Category Archives: health

For the Newly-Independent Witch

We all know times are tough, especially for someone just starting out on their own. I can remember how tight I had to pull my belt on more than one occasion. You want herbs for cooking, health and magic but can’t afford to buy one herb for one need. What’s a witch to do?

Toward that end, I’ve compiled a list of thirteen (!) herbs that will do triple-duty for you…they all can be used in cooking, for minor health issues and in magical workings.

TDSR Cover 1600x2400

This is a quick guide. It certainly doesn’t go in-depth on any one herb. But the best part is… it’s FREE and always will be! Download it in any electronic format you wish here. I’ve uploaded it to Amazon, too, but in order to get it into the lending program for Amazon Prime, I had to put a 99¢ price tag on it.  Hopefully, Amazon will price-match at some point.

Happy Herbing!

I’m Spring Cleaning & You Benefit!

It’s the Spring Equinox here in the northern hemisphere and I have some “cleaning” to do. You see, the publisher of A Green Witch’s Formulary sent me a double order of my books and I have stacks of them in my office.

Because I’m a neat-freak & those stacks bother me, you benefit! From now until Beltane (1st May) or when I run out – whichever comes first, I’ve marked my inventory down to $7.50 instead of $13.95. That means you US folks get an autographed copy shipped to you for less than the cover price! (I can’t easily calculate overseas shipping but I’ll honor this price to you, too!)

Hurry! Supplies, while somewhat plentiful, are limited. Click here to take advantage of my irritation at piles of books in my office!

Ack! Pollen Season…

…started two weeks early this year & caught me unaware. Itchy eyes, itchy skin, a little sneezing (which is bound to get worse if I don’t do something). Of course, it didn’t help that today, the US Forest Service did a controlled burn and smoke permeated the better part of two counties…

It’s time to take more frequent showers to get the pollen off my skin & out of my hair; grab the sterile saline solution* to rinse my eyes; and start drinking three cups per day of a Nettle infusion to combat respiratory reactions to all the pollen.

* Get the stuff made for rinsing contact lenses. It’s less expensive than anything else and works like a charm.

Herbal Dryer Sachets

A few weeks ago, I was in the mood to be crafty. Me being me, it had to involve herbs in some way and I didn’t have anything on the agenda in the shop. So, a few minutes on the Interwebs gave me an idea: herbal dryer sachets. I haven’t used a commercial dryer sheet in years (read this for why) and although the dryer balls work okay, I’m just not that thrilled with them.

I always have unbleached muslin on hand for experiments so sewed up a square, filled it with about an ounce of dried Lavender flowers along with 10 drops of the same essential oil and did a load of laundry to see what happened. It worked! No static electricity, the clothes were just as soft as with the dryer balls (but no softer, unfortunately for my towels) and although I could smell the herb when I opened the dryer door, thankfully, my husband’s clothing didn’t smell like lavender. (That was a concern: it’s not a scent typically associated with the male of our species.) Then I got to thinking:

What makes it anti-static? Is it just the heavy concentration of volatile oil in the dried herb? (Volatile oil is what gives the herb its scent.) If so, there are other herbs that smell as strong when dried. So, I sewed up a few more squares and filled them with some other strong-smelling herbs I had in stock: Rosemary, Peppermint, and Rosebuds (with drops of the matching essential oil). Because there’s only two of us and my husband wears company-laundered uniforms to work, there’s not a lot of laundry so it took a couple of weeks to see what happened. The results:

lavender

Although clothes were soft-ish, the other three herbs did not eliminate static. I can’t find any scientific research to tell me why it’s just the Lavender but it is.

Experiment complete. While I like to use herbs when & where I can, I don’t like to unnecessarily spend money. Since nothing was any better than the dryer balls, I guess I’ll stick with those.

Nail Fungus: Eew

Three years ago, I picked up a fungus under the nail of my pinky finger. Don’t ask me how, I don’t know. What kind of fungus? Don’t know and it doesn’t matter.

It didn’t bother me unless I looked at it. Then, it did. The nail was lifting … at one point it was nearly 3/4 of the way down to the cuticle. Every now and again, I’d make an attempt to resolve the issue but because it didn’t hurt, my efforts were half-hearted.

At one point, I found a website (can’t find it again, naturally) that said not to clean out the dead skin under the lifted part of the nail. So, I didn’t. I just trickled Tea Tree essential oil as best I could under the nail. The nail would look like it was healing, I’d forget about it and the next time I looked, it would be lifting again.

Finally, a little over a month ago, I decided to really attack the problem. I’m happy to report my nail is now growing naturally again, although it’ll be about three months until the tip is as long as the rest of the fingers on that hand. Here’s what I did:

  • Despite what that website said, it seemed to me the dead skin would harbor fungus. So, I cleaned all the dead skin out from underneath the lifted portion of the nail and then clipped the nail as far down as I could get.  If you need to, use a pair of cuticle scissors so you can cut it back as close as possible to where the nail is still attached to the bed. (An attached nail has a pinkish hue. Unattached will be whitish.) Keep it clipped.
  • Everywhere I looked, it said to keep the nail dry. This makes sense: fungi love moisture. For me, however, this is a difficult thing to do. I’m always washing something, whether it’s just wiping down counters or mopping floors. I have gritted my teeth and unless I’m showering or washing my hands, I put on a pair of rubber gloves – even when brushing my teeth. If you blow-dry your hair (I rarely do), point the dryer at your nail (edge-on) for a few seconds. (If you’re going to be wearing the rubber gloves for any length of time, put on a pair of cotton gloves, first, to absorb your sweat. Avoid moisture of any kind!)
  • This will be the most difficult part for a lot of people. I have very small hands so it’s relatively easy for me. Every night I stuck my pinky into the top of a bottle of Tea Tree essential oil so the entire nail got soaked. It looked and felt strange – I sat for 10 minutes with the bottle upended on my finger. However you manage it, ensure your entire nail is covered and soaking in the oil. After 10 minutes, wipe the excess off your skin but allow the oil to air dry on the nail and any exposed nail bed. Your nail will look a little dry after this but it’s a good thing. Do not put any moisturizer of any kind on that nail for the entire course of this treatment.

You must be diligent in doing all this. I kept up the Tea Tree applications for a week after my nail looked normal. Fungus will take any excuse to grow again and it only takes one live spore to generate a colony. Although I’ve discontinued the Tea Tree oil, I’m still being anal about putting on rubber gloves if I’m working with water. I’ll keep this up until the tip has grown out and everything finally looks normal again.

If you’re sensitive to straight Tea Tree (some are), dilute it. If you can’t handle it even in a diluted form, other antifungal essential oils that may be used are: Garlic, Thyme, Calendula, Clove and Cinnamon. These will need to be diluted with a carrier oil, first: 10 drops essential oil to 1 fluid ounce carrier oil. I’d suggest using Coconut oil because it, too, is slightly antifungal. Whatever you use, keep up your treatment for at least a week after your nail looks OK. You can’t see fungus spores.

My doctor said an old folks’ remedy for nail fungus is to smear your nail with Vicks Vaporub® before bed, covering your nail with a cotton glove. If it were made with all pure essential oils & petroleum jelly, I’d buy this: camphor will kill just about anything. However, I looked at the ingredient list: the camphor they use now is synthetic. I doubt it would work but you could certainly try.

It goes without saying: ladies, no nail treatments. No fake nails, no varnish, nothing.

If all else fails, go to your doctor and have him/her remove the nail completely. Then treat with the antifungal oil for a week or two to kill any remaining fungus. Be prepared: nails take about six months to grow out so your finger/toe is going to look really ugly for awhile.

Two months later: See above statement about it only taking one spore to generate a colony of fungi. I put on fake nails for only two days for my son’s wedding and at the same time, got lazy about getting my finger wet. I’m back to square one. This time, I’m going to keep up the Tea Tree Oil treatments for a month after everything looks OK to ensure it’s finally healed!

Practical Herbs 2: A Review

pract-herbs2

I’m going to preface my remarks by warning you: I’ve been a Henriette Kress fan for years and was thrilled to get a sneak peek at her new book.

Practical Herbs 2 is as wonderful as Practical Herbs.  Down-to-earth advice for a variety of ailments, detailed descriptions of 20 herbs, directions for making a variety of herbal preparations …

One of my favorite things, especially in the herbal solutions sections, is that she doesn’t limit herself to herbs. Some problems can be due to deficiencies in vitamins, diet, lifestyle, etc, and she doesn’t hesitate to tell you when you should be taking a vitamin supplement or going for a daily walk rather than or in addition to an herbal preparation.

When she’s writing about individual herbs, not only does she give you color photos (generally of more than one Species) and a written description, the instructions for harvesting and drying are detailed – down to how to deal with the itchy hairs on Burdock seeds.

Ever the scientific herbalist, she does use some technical terminology and gives the main chemical constituents for each herb described. It may glaze some peoples’ eyes but this information is necessary to understand why the herb does what it does.

As with Practical Herbs, my Virgo nature had difficulty with the fact that she doesn’t group information together. The herb information pages are broken up by recipes, herbal solutions to medical issues, and some further information. However, that problem is solved by the extensive index.

If you don’t have her first book, you should get it as the second builds on the first. The two together are a marvelous resource for someone interested in using herbs for health.

4.5/5 stars

Don’t Sneeze! It’s Goldenrod.

goldenrodSolidago nemoralis

Well, maybe you’ll sneeze, if you have an allergy to members of the Asteraceae family and you stick your nose right in it. But Ragweed has green flowers with pollen that will float on the slightest of breezes. The pollen on Goldenrod is much heavier and doesn’t fly as well.

This tiny specimen lives about a half mile from my house, in one of the few patches of direct sunlight. Farther down on the county road where there’s an abundance of light, the Goldenrod looks like huge clumps of sunshine.

Since childhood, Goldenrod has been my clue that Fall is really happening. Up North, it always bloomed in late August, letting me know school would be back in session very soon. (Back in the Dark Ages, we started the day after Labor Day.) I paid no attention to what was happening on the clumps of yellow flowers, much less have any idea of the medicinal value!

Now that I’m paying attention, I see the pollinators (bees and others) visiting those flowers on a regular basis. Although I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, I read that butterflies also lay their eggs on the flowers. (Like Jen Rue I like to touch things. The flowers are soft. Cushy bed?)

There are 100-120 species of Solidago growing throughout the world (wild and cultivated – they’re showy flowers, no?) and as far as I can tell, they’re all used medicinally. Looking at Native American Ethnobotany (Daniel Moerman, Timber Press, 1998) and taking just the species in the photo as an example: a decoction of the root is good for jaundice and to aid the kidneys; the leaves are used as a poultice on burns and skin ulcers; a decoction of the leaves is used as a disinfecting wash; the seeds are used as food; and the Navajo use the entire plant as incense.

Other species are used for sore throats, as a snuff for headaches, to staunch bleeding, to treat fevers … the list goes on.

If your local species of Goldenrod has “wand” or “club” type clumps of flowers, it’s said that when asked, the flowers will nod in the direction of whatever it is you’re trying to find. Due to the flower color (you know: gold), it makes a good addition to money spells. The Iroquois and other tribes also use it for good luck in gambling; as well as in a compound designed to kill love. (The rest of the ingredients aren’t specified – you’re on your own there.)

And … rubber! The leaves of some species of Goldenrod contain up to 7% latex. In 1927, when Henry Ford was looking for a substitute for the rubber that only grew in tropical climates ($$), Edison took on the challenge. I can’t find the original species name but he chose one then cultivated it to grow larger and with more latex. The resulting plant grew about 10 feet high (the typical plant only grows 2-4 feet) with up to 12% latex in the leaves. This new species is called Solidago edisoniana. Although the experiment didn’t pan out, Ford gifted Edison with a Model T – with tires made from goldenrod rubber.

Take a walk on the wild side – I’ll bet you’ll find some Goldenrod not to far away!

Old Herbals

Goodness! It’s been a harrowing couple of weeks. My computer’s hard drive crashed and even using an online backup service, I had to recreate some data files – right in the middle of tax season! I’m mostly back to what passes for normal around here.

As you may have noticed from prior posts, I love reading old herbals. Sometimes I get a glimpse into life before allopathic medicine came into being; sometimes I scare the shit out of myself reading about what was used to “cure” what back in the day; and yet other times I find a new or interesting use for a spell ingredient.

Some time during the computer fiasco, a friend asked me about old herbals. Specifically, which to read. That is a difficult list to compile as I have quite a few reprints, some as pdfs on my computer and yet others that I’ve not downloaded but read online. I’ll probably end up editing this post several times as I remember a book or actually find something I had in my now-lost bookmarks menu.

If the book is freely available & I’ve downloaded it, I’ll give you a link. If I have a hard copy, do a search & get it from your favorite bookseller. In no particular order:

Pollington, Stephen. Leechcraft: Early English Charms Plantlore and Healing. This is an updated translation with cross-references of:

Cockayne, Thomas Oswald. Leechdoms, Wortcunning & Starcraft of Early England.

Rohde, Eleanour Sinclair. The Old English Herbals. This one is sort of a discussion of the above two (not old, though).

Matteson, Mrs. Antonette. The Occult Family Physician And Botanic Guide to Health.

Beith, Mary. Healing Threads: Traditional Medicines of the Highlands and Islands. Not exactly old but she discusses “old” Highlands medicine quite effectively.

Leyel, Mrs. C. F. Magic of Herbs.

Culpeper, Nicholas The English Physician

della Porta, Giambattista (John Baptist Porta). Magia Naturalis This is a link to the Latin version. There is an English translation in pdf but I can’t immediately find it. If I do, I’ll update the link. ETA: Here it is in English on scribd or all online.

Paracelsus. Of the Supreme Mysteries of Nature

Any of the US Dispensatories on this page

And of course,

Grieve, Mrs. M. A Modern Herbal which I have in hard copy but can be found online at Botanical.com

That ought to get y’all started! As I said, I’ll update as I find other books or recover lost bookmarks.

ETA: I found an old Scottish herbal awhile back, too.

ETA2: Gerarde, John, The Herball or General Historie of Plantes (1597)  n.b.: This is a huge file. Try to download it when your computer is doing nothing else.

Nutmeg: A Good and Bad Spice

One of my kids gave me whole nutmegs for Christmas. I am in heaven! It’s one of my favorite spices … if a recipe calls for cinnamon, you can bet your bippy I’m going to add a pinch of nutmeg in there, too. Use it medicinally? Not so much. I like my body fully functional, thank you.

I realized I hadn’t said anything here about this tasty spice so will share what I’ve got written thus far in my upcoming book:

 

Nutmeg & Mace: Myristica fragrans

Description (Nutmeg is the seed inside the fruit; Mace is the aril surrounding the seed.) Nutmeg is a tree native to Indonesia and cultivated in the West Indies, South Africa and other tropical climates. The tree will grow up to 25 feet tall and has a grayish-brown, smooth bark. The leaves are dark green and glossy on top, paler green below. The tree will not flower until around nine years old. Flowers give way to the fruit – a brown, wrinkled, oval drupe containing a kernel covered by a bright red membrane, or aril.

Cultivation Requires a tropical climate. Many farmers increase their trees by replanting volunteers – those plants grown from seeds dropped by the trees. Fresh seeds are required if cultivating from seed and one must differentiate male from female seeds. Both are required for cross-pollination. Young trees require both windbreaks and protection from the sun.

Parts Used Essential Oil, seed, aril. Toxicity Level II.

Side Effects Ingestion may produce stomach cramps, flatulence and catarrh.  It is also mildly hallucinogenic but along with the hallucinations may come headaches, stomach pain, double vision, delirium, heart palpitations and tachycardia. As few as two whole nuts may cause death.

Medicinal Uses Both dried nutmeg and mace are used in small amounts in cookery. Avicenna (c. 980-1037 CE) is said to be the first to notice the medicinal properties of Nutmeg. Nutmeg is rarely used alone but may be added to compounds for flatulence and to correct the nausea arising from other drugs. A nutmeg infusion was used in the 19th century to treat insomnia: one nutmeg was steeped in one pint of tea. The dose was “a small cupful”. Wild dreams, anyone?

Magical Uses A nutmeg is either carried in the pocket or threaded and tied to braces (suspenders) to prevent or cure rheumatism. The same is done for general luck and the powder is included in many spells for money or luck.

Interesting Tidbits Nutmeg was a popular but expensive spice in the 17th to 19th centuries. It was fashionable among the wealthy and one can’t talk about nutmeg, even historically, without talking about the hallucinogenic qualities that some folks (who could afford it) liked. It was so popular that the Dutch massacred the people of the Banda Islands in 1609 to gain control of their nutmeg trade.

The Dutch and British were chasing each other all over the world during the 17th century in attempts to control the spice trade. Nutmeg was so important that in 1667, the Dutch traded the island of Manhattan in exchange for a nutmeg-producing island and South American sugar-producing territory controlled by the British.

Did I say it was expensive? In said 19th century, the lady of the house would carry a silver grater and nutmeg box on their chatelaine (a belt or loop worn at the waist with items needed to run a household) … probably right next to the house keys.

So, as I’m the lady of the house who really needs a specialized grater and doesn’t want anything as boring as a plain ol’ modern grater, who’s willing to be a Secret Santa (a few days late) and get me this one I found on Ebay:

 

grater

It’s a bargain at £137 plus shipping! 😀

Heaven in a Tub

As you may have noticed from my last post, I’m starting to pay a little more attention to the skin on my face. Following along those lines, I got to thinking perhaps the exfoliating pad I was using might now be a bit too harsh. A couple of hours of following link after link after link on the Internet (you know how it goes), I decided perhaps a sugar scrub might be a better way to go.

Oh. Em. Gee. You gotta try this. I found an easy-peasy recipe that leaves my skin as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom.  (I would love to give credit but can’t find the page anymore. Gotta love Google sometimes, huh? If this is yours, email me and I’ll provide the link back.)

  • 50% sugar (white works just fine or use brown sugar if you have very sensitive skin – the granules are generally smaller than white)
  • 50% vegetable glycerin
  • A dollop of Aloe Vera gel

Just to experiment, I used 2 tablespoons each (white) sugar & glycerin, and the “dollop” of gel was about a teaspoon. Mix together well. Then use a palmful to wash your face, neck & décolletage.  I found mine separates a little between uses so just mix it all up again with my fingers before scooping out a glob of it.

(I would have taken a picture but it doesn’t look like much in the recycled cream cheese container. OTOH, it does somewhat resemble semen. I stand by the post title. :D)

Some of the recipes I found suggested mixing a few drops of essential oils into the scrub. I didn’t do that for the first batch, wanting to see how it worked on the cleaning end by itself. Although EOs do absorb quickly into the skin, the only thing I let sit long enough for beneficial absorption is my face cream, so I’ll leave the “therapeutic” aspects in that, rather than the scrub. But if you want the aroma, add a drop or two of EOs appropriate for your skin type (and nose).

I think a longer-term experiment is going to be making an herbal glycerite (like a tincture but with glycerin rather than alcohol as the extraction method) and using that in place of the plain glycerin, just to see if there’s any benefit to that sort of effort. I’ll let you know how that comes out.

In the meantime, I have a smooooooooooth face!