Monthly Archives: May 2014

I <3 Herbs…….Lemon Balm

Merry Meet my friends!  Despite some cold weather..even some frosty mornings…Spring is in full swing here now!  I’ve started my plantings finally…herb bed is in and I’m working hard on the other 5 beds in my yard, replacing some dead plants that didn’t make it through the Winter  and putting in lots of new flowers!  I am a very happy Witch when I can dig in the dirt!

This week for the Sunday Stew…I’m writing about Lemon Balm..one of my favorite herbs!  You can find the link to the Stew here:  http://www.networkedblogs.com/XaXZ5 Be sure to read the Stew for lots of wonderful bloggers, recipes, news and information!

I’m sharing what I wrote about Lemon Balm here with you!

 

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Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), is a perennial herb native to southern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa and has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It can be categorized under the Lamiacease (mint) family. Melissa in Greek means “bee”. Officinalis is a Medievel Latin word meaning “used in medicine”. The name is probably derived from its traditional use by bee keepers to attract bees and its high medicinal qualities. Lemon Balm is also known as… bee balm, honey-leaf, horsemint, garden balm, balm gentle, English Balm, common balm, sweet balm, balm mint and sweet Melissa.

Lemon balm exudes a very refreshing lemon fragrance when we bruise or crush its leave. For centuries, the bee keepers have planted lemon balm near the bee hives, even rubbing the leaves on the inside of the hives to encourage the bees to stay. Its strong lemon fragrance is believed to attract and to settle the honey bee swarms. This is why lemon balm is also commonly known as bee balm.

Cultivating and Growing

Lemon Balm likes Sun and will spread like crazy if allowed to! It can be successfully grown from seed. The plant reaches about 2-3 feet in height and produces masses of wrinkled, aromatic leaves. It’s deeply wrinkled leaves are about 2 to 3 inch long. The shape of lemon balm leaves is similar to mint leaves (oval or heart shaped) and are a bright yellow- green in color. Lemon balm grows relatively small flowers that can be white or yellow in color. Lemon balm is easy to grow and maintain. It’s a versatile herb and can tolerate severe weather conditions. Lemon Balm is a wonderful plant for all herb lovers to have in their gardens! It’s a favorite of mine and you’ll see why!

Medicinal Uses
Lemon Balm has many medicinal properties. It’s an Antispasmodic, Anti-Viral, Aromatic , Cardiac tonic, Diaphoretic/sudorific, Digestive, Emmenagogue, Febrifuge, Hypotensive, Nervine, Sedative, Stomachic, Uterine Tonic, and Vermifuge. Lemon balm is used to relieve Anxiety, Colds, Depression, Dysmenorrhea, Nausea, Sore Throat, Insect/flea bites and Sunburn. It will help to heal Herpes/Cold Sores. It can ease cardiovascular symptoms and Pregnancy/Childbirth.
Here are just a few ways Lemon Balm can be used…whether you drink it as a tea or use the leaves on your skin. You can make a tonic, an oil or a balm as well. Each preparation is conducive to a way to use Lemon Balm for healing.

-Lemon balm has been used as one of the important ingredients to treat Insomnia. It has the ability to promote sleep.
-Lemon balm is a calming herb. It helps to reduce anxiety, improve relaxation, increase alertness and overcome stress problems. (tea, room spray or used in bath)
-Lemon balm cream can effectively cures cold sores caused by the herpes virus (HSV).
-Lemon balm has been used as a folk remedy to dress wounds, to treat snake, animal or insect bites. It has also been said to be able to ease high blood pressure, headaches, toothache, earache, fever, influenza, menstrual cramps and vomiting
-Lemon balm helps to improve digestion, loss of appetite and stomach discomfort and flatulence.
– Herbal tea made from the lemon balm’s fresh or dried leaves is consumed to treat insomnia, anxiety, agitation, herpes, fever, menstrual cramps, muscle spasms, colic, vomiting and poor digestion.
-Crushed leaves rubbed on the skin may help prevent insect bites or heal existing wounds
-a lemon balm infusion added to warm bath water may promote menstruation.
-Some medical studies have found that drinking lemon balm tea may help to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Research indicates that lemon balm can help to reduce agitation and improve cognitive function in individuals with Alzheimer’s. The Georgetown University Medical Center cites studies that suggested that lemon balm can improve memory and decrease anxiety in people suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease
-Using lemon balm in aromatherapy has benefits as well such as to relieve a headache, nausea, calm stress, and aid in more restful sleep.
– The hot tea brings on a sweat that is good for relieving colds, flus and fevers and an antiviral agent has been found that combats mumps, cold sores and other viruses.
– Studies indicate that the herb slightly inhibits the thyroid stimulating hormone and restricts Grave’s disease, a hyperthyroid condition.
– Lemon balm’s antihistamine action is useful to treat eczema and headaches and accounts for the centuries-old tradition of placing the fresh leaf on insect bites and wounds.
– Lemon balm has antipyretic, refreshing, cholagogic and stimulating properties. Use a pad soaked in the infusion to relieve painful swellings such as gout.
– Use as ointment for sores, insect bites, or to repel insects.
– Use hot infused oil as ointment or gentle massage oil for depression, tension, asthma and bronchitis.

Warnings
Lemon balm may interact with certain medications, such as thyroid medications and HIV medications, explains the University of Maryland. Talk with your doctor prior to taking lemon balm to prevent any interactions with medications or health conditions

These are just some of the ways to use Lemon Balm medicinally! You can see why it’s an important herb to have in your Witchy medicine cabinet!

Culinary
In the culinary world, chefs prize lemon balm for its light, refreshing aroma and taste, often described as lightly lemon with a hint of mint. The fresh leaves yield the best results in cooking, though the dried leaves and stems are often used for making tea. The leaves produce a mild, lemony tea, and they’re often added to black or green teas for extra flavor. Whole or chopped fresh lemon balm leaves also add flavor to green salads, fruit salads, vegetable dishes, poultry stuffing and marinades for fish, and they provide a nice accompaniment to corn, beans, broccoli, asparagus, shell fish and lamb. I know from experience it is great on homemade breads too!

Cosmetic

The lemon balm plant reportedly cleanses the skin, and herbal steams containing lemon balm leaves are recommended for sufferers of acne. Cleansing herbal baths including the plant’s leaves may also benefit the complexion. Lemon balm essential oil is a common ingredient in homemade and commercial cosmetics formulated for oily or acne-prone skin. The essential oil has a slight drying effect and should not be used on dry skin.

Other Uses

Lemon balm was made into wine commonly in the early 1800’s. The leaves of Lemon Balm were also used as a furniture polish when rubbed directly onto the wood. Today, many commercial furniture polish manufacturers still use the herb in their product. It’s a wonderful plant to have in your garden to attract bees for pollination purposes. Roman author and naturalist, Pliny wrote “that bees like Lemon Balm more than any other herb.”

Magickal Uses

Lemon Balm can be used in many ways magickally. It’s said to be sacred to the Goddess Diana and was used in her temples.
Gender: Feminine
Element: Water
Planet: Moon
Deities: Diana, Venus and Jupiter

Lemon Balm is used in romance, attraction and love spells and charms. It can be used in lunar magick as its’ associated with the Moon. It can be used in Ritual work honoring the Goddess Diana as well. Lemon Balm brings mental clarity, calm, healing, health, friendship, fertility, and success. As a bathing herb it can help to attract romance, to cleanse before Moon rituals, and to aid sleep/dream and astral travel.
Lemon Balm helps to relieve melancholy, to balance feelings and moods. To me, this would be a wonderful herb to use to help ground and balance. Lemon Balm can help us to open up to receive the divine love of the Goddess.
A few ways to use lemon balm magickally:

-Use it in your bath before rituals..especially during Moon rituals.
-Add it to a dream pillow to aid in dreams and astral travel
-Place on your altar to help with your mental clarity during meditation or divining
-Carry some leaves in a mojo bag to attract love or romance
-Use it in incense..the aroma brings calm and balance and can altar your mood
-Plant in your garden to draw success and healing into your home

These are just a few ideas you can use to make the most of the Lemon Balm I just KNOW you’ll be planting in your yard right away….if you don’t have it already of course 

One more thing to talk about….Lemon Balm was one of the most important ingredients in Carmelite Water. Carmelite Water was invented in 1611 by Carmelite monks (some say nuns) in Paris who called it “Eau de Carmes”. Carmelite water was used as a perfume and toilet water, and was also taken internally as a cordial. The perfume was used to “cover” the smell of disease or just the fact that bathing was rare in those days. It was also used internally for digestive complaints and neuralgic complaints such as headache, pains etc. I’ve been looking at the recipes I’m finding in books and online and think it sounds worth trying. I’ll let you know next time what recipe I tried and I might share it too

If you’d like to have a copy of this information for your Book of Shadows or files…you can do that by clicking here:
lemon balm.docx

I hope that you all have a very Happy Memorial Day and a great week! Stay safe!

Blessings and Love, Autumn

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Filed under Flowers, Gardens, Goddess, Herbal How To, Herbs, My Favorite Things, Nature, Seasons, Spring, Summer, Uncategorized

If It’s Not One Thing….It’s Your Mother……

Being a mother means that your heart is no longer yours;

it wanders wherever your children do.

~Author Unknown

 

Merry Meet my friends.  It’s a very quiet Saturn day here at my house today.  It’s been gloomy and pouring rain ..with on and off again thunder too. I actually love it, though it IS keeping me from planting my herbs I finally picked up this week.  I got all but 4 of the plants I was looking for. I will have to go to my other favorite garden center on Monday.  I am even trying some herbs I’ve never grown before like fennel and lemon verbena 🙂 Can’t wait to dig in the dirt!

 

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Here in Ohio, Mother’s Day is usually the first weekend that we are most likely safe from late frosts and that has definitely been the case this year.  Our Winter was long but Spring has arrived.  This rain is helping everything to look so green and lush.  Late blooming trees and flowering bushes like Lilacs and Forsythia and Rose of Sharon are all starting to bloom.  It’s really lovely.

Speaking of Mother’s Day, it’s tomorrow in case you weren’t aware. 🙂  Last night I attended a Mom’s Day banquet at my Mother’s church with my daughters, my sisters and of course my Mom.  My little granddaughter was supposed to go as well but she is under the weather with a stomach bug …poor kid.  Now a Witch in church..well it’s not the first time that’s happened I’m quite sure LOL.  However, my Mother..well …let’s just say that she has never been an easy woman to have as a Mother.  And no matter how old I get, or she gets,  it hasn’t changed.   So it was a bit stressful at times, but in the long run.  I’m glad we all went to make her happy.

 

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I know that Mother’s Day can be a very loving, wonderful, happy day for many of us.  It has been for me as a Mom and Nana, in my adult years.  I am blessed with wonderful daughters who love me and show it,  and my grandchildren are nothing but pure joy to me.  But on the other end of the spectrum, there are those who aren’t moms, or have lost their moms, or don’t get along with their moms, that make the day either difficult at best, and terribly sad at worst.  My heart always goes out to my friends who have lost a loving Mother.  I think that for some, losing your mom is something you never get over.  I send you all big hugs if that is your situation..I truly am sorry for your loss.

On this Mom’s Day, I’d like EVERY woman..whether a mother or not….to do something for herself..to bring joy to YOU.  My friends who don’t have children…well, they are Mom’s too.  Women are natural nurturers.  Whether they care for aged parents, a loving partner, pets, their homes and gardens, charities, friends, nieces and nephews, etc etc….you should celebrate this day.  Frankly, Mom’s day should be everyday.  Women need to learn to nurture themselves MORE! The lessons we learn from taking some time to ourselves on Mom’s Day..should be done every day!  After all, as the adage goes, you can’t care for others until you care for yourself.  I think this is a very hard lesson to learn as a woman, we tend to put ourselves last.  As I get older though, I realize how important it is to put ourselves higher on our list of things to do.  We must nurture the Goddess within us.

I’d also like us to think on Mother’s Day..about the Mother of us all…Mother Earth.  I always give thanks on this day (and every day really) for Our Mother…who nourishes us 24/7 with Earth, Air, and Water.  With beauty in Her nature if we take the time to look and feel and listen and touch.  Make an offering for Her and show some gratitude for all She does to sustain us.

 

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Picture from Café Press

 

For those like me, who have a  relationship with our Moms that isn’t always as we would like it to be.  Well…just remember, if it’s not one thing….It’s your Mother 🙂  Do the best you can to honor her as your mom.  When she’s no longer with you…you’ll be glad you did.

I wish all the Women out there a very Happy Sun day and Mom’s day.  Hope you’re loved ones treat you like the Goddess you ARE!!

On a personal note, I wish my beautiful daughter Kate a very Happy Mother’s Day.  Watching you with your own children, makes my heart swell with pride and joy.  I love you.

 

There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child — and an instinct to make ANY child who needs her love, her own.

~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com

 

Blessings and Love, Autumn Earthsong

 

 

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Filed under Daughters, Discussion, Family, Garden, Goddess, Grandchildren, Happy Mother's Day, Holiday, Mother Earth, My Writing, Nature, Quote, Seasons, Spring

How to Make Herbal Preparations……

Merry Meet everyone.  I hope that you all had a wonderful Beltaine celebration!  I know I did!  Today, again the Sunday Stew comes out and this article will be continued from there to here. (Here is the link for the Stew.  http://networkedblogs.com/WzCt4     Be sure to read the Stew in it’s entirety! It’s a plethora of Witchy info, articles, recipes etc. Here is what I wrote about this week 🙂

Today here on the Stew…I thought I’d post some basic information on how to make herbal preparations. I’m going to tell you how to make a tea infusion, a tincture, an oil and a salve/balm. They are all so easy to make and all wonderful ways to use herbs for medicinal or magickal purposes and some of them for culinary use.

 

We will start off with a bit about herbs in general. You want to be sure that your herbs..whether grown yourself or bought or wildcrafted….are organic. You don’t want to be putting chemicals in your body in any way! When using fresh herbs..be sure to use the parts of the herb that are useful….for instance the flowers and leaves of yarrow…but not the stalk or roots. That is where the good stuff is! Fresh herbs should be washed carefully. You can just rinse them well…or even give them a swish in half strength white vinegar water. Then allow them to dry well. You don’t want any moisture in your preparations…except for teas of course.

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Ok..we will start with TEA:   You can make a tea several ways.  In general, you want 1 tsp of dried herb or 2 tsps fresh herb to one cup of hot water. Most herbals will want to steep for about 10-20 mins. That’s all you need to know to make one cup of tea. Now of course, you can add more herb (as long as it’s a safe dosage) to your taste. Rosemary Gladstar, in her Herbal course “The Science and Art of Herbology” recommends that you make a quart at a time. Especially if you’re taking the tea for medicinal purposes. Two or Three cups a day of tea is recommended for most medicinal herbal teas. She says 2-3 TBS in one quart of water is good.

-You can infuse tea a couple of ways. One is to place the herbs in a jar with a lid, pour the boiling water over it. Quickly seal the lid to the jar. Allow to steep for 10-20 mins or so. Strain and drink.

-A stronger medicinal infusion can be made by placing the herbs in a pan of cold water. Place a tight fitting lid on the pan and slowly, over a very low heat, bring the water to boiling point. DON’T BOIL. This makes a stronger infusion medicinally.

-There are other ways to make teas too. You can skip the hot water part..fill the jar and make a solar infusion by sitting it out in the Sun for a few hours..I’m sure you’ve heard of Sun Tea! There are also Lunar infusions….so magickal for us Witches who use the Energy of the Moon!

Keep in mind that many herbs don’t necessarily taste good. Herbs are often bitter and can smell like dirt LOL.   Use honey to help sweeten them. You can also add teas to other drinks like juices to help. Also a tea infusion is wonderful to add to your bath or to soak your feet!

 

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The next preparation we’ll talk about is TINCTURES: A tincture is a concentrated liquid form of an herb this is easy to make and easy to take. Tinctures preserve and concentrate the medicinal properties of herbs making them more effective. By the way…save your glass jars! They are the best way to make herbal preparations. Ball or Mason jars are great to have around..so are pickle, mushroom, fruit, honey jars..etc etc. Re-use and re-cycle!

 

 

To make a tincture…get a clean jar (some people sterilize them) with a tight fitting lid. You will need to fill the jar with clean, dry, fresh herb (chopped).  Or you can fill it about halfway with dried herb. Pour 80 proof vodka, rum, gin or brandy over the herbs til they are covered well…leave a little breathing room in the top of the jar..and inch or two. Poke the herbs with a stick or end of a spoon to get all the bubbles out etc. Seal the lid. Now place the jar in a warm, dark place. Shake daily for about 3 weeks. I brew my tinctures for about 6 weeks. You can brew from 3 weeks to 6 months. When the tincture is ready…just strain out the herbs using a sieve or cheesecloth. Store it in colored bottles with droppers for ease of use. Keep it in a cool, dark place. Some people refrigerate them but in general, you don’t have to.

*You can do a tincture with apple cider vinegar following the same directions except warm the cider first.

To administer a tincture…well, do your research. A lot of tinctures will say to take 1/4 tsp in water, tea or juice 2-3 times a day for a chronic illness. For acute illness, you can take 1/8 tsp to 1/4 tsp until the symptoms (such as headache) pass. I know many people do the under- the- tongue administration too. I prefer mixing it with something, so it’s not harsh on my mucous membranes.

*You can also use tincture as a rub or liniment.

 

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Now on to HERB-INFUSED OILS: This is basically infusing a carrier oil such as Olive, Sunflower, Almond, Jojoba, Grapeseed etc etc….with herbs, to use for multiple reasons. Pick the carrier oil depending on the usage. If it’s for culinary purposes…pick olive, sunflower or grapeseed. It it’s for making lip balms or bath products..almond and Jojoba are wonderful. Use what you like..they are all wonderful.

 

There is a couple of ways (and more) to do this. One way is just like making a tincture, except to use Oil. Just fill your jar full with fresh herbs, and halfway with dried herbs, cover with the oil, stir, seal the lid, label and store in a warm, dark place. Shake daily.   Again, several weeks makes for a good strong concentration. Strain when ready and place in bottles or jars appropriate for what you are using it for. For example, a pretty tall dark bottle with a cork will work great for culinary purposes and a small blue or amber bottle will be great for massage oils.

Another way to infuse the oil faster (I use this method all the time for my Verbena Lane Botanicals products) is to let it infuse on the stove or in a slow cooker…keeping it warm but not too hot. You can infuse the herbs for an hour this way or more. I usually warm it for at a couple hours..very low. Then turn it off, cover it, and let it stand til completely cool. Strain, jar, label and store the same as above.

 

*Again, you can also make a solar infusion..there is nothing prettier then jars of herbs in oil, slowly infusing in a sunny windowsill in your kitchen. Just be sure that fresh herbs are really dry…water and oil don’t mix!

*There really aren’t any measurements for the amount of herb to oil. If using a jar method, just again, fill it well with fresh, chopped herbs and halfway with dried. Leave an inch or two of space at the top when you pour in the oil. For the stovetop method..I generally use a cup or two depending on the herb, then cover to two inches above the herb with oil.

 

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Lastly, we will talk about SALVES or BALMS.   Now some will say what is the difference between a salve and a balm? Some will say the words are used interchangeably and I can agree with that. For me, I think a balm is a bit firmer textured where a salve is a little softer and creamier..but that’s just me J

 

To make a Balm or Salve….you need about a cup of that herb-infused oil you make above. Let’s say we are making a Yarrow salve since I just posted about Yarrow last week here on the Stew. This is a good basic recipe for a healing balm.

You’ll need:

1 cup of herb –infused oil

1 oz of good beeswax (slightly less if you want the balm/salve softer and creamier)

1 tsp vitamin e oil (helps to preserve the oil and good for your skin!)

40-60 drops of essential oils if you like. (I use more!)

 

When using the stove to make balm or salve…you want to use a double boiler. A double boiler helps to keep you from burning or over-cooking your oils as you warm them. My method is to bring water to a simmer in a metal or glass pan….then I place a large glass measuring cup right in the water..that works well too. Don’t burn yourself removing the glass cup from the pan!

Place the cup of yarrow-infused oil in the pan or glass measuring cup. Start warming it. Grate or chop the beeswax and add it to the warmed oil. Stir occasionally until it melts all the way. Remove from the heat and add the vitamin e oil and essential oils if you wish. For healing, lavender, rosemary, and tea tree essential oils would be a wonderful combination. Pour into containers of your choice. A cup of this oil will make several 2 oz tins, a couple of 4 oz jars or one big 8 oz jar. Let cool. Label and use.

 

If you would like to copy this info into pages for your Book of Shadows or Grimoire…you can do that here.   How to Make Herbal Preparations 2

 

When I talked about Yarrow last week…I told you all the medicinal uses for Yarrow. Now you know some of the ways you can make a preparation to use it. These recipes work with just about every herb you can think of! I hope as Summer comes and we are planting our herbs…that you try them in some way medicinally. You’ll be happy you did!! Here’s to your health!

 

Blessings and Love, Autumn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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