Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

A Herbal Column— Linda Kean

June 10, 2012

Winter salts:

Winter salts are used to help ease cold and sinus issues that we can all face in the winter. Typically, winter salts are made with sea salt and a combination of eucalyptus, camphor, peppermint and wintergreen. These herbs can be added in oil form as well as just mixing the dry herbs directly with the salt. You can use a scoop of each herb or you can mix and match a few to make a successful winter salt.

Most of these salts are used in herbal bags that can be put under your pillow or held and smelled. You can choose to put them in the bath but if you do you just use a little bit.  A little bit goes a long way to clear your sinuses or help relieve head colds. When using the oils instead of the dried herbs you want to use just a pinch in the bath. Oils are much more concentrated and in the bath may irritate the skin if you use too much. So make some of your own winter salts to help keep your head clear.


An Herbal Column– Miss Jess

April 9, 2011
As I sit here writing to you I gaze out over my garden. With the plants barely in a month, I’m amazed at what Mother Nature can do.
 One of the plants that still find amazing after all the years of gardening is lavender. This herb has a wide variety of uses in the medicine basket. 
We all know that it is a relaxant, that it can sooth nerves and anxiety. When I feel an attack of the nerves I’ll take a sachet of the flowers, or a bit of the essential oil on a cloth and just inhale.
This works for both the mental and physical nervousness.  I’ve seen tea recipes that call for lavender to relax a nervous stomach.
Tea or lavender in a diffuser or pillow can help induce sleep. Lavender can help with the physical and the mental aspects of headaches.  
Often for tension or migraines, lavender is added to a lotion base can help ease the muscles in the affected area. 
 This is due to the camphorous quality of the oil.  It acts as an anti- inflammatory to the area reducing tightness and pain.  
Next time you take a relaxing bath try adding a few drops of the oil to your bath salts.Lavender can also be used for a variety of skin ailments. 
 In school, we often used it, in a lotion form for bug bites, sunburns, iron burns and scalding. 
It protects the area from both bacterial and fungal infections.  It decreases swelling of the skin, reducing pain from the burn.
  Along with chamomile it can help sooth the itch from psoriasis and eczema.  Lotions made for sensitive skin will often include lavender oil.
Lavender blooms early to mid summer and can tolerate semiarid conditions.  Don't overwater it, and if in a pot, be sure to have well drained soil.  
Prune off stems, just before the blooms open for the strongest fragrance. Don't prune too heavily in the fall, but   Instead give it a prune in the spring when you start to see new growth. 
No matter how you grow it, or how you use it, be sure to have some lavender on hand this summer.  You may use it more than you expect!

Spring Cleaning!!! Herbs with Miss Jess

July 20, 2010

As May Day is upon us, many people are doing a bit of spring cleaning at home.  Let us remember to also do the same for our herb gardens.   Now is a great time to get out there and see what activity is taking place in the garden. It’s a great time to clean out any debris and withered leaves and twigs that may have fallen over the winter.  Trim back any herbs that are showing signs of good activity and growth.  A hard pruning in the spring ensures a vigorous more bountiful plant for the coming year.  Avoid cutting into the woody stock of perennial plants, as it can weaken them.  My father always painted the cut ends of any large branches with either wood glue or tar to seal the wound and prevent infection. It’s also the time to take stock of the survivors versus those herbs that have gone to their afterlife.  If you didn’t do so in the fall, clean out any annuals.  Take a look at the perennials, did they make it?  I lost a few things including my beloved blue lavender.  Shed your tears and dig up the dead plants.  Once you’ve done so feed the soil well and water it in so that any new plants will have the nutrients they need to thrive. Make a list and perhaps a diagram of what’s left.  Think about what holes in your collection need to be filled.  Consider this a great opportunity to try something new or a chance to revisit some old favorites.  With list in hand you’ll be ready to head to the nursery for any supplies and plants you need.  With the threat of frost still a possibility, be cautious of putting any new plants in too early. Some people say mother’s day, i say as soon as the nights are 
consistently above 55 degrees.  If you do put them out, think about covering them any night that it is chilly.  Use either newspaper or plastic for this purpose. I hope these tips get you ready for planting season.  May your gardens be green and vibrant in the coming months!

Lavender Cookies By: Miss Jess

March 29, 2010

Lavender cookies

Makes 2 1/2 dozen


5/8 cup butter

1/2 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon lavender flowers

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup colored sugar for decoration (optional)

1 tablespoon lavender flowers


       Preheat  oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie                              sheets.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat the egg, and blend into the butter and sugar. Mix in the lavender flowers and the flour. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Remove cookies to cooling racks, and sprinkle with decorative sugar and additional lavender flowers if desired.

An Herbal Column By– Miss Jess

March 29, 2010

I hope this article finds all of you enjoying this period of winter.  As our herbs sleep, I see it as a good time to catch up on some reading  and reflecting on the past and future gardening seasons.  It is also a good time to do a bit of cooking with the fruits of our summer  labor.  It’s always nice to experiment with making dishes to spotlight a particular herb.  Today we are going to explore a few of those. 
We start off our journey with a visit to fennel.   The seeds of a common fennel plant can be used for both medicinal and culinary cures.  Fennel as we may remember is very good for calming  digestion.  It is often used in savory dishes.  These include sausages and soups.  Fennel pairs well with beef, lamb, fish and vegetables like tomatoes beets and cabbage. Did you know that you can also sacrifice the bulb of the plant for a slightly sweet anise tasting side dish?  Fennel bulbs are similar in appearance to celery, with a sweet flavor.  The bulb can be roasted, sautéed or braised. It can also be added to a salad raw to give it some crunch.  Common seasoning for fennel are, garlic, salt and pepper, or lemon.
Next we turn our attention to rosemary.  I use rosemary and lemon medicinally to keep myself focused. Did you know that the two together are a wonderful addition to fish and lamb?  It lends a  brightness to seafood, soups and many cosmetics.  I’ve often taken fresh fish fillets, slices of lemon and a few sprigs of rosemary, wrapped them into a foil packet and grilled them. Not only is the
fish cooked moist, but also very aromatic upon opening.  I also make a  spread, not unlike hummus using white kidney beans, chopped rosemary, and garlic.  It tastes just like mash potatoes and much lower in calories!  In addition to using rosemary on its own, it is one of many herbs included in a bouquet garni and herbes du province.
Lastly we look to a personal favorite, lavender.  Lavender has so uses  medicinally!  It can be used to induce a state of calmness in an individual, sleep and sooth the skin to name a few.  Lavender can also be used in tea and to flavor jellies and baked goods.  I’ve made shortbread cookies using lavender infused sugar or sprinkling of the fresh flowers on top.  To make the infusion, i take a jar of sugar and add a handful of lavender.  I seal it tight and allow it to “age”.
So, pull out those cookbooks or experiment on your own.  Dig out those seed catalogs and before you know it, we’ll all be back in the garden  experimenting with our herbs in their live form.

An Herbal Column By– Miss Jess

November 5, 2009

The change of seasons is briskly upon us. Isn’t it lovely especially this time of year?  As fall approaches we need to turn our attentions from planting to harvesting our gardens of herbs.  There are several ways to do just that and make the best use of our plants.  Some can be frozen and some are better dried.
     The most important thing in properly drying herbs is to provide the right drying environment.  Make sure that there is adequate air flow around the plant and that there is low light.  This is especially important for floral parts of a plant when preserving color. Depending on the plant, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to completely dry.  Once it is, store in an airtight container, glass is best because the herbs in a plastic container absorb the odors from a plastic and always keep them out of light once dry.
     Those herbs that get dried can be done one of two ways depending on the plant itself.  Herbs that have a hardy stem can best be dried upside down.  Plants like lavender, yarrow, thistle and chamomile are better for this method.  Cut the stems long enough to make a bundle with a rubber band. Hang them with a clothespin on a drying rack. Usually it is good to check them in two weeks or so. For long stems allow for storage in a plastic bag or box.

     The other way to dry herbs is on a flat screen like surface. This method can be used for plants that are harvested for only their leaves. Plants like oregano and thyme, which have small leaves and fine stems, can benefit from this type of drying. Other herbs, mainly those used for cooking are good for freezing.  This is important when  color and texture are big factors in a dish.   Before freezing make sure the leaves are clean and dry.  Leaves can be frozen whole or chopped.  Chopped herbs can be frozen in a container or in an ice cube tray.  Fill the cups of the tray half full of the herb and top off with water.  Then when it comes time to thaw, just take out as many as needed. Pesto is not the same if you use dried basil.  It has a better flavor if made with basil that is fresh but, if there is no fresh in the kitchen, the next best thing is to pull out some frozen leaves and proceed with the recipe. Please note, frozen herbs can darken over  time.  They will taste fresh, but may not look quite the same. Remember, fall doesn’t have to be an end to gardening.  It is a time to enjoy what we have worked so hard to grow and Mother Nature has nurtured all summer long.  With these preservation tips you can enjoy your herbs well into the winter and beyond

An Herbal Column By– Miss Jess

September 2, 2009

With the onset of summer, our attention turns toward being outside whenever we can.  This can pose a problem for those of us who have fair complexions.  We are the people who get burned by the strong rays of the sun,  or we are the people who are at high risk for skin cancer.  Whatever the case, there are ways to treat sunburns so that they heal quickly.  The number one item to have on hand is aloe vera.  It is used to rejuvenate the skin and relieve pain and inflammation. It is also great for cuts, abrasions and other skin conditions like eczema.  ( It is also recommended following radiation therapy.)  The other must have is chickweed.  It’s packed with vitamins A and C.  It 
acts as a strong anti-inflammatory.  Aloe is used to cool eczema and sunburn.  It can help speed up the healing process of both.

Your skin is your largest organ. As such, compresses and baths can help cool it down fast.  I might  apply the chickweed as a compress.  
To this you could add chamomile and lavender.  Both of these are good or calming skin conditions.  Peppermint could be added as well.  It 
has been shown to increase the flow of blood to the skin, thus it is cooling.  Rose hips, a natural source of vitamin C, has been proven to help reduce fevers and sooth the skin.  In addition to compresses for the affected area, drinking herbal tea can help speed up the healing of a sunburn.  I’ve read of a few “burn” teas.  Most consist of a combination of any of the following, rose, chamomile, lavender, mint, 
marigold and coriander.

Speaking of tea, remember to keep hydrated if you are going to be outside whether sunny or cloudy.   When we sweat, we can lose a lot  of fluids.  Kathy at Goddess Blessed, makes a great summer refresher 
of various types of mint.  Just snip of some leaves and add them to a carafe of water. I like to leave a pitcher full of assorted herbs out on the patio to make “sun” tea.

Get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather whenever you can.  You’ve  got a gardens worth of herbs to help you stay safe when playing out in the sun.

An Herbal Column By– Miss Jess

May 7, 2009

Have you been feeling a bit blue, run down, or just not quite yourself lately?  It could be a bout of seasonal depression.  It could also be a sign that you need to do a little self “house cleaning.”  in my last article i mention that the spring is a great time to do a cleanse to get rid of toxic buildup in your body.  Side effects from these toxins can include depression, lack of energy, illness and weight gain.  Often, even with a healthy diet, we cannot rid ourselves of environmental toxins. Here are a few herbs that can get us on our way to sunnier outlook. Herbs like lavender and chamomile are great for helping you get to sleep, but also can aid in relieving anxiety.  Along with peppermint, they can help clear the mind and ease muscle tension.  Often, you will find sleep and dream pillows that contain a combination of these herbs.  Another one to consider is vanilla.  This is considered a very comforting scent to most people.  I have a blend that i use to relax containing either lavender and chamomile or vanilla and chamomile. To boost your immune system and improve energy levels be sure to get enough vitamin C.  Both the natural form, being citrus fruits or the supplements are effective for this.  Vitamin D naturally comes from the sun, with winter, most of us stay inside.  Try to get a little sun each day, or check your foods to see if they are fortified with this vitamin.

Wild oats or hops can serve two purposes.  They both combat stress, easing tension and depression, and boost energy levels.  Often, we are not getting enough whole grains and therefore fiber in our diets.  The fiber helps to keep our blood sugar levels in check and clean out toxins from our digestive tract.  Please note, when increasing your fiber level drink plenty of water.  This helps flush everything out.  the spice cinnamon also has a dual purpose.  It improves circulation of the blood, warming and comforting the entire system.  It is also a stimulant, boosting immunity.  I think a great start to any day would be a bowl of oatmeal with a little cinnamon and vanilla in it. There are some great total body cleanses out there.  They are often a combination of herbs and fiber.  Some can target specific conditions and some are just an al over detox.  As with anything medicinal, check for any temporary side effects they may cause.  These side effects  are a sign that your body is clearing out what it doesn’t need. No matter what, know that spring is on the way, and we can enter that time of the year with a little herbal self care.  The sun will shine down again soon.

An Herbal Colunm By– Miss Jess

January 2, 2009

What to do when you get struck with one of those dreaded winter colds?

Extra rest and plenty of fluids are a must, but we can speed up the recovery process with a little help from mother nature.  There are many herbal remedies for those pesky colds.   Several are general remedies, but there are a few for more specific illnesses.   Across the board, Echinacea is reported as being important for raising the bodies immune
defenses.  for best results, get a blend of Echinacea and goldenseal. Citrus fruits are also another proven winner in this fight.  It’s suggested that taking 500 ml, several times a day is the most effective way to getting over a cold.  Elderberry can be effective in fighting off a flu virus.  If the cold heads south  into the lungs you may consider a tea with marshmallow root.  It acts as a demulcent to sooth the throat. Stinging nettle tea can also  relieve bronchitis and asthma.  My favorite remedy?  Garlic is one of nature’s best antibiotics. 

It is highly anti microbial, good for coughs, colds and flu, bowel infections and cystitis.  Onion acts in much the same way.   Dr James A. Duke, an authority on healing herbs gives this recipe for soup to fight colds.  “I heartily agree with the folkloric tradition that hot, spicy chicken soup is good for colds and flu.  Just make sure to use lots of garlic and onions.  And along with your vegetables, throw in some ginger and hot red pepper.  Good food–and good medicine.”