Sore Muscle Salve

Last February — fed up with the stress and meanness of law school — I started playing capoeira as a way to work out all my negative energy.

Now, seven months later, I’m hooked and am helping my group plan for our annual batizado. We’re flying in mestres and profesors from all over, hiring samba teachers, and trying to convince our friends and family to come watch the event. Everyone in my small but mighty little group is doing our part to raise money so, naturally, I decided to whip up something crafty and sell it at the event.

Chilly Pepper Salve - Mamoot

I’ve been wanting to play with cayenne pepper for a long time, but hadn’t gotten around to it between making wintery salves for runny noses and summery bug sprays. But now I’ve got dozens of capoeristas to appeal to and it seems like the perfect time to tackle the pain-relieving powers of cayenne.

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Things I Learned In Summer Herbalism Class

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been taking herbalism classes at the Neighborhood Farm Initiative’s urban farm in Washington, D.C. I got to talk to other plant nerds, ate all kinds of weeds, and learned LOADS. I loved it so much that I’m already planning to sneak back down to D.C. in October to get my season’s worth of herbal info in the autumn classes.

Things I Learned In Summer Herbalism Class

This one is fennel. You might have eaten it as a spice or had the bulb as a vegetable. It’s a member of the carrot family and can help stimulate the production of breast milk. Fascinating, right?

Since it’s summer (and, as everyone in New York reminded me before I can here: summers in D.C. are brutal. (although I hate to burst your collective bubbles, NYC people, but here in D.C. we have air conditioning and trees and sky which makes summertime nine-hundred percent more bearable)), we talked about and touched and smelled and ate cooling herbs – the little guys that help with heat-related ailments like sunburn, bug bites, agitation, nerves, and insomnia. The classes were taught by Holly Poole-Kavana, an herbalist who, in my book, is the perfect balance of woo and evidence-based practices.

This plant is called cheeses. Yep, just like the dairy product. It's got little pods that look (but don't taste) a lot like cheese wheels. It's related to marshmallow, okra, and hibiscus and can help with dry eyes, mouth, and skin.

This plant is called cheeses. Yep, just like the dairy product. It’s got little pods that look (but don’t taste) a lot like cheese wheels. It’s related to marshmallow, okra, and hibiscus and can help with dry eyes, mouth, and skin.

How much is there really to say about plants? Ohmylord, SO MUCH. I took notes and I know that I still missed gobs. Here are my six favorite things that I learned.

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Honeysuckle Lotion

On the first day of spring here in New York City, we had some downright vernal weather.

The Manhattan Bridge is seen in the background as commuters make their way through the streets of Dumbo after a snow storm in New YorkDesperate for the tiniest hint of spring, I broke out the honeysuckle essential oil I’ve been holding onto since last October. I’d experimented with lotion before but my results were always hit or miss. One day I’d end up with a perfect, creamy lotion. The next, I’d have a lump of concrete in a puddle of water. I gave up. Last week, though – armed with my little bottle of honeysuckle and facing an nearly-empty bottle of store-bought lotion – I decided to give homemade lotion another try.

Honeysuckle Lotion

The result was a velvety, floral lotion that I’ve been able to duplicate twice with no concrete disasters.

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Materia Medica: Calendula

Background

Names
  • Botanical Name: Calendula officinalis
  • Other Names: Bullseye, garden marigold, genda, gold-bloom, holligold, marigold, pot marigold, marybud, zergul
  • Etymology: The name “calendula” comes from the plant’s tendency to bloom along with the calendar, typically flowering at the same time in the moon’s cycle. The name “pot marigold” comes from calendula’s use in German stews.il_570xN.266567222
Growth
  • Appearance: Calendula flowers range from yellow to orange. The blooms resemble highly-colored daisies. The stems grow from 30-60 cm (12″-24″). The flowers open in the morning and close at night.
  • Cultivation: Native to the Mediterranean, calendula grows in its natural habitat nearly year-round. An annual, calendula seeds can be sown directly in the garden in April or even in the fall in warmer climates. Although calendula prefers sunshine, rich soil, and occasional watering, it still grows well when neglected. Don’t be afraid to pick the flowers; the more you take, the more calendula gives. Flowers are ready to pick when they are sticky with anti-fungal resin.
  • Parts used: Flower
History
  • Greek and Roman: Romans and Greeks used Calendula garlands in ceremonies.
  • Catholic: Some Catholics call the plant “Mary’s Gold” and use it in ceremonies to honor the virgin
  • Hinduism: Calendula has been used as decorating for Hindu temples, statues and ceremonies
  • Dye: Much cheaper than saffron, calendula is used as a dye for food and fabric
  • Battlefield: Calendula was used to stop bleeding and heal wounds during the American Civil War and World War I
  • Traditional uses: Dye, cuts and wounds, digestive system
  • Symbolism: Endurance, grief, pain, Virgin MaryB1hHA6rCMAAfVsn

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Medicinal and Practical Uses

*I write about uses for plants as a novice herbalist, not a doctor or scientist; this isn’t medical advice. If you want to use plant-based remedies, find a doctor you trust and respect who also trusts and respects you so that you can work together to make sure you’re the healthiest version of you.

  • Safety: Generally considered safe but may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals who are allergic to daisies, mums, ragweed, or asters. Calendula should not be taken by people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
  • Primary actions (Secondary actions): aromatic, mild astringent,diaphoretic, mucilaginous, (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, febrifuge, lymphatic, vulnerary)
  • Characteristics: dry, cool
  • Constituents: calendulin, beta-carotene9d0e69de968f774cf66af2f85a18fe04
Circulation
  • Bleeding: Calendula applied locally can help stop small cuts from bleeding.
Digestion
  • Indigestion: When consumed, calendula can sooth digestive issues such as cramps and diarrhea3-drying
Immune system
  • Wounds: Calendula promotes cell growth and keeps infection at bay, which can help wounds heal faster.
  • Fever: Calendula can be drank or used externally as a poultice to keep fevers down.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: Along with exercise, consuming calendula can stimulate the lymph nodes and remove congestion.
  • Ear infections: Calendula drops have been used to treat child ear infections.
  • Canker sores: A strong calendula tea used as a mouth wash can speed the healing or canker sores.
Mind/Body
  • Itch: Calendula soothes itch associated with skin irritations.heal-all-salve-with-calendula
Skin and Hair
  • Burns: Calendula salve can help sooth minor cooking burns and sunburns.
  • Skin Irritation: Whether eczema, diaper rash, or a rash, calendula helps sooth itching and pain while promoting healing.
  • Insect bites and stings: Calendula salve or fresh calendula rubbed on the affected area soothes bee and wasp stings as well as mosquito bites.

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Cooking

  • Calendula used to be used to color cheese and butter
  • Calendula is drank as a tea for flavor as well as its medicinal qualities
  • Calendula flowers can be eaten fresh in salads9241158_f520

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Sources

Lavender and Honey Soap

My newest tea purchase was pretty much the opposite of what the box promised.

boring, unfortunately

Lies

Not only did this stuff taste more like plain old boring hot water than honey lavender calmness, I managed to lose my fancy thermos on the day I took this to school. Losing a thermos and being sent to 4 different offices before you find the lost and found, only to find that they haven’t found your lost thing ≠ stress relief.

Still, honey lavender sounds like a pretty delicious combination. Not wanting my box of boring tea to go to waste, I used a a little to make some soap.

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Materia Medica: Burdock

Background

Names
  • Botanical Name: Arctium lappa
  • Other Names: Arctium (from Greek arktos, bear), Bardana (Portuguese and Spanish), Beggar’s buttons,  Clot-bur (bur comes from Latin, burra, a sheep’s wool, which refers to how sheep’s wool became entangled as sheep passed by the plant), Cockleburr, Cockle buttons, Fox’s clote, Gobo (Japanese), Happy major, Hardock, Hareburr, Lappa (from Greek lappa, to seize, Celtic llap, hand), Love leaves, Orelha-de-gigante (refers to how to leaves look like giant ears), Niu Bang Zi (Chinese), Personata, Philanthropium, Poor man’s potatoes, Thorny burr

Burdock, Lesser. (Arctium minus) Grace Road Sapcote SP 4915 9359 (taken 5.7.2006)

Growth
  • Appearance: Burdock is a large plant with gigantic leaves that can grow up to a yard long. The leaves are soft underneath and are oval- or heart-shaped. The plant flowers through the summer and the prickly seed pods mature in the fall.
  • Cultivation: Burdock is considered by many to be a weed and is harder to stop growing than grow. You name it, burdock can grow in it: poor soil, rich soil, hot weather, cold weather, drought, flood. To keep burdock from spreading, cut off the seed pods before they ripen in the fall. Burdock roots and leaves should be dug in July.
  • Parts used: Leaves, root

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History
  • Innovation: Burdock’s prickly burrs were the inspiration for velcro. After the inventor came home from a hunting trip in the Alps, he wondered how all the burrs managed to stick to his pants and went to his microscope to investigate.
  • Traditional uses: Both traditional Chinese medicine and European medicine have used it as a blood purifier

velcro

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Medicinal and Practical Uses

*I write about uses for plants as a novice herbalist, not a doctor or scientist; this isn’t medical advice. If you want to use plant-based remedies, find a doctor you trust and respect who also trusts and respects you so that you can work together to make sure you’re the healthiest version of you.

  • Safety: Contact with the green, above-ground potion may cause contact dermatitis
  • Characteristics: Cool, permanent
  • Primary actions (Secondary actions): Alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, tonic, (anti-inflammatory, nutritive)
  • Constituents: Inulin
Circulation
  • Wound healing: Applying a poultice of burdock leaves to bruises and wounds may help speed healing.
Digestion
  • Indigestion relief: Burdock root can be used to help with “hot” conditions like indigestion.
  • Diuretic: Burdock is a diuretic; it rids the body of excess water by increasing urine.
Immune system
  • Lymph nodes: Drinking burdock root tea can calm swollen lymph nodes.
Skin and Hair
  • Rash relief: Burdock can be used internally and externally to treat eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and other skin conditions. It’s anti-inflammatory properties ease itching while it’s other properties speed healing. Burdock root can be taken as a tea or applied topically as a salve.
  • Acne: Burdock leaves can help with acne when applied as a poultice or drank as a tea.

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Cooking

  • Vegetable: The taproot is used as a root vegetable in many Asian cuisines
  • Tea: Dandelion and Burdock is a British soft drink that has been around since the Middle Ages
  • Beer: Burdock was used by European brewers before hops became popular

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Sources

Carrot and Calendula Soap

So the thing is: I saw this baby food jar and it was really cute.

baby food jar

right?

I wanted to buy it because it was so jar-ish and round and I wanted it for my jar collection. The problem? I have no baby to feed it to (and let’s be real, I’ll probably just make baby food when I have a baby because so far I haven’t met a DIY I haven’t liked. Except knitting. And making pickles. I digress.)

As it turns out, baby food is something you can add to soap. Sound gross? It’s not; the only ingredients in this stuff are pureed fruits and vegetables and water.

Using a an adapted recipe from the Nerdy Farm Wife, I made 12 pretty little bars of carrot calendula soap. The carrot gives it a great color but doesn’t do much for the scent since it all gets saponified, so you’ll need to add something extra if you want your soap to actually smell like carrots.

Also, I’d heard that using salt water will help your bars come out harder but had never tried it before this batch. Holy smokes, does it make a difference!

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Now that I’ve got the whole function thing down, I took a stab at improving the form of my soap and took four extra steps that made for a really pretty bar. First, I added dried calendula flowers to the batter. I’ve got gobs of them lying around because I have eczema that attacks every winter with the might of a thousand jellyfish and calendula’s good for weird skin stuff. Second, I used my new soap stamp to put a little mammoth tusk in each bar after I sliced them up. Third, after the bars had hardened for a few weeks, I used a vegetable peeler to bevel the sides. See how the corners are square in the naked picture and kind of smooth in the wrapped one? That’s beveling. Finally, I designed wrappers for my soap so that anyone I give a bar to knows exactly what they’re getting.

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