Herb Series 5: Plantain


Today we are talking about Plantain (Not to be confused with the banana-like fruits Plantains). This plant is technically considered a noxious weed…but one I would be happy to find growing on our property. Much like Dandelion in the sense that not all weeds are bad!!


Plantago major (and minor), Broadleaf Plantain, White Man’s Foot, Common Plantain, Patrick’s Dock, Ripple Grass, Snakeweed, Waybread, Englishman’s Foot.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“The common plantain is of Eurasian descent, but has since been naturalized around the world with particular prominence in the United States. Native American populations referred to it as Whiteman’s Foot due to its tendency to spring up around European settlements.

Plantain has been used by many cultures the world over, and the Saxons considered it one of their nine sacred herbs. It was considered an early Christian symbol and many cultures today refer to it as an aphrodisiac. Despite its usefulness, plantain is considered a noxious weed in some regions outside of its native range.”

Plantain is said to have antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-toxic and coagulating properties and is used both externally and internally.

It is said to help with minor wounds, bruises, burns, skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis, sores, chicken pox, itching, healing and soothing mosquito/ant/spider/other insect bites, soothing bee stings, ease the itch of poison oak/ivy/sumac, snake bites, ear infections, indigestion, heartburn and ulcers.

Some research suggests it may be helpful in lowering blood sugar and protecting the body against the side effects of chemotherapy but it is not confirmed.

The leaves are edible and can be used like you would any other green such as spinach. They can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as greens for a side dish. The older leaves have a stronger taste that some find offensive but are fibrous and stringy, making them useful for homemade cordage or fishing line.

Plantain can be eaten raw or cooked, used for teas, tinctures, salves and external compresses.

We have used it for spider bites, cuts and in salves for skin troubles, and it worked wonders. I also have used it in homemade mouthwashes for its antibacterial properties.

Have you ever used plantain?

*As with all natural remedies and medicine there are risks and warnings associated with Plantain. Consult a doctor and/or do your own research before consuming/using it to treat any condition.

Herb Series 4: Chamomile


-I am at the mercy of my computer this week. I have been trying to be more regular about posting…and my computer has decided now is the time to stop working. Figures. Sorry everyone!-

Next up in the Herb Series is Chamomile. A little plant you’ve no doubt heard about and used, this one is in my top 3 favorites. The smell is undoubtedly entrancing and relaxing and it is an herb I always have on hand for its benefits.


Matricaria chamomilla, Hungarian chamomile or wild chamomile, Camomilla, Camomille Allemande, Chamomilla recutita, Echte Kamille, Feldkamille, Fleur de Camomile, Kamillen, Kleine Kamille, Manzanilla, Matricaire, Matricaria recutita, Matricariae Flos, Pin Heads, Sweet False Chamomile, True Chamomile.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“Chamomile is a low-growing relative of the sunflower native to Eastern Europe and now found around the world. It is especially abundant in Hungary, Croatia, and Serbia, although chamomile grown in Egypt has an exceptionally high content of essential oils.

Chamomile was used as a medicine by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Its name derives from the Greek chamos (ground) and melos (apple), referring to its creeping habit and the apple scent of fresh blossoms.

In the US, chamomile is one of the most widely used herbal ingredients in teas as well as in cosmetic, health, and beauty aid products. The amount of chamomile imported into the US each year is between 750,000 and one million pounds, with an estimated 90% used in teas. In commerce, chamomile is often called German chamomile or Hungarian chamomile, which are not to be confused with the rare, and more costly, Roman or English chamomile (Anthemis nobilis/Chamaemelum nobile).

Chamomile is a beloved herbal favorite, appreciated worldwide in tea infusions and liquid extracts. It has a sweet, characteristic smell and is generally used to sooth and relax, either before bedtime or during moments of mental or emotional discomfort. Acclaimed herbalist Matthew Wood refers to chamomile as “the remedy for babies of any age,” referring to its calming tendencies and its ability to promote well-being.”

The plant’s healing properties come from its daisy-like flowers, which contain volatile oils (including bisabolol, bisabolol oxides A and B, and matricin) as well as flavonoids (particularly a compound called apinegin) and other therapeutic substances.

Research has proven the plant to be antiseptic, antispasmodic, antibacterial, anti fungal and have anti-allergy activity.

Chamomile has been used to treat or ease the symptoms of rheumatic problems, rashes and other skin problems such as eczema,skin ulcers, wounds, minor burns, sunburns, skin inflammation, internal inflammation, eye inflammation/infection, mouth sores, gum disease, menstrual cramps, irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal complaints, inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s, hemorrhoids, nausea, heartburn, stress-related flatulence, gastritis, uclerative colitis, morning sickness, aid in digestion, upset stomach, restlessness, insomnia, aid in sleep, teething & colic in children, allergies, asthma, colds and fevers, promoting relaxation and overall well-being.

Impressive right?

The flowers are used to make teas, tinctures, infusions, extracts, oils, salves and creams.

We drink a big mug full after dinner and before bed to help with digestion and sleep. We also diffuse the essential oil in the bedroom to aid in relaxation at night. I also include it in homemade lotions to help my dry skin.



Herb Series 3: Blue Vervain


*Sorry for the delayed post in the herb series. We were having computer issues and I was unable to get onto the blog*

Today I’m talking about a lesser known healing herb. If you are a Vampire Diaries fan you may know it as the herb used to harm vampires. ;). Aside from it’s fantasy uses Blue Vervain has many real-life medicinal uses.


Verbena hastata and officinalis, Verbena, Common Verbena, Common Vervain, Eisenkraut, European Vervain, Herb of Grace, Herb of the Cross, Holy wort, Juno’s Tears, Pigeon weed, Simpler’s Joy, Turkey Grass, Swamp Vervain, Mosquito Plant, and Wild Hyssop.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“The blue vervain or verbena is a creeping perennial of the mint family, bearing numerous, small lilac-blue flowers. Verbena hastata is native to North America and is incredibly similar in appearance and properties to its European cousin Verbena officinalis, whom it is often mistaken for. It grows with wild abandon in the Great Plains section of America, and can be found elsewhere on prairies, in meadows, and open woodlands. The Dakota tribe’s name for it translates as “medicine”.”

Vervain has traditionally been used to promote overall balance of body and mind. It has been used to treat a wide variety of imbalances including colds, coughs, flus, congestion, headache/migraine, liver imbalances, nerve and back pain, arthritis and depression, stress and anxiety. Vervain’s healing properties are attributed primarily to it’s bitter and stimulating effect on the liver and other organs as well as it’s relaxing of the nervous system. It is particularly useful as a pain reliever for joint pain, earaches and headaches. Blue Vervain has been used to treat colds, coughs, sore throat and as an expectorant for things such as chest congestion and bronchitis. James A. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases (www.ars-grin.gov/duke/) list more than fifty medical conditions for which vervain has been used traditionally, but it has never been proven. The above ground parts of the plants are gathered for use to make tea, tinctures, syrups, soaks, salves and creams.

As with all natural remedies and medicine there are risks and warnings associated with Blue Vervain. Consult a doctor and/or do your own research before consuming/using it to treat any condition.

Herb Series 2: Echinacea


With all the sickness going around my friends and family I thought I’d choose Echinacea or Purple Coneflower next. Besides being Stunningly (is that a word?:P) beautiful, this little plant is definitely beneficial in the medicinal garden. I must admit I don’t know if I am more excited about growing this for the properties or for the pretty blooms.


Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea pallida, Echinacea angustifolia, Coneflower, Snakeroot, Purple Coneflower, and Blacksamson.

Mountain Rose Herbs says:

“Echinacea is a hardy perennial that is indigenous to Canada and the United States, specifically concentrated around Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. The flower has a distinct shape with a large central disk that is covered in awns. In reference to its distinctive shape, its name is derived from a Greek word meaning “sea urchin.” The flowers are often cultivated for ornamental use, and should be planted in loose, sandy soil.

Echinacea is one of the most popular herbal medicines available, with American and German sales valued yearly at over one-hundred million dollars. The plant was historically used by early Native Americans and became known to popular medicine after the settling of the prairie states in the 1800s. By the 1880s, the popularity of Echinacea had grown, and it was marketed for a variety of ailments by Dr. H. C. F. Meyer.”

Echinacea is widely used to fight infections most commonly the cold and other upper respiratory infections. Sometimes it is taken at the first sign of sickness and other times it is used to treat symptoms of a further progressed illness. I found contradicting evidence as to whether or not Echinacea is effective at preventing a cold or just treating symptoms. We will just have to try and find out!

In addition to treating the common cold Echinacea has been used to treat a variety of other infections such as the flu, urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, genital herpes, bloodstream infections (septicemia), gum disease, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections, connective tissue disorders, lupus, syphilis, typhoid, malaria, and diphtheria.

The immune stimulant property come from Echinacea’s complex sugars, Polysaccharides and Echinaceoside. According to Nutritional Herbology:

“The proven actions of Echinacea are due to water-soluble polysaccharides. They act by sequestering the attacks of various microbes and allow the body to heal itself. Upon reaching an infected area, the polysaccharides have an immunostimulant effect, which results in the production of leucocytes (white blood cells). The resulting phagocytic action of the leucocytes effectively eradicates a number of infectious organisms.”

In addition to it’s powerful internal immune stimulating effects it has also been used externally to treat wounds, skin infections, psoriasis, acne, eczema, inflammatory skin conditions and aid in skin regeneration.

The top portions of the plant can be used to make juice, infusions, teas and tinctures while the root is used in the same way as well as being cut or powdered to be used in capsule form.

As with all natural remedies and medicine there are risks and warnings associated with Echinacea. Consult a doctor and/or do your own research before consuming it to treat any condition.


Herb Series 1: Oregano


I thought I’d share with you my favorite medicinal/culinary herbs that we are working on growing here at the Johnson homestead.

First up: Oregano.


Origanum vulgare, Common and Wild Marjoram, Greek Oregano and Winter Oregano.

It’s most popular in it’s culinary uses, especially in Italian and Greek cuisine. It goes particularly well with tomato based dishes. Over here I use it in everything..soup, stew, when roasting meat or a chicken, almost every crock pot dish and even sometimes with my eggs.

Mountain Rose Herbs describes it as:

“Oregano is a warm and aromatic yet slightly bitter herb in the mint family. Good quality oregano has a pungency that numbs the tongue. The best quality oregano is grown in a warm, dry climate. The name is derived from the Greek, meaning “mountain of joy”. Sunlight encourages the concentration of the essential oils that give oregano its flavor. Two other herbs are used in the same ways as common oregano but have different culinary and medicinal properties. Mexican oregano is a plant in the verbena family that has an even stronger flavor, while marjoram is a closely related plant that lacks oregano’s essential oil and has a different, gentler “mouth feel.”

While most people are only familiar with Oregano as a kitchen spice it has surprising health benefits. Perhaps the most remarkable is it’s powerful antibacterial properties thanks to it’s two oils thymol and carvacrol. Oregano is found to be antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiseptic, immune stimulating and antiviral.

Oregano is popular in the Natural healing community but is starting to get attention in mainstream medicine as well. While studies are still being done Oregano has been found to show antibacterial and healing properties against E. Coli, Salmonella, vaginal infections, candida, aspergillus mold, staph infections, listeria and pathogenic germs. Some studies suggest it is as effective as mainstream antibiotics in killing germs and bacteria. Mark’s Daily Apple states :In fact, researchers recently discovered that oregano is a better treatment for giardia than the prescription drug commonly prescribed to treat the illness. Pretty Impressive! Good to have on hand in cases where you might have consumed contaminated drinking water. 😛

 Oregano is also packed with healthy Omega-3’s, Iron, manganese, Vitamin K, fiber and antioxidants making it great for all around health.

While the fresh or dried herb can be used, oregano essential oil comes in handy as well. I’ve heard of it being used to boost the immune system internally when sick, being used topically for things like athletes foot and ringworm as well as using as a mixture with water to spray on trees suffering from fungus/mold issues.

We plan on keeping the essential oil on hand as well as using the herb we grow to makes teas, tinctures,sprays, salves…you name it.

Keep in mind I’m not a doctor, I’m just sharing things I’ve found in our journey to become more self-sufficient. Oregano/Oregano oil does need proper dilution when being used medicinally and is not considered safe under certain circumstances such as pregnancy. Consult a health practitioner before self medicating 😉


Goodbye 2014 and Hello 2015


While most people have already reviewed their 2014 year..I as usual am late to the party. Chris has been sick in bed since the weekend and both of us have been up most nights, him coughing and I listening to the coughing and keeping the fire going. We did however sit down and reflect on our past year. 2014 was quite a busy year for us…neither one of us remember another year in our lives that we did so much.

Year 2014

-We decided we were going to take the plunge and move to the Pacific Northwest.

-Chris left his 9-5 office job and took a position working remotely.

-We put our suburban home in Indiana on the market, deciding to sell it ourselves rather than use a realtor.

-Chris traveled to Iowa.

-Started this blog 🙂

-Started working with a realtor in the Washington area to find our next home.

-Proceeded to show the house for 2-3 months, sell and donate 1/2 of our material possessions including our 2nd car.

-Chris traveled to Texas twice.

-Sold our house..packed ourselves..our things..and Darci into a U-haul and made our voyage across the country with no home waiting for us.

-Rented a small studio townhome for 2 months while house hunting for the perfect land.

-Fired our realtor.

-Both Chris and I went to Texas.

-Finally found a home, which came with a whole new set of stresses.

-Chris went to Texas again.

-Inherited a giant 2nd dog.

-Celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary.

-Moved in and immediately got a flock of chickens.

– Cleaned up the property and started making plans for our homestead.

-Tested out a small herd of troublesome goats for 2 months.

-Chris went again to Texas.

-Embarked on the journey that was collecting and prepping firewood for winter. A complete project all on it’s own.

-Starting winterizing the house and out buildings.

-Built a chicken tractor and dog house.

– We joined a new congregation and made some great new friends.

-Chris went hunting and got our first deer ever!

-Chris traveled to Kansas City.

– Our clothes washer, water heater and fridge all broke and had to be replaced..within weeks of eachother.

-Kept working on the house. (a project that is still on going.)

-Tried to get in hiking, camping and fishing trips but found little time.

-I battled sickness almost the entire time we have been in our new home, including a fun e. coli infection!

– The work is still continuing.

Get the picture? Things were crazyness for us. In a good way. We did so much and accomplished so many things we weren’t sure we ever would. 2014 was a fulfilling and blessed year for us. We learned so much about our visions for the future and did something most people only dream of doing. We are so grateful to have had the opportunities we did and can’t wait for the next 50 years of crazy busyness. 2015 is really going to be the year of getting our little homestead up and running. We are excited to share the things to come with you!