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

Mar 29, 2018

Foraging Horsetail for Food & Medicine

Eating Horsetail, Horsetail 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 first encounter with horsetail didn't impress me much. My mom-in-law pointed out the plant growing near a beach, explaining that native Indians used it to scrub with, much like we'd use a plastic bottlebrush today. The plant she pointed to was easy enough to recognize - a stalk with stiff "bristles" coming out on all sides. Certainly easy to recognize.

Years later, in one of my foraging books, I saw just how remarkable horsetail truly could be. First, I learned that what I'd seen growing near the beach was the non-fertile version of the plant (sometimes called "the female"). That's right, horsetail produces two distinctive-looking plants! What really impressed me was the fertile versions of the plant (sometimes called "the male"). It's not only prehistoric-looking, but phallic in shape. And, lo! Horsetail, I learned, is both edible and medicinal! Bonus: It's packed with good minerals and nurtients.

So when I found horsetail growing on our homestead last year, I was pretty excited. Because I didn't time things right, though, I didn't try eating it. This year, I made sure I was more on top of things, and last weekend, my family gave eating horsetail a try.

Horsetail's bulb-like rhizomes are edible. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Identifying Horsetail

There are 20 species of horsetail that are native to North America and Europe. On our homestead, we have giant horsetail. (Other names for horsetail include field horsetail, scouring brush, bottlebrush, shave grass, corncob plant, scouring rush, field horsetail, pewterwort, paddock-pipes, Dutch rushes, and snake pipes. They are in the Equisetum family.)

All horsetail have jointed stems that break apart easily and burst with watery liquid. The plant generally prefers damp soil; I find it in boggy areas around the homestead.




Examining a horsetail patch.

Eating Horsetail Rhizomes


The rhizomes (a type of root) are edible - though I've not tried them yet. Before you can dig them up and eat them, you need to spot a patch of horsetail in the spring, when it sends up its strange shoots. Note the location, and next year, before horsetail begins shooting up, dig around the spent shoots to find the rhizomes. Peel them and add them to the stew pot, or peel and slice and add them to salads.







Eating Horsetail's Fertile Shoots
Fertile horsetail shoots.


In early spring, the nutrient-rich, fertile shoots appear, resembling asparagus. Color varies; with our giant horsetail, the fertile plant comes in tones of light and dark brown. These "males" are non-photosynthesizing and have a cone-like top with rows of spore-bearing dots. They grow up to 2 feet tall (some species grow taller), and should be harvested before their cone-tops turn dark.

To eat these shoots, simply cut them off at ground level, then peel off the dark brown stripes found along the joints of the plant. (These stripes are packed with silica, which is bad for your teeth and could cause irritation in the body.) Cut off the cone-like tops, too.

Traditionally, horsetail is usually eaten raw. I tried it this way and found it quite pleasant - very similar to celery in texture and mild taste. But because it tends to grow in boggy areas, my husband wondered if it was a risk due to e. coli. I've read a lot of foraging books and websites, and I've never seen this mentioned in regard to
Fertile shoots that are dark on top (right) aren't very good eating.
horsetail...but in order to play it extra safe, I went ahead and boiled the stalks for my family's consumption. This gave the plant a super-mild flavor (similar to cooked celery) and made it mushy, instead of crisp. You may also steam the shoots.

In the future, we will probably stick to eating the plant raw. (I eat a lot of raw wild foods, and I personally don't believe there is a greater risk of e. coli in horsetail than in the other wild foods I eat. However, I am not a physician, nor should I be considered an expert in this area.)
Dark stripes should be removed before eating.


Eating Horsetail's Non-Fertile Shoots
Mature non-fertile horsetail. Courtesy of

After the fertile shoots pop up, the female plant (which looks like a green bottle brush) appears. At first, it's spike-like leaves are tight to the plant, but gradually they expand out, giving the plant its distinctive look.

Although some foraging books say you shouldn't eat the non-fertile shoots, natives did, and so do many modern foragers, consuming them the same way they do the fertile shoots. However, the non-fertile shoots are much more work because you must peel them completely before consumption. (the outer layer is too full of silica to be safe to eat.) In addition, some sources claim non-fertile shoots must be "thoroughly boiled" before eating. Douglas Deur, in his book Pacific Northwest Foraging, notes that boiling with repeated changes to the water reduces any toxicity that might be found in the plant, due to chemicals in the soil.

Horsetail Medicine

Immature non-fertile shoots
Another way horsetail is unique is that it's one of the few plants with bio-available silica. Therefore, drinking horsetail tea can help repair damaged bones and connective tissue, while also encouraging strong hair and nails. The tea is also traditionally used to support the kidney, bladder, and prostate.

In addition, horsetail is diuretic, and herbalists sometimes use it to treat urinary tract infections, or to dissolve urinary stones. It's also said horsetail can curb excessive menstrual flow and internal bleeding and treat bronchitis, tuberculosis, and asthma.

An immature non-fertile shoot.
In addition to its high silica content, horsetail is full of calcium, sulfur, manganese, potassium, silicic acid, flavonoids, saponins, sterols, aluminum salts, and tannins.

There is a big HOWEVER when using horsetail as medicine. This plant should never be consumed regularly or for a long period of time because it can lead to thiamine deficiency.

When making horsetail medicine, always harvest non-fertile shoots before their leaves begin to droop. This helps prevent digestive upset. To dry the plant, hang whole stalks in a cool, dark location. It's important to avoid breathing in silica crystals that may appear as dust once the plant is dried; it is very irritating to the respiratory tract. To be extra cautious, wear a mask when placing dried horsetail in jars or creating herbal powders from the dried plant material.






Horsetail Tea

Pour boiling water over about 2 or 3 grams of chopped non-fertile horsetail stalk. Cover with a saucer and allow the tea to steep for 10 or 15 minutes. Remove the saucer and strain the tea through two layers of cheesecloth. Drink 4 oz. three times daily between meals.

Horsetail Tincture
More experience herbalists can turn fresh horsetail into a tincture (1:5). Consume 1 - 4 ml. three times daily.
Horsetail is made of segments, each containing mineral water.
Warnings:

Just as all prescription medicines have warnings, so do natural medicines.

Marsh horsetail (Equisetum palustre) is potentially toxic. (See also.)

Consuming horsetail for a long period of time may lead to a thiamine deficiency. Eating horsetail raw and in quantity may result in a depletion of B1. (Eating it cooked does not pose this risk.)

For some people, eating quantities of horsetail raw "may be mildly toxic" (Deur). Horsetail is toxic to livestock and perhaps to pets. When handling dried horsetail, it's wise to wear a mask to avoid the irritating dust it might produce.

As with all wild edibles, pay attention to where you harvest. Horsetail is especially good at absorbing heavy metals and chemicals in the soil. Also, it's possible to be allergic to any plant. Show wisdom by eating a small quantity to see if your body reacts negatively.

If horsetail is used with Benzodiazepines, Disulfiram, or Metronidazole, it may cause "a disulfiram-like reaction." (Source.) Taking horsetail along with medicines that deplete the body of potassium (like corticosteroids, diuretics, and laxative stimulants) increases the risk of developing dangerously low potassium. Do not use horsetail with licorice, since it may lead to low levels of potassium.

Do not take horsetail medicinally if you are pregnant or nursing, have heart problems, drink too much alcohol, or are prone to thiamine deficiencies.

Large quantities of the horsetail can be toxic because it contains thiaminase, which has the potential to deplete the body of B vitamins. In small quantities, this is not an issue. Cooking horsetail also eliminates this problem.

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 allowed 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.

Feb 28, 2018

How to Grow and Use Parsley for Food and Medicine

How to Grow and Use Parsley for Medicine and Food
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Flat leaf parsley (petroselinum crispum) is one of those herbs I used to omit from every recipe that called for it. I didn't figure it made much of a difference, flavor-wise - and most recipes only called for a small amount, yet I had to buy a large bunch at the store. I didn't want to waste food or money. But when we moved here, one of the herbs already growing on our homestead was a large clump of parsley...and I have to admit, it's one of the easiest-growing plants I've ever had. It comes back earlier than any other edible, is care-free, and produces abundantly. I'm not one to let such a blessing pass by, unused. So recently, I've been researching the best ways to use up a lot of parsley.


How to Use Fresh Parsley

First and foremost, I'm learning to use fresh parsley leaves. No longer do I omit parsley from recipes. In fact, I'm learning to add the herb to most of what I cook. Eggs for breakfast? I add a sprinkling of chopped parsley. Tuna or chicken salad for lunch? I stir in chopped parsley. Soup or stew or casserole or any type of meat for dinner? I add chopped parsley. Salad as a side? I include some parsley leaves.

And as I do this, I'm finding that parsley adds a freshness and brightness to each dish that was previously missing.
Remove the leaves from the stems when cooking with parsley. Courtesy of Kelley Boone.






There are also some dishes that feature parsley prominently. These include:

Parsley (English) Pesto
Parsley Butter
Parsley Salt (made the same way I make celery salt)
Chimichurri sauce
Cream of Parsley Soup
Parsley Salad
Tabbouleh 
"Green Goddess" Sauce
Fried Parsley
Gremolata

Parsley pesto. Courtesy of Katrin Gilger.

Preserving Parsley

I find the easiest way to preserve parsley is to dehydrate it. I simply remove the leaves from their stems, lay them in a single layer on an electric dehydrator tray (this is the current model of what I use) and dehydrate at 95 degrees F. until crisp. I store the dehydrated leaves whole, in an air tight jar in a dark, cool location. To use, I simply crush the leaves in my hand and sprinkle into whatever I'm cooking. (Crushing herbs before storing them ensures the loss much of their flavor and medicinal properties.)

Some people prefer to freeze parsley. I've done this by simply throwing whole leaves in a freezer bag, and then breaking off however much of the herb I want when I'm cooking. But you can also chop up parsley leaves and place clumps in an ice cube tray to freeze. Once fully frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. You may also mix the leaves with a little olive oil before freezing them in an ice cube tray.

Parsley roots are edible and medicinal.
Eating Parsley Root

The root of the parsley plant looks very much like a parsnip (or a tan carrot). I have yet to try it, but some people say it tastes like a mixture of celery, carrots, and turnips. The root is typically harvested in winter or early spring and is eaten much like other root vegetables. Remember, of course, that if you take the plant's root, you are effectively removing parsley from your garden - so if you want to keep growing the plant for its leaves, be sure to only remove the root in order to thin out a clump of parsley.

Here are some recipes to try:

Parsley Root Soup
Parsley Root Fries
Mashed Potatoes and Parsley Root
Roasted Root Vegetables
Parsley Root Stew





Parsley Medicine
Parsley root, seed, and leaf are medicinal.


Parsley is a pretty powerful little herb. It's packed with antioxidant flavonoids, phenolic compounds, folate, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as vitamins K, C, and A. Traditionally, it's considered a "bitter" herb, good for aiding in digestive issues. Herbalists use it to reduce inflammation, improve or prevent anemia, boost immunity, and treat kidney stones, bladder infections, bloating, gas, gout, acid reflux, constipation, and PMS. Parsley also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.

When used as medicine, parsley leaves are often brewed into a tea, or used as an essential oil. Parsley seeds are also used in traditional medicine, especially for normalizing menstruation and treating menstrual pain. (Never use garden seeds for medicine, as they are usually sprayed with chemicals.) Parsley roots are medicinal, too, and herbalists use them mostly in the form of a tincture.

How to Grow Parsley

Like most herbs, parsley is extremely easy to grow. However, the seeds are a wee bit tricky to germinate: First, soak the seeds overnight in warm water. Direct sow outdoors in the spring or sow indoors 6 - 12 weeks before the last spring frost.

Plant seedlings in containers or directly into the soil. The plant isn't picky about soil, but prefers it rich in nitrogen. Grow in full sun or part shade. If your winters are harsh, mulch the plant well or it will die when temperatures drop.

Harvest stems before the plant flowers in the late summer or fall, or the herb will probably take on a bitter flavor. To keep parsley from growing "leggy" always cut off stems at the base of the plant.







CAUTION: It's possible to be allergic to any plant, and parsley is no exception. Some people experience contact dermitis from touching parsley, while others experience an allergic reaction to eating it. One side effect of having an allergic reaction may be the sensation that parsley is very spicey. Parsley oil should never be used during pregnancy and those experiencing inflammatory kidney ailments should never consume parsley in large doses.


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.

Dec 28, 2017

Top 5 Most Popular Posts for 2017 - Plus Top Posts of All Time!

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

2017 is nearly at an end, which means it's time for reflection and maybe some new goals. This year has certainly been a life-changing one for me: Reversing my diabetes (and most of my other health complaints) through a keto diet; hubby no longer commuting 92 miles one direction in order to get to work; and my need to do more to help support my family financially. And one of the things I always do around this time of year is access this blog.

So let me ask: What are my readers (you!) needing from me? Please, let me know in the comments below!

Another way I learn what readers want is to look at this blog's most popular posts from the previous year, and for the entire life of the blog. (Did you know I've been writing this blog since 2009?! Holy smokes!)

Most Popular Posts from 2017


# 5. Catnip for Human Medicine 
This popular post was inspired by the catnip patch that came with our homestead - and which our cat (who also came with our homestead) adores. I was surprised to learn catnip is so beneficial for humans, especially for helping us relax. It also repels mosquitos better than DEET. Find out what else catnip is good for by clicking here.

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/07/catnip-for-human-medicine.html#.WkVtLnlG0dh

# 4. How to Get Out from Under the Laundry Pile
A lot of you struggle to keep up with your family's laundry, and in this post, I give you my best tips for how I make laundry easy and stress-free. 

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/11/how-to-get-out-from-under-laundry-pile.html#.WkVtZHlG0di

#3. Can I Use My Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for Canning?
The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker (buy it here) hit the world by storm in 2017, and my third most popular post definitely reflects that. In it, I dispell myths about using pressure cookers as pressure canners. Be sure to read it before you can!

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/06/can-i-use-my-instant-pot-pressure.html#.WkVtnnlG0dh

#2. Cauliflower Chowder Recipe
Combine the Instant Pot and a keto recipe and you get my second most popular post from 2017. This is actually a revised version of a non-keto, non-Instant Pot recipe I posted in 2015. It's been a family favorite, so when I went keto, I was thrilled it was easy to make low carb. It's also easy to make in the Instant Pot (or slow cooker/crock pot, or the stove top). 


http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/03/cauliflower-chowder-recipe-low-carb.html#.WkVtx3lG0dh

 #1. 50 Low Carb and Keto Thanksgiving Recipes
When I started eating keto in December of 2016, I never dreamed that keto recipes would turn into the most popular posts on my blog! It's really a testament to this healthy diet, which truly works for treating type I and type II diabetes, cancer, Lyme disease, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, metabolic disorder, sleep disorders, pain, infertility (especially PCOS), multiple sclerosis, and other diseases - not to mention for losing weight, especially when the pyramid diet fails. (I've lost 45 lbs., my husband has lost 60 lbs.) Keto works, my friends!

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/09/50-low-carb-and-keto-thanksgiving.html#.WkVt9XlG0dh






Most Popular Posts of All Time


#5.  Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets
Here's a little secret: I hate pickled beets. But my family loves them - and, apparently, so do you! This post from 2014 continues to be among my most read. 

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/08/easy-refrigerator-pickled-beets.html#.WkVuJ3lG0dg

#4. The Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net
I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves a good apron - or two, or three, or...Since 2011, this post has pointed ya'll to some pretty awesome, free patterns for my favorite kitchen accessory.

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/05/the-best-free-apron-patterns-on-net.html#.WkVuX3lG0dh


#3. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible
I'm so happy at least one God-centered post is popular on this blog! ;)

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/06/6-ways-to-teach-kids-books-of-bible.html#.WkVuiHlG0dh


#2. How to EASILY Clean Ceilings & Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen!
It turns out, greasy kitchens are my specialty. I also specialize in finding "lazy girl" ways to clean. This post from 2014 combines both these "talents."

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-easily-clean-ceilings-walls-even.html#.WkVurHlG0dh

#1. How to Train Chickens
This has been my most read post since 2012, which cracks me up! I'd have never thunk it. But I guess hubby and I are pretty good at getting our hens to cooperate and do the things we want them to.
http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-train-chickens-and-get-them-to.html#.WkVu1nlG0dh






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)

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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.