7.28.2011

10 Herbs to Cultivate for Health and Beauty


Before this post begins be sure to check out my latest video How to Care for Orchids where I share with you tips and tricks for keeping and cultivating one of my favorite flowers. To see the video click here, look in the sidebar of this blog or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

And now for this special Thursday post…

I am delighted to share a special guest post written by Green Living Expert Randi Ragan of the award winning GreenBliss Eco Spa in Los Angeles.

I have a passion for herbs- I love cooking with them and making teas with them but I know there is so much more I could do with them. I had the unique opportunity of asking Randi about the top ten herbs anyone can cultivate for health and beauty and am so happy to share with you her response.

Her list is fascinating to me and so informative. Whether you are fortunate enough to have an herb garden of your own or a few pots on a balcony or window box (which is my situation), you can cultivate herbs to better your life.

So without further ado...

The 10 Herbs Anyone Can Cultivate for Health and Beauty


By Randi Ragan

Holy Basil (tulsi) Place the mature shrub near a doorway or window to get the full effect of its rich, spicy scent. Make an infusion of the leaves for a tea to drink, which produces high antioxidant protection against free radicals and helps bolster the immune system, purify the blood and balance the digestive system. Drinking the tea will also provide a calming effect and relief from feelings of stress and anxiety. Chewing the leaves will support healthy gums and prevent mouth ulcers. Gargle the tea for sore throat relief and to break up mucus from post nasal drip.

Lemon Verbena Leaves steeped and used as tea, are extremely relaxing, lower blood pressure, slow heart rate, ease cramps and indigestion, and strengthen the nervous system. It is the premier garden herb for tea drinking due to its superior and unique flavor. Mixed with lavender, the dried flowers and leaves make the most beautiful potpourri imaginable. An easy way to use the leaves in food, is to steep them in any kind of unflavored/plain milk (soy, almond, hemp, organic cow) that can then be used as an ingredient for puddings, cake or cookie icings, or homemade ice cream -- for anything calling for milk that would be pleasant with a lemony addition. The tenderest leaves can be used chopped up in salad dressings or in fruit salads, or left whole as a garnish for chilled drinks.

Mint (spearmint, pineapple mint, chocolate mint, peppermint) Hot mint tea is good for colds, fever, indigestion and stomach upset. Chilled tea made from dried leaves makes a great foot soak, and face spray for a hot day. Fresh mint leaves can be mixed with fruit salad for a tasty twist. Add spearmint leaves to just about any kind of grain/legume salad (tabouli, couscous or lentil); blend with cucumbers and yogurt for a classic raita dip.

Thyme is a member of the mint family, with over 100 varieties. Honey from bees that feed on thyme flower nectar is a gourmet delight. Yet interestingly enough, insects are repelled by thyme. Make a cup of thyme tea, put it in a plant mister, and spray around doorways and windows in summer to repel insects. Thyme strengthens the immune system, so when feeling a cold coming on, make a tea from the dried or fresh leaves. It is also useful for easing menstrual cramps and headaches. The fresh or dried leaves as well as flower tops work well to flavor soups, stews, baked or sauteed vegetables, and is especially tasty when paired with olives.

Rosemary
“Where rosemary grows, the goddess goes”. The aroma from the growing plant increases brain alertness and counteracts depression and sadness. Its volatile oils are antimicrobial/antiseptic: put fresh sprigs in bath or foot soak for detoxification and to reduce swelling; make tea out of dried leaves for mouthwash to kill bad breath.
Boil a handful of rosemary in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes to yield an antiseptic solution for washing bathroom fixtures. Lay sprigs among linens. Scatter the stems on a barbecue to discourage insects. Add minced rosemary to breads and muffin dough; sprinkle on roasted potatoes or mix with butter for a tasty spread for roasted or steamed vegetables.

Lavender Lavender is a member of the mint family and is useful for easing stress and calming agitation; it is antimicrobial & antiseptic. Make a tea infusion and dab on insect bites and burns, make a sachet of dried flowers to drop into bath or to tie up in a mesh bag for a lingerie drawer sachet. Put the fresh or dried leaves into a mesh bag and place under your pillow for a calming and restful night’s sleep. The weight of your head as it shifts during sleep will release the lavender’s aroma. Mix the fresh flowers into honey and butter for lovely spreads to put on toast and scones. Mix into vanilla ice cream and cake batters.

Sage
takes its name from the Latin salvare (to cure); there is no part of this plant that cannot be used. The leaves, flowers and stems all have healing attributes. Use fresh sage for the most efficacy, and make into an infusion. Dab on insect bites, gargle for sore throats and mucus build up, drink as a tea for respiratory congestion. Because sage has a powerful antiseptic effect, combine a tablespoon of strong sage tea with your toothpaste to help remove plaque and tone the gums. As a mainstay savory herb, add fresh or dried sage to bean and potato dishes, as well as gratins, casseroles and pastas.

German Chamomile This member of the sunflower family has powerful flavonoides which effect the nervous system. Make a tea out of fresh or dried flowers for upset stomach, stress or insomnia. Chamomile also has an effect on the immune system and helps fight off colds and infections. Cold chamomile tea is a great eyewash for tired and red eyes. A chamomile flower bath is great for relieving skin irritations. Wash your face with unsweetened chamomile tea to treat acne or bee stings. Brunettes or dark shades of blondes may consider taking the unsweetened tea to rinse their hair after it has been washed. It is a great and natural way to bring out the gold highlights.

Calendula (Pot Marigold) Calendula has been used both for cooking and for medicine since the sixteenth century. The flowers of calendula were once used to give cheese its yellow color. You can use both the leaves and flowers of the herb calendula. But make certain you have planted calendula and not another plant that is called marigold (of which there are many). Calendula is THE treatment for skin. It promotes skin cell division and hence healing. It is anti-inflammatory and can be used for cuts, scrapes, rashes, heat burns, sunburn, insect stings and acne. Make a strong tea by cutting up the flowers and leaves and steeping in hot water, then spray or dab onto the affected area. Put the flowers into a mesh bag and then toss into a warm bath for an overall body treatment. Its bright orange and yellow flowers look pretty wherever it grows; its flavor is slightly sweet at first then turns tart. It’s good to add to salads, like nasturtium flowers.

Basil, oregano, lemon balm, garlic, fennel are also easily grown and extremely beneficial herbs to have around for multiple uses.

Thank you, Randi for your wonderful insights!


For more information on Randi Ragan please visit www.greenblissecospa.com

I would love to know… what are your favorite herbs and what do you use them for?

One of my beloved orchid plants is pictured above.

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6 comments:

LMK said...

Bravo, Jennifer! I do so love hearing about your other interests & hobbies.

Herbs cultivated in the window of the kitchen is one of the joys in my life. Like you, I infuse them in cooking, baking and home-spa treatments. Not to mention the color, texture and aromatherapy values they bring to our bodies and soul of our homes.

And orchids. Not my most favorite flower, but really do admire those who have the patience to care for them. And it looks as if the fruits of your love & labor are born out. The hue of this velvety pink is simply gorgeous. Can tell you're a very proud Momma.

Thank you for the descriptions and uses of each herb. Am going to add the lemon verbena to my window nursery! Do you have a suggestion of an internet-based company who handle quality bare root or heirloom herb seed? With some it's such a gamble of the condition when received, and ensured healthiness after.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

LMK- Thank you! It's great to hear your feedback. And it's great to know we share a passion! I dream of having an herb garden but right now my window box and balcony will have to do :) I'm glad Randi wrote about lemon verbana because it is my favorite herb of all time- the leaves have the most beautiful aroma. As for an internet company I do not know of one right now but could do some research and get back to you... so please check back in the comment section. I normally get my herbs from the local garden center and have never ordered them online...

Suzanne Daniel said...

For Heirloom seeds, try Seed Savers Exchange or Seeds of Change. The latter I have also seen for sale in one of my local garden centers.

LR said...

Love the orchid video! The blooms just fell off my orchids, so I will try to revive them! Thanks for the tips, your orchids are lovely.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Suzanne- Thank you for that resource- LMK hope that works for you!

LR- Thank you! Glad you liked the orchid video. I love my orchids- they are like my pets :)

LMK said...

Follow up: I purchased a healthy, mature lemon verbana plant from a store in Indy (live in a small town so traveled, but was well worth it) as suggested by Suzanne. Spent the weekend experimenting by infusing a sorbet for guests, garnished lemonade for the kids and steeped for hot tea for myself. Was a veritable spa-day for the tongue! My guests asked me what my secret ingredient is. Told them it's all part of my mystique - LOL! Thank you both for you advice and inspiration.

 
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