Bay ~ Laurus Nobilis ~ International Herb of 2009

February 26, 2009

bay_1I have been wanting to blog about the wonderful qualities, the spicy sweetness, and the versatility of the lovely bay leaf for a number of days now. The popular herby’s publication, Herb Companion, published a lovely little article on Bay, highlighting its associated legends and lore, including the story of Daphne, who transformed into a laurel tree when being pursued by Greek God, Apolllo. Bay is the herb of poets, oracles, warriors, statesmen and doctors ~ truly a noble herb!

Bay is  a perennial native to the Mediterranean, and as such, requires wintering indoors for those living  in colder zones.  Susan Belsinger’s article in Herb Companion tells us of its medicinal qualities, for treating headaches, stomachaches, wounds and insect bites. Today it is used externally for muscular aches and pains, including arthritis. The leaves are antimicrobial and fungicidal, and so bay is a valuable aid in treating colds, flues, congestion, and viruses. It stimulates digestion, regulates menstruation, soothes inflammation, fights infection, stimulates urinary elimination and calms the nervous system.

bay_2Along with many other great factoids about this lovely herb, Susun published a wonderful recipe for bay-infused chocolate pudding that I just had to post! This is the real thing, and very easy to make. The subtle fragrance of fresh bay (find at your local grocery store), rather than dried, is all you need to make something special out of a big pot of chocolate pudding, as if it wasn’t special enough already. My toddler and I took out comforting spoonfuls of one of the loveliest comfort foods around.

Chocolate Pudding with Bay (serves 6)

Ingredients:

2 cups half-and-half or light cream
3 large fresh bay leaves
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
2 pinches salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup milk
3 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (no imitation stuff here!)
Whipped cream (not the canned stuff either!), optional

1. Heat half-and-half with bay leaves in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When half-and-half startes to bubble around the edges of the pan, remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 30 min.
2. After bay has infused the cream for nearly 30 minutes, combine cornstarch, sugar, salt, and cocoa in a bowl and whisk in milk. Pour mixture into the warm cream and place over moderate heat. Continue whisking and cooking and pudding thickens (this doesn’t take too long)
3. When pudding begins to bubble and come to a boil, stir and boil for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and whisk in chocolate pieces until they are melted. Add vanilla and stir well. Carefully remove bay leaves and pour pudding into six ramekins or custard cups (or a nice sized bowl!)
4. Place custard cups on a plate or pan and allow them to come to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled; at least 30-45 min. Serve at cool room temp and garnish with whipped cream if desired (or you can pour it into a bowl and pop it in the fridge)

YUM!


DIY ~ Herbal Remedies for the Cold Season Part I

February 20, 2009
Ginger Root

Ginger Root

Yes, we are smack dab in the middle of cold and flu season and for those of us with toddlers in day care (a-hem), herbal remedies seem to be a constant part of life in the wintertime! You actually never need to touch the chemical laden and possibly detrimental cold & flu symptomatic remedies on the counters of your local pharmacy. Instead, turn to the natural gifts of nature, for far more effective, immune-building resistance and treatment.

PREVENTION:
Astragalus root is a chinese herb that has been long used as an immune tonic. Michael Tierra recommends making an herbal syrup from astragalus for those with compromised immune systems, but I often just add astragalus regularly to decoctions or even to soup stocks for an added immune boost! Astragalus is not an herb to use once a cold has already set in.

Adaptogens are a wonderful gift to us and are used in many cultures as tonics for longevity and resilience throughout life. They help to balance our systems and create better resistance to stress, including stress-induced colds and flus. Regular use of an adaptogen is recommended for anyone living in our stressful, postmodern, multi-tasking world! Examples of adaptogens include Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero), Asian Ginseng, Ashwaghanda, and Rhodiola Root. You should consult with an herbalist or herbally-savy naturopath to assess which adaptogen is best for you. That said, Siberian Ginseng seems a good all-around adaptogen that is often used as an energy tonic for athletes.

TREATMENT:
Echinacea is still the superior choice in cold and flu treatment. There have been studies suggesting a lack of effectiveness, but the dosages and herb formulations in those clinical studies were not therapeutic, more often than not. I still swear by the stuff! As with many (if not most) herbs, echinacea’s clinical power is not isolated to one ingredient, but rather, its whole chemical make-up contributes to its immune-boosting power. The action of this wonderful herb is quite different from allopathic antibiotics and even other antibiotic herbs such as Golden Seal. Echinacea actually vitalizes the immune system rather than attacking the virus directly, and thus assists the lymph, adrenal and thymus glands in their immune activity. It is also a fine fever herb and does not interfere with the needed (slight) elevation in temperature, as bacteria and viruses cannot survive above 100 degrees, but keeps the fever low enough to prevent convulsions (Susun Weed, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, 1986).

Echinacea

Echinacea

Echinacea does appear to have some preventative power, especially when used in the early stages (you feel that throat tickle, perhaps, or you’re starting to feel run down), but it also shortens the length of a cold and lessens the severity. Echinacea is better taken in tincture than capsule form, but I also like to make a strong herbal syrup from a decoction of echinacea, chapparal, ginger, and thyme to really pack a punch to that mean old cold. I’ll post DIY instructions for making an herbal syrup at some stage soon. The important thing is taking ENOUGH of the stuff. Most people under-dose. At the first signs of a cold, you may need to take a dropperful of the tincture four to six times a day. This is equivelant to 1-2g dried root per day. Take up to nine 300-400mg capsules per day. If you are taking the tincture, you should have a transitory numbing, tingly sort of feeling on your tongue. For babies and children, put 10 drops of echinacea in a four oz. bottle/cup of water or juice. Allow your child to drink as desired and this will help keep a fever in bounds. Even the newest of newborn babies old will benefit from the breastmilk from a breastfeeding mother taking echinacea infusions or tincture.

Garlic and Onions are potent anti-virals in an of themselves. Fresh garlic is much more potent than cooked or roasted garlic and one way to get around popping a whole clove in your mouth is to dice up a few cloves, add to olive oil and dip bread in the oil & garlic. You might even add a dash of cider vinegar for good measure! It’s yummy AND it’ll treat that cold. In addition, the old adage about chicken soup seems to be linked more to the onions and garlic simmered in that warm vegetable or chicken stock than to the chicken itself. Not only are the onions and garlic antiviral, but viruses don’t survive at hot temperatures and drinking hot broths, soups, and teas can really inhibit viral replication, along with keeping you well hydrated. I’ve also heard of wise women making strong garlic teas from fresh cloves. One half cup of this stuff and you could really knock that cold back a couple steps, or if taken early on, might deter it completely.

Ginger and Lemon infusions should not be understated as a helpful treatment strategy. Not only is the hot liquid good to take in, but ginger is warming and can help heat the body up, helping you to ‘sweat it out’. Herbalist Michael Tierra recommends taking the hot ginger tea (fresh or dry ginger root infused for at least ten minutes) after a hot bath and then piling on the blankets. Heating up the body temperature helps prevent viral replication and can really do a number on the little suckers. That’s why our immune response is often to have a fever! Viruses simply cannot survive in body temps over 101 degrees. You need only get concerned when your temp gets to 102 or higher or that they persist for more than a couple of days. Lemon is very rich in infection-fighting vitamin C and is also a fever cooler when the temp rises.

Elder Berry and Flower : Elder, herbalist Susun Weed tells us, seems to help the body regulate temperature, and when those lovely white blossoms are tinctured, can provide a superior remedy for treating infants’ tinctures, as well as our own. It reduces frighteningly high fevers without fail and doesn’t have the detrimental effect on kidneys and livers as commercial fever-reducers (advil, tylenol) do. Put one drop per pound of body weight under the tongue (for infants and adults alike) and thoe dose can be repeated as often as needed. It is completely harmless. The fever usually begins to decrease within a few hours of the first dose. (Elder can also be administered by dropper while breastfeeding).

RECIPES for therapeutic foods & herbal infusions to follow in Part II!

SOURCES:
Pacific Botanicals
Mountain Rose Herbs


Tamara’s Herbes interviews Lilith…er, me!

February 19, 2009

Herbally-inspired artisan and fellow etsian Tamara of Tamar’s Herbes has recently interviewed me for her charming blog as a featured seller. I thought I would share this interview for those who would like to know a bit more about what is “behind” Lilith (or who!) as Tamara’s questions are great. Don’t miss that last ‘random question’ for a fun bit tidbit or two! Thanks Tamara.

TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF:
I am trained as a medical anthropologist and work full time in the public health sector. The intersections of disease, healing, and culture have always interested me, from historical, cross-cultural, and even philosophical perspectives. I’ve been studying herbal medicine for a number of years now, and when I first discovered herbology, it was a total “ah-ha!” moment — finally everything was coming together in a way that really resonated with my life. It’s my true passion! I am also a mother with a two and a half year old toddler, Maeve, and wife of Tony McNichol, who is an archaeologist and kindred spirit. I work a forty hour week and then spend between 15 and 20 hours more (at least!) toiling away at night in my basement workshop to create what is Lilith’s Apothecary, a vehicle for my herbal knowledge.

HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR CREATIVE NEEDS WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?
Well, first of all, Lilith does fulfill many of my creative needs. In that sense, I am lucky. I would love to be able to devote more of my life to the Apothecary, but at the moment, my day job provides an income that we can’t really do without. The tough part is not finding moments to be creative, it’s finding a way to make THAT my full-time job. Finding a balance between a full-time job and a ‘hobby’ that really wants to be a full-time endeavor is not easy, actually. Lilith is always growing! But that’s a good thing.

IF YOU COULD MAKE ONE CHANGE IN THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
You mean, philisophically? I could answer this questions a hundred times over. I personally believe that a lot of the problems that we have as a species boils down to the fact that we’re just big apes at the end of the day. It sounds reductionist, but when you look at primate behavior, it makes more sense why we as humans do the things we do. That said, what we lack in biological superiority, we do have in the potential to be creative, wise, and cultured beings. I wish we could — as a species — tap into that aspect of ourselves more readily. Can’t there be more Ghandis? Capitalism needs to go, for one thing. It demands an underclass.

WHAT DO YOU WANT THE WORLD TO REMEMBER ABOUT YOU WHEN YOU’RE GONE?
I think we all think about this. At the end of the day, I want to feel as though I have impacted people in a positive way. I don’t think there is a legacy that is more important than being a loving, positive influence on those you love the most. I’ve been to memorial services of academics, for instance, who were mostly estranged from their own children because of the all-consuming nature of their work. The negative impact that had on those children is probably worse than the so-called legacy of their academic contributions.

HOW DO YOU DE-STRESS?
Yoga is a wonderful respite, but I haven’t practiced in a while. It’s really hard to make time for myself that isn’t “work” related, even in terms of Lilith. That said, Ikebana (the art of japanese flower arranging) has been a wonderful outlet for me. I study with an ikebana teacher of 30 years, Midori Tanimune, and she is an incredible influence on me. I have learned so much from her. I also make jewelry, and have a little site http://www.lilithsjewels1.etsy.com, and I do custom work for family and friends, which is a lot of fun.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR ETSY STORE.
Etsy, for as ‘expensive’ as it ends up being between etsy fees and paypal fees, has been a wonderful thing for me. I have learned so much about my business since I opened Lilith’s Apothecary in 2007. My photos have evolved, my products have evolved, I’ve been able to reach a much wider audience, and I get a real sense of what my market is and a deeper confidence in my product and what I have to offer.

WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS MEDIUM/HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
In my studies of herbology, I learned how to make basic skin care preparations, including salves, ointments, syrups, linaments, tinctures, creams, and skin care products. I have always had sensitive skin, and I realized how superior my hand made products were compared to commercial versions. Family members started “ordering” products from me, and soon I was being commissioned to make things at christmastime as gifts. Once etsy came along, beginning to think about a real business began to take shape, and the etsy store has really forced me into a wonderful learning curve.

WHAT OTHER MEDIUMS DO YOU ENJOY WORKING WITH?
I love making bath & body things, but I also love herbal teas, which I offer in my shop, using my herbal knowledge, and I make jewelry, garden, love cooking & nutrition, and practicing ikebana. I hate to sound like a dork, but creating is really what I love to do most, whether it’s a dandelion and gruyere quiche or my latest ‘Boudoir Blossom Facial Cream’

IS THIS A HOBBY OR FULL TIME BUSINESS?
I wish this was a full time business! Maybe someday it will be. It is not really a hobby though, either, as I devote 15-20 hours a week to the development of Lilith, on top of my full time job and family responsibilities. Do I *make* money? No, not really, but I am optimistic! Lilith is young.

WHAT DO YOU FIND INSPIRES YOU FROM DAY TO DAY?
Other crafters’ stories of success can be very inspirational (though sometimes it makes me feel a bit defeatest too). At the end of the day, just knowing that I would not ever really want to live without Lilith keeps me going. It’s too much of a wonderful creative outlet for me, and I absolutey thrive from the feedback and interaction with customers. Such a positive experience.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT YOUR CRAFT?
I love the creative evolution ~ the continual refining of a product as well as trying out new formulas and products.
LEAST?
The shameless self promotion that I know i should be engaged in 24/7 to really push these products and get myself out there.

WHERE DO YOU EXPECT TO BE IN FIVE YEARS?
I have no idea. But let’s say that in ten years, I want Lilith to sustain me financially.
That’s my dream. I don’t know if it will happen but that’s my dream.

DO YOU HAVE YOUR OWN STORE/WEBSITE?
I have a website that has been in development for a year now and a source of great frustration. Hopefully it will be together soon ~ that’s a different story. I don’t have a brick and mortar store and don’t forsee that happening for a long time, though maybe some day! I am starting to do some consignment and wholesale and it will be interesting to see where that takes me. mommaeve_christmas08

Random Question:
If you were having a dinner party and could invite three famous people, who would they be?

I would like to be really ‘clever’ with this question, but I think I’ll be self-indulgent and answer it as honestly as I can (of course it is somewhat impossible because there are so many people I’d love to sit down & share a glass of wine with). I am not sure if these famous people are supposed to be alive or if I can drag some back from the dead, but I’ll be doubly indulgent and go with the latter: Marcel Duchamp, Alistair Crowley, and Gertrude Stein. Now that would be an interesting party!


Secret Ingredient: Carrot Seed Oil (daucus carota sativa)

February 9, 2009
Colorful Carrots

Colorful Carrots

The oil derived from Carrot seed (daucus carota sativa) is a premier skin healing, rejuvinating oil. It is this wonderful oil’s high carotol content that gives it it’s reknowned skin-regenerative properties, which is why it is a key ingredient to skin special products such as my Rejenerative Skin Serum and eye creams like my Chamomile and Green Tea Eye Potion. (visit http://www.lilithsapothecary.etsy.com)

Carrot Seed Oil is a thin, yellow oil distilled from ground seeds is rich in Beta-Carotene. Not only beneficial for mature skin, sundamaged skin, or skin that is exposed to harsh weather conditions, it is also valued for its soothing, relaxing properties. Part of its strength is that it not only helps sun spots or other signs of age or damage fade over time, but it also helps to prevent wrinkles from forming in the first place! Look for this ingredient in top class facial care products aimed for skin regeneration or repair.

Try this on for size!

DIY Rejenerative Treatment Oil
* This can be used as a facial treatment moisturizer, make-up remover, or oil cleanser.

15 drops Carrot Seed Essential Oil
10 drops Rosewood Essential Oil
5 drops Geranium Essential Oil
2 Tablespoons Carrot Seed Oil (different from the E.O. ~ an infused or mascerated oil made from the pulp)
4 Tablespoons Jojoba oil or sweet almond Oil

Shake well, store in a dark, glass bottle or jar.


DIY Movement

February 5, 2009

For those of us getting nervous is this economic downturn, there’s more of a push than ever to engage in DIY projects..and DIY education! The blogosphere is a place that is offering more and more of this information and advice. Even trade professionals like electricians are offering DIY technical help via phone or web for those who would rather not expend the money to hire someone to come in their house. Do-it-Yourself!

As part of my G R E E N L I V I N G category, I’m going to start offering more DIY recipes and advice for natural body care, using materials that are often readily available, in order to cut down on some of our most costly products: bath, beauty, and personal items.

I’ll also link you to others who are offereing DIY instructions for making personal care or baby products that will save you loads of money and be better for the Earth in the long run!


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