Welcome to Hill Country Herbalist

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Harvesting Red Clover Blossoms and Making Them Into Tincture

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)typically doesn't grow in Texas, but it was growing on Maypop Farms. The blossoms are edible and have a neutral, sweet, and satisfying taste. They have an affinity for the salivary glands causing slight stimulation, which is helpful in quenching thirst (Wood 1997). The flowers can be dried or used fresh to make an herbal tea infusion. It's long been considered a blood cleanser and can be used to support the reproductive system and the liver. Since it works well in assisting detoxify the body, it has long been recommended to drink the tea in an effort to address troubled skin.

Red Clover is considered an alterative; when used over time on a regular basis helps alter the body in some way. In the case of Red Clover, it is said to alter the lymphatic system and helps the liver remove waste. Since it has an affinity to salivary glands and glands in general, it has been used to reduce swelling in glands and has been used to address salivary stones.

On a hike at the farm, we found a stand of red clover. Their leaves are very smooth and soft. They love growing in grasses and partly sunny areas. Once the blossoms were gathered, they were placed in jars to make into tincture. Pictured above is a glycerite tincture preparation using Simpler's method (compacting the plant material tightly in a jar then filling up with vodka or glycerin and shaken daily for two weeks). Seeing that I have a salivary stone myself...I'll be first in line to use this tincture in hopes of addressing the stone in my submandular gland.

Reference taken from Mathew Wood's "The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicine" 1997.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Herbal Retreat: Maypop Farms

Maypop Farms is lovingly named after the enticing passion flower (pictured here growing at the farm). The Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine, led by Nicole Telkes, took a field trip to this amazing land in Montgomery, Texas. The Farm is cared for by an herbalist named Larry (pictured here teaching us how to make delicious peach wine). I took so many pictures and cannot describe how important this trip is for a budding herbalist. Where else can you see stands of red clover growing freely, along with bee balm, passion flower, elderberry, heirloom garlic, wild oats, millet, wheat, and a myriad other edible plants and herbs?

Many "herb nerds" as Nicole dubs us slept in tents, in open air platforms, or in their vehicles (like yours truly). With screened in back windows, a fan, and my comfy bedding from home - I soon created a "home away from home" in the suburban. Waking up at the crack of dawn, stepping outside and washing up on the tailgate, prepping my breakfast, lunch and dinner in the "kitchen quadrant" of the 'burban, was so invigorating! I just loved this experience. Most of all, I loved connecting with the plants and other herbalists who understand and respect the plants.

I took so many pictures, I'll have to work them in as I feature them individually in other postings. I simply cannot wait until I have the energy to post them and discuss them. As I type, I have bee balm spread out on paper ready to be dehydrated (pictured above). I'm going to infuse this bee balm in oil to make a very special lotion. (sigh) now to unpack all my bags! ciao!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A toner good enough to eat!

Rosemary, thyme, and mint.....what a delicious medley to infuse in a toner base. I've rough chopped these herbs and have them infusing in witch hazel and will add essential oils and hydrosol to make a wonderful astringent toner that is cleansing, toning, and tightening for the face. Each herb has astringent properties and thyme has wonderful antiseptic properties. On a plant walk with herbalist Christopher Hobbs, he mentioned the active agent in thyme is thymol. Thyme can be made into a strong infusion (like a strong tea by steeping it in hot water) and sipped throughout the day to help the body combat a cold or flu. Thyme can also be infused in oil and placed directly on finger and toe nails to kill fungal growth. It is a powerful antiseptic and antimicrobial herb.

This toner will be designed for oily and troubled skin. I plan on being my first guinea pig so I'll see how it works first hand. I've had it infusing for a few days and I'll be sure it infuses for at least 10 before I start adding essential oils and floral hydrosols.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Today in the garden

Happy Mother's Day to you! Here are a few plants growing near the house in the rock garden:

Lavender (Lavandula) getting ready to bloom. It's best to harvest the flowers early when they first come into bloom. Teas can be made with the flowers and I've heard they are an exceptional addition to lemonade. Many people use blooms in the form of essential oils or potpourri to have a fresh linen smell in their linen closets. I love this plant since I can have it out in the rock garden and the deer will not eat it.

The lavender is growing with Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Sage (Salvia officinales) and Skullcap (Scrutellaria laterifolia).

According to Herbalist David Hoffman, Skullcap's aerial parts can be used once the plant has flowered. People have used this plant to make a tincture (1:2 parts vodka). The tincture is a nervine tonic used to reduce stress and relaxes nervous tension. It is said to work by relaxing the nervous system. It can also be taken as a tea.

Rosemary acts as a circulatory and nervine stimulant. It can have a toning and calming effect on digestion (reduces flatulence) and it can be a remedy used when psychological tension is present. Both Skullcap and Rosemary can be used together to assist with depression. They can be combined in a tea. Rosemary has a very stimulating effect on the senses. Most people I know, love rubbing it between their hands and smelling the fresh plant release it's oils. It can give be a wonderful awakening of the senses. I know it can be used for so many things, and I simply love using Rosemary when cooking.

Sources: The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman.

Working in the Herbal Kitchen

Today, I've been working in the 'herbal kitchen' making lotions for the body and toners for the face. My lotion line grew a little today. I've been giving samples away and thankfully have been hearing beneficial feedback, specifically how soft and moisturized their skin looks and feels after using just a little. The lotion I made last week turned out to be a big hit. I've named this lotion "Orange Blossom" because the smell is sweet and clean. I've heard its been used on the face, body, hands and feet with great results.

Today, I made one with cocoa butter, Shea butter, and royal honey. I also made the original Cleavers lotion (Healing Hands) and doubled the recipe to see if I would have consistency between the first batch and the third batch. I'm pleased and grateful the doubled recipe came out perfect, just like the first batch. So doubling the recipe worked! Big step for me so now I can make several 8 oz. bottles of lotion at a time.

Pictured are some of the kitchen tools used to make the lotions. I have my eye on an industrial blender that will make me look back at these tools and giggle. But, for now - they are working just fine. In the windowsill, I have grape leaves, raspberry leaves, mullein leaves (Verbascum thapsus), evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) , and calendula (Calendula officinales) infusing in oils for future product making.

Better go...just had my husband come in and say he knocked the propane tank over with his mower. How did he do that?! Anyway, there's always something going on around here....ciao for now :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Calendula and Chickweed Salve

This salve smells delicious. I used Calendula (Calendula officinalis) and Chickweed (Stellaria media) infused EVOO to make the base of this healing creamy salve. Salve like this one can be used directly on insect bites, bruises, rashes, scrapes, burns, or any other skin irritation. Basil has been enjoying the benefits on his paw. I've been alternating between the Calendula tincture and salve to treat his inflamed paw and he is much better for it. I'm keeping it bedside since bites, bumps and bruises are frequent at my house.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Calendula & Cleavers lotion

I'm very excited about this lotion. I just made it today and I can tell it's a star. The smell is sweet and clean. It has hints of orange blossom and since the lotion features Calendula (Calendula officinalis) and Cleavers (Galium aparine) it is soothing, healing, and nutritive. Calendula is prized for its ability to sooth inflammation and heal wounds. It is ideal for dermatitis, bruises, and rashes, which makes this cream great for everyday maintenance as well as for when we get bumps and bruises.

Today in the Herbal Kitchen: Blueberry tincture and other things

I had blueberries I wasn't using so I dehydrated the blueberries, then ground them. I placed the ground blueberries in a 1:2 ratio with vodka and have been keeping in a jar in a cool and dark location. The tincture should be ready next week to strain and bottle. I am planning on adding it to my lotion making ingredient list, thinking it would bring antioxidant strength and interesting coloring. It's been sitting now for about 1 week. Today, I read that the blueberry tincture is said to be a great facial astringent and may be effective against facial herpes and as intestinal disinfectant. People have used 15 drops a day for children; 40 drops for adults, so this tells me it can be pretty mild and can be used by most of us; however, a tincture in glycerin rather than vodka would be more appropriate for children.

Also going on in the "herbal pantry": dehydrated grape leaves (shown in picture just before being dehydrated) and grape leaf infusion with red palm oil. This is an experiment and we shall see how this turns out in two weeks. Grape leaves are very high in Vitamin A and Vitamin K. The red palm oil is very high in Vitamin A and is reported to be a high antioxidant. I have plans for this infusion but since it's experimental anything can happen.
I'm also going to make a salve today. I've been using the Calendula tincture on Basil's paw and it has helped heal the infection he has had on his pad. He must have cut it on something and it was having a hard time healing. Now it looks much better, giving me the idea to make a Calendula salve safe enough for cats to ingest while grooming themselves. So now I'm off to the "herbal kitchen" to whip up a batch of salve for my spoiled kitty..... ;)