Free aromatherapy education

There are two free events happening in the next two weeks and I wanted to share them with you. They are both online. They are both offering opportunities to learn knowledge of essential oils and how to use aromatherapy safely in your home, with your pets and family. Join us as we explore even more educational offerings that are available from across the country and pass this post along if you know anyone who might benefit. Don’t forget to check out your local herbal and aromatherapy edu options as well and join us for an exciting herb walk this June right here on the farm!

Hope you enjoy these two free events!

Ayurvedic use of essential oils – This free event will be taught by David Crow who founded Floracopia. He is a master herbalist, aromatherapist and acupuncturist with over 30 years experience and is considered an expert in the Ayurvedic and Chinese medical systems. This one-hour event is going to be happening this week on Wed the 27th at 8:30pm EST

Essential Oil Round Table– Brought to you by the Atlantic Insitute of Aromatherapy and the Franklyn Insitute of Wellness. This essential oils event will feature professionals and passionate enthusiasts, coming together in a spirit of unity and collaboration to share their collective experiences and expertise. This FREE online event showcases a Round Table of 3-4 speakers, ranging from enthusiasts to professional aromatherapists and scientists to discuss a theme each day after each day’s discussion you can purchase the recordings after the event so you can reply it many times to soak in all the information. It begins May 2nd and runs through the 7th.

101 Easy Homemade Products Book Review

I want to share with you all a new book that I was introduced to this month. It was gifted me for free in exchange for my honest review, so I guess that was almost free. The book is called 101 Easy Homemade products for your skin, health and home, written by Jan Berry. As a traditional Appalachian Herbalist and homesteader myself I try and find books that are promoting backyard herbal plant use and simple Do-it-yourself projects. I think anyone looking to utilize backyard plants to make their own products will enjoy this book.

Outside view 2 of 101 Easy Homemade Products book

 

101 Homemade products is a delightful surprise when it comes to making herbal skin and body care products. This book was obviously written by someone who has tried out a lot of Do-it-yourself skin care products. It was nice to see simple easy to follow recipes filled with useful bits of information about the herbs in each blend. This book is easy to understand with vibrant and beautiful photos that make it a snap to navigate.

The simple fact that the base ingredients of the products in this book are readily accessible and the recipes are written for the home kitchen with no fancy appliances needed makes this book a gem for the homesteader and budding herbalist alike. The book has an old-school way of making lotions for most of the recipes. I personally find it rather hard to get lotions to emulsify properly without the use of a hand blender, however having the directions on how to make them without electricity is very useful information and is exactly how I started out making lotions for the first time.

That said this is an excellent book that I would recommend to others and will be putting on our recommended reading list for students. It is more accessible for the average person then the Medicine Makers handbook which I have been recommending for years to my apprentices, I am happy to add it to our collection of books as it offers a new layer of depth to herbal medicine making.

You can check out Jan’s book on amazon here

Saint Johns Wort, a Rich and Colorful History

It was great working with my sister Sam in Mountain Song Herbals Tea Shop and Apothecary this year at the Arizona Renaissance Festival. I got to know a great little plant that I think you will just love, Saint John’s Wort! After speaking with a wonderful woman who came into the shop, helping her with a sample of our Ease All Body Balm, the woman commented on the fact that it contained Saint John’s Wort and she was only familiar with its use for depression and emotional balancing. My own knowledge of this plant was also limited to its anti-depressant qualities and her comment spurred my curiosity as a researcher. What I unearthed is not only a plethora of medicinal uses but also a rich and colorful history!

SaintJohnsSt. John’s Wort is native to Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. It can be found in grasslands, pastures, meadows, forested areas in natural clearings and areas that have been disturbed by fire, logging or road construction. This plant grows to 1 – 3 feet tall with slender stems that are reddish and woody at the base.5 The flowers are yellow to bright yellow-orange with black dots around the edges.5 The leaves are green-yellow in color with scattered translucent dots that create a perforated appearance when held up to the light.5 It is best to collect this plant when it’s in bloom; the parts used for medicinal purposes are the flowering tops, stems and leaves.

There are a multitude of folk names for St. John’s wort, including: balm of warrior’s wounds, the devil’s scourge, herb John, the Grace of God, the Lord God’s wonder plant and witches herb.1 This plant has been used to heal wounds since the first century and it is believed witches may have been drawn to it because when the flowers are pressed with cooking oil, it produces a thick, blood red liquid.1 This liquid was an important ingredient in spells of sorcery, conjuration, love potions and poisons.1 Christians believed this liquid was the blood of St. John the Baptists and the flowers were gathered on the Eve of St. John’s Day (June 24th).1 I am excited to see if there will be more about this herb from a biblical perspective this spring at Mountain Song Herbals Living Light Series. I also discovered that this herb was hung over the doors of cottages on St. John’s Day to drive away evil spirits. It was the belief in its power to ward off evil spirits that earned it the name “Fuga Daemonium” or “Devils Flight” in the middle-ages.

In many parts of the world, it is a highly valued medicinal plant. Greek physicians used it in the first century as a diuretic, wound healer and treatment for menstrual disorders. In the Ukraine it is still widely used by villagers as their leading home remedy, especially for kidney and intestinal diseases.1 In China it is used as an ornamental and medicinal plant; it is used in similar ways as the Ukraine but is also used to alleviate the effects of snake bites.1 Japanese St John’s Wort has been shown to have antitumor activity in animals and the Cherokee used a compound decoction as an abortifacient and the leaves in an infusion to reduce diarrhea, fever and gastrointestinal pain.5 They also used a milky compound to rub on sores and sniffed the crushed plant for nosebleeds. The Iroquois also used the plant as a fever medicine, and the roots to prevent sterility.5 In Spain, the flowers are macerated in olive oil and applied externally as a treatment for wounds, burns or chapped skin.5

SaintJohnsWort1St. John’s Wort can be used to treat a long list of ailments, I uncovered 45 and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more!! I will not list them all in this article but along with those mentioned in the previous paragraph, this herb is used to treat: spinal cord and nerve injuries, mild to moderate depression, phantom limb pain, acute and chronic infection from enveloped viruses (ie cold sores, genital herpes, chicken-pox, shingles), sciatica, rheumatic pain, bruises, varicose veins, and shock. There are additional effects of this plant to be aware of before making the decision to take it internally. It can cause photosensitivity, especially in fair skinned people.3 It has menstrual stimulating and abortifacient effects; pregnant woman should speak with their health care provider before use.6 Caution should also be used by those taking birth control pills, blood thinners, anti-depressants, anticoagulants, immune suppressants, anti-HIV drugs, chemotherapeutic drugs and anticonvulsants.3 St. John’s Wort has many amazing properties including a wonderful anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, however, seeking the guidance of a skilled herbalist or health care provider before use it is advisable.7

Once again, I am blown away by the potential one plant holds and find myself eager to see what other wonders I will discover!

Resources:

  1. Doctor Schar. “St. John’s Wort Materia Medica”. com. Web. 4 March 2016.
  2. Hoffman, David. “St. John’s Wort: Herbal Medicine Materia Medica”. net. 1984. Web. 4 March 2016.
  3. Materia Medica. “St. John’s Wort”. Herbal Medicine Resource. 28 June 2013. Web. 4 March 2016.
  4. Rose, Kiva. “Gifts of the Solstice: St. John’s Wort”. The Medicine Woman’s Roots. 3 July 2014. Web. 4 March 2016.
  5. Sheahan, C.M. 2012. “Plant guide for common St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)”. USDA-NRCS, Cape May Plant Materials Center. Cape May, NJ. Web. 4 March 2016
  6. Tilgner, Sharol. “Materia Medica, St. John’s Wort”. Herbal Transitions.com. Web. 4 March 2016.
  7.  University of Maryland Medical Center, “Saint Johns Wort” Complementary and Alternative medicine guide. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/st-johns-wort.  6.24.14

Catnip, Not Just For Kitty Cat Fun

Hello everyone, my name is Julia, I am excited to begin exploring herbal health and wellness with Mountain Song Herbals this year.  I’m just breaking into my education in medicinal plants and some have caught me by surprise. Catnip for example; as a cat owner I thought the only purpose for Catnip was to provide my feline friends with an entertaining afternoon. However, I am learning there are many medicinal properties in Catnip that have human applications.

Catnip is in several of the tea blends and herbal formulas that Mountain Song Herbals makes, like a tasty tea called Lucid Dream tea.

CatnipCatnip, known as Nepeta Cataria in Latin, is a mild herb from the mint family. I have been reading in books like Thomas Easley and Steven Horne’s new book “Modern Herbal Medicine”, that catnip has traditionally been used to soothe upset stomachs, indigestion, reduce stress, aid in relieving cough & cold symptoms, it can even be used as a sleep aid.  Horne and Easley explain that this herb is even mild enough for infants and when mixed with fennel, has been used to treat colic. According to Matthew Wood in his book “The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism”, Catnip can also be used to treat external skin conditions such as acne, hives and measles. I had no idea!

In relation to the warming or cooling qualities of catnip, I have come across two sources with differing information. In “The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism”, Matthew Wood indicates it is a hot diaphoretic. However, Horne and Easley state in “Modern Herbal Medicine” that catnip is a cooling diaphoretic. Both resources agree on the multiple uses for the herb as I’ve discussed above.

This soft, almost downy plant is a hardy perennial that can grow in a variety of soils but grows best in well drained, full sun areas. It is native to southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East, central Asia and parts of China and has naturalized across the USA. It is also an excellent home garden plant to grow and I am excited to get to watch it grow this summer in the gardens at Mountain Song Herbals. Sam says it is most inviting to sit next to in the gardens and the flavor of the dried herb pales in comparison to fresh leaves.  With such a wide variety of applications, I suspect I will come across catnip often in my studies. So check her out and get to know this little plant yourself, I think you will be very pleased you did.

 

References:

Horne, Steven and Thomas Easley. Modern Herbal Medicine. Utah: The School of Modern Herbal Medicine, 2014.

Wood, Matthew. The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism. California: North Atlantic Books, 2004.

Photos from Mountain Song Herbals catnip garden 2014 taken by Sam Steffens

Living LIght Herbal Series

Living Light Herbal Series

Walking in the Light is not always an easy task and it sometimes feels like the darkness catches up to you at times and you stumble. Thankfully today is not one of those days.With a whole lot of faith, surrender and hard work we are happy to share with you Mountain Song Herbals fist herbal series of workshops in 2016. Our Living Light Herbal series makes its debut this spring and registration is now open. This four part workshop series is the first of its kind for us and for herbal medicine in our area. We have seen the desire for such a workshop for several years now.

herbs

 

This series offers participants a chance to experience an herbal education shared from the perspective of living in right relationship with the blessing of creation, and examining herbs and healing principles from the bible.

Here is your chance to join us on an adventure walking in the Light with holistic healing, the garden of the bible and medicinal plants.

Once a month for four hours from April – July we will gather to explore the Bounty that has been given us. Each day we will start at 9am with centering prayer, ending at 1pm with a nourishing meal aimed towards building a healing foundation within our bodies. You can go to our event page here for registration details.

fresh-herb-salad-vintage-metal-bucket-olive-cutting-board-old-vintage-scissors-twine-enamel-container-light-wooden-57467758Session #1- April 16th

Centering Down, Nourishing personal health while living in service

Explore different ways we can stay centered in God’s Love with herbs and nourishing foods. Caring for yourself and your family in a healthful and balanced way is a true gift for every giver. Great caretakers can tend to nurture others at the expense of their own health, and sometimes even family relationships. However we can break this chain; you can thrive in service while nourishing yourself and those you love.

Learn about caring for the living temple; our bodies with specific nutrition and herbs which give us physical strength and fortitude. We will examine several scriptural components of healthy eating, take a deeper look at the importance of fresh clean produce, and an array of pot herbs and biblical bitter herbs for daily cooking. Learn the nutritional and healing significance of herbs found in scriptures; like cinnamon, mint, coriander, garlic, onion, nettle, and cumin. Delve into fermented foods and beverages, balancing meals for optimal digestion, along with the use of animal fats and proteins. If your pitcher is continuously filling you get to freely pour out blessings and be a light in the darkness.

HarvestBasketSession #2-  May 21st

The art of expectant waiting while working with plants

Explore practices that help us listen to His still small voice while we care for, harvest and formulate healing plants into helpful remedies. Come learn about planting, tending to and harvesting for health and abundance; with a wonderful array of native and non-native medicinal plants.  Get to know biblical plants like nettle, Lavender/nerd, willow trees, wild grape, milk thistle, mustard, aloe and garlic. Investigate simple nourishing techniques to build the soil, and the underground microbes who live there. Learn how to select and harvest plants from the wild; which is also called cultivating the wild or wild crafting. We will spend time in the herb gardens with plants at different stages of life and harvest for continued growth and prosperity. Learn first hand why letting land lay fallow is a gift for many generations to come.  See how this brings an ever more vibrant quality to the herbs and foods you harvest. Get a chance to deepen your well with Biblical and Spirit lead reflective tools you can utilize for staying centered in the Light as you work with these amazing medicinal plants.

If we better studied and understood God’s creation, this would do a great deal to caution and direct us in our use of it. For how could we find the impudence to abuse the world if we were seeing the great Creator stare us in the face through each and every part of it?

~ William Penn

TeaOnRocksSession #3- June 18th

Formulating and making herbal medicine 

There are many herbs and herbal remedies mentioned in the Bible. Out of the garden and into the Apothecary we will learn about and work with different herbs. Become versed in the kinds of formulas in the bible, and several of the most common herbal applications that are still in use to this day.

You will learn to confidently make a soothing liniment of frankincense, chamomile and mustard; a balm of lavender and mint, and a tincture of myrrh and olive leaf. We will examine poultices, plasters and fomentations, and become familiar with the simple home tools you will need to make these wonderful healing allies.  You will go home with a solid understanding of several key principles for excellent medicine making; setting your kitchen and yourself up for success. The fruits of your labors will be joyful and rewarding in deed.

 

scrollSession #4- July 16th

Healing oils of the Bible

Have you ever taken a look at the many healing oils of the bible? There are over 600 references to oils and aromatic plants there. Get a chance to examine some of them and the modern-day essential oils from whence they come from. Frankincense, Hyssop, Lavender, Cinnamon Peppermint, Galbanum Cederwood, sandlewood, Myrtle, Cypress, spiknard and olive oil are 12 oils we will get to know. You will meet some of the plants and individual resins these oils come from and learn safe use and applications of essential oils. Getting to know our olfactory senses and discussing quality of essential oils are all part of the fun that this section offers. We will even do a blind comparison of three oils to see how you can sniff out the specific qualities in them. Since this is our last workshop we will host a potluck lunch.  Please bring a special healing dish from home and celebrate the wonderful gift of coming together.

 

allAreWelcomeCome Grow with us

All are welcome to this workshop series, we have been blessed to get to learn about healing plants that ancient people of biblical times had access to, the knowledge of, the wisdom to use and write down. You do not have to follow any faith tradition nor know anything about the bible to participate. This is not a platform to proselytize but to rejoice in the blessings gifted to us in creation

 

 

If you would like to learn more about this wonderful series visit our event page HERE for further information and registration details. You can also access our events calendar here to watch for other events that we will be offering through out the year.

 

 

#1 Secret ingredient to the best hot cocoa

#1 Secret ingredient to the best hot cocoa

So making hot cocoa in the fall and winter are a long standing family tradition at our house. And what makes it the best? What could you possibly add to the rich creamy deliciousness of hot cocoa for those days when you just do not want to do much of anything? Its a secret ingredient that just might be growing in your back yard! What to know what it is? Want the Family recipe for it too?

DigestWell OilChicolate Mint  Mentha x piperita~ This wonderful little plant is one of the garden treasures at Mountain Song Herbals. Chocolate mint is a beautiful mint cross between wintermint and spearmint  With the all the history of the mints, this is one of the special herbs in our tea blends as you will not easily find anywhere else, unless you grow your own in the garden; which by the way we highly suggest doing. You can taste this wonderful herb in either our Blue Fairy tea which is caffeine free or you can check out one of our new additions Irish Morning Green Tea which is made of a gunpowder green tea chocolate mint and peppermint.

Chocolate mint is great by itself for a fresh nibble in the heat of the day, to freshen up your breath, add a little pep to your favorite meal, or drink for a cooling and relaxing tea all by itself. If you are making fresh tea just cut a handful of the plant, stem and all, place the cutting into a jar and pour hot water over the herb. Let the tea sit for a few minutes and you will have an amazing beverage that can be strained and placed in the fridge for cold tea or to drink hot.

This is a very easy plant to propagate both from see and from cuttings, it takes a bit longer to take over an area then other mints do so give it a little room where ever you plant (it will take over an area so be mindful of where you put it). Given a little space chocolate mint will grow lush and strong. Best part is if it grows over into the grass its ok, mow it down with your grass and enjoy a pleasant refreshing aroma while you work. Can you tell we really love this little plant.

Enjoy this video on Chocolate mint and get your stock up because once you taste the difference you will have a hard time going back.

Here is a simple vegan hot coco recipe that you can easily replace the water with which ever milk you wish.

cocmintTeaChocolate Mint Hot Cocoa (makes 1 cup) VEGAN!

~2 tablespoons dairy free hot coco mix(we like the certified organic Ah!laska non dairy hot cocoa)

~ 1 good sprig of fresh chocolate mint leaves or 1 teaspoon dried chocolate mint leaves

~ 8 oz non dairy liquid. We like plain old fresh water or home made almond mild or even some organic coconut ( from the can not the milk you would put on your cereal.)

~ sauce pan for heating up your liquid.

~ optional marshmallows (the vegan ones have never gone over well at our house but give it a whirl if you want)

~ optional chocolate syrup for a thick creamy addition that the kids love to add themselves(we like the ah!laska brand for this too.) If you want to make your own see topping recipe below the cocoa recipe.

  1. Place water/non-dairy milk in a sauce pan, place on stove and turn to medium heat.
  2. When water starts to steam with little bubbles in the bottom of the pan add chocolate mint (pluck one leaf for a garnish and set aside) let mixture cook for 30 seconds. (Note- if you are using creamy coconut milk it will get bubbly faster so be mindful and stir the liquid a little bit)
  3. Turn off heat and add coco mix and stir until dissolved.
  4. Pour into mugs, drizzle chocolate syrup or add marshmallows or both . add the mint leaf on top and serve warm.

If you want to make your own chocolate syrup-

~ 1 cup dairy free chocolate chips(we like the Enjoy Life mini)

~ about 2 tlb coconut oil

  1. in a double boiler (a bowel over the top of a sauce pan with water in the bottom of it.) melt the chocolate and coconut oil together. you can add more coconut oil to the blend if it is to thick for you.
  2. when fully melted drizzle over the top of the hot coco that you have in your mug.

Bonus tip– in a oven set for the lowest setting place good earthen mugs on a cookie sheet and place in oven while you make your hot cocoa. Do not let them get hot but just warm so that your cocoa stays warm longer and you have a nice hand warmer while you enjoy your hot cocoa.