Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tropical Chickweed or Drymary







     Living in Central Florida, I don't see much of certain plants that are staples in traditional diets. One plant in particular, Chickweed, I've always read about, but never actually had a chance to see. One day, I noticed a plant that looked a lot like the typical description of Chickweed that I'd read about for years. Vaguely heart shaped, opposite, leaves. Ground cover with tiny white flowers. It even has an elastic inner core. However, it was not fuzzy and the leaves were a bit bigger than I was lead to believe. A few years later, I was taking a class and the teacher pointed to this exact plant and called it Drymary, or Tropical Chickweed. Eureka! It may not have been a true Chickweed, but it was a very close cousin. So close, in fact, that traditional medical systems across the world use them in many of the same ways. Since then, I have seen Chickweed (though here it's season is much, much shorter than in cooler climates), but I also have gained a great amount of respect for Drymary.


Medicinal Uses:


Scientific Name- Drymaria cordata, Drymaria diandra

Common Names- Tropical Chickweed, Drymary, Heartleaf Drymary, Whitesnow, West Indian Chickweed

Parts Used- The juice as well as the whole plant

Parts Eaten- Tender young leaves and shoots are eaten raw or cooked. The leaves, at any age, can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked as a pot herb.

Summary of Actions-  Appetizer, depurative, emollient, antidote, cooling, febrifuge, laxative, mild analgesic, and stimulant.

Upper Respiratory-  Many cultures around the world use this herb in various upper respiratory ailments. Smoking the dried leaves is said to help treat bronchitis. Drinking the juice or a tea made from the leaves is said to help with asthma, bronchitis, colds, and upper respiratory infections.

Snake Bites-   In China, the leaves are crushed and placed on top of a snake bite to help counter any venom that may be present.

Burns-  Drymary is both cooling and slightly pain relieving. This makes it great to help cool off burns.

Wound Care, Eczema, and Psoriasis- This herb is a good wound herb. It helps cleanse the wound, provides mild pain relief, and can help speed the body's natural healing properties. It also helps, especially in the case of eczema or psoriasis, to soothe and protect irritated skin.

Detox- One of it's main actions is as a depurative. Depurative herbs work on our body's natural detoxification system, helping to cleanse the kidneys, liver, and lymphatic system.

Malaria-  Native to the same areas of the world that are known for Malaria, Drymary is one of the standard herbs used to treat the infection. It's main use is to help reduce fever, which is one of the major concerns when dealing with Malaria.

Possible Use for HIV Treatment-  Recent studies have found that Drymary shows promise in treating HIV patients.

Contraindications and Warnings- There are toxic look-a-likes found in many of it's natural habitats. Do not use or consume this herb unless you are 100% sure of it's correct identification.



     I only included a basic introduction to Tropical Chickweed.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.



References:


Analgesic and Antipyretic Activities of Drymaria Cordata (Linn.) Willd (Caryophyllaceae) Extract: African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746538/

Drymaria Cordata: Useful Tropical Plants:http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Drymaria+cordata

Drymaria Cordata Herb Uses, Benefits, Cures, Side Effects, Nutrients: Herbpathy:  https://herbpathy.com/Uses-and-Benefits-of-Drymaria-Cordata-Cid5555

Drymaria Cordata, Tropical Chickweed: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/drymaria-cordata-kissing-cousin-chickweed-2/

Drymaria Cordata (Tropical Chickweed): Invasive Species Comendium: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/20020

West Indian Chickweed: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/d/drymaria-cordata=west-indin-chickweed.php




Monday, December 31, 2018

Make Time For Nature






      The Holidays are a wonderful time, however they are also stressful. Holiday parties, gift wrapping and giving, cleaning, decorating, baking, merry-making, all of this is wrapped up into just a few weeks. This tends to leave people strung out, exhausted, and ready for a break. So I'd like to offer up one of my favorite ways to relax and detox from the stress of this crazy season. Nature.

Spending time in Nature has a great number of health benefits that come with it.



1. Improved Mood


    Growing up on the coast of Florida, I've always heard about a group of crazy people who like to go swimming, in the ocean, during the winter. Brr! But science may have determined that there is actually something good that comes from their chilly dips. According to a series of recent studies, short term immersion in cold water actually stimulates the immune system as well as triggers your body to release more endorphins, helping to boost your health and mood.

     Now you don't have to take the plunge to boost your mood in the colder months. With winter comes shorter days, reducing your exposure to the sun. This plays a pretty huge part in the “winter blues” and can be countered with more time outdoors while the sun is up. Also, any mild exercise can help to release those same endorphins that are triggered by the chilly dip, and even more of them are released when you're exercising in the cold.

2. Improved Immunity 


     Most of us are aware that stress has a negative impact on our health and immunity. Especially for those of us who live in more urban areas, stresssors are becoming more easy to encounter and that much harder to avoid. Spending time out in nature helps us to reduce our stressors and relax. Not only does this reduction of stress improve our immunity, but when you're out in nature you tend to be surrounded by plants, which has it's own set of immune boosting benefits.

     Trees and other plants have to fight off disease just like we do. They each have developed unique ways to do this. One way can really benefit us as well. Phytoncides are chemicals that plants have developed to kill off harmful bacteria and fungi. Many of these phytoncides are released into the air by a breeze, some are released when you brush up against a plant, and of course there are some that are taken in when the plant is ingested. But just simply breathing in the outside air, in natural areas, can help to build your immune system and help you fight off disease.

3. Increase Metabolism and Burn Fat 


     Your body works a little bit harder when you're cold, but you don't have to be shivering for this to happen. Your body is less efficient in colder temperatures. This boosts your metabolism, helping you to burn more calories.  This is helped greatly when you're exposed to the cold on a regular, consistent, basis and even more so if you're exposure includes cardiac pumping activities such as skiing, ice skating, or even just a brisk walk.

4. Reduce Exposure to Seasonal Illnesses


     Most of us have an association with winter and illness. Growing up, I always heard my mother say things such as “don't go outside or you'll catch a cold!” However we really have more to fear from staying inside during the winter, at least as far as getting ill is concerned. We spend so much time indoors during the colder months, and with central air and heat all the pathogens just get circulated around our homes and businesses. The better to spread between people and cause more and more infections. Getting outside during the winter helps keep you from that constant pathogenic exposure, at least for a little while.

5. Stop Negative and Obsessive Thinking


     When you're walking through the wonders of nature, most of the time you are happy just to “be.” Nature, fresh air, trees, and plants can all help to calm your mind, helping you to find your center. This helps to reduce stress, but it also helps to reduce negative thoughts and obsessive thinking. We all do it. We get stuck on analyzing our actions, our work lives, what we could do better next time, etc. Most of us are very familiar with thoughts that go in circles just obsessing over how we messed up and how to do better if we're ever presented with the opportunity to do so. Thoughts like this lead to depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other mood and mental conditions. Science has told us, for quite a while now, that these obsessive thoughts and their associated mental illnesses are more common in cities. However, recently science has also taken these studies a bit further, confirming that just a walk in the neighborhood does not change these thought processes. One study in particular found that taking a 90 minute walk in an urban area did not effect most people's negative and obsessive thoughts, however a 90 minute walk in more natural areas, like a park or the woods, did decrease these negative thoughts.

Seasonal Cautions:


     The benefits are definitely great reasons to spend time outside during the winter, but don't forget that the cold can be dangerous as well. Living in Florida, where people live in perpetual fear of temperatures under 50 degrees, I often forget certain safety measures about the cold. So here are a few reminders for those who will be exposed to the chillier side of winter.

1. Dress Appropriately


     Layers are always a good choice in the winter. That way, while you're in warmer areas, you can peel off any layers when you get hot, but you also have those layers for when you're in the cold again. But don't forget your hat, scarf, and gloves when you expect to be in the cold. A lot of body heat is trapped by a hat, keeping you warmer over all. A scarf helps you protect your face, especially when the wind is blowing. Your fingers tend to get cold easily in warmer months, so in the colder ones we need to not forget to take measures to make sure they stay warm, and mittens are actually warmer than gloves for those of you who may be around the snow this winter.

2. Stay Dry


     Water helps us to cool down in the summer, but it also cools us during the winter. Make sure that your outer layer of clothing is waterproof to help keep in your body heat and keep out the damp. Also, perspiration speeds the loss of body heat, so removing excess layers when you feel warm is a good thing to do.

3. Take it Slow


     Your body work less efficiently in the cold, which means it's harder for your heart to pump blood, for your lungs to take in air, your digestive system to digest, etc. So for those of you who may have a heart condition, this means that you should take things slow in the cold. Physical exertion will demand more effort from your bodily functions, which means that it will be that much easier for you to over exert yourself. Don't over do it! Take it slow and listen to your body.

4. Use Common Sense


     Just like the summer, winter has it's own perils. If you're planing on spending any time outside, especially if you're doing this alone, make sure that your friends and family know where you are and approximately how long you plan on staying out.

     Be prepared for changing conditions. All seasons have different weather patterns in them, in winter you need to be prepared for cold weather conditions. Make sure you carry matches and other materials to start a fire with if needed, extra clothing or a blanket in case the temperature drops suddenly, etc. Especially if you're heading out in conditions you're not familiar with, check out and research safety tips before you go.




     I hope I have helped to motivate you to get out in nature, even if it's cold.  Spending even a few minutes a week in nature can have amazing benefits. Have fun with your outdoor adventures and if you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

Resources:


4 Simple Secrets to Feeling Your Best Through the Depths of Winter: Hyperbiotics: https://www.hyperbiotics.com/blogs/recent-articles/4-simple-secrets-to-feeling-your-best-through-the-depths-of-winter

5 Unexpected Benefits of Enjoying Outdoor Winter Activities: Cheat Sheet: https://www.cheatsheet.com/life/5-unexpected-health-benefits-of-enjoying-outdoor-winter-activities.html/

5 Ways Spending Time in Nature Benefits Your Brain: Care 2: https://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-ways-spending-time-in-nature-benefits-your-brain.html

5 Ways Spending Time in Nature Benefits Your Health: Hyperbiotics: https://www.hyperbiotics.com/blogs/recent-articles/5-ways-spending-time-in-nature-benefits-your-health-and-your-gut

Bundle Up and Get Outside: Fix: https://www.fix.com/blog/keep-kids-playing-outdoors-in-winter/

Ecotherapy: Health Benefits of Nature: Wellness Mama: https://wellnessmama.com/56086/nature-health-benefits/

Monday, December 10, 2018

Blueberry Citrus Fruitcake





     Fruitcake. It's the Christmas tradition that nobody wants.  However, this tradition stems from abundance. Historically, fruitcakes were made after a very successful harvest, and stored until Christmas (or even the next harvest), when they were eaten in celebration and for good luck in the next year's harvest. The secret to keeping this cake so long is in it's care. Each week the cake needs to be brushed with alcohol or flavored syrup. This helps to preserve it as well as to keep it moist. The modern dislike of fruitcake probably comes from the lack of care and attention given to them, making them hard bricks of weird fruit and nut bread.

     That being said, this year I decided to put my own spin on this traditional baked good, hopefully reviving the old tradition with a bit of a Bat Lady flair.

     As with all my recipes, there are a number of awesome variations that you can use. I really don't like apricots, so I used pineapple in this recipe, but feel free to use the traditional apricots. Really, you can use any fruit you'd like in place of any of the other fruits (a small amount of elderberries might make for an interesting cake), same goes for the nuts. I prefer cashews and almonds to a few of the more traditional nuts, but you can use whatever nuts you'd like. Have fun with it and make it your own!   
   
     This awesome recipe features Juniper berries and Gin, two of my favorite things! Also, it makes about 12 cups of batter, so you can use a 10-inch bundt pan, a 9X13 inch baking pan, 2 9 inch round cake pans, or it can make 18-24 cupcakes.



Blueberry Citrus Fruitcake


The Fruit Mixture:
1 ½ cups dried Blueberries
½ cup Golden Raisins
½ cup dried Pineapple
¼ cup candied Ginger
½ cup Gin (my favorite gin to use is Magellan, but any gin will work) or St. Germain (an Elderflower liqueur)...or go crazy and use half of each!

The Cake:
5 tbsp ground Chia Seeds
10 tbsp Water
2 cups Gluten Free Flour Mix of your choice (my favorite is by Namaste)
¾ cup milled/ground Flaxseed and/or Chia seed (buy it already ground or grind your own using a coffee grinder)
1 tbsp Baking Powder (gluten free of course)
½ tsp Sea Salt
2 Oranges, remove the peel (not the pith) with a vegetable peeler and reserve it, squeeze the oranges after peeling and reserve the juice
1 Lemon remove the peel (not the pith) with a vegetable peeler and reserve it, squeeze the lemon after peeling and reserve the juice (½ for the cake and ½ for the glaze)
1 Lime remove the peel (not the pith) with a vegetable peeler and reserve it, squeeze the lime after peeling and reserve the juice (½ for the cake and ½ for the glaze)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp ground Juniper Berries (I grind mine using a coffee grinder)
4 cups Honey (or Agave)
1 cup of Coconut Oil (or Ghee)
¼ cup Cashews, chopped
¼ cup slivered Almonds

The Syrup:
½ cup Honey
½ cup Gin
½ the reserved Lemon Juice
½ the reserved Lime Juice

Instructions:
Combine the dried fruits and booze in a non-reactive (I use glass) bowl. Toss well, cover, and allow to soak overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat your pan/pans with olive oil (or ghee) and dust with flour. Combine 5 tbsp ground Chia Seeds and 10 tbsp water, mix well, and chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Combine flour, Flax/Chia Seed mixture, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Combine ½ of the lemon juice, ½ of the lime juice, and ¾ of a cup of orange juice with vanilla extract and set aside. 

Toss soaked dried fruit with 2 tablespoons of flour mixture, set aside.

In a food processor, process your citrus peels and ground Juniper until the peels are finely ground. Add in honey, chilled chia mixture, and coconut oil. Process until smooth. Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in half of the flour mixture, add juice mixture to combine. Fold in the rest of the flour mixture, dried fruits, and nuts until just combined.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan(s) and baked until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine honey and citrus juices. Bring to a boil, while stirring to combine. Remove from heat and add in gin. Stir until well combined.

When the fruitcake is done, remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack, about 10 minutes.

Using a skewer or toothpick, poke small holes in the top of the cake. Slowly spoon a small amount on top of the cake and allow it to soak in. Let the cake set and absorb the syrup for a few minutes, then repeat the process as many times as it takes to use up all of your prepared syrup.

*Optional. Dusting the cake with powdered sugar helps make it look a little more Christmas-y and the powdered sugar helps preserve the cake as well.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 2 hours before removing from the pan. Can be served immediately, but this cake tastes better if allowed to sit for at least 24-48 hours before serving. If you want to store it long-term, wrap it up in cheese cloth and foil before placing it in an air-tight container. Each week, using a basting brush, cover the fruitcake with more syrup (one application of syrup at a time). For more detailed instructions on long-term care of fruitcake check out this page.


   
     I know this is a little more complicated than most of my recipes, but I hope you enjoy making (and eating!) this fruitcake!  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Juniper





    It's that time of year. The time when people are decking their halls and gathering together to celebrate whichever Holiday they choose to celebrate. In my house, there is always a tree. Christmas trees are beautiful, traditional, and make the house smell like you're walking in the woods on a snowy Christmas morning. When you combine that wonderful scent with the scent of Holiday cooking, you get a comfortably Christmas-y scent that everyone loves. One of my favorite spices to help bring more of that Christmas tree scent into the season (though I do use it year round) is Juniper.

     Juniper Berries are actually not berries at all. They are the female seed cones of Juniperus communis, a conifer (cone bearing plants) commonly known as the Common Juniper. This shrub has the largest range of any woody plant and can be found in most places in the northern hemisphere. In many parts of it's natural habitat, Juniper will only grow close to the ground, but it can easily reach 15 ft tall and there are even a few variants that have been known to reach 50 ft. This tree is extremely amiable to a number of different growing conditions, which probably is why it's one of the most popular conifers used in traditional Bonsai art.

     I will admit that I am one of those “weird people” who loves to drink gin. Most people I've encountered just don't get it. And when I describe gin as “Christmas tree in a bottle” they get super confused. But I LOVE the fresh flavor, and it's all thanks to Juniper. Not only is Juniper used to flavor gin, but it's also a common spice in traditional German food, as well as an amazing herb to use for quite a long list of health benefits. If you talk to culinary experts, they'll tell you that Juniper is great to flavor meat and to use in sauces. I tend use Juniper berries in a lot of foods and drinks that I make during this time of year. Wassail, mulled wine, and my homemade cranberry sauce, are just a few of my favorite recipes that use Juniper Berries.


Medicinal Uses:


Scientific Name- Juniperus communis

Common Names- Common juniper, fairy circle, hackmatack, gin berry, horse savin, gorst, aiten, dwarf juniper, genevier, mountain common juniper, old field common juniper, genévrier, ginepro, enebro, gemeiner, gin plant, wachholder, reckholder

Parts Used- Commonly, the dried and ripe berries but sometimes the needles and wood have been used for medical purposes. Essential oils are often made using a combination of needles, wood, and powdered berries.

Summary of Actions-  Antiseptic, sudorific, antirheumatic, depurative, antispasmodic, stimulating, stomachic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, rubefacient, vulnerary, and a tonic.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)-  Known as Du Song Zi, Juniper has quite a number of uses in TCM. It's bitter and pungent and works primarily on the heart, spleen, and lung meridians. It's also known to promote digestion, warm the middle, expel phelgm, warm the lungs, and cleanses both the kidney and liver.

Ayurveda-  Juniper has several names in Ayurveda; Hapusha, Matsyagandha, Aaraar, Abhal, and Haubera.  Juniper is recommended for pacifying both kapha and vata doshas, and for enhancing pitta dosha to aid metabolic functions.

Essential Oil-  Juniper essential oil is a well known antiseptic, used in the past to treat wounds, and even to sanitize medical equipment. Makes an excellent choice for deodorants and deodorizing sprays. When diffused it helps to sanitize and cleanse the air.  It is also calming and stress relieving without sedating. There are some studies that even recommend this oil over medication for certain insomnia patients. It's also a gentile stimulant, helping to overcome fatigue, dizziness, and even depression.

Joint Pain-  Juniper helps to increase blood circulation, remove toxins, and reduce swelling, all of which help ease join pain caused by gout, arthritis, or rheumatism.

Skin Conditions-  This herb is amazing at helping treat skin conditions. In fact, it's one of the most common uses today. It helps speed up your body's natural healing process, helping to reduce the appearance of scars, sooth rashes, and helps reduce the inflammation that leads to outbreaks of eczema and psoriasis. Some studies are actually pointing to Juniper helping treat certain cases of vitiligo, a condition that causes patches of skin to loose pigmentation.

Antibacterial and Antiviral-  Juniper is a great herb for use in your household cleaning products. It works to kill most of the common bacteria, fungi, and viruses you find in your home. It also is effective against Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) , even against the antibiotic resistant strains of Staph and other resistant bacteria.

Heart Health-  Juniper helps to reduce high blood pressure, helps to lower high triglycerides, and acts as a tonic for the circulatory system. It also helps to cleanse blood of toxins like uric acid, heavy metals, pollutants, and excess hormones.

Digestive Issues-  Often used as a bitter herb, to aid the production of bile and ease digestion, Juniper is also excellent for quite a few other digestive issues. It's a carminative, helping to relieve flatulence and bloating. It's also a stomachic, helping to speed the healing of ulcers and helps prevent their formation.

Diabetes-  Ingested, Juniper has high amounts of natural insulin, which helps lower blood sugar. It also works to benefit the pancreas, helping to strengthen it as long as no permanent damage has been done already.

Urinary Tract and Kidneys-  This is the major action of Juniper. It's a great diuretic, helping to cleanse the body of excessive toxins. It's also been known as an effective remedy for kidney and urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and quite a few other kidney and urinary tract related issues.

Contraindications and Warnings- Avoid use if you are pregnant, nursing, or trying to get pregnant. Check first with your doctor if you are suffering with kidney problems. Topical use of juniper can cause skin irritation, burning, redness, or swelling in certain people. Some individuals experience stomach and intestinal irritation after ingesting juniper. Juniper interacts with diabetic medications as well as medical diuretics so talk to your doctor if you are on any of those. Individuals should stop taking juniper at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery to prevent blood sugar concerns.



     I only included a basic introduction to this amazing herb.  I hope you have learned a new appreciation for this lovely conifer.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.



Refrences:


9 Health Benefits of Juniper Berries: Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/juniper-berries/

13 Incredible Benefits of Juniper Essential Oil: Organic Facts: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-juniper-essential-oil.html

Juniper: Ayurveda Medicare: https://ayurvedamedicare.com/herbs/juniper/

Juniper: Baseline of Health Foundation: https://jonbarron.org/herbal-library/herbs/juniper

Juniper: Medicinal Plants India: http://www.medicinalplantsindia.com/juniper.html

Juniper: WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-724/juniper

Juniper: White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/juniper/

Juniper Benefits: Herbwisdom: https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-juniper.html

Juniper Berries: A Modern Herbal: https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/j/junipe11.html

Juniper Berries: Richard Whelan: https://rjwhelan.co.nz/herbs%20A-Z/juniper_berries%20.html

Juniper Berry Oil: Ayurvedic Oils: http://ayurvedicoils.com/tag/juniper-oil-in-ayurveda

Juniper (Gin Berry): Ageless: https://ageless.co.za/herb-juniper.htm

Juniper- Health Benefits and Side Effects: The Herbal Resource: https://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/juniper-herb.html

Juniper Herbal Remedies: Annie's Remedy: https://www.anniesremedy.com/chart_remedy.php?oil_ID=30

Juniper Herbal Remedies: How Stuff Works: https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/herbal-remedies/juniper-herbal-remedies.htm

Juniper Plant Benefits- How To Use Juniper for Herbal Use: Gardening Know How: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/juniper/juniper-herbal-use.htm

Medicinal Benefits of Juniper Berries: SF Gate: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/medicinal-benefits-juniper-berries-7691.html

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Citrus Pine Infused Vinegar






     I love trying to introduce healthy and tasty herbs to just about everyone I know. So it's no secret that I love to gift herbal infusions. These are great for just about everyone. Cooks love the flavors, health nuts love the benefits, and people who may never use them still think they're pretty and will display them somewhere.

     Speaking of using them, how do you? There are so many ways. The first, and easiest way to use these is to sprinkle them on top of your salads or add a little bit of oil to them and make them into super tasty salad dressings. I'm also very southern and eat my cooked greens with vinegar on them. Some of these add a nice kick to my greens. You can mix them with honey and water and make a nice lemonade-like drink. This is an especially good idea for the fruit flavored vinegars. I also love to eat cucumbers (and other fresh veggies) that have been drenched with vinegar, but not necessarily pickled.

     Now I make these year round for personal use, but I figured that this Christmas I would gift a few to certain people I know. So here's my instructions for infusing vinegar (or cooking oil) as gifts for the Holidays!

The Vinegar:

What I used in this particular infusion was Apple Cider Vinegar. It's got a great flavor that goes really well with citrus and since I decided to use Lemon Balm, Pine, and Grapefruit for my vinegar, that's what I decided to use. Other vinegars that work really well are Rice Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, and Malt Vinegar. But really you can use whatever vinegar you want.

Herbs:

You can use whatever combination of herbs you want in these infusions, and you can used dried as well as fresh. This particular vinegar uses Grapefruit peel, Lemon Balm sprigs (because of the pretty flowers!), and fresh Pine Needles. Other examples may be a Cranberry Orange Vinegar, Ginger Lemongrass Vinegar, or even an Italian Herb Vinegar with Basil, Oregano, and Garlic. You can even turn any of your favorite cooking herb blends into an infused vinegar. Have fun! For some flavor inspirations, this page has links to over 20 different recipes. Or keep reading because I'll give you a few of my favorite infused vinegar recipes from the past!

Variations:

You can use this same process to infuse other things as well, such as oils, honey, or even some vodka if you're feeling extra spirited. For oils, I like to use a variety of healthy oils such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, or Cold Pressed Grapeseed Oil.



Citrus Pine Vinegar




1 Cute Bottle (the one I use is a Grolsch bottle that I picked up a few years ago. Check out the bottles at Specialty Bottles if you need to buy some)
A Vegetable Peeler
1 Grapefruit
a few Sprigs of fresh Lemon Balm
a handful of Pine Needles
enough Apple Cider Vinegar to cover your herbs (this bottle is fairly large so I used just shy of a quart)




Instructions:
Sanitize your bottle and allow to air dry. Wash all of your fresh ingredients. Peel your grapefruit and slide it into your bottle. Follow up with your lemon balm sprigs. Clean up the ends of your pine needles and stuff those in your bottle as well. I ended up only using about 4-5 clusters of needles. *Optional, heat your vinegar until just under boiling. Pour your vinegar into the bottle, making sure to cover up all those yummy herbs. Seal and allow to sit 2-4 weeks before gifting/using.

The following recipes use the same set of instructions:


Place the herbs in a clean jar/bottle. Cover herbs with vinegar/liquid of choice (warmed to help speed up the infusion process). Seal the jar/bottle and allow to sit for 2-4 weeks before using/gifting.


A Taste of the Orient


2 cups Rice Vinegar
¼ cup Lemongrass
4-5 slices fresh Ginger
* Optional for a little heat 1 Cayenne Pepper sliced lengthwise


Cranberry Juniper Vinegar


2 cups Red Wine Vinegar
1 cup Fresh Cranberries
¼ cup Juniper Berries


Spicy Chipotle Vinegar


1 cup White Wine Vinegar
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar (or for some great boozy flavor, use Tequila)
1 Jalapeno sliced lengthwise
1-2 tsp Chipotle Seasoning Blend of choice


Lavender Peach Vinegar


2 cups White Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup Peach, diced
2-3 tsp dried Lavender
¼ cup Honey, raw local honey is best


Mojito Vinegar


1 ½ cups Champagne Vinegar
½ cup White Rum (or more vinegar if you want to keep this kid friendly)
½ cup fresh Mint Leaves (sprigs make it more decorative)
1 fresh Lime, sliced
¼ cup Simple Syrup (equal parts sugar and water cooked on the stove to make a syrup)


Garlic Dill Vinegar


2 cups White Wine Vinegar
about 4-6 whole Garlic Cloves
3-4 fresh Dill sprigs (or 3-4 tsp dried dill)





I hope you enjoy these recipes. Have fun creating your infused gifts! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! Also, if you want me to cover anything specific, I'd like to know!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Stuffing, Acorn Squash, and Lentil Loaf







     Eek! Thanksgiving is early this year. I almost let it slip by me. But don't panic if your in the same boat. Here are some great Thanksgiving recipes fit for any gluten free, vegan friendly, table for this year complete with a few variations just for fun.


1.  Acorn squash is one of my favorite fall flavors. On top of it's deliciousness, it's super easy to roast and stuff. The flavor of the squash works well with a number of different stuffing options as well. This recipe does not include the stuffing because I have several options for you to choose from below.


Stuffed Acorn Squash

(6 Servings)

3 Acorn Squash, halved and seeded (save the seeds to toast later, they're yummy)
¾ cup of Ghee, melted
6 cups of Stuffing (recipes below)
Salt and Pepper to taste


Preheat your oven to 400.  Brush each half of squash with melted ghee and stuff 1 cup of your chosen stuffing in each half, season to taste with salt and pepper. Wrap each half tightly in foil.  Bake, covered, for about 1 hour.  In the last 15 minutes of cooking, remove the foil to allow any extra liquid to cook off.  Transfer the Squash to your serving platter, carefully. If you have any stuffing left over, you can arrange it around the squash on the platter.



2. Lentil Loaf is a staple in my home. It's super easy to make and can be extremely versatile. In this recipe I'll guide you through how to stuff your Lentil Loaf. I'm not including the stuffing here because further down there are a few stuffing recipes and variations. Any of those stuffings will work well for your Loaf.

Stuffed Lentil Loaf

(6 Servings)

3 tbsp ground Chia seeds
6 tbsp Water
1 ½ cups Lentils (I use Yellow lentils to make it more like turkey, brown for “beef”)
3 ½ cups Vegetable Broth
2 medium sized Onions, diced (I like using sweet yellow onions, but it's your choice)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
3 tbsp Olive Oil
2 cups cooked Rice
¾ tsp Salt
½ tsp White Pepper
2 cups of Stuffing (recipes below)


Mix together the ground chia seeds and water. Place in the fridge to chill. Reheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and drain the lentils and add them to a stock pot with the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to and allow to simmer about 30 minutes. Strain (optional- you can save the broth to cook your rice in for more flavor) and mash while hot. Set aside to cool. In a skillet, sautee the ontion and garlic in oil for 3-5 minutes, or until soft and just transparent. Combine with mashed lentils, in a large bowl. Add in rice, salt, pepper, and chia seed mixture. Mix well (optional- combine in a food processor and process until smooth for a more turky-like appearance). Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, leave the edges coming out of the pan. Fill the bottom of the lined pan with a little more than half of the lentil mixture, make sure to get up on the sides, but leave space in the center.  Fill with 2 cups of stuffing. Put the remaining lentil mixture on top of the stuffing and seal the loaf. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Gently pull loaf out of pan using the parchment paper. Remove paper and arrange on your platter. Slice carefully. If you have any stuffing left over, arrange it on the platter as well.




3. This is one of my favorite stuffing recipes. It's super tasty and really easy. This stuffing goes so well with so many different dishes, and you can easily make it into a salad by serving it over a handful of fresh, baby greens. Chayote squash is a great vegetable found year round here in Florida. It can be eaten raw or cooked and has a slightly cucumber-ish flavor. If you cant get chayote, try butternut squash for a delicious fall flavor.

Quinoa Chayote Stuffing


1 cup dry Quinoa
2 tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
2 cups Vegetable Broth
1 cup diced Chayote Squash
½ cup diced Celery
½ cup diced Carrot
1 diced medium sized Onion (I use sweet yellow onions)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2-3 leaves of Fresh Sage, chopped
1-2 sprigs of Fresh Thyme
¾ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Pepper
¼ cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
2 tbsp Olive Oil or Avocado Oil


Rinse your quinoa very well and allow to drain. While your quinoa is draining, pour about 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or ghee) in a sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the drained quinoa and cook, constantly stirring, to allow the remaining water to evaporate and toast the quinoa. This should take about 2 minutes. Add in the broth and bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, covered. Don't stir or lift the cover! Remove the saucepan from heat and allow to sit for an additional 5 minutes....still no peeking! Remove the cover and fluff your quinoa. If any liquid is remaining at the bottom, return it to the heat for 5 more minutes. Otherwise, toss that quinoa into a large mixing bowl to await the other ingredients.

Heat another tablespoon of oil (or ghee) in a pan and add your veggies (chayote, celery, carrot, onion, and garlic). Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until veggies are nice and tender (about 20 min). Now it's time to add in your sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix together while cooking for just a few more moments. Then toss 'em all in with the quinoa. Add in your parsley and the remaining oil. Toss well to combine.



4. Falafel stuffing? Sounds weird, I know, but it's DELICIOUS! This recipe does take a bit of work because you'll be making your own falafels to use, but the result is amazing and totally worth it! This works equally well as Tamiya (an Egyptian version of falafel), just use fava beans instead of chickpeas.


Fall Falafel Stuffing


For the Fall Falafel:
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
3-4 Garlic Cloves
1 cup cooked (or canned) Chickpeas, drained
¾ cup fresh Parsley leaves
1 tbsp ground Sage
½ tsp Cayenne powder (or to taste)
½ tsp dried Rosemary
Salt & Pepper
¾ cup Gluten Free Bread Crumbs

For the Stuffing:
Falafel, smashed
1 tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
1 cup Butternut Squash, diced
1 medium sized Onion, chopped (I prefer sweet yellow onions)  
1 cup Celery, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, smashed and chopped
2-3 fresh Sage leaves, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Rosemary leaves
1 tbsp fresh Thyme leaves
½ cup fresh Parsley leaves
2 tablespoons Olive Oil or Avocado Oil


For the Falafel:
Preheat your oven to 350.  Coat a baking sheet with olive oil.  Place the onion, garlic, and chickpeas in a food processor and pulse a few times to break everything up.  Add in 1 tbsp olive oil and the remaining ingredients and pulse until a coarse paste forms.  Don't process this too well or it won't work.  Form the mixture into small balls (or use a small, 2 tsp, cookie scoop), or patties.  Mixture will be soft, be careful and use wet hands to avoid sticking.  Arrange falafel on the greased cookie sheet and brush with olive oil.  Bake for about 35 minutes, turning once or twice to ensure even browning.

For the Stuffing:
Smash all of your falafel (make sure they are broken up into large chunks, but not completely ground) and place into a large mixing bowl. In a skillet, heat olive oil (or ghee) over medium heat. Add in butternut squash, onion, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until veggies are tender. Combine with falafel and remaining ingredients. Mix well to combine.



5. This stuffing is a great way to sneak some extra healthy veggies into your family's Thanksgiving. Jam packed with cauliflower, beets, celraic, and so much more. You can also eat this as a roasted veggie salad, over a bed of fresh baby greens.

Cauliflower and Roots Stuffing


4 tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
1 medium sized Onion, chopped (I like using Sweet Yellow Onions here)
2 cloves Garlic, smashed and chopped
1 large Carrot, peeled and chopped
1 cup Golden Beets, peeled and chopped
1 cup Celraic (celery root), peeled and chopped
1 head of Cauliflower, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh Parsley leaves, chopped
2 tbsp fresh Rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Sage, chopped
½ cup Vegetable Broth


In a large skillet, over medium heat, warm the oil (or ghee). Add onion, garlic, and carrot. Cook until soft (about 7-8 min). Add in Beets, Celraic, and Cauliflower. Cook until tender (about 7-8 more min). Add in remaining ingredients and cook until liquid is absorbed (about 10 more minutes). Optional- roast in a preheated oven for 10 more minutes with a little ghee or olive oil.



6. For all of my Shroomies out there, this stuffing is awesome! It's packed with mushrooms and herbs to make your Thanksgiving out of this world. The creamy element is cashew milk so it's perfectly great for all you vegans as well!

Creamy Wild Rice and Mushroom Stuffing


1 cup Wild Rice, rinsed well and drained
1 cup Brown Rice, rinsed well and drained
5 cups Vegetable Broth
1 tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
1 medium sized Onion (for this I like to use red onions)
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
½ cup Celery, chopped
½ cup Carrot, diced
1 cup Mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp fresh Sage, chopped
½ tbsp fresh Thyme leaves
1 cup Cashew Milk
½ cup fresh Parsley leaves, chopped

In a saucepan, combine wild rice, brown rice, and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until rice is tender and the kernels pop open, takes about 45-60 minutes. Uncover the rice, remove it from the heat, and fluff it with a fork.

In a skillet, heat oil (or ghee) over medium heat. Add in onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. Cook until tender (about 7-8 min). Add in the mushrooms and continue cooking an additional 10 minutes. When done add it to the rice with the sage, thyme, and cashew milk. Put it back on medium heat and cook until thick and creamy. Add in the parsley and toss to combine.





I hope you enjoy these recipes! Let me know what you think down below!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sea Grape




     I was born and raised in Florida, pretty much on the coast. I grew up playing in pine scrub and frolicking amongst the dunes on the world's most beautiful beaches. Most of my botanical and herbal knowledge is not coastal at all. While I recognize a lot of coastal plants in the dune habitats, there are very few that I am truly knowledgeable about, and I'm working to fix that. One of the plants I decided to start with is the Sea Grape.

     Sea Grapes, Coccoloba uvifera, is a sprawling shrub or small tree in the buckwheat, or Polygonaceae, family. It can grow up to 30 feet high (some have been documented to even reach heights around 50 feet) and tends to branch off into multiple trunks if not pruned regularly. Often, on beaches, you won't notice any that are more than 10 feet. The leaves are often red-veined. They are also almost completely round and are typically 8-12 inches in diameter, earning it the name Platterleaf in some areas of the world. Sea Grape blooms starting in March and going, sometimes, through October. The flowers are white or ivory in color. They form clusters and eventually develop into bunches of fruit that start off green and mature to a reddish or purple hue. The fruit is very reminiscent of grapes, though the clusters are formed in a slightly different habit (it's more of a string of fruit than a bunch), which is what gives this plant it's name.




     Sea Grape is native to the Caribbean and tropical America including Florida, the Bahamas, and Barbados. These plants are salt tolerant and often are planted to help protect and rebuild endangered dunes. As such, this plant is protected under Florida law and cannot be messed with without the express permission of the person who owns the land that they are on. You can check out the Florida Statute here. This means that wildcrafting or foraging from this amazing plant is illegal in this state (without written permission). However, its sold as an ornamental shrub at many nurseries, and grows well in just about any, well-drained, soil. It's also an excellent potted plant and takes well to bonsai. Just kee in mind that if you are looking to harvest the fruit, you will need at least one male and one female plant in order to produce the grapes as these shrubs are dioecious. The fruit is edible raw and makes great wine and jelly, but be careful of the pits that make up roughly 80% of each fruit. Here's a good recipe I found for Sea Grape Jelly from Authentic Florida.

     In addition to being edible, Sea Grapes have quite a few medicinal uses. Not only the fruit, but the leaves, bark, and roots, are all useful. The flowers are also major draws for pollinators and make an excellent honey. However, some people may have their allergies triggered by the Sea Grape pollen.

Medicinal Uses:


Botanical Name- Coccoloba uvifera

Common Names- Sea Grape, Florida Sea Grape, Bay Grape, Seaside Grape, Platterleaf, Mangrove Grape, Horsewood, Hopwood, and Seaside Plum

Parts Used- Fruit, Leaves, Bark, and Roots

Summary of Actions-  Astringent, Antidysentery, Antidiarrheal, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Photoprotective

Lowers Blood Sugar and Prevents Diabetes- The fruit of the Sea Grape is low in sugar, but high in many vitamins and minerals that are attributed with helping to control blood glucose levels. There have also been numerous studies that show how drinking a tea made from the leaves can effectively lower blood glucose levels.

Strengthens the Cardiovascular System- Sea Grapes are a wonderful source of calcium and potassium which help to reduce blood pressure. They also contain good amounts of the unsaturated fatty acids that help to reduce cholesterol, increase the elasticity of blood vessels, prevent oxidation, maintain structure of the arteries, and prevent cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction.

Helps the Thyroid- Sea Grapes are an excellent source of iodine which is used by the thyroid. When the thyroid does not get enough iodine, it ceases to work properly and can become enlarged, creating a goiter. Just 30 grams of Sea Grapes a day is enough to prevent a goiter from forming.

Helps Treat Diarrhea and Dysentery- This is the traditional use that has the most information. The juice, as well as teas and decoctions from the roots and bark, were used by Native Americans to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and a number of other digestive problems. There is also a traditional tea, used for the same purpose, made from boiling together all the parts of the plant.

Traditionally Used for Asthma and Hoarseness- Tea made from the leaves of the Sea Grape was used to also treat hoarseness and asthma. Resinous gum from the bark can be used to treat most throat ailments.

Contraindications and Warnings- Pollen may cause allergic responses in some hay fever sufferers.




     I only included a basic introduction to this amazing herb.  If I missed anything please let me know in the comments.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. If there is anything you'd like me to post on in the future, please leave it in the comments.

References:


Coccoloba uvifera: Useful Tropical Plants: http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Coccoloba+uvifera

Coccoloba uvifera: Wildflower.org: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=couv

Dominican Medicinal Plant Inventory: Partners for Rural Health: http://www.prhdr.org/docs/Dominican%20Medicinal%20Plants.pdf

Sea Grape: Stuart Exchange- Philippine Medicinal Plants: http://www.stuartxchange.org/SeaGrape.html

Sea Grape Facts: Health Benefits Times: https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/sea-grape/

Sea Grapes: Maritime Marvels: Eat The Weeds.com: http://www.eattheweeds.com/sea-grapes-maritime-marvels/

Seaside Grape Information-Tips for growing Sea Grapes: Gardening Knowhow: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/sea-grape/seaside-grape-information.htm

Sea Grape Tree: Urban Tropicals: https://urbantropicals.com/product/sea-grape-tree-coccoloba-uvifera/

Monday, October 22, 2018

Natural Eyelash Conditioner






    Thick, long, healthy eyelashes are a beautiful thing. So ingrained in our idea of beauty, in fact, that false eyelashes have seen a boom in popularity. Not only the temporary ones that you can apply in your daily makeup routine, but also extensions that require a professional and that last for a long time. However, most eyelash glues contain super harsh chemicals, and removing these “falsies” can rip out natural lashes. All in all, I'd much rather prefer to stick to my natural eyelashes. However, a friend of mine recently had her extensions removed and was asking for advice on helping her natural lashes get back to their healthy, former glory. So I shared with her a few recipes to help hydrate her lashes, and stimulate their growth. I also figured that you guys might be interested in this as well. These recipes are great, even if you don't wear false lashes, or even wear makeup at all. You can also use them on your eyebrows to help encourage their growth.


How to Use These Serums:


     After your long day, make sure to remove all of your makeup before applying (here's my recipe for a DIY makeup remover). Simply dip a cotton swab into the serum and massage it into the root of your lashes, both the top and bottom ones (you can also rub the serum onto your eyebrows). Don't put too much on or it may drip into your eyes. Leave it on over night and remove it in the morning. You can also use a clean mascara wand to apply the serum to cover your lashes for extra conditioning on your existing lashes.

   
A Word On Ingredients:


Coconut Oil- This oil is super full of healthy, fatty acids and vitamins. These bind to the protein in the lashes to protect both the roots and strands. Coconut Oil is also antifungal and antibacterial which helps protect your eyelashes from falling prey to infections that limit hair growth.

Olive Oil- This oil contains a great amount of Vitamins E and K, both of which are necessary for healthy skin and hair. It moisturizes the hair, hair follicle, and the skin around the follicle, helping to promote healthy growth.

Castor Oil- This oil is full of healthy proteins, Vitamin E, and fatty acids. Known to be readily absorbed by hair follicles, castor oil will help hydrate and nourish your lashes. It's also helpful in relieving dry, itchy eyes due to allergies.

Almond Oil- This oil is the perfect oil to mix with some of the more strongly smelling oils (such as Neem). It’s also full of health promoting fatty acids, Vitamin E, and even calcium. It’ll moisturize and deeply hydrate your lash hair follicles and prevent against them breaking off and falling out!

Argan Oil- This oil is full of antioxidants like Vitamin E as well as fatty acids which nourish, hydrate and promote healthy lash growth. Argan oil is especially great for reversing damage done through harsh chemicals, such as lash glue and mascara.

Jojoba Oil- This is not a true oil. It's a liquid wax and it has made its way to prominence in the cosmetic industry since the 1970's. Jojoba oil helps to unclog blocked follicles and stimulate healthy hair growth. It can also clear up quite a few skin irritations that lead to hair loss.

Neem Oil- This oil may smell awful, but it's worth putting up with the smell for the results. Neem oil is one of the best oils for eyelash growth, period. It’s rich in the fatty acids that deep condition and moisturize dry, brittle lashes. Plus it has regenerative properties that support healthy hair cells and stimulate hair follicle growth and function.

Vitamin E- Many vitamins are important to the health of both skin and hair. However, one of the most effective ones is Vitamin E. This vitamin is a great antioxidant that helps promote circulation to your hair follicles. This ensures that they receive proper nutrition and allows your lashes to grow to their full potential.

Lemon Peel- Lemon peels contain quite a few vitamins, including B, C, and folic acid. It's also full of other nutrients essential for promoting natural growth of eyelashes. Lemon peels also have the ability to stimulate the cleansing properties in castor oil, helping to repair damage done to the lashes by harsh chemicals.

Lavender- This herb helps eliminate free radicals and has been proven to boost hair growth, which makes it ideal for eyelash growth too. Lavender oil also has anti-parasitic and antibacterial properties, which help to keep your lashes clean and healthy. When lavender is applied around the roots of the eyelashes it stimulates blood flow, making sure that the eyelash hair follicles receive more nutrients while improving regeneration of the skin.

Rosemary- Rosemary is one of those herbs that always comes up when natural hair care is discussed. The herb is widely known for its ability to boost healthy circulation, cellular regeneration, and hair growth. Rosemary is not only good for hair growth, but also helps reverse signs of graying. All of these properties help keep the eyelashes looking more plump and healthy.



Why I don't recommend essential oils:


     Essential oils are wonderful for so many reasons. However they are strong, so strong that I advise caution while using them. Certain essential oils can be so strong that just the scent of them can trigger seizures in certain individuals. They are also quite irritating to mucus membranes. When you are dealing with any recipe that may be used around your eyes, I would recommend you leave out the essential oil and, instead, use the herb itself. It may require more patience to get the desired result, but it is much more gentile and has less of a chance to trigger an extreme reaction. While there are quite a few recipes, floating out there on the web, that include essential oils for use in eyelash serums, I am personally not comfortable using them. One of my rules as an herbalist is that if I am uncomfortable using something for myself, I won't recommend it for someone else.



On To The Recipes!:


Simply Conditioning

1 teaspoon Coconut Oil
2 teaspoons Olive Oil
1 Vitamin E Capsule

     Warm the coconut oil over a double boiler and add in olive oil. Break open the Vitamin E capsule and add the contents to the other oils. Mix well and remove from heat. Pour into an air-tight container. This recipe will keep for 6 months or more as long as you do not expose it to water or humidity.

Deeply Conditioning

1 teaspoon Coconut Oil
1 teaspoon Castor Oil
1 teaspoon Almond Oil
1 organic Lemon Peel, abut ¼ inch long
2 Vitamin E Capsules

     Warm the coconut oil over a double boiler. Once the coconut oil is melted, remove from heat and combine with castor oil, almond oil, and lemon peel in an air-tight container. Close and place in a cool, dark area for 3-4 days. Break open the Vitamin E capsules and add their contents to the mixture. You do not have to remove the peel before use. This recipe will keep for 6 months or more as long as you do not expose it to water or humidity.

A Little More Oomph

1 teaspoon Coconut Oil
1 teaspoon Jojoba Oil
1 teaspoon Argan Oil
¼ teaspoon Rosemary Leaves (fresh is preferred, but dried will work)
¼ teaspoon Lavender Flowers (fresh is preferred, but dried will work)
2 Vitamin E Capsules

    Warm the coconut oil over a double boiler. Once the coconut oil is melted, remove from heat and combine with jojoba oil, argan oil, rosemary, and lavender in an air-tight container. Close and place in a cool, dark area for 3-4 days. Break open the Vitamin E capsules and add their contents to the mixture. You do not have to remove the herbs before use. This recipe will keep for 6 months or more as long as you do not expose it to water or humidity.

Bring On The Growth

1 teaspoon Coconut Oil
½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon Neem Oil (depending on your tolerance of the smell
2 teaspoons Almond Oil
¼ teaspoon Rosemary Leaves (fresh is preferred, but dried will work)
¼ teaspoon Lavender Flowers (fresh is preferred, but dried will work)
2 Vitamin E Capsules

     Warm the coconut oil over a double boiler. Once the coconut oil is melted, remove from heat and combine with neem oil, almond oil, rosemary, and lavender in an air-tight container. Close and place in a cool, dark area for 3-4 days. Break open the Vitamin E capsules and add their contents to the mixture. You do not have to remove the herbs before use. This recipe will keep for 6 months or more as long as you do not expose it to water or humidity.




I hope you enjoy these eyelash conditioners. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Fall Flavors






Living in Central Florida, fall comes slowly. We may have a cold snap in September, but it's highly unlikely. There have been many a year that we've made it all the way to Thanksgiving without even bringing out our light jackets. So cool, icy treats are still a thing for us here. But to help make it a little more like fall, I figured I'd share some of my favorite Sorbet and Sherbet recipes using fall flavors.

Sorbet vs. Sherbet


Sorbets are very basic. Mainly they are pureed fruit, sugar, and water. You can make them more interesting by adding fresh or dried herbs, honey, maple, or even alcohol. Alcohol also has an added benefit of helping prevent the sorbet from becoming one large block of frozen fruit, though if you freeze it on a cookie sheet, break it up, and blend it, multiple times, you can get a good consistency as well.

Sherbets are very similar to Sorbets, the main difference is a creamy/dairy element. Adding cream, yogurt, buttermilk, coconut milk, etc to fruit puree, sugar, and water, then freezing will give you a decent Sherbet.



1. Perfect Persimmons


Hachiya Persimmons are a great fall fruit here in the South. Just make sure that you wait until they are fully ripened, almost too ripe, or they'll be to astringent to really eat. Just cut the top off and scoop out the ripe, jelly-like, insides. This makes them super easy to make sorbet with.

Persimmon Lemon Balm
Ingredients List
2 pounds of Persimmons (hachiya persimmons work best, allow to ripen until they are as soft as jelly)
1 cup Honey or Sugar
1 cup Water
1 tablespoon Lemon Balm leaves
1-4 tablespoons Lemon Juice
*optional ingredients
¼ cup Almond Milk or Whole Milk
2 tablespoons Vodka


Instructions:
In a pot, on the stove, combine honey and water. Bring to a boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes while stirring. Remove from the heat and add in the lemon balm leaves. Cover and allow to come to room temperature. Once your persimmons are nice and soft, cut the tops off and scoop out the insides, into a blender. Add the lemon juice and strain the lemon balm syrup into the blender as well. Blend well. To make it a Sherbet instead of a Sorbet, here is where you add your milk and keep blending. If you are making this without the aid of an ice cream machine, adding alcohol will help keep it at a nice consistency. You can still make it without alcohol or an ice cream machine by freezing it on a cookie sheet, then breaking it up and blending it again several times (minimum 3 freezes to get the right consistency). If you're using an ice cream machine, just add this mixture to the machine, turn it on, and wait.


2. The Quintessential Fall Flavor


This time of year you can find Pumpkin Spice flavored everything. Why not join in the fun! This makes a delicious, cool treat, for the warm fall seasons we tend to have here in Central Florida.


Pumpkin Spice
Ingredients List
2 pounds Pumpkin Puree (roughly 2 cans)
1 cup Honey or Maple Syrup
1 cup Water
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 tsp ground Ginger
½ tsp ground Clove
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 Vanilla Bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped
1-4 tablespoons Orange Juice
*optional ingredients
¼ cup Almond Milk or Whole Milk
2 tablespoons - ¼ cup Bourbon

Instructions:
In a pot, on the stove, combine honey and water. Bring to a boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes while stirring. Remove from the heat and add in the spices. Cover and allow to come to room temperature. Put your pumpkin puree in the blender with the orange juice and syrup. Blend well. To make it a Sherbet instead of a Sorbet, here is where you add your milk and keep blending. If you are making this without the aid of an ice cream machine, adding alcohol will help keep it at a nice consistency. You can still make it without alcohol or an ice cream machine by freezing it on a cookie sheet, then breaking it up and blending it again several times (minimum 3 freezes to get the right consistency). If you're using an ice cream machine, just add this mixture to the machine, turn it on, and wait.


3. Figgy Goodness


I love figs! I grew up eating fig preserves with my toast in the mornings, dried figs on hiking trips, and fresh figs every chance I could get. So it's no surprise that this is one of my favorite homemade sorbets.

Elderflower and Fig
Ingredients List
2 pounds ripe Mission Figs, stemmed and quartered
1 cup Honey or Sugar
1 cup Water
2 tablespoons dried Elderflowers
1-4 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
*optional ingredients
¼ cup Almond Milk or Whole Milk
2 tablespoons - ¼ cup St. Germain or other Elderflower Liqueur

Instructions:
Clean and quarter your figs. In a pot, on the stove, combine figs, honey, and water. Bring to a boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes while stirring. Remove from the heat and add in the elderflowers. Cover and allow to come to room temperature. Add the apple cider vinegar and strain the mixture into a blender. Blend well. To make it a Sherbet instead of a Sorbet, here is where you add your milk and keep blending. If you are making this without the aid of an ice cream machine, adding alcohol will help keep it at a nice consistency. You can still make it without alcohol or an ice cream machine by freezing it on a cookie sheet, then breaking it up and blending it again several times (minimum 3 freezes to get the right consistency). If you're using an ice cream machine, just add this mixture to the machine, turn it on, and wait.


4. Apples Apples Everywhere!


Another flavor found everywhere this time of year, is apple. Apples go well with so many flavors, mint, cardamom, cinnamon, basil, and sage are just a few. Here I paired the roasted apples with sage, to give it a slightly different, yet still fall-like flavor. Feel free to use any of the herbs I listed, or one (or more) that I didn't.

Roasted Apple Sage
Ingredients List
2 pounds of Apples (Cortlands of Fujis work well), cored and quartered
1 cup Honey or Sugar
1 cup Water
½ teaspoon Sage
1-4 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
*optional ingredients
¼ cup Almond Milk or Whole Milk
2 tablespoons - ¼ cup Dark Rum

Instructions:
In a pot, on the stove, combine honey and water. Bring to a boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes while stirring. Remove from the heat and add in the sage. Cover and allow to come to room temperature. While you're working on your simple syrup, clean and quarter your apples. Place them on a cookie sheet with a little butter or coconut oil and bake, at 450 degrees, for 10 minutes then place them into a blender. Add the apple cider vinegar and strain the syrup into the blender as well. Blend well. To make it a Sherbet instead of a Sorbet, here is where you add your milk and keep blending. If you are making this without the aid of an ice cream machine, adding alcohol will help keep it at a nice consistency. You can still make it without alcohol or an ice cream machine by freezing it on a cookie sheet, then breaking it up and blending it again several times (minimum 3 freezes to get the right consistency). If you're using an ice cream machine, just add this mixture to the machine, turn it on, and wait.


5. Cranberry Bliss


I love how versatile cranberries can be. Even though most people only have them at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinner. Cranberries can be used in so many ways and combined with various fruits and herbs, they can be either sweet or savory. Here's one of my favorite ways to use cranberries during the warm winters we tend to get here in the South.

Cranberry Juniper
Ingredients List
24 oz (or 2 bags) of Cranberries (fresh or frozen)
8 oz White Grape Juice (or Apple Juice for added sweetness)
1 cup Honey or Sugar
1 cup Water
1 tablespoon Juniper Berries
1-4 tablespoons Orange Juice
*optional ingredients
¼ cup Plain Greek Yogurt or Dairy-Free Yogurt
2 tablespoons - ¼ cup Red Wine of your choice

Instructions:
Rinse your cranberries, removing any stems, dirt, or rocks that may have gotten into your batch. In a pot, on the stove, combine cranberries, honey, and water. Bring to a boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes while stirring. Remove from the heat and add in the juniper berries. Cover and allow to come to room temperature. Add the orange juice and strain the mixture into a blender. Blend well. To make it a Sherbet instead of a Sorbet, here is where you add your yogurt and keep blending. If you are making this without the aid of an ice cream machine, adding alcohol will help keep it at a nice consistency. You can still make it without alcohol or an ice cream machine by freezing it on a cookie sheet, then breaking it up and blending it again several times (minimum 3 freezes to get the right consistency). If you're using an ice cream machine, just add this mixture to the machine, turn it on, and wait.


I hope you enjoy making these Sorbets and Sherbets! Feel free to play around with these recipes, try different herbs and fruit, make lots of icy desserts! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

Resources:


10 Delicious Ways to Infuse Honey: Ready Nutrition: http://readynutrition.com/resources/infused-honey_13062015/

How to Make Herb Infused Honey: The Kitchn: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-herb-infused-honey-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-180890

How to Make Sorbet with Any Fruit: The Kitchn: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-sorbet-with-any-fruit-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-205746

How to Make Sorbet without an Ice Cream Machine: Busy in Brookyln: http://www.busyinbrooklyn.com/tag/how-to-make-sorbet-without-an-ice-cream-machine/


Monday, October 8, 2018

Lemon Balm





     There are certain herbs that keep popping up in mythology and historical texts. Lemon Balm, often just referred to as Balm, is one of these. The scientific name, Melissa officinalis, actually comes from Greek mythology. A nymph, named Melissa, had a tendency to share the secretes, and many uses, of honey with everyone she met. This made her especially sacred to bees, beekeepers, and anyone who used honey (bakers, doctors, etc). Since Lemon Balm's flowers are known to attract bees, especially honey bees, the name Melissa was used for this lemon-flavored member of the mint family.

     Since Lemon Balm has a very lemony flavor, it makes a great herb to add to your culinary experiments. I like the fresh leaves in a salad, or used to season my chicken. You can also use it to infuse vinegar, make a refreshing herb butter, or even add a few leaves to your tea. It's so versatile and tasty that you can really use it in just about any recipe, savory or sweet.


Medicinal Uses:


Summary of actions- Antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, cerebral stimulant, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, febrifuge, nervous restorative, tonic, spasmolydic, and sedative (mild).

Stress Management- Lemon Balm has been used, for centuries, to help calm the mind while not making one drowsy. Many people have reported that just smelling the plant or essential oil has a calming, stress relieving, effect.

The Cardiovascular System- Lemon Balm helps reduce stress in the whole body, which helps to reduce the amount of stress put on the cardiovascular system. Not only that, but it also helps to protect the heart in many ways. Just inhaling the essential oil lowers high triglycerides and improves cholesterol synthesis in the liver, reducing the amount of cholesterol that gets stuck in the arteries. After consuming Lemon Balm on a regular basis, one's heart has a better resistance to injury. This herb also helps reduce heart palpitations and regulate arrhythmia (the heart beating at irregular rhythms).

Improve Sleep- This herb supports a restful sleep. While it doesn't make one drowsy, it does help with relaxation, helping to shut off the mind when the body is ready for sleep. Lemon Balm is useful for all ages, it can even be used for infants and breastfeeding mothers, and has been reported to help all ages get better sleep.

Skin- Lemon Balm has been used by women throughout the ages, to help reduce and soften wrinkles. This practice can be recorded as far back as the 14th century in Hungary, where the Queen herself used it to bring a more youthful appearance to her face. Today it is used to reduce fine lines, and help prevent lip blemishes.

Improve Memory and Problem Solving- Lemon Balm does help calm the body and mind alike, but it does so without causing drowsiness. In many cases, it's even been shown to boost alertness. But it also helps to stimulate the memory. It also has been the subject of several studies that have shown it to help increase a person's ability to solve complex problems, regardless of age. After quite a bit of testing, it's been determined that Lemon Balm contains quite a number of compounds that help prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters, helping the brain to communicate more efficiently and promoting healthy aging of the brain.

Liver Support- Lemon Balm also helps to support healthy liver function. Helping to protect the liver from some of the negative effects of an unhealthy diet and improving cholesterol synthesis.

Antibacterial- The natural antibacterial properties found in Lemon Balm make it great to use on wounds, in soaps, shampoos, hand sanitizers, and for cleaning products around the house. It also helps to control the growth of candida, a yeast naturally found in the gut, but when overgrown, can cause some serious problems.

Diabetes- Quite a few studies have shown that Lemon Balm can help reduce blood sugar levels and reduce the oxidative stress related specifically to diabetes.

Overactive Thyroid- Lemon Balm is fairly effective at controlling an overactive thyroid. This is particularly effective for those with Graves disease.

Digestion- Lemon Balm helps to prevent the formation of gastric ulcers. It also helps to soothe the stomach and improve digestion.

PMS Symptoms- Quite a few of the symptoms associated with PMS in most women are exacerbated by stress. Lemon Balm's stress relieving capabilities help to even out those PMS symptoms. It's especially shown to be effective for teenagers.

Contraindications, Cautions, and Warnings- Lemon Balm is not recommended for people who have a low functioning thyroid. If you suspect that you have a thyroid problem, please consult your doctor. Also, pregnant and nursing mothers should use caution when using this herb, it's mostly considered safe, but there can be some interactions.


     I only included a basic introduction to this amazing herb.  I hope you have learned a new appreciation for how amazing lemon balm is.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

References:


9 Impressive Health Benefits of Lemon Balm: Global Healing Center: https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/9-benefits-of-lemon-balm/

9 Lemon Balm Benefits + Natural Uses for Home & Health: Dr Axe: https://draxe.com/lemon-balm/

10 Ways to Use Lemon Balm: Homespun Seasonal Living: https://homespunseasonalliving.com/10-ways-use-lemon-balm/

12 + Things to Do With Lemon Balm: The Nerdy Farm Wife: https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/12-things-to-do-with-lemon-balm/

A Family Herb, Lemon Balm Benefits: The Herbal Academy: https://theherbalacademy.com/a-family-herb-lemon-balm-benefits/

How to Use Lemon Balm as a Natural Bee Sting Remedy: The Herbal Academy: https://theherbalacademy.com/how-to-use-lemon-balm-as-a-natural-bee-sting-remedy/

Lemon Balm: WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-437/lemon-balm

Lemon Balm Medicinal Uses, Grow Your Own Medicine: Natural Society: http://naturalsociety.com/medicinal-uses-of-lemon-balm-grow-own-medicine/

Lemon Balm/Melissa: Herb Wisdom: https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-lemon-balm.html

Melissa Essential Oil: Ayurvedic Oils: http://ayurvedicoils.com/tag/lemon-balm-essential-oil

The Many Uses for Lemon Balm: Very Well Health: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-health-benefits-of-lemon-balm-89388


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Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...