When the winter asks…

I believe that in many countries, at least in the areas where the climate brings a big difference between winter and summer, exists similar proverb. When the winter asks what did you do in the summer? And now there is the time which is going to test the summer activities.

During windy weather last week I caught a small cold, so it was the first opportunity to check my tincture made in summer. It is a highly aromatic blend of herbs in strong alcohol, balanced to touch typical winter disorders. This one is better to use against bacteria based infections, but is usable against flu as well. Most herbs act antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, helping to cleanse the body and increase its own immunity.

I have used following herbs:

Oak bark: Oak is a symbol of strength and its bark is an effective shield against lot of enemies for our health. It protects against a wide range of viruses and bacteria, and if some attack the body, it can squeeze them out. Oak bark is ready to absorb redundant moisture and so relieve most of “wet” diseases. Additionally, it stimulates the energy circulation in the body and so accelerates whole process of healing.

Sage: Sage is a sign of wisdom and cleansing, often used in magical rituals too. It means there must be a power inside! I respect all the abilities of sage, but somehow I perceive sage as a provocateur, who only cares where that person is unable to do it. In other cases sage forces a person to act in order to protect himself. So, sage is a big help in various situations, but it is primarily a great teacher, who keeps us in bed if necessary.

Plantain: Unlike the previous herbs, Plantain is here to care directly for throat and lungs. It works like a good uncle who treats injured places and exchanges wet tiles for them.

Wild thyme: Thyme is known especially for its use in the kitchen, but it has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects too. It is a good supporter for lung and breathing.

Goldenrod: Goldenrod has yellow-gold brushes that sweep many afflictions out and increase immunity so they cannot easily return. If necessary, goldenrod has a strong vulnerary effect.

Lavender: Lavender is another sign of cleansing or better to say “cleansing with calm head”. One of big lavender’s hobby is to disinfect and bring its own energy instead. Lavender soothes and lets us for a moment forget that we are sick.

Clove: Clove is an active part among the herbs, even in small quantity. It is another from stimulants, ready to fight with microbial enemies. Clove works through the whole body, but oral cavity is a home base for it. And to be honest, mouth is often very touched by winter disorders.

I made a range of tinctures in summer, but I successfully used this one for the small cold of the last week.

With love for herbs and people,

Ivana

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Herbal Parliament

Let’s imagine that a group of herbs or plants decided to elect the parliament. I doubt they would need it, but let’s play with the imagination.

The result of election is following:

The major part of votes received nettle (Urtica dioica) as a result of stinging campaign full of big words in two major directions. First, “I know how to grow and I can teach you how to do it if you will blindly follow me”. Second, “Nobody likes me, I don’t sting. They are lying about me so I need your support!”

Another loud plant is among winners. Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) has number of small bells and big leaves like speakers to spread the white message “We are the best ones, look at the color and fragrance”, it sounds loudly all the time, so nobody is able to say that lily of the valley is poisonous.

Another player stands a bit aside. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was born among common people under flag of warriors. It has a big healing potential, especially in terms of healing wounds. Although there are many of them on the politic scene, it looks there is more hunger for fighting then for healing.

I must not forget about dead nettle (Lamium album) with two other species of the same family Lamiaceae. They are looking into the mirror and asking “Who is the most beautiful one” instead of working together as a family.

To the winners belongs fragile and poisonous spring flower, Anemone nemorosa. Originally white in color, was trying to put stress on traditional values. Later in many colorful cultivars betrayed this tradition.

Diversity of the herbal parliament has no limits. There are also two kinds of vegetables, beetroot and cabbage. Cabbage has a problem with its own identity, considering being cabbage rose instead of cabbage. At this time, cabbage is more like friendless ball to be kicked by anyone.

And the beetroot? Everyone claims “I don’t want to have anything common with it! I have a bad experience from the school canteen!” Despite this, beetroot nutrients are from time to time useful for everyone involved. Fortunately, it grows underground, so eating beetroot usually doesn’t go to public.

How do you like this colorful herbal parliament? Would you guess how it could work or if it could work?

We have now had parliamentary elections in our country with a similarly crazy outcome. I cross my fingers for intelligence and understanding instead of silly disputations.

With love, Ivana

Hunting mushrooms

I would say that people are divided into two basic groups: either they love eating mushrooms or they hate it, nothing between. I belong to the lovers!

In my country, gathering mushrooms is very popular. It is a kind of national hobby, which probably comes from the bad times when people were looking for food in forests, whether it was during various wars or like in my childhood during Soviet occupation. I already remembered a bit of that mushrooming in the restricted area in the Pine Tree.

But even today, when you can easily catch anything including mushrooms in supermarkets, the summer forests are crowded by mushroom hunters. They get up early in the morning to be first in the forest and pick up the best pieces in the largest amount. Even the main evening news deals with mushrooming in the season. It often looks like competition rather than fun.

Most population gathers mushrooms of the family Boletaceae, because they are easily recognizable and delicious to taste. Who has never tasted schnitzels from these mushrooms, has missed much!

However, there are many species of mushrooms. One of my high school teachers was a mycologist and used to gather mushrooms throughout the year, even in the snow and winter. Once he took the whole class into the forest and I remember how I brought colorful mixture of mushrooms back to home. Unfortunately, my traditional mother forced me to throw away all the beautifully colored species except of Boletaceae.

Since that, many years have passed. Even summer is gone and the main mushrooms season with it. But the sun was shinning and I wanted to bring some nice trophy from the walk. This time, it was strangely colored mushrooms. I double checked them on internet, cooked a tasty dinner, and so far I am alive! 😁

With love, Ivana

Healthy heart and blood vessels: Hawthorn

In this season, colorful fruits are ripening on thorny shrubs and trees, and the harvest of rose hips and haws is ongoing. I have already written about wild roses Wild Rose: Beauty among thorns, so today I focus on the hawthorn and even experimental products from it.

This year I’ve heard a strong call from hawthorn since blooming. Usually I’m not a big fan of hawthorn flowers because I don’t consider their odor to be quite pleasant even though hawthorn belongs to the same family as roses. Perhaps the hawthorn is a proof that not every rose must smell wonderful.

Listening to my call, I gathered hawthorn flowers and made a tincture or something between tincture and liqueur. Guided by intuition, I added a tincture from fresh roses to the hawthorn basis. Now, the result should harmonize heart on both, physical and emotional levels. Definitely it tastes great!

As soon as the first fruits became ripe, my intuition brought another input. Make vinegar! The rational part wasn’t against. There is enough sugar inside, the taste is similar to apple, and most of the effective substances can act from acidic environment. Since the vinegar preparation takes several weeks, my haws are still in the process of fermentation. Comparing with the apple vinegar, so far the haws are doing very well!  Perhaps vinegar could be another way how to use hawthorn for healthy heart and blood vessels. I would appreciate your experience if you have any.

Being inspired by Lydia with her Pear butter, I tried to make “hawthorn butter”. Since the first moment, it was even challenging or stupid idea. Although the taste of haws is similar to apple, the size is much smaller, and there is a stone inside! Finally I succeeded, but I don’t want to repeat it again! Pitting took ages and proved amount of yellow flavonoids, which has remained on my fingers up to day.

It might seem like I’m already fed up with hawthorn. However in my kitchen is still sitting another bowl of haws, which I gathered yesterday. So far I don’t know what to do with them, but they didn’t want to stay on tree!

Do you have any suggestion? Thanks for sharing.

With love, Ivana

Golden buttons

Today I have decided to choose another of the poisonous plants, Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) with a beautiful nickname “golden buttons”, which is exactly how the flowers look like.

Because the plant blooms for a long period of time and the gold-yellow flowers are firm and durable, Tansy easily attracts attention. Therefore it’s important to know that the entire plant, especially the flowers, is poisonous. A small dose can help to remove intestinal parasites, but because the toxin content may vary from one plant to another, it’s safer to use other herbs for this purpose.

The main poison is thujone, which is a terpene, acting as a neurotoxin. The same thujone is present in wormwood and it’s why absinth (herbal liqueur made from wormwood, anise and fennel) has been forbidden in many countries. And that’s why absinth is still so attractive. The story about forbidden fruit is one of the best ads.

Thujone content in leaves is comparable to wormwood, but in flowers it’s roughly three times larger. So if you insist on Tansy experiment, start with the leaves and be careful.

Thujone is also a substance that causes increased blood flow through internal organs, especially in the abdomen and the pelvis area. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid it for sure! The effect of thujone is so strong, that Tansy flowers have been earlier used as a medicine leading to abortion.

Thujone has a strong menthol odor and together with other camphor-like terpenes in Tansy causes significant repellent effects. Try to put a dried bouquet into the wardrobe and see how the clothing moths fly away in disgust.

Did you know that because of the strong repellent effects Tansy has been used in funeral houses? In some countries, they put bouquet into the coffins to keep the bugs away as long as possible.

Anyway, I would like to finish my post in positive. Despite all warnings about poisonous thujone, there is one major healing application. Homemade ointment from Tansy flowers can relieve rheumatic pains.

With love, Ivana

When the swallows return and fly away: Celandine

In my language, Celandine (Chelidonium majus) is more like swallow-wort, which is one of the common names in English as well. I was curious why. What do the swallows have in common with this yellow flower? Perhaps except the shape of swallow’s tail – this could remind on a distance the shape of Celandine’s capsules with seeds. Is it enough?

Then I found a simple connection in books. They say that Celandine has a pretty long period of flowering. It starts at the time of returning the swallows and it’s finished when they fly away to the warm regions. To be honest, I was disappointed with this explanation. I would expect something more sophisticated from books.

So I came back to life, back to my childhood, to my first memories with Celandine. I still remember mom, telling me that this plant grows abundantly in places where people urinate a lot. Of course, Celandine is a widespread plant, but notice that it often grows in dark alleys around pubs or in distant corners of gardens and around paths. Mom is always right 😊

I don’t know if it was an intention, but with this idea, mom took out my liking to taste the plant. And that was also right, because the whole plant is poisonous. Celandine belongs to the poisonous plants with medicinal effects and it is safer not to experiment with it.

The main constituents of Celandine come from the group of alkaloids. Some of them are on the opiate basis – similar to morphine and that’s probably reason why Celandine belongs to the same family as poppy (Papaveraceae). Other alkaloids are toxins or neurotoxins and they have the ability to directly kill the tissue cells. And some of them are healing such as yellow berberin, which is also present in turmeric and is responsible for many of its healing features. With professional supervision Celandine can be very effective especially for liver and gallbladder. Otherwise you can carefully try external application.

Traditionally, the yellow-orange latex from Celandine stem is recommended against warts. Again, be careful! The nice colored latex is kind of corrosive and this is how it works. If it was a harmless juice, the warts would remain on the skin even after many times repeated application. Some people may be sensitive, and touching the latex can cause them red itchy spots on the skin. Then it’s better to avoid this plant.

Do you have your own experience with it? I once drank homemade liqueur from a mixture of herbs including Celandine and was excellent! Looking forward to your tips and experiences.

With love, Ivana

Handicapped nettle

Have you ever wondered where the name of dead-nettle came from? What is dead on it? And why is it called a nettle? Dead-nettle is not a nettle at all!

Although we can find visual similarities in plant construction, botanically they don’t belong to the same family. Looking at the inflorescence, even the beginner will recognize why. Here are no similarities at all. Nothing to say about that the sting nettle (Urtica dioica) grows in two polarities – male and female. Modest dead-nettle (Lamium album) does it with one as most of other plants.

Stop. Now I have joined the same game, comparing what is incomparable. The game has been playing for years, spreading the myth of handicapped nettle. I must say that in my language dead-nettle isn’t dead, only deaf. But the meaning is the same – we are talking about nettle which lacks the key feature.

Dead-nettle has its own features and they are many. Dead-nettle is an important plant and a flag-ship of the whole family Lamiaceae, which contains famous and effective plants like mint, sage, thyme, etc. Would you say about these culinary and medicinal herbs that they are dead or deaf?

I like to gather and drink dead-nettle tea even though I don’t have enough patience to pick individual flowers. Usually I harvest the upper fresh part with the first row of inflorescence.

The white classic is sweet like innocent child and given to tea it gently helps to release mucus from respiratory system. Women could appreciate the release of excessive white mucus from the intimate area. In my herbal soap experience, white dead-nettle is one of choices for the female intimate soaps.

As mentioned earlier Nettle: Excellent Blood Purificator, my body isn’t a big fan of sting nettle. But I love the white handicapped nettle which is not nettle. How about you?

With love, Ivana