Cooling herbs

Why to mention cooling herbs in the winter season, when is quite cold outdoors anyway and the holidays call much more for warming spices? Well, you can need some of cooling functions even now!

First, we can easily get cold or flu which means we need to increase the immunity level and support the fight with viral disease and often always with a fever. First aid could be provided by herbal tea from the Rose hip, Echinacea and Elderflower. This combination is cooling, soothing and a bit diuretic, so it forces you to drink a lot of your medicine. Fluid exchange quickly reduces fever, antiviral components fight against viral origin, while the antioxidants prevent to spread of infection into the healthy cells. Additionally, there are anticarrhal and expectorant features that handle work with increased mucus secretion typical for this type of diseases.

But there are other kinds of inflammation you can meet and need to cool, for example various types of skin inflammations. In this case we look for different herbs and usually external application. For me, number one is always yarrow, especially the fresh one which is easily applicable directly to afflicted area. Yarrow quickly closes the wound, cleanses and protects against infection, and heals the skin surface. I like to use yarrow also in ointment.

Speaking of cooling, it means to speak about mental soothing as well. When we are exposed to massive amount of stress, then we may look for herbal ally. St.John’s wort is a good choice, especially using like infused oil for body massage. Then you will really feel total release of accumulated tension because the influence of the massage will be enhanced by healing effects of the St.John’s wort.

The range of mental soothing also includes help with poor sleep. For me, number one is hops. It will send you to the realm of sleep with rocket speed. The most effective applications are either tincture (ok, beer could be enough) or direct consumption of a dried herb, for example in capsules.

The last type of cooling or soothing for today is the release of spasm. If you have more frequent muscle spasm, you should definitely look at the magnesium consumption in your diet. In the case of internal spasm I would recommend Silverweed (Potentilla anserine) which effectively releases smooth muscle tissue and so can handle painful spasm of the organs we cannot control. Silverweed is best to use in the tea form, either solo or in blends.

There are plenty of cooling herbs for every season and my present selection was an instant idea and a small rebellion against the holiday tradition. I hope you will enjoy it anyway.

With love, Ivana

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Herbal magic for healthy hair

There are many useful herbs to improve quality of your hair. I took an example of my local herbs, divided in groups according to the type of hair. I’ve been testing them by myself and few of my friends.

Blond and/or thin

The key herb of the group is definitely Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla) from the family Asteraceae. Trying to sense the energy, it makes clear that Chamomile brings a floral softness and asterisk lightness into the hair. Don’t expect hair thickening from it! Chamomile is proud of its gentle quality and ready to share.

Other herbs could make a good company to Chamomile. Usually I choose a birch leaf or linden blossom. Both of them are a good companion for another group of hair too.

Red and/or middle

The leading herb of this group is hops, either alone or processed in beer. At least in Europe, using beer for strong and shiny hair has a long tradition. Try to imagine growing hops (Humulus lupulus) and you will see long lianas, richly covered by leaves and small green cones called strobili. They are highly aromatic, full of useful components for your hair and skin. No wonder, hops belongs to the family Cannabaceae and is completely legal worldwide.

Longterm use of hops makes your hair thicker (like lianas) and your scalp healthier. But it doesn’t make sense to use it for really thin hair. It seems to me that the strong aroma of hops and fullness of the compounds are too hard (aggressive) for thin hair.

Birch could be a reasonable support for thin hair thickening and is a good companion for hops too. If you imagine birch tree (Betula spp) you will see long but light branches with small, heart shaped leaves. The birch has a beautiful and lifted hairstyle and you can achieve that for thin and middle hair.

Rich look of your hairstyle could be also supported by linden blossoms (valid for thin and thin/middle hair). If you imagine a flowering linden tree (Tilia spp), it will be clear to you. At the time of flowering the linden tree increases its volume and beauty. Blossoms shine with color and scent, attracting attention of bees and humans. It can work for you in the same way – except of insects 😃

Dark and/or thick

This is the group of hair with a good quality, sometimes too strong or thick to style them. Could you imagine a plant with a similar energy other than nettle? The nettle has tiny stingy hairs in huge amount and is ready to share the same quality with you.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is the leader of the group and it is probably the most famous herb for a hair promotion. But as I have mentioned several times, for some hair (or hair skin) types, the nettle is too rough. For example, my scalp every time turns red after using nettles and it doesn’t matter whether it was in a decoction or processed in soap. The stinging power of nettle is simply too strong for me.

In case your hair isn’t extremely thick or you have a problem with nettle, a suitable alternative for you could be the wild thyme. The purple color of its flowers is a good guide where to use this herb. Disinfecting aroma helps to remove toxins from hair and scalp, and sometimes also from the mind beneath. I like adding the wild thyme for the red hair blends in the winter when they need more protection.

Method

You can easily prepare decoction (like more concentrated tea) and rinse your hair after washing. Or you can even wash your hair with a special soap that contains a suitable blend of herbs. And because it is much more comfortable, I prepare such soaps at home from the herbs I personally gather. Then it is a great pleasure to wash my hair.

I must say that it might be tricky to choose the right combination for chemically colored hair. They usually don’t cooperate well with herbal soaps, decoctions could be fine.

My originally red hairs (treated with henna) are more than happy with the herbal soap (hops, birch, linden blossoms) for more than two years. Even my hairdresser confirmed improvement of their quality.

I’m curious about your experience if you like to share it.

With love, Ivana

Wild Rose: Beauty among thorns

Looking at the wild rose bush I see the life cycle of nature – four seasons, birth and death, innocence and experience.

Starting in winter, surrounded by crunchy white snow, you see small red fruits full of vitamins and nutrients how they invite hungry birds for lunch. Also for humans are rosehips useful in winter, they help against cold and flu. And of course, they are the promise of a new beginning, surviving drops of blood in the icy age.

With spring days on the bush start to sprout green leaves and shortly after them sprout blooms in various shades of pink. From almost virginal white to deep purple they symbolize different stages in a woman’s life. Regardless of the age, the woman is always surrounded by thorns.

Have you notice, that on the bush always remain some fruits from the last year? They are shriveled like an old woman’s face and they probably transfer the old woman’s experience “how to survive among thorns” to the next generation.

In summer, the bush loses pink skirts of petals and it comes time of motherhood, time of fruits. Rain and heat help to growth, sunlight changes color from green to orange-red.

And finally now in autumn, the miracle is finished, the fruits are ready for harvest. I like to have enough for winter tea; its orange color reminds me warm summer days additionally to the healing effects.

I put part of the harvest into vodka to prepare excellent drink for our traditional Scorpions birthday party. I do it either in sweet and sour or in spicy pepper taste. Both are really delicious, highly recommended.

I have a small part of the harvest also for cosmetic purposes. I love to make and use soft facial soap with wild rose fruits’ extract. Due to huge amount of vitamins and antioxidants the soap is very kind to mature skin. It seems to me as if the soap compensates the thorns, experienced by skin in the run of life.

There are many tips how to use rosehips, what is your favorite?

I wish you successful harvest! But be sure to leave some fruits on the bush for hungry birds in winter.

Pine Tree

This is an airy tree, which I mostly associate with freedom, space and breathing. If you ask for my first pine memory, so I see myself as a little girl picking mushrooms in the pine forest of the military band. I can still see the noble and free trees with warning signs written in Russian. I sniff the scent of pine’s turpentine mixed with the excitement of the forbidden fruit.

I had grown up in the 70s of the last century in the places, occupied by the Soviet army and they performed their military exercises deeply in our forests. On weekends, the soldiers had leisure time and Czech families from the neighborhood went into the restricted area to pick mushrooms. And they grew there!! We picked them up despite the danger to be caught or that the soldiers change their mind regarding leisure.

From the same forest I carried home pine bark, from which I tried to carve boats by little children’s knife. I loved the easy processing as well as the beautiful color.

Pine twigs and cones are excellent for fire setting. They beautifully crackle and smell and create romantic atmosphere.

Such are my pine memories. And what is it the present?

I still love the pine forests and still love breathing their fragrance. I feel how it expands and heal my lungs, how it wakes desire for freedom and growth up. Unfortunately, now I live in a place surrounded by deciduous forest with only few pines. I highly consider them. They are my allies in worse times. I return to them when I need to recharge my energy and rediscover my own place in the present moment, since the presence is the only right springboard to the future.

Oak tree: Repose and Relax

Speaking of the birch as a mental and spiritual support, I should mention the physical support of the oak tree.

Even if you have a big sized body, the oak tree’s body is much burlier. It takes all your heaviness if you want to share it.  Our ancestors knew the characteristics of the oak well and so they relied on the oak beds for daily rest and the oak coffins for the final rest.

With rapid development of technologies and general speed of life we have forgotten to respect basic energy of materials according to final products and their use. So remember, the first step for good sleep is an old reliable bed from the oak wood.

The oak tree doesn’t keep your heaviness for ever. It has a great ability to take your worries on its shoulders and later pass them deep into the Mother Earth. This ability remains unchanged for the oak wood although it’s no longer physically rooted to the ground.

Healing effects of the oak bark is based on the same capability. It brings you stability and support as well as it removes wide range of toxins and delusions. The oak bark is rough, but always reliable and trustful. Maybe it’s a little bit slow in results but finally they are longterm stable.

I love to use the oak bark in natural soaps, they look like dark chocolates and invite you to taste. Additionally they are great for problematic skin treatment because the oak bark is reputable fighter against eczema, acne and some skin fungus. And if you have no problems with your skin, a little detox can’t hurt you.

Being in touch with any kind of the oak tree energy, it means to be in touch with the physical dimension of life. It’s a true mirror of our Existence in traces of matter and time.

Betula (Birch): Take it Easy

I love this beautiful tree with white bark and long branches where even slight breeze starts rustling of small heart shaped leaves. All troubles seem to be smaller as if the specific rustling sound splits them into molecules to be more acceptable.

I remember a big help of a birch tree five years ago when my mom went away for ever and I needed some kind of moral help. I spent a long time sitting under birch tree, listening to characteristic rustling as if whispering “take it easy, take it easy”. I felt every day a little bit better and a load of grief became more bearable.

Who else better than Betula knows the importance of the lightness of being? Birch is the tree, which can grow from almost nothing in incredible locations. I really admire its ability to survive and I fully believe that a great part of this ability comes from the advice “take it easy”.

My hair likes birch and no wonder. Look at the birch tree with its bushy branches. It looks like head with long hairs. If you add the lightness, the ability to survive and easily grow, you get excellent product for your hair. And something more! As you wash your hair using natural birch products, the lightness can penetrate beneath, into your mind. I always feel less heavy, with new portion of inspiration.

Birch has great healing effects for internal use, especially as a diuretic. I know but I don’t care. They are other plants as well.

For me, the birch is respectable tree, supporter in difficult times. It’s supporter for mind, soul and hair.

Nettle: Excellent Blood Purificator

Nettle is a plant growing in ordinary places, especially in less respected ones. It is so common that we underestimate its importance and quality. Additionally nettle punish anyone who approaches. It has appropriate arsenal of weapons always ready to use. Amount of small nettle hairs bites our unprotected skin and leave it with itchy spots. And even gardener beginner knows how persistent knapweed nettle can be.

Nettle is very concentrated. Sharp and spicy, better to use it carefully. Wise says that sharpness disappears after cooking or freezing. I must say “it depends how sensitive you are”. I remember terrifying experience with my rose-nettle soap when I used it accidentally in intimate areas. Believe me, I did it only once. I felt as if the biting nettles were fresh regardless of the saponification process in lye.

From the same reason I cannot use nettle in shampoo or hair conditioner, even many people love to do it.

Nettle is like red chilli in a green robe, it can inflame you white-hot. And this is why nettle is so useful for blood purification. It bites all lazy components to increase their functionality. Liver and kidneys work faster and waste products leave body more quickly. Then it can happen that high blood pressure is effectively adjusted.

Nettle likes and supports well vascularized organs such as heart, liver, kidneys, spleen and ovaries. Due to high mineral content nettle helps to maintain healthy blood inside of them.

According to my experience nettle can be a successful ingredient of the anti-herpes salve. Perhaps because of the vigor which expels harmful substances from the blood away.

Which kind of experience with nettle do you have?