Showing posts with label Herbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Herbs. Show all posts

Aug 3, 2017

15 Useful Things to Do With Lavender (Plus Growing and Drying Tips)

Growing and Drying LavenderThis spring and summer, I've been having fun seeing what plants the previous owner placed in our garden. I'm especially excited by all the herbs, including quite a bit of oregano and thyme - and a few lavender plants. I've grown all these herbs before, but I've treated lavender mostly as an ornamental. That is, I've never done much with the blooms, except make a few sachets, and (one year) lavender soap.

Lavender makes a gorgeous and prettily scented addition to any garden, and can be either formal (think lavender hedges) or informal (a.k.a. scattered throughout a cottage garden). And the truth is, when you snip off those pretty lavender flowers, you encourage the plant thrive, and urge it to bloom again. Sure, you could just plop the cuttings into a vase and call it good, but why not find some more valuable things to do with them?

With that in mind, here are some ideas I came up with:

1. Cook with it. I admit, I've not tried this, and I do know that cooking with lavender requires a delicate hand. But this lavender cookie recipe looks like a simple place to start. (Here are some expert tips on using lavender as a culinary herb.)

2. Make bath salts. What a terrific gift this would be!

3. Make lavender linen spray. Lavender is such a soothing scent; this would be dreamy.

4. Whip up some lavender mineral water.

5. Stir together some lavender sugar scrub. This would be soothing after a hard day!

It's trendy to cook with lavender. Courtesy
6. Throw it, instead of rice, at a wedding.

7. Create some lavender bath bombs. Hmmm...I see a few Christmas gift ideas here.

8. Make lavender skin oil.

9. Brew some lavender extract, for cooking.

10. Like scented laundry, but not the chemicals that come with it? Try making lavender dryer balls or sachets.

11. Weave some lavender wands...a very traditional craft.

12. Stir together some lavender sugar. This would be tasty with tea...especially Earl Grey!

13. Stir together some lavender body lotion. This could be really relaxing after a long day.

14. Create some lavender vinegar.

15. Craft an old fashioned lavender pomander to keep insects out of closets.
Bees love lavender. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Maja Dumat


BONUS: Tips for Growing Lavender

* Buy a variety that likes your gardening zone.

* Add a bit of bone meal to the soil while planting your lavender.

* Water newly planted lavender well, then let it dry between waterings.

* Lavender grows well in containers, and it likes being a bit root bound - so use a pot that's just a little larger than the plant.

* Cut off blooms just above a double leaf. This encourages new growth and more blooms!




How to Dry Lavender

1. Cut off blooms just above a double leaf. 

2. Use a rubber band to hold a bunch of lavender together. The bunch should be no bigger than, say 1 - 1 1/2 inches fat.

To retain more of lavender's scent and medicinal properties, it's better to hand it to dry in a dark location. Courtesy
3. Hang in a cool, dark location (like a closet...It will make your clothes smell amazing!) until completely dried. 

4. Unless using dried lavender as a flower arrangement, remove the flowers from the stems, place in a glass jar with a tight lid, and store in a cool, dark, location until ready to use.

 Did You Know?

* Lavender is scientifically recognized as a pest repellent, a sleep aid, and a relaxer.

* Some herbalists promote lavender as a treatment for head lice.

* Lavender is antiseptic.




Jul 18, 2017

Catnip for Human Medicine

Catmint Herbal Medicine
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

My interest in medicinal herbs began when I was in my 20s. That was also when I had my first unfortunate incident with catnip (also called "catmint"). I'd bought a tiny nursery seedling, thinking it would be fun to grow catnip and give my cat a little now and then...but my cat ate the entire seedling before I ever got it planted...and then proceeded to suffer from hallucinations which lead to years of flashbacks. So let's just say I'm not a fan of giving catnip to cats. (It is, most vets will admit if you press them, rather like giving heroine to a human.)

So when we moved to our new homestead and I found a large patch of catnip, I was ready to pull it out. Yet with our homestead, came the previous owners' cat, Loki. He's a great little guy - a wonderful mouser, and sweet to boot. He's not young, however...and he's very fond of catnip. The family joke is that Loki is the old hippie on our homestead; in the summer, when the catnip is growing, we always know where to find him: laying in the middle of the catnip. All. Day. Long.

Despite some misgivings, I finally decided the cat was set in his ways, happy, showing no ill effects from the catnip (other than growing a little thin in the summer because he's too busy in the catnip to eat as usual), and I hated to upset his world. So the catnip remains, though I keep it under pretty tight control.

That decision made, I also came to the conclusion that I may as well use the catnip for the humans who live here, too. Because, yes! Catnip has a long tradition of medicinal use in humans.
Catnip blooms can be lovely and attract plenty of garden pollinators. (Courtesy of

Catnip as Human Medicine

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is part of the mint family (hence the other common name for the plant: catmint). In humans, the herb is a mild relaxant, mostly used as a soothing tea to de-stress and prepare for sleep. Catnip contains nepetalactone, which is known to repel mosquitoes better than DEET and may repel flies and cockroaches, too. Herbalists say catnip is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, antispasmodic, anti-fungal, and a bactericide. It's traditionally used for treating colic, nausea, digestive distress, fevers, arthritis, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, hemorrhoids, to put menstrual cramps at bay, as a treatment for minor cuts and abrasions, and to help relieve the symptoms of the cold or flu.

How to Grow and Harvest Catnip

Like many perennial herbs, catnip is incredibly easy to grow. In fact, usually the only problem with growing it is keeping it from spreading everywhere. Therefore, I suggest either growing catnip in a container, or keeping it in a small bed surrounded by concrete.

Catnip wants full sun, and I find it doesn't mind being a bit dry (though that's contrary to most growing guides I've read, which claim catnip needs evenly moist soil). Like all herbs, catnip loves a good trim, so don't be afraid to harvest it regularly. To harvest, simply snip off a stem, just above a double set of leaves.



Catnip is in the mint family. (Courtesy of

How to Preserve Catnip

There are some uses for fresh catnip leaves, but catnip is primarily used dried. Pick leaves off stems and place them on the trays of a dehydrator. Dry at 95 degrees F. until crisp. Alternatively, hang stems of catnip upside down in a dark location until the leaves are completely dry.

Place dry, cool leaves in an air tight container stored in a dark, cool location.

Using Catnip for Humans

Tea: This is the most common way to consume catnip and is perfect as a relaxer, sleep aid, digestive aid, menstrual cramp reducer, and headache reliever. Strong teas may also relieve anxiety attacks. Simply fill a tea ball with dried catnip leaves, crushing them as you go; place the ball in a cup, cover with boiling water, then cover the cup with a saucer. When the tea stops steaming, you may remove the saucer. (Herbalists say covering steeping tea helps retain the herbs' medicinal qualities.) For a stronger tea, use fresh, coarsely chopped leaves. It's fine to add honey or lemon juice to flavor the tea.

Poultice: When catnip is actively growing, crush fresh leaves and place directly onto minor cuts and abrasions to help prevent infection and promote healing. Fresh leaves may also be chewed to help relieve a toothache, and a simple poultice of crushed catnip leaves and warm water or oil may be applied to arthritic parts of the body.

For colic: Brew catnip tea and have the child consume it. Most children do not like the flavor of catnip, so adding sweetener helps. (Do not use honey as a sweetener for children under the age of 12 months.) You may also add the tea to a bottle of milk or formula or other drink - just 2 or 3 tablespoons will do the trick.
Catnip is also called catmint. (Courtesy of

Baths: Adding catnip to warm bath water may help relieve sore muscles, achey bodies with the flu, and relax the body and mind. If desired, place a handful of fresh or dried catnip in a square piece of cotton, pull up the corners, tie off, and hang the resulting bag so the warm water runs through it as you fill the tub. Alternatively, make a strong catnip tea and add it to the bath water.

WARNINGS: According to WebMD, catnip should not be taken regularly or excessively. Do not consume catnip if you are pregnant. If you are nursing, talk to your doctor before taking catnip. Those with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) should not consume catnip, nor should women who have excessive menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia). Catnip should not be used in conjunction with medications that slow down the central nervous system, like sedatives. Talk to you doctor if you take lithium and you want to consume catnip. As with any plant, allergic reactions are possible, if unusual.


Disclaimer 
I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

* Title images courtesy of Megan Hansen and mwms1916.


Jun 8, 2017

How to Make Celery Salt (Plus: How to Dehydrate Celery)

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

We have but one celery plant in our garden, yet it's enough to supply all our celery needs. That's because celery is a "cut and come again" plant, meaning you can cut off the stalks and new ones will grow in their place. Given that our plant is prolific, and given that it's getting huge now that it's spring, I recently cut all the larger stems off and decided to preserve them as celery salt (SO delish on meat and eggs!). I also made some plain dried celery.

Dehydrating the celery was easy: I cut up the stalks, laid them on dehydrator trays (covered with fruit roll sheets that prevent small pieces from falling through the trays' holes), set the dehydrator to 135 degrees F., and waited for the pieces to dry. It only took about 5 hours. These chopped, dried, stalk pieces are perfect for adding to soups and stews, come cool weather.

But I also had a ton of celery leaves I wanted to do something with. When I cook with fresh celery, I normally chop up the leaves and add them to whatever I'm cooking. They add celery flavor, but not crunch. So I dehydrated the leaves, too - and could have left them as is, to also add to soups and stews. But instead, I made really yummy celery salt.





How to Make Celery Salt

You can make celery salt with dried celery leaves, dried celery stalks, or even with celery seeds (but not seeds designed for planting in the ground; they may be treated with chemicals). For salt, I  recommend sea salt, since table salt or iodized salt will impart a less pure flavor. You may use either coarse or fine salt.

1. Powder dried leaves, stalks, or seeds. I used a food processor, but you could use a blender. If you're using leaves, a mortar and pestle, or even your fingers, will also do the trick.

2. Combine the salt and celery powder. The ratio you use is a matter of personal preference. I used half and half (equal parts), but some people prefer a 1:2 ratio, using more of whichever flavor, salt or celery, they want to emphasize.

3. Pour the celery salt into an air tight container, like a glass jar with a lid.

Watch this video to see just how easy it is!



Feb 23, 2017

Foraging for Chickweed

It may not officially be spring, but the plants in my neck of the woods are acting like it is. And that means (among other things) that a lot of wild spring edibles are popping up. In fact, I seem to find a new forage-worthy weed every day. That makes me happy.

One edible weed I recently discovered on our property is one you're just as likely to find in the city as in the country, on the West Coast as the East Coast, and in the U.S. as elsewhere in the world: Chickweed (otherwise known as Starweed, Chickenwort, Winter weed, or Stellaria media).
Chickweed's 5 petals look like 10.

Identifying Chickweed

Chickweed grows in a wide variety of areas, including lawns and mow strips - and it grows prolifically. It has tiny white flowers with 5 petals each - but the petals are so deeply split, at first glance, it appears the flowers have 10 petals each.

The stems of chickweed are distinctive in that they have a line of white "hairs" on one side. They also do not contain a milky sap - something that differentiates chickweed from similar weeds. Chickweed's smooth leaves are oval with pointed tips.
Chickweed's stems have a line of fine "hairs."

The plant is easy to spot because it grows in clumps or masses that creep along the ground. It tends to
grow most abundantly in the spring and fall, when the weather is cooler and moist, and generally prefers damp and shady areas.

One final test to know whether or not you've got chickweed: Bend a stem and turn each part of the stem in the opposite direction. Gently pull; the outer part of the stem will break and separate, but an inner part will not break. In fact, it will stretch a little.

Chickweed has two poisonous lookalikes (Scarlet Pimpernel and spurge), but if you look for the 5 petals that look like 10, the line of hair on the stem, the lack of milk in the stem, and the stem with the inner stretchy part, you can be sure you have real chickweed.
An important test to make sure you identify chickweed correctly.

There is also mouse-ear chickweed (cerastium vulgatum), which is edible, but only when cooked. It's distinguished from regular chickweed by it's very dark green, mouse ear shaped leaves that, unlike regular chickweed, are covered with fine hairs.

NOTE: Do not consume any plant you cannot positively identify.

Eating Chickweed

Chickweed leaves, stems, and flowers are all edible, either raw or cooked. And it's a superfood! Chickweed is packed with nutrients, having 6 times more vitamin C than spinach, 12 times more calcium, and 83 times more iron.  It also contains Omega-3 fatty acids, bioflavoinoids, beta-carotene, B vitamins, folic acid, niacin, thiamine, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and zinc.



Try chickweed in a salad, or add it to a sandwich, like you would sprouts. It also makes a nice pesto or can be added to soups, omelettes, quiches, or pretty much any dish where you'd normally use spinach. In fact, cooked chickweed tastes similar to spinach. Raw, it tastes like a mild lettuce.
Chickweed grows in a clump.
Mouse Ear Chickweed is distinguished by it's hairy leaves. Courtesy
Stefan.lefnaer and Wikimedia.

Chickweed Medicine

Chickweed has long been used in herbal medicine, too. Taken internally in the form of tea or tincture, it's used for complaints such as stomach and intestinal problems, arthritis, asthma and other lung ailments, kidney disorders, and vitamin C deficiency. In addition, chickweed can be used externally to treat eczema, psoriasis, minor wounds, boils, abscesses, burns, itching, and joint pain.

WARNINGS: Those who are allergic to daisies should not eat chickweed. Never eat any wild food you cannot identify 100%.

Disclaimer 
I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  


Oct 11, 2016

Yarrow: A Common Weed That's Good Medicine

Back when we lived in the suburbs, my neighbors sometimes gave me some preeeetty strange looks. Imagine me knocking on a neighbor's door: "Hi! How are you today? I was just wondering if you'd mind if I picked some of your weeds. I use them to make medicine for my family."

No one ever said no, and a few even smiled and told me stories about how their granny used to do the same thing, but most of them raised their eyebrows, muttered something about it being okay, and then shut the door, shaking their heads at me. I'm sure a few even started referring to me by my strange hobby: "Look, honey! It's the weed lady!"

But in the suburbs, I systematically learned to identify local weeds (mostly by using Google), then researched them to see if they were useful in any way. Now I have the pure pleasure of learning the useful weeds on our rural homestead. So when I spotted a certain wildflower - a very common weed called yarrow - I was pretty darn excited. It's an extremely useful herb.


Yarrow.
Identifying Yarrow

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium L.) is a plant that can be found both in the wild and in gardening centers and domestic gardens. But, as with all medicinal herbs, the wild versions are far better medicine. (The medicinal qualities have largely been bred out of domesticated versions.)

Unlike their colorful domestic siblings, wild yarrow is a white or pale lavender flower - actually, clusters of tiny umbellate-shaped, five-petaled flowers with yellow stamens. Yarrow usually blooms between June and September, though in mild climates it may bloom further into fall. The flowers sit on long, straight stalks and the entire plant is aromatic, smelling a bit like chamomile. The leaves are feather-like, and grow all along the stem. The stems can grow to about 3 -5 feet tall. The roots are rhizome-like and are near the surface of the earth.



Yarrow is common along road sides, in grasslands, on rocky beaches, in meadows, and in the open areas around woods. It is also known as warrior plant, squirrel’s tale, mille foil, thousand leaf, wound wort, and nosebleed plant.

NOTE: Do not consume any plant you cannot positively identify.


Close up of yarrow flowers.

Harvesting and Preserving Yarrow 

Yarrow flowers, leaves, and roots are all useful. The flowers are high in aromatic oils and should be gathered when dry and fully open (but not turning brown). The leaves are higher in tannins and may be harvested any time, though herbalists say they are more potent in spring and early summer. The root is primarily used for toothaches and is usually harvested in fall.

To facilitate using yarrow all year long, the roots, leaves, and flowers are typically dried before use. People have been air drying medicinal herbs for thousands of years, and you certainly can preserve them that way today; but if you have a food dehydrator, I recommend using it (at about 95 degrees F.). It will dry the herb more quickly and retain more of the medicinal qualities of the plant. Store in a glass jar with an air tight lid in a cool, dark, dry location. The dried herb will last several years; as long as it is still aromatic, it has some medicinal qualities left in it.


Drying yarrow with an electric dehydrator.

How to Use Yarrow 

Yarrow is antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain relieving), astringent, vulnerary (heals wounds), and styptic (ends bleeding). Herbalists consider it cooling, drying, and a bitter.


Yarrow flowers and leaves.
Bleeding: For thousands of years, people have used yarrow to help stop bleeding. (One of this plant's common names, "warrior plant," even hints at this important historical use.) Today we know yarrow contains alkaloids that are proven to reduce clotting time, and achilletin and achilleine that help blood coagulate. Use dried, powdered yarrow, or chew fresh leaves until the juices are coming out of the plant. (Traditionally, the wounded person was encouraged to do the chewing so he could swallow the juices in his mouth.) Apply as a poultice directly onto the wound. Traditionally, a strong yarrow tea was used for internal bleeding. (Of course, if you have serious bleeding, you should go to the emergency room.) 

Fevers: Another very common use for yarrow is reducing fevers. Yarrow tea causes the body to sweat, which naturally helps reduce fever. 


Heart: Yarrow tea is also often used to dilate peripheral blood vessels and treat high blood pressure.

Sedative: Yarrow tea relieves anxiety and insomnia.

Reproductive: Yarrow tea is said to help regulate the menses, bring on a late period (not caused by pregnancy), reduce cramps, and reduce heavy menstrual bleeding. (Scientific studies show yarrow contains phytoestrogens, which act like estrogen in the body; this means that in women who have a good balance of hormones, prolonged use might lead to a hormone imbalance.)
 
Circulatory: Yarrow is said to help improve varicose veins, hemorrhoids, phlebitis, thrombosis, and generally improves circulation.

Diuretic: Yarrow tea is a mild diuretic and may relieve cystitis, irritable bladder, and stones. 
Yarrow's feathery leaves.
Anti-inflammatory: Yarrow is said to relieve painful joints, hemorrhoids, and is known to generally reduces swelling.

Colds/Flu: Yarrow tea is recommended at the first sign of a cold and is said to relieve sore throats and act as a decongestant. Herbalists say the tea is not only warming, but stimulates the immune system and helps you "sweat out" the sickness.

Astringent: Yarrow is a mild astringent, good for oily skin. (Make yarrow tea and allow it to cool before splashing it on the face or applying it with a cotton ball.) It also helps tighten pores. 


Minor cuts/scrapes/rashes/bug bites/stings: Yarrow is excellent for all these minor complaints. It reduces the swelling and pain and will help prevent infection. Chew fresh leaves and apply to the affected area. 

Toothache: Yarrow root helps relieve the pain from toothaches and may help any infection in the area. Hydrate dried root with a little water, then apply to the tooth.

Digestive: Yarrow tea soothes spasms and cramps in the digestive tract, including those from IBS or gallbladder attacks. It's also good for the liver and gallbladder.

Bug repellent: Yarrow tincture or essential oil helps repel insects. 
Closeup of yarrow's leaves.
Immune System & Infection: Yarrow has long been used to stimulate the immune system. It also has antimicrobial properties and may prevent infections, including viral and urinary. 

Good Food: Yarrow is good food, too! The young spring leaves and flowers are sometimes used in salads and soups.

Good for Plants: Yarrow is great for other plants. It's roots seek out and readily absorb potassium, copper, and phosphorus; therefore yarrow is sometimes chopped up and used as mulch around the garden. 



Basic Yarrow Tea
Place about one tablespoon of chopped flowers, or leaves, or both, in a tea ball. Place tea ball in a cup and cover with boiling water. Cover cup with a saucer until steaming stops. Steep at least 10 -15 minutes. Drink up to three times a day. To help with fever, reheat and drink as hot as comfortably possible and take hourly until fever breaks.


Precautions

According to The University of Maryland Medical Center's website (and other sources), yarrow has not been tested on children or nursing infants. Pregnant women should not take yarrow because it could potentially cause miscarriage. One study has also linked yarrow use in pregnant women to low birth weight in infants.

Allergies are possible; if you are allergic to anything in the Asteraceae (aster) family (that includes chrysanthemums, daisies, and ragweed), you should not consume yarrow.

Yarrow may interfere with iron absorption or the absorption of minerals. Do not use yarrow if you have gallstones. Yarrow may negatively interact with blood pressure and blood thinning drugs and should not be taken if you are already taking a diuretic or sedative. It may also counter-act drugs used to diminish stomach acid.

Yarrow may cause contact dermatitis (rash) in some people. It may cause your skin to be more sensitive to sunlight. 

It is always wise to consult your physician before taking any type of natural supplement



Disclaimer 
I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  




May 24, 2016

How to Repel Mosquoitoes Naturally

We hope we are soon moving to beautiful acreage - where mosquitoes are more prevalent than they are where we currently live. I really don't love the idea of spraying my family with DEET on a daily basis, so I've been researching some more gentle, natural ways to deter mosquitoes from biting us.

I have not yet tried any of these remedies (because we haven't moved yet), so the information I'm sharing here is strictly from researching trusted herbal sites, university pages, and the like. Experiment with me, and please let me know what works for you!



Plants that Repel Mosquitoes

In my research, I found many sources that claimed simply having these plants growing in your yard would repel mosquitoes. I am skeptical. It's believed these plants work by having a strong scent - a scent that covers up the smell of you to mosquitoes passing by. But most of these plants have a far stronger scent when the leaves are crushed (which is why they work in homemade mosquito sprays; more on that later.).

Nevertheless, I think it's probably worth placing these plants in areas where you are most likely to be troubled by mosquitoes - like a picnic table or grill. Just know that these plants will all work far better when crushed and rubbed on your skin. (But do use common sense; before you cover your whole body, it's a great idea to rub a little over a small area of your body and wait to see if you have any type of reaction.)

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
This is an easy to grow herb that has many medicinal uses, too. It likes sun or part shade, and can grow to 2 feet high. Like most herbs, it can take over the garden if left to it's own devices, so I recommend putting it in pots. Zones 4 -9. Learn more here.

Lemon balm. (Courtesy JoJan and Wikimedia Commons.)
Catnip (Nepeta faassenii)
In  a 2010 study by the Iowa State University Department of Entomology, scientists discovered that oil from catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes. This is another easy to grow herb that needs to be potted or it will take over your garden. Use with caution if you have one or more cats. Not only will kitties eat and roll in this plant, but it acts as a hard drug for them and, much like LSD, will give them flashbacks. Zones 4 - 8. Learn more here.
Catnip. (Courtesy of Kurt Stüber and Wikimedia Commons.)
Pyrethrum (Tinacetum cinerariifolium)
Pyrethrum is said to be excellent not just for repelling mosquitoes, but also many other insects, including aphids, bed bugs, leaf hoppers, cabbage worms, spider mites, and ticks. Zones 3 - 7. Learn more here.
Pyrethrum.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Another easy to grow herb that should be potted, but which is thought excellent at keeping mosquitoes at bay. It grows in full sun or part shade and can get up to 18 inches high. Zones 3 - 7. Learn more here.
Peppermint. (Courtesy of
French Marigold (Tagetes patula)
French marigolds contain pyrethrum, which is used in many natural commercial insect repellents. Marigolds are very easy to grow, and gardeners often plant them near vegetables to repel aphids, too. Zones 1 - 10. Learn more here.
French Marigold. (Courtesy of Joydeep and Wikimedia Commons.)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender is an attractive herb with some medicinal uses. It's also said to repel mosquitoes. There are about a gazillion different types of lavender, so choose one that has a strong scent and fits your growing requirements. Zones 4- 9. Learn more here.

Lavender. (Courtesy of
Jen)
Basil (Ocimum americanum)
This herb is best known for it's important role in the kitchen, but it also acts as a mosquito repellent. Zones 4 and up. Learn more here.
Basil (Courtesy of
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Eating garlic may repel mosquitoes - but only if you eat enormous quantities. However, the plants themselves are said to keep mosquitoes at bay - and garlic is not only a healthy addition to your diet, but medicinal, too. Zones 3 - 9. Learn more here.
Garlic. (Courtesy of
Floss Flower (Ageratum)
This pretty flowering plant grows between 6 and 20 inches tall, depending upon the variety. Choose a variety with a strong scent. Zones 3 - 9. Learn more here.
Floss Flower. (Courtesy of Thomas R Machnitzki and Wikimedia Commons.)
Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) 
Rosemary is an excellent cooking herb, has medicinal properties, and is said to repel mosquitoes. It loves a warm spot and will grow up to 5 feet tall. Zones 6 to 10. Learn more here.
Rosemary. (Courtesy of H. Zell and Wikimedia Commons.)
Snowbrush (Ceonothus velutinus)
This shrub grows up to 10 feet high in full sun or part shade. Zones 3 - 10. Learn more here.
Snowbush. (Courtesy of Walter Siegmund and Wikimedia Commons.)
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
entha pulegium

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/pennyroyal/growing-pennyroyal.htmen
Mentha pulegium),

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/pennyroyal/growing-pennyroyal.htm
Mentha pulegium)

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/pennyroyal/growing-pennyroyal.htm
Mentha pulegium)

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/pennyroyal/growing-pennyroyal.htm
This old timey flower is a great ground cover, and is said to repel mosquitoes while attracting butterflies. It's also medicinal. Zones 5 - 9. Learn more here.
Pennyroyal.
Lemon Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Some people say any thyme will repel mosquitoes; others say only lemon thyme will. Regardless, thyme is an easy to grow herb that I recommend putting in pots so it doesn't spread. Thyme is also an excellent kitchen herb, and medicinal. Zones 4 -11. Learn more here.
Thyme.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)
Another excellent kitchen and medicinal herb said to repel mosquitoes. Zones 9 - 10. Learn more here.
Lemon Verbena. (Courtesy of H. Zell and Wikimedia Commons.)
Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus)
Most likely you've heard of this plant, because it's the main ingredient in many mosquito repelling products sold in stores. Yet despite citronella's reputation, some people who've tried growing the plant to repel mosquitoes say citronella doesn't work at all, even when the strong-scented leaves are crushed. I include it here because plenty of others disagree. Citronella grows to be about 5 feet tall, but can be grown in containers, as well as directly in the soil. Zones 9 - 11. Learn more here.
Citronella. (Courtesy James Steakley and Wikimedia Commons.)


DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent Sprays

I've looked at a lot of homemade mosquito sprays, but these three (or variations on them) appear to be the most effective.

Four Thieves Herbal Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Place 2 quarts of apple cider vinegar in a glass jar. Add 12 tablespoons of The Bulk Herb Store's Vinegar of the Four Thieves mixture. Put the lid on the jar and store in a cool, dark location, shaking once a day. After 2 weeks, strain, reserving the liquid. Pour the liquid into a clean jar; crush a few cloves of garlic and add to the jar. Allow to soak for 3 days in a cool, dark location, then strain again, reserving the liquid. Store in the refrigerator. Shake before every use.

Herbal Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Coarsely chop mosquito repelling herbs like lemon balm, catnip, lemon verbena, and lavender. (See the list of plants, above, for more ideas on what you could include.) Chop enough to fill a glass jar. Pour rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, or vodka over the herbs, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Place a lid on the jar and put it in a sunny location for 2 weeks, shaking the jar every day. Strain, reserving the liquid. Pour liquid into a spray bottle. Shake before every use.


Essential Oil Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Fill a spray bottle 3/4 full with either witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, or vodka. Add the following essential oils:
  • 10 drops mint
  • 10 drops citronella
  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 5 drops eucalyptus
  • 5 drops lavender
  • 5 drops cloves
Add distilled water until the bottle is full. Shake before every use. (If desired, you can experiment with the essential oils of other plants mentioned above.)


Homemade Mosquito Trap

This DIY trap is all over the internet. All you need is a 2 liter plastic bottle, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast. See the complete instructions over at DIY & Crafts.



Title image courtesy of icools.

Disclaimer 
I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

May 2, 2016

Foraging Cleavers for Food and Medicine

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Even though I don't have a garden right now, I'm still finding food to harvest from my yard. That's because God has provided us with a bounty of weeds that are good to eat - and most of them are "super food," packed with nutrients.

My season for eating fresh dandelion leaves is over because now the plants are blooming. (This makes the leaves awfully bitter - though there are ways around that. See my Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook for details.) Currently, we're eating the flowers. (Here's a favorite recipe.) Plantain is out and about, and is both good to eat and medicinal. Yellow dock is beginning to appear. Sow thistle, which is best when young, is cropping up. But lately, we've been focusing on cleavers (Galium aparine) - one of my children's favorites.


How to Identify Cleavers
Cleavers cling to nearly anything, including other plants.
(Courtesy Hugo.arg and Wikimedia Commons.)


In my yard, cleavers are among the easiest weeds to identify. Cleavers is a vining plant with long, thin leaves, and little bristles ("hooks" that bend toward the bottom of the plant) that tend to cling - or "cleave" - to just about anything it touches. (There's even a rumor that cleavers inspired the creation of Velcro.) The lowest leaves of the plant are petioled and rather round, whereas the upper leaves are sessile and shaped rather like narrow ovals. Cleaver plants can be 2 or 3 feet long when mature, and while they sometimes climb nearby plants or fences, they tend to grow horizontally across the ground. 

Cleavers are also sometimes called clivers, goose grass (because geese love to eat them), catchweed, or sweet woodruff (the latter being it's own variety of cleavers that is medicinal, but toxic when consumed in large quantities). Cleavers grow throughout the United States, and through much of Canada and Mexico, as well as in many other parts of the world.
Cleaver leaves have distinctive, oval shape leaves that appear on the plant in a circular pattern. (This photo and title photo courtesy of Harry Rose.)

What Do Cleavers Taste Like?

To me, cleavers taste like many other greens you are probably familiar with, like kale. They have a slightly bitter taste, much like some slightly bitter salad greens and not nearly as bitter as, say, dandelion leaves. Don't let that slight bitterness scare you, though. Even my children like to eat cleavers!

How to Eat Cleavers

Most often, my kids and I pick the young tips of cleavers and eat them raw. You'll see where the newest leaves grow in a cluster at the end of each vining end of the plant. Pinch these young leaves off and chew well before swallowing.

The newest leaves, or tips, of the cleaver are most edible. (Courtesy of Harry Rose.)
(I remember reading once that a foraging expert ate some raw cleavers during a class and didn't chew well. The plant clung to his throat, causing him to choke a bit before couching the plant back up! I have never had this happen, and I think it's because I eat only the youngest leaves, or "tips.")

But if you want to make absolutely sure cleavers stop clinging, you'll want to cook them. Pinch off the younger leaves and boil them for about 10 - 15 minutes. This will remove the clinging "hooks." After cooking, cleavers can be used like any green. For example, you can add them to omelets, rice, enchiladas, or smoothies.

As the plant ages, the leaves are less and less edible, becoming tough and more hairy. If there are buds or flowers on the plant, it's much too mature to eat.

I've also read that cleaver seeds - roasted at a low temperature - can be brewed into a caffeine-free coffee substitute. (Find complete directions here.)


Making Medicine with Cleavers
Courtesy NATT at NKM.

Traditionally, cleaver leaves (old or young and dehydrated) were used to make a tea or tincture to treat kidney problems (including kidney stones), to help treat fever, and to act as a diuretic. They were also mashed up and applied to stings and bites. Most herbalists also believe cleavers improve the immune system and act as a cleansing tonic; cleavers may also act as a gentle sleep aid.

Mountain Rose Herbs says cleavers are good medicine for hypertension, psoriasis, eczema, and general skin care (including rashes). The plant's leaves also make a nice addition to hair rinses.

Many sources claim cleavers have been scientifically tested and found anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, too. First Ways also recommends clever tea for swollen lymph nodes.

You can read more about the medicinal properties of cleavers at The Homeopathic Information Service website.

CAUTIONS: Most herbalists recommend consuming only small amounts of cleavers, since it's considered strong medicine. People on blood pressure medication should not consume cleavers (since it the combo of cleavers and their prescription may lower their blood pressure more than is safe). Those on diuretics or kidney medication should consult a physician before consuming cleavers. In addition, pregnant women should avoid cleavers. Some people are allergic to cleavers and may get a rash (contact dermatitis) when they touch the plant; if this happens to you, do not under any circumstances eat cleavers. As with all new-to-you plants, when trying cleavers for the first time, it's a good idea to crush a few leaves and rub them over your skin. Wait 24 hours before consuming any cleavers. It's also smart to eat just a few leaves the first time you eat cleavers, or any other wild food. If you are allergic to plants in the Rubiaceae family, you should not consume cleavers.

Disclaimer 
I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.