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Herbs and Herbalism

Herb Profile: Mint

In the northern hemisphere, summer has just begun! In my neck of the woods, it is almost unbearably hot this time of year; that summer sunshine can be intense. So, for June’s herb profile, I thought I would talk about a favorite cooling herb of mine: mint.

I was actually also inspired by the Plant Wonder Collective on Instagram to talk about mint, too, because it’s their herb of the month. If you aren’t already following along with their monthly herb features, I highly recommend that you do! They share collective recipes, DIYs, information, and botanical love featuring a different herb each month and showcasing many varied contributors. I’ve just recently begun following along and I am so enjoying it!

Anyway, back to mint! It’s actually interesting because many people are referring specifically to peppermint when they mention mint, but there are actually many varieties of mint. Sweet mint, spearmint, wild mint, water mint, apple mint, pineapple mint, brandy mint, chocolate mint, orange mint, horse mint, foxtail mint, mojito mint, and many others grow in a variety of areas around the world. (Interestingly, the specific species of peppermint wasn’t officially recorded in the Western pharmacopoeia until the mid-1700s!)

Mint should not be written off as simply a flavoring. It can be a potent ally in so many ways! Mint varieties can vary from warming to cooling, but peppermint is cooling, and drying. The properties of mint include digestive, mood boosting, uplifting and calming, memory and focus enhancing, gently energizing, pain easing, cold relieving, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, antibacterial, anti-fungal properties, and more. In folk belief, mint is associated with healing, prosperity, vitality, communication, dreams, awakening, protection, purification and cleansing, love, and positivity.

A note on growing your own mint, if you are considering adding it to an herb garden: it is best in containers! Mint is easy to grow and absolutely flourishes…a little too well. It will take over any space where you plant it and overtake its neighboring herbs. So, it’s best to plant mint in its own separate containers rather than in a shared herb bed. That said, mint is incredibly beginner-friendly and a great starter herb for those just testing the gardening waters!

Though some might associate the flavor of mint with winter holidays, I love it for its cooling effects in the summer! There is nothing better than a cold infusion of fresh mint and its cousin lemon balm, kept in a jar in the fridge to be sipped throughout the day. Also, a sun tea of mint, hibiscus, and lime is super refreshing and cooling on a hot day.

Here is one more recipe, for Summer Mint Moon Tea. I like to moon-brew (overnight infusion) this combo of herbs and enjoy it before bed as a cooling, calming, soothing sip. Its combination of cooling, calming, memory-aiding, dream-inducing, and heart-soothing herbs makes for sweet summertime dreams.

Summer Mint Moon Tea:

2 parts mint (peppermint or spearmint)

1 part lavender

1 part rosemary

1 part mugwort

1/2 – 1 part rose petals

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Are you a mint-lover? How many varieties of mint have you tried? Do you have any unique ways you like to work with mint?

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Sources:

• Rosalee de la Foret, Alchemy of Herbs

• Apothecary At Home’s Peppermint monograph

• Sarah Farr, Healing Herbal Teas

• Patti Wigington, Herb Magic

• Tina Sams, Herbal Medicine for Emotional Healing

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Herbs and Herbalism

Recharging Your Battery With Nervine Herbs

I can’t believe it’s almost June! May has really flown by. Before mental health month is over, I thought I would jump on the blog and talk a bit about one of my favorite types of mental health support: nervine herbs!

Many nervine herbs are gentle and safe for frequent use and can be a part of your daily mental health support regimen. Nervines are known for their benefits to the nervous system, hence the name. They support, tone, nourish, and soothe, offering us calming, anti-anxiety, digestion soothing, pain relieving, and grounding benefits, among many others.

Here are a few of my favorite nervine herbs:

Chamomile

Rosemary (relaxing / stimulating)

Tulsi

Lavender

Lemon balm

Linden

Hawthorn

Elderflower

Rose

Passionflower

Skullcap

Peppermint (stimulating)

Cacao (stimulating)

Most of the preceding list of herbs are normally categorized as relaxing nervines. Relaxing nervines do just what they sound like: they help to relax your nervous system. Stimulating nervines don’t stimulate in the caffeine sense; instead, they are uplifting and stimulate digestion. And some nervines do both at the same time! Also, each different nervine has its own particular chemical constituents that aid in different ways on top of the nervine qualities. For example, hawthorn is amazing for heart health, passionflower and skullcap are helpful in aiding sleep, and chamomile is known especially for helping with pain, cramps, indigestion, and fever.

As with anything, consult your doctor as needed and don’t take huge doses of any herb over short periods of time. But do think about branching out and trying different nervines to see what works well to support your particular needs. 

And since summer is fast approaching here in the northern hemisphere, I am going to leave you with a simple, cooling and soothing infusion recipe featuring nervine herbs. This is a favorite of mine! You can make this with fresh or dried herbs (I grow all of these in my mini herb garden); drink it hot or cold (my summer preference is definitely cold); and sun brew, cold brew overnight in the fridge, or infuse with hot water (I usually prefer to cold brew or sun brew). Regardless of how you make it, the soothing properties of these nervine herbs are a refreshing way to take in a bit of calm.

Soothing Summer Tea:

•Lemon balm – 2-3 parts

•Peppermint – 1 part

•Spearmint – 1 part

•Rosemary – 1 part

•Catnip – .5 part

•Chamomile – .5-1 part

If making with fresh herbs in a large jar, go heavier on the lemon balm and mints and lighter on the other herbs. Also, if drinking this cold, it’s great with a slice or two of lime tossed in. It’s crisp, refreshing, calming, cooling, and supportive — mind and body relief!

Obviously mental health is a complex issue and each person’s medical and therapeutic needs are extremely different. Herbs won’t solve or prevent problems or fulfill all your needs, but they can be a wonderful ally as part of a daily holistic approach.

Which nervine herbs are your favorite mental health allies?

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Herbs and Herbalism

Herb Profile: Tulsi

Hello, Herbology Faeries! It has been busy around these parts and I’ve had less time for the blog than I would have hoped this past month…but I am back today with another herb profile. Today we’re talking about an herb I lean on a LOT for support and grounding: tulsi!

Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is a pungent, aromatic, and somewhat warming herb. Though tulsi has reached herbal popularity heights in Western herbalism, it is a sacred plant in India and is native to subtropical climates. It thrives best grown in warm, sunny regions.

It’s easy to see why tulsi is so revered in India and beyond. Tulsi is an herb that does it ALL. It is a relaxing nervine and an adaptogen, meaning it addresses stress, anxiety, depression, and overall health and functioning. Tulsi is also incredibly helpful for pain, infections, viruses, heart health and blood pressure, allergies, high blood sugar, digestion, cognitive health, the immune system, and more. It is one of those herbs you can’t go wrong with as a daily tonic. (Some suggest caution if fertility is a priority for you, as tulsi may affect that.) Not only offering these health benefits, tulsi is also grounding and soothing to the spirit.

Tulsi represents spiritual and physical health, the well-being of the home and community, and mindfulness and the body-mind connection. Maia Toll says very aptly in her book The Illustrated Herbiary that tulsi reminds you to “come home” to your body and to honor your body and your spirit. If you ever feel like you need a reminder that you are enough, tulsi is definitely the ally to seek out.

You can use tulsi in teas, tinctures, oils, honey, and even as a culinary herb to flavor foods. Tulsi pairs excellently with spicy botanicals like ginger and cardamom, or with cooling herbs like mint and hibiscus. Honestly, though, I’ve rarely felt there was a combination of herbs that didn’t blend well with tulsi.

Instead of offering a recipe, I’m going to suggest a couple of simple options to help you get to know tulsi. The first is to purchase some tulsi and make a strong cup of hot tulsi tea. In my opinion, this herb stands so well on its own and is so incredibly grounding and nourishing, you will benefit from getting to know it on its own. I’m not kidding—sipping a strong mug of hot tulsi is like wrapping up in the softest blanket. It is pure comfort.

The other option I’m suggesting is this: if you need the simplest, cheapest, or most low-energy means of introduction to tulsi, you can find boxed tulsi tea without too much trouble. Traditional Medicinals sells a delicious Tulsi with Ginger tea, Numi makes a Tulsi blend, and Pukka has a Tulsi Clarity tea—you might even be able to find one of these at the grocery store, depending on your location. Trying a store bought variety of herbal tea is a super accessible, and no less legitimate approach!

So, are you a tulsi / holy basil lover already? If not, are you planning to give this amazing herb a try?

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Sources:

• Rosalee de la Foret, Alchemy of Herbs

• Herb Mentor’s Holy Basil monographs 

• Sarah Farr, Healing Herbal Teas

• Maia Toll, The Illustrated Herbiary

Categories
Hygge wheel of the year

Celebrate Ostara!

Spring is finally upon us, Herbologists! In the Northern Hemisphere, the vernal (spring) equinox and the sabbat of Ostara fall on March 20th (while it’s Mabon in the Southern Hemisphere). This is a time traditionally associated with rebirth, creativity, growth, renewal, planting seeds, new beginnings, and balance. Many of us feel a renewal of our creative energy (follow-through is another story in my case, though!) and we are inspired to begin gardens, clean the house, or begin new projects and routines.

Ostara / the spring equinox feels much more like the beginning of the new year than January 1st to me, and I know some traditions view it as such. As the earth begins to warm and come alive, our energy tends to rise and rhythms return to more activity and excitement. It’s certainly a busy time of year!

In honor of the changing of the season, I am going to share a few low energy Ostara / equinox activities I am planning, as well as some spring herbal tea recipes I’ve developed. Hopefully this helps spark a few cozy, simple ideas for you, too!

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Spring Simmer Pot

My kids enjoy a good seasonal simmer pot, so I am planning a spring-y one to mark the occasion. We’ll use ingredients like dried lavender, rose, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lemon to fill the house with a floral, herbal scent to welcome in spring. 

If you haven’t made a simmer pot before, it’s pretty simple: choose your ingredients (plants, flowers, fruits, spices, etc.), add to a pan on the stovetop and cover the ingredients with water, simmer as long as you like, and add more water as needed so it doesn’t dry out and burn. This will fill the house with a clean, sweet scent (in the case of these floral and spring-y herbs) and all the cozy spring vibes to put everyone in the spirit of the occasion.

Garden Planning

It is too soon where I live to begin planting this year’s garden yet, but my wildlings and I are all chomping at the bit to begin. So instead, I’m planning for us to discuss and begin planning our little container garden together. This will inevitably turn into an art project with my kiddos as they will want to illustrate their ideas! And perhaps we will start some seeds in the kitchen window sill, too. 

Spring Teas

Drinking seasonal teas is a wonderful way to literally welcome a new season in! On that note, I’m going to share a few of my favorite tea blend recipes in honor of the energies of Ostara and the spring equinox. Herbs can support us through this big transition in a big way!

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The first recipe I’m sharing is one I simply call Ostara Tea. It contains herbal allies for gentle warming, grounding, immune support, and a sense of peace and calm. 

Ostara Tea

1 part Chamomile

1 part Elderflower

1/2 part Ginger

1 part Green Rooibos

Citrus (peel / slices) – optional

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Next up is the Inspired Spring tea blend for calm creative energy. It combines herbs that help with stress, boost your brain function, and provide calm balance. In this season of new directions and new leaves, this can be a great ally!

Inspired Spring

1 part Tulsi

1 part Linden

1/2 part Fennel

1-2 parts Spearmint

1 part Ginkgo

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Finally, we have Springtime Sleepies, to help you wind down after a busy spring day so you can rebuild your energy reserves for the next day of springtime activities.

Springtime Sleepies

1 part Passionflower

2 parts Chamomile

1 part Rose

1/2 part Lavender

1/4 part Cardamom

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So, those are a few of the simple ways my family will be ushering in Ostara and spring! Do you mark the spring equinox? How do you like to celebrate this season?

Categories
Herbs and Herbalism

Herb Profile: Nettle

Hey there, Herbology Faeries! Since spring is almost here, I thought I’d share a new herb profile today about the herb I most associate with early spring: nettle.

Nettle, or stinging nettle, is a sign of early spring because in many places it flourishes during this time. Nettle is also a beneficial spring ally in aiding with seasonal allergies, nourishing and toning body systems after the winter, fighting inflammation, and much more. Folk traditions see nettle as a protective ally, helping with not only healing but also courage and banishing, and it’s not hard to see why when you encounter its prickles!

I know there are many who forage fresh nettles in the spring. There are many benefits to consuming local, fresh nettles. That said, not everyone has local nettles available or are not able to get out there and brave the stings to collect them fresh. That’s okay—high quality dried nettle can be purchased from small online apothecaries or Mountain Rose Herbs.

Nettle is a salty, slightly bitter, cooling and drying herb. It is nutrient dense, full of fiber, iron, calcium, and magnesium. Not only is nettle used to support allergies and to nourish the body, but it’s said to aid menstrual issues, eczema, fatigue, arthritis, and more. It’s a wonderful herb to consume daily as a holistic health aid for maintaining energy and health. The main safety considerations with nettles are the stings if you are working with fresh nettles (use gloves and blanch the leaves before consumption), and the diuretic effect the herb has—you might need to adjust your intake based on how strongly this affects you. 

I do drink nettle in tea—it goes well combined with herbs like mint and rose. I am also intrigued with the idea of using nettle as food! You see many instances of this online: nettle pesto, nettle soup, even dried nettle used in baking. I am experimenting with using nettle in homemade ramen recipes for a salty, mineral-y kick and added nutrition!

Here is a simple springtime tea recipe featuring nettle, to get you started with this wonderful ally!

Daily Nettle Boost:

• 1 part nettle

• 1 part tulsi

• 1 part peppermint

• 1/2 part rosemary

This can be hot-brewed by the cup if you prefer it in small doses. You can also hot or cold brew it in a larger batch in a glass jar. If cold brewing, the longer you let it brew, the more helpful constituents will be infused into your tea. I’ve run across some sources that say you should hot brew nettle and let it infuse for 4+ hours to reap the full benefits, but I prefer my nettle a bit weaker and more palatable than that—to keep me coming back to it! 

Have you tried nettles? How do you like to prepare them, or how do you think you would like to if you’re new to them?

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Sources:

• Rosalee de la Foret, Alchemy of Herbs

• Herb Mentor’s Stinging Nettle monographs 

• Sarah Farr, Healing Herbal Teas

Categories
Herbs and Herbalism

Low-Energy Herbalism

Herbalism can be for EVERYONE. I feel like this is an important topic that doesn’t get addressed enough! So I’m here to talk about it today.

Herbalism, especially as it appears on social media, can seem overwhelming and prohibitive to some of us. Those of us who have neurodiversities, mental health issues, physical barriers, financial barriers, or even those of us who are busy or burned-out from jobs, parenthood, caregiving, and other aspects of life…can encounter feelings of inadequacy when it comes to approaching herbalism.

BUT! What I sometimes call “hobby herbalism,” but sometimes also refer to as “low-energy herbalism,” is still legit herbalism. To that end, I have some reassurances for us today.

You don’t have to be a gardener to be an herbalist.

I don’t have the time or space for a large garden, and I don’t have the attention span to keep a garden alive. And many others have far bigger barriers than mine! It is FINE if you buy herbs instead of growing them. Bonus points if you can find local places to purchase herbs, or at least buy from ethical sources and small businesses.

You don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach.

Herbalism doesn’t have to look the same for any two people. It doesn’t have to mean making soaps from scratch, hand-dyeing fabric and sewing your own clothes, foraging in the forest, drinking tea and taking tinctures every single day, or any other particular thing (unless you want it to). Seriously, cut corners and do what you need to as long as you do it safely. Example: I often cold brew herbal teas overnight or add tinctures to diet ginger ale because that’s what I have the spoons for.

You can start small, and if you want, you can STAY small.

This is just expounding on the previous points, really, but it bears repeating. You can be a grocery store herbal tea bags using, small biz tincture buying, non herbalism class taking, non herbal business running, on again / off again home herbalist without feeling like you’re not doing it right. You’re doing it right for YOU. Herbalism meets you where you are.

Do you have any herbalism time-savers or corner-cutters that make your practice more approachable for you? Does the idea of “low-energy herbalism” speak to you?

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Herbalism in Fiction Recipes Tea

Courage Tea

I just finished reading the third and fourth books in the Practical Magic series by Alice Hoffman, Magic Lessons and The Book of Magic. I do not exaggerate when I say these books have been life altering for me. They capture so much, I can’t even put a fraction of it into words. All I can say is, go read these magical books!

Now, a thread that runs through all the stories is courage: courage to love, courage to get hurt, courage to take leaps and trust others and trust yourself. This is illustrated throughout the books by the frequent mention of Courage Tea. It’s an old family recipe that dates back to the Owens women who started it all, Hannah and Maria. The recipe has been passed down through the centuries to bolster the Owenses in the face of all the trials and demands of life, as well as those in need they minister to.

Hints of the recipe are dropped throughout the series, but the whole recipe is never explicitly stated. As explained in The Rules of Magic:

Aunt Isabelle refused to hand over the formula for Courage Tea. That, she said, was one recipe you had to discover for yourself.”

Piecing together the hints and clues of the Courage Tea recipe from the books is actually a pretty fun scavenger hunt. I’ve spent a good deal of time on this exercise, and have filled in the blanks with my own additions as Aunt Isabelle instructed. I encourage you to do the same and come up with your own version if you read the books! But until then, here is my interpretation:

(A few notes on ingredients: I found dried currants at the grocery store. I use powdered vanilla bean in tea recipes because it is more affordable than whole vanilla beans while still imparting natural vanilla flavor; you can also add a dash of vanilla extract instead. You may want to adjust the thyme to taste based on how savory you like your tea to taste, as it can be quite strong. And, if you’d prefer a decaf version, you can leave out the green tea or replace it with rooibos.)

What would you put in your version of Courage Tea?

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Hygge wheel of the year

Been Wintering.

*Is this thing on?*

It’s been awhile, but I am back! I unintentionally took a break from this blog as well as theherbologyfaerie Instagram account during the seasons of Yule and Imbolc, as other life things came to the forefront. It appears that my waning here coincided very appropriately with winter.

I am the type of person who hops from hyper-focus to hyper-focus, with extreme tunnel vision on the thing I’m in the midst of. (Hello, neurodiversity. I’m sure if you’re reading this, there is a good chance you relate!) I am working on not exactly breaking that pattern, because I recognize it is part of who I am, but on loosening the tightness of its grip on my psyche, if that makes sense. I am trying to breathe more, to strike a better balance, and to let go of holding onto things so tightly.

Right now that means coming back to this space and allowing this creative outlet to be just that once more—a place to express myself and share what I have to share without pressure or expectations. A hobby can be a hobby. I think many of us lose sight of that in this influencer, Instagram, Etsy age.

Waxing and waning and wintering periods are all a natural part of life. I’m so glad I’m cycling back to this space! I have many things I want to share here, so stay tuned if you’d like to walk this path with me.

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Herbs and Herbalism

Herb Profile: Dandelion Root

I’m back with another herb profile about one of my very favorite herbs, this time being dandelion root! Dandelions may evoke visions of sunny spring days for many, but I’ve come to associate dandelion root with cozy, grounding autumn and winter brews. It’s such a simple and beneficial herb to use, and it’s definitely one of my main staples.

(Dandelion leaves are used as well as the root—in teas, as salad greens, in pesto, and more. The flowers are even used in making wine. But the root is my favorite part to work with, so that’s my focus for this post.)

The bitter and yet somewhat sweet dandelion root is usually harvested in the autumn. (If harvesting your own, make sure it is from an area free of weed sprays!) It can be used in a myriad of ways, but for teas and tinctures it is usually used dried and sometimes roasted. The roots tend to be cooling and drying, and offer benefits such as liver function aid, digestion aid, inflammation modulation, nutrition, and overall balancing and grounding.

Many herbalists prefer dandelion root in tinctures, but my favorite ways to work with it involve teas. Dandelion makes an excellent addition to or replacement for coffee! Roasted dandelion root and chicory, with or without additions like cacao nibs and cinnamon, make an excellent and healthy coffee alternative. I also love pairing dandelion root with herbal chai mixes—it adds an earthy grounding element and all kinds of healthy benefits.

One of my favorite dandelion root tea blends is one shared by The Herbal Academy, called Grounding Gratitude Tea. The mix of dandy root and tulsi, which offers a mildly stimulating, calm energy, along with warming ginger, is one of my go-to teas to make me feel at home in my own body.

So, are you a dandelion root fan? What is your favorite way to work with this lovely plant ally?

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wheel of the year

Celebrate Samhain!

It’s only a few days until one of my favorite sabbats: Samhain, aka Halloween! I have been very connected to this special day since I was a child, and I now love sharing Halloween with my own little wildlings. It’s that time we invite the spooks and specters in. We celebrate the connection we all feel to the shadows in a way that is steeped in tradition, which makes it feel cozy and safe. It’s our metaphorical way of preparing for the approaching sleep and death in nature that winter brings.

All that said, I have a few simple and cozy ways I’m planning to celebrate the approach of Samhain this week, which I’m sharing here today!

Family Halloween

My family and I plan to celebrate Halloween together in kid-friendly fashion this weekend. We will watch some not-so-spooky Halloween movies, paint and carve pumpkins, and (safely and with precautions) trick-or-treat. I also plan to brew up some spiced apple cider on the stovetop for us to share, infused with those autumn spices we love and enjoy!

Barmbrack

I learned about the Irish tradition of baking barmbrack for Samhain this year, and I am planning to bake some for my family! I want to see if it’s a tradition we’d like to incorporate in the years to come, as I have a strong connection to my Irish heritage.

Barmbrack is a sort of cross between bread and a cake, baked with dried fruits and grounding autumn spices and eaten with butter. It’s a harvest season favorite and is traditionally baked with a little surprise hidden inside—a coin or a ring wrapped in parchment paper as a good luck charm for the person who finds it in their slice! You can find various recipes online, but HERE is the one I’m planning to try.

Cleaning & Clearing

The approach of Samhain has me feeling the need for a bit of a cleaning and clearing, for both practical and psychological reasons. As winter and the holiday season approach, it’s a good time for me to tidy up and de-clutter. I also notice that I’m needing to sort of reset my perspective, or clear out some stale and stagnant energy, as autumn deepens toward winter.

The physical act of tidying up the house is straightforward enough. It’s not my favorite job, but I’ve come to enjoy it well enough when accompanied by audiobooks or podcasts. But each day this week while I work on the cleaning, I plan to choose a candle, incense, or simmer pot with intention and use it to sort of sweep away the proverbial cobwebs, paired with open windows when it’s not raining.

Samhain Teas

I am excited to brew a few tea blends this week with Samhain in mind. Traditions across many cultures relate this time to remembrance of ancestors passed and introspection or even divination. I plan to spend some quiet time with some steaming pots of tea brewed to those ends. My grandma passed away a year ago on October 27th, so she will be very much on my mind this week (and during this week for the years to come), which ties right in.

Here is a tea recipe from Apothecary At Home’s October Rituals & Romance box, which pairs nicely with moments of quiet introspection:

Third Eye Tea-

1 tsp chamomile

2 tsp black tea

1 tsp mugwort

What are your plans for Halloween or Samhain this year? I’d love to hear what you have planned!