Posts Tagged ‘Herbal Column’

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

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 Column By– Miss Jess

March 2, 2009

It’s January, and time to sweep out the old and ring in the new year.  The holidays always end with making new years resolutions and doing a lot of celebrating.  For all of that partying, we need a few aids in our herbal pantry to help recover and start the new year right.   For starters, if you are going to be drinking a lot of alcohol, or just want something to help with the aftereffects, try milk thistle.  It’s a great aid for anyone who drinks on a regular basis, and for people who suffer from stress or live in an area with a lot of pollution.  It actually stimulates liver regeneration.  Milk thistle is perfect for those hangover induced headaches.  Along with that, you might try dandelion root.  It helps both the liver and the gall bladder.  It triggers your digestive enzymes, and is a great diuretic for when you are bloated. 

For those occasions when eating too much or too fast is a possibility, take fennel.  The seeds help sooth the stomach, relieve heartburn, nausea, indigestion and gas.  I have a tea  made from both fennel and peppermint.  The peppermint stimulates digestive juices.  Thus, the tea is a perfect end to any dinner party.  If you don’t care for peppermint, try ginger, another stomach soother.  It can alleviate nausea and stomach spasms. 

Whatever the occasion, enjoy it knowing that either in your kitchen or backyard, there are several aids to help you ease into the new year.  If the holidays truly get you “down” consider doing a whole body cleanse. There are many detoxifiers out there, but my favorite is the Ultimate Whole-Body cleanse from Nature’s Secret.  I usually do this at the end of winter.  You can think of this as preparation for the “rebirth” of spring for your body.