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

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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

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

The Elixir of Youth

The fall is definitely coming. It’s not just the morning mist, but also a lot of ripening fruit on the trees all around. You see the branches laden by fruits as they bend to the ground like the elder people often do. And both are full of experience and perhaps full of wisdom.

In my opinion, there are two most attractive seasons in nature – spring and fall. You can easily compare spring to the freshness and innocence of youth, and fall to the maturity and experience of the old age. Even the colors could bear this comparison – bright, fresh and vibrant colors in the spring and heavy and earthy colors in the fall. We can take an example.

Some time ago, I wrote about the elder (Sambucus nigra) at the time of its youth when it was in full bloom, I called it Elderflower Princess. The proud and cheerful girl now became a modest and wise old woman. The royal blood still circulates in her veins, but she has no need to demonstrate. In dust around the roads she patiently awaits those who know or are interested to know her quality. And there are plenty of them!

The most common and probably the most pleasant way how to consume elderberries is syrup. I do not exaggerate too much if I call it the elixir of youth. Sugar kicks the energy up and the fruit makes the energy better circulating throughout the body. A wide range of vitamins and minerals makes the body more resistant to virus and bacteria attacks, a small amount of sedative terpenes helps to calm tired nerves. Elderberries are among the most powerful antioxidants, it means they strongly prevent healthy cells from harmful effects. They keep us as young as possible.

It is easy to remember: the fruit of Elder protects our body from being much elder.

I wish you happy and rich harvest!

With love, Ivana

Sweet smile of Raspberry

Many of us love these beautiful and tasteful berries. You can find a huge amount of cute pictures and amazing recipes full of raspberries. So today, I focus on the Raspberry leaf instead.

The leaf of Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) doesn’t belong to major medicinal plants but it’s a very common source of herbal tea which can be safely used pretty often. I remember it was either raspberry or blackberry tea I tested first like a small girl during camping in forest. I was really surprised that tea did not need to be bought, but it could be prepared from leaves that grow everywhere and enough.

Since that time I’ve been drinking lots of different teas. Mostly I had periods – the period of black tea, the period of green tea, the period of fruit tea. Always the best of! Finally I returned to the little girl inside, and for many years I’ve been drinking only herbal teas, mostly from the herbs I gather myself.

Among other herbs, Raspberry leaf belongs to those I usually drink in blends just for taste, not for particular healing. But that doesn’t mean it has no healing effect! Raspberry leaf contains high amount of tannins, reasonable amount of antioxidants plus pectin, which is suitable for healing tissues. You can use it even for cosmetics purpose.

From the same reason (high amount of tannins) people use Raspberry leaf for fermentation, which is the process in which the ordinary herbal tea became a substitute of black tea. It might sound complicated, but the principle is very simple. Just take fresh raspberry leaves, rumple them, leave them 2-3 days in their own humidity and then quickly dry them in the oven or dryer. And it’s done!

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the fermented tea. Maybe now it’s not exactly the period of mine. But recently I read the post from Katelyn how she made one. I became curious and wanted to try.

The process is really easy, the result tasteful. But I still don’t have the right period. Luckily I have friends and some of them are little bit tired of my always on table herbal tea. Now I can alternate and surprise them with new taste but stick with herbs.

What kind of tea do you prefer?

With love, Ivana

Yellow Bedstraw: Galium verum

Abundant plant on sunny slopes, dry meadows or along the roads looks more like bushy weed than a useful medicinal herb. Perhaps only huge amount of little yellow flowers attracts careful attention of people and lovely attention of bees.

I chose this herb among the five for my Herbal Materia Medica course and before I am going to be overwhelmed by scientific information I would like to share my existing experience.

Yellow Bedstraw (Galium verum) is not as friendly or sticky as its more famous relative Galium aparine. It doesn’t play the major role in homeopathic or Chinese medicine but it stands nearby and waits for being understood and wisely used.

This herb is for those who cannot be discouraged by untidy appearance, a little bit prickly inaccessibility or unpleasant bitter astringent taste. That’s why it’s mostly used externally.

I love its effects in soaps for problematic skin treatment, no matter if it’s adolescent acne or adults’ hemorrhoids. In facial treatment can be used also as a bath or tonic. Affected areas are treated well by yellow bedstraw which I occasionally supplement by other potent herbs.

If I want to use yellow bedstraw internally, I usually go for capsules. My tired kidneys like to be refreshed from time to time, so I combine yellow bedstraw with heather and goldenrod, manually powder them and fill the capsules. There is very welcome side effect because yellow bedstraw also helps with night spasm in legs which I sometimes suffer.

Before other products appeared on the market, yellow bedstraw was widely used in cheese production. In accordance to its astringent taste yellow bedstraw is able to coagulate milk very effectively. You can try and have a useful fun.

Agrimony: The Herb of Truth

I love Agrimony like a beautiful and noble plant, like an effective medicinal plant and also like an essential flower remedy. It’s an amazing gift of nature and fully deserves our protection and respect.

I have my favorite place, where I observe and collect Agrimony plants. When at the end of spring begin to appear velvety hairs on young leaves and buds, I feel tenderness and vulnerability. It seems to be soft and supple. But few weeks later Agrimony dramatically changes its appearance. It rapidly drives the main stem to a great height, to keep track of everything what is happening around. Suddenly, tenderness becomes pride and vulnerability becomes need to control. Optimistic yellow flowers abundant on the top of stem balance both polarities. And this is the right season to collect Agrimony before its stem lignifies. Lignification represents the stage, when Agrimony preserves mask of optimistic arrogance, ignoring its own vulnerability and willingness to help.

Harvesting at the right time, Agrimony has a wide range of healing effects for both, exterior and interior application. I like yellow slightly bitter tea of Agrimony, which positively affects entire digestive system without any side effects. Additionally it strengthens our immunity. Externally, Agrimony is very helpful for wound healing and treatment of skin diseases. Together with Yarrow, Agrimony belongs to the most effective plants for coalescence of what has been divided and for aftercare of scars.

Who is familiar with the flower remedies of Dr.Bach, knows well the effects of Agrimony in our emotional system. And if you remember the words about physical appearance of Agrimony, you get an idea of these effects. Agrimony flower remedy helps to all, who covers vulnerability and true emotions by funny faces. People, who seem to be optimistic in every situation, just as they always have everything under control, are like Agrimony, which begins to lignify.

And that is why I call Agrimony “the herb of truth”. It helps to be honest and not to hide weaknesses and fear, not to waste energy on maintaining of artificial and always positive masks. Thanks to Agrimony we can feel free and freely use any of emotions.