Herb of the Week: Tea Tree Oil

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Tea Tree Oil is a versatile, all purpose remedy to a variety of skin conditions.  I have used it on bug bites, rashes, and acne.  A serious disinfectant, add it to all purpose salves and use it as an improvised wound cleaner for scrapes and grazes.  If you make your own chest rub, a combination of this, eucalyptus, and rosemary will help congestion.  If you can only afford to buy one or two essential oils, this and lavender are the best to have in your medicine cabinet.

Although the aromatherapy tradition uses tea tree oil as a stimulant and energy balancer, I think it shines more in medicinal uses.

In natural home care, a few drops added to a counter cleaning spray will disinfect your counters and get rid of lingering food smells.

Cold Season Preparations

I realize it’s August and a long way away from cold season.  Yet today when I woke up, there was a tickle in my throat and my muscles ached.  That time of year is quickly approaching.

There are a few things you can do now to prevent and shorten colds and flus.  Mind you, there’s not a full-on cure.  But there are measures you can take to get back on your feet faster.

  • Stock Up on Antibacterial Soap: There is always a run on hand soap and hand sanitizer in September and October.  Getting enough for the winter now will ensure you have the best possible fighter of disease in your arsenal.  Remember to use it before every meal, after every trip to the restroom, and as often in public as possible.
  • Find Out What Works for You: There are a lot of herbal remedies for colds and flus.  I personally prefer pounding water, several doses of tincture of rosemary, a couple of Epson salt baths to sooth my muscles, and switching between ginger-lemon and echinacea teas.  I found this out by experimenting for a cold season.  If you don’t know what herbs work for your cold remedy needs, take this winter and experiment with ginger, citrus, echinacea, rosemary, etc.
  • Shots, If You NEED Them: I know a lot of people are wary of flu shots and I am definitely in that camp.  But I am also fairly healthy and my immune system can take a beating.  I am not old or young or chronically ill or work/live with anyone in these categories.  If you are in those groups, talk to your doctor about a flu shot.  Most likely they will say get it.  If you are not but are thinking about getting one, do your research and if need be talk to your doctor.
  • Make Your Tinctures Now:  Worse feeling in the world when you know how to treat the sniffles but don’t have the tools.
  • Find a Good Sleep Remedy: Rest is key to getting over any illness, yet it’s impossible to do. Skullcap, valerian, and lavender tinctures as well as chamomile (as well as the other mentioned herbs) tea is fabulous.

© Ariadne Woods

Lunchtime Couscous

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If you’ve never worked with couscous before, you’re seriously missing out.  A type of pasta made from semolina, it originally comes from Morocco.  It is insanely easy to cook (1 cup of couscous, 2 cups boiling water, stir together in glass bowl, cover, and leave alone for 5-7 minutes, fluff with a fork, DONE!).  Health wise, it is a vegetarian’s best friend with 6 g of protein.  But the best thing about couscous is while it has a distinct, almost nutty taste, it also absorbs tons of flavor.

Back in my vegetarian days, I created a couple of salads for lunch packed with protein to get me through the day. This is a bit of an unconventional, yet tasty use of couscous with more of a California feel and lots of protein and good fats.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of couscous, cooked and slightly cooled
  • 1 can of light kidney beans
  • 1 medium-large sweet potato, baked or microwaved, cooled, and diced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • A couple splashes of olive oil
  • A few shakes of paprika or chili powder
  • Salt and pepper

Combine the first 4 ingredients (couscous, beans, potato, and onions) in a bowl and fluff with a fork to combine.  Add avocado, but before fluffing juice the lime over the mixture to keep the avocado from browning.  Add the rest of the ingredients, mix, and enjoy!

© Ariadne Woods

Helpful Proportions

While most proportions in herbalism are instinctual, there are some guidelines that are helpful.

  • Tinctures: Usually just covering the herb with the vodka, vinegar, oil, etc. is the best proportion.  If all else fails, overbuy on the liquid just in case.  Seal and store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks.
  • Balms: 1/4 cup of beeswax to every cup of oil.  Remember to test by putting a little bit o the mixture on a spoon and putting it on a freezer for a minute.
  • Teas: To start creating a blend, do a 1:1 for every herb and adjust from there.
  • Cooking Blends: Like teas, 1:1.
  • Bath Salts: Equal parts Epson and sea salt, plus a couple drops of essential oil.

© Ariadne Woods

Herb of the Week: St. John’s Wort

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St John’s Wort is famous for its effects on mental health.  It can be taken as part of a holistic healing program for mild to moderate depression (see a mental health professional to determine the degree of your blues).  

However St John’s is not for everyone.  It is a powerful drug that also affects the liver.  Taking too much as once can cause serious damage.  NEVER take it if you have cirrosis or any chronic liver condition.  There are also cases of St John’s having an adverse affect on mental health and making depression worse, especially if you take additional medication.  Consult a mental health professional about possible drug interactions.

Bottom line: be careful and start slow.

The best way to start taking St John’s Wort is in a tea blend, just a pinch in the entire batch to start.  If no side effects present themselves, then increase the dosage if needed.  Capsules are more convenient, but unless put together by an herbalist they can be really strong.

Also, St John’s can put made into great all-purpose salves.  Rosemary Gladstarr has an excellent recipe in her book Herbal Healing for Women.

© Ariadne Woods

Citrus Bath

Herbal baths are kind of like making a big batch of tea.  You’re using the fresh or dried herb to get the purest form of the beneficial compounds of the plant.  They are a bit messy, but worth it.

This recipe softens skin and and is great in the summer months for is energetic scent.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart container of equal parts Epson and sea salt.  If not using right away, add a tablespoon of baking soda as an anticaking agent.
  • A handful of dried parsley
  • Zest of 1 orange, 1 lemon, and 1 lime.  You can add the essential oils of any of these three if desired.
  • 1 quart of whole milk

Combine the dry ingredients and let set for a few minutes or until ready to use.  Throw 5 good handfuls of the salt and carton the milk into a warm, running bath.  Enjoy!

© Ariadne Woods