life curation · Uncategorized

Wonderful Weeds

Since becoming a homeowner last year, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know my home and yard. I enjoy the flowers that the previous owner planted, and I find so much pleasure in sitting in my morning room and looking at the woods beyond my backyard, where I can catch glimpses of rabbits, various beautiful birds, and occasionally deer.

Prior to moving here, I assumed that weeds were the bane of most homeowners. After all, weeds were usually unsightly, absorbed nutrients that could have been utilized by prettier plants, and attracted pests. However, my herbalist studies have given me a different perspective on weeds, and I’ve gotten to a point that I love to explore my yard and see if the weeds can be used for medicinal or culinary purposes.

I’m delighted to share that I’ve discovered several weeds that I can use in my herbalist practice! I also have some photos of the weeds that I’m excited to use in the upcoming months.

This weed is mullein. Isn’t it stunning? It can be used to create teas and tinctures that remove mucus from the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. I actually just love the look of it. It is wind-pollinated, so here’s hoping that it’ll bloom and those seeds will create some more plants nearby.

A young mullein plant

This is dog fennel, a weed that closely resembles dill. This weed should only be used externally (it can treat sunburn and can also be used as a mosquito repellent) because it has compounds that are toxic to the liver. Some people hate the smell, while others find it earthy (like pine). I actually enjoy the fragrance. I’m still researching the best way to extract the oils for a liquid repellent, but so far, I haven’t seen anything. I may just experiment a bit and see if I can come up with a good repellent recipe using dog fennel.

A cluster of dog fennel

This very common plant is pokeweed (poke salad/poke sallet). It can be prepared as a cooked green, and, if done well, it’s delicious. My mother gave me a great recipe, and cautioned me that the weed should not be consumed once it starts bearing seeds (when the little berries appear). We had a chance to pick the pokeweed behind my home, and we filled a large garbage bag with the leaves, and there are still so many more plants left. However, we’re done gathering pokeweed for this season: we have plenty!

Pokeweed growing next to my back porch

Finally, you may see a cute little berry looks like a strawberry, but it’s smaller, a bit rounder, and the seeds look a little strange. That is actually a mock strawberry. It’s nontoxic, but it doesn’t have nearly the same level of flavor or sweetness as real strawberries. However, it’s lovely ground cover and is a pretty harmless plant overall, other than the fact that it can take over a yard quickly. I learned that the berries can be eaten (some people enjoy the flavor), and the leaves can be dried and turned into a tea. So I collected a TON of the leaves and started drying them. I’m excited to let you know how the tea turns out.

Closeup of the mock strawberry leaves

So when you start seeing your grass get a little taller than you’d like, perhaps you can take some time to explore and figure out if any of the “weeds” could be useful to you! You may be pleased with what you find.

That’s all for this Tuesday. Have a great day everyone!

beauty · life curation

The Novice Gardener’s Digital Toolkit

untitled designAs this is my first year cultivating a true flower garden, I’ve been eager to learn as much about the plants surrounding my home as I can. Sadly, I don’t know much about plants and I don’t have any nearby friends or relatives that can easily identify the bushes and trees in my yard. Desperate, I reached out to my Facebook family, and they didn’t disappoint! They made some excellent recommendations to help me get the information that I need. So, since I have some great tools at my disposal, it’s only right that I pass them along to you!

PlantSnap and PictureThis have been my constant companions over the past few weeks. I love that I can take a picture of a plant and process the picture through both apps to get a good idea of what kind of plant it is. I find that PictureThis has more reliable results than PlantSnap, but I love them both and find them very easy to use. I really enjoy the fact that the apps allow you to identify plants for free, and PlantSnap even lets you know that you can identify 25 pictures per day before a paid account is required (I’m not sure how many pictures are allowed using the free membership of PictureThis, but I imagine that the number is similar). The biggest advantage to PictureThis (other than the higher identification reliability) is that it automatically keeps a log of the pictures that you’ve submitted, so you can easy review previously identified plants within the app. For PlantSnap, you have to manually save the photos to a collection in order to retain that information.

YouTube has so many great videos for learning more about the wild plants growing near you: I simply cannot list them all! However, you can search for wild edibles by clicking here and you will find the most popular videos on the topic. Of course, you may not be interested in plants that you can eat; however, edible plants are fascinating to me, and the fact that many “weeds” are also edible and nutritious makes it a topic that I think may interest some of you, as well. As I continue exploring various YT channels, I’ll make a post in the future listing the best gardening channels that I’ve found.

Finally, the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has been one of my favorite references during this growing season. Viewing the zone map and using other USDA resources has taught me a lot about what kind of zone I live in, as well as the different zones within my state.

Do you have any digital tools that you use for your garden? I’d love to hear all about them!

beauty · life curation · luxury

Embracing Natural Beauty When You Can’t Leave Your Home

Last week, I shared a post about how I’m enjoying the natural beauty around my home. I’m fortunate to live in a suburb where I have a yard, beautiful plants, and a climate that is conducive to growing the kind of plants I enjoy.

For those that aren’t able to walk outdoors and take in natural beauty (either because of strict quarantine measures or due to living in a “concrete jungle”), I wanted to share some links to websites and YouTube channels that highlight natural beauty around the world.

My current favorite is the Keukenhof Garden in Holland. With millions of stunning tulips bulbs planted, the garden is a feast for the eyes. I’m thrilled that I can take in all of this natural beauty from the comfort of my home.

 

There is also the US Botanic Garden (located in Washington, DC). This incredible garden used to have many fascinating public events and was a wonderful resource for anyone interested in learning more about botany. At this time, however, you can do a virtual tour as well as many online programs. You can even do “yoga in the garden” online every Saturday during the pandemic.

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(A double flowering lenten rose, from the US Botanic Garden website)

Another lovely garden that I used to visit regularly during my workday was the Enid A. Haupt Garden. This stunning pocket of serenity was my perfect place to “get away” when I needed some time to relax away from the office. I always walked around the “parterre”, though this was only a small portion of the garden.

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(A photo of one of the urns in the Haupt Garden Parterre)

In my hometown, there is an incredible botanical garden. At Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, it is also possible to do a virtual tour. These gardens are particularly special, because of their stunning annual butterfly exhibit.

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(Elegant butterfly featured on the Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden website)

If your city has a public garden or other outdoor space, you can probably do a virtual tour (a quick Google search should let you know if virtual tours are available). Do you have a favorite garden to tour? Let me know all about it in the comments below!

 

food · life curation

Free Online Courses for Improved Wellness

One of the pleasant side effects of our current crisis is the increased interest in improving our health through natural methods. If we can employ safe, effective natural remedies to complement conventional (Western) medical treatment, then maybe we can promote better health, improved vitality and increased longevity.

In my desire to learn more about natural remedies (as you know, I’ve been studying The Women’s Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell), I took to the Web to see what complimentary courses I could find to deepen my knowledge. I was delighted by what I found!

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Coursera is currently offering a five-part specialization program in Integrative Health and Medicine. Each of the five courses in this program covers a different aspect of using alternative medicine to support overall wellness. I’ve signed up for a couple of the courses because I’m very interested in what will be taught! The course will be taught by University of Minnesota professors, so you can be assured that what you will learn is akin to what may be taught in a course on campus. You can either sign up for a paid subscription to Coursera or you can audit the courses, which allows you to view the instructional material for free but does not offer a certification if you complete the assignments in a timely fashion.

Another fantastic course that I found while searching for free online alternative medicine courses is this free Introduction to Aromatherapy course offered by Aromahead. I really like the fact that this is a self-paced course, so you can complete it as you have the time available to do so. I have a small collection of essential oils so I’m excited to learn more about tapping into their power and harnessing the maximum benefit.

Finally, the American Herbalist Guild has generously provided a library of archived webinar materials for free. This may be great for you if you don’t want to commit to a full-fledged course but still want to learn more about herbs and natural remedies. I like that these concentrated teaching sessions can help you get targeted information about a specific topics. 

There are many more free online herbal and alternative medicine courses that you can find by simply doing a Google search, but these were my favorites that I wanted to share with you.

I hope you all are having a great day! Take care, and I’ll be back tomorrow.

 

 

(This post contains affiliate links)

 

health

Fibro Fridays: Nervine Herbs

In the quest to reduce my fibromyalgia symptoms and treat my condition with as few chemicals as possible, I’ve began exploring and experimenting with natural supplements. I don’t claim that these options will work for everyone, but for those that are curious, there are certain plants that may relieve some of the common symptoms associated with fibro.

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I have been reviewing The Woman’s Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursellquite a bit over the past few months. This book offers a condensed herbal dictionary and a host of natural remedies to try. One of the best things about this book is how the various effects of certain herbs is summarized for each plant listed. I was intrigued by the herbs that have nervine properties.

My constant companion over the past few months

Nervine herbs can influence the nervous system. It can soothe the nerves and reduce the reaction within the nervous system. Since fibromyalgia is essentially an overactive nervous system that exaggerates sensation in the body, a nervine herb could, theoretically, relax some of those nervous responses and cause the system to calm down.

Below, I’ve listed some of the nervine herbs outlined in the book (the author includes several more).

  • Angelica Root
  • Black Cohosh
  • Chamomile
  • Gotu Kola
  • Hop Flowers
  • Lemongrass
  • Sage
  • Skullcap
  • St. John’s Wort

I’ve personally used chamomile tea, and I’ve made a tea from fresh sage. I have noticed that I am noticeably more relaxed after consuming either tea. I may eventually try experimenting with using these teas as a way to wean myself off of prescription medication, but for now, I’m pleased with the gentle effects from occasional use.

My current favorite chamomile tea blend

On the occasions when my grocer runs out of sage,I’ll order it from Amazon

Have any of you tried any nervine herbs? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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*Disclaimer: this post is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your doctor for any medical recommendations and advice.

**This post contains affiliate links.