Planting, gathering and using herbs

Planting, gathering and using herbs

planting, gathering and using herbsIt is a wonderful experience, whether you have a spacious garden or just a sunny windowsill. There are so many varieties and they are useful in the kitchen, as supplements, and for beauty treatments. Here are some tips on successfully growing and using them. 

Growing herbs:
  1. Choose Your Herbs: Decide which herbs you’d like to grow. Some popular choices include basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Consider your preferences by what you’ll be using them for. 
  2. Select a Growing Location: Most herbs thrive in sunny locations, so choose a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If you’re growing indoors, place your pots near a south-facing window where they can get plenty of sunlight.
  3. Choose Containers or Planting Beds: If you’re short on space, you can grow herbs in pots, containers, or even window boxes. Make sure the containers have good drainage to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot. If you have space outdoors, you can also plant herbs directly into the ground.
  4. Use Quality Soil: Use a well-draining potting mix for container-grown herbs or prepare your garden soil by adding compost to improve its texture and fertility.  composting and soil tonics Check out our compost resources 
  5. Planting: Plant seeds or seedlings according to the instructions on the seed packet or plant tag. Be sure to space them appropriately to allow room for growth. Water the soil thoroughly after planting.
Keeping herbs growing: 
  1. Watering: Herbs generally prefer slightly moist soil. Water your herbs when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, but be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot. If you’re growing herbs indoors, be mindful of the drying effects of indoor heating or air conditioning.  For best watering dates use Water and Earth days. Some really thirty herbs may need almost daily watering. 
  2. Fertilizing: Herbs don’t usually require a lot of fertilizer. You can apply a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season to promote healthy growth. (1 tablespoon of coffee grind in a liter of tap water is ideal). Top up with your home-made or shop-bought compost. (see above). 
  3. Pruning and Harvesting: Regularly prune your herbs to encourage bushy growth and prevent them from becoming leggy or woody. When harvesting, snip off the outer leaves or stems with sharp scissors or pruners. pruning flowers  Use the flowering shrub symbol for the best pruning dates.

  4. Harvesting: Use today’s symbol for the best harvesting times.
  5. Pests and Diseases: Keep an eye out for common pests like aphids, mites, and caterpillars. If you notice any signs of pests or diseases, take action promptly to prevent them from spreading. You can often control pests by handpicking (keep the infected leaves and soak them for a week in water). Then spray your herbs with either insecticidal soap, or using my favorite remedy: 1/3 liquid soap, 1/3 IPA 70%, and 1/3 water. Spray thoroughly and leave for a few days. That should get rid of all the current pests. With very heavy infestation you may repeat this process. After a few days spray a small amount with the water of the infused leaves (strained and discarded). This acts as a kind of inoculation. Your herbs should return very soon to good health.  In case a new infestation appears, just repeat this process. 
  6. Winter Care: Some herbs are perennials and will survive through the winter, while others are annuals and will die back at the end of the growing season. For perennial herbs, you may need to provide some protection during the winter months, especially if you live in a colder climate.
Here are some popular herbs and their uses: 
  1. Peppermint: Peppermint is often used to soothe digestive issues such as indigestion, gas, and bloating. It can also help relieve tension headaches and promote relaxation. Peppermint is a great deterrent for mice and other rodents. Just sprinkle them around or use distilled peppermint oil to spray on entrances or holes where mice/rats might live. They hate the smell. 
  2. Chamomile: Chamomile is known for its calming and anti-inflammatory properties. It is often used to promote relaxation, relieve anxiety, aid in sleep, and soothe digestive discomfort. Good for all kinds of infection, from an eye infection to nail infection, etc soak a cotton pad in warm chamomile tea and apply to the infected area. 
  3. Parsley:  Adds Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and K to your diet. Help with blood clotting and infections and is a powerful antioxidant. Eat as parsley leaf salad, add parsley leaves to a salad, or drink as parsley tea. 
  4. Oregano: Reduces cholesterol, promotes healing, prevents bloating, and reduces inflammations. 
  5. Echinacea: Echinacea is commonly used to boost the immune system and help prevent or reduce the severity of colds and upper respiratory infections. It may also aid in wound healing and reduce inflammation.
  6. Lavender: Lavender is known for its calming and relaxing effects. It is often used to reduce stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Lavender oil can also be applied topically to soothe minor burns, insect bites, and skin irritations. A few drops on your pillow will make you go to sleep and lavender oil poured on a small herb cushion and left in your wardrobe keep moths at bay. 
  7. Thyme: Similar to Verbena and sage,  helps you relax and go to sleep. It is good for your throat and lungs as regulates mucous. Thyme tea is beneficial for asthma sufferers. Contains antiseptic and antifungal properties. 
  8. Valerian Root: Valerian root is commonly used as a natural remedy for insomnia and other sleep disorders. It is believed to promote relaxation, improve sleep quality, and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.

This is a vast topic area and one we will revisit at a later stage. In the meantime please check out the LWTM Lifestyle Calendar for the best dates to plant, water, and use herbs. 

When you see this symbol it is a good time (depending on the season) to either plant herbs, gather them, dry them or use them.
Here is a series called Cooking With Herbs to get you started. Just enter this search term into the blog search engine to find related articles.

When you see this symbol it is a good time (depending on the season) to either plant herbs, gather them, dry them or use them.
Here is a series called Cooking With Herbs to get you started. Just enter this search term into the blog search engine to find related articles.

An Introduction to LWTM
Plant of the month – Chamomile

Plant of the month – Chamomile

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.

Benefits:

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.

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