Someone gave me a cutting of lemon balm two years ago. It grows fast and spreads out, a great filler in any garden bed. When leaves are rubbed, crushed, this plant releases a refreshing lemony aroma.
Plant name: Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis, a member of the mint family
Where found: herbaceous perennial, native to southern Europe, Iran, Central Asia but naturalized here in the US and elsewhere.
Garden Tips: this aromatic plant does not spread underground like mint. Stems sprout from seeds that come from inconspicuous flowers. It responds well to cutting and trimming a few times a season. Lemon Balm likes mulch too.
Most herbs like the sun but lemon balm can tolerate some shade.
3 Benefits: Why is it popular? Its been used as a flavoring in recipes, adding lemony citrus tones to meats, fish, veggies for centuries. Probably arrived here with the early settlers, as they took their food and their medicines with them. Known for its calming effect, especially when digestion is involved, lemon balm must have been soothing on long ocean voyages.
Another benefit is as a carminative. Carminative means a substance that prevents or eases gas in the alimentary tract. Also known for its calming effect. Medical Medium goes further and tells us that the balms kill viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms inside the liver. Lemon balm calms the nerves of the liver. And calms the nerves of the intestinal lining which in turn lowers toxic heat in the liver. IBS, Irritable Bowl syndrome, is a worldwide malady. Could lemon balm be a good first choice herb to calm nerves especially GI nerves in our fast-paced world? Yes, it can. It’s also a diaphoretic which means it promotes perspiration which helps with the onset of colds.
Tea: can be made with dried or fresh leaves. I make fresh lemon balm tea as its growing as I want to manage its size. Little shoots are coming up nearby so I don’t worry about having enough. I pick a handful and place fresh leaves into a half gallon of boiling water. I turn off the heat and let sit for about an hour, strain and then serve over ice.
I checked my dried herbs this morning from last years supply. I tend to mix a few herbs for winter teas. This morning I made a cup with last year’s dried supply. When I opened the jar I noticed there was little lemon aroma. The tea itself is a little stronger too, though that’s not the right word. There is a difference between the two. How about experimenting with dried versus fresh and compare. What’s the difference? Which do you prefer?
Lemon Balm, whose botanical name is connected to bees, is a lovely herb for any garden.
Remember all comments are appreciated. Enjoy. Judith
While we wait for the rain to stop here in the NE, spring flowers brighten up our landscapes. The grass is an ‘Emerald City’ green. Bulbs rise, flower, come and go as we place seeds in the ground for early crops. Clovers will be coming up soon though I kinda take the little white clover blossoms for granted.
Botanical name: Trifolium repens
Common names: white clover, shamrock
Parts used: whole plant, Peterson’s field guides to medicinal plants states the entire plant can be used.
Uses: teas, washes for sores, ulcers, very popular in Europe. This plant was brought to our country with the early settlers during the 1600-1700’s. It’s short, a perennial and flowers from April to September with shamrock type leaves. As you can imagine, looking for four-leafed clover was and is considered a sign of good luck. In Europe, flower tea was used for rheumatism and gout. In North America, the Native Americans used the leaf tea for colds, coughs, and fevers.
Jethro Kloss, an American icon in the world of herbalism, lived from 1863 to 1946 and practiced herbal medicine. He used white clover blossoms in a tea to cleanse the system, especially if ulcers, boils or other skin ailments were present. He also noted that poultices, tea washes applied externally, helped heal sores, ulcers too.
White clover has been used for many years as a ground cover. It is useful as a ground cover for its nitrogen-fixing properties. There are nodules on the roots that literally grab nonusable nitrogen from the air and with the help of bacteria convert it into a plant usable form which is important for plant growth and provides protein source for foraging animals.
Benefits of White Clover: (from the University of Hawaii cooperative extension service pdf.)
1. Excellent for attracting beneficial insects, for reduced- or non-chemical pest management, for controlling erosion, suppressing weeds once established,
2. …and as a source of organic nitrogen good for quick growth and establishment,
3. …for bearing equipment traffic
4. …tolerates low fertility soils
5…. fair shade tolerance suitable for higher elevations
6. …good forage for animal grazing systems;
7. …high production, nutritional quality, and palatability
8. For use in plantation and orchard cropping systems including macadamia and coffee, in vineyards, and as a living mulch in vegetable cropping systems.”
In doing research for this article I came across a blog: insteading.com they use white clover as a living mulch, planting it in the garden to keep down weeds; eventually, it becomes mulch, retains moisture, attracts pollinators, and improves the soil. When I visited Michael Judd’s property, (author of Edible Landscapes), I saw his use of crops like mint growing in many places. He explained to us that he was not worried about keeping them harnessed. He cut them down periodically during the growing season and they became mulch there and then. It seems Insteading supports the same practices.
Last but not least, white clovers attract pollinators. White clover honey is one of the most popular honey here in the US, light in color and milder in taste.
Teas are easy: gather flowers, leaves at peak growing times, dry, store in glass jars. These plant parts can be combined with other herbs for tea making. A few white clover blossoms along with red clovers can be added to ice teas too creating pleasing summertime drinks.
White clover flowers dried, then ground into flour can be added to bread recipes. Southern forager shares a bread recipe made from dehydrated and dried, ground white clover blossom flour. I have found forager sites have great uses and recipes for meadow plants.
I hope you look at white clovers in lawns, gardens, and paths a bit differently. This little plant often mowed and ignored provides a host of uses. Do you have a favorite recipe? Please share…I’d like that.
Dear readers, This article is too good to not pass along. Short and helpful it gives us practical items to use for cleaning home and office.
Many of us choose to use safe cleaning products. We want our homes to be toxic free not only for ourselves and children but for our pets too.
Dr. Mercola’s site: mercola.com has a great article today offering:
Some common household items, such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice can get the job done just as well — sometimes even better — than their toxic counterparts. Here’s a simple starter list of what you need to make your own natural cleaning products:
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Liquid castile soap
- Organic essential oils (optional)
- Mixing bowls
- Spray bottles
- Micro fiber cloths
For a great video on how to use these ingredients and other tips for cleaning your home without hazardous chemicals, please review the article: How to Keep Your Home Clean Naturally. For example, vinegar combined with hydrogen peroxide works exceptionally well as both a disinfectant and sanitizer.
Cleaning mirrors and windows is as easy as adding a quarter-cup of white vinegar per quart of water. Add a few drops of liquid dish soap to the mixture if windows or mirrors are really dirty, but be very careful not to use any that contain harmful antibacterial substances.
Most people know that baking soda is an ideal means to absorb odors in your refrigerator, but did you know it’s also a real powerhouse when it comes to cleaning?
Half-a-Dozen Uses for Baking Soda
Here are half a dozen examples of how plain and simple baking soda can replace dangerous commercial cleaning products in your home:
- Use as a safe non-scratch scrub — for metals and porcelain.
- To clean your oven — simply sprinkle a cup or more of baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then cover the baking soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight. The next morning the grease will be easy to wipe up because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven.
- To unclog a drain — pour 1/2 – 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour 1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. If it bubbles like a volcano, it means it’s working as planned. Flush with a gallon of boiling water.
- Deodorize dry carpets — by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes, then vacuum.
- To rid your garbage disposal of foul smells — add vinegar to water for ice cubes, then let a few of them get chopped by your disposal.
- To clean your silver — boil 2-3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for 2-3 minutes more. Remove silver from the pan and wipe away the tarnish with a clean cotton cloth.
Lemon juice or lemon essential oil are two of my favorite cleaning
products that I keep handy in the kitchen. A few drops on a sponge leaves a refreshing smell to any kitchen counter or sink. Lemon oil or juice also deodorizes a sponge. These products are safe to clean a pets cage or litter box.
Spring cleaning happens indoors and out. The above offers great advice. Dr. Mercola’s list of products to keep in our homes are easy to obtain and easy to use. So grab your your shopping list, add what you need and know you are protecting your family’s health. Here’s to spring cleaning….
Enjoy this beautiful day. Judith
My podcast guest this week, Joan Palmer, founder of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition, or TIOSN, reminded me how important it is to use the food we grow in our kitchens. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But, we get busy with work, household chores, children’s schedules, all can claim our time. Plants too, have their own agendas, ones they follow regardless of our attention or inattention. They have a schedule of peak growth and then they wane. If our attention is elsewhere, we lose harvest time.
So I thought, let me share 2 easy recipes for using garden thyme in particular and other culinary herbs you may have dried or stored,
Food Alert: many herbs can be irradiated as they come into our country.
“The USA has the most advanced commercial food irradiation program in the
world and the volume of irradiated food consumed in the US is second only
to China. Information on the current status of irradiation in the USA can be
obtained at www.foodirradiation.org or from the Food Irradiation Update
Newsletter published by the author.
A significant amount of the international trade in irradiated food has been
driven by consumer acceptance of irradiated food in the US and access to
that large and lucrative market. More than ten countries currently export
produce to US retailers.
Food products irradiated or marketed in the US during 2015 included
approximately 68 000 tons of spices, 30 000 tons of fruits and vegetables, and
an estimated 12 500 tons of meat, poultry, and live oysters.” ( from foodiradiation.org)
Herbs de Provence is a traditional herb mix often used in European cooking. Drying culinary herbs gives us an opportunity to create flavorful mixtures as fall and winter approach. As Joan states in the podcast, “use real food.” Food from our gardens is not irradiated, hopefully organic. We know the source, we grow it locally, we eat what we grow by our own hands.
So here are 2 Easy Recipes you can easily make. If you don’t have the herbs mentioned I hope you will buy organic.
Recipe: Herbes de Provence:
- 3 Tablespoons dried marjoram
- 3 Tablespoons dried thyme
- 3 Tablespoons dried savory
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Combine marjoram, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary, sage, and fennel. Mix well and spoon into a tightly-lidded jar. Store in a cool, dark place up to 4 months. Add to soups, stews, roasts, fish etc all to your tastes.
Here’s a recipe using Herbs de Provence:
Chicken with Herbes de Provence Recipe
Recipe Type: Poultry, Chicken
Yields: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
4 chicken boneless breast halves (with skin)*
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence**
* Do not remove skin until after baking, as the skin helps to retain moisture in the meat.
Place chicken breasts, single layer, into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking dish.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine olive oil and the herbes de Provence together. Pour marinade over chicken breasts. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate to marinate longer (turning meat over several times).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (juices will run clear when cut with the tip of a knife); basting several times during cooking. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Have fun trying a new recipe. Do you have any favorites using thyme? All comments are appreciated.
Bon Appetit! Judith
My journey into alternative medicine began because of my son’s health. As an infant and toddler, he had ear infections, was a restless sleeper. Troublesome, worrisome and perplexing, I felt forced to look at health in general and his in particular from a different angle. How could I create foundational health for him when traditional medicine seemed to be a band-aid? It helped with the crisis but didn’t seem able to get to the root of the problem?
He was born in New Jersey where naturopathic medicine was /is not licensed. When he was three years old we moved back to CT, my home state, where I found out naturopaths are licensed to practice medicine. Remember I was trained as a nurse in western, allopathic medicine so this was a stretch for me. But I was tired, tired of long restless nights with him, cranky daytimes and his ill health. I had to step off the medical model I was trained in, face my fears, ( I was told in nursing school that chiropractors, naturopaths etc were “quacks”) and investigate alternative medicine for myself. I learned a whole lot, became angry that good research was not mainstream though potentially helpful.
Through a series of synchronistic encounters, I met a couple fo N.D.’s, Naturopathic physicians, who were licensed to practice medicine in the state of CT. Through specific testing, we found out my son was very sensitive to certain foods. When I removed them from his diet, the results were miraculous. After three days of removing these suspected culprits from his diet, he slept peacefully. Gradually his ears improved and so did his overall health.
Naturopathy refers to a system of medical practice that combines a mainstream understanding of human physiology and disease with alternative remedies. Naturopathy grew out of taking the
cure from natural mineral springs and spas prevalent in Europe in the 1800’s. This model flourished in the 1800’s and early 1900’s here in the USA. However, hospitals and schools were shut down by the 1920’s by the rise of biomedicines and the Flexner Report. As complementary and alternative medicine experienced a resurgence in the 1970’s, we began to see N.D.’s in our cities here in CT.
This practice chooses natural remedies aimed at stimulating the body’s own healing ability rather than surgery and drugs. These Doc’s have the same medical school training as our allopathic, (western medicine) Doc’s do with a few differences.
First, they cannot perform surgery and cannot prescribe certain classes of drugs. However they are trained in homeopathy, supplements, nutrition, and some are well versed in acupuncture, body therapies, traditional Chinese herbs, Ayurveda herbs, and western herbology.
My podcast guest this week, Dr. Ashley Burkman, highlighted her approach, involving a comprehensive review of a person’s lifestyle, environment, work and study habits, routines, in order to address whatever her patients present. On my first visit to an N.D. with my young son, I was surprised at the extensive interview and the quality time spent with me and my son. And it paid off. Little by little, we made dietary changes along with the addition of herbs and supplements. He improved. I finally felt he was regaining foundational health and vitality. And for the parents out there with small children, you can imagine my relief.
For the holidays: keep in mind bedtimes both your child’s and yours. We all function better with a good night’s sleep. Try different recipes that contain less refined sugars, refined flours and opt for more organic ingredients where you can. Put on relaxing music while doing kitchen chores. Laugh, smile and giggle. This is a wonderful time of year where true heartfelt giving, family, and friends surround us.
From my heart to yours, have wonderful holidays. Judith
Holidays are upon us. We tend to eat more, party more, join family and friends and drink more. And depending on our unique immune system strength, we can open the door to colds and flu. Who among us likes to be sick? Not me and I am sure not you. And it seems that digestion is directly tied to our immune systems which makes building immune strength and resistance a priority.
Digestive issues are prevalent from IBS, heartburn/ GERD, and IBD. I am sure most of you have heard of one if not all of these ailments. But what can we do to aid our digestion during these “off our routine” kind of times?
My podcast guest this week, Dr. Scott Gerson, MD and Ayurvedic physician reminded me how powerful one herb is on its own. One single herb, such as ginger, contains many constituents creating a unique formula all on its own. Highly recommended in Ayurvedic medicine both traditionally and today, ginger is one plant to keep in our kitchen. Besides adding flavor and pungency to a variety of dishes, a simple single tea from ginger root soothes digestion. Ginger, popular in many countries for its culinary flavors, can be pickled, honeyed, as well as added to soups, stews, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes.
Ginger: Zingiber officinale
Where found: thought to originate in the Indian subcontinent to Asia. Brought to East Indies by Spanish explorers and brought to Spain and then Europe.
Parts Used: Rhizome: a Rhizome is an underground stem: a thick underground horizontal stem that produces roots and has shoots that develop into new plants; from Greek rhizoma “mass of tree roots,” Rhizomes are underground stems that grow horizontally that produce a number of plants and are known to spread rapidly.
Nutritional Value: Contains macronutrients and many micronutrients. And as Dr. Gerson explained, a single herb, known for a primary constituent has many more trace constituents that aid, and compliment, and help us utilize the very component we seek. In a sense, a single herb is a compound formula. This is a great reminder and illustrates the value of drinking herb teas. How about adding ginger to your routine?
3 tips for purchasing and using ginger today:
- When buying ginger root, snap off a small knob which should be crisp. Do not buy with any mold.
- Ginger can stay out of the refrigerator for about a week. Place in paper towels and they will keep much longer in the refrigerator.
- Unpeeled ginger root will last longer. Peel the skin off as mentioned above when you are ready to use it in tea or in a recipe. Keep what you need in the refrigerator. Freeze the rest for later use.
A little sharp, pungent flavor mixed with the oils in lemon goes well with the addition of maple syrup, honey to soothe irritated or dry throats as winter keeps us indoors. Here’s an example of a ginger tea recipe, easy to make.
Ginger Tea Recipe
- water, 4 cups
- 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root
- optional: honey and lemon slice
- Peel the ginger root and slice it into thin slices. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Once it is boiling, add the ginger. Cover it and reduce to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain the tea. Add honey and lemon to taste.
Pungent and spicy with a little kick in taste soothes stomachs. When our digestive organs are soothed we are soothed. It’s fascinating to me that an herb to calm the stomach actually soothes our mind. When we are calm so is our digestion. Everything is connected and single herb teas provide so many tasty solutions to what ails us. What’s your favorite? Be well this holiday season.