Mint – A Healing Ally in Your Garden

The mints (Mentha spp.)are looking good in the little herb bed outside the kitchen window. I grow them in pots, since they are very invasive. Some have escaped, and I have to work hard to keep them under control.

I grow several varieties. A monk writing during the ninth century said there were so many kinds of mint that he would rather count the sparks of Vulcan’s furnace. [1] It is generally accepted that there are about six species of mint with more than six hundred varieties available which continue to hybridise.  They include water mint (Mentha aquatica), field mint (Mentha arvensis), English horsemint (Mentha longifolia), peppermint (Mentha piperita), and spearmint (Mentha spicata syn. M. viridis or M. sativa).

It has many uses in the kitchen, fresh in salsas, dressings, pesto and potato salads or add it to light summer soups such as pea or asparagus, and try sprinkling it over strawberries or peaches, add it to fruit drinks, Moroccan-style sweet tea, cocktails such as mojitos and juleps, rub the leaves around cocktail glasses before putting in the drinks, or just pop a sprig in fresh lemonade. Mint leaves can be frozen, dried or infused in oil or vinegar.

Of the hundreds of varieties and cultivars of the mints, peppermint (M. piperita) is the most used medicinally. It is a cross between water mint and spearmint.  The German Commission E (equivalent of the FDA) approves the use of fresh or dried peppermint leaf to treat spastic disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, and considers it effective in relieving gas in the digestive system. It has been used for hundreds of years for digestive problems, indigestion, bloating, wind and nausea. Peppermint Tea is a common home remedy:

1 tsp. dried mint leaf (or 1 tbsp. of fresh)

250 ml boiling water. Steep together, covered, for 10 minutes.

You can add any variety of mint a bowl of boiling water and inhale the steam to relieve congestion and stuffy nose. It contains menthol, a natural aromatic decongestant that helps to break up phlegm and mucus, making it easier to expel. Mint Tea also cools and soothes the throat, nose and other parts of the respiratory system and helps alleviate congestion brought on by coughs and colds.

Mint Tea also provides quick relief for nausea and may relieve headaches and migraines.You could try simply crushing some fresh mint leaves and rubbing them on your forehead when you feel a headache coming on.

 The Latin word mente means ‘thought’ as it was believed that mint stimulated the brain. Pliny advised scholars to wear a crown made from the plant to aid concentration. Gerard said of it: “The smell of Mint does stir up the minde,” [2] and Culpepper commented “Being smelled into, it is comfortable for the head and memory”. [3]  Peppermint Tea is particularly good for calming the nerves, insomnia and anxiety. A mild infusion acts as a sedative whilst a stronger infusion acts as a stimulant and a tonic.

Menthol, the compound in mint leaves that gives them their distinct aroma, also has painkilling and anaesthetic properties. For insect bites, irritated skin, rashes etc. bathe the affected area in mint tea to cool and soothe. Fresh leaves rubbed on the affected area will reduce the pain of bee and wasp stings.

Mint is a natural anti-microbial agent and breath freshener. Peppermint Tea has a painkilling effect, as a mouthwash can help sore gums and toothache or be used as a gargle for sore throats.

Make a mint infusion by steeping several stalks of fresh mint in boiling water for 15 -20 minutes. Pour this into the bath for a refreshing, relaxing soak, or put it in a footbath for tired feet that will leave them soft and deodorised.

Use a mint infusion rinse to reduce frizz and increase shine in your hair.

CAUTIONS:

Avoid large doses of peppermint if breastfeeding as it can reduce the milk flow.

It should be avoided by those with gallstones, those who have a hiatal hernia or heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Peppermint should not be given to children under five. Do not take the essential oil internally. Pennyroyal should not be taken internally.

© Anna Franklin 2020

 

REFERENCES

[1] Strabo. ed. H. L. Jones, The Geography of Strabo. Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd, Cambridge, Mass, 1924

[2] Gerard’s Herbal, Senate, London, 1994

[3] Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd, n/d

Environmentally Friendly Cleaning…

Look in the cupboard under your kitchen sink. I bet it is full of the many and varied cleaning products you use to fight dirt, kill germs and mask odours to keep your home sparkling clean and protect your family.  The big trouble is, those products are full of hazardous chemicals. Look at the labels – do they say ‘hazardous to humans and domestic animals’, ‘danger’, ‘warning’, ‘poison’,  ‘vapours harmful’ or ‘may cause burns on contact’? They might take away dirt and kill bacteria, but they leave behind health-damaging substances.

The average household contains about 62 toxic chemicals that are likely to be inhaled as they linger in the air, ingested via the residues on dishes and absorbed by the skin (which, unlike the digestive system, has no safeguards against toxins).  Various ingredients can asthma, headaches, chronic fatigue, stuffy noses, coughing, itchy eyes, and other mysterious health conditions that your GP might be at a loss to explain. We can tolerate these chemicals in low doses with occasional exposure but when we are in contact with them in our soaps, detergents, air fresheners, ‘antibacterials’ and cleaning products day after day, week after week, over the course of a lifetime, they can gradually build up in the tissues of our bodies, and many now believe some are linked to heart and lung problems, hormone disruption, liver and kidney damage, low sperm count and various cancers. There is often no legal requirement for damaging chemicals to be listed on a product label. One-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic, but they are just listed on the label as ‘fragrance’.

Many commercial brands of furniture polish contain nerve-damaging petroleum distillates, and some formulations may contain formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen. Aerosol spray furniture polishes are easily inhaled into lung tissue. Corrosive ingredients in toilet bowl cleaners are severe eye, skin and respiratory irritants. Some toilet bowl cleaners contain sulphates, which may trigger asthma attacks. Bathroom cleaners containing sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite (bleach), or phosphoric acid can irritate lungs and burn eyes, skin and, if ingested, internal organs. Mixing acid-containing toilet bowl cleaners with cleaners that contain chlorine will form lung-damaging chlorine gas. Some window cleaners contain nerve-damaging butyl cellosolve. Many contain ammonia, which may irritate airways and will release toxic chloramine gases if accidentally mixed with chlorine-containing cleaners. Even then, many of them are barely more effective than plain water.

When we wash our cleaning products down the drain, they are treated along with sewage and waste water, and then discharged into nearby waterways. Some break down into harmless substances but others do not, threatening water quality or fish and other wildlife.

The plastic bottles used to package cleaning products pose another environmental problem by contributing to the mounds of solid waste that must be landfilled, incinerated or, in not enough cases, recycled.

Be wary of ecological claims on commercial products. ‘Natural’ or ‘biodegradable’ doesn’t actually mean anything (most substances will eventually break down if given enough time and the right ecological conditions).

Any self-respecting (and Earth respecting) Pagan avoids actions that harm the environment. When you shop consider the following in relationship to any purchase:

  • Does it endanger your health or the health of others?
  • Does it damage the environment during its manufacture, use or disposal?
  • Does it have wasteful or non-recyclable packaging?
  • Does it use materials from threatened environments or species?
  • Does it involve animals testing?

NATURAL ALTERNATIVES

The good news is that proprietary chemicals are not necessary to keep your home spotlessly clean. These are some of the things I use to make my own more environmentally (and people and pet) friendly products:

Castile Soap is pure vegetable soap made from olive oil. It can be purchased in liquid form, in flakes, powders or bars. It is biodegradable and may be used to wash dishes, in the laundry, or even to make your own shampoo and shower gels.

Baking Soda aka Bicarbonate of Soda cleans, deodorises, softens water and scours. It is a nontoxic cleaner which is safe on most surfaces and fabrics. It has numerous household uses, but it should be used fresh – replace old boxes frequently. Baking soda will clean many surfaces without scratching: mix to a paste with water and use to scrub grills, hobs, fridges, deep fat fryers, irons, plastic buckets, bowls and sinks, barbecues, stained tea and coffee cups etc.

Borax (sodium borate) is a naturally occurring mineral which is antibacterial, deodorising, inhibits the growth of mould and mildew, removes grease, is disinfectant, and can be used as a laundry booster. It is not harmful to the environment but it should not be ingested, and it is best to wear rubber gloves when using and avoid inhaling the fumes.

Washing Soda (sodium carbonate or soda ash) is made from common salt and limestone or found as natural mineral deposits. It contains no phosphates, enzymes or bleaches. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water (use as a pre-soak for laundry), cleans wall, tiles, sinks and bath tubs. A strong solution will clear a blocked drain. Unlike baking soda, the slightly stronger washing soda can’t be ingested; wear rubber gloves when handling it. Do not use on aluminium.

Lemon is one of the strongest food-acids, and effective against most household bacteria. The acid in lemon juice removes dirt and rust stains. It can be used to sanitise cooking surfaces and chopping boards, breaks down limescale and can be used as a mild bleach in the laundry.

White Vinegar cuts through grease, removes mildew, odours, some stains and wax build-up. It inhibits the growth of mould, mildew and some bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella. In a 5% solution it can kill 99 % of bacteria, 82 % of mould, and 80 % of viruses. It is also completely safe, unlike commercial antibacterial sprays which are toxic in large does. Make a stronger solution to clean limescale from taps and appliances or to clean windows effectively without smearing. Use in the kitchen and bathroom to eliminate mould and as a natural fabric softener which removes soap residue in the rinse cycle and helps to prevent static cling in the dryer. (Don’t be tempted to use the brown malt vinegar, which will stain and also smells much stronger.)

Corn Starch aka Cornflour can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, or shampoo carpets and rugs.

Olive Oil dislodges dirt, diminishes scratches and imperfections, and nourishes wood, as well as shining stainless steel.

Salt makes a good scouring agent, especially when combined with borax.  Combine with baking soda and white vinegar to unblock drains. Table salt, sea salt, and coarse salt can all be used, but cooking salt is the cheapest option.

Essential Oils such as tea tree oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, or lemongrass oil are antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic. Natural oils made from fruit, flowers and barks are a much better scenting option than the nasty chemicals that comprise synthetic petroleum based fragrances in most commercial products. NB. Do not ingest and do not apply undiluted to the skin.

© Anna Franklin

 

 

Fennel – a Sacred Garden Herb

 My fennel (Foeniculum vulgare syn. Anethum foeniculum) plants are starting to come into seed. I love this delicate, feathery aromatic plant, and find so many uses for it. It really is a gift of the Gods.

The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all ate fennel’s seeds, aromatic leaves and tender shoots. [1] Young shoots were cooked as vegetables, the raw stalks were chopped into salads, and seeds were placed under loaves of bread as they were baked to add flavour.[2] The seeds, bulb and leaves are all used in cooking. The flowers and feathery leaves can be sprinkled into salads, soups and sauces.  The stems, which resemble celery, have a pleasant anise-like flavour. They can be diced into soups and salads, or used for savouring stews and stir-fry vegetables, or eaten like celery sticks.  Fennel seeds are used to flavour bread, cakes, pastries, soups, stews and sweet pickles, apple pie, and tomato-based sauces. The fennel ‘root’ you can buy is Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce).  The edible white bulb is actually stacked leaves, and not a root at all.

And then fennel is great for the skin! It has skin-softening and anti-aging properties. Use a fennel seed tea (see below) as a wash to cleanse and tone the skin, remove grime, excess grease and dead skin cells. It will firm the skin, tighten pores and reduce wrinkles. If you wake up with swollen and sore eyes, prepare a cup of fennel tea, soak a cotton ball in it and place it over your closed eyelids for 10 minutes. Use fennel seed tea as a final hair rinse to cleanse chemical residues, revitalise hair, strengthen hair follicles, and to treat dandruff and scalp problems. Rub cellulite patches with a paste of ground fennel seeds and water or use the paste as an exfoliant. If you have acne, add some crushed fennel seeds to a bowl of boiling water, and give your face a cleansing steam, by leaning over the bowl with a towel over your head to keep the steam in.

Fennel has been used in healing since ancient times. In the third century BCE the Greek Hippocrates used it as a stomach soother for infant colic, Dioscorides recommended it to nursing mothers, and the Roman naturalist Pliny included the plant in 22 remedies. [3] The Physicians of Myddfai declared “He who sees fennel and gathers it not, is not a man, but a devil”,’[4] while the mediaeval abbess and herbalist Hidegard of Bingen wrote: ‘Fennel forces (a person) back into the right balance of joyfulness and that its benefits included good digestion and a good body odour. Is it any wonder that Charlemagne mandated its growth in every garden? [5]

Fennel is considered an antispasmodic herb, meaning that it relaxes the smooth muscle lining the digestive tract, so it is used for gas pains, indigestion and IBS.  Many Indian restaurants have a bowl of fennel seeds provided as an aid to digestion. [6] Fennel contains a compound called fenchone, which helps relax the smooth muscle lining the digestive tract. Chew a few fennel seeds or drink Fennel Seed Tea twenty or thirty minutes before a meal to prevent cramping and dispel wind in the gut.

Fennel Seed Tea

1 tsp seed, slightly crushed

1 cup boiling water

Infuse 10 minutes in a covered container (a teapot is good), strain and drink.

It also has anti-acidic properties and is extensively used in commercial antacid preparations. A cup of Fennel Seed Tea can help ease heartburn. Commission E (the German equivalent of the FDA) endorses fennel for treating digestive upsets. [7]

Fennel is also used for treating cough and catarrh as Fennel Seed Tea is a mild expectorant, containing the phytochemicals cineole and anethole, effective in treating inflammation of the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract, helping remove mucus and phlegm from the lungs.

Fennel is a diuretic, increasing urination. Its reputation as a weight loss herb may simply relate to its diuretic action, though fennel seeds have the reputation of supressing appetite. The ancient Greeks called fennel maraino which means ‘to grow thin’, believing it contributed to weight loss, while Roman ladies took fennel to prevent obesity. [8] Culpeper also wrote “…all parts of the fennel plant used in drink or broth to make people lean that are too fat”. They were believed to stave off hunger and were used by those fasting on Christian feast days, and widely employed in old and modern slimming formulas. [9]. Fennel seeds are used to be used by people fasting to combat hunger, so Fennel Seed Tea may be useful if you are dieting.

Last but not least, a cup of Fennel Seed Tea may relieve a hangover!

Fennel is one of our most widely used sacred garden herbs. According to Greek mythology, [10] the earliest humans lived naked, cold and hungry, without hope or inspiration. The Titan Prometheus (‘Foresight’) felt pity for them, and implored the Olympian gods to help but they refused, saying that they didn’t want humans to become more like gods.  Deciding to act alone, Prometheus stole fire from the hearth of the gods and, concealing it in a fennel stalk, took it down to the earth.  He taught humans how to warm their homes and how to use fire to cook. Bleakness and darkness were now illuminated by light and hope. People learned how to grow food, domesticate animals, craft metal, create art and writing, to pursue philosophy, mathematics and astronomy. One spark of celestial fire concealed in a fennel stalk made all the difference.

Everything is illuminated and vitalised from within a divine spark from the gods; it animates all life. Inspiration sent by the Gods is called the ‘fire in the head’, where thought and spirit meet to create something new. Sometimes we feel that the fire within has gone out, and this is when you can utilise the magic of fennel. The abbess Hildegard of Bingen said “However fennel is eaten, it makes men merry, and gives them a pleasant warmth…”  If you are feeling stuck, low and uninspired, fennel can be employed in spells, rituals and spiritual work to ignite the fire within. Use in the form of Fennel Tea, in spells, rituals, incenses, charm bags, sachets and talismans. One spark is all that is needed to change a life or indeed, the world.

Fennel is a protective herb, used to dispel negative influences. It is one of the sacred herbs mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Nine Herbs Charm recorded in the 10th-century CE [11] to treat the ‘flying venom’ thought to cause disease, or those who had been ‘elf shot’ i.e. bewitched with illness after being shot by fairy arrows. The nine herbs (fennel, mugwort, cockspur grass [or perhaps betony], lamb’s cress, plantain, mayweed, nettle, crab-apple and thyme), were used as a herbal salve and a recited charm, the Lacnunga, or Lay of the Nine Herbs.  During the Middle Ages fennel was hung over the door on the dangerous Midsummer’s Eve to keep away evil spirits. The seeds were also pushed into keyholes in the belief that this would prevent ghosts from entering. For protection and purification, fennel can be used in incenses, add fennel seeds to charms, amulets, talismans, add Fennel Seed Tea or Fennel Leaf Tea to the ritual bath or use in a wash to cleanse ritual space and magical tools. Use Fennel Seed Tea to magically seal doorways and windows to prevent evil from entering.

CAUTIONS:

Fennel is considered safe for most people, but do not use on children and avoid if you have bleeding disorders, hormone sensitive cancers or are taking Tamoxifen, have endometriosis or uterine fibroids.  Fennel may slightly decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. Pregnant women should not take fennel as a medicinal herb internally as it is a uterine stimulant, though small amounts used in cooking are considered safe.

© Anna Franklin, July 2020

[1] Jeanne D’Andréa, Ancient Herbs In the J. Paul Getty Museum Gardens, ©1982 The J. Paul Getty Museum

[2] Ibid.

[3] Michael Castleman, The New Healing Herbs, Rodale Inc., New York, 2001

[4] John Pughe (trans.), The Physicians of Myddfai, The Welsh Mss. Society, facsimile reprint Llanerch Publishers, Felinach, 1993

[5] https://jonbarron.org/herbal-library/foods/fennel accessed 13.9.17

[6] Michael Castleman, The New Healing Herbs, Rodale Inc., New York, 2001

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] Julie Brunton-Seal & Matthew Seal, Kitchen Medicine, Merlin Unwin Books Ltd, London, 2010

[10] Hesiod

[11] Pettit, Edward. 2001. Anglo-Saxon Remedies, Charms, and Prayers from British Library MS Harley 585: The ‘Lacnunga’, 2 vols. (Lewiston and Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press).

The Linden Month

The humming of the insects is the music of the meadows and woodlands, the drowsy bee buzzing among the clover flowers, and the grasshoppers and crickets chirping in the lawn. Most birds are silent now and many are preparing for migration at the end of the month.

The perfume of the linden tree and the elder flowers drench the air, the lavender is flowering, and in the hedgerows purple foxgloves stand proud. It is a time of little harvests in the garden. My fruit bushes have to be covered with netting to protect the crops from birds. Shining purple blackcurrants, golden gooseberries and ruby raspberries, swelling peas, beans and salads stand ready to be picked. I spend my mornings hoeing, watering and weeding.

There is plenty for me to do in the still room, where I make my herb simples, with garden and foraged plants – meadowsweet (often the ‘herbal aspirin’) tea for arthritis and salve for pain, mullein tea for coughs and mullein oil for earache, raspberry vinegar for sore throats, vervain tincture for anxiety and stress, wood betony tea for headaches and ointment for bruises, wild red poppies for insomnia, plantain for insects bites and self-heal for cuts and grazes.  Linden is one of my favourite herbs collected this month, used for stress and anxiety; it usually starts flowering around the solstice, and it is in full bloom now:

Linden (Tilia spp.) Tea

2 tsp. fresh new flowers

1 cup boiling water

Put the flowers into a teapot and pour on the boiling water. Infuse for 5 minutes and strain. This is good to drink when you are stressed and need to wind down.

NB: Do not use over a period of more than four weeks. Do not take if you are on Lithium.

© Anna Franklin 2020

30 JUNE – ROSE DAY

June is the month of roses, when they are at their most abundant.  The garden is full of roses this week. They flop over the fences and scramble up the trellis, their soft, sensual blooms filling the air with a voluptuous perfume. It is easy to understand why they are sacred to so many gods and goddesses of love – Isis, Aphrodite, Venus, Eros, Cupid, Inanna and Ishtar to name just a few. I bless the plants and gather armfuls of flowers.

I take them into the house and lay them on the kitchen table and begin to separate the red flowers from the white. I’m reminded that in one Greek tale, when the goddess Aphrodite first arose from the ocean and stepped onto the shore, the sparkling sea foam fell from her body in the form of pale white roses and took root, but later, as she pursued the beautiful youth Adonis, she caught herself on a thorn and her blood dyed the roses crimson red, symbolising innocence turned to desire and maidenhood turned to womanhood. [1] For magical purposes, while my white roses stand for purity, perfection, innocence, virginity and the moon, the red roses represents earthly passion and fertility. Wound together, they signify the union of opposites, symbolism we use at Beltane to celebrate the sacred marriage of the God and Goddess, an act which reconciles male and female, summer and winter, life and death, flesh and spirit, and brings about all creation, driven by the most fundamental and powerful force in the universe – love.

Like other flowers with rayed petals, they are an emblem of the sun. Like the sun, which dies each night and is reborn each day at sunrise, the rose is an emblem of renewal, resurrection and eternal life, which is why the Celts, Egyptians and Romans used them as funeral offerings. [2] [3] [4] I set aside some to make offerings for dead friends later.

I’m still left with an abundance of blossoms. I take down two clean glass jars from my cupboard and pack both of them with the scented petals I carefully pull from the stems. One jar I top up with white vinegar and set it on the sunny kitchen windowsill. I will leave it there for two weeks before straining the liquid into a clean jar. My resulting rose vinegar can be used as a delicate salad dressing, as an antiseptic wash for wiping down my kitchen surfaces, or dabbed onto my forehead to relieve headaches.  The second jar of rose petals I fill up with one part distilled water to three parts vodka.  I label it and put it in a cool, dark place in my pantry where it will stay for three weeks. When it is ready, I will strain the liquid into a clean jar, and lo and behold, I have made my own rose hydrosol.  I use it just as it is as a skin toner, but I could chill it to make a compress for puffy eyes, or use it as a final conditioning rinse for my hair. Next month I will incorporate some into skin lotions and creams.

The gorgeous fresh petals I have left could be baked into cakes and cookies, made into a delicate jam or a wine for next year’s Midsummer solstice, or crystallised for cake decorations.  Tonight I will drop some petals into my bath to make a relaxing soak after a hard day in the garden, and before I go to bed I will put a handful into the teapot and infuse them in boiling water to make a subtle, fragrant tea, which is mildly sedative and good for tension headaches.

I spread out more petals on a tray and put them to dry in the airing cupboard. These dried petals are not only good for rose tea later in the year and the usual potpourri, but can be employed in magical talismans, charm bags and incense –  red for love, yellow for Midsummer, renewal and the sun, and white for moon rituals. So many virtues in just one plant, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what the rose has to offer. Each day, Mother Nature has a different gift for me.

I decorate my altar with roses today, to honour the Goddess.

© Anna Franklin

[1] Jennifer Peace Rhind, Fragrance & Wellbeing: Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche, Singing Dragon, London, 2013

[2] Miranda Green, Gods of the Celts, Sutton Publishing Ltd, Stroud, 1986

[3] Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, The Ultimate Guide to Roses, Macmillan, London, 2004

[4] Laurie Brink and Deborah Green, Commemorating the Dead: Texts and Artifacts in Context. Studies of Roman, Jewish and Christian Burials, de Gruyter, Berlin, 2008

 

Basil for Beautiful Skin and Hair

I’ve got a glut of basil at the moment, as all my seeds came up. I’ve written elsewhere on this page about its healing and culinary properties, but it is also amazing when used in skin and hair care. Not only does it contain antioxidants which help protect it from the oxidative stress and free radical damage that lead to fine lines and wrinkles, it also helps tighten the skin, improve its tone and boosts the growth of new skin cells.

Simple Basil Face Wash

To get the benefits of basil, you can simply use a basil infusion (pour boiling water on a few basil leaves). Massage into your skin and rinse off. You can use this once a day.  Keep the infusion in the fridge for up to 3 days, and use as required.

Basil Skin Exfoliator

2 tsp ground almonds or bran meal

1 tsp dried basil leaves

½ tsp cider vinegar

Mix all the ingredients together. Wet your fingers in water and rub the mixture over your face for a minute or two. Rinse off well and follow with a moisturiser. This will cleanse and refine your skin, leaving it glowing.

Simple Basil Face Pack

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Using a blender or a pestle and mortar, blitz the basil leaves into a paste and apply directly to your face and neck. Leave for 15-20 minutes and wash off with lukewarm water. Finish with a spritz of cold water to close the pores. Follow with a moisturiser.

Basil & Egg-white Face Mask

8 basil leaves

White of 1 egg, whisked

1 tsp honey

Pulp the basil leaves finely in a blender or pestle and mortar. Add the juice to the whisked egg white and apply to the skin of the face. Leave on for 20-30 minutes, then wash off with lukewarm water. Finish with a splash of cold water to close the pores, and apply your moisturiser. Basil and honey have antiseptic properties which help clear up the infections which cause blemishes, while the egg white helps to tighten the skin and reduce enlarged pores.

TIP: Try adding 1 tsp of ground turmeric powder for an extra anti-inflammatory effect. This will also help remove blackheads.

 Basil and Clay Mask

Equal parts:

Finely powdered dried basil leaves

Powdered green clay (cosmetic grade)

Use a tiny amount of water to mix the combined green clay and basil into a paste. Apply to the skin of your face and allow to dry. Leave it on for 15 minutes and wash off with plenty of lukewarm water. Finish off with a splash of cold water to seal the pores and apply your moisturiser. This will leave your skin bright, radiant and deeply cleansed. You can use this once a week.

TIP: You can combine the dried basil leaves and powdered clay and keep in a tightly closed tin, and then mix up as much as you need whenever you like. If you have dry or mature skin, you can substitute rose clay or use pulped fresh leaves in the mask instead.

Basil Skin Toner

200 ml rose water

1 cm lemon zest (no white pith)

25 basil leaves

110 ml witch hazel

3 ml benzoin tincture

Put the basil, rose water and lemon in a pan and warm gently for 10 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 3-4 hours. Sieve through fine muslin into a jug or bowl and stir in the witch hazel and benzoin tincture (a preservative). Pour into a glass bottle, stopper, and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Use morning and evening by dabbing it on your face and neck with a cotton wool pad. Follow with a moisturiser. This will help deep clean your skin, tighten it, bust blemishes, and protect it from environmental stresses. Basil is a powerful cleanser and this is perfect for those with oily skin and clogged pores.

Basil and Orange Blemish Gel

Handful basil leaves

1 tsp orange zest (no white pith)

20 ml water

1 sachet vegetable gelatine

70 ml distilled witch hazel

Put the basil and orange zest in a blender, and process until smooth. Strain to extract the juice. Put the witch hazel in a pan, heat and whisk in the gelatine until it begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and whisk in the basil juice. Put into a clean glass jar and fit the lid. Apply some to blemishes two or three times a day. This will keep in the fridge for about six weeks.

Basil Leaf Blackhead Treatment

Pound up a couple of basil leaves in the pestle and mortar, and apply directly to the affected area. Leave for 5 minutes and rinse off. Regular treatment will help remove blackheads.

Basil and Cucumber Eye Gel for Puffy Eyes

Handful basil leaves

1 cucumber

1 sachet vegetable gelatine

50 ml distilled witch hazel

Put the cucumber and basil in a blender, and process until smooth. Strain to extract the juice. Measure out 100 ml of the juice. Put the witch hazel in a pan and whisk in the gelatine until it begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and whisk in 100 ml of the basil and cucumber juice (if there is any left, you can drink it or apply it as a face mask). Put into a clean glass jar and fit the lid. Apply some to puffy and tired areas beneath the eyes each night before bed. This will keep in the fridge for about six weeks.

TIP: You can try wet basil leaves under your eyes to calm the look of puffy eyes and reduce the appearance of dark circles.

Basil Tooth Powder

3 tbsp. bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1 tbsp. fine salt

2 pinches finely ground dried basil

3 drops peppermint oil (optional)

Combine the ingredients well and store in a wide necked jar, tightly stoppered. To use, simply wet your toothbrush and dip in the powder, and use it to clean your teeth as usual. Basil helps to prevent gum disease and freshen the breath.

TIP: You can chew a few basil leaves to freshen the breath.

HAIR CARE

Basil has amazing benefits in hair care too. It stimulates hair follicles, increases blood circulation in the scalp and promotes hair growth, as well as adding shine to dull hair. The magnesium in basil helps protect hair from breakage, the antioxidant properties protect the hair from environmental damage, and its antiseptic and antifungal properties treat dandruff and an itchy scalp.

 Basil Scalp Treatment

Basil can help to treat dandruff or soothe an itchy scalp as it has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. You can warm up a little infused basil oil and massage it into the scalp, wrap your hair in a towel, and leave for at least a couple of hours, or even overnight.  Wash off with a mild shampoo.

TIP: Alternatively, grind up some fresh basil leaves in a pestle and mortar until it becomes a paste, add a tablespoon of warmed sesame or coconut oil, warm it slightly and apply to the scalp and proceed as above.

Basil Shampoo

250 ml basil infusion

150 ml liquid castile soap

3 ml olive oil

8 drops basil essential oil (optional)

Combine the ingredients and bottle. Shake well before use. This will not later as much as a commercial shampoo, but it will cleanse and treat your hair with nourishing basil. This will keep in the fridge for 1 week.

TIP: Alternatively, you can add 15 drops of basil essential oil to your normal shampoo.

Basil Hot Oil Treatment

1 tbsp. Jojoba or olive oil

1 tsp. infused basil oil

Combine the basil oil and olive/jojoba oil. To use, warm the oil slightly as this will help it penetrate the hair shaft. Massage into the scalp and through the hair. Cover your hair with a shower cap and wrap in a towel to retain the heat for as long as possible. Leave the oil on for at least 30 minutes, though you can leave it on for several hours.  Wash out the oil with a mild shampoo. If your hair is frizzy or dull, oil treatments are a wonderful way to deep condition it, leaving it smooth and glossy. This one is helped by the natural properties of basil, and will also help treat dandruff and scalp conditions.

TIP: You can add 10 drops of basil essential oil to 30 ml of olive or jojoba oil and use this instead.

Basil Hair Rinse

Handful fresh basil leaves

500 ml boiling water

Pour the water over the basil leaves and leave to infuse for 2 hours. Strain and retain the liquid. You can use this as a hair rinse. To use, after you have washed your hair, gently pour the rinse over your head, massaging it into your hair and scalp. Do this over a bowl so you can keep scoping up the infusion and pouring it back over. Repeat several times, and rinse out with warm water.  This will condition and soften the hair, adding shine and body, as well as treating scalp conditions.

Basil and Cider Vinegar Rinse

Pack fresh slightly crushed fresh basil leave into a glass jar and top up with cider vinegar. Fit the lid and leave to infuse for a month, shaking the jar daily. Strain out the herbs and transfer your basil and cider vinegar to a clean glass bottle. This will keep at least a year in a cool, dark place.

To use, massage a little basil and cider vinegar into your scalp and damp hair. Rinse out with warm water, or dilute the basil vinegar in water and pour over your hair (do it over the sink, and keep scooping it out and pouring it back over) before rinsing well with warm water. This vinegar rinse helps to remove all soap traces, restore the hair’s pH balance and leave it glossy. It is especially good for oily hair, dull hair, and those with dandruff or an itchy scalp.

TIP: This can also be used as an antiseptic facial toner, diluted well with distilled water. You can even add a teaspoon or two of it to hot water and drink it as internal cleaner and anti-inflammatory!

 © Anna Franklin, 2020

My Old Fashioned Herbs – Sweet Woodruff  (Galium oderatum syn. Asperula oderata)

This little British native ground-cover herb has rapidly spread itself around my peonies and lilac tree, with its tiny white flowers and starry whorls of leaves.  It is called sweet woodruff, and though the fresh leaves don’t have a scent, the dried leaves smell of new mown hay. This is probably why they were associated with St Barnabas, whose feast day on 11 June was when when haysel (haymaking) traditionally began, and the saint is often pictured carrying a hay rake: Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright/ Light all day and light all night. 

The generic name comes from the Greek word gala meaning ‘milk’, because a special of this plant was once used for curdling milk, but the second part of its name,  odoratum, is Latin for ‘fragrant’. Its French name, musc de bois, translates as ‘wood musk’. Even today, extracts of sweet woodruff are used in perfumes. The lovely scent of the dried plant was also responsible for many of its uses in the past – as a strewing herb, scattered among linen (where it also deters insects and moths), hung in garlands and used as potpourri, as well as for stuffing mattresses and pillows; legend even had it that the Virgin Mary made her bed from it. The sweet scent comes from the essential oil coumarin, contained in the leaves. Do try hanging it in your wardrobe, or putting sachets of the dried herb in your linen closet to deter moths, and it makes a fragrant, soporific herb pillow. In potpourri it will sweetly scent any room. The dried leaves placed in enclosed bookcases or between the pages of books will prevent a musty odour developing in them. Woodruff is used in incenses because of its own pleasant, joyful smell and because of its ability to fix other scents.

During the Middle Ages it was commonly used in herbal medicine, applied to wounds and cuts, or taken internally for digestive complaints.  Herbalists today may use it for its tonic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects. A tea of the leaves and flowers is calming and sedative, and may help insomnia and nervous tension. The coumarin contained in the dried plant acts to prevent the clotting of blood, and the plant is grown commercially to make an anticoagulant drug. The plant is harvested just before or as it comes into flower and can be dried for later use.

The plant is edible, and in Germany it is used to flavour May Bowl (I gave the recipe for this in a previous post), but it can also be used to flavour punches, liqueurs, beers, brandy jam and ice cream, or infuse the leaves as a calming herbal tea. A fragrant and delicious tea is made from the green-dried leaves and flowers. Slightly wilted leaves are used, the tea has a fresh, grassy flavour. The sweet-scented flowers are eaten or used as a garnish.

A red dye is obtained from the root. Soft-tan and grey-green dyes are obtained from the stems and leaves.

It is said to be lucky to carry woodruff leaves, and will bring victory, reward and prosperity.

CAUTION: The plant is generally considered safe in food amounts. It is generally safe when used in medicinal amounts in the short term, but must not be taken longer term in or excessive amounts,  or it may cause headaches, dizziness, blackouts, and possibly liver damage. The FDA has banned it for use in herbal remedies to be taken internally but specifically clears it for use when properly prepared as an additive to wine. Avoid if you are taking medicine for circulatory problems or have bleeding disorders as sweet woodruff contains certain chemicals that might slow blood clotting, and might increase bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders. Also avoid for two weeks before surgery. Avoid if you are pregnant.

© Anna Franklin, 20.5.20

Chamomile, the Plant Physician

For several thousand years the chamomile plant has been used for its wonderful healing properties. The ancient Egyptians knew it and the Greek physician Dioscorides used it to treat headaches, liver and bladder problems. Around 900 BCE Asclepiades advised his patients to take some on a regular basis to stay healthy. He was so skilled a herbalist that he declared he would renounce his profession if he ever became ill. He eventually died at a ripe old age as the result of an accident. The Roman naturalist Pliny praised its properties and the famous seventeenth century English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper recommended the herb for kidney problems, fevers, digestive difficulties, and ‘to bring down women’s courses’. Country folk all over used it for a variety of purposes, growing it in cottage gardens and herb plots. The present day British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends it for the treatment of nausea, anorexia, painful periods and stomach upsets caused by stress.

There are several varieties of chamomile but only two are used medicinally. One is German [or Hungarian] chamomile [Matricaria recutica], and the other Roman chamomile [Chamaemelum nobile], with the double flowered version of the latter being called English chamomile. The plant grows wild all over Europe, but especially in the Mediterranean region. It was widely cultivated before the Second World War in Belgium, England, France and Saxony, with English flower heads at the time considered to be the best for making essential oil. British and German immigrants introduced the herb into North America and American herbalists were soon making use of the plant to treat wounds, fevers, menstrual cramps, and to prevent premature labour.

It is chiefly the flowers of the chamomile that are used medicinally. Chamomile is one of the best known types of herb tea and many varieties are available commercially, but if you wish to make your own just pour a cup of boiling water over two teaspoons of fresh or dried flowers. Infuse for ten minutes in a covered vessel to prevent the escape of steam [as the medicinal effect of the flowers is impaired by evaporation]. Strain and sweeten with a little honey if you like.

The properties of both types of chamomile are very similar and they are often used interchangeably, though Roman chamomile is said to have superior therapeutic virtues in the treatment of nausea, indigestion, vomiting and loss of appetite. German chamomile has exceptional anti-inflammatory and stress relieving properties, and is gentle and safe for relieving stomach acidity, bloating, wind, colic and irritable bowel syndrome. It is the type most commonly used in commercial chamomile tea and has an aromatic, slightly bitter taste with a scent vaguely reminiscent of apples. Chamomile tea is a harmless remedy for indigestion. It acts to relax the smooth muscle of the digestive tract and has a similar effect on the smooth muscle of the uterus.

Chamomile has long been used to treat women’s complaints as evidenced by the generic name ‘matricaria’ which is derived from the Latin matrix meaning ‘womb’. The Egyptians may have been the first to use the plant this way, but present-day German medical practitioners still advocate the use of chamomile tea for menstrual cramps. So high is the herb’s reputation in Germany it is called alles zutraut meaning ‘capable of anything’. It is worth trying a soothing cup of chamomile tea for painful cramps, but pregnant women should not drink very large quantities of chamomile tea as it is also used to bring on delayed periods.

Chamomile is a mild and gentle tranquilliser with no known side effects. When you are anxious or apprehensive sip a cup of chamomile tea to calm you down, or massage a little well diluted chamomile essential oil into your pulse points. Alternatively you could throw a handful of fresh or dried flowers into a warm bath, lay back and soak up the relaxing vibes. Culpeper declared that bathing any part of the body with a decoction of chamomile removes the weariness and pain from it. Chamomile tea was once considered a sure-fire folk remedy for nightmares, and while this may or may not be true the tea may certainly be utilized to ensure a good night’s sleep. Take a cup at bedtime if you are having difficulty sleeping. Make a sleep inducing bath vinegar by placing a handful of chamomile flowers and a few pieces of dried valerian root in a heat proof jar. Pour over a cup of boiling white vinegar and leave to infuse for two weeks, shaking gently several times a day [when you remember!]. Strain and bottle and pour a little into your bedtime bath. An alternative remedy for insomnia involves stuffing a small pillowcase with dried chamomile flowers [these can be combined with hop flowers if you like]. Sew the pillow closed and place it on top of your own pillow and breathe in the relaxing aroma to send you gently off to sleep.

To relieve inflamed arthritic joints try two cups of chamomile tea a day to reduce the inflammation, or massage in some soothing dilute chamomile oil. To make a warming poultice sew up some small cotton bags and stuff them with dried flowers. Secure the neck and boil up the bags in water. Allow them to cool a little and apply them to aching joints to heat and ease them.

A German scientific trial in the 1980s proved that chamomile is very effective in healing wounds. To treat small cuts and scrapes dip a cloth in some chamomile infusion [tea] and apply to the wound.

Chamomile also helps prevent infection by stimulating the white blood cells. Use an infusion as a mouthwash for inflammations of the mouth or as an eye bath for inflamed and sore eyes. Gargle with chamomile infusion for a sore throat. Some find that German chamomile helps relieve hay fever and asthma – using a large heat proof bowl place a handful of flowers in it and pour a pint of boiling water over them. Drape a towel over your head and bowl to prevent the steam escaping and inhale the steam.

The flowers are also used to make essential oil. The oil made from Roman chamomile is yellow, while the oil made from German chamomile is a much darker blue. Aromatherapists use both types externally to treat acne, rashes, dryness, broken veins, burns, arthritis, rheumatism, muscular pain, painful menstrual cramps, the menopause, irregular periods, headaches, migraine, stress, depression, hysteria, insomnia, childhood tantrums, neuralgia and nervous tension. Chamomile essential oil is widely available, though the oil is subject to restriction in some countries. It is always best to get advice from a qualified aromatherapist before you start using any essential oil, though most aromatherapists believe that chamomile is so safe it may be used on children. Any essential oil should always be used well diluted in carrier oil such as grapeseed or almond oil [try 15 drops of essential oil to one third of a cup of carrier oil]. Aromatherapists consider chamomile oil to be a middle note perfume that blends well with geranium, lavender and patchouli.

If you can’t obtain chamomile essential oil but have plenty of fresh flowers available you can make your own very safe and effective infused oil. Pack a clear glass jar with flowers and fill up the jar with sunflower, almond or some other type of light vegetable oil [don’t use mineral oil]. Seal the jar and leave on a sunny windowsill for two weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain off the flowers and bottle the oil. If you want stronger scented oil add more fresh flowers to your strained oil and repeat the process.

Chamomile’s reputation extends to healing other plants as well as people. It is known as ‘the plant’s physician’ and is said to be able to cure any plant it grows next to and to keep it free of insects. For some reason even bees hate the scent and will not venture near it. It used to be said that nothing contributed so much to the health of a garden as a few chamomile plants dotted about it.

To grow chamomile you will need a sunny situation and a well-drained soil. The plant thrives in dry sandy soil, though the double form [known as English chamomile and preferred by many herbalists] will need a richer, moister soil. To grow from seed, plant in May and transplant the seedlings when they are large enough to handle. Plant with a distance of 18 inches between each one. Firm them in and keep them well weeded during the summer. The flowers may be picked throughout the summer as they open on warm, dry days. Dry carefully and slowly and store in airtight containers.

The whole of the chamomile plant is aromatic. The ancient Greeks called it ground apple [kamai melon], since it smells of apples and grows prostrate along the ground. The Spanish flavored a sherry with chamomile and called it manzanilla which means ‘little apple’. The scent of the plant is released when it is crushed or walked on and for this reason the low growing variety has sometimes been employed to make chamomile lawns. Amazingly the plant actually seems to like being walked on and flourishes under the mistreatment, as the old saying has it:

Like a camomile bed

The more it is trodden

The more it will spread.

 In the language of flowers chamomile is ‘patience in adversity’; probably from this ability to withstand being walked all over. Another way to exploit this virtue is to plant up a chamomile garden seat. These may be fashioned from wooden tubs and crates filled with earth and planted with low growing chamomile. When you sit on your herb seat the balmy fragrance will be released. The same property made chamomile a favourite strewing herb during the Middle Ages when it was the custom to scatter pleasant smelling herbs on the floors of a house to keep the atmosphere sweet.

Chamomile is widely used in cosmetics, particularly hair care products and shampoos for blondes. A final, lightening rinse for blond hair may be made with chamomile infusion. It also makes a good skin cleanser and astringent. For a soothing skin treatment infuse a handful of chamomile flowers in a pint of boiling water. Strain and soak a cloth in the warm liquid and use as a compress. Add some chamomile infusion to your bath to relax you and cleanse your skin.

Naturally, chamomile also has magical virtues. The pretty white rayed petals and yellow-centred flowers of the plant suggested to the ancients that it was associated with the sun and sacred to the sun god. The Egyptians dedicated it to Ra while the Norse called it, ‘Baldur’s Brow’, because the flower was as pure as his forehead. It was one of the Anglo-Saxons nine sacred herbs, and was called maythen. As a herb of the sun, chamomile connects with the sun’s power of regeneration, healing and protection. A cup of chamomile tea may be taken to connect with these energies, to heal and regenerate the spirit within. Add chamomile flowers to incense dedicated to the sun and sun gods, healing and protection. Add chamomile flowers to your ritual bath to tune into the energies of Midsummer, throw some on the bonfire or add a few to the ritual cup. Plant some chamomile in the garden as a guardian herb to deter negativity gaining from your patch.

© Anna Franklin

 

Horsetail – more than just a weed

The common horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is one of the most widely distributed species along stream banks and meadows of Europe, North America and Asia.  Most people see it as a nuisance weed, and indeed, it is impossible to eradicate if you have it in the garden.

Horsetails have existed little changed for more than 400 million years. During the Carboniferous period, there were many more varieties than exist today, some growing into trees 50ft [15m] tall and dominating tropical forests. Fossil specimens of Equisetum have been found dating from the Jurassic Period.

Using horsetail:

However, it is a very useful plant. Gather only the sterile green stems that appear in the summer.  Cut the plant above the ground and dry quickly in an airy place.

Common horsetail is sometimes used in Europe as a home remedy for kidney and bladder diseases.  The stems contain so much silica that they are used by European craftsmen to polish furniture, wooden floors and pewter.

The plant produces a light green dye suitable for dying natural fibres.

 Its antiseptic properties make it valuable as a pan scourer, particularly useful when camping. Before the advent of detergents and disinfectants, horsetail ferns were gathered by dairymaids and used to scour milk pails and dairy equipment.

Medicinal uses:

The astringent qualities of the horsetail help to heal wounds and haemorrhages. Chemicals in horsetail have an astringent effect that may lessen bleeding when applied to minor injuries such as cuts and scrapes.

Horsetail contains chemicals that have a mild diuretic action. Taken orally for a few days, at most, horsetail may relieve swelling due to the excess accumulation of water in the body. It has also been used to treat bladder, kidney, and urinary tract infections. As a tea, it is used for the treatment of inflammation or benign enlargement of the prostate gland.

In some cases it has been found to help ease the pain of arthritis. Horsetail contains relatively large amounts of silica and smaller amounts of calcium. horsetail may have some pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.

An infused oil made from horsetail fern may safely be used in the treatment of external otitis [infection of the outer ear].

 Horsetail Tea

A tea may be made from soaking one or 2 teaspoons of dried horsetail in about 6 ounces of boiling water for 5 minutes and then straining out the solid particles. Up to three cups of horsetail tea may be consumed per day.

Horsetail Bath

Steep 3 ½ oz of the herb in hot water for 1 hour.  Add this to the bath. This may help in rheumatic pains and help to heal chilblains.

CAUTION:  Horsetail may contain nicotine, which is more likely to cause potentially serious side effects in children than in adults. Therefore, horsetail is not recommended for individuals under the age of 18. The diuretic effects of oral horsetail may worsen heart or kidney conditions by decreasing the levels of potassium in the body, therefore individuals with such conditions should avoid taking horsetail. Horsetail is known to block the absorption of thiamine, one of the B vitamins. If it is taken for more than a few days, a thiamine deficiency is possible. Avoid if you are taking prescription diuretics.  Do not take at the same time as herbal or prescription laxatives.

© Anna Franklin 2020

CORIANDER – love, cookery and healing

My baby coriander (Coriandrum sativum) plants are coming on. Coriander is a marmite herb – people either love it or hate it.

In Britain, both the fruit (seeds) and fresh leaves are called coriander, while in the US, the seeds keep the name coriander but the leaves take the Spanish name for the plant, cilantro, owing to their extensive use in Mexican cookery.  The Romans were very fond of coriander. They used it in a sophisticated seasoning mixture which included wild celery, coriander, mint, onion, pennyroyal, rue, savory and thyme. Coriander (cilantro) leaves are best used fresh to preserve their volatile oils responsible for the taste and aroma. They can be chopped and sprinkled on curries, stir fries, added to salsas and so on. Try making a coriander pesto instead of a basil one for a taste sensation, or add to your juicer to benefit from coriander leaf’s antioxidants.  The dried seeds, are available whole or ground, but for best results, buy them whole and crush them lightly in a pestle and mortar just before use. They flavour curries, breads, sauces, soups, stews, pastries and sweets and are used commercially to flavour gin.

The leaves and fruit are rich in volatile oils beneficial for the digestive system, what herbalists call a carminative, useful for bloating, gas and indigestion. If coriander is added to the diet, these symptoms may reduce.

Coriander is used as a natural treatment for high cholesterol levels. The acids (linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and ascorbic acid) found in coriander help to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and raise ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL). [1] Add some coriander to the diet and add the fresh leaves to fruits and vegetables in your juicer.

Regular consumption of coriander has been shown to reduce blood pressure in many patients suffering from hypertension.[2]

The volatile oils in coriander possess anti-rheumatic and anti-arthritic properties.

Cineole, a phytochemical found in coriander, is thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect. For arthritis and rheumatism, use some coriander in the diet, apply a coriander salve, coriander infused oil or pulverise the leave and use as a poultice.

The volatile oils found in fresh coriander leaves are antiseptic, antimicrobial and healing, and a rinse of coriander leaf infusion will help treat mouth ulcers.

 A well-known home remedy for conjunctivitis is to bathe the closed eyelids with coriander seed tea.

Coriander leaf contains antioxidants to combat damaging free radicals, minerals and vitamins that help in the battle against wrinkles and sagging skin.  They also have a cooling, antiseptic, detoxifying and soothing action. Try making a paste of fresh coriander leaves and mixing them with a little honey, apply to the face, leave 20 minutes and rinse off with warm water.

A hair rinse made from coriander leaf tea will promote new hair growth.

Coriander was used magically too. Pliny wrote that fresh coriander was believed to be aphrodisiac, adding that some thought it beneficial to place coriander beneath the pillows before sunrise. There is some evidence that coriander seeds were placed in Egyptian tombs as a symbol of eternal love and enduring passion. [3] Similarly, in Chinese tradition it was considered both a herb of immortality and an aphrodisiac. [4] It is mentioned several times in the Arabian Nights as arousing sexual desires, and in Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance it was considered to provoke lust and love and added to love potions. The seeds were put into the popular drink hippocras which was commonly drunk at Tudor weddings. Culpeper designated coriander as “hot in the first degree”, a herb of Mars, and rather than romantic gentle love and friendship, it is used in spells of lust and passion. Coriander is widely used in love spells, charms and incenses. It can also be used to anoint the candles used in love magic. It can be included in the ritual cup at handfastings and Great Rite celebrations. Add to the handfasting cake.

You can throw coriander seeds instead of confetti at handfastings, and indeed, coriander seeds may have been the original ‘confetti’. The fruits used to be made into the sweets called confits, coated in white or pink sugar. These were thrown into the crowds from the backs of carnival wagons. However, eventually this was thought to be wasteful, and they were replaced by bits of coloured paper, but kept their original name ‘confetti’. [5]

The word coriander is believed to be derived from the Greek word koris which means ‘a bedbug’,  [6] and this is  thought to refer to the strong scent of the leaves, caused by the aldehydic components of the essential oil present, which some people hate and others, like me, love. It is certainly named after a bug in several languages, but the earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek written in Linear B syllabic script, reconstructed as koriadnon or koriandron. [7] Now ari means ‘most’ and adnos means ‘holy’ and this is also the derivation of the name of the Minoan goddess of the labyrinth Ariadne’s name, so there may be a lost legend here connecting the two, or at least, coriander must have been considered a very holy herb. Coriander is certainly associated with the Phoenician/Canaanite warrior goddess Ana (Anatu/Anahita), titled Virgin, Mother of Nations, She Who Kills and Resurrects, the consort of Ba’al who wore horns and carried a moon disc. She wore coriander perfume and purple make up for battle. The greatest of gods were afraid of her. Coriander was much valued as a perfume in the ancient world. [8]

CAUTIONS:

Coriander is considered safe in food amounts and when taken by mouth in appropriate medicinal amounts for most people. When coriander comes in contact with the skin it can cause skin irritation and inflammation or an allergic reaction in some people. As always, if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.  Coriander can slightly lower blood sugar levels, so if you are diabetic, you should monitor these carefully.  It can also lower blood pressure, so if you take medications for hypertension or have low blood pressure, monitor levels carefully. Coriander seeds can have a narcotic effect when consumed in excessive quantity which is perhaps how it became to be known as ‘dizzycorn’.

Coriander Leaf Tea

1 tbsp. fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

250 ml boiling water

Pour the boiling water over the leaves. Cover and infuse for 5 minutes, strain and drink.

 

Coriander Seed Tea

1 teaspoon of coriander seeds

250 ml water

Lightly crush the seeds and put in a pan with the water, simmer for 15 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to stand for another 5-10 minutes, strain and drink.

 

Infused Coriander Oil

1 tablespoon coriander

250 ml vegetable oil

Crush the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar. Put into a jar with the oil, fit the lid and leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks, shaking daily. Strain the oil into a sterilised bottle.

 

© Anna Franklin, condensed extract from The Hearth Witch’s Kitchen Herbal, Llewellyn, 2019

[1] P. Dhanapakiam, J. Mini Joseph, V.K. Ramaswamy, M. Moorthi3 & A. Senthil Kumar, The cholesterol lowering property of coriander seeds, (Coriandrum sativum): Mechanism of action, Journal of Environmental Biology, Journal of Environmental Biology January 2008

[2] Qaiser Jabeen, Samra Bashir, Badiaa Lyoussi, Anwar H.Gilani, Coriander fruit exhibits gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering and diuretic activities, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 122, Issue 1, 25 February 2009, Pages 123-130

[3] Spices of Life in Ancient Egypt, http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/spices-of-life-in-ancient-egypt, accessed 26.9.17

[4] Julie Brunton-Seal & Matthew Seal, Kitchen Medicine, Merlin Unwin Books Ltd, London, 2010

[5] J.O. Swain, The Lore of Spices, Grange Books, London, 1991

[6] J.O. Swain, The Lore of Spices, Grange Books, London, 1991

[7] John Chadwick, The Mycenaean World. Cambridge University Press, 1976

[8] ibid