Monks Hood! The most Wicked Pretty Thing in the Garden!

 

By Kathleen M Hale, Western Reserve Herb Society Unit Chair

 

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Aconitum, as any kid who used to watch the television show Teen Wolf can tell you, is also commonly known as “Wolf’s Bane”.  As in, this late summer blooming member of the delphinium family has wicked mojo in repelling werewolves. I believe the sleek, hormone driven werewolves in question referred specifically to “Blue Wolf’s Bane”.  That doesn’t narrow the search much: the flowers are usually blue, although there are white and purple varieties.

 

I can’t tell you how effective Aconitum is against werewolves.  But it is also known as “Mouse Bane”, “Leopard Bane” and “Women’s Bane”, and I can tell you that I fit one of those categories, and it never kept me away.  Aconitum is a beautiful plant. It thrives in partial shade, doesn’t mind damp feet, and produces its spires of heavenly blue flowers just when the garden is starting to look like it might be thinking of winding things up for fall. It will generally thrive in the same garden as its spring flowering cousins, delphinium and hellebore.

 

Of course, most of Aconitum’s 250 or so varieties are also extremely poisonous. That may be how the attribution “Bane” tended to come up.  There are stories of tipping javelin points in an Aconitum preparation in order to assist in dispatching dangerous prey. Not women, obviously.

It is the poison that dispatched Hamlet, and a few of his nearest and/or dearest when it was applied by the evil Claudius to Laertes’ dueling sword.

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Another series of common names for Aconitum reflect the idea that each individual flower on the stalk resembles some sort of hat, hence “Devil’s Helmet” or the more common “Monk’s Hood”. I remember how hard I tried to imagine little foxes wearing gloves after hearing the common name for Digitalis. I’m afraid this is something of the same story.

 

 

Aconitum plants contain a powerful neurotoxin, aconitine, which can kill almost instantaneously. There is no antidote.  Treatment is mostly supportive.  There is some success in purging the toxin from the victim’s system with charcoal. Every part of the plant is toxic to humans.  Just touching the plant has sometimes been associated with headache, nausea, and numbness and tingling in the area affected, although not death.  But, wash your hands after handling it!

 

Although there have been cases of homicide through the use of Aconitum, more cases of toxicity arise from people foraging and eating it themselves, either through a mistaken identification or because it’s so pretty. However, those who have lived to tell the tale say that it tastes nasty. Then your mouth goes numb.

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It almost goes without saying (but when did that ever stop me?) that there are some who claim therapeutic value for teas or tinctures made from Aconitum. Don’t do it.  If a therapeutic dose exists, it is just too close to a dose that would be harmful or fatal.  The word, “neurotoxin”, is one obvious tip off. However, we are told that the esteemed, if fictional, herbalist, Brother Cadfael, made a preparation of Aconitum. “Its roots make an excellent rub to remove pain, but it is very potent if swallowed.”  As, of course, it is.  See the Brother Cadfael mystery novel titled, “Monk’s-Hood”.

 

There is a great deal of ancient lore about Aconitus. It is also named hecateis, after the goddess Hecate. It is reputed to be an important ingredient in potions that promote flying, but it is also employed to dispatch unfaithful lovers (Medea tried to kill Theseus with it) or upstart rivals (Athene used it to cut short her weaving competition with Arachne).

 

Pliny the Elder, who was such a devoted naturalist that his life was cut short by venturing too close to the Vesuvian eruption for the sake of science, had this deliciously ominous thing to say about Aconitus: “it is in its nature to kill a human being unless in that being it finds something else to destroy.”

 

Now that’s wicked!

 

 

 

Western Reserve Herb Society Medicinal Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regards to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk. 


Herbal Self Pampering to help Soothe the Savage Flu!

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By Beth Schreibman Gehring, Chairman of Education - Western Reserve Herb Society

It’s that time of year! I saw a funny meme yesterday that said, "Welcome to Fall..the time of the year when you need a sweater in the morning and are sweltering by the afternoon!"

It's so true! Autumn with all of it's changing weather has begun in earnest and all of the merriment and accompanying stresses of the holiday season are about to begin. As a way of winding down from all of the highs and lows of the season, so many of us seem to get sick on the 2nd of January! I’ve said for years that I truly believe that sometimes, catching a bug is our bodies way of trying to get us to relax for a bit!

Periods of hibernation, or seasonal contemplation as I’ve taken to calling them are a must for keeping our bodies resilient in this world with all of its external interruptions and stressors. I'm hoping that this article will help all of you think about ways that you can take care of yourself right now, so that by January, you're relaxed and feeling better than ever!'

Over the years I’ve learned to use my trusted herbal allies for supporting my immunity when I feel as if I could be perilously close to getting sick and when the flu or a cold actually hits me, I use many different herbs to help minimize my symptoms and overall discomfort.

Let's begin with the easiest and the best! My favorite tried and true recipe for Autumn pampering, once the heat has turned on? Earl Grey tea with honey, lemon, orange slices, several cloves, a slice of fresh ginger, a pinch of cayenne,  a cinnamon stick and a small tot of Bushmills Irish whiskey, more commonly known as a hot toddy! Just one steaming mug of this brew and I'm relaxed and ready to face whatever stresses the day might bring! If you don't drink alcohol, simply leave it out. The cayenne isn't a traditional part of the remedy, but it's so helpful for warming and calming a dry cough that I like to include it. 

My mother taught me many years ago that the single most important thing that you can do when you are ill or trying to stave off an illness, is to pamper yourself completely. She would always bring our breakfast on a bed tray, served on a pretty cup, bowl and plate and always with a bud vase with flowers. I got strep throat frequently as a child so breakfast was usually something soft, like a bowl of her wonderful chicken, rice and mushroom soup with thyme, cream and an egg beaten into it. She also used to make me an old-fashioned milk pudding that she called Junket which I loved, that she flavored with sherry, cinnamon and nutmeg. It always helped.

I still have a bed tray for myself and one in my Airbnb. I have many guests who come to stay that are recovering from surgery or other illnesses.  They have told me that being able to just relax and have their meals in bed without concern really helps to support their healing process.   If you can’t find a bed tray, you can use an old carving board or tray and it will work just as well! 

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The other thing my mother was absolutely insistent about was that if I was sick, it was especially the time for just a bit of lip gloss, some facial moisturizer, a touch of perfume and particularly lovely pajamas. She’d brush my hair out until it was shiny, touch up my lips and face (a big help because then your skin will resist chapping!) and put just a drop or two of one of her lovely perfumes on my wrists and neck. She’d take me into the library, seat me right by the window and wrap me up in a blanket with a hot cup of lavender, sage and lemon balm tea and hand me a book.  When I looked in the mirror I hardly ever looked as bad as I was feeling and you know what? I always started to feel better.  Simply taking the time for a bit of self-care is absolutely a necessity for supporting the healing process.

Although my mother used her lovely Shalimar bath oil for our convalescence, over the years I’ve learned to take my  baths with a tablespoon of sweet almond oil mixed with 3 drops each of essential oils of lavender (supportive and relaxing), rose oil (supports the reduction of inflammation) and sweet birch (to promote sweating). This really seems to always help with congestion, aches and fevers. Please remember to never use essential oils in your baths without a carrier oil. Even in the smallest dosages, essential oils are strong and they need the emollient qualities of an oil like almond or olive to serve as a soothing delivery system for your skin. 

Last winter I caught the flu and I've never been quite as sick as I was for that month. The newest strains of influenza are really dangerous, turning into pneumonia or ending with a cough that can last for over a month. Even with a flu shot, people are experiencing severe and longer periods of illness, that are unprecedented.

Once I realized that I didn’t have a simple head cold, I took myself to the urgent care center so I knew what I was dealing with. It was determined that I had the dreaded Influenza A. The doctor could prescribe nothing for it, and simply sent me home with the instructions to just stay in bed and drink lots of hot liquids and to call him if it got worse. I spent several days in bed and took care of myself using all of the herbal remedies that I knew would help support the healing process. 

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What did I do? I immediately went into my freezer for homemade bone broth and into my  herb and spice cupboard for my favorite wellness support!

Herb and spice filled chicken broths are well known to promote the movement of nasal congestion and thought to have anti- inflammatory and anti-viral properties. I always begin to feel better with every bowl I eat, proving once again the old adage..."Let your food be your medicine!”

For an immune-boosting soup I take cues from the Legend of the Four Thieves. In this story, aromatherapy, herbal and alchemical worlds collide and take on mythical proportions. The legend takes place when the bubonic plague hit Europe and killed large percentages of the population.

Supposedly four thieves from Marseilles were robbing plague-ridden corpses without getting sick. They are thought to have been perfumers with access to and knowledge of essential oils, herbs and spices.

At their trial the King offered the thieves leniency in return for the formula that protected them from the plague.  Their immunity boosting list included lavender, sage, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme, onion, mustard seed, cloves, oregano and lemon.

While the legend has never been confirmed, all of the herbs and spices (except eucalyptus) read like a delicious and immune-boosting chicken soup recipe to me; so into the stock pot they go. If I’m lucky enough to have fresh stinging nettles that’s a mineral rich bonus. I've learned to be prepared and this year during nettle season, I harvested plenty to go into the freezer. 

To serve this soup,  I will often top each bowl with whole basil leaves, hard boiled eggs, a slice or two of chicken, a dash of Himalayan salt and a squeeze of fresh lime. I can’t help but feel better with every bowl I eat. The same bone broth laced with nettles, onions,  leeks, garlic, egg noodles and coconut milk is a very soothing sip for a sore throat!

Legions of Jewish and Asian grandmothers absolutely knew what they were doing!

Another application of the Four Thieves legend is to make a simple spray. I make it with white wine vinegar and  essential oils -- lemon, lavender, cinnamon, clove, rosemary, sage, oregano, white thyme and eucalyptus. My formula is three cups of vinegar and 20 drops of each oil.  To use it I shake well and spray  countertops, cellphones and other surfaces. 

These same oils can also be diffused in an essential oil diffuser. Likewise, mixed into a body cream or lotion, eucalyptus oil, lemon, sage and lavender oils (no more than three drops of each oil!) make a soothing, aroma-therapeutic chest rub.

I hope we’ll never need these recipes to protect from anything as serious as the bubonic plague and I hope that none of you catch any of the awful bugs that are beginning to go around.  However, if you do, please treat yourself to some soothing herbal self-care and pampering.  I promise that you’ll feel better and if you can sooth yourself into feeling just little bit better, it always seems like the body will reach deeply into its own healing reservoirs and do the rest of the work for you. 

Somewhere as I’m typing, I hear my mother’s sweet laughter and the smell of her oniony, velvety chicken soup is suddenly wafting through my senses. It’s amazing how potent the memory is.  She would be pleased to know that I still own a bed tray and that I always use her lovely sick bed dishes with the raised purple violets.

 

Yes mama…you always did know best. 

Thank you.

 

Medicinal Disclaimer and About the Western Reserve Herb Society

In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regards to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk. 

 

 


Play in the Dirt!

By Kathleen Gips - Western Reserve Herb Society Past Unit Chair, Author and lover of all things Floral, Herbal and Fairie-like

 

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Blanche Harvey, a beloved former member of our unit, might flinch and fuss even today if she heard us call her revered soil “dirt” instead of “earth.” However, “play in the earth” does not have quite the same appeal as “play in the dirt.” "Play in the dirt" is a common phrase in the gardening world today on t-shirts, signs, book titles and hats, but do we ever really play in the dirt?

 

How did we gardeners get so clean? Today we have plethora of fancy garden shoes and garden gloves in all styles, patterns and prices. All designed to keep us out of the dirt. What happened to being dirty? My Dad was a gardener, a mower of grass, a slayer of weeds, a tender of roses, a keeper of petunias, a picker of tomatoes.

 

And he was always barefoot. Always outside, always barefoot. I remember that his feet and hands were the color of dirt. He was healthy and happy in the garden. Even in his late 80's he was in his garden, barefoot and with his feet and hands in the dirt. Have you heard the latest news about dirt? Researchers claim that the beneficial bacteria in rich soil can release the feel-good hormone in our brain, serotonin, which helps to increase happiness and cure depression.

 

When I work in the rich soil around my garden, I think of the gardeners who have toiled the soil around my home for over 120 years. The earth is black, rich, moist, alive. This dirt is teeming with bacteria, but I feel happy in the garden. A sense of peace surrounds me. It feels good.

 

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One thing you’ll always notice when you come to visit us in our herb gardens is that our members are always so happy  as they are when working in the dirt? Come visit us in our herb garden and you will feel good too! Studies show that dirt gardening, putting your hands in rich, organic soil makes you happy. Our senses become alive and our spirits are lifted, all from having our hands in the dirt, and as an added bonus, our immune system gets a boost. Research concludes that microbes in the soil can contribute to our longevity. Gardeners must nurture the soil and give it what it needs to be rich and alive with bacteria, so the dirt can give back to us!

 

So, to summarize playing in the dirt easily results in happiness and perhaps a longer life. What more could we ask? When was the last time you took your shoes off and walked barefoot through the herb garden? Try it. Feel the cool soil on the soles of your feet and between your toes. Step on the thyme and inhale the pungent fragrance. Think of a time long ago when thyme was strewn on the floors to carpet the ground and provide comfort and protection from insects and disease. Remove your gloves. Touch the earth and your treasured herbs. Feel the texture of the sage and mint. Inhale their fragrance. Get dirt under your nails and between your toes.

 

Be healthy.

 

Feel happy. So, whether you call it earth, soil or dirt, invite someone to go barefoot in your herb garden with you! Play in the dirt and get dirty!

 

 

Western Reserve Herb Society Medicinal Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regards to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk. 

 


Immunity Supporting and Spicy Fire Cider!

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By Beth Schreibman Gehring, Chairman of Education - Western Reserve  Herb Society

I don't know how cold it is where you live but here in Northeast Ohio,  it's going to be getting very chilly, very soon! In November when the temperatures begin to dip into the lower digits and the impending holiday madness is looming, I can really begin to feel rundown, almost like I just want to hibernate for a while. That's when I know that it's time to make a batch of immune enhancing fire cider!

Fire cider was made popular many decades ago by Rosemary Gladstar who is one of our most knowledgeable and traditional American herbalists. It  is a well-known and well-loved immune support and balance remedy full of warming herbs, roots, vegetables and spices. Everything used in it is dedicated to warming the blood, promoting immunity and better circulation while helping to stimulate the digestion and the lymph system.

Every herbalist seems to make theirs just a little bit differently so fire cider never tastes the same from one batch to the next. I like mine very spicy and heavy on the garlic and horseradish. I add beets for color and also as a blood purifier. Warning! Just a little of this goes a long way and if you've got blocked sinuses, this is your perfect food! Always remember that these herbs and spices are strong and can sometimes  cause contraindications with medicines you may be taking . Always check with your Doctor or Pharmacist first.

 I hope that you'll have so much fun making your own batch of fire cider this year. Herbal remedies like these have always been passed down from generation to generation; almost every herbal culture has some form of this wellness remedy.

 Unlike most of my tinctures that  usually call for alcohol or glycerin,  fire cider is vinegar based so it's really a fermented food , not just an herbal medicine. The apple cider vinegar base is so good for your digestion and it helps you to create an alkaline environment in your body,  which is necessary to support the immune system’s ability  to function in tip- top shape.

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For each mason jar of Fire Cider you will need:

1/3  cup of chopped onion

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh horseradish root

1 tablespoon of chopped Jalapeno

2 tablespoons of chopped red beet

2 tablespoons of chopped ginger

2 tablespoons of chopped garlic

1 cinnamon stick

1 stem of fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon each of Turmeric and Mustard Seed

1 slice of lemon

Layer all of these in a mason jar and cover with several tablespoons of a dry red wine (full of antioxidants) and raw apple cider vinegar. Close the jars and shake until the ingredients are well blended and let them settle. this year I used my Cuisinart to chop the vegetables and I noticed that within two hours everything had settled in the jar and I needed to add more apple cider vinegar, an outcome that I really liked. Note that you want everything steeping under  the liquid to prevent spoilage. Next let them steep for a week or two in a cool dark place, then when you are ready, strain and decant the fire cider into a larger jar. Add several tablespoons of raw honey and stir. Then strain the fire cider into small dark glass bottles or a larger bottle if you like and refrigerate. When you're feeling rundown, you can take a teaspoon of it but prepare yourself. The heat produces such a wonderful energy, not a burning, but a warmth that spreads all the way down to your toes! 

I also like to use my fire cider to cook with. You can make slaw with it or thicken it with even more honey and use it as a glaze for a delicious pork tenderloin or chicken stir-fry. How about mixing it with a bit of walnut oil for a perfect salad dressing. Because of the earthy balancing nature of the ingredients used, I like to mix my fire cider with nut oils, not olive because I think that the blend tastes richer. Last but not least although I know that it sounds a bit blasphemous,  fire cider is absolutely delicious mixed into tomato juice and makes a perfect Bloody Mary! Any way you use it, you'll be very glad that you've taken the time to make a batch the next time that you're feeling just a wee bit chilled and under the weather.  

Western Reserve Herb Society Medicinal Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regard to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk. 


Sinister Beauty Attends Herb Society Luncheon!

 

By Kathleen M. Hale Unit Chair- Western Reserve Herb Society

 

From Kathleen- This was my first herbal blog post, from October of 2016.  The gateway drug for me: I found out that I love to write this stuff.  I present this now in part because, darn, if this plant isn’t back in my garden, but also because we are having a lot of discussions just now in our Unit about poisonous plants and what to do about them.  So I hope to write portraits of some of our most Wicked Plants in the next few days.  But this is where I started.

 

 Last week I put together a bunch of table top floral arrangements for the Western Reserve Herb Society October Unit Meeting in a bit of a hurry.   I threw together a selection of yard flowers and peppers just now maturing from my over enthusiastic planting in the spring. The pretty filler in the arrangement came from a perennial that I had also planted in the spring, under the impression it was Joe Pye weed.  When it finally started blooming in the early fall it was clear that I was mistaken.  It looked like this:

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Pretty, right?  When I was asked to identify the mystery flower, my lame observation that I thought it was Joe Pye Weed met with the pitying scorn it deserved.  So I looked it up to redeem myself, and the answer is much more interesting, menacing and twisted. No innocent pearly everlasting.  This was Ageratina altissima, also known as White Snakeroot, Richweed, White Sanicle, Tall Boneset, and (I must point out) White Joe Pye Weed.

White snake root is fairly bursting with the toxin tremetol.  It is native to the American Midwest and Upper South, and when the first Europeans brought livestock to the area, the combination was lethal. The animals themselves would, after eating the leaves or stems of the White Snake Root plant, develop “the Trembles”, which is pretty much what it sounds like. But worse. 

If people drank the milk from a cow suffering from the Trembles, the results were seizures, vomiting and death.  The link between affected cows and milk was easy enough to trace, and the disorder was commonly known as Milk Sickness.  Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, died from Milk Sickness in 1818, and so did many, particularly in the Ohio Valley.

But to establish the link with White Snake Root took a more subtle mind, and here we encounter a woman that I think we should hear more about, Dr. Anna Pierce Hobbs Bixby.  In the 1830’s Dr. Bixby heard from an unidentified Shawnee woman about the toxic nature of White Snake Root. Once the link was established, farmers began to eradicate White Snake Root, although, apparently, you can still buy it at garden centers as a perennial that does well in damp areas with indifferent light. 

And.. a preparation from the root is traditionally held to be an antidote to snake bite.

So, there’s that.

 

 

Medicinal Disclaimer and About the Western Reserve Herb Society

In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regards to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk. 

 

 


Herb Talks ~ Luscious, Lemony Scented Herbs with Kate Williams & Mary Lynn Fruit!

We wanted to let you know that the last of our 2019 WRHS Herb Talks in the garden will be held on the terrace  on September the 19th at 11:00 am.

Join Western Reserve Herb Society members and culinary gardeners Kate Williams and Mary Lynn Fruit as they share all kind of wonderful tips and tricks about fragrant and  luscious lemony herbs and how to grow and use them!  

 


Making Luscious Herb and Fruit Infused Waters & Teas

By Beth Schreibman Gehring, Education Chair for the Western Reserve Herb Society 

 

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“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” 

― Muriel Barbery,

 

 

Drinking enough water, especially on these hot summer days is so very important , but not always easy to do. Truthfully it’s important to hydrate all year round, for in the winter we may not be battling the summer heat but instead the skin drying environments that our furnaces produce. Enjoying a tall glass or two of  lemon and herb water daily will help to hydrate the skin, balance alkalinity, and make you glow from within all year long.

 

I love to infuse filtered water with any number of herbs, spices, edible flowers, fruit and even vegetables! Infused water is delicious, refreshing and needs no added sugar. On occasion I’ll add a pinch of Himalayan salt and some honey or maple syrup for added energy! I’ve included my recipe for honey syrup below. It’s so much better for you than sugar!

 

Not only is it wonderful mixed into these infusions, it’s a terrific sweetener for iced tea or coffee because It will sweeten the tea and you won’t have any trouble stirring it in! Untitled design - 2019-08-04T174935.825

Here are some quick and easy tips for making Your Own Fruit and Herbal Infusions and teas!

 

Don't be afraid to mix and combine herbs. If the scents mingle well, the flavors probably will too!

 

The longer you steep your herbs in the water, the stronger the flavor will be. However sometimes long steeping makes the infusion bitter, so experiment and figure out when your infusion  is just the way you like it. There are no strict brewing rules.

 

Add a squirt or splash of fruit juice to the infusion and transform it into an herbal punch. You can stir in homemade jams or jellies. You can create these with sparkling water as well as still water.

 

 

Basic herb/fruit  Infusion recipe

A pitcher or container of filtered water

Your herbs, washed and rinsed

Fruits, vegetables and spices- cut and prepared

Mix everything together in a container of water and stir. I love to use a cocktail muddler, but you may want to use a wooden spoon. Refrigerate for an hour, add ice and stir. If you wish , you can make an individual serving, using a mason jar. It’s up to you!

 

 

Here are some suggestions to flavor your infused waters- Choose as many as you want!

 

Herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Mint, Holy Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, Anise Hyssop, Dill, Lavender, Rose Geranium

 

Edible flowers: Rose, Lavender, Citrus Blossoms, Hibiscus, Pansies, Violets, Nasturtiums

 

Fruit: Berries (Fresh or Frozen),Peaches and Nectarines,  Melon, Tropical Fruits, Citrus, Apples, Pears

 

Spices: Cinnamon Sticks, Cardamom Pods, Fresh Ginger, Cloves, Vanilla Bean, Star Anise, Pink Peppercorns

 

Vegetables: Cucumber, Celery, Fennel, Carrots, Beets, Asparagus

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Making Honey Syrup

 

To make a simple honey syrup just take equal parts honey and water, place them into a saucepan and heat them until the honey has melted into the water. You can make stronger flavored and thicker syrup by using two parts honey to one-part water. Honey syrup will keep for up to two weeks in a capped jar.

 

You can also add fresh lemon and orange peel,  lemon thyme, cinnamon basil , lemongrass , cinnamon stick, pink pepper, ginger , star anise or other herbs to the syrup while it is heating and allow it to infuse for about an hour. Then strain the syrup while it’s still warm and refrigerate.

 

I like to always remind people that historically, herbs were the original medicines. So many of them are very safe when used correctly, but if you are taking any prescription medications at all, don’t use herb teas for medicinal purposes until you’ve spoken with your Doctor.

 

Even more helpful is your local pharmacist who is the absolute authority on what herbs can contraindicate with the medicines that you are taking. For example, the simple cranberry is the go-to fruit to stave off a urinary tract infection.  It can be very effective in that capacity, but if you are taking a blood thinner such as Coumadin, it can also be very dangerous, causing your blood to thin more than it is supposed to.

 

Just a reminder although I know that it’s become very fashionable to do so, I and most experienced aromatherapists do not ever recommend that you   use essential oils internally, especially mixed in water for flavoring . Essential oils can be very caustic and many of us have seen our fair share of esophageal injury from their ingestion.

 

If you, like me, are tired of cane sugar sweetened soda drinks, or simply longing for a refreshing and healthy beverage that’s fun and different,  I hope that you’ll try to make your own refreshing herb and fruit waters. Two of my favorite combinations are watermelon, basil and blackberry with honey syrup and In the fall I really enjoy fresh apple slices muddled with cinnamon basil, maple syrup and muscadine grapes!  

 

I’d love to know some of your favorite combinations! Why don’t you leave them for me in the comments!

 

Western Reserve Herb Society Medicinal Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regards to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk. 

 

 

 

 


Our Brilliant Friend, Hildegard of Bingen

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Written by Kathleen M Hale, Western Reserve Herb Society Unit Chair 

 

Once upon a time, about 1098 to 1179, there was a little girl named Hildegard.  She was the tenth of ten children.  Her parents were “minor nobility”, but even ten noble kids are a lot of kids.  When she was eight, Hildegard’s parents gifted her to a convent.  Later, when she wrote her autobiography, she would say that she had started having visions from the time she was six.

In these visions, Hildegard witnessed “the fiery life of divine essence”, a living light. This light spoke to Hildegard (in Latin) and explained…everything. Some modern commentators speculate that Hildegard might have suffered from migraines. The visions tended to leave her drained and exhausted.

The care and education of little Hildegard was entrusted to a remarkable woman named Jutta. They lived together in a cottage on the grounds of the Abbey of Saint Disibode, founded by an Irish monk at Disibodenberg. Hildegard became a literate and accomplished woman, took vows as a nun, and continued to have visions. She wrote her first book, Scivias, which means “Know the Ways”, between 1141 and 1151, in which she talked about her visions.  She herself painted the image that became a part of the book, and portrayed her repeated vision of receiving light.  This is the most famous image.  She’s writing down things on a wax tablet, discussing things with her secretary. My children claim the image reminds them of various sci-fi alien visitations.  Hey, this was what Hildegard says she saw:

 

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The book was a great success.  The Bishop of Mainz read it, and passed it on to the Pope, Eugenius III, who himself became a fan. The literal “enlightenment” that Hildegard received from her visions was examined by the Pope and a special committee.  They concluded that her visions were divine. The Pope told her to go on and write whatever the Spirit told her to write.  Can you imagine what a big deal that was?  It was amazing!

 

 And the book was a big hit with women who wanted to join Hildegard, in her rather austere monastic life.  The community of women at Disodenberg outgrew its quarters.  So she up and moved to Rupertsberg, near Bingen.  Although she traveled widely, she lived mostly at Bingen for the rest of her life, writing other books…and a play…and music.  Hildegard wrote about everything. Theology, natural science and medicine were, for her, all part of the same spectrum of knowledge. Just for fun, she made up her own language. She corresponded with four popes and the crowned heads of Europe, giving them personal advice.

 

 This was, as her painting suggests, a woman on fire.

 

Hildegard’s book, Physica, or Liber Simplicis Medicinae, begins with the study of plants. She goes on, in her delightfully methodical way, to discuss elements, trees, stones, fish, birds, animals, reptiles and metals. The section on plants contains entries on more than two hundred plants with medicinal uses. Mostly, these were plants that could probably be found in the monastery garden or the nearby woods and fields.  Some were exotic, but could be purchased.  This was, after all, the time of the Crusades. People were traveling, and when they got back from all that bloodletting, they brought back cosmopolitan tastes.

 

Hildegard organized her observations about each plant in accordance with the understanding of the time: the division of all matter into combinations of the four elements of hot, cold, wet and dry. It was all a matter of balance.  This understanding of the universe sounds strange to modern ears.  But Hildegard was a renaissance woman before the renaissance. She may have made up her own language, but she expressed her understanding of the world in the language of the time.

 

Hildegard, while aware of the hand of God in all things, was essentially a pragmatist.  All things were created by God to serve man.  Good plants nourish, and restore elemental balance.  Bad plants may be used by the devil to bring ruin to those foolish enough to be deceived by them.

Here are some of Hildegard’s thoughts about some herbs you might have in your herb garden or pantry right now:

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  • LAVENDER (Lavendula) is warm and dry since it has just a little moisture. It is not worth a person to eat it, but it does have a strong smell.  If a person has many lice, let the person smell lavender frequently; the lice will die.  And its smell clears the eyes since it contains the power of the strongest aromas and the usefulness of the bitterest one.  Therefore, it constrains many evil things, and evil spirits are driven out by it.
  • NUTMEG (Nux Muscata) has great warmth and good temperament in its strength. If a person eats nutmeg, it opens the heart and purifies the senses and brings a good disposition.  Take some nutmeg, an equal weight of cinnamon, and a little cloves.  Grind these to a powder, add a similar amount of whole wheat flour and a little water, and make a paste from this.  Then eat it often.  It will calm all the bitterness of heart and mind, open the heart and clouded senses and diminish all the noxious humors; it will contribute good liquid to the blood and make one strong.
  • ROSE (Rosa) is cold and this same coldness has a useful temperament in it. At daybreak of in the morning, take a rose leaf and place it over your eye; this draws out the humor and makes it clear.  But let whoever has a weeping ulcer on his or her body, place a rose leaf over it and draw out the pus. But rose also strengthens any potion or ointment or other medication when it is added to it.  And these are so much better if only a little rose has been added to them.  This is from the good strength of the rose, as previously mentioned.

 

Cloves will help a stuffy nose, gout and dropsy.  Hellebore is good for a fever. Wild thyme is curative for those suffering from “a sick brain”.  And there are a lot of things that will foster sexual desire, with or without a corresponding increase in fertility.

 

This is a very small sample.  For more, see Bruce W Hozesli’s translation in Hildegard’s Healing Plants (2001).  It’s terrific fun.

 

Hildegard was obviously a woman of substantial importance in her own time.  A Jesuit friend of mine says she used to terrorize her local bishops. I love that. While the process of recognizing her as a saint of the Catholic began with her beatification in 1326, Hildegard wasn’t canonized until 2012, when she became a Doctor of the Church. Hildegard’s influence was there, quietly waiting for the World to catch up with her. It’s time to share, with delight, her extraordinary Divine alchemy.

 

Western Reserve Herb Society Medicinal Disclaimer :

In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regards to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk.