Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Passionate for Passion Flower

Life has a way of sneaking up on you, upsetting your calm, and nudging you off-center; at least it does me. Like lots of folks these days, I have a lot going on: the process of building and running my own business, maintaining and running two websites and a blog, managing my partner's business, raising an active toddler, keeping up with a cat, a dog, and three kittens who alternately adore and hate each other, missing and wondering when my five estranged children will decide that enough is enough and finally get in touch with me, the on-going process of studying and learning my craft; it isn't surprising that I sometimes gaze towards the heavens and wonder, "How much else?" Though, most days, I'm more of a "Bring it on!" type of gal.

By far, my Passion flower gets more camera time than any other plant that I grow. Who can resist?!
Still, at those times when I need some extra support, I usually take a walk to my herb closet and stand quietly to see what will speak to me. There are several herbs that can help one regain their calm during a stormy day, settle a brain that's going off in every zany direction it can, or even when going through extended periods of difficulty, but my "go-to" best friend for these things is Passion flower.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Keeping the Flu at Bay with Elderberry

Since the cold and flu season is currently in full swing, I've been asked repeatedly, "What can I do to protect myself and my family from getting sick?"  Not that this will save me from repeating myself several times a day, but I thought it fitting to write about just one remedy that has been gaining national attention of late: Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). It grows naturally in the warmer parts of Europe and North America.  There are several different species, however it is the Sambucus nigra that is most often used in herbalism.
Wines, cordials, and marmalades have historically been made from both the berries and flowers of the Elder. Elderberries along with their flowers have also long been used in traditional European medicine to treat fever, joint pain, and as a cure for colds and the flu! I recently put together an herbal blend from an old Romani recipe that goes back hundreds of years - if not further - in which one of the primary herbs is Elder flowers.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stung by a Nettle

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is one of the premier herbs in traditional Western herbalism. In addition to being high in protein, this extremely nutritious plant contains many vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, and chlorophyll.

Stinging Nettle - Such a pretty plant!
Also known as Stinging Nettle or Nettles, Nettle is a fundamental iron tonic for treating anemea as well as during pregnancy, when it helps to tone the pelvic muscles in preparation for childbirth.  For all of its nutritive value, one must take care when harvesting; the plant possesses fine hairs and spines on the leaves and stems that release formic acid when touched; just one careless grasp can result in a painful, stinging or burning rash. According to M. Grieve, the self-same plant is the cure for this rash.  Simply applying Nettle juice to the irritation will give near immediate relief.  I have no personal experience with this, as I've never been silly enough to touch one without gloves, however I'm willing to bet Ms. Grieve knew her stuff.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Winter Herbs, You Say?

Yes, I know it is officially winter out there (has been for some time) and temperatures are dropping to below zero for many of us, but that does not mean that we need to be without our beautiful little lovelies.  I, for one, have grown accustomed to having fresh herbs in my meals, so today, I'm going to share with you how to grow your outdoor herbs indoors during the chilly season.

Be Mother Nature

Obviously, the first thing we need to do is provide ideal temperature and light for our lovelies. Healthy plants will thrive best when they are given lots of light, so make sure your herbs are exposed to 6 hours of natural light, if you are fortunate enough to have the windows, or 14 hours of artificial light. Also keep them somewhere where the temperature stays mildly cool to warm, like in the Southern US. 60 degrees at night to around 70 degrees during the day is ideal for your budding beauties. The kitchen is an ideal spot, if you have the room, as it's usually the warmest place in the house - with the added convenience of you having them right at hand when you're preparing a meal.

Dig the Dirt

Not really.  What I really mean here is to pay close attention to it, though.  Because your herbs will be in containers rather than the ground, it can be very easy to over-water, and that could easily cause your pretties to damp-off or get root-rot. And that would be very sad. You want the soil moist, but not dripping.  I recommend organic fertilizer so that you can be extra eco-friendly, if you don't already make your own compost. 

Give them a Shower

If necessary.  It's not uncommon for indoor plants to get infested with insects, and if that happens, you can remove them with a soapy plant bath. Fill a large pot or kitchen sink with diluted soapy water,