Salt Scrub

Hi!

Today, I am going to share a very simple salt scrub recipe I like to use, specifically for my hands. It takes maybe five minutes to put together and leaves your hands feeling amazing. I like to keep salt scrub by my kitchen sink when I find my hands are extra dry so whenever I’m done washing dishes I can just quickly scrub them down before putting my rings back on.

I’m going to give a base recipe, then explore the different ways we can make this to suit maybe more personal needs.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

First you take about a cup of sea salt and add it to a container or dish.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Then you add about 1/4 cup of coconut oil.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

And mix! Add extra oil and/or salt based on your own personal preference.

It really is that easy, but let’s personalize it a bit more.

I really like a citrus scent in my scrub, especially when using coconut oil because I really like that tropical feel. So what I like to do best is take any fresh lemon, lime, or grapefruit I have and juice it. I kind of eyeball it here and put it when smells and feels right. Vitamin C is great for anti-aging properties, but keep your skin sensitivities in mind. Citrus juices are acidic and can damage skin, so just keep an eye on it.

Another great alternative is to use essential oils, but no more than 10 drops if you make a full batch.

Another option I have tried is using steeped green tea.

You can use this on your face, but if you find the salt to be too abrasive, use sugar instead. It’s gentler and may appeal to those with skin sensitivities. I use sugar on my face, again with the citrus juice or green tea.

Now onto oils. You don’t have to use coconut oil. That’s a common oil most people can use without suffering clogged pores or acne. Not everyone is like this though, or maybe you’re looking to attack a specific concern that a different oil can aid in. Here are some other oils you can use instead of coconut oil:

  1. Blemished Skin
    1. Pumpkin Seed Oil
    2. Grapeseed Oil
  2. Oily Skin
    1. Jojoba Oil
    2. Grapeseed Oil
  3. Dry Skin
    1. Almond Oil
    2. Apricot Kernel Oil
  4. Mature Skin
    1. Argan Oil
    2. Rosehip Seed Oil
  5. Sensitive or Irritated Skin
    1. Avocado Oil
    2. Hemp Seed Oil

I particularly like making these scrubs when I have an abundance of fresh lemons and limes (my favorites). It smells so clean and refreshing and leaves skin radiant.

Do you have any special scrub recipes you use on a consistent basis? Let us know in the comment section.

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Calendula

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Calendula. It’s looking really pretty this time of year. I love how fiery that orange can get. Everyday, I have at least one ready flower to harvest. I’m not one for the mundane, and living on a homestead is far from it, but there’s something very connecting and exceptional about checking my plant babies everyday to see how they grow and progress, despite how repetitive it may seem. I especially love to visit them after a rain. My animals despise the rain (minus the waterfowl), but my plants thrive in it. And contrasting the very vocal protests of my herd, the plants have been celebrating the rain, as evident by their lush green leaves, brightly colored flowers, and towering heights.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Looking like a daisy–which makes sense because it’s part of the same family–Calendula has bright yellow/orange flowers. The flowers are what’s used for medicinal properties.

This flower is very multipurposed as it is used for culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic purposes. That and it really is just really pretty.

Culinary

You don’t see it a lot anymore, but this was a popular flower to add to salads and stews. It is completely edible and its consumption won’t hurt you.

Anti-Inflammatory

Linoleic acid is found in high concentrations in Calendula. Calendula is a helpful remedy for:

  1. diaper rash
  2. dermatitis
  3. ear infections
  4. ulcers
  5. sore throats

Cosmetic

Calendula can improve skin firmness and hydration. A strong rinse/tea can be made to apply topically.

Wound Care

Calendula increases blood flow and oxygen to wounds, which can result in a faster healing process as new tissue is grown. When taken internally in tea form, it can help with ulcers.

Menstruation

Calendula can help induce a menstrual cycle (do not take when pregnant as it can lead to early labor). This herb can also treat cramping.

Antimicrobial and Antiviral

The oils and acids found within this plant can fight pathogens, candida symptoms, and even some antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Calendula is used in a few antiseptic topical remedies because of this.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

I have one plant that is blooming and has enough to harvest daily. I harvest the flowers and dry them then store them. Once I have enough I infuse them in an oil for future salves and any additional teas I could use.

Thanks for reading about one of the herbs we have in our medicinal garden. If you want to see more, click here

Yarrow

We recently added yarrow to our medicinal garden and it’s finally blooming. It is a unique plant in that the leaves and flowers can both be used topically and internally. It’s very versatile, treating many ailments and improving health.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Yarrow is actually quite pretty and I find the pungent scent intoxicating. I love harvesting the flowers because they smell so lovely. Which I find funny because pests hate it. This plant is virtually pest free and even when I found caterpillars trying to devour the neighboring comfrey, the yarrow remained untouched. Another funny note off of that fact, yarrow attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs and those creepy parasitic wasps. If you have not seen a clip of what those things do, you need to take the time to find a video. As long as you’re not squeamish. Anyways, these beneficial insects help with the nasty little buggers you want out of your garden, so plant plenty of yarrow.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

The colors I see most often in yarrow flowers that people grow in their gardens are white and pink.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

The leaves are soft and feather-like in both appearance and texture. Both flowers and leaves are used for their medicinal properties. An all around, pretty plant. This herb is actually my daughter’s favorite. She will harvest them with me and sneak off with one. I have seen them stashed in her dresser from time to time.

One medicinal trait yarrow has that many other plants do not have is that it’s styptic. This means that it can stop bleeding when used as a poultice, or powder form. Seek medical attention for severe wounds, but yarrow can aid in minor wounds where it is difficult to stop bleeding. Another nice feature of this herb is that it is also antiseptic, vulnerary, and anti-inflammatory; all great properties to assist with infection prevention and healing.

When ingested, yarrow is diaphoretic, expectorant, antispasmodic, hemostatic, and analgesic.

Being diaphoretic, yarrow induces sweating. This sounds more like a nasty side effect rather than something helpful, but this can help cool the body when it’s needed, like a bad fever. Sweating–though unpleasant–is our body’s natural way of cooling off. When we’re sick, sometimes our bodies do a horrible job at this, so inducing a good sweat without wasting our body’s energy on a vigorous run can help break that fever. Yay to the gross ways our bodies adapt and regulate–homeostasis, baby!

Yarrow, much like mullein, is an expectorant. This means that yarrow can assist in getting rid of sputum (a fancy word for that lovely spit and mucus mixture you get when you’re sick and congested) in airway passages. Although I prefer using mullein for nasty coughs and colds, yarrow does help with knocking that congestion out if you’re already taking it for a fever.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Yarrow is antispasmodic, which can help with treating some cases of IBS, along with other dietary changes. An antispasmodic aids in relieving involuntarily muscle spasms, which is why this herb can help. Being that it is an antispasmodic, it can also help with menstrual cramping. Never use while pregnant though because it is a uterine stimulant. However, it is awesome to use after giving birth as it helps tone the uterus and helps with any hemorrhaging. Breastfeeding? You should be fine in lower doses. If you are your baby have an allergy to any plants in the aster family (this includes flowers like sunflowers and daisies) then just avoid it altogether.

If your goal is to use yarrow for its hemostatic properties, I do advise that you consult with a physician if it’s because you believe you have internal bleeding. I am all for natural healing and I can see yarrow’s use in something like excessive menstrual cycles, or symptoms caused by uterine fibroids. Those are chronic ailments that are not as life threatening as a head injury, or an abdominal injury from a car accident. If you ever suspect internal bleeding, seek medical attention to see the underlying cause, then go about educated treatment from there. Don’t just consume a bunch of yarrow without a diagnosis. Please. Ever. With any herb or medication.

Yarrow is technically analgesic, but it’s really for minor pains. If you’re already taking it for a fever or cold, chances are it will aid in any pain you may be feeling as long as it’s mild. There are stronger herbs out there if pain is your main concern.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

So, there you have it. Yarrow in a nutshell. I could write individual blog posts, both small and large, about just the individual ways I can use this. Powder form for profuse bleeding out of small wounds, poultices for cuts and scrapes, teas for all the glories of being born female, pest control, teas for fever breaking, it is endless. This was not one of my first medicinal herbs, but it really should have been because it is amazing. I’m very excited my plant is blooming because I don’t have to buy them from an unknown source!

Do you use yarrow? Will you now that you know more about it? Let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

Want to see what else we grow in our medicinal garden on the farm? Click here to see what we’ve got going on. I will update our medicinal herb page as we add new cool stuff. Thanks for reading!

Herbal Infusions and Decoctions

Tea.

There is a difference between a medicinal tea and a beverage tea. When making a beverage tea, I’m looking at flavor. When making a medicinal tea I’m looking at how I can harness the healing powers of the plant I’m using to my benefit.

When I’m trying to make a medicinal tea for cold and flu season as a preventative or if someone suddenly gets a stomach bug I have a different process and sometimes different equipment I use to get the full benefits of the medicinal plant or food that I am using.

A medicinal tea can be flavorful at times, but taste is obviously not the driving factor. And sometimes what is created, even with added flavors, is downright awful.

When making a tea for medicinal purposes, I recommend making at least a quart at a time (unless more than one person in the household needs it). Making a cup at a time is a waste as this is not the fastest process. Most teas can be kept at room temperature for a day or two, but I do recommend refrigeration. Our house personally loves cold tea anyways (even some of the herbal blends), but it does last longer in the fridge. If the taste is off or you see bubbles forming at the top, toss it and make new tea if needed.

Medicinal teas actually have different terminology for the methods of making it. The method you use is dependent upon the parts of the plant you use. Let’s explore the art of infusions and decoctions. Both are simple, but more time-consuming than heating water and steeping herbs for five minutes.

When making an infusion, you are using the leaves and/or flowers of a plant. This is a gentler process than a decoction, which is important in not destroying the enzymes, vitamins, and essential oils of the plant.  Steeping a plant in boiling water (or heated but NOT boiling in some cases), is an infusion. Making a tea, or infusion, for beverage purposes is fairly quick, as most blends call for a five-minute steeping time. Making an infusion  for medicinal purposes is quite a bit longer. To make an infusion:

20180502_104634.jpgPut 4-6 tablespoons of dried herb (6-8 tablespoons of chopped fresh herb) into a quart jar.

20180501_195231.jpgPour boiling water over the herbs, filling the jar. Steep for 30-45 minutes, covered.

20180501_195404.jpgStrain.

20180502_104328.jpgAnd drink.

Decoctions are what you make if you’re using the bark or root of a plant. For decoctions, you want to simmer roots or bark in already boiling water. Bark and roots take a little extra elbow grease to get the full benefits. To make a decoction:

20180502_104443.jpgPut 4-6 tablespoons of dried root/bark (6-8 tablespoons of chopped fresh root/bark) in a small saucepan with 1 quart of cold water. Bring mixture to a simmer on low heat. Cover and let simmer for 25-45 minutes. For a stronger decoction, simmer for 20-30 minutes then put into a quart jar to infuse overnight.

20180502_104307.jpgStrain.

20180501_205433.jpgAnd drink.

The process really is simple, but it does take time. Time is the biggest struggle because we’re all very busy. I try to take a proactive step because of this at certain times of the year, especially flu season.

Check out our medicinal herb page to see what we grow for our own medicinal purposes on the farm. We have a lot we work with.

On a similar note, before bringing this to close, I am going to b investing my time in a few courses over the summer in the herbalist field. I’ve been making infusions, salves, and tinctures for years and am now dabbling in hydrosols and essential oils. I have already invested time and some money in books and research but am ready to invest even more to work with teachers and really expand my knowledge even further. I am very excited about this opportunity and hope to gain a wealth of new information to use.

Glorious Ginger

I am not going to lie. I am obsessed with ginger, and not just for its medicinal properties. I. Love. Everything. Ginger. And my family does as well.

I use ginger to make ginger dressing and ginger sauce–you know, the kind they use in Hibachi style restaurants. I use ginger in decoctions and tinctures. I heart candied ginger and I devour ginger pickled carrots. Any chance I get, I add ginger. Did I mention we love ginger?

Nausea and Digestion

Putting the indisputable fact that it possesses the best taste in the world aside, ginger has several properties that are very beneficial in our lives. Many know ginger for its digestive assistance so we will start there. Ginger teas and decoctions are helpful for any type of stomach upset. Chronic issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are also relieved by ginger consumption. It’s a safe way to combat morning sickness while you’re pregnant and motion sickness. Nausea caused by chemotherapy can be treated with ginger, too. Some people use ginger ale for these ailments, but I suggest the tea. Ginger ale tastes great and all, but there are far more cons to drinking pop than your own healthy blend of ginger tea. If ginger tea is too strong, add honey. If adding honey doesn’t help, making a candied ginger to store for just in case can help, too.

Heartburn

Ginger could block heartburn, by stopping the lower esophageal sphincter from loosening, which blocks acid regurgitating back up.

Menstrual Cramping

Ginger is also a great help for menstrual cramping. I like to combine mine with dark chocolate. Don’t knock it till you try it. And stop judging me. It’s amazing.

Anti-Inflammatory

Ginger does so much more though. Ingesting it and using it topically as a salve can assist with arthritis inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory properties. This also works for inflamed airway passages and can help make breathing more regular. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger can also help treat inflamed skin and help heal rashes and treat acne. Just be mindful if it is too strong as it can irritate your skin.

Circulation

Ginger improves circulation, which is very important for natural energy. It also opens up your vessels and can warm you internally. This is most felt during cold weather.

Cancer

Compound 6-gingerol (known for cancer stopping abilities) is found in raw ginger. It has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties. This can prevent new cancer cells from forming and destroy active cancer cells.

Breath

Ginger cleanses your palette and therefore freshens your breath.

So, there you have it. Ginger is amazing both for taste and its medicinal properties. It’s very easy to grow, I have taken roots from the market and just stick it in the dirt to grow. You can harvest what you need and replant and before you know it you’ll have an abundant supply of this magnificent plant.

If you want to see what else we’re growing on the farm, check out this page.