Chamomile (matricaria recutita) ~ gentle giant

January 29, 2009

Soothing Skin Bath Soak

Soothing Skin Bath Soak

Chamomile is a common name for an herb that usual includes both the Roman and German varieties. Once called ‘maythe’ or ‘mayweed’, the name is based on an old English word for ‘maide’ or ‘woman’ and is probably due to the plant’s calming, relaxant effects which have been used to soothe menstrual pains (Pollington2000). While both varieties have similar action, German chamomile is purported to be better tasting and milder in action that Roman Chamomile, which makes the former a better choice for pregnant women and children.

Chamomile is a commonly known herb that has amazingly wonderful, diverse qualities. It is traditionally used as a remedy for teething or cranky babies, to relieve and upset stomach, to ease menstrual cramps, and to reduce tension and induce sleep (K&W2001). Though individuals who have ragweed allergies may find that they are allergic to topical application of chamomile poulstices or salves, an allergic reaction is fairly unusual. In addition, in treating eczema, chamomile has been found to be as effective as hydrocortisone (steroidal cream) and superior to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (Aertgeertsetal1985). My own daughter has had eczema since she was an infant, and I have been delighted to find that a lotion created with chamomile & calendula infusions in both distilled water and natural vegetable oils has provided wonderful eczema relief. I now offer this lotion in my shop, primarily targeted for use for individuals with eczema, for children & infants, and for those with sensitive skin, though this lotion is fine for anyone and has a light scent of chamomile tea without the use of any fragrance or essential oils.



Chamomile is a wonderfully calming herb, both calming to the skin (as above) and calming to the tummy, the mind, the body, and the spirit. It gently brings someone into a state of restful sleep, and soothes even an irritated baby or newborn struggling with colic. German Chamomile has a long history of use during pregnancy and breast-feeding and is a common tea in Europe, Central America, & South America. (That said, it is important to note that Roman Chamomile has been found to have aborficent effects in studies on animals, and so it is important to choose German Chamomile over the Roman variety.) Part of chamomile’s calming effect on the nervous system is the large amount of easily assimilable calcium, making it a great herb to treat insomnia, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, and nighmares, along with connected conditions such as hypertension and cramps, spasms, and stomach distress. Menstrual cramps can be eased with the combination of chamomile & ginger (Tierra2003).

Conditions for which chamomile is beneficial are myriad, and include irritable bowl syndrome, indigestion, infant colic, gastric reflux disease, dysmenorrhea (cessation of menstrual cycle), gastritis, stress-related insomnia, peptic ulcer disease, spastic colon, cramping w/ diarrhea, oral ulcers, topical wound healing, eczema, and anogenital irritation. Chamomile can be taken in many forms: dried flowers, capsules, cream, salve, tea, tincture, bath tea or salt blend, but in this case we are fortunate because chamomile both smells and tastes lovely! I use chamomile in several different bath tea blends, including my Dream Journey bath tea

Chamomile & Calendula body lotion

Chamomile & Calendula body lotion

Dried flowers can be added to the tub or in a muslin bag and in combination with epsom salts, this remedy can be very beneficial for hemorrohoids or irritated skin. Add a handful of oatmeal to the bag and you have a soothing emollient, combined with chamomile’s anti-inflammatory powers to aid allergic skin rashes, eczema, or just as a wonderfully soothing bath for baby. Topical poulstices made from the dried flower (clean cloth dipped into a water infusion) is useful for treating mastitis or other inflammatory issues

I find that the smell of the essential oil is a bit cloying and not always reflective, in my mind, of the light sweetness of the dried flowers, but the essential oil also has therapeutic action and is a welcome (though sometimes expensive!) addition to facial creams that require some ‘calming’ action to facial tissue. It is also good to use in balms and salves for children, as it is both therapeutic and very safe for all ages. For insect bites, the essential oil can be mixed with some aloe vera gel and applied directly to the bite.

Contraindications are few, though it may potentiate anticoagulants such as warfarin so use should be cautious and monitored if an individual is taking such a pharmaceutical. Again, though chamomile has a long, empirical track record of use for pregnant & breast-feeding mothers, it’s probably a good idea that Roman Chamomile be avoided throughout pregnancy (breastfeeding would be okay) and perhaps even in the first trimester because of chamomile’s mild emmenogogic effect (brings on menstruation). Chamomile overall represents one of the safest possible herbs for use with infants, childrens, and nursing mothers, who deliver the benefit of the tea through their breastmilk, and therefore is one of my herbs of choice in bath teas and products for babies, though it’s light, sweet fragrance and flavor certainly add to the strengths of this gentle giant. I say ‘giant’ because its gifts to us are so great.

Aertgeerts, P. et al (1985) Z Hautkr. 60(3):270-277
Kuhn, Merrily and David Winston (2001) Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach
Pollington, Stephen (2000) Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore, and Healing
Tierra, Leslie (2003) Healing with the Herbs of Life

Eco headwear for the wee ones

January 28, 2009

ecotouque_litttlebitofsunshineSo…i guess in this winter cold i have my darling Maeve’s wee little pig-tailed head in mind when I am perusing etsy. First I hightlight a fairy fiber hood for small tykes and now, this lovely find. In their wonderful Woodland & Feathers gift guide, i came across Little Bit of Sunshine’s ( eco touque…that would be ‘hat’ here in the good U.S. of A. I love the little appliqued mushroom on this eco find.

Little Bit of Sunshine is obviously a Canadian shop, and I was dismayed to see this little notice in the shop:
“As you are all aware, certain legislation will come into effect on February 9th 2009 in America, governing the sale of all items intended for use by children ages 12 and under. I can not conciously flout the laws of your good nation, and so as of that date, Any child or baby item in my shop will no longer be available for purchase in the United States of America. I am truly sorry, and look forward to a day when this is no longer the case.”

Um…i guess I am not exactly aware of this ‘certain legislation’. Huh? Enlightenment would be nice, as it is midnight and I am not about to launch an investigation! Well, at least my Canadian friends can purchase from Little Bit of Sunshine for their darling wee bairns. (That said, i have to admit that my cousin-in-law, Nicole, if posting the same on her own lovely blog would have done the research!!! Shame on me, I guess)

UPDATE: Littlebitofsunshine did write me back with the following:
The legislation I was referring to is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
(CPSIA for short) which will come into effect as of February 10th 2009 throughout America. It is the American government’s attempt to contol the onslaught of shoddily made and dangerous toys coming into the market from less controlled suppliers in countries like China, Thailand, and India. It is a widesweeping law that legislates that any product intended for use by children under the age of 12 must have every element within it tested for controlled substances like lead and phospates, irregardless of the material used to make them. While on the outset this law seems like a pretty goood idea, the reality is that the testing is so prohibitively expensive that in order to test each of my children’s items I would have to mark them up to well into the thousands of dollar range just to recoup my losses, and all that when I already know that I didn’t dip the baby hat into a vat of lead. It’s a very huge issue right now amongst artisan who deal in handmade children’s items, as this law will ultimately ruin many an artisan of fine handmade children’s wear and toys.

You can read more about the law here
(not my blog….but a very concise write up on the CPSIA)

Featured Blog & Featured Etsy Seller

January 26, 2009

I think its time to feature some other bloggers and artisans out there with amazing blogs and etsy shops and/or products. For instance, check out The Alchemist’s Garden for early 20th century herbal pharmacopeia & wisdom, such as the Cocoa Essence: could spend ages checking out this blog, full of all kinds of interesting notes, gardening experiences, tidbits, and lore

As for etsy sellers, I would love to highlight an old favorite: Fairy Tale Fibers, based in the US’ Northwest

Wee Fairy Hood from

Wee Fairy Hood

I have one of these magical fairy hoods and love it! I have gotten many comments on it, of course, and living in urban Philadelphia, it gives me a bit of deep, dark forest feeling (much needed).

Jeanne Rose ~ Scented Geranium Toner

January 23, 2009

Peppermint Scented Geranium

Peppermint Scented Geranium

Jeanne Rose is an amazing herbalist & aromatherapist who has distilled her own essential oils for decades and has taught others how to do so! She’s been inspirational in my creation of natural & herbal bath & body products, including lovely lotions and creams. I always have lots of scented geraniums to nurture through the winter (indoors) and before bringing them indoors I often trim them up a bit (hopefully that’s an okay thing to do ~ i am a beginner gardener!). Anyway, what to do with these lovely, fragrant scented geranium leaves? Well, aside from herbal hair rinses and bath teas, Rose’s geranium “lotion” seems an appealing project for a dark winter day…

Infuse 1/2 oz assorted scented geranium leaves in 1 cup of vinegar for 5-10 days. Strain and use as a stimulating refreshing astringent. Dilute with water to use. (Jeanne Rose’s Herbal Body Book, 1976)

Thanks Ms. Rose!

You might also try adding the dried leaves to a batch of soap or making a strong infusion of say, rose scented geranium, to create a toning facial or body cream (as the water component)


January 21, 2009

I would be remiss in neglecting to acknowledge the wonderfully exciting inauguration events that took place for our 44th president, Barak Obama, yesterday, January 20, 2009. As an American, I can certainly say that this is the first time I’ve ever felt excited, inspired, and hopeful about a new president. I know I’m not alone in this.




January 17, 2009

hm. twittering. I felt at first that I was just talking to myself (and that’s okay) in my attempts to find distractions during my day job, but then a cloud began to emerge … of…followers. A few I know well, a few I have never heard of in my life, though there is a tangential connection of some kind, and a few are loyal customers/acquaintances through Lilith. I am not sure yet what I think of the whole twittering phenomenon except that….
*sometimes it’s nice to just communicate a sentence or two to someone instead of feeling you owe them the big email ‘update’ as you’ve put it off for months.
*sometimes it’s just nice to kind of echo the banalities of your life (the bird that was flying around in your bedroom on a january morning, the fact that you watched Sillyville with your toddler, a yen for pumpkin muffins. Is this because of the fact that so much of our community is indeed Virtual?
Well…feel free to follow me on twitter ( and I’ll be happy to exchange a few of those real-life-me moments!

Cloud Mist collaboration ~ artist Jan Blencowe

January 16, 2009

I often struggle a bit with a new tea label ~ be that tea a black, red, green, or herbal blend (and yes, I know, i know, technically herbal teas are not tea at all, but rather ‘infusions’). My new Cloud Mist (yun wu) green tea blend features jasmine blossoms and dried lotus petals and is quite a beautiful tea blend, meditative, and lightly floral.

In poking about the net, I found artist Jan Blencowe, and her lovely painting Cloud Mist ( I wrote her to ask her about using her painting on my label if I provided her website and name. She was more than willing, and dreamt up an idea to collaborate with a local tea shop in her area: Tea Savy, and perhaps have an art showing with her paintings and my teas! It’s such a great idea, I do hope it happens. Thanks Jan!

Scullcap and St.John’s Wort tinctures now on Etsy

January 13, 2009

I decided to post my fresh organic herbal extracts/tinctures of both Scullcap (sculletaria lateralist) and St. John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum) on my etsy site. These are such great quality extracts made with fresh, organic herbs from Pacfic Botanicals in Oregon. I have a nice fat disclaimer there because I have to. It’s a shame, really, but the main thing is that I want to make these kinds of quality, home-crafted tinctures available to my customers.

See Scullcap: and St. John’s Wort:

Herbal study & research ~ anxiety & depression

January 13, 2009

Passion Flower for insomnia with circular thinking

Passion Flower for insomnia with circular thinking

I have been doing a lot of study lately around treating anxiety & depression with herbal medicine. Two of my most prized tinctures are fresh, organic St. John’s Wort & organic Skullcap, both herbs that are very useful in treating depression and anxiety, respectively. But there are so many different herbs one can use to really specifically treat variations of the depression or anxiety, dependant on the origin. More commonly known herbs such as Evening Primrose (herb, not oil), Lavender, Lemon Balm, Passion Flower, Night Blooming Cereus (Cactus Grandifloris), and Ginko all have roles to play.

‘Adaptogens’ are also critical to the lives of most people, as they help us cope better with stress and bring a level of balance to our systems. Examples of adaptogens would be Ashwaghanda, Asian Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Shatavari, Dong Quai, and Rhodiola Root. These are so important, I think I should do a special post devoted to them!

Recently, I was able to participate in David Winston (AHG)’s graduate course in Differential Diagnosis of Anxiety & Depression, which added a lot of depth to my study. I’ve been dying to do David’s course for years now, but just haven’t figured out a way to do it properly (well, since the arrival of my wee bairn). I just hope I catch it while he’s still teaching! He’s one of the US’s master herbalists, having practiced herbal medicine for nearly 40 years, and one of the original founders of the American Herbalists Guild (AHG). I consider him the leading authority in my own herbal work.

Note: check out my “Bright Mornings” herbal tea blend for a gently mood-elevating, nervine tea that is safe and uplifting to the crest-fallen spirit.

Bright Mornings Herbal Tea

Bright Mornings Herbal Tea

Links & etsy sellers

January 9, 2009

Drat! I just added a thousand favorite links (mostly herbal) and ten thousand fav etsy shops and none of the links are live. I am figuring this out as a I go, but….I have no idea how to fix this! Maybe it will enter my brain by some kind of wierd wordpress osmosis. One can dream.
Anyway, in looking through all my etsy favs, I just have to point out one shop:
Wow do I love these amazing minature felted birds in minature hand crafted nests. I have bought two of them as presents and there are a million more people I would love to give them to. So precious!