Ugly soap with beauty inside

I have recently asked whether herbal soap without fragrance is acceptable because I found only two major groups of homemade natural soaps. There is either a large group of beautiful soaps with artistic look of many kinds, or a bit smaller group where the combination of interesting fragrances is emphasized. Briefly, the homemade soaps attack directly your eyes or nose.

I love to admire creativity of both groups as well as I admit that I don’t have enough capability to do anything comparable. Still I feel the necessity to wash my body with my own soap and fill it with herbs of my choice.

The last “soaping” post described my history from feeding wishes of the others to the understanding I need to follow my inner voice although the result looks so poor.

And here it is, unattractive with no additional fragrance. You hardly find anything less common to look at, although there are hidden treasures inside.

Among herbs, there is lot of violets inside. Some of them were infused together with plantain and strawberry leaves into Babassu and Coconut oil, some of them were distilled in water environment to get my own “floral water”, in which I then dissolved sodium hydroxide.

The rest of violets were dried and powdered, so they gently peel your skin while enjoying the bubbles. For the same reason I powdered a pinch of oatmeal, which also plays a nourishing role as well as range of high quality vegetable oils like hemp, almond, olive and castor oil, plus my lovely shea butter infused with plantain.

I count days until the soap is ready, looking forward to enjoy my ugly Cinderella in shower!

With love, Ivana

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Does Veronica bring the rain?

Who has never met tiny dark blue flowers in summer green grass? It’s a widespread flower, growing abundantly and due to the color attracting attention. Common names usually indicate similarity of the flower with an eye, whether it be a bird’s eye, a cat’s eye or even a frog’s eye.

Locally, we call it “storm flower” perhaps because the shade of blue reminds the sky before storm. And there is a superstition that if you pick this flower, rain or even a storm will come. As children, we were careful not to waste this flower because the rain would ruin our holiday games. That’s why the storm flower was among the first plants I learned to recognize.

Botanically we talk about Veronica chamaedrys, the sister of Veronica officinalis. Both of them belong to the family Plantaginaceae, so we could expect some healing effects. Although Veronica officinalis is less abundant in my surroundings, I focus my attention on it. The mind says, that’s because it has stronger effects, but maybe the old habits from childhood work in the subconscious and I am just reluctant to call the storm 😋

Both Veronicas are diuretic, so they help in case you need to remove water from the body or just rinse the kidneys and urinary bladder. According to my experience, Veronica is a treasure in blood purification either solo or in combination with other plants. People appreciate the ability to decrease the cholesterol level. I like the feeling that my veins are getting necessary treatment. Veronica is safe and you can use it for a long time.

I am looking forward to gather Veronica soon!

With love, Ivana

Herbal candy, homemade

Several weeks ago I got a sudden idea to make herbal candies even though I’d never tried it before. But it cannot be so difficult, right? Sugar, herbs, water and probably few drops of lemon juice.

First time, I was obsessed with violets. No matter it was after midnight, I found a small amount of dried flowers from last spring remaining and this was a great opportunity to use them.

I made a strong tea from violets, which got after adding lemon juice a beautiful pink-purple color. I mixed it with large amount of sugar, cooked to thicken with constant stirring and poured into a silicone mold. They were yummy!

Before I could eat them, a friend came and complained about troubles with vocal cords – tension and too much mucus that needed to be released. So I offered her my new candies because I assumed that violets’ healing effects could complete their mission. I was right and happy when she confirmed that the candies did their job perfectly.

Then I made other batches – chamomile, elderflower, elderberry, pine, lavender – and always came somebody whom I gave most of them. I am still learning how to get the best consistency, but I don’t have complains about taste yet.

I feel like Columbus when he discovered America, even though it existed long before he arrived.

Today, I prepared a small batch from sage and wild thyme. Maybe tomorrow someone comes with cold or flu.

Do you have an experience with homemade herbal candy?

With love, Ivana

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

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

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

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