I’ll admit—this recipe was inspired entirely by rewatching old episodes of the Great British Bake Off. I keep seeing shortbread cookies, and hearing them talk of how their “biscuits” have a satisfying snap. My midwestern American palate is much more accustomed to gooey, soft cookies which are delicious but a bit simpler. So I thought I’d try my hand at some springy shortbread cookies—which, of course, had to incorporate herbs.
In addition to a classically sweet and crisp shortbread recipe, I’ve combined the flavors of rose, orange, cardamom, vanilla, and honey. These lend a distinctly layered complexity to the mild taste of the biscuits and help them pair even better with a lovely black tea. (Springtime tea party recipe, perhaps?) Also, all these botanicals are uplifting, bright, and fresh. It’s the perfect light sweet after a winter of heavy sweets and spices.
It’s that time of year: colds, coughs, congestion, sinus headaches, the works. I don’t know about you, but I have a constant runny nose, and often a bit of a cough, once my wildlings start bringing fall germs home from school. This also wreaks havoc on my skin! I get dry, sore skin around my nose and sinuses, and my face just feels dry and tight.
So I decided to try something that would be great for both my sinuses and my skin: a facial steam. It’s really quite easy! Just add your herbs to a big bowl, pour in hot water from your tea kettle, drape a towel over your head, lean over the bowl—trapping in the lovely aromatic steam—and let the botanicals do their magic!
Oregano is the star of the show today. With its antimicrobial and lung-soothing properties, as well as its warming and stimulating effects, oregano is a lovely ally. With it I combined rose petals, lavender, and calendula for my skin issues and yarrow and thyme to boost the sinus clearing and germ-fighting properties.
Let me tell you, this was a relaxing and divine way to get some relief! I think I’ll be doing this quite often now.
Here is the recipe, so you can try this lovely steam, too! I used dried herbs to make this recipe, which makes it super simple for wintertime use! For the “parts” size, I used tablespoons, then tripled the recipe; this made more than enough of the mixture to put some in a jar and do it again a few more times.
Mix the dried herbs well in a bowl. In a separate bowl, add your desired amount—I’d recommend 2-3 tablespoons. Then add steaming (not boiling) water heated in a tea kettle. Put a towel over your shoulders and head and lean over the bowl, carefully draping the towel to enclose the hot steam with your face. Close your eyes, relax, and enjoy inhaling the fragrant steam for several minutes!
Have you ever tried a facial steam? If so, which are your favorite herbs to include?
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:
Rosemary (relaxing / 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?