Catnip chasing the biting insects away

The other day I read that an Iowa State University research group showed that the essential oil found in the herb catnip Nepeta cataria is about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes in the laboratory. What a wonderful discovery!

Our home has catnip growing everywhere, especially along the edges of our home. It is in the mint family and spreads like it too, very prolific. The other night we were having dinner outside and little no-see-ums where nipping at our ankles. So, I mentioned the research to our guests and decided to pick some catnip and have everyone rub it on their legs. I also left the used stems on the ground under the table by our feet. Within a couple of moments, to everyone surprise, there was relief from the no-see-ums!

Insect repellent just doesn’t get any easier than that.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Let’s see who’s there

If you have been reading my blog, I am sure you know by now that gardening and maintaining a garden is just not my thing. But when it comes to foraging, now that is more up my alley. Although, you can claim removing last year’s dead stems and leaves is actually “gardening,” I view it more like exploration. Because the very act of removing all last year’s detritus from my little medicinal garden is always thrilling. It reminds me of when I would take Mathew into the woods to see what critters were living under logs and rocks. We would very slowly and carefully pick the object up to see who was there. It was always very exciting.  That’s how I approach my little garden. Mind you, it is a very small garden perhaps only 10′ x 10′, but an enormous amount of love and intention goes into it.

waking up the gardenAs I started to remove last year’s detritus, the first plants to reveal themselves were Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria). I think I could also see a very shy Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) peaking through. Since I removed everything that would impede their journey to the surface and as long as the weather continues to be “spring like,” I suspect now all the plants will have an easier time revealing themselves, and by the end of the week more will breaking through the earth.

Waking up Lady's Mantle

Waking up Lady’s Mantle

This will be the 6th year I will be nurturing the garden. Every year, I add one or two more herbs to get to know and learn. Some of them I had never worked with before, so it has been very interesting. Gratefully, most of the herbs love the garden, coming back and flourish year after year. Unfortunately, some have enjoyed the garden a little bit too much. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria) adore the garden but since they thrive all over our land, there is no reason for them to take up space here.  Other plants have found their way into my garden and are welcome, such as Red Clover (Trifolium pretense). Several years ago, I learned how tenacious Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was, silly me, I planted it in the center of the garden, thinking it would look nice. It really did until it started to crowd all the other plants who were stifled by its beautiful large overbearing leaves and flower stalks.  The next fall, we tried our best to take it all out so the other plants could breathe again. We replanted the Comfrey between Mike’s baby apple trees, where is will help the trees thrive. Comfrey’s root system efficiently mines potassium, calcium along with other minerals enriching the soil around it. We did not do the best job eradicating it from the garden, as it keeps revealing itself, less each year but nevertheless she is always there. Truthfully, I am not too sure that it is possible to totally eradicate Comfrey, but I guess time will tell. It is a fabulous reminder that we really cannot manage nature. One of the very reasons I am more of a forager at heart than a gardener.

 

 

Cultivating Know Your Roots

KYR_Logo_RedLike a seed, Know Your Roots laid dormant for several years before we decided to revive it as a business that reflects our commitment to your health, well-being, and our reverence for this planet. Over the past few years, we have been cultivating Know Your Roots as a concept and a business that now includes a new logo, website, workshops, classes, and social media ~ not to mention what we really love doing: growing and creating.

This year we’re pleased to offer a broad series of classes and workshops ~ as well as an herbal product line ~ to complement our new appearance. We offer Programs & Events that cover a wide range of topics throughout the season no matter whether you’re a budding herbalist, orchardist, or a seasoned veteran. Sharing our knowledge with everyone was the catalyst for breathing life into Know Your Roots. Please join us this year as we celebrate the earth and healthy living.

How do you prepare your family for the cold and flu season?

When Mathew was 4 months old, I was introduced to an amazing parenting group that I still utilize from time to time. During the first fours years of his life, I found the Hudson Valley Parents group to be invaluable. At first, I used the group to meet other parents of children the same age as Mathew and go on hikes. Then it became a huge resource for questions like – My kid does this, does yours, what do you do?” or where can I get …? However, one question really changed my life. How do you prepare your family for the cold and flu season? I had a couple of tools in my herbal tool chest but the answer to this one was the most powerful – Elderberry Syrup! Hands-down, I have never utilized a better immune system enhancer than elderberry syrup. Better yet, it is rather tasty too. We start taking it in the fall and throughout the winter, particularly when we travel. I have never found enough elderberries growing near my home to make the syrup, so I buy the syrup at the local health food store.

See how the virus cell is covered in spikes?

Elder (Sambucus nigra) is a fantastic antiviral and the way it works is really interesting.  First, you must visualize a virus, which is round and covered with spikes. The virus’ job is to invade the cell by using its spikes to puncture the cell wall.  Elder strengthens the cell wall while neutralizing the spikes on the virus, thus making it more difficult for the virus to invade the cell, BRILLIANT.  By taking elderberry syrup, you are strengthening your immune system so it can fight off cold and flu viruses when you are exposed to them, as well as lessen symptoms and duration of the illness. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.

Here’s to a healthy cold and flu season.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

So what is an infusion?

Throughout my blogs, I occasionally, mention making infusions and have come to realize that many people do not know what an infusion is – well, I’ve decided to remedy the situation.  The basic difference between a tea and an infusion is the steeping time and amount of herb being used. An infusion uses a larger quantity of herbs and is steeped a lot longer. Infusions extract more medicinal qualities and nutrients than tea. They do not have a long shelf life, perhaps 2-3 days at most.

Infusions are made from the delicate aerial parts (flower, stems or leaves) of the plants.  These fragile parts must be steeped, rather than simmered, because they give up their medicinal properties more easily than the tougher roots and bark.

To make infusion:

I like to make infusions in quart canning jars; they can withstand the heat of the boiling water and are easy to carry around. Also, it’s the right amount for a daily intake and I can drink it all day long without needing to make a new batch.

  1. Boil a quart of water per ounce (handful) of dried herb or one cup per tablespoon of herb. If using fresh herbs, double the quantity. If you want to extract the mucilaginous property of a plant – use cold water and not boiled water (for example, with marshmallow root).
  2. Pour boiled water over the herbs, cover and let steep for at least 30-60 minutes, typically 4 hours to overnight. The longer the steeping time, the stronger the infusion.
  3. Strain and drink.

It can be drunk hot or cold and sweetened if you like. Experiment with herb amounts and steeping times; let your taste buds guide you.  Infusions can be used for drinking, foot and hand baths or to make creams.

You can pick fresh herbs (make sure herb is properly identified) for your infusions or buy dry herbs in the bulk section of a health food store or co-op. Enjoy!

I will share my favorite infusion recipes, please share yours.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Relief from spider bites

One of the challenges of living in the country is living alongside critters that like to bite you. Last week, I woke up with a welt the size of a quarter on the inside of my arm. From previous experience, it appeared to be a spider bite. I could see two little puncture wounds in the center of the welt. They usually go away after a couple of days without treatment but this one seemed to grow bigger and redder each day along with getting rather sore and itchy. On the third day, I decided to put a plantain poultice on it. I found some fresh plantain from the yard, chewed it up and applied it. There was relief within minutes. I decided to leave it on over night. The next morning the welt had gone down and the area seemed to have dried up. I was rather relieved, as I have known people to get rather bad infections from spider bites.

Unfortunately, by the afternoon, the welt returned and was sore again. I decided to use baking soda this time. I made a paste by adding a little water to the baking soda and applied it for 20 minutes. The welt went down again and the itching and soreness was gone. I am grateful to say – baking soda did the trick! What I had was just a red patch left on my arm, which faded in a couple of days.

The reason why I tried plantain and baking soda for my spider bite was because; the venom from the spider was causing a reaction in my body. I needed to draw the venom out so my body could heal. Plantain and baking soda are known for their strong abilities to draw venom out. I am very grateful that this easy remedy worked.

 

All information is shared for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition.

 

What’s under there?

If you have been reading my blog, I am sure you know by now that gardening does not come naturally to me. Foraging does. Perhaps I am approaching gardening differently this year, because the very act of removing last year’s dead stems and leaves from my little medicinal garden was thrilling. It reminded me of when I would take Mathew into the woods to see what critters were living under logs and rocks. We would very slowly and carefully pick the object up, to see who was there. It was always very exciting.  That is how I’m approaching my little garden this year. Mind you, it is a very small garden perhaps only 10′ x 7′, but an enormous amount of love and intention goes into it.

waking up the gardenAs I started to remove last year’s detritus, the first plants to reveal themselves were Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria). I think I could also see a very shy Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) peaking through. Since I removed everything that would impede their journey to the surface and as long as the weather continues to be “spring like,” I suspect now all the plants will have an easier time revealing themselves, and by the end of the week more will breaking through the earth.

Waking up Lady's Mantle

Waking up Lady’s Mantle

This will be the 4th year I will be nurturing the garden. Every year, I add one or two more herbs to get to know and learn. Some of them I had never worked with before, so it has been very interesting. Gratefully, most of the herbs love the garden, coming back and thriving year after year. Unfortunately, some have enjoyed the garden a little bit too much. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria) adore the garden but since they thrive all over our land, there is no reason for them to take up space here.  Other plants have found their way into my garden and are welcome, such as Red Clover (Trifolium pretense). Last year, I learned how tenacious Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was, silly me, I planted it in the center of the garden, thinking it would look nice. It really did until it started to crowd all the other plants who were stifled by its beautiful large overbearing leaves and flower stalks.  Last fall, we tried our best to take it all out so the other plants could breathe again. We replanted the comfrey between Mike’s baby apple trees, where is will help the trees thrive. Comfrey’s root system efficiently mines potassium, calcium along with other minerals enriching the soil around it. Hopefully, we did a good job eradicating it from the garden. Truthfully, I am not too sure that it is possible but I guess time will tell. It is a fabulous reminder that we really cannot manage nature. One of the very reasons I am more of a forager at heart than a gardener.