A tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaf, chive (Allium schoenoprasum) blossom and a flower stalk from Salvia caradonna…
I took a brief walk in my garden to think, relax and meditate before my Herbal Workshop last Sunday. I cut a few leaves here, a few flowers there and popped them into some old Coke bottles. They look lovely on my simple wooden table.
After arriving at my house, each participant was offered freshly made sun tea and herbal citrus water. While they enjoyed the refreshment, we went over the recipes for that day’s herbal remedies. Spa Recipes 20.5
The goal of this workshop was to demystify the metamorphosis that happens when water and oil are emulsified into a cream. I remember the first time I made a cream, it was like I had become a wizard or an alchemist. To blend a host of waters with a mixture of oils into a smooth cream was magical.
First, the oils and wax are melted in a double boiler on low heat.
This is then left to cool. We treated ourselves to a delicious cherry and chocolate coffee cake (brought by one of the participants. Thanks, Pamela!) while we waited for the oil mixture to cool. It was a lovely sunny day in the garden, perfect for chatting and chilling while we waited.
After about 20 minutes, the oils had partially solidified and we were ready for stage two. The oils were scraped into a blender and set to high speed.
We added the water mixture into the vortex of the blending oils and…VOILA!
A beautiful sight, this is. A perfectly blended face cream. It smells and feels so good and is super healing for your skin.
Everyone filled their jar with the cream, they could choose either Chamomile or Calendula, and affixed super cute labels on (all designed and hand-drawn by my daughter, Rebekah). The rest of the cream was scraped out meticulously and soon everyone was applying it to their faces, arms, legs…it was pretty funny.
All the workshop participants left with their cream of choice, some salve samples and a magazine from my friend Marek who runs a juicer company, mipam.cz. He provided for us that day a Vitamix blender (so I could have more than one blender running) and even coupons for products that he sells. Thanks, Marek!
I am really looking forward to our next workshops!
Photo credit: Zeinep Yessenbekova
Most herbs are effectively drying. The combined actions of the overwhelming majority of herbs lead to some driving out of fluids from the body. These actions can be in the form of increasing urination or sweating through diuresis and diaphoresis, drying up swelling through astringency, draining fluids from the GI tract through tonic bitterness, and expectorating mucous from the lungs. These would be seen as physiological effects of action from plants with predominantly drying characteristics. Many other plants have drying effects stemming from their overall energetic qualities, such as being warming. Most herbs that are warming tend to be at least somewhat drying as heat has a tendency to increase dryness.
Astringency is one of, if not the most, important drying characteristc. This action directly effects the tissues themselves. Astringents contract and tighten tissues, prevent liquids from being lost and remedy fluid accumulation and stagnancy. Astringents can express either cooling or warming energetics and it is good form to understand their unique characteristics when combining them in astringent formulas.
It is imperative to know the list of moistening herbs when making formulas, as it is essential to add herbs with some moistening characteristics in order to balance out the drying effects of most herbs within the formula.
According to Materia Medica Monthly:
“From an Ayurvedic perspective, herbs which are drying would be said to aggravate the vata dosha, which is the constitutional type associated with dryness- whereas kapha is associated with moisture in the form of water and pitta is associated with moisture in the form of oils. This shows that administering moistening demulcent plants is critical for treating vata, especially if there are other remedies you wish to give them, such as nervines and antispasmodics for their nervousness, stress and tension. The vata dosha is considered one of the more difficult constitutions to treat because it is associated with the Ether Element (wind) and is thus constantly changing. “
Having a dry constitution (yin deficiency) is an increasing pattern in our western culture and it is important to recognise the symptoms of a dry tissue state and administer appropriate moistening herbs and refrain from drying herbs in order to bring about balance. Unfortunately, a dry tissue state inhibits the functionality of herbs administered as the dryness does not allow for proper absorption of the plant’s medicinal constituents thus rendering the remedy ineffectual.
According to Materia Medica Monthly:
“Signs of an excess of dryness includes: dry eyes, skin, hair, cracked nails, dry mucous in the nose, dry stool/constipation, nervousness, fatigue, tension, anxiety, insomnia, musculoskeletal tension, cracking/popping joints, and a dry tongue. If you see these signs and symptoms, it is critical that either you do not administer any drying herbs, or if you do, that you are giving an adequate amount of moistening, demulcent, yin supplementing herbs and foods to balance the drying effects of the other herbs.”
Bayberry (Myrica cerifera)
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.)
Elecampane (Inula helenium)
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica)
Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)
Blackberry root (Rubus spp.)
Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum)
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Oak bark (Quercus alba)
Plantain (Plantago major)
Red Root (Ceanothus americanus)
Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Willow (Salix alba)
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Wood Betony (Stachys betonica)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Thank you Materia Medica Monthly for this list
Right now, Chickweed (Stellaria media) is growing all around us. In decent, moist soil, and partly in the shade, chickweed thrives. It has beautiful five-petaled flowers (the petals are so deeply lobed that they appear to have ten petals). A discerning characteristic is a line of fine hairs on the stem that alternate sides at each node.
I encourage chickweed to grow in my garden and harvest it as I happen upon it at every opportunity. Chickweed is at its most medicinally potent fresh, so dried chickweed isn’t really an option for me. I have to be a busy bee and gather as much as I can right now to put up immediately for tinctures and oils. Chickweed is an important ingredient in my Detox Tea and Detox Tea:Warm and Moist, as well as in my Lovely Liver Herbal Extract and You Go, Girl! Women’s Remedy.
Today’s recipe is for a really special skin salve that helps itchy skin, relieves rashes and is a great all-around skin soother.
(Special infusion instructions for Chickweed: Harvest fresh chickweed. Cut or chop into fine pieces. Allow to wilt in a dry place for at least a day, but no more than two. Put in a clean, sterilised jar, filling the jar to the top. Pour in oil until the plant material is fully covered. Put it on a sunny warm windowsill for 6-8 weeks or put in a bread maker on the lowest heat setting for 24 hours. Shake often.)
In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils and beeswax.
Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.
Add the essential oils. Stir.
Pour into clean and sterilised jars.
Chickweed: astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary, antihistamine, affinity for skin conditions: relieves any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins or itching skin conditions.
Chamomile: analgesic, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, nervine, sedative, vasoconstrictor, vulnerary, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, and contains essential oils and antioxidants.
Lavender: affinity for skin disorders such as acne, wrinkles, psoriasis, and other inflammatory conditions, synergy with chamomile in treating eczema. Vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, nervine.
Want to buy it directly from me? Shop here.
In my last post about Detox Teas, I talked about a detox tea that has really worked for our family and many of my clients. Given the information about plant energetics and how plants and people should be matched according to compatible or opposite energetics to support balance, we know that there is not one solution to every problem.
One of my friends, Adolf Jana, tried my detox tea and found it too cooling and drying. His normal constitution is already cool/dry and this tea exacerbated this and put him out of balance.
Adolf works with clients using nutritional therapy. He sometimes prescribes my teas for clients needing herbal support.
He asked me to reformulate my Detox Tea for one of his clients so that it would be more warming and moistening. Here is the result of that challenge:
Listed next to the herbs are the systems, organs or actions which they influence.
3 parts Chamomile (nervous, digestive, excretory, cardiovascular, integumentary)
2 parts Hyssop (liver, blood, respiratory)
2 parts fennel seed (diuretic, digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular)
2 parts Plantain (integumentary, blood, excretory)
1 part Burdock (integumentary, blood, diuretic, lymphatic)
1 part Angelica (liver, digestive, tonic)
1 part Licorice (adrenal, digestive, tonic, respiratory)
1 part Chickweed (blood, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant)
1 part Cinnamon (blood, antioxidant, cardiovascular)
Allergy season is upon us…it feels like my head is filled with fluff, my eyes are swimming in sand and my lungs coated in pollen grains. I can’t stop coughing or sneezing and my nose is running like a sieve.
Today, I went on a nature hike with my 5th and 6th grade class. There was a ton of pollen in the air, I couldn’t stop coughing and I was completely fatigued trying to breathe. It’s pretty bad for everyone this season. I must have looked AMAZING because one of my 5th grade boys said, ” Miss Krista, you look like you have green under your eyes. You look really unwell.” Imagine that said by a little kid with a British accent. I thought to myself that this little guy has about 10 years to figure out how to talk to women.
We live in a beautiful swathe of nature in South Bohemia. The forest is right behind our house, bordered by farmland. This year, on all the farms surrounding us, beautiful yellow beauties are being grown. Rapeseed…
This is leaving a fine coating of yellow pollen on every surface, including the insides on noses, throats and lungs. Oh, and eyeballs. Ugh….
This time of year, we reach for certain herbs to help support our body’s immune system and hormone system to fight the allergic reaction.
Echinacea: is an immunostimulant and immunomodulator, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. It has an affinity for bronchial and respiratory infections as well as throat and overall oral infections. It has a full complement of polysaccharides, which help protect cells against invasion by viruses and bacteria. Other key constituents are: sesquiterpenes, linoleic acid, tannins, beta-carotene and Vitamin C.
Eyebright: anti-catarrhal, astringent, and anti-inflammatory. Eyebright is an excellent remedy for many of the problems of the mucous membranes. Used internally, it is a powerful anti-catarrhal, and thus may be used in nasal catarrh, sinusitis and other congestive states, such as hay fever, acute coryza, irritable sneezing and lachrymation.
Want to buy it directly from me? Shop here.
This is an excellent face or body cream adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s classic cream recipe.
I personally find this face cream to be gentle, hydrating, and soothing. It isn’t greasy or heavy, yet it feels like it is deeply soothing and calming to my skin.
Combine the oils, butter and wax in a saucepan over very low heat until everything is melted together
Pour into a measuring cup or container and let cool until the mixture is somewhat firm, thick and creamy
Scrape the oil mixture into a blender.
In a separate bowl. Combine the hydrosol, gel and essential oil
Turn the blender in full speed and slowly drizzle the the water mixture into the vortex created by the blender
Continue blending until all the water mixture has been absorbed by the oil.
The blender should “choke” as the mixture thickens and becomes creamy
After turning off the blender, scoop the cream into small jars.
Store the cream in a cool dark place.
Chamomile: soothing, vulnerary, affinity for skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis, anti-inflammatory
Shea butter: moisturising, anti-inflammatory, aids in skin’s natural collagen production
Balm of Gilead: antioxidant, heals scars, clears up eczema and psoriasis, anti-inflammatory
Lavender: antibacterial, soothing, anti-inflammatory
My Wellness Herbal Workshop was a great success. My fellow Herbal Warriors and I had a great time together making Fairy Tea and Calendula Salve.
After arriving at my house, each participant was given a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and also an orange smoothie. While they enjoyed the refreshing juice, we went over the recipes for that day’s herbal remedies. Wellness Recipes 22.4
Then it was off to work. The first task was to pick petals off of dried calendula blooms for the Fairy Tea. The green sepals can make the tea bitter. Then we took turns mixing the rest of the herbs with the petals in a big bowl.
Everyone put the tea mix into tea sacks, complete with labels and ingredients lists, so they could enjoy their handmade tea at home.
Next up was the Calendula Salve.
The first task was to make calendula-infused olive oil, the base for the Calendula Salve. This requires the fine chopping up of the calendula blooms. We used a Sana 707 juicer to accomplish the task efficiently.
Using a bread maker, the oil was infused quickly. This oil was used to make the salve.
Beeswax was added and melted into the oil over a very low heat and carefully stirred. Lavender essential oil is added. The warm liquid salve is poured into containers and custom labels are then affixed.
While the salve was cooling we took a garden walk to point out the fresh herbs that were used in the recipes.
The herbal goodies were popped into little bags, ready to take home.
Fairy tea: Lavender, plantain, calendula and lemonbalm
An all-around wellness tea: healing, soothing, calming, gentle and tasty
Calendula Healing Salve: Calendula, olive oil, beeswax and lavender essential oil
A super skin healer: soothing, healing, anti-itch, antibacterial, scar healing
Photo credit: Zeinep Yessenbekova
I was afraid the first time I made a face cream. It seems counter-intuitive to mix an oil and a water together expecting some other thing to appear, as if by magic. I felt like an alchemist.
When I poured the waters into the churning oils in the blender and magically cream was formed, I was super excited. And blown away by how easy it is.
Now I have a range of face creams that I love, people who use them are finding them very helpful for their skin and I never have to go out and buy skin creams. I just refill my jar form my stock of creams. It is pretty cool.
I am teaching a workshop next month on how to make face creams. I’d like to demystify it and show those interested that they too can make face cream in their own kitchen.
The recipes are linked. Please check it out and let me know if you have any questions. It is super simple and I have already made tons of mistakes and learnt tricks to make it excellently each time.
Wrinkle Wrecker Face Cream: An excellent cream for mature, dry or very damaged skin. (sea buckthorn, poppy seed oil, geranium oil)
Acne Eraser Face Cream: A soothing, healing and preventative cream for those with eczema, acne and rosacea. (hemp seed oil, skull cap, hazelnut oil)
Calendula Face Cream: This is the one I use every day, morning and night. It is healing and soothing. I love it! (calendula, almond oil)
Chamomile Face Cream: This one is great for sensitive skin that is easily irritated. It is very soothing and calming. (chamomile, almond oil)
I am eager to come up with new recipes and would love any new ideas.
See my Etsy shop.
I have a cold. It seems like everyone around me does. I’m not really that sick, but it is quite annoying what with my head all stuffed up and my strength waning afterr getting up to make myself tea.
So, I reached for my echinacea tincture to find both bottles empty. (Who is so irresponsible to put back empty bottles into the first aid kit.…Probably me….)
Luckily, I’ve got a laboratory in my garage chock full of good stuff. A quick pop in and a moment to decant, and I’m back in business taking my echinacea every 1/2 hour. Feeling better already!
Topical salves or ointments are some of the best herbal remedies in my herbal arsenal.
They are easy to use, non-invasive and really healing, powerful and effective. The comforting aspect of a balm or salve aids in the healing process and is a great introductory herbal remedy for the more skeptical client (or family member).
Every Herbal First Aid Kit should have at least a few salves. Pictured are some of my most highly recommended:
Healing Herbal Salve: All-around superstar healing salve for any wound. (St John’s Wort, calendula, comfrey, plantain)
Fungi Foe Salve: Great anti-fungal and antibacterial salve gentle enough for all your intimate bits. (Oregano, calendula)
Knit Together Salve: Excellent healer for internal injuries such as sprains, broken bones and muscle tears. (comfrey)
Bye Bye Bruise Salve: Perfect to heal and possibly prevent bruising. This one is amazing to watch work! The sooner you get it on the bump, the more effective it is. (arnica)
Calendula Salve: An excellent skin healer, wound healer, scar repairer and overall comforting, healing salve. (calendula)
Clear Chest Salve: A powerhouse for helping to clear up respiratory distress and infection. A must have for cold and flu season. (white horehound, thyme, sage)
Thyme Salve: Particularly useful when dealing with infection of any kind. (thyme)
Photo credit: Zeinep Yessenbekova
A friend of mine asked me to help her with an herbal remedy for her under eye dark circles.
This was a new request and I was excited to dig into some research in order to help my friend.
I read up on ways to help with dark circles and almost all of my resources had similar thoughts on the subject.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Fatigue is the most common cause of dark circles under your eyes. Sometimes, what appear to be dark circles under your eyes may merely be shadows cast by puffy eyelids or hollows under your eyes that develop as a normal part of aging.
Some of the most common causes of true under-eye circles are:
She is up for some trial and error, so we began with a turmeric and almond oil paste. She applies it at night and leaves it on for 30 minutes before washing it off. In the morning, there are still traces of the unique turmeric yellow stain, but this easily vanishes during her shower.
My friend has seen marked improvement with this method after two weeks.
What was amazing, is that nothing fancy is needed:
Slowly add almond oil to turmeric powder until you achieve a thick paste consistency.
Store sealed in the fridge.
Apply to a thick coat to the skin under the eyes.
Leave for at least a half an hour.
Be careful to spot test a place on your skin. Fair-skinned people may experience staining of the skin.
Safety Note: Dr. Mark Jacquot, clinical director at LensCrafters, recently explained that ‘the skin around your eyes is particularly sensitive and can be prone to allergic reactions, irritation, or other injuries’. So please test the area first before continuing.
Turmeric: anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, skin protectant, increases circulation,
Almond oil: high in vitamin A, anti-oxidant, easily absorbed into the skin, aids in regenerating skin cells and decreasing inflammation.