Author Archive

Herbal Laundry Formulas: Part 2

Posted by Irene|19 March 2014

Find Part 1 here! 

 Herbal Laundry Formulas: Part 2

 

Herbal Dryer Sachets

Conventional dryer sheets contain synthetic fragrances, chemicals, and known carcinogens and neurotoxins.  These unnatural substances have been linked to disorders of the brain and nervous system, as well as headaches, nausea, dizziness, depression, loss of muscle coordination, fatigue, drowsiness, and even cancer of the pancreas.  Plus, they’re unrecyclable and end up in landfills.  Consider ditching the toxic dryer sheets and using homemade herbal dryer sachets instead!

Homemade herbal dryer sachets can be used in exactly the same manner as commercial varieties, but don’t contain the synthetic chemicals or artificial fragrances.  Besides making your laundry smell wonderful, they are reusable, and completely natural.  Best of all, this recipe is highly customizable, allowing you to add whatever herbs and essential oils you desire.

Begin by filling the muslin bags with the herbs of your choice.  Lavender is a popular and well-loved classic which helps relax and calm.  Peppermint and Rosemary are rejuvenating, and helpful for studying and other mental tasks. Dried Lemon, Lemongrass, and Orange peel all smell fresh, citrusy, and clean.  Eucalyptus is beneficial for colds and sinus conditions.  Other popular choices include soothing Chamomile flowers, floral Rose petals, romantic Geranium leaves, and woodsy Cedar tips.  Be creative with your blends and use whichever herbs inspire you!

You may add a few drops of essential oils, but do so sparingly and cautiously as essential oils are flammable and potentially dangerous.  Each dryer sachet can be used up to 10 times, or until it loses its scent.  Before each use, remove the sachet from the dryer and squeeze it to help release its scent.  Once the sachet no longer imparts fragrance, the spent herbs can be composted and the bag refilled with fresh herbs.  Use homemade sachets in the same way you would use the commercial variety – simply toss it into the dryer with your clean clothes.

 

Natural Fabric Softener

Vinegar makes wool and cotton fabrics extra soft and fluffy, removes soap residue, and breaks up oils and grease.   It also dissolves uric acid, making it perfect for babies’ diapers.  Choose whichever essential oils you like best, based on their properties and aromas.

      • 1 gallon vinegar
      • 10-30 drops essential oil(s) of choice. Some favorites are: Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mandarin, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint, Sweet Orange, Tangerine, Tea Tree, or Ylang Ylang.

Add essential oils to the gallon of vinegar. Shake well before using.  For regular or small loads, add ½ cup during the rinse cycle, and for large loads add 1 cup.

 

Other natural and herbal laundry tips:

Brighten whites by adding ¼ cup of Baking Soda or Borax to your washing machine during the wash cycle, or ½ cup of White Vinegar during the rinse cycle.

Make a natural stain remover using borax, white vinegar, water, a spray bottle, and a toothbrush.  Place the borax in a container with a shaker top.  Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle.  To treat stains, shake the borax directly onto the stain, and then spray with the vinegar and water solution.  Use the toothbrush to make a paste with the ingredients, and then scrub the stain.  Allow to sit for 10-20 minutes, then wash as usual.

Remove any lingering soap residue from clothing or urine from baby diapers by adding 1 cup of white vinegar to your washing machine during the final rinse cycle.

Add essential oils to laundry detergent to naturally scent laundry and utilize their healing and therapeutic properties!  Try Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mandarin, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint, Sweet Orange, Tangerine, Tea Tree, or Ylang Ylang.

Dryer balls can be used instead of dryer sheets to help fluff up laundry and separate clothes as they tumble dry. As an added bonus they may help to shorten drying times.  Dryer balls are available in many retail and online stores, or make your own using felted wool.

Add a few drops of essential oil to a washcloth, and place in a dryer to naturally scent clothing.  Make sure to only add a few drops and use caution as essential oils are flammable and adding them could potentially be dangerous.

The book The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier has a wonderful section full of natural laundry recipes and tips.  She even includes specific instructions for cleaning troublesome stains such as  lipstick, candle wax, mustard, ink, grass, tar, and wine.

 

Herbal Laundry Formulas: Part 2

 

Herbal Laundry Formulas: Part 1

Posted by Irene|11 March 2014

                     Herbal Laundry Formula Part 1

 

When I was young, my mom always hung our laundry outside to dry. I adored the way that they smelled afterwards, infused by the enchanting aromas of lush green grass, fragrant flowers, tall evergreen trees, clean country air, and warm sunlight. I treasured drifting off to sleep amidst bed sheets permeated with these sweet scents and loved the way that the freshly laundered clothing smelled against my skin.  One afternoon, my mom found me pinning all of my stuffed animals and dolls on the clothes wire and snapped this photograph. When she asked me what I was doing, I told her that I was hanging them up so that they would smell like the sunshine too.

Many commercial laundry products appear to be natural with names that include words like “mountain”, “fresh”, “spring, “air”, or “breeze”, but unlike pure sunshine, these scents are far from natural.  In addition to synthetic fragrances, these products contain other nasty ingredients that are known toxins, carcinogens, and neurotoxins.  Whiteners, cleaning agents, fragrances, and other common ingredients in laundry products have been linked to serious health conditions.  They can damage the lungs, heart, kidneys, and liver, while also causing allergic reactions, irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, can trigger asthma attacks, worsen allergies, and affect clear thinking and concentration.  When we wear clothes that have been washed and dried with these components, they are absorbed directly into our skin and bloodstream.  In addition, many of these chemicals are not safe for our water supply and studies have proven that they are highly toxic to fish, thus endangering the environment as well as our own health.

Scary? Definitely.  Fortunately, there are many wonderful alternatives available in natural food stores and co-ops.  Just make sure to carefully read the ingredients to ensure that they really are natural and safe for you and your family.  Better yet, you can make your own laundry products using these recipes!

 

Herbal Laundry Formula Part 1 

 

Carol’s Herbal Laundry Liquid

Not only is Carol our Human Resources Director, she is also a highly talented crafter and gardener.  Aside from making delightful handmade soaps and natural body care products, she also bakes delectable pies and treats and has an incredible garden. Carol has generously shared this wonderful recipe for natural liquid laundry detergent with us.

1 1/2 quarts of water

15-20 organic Soap Nuts

Essential oil of choice (optional).  Some favorites are: Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mandarin, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint, Sweet Orange, Tangerine, Tea Tree, or Ylang Ylang.

Directions: Pour hot water over the Soap Nuts and steep for at least 30 minutes to an hour.  Cover the Soap Nuts and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Strain into a bowl and reserve the water. You’ll have a generous quart of liquid remaining.  Once the solution has cooled, add essential oils (optional).  Carol uses 4 Tablespoon Soap Nut liquid plus 2 tablespoons of Borax powder per load (with hard city water).  This laundry potion works wonders, as even old towels and sweaty clothing, come out smelling line-dried.

 

Natural Laundry Presoak

Prewashing is helpful for heavily soiled clothing.  This solution is gentle, utilizing natural elements to help lift dirt and stains.  Essential oils can impart therapeutic properties, making your clothes refreshing, stimulating, relaxing, or calming.  Plus, they lend their wonderful scents to the laundry, giving it a spicy, floral, woodsy, earthy, minty, or citrusy aroma.

1 cup vinegar

½ cup salt

Essential oil of choice (optional).  Some favorites are: Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mandarin, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint, Sweet Orange, Tangerine, Tea Tree, or Ylang Ylang.

Directions: Place clothes in washer and add warm water to cover them.  Combine vinegar, salt, and essential oil (if using), and add the mixture to the washer.  Allow clothes to soak for an hour or longer, then proceed with laundering.

 

Soapnuts-deseeded

Part 2 coming up next week!

Brew Your Own Kombucha: Part 2

Posted by Irene|18 November 2013

kombucha-glass

How to flavor your kombucha!

Start here if you missed Part 1! The combinations of herbs, spices, fruits, and juices that can add flavor to your kombucha are almost endless.  Here are some of my favorite blends, but feel free to be creative and add whatever flavors you enjoy!

 

Elderberry, Rosehip, & Cinnamon

A standby, this is the blend that I make most often. Sometimes, I’ll add Hibiscus flowers or use Ginger root instead of Cinnamon.  Feel free to experiment and make this recipe your own!

1/3 cup organic dried elderberries

1/4 cup organic dried rosehips

1 tsp organic cinnamon chips

 

Sparkling Ginger Pear

This recipe is simple, yet delicious.   Is it light, refreshing, and reminiscent of champagne.  Use whichever fruit is in season: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, apricots, and peaches are all tasty substitutes for pears.

1 Asian apple or regular pear

1 TBSP dried or fresh organic ginger root

 

Refreshing Herbal Medley

A perfect blend for the summertime!  This medley is cooling, refreshing, and the addition of Yerba Mate offers a little energy boost.

½ cup organic dried hibiscus flowers

2 TBSP dried organic holy basil (Tulsi)

2 TBSP dried organic peppermint

1 TBSP dried organic ginger root

1 TBSP dried organic Yerba Mate

 

kombucha-bottle

 

Brew Your Own Kombucha: Part 1

Posted by Irene|11 November 2013

Guide to homemade Kombucha!

 

If you’ve never tried kombucha, then you’re in for a treat!  This delightful fermented beverage is revered for its probiotic qualities and many purported health benefits.  With a unique flavor, it is fizzy and tingly like no other beverage in existence.

Fermenting foods and beverages at home was a common necessity for centuries.  Thankfully, we’re now seeing a return to these roots!  Healthful traditional foods and fermented preparations are making a comeback and have become somewhat trendy in recent years.  Kombucha can now be easily purchased in health food markets nationwide, but most of it is pasteurized and the cost is often restrictive.  Fortunately, it’s easy, inexpensive, and fun to make at home!  Plus, you can adjust the flavor and sourness to your liking.

Like other traditionally fermented and live-cultured preparations, kombucha has been enjoyed for thousands of years by cultures around the world.  The history of kombucha tea is long and somewhat controversial, with Russia, Japan, China, and Korea all credited with its origin.  The Chinese origin states that the beverage appeared in 221 BCE, and was believed to be an elixir of immortality called ‘The Godly Tsche.’  Another story reports that the beverage was introduced to Japan in 441 AD by a Korean doctor named Kombu.  Kombu used the revered tea to help soothe the emperor’s digestive problems, and it grew in popularity over the centuries.

Kombucha is a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria, a living culture containing beneficial microorganisms and nutrients.  Studies tout that kombucha binds to toxins and removes them from the body, cleanses the liver and other organs, improves digestion, energy levels, and the immune system.  Although the exact origin of kombucha and its benefits are unproven and disputed, there’s no denying that kombucha is a delicious and wholesome drink!

 

Basic Kombucha Recipe

Makes 1 gallon (scale recipe up or down depending on the size of your vessel)

DIY kombucha!

 

Ingredients:

- Kombucha SCOBY

- Starter liquid (brewed kombucha reserved from a previously brewed batch)

- Glass or lead-free ceramic container

- Organic Black or Green loose-leaf tea (Camellia sinensis).  Use unflavored tea, as essential oils and flavorings can adversely affect the culture.  Favorites for black tea varieties include English Breakfast, Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, and Ancient Forest.  Excellent green options include Green Sencha, White Peony, Silver Needles, and Oolong.

- Organic cane sugar

- Distilled, spring, or well water. Chlorinated or treated water can harm the kombucha culture.

- A clean piece of cloth, towel, or a handkerchief and a rubber band to cover the container

 

Directions:

  1. Bring ¾ of a gallon of water to a boil, then turn off the heat and immediately add 4 TBSP of loose-leaf tea and 1 cup of organic sugar.  Cover pot with a lid, and cool to room temperature.
  2. Strain out the tea leaves, and pour the liquid into your glass or ceramic container.
  3. Add your scoby and 1-2 cups of kombucha starter liquid.
  4. Cover the container with a clean cloth, kitchen towel, or handkerchief and a rubber band.  Place it in a dark area out of direct sunlight, where it won’t be disturbed or moved.  Make sure that the cloth or towel is breathable, yet that the weave is tight enough to keep fruit flies, gnats, and other undesirables and contaminants out.
  5. Your scoby may sink or float on the top, both are okay.  In 2-3 days, you may see a translucent jelly-like mass floating on the top of your tea.  This is a new scoby beginning to form.  Leave it undisturbed so that the baby can grow properly.
  6. Taste your kombucha periodically, depending on the temperature of your home and how sweet or sour you’d like it to be.  Most batches will be ready in 7-14 days.  Ideally, the kombucha should have a slightly sharp and acidic bite.
  7. When your kombucha is ready, carefully remove the scoby, then pour the liquid through a filter and into bottles.  Remember to reserve 1-2 cups for the starter liquid for your next batch.
  8. Separate the new baby scoby from your original one (now a mother), and keep whichever one looks healthier.  You can give the new baby to a friend or start a “kombucha hotel” in a separate glass jar.  Simply include some kombucha starter liquid to cover the scobies.  Each time that you brew a batch of kombucha, a new baby will grow to join your kombucha family.
  9. Place the scoby and 1-2 cups of starter tea back into your container, brew a new batch of tea, and start all over again!
  10. You may leave the kombucha unflavored or include any number of tasty additions.  Experiment with fresh or dried fruit, berries, herbs, and spices for whatever flavor suits your mood.
  11. Kombucha will naturally have a slight fizziness.  To increase the carbonation and level of tartness, leave the bottled kombucha on a countertop for several days after bottling.  Keep bottles stored in a refrigerator once finished fermenting.

 

Important notes:

- Always clean your hands, utensils, and anything that might touch your kombucha with hot water and distilled vinegar. Do not use soap, (especially antibacterial soap) as it may harm or kill the kombucha culture. Your kombucha is alive!  Make sure to handle it with care.

- Only use lead-free glass and ceramic for fermenting. Kombucha will absorb toxins out of the container that it’s brewed in (much like how it pulls toxins out of our bodies).

- Kombucha scobies have an unusual appearance, scent, and feel, but don’t let this discourage you! You’ll quickly grow accustomed to their odd appearance and will get used to handling them.

- Store your kombucha away from your stove and other cooking appliances.  The aroma, smoke, and flavor can all impart into your culture.  Bacon kombucha?  No thanks!

- The easiest place to get a scoby is from a friend or co-worker with extra babies. Most kombucha brewers have several scobies waiting for a new home.  If you can’t find a scoby locally, you can purchase one online or grow a scoby from a bottle of store-bought kombucha.

- If the kombucha scoby grows mold, throw the liquid and scoby into the compost and begin with fresh materials.

- Have fun and experiment! Kombucha is an acquired taste, and everyone likes it a little different.  There are hundreds of recipes available, each one with its own ingredients and techniques.

black-and-green-tea

Part 2 Coming Soon…

Flavoring Your Kombucha

 

Mama & Baby’s Massage Oil

Posted by Irene|07 October 2013

baby-massage-oil-blog

Selecting the best products and ingredients for skincare can be daunting, and baby’s skin is even more delicate and sensitive than our own.  The lists of ingredients on baby care products are often a mile-long and contain hard-to-read and unrecognizable ingredient names.  Many commercial baby care products even include toxic ingredients that have been linked to allergies, cancer, developmental problems, and organ dysfunction, in addition to many other harmful side effects. No thanks!

This soothing and gentle massage oil is perfect for nurturing mama’s and baby’s sensitive skin.  Apply after bathing for massages, cradle cap, or anytime that skin feels dry.  You can also pour a small amount into bathwater for a luxurious pampering bath.

Fill a glass jar ¼ – ½ full with herbs, then fill to the top with Sunflower or Sweet Almond oil.  Screw a tight-fitting lid onto the jar, shake well, and place in a warm windowsill to infuse. Shake the jar daily or as often as you remember.  After 4-6 weeks, strain the herbs out using cheesecloth or muslin.  Add Vitamin E Oil to the infusion, then pour into glass jars.

rosechamomile

Essential Recipes for Late Summer

Posted by Irene|21 August 2013

summerrecipes1

 

These are some of my very favorite tried-and-true recipes for the summertime.  Essentials for the home medicine chest, these simple remedies come in so handy during the warm summer months.

 

Herbal Relief Oil

This botanical-infused goodness soothes and helps aching muscles, sprains, bruises, and areas that are inflamed or swollen.

Pour all ingredients into a 4 oz glass bottle and roll between palms to distribute the oils evenly. Massage into sore and tender muscles as needed.

If you’d like to make your own herbal infused oils, you can learn how to make them in this blog post: http://mountainroseblog.com/diy-herbal-salves/

 

Herbal Cooling Mist

Apply this mist on sunburns or whenever in need of a little cooling off. Aloe Vera and Lavender offer immediate relief to sunburns and other skin discomforts, shorten healing times, and are soothing, Peppermint is cooling and refreshing, and Green Tea helps reduce inflammation, redness, and the adverse effects of UV radiation exposure.

Pour boiling water over the Peppermint and Green Tea leaves, and infuse until cool. Strain out the leaves, and mix the strained infusion with Aloe Vera Gel and hydrosol.  Pour into a spray bottle, then add the essential oils. Shake to combine all ingredients. Use within 1-2 days or store in the refrigerator up to 1 week.  Shake before each use as ingredients will naturally separate.

 

summerrecipes2

All Purpose Healing Salve

This is a very gentle, soothing salve. Perfect for minor wounds, cuts, rashes, bug bites, chapped lips, bruises, or other skin conditions and irritations.

Place dried botanicals into a dry glass jar, and cover with Olive oil, leaving at least 1-2” of oil above the herbs to allow the herbs to swell.  Place jar in a sunny window and shake once or twice per day. Allow the oil to infuse for at least 4-6 weeks, or until the oil takes on the color and scent of the herb.  Once that the oil is ready, strain using cheesecloth.  Place the infused oil and Beeswax in a double boiler, and gently warm over low heat until the Beeswax melts.  Remove from heat and add Vitamin E Oil (if using).  Tea Tree or Lavender essential oil may also be added during this time. Quickly pour into prepared tins or glass jars and allow to cool completely.  Store in a cool location where they will last for 1-3 years.

lavendersprig2

Lavender, Calendula, and Shea Butter Lip Balm

This nourishing lip balm is made from healing ingredients which soothe dry and chapped lips.

Coarsely chop the beeswax or use beeswax pastilles. Place beeswax, butter, and oil in a small pot or glass Pyrex measuring cup and gently heat in the top of a double boiler until the beeswax and butters have melted. Once melted, remove from the stovetop and stir in the essential oil and Vitamin E Oil. Immediately pour the mixture into lip balm tubes or small containers.

 

summerrecipes3

Herbal Liniment

Simple to make, liniments have been made for hundreds of years to offer instant relief for pain, inflamed muscles, bruises, and sprains. Depending on which botanicals are included, liniments may benefit a variety of conditions including sore and inflamed muscles, joints, circulation problems, arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, strains, and bruises.  Adding a dab to insect bites (especially with the addition on menthol), really helps to reduce the itching and inflammation.

Chop herbs finely and place in a clean glass jar. Cover thoroughly with menstruum of choice, and cap with a tight-fitting lid. Place the jar in a warm area and shake daily or as often as possible. After 4-6 weeks, strain the herbs out using cheesecloth.  If desired, add Menthol crystals (they will dissolve overnight) and/or essential oil(s).  Pour the liniment into dark glass bottles.   Make sure to label the liniment for “External Use Only”.

These are just a smidgeon of all of the wonderful summer recipes on our blog!  Here are links to some of our other favorite recipes from our blog:

 

 

Measuring in Parts (with Recipes)

Posted by Irene|03 July 2013

measuring

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the opportunity to share recipes with others.  Making herbal medicine and natural products can be overwhelming at first, and I love showing people just how easy it can be!

Measuring in parts is a perfect example of how simple and forgiving herbal recipes are.  Often referred to as the “simpler’s method”, the beauty of measuring in parts is that the formula can be easily scaled up or down, and you can use almost any utensil as a measuring device. In addition to measuring cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons, you can improvise with shot glasses, Mason jars, yogurt containers, your favorite tea mug… you get the idea!  The most important thing is being consistent with your measurements and proportions.

The exception to this is when making low-dose formulas with potent and potentially dangerous herbs.  However, for the most part, measuring in parts is perfect for formulating herbal remedies and concoctions.

Here are two examples of how different recipes can be measured in parts:

measuring3

Refreshing Herbal Tea Blend

This tea blend is delightful for warm summer weather, especially when prepared as a sun or an iced tea.  The Nettle leaf and Yerba Mate are naturally energizing, Lemon Verbena adds a subtle lemony flavor, and Peppermint and Chrysanthemum are cooling.

•    2 parts organic Nettle leaf
•    1 part organic Peppermint leaf
•    1 part organic Lemon Verbena
•    1 part organic Chrysanthemum flowers
•    ½ part organic Yerba Mate

You can measure the formula in teaspoons to make a small batch for 1-2 cups of tea:

•    2 tsp. organic Nettle leaf
•    1 tsp. organic Peppermint leaf
•    1 tsp. organic Lemon Verbena
•    1 tsp. organic Chrysanthemum flowers
•    ½ tsp. organic Yerba Mate

Or, make a large batch:

•    2 cups organic Nettle leaf
•    1 cup organic Peppermint leaf
•    1 cup organic Lemon Verbena
•    1 cup organic Chrysanthemum flowers
•    ½ cup organic Yerba Mate

measuring2

Gentle Face Wash Recipe

This gentle face wash recipe is so simple to make, and can be adjusted for different skin types.  Add extra Castille or Witch Hazel extract for oily skin.  Decrease the amount of Castille for dry and mature skin, plus add a small amount of vegetable glycerin or a carrier oil. Be sure to shake the face wash before using, as the ingredients will naturally separate.

•    2 parts organic Liquid Castille Soap
•    2 parts Hydrosol (Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Rose, or Rosemary are great options), or distilled water
•    1/2 part organic Witch Hazel Extract
•    Optional additions: herbal extracts, essential oils, organic vegetable glycerin, or a carrier oil

Small batch with Tablespoons:

•    2 TBSP organic Liquid Castille Soap
•    2 TBSP Hydrosol (Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Rose, or Rosemary are great options), or distilled water
•    1/2 TBSP organic Witch Hazel Extract
•   Optional additions: herbal extracts, essential oils, organic vegetable glycerin, or a carrier oil

Large batch using cups:

•    2 cups organic Liquid Castille Soap
•    2 cups Hydrosol (Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Rose, or Rosemary are great options), or distilled water
•    1 cup organic Witch Hazel Extract
•    Optional additions: herbal extracts, essential oils, organic vegetable glycerin, or a carrier oil

measuring1

Herb Infused Witch Hazel

Posted by Irene|13 May 2013

Hamamelis_virginiana

This recipe is such a convenient preparation which either can be used alone or incorporated into cosmetic and medicinal recipes.  And, it couldn’t be simpler to make!

Witch Hazel extract is produced from the leaves and bark of the North American shrub Witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana. It has astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, and anesthetic properties, making it an invaluable ingredient for many different medicinal and cosmetic preparations.

I especially love using herbal infused witch hazel as a facial toner, often incorporate it into facial wash recipes, and a small dab works great on blemishes.  Beneficial for all skin types from oily to dry and mature skin, Witch Hazel is often used as an aftershave, to cleanse oils from the skin, remove make-up, decrease bags under eyes and skin puffiness, reduce pore size, and to minimize varicose veins.  Medicinally, Witch Hazel extract is often applied as a compress or added to bath water to assist with minor injuries, skin irritations, insect bites, hemorrhoids, rashes from poison ivy or oak, localized inflammations, and other conditions.  Athletes sometimes rub Witch Hazel extract onto their arms or legs prior to workouts to help prevent muscle strain, or after a workout to help relieve soreness.

 

Easy Peasy Herb Infused Witch Hazel

What you’ll need:

•    Witch Hazel extract
It’s best to use a high quality organic Witch Hazel extract.  Commercial Witch Hazel extracts usually contain more alcohol than actual Witch Hazel, and have only been distilled once. However, true Witch Hazel extracts (like the one offered by Mountain Rose Herbs) has been double distilled, and contains 86% Witch Hazel extract and only 14% alcohol. This makes it more soothing than the versions found in stores, and it lacks the alcohol sting and scent.

•    Herb(s) of choice
Here some favorites, but feel free to be creative!  You can make infuse just one or can make a blend: Basil, Calendula, Chamomile, Elder flowers, Green Sencha Leaf tea, Lavender flowers, Lemon Balm, Lemon peel, Lemon Verbena, LemongrassNettle leaf, Orange Peel, Peppermint, Rose petals, Rosemary, Sage, Red Clover flowers, Vanilla beans.

Directions:

1.    Place the dried herbs in a glass mason jar, and cover completely with the Witch Hazel extract. Make sure that the Witch Hazel extract covers the herbs by at least 1-2” to account for swelling once that the herbs become hydrated.   If the herbs swell and rise above the Witch Hazel extract, simply add more Witch Hazel extract until they are fully submerged.

2.    Cap tightly and place in a cool, dark place like a cabinet or closet.

3.    Allow to infuse for at least 2 weeks, shaking the jar daily or as often as you remember.  You will notice that the Witch Hazel will quickly take on the scent and color of the herbs.

4.    Once finished, strain the herbs out using cheesecloth or a fine cloth.  Pour into a clean bottle, label, and enjoy!

lavendersprig2

Precautions:
The FDA has approved Witch Hazel distillate as safe for external use in skin care products. Avoid using Witch Hazel extract close to the mucus membranes or in the eyes, as it contains a small amount of alcohol. It is best to use on this product on unbroken skin.  External use of Witch Hazel extract could result in minor skin irritation for some people.  Do not use on serious burns, cuts, or other wounds.

Dandelion Fritters

Posted by Irene|29 April 2013

Dandelion Fritters Recipe

Dandelion Flower Fritters

Spring is such a magical time!  Plants which lay dormant throughout the winter become alive again with fresh and vigorous energy, actively emerging up through the earth, pushing out fresh new shoots, proudly displaying vibrant tender tips, and bursting into colorful blossoms.

Dandelion flowers are one of my favorite springtime herbals.  Not only are fritters a perfect way to use Dandelions before they burst into seed, but their mild and slightly bitter flavor is dangerously addictive!

Ingredients
-  Dandelion flower tops (Taraxacum officinale)
-  1 organic and free-range egg
-  1 cup organic milk
-  1 cup organic flour (Brown Rice flour can be used for a gluten-free alternative)
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

How to:

  1. Gather Dandelion tops during the day, when the sunshine has opened up the bright and cheerful flowers.
  2. Rinse in cool water to remove any critters or debris, and allow to dry while preparing the batter.
  3. To make the batter, combine egg, milk, and flour in a bowl and mix until all lumps are gone.  If you prefer sweeter fritters, add a little maple syrup, honey, Cinnamon, or a dash of Vanilla extract.  To make more savory fritters, try adding Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Chives, Sage, Thyme, Tarragon, ground Peppercorns, salt, or even a little parmesan cheese.
  4. Prepare a skillet on the stove with olive oil over medium heat.
  5. Take one of the flowers, hold it by the greens at the base, dip into the batter, and twirl until the flower is covered in batter.
  6. Drop it into the skillet, flower side down.  Continue dipping and dropping until the skillet is full.  A second method is to remove the “petals” (each yellow petal of the dandelion is actually an individual flower with a single petal and reproductive parts), sprinkle them directly into the batter, then cook just like pancakes.
  7. When the fritters are lightly browned, flip them over, and brown on the other side. When finished, remove from the pan and plate.
  8. For a sweet treat, drizzle with maple syrup, honey, jam, plum sauce, or powdered sugar.  For a savory snack, dip into aioli or a sauce made with tahini, mustard, curry, hot chili peppers, or anything else you wish!

 Dandelion Illustration

Springtime Formulas

Posted by Irene|09 April 2013

Spring is the classic time for deep-cleaning your home, but it is also a perfect time to cleanse and nurture the body.  These herbals gently cleanse, nourish, and are perfect for providing energy and warmth after the cold, winter months and before the busy summer months begin.

 

Nourishing Infusion

nettleinfuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These nourishing herbs provide essential vitamins and minerals, are so nourishing, taste delicious, and give a nice caffeine-free energy boost.  Perfect as an afternoon “pick-me-up” or when the body feels run down or in need of nourishment.

Use one of the above herbs, or a combination.  Simply place a handful of dried herbs in a glass quart jar, pour boiling water over them, cap the jar, and then let the mixture sit overnight.  In the morning, strain the mixture, and then drink throughout the day.  Yum!

 

Rooty Bitters

 

Burdock

The bitter taste of these roots stimulates the flow of saliva and digestion.  Bitters are beneficial for poor and sluggish digestion, gas, bloating, and constipation, they help our bodies process nutrients, stimulate the metabolism, and increase appetite. Simply take a few drops before a meal to get the digestive juices going.

  • 1 part organic Burdock root
  • 1 part organic Dandelion root
  • ¼-1/2 part organic Ginger root (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 100 proof vodka or other alcohol of choice, or use a 50:50 mixture of Everclear to water

Place all herbs into a glass mason jar, cover with alcohol.  Make sure that the herbs are covered by at least 1-2” of alcohol.  Add more alcohol as needed if the herbs swell above the alcohol.  Place the jar in a dark area, and shake at least once per day (or as often as you remember).  After 4-8 weeks, strain through cheesecloth, reserving the liquid and composting the spent herbs.  Pour the bitters formula into glass bottles, and store in a dark, cool area. Review our Guide to Making Tinctures for more instructions specific to using dried or fresh roots in this recipe.

 

Cleansing Tea

 

 Ginger

 

A twist on the classic lemon juice and cayenne “master cleanse” drink, this beverage incorporates Ginger and Turmeric.  This spicy and healthful beverage is especially beneficial first thing in the morning to help cleanse and flush the body.

  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of organic Cayenne powder
  • pinch of fresh or dried powdered Ginger root
  • a pinch of dried powdered Turmeric root
  • Honey, maple syrup, or molasses (optional) to taste

Mix all ingredients into a cup of hot water, and enjoy!

springbutterfly

 

Happy Spring!

~ Irene

The Ancient Art of Mead: Making Spiced Cyser

Posted by Irene|05 November 2012

The Ancient Art of Mead: Making Spiced Cyser

I was first introduced to the magical ways of mead when Tobias Schock, a good friend and artisan of fermented delights, invited me to a brewing lesson. He showed me how to combine plums he had picked that very morning with raw local honey and yeast for what would slowly develop into a delicious alcoholic beverage.  I was enchanted!  Within weeks, happily fermenting concoctions were bubbling away in my kitchen: Peach and Ginger Mead made with luscious peaches purchased from a small local farm and raw local wildflower honey, Cyser from freshly pressed apple cider and raw local Maple blossom honey. Over the winter when fresh fruit was unavailable locally, I experimented with dried Bilberries, Elder flowers, Meadowsweet, and Vanilla beans.

It has now been several years since my first experiments in mead making, and I’ve since fermented many more batches of alcoholic delights with a variety of fresh and dried herbs including Nettle,  Hibiscus flowers, Mugwort, Lemon Verbena, Yarrow, Roses, Sweet Woodruff, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Spruce tips, Pineapple Sage, and I even made a mead infused with eleven different types of flowers. Mead does take patience; it often requires at least a full year to age properly and it only becomes better with time. However, this only makes sharing a bottle of perfectly aged homemade mead with friends even more extraordinary.

Affectionately called “Nectar of the Gods” or “Honey Wine”, brewing mead is not a new practice. There is archaeological evidence of mead being produced as early as 7000 BC and written records date from 1700 BC! Although it was called by different names, fermented honey beverages were enjoyed worldwide by native cultures throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, North, and the Americas.

Not only is mead delicious and simple to create, it is also fairly inexpensive. A 5 gallon batch will usually cost $40-60 utilizing raw honey and organic fruit all purchased through local farms and beekeepers. That’s around $2 or less per bottle! If you keep bees, then you can make a batch of mead for little more than the cost of the yeast.

Below is a recipe for mead made from apple cider and honey, it was based on Ken Shramm’s recipe for “Fall’s Bounty Cyser” which is available in his book, “The Compleat Meadmaker”. Before beginning, I recommend getting acquainted with your local homebrew store.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve popped into our local shop, Falling Sky Fermentation Supply Shop, for reassurance or to ask questions when a fermentation doesn’t go quite as expected.  I also suggest the book “The Compleat Meadmaker” by Ken Shramm, and of course, there is much information available online including some wonderfully helpful homebrewing forums.

The Ancient Art of Mead: Making Spiced Cyser

Spiced Apple Cyser

Cyser is the name given to mead made from cider and honey. The addition of spices makes this the perfect warming and comforting beverage to sip during the autumn and winter months. If you create this mead now, it will be perfectly aged to enjoy during next year’s holiday season! It can even be gently warmed to temperatures below 170 degrees and served with a Cinnamon stick or a couple of Cloves or Cardamom pods.

Ingredients:

- 8 lbs raw local honey (I used raw Maple flower honey from a local beekeeper)

- 4 gallons freshly pressed apple cider (best when pressed from a variety of apples)

- 1 package yeast (there are a variety of liquid and dry yeasts available, make sure to use one that can withstand the high alcohol content of mead)

- 1 lb organic brown sugar

- ½ lb organic dates, chopped

- 2 tsp yeast energizer

- 1 tsp yeast nutrient

- Water to 5 gallons (if needed)

- Organic spices (optional): 1 Cinnamon stick, 1 tsp whole Allspice, 1 tsp whole Cardamom pods, 3 whole Cloves, 5 whole Black Peppercorns, 1 whole Nutmeg. This will make a heavily spiced mead which will taste similar to mulled cider. You can change the blend or omit the spices altogether.

- Equipment: Thermometer, plastic food-grade bucket, 5 or 6 gallon glass carboy, fermentation lock and rubber stopper, siphon house and racking cane, and sanitizer.

1.  First, sanitize everything that will come in contact with your mead. You can use Star San, One Step Cleanser, or another sanitizer available from a homebrew shop.

2.  Mix the cider, honey, brown sugar, and dates in a food-grade bucket, making sure to blend them thoroughly. Add water if needed to reach a total volume of 5 gallons. Some recipes call for boiling the honey, but this causes the honey to lose its natural antimicrobial and antibacterial properties as well as some of the delicious flavor and aromatics. I prefer to leave the honey raw, but if you are concerned about sanitation, then heat the cider and honey mixture to a temperature of 150 degrees and hold it there for 10 minutes.

3.  Add yeast energizer, yeast nutrient, and yeast to the honey and cider blend according to the directions on the packages. Mix vigorously to add oxygen and aerate the must. Yeast needs plenty of oxygen in order to reproduce and create a healthy fermentation.

5.  For the primary fermentation, you can use the food-grade plastic bucket with a tight-fitting lid or a glass carboy. With either vessel, you will need to attach an airlock and rubber stopper. Check your yeast strain to see what temperatures are preferred, but most mead is best fermented in an area that is 60 to 75 degrees.  Now the magic will begin! Within 24-48 hours you should see activity coming from your airlock.

6.  The bubbles will be vigorous in the beginning, decreasing in activity over the next couple of weeks. Once they have subsided to one bubble every 60 seconds or longer and you notice that the yeast has settled into a layer at the bottom of the bucket, it is time to transfer your mead. It is useful to taste the beverage and take a hydrometer reading at this point to ensure that the fermentation is complete.  The mead should no longer taste sweet and the final gravity should be between 0.990 – 1.015.

7.  Gravity is needed for this next step, so place the fermenting bucket/carboy on a chair or stool and allow the yeast to settle to the bottom again (I usually let it sit overnight).  Using a siphon and racking cane, rack the liquid off of the yeast into a glass carboy with an airlock and rubber stopper. Store the filled carboy in a cool area such as a basement, which is the ideal place if you have one.

8.  You can add spices anytime during the fermentation process, but I like to wait until the mead has mellowed a bit so that I can taste the spices in the mead. First, place the spices in a muslin bag and boil in a little water to sanitize. Next, allow the spice filled bag and remaining liquid to cool completely.  Add the spiced liquid and suspend the bag of herbs in the mead. Spices can easily overwhelm other flavors in the mead, so taste your mead frequently after adding them. You can also add oak chips during the fermentation to infuse notes of vanilla, oak, and to help soften the mead’s overall flavor. Treat oak chips first by boiling in water and then allow them to sit for a few hours before adding.

9.  Once the signs of fermentation have subsided and the mead has cleared and is no longer cloudy, it is ready to bottle! You may have to transfer the mead a couple of times before this happens to eliminate sediment at the bottom. Use clean and sanitized wine or beer bottles and new corks or caps (bottles may be reused, but do not reuse closures). 5 gallons of mead will fill approximately twenty-five 750ml wine bottles or fifty-three 12oz beer bottles.

Don’t worry if your mead tastes hot and alcoholic, those harsh flavors will subside with aging.  Most important, remember to always sanitize anything that ever comes in contact with your mead to preserve and enjoy this special beverage.

Cheers!

No-Bake Herbal Cookie Nuggets

Posted by Irene|09 October 2012

No-Bake Herbal Cookie Recipe

I recently made these no-bake cookies for a camping and canoeing trip, and have been hooked ever since!  I really love how healthful, simple, and pure the ingredients are, and just how adaptable the recipe is.  You can completely customize it and add whichever nut butter, dried fruit, or other ingredients you have on hand.  These delicious nuggets are a perfect snack whether adventuring in the outdoors, gardening, bicycling around town, or working in the office.  They’ll satisfy your sweet cravings and children love them too.  I enjoy crumbling a few over organic yogurt with fresh fruit in the morning or atop sliced peaches with a light drizzle of organic maple syrup or herbal infused honey for dessert.

Ingredients:

Place all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir until completely mixed.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator and allow it to chill for approximately 30 minutes.  Once chilled, scoop the batter out and press into balls.  The size is up to you, mine were approximately an inch in diameter which made 16 cookies.  If the dough is too crumbly to stick together, simply add a little extra honey or nut butter.  If desired, the balls may be rolled in Coconut flakes or Cacao powder to coat them.  Keep your herbal cookie nuggets stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator where they’ll keep for approximately one week.

Other additions:   organic Maca powder, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Vanilla Bean powder, Lycii/Goji berries, Carob powder, Cacao powder, Astragalus root powder, Spirulina powder, Chlorella powder, Bee pollen, Red Alaea Salt, powdered Ginger root, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, cashews, or anything else you wish to add.

*Toasting Coconut:  Toasting coconut enhances the flavor, and I’ve also found that it makes these no-bake cookies less oily.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread Coconut flakes in a thin layer on a baking sheet, and toast for approximately 5-10 minutes.  Watch closely and stir frequently so the Coconut flakes are toasted evenly and do not burn.  Remove from the oven as soon as they are golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature and then incorporate into the recipe.

**Prepare whole Flax seeds by grinding in a coffee grinder, Vita-mix blender, or other grinder until coarsely powdered.

 

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  • ErinErin (328)
    Erin is the Marketing Manager at Mountain Rose and studied herbalism, botany, and ethical wildcrafting at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies. She spends her days making botanical illustrations, playing in the garden, creating culinary gems, and formulating medicine in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.
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    Irene Wolansky is the Customer Experience Director at Mountain Rose Herbs. Born and raised on the Oregon coast, her interests include crafting body care products and herbal medicine, harvesting mushrooms, gardening, brewing herbal mead, fermentation, and exploring wild areas.
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