Herbal Profile: Common Chicory

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a slightly woody perennial plant that is native to Europe and Asia, but has naturalized to North America, Australia and Northern Africa.

Its lovely blue flowers are edible, as are the leaves. Many farmers are planting chicory as a forage plant for their livestock as the tannins it contains help control parasitic worms, and the roots are wonderful fodder in the winter months.

The leaves, stalks and flowers can be dried in a dehydrator or tied together and hung to dry in a well-ventilated and dark room.

The rootstock of root chicory (Cichorium intybus var. sativum) a variant of common chicory is dried, roasted and used as a coffee substitute commercially. It is a great source of inulin and plant tannins.

Chicory FlowersThe Properties of Chicory: (See the Herbal Terminology Post for Definitions)
Bitter Tonic, Laxative, Diuretic, Choleretic, Cholagogue, Carminitive, Appetizer

Uses for Chicory include:

Medicinal: Helps with loss of appetite, dyspepsia, rheumatism, gout, jaundice, spleen, liver and gallbladder problems.

Energetic and Spiritual: Chicory is an herb belonging to the element of Air and is in tune with the planetary energies of the Sun. It is used to remove obstacles from one’s life. It is said that if one gathers chicory at either noon or midnight on the Summer Solstice in total silence with a golden knife the flowers will open locks when they are pressed against them.

It is also carried to promote frugality or obtain favors.

Culinary: Roasted chicory root is a great substitute for coffee if you are looking to switch to a non-caffeinated alternative. The taste is very similar and the medicinal properties of the root remain intact. The inulin of the root is a soluble fiber which aids digestion and acts as food for the friendly bacteria in our intestines.

The leaves can be added to salads and offer a bitter crunch. They can also be boiled, drained and sauteed in butter to reduce the bitter taste. They can then be mixed into pasta dishes or served as a side for meats.

This plant is a slightly more bitter cousin to endive and radicchio and has similar culinary uses.

Chicory LeavesApplications of Chicory:

Infusion: Steep 40 grams of dried herb and flowers in 1 liter of boiling water for 7-10 minutes. About half a cup or less is taken three times a day for three days. This preparation is helpful for loss of appetite, dyspepsia, rheumatism, gout, jaundice, and spleen, liver and gallbladder problems.

Poultice: Boil the leaves until wilted then drain and cool to body temperature. Apply them to areas of inflammation.

Contraindications:

There are none known, but use with extreme caution during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Always check with a healthcare practitioner before beginning herbal treatments.

Information Pulled from:

The Herb Book by John Lust

Medicinal Plants of the World by Ben-Erik van Wyk and Michael Wink

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants by Susan Gregg

Notes taken on an herb walk in Boulder, CO with herbalist Cat Pantaleo

Images from Google.com

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Herbal Profile: Greater Plantain

Greater plantain (Plantago major) is a perennial herbaceous plant that is very common in the United States and Europe. It grows very well in compacted and disturbed soil such as along roadways and paths. The peculiar characteristic of growing in areas upset by humans led to the name of “White Man’s Footprint” in America.

This lovely plant is not only medicinal, but highly nutritious and has been used as food and medicine for millennia. It is a great source of vitamin A, C and K as well as calcium.

Mature leaves can be dried for later use in a dehydrator or by simply tying them in small bunches and hanging in a well ventilated area.

Whole PlantainThe Properties of Plantain: (See the Herbal Terminology Post for Definitions)
Analgesic, Anti-Inflammatory, Astringent, Demulcent, Diuretic, Expectorant, Hemostatic

Uses for Plantain include:

Medicinal: Helps with wound healing, sores, rashes, stings, diarrhea, dysentery, bladder problems, gastrointestinal ulcers, ringworm, and hemorrhoids.

Cosmetic: Used as an astringent to tighten pores and help balance oily skin.

Energetic and Spiritual: Plantain is an herb belonging to the element of Earth and is in tune with the planetary energies of Venus. It is used to promote healing when kept around the home and helps keep negative energies at bay when carried or hung around the house.

Rubbing the feet with plantain leaves is said to invigorate the body and spirit.

Culinary: The young tender leaves can be used raw in salads, but the mature leaves become very tough and should be prepared in a similar way to spinach.

Plantain DetailsApplications of Plantain:

Infusion: steep 1 teaspoon fresh or dried leaves in ½ cup of water. Take 1 to 1 ½ cups a day a mouthful at a time, unsweetened. This method is useful for diarrhea, dysentery, bladder problems and gastrointestinal ulcers. This method is also great for use as a toner on the face.

Poultice: mix 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried leaves with 1 teaspoon of bentonite or kaolin and enough water to form a paste. This paste can be applied topically to help heal wounds, stings, sores, rashes and even ringworm. This method is also great as a tightening mask for the face.

If you do not have clay available, simply chew the leaves until a paste is form and spread onto the afflicted area.

Contraindications:

There are none known, but use with extreme caution during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Always check with a healthcare practitioner before beginning herbal treatments.

Information Pulled from:

The Herb Book by John Lust

The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants by Susan Gregg

Notes taken on an herb walk in Boulder, CO with herbalist Cat Pantaleo

Images from Google.com

Vaginal Health Tips

Vaginal health is an important topic for many people, but you’d be surprised how misinformed people are.

I personally feel this comes from the stigmas imposed on our bodies by society, and the internalized guilt associated with them.

I work in an environment where people tell me about their bodies, and I can’t believe how many people apologize for sharing details with me (especially females).

Everyone has a body, and everyone’s body has functions necessary for survival. It isn’t gross, it isn’t dirty, and it isn’t inappropriate.

Your body is your temple, and should be respected, not looked upon with guilt or shame.

Love your body, it is extraordinary.

Now that my little rant is over, let’s move on to some tips on surviving with a vagina by the ever-amazing Laci Green.

In this lovely video she shares some tips for dealing with yeast infections, periods, and urinary tract infections. They use holistic and natural methods, and are effective.

The only amendment I would make is to be somewhat cautious with tea tree oil as it can irritate the skin in those with sensitivities. It is generally safe for most people to apply undiluted, but definitely test it on a small patch of skin before using it neat.

Enjoy these tips when things get a little out of sorts, and most of all love your bodies.

Click here for more videos on sex, body health, feminism and many other topics by Laci Green.

Essential Oil Profile: Tea Tree

This powerful essential oil is a staple for every medicine chest. Its antiseptic actions are thought to be 100 times more effective than carbolic acid, yet it doesn’t harm body tissue! The Aborigines have been using this indigenous Australian tree in their medications for centuries, and today tea tree is the subject of a great deal of international research because of its many uses for a wide array of conditions.

Tea Tree BranchesThe Properties of Tea Tree: (see the Herbal Terminology Post for definitions)

Antibiotic, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Antiviral, Diaphoretic, Expectorant, Immune Stimulant, Anti-parasitic, Anti-infectious, Decongestant

Uses for Tea Tree Include:

Physical: Helps cuts, abrasions, insect bites, burns, mouth ulcers, cold sores, herpes, chicken pox, boils, warts, nail infections, jock itch, asthma, bronchitis, chest colds, catarrh, sinusitis, acne, blemishes, athlete’s foot, dandruff, ringworm, tonsillitis, upper respiratory infections, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, parasites.

Emotional and Mental: Counteracts shock, mental exhaustion, and hypochondria.

Spiritual and Energetic: None known.

Tea Tree BlossomsApplications of Tea Tree Oil:

Handkerchief/Tissue: add one or two drops of the oil on a tissue or handkerchief and sniff often. This method is useful for the emotional and mental problems listed above as well as for colds, sinusitis, respiratory infections, and asthma.

Vapor: add 2-3 drops into a bowl of hot water and inhale the vapors deeply through the nose for one minute (be sure to close your eyes to avoid irritation.) This method is helpful for treating respiratory and sinus infections, asthma, and colds.

Massage Oil: add a maximum 5 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil and massage over the affected area. This method is helpful for cuts, abrasions, insect bites, burns, cold sores, herpes, chicken pox, boils, warts, nail infections, jock itch, bronchitis, chest colds, catarrh, sinusitis, acne, blemishes, athlete’s foot, ringworm, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and parasites. (remember to massage the abdomen in a clock-wise movement)

Baths: add a maximum of 8 drops to a warm bath and soak for at least ten minutes, breathing deeply and relaxing. This method is helpful for cuts, abrasions, insect bites, burns, herpes, chicken pox, boils, warts, nail infections, jock itch, bronchitis, chest colds, catarrh, sinusitis, acne, blemishes, athlete’s foot, ringworm, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, respiratory infections and parasites.

Showers: wash as normal then add 5 drops to your washcloth, luffa, or sponge and rub over yourself briskly while standing under the running water. Breathe Deeply. This method is helpful for cuts, abrasions, insect bites, burns, herpes, chicken pox, boils, warts, nail infections, jock itch, bronchitis, chest colds, catarrh, sinusitis, acne, blemishes, athlete’s foot, ringworm, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, respiratory infections and parasites.

Diffusers: add 1-6 drops to a diffuser and light the candle, or turn the diffuser on. Sit, relax, and breathe deeply for one minute. This method is helpful for the mental and emotional problems listed above, asthma, sinusitis, chest colds, bronchitis, and respiratory infections, and to help sanitize the air.

Humidifiers: add 4 drops to the water added into a humidifier. This method is helpful for the mental and emotional problems listed above, asthma, respiratory and sinus infections, and to help sanitize the air.

Neat: one or two drops can be applied neat to bug bites, cuts, burns, scrapes, warts, and pimples.

Contraindications: This oil can irritate the skin of people with very sensitive skin if used neat. If irritation occurs do not use the oil undiluted in the future.

Information pulled from:

The Fragrant Mind and The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood

The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl

Aromatherapy; A Lifetime Guide to Healing with Essential Oils by Valeria Gennari Cooksley

Creating Herbal Shampoo at Home

Herbal ShampooCreating your own shampoo not only allows you to keep harmful chemicals out of your hair, but lets you customize it to suit your needs.

It is a very simple process, and the recipe listed below has a decent yield.

Half an hour out of a lazy Sunday can provide you with up to 2 months worth of shampoo! Definitely give it a try, and most of all have fun with it!

Basic Shampoo Formula

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup (50 ml) fresh herbs of choice, or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) dried herbs
  • 1 cup (250 ml) spring water (distilled works fine)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) liquid castile soap (I recommend Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) almond or apricot kernel oil
  • 5 drops essential oil of choice

To make:

  1. Place herbs in a clean 10-ounce (284 g) glass jar with a lid.
  2. Boil the water and pour over the herbs.
  3. Cover and let steep for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Strain the liquid from the herbs into a bowl.
  5. Add the liquid castile soap and almond or apricot oil and mix thoroughly.
  6. Scent with essential oil and mix again.
  7. Bottle in a plastic container with a spout or a clean reused shampoo bottle.

Yield: Approximately 24 shampoos

Choose herbs for your shampoo that will enhance your hair color and texture, and that address special needs that you may have.

You can mix and match herbs from the following lists to develop an individualized combination that is best for your hair.

Orange BlossomsIngredients for Hair Type

Dry: Avocado, Comfrey Root, Elder Flowers, Orange Blossoms
Normal: Dandelion, Horsetail, Clover
Oily: Watercress, Strawberry Leaf, White Willow Bark, Lemongrass

Ingredients for Special Conditions

To Encourage Shine: Raspberry, Nettle, Quassia Bark
To Boost Manageability: Cherry Bark
To Create Softness: Cherry Bark, Burdock Root, Marjoram
To Control Dandruff: White Willow Bark, Birch Bark, Comfrey, Nettle, Peppermint
To Encourage Growth: St. John’s Wort, Nettle, Sage, Basil, Rosemary, Onion

A Cinnamon BundleIngredients to Enhance the Color of your Hair

Blond: Chamomile, Calendula, Lemon Peel, Mullein Flowers
Brunette: Sage, Lavender, Cinnamon, Cloves, Rosemary
Red: Henna, Calendula, Red Hibiscus, Cinnamon, Beets
Darkest: Black Malva, Indigo, Lavender, Sage

Recipe and Herbal Recommendations adapted from:

Herbal Treatments for Healthy Hair by Gretta Breedlove

All images from Google.com

Essential Oil Profile: Lavender

This beautiful oil is often called the “Mother of Essential Oils;” and like a mother it is comforting, warm, and performs many tasks at once. It is perhaps the most versatile and useful essential oil, and deserves to be in every medicine cabinet. This particular oil is also very unique from others in that it can be applied neat (undiluted) to the skin, and will not cause a negative skin reaction. Caution is still to be used with large doses however.

Lavender also can help us find a perfect balance of masculine and feminine traits that are within us all; it can help men become gentle, caring, and empathetic, and women strong, brave, and assertive.

Lavender SpikesThe properties of Lavender: (See the Herbal Terminology Post for definitions)

Analgesic, Anti-Coagulant, Anti-Convulsive, Anti-Depressant, Anti-Fungal, Antihistamine, Anti-Infectious, Anti-Inflammatory, Antiseptic, Anti-Spasmodic, Antitoxic, Cardiotonic, Regenerative, Sedative

Uses for Lavender include:

Physical: Helps burns, inflammation, cuts, wounds, eczema, dermatitis, fainting, headaches, influenza, insomnia, migraine, infections, bacterial conditions, sores, ulcers, acne, boils, asthma, rheumatism, arthritis.

Emotional and Mental: Counteracts anxiety,  irritability, stress, tension, mental exhaustion, panic, hysteria, shock, apprehension, fears, nightmares, insecurity, loss of inner child, restlessness, moodiness, distraction, addiction, obsessive behavior, trauma, conflict, emotional violence, agitation, jitteryness, depression, psychosomatic illness, nervousness, worry, over-excitedness, burnout.

Nourishes security, gentility, compassion, balance, reconcile, vitality, clarity, comfort, acceptance, inner peace, restfulness, relaxed alertness, awareness, emotional balance, spiritual growth, meditative thought, visualization, rejuvenation.

Spiritual and Energetic: Lavender is an herb belonging to the element of Air and is in tune with the planetary energies of Mercury. When used in rituals and meditations it invites energies of high frequencies, which are very useful to the practitioner. Because of the characteristics of Air present in this oil, it helps activate the sixth chakra, and as a result produces clear thinking, and increased awareness.

Lavender BlossomsApplications of Lavender Oil: (Never use essential oils internally unless instructed by a qualified health care professional)

Handkerchief/Tissue: add one or two drops of the oil on a tissue or handkerchief and sniff often. This method is useful for the emotional and mental problems listed above, as well as fainting and headaches.

Vapor: add 2-3 drops into a bowl of hot water and inhale the vapors deeply through the nose for one minute (be sure to close your eyes to avoid irritation.) This method is helpful for treating respiratory and sinus infections, asthma, and headaches.

Massage Oil: add a maximum 5 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil and massage over the affected area. This method is helpful for rashes, sore muscles, arthritis, and digestive problems. (remember to massage the abdomen in a clock-wise movement)

Baths: add a maximum of 8 drops to a warm bath and soak for at least ten minutes, breathing deeply and relaxing. This method is helpful for mental and emotional problems, muscle tension, digestive problems, respiratory and sinus infections, and asthma.

Showers: wash as normal then add 5 drops to your washcloth, luffa, or sponge and rub over yourself briskly while standing under the running water. Breathe Deeply. This method is helpful for mental and emotional problems, muscle tension, digestive problems, respiratory and sinus infections, and asthma.

Diffusers: add 1-6 drops to a diffuser and light the candle, or turn the diffuser on. Sit, relax, and breathe deeply for one minute. This method is helpful for the mental and emotional problems listed above, asthma, and to help sanitize the air.

Humidifiers: add 4 drops to the water added into a humidifier. This method is helpful for the mental and emotional problems listed above, asthma, respiratory and sinus infections, and to help sanitize the air.

Neat: one or two drops can be applied neat to bug bites, cuts, burns, scrapes, warts, and pimples.

Contraindications: Avoid in first trimester of pregnancy. Avoid if blood pressure is extremely low.

Information pulled from:

The Fragrant Mind and The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood

The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl

Herbal Profile: Calendula

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a beautiful and vibrant plant. It is a friend to many gardeners under the name of “pot marigold,” and has been cultivated for centuries. The flowering tops are the part that is most commonly used in medicine and cosmetics, and this herb is very easy to grow and maintain in a  garden.

To dry the flowers string them on a thread using a needle and hang them in a dim place for several weeks until thoroughly dried. Store in an airtight container once dried in a dark place.

Calendula BlossomThe Properties of Calendula:  ( See the Herbal Terminology Post for Definitions)
Antispasmodic, Aperient, Cholagogue, Diaphoretic, Vulnery.

Uses for Calendula Include:

Medicinal: Helps with ulcers, stomach cramps, colitis, diarrhea, fever, boils, abscesses, wounds, bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, sores, warts, menstrual difficulties, and to prevent recurrent vomiting.

Cosmetic: Used to help the skin regain elasticity, and a more youthful appearance, soothe chapped skin, and soften the skin.

Energetic and Spiritual: Calendula is an herb belonging to the element of Fire and is in tune with the planetary energies of the Sun. It is used for protection when hung, scattered, or planted around the home; or strewn under beds to guard against nightmares.

When burned in an incense this plant helps to consecrate items, people, or an area. The flowers can also be added to a bath to give a person’s aura a glow of attractiveness and vitality.

Calendula FlowersApplications of Calendula:

Infusion: use 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh or dried flowers with 1/2 cup boiling water; steep for 5 to 10 minutes and strain. Take one teaspoon every hour. This method is useful for ulcers, stomach cramps, colitis, diarrhea, fever, menstrual difficulties, and to prevent recurrent vomiting.

Tincture: soak a handful of flowers in 1/2 quart of rectified alcohol or whiskey for 5 to 6 weeks shaking daily. A dose is 5 to 10 drops dissolved in a cup of warm water. This method is useful for ulcers, stomach cramps, colitis, diarrhea, fever, menstrual difficulties, and to prevent recurrent vomiting.

Ointment: simmer 1 ounce fresh or dried flowers in 1 cup of olive oil for 30 minutes. Do not let it boil. Strain, then add one ounce of beeswax. Allow this to melt; and when it is mixed into the oil mixture, pour it into an appropriate container to cool and set up. This method is useful for boils, abscesses, wounds, bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, sores, and warts; as well as cosmetic uses.

Contraindications: None known, but use with extreme caution during pregnancy.

Always check with a healthcare practitioner before beginning herbal treatments.

Information Pulled from:

The Herb Book by John Lust

The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants by Susan Gregg

Images from Google.com