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Herbs and Herbalism Hygge wheel of the year

The Winter Solstice: Yule Forest Candle

To celebrate the winter solstice and Yule, I have made some special candles to help mark the occasion as my family and I make (and eat!) cookies and read books about the solstice. Although it is the official beginning of winter, it is also the darkest night—and the light of our candles reminds us that the warmth of the sun shines through and will strengthen with each coming day. It is how people have long gathered their courage to face the winter’s cold: the returning of the light offers hope.

For my Yule Forest candles, I combined beeswax, a bit of coconut oil, and essential oils for a natural scent option. (Make sure you do your due diligence in choosing ethical essential oil companies to buy from 💚). Here are the scents I chose, along with their symbolic attributes:



Here are the directions for making the candles if you’d like to make some, too!

Making 6 candles:


We will enjoy the gentle light and wintry woods scent of one of these candles (I made 6 so I could gift the others to loved ones) while munching on chai snickerdoodles and reading. The pictured books (Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter and the winter story from Little Witch Hazel) are a couple of our favorites to welcome the solstice.

How will you mark the winter solstice / Yule?

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Herbs and Herbalism plant wonder collective Recipes Tea

Vanilla Digestion Tea

It’s the time of year when digestion is key! Heavy, rich foods abound due to the holidays and the approach of winter, and many of us need some extra relief.

Often, digestion teas rely heavily on ginger, but I find it too spicy and irritating sometimes. I often need more of a cooling approach to indigestion instead. That’s where this tasty vanilla digestion tea comes in!

Vanilla is an aromatic stimulant and carminative botanical, with anti-inflammatory, digestive-soothing, calming, and fever easing benefits. These properties make it a great ingredient in a digestion tea!

In the interest of a more cooling approach to digestion, I’ve combined the vanilla with meadowsweet, mint, and fennel seed. If you add honey or your sweetener of choice, it’s a light and tasty dessert all on its own with a taste reminiscent of candy canes!

A bit of a breakdown of the other herbal ingredients I’ve combined with the vanilla here—

Mint can be both warming and cooling, depending on your constitution, but I find it affects me in a soothing and cooling manner. It is a mildly stimulating herb, so it aids in moving things along in the digestion process.

Meadowsweet is a top tier digestion reliever. Its cooling, drying, astringent, inflammation modulating, and even pain modulating properties make it an indispensable ally. However, if you’re sensitive to aspirin, you should avoid meadowsweet because it contains naturally-occurring salicylic acid. (If this is you, substitute chamomile or elderflower.)

Fennel is one of my very favorite herbs for digestion. It’s a pungent aromatic herb with antispasmodic and carminative properties, making it ideal for a digestion tea. Interestingly, I found a hand-written note in my great grandmother’s herbalism books suggesting to use fennel for calming. Though it isn’t technically considered a nervine or adaptogen, there is an inextricable link between gut health and mental health, so it does check out!

Here is the simple and sweet recipe for cooling vanilla digestion tea:

1 part vanilla (use chopped vanilla beans or powdered vanilla bean—my choice for economical purposes)

2 parts meadowsweet

2 parts mint

1 part fennel seed

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Brew for about 5 minutes; longer can cause a bitter taste from the meadowsweet.

Do you suffer from digestive issues this time of year? Let me know if you try this tea! You might find that soothed digestion leads to a calmer state of mind this time of year!

Categories
Herbs and Herbalism Hygge Recipes

Hygge Hearth Tincture

Inspiration struck this morning and I decided to start a tincture that will be ready just in time for Yule! It has all the happy, cozy, hygge vibes with digestion support, stress relief, balancing, and immune boosting to boot.

Mint is the star of the show here, paired with “really good Ceylon cinnamon” (please tell me you read that in Ina Garten’s voice 😂). I adore the sweet combo of cooling mint and warming cinnamon! With these I combined fennel seed, rosemary, and ashwagandha root. 

Then I topped it off with not the usual vodka, but GIN for more cozy, botanical, wintry vibes.

Here is the full recipe! For once, I actually loosely measured instead of doing it in parts!

Add herbs to a 16 oz glass jar. Cap and shake the jar thoroughly to mix herbs. Top with gin, filling to near the brim. Cap with a plastic canning jar lid or parchment paper and canning lid. Store in a cool, dark place, shaking daily, and strain after 6-8 weeks. Store in dark glass jars or dropper bottles if you can. 

You can take this tincture in tea, coffee, still or sparkling water, ginger ale, juice, or even cocktails! Ginger ale is my favorite vehicle for tinctures—if you prefer, use your favorite homemade or natural ginger ale.

Categories
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

Categories
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?