Beyond Beauty

This week I wanted to add some color to the blog, and talk about a famous purple flower: Lavender. 

lavender

Just the thought of this aromatic plant calms me. I have a home-made eye pillow with lavender (and rosemary), and the relaxation effect is so great. It is comforting to smell the lavender and to rest it on my forehead each night. I know people that have chronic headaches who swear by carrying a bottle of lavender essential oil with them and apply a few drops of the oil to their temples at the onset of a headache.

I was surprised to learn of the many uses of lavender beyond just stress relief and a tension headache remedy.  Lavender is also a known antispasmodic, antibacterial and antiseptic plant.  An article that I read mentioned using a few drops of lavender on a ringworm infection! This is amazing considering the potent anti fungal antibiotic that a doctor would prescribe for such a scary parasite.  It’s a whole new approach to self care (and child care) when you first ask yourself ‘what can I do to help the situation,’ and  ‘what do I Have already that can help’, then to rush to urgent care, and a huge bill.

The most common type of lavender that is grown are different species of english lavender.  I see a lot of ornamental lavender plants and those just don’t have the same healing properties.  There are also varietals that are grown specifically for producing essential oils.

In the summertime when the plant is producing its flowers is the time to prune the plant back and dry the flowers for a time you may need them. As in the picture below, hang bundles of the stems to dry and then pull the buds from the stems.  The buds can then be soaked in olive oil, and after about a month, strain the buds out with cheese cloth and voila, lavender infused oil! The oil can be applied topically to sooth headaches, minor skin irritations, or ingested as a delicious culinary treat! (Note: In the case of the ringworm situation, this would not be helpful and one would need the essential oil to dry out the infection; I have not tried this since I’ve never experienced ringworm, thankfully.)

drying-lavender-lo

I am amazed, each week as I write this blog, at the amount of information (both scientific and metaphysical) that can be gathered about each plant. Below are two article that I referenced in writing this post. I am so thankful for my knowledge of the world of plants and look forward to sharing more in weeks ahead.

Botany-related Source: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/programs/herbs/crops/culinary/lavender_mccoy.html

Other reading: http://www.jenniferschulman.com/content/50-uses-essential-lavender-oil-around-home-and-family#.VWzLdEvPJZg

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Women’s Health is Community Health

Rubus idaeus Rubus idaeus

Some people who garden may know this plant. In late summer it produces sweet red berries that are a delicious treat! While the plant has thorns to turn away the non committed forager, those who know this plant are not deterred. Not only are the sweet, ripe, red berries a treat during summer but the leaves of the plant can be made into tea and drank with medicinal value. This plant is Red Raspberry.

For the herbalist, red raspberry is known generally as a female toner.  (Yes, this post is most speaking to women’s health, but men should note that this does not mean the plant is toxic to you.) “Female Toner” is an umbrella term that encompasses the many properties of this plant!  Red raspberry leaves aid the endocrine system, which is the body system that regulates hormone balance.  Since the female reproductive system is directed by a specific flow of hormones, this plant will help with: infertility, pregnancy, morning sickness, premenstrual stress, menopause symptoms, and even anxiety.  Red raspberry leaves are a companion throughout all of the childbearing years and beyond!

Hormone replacement therapy  (HRT) is commonly recommended by western medical doctors to women who are experiencing strong symptoms of menopause. The health risks of this option are greater than the benefits.  Synthetic hormones can shock your body system and pose a risk to families with a risk of estrogen dependent breast cancer, they should be used at the lowest effective dose if used at all.  Back the the plants.

A healthy and nourishing alternative to hormonal balance, that will work in most cases with consistent intake, is red raspberry leaf tea. There are also herbal compounds on the market which include red raspberry leaf, red clover, blue and black cohosh, vitex, valerian root and more.  At home, a tea can be made of the dried, or fresh, leaves of red raspberry:

2 TBS crushed leaves to a quart of hot water. Let sit for at least an hour until the tea is dark in color.  Drink consistently (3-4 times) throughout the day.

While the mother’s of herbalism share the uses of plants in a folklore sense, there is science to support these claims.  I am amazed at the fact that plants contain hormones themselves which aid in our own hormone balance.  I really believe in this delicate balance with the systems of the body and the plants that we accept into our lives. Science, folklore, sustainability, and stewardship intertwine to create a wholesome experience of well being.

To learn more about Rubus idaeus, check out this link from The School of Natural Healing: http://online.snh.cc/files/2100/HTML/100hs_raspberry__rubus_idaeus.htm