Herbs for the Happy Tummy

February 22, 2012

I keep encountering moments with friends and colleagues when someone is struck suddenly with a very unhappy tummy, and is in need of quick digestive aid, for a little help when — oops! someone ate wheat bread and shouldn’t have, to help with gas troubles, some weird food combination that left a tummy churning, you name it. The digestive system is of course extremely important to our overall health and well-being, and when there is imbalance, one can even develop depression or anxiety troubles. But right now I am just going to address a group of herbs called carminatives. Essentially, a carminative is an herb that helps expel gas. So using a carminative is more of an acute treatment, though it can be part a long-term strategy to help with chronic digestive woes of any kind. Maybe that sounds icky, the thought that – gasp – your body might in fact have moments when gas is produced, but let’s face it, we all have “moments” and certainly our children too.  At those times, carminatives can be of great assistance, and should always be in your herbal arsenal. I will list some wonderful carminatives to have on hand in the space below, but I also want to point out two ready-made tinctures (alcohol or glycerite extracts) that are fabulous for kids and/or adults.

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1. Chamomile. Yes! it’s also a nervine, and therefore great for calming your nervous system, but this delicate apple-spiced tisane (water infusion) has a time-honored tradition of soothing the digestive system. It is especially frequently used for children with its mild, sweet taste, gentle action, and comforting aroma. Chamomile is easily incorporated into a regular routine for adults and children alike and one can include other tasty nervine-carminatives to this blend such as lavender.

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2. Lemon Balm. Like many other mints, lemon balm contains a high quantity of volatile oils that work to ease digestive woes. Lemon Balm, with its bright, lemony fragrance, also helps lift the spirits, so if Seasonal Affective Disorder AND tummy complaints are your bane, this is a great herb for you. It is worth noting that fresh lemon balm works best for the nervous system support but dried will help with digestive woes just as well as the fresh herb.

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3. Fennel. Known for its mild anise or licorice flavor, all parts of the fennel plant are edible and provide digestive relief. I often keep the seeds on hand with this purpose in mind, and as it is also a great galactagogue (helps promote milk flow in breast feeding women), this is a wonderful herb of choice for women who are pregnant, post-partum, or nursing and experiencing both tummy trouble and the desire to support their milk flow. IT also soothes colic (because of the digestive connection) and so it is great to impart to baby via breast milk or as a water-infusion via spoon or eye dropper.

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4. Cinnamon / Cassia. Usually what we think of as cinnamon is actually cassia, a close cousin. True cinnamon is sweeter than cassia, which can have a notably hot taste. The volatile oils are what usually give carminatives their power and both cinnamon and cassia have them in spades, so both are useful for digestion. Cinnamon & cassia are also energetically warming and can work as a ‘catalyst’ to enable other herbs to work better, and to stimulate digestion when food choices have been energetically damp or someone is convalescing. It is worth noting that cinnamon has also shown quite a bit of promise for people with diabetes, as it appears to stimulate insulin activity, helping the body to process sugar more efficiently.

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5. Peppermint. I can’t neglect the power of menthol, the source of peppermint’s unmistakeable flavor. Spearmint is a milder mint that can be used almost interchangeably with peppermint, but if you source  good quality dried peppermint, you will be astounded by how intense the flavor is. Mint is very easy to grow and root. I actually picked some from my garden this January, as there was still some (amazingly!) hanging on, and rooted it in my kitchen where it is now happily growing in a sunny window. Peppermint is stimulating and can perk up the mind and the senses, making this a good herb to use to start your day, get your brain in gear, and forge on to new adventures.

Naturally I have many other carminative loves, but for now, I’ll just leave you with those top choices. I would also be remiss in not pointing out Herbalist & Alchemist’s Kid’s Tummy Relief, an absolutely wonderful glycerite formula that tastes delicious and can really help out a kid’s tummy in a pinch. Okay, I keep some in strategic places for myself too, but grown-ups deserve tasty too, right? Another must? Ginger extract (alcohol): I always always always keep a bottle of this in my office, my car, and my home, as it is essentially herbal first aid for myriad complaints.

Feel free to share some of your carminative loves and natural digestive aids!


Dream Balm – aromatherapy in a tin

July 13, 2011

Dream Balm What’s a Dream Balm? I often get asked this question when people check out my products and come across this Lovely in an aluminum tin. Quite simple! A Dream Balm, or a Tranquility Balm, as I sometimes like to call it, is aromatherapy in a solid form.

The balm is an effective way to utilize the power of pure botanicals for aromatherapeutic uses: rub on the temples or under the nose to ease tension headaches, ease into sleep or a state of calm, relieve anxiety and stress, use in ritual manner to induce a state of relaxation. I find this an incredibly effective balm for all of these reasons, and more.

It can also be used as a lip balm or body balm. And it is certainly safe for children. In fact, children love the nighttime ritual of a scented balm to ease them into dreamland. It is perfectly safe for babies, especially those infants who get fussy at the dinner hour or at bedtime. Just rub a little onto their temples or perhaps a little dab under the nose. You may even treat patches of dry skin or eczema on children, babies, and adults with this great skin salve.   

The base of the Dream Balm itself is made from nourishing natural oils and waxes (beeswax). Safflower and sunflower oils, are not clogging and have a nice consistency and shelf life. The oils have been infused with organic herbs, including lavender, chamomile, rose, and mugwort. Rosemary oil extract & vitamin E are added as potent anti-oxidants to protect the balm.

Chamomile provides wonderful anti-inflammatory action (topically) and has aromatherapeutic qualities all by itself. It’s a remarkable, calming herb that not too long ago deserved a post all its own.
Lavender is one of my absolute favorite herbs for all reasons, and its aromatherapeutic, calming activity is well-established. Topically, lavender is an analgesic, which means that it helps relieve pain. Lavender is a wonderful herb and essential oil for topical application to scrapes, insect bites, and burns, and I include it in my All-Purpose healing salve. Need I say more? The balm smells strongly of lavender.
Mugwort is a wonderful herb that grows everywhere here in the NorthEast, favoring waste places and empty lots. However, it’s an herb with an old history as a “dream herb”. People would hang it over their beds to bring good dreams at night, and the dried herb has traditionally been stuffed into dream pillows. I have a special love for this fragrant member of the Artemesia family.
Rose imparts a feeling of comfort and well-being, lifting the spirits and easing the mind. It’s a romantic touch to the Dream Balm, and a welcome addition.

Once again the balm is an excellent, alll-purpose body salve, so you can *certainly* use it to soothe the skin, including insect bites, scrapes and scars, dry skin, and eczema conditions. Lavender is excellent on burns for its analgesic properties, as noted above. The infused chamomile also makes the balm anti-inflammatory. So I tend to think of it as a medicinal balm that also has aromatherapy — these plants give us gifts from all angles, as you can see.

SALE! In honor of the lovely Dream Balm, you can purchase a nice 5 oz container of it in my Etsy store right now for $11 ($3 off!). This size tin will last a long time and travels well. You’ll love it!


Musings for Change

May 12, 2011
Facial Cleansing Grains

Facial Cleansing Grains

Hello my dear readers. Oh, I wish I could blog more often. The intensity of my full-time day job combined with a busy craft season (actually, every season feels really busy) makes it tough. I am so looking forward to what amounts to an “herbal retreat” for me this June, the Medicines of the Earth Herb Symposium , Black Mountain, North Carolina. Check out the cool PDF brochure if you’re interested. Not only can immerse myself in the world of herbs for a nice, long weekend, but I also get to learn from some of the greatest herbal teachers of our time.

When I begin to shift into a new paradigm or even have some ideas for changes to be implemented, it seems that it takes me a very long time to migrate into a new place. I muse about changes for what seems like months, even years, before I make a move.  A true taurus! I confess. This slow drifting towards change can extend from new curtains to new Lilith’s Apothecary products, to new life practices. Why is this? I’m not sure, but I’ve come to accept that it is just my process. On the flip side, I’m also impressionable. When I read about great ideas, hear convincing arguments about ideas, growing practices, food, and so forth, I can internalize them with a passion. But I don’t flit from one thing to another; rather, I deeply internalize things that make sense to me until they become part of my own personal tapestry. And I’m finding that unlike Athena, who sprang from Zeus’s head fully formed in all her philosophical, conceptual, and ideological glory, it’s taken me 34 years to get me to where I am now. Maybe that’s just how it is for we mortals. Given my nature, I fully anticipate changes ahead to be a gradual, growing process. This is why I fully believe in the power of the third phase of life, the Crone’s stage, as one’s potential arrival at wisdom. Before that, it’s not really possible (as I see it anyway), though we try. We do.

I have some goals for the future of Lilith’s Apothecary. I will begin to slowly move towards the accomplishment of these goals over the next year, following my last craft shows of the Spring, The Art Star Craft Bazaar and the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival Last summer was a time of rest. This summer will be a time of careful implementation of new practices in my business.

1. I am going to move away from the use of Plastic. Yes, the plastics I use are all recyclable, but it just doesn’t make sense. I will probably keep certain components, such as pumps, caps, or mister tops, because at the moment, I don’t really see a way around it.

2. I am going to be focusing my product line much more exclusively on Facial Care. This is my area of expertise, and in an effort to keep my customers happily contented, I have often created products that are not really in this sphere. As they are lovely products, too, it’s hard to part with them! I have far too much diversity in my offerings, however, and I am spread too thin in production, which means that people often need to wait for staples such as facial creams and serums. What I may do is offer certain body creams, lotions, etc on a limited basis from time to time, but they may not be as regularly available. An exception to this is my Chamomile & Calendula lotion, as far too many people depend on this lotion to treat various dry skin conditions.

3. I’m going to have to eliminate my Tea line, which I have been pairing down for the last few years. I am still available as an herbal consultant to make specialized blends for pregnancy, post-partum, breast feeding, insomnia, anxiety, etc, however. Feel free to contact me directly, but realize that custom orders can sometimes take up to 4 weeks.

4. By paring down my offerings, I will be able to put more time into the development of new products that fit into my Facial Care line, such as creams that address skin discoloration (in development), products specific to acne issues, and others that have been bouncing around in my head for months!

5. I’m going to invest the necessary time in the development of my website, www.lilithsapothecary.com which was started over 2 and a half years ago, but for which I have rarely felt the ability to devote the necessary attention and time.

So, there are exciting changes ahead! And as I progress along my learning curve as a business owner and developer of natural bath and body products, I hope all my learning shows!

The main thing is that I love my business and I want to continue working on it in a way that is sustainable for myself, for my customers, and for the earth itself. I always welcome a dialogue with my readers and customers and would love to hear about your own personal experiences as well as favorite products. Thank you, as ever!


Make your own fresh herb tincture

April 16, 2011

I have long wanted to include some ‘practical’ instruction in my blog for the all important preparations that all herbalists and family healers use on a regular basis. This post will be devoted to a simple alcohol extract of a botanical, called a “tincture”. The extracting can actually be done with cider vinegar or glycerin, alternatively, though alcohol does work best. It is important to note that some herbs are better taken as infusions or decoctions, particularly if the vitamin content is what one is after (i.e. nettles).  It is also important to note that some herbs are absolutely best taken as a *fresh* herb tincture rather than a *dried* herb tincture. This post is for making tinctures from *fresh* herbs. Some examples of herbs that should be tinctured fresh are turmeric rhizome, ginger rhizome, St. John’s wort, Milky oat tops, and skullcap. Other herbs I prefer to tincture fresh are motherwort and tulsi.

Oat Tops in the Milky Stage

Oat Tops in the Milky Stage

Step 1:

Organize the necessary container for tincturing. It should be big enough to hold all the herb you would like to tincture. There should not be a lot of excess room in the jar, however.

Jar and herbs for tincturing

Step 2:

Put the herbs in a glass jar. I have a gallon sized glass jar here and I’m using fresh oat tops in the milky stage, shipped to me from Pacific Botanicals organic farm in Oregon.

pouring grain alcohol onto the herbs

Step 3:

After the herbs are in the jar, pour 95% (190 proof) grain alcohol over the fresh herbs. The percentage of alcohol you use is probably the most important part of tincturing aside from the quality of the herbs used. The percentage of alcohol for fresh herbs shouldn’t dip below 50% or the tincture will probably spoil. Because fresh herbs contain a lot of water already, you can assume that just by using fresh herb, you’ll be diluting the % of alcohol in the preparation. So, if you use (40%) 80 proof vodka, for instance, you may end up with a tincture that is only 20% alcohol, and that tincture would certainly spoil. Many herbalists use 100 proof (50%) vodka and have success, even with fresh herbs. I prefer to use a higher proof for fresh. Using 100 proof (50%) vodka for *dried* herbs is certainly okay, though more complicated formulas are used by professional herbalists.  Keep in mind that some herbs require glycerin at about 10%, including milk thistle seed.

So, you pour the alcohol over the herbs and fill the jar to the top. Leave about 1/2 – 1 inch between the alcohol and the rim of the jar. Try to make sure all of the herbs are under the liquid.

tinctured oat tops
Step 4:

Use a chopstick or spoon to press the herb down and stir in order to release any air bubbles that may be trapped in the jar.

Step 5:

Cap the jar. I often like to put a piece of wax paper between the rim and lid so that the lid doesn’t ‘stick’ to the jar. It’s not that this is really a problem, because you can run it under hot water, but it just makes it easier.

Step 6:

Label the jar with the herb, date, and percentage of alcohol. Store in a cool/dark place and allow to do its tincturing  magic for 4 – 6 weeks. You can really leave it for longer if you don’t get to it in that time frame.  I have left herbs in 180 proof alcohol for a *year* and it doesn’t go bad because of the high alcohol content. Sometimes I do up to 3 gallons at a time, so I don’t always decant everything right away!

Step 7:

When you decant, strain the herbs out and compost them after squeezing the alcohol out of them. You can wring out the herbs with a thin, clean dishcloth or cheesecloth. There are also professional herb presses that are available for just this purpose. The herbs will often become quite dessicated, actually, so sometimes it is incredibly easy to extract as much alcohol as you are going to!

Be sure to label your decanted tinctures with the Date and the Herb, as well as the alcohol used. Keep in mind that the % of alcohol is no longer 95%!!! Though it’s not easy to exactly determine, it’s probably closer to 50%, depending on the herb used.

Resources:

Gladstar, Rosemary, Herbal Healing for Women, 1993.
Weed, Susun, Healing Wise, 1989.
Tierra, Michael, The Way of Herbs 1998
Hoffman, David, Medical Herbalism, 2003.
Tilgner, Sharol, Herbal Medicine, 1999.

Good luck with your first tincture. Feel free to comment below if you have questions!
My tinctures can be found on my Etsy site.


Events – Spring 2011

April 11, 2011

"Tulip Tree" by Magbug on Etsy

Spring has sprung! There are lots of local events coming up for Lilith’s Apothecary. If you are in the Philadelphia area, I do hope you’ll come to visit me. I often have things at craft shows that I don’t have posted on Etsy, such as a large selection of soaps, lotions, bath salts, and other goodies for your home spa.

April 17
Herbal Medicine Making @ City Planter
{Facebook Event Page}
Location: City Planter, 814 N 4th St, Philadelphia, PA
Time: 2:30 – 3:30 PM.
Come join City Planter’s expert staff to learn about how to grow and maintain common medicinal plants such as Sage, Thyme, Lavender, and Rosemary. And then join me in a discussion and demonstrations about kitchen medicines using these herbs, including tinctures, salves, infusions, and decoctions.
Cost: $10 — but you get two free take-away herbs! Register here {City Planter Events Page}

April 23
Fishtown Shad Fest
{http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fishtown-Shad-Fest/130484343685205}
{website}
A fabulous craft, food, and music event taking place in Penn Treaty Park on the Delaware River. This is always one of my favorite events of the year! Check out the full schedule of events in the latest version of http://www.gridphilly.com/. {May 2011}
Location: Penn Treaty Park, Fishtown
Time: 11am – 6pm

May 14 & 15
Art Star Craft Bazaar
{website}
Location: Penn’s Landing
Time: 11am – 6pm both days
An outdoor retail art/craft show that is organized & juried by Philadelphia’s Art Star Gallery & Boutique. Over 100 local & national artists have been chosen to set up shop & sell their wares along the beautiful waterfront @ Penn’s Landing. For this event, Lilith’s Apothecary will be partnering with Melo Studios, a lovely, local mom-owned company that specializes in beautiful hand-poured soy candles in vintage and upcycled containers. The cut glass goblet candles are especially gorgeous.

May 21
Trenton Avenue Arts Festival

Location: Trenton Avenue, East Kensington
Time: 12 – 5 pm
Another favorite! In connection with the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival is always a great group of local vendors with a wide range of crafts/art on display. Live Music, good food, beer from our favorite Philadelphia Brewing Company.

Can’t wait to see you there!

By the way….where can you find Lilith’s Apothecary products in Philadelphia?
Local Locations:
Affordable Skin Care Salon, Girard Avenue (facial & body care)
Greensgrow Farms (garden products, tea)
Contessa’s French Linens (soap) @ Reading Terminal Market
Herbiary (herbal facial care) @Reading Terminal Market

Coming Soon to:
Bee Natural (infused honey) @ Reading Terminal Market
Barefoot Doctor Community Acupuncture Clinic (east Girard Ave)

* Fine Art Photography image “Tulip Tree” by Magbug (Mary Anne Morgan Photography) on Etsy.com *


Use fresh mint for perfect skin care

March 8, 2011

mint leaves
It may be March, but I’m already thinking about mints. Fortunately, some of the herbs you may have brought inside for winter (or the herbs that may make early spring appearances) are wonderful for all manner of skin care concoctions. I don’t bring mint inside but as a vigorous perennial, it begins to show its minty face fairly early in the growing season.

Mint (mentha), whether one is referring to peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, pineapple mint, lemon balm, or any other variety, is a stimulating herb that is well known for its internal benefits (as a great digestive tonic and cure for indigestion, for example). But have you yet tried it externally in a skin care ritual?

For identification purposes, you can always recognize a mint by its square stem, though mints such as peppermint and spearmint are best known for their potent volatile, or essential, oils.  Mint’s delightful aroma makes it even more appealing to use as a skin care treatment, because it provides some aromatherapy, stimulating & clearing the mind. In skin care, mint is used as a deodorizer, cleanser, and skin soother. The toner below is particularly grand for oily/acne-prone skin because the citrus peels are marvelously anti-septic and ideal for further astringing the skin.

Rule of thumb: Dried mint 1 Tbsp = 3 Tbsp Fresh.

glass toner bottles

Citrus Mint Toner
3 Tbsp fresh mint leaves (lemon balm would be quite wonderful!)
peel from 1 orange
Peel from 1/2 lemon (Meyer lemons are really lovely)
Peel from 1/3 grapefruit
1 cup boiling water
1 Tbsp witch hazel extract or 1/2 cup witch hazel distillate.

1. Place mint leaves in a bowl and bruise with a spoon in order to release their volatile oils.
2. Add citrus peels.
3. Pour boiling water over leaves and peel and allow to cool completely
4. Strain to remove solids.
5. Add witch hazel extract (tincture) or distillate.
6. Pour into a clean container

*NOTE: as an unpreserved toner, this is essentially a “fresh” product that must be kept refrigerated and used up in a week or so. Don’t store it in your warm bathroom! Also makes a wonderfully refreshing facial mist for a pick-me-up any time of day.


Featured Seller: Organic Quilt Company

December 1, 2010
organic cotton burp cloths

organic cotton burp cloths

Wow! It’s been ages since I last featured a seller from the handmade community. In fact, it was nearly a year ago. I guess it is around the holiday that we hone in on the best and brightest artisans out there.

Becky Stone of Organic Quilt Company

Becky Stone of Organic Quilt Company

I probably first saw the fine work of Becky Stone on Etsy‘s front page, as in May of 2009, she was a featured Etsy seller. Her beautifully photographed works consist of organic cotton baby blankets, burp cloths, hand crafted quilts, infant hats, and bibs, all found in her etsy store, Organic Quilt Company. The fabrics are absolutely beautiful and certainly drew me to her shop instantly to peruse for gifts. My brother’s baby Maya and a  friend’s baby Samantha are two recent recipients of her gorgeous creations. Just look at this beautiful Woodland Friends blanket below (Samantha snagged that):

Woodland Friends Baby Blanket

Woodland Friends baby blanket

Passionate about her quilting addiction, Becky lives with her husband, three kids, and two fat cats in Hudson, an idyllic small town just outside of Montreal, Canada. Color and fabric, “in all its tactile glory”, have always been the main sources of inspiration for her projects. Becky tells me that she began quilting fifteen years ago because she really wanted to own a quilt and couldn’t afford to buy one. Her first attempt was a huge, very difficult quilt that she did finish, but she claims that “‘primitive’ would be a very grand compliment for it.” Fortunately, Becky stuck with it to create the beautiful pieces she designs today.

organic cotton blankets

organic cotton blankets

When I asked Becky about why she chose to work with organic materials, she said she had become concerned with the “chemicals devoured by the textile industry, and the quilting industry in particular.” Wrapping her three wee bairns in chemically-coated textiles at bed time was simply not appealing!  Becky chose to focus on baby quilts because, as I well know (!), everyone loves to buy beautiful things for babies. Here, here! It was a marriage made in heaven: organic fabrics and baby quilts. In addition, a baby quilt would provide a more affordable price point than larger, full-sized quilts, as they are already such labor intensive products.

handmade organic cotton quilt

organic cotton quilt

Shipping times from Canada are around two weeks, so you are *just* in time to order for the holidays. Pop on over to Organic Quilt Company and buy something beautiful for a baby you love.  You can mix and match lots of options to create the perfect bundle of organic goodness.

organic infant knot hat

infant knotty hat

Other posts you might enjoy:
Looking for something unique? One of a Kind Art
Featured Seller: Motley Mutton
Eco Head ware for the Wee Ones


The Healing Power of Herbs: Liniments

November 17, 2010

Oil with herbs Liniments. Hm. Sounds vaguely medicinal, right? I remember once going to a bar that was ‘inspired’, I take it, by herbal formulas. Some drinks (shall I say ‘concoctions’?) boasted the inclusion of herbal tinctures of elderflower, ginger, or lavender. Not a bad thought at all, as we often use more familiar alcohol extracts of vanilla or orange peel in herby libations. However, there was a drink that supposedly included the use of an herbal liniment…..HA HA HA HA. Well, that’s the herb snob in me, I’m a little ashamed to admit. Why? Because liniments are for external treatment, not for cocktails. In fact, many liniments use rubbing alcohol as a base which sounds downright raunchy as an addition to an evening beverage. In truth, a liniment could essentially be made the same way as an extract meant to be taken internally, despite the fact that the definition implies that it is used externally. It can also be made as an infused oil, which, if made with the right kind of oil, can be a fabulous culinary addition! Still, I feel some “nameology” needs to be in order.

Moving on.  A liniment is most often made as an alcohol extract. The purpose is to provide a vehicle for the important chemical compounds in herbs that would be used for external application. I have included a DIY recipe below for a ginger liniment that is made with a neutral oil, and some additional possibilities are olive oil, safflower oil, or sunflower seed oil. Essentially an infused oil, this ginger liniment works great as a massage oil post-exercise to relieve aches & pains. It is also a great treatment to increase circulation. Try on arthritic joints, on sore muscles, and troublesome joint pain. Best used twice a day at least!

gingerDIY RECIPE : Ginger Liniment

3″ piece fresh ginger
1/4 cup almond oil

Grate ginger and combine with oil in a non-reactive (non-aluminum) saucepan. Cover and heat on low heat for one hour. Make sure you have this at the lowest possible temperature to avoid the oil overheating or ‘burning’. Remove from heat and steep for another hour. Strain out ginger. Pour oil into a 4 oz colored glass bottle with a tight-fitting screwtop.

Alternative: Use 1/4 cup grain alcohol instead of oil. Infuse for a minimum of 6 weeks (without heat) in a dark place. Apply externally with a cotton pad to relieve aches and pains. Do not apply on broken skin.

NOTE: whenever applying an external remedy, do a test patch first to make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients. Apply a small amount on the inside of your arm and wait 24 hours to make sure you won’t have any reaction. Some minor redness can be a natural side effect of a ginger liniment, as increased blood circulation may bring blood flow to the surface of the skin.


Top 50 Blogs for Learning about Herbalism

August 2, 2010

cilantro and basil herbs Yeah for me! Lilith’s Apothecary ~ this blog ~ was recently listed as one of the Top 50 Blogs for Learning about Herbalism, much to my delight. The blogger, Rachel Davis, divides her list of blogs up into categories of  1) General, 2) Farming, 3) Herbalists, 4) Herbalism & More, 5) cooking, 6) Medicine. The final category of blogs is where my own appears. There are lots of great blogs to check out on this list, and some great new discoveries for me include:

1. The Herbwife’s Kitchen, a blog written by a traditional Appalachian community herbalist based in West Virginia
2. Herbs from the Labyrinth, a blog from a community herbalist out in Lancaster, PA, about an hour outside of Philadelphia.
3. Rosemary’s Sampler, a lovely blog from The Rosemary House, a charming establishment in Mechanicsburg, PA, and a place I’ve been wanting to go for years. They often have great little workshops and herbwalks with well-known herbalists such as David Winston.
4. The Medicine Women Gather: five herbalists from the Pacific NW gather to share recipes, wildcrafting, and the gifts of the earth.
5. Joseph Alban: an acupuncturist in NY who teaches us acupressure points to use for ourselves and our children, as well as other info about chinese herbs, etc.

Share some of your favorite herb-themed blogs with me! I’ll write a future post on some of the most useful herb blogs, including those by Michael Tierra & Leslie Tierra, Stephen Foster, and other master herbalists. Michael Tierra just blogged about Richo Cech, a “plant whisperer” and author of The Medicinal Plant Grower.


DIY: Fragrant oils to condition and nourish your hair

May 4, 2010

Herbal Hair Oil Over the years, when I would hear about a hair oil or see a recipe for one, the association was usually with a hair treatment oil that would be used for a deep conditioning application for dry or damaged hair. This kind of hair oil treatment can be a great benefit to hair, because the oils penetrate and revitalize extra dry locks to great effect. Because my hair is on the oily side to begin with, I knew that a hair oil treatment of this kind is not something I would necessarily need. Plenty of lubrication there! I prefer using herbal hair rinses to reduce oil production and increase lustre and shine.

That said, when perusing Colleen Dodt’s Essential Oils Book a few years ago, I came across what was, for me, a novel concept. Dodt advocated the use of a blend of fragrant essential oils in a carrier oil base that are put in a dropper bottle, applied to a wooden comb, rubbed into the wood, and then combed into the hair.

The result? Hair that smells really, really beautifully — delicately scented, aromatic, and provides a halo of natural fragrance wherever you go. She likes to use it to banish smoke when leaving a smokey environment and carries a tiny bottle in her purse at all times. I just love the concept and often apply it to dry hair in the morning or evening before going out. My hair is actually on the oilier side, and this kind of application needn’t aggravate oily hair at all. You are basically just –very lightly — applying a nourishing hair conditioner that contains essential oils actually beneficial to the hair itself.  There are definitely hair oil treatments that can be applied for deep conditioning for drier hair types, but this fragrant application does not fit into that category.

Aromatic Hair Care Oil

Start with 1/2  oz. of base carrier oil, such as jojoba oil. Be sure to use only pure essential oils, not synthetic fragrance oils. You can add to a comb or brush as described below and comb into dry hair OR you can add a few drops to your scalp, especially if you have a dry scalp, when hair is wet and allow essential oils to add conditioning fragrance to your hair as it dries.

Try any of the following blends, as your needs dictate:

Soothing Scalp Refreshment Blend: 2 drops rosemary, 2 drops lavender, 2 drops clary sage, 2 drops jasmine absolute
Fragrant Garden Blend: 2 drops lavender, 2 drops rose geranium, 2 drops ylang ylang, 2 drops patchouli
Conditioning Blend: 2 drops Roman chamomile, 2 drops lavender, 2 drops sandalwood, 1 drop jasmine absolute
Earth Blend: 2 drops rose absolute, 2 drops patchouli, 2 drops sandalwood, 2 drops lavender
Healing Scalp (anti-dandruff) Blend: 2 drops cedarwood, 2 drops lavender, 2 drops rosemary, 2 drops tea tree.

Directions:
1. Fill a 1/2 oz. dark glass dropper bottle with the carrier oil and essential oils.
2. Add 2-3 drops of hair care oils directly onto a hair brush or comb before using. If you have a wooden comb, the oil can be rubbed directly onto the comb. The oil conditions the hair as you brush or comb.
REF: Colleen K. Dodt, The Essential Oils Book: Creating Personal Blends for Mind & Body, MA: Storey Publishing, 1996.


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