Four Herbs to Plant this Spring

Four Herbs to Plant this Spring

Planting herbs in the spring is an annual ritual that human beings have participated in for a very long time. Research shows that gardening (even in containers) enhances your sense of well-being. Nurturing your plant friends instills a relationship of reciprocity. You carefully watch over your plant, and in exchange it provides nutrients, beauty and even medicine for you. A priceless gift is received through this symbiotic relationship. Your fostered connection will enhance your mood, calm your nervous system, improve your sleep, and even create a little piece of beautiful heaven in your space.

You don’t need a huge yard. A small space, one pot, and you can create a sweet little garden.

With spring just days away, I’m wondering what you’re planning to grow this year. While I don’t have a garden just yet, I’m growing some herbs in containers just like I did last year.

These herbs do quite well in containers; with mint and nettle, containers are a smart option if you don’t want them to take over your space, as they are quite invasive.

Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena (the Good Herb)

Marvelous Mint (the mint family, Lamiaceae)

Did you know that most of our culinary herbs are in the mint family? Basil, Thyme, Marjoram, Savory, Garden Sage, Oregano, and Hyssop, all are included in this family.

Ants, spiders, mosquitos, and even mice don’t like the fragrance of mint. I have skylights over my kitchen sink and will often find spider webs woven in the corners. I simply add a few drops of peppermint essential oil onto a cotton ball and strategically place it in the corners, and this prevents new webs from being formed for months on end. It makes the kitchen smell yummy, too!

Benefits from plants in the mint family are numerous. Peppermint and spearmint taste great in tea, which is great news because these herbs soothe an upset stomach, help relieve congestion, increase circulation, cool a fever, combat a viral infection, relieve a headache and other types of mild pain.

All mint is loaded with minerals and vitamins, most of which are water soluble, which is another reason to drink tea made with mint. I always make my own herbal tea blends and it’s rare that a pinch or two of peppermint isn’t included.

Mint is excellent in culinary dishes, and as a carminative, it enhances digestion. If gas, bloating, and cramping due to diarrhea is something you’re dealing with, you may want to include mint tea in your toolbox of self-healing.

Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar refers to peppermint as ‘a blast of pure green energy’! Mint is considered energizing which is why many people prefer to drink a cup of mint tea in the morning to give them the boost they need to get started with their day.

Mint is often mildly bitter, and this bitterness stimulates the liver, assisting it to move stagnant energy. And since mint is also antispasmodic in its actions, it can help reduce spasms due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

With its mild analgesic properties, having a mint infused oil, salve, cream, or butter on hand sounds like an excellent idea to me. Simply apply topically when needed. I love to apply a mint infused oil on my temples to reduce stress.

You can grow mint indoors, in a container outside, or anywhere in your garden. If planting in a container outside place it near your door to keep insects away!

How does mint protect, teach, and enrich us?

Mint is thought to bring luck and fortune; many will carry mint in their wallet to prevent money from flowing out and to keep abundance in.

Mint can be used to wash the floor or any area that you wish to purify and make sacred.

Ancient Greeks cleaned their tables with mint before their guests arrived. Pliny the Elder said, “A symbol of hospitality and wisdom, ‘the very smell of it reanimates the spirit.’”

Sleep with it under your pillow to enhance your dreams. Mint can increase your vision and focus. Are you trying to figure out a solution to an ongoing problem? Make a cup of mint tea, sit quietly, sip, and wait for your answer.

Let the *blast of pure green energy* rejuvenate you!

Nourishing Nettle

Spring is the time when nature begins to wake up. Humans have long known this is a time of reawakening. We feel the energy of the new growth all around us whether we recognize it or not. Our bodies and minds begin to respond to longer days with spring cleaning, planting gardens, getting outside for exercise, and maybe even doing a detox.

Ancient cultures recognized spring as the true beginning of the new year. Does this resonate with you? It does me. Why not celebrate the new year with spring flowers, leaves pushing and stretching their tips from the branches where they’ve spent the cold dark winter, and the songs of the black headed grosbeak? We humans are so insulated in our homes and cars and shoes, that we’ve forgotten what we once knew about listening to the sounds of nature for cues on what we should be doing with our time and our bodies.

Spring is a time for moving not only our bodies, but our digestion, which may be sluggish from the cold winter months. Time to get the digestive fluids moving again. Nettle is springing up in the wild and reminds us that it’s time to flush our systems with its generous mineral content.

When you see a plant popping up on its own, ask why it chose that time to grow. Often, it’s a reminder to care for your body and mind in naturals ways. This plant can teach you how to do this. 

Nettle has been used as medicine and food for millennia. How does Nettle’s action help nourish and flush our systems? Nettle is loaded with minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and chlorophyll. And because of the chlorophyll the taste of Nettle is similar to seaweed. The leaves, seeds, stems, and rhizomes can be harvested to use as an infusion or made into a tincture. The leaves can be steamed similarly to spinach, placed in a soup or stew, or juiced.

Nettle energizes, nourishes, and strengthens the entire body. It also purifies the blood due to the chlorophyll content. Chlorophyll and hemoglobin have almost the exact molecular makeup with the difference being chlorophyll contains magnesium and hemoglobin contains iron. With these similarities some research demonstrates that chlorophyll increases red blood cells within the body maximizing its ability to oxygenate more efficiently. Red blood carries oxygen from the lungs to other cells and tissues within the body. Nettle’s high iron content can enrich and even detox the blood when used daily for a period of several weeks in the spring.  

Many people plan a spring detox to cleanse from their sedentary habits during winter. Nettle is a great addition to your detox. Make a tea, cook with it, or look for a tincture.

It’s important to mention if you’re not familiar with Nettle, that it’s also known as Stinging Nettle. Have you seen Stinging Nettle in the wild, accidently brushed up against and felt an immediate stinging sensation? I certainly have, and at first, I thought Nettle was something to be avoided until I learned more about this nourishing plant! I still recall seeing a sign once near a huge patch of Nettle saying, “Caution! Stinging Nettle”. Of course, this would give anyone pause who is unfamiliar with it. But I’ve since learned that this herb is one to be welcomed into your life.

If you encounter Nettle unknowingly and find yourself with a burning sensation, don’t worry. It only lasts several hours. The good news is that some people (ah-hem, moi), will purposefully touch Nettle, even brush my wrists and forearms against it. Why? It triggers an immune response and when the response is over, any pain that I might have been experiencing is noticeably diminished! For me, the sensation isn’t a bother. I don’t get a rash, but I do get the benefit of some relief from mild arthritic pain.

When Nettle is processed either by steaming, tincturing, or making an infusion, the tiny stingy thorns soften and no longer have the ability to sting. Also, if harvested when the plants are still young and only a few inches tall, those tiny thorns are typically not painful to the touch. If you harvest Nettle when it’s at its tallest point (up to 6 feet tall!), you’ll want to use thick gloves.

When we talk about an herb being nourishing, it typically means the herb can be consumed daily in whichever form you prefer. Some people don’t like the taste of Nettle. I admit, it does taste like seaweed or grass, but I don’t mind the taste at all. I don’t add anything to improve or enhance its flavor because it seems to me that most additives make the taste worse. Tinctures are a great alternative if you really don’t like the flavor of the steamed plant or the tea.

If you grow Nettle, you’re definitely going to want to cook with it!! Just use it in the same way you would spinach or another green (it must be heated to remove the stinging effect). That is, if you like the taste. Experiment with it. 

Nettle is excellent for seasonal allergies and even hives. I break out in hives from time to time, and when I do, I take about 3 dropperfuls of tincture at a time to calm my skin down!! It works just as quickly as a Benadryl. I’ve also used the tincture for one of my dog’s gunky (technical term) eye. It seems she’s developed some type of allergy. But when I add some drops of Nettle to her food for a few days it will clear her eye up.

Nettle can also be used as a hair rinse for an itchy scalp, and to strengthen your hair and make it shiny. I like to make a white vinegar infusion with Nettle for this purpose.

How does Nettle protect, teach, and enrich us?

Nettle teaches us how to maintain healthy boundaries, remember those spiny stingy thorns we talked about before? This burning sensation definitely stops many predators and Nettle will embolden you in the same way when you spend time with it. Nettle will teach you how to set excellent boundaries, and help you see where you end, and another begins. When you see it in the wild you understand how strong it is, growing up to 6 feet tall it catches your attention. You can be strong like Nettle. Gather a small bundle (with gloves), hang them upside-down to dry and place where you’d like to enhance your boundaries.

Calendula

An herb of the sun

Captivating Calendula, Herb of the Sun

This all-around fantastic herb has so many benefits, it’s a good one to always have readily available. I constantly ask the question, “What can’t Calendula do?” This bright and cheery flower puts a smile on my face even when I envision it in my mind. Imagine how uplifting it is when you see it growing outside in your yard.

Amazing antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties are contained in Calendula, making it excellent to help with cuts, burns, diaper and other rashes, and itchiness when applied topically. Calendula is known as an emollient, which means it soothes and softens.

Make an infused oil with it. And then, with your infused oil you can make a salve, body butter or body cream, or simply use it as a stand-alone body oil or face serum. I make and use the body oil, face serum, and salve, which I love and use regularly. Salves can be applied more readily and can be carried in your bag, while the oil is typically applied after bathing.

Calendula can be added to tea, soup, herbal blends and salads. I add Calendula to my Elder Elixir to support immune health. With its antiviral, immune boosting, and antibacterial properties, it makes sense to include it in this wonderful elixir to support vibrant health.

Calendula is a mild bitter, this bitter action aids digestion. If you’re having digestive issues, Calendula may be one to include in your food. Harvest the flowers and simply add those pretty petals to a salad to add color and support digestion.

When made into a tea, it can help to cool the body down during a fever due to its diaphoretic properties. It increases circulation and induces sweating, which can gently bring that temperature down.

You can also make a tincture with Calendula if the tea isn’t pleasing to your taste buds. Tinctures are great for their ease of use and especially when an herb isn’t necessarily palatable.

Calendula is a lymphagogue. A what? I know, that’s a mouthful. This simply means that it helps move the fluid within the lymphatic system. This fluid doesn’t move through the body like blood. It needs help. Movement is one of the best ways to move lymphatic fluid. Massage is also a wonderful way to move the fluid, and certain herbs, like Calendula, can aid in moving the fluid as well. It’s important for the immune system that the fluid in the lymphatic system is moving.

With its antifungal properties, Calendula can be used on fungal infections topically, and when consumed internally can help with yeast overgrowth in the intestinal tract.

How does Calendula protect, teach, and enrich us?

This sunny herb moves stagnant energy within the body, mind, and spirit. You can use it ceremoniously in a variety of ways. Anoint yourself or your sacred space with oil or salve. Place the flowers in a bowl in a location that needs energetic clearing. Bathe in a tub of Calendula flowers (so pretty and relaxing). Make a tea and wash your hands in it, splash a little on your face. Make an herbal steam and breathe it in.

This herb can promote a *sunny* disposition and rekindle hope. Place fresh flowers in a vase in a location where you’ll be spending time. Place the flowers in your vehicle for protection, and to clear energy.

*A note of caution: Calendula is in the Asteraceae family; many people are allergic to this plant family.

Clearing and cleansing the body and spirit.

Lovely Lavender!

We see it used in many products and for good reason. It not only smells amazing, but it also has antiseptic properties (great to use on insect bites and scratches). The root word for lavender is lavare, which means ‘to wash’ – this is fitting because so many of us love to use it in the bath to relax the body and mind.

Have you ever experienced an herbal tea bath? Soaking in a warm bath with herbs floating in the water is magical, and your body will love you for it, promise! The aromas are enough to relax the mind, but herbs also act on the body providing nutrients and comfort. You can place loose herbs in the tub or use a small muslin bag (to keep clean-up quick & easy).

Lavender can be used in sleep pillows or as an essential oil in a diffuser before bed as a sleep aid. Some will spray Lavender directly onto their pillows before bed.

This plant ally is one of my favorites to include in herbal projects and is easy to grow.

I planted fragrant Lavender in a container in late 2019 before the snow and frost began. Two out of three plants survived the winter and continued to grow throughout 2020. Just a couple days ago (early 2021) I transplanted the two remaining plants into a larger container to encourage new growth. I’m excited to see how big the plants will grow this spring with the extra space for their roots.

There are a number of reasons to have Lavender growing in your garden or on your deck.

The aroma and beauty of Lavender is something to behold on a daily basis. Even after the flowers have died and the plant is trimmed back, it remains extremely fragrant. Run your hands across the leaves of the plant, then bring your hands up to your nose and breath-in deeply. Each and every time your senses will be heightened and your spirit uplifted. We can credit the plants’ volatile oils for its gorgeous fragrance. Volatile oils are very strong, so best to use minimally in teas and culinary recipes.

Fresh or dry Lavender is helpful in repelling insects. Mine is growing in a container right outside the sliding glass door that leads from the back of the house to the deck. You can also make a sachet with Lavender to provide that insect repelling benefit indoors by placing it strategically where needed, and of course, to add that beautiful aroma to any drawer or cabinet by tucking the sachet inside.

Lavender is really wonderful to apply to your skin after being in the sun too long; it’s very soothing and cooling for any minor burn. You can make a tea with it and then spray it on your tender skin. Or if you have an infused oil ready gently apply and let it soak in. It has mild analgesic properties and is perfect for this type of skin condition.

Leaves and flowers are used in many herbal preparations, i.e., body oil, salve, body butter, creams and lotions, tea, baked goods, sleep remedies, as decoration (group a handful of flower stalks together, tie with pretty twine and hang upside-down in a location that pleases you).

If you love Lavender, then you already know the direct effect its fragrance has on your mood even when applied topically to the skin. Lavender is a nervine and is known to relax the nervous system. Lavender eases muscles and relieves neuralgia pain. Gently massage your temples and earlobes, take deep slow breaths to invite its aroma into your senses and experience firsthand what this healing herb can do for you. If you experience anxiety, you’ll want to have Lavender nearby to help calm your senses when those anxious occasions arise.

Why is Lavender so highly esteemed in skincare products? The fragrance is a favorite for many. I’ve learned through the years that you either love it or hate it. But if your one who loves the fragrance, you’ll want to include it in your products for its fragrance alone. It has that uplifting and calming effect at the same time.

One of my favorite herbal preparations for Lavender is body oil. The fragrance and mild pain-relieving effects make this special plant perfect for a full body massage.

Lavender is considered *drying*, meaning it can dry out your tissue and constitution, so it should be used lightly in herbal products and recipes. Again, its volatile oils are strong and can be irritating if consumed in large quantity. A little goes a long way with this lovely plant. These volatile oils contain antibacterial properties and can be used to treat a variety of fungal issues. With its antibacterial and antiseptic actions, Lavender is excellent for cuts, bruises, insect bites, and other minor wounds on the skin.

If using Lavender essential oil instead of an infused oil, be sure to add it to some type of carrier oil, butter, or aloe vera. This will help reduce its drying properties.

How does lavender protect, teach, and enrich us?

With its gorgeous purple flowers and fragrant aroma, Lavender promotes calm, brings tranquility, and helps to reduce anxiety. It allows for more trust in opening intuition and deepening spiritual understanding. It’s associated with love & devotion; and is often considered a flower of serenity & grace. It’s uplifting, inspiring, and encourages creativity.

Lavender in any form makes a lovely gift.

An offering of dry flowers or a live plant, or any herbal product made with Lavender, creates a sense of beauty, serenity, adventure, and devotion to your loved one. Since Lavender is not only pretty to look at, it smells wonderful, so it enhances any space in which it is placed. Give it a place of honor.

Some share Lavender with a friend who is starting out on a new journey to show their support. Others share Lavender to demonstrate their devotion to a loved one. The beautiful purple color is associated with royalty and sovereignty, so again give it a place of honor in your home, just like you would any special guest.

Let your creative juices flow with Lavender’s innovative energy. Given as an essential oil, body oil, live plant, make a sachet, a floral bundle, creams, balms, and butters (so many options).

 

Growing these Herbs in Your Garden

Any of these can be grown from seed, purchased as seedlings and mature plants. Each are perennials meaning they will come back each year. In extreme climates, Calendula may act more like an annual, which means you’ll have to reseed every year.

Enjoy the spring this year my friend, and happy planting. Please share what you’re growing with the community.

And thank you for being a big part of the C.R.Y. Herbal’s community. 


Resources:

https://www.almanac.com/plants-repel-mosquitoes-and-insects#:~:text=Lavender%20repels%20moths%2C%20flies%2C%20fleas,clothing%20to%20keep%20bugs%20out. https://flowermeanings.org/lavender-flower-meaning/ The Herbal Academy’s Herbarium Lavender Monograph https://www.color-meanings.com/#purple http://www.wortsandcunning.com/blog/quicken-the-mind-peppermint?rq=mint https://wiccanow.com/magickal-properties-of-mint/ http://theepicentre.com/spice/mint/ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322361#foods-rich-in-chlorophyll      https://patch.com/georgia/cascade/bp–hemoglobin-vs-chlorophyll                      https://www.healthline.com/health/liquid-chlorophyll-benefits-risks#dosage https://www.seraphinacapranos.com/nettles-magic-myth-medicine/ https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335516301401

 

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