Saturday, July 4, 2009

Herbs! Herbs! So Many Herbs!!

A little obsession of mine............lavender, thyme, calendula, rosemary, mint, and any other herb I can get my hands on!!! I can't help myself, I love learning all I can about the many different herbs on this Earth. I have been studying herbs for about 12 years now and am finally feeling as though I'm just starting to get to know them! There is so much to learn; there are so many plants that have real value to humans (and other animals). This summer my herbal focus is on those nasty viruses which hit us hard come winter. I'm learning about herbs and their energies; for example, cayenne has a hot energy, seems obvious, while dandelion has a cool energy. Knowing their energies helps you choose the right herb to treat a hot illness or a cold illness (did you know there are hot illnesses and cold illnesses?). I find this so fascinating!

Here is our living room table right now (my hubby calls it the witchy room). Baskets of freshly picked lavender, sage, clover, basil and mint; trays of chamomile, thyme, red clover, rose petals and calendula. The lavender is bundled and ready to be dried. I have to set up the lavender drying screens tomorrow.

The olive can holds rubber bands; it stays in the harvesting basket so I can bundle as I harvest.

calendula, feverfew, lemon verbena and oregano

I use rubber bands to bundle my herbs for drying, then attach a clothespin for hanging. I had to wire pipecleaners onto my "drying rack" in order for the clothespins to have a place to grip. I also have a trundle bed in the shed leaning against a wall with herbs clinging to it. I have found myself being very inventive when it comes to drying my herbs!

Once dry, the herbs go into thrifted glass jars, recycled jars or canning jars. So far I have a large amount of mint (peppermint, grapefruit, pineapple, lime, catnip, chocolate and spearmint). I also have lemon verbena, lemonbalm, lavender, calendula, chive blossoms, feverfew, rose petals, chamomile, linden tree blossoms, beebalm, dandelion and plantain leaves. These will most likely be used for teas, cooking or anything else calling for dried herbs.

Some herbs don't make it to the drying stage. I use them for medicinal oils, vinegars or hair rinse. I immediately put some chamomile in an apple cider infusion to make a cider rinse for my red hair and Araina's blonde hair. The chamomile adds highlights to your hair. Rosemary cider rinse is good for Fauna's brunette hair.

My little black kitty, Pixie Vixen, likes to watch over the herbs when I am working in this room. I have to hang the catnip high or she will eat it all up. As soon as I bring fresh catnip into the house the cats all come running! We are drying some of the catnip for them, the girls like to make catnip toys.

Soon I will be gathering elderberry for an elderberry/honey syrup that's great for the immune system come flu season. I would LOVE to hear from other "home herbalists" out there; what's your favorite herb and what do you use it for?

Ugh, not liking the lighting in the photos, but this is in a dark area of the house and I really dislike using my flash! I'm such a perfectionist in the need to make this silly statement!


Stephanie said...

All the way around.
From collecting and drying... this fall I'll show you my drying rack and shelf... and "hate using the flash" which I refuse to do...
to making tinctures and cough medicines.

I was so looking forward using even five cherries from our tree (we planted it last year) in a batch of cough medicine... alas, the birds ate them all up!

Anyway, this post made me smile, in light of our recent short conversation.

:) Steph

Anonymous said...

I LOVE your witchy room!! One day. One day. I seriously considered herbalism as a career until I realized I'd be responsible for others' health. One day (perhaps after grad school), I will revisit it. For my own family's health (as well as my own passion).

Erin said...

I love the looks of your dining room table! Thanks for sharing your drying processes ... Beautiful pics.

Sherry Gann said...

This is so fascinating, Lisa!

Tammy said...

I am in absolute awe.

...absolute awe.

This is all simply amazing!!!!!

Joy said...

Wow, that's just amazing, Lisa! I can only imagine how heavenly your witchy room smells! :) We use quite a few herbs for wellness around here too. I can see this being right up your alley.

Lise said...

I love this post. I just started gathering and preserving herbs last year, and made plantain oil, yarrow oil, and elderberry tincture (directions thanks to this Lisa:
I'm eager to learn more, and am particularly interested in how you use Linden Tree blossoms (there's a tree right down the street, and they smell so great!).
Eager to hear more,
:-) Lise

Lisa said...

Stephanie, those darn birds, shame on them for taking those 5 cherries!

Jumbles, I wouldn't want to be responsible for others' health as well; but love doing it for my family. The girls get a lot out of it too. Fauna makes a sage tea all the time for her throat.

lise, linden blossoms are a fever reducer. Great child's herb too!

Linda said...

Wow, I just love herbs, your photos are wonderful, you are so talented.

Anne said...

I love these photos. Your room must of smelled amazing.

I love lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) Essential Oil. I use it on burns and in my oil burner when I go to bed to help me and Little Lou fall asleep (only 3 to 4 drops as it can over stimulate me if to many drops goes in the oil burner LOL).

I also like to use Red Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) Essential Oil when I have a cold. This oil is quite strong. I put 2 drop in a bowl of boiling water and steam inhale. It nips a sore throat and chest infections in the bud for me.

I also like to burn Cypress and Eucalyptus together to cleanse the air in my home when the kids come home with coughs.

Nik said...

Oh gorgeous! I'm been busy learning about herbs this year and have a LONG way to go. Do you store your jars of dried herbs in the dark or can you display them?

Maria said...

Wow, your table looks so lovely!! I've had a big apothecary for a while now and needed to bring in more stuff than I could harvest, so I had to start buying it from others... Now that I'm slowing down the business to be a home maker, I 'm looking forward to gathering what I need from my own land and having the house smell like flowers and herbs again!!

Lavender was the first herb that I built a real connection with and even though I don't use it as much as I might use other herbs, it will always be one of my most favorite!!

Lisa said...

Nikki, Some are in a dark cupboard, some are in a place that doesn't receive direct sunlight. I like them to be easily available for Fauna, she loves making different tea mixtures.

Anne, I haven't tried red thyme or cypress for that, good to know. I simmer rosemary during flu and cold season. I also do a clove and cinnamon simmer when we have the sniffles.

Lisa :)

dongdong said...

hi, lisa

do you know of a good basic herbs book? I need one with lot of pictures. J's garden is overflowing (she spilled seeds) and I'm not sure what is what! Plus I have no idea what do with them so I feel kind of overwhelmed right now.

Annie said...

Whoa whoa whoa. Slow down! I want to know more!?! I want to make myself some rosemary cider rinse.... Love this post but will have to read it a few more time to really absorb all the ideas you're sparking in me!

momandkiddo said...

This is very inspiring. Every year I try out some new herbs in pots or in my community plot. This year, in addition to more common herbs, I have pineapple sage, which I haven't found too much information on. I have an overgrowth of lemon thyme which over-wintered from last year and makes great simple syrup for drinks. My new lavender finally looks like it might start blooming. It got one bloom and it was magenta!

Jane said...

Dear Lisa you are amazing! I so love your blog every time I pop over here there is something magical happening and I wish I could join in! I have always wanted to learn more about herbs but the going has been so sloooow.
I would love ideas on where to begin!!!!

Unknown said...

love this post, I am also gathering and drying herbs here in the UK. My favorite although not strictly herbal but natural produce is garlic honey which can be ingested but can also be used as a rub on the soles of the feet even on tiny babies for respiratory problems. Interestingly I read that during the great black plague people used to tie cloves of garlic to the feet as their throats were swollen and they were unable to take anything by mouth. Keep up the good work. Jan xx

Linda said...

Wow! Those jars filled with pretty coloured herbs.... even if you didn't use them, they'd make a fabulous decor! ;)

As for favourite herbs.. mine is thyme, to make into a syrup when little ones are coughing.. it tastes good and it actually helps.

Then peppermint, again for syrup.. this is just good for summer days and it reminds me of Italy, where LOADS of things are flavoured 'sciroppo di mentha'..

Herbs that I use for food are always put into the freezer. You can almost not tell the difference in flavour from when they were fresh.. I find that drying doesn't work for all herbs, taste-wise....

Greetings from the netherlands!

p.s. I absolutely LOVE your blog!

Shane Leverette said...

Thanks for this post; it's great to connect with other herb women out there, and I continue to be inspired by your blog. Beyond using herbs for my family's health, I combine my work with herbs with the teaching of yoga. Tonight, I'm sharing with the ladies a pregnancy tea that includes red raspberry, nettles, oatstraw, red clover, and mint...yum!

Sowing Clover (Emily) said...

I am a younger you. My family would always dread the days I drug in bundles and bundles of lemon balm, oregano, thyme, mint, and others onto the kitchen counter to rinse and bundle. From there the bundles went to the laundry room where they hung from the ceiling.

I loved seeing all of your jars. It gives me hope that one day I will have things to put in all of mind!

Thank you, thank you for all of your kind words! You have been, and continue to be, such an inspiration to me. Seeing your comments on my blog and reading your blog always cheers me up. I would love to meet you some day. :)


Lisa said...

dongdong, for a first book The Complete Book of Herbs by Lesly Bremness, if you google it you should be able to find it used for pretty cheap. It's a "sexy" book, meaning it has lots of pretty pictures of the herbs, to help you identify and it has some suggestions on how to use the herbs. Amazon has it and you can see some of the pages in the book. Here's the amazon link

After that book, I highly recommend any of the Rosemary Gladstar books. She'll tell you more specifically how to use the herbs.

Lisa ;)

Lisa said...

Emily, you are so sweet and I'm so glad things are looking up for the rest of the summer!

Jane, check out the books I recommended. Google herbs too, lots of cool things to learn just by internet.

M&K- pineapple sage, I've grown it before but didn't use it. Lemon thyme syrup sounds yummy for drinks!

tinker- love the garlic honey on the soles of the feet. I made an onion honey last year that didn't go over well in my house. I think garlic would be better, we love garlic around here.

Linda, I must make the thyme syrup for coughs, you are the second one to mention it.

Shane, the tea sounds wonderful. Bet it would make a great PMS tea too! Lucky ladies in your class. I wish I would have had you when I was pregnant.

Lisa ;)

Amanda said...

Oh, thank you so much for sharing this! I have a few things growing in my garden that I've never done anything with -- and I'm hoping to find more when I go to my favorite herb shop at the beach in a couple weeks.

You are always so inspiring. :) I bought The Kid's Herb Book, and am hoping to learn a TON this year!

nettlejuice said...

Excellent Lisa!
You are an earth sister, truely.
I have been studying Rosemary Gladstar's correspondence course for several years now (slow-gowing with the babes, but I'll finish it someday). In the meantime, we have come to know and love many of our local plants. Our stores look very much like yours.

My favorite herbs are the common ones, with nettles at the tops (of course) followed closely by plantain, yarrow and elder. This week I am giving my very first ever weed walk for some local homeschooling mamas. I'm so excited to share the gifts of the green world with other mamas, but so nervous as well.

Blessings on your herbs.

therese said...

you already have ripe elderberries?!? wow, i have to wait until september/october for that... and i might not even get enough for making anything, as i've already harvested most of the flowers for syrup!

Jessica said...

When I read this post I immediately thought of my "herbalist phase." I am speaking in the past-tense because I did not seem very good at it. My bookshelves are filled with everything from Scott Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs to less magical, Norman Fell books.

I tried making lavender facial scrub once and apparently kept it too long--it was filled with mildew when I returned to it.

I tried planting by the phases of the moon and found I just couldn't keep up.

I had a lovely little wagon wheel herb garden when M & I were first married--my pet hedgehog LOVED to roll in the thyme--but when we moved to our 2nd townhouse, there was no yard--and only potted herbs.

Perhaps your post will help me get my mojo back--I currently grow lavender, purple sage, basil, nasturtium, and various thymes. I hope to add to my herbs so one day I might start making concoctions again--hopefully mildew free!!

Unknown said...

i had to post this link on my blog,

laura gallagher said...

I too make an elder/honey syrup in the winter. I throw in some ginger too for the warming effect and to boost the elder powers even more!
Lemon Balm tincture (fresh!) is the best sleep aid out there and totally safe for kids too. :)

sarah in the woods said...

Love the pictures - and I was going to say that before I read that you don't like the lighting. I've been interested in herbs and their uses for a while now and read a little here and there. I've been frustrated with the fact that I have many interests and don't pursue any of them heartily. I was just making a list to help myself focus better on actually learning something and herbs is near the top of the list. Thanks for this very helpful post!

tamdoll said...

You are amazing! Besides cooking with herbs, I love mint tea. I always find it soothing... I have to move my mint to a sunnier spot, it's just not thriving where I put it & usually it's so invasive.