Monday, May 5, 2008

Springtime Gardening

Spring has definitely sprung. The weather is going crazy, from cool and windy to hot and muggy in almost a matter of hours at times. The world is suddenly green, and those of us with allergies are even more aware of it.

This is the perfect time to begin your gardens. Too many people are 'frightened' to start a garden, thinking they lack either the skill or the space to do so. But that just isn't so; with a little desire and effort, anyone can have a garden!

There are two points most important to think about when considering a garden:

Where will you put it? If you have a yard, the best place is a spot that gets direct sunlight for at least half of the day; morning sunlight is better than evening if you have to pick. If you don't have a yard, or you can't put in a garden in it (such as rental homes), you can still have a container-garden. You can get various pots or planters, many of them very cheap. Some people even use old buckets of various sorts, which are perfectly functional, though not the most attractive in appearance. If you don't even have room for that (such as an apartment with no balcony), you can still have at least some plants; you just have to make an indoor garden. You can get lightbulbs from many stores that give full-spectrum lighting for plants, or you can even get something like the AeroGarden, a complete garden that fits on a countertop, and takes up even less space than most microwaves.

What plants will you put in it? The most obvious choice to start with is culinary herbs. There is little that will improve anyone's cooking more than using fresh herbs, both in terms of taste and health benefits. Thyme, parsley, oregano, basil, and garlic are among the most healthful herbs you can use, and also some of the tastiest. If you want to move beyond herbs, there are a variety of vegetables that generally produce a good yield for even inexperienced gardeners, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, and many types of lettuce.

Whatever choices you make, get out there and start a garden. There is little to equal the sense of accomplishment when you serve something you have grown yourself; nor can you find anything more healthy to eat!

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Starting your Garden - Plants vs. Seeds

Perhaps the most crucial step in any garden, is obtaining the plants you will put in it. This does not necessarily have to be a difficult process, but with no plants there is no garden.

There are two main options available: you can buy seeds and start them yourself, or you can buy young plants at your local nursery or through the mail. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.

Some plants may only be available as either young plants or as seeds; if you want one of these plants, of course, you will have to take the method available.

Starting your herbs from seeds can require a bit more of a green thumb, as the plants are obviously very delicate in the early stages of growth. However, if you can manage it, it can be much more rewarding, to know you have nurtured the plants through their entire life. It can also be considerably cheaper than buying already-started plants, since the time and attention they required from the nursery is of course taken into account in the price.

Perhaps the simplest way to grow herbs starting from seeds is to buy a 'starter kit', which includes small soil 'pellets' in a greenhouse-type tray. Replacement pellets are generally available so that you can use your tray in subsequent seasons and years. If you choose this method, follow the directions that come with your kit and seeds; generally, you place 2-3 seeds on a pellet, water them, cover, and place the tray in a sunny location until the seedlings are large enough to be planted in a pot or garden. You can make a similar makeshift tray by taking a used egg carton, putting small holes for drainage in each section, and filling the sections with soil. This method does not have the benefit of the 'greenhouse' effect, so it needs to be kept in a warm location and kept well-watered. This will not work with all seed types - eucalyptus, parsley, dill, and others grow too deep for these shallow cells - but most herbs, particularly the popular culinary herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, savory, and sage will do well.

The main benefits of using plants from a nursery or through mail-order are that they are significantly easier for a beginner or 'brown thumb' gardener, and that many herbs do not grow large enough or mature enough in a single season to be harvestable, whereas already started plants are generally a year or sometimes even more when you buy them. Of course, as I mentioned already, this means that the herbs you buy this way are more expensive; where a pack of seeds may cost anywhere from thirty-five cents to about three dollars for many seeds (usually at least 25, most often many more than that), started plants start around a dollar and a half for a single plant.

There is little to consider when buying already-started plants like this beyond what you would consider with any sort of gardening: which herbs will work best in your growing conditions (such as soil quality or indoor/outdoor), and which will be of the most use to you. Be sure, of course, to pick the plants that look the healthiest; keep in mind this does not necessarily mean the largest. Look for the ideal foliage color for the given plant type, new-growth buds or shoots, and avoid any signs of sickness. Do not take a scrawny or sickly looking plant just because it is 'the best there'. A sickly plant in the nursery will probably be at best a sickly plant in your garden, if not die completely, or even infect the rest of your garden in some cases.

And above all, enjoy yourself. Herb gardening can be hugely rewarding, and there is mounting evidence that just the act of gardening herbs in and of itself can be of huge benefit to your health and well-being.

Plants, Seeds, More!

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bath and Body Gift Ideas and Recipes

It’s that time of year again, when we all start brainstorming for ideas for gifts. I know I rarely have enough to buy gifts for everyone, so I have to make a lot of gifts. Besides, a homemade gift is always a nice touch, even if it is in addition to a store-bought gift. And there are plenty of nice, easy gifts you can make to spread the joy of caring for your body naturally to those you care about. I will share here a few of my favorites for gift-giving times, many of which I will be giving myself this year. And of course, don’t forget the ‘simple’ things like lotions and massage/body oils scented specifically for the person with essential oils they like, making a nice big batch of your favorite tea blend (mine is mint/chamomile) to put in a pretty jar, and so on. All of these recipes are wonderful to make just for yourself, as well!

And remember, presentation is almost as important as the gift itself... if it’s in a jar, add some nice lace or piece of cloth under the ‘o’ ring, over the lid itself. Use nice ribbons. If it’s in a bag, get those nice little inexpensive ‘wedding happy’ bags from the Wal-Mart craft section. Colored cellophane adds a lovely touch without being any more expensive than plain clear, usually. Be creative!

Cherry-Almond Hair Shine Mist

2 cups warm water
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon cherry extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix well and put into a spray bottle. Smells lovely, and works especially well on light hair (lemon is a natural hair lightener). May want to keep refrigerated when not in use.

Apple-Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

This rinse smells heavenly and is wonderful for your hair, especially weak, dry and/or damaged hair.

16 oz container (I used an old witchazel plastic bottle)
4 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
5 drops Lavender essential oil
5 drops Rose essential oil
5 drops Sandalwood essential oil
3 drops Rosemary essential oil

Combine all ingredients in container and top off with water. Cap bottle and shake thoroughly to mix.

You may wish to include a tag with the following information:

Apply liberally after normal washing routine, let sit for about 3-5 minutes, then rinse.

The key to not getting a 'slimy' or 'sticky' feeling to your hair (it looks perfectly clean, but feels odd to the touch) is to use water as cool as you can take to rinse with, and rinse it WELL.

Bath Bombs

1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup citric or ascorbic acid
1/8 cup Epson salt
1/2 cup olive oil
10 to 20 drops essential oil

Add up to 1/2 cup olive oil, mixing well, until the mixture is the consistency of pastry dough. Add a 10 to 20 drops essential oil of choice. Form into balls approximately the size of golf balls, and store in cellophane wrapper. Store in a separate container for each scent you make.

Bath Cookies

2 cups finely ground sea salt
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoon light oil
1 teaspoon vitamin E oil
2 eggs
25 drops of fragrance oil of your choice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients well. Roll dough into balls of about 1 teaspoon and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies for about 7 minutes until they are lightly golden (do not over bake).

Allow cookies to cool completely before wrapping in cellophane.

To use: Drop 1 or 2 cookies into a warm bath and allow to dissolve. DO NOT crumble or smash, as this will just make crumbs in your bath. Let them dissolve slowly on their own.

Candycane Bath Salts Jar

These make lovely Christmas gifts! (You can, of course, reduce the amounts here to make less.)

16 cups Epsom Salts, divided in half
6 cups sea salt or Kosher salt, divided in half
1/2 teaspoon glycerin, divided in half
12 to 15 drops peppermint essential oil
12 to 15 drops red food color

Put 8 cups Epsom Salts into large bowl. Add and combine 3 cups sea salt. Mix in 1/4 teaspoon glycerin and 6 to 8 drops essential oil.

In second large bowl, put remaining Epsom Salts, and sea salt. Stir well. Add remaining glycerin, 6 to 8 drops essential oil, and food color. Stir until color is approximately even.

It is best to use clear jars for this, such as canning jars. Hold the containers at an angle, and alternate layering in white and colored salts.

This recipe makes 12 12-ounce gift jars, plus a bit extra.

Easy Bath Bags

(in place of muslin and ribbons, you can also use the chiffon wedding gift bags from Wal-Mart, or home-fill teabags)
Dried herbs
Finely ground oatmeal

Cut a 6" diameter circle from muslin, place the herbs in the center and add
the oatmeal as a skin softener. Gather the muslin into a bundle and tie with
ribbon. Add the bag to the running water as you draw your bath.

Fizzing Bath Salts

These are wonderful to add a little fizz to your own bath, or to give away as gifts in pretty containers!

1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup citric acid or ascorbic acid
1/4 cup cornstarch
Essential oil in desired fragrance
Food coloring

Add together and mix well all dry ingredients. Add the oil and mix until smooth. Color with a single drop at a time until you get the color you want.
Sprinkle the bath salts over hot bathwater just before you enter the tub.

Layered Bath Salts Jar

1-cup of baking soda
1-cup sea salts
1 cup Epsom salts
About 10 drops essential oils
And a few drops of food coloring

To get the food coloring evenly distributed, put the baking soda, sea salts, essential oils, and food coloring into a blender.

Then layer this mixture with the Epsom salts-- this looks just lovely because the Epsom salts are crystal-like and the other salts are colored and powdery.


1 cup full-fat powdered milk
2 tablespoons almond meal
2 tablespoons barley or oat flour
A few drops of rose (or other) essential oil

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, then store the bath mix in a glass jar at room temperature.

To use: add two tablespoons to a tub of water.

Sugar Scrub

4 parts brown sugar
4 parts white sugar
1 part some sea salt if you want it extra scrubby
2 parts honey
olive oil to desired consistency
essential oils as desired

Mix ingredients well to desired consistency. Keep in fridge to prevent spoiling.

Rose Cologne

(this can be used for any other herb or flower; simply substitute desired ‘plant matter’ (lavender flowers, sandalwood chips/shavings, etc.) for the rose petals)

2 C. distilled water
1/2 C. vodka
10 drops rose essential oil
1 C. fresh rose petals

Measure water and vodka into a clean mason jar. Add rose petals, making sure they get completely wet. Add the rose oil and mix well.
Cover and leave in a cool, dark place for at least one week for the oils to evenly distribute. Strain mixture and pour into a decorative container, such as a perfume bottle.

You can find many of the herbs and essential oils mentioned in this article here:
Mountain Rose Herbs
Mountain Rose Herbs
A leading organic supplier since 1987
of bulk organic herbs and spices, essential oils and herbal teas.
Wonderful herbs at fabulous prices... well worth a look!

A few books with wonderful gift ideas, for body care and more!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Privacy Policy

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Healing Teas

Teas are always a wonderful way of taking care of one’s self; this is especially true in the cold and dreary months of the winter. I have spent many a happy winter evening curled up by the fire with a book and a cup of tea. But there is so much more than that simple soothing that teas are good for.

Sleeplessness: One of the best uses for a good cup of tea is to help with sleeplessness. Obviously, ‘real’ tea wouldn’t help with this, because it contains caffeine, but there are many herbal blends that are ideal for this.

My personal favorite blend for this is Chamomile and Peppermint; in this case, a bit more Chamomile than Peppermint. Just put the two herbs (about a teaspoon of each) into a mug of hot water, let steep for about 5 minutes, strain, and add honey to taste.

My other favorite for sleeplessness, although not strictly a tea, is milk warmed up to not-quite-boiling, then add about two tablespoons of honey (or to taste).

Some other herbs used for this are Lemon Balm, Valerian, Passionflower, Rooibos Tea, Linden Flowers, Dandelion, Skullcap, Mullein, Tarragon, Anise, and Poppy.

Colds/Flu: Teas are age-old remedies for colds and flu-like symptoms, because they are soothing as well as delivering what you need to help kick them, and medicinal value.

The Chamomile-Peppermint blend is quite good for this as well, in equal portions (also quite good if vomiting is involved, as both have anti-nausea properties).

My other favorite tea for colds contains Coltsfoot, Mullein, Hyssop, Rosehips, Mint, Anise, and Fenugreek; you will have to play around to find the right proportions for you. You should always sweeten a cold tea with honey, as it has healing properties of its own.

Some other herbs that are good for these sorts of symptoms are Anise, Cayenne, Calendula, Chamomile, Echinacea, Elderberry, Eucalyptus, Feverfew, Ginger, Green Tea, Honeysuckle, Horehound, Lavender, Lemon, Licorice, Marjoram, Poppy, Radish, Red Clover, Red Raspberry, Rosemary, Sage, Slippery Elm Bark, St, John’s Wort, Tarragon, Thyme, Watercress, Willow and Yarrow.

Borage, Calendula, Cayenne, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Radish, and Tansy are good fever reducers.

Cayenne, Echinacea, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Garlic, Goldenseal, Hyssop, Licorice, Sage, Savory (Summer) are all particularly good for a sore throat.

Menstruation: That ever-unpleasant thing that nearly all women have to deal with on a monthly basis. Teas and herbs can do quite a lot to help us through those unpleasant times.

For cramps, Chamomile, Corn Silk, Feverfew, Honeysuckle flowers, Melissa, Mint, Motherwort, Raspberry Leaf, St. John's Wort, and Tarragon are effective.

To help regulate, Agrimony, Cinnamon, Evening Primrose, Lemon Balm, Morinda, St. John's Wort, Thyme, and Uva Ursi are all helpful.

And of course, the big one... PMS. Alfalfa, Damiana, Licorice, Red Raspberry, Uva Ursi, Evening Primrose, Peppermint, Skullcap and Valerian are all helpful with this.

Headaches: Teas can be quite effective in helping to battle headaches from a variety of causes.

One recommended blend consists of Lemon Balm, Feverfew, Peppermint, Rosemary, and Cinnamon, in proportions fit to your tastes.

Basil, Catnip, Chamomile, Evening Primrose, Feverfew, Lavender, Marjoram, Oregano, Peppermint, Poppy, Rhubarb Root, Rosemary, Scented Geranium, Thyme, Valerian, and Wood Betony are good for general headaches.

For migraines, Bay Leaves, Chamomile, Feverfew, Ginger, Lavender, Tansy, Valerian, and Willow are all particularly helpful.

***The following herbs should never be taken by pregnant women, or women who are trying to become pregnant, because they can cause spontaneous abortion or miscarriage.***


Mountain Rose Herbs
Mountain Rose Herbs
A leading organic supplier since 1987
of bulk organic herbs and spices, essential oils and herbal teas.
Wonderful herbs at fabulous prices... well worth a look!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Book Review - The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

This book, written by Valerie Ann Worwood, is truly a 'complete' guide to almost anything you'd want to know about essential oils and aromatherapy. As someone who works with such things on a pretty much daily basis, this book is my cornerstone of information. Any time I need information on usage or recommended oils, this is the first place I look, as it has everything, from Essential Oil First Aid, to Cooking with Essential Oils; and, of course, your basics, such as perfumery and massage.

It is written in a very clear, concise way that is both easy to use and to understand. It is written as a series of entries/articles, each about a very specific topic. Each of them are about a third of a page or less, yet still very informative and thorough, covering all the basics you need to know, and much beyond-the-basics information as well. This is one of the reasons that it manages to be so concise; each article is completely independent of the next, grouped together by a general subject into chapters.

The index is probably one of the best features of this book; it is very complete and thorough, as is most of the book, and you can use the book for many years without having to look anywhere but the index to find the information you need.

Another aspect that is highly useful is the charts in the appendices. They are quite informative, and can help clear up confusion about ‘which oil is which’, since there may be multiple names for a single oil.

In addition to what this book obviously has - in-depth information on essential oils and other aspects of aromatherapy - it also has to its advantage a vast amount of ‘other’ wholistic information, such as dietary suggestions and environmental recommendations.

One of the few downsides to this book, for those of us in the US, is it was written in the UK, and they use different terminology for many things, so finding the information you need can be tricky at times.

All in all, this book is definitely a must-have for anyone interested in essential oils or aromatherapy.

Table of Contents:
Introduction - The Fragrant Pharmacy
Chapter 1 - Medicines Out of the Earth
Chapter 2 - Your Basic Care Kit
Chapter 3 - Your Basic Travel Kit
Chapter 4 - Occupational Oils for the Working Man and Woman
Chapter 5 - Assertive Oils for Sports, Dance, and Workouts
Chapter 6 - The Fragrant Way to Beauty
Chapter 7 - The Body Beautiful
Chapter 8 - Essential Care for Your Hair
Chapter 9 - The Gentle Touch for Babies and Children
Chapter 10 - A Woman’s Natural Choice
Chapter 11 - The Natural Choice for Men
Chapter 12 - Essential Help in the Maturing Years
Chapter 13 - Fragrant Care for Your Home
Chapter 14 - The Stillroom
Chapter 15 - Sweet-Scented Celebrations
Chapter 16 - Cooking With Essential Oils
Chapter 17 - Natural Health for Domestic Animals
Chapter 18 - Gardens for the Future

Appendix 1 - The Essential Oil Charts

Appendix 2 - Aromassage

Appendix 3 - Addresses and Bibliography



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Monday, September 10, 2007

The Wonderful Properties of Peppermint

Mints of all kinds have long been recognized as highly useful and versatile herbs, the most popular of course being Peppermint and Spearmint. This makes the mints a very good choice for any herb garden or cabinet.

Perhaps the use that mints, especially Peppermint, are best known for, is help against stomach complaints. Peppermint is nearly unrivaled when it comes to all manner of stomach problems, especially nausea. A mug of mint tea, or cool water with a single drop of Peppermint essential oil can do wonders to sooth a nauseous stomach. This goes likewise for similar complaints, such as indigestion, motion sickness, heartburn, and sour stomach. This may even include food poisoning, as there is evidence it can inhibit Salmonella bacteria. It is also extremely useful for women suffering from morning sickness.

The other major use that the mints are known for is for stress and tension, including the headaches that result from it. Again, both tea and essential oil are useful; at least one study found that Peppermint oil, applied directly to the forehead and temples, was as effective against a headache as two 500-mg Tylenol tablets, and is also very useful against stress. You can even make a cooling compress of the leaves and apply to the forehead or neck to further sooth a headache or calm the nerves.

The mints are also very uplifting in a general sense, and so tend to be very helpful for all manner of mood-related problems, such as depression and some varieties of insomnia. In fact, it is often recommended for insomnia - my own personal choice is in a tea in combination with Chamomile. Its uplifting and soothing qualities also bring much help against every woman's bane - PMS.

Colds, flu, chest congestion, and asthma are all also helped by this herb. Inhalation, external application, and internal methods are all helpful for these.

Other things it may be helpful for: bronchitis, colic, exhaustion, fever, flatulence, insect and pest repellent, muscle and joint pain, scabies, sinusitis, sore and tired feet, toothaches, and vertigo.

Mountain Rose Herbs
Mountain Rose Herbs
A leading organic supplier since 1987
of bulk organic herbs and spices, essential oils and herbal teas.
Wonderful herbs, like Peppermint, at fabulous prices... well worth a look!

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