• Tea bud and leaves. Tea plantations, Sri Lanka
    Herbs & Ingredients

    Tea, before the cuppa

    Have you ever seen Tea (Camellia sinensis) growing? I never realized the Tea plant is an evergreen shrub (to small tree) that can be harvested for 40-100 years, depending on the variety. The young shoots, leaves and buds, are usually picked by hand as machinery is too rough on the tender leaves and may damage them. There are four basic categories of Tea- white, green, oolong, and black-  and each uses a different method of processing after harvest for its different qualities. For green Tea, the leaves are quickly heated, either steamed or pan-fried, then dried to prevent oxidation of the leaves. This allows the Tea to retain its green…

  • ripe mangoes on a tree
    Herbs & Ingredients,  Natural Skin Care

    The answer? Mango butter.

    When you want one effective, natural bodycare ingredient that can be used many different ways, most people think of Shea butter, right? But if you have nut or latex allergies, you probably steer clear as Shea butter has been known to cause reaction. A perfect substitute is Mango butter, the fatty acid that’s expeller-pressed from the seeds of mangoes. Similar to Shea butter, it’s semi-solid at room temperature and melts on contact with skin, quickly adding moisture to soften and soothe without feeling greasy. (–> here’s a cool video showing a woman breaking open a mango seed and scooping out the butter- unfortunately, I don’t see a way to get subtitles…

  • clawfoot bathtub
    Herbs & Ingredients,  Natural Skin Care

    Immerse Yourself in Plant World

    Guess we need reminding, since life can be so distractingly busy: To be healthy, we need to spend time outdoors. Nature is good for you, and many studies have been done to lend scientific proof. This article, “How Nature is good for our health and happiness“, explores a 30-day study where people felt better both physically and mentally after being outside every day. It also talks about how feeling that connection to Nature motivates people to protect it, helping the health of the environment. But what can you do when you’re stressed, frazzled, grumpy, overwhelmed or burnt out, and seriously do not have the time or energy to get out…

  • closeup of bright yellow st. johnswort flowers
    Herbs & Ingredients,  Recipes & How-To's

    Surviving the change of season

    A belated Happy Autumn to you! And as if I wasn’t already feeling low enough about Summer’s end, the season change has brought me a throat virus. My throat is like my early-warning signal . When I start getting run down, a sore throat is always the first symptom. If I pay attention to it (start going to bed on time, make sure I’m eating well, load up on herbal tea with elderberry syrup, take a hot soak in the tub), it usually resolves without becoming anything more than a sore throat. But if I don’t pay attention and let it go for a couple days… Well, it worsens and…

  • assortment of herbs with mortar and pestle
    Herbs & Ingredients,  Natural Skin Care,  The Latest News

    There she goes (reformulating) again

    Maybe I make it harder than it has to be. But, you know, I want my skincare creations to be perfect and for me that means ingredients that are organic, fair trade, and from as close to home as possible. Which means I have to say goodbye to Watermelon seed oil. I’m hooked on this oil! It’s light, it’s nutritious, so beautiful and so good for skin. Unfortunately, I can’t find it organic. So I’m reformulating my balm recipes and bringing in organic Safflower oil and organic virgin Sunflower oil, two lovely oils I’ve worked with before but kindof forgot as I got caught up with the more exotic options.…

  • patch of chickweed flowering
    Herbs & Ingredients

    Who here loves Weeds?

    Weeds = the common plants that grow abundantly with no help at all from the gardener. I adore them! Chickweed (Stellaria media) is one of my all-time favorite plants. It likes cooler temperatures, so it’s one of the first herbs I see pop up in the Spring (always a cause for celebration!). Chickweed is succulent and low-growing, sprawls like a ground cover and spreads quickly where it’s happy, engulfing entire garden beds, landing it the “weed” label. My dad curses it every year as he rips it out of his garden. Telling him Chickweed is an “indicator plant”, indicating healthy soil because it only grows where the soil is rich, didn’t change his feelings at all. A favorite…

  • white yarrow flowers close-up
    Herbs & Ingredients,  Natural Skin Care

    Got Skin? Get Yarrow.

    Yarrow flowers close-up (image courtesy of trakaislapsis/123RF)   Yarrow is a plant many people recognize as it’s commonly seen in gardens and growing wild. It has a pretty flower and is a beneficial companion plant both for vegetables and herbs. It’s the go-to herb to treat wounds and cuts as it disinfects, stops bleeding by speeding blood clotting, promotes tissue repair, and reduces inflammation. (To get the medicine though, it has to be the Yarrow with white flowers. Modern, colorful cultivars don’t have it.) In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, Yarrow is astringent so it’s used in skincare to reduce the size of pores and the appearance of fine lines. Most often found in…

  • Herbs & Ingredients

    Yarrow, January’s Herb of the Month

    Each month, I focus on one herb to write about. January’s herb is Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Though sometimes said to be native to Eurasia, Yarrow is also a North American native. It is believed that the Yarrow now found growing wild here is a hybrid of the two. Yarrow has been used medicinally by many cultures and also has a long history of use in magic and divination. One example I’ve always found intriguing is the Chinese tradition of using 50 Yarrow stalks to consult the I Ching. Irish folklore teaches that even just to dream that you are gathering Yarrow foretells of good fortune. Yarrow was believed to be protective and often…

  • fresh sage
    Herbs & Ingredients,  The Latest News

    It’s Winter Solstice- Celebrate with Sage

    Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the beginning of Winter. We toast days past and make plans for the year to come… One herb I associate with Winter is Sage. It’s in lots of recipes for cold weather foods, and drinking and gargling with the tea is an old remedy for cold weather coughs and sore throats. Probably another reason I think of Sage as a Winter herb- Sage is practically evergreen in my garden. The leaves get small and curl in the frigid temperatures but they and their stalks keep standing, even in the snow. It reminds me the garden is still there, though out of…

  • Herbs & Ingredients,  Natural Skin Care

    How to use Sage Balm

    Herbal balms are a simple, natural way to care for your skin. Similar to herbal salves which are made with oil and wax, balms also contain vegetable butter, making them extra rich and moisturizing. Balms can be used for both healing and beauty. I use them all the time for everything from daily moisturizer to gardening nicks and scrapes to seriously dry hands and feet. Garden Sage is a great herb to use topically, alone or in combination with other herbs. Because Sage has antiseptic properties, it can be used to treat cuts and wounds. Sage is also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, and has been shown to help with acne as well as…