereals, preferably whole grain cereals, as well as breads and rolls. The denser the food, the better the nutrional value.

Use cream soups, again nut milks can be used rather than heavy cream to bring out a richer broth. These are better for nourishing you, than clear broths. They are also higher in protein, which is the foundation to building strong muscles.

Between meals, snack on foods such as avocados, banana soy pudding, cheeses (lactose free cheeses work too), chicken, and no more than twice a week, tuna. Turkey, nuts and nut butters, along with hot cereals do wonders to keep you satisfied, but also build good strong muscle and bone health. In addition to promoting weight gain, these foods are easy to digest and contain the good fatty acids your body needs as well as the additional probiotics (friendly bacteria).

Because you are trying to gain weight it’s best to avoid any beverages prior to eating your meal. This gives the feeling of being full. With a poor appetite, we are trying to build this up. To lose weight, you can eat this way. But with much less and having water
before, during and after a meal is wonderful.

Supplements are essential to most people, but those with a poor appetite are at greater risk of illness. These supplements can help build your immune system back to good health. B Vitamins increase appetite.

Try eating small quantities of food at frequent intervals through out the day rather than 2 or 3 larger meals. Just the sight of a large meal can be a turn off for those suffering with poor appetite. Smaller frequent meals may be better tolerated, with a gradual increase in the volume of food.

Exercise

If possible, but avoid strenuous exercise as it will delete the
calories you are trying to build back into your diet. Walking, yoga, and moderate paced activity is best to increase the appetite. Exercise also helps the body to break down the nutrients in a better way. If you smoke, quit! Smoking decreases appetite. When trying to stimulate the appetite, consider the surroundings of your meal. Are they tolerable to the tastes? Are they appealing to your taste buds? Your surroundings are just as important to the food you put in your body. If you experience a significant loss of appetite, see your physician to rule out any underlying physical problems.

Something to Consider

To stimulate a poor appetite, the diet must be individualized according to the person’s tolerances and tastes. There are many products on the market that can be helpful for people with appetite and weight problems. They are often found in the health food stores.

If you have any health questions, please submit them here and I will be happy to answer them the best I can.

To your health!

In light,
Vicki

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.