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

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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.

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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.

Mullein

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Hi, guys!

Ready to talk about one of my favorite plants in herbal medicine? MULLEIN!

I had posted about mint during a time where my son had some pretty bad congestion. I steeped mint tea for him, but also mixed it with some steeped mullein once the minor congestion turned into an awful cough.

Mullein on its own would have worked, but the mint tea helped with flavor. Mullein is far from the most bitter thing we’ve used (I find it rather mild), but he’s seven and he was sick, so adding something tasty with it made him happy.

This “herb” is actually a weed. There are several types you can find out in the wild, with similar benefits. What’s known as “common” mullein is what we have growing in our garden. It’s a type of mullein that is easy to buy from nurseries due to availability (though not every nursery carries this) and the type most commonly used for its medicinal properties. I have mine confined in a pot right now, but it can spread. I can easily spread these myself in an area and expect success. I can just as easily let nature take its course and expect to see some growing here and there (ground, adjacent pots, etc). I’m waiting for the day one accidentally makes it onto our hydroponic deck. It happened once with some random nightshade that decided to take residence where a bell pepper was supposed to grow. Nature always wins.

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Bronchial Tract

Mullein is one of my absolute favorites because it’s awesome for cold and flu seasons. Actually, it’s pretty phenomenal for most bronchial problems where the biggest need is to really knock out that congestion and phlegm nastiness. Mullein is an anti-inflamatory, which can assist with inflammation in the chest, throat, and sinus areas. Many herbs and plants possess this characteristic. What makes mullein different from some is that it’s also an expectorant. A medicine or herb that’s an expectorant helps with coughs. An expectorant helps get rid of what’s called sputum, which is a combination of phlegm and spit that you cough up when you’re sick. This is very beneficial because the more time phlegm is stuck in there, the higher risk you have of it turning into an infection. Another awesome fact is that mullein doesn’t have sedative properties. If you want relief, but still need to be on the go, this is a very helpful plant.

Nose and Throat

Mullein is anticatarrhal, which means it aids in the breaking up of mucous in the nose and throat. I’m going to be gross so bear with me. The way this works is that it makes mucous a thinner liquid so that it’s easier for your body to get rid of it. It’s gross, but it does work. You begin draining, and that’s pretty disgusting, but you know what Shrek says: “Better out than in!” This is a great trait to share with being an expectorant.

How to Use It

It’s most often steeped into a tea. I find the taste is not as overwhelming as other medicinal plants can be. When I get headaches from pressure and congestion I often steep this with white willow bark (DO NOT CONSUMER WHITE WILLOW BARK IF YOU CANNOT HAVE ASPIRIN; DO NOT GIVE TO CHILDREN). I find for mild cases of a cold I drain for about a day (without drowsiness unless I’m seriously ill) and then bounce back about the second or third day. Here and there while letting the cold run its course I’ll feel a little run down, but the discomfort from the colds ar greatly lessened and I notice the cold doesn’t often progress into something more severe, like an infection. There are those who smoke dried mullein leaves. Everything I have researched states it is quite effective. I have not tried it yet, but I will update the day that I do.

Mint

Mint is an easy to grow herb that smells and tastes great. I commonly pull a leaf to chew when I’m outside. It’s a favorite here to use to steep as tea, even just for the flavor. There are several benefits to consuming and using mint, other than its pleasant taste.

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Nausea

We often hear of how ginger is used for any stomach issues, but mint does a pretty decent job in dealing with nausea and other digestive discomforts. I steep it with ginger when my stomach is mildly bothering me. It’s not an instant fix, but it does help.

Headaches

Another way mint aids us is with headaches. For me, just smelling some essential oil or a fresh cup of tea brings a great deal of comfort when I have a headache.

Congestion

Believe it or not, this herb’s cooling effects help with congestion. I like to drink it on its own as a tea, but if I’m severely ill, I will mix it with mullein (fantastic herb used to help clear out actual congestion).

If you have chronic issues with minor headaches or stomach problems, you can make a tincture out of mint to take on a consistent basis. Teas are great and I love tea, but tinctures can be a bit stronger if that’s what we need. There are other herbs to use for these problems, but in more severe cases. Mint is also great to use in conjunction with other stronger herbs to help with taste.

Cooling and Pain Relief

But, if I’m being honest, the coolest thing I love about mint are the different body butters, salves, and balms I can make with it. I have a muscle pain salve I make with cayenne. Cayenne does most of the hard work for this task, but the mint provides a nice cooling effect to counter the heat when applied to the skin. Cracked feet? A body butter with shea butter and mint help heal and soothe.

Tea

The most common method of using mint is as a tea. I made some with fresh leaves this week for my son’s congestion.

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First, you harvest this amazing creature.

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If you’re using fresh leaves you do need to chop it. There are many methods to this. This time around, I chose to put some in a small cup and simply cut it.

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I like using tea balls for steeping. They’re easy to use and store. I pack two of these full of fresh chopped mint.

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I boil water in an electric kettle. Once it is done and the bubbles from boiling disappear, I add the water to my favorite tea kettle with the tea balls. The kettle holds 1 liter of water. To get health benefits from the herb, you cannot just steep it for five minutes. You need to do a good 30-45 minutes.

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After that, enjoy!

Want to learn about other herbs we grow and use? Visit this page to learn more! We will be adding more posts about each herb, but if you see a herb you’re curious about and there’s no post, do not hesitate to get a hold of us!