Make Your Own… Herbal Preparations

Make Your Own… Herbal Preparations

There are countless ways to use herbs – this article aims to introduce a number of preparations, with recipes and ideas to help you start making your own herbal preparations. Not all herbs are safe to use and any health conditions or prescription medication should be taken into consideration. Please research your herbs before using them.

A quick word on utenstils : It is advisable to use only glass, enamel or stainless steel pots and pans / utensils. Avoid using plastic, wood and metals (other than stainless steel) as these can contaminate the preparations.

INFUSIONS

A water based infusion is one of the simplest ways to prepare herbs for a range of uses – and it’s something we do everytime we make the common ol’ cuppa. A single herb or combination of herbs can be used and the resulting infusion may be drunk hot or cold :

Herbal Cuppa
The standard quantity for a cup of herb ‘tea’ is 1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoon fresh herb/s per cup of freshly boiled water. If you are making your herbal brew in a teapot (which in my opinion is the best method), warm the teapot first with water from the kettle just before it boils, add the appropriate quantity of herbs and pour on freshly boiled water. Put the lid on the teapot and leave to infuse for about 5 minutes, then strain into a cup and add honey, lemon or spices to taste as desired.
For medicinal brews use twice the standard amount – depending on your chosen herb / remedy, and leave to infuse for longer, generally at least 5 – 10 minutes – but again, this depends on the herb and remedy.

Herb infused water preparations can be used in a number of ways – as a natural herbal bath infusion, skin rinse, hair rinse, mouthwash and gargle, herbal cleaning infusion, flea wash for cats and dogs, or as an ingredient in a more complex preparation.

Herbal Bathing
For a herbal bath brew place a handful of herbs into a teapot or suitable vessel and pour on freshly boiled water. Leave to infuse for at least 10 – 15 minutes (I like to leave mine to brew for about 30 minutes) and then strain into bath water. You may also like to throw in a handful or two of natural sea salt. Another method is to place the herbs in a muslin pouch or tie them in a piece of natural, thin material and leave to soak in the bath whilst the water is running. Oats lend themselves well to this method, use rolled oats / porridge oats to soften the water and soothe irritated skin, particularly eczema. The pouch can also be used as a gentle exfoliating rub over the skin after soaking. A handful of Rose Petals added to the bath water is perhaps an even simpler infusion – and not only makes for a romantic bathing experience but may help ease rheumatic aches and pains.
Rosemary makes an excellent choice for soothing aches and pains and awakening the mind – blends well with Lavender, Thyme and Marjoram – all of which will help soothe aches and pains; Gentle herbs such as Calendula / Marigold, Chamomile, and Nettle are all soothing and healing for irritated or inflamed skin as is Dandelion; and Lavender, Chamomile and Hops make for an ideal bedtime bath. Anxiety and tensin can be soaked away with the help of Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Rose Petals and Marjoram – also all useful herbs for lifting the spirits.

Feet and Hands
A herbal bath brew can also be used in a foot or hand bath. Peppermint, Lavender, Rosemary and Thyme would all make good choices for a foot bath and for the hands try Calendula / Marigold to soothe irritated, chapped skin; or Horsetail to remedy weak or brittle fingernails.

Skin Rinses
Irritated or inflamed skin conditions may be helped by washing the affected area with a herbal rinse. Make up a herbal bath brew infusion (as above), allow to cool to a suitable temperature and use as a skin rinse / swab on to affected area. Calendula / Marigold, Comfrey and Nettle all make ideal choices for treating inflamed skin rashes – Calendula in particular is useful for sunburn, as is Chamomile. Peppermint and Chamomile are also helpful for eczema. An infusion of Elderflowers is a well-known folk remedy used to whiten the skin and clear blemishes. An infusion of Calendula can be used as an effective douche or wash to remedy vaginal thrush.

Steams and Inhalations
For a facial steam place a handful of herbs in a wide bowl, pour on freshly boiled water and using a towel draped over the back of your head, sit with your face at a comfortable distance from the water and steam for at least 10 minutes, or as long as is comfortable. Do not put your face too close to the water to begin with or the steam may scald you. Herbs to heal the skin include Nettle, Chamomile, Calendula / Marigold, Comfrey and Fennel Seed – Chamomile and Calendula will also help soothe and soften skin. Rosemary and Thyme blend well to offer a beneficial steam to stimulate the skin – ideal as a pre-mask treatment. Other popular herbs for facial steams include Lavender and Elderflower.
A medicinal herbal steam or inhalant may offer relief to certain chest problems – although serious conditions should be discussed with your health-care practitioner / doctor – especially if you have an existing respiratory ailment. Thyme makes an effective inhalant to remedy throat and chest infections; Chamomile can help with shortness of breath and allergic states such as hay fever – make a cup of chamomile tea and leave to infuse covered for 5 – 10 minutes – uncover and inhale the steam and then strain and drink the infusion.

Hair Rinse
To enrich the natural colours of your hair try using one of the following herbal infusions as a final rinse after washing your hair : Rosemary or Sage for dark hair and to darken grey hair; Chamomile for fair hair; and Calendula / Marigold, for redheads. Nettle can be used as a general hair tonic for all colours, and Parsley is helpful for hair which is thinning or needs thickening out. Rosemary, Sage, Lavender and Cloves are useful for remedying dandruff and itchy scalps.

Mouthwash and Gargles
Prepare a simple infusion as if you were making a medicinal cup of herbal tea (see above) and allow to cool. Use as a mouthwash or as a gargle to remedy a sore throat.
Sage has an affinity with mouths and throats and offers one of the best remedies for a sore throat I know. Rosemary and Thyme are also useful for sore throats or mouth infections. Cloves is another anti-bacterial, antiseptic herb widely used in oral hygiene and can help alleviate toothache. Lavender or Fennel mouthwashes will help sweeten breath.

Cat & Dog Wash
Fleas and mites can not only cause your feline or canine friend a lot of discomfort, but can also pose a serious threat to their life. Many of the flea remedies on the market are very aggresive, and packed full of unnatural chemicals. Herbal infusions offer a natural way to remedy a flea or mite infestation or a skin irritation (like eczema), or just to keep your cat or dog friend happy and healthy. I have used infusions of the following herbs on my cats with great success : Yellow Dock and Calendula / Marigold, (both excellent if the skin is irritated too), Rosemary, Lavender, and Catnip. I have also used Nettle in a blend to help soothe irritated skin. Make up the infusion as if you were making a medicinal herbal cuppa or a bath brew, leave to infuse and cool, strain and check that the temperature is not too hot or too cold before using it on your cat. If your cat does not like having a bath (I can hear you roaring with laughter now!) try a flannel wash – soaking the flannel and stroking the cat gently, squeezing out of the flannel gently and stroking the infusion into the fur and skin. Keep your cat warm after their bath and allow the infusion to soak in as much as possible before drying them off with a towel.

Herbal Cleaning
A strong infusion of Rosemary makes an ideal anti-bacterial solution for wiping down kitchen surfaces and food storage shelves. Other useful herbs include Thyme and Lavender.

DECOCTIONS

For tougher herbs, roots, bark, seeds and dried berries, more forceful treatment than a simple infusion is often required to extract the herbs medicinal constituents. Like an infusion, decoctions can be taken hot or cold.

A standard quantity (to make 3 – 4 doses) is 20g dried or 40g fresh herbs to 750ml cold water, simmered to reduce to about 500ml. Crush, chop or bruise the herbs and place in a pan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 – 30 minutes until the liquid is reduced by about a third. Strain into a clean jug, cover and store in a cool place until required – best used within 24 to 48 hours.

Dandelion Root can be used to make a ‘hangover detox decoction’ – use about 15g of chopped root to 750ml water and make as above. Sip small quantities frequently throughout the day. Yellow Dock is a mild laxative – use 1 teaspoon to 1 cup of water. For flu with muscle aches and pains use 5g of Echinacea Root to 750ml water and drink 2 – 4 cups a day. Cramp Bark is useful for remedying joint, tendon and ligament inflammation, as well as back pain, or sleeplessness caused by backache. A decoction of Cramp Bark also makes a soothing external rub for tense neck and lumbar regions.

COMPRESS

A compress is a cloth soaked in a water-based herbal infusion, decoction or diluted tincture which can be held against the skin to relieve swelling, bruising and pain, or to soothe headaches and cool fevers. Resoak or prepare a new compress when the compress cools (if it was hot to begin with) or warms up or dries out (if cold to begin with),
A compress soaked in an infusion of Comfrey can be very effective at healing small fractures where a plaster cast wouldn’t be possible (little toe or rib), it will also help relieve pain and bruising. Do not use comfrey on broken skin.
Use an infusion of Chamomile flowers and soak cotton pads in the cool solution and apply the pads to closed eyelids to soothe and refresh tired eyes. A Chamomile compress can also be used to ease breast tenderness and sore nipples.
For a wonderfully soothing headache remedy add a few drops of Lavender and Peppermint essential oils to a bowl of ice cold water, soak a cloth and use as a compress on the forehead or nape of neck [or better still, alternated between the two].

POULTICE

A poultice is a mixture of fresh or dried herbs applied directly to an affected area. Some poultices require the herbs to be simmered first (for roughly 2 minutes) – the excess liquid then squeezed out and the herbs applied to the area, bandaging them in place for up to 3 hours. To prevent the mixture from sticking to the skin apply a little carrier oil (such as olive oil or sweet almond) to the skin before applying the poultice.
Alternatively fold crushed herbs in a surgical gauze or muslin to make a pack, place in a dish and pour on just enough boiling water to cover the pack. Soak for 3-5 minutes, drain off the water, allow the poultice to cool to a comfortable temperature and place on the affected area. To make a cold poultice crush and bruish fresh herbs to make a paste which is then spread on a piece of gauze and placed in the freezer for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and place on affected area.

A poultice of Chamomile flowers can be placed around the throat / neck to help soothe a sore throat. Comfrey can be used on small fractures and bruises – but do not use comfrey on broken skin.

TINCTURES

Tinctures are created by soaking herbs in alcohol and result in a preparation which should last for 1 to 2 years, if stored correctly.

Use 200g dried or 300g fresh to 1 litre alcohol (Vodka, Brandy or Rum). A regular dose is 5ml diluted in water or fruit juice, taken 2 to 3 times per day, Place the herbs in a clean glass jar, pour on alcohol ensuring all the herb is covered, put the lid on and shake. Leave in a cool dark place for a fortnight, shaking every other day or so. Strain and pour into clean glass bottles and store in a cool, dark place.

Tincture of Hops is recommended by some herbalists as a remedy for insomnia. Use 10 drops to begin with, increasing to a maximum of 30 if required. Do not take if suffering from depression. Echinacea Tincture can be effective taken at the first sign of colds and ‘flu – take 1/2 teaspoon with water 2 times a day. A teaspoon of Myrrh Tincture diluted in 5 teaspoons of warm water can be used as a gargle to remedy a sore throat.

TONIC WINES

Tonic Wines are very much like a tincture – herbs are used to fill a clean jar / vat, over which wine (or port) is poured so that the herb is completely covered and the level of the wine is above the top of the herbs. Close securely and leave to mature for at least 1 month. Regularly top up the jar to ensure the herbs remain covered, replacing with a new batch of herbs as required. Lasts for about 4 -5 months – but keep an eye on the mixture for any mould and discard remedy if any occurs.

A quicker method is to add the herbs and wine / port to a saucepan (roughly 6 oz herbs to 2 pints liquid), cover with a lid and heat gently until the wine begins to simmer – do not allow the mixture to boil (unless you wish to eliminate the alcohol content – in which case leave uncovered and allow to boil for at least 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and leave covered for 24 hours. Strain and bottle.

SYRUPS

Syrups are made using equal proportions of herbal infusions / decoctions and honey or unrefined sugar. Herbal infusions / decoctions used in syrups need to be brewed or simmered for longer than normal. Place the infusion or decoction in a saucepan together with the honey or sugar and gently heat, stirring continuosuly until the honey / sugar has dissolved and the mixture has a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cooled pour into sterilised glass bottle, use a cork as a stopper and store in a cool, dark place. The cork stopper is important – syrups are prone to ferment and may explode if kept in a screw-lid topped bottle. A regular dose for syrups is 5 – 10 ml (1 to 2 teaspoons) taken 3 times a day. Store for up to 6 months.

JUICES

Fresh leafy herb such as Cleavers, Lemon Balm, Borage, Fennel and Dandelion can be liquidised to produce nourishing herbal juices, which can also be blended with freshly juiced fruits and vegetables. Place the fresh herbs in a food processor or liquidiser and process until the mixture is thick green slurry. Take in 2 teaspoon / 10ml doses mixed with a little water or fuirt / vegetable juice if preferred, 3 times a day. Keep herb juices refrigerated and use within 48 hours.

The preparations mentioned in this article are of course not the only ways to prepare and use herbs – and quite often the herb needs no special preparation other than perhaps drying and possibly a little grinding with a mortar and pestle. Culinary dishes the world over will offer up a rich history of herbal ingredients, and the world of herbal crafts is full of ideas, from a simple strewing herb to pot pourri, sleep pillows and herb poppets to pomanders and linen bags, powders and deodorants to incenses… the list is endless! I hope this article has helped identify a few herbal preparations and has sparked a herbal flame of curiousity and inspiration. Enjoy your herbs and the natural, healing remedies they offer us so freely.

• For further herbal information, or to purchase organic herbs, spices and resins, quality oils, blended herbal and aromatherapeutic products and much more, please visit Gaia’s Garden : http://www.gaias-garden.co.uk/

_________________________________________________________________________________

The herbal remedies mentioned in this article are not intended to replace professional advice. Any medication you are on should also be taken into consideration – always check with your healthcare professional if you are on prescription drugs before taking herbal remedies. Seek professional medical advice before taking herbal remedies if you are pregnant, epileptic, have a serious health issue, or are taking prescription medication.
________________________________________________________________________________

Gillie Whitewolf has an affinity with herbs, a passion for nature, and an insatiable appetite for creating – from herbal remedies and wildcrafts to visual and aural arts. …musician/artist/crafter/herbalist/author/dreamer… email : whitewolf@gaias-garden.co.uk

Gillie also runs Gaia’s Garden, a place to explore the world of herbs and the natural magic of mother earth. Visit the Gaia’s Garden Shop for organic herbs, spices and resins, quality oils, the Gaia’s Garden range of herbal and aromatherapeutic products, meditation music, art and crafts and much more… http://www.gaias-garden.co.uk

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After Making Herb Vinegar From your Herbal Gardens Freeze and Dry your Herbs

After Making Herb Vinegar From your Herbal Gardens Freeze and Dry your Herbs

A way to use your amble herb crop from your herbal gardens is to make flavored vinegars. To make herb vinegar, wash and dry your fresh herbs thoroughly then pour warm vinegar, not hot, over them in glass jars. You can use any type of vinegar but distilled. Be sure that the fresh herbs are completely covered by the vinegar. Seal the jar and allow them to sit for a month or two to mingle the flavors. Do not allow the herb vinegar access to direct sunlight.

After the herb vinegar has steeped remove the fresh herbs that you used and add new ones for a fresher look. If you want to add garlic or chili peppers to the herb vinegar, thread them on wooden skewers so that they will stay submerged.

There are no herb vinegar recipes that have strict rules. Use your imagination when pairing fresh herbs to be used in your herbal vinegar. Here are a few that go well together.

Cinnamon Basil and Whole Cloves
Lemon basil by itself
Cinnamon sticks with Whole Cloves Nutmeg and Allspice
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme -no kidding
Dill flowers with Peppercorns
Basil Garlic and Peppercorn
Hot Peppers alone or with Pearl Onions

When you start to use your herb vinegar, as the level of the liquid goes down take out any of the herbs that are exposed to the air in the jar. If you leave them in the jar they may form a mold. Never use metal tops on the jars, they will rust from the vinegar.

Your herbal gardens have been a success but now you have so many herbs you don’t know what to do. You’ve already made several herb vinegars. Still your herbal gardens have produced so much basil you can’t think of any other ways to use it. You’ve garnished every plate this summer with parsley from your herbal gardens and you still have a bumper crop. It is one dilemma that many herb gardeners have had over the years. There is a fix for abundant herbal gardens.

From your herbal gardens you can freeze herbs or dry herbs easily and by utilizing these methods you will have herbs long into the winter months. A favorite method is to wash and dry the herbs. Put them in the bottom of plastic ice trays, fill with stock and freeze. Anytime you make soups or stews just pop in as many as you wish. Once frozen put them in Ziploc bags and label with the name of the herb. If you were diligent about pinching your herbs back during the growing season you should have a lot of herbs from the herbal gardens. Pinching applies to oregano, chives, basil and thyme. Woody herbs like rosemary should be cut vigorously to keep them from getting too woody.

To freeze herbs without the stock, wash and gently dry the herbs. Put them in a Ziploc bag that can withstand the freezer. As needed you can take out your herbs and chop them for your recipes. The herbs will no longer be of use for garnishing but they will retain their flavor, they just won’t be as intense as fresh herbs from the herbal gardens.

To dry herbs is pretty simple. Pick the herbs from the herbal gardens after the dew has dissipated. Harvest from your herbal gardens just before the herbs bloom. That is when the herbs are at their peak flavor. Gather them into a bundle and tie a string around them. Hang them upside down in a room with good circulation and no light. This will take a bit of time. Drying time varies with humidity and temperature of your climate and the item that you are drying. Most of the time about 14 days will do it. To check pull off a leaf, if it crumbles easily it is ready. Once they are dried put them in a tight sealed container away from light.

You could use the microwave to dry herbs. Once again, harvest your herbs from your herbal gardens after the dew is gone. Wash and gently dry the herbs. Put them between two pieces of paper toweling. Two paper towels on the bottom and two on the top. Cook them on high for one minute and then check them. If they are still moist, cook again at twenty second intervals. You must watch this very carefully. Hot spots could occur and the towels catch on fire. Once they are crisp seal in an air tight container in a dark spot. Now you will have dried herbs from your herbal gardens all winter long..

Another alternative is to dry herbs in your oven. Turn the oven on to its lowest setting. Spread the herbs out on cookie sheets, put them in, prop open the door and check in about an hour, if they are not done continue drying, check ever thirty minutes. If possible leave the herb leaves intact. If you crush them before storing they will lose flavor.

When you go to use your dried herbs the rule of thumb for usage is that for every tablespoon of fresh herbs you would use, only use ½ teaspoon of dried.

This was to help you use up the abundance of herbs that you grew in your herb garden this summer. Enjoy!

Good Luck and have fun!

Copyright © 2006 Mary Hanna All Rights Reserved.

This article may be distributed freely on your website and in your ezines, as long as this entire article, copyright notice, links and the resource box are unchanged.

Mary Hanna is an aspiring herbalist who lives in Central Florida. This allows her to grow gardens inside and outside year round. She has published other articles on Cruising, Gardening and Cooking. Visit her websites at http://www.ContainerGardeningSecrets.com
http://www.GardeningHerb.com and
http://www.CruiseTravelDirectory.com

About the Author
Mary Hanna is an aspiring herbalist who lives in Central Florida. This allows her to grow gardens inside and outside year round. She has published other articles on Cruising, Gardening and Cooking. Visit her websites at http://www.CruiseTravelDirectory.com, http://www.ContainerGardeningSecrets.com, and http://www.GardeningHerb.com

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Care Your Skin With Herbal Remedy

Care Your Skin With Herbal Remedy

Taking care of our skin is very important. The skin, intact, is our first defense against any invasion of foreign matter that can be harmful to our system. The skin is considered a thirdkidney because we excrete toxins through the pores just as we do through the kidneys. We also ingest many chemicals and toxins through the skin, so it is important that we pay attention to what we use to clean, soothe, or heal our skin. The skin also plays an important part in regulating our body temperature.

Most injuries to our skin are simple and taking care of them is easy. Cleaning any wound or puncture immediately following an injury should be the first step. Seek medical help if necessary. Keeping the area clean during healing prevents many problems from developing later on.

Some of the skin problems are indicative of internal problems, such as an improper diet. Diet plays an important part in caring for our skin. If we stick to a simple, natural diet and use only natural products to clean or protect us, we will have a much healthier immune system, one that is better able to deal with the viruses or bacteria that we come into contact with daily. Keeping the immune system healthy should be the major goal in seeking a healthy lifestyle.

One of the first ways you can begin to live a healthy lifestyle is to make your own soap. Many people would like to, but think that it is a difficult thing to do. The whole procedure takes about 1-1/2 hours from start to finish. I make it as I need it and only have to do so a couple of times yearly.

There are no artificial chemicals in this homemade soap and that really is the first step in being chemical-free. The ingredients are simple and there are only a few tools involved. You will need a wooden spoon; a wide-mouth, glass 1/2 gallon jar; several flat containers that you can line with plastic wrap (you could use several shoe boxes if desired); an enamel or iron pot in which to “cook” the soap, and a photography or dairy thermometer. The temperature is important when making soap, so get a good thermometer that registers as low as 95-98 degrees.

There are several rules to follow when making your soap:

Get your containers ready by either greasing them or lining them with plastic wrap. Do this first so that they are ready when needed.

Never use aluminum to prepare your soap. Always use enamel, stainless steel, or iron containers. You use the wide-mouth glass container to mix your lye solution in, but you will need a container of enamel or iron to “cook” your soap.

Never allow your curing soap to sit in a drafty area as this will make your finished product hard and flinty. I cover mine with several thicknesses of newspaper and then cover with a folded blanket for several days.

Make sure your molds are at least 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick. If the mold is too thin, it will cause the soap to curl. If it is too thick, it will make the soap too big and it will be difficult to hold. To add scent to your soap, add the scented oil right before you pour the soap into your molds. Any of the scented oils will do. I like to use the vanilla scent for my own personal use, but any that you prefer will do great. Try using a fruity or flower scent. Sometimes kids like the smell of peppermint and this works great too.

You will need to add about 2 tablespoons of the scented oil to each batch. Add more if stronger scent is desired. The scented oils that you add can be of help in treating skin disorders. Lavender oil is an excellent astringent. Adding olive or almond oil is great for dry skin. Thyme oil acts as a deodorant aid. If you prefer, you don’t need to add any oils. The plain soap alone is great for your skin because it has no artificial additives in it.

5 When adding the lye to the cold water, please do so slowly and carefully. I never would make it when the kids were around because I was afraid that they would get into the solution when my back was turned. I have since learned that kittens are very curious and you need to watch your pets if you make it outdoors. I had a very close call with one of my kittens, so please take certain precautions. Wear rubber gloves and do not breathe in the fumes. The mixture will heat up when you are pouring the lye in the water so be sure to use very cold water. Stir very slowly to avoid splattering and burning yourself. The splatters will also cause damage to counter tops so you may want to do this procedure outdoors. Making the soap outdoors will also cut down on the fumes.

6. If you happen to splash any of the solution on your skin, rinse off immediately and rinse the area with vinegar. Vinegar will neutralize the lye somewhat. Continue stirring until the lye crystals are completely dissolved. You will need to place the jar in a pan (or sink) filled with cold water to bring the temperature of the lye solution back down to 90-95 degrees. After that temperature is reached, slowly add the lye solution to the oil.

BASIC SOAP: This recipe is for the basic soap. To make your lye solution, add 13 ounces of lye to 5 cups of cold water in your wide- mouth jar, stirring until your lye crystals are completely dissolved. Place jar in cold water to start bringing the temperature down to about 90-95 degrees. In an enamel pan, slowly melt 6 pounds of lard. Place that enamel container in cold water and bring that temperature down to about 120-130 degrees. When temperatures for both solutions are right, slowly add the lye solution to the melted lard, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring continuously for about 30 minutes. Add the scented oil and pour into greased molds. Cool overnight.

If you use just one container for a mold instead of individual molds, you need to cut the soap into bars the next morning. Remove the soap from the mold after several days. Age the soap for about two weeks before using. Remember that aging only improves your soap.

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Home-Made Herbal Beauty Products

Home-Made Herbal Beauty Products

Basic Ingredients

The most important consideration to bear in mind when making herbal preparations is to only use the best quality products you can find. Good quality oils and natural essential oils will combine to make a far superior product than that produced by cheap oil and chemical, synthetic oils. Natural products are far less likely to cause skin allergies, but it is always wise to test your finished product on a small patch of your own skin if not on that of the recipient.

Essential oils are produced from many different scented plants, using both the leaf and stalk, or flower, depending on the plant concerned. Although it is possible to extract these essential oils yourself, it is a long process and the fun of making some herbal beauty products as gifts is to have fairly instant results. If you find concocting potions really appealing, there are plenty of opportunities for further experimentation to be found in the many specialist books available.

Packaging

As with every product, it is the packaging that gives the finishing touch and makes all the difference between something that looks home-made and slightly dubious or exciting and luxurious. If you keep your eyes open in antique shops and yard sales, you will discover that there are plenty of old and interesting bottles around. Thick glass bottles in a green or blue tone can look wonderful when decorated with a pretty satin ribbon and a few flowers. Sealing is probably best done with a cork, which can be trimmed to fit any size of bottle. Screw-top bottles are another possibility but they don’t have the same old-fashioned appeal.

Another lovely idea is to buy a glass scent bottle with a ground stopper to prevent evaporation. The container could then be treasured and reused many times. Atomizers can give a marvelous feeling of luxury to some home-made scented waters. There are many unusual perfume bottles available and they make a stunning display on a pretty dressing table. As a complete contrast, there are also some promisingly shaped containers to be found in grocery stores and supermarkets; if you look carefully next time you are shopping, you’ll be amazed at how many suitable shapes and sizes there are amongst the mustard pots, vinegar jars, mayonnaise jars or even bottles of squashes and cordials. You may have to cover the lid, or substitute a cork for the screw top depending on how attractive it is once opened, but nevertheless there is plenty of scope.

Always label your product carefully and add instructions if it should be kept in the refrigerator or in cool conditions. Giving a use-by date might also be a good idea if something has a fairly short life. Labels can be decorated by hand or stenciled and tied with a ribbon around the neck of the bottle. You could also use a sticky label and attach it to the body of the bottle. Several products can then be packaged together in a hamper or basket, with cotton wool balls or other packaging to fill the basket and prevent the bottles from breaking. Home-made pot-pourri makes a very good filler for baskets – you can carefully arrange a selection of bottles amongst the pot-pourri, then cover the basket with swathes of cellophane before decorating it with a pretty bow.

Bath-Time Products

Nothing works more magic than a perfumed soak in a warm bath after a really tiring or stressful day. The smell of the herbal products can add a great deal to that relaxation and many bath preparations are very simple to make.

There are two main groups of herbs in these preparations – herbs to promote relaxation and those that help to revive you. The relaxing herbs include camomile, scented geranium, jasmine, lavender, neroli (orange blossom) and hops. The more stimulating and reviving herbs include basil, lemon verbena, rosemary, melissa and bergamot.

Although it is a tempting thought to strew freshly picked herbs across the waters of your calming bath, I wouldn’t recommend that you try it! Speaking from bitter experience, it causes untold blockage problems in the plumbing and feels very uncomfortable when you sit on a particularly sharp stalk! The best way to use fresh herbs is to place them in a muslin bath bag.

Bath Bags

Cut out some 9-inch diameter circles of muslin and place 2 tablespoons of roughly torn fresh herbs in the middle of each one. Dried herbs are just as successful. Gather the edges of the circle together and make into a small bundle, holding it in place with an elastic band. Then attach ribbons around the bundle to cover the elastic band, making a long enough loop to hang it from the taps so it will dangle in the water. A set of bath bags, with different colored ribbons to denote different herbs or mixtures of herbs, could be put together with a collection of other bath-time treats. Do write clear instructions on a label so they don’t get mistaken for bouquet garni and put in a stew!

Oatmeal can be added to the contents of the bath bags. Use equal quantities of herbs and oatmeal, as it helps to soften the skin.

 Bath Oils

These are very simple to make and very relaxing. The oil base should be good quality – preferably almond for normal to dry skin or safflower for normal to greasy skin. The only oil that will completely disperse in bathwater is a form of castor oil called turkey red oil. However, it is not easily available in health food stores, unlike the others, and so I would recommend trying the almond or safflower oils instead.

Choose some essential oils that will relax or revive (see the suggestions above) and make sure they are good quality natural oils rather than chemical ones. Chemical fragrances are excellent for pot-pourris and products that will not come into contact with the skin, but it is safer to use natural oils for skin preparations, in case the recipient is allergic to the chemical ones.

To make the oils, add 5 drops of essential oil to every tablespoon of almond or safflower oil that you put into the bottle. Shake well before use. You can use just one essential oil, such as rosemary or lavender, or you can mix them – rose and lavender, or rosemary and orange are good blends. The possibilities are endless and the fun starts when you begin to choose your essential oils. These should be available at your local health food store or beauty shop.

Washballs and Soaps

Washballs date back to Elizabethan times and so are traditional shapes of soap. Making soap at home can be rather time-consuming, so I have included a recipe that uses a pure, fragrance-free ready-made soap to speed up the process. Traditionally, soap is made with tallow, which is rendered or melted animal fat. It should be available from your local butcher and you can melt it in a heavy saucepan over a low heat and then strain it into screw-top jam jars for storage. Take care when making soap as the caustic soda that is used can burn your skin, so do wear rubber gloves and handle it with care.

Lavender and Rose Washballs

2×5 oz bars plain Castile soap, finely grated
8 fl oz rose or lavender water
5 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops rose essential oil

Heat 3 fl oz of the rose or lavender water and pour it over the soap. Let is stand for about ten minutes. Mix well and then incorporate the rose and lavender oils. Leave to harden for two days. Then make the mixture into small balls, each one about the size of a table tennis ball or slightly smaller, and leave to dry in a dry airy place. When the washballs have completely hardened, you can polish them with cloth moistened with the rest of the rose or lavender water, or alternatively wet your hands with the rose or lavender water and rub the balls between your hands. Allow to dry out before packaging.

Floral Vinegar for the Bath

Floral vinegars can soften the skin when used in the bath and are very refreshing if kept in the fridge and dabbed onto a fevered brow in moments of stress! Cider vinegar has a delicate apple scent and so makes an excellent base.

There are several herbs and flowers that can be mixed with the vinegar. The main consideration will probably be which ingredients are easiest for you to obtain. Successful plants include jasmine flowers, rose petals, lavender flowers and stalks, scented geranium leaves, lemon balm or lemon verbena leaves and rosemary.

Place a large handful of mixed flowers and herbs or a single variety (rose and lavender with a little jasmine works well, or scented geranium and lemon verbena) in a glass bottle and fill up with cider vinegar. Replace the lid or seal with a cork and place in a sunny spot for a couple of weeks. Then strain the vinegar, making sure that you release as much moisture from the herbs as possible, and pour into a measuring jug. Half-fill a bottle with the scented vinegar and top up with spring water. One bottle of vinegar will therefore fill two bottles of the same size with the floral vinegar. To use, pour a generous quantity into the bath with the taps full on.

Orange Blossom Bath Salts

8 oz baking soda
1 lb coarse sea salt
1/2 fl oz neroli (orange blossom) essential oil

Stir together the baking soda and sea salt, then add the essential oil and store in a sealed jar. Food coloring may be added if you wish. Use three tablespoons per bath.

Lemon Verbena Bubbles

12 oz pure soap flakes
3/4 pint spring water
1/4 fl oz lemon verbena essential oil
1 fl oz vodka
2 fl oz glycerine

Heat the water and dissolve the soap flakes in it. In another container, mix the essential oil with the glycerine and vodka. Combine these two mixtures and add a drop of yellow or green food coloring if you wish. Store in a wide-mouthed jar with a sealed lid.

Orange and Cinnamon Soap

4 fl oz spring water
2 tbsp caustic soda
4 oz melted tallow
1 tsp neroli (orange blossom) essential oil
1 tsp cinnamon essential oil
4 fl oz safflower oil

Wearing rubber gloves, pour the water into a large heat-proof glass bowl. Add the caustic soda and stir well with a wooden spoon. Add the melted tallow and stir vigorously. Then add the safflower oil and the neroli and cinnamon essential oils. Beat well and pour into plastic molds. Leave to set. Once they are set, ease the soaps out of the molds and leave in a dry airy place for two weeks.

Cucumber and Mint Soap

4 fl oz spring water
large bunch of fresh mint, any variety
2 tbsp caustic soda
4 oz white vegetable fat, melted
6 drops mint essential oil
8 fl oz almond oil
1/2 cucumber

Liquidize, or place in a food processor, the mint leaves and spring water. Pour into a bowl and leave for a couple of hours. Liquidize (or process) the cucumber. Strain the spring water into a large heat-proof glass bowl, discarding the mint leaves, then add the caustic soda (making sure you are wearing rubber gloves). Stir with a wooden spoon then add the melted vegetable fat. Add 4 tbsp of cucumber puree, the almond oil and mint essential oil. Beat well and then pour the mixture into plastic molds. Small soaps can be made in shaped ice cube molds or larger ones in yogurt pots or similar containers. Leave to set for two days.

Gently ease the soaps out of the molds and then leave in an airing cupboard or other dry airy place for two weeks before using.

Note: It can help to line the molds with cling film as this may overcome any problems in removing the soap once it has set.

To find out how to grow and use herbs, visit the authors blog.

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How To Make Herbal Mustards, Pickles And Sauces

How To Make Herbal Mustards, Pickles And Sauces

Mustards

Mustards are delicious and give a lift to all sorts of savory foods. We all know the English, French and German varieties, but these recipes give them an extra lift and would make marvelous gifts for a mustard lover.

Minty Mustards

1 8oz jar wholegrain coarse mustard
4 tsp dry mint leaves, finely crumbled

Mix these two ingredients well and either return the mixture to the original jar or put it in smaller jars to give as part of a set of small mustards.

Tarragon Mustard with Vermouth

large handful fresh tarragon leaves
4 oz chopped spring onions
2 8 oz jars Dijon mustard
1 tbsp dry vermouth

Chop the tarragon leaves well and add the spring onions, mustard and vermouth. Mix together very thoroughly. Pour into a clean jar and seal with a tight-fitting lid. This mustard can be stored in the refrigerator for about one month.

Pickles

Pickles can add their own special zing to a meal and are particularly good with cold cuts of meat or poultry. Most vegetables will pickle, so here are some recipes that are especially good.

Dilly Cucumbers

24 small ridge cucumbers
5 pints water
1/2 pint vinegar
4 oz sea salt
1 large handful fresh dill heads
1 large or several small chili peppers

Soak the cucumbers overnight in a solution of salt and water, using 8 oz of sea salt to every pint of water. Then boil together the water, vinegar and sea salt and allow to cool. Drain the cucumbers and arrange in clean canning jars interspersed with layers of dill heads. The cucumbers can be left whole or cut into slices. Add a small chili pepper or pieces of a larger one to each jar. Cover with the vinegar solution and secure the lids.

Sweet Pickled Onions

2 lb pickling onions
1 bunch tarragon
1 bunch mint
1 bunch sweet chervil
4 oz sea salt
1 pint cider vinegar
6 oz granulated sugar

Peel the onions then arrange them on a tray, sprinkle with the sea salt and leave overnight. Carefully wipe all the salt and moisture off the onions and place in clean jars. Put a couple of sprigs of each herb in every jar. Heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved, then leave to cool. Pour the vinegar over the onions, leaving a very small amount of room in the top of each jar. Secure the lids of the jars. The onions will be ready in about two to three weeks but are a lot tastier after about six to eight weeks, if you can wait that long!

Mint and Tomato Chow Chow

6 average tomatoes
1 onion
1 green pepper, chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
1/2 pint cider vinegar
2 tbsp finely chopped mint

Peel the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for a few seconds and then carefully removing the skins. Peel the onion and chop the tomatoes and onion finely. Put all the ingredients in a lidded casserole dish and cook at 300ºF until the onion is quite tender (about one to two hours). Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Pour into wide-mouthed jars and cover each jar with a circle of waxed paper, then cover with cellophane and add a label.

Mint Relish

1 pint mint leaves
1 lb onions, peeled and chopped
1 lb apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 lb green tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 lb sultanas (gold raisins)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp French mustard
1 pint white wine vinegar
1 lb granulated sugar

Heat 1/4 pint of vinegar with the sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to cool. Place the remaining vinegar in a saucepan with the salt and mustard. Put the green tomatoes in a food processor for a few seconds until they are mushy, then add to the saucepan. Repeat the process with the mint leaves, apples, onions and sultanas, adding them all to the saucepan. Then simmer all the ingredients until soft. Pour in the vinegar and sugar mixture. Boil the mixture for a couple of minutes and then leave to cool a little. Pour the relish into warm clean jars and cover with waxed paper circles. When completely cool, add cellophane lids and labels.

Sauces

Sauces make a very unusual gift. Although you must provide clear labeling to indicate whether they need to be refrigerated or not, a basket containing a selection of sauces could be very welcome, especially at Christmas. At a time when plenty of ingenuity is needed to use up the inevitable leftovers, a Christmas gift of delicious and unusual sauces could be a real winner!

Pesto

This very Italian sauce is delicious with many foods, as well as pasta. Mixed with mayonnaise it makes a lovely sauce for cold turkey, or you could use it when stuffing some tiny tomatoes or mushrooms. Although you need fresh basil for this recipe, once it has been made, the sauce lasts in the fridge for at least a month or freezes indefinitely.

1 lb fresh sweet basil leaves
4 oz parsley
8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
8 oz pine nuts
3/4 pint virgin olive oil
8 oz Parmesan cheese
sea salt and pepper

Combine the basil, parsley, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles a coarse paste. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, with the processor switched on, until all the oil is used up. Add the cheese, sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper and process again for a couple of seconds. Depending on how you plan to package your gift, scrape the mixture into plastic or glass containers. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the pesto to prevent discoloration, then seal.

Hot Tomato and Coriander Sauce

4 large tomatoes, weighing approximately 1 lb
8 tbsp fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
2 small hot chili peppers, fresh or canned
2 large onions, weighing approximately 8 oz
2 tbsp garlic vinegar

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process finely for a few seconds. Alternatively, you can mince all the ingredients well and combine them in a bowl. Taste and add salt if required. Allow to cool, then pour into clean bottles and label. This sauce is delicious served chilled with vegetable or meat dishes.

Tomato Sauce with Olives and Oregano

1 lb peeled tomatoes
3 tbsp green pepper, chopped
1/2 large onion
1 to 2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
10 green olives, stoned and chopped finely
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped

Chop the onion and garlic finely and cook in the olive oil until softened and transparent. Add all the other ingredients, seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste. If you would like a smoother sauce, you can combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and then return to the pan. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then pour into bottles, seal and label them. This sauce is ideal with cheese dishes, pasta or pork.

Alcoholic Herbal Sauce

1 pint vegetable or chicken stock
8 fl oz white wine, preferably medium-sweet German
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh dill
1/2 tbsp fresh tarragon
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tbsp lemon peel, finely chopped

Mix the stock, wine and herbs together and simmer until reduced by 10 to 20 percent. Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour, stirring vigorously, then cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and wine mixture to the fat and flour by whisking it in with a small balloon whisk. Add the lemon peel and some salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Strain the sauce to remove the herbs, allow to cool, then pour into bottles, seal and label. This sauce is delicious served hot with vegetables or poultry.

Mango and Coriander Sauce

1 medium mango
4 spring onions (shallots)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger root
1/2 tsp garam masala (recipe follows)
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
1 tbsp sunflower or grapeseed oil

Heat the oil and gently cook the chopped spring onions (shallots) and ginger for about 5 minutes. Add the garam masala and cook for another couple of minutes.

Chop the mango flesh finely, then add it and all the remaining ingredients to the pan. Stir well, then chill overnight in a covered container in the fridge. The sauce can then be served as it is or processed in a blender to make it a little smoother. Allow to cool, then pour into bottles, seal and label them. This sauce is delicious with cold seafood, fish or chicken.

Garam Masala

This is the most aromatic and fragrant of all Indian spice blends. Used throughout North India in all types of dishes – from appetizers and soups to yogurt salad and main courses – this blend is indispensable to Moghul and North Indian cooking. It is widely available, but my homemade version is more fragrant and, of course, fresher.

2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon, broken up
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon saffron (optional)

Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon, and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.

Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Garam Masala keeps for 3 months.

Yield: Makes about 1/2 cup

Coriander Barbeque Sauce

12 oz finely chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz butter
12 fl oz tomato ketchup
1/4 pint cheap brandy or sherry
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 pint cider vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 fl oz water
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves

Soften the onions and garlic in the butter but do not let them brown. Add all the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil, stirring well. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool for a short while and then pour into jars. Cover tightly and label.

Packaging Your Goodies

When making mustards, savory sauces and pickles, you can cover the lids in the same way as for sweet jams and jellies, but it can also look attractive to use hessian or calico. Plain calico is very inexpensive and could be stenciled to decorate the tops of sauces or pickles.

Packing a whole meal is an unusual idea with the barbeque sauces you could package a bottle of the sauce with a pair of oven mitts, a packet of dried herbs to throw on to the barbeque and a pair of tongs. Gift-wrap all these together and you have something different for Father’s Day! The pickles could be given with a decorated ham or just included in a hamper presentation.

To find out how to grow and use herbs, visit the authors blog.

 

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    Making your Own Herbal Hair Shampoo

    Making your Own Herbal Hair Shampoo

    In 1990 I decided not to use the commercially made shampoos after reading Aubrey Hampton’s book, “Natural Organic Hair and Skin Care.” In this book Aubrey tells you how to read the label on any product that you put on your skin or hair.

    Manufacturers are constantly using toxic chemicals in their skin and hair products and disregard their toxic effects on your body. This is easily seen in the list of chemicals that they use. Here are a few of these chemicals found in many product labels:

    * propylene glycol or glycol– a petrochemical used because it is cheap

    * cetearyl alcohol – emulsifier that can be synthetic or natural

    * methylparaben or propylparaben – typical synthetic preservatives

    * distearate – this is polyethylene glycol or polypropylene glycol which are petrochemicals

    * isopropyl alcohol – used as a cheap solvent to carry synthetic oils.

    Here is a natural shampoo that you can make. This formulation is something that I have been using for many years. First collect the following items:

    4 oz of castile soap with any scent is that available – plain, peppermint, eucalyptus.

    ½ oz of rosemary – stimulates the hair follicles and helps to prevent premature baldness

    ½ oz of sage – has antioxidants and keeps things from spoiling and is antibacterial

    ½ oz of nettles – acts as a blood purifier, blood stimulator, contains a large source of nutrients for hair growth

    ½ of lavender – controls the production of sebaceous gland oil and reduces itchy and flaky scalp conditions

    2000 mg of MSM – provides organic sulfur to your scalp, which improves the health and strength of your hair. It also helps to drive herbal nutrient into the skin and follicles where they can do the most good.

    one empty 8 oz plastic bottle, or any other empty shampoo or soap bottle.

    Mix the herbs in a mason jar, which has a lid. Boil 2 cups of distilled water. Add 3 heaping tablespoons of the mixed herbs into the boiling water. Pull the boiling water and herbs off the stove. Let the herb mixture sit for 30 – 40 minutes. Put the 2000mg of MSM into the herb mixture after 30 minutes of cooling. After 40 minutes and the MSM is melted, strain the herbal mixture into a bowl.

    Pour 2 to 2 1/2 oz of strained herbal tea into the 8 oz plastic bottle. Now, pour the 4 oz of castile soap into the 8 oz plastic bottle. Cap the bottle and shake to mix the ingredients.

    The shampoo is now finished and ready for use. Use this as a base for all of the shampoos you make. You can add different herbs as you learn what these herbs do and how they help your hair. You can vary the ingredients according to your taste. But now you have a shampoo that has no additives that can harm you.

    The auther writes articles on different topics. To know more, visit hair loss remedies, exposed acne solutions

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