Begin with Bitters

My first understanding of Bitters came while traveling in Europe many years ago.  Dining in France, we were often asked if we would like to begin with an Aperitif.  Not knowing what it was I began asking, “What is this custom all about?”  The most popular aperitifs are Campari, Dubonnet, Lillet and Vermouth.  The Aperitif is simply an alcohol cocktail typically infused with bitter herbs, roots or fruits.  The Aperitif is intended to spark the appetite.

We have twenty-five bitter taste receptors and by starting or incorporating bitters into our meals we can stimulate our digestive fluids (acids, bile, enzymes, gastric juices, hormones, saliva etc.) which aid and prepare the body in the digestion process.

Some of the herbs you may find in a bitter recipe include:  air potato, alfalfa, aloe, American and Asian ginseng, angelica, anise, anise hyssop, asparagus, balmony, barberry, bay leaf, bearberry, blackberry lily, black cohosh, blessed thistle, blue cohosh, boneset, bottle gourd, burdock, caraway, cascara sagrada, centaury, chamomile, chickweed, chicory, Chinese foxglove, coffee, coriander, corydalis, cranberry, creat, dandelion, dogwood, dong quai, Dutchman’s breeches, Echinacea, eclipta, eleuthero, ephedra, fennel, feverfew, forsythia, fo-ti, fringetree, gentian, gotu kola, ginger, globe artichoke, goldenseal, goldthread, hawthorn, hops, horehound, horseradish, horsetail, huang qi, Indian valerian, juniper, lesser periwinkle, licorice, magnolia vine, mate, may apple, marjoram, milk thistle, mugwort, nandina, neem, nettle, Oregon grape, pawpaw, peppermint, phyllanthus, pot marigold, redroot sage, rhubarb, rosemary, rose-of-Sharon, rue, saw palmetto, self-heal, shatavari, sida, skullcap, southernwood, sweet annie, sweet cicely, tansy, tulip tree, tulsi, turmeric, vervain, watercress, wild yam, willow, wolfberry, woodruff, wormwood, yellow dock, yellow root, yerba santa, and yucca.

This is a very easy recipe to make your own bitters at home.  Herbs are available at Mountain Rose Herbs.


2 parts Dandelion Root

1 part Fennel Seed

1 part Fenugreek Seed

½ part Ginger Root

½ part Orange Peel

100 proof Vodka or Brandy

Glass mason jar and dark dropper bottles


Using a clean glass jar add the herb mixture; fill the jar with vodka or brandy completely covering the herbs (dry herbs do expand and should  not exceed1/3 to 1/2 of the jar).  Shake jar daily for 4-6 weeks (long it gets stronger), after time has passed, use a washed muslin cloth to strain the herb mixture, bottle the remaining liquid in a dark glass dropper bottle.  Label with herbs, alcohol, date and your initials. Begin u0sing you “bitters before meals”.

If you’d like to read more about Bitters I suggest the following material:

Food & Wine, Jim Nelson. Accessed December 20, 2012.

 The Medicine Woman, Kiva Rose:  Accessed December 20, 2012,, Jim McDonald:  Accessed December 20, 2012,

Green, James Duke and Helen Lowe Metzmen:  Accessed December 20, 2012,

Green, James. The Male Herbal: Health Care for Men and Boys.  California: The Crossing Press, 1991.

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Holiday Gift Giving

My mother has always been one of the craftiest people I know and growing up we did crafts.  The holiday was especially fun making our own ornaments and gifts.  It doesn’t feel like the holidays to me without it.  I wanted something different than my tea blends and ready-to-bake cookies in a jar… this year it was Rose Petal Jelly.

Rose Petal Jelly

4 cups rose petals

1¼ cups water

4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)

1 cup white sugar

2 Tbsp. rose water or 1-2 drops pure rose essential oil (optional)

Pulse blend rose petals and water for small bits in every bite.  Pour into pan and simmer rose petals and water for 15 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and sugar; bring up to a boil, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat and cook until the jam starts to thicken, 5-20 minutes. Remove from heat stir in the rose water or essential oil. Carefully pour into sterile glass jars and seal.  Store in refrigerator and use within a month.


Rose Petal Jelly

1 cup fresh rose petals

1.5 cups (divided ¾)

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (lemon)

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 package pectin

Pulse blend rose petals, 3/4 cup water and lemon juice until smooth. Slowly add sugar and blend till all sugar has dissolved; (leave in blender). Mix pectin (Sure Gel)and 3/4 cup water, bring to a boil, and boil hard for 1 minute.  Add pectin mixture to blender with rose petal mixture blend till smooth. This will set up FAST so blend and pour into jelly jars QUICKLY. Let it set till firm (4 hours – overnight). Store in refrigerator and use within a month. Freezes well.


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Vaccines: I don’t know the answer

New parents are most concerned about healthy babies and keeping their newborn safe.  The current modern medical model of exposing a healthy person to small amounts of disease is sound, the idea is that it will prepare and strengthen the immune system for an outbreak.  It’s the safety of the method so many of us are opposing.

When children are born, there immune system provides passive immunity received through the placenta and then from breast milk.  The immune system will develop a few months after birth but takes 6-18 months to develop an immune memory.  So why inject babies if they have no immune memory.  We can safely develop natural immunity to a large variety of microorganisms that they breathe, eat, and touch.

The immune responses initiated by cells lining their airways, skin and intestines are very important in creating “memory” and protection against the microorganisms they naturally come into contact with every day.  That primary line of defense is the mucus lining our skin, this barrier traps invaders exposing them to phagocyte immune cells which engulf them and then alert T-cell and B-Cells who target and destroy them.  Then memory cells keep us ready for secondary assaults thus creating immunity and lifelong protection.

The maturation of a child’s immune system is a very important step and it’s bypassed when injected with a vaccine.  Rarely do vaccines offer protection for more than a few years and most require boosters.  The body is merely creating an antibody, but as the Journal of Virology study showed, the unvaccinated children actually built up more antibodies against a wider variety of flu virus strains than the vaccinated children.  When a fully vaccinated individual comes down with a disease the blood work can show active anti-bodies proving there is no guarantee against invasion.  Vaccines usually do not impart long-term immunity because they don’t create the kind of memory that occurs when you go through the process of a natural immune response.

Natural exposure does not necessarily lead to infection; it is possible to obtain natural immunity without actually getting sick, if your immune system is functioning well.  In fact, vaccines do NOT strengthen the healthy functioning of the immune system, but can actually weaken it.

Whether you vaccinate your child or not it’s important to build up their immune system.  A strong immune system comes from an optimum health diet that includes highly nutritious foods including fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, beans, greens, onions, berries, nuts, seeds, legumes and optionally; small portions of organic meats and grains.

As parents we want to keep our children healthy and safe so take the time to learn about both sides of the issue, be informed before blindly accepting another vaccine.  It’s vitally important to know and exercise your legal rights and understand your options when it comes to using vaccines and prescription drugs. Did you know your doctor is legally obligated to provide you with the CDC Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) sheet and discuss the potential symptoms of side effects of the vaccination(s) with you or your child BEFORE the vaccination takes place. If someone giving a vaccine does not do this, it is a violation of federal law. Furthermore, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 also requires doctors and other vaccine providers to:

-Keep a permanent record of all vaccines given and the manufacturer’s name and lot number

-Write down serious health problems, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths that occur after vaccination in the patient’s permanent medical record

-File an official report of all serious health problems, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following vaccination to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS)

If a vaccine provider fails to inform, record or report, it is a violation of federal law. It’s important to get all the facts before making your decision about vaccination; and to understand that you have the legal right to opt out of using a vaccine that you do not want you or your child to receive. At present, all 50 states allow a medical exemption to vaccination (medical exemptions must be approved by an M.D. or D.O.); 48 states allow a religious exemption to vaccination; and 18 states allow a personal, philosophical or conscientious belief exemption to vaccination.

However, vaccine exemptions are under attack in a number of states, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to protect the right to make informed, voluntary vaccination decisions.


Book Recommendation:

“Vaccines: are the really safe and effective” by Neil Miller


Resources: (accessed June 6, 2012) Suboptimal Breastfeeding Kills over 1 Million Infants a year.

Organic Health (accessed June 6, 2012) Vaccines are Bad for You

American Society for Microbiology Journal of Virology. (accessed June 6, 2012) Caution about Newcastle Disease Virus-Based Live Attenuated Vaccine.  doi: 10.1128/JVI.00370-08 J. Virol. July 2008 vol. 82 no. 13 6782.

New England Journal of Medicine. (accessed June 6, 2012) Safety and Efficacy of a Pentavalent Human-Bovine (WC3) Reassortant Rotavirus Vaccine. 

New England Journal of Medicine.  (accessed June 6, 2012) Intussusception among infants given an oral Rotavirus vaccine. (accessed June 7, 2012)  Are Your Doctors Being Bribed to Recommend this?

Herbal Legacy (accessed June 7, 2012) Infant Vaccines by David Christopher


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Chia Seeds

The word chia (Salvia Hispanica) means strength so try these super-seed for yourself and see if you agree.  In South America, as far back as 3000 BC, Chia Seeds had been a staple of daily nutrition and commerce in Pre-Columbian societies. In Mayan and Aztec life, the seed was so important, it was incorporated into religious ceremonies and tribal trading, you can find the seed harvest time outlined in ancient Aztec calendars.  It is said the Aztec warriors would sustain their body’s strength and endurance with a daily spoon full of seeds when on long expeditions.  Ancient societies referred to these little seeds as “Warrior Food” and “Running Food”.


Nutritional Benefits of Chia seeds:

  • A nutritional powerhouse loaded with vitamins and minerals are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and antioxidants, the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids.

-2.5 times more protein than kidney beans.  One of nature’s highest plant-based sources of a complete protein

-3 times the antioxidant strength of blueberries

-3 times more iron than spinach

-6 times more calcium than milk and a rich source of magnesium and boron (which helps the body assimilate and use calcium)

-7 times more vitamin C than oranges

-6 to 8 times more omega-3 than salmon and contains about at 2 to 1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6

-10 times more fiber than rice

-15 times more magnesium than broccoli

  • Consumption of chia seeds could help reduce joint pain, aid in weight loss, deliver an energy boost and protect against serious ailments such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • The seeds are gluten-free, which also makes them appealing to people with celiac disease or an aversion to gluten.
  • Chia seeds are a source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of “short-chain” omega-3 fatty acid, whereas fish is a source of the “long-chain” fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  Studies are now suggesting that ALA may bring about redistribution associated with heart and liver protection.
  • The Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to help prevent cancer and heart disease, increase immune and brain function, prevent and treat neurological disorders and for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and depression.
  • According to a recent study, rats fed chia seed supplements were protected from heart and liver problems associated with a high-fat diet, including improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, reduced visceral adiposity, decreased liver fat, and lower cardiac and hepatic inflammation and fibrosis. (The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry Vol. 23, Issue 2, Pages 153-162 February 2012).
  • The research, from the University of Queensland, Australia, revealed that the chia seeds brought about lipid redistribution in the rats, with lipids trafficked away from the visceral fat and the liver. (
  • Chia seeds have become popular with athletes as the seeds can increase endurance and stamina; it’s an excellent source of cholesterol free protein, which is necessary for healthy muscle building.   Chia can prolong the carbohydrate conversion into sugar which stabilizes metabolic changes, diminishing the surges of highs and lows creating a longer duration in their fueling effects and improving endurance.  You also get the added benefit of an appetite suppressant
  • Chia seed can absorb more than 12 times its weigh in water prolonging hydration and improving the body’s absorption of nutrients and body fluids.  With greater efficiency in the utilization of bodily fluids, the electrolyte balance is maintained.
  • Chia seeds also add soluble fiber to the diet and as they bulk create lubricating mucilage for the intestines that increases bowel activity and relieves constipation.
  • Chia’s hydrophilic colloidal properties aid the digestion of any foods contributing to the patients suffering as a result of a sour stomach. Even if you have sensitivity to certain foods, they may be tolerated with slight discomfort or none at all.
  • The positive effects on the digestion in the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract often leads to puree their foods may find benefits from hydrophilic colloids which may lead to eliminating the necessity for pureeing. Even raw vegetables, green salads and fruits, which are largely restricted, may often be given to these patients with little or no discomfort after a short time.
  • Anti-oxidants help prevent free-radical damage in your body. Free radicals lead to problematic conditions such as premature aging of the skin and inflammation of various tissues.
  • Also used by the Indians and missionaries as a poultice for gunshot wounds and other serious injuries by packing the wounds with Chia seeds to avoid infections and promote healing.
  • If you place a seed or two in your eyes it will clean your eyes and will also help to clear up any infections.

Inflammation Reduction
Inflammation plays a big part in increased risk of heart attack. In many ways in can be an early indicator of various problems associated with heart disease in healthy adults, both men and women. Weight loss, drugs and improved diet can act as interventions and some studies have reported reduction of inflammation levels. Chia seed could be offered to anyone with a family history of heart disease or stroke.

Blood Pressure Reduction
Millions of adults are at risk hypertension, and many of those receiving using traditional drugs don’t get the results they require. Often times a good diet can do as much as pharmacy prescriptions. Studies have shown eating chia seed regularly may help reduce diastolic and systolic blood pressure comparable to the effects of medically supplied anti-hypertensive agents without the side effects. The chia nutrients listed above may be the reason for these amazing effects.

Blood Thinning Benefits
Thick blood can reduce circulation and be a precursor to various heart problems. Similar to aspirin, chia seed show positive effects on the treatment and prevention of heart disease ailment by reducing inflammation and displaying properties similar to traditional blood thinners. Even without any signs of heart problems this can be beneficial as a preventive procedure to those who are predisposed to heart conditions. Diets rich in nutrients are essential in preventing numerous cardiovascular diseases and increasing overall longevity.

Diabetes Maintenance and Prevention
Blood sugar may spike after meals, especially if you eat high-starchy foods or sweets leading to low energy. By balancing your blood sugar you lower your risk for type 2 diabetes and ensure steady constant energy throughout your day.

But how does the Chia Seed help with this? Both the gelling action of the seed and its unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber combine to slow down your body’s conversion of starches into sugars. If you eat chia with a meal, it will help you turn your food into constant, steady energy rather than a series of ups and downs that wear you out.

Weight Management
Chia seeds unique gelling action keeps you feeling full for hours.  The gel-forming action is due to soluble fiber and water, it has no calories.   As the seeds coagulate liquid they begin to bulk in size and create a feeling of fullness in your stomach.  By eating 1-3 tablespoons of chia seeds at least 30 minutes to an hour before your meal, the feeling of fullness will take hold before you get a chance to gulp down those unwanted calories.

Preparing Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are safe and healthy for anyone to consume, the recommended dosage is 1-4 tablespoons per day.  Chia seeds can be used similarly to flax seed, however, the shells are easily broken down, even when swallowed whole. This is an improvement over flax seed, which have to be ground up to be digested properly. If you eat flax seed whole, it will just pass through.  Mix a spoonful of Chia in a glass of water and leaving it for approximately 20-30 minutes, when you return the glass will contain gel or an almost solid gelatin.

The seeds have mild to no flavor and will change the flavor of foods.  This makes it easy to add to a dressing, dip, salsa, sauce, smoothie, pudding, or just about anything.  Sprinkle them on yogurt or salad, use milled seeds for baking or soak the seeds until they form a gel that can be added to a variety of recipes.

Chia gel can substitute for half the butter or oil in most recipes, the food will bake the same and taste the same.  Everything from cookies to cakes to muffins, pancakes and waffles can be made with chia gel as your butter or oil replacement.

The anti-oxidants in chia can even help keep the food tasting fresh longer. At room temperature, chia seeds stay fresh and ready to eat for over two whole years! And that’s all without a single chemical or preservative.

Chia Milk
2 cups vanilla almond milk, unsweetened
1 Tbsp. raw xagave
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
Mix well and drink


Book Recommendation:

Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood by Wayne Coates


  1. Super Seeds Organics (accessed June 7, 2012)
  2. The Globe and Mail (accessed June 7, 2012) article4097411
  3. (accessed June 7, 2012)
  4. (accessed June 7, 2012)
  5. Living and Raw Foods (accessed June 7, 2012)
  6. I create (accessed June 7, 2012)
  7. Prevent Disease (accessed June 7, 2012) Are Chia Seeds the Perfect Superfood.
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Build-a-Better Bug Spray

Forget those commercial brands of insect repellent and build a better bug spray. There are smelly and toxic to our health. Lucky for us there are many essential oils that will repel insects. In addition to repelling insects many of these oils smell great and offer added healthy benefits. Water, sweat and evaporation reduce the effectiveness of these homemade insect repellants so apply often for best results.

Oils for insect repellants include: Castor Oil, Catnip EO, Cedar EO, Cinnamon EO, Citronella EO, Clove EO, Geranium EO, Lavender EO, Lemongrass EO, Lemon Eucalyptus EO, Peppermint EO, and Rosemary EO.

-Apply castor oil to all exposed areas of your skin to prolong the effectiveness you can add an insect repelling essential oil to it.

-If the castor oil is too greasy, you can mix 1 part castor oil to 10 parts rubbing alcohol for a smoother, drier feel to your skin.

-Castor oil is also effective against insects when added to your daily shampoo or liquid body wash.

-Add any of the above essential oils of a therapeutic grade to castor oil for skin applications.

-Cinnamon oil has the ability to kill mosquito larvae. Added to lotion, sunscreen or castor oil or diluted in distilled water all make effective mosquito repellents.

-Catnip essential oil can be as effective as DEET, the catnip tincture is less expensive and very effective.

-In a spray bottle add 5-7 drops essential oil to 2-4 ounces of distilled water, rubbing alcohol or grain alcohol shake well and mist on carpet, furniture or anywhere it’s needed for flea, mosquito or other pest control.

-Add a few drops of essential oil to your favorite sunscreen or lotion in the palm of your hand, then apply it to your skin before going outdoors.

-Ward off ants and flies with spearmint or peppermint.
To repel ants and flies on your deck or patio, keep a pot or two of mint near seating areas, where you’ll also enjoy the refreshing scent.

-If an insect still manages to sting or bite you, apply a soothing paste of baking soda, water and a little lemon juice to the area.

-Lavender essential oil will also take away the sting.


Bug-Away Spray

4 ounces fresh catnip tincture (95 percent alcohol)
4 ounces witch hazel extract
8 drops organic citronella essential oil
8 drops organic eucalyptus essential oil
4 drops organic lavender essential oil
2 drops organic rosemary essential oil
1 drops organic lemongrass essential oil
1 drops organic lemon essential oil
(for a stronger formula double each essential oil drops)

1. Mix all ingredients in an 8 oz. spray bottle and shake well before using.
2. Re-apply as often as needed.

CAUTION: Do not get in eyes. Be careful to wash your hands after applying the essential oils, lotions or sunscreens.


Cox, Janice. (1999) Natural Beauty from the Garden. Henry Holt and Company.
Herb Companion Magazine April/May 2008 Issue (Mountain Rose Herbs Bug-Away Spray) (accessed June 2012)
Natural Health Solutions (accessed June 2012)

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Organic Amendments for Your Container Garden

When we venture into the world of growing our own food we need to learn the art and science of good soil, plant nutrients and just the right amount of sun and water.  Today I’m going to address the nutrients (for drainage friendly soil recipes see

Container grown fruits and vegetables do best with frequent light feedings of liquid fertilizer or amendments.  Commercially sold liquid fertilizers are fast-acting unlike seed meals and other solid organic products. Water-soluble homemade amendments are absorbed quickly and must be used soon after preparation; only prepare what you will apply within a day or two.  You may want to test your soil before adding amendments or fertilizers, soil and Ph tests are available at nurseries, home improvement gardens or online.  You can also check with your local Master Gardener Office for soil testing options.

In the Free Homemade Liquid Fertilizer Article, Brinton shares his recipe for Fertilizer Tea using 33 %manure mixed with 66% wood shaving, grass clippings or seaweed.  He would allow this blend too steep for 3 days (no more), shaking and stirring once a day using only the liquids not the solids, than dilute the tea mixture 1:1 with water and apply to vegetable garden.

In the Article A Better Way to Fertilize Your Garden: Homemade Organic Fertilizer by Steve Solomon, you will find extensive definitions and descriptions of soil amending ingredients please refer to the article for more information.  My two favorites and the ones I have used in my garden are Bone Meal which will boost the phosphorus level and Kelp Meal which supplies a range of trace minerals and natural hormones that act like plant vitamins increasing the plants resistance to extreme temps and environmental stress.

Alfalfa is the most natural source of nitrogen for today’s organic gardener.  Nitrogen needs to be replenished each growing season; the benefits of alfalfa include the additional minerals calcium, sulfur, magnesium, boron, iron, zinc and others.  Alfalfa can be used as a tea when diluted with water and allowed too steep for a day or two.  It can also be worked into the top 1-6 inches of garden soil depending on the fertility of the soil.  It can also be applied topically on the ground around and between plants after the soil temp reaches 60 degrees F.  Container gardens work well with a mixture of 3 parts potting soil with 1 part alfalfa; mix together and layer on the top of the container surface once the seeds have germinated and plants are growing.  The alfalfa will slowly release nutrients throughout the growing season.

In his book The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible, Edward Smith recommends the following organic fertilizer mix:

1/3 Cup blood meal (nitrogen)

1/3 Cup colloidal phosphate (for phosphorus)

1/3 Cup greensand (for potassium and trace elements)

The joy of tasting that perfectly ripe, home grown produce is worth the time and effort.  Container gardening is fun and easy, really, it’s as simple as soil, sun, water, and nutrients.  Use these simple guidelines and start experimenting before you know it you’ll have a dozen or more containers full of fresh produce for you and your family.



Mother Earth News. A Better Way to Fertilize Your Garden: Homemade Organic Fertilizer

Mother Earth News. Fee Homemade Liquid Fertilizers

Smith, Edward. 2011.  The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible. Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA.

Alfalfa’s Secret Website.


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Edible Herb Flower Gardening

Like herb and vegetable gardening you will need a plan for your flower garden.  Consider your budget, style, size and scale, what flowers and when they bloom.  Do you want a casual or formal look?  Get ideas when you are out and around town, from your house style, furniture, favorite colors or magazines.

Edible Herb Flowers


• Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile, Mat­ricaria recutita)
• Dandelion (Taraxacum spp.)
• Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
• Linden (Tilia spp.)
• Red clover (Trifolium pratense)


• Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
• Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
• Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
• Pineapple sage (Salvia ­elegans)


• Jasmine (Jasminum sambac, J. officinale)
• Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
• Rose (Rosa spp.)
• Scented geranium (Pelargonium spp.)
• Sweet violet (Viola odorata)


• Johnny Jump-up (Viola ­tricolor)
• Mint (Mentha spp.)
• Pansy (Viola ¥wittrockiana)


• Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
• Lemon verbena (Aloysia ­triphylla)
• Orange (Citrus sinensis)
• Tuberous begonia (Begonia Tuberhybrida Hybrids)


• Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
• Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum)
• Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)


• Calendula (Calendula ­officinalis)
• Chrysanthemum (Dendranthema morifolium)
• English daisy (Bellis perennis)
• Safflower (Carthamus ­tinctorius)
• Sunflower (Helianthus ­annuus)

Informal Containers: Plastic pots, Terra cotta or glazed ceramic, Tea kettle for kitchen herbs, Wheel barrow or whiskey barrel, Crocks, concrete container or blocks, Sink, toilet, tub, Baskets, Window boxes (plastic or wood), Tree stump

Formal Containers: Poured concrete, Decorative Urns, Cast iron Urns, Aluminum, Contemporary designs, Carved stone designs, Window boxes, Brass and wrought iron, Square wooden plantation boxes

Potting soil is the best choice for containers.  The roots of the plants need drainage, air circulation and nutrients.  Allowing your soil to dry to the feeling of a wrung out sponge will keep the plants from getting disease or root rot.  Potting soil mix works best in hanging plants because it‘s lightweight. Hanging baskets can dry out quickly, using a mix that has water-retaining gel crystals will help retain moisture longer.  You can purchase the crystals separately and add them to the potting mix.

CAUTIONS:  Edible flowers and herbs may interact with pharmaceutical drugs.  Do not or use extreme caution when eating flowers if you have a history of allergies, asthma or hayfever.  Do not consume a medicinal quantity of flowers without first consulting an herbalist or medical professional. Only eat flowers you can positively identify.  Choose organically grown flowers to avoid consuming pesticides and fertilizers.

RESOURCE:  Herb Companion Articles

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Stress and Tension Relief

Stress and tension are exhausting to our minds and bodies. Many of us deal with these challenges every day; from driving to work, more month-than-money, caring for family or co-workers, taking care of grocery shopping, dinner, housework, all this stuff keeps piling on and we are getting stressed…enough already.  If you just can’t find relief and relaxation in your day consider finding time to take care of yourself from a relaxing herb tea to giving yourself a well-deserved 10 minute break.  Find a quiet spot (for some this might be at a park or in your car stopped on a dead end street or in the garage). Set a timer on your stove, phone, alarm clock for 10 minutes, close your eyes and focus on your breathe for 10 minutes, imagine yourself in that perfect peaceful place. As thoughts come into your mind let them go and continue to focus on your breathe; in…out…in…out.  I like to use a drop on lavender essential oil on my hands and breathe in the calming aroma.  Care for yourself so you can care for others.

Herbs for Relaxation and Stress relief, as a tea, tincture, capsule, essential oil or sachet these fragrant, calming plants may help you relieve your tension:

Lavender: (Lavandula angustifolia) are well-known for their relaxing and mood-lifting effects. Since ancient times, lavender has been the leading herb for easing stress and anxiety, and as a natural sleep aid.  Numerous studies have shown that the fragrance of lavender significantly decreases anxiety, including in high-stress situations, such as dental offices and nursing homes, and during medical procedures. In studying the effects of scent on the brain, scientists have found that lavender increases the type of brain waves that are associated with relaxation.  To enhance sleep, fill a small muslin tea bag with dried lavender flowers and place it inside your pillowcase. Soaking in a warm bath with lavender herbs or essential oil is another pleasant way to take advantage of the relaxing benefits of lavender.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): is a nerve restorative that calms anxiety and stress. Both German and Roman chamomile have been used since times of ancient Greece.  The tiny, golden-centered flowers of chamomile have a delicious scent and flavor, making it one of my favorite herbal teas. Much more than just a tasty beverage, chamomile helps restore an exhausted nervous system, used to treat anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, eases indigestion, insomnia and emotional tension. Do not use chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed.

St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum): The bright yellow star-shaped flowers of St. John’s Wort are seen along roadsides in late summer. The fresh flowers and buds are rich in compounds; hypericin and hyperforin, which have mood-brightening effects. It restores nerves, calms and lifts the spirit. The herb can interact with numerous medications, so consult your doctor if you’re taking prescription drugs.

Passionflower fruit (Passiflora incarnata): The flowers and leaves have a long history of use for easing anxiety and insomnia dating back to the Spanish conquistadors, who learned about the sedative effects of the plant from the Aztecs.  Research has shown that passionflower contains a variety of mild tranquilizing compounds.  Relaxes the mind and slows the breakdown of serotonin and norepinephrine, allowing one to attain a more peaceful state of consciousness. Passionflower shouldn’t be used during pregnancy because compounds in the herb, harmala alkaloids, are uterine stimulants. If you are taking prescription sedatives or monoamine oxidase inhibitory (MAOI) antidepressants, check with your health-care practitioner before using passionflower.

Tulsi Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) – This is an excellent adaptogen, strengthens the body and helps with stress.  One of my favorite teas!

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – The Arabicv physician, Avicenna(890-1037) claimed lemon balm caused “the mind and heart to be merry”.  Excellent for stress, anxiety, relieves depression, good for colds with a lemon taste and smell that is fabulous.  Calms children and can prevent nightmares.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) –high in flavonoids, fights infections and relaxes the nerves, often used for asthma.  Makes a relaxing and refreshing lemon-scented bath.  Drink alone as an ice tea or blend this strong lemon flavored herb with others to improve the taste of your tea.

Hops (Humulus lupulus):  have been used as a sleep aid for centuries. The volatile oils of the dried fruits have a significant sedative action. Hops tea can be taken to relieve stress during the day or just before bedtime, or the strobiles can be stuffed into a little sleep pillow, where their fragrance will be released whenever you turn your head. Contain lupulin-a strong, safe, reliable sedative.

Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) often used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Scullcap was included in the United States Formulary from 1863-1916.  Its calming action is mainly due to the component scutellarin, which is an antispasmodic.  Scullcap feeds the nerves while helping them strengthen and rebuild.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis):  is another herb familiar to insomniacs throughout history. A group of chemicals called valepotriates and valerenic acid have been shown to depress the central nervous system.  More than 200 studies on valerian have been published in the last 20 years. It’s a mild sedative herb that is non-addictive and does not leave the user with a “hangover” feeling in the morning. Because the herb has an extremely unpleasant taste and smell,(smells like dirty socks) it’s best to use it in capsule form (according to package directions) or combined with other herbs.


  1. Hoffmann, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism:  The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine.  Healing Arts Press.
  2. Mars, Brigitte. (2007). The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine. Laguna Beach, CA. Basic Health Publications Inc.
  3. Medical Economics Company, Inc.  (2000).  PDR for Herbal Medicines. (Second Edition). ISBN: 1-56363-361-2
  4. Healthnotes, Inc. (2006) A-Z Guide to Drug-Herbal-Vitamin Interactions. Second Edition.  Three Rivers Press of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
  5. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved April 15, 2012,





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Beauty at the Bellagio

Herbs give us nutrition and medicine, but I find flowers nurture my soul. The color and fragrance are irresistible. I regularly visit the Bellagio Conservatory (Las Vegas) with friends, family or visitors. It’s a blooming extravaganza with more than 5 million visitors a year. As the seasons change so does the conservatory. The 13,573 square foot conservatory of more than 10,000 potted flowers and plants, it is created and managed by a staff of 120 people, and 90% of the old plant material is recycled to mulch.

Here are a few of my photos but you truly need to experience this for yourself.

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Herbal Easter Egg Coloring

My mother is one of the craftiest people I know, she has colored Easter eggs as long as I can remember; with me, my sister and brother, her grandchildren and now her great grandchildren. Today’s herbal tip is how-to color your Easter eggs using herbs or foods you have around the house.

Dried Herbs in Bowls

Start with 1 Tbsp. of dried herb in each bowl, 1 Tbsp. vinegar and hot water. * I used bowls but you could also use covered jars so you don’t risk spilling the dye in the fridge.

Herbs covered with boiling water

When the color developed I added the hard boiled eggs. I let them sit in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning I removed the eggs from the herbal dye and allowed to dry on a paper towel.

Eggs in the herbal dye

Be careful when removing the eggs as the dye comes off easily and becomes permanent when completely dry. Other colors to try are purple cabbage leaves, or the skins from purple or white onions, paprika, spinach, blueberries, pickled beet juice or shredded red beets, coffee.

Herb Dyed Easter Eggs

Naturally dyed eggs have a wonderful matte finish like the old milk paints. To create a shiny finish us a paper towel and simply rub them with edible oil like olive or coconut, remove oil and buff lightly.

From my family to yours, Happy Easter!

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