Discover what other students of herbal medicine & homeopathy have to say about their learning experience with me!

Healing Grief


Healing Grief: Natrum Muriaticum

I share the following personal story so you can learn how, and when, to use this remedy yourself. Keep it close at hand. The times we’re in call for it.

When I was 21 years old, my father unexpectedly died 10 days after my birthday. He was 47. Death is strange; for it’s as natural as birth. We all know it’s going to happen. Yet, when we see someone grieving the loss of a beloved we treat them like the untouchable. Most everyone – friends, neighbours, teachers, and even relatives carefully tip-toed around me and my immediate family unsure of what to say or do so they avoided us altogether as if we had a communicable disease. Cast into the turbulent sea of grieving, and terribly untrained for it, I had to learn the skill of swimming in the cold and unforgiving waters of sorrow. Like many destined to the healing arts, this was just one of the life events that had me thrown ashore forced to walk the path of the wounded healer. Healer, heal Thyself. What an undertaking it is.

The year of my father’s death and the few years following were pivotal to understanding what it means navigate profound loss, depression, and lifelessness. I had no hope, no motivation, and felt isolated; ironically during the very years I was supposed to be enjoying the best years of my life. Then I found the homeopathic remedy Natrum muriaticum. A remedy for numbing, life-stealing grief.  Natrum muriaticum (Nat-mur) is made from salt. The raw substance is processed according to homeopathic principles and made into a remedy. Imagine you are standing on the jutting rocks over looking the cold, all-encompassing wild ocean. Salt is the mineral of our emotions. The hot tears, the salt in the wound, the heavy overcast of forboding clouds rolling in.

A perfect match for me at the time, this remedy is for the individual who protects them-self from showing the world the gut-splitting vulnerability of their pain. In particular, Nat-mur is for heartbreak, betrayal, loss, yet carrying it all with a brave face. It’s for the strong, dutiful person who absorbs responsibility because that pressure has been put upon them – or they shoulder  it because that’s just who they are. After my farther died and the few years after, I was sure to not allow anyone except for a precious few to come into my world. I turned away from relationships, not wanting to burden anyone with the depth of my grief and lostness. I avowed nothing was wrong. All the time. And yet I was disappearing from myself, the salt of amassed tears forming a fortress around me preventing close relationships and preventing me from moving on. This is a classic indication for this remedy. Thankfully, I found myself on the front steps of homeopathy college, with no understanding (yet) of how the training I was about to embark on to help others was really there to teach me that I first must help myself.

So what happened? Well, it was a long process, of a couple of years to find myself again. What I will tell you, is 5 days after the very first dose of Natrum-mur, I cried….because I could feel something resembling joy for the first time in years. It was a tiny feeling, but importantly I felt. The numbness was dissolving. Then, I found myself going out, because I felt a sparkle of joy and enthusiasm emerging. A few weeks later, my friend remarked I was smiling. And perhaps a year of consistent homeopathic treatment, I could look in the mirror and see a light in my eyes I thought died along with my father.

And importantly, as with any appropriately given remedy, insights into my own soul were uncovered. I was revealing myself to myself. Delicately, like origami. And eventually, years later, peacefulness genuinely came.  I do not want to mid-lead you: this was not a straight lined path. The first 1-3 months of homeopathic treatment were profound enough to quell the science-trained skeptic in me. But really, deep concentrated healing through this journey was spiral-shaped. There were periods of time I felt stagnant. Times I felt I was going backwards. Tormenting grief revisited. And yet, finally, on the other side of the healing journey I could look back and see just how far I had come, and how all of it was truly an advancement forward.

One of the most beautiful full-circles in my own personal healing journey is, for the first time in my life I get to pilgrimage to the land of my father’s ancestry…Greece. If you’ve ever wondered, my surname Capranos mean’s “mountain goat” in Greek!  Combining the love of my father and our family name and the love of my profession I will attend Homeopathy Summer School for professionals this June in Greece. And to top it off, a few of my closest friends will join me to visit sacred sites, because, well, it wouldn’t be a pilgrimage without visiting the sacred ruins and sites of this ancient land.  

Nat-mur is common enough to be sold at your local pharmacy or health food store. You can purchase it yourself if you relate to this picture. Though, for long-standing, complicated situations the guidance of a practitioner is recommended. We live in grief-inducing times. This remedy can be a helpful ingredient in your medicine chest if you feel wrecked with grief from life events, PTSD, heck….the news.

The best way to take it for every-day stress & grief: take 3 pills once a day for 2-5 days depending on the severity of the situation. Then stop. Wait and watch and see what happens in the coming weeks. Repeat 3 pills on occasion as needed. Learn about homeopathy by purchasing a few books (like this one or this one). As any system of medicine demands: educate yourself on the basic principles so you can use it responsibly.

Nettles: Magic, Myth & Medicine

As we near the spring Equinox and the pagan holiday Ostara the nettles beckon me from the field behind my home.

Ostara, or spring equinox, is the holiday celebrating birth and renewal as the sun warms the earth and coaxes the plants upward towards the sun to receive nourishment. Out of the dark, rich, black soil sprouts new life. Like the verdant green of new spring nettles (latin, Urtica dioica, or Urtica urens).

HISTORY, MAGIC & LORE 

Since at least the Bronze age, nettles have provided people with fibre for weaving cloth, linen and paper. It makes such strong fibre that tombs exhumed 2,000 years later found clothing made from nettle still intact. This speaks to the strength and power of nettle to weave health and resiliency into our very cells. Some say the name “nettle” comes from the Anglo-saxon word Netel which may come from the word noedl meaning needle – as in the sharp prickles that give this green ally its sting. I think of it more as the exacting and awakening touch of nature’s powerful witch doctor, Nettle, who can revive tired, sick, or weary souls.

Nettle has long been associated with protection. Just try to mindlessly grab a fistful of nettle – and ouch! She teaches you boundaries. The plant has a powerful innate protective mechanism to keep invaders away. The sting (caused by formic acid) wakes you up, slows you down, to approach and harvest mindfully. In the Hans Christian Anderson story The Twelve Wild Swans the protective cloaks the princess made for her eleven brothers were spun from nettle fibres.

Hang bundles of nettle around your home, from your clothing, or strewn in your car for protection. Gather bundles  of nettle to use in ritual or spellwork to create boundaries, activate and add fuel to starting something new. The energies of the planet mars guides this herb.

In Germany nettles were associated with Thor, the God of thunder. During thunderstorms or wild weather travellers threw bundles of nettle into the fire as an offering to Thor praying for protection against lightning. In medieval Ireland nettle was known as the Devil’s Apron. It’s said the Roman invaders brought nettle to the lands we now call Briton to rub this plant on their joints to keep the chill from giving them rheumatism. The Roman writer Caius Petronius said that a man’s virility was improved if he was whipped with nettle below the kidneys.

A PERSONAL STORY 

When I was in the Andes mountains of Ecuador in 2013 I met an indigenous woman who offered to give me a cleansing. I followed her as she went to gather her herbs behind her hut. I had no idea what to expect. Out she came with long stems of green herbs, I recognized mint, lemonbalm and….nettles. Nettles?! She told me to remove all my clothes. I thought perhaps I’d climb into a bath and to soak with these herbs. But no, once the clothes were off she whipped (sort of gently) me head to toe with the herbs for a solid 5 minutes (by the way, her bundle was mostly nettles. 5 minutes is a long time!). As you might imagine my entire body was buzzing with heat and prickles, I grew warmer and warmer, and frankly it was mind-altering. After the five minutes she covered me with egg, and murmured blessings for my heart, my ancestors, and the future that lies before me. It was beautiful.

I left her hut about 30 minutes later, and felt fantastic. I kept waiting for the dreaded nettles rash to appear.  No rash. No irritations. Just warm, alive, and blood pumping. It felt great to have good circulation! About 2 hours later I had no symptoms of the nettles sting which I found interesting because as any of you who’ve harvested this herb know, the sting can last for days if you touch her the wrong way.

FOR BODY & BLOOD 

Nettles are used to feed and nourish the body with their abundant mineral, vitamin, and amino acid content. They are also used to feed and nourish the body of the earth – making an incredible green manure or compost tea for the gardens.

Therapeutically nettle is great for those with anemia as it improves iron absorption, improves circulation, reduces uric acid for those who suffer from gout, it’s great for those with arthritis, and is used for a wide variety of skin conditions from acne to eczema. I love it for folks who are exhausted, depleted, or have suffered adrenal burn-out. It’s a great tonic for pregnancy (it’s so nutrient rich) and new mothers (increases breast milk). Personally I find it helps to balance blood sugar levels and decrease sugar cravings. it’s also great to counter hay fever, allergies, and it’s useful for those with asthma.

To really reap the benefits of nettle for any of the above mentioned therapeutic uses, you really have to consume it over a long period of time – months especially for anemia, asthma, skin issues, and hay fever – and daily or multiple times a week. Overtime, I’ve noticed it improves the quality of skin, hair and nails.

This herb is a food. Our bodies know how to use the nutrients because we’ve co-evolved with plants. We are evolutionary familiar with one another.  Nettles, like many green herbs that are suitable as food, are easy to digest, assimilate.  I think of nettle as an ally that cleans up our inner waterways: the lymph, blood, kidneys, bladder.

I find the spirit of this plant presents itself to me as a firm, ferocious crone as strong and tough like the fibres of the plant. Nettle medicine goes deep, breaking up stagnation and removing old, dead waste from our bodies (yes it alleviates constipation too).  As Susun Weed says, nettle “cuts loose old patterns and re-weaves connections.” Yes indeed.
So eat, drink, and make magic with this green ally.

HOW TO USE NETTLE FOR FOOD & MEDICINE

When possible, I prefer to use my herbs as food first.

My favourite way is to steam fresh nettles and eat them daily. Cut the top third of the plant, stem and all, into a gathering basket and place in your steamer once you get home. Steam / sauté them for about 5 minutes. The sting goes away after about that length of time.  Use them every which way you use spinach.

The ideas are endless:
spanakopita
lasagna
ravioli
muffins
veggie burgers
pesto
burritos
blended into hummus or dips
grind finely and add to salt
grind and add to sesame seed gomasio
I also grind it finely and had a scoop to soups, smoothies or stews to up the nutritional content.

. Check out what the women at Gather have done with nettles here devilled eggs! I’d love to hear how you use them in the comments below.

I love to make soups with nettle. Instead of broccoli or spinach soup – use nettles. One of my all-time favourites is mushroom – nettle soup. It’s very basic: onions, garlic, brown mushrooms, broth, and nettles. I find blending the soups once they are done makes for a deeper flavour. Soooo good! Using nettle in soups means it’s easy to freeze large batches and have this nourishing herb through the seasons.

Juice nettles: If you have the kind of juicer that can juice wheatgrass, then juice nettles. I store the juice in ice cube trays. Then I add a cube to water when it’s not nettle season (summer & winter) when I crave the deep green to sink into my cells –  when I’m exhausted, drained, or anemic.

Infusion with the dried herb – dry your own nettles (or you can buy them from quality herb shops) and prepare a medicinal infusion. Many herbalists view teas as basically flavoured beverages and find them not very medicinal (though they can be slightly depending on the quality of the herbs) but an infusion is a very strong therapeutic brew. Prepare a nettle infusion by weighing out 25g of dried nettle and place the herb in 500ml of boiled water. Steep for 1 hour or even over night. Strain and enjoy your vitamin – mineral drink!

Tincture – You can make your own nettle tincture by blending the fresh leaves or ripening seeds with 95% alcohol at a 1:5 ratio. However, my preference is to use nettle as explained above – as food or water extracts (infusions).

Syrup – There are countless recipes for Iron Syrups out there that include nettle as a primary ingredient. Check out this recipe here. A basic syrup is essentially a strong infusion or decoction of a herb, with a sweetener added for flavour and preservation.

In conclusion, when using nettles for medicine – use them as food first. Your use doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate. In fact, what I love, and advocate for, is the use of herbs so they are inexpensive and accessible. So go simple. Steam them. Drink them. Period. If you are experienced with herbs and wild food, then go wild and creative if that inspires you. Too often I meet students or patients who shy away from using these wild medicines because they are intimidated, they think it requires special tools or skills to use them. Nope. Steam, eat, drink.

So this spring, a season of transition, may nettles guide you to re-weave new ways of connecting to your own health and the spirited force that connects all of life.

Blessed Be.

Seraphina

Fire Cider: An Easy-to-make homemade respiratory tonic

Many decades ago, the renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar coined the term “Fire Cider” for a simple home made respiratory tonic using easy to find kitchen ingredients and apple cider vinegar (recipe below).

When I was in herbal school in the late 1990’s, I learned it as Professor’s Blend.  Whatever name you call it by, this is a time-tested, tasty tonic to protect – or treat – respiratory infections such as colds or flu’s.  It’s yummy and very effective.  While it’s been popularized to nip colds and flu’s in the bud, I recommend it as a daily tonic for everyone and especially for those who are  asthmatic and / or suffer from  recurrent sinus infections or ear infections.  PLUS it’s a great digestive aid for sluggish, weak digestion.  Our digestion is intrinsically connected to our immune health;  this tonic has the amazing dual purpose of supporting both important body systems.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The main ingredients are pungent, spicy & aromatic:  garlic, onions, ginger, and sometimes horseradish and a touch of cayenne pepper. These ingredients are herbs known for their antimicrobial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory actions.  Garlic is protective for the heart, and all of the ingredients stimulate and support the circulatory system and are classified as warming.   From an energetic perspective, when we are tired, run down and tend towards being chilly and sluggish our internal fire is low leading to a greater susceptibility for being sick. This fire cider helps to generate the internal heat to increase vitality.

Here’s a step-by-step video for how to make Fire Cider. If you’re the type of person that’d rather read the recipe than watch the video, just scroll down, I’ve written all the steps out just below the video. Enjoy!

HOW TO USE FIRE CIDER

Start or end your day with a tablespoon in a little water or tea as a preventative through the cold and flu season.  While sick, take up to 6 tablespoons. Children may prefer the cider in a little juice.  Use it in salad dressings for the family as a daily wellness shot. Warm it on the stove as an inhalant to clear sinuses.

Recipe Time: 30 minutes or less

Equipment: 
A litre (quart) size canning jar
Wax paper to line the lid
Grater, chopping knife, and / or food processor 

Ingredients:
While every herbalist has their own version of fire cider, they all more or less include onions, garlic, and horseradish.  If you cannot find fresh horseradish in a farmer’s market, garden (it grows like a weed!) or grocery store, then buy the condiment horseradish, but read the ingredients and make sure there’s no additives other than salt and vinegar.

1/2 cup onions
1/2 cup chopped garlic OR two whole heads of garlic, peeled & chopped
1/4 cup peeled ginger root
1/2  cup horseradish * or 1/4 cup if you’re really sensitive to this spicy root
1  organic cayenne pepper.  If you cannot find them whole, purchase organic, dried cayenne flakes or seeds and had just 1/4 tsp.  I find the powder irritating.
apple cider vinegar – which itself is medicinal and healing as an anti-inflammatory and digestive aid.  Step by step instructions to make your own apple cider vinegar here.
Honey to taste (I prefer it without, as I like savoury medicines).

Optional:
1/2 cup fresh peeled turmeric root
1/3 cup orange peels or other citrus fruit peels (fresh or dried)
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds or pure juice (thanks to Julia Blankespoor for this inspiration!)

Finely chop, grate or put the above ingredients in a food processor:

Place the ingredients into a clean, wide-mouthed mason jar large enough that it fills the jar half (or nearly half) full.  Transfer to a larger mason jar if your herbs fill nearly to the brim of the jar.

Cover with apple cider vinegar.  Keep in mind that all the herbs must be completely submerged in the vinegar.  If any of the herbs poke above the surface your fire cider may spoil. 

place a piece of wax paper over the opening of the jar, and then fasten the canning jar lid.  The wax paper prevents the vinegar from rusting the metal lid.
Label with the date and full ingredient list.
Store in dark place for 2-4 weeks.

When it is ready,  strain, add some honey to taste, then bottle. It does not need to be refrigerated. However, you may keep in the fridge to prolong the shelf life.  Unrefrigerated it lasts about 10 months.  You may use the spent herbs in a stir fry or add to sauerkraut.

Enjoy!

Naturally fermented pickles – Vinegar Free

Naturally fermented (aka cultured) pickles produce the most delicious sour flavour thanks to the naturally occurring good bacteria.  The pickles float in a cloudy brine that is delicious. Many are known to drink this brine for the flavour and beneficial bacteria. When we had sore stomach’s as kids, my mom or grandmother would have us drink a little sip of the pickle or sauerkraut brine. It really helped! 

 The following recipe is directly from my European grandfather.   Some of my best memories growing up are visiting my grandparents house during harvest season, my favourite time of year.  Their cold storage was always pungent with the smell of heavy brine wafting from several massive earthenware crocks that were almost as tall as my ten year old self. Opening the heavy stone lid and reaching in for those super-sour-garickly pickles was so much fun!

 STEP ONE

Find a local source of pickling cucumbers that still have a nice hard crunch to them.  If you buy soft cucumbers or tough skinned cucumbers you might end up with bitter and soft pickles. The freshness of your cukes is very important in producing a fantastic finished product. 

 

 STEP TWO

 Immediately wash the cukes in very cold water. If they were not harvested that day let them soak in a cold bath to crisp up as I’m doing pictured above. Be sure to de-bud the ends of the stalk.

 STEP THREE

 Wash your crock (or wide-mouth glass jars or other non-porous container) really well.  I use boiled water off the kettle to wash ensuring everything is sterilized.  Unwanted bacteria introduces molds that might cause the batch to go off. Once your container is washed and the cukes are ready, add the following herbs to the bottom of the crock: 

 

One fresh grape leaf (grape leaves are rich in tannins that inhibit an enzyme in the cukes from going soft. If you don’t have access to grape leaves skip this step and don’t worry)
Peeled, whole garlic cloves…as many as you want! I use 1 -2 whole bulbs, peeled, separated
Fresh dill weed and some dill seeds fresh or dried
Mustard seeds, whole
Peppercorns, whole
Coriander seeds, whole
All of these spices are to taste.  For one litre jar sized batch, I’d use half a teaspoon of each spice, and 1 whole head of garlic

STEP FOUR
Next, layer all the freshly washed cucumbers on top of all the spices and garlic. You don’t have to pack them tightly, just pile them in.

 

STEP FIVE
Now make your water solution (that will become the brine) to cover your pickles.  I find 3 litres of water nicely covered 6 pounds of cucumbers. So, in a clean mixing bowl I dissolve 6 TBSP of sea salt into non-chlorinated tepid (not boiled!) water. If this math scares you: Just fill a pot of water, eye-ball how much water you think will cover your cucumbers by three inches.  Then, add sea salt by the TBSP and keep adding salt until it reaches a mouth-puckering saltiness that’s enjoyable.  If it’s sickeningly salty, you’ve added too much salt. Too much salt means the environment will be too sterile, and the cukes won’t culture, all the salt just kills the good bacteria. Too little salt, and the unwanted molds will take over and you’ll have a rotten batch.  Once you’ve mixed your water and salt solution, pour over your pickles to cover them by three inches.
*note: if you are using chlorinated city water, boil all your water and then let it cool down (without a lid to off-gas) to room temp and use that for your brine. 

STEP SIX
Keep the cukes under the brine and protect them from being directly exposed to air. Find a plate that fits inside your crock that can hold the cukes under the water brine and then set a weight to sit atop.  If you’ve made your pickles in a canning jar or other wide mouthed jar, use a smaller jam jar to act as the weight.  The goal here is to keep the veg under the water solution. Make sure your weight (a rock, jar filled with water etc) is also really clean!  I sterilize by boiling a giant rock in water for 5minutes. Now, cover with a lid, plate, etc, and let it sit undisturbed in a cool place (not the fridge). 

 

 

STEP SEVEN

 Check on it daily, and with a clean spoon. Scoop away the “skin” and foam that will begin to form (pictured above).  While this doesn’t look pretty, it’s not bad, it’s just a sign that the cucumbers are fermenting and turning into pickles! Put the plate, weight, and cover back (after quickly washing them), and return the crock to the cool location.

 Check on the pickles every few days, scooping away the foam and skin.  If the plate and weight are getting slimy, I wash them with soap and boiled water. After about 7-10 days, you won’t have to scrape the foam anymore.  Just leave them and check for taste! After about three weeks, they can be put into mason jars and then into the fridge.  There, they will continue to slowly ferment, and age deliciously.  In the fridge, they can last up to a year.  Then they will be REALLY sour, but so goo

 Here I’m checking on the pickles after about two weeks:

 

They are turning sour, but not quite finished culturing to my taste buds.  So I left them in the crock for another week. Below, after three weeks, they are nearly perfect! So, I transferred them into gallon jars  to store in the fridge so they can slowly ferment through the season.  They are SO GOOD!

 

 

Recap & tips:

 Make sure you use fresh crispy cukes. Let them soak in very cold water to crisp them up even more just before preparing them in the crock 

When making your brine solution you want to find that “sweet spot” of salty brine to your liking. The saltier, the slower to ferment.  The less salt, they’ll ferment quick and you might risk them going moldy.
Make sure everything is really clean
It’s important to keep your cukes submerged in the brine. To do this place a clean plate then a weight over top. Then, use cover to keep away the dust and bugs (a lid, a kitchen towel, a plate etc)
Use a good quality salt, not generic table salt. I prefer sea salt.

 ENJOY!

Questions? please drop them below in the comments!

 Blessings!

Seraphina  

A flower for first aid, swollen glands, yeast infections and more

This is the time of year where I’m reaping the benefits of my harvest.  Not to say harvest season is over – in a lot of ways it’s just begun! But I harvest most of my flowers between April (when dandelion begins) through July, when the sun is the strongest.

Right now, I’m focused on making Calendula medicine in my apothecary.

The name Marigold is given to many yellow-orange pot herbs of this species.  This is where  Latin names become important to ensure you do indeed have the medicinal marigold that will serve as potent medicine. The second part to its name, “officinalis” indicates that it was “officially” used in the pharmacopeia’s (that is, medicine and pharmacy) of Europe until modern 21st century medicine.

Calendula is a powerful disinfectant, in fact, Dr. Margery Blackie (1898-1981) the Royal Physician to Queen Elizabeth used Calendula tincture to disinfect  surgery instruments in war camps during the 2nd World War.

Today, herbalists and homeopaths alike use this “weed” that grows between cracks in sidewalks, road sides, and driveways, to disinfect as it is a very powerful antimicrobial, and a whole lot more….

I teach my herbal students to always pay close attention to  plants that grow tenaciously in the most extraordinary places, under dire conditions.  If you look closely in the photo above, you’ll see that this healthy robust calendula is growing in the tiniest patch of rumble alongside a paved driveway with barely any soil and next to no water.  Amazing.  This tells us the plant has a strong immune system.  The very immune system that it lends to us humans when we harvest and utilize the plant for medicine.

CALENDULA OIL

Calendula is made into an oil to soothe sore, infected, damaged (from sun, radiation etc) skin. Once you have the oil, you can use it to make into a salve or cream to protect the skin, speed the healing of scrapes, scars, incisions, and other wounds.

It can be used for painful skin lesions from chickenpox, cystic acne, boils, or surgical wounds.

Making your own calendula oil is incredibly easy.  In the picture above my calendula blossoms have been sitting in olive oil on a sunny window for about a month.  Go here for step-by-step instructions for how to make your own.

Most readers are probably familiar with Calendula baby creams and diaper creams.  Calendula soothes the skin, cools inflammation, and signals the body to generate healthy new skin cells.  It helps to strengthen the capillary cell walls while also preventing infection.

CALENDULA TINCTURE

I make my calendula tincture only from fresh flowers.  The sticky resin that you can feel as you pick the flower heads is a key ingredient making this herb a powerful antimicrobial.

To properly extract the resin, you must use a high percentage of alcohol.  I use between 75%-95%.  Go here for step-by-step instructions for how to make your own tincture. It’s easy – takes all of 5 minutes! 

Internally and externally it can treat athletes foot, yeast infections, ringworm.  I also use the tincture to support the lymphatic system  to fight off infection such as sore throats, strep, cold viruses and sinus infections.  It blends well as a tincture with Echinacea.  For sore lymph nodes, take as a fresh tincture three times a day.

You can moisten a cotton ball in the fresh tincture to place in the mouth after tooth extractions to stop bleeding, prevent infection, and ease inflammation. Consider using the tincture diluted with water as a mouth wash to prevent infection.

CALENDULA TEA I make a strong tea of this herb and add the infusion to baths for women after giving birth, to prevent infection, cool, soothe, and protect and ensure a speedy healing and recovery.

The dried blossoms can be added to all kinds of teas to soothe skin, inflammation (yeast infections, bowel inflammation, sore throats, internal burns from radiation, fevers, teething in babies).  Consider blending dried calendula blossoms with other herbs to taste pleasant and continue supporting the immune system, such as: elderberries, lemon balm, catnip, peppermint, spearmint, red clover, marshmallow.

GROW IT AND NEVER RUN OUT Calendula self-seeds, and once you have some, you likely always will.  Harvesting the blossoms promotes growth.  I can harvest calendula blossoms May through October! Though I have found the most potent blossoms are the ones growing under the hot, challenging sun. The intense heat tends to encourage the release of the sticky, anti-microbial resin.

BEAUTY & THE BEES The beauty of this plant is medicine to the soul.  It’s known as a helpful companion plant, and the bees love it! The benefits of this safe, abundant plant is yet another gift of nature.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below – share your own experience with calendula including favourite recipes!

Enjoy!

An Antiviral Herb that Uplifts the Spirits

July is a busy month of harvesting fresh plants, both wild and cultivated.  One of my favourite herbs of the season is St. John’s Wort, the latin name Hypericum perforatum. This bright little yellow flower is named after St. John the Baptist, a holiday celebrated in June, which is typically the week Hypericum begins to bloom. I’ve noticed in various farmers fields it’s still blooming, which means it can still be harvested. Note: This is not the ornamental hypericum which has large blooms the size of your fist. The actual size of medicinal hypericum flower is about the size of your thumb nail.

St.John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum

The oldest, and most common use for this plant is for skin care. It has long been used as a primary herb for healing inflamed, damaged, torn, dry, painful and cracked skin.  I use it in all my salves and even my face cream.   It is also famed for its place in treating hemorrhoids (as a topical ointment), and in all conditions where there is nerve pain or nerve damage (trigeminal neuralgia, sciatica, shingles, rheumatism, etc.). This makes it a favoured ingredient in massage oils, topical creams and ointments. Over the past century, hypericum has gained recognition for its use in the treatment of all nervous system disorders, including anxiety and depression. It helps to alleviate stress and apprehension while improving the overall mood. Herbalists like to use it in cases of painful menstruation accompanied by anxiety and moodiness. It is also used in cases of menopause with exhaustion and nervous anxiety.  Research has also pointed to its ability to help lower blood pressure and lessen the fragility of capillaries.  It’s also an antiviral that’s very effective against herpes.  I think about it in all my cases of individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, chronic herpes, and nerve pain. 

CAUTION: It is contraindicated for those on anti-depressants.  It can cause photosensitivity in some individuals, particularly red-heads or those with fair skin.

14 days have passed. Hypericin, the anti-viral property of St.John’s Wort has been extracted into the oil giving it the bright red colour. Notice the flowers have floated to the bottom

The flowers and buds must be harvested fresh – not dried – and made into an oil or tincture that same day, or the very next day while they are still full of vitality. I pick them and immediately place them into a jar of my favourite oil (olive, sesame, sunflower).  Make sure to harvest on a very dry sunny day.  Oil and water don’t mix, and contaminating the plant, oil, or your hands with water may result in a rancid oil that you cannot use for medicine.

Particularly magical, hypericum soaked in oil turns the most unbelievable cherry red as it infuses (see above).  I let my hypericum oil sit on a sunny window for 21 days to extract all the medicine into the oil.  Do not seal the lid of a jar while it’s infusing – fresh plants must exhaust themselves of moisture as they soak.  For step by step instructions for making an herbal oil go here.

Herbal oils can later be turned into: massage oils, salves, ointments, lip balms, face creams, sunscreens, and just about anything else you can imagine putting on your body.

Hypericum can also be made into a fresh tincture to be taken internally.  Go here for a step-by-step how to make a fresh tincture.

Plants are generous beings, and when you take the time to engage with them daily they might just reveal some secrets to you.

One of my most popular and well-loved recipes that includes hypericum oil is my Cleopatra’s Face Cream.  I’ve given you step-by-step instructions here. 

Enjoy!







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