Plant of the month:
My fascination with herbs started when I was a little girl and watched my grandmother use herbs to cook and to make beauty treatments.
Although herbs grow all around us, only few people still know how to use them as nature attended to – as our food, medicine and aid for beauty/healthcare recipes. Here is the series – plant of the month – which will give you a valuable insight into healing herbs and their benefit.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.)
How it looks & smells: The chamomile is an attractive plant with white blossoms and a yellow centerpiece. It has also a very pleasant aromatic smell.
Considering the good looks and healing properties you may suspect that it is a difficult plant to grow, but far from it. The chamomile does not need special soil or light conditions and is often seen growing in ditches, hedgerows and lawns.
It is truly God’s medicine cupboard, effective, very available and cheap.
Only a few years ago chamomiles were found everywhere, especially at edges of vegetable fields. But with the rise of modern mono-agriculture (only one species per field) now almost the norm, chamomiles are now seen as a pest that spoil the crop rather than a valuable plant with many benefits and killed off.
This is a rather surprising development as the use for this plant in the cosmetic, medical and holistic industry is growing year on year.
How and when to gather: There are different types of chamomiles. The German chamomile is predominately used for teas and healing remedies. The Roman chamomile ( nobilis) is primarily used in cosmetics, bath oils and shampoos.
The benefits described here belong to the German chamomile (synomious chamomilla) which is often also called ‘apple herb’ as the scent is vaguely apple-like.
The best time to collect the blossoms is in the summer months of July, August and beginning of September, the time when the chamomile is in full bloom.
For healing purposes it is important to collect chamomiles that have not been in contact with pesticides, so in doubt don’t pick them near a commercially farmed field.
If you buy the dried plant or tea bags, please look out for an organic version from a reputable source. In this case the organic seal really matters.
If you grow them yourself (which is easy to do) beware that chamomiles can be rather difficult when it comes to drying and storing. These delicate plants must only be dried in a shady but breezy place, otherwise they lose much of their potency and rot.
The most expensive and important ingredient is Azulen. It is ‘chamomile oil’ and surprisingly dark blue. But this plant contains also another series of complex chemicals which make it so efficient when it comes to healing.
Scientists have long tried to isolate some of these healing components. But it is now believed that it is in fact the combination of these that makes this plant such an effective healer, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial.
For hundreds of years the chamomile was referred to as ‘the mother of the gut’, because its best-known use is in cases of acute stomach upsets. These include food poisoning, indigestion or digestive flu. Fasting and cups of chamomile tea always do the trick.
More recently it is recommended for sufferers from irritable bowel syndrome.
Chamomile tea: 1 tea bag or 1 heaped teaspoon of dried chamomiles (around 5 dried blossoms) per cup.
This classic tea has not only a pleasant taste, but also cure many conditions, almost too many to mention. The most popular use is to counteract stomach cramps, heartburn and other digestive disorders. People often refer to having a ‘nervous stomach’. As the gut is lined with many nerve endings, it is true that we sense nervous reaction first in our stomach – this is why we refer to ‘gut feeling’. Drinking chamomile tea on a regular basis has a general calming effect. People who suffer much stress and anxieties would do well to exchange their obligatory cup of coffee with chamomile tea. But it is also beneficial for the kidney, bladder and any menstrual problems. If you suffer from any kind of chronic disease associated with digestion and nerves, try to drink 3 cups of chamomile tea on a daily basis. But like all natural remedies, this regime has to be kept up for a few moon-cycles. For minor ailments one cup a day may suffice.
Chamomile ‘parasite drink’: If you suspect any worms or other nasty bacteria have entered your gut, here is a natural remedy to get rid of them. Sometimes cramps and pains can also be caused by parasites nestling in your gut. A gruelling thought but here is a drink that will tackle them. The best time to carry out this cure is during the 4th Quarter of the Waning Moon.
Take a handful of dried chamomile (3-4 tea bags) and add one liter of water. Boil for two minutes and then take this infusion off the stove and set aside. After roughly an hour and once it has cooled down, strain the chamomiles or take the tea bags out. Add one tbsp of lemon juice, one tbsp of olive oil and one tbsp of honey. Mix it together and keep in a dark glass bottle. Take a small cup of this liquid each morning on an empty stomach. If systems have not eased, try one more time otherwise consult your doctor.
Strong chamomile infusion: Is principally a strong chamomile tea, with 2 tea bags or teaspoons per cup of water. Use this tea externally, best applied when hand-warm. Please always test on your hand before use to avoid burning yourself on more delicate or infected areas.
If you suffer from conjunctivitis or ear infections, wet a cotton ball with this infusion and clean out your eye or ear. Make sure you discard each cotton ball. Finally soak 2 cotton pads in the new tepid chamomile infusion and leave them on your eyes for a few minutes.
The same infusion can also be applied externally to all kind of infections, eczema, infected nails,insect bites and even haemorrhoids.
Chamomile gargle: If you suffer from acute tooth ache or blisters on your tongue and gums, prepare an infusion as described above, but use it when it is still quite warm. Take a sip and keep it in your mouth as long as you can. Then spit it out. Please don’t swallow it. Repeat many times until you find pain has eased.
Chamomile hot towel: Immerse a muslin cloth or thin towel in a strong chamomile infusion and wrap it around areas such as your back, head, arms or legs. This method is preferably for rheumatism, bed sores, sciatic pain, lumbago, sprains, neurodermatitis, large patches of eczema etc. Hot towels should be applied at least once a day for a minimum of a few weeks.
But you don’t have to be ill to enjoy this rather pleasant procedure. A cup of chamomile tea and a chamomile hot towel as described above put on your forehead, neck and shoulders will calm you down after a stressful, exhausting day – a sort of calming mini spa!
Chamomile bath: Take two cups of dried chamomile and put it into a linen bag. Then add this bag to a hot bath. This is especially effective if you suffer from infection of the bladder, vagina or the womb. Look out for the yellow bathtub sign on the LWTM life-style calendar.
For itchy and sweaty feet and hands, add 2 cups of chamomile infusion to a bucket of warm water and bath your hands and feet in it.
Lighten the hair: Take two small handfuls of dried chamomiles (preferable Roman Chamomile) for one liter of water. Boil for two minutes and leave to cool. Use it after you have washed your hair by massaging this rinse into your hair and scalp, don’t rinse out! This is a fantastic recipe to strengthen and lighten blond, fine hair.
The Sumerians and Babylonians were probably the first people to use what we now recognise as a modern calendar. The basis of this was the lunar cycle and the Sumerian year was made up of 12 lunar cycles. But 12 moon cycles fall short in relation to the solar year. So not to fall out of sync with the seasons, the Sumerian astronomers introduced an extra month every four years. The high time for Sumerian astronomy and astrology was the 6th century B.C. and a group of scribes, among them Enuma Anu Enlil were at the forefront. It is still unclear how these scribes were trained and where all this knowledge came from. But what is certain is that most of them worked later at the Babylonian court where they helped to shape the Babylonian calendar. Compared to the later famous Babylonian astronomy, these were indeed humble beginnings, but they laid the foundation of the houses, star signs and the zodiac. It was also the beginning of astrology, when aspects in the sky and movements of the planets were observed and recorded and then certain symbolic meaning derived from repeat events.
During this period, the first day of each month (beginning at sunset) continued to be the day when a new crescent moon was first sighted—the calendar never used a specified number of days in any month and finishes again with the last sighting of the Waning Moon. Then follows 2 days of New Moon period when no moon is visible.
Subsequently the Sumerian calendar was not only absorbed into the Babylonian calendar, but a lot of other cultures such as the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Hebrews also absorbed elements into their own calendar system. In particular the Sumerian calendar was used as a blueprint of many religious calendars who are still in use today.
From the 5th century B.C. the Sumerian calendar slowly transformed into a luni-solar calendar, meaning that both the solar and the lunar cycles played an important part and were brought into alignment. This principle was later formally described by the Greek astronomer Methon of Athens around 430 B.C. He concluded that 19 solar years equal exactly 235 lunar months and this discovery that underpins the luni-solar calendar is now called the Metonic cycle.
The Living With the Moon lifestyle calendar is also based on the Ancient Lunisolar Calendar, now believed much older than the Babylonian Calendar. Some sources put its existance back to the Minoan civilisation (2700-1450 B.C).
If you have even the smallest of gardens there are prime times for pruning.
I usually urge people to put a lot of effort in the early spring pruning, then the Biodynamic summer pruning job should be a lot easier. But recently in the UK the weather has been so rainy and mild that most well-kept gardens have turned into mini jungles. So there is a lot to do now.
Firstly download the LWTM life-style calendar for August. It comes free with the monthly newsletter (you need to subscribe to this, if you have not done so already in the pink box on the website side bar). In the newsletter you will also find a symbols guide. For our exercise look at the pruning symbol and every time you see it that means it is an extra good day for this activity.
Sap goes up and down in plants and during the Waning Moon and especially during New Moon it is just more auspicious to do proper pruning jobs. One of my favourites is the
New Moon renewal cut: If a plant does not thrive you can try to revive it with this cut. First check if pruning in August is useful, as some plants object to pruning during the wrong season. If it is a good time season-wise, clip all the branches by a good third to half to jumpstart the new growth. You can try this method again at another New Moon.
A few years ago a water pipe burst and almost flooded our garden with the result that some of our established holly bushes were almost dead from a completely water-logged soil. But then I tried the New Moon renewal cut with great result, we managed to save them all.
If you tried a few times and the plant still does not recover then it may be effected by a bad disease or simply the spot you have chosen for it is just wrong – no sun/too much sun, wrong soil, etc. In this case you can either dig it up and see if it thrives somewhere else or just plant something else in its place.
Cutting back fruit bushes during the late summer:
August is a good month to prune red currants, gooseberries and other fruiting bushes that have already fruited. Cut the side shoots back by one third and make sure that there are not side shoots growing on the bottom of the bush.
Your can also cut back summer fruiting raspberries once you have picked them all. Cut the canes that have already fruited back to about 3cm above ground. The non fruiting canes can be tied to horizontal wires or a fence to bear crop the next year round.
This time of year is very useful to cut back hedges such as box, firethorn and thuja.
Other pruning tasks in August :
- deadhead annual roses and flowering bushes , pruning symbol (flowers and scissors)
- Plant and divide perennials (spade symbol)
- Prune flowering bushes like fire thorn (pyracantha), hornbeam, thuja hedges and Leyland hedges (scissor & tree symbol)
- Prune gooseberries, summer fruiting raspberries and red-current bushes (scissor & tree symbol)
- take cuttings from Alpines (flower in put symbol)
- Weeding, start weeding on Heat Days (red squares)
- Sow hyacinths (indoors) for the Christmas period
- For further help and information please download and read our e-book ‘Gardening With The Moon’. It will explain how to put a garden design into practice and help you find out what type of soil your garden has. It will further provide you with all kinds of tips. Form planting, digging, feeding, pruning, weeding to composting and companion planting (which plants thrive next to each other and which you should avoid planting together). In short everything you need to know to keep a well-growing biodynamic garden.
To find out more information about Biodynamic gardening, please download our e-book publication
‘Gardening with the Moon’ in the LWTM menu section.
Beauty treatments don’t have to come with a hefty price tag. In fact sometimes it is rather nice to go through the kitchen cupboard and to create your own skincare.
This recipe from grandma’s kitchen cupboard is inexpensive and easy to make, so in my view an overall winner.
Oatmeal Milk Bath essence:
This old English recipe will leave your skin nourished and silky smooth. It is also very easy and cheap to make. The traditional oil is lavender, but you can also choose another aroma oil of your choice. I like a mixture of rose and ylang-ylang (3 drops each).
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup oatmeal
1 tbsp. almond oil
6 drops aromatic lavender oil (you can also choose another aroma oil)
1 muslin bag
How to make it:
Mix the milk powder, almond oil and aroma oil of your choice until they are thoroughly combined. Put the oatmeal in a muslin bag and make sure you tie a knot on the top. Then start running your bath and add the milk/oil mixture directly under the warm running water and drop the muslin bag of oats into the tub.
What are the benefits of an oatmeal milk bath?
It is an inexpensive and relaxing way to end a day. The oats have healing properties and ideal for dry, irritated and flakey skin. It is extremely rare that people have an oat allergy, but if you are not sure, then try a patch test first. Add a tea spoon of this mixture to your forearm and leave for a few minutes to see if you react. The almond oil is also very beneficial for sensitive, dry skin.
If you suffer from a sunburn the last thing you may want to do it to have a bath, but an oatmeal bath will help with the healing process.
Here are a step by step guide of how to do it (although this clip uses a slightly different recipe).