Tag Archives: DIY

Clever Cleavers

Cleavers, Galium Aparine

At this time of year, just before the winter sets in, I like to ally with an herb called Cleavers for a 2 week period to prepare my body for the warrior season of winter. Cleavers, botanically named Galium aparine, are also called Everlasting Friendship, Grip Grass, Sweethearts, Love-man, and Sweethearts. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? While it’s not an aphrodisiac herb per se, there is a lot to love about this clingy little plant friend.

The cleaver plant is found in hedgerows and fields where there are bushes, with tiny flowers and small prickly green fruits. The stems are “hairy,” and stick to animals, other plants, and people passing by it. It is one of the first wild plants to sprout as early as January.

Cleavers is an excellent tonic for the Lymph System.

When we think of winter, we usually think about building up and strengthening our immune systems for potential dangers such as colds, flus, and viruses. That is true. We must also be aware of the importance of the health of our lymph system in building our immunity. The lymph system, part of the circulatory system, “provides a vehicle for the elements of the immune system to travel about monitoring the body’s internal environment and maintaining the stability of the body functions.” (Rosemary Gladstar) Different parts of our bodies are protected by groups of lymph nodes. For example, nodes on the neck protect the head, nodes under the arms protect the chest, and so on. Often the first indication of an infection in the throat is that swollen feeling in the glands (which are really clusters of immune system cells), an indication that the body is waging war on a foreign invader, and healing itself.

A clear, flowing lymph system is pivotal in our overall health and wellness, though it can be prone to toxic buildup or stagnancy. That is because another function of the lymph is to carry various wastes from the liver and cellular metabolism. When the lymph system is overburdened with wastes, it is unable to filter and neutralize waste properly, resulting in inflammation, chronic fatigue, and reduced immune response. Cysts, tumors, prostate infections, urinary infections, and even pimples are also caused by buildup of lymph toxins. When the lymph system is weakened or backed up, the immune system cannot function optimally by any means.

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Celebration of the Changing Seasons tincture, with Cleavers & Milk Thistle

That is why cleavers are such a treasured ally at this time – before winter comes, and also in the Spring, to cleanse the body once more. Cleavers are Nature’s gift to us in relieving lymph buildup. They actually help the lymph system in its job of neutralizing metabolic wastes! Oftentimes, chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and eruptive infections are lymph-related and can be improved with lymph-cleansing. Other conditions related to the lymph are ear-infections, swollen adenoids, glands, and tonsillitis.

Last year, I allied with Cleavers and Milk Thistle for a 2 week period. I made a delicious tincture that I called “Celebration of the Changing Seasons tincture,” featuring these two herbs. Cleavers for the lymph and Milk Thistle for the liver. I felt great, did not have a flu shot, nor did I get sick once throughout the winter. This 2 week Cleaver cleanse in conjunction with exercise, eating seasonally, dressing warm, and allying with other herbs for warmth and nourishment in the winter are all you need to build a fortress of wellness around yourself for winter.

Try cleavers :tea, tincture, infused in vinegar or honey, or fresh in salads.

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Summer of Herbs: Shades of Green Facial Toner

Of all the treasures and wonders of the summer season, for me, the most revered are the colorful, aromatic, fresh herbs and flowers. Roadsides, railways, gardens, and mountainsides are all alive with wild flowers and plants and dragonflies, butterflies, bees, and winged creatures of all sizes delight in their presence. After months of using their dried counterparts, fresh herbs remind us of the true vitality and essence of herbalism.  photo 3(2)There’s nothing quite like waking up, going out into the sun, and bending down to pick a few leaves of mint, lemon balm, sage, or verbena and making a fresh infusion. A cup of fresh Lemon Balm leaf tea makes the dry version pale in comparison. Working with fresh herbs and flowers is one of the sweetest experiences one can have, and now is the time for these moments. Naturally, we seek to preserve the fresh herb experience much like one seeks to preserve memories through photographs, feelings through a journal, keepsakes through a time capsule buried in the earth for future discovery. This season, I have enjoyed the blessing of a bountiful little herb patch that began with only a few small starter plants and seeds, and has blossomed into a thriving plant community regularly visited by dragonflies, butterflies, and the like. I am astonished each time I visit at the rapid growth and the incessant offering of Calendula blooms, lavender buds, basil, thyme, sage, lemon balm, parsley, and rosemary. The garden’s growth exceeded my wildest dreams and it seems every day the leaves have multiplied once again, and even after leaving behind plenty for other visitors, I am left with an abundance of plant material to take home. One of my favorite recipes that I developed inspired by my own garden is the follow facial toner, called Shades of Green because as it brews, it goes through stages of greens, leading ultimately to a deep, forest green that alludes to its powerful natural healing gifts. I believe the parsley lends a deep glow to the skin, while calendula can heal past damage. The lavender was added for beauty and inspiration, and also lends a cleansing, astringent effect.

ImageRecipe for Shades of Green Face Toner

You’ll need: 1 pint size mason jar, organic witch hazel or vodka, distilled water
Gather enough Calendula blooms and leaves, lavender buds and leaves, and parsley leaves (you can try root here too) to fill the jar to the top, but not over-stuffing completely (there should be enough space for the herbs to move around freely when the liquid is added.) Fill 3/4 of the jar with vodka or witch hazel, and the rest with water. Swirl the herbs around, and leave in a sunny spot for 2-3 weeks. At first, the liquid will turn a bright emerald green, then watch it daily as it absorbs the vitamins, minerals, and magic of the plants – changing to a deep forest green. When the leaves and flowers look as though they have given all their color away, you can begin to use the toner. I like to leave the plant material inside while I use it, then eventually I strain it and store it in a small jar with a spray pump for easier application.
Use: I like to apply a small amount to an organic cotton ball and use it to clean my face – great when camping! Feel free to experiment with the ratios of the herbs – I used more calendula and parsley, and a few lavender sprigs. Go with what you have on hand and let your garden’s supply inspire you. Be well and be beautiful.

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New Moon in Aquarius: BE TRUE TO YOU

via original art studio

For this new moon, I’ve decided to compile quotations from free-spirited, innovative, and fiercely individualistic Aquarians to inspire, empower, and perhaps even emancipate you – body, mind, and spirit. With both the Sun and Moon in Aquarius, tonight’s beautiful Uranus energy offers us the power and courage to make the changes in our lives and our realities that have been brewing for some time now…to celebrate, honor, and share our completely unique and individual spirits and gifts in this world. Themes of freedom, revolution, novelty, and individualism are at the heart of Aquarian energy. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the brilliant unwavering Water-Bearers. Share your own if you have them!

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.” ― Anaïs Nin

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”― Anaïs Nin
“I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic — in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.” ―Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”— Bob Marley
“Bob Marley isn’t my name. I don’t even know my name yet.”— Bob Marley
“Man is a universe within himself.”— Bob Marley
“You say you love rain, but you use an umbrella to walk under it. You say you love sun, but you seek shelter when it is shining. You say you love wind, but when it comes you close your windows. So that’s why I’m scared when you say you love me.”— Bob Marley
“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”— Virginia Woolf
“I am rooted, but I flow.”— Virginia Woolf
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”— Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll, aquarius, quote

“The most important thing in life is to stop saying ‘I wish’ and start saying ‘I will.’ Consider nothing impossible, then treat possiblities as probabilities.”— Charles Dickens
“Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness.”— Ayn Rand
“It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.”— Ayn Rand
“Always we’re our Brother’s teacher of hardworking full-truth, uniting All-one-G0d-Fatih, or we decay being his Keeper by unworkable half-true intolerant hate! We’re all-one or none! Exceptions eternally? Absolute none!”Dr. E.H. Bronner
“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right. “ — Rosa Parks
“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” — Abraham Lincoln
Rituals for the New Moon in Aquarius
Aquarius is all about defying convention and honoring the unusual, so I am not going to give any specific suggestions for herbs or teas, rather it would be most suitable to make something using your own intuition and taste as your guide! My tea tonight is going to be blended based on vibrancy color – a rainbow tea if you will! Red hibiscus petals, orange calendula flowers, yellow chamomile, bright green alfalfa leaf, indigo lavender, and light pink roses!!!

my aquarius tea blend by gem

quartz crystals and my aquarius tea blend

Gemstones that are associated with Aquarius (Uranus) are any “glow in the dark” minerals such as uranium; as well as peridot – helping to clear any nervous energy, quartz crystal – helping to bring our ideas down to earth and to manifest them, and garnet – a protective red stone that promotes courage and confidence. Opal is a stone that fosters uniqueness and originality. You can wear any of these stones, just gaze at them nearby, make an elixir with them, place them on top of your brewing tea pot or tinctures in the moonlight, or even bathe or sleep with them nearby. Tonight is full of Aquarian energy, but you can take the energy with you anytime this way.
Let your creativity and your passions flow. Speak your mind. Share your heart. Make music. Throw a dance party by yourself under the stars. Paint a self-portrait. Cut up old clothes and make new ones. Make a collage. Write a manifesto. Experiment with new foods. Bake a crazy cake. Join a political organization that speaks to you. Let go of your fears. Do something unexpected. Send a message to outer space. Trust your intuition. Quote yourself. Do that one thing you have been putting off for way too long. Wear that one outfit you think is too crazy. Read that book that’s been sitting on the shelf. Dare to embark upon uncharted territories of the heart, mind, body, soul, home, yard, neighborhood, world! Make plans to do something you really want to do, and do it! Stand up for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to shine. The world needs you to be you. Think about the pure magic and rarity of the chances that you exist and are an irreplaceable part of this crazy, unpredictable, beautiful, and ever-changing universe.
“When I reach the gates of heaven, the heavenly judges will not ask me, ‘why weren’t you Moses?’ They will ask me, ‘why weren’t you Zusha?” – Rabbi Zusha of Anipol.
With many blessings for a night (and month, and year, and life…) full of originality and new energy,
xoxo
Gem
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Spirit of Giving: Big Herbal Solstice Ring – Part II

This past winter solstice will forever be cherished and remembered, a time when 12 herbalists from all over the country joined a ring and shared gifts, love, and inspiration through the post. This second batch of gifts were as magical and beautiful as all the others, bringing some extra warmth and excitement in the mail through the cold crisp afternoons of January.

I love the medicinal vinegar infused with Moringa, an herb I was unfamiliar with before Paula sent me these gifts. Moringa is a “miracle tree,” with a super-high mineral content and a plethora of gifts. Paula is from South Florida where she grows and harvests this plant and uses it for salad dressings and soups, and as a water purifier.

I adored Wunder Budder’s Dark Mint Lip Balm and Super Soft Salve, truly versatile and blissfully simple herbal salves – the way it should be! Darcey Blue of Blue Turtle Botanicals sent me an exotic tube of Sacred Treasures Resin Balm with Frankincense and Myrrh along with a Winter Mist Tea blend and a Winter Solstice Elixir. So special – I could smell the earthy, botanical scent of Darcey’s Arizona-based herb farm the moment I opened the box! Lastly, though this special friend didn’t take part in the larger Solstice Swap, we did our own little barter for these lovely, heavenly Flower Fairie Herbal Soaps by Forest House Herbals. I received these amazingly soft, lavender and oatmeal soaps with beautiful packaging depicting fairies (my favorite) in exchange for a year’s subscription to the Starry Eyed Herbalist. They were so special that I waited to use them and last night I finally did, the soap is so soft and lathers up with the beautiful scent of lavender for a truly relaxing experience.

Munay Botanicals (FL)
Wunder Budder (Salem, MA)
Blue Turtle Botanicals (AZ)
Forest House Herbals (NH)
soon to come — Hedge Wife (AK)

Thank you to all the special green women who shared their gifts with me this Winter.

You are all beautiful! Until next Solstice!! xoxox Gem

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Spirit of Giving: Big Herbal Solstice Ring – Part I

We formed a ring of 12 herbalists, some strangers, some old friends, all united by a love of herbs and a spirit of sharing and healing. On the online herbal marketplace Poppyswap, one woman sagely decided to revive a lovely practice called a “solstice ring” in which 12 herbalists would each create 12 unique gifts in time for the Winter Solstice. Each herbalist would then send out a gift to each of the other 12 participants, so in the end nearly 150 packages traveled all over the country, from NY to Washington and anywhere in between. For the past couple of weeks it seems not a day went by without receiving a magical package on my doorstep. The fresh scents, creative packaging, and unique artisanship that went into these creations were breathtaking and inspiring. I finally sent out the last of my packages today and so I have decided to share part of this experience tonight, as the Winter Solstice is just hours away…It’s been an honor to partake and I hope all the love and generosity exchanged will continue to bring healing, warmth, and joy throughout the Winter season! Check back soon for the rest of the gifts as well!

Here are some of the beautiful handmade gifts I received so far from:
Worts + Cunning Apothecary (CA)
Good 4 You Herbals (MA)
Green Journey Seeds (OR)
Rosemary & Rue (NC)
Twysted Thystle (CO)
Maya Made (MN)
Wildly Natural Skincare (PA)
Herbal Revolution (ME)

more to follow….

…..and a Special offer! Comment on this post or on my Facebook Wall to be entered to win a Solstice Gift from Gem Botanicals. 3 winners will receive a handmade energy amulet filled with white sage, yarrow, or st. john’s wort!  Contest ends 12/31/12.

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