Herb Series 8: Peppermint

Homesteading

This familiar mint scented plant isn’t just great for freshening breath and flavoring gums and candies. This wonderful herb has some great health benefits as well!

peppermint

Mentha piperita, White Peppermint, American Peppermint, Northern Mint, Lamb Mint, Brandy Mint, and Black Peppermint.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“Peppermint is a flowering perennial, usually growing between 12 and 35 inches in height. It is native to Europe, and is actually a natural hybrid of spearmint and water mint. The herb is easy to grow in moist soil and is commonly cultivated around the world for its many applications in food and medicine.

The world’s most familiar “mint scent” is the aroma of peppermint. In Greek mythology, Menthe was turned into a peppermint plant when Proserpine, in a jealous rage, found out that Pluto was in love with her. Even earlier, Assyrians used peppermint as an offering to their fire god.

Peppermint contains an essential oil that is unique among mints for its quality and flavor. Artificial mint compounds do not effectively duplicate the aroma or medicinal properties.

Peppermint is one of the most popular herbs in teas, candies, and chewing gums. Cultivation and oil production started in the US in the 1790’s, and was a major export business by the mid 1800’s. The U.S. is still the world’s leading producer of peppermint oil, making an average of 4,117 tons annually. Some companies in Japan are said to pipe peppermint oil into their AC system to invigorate their workers and thereby increase productivity.”

In the Western world this refreshing herb is used to flavor candies, ice creams, pies and other desserts, muddled into cocktails, dried in herbal tea blends, toothpastes, mouthwash, chewing gum and cough drops. In Middle Eastern cuisine peppermint is popular in savory dishes. It is added to spice rubs to flavor most commonly lamb and other meats and it added to yogurt, beans and cheese.

In addition to it’s flavor contributions Peppermint is an effective medicinal plant as well. It is effective in supporting the gastrointestinal tract. Peppermint contains aromatic compounds that increase the production of digestive fluids, relieve muscle spasms, increase blood circulation, reduce pains, promote sweating and have antiseptic qualities. It also contains astringent compounds which shrink inflamed tissues making it a wonderful digestive aid that works to soothe the digestive tract in times of upset. It helps relieve morning sickness, motion sickness, stomach aches, gas, indigestion and heartburn.

Peppermint is soothing to the Upper Respiratory system and can be used for aromatherapy. Making a facial steam is said to help soothe irritated sinuses and alleviate allergies. It has calming effects and is naturally caffeine free so it can be used in the evening combined with lavender and chamomile to promote relaxation.

Peppermint is also very effective at relieving headaches and muscle soreness and tension. Diluted in carrier oil it can be rubbed on the back of the neck, temples and other sore muscles to relieve pain. It is also said to help promote hair growth and scalp health and is even an effective remedy for dandruff!

We drink peppermint and ginger tea if we have upset stomachs or need some digestive help after a heavy meal. We also used a diluted essential oil roll on of peppermint oil whenever we have headaches. It works wonderfully…we can’t live without it. I also use dried peppermint in my homemade mouthwash and hair strengthening spray.

Have you ever used Peppermint medicinally or otherwise?

Advertisements

Herb Series 7: Calendula

Homesteading

Another favorite growing in our medicinal herb garden. This stunning flower not only brightens any day it offers some great benefits, especially for the skin!

calendula

Calendula officinalis, pot marigold, Garden Marigold, Gold-Bloom, Holligold, Marigold, Marybud, Zergul.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“The calendula is an annual flower native to the northern Mediterranean countries. Its name refers to its tendency to bloom with the calendar, usually once a month or with every new moon. The term “marigold” refers to the Virgin Mary, and the flowers are used to honor her during Catholic events. The Egyptians considered calendula flowers to have rejuvenating properties. In the Hindu world, the flowers were used to adorn statues of gods in their temples, as well as a colorant in food, fabrics, and cosmetics, and of particular interest, in the 18th and 19th century calendula was used to color cheese.”

Traditionally Calendula has been used to treat a host of ailments including conjunctivitis, blepharitis, eczema, gastritis, minor burns including sunburns, warts, and minor injuries such as sprains and wounds. It has also been used to treat cramps, menopausal symptoms, coughs, sore throat, digestive upset, colitis and snake bites. Calendula has been considered beneficial in reducing inflammation and promoting wound healing. It has been used to treat a variety of skin diseases and has been seen effective in treatment of skin ulcerations, eczema, juvenile acne and psoriasis. It is particularly effective in soothing skin affected with rashes, burns, irritation, eczema and acne.

Calendula has been used to aid in healing wounds as well as internal and external ulcers. It is antiseptic, increases blood flow and promotes production of collagen proteins. It also works well as an anti-fungal agent when treating athletes foot.

Calendula has a high antioxidant content and is being studied today for possible anti-cancer benefits.

Many people use it in natural herbal hair coloring and lightening recipes, though I have not personally tried it.

We have found it to be extremely soothing and gentle for the skin. I have used it in homemade lotions and creams, homemade deodorant, and healing salves and balms.

Have you ever used Calendula? If so, what for? 🙂

Herb Series 6: Lavender

Homesteading

Probably my #1 Herb/Flower/Plant whatever you want to call it. This beauty has a ton of benefits for you, your garden, your chicken coop, your dogs..all sorts of things. The bright blooms are gorgeous to look at and if you’ve ever walked through a patch of lavender in a garden the smell is like nothing else.

6907046-macro-flowers-lavender-purple

Lavandula angustifolia is the classic lavender that most people are familiar with. It can also be found on the market as Common Lavender, French Lavender (when it comes from France), True Lavender, English Lavender or Lavender. You may also see it labeled as Lavandula officinalisLavandula x intermedia is quickly becoming a popular ‘Lavender’ species on the market. It can sometimes be found as Dutch Lavender, but is often sold as Lavender. We are slowly seeing it labeled properly as Lavandin.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“Lavender is an aromatic perennial evergreen shrub. Its woody stems bear lavender or purple flowers from late spring to early autumn, although there are varieties with blossoms of white or pink. Lavender is native to the Mediterranean, but now cultivated in cool-winter, dry-summer areas in Europe and the Western United States. The use of Lavender goes back thousands of years, with the first recorded uses by the Egyptians during the mummification process. Both the Greeks and the Romans had many uses for it, the most popular being for bathing, cooking, as an ingredient in perfume, healing wounds, and as an insect repellant. Lavender was used as an after-bath perfume by the Romans, who gave the herb its name from the Latin lavare, to wash. During the Great Plague of 1665, grave robbers would wash their hands in a concoction called Four Thieves Vinegar, which contained lavender, wormwood, rue, sage, mint, and rosemary, and vinegar; they rarely became infected. English folklore tells that a mixture of lavender, mugwort, chamomile, and rose petals will attract sprites, fairies, brownies, and elves.

Lavender has been thought for centuries to enflame passions as an aphrodisiac, and is still one of the most recognized scents in the world. The German Commission E commended lavender for treating insomnia, nervous stomach, and anxiety. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia lists lavender as a treatment for flatulence, colic, and depressive headaches, and many modern herbal practitioners use the herb to treat migraines in menopause. In Spain, lavender is added to teas to treat diabetes and insulin resistance.”

Lavender is said to have these properties:

Antidepressant, Analgesic, Antiseptic, Cicatrizant, Expectorant, Anti-Inflammatory, Nervine and Vulnerary.

It is said to be especially effective in easing the respiratory tract when it comes to colds, coughs and flus. It is also said to be effective in protection against airborne viruses.

Lavender is one of the most useful scents for relieving anxiety, stress, mild agitation and distress. Lavender not only promotes a healthy mood in humans but it also said to have calming effects for dogs as well. Lavender is also particularly good at promoting sleep and relaxation.

Topically lavender can be used to alleviate pain caused by sore muscles, tension, sprains, rheumatism, and postoperative pain. Topically lavender is soothing making it useful for treating skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis and even wrinkles and aging skin. Due to it’s anti-Inflammatory and circulation increasing properties Lavender promotes scalp health and helps relieve dandruff. These properties are also said to promote hair growth.

Mountain Rose Herbs says:

“As a spice, lavender is best known as an important aspect of French cuisine and is an integral ingredient in herbs de Provence seasoning blends. Lavender may be used on its own to give a delightful, floral flavor to desserts, meats, and breads. The flowers can also be layered within sugar to infuse it with its distinctive aroma for use in cookies and candies.

Similar to cilantro, some individuals perceive the taste of lavender in a manner that is undesirable within cuisine. An estimated 10% of the population interprets lavender to have a soapy and unsavory flavor. For this reason, it may be wise to exercise caution while using lavender as a flavoring agent.”

Lavender is a great insecticidal herb. Planting around your chicken coop and throughout your garden can keep pests at bay. It can also be used in your chicken coop bedding to deter pests, enhance the airs fragrance and soothe your flock. Lavender oil used topically on dogs can also help deter fleas and ticks.

Perhaps our favorite thing about lavender? Bees love it! The more bee friendly flowers the happier and healthier the bees. If your garden is in need of some bee assistance I’ve found it useful to plant lavender throughout the vegetables to attract bees.

We use lavender in our homemade soaps and body washes, my face and body creams, my face wash and in my shampoo. We use it in the diffuser each night before bed, in our night time tea mixed with chamomile and as an ingredient in one of our favorite squash soups!

What do you use lavender for?

 

Suddenly A Busy Winter

Homesteading

Long time no post. I know.

Just as quickly as things quieted down here for winter…they have picked back up again.

With Spring quickly approaching there are suddenly a million things to do and I am looking back at November when I said “Oh, I have all winter to prepare for Spring. That’s plenty of time!” and kicking myself.

In addition to our computer acting up and keeping me from posting (sorry) I have been doing double time planning everything that needs to get done.

 

Here’s what has been going on at The Johnson Homestead~

We ordered all of our heirloom seeds for our growing plans this year. In addition to vegetables and herbs I am also going to start a flower garden full of Bees’ favorite flowers. Yay Bees. We have also decided to begin growing our own chicken feed as well as rabbit and duck feed.

We ordered our grow lights to start our seedlings indoors and began thinking about the set up for that.

I’ve begun planning which seedlings will go where but we need to build our raised garden beds. The weather is still not right to do a ton of work outside, everything is currently mushy and muddy.

We ordered 3 nucs to start 3 bee hives in the Spring. We have planned out the supplies are getting ready to order everything we need to start those.

We got our vermicomposter and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of 1,000 hard working red wigglers to start making valuable compost and worm tea.

10 new additions to the chicken flock will arrive at the end of March. The chicks will need to be set up indoors in a brooder. We are still working on getting that together.

3 Pairs of Pekin Ducklings will arrive at the end of May. They will be here just in time to take the chickens place in the brooder. We also have to get our pond in tip top shape for them and build a duck house.

We have started planning out rabbit hutches, but have yet to build them.

We started the process of fixing up the inside of the house. Which is exciting but time consuming. New floors have to be put down in the entire house and both bathrooms need completely renovated.

I have a huge list of other things that need to be started but those are the ones that we have been working on the past couple of weeks. As soon as we start getting things set up I’ll document each process and have pictures for you!

On top of all of that I have ventured into the world on home brewing Kombucha and making soap and candles. Posts on that coming soon. I have to keep crafting or I’ll go crazy 😉

Thanks for bearing with my lack of posting and disappearing. Things are getting busy again and we will have plenty to share with you soon!